Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Monday, February 28, 2005

News Digest for Today

There are a number of articles and columns out today, particularly in the Seattle P-I, that are of important note to the issues we've been talking about recently. So here's a quick run through:

More on the State Splitting Sillies...
P-I columnist Joel Connelly weighs in with his thoughts on the ridiculous proposal to split Washington State into two states. Connelly's column is brilliant, and carefully crafted. Connelly makes a number of excellent points about the East-West interdependency I talked about in my blog entry several days ago, citing specific examples to back up his arguments. I highly reccomend reading it.

The Oscars Get Political...Sort Of
Politics was largely absent from last night's Academy Awards ceremony, though it did crop up a couple of times. Host Chris Rock made fun of Bush's budget deficit and the decision to go to war in Iraq, saying:
Bush did some things you could never get away with at your job, man. ... Just imagine you worked at the Gap. You're $70 trillion behind on your register and then you start a war with Banana Republic 'cause you say they got toxic tank tops over there. You have the war, people are dying, a thousand Gap employees are dead, bleeding all over the khakis, you finally take over Banana Republic, and you find out they never made tank tops in the first place.
And though he didn't mention conservative groups like Focus on the Family by name, actor and comedian Robin Williams was clearly addressing them when he called their Spongebob SquarePants association with gays and lesbians a silly farce.

Plan to charge car owners more fees is adding up
The Seattle P-I reports this morning that the state Legislature is considering a bill "that would add new road-use fees, expand weight fees to cars and small trucks, restore local street-tax maintenance authority, and expand the ability of counties to raise local gasoline taxes for road projects."

Of course, it wouldn't be necessary for lawmakers to be considering new fees if we hadn't voted to eliminate old ones. Part of the fees are an attempt to repair some of the damage caused by Tim Eyman's Initiative 776. [Get the full scoop on the damage Eyman's initiatives have caused at Permanent Defense's Dangerous Initiatives]

NPI supports such a package because we need more revenue to maintain and improve our transportation infrastructure. It costs money to live in a society, and people need to recognize that. You can't have it all and not pay for it. Taxes are often considered to be a waste, but the opposite is true - taxes are an investment in a healthy society. The key is building a progressive tax structure, so people aren't taxed unfairly.

State Budget
Republicans and business groups this year are once again pitching their lousy argument that the state needs to "live within its means". Unfortunately, that's simply not a realistic scenario. The cuts involved for us to "live within our means" would be too painful to make and would cause tremendous damage.

Eyman initiatives are partly responsible for our budget shortfall. In order to make up for the damage that's been caused, we need more revenues just to keep up with where we are headed. Oddly enough, of course, the GOP and its business allies will support more revenue for transportation.

These people are also opposed to mild change, because they came out to lobby against proposals like the homestead exemption, which would help create a more progressive tax structure. The AWB, BIAW, and other Republican interest group allies are apparently only interested in proposals that benefit them in some way. Forget about affordable housing or tax relief for middle and low income families. That's not important. What is important is protecting big business.

Democrats need to ignore this mantra and pass a budget that does bring in new revenue that we desperately need.

King County Council
Another P-I article this morning calls attention to the upcoming King County races that will have incumbents running against incumbents. Councilmembers Bob Ferguson and David Irons are annoyned (maybe even angered) that their districts were chopped off, but that's what's you get for supporting a council downsize. What did they expect? That they should be rewarded?

The council downsizing was an act of political revenge, driven by the jail guards' union. It doesn't really have anything to do with healthy democracy. In fact, it means that there are fewer councilmembers to represent the people of King County. The vocal minority of rural landowners who are so angry about the county's Critical Areas Ordinance should be dismayed at the council downsize, because it means there are going to be fewer people representing them and their views on the Council.

There's your local news digest for today.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A New Era For Pacific NW Portal

Today, Pacific Northwest Portal, the regional information gateway for progressives, is entering a new era. The site, which we launched just one month ago at the end of January, has become a phenomenal success.

Pacific NW Portal allows progressives in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to easily access news and viewpoints in their own region - and for other progressives around the country and the world, the portal represents the entire region as a whole.

Today, we're pleased to unveil a number of new and highly useful features that we're debuting on the site. We hope they make the site experience better for everyone who visits, and we believe these new features mark a new era for Pacific Northwest Portal, which is still incredibly young as a website.

The new features:
  • Homepage Improvements. The main page has been greatly improved. The link structure has been revamped, and the features at the top have been shuffled around. Several new features have also been introduced - there's Regional Highlights, which will showcase the best of the region's progressive viewpoints, and What's New, which quickly puts you in touch with recent improvements to the portal. The Recently Added Blogs feature is also new, and lists seven blogs we've recently added to our ever growing directory of progressive blogs in WA, OR, & ID.

  • Blogs & Websites Directory. The completely revamped Blogs & Websites directory is much easier to read. But the biggest change is the addition of 16x16 pixel images next to each blog. If the blog has a favicon, you'll see it displayed next to the name of the blog, and if not, you'll see a tiny screenshot of the blog instead. We've also expanded the directory by adding a number of new blogs.

  • New About Us section. The About Us section talks about the mission of Pacific Northwest Portal, policies for syndication and inclusion in the blog directory, a useful site map, graphic buttons for linking to the portal, and a brief history.

  • New Business section. Interested in business and labor news? Browse the new Business section to get labor and business headlines from the Seattle Times, Seattle P-I, and Yahoo! Also get the latest overview on the market from our MarketWatch stock ticker.

  • NPI Calendar Link. Want to know what events are going on in your area? Now, from any page, you can access the NPI Calendar of Events, with information on Democratic Party happenings, Democracy for America meetings, presentations, and other progressive get-togethers.
Even as we roll out these latest improvements, we're hard at work planning the next set of changes at Pacific Northwest Portal - your ticket to an entire region of progressive viewpoints.

If you haven't bookmarked Pacific Northwest Portal yet, add it to your list of favorites, and visit often. It's built to be your start page.

Distortion Machine Set to Full Spin

A couple of days ago (Friday), I blogged on the Growth Management/CAO issue, talking about the vocal minority that is doing everything it can to outrageously frame the law and the government in the most negative way possible.

These people go out of their way to make noise - and it turns out staging media stunts is no exception. Yesterday, local TV stations were foolish enough to report on their latest stunt - showing up at Ron Sims' house to stage a "surprise protest".

Of course, the protestors assumed one key detail that didn't quite work out in their favor: they thought Ron would be besieged inside his home by their noisemaking. But Sims wasn't even home. So they left a bundle of weeds on his doorstep, apparently trying to symbolize their manufactured outrage - a stupid and meaningless gesture if I've ever heard of one.

While the issue is important, this ridiculous stunt isn't newsworthy at all. The stunt's entire purpose is to loudly articulate distortions and grand, wrongful assumptions about the Growth Management Act and the Critical Areas Ordinance - from the indignant "property rights" activists' point of view.

Even worse, one of the stations' report was biased - KOMO's report. It didn't feature any viewpoint from the other side. There's no criticism of these people in the report. Apparently nobody from Futurewise or another related organization was asked by KOMO for comment.

KING 5 did a better job with their report. We've included a couple excerpts:

King County Executive Ron Sims was not home Saturday, but he recently told KING 5 News the rules seek to strike a legal balance to help maintain some of the county's rural character.

"If you want to pasture your property, we say great, we want that. If you want forest, that's great. We say, if you want to maintain your lands, you can," he said.

Other landowners did not participate in Saturday's protest because they endorse the rules and even say the rules do not go far enough to protect the environment.

A King County judge recently ruled that growth management regulations cannot be overturned by a public vote. It's now in the hands of the state Supreme Court.
We can't afford to let a vocal, angry, and obsessed minority frame this important issue. Their distortion machine is set to full spin - and their goal is to produce as much negative noise as they can. They don't seem to care about the community or the region as a whole.

All we hear is "me", "my", "I", and "us": The government won't let ME build on MY land. I should be able to do whatever I want with MY land. Pay US. Buy US out so we can go someplace else.

These people don't even seem to care about the point of the law - they're complaining and making all this noise because elected officials actually care enough to think about the health of the community and region as a whole.

Outcries like "They're taking our land!" are wild distortions, and they need to be refuted accordingly. And the media, especially KOMO TV, needs to be responsible enough to make sure that both points of view get covered - or choose not to cover a silly stunt like this at all.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Gearing Up for Cantwell 2006

It's early, but Maria Cantwell is already gearing up for her reelection campaign, and NPI is completely behind her.

No clear candidate has emerged for the GOP as a challenger for Cantwell, but possible contenders might be Chris Vance, the current party chair, or - George Nethercutt. The interesting thing about Nethercutt is that he gave up his safe seat in Spokane to run against Patty Murray, who was a two-term incumbent whose prospects for reelection were pretty good.

Perhaps Nethercutt's campaign against Murray was intended to be a precursor to a run against Cantwell - because Cantwell is much more vulnerable as a candidate. Still, Cantwell's prospects for reelection right now are pretty sound, considering we don't know who her challenger is yet.

Markos (of Daily Kos) has his own outlook, which I've copied in below. He predicts Cantwell will retain her seat. I agree, since we don't know who Cantwell's challenger(s) is or are yet.

Washington (Likely Dem retention)
Maria Cantwell is a freshman Senator, and will be targeted accordingly by the GOP. Sore loser Rossi is bandied about as a possible challenger, but Cantwell would be a far more competent opponent than now-governor Christine Gregoire.

Washington State is not friendly territory for Republicans.
Maria Cantwell can't afford to wait. She needs to pay off her debt from the last campaign and aggressively raise money for her next campaign - and she has to get moving.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Right's Distortion Machine

We've been hearing about this so-called "rural rage" off and on for several months now - pent up, explosive anger directed at the Critical Areas Ordinance and the the Growth Management Act.

Indignant "property rights" activists (as if property actually had any rights) are furious about regulations that tell them what they can and can't do with some of their land.

If you look at it only through their narrow point of view, it seems government is an oppressive and nasty monster, acting unduly unfair and infringing on citizens' rights and freedoms.

But this distortion machine completely ignores the real purpose of the Critical Areas Ordinance and Growth Management Act. If people were allowed to do whatever they wanted with their land, there would be no way to control sprawl and developments. There would be absolutely nothing to stop somebody from selling out their wetland to a Wal*Mart.

Property doesn't have rights. When you buy property, you are making an investment - much like you can invest money in the stock market. It's a risk. Chances are, you aren't going to be able to do whatever you want with that land.

If everybody had the freedom to do whatever they wanted with their land, our society would at the mercy of developers and landowners. In order to prevent unchecked and unmanaged growth, we need rules - hence, the Growth Management Act and the Critical Areas Ordinance.

In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer this morning, reporter Jennifer Langston writes about the possibility of a ballot initiative that would restore "property rights" to landowners. A couple of excerpts:
Sprawl watchdogs are already gearing up for a fight, preparing to combat the same kind of emotional campaign featuring 92-year-old widows and sympathetic landowners that apparently resonated with Oregon voters.

Washington voters already emphatically rejected a measure 10 years ago that would have required local governments to compensate landowners when regulations reduced their property values.
In order to get their message to resonate, they'll try to pull stunts exactly like that one - tricking people into supporting the measure by playing on their emotions or trying to stir up false outrage.

The BIAW accomplished similar feats in 2002 with Referendum 53 and again in 2003 with Initiative 841 and the phony "Workers Against Job Killing Rules" politiical committee they set up to make themselves look like labor.

The article goes on:
Opponents here say support evaporates as soon as people realize that it leads to subdivisions plopped down next to farms, orchards or wineries. By giving individual landowners carte blanche, protections keeping rendering plants or porn shops out of neighborhoods are lost, they argue.

They contend that Washington has little appetite for paying developers and landowners who want to maximize profits rather than to make reasonable use of their land.

"They pulled a fast one in Oregon, without a doubt. We will make sure people know what this is about -- creating loopholes for sprawl developers," said Aaron Ostrom, executive director of Futurewise, the advocacy group formerly called 1000 Friends of Washington.
There is a small but vocal minority of outraged activists that believe they should be able to do whatever they want with their land, society and regulations be damned. They claim a property rights initiative would easily pass in Washington State. But they clearly aren't in the majority:
Futurewise officials say a recent poll it commissioned of 400 likely voters across the state suggests those claims are exaggerated. Only 21 percent felt government had unfairly restricted the use of their land. Sixty percent said it's more important to protect neighborhoods from poorly planned developments than to protect the rights of individual property owners, according to the poll conducted by the Evans/McDonough research firm.
When these "property rights" activists come knocking, there's going to have to be a huge effort to take sure their distortion machine doesn't manipulate people into forming false conclusions about the Growth Management Act and the Critical Areas Ordinance.

We'll be posting more information at Permanent Defense in the coming weeks.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Portal Update Next Week

Next Monday, we're going to launch some new features on Pacific Northwest Portal, along with an update to our Blogs & Websites directory.

The blogosphere continues to expand - and we continue to get new submissions for blogs all the time.

Until we update the portal next week, we strongly urge you to check out two new blogs we'll be adding to our list - blatherWatch, a thoughtful look at local and national right wing talk radio, and Notes in Samsara, another Washington State blog, with perspectives from a Buddhist, focusing on national issues as well as our nation's economic outlook.

We'll post more information on the portal changes when we unveil them next Monday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

State Splitting Sillies

Believe it or not, some senators from Eastern Washington are floating the absurd idea of splitting the Evegreen State in two.

Why are we wasting our time with this nonsense?

Secession is often brought up as a proposed solution to many of the political differences that divide people in this country.

There are those people who say that all of the states that voted for John Kerry should secede from the United States and join Canada. There are people living in Eastern King County who want to secede and form their own county - "Cascade" County, or maybe "Cedar" County.

Before the Civil War, during the beginning of the War of 1812, there was serious talk about New England seceding over disagreement with the other regions of the country about going to war with Britain.

There's been only one time in our history when secession really became a reality: the Civil War era. And everyone knows what became of the Civil War era: the North, or Union, won, and secession was suddenly dead.

Talk about secession is about as old as the United States itself. But what does it accomplish? It's a strategy of divide rather than unite - a "divorce" over political beliefs and values.

Washington doesn't need to be split in two. People in the eastern and western regions of the state should be able to get along together and understand each other. And instead of growing further apart, lawmakers should focus on bringing the state together.

Each region of the state has something to offer the other.

The beauty of Washington State is that it isn't all the same. It's different. There are big cities, and small towns. There are large factories and small farms. There are mountains and foothills, and there are plains and valleys.

The biggest problem seems to be that people in both regions of the state don't understand each other well enough. So instead of talking about division, we should be talking about unity, and what we can do to understand each other better. We need to stop shouting and start listening.

We have more in common than we realize. An honest and open discussion about the issues and challenges that we face will be beneficial to all of us. It's time to take the courageous step and work out our differences - not allow those differences to drive us further apart.

I wrote this blog before reading P-I columnist Robert Jamieson's new thoughtful column - West side, east side: One story, not two, which makes many of the same points I made and ends with the same conclusion as my blog title.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why Europe Still Matters

Repairing relations with our European allies will require much more than President Bush agreeing to say "French fries" again. 

Ongoing security efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and new challenges in Iran and Syria will require cohesion among our allies.  The rising strength of the euro and massive U.S. trade deficits are major issues for the global economy.   

President Bush's trip to Europe comes at a critical point for the trans-Atlantic partnership.  He must take Europe seriously and recognize its importance in global politics. 

The European Union (EU) is the fastest growing political system in the world. In the last ten years, the EU has grown from 12 countries to 25, and has brought 450 billion people, speaking more than 20 different languages, into a single political system. 

And it is still growing. Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania are scheduled to join in 2007, and Turkey has begun the long accession process.  Over the next five years, the European Commission will advance efforts to incorporate the Western Balkans (the countries of the former Yugoslavia and Albania).

Europe is America's largest trading partner. Europe and America remain each other's largest trading partners, exchanging about $1 billion in goods a day. The EU and United States frequently find themselves on the same side in trade disputes before the WTO over anything from steel to bananas.

Europe's Common Agricultural policy is a main obstacle to a new global trade agreement. Although the United States has similar has significant agricultural subsidies, the US has shown a willingness to decrease its tariffs and subsidies if the Europeans do as well.  What Europe does on this front affects America. 

NATO and the EU must play a critical role in securing Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing peace to the Middle East, and stopping the nuclear ambitions of Iran.  In the upcoming NATO summit, President Bush should work with NATO to ensure an accelerated timetable for the training of Iraqi forces. 

We should join our European allies in direct negotiations with Iran, offering both carrots and sticks to forestall Iran's nuclear ambitions.  And he should work with the Europeans to develop a common approach to an achievable peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  

To learn more about the wonders of the European Union and what it's ascendancy will mean for the United States, please go here.

Scientists Feeling the Sting of Bush Administration Agendas

According to speakers at a meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science, budget cuts in scientific R&D and science education in public schools will stifle the nation's ability to produce future scientists.

Other concerns voiced by the scientific community are the possibility of higher visa requirements and restrictions being used to control the flow of scientists from other nations into the US, the ejection of scientists from planning the administration's environmental policy, and attempts to disprove proven aspects of science (mainly the global warming aspect).

Censorship is not new to the Bush Administration's policies, but the attempts to silence the scientific community is just downright wrong.

The challenges from the Bush Administration have left scientists scrambling to match their work to the Bush Administration agenda.

Plus, with the R&D budget cuts, any research into alternative energy will be delayed due to lack of funds and the education budget cuts will compound the problem of a shortage of PhD level scientists we are facing by creating a shortage of MS and BS level scientists (a very sad prospect indeed).

Most likely, this administration is trying to create a country of people who don't understand basic scientific thought so that they can continue with their "faith based initiatives" and their destruction of the environment in the name of profits with little resistance from an ignorant public.

This kind of behavior from the Bush White House is absolutely unacceptable. It is time to act and stop this crap. I am calling for all who wish to save the scientific community and the environment from President Bush and his friends on Wall Street to do anything they can to show that we will not stand for this.

You can view an article on this subject here

Monday, February 21, 2005

NAACP Attacks Bush Social Security Plan

NAACP leaders are requesting a meeting with President Bush to discuss his Social Security privatization plan which would harm the black community. The NAACP pointed out to Bush that twice as many married African Americans as whites rely upon Social Security for their retirement income.

The NAACP says that the president is only trying to capitalize upon the life expectancy problem, and it's easy to see why they says that. Sitting around and wondering why there is a life expectancy disparity between African Americans and whites is not going to solve the problem, but it will allow rich whites to become even richer.

I should also mention that the IRS is threatening to revoke the non-profit status of the NAACP after Julian Bond made a speech critical of President Bush. Sounds to me like Bush is using his influence as President to compel the IRS into silencing the voices of Bush critics in the African American community.

President Bush and Congress need to move out of their comfort zone and work with the African American community and the Democratic Party on real solutions to Social Security - not this privatization nonsense. While they're at it, it would also be a good idea for them to try and tackle the minority healthcare problem as well.

You can view the article here.

Davis: Dean spells trouble for Republicans

In the Seattle Times today, former King County GOP chair Reed Davis (who was also a Senate hopeful last year running against George Nethercutt) writes about Howard Dean's ascendancy to Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Davis, who is also a professor at Seattle Pacific University and a great believer in political parties, has a message for his fellow Republicans: Stop celebrating the fact that Howard Dean won the race for DNC chair.

I've personally had the opportunity to listen to Reed Davis speak about political parties and why people shouldn't be afraid to belong to a political party. While our political views are very much different from one another's - Reed is a traditional conservative - he is still a very good speaker and very knowledgeable. He's one of the few Republicans I can respect and admire.

An excerpt from his column:
NOW that Howard Dean has ascended to the chairmanship of the Democrat National Committee, Republicans are high-fiving one another with such mad glee that you'd think Democrats had just nominated Dennis Kucinich to run in 2008. The GOP needs to sit back down, recork the champagne and get back to work. Whether they know it or not, Republicans need to understand that Dean spells trouble for the Republican Party. Big trouble.

Republicans may think that the nomination of Dean is hysterically funny — a scream, in fact, as George Will recently put it — but they are deluding themselves if they think Dean is nothing more than a wild-eyed ideologue with a temper and a cult following.

Dean brings three talents to the chairmanship that can potentially sink not just a GOP presidential candidate in 2008 but the Republican-controlled House and maybe even the Senate well before then.
Davis goes on to talk about Dean's many talents: his ability to raise money, wisely spend that money, and connect with the party's grassroots activists by listening.

Anyone who has followed Howard Dean's campaign for the Presidency knows he is inspirational and charismatic, and willing to stand up for what he believes in.

Republicans are quick to denounce Dean, trying to tell Democrats to stay away from him. Republicans say this because they're afraid of what Howard would do if he takes control. And now that he has, Republicans are in big trouble, as Reed Davis points out.

From the very beginning, NPI has strongly supported Howard Dean: through his presidential campaign and then in the race for DNC Chair, we were always behind him. And as long as Democrats stand behind Chairman Dean, we will be able to move forward and go the necessary distance to take back this country.

Even Reed Davis recognizes that.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Read the Republican Noise Machine

HorsesAss.org author David Goldstein has written a post today entitled We’re number two. We have to try harder. In his post, "Goldy" talks about the fact that the right wing blogs have an infrastructure (i.e. KVI and KTTH talk radio) to support them - one of the reasons the GannonGuckert story hasn't been talked about much in the mainstream media.

If you want to understand how today's media works and why the right wing has a better echo chamber than we do, you should read The Republican Noise Machine, by author David Brock.

It's a book we came across months ago, and it gives a lot of insight into the right's echo chamber and how the mainstream media is slanted towards conservatives. Brock is a former right winger who used to write about the Clintons, and since he's been inside the system, he can explain how it works.

Brock is the guy behind the organization Media Matters for America, if you didn't know already. He reguarly appears on Air America Radio.

The Republican Noise Machine is at the top of NPI's reading list. We highly encourage you to check it out.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Negroponte: Three Strikes and He's In

President Bush's nomination of John Negroponte, the current United States Ambassador to Iraq, to be the nation's first National Director of Intelligence (DNI) is puzzling, if not troubling. The President has left a critical gap in Baghdad and settled for his fourth choice, a man who may not have the strength to do battle with Donald Rumsfeld in the upcoming struggle for control of the intelligence bureaucracy.

Negroponte's appointment is especially ironic in light of President Bush's repeated statements that Iraq is the frontline in our war against terrorism and Wednesday's testimony by CIA Director Porter Goss that the war in Iraq "has become a cause for extremists." This seems like a particularly inopportune time to remove our man in Baghdad.

The real question is not whether Negroponte lacks the management capabilities and experience in the intelligence community to succeed, but whether he is the strongest candidate to bring together 15 agencies and go toe-to-toe with Rumsfeld, who currently controls 80 percent of the estimated $40 billion intelligence budget. President Bush struck out at least three times on his way to settling on Negroponte.

The conventional wisdom has already established that Negroponte can be confirmed but – in an era of increasingly aggressive intelligence – serious questions about Negroponte's record on human and civil rights abuses must be addressed by the Senate. Negroponte's loyal service to Bush in extraordinarily difficult positions by no means erases the history of his involvement with—or inattention to—the human rights abuses perpetrated by Honduran death squads during his tenure as ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985.

Greenspan Exposes the Flaws of Bush's Social Security Scheme

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan yesterday admitted that the president's current Social Security privatization plan has major flaws.

Although the mainstream press focused on Greenspan's theoretical support for private accounts, his testimony revealed deep reservations about the transition costs and his belief that Bush's plan will do nothing to alleviate long-term funding problems in the system.

Greenspan admitted Social Security privatization will not increase overall national savings. During his testimony, Greenspan argued that the key to fulfilling our commitments to future retirees is to increase national savings.

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) asked Greenspan, "Would you also agree…that the private accounts will basically leave national savings unchanged since the government is borrowing money to give to individual citizens to invest in the market?" Greenspan replied, "Yes, I do."

Greenspan believes private accounts will do nothing to save Social Security. Greenspan expressed concern about Social Security's long term financial stability under privatization schemes.

Sen. Chuck Shumer (D-NY) asked if "setting up a private account under current conditions, not starting from scratch...does anything to alleviate the problem." Greenspan replied that setting up private accounts "surely doesn't alleviate the current problem."

Greenspan would not endorse borrowing trillions of dollars to finance Social Security privatization. Notably absent from Greenspan's theoretical defense of private accounts was any solid defense of the president's plan to borrow trillions to finance the phase-out of Social Security.

He warned of negative consequences from borrowing huge sums of money and stated, "We don't know how the markets respond to that…And if we were to go forward in a large way and we were wrong, it would be creating more difficulties than I would imagine."

Judge refuses to clarify rulings

The Seattle Times reports: "Chelan County Superior Judge John Bridges today declined to issue an order clarifying a series of rulings he made in the governor's election lawsuit earlier this month."

Bridges signed the order proposed by the Republicans, which doesn't change anything from what happened on February 4th.

However, "[Bridges] said issues raised by Democratic Party attorney Kevin Hamiltion, particularly about standards of proof for illegal votes, need to be addressed in court."

Republicans also asked Bridges to set a date for trial in April, but he refused.

P-I: Election expert praises King County

There's an article this morning in the Seattle P-I that everyone following the lawsuit challenging the election of Governor Christine Gregoire needs to read.

The article - Election expert praises county - by Neil Modie, effectively slams the door on the issue of the discrepancy in the voter rolls.

The regional progressive blogopshere has been trying for weeks to convincingly explain why King County’s variance between voters credited and ballots cast is an irrelevant. Now, we get this article in the P-I: a refreshingly different look and analysis of the "issue". An excerpt:
The head of the nation’s largest election system thinks King County displayed amazing accuracy in a bureaucratic process that the Republican Party is focusing on in its attempt to overturn the governor’s election.

But Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters Conny McCormack also thinks it’s irrelevant.

While King County officials defend the process in question as highly accurate and GOP critics call it shockingly inaccurate, McCormack said it’s a red herring, a flap over a postelection file-maintenance chore that has no bearing on the accuracy of the election returns.

“It has nothing to do with the ballot-counting. It’s a separate process,” she said this week. A nationally recognized authority on election administration and reform, McCormack made the comments in an interview given at the urging of King County election officials.

The criticism, she said, is “maligning the accuracy of the count based on something that has nothing to do with the accuracy of the count.”
Ouch. That's a major blow to Stefan and his cronies at SoundPolitics, who are always looking for anything questionable to use to attack the process as completely flawed.

The article also makes perfectly clear that the two processes - record keeping and reconciling the ballots cast - should not be mixed up:
After election results are certified, election workers electronically scan voters’ signatures into records. The purpose is to record, for future elections, who voted in the last one so that registration files can be purged of inactive voters and political parties and campaigns can obtain voters’ names and voting-frequency data.

Logan and McCormack said that record-keeping process, which they said is susceptible to human error, is being confused with the process of reconciling the number of ballots cast at each precinct and the number of people who voted at each precinct.

Those two numbers are supposed to be matched up before the final results are certified 15 days after the election. Logan said that’s the necessary check on election accuracy.

“It’s apples and oranges,” McCormack said. “I think someone is trying to confuse” the two (processes).
Or maybe the confusion is intentional. The "smoke and mirrors" Chris Vance keeps talking about is his own party's propoganda machine. It's manufactured confusion and manufactured outrage. If Republicans can get people to believe the process was flawed, then the pressure for a new election (because a revote is nonsense - you can't have a "re" vote) will be higher.

All this hype about the discrepancy is completely ridiculous. The discrepancy shouldn't even be an issue! And it wouldn't be an issue if people like Stefan Sharkansky didn't lie and distort the truth about the election. They're so focused on their goal of attacking the process that truth and honesty have no longer become important to them. The garbage that the Snark and his cronies post on SoundPolitics isn't about good democracy. It's all aimed at getting a Republican into the governor's mansion.

And Secretary of State Sam Reed has some words for people like Stefan, whose partisan zeal now supercedes his conscience:
Moderator: Anything, Sam, you want so say that you haven’t had a chance to address? Any urban myths?

Reed: Actually, there is, you are right. A frustration of mine as a person with considerable experience in the field of elections is that some of the rumors of errors, mistakes, illegalities, were absolutely incorrect, but because of the Internet, blogs and talk radio, they were circulated rapidly and extensively and helped contribute to the loss of confidence and trust in the system. I would hope in the future that the people who operate these blogs and the talk radio hosts will exercise the caution and ethics of the journalism profession, and that will help the citizery understand what really happened in the election process.
People like Stefan would do well to heed Sam's words.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

NPI to undergo testing

For the next few hours, we're going to be working to improve the template, and try to see if we can improve the blog's appearance in Mozilla Firefox. Thanks for your patience.

UPDATE: Testing has concluded for today, but more tests will likely be run this upcoming weekend.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Recognizing the Regional Progressive Blogosphere

I just wanted to note to that there's a letter to the editor in the Seattle Times this morning from Carl Ballard of the Washington State Political Report.

The letter was written in response to one of the most ridiculous and stupid columns the Seattle Times has ever published - Urge to rant propelling blogs to status of mainstream media - written by James J. Na, who is is a senior fellow in foreign policy at the conservative Discovery Institute in Seattle.

In his column (which he wrote based on experience at a "blogger conference"), Na wrote:
Even in hyper-liberal Seattle, bloggers tend to be a decidedly conservative lot. Despite my effort to find liberal bloggers at the event (several were invited), I encountered none. The one blogger who harangued me for what seemed an eternity for "associating with Discovery Institute" turned out to be a conservative.
Well, that's one of the most ridiculous and phony statements NPI has ever heard. There are plenty of progressive/liberal bloggers in Seattle and in Washington State. Why does Na think left wing bloggers would show up at a blogging conference organized by conservatives?

Carl responds in kind with his letter, which not only mentions this blog, but also Pacific Northwest Portal, which is your ticket to the regional progressive blogopshere. In fact, in the portal's Blogs & Websites directory, you can find several dozen progressive blogs from Washington State.

Testifying on HB 1774

Today I journeyed down to Olympia along with fellow allies David Goldstein and Steve Zemke to testify before the state House Finance Committee in favor of HB 1774 - an act relating to property tax relief, which many of you know as simply the homestead exemption.

One highlight was that I got a chance to observe the state House in session. During my few minutes in the gallery, I listened to the House debate and then pass HB 1194 on prescription drugs. A few Republicans spoke against it, but in the end, the bill passed, with the Democratic caucus in favor and the Republican caucus opposed.

Then it was off to the John O'Brien Building for committee hearings. There were six bills ahead of ours, but there were only people testifying in favor of them, and so we got to ours - HB 1774 - fairly quickly.

Representative Santos, who is the prime sponsor of HB 1774 and also a member of the Finance committee, spoke first and talked about the need for the Homestead Exemption. Then I testified, mostly from a statement I had prepared myself, which you can read here. Steve Zemke of Taxpayers for Washington's Future came up with me to testify, and he followed with his own remarks.

We were followed by some opponents to HB 1774 - first, the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound, who claimed the bill would have a negative impact on renters and the cost of renting an apartment or home - and a representative from the Washington Appartment Association, who made the same argument.

Then came Tom McBride from the Association of Washington Business (which, by the way, also endorsed I-892 last autumn) with the traditional "this will hurt business and so therefore we oppose it" argument, even though the homestead exemption has very little effect on businesses.

In fact, the tax burden has been shifting from commerical properties onto residential properties - apparently the business association would prefer to keep it that way, at the expense of homeowners.

The state realtors association and the Building Owners and Managers association also sent people to oppose our proposal. Most of the associations' arguments were lousy and phony, but that didn't stop their representatives from making them. They are afraid of change that doesn't substantially benefit them.

Our own David Goldstein, author of HorsesAss.org, spoke in between these people and helped shoot down some of the myths and erroneous assumptions being made about the proposal. While we certainly do have concern about the impact on renters (more data is needed to assess the impact before any conclusions can really be drawn) the rest of the arguments against the homestead exemption were pretty lame.

The hearing is now over, but this proposal is still on the table. We clearly need more data to figure out how the homestead exemption will affect Washington State, and we need to learn more about the impact on renters.

And we certainly need to have a discussion about this issue. As I pointed out in my testimony to the committee, affordable home ownership is becoming a serious problem.

Not giving testimony, but signed in to support our proposal were Dave Wood of People for Fair Taxes, and Carrie Little of the Emergency Food Network.

We'll continue adding information to Permanent Defense's Homestead Exemption Center, and we're definitely going to keep talking about it. So keep following the discussion. It's far from over.

Simple Majority for School Levies and Bonds

A series of bills have been introduced in both houses of the Washington State Legislature which would amend the state constitution and or modify RCW to lower the bar on requirements for school levies and bonds (which currently require a 60% supermajority to pass).

Respectively the bills are SB 4144, SJR 8202, and HJR 4205. They will lower the requirement to a simple majority (any vote over 50%).

The current system is ludicrous because it requires a supermajority to pass. Please lobby your state representatives to support our children's future.

For more information go to the Legislative website and enter the bill number.

Heading down for the hearing

In about an hour and a half, I'll be on my way down to Olympia to testify before the House Finance Committee on HB 1744, the homestead exemption proposal.

If you've been reading this blog, you know all about the homestead exemption, which helps shift tax burden off of middle and lower income families and makes home ownership more affordable.

I'll post a report when I get back.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Another $82 Billion and Still Treading Water in Iraq

President Bush yesterday asked American taxpayers for another $81.9 billion, all but a sliver of which will go to bankroll the war in Iraq. Members of Congress of both parties should and will support his request for the sake of our troops, who are under great pressure to quell the escalating violence in the country. But with reports of a "wild west" atmosphere in Iraq with dollars flowing freely and fraudulently and the total bill for the war over $200 billion, Americans deserve much greater accountability and oversight of how their tax dollars are being spent.

The election in Iraq was an important step forward. But at a cost of more than $200 billion, it is not enough for the president and his men to boast that "freedom is on the march." They must stop the spin and face up to the reality on the ground. The President must tell the American people what their $82 billion is buying – and how many more times they will come back to the well.

President Bush still owes our troops and the American people a plan. Billions of dollars are disappearing as our soldiers tread water. President Bush continues to insist that we will bring democracy to Iraq without offering a concrete plan for suppressing the insurgency, training Iraqi troops, and meeting the basic needs of the Iraqi people. Our $200+ billion has created a new breeding ground for terrorists, while and the end game in Iraq is far from clear.

And taxpayers deserve the straight story on how their dollars are being spent. This White House, in keeping with its record of consistently misleading the public about the realities in Iraq, continues to play budgetary games. The people and Congress have the right to know how many more $82 billion checks we must sign. This is a time for taking responsibility and straight talk about what comes next in Iraq. At more than $200 billion with no end in sight, the White House owes the American people more than one election and empty promises.

Homestead Exemption hearing tomorrow

We've been spending a lot of time talking about HB 1744 - an act providing property tax relief, and for good reason. Tax reform is one the main goals of NPI's Permanent Defense, and it's something worth fighting for.

Washington's tax structure, as the Seattle P-I noted last year in its editorial endorsing the homestead exemption, is depolorably regressive. HB 1744 doesn't solve all of our state's problems, but it does begin to tackle a couple of them.

The hearing on HB 1744 is tomorrow, Wednesday, February 16th, at 1:30 PM in the State Capitol's John O'Brien Building, House Hearing Room C.

NPI will be there, and we encourage you to be there too.


Also check out TaxSanity.org, which has put the Frequently Asked Questions you may have seen before at Permanent Defense's Homestead Exemption Center up on its main page, with some updated information.

David Goldstein has also weighed in at HorsesAss.org with his arguments on why Washingtonians should support the Homestead Exemption.

Use this form, provided by Permanent Defense, to help lobby the members of the House Finance Committee to urge them to pass the homestead exemption.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Judge tosses out Reed recall

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham today ruled that a pair of right wing ideologues' attempt to start a recall to remove Secretary of State Sam Reed from office cannot move forward.

The Associated Press:
Martin Ringhofer, a Boeing Co. employee, and Seattle resident Linda Jordan argued that mistakes made by Reed led to Democrat Christine Gregoire ultimately winning a third count and the election by 129 votes.

Judge Chris Wickham's ruling came after nearly three hours of arguments in which Ringhofer and Jordan attempted to prove there was sufficient evidence that Reed, a Republican, was guilty of misfeasance and malfeasance for certifying the election on Dec. 30 while questions still remained over the validity of votes, and some counties were late in certifying the results.
The recall effort was a ridiculous and pathetic attempt to chastise a state official who has done a noble job of guiding the state through this tumultuous process. Thankfully, it's now dead.

King County Election Report

King County Records and Elections Manager Dean Logan is presenting a comprehensive report on the 2004 elections to the Metropolitan King County Council Committee of the Whole Monday, Feb. 14, which began at 9:30 a.m., 10th Floor, King County Courthouse, 3rd and James.

You can watch what's going on via streaming video at KCTV.

More Oregon for all of us

Today, the incredibly useful Pacific Northwest Portal is rolling out its latest improvements.

The new “Expanded Oregon” section features six additional blogs from the Beaver State, bringing the total of syndicated blogs to 24. These are the blogs we’re adding:

Also Also, Smoke Filled Doom, New Frames, PDXLeft, Rank Amateur, and KazaBlog.

The portal also covers Idaho…but we’re already syndicating around 70% of the progressive Gem State blogs that we know exist. We can't add an "Expanded Idaho" section until more progressive Idahoans start blogging!

So now, there’s more Oregon for all of us. Be sure to bookmark the site and visit it often. And remember, there's always something new at Pacific Northwest Portal.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Help lobby House Finance Committee

Permanent Defense needs your help in lobbying the members of the House Finance Committee to support HB 1744 - the Homestead Exemption, a proposal which would provide tax relief for middle and lower income households.

They've set up a form here where you can send an email to all the members of the House Finance Committee. Just enter in your name, email address, and a message of support for the homestead exemption.

Learn more about the Homestead Exemption at this useful webpage set up by Permanent Defense, which talks about HB 1744 and the impact on homeowners.

Here's a useful excerpt from the Seattle P-I, which last year published this as part of its editorial endorsing the Homestead Exemption:

The bill [now HB 1744], whose prime sponsors are Reps. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, and Toby Nixon, R-Kirkland, would deliver property tax relief to those who most need it by shifting the tax burden to the most expensive homes and non-residential property.

Because it is revenue-neutral, this progressive version of property tax relief would not come at the expense of state and local governments.

According to preliminary estimates, the property tax burden on the owner of a home valued at $150,000 to $200,000 would be cut by about 10 percent. Homeowners overall would see an average of 6 percent savings, with only those whose homes are valued at $500,000 or more realizing an increase, of about 4 percent.

Those top-end homeowners could likely soften even that small increase through a higher deduction on their federal income tax return.

Washington's tax system is deplorably regressive. Those earning less than $20,000 a year spend nearly 16 percent of their income on state and local taxes, while those earning more than $130,000 a year pay just over 4 percent.

By joining 37 states in offering some form of property tax homestead exemption, the Washington Legislature could provide not only tax relief but also a less-regressive tax system.
The hearing for HB 1744 is this Wednesday, February 16th, 2005, at 1:30 PM in the State Capitol's John O'Brien Building, House Hearing Room C. Please come and support the proposal if you are able.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Alarming Budget Surprises

The president's budget has now been public for four days. For months the American people knew that it would be bad: cuts to vital domestic investments and services for the middle class, unsustainable tax cuts for the wealthy, and expanding deficits were all expected. The budget release on Monday, however, brought even more bad news to light. Specifically, the White House sprung three budget surprises on the American people:

Proposed more tax cuts for the wealthy. Americans already knew that the president wanted to make his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, an act that would cost well over $1 trillion. What they found out this week is that the president is looking for even more tax cuts—cuts that would cost $117 billion over the next ten years. Eliminating two obscure tax provisions known as "PEP" and "PEASE" would overwhelmingly benefit the well-off: ninety-seven percent of savings would go to households making more than $200,000 a year.

Took even more money "off-budget" and rolled it into an upcoming supplemental request. For months the administration has said that it will request $80 billion in additional funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and that it will not account for the money in the budget. More recently it revealed that it will also seek supplemental funding for tsunami relief efforts and aid to the Palestinian Authority. Although few debate the merits of such funds, at a time of soaring deficits the president owes it to the American people to fully account for this money.

Slipped unpopular policies in through the backdoor. The president—never one to shy away from trying to sneak unpopular policies through the legislative system—is up to his old tricks again in this budget. He proposes further exploration of "bunker buster" nuclear bombs and counts on funding from drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge—two policies that Congress has explicitly rejected in the past. In addition, numerous provisions were surreptiously inserted that would make severe cuts in Medicaid, Americorps, the Veterans Administration, Housing and Urban Development, and - most ironically in light of the 2004 election - cuts in farm subsidies.

Chairman Dean

It's official: Howard Dean has become the Chairman of the Democratic Party. Today, members of the DNC overwhelmingly voted in People Powered Howard as the next leader of our great party.

NPI applauds and commends the selection of Howard Dean as the new Chairman of the Democratic Party. Dean has the vision, passion, charisma, and support of the grassroots that we need to become effective again. With Dean at the helm, NPI is confident that the Democratic Party can triumph over the Republicans in 2006 and 2008.

Our new Chairman gave a powerful inaugural speech, which you can read in full here. Here's some of our favorite excerpts:
We know that we're the party for young Americans looking for a government that speaks to them… we know that we're the party for working Americans desperate for a government that looks out for them… and we know that we're the party for older Americans and veterans and members of the Armed Services expecting and deserving a government that honors them.

And we know that no matter where you live or who you are, what you look like or how you worship, ours is the diverse party that welcomes you.

But right now, as important as all of that is… it is not enough. We have to move forward. We cannot win if all we are is against the current President.

The first thing we have to do is stand up for what we believe in.

We Democrats believe in fiscal responsibility and we're the only ones who have delivered it.

The first time our nation balanced its budget, it was Andrew Jackson, father of the Democratic Party, who did it. The last time our nation balanced its budget, it was Bill Clinton who did it. Democratic governors do it every single year.

Not one Republican President has balanced the budget in almost 40 years. Borrow and spend. Borrow and spend. Borrow and spend. Americans cannot trust the Republicans with their money.

Americans want a strong and smart national security.

It was Democrats who pushed to create a Department of Homeland Security. It was Democrats who pushed to make our airlinessafer. It is Democrats who are now working to make sure we close the remaining gaps in our security. It was Democrats who demanded reform of the intelligence community.

And it is Democrats who are pushing for a foreign policy that honestly deals with the threats of today, and the threats of tomorrow — like securing the nuclear materials around the world.

Republicans had to be dragged kicking and screaming to our side on all of these issues. There is no reason for Democrats to be defensive on national defense.
An excellent speech. Now, the Democratic Party must move forward: we must show up in every state and we must fight to win. With the election of Howard Dean as Chairman, Democrats are sending a signal: we will not resign ourselves to being a minority party. Under Chairman Dean, we will fight and win in 2006 and 2008. Now is the time to contribute to the Democratic Party. We must make Republicans come to remember in fear the day Howard Dean became our Chairman.

Onward and forward.

Rice Received Several Urgent Warnings Prior to 9/11

This most alarming of stories should have been on the front pages of every newspaper in the country. Unfortunately, it wasn't considered quite sensational enough, so it was shoved to page A27.

New memos have recently surfaced that reveal evidence harsher than anything Richard Clarke or the 9/11 Commission ever said. In addition to the now-notorious memo entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S." (which Rice derided as "historical information"), there is a new memo indicating that the new Secretary State (then National Security Adviser) was warned repeatedly by Clarke and others to quickly get on board with Islamic terrorism and formulate an outlined defense strategy against potential attacks on American soil.

Needless to say, their prudent warnings were not heeded, and the tragic result was the deaths of 3,000 Americans. Here's the full story:

Eight months before the Sept. 11 attacks, and days after the Bush administration first took office, then-White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke issued a memo to then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice describing the "urgent need" for "a principals-level review on the al-Qaeda network." A newly released memo seriously undermines Rice's claim in a 3/22/04 column in the Washington Post that "No al-Qaeda threat was turned over to the new administration."

Also, a previously undisclosed 9/11 Commission report released yesterday showed federal aviation officials received dozens of warnings before the Sept. 11 attacks about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, including some that mentioned airline hijackings or suicide attacks.

Former members of the Commission and families of the 9/11 victims are pushing a reluctant White House to release the entire classified 9/11 Commission report.

Anything this damning should have prevented Rice from advancing to any higher position within the Bush Administration, let alone becoming the Secretary of State.

That the Bush propagandists actually succeeded in manipulating the debate and playing the race card is simply astonishing. The 13 Democrats who actually bothered to examine Rice's abysmal record as National Security Advisor should be commended, and the integrity of "moderates" such as Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) should be in question. It is high time for progressives to keep a vigilant eye on Rice and come out in forceful opposition whenever any neoconservative scheme crops up.

Bush's Nuclear Negligence

For a president who claims to be decisive, George Bush has shown an appalling lack of leadership when it comes to North Korea.

This week, after four years of vacillation, indecision and hesitancy from the White House, North Korea announced it has nuclear weapons. The United States has long suspected North Korea of having a secret nuclear program; some are dismissing this as a gambit by Kim Jong-Il to get the edge in North Korea's dangerous quest to become an accepted nuclear power.

Without a swift commitment from the Bush administration to finally lead, however, that gambit might pay off. Time and again, North Korea's inflammatory behavior has gotten the country exactly what it wanted; as the Washington Post charges, "Every time a red line appears to have been drawn, North Korea has crossed it without penalty."

EVIL FLOURISHES WHEN GOOD PEOPLE DO NOTHING: Nicholas Kristoff reminds readers that, under the watchful Clinton administration, North Korea "as best we know…didn't make a single nuclear weapon." But while the Bush White House indulged its fixation with Iraq, North Korea continuously tested the waters to see just how far it could push the nuclear envelope. Over the past four years, North Korea has "kicked out international weapons inspectors, withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, publicly claimed to have reprocessed spent fuel rods into plutonium and, in 2003, privately threatened U.S. diplomats that it might test a nuclear device." Today, the Bush administration "now acknowledges that North Korea extracted enough plutonium in the last two years for about half a dozen nuclear weapons. "

THEY WILL NOT BE IGNORED: President Bush has refused to focus on the festering problem of North Korea. When Bush took office, the New York Times writes, "he immediately began distancing himself from the Clinton administration's approach, which had stopped the most imminent North Korean nuclear weapons program in its tracks." North Korea went on "a diplomatic back burner as [the White House] followed its obsession with Iraq." As a result, North Korea fell further into "deeper isolation and paranoia." But when reports showed the country was stepping up its nuclear program, Undersecretary of State John Bolton said concern over whether "they had two plutonium-based weapons and now they have seven" was just "quibbling" (a view probably not shared by the nuclear black market).

VACILLATING LEADERSHIP: When an increasingly aggressive North Korea did attract White House attention, the administration remained "startlingly passive." President Bush has been frozen, unable to make the difficult decision between diplomacy and following a hard line. Charles Pritchard, formerly Colin Powell's top official dealing with North Korea, warned that "the administration has neither offered much of a carrot nor wielded a stick." While the White House dithered, North Korea used the time to build more bombs.

STICKS AND STONES BREAKING BONES: Although the White House is reluctant to act in North Korea, it continues to make the situation unstable with incendiary rhetoric. In 2002, President Bush threw off the delicate diplomatic balance by including the country in his "Axis of Evil." (In the days after the speech, former President Jimmy Carter said, ""I think it will take years before we can repair the damage done by that statement.") In July 2003, just before crucial six-nation talks with North Korea, Bolton so insulted the country that the State Department was forced to call him home. And even though "skittish South Korean and Chinese officials" recently urged the Bush administration to tread lightly around North Korea, in her confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted upon calling North Korea "an outpost of tyranny," a phrase North Korea repeated in its nuclear declaration.

Playing the Race Card

In a desperate attempt to gain support for his plan to privatize Social Security, the President is taking advantage of a tragic disparity among the races.

Namely, that African Americans on average have shorter life spans than white Americans. Describing Social Security as "unfair" to African Americans because "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people," the president is shamelessly using every trick up his sleeve to convince Americans to support privatization.

Thankfully, the public isn't buying it. Most Americans have serious doubts about the President's views on Social Security, and members of Congress -- including those in the president's party — are increasingly skeptical of the Administration's plans. Here's what the Center for American Progress had to say on the issue:
African Americans do not receive less in Social Security benefits than white Americans. As documented by the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, "careful research reflecting actual work histories for workers by race indicate that the nonwhite population actually enjoys the same or better expected rates of return from Social Security" as whites.

The evidence supporting the President's claims come from a Heritage Foundation report so inaccurate that the actuary raised serious questions about its methodology.

Any reduction in Social Security benefits would badly harm the African-American community. African Americans depend heavily on Social Security benefits; according to the AARP, African Americans rely on Social Security benefits for 44 percent of the income.

That number is even higher for African-American women, who rely on Social Security for 56.8 percent of their income. And according to Hillary Shelton of the NAACP, "African-American children are almost four times as likely to be lifted out of poverty by Social Security benefits than our white counterparts."

The president needs to address the real inequities that affect African-Americans instead of exploiting them. For life expectancy of African Americans to improve, a concerted effort is needed to increase access to health care, reduce unemployment and poverty, and address the scourge of deadly youth violence.

Yet, despite his claims to be a "compassionate conservative," the President's budget makes clear that he has no intention of solving these problems. His budget cuts a number of critically important programs designed to help minorities and African Americans, while preserving tax cuts for the rich and powerful.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Homestead Exemption hearing next week

Next week, the Washington State House of Representatives' Finance Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 1744, an act providing property tax relief.

This bill, which Permanent Defense/NPI strongly support, delivers tax relief to middle and low income families without cutting public services. It's revenue neutral.

The hearing is at 1:30 PM next week on February 16th (Wednesday). NPI encourages you to attend and support the bill.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

State Supreme Court strikes down Pierce County Smoking Ban

The Pierce County smoking ban, the strictest ban on smoking in the state, was overturned by the State Supreme Court today. The ban prohibited smoking in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, casinos, hotels, private clubs and most other nontribal businesses.

The state Supreme Court made the decision based on the fact that the Pierce County ban greatly conflicted with the state's Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibited smoking in public places, but exempted restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and casinos.

Two bills have been passed in the Legislature to expand the state's Clean Air Act. According to the Seattle Times, the first bill would ban smoking everywhere minors are allowed excluding bars and the second bill would mimic the Pierce County ban. It is in the hands of Gov. Christine Gregoire to decide on the bills now.

Pacific NW Portal syndication change

A couple of the blogs that we've been syndicating have been relatively inactive or inaccessible the past few days. We've made the decision to replace those blogs with other blogs whose authors are keeping them up to date and are worthy of syndication.

Pacific NW Portal strives to provide readers access to blogs of high quality that remain updated. The blogs that we are dropping from syndication, OlyScoop (Expanded Washington) and Scott Jensen's Blog (Oregon, Main Page) will remain in the blogs directory, and we may syndicate them in the future. We're sorry to see them go, but if they're not updating their blogs, we want to give others the chance to be syndicated as well. (What do you think? Send us your feedback).

The new blogs are On the Road to 2008 (Expanded Washington) and Preemptive Karma (Oregon, Main Page). We're pleased to welcome them to Pacific Northwest Portal and would like to congratulate them on being syndicated.

Elections (and banks) are error prone

The northwest blogs Also Also, On the Road to 2008, and HorsesAss.org are making a point about the comparison between the error rates in online banking and elections. Here's the introduction from Daniel Kirkdorffer at On the Road to 2008:
There has been a considerably amount of brouhaha over assertions made yesterday by King County Executive Ron Sims that "we had an accuracy rate that any bank would envy.". His comment was based on an error rate of 0.2%, and was received by detractors as a laughable statement.
(Just to be clear, those "detractors" included right-wing blogger Stefan Sharkansky and a friend of his from Shoreline.)

So all three blogs go on to talk about the fact that there are indeed errors in banking, just as there are errors in elections.
During a "discussion" at the Sound Politics blog, a comment was left by Norm pointing to an article from August 2004 at Bank Technology News, entitled On-line Billing: Customer Literacy, Software Cut Errors, which includes the following:

According to TowerGroup, about 36 million U.S. households-about one third of the total number-will pay bills on-line in 2004. Errors will account for about 0.2 percent of those 1.7 billion on-line transactions. "There is always going to be an error rate that they have to live with," notes Beth Robertson, senior analyst at TowerGroup. But she says rates are remarkably low and roughly half of what they were in 2001.
Online banking, like elections, isn't a perfect process. There's always going to be a small error rate. We conduct elections and banking to the best of our ability. We don't invalidate them simply because there were a few errors. Dino Rossi and the GOP have blown the election way out of proportion and are decieving the public into thinking there was massive fraud.

AlterNet: Loose 'Gannon'

AlterNet has the scoop on the Gannon/Guckert scandal. The story is well-summarized but also well-detailed. The extent of the scandal keeps getting bigger as we learn more about what was going on.

The Washington Post also has a good article.
The rise and fall of "Jeff Gannon," the pseudononymous conservative partisan who bragged of working "behind enemy lines" in the White House press corps, is turning into the media scandal of the week.

Gannon -- I'm going to call him that for now, since I'm used to it -- worked for a Web site called Talon News, and his writings appeared on that site as well one called GOPUSA.com, both of which were operated by Texas Republican activist Bobby Eberle. On his personal Web page, Gannon had a section called "Behind Enemy Lines: Stories from Inside the White House Briefing Room."

Pretty much every day, Gannon got cleared into the White House briefing room by a press office that knew his real name. Press Secretary Scott McClellan frequently called on him during the mid-day briefings, using his fake name. McClellan was consistently rewarded with questions that -- in stark contrast from most of what passes for questions in that room -- were more expressions of conservative dogma than actual attempts to elicit information. Members of the press corps individually confronted Gannon and told him that he didn't belong there. But nothing more serious than that happened -- until Bush called on him at his televised Jan. 26 news conference and he asked a loaded, inaccurate question partly derived from a Rush Limbaugh joke.

In the ensuing days, liberal Web sites and an army of bloggers determined his real name, called attention to his lack of journalistic credentials, found a link to gay porn Web sites, pointed out how that ran afoul of his "family values" positions, and apparently hounded him into resigning.
We clearly need a bigger investigation. How much of this has been going on? The American public needs to know.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Kerry donates $1 million to DNC

Our former Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry is donating $1 million to the Democratic National Committee to help our soon-to-be Chairman Howard Dean in building grassroots support for the party at the state level.

Here's an excerpt from an email sent out to supporters:

"Join me with a contribution of your own to show the incoming DNC chair that you want to support organizing in your own community...A new DNC chair will be elected at the end of this week. Let's make sure he has everything he needs to start strong."
This is a good faith effort to unite the Democratic Party and keep us going strong. More Democrats should follow Kerry's example. Though there are those who will not like Howard Dean as Chairman, they need to put aside their greviances for the greater good of the party. We cannot win unless we work together and we will not win if we focus solely on winning federal races.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shark's claims are on the radar

The blogs Also Also and Preemptive Karma have jointly published an excellent blog entitled "Fisking Sharkansky" which takes Stefan and the GOP to task for his rhetoric and claims about the election of Christine Gregoire as Governor:
Since the election contest in Washington appears to be moving forward to the trial phase, we felt it was important to understand the evidence being proffered by the Republicans to have the election set aside. The prime Republican target for allegations of misconduct has been King County. King is the largest county in the state and has become a lightning rod for Rossi, the state Republican Party (led by the obstreperous Chris Vance) and the rightwing talk/blog echo chamber, led on this issue by Stefan Sharkansky and SoundPolitics.com.
NPI highly reccomends reading this blog. It's easy to take accusations and allegations at face value. But it's more important to look beyond the hype and the rhetoric to examine these kind of things under a microscopic view. That's what Also Also and Preemptive Karma are doing, and we thank them for doing it.

Permanent Defense celebrates 3 years

Permanent Defense, NPI's oldest independent division, is celebrating three years of activism this week and this month.

Founded in February of 2002, Permanent Defense precedes the founding of NPI by about a year and a half. Originally, Permanent Defense's mission was simply the defeat of Tim Eyman, but it has now expanded its role into fighting other political issues as well, most notably tax reform.

Since Permanent Defense's founding, initiative profiteer Tim Eyman has had a 1-4 record. PD, along with its allies, has seen the demise of Initiatives 267, (2002) 807, (2003) 864, and 892 (2004). Its last year - the third year of operation, has been its most successful year.

Congratulations to Permanent Defense on its third year anniversary. The rest of NPI hopes your next year is even more successful than the last.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Pacific NW Portal expands, adds more blogs

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better - it suddenly did.

Since launching Pacific Northwest Portal a week ago syndicating progressive viewpoints from around the region, we've been hard at work making improvements to the site. Today, we're delighted to unveil our latest changes. Here's the highlights:

  • We're launching a new "Expanded Washington" section, syndicating six additional blogs from Washington State on a brand new page!

  • We're debuting a slimmer main page. You'll notice it loads more quickly and efficiently.

  • We're also launching a new Feedback page, with an easily accessible contact form at the top, handy Knowledge Base, and feedback we've recieved about the site.
The new "Expanded Washington" section features six additional blogs from the Evergreen State, bringing our total of syndicated blogs to 18. These are the blogs we're adding:

Washington State Political Report, Upper Left, OlyScoop, WashBlog, ColumbianWatch, and Orcinus.

This is certainly good news for Washingtonians, but what about Oregonians? Not to worry! Next week, Pacific NW Portal will launch its "Expanded Oregon" page, syndicating six additional blogs from the Beaver State and thus bringing our total of syndicated blogs to 24.

(As for Idaho, we're already syndicating around 70% of the progressive Gem State blogs that we know exist. We can't add an "Expanded Idaho" section until more of you progressive Idahoans start blogging!)

Our new Feedback section makes it easier to get in touch with us, with an improved contact form. Consult the new handy Knowledge Base to troubleshoot issues viewing our site. And read what people have been saying about our site.

Pacific NW Portal is the kind of website that listens to its visitors. You asked for more - so today, we're delivering more. And we're continuing to work on the site's ease of access and appearance, as well as adding new features.

There's always something new at Pacific Northwest Portal. So bookmark our site and visit regularly. You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Conservatives have long dreamed about destroying Social Security

There's an article in today's Seattle Times (and, I imagine, a number of other newspapers) which talks about conservatives' longstanding desire to mess with or destroy Social Security.

A first excerpt:
The promise of secure retirements is a "hoax." Taxes paid by workers are "wasted" by the government rather than invested prudently. And "the so-called reserve fund ... is no reserve at all" because it contains nothing but government IOUs.

President Bush? No, Republican presidential candidate Alf Landon and his party's platform in 1936.

Bush's proposal to overhaul Social Security is the product of a conservative dream to undo the system that's as old as the program itself.
The hardline conservatives have always wanted to get rid of Social Security. But why? The answer seems simple: they don't believe there should be a safety net. These people seem to long for the 1920s, when Republican presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover largely kept their hands off the economy.

And of course many of them believe in the theory of "trickle-down" economics: that what benefits the rich will benefit everyone else, too.

The Great Depression slammed the door on the prevalence of conservative ideology about government intervention in the economy. Americans cried out for help, begging the government to intervene to stop the depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt swept into office in 1932 with one of the largest mandates in American history. He implemented programs and reforms that helped give millions of Americans jobs. And he laid the groundwork to prevent another depression.

One of his landmark achievements was the Social Security program.

Conservatives hated it. Many thought of Social Security as some kind of "evil socialism" that didn't belong in America:
"Ever since the program was first created, conservatives understood it was a major expansion of the government," said Eric Patashnik, a University of Virginia political scientist. "And they've never liked that expansion."

Landon, of course, lost the 1936 election in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt, which reaffirmed the New Deal and set back the conservative cause severely. Roosevelt two years later boasted that Social Security already was a "permanent" part of the political system.
But the majority of the American people believed FDR. They believed in Social Security and what it stood for. And in the decades since, it has proved to be a hugely popular success. Many conservatives have always resented its success.

And so, decades ago, they began plotting on how to drastically change it, or even eliminate it. The plotting began in the 1960s with Barry Goldwater, who was soundly defeated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 presidential election. According to a historian, Michael Beschloss, Goldwater was supposed to have said, "perhaps Social Security should be abolished."

16 years after Goldwater's demise, Ronald Reagan swept into office:
[Reagan] signed a 1983 bailout that increased taxes and raised the retirement age to shore up the program.

That was when conservatives recognized their need for a long-term strategy keyed to offering people the benefits of making more money in private accounts, while making that option feel more mainstream and less risky.

"It's really after that that conservatives, particularly libertarians, began plotting for Social Security's eventual demise," Patashnik said. "They started laying the groundwork for the effort we see today by President Bush."

Peter Ferrera in 1980 wrote a detailed paper proposing private accounts that was published by a libertarian research center, the Cato Institute.

Influenced by Ferrera, Cato published a paper in 1983 that served as a political manifesto for turning over at least some of Social Security to the private sector.

It recommended:
  • Consistent criticism of Social Security to undermine confidence;

  • Building a coalition of supporters for private accounts, including banks and other financial institutions that would benefit;

  • Assuring "those already retired or nearing retirement that their benefits will be paid in full";

  • Legislation making private savings plans such as individual retirement accounts more available and thus more familiar.
Making it easier for more Americans to set up accounts, authors Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis said, would make "it in practice a small-scale, private Social Security system that can supplement the federal system. ... We will meet the next financial crisis in Social Security with a private alternative ready in the wings, an alternative with which the public is familiar and comfortable and one that has the backing of a powerful political force."
They are working right now to end Social Security as we know it. They are trying to sell this "reform", as they call it, to America, prepackaged, like they sold the Iraq war. And we cannot - we must not - let them get away with it. If these people should triumph in their crusade, FDR will tremble in his grave. And we will never be able to forgive ourselves for allowing these people to take us back to a 1920s like era of gambling money in the stock market.

It is up to us to prevent the destruction of Social Security. We can protect and preserve the integrity of Social Security if we all work together. We simply cannot allow the conservatives' dreams to become reality.

We cannot allow them to gamble with America's future.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

NPI launches revamped Links & Media section

We've launched a revamped version of our Links & Media page, which has disappeared from our site while we worked on it.

The new page has four times as many links as the old one did and they are categorically sorted, with local and national links noted in different colors. Plus, the page also includes a useful RSS feed from Media Matters for America at the top.

You'll find everything from the Center for American Progress to Daily Kos to Air America. Think tanks, action groups, media, blogs, environmental organizations, labor unions, the Democratic Party, authors' websites, progressive public interest law firms, the religious left and more - we've got 'em.

So rediscover the progressive internet - head on over to the Links & Media page!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Judge refuses to order a revote

BREAKING NEWS: Dino Rossi and the GOP suffered a huge setback today in their contest of the governor’s race when Judge Bridges said he would not order a new election for governor if the GOP was to prevail in its lawsuit.

The Seattle Times:
The judge said if Republicans did prove their case, he would not order a new election for governor as they want him to do. Rossi has said that was the only remedy he would accept.

Democrats had argued the judge didn’t have that power, and Bridges agreed. He said state law and the state constitution do not give him the power to order a new vote, which he called “special relief.”
The case will move forward for now, but the Republicans are going to have to prove that there are enough illegal Gregoire votes to erase her 129-vote victory margin. It won’t be enough for them to say there were too many “irregularities". The GOP must prove to the court that there are at least 129 people who illegally voted for Gregoire - something that will be very difficult, if not impossible, for them to do.

Conservatives Admit Privatization Will Only Hurt Social Security

Finally, some brave Republicans are speaking out against President Bush's disastrous plan for privatization of Social Security.

If this remarkable trend continues, we could see a complete unraveling of this corporate administration's proposal, as it would especially undermine House Republicans politically in their home districts.

Rep. James McCrery (R-LA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, admitted yesterday that diverting money from the Social Security trust fund into private accounts will undermine the program. "That is true on its face. It does decrease the level of the fund," he stated.

McCrery's statements come on top of those by an "anonymous" senior White House official who candidly admitted that the president's privatization scheme "would do nothing to solve the system's long-term financial problems," according to the LA Times.

McCrery is certainly not the only Republican to speak out. Numerous Republican leaders, including Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ), have all raised pointed questions about Bush's proposal.

While it is not common to cheer Republicans in office, it is with great admiration that I applaud the efforts of these Congressional leaders in their efforts to rightly oppose Bush's horrific policy.

In addition, there is also speculation that the so-called "Sisters of Maine" - Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) - and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) may soon be putting in their two cents of opposition.

Although the Republicans are the standard bearers of the corporate elite and their policies and may philsophically support the privatization of Social Security, Republicans would likely face a backlash in the next election cycle if they were to enthusiastically support Bush's proposal.

Yes, that is one of the brilliant safeguards of democracy, the ultimate authority of the people. And since young people, the main supporters of privatization, often don't vote, popular pressures could well force the Republicans to back down on Social Security altogether. Hmm...wouldn't that be nice!

An editorial from The New Republic provides progressives with some excellent talking points for persuading those feisty conservatives:

This isn't a plan to save Social Security; it's a plan to replace Social Security. By definition, the president's plan for private accounts entails the undermining of the system. Shifting money out of the trust fund to pay for private accounts, while borrowing trillions of dollars to pay promised benefits, does nothing to ensure solvency and will accelerate the program's financial strains. Privatization does nothing to "save and strengthen Social Security."

The president's assumption of high rates of return for private accounts assumes overall economic growth sufficient to keep Social Security solvent for decades.

As Paul Krugman rightly points out, the estimates on the rate of returns pushed by the president assume a rate of growth in the economy that would "yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come… [A]ny growth projection that would permit the stock returns the privatizers need to make their schemes work would put Social Security solidly in the black."

Younger workers will lose more than they gain under privatization. Younger workers beware – any potential increases in private savings will be more than offset by the higher taxes you will certainly have to pay to cover Bush's $2 trillion borrowing to fund his privatization plan.

Bush Invokes Progressive Icons to Sell an Extremist Proposal

President Bush attempted a grand intellectual hijacking in last night's State of the Union speech as he invoked the likes of FDR, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and even Bill Clinton to sell his Social Security privatization plan and conjured up the idealism of JFK and Woodrow Wilson to defend the war in Iraq. But the president's embrace of great progressive leaders of the past cannot cover up his administration's mismanagement and ideological agenda in the present.

It is imperative that Bush's proposal is not seen as "reform" (the word all the major media have been using lately), but rather as "destruction" or "selling out to Wall Street."

Indeed, if Bush does succeed in positing himself in line with the great progressive reformers who created the very programs he intends to destroy, then the American public will be in a very precarious position.

Let us not be blinded by historical amnesia. Privatization of the most basic tenet of the American welfare state cannot pass if we are to ensure future prosperity for all Americans, and not just Wall Street. Progressives must stand up for Social Security and fight vociferously whenever conservatives use the tired line that it (and by extension the entire New Deal) is an outdated program.

Providing for the least among us is never outdated, and is an extension of the most fundamentally American values. Likewise, we must call Bush's privatization plan what it is: a horrendous attempt to send 90% of Americans back to a Dickensian way of life devoid of any bedrock financial security.

Here's what The Center for American Progress had to say about it:
President Bush quotes FDR but fails to honor his vision. Perhaps Bush should recall another quote from FDR's second inaugural address before trying to wrap himself in his ideas: "Instinctively we recognized a deeper need—the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. Repeated attempts at their solution without the aid of government had left us baffled and bewildered. For, without that aid, we had been unable to create those moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind. To do this we knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish men."

Don't be fooled by the president's rhetoric – he's selling an ideological and political agenda, not genuine progressive values. If the president was above board about strengthening and saving Social Security, he would admit Social Security is not going bankrupt and could be solidified for years if he simply repealed his tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He would admit that his plan will cost $2 trillion to finance – debt that will wipe out any potential gains from private accounts. And he would concede that projections for 6 to 7 percent growth in private accounts would naturally mean sufficient economic growth overall to keep Social Security fully solvent.

President Bush talks of spreading "freedom" and "democracy" yet does nothing to live up to these ideals. If you're going to invoke the ideals of Wilson and JFK you need to live up to them. President Bush has done nothing to confront undemocratic regimes in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia and other nations. No one in his administration has ever been held accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The administration has done almost nothing to stop the genocide in Sudan. Spreading freedom and ending tyranny will require a lot more than nice speeches.

Developments in election challenge

As expected, Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges turned down Democratic motions to dismiss the GOP’s lawsuit challenging the results of the state’s gubernatorial race.

UPDATE: TJ from Also Also is following the court case and he reports that Bridges has issued more rulings in the case:
  • First, the Rossi campaign is not a proper litigant (apparently none of the political parties are), but they will be allowed to continue forward as litigants in the case.

  • Second, Bridges has denied the counties’ motions to dismiss based upon the fact that contest petitions weren’t filed by the counties’ certification dates.

  • Third, all of the counties and their auditors may be dismissed as parties to the case: only counties that express their desire to remain as parties in the case will stay.

  • Fourth, Bridges has decided that the affadavits submitted to the court as evidence for contest are indeed sufficient to continue. He’ll be discussing this further later.
The AP reports that Bridges is expected to hear and rule on other motions to dismiss the case later in the day. When that news happens, I’ll post it here.

(cross posted at HorsesAss.org)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Supreme Court tosses estate tax

The AP intro says it best:
The state Supreme Court threw out Washington's estate tax Thursday, causing a potential loss of $430 million over the next two years at a time when lawmakers already are facing a $1.8 billion spending gap.
Great. Surely Governor Gregoire and our state's lawmakers will welcome this unfortunate ruling as it deals a huge blow to their plans to come up with a budget for the next biennium.

But at least one legislator was welcoming it: the son of a Tim Eyman ally, state Sen. Dan Roach, embraced the ruling. He called it "a big win for taxpayers."

"No question it will make it harder to balance the budget, but they shouldn't have collected it in the first place," Roach added.

They shouldn't have collected it in the first place? Oh - that's right. We forgot. Low income families are supposed to bear a majority of the tax burden in this state. They should sacrifice what little they have while the people who already have more than enough shouldn't have to make a significant contribution.

People like Dan Roach evidently don't care about the fact that our state has a regressive tax structure; they're only interested in reducing taxes for wealthy people and catering to special interests - because the estate tax is mainly levied on the wealthy. Their priority is not the average citizen. But Dan Roach is a Republican, and Republicans are in the minority.

The state's estate tax was thrown out on a technicality. It should be properly reinstated so we can regain the revenue stream that has just been taken away. This is lost revenue that we simply need to restore. It's not going to be a new tax. Lawmakers should have taken action on this earlier, but unfortunately in years past, Republicans have controlled the state Senate.

Not this year. Democrats control both houses. The bottom line is that legislators need to recognize the severe damage this ruling will cause if nothing is done to restore the revenue that has just been taken out. And they should act quickly so that the state's budget crisis doesn't needlessly get worse.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Solid Rebuttal of the State of Bush's Union

Well, needless to say, President Bush's State of the Union address was an utter disaster, rife with paradox, hyperbole, contradiction, ambiguity, and outright lies. Bush's pandering about the "spread of freedom" (whatever that means) across the globe is nothing but a clever foil for the real business he intends to execute within these United States. While Bush did spend a considerable time playing the role of sycophant to the hearts of America, ingratiatingly shoveling praise towards the honor and bravery of our troops (and how can anyone be opposed to that?), the real core of his address lay in his attention to Social Security privatization.

By now progressives should be well aware of the right's typical tactic of bait and switch: load up on the ultimately fruitless moral values bandwagon and then make quick, silent headway on the economic matters that count. They preach on abortion, guns, gays, God, family values, patriotism, and our men and women in uniform, and they dish out deregulation, privatization, worker oppression, and economic subjugation of the middle class. Bush is the epitome of the far-right American politician who talks Jesus and walks corporate. Yes, do use that phrase whenever a conservative professes that their commander-in-chief has a moral compass. So while Bush does a spectacular job of kissing up to the troops, the real work of ending the New Deal - the very essence of the modern Democratic Party, I might add - will begin in earnest.

Progressives must recognize Bush's State of the Union for what it was: a brilliant maneuver designed to distract the public from his Administration's radical agenda. Please do not brush aside Social Security as some kind of trivial issue; it is the last vestige of the American welfare state, the last hope of a safety net for retirees, and its demise will only mean the final restoration of a 19th-century distribution of wealth. Here's an update from the Center for American Progress:
The House and Senate Republican Conferences have developed a 103-page communications manual for privatizing Social Security. The document reveals conservatives' true feelings about the wisdom of the American public. It pushes members to stress "personalization" over "privatization" since "privatization" connotes the total corporate takeover of Social Security." Remember, the audience "doesn't understand financial jargon," and "doesn't know how trillions and billions differ." And it reminds conservatives, "Don't let yourself get dismissed by a skeptical audience," because they "will dismiss the notion that the government can help them accumulate a million dollars," and they "don't find it credible that the accounts will be easy to manage." Here's what Americans should really know:

The Bush administration's crisis mentality leads to critical mistakes. This Administration has a dangerous habit of overstating crises and understating the cost of radical steps. The "Chicken Little" mentality brought us an ill-conceived war in Iraq, designed to control WMD we never found, launched with no exit strategy and with inadequate troops and equipment. This is the team that expected our troops would be greeted by jubilant crowds, rather than armed insurgents. Let's make sure we think this one through. This time, when they launch their reckless plan and declare "mission accomplished," they could leave American retirees holding the bag.

There are many big, unanswered questions about Social Security privatization. First, what happens if you lose money? Are you just left out in the cold? Second, how will we pay the staggering $2 trillion transition costs? And third, what benefit cuts do they have in store? Who will be the winners under this privatization scheme? Who will run it? Let's get it right for young and old alike. The Social Security trust fund will be solvent for almost 40 years. There is no need to rush in to ill-conceived privatization plans that haven't been well thought out. Let's get reform right and not undercut a guarantee with a gamble.

Reid, Pelosi Echo NPI Themes

The Democratic counterpoint to the Bush 2005 SOTU was right on the money and to the point. Senator Harry Reid, D-Nevada, the Senate Minority Leader, and Nancy Pelosi, D-California, the House Minority Leader, delivered the response for the Democrats.

Among some of our favorite lines:
Senator Reid: Unfortunately, much of what the president offered weren't real answers. You know, today is Groundhog Day. And what we saw and heard tonight was a little like that movie "Groundhog Day." The same-old ideology that we've heard before - over and over again. We can do better.
This is similar to what we said in our last post (see below): The 2005 SOTU was a classic Bush speech. It didn't offer anything new or insightful. It's more of the same: empty promises and an extremist agenda.
Senator Reid: When he gets off track, we will be there to hold him accountable. And that's why we so strongly disagree with the president's plan to privatize Social Security. Let me share with you why I believe the president's plan is so dangerous...it's wrong to replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned with a guaranteed benefit cut of 40 percent or more...The Bush plan would take our already record high $4.3 trillion national debt and put us another $2 trillion in the red. That's an immoral burden to place on the backs of the next generation.
Reid is absolutely correct when he calls the plan's consequences an "immoral burden".
Representative Pelosi: We have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq. And we did not hear one tonight. Democrats believe a credible plan to bring our troops home and stabilize Iraq must include three key elements.
  • First, responsibility for Iraqi security must be transferred to the Iraqis as soon as possible. This action is long overdue. The top priority for the U.S. military should be training the Iraqi Army. We must not be lulled into a false sense of confidence by the administration's claim that a large number of security personnel have been trained. It simply hasn't happened, but it must.

  • Second, Iraq's economic development must be accelerated. Congress has provided billions of dollars for reconstruction, but little of that money has been spent to put Iraqis to work rebuilding their country. Infrastructure improvements in Iraq are more than just projects; they give Iraqis hope for a better future and a stake in achieving it. And they contribute to Iraqi stability.

  • Third, regional diplomacy must be intensified. Diplomacy can lessen the political problems in Iraq, take pressure off of our troops, and deprive the insurgency of the fuel of anti-Americanism on which it thrives.

Pelosi hit all the right tones in her segment on national security, also drawing attention to the fact that the Administration has underfunded port security, border security, and protection for nuclear power plants and other terrorist targets.

We'll post a link to the full text of the speech shortly.

Bush SOTU: Empty Promises, Extremist Agenda

Social Security privatization. Constitutional amendment to oppress gays and lesbians. Endless environmental destruction. More of the same old talk about freedom and progress in Iraq. Denouncements of "activist judges" and continued hype about throwing roadblocks in the way of people suing for medical malpractice.

The 2005 SOTU speech was one of the worst State of the Unions ever given. It reeked of bad policies that will only bring further harm to America.

It was full of empty promises. Bush spoke of helping children, families (especially those with low incomes), students, entrepreneurs, AIDS victims, and the elderly. But his policies do not help any of these groups of people. They only make the situation worse. He speaks of America's future, and future generations, but he has never once demonstrated through his actions that he cares about the future of America.

It was full of an extremist agenda: staking our country's safety net on a bed of hot coals by gambling it away and delivering lucrative benefits to Wall Street. It was about pleasing evangelical extremists who are brimming with hatred towards gays and lesbians and those who do not share the same lifestyle as they do. It's about delivering aid to corporations and polluters, not families and entrepreneurs. It's about destroying our environment and plundering our national resources.

The 2005 SOTU was a classic Bush speech. It didn't offer anything new or insightful. It's more of the same: empty promises and an extremist agenda.

We'll talk more about the SOTU when we cover the Democratic response shortly.

Air America continues to expand

When it launched shortly after our blog went up about ten months ago, Air America Radio was an innovative concept that faced a lot of hurdles and challenges in its first few weeks.

But since then, Air America has flourished. And it continues to expand, reaching new markets and picking up new affiliates.

The progressive network now can be heard in 46 markets, including recently added stations in the Washington, Cincinnati and Brattleboro, Vt.

Air America has just landed in Memphis, Tennessee, as well. And we have this excerpt from Reuters about even more expansion:
By the end of the month, the network that began in just six cities on March 31, 2004, then nearly collapsed weeks later amid financial woes, will have spread to 50 stations nationwide, including outlets in 15 of the top 20 markets, among them New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Boston, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

It will even venture into Bush's home state of Texas with a launch on a Corpus Christi station later this month.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

NPI: The Reading List

Knowledge is power.

This old (and perhaps new) adage is an important phrase to keep in mind in the political society we live in today. Many Americans are not well-informed and are easily bought by rhetoric and sound bites from the Administration.

If you're reading this blog, congratulate yourself. Whether you be conservative or liberal (or even libertarian) you are more politically informed and involved then the average American.

But why not take it a step further? NPI has put together a Reading List of a few dozen "essential" reads, grouped by categories. Pick a few or read 'em all. Whatever you choose from this list, you're bound to gain truth and valuable insight from.

If you read just one book from this list, though - pick the Republican Noise Machine, by David Brock, the book Robert Kennedy Jr. called, "the most important book of the past ten years and mandatory reading for all who want to understand American politics and history." (Find out more about the book here).

Click here to check out the full list. All the books are linked to Amazon.com so you can easily find out more about them.

HorsesAss slams Sharkansky

HorsesAss.org blogger David Goldstein has hit back at Stefan Sharkansky, the main blogger on the right-wing extremist site [un]SoundPolitics, for attacking a Democratic legislator regarding a message she sent to her constitutents explaining her opposition to a revote in the gubernatorial race.

As Goldstein points out:
We’re talking about an entirely new election… new year, new campaign, new voters, new issues… and as has been pointed out to me, possibly… new candidates.

Annulling the election will merely vacate the governor’s office, putting Lt. Gov. Brad Owen in charge until a special election is held, possibly not until next November, or even, November of 2006. At that time, Owen might choose to run for governor, as might any number of major and third party candidates. In the meanwhile, tens of thousands of voters will be added and stricken from the rolls. There will be absolutely nothing “re” about this vote.
That is exactly right, and it's the kind of point Democrats really need to make.