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

Thursday, June 30, 2005

BREAKING: Monorail financing plan killed

BREAKING NEWS (Seattle P-I):
The Seattle Monorail Project board killed the system's controversial financing plan tonight, sending the project back to the drawing board to try to save the West Seattle-to-Crown Hill line.

NWPT55



An ad-hoc committee of the monorail board will try to determine how to salvage the project. Exactly what they would do is unclear, but officials said everything is on the table, including trying to come up with a new way to finance the monorail.
We congratulate the Seattle Monorail Project Board for making a wise and sensible decision. This was the right thing to do. And it shows the monorail board is willing to take accountability for itself:
The decision by the monorail board would seem to save the City Council from having to make a decision soon about whether to allow the line to be built on city streets. Monorail officials had wanted that OK by mid-August so construction could begin on time and the line could open in 2010. That now seems unlikely.
A week ago, when we said, "Stop the monorail", we made it clear what our objections were, and that the project as it existed then did not have our support moving forward. Over the last week, many monorail supporters have voiced their concerns, and unhappy citizens have also made their feelings clear.

This is a good development for the monorail. They now have the opportunity to produce a better project with a stronger, sound financing package and a line that delivers on what monorail advocates promised the voters.

Sometimes, you have to take a step back in order to move forward. That's what the board did, and we congratulate them for making a bold and courageous move to solve the problem before criticism could accumulate further.

Washington senators vote for CAFTA

Washington State's senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, went on the record tonight with a major vote for CATFA - according to StopCAFTA.org, CAFTA is a proposed "free" trade agreement that includes the United States, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

The Dominican Republic may also be added to the group. Negotiations for CAFTA were complete in December and January.

CAFTA is modeled after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA has been a disaster for small farmers and working people in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, family farms foreclosed, and public interest laws overturned or challenged in secret NAFTA courts.

Despite this dismal record, the Bush administration is seeking to expand NAFTA to Central America and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

From the beginning of CAFTA negotiations, the Bush administration has been clear that completion of CAFTA is crucial to move the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations forward faster, by adding extra pressure to countries like Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina to either accede to U.S. demands, or be left out.

The Murray/Cantwell vote for CAFTA is both surprising and disappointing. Here's how you can register your protest and disappointment in the CATFA vote with Cantwell and Murray's offices:

Senator Patty Murray
Washington, D.C. Office
173 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2621
Fax: (202) 224-0238
Email Senator Murray
Visit this page for contact info for Murray's local offices in Everett, Seattle, Vancouver, Spokane, Tacoma, and Yakima.

Senator Maria Cantwell
Washington, D.C. Office
717 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3441
Fax: 202-228-0514
Email Senator Cantwell
Visit this page for contact info for Cantwell's local offices in Everett, Seattle, Vancouver, Spokane, Tacoma, and Richland.

TIP: We strongly recommend sending a fax. It's the most effective way to communicate with your representatives and senators on The Hill.

CAFTA faces an uncertain future in the House, with many Republicans opposed and few Democrats lined up in support. Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) has announced his support, while Rep. Jay Inslee just announced he'll vote against it. Rep. Adam Smith has also expressed his concerns and stands with the opposition.

Monorail skeptics multiply

In the Post-Intelligencer this morning (Jane Hadley reporting):
Concern at City Hall about the financing plan for the Seattle Monorail Project escalated yesterday, with one City Council member calling for "an exit strategy" and others seeking a major change in direction for the transit agency.

City Councilman Richard Conlin, a longtime skeptic of the monorail plan, was the most direct, urging the council to deny the monorail use of city streets and rights of way.

NWPT55



Although the monorail has enjoyed popular support in four citywide elections, political opposition has been building since last week, when officials announced a financing plan for the 14-mile Green Line between West Seattle and Crown Hill. The $2 billion monorail would carry an additional $9 billion in interest payments, with taxes collected until 2050 or beyond, officials said.
Seattle City Councilmembers are becoming increasingly concerned, as the article notes, and are taking a variety of actions:
"I cannot in good conscience vote to approve a financial plan that will saddle Seattle taxpayers with a project that has an $11 billion burden and so little benefit," .... Conlin said he has received 700 e-mails, with opponents of the monorail plan outnumbering supporters 40 to 1.

Also yesterday, Councilman Nick Licata and City Attorney Tom Carr, both longtime monorail supporters, wrote the monorail board that the agency should "do something dramatic" to change the public perception of the project.
And it's not just city councilmembers, either:
The monorail also took a hit from two newspapers that have long supported the project. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said in an editorial yesterday that the borrowing costs were unacceptably high and that the board should reject the contract negotiated with the Cascadia Monorail Co. to design, build, equip, operate and maintain the Green Line.

The Stranger, a Seattle weekly, has been especially strident in its support. Columnist Josh Feit described himself as "a diehard monorail supporter" but said in yesterday's edition that the monorail has lost his trust over the $11 billion projection. He said the agency has been misleading, and he called for the resignation of Executive Director Joel Horn. A separate article by Stranger editors said the current project design along with a "new, rational financing plan" should be sent to voters for an up or down vote.
There's good reason to be skeptical - we think the monorail agency and its board have done a poor job planning, explaining, financing, and attempting to execute this project. There are several camps rapidly emerging in the monorail fight:
  1. Build the monorail, period. These are the diehard monorail supporters who will defend the monorail at any cost, and are intent on moving forward with the financing package, despite the huge cost.
  2. Concerned supporters. These people are monorail supporters, but believe there needs to be review and scrutiny over the current proposal, and would support changes that would solve problems while allowing the monorail to be built.
  3. Friendly skeptics. This is the category we fall into. These are the pro-transit folks who would ordinarily support the monorail, but can't under the current circumstances and will call for the project to be stopped until certain changes are made. This is the real "build it right, or don't build it at all" crowd.
  4. Unfriendly skeptics. These are the people who were skeptical of any monorail proposal to begin with and formed the bulk of the opposition before the 2002 vote took place several Novembers ago. They don't believe in the value of the project, hated the idea of paying for it with car tabs, or had some other concern. They're even more concerned, and angry, now.
  5. Monorail haters. These are the people that gleefully scream "DIE, MONORAIL, DIE" and are likely to label any big transit project a "boondoggle", period, whether it really is or not. They're car, truck, and SUV lovers who favor more and bigger roads. Their motto: "More asphalt and concrete." They hate everything about the project, and that idea of hate translates over to other areas well.
So there you have it. There's the monorail camps, and they'll be battling it out over this proposal over the next weeks and months. But as you can see, there's some kind of skepticism in four of the five camps. There's going to have to be discussion, a lot of changes, and compromise, before this project can move ahead.

Court rules for Seattle Times, dispute not over

The state Supreme Court ruled this morning on a major part of the JOA dispute between Seattle's two daily newspapers:
In a decision that could determine the future of Seattle's two major newspapers, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that The Seattle Times Co. is entitled to claim losses in 2000 and 2001 under its joint operating agreement (JOA) with Hearst Corp., owner of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The 9-0 decision, upholding an Appeals Court decision last year, lays to rest part of the bitter battle for survival between Seattle's two major daily papers. Over two years, that fight has climbed through the state-court system, with each side publicly accusing each other of trying to put their rival out of business.

In its decision, the state's highest court said, in effect, that while the stakes in the legal dispute over The Times 2000-2001 losses may be a high-profile matter, the case itself was a simple contractual dispute.

"The law of contracts is the same whether the parties are two publishing giants fighting for market control or two individuals disputing the cost of appliance repair work," wrote Justice Tom Chambers.

The court ruled that "the written contract between the parties is subject to only one reasonable interpretation": that the losses in those two years should be allowed.
NPI believes the JOA dispute is doing no good to the people of the Puget Sound region. We seek a resolution that allows both papers to survive, and we reaffirm our support for the Committee for a Two Newspaper Town:

"Our mission is to keep Seattle as a town served by at least two major, competitive daily newspapers. The Puget Sound area is better served with more, not fewer, forums for news and commentary."

The fight is also not over:
In its own statement, Hearst expressed disappointment in the ruling but described the case as "far from over" and said it believes it will prevail in the end.

The company indicated that it would return to pursue the remaining aspects of the case before King County Superior Court Judge Greg Canova. Canova's September 2003 ruling on the issue of the strike years was later overturned by an appelate court, a decision affirmed by the Supreme Court today.

"There are many issues yet to be resolved," Hearst said in the statement. "Hearst will continue to press its efforts to preserve two separate and distinct editorial voices in Seattle."
It's our hope that both the Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I continue to stick around - even if there isn't a JOA.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Portal Syndication Change

Due to unforeseen troubles at Columbian Watch that we do not know anything about, we have temporarily taken down their blog feed and replaced it with Emerald City Commentary's feed.

This change is effective immediately, on the Expanded Washington page, and is in no way connected to the upcoming launch of "True Blue", Pacific Northwest Portal 3.0.

Permanent Defense Responds

Eyman was back in Olympia today to turn in more signatures for I-900, concocting another press event to get earned media attention. He wasn't in a gorilla suit this time, but he did manage to get at least AP reporter David Ammons to show up.

Permanent Defense issued a press release earlier today, responding to Eyman and the assertions in Ammons' story.

KCDCC media coverage

Neil Modie of the Seattle P-I is back from vacation and has an article on the nominating convention in this morning's P-I:
Defying most local Democratic elected officials and party leaders, King County Councilman Bob Ferguson defeated council colleague Carolyn Edmonds last night to become the Democrats' official but legally iffy nominee for re-election.

At a county Democratic "nominating" convention conducted in defiance of the state's new "top two" primary election law, which faces a court challenge, Ferguson easily outpolled Edmonds 381 votes to 288, among 150 precinct committee officers in the council's newly reconfigured 1st District.

It takes in north-central and Northeast Seattle, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and parts of Bothell and Woodinville. Precinct officers were allotted different numbers of votes, up to eight each.
Neil also went into the background of the primary fight in his article. You can read more about our stance on the "top two" primary in our Special Report, here.

Eric Pyrne of the Seattle Times also had his own article:
Reverting to a candidate-selection method they haven't used in more than a century, King County Democratic activists last night chose Metropolitan King County Councilman Bob Ferguson over fellow Councilwoman Carolyn Edmonds to be the party's "nominee" in the new 1st Council District this fall.

The vote, limited to party-precinct-committee officers from the heavily Democratic district, was 381-288. Incumbents Edmonds of Shoreline and Ferguson of Seattle were pitted against each other after the council was downsized last fall from 13 members to nine and the districts redrawn.

The significance of last night's back-to-the-future "nominating convention" in Bellevue won't be decided until next month, when a federal judge hears the major parties' challenge to the "top two" primary that state voters approved in November.
After Ferguson's victory, I watched both Modie and Pyrne walk up and sit down with Bob and their yellow legal pads to talk about the convention and his thoughts on his victory.

They obviously prepared the background information on the primary before attending the convention, as they didn't have much time afterwards to get their stories to their editors. The convention wrapped up at about 10:00 PM.

Pyrne apparently did reach Edmonds before she could manage to escape after the vote:
Before last night's convention, neither Ferguson nor Edmonds would say what they would do if they didn't win. After the vote, however, Edmonds said she would almost certainly file — as a Democrat.

"I'm running," she said. "I've raised more than $100,000, and I've got an endorsement list that is so Democratic."

Ferguson didn't criticize Edmonds for not accepting the convention's outcome.
Maybe he won't criticize Edmonds, but we will. It's the same problem that the Republicans are having with Reagan Dunn and Steve Hammond. Edmonds' "revolt" completely undermines the entire purpose of the convention.

It shows Edmonds cares more about winning then she does about the Democratic party, which is very disappointing.

We'd welcome both Edmonds and Ferguson to file if there was an open primary system in which they could both compete for the Democratic nomination, but now it appears Edmonds will try to use her incumbent status and name recognition to battle against Ferguson in the "top two" primary election the county is probably going to hold.

She's playing right into Sam Reed's hands. Reed wants these kind of contests, to show that his baby primary is what's legally significant, not the parties' conventions.

The parties are battling Reed in court to throw out the ridiculous top two system. Judge Thomas Zilly will hear arguments in the case on July 13th.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Summary of the KCDCC Winners

The KCDCC convened earlier this evening to try and nominate ten individuals for King County Executive and the offices of nine King County Councilmembers.

First, here's a map to show you the boundary lines of each of the new nine county council districts:



Here's a summary of the people who were approved by delegates as the Democratic nominees for the respective offices:

  1. Ron Sims, King County Executive
  2. Bob Ferguson, 1st District (defeated Carolyn Edmonds)
  3. Larry Gossett, 2nd District (incumbent)
  4. No nominee chosen - 3rd District
  5. Larry Phillips, 4th District (incumbent, current Council Chair)
  6. Julia Patterson, 5th District (incumbent)
  7. No nominee chosen - 6th District
  8. Geni Hawkins, 7th District (challenger)
  9. Dow Constantine, 8th District (incumbent)
  10. Roger Larson, 9th District (challenger)
So, with the exception of the 3rd and 6th districts, the above is the "official" slate of Democratic candidates in King County for the 2005 election.

KCDCC Coverage

The King County Democrats held their 2005 Nominating Convention tonight to nominate candidates for King County Executive and the nine new, redrawn King County Council seats.

I attended the convention, listened to most of the speeches, and observed the proceedings. There was only one contested race - in the 1st District, between Carolyn Edmonds and Bob Ferguson.

The convention kicked off at about 7 PM, with the King County Democratic Chair introducing elected officials and welcoming everyone. The parliamentarian then read the convention rules and reintroduced the King County Democratic Chair, Ms. Sheary, who then nominated Ron Sims for King County Executive.

Sims then marched in with a huge band of supporters, to thunderous applause and cheers, and delivered a rousing speech about who Democrats are and what we're about. He was the only nominee and won handily without any opposition.

After a short break, the convention was back in order, and Democratic PCOs, the only delegates who could vote, split off into their respective council districts (there are nine new county districts total).

Most of the delegations were fairly small - less than fifty - but the 1st District, home to the Ferguson v. Edmonds contest, had a hundred and fifty PCOs in attendance.

Julia Patterson was nominated for the 5th, Dow Constantine for the 8th, Larry Phillips for the 4th, and Larry Gossett for the 4th. All are current Council incumbents.

Geni Hawkins was nominated for the 7th to challenge Pete von Reichbauer and Roger Larson was nominated in the 9th to challenge current incumbent Steve Hammond (Reagan Dunn may also be running against Hammond).

Nobody was nominated for the 3rd District or the 6th, although the 3rd District may yet have a candidate who will announce in the coming days and weeks.

The other delegations finished fairly quickly and many people came back to watch the Ferguson/Edmonds contest. Both gave rousing speeches with supporters waving signs, and both answered questions for ten minutes.

Ferguson stressed his door knocking and coffee meetings with people who wanted to talk with him. Edmonds stressed her high profile endorsements and her record of getting things done.

Then it was time to vote. 1st District PCOs cast their votes. In the end, Bob Ferguson prevailed over Carolyn Edmonds, 381 to 288. The votes were weighted according to how heavily a precinct voted Democratic in the last election.

I talked with a jubilant Ferguson after the vote. Ferguson attributed his win to his strong connections with the grassroots activists who make up the party's base. He told me here's more committed than ever to focusing on the issues that matter and responding to his constituents.

As to Edmonds, she predictably disappeared before I or anyone else could reach her to talk to her. In fact, she probably left before the results of the vote were even announced. I overheard Ferguson telling reporters that he was confident he'd win even before he heard the results of the vote.

So Ferguson wins, and he also gains our support in the upcoming primary election against whichever opponents he faces.

We'll post more commentary on the KCDCC soon.

"True Blue" is Coming...

True Blue, our codename for the next big rollout of Pacific Northwest Portal improvements, is fairly close to being completed.

Coming a few days after the six month anniversary of Pacific Northwest Portal, True Blue is the most ambitious package of improvements that we've put together to improve the site.

There are so many changes that the debut of True Blue (no rhyme intended) will really just be the use of a code name to describe Pacific Northwest Portal Version 3.0.

Version 1.0, of course, was the original website, officially launched on January 31st, while Version 2.0 was a big package of improvements we rolled out on February 28th. We've continued to improve the site - mostly adding new pages - but we haven't really made any serious sweeping changes.

That is - until now.

Pacific NW Portal 3.0 will feature a sleeker design and a greatly improved viewing experience. It will be more reliable, it will be faster, and it will boast more features.

Not to mention it will be more comprehensive and easier to use.

The core design element has been retained, and the current look and feel will be improved, not just altered for the sake of change.

We're rolling out these features to improve the site - not to shake things up and get people talking about the website. We're talking about genuine improvements that really do make this website much better.

In the coming days we'll have more details on when we'll be launching True Blue - Pacific Northwest Portal 3.0. Don't miss out - be sure to watch this space!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Interview with Senator Lisa Brown

Lynn Allen of Evergreen Politics has just posted a great interview with Senator Lisa Brown, who is Democratic Majority Leader in the state Senate (excerpt):
Brown also shared her concern with the possibility of having the anti-gas tax initiative on the ballot and said that this is the place that the Democrats need assistance right now. She said that she and other leaders worked very hard to get support from community leaders, business leaders and labor across all the cities and counties in Washington State for passage of the Transportation Bill.

NWPT56



The whole story about the importance of that bill and its support by such a wide group of people is not getting out. Were that initiative to get on the ballot and pass, it would curtail not only needed spending on transportation projects but also spending in many other areas in the future.
We're doing our best to get your back, Sen. Brown. Check out Washington Defense and Keep Washington Rolling for more on how to fight Initiative 912.

We appreciate Senator Brown's willingess to share her thoughts and reach out to the progressive blogosphere.

We're thankful for her tremendous leadership in the state Senate and her achievements in the last legislative session.

We encourage you to go read the whole interview.

Supreme Court rulings

The Supreme Court came out with a number of interesting rulings this morning, most of which anger us, and one which pleases us. It wasn't a great day for the American people. The lowdown:

Court says courthouses cannot display Ten Commandments....from the AP:
In a narrowly drawn ruling, the Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in courthouses today, holding that two exhibits in Kentucky crossed the line between separation of church and state because they promoted a religious message.
While the Supreme Court ruled that clearly religious Ten Commandment displays in Kentucky were unconstitutional, they did uphold a monument in a 22-acre park at the Texas State Capitol, where it was just one of 17 sculptures. Justice Stephen Breyer was the swing vote.

The Court essentially declared that these disputes should be resolved by the courts on a case by case basis.

Court allows Hollywood companies to sue makers of filesharing companies - This was a very disappointing and unfortunate decision. EFF explains the ruling:
The Supreme Court's decision held that software innovators may be held liable for inducing the copyright infringement of their users. EFF believes that the Court unleashed the potential for a torrent of new litigation by creating a test that has many factors, is very fact-specific, and is difficult to predict. The Court also set us up for a world where consumers are given fewer choices in the marketplace, because innovators will be scared to introduce products that do not have Hollywood's seal of approval.
NPI believes the Court's decision today deals a blow to consumers, innovators, and individual rights, and delivers a victory for entertainment megaconglomerates. We hope the Court clarifies itself in the future to restrict the negative effects of this ruling.

The Court also decided that police cannot be sued for how they enforce restraining orders, and they delivered a victory for the cable industry, ruling that cable companies don't have to share their lines with rival providers of high-speed Internet service.

We find no reason to dislike the first of those last two rulings above, but we're angered that again, the Court has put cable companies' interests above the peoples' interest. This is a good day for corporations and not a good day for consumers and citizens:
The court's ruling "threatens to cement the cozy duopoly of cable modem and DSL service that has made a mockery of competition in American broadband markets and prompted hundreds of communities across the country to build their own local networks," said three consumer groups - the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and the Free Press.
We agree, and we're very disappointed with this ruling.

The Supreme Court also refused to consider a case about freedom of the press:
The Supreme Court on Monday increased the likelihood of jail time for two reporters, refusing to take up a case that pits the news media's promise to protect confidential sources against a grand jury's demand for information.

The justices' decision not to intervene leaves reporters Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine in contempt of court for refusing to reveal their sources in a leak probe involving CIA officer Valerie Plame. Each reporter faces up to 18 months in jail.
We wish the justices would have taken up the case, as it represents a strong constitutional issue.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Volunteer to stop I-912

To help stop the shortsighted Initiative 912 and the disinformation campaign that will stifle our economic recovery and put our loved ones at risk, volunteer today!

Contact the Keep Washington Rolling volunteer coordinator by getting in touch with us here.

Want cities and counties to fix potholes on your street?

NWPT54



Say NO to I-912.

Want Eastern Washington cherry and apple orchard owners to get their fruit to market before it rots?

Say NO to I-912.

Want 157 bridges throughout Washington to be seismically retrofitted to prevent them from toppling in an earthquake?

Say NO to I-912.

After months of study and much compromise to address the state's most pressing transportation hazards, a statewide transportation package was passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature this year.

The prudent and publicly accountable package gives funding to local governments to address road safety in your neighborhood.

It also targets the most dangerous bridges and stretches of highway across the state to help prevent needless highway deaths that are mounting while a disinformation campaign belches out deceitful taxophobic rhetoric that could stop the state’s economic recovery in its tracks.

Business leaders, communities, labor and environmental groups all know that we can no longer wait to address the deteriorating roads and highways that are the arteries of Washington’s economic lifeblood.

The 2005 Transportation Package was created and passed by both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers who took their cues from the biggest state employers down to the nonprofit groups most concerned with preventing traffic fatalities. Washington can’t afford to wait.

“If we don’t fix it, we’ll have an economic heart attack. The longer we wait, the more it will cost in the long run.”

—Steve Mullin, Chairman of the Washington Roundtable, a cooperative of CEOs representing the state’s largest employers.

Get more information at Washington Defense or Keep Washington Rolling.

Class Consciousness - What's Missing from the Times and WSJ

I don't know if anyone has read the magazine In These Times recently, but they have a very interesting set of articles on how the United States is devoid of class consciousness, to its own peril.

This astonishing syndrome of Singaporean-style Social Darwinism is at the heart of the philosophy of corporate America and is one of the many forces slowly whittling away at the promise of the American Dream.

Here is an excerpt:
The myth of the self-made man is American culture's own special heart of darkness, helping to explain both its infectious optimism and ruthless greed. The idea holds enough truth and seductiveness to make it easy to forget its delusional dangers.

To reprise Marx's famous formulation, individuals, like humankind, do make their own personal history, but not under conditions they choose. But in America, we choose to ignore the caveat about conditions at our peril.

The myth, or belief, that people are solely what they make of themselves is useful to keep in mind while reading two ongoing series: the New York Times' on class and the Wall Street Journal's on social mobility.

Both focus attention on a truth about American society that runs counter to most people's deep-seated beliefs: There is less social mobility in the United States now than in the '80s (and less then than in the '70s) and less mobility than in many other industrial countries, including Canada, Finland, Sweden and Germany.

Yet 40 percent of respondents to a Times poll said that there was a greater chance to move up from one class to another now than 30 years ago, and 46 percent said it was easier to do so in the United States than in Europe.
Please leave comments and let me know what you think of the article, which is linked here

In the meantime, read In These Times and keep yourself posted on current events over the summer. No se pongan perezosos...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Doc Hastings' ethic conundrum

Crossposted at Frontier PAC:

Congressman Doc Hastings (WA-04), chairman of the House Ethics Committee, good friend of Jack Abramoff, and lackey to Tom Delay, is coming under fire for ethics violations of his own:

Rep. Doc Hastings, already under fire as chairman of the stalled House ethics committee, accepted a $7,800 trip to England in 2000 from a company he championed for a multibillion-dollar contract at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, records released by an advocacy group yesterday show.

In addition, other records released yesterday by a political Web site show that Hastings, a Republican from Pasco, did not file a required travel report for a 2004 trip to a resort on Stuart Island, B.C. That was paid for by another company also working at Hanford.

How good was the deal that Doc Hastings brokered for BNFL, the Hanford company that rewarded Doc with his trip to Scotland? REALLY good. It was so bloated that the Clinton Administration killed the contract for its enormous pricetag:

BNFL won a $6.9 billion federal contract in 1998 to convert 54 million gallons of nuclear waste into glass for permanent storage. The contract was promoted by Hastings, who offered amendments to the Defense Authorization Act to pay for Hanford projects, including BNFL work.But in October 1998, the General Accounting Office began questioning the contract as too lucrative for the company. Hastings continued to defend the contract.
The trip to the U.K. took place in January 2000. Four months later, the Department of Energy abruptly terminated the BNFL deal when it learned the cost could soar to $15.2 billion.

Time to step down, Congressman Hastings. You simply reek of corruption.

Daily Show Highlights June 20th-23rd

Those of you who were unable to catch the Daily Show this week or just don't have access to Comedy Central missed some great shows. However, our friends at Dem Bloggers have a number of great clips from the show that you can stream from your computer (you'll need Windows Media Player to watch).

Also, you can find additional segments and material from Common Bits.

You can always expect to see The Daily Show Highlights every Saturday here on the blog, except for weeks when the show is on hiatus.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Rove's comments were intentional

John Aravosis of AMERICAblog:
It's pretty clear now that this was a set up orchestrated by the White House in order to deflect attention away from the disaster that is the war in Iraq, and Bush's plumetting polls.

1. The White House released the TEXT of Rove's speech today. According to my sources who know about such things, that NEVER happens. This is prima facie evidence that the White House coordinated this thing from the beginning.

2. The RNC put out talking points today about how the Democrats "blamed America" for September 11. Those detailed talking points were clearly prepared well in advance of this noon today when this thing blew up. WE BLAMED AMERICA?

3. The RNC today reportedly released a new attack web ad going after Durbin for his comments about Guantanamo Bay. Isn't that convenient that something that took at least a few days to prepare was suddenly ready today at the same time that Karl Rove made his comments that anyone who recognizes that Bush has no idea what's going on Iraq is a traitor who loves Osama.

Folks, these bastards dropped a nuclear bomb on us today, and it was intentional. Senator Durbin learned the hard way that you can't reason with these people. Durbin apologized and what did it get him? He's in every one of their press releases and attack ads today.

President Bush thinks 57% of Americans are traitors who hate America, want to kill our military, and love Osama bin Laden. 57% of Americans are apparently happy, or at least not outraged, by the murder of nearly 3,000 people in NY, VA and PA.
Rove is a wily, evil, dirty cheater who'll throw whatever mud needs to be thrown in order to win. He's a master of sinking to the lowest depths to slog it out in the deepest trenches. We must refuse to join him down there, and instead fight back from up above.

Karl Rove should be fired or he should resign, and yes, these comments are despicable, BUT, there are still real issues to fight for - namely, the Downing Street Memo and the series of documents that have followed it. Rove's comments are a public ploy to distract from it.

We should condemn his comments quickly and then turn back to the real issues at hand, using them to push Rove & Co. into a corner.

This attack against Democrats shows us that the GOP is weak. It's like an admission. We should use that to our advantage. We must continue to push the Downing Street Memo, and keep asking tough questions.

And we must reframe. Speaking the truth alone will not set us free.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rove Goes Too Far

Wednesday evening Karl Rove spoke in front of the New York Conservative Party. In his speech he accused liberals of wanting to respond to the September 11th attacks with "Therapy and undertstanding for our attackers."

In a tirade no doubt rooted in the growing unpopularity of the Iraq war, Rove claimed that the largest difference between Democrats and Republicans was in the area of national security.

Indeed, he was, and still is, correct. Republicans are under the impression that national security is only intended to be used as a tool to keep the public on their side. Using a tragedy like 9/11 to further political goals is exactly what Republicans appear to believe national security is all about.

Unsuprisingly, family members of the victims of the 9/11 attacks were incensed:
After the news conference, relatives of Sept. 11 victims posted a statement on their Families of Sept. 11 Web site saying Rove's statements "are not welcome" and his conduct is "divisive and ... offensive." They urged Rove "to resist his temptations and stop trying to reap political gain in the tragic misfortunes of others."
However, Karl Rove and his fellow Republicans were not willing to apologize. When public opinion was quickly revealed as being very negative, Scott McClellan came to their defense, supporting Rove's claims as showing a difference between liberals and conservatives:
Asked by reporters whether President Bush would ask Rove to apologize for the remarks, McClellan replied, "Of course not."
Clearly the White House is not worried about the united America they have, for so long, claimed to wish for. Gone is the age of unity, and to replace it we now have an era of exploitation. Karl Rove must apologize for his remarks, which exploit tragedy for partisan gain.

Opponents sue I-912 campaign for violating public disclosure law

Opponents of Initiative 912, the effort to repeal the gas tax and destroy our state's transportation infrastructure, have opened up yet another front in the fight by filing suit against the proponents for violating public disclosure law:

NWPT54


The new fight, captured in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Thurston County by opponents of Initiative 912, accuses initiative sponsors of concealing the names or occupations of hundreds of donors, creating a network of "secret" supporters who want to overturn a 9.5-cent increase in the gas tax.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction and fines to keep I-912 forces from spending $70,507 until sponsors fully report details on the donors. I-912 backers furiously are trying to meet a July 8 deadline for collecting voter signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord filed the suit, along with lawyers from Seattle, Auburn and Kent. San Juan County commissioners, who are Democrats, agreed to the suit to enforce the legal rules that govern campaigning and disclosures of who is supporting measures, Gaylord said.
Backers of Initiative 912 seem to think they'll just be able to do whatever they want to in order to force a public vote on lawmakers' decision.

They've been aided by Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson, who are the de facto campaign leaders, but not the "official" leaders because they're still talk show hosts on KVI 570 AM. They're using the station to push the campaign. Without KVI, the campaign would have no chance of getting enough signatures:
The suing parties also claim that two KVI talk radio hosts, Kirby Wilbur and former GOP gubernatorial candidate John Carlson, are providing free, illegal contributions to I-912 through their on-air advocacy.

"Once these illegally collected contributions are spent or the undisclosed free air time and advertisements are run, this petition process and election will be irrevocably influenced by the secret supporters of the legislation," the lawsuit contends.
A judge will hold the first hearing in this case on July 1st.

Stop the monorail

We've never taken a position before on Seattle's monorail system. But now, we agree entirely and wholeheartedly with comments made by our state treasurer, Michael Murphy:
With Seattle's monorail headed for a contract signing next month, state Treasurer Mike Murphy yesterday urged local officials to shut the project down.

NWPT55



Murphy is worried because the Seattle Monorail Project's financing plan — which includes 40-year bonds, deferred interest payments and some high-interest "junk bonds" — would require $11.4 billion in taxes through the year 2053 to fund a $2.1 billion elevated train system.

"I'm hoping good sense will prevail at the monorail board and they will stop dead in their tracks," Murphy said in an interview.

He explained: "The average guy can't afford a Ferrari, because he can't afford it. There should be somebody at the monorail saying we can't afford this thing. The numbers keep getting bigger and bigger. To finance something at 5-½ times the construction value is totally ludicrous."
The monorail project is completely out of control. Not only are Seattle residents not getting the kind of project they were promised when they voted, but the scaled-down design is going to cost a lot more.

The Seattle Monorail Project is under the control of a group of pro-monorail advocates who seem to want to build monorail no matter what the cost. In contrast:
Sound Transit is funding its light-rail line from downtown Seattle to Tukwila with $800 million in local cash, $500 million in federal grants and $900 million in bonds, which will cost a total of $1.9 billion to pay off.
We have always been, and will continue to be, in complete support of Sound Transit's light rail project, which has been going well and is on track to be completed as scheduled.

But the monorail is a whole different matter. It's a monster of a project that Seattle residents will have to be paying through 2050, and, as Murphy notes, the total cost is far beyond what it will actually cost to build the project:
The total also is more than five times the construction tab alone for the monorail. State Treasurer Mike Murphy has called that ratio "ludicrous." The typical principal and interest payments on a state project amount to double the construction cost of the project, he said this week.
Murphy is now contemplating the idea of taking action unless monorail backers stop the project:
Murphy, who has no direct authority over SMP, said he could use his "bully pulpit" to challenge the project.

He said he hopes to avoid a repeat of the Washington Public Power Supply System debacle, known as "Whoops" because the agency defaulted on $2.25 billion in nuclear-plant bonds in the early 1980s. Murphy said that unlike WPPSS, the financial risks of the monorail are known before construction begins.

Although WPPSS bonds were backed by electric utilities and not the state, the state's credit rating suffered for years after four out of five nuclear plants were left unfinished, Murphy said.

"As chief financial officer for the state, I cannot sit idly by and watch someone take the rest of our good reputation down," he said.
If Murphy feels the state's financial health is threatened, then he should move and take action. And we urge local officials in Seattle to act now to shut the monorail project down.

More Information: OnTrack - Keeping the Seattle Monorail Project Accountable

Supreme Court upholds city's abuse of eminent domain

Not quite a month ago, we wrote about about the case of Kelo vs. New London:
The Kelo case is a unique and disturbing example of when government goes too far and abuses its power of eminent domain. The fight over eminent domain is not directly connected to the debate over growth management and the critical areas ordinance, though there are a few similar themes.
The Institute of Justice, which litigated the case on behalf of the homeowners who didn't want to give up their property to the city, wrote:
Kelo v. New London puts the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court in the clearest possible terms: Does the U.S. Constitution allow the government to take property from one private party in order to give it to another private party because the new owner might produce more profit and more taxes for the City from the land?
Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city of New London, dealing a stinging and possibly fatal setback to the homeowners' campaign to avoid having their homes condemned, seized, and torn down for private developers to take over:
Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.
NPI is disappointed in the court's decision and hopes that the state of Connecticut will pass a law to prevent the city of New London and other municipalities from continuing to abuse the power of eminent domain. Tearing down neighborhoods to build hotels and other pricier properties to generate more revenue for city coffers is simply wrong.

How would you feel - if it was your home, and not Suzette Kelo's? Many homeowners would be up in arms. It's a shame that the Supreme Court has justified this abuse of power.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Political parties key to the future of grassroots politics

Editor's Note: The Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to present the following special guest editorial on political parties and grassroots politics, written by Reed Davis.

Dr. Davis is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Seattle Pacific Univeristy. He received both his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Davis teaches courses dealing with American politics and political theory. He also teaches a summer study course in France.

Dr. Davis has a history of political involvement in the Republican Party. He was Chair of the King County Republican Party for eight years, and also ran for U.S. Senate in the 2004 primary against George Nethercutt.

In recent years, political parties have become punching bags for people who believe they undermine democracy. NPI asked Dr. Davis to write a counterpoint to explain why political parties are indeed vital to a healthy democracy, and lead to stronger grassroots political involvement.


Five years ago, the Supreme Court declared the blanket primary unconstitutional. Astonishingly enough, the aftershocks of that decision are still reverberating wildly across Washington State.

Because the supporters of the blanket primary have refused to go gentle into that good night, voters in Washington State have had to weather one more blanket primary, a Montana primary, the Top Two Louisiana primary system, and a caucus and convention process.

And when the courts rule later this summer on the constitutionality of the Top Two initiative (which voters passed last fall), I believe we will be confronted—yet again—with the Montana-style open primary system. And all of this in just three years.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to designing a primary system that is both popular and legal is Washington State’s historical hostility towards political parties.

As a political science professor at Seattle Pacific University and a former chairman of the King County Republican Party, I have been chagrined to discover that asking the good voters of Washington State whether they prefer the Republican or the Democratic Party is a bit like asking them who their favorite Menendez brother is.

For that reason, I am already bracing myself for the inevitable sound and fury about the injustice of it all should the courts rule against the constitutionality of the Top Two system, especially in light of the popular margin of support that the initiative enjoyed.

But the good people of Washington State need to know that a primary system which actually strengthens political parties—as opposed to emasculating them — would be a good thing, especially for a state that has worked so long to make public office accessible to extraordinary people of ordinary means.

I want to clarify one issue from the outset: When I speak of parties, I am referring to local grassroots organizations dedicated to getting out the vote on Election Day.

In other words, a real party is not a national or even a state committee. Those are professional organizations whose primary function is fundraising; whatever else they may be, they are most certainly not volunteer organizations whose primary function is to mobilize voters on behalf of candidates.

When I speak of the importance of parties, then, the parties I have in mind are the grassroots organizations that exist for the sake of, well, real people, and not political professionals.

It used to be that American politics was dominated and driven by local parties. Those days, unfortunately, are over: politics is now a big business dominated by leadership at the national level.

And that, I believe, needs to change. Parties need to be driven from the ground up—and not managed from the top down—if they are to reach their full significance.

What, then, do parties bring to democracy? First, party labels are an enormously useful cue for voters. It is likely that voter turnout for nonpartisan elections is lower than it is for partisan ones for the simple reason that voters simply don’t know enough about individual candidates to cast what they feel is a responsible vote.

When our hometown of Maple Valley was first incorporated, for example, my wife and I pored over the list of candidates for the newly-created city council.
Now, my wife and I attend one of the largest churches in Maple Valley, we have children who played every team sport in Maple Valley, and we’ve volunteered for countless community service activities in Maple Valley.

On top of that, I had been the GOP county chair for four years and a political science professor for twelve. And despite all that, I stared at the list of candidates, turned to my wife and whispered, “Do you know any of these people?” I recognized absolutely no one.

Larry Sabato, a professor of government at the University of Virginia, has recently written that in response to a survey he conducted, fifty-three percent of voters agreed with the statement, “If I don’t know anything else about a candidate for public office, knowing the candidate’s political party helps me decide whether or not to vote for him or her.”

Second, parties convert the cacophonous clash of hundreds of interest groups into what one scholar has described as “a two-part (semi)harmony that is much more comprehensible, if not always on key and pleasing to the ears.”

Now, reducing this enormous variability to two choices may be overkill, which is one reason why some countries opt for multi-party systems.

But I believe that a sane and decent system of representation would be well nigh impossible in a country the size of ours without some system of simplification.

Moreover, I am convinced of this much: those who would suffer from the absence of a simplifying force like a party would not be the wealthy few who will be heard under most any circumstance.

Rather, the losers would those who, as Walter Dean Burnham put it, are the many weak and powerless who find in parties the only effective institution that can amplify their voices and mobilize collective force on their behalf.

Third, parties are a powerful force for stability and moderation. If I hear it said one more time that political parties are nothing more than hotbeds for hotheads, I’m going to scream. Party activists can add: they know that in order to win elections, they must either tame or shut up their own extremists.

I mean, did anybody else hear Pat Robertson all but endorse pro-choice, pro-gay rights Mayor Rudy Giuliani the other week? Robertson simply fell all over Giuliani, gushing that the Mayor would make a “great President.” That’s right, Pat Robertson. Turns out that winning once in a while isn’t such a bad thing after all, even for a Christian conservative.

Fourth, try to imagine a world without political parties. Who wins? Well, for starters, special interests and individuals with a lot of money. As everyone now knows, politics is about name recognition above all else. And money buys quite a bit of name recognition.

Given the decline of parties, it is surely no accident that the number of staggeringly wealthy candidates like Sen. Jon Corzine or Rep. Michael Huffington who can finance their own campaigns has increased in the last two decades or so, as has the number of celebrities and sports figures.

Another big winner is the political professional, the consultant who lives by television ads, direct mail and automated voicemail messages. As grassroots parties decline in size, political professionals must inevitably grow in importance.

The reason is obvious: candidates need to get out their message and mobilize voters somehow. And if the volunteer energy of parties is unavailable to them, then the professional acumen of consultants becomes correspondingly more important.

In other words, as grassroots party organizations atrophy, politics becomes more professionalized and, for that reason, more expensive.

Finally, the other big winners are the news media, particularly television news. If party affiliation is an important voting cue, then that simple fact acts as a powerful check on the news media, which do have a vested interest in encouraging or at least cheering on the decline of grassroots party organizations.

After all, if partisan voting cues decline in significance, people need to get their news and information about candidates somewhere.

In all of this, the big losers are ordinary people. Who but the wealthiest and best-connected has the money nowadays to run for office?

What voter doesn’t flinch when Dick Morris extols the internet as the future of political communication, or when political consultant Robert Squier declares that “The television set has become the political party of the future”?

What has emerged to take the place of partisan politics is a sort of personality-cult politics, or a politics built around stylistic gimmickry and the promulgation of mass marketing techniques.

Perhaps the single most dismal fact of modern campaigns and elections is this: the single best predictor of political victory is money. Period. There isn’t even a close second.

If you doubt the overweening importance of money, the next time you drive into the city of Seattle, look at the skyline and ask yourself this question: How is it that we in King County voted down one stadium and got two?

To all of the virtues of political parties listed here, many more could be added: parties are the glue that holds together a system of separated powers; parties foster a type of civic virtue by teaching Americans the importance and the mechanics of political involvement; political accountability becomes infinitely more difficult in a world without political parties, and so on.

But there is one final consideration that for me overrides all the others and it’s this: political parties are a crucial incubator—maybe even the most important one of all—for nurturing the habits of support and civility among American citizens.

Tocqueville had it exactly right: American elections, he once observed, set neighbor against neighbor, to be sure, but only for a time. In the long run, Tocqueville argued, strong grass roots party organizations are a powerful force that work to promote cooperation and willing collaboration among Americans.

Think about it: we meet and come to know one another as neighbors, as parents, as parishioners, maybe even occasionally as advocates for a particular cause but how often do we come together as citizens, or as a people deliberating and working on behalf of a vision of the common good?

And what other institution in American politics and government does that?

For all of these reasons, we can celebrate the demise of the Top Two system if the court reasons rightly.

The Top Two, you will recall, advances the top two vote getters from either party to the general election.

Yes, you can cross over and vote for whomever you choose in the primary but there is a huge difference from the blanket primary: the top two vote getters may very well be members of the same party.

Voters will then go the general election and discover that all the choices from minor parties on up to major parties were presented and eliminated in the primary.

And given that only 6.6% of the voting public turned out to vote in Virginia’s primary last week, what sense does it make to reserve the greatest range of choices for the smallest number of voters?

Conversely, what sense does it make for the largest number of voters to be confronted with the smallest range of choices?

Interestingly enough, in order to avoid the possibility of members of the same party running against one another in the general election, both the King County Republicans and the King County Democrats (as well as county organizations for both parties statewide) have met in order to nominate just one candidate for the general election.

That not only preserves voter choice for the general election, it strengthens local parties: now a good candidate is someone who is capable of mobilizing, organizing and appealing to the greatest number of real live people, not someone who is simply capable of raising the most amount of money.

We have designed a system that is today exactly backwards: we tend to place our parties at the disposal of the candidate who can raise the most money rather than giving our money to the candidate who proves that he or she can mobilize the most people.

If the Top Two is struck down, we will then by default inherit the Montana system, in which we pick up a party ballot on primary day and vote for the members of that party only.

We’ve been there before and by most accounts, discovered that it wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, I believe that the Montana system, because it promises to reinforce party affiliations, promises to herald a bright new day for grassroots politics.

Restoring the Montana-style open primary may very well put a dent in the personality-cult politics that professionals have crafted and put in its place a decent, open politics organized and managed by real people.


NPI would like to thank Dr. Davis for putting his valuable time and energy into authoring this guest editorial. Readers are welcome to leave comments in the thread below.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Abramoff instructed tribe to reroute checks to DeLay

The Associated Press reports:
A casino-rich tribe wrote checks for at least $55,000 to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political groups, but the donations were never publicly disclosed and the tribe was directed to divert the money to other groups that helped Republicans, tribal documents show.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now under criminal investigation, told the Coushatta Indian tribe, a client, to cancel its checks to the DeLay groups in 2001 and 2002 and route the money to more obscure groups that helped Republicans on Medicare prescription drug legislation and Christian voter outreach.

DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority and Americans for a Republican Majority never reported receiving any checks from the Louisiana tribe to federal or state regulators, their reports show. The donations, however, are recorded in memos and ledgers kept by the tribe.

"Enclosed please find a check for $10,000 to the Texans for a Republican Majority. This check needs to be reissued to America 21," Abramoff wrote the Coushattas in a May 2002 letter obtained by The Associated Press.

America 21 is a Nashville, Tenn.-based Christian group focused on voter turnout that helped Republican candidates in the pivotal 2002 elections that kept DeLay's party in control of the House.
The back clouds surrounding Tom Delay, Inc. continue to grow darker and murkier as one scandal after another unfolds.

There's no doubt about it: Delay's unethical, arrogant, and despicable behavior is alienating the American public. His recent step into the limelight to push congressional interference into the Schiavo family's private lives was unfavorably received by a huge percentage of the American people.

Americans should demand a full congressional investigation and probe into the activities of Delay, Inc. and its shady, unethical dealings.

101st Fighting Keyboardists

Operation Yellow Elephant

The poster speaks for itself. What's this about?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Keep Washington Rolling - Download flyers

Washington Defense now has flyers available that you can download, print, and distribute to help fight against Initiative 912, the John Carlson/Kirby Wilbur backed effort to repeal the gas tax.

Keep Washington Rolling, which is the larger coalition that has formed to fight Initiative 912, and which we are proud to be part of, has also launched their new website. You can find additional information there, and also find out who else is against Initiative 912.

NWPT54



UPDATE: Apparently, the I-912 proponents are going to court to try and obtain a a restraining order to suspend bond sales until we know whether the initiative has qualified for the ballot. A hearing has been scheduled for July 1st. The campaign has until July 8th to collect signatures. Go to Washington Defense to learn how to fight back against Initiative 912.

Radicals tout another anti-Hillary book

They just don't give up, do they?
Conservative groups are promoting a Hillary Rodham Clinton biography that hits bookstores Tuesday as a work so damning it could destroy any possible bid for the presidency in 2008.

The 305-page book, "The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President," by Edward Klein, portrays the New York senator as a ruthless and ambitious woman who would stop at nothing to protect her husband's presidency and promote a Clinton II administration headed by her.
And the Clintons have responded in kind with an excellent condemnation:
"We don't comment on works of fiction, let alone a book full of blatant and vicious fabrications contrived by someone who writes trash for cash," said Philippe Reines, a spokesman for the senator.

Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for former President Clinton, also called the book "trash."
David Brock, CEO of Media Matters for America, who is arguably the No. 1 expert on conservatives' attempts to trash the Clintons, has written a letter to the publisher:
An open letter to the Penguin Group from David Brock

I'm writing today to seek a public explanation of what, if any, editorial standards and fact-checking processes the Penguin Group applies to its imprints. Specifically, I believe the public, and the Clinton family, deserve an explanation for why Penguin has chosen to publish through its Sentinel imprint Edward Klein's attack book on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It and How Far She'll Go to Become President, which pre-publication reports have already exposed as an obviously false and defamatory tract.

In light of its false and defamatory charges, many of which are easily discredited, your publication of this book constitutes gross negligence at best.

Throughout his book, Mr. Klein engages in gay-baiting innuendo. One of the most striking examples of such negligence occurs on page 94, where Mr. Klein introduces Nancy Pietrafesa, whose name he misspells throughout, as someone "rumored to be Hillary's lesbian lover." An attorney for Ms. Pietrafesa, a non-public figure, told the New York Post: "These allegations are totally false and unsubstantiated. Klein has apparently done no investigating. This is scurrilous, despicable and politically motivated." On June 15, The Syracuse Post-Standard quoted Ms. Pietrafesa, who has been married for 35 years and is the mother of three sons, as saying, "This could hurt my family. This could be an insidious, totally destructive thing in a family. Having that even as a question about my love and loyalty to my husband is very hard, and very sad." As Ms. Pietrafesa told the New York Post: "No one deserves this kind of crap."
Media Matters has full coverage of the book and the lies it's filled with.

Operation Yellow Elephant

Fellow blogger, General JC Christian, Patriot, has come up with a solution to the army's recruitment problems: Operation Yellow Elephant.
The objective of OPERATION YELLOW ELEPHANT is to recruit College Republicans and Young Republicans to serve as infantry. They demanded this war and now viciously support it. It's only right that they also experience it. The 56th College Republican National Convention is the setting for many of the proposed ops. It begins on Friday, June 24.

Operation Yellow Elephant

The General encourages his readers to take the initiative to create materials and to plan and conduct special operations. Please let him know what you've done and he'll try to post it.

Regular readers know that the General is a proud heterosexual, Christian conservative. He is not trying to embarrass the College Republicans. Rather, he believes that by encouraging them to enlist, he is pushing them to be more vocal about the good work their doing to make our homeland safe--things like holding affirmative action bakesales, holding immigrant hunts, almost single-handedly funding Ann Coulter, David Horowitz, and Michelle Malkin, relieving the elderly of the burden of having money, and punching out Joan Jett.
You can visit the General's site at the link above to get more information on Operation Yellow Elephant. All we have to say is: it's about time.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Hagel slams White House

Ouch. Bush, Cheney, & Co. just got slammed by a member of their own party:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Republican Senator Chuck Hagel slammed the George W. Bush administration's Iraq policy as "disconnected from reality" in some of the harshest comments to date about the war from a member of the president's own party.

Hagel, a top Senate Republican said to have presidential aspirations, said in an interview in US News and World Report, set to hit newsstands Monday, that US troops are "losing" the Iraq war, and that "things aren't getting better, they're getting worse."

"The White House is completely disconnected from reality," said Hagel. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq," said Hagel, who added that increasingly, fellow Republicans are coming to share his view.

"More and more of my colleagues up here are concerned," he said.
Well, well. Another Republican steps forward to embrace the truth and reality. Things must really be getting bad for the White House, which refuses to say anything other than we're still making "progress" in Iraq:
US officials say the president hopes to convince skeptical Americans that progress is being made in Iraq but that setting a firm timetable for withdrawal would only embolden the United States' enemies.
(Emphasis mine).

Well, that was a predictable response. It's a stale, moldy response that has remained the same for over two years. And the excuse about not having a timetable is both weak and lousy. The goal is to perpetuate the war. They can't do that if they have a timetable for withdrawing. Rice was on CNN to prop up the administration's view, but it doesn't matter. The White House is losing traction with the American people:
...Recent polls show declining US support for the war, with some 59 percent of Americans expressing disapproval of how Bush was handling the situation in Iraq, and 51 percent thought the United States should never have invaded the country.
The longer they continue to defend the war in this manner, the more idiotic they will appear to an increasing number of people who see that invading Iraq was a terrible idea.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Daily Show Highlights June 13th-16th

Those of you who were unable to catch the Daily Show this week or just don't have access to Comedy Central missed some great shows. However, our friends at Dem Bloggers have a number of great clips from the show that you can stream from your computer (you'll need Windows Media Player to watch).

This week, they've only got clips from one show, which aired on Monday the 13th (Daily Show Comments On Chairman Dean, plus the International Pamphlet) However, you can find many additional segments and material from Common Bits. You'll need BitTorrent to download much of this material, however.

You can always expect to see The Daily Show Highlights every Saturday here on the blog, except for weeks when the show is on hiatus.

Friday, June 17, 2005

GOP defeats Cantwell's amendment

Apparently the "Grand Old Party" is having a grand old time watching our dependence on foreign oil continue to grow, and grow, and...grow:
WASHINGTON -- The Senate yesterday defeated a proposal by Sen. Maria Cantwell to put the nation on the path toward reducing its dependence on foreign oil supplies by 40 percent over the next 20 years.

The measure, which Cantwell wanted to attach to the energy bill, was defeated 53-47 on a mostly party-line vote.

Cantwell, D-Wash., expressed disappointment with the outcome, noting that Democrats, Republicans and President Bush have all agreed that the nation should move to lessen its dependence on foreign supplies. The United States currently imports 58 percent of the 21 million barrels of oil it consumes every day.

"Unfortunately, the concern we've been hearing from the president and Republican leaders about America's dependence on foreign oil is just empty rhetoric," Cantwell said. "They had a chance to throw a strike for the economic and national security of our nation, and they balked."
The result of the vote, of course, is not a surprise at all. But it was a useful vote because it allows the American people to see the Republicans' real agenda.

They're not for reducing our dependence on foreign oil. They're not into setting ambitious goals and moving forward. They prefer the status quo. They'll only go for goals that are easily attainable:

The Senate, however, approved a rider by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., that would require 10 percent of electricity produced by U.S. utilities be generated from renewable sources, such as wind or solar, by 2020.
Only ten percent? It should be more like forty percent. There's real ambition for you. If Democrats ran the Senate, Senator Bingaman could have proposed a much higher percentage, and it would have passed - easily. Once again, this was an amendment introduced by a forward-thinking Democratic senator.

As for the failure of Cantwell's amendment - it's so easy to attack a plan as "too ambitious" and "harmful to the economy". These criticisms are entirely pathetic. It's the same old garbage from the same people who are stuck in the present and aren't thinking about the future: particularly, "champions" of the auto industry.

David Horsey of the Seattle P-I created an excellent cartoon last March entitled, "The whine of the automaker....a retrogression". The cartoon shows how Detroit has opposed, over the years, things we now take for granted: seat belts, catalytic converters, air bags, higher fuel efficiency standards, and so on.

Senator Cantwell should be congratulated for forcing the Republicans to show that, once again, their talk is all hollow. When it comes to moving this nation forward, Republicans are real chickens. They balk...they squawk...and problems in this country just continue to get worse.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

DCCC polling reveals good news for Democrats

It's early, of course, and things can quickly change, but this is good news all the same:
Recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) polling shows that seven Republican members would be easily defeated if their reelection took place today, the committee’s chairman told House Democrats yesterday at a closed-door meeting.

While Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) did not name the members, who are from districts “around the country,” he said all polled at 43 percent or less when voters were asked if they would vote today to reelect their congressional representative, sources at the meeting told The Hill.

Emanuel said three of the Republicans polled below 40 percent, including one, from a Western state, at 32 percent and another, a Californian, at 34 percent. The DCCC has targeted three California members: Reps. David Dreier, Richard Pombo and Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

The numbers created a palpable buzz in the room, said one attendee, as the assembled Democrats mulled the prospect of unseating a handful of vulnerable Republicans. Democrats have seized on recent nationwide polls showing high disapproval ratings for Congress and the president.
Remember that the only poll that really matters is on Election Day in November 2006. We have a ways to go until then, and it's unwise to make too much of good numbers right now. What Democrats need to do is keep working hard to prevent Bush and the GOP congressional leaders from getting their radical agenda through.

Democrats shouldn't worry about being labeled "obstructionists" on any issue, especially Social Security. As Kos noted today:
...Mr. President, you have the numbers to pass your legislation in the House, but I haven't seen any of it introduced. Heck, I haven't even seen a Social Security bill from the White House, so I'm not sure what "plan" you're referring to.

If you want to cry "obstructionism", then you need to let Democrats obstruct. But the problem here is you can't keep your own party together. They see your tumbling numbers and are abandoning you.

On CAFTA, on stem cell research, on the Patriot Act, on social security, and on Iraq. And in that one place where we tried to obstruct -- filibustering a tiny percentage of your judges -- you guys tried to change the rules to prevent that (though, of course, it was your own party again that stymied those efforts).
So tell you what -- you get your own house in order before you start blaming others for your problems. Though I won't hold my breath. Accountability never was your strong suit.
We can be victorious if we refuse to cede ground and keep on fighting. Because of our refusal to roll over and die, Christine Gregoire is Governor of this great state. We refused to hand the GOP a victory.

That's what Democrats everywhere across this country need to do: stick together and fight hard against every GOP attack.

Vote for Equal Rights Washington ad

From Equal Rights Washington:

Keep Hope Alive - And Keep Anti-Discrimination Legislation Alive in the Minds of the Senators Who Voted Against Equality...Make Your Voice Heard by Voting for the Ad You Think Sends the Right Message

Vote for your favorite ad

All you need to do is follow this link and vote for the ad that you like best. Will it be the checklist or the road sign?

The idea behind this ad campaign is to target GOP state senators Bill Finkbeiner (the minority leader) and Luke Esser, both of whom voted against the bill. Both live in suburban districts where their vote against HB 1515 last April is unpopular. ERW is giving you the chance to make your voice heard. So pop on over and vote for your favorite ad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Reichert ticks off GOP leadership

The Seattle Times had an interesting article this morning, entitled, "Reichert goes to bat for police, ticks off own party".

Seems the Sheriff-turned-Congressman made the horrible mistake of asking more money for COPS - a Clinton administration program that gave out federal funding for better community policing:
Rep. Dave Reichert broke with Republican leaders in Congress yesterday, proposing to restore $78 million to a federal program that helped King County hire dozens of deputies when he was sheriff.

The freshman Republican from Auburn lost badly in his attempt to amend the U.S. Justice Department appropriations bill — and antagonized one of the more important Republicans in the House in the process.
And the powerful Republican that Reichert ticked off is...
...Frank Wolf, a longtime GOP representative from Northern Virginia who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department budget.

During a floor debate yesterday, Wolf yelled at times and denounced Reichert's proposal for shifting money from federal law enforcement to COPS. Wolf almost accused Reichert himself of being willing to allow terrorist groups and drug gangs to run rampant across America.

"There could be, and probably is, al-Qaida sleeper cells operating in the U.S.," he snapped. "This is a bad amendment."
Why do GOP leaders have such a temper problem? Why is it that GOP leaders can't acknowledge anything but "progress" in Iraq, and why are GOP leaders so obsessed with trying to save people whose brains are dead, and have zero chance of recovering, from dying?

Of course, the article gets better:
After Reichert's loss, the House approved an amendment by Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, to give $10 million to COPS. Reichert said a senior congressman told him why Baird succeeded where Reichert failed: He asked for only $10 million, it was specifically directed at meth abuse and the money would come from the Census Bureau.

Reichert said he was told: "Nobody cares about the Census Bureau."
It pays to have some experience in Congress. Nevertheless, we're eagerly working towards the day when the Democrats regain control of Congress and this long national DeLay & Frist nightmare comes to an end.

UPDATE: Fellow blogger CoolAqua says: "Dave Reichert voted along with Tom Delay against the COPs program about 5 weeks ago. Now he's trying to cover up for it by saying he's fighting to restore funds. If he didn't help kill the program, he woldn't need to fight to restore funds. The roll call vote where he voted against the COPS program is posted at my blog..."

Well, well. How convenient of the Seattle Times reporter Ms. Mundy to overlook that fact. This is why blogging is so integral to the survival of our democracy. We're the ones who are watching the media.

Conyers moves hearing to Capitol

I am reprinting this press release from AfterDowningStreet which details the hearing Rep. Conyers has planned for today:
On Thursday June 16, 2005, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room HC-9 of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and other Congress Members will hold a hearing on the Downing Street Minutes and related evidence of efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

The hearings had been planned for the Democratic National Committee offices because the Republicans controlling the House Judiciary Committee had refused to permit the ranking Democratic Member to use a large room on the Hill.

However, the Democrats did have access to a small room in the Capitol, and Congressman Conyers has decided to move the hearings there. This does not indicate any change in position from the Republicans.

Members of the media will be welcome, but citizens in town for the 5 p.m. rally at the White House will have difficulty getting into the 2:30 hearings.

The DNC will serve as an overflow room, so people can still go there: the Wasserman Room at 430 S Capitol St. SE.

AfterDowningStreet.org encourages people, instead, to spend the afternoon lobbying their Congress Member and two Senators, and paying special visits to the offices of Congressmen John Conyers and Maurice Hinchey, Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, and Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy to thank them for their leadership.
It's asbolutely ridiculous that the GOP is trying to prevent this kind of hearing from occurring. This is truly the "tyranny of the majority".

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

McKenna's sights on Cantwell's office?

David Goldstein (Goldy) has a post on HorsesAss.org about some early signs that recently elected Attorney General Rob McKenna may have his sights set on Maria Cantwell's office of United State Senator.

We've heard rumors of McKenna's ambitions coming from several different directions out of many different rumor mills before, but Goldy actually took the step of asking McKenna's office of what his plans might be. And, perhaps not surprisingly, McKenna's communications director refused to deny that his boss might end up running against Maria Cantwell.

In fact, Greg Lane, who wrote back to Goldy, quoted from an article which was headlined, “Attorney general-elect McKenna boasts Gorton-like ways.” (For those of you who don't know - Slade Gorton was one of Washington's senators before Maria Cantwell won a close race against him in 2000).

You can read more in Goldy's post, but we agree that you can't count out Rob McKenna's candidacy. Dino Rossi, on the other hand, seems intent on staying where he is - for now - and running against Gregoire for governor in 2008. Of course, it will be interesting to see how that plays out, but if Gregoire continues to have a strong term, she may be able to beat back another Rossi challenge with relative ease.

Public Broadcasting Is Under Attack

This morning I received emails from both MoveOn and People for the American Way warning of a move by GOP lawmakers in the House to kill funding for public broadcasting:
A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," and other commercial-free children's shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch.

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS!
Many GOP lawmakers are eager to take over or get rid of all public broadcasting. They see PBS, CPB, and NPR as a threat to conservative dominance of the news media. Getting rid of public broadcasting would be a major victory for them and a major defeat for fairness, truth, and - children.

Act to prevent the GOP takeover and destruction of public broadcasting

Of course, the Republicans say something different:
The subcommittee's chairman, Republican Rep. Ralph Regula of Ohio, said the cuts have nothing to do with widely publicized conservative dissatisfaction with perceived liberal bias in public radio or TV programs. Rather, he said, cuts are needed to balance the federal budget.
That's B.S. They know it, and we know it. It's patently false. Rep. Regula is a bald faced liar. If we need to make budget cuts, then cut some of the corporate tax exemptions or roll back the amount of money we're dumping into Iraq.

Make your voice heard. Speak out against cuts in public broadcasting.

Monday, June 13, 2005

AFL-CIO close to collapsing

America's union movement is in deep, deep trouble.

Internal struggles and bickering have in recent months sharply divided the labor coalition that makes up the AFL-CIO.

The story of why the unions are fighting each other is a long one, but it basically comes down to principles and leadership. The SEIU, one of the largest unions in the AFL-CIO, along with four other major unions, is unhappy with the current leadership of John Sweeney, and wants more attention and resources to be spent on organizing.

The Washington Post reported yesterday:
The Service Employees International Union yesterday took the first concrete step toward breaking up the AFL-CIO, the nation's central labor federation.

The SEIU executive board, at a meeting in San Francisco, authorized union leaders to quit the federation. As many as four other unions -- the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, Unite Here and the Laborers -- could follow suit, pulling out 5 million of the AFL-CIO's 13 million members.
As a group of outsiders looking in, we have to ask: Is the end of a united labor coalition near?

What's going to happen to the AFL-CIO, and the regional Washington State Labor Council, if five major unions secede and take their members with them?

We're not going to take sides, but it seems to us that if there's going to be a big secession, the possibility of further fractures is very real and possible. There may in fact be contingents within the seceding unions that will want to stay within the AFL-CIO. Would those groups try to break out of the seceding unions and rejoin the AFL-CIO?

And once the AFL-CIO breaks up, will more unions pull out of the AFL-CIO? Will they reorganize in order to compete with the new union federation the SEIU seems determined to create?

Nothing good can come out of this struggle. Labor's troubles will only worsen as the bickering and disunity increases. Someone needs to step forward and play the role of peacemaker. And unions need to be democratic. The SEIU and the other four unions shouldn't be leaving the SEIU unless a majority of their members approve.

As we watch from the sidelines, we can only lament the fact that all this infighting is occurring, at a critical time when we need to be moving forward and fighting back against Republican attacks. For those interested, more information on the debate can be found here.

BREAKING: Judge rules recall can proceed

A judge has ruled that a recall petition against Mayor Jim West can proceed:
Benton County Superior Court Judge Craig J. Matheson threw out two of the recall charges made against West by Shannon Sullivan, a Spokane resident, but said the allegation that West improperly offered city jobs to prospective dates should be put before voters.

"That to my mind is an improper use of the office," Matheson ruled.

Sullivan, an unemployed florist and novice political activist who argued the misfeasance charges without a lawyer, now must collect more than 12,600 signatures in six months to put the recall on the ballot.

"I will get those signatures. I promise I will get those signatures," an emotional Sullivan told reporters outside the courtroom.
We have no doubt that Sullivan can and will succeed. And we suspect that the recall will ultimately succeed when placed before voters - and many voters, especially gay-hating Christian fundamentalists, will support it just because they've learned West is gay.

West should definitely come out in support of next year's version of HB 1515. Now he knows what it feels like to be attacked publicly for being gay.

New Memo: U.S. Lacked Full Postwar Iraq Plan

The Washington Post:
A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

In its introduction, the memo "Iraq: Conditions for Military Action" notes that U.S. "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace," but adds that "little thought" has been given to, among other things, "the aftermath and how to shape it."

The July 21 memo was produced by Blair's staff in preparation for a meeting with his national security team two days later that has become controversial on both sides of the Atlantic since last month's disclosure of official notes summarizing the session.
The Center of American Progress writes of the memo:
Although the Post's coverage of the memos focused on the British warnings that Bush lacked a post-war plan for Iraq, the Briefing Papers also shed further light on the key allegation in the Downing Street Minutes – that the intelligence on Iraq was being "fixed." The newly released documents show that the Bush administration was indeed selling the Iraq war based on evidence it knew was weak.
Of course, the White House has deployed itself into full defense mode, as the Center for American Progress notes:
The White House has gone into full spin mode on the revelations of the British papers. "There was significant post war planning," said spokesman David Almacy. "More importantly, the memo in question was written eight months before the war began; there was significant post war planning in the time that elapsed." President Bush, however, in an interview he gave to the New York Times last August, admitted he made "a miscalculation of what the conditions would be" in post-war Iraq.
It's becoming increasingly clear that what Bush has told us about Iraq has all been a series of lies. The president has made absolutely no effort to be truthful. This isn't a case of having bad intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. This is a case where a group of war hawks demanded that the United States go to war with Iraq - period. They use whatever reasons they can find to defend the war - and the "spreading democracy/freedom" excuse tends to work quite well.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Dean's comments

Many other people have already broached on this subject, and so I'm going to spend very little time defending our viewpoint. I do want to echo, however, a news story that Kos excerpted on his front page (Democratic leaders back Dean, don't want 'wimp'):
Democratic National Committee leaders embraced feisty party boss Howard Dean on Saturday and urged him to keep fighting despite a flap over his blunt comments on Republicans.

After a meeting of the DNC's 40-member executive committee at a downtown hotel, members said Dean was doing exactly what they elected him to do -- build the party in all states and aggressively challenge Republicans.

"I hope Governor Dean will remember that he didn't get elected to be a wimp," said DNC member Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a South Carolina state representative. "We have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up for Democrats."
Our response is the same as Kos' response: Amen! But there's more:
...In a series of interviews DNC members backed the former Vermont governor, known for his fiery rhetoric during his failed 2004 White House run, and said they knew what they were getting when they elected him in February as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

"Howard Dean is going to be much more aggressive, much more outspoken and much more of a risk-taker outside the Beltway than any chairman has been. We knew that," said Alvaro Cifuentes, chairman of the DNC Hispanic caucus.

"We have to get our politics out of Washington. We cannot continue to be held captive by party leaders who I respect but who have to play their own local politics," Cifuentes said, calling congressional Democrats "timid" and the flap over his comments "mostly a Beltway play."

Karen Marchioro, a DNC member from Washington state, said she was stunned to see so many congressional Democrats back away from Dean.

"We always defend them, why won't they defend us? And they want us to support them for president?" she asked. "I have no desire to lose, I just think this is the way you win -- you let people know where you stand and you fight."
We agree. There's no need to distance yourself from Howard Dean. Don't be fooled! Don't allow the media to worry you into taking what he said out of context. Dean is not a representative or a senator. He's there to rally the base and raise money. Edwards and others need to put Dean's comments into perspective and avoid perpetuating this unnecessary media flap.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Daily Show Highlights June 6th-9th

Those of you who don't have cable television or weren't around to watch The Daily Show this last week missed some fun shows. However, our friends at Dem Bloggers have a number of great clips from the show that you can watch from your computer (you'll need Windows Media Player to watch).

Also, you can find additional segments and material from Common Bits.

You can always expect to see The Daily Show Highlights every Saturday here on the blog, except for weeks when the show is on hiatus.

Camp Wellstone & Catching Up

It's been a relief to have the trial over with and be able to relax more.

That being said, it's still a busy time here for us at NPI. We continue to work on various different projects, and I'm also attending Camp Wellstone this weekend - a training camp for progressive activists, prospective candidates, and campaign workers. I'll have more on how that's going later.

In Other News: An AP poll says that Bush is at his lowest approval levels ever - wonder why. Here's some quick numbers:

45% support Bush's foreign policy
35% think the country is going in the right direction
37% approve of Bush's handling of Social Security
43% support Bush's handing of economy

Not looking so good, eh Karl Rove?

Also, Doc Hastings is getting yanked into the DeLay vortex:
Doc Hastings, the laconic Republican congressman from Pasco, has spent much of the past three days trying to avoid being sucked into the vortex of ethics complaints swirling around House Majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

News reports earlier this week linked Hastings to GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under investigation for his lobbying on behalf of Indian tribes and is a key figure in the DeLay ethics dispute. The reports also tied Hastings to Seattle's largest law and lobbying firm, Preston Gates Ellis, where Abramoff used to work.

Hastings is chairman of the House Ethics Committee, which admonished DeLay last year for violating conflict-of-interest guidelines and may investigate him over allegations that Abramoff paid for DeLay's trip to a Scottish golf course in 2000. House members cannot accept free travel from lobbyists.
Uh oh. Seems we have another conflict of interest on the ethics committee. Hastings needs to step down from the panel and let someone else take over.

Finally, visit AfterDowningStreet to learn more about what Rep. John Conyers is doing to make more Americans aware of this document.

Friday, June 10, 2005

P-I editorial is right on

In a great editorial this morning (Initiative Efforts: Second-guessing, again), the Seattle P-I heavily criticizes two initiatives that NPI divisions have turned much of their attention to: Initiative 900, the Eyman backed measure that Permanent Defense is fighting, and Initiative 912, the KVI-sponsored gas tax repeal initiative that Washington Defense is fighting.

The P-I editorial board wrote, in part:
Citizens must have the power to propose needed legislation when the Legislature fails or refuses to do so. But too often the objective is to undo laws the Legislature has passed.

Signatures are being gathered for initiatives that would in one case replace and in the other case repeal complex and hard-fought laws that cleared the Legislature earlier this year.
And too often these efforts are funded by special interests and wealthy backers who are subverting and hijacking the initiative process for their own political gain.

The editorial also shredded Eyman's recent claims that the state auditor likes his initiative: "State Auditor Brian Sonntag says the initiative is 'not necessary.' 'Citizen initiatives are meant to fill voids. There is no void here,' Sonntag says.

The P-I editorial board deserves a round of applause for its resounding spot-on editorial. The legislative process is being unnecessarily circumvented so that the anti-tax crowd can have its chance to thwart all the progress that has been squeezed out of months of work and compromise.

To learn more about how you can get involved in the fight against I-900 and I-912, visit Permanent Defense and Washington Defense.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Media falls for Eyman's stunt

It was a cheap stunt, but it was too irresistible for the media to pass up.

Eyman's antics with his gorilla suit yesterday placed the initiative profiteer back on the five o'clock news, amd the P-I even made him and his costume the centerpiece of its night edition last night.

Yesterday, Eyman turned in the minimum number of signatures needed to qualify Initiative 900. He has four weeks to gather 50,000 more signatures. There isn't much doubt that he can make it - all thanks to the backing of wealthy investment executive Michael Dunmire, who has bankrolled more than 75% of the campaign costs - including paying for paid signature gatherers.

I criticized Initiative 900 heavily yesterday:
An Eyman critic, Andrew Villeneuve of Permanent Defense, called the gorilla adventure an "idiotic stunt" that draws attention to an ill-conceived initiative that a wealthy backer wants.

That was a reference to Eyman's support from Michael Dunmire, 60, a wealthy investment executive from Woodinville. Dunmire, who attended the Olympia event yesterday, has contributed nearly $315,000 to the initiative drive.

The campaign has collected about $415,000 and spent nearly all of it, including $80,000 for professional signature-gathering.
KOMO's reporter, Bryan Johnson, wrote a terrible article that even uses Eyman's language word for word. For some reason, KOMO has a reputation for lacking objectivity in its news stories, and often covers stories which shouldn't recieve any coverage.

The bottom line is that the media should know better than to give Eyman all this free press just because he showed up in a gorilla suit.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Eyman's idiotic stunt

NPI has recieved word that Tim Eyman, with the Fagans and multi millionaire Michael Dunmire in tow, showed up at the Secretary of State's office this morning, to deposit 225,000 signatures for I-900.

Eyman was dressed in a gorilla costume and also accompanied by an unidentified cameraman who was taping both Eyman and the press as they watched Eyman cart in signatures.

NPI (and Permanent Defense) Chair Andrew Villeneuve said, "Eyman's idiotic stunt is just another attempt to gain publicity for his ill-concieved initiative, drafted in secret, which unnecessarily expands state bureaucracy and overloads our state with too many performance audits."

He added, "Anyone can buy their way onto the ballot. All it takes is a special interest or a wealthy backer willing to put up the money."

"The initiative process has largely been subverted and hijacked by a tiny minority who seek to use the process for their own gain."

White House Lawyer Tampered With Global Warming Data

In a recent turn of events, a discovery was made that Philip Cooney, a White House lawyer and the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was guilty of tampering with global warming data issued in climate reports.

As an editor, Cooney was said to have tampered with the reports to downplay the significance of the effects of global warming on the planet.

This news comes from whistleblower Rick Piltz, who worked for Cooney before quitting his job due to the alleged tampering. As always, the White House denied that Cooney did anything of the sort.

Of course, the Bush administration has long been in the habit of denying bad news. They claim that Cooney is innocent of any wrongdoing, but it's very suspicious that Cooney's previous occupation was with the petroleum industry.

Of course, this kind of denial (when most factors seem to be pointing the other way) mirrors Dick Cheney's repeated denial of wrongdoing on the part of Halliburton, but what can you expect when the White House's environmental agenda is to make it easier for the petroleum industry to drill wherever they want?

Then again, this story does indeed explain why global warming seems like not such a big deal after all. It's about time that we speak out on the issue and expose more people like Cooney to the public for who they really are.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Portal Update, Index Expanded

It's official: Our fingers are cold and frail after spending hours updating the portal's index of blogs, news stories, and commentary from the last few days of the trial and the decision.

The index, unfortunately, isn't (and can't be) automatically compiled, which means we have to surf the Portal and the media websites ourselves, collect links to trial-related posts, stories, and commentary, and then compile it into the index.

So the portal has been updated, but we're not rolling out any new features or adding any new blogs today. This update is simply to catch us up with time as it flies by.

Basically, if you're looking for the most comprehensive archive of all reality-based trial-related material out there, you can click on this link, and search no more. But political junkies, be warned: hours and hours of reading await you if you go to this page.

Katherine Harris to challenge Senator Bill Nelson

From the AP:
Republican U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, who was praised and vilified for her role as Florida's secretary of state in the 2000 presidential recount, said Tuesday she will run for the U.S. Senate next year against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

Her announcement brings a high-profile name and the potential to raise a substantial amount of money to a race that Republicans already have said they would target.

"Today, after months of encouragement from friends and constituents, colleagues and advisers, many prayers and with the love and support of my family, the time has come to launch a campaign for the U.S. Senate," Harris said.

Harris, who is serving her second term in Congress, will formally announce her plans in July. The Sarasota woman considered running for Senate last year after popular Democrat Bob Graham announced his retirement. After weeks of speculation, she said she would run later, just not in 2004.
That evil woman, whose leadership put Bush into office, is now hoping to knock off another Democrat, and capture his office.

Democrats in Florida better work extra-especially hard to make sure that doesn't happen. Nothing would please me more than to see Harris defeated in 2006.

Environmentalism Reborn

Taking a break from coverage of Judge Bridges' historic ruling yesterday, I bring you word of this important event which happens tomorrow:
Join in a South King County discussion on how we can support vital new alliances for health, jobs, peace, and social justice

On June 8, four experts on "big vision" environmental initiatives will speak at the Saltwater Church in Des Moines, offering an opportunity to discuss local programs and coalitions that are part of what many hope is a new direction for environmentalism. Don Hopps, of Institute for Washington's Future, a non-profit research and education center dedicated to the renewal of progressive values: community, equity, participation, and a sound environment, will moderate.
WashBlog has more information. I strongly recommend attending this, if you can.

Monday, June 06, 2005

BREAKING: Rossi to end election contest

Cross posted at HorsesAss.org.

Dino Rossi has just announced, in a news conference at his Belleuve headquarters, that he is ending the election contest now, deciding against an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

NWPT48



Rossi said, in part:
"With today's decision, and because of the current political makeup of the Washington State Supreme Court, which makes it almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending the election contest."
So Dino is throwing in the towel. But he isn't doing so because he's accepted Judge Bridges' decision. Rossi is clearly concerned more with the ideology of our judges and justices then he is with the law. It's a thinly-veiled accusation that the state Supreme Court is really just dominated by partisan Democrats. It's also a weak excuse from a man who realizes only now that the law was not on his side.

Click on the link to listen to an audio clip from Rossi's press conference.

David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org predicted that Rossi would take this course of action earlier today: "The best thing he can do now is figure out a way to back out, and decline to appeal."

And that's exactly what Rossi has done. So it's over at last.

Time to Celebrate

It's time to celebrate.

Logic and reasoning have prevailed. Judge John Bridges has, as we predicted, torn the GOP's case to shreds. The fraud claim was shot down. The allegations of ballot stuffing - shot down. The "statistical analysis" - shot down. The judge ripped apart the Republicans' case and declared that it would be "judicial egotism" for him to do what the Republicans wanted.

NWPT48



It's time to celebrate. Governor Christine Gregoire, the rightfully elected Governor of Washington State, will remain our leader.

Many wingnuts were confident that Judge Bridges would rule in their favor - such as Stefan Sharkansky, whose predictions are blown completely out of the water.

Others came to their senses and realized there was no hope, and quietly acknowledged as much. The GOP campaign to install Dino Rossi into the gubernatorial mansion is utterly destroyed - for now. There will be no "revote". Our legally elected Governor will serve out the remainder of the term she deserves to serve and will then face reelection in 2008.

I'm proud of all the progressive bloggers in the Pacific Northwest who have worked together to analyze this case and offer their commentary and opinions on the magnitude of this election contest.

And a huge thanks goes out to Archerhouse, who is representing us well at Daily Kos. Thank you, Archerhouse!

Here's a victory picture showing the reactions from the Democratic lawyers:



Congratulations on a job well done.

VICTORY!!! DEMOCRATS PREVAIL IN ELECTION CONTEST!!!

BREAKING NEWS: JUDGE BRIDGES UPHOLDS ELECTION OF CHRISTINE GREGOIRE, DEALS GOP A STINGING BLOW...
SHARKANSKY'S PREDICTION BLOWN OUT OF THE WATER....


Governor Christine O. Gregoire, elected by the people of Washington State in November 2004WENATCHEE - Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges has just announced his historic decision in the election contest filed by Dino Rossi and the GOP six months ago. He's going to uphold the election of Christine O. Gregoire as Governor of the State of Washington.

NWPT48



In issuing his decision, the judge has said that the Republicans failed to meet the high standard that they needed to meet in order to win the election contest.

They failed to prove that Dino Rossi recieved more votes than Christine Gregoire. Because they couldn't prove that Christine Gregoire was not rightfully elected governor, they lose the contest.

INSTANT UPDATES are being provided by NPI staff member Archerhouse, who is joining me in covering this historic decision LIVE for the Daily Kos community. This blog will also be updated as more information comes in.

Just Over an Hour to Go

We're not very far off from today's 9:00 AM ruling. Everyone seems to be waiting in eager anticipation for the announcement - as we are.

Archerhouse is preparing to go LIVE with his special coverage diary on Daily Kos, and we'll update this blog instantly as news comes in.

Once again, we predict a victory for Christine Gregoire and the Democrats. We believe the election will be upheld and the GOP's claims thrown out.

NWPT48



Judge Bridges issued several pre-trial rulings that made it exceedingly difficult for the Republicans to prevail based on what evidence they presented. First, the judge ruled that Rossi had to be able to prove that he would have won by showing that Christine Gregoire benefited from illegal votes and other irregularities.

Second, the standard for such proof is "clear and "convincing" - a tough standard to meet. Third, voter crediting will not be accepted as evidence of illegal votes, no matter how much Stefan Sharkansky wishes it were.

Judge Bridges would have to reverse his prior rulings to give Rossi a chance of winning. There's no indication that he might reverse himself on any of these rulings.

UPDATE: Right wing news aggregator Orbusmax is predicting that the judge will rule against the GOP. Sharkansky of (un)SoundPolitics continues to predict a win for his side.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

All eyes on Wenatchee

Tomorrow, Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges issues possibly the most important decision he'll ever issue in his career: whether or not to uphold or overturn the Washington State gubernatorial election.

There's fine and lengthy analysis of the trial on several fine blogs throughout the regional blogosphere. We particularly recommend TJ from Also Also and David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org. Together with our efforts here, you'll find the most comprehensive coverage of the just concluded election contest trial.

NWPT48



After nine days of arguments, testimony, cross examination, debate, and questioning, what do we think?

We believe that Judge Bridges will uphold the election of Christine O. Gregoire as the Governor of Washington State. That's our belief and our prediction.

An election contest, especially for the most important office in the state, is a very serious business. And this election contest has been taken very seriously by both parties, who have spent millions of dollars to fight the case. The outcome has enormous ramifications, and that's why we'll be watching intently to see what happens on Monday.

The statute and the case law are undeniably on our side - Governor Gregoire's side, and the Democrats' side. The Republicans have pursued this election contest not because they believe in fairness, not because they believe in honesty or accountability, not because they believe in responsiblity, but because they believe in winning.

Any strategy that can put Dino Rossi into the governor's mansion is a strategy worth pursuing. That is what the GOP has done. They're using the context of a close election and mistakes made by election workers and administrators to manufacture allegations of fraud and ballot stuffing.

Why?

Because they believe in winning. For them, the truth has lost any credibility that it might have had. Just visit wingnut blogs and look around in the comment threads to hear the talk about the election being stolen by Democrats. The grousing is still going on, even today.

The Republican legal team knows there isn't much hope that they can prevail. You could tell from GOP lawyer Harry Korrell's weak closing statement that Republicans aren't all that confident that they can win.

The Republicans did not, could not, and will never be able to prove that Dino Rossi recieved more votes than Christine Gregoire in last year's gubernatorial election. Their entire case hangs on the hope that Judge John Bridges will buy into their convoluted theory and use it to subtract enough votes from Governor Gregoire's vote tally to declare Rossi the winner.

We don't think Judge Bridges is willing to do that - nor do we think he is going to. Judge Bridges is a very smart, knowledgable judge with a good sense of humor. He has realized both the importance and the magnitude of this case, including its historical significance.

He clearly recognizes that the standard for throwing out an election should be a high standard. Republicans are claiming two things: first, they met the standard, and second, the standard shouldn't be set that high. The fact that they are making the second claim is evidence enough they don't put too much stock in their own case.

Ever since the founding of this nation, we've had high legal standards. Judges and juries are not supposed to convict citizens who are standing trial unless they are sure "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the person's guilt. That's a high standard, and rightly so.

Judge Bridges understands that the standard has to be high. Otherwise, any time an election was considered to be remotely close, an election contest would be filed. Judge Bridges clearly has no desire to hear another election contest trial, as he remarked to the lawyers in the case: "I've enjoyed having you folks in front of me immensely. But I don't want to see any of you again."

And obviously he has no desire to set a precedent that will lead to more and more election contests being filed before his colleagues - fellow judges - across the state.

The Republicans failed to meet the high standard spelled out by state law and by Judge Bridges. That's why the judge is going to rule against them and uphold the election on Monday morning. And that is why, before too long, the state Supreme Court will uphold Judge Bridges' ruling, and the GOP will learn to think twice about filing another election contest in the future.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Cantwell Watch

David Ammons of the AP has a story today about Maria Cantwell's campaign for reelection in 2006. It's a rather long story with some interesting and useful analysis. Ammons begins by saying how Cantwell is widely considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents nationwide.

We don't think so.

Cantwell has been a strong leader in the Senate on many environmental issues, including the fight to prevent drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Together with Senator Charles Schumer from New York, she was the leader of the coalition that killed Bush's infamous "energy bill" back in 2003 (the "No Lobbyist Left Behind" bill, for "Hooters and polluters" as John McCain put it).

She's also stood up for Snohomish County's PUD, demanding that FERC release key Enron tapes that show how Enron traders stiffed the utility several years ago.

Her foreign policy record isn't quite as impressive. She did vote for the Iraq war, as well as the Patriot Act, but she could be forgiven for both those votes. Senators didn't even get a chance to read the Patriot Act before they passed it, and as for the war in Iraq, Cantwell was lied to by the President of the United States.

She isn't even in campaign mode quite yet:
So for now, Cantwell has the ring to herself. She's still in official "senator mode," but has quietly begun the task of raising $14 million to defend a seat the White House covets.

"Right now, I'm just focused on the job," Cantwell says. "Obviously there is no shortage of important issues, like putting together a new energy bill, high gas prices, making sure the administration doesn't privatize BPA, dealing with Enron and consumers who got gouged with high energy prices, dealing with Social Security."

She goes on with a long list of issues she's working on, and when she surfaces for air, says she won't announce for re-election until next year. She sounds relaxed about the campaign, saying her accomplishments should earn her another six-year term.

"Vacation is a laughable concept," says Charla Neuman, the senator's spokeswoman, describing Cantwell's nonstop travels to every corner of the state.
And as Ammons points out, the Republicans haven't even selected a candidate yet. They talk of beating Cantwell by finding "the right candidate", but who is that? According to Ammons' article, George Nethercutt, Slade Gorton, as well as the three GOP congressmen, and the three Republican statewide elected officials (the secretary of state, attorney general and land commissioner) aren't in the running.

So who does that leave? It leaves Dino Rossi, first of all, but he says he doesn't want to run (for now, at least). Several people are on "the bench", as Ammons put it. His profiles of them:
Mike McGavick. Well-known in business circles as the savvy head of Safeco and remembered by politicos as chief of staff and campaign adviser to Gorton, he's still "Mike Who?" to the masses. Berendt wryly calls him "a pro-choice metrosexual" and wonders if the conservative Republican Party would really produce such an intriguing nominee.

Rick White. The former congressman has the distinction of having defeated Cantwell, ousting her from Congress in 1994. He served two terms and then lost to Democrat Jay Inslee. He has been head of a California-based high-tech company, but has always kept his Kitsap County base and is enthused to make a political comeback.

Chris Vance. The well-connected, high-decibel party leader has won legislative and King County Council races, but lost bids for Congress and state school superintendent. He says he'll run only if state, national and grass-roots Republicans draft him. "I will not resign and get involved in a crowded primary," he says.

Diane Tebelius. A longtime party leader and a legal adviser to the Rossi campaign, she lost the 8th District congressional primary to eventual winner Dave Reichert last fall.
If Rossi doesn't run, Cantwell should coast to reelection unless she does badly in her campaign. Without Rossi in the race, the Republican candidate will be largely unknown across the state, although Chris Vance would be familar to most Republicans. But it's doubtful he'll run, especially since the Democrats would have mountains of quotes and sound bites to mine.

Of Cantwell's chances, Ammons writes, in part:
His Democratic counterpart, [national Democratic spokesman] Phil Singer, says Cantwell has to be favored, given a strong first term, the deepening unpopularity of George Bush in the state, and concern about Republicans having too much power in Congress.
General themes (which will factor in races nationally) will also help Cantwell. The American public hated congressional interference in the Terri Schiavo case, they're cynical of Bush's "Social Security reforms" and they hated the GOP attempt to kill the filibuster. Not to mention Tom Delay's ethic troubles.

Right now, we're optimistic and feel confident in saying that Maria Cantwell will easily win reelection in November 2006. Progressives who are less than enthusiastic about Cantwell's candidacy should take note of what happened in the 2004 gubernatorial election. Cantwell deserves strong support from progressives so that a Democrat can be reelected to Congress.

We can't afford to lose another seat, and Cantwell has already shown that she deserves a second term.

New elections center a good idea

The Seattle Times reported Friday that King County is looking at buying a piece of property to consolidate its elections operations into a larger facility where everything could be housed under one roof:
King County officials have a tentative agreement to buy a Rainier Valley building and turn it into a modern, $22.8 million election center intended to help avoid a repeat of the problems that plagued the November election.

The facility would allow the county to combine under one roof election offices and now-cramped absentee-ballot operations.

Outside reviews of the Elections Section before the November vote called for consolidation, but it took the embarrassing failures of the 2004 election to make it a top priority of County Executive Ron Sims and the County Council.

Sims informed the council yesterday that the county has an option on a three-story building at 1130 Rainier Ave. S. and two adjacent properties just north of Interstate 90.

The deal is subject to the approval of the council, which in April asked Sims to come up with plans for consolidating election operations, improving staff training and evaluating funding requirements for running elections.
We strongly applaud this idea and urge the County Council and Sims to move forward and take action. A new consolidated elections center could do wonders by providing a more roomy facility, allowing for more flexibility and putting staff closer together. Even the folks at (un)SoundPolitics don't think that it's such a bad idea.

Daily Show Highlights May 31st-June 2nd

Those of you who don't have cable television or weren't around to watch The Daily Show this last week missed some fun shows. However, our friends at Dem Bloggers have a number of great clips from the show that you can watch from your computer (you'll need Windows Media Player to watch).

There was no Monday show because of Memorial Day. All the clips are really good this week, so check them out - hilarious fun with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Delay, and more.

You can always expect to see The Daily Show Highlights every Saturday here on the blog, except for weeks when the show is on hiatus.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Wrapping Up Day Nine

The trial of the Washington State gubernatorial election challenge has concluded. All that is left now is to for the judge to issue his decision - which will happen this Monday morning at 9 AM.

Major highlights from today: the GOP finished up its rebuttal with witnesses John Pearson and Dan Brady. Pearson's testimony was horrible for the Republicans and actually seemed to bolster the Democrats' case. Dan Brady made a poor showing with lots of "I don't know" and "I don't recall" type of statements in the cross examination conducted by Democratic attorney Kevin Hamilton.

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The Democrats also showed a video during Dan Brady's cross-examination from last fall, (when Rossi was still in the lead) in which GOPolitburo Chair Chris Vance said:
"There is no fraud. There is nothing nefarious going on in Washington state. I've been as close to it as you can be and it's just not true."
Oh really, Chris? Funny how your position has changed since then. It's all about winning, isn't it? Yes, yes it is.

Then we heard from Kim Wyman, Thurston County auditor and a Republican, who didn't give us any new and interesting information.

Closing statements: Harry Korrell flopped really badly for the GOP. His statement was somewhat weak and didn't tie in the GOP's case very well. His presentation was lacking, he stumbled, and there seemed to be an air of confusion about him.

On the other hand, Jenny Durkan delivered a spectacular performance for the Democrats, which Archerhouse details more glowingly here in his LIVE Trial Diary. And Thomas Ahearne delivered a short but powerful statement on behalf of the Secretary of State.

You can read all this and more (including more about the Vance video) in David Postman's lengthy excerpts today. He really does Jenny Durkan's closing statement justice with plenty of quotes and glimpses of the points she was making.

And as usual, we have a full wrap up of what transpired today - and we're continuing to update our index of all Pacific Northwest Portal-affiliated blog posts about the trial.

Half of a day to go

We have 1/2 of a day to go before this trial is officially over, my head stops spinning, and I can lean back in my chair and relax for a change.

So far today, we've been taking care of housekeeping chores (otherwise known as entering endless exhibits into evidence) and hearing the GOP's lengthy rebuttal, which is merely a rehashing of some key points in their case. They dragged John Pearson and Dan Brady back up to the stand to testify. Of course, Archerhouse has play-by-play summaries for those interested in specific details.

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David Postman offers some interesting and insightful tidbits as well:
Judge John Bridges said Republicans' testimony about concerns over ballot security is pushing the line of what is allowed during rebuttal.

"I would assume that if petitioners felt there were all kinds of problems going on during the process, Mr. Brady would have told us about that in your case in chief," Bridges said, referring to the primary phase of the case in which Republicans laid out their allegations.

Dan Brady, the Republicans' lead King County election observer, has been testifying about a lack of observers for key parts of the vote-counting process. He said Republicans were concerned that election workers were able to take book bags and backpacks into some of the work rooms.

Democratic attorney Kevin Hamilton had objected to the questioning.

Rebuttal testimony is supposed to be only in response to testimony offered by the other side.
Postman's analysis, as usual, is excellent, and we strongly recommend it.

Additionally, if you're looking for a thorough recap of what has happened so far, you can find one on our Election Challenge Highlights page. This page is a thorough index of news stories, blogs, columns, and other material related to the trial.

Last day of trial begins

The Court has reconvened this morning at 9:00 AM for the last day of Week Two in the election contest trial. The judge will be issuing an oral ruling on Monday.

The News Tribune has an interesting story this morning on Bridges' possible indecision on a key issue in the case:
As he closed in on a self-imposed Monday deadline to decide whether to overturn Democrat Christine Gregoire’s victory in last fall’s governor’s race, Judge John Bridges signaled Thursday that he’s still pondering how to deal with a critical issue in the case.

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If the Chelan County Superior Court judge rejects Republicans’ request to use a statistical formula to deduct illegal votes from the tallies of Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi, it could sink the GOP lawsuit to oust Gregoire.

If Bridges accepts the formula, he’d become the first judge in state history to accept a vote tally produced that way, and it could very well result in the annulment of Gregoire’s 129-vote victory.

Bridges has made clear throughout the course of the historic nine-day trial that he’s not looking forward to the decision. On Thursday, the cause of his concern again became clear.

After Democratic and Republican experts both claimed their candidates would prevail under a formula, known as proportional deduction, Bridges puzzled over the two sides’ divergent results in rare direct questioning of the dueling experts.
And once again, NPI member Archerhouse is doing a LIVE Trial Diary at Daily Kos, keeping you apprised to developments out of Wenatchee. We'll post more lengthy updates here as well. And Pacific NW Portal has also been updated with the latest news stories on the court case.

GOP asks Spokane mayor West to resign

From the AP:
State and local Republican Party leaders have called for Mayor James E. West to resign in the wake of a homosexual sex scandal.

West, a former state Senate majority leader who was one of the most powerful Republicans in the state, has said he will stay and fight allegations that he misused his current office and sexually abused two boys decades ago.

"As Republicans, we hold all elected officials to the highest standards of the community, and we cannot condone irresponsible behavior or poor judgment," Mike Casey, chairman of the Spokane County Republican Party, told a Thursday news conference.

"The Spokane Republican Party is the closest to this situation and we trust their judgment on this matter," state GOP Chairman Chris Vance said in announcing support for the move.

West was not immediately available for comment, but scheduled a Friday afternoon news conference at which he indicated he would answer questions about his conduct.
This doesn't come as a surprise after the news on May 5th, but it is surprising that West dug himself into this embarrassing hole.

It brings to mind an important question: how many of the anti-gay crusaders are really gay themselves and just trying to hide he fact?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Wrapping Up Day Eight

Day Eight of the Washington State gubernatorial election challenge has concluded. We are pretty much at the end of this long, two weeks in court. The trial resumes tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM.

David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org has become a regular on John Carlson's weekday KVI show, appearing along with local wingnut Stefan Sharkansky. He was on yet again today and we will again have a clip from the show that you can listen to soon.

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Major highlights today: We learned that the judge will rule on Monday, issuing his oral decision then. We also heard the last of Linda Sanchez' testimony. Sanchez is the King County elections operations supervisor.

And we heard from Noel Frame, who led the twenty person Democratic effort to hunt for felon voters.

Beofre the Democrats rested their case, we heard again from Mark Handcock, who again attacked the "proportional deduction" methodology (better known as "speculative attribution"). Then the Democrats rested their case and rebuttal began.

Here's a couple excerpts from a just published Seattle P-I article:
The Republicans hope Bridges will agree with their proposal for subtracting invalid votes from the candidates' totals in proportion to the overall percentage of the vote each candidate received in the affected precincts.

They have submitted their own lists of votes by felons and other ballots they maintain were cast illegally. The vast majority of those votes come from King County, where Gregoire took 57 percent of the vote and where she stands to lose heavily under the GOP proposal.

The Democrats have accused the GOP of "cherry-picking" illegal votes.

...The Democrats called as their final witness Mark Handcock, a professor of statistics and sociology at the University of Washington who attacked the GOP proposal for proportional deduction of illegal votes on a precinct basis.

"The methods applied by the (Republicans') scientists in this case do not meet acceptable scientific standards," Handcock said.

Even if you did apply those methods, Handcock said, Gregoire would still win under several varying combinations of illegal votes included in the formula, which he adjusted for the gender of the felons to reflect the greater likelihood of men voting Republican.
We're confident that the Democrats will prevail in this election challenge. The GOP hasn't met their burden of proof.

As usual, we have a full wrap up of what transpired today - and we're continuing to update our index of all Pacific Northwest Portal-affiliated blog posts about the trial.

Judge will rule on Monday

Here's your midday update: first, Judge Bridges has just announced he's making an oral decision on Monday morning. The Democrats will rest their case today, then rebuttals will begin. Closing statements are then expected to begin after noon tomorrow and the whole trial will wrap up that afternoon.

This morning, Linda Sanchez finished testifying for the Democrats and Noel Frame was also called to the stand. Frame oversaw the 20 person Democratic effort to build the Democrats' list of felon voters.

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As usual, Archerhouse (publishing at Kos) and David Postman of the Seattle Times are providing excellent detailed coverage and in depth specifics, should you be interested.

If you're looking for a thorough recap of what has happened so far, you can find one on our Election Challenge Highlights page. This page is a thorough index of news stories, blogs, columns, and other material related to the trial.

Radio initiatives

P-I reporter Bill Virgin has a column this morning about two initiatives that Northwest Progressive Institute divisions are heavily engaged in fighting, and which are also getting a lot of exposure from conservative talk radio.

The two are I-900, sponsored by Tim Eyman, which Permanent Defense is fighting (I-900 is being championed by Mike Siegel on KTTH) and I-912, sponsored by Jane Milhans, which Washington Defense is fighting (I-912 is being spearheaded by KVI's Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson).

Of course, Virgin doesn't talk much about the negative consequences of either initiative; he focused his article on the angle of talk radio's role in promoting and driving both.

But there are serious consequences to both of these ill-concieved initiatives, and you can find out what those consequences are at Permanent Defense & Washington Defense (links above).

Virgin also writes that:
Both Siegel and Wilbur say they'll include opponents of the initiatives on their shows, though neither expects the performance audit issue to generate as much opposition as repeal of the gasoline tax. "It's not a liberal-conservative issue, it's an accounting mechanism," Siegel says of I-900.

In fact, he adds, the two initiatives actually "dovetail well with each other." Had performance audits been in place years ago, he says, more money might be available now for highway projects, he says.
That's odd - Permanent Defense is the main opposition to Initiative 900, but we've recieved no invitation from Mike Siegel to appear on his show yet.

Siegel's claim that Initiative 900 "dovetails" well with Initiative 912 is bogus. I-900 is an audit overload that forces our state to spend $45 million a year (which the state doesn't have) auditing everything from Metro to cemetery districts. I-900 has major flaws, and unlike HB 1064 - which was passed by the Legislature and subsequently signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire - I-900 was drafted without public input.

With the high cost of implementing I-900, Siegel's claim that the state might have more money for highway projects is false at worse and dubious at best.

As I have mentioned before though, I was on Kirby Wilbur's show yesterday, and David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org has been appearing there frequently as well. Both of us have been highly critical of KVI's campaign. So KVI's hosts have certainly been willing to host their opponents on air, and we're appreciative of that.

Since Virgin doesn't offer his readers any criticism of these proposals, we urge you to visit Permanent Defense and Washington Defense to get the other side of the story about these nefarious proposals.

Nearing the end: trial to resume this morning

The Court has reconvened this morning at 9:00 AM for the second to last day of Week Two in the election contest trial. There is one more day of trial left after today.

In the News Tribune this morning:
Republicans zeroed in on the illegal vote and fraud approaches when they presented their case last week. Last Friday, they began prodding Bridges to reverse his earlier ruling.

With Bridges expected to rule Friday, that seems unlikely. But after court Wednesday, the seventh day of a scheduled nine-day trial, they touted the judge’s comments as a step to reconsideration.
Again, according to accounts like these, it seems Bridges will rule on Friday. But who really knows? And the GOP is clearly pushing it too far by asking Bridges to reconsider a prior ruling. They really seem to be getting pretty desperate.

Once again, NPI member Archerhouse is doing a LIVE Trial Diary at Daily Kos, keeping you apprised to developments out of Wenatchee. We'll post more lengthy updates here as well. And Pacific NW Portal has also been updated with the latest news stories on the court case.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Wrapping Up Day Seven

Day Seven of the Washington State gubernatorial election challenge has concluded. We are nearing the end of this long, two weeks in court. The trial resumes tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM.

David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org has become a regular on John Carlson's weekday KVI show, appearing along with local wingnut Stefan Sharkansky. He was on yet again today and we again have a clip from the show that you can listen to.

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Major highlights today: Dean Logan's testimony took up most of the morning and we really didn't learn anything new. Logan's testimony was mostly a rehash of information we've already seen before.

However, there was one interesting account that took place during yesterday's testimony which is getting a lot of buzz from the media:
Bridges noted that in the course of the lawsuit, he has read thousands of pages of witness depositions detailing mistakes and blunders by King County elections workers.

"When I was in the Army, I think the expression was 'taking names and'-- for your benefit, I guess -- 'kicking tush,'" Bridges said. "Is there any sense of urgency in King County about fixing some of these problems?"

Logan replied that he avoids the term "fixing" when referred to elections work, but that for some time his department has been motivated to improve its performance.
Of course, the Republicans are reading way too heavily into this exchange. The judge, just like all of us, should be concerned with improving King County elections. King County has the power to make it better, and should strive towards that goal.

It's simply misfortune that a close election hit the county elections division at a bad time. Dean Logan has, we believe, been trying his hardest to improve transparency, accountability, and accuracy. We have full faith that he is completely qualified to serve as King County elections director.

Logan needs and deserves our confidence to move forward. Humans make mistakes, no matter what. Only the most insane Republican would claim that elections can be perfect. Perfection is simply unattainable. There will always be errors.

After Logan's testimony, expert witness Christopher Adolph was back up on the stand blasting holes in the GOP's "proportional deduction" or "proportional reduction" or "statistical analysis" methodology, or, as Democrats say, "speculative attribution." Is there another concept that you can frame in more ways than this one? Hard to think of one.

After Adolph, King County elections operations supervisor Linda Sanchez was the last witness to testify today.

Sanchez talked about the canvassing process of reconciling poll books and votes after elections. An important component of her testimony was an explanation of "crossover" voting, where a person from one precinct goes to a polling place on Election Day to cast a ballot, signs in on the poll book for their own precinct, but mistakenly takes or is given a ballot from a different precinct.

The result then leaves one precinct looking like it has more votes than voters and one with less votes than voters.

As usual, we have a full wrap up of what transpired today - and we're continuing to update our index of all Pacific Northwest Portal-affiliated blog posts about the trial.

Halfway through the day

Well, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my two segments on Kirby Wilbur's show this morning. A clip is forthcoming but it will not be available for a few days. When it does become available, I'll post it and let you know.

So far today, we've heard from King County Elections Director Dean Logan, whose testimony has taken up the entire morning's proceedings. Archerhouse has play-by-play summaries for those interested in specific details.

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David Postman offers some interesting and insightful tidbits as well:
"You don't appear to be running out of breath," Judge John Bridges told Democratic Party attorney Kevin Hamilton during his lengthy re-direct of King County Elections Director Dean Logan.

Hamilton just told the judge that Democrats had hoped to rest their case today, but that tomorrow now looks more likely. The trial is scheduled to run through Friday.

Logan, who was on the stand for three hours during the morning session, will complete his testimony after the break.

There were a few testy exchanges between him and Republican attorney Rob Maguire, and once Judge John Bridges told Maguire his questions were bordering on being argumentative.

Under questioning by Hamilton, Logan talked about polling place workers and said that after this trial it will be more difficult to recruit people, mostly senior citizens, to fill those jobs in future elections.
It seems increasingly likely that we will get a ruling from Bridges on Friday from the bench. All eyes will indeed be on Wenatchee this Friday, and, as usual, we will be on top of any breaking news or developments out of the courtroom.

If you're looking for a thorough recap of what has happened so far, you can find one on our Election Challenge Highlights page. This page is a thorough index of news stories, blogs, columns, and other material related to the trial.

Trial continues this morning

The Court will be reconvening this morning at 9:00 AM for the second day of Week Two in the election contest trial. There are three days of trial left.

The News Tribune has a good story this morning on Nick Handy's testimony in the trial:
After a Republican lawyer accused Nick Handy, the office’s elections director, of playing “cheerleader” for bungling county elections officials and of trying to sabotage the party’s lawsuit, Handy fired back.

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He accused the GOP of waging a “very misleading campaign” to erode public confidence in the election system. “There were some claims that are being pursued by the Republicans that I do not believe are valid claims,” said the normally unassuming, 30-year bureaucrat.
And once again, NPI member Archerhouse is doing a LIVE Trial Diary at Daily Kos, keeping you apprised to developments out of Wenatchee. We'll post more lengthy updates here as well. And Pacific NW Portal has also been updated with the latest news stories on the court case.

Read my column in the Everett Herald

A month ago, I wrote about Tim Eyman's successful penetration of the state's op-ed pages in "Tim's multi-paper column spree".

Today, yours truly is delivering another response to one of those columns.

In our column this morning, which I co-authored with the leader of Taxpayers for Washington's Future, Steve Zemke "Voters deserve the truth about state's tax structure", we talk about Eyman's pattern of attacking state legislators and the Governor for having the courage to actually lead.

We also talk about the regressive nature of our state's tax structure and what our state leaders can do to change that:
There are two important reforms that would help repair the imbalance in the tax structure.

The first is to restore the revenue lost due to numerous outdated tax exemptions given to corporations and other special interests in this state. The second is tax reform that includes a state income tax.

In the last session, the House passed legislation mandating a study to determine if current tax exemptions were still serving a useful purpose and providing a return to the state. But the bill failed in the Senate. No exemptions were repealed.

The Department of Revenue estimates that exemptions from the business and occupation tax alone are costing the state $5.5 billion in this budget cycle.

Once approved, most tax exemptions exist in perpetuity. This is simply bad fiscal policy. Exemptions should contain time limits and require another vote from the Legislature in order to be extended.
The whole thing is really worth reading - and I strongly encourage you to check it out.