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: March 2014

Robert Cruickshank elected president of the Northwest Progressive Institute for 2014

Spring has often been called the season of renewal, and we’ve always thought it’s as good of a time as any to recalibrate and reorganize. To that end, each March, before we file our yearly report with the Secretary of State’s office, our board holds its annual meeting. The principal business of this meeting is the election of NPI’s directors (for terms of two years) and officers (for terms of one years).

NPI’s 2014 annual meeting was held earlier today. At that meeting, we reelected three of our current board members (Gael Tarleton, Ralph Gorin, Kathleen Reynolds), honored two departing board members (Martin Chaney and Rob Dolin), and elected a new member of the board (Kim Allen, who readers from NPI’s hometown know well as one of our seven city councilmembers).

Robert Cruickshank

NPI President Robert Cruickshank (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya)

We also chose our officers for the coming year. For the first time in many years, NPI has a new president: Robert Cruickshank.

Robert is currently a senior campaign manager for Democracy For America, the permanent people-powered campaign that Howard Dean founded ten years ago at the end of his bid for the U.S. presidency. Prior to that, he was a senior communications adviser to former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

Robert is well-versed in the politics of America’s Left Coast, having lived and traveled extensively in both Washington and California.

He grew up in Orange County and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in History in 2000. He received his PhC in History from the University of Washington after attending graduate school there during the 2000s. He returned to California and was for several years the Public Policy Director for the Courage Campaign, one of the Golden State’s leading progressive organizations. He and his wife Rose now make their home in Seattle with their son Ian.

Robert exemplifies the qualities that we value in our board and staff members. He understands the importance of thinking critically and thinking long-term, beyond the next election cycle. As a history major, he knows that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes as a movement unless we learn from them. He appreciates the need for reframing and teaching reframing skills. And he has provided steadfast encouragement over the years as NPI has taken on Tim Eyman’s initiative factory. I’m glad to be able to have the opportunity to work with him.

Robert succeeds State Representative Gael Tarleton, who is our new Secretary.

Gael has been a tremendously effective leader for NPI since assuming the presidency in 2011, and I deeply appreciate all of the guidance and counsel she has provided to myself and to NPI’s staff and contributors. I look forward to continuing to advance the common good with her as NPI’s Secretary, and I am also very grateful to Ralph Gorin for faithfully discharging the duties of that office for so many years.

Kathleen Reynolds, who has been with NPI since 2007, is continuing as Treasurer. Kathleen brings a very strong work ethic to the causes that she is involved in, and we are incredibly fortunate to have her as a board member and as an officer.

I also want to recognize our departing boardmembers Rob Dolin and Martin Chaney for their service. Rob became a father only a week ago, and we are happy for him and his wife Hillary as they begin an exciting new chapter in their lives.

As one of NPI’s founding board members, Rob has been instrumental in helping improve the organization’s governance and operations. Rob has a keen interest in new technologies and is a dependable problem-solver. We have all benefited from his cheerful disposition and his constructive ideas.

Martin has been with us since 2012, and has repeatedly stepped up to keep NPI on track and running smoothly, from hosting board retreats to supplying needed audiovisual equipment when we needed it. Martin contributed a great deal to the success of our events during his service as a boardmember, particularly last year’s Spring Fundraising Gala and Tenth Anniversary Picnic.

We have Martin to thank for conceiving and organizing the gala’s successful Dessert Dash, which has become an annual tradition.

(If you weren’t there last year, make sure you experience the Dash this year by buying a ticket to our 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala!)

I am very pleased that both Martin and Rob will continue to be involved with NPI in the coming years through our Advisory Council, which we created last year to help guide the work of our staff and board. Rob and Martin were appointed to terms on the Council today, along with retired founding board member Steve Zemke and State Representative Luis Moscoso. In the ensuing weeks, we’ll be announcing several more appointments to the Council, so stay tuned for that.

Building a nonprofit is difficult, challenging work, and it can’t be done by one person. That’s why I’m grateful every day to work with a team of people who are equally committed to revolutionizing grassroots politics, so that our government, our laws, and our communities reflect the values that our nation was founded upon.

U.S. House passes ill-conceived bill to gut the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to designate national monuments

Acting as if they don’t have anything better to do (and they certainly do!) the Republican “leadership” in the U.S. House of Representatives today engineered a vote on a bill that would gut the Antiquities Act, legislation dating back the early 1900s that allows presidents to designate national monuments.

As Ken Burns and his team explained in his wonderful documentary series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, the Antiquities Act, enacted during the early years of the Progressive Era, has been a great blessing to our country.

Presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama have used it to safeguard a number of national treasures, including several here in Washington State.

But the modern Republican Party unfortunately doesn’t believe in conservation or wilderness protection. There seem to be fewer and fewer Republicans interested in preserving the majesty and grandeur of America (what’s left of it, anyway) for future generations. Republicans would rather blow up our mountains, cut down our forests, pave over our prairies, and mutilate our coastlines. It’s really sad.

Republicans clearly don’t want President Obama designating any more national monuments. The President used his powers under the Antiquities Act sparingly during his first term, but under Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, formerly of REI, the Obama administration has signaled that it plans to make protecting more of the nation’s public lands a priority. That has got House Republicans all upset.

Over two hundred Republicans (and, I’m sad to report, three Democrats) voted in favor of H.R. 1459, titled, “To ensure that the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 applies to the declaration of national monuments, and for other purposes”. The final vote was two hundred and twenty-two to two hundred and one.

Ten Republicans broke with their caucus to vote no, including Dave Reichert of Washington. The roll call vote for the Pacific Northwest as follows:

Voting Aye: Republicans Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Don Young (AK) Labrador and Mike Simpson (ID), Steve Daines (MT)

Voting Nay: Democrats Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader (OR); Republican Dave Reichert (WA)

Not Voting: Democrat Suzan DelBene (DelBene is here in Washington due to the mudslide in Oso, which is part of her district)

Excerpt for Reichert, our region voted along party lines. The three Democrats who voted with the Republicans for the bill were Jim Matheson of Utah, Henry Cuellar of Texas, and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina.

Many Democrats excoriated the legislation, which basically restricts the President of the United States to designating one national monument per four-year term.

“We shouldn’t play games with Washington’s protected public lands,” said Representative Denny Heck. “Both Democratic and Republican presidents have used this law to preserve some of the most beautiful sites in our state and country, and this bill would needlessly complicate the process.”

Among those places are the Olympics. Although Olympic is today a National Park, it was first designated a National Monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1909. It was upgraded to a National Park under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938. In 1981 it was recognized as a World Heritage site. Some ninety-five percent of the park was subsequently given wilderness protection by Congress in 1988.

Had the Olympics not been protected by Teddy Roosevelt, we would not be able to enjoy them as we do today. Many of the other national parks that we know and love also began as national monuments, such as the Grand Canyon… a place so important to Arizona’s identity that it calls itself “the Grand Canyon State”.

H.R. 1459 is yet another time-wasting bill. Even if it were to get through the Senate (and it won’t), it would be vetoed by President Obama. This is ill-conceived legislation that seems to have been designed to allow Republicans to pander to their base… which is about all that they ever really do.

The 2010s era House Republican Caucus easily ranks among the worst in American history when it comes to governing, let alone governing well.

President Obama signs emergency declaration for Washington State to help mudslide victims

Good news. This just in from the White House:

Today, the President declared an emergency in the State of Washington and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from flooding and mudslides beginning on March 22, 2014, and continuing.

The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Snohomish County.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.  Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.

W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Michael J. Hall as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.

The Obama administration’s prompt authorization of federal assistance is greatly appreciated. The Stillaguamish River remains mostly dammed by the massive mudslide that wiped out entire neighborhoods near Oso and buried a mile-long stretch of State Route 530 between Darrington and Arlington in muck.

The death toll now stands at fourteen and over one hundred people are still listed as missing. Hopefully those still missing can still be accounted for.

Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement a little bit ago respectfully asking the news media to give families affected by the mudslide some privacy:

This is an extremely difficult and emotional time for the families and friends of those impacted by the Oso mudslide.

Family members are grieving, trying to focus on finding missing loved ones or working through the process of rebuilding what was lost.

I understand the news media plays an important role in tragic events like this and in this instance has worked long hours to help warn the public of dangers and publicize where people can turn for help.

But some families have asked us to ask the media to be respectful of their privacy and their grief. This is especially true for displaced families in local shelters. I want to reinforce local officials’ request that the media allow those shelters to be a zone of privacy while reporters continue to do their vital job. Thank you.

Kudos to the governor for speaking out on behalf of the affected families, many of whom lost their homes and their belongings (and likely their property as well). They are not the stars of a disaster reality show, and they shouldn’t be made to feel like they are. They’re the victims of a geologic hazard that struck without warning, wiping out a rural Snohomish County community alongside the Stillaguamish.

News helicopter shared by KOMO and KING crashes near Seattle Center, killing two

Awful, awful news this morning:

Two people were killed and one was critically injured when the KOMO News helicopter crashed and burst into flames Tuesday morning on Broad Street only yards away from the Space Needle.

Emergency personnel immediately rushed to the scene as thick smoke poured over the city at the height of the morning commute.

Two cars and a pickup truck on Broad Street were struck in the crash. Occupants of two vehicles were able to escape without injury, but the driver of a third vehicle was badly burned.

Witnesses said the thirty-eight-year-old Seattle man could be seen running from from his car with his clothing on fire, and he was extinguished by officers at the scene. The man suffered burns on his lower back and arm, covering up to twenty percent of his body, Harborview hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. He was originally listed in critical condition but was upgraded to serious condition Tuesday afternoon, Gregg said, adding the the man will eventually need surgery for his burns but not immediately.

Inside of the chopper were pilot Gary Pfitzner and veteran KOMO photographer Bill Strothman, both of whom worked for Sinclair Media Seattle as contractors.

(Sinclair purchased Seattle-based Fisher Communications last year in a megadeal that saw the once independent Pacific Northwest media group swallowed up by a national conglomerate with right wing ownership. It now owns KOMO, KATU, and a number of other radio and television stations in the region).

The helicopter, a temporary replacement for the actual Air 4 (which is in the shop for upgrades), had been taking off from the roof of Fisher Plaza around twenty minutes before eight o’clock when something went terribly wrong. Apparently full of fuel, it crashed and then burned after hitting the ground, creating a nightmarish scene adjacent to the Space Needle and Fisher Plaza that horrified bystanders.

Firefighters rushed to Broad to put out the fire and tend to the injured on the ground. Sadly, Pfitzner and Strothman were dead.

KOMO suddenly found itself in the position of reporting on the death of two of its own as the lead story for the morning, yards from its own newsroom.

And report it did, though crew and reporters alike understandably struggled to keep their composure. Anchor Dan Lewis, enroute to the White House to talk to President Obama, rushed back to Fisher Plaza to be with the KOMO family.

According to eyewitness Chris McOlgan, who had a front-row seat to the disaster from his own vehicle: “It just blew up instantly… Nothing could have been done.”

The helicopter, which the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed to be a Eurocopter AS350, is owned by Helicopters, Inc. of St. Louis, Missouri. The company says on its website that it “specializes in the design/build and leasing of news gathering helicopters for television and radio stations nationwide.”

The Eurocopter AS350 is a single-engine helicopter manufactured by Airbus in France. It was designed by Aérospatiale, which later merged with Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG to create the Eurocopter Group in 1992.

The merger of Eurocopter Group’s owners made the company a division of Airbus, and it was renamed Airbus Helicopters in 2000.

The AS350 is considered a versatile chopper; it has been in production since the 1970s. In 2005, an AS350 was landed on Mount Everest by a test pilot. It is used by the Los Angeles Police Department and the United States Border Patrol.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet that it was investigating the incident. Air crashes always investigated by the NTSB, as are railway accidents and major highway mishaps like the Skagit River Bridge collapse. NTSB personnel are already at the crash site, working with first responders.

KIRO TV said in a statement that it was grounding its own helicopter, Chopper 7, out of an abundance of caution, until the aircraft can be inspected.

The Space Needle, Experience Music Project, Chihuly Garden and Glass and Seattle Monorail are closed and will remain closed for the rest of the day. The Monorail may be out of service for the rest of the week while authorities investigate the tragedy.

Local political leaders offered their sympathies to KOMO.

“I just returned from Fisher Plaza where, as you know, a KOMO Air-4 news helicopter crashed at takeoff this morning,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray at a news conference at City Hall. “Two individuals, both KOMO employees, were tragically killed. In times like this, we’re reminded that the media — like many of us — are also public servants.”

“I met with the family of one of those who is deceased as well as with many of their coworkers. As you can imagine, they are in a state of shock, and they are devastated. On behalf of Seattle, I want to express my deepest condolence to the families of both the victims and to all their colleagues at KOMO. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this incredibly difficult moment. Our thoughts are also with those who have been injured in the situation.”

“This morning two members of the KOMO news family were killed in a tragic crash,” said Governor Inslee. “Trudi and I send our condolences to their families and to the men and women at KOMO who, despite the personal impacts of this tragedy, have been reporting on this loss with impressive professionalism and grace. Our hearts go out to you. I know the people of Seattle – and the people of Washington – are keeping you in their thoughts. We also hope for the best for those injured.”

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Bill Strothman and Gary Pfitzner and to the entire KOMO family,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “Today’s tragedy is an unimaginable loss for Seattle’s journalism community. Today, we are all thankful for the journalists who face risks every day to report the news in our communities.

“I join Washingtonians in offering our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this horrific accident, and praying for the safe recovery of those injured. And we thank Seattle first responders and the National Transportation Safety Board for their quick response to this tragic incident.”

Washington legislators reject Arne Duncan’s demand, refuse to force schools to teach to the test

Yesterday the Washington State Legislature adjourned without taking action on two bills that would have tightly linked teacher evaluations to student test scores, despite plenty of evidence doing so is a bad idea. Legislators faced an enormous amount of pressure to pass these bills from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who threatened to revoke the state’s waiver from the No Child Left Behind law, as well as from education reform groups and newspaper editorial boards like that of the Seattle Times. Yet legislators refused to give in and instead chose to stand up for our children, their teachers, and for great schools.

By refusing to demand schools teach to the test, Washington State has added inspiring new momentum to the rapidly growing national movement of bipartisan resistance against overtesting of our children. After a parent revolt in New York State, legislators were forced to revisit standardized testing policies. Parents and teachers in Chicago have begun a boycott of a standardized test. Idaho voters rejected state laws in 2012 that would have tied teacher evaluations to test scores, and Maryland recently voted to delay such a link. Leading education experts from around the nation have called for Congressional hearings on the way standardized tests are being used and abused across the country.

This resistance is growing as parents and teachers see the damaging effects that linking teacher evaluations to test scores has on our classrooms. Such requirements ignore specific needs or issues students may have that are outside teacher control. There are reports that these rules disadvantage low-income and minority students.

In states that have pressed ahead with these policies, one of the results is a teaching profession that feels demoralized as their curriculum is narrowed to focus solely on test scores. Studies have shown students are learning fewer subjects, with less instructional time in subjects like art, music, history, and science so that teachers can keep their jobs by focusing only on what will be on the test.

In January I wrote an op-ed published in the Seattle Times calling on legislators to reject the federal demand. In February the State Senate rejected an earlier version of a bill that would have linked teacher evaluations to test scores.

Newspaper editorial pages demanded the legislature give into federal demands and link teacher evaluations to test scores. They argued that the state would be wrong to risk losing the NCLB waiver and lose flexibility in how to spend over $30 million in federal grants.

But they never made the case for standardized testing itself. These editorials never explained why it was good for teachers to feel their jobs would be in jeopardy unless students were doing well on narrow, limited, flawed tests. They never addressed widespread objections from parents, teachers, and school administrators to the practice. They never acknowledged the growing national movement to resist these tests.

These editorial writers hoped that threats and fears would be sufficient to scare legislators into approving this radical change. Instead, legislators chose to listen to their constituents and stick with the fair compromise they crafted several years ago on the issue.

As a parent, I am very glad they did so. I want my child to get a well rounded education when he goes to school. The last thing I want is for him to simply be studying for and taking a bunch of bubble tests. So thank you to everyone else in the Legislature who did what was right – especially when it wasn’t easy.

State Representative Chris Reykdal to speak at NPI’s 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala

This evening, we are pleased to announce that one of our state’s brightest and hardest-working lawmakers will be the opening speaker at our 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala on April 25th: State Representative Chris Reykdal.

Since his election to the Washington State House of Representatives in 2010, Chris has served his constituents in the 22nd District – and all Washingtonians – with honor and distinction. He has been a principled and consistent voice for tax reform, for the rights of working men and women, and for underrepresented constituencies with no lobbyist and no voice in our state’s capital.

Last autumn, when Governor Jay Inslee called a special session for the purpose of rapidly enacting big tax breaks to placate Boeing (which was threatening to locate production of the 777X somewhere else if it didn’t get what it wanted), Chris stood up for working families and called for stronger, tougher legislation. When he judged the final bill to be a basket of goodies for Boeing instead of a true set of economic incentives for the company and its hardworking employees, he voted no.

And in the wake of the vote, he wasn’t afraid to loudly criticize Boeing in public, either, saying what Inslee and most other lawmakers wouldn’t: that Boeing’s threat to abandon Puget Sound and build the 777X elsewhere amounted to extortion.

This year, Chris took on another challenge: initiative reform, which has long been one of NPI’s key legislative priorities.

As the prime sponsor of HB 2552, Chris led the effort to persuade House leadership to place legislation to strengthen the initiative process against fraud and abuse on the House floor for a vote. Thanks to Chris’ leadership, on February 17th, the House overwhelmingly passed a strong initiative reform bill for the first time in modern history. The bipartisan vote was seventy-one to twenty-six.

The bill unfortunately died in the Senate at the hands of Tim Eyman’s friends Pam Roach and Don Benton, but HB 2552′s passage in the House remains a huge accomplishment, one that has been giving Tim Eyman heartburn for weeks. (Eyman is reflexively opposed to any legislation that would reform the initiative process).

If you asked us to find someone who exemplified bold progressive leadership at the state level, Chris Reykdal would be at the top of our list. He’s smart, he’s courageous, and he’s authentically pragmatic. We are proud of the work he’s done on behalf of all Washingtonians in our state Legislature, and we are simply delighted to have him as the opening speaker at our 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala.

If you haven’t yet bought your ticket yet, we urge you to do so now using one of these links. A household ticket admits all the members of an immediate family and is a good value if you plan to attend with your spouse or children. (The gala is a family-friendly event and young people of all ages are welcome!)

$60

Admits one person

$90

Admits a family

Here’s what else you can expect at our 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala:

  • 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.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2014 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our biggest event of the year a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 25th!

Mark Miloscia launches Senate campaign as a Republican – but he’s still a Democratic PCO

Last night, we reported here on the NPI Advocate that ex-Democratic State Representative Mark Mloscia had filed paperwork to challenge his  former colleague Tracey Eide for state Senate… as a Republican.

This morning, Miloscia officially launched his campaign and announced endorsements from State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison, King County Republican Chair Lori Soetelo, unsuccessful gubernatorial and senatorial candidate Dino Rossi, and Republican legislators Linda Kochmar and Bruce Dammeier.

In his news release, he borrowed from the Republican playbook to attack Eide, who has represented the district since 1998, claiming, “Senator Eide and I have very different voting records… I opposed reckless spending and tax increases while Senator Eide supported them. I supported innovative approaches to improving our schools, while Senator Eide opposed them and cut funding.”

(Miloscia did not elaborate, or cite any specific roll call votes).

Miloscia also expressed confidence his defection to the Republican Party would not negatively impact his reputation in the district or harm his credibility.

“Our area votes for the best person, not the party,” he argued. “They want someone who will stand up for jobs, for schools, for working people, and for the least among us, regardless of party.”

That’s actually a false dichotomy. The truth is, Washingtonians from Neah Bay to Clarkston cast their votes based on who they identify with. It isn’t about the best person or the party. It is about authenticity. Authenticity matters in politics.

A stellar Municipal League rating and impressive qualifications don’t guarantee a win. Qualifications and party association each matter in a race, but in the end, when voters are deciding who to support, it comes down to authenticity and trust.

If Miloscia really believed that party association doesn’t matter and that the people he is running to represent will support him regardless of which party he identifies with, he’d be running as an independent, sans party label.

But he’s running as a Republican because he wants the support of the Republican Party… especially the money. And the Republicans want his vote so they can maintain control of the Washington State Senate.

Democrats say there’s nothing noble about what Miloscia is doing.

“Today, Mark Miloscia put his own needs above those of 30th District residents by announcing that he will switch parties and run as a Republican for State Senate,” said new Washington State Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens.

“With his last-place finish in the race for State Auditor in 2012, Miloscia is upset that the voters of Washington State chose not to give him a promotion.”

“He saw that he wasn’t advancing fast enough as a Democrat, and he also saw how Rodney Tom has been rewarded for voting with Republicans in the State Senate. By switching parties, Mark Miloscia is hoping that he will gain a faster path to power like Rodney Tom. We are proud to support Senator Tracey Eide, and we are confident that 30th District residents will return her to the State Senate.”

Miloscia has evidently been plotting his run against Eide for some time, as evidenced by the endorsements that he announced today. Timestamps show he began posting content to his new campaign website several days ago. It’s unclear when exactly Miloscia reached a deal with Republicans to run against Eide, but today’s announcement was seemingly in the works for a while.

This much we do know: Miloscia has yet to formally resign from the Democratic Party as the precinct committee officer for FED 30-3056.

Though he finished in last place for state auditor on the August 2012 ballot, he was chosen in the same election by his Democratic neighbors to represent them on the King County Democratic Central Committee (KCDCC) as their PCO.

The 30th District Democrats tell NPI they have not received a letter of resignation from Mark Miloscia. Last night at its March general meeting, after having learned that Miloscia had filed paperwork to challenge Tracey Eide as a Republican, the organization voted to direct Chair Tim Burns to request Miloscia’s resignation.

Until Miloscia resigns, the party cannot replace him; there is no legal avenue for a political party to expel a precinct committee officer.

The 30th’s action should not have been necessary. When Mark Miloscia decided to join the Republican Party, he ought to have notified all of his Democratic friends – especially those who stuck their necks out for him when he ran for auditor – and resigned his position within the Democratic Party. But he didn’t.

And when Democratic activists in the 30th called to inquire about his plans, particularly after the Federal Way Mirror ran a column speculating about his intentions, he left them hanging, choosing not to return calls or answer messages.

Duplicity is not becoming of a person who wishes to serve the people of Washington as an elected official. Mark Miloscia should immediately hand in his resignation as a Democratic precinct committee officer and muster the courage to explain his defection to his Democratic friends.

Mark Miloscia files paperwork to challenge Tracey Eide as a Republican in the 30th LD

Desperate to solidify their tenuous hold on the Washington State Senate, top Republicans have once again recruited into their ranks a candidate repeatedly elected to the Legislature as a Democrat with Democratic volunteers and donations.

Mark Miloscia, who previously served several terms in the state House as one of two of the 30th Legislative District’s representatives, has decided to run against his former colleague Tracey Eide for Senate. He filed his paperwork today with the Public Disclosure Commission and also launched a campaign website.

Mark Miloscia files as a Republican

Mark Miloscia’s C1 for State Senate, filed with the Public Disclosure Commission earlier today.

But unlike Rodney Tom, Jim Kastama, and Tim Sheldon, who defected to the Senate Republican caucus in 2012 (Kastama has since left the Legislature); Miloscia plans to campaign as a Republican. His C1 form lists him as a Republican, and he calls himself a Republican on his new campaign website, created with NationBuilder.

Miloscia has reportedly long been interested in moving up to the state Senate, though he chose to vacate his seat to pursue a bid for auditor in 2012.

Democrats Craig Pridemore and Troy Kelley also decided to forego returning to the Legislature in the hopes of succeeding Brian Sonntag, resulting in a crowded four-way race. Miloscia finished well behind everyone else in the August winnowing election, capturing only 9.77% of the vote. Kelley and Republican James Watkins went on to the general election; Kelley prevailed and took office in early 2013.

There had been speculation that Miloscia might seek to regain a seat in the House by challenging Republican Linda Kochmar.

But evidently, the Republicans approached Miloscia with a better offer. No doubt he was promised big bucks (and perhaps even a committee chairmanship) if he agreed to be their candidate for Senate against Tracey Eide.

Screenshot of Mark Miloscia's website

On his new campaign website, Mark Miloscia says he has joined the Republican Party.

On his website, Miloscia claims he switched parties “only after months of careful consideration”. In a blog post entitled “Choosing a party”, Miloscia (who could definitely use a spelling and grammar checker) writes:

[C]ould Party heroes like a President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, or the evangelical Rev. Martin Luther King JR, be supported by today’s Democrat [sic] leaders and activists?

Before, I’d felt there was a place as the Party publicly promoted a “big tent,” and respected cultural diversity. Some leaders worked to insure [sic] that candidates like myself, had a place.

Not anymore. Today, the Democratic Party asks for our votes and money, but they will never support candidates like JFK, RFK, MLK JR, or even a liberal Tip O’Neill again.

A growing segment, tolerant in name only, now completely controls the party with litmus tests and interest groups.

And on his about page, Miloscia writes:

Today, it’s the Republican Party that offers a big tent, welcoming different views… Washington State Republicans don’t insist that everyone believe and vote exactly the same way.

Uh huh. Either Mark Miloscia has no idea what he has signed up for, or the money he’s been promised is doing the talking for him. If he thinks the Democratic Party is controlled by interest groups with litmus tests, he has no comprehension of what Republican politics are like. The Senate Republican Caucus, which Miloscia now aspires to join, is dominated by extremists and is dysfunctional to its core.

Miloscia has long depicted himself as a principled “pro-life” Democrat, but it’s  evident to us that he is actually an opportunist like Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon… in our view, the worst kind of politician there is.

Miloscia may have felt rejected in the wake of his campaign for auditor, after many Democrats declined to consider his candidacy due to his opposition to marriage equality, reproductive rights, and initiative reform. But in defecting, Miloscia is turning his back on all of the people who have stood up for him over the years.

What Miloscia fails to admit on his website is that there were a number of progressive Democrats who loudly and enthusiastically supported his campaign for auditor, regardless of whatever disagreements they may have had with him on policy directions. Apparently, those friendships aren’t worth as much to Miloscia as the money the Republican Party is willing to spend on his behalf.

Republicans are eager to expand the playing field, so to speak, to make it harder for Democrats to regain the state Senate. If Republicans could manage to capture Tracey Eide’s seat, Democrats would then need to defeat three Republican incumbents instead of two to get a majority. Hence their recruiting of Miloscia.

When Miloscia ran for auditor, he appeared before a number of Democratic groups and proudly espoused Democratic ideals. In the candidate questionnaire he submitted to the King County Democrats, he began an answer to the question, Why should the county support you over your opponent? by stating:

Democrats need to elect the best person who can succeed in managing an agency dedicated to performance and improving government with the use of audits. This person needs to be able to passionately champion government improvement, government programs and Democratic leadership.

Miloscia went on to describe his priorities as follows:

My issues should be no surprise for I have not been silent on our pressing needs as a state representative.

I have been a consistent and vocal champion for solving these three most pressing issues facing our state today:

  1. Restoring voter trust in government and Democrat[ic] legislative leadership so we can start passing needed tax and program reform policies to help educate our children, take care of the elderly and those less fortunate.
  2. Reversing the wage inequality gap caused by the war on unions and the middle class which will also improve tax collections and help gain voters’ confidence.
  3. Improving the Quality and Sustainability of Government, School programs and budgets through the use of performance management and performance audits.

As State Auditor, I will champion those best practices that further these goals.

If Miloscia thinks the Republican Party is interested in any of these priorities, he’s deluded. Today’s Republican Party is the party of Grover Norquist and Tim Eyman, of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, of Scott Walker, Rick Snyder, and Paul LePage. Its agenda is to wreck government, eviscerate public services, and destroy the rights of working men and women. It is virulently anti-labor.

The party has embraced scorched-earth tactics and hostage-taking to accomplish this. Its modus operandi is obstruct, obfuscate, and obliterate.

Perhaps Grover Norquist said it best:

I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.

In joining the Republican Party, Mark Miloscia has turned his back on his Democratic friends and vindicated his critics. He’s part of the Party of No now. Too bad.

G-7 democracies suspend participation in G-8 summit in Sochi to protest invasion of Ukraine

If Vladimir Putin and his entourage were betting that the G-8 summit could still go forward without the participation of the United States, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom in the wake of their invasion of Ukraine, they were mistaken.

The White House has announced that the other three G-7 countries (Germany, Italy, and Japan) are also suspending their participation in the 2014 G-8 Summit, which had been scheduled to take place in Sochi.

Here’s the joint statement:

We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and the President of the European Council and President of the European Commission, join together today to condemn the Russian Federation’s clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and its 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine. We call on Russia to address any ongoing security or human rights concerns that it has with Ukraine through direct negotiations, and/or via international observation or mediation under the auspices of the UN or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We stand ready to assist with these efforts.

We also call on all parties concerned to behave with the greatest extent of self-restraint and responsibility, and to decrease the tensions.

We note that Russia’s actions in Ukraine also contravene the principles and values on which the G-7 and the G-8 operate.

As such, we have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G-8 is able to have meaningful discussion.

We are united in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its right to choose its own future. We commit ourselves to support Ukraine in its efforts to restore unity, stability, and political and economic health to the country. To that end, we will support Ukraine’s work with the International Monetary Fund to negotiate a new program and to implement needed reforms. IMF support will be critical in unlocking additional assistance from the World Bank, other international financial institutions, the EU, and bilateral sources.

After the U.S., U.K., France, and Canada made it clear that their participation in the G-8 Summit was on ice, Putin’s spokesman dismissively declared, “It’s not a minus for Russia… it will be a minus for the G-8″, implying that the summit was still going forward. But if no other nation is attending, it isn’t a summit at all. How is it not a minus for Russia if nobody shows up to Vladimir Putin’s party in Sochi?

The G-7 nations – all members of NATO except for Japan – have the option of meeting without Russia at another time and place, and such a conference might end up displacing the G-8 Summit that Russia was going to host. That is Russia’s loss, whether Putin and his press flacks want to acknowledge it or not.

Disturbingly, The New York Times reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was left with a bad impression following her phone conversation with Putin this weekend. Merkel is said to have told Obama that she wasn’t sure if Putin was in touch with reality or not. If Putin is indeed operating “in another world,” as Merkel allegedly said, that’s not good news for prospects of a quick resolution to this crisis.

Ukraine asks NATO, UN for help as Russians move in; new government mobilizes military

The news out of Ukraine just keeps getting worse.

In the wake of the Russian parliament’s vote to endorse (or rubber stamp) Vladimir Putin’s already scripted invasion of its neighbor, the new Ukranian government is appealing to the international community for help and mobilizing its military, fearing that Putin has designs on more than just the Crimean Peninsula, where Russian troops are moving in with the help of Russian sympathizers.

A recap of the latest developments:

  • Ukraine’s prime minister declared that his country was on “the brink of disaster” and asked the international community to provide help to his country in the face of Russian aggression.
  • The Ukranian military is calling up its reservists while Russian troops continue to encircle its bases in the Crimean Peninsula. Russia has its own bases on the Peninsula, which it leases under a long-term agreement that was drawn up in the 1990s. Its Black Sea Fleet is headquartered in Sevastopol.
  • The BBC is reporting that the man recently appointed to head up Ukraine’s navy has defected, swearing allegiance to the Crimean region, “in the presence of its unrecognised pro-Russian leader”.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on three Sunday talk shows to warn that Russia faces expulsion from the G-8 (Group of 8), as well as other consequences (which could include travel bans on leading Russian officials, cancellation of work on a new trade agreement, the freezing of assets) if it does not cease its aggression in Ukraine.
  • A spokesman for Putin, who evidently anticipated the backlash, was dismissive of Kerry’s warning. “It’s not a minus for Russia… it will be a minus for the G-8,” said the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov. Peskov and his boss must be aware that the G-8′s other democracies (at least four so far, including Canada and the United States) are threatening to cancel their participation in the G-8 as well. How is the collapse of this year’s summit, which is a very real possibility at this point, not a minus for Russia?
  • NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen convened an emergency meeting of the twenty-eight nation alliance in Brussels to discuss Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, and what steps NATO might take in response. Ukraine is not a member of the alliance, but it does send an ambassador to NATO.
  • British Foreign Secretary William Hague traveled to Kiev to meet with his Ukranian counterparts. The United Kingdom, which has strongly condemned Russia’s incursion, is offering assistance and diplomatic support.

The U.S. Department of State has just announced that Kerry will follow suit. He will head to Kiev on Tuesday to offer U.S. assistance and diplomatic support.

So far, the strongest responses to Russia’s aggression have come from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France. All four nations have publicly announced the suspension of preparations to attend the G-8 summit in Sochi.

The other G-8 nations (aside from Russia) are Germany, Japan, and Italy. Germany and Italy are also members of NATO.