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: May 2014

Ken Schram: 1947-2014

Today, our region lost one of its feistiest and most spirited broadcast personalities with the death of longtime KOMO commentator Ken Schram. Schram, sixty-six, had been battling an internal infection for many months, and finally succumbed to his illness today. KOMO anchor Eric Johnson, who just took over Dan Lewis’ duties last week, has a story up on the station’s website celebrating Schram’s life and legacy.

As Johnson put it:

[Ken Schram] talked tough, but if you knew him at all, you knew that he cared about people — all people: rich and poor; the lucky ones and the messed up ones too. He was constantly giving $5 to a homeless guy. “Go get something to eat,” he’d say.

Some tough guy.

Chief photographer Randy Carnell summed him up best.

“He’s funny and he’s mean and he’s nice… he’s crazy,” Carnell said. “He has everything going on in that head of his. He’s a nut.”

He was like creme brulee: All crusty on the outside, soft and gooey and sweet underneath.

Ken Schram and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but we did share an intense dislike of Tim Eyman’s destructive initiatives. To Ken’s credit, he saw through Eyman’s  persona from the very beginning, recognizing Eyman for what he was. During the more than ten years that Eyman’s foray into politics overlapped with Schram’s broadcasting career, Schram lambasted him dozens of times.

Here are some of his greatest zingers. First, from “A Grim Fairy Tale”, which aired on February 1st, 2002, after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an expose by Neil Modie about Tim Eyman pocketing his own donors’ money for his personal use:

[Eyman] took the people’s money and didn’t spend it on THE PLAN they gave it for. Tim says he could use their money for a future PLAN, even if the people who gave the money don’t support it.

Or, he could just use the money to buy himself a big boat.

From “Eyman’s Biggest Lie Not About Money, But Measures”, February 4th, 2002:

Tim Eyman told the truth because the lies were catching up to him. He was going to get caught. He confessed. That doesn’t make him noble, just savvy… The initiatives are mostly a ruse. They hurt more then help us, and allow lawmakers to continually wiggle away from making tough, but necessary decisions.

From “Is Tim Eyman lying?”, July 2nd, 2002:

What Eyman deserves will ultimately be decided when Washington state gets him to court with its lawsuit against him.

And unlike his e-mail, in court Eyman must show proof that what he says is actually true. That could be a problem for Tim, who seems to have a tough time telling the difference between truth, and what he wants people to believe.

Is Eyman lyin’? Don’t know. Is the Pope Polish?

From “A Whole New Racket For Tim Eyman”, July 11th, 2002:

Let’s see if I got it right:

Tim’s asking people to send him money to bail him out of the trouble he’s in for taking money that at one time he said he never took.

Now, since Tim certainly couldn’t pay taxes on money he lied about taking, he’s in that hole.

And, since he got caught with campaign dollars stuck to his fingers, Tim’s also being sued by the state.

Which means he’s got legal bills and fines likely lurking in his future.

And so, that’s why Tim has come back to the people who’s money he took, asking them to send him more money.

From “The Road to Ruin”, July 23rd, 2002:

That’s because Tim Eyman is like an Enron accountant who wants to show you the bottom line, but doesn’t want to open the books so you can check all the math.

Eyman’s ‘new’ initiative is actually made up of recycled ideas that’ve already failed in the legislature.

They failed for good reason. They were bad ideas then and – except for opening carpool lanes to everyone during off-peak hours – they’re bad ones now.

Take Tim Eyman. Please. Okay. I know. It’s an old joke.

But so is Tim Eyman.

From “Let’s Talk About Tim”, September 17th, 2002:

I realize that the Eyman Mukilteo enclave is insulated from the world mere mortals live in, so I’m not surprised at the latest initiative that Tim will reap a personal profit from.

And I’m not surprised that Tim joyously noted what he calls the “sheer coincidence” that he mailed his I-267 petitions out on September 11th.

“Very neat,” said Tim, that his efforts coincided with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Yep, ‘very neat’ Tim. Nice of you to ‘honor’ the date by ‘coincidentally’ using it to promote your transportation initiative.

From “Tim Eyman’s Scam… Er, Plan”, May 20th, 2003:

Tim Eyman might call it ‘soliciting donations’, but fact is, he’s begging.

Tim has once again become the equivalent of those folks we see standing forlorn alongside freeway exits.

‘Send money’ Eyman’s letter read — personal money, not political money — money that Tim won’t have to publicly account for, or pay taxes on. Me? I figure if Timmy’s gonna panhandle, he should go at it like everyone else: holding a cardboard message, standing by the side of the road.

From “Eyman Sure Is A Character–Several, In Fact,” April 2nd, 2004:

Of all the Tim Eyman characters, “Indignant Tim” could be my favorite.

Beats the hell out of “Contrite Tim”, the one who tearfully admits lying, and trounces all over “Arrogant Tim”, who proclaims himself to he the champion of all taxpayers.

“Greedy Tim” is my least favorite character.

“Greedy Tim” recently took a $46,000 chunk-a-change in payment for what he called “effective lobbying”, then even more recently announced he’s going to be drawing $3,100 a week in salary while pushing his “gambling is better than taxes” initiative.

From “Initiative Amoeba Is On The Move”, November 4th, 2004:

Three of Timmy’s last 4 initiatives didn’t even make the ballot, and the one that did went down in flames this week.

Timmy paid himself $3,100 a week for that debacle.

I’m sure he’d say it was a bargain. But hey, as long a Timmy can get people to write him checks, he’ll keep writing e-mails about all he’s done, even if he hasn’t really done squat.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the jelly-like cytoplasm of an amoeba.

If not, train your eyes on Tim Eyman and let me know if you can see right through him.

From “Timmy Is Turning To God”, May 22nd, 2006:

Timmy is turning to God.

I guess Mr. Eyman figures that since Jesus turned water into wine, the Lord would be willing and able to transform church-going Christians into bigots. That, and maybe he’d made an extra buck or ten.

And so on the 7th day, Timmy helped orchestrate “Referendum Sunday.” Timmy describes this as an “opportunity” for 500,000 voters in 5,400 churches to sign a petition to cancel out gay rights legislation passed in Olympia earlier this year.

Timmy says it’s all about ending “preferential treatment.”

I say it’s all about legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians.

And I think that Timmy’s just trying to turn conservative Christians into another tool in his money-making initiative arsenal.

From “My ballot is in the mail”, November 5th, 2007:

Initiative 960: Tim Eyman’s latest smoke and mirror measure. I wish I could have voted “no” on this several times.

If it passes, look for a gridlocked Legislature doing battle over things like raising hairdresser license fees.

From “Schrammie: Eyman goes ape over P-I demise”, March 18th, 2009:

Little Timmy makes a mighty fine living off the public’s discontent and doesn’t take kindly when his bully pulpit is challenged, as the [Seattle] P-I was almost always inclined to do.

And since he always blames everyone but himself for a succession of initiative failures, he took particular glee in the P.I. folding.

So Timmy, it’s not for your political antics that you get this award, it is for your lack of class; it’s for your small-minded, petty and spiteful nature that I say, take a bow, because this “Schrammie” is for you.

From “The Schrammie: You’re a scoundrel”, April 14th, 2010:

With not one whit of thought given to the economic disaster to the state’s programs and services should that happen, Eyman is as Eyman does: Manipulating circumstances to his own advantage.

Playing off people’s disdain for increased taxes, Timmy gets to make splashy headlines in an effort to paint himself as a champion of the people as he pushes for donations to accomplish the near impossible: Gathering several hundred thousand signatures on each one of his eight measures by July 2.

Timmy, you’re a scoundrel.

And finally, from “Handcuffing the Legislature,” October 18, 2010:

If you want to impede economic growth, protect special tax breaks for big corporations, put children’s programs and education at further risk, then jump right in and vote yes on I-1053.

But if you’re not interested in buying into the “cut off your nose to spite your face” charge led by Tim Eyman, then by all means be sensible. Vote “no” on initiative 1053.

Ken Schram retired from KOMO prior to the qualification of Initiative 517 last year, Tim Eyman’s most self-serving initiative ever, which voters overwhelmingly defeated in November (NPI helped organize the opposition). Had Schram still been on the air, I have no doubt he would have eviscerated I-517 more than once.

Tim Eyman was hardly the only target of Ken Schram’s commentaries. But, in looking through Ken’s body of work over the last few years, I was surprised by just how many Eyman references there were. Schram periodically found ways to work slams of Eyman into his commentaries, even if his ire was trained on someone else. That’s how much he detested Eyman’s toxic politics and his initiative factory.

Politically, Schram was an independently-minded biconceptual, meaning that in some areas of his political thinking, he used the progressive value system, and in others, he used the conservative values system. From watching his commentaries, I always got the sense that he enjoyed being an unpredictable contrarian.

Sometimes Ken was spot on with a commentary, as he was when he lambasted Tim Eyman’s initiatives. Other times, he made no sense to me at all, as in 2005, when he complained about women breastfeeding in public. (As The Seattle Times’ Erik Lacitis noted, it generated more than 1,000 angry emails).

Ken always invited KOMO viewers and listeners to respond to his commentaries and on-air rants. Periodically, he would read from responses on air, and thank people for writing in. For many years, he co-hosted a radio show on KOMO AM 1000 with conservative talk show host John Carlson called “The Commentators”.

Schram left KOMO in 2012 when his contract was bought out. He still had a year left to go, but station management had by that time evidently decided to dispense with airing any more of his “Schram on the Street” commentaries. (KOMO, long owned by Fisher Broadcasting, was sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2013.)

After leaving KOMO, Schram began communicating more directly with fans, occasionally sharing upbeat messages and alerts when he was filling in on the radio. On July 29th, 2013, he posted the following message to his Facebook page:

Another day back in radio fun!

Filled in for Luke Burbank today on KIRO 97.3FM 9- Noon. Will be doing so again tomorrow and Wednesday. Then, on Thursday and Friday, I’ll be filling in for Tom Tagney; same time slot. Following that, 2-weeks vacation with the family!.

Love what you do; do what you love! Keep thinking of the Beach Boys: “Fun, Fun, Fun” Hope your world is treating you the way you deserve!

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell remembered Schram as colorful and fierce.

“Ken Schram had a forceful presence that could be felt right through the TV or radio. He was a legend in Northwest broadcasting – and his voice will never be forgotten,” she said in a statement. “Ken was a force of nature that we will long remember for his passionate views and opinions. My deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Sandi, to his family and his friends at KOMO-TV and radio.”

We join Senator Cantwell in conveying our condolences to Schram’s family.

So long, Ken, and thanks for all the commentaries… myopic and brilliant alike.

Oregon Republicans choose Monica Wehby as Jeff Merkley’s November opponent; Dennis Richardson to face Governor John Kitzhaber

As in several states on the East Coast, tonight is primary night in two of the three states in the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Idaho. Voters belonging to or identifying with the country’s major political parties are choosing the nominees who will go on to the autumn general election as the parties’ standard bearers.

In Oregon, there isn’t much excitement on the Democratic side, because most of the state’s top elected positions are already held by Democrats, and they’re all seeking reelection. On the Republican side, there are at least two noteworthy contests, as several Republicans are vying to take on Jeff Merkley for U.S. Senate, and several more are vying to take on John Kitzhaber for Governor.

With 209,985 votes cast and counted as of this hour (that’s turnout of 9.91%), it looks like each race has a runaway winner.

For U.S. Senate, Portland pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby is easily in the lead, winning not only a plurality of the vote, but a majority. The vote for the gubernatorial nomination is even more lopsided – State Representative Dennis Richardson has more votes than all of his opponents put together twice over.

Here are the numbers:

U.S. Senate, Oregon (Republican Nomination)

Monica Wehby 45,876 votes 53.18%
Jo Rae Perkins 2,305 votes 2.67%
Mark Callahan 5,509 votes 6.39%
Timothy I Crawley 2,255 votes 2.61%
Jason Conger 29,973 votes 34.74%
Write-in Votes 349 votes 0.40%

Governor of Oregon (Republican Nomination)

Bruce A Cuff 6,847 votes 8.63%
Gordon Challstrom 7,864 votes 9.91%
Tim Carr 4,909 votes 6.18%
Dennis Richardson 52,635 votes 66.31%
Mae Rafferty 5,585 votes 7.04%
Darren Karr 829 votes 1.04%
Write-in candidate 712 votes 0.90%

Wehby had credible competition in State Representative Jason Conger, who had hoped to capitalize on a round of bad publicity for Wehby near the end of the campaign. Conger is well behind Wehby, and not likely to catch up. The Merkley campaign has called both Wehby and Conger deeply flawed candidates.

Meanwhile, in the 1st Congressional District, Jason Yates has a narrow lead over Delinda Delgado Morgan for the right to take on Democrat Suzanne Bonamici.

In the 2nd District, Democratic voters are favoring Aelea Christofferson to go up against entrenched Republican incumbent Greg Walden.

Walden is the only Republican member of the state’s congressional delegation; he himself faced a Tea Party-backed candidate in Dennis B Linthicum, but is prevailing with a very comfortable three-to-one margin.

There are no contests in the 3rd or 4th Congressional Districts.

In the 5th, Democratic incumbent Kurt Schrader is easily dispatching challenger Anita Brown. Tootie Smith is the Republicans’ choice to oppose Schrader in November by an almost two-to-one margin.

In other results:

Marriage equality is now the law of the land in the great state of Oregon, at long last!

Hurrah for equality! Moments ago, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane handed down a ruling declaring that Oregon’s prohibition on marriages between LGBT couples violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. He also refused to stay his decision and allow a national right wing organization to intervene in the case. That means couples can begin getting married… today!

“Oregon’s marriage laws weigh on the plaintiffs in ways less tangible, yet no less painful. The laws leave the plaintiffs and their families feeling degraded, humiliated, and stigmatized,” Judge McShane wrote in his twenty-six page decision.

His conclusion was striking.

I am aware that a large number of Oregonians, perhaps even a majority, have religious or moral objections to expanding the definition of civil marriage (and thereby expanding the benefits and rights that accompany marriage) to gay and lesbian families.

It was’ these same objections that led to the passage of Measure 36 in 2004. Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortal sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called “smear the queer” 7 and it was played with great zeal and without a moment’s thought to today’ s political correctness.

On a darker level, that same worldview led to an environment of cruelty, violence, and self-loathing. It was but 1986 when the United States Supreme Court justified, on the basis of a “millennia of moral teaching,” the imprisonment of gay men and lesbian women who engaged in consensual sexual acts. Bowers, 478 U.S. at 197 (Burger, C.J., concurring), overruled by Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 578.

Even today I am reminded of the legacy that we have bequeathed today’ s generation when my son looks dismissively at the sweater I bought him for Christmas, and, with a roll of his eyes, says “Dad … that is so gay.” It is not surprising then that many of us raised with such a worldview would wish to protect our beliefs and our families by turning to the ballot box to enshrine in law those traditions we have come to value. But just as the Constitution protects the expression of these moral viewpoints, it equally protects the minority from being diminished by them. It is at times difficult to see past the shrillness of the debate. Accusations of religious bigotry and banners reading “God Hates Fags” make for a messy democracy and, at times, test the First Amendment resolve of both sides.

At the core of the Equal Protection Clause, however, there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities.

My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences.

I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.

Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other… and rise.

Activists for LGBT rights hailed the ruling.

“We are delighted that Judge Michael McShane has finally brought a decade of uncertainty to a close with his ruling,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund. “Thousands of LGBTQ couples will be celebrating today across Oregon and around the nation. We are another step closer to marriage equality everywhere for everyone.”

“Today Judge McShane did the right thing for families, affirming that the denial of marriage to committed same-sex couples in Oregon is unconstitutional,” said Thalia Zepatos, director of public engagement at Freedom to Marry.

“In recognition of the strong support for marriage among Oregonians, no one with legal standing, including our state Attorney General, wanted to go down in history as defending discrimination.” (Much to the displeasure of right wing groups, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum had sided with the plaintiffs in the case, instead of defending Measure 36, the amendment that barred LGBT couples from wedding.)

“Across the country, the courts agree: same-sex couples and their families need the protections of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. With over seventy marriage cases now making their way through the courts, today’s decision in Oregon underscores that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”

Oregon’s senior U.S. Senator, Ron Wyden, sent out an email celebrating the decision, noting he has been a longtime supporter of marriage equality.

“I’m proud to say that I stood up for marriage equality when I ran for the U.S. Senate in 1995. That wasn’t a popular view then, and I’m thrilled to see so many Oregonians — so many Americans — come around to the view that everyone should have the freedom to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“As we take another step on the path to progress today, know that you can always count on me to stand up for civil rights for all Americans.”

Judge McShane’s decision arrived just a few days after a federal magistrate judge in Idaho declared the Gem State’s prohibition against marriage equality unconstitutional, and a little over two years since Governor Chris Gregoire signed into law a bill making marriage equality the law of the land in Washington. (The bill was upheld by Evergreen State voters several months later in a referendum).

Idaho’s Republican governor and attorney general have vowed to appeal the decision by Judge Candy Dale, which was stayed late last week by a panel of three judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Due to the stay in that case, LGBT couples in Idaho are still unable to wed. But the State of Oregon does not plan to ask the 9th Circuit to stay Judge McShane’s decision. McShane’s order is effective immediately, which means marriage equality has arrived in the Beaver State.

We look forward to seeing Oregon LGBT couples taking advantage of their newfound freedom to marry today and in the days ahead.

Idaho’s ban on marriage equality struck down as unconstitutional by federal judge

Marriage equality appears well on its way to becoming the law of the land throughout our entire region with the joyous news tonight that the chief U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Idaho, Candy W. Dale, has struck down Idaho’s ban on marriage between LGBT couples as unconstitutional.

“Idaho’s marriage laws withhold from them a profound and personal choice, one that most can take for granted,” Judge Dale wrote in her decision.

She added, “By doing so, Idaho’s marriage laws deny same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status. Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love.”

Idaho’s Republican Governor, Butch Otter, has already vowed to appeal the decision, all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary. However, unless Otter wins a stay by 9 AM this Friday morning, LGBT couples will be able to wed in Idaho.

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry enthusiastically praised Dale’s decision in a statement sent to NPI a short time after the ruling was released.

“Today’s ruling from the federal court in Idaho is the latest in more than a dozen rulings unanimously holding marriage discrimination unconstitutional. From Idaho to Arkansas, Utah to Michigan, the courts are affirming that there is no good reason for government to deny marriage to committed couples,” Wolfson said.

“As gay couples and their families begin to share in the joy and security of the freedom to marry, hearts and minds are opening, discrimination’s barriers are falling, and we’re moving our country to the right side of history.”

Washington became the first state in the Pacific Northwest to embrace marriage equality when voters upheld SB 6239 by approving Referendum 74 in 2012. Previously, voters had blessed the “everything but marriage” law passed by the Legislature in 2009, which permitted LGBT couples to form civil unions, but not marry. A previous effort to overturn the state’s statutory ban on marriage equality before the state Supreme Court (Andersen v. King County) was unsuccessful.

Idaho’s ban on marriage equality is at the end of Article III, which pertains to the state’s legislative department. It reads as follows:

Section 28. Marriage. A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.

It is a well-established principle of American law that state constitutions may not conflict with the Constitution of the United States. A state constitution may give the people of a state greater protections than what the U.S. Constitution provides, but not less. The U.S. Constitution is the minimum baseline.

Last year, in United States v. Windsor, the United States Supreme Court struck down the federal level ban on marriage equality. Since then, federal courts across the country have been invalidating state level bans on marriage equality with breathtaking speed. Judge Dale’s ruling is the newest.

But it’s not likely to stay the newest for very long. In fact, a federal judge is scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow in a pair of consolidated cases challenging Oregon’s ban on marriage equality. Barring a decision by a week from this Friday, activists in Oregon are prepared to submit signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to reverse the amendment adopted in 2004 that defines marriage as between a male and a female.

We’ll have more reaction to this news as we get it.