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

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Breaking: Terri Schiavo Dies

From the Associated Press:

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. -- Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman who spent 15 years connected to a feeding tube in an epic legal and medical battle that went all the way to the White House and Congress, died Thursday, 13 days after the tube was removed. She was 41.
Rest in peace, Terri.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Analysis: Reichert Social Security “Town Hall” Meeting

I had the privilege of attending last night’s “town hall” forum with Congressman Dave Reichert of the 8th District, moderator Jim Vesely of the Seattle Times, a panel of Republicans selected to sell the idea of privatization, and a boisterous crowd which frequently interrupted the discussion with shouts and hard nosed questions.

I’m going to share my thoughts on the event and how it went.

As I entered the building, a volunteer from “FreedomWorks” (a conservative organization led by people such as Dick Armey who favor privatization) gave me some literature which attempts to present the concept of privatization in a tame manner.

The literature was prepared by the “American Institute for Full Employment”, which is basically an Oregon version of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation focusing on a number of selective issues, among them Social Security. The pamphlet, as I discovered, uses several images also found on the FreedomWorks website. (Big surprise there!)

The most interesting thing in this pamphlet was a letter from Jose Pinera, the former Secretary of Labor and Social Security in Chile. The letter is basically an attempt to persuade people to support privatization. At the top of this "open letter" (written in 2002) was a header which read: IT CAN BE DONE BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN DONE.

Yes, I would have to agree with that statement – it is certainly possible to cripple and then destroy Social Security, and it definitely can be done, because it has already been done in the past in other countries with their pension and retirement programs.

After I signed in, I walked down to the auditorium, which was only about a third full. I didn’t recognize any other Democrats there and I was worried I’d have to suffer though a couple hours of recycled Republican talking points without any serious opposition. Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case.

I took out my notebook and thumbed through all the nifty propaganda I’d just collected and wrote down a few quick thoughts. Before long, people were streaming into the auditorium. I met some friendly folks from the Washington State Labor Council. By now, quite a number of Democrats had come in wearing stickers that read I Love Social Security.

Two rows ahead of me, an annoying young Republican (whose name, I believe, was Owen King) sat down and immediately belted out, “Let’s get rid of the Social Security program! Woo hoo!” Mr. King apparently believes that Social Security is illegal. He must be even further to the right than Grover Norquist.

After the auditorium filled up (there were at least 350 people), Bellevue Mayor Connie Marshall opened the forum and introduced Congressman Reichert, who spoke briefly, then introduced the panel members:

Paul Guppy (of the right wing Washington Policy Center), Rob Nichols from the Treasury Department (and a presidential appointee to boot) and lastly, Sally Canfield, representing Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

These people were supposed to be the “experts” who would answer questions written by audience members on comment cards. All three of them, of course, support privatization and emphasized their support for it in their answers.

Next, we were introduced to James Vesely from the Seattle Times, who served as the forum moderator.

In his opening comments, Vesely said: “I must distance myself from this panel because the Seattle Times editorial board disagrees with the Bush administration on this issue.”

Immediately this drew a huge and extensive roar of applause from throughout the audience. It was, in fact, the loudest applause of the evening.
Reichert, who was looking at the audience, seemed to be a little shell shocked at this reaction. His face seemed blank, and he wore a sour smile.

Judging from that applause alone, the majority of the crowd seemed to be opposed to President Bush’s privatization plan, which was certainly a good sign.

Shortly after that, Vesely made another remark in which he referred to “Republican Bellevue”. This drew a loud response from the audience, with a number of Democrats shouting in unison, “NOT ANYMORE!”

And sure enough, the crowd remained boisterous throughout the entire event. Not to be outdone, of course, a number of Republicans began answering some of the Democrats in the audience who were interrupting the panel.

The “panelists” were clearly trying to sell the idea of private accounts as gently as possible, and it seemed Reichert was trying to do a bit of the same thing. Reichert repeatedly mentioned that all proposals were on the table.

When the panelists tried to shoot down some of the counterproposals to privatization, the crowd erupted in anger and they backed down.

Medicare was also brought up, and the panelists spent some of the time defending the bill Congress passed in 2003, which, as we know, basically gives more money to companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.

Vesely tried to challenge the panel as often he could, but since it was all Republicans, the discussion was one sided unless a particular comment garnered an angry response from the audience, at which point the panelist speaking would back down.

Paul Guppy, the first panelist, tried to present himself as a nonpartisan expert of sorts, an “analyst”. But he couldn’t restrain himself from promoting privatization. “Social Security,” declared Guppy, “has been an excellent program in the past, but now, its future is not sustainable.”

His attempt to sell “personal” accounts fell flat with the audience.

And he made a number of utterly stupid comments. One particular dumb comment came when he was trying to make a point about the fact that we can’t trust the federal government with our tax dollars, in which he asked, “What if the Post Office ran supermarkets?” and concluded how disastrous it would be.

He was trying to compare it to Social Security, but his point got drowned out in a roar of disagreement as Democrats shouted him down.

The second panelist, Rob Nichols, (from the Treasury Department) was no better. He also was presented as an “expert”, though he didn’t hide the fact that he is a Bush presidential appointee.

Half the time Nichols was speaking, people had to shout at him to speak up because he apparently wasn’t loud enough for those in the back of the audience.

I actually thought this was fairly amusing, because Nichols kept having to start over, and he would always say, “Let’s take half a step back” when he was trying to explain something.

Well, maybe we should take a whole step back and throw privatization off the table.

Then there was Sally Canfield from Speaker Hastert’s office. She didn’t offer any valuable insight either, and it was clearly apparent that she was there to help push the agenda.

All three “panelists”, as well as Reichert, tried to say over and over that “all options are on the table”. Of course, we know this isn’t really true. The administration considers every other idea to be a non-option.

People brought up alternative ideas, such as raising the $90,000 cap on salary taxed for Social Security, raising the retirement age, creating “add on” accounts, and so forth.

The panel shot them all down. Raising the cap was portrayed by all three as a tax hike, which they oppose because “the government shouldn’t be taking any more out of families’ hard earned budgets.”

There was a huge cheer when someone asked a question about the transition costs. Guppy tried to skip around the transition costs and failed when Democrats in the audience started shouting him down again.

He put up his hands a number of times, almost as if he was trying to shield himself from those in dissent.

Nichols also tried to say there were no transition costs. He tried to claim that the 10 year projection of $750 billion was not new costs - more like "prepaying a mortgage", he said.

Of course, that caused another audience uproar. Then Nichols tried to defend what he'd said as "factual", and that brought laughter, echoing around the auditorium.

All three panelists used the phrase from the title of the FreedomWorks literature, “Building a Nest Egg for You and Your Grandchildren”.

They used the words “nest egg” over and over in their answers, trying to build in that conservative frame.

They also touted the Thrift Savings Plan, but the audience wasn’t much impressed by that either.

Even though saying “all options are on the table” is a deception, it was a wise strategy for them to avoid selling privatization outright.

If they had just tried to sell private accounts to the audience, I doubt Democrats would have been able to contain themselves. I probably wouldn't have been able to. I did seriously consider joining some of the other, more vocal Democrats.

And in fact, there were plenty of people who spoke out whenever they wanted. I didn’t, but many others did, and occasionally the moderator, James Vesely would challenge the panel to answer very pointed questions from Democrats.

I have to say that Vesely was good at challenging the panel. He did pick out a number of tough questions for the panel to answer, often remarking, “You know, fifty people have asked this same question on their comment cards.”

Of course, since there were no Democrats on the panel, the answers weren’t very good. There wasn’t much a dialogue because the three panelists rarely dissented with each other, and when they did, it was generally just a small difference in personal perspective.

But Reichert did admit that privatization wouldn’t help Social Security, remarking, “Personal savings accounts do not address the solvency issue of Social Security.”

At least he had the nerve to say that. It was one of the most truthful statements I heard all night long from the folks up at the front, with the exception of Vesely, who represented the audience well.

I think the forum certainly showed Reichert that his district isn’t very Republican any more. He ought to be careful in how he approaches this issue. If he isn’t, he could find himself out of office in two years.

I was glad I went to the forum. I think it was a victory for Democrats and it gave us a chance to voice our opposition to Bush’s Social Security privatization plan and vent about all the lies they’ve been putting out there.

And it was certainly fun to watch Guppy, Nichols, and Canfield squirm under pressure from the audience.

If you have a chance to go to one of these forums (especially if your congressman or congresswoman is a Republican) then do make a point of going. Ask questions. Be politely provocative.

Don’t let these people get away with presenting only one side of the issue.

We still have work to do, but our efforts so far are paying off. Democrats need to remain unified on this issue, and we need to pressure moderate Republicans to break ranks and split with their party leadership.

And that’s exactly what we did last night at Reichert’s “town hall” meeting. We are making these events work to our advantage. All part of our strategy to show people that there really is no crisis with Social Security.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Free Speech? Not in America!

This comes via Daily Kos and the AP. I've copied Kos' post here in its entirety (after all, he does say steal what you want) but this is just so incredible:
Very rarely does the everyday public get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes in a normally-secret Bush Administration.

But Monday, March 28, the Secret Service called three everyday people into their offices to discuss why we were kicked out of a presidential event in Denver last week where Bush promoted his plan to privatize Social Security. What they revealed to us and our lawyer was fascinating.

There we were - three people who had personally picked up tickets from Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez's office and went to a presidential event. But as we entered, we were told that we had been "ID'ed" and were warned that any disruption would get us arrested.

After being seated in the audience we were forcibly removed before the President arrived, even though we had not been disruptive. We were shocked when told that this presidential event was a "private event" and were commanded to leave.

More astonishingly, when the Secret Service was contacted the next day they agreed to meet with us this Monday, March 28 to discuss the circumstances surrounding our removal. We had two big questions going into this meeting:

How is the Bush Administration "ID'ing" citizens before presidential events?

Why was an official taxpayer-funded event called a "private event" - leading to citizens being kicked out?

Most shocking of all, we got answers to both questions.


The Secret Service revealed that we were "ID'ed" when local Republican staffers saw a bumper sticker on the car we drove which said "No More Blood For Oil." Evidently, the free speech expressed on one bumper sticker is cause enough to eject three citizens from a presidential event. (Similarly, someone was ejected from Bush's Social Security privatization event in Arizona the same day simply for wearing a Democratic t-shirt.)

The Secret Service also revealed that ticket distribution and staffing of the Social Security event was run by the local Republican Party. They wanted us to be clear that it was a Republican staffer - not the Secret Service - who kicked us out of the presidential event. But this revealed something else that should be startling to all Americans.

After allowing taxpayers to finance his privatization events (let's call them what they really are after all,) and after using the White House communications apparatus to set them up, Bush is privatizing the ticket distribution and security staffing at his events to the Republican Party. The losers are not just taxpayers, but anyone who values the First Amendment. Under the banner of a "private event" the Republican Party is excluding citizens from seeing their president because of the lone sin of expressing the wrong idea on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. The question for Americans is - will we allow our freedom to be privatized?

Karen Bauer, Leslie Weise, Alexander Young
Denver residents
I was emailed this account by the people involved, so it's straight from the horse's mouth. The AP did a story on this as well.

They hadn't done anything wrong. They weren't dressed inappropriately, they didn't say anything inappropriate," Recht said. "They were kicked out of this venue and not allowed to hear what the president had to say based solely on this political bumper sticker.

"The very essence of the First Amendment is that you can't be punished for the speech you make, the statements you make," Recht said.

So to emphasize -- the White House uses taxpayer dollars to finance these propaganda events. THEN, in order to keep out anyone who might be critical, they "outsource" ticketing and security. That way they can label the events "private" and kick out anyone they want in violation of the First Amendment.

Who in Congress will step up and call for an investigation?
That's the end of Kos' post. After reading this, I was incredibly angered and very disturbed. These people are going to whatever lengths necessary to shut out the other point of view. They only want people there who agree with what they are saying.

This is a terrible disgrace. It shows that the President and his GOP cronies do not care about free speech. They would rather stage media events without any kind of disagreement.

This is the dangerous point where our democracy turns into a theocracy. Aren't we the ones going over to the Middle East to try and put a stop to this very behavior? Yet our own chief executive is employing these tactics right here at home.

The President, the GOP brass, and his minions believe in NOTHING. Not family values, not American citizens, not the Constitution, not the First Amendment or free speech, not even freedom, liberty, opportunity, or democracy at all.

We need to show Americans that we, the Democrats, do believe in this country and our finest traditional values. We are for a stronger America, broader prosperity, a more effective government, a better future, and mutual responsibility. We need to take our country back from these people and earn back the world's trust. Our fellow world citizens are depending on us.

The future of free speech depends on us and our success.

NPI: One Year of Blogging

Today marks the one year anniversary of the founding of this very weblog: the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

We began this blog a year ago to provide a liberal, progressive perspective on local, national, and international news and politics.


Today, one year later, we're still hard at work, blogging away.

One year ago, at exactly this same time (11:02 AM) I published this short post:

Welcome to the new Northwest Progressive Institute blog! Here, you can view the thoughts and ideas of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

We'll be posting daily updates, so check back often!
We've come a long way since then - 365 days, as a matter of fact. We blew through a whole spring, summer, and fall of campaigning.

We watched the launch of Air America Radio, which will be celebrating its own one year anniversary in a couple of days. We observed Condoleeza Rice testifying before the 9/11 Commission, noted Ronald Reagan's death, and covered the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

We followed John Kerry and John Edwards' campaign enthuastically as they trailblazed to win the Presidency and the White House. We critiqued the Republican National Convention and stayed on top of the last moments of the campaign.

And on the night of November 2nd, we went to the Democratic Victory Party in Seattle to watch the night unfold. We lost the White House, but Patty Murray won reelection and Initiative 892 was defeated.

But the gubernatorial race didn't end. No, that went on for nearly another two months. And we followed the events unfolding in that race as well, which eventually ended in a victory for Christine Gregoire, who is now our Governor.

It's been one amazing year, with plenty of ups and downs. But today, we celebrate and rewnew our commitment to providing a fresh, progressive perspective from the Pacific Northwest.

Pacific NW Portal Syndication Change

As we often like to remind you, the Pacific Northwest Portal team has been hard at work building you a better website. Last week it was improved newswires, and so far we think that has improvement has functioned pretty well.

This week we're rolling out a more drastic set of changes, which involve a change in our syndicate. The "syndicate" is composed of all the different blogs that are aggregated by Pacific NW Portal.

RoguePundit, which was one of the original blogs featured on the Portal main page under the Oregon column, is now leaving. RoguePundit, while a great and informative blog, isn't all that progressive, (it is perhaps center moderate on the political spectrum) and tends to ignore many of the important national and regional issues.

RoguePundit won't disappear entirely, though. You can still find it in the Blogs & Websites directory under our A-Z listing.

And we're pleased to announce today that its place will be taken by one of the fine blogs on the Expanded Oregon page - Also Also.

Also Also delivers thoughtful analysis on national, regional, and local issues. It has been at the forefront of uncovering GOP distortions in the aftermath of the 2004 gubernatorial election. We're pleased to welcome them to the Portal's front page.

Taking Also Also's place on the Expanded Oregon page is Fire Dog Lake, a progressive blog from Oregon that is new to the syndicate. You'll be able to enjoy Fire Dog Lake's coverage of local events and happenings, as well as musings on today's important political issues - both here in the Pacific NW and nationally.

That's not all. We're also adding two new blogs to our Blogs & Websites directory - HomoPoliticoGeek and the Economist's View, which are also both from Oregon.

It's an exciting day for progressive bloggers in the Beaver State, and we urge you to visit Pacific Northwest Portal to check out the changes and tell us what you think. As always, your feedback is important to us!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Schumer helping Cantwell

From the New York Post, (via Kos, and not a source we've referenced before!) we learn that Senator Maria Cantwell is following advice from DSCC chairman Sen. Charles Schumer (New York) on how to get her campaign going and capture local media coverage:
After a word from Schumer, Sen. Maria Cantwell, a first-term Democrat from Washington who is considered vulnerable to a challenge, is now churning out press releases and holding Sunday press conferences — a Schumer tradition. As a result, Cantwell was on local TV in her state 20 out of 28 days in February, dramatically boosting her image, an aide said.
These are exactly the kind of steps Cantwell needs to be taking in order to secure her reelection. As you may recall, a recent GOP polling firm conducted a poll that showed Cantwell handily beating every GOP challenger except for Dino Rossi...and this poll was from a Republican polling firm!

We need to make Maria's seat safe so the party can focus its efforts elsewhere to help Democratic incumbents win reelection and aid challengers in toppling Republican incumbents. It is crucial we win back the United States Senate in 2006.

BIAW bent on seeking revenge

Just the fact that Democrats considered tying off some of the udders on the BIAW'S state sponsored cash cow has the association up in arms.

In the Seattle Times today, reporter Ralph Thomas tells us the BIAW is considering its own proposal to "get even" with the unions. It is considering sponsoring a so-called "right-to-work" initiative that would prohibit mandatory union dues.

"Right to work" is in quotes for a reason, because it is a conservative frame. It's an attempt to give more power and control to the big businesses and megacorporations. It's a proposal that the leaders of Wal*Mart are very much in favor of.

This country has come a long way from the Gilded Age largely in part because of America's union movement. To roll back the progress we've made would be like returning to a modern Gilded Age.

Companies such as Costco, which coexist peacefully with unions, have shown that business does not have to be anti-union to be successful. What goes around, comes around. Consumers are shooting themselves in the foot by patronizing stores like Wal*Mart. They're hurting our own workers and our own economy by making us dependent on foriegn goods, foriegn services, and foriegn workers.

The BIAW will go to any end to push its hardline agenda. It would like nothing more than to see Washington State's unions dissolve. The BIAW wants to destroy the power of our states' workers and enlarge their own power of their own homebuilding clique.

We cannot allow Washington State to turn into a Texas. We cannot afford to allow the BIAW to get away with tricking voters into buying this plan. They sold voters with their deceptive campaign for I-841 and the "Workers Against Job Killing Rules" committee. That was an outright lie, because the BIAW doesn't represent workers at all. I know plenty of Democrats who voted for 841 because they thought the union was for it!

They've gotten away with it in the past, but it must not happen again. Unions must mobilize early to show the BIAW any such effort to pass this dastardly junk will be met with an overwhelming show of force.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

To Christians everywhere, Happy Easter, and Happy Easter to everyone else who doesn't take offense at our splendid celebration of the Resurrection.

News briefs on this Easter Sunday:

More errors in GOP felon-voter list
David Postman of the Seattle Times has an update for us on the GOP's list of felons who supposedly voted illegally in the 2004 gubernatorial election. An excerpt:
“It’s really inconsistent information. But 1,100 felons voting makes a great headline,” said Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly.

She said that earlier this year, the county reviewed a list of 15 alleged felon voters compiled by Rossi backers but not submitted to the court. She said four of those 15 appeared to have voted improperly.

Republicans now say 31 felons voted illegally in Yakima County. Mattingly said she’s seen the list of names, but there are no birth dates or criminal case numbers, which makes the list difficult to research.
All too true. The number of errors on the GOP's list is astoundingly high. With all the whining they're doing about how imperfect the election is, why were they so sloppy in their own research? We already know there are hundreds of names that shouldn't be on there because the GOP added people with juvenile convictions who hadn't lost their right to vote. Apparently, the errors continue:
Whatcom appears to be one of the few counties that has completed a thorough review of the list.

According to the Republicans, the county had 13 illegal votes cast by felons. But county Auditor Shirley Forslof said a review by the court clerk found many errors:

Four of the voters in question were convicted of felonies but had their voting rights restored. One was entitled to vote because the conviction was for a gross misdemeanor, not a felony. One was free to vote because the felony case had been dismissed. Three on the list didn’t vote in the November election, contrary to what the Republicans had said.

The remaining four voters, Forslof said, appear to have voted illegally, and their names have been forwarded to the county prosecutor.
Their system of finding "evidence" is completely faulty and needs to be addressed. It seems the GOP has a double standard: demand perfection from elections officials but not worry about getting everything right in their own research.

Jerry Springer to Replace Unfiltered
A few days ago, when we learned Jerry Springer had signed a deal with Air America, we wondered how his show would fit into the lineup.

As it turns out, Air America's original late morning show, Unfiltered, goes off the air next week as Jerry Springer takes over with his new show, which is debuting across the nation on the Air America radio network from the 9 AM-12 PM time slot.

Unfiltered, which will be a year old by the time Springer's show takes over, is hosted by Chuck D (of Public Enemy) and Rachel Maddow. Lizz Winstead was previously another co-host, she left in February.

Former publisher announces another run for Idaho governor
From the Associated Press:
A former Idaho Falls newspaper publisher is making another run to become Idaho's governor in 2006, hoping he'll be the first Democrat in a decade and the first person from eastern Idaho in 20 years to hold the office.

Jerry Brady, former publisher of the Idaho Falls Post Register, said in an interview he will officially announce his candidacy Monday and Tuesday at events in seven Idaho cities.

"We've had pretty much lock-step leadership of one-party control. There's very little balance," Brady told The Associated Press on Friday. "The state worked very well when it had a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, and I'd like to restore that."

Brady, 69, who remains president of the Post Co., which owns the Post Register and KIFI-TV in Idaho Falls, lost the 2002 race to Dirk Kempthorne by a 56-42 percent margin.

Kempthorne, a Republican, isn't seeking a third term and U.S. Rep. Butch Otter has announced plans to run for the GOP nomination. Lt. Gov. Jim Risch is expected to announce his candidacy, but hasn't done so yet.
There's your news briefs for today, and again, Happy Easter to all celebrating the holiday.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Dates set in election challenge

Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges talked with attorneys in the GOP's election challenge yesterday to talk about a number of things in the case, most importantly future hearing dates:
Bridges said depositions should happen the week of April 18, by which time King County should have supplied all the election documents the Democrats are requesting.

King County Elections Director Dean Logan and Election Superintendent Bill Huennekens will answer questions under oath.

Bridges also decided on an April 5 hearing, during which he will determine the schedule for the rest of the case. At that point, he might set a trial date.
We'll continue to track the election challenge off and on as news breaks.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Statewide voter registration list will help solve problems

In the Seattle P-I this morning, there's a new story about the new statewide voter registration list which is supposed to go online later this year.

Regarding the issue of "the felon vote", the article has this to say:
King County prosecutors have identified 192 felons who voted illegally in November and are reviewing hundreds of additional names of alleged felon voters submitted by Republicans. Other counties also have moved to strike felons from the voter rolls.

When the new computerized information system first kicks in, there likely will be numerous challenges to registrations based on felony convictions, said Assistant Secretary of State Steve Excell. But the rate should drop off once the initial purging cleans up longstanding abuses, he said.
Of course, the database is not a cure-all solution for all of our election problems. Officials with the Secretary of State are wise enough to point out that we will never get a flawless election:
The new database should close some of the most serious of those breaches. But cracks will remain.

"This will not make our system suddenly perfect," said Trova Heffernan, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, who administers elections in Washington. "It will be significant -- but like there's no such thing as a perfect election."
Do you hear that, Stefan? Do you hear that, Chris Vance? Do you hear that, Mary Lane? Do you hear that, Dino Rossi? Let's say it slowly:

THERE...IS...NO...SUCH...THING...AS...A...PERFECT...ELECTION!


They may not realize it now, but the courts will clear up the matter for them, and some months from now, the GOP should be able to let go of this election challenge and accept reality.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Jerry Springer to join Air America

Jerry Springer is all set to join Air America Radio next week under a deal announced today:
Springer's show will go live weekdays on the Air America Radio network beginning April 1. The liberal all-talk network currently broadcasts on 51 radio stations and on the Sirius and XM satellite networks.

Springer will be heard on about 45 of those stations initially.

"I said when I started the show that I am committed to making this radio program work, not only because I enjoy it, but because we need to hear progressive voices as well as conservative voices in our conversation today," Springer said in a telephone interview from Chicago.

The "Springer on the Radio" show, which began in January on WCKY-AM in Cincinnati, has expanded to other Clear Channel Radio stations in Cleveland, Detroit, Miami and San Antonio. Springer said the deal with Air America will not affect his relationship with Clear Channel.

Some observers have seen Springer's radio show as a springboard for the Democrat's possible return to politics in 2006, either in a run for governor or a Senate seat. He wouldn't say Wednesday whether he would run for office again.
Welcome to America's home for progressive talk, Jerry! We're glad to have you. Of course, the only question is - how does Springer's show fit into the current Air America weekday schedule?

GOP polling on 2006 Senate race

These are the results from a Strategic Vision poll (a Republican firm) conducted from March 19th to the 21st. The margin of error is 3% (No trend lines)

Cantwell (D) 40%
Rossi (R) 49%

Cantwell (D) 49%
Dunn (R) 39%

Cantwell (D) 50%
Nethercutt (R) 40%

Cantwell (D) 52%
Vance (R) 37%


Cantwell is beating everybody except for Rossi, and you have to remember that this poll was conducted by a Republican polling firm.

Probably folks that are still hoping for a "revote" which we know is impossible, since you can't "re-do" an election. So, so far, so good.

Supreme Court Rejects Terri Schiavo Case

From the Associated Press:
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Terri Schiavo's parents Thursday, declining to intervene to keep the brain-damaged woman alive, but their supporters pressed a last-ditch effort in Florida courts. Justices didn't explain their decision, which was received by somber supporters outside the woman's hospice with bowed heads and prayers for help from Gov. Jeb Bush.
It's time for the religious right to stop urging the GOP to circumvent our courts. This invasion of family privacy needs to end.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Schiavo case: Disturbing abuse of power

By now, almost every American is surely aware of the Terri Schiavo case, which has been dominating headlines for the last few days. An extrodinary amount of media attention has been focused on this case.

For the past several years, Michael Schiavo has fought to allow his wife's feeding tube to be disconnected because she is brain-dead and in a persistent vegetative state. He's won - numerous times - but Terri is still alive.

Michael insists that Terri told him she wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially, and he says he is carrying out her wishes.

Her parents, on the other stand, appear to be delusional. They believe that Terri could eventually recover, and they don't want her to die.

The case has been rehashed so many times over, and it is absolutely appalling to see the Christian right and GOP politicians engaging in this very disturbing abuse of power. In Florida, Jeb Bush and the Florida Legislature tried to intervene to save Terri's life even after courts agreed with Michael Schiavo and ordered Terri's feeding tube disconnected.

The Florida Supreme Court later ruled "Terri's Law" was unconstitutional.

Finally, over a week ago, Terri's parents, the Schindlers, had exhausted all their legal options in state court, and the feeding tube was disconnected again.

Then, in a disturbing intrusion into states' rights, Congress was quickly called together to pass a federal law for the sole purpose of saving Schiavo's life by putting the matter into federal court. Putting aside the fact that Congress has better things to do, and ignoring the fact that Bush, DeLay, and Co. have a double standard when it comes to fighting for the "culture of life", the law represented an unheard of violation of family privacy.

So far, two federal courts have refused to order the reinsertion of the feeding tube. The case is now being appealed to the Supreme Court by the Schindlers. The White House acknowledges it has no legal options left, and Jeb Bush is hard at work again trying to convince the Florida legislature to pass another "Terri's Law".

He's even considering, using his authority as Governor of Florida, to try to take custody of Schiavo. Such a move would be completely illegal and despicable, and the controversy could be very harmful to the GOP.

This is an outrage. Why is it that conservatives can't respect the decisions of our courts? This legislative and executive interference is a complete violation of the seperation of powers. It's time for Jeb & George W to respect the decisions of the judicial branch and stop meddling in family affairs.

Andrew Jackson once said of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, "Chief Justice Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it".

We cannot afford any modern-day Andrew Jacksons ignoring the decisions of our courts and acting on their own as they see fit. That will be the end of our democracy and the beginning of a theocracy. We cannot and must not allow that to happen.

Terri Schiavo deserves the right to die in peace. It's time for the GOP to stop pandering to the religious right and step away from this case. If they cannot, they should be prosecuted for their breach of the seperation of powers.

Monday, March 21, 2005

State budget needs more new revenue

Governor Christine Gregoire has gotten off to a good start with the proposed state budget for the next biennium.

Unfortunately, more work remains to be done.

The budget simply doesn't contain enough new revenue. The higher cigarette tax and the restoration of part of the estate tax are a good start. But why stop there? We cannot continue to rely on stopgap measures and bookkeeping tricks to keep our state afloat. As Chris McGann noted in his article in the P-I this morning, many legislators think there should be more new revenue in the budget:
Budget writers in the House and Senate said Gregoire hadn't gone far enough and left the onus of raising general taxes on them.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, said Gregoire's budget is a good start but it's too conservative.

"I expected something more than this," Prentice said. "I saw (Gregoire's proposal) and thought, 'well gosh, she stuck her toe in the water but didn't go swimming.' "
Granted, Gregoire is trying to deflect some criticism from Republicans who are still bitter about the gubernatorial race. But unless the economy improves significantly, the state will continue to face these budget crises biennium after biennium. This budget is a "here and now" thing. It's a short term solution that doesn't deal with a long term problem.

The bottom line is that the state just needs more new revenue to keep going.

Healthcare costs are going up, more people are moving into Washington State, and inflation continues to creep up. We cannot afford to "live within our means". That is not good public policy.

It costs money to operate the state of Washington, and unless we severely cut back on the amount of services the state provides, we are going to need new revenue.

It costs money for the state to provide all of the public services it provides. Were we to cut back on those services, the quality of life in Washington would suffer dramatically.

That doesn't seem to bother a lot of well-off Republicans, who would love to see public employee unions diminish and a lot of state programs go away. That may be their view, but we can't let their views ruin the health of the state of Washington.

We must preserve, protect, and strengthen our state's public services. And we must adopt real tax reforms that will solve our long term deficit problems.

A state income tax is a very real and viable replacement to the sales tax and the business and occupation (B&O) tax. Many people don't want an income tax because they'd rather stick with the beast they know.

Unfortunately, that's not good thinking. Ditching our regressive tax structure will bring many benefits, and we can't be afraid of change. With a progressive income tax, we can then adopt a more progressive property tax that is fairer to lower and middle income homeowners.

The P-I editorial board has this to say about Governor Christine Gregoire's budget:
Like the series of budgets before it, this one is not sustainable. That is, with the exception of ginning up new revenue to support I-728's expanding demands, it does nothing to cure the fundamental inequity between the ongoing growth in state spending and the anticipated growth in revenue to pay for that spending.

Gregoire's budget is shored up with the all-too-familiar budget transfers and other bookkeeping gimmicks. While perfectly legal, these maneuvers simply delay, rather than resolve, the structural deficit the state will continue to face. Gregoire's plan would also leave the state's reserves at a perilously low $200 million.

That said, the governor is hardly oblivious to the structural issues. She has promised to follow the legislative session with intensive examination of ways to corral the growth in health care costs and to find a dedicated education revenue source.
Those are good points. Now, it's time for the Legislature to have a meaningful discussion about the state budget and figure out what the final plan is going to be.

And hopefully, the final plan will include more new revenue that the Governor's current proposal does.

Governor Gregoire unveils budget

Governor Christine Gregoire today unveiled her proposed state budget for the upcoming biennium. In terms of new revenue, the Governor has proposed the following:
  • Boosting the state cigarette tax by 20 cents a pack, or $2 a carton. The tax is now $1.425 cents a pack, one of the higher rates in the country. The proposal would generate $79 million in the next two years.

  • Partially restoring the state's estate tax, which was recently struck down by the state Supreme Court. Her plan would tax only estates of over $2 million and would exempt farms. The plan would raise $129 million.

It's a shame the governor didn't include other ideas, such as expanding the sales tax to cover some businesses that are enjoying a free ride thanks to the fact they are exempt from the sales tax. But at least the budget calls for new revenue.

The Governor had this to say about the GOP's "live within our means" rigidity:

Gregoire said her proposal "gets us out of the rut that the national recession left us in. In government, there's a feeling that if we just hunker down and make do with the status quo, we can get by. Trouble is, the status quo kills you. You might think you're holding your own but you're not.
And, finally, more budget details, borrowing heavily from the AP:
The extra money helps the Legislature restart both of the state's voter-approved education initiatives: Initiative 728, which gives local school districts grants for class-size reduction and other local priorities, and I-732, which provides annual cost-of-living raises for teachers.

The two initiatives were largely suspended two years ago during the recession, but today the economy is recovering and the state should keep its commitment, Gregoire said. The cost for both is $277 million in the next two years.

Gregoire also proposed $42 million to help struggling high school students catch up and $50 million to offer better special education to students with disabilities.

The governor's plan provides $220 million for a salary package for state employees. The raise will be 3.2 percent in the first year of the biennium and 1.6 percent in the second. The average increase would be $40 a week before taxes.

Her proposal includes more money for health care, including coverage for 47,000 more children, and maintains coverage for 100,000 people under the state-subsidized Basic Health Plan. The children's coverage costs $59 million; the BHP appropriation is an additional $49 million.

College enrollment slots are proposed for 6,600 more students. Tuition increases are proposed, along with $27 million in additional student financial aid.

Gregoire provides $80 million for community mental health clinics to replace lost federal dollars.

The governor reduces prison costs by $36 million and proposes construction of a new prison at Connell, a $270 million project that would be built by the private sector and then leased back to the state, which would operate it.

Gregoire proposed $75 million in parks projects.

The governor said her tax package is just 39 percent of the $517 million the state recently lost from two adverse decisions by the state Supreme Court.

"The tax losses deepened an already severe budget shortfall amid growing demands for education, health care and social services," the governor's office said in releasing the new budget-and-tax plan.
More analysis of the state budget to follow.

Pacific NW Portal Newswires Improve

The Pacific Northwest Portal team has been hard at work building you a better website. We're rolling out our latest improvement this morning: better newswires. Here's the details:

First, we noticed some "bad behavior" in the previous newswires, and we've eliminated it. Right wing media such as WorldNetDaily, FOX News, and NewsMax have cropped up a few times on the front page (yuck). The improved newswires should filter out that garbage. Additionally, in some cases, the newswires would get corrupted by strange characters thanks to some media source that hasn't quite figured the Internet out yet. You shouldn't be seeing any more of that.

Second, for Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, the news search is now restricted to local media in each state, so the coverage is much better. Outside perspectives can be interesting, but local news is best covered by local media. (No longer will you see that story from the Rapid City Journal that kept creeping back into the WA state newswire like a phantom: "Voters in 11 states choose governors") The news searches have also been refined so the results are more precise.

And third, the national news search has been fine-tuned to pick up the top political news stories with a stronger focus on the Democratic Party and progressive politics. Again, it shouldn't pick up any right wing sites. You'll get more of the stories that you actually want to read, and the coverage will be more diverse, so you see stories from across the nation, not just Washington D.C.

Go to the front page to see the improved newswires, and let us know what you think! We're always glad to have your feedback.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Understanding the Republican Noise Machine

Today I came across a new website entitled the Illiberal Conservative Media.

The website is an attempt to understand and illustrate the Republican Noise Machine, following in the footsteps of David Brock and Eric Alterman [see the NPI Reading List].

There's a ton of useful information on the website, and I highly encourage you to check it out. The author spent a lot of time on it.

I found this quote from ICM to be particularly interesting and relevant:
Some Democrats go even farther in continuing to believe fake GOP and media talking points about themselves! (It is not unreasonable to ask whether a party that cannot fight for itself, is really capable of fighting for the people. I don't know the answer to that, but this is something Democrats should ask themselves.
A quick example might be the use of the term ANWR. What does ANWR mean? Well, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But why abbreviate? "ANWR" sounds industrial and takes away the meaning of the phrase. And you can ditch "national", this environmental sanctuary really belongs to the earth. Just stick with "Arctic Wildlife Refuge" or "Arctic Refuge".

Anyway, Illiberal Conservative Media is worth a look. Go check it out!

Thousands protest war in Iraq

From the Associated Press:
Hundreds of protesters braved a steady rain Saturday, decrying the war in Iraq two years after U.S. troops led the invasion that later toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

Bill Dubay, a Navy veteran who once trained U.S. marines for combat, called the war an imperialist power grab.

"We stay there through so-called national pride," he said. "We've got nothing to gain but profits from oil."
Many marched to show their frustration with the current administration's arrogant policies, including preemptive strike and alienating other nations by refusing to participate in treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol, as well as nominating individuals hostile to the international community to serve in important international roles, such as Bolton (U.N. ambassador) and Paul Wolfowitz (for head of the World Bank).

We've said it many times: the war in Iraq was a horrific mistake. It has cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives. The "weapons of mass destruction" were never found, and are no longer talked about.

The Iraqis' plight has not improved, despite the fact that we have been there for two years. A huge number of Iraqis just want us to leave.

The war is costing American taxpayers billions of dollars. It's plunging our country further into debt. While we waste millions fighting in Iraq, Bush is proposing cutting a great number of social programs at home.

The only people that are benefiting from this war in Iraq are companies such as Halliburton. The American people are not benefiting, the Iraqi people are not benefiting, the Middle East region is not benefiting, and our troops are certainly not benefiting. So who is?

American megacorporations, that's who. Halliburton, the Carlyle Group, Unocal, and so many more. And the Administration is benefiting - the Iraq war and the war on terrorism has distracted the nation from accomplishing real priorities.

Anyway, people have gotten to protesting the war...and the administration...any way they can. Protests are a great way to do this, of course, but I'm intrigued by the innovation of one guy from California whose tactics have become known as "freeway blogging." Here's a link to his site.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Washington thunders past Pacific

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

BOISE -- Looking more like a No. 1 seed than in its NCAA Tournament-opening win over Montana, Washington dominated Pacific after halftime and earned a 97-79 win this afternoon to advance to the Sweet 16.

Washington Huskies Advance to Sweet SixteenThe Washington Huskies played an outstanding game today, crushing the Pacific Tigers and proving that yes, they are worthy of a No. 1 seed. Now, they are moving on to the Sweet Sixteen, where they surely belong.

I watched the game, and I was very impressed with the speed at which Washington played the game. Bobby Jones was absolutely fantastic and had one of his best games ever, while Nate Robinson, Will Conroy, and Tre Simmons remained a powerful force to contend with:
Nate Robinson scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half, Bobby Jones scored 19 and Will Conroy had 10 assists for Washington (29-5).

Tre Simmons scored 15 for the Pac-10 champion Huskies, whose top seed was the most disputed among the four No. 1s. But Washington backed it up well against Pacific.

The Huskies never trailed and pulled away by going 19-for-31 (61 percent) from the field in the second half. They finished shooting 56.3 percent (36-of-64) for the game.
Their next game will be next Thursday versus either Georgia Tech or Louisville. I'll definitely be tuning in to watch.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Californians fight Wal*Mart tactics

From the AP:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- As Wal-Mart Stores Inc. tries to plant dozens of new supercenters in California, lawyers aligned with a variety of opposition groups are using California's tough environmental laws to stall the nation's largest retailer.

A handful of lawyers have sued more than 30 cities that approved the 200,000-square-foot combination grocery and department stores, claiming local officials hungry for sales taxes have miscalculated their environmental consequences.

In many cases, the suits have been filed on behalf of obscure, often secretive community groups. Some have been backed by labor unions leading an anti-Wal-Mart fight in California, while others have few apparent sources of money.

They're delaying the opening of some stores by months or years and slowing Wal-Mart's plan to build up to 40 new supercenters in a state that's one of the company's few major U.S. growth opportunities. The suits also come at a time when the unions representing grocery store workers, primary the United Food and Commercial Workers, and Wal-Mart's competitors are worried about the effects of the discounters in California.

The suits haven't stopped the company from opening any stores, said Peter Kanelos, a company spokesman. "All they've done is delay the stores."
If nobody oppoes Wal*Mart, it will continue to force its supercenters into local communities. And unfortunately, local officials often aren't willing to oppose a new Wal*Mart. When that happens, it's up to citizens themselves to take action any way they can.
At least seven attorneys throughout California have filed lawsuits that claim the new stores violate the California Environmental Quality Act, a strict 1970 law signed by former Gov. Ronald Reagan. The law, frequently used by development opponents in California to force delays, drive up costs and discourage developers, has tougher requirements for analyzing environmental impacts than most other states in which Wal-Mart operates.

While not all the lawsuits filed on behalf of groups like Maintain Our Desert Environment, Communities Against Blight and Citizens for Sensible Traffic have prevailed, many other Wal-Marts approved by California cities are tied up in the lawsuits.

While Texas has more than 200 and Florida more than 100, California has only three of Wal-Mart's 1,700 supercenters nationwide. Another three are under construction in California.

Opponents' "whole purpose is to delay, delay, delay, cause turmoil and hope to get Wal-Mart go away," said Craig N. Beardsley, a Bakersfield lawyer who represents one of California's biggest developers.

His client, Castle & Cooke Inc., saw its local Wal-Mart supercenter halted last year during construction. Its four blank walls and roof now stand lifeless next to other thriving newly opened stores.

"Maybe two years from now we will build a store," Beardsley said.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Bakersfield ruled Dec. 13 against Wal-Mart and the developers, saying Bakersfield failed to analyze potential physical decay citywide as two Wal-Mart supercenters caused other businesses to close and leave shopping centers vacant.

The court's first-of-its-kind ruling on physical decay has thrown up even higher environmental hurdles for California cities considering Wal-Mart supercenters. Cities that once considered effects on wildlife and air quality must now study a ripple of potential economic effects as well and determine if a new supercenter is worth vacant buildings elsewhere. The three appellate judges ruled that examples of urban decay from other cities and states are also valid considerations for a California city analyzing a supercenter project.

"It makes it tougher to go through the whole environmental review process" and get approval from cities, said Walnut Creek attorney Stephen Kostka, an environmental law specialist who called the ruling an "atomic bomb" for shopping center developers.

But it's also encouraged opponents of Wal-Mart supercenters in other states, said Stockton attorney Steve Herum, who challenged the two Bakersfield supercenters and eight others.
Wal*Mart supercenters can destroy local economies very easily. People so easily fall for the "low prices", not realizing that supporting Wal*Mart has huge consequences for local economies.

Vote with your dollars and boycott Wal*Mart.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Uh oh: GOP's felon list may be way off

Oh, dear..the title of the blog says it all.

In the Seattle Times this morning, reporter David Postman tells us this in his opening paragraph: "The list of alleged felon voters compiled in Dino Rossi's legal challenge to the governor's election mistakenly includes people tried as juveniles who never lost their right to vote."

Whoops!

So perhaps hundreds of the 1,135 people on the Republicans' list are there improperly because of juvenile cases.

Whoops!

As Jenny Durkan, a lawyer for the Democratic Party in Dino Rossi's court case noted, "This is a huge error."

Yes...a an error of colossal proportions. This represents a huge part of the list! As the Attorney General's office notes:
Assistant Attorney General Jeff Even said yesterday that people tried as juveniles should not be on the list. People found guilty in the juvenile system are not technically convicted of a crime under state law. Rather, that is a civil procedure and would not disqualify someone from voting once they turned 18, he said.
This opinion is backed up by a Supreme Court ruling on the matter. The GOP and the Rossi campaign don't dispute the validity of the opinion. Neither have they apologized for making such a big mistake.

This latest news should come as no surprise. Since November, everything the Rossi campaign has said has been exaggerated in one way or another. They make phony claims, and then it turns out those claims were bogus.

After the Seattle Times started investigating the list, they found this information. Why didn't the Rossi campaign find it? Was it because they liked their inflated number? What other errors are on this list that we don't know about? This information needs to be scrutinized very heavily, because we know where it came from, and the source simply isn't reputable.

This latest phony information shows once again that the GOP could care less about accuracy or truth. This entire court case is a charade to get rid of legitimately elected Governor Christine Gregoire. Rossi and his friends are interesting in winning. That's all they're interested in.

Not truth, not justice, that's just what they would have you believe. They have no evidence of any fraud committed in the gubernatorial election - just endless allegations.

In fact, Republicans continue to attack King County elections chief Dean Logan as a crook! They attack him for problems with the 2004 election when their own list is full of gaping holes! What an embarrassment...and a double standard! The irony is simply amazing.

This list was put together carelessly and included people who never should have been on it in the first place. Again, such carelessness indicates this court case is merely a campaign to get rid of Governor Gregoire, not discover "the truth" about what happened in the gubernatorial election. We know what happened: we had a very close, but legitimate, election.

As for the GOP, they will continue to attack elections officials with allegation after allegation. Fortunately, you can't get away with allegations in court. You have to prove they're true. That may be very difficult for the GOP, since it continues to run into trouble with its "evidence".

Whoops!#NWPT2

Cantwell refuses to give up

Senator Maria Cantwell spoke yesterday on her plans to continue fighting even after yesterday's 51-49 defeat of the amendment to stop drilling in the Arctic Refuge:
"The fight over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is far from over," said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who led the opposition. "We almost stopped this budget trickery on the floor today. ... I'll be prepared to use every tool at my disposal to stop drilling in the Arctic. We need a serious national strategy to move us toward energy independence."
Cantwell's leadership on this issue has been most impressive, and her refusal to give in after a tough fight is a very encouraging sign for all that care about the sanctity of the environment. There are already ideas for how to derail it:
Among other ideas, opponents said they would challenge the ANWR provision on parliamentary grounds. The challenge will argue that the ANWR provision is out of order on a budget bill because it deals with policy rather than money. Republicans counter that the provision is safe because it calls for the government to raise $2.7 billion by selling leases and through royalties from ANWR during the next five years.

Another possible hurdle is the fact that final passage of the budget bill containing the ANWR provision is not assured. Congress has been unable to pass the budget bill in two of the past three years, and this year there are major fights looming on Medicaid spending, tax cuts and other politically divisive questions.
Ted Stevens is both an idiot and a fool. Opening the Refuge to oil drilling is all about bringing more money to his state. The oil that would come out of there could barely satisfy our current and growing oil consumptions for a few months. And it comes at the expense of losing one of the world's last greatest untouched wildernesses.

We need to be looking for alternative energy solutions, not drilling in the Arctic for more oil.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Arctic Refuge amendment fails

That means we lost. The final vote is currently being disputed, it's either 51-49 "nay" on the amendment, or 52-48 "nay" [the former seems to be what the final tally was].

Several Democrats voted against Senator Maria Cantwell's amendment, including Senators Inouye and Akaka from Hawaii, as well as Senator Landrieu from Lousiana.

With their support, the amendment would have passed. These Democrats must be taken to task for their betrayal of the environment.

There will be opportunities to reverse course and prevent drilling. Proponents always have a difficult time getting an agenda passed because a democracy offers so many steps for opponents to get in the way and block it.

Nevertheless, today's vote was irresponsible and inexcusable. It's a threat to broader prosperity and a better future. Akaka, Inouye, and Landrieu apparently care more about money for their states than they do about preserving the sanctity of one of the last untouched wildernesses in America.

We will keep on fighting to prevent drilling from happening. And one of the key steps will be to win back lost seats in 2006.

Help Save ANWR - Critical Vote TODAY

VOTE IS AT 1:10 PM!

According to the right-wing noise machine, they have the votes to open up the most pristine wildlife refuge in the country to oil exploitation.
ANWR opponents [notice the right-wing framing?], led by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., stripped the drilling revenue language from the 2005 budget resolution on a 52-48 vote. Since then, three pro-drilling senators have replaced three opponents, meaning that if no other votes change, the measure would pass, 51-49.

Republicans Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Mel Martinez of Florida replaced Democrats opposed to drilling while the three Democrats who voted for it in 2004, U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, have not changed their position.
Drilling. Miles of pipeline constructions. Earthmovers and bulldozers ripping through ANWR.

There was a recommended diary up here today that's already fallen off. Let's recommend that one back on, or this one, or another, and make this today's battle. Time's running out.

Things to do:

Call Sens. Inouye, Akaka, and Landrieu - let them know that a vote against this amendment is just a vote to debate this issue on its own merit and a vote against GOP backdoor shenanigans.

Call Sen. Burns. Let him know that he will lose, just like his hand picked gubernatorial candidate, in 2006 if he turns his back on conservation.

Call the moderate Republicans in the Blue States. Tell them they will be punished the next time they are up if they don't start representing their states' values.

Call Kerry's seven: Senator Coleman (MN), Senator Smith (OR), Senator Specter (PA), Senator Martinez (FL), Senator Lugar (IN), and Senators Gregg and Sununu (NH).
Senator John F. Kerry joined environmental groups in mounting a last-minute lobbying effort to sway the votes of seven moderate Republicans.

Kerry sent an e-mail to his supporters yesterday seeking donations for an "emergency ad campaign" on the Internet aimed at those lawmakers, including New Hampshire's senators, Judd Gregg and John E. Sununu.
And call your own Senators. Let 'em know their voters care about the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

Update: Here are some phone numbers. The more you add to the comments (plus a reason to add them), the more I add here.

HIGH PRIORITY LIST:

Landrieu (D-LA) has voted for drilling before - Voice lines: (202)224-5824, (504) 589-2427, (225) 389-0395, (318) 676-3085, (337) 436-6650; Fax lines: (202) 224-9735, (504) 589-4023 (225) 389-0660, (318) 676-3100, (337) 439-3762

Martinez (R-FL) is likely for drilling, but one of the Kerry 7 - 202-224-3041 or (407)254-2573

Specter (R-PA) moderate Blue State and one of the Kerry 7 - 202-224-4254

Gregg (R-NH) moderate Blue State and one of the Kerry 7 - 202-224-3324

Sununu (R-NH) moderate Blue State and one of the Kerry 7 - 202-224-2841

Burns (R-MT) could be swayed in light of pro-coservation Montana - 202-224-2644

Inouye (D-HI) just spoke FOR drilling today, so call only if you've hit the others - Voice lines: 202-224-3934, 808-541-2542, 808-242-9702, 808-935-0844, 808-642-0203, 808-935-0844, 808-245-4611, 808-623-8334; Fax lines: 202-224-6747 , 808-541-2549, 808-242-7233, 808-961-5163, 808-560-3385, 808-961-5163 808-246-9515

Lugar (R-IN) is one of the Kerry 7 - (202) 224-4814, (317) 226-5555, (260) 422-1505, (219) 548-8035, (812) 288-3377, (812) 465-6313

Akaka (D-HI) voted for drilling before - Voice lines: (202) 224-6361, (808) 522-8970, (808) 935-1114; Fax lines: (202) 224-2126, (808) 545-4683, (808) 935-9064

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lower the bar for raising taxes

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Senate Democrats laid the groundwork for new taxes last night by preparing an amendment that would negate part of voter Initiative 601, which required a two-thirds vote to increase taxes or state spending limits.

The amendment would require only a simple majority vote to raise taxes, which effectively prevents the minority Republicans from blocking a new tax plan.

As of yesterday, majority House Democrats had not pursued the plan but said they could if necessary.

Senate Democrats said it's time to face the fact that the state's $2.2 billion budget hole is part of a structural problem that can't be addressed without new revenue.

"I think we have to be realistic about what our state's situation is and it's going to take some boldness and guts," said Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton. "I prefer to come clean with the public."
This is a sound idea that the Legislature should pass. Why is it that a minority can block tax increases? With Initiative 601 in place, the minority is in control, not the majority. In the United States, we have majority rule with minority rights - not minority rule with majority rights.

The same rule should apply to school levies. You only need a simple majority to raise taxes. If we're going to have supermajorities to raise taxes (which goes against the principle of majority rule) we need supermajorities to lower them as well.

No Eyman initiative has passed with over 60% approval (see Permanent Defense's Dangerous Initiatives section, which has the vote percentage and tally for each initiative detailed).

We need to get rid of the high bar for raising taxes. Either that, or we set a high bar for lowering them as well.

Monday, March 14, 2005

PD: Thanks to Eyman, Some Cities May Have to Disband

Permanent Defense is covering a story published by the Everett Herald about a town's struggle to avoid having to disincorporate. Turns out that many cities throughout the state are facing this dilemma because of budget shortfalls caused by Tim Eyman initiatives.

A quick excerpt from their commentary on the story:
Voters have been tricked into voting with their pocketbooks thanks to Tim Eyman and his sadistic rhetoric. Even mayors have been sold on the premise that they can have it all and not pay for it. By refusing to look at both sides of the equation, and refusing to acknowledge that tax cuts are equivalent to cuts in public services, Eyman and his cronies have distorted the truth and caused a lot of damage.

The Republican position that we must "live within our means" may sound appealing, but it is insane. Too many years of tax cuts are wreaking havoc on Washington State and its many local governments. If something isn't done in the next few years, city halls across the state will be forced to close and some counties may even collapse into insolvency.

At a time when many rural citizens are angry about the lack of local control in their quest for "property rights", they risk losing out and ceding more power to officials that are further away. Many of these people are the same folks that eagerly embraced Tim Eyman's initiatives.

State should tighten vehicle emissions regulations

Washington State lawmakers are currently debating whether or not the state should follow California's lead in adopting tough new regulations to curb vehicle emissions.

The legislation would impose quotas for selling clean hybrids and other low polluting cars. California has already adopted such legislation, and Washington State would do well to join the Golden State.

The federal government, under Republican control, has provided absolutely no leadership on this issue. It's up to the states to get automakers to start making cars that are more environmentally friendly.

Here's some talking points on the issue from Clean Cars for Washington:

Reduce Dangerous Auto Emissions
Adopting clean car auto emission standards will reduce dangerous auto emissions that cause cancer and aggravate our children's already high rates of asthma. In other states, clean car standards have reduced cancer-causing automobile emissions by 25%.

Save Car Owners Money
Clean cars put money back in consumers’ pockets by saving money on fuel costs. If we adopt the standards in 2005, Washington state consumers will save more than $2 billion in total costs by 2020, after paying for the small increase in vehicle price.

Reduce Global Warming Pollution
Clean car auto emission standards will reduce global warming pollution from new cars by roughly 30% by 2016, and start reducing our dependance on foreign oil. Washington and Oregon’s cascade snowpack – which drives our power, water, agriculture, and habitat systems – is projected to decline by 59% by the 2050s without swift action.

Increase Consumer Choice
The eight other states that have clean car standards have the same SUVs, light trucks and passenger cars that we do, only better. From Buicks to BMWs, Hummers to Hondas, clean cars are ordinary cars that have better pollution control technology. But only states with clean car standards get all these choices.

Tackling the issue of abortion

A quick link to P-I columnist Joel Connelly's column this morning: 'Seamless garment' concept a key in abortion issue.

The column talks about (in part) the need for Democrats to welcome those in the party who are pro-life. This is an issue that strongly resonates with many Democrats who feel they have been shut out in the cold.

We're going to keep losing to the Republican Party if we keep giving those who are pro-life reasons to go to the other side. We need to be the party that is the "big tent", not allow the GOP to have that role.

"Pro-choice" activists have often sneered, hissed, and booed at pro-life Democrats at rallies and other party events. It's been documented many times. Well, they should get used to losing if they want to keep up that attitude. Issues such as abortion and gay marriage are helping to drive evangelicals out to the polls to vote for candidates like George W. Bush.

We need to make sure that Democrats who are against abortion and for the protection of the unborn are not shouted down, but are instead welcomed into the party. Those who are pro-choice and for women's rights should have nothing to fear.

In his column, Connelly notes that President Clinton declared this in a speech he made at Riverside Church in New York last summer: "I have never met anybody that was pro-abortion."

The Democratic Party should welcome calm conversation about this issue, instead of rigidly sticking to one side of the issue. If it can't, it risks continuing to alienate people who are for most Democratic positions but against abortion - people like Roman Catholics.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

LASER Inventor Wins Religious Award

Charles Townes, the man who brought the world the LASER and MASER, has just won the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. He has been given the award for writing about the relationship between science and religion.

Though it does seem unusual to some people that a man of science like Townes would recieve such an award, it makes sense when you see it in one perspective. Even when you look at the most basic parts of our world, they are planned out just right so to support life. For example, water loses density when it freezes. If it behaved like other compounds did and gained density, life would not exist here on this planet.

Sadly, Townes has been attacked for what says is "being religiously oriented." By all means, he is not supporting creationism. All he is doing is showing how science and religion are in agreement with each other.

Just look at the universe if you want to see this. For a long time, the assumption was that the universe just simply existed and that life came out of nowhere. Yet, looking at the universe a second time, it is possible to see that the universe didn't just exist.

The entire universe seems very much like it was planned and not just thrown together haphazardly. After all, something that has no intelligence cannot create something, and nature has no intelligence.

Mr. Towne's arguement of the union of science and religion deserves merit not only for his willingness to withstand the ridicule of his comrades in the scientific comumnity, but also for his ability to show a relationship between science and religion without endorsing creationism.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Irons to challenge Sims

King County Councilman David Irons Jr. has, not surprisingly, decided to take on King County Executive Ron Sims in this November's election.

Republicans have crowed that Sims is weak after numerous battles over a whole host of issues, especially the Critical Areas Ordinance.

But they shouldn't be so cocky. Democrats are firmly behind Ron Sims:
King County Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Sheary said the executive's re-election campaign is extremely viable, dismissing Republican suggestions that Sims is vulnerable because of controversy over ballot-counting errors in last fall's election and a critical-areas protection ordinance.

"The King County Democrats unanimously gave him an early endorsement at our January meeting. That's how strongly we feel about Ron Sims. We had to override the bylaws to do it," Sheary said. "Ron is a great human being. He's a great politician."
And NPI is firmly behind Ron Sims as well. Ron has the vision and the intelligence to be a great leader. What's more, he's persistent and resilient when it counts.

The rabid, anti-CAO activists will be pushing hard for Irons, but we'll be pushing equally hard for Ron Sims. It's important that the truth about this important issue not be drowned out by their noisemaking. They would have us pretend that everything would be just fine without any regulations. Unfortunately, we're not living in the 1900s anymore.

This is 2005, and we must work together as a society to ensure that our lands and resources are not abused and monopolized. Regulations are needed to prevent sprawl and stop developers from taking over.

Sims has the right ideas on taxation, education, and transportation as well. His reelection will ensure that King County remains in good hands.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Join the Online Coalition

Do you publish a political blog? Add your voice to the bipartisan coalition asking the FEC to tread lightly when it comes to regulating blogs and other political activities over the Internet.

Here's the text of the letter:

The Honorable Scott E. Thomas
Chairman
Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463

Re: Upcoming FEC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking governing political activity on the internet

Dear Chairman Thomas,

We are concerned about the potential impact that Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Shays v. FEC, 337 F. Supp. 2d 28 (D.D.C. 2004) and the FEC’s upcoming rulemaking process may have on political communication on the Internet.

One area of great concern is the potential regulation of bloggers and other online journalists who distribute political news and commentary exclusively over the web. While paid political advertising on the Internet should remain subject to FEC rules and regulations, curtailing blogs and other online publications will dampen the impact of new voices in the political process and will do a disservice to the millions of voters who rely on the web for original, insightful political commentary.

Under the current rules, “any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication,” is exempt from reporting and coordination requirements. It is not clear, however, that the FEC’s “media exemption” provides sufficient protection for those of us in the online journalism community.

As bipartisan members of the online journalism, blogging, and advertising community, we ask that you grant blogs and online publications the same consideration and protection as broadcast media, newspapers, or periodicals by clearly including them under the Federal Election Commission’s “media exemption” rule.

In order to ensure that there are sufficient measures taken, we also request that the FEC promulgate a rule exempting unpaid political activity on the Internet from regulation, thereby guaranteeing every American’s right to speak freely and participate in our democratic process.

Finally, we ask that you clarify the rules and definitions related to “coordinated activity” to protect bloggers and journalists from running afoul of Commission rules regarding the republication of campaign materials.

The Internet is a fundamental tool in the American political process. Just this week, we learned that 75 million Americans used the Internet to gather news, read commentary, discuss issues, register to vote, and generally join in the democratic process during the last election cycle. We believe the Internet is the primary driving force behind increased participation among traditionally under-represented groups of voters, and we applaud the Federal Election Committee for crafting rules that have allowed the Internet to flourish as a political communications medium.

Like the town hall meeting, online political activism is a vital part of American civic life. We encourage the FEC to provide bloggers, online journalists, and everyday cyber-citizens with the same freedoms that individuals and traditional journalists are free to exercise elsewhere. The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 was intended to prevent unlimited soft money contributions and regulate electioneering advertising, not to stifle free speech or grassroots activities on the Internet that serve the common good.

If you agree, (and why wouldn't you? You're reading this blog online, aren't you?) please head on over and add your name to the petition.

WEA kicks Wal*Mart off school supply list

The Washington Education Association has decided that reimbursements from its Children's Fund, a decade-old charity that provides up to $100 per student each year, will not be doled out to teachers that buy their goods from Wal*Mart.

The P-I explains:
Taking a bold political stand, the state teachers' union last week declared the fund off-limits to Wal-Mart purchases.

In a newsletter distributed to teachers, association President Charles Hasse cited Wal-Mart's "exploitative labor practices (that) have added to public assistance burdens in our state and across the nation."

Hasse said yesterday that the action followed repeated suggestions from teachers to either change the policy or distribute information about the company's labor practices.

Hasse said he's received more than 200 responses from teachers around the state, who were 20-1 in favor of eliminating Wal-Mart reimbursements. "It was interesting to see the intensity of feeling around this," he said.
Of course, union members shouldn't be shopping at Wal*Mart at all. Not only is Wal*Mart notoriously anti-union, but its business practices are unfair and unethical. The WEA should be applauded for making a bold and necessary move.

It's about time that unions put their collective feet down. When you shop at Wal*Mart, you're voting for Wal*Mart with your dollars. Take your money someplace else, even if it means a higher price. Reward companies with good business practices that actually treat their workers with decency.

You can learn more about Wal*Mart at the Reform Wal*Mart website (of course, reform looks like a very remote possibility at this point in time).

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Liberal television

There's been a lot of talk in the past couple of years about creating a left-wing equivalent of some kind to FOX News, or at least launching some kind of venture to balance out the imbalance FOX has created.

This week, we took one small step towards liberal television with the launch of DemsTV.com. As described by the Washington Post:
The Democrats are getting their own talk show -- in cyberspace.

Two Democratic political consultants are preparing to launch a weekly online political talk show that will showcase the party's message, lambaste Republicans and, they hope, open a new front in the ongoing media wars.

It's called DemsTV.com, and each Tuesday, the Web site will feature 20 minutes or so of talking-head chatter from a rotating cast of young Democratic operatives.
It's more like a weekly progressive video blog, but again, it's a small step in the right direction, and worth checking out to see the content value.

Other than the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, there's not a whole lot of cable television out there for progressives to watch. It was hoped that Al Gore would change this, but he's not doing that. As Kos (of Daily Kos) explains:
I still see references all over the place about Gore's cable network, with people wondering when the "liberal cable network" will launch.

Gore's network [INdTV] is not a "liberal news" operation. It's not our version of Fox News. It's going to be a post-MTV generation "reality show"-type network. The idea, as I gather, is to have shows where viewers tape their own segments, send them in, and the best get aired. Or something like that.

However, there's big money working right now to create that Fox News alternative. It just won't happen anytime too soon (as in the next year or two), and it won't be led by Al Gore.
Our alternative to FOX News may be years away, but thankfully we've at least begun making strides to counter the right wing echo chamber on talk radio. Air America and Democracy Radio have proven that liberal talk radio can be successful.

And 1090 AM is beginning to push towards connecting with the local community, allowing progressives to sign up for the "Precinct 1090" club. Hopefully, local progressive talk shows on 1090 aren't too far off. While we wait for a liberal news and views channel, though, we'll have to settle for the Daily Show and Internet ventures like DemsTV.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Priorities all out of whack

Be sure to read P-I columnist Joel Connelly's column this morning: Bush budget will devastate social services in state.

Connelly, of course, is talking about Bush's proposed budget, which shows you how little Bush cares about America's communities. Indeed, Bush's priorities are all out of whack - we're spending billions of dollars rebuilding in Iraq while cutting funding for our own communities back home.

Here's an excerpt from Connelly's column that illustrates how painful these cuts will be, and how the Administration is oh so very clever at coining terms and titles that describe exactly the opposite of what their policy really does.
The Bush administration has perfected the art of using language as an instrument of disguise.

"Compassionate conservatism" was designed to differentiate the presidential candidate from the excesses of the Republican-run Congress.

"Clear Skies" disguises proposed changes to clean-air regulations that would allow large power plants to increase pollution.

In its latest budget, the administration has come up with another whopper: "Strengthening America's Communities."

How, one asks, would America's communities be "strengthened" by proposed deep cuts in the Community Development Block Grants program?

The federal program currently sends $14 million to the city of Seattle each year. Local organizations bid on it. The money revitalizes blighted properties, creates jobs, provides temporary housing to the homeless and services the elderly and disabled and victimized.

The Downtown Emergency Service Center receives almost $500,000 in block grant money each year. Using city money as well, it underwrites emergency shelter and hygiene services annually for more than 5,000 adults. As well, it gives referrals for counseling, job training and permanent housing.

The Courtland Place project in Rainier Valley redeveloped 1.3 acres into 208 units of senior rental housing and 9,000 square feet of ground-floor rental space. Half of the rental units are affordable for low-income seniors. The project cost $24 million. Block grant money contributed $2.5 million of the total.

Croft Place, in the Delridge neighborhood, is a 21-unit project slated for completion this summer. It will provide 21 units of low-income housing, seven of which will go to formerly homeless families.

Total cost is $5.89 million, including $1.9 million in federal block grant and city housing levy dollars.
These cuts simply aren't defensible. Only libertarian extremists would try to defend these poor choices and misplaced priorities. Most Republicans will look the other way, deny the cuts are being made, or search for some excuse on which to justify it.

But the cuts don't stop there, either:

Under the proposed budget, 13,500 recipients in Washington would lose benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

A total of 1,400 more Washington children would be unable to attend a Head Start program.

About 8,000 Washington families would lose rental assistance vouchers, and 3,800 families stand to lose low-income home energy assistance.
The Administration and its GOP allies have turned a deaf ear to the cries of America's poor and homeless. Low income families are the last constituency the President of the United States cares about.

That is a terrible shame. But it's not a surprise, either. The GOP has a loud propoganda machine which continually pumps out lies and employs clever use of language to manipulate people into supporting a movement that really hurts them.


Most Americans would probably react negatively to what's in this budget. But most Americans don't know (or maybe they don't care) what's in the budget. They should. The budget effects every American in some way or another.

It's up to us to tell the truth about the Administration's real priorities. If we don't do it, nobody will. It's a very difficult challenge. But we must answer it to the best of our ability. We're in this for the long run. If we cannot succeed, America's future will be bleak indeed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Times condemns BIAW tactics

The Seattle Times has harsh words this morning for Tom McCabe and the BIAW, who, as we told you last week, set up a sneaky scheme to check the signatures of voters who signed affadivits in support of absentee and provisional ballots in the governor's election.

They sent out a "housing survey" with a ten dollar check, to entice people into taking their phony survey and cashing the check. Then they could compare signatures on the checks to the signatures on the affadivits.

It was completely unethical and completely unacceptable. Yet right wingers stood up to defend the BIAW's tactics. Can you imagine the outrage if, for example, a labor union had done this? KVI, KTTH, and unSoundPolitics would be up in arms! But because the BIAW did it, it's OK in their eyes.

Any Republican that is not troubled or bothered by these sleazy political tactics needs to reexamine their conscience. What do they believe in? Well, if this is OK, then you can forget about honesty or integrity.

Here's some of the juicier excerpts from the Times editorial:
Sleazy political tactics are no way to uncover errors in the governor's race.

Yet, the Building Industry Association of Washington took the low road and conducted a phony survey in an attempt to trick people into providing their signatures.

This was no housing survey. The only participants were those who signed affidavits. It was a sneaky way to collect signatures to be compared with the signatures on the affidavits.

McCabe is so upset with the election he feels he, with the aid of a forgery expert, should find mismatched signatures and turn them over to federal and local authorities. He effectively makes himself and his assistants arbiters of signature verification.

Not only does he make more than 125 people who returned the checks or surveys feel foolish, he muddies the water for others seeking information about the election.

This is not identity theft, as an irate Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt put it. But let's not mince words. It is political sleaze.
It is more important than ever that we enact retro-rebate reform and diminish the influence of the BIAW. They've already thrown away (long ago) any goodwill they could have expected from Democrats. It's time to put an end to their abuse of the retro rebate program.

Portal Update & Blog Call

This morning, Pacific Northwest Portal has updated its directory with six new regional progressive blogs. You can view the six recently added blogs from the Portal's main page and also check them out in the Blogs & Websites directory.

We're always looking for new blogs to give to the Portal's web team so they can improve the directory. Do you have a blog we don't have, or know any progressive or group of progressives whose blogs are missing? Please send us the URLs so we can consider the blog(s) for inclusion in the directory.

Excellent response to lousy P-I column

Last week, I told you about a couple of lousy columns that the P-I had decided to put on its editorial page - including a column written by a couple of Republican Wenatchee lawmakers who were essentially trying to intervene to defend the BIAW's state sponsored cash cow.

Well, today, the P-I, in the interest of hearing both viewpoints, is printing a rebuttal column - "State's 'retro' program needs repair" by Democrats Mark Doumit and Bill Fromhold.

The column is an excellent response to the lousy reasons set forth last week for keeping the status quo and letting the BIAW off the hook in regards to its abuse of the retro rebate system.

First, they explain how the system works:
The program allows employers who provide similar services to pool their resources and create unified safety programs. These "retro groups" are managed by trade associations. In return for their commitment to safety, groups may receive rebates from the state's workers' compensation funds.

Here's how it works. Companies pay their workers' compensation premiums into the retro groups. The money is collected by trade associations and sent to the Department of Labor and Industries. The agency puts the money into the workers' compensation funds. At the end of the year, rebates are sent back to the associations with favorable safety records.

Most retro groups pass this savings on to their members but some organizations do not. Under current law, the associations that form retro groups may collect a fee to cover administrative costs. However, there is no limit to the size of fee they can charge.
Then they go on to explain the circumstances surrounding the BIAW's abuse of the system:
A building industry association runs one of the largest retro groups. It is also one of the greatest beneficiaries under the current system. In one year, 96 cents of every dollar the group paid into workers' compensation was paid out to injured workers. But because the group is so large, it received 24 percent of its premiums back in the form of a rebate.

In other words, the association received a rebate of more than $25 million even though the difference between premiums paid in and losses paid out amounted to a little more than $3 million.

Then, the association turned around and charged its own members a 20 percent fee, generating millions of dollars more than the cost of administration. This money could have been used to promote worker safety or to reduce workers' compensation premiums. Instead, it was funneled into political campaigns.
Yeah - political campaigns to help elect Republicans and Republican friendly judges to office. The BIAW has spent millions helping failed gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, helping elect Jim Johnson to the Supreme Court, and helping elect Rob McKenna as Attorney General.

No wonder the Republicans are so interested in defending the BIAW! It's like having your own bank - and the best part is, the people that run the bank don't care about ethics or have any respect for the system they're abusing, so there's no limit on what you can and can't do.

But it shouldn't be this way. As much as the Republicans are fond of their cash cow, this flagrant abuse of the system is simply unfair to businesses and to workers. By reforming the system, we have a chance to help both businesses and workers.
We need to fix the inequities in the retro program and return the program to its original intent of helping small and medium-sized businesses control their workers' compensation rates and keep their workers safe.
And that's the note on which Doumit and Fromhold end their column.

The bottom line is that money set aside in the public trust to promote worker safety should be spent on worker safety.

A chance to help small business? As I noted in my blog several days ago, if the Republicans actually believe in their own ideology, they should be jumping all over this. If they're more concerned about preserving the status quo, then at least we know what their priorities are. That would signal that winning elections is their highest priority.

And they don't want to send that kind of message - do they?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Boeing ousts Stonecipher

The bad news just never seems to end for Boeing, does it? This from the AP:

CHICAGO - Boeing Co. abruptly forced out its president and chief executive officer, Harry Stonecipher, for what the company said Monday was a violation of the company's code of business conduct stemming from a relationship the married, 68-year-old Stonecipher had with a female Boeing executive.

The stunning ouster makes Stonecipher the second CEO to depart the Chicago-based airplane maker and defense contractor in disgrace in the past 15 months.

His predecessor, Phil Condit, resigned Dec. 1, 2003, as a result of the defense contracting scandals that ultimately sent two Boeing executives - ex-Air Force procurement official Darleen Druyun and chief financial officer Mike Sears - to jail.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

It's official: the GOP is desperate

In their desperation to convince people that Social Security needs to be privatized, the Republicans have turned to a nine year old kid to help win over young people. Isn't that what they do on TV when ratings get too low?

It's official: the Democrats are winning on the issue of Social Security. To celebrate, here's a couple of jokes.

Q: What is the similarity between the Republican argument for privatization and hiring a nine year old kid to present a serious and complex argument?

A: They don't make sense!

Q: What's the similarity between using Bush to present an argument versus a nine year old kid?

A: They're both acting cute, they both sound silly, and they act like parrots.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Rep. Jim McDermott on Daily Kos

Welcome to the blogosphere, Rep. McDermott!

One of NPI's favorite congressmen has posted a diary entitled Social Security: Don't buy the Fear Factor!

If you're a member of Daily Kos, please head on over there and make a comment in support of Rep. McDermott. Also, don't forget to reccomend the diary.

BIAW trickery and Lane's flip flop

The BIAW is up to its evil, devilish tricks again. Today, the Seattle Times has a story entitled "Builders group uses trickery to check out voters' signatures".

An excerpt from the Seattle Times explains it all:
A "Home Ownership Survey" sent to hundreds of King County residents, along with a $10 check as an incentive for returning it, wasn't really designed, as it claimed, to help project housing trends in the Puget Sound region.

The three-question survey and the check are part of a plan by backers of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi to search for fraudulent votes cast in the disputed November election.

The surveys were sent to more than 400 voters whose absentee ballots were questioned after the election and who signed post-election affidavits to ensure their ballots were counted.

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) sent the mail in January and February in the hope that the surveys would be signed and the checks endorsed. That would give the builders group signatures to match against the affidavits, which were collected by Democratic volunteers and helped Democrat Christine Gregoire win the election.
How dare they.

The BIAW is an evil, despicable, and completely unethical organization. There seems to be no limit to the depths they will sink to in order to ram their partisan political agenda down Washington's throat.

The "Home Ownership Society" survey was faker than fake...it was, in other words, bullshit.

State Democratic Chair Paul Berendt said this of the BIAW's trickery (orchestrated by their leader, Tom McCabe): "What he's done is essentially a form of identity theft."

This latest sneaky trick lends a lot of credence to lawmakers' plans to cut the BIAW's income in half, which I talked about in a post yesterday. The BIAW cannot be allowed to continue its partisan political activities off of the back of the state government. These people are dangerous and need to be stopped.

Also in the news - yesterday former GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi made public a list of 1,135 felons he said voted illegally and 45 dead people he said were credited with voting.

The "illegal votes" are supposed to be a crucial part of Dino Rossi's court crusade to have last November's election tossed out.

Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane had this to say about the accuracy of the list:
Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane said Republicans were confident about the accuracy of the list, but acknowledged there might be some errors.
So..first she's saying they're confident about the accuracy of the list, but then she turns around and says there might be some errors.

Looks like a another classic flip flop from Rossi's House of Waffles. It's highly unusual for Rossi's spokeswoman to even "acknowledge" something to the contrary...so does this mean the Republicans aren't actually that confident about the accuracy of their "list"?

Every time Judge Bridges has convened his court over in Chelan County to hear motions in this case, the GOP has come out afterwards to say they won. I suppose when they finally do lose the case, (which seems to be a very strong possibility) they'll do what Tim Eyman does...and claim they won anyway.

[After the defeat of I-892, Tim Eyman claimed that the initiative had been a "remarkable success" and that "over a million people voted for it." Never mind the almost two million that voted against it.]

Thursday, March 03, 2005

NPI formally endorses Maria Cantwell

Today, the Northwest Progressive Institute is proud to announce its formal endorsement for the reelection of Maria Cantwell to the United States Senate.
It's our first endorsement after the 2004 election cycle, and it is an early endorsement. But it's one we are confident about making. Senator Cantwell isn't quite as progressive as Senator Murray, but we believe she's done a good job during her first term in the Senate and that she deserves to be reelected.

The Republicans would love to see a Democrat rise up to challenge Senator Cantwell in the primary. We hope that our endorsement encourages other groups and individuals to close ranks behind Senator Cantwell so that she can focus all her resources on the general election.

Over the last six years, Senator Cantwell has taken positions on a wide variety of issues. Below is a summary of many of the important votes and positions she has taken on a number of key issues.

Economic Policies
  • Don’t privatize; stock market is too risky. (Oct 2000)

  • Voted NO on repealing Clinton's ergonomic rules on repetitive stress. (Mar 2001

  • Protect overtime pay protections. (Jun 2003)

  • Rated 85% by the AFL-CIO, indicating a pro-labor voting record. (Dec 2003)
  • Voted NO on $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years. (May 2003)
  • Voted NO on cutting taxes by $1.35 trillion over 11 years. (May 2001)
  • Voted YES on reducing marriage penalty instead of cutting top tax rates. (May 2001)

  • Voted YES on increasing tax deductions for college tuition. (May 2001)
  • Tax credits to promite home ownership in distressed areas. (Apr 2003)

Education
  • Voted YES on funding smaller classes instead of private tutors. (May 2001)

  • Voted YES on funding student testing instead of private tutors. (May 2001)

  • Voted YES on spending $448B of tax cut on education & debt reduction. (Apr 2001)

  • Rated 100% by the NEA, indicating pro-public education votes. (Dec 2003)

Energy & Power
  • Voted NO on Bush Administration Energy Policy. (Jul 2003)

  • Voted YES on targeting 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010. (Jun 2003)

  • Voted YES on removing consideration of drilling ANWR from budget bill. (Mar 2003)

  • Voted NO on drilling ANWR on national security grounds. (Apr 2002)

  • Voted NO on terminating CAFE standards within 15 months. (Mar 2002)

  • Keep efficient air conditioner rule to conserve energy. (Mar 2004)

The Environment
  • Supported UNCED Rio Declaration at 2002 conference. (Jul 2002)

  • Rated 100% by the LCV, indicating pro-environment votes. (Dec 2003)

  • EPA must do better on mercury clean-up. (Apr 2004)

  • Close the gun-show loophole; favors trigger locks. (Oct 2000)

  • Voted NO on banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers for gun violence. (Mar 2004)

Healthcare
  • Voted YES on allowing importation of Rx drugs from Canada. (Jul 2002)

  • Voted YES on allowing patients to sue HMOs & collect punitive damages. (Jun 2001)

  • Voted NO on funding GOP version of Medicare prescription drug benefit. (Apr 2001)

  • Invest funds to alleviate the nursing shortage. (Apr 2001)

  • Let states make bulk Rx purchases, and other innovations. (May 2003)

  • Rated 100% by APHA, indicating a pro-public health record. (Dec 2003)

National Defense
  • Federalize aviation security. (Nov 2001)

  • Small business in developing homeland security technologies. (Jul 2002)

  • Supported veteran benefits in Congress. (Nov 2000)

International Affairs
  • Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. (Nov 2000)

  • Stopping Balkan genocide is within US national interests. (Oct 2000)

  • Limited but effective role for US in Mideast. (Oct 2000)

  • Rated 100% by SANE, indicating a pro-peace voting record. (Dec 2003)

  • Condemns anti-Muslim bigotry in name of anti-terrorism. (Oct 2001)

Media
  • Voted YES on disallowing FCC approval of larger media conglomerates. (Sep 2003)
Additionally, Senator Cantwell has fought to preserve the Roadless Rule and hold Enron accountable for its attempts to bilk consumers in Washington state, especially customers of Snohomish County PUD, which is currently fighting Enron in court to avoid having to pay the company millions of dollars in money Enron claims it's owed.

Senator Cantwell has been a key player in pressuring the FERC to release key tapes that provide insight into Enron's descipable and unethical business practices several years ago during the West's energy crises.

Maria has shown us that, like Senator Patty Murray, she's willing to step up to the plate and fight for Washingtonians.

NPI believes that her overall record is strong enough to overcome any missteps or blemishes, such as her vote authorizing the current war in Iraq.

Recognizing the urgent need to take back our country from the Republican Noise Machine, and that Senator Maria Cantwell has done a good job of representing Washington State in the United States Senate, we hereby endorse Maria Cantwell's reelection bid for that office in 2006.

Lousy columns in today's P-I

There's a couple of very lousy columns in today's Seattle P-I that deal with issues we've been talking about in recent weeks: one concerning the idea of secession, and the other about retro-rebate reform.

The first column, written by Scott Hamilton, says people should get to vote on whether part of King County should secede to form "Cascade County". He bases his arguments on the fact that Sammamish has been better off since it incorporated as a city then when it was part of rural King County.

The county isn't against incorporation of cities, as a matter of fact. It's actually good for the county, because it means that the county can cut back on the amount of public services it has to provide, thus saving money.

Incorporating a city has nothing to do with part of one county deciding to secede from its parent. They're two different things. Incorporation is simply creating another layer of municipal government responsible for a smaller area. The incorporated city is still part of the same county.

There are more important issues to deal with then trying to split up King County. That idea will be both messy and costly, and it isn't going to achieve much of anything. The state has enough problems as it is. A county split would only create more.

In the other column, "Democrats focused on political payback", two Republican lawmakers from Wenatchee get mad at Democrats for proposing that state law be changed to prevent the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) from spending so much money to help Republican causes and candidates.

Imagine that. Two Republican lawmakers are contending that Democrats are focused on political payback because they want to shrink the amount of money the BIAW can spend helping elect Republicans to office.

Of course, the problem is that the BIAW's cash cow - its big source of money for political spending - is government sponsored. The Seattle Times, in an article back in January, explained how this works:
State law allows businesses to form workers’-compensation pools to share insurance risks. The BIAW, which operates the state’s largest such pool, gets refunds from the state every year its premiums exceed claims.

The BIAW keeps 20 percent of the refunds and gives the rest to members who participate in its workers’-comp pool. The association’s take in 2004 was more than $5 million, half of which went to its 15 local chapters.

Under the legislation introduced this week, House Bill 1070, groups like the BIAW could keep no more than 10 percent of their refunds. In other words, the BIAW’s income would be cut in half.
The BIAW’s program is the largest, but there are about 60 such workers’-comp pools across Washington, covering around 16,000 employers.

The point is that the program was intended to reduce claims and save employers money. It wasn't intended to be turned into a government sponsored partisan attack fund. The BIAW has spent millions of dollars in the last few years helping conservative candidates and causes. It is notorious for decieving voters (such as in 2003 when their Initative 841 campaign to repeal ergonomics regulations was called Workers Against Job Killing Rules).

The BIAW has spent millions trying to get Rossi elected as governor. They spent a hefty sum before the election, and since, they've been running TV and radio spots, television advertisements, and using their staff to help "dig for dirt" in the Rossi legal case to have the election tossed out.

The BIAW has also set its sights on passing right to work legislation, crippling the state labor movement, which is allied towards the Democrats.

Considering all of this, it should be no surprise that this idea has been introduced in the Legislature. But it's more than just political payback. It's also good policy because it sends more of the refund money back to actual businesses - who will reinvest it in creating jobs for real people - not creating more political jobs for Republicans, which is how the BIAW would be spending it.

In fact, the GOP should be supporting this proposal. It means more money goes back to businesses - and we're always hearing from the GOP that we need to help businesses out. Well, here's one way to do it that doesn't cost state government a penny. And it would certainly help curb the BIAW's outrageous abuse of the workers’ comp system to fuel their partisan political agenda.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Frustrated? Play this Tax Whack

Are you one of the many Washingtonians who is frustrated with age-old tax exemptions that don't make sense? Well, now there's a way to relieve some of your stress and vent by playing the Whack A Loophole Game.

It's meant to be funny and serious at the same time. The point is, the state is losing a lot of money on exemptions that simply don't make any sense at all - we're shelling out millions of dollars every year to gold buillion dealers, country clubs, stock brokers, accountants, lawyers, lobbyists - and bull semen producers.

With the state facing a huge budget crisis, shouldn't we be thinking about closing some of these loopholes before we start cutting back on money for healthcare and schools? For example, isn't giving our teachers competitive pay more important than a tax break for bull semen producers?

You can play the Whack a Loophole game here, and you can learn more about closing corporate tax loopholes, as well as send a letter to your elected officials, here.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Evergreen Politics Interviews NPI Chair

I'm pleased to tell you that NPI is featured in an interview today on another great Washington blog - Evergreen Politics. You can read the interview in its entirety by clicking here.

Wal Mart forces local grocery chain to close stores

It's happened again: Wal*Mart is on the verge of slowly driving another local business out of business. The AP reports that "Brown & Cole Stores plans to sell eight of its 31 stores in Washington state, 'roadkill' from Wal-Mart's advance into the supermarket business, the head of the company says."

Wal*Mart is an evil, unwelcome company that acts much like the Bush Admnistration - it has an ironic double standard. Everyone knows Wal*Mart treats its workers horribly - except, apparently for Wal*Mart, which claims its treats its workers well.

Anyway - so Wal*Mart is forcing this locally owned chain to close up some of its stores. It's one of two big reasons for the store closures.
The company based in Bellingham is selling two stores in the Arlington area and one in Stanwood, all north of Everett, and one each in Burlington, Yakima, Pasco, Kennewick and Okanogan, practically all "heavily impacted by Wal-Mart," president Craig W. Cole said in a prepared statement.

"This is in large part due to two things," Cole said in a prepared statement, "health care costs and the deliberate saturation of the market by Wal-Mart."
Cole was also smart enough to note that Wal*Mart's business practices are hurting the American economy.
"The American worker and local businesses are becoming roadkill in Wal-Mart's march toward the worldwide domination of commerce," Cole said.
Unlike Wal*Mart, Brown & Cole's employees are mostly unionized, and Brown & Cole always tried to treat its employees well - much like Costco's current philosophy of how it treats its workers.
Founded in 1909, Brown & Cole provides health care coverage for 95 percent of its employees, who are largely covered by union contracts, Cole said.

"It used to be accepted that good companies took care of their employees," he said, accusing Wal-Mart of "inferior wages and benefits for its workers, outsourcing jobs to foreign producers and showing little regard for the environment."
To learn more about boycotting Wal*Mart, visit NPI's Boycott page.

Dowd slams Bush on double standard

Maureen Dowd's latest column - Bush has some nerve lecturing Putin - is right on the money. Dowd takes Bush to task for chiding Putin about curtailing democracy in Russia, driving home her points without wasting any words.

We'd like to reprint the entire column here on the blog, but we'll settle for a few choice excerpts that gave the column plenty of punch:
The only balance [George] W. [Bush] likes is the slavering, Pravda-like "fair and balanced" coverage Fox News provides. Bush pledges to spread democracy while his officials strive to create a Potemkin press village at home. This White House seems to prefer softball questions from a self-advertised male escort with a fake name to hardball questions from journalists with real names; it prefers tossing journalists who protect their sources into the gulag to giving up the officials who broke the law by leaking the name of their own CIA agent.
That point is right on. By now, most Americans who don't blindly accept the right's rhetoric are aware of the GannonGuckert scandal, which surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly) hasn't been covered by the mainstream media.

Dowd goes on:
An irritated Putin compared the Russian system with the American Electoral College, perhaps reminding the man preaching to him about democracy that he had come in second in 2000 according to the popular vote, the standard most democracies use.
Another great point. Bush wasn't voted into office - he was put there by five justices on the Supreme Court who killed the recount in Florida.

And this excerpt demonstrates the sad reality of what's going on in Washington, D.C. right now, as well as attacking Bush's claims of "transparency":
"I live in a transparent country," Bush protested to a Russian reporter who implicitly criticized the Patriot Act by noting that the private lives of U.S. citizens "are now being monitored by the state."

Dick Cheney's secret meetings with energy lobbyists were certainly a model of transparency. As was the buildup to the Iraq war, when the Bush hawks did their best to cloak the real reasons they wanted to go to war and trumpet the trumped-up reasons.

The Bush administration wields maximum secrecy with minimal opposition. The White House press is timid. The poor, limp Democrats don't have enough power to convene congressional hearings on any Republican outrages and are reduced to writing whining letters of protest that are tossed in the Oval Office trash.
It's unfortunate what the Republicans have been doing to our government. Dowd goes on to talk about the Frist/Bush effort to stamp out the filibuster in an effort to bring in more radical right wing judges. And she concludes with a final line that sums up what Bush really believes in: "The president loves democracy -- as long as democracy means he's always right."

When the GOP doesn't win, it howls with anger, puts its Noise Machine to work, and commits itself to even dirtier and fouler tricks than it's employed in the past. Examples needed? How about the targeting of Max Cleland, a veteran from the Vietnam War, who lost three limbs in that conflict and who was up for reelection back in 2002 in the state of Georgia? The GOP ran TV ads comparing him to Osama bin Laden. They even savage their own - like when Bush declared war on McCain back in 2000.

Bush has a double standard. As Dowd says - democracy is fine with Bush, as long as democracy means he is always right and he always wins.

Bush facing pressure over Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect on the 16th of this month, committed 35 industrialized countries to reducing by 2012 their emissions of six "greenhouse gases" that trap heat in the earth's atmosphere — principally carbon dioxide — to 5 percent less than 1990 levels.

Seven years in the making and ratified by 141 countries, the agreement — made in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 — has been controversial from the start on the issue of the damage it would do to the economy as to the concern of the climate of the whole world.

The Bush administration refused to sign on to Kyoto for two principal reasons: that it would harm the U.S. economy by requiring very costly changes to manufacturing, transportation and other aspects of business; and because the agreement did not initially cover the most rapidly developing countries — India and China — where economic advancement is valued over smokestack issues.

But the president has begun to feel some political pressure from his allies on global warming.

Sen. John McCain warns of the "devastating consequences of climate change." He has joined with Sen. Joe Lieberman in sponsoring a bill that would require reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions from the electricity-generation, transportation, industrial and commercial sectors of the economy, which represent 85 percent of overall U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.