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

Saturday, December 31, 2005

End of the Year Market Dis

(The stock picks and plays are at the end.) 2005 was a flat year for stocks. Why? The Right Wing spin machine tells us the economy is booming. The president has done all he can to promote Wall Street. Beginning tomorrow, January 1, for example, a couple of new tax breaks cut in for the rich, and as we learned here before the top ten percent owns nine-tenths of all stocks.

Before we get to our answer to why stocks are flat and where they may be going, context is necessary. This corner is Demand Side economics. We do not believe stocks are priced exclusively according to their "fundamentals," nor that the true value is computed by the magic mind of the market in response to each new mote of information. This latter contention is promoted by some of the most prominent academic departments in the country, under the rubric Efficient Market Hypothesis, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

The joke was, "How many economists does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: None. If the light bulb had needed screwing in, the market would have already done it. All information was supposedly factored in immediately. It was impossible to outguess the market.

It is a theory that belongs on the scrap heap of history, along with Monetarism and next to the predictions of Dow 36,000 and the Great Depression of 1990. Unfortunately, once a theory gets into the halls of academia, it is impossible to dislodge it with facts, such as the dramatic boom and bust we have witnessed over the past decade.

Make no mistake, the market does factor in information, with alarming efficiency, but that information is often:

Wrong, as with the scandals of WorldCom and Enron, where the books were cooked with creative accounting to gin the stock price.

Irrelevant, as with parts of the dot.com bubble, where for example, market share was translated into high stock values, even when it was bought by untenable business models. Amazon, for example, basically gave away ten dollar bills with every order and dominated its niche. The market rewarded it with stock prices over the top. Now that it is profitable, its stock price is 4 percent of what it once was.

Serves only to price things relatively, as putting GE above Global Crossings, for example. The absolute value, for the sake of our discussion here, is determined by demand for the stock.
There are two crude and inexact dynamics at work in the judging of stocks and the prospects for the future. Regarding prospects, the dominant prognostication is that the trend of the past three years or so will continue into the dim future, barring any explicit information to the contrary. Regarding the judging of stocks, beating the market is similar to winning a certain type of beauty judging contest. Both were proposed by the great economist John Maynard Keynes (pron. KANES, get it right).

The first is relatively self-explanatory. We assume that, for example, we can continue to run $500 billion deficits as we have at the same interest rates and underfund education and infrastructure and so on.

The second involves a metaphor familiar to Keynes that needs some explanation. In the 1920s and 30s, newspapers ran contests involving the photographs of 100 or so pretty girls. The winner of the contest was the one who could pick out the five or six prettiest girls -- as judged by all contest entrants. That is, it was not the individual's perception of who was prettiest, but the ability to tap the perception of the herd. Fundamentals were and are beside the point, because speculators are primarily concerned with liquidity, the current market value. This is no place for patience. (One of the interesting implications is that the most unanimous market is also the most unstable.)

So, I am not going to bore you with which sector is sexiest, or which company has the best prospects, I am going to bore you with Demand Side keys to stock prices.

  • More people buy stocks when the prices go up consistently. Prices go up consistently when more people buy stocks.

  • People who are getting older buy stocks. During the 1990s, the baby boomers, the so-called demographic pig in the python, bid up the price of stocks in anticipation of retiring.

  • People who have dollars buy stocks. Who is this? The rich! you say, remembering the beginning of this post and the billions of dollars in tax cuts. Wrong. Well, not wrong, but the net amount of tax cuts in the Bush economic blunder scheme needs to be borrowed back to finance the government. Conceptually, it is the same money, we're just paying interest on it under Bush.

The people who have the dollars I'm talking about are the Asians who are financing our trade deficits. We are giving them dollars in trade for their goods. In normal times we would be trading our goods for their goods through the medium of currency. Now we are running massive trade deficits and trading dollars for goods. Dollars don't spend so good there. Not like they do here, anyway, so they are buying American stocks and government bonds, liquid assets priced in dollars.

Which brings us to the last category.
  • Outsiders who like the dollar buy stocks. This is the George Soros play. When you buy a stock, you are also buying the currency that underlies it. If you hold it a year or two and it does nothing, but the underlying currency appreciates, then when you sell you have still made a profit. (The strong and stable dollar was another reason people put money in American stocks in the 1990s. It seemed like a continent of sanity in an ocean of currency chaos.
So during 2005 the stock market was flat. It was dull. What does that mean? One thing, obviously, people have moved from stocks to bonds and real estate. Notice the relatively low return on bonds in spite of the immense federal deficits, indicating demand. Notice the high prices of homes, the housing bubble which I have posted so much about.

Another thing, it means stocks are not getting bid up by baby boomers, foreign investors, or people who like the dollar. This is weakness. It means other things, but the 14 people who actually reached this point on a New Year's Eve need to be rewarded, not punished, so I'll save the rest.

Beware! Republicans are no good for stocks, because they are no good for business. But, you say, Republicans provide all those tax breaks and roll over for Corporate America at every opportunity. The corporatization of the government is reaching the level of Benito's Italy.

It is because the business of "business" is demand. "How's business?" means "How much are you selling?" Democrats supply only one thing for business. Customers. Democrats mean jobs. Jobs means customers. Always remember, the budget has never been balanced except at full employment, and the economy has always grown best at full employment. That is the definition of "a healthy economy." Everybody is contributing. People have money and purpose.

Now, the sexy market plays

Buy Boeing on the weakness of the dollar against the euro. Boeing's competition is Airbus. The people with dollars above like airplanes. When the euro appreciated against the dollar, Boeing made advances against Airbus. The euro ran up to $1.30 and higher a year ago at this time, but has stalled and is down in the $1.17 neighborhood. (If they ever start making planes in Asia, sell, sell, sell.)

Buy natural gas futures based on the price of oil. Oil leads all energy prices by 3-12 months. When oil goes up, natural gas is sure to follow, and the reverse. It's true for electrical energy, coal and alternative energy as well. This play is tired right now, but watch in the future.

Looking Back: The End of 2005

So this is it. The end of 2005 is upon us. For some people on this Earth, 2006 is already here. For the rest of us, we are in the twilight hours, minutes, and seconds of what has truly been an eventful year.

A year ago the progressive blogosphere was very different. There were an amazing number of new blogs that were created this year. As of the end of this year, Pacific Northwest Portal's Regional Blogs Directory had 214 progressive blogs from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho indexed in its listings.

Simply put, the blogosphere is a much bigger place now than it was 365 days ago.

On this blog, we posted over eight hundred times this year alone - roughly twice a day on average. (An eighth of those posts, by the way, were about opposing Initiative 912).

Another eighth of this year's posts were written discussing one aspect or another of the gubernatorial election challenge, including a significant number published during the trial last May and June.

So ends 2005. Let us hope that the fortunes of the progressive movement - our fortunes - continue to rise in 2006.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Looking Back at 2005: Republicans in Their Own Words

Remember these quotes? Take a stroll down Memory Lane:

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. So many people in this arena, here, you know, were underprivileged, so this is working very well for them."

- Barbara Bush (September 25th, 2005, talking about Katrina evacuees)

"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."

- George Dubya Bush (September 2nd, 2005)

"If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god… Anything specific I need to do or tweak? Do you know of anyone who dog-sits? … Can I quit now? Can I come home? … I'm trapped now, please rescue me."

- Michael Brown (August 29th, 2005)

"If I would do another 'Terminator' movie I would have Terminator travel back in time and tell Arnold not to have a special election."

- Arnold Schwarzenegger (November 10th, 2005)

"Get some devastation in the back."

- Bill Frist (to a staff photographer as he posed for a photo op while visiting tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka - January 6th, 2005)

"I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work."

- Donald Rumsfeld (February 16th, 2005)

"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

- Dick Cheney (June 20th, 2005)

"Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

- Tom Delay (to hurricane evacuees, September 9th 2005)

"You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."

- George Dubya Bush (February 4th, 2005)

"He [Bridges] will either use the proportional analysis as proposed by the Republicans or punt on the issue by using an even more generous standard for tossing out illegal votes that will help the Republicans. I believe the Democrats have little credibility with the judge on this issue, and only the Republicans have given him a practical (if imperfect) path for moving forward....As I've mentioned before, I'm predicting that Judge Bridges will set aside the election."

- Stefan Sharkansky (June 4th, 2005 and June 5th, 2005)

"I say the 'Yes' vote on 912 will be at least 57.5%. If I’m right, you send $100 to Eyman’s compensation fund. If I’m wrong, I’ll send $100 to whoever you specify."

- "Mark the Redneck" (commentor on David Goldstein's HorsesAss.org, September 20th, 2005)

"Same goes for I-912, the gas tax repeal initiative. Put a fork in it, it's done. It's going to be approved overwhelmingly in November. Why? Because we've beaten this coalition of opponents (Big Business, Big Labor, politicians, and the press) year after year after year in these same tax battles. Even opponents know it's over."

- Tim Eyman (September 26th, 2005)

"With today's decision, and because of the political makeup of the Washington State Supreme Court, which makes it almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending the election contest."

- Dino Rossi (June 6th, 2005)

"Over 90 percent of what we've done is accurate. ... The focus should not be on our errors, but on King County's errors."

- Chris Vance (after the GOP admitted it erred in challenging some voters' registrations, November 5th, 2005)

"It's very simple...My mother's a diabetic, she had a diabetic reaction. And, like with most diabetics, has actually a memory problem during that diabetic reaction...Mr. Sims has a track record of throwing mud. And quite frankly, he did it again last year with Christine Gregoire when he played the race card."

- David Irons (October 30th, 2005, responding to accusations that he had previously hit his mother)

"It could very well be that people we have on our list didn't have their voting rights taken away".

- Mary Lane (Rossi spokeswoman, March 17th, 2005, acknowledging errors in the GOP's list of alleged felon voters)

"This is a case of election fraud..The evidence will show partisan bias. And partisan bias is a very politically correct way of saying, 'Somebody stuffed the ballot box.'"

- GOP lawyer Dale Foreman (Opening statement in election challenge trial, May 23rd, 2005)

Also see Media Matters' Most Outrageous Statements of 2005. Any more quotes to add? Feel free to add them in the thread.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A sad catastrophe is brewing

The current federal debt is $8.1 trillion. Yes, $8.1 trillion. $8,100,000,000,000. Eight trillion one hundred billion dollars. This is the principle on which we are paying interest every year. See it to the penny at Bureau of the Public Debt.

The on-budget deficit, that is, the amount we are adding to the debt by borrowing from all sources including Social Security trust funds, was $567 billion in 2004. It will be at least $500 billion this year, next year, and every year until a change is made. Half a trillion dollars a year we are borrowing. At 5% interest, four years from now, that half a trillion will only pay debt service. At 10% interest? (Ten percent is conceivable, because who will lend us money with these kinds of books?)

Net interest is currently about one-tenth of federal spending. This is largely a legacy of the policies of Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush. Dubya is making them look like pikers. Inevitably the debt service will be crippling.

The Iraq War, the culture of corruption, the torture and habitual lying, the burning of the Bill of Rights, these are examples of a betrayal of America by the Radical Right under Bush and Cheney. Baffling in their audacity. Magnets for outrage. But the crime that is being committed on our economy.... Unless we all die before we want to, the burden will not fall solely on our children.

Bush and the Republican Congress are poisoning the future. They are playing war with other people's lives and gambling with other people's money. The Right Wing is ensuring the demise of popular (as in "of the people") social programs by these deficits, but the damage will not be confined to the structures we expected to carry us in dignity, but to the whole fabric of the economy.

It's worse than you think. See the Congressional Budget Office projections.

Looking Back at 2005: NPI Milestones

2005 has truly been an amazing year for this organization. The Northwest Progressive Institute has grown by leaps and bounds during the past few months, and it looks like we'll be growing even more in 2006.

Here's a look back at NPI's milestones in 2005.

January 2nd, 2005: Intermittent posting to NPI's official blog ends. Near daily posting begins. The first hot topics are the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the Republicans' attempt to stop Christine Gregoire from being sworn in as Governor.

January 25, 2005: The Public Disclosure Commission fines Tim Eyman and his partners for violating the public disclosure law, acting several months after the filing of a complaint by NPI's Permanent Defense, TaxSanity, and Taxpayers for Washington's Future.

January 31st, 2005: NPI launches Pacific Northwest Portal, a regional information gateway and media center, to counter the local Republican Noise Machine. The launch is announced on NPI's official blog, on Daily Kos, on HorsesAss.org, and elsewhere. Traffic to the NPI network surges dramatically, quintupling in a matter of hours, and plateaus in the following days, never again returning to the previous low level.

February 1st, 2005: NPI debuts its Reading List, offering a selection of recommended books for members and supporters.

February 4th, 2005: NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve becomes the first ever guest poster on David Goldstein's HorsesAss.org while its author is in midair, following the developments in the Republicans' court challenge to unseat Gov. Christine Gregoire.

February 16th, 2005: NPI Executive Director and Permanent Defense Chair Andrew Villeneuve testifies before the House Finance Committee, urging representatives to consider a tax reform proposal to address the regressive property tax.

February 27, 2005: NPI launches Pacific Northwest Portal Version 2.0, with a revamped homepage and an enhanced directory of local blogs.

March 1st, 2005: Lynn Allen of Evergreen Politics publishes a interview with NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve.

March 29th, 2005: NPI's Official Blog celebrates its one year anniverary.

March 31st, 2005: NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve publishes a lengthy analysis of Rep. Dave Reichert's Social Security "town hall" meeting. The analysis is subsequently picked up on Josh Marhsall's Talking Points Memo. NPI's official blog receives several thousand visitors in twelve hours.

April 4th, 2005: NPI launches its National Defense section.

April 25th, 2005: NPI publishes another significant update to Pacific Northwest Portal.

May 10th, 2005: NPI publishes the transcript of a live interview conducted the day before with comedian and Air America radio host Al Franken. NPI's Pacific Northwest Portal also debuts a new Toolkit section and is recognized on Daily Kos.

May 15th, 2005: America Online, Inc. carries a post from NPI's Official Blog in its blogs section.

May 17th, 2005: NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve's first column is published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, entitled: Eyman out to destroy representative democracy.

May 20th, 2005: Frank Sennett from the Spokane Spokesman-Review publishes a column in the paper's "Weekend" section about Pacific Northwest Portal and NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve.

May 22nd, 2005: NPI relaunches Washington Defense to fight Initiative 912, a right wing initiative to eradicate the 2005 Transportation Package - key legislation approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gregoire to invest in roads, ferries, and transit.

May 23rd, 2005: NPI begins providing live coverage of the trial in the Republicans' court case to have the 2004 election results nullified and Gov. Christine Gregoire thrown out of office.

June 6th, 2005: In a landmark, decisive victory for Democrats, Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges upholds the 2004 gubernatorial election of Christine Gregoire, confirming NPI's prediction about the outcome of the GOP lawsuit the day before. NPI announces the victory live to the world on Pacific Northwest Portal, its Official Blog, and Daily Kos. Later in the day, Dino Rossi announces he won't appeal the decision and ends his attempt to challenge the election.

June 22nd, 2005: NPI publishes a special guest column written by Dr. Reed Davis (previously the chair of the King County Republican Party), who explains why political parties are vital to a healthy democracy, and lead to stronger grassroots political involvement. The column is part of NPI's series defending the open primary system in Washington State.

July 8th, 2005: Initiative 912 proponents turn in well over the 225,000 required signatures to get on the ballot in November. NPI's Washington Defense division immediately begins preparing for a fall campaign.

July 14th, 2005: Washington Defense relaunches again, this time in preparation for the fall campaign against Initiative 912.

July 15th, 2005: The "Top Two" primary strongly opposed by NPI is struck down by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly. NPI applauds the ruling, which means the Secretary of State will have to prepare for an open primary for the second year in a row.

July 20th, 2005: NPI launches "True Blue", or Pacific Northwest Portal Version 3.0, in the biggest revamp of the website since its inception. Navigation and interface are overhauled, new pages are introduced, and feed reliability is greatly strengthened.

July 28th, 2005: NPI's Permanent Defense division relaunches to fight Tim Eyman's Initiative 900, which got enough signatures to make the ballot thanks to Eyman's wealthy multimillionaire backer, Michael Dunmire.

August 3rd, 2005: The Seattle Weekly announces that Pacific Northwest Portal is the "Best Local Website" in its 2005 "Best of Seattle" readers poll.

August 16th, 2005: NPI members attend the kickoff of the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN) featuring speeches by John Edwards and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

August 19th, 2005: NPI begins a "Disaster Picture of the Week" series, featuring a picture of a collapsed bridge or transportation structure every Thursday until Election Day. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer mentions the new series the following Saturday on its editorial page.

August 22nd, 2005: NPI's Official Blog gets a dramatic makeover, with a crisper template.

August 27th, 2005: Pacific Northwest Portal begins offering live coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

September 20th, 2005: NPI provides comprehensive coverage of the primary election in King County on its Official Blog and Pacific Northwest Portal.

October 9th 2005: The Vancouver Columbian publishes an editorial slamming Initiative 912 and mentions NPI's support for the 2005 transportation package and opposition to I-912.

October 24th, 2005: NPI launches "Marine Green", or Pacific Northwest Portal Version 3.5, which includes syndication changes, an improved navigation bar, new graphics, and new pages.

October 26th, 2005: NPI organizes a "Viaduct Hazard Demonstration", arguing that the passage of Initiative 912 will cripple the state's ability to invest in transportation infrastructure. KIRO and KCPQ, two of Seattle's four television news stations, carry the story (combined, the two stations' clips add up to about eight minutes of airtime), as does 710 KIRO News Radio. The Seattle Times also sends a reporter out to cover the press conference.

November 8th, 2005: NPI and its allies' hard work pays off in an amazing series of unbelievable victories. Initiative 912 is defeated by voters statewide, Ron Sims is reelected as King County Executive, and Dave Somers retakes his council seat from GOP shill Jeff Sax.

November 14th, 2005: NPI releases an upgraded version of its blog design (Version 3.1) which fixes some display problems.

November 21st, 2005: NPI names new member Alan Harvey as its Senior Economist and launches its new Economics section. The same day, Pacific Northwest Portal gets a minor update.

December 9th, 2005: NPI begins extensive network maintenance work for prepare for 2006.

December 19th, 2005: Buzzflash, Daily Kos, and several news services carry an NPI Official Blog post about Senator Maria Cantwell's efforts to block legislation which would permit drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. The resulting traffic, over six thousand visitors in one twenty four hour period, marks an an all time high for the Official Blog.

What a year it has been.

Media needs to stop giving Tim Eyman special attention

The Washington State press corps' favoritism for initiative profiteer Tim Eyman is getting old. Really old. And this organization - the Northwest Progressive Instiute, through its Permanent Defense division - is sick and tired of it.

As anyone who has followed NPI for the past couple of years knows, we have long been engaged in a major fight to stop Tim Eyman from destroying the state of Washington.

That fight continues today. Permanent Defense is currently getting ready to oppose Eyman's next attempt to slash transportation funding, while also continuing to push for real tax reform.

Yesterday, an article appeared in the Aberdeen Daily World, which talked about a proposal from two Democratic state legislators, Rep. Lynn Kessler and Sen. Tim Sheldon, to get rid of the user fees at Washington State Parks:
The lawmakers will urge the Legislature to eliminate the $5 fee for vehicle parking in state parks. The 2006 legislative session convenes Jan. 9.

Users have had to pay the fee since 2003. Attendance and fees at state parks are both down, the legislators say.

“We’ve really turned our rangers into parking attendants,” Sheldon told The Daily World Tuesday. “I think funding parks is something that should be paid out of the general fund. I don’t have a problem with paying for a boat launch fee or moorage fee or to camp, but to pay to picnic or to walk on the beach is ridiculous.”

“I have two slogans right now,” said Nora Porter, a Port Townsend resident who has been advocating lifting the parking fee since 2002. “I have lapels and T-shirts and the works that say ‘Free the parks’ and ‘Give the parks back to the people who own them.’”

Virginia Painter, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission, said that in 2002, prior to the fee being introduced, parks statewide saw 46.868 million visitors. After the fee was introduced in 2004, there were only 38.138 million users. That means at least 873,000 people stayed home instead of using the parks. Rep. Kessler says that’s a clear signal the current system isn’t working.

“It’s ridiculous our own citizens have to pay for our own parks,” Kessler said. “It’s irritating to our citizens because they thought we already pay for our parks with our tax dollars. We tried to eliminate (the parking fee) in the past, but the reality is that the money wasn’t there (to replace the revenues from the fees). Well, it’s there now.”
We agree. The parking fees need to be eliminated. The user fees hit our state's poorest citizens the hardest - and that's wrong. The fees need to go.

Of course, the Daily World reporter who wrote this story just had to go to Tim Eyman to get Tim's opinion:
Tim Eyman is against Kessler’s notion that the Montana-style plan would be a good alternative. He’s already drafting an initiative to ensure that vehicle owners only pay $30 to renew their tabs.

“Her legislation is just a sneaky attempt to get around the voters’ twice-approved $30 vehicle tabs,” Eyman wrote in an e-mail to The Daily World Tuesday. “Such legislation will eventually ‘morph’ into another tax increase on vehicles. We’re going to spend all of 2006 fighting to save our $30 tabs and arrogant legislation like that proposed by Kessler will simply pour gasoline on the fire of enthusiasm for ‘Save Our $30 Tabs’ initiative.”
We're sick of you and your lies, Tim. YOU ARE THE REASON why the state doesn't have enough money to avoid charging user fees at state parks! Your initiatives are a threat to our quality of life.

It's regrettable that the media keeps going to Eyman to get quotes for news stories like this. Every time he's given the opportunity, he uses it to promote his initiatives. Eyman won't ever talk about the consequences of his initiatives. He won't talk about what should be cut. He is a coward. An irresponsible coward.

What makes us even angrier is that Tim keeps getting column after column in newspapers across the state. In response to Eyman's two columns this week, we released the following to Washington State media outlets today:
This organization - the membership and leadership of Permanent Defense - is getting pretty tired of the special treatment that Tim Eyman keeps getting from Washington State media outlets. Today, Tim has a column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, entitled "2006 initiative: Save our $30 tabs." Just yesterday, the Everett Herald ran the very same column for Tim, entitled: "Politicians should be held to their word on $30 tabs". Why are media outlets going out of their way to give Eyman special treatment?

The members of this organization would like to know why.

It's been said that the media is not very good at telling people what to think, but is good at telling people what to think about. The power to set the agenda. To decide what is "buzz" and what is not. This organization is fairly confident that the media understands who Tim Eyman is and what he wants.

His goal is to destroy government. And his philosophy (if you can call it that) is well summarized in this quote from national right wing activist Grover Norquist, who famously stated: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years - to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Eyman's initiatives are all attempts to reduce the size and scope of government in some way. Not just state government, but local government, too. Most of his initiatives have been proposals to drastically cut back taxes, which has an immediate and significant effect on the ability of government to deliver quality public services to its citizens.

Year after year, editorial boards and commentators across Washington have opined against nearly every one of these initiatives, concluding that they will not lead to a healthier Evergreen State.

Despite this, Eyman keeps getting the attention he wants and needs to remain influential. In fact, Tim has probably received more media exposure than any other politician in the state, save for the Governor.

Whenever Eyman wants to "announce" a new initiative effort, the Associated Press usually has an article about it. Whenever Eyman calls a press conference in Olympia, the major TV stations (KOMO, KING, KIRO, KCPQ) usually send their cameras over to the Capitol campus to cover it, and then those stations run the clips during their five o'clock broadcasts. When Eyman submits columns to newspapers, they usually get printed. We know because we keep seeing them.

Reprinted below is a blog post from the Chair that was printed on the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog last May 4th (the Northwest Progressive Institute, or NPI, is Permanent Defense's parent organization). This post still rings true today:

[We are] appalled that Tim Eyman has managed to secure as much free publicity as he has in recent days.

He's played the state's op-ed pages like a fiddle. He has a column this morning in the Seattle Times and yesterday he had one in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Not to mention columns in the Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, and Wenatchee World, all in recent days.

Eyman doesn't deserve any of this. He's accomplished nothing during the last two to three years, and yet he is treated by editorial page editors like royalty. [Note: After this was written in May, Eyman's I-900 did pass in November, although I-912, which Eyman tried to latch onto, failed. Still, that's a 1 for 5 record for all of his initiatives since the end of 2002, not counting Initiative 912.]

The state's op-ed pages can do better. Tim is less than a mediocre writer - he's a pitiful, lousy writer. His columns are nothing more than recycled talking points from his e-mails coupled with ranting and rambling at the courage of elected officials to do what it takes to tackle our state's toughest problems.

Tim would destroy all of that. If he gets his way, we'll be mired in deficits and stuck in gridlock for decades to come - not to mention our communities will deteriorate.

Unless he is refuted, people will buy his talk because the temptation to think only of one's pocketbook is simply too great. Unless people understand the profound consequences, they will be won over.

Tim has a gift for deception and salesmanship. He'll use that gift to the full extent possible. He's good at getting people to think only in their self-interest and forget about the needs and benefits of living in a community.

The newspaper editors that printed Tim's columns should be ashamed for falling over each other and giving Tim space to write column after column. Three of the papers even ran the same column - one of Tim's rehashed e-mails.

Why reward a paid politician like Tim with column after column when Eyman hasn't even achieved anything? He's 0 for 4 in his last four attempt to pass an initiative. Apparently, his failures haven't affected his media clout very much yet.

The op-ed pages of our newspapers are too valuable to waste on people like Tim. Newspaper editors should get some real local talent for their op-ed pages, or get guest commentary from local officials and state legislators.

While we're on this topic, I thought I'd share this advice from the Seattle Times Company for op-ed writers:

DON'T submit the same piece to different papers at the same time. Editors hate to see a piece on their desk appear in a nearby paper. As a general rule, ride one horse at a time.

Apparently, that isn't true because three different editors for three different newspapers each approved Tim's rehashed email as a column in their respective newspapers. [And it just happened again this month, December 2005.]

And then, after Tim had gotten four other columns in four other newspapers (in quick succession), the Seattle Times was willing to give him a fifth. It's absolutely ridiculous.

If Evergreen State newspapers are willing to so freely give Tim all this op-ed space, they should allow opponents - including us - the same amount of space for a response. Most newspapers are known to pride themselves on allowing both sides of an issue to present their viewpoints and arguments.

If they won't do that, then the current state of Washington's newspapers is op-ed pages is very regrettable.
It is time that regional media outlets stopped giving Tim Eyman so much special attention. There is no good reason why he should be awarded with column after column after column. There is no good reason why the press needs to feel obligated to cover him every single time he wants to announce a new initiative effort.

Why not instead put a greater emphasis on giving more people, especially those active within their neighborhood communities, a chance to express their views? The Evergreen State is home to about six million people. There are surely many Washingtonians (and many issues) that are far more worthy of the attention than Tim Eyman. The media should be diversifying its political coverage instead of catering to him.
The release speaks for itself. We cannot sit by idly and continue to watch the media treat Eyman with such favoritism. We will continue to stand up and fight the ignorance that Eyman represents in 2006.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Greg Rodriguez withdraws nomination for state party chair

Greg Rodriguez has posted a letter to his website announcing his withdrawal from the race:
Dear Democrat,

Today I am announcing my decision not to seek the position of Chair for the Washington State Democrats. I have been extremely flattered and encouraged at the support I have received over the past weeks, but after some new developments in my partner's job situation, my son's schooling (these being the primary reasons), some very deep thinking, and talking with family and friends, I do not feel I would be the best choice at this time. I apologize to those of you who have supported my campaign and want you to know this has been a very difficult decision.

It is extremely important that we have a smooth transition in leadership for this Party and I fear that would not happen if I were to be elected. Many of the same forces that campaigned against me last year with questions about my surname, my financial abilities as County Chair and my sexuality (all of which were baseless or meaningless) are continuing the same tactics this year. While I am not one to run away from a fight, and feel this type of politicking should end, this race has never been about me but what is best for the Party. I think stepping aside is what's best for the Party and the new developments in my family.

To this day, I do not know what I have done to some members of this Party that make them so fearful and sometimes downright undermining in my quest to help make this Party stronger. I deeply admire those who have come before me and I am often saddened at some of the tactics used. What I do know is that the next State Chair needs to be able to utilize these people for transition and I know I would not have their support going forward.

At this time I am not actively supporting one candidate over another but do have some points I would like the new Chair to consider. I hope that you will agree with many of them and will insist that our Party undertakes them no matter who the chair is. These ideas are not mine, but are what I have heard over the past 5 years of Party involvement and still continued to hear during this campaign.

First and foremost we must run our Party in a more business like fashion. We need to provide our Districts and counties with up-to-date and efficient communications, lists and training resources. We must find and hire the most professional people and insist on the utmost levels of ethics and accountability. The thoughts and ideas of the Eboard, Chairs, and caucus leaders should be listened to and acted upon much more than they have been. Decisions should be made collaboratively and not done in back rooms and assumed that everyone will go along with them.

We must improve our voter file and technology presence. It is true we have one of the most advanced systems in the country, but that does not mean we should rest on our laurels. We must utilize the people that have the technological know how and who have offered support to this Party (but have been turned away) to make our system better and more user-friendly. Our website must be translated into Spanish and other languages as well as any printed materials we develop.

We have to pay more attention to our Democrats outside the I-5 corridor. This means in rural and urban places on both sides of the mountains. We will never regain a Democratic stronghold if we write these places off. It will not happen over night, but we must find ways to get our message out, recruit and train candidates, and work with our local County and District organizations to strengthen the Democratic base across this state. In addition, we must utilize all of our caucuses, our friends in labor, choice and peace groups, environment and yes even business to craft and deliver messages appropriate to the different demographics and geographies of the State of Washington .

We need to develop a Party leadership mentoring program and learn how to encourage our youth to take on more positions of leadership. We must end the politics of personal and organizational destruction that occurs even within our own Party. This will get us nowhere and in fact has caused people to leave the Party organizations in this State. While so many of our goals in this Party may be different, we have far more that are the same and should work more and more to find that common ground and assist our rising stars and growing organizations in achieving their fullest potential.

While I have heard even more ways in which we can become a better Party these are what have been voiced the most of over the last two years. I can not tell you how great it has been to travel across this state and see the real energy and desire to make a difference. I will still continue to stay involved. This decision does not mean my devotion and my future help with the Party is ending. I hope I can play some sort of role in conjunction with the new leadership.

With recent developments I feel my primary duties must be turned to my children's disabilities and how I can help them, and others like them, succeed as their lives move forward. I am fortunate to serve on the Governor's Developmental Disabilities Council and will look for ways to expand that role as well.

Again, this was not an easy decision and I know I have let some of you down. I have the utmost confidence that some of the remaining candidates will serve you well. I believe this is an opportunity for new leadership and new directions. It will be my hope that you will all help in that direction. I wish you all the best in 2006.

Greg
We respect Greg's decision to withdraw and wish him the best. We thank him for offering his insight as to where the party needs to go, and we concur that there are many areas that need attention.

The two main candidates in the race for state party chair are now Dwight Pelz and Phil Talmadge.

Most people know that Dwight recently ran against Richard McIver for Seattle City Council. He is just finishing up a term on the King County Council. Dwight also was an early supporter of Howard Dean. Previously, he was a state senator and director of WA Citizen Action.

Phil Talmadge has previously served on the state supreme court and made a run for Governor in 2004. He was the first candidate in the race but later withdrew after Gregoire and Sims announced due to health concerns.

Both Dwight and Phil have good reputations and it'll be interesting to see how the race for state party chair plays out.

KIRO fires Mike Webb

At last, he's gone from the airwaves:
Liberal radio talk-show host Mike Webb has been fired from his job at KIRO radio after he was charged earlier this month with making a fraudulent insurance claim.

A spokesman for KIRO confirmed today that Webb, who pleaded not guilty to the felony charge last week, is no longer with parent company Entercom and will no longer have a show on KIRO.

Attempts to reach Webb or his attorney for comment this morning were unsuccessful.
We hope a better progressive host takes his place.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Payback for Arctic Refuge filibuster?

Ted Stevens, I'm coming to your state on this one. The minute they could no longer use it as a bargaining chip, Republicans in Congress cut badly needed help for low-income households to heat their homes this winter. The director of CBPP Robert Greenstein called it:

"Even though there is bipartisan support in Congress for providing LIHEAP [Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program] funds, congressional leaders stripped those funds out of the defense bill the minute they could no longer use them to help get ANWR enacted."
While a small piece of the LIHEAP money was attached to Arctic drilling, $2 billion was not. Both were stripped.

The Republican leadership may be delivering payback. They sure lined up to blow smoke over cutting vital assistance just before Christmas. Senator Rick Santorum's office said, "Democrats stripped out the $2 billion in LIHEAP money because it would have been funded by revenues from oil drilling in ANWR." Does this guy have any credibility left?

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)was quoted as saying ANWR drilling was the source of funds for the entire utility assistance. Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the only way Congress could have found extra money was through a new revenue source. What is it called when people who know better make statements that are not true?

A spokesman for Dennis Hastert attacked Senate Democrats for delaying passage of a separate piece of legislation — the budget reconciliation bill that would cut Medicaid, student loans, child support enforcement, and other programs — by procedural means which forces another vote in the House. The Hastert spokesman, Ron Bonjean, said this action would delay the provision of money to help low-income families pay their heating bills. Bogus. The only money for heating assistance contained in the budget reconciliation bill is funding for 2007.

The Republicans blocked LIHEAP from other bills, preferring to use it as a sweetener, first for the budget reconciliation bill then, when that passed the House floor, moving the money to the defense appropriation bill with ANWR. Two weeks ago Bush & Co. rejected attempts to update food stamp benefits to reflect higher heating bills and hence less money for food, claiming the adjustment was unnecessary because more LIHEAP funds were on the way. Sure, George.

Now Congress has left town with no action. Worse, because of the 1% across-the-board cut in discretionary funding, there will actually be LESS MONEY IN THE LIHEAP FUND, PRECISELY WHEN HEATING BILLS ARE SPIKING.

These people are running the country!

See the whole sick thing at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

A look back at the year

A quick update:

Starting on Thursday, we'll be doing a special series taking a look back at 2005 and what we accomplished this year. Then, after the new year, we'll continue to move forward. We have ambitious plans for 2006 and we're ready for the challenges that next year will bring.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Upside Down at the Fed

I despised Alan Greenspan long before it was fashionable. Most recently it was for his disingenuous explanation of why the Bush tax cuts for the rich were okay. We might run out of safe investments, he said, if we paid off the debt too fast. Horrors! The government would be forced to purchase equities. Imagine the temptation to corruption. Well, the retirement of the federal debt has been pushed off for another millennium, anyway. Problem solved, thanks to Greenspan and the Bush economic blunder machine.

Before that was his hiking of interest rates in the late 1990s at the same time energy prices were spiking. This caused the economy to stall as much as the bursting of the stock market bubble, and far more than 9-11.

It was back in the 1980s, though, when I first learned to distrust him. Greenspan chaired a Social Security Salvation Committee (not its true title) which pompously proposed hiking payroll taxes to protect social security from the coming demographic aging of America. Simultaneously fellow Republican Ronald Reagan was cutting income taxes. The result was a shift of the tax burden down onto working people. (And as we now see Social Security is no safer.)

But the thing that really gives me a rash every time he does it is Greenspan's use of the interest rate to fight inflation. This practice is likely to continue under the next chairman, unfortunately. It's like treating a hangnail with doses of radiation.

There are two basic kinds of inflation, cost-push inflation and demand-pull inflation. Cost-push is where producer costs go up and suppliers are forced to pass these costs along to their customers. The classic case is with energy prices. Transportation and production costs are directly tied to energy prices. These costs get embedded in everything from airline fares to the price of bread. (Only direct purchases of fuel are excluded from the so-called "core inflation" calculations.) Not surprisingly, cost-push inflation is associated with stagnation. Stagflation.

The second type, demand-pull inflation, occurs when there are too many dollars chasing too few goods. This occurred after World War II when pent-up demand rushed into a private marketplace that was not geared up for it. It occurred again during Viet Nam, when Lyndon Johnson ran his Great Society projects at the same time as the war. ("Guns and butter," it was called then.) Demand-pull is where buyers essentially bid up the price of goods. Not surprisingly, demand-pull is associated with booms in the economy.

Raising interest rates is useful only in the case of demand-pull inflation, since it increases costs and suppresses demand. Yet the Fed uses it for both. This was a great tragedy in the massive recession of the early 1980s. The Fed's hike in interest costs combined with the OPEC spike in oil prices to send the country into the deepest recession since the Great One. But increasing interest in cost-push situations only increases costs, and thus adds to, rather than subtracting from, the inflation phenomenon. [Before you start yelling, yes, I know the mechanism the Fed used was restricting the money supply, but the effect was felt in interest rates.]

At the end of that day in the 1980s, inflation did fall, but only after oil prices had fallen. Left on the battlefield were millions of unwilling inflation fighters, an army of jobless men and women whose lives would never be the same. The period of high interest and expensive dollars that began then led directly to the de-industrialization of America and the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs. In Washington, generals Reagan and Paul Volcker (Fed Chairman) congratulated themselves on their sacrifice. Of course, neither had been out of a job for a single day.
Alan Greenspan took the reins of the Fed from Volcker in the mid-1980s, and since then (insofar as he has been consistent) Greenspan has continued the tradition and raised interest rates whenever his tea leaves tell him inflation is coming. For many years this was when unemployment got too low. Yes, this was the explicit official position, that low unemployment would create demand that would drive up prices. The theoretical formula was NAIRU -- the "non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment," a rate which if crossed would somehow loose the demons not only of inflation, but of accelerating inflation. Once upon the land these demons would create grisly outcomes, which never quite clearly identified.

The concept of NAIRU was thoroughly debunked by Nobelist Robert Eisner in the early 1990s and subsequently exposed by the experience of the late Clinton years, when unemployment tickled its historic lows and yet inflation stayed dormant. Yet this period also corresponded with the height of Greenspan's popularity, when he was touted as Maestro. Periodically he messed with the rate and when no inflation occurred he pronounced himself pleased, and the public congratulated him for the result. It was not unlike the man who wore cabbage leaves in his hat and when asked why, replied "To repel elephants." "There are no elephants around here," he was told. "Works pretty good, eh?"

In the end we were to discover, however, that Maestro Magoo relies only on the politically expedient theory and his obtuse remarks are often no more than camouflage, or more aptly, smoke. Over time, the exercise has worked well for Greenspan personally, resulting in a record term in office. Unfortunately, in combination with the Bush evisceration of common sense, it has not been such a happy result for the economy as a whole. The current system is dangerously imbalanced, domestically and globally. Like the retirement of the federal debt, the prospect of economic stability and a society that relies on earning, not borrowing, lies far, far in the future.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah

Tomorrow is Christmas Day, and the first day of Hanukkah - the Jewish festival of lights. For those of you will be observing either holiday, please accept best wishes from all of us at NPI.

Other than short greeting tomorrow, we'll be on break from posting for the rest of the weekend.

Leadership has arrived.

Chris Gregoire is a much better governor than the last one we had. Her new budget is responsible, forward-looking, and on point. There has been some whining in the press about the general absence of strong leadership among Democrats. They aren't talking about this state's governor.

I haven't gone through the whole budget document yet, but it looks to me like she's picking up where she left off last session. If politics is the art of the possible, she's a great politician, because she got everything possible out of that legislature. She took revenue where it was politically feasible and funded the class size and teacher COLA initiatives. That was the right thing to do, for the voters, for the teachers, for the kids, and to set up the next advances.

I don't want to say, "Shame on Gary Locke for not doing that," but I do want to say there is new strength and purpose now sitting in the Governor's mansion.

The new budget is responsible. Of an anticipated $1.4 billion surplus, almost $600 million goes into reserve accounts for pension, health care and education costs. Over $300 million goes to more and less restricted reserve accounts. An additional $38 plus million goes to help high schoolers graduate. The budget creates a cabinet-level Department of Early Learning. This, plus the attention to health care and the action on transportation from last session demonstrates she is sticking to the core missions of state government.

The "strong economy" which generated these numbers was tardy in arriving (three years into the "recovery") and is based on housing construction, which feeds the revenue stream pretty good. The governor's caution in spending the surplus is well-placed, because it may not happen, and if it does, it could well be followed by a large popping sound. (housing permits were up 18% in 2005. Next year, even the Forecast Council's optimistic forecast is for only a 2.5% rise. Pessimistic, a drop of nearly 15%.) Add to this the fact that the revenue architecture itself is structurally inadequate to the foreseeable demands, and caution is definitely called for.

The biodiesel project got a lot of ink, and it's a good concept economically. It substitutes Washington-made product for Alaska-made product. I understand it is not an environmental program, since the same greenhouse gases are produced, but it should be good economically for Eastern Washington. A better plan economically and environmentally would be to expand and develop rail capacity, substituting efficient infrastructure for oil.

Cleaning up Puget Sound. What a concept. This is a leadership move, mobilizing pride and conscience to do what citizens know is right. Gregoire seems to have her ducks in a row on the plan. It's something that could generate a culture of environmental responsibility. Inspiring.

Comment: This is government cleaning up after private property owners and commercial enterprises. If the market were working right, the costs of this clean-up would have been generated by the actors who caused the problem, but the market doesn't work so good that way. The market transactions are long over with, the cash is in someone else's hand, and the government has to come along and pick up the tab. Who do you think whines most about taxes? Business and property owners.

A similar situation exists on a much larger scale with the burning of fossil fuels. Climate change and pollution mitigation costs will be enormous. But the transaction includes nothing for that. The price of a gallon of gas pays Exxon for the extraction, refining and distribution and pays the government for building roads. The easily anticipated and tremendous environmental costs completely escape the market transaction. If they were included, gas would be as expensive as it is in Europe, but the market would function. Otherwise we are simply subsidizing destructive activities.

I'm not sure about the Life Sciences Discovery Fund. It sounds a little like picking winners and losers. I haven't read the details, but the more it benefits existing state-operated research and facilities and the less it gives tax breaks to the sexy industry du jour, the more I will like it.

Technology Section Updated

We added some more information to the technology section concerning Sony-BMG and its illegal spyware (the rootkit) which allows the media conglomerate to spy on its customers, and also puts the computers the spyware is installed on at much greater risk for exploitation. Included in the update are links to other relevant websites such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sen. Ted Stevens: Cantwell's campaign MVP

Yesterday morning, in reaction to seeing Sen. Ted Stevens' threats to his Senate colleagues, I wrote the following:
Listen up, Ted. We here in the Evergreen State are sick of your attacks on our senator and our state. We're tired of your sellout to the oil companies and your handouts for corporations. We don't want you here. You're not welcome.

Don't even bother showing up, because most Washingtonians don't agree with you. Take your vitirol somewhere else, because we're not interested in listening to it. You're a whiner and a shill for big oil companies.

You expect to come here and get a receptive audience after you introduced an attempt to repeal the Magnuson Amendment? Sorry. We don't listen to people who try to shaft our state and our region.

We're tired of your political games. Bluster on all you want. We'll keep fighting to make sure that the Arctic Wildlife Refuge is never opened to drilling. And should you decide to come to the Evergreen State, we'll do our best to make sure your stay is unpleasant.
I was amused to find that just about everyone took this post rather seriously. But it was pretentious outrage. I wrote the post as a joke, then had second thoughts about posting it because I was pretty sure no one would get it. But another NPI member urged me to post it, because we'd get a great reaction. Sure enough - we did. A sampling of the responses from the comment thread:
Doesn't Seattle sit along a fault line????? One can only hope!

[...]

I say welcome to Ted Stevens!! Maybe then this state will wake up and lose the losers, Cantwell and Murray. While your at it may as well blast away at "Baghdad" Jim McDermott.

One last thing. "Save the Rain Forest, Burn a Liberal!!.

[...]

Hey ****HEAD!! YOU DON'T SPEAK FORE ME, I KNOW YOU THINK YOU DO, AND BESIDES CANTWELL IS A ****ING ****!
MERRY ****ING CHRISTMAS!!

[...]

Hey Hey, Hee Hee, A RED STATE we soon will be!

Long live Washington.

[...]

Who has the stupidest team of Senators? The clueless duo from California or the pathetic dumbasses from Washington? Both have strong cases for the title. Also let's not leave out of consideration those Dumb and Dumber freaks from Massachusetts.

[...]

I suspect Maria doesn't care about any of this at all ... her goal is to get her name back in the minds of Washington voters BEFORE Mike McGavick gets out there and shows his strengths in comparison to her 5+ years of treading water in DC.

Ted, bring it on! And please, join Mike early and often in his campaign against our second current and useless senator from this formerly great state of Washington.

[...]

Seems like the majority who wrote in here think it's a good idea to drill in ANWAR, and so do I. You guys blamed Bush for the high price of gas, you should blame the left!!!

[...]

Maria, you just burned that bridge. How can you be effective with an enemy like Stevens? Say good bye Maria... Maybe something at Realnetworks for you? Your coffers are rather shallow now.
The second to last comment was made by "Kaz", who apparently doesn't know that polling indicates a sizable majority are against drilling in the Refuge. The last commenter was just plain stupid. "Burned that bridge", indeed. As if Cantwell even had a bridge to begin with.

(By the way, we do not allow swearing in our comment threads. David Goldstein lets trolls run wild on HorsesAss, but that kind of language is not tolerated here. There is no need for it. We have temporarily turned comment moderation on to ensure that wingnut profanity can be deleted.)

Seriously, Senator Stevens' attacks on our state are actually quite beneficial - and what's funny is that good old Ted doesn't seem to realize it.

Angered by Maria Cantwell's attempt to hold Big Oil accountable (with her price gouging legislation, and request to have oil executives sworn in when testifying before the Senate Energy Committee) and angered by her leadership in stopping his Arctic drilling scheme, Stevens recently introduced legislation (in November) that would overturn the Magnuson Amendment.

The amendment, which the venerable Democratic senator designed in 1977, limits the number of oil tankers entering Puget Sound. The limits were intended to protect the Sound and its marine-mammal life from oil spills.

Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly pointed out in one his columns last month that Stevens was shooting himself in the foot and setting up Cantwell with a nice title: "Defender of the Sound". Indeed, hardly has an individual been more helpful to Cantwell's reelection campaign than good old Ted.

Conservatives, did you take a glance at the layout of newspaper front pages across Washington State yesterday? Guess how many of them had Cantwell's picture? The Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I even carried the same AP photograph of her.

Stevens wants to come here and trash Senator Cantwell? He wants to come here and make his case for why we need more corporate giveaways and handouts for oil companies? Well, we're not going to stand his way - we can't stop him from coming here anyway.

But as we said, he won't find a receptive audience. Washingtonians are keenly aware of how fragile the environment is, and how important it is that we safeguard our remaining wildernesses.

Stevens will, however, succeed in continuing to boost Maria Cantwell's reelection efforts. Every time he reintroduces his Arctic drilling scheme in the Senate - and fails to get it passed - he hands Cantwell another victory.

Stevens wants to come here? We certainly won't be complaining. So,as much as we don't like him, we certainly have to admit - he's great for the campaign effort.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

One year ago today...Gregoire won

And to think, it was all just one year ago...Here's an entry from the NPI Official Blog one year ago, on December 22nd, 2004:
Gregoire wins
BREAKING NEWS: King County certifies results in race for governor

Democrat Christine Gregoire has won Washington's race for governor by 130 votes, with King County's final hand-recount tally complete.

The county accepted 565 of the 732 additional ballots as having valid signatures -- 311 went for Gregoire and 191 for Rossi. The others either went for Ruth Bennett or didn't have a vote for governor or the person marked multiple candidates.

Election officials from Seattle's King County convened Thursday to begin counting 732 mistakenly discarded ballots that have widened Democrat Christine Gregoire's lead in Washington's incredibly tight race for governor.

So it's over. And it's time to move on. Christine Gregoire has won the governor's race. Rossi should concede immediately. This is the final recount: there isn't going to be another one. Speaking of which, Progressive Majority Washington is asking you to join them in asking Rossi to concede.
One year ago today, Christine Gregoire won the 2004 gubernatorial race. What a political drama that was.

More from one year ago:
King crowns Gregoire
King County reports; Gregoire on top by 10 votes

King County has reported +59 votes for Gregoire, giving Gregoire the overall lead in the statewide manual recount by 10 votes. This does not count the 725 ballots the Supreme Court said can be counted.

The 10 vote reversal is a stunning development in this two month old saga: finally, now, Christine Gregoire is winning the governor's race! And her lead should increase with the counting of those formerly disputed ballots tomorrow.

The especially good news about all of this is it shows Democrats are willing to stand and fight. We won't be intimidated by the GOP....No more stolen elections! Christine Gregoire has held on for almost two months now - and we believe she will emerge from this as our state's Governor.
Yes, it was just one year ago that the State Supreme Court ruled unanimously to reverse a Pierce County Superior Court ruling that barred King County from counting 573 ballots that had been disputed by Republicans. And it was just one year ago that King County finally finished a manual hand recount that capped a month and a half of political turmoil and uncertainty over who had been elected Governor.

Other blogs that reported on the events of December 22nd, 2004: HorsesAss, Washington State Political Report, Progressive Majority Washington, Upper Left

Real Tax Reform

Washington's B&O tax is so bad that lawmakers won't touch it for fear it will fall apart completely.

The Business & Occupation Tax is a gross sales tax, meaning it is charged on the full value of every transaction, regardless of anything. Regardless of cost, so the effective tax on income is different for every business. Regardless of how many times the product has already been taxed, so this pyramiding overtaxes in-state companies and undertaxes out-of-state and large, vertically integrated companies. Regardless of investment or market position, so new and developing and investing companies are penalized, as well as small, homegrown companies. Just the thing for economic development, don't you think?

The first recommendation in the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Study (Gates Commission) was to scrap the B&O entirely and replace it with a subtraction method value added tax. This recommendation preceded the much-ballyhooed call for a personal income tax. The Washington State League of Women Voters' State Tax Reform Update calls for a switch from gross sales to net sales. Both are designed to eliminate the pain and economic problems of taxing gross sales.

This can be done. It can be done in the context of reforming the B&O. It can be done and result in a relatively painless net increase in revenue of perhaps $1 billion per year. It can be done without major new bureaucracy. It can be done in a way that could eliminate the current special tax exemptions, or at least the rationale for them.

A full and detailed outline of just such a plan, developed by yours truly and Don Hopps, of the Institute for Washington's Future, is available online at the Effective Fiscal Policy Project. I wish I could tell you it was a work of genius, but it is really just the shortest distance between two points. The reason it hasn't been picked up in Olympia has more to do, I think, as much with the radioactive nature of the word "tax" as anything.

The B&O is a business tax. This reform makes it a rational business tax. As a business tax, it ought not to be as vulnerable to attack from the Eyman vigilantes. This would make the weakest link in Washington's tax structure into the strongest. It would be pro-competitive for Washington-based businesses. It would raise revenue largely by closing down the advantages now enjoyed by out-of-state suppliers and vertically integrated megaretailers like WalMart. And believe it or not, it is simple, as simple as significant tax reform can be. We simply subtract purchases from other tax-paying businesses from the current gross sales base. The six different rates of the current tax become one. The tax becomes rational. We don't even have to change the name.

Progressive Candidate Alert! This plan is good for small business. The current form includes a $100,000 standard deduction that would drop most small businesses from the tax rolls. Being independent would no longer mean having a higher effective tax rate.

Currently small business groups seem to be captive to the anti-tax conservative right that really serve larger businesses. Under this proposal tax incentives would be available for beneficial activities, not to the actors who are able to marshal political backing in Olympia.

Update in the race for state party chair

So there are reports out there that the "fix is in" on who's going to win the race for state party chair. I've heard a few sources tell me that they're pretty sure Dwight Pelz is going to triumph no matter what, but I'll believe that when I see it. The theory is that Pelz has the backing from key people (like Paul Berendt, who I predicted would give Pelz his endorsement) that a candidate would need to win.

Running against Pelz is Greg Rodriguez. I've personally endorsed Greg, and I have no regrets about doing that. Anyone who's followed NPI over the last few months knows that Greg did an admirable job serving as treasurer for Washington Defense (NPI's campaign to defeat Initiative 912) and he's definitely earned my endorsement. I don't know Dwight Pelz, and if he wins, I would hope he doesn't harbor a grudge towards people who backed someone else for party chair.

If Pelz wins, I hope he'll prove himself to be a good chair, by striving for party unity and not party division.

I've also heard a couple other people have decided to run for chair, but I haven't heard anything further about that, so we'll see.

David Goldstein points out this morning that there's something else we'd like from the new state party chair:
However, I do want something from the new chair: innovation and access. Paul Berendt and the Dems did a great job fighting the legal battle in last year’s election contest, but they and the Gregoire campaign/administration did an absolutely disastrous job fighting the PR war. This time last year I was often beside myself with frustration at the lack of cooperation (and effort) coming from the party and the campaign, as they got their asses kicked by the relentless media war launched by the BIAW and the Republicans through paid media, talk radio, the right-wing blogs, and the rest of their media infrastructure.
We agree completely with this statement. The entire reason that NPI set up Pacific Northwest Portal in January of 2005 was to counter what we saw as a massive void. Republicans were out in force on every front in their public relations war to savage Gregoire and Democrats. The local talk shows (especially on KVI) were on fire, the BIAW was sending out postcards touting Orbusmax and (un)SoundPolitics, and the Republicans were slamming newspaper and TV reporters with a barrage of news releases and press conferences, attacking King County Elections, Ron Sims, and of course Christine Gregoire.

We knew something needed to be done. And we starting developing the blueprint for Pacific Northwest Portal. The Portal was meant to serve as a gateway to reality based news and views - not only to activists, but also to the media. It has served its role admirably, and has become even more useful since we launched it, thanks to a never ending series of upgrades.

Things have improved vastly. The state party's communications staff is now sending press releases to bloggers (thank you very much) and having a dialogue with us. The state party's website, in fact, even has a link to Pacific Northwest Portal.

Communications are important. You can have an outsanding legal team but still lose in the court of public opinion. And Gregoire's current approval ratings reflect that Republicans prevailed in the several month public relations war over who really won the Governor's race.

So what do bloggers want? We want a chair who will pay attention to the progressive blogosphere, keep an open ear, an open mind, and an open heart, and somebody who will embrace party unity and friendship with all Democrats.

Dumping the term "mainstream media"

Kos makes a good point in one of his postings today:
Maybe I'll write more about this later, but I hate the phrase "mainstream media". What a dumb-ass label. This site gets more visitors than many cable news shows and newspapers. So how are they "mainstream", and this site isn't?

If I may posit a neutral (non-political) alternative: the Traditional Media. That's what I'll be using from now on.
Anyone who's read Don't Think of an Elephant also knows that George Lakoff has documented that progressive values are in fact not out of the "mainstream" of American political thought at all. So why are we referring to newspapers, TV and (some) radio stations as "mainstream" media?

To do so implies that we are extremists. We don't see ourselves as extremists, so that doesn't make any sense. From now on, we'll be using the term "traditional media" as well, to describe newspapers, magazines, TV, and (some) radio.

Just to be clear, conservative news "organizations" like FOX and the Weekly Standard are not "traditional media" even though they use traditional mediums. That's because they're clearly biased towards one political point of view.

Over the last century, we've developed a tradition of seperating news (reporting) and views (editorials) with most news organizations striving for objectivity. With the advent of the Republican Noise Machine, though, a new kind of media has emerged (or, reemerged) - media which has a partisan slant.

Now, we do not claim on this blog to be objective, or unbiased. We don't believe our job is to report "both sides of the story." That's a big difference between us and the traditional media (which we'll abbreviate to TDM).

Conservatives will disagree with this statement (of course) but we don't distort the truth. We have opinions, but they're based on facts. If we are wrong, we believe in making corrections. The other side also has opinions, but they're often not based on facts. And they don't believe in corrections because it'd make them look weak. (Ever seen O'Reilly correct himself after lying?)

So from now on, we're done using the term "mainstream media". It's "traditional media" from now on.

UPDATE: Others are suggesting replacing mainstream media with "corporate media", or "conventional media" or "legacy media", or "infotainment". Those are interesting ideas but we'll stick with "traditional media" for now, for the reasons we explained above.

Michael Bloomberg is acting like a jerk

You're not helping things one bit, Mr. Mayor:
"This illegal and selfish strike needs to end and it needs to end now," said Bloomberg.

He said union officials who say they're fighting for workers are "frauds."
What an arrogant jerk! For all Michael Bloomberg cares, New York's transit workers should just get shafted with a bad contract. Why does he have to be disrespectful? What does he think he gains?

This is why we have unions in the first place. To stop workers from getting trampled on. The strike is now over, and it looks like the situation is improving. The M.T.A. appears to need new leadership, however.

Had the M.T.A.'s top guns not thrown a monkey wrench into the last stage of the earlier negotiations (by making absurd demands about pensions) the union might have never even called the strike.

The M.T.A. needs to be more reasonable. And Michael Bloomberg needs to pull his head out of his rear end and stop acting like a jerk.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens threatens Cantwell

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is predictably angry that his scheme to attach a provision allowing drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge failed yesterday. So angry that he's planning to try and get revenge on those who voted against him:
Stevens took the Senate floor Wednesday night and continued to attack drilling opponents, suggesting money generated by drilling would have paid for homeland-security programs and disaster relief.

"I'm going to go to every one of your states, and I'm going to tell them what you've done," he told colleagues who voted against the measure. "You've taken away from homeland security the one source of revenue that was new ... I'm sure that the senator from Washington [Cantwell] will enjoy my visits to Washington."
The P-I has a similar report this morning:
"I will go to every state and tell them what you've done," Stevens said, his anger rising with each word. In a break from Senate tradition, he mentioned Cantwell by name several times. "I will go to Washington state many, many times. I'm going to explain the bill to everybody in the country."
Listen up, Ted. We here in the Evergreen State are sick of your attacks on our senator and our state. We're tired of your sellout to the oil companies and your handouts for corporations. We don't want you here. You're not welcome.

Don't even bother showing up, because most Washingtonians don't agree with you. Take your vitirol somewhere else, because we're not interested in listening to it. You're a whiner and a shill for big oil companies.

You expect to come here and get a receptive audience after you introduced an attempt to repeal the Magnuson Amendment? Sorry. We don't listen to people who try to shaft our state and our region.

We're tired of your political games. Bluster on all you want. We'll keep fighting to make sure that the Arctic Wildlife Refuge is never opened to drilling. And should you decide to come to the Evergreen State, we'll do our best to make sure your stay is unpleasant.

UPDATE: And despite the fact that several Orbusmax visitors disagree with us, we still hold that a majority of Washingtonians don't want Ted Stevens and his attitude here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NPI looking for healthcare policy expert

Know somebody who's an expert on healthcare and healthcare policy? We're looking for progressives who have at least a fair amount of knowledge about this topic and would like to share their expertise by joining the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI).

If you believe you qualify for this description, or know somebody who does, please send us a message and let us know.

Cantwell praised for blocking Alaska drilling plan

Senator Maria Cantwell's successful efforts to protect the Arctic Wildlife Refuge from being exploited and developed by oil companies have not gone unnoticed by the environmental community.

The League of Conservation Voters has released a statement thanking Senator Cantwell for her tireless work, and for standing up to Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who is the main proponent of the drilling scheme in the Senate. The LCV's statement:
We applaud Sen. Maria Cantwell for successfully leading the fight to reject this shameful political attempt to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Today's vote to protect the Arctic represents the triumph of democracy over greed. Cynical attempts to hold hostage funds to support our troops, offer relief to hurricane ravaged states and warm the cold, old and poor in order to benefit a select few failed before our eyes.

In addition, Sen. Cantwell's ongoing efforts to prevent unneeded and dirty drilling in our pristine wilderness areas is another example of her commitment to fighting for Washington families and standing up to the big oil companies – because drilling in the Arctic will not lower gas prices or reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil.

LCV praises those members who stood with the majority of the American people in rejecting this abuse of power and protecting one of our national treasures. And Rest assured, LCV will keep close tabs on those public servants who ignored the wishes of the majority of Americans and sided with big oil special interests.
When Democrats fight, Democrats can win. By refusing to give in, Senator Cantwell has made possible a great victory that once again stops drilling proponents in their tracks. The Arctic Wildlife Refuge is a sacred, special wilderness that should be kept untouched and unharmed. Republicans cannot be allowed to gut this nation's environmental protection laws.

Cantwell victorious, Stevens defeated

Victory is at hand! The Cantwell filibuster has been successful! The Arctic Wildlife Refuge is protected again - for now.

1st Update: AP has details:
Republican leaders fell four votes short of getting the required 60 votes to avoid a threatened filibuster of the defense measure over the oil drilling issue. The vote prompted GOP leaders to huddle in private over their next move.

The vote that was 56-44.
It was actually 57-43, since Frist favors drilling, but voted with opponents so he could bring it back up again (have to love Senate parliamentary rules).

More from the AP:
"Our military is being held hostage by this issue, Arctic drilling," fumed Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader. The Nevada Democrat said the Senate could move quickly to pass the defense bill once the refuge issue was resolved.

"We all agree we want money for our troops. ... This is not about the troops," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a strong critic of disturbing the refuge in northeastern Alaska by oil development.
Good quotes from Senate Democrats.

As for Sen. Maria Cantwell, we received this statement from her office:
"This was a great bipartisan victory for all members who worked to play by the rules and a great bipartisan victory for our troops. I'm glad we stood up to say that this trickery. It’s time to fund and support the troops now without anymore tricks. Now that we’ve successfully removed these provisions from this legislation, we can get down to business and deliver to our men and women in uniform around the world the resources they need to do their jobs and keep America safe. We successfully stopped drilling in the Arctic for now, but we will remain vigilant next year to make sure that the country focuses its energy on real solutions to our over dependence on foreign oil and not Christmas packages for the oil companies."
Tremendous applause for Senator Maria Cantwell's outstanding leadership. By standing up and refusing to back down, she beat Stevens in a resounding victory.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cantwell condemns oil companies' trickery

As the Senate engages in a fierce debate over whether oil drilling should be allowed in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, the Wall Street Journal has reported this morning that the Alaska Gasline Port Authority has filed an antitrust suit against two oil companies in Fairbanks.

The lawsuit alleges that “BP PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil companies, are conspiring to withhold natural gas from U.S. markets and reinforce their market power over North Slope supplies.”

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is working extremely hard to ensure that BP and Exxon Mobil get an extra large Christmas gift (or, for Bill O'Reilly, a "holiday" gift) at the expense of the environment and American taxpayers.

Senator Maria Cantwell had this to say about the oil companies' trickery:
The Alaska Gasline Port Authority antitrust suit raises real concerns that something is being done by the oil and gas industry to artificially suppress supply and raise the price of fuels.

The Senate is currently debating giving these same oil companies unfettered access to additional oil fields in Alaska – oil fields located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Holding up critical funding for our troops to give Christmas bonuses that oil companies accused of manipulating prices to hurt Americans at the gas pump is ludicrous.

For months I have been demanding a formal investigation into price gouging. The fact that we are considering a giveaway on the floor of the Senate to these same oil companies accused of making America’s energy price situation worse is obscene. The Alaska suit makes it clearer than ever that these company executives must come before Congress to explain their pricing practices.
Once again, we commend Senator Cantwell for her tremendous leadership on this very important issue. It is imperative that we prohibit drilling or development of any sort in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, of the world's greatest untouched wildernesses.

We will gain nothing from opening up the Refuge to drilling - and we will lose a lot. There isn't even a tradeoff. This is without a doubt, an attempt to sell out one of America's national treasures to greedy oil companies.

Please help Senator Cantwell in the fight to save the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Use MoveOn's special LTE tool to write a letter to a local newspaper, and sign Senator Cantwell's petition to the United States Senate, asking fellow senators to stand up and fight back against Stevens' political tricks.

Discovery Institute falls back on right wing talking points in reaction to ruling

As expected, Seattle's Discovery Institute is pretty unhappy about today's ruling against "intelligent design":
"Judge Jones got on his soapbox to offer his own views of science, religion and evolution," John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said in a news release. "He makes it clear that he wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur."

[...]

"We're not heartbroken about the policy being struck down," West told The Associated Press. "We do have concerns about the judge getting on his soapbox ... and trying to stifle debate by court order."
How predictable. They fell back on the "activist" judge rhetoric. They're going to keep trotting out that tired excuse until the judiciary is controlled completely by the ultra right wing.

But Discovery Institute board member Mike Vaska wasn't happy with senior fellow West's reaction to the ruling:
Vaska said he was dismayed by the institute's response to the ruling.

"It's very troubling to me when people, every time they lose in court, blame it on an 'activist judge,'" Vaska said. He added in an e-mail: "I also read the judge's opinion (most of it at least). He's not a 'judicial activist.'"

Vaska, a Lutheran and a moderate Republican, said he supports the Discovery Institute because it supports those who wish to challenge orthodoxy. Board members don't necessarily agree with every position the institute takes, he said.
It's refreshing to hear a Republican debunk the "activist judge" mantra. Good for Mike Vaska to come out and disagree. Though he may be a Republican, Vaska is one of the good guys, someone who we can at least respect even if we disagree on political ideology.

Striking New York transit workers fined $1 million by judge

We're all for workers' rights, but we oppose this strike in New York City. There are many middle and low income people in New York who rely on mass transit to get around the city.

The transit workers are hurting other workers by making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to get to work, and we can't support that. Even the New York union's parent, the International Transit Workers Union, had urged the local not to strike. But they did.

Now they've been fined:
A state judge found New York City's transit workers in criminal contempt for walking off the job Tuesday and ordered the union's Local 100 to pay $1 million each day the strike continues.

"This is a very very sad day in the history of labor relations in New York City," said State Supreme Court Judge Theodore Jones.
The union has vowed to appeal the fine, calling it "crippling".

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the union are both at fault in this dispute, for failing to break the deadlock. Nevertheless, the union has made it a lot worse by deciding to strike.

New York has America's largest transit system. Its workers seem to think they can hold the city (and its residents) hostage, boasting "We Move NY".

It's hard to feel sympathetic for people who are arrogant.

These kind of tactics will inevitably lead to a backlash against the union, and against organized labor in general, which is something America doesn't need. The transit workers union ought to call off its strike and get back to work.

Judge tears apart "intelligent design"

We've been waiting for this to happen for a long time:
In one of the biggest courtroom clashes between faith and evolution since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania public school district Tuesday from teaching "intelligent design" in biology class, saying the concept is creationism in disguise.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones delivered a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board, saying its first-in-the-nation decision in October 2004 to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The ruling was a major setback to the intelligent design movement, which is also waging battles in Georgia and Kansas. Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher force.
It should be noted that Dover residents, in last month's election, had already dumped the school board members who had favored teaching intelligent design in classrooms.

The board members Judge Jones is attacking are already on their way out of office, which is a good thing. The court ruling is indeed welcome.

Before intelligent design proponents begin crying foul over the ruling, they ought to know a little bit of background about Judge Jones:
Jones decried the "breathtaking inanity" of the Dover policy and accused several board members of lying to conceal their true motive, which he said was to promote religion.

A six-week trial over the issue yielded "overwhelming evidence" establishing that intelligent design "is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory," said Jones, a Republican and a churchgoer appointed to the federal bench three years ago.
(Emphasis is mine). Jones is not a Democrat. He's a Republican and a churchgoer. Not exactly the profile of a liberal "activist" judge.

Because the old school board is on its way out, this is the end of the road for this court case. The Dover school system is now governed by a board that opposes the teaching of "intelligent design".

Some final thoughts from the judge:
In his ruling, Jones said that while intelligent design, or ID, arguments "may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science." Among other things, he said intelligent design "violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation"; it relies on "flawed and illogical" arguments; and its attacks on evolution "have been refuted by the scientific community."

"The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources," he wrote.

The judge also said: "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."
Intelligent design is a prelude to teaching creationism in science class - which is totally unacceptable. Today's ruling is a well deserved victory for the scientific community and for reality.

King County to move to vote by mail only

I do have some doubts about this proposal, although there are advantages as well. Here's the details of the announcement:
King County Executive Ron Sims on Tuesday proposed an all-mail voting system for the state's largest county, which came under intense criticism for mistakes made during the 2004 general election.

Sims told county Elections Director Dean Logan to prepare a comprehensive plan and timetable with preferred options for an all vote-by-mail ballot system for the county's 1.2 million registered voters. He set a Jan. 31 deadline for Logan's report.

"Vote by mail is the right direction for our electorate," Sims said in prepared remarks for a Tuesday news conference. "It streamlines the elections process, allows our staff to focus on a single system and it increases voter turnout."

In King County, 55 percent of voters already cast ballots by mail as permanent absentee voters, said Sims' spokeswoman Carolyn Duncan, and more than 70 percent of voters use absentee ballots in any election.

"The trend is there," Duncan said.
With this move, very few of Washington State's voters will still be voting at poll booths. It's interesting: the very concept of Election Day is fading away. It's no longer really the day on which you vote, it's now just the day when the first results get released.

David Goldstein has more here.

710 KIRO host Mike Webb arrested

BlatherWatch has the story:
KIROAM radio talk host Mike Webb was arraigned at 8:30 this morning, booked for Fraudulant Insurance Claim and taken into custody, according to Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney Office.

Bail was set at $5060.

[...]

In papers filed Dec. 5 in King Co. Superior Court, and obtained by BlatherWatch, KIRO talk host Mike Webb (9p-1a) was charged with the crime of Fraudulent Insurance Claim in an alleged $5982 scam against a car insurance company.

According to the Court's Superform, Michael Kenneth Webb, 50, KIRO Radio Talk Show Host and a Virgo, is also the subject in an investigation of forgery.

The papers were gleaned from public court records. Charges were generated after an accident June 28 involving Webb in his black 2000 Lexus GS-3 and his alleged subsequent dealings with GEICO.

A Certification For Determination of Probable Cause describes in detail the fruits of the investigation by Seattle Police Detective Randal Woolery and GEICO investigator Bill Brown that led to the criminal charges against the flamboyant talk host.

An order directing the issuance of an arrest warrant for Webb was filed; it was ordered he be released on his personal recognizance, although on Dec. 14, bail was increased to $5650.
This is probably the end of Mike Webb on 71O KIRO, the station will likely dump him. Maybe now they can get a real progressive to take his place.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cantwell vows to filibuster Stevens' Arctic drilling scheme

Cross posted to Daily Kos

Hooray for Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell! She's prepared to lead a filibuster in order to prevent Ted Stevens' Arctic drilling scheme from passing the Senate:
Sen. Maria Cantwell vowed Monday to keep the Senate in session until the brink of Christmas to defeat legislation that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

"If this language is allowed to stand, one of our nation's most pristine wildlife areas will be lost," Cantwell, a Democrat said as she outlined plans by her party and its allies to defeat language offered by Alaska Republican Ted Stevens to open ANWR.

"This is nothing more than a sweetheart deal for Alaska and the oil companies," Cantwell said. "That's why I am prepared to use every procedural option available to me as a senator to prevent this language from moving forward."
Nothing makes me prouder than to see my own Senator standing up against corruption and backhanded attempts to stuff this drilling provision into totally unrelated legislation.

What makes me really happy, though, is Cantwell's refusal to back down on this issue. She's been a leader for many months now in thwarting this assault on our wildernesses. Now she's ready to take Stevens to the woodshed:
Democrats, led by Cantwell, accused Stevens of making a "fraudulent" end run around Senate procedures by forcing lawmakers to accept a controversial policy they have repeatedly rejected in the past.

Stevens rejected those accusations. "We're not changing the rules at all," he said from the Senate floor. "I've been around here for 37 years. I know the rules. ... I'm just doing my utmost to do my job, which is getting ANWR passed," he said.

Cantwell said she's willing to challenge Stevens, who is widely regarded as one of the fiercest fighters in the chamber.

"Sen. Stevens says he's not holding up the process, but he is," Cantwell. "He knows very well that we could all go home today. We could pass these outstanding pieces of legislation regarding defense and other things and be gone. But he wants to stay here. If he wants to stay here, then we'll stay here to fight."
THIS is what Cantwell said on the floor of the Senate. (Couresty of Cantwell's office). A great speech. Lots of good points:
Madam President, I rise to raise my concerns about this process and the unbelievable avenues through which this legislation is coming before us, just to try to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

As my colleagues have just been discussing on the floor, these are priorities, for Congress to pass the DOD appropriations bill and the DOD authorization bill. As this Senator sees it, we could wrap up this business today and go home. But because a provision in this legislation coming over from the House opens up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, you bet there are Members on this side of the aisle -- Members on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate- who have great concerns over this measure.

As one Senator who would like to wrap up the year today and go home and spend time with my family, I know there are the prospects of us staying here to fight for something we believe in. It is very clear that we could go home today if the Senator from Alaska would agree to take this language out of the bill.

So, in fact, this process is being held up over the fact that he has inserted a controversial measure into this legislation. It is such a controversial measure that House Democrats and Republicans refused to vote on a budget bill while it still remained in the legislation. That gives you some idea of how controversial it is. In fact, they took it out of the budget bill because they could not get the budget bill passed with it in there.

Now my colleague wants to say that somehow he is not holding up the process when it is very clear that he is holding up the process. We could all go home today instead of arguing over something that has been argued over for 25 years. There is a reason we have been arguing over it for 25 years, and that is because there has been great division over this issue

The notion that this is about national security is unbelievable to me. To me, what national security is really about is passing a clean DOD appropriations bill that gives resources to our troops. In fact, we should give the military in Iraq the ability to do a better job protecting the security and infrastructure of the pipeline there. We lose 800,000 barrels a day of oil in Iraq that could be part of helping the Iraqi government get on its feet and the rest of the world energy markets stabilize.

But this ANWR measure is holding up a DOD bill instead of giving the military all the resources they need. We are not talking about an oil supply 10 years from now; we are talking about something we should be doing today in terms of securing existing infrastructure. We should strip this ANWR language out and pass this bill.

I understand the Senator from Alaska thinks this ANWR provision is in the interest of some, because I think it is in Alaska's interest. In 2005, petroleum counted for 86 percent of the State of Alaska's general revenues -- 86 percent of their state revenues. In fact, according to a published article, State officials expect that at least until 2013, 74 percent of Alaska’s general purpose revenues will come from oil revenues.

So I get why the State of Alaska cares so much. In fact, CBO recently calculated that Alaska will get $5 billion in revenue from this legislation if it is passed. Of course Alaska cares about this. Of course Alaska would hold up the legislative process and keep us here extra days to get this bill passed and get ANWR in by hook or crook, any possible way. Of course they would.

But don't say that this is in the national interest. What is in the national interest of our country is to get over our overdependence on foreign oil. We need to start doing that now, as well as get off of our overdependence on domestic oil and fossil fuels in general. Instead of implementing this Arctic drilling program, we ought to be implementing policies that help us diversify and move forward, so people can have affordable energy rates in this country and not be held hostage by these special interests.

It is another thing to say, somehow, this legislation has arrived here through a clean process. The fact is you would basically have to overrule the Parliamentarian -- which is our judge here.

It is basically like going to a Federal court, having a judge rule on something, then when the judge rules on it voting to overturn them, and then a few minutes later reinstating the rule. If that isn't a quick fix around the legislative process here, I don't know what is. But this whole ANWR measure, trying to get it on any piece of legislation that is moving, has been exactly that -- every attempt to make the process go without adhering to the rules.

The fact is this legislation comes to us and basically takes away about seven different laws that would otherwise apply to drilling in the Arctic. It really is -- it is a free ride, a back door that circumvents seven different Federal laws and countless regulations that have been on the books for years. So this is not just passing ANWR; this is basically giving the oil companies a sweetheart deal around Federal laws and regulations that no other company has ever gotten.

I guarantee, Scoop Jackson would roll over in his grave. There is no way Scoop Jackson would support drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge when you are overturning a law, the National Environmental Policy Act, that he wrote. So you can mention Scoop Jackson's name a thousand times, there is no way he would support this process.

Did you ever ask yourself why he didn't just authorize it to begin with? I think he knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted further review, and he certainly wanted environmental laws to apply.

But, no, this legislation basically overrides the environmental statutes. It creates ill-defined environmental standards. It has a waiver for the lease and sale of land and cuts off the Secretary's ability to protect environmentally sensitive areas, and it allows the Secretary to lease an unlimited amount of coastal plain.

It takes a weak reclamation standard and basically hamstrings the Federal agencies that are supposed to do their job when it comes to protecting federal lands.

Maybe it is no surprise that, after trying to stick this on the budget bill, having both Democrats and Republicans in the House defeat it, now there is an effort to try to stick it on the DOD appropriations bill.

In this Senator's opinion, this is nothing more than legislative blackmail, to try to get colleagues to vote for something because it is a must-pass bill.

That’s because, in fact, the proponents of this measure know that there is great opposition to this process and to drilling in the Arctic. I know the Senator from Alaska said in the Fairbanks paper that he was not going to hold up the process. But newspapers across the country know exactly what is going on. In fact, the Oregonian just said a few days ago:

"Arctic drilling has been thrown in with the defense bill and the emotionally charged matter of supporting American troops at a time of war. It does not belong there, something that ought to be obvious to all but the most cynical members of Congress."

All but the most cynical Members of Congress should see that this is obvious.

We actually had a letter from military leaders, military leaders in our country, raising the same concern:

...any effort to attach controversial legislative language authorizing drilling to the Defense appropriations conference report will jeopardize Congress' ability to provide our troops and their families the resources they need in a timely fashion.

That is coming from General Zinni and many others who wrote to us saying, don't do this. This is crazy. We want to get about the process of getting a DOD bill passed.

The New Hampshire newspaper said:

He has threatened to attach the provision to the Hurricane Katrina relief bill or to the defense appropriations bill, a cynical ploy.... Trying to attach this, basically, should be rejected. Both approaches should be rejected.

Even my newspaper in Seattle called this, "dubious congressional standards of fair play," because they know that this situation is one in which any legislative rule will be thrown out, just to pass drilling in ANWR.

We know that this issue is not without controversy. We know the oil spills of the past are raising great concerns for people. If they have raised so many great concerns for us, why would we give a blanket pass to drilling in ANWR and overthrow those Federal rules and regulations that apply everywhere else? Why should we go to the extent of trying to attach it to a bill that has to pass, knowing that you are going to ask Members to overrule the Parliamentarian and then, after you basically have tried to overrule him, then go back and say the Parliamentarian was right?

How far are we willing to go? How many rules are we willing to break in this process just to get a small amount of oil 10 years from now?

What the American people want is for us to do our job and send money to the troops and get them home. They do not want to sit and watch us stay here for 3 or 4 more days to continue to complain about this process. What they want us to do is pass legislation that gives the troops the support they need. Let us give the troops the money they need to make sure that 800,000 barrels a day are protected right now. Let’s do a better job of making sure we’re making the right infrastructure investments, which will help everybody. Let’s make sure that gets done.

But this Senator still remains in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, because you can't tell me that 5,504 spills on an annual basis in the North Slope since 1996 is a good track record. You just can't tell me that all those oil spills in the Prudhoe Bay area and near the Trans-Alaska Pipeline constitute a good enough track record to now say you can open up drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge and have no impact. Last year, those spills totaled more than 1.9 million gallons of toxic substance, mostly crude oil and diesel.

We know where this is heading. We know where it is heading with no great result for the United States. We are not going to see any oil for a long time. It is a time in which the United States should be making an investment in diversifying off of our dependence on oil instead, and supporting our troops.

This Senator plans to talk a long time about this issue. This Senator knows that we could be going home today, having finished our work, having a session that is ended, having Members back at home talking to their constituents and having the troops realize that we didn't play politics with their legislation.

I hope we will get about doing business here today and closing this legislative session. That’s what we should be doing instead of figuring out what three or four other rules in the process need to be broken just to try to pass ill-conceived legislation that we have been battling over for 25 years. Let us not hold the troops' money hostage.
Let's pass this legislation in a clean fashion and get home to our families.
This is the kind of leadership I'm looking for and expect to see from Democrats in Congress.

Maria CantwellCantwell has been a fighter on this issue - unyielding, refusing to give an inch. Even when previous amendments to strip out the drilling language from the budget bill failed to pass the Senate, Cantwell did not give in. She has never once resigned herself to the idea that she can't beat Stevens.

I'm reminded of that old phrase: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Stevens is sure trying. This is his dirtiest trick yet, sticking the drilling provision in the defense bill where it doesn't belong. But his resolve to destroy our wildernesses is matched by Maria Cantwell's resolve to protect and defend them from exploitation.

There will be an attempt tomorrow to strip the drilling language out of the defense bill. It's going to be a parliamentary ruling. The ruling is to decide if the disputed language is germane or not. I certainly hope that Stevens loses and the language gets tossed.

Things are bad in Washington D.C. right now. Lots of bad bills, lots of corruption, indictments, attacks on the environment, corporate giveaways - you name it. America is essentially being raped. It's outrageous.

But the one comforting thing is that there ARE representatives and senators in Congress who do care about stopping all of this. Senators and representatives who care so deeply about putting people and planet first that they won't stop fighting for what's right no matter what.

Senator Cantwell needs to be commended for simply refusing to be bullied by Bill Frist and Ted Stevens. And we need to keep up the fight to keep the Arctic Refuge (and our other wildernesses) free of oil companies and developers.

Get More Northwest News and Views from Pacific NW Portal

Pacific Northwest Portal

Gregoire still going strong

The Governor today announced an ambitious plan to clean up Puget Sound:
Hoping to make transform the restoration of Puget Sound into a national priority, Gov. Christine Gregoire today announced the most-ambitious plan to date to clean up toxic dumps around the Sound, prevent oil spills and take other actions to revive the ailing estuary.

Gregoire’s $42 million proposal would provide a boost to the approximately $90 million currently earmarked for Sound-related work which is and spread among a dozen agencies and institutions.

The funds would come from the state’s $1.4 billion surplus. Environmentalists hope this will mark the first significant commitment to a long-term effort to save the Sound.

A key component of the plan is the creation of the Puget Sound Partnership, a diverse 10-person team made up of elected and public officials, tribal leaders, business interests and environmentalists.

[...]

Gregoire’s plan primarily builds on work already underway, ramping up those efforts and strengthening laws to protect the Sound. Focus areas and spending increases include:
  • $21.6 million for faster cleanup of polluted marine mud and shoreline areas, and funds to address the dirty water that runs off pavement and roofs.
  • 6.5 million in loans to homeowners and businesses upgrading septic systems that waste into the Sound, making shellfish unsafe to eat and fueling algal growth.
  • $4 million to make state parks better stewards of the Sound, including upgrades of failing sewer systems.
  • $3 million for restoring estuaries and areas inhabited by salmon.
  • $2 million to remove more toxic creosote logs from beaches.
  • $1.5 million to bolster oil and hazardous-chemical spill prevention and response, including more storage sites for spill cleanup materials and inspections of oil transfers.
The news was welcomed by area conservation groups and scientists that for years have said the Sound urgently needed help.

“The governor is really stepping out boldly on Puget Sound,” said Naki Stevens, programs director with People for Puget Sound, a non-profit group.
We like to see this kind of leadership - we like it a lot. Republicans will grumble about the cost, but that's to be expected. They typically think only about the short term, and they almost always ignore the bigger picture.

For example, do they have any idea how much cheaper it is to prevent oil spills then it is to clean them up? Now there's real cost savings for you. But the GOP can't see that.

It's the same problem America has with solar energy. It's expensive to build solar powered homes. But once you get over the high startup cost, you have free, dependable electricity for a long time.

Anyway, we're proud to see Gregoire leading on this important issue.

Also: Lynn Allen of Evergreen Politics has posted an interview with the Governor today that's definitely worth reading.

Reichert flip flops on drilling in Arctic Refuge

In the early hours of this morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $453 billion defense spending bill, which passed on a 308-106 roll call. The bill also included a provision to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling (thank Ted Stevens in the Senate for that).

Every Republican from the Pacific Northwest voted for the bill - including Dave Reichert.

So apparently protecting the Refuge isn't that important to the sheriff. Because he simply couldn't say no to the defense spending bill.

Reichert is not a man of principles. When push comes to shove, when the pressure is at maximum, Reichert buckles under and votes with Republican leaders. He isn't a maverick. He isn't independent. He is a Delay loyalist. Anyone who thinks otherwise ought to go look at his voting record.

I hope this is the end of newspaper ads from environmental organizations praising Reichert for his stance against oil drilling. All those prior votes don't mean anything now. The Republicans will stop at nothing in order to allow oil companies to drill in the Refuge. Sellouts like Pombo rub their hands together in gleeful anticipation of the exploitation of our wildernesses.

The only sure protection we have against this looting of our national treasures is to elect a Democratic congress in 2006. A congress filled with people who have respect for the environment.

Budgetary "martial law" means we still don't know how bad it is

Oil drilling in ANWR is only the most obvious threat from the budget bills rammed through by House Republican leadership early this morning, but it may not be the worst. Because the passage of the defense appropriations and budget-cut reconciliation bill was done under the "martial law rule," much of the fine print has yet to be read. This rule allows the leadership to force a vote without waiting until the next legislative day. The one-day procedure is designed for legislators to have an opportunity to look at what they are voting on. Didn't happen this time.

The martial law rule was invoked just before midnight Sunday. At 1:12 a.m. the 774-page conference report was filed in the House. At 5:43 a.m., after less than 40 minutes of debate, the House began its vote. Consequently we really don't know what was passed.

Major media accounts focused on the ANWR drilling in the defense appropriations bill. Was it proper to attach this unrelated and controversial measure to a defense bill in time of war? [Insert your answer here.]

It may be the phrase "unnoticed at the time of its passage" that will end up hurting most, because those words may apply to land mines packaged in the secrecy of the Republican caucus.

What we do know of the reconciliation bill is Scrooge-like cuts at the low end contrast with some Santa-sized giveaways to corporations at the upper end. Look for increases in Medicaid co-payments and premiums along with simultaneous reductions in some benefits. Watch the Senate-proposed increases in rebates from pharmaceutical companies disappear. (The Senate expected $10.5 billion in increased rebates from the drug manufacturers so beloved of Republican campaign finance managers. The "compromise" was $720 million.)

Other measures trumpeted as "fiscal discipline and limited government" by Mike Pence, R-Ind., include cuts in child support enforcement, new costs on student loans, slower SSI payouts, major cost increases to states for child care, and reductions in foster care benefits to some grandparents.

The fiscal discipline in continuing the enormous budget deficits and in granting ridiculous tax bonuses to the rich in time of war is similar to the personal discipline of a drunk in Las Vegas. We only wonder what the Republicans forgot to mention as they delivered their little present in the middle of the night.

Congratulations to Rep. Brian Baird for pegging it correctly, in part:

“The people’s elected representatives deserve time to read and debate legislation that will have such an enormous impact on our national defense and domestic programs,” said Congressman Baird. “It is a shame, a disgrace, and an embarrassment that these critically important bills were brought up in the dead of the night, laden with unrelated provisions, and passed by sheep-like Members who had but the slightest idea what was in them.”

Also see the CBPP discussion.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The economic tide is going out, not up

What struck me most about the workshop I went to last Saturday ("The Growing Divide -- Inequality and the Roots of Economic Insecurity") was not the facts, but the general ignorance of those facts. The past three decades have been a period of stagnation for most of America, while an an obscene concentration of wealth has grown for the few at the top. At the same time these past three decades have been a period of low growth overall. (Had it not been for the 1990s, it would have been worse.) Contrast this to the three decades prior to 1980 when there was a general sharing of prosperity and a simultaneous enormous increase in overall total growth.

Between 1947 and 1979 real family income doubled for every quintile (one-fifth). In fact, it was better at the bottom ( 116%) than at the top (99%). In the years since 1979 virtually all the growth has been at the top. The bottom quintile even lost 2%. The top gained only 51%, but that was more than the other four-fifths combined.

What struck me most at the workshop, as I said, was not the facts themselves. What struck me was that most of the people attending were largely unaware of them. Why? Part of the reason, I think, is that as we get older, our incomes tend to go up as a result of promotions and increasing skills. The general stagnation is masked by our individual advancement. The fact that the lower end seems to keep dropping has been concealed by the migration of people upward and we don't realize people are starting out further and further behind. Previous to 1980, young people had a significant head start on their parents. But even mobility over one's lifetime is now decreasing, and people are more and more stuck.

This is part of the reason for the lack of awareness, but I'm convinced that most it is our quaint American way of blaming ourselves. The better education, more strategically positioned manufacturing, and generally weak international competition of previous times are ignored in favor of the idea that "I screwed up." (Many of our families assist us in this evaluation.) But I can tell you the comfort level has dropped significantly since I came up. As a kid in the 1960s and 1970s I traveled around a lot "getting experience." It was pretty easy to find work that paid. If I tried to do the same thing today, I'd be sleeping on a grate and living out of the mission.

Be that as it may, and before I list some of the interesting factoids from the workshop, one connection needs to be repeated and reemphasized. The "winner take all" economic mentality that is today's accepted wisdom has not led to overall prosperity, while the "share the wealth" tendency that followed World War II created strong, consistent and widespread growth. Everybody did better, even the top (in terms of income). It's just that they didn't do exponentially better than the rest of us.

Material for the workshop I attended is available at United for a Fair Economy. Another set is at the Economic Policy institute. Their The State of Working America is the definitive publication. There is a list of fact sheets excerpted from the book there on income, wealth, poverty, CEO pay, and so on.

Did you know?

At the same time that income has risen to the top, taxes have fallen to the lot of the middle class. Today federal taxes paid by a middle quintile family are 50% more than they were in 1948. For the top 1%, federal taxes are one-third of their 1948 level.

The share of income held by the top 1% in 2000 was "the largest since the run-up to the Great Depression," according to EPI.

CEO pay in large US corporations was 42 times that of the average worker in 1980. In 2004, CEOs carried off 431 times as big a paycheck as the average worker.

38% of all household wealth is held by the top 1%. The top 10% own 85% of all stocks and mutual funds. (Fit that into dividend and capital gains tax cuts and see who benefits.)

These are only a few. Check out the links for more. Be aware, we are in transit. This is not a static situation, it is a historical trend, a tide. Things are getting worse. They could get much worse before they turn around.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sports economics, a lesson in getting jobbed.

As much as I like sports, we have to stop getting mugged by these guys. The latest is the Sonics want a $20 to $200 million upgrade to Key Arena or they're going to have to take offers from other cities.

What's wrong with this picture? Sporting events are not public goods; and it's not right to support them with tax money. I don't care how many times we've done it. In Washington we already support our millionaire ballplayers in a very real way by not having an income tax. This puts us in the company of Florida and Texas among states with major sports. Since half the games are at home, that's a 3% to 6% advantage for our players. Don't think they aren't aware.

Plus, every new arena or upgrade is focused on fancy new luxury boxes, leased by companies who write off the pleasure on their taxes. The average fan can't even afford the parking, let alone a ticket. And don't talk about a beer and a hotdog. The media rights, the team apparel, through the roof.

But the "economic benefit" to the neighborhood of the venue must be worth the whole thing. Right? Well, No. That benefit is made of mist and it dries up under even the faintest light. Those restaurants in the area and the private parking lots may well get a bump, but it is borrowed from other areas where fans would have spent their money in the absence of the franchise.

A public good has two attributes, to a greater or lesser degree, that make it appropriate for tax financing. First, it is not depletable, and second, it is not excludable. A road, for example, is a public good. It is as good for the 100th car as for the first. Not depletable. A road is difficult to keep people from using. Not excludable. Not being depletable means the public good is often much more valuable than private goods. A golden goose. Not being excludable means you have to have different financing than pay-for-use, and the honor system doesn't work. Hence taxes, payments which are compulsory not because the good is worthless, but because if they weren't compulsory many people would not pay. The free rider, is the technical term.

An arena is most definitely excludable, and all the more so for the luxury boxes. It is also depletable on a per-show basis; a limited number of tickets can be sold.

So why are franchises so adept at getting public funding, even in the face of the hundreds of millions in salaries paid out each year for ballplayers? When an NBA player signs up for his multi-millions, he has the answer. "It's a business."

It is a business. A monopoly business. Franchise owners and players are busy splitting the take in one of the most egregious monopoly businesses in America.

We could analyze it at more length, but I hope there's no disputing it's a monopoly. Without a significant "market imperfection," you couldn't get $10 million a year to play a kids' game. If you aren't in the NBA, your pro team is nowhere. There is no alternative. Owners like it that way. It means their investments are no-lose situations. Don't listen to their whining about player salaries. Even a losing franchise can make back the investment, the entire loss in player salaries, and put a bunch in the pocket of the owner besides. Just sell it to the next city. It's value only goes up.

The problems for politicians in dealing with this issue are not small. The first one is basic ignorance. But that is only the first. Sports teams are owned by influential and monied people. The teams have an immense and easily manipulated fan base who will attack unwary politicians. I'm hopeful one or another of our leaders will take this opportunity of the Sonics to raise awareness. (I personally am not sure Howard Shultz, the majority owner of the Sonics and head of Starbucks, really wants the publicity of moving the franchise, but the initial noise is in the opposite direction.) The solution is not to get rid of the sports. We just need to regulate it like the monopoly it is. At its root it is a national problem.

Twenty million dollars -- the low end of the Sonics' plans -- would be a huge subsidy to home grown civic and cultural groups. Yet look at the public reception for a package of King County Council subsidies to local orchestras and community centers. It was only $3.5 million, and "cool" would be an understatement of its reception.

There is no end to the appetite of this particular beast, partly because of the power of sports in the national psyche and partly because the reward for winning it all is so enormous. (Make no mistake, there is fierce competition. Otherwise sane and sober human beings would not demand this sacrifice from a society which needs other, truly public goods much more desperately.)

It's only a game. We have to walk by homeless beggars to get inside. Pro sports were better when money wasn't the key to winning. Us real people are losing when we subsidize it because of its monopoly leverage.

Victory means exit strategy

Lest we forget:
"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is...I think it's also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn."
Guess who said this? I'll give you a hint: it was way back in 1999, when Bill Clinton was President.

Wait for it...wait for it...

George W. Bush

(The Houston Chronicle, April 9th, 1999)

I'm going to start incorporating this quote into a post about every week or so. Since the chickenhawks and 101st Fighting Keyboardists won't listen to us, maybe they will listen to some "wisdom" from Bush (albeit from when he was Governor of Texas).

Double standards mean little to the administration, but maybe we can get rank and file Republicans who constantly defend BushCo to feel embarrassed.

Permanent Defense Updated

As the campaign against Initiative 900 is over, we've updated Permanent Defense's website and begun archiving all of the old content. In the coming weeks, we'll be adding new information to the website as well as launching our campaign to defeat Tim Eyman's new initiative to attack transportation funding, which has to be stopped if our state is to move forward.

What can you expect from the new PD? We can tell you this: it'll be more tightly integrated with the rest of the NPI network. That means more reliance on the Official Blog and Pacific Northwest Portal. Also, the PD Journal (Permanent Defense's own blog) will receive more frequent updates.

We'll also be adding more information to our "blue" sections. These are the sections on PD's website that are accessed using blue navigation buttons (as opposed to red ones). We'll add more information about our proposed homestead exemption (as a solution for tax reform) and ideas on how to reform the initiative process.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Murray and Cantwell stand up for freedom

Both of our great U.S. Senators voted NO on the Patriot Act renewal, taking part in a bipartisan vote against cutting off debate (and thus prohibiting the Patriot Act from passing the Senate). They were joined by their fellow Northwest Senators Larry Craig (R-Idaho) Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

The Patriot Act is an extremely important issue for us. At its core, this debate is about the Bill of Rights, and the freedom that all of America's citizens are entitled to.

This new version of the Patriot Act is a dangerous intrusion upon the civil liberties guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution. That is why it must be defeated. Our Senators' stance on this proposal is commendable, and we thank them for standing up in the name of freedom.

Here's what Murray and Cantwell had to say about their vote:

"Today, the United States Senate sent a strong message that we cannot undermine the rights of our residents as we work to protect our nation. Because serious questions about the use of the Patriot Act have come to light, we need to proceed with caution. That's why, along with a strong bipartisan coalition of senators, I voted against moving forward until American liberties are protected." - Patty Murray

"[The Senate vote] protects the civil liberties of U.S. citizens - to make sure that their financial, medical and business records aren't being investigated without due cause or due process. [I and other lawmakers] have always been concerned about who's watching the watchers. You need to have checks and balances. There has to be oversight to make sure there are no abuses." - Maria Cantwell
Senators Murray and Cantwell deserve a tremendous round of applause for their courageous votes. Leadership takes strength, and our state's U.S. Senators are doing a great job.

This vote also reaffirms that there's no need for progressives to feel guilty about supporting Maria Cantwell's reelection campaign. Cantwell is a good representative for Washington State in the U.S. Senate.

Right goes overboard with "hypocrite fish"

You may have heard about the recent "controversy" over a magnet that the Washington State Democrats briefly put up on their website. The magnet is a parody of the ichthys, which is a revered symbol of Christianity. (In fact, probably Christianity's second biggest symbol, after the cross).

Hypocrite FishHere's an image of the magnet, which you see to your left. It's billed, "The Flaming Hypocrite" by the company that's selling it. Of course, the ichthys has been a target of parody before.

As you might expect, the "Hypocrite Fish" is drawing tremendous fire from the right, which I suppose considers this parody to be a huge insult and deserving of massive outrage. They've gone totally overboard.
Now, if you were to apply this magnet to the religious right (which doesn't seem so Christian to me), I could see this as legitimate criticism. They are hypocrites. The trouble, of course, is that the religious right is really just a very vocal and loud minority. They seem bigger than they really are. And they've immersed themselves in politics.

The "hypocrite" label just doesn't stick to a lot of Christians. Most of the Christians I know oppose the Iraq War, allowing people to suffer in poverty, the death penalty, etc.

The religious right concerns itself with trying to make abortion illegal (which will not put an end to abortions) and trying to ostracize gays and lesbians from society.

They're just fine with the war in Iraq, eliminating funding for social programs, and allowing people to be executed (and not just criminals - leaders of other countries, too. Remember Pat Robertson's suggestion that we should assasinate Hugo Chavez?) They're hypocrites because they call themselves "pro-life" but they really aren't.

I think this image is a poor parody because it lumps all Christians together as hypocrites, when there are many devout Christians who legitimately try to practice Jesus' teachings. The creator of the magnet says they were meant to spur a discussion about hypocrisy in politics. I think the goal is a good idea - and I don't think this parody helps achieve that goal.

I noticed that this image was given the name "DemChristianHaters" on Orbusmax's website (and who knows where else). That's completely uncalled for. Many Democrats are Christians (such as myself). Is Orbusmax suggesting that I hate my own religion? Or that my party hates my religion? Because that's wrong.

Chairman Paul Berendt had this magnet pulled from the website because it's a poor parody. Because it could be interpreted as attacking all Christians, when it really is aimed at the religious right. By doing so, he made it obvious that the Democratic Party doesn't hate Christianity.

Berendt is not someone who is known to be afraid of the Republicans or the religious right (his persistence in the gubernatorial election challenge proves that).

The religious right likes to slyly imply that we Democrats must all be evil atheists. It's just not true. Democrats are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of countless other religions.

We have respect for many different religious traditions - not just one. We also respect those with no religious tradition. That is a major difference between us and the religious right. They only respect people who buy into their distorted view of Christianity. And that's too bad. They've really left the Gospel behind.

Patriot Act defeated in Senate - for now

The bipartisan coalition has succeeded:
After an emotional debate about the balance between national security and personal liberties and the very character of the republic, the Senate voted, 52 to 47, to end debate and take a yes-or-no vote on the law itself.

But since 60 votes are required under Senate rules to end debate, the Patriot Act was left hanging. The House of Representatives voted, 251 to 174, last week in favor of the latest version of the bill, which had been worked out in negotiations between the two chambers.

The Senate action today leaves the bill up in the air and due to expire on Dec. 31.
It's been defeated - for now - but expect supporters to try and get it passed again.

This morning, many in the Senate who are opposed to the Patriot Act mentioned this curious development (summarized by the Center for American Progress:)
The New York Times has reported that in 2002, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans and others in the United States in ways that "go far beyond the expanded counterterrorism powers granted by Congress under the USA Patriot Act." The program has revived a domestic spying operation at the NSA not seen since the 1960s when the agency routinely eavesdropped "on Vietnam War protesters and civil rights activists."

[...]

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, "said the secret order may amount to the president authorizing criminal activity." Some officials at the NSA agree. According to the New York Times, "[S]ome agency officials wanted nothing to do with the program, apparently fearful of participating in an illegal operation." Others were "worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president." In 2004, "concerns about the program expressed by national security officials, government lawyers and a judge prompted the Bush administration to suspend elements of the program and revamp it." But it continues to this day.
The Patriot Act will not make us safer. It takes away civil liberties for no good reason. We don't need the Patriot Act to fight terrorists. What we do need is an administration that will pursue the terrorists instead of launching preemptive attacks on other countries.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Filibuster the Patriot Act

Good news:
In Congress, where numbers are everything, the math on the Patriot Act suddenly seems to be moving in favor of Sen. Russell Feingold.

He was a minority of one four years ago, when the Wisconsin Democrat cast the lone Senate vote against the USA Patriot Act in the traumatic weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The law, he said then, gave government too much power to investigate its citizens. Ninety-nine senators disagreed.

Now add more than two dozen senators to Feingold's side, including the leaders of his party and some of the chamber's most conservative Republicans, and the balance of power shifts.

[...]

The opposition that began with Feingold's one vote has bloomed into a bloc of Democrats and Republicans concerned about a range of powers the original act gave the FBI, and how they are used. This group prefers the curbs on government power passed by the Senate but rejected in a compromise with the House. Now, faced with an up-or-down vote on the accord, they say no.
It's amazing what one person can do when they make a stand and never give up. Senator Feingold's courageous leadership is admirable and worthy of great applause. He has convinced a lot of senators to join him:
In the last week, Feingold has attracted important allies, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a possible presidential candidate in 2008. On Thursday he added another to his column: Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the original Democratic co-sponsor of the 2001 Patriot Act.
We certainly hope that our own senators are in that bloc as well. Maria Cantwell is currently abroad in Iraq and may not vote on this, but we expect Senator Murray to vote against the Patriot Act.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why do FOX viewers believe O'Reilly?

Bill o'Reilly has lied so many times that you'd think FOX viewers would understand that you simply cannot take what he says at face value. But he still has a following, which is simply stunning.

O'Reilly is perhaps the craziest pathological liar the right wing has (although we admit Ann Coulter could give him a run for his money). Not to mention the fact that he is a complete hypocrite and a purveyor of misinformation and myths.

O'Reilly's latest nonsense? This from Media Matters:
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann once again named Bill O'Reilly [the] "Worst Person in the World," based on false O'Reilly claims, noted by Media Matters, that a Texas school district and the township of Saginaw, Michigan, enforced bans against red and green clothing during the holiday season.

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly once again earned the title "Worst Person in the World" during the December 13 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, this time for falsely claiming that the Plano Independent School District in Texas and the township of Saginaw, Michigan, enforced bans against red and green clothing during the holiday season.

Olbermann noted that O'Reilly claimed during the December 9th O'Reilly Factor that the Plano Independent School District in Texas "told students they couldn't wear red and green because they were Christmas colors." As Olbermann informed his viewers and Media Matters for America noted, Plano Superintendent of Schools Dr. Doug Otto denied any ban on red and green clothing in a statement.

Olbermann also awarded O'Reilly the title for making a similar false claim about the township of Saginaw -- noted by Media Matters -- which was refuted by township manager Ron Lee, "wearing his red shirt and his Santa Claus tie and sitting next to his Christmas tree in his office," as Olbermann noted.
I posted earlier this month about the numerous "holiday" references on O'Reilly's website, and the widely publicized FOX News Channel gaffe (selling "holiday" ornaments for "holiday" trees in its Christmas store.

But what's even scarier than O'Reilly himself is that people actually believe him and admire him as a hero.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat found out how crazy some of these people are after he wrote a recent satirical column pretending to agree with O'Reilly and Jerry Falwell:
Our annual debate about Christmas has gotten so absurd you can't even make fun of it anymore.

I know, because last week I tried. I wrote a column that was a mock letter to the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who is upset that "Happy Holidays" is replacing "Merry Christmas." I praised him for doing the Lord's will by suing and "kicking the butts" of any retail store that doesn't "heel to the Christmas spirit."

I whined that the nation's 231 million Christians were "lonely" and losing the "battle for Christmas." The proof, I wrote, can be found in Seattle's downtown malls, where "Jesus has been totally drummed out of the shopping experience."

"After we [Christians] are persecuted from the malls, how are we supposed to observe the birth of the Lord?" I lamented. "What's left for us? Just church? The family hearth?"

Now some readers thought the problem with this column was that it was poor satire. Or just not funny. Or simply inane.

All points well taken. But it was the rest of the response that knocked me over like a strong belt of eggnog. Scores of readers took the column literally. And then agreed with it.

I returned this week to find more than 200 e-mailers and 25 phone callers extolling me as a key bulwark against an atheist plot to steal Christmas.

One person thanked me for being one of the few journalists in the city to express a sentiment many feel deeply about. "I am so sick of 'Happy Holidays' as a greeting I could scream," the reader wrote.

"You are right on target about how Christmas is being taken from us," wrote another.

"God bless you," wrote another. "It's true we are at war, and we Christians better take a stand and be salt and light."

I made what I assumed were ridiculous statements. For example, I wrote: "This is a war. You're either for Christmas, or you're against it."

Yet down rang hosannas of praise. From Christians in Ireland, Canada and Hong Kong. From Christians who hadn't written to a newspaper before.

The pastor of Pomerado Road Baptist Church in California, Hans Nikoley, asked if he could reprint the "great article" for his congregation.

"Let's stay in the battle for Christmas," he signed off.

My reaction can be summed up in one word: Yikes.
Anyone who truly believes Christmas is "under attack" is deluding themselves. There is no threat to Christmas. There is nothing wrong with the greeting "Happy Holidays".

But there is a problem with misinformation and deliberate attempts to spread it. Conservative Christians are sputtering with outrage over imaginary perceived injustices. And it's getting really tiring.

When we have so many real issues to debate, this is the best they can do? Claiming that Christmas is in danger of being wiped out? Apparently, that's all they've got left in their arsenal. But progressives can't let this crap go unanswered.

The lying needs to be captured, inspected, and then pointed out. That's just what organizations like Media Matters are doing. And that's why Bill O'Reilly hates Media Matters so much.

Why do FOX viewers believe Bill O'Reilly? There are many different reasons. But one of the biggest reasons is that they don't expose themselves to anything that challenges what they hear from O'Reilly and FOX News.

The strength of the Republican Noise Machine is its ability to drown out the truth and other viewpoints. Every time Air America gains a new affiliate, every time a progressive activist starts a blog, every time an organization like Media Matters is started, we make inroads on the path to countering the Republican Noise Machine.

Kudos to Ford for doing the right thing

John Aravosis of AMERICAblog and the many civil rights groups who put pressure on Ford deserve a tremendous round of applause:
  1. Ford announced that it will continue to support gay organizations and gay events in the coming year and beyond.
  2. Ford is going to run advertisements in the gay media NOT ONLY promoting the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, but the ads will promote ALL of Fords brands, by name, including Jaguar and Land Rover.
  3. Ford states unequivocally that it will continue to tailor its ads for the specific audience it is trying to reach, and then goes one step further. Ford challenges us to keep an eye out on their upcoming ads in order to verify that they will in fact be tailored.
There is no other way to read this than that Ford did the right thing. Whether or not an agreement was reached with the American Family Association - and the AFA has a record of crowing about such "victories" when no such victory occurred (sounds a lot like our president) - Ford has rectified the real or perceived problem, and the American Family Association has been shown to have no clothes (other than a very rusty chastity belt).
You can thank Ford here. The AP also has a nice story (via CNN) here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

BREAKING: Florida county dumps Diebold

BREAKING NEWS from Black Box Voting:
Due to security design issues and contractual non-performance, Leon County (Florida) supervisor of elections Ion Sancho told Black Box Voting that he will never use Diebold in an election again. He has requested funds to replace the Diebold system from the county. He will issue a formal announcement to this effect shortly.

Finnish security expert Harri Hursti proved that Diebold lied to Secretaries of State across the nation when Diebold claimed votes could not be changed on the memory card.

A test election was run in Leon County today with a total of eight ballots - six ballots voted "no" on a ballot question as to whether Diebold voting machines can be hacked or not. Two ballots, cast by Dr. Herbert Thomson and by Harri Hursti voted "yes" indicating a belief that the Diebold machines could be hacked.

At the beginning of the test election the memory card programmed by Harri Hursti was inserted into an Optical Scan Diebold voting machine. A "zero report" was run indicating zero votes on the memory card. In fact, however, Hursti had pre-loaded the memory card with plus and minus votes.

The eight ballots were run through the optical scan machine. The standard Diebold-supplied "ender card" was run through as is normal procedure ending the election. A results tape was run from the voting machine.

Correct results should have been:

Yes:2 No:6

However the results tape read:

Yes:7 No:1

The results were then uploaded from the optical scan voting machine into the GEMS central tabulator. The central tabulator is the "mothership" that pulls in all votes from voting machines. The results in the central tabulator read:

Yes:7 No:1

This proves that the votes themselves were changed in a one-step process that would not be detected in any normal canvassing procedure - using only a credit-card sized memory card.

Diebold Elections Systems head of research and development Pat Green specifically told the Cuyahoga County board of elections that votes could not be changed on the memory card.

According to Public Records responses obtained by Black Box Voting in response to our requests shows that Diebold promulgated this misrepresentation to as many as 800 state and local elections officials.
This is a stunning development, and provides solid and clear evidence that the Diebold machines can't be trusted to deliver accurate election results. Was the 2004 presidential election stolen by Bush sympathizers? It probably was. If Black Box Voting can hack Diebold, others can too.

Pelz, Rodriguez running to succeed Berendt

An update on the race for state party chair: it seems this is going to be a contest between two main candidates, both of whom have now declared their intentions to pursue the chairmanship.

Greg Rodriguez
Previously elected as the Treasurer of the King County Democrats in 2000. Two years later, he was elected Chair of the King County Democrats. He made a run for state paty chair a year ago but lost to Paul Berendt, who decided to run for Chair again because of the gubernatorial election controversy. This year, he was the Treasurer for Washington Defense PAC and contributed significantly to the fight against I-912. NPI's executive director has endorsed Greg for Chair. Bill Phillips, a candidate for Chair in 2004, has endorsed Greg. (See an interview Greg did with Evergreen Politics last January here)

Dwight Pelz
Dwight is retiring as a King County Councilmember. This year, he ran for City Council against Richard McIver and lost. (NPI issued a dual endorsement in that race supporting both McIver and Pelz). Dwight was an early supporter of Howard Dean. He has also been a state senator and director of WA Citizen Action.

Richard Kelley, Bill Phillips, and Mike Cooper have all made it clear they aren't running for the position. My guess is that outgoing chairman Paul Berendt will endorse Dwight Pelz as we get closer to the state meeting at the end of January, but who knows. We believe either of these gentlemen would make a good leader for the state party. As for me, I'm personally supporting Greg, but a Pelz win wouldn't be a disappointment.

Challenger Darcy Burner nails Dave Reichert on homeland security

Darcy Burner, who's running to replace Dave Reichert as the 8th Congressional District Representative, has posted to Kos nailing Reichert on homeland security:
One of the critical issues that all Democrats will face in the 2006 elections is the assertion that they are too soft on national security issues. It will certainly be an issue in my race, where I am running for Washington's 8th Congressional District against an incumbent, Dave Reichert, who is a former sheriff, and whose entire message last cycle consisted of "I will protect you."

I think that we spend a lot of time allowing the Republicans to ask the wrong questions, and then we attack their answers when we shouldn't cede them the questions in the first place.

They are asking the question: "Are we tough enough to finish what we've started in Iraq?"

The question that needs to be asked is: "Are we safer than we were on September 11, 2001?"

Don't cede them the question. Ask the right one, and then answer it.
It's a superb diary, and a very nice effort from Darcy. Read the whole thing here and recommend if you're a Daily Kos member. This is another great step forward for the Burner campaign.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Senate GOP elects Hewitt as minority leader

Via the AP:
Sen. Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla was elected Monday as the new state Senate Republican leader.

Hewitt succeeds Sen. Bill Finkbeiner of Kirkland, who announced last month that he was stepping down as minority leader to spend more time with his family and on graduate studies at the University of Washington.

"It's nice to let someone else take the reins for a while, especially when you know they're going to do a great job," Finkbeiner said.

Hewitt, who had previously served as Republican whip, beat out two other colleagues, Sens. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee and Joyce Mulliken of Ephrata. The vote tally of the secret ballot was not disclosed.

"I'm pleased and I'm humbled," Hewitt said. "It's a real honor."

Hewitt was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and re-elected in 2004. The owner of a small business for 23 years, he has long been an advocate for small business issues and is the former executive director of the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce and former chairman of the Walla Walla Planning Commission.
Here's a curious footnote to that: the last minority leader (Bill Finkbeiner), was one of a handful of Republicans in the state Sentate to vote for the 2005 transportation package (including the gas tax). But what's really interesting is that all of the Republicans vying to succeed Finkbeiner also voted in favor of the transportation package.

Here's the roll call:
Chamber: SENATE 2005 Regular Session
Bill No.: SSB 6091
Description: 3RD READING & FINAL PASSAGE
Item No.: 17
Transcript No.: 101 Date: 4-20-2005
Yeas: 31 Nays: 17 Absent: 0 Excused: 1

Voting yea: Senators Berkey, Brown, Deccio, Doumit, Eide, Fairley, Finkbeiner, Fraser, Hargrove, Haugen, Hewitt, Jacobsen, Keiser, Kline, Kohl-Welles, Mulliken, Parlette, Poulsen, Prentice, Pridemore, Rasmussen, Regala, Rockefeller, Schmidt, Sheldon, Shin, Spanel, Swecker, Thibaudeau, Weinstein, and Zarelli.

Voting nay: Senators Benson, Benton, Brandland, Carrell, Delvin, Esser, Franklin, Honeyford, Johnson, Kastama, McAuliffe, Morton, Oke, Pflug, Roach, Schoesler, and Stevens.

Excused: Senator McCaslin.
What does this mean? It seems to indicate that Senate Republicans understand how foolish it would be to have an extremist for a leader. Now, none of the senators who were vying to replace Finkbeiner are progressive. But at least they all had the common sense to recognize how important it is that we invest in transportation, which is a major issue in Washington State.

And for that, we thank them.

More wartime tax cuts from Bush

If Tim Eyman is the poster boy for deadbeat dads, George Bush surely must be their king. The latest arrogance of another tax cut for the rich in a time of war while cutting social programs is nothing less than George playing poker with the mortgage payment, the kids college fund, and the grocery money.

See the breakout of the new tax cuts, at EPI's snapshot. More than $16 billion in new business tax cuts, $20 billion in capital gains tax cuts, and over $30 billion in tax cuts on dividends.

It doesn't bother him. I wonder where he'll be when the bills come due? For Medicare, for education, and for our social security. The social safety net may still be there, but it's now only a few inches off the ground. If you hit it, it's not going to save you any broken bones.

Up until George, I objected when people dismissed our social security system. It was phenomenally successful in its time. It raised millions of seniors from poverty and humiliation almost immediately when it was enacted. Later revisions lifted even more. Its financing is impeccable in terms of internal sufficiency. But social security is now the house, and the mortgage payment is going to the rich in the form of tax breaks.

I can think of two possibilities: (1) Bush doesn't know what he's doing and imagines like the Queen of Hearts that reality is determined by decree, or (2) He knows exactly what he is doing, and he is purposely dismantling the social programs that make us a civilized society. Maybe it's a combination, Bush is #1 and the people who maintain him in power are #2.

But there is a third. The enabler. The compliant, supine press, who faithfully report his lies as matters of opinion and the facts as contrary opinions. To the press he is not the deadbeat dad, but a man of strong principles, and if not principles, at least appetites. They are his poker buddies, his "friends on the force."

In the end, all will suffer. Even the deadbeat dad. If things aren't righted, it will be a tragedy. If things are righted, it will leave a scar. Better we should have done the right thing to begin with.

Network Maintenance Update

So far, so good...we're moving right along and making steady progress. There's a few puzzles we have to work out in terms of design and interface. We want to deliver a website that's more appealing and more consistent. We're not changing our color scheme or redecorating very much, but we are still making interface changes.

(Remember that this maintenance does not affect this blog or Pacific Northwest Portal).

Consistency is important to us - that's something we're really going to try and hammer down. In the meantime, we continue to ask for your patience. Many parts of the website simply do not work, and we know that. No content has been lost. We're just getting ready for 2006.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ohio about to become a GOP dictatorship

A bleak picture from Free Press' Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman:
A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor. Despite massive corruption scandals besieging the Ohio GOP, any hope that the Democratic party could win this most crucial swing state in future presidential elections, or carry its pivotal US Senate seat in 2006, are about to end.

House Bill 3 has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is about to be approved by the Republican-dominated Senate, probably before the holiday recess. Republicans dominate the Ohio legislature thanks to a heavily gerrymandered crazy quilt of rigged districts, and to a moribund Ohio Democratic party. The GOP-drafted HB3 is designed to all but obliterate any possible future Democratic revival. Opposition from the Ohio Democratic Party, where it exists at all, is diffuse and ineffectual.

HB3's most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote. But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.

[...]

In traditional terms, the scandal-ridden Ohio GOP would appear to be more vulnerable than ever. Governor Robert Taft has become the only Ohio governor to be convicted of a crime while in office. With an astonishing 7% approval rating, he has been compared to Homer Simpson by the state's leading Republican newspaper. Republican US Senator Mike DeWine appears highly vulnerable. The GOP has never won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.

But HB3 will solidify the GOP's iron grip on the electronic voting process and all that surrounds it. Unless they break that grip, Democrats who believe they can carry any part of Ohio in 2006 or 2008 are kidding themselves.
Just when you think they can't sink any lower, they do. Ohio is about to become a GOP dictatorship. It'll be like communist Russia. You can vote in the election, but it doesn't mean anything.

Remember, it's not who votes that counts. It's who counts the votes. Republicans are attempting to ensure that democracy is stamped out in Ohio. It's beyond outrageous. What they are trying to do goes against everything that America stands for and has ever stood for.

To them, the Constitution is a scrap of paper. The flag is an assortment of colors. Freedom, liberty, equality, opportunity - Republicans don't care about those values. They are hungry for power. And in Ohio, their sheer lust for pure, raw power is on display. They will try to hide it. But they must be exposed.

If they can destroy democracy in Ohio, they can destroy it here. We've got to do everything we can to stop them.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Who will be the next state party chair?

It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. Here's an overview some of the possible candidates - of all the candidates, either undeclared or declared, only Greg Rodriguez has a website up. If the others put up websites we'll be sure to give them a link.

Greg Rodriguez
Previously elected as the Treasurer of the King County Democrats in 2000. Two years later, he was elected Chair of the King County Democrats. He made a run for state paty chair a year ago but lost to Paul Berendt, who decided to run for Chair again because of the gubernatorial election controversy. This year, he was the Treasurer for Washington Defense PAC and contributed significantly to the fight against I-912. NPI's executive director has endorsed Greg for Chair. Bill Phillips, a candidate for Chair in 2004, has endorsed Greg. (See an interview Greg did with Evergreen Politics last January here)

Dwight Pelz
Former King County Councilmember. Ran for City Council against Richard McIver and lost. (NPI issued a dual endorsement in that race supporting both McIver and Pelz.)Was an early supporter of Howard Dean. Has also been a state senator and director of Citizen Action.

Mike Cooper
An Edmonds firefighter who was the Democratic nominee for Lands Commissioner in 2004. He ran against Doug Sutherland and lost. Mike earned a resounding endorsement from NPI in his bid for lands commissioner.

Kat Overman
The co-founder of a political club, the Possession Sound Democratic Club, and previously the political organizer of the King County Labor Council. Worked on Mike Sells' campaign for the state House of Representatives. (See an interview she did with Evergreen Politics last January here)

Eileen Macoll
Currently Vice Chair of the state Democratic Party.

Janet Miller
Previously the Chair of the 46th District Democrats and an activist. Currently on the state central committee.

If you want to know more about what Kat Overman and Greg Rodriguez think, check out this DFW questionnaire from last year's race for state party chair.

UPDATE: We have received personal confirmation from Sandy Gourley that she is NOT running for state party chair. Apologies to Sandy. We regret the error. We picked up Sandy's name from a couple of other blogs, including the Washington State Political Report. Additionally, Craig Mason's campaign apparently no longer exists (since that's the case, Keith should probably take the website down). Richard Wright, however, is campaigning against Republican Doc Hastings.

SECOND UPDATE: Richard Kelley has confirmed he is not a candidate either:
I will not be a candidate for chair of the state Party. It was not a hard decision, and it was kind of people to offer their support, but I think we will have a strong field of candidates and the Party will be in good hands.
Pelz, Cooper, and Rodriguez are the most likely candidates.

Want a new racetrack? Pay for it yourself

NASCAR and its boosters are making a big attempt to sell legislators and the public on a proposed new racetrack for the Kitsap Peninsula - their second attempt in two years to build a racetrack in the Northwest. But there's a catch to their proposal:
The plan for a NASCAR track in Western Washington was unveiled earlier this month by officials from NASCAR's sister company, International Speedway Corp., of Daytona, Fla.

Speedway Corp.'s vision for a Northwest raceway would cost $345 million, and the company says it's willing to put up nearly half the cash and cover any cost overruns. The rest would come from state-backed bonds financed by a portion of state sales tax collections and a new levy on racetrack admissions.
The catch is public financing. The state has to pay for at least half of the raceway under their proposal. That's $172 million dollars - which is a lot of money just for one project that's going to be operated by a private, for profit entity.

The sports business apparently isn't profitable enough to afford the cost of building stadiums and raceways on its own. Or maybe it is - and the industry is just trying to take advantage of taxpayers.

We seem to have a stadium problem. It was only a few years ago that KeyArena was built in Seattle Center, and now the Sonics are clamoring for a new stadium. At the very minimum they want the state to invest more money so that they don't have to pay off their share of KeyArena.

No more Qwest Fields. No more Safeco Fields. No more KeyArenas. You want your own stadium (or, in this case, raceway)? Pay for it yourself. If you're so sure this is going to result in a huge economic payoff, then you'll be willing to take the risk and make the investment.

Besides the financing, there are other issues in this debate:
Ed Newbold, a wildlife artist who sells prints of orcas, salmon and other wildlife from a shop in Seattle's Pike Place Market, ran advertisements in both of the city's daily newspapers, asking: "How about nothing for NASCAR?"

Newbold criticizes auto racing as a male-dominated sport "that promotes risk-taking, speeding, fossil fuel waste and noise pollution." And he compares drivers unfavorably with other professional athletes, "who don't use gasoline to do the hard work."

But beyond any cultural conflicts between the Northwest and the NASCAR nation, Newbold thinks the real problem is the money.

"They're good people," he said. "But why bust the treasury for them?"
Ed Newbold is exactly right. Why should taxpayers open their wallets for a raceway? Especially if other regions haven't needed to:
[State Senator Tim] Sheldon, who thinks the track would be an economic boon, was a leading opponent of the deal to publicly pay for the Seahawks' stadium. He'd like to see Speedway Corp. pay for the entire racetrack proposal, as it has pledged to do in New York.

"One individual wrote me a letter and said, 'I don't need a racetrack. I already own a baseball stadium and a football stadium,"' Sheldon said.
If New York can get a raceway without public financing, we should be able to as well. Speedway Corp. shouldn't get a dime from the state of Washington. In fact, even if state money is not used to build the raceway, there will still be indirect costs, especially when it comes to transportation. Fortunately, the state is investing in transportation. However, there will still be questions about whether the region can support the traffic.

We're fine with a new NASCAR racetrack - so long as Speedway pays for all the construction costs and there is a transportation plan. And that plan should definitely provide convenient transportation alternatives (such as bus service) to the private automobile.

Pensions and prospects for the boomers.

I didn't realize I was breaking news in my Thursday post until Friday's Seattle PI came out. The top of page one: "State pension fund billions in red." Subhead: "Gregoire vows to put money into system, 'stand by obligations.'" I fully expect today's paper to tell us, "Eleventh planet found at the edge of the solar system."

Now if we could only get them to "discover" the fraud in the Ohio elections.

As I pointed out on Thursday, in spite of new revenue forecasts, there is no big surplus for Olympia to spend, largely because lawmakers have to cover the accounting gimmicks they've used to balance the budgets of the last four years. The chief account that's been gimmicked is pensions.

At least it's a good thing the mainstream press is publicizing the problem, right? Here it is on the front page of the PI.

Unfortunately, as the media spotlight moves to illuminate this event in the long-term budget squeeze, other crimes pass into the dark. The PI article, for example, puts the onus for pension problems on the stock market bubble, which made funding them easy in the 1990s and hard afterward. Forgotten in the shadows is the loss of the motor vehicle excise tax, 7% of state revenue. This is the real reason we needed to raid pensions in the first place. Were that 7% still in the budget, there would not only be fewer Hummers on the road, there would be no need for accounting gymnastics in Olympia. This selective memory by the media amounts to distortion, a fun house mirror, remembering things we couldn't control and forgetting things we could. It hides the mechanical procession of cause and effect, which we need if we're going to learn from our mistakes.

(You wonder how many state, county and city employees would have voted for the anti-tax initiatives if it meant putting their pensions in trouble. Timmy didn't mention that when he promised government would find the money somewhere.)

This is the model, the recipe, for the demise of social security. True, the trust funds aren't literally left even partly empty as the state pension accounts were, but this is more a difference between being able to run deficits and print bonds (the feds) and having to balance your budget (the state). By being able to run the astronomical deficits, the federal situation is, in fact, far worse.

Imagine with me and economists like Paul Krugman, if you will, the day we have to start paying out to cover the social security retirement benefits for the boomers. Those government bonds that fill the trust fund accounts now need to be honored. Thus there arises the need to raise taxes. Uh-oh, taxes are evil. We may have a problem. Now imagine the economic climate has gone cold. Raise taxes or opt out on pension obligations? Now factor in the possibility that rest of the world has gotten tired of loaning us money. Maybe it wants, say, 10% or 15% interest instead of 5%. It does not require Nostradamus to see an amount far exceeding the current level of the entire federal budget going out in just debt service and social security payments.

This is the true danger to social security, not those concoctions drawn up at the behest of our beloved W to justify his privatization schemes.

That is, to be perfectly clear, social security is well a run and solvent program, but it depends on the integrity of "the full faith and credit of the federal government." Will taxpayers in twenty years be as generous as we imagine? Will they say, "Sure, we recognize our obligation, our intergenerational contract. Even though you were not willing to balance your budgets, even though you shifted your tax burden to us by your borrowing, we are going to go ahead and bite the bullet for you?"

Friday, December 09, 2005

Network Maintenance

This is an important message - please read it carefully.

To prepare to serve our members and supporters better, the NPI network is now undergoing an extensive and critical overhaul to prepare it for what lies ahead in 2006 and beyond.

This overhaul will not result in the shutdown two of our most important websites - The Official Blog (what you're reading right now) and Pacific Northwest Portal.

Both sites will remain operational throughout the maintenance period, although a couple of Pacific Northwest Portal's dynamic features will not be operational. (Feeds and static pages will not be affected at all, so the vast majority of the Portal will work just fine).

However, much of the rest of the network will be inaccessible during the maintenance period, including entire sections of our core website and parts of Permanent Defense's website. We have updated our error pages to let visitors know about the network maintenance activity.

We want to assure you that the end result of all this maintenance will be a greatly improved network that will be more integral, useful, and enhanced. This maintenance actually lays the groundwork for the introduction of exciting new content that will be coming your way in 2006.

So please be patient with us, and we promise you'll be rewarded.

Alito's America: No joke

Campus Progress and the Center for American Progress have a new website up pointing out the dangerous record of Samuel Alito, Bush's new nominee for the Supreme Court. (Alito replaced Harriet Miers, who was forced to withdraw her nomination last month).

The website is based on Alito's prior known opinions and views, and paints a dark and disturbing picture of America's future should he be confirmed. Watch the video and check out the "future headlines" section. It would be funny if this wasn't such a serious matter. Alito's America is unfortunately no joke.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Will legislators spend the surplus on Christmas?

November's revenue forecast put an additional $304.9 million in the state's bank account, and the op-ed page is abuzz with talk of profligate legislators who are certain to spend the bonanza like drunken sailors.

No. They won't.
Reason One: There is no bonanza. As the chief forecaster correctly points out, the economy's strength is in the housing market. With mortgage rates beginning to rise, homebuyers have accelerated their purchases. When – not if – the housing market cools, it will hit state revenue immediately. (Note: This is not from any effect on property taxes, but from effects on sales and B&O of reduced construction activity.)
Reason Two: They need to cover the accounting gimmicks they've used to balance the budgets over the past four years. Pension accounts need filling, in particular.

Reason Three: The state is in a long-term hole. Every legislator has seen the OFM chart showing tax revenues rising at 90% of personal income. The revenue base has been corroded by anti-tax initiatives at the same time that budget drivers, particularly health care costs, mean demands will grow faster than personal income. The gap is there. It's growing. The state needs every penny.

Reason Four: These are Democrats. The evisceration of the motor vehicle excise tax was facilitated by Democrat Gary Locke after I-695 had been thrown out by the courts. That was a big mistake, but a rare one. And this is a different governor. Chris Gregoire may not have the financial expertise of her predecessor, but she has the guts to do the right thing. And that right thing is much more obvious now than it was in the fat days of the late 1990s.
Gregoire's response to the revenue projection shows she is aware. Here, in particular, from the official release:
The Governor said she wants to save a substantial portion of the new revenue to help state government cover an expected shortfall in the next, two-year budget beginning in July 2007. She also is concerned that the national economy may weaken due to continuing high fuel prices and possible cooling of an overheated housing market, among other forces.

"I'll make budget decisions that set aside the dollars we will need tomorrow, while still taking care of real needs we have today," she said.

Victor Moore, Governor Christine Gregoire's budget director, said he was pleased that Washington's economy continues to improve. But he also noted that rising health care costs and pension obligations for the coming biennium mean that money must be set aside to avoid future tax increases.
Lastly, everyone congratulates Washington's economy on its strength. Let us note, please, that Republican predictions notwithstanding, the tax increases of the last session did not lead to economic weakness. Quite the opposite.

Haughty New Hampshire wants to stay on top

Unbelievable:
Democrats considering changes in the presidential primary calendar were sent a draft proposal on Thursday that would place one or two caucuses after Iowa and before New Hampshire's leadoff primary.

After New Hampshire, one or two primaries would be scheduled before the calendar is opened to other states, according to several commissioners who have seen the proposal. New Hampshire Democrats promised to vigorously fight such a plan.

The additional caucuses and primaries are intended to include states with more diverse ethnic populations early in the voting. Both Iowa and New Hampshire are predominantly white.

[...]

New Hampshire Democrats have protested any move to put additional events before their state. Secretary of State William Gardner said he would look at the commission proposal and decide whether he must move New Hampshire's leadoff primary earlier to comply with state law.
So get this: New Hampshire has a state law that says they have to have the first primary or "similar election" in the nation. It's one of the most asinine displays of arrogance I've ever heard of.

What gives them the right to enjoy all this prestige and political power? How about we pass a law here in Washington State saying our presidential caucus (or primary) has to be at least a week before New Hampshire's?

That New Hampshire law needs to be tossed off the books. It should be challenged in federal court. The caucus and primary system needs a dramatic overhaul so that two states with predominantly white populations (New Hampshire and Iowa) do not get to control who becomes the eventual nominee of the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Berendt resigns as Democratic Party chair

He's decided he'll step down at the end of January:
Paul Berendt, the veteran state Democratic Party chairman, will retire next month after 11 years at the helm.

Under Berendt's chairmanship, the party went from a low point of being nearly shut out in the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 to being the dominant player in a reliably "blue" state.

Berendt told The Associated Press late Wednesday that he will resign in midterm, serving until the party's central committee picks a successor at its Jan. 28 meeting in Ellensburg.
A few people are contemplating running to succeed Paul Berendt. One of them is Greg Rodriguez, who was a tremendous help to NPI (and Washington Defense) in the fight against Initiative 912. Greg graciously volunteered to serve as Treasurer for Washington Defense PAC and he did a tremendous job.

I have offered Greg my personal support and my endorsement for state party chair. I urge you to learn more about him and his vision for the future of the state Democratic party.

Tax Reform in Tacoma?

The city services assessment scheme proposed by Tacoma's first-year city manager will go to a citizens advisory panel in the next few weeks. Is it reform? Does it offer any hope for other Washington cities squeezed by the anti-tax dynamics of the past decade?

Outline of the Plan: The proposal put forward by city manager Eric Anderson would cut regular property taxes for all by eliminating the city's portion of the regular levy. It would eliminate utility taxes for all, as well as taxes on businesses, the city's B&O and gross revenue tax. In their place would be a probably bimonthly assessment, a tax based on property values, dedicated to the core city services of police, fire and libraries. Under Anderson's preferred option, the assessment would apply to all property owners other than houses of worship. A biannual referendum would set the level of the assessment. The remaining non-utility city operations would be financed by the existing local option sales tax, which would be retained.

Advantages: To many, the chief advantage would be the initial cut in effective taxes if the shift of some of the burden to nonprofits goes through. Utility bills would be smaller. Regular semi-annual tax bills would be 25% smaller, reflecting the shift of the city's portion. The new assessment would likely come every other month, staggered with the combined utilities bill.

If the nonprofits were left out of the tax base, average tax burdens would stay the same, but it might still be preferred by Tacomans. The new assessment would make a structure that is slightly less "lumpy," since it would reduce the regular property tax bill. Voters tend to prefer taxes that are not "lumpy." They prefer sales taxes to income taxes partly on this count. The bill is small and frequent, rather than large and infrequent.

To Anderson, the chief advantage is clarity. Citizens can support the city's services or not, in a simple vote. He doesn't have to be the bad guy. His reduction of 41 positions in the current budget was not as painless as it has been portrayed.

One advantage to getting the hidden taxes off the books is administrative simplicity, both for businesses and government. Another benefit may be in avoiding difficulties should some telecommunications sources be legislated away in the US Congress, as has been threatened recently.

Improvements in clarity and simplification may be modest reforms. There may also be some improvements in progressiveness, since property values relate generally to income and wealth.

The greater reform could be to adequacy. When people see directly the public good they are financing, they tend to step up to the plate. Andrew of NPI did research some time ago showing that, statewide, 75% of local levies passed, for parks, schools, libraries, fire and so on. Anti-tax deadbeats have a more difficult time distorting the situation in local elections. Their bureaucratic bogeymen and voodoo black holes play better in statewide elections where the direct public good is not explicit.


If that pattern of success for local levies continued, it would be good news. It has to be the calculus Anderson is contemplating. The city's revenue architecture has been crippled by anti-tax initiatives, and it cannot support projected demand for services past the next biennium. Over ten years the shortfall grows to $100 million. Police, fire and libraries comprise two-thirds to three-quarters of all tax supported services.
But it is a vote. And the prospect for failure could well increase should economic times get harder. Note, the referendum would be on increases from a base level carried forward from the previous vote.
Is the city council be abdicating its function as a representative body by putting basic city budgeting to a vote? Anderson believes it is "too late" for government representatives to get control of revenues. The sequence of anti-tax initiatives which occasioned the current contortions, he thinks, also removed effective control.

It is true that Tim Eyman and his anti-government fellow travellers in the Republican party have intentionally eroded confidence in representative government as a campaign tactic. This is very unfortunate. The complex issues facing our society need to be decided by careful study and deliberation at each level, not by knee-jerk reactions to hot button campaigns.

Making the citizens face a vote which is explicit can only help in getting the public's concept of government back closer to reality. Government is schools, police, libraries, parks, fire protection, roads, courts, and so on. It is not the caricature of bureaucrats and lazy clerks painted by the wingnuts.

Most councilmembers have been cautions in their support. One, Mike Lonergan, was adamant in his opposition. In his comments he made the case for representative government, but only in passing. He is much more alarmed by the prospect of taxing nonprofits. He is past head of the Tacoma Rescue Mission and current executive director of a private school.

Is taxing nonprofits regressive? This is not clear. One can envision opponents of the assessment wheeling nursing home residents into the council chambers. But prosperous hospitals and schools would reap a windfall should they not be included in the tax base, since their utility and business taxes would disappear. Nonprofits are receiving city services without paying full price now, a de facto subsidy by taxpayers.
The question may turn on the magnitude of net effect, the difference between current business and utility taxes and the contemplated property assessment. And remember, the entire scheme needs to be authorized by the state legislature. The precedent for taxing nonprofits currently lies only in special fire districts.

Personally, I am in favor of broadening the tax base as much as possible. While there are many nonprofits who might feel a pinch, there are plenty of others who are hiding from taxes in their nonprofit status. In any event, there ought to be ways to tweak the categories or assessment criteria to meet the worst situations.

For those who may worry that the loss of business taxes means the contribution of non-city residents will be diluted -- Don't. Commercial property values directly reflect their access to customers outside the city limits.

The specific effects will need to be sorted by the task force.

No other action on the fiscal plight of Washington's cities is in sight. Virtually all face the same grim future as Tacoma. Any public debate is better than none. This alone is a compelling argument for going forward with the process.

The last word needs to be, This is not about taxes. It is about responsibility. Funding city services cannot be a matter of good luck and accounting gimmicks. Tacoma is one place where they are doing more than sitting and wringing their hands. They are looking for answers. The rest of the state is watching.

It's True: Tobacco Smokes You

Last night, as I was leaving Drinking Liberally, I was reminded of the Washington State Department of Health's slogan, Tobacco Smokes You.

I had been aware before I came to Drinking Liberally that it was supposed to be "Smoke 'em if you got 'em night" (after the first hour) but I didn't imagine that so many people at Drinking Liberally were actually going to light up.

There were at least half a dozen people (probably more) smoking cigarettes or cigars. Within seconds after the first person had started, the entire atmosphere inside the Montlake Ale House was polluted.

Not too many people know this about me, but I simply can't stand cigarette smoke. It makes me sick. Really sick. And within a few minutes after people started lighting up last night, I was fairly nauseated. I had no interest in wanting to throw up, so I quickly left, earlier than I thought I would.

I'm not entirely sure how much secondhand smoke I inhaled before I left, but it sure felt like a lot. As it turns out, I probably should have left more quickly:
As little as 30 minutes of secondhand smoke can lead to hardening of the arteries in nonsmokers, Japanese researchers reported at the American Heart Association (AHA) meeting.

While most people know that secondhand smoke can affect those living or working around the smoker, most say that damage only occurs with long-term exposure.

However, Japanese researchers report changes that can lead to heart disease occur in as little as 30 minutes. "Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke can result in reduced blood flow and an increase in a marker for oxidative stress equivalent to what occurs in smokers," says Toru Kato, MD, of the faculty of medicine at Saga University in Saga, Japan.
Normally, I try to stay as far away from smokers as I can. I have never tried any kind of tobacco, and I never intend to - ever. As I see it, it's essentially just like drinking a solution of toxic chemicals.

(By the way, there are more than 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke - 50 of which are known to cause cancer in humans).

I cannot understand why anyone would ever want to do that to themselves. It's asking for cancer to hit you in a few decades. It's destroying your body. It drives up your healthcare costs. It's disgusting.

Even after leaving the Montlake Ale House and coming home, I could still smell smoke, and I was puzzled as to why. Then I realized that my clothes had absorbed some of the smoke (and the smell). I immediately changed into a new outfit and started laundering all of the smoky clothes. I still wasn't satisfied, though, and took a shower to cleanse my body as well.

I also had to wipe down my laptop with a damp rag, because I could detect that awful smell coming from it, too.

All in all, it took me quite a bit of time and effort just to clean myself and my belongings up from fifteen minutes of exposure to smoke - and I wasn't even smoking. I can hardly imagine what bartenders and other employees who are exposed to this crap all day long have to go through.

It's why I am extremely happy that Initiative 901 passed with such overwhelming force here in Washington State. NPI strongly supported Initiative 901, and for good reason. People like myself who don't want to be exposed to this garbage shouldn't have to suffer by accommodating smokers.

John L. Kirkwood, President and CEO of the American Lung Association, joins me in congratulating our state's voters for making a healthy choice:
"Washington State voters are to be applauded for making the right public health choice and protecting workers and patrons from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. This ballot box victory represents a major step forward in the fight against the nation's continuing tobacco epidemic."

Washington State now becomes the ninth smokefree state, joining the ranks of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Smokefree states prohibit smoking in most workplaces, including all restaurants and bars.

Workers in restaurants and bars will especially benefit from the decision of Washington State voters. Levels of secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars are approximately 1.6 times greater and 7.6 times greater, respectively, than in office workplaces, and food service workers have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from lung cancer than the general population
If every person lived inside their own little sealed bubble, then I wouldn't have a problem with adults who were making a conscious decision to deliberately poision themselves.

But that's not the case. We all share the same air. And those of us who don't want to breathe in secondhand smoke shouldn't have to. It is the smokers who need to accommodate the nonsmokers - not the other way around!

And a huge majority of voters agree. Initiative 901 passed in every single county in the State of Washington. Every single county.

A few weeks ago, on Election Night, (around midnight or so) after it became known that Initiative 912 was defeated, I was watching a number of different Democrats that I knew light up cigarettes at the Westin's bar, inside the grand lobby. I of course left the Westin shortly thereafter, although I had been planning to leave anyway because it was getting late.

What was really ironic, though, was that Nick Federici, who worked for the Initiative 901 campaign, had come over to the Westin, where people were congegrating as the seperate parties ended.

So while I was congratulating him on the great victory, other Democrats were lighting up cigarettes behind me. I felt bad, and I'm sure Nick did as well.

And it's my understanding that Drinking Liberally was open to smoking last night in honor of Initiative 901, which goes into effect on Thursday. My reaction: What?

The proper way to honor Initiative 901 would be to QUIT SMOKING! That's right: quit smoking altogether, and never light up another cigarette.

If you're a smoker, you owe it to your lungs (and your neighbors) to kick the nasty habit and never start again. The annual economic toll of tobacco use is $50 billion in health care costs and another $50 billion in indirect costs to society.

The Washington State Department of Health is absolutely right. Tobacco smokes you. And those around you. And it definitely contaminates your clothes and other possessions. If you're a smoker and you're reading this, I urge you to quit as soon as you can.

And don't forget - Initiative 901 goes into effect at 12:01 AM tomorrow morning.

For more information:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Vance looks like a total idiot

AP writer Matthew Daly has a story about the Republican party chairman's pathetic attacks on Sen. Maria Cantwell:
The leader of Washington state Republicans is accusing Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of flip-flopping on the Iraq war.

Cantwell, who voted in favor of the war in 2002 and has supported all measures to fund it, was one of 38 Democratic senators who signed a letter to President Bush in October, urging him to "change the course" in Iraq. Last month, she voted in favor of a Democratic amendment calling for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Washington state GOP Chairman Chris Vance called Cantwell's recent actions hypocritical and suggested she is reacting to liberal critics who are dissatisfied with her support for the war.
Chris, maybe you don't understand this, but Maria is reacting to reality. Iraq has become a massive fiasco, a disastrous debacle, an awful entanglement - however you want to put it, it's a big mess. And as it turns out, the rationale for going to war was entirely flawed.

That is what Cantwell is reacting to. Slow realization that George W. Bush and his cronies are not interested in democracy, or justice, or even fighting the real terrorists. Their priorities are out of whack, and Americans are unhappy about it.

But, fortunately, I don't even have to worry about making Chris Vance look like an idiot, because Todd Donovan has graciously done it for me:
A political scientist said Cantwell's stance is unlikely to hurt her in Washington state, where many Democrats and independents have long opposed the Iraq war. The state supported Democrat John Kerry for president in 2004.

"Whether you say she's moving toward public opinion or trying to lead public opinion, that will be spun in different ways," said Todd Donovan of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

But any remarks critical of the Iraq war "are not something that could hurt her, and it could possibly help her, given how much public opinion has changed" against the war, Donovan said.

At most, a potential Republican opponent could attack Cantwell for being inconsistent - hardly the most effective criticism of a politician, Donovan said.

"If she's inconsistent but is adopting a position that is shared by more voters, it's hard to see what damage that could do," he said.
Todd Donovan is right on! Polls indicate that a large majority of the American people are very dissatisfied with Bush's leadership and don't like how things are going in Iraq. Chris Vance can blabber on all he wants about how Maria's changed her position and how phony he thinks she is. His attacks are full of hollow, empty rhetoric that won't, and shouldn't, be taken seriously.

Finally...more evidence that Chris Vance has just become an attack dog:
Indeed, Cantwell's likely Republican opponent, Mike McGavick, has not made an issue of the Iraq war and passed up several chances during a recent interview with The Associated Press to criticize the incumbent, her record or her party.

"We have two quality candidates with very different beliefs," he said.
Vance, by contrast, has issued several news releases blistering Cantwell for "flip-flopping" on the war.
We don't like McGavick, but it's very interesting that he's refused to follow Vance's lead. That's a wise decision, because while Chirs Vance may make a great attack dog, he's definitely not an intelligent leader.

BREAKING: Voters oust Jim West

Looks like his political career is over:
Spokane voters ousted Mayor Jim West today, probably ending the political career of one of the longest-serving elected officials in the city’s history.

Preliminary results in the all-mail special election have 65 percent of the ballots marked in favor of the recall, and 35 percent against.

The 59,501 ballots counted represent 54 percent of the 110,589 sent to voters nearly three weeks ago. Ballots will continue to arrive at the elections office for the next several days, but the margin of support for the recall makes it mathematically unlikely that West can reverse the results.

[...]

Under state law, West will officially be removed from office on Dec. 16, the day the election results are certified. Council President Dennis Hession will become the mayor pro tem until the council selects a replacement to serve the remaining two years of West’s term.
West's conduct was unbecoming for Mayor of Spokane. That's certainly the message that voters are sending tonight.

Bill, why do you hate Christmas?

I posted earlier about the "War on Christmas" campaign that people Bill O'Reilly and his cohorts are propogating. They're claiming Christmas is under attack by evil lefties and secularist demons. They're even getting angry at retailers that wish their customers "Happy Holidays".

But guess who else apparently hates Christmas?

Bill O'Reilly.

Combing through his website (O'Reilly's Home on the Internet), I can find dozens of difference "holiday" references. So can you! Go to the home page of the terrorist sympathizer and mouse over the About Bill menu tab (screenshot here). There, you'll see the first item reads:
Recommended Holiday Gifts
Next, try the terrorist sympathizer's store. Right in the middle of the page (image here), under "Bill's Special Deal", you'll find this:
Spin Stops Here Organizer Briefcase
This Spin Stops Here briefcase is marked down for the holidays. Get one now, they won't last at this price.
Now for some real fun. Check out the Holiday Shipping Information page, with the word "holiday" in the page title and on the page - four times:
Holiday Shipping Information [appears twice on the page]
While doing your holiday shopping at BillOReilly.com, please keep the following dates in mind so you receive your package in time for the holidays
Still more to go! How about the Spin Stops Here Fleece Blanket:
Description:
Whether at the stadium or on the couch watching The O'Reilly Factor you'll keep warm in this large (50"x60") stadium-type fleece blanket with the embroidered Spin Stops Here logo. Makes the perfect gift for all the sports & Factor fan on your holiday shopping list.
This one is even better; it comes complete with its own grammatical error:
Spin Stops Here Tin filled with Soft Mint Puffs
Description: A great gift idea for Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa or anyone else on you holiday gift list. After the last candy is gone, they'll still have a great tin with the logo of their favorite show.
Finally...saved some of the best for last. These are excerpts from a commentary written by Bill in 2002 (again, link goes to his website):
So, how are you fixed for cash this holiday season? Are you in debt like most Americans? According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, a fun place to work, the average debt for every man, woman, and child in the USA is six thousand bucks each, and that excludes any mortgage obligation.

[...]

And so it is the holiday season and the tax geese are getting fat. Would you please put a penny in Mayor Mike's hat? If you haven't got a penny, a half penny will do. And if you haven't got a half penny - you are pretty much like everyone else in America - $6,000 bucks in the hole.
Help me deck the halls - help search the terrorist sympathizer's website for more holiday references!

Lastly - So, after seeing all this, I just have one question for O'Reilly:

Bill, why do you hate Christmas?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Reichert, McMorris to donate Cunningham's dirty money to charity

Via the Associated Press:
Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris and Dave Reichert of Washington state said Monday they are donating to charity $1,000 given to each of their campaigns by a former California congressman who admitted taking more than $2 million in bribes.

McMorris and Reichert, who were each elected in 2004, said they will give away money contributed by former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., who resigned last week after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for steering government work to defense contractors.

More than a dozen Republican lawmakers and challengers, including Jim Feldkamp of Oregon, have said they are donating to charity the campaign cash given by Cunningham.

McMorris said in a news release late Monday she will give $1,000 received from Cunningham's political action committee to Second Harvest Inland Northwest, a Spokane-based food bank.

Reichert's chief of staff said Reichert will donate $1,000 to Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps seriously ill children and their families. The group has a chapter in Redmond, Wash.
Reichert and McMorris should be commended for doing the right thing and not keeping Cunningham's dirty, tainted money. It's good to see that they're doing the right thing.

Delay will face trial

Via the Associated Press:
A judge dismissed a conspiracy charge today against Rep. Tom DeLay but refused to throw out the far more serious allegations of money-laundering, dashing the congressman's hopes for now of reclaiming his post as House majority leader.

Texas Judge Pat Priest, who is presiding over the case against the Republican, issued the ruling after a hearing late last month in which DeLay's attorney argued that the indictment was fatally flawed.

[...]

The judge upheld charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Those charges involve an alleged attempt by DeLay to conceal the source of the campaign contributions by funneling the money through his own political action committee and then an arm of the Republican National Committee.
Delay's legal defense team, of course, are still attempting to execute a few tricks: they hope to get the case thrown out by accusing prosecutors of misconduct in their handling of the grand juries that indicted them. Still, today's developments are bad news for Delay. No vindication in sight.

The economy is doing great. Right. Look out the window.

Dubya trotted out into the Rose Garden the other day so he could get one number on the nightly newscasts: 4.6% GDP growth in the previous six month period (annual rate). He bubbled a little bit, muttered something about keeping taxes down, and retired (don’t we wish) to the spin room.

Look out the window. It's still raining. And Dubya’s poll numbers on the economy show America isn’t listening anymore.

Before I show you my secret chart on GDP, let it be known that it’s jobs that matter. Check out the Economic Policy Institute’s work on this. Jobs Picture shows a pathetic 2.6% more jobs four years into the current “recovery,” jobs which cost us $860 billion in tax cuts. The next lowest performance over a similar period is 7.6% in the 1990s, after taxes were raised. EPI’s The Boom that Wasn’t will depress you even further.

[At this point I begin a long digression on why jobs matter more than GDP and how we used to do better. For the sake of flow, I’ve saved it for a sunny day.]

GDP can be spun in a lot of ways. It can be bought by trucking Chinese goods halfway across the country, past closed factories and abandoned storefronts into the WalMart at the edge of town. Jobs can’t.

GDP can be generated by borrowing against our future, shifting spending to us today from us tomorrow. You can do the same thing with a credit card. Borrowing is not earning. Are you feeling good when you borrow five percent of your income so you can buy three percent more stuff?


So, now, the following chart needs some explanation.

First, it should be titled “Average Annual Real GDP Growth,” instead of just “Average Real GDP Growth.” It shows average growth per year.

Second, the concept is to produce GDP net of borrowing, that is, taking our spending (GDP) and deducting federal deficits, what we put on the credit card. Surely if we’re priming the pump we can’t count the water we put in as part of the product.

Lastly, the deficits used as the minus are not the deficits of the unified budget that you most often see. I have used the deficits of the operating budget. This leaves social security out of the financing of general government.

Explanation of this last point: Social Security is a retirement benefits program that is operated very well and is financed by payroll taxes. Tax revenue goes into a trust fund for future use. The trust fund buys only special federal bonds. If social security were a private or independent program obeying the same rules, the government could not count the receipts from the bonds it against its operating shortfalls. For some reason, in the “unified” budget, this is allowed. The reason, of course, is so the numbers won't look as bad as they are. I don’t allow the theft in the chart below. This is simply growth minus federal debt.

These data go through 2004. They would be roughly the same today, however, since the pace of borrowing has only picked up.

Connecting the dots

I have posted a diary this morning to Daily Kos with an in-depth look at the process of updating Pacific Northwest Portal's Regional Blogs Directory:
A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a delighted progressive activist who informed me that she'd just stumbled onto our flagship website, Pacific Northwest Portal, for the first time.

She'd been looking for more information on the local Republican Party's attempt to disenfranchise thousands of voters by challenging their registrations (more about that here).

She was vaguely aware of the existence of an online progressive community, but had no idea we had a such a strong regional, or local, blogging scene.

She was amazed in particular at how many blogs that we have listed (and linked!) in our Regional Blogs directory, and wanted to know: "How on earth did you find all of these different blogs?"
Follow the permalink to see the answer.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Economic development vs. tax giveaways

While I have great respect for Chris Gregoire, and was enormously impressed with the outcome of the last legislative session, I worry that her economic development plan is not very sophisticated. I saw the coordinator of her GMAP process on TVW talking about economic prosperity (is there another kind?), and she seemed to indicate it the Governor’s efforts are the usual parade of officials showing corporate potentates around the local industrial sites and promising to "work with them."

There is a certain intuitive attraction to the notion that economic development means luring new companies to your shores, but the idea fails the direct look test. Every other state is doing the same thing, the tax breaks and siting bonuses tend to compete away any net positive economic impact. Most problemmatic may be that in order to get the concessions, you need to move your company (or threaten to move, as with Boeing).

State incentives ought not to be targeted to individual companies, or even industries, but to activities that are beneficial. Let the state reward investment in human or physical capital – the activity itself. Let the market invest where the entrepreneurs see the advantages coming.

If we could ever get the small-minded, me-first anti-tax vigilantes out of the way, the state itself could invest to great effect. Transportation infrastructure, for example, is a public good that yields many times its purchase price in real money to real businesses and real individuals from reduced costs and increased opportunity. (The opposition to the gas tax in the recent election was numbing in its stupidity.) A major advantage of infrastructure is that it is not portable, as for example, are the proceeds of a tax break. Infrastructure is here for anyone who wants to be in Washington.

Education is great. Excuse me. Good education is good, great education is great, economically. Employment is high. It improves individuals’ lives. Reduces burdens on other state services. Provides spin-off possibilities. Draws revenue from other states. Focuses communities. Supports local trades and industries. (I get teary-eyed.)

Aside from direct investment, there are three other mechanisms for the state to increase the number and quality of jobs and thus the climate for business: (1) direct hiring, (2) reducing the cost of Washington-made goods, and (3) progressive tax reform.

Direct hiring may seem too obvious, but there is a debate. The Heritage Foundation will tell you that the taxes necessary to fund government programs are themselves obstacles to economic development. The facts are arithemetically and logically conclusive, but lie in the opposite direction.

A dollar spent in taxes hires a worker in the taxing jurisdiction. A dollar spent by a private individual buys a product or service that may be, but often is not, in the taxing jurisdiction. This dilution of the first dollar spent echoes through the economy. (Notice that the person of part one then becomes the person of part two, so nothing is lost, only the government job is gained. This is the root of the concept of the economic multiplier.) The Governor’s insistence in fulfilling the class size and COLA mandates for teachers will do more for Washington’s economy than any number of fenced assembly plants.

[I’m getting off the point here, but one thing that really bugs me is when construction projects are treated as "job producers" and cutting teachers salaries or laying off people in government is called "management efficiency." Maybe this is purposeful spin, maybe it is sincerely believed, but it is wrong.]

Quickly! (Economist rants are so dull)

Reducing the cost of Washington products means more will be bought and production will go up. State government can do this by favorable taxation and by efficient regulation, as well as by infrastructure. The state’s B&O tax is really, really bad at this, since its pyramiding burdens in-state firms while letting out-of-state firms and big, vertically integrated corporations (Wal-Mart) skate.

Progressive taxation. Poor people spend all their income. If they get more income, they will spend more. It’s the multiplier again. The three most fundamental problems (it’s always three, isn’t it) with the our state's notoriously regresssive tax system are: it’s morally offensive, the poor can't produce enough revenue anyway, and it reduces spending in the local economy. Better we should tax people who have the money and let low-income people help local businesses by buying what they need to survive.

Economic development cannot be accomplished by competing with other states. It's a race to the bottom. Promote investment in human and physical capital, emphasize our natural advantages, and do what we can internally to create good jobs and an attractive base of demand.

Happy Holidays to Jerry and Bill!

So, are you going to sue us? We just wished you Happy Holidays!
Two groups, Liberty Counsel, affiliated with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and the Alliance Defense Fund, say they have almost 1,600 lawyer-volunteers ready to battle what some conservative Christians view as a secular movement against Nativity scenes, Christmas trees and even the greeting "Merry Christmas."

Governments that have put "holiday trees" on display have been lambasted, and retailers that wish customers "Happy Holidays" have been threatened with boycotts and pestered with phone calls and online petitions. Started three years ago, the campaign will be the groups' largest.

Falwell launched a "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign" with a stated goal of preventing religious discrimination.
The idea that Christmas is under attack by "secularists" is laughable on its face. It's pretty ridiculous that people like Falwell and O'Reilly choose to spend their time screaming every time somebody says "Happy Holidays". What religious discrimination are you talking about?

God forbid that we have different ways to wish someone a Merry Christmas! There's nothing wrong with "Seasons' Greetings" or "Happy Holidays". The one thing nice about "Happy Holidays", though, is that you can use it to mean Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanzaa, as those are all holidays.

"Happy Holidays" can also mean Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, of course. (Many Christians celebrate New Year's Day as part of the Christmas season, a "holiday" in its own right. For example, Catholics celebrate it as a feast day - Mary, Mother of God).

We see nothing wrong with calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree, or calling Christmas lights Christmas lights. The alleged "war on Christmas" is a big conflict that is manufactured entirely by losers like O'Reilly and Falwel. They're getting angry for nothing.

There is no war on Christmas and no religious discrimination!

Want some clear evidence that this is all just a phony, manufactured crusade? Here's some for you:
Although Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson have lambasted what they see as a "secular" "war on Christmas," Fox News' own online store advertised "Holiday" ornaments rather than "Christmas" ornaments, as apparently first noted on the weblog Daily Kos. The items are grouped under the category "Holiday Ideas."

O'Reilly, host of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, has recently waged a campaign against corporations that greet customers with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." For his part, Gibson, the host of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, has published a book titled The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought (Sentinel, October 2005).

Despite O'Reilly's specific criticism of those who use the term "holiday tree" instead of "Christmas tree," an O'Reilly Factor ornament for sale at the Fox News store features this tagline: "Put your holiday tree in 'The No Spin Zone' with this silver glass 'O'Reilly Factor' ornament."
Well, how embarrassing. Clearly, these guys don't have a shred of credibility whatsoever. The hypocrisy is simply amazing.

Of course, after they were caught, they quietly removed every reference to "holiday":
One day after Media Matters for America noted that the Fox News online store labeled its ornaments "Holiday" ornaments -- including one with The O'Reilly Factor logo -- the items have been renamed "Christmas" ornaments, and references to "your holiday tree" now refer to "your Christmas tree."
Unfortunately, it's too late for FOX. Their hypocrisy lives on in screenshots.

FOX caught in embarrassing gaffe

So, again we say: Happy Holidays to Jerry and Bill, and to wingnuts everywhere. May you have an enjoyable holiday season.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Republicans cheated in the 2004 election

Republicans in Washington State like to accuse us Democrats of having cheated and stuffed ballot boxes in order to secure the election for Governor Christine Gregoire. Of course, there's no shred of credibility or truth to a single one of their allegations, and their claims were dismissed with prejudice by a court of law.

However, it's becoming increasingly apparent that while no fraud or cheating happened in Washington State, it certainly did happen elsewhere last year:
As a legal noose appears to be tightening around the Bush/Cheney/Rove inner circle, a shocking government report shows the floor under the legitimacy of their alleged election to the White House is crumbling.

The latest critical confirmation of key indicators that the election of 2004 was stolen comes in an extremely powerful, penetrating report from the Government Accountability Office that has gotten virtually no mainstream media coverage.

The government's lead investigative agency is known for its general incorruptibility and its thorough, in-depth analyses. Its concurrence with assertions widely dismissed as "conspiracy theories" adds crucial new weight to the case that Team Bush has no legitimate business being in the White House.

According to CNN, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee received "more than 57,000 complaints" following Bush's alleged re-election. Many such concerns were memorialized under oath in a series of sworn statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations conducted in Ohio by the Free Press and other election protection organizations.

The non-partisan GAO report has now found that, "some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

The United States is the only major democracy that allows private partisan corporations to secretly count and tabulate the votes with proprietary non-transparent software.

[...]

The CEO of one of the most crucial suppliers of electronic voting machines, Warren O'Dell of Diebold, pledged before the 2004 campaign to deliver Ohio and thus the presidency to George W. Bush.

Bush's official margin of victory in Ohio was just 118,775 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast. Election protection advocates argue that O'Dell's statement still stands as a clear sign of an effort, apparently successful, to steal the White House.

Among other things, the GAO confirms that:
  1. Some electronic voting machines "did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected." In other words, the GAO now confirms that electronic voting machines provided an open door to flip an entire vote count. More than 800,000 votes were cast in Ohio on electronic voting machines, some seven times Bush's official margin of victory.
  2. "It was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate." Numerous sworn statements and affidavits assert that this did happen in Ohio 2004.
  3. "Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level." 3. Falsifying election results without leaving any evidence of such an action by using altered memory cards can easily be done, according to the GAO.
  4. The GAO also confirms that access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected, so access to one machine provided access to the whole network. This critical finding confirms that rigging the 2004 vote did not require a "widespread conspiracy" but rather the cooperation of a very small number of operatives with the power to tap into the networked machines and thus change large numbers of votes at will. With 800,000 votes cast on electronic machines in Ohio, flipping the number needed to give Bush 118,775 could be easily done by just one programmer.
  5. Access to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user IDs combined with easily guessed passwords. So even relatively amateur hackers could have gained access to and altered the Ohio vote tallies.
  6. The locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy, meaning, again, getting into the system was an easy matter.
  7. One DRE model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary fashion that a power failure on one machine would cause the entire network to fail, re-emphasizing the fragility of the system on which the Presidency of the United States was decided.
  8. GAO identified further problems with the security protocols and background screening practices for vendor personnel, confirming still more easy access to the system.
In essence, the GAO study makes it clear that no bank, grocery store or mom & pop chop shop would dare operate its business on a computer system as flimsy, fragile and easily manipulated as the one on which the 2004 election turned.

The GAO findings are particularly damning when set in the context of an election run in Ohio by a Secretary of State simultaneously working as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign. Far from what election theft skeptics have long asserted, the GAO findings confirm that the electronic network on which 800,000 Ohio votes were cast was vulnerable enough to allow a a tiny handful of operatives -- or less -- to turn the whole vote count using personal computers operating on relatively simple software.

The GAO documentation flows alongside other crucial realities surrounding the 2004 vote count. For example:

The exit polls showed Kerry winning in Ohio, until an unexplained last minute shift gave the election to Bush. Similar definitive shifts also occurred in Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico, a virtual statistical impossibility.

A few weeks prior to the election, an unauthorized former ES&S voting machine company employee, was caught on the ballot-making machine in Auglaize County

Election officials in Mahoning County now concede that at least 18 machines visibly transferred votes for Kerry to Bush. Voters who pushed Kerry's name saw Bush's name light up, again and again, all day long. Officials claim the problems were quickly solved, but sworn statements and affidavits say otherwise. They confirm similar problems in Franklin County (Columbus). Kerry's margins in both counties were suspiciously low.

A voting machine in Mahoning County recorded a negative 25 million votes for Kerry. The problem was allegedly fixed.

In Gahanna Ward 1B, at a fundamentalist church, a so-called "electronic transfer glitch" gave Bush nearly 4000 extra votes when only 638 people voted at that polling place. The tally was allegedly corrected, but remains infamous as the "loaves and fishes" vote count.

In Franklin County, dozens of voters swore under oath that their vote for Kerry faded away on the DRE without a paper trail.

In Miami County, at 1:43am after Election Day, with the county's central tabulator reporting 100% of the vote - 19,000 more votes mysteriously arrived; 13,000 were for Bush at the same percentage as prior to the additional votes, a virtual statistical impossibility.

In Cleveland, large, entirely implausible vote totals turned up for obscure third party candidates in traditional Democratic African-American wards. Vote counts in neighboring wards showed virtually no votes for those candidates, with 90% going instead for Kerry.

Prior to one of Blackwell's illegitimate "show recounts," technicians from Triad voting machine company showed up unannounced at the Hocking County Board of Elections and removed the computer hard drive.

In response to official information requests, Shelby and other counties admit to having discarded key records and equipment before any recount could take place.

In a conference call with Rev. Jackson, Attorney Cliff Arnebeck, Attorney Bob Fitrakis and others, John Kerry confirmed that he lost every precinct in New Mexico that had a touchscreen voting machine. The losses had no correlation with ethnicity, social class or traditional party affiliation---only with the fact that touchscreen machines were used.

In a public letter, Rep. Conyers has stated that "by and large, when it comes to a voting machine, the average voter is getting a lemon - the Ford Pinto of voting technology. We must demand better."

But the GAO report now confirms that electronic voting machines as deployed in 2004 were in fact perfectly engineered to allow a very small number of partisans with minimal computer skills and equipment to shift enough votes to put George W. Bush back in the White House.

Given the growing body of evidence, it appears increasingly clear
that's exactly what happened.
It's stunning, but it seems that the result of both the 2000 and the 2004 presidential elections were illegitimate. George Bush should never have made it into the White House.

AP reports that Locke endorses Burner

The endorsement from the former Governor really should have gotten more attention from the press, but it didn't. Here is what did appear in a recent article:
Locke endorses Darcy Burner for the Democratic nomination to take on Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District. She's a Microsoftie who lives in Carnation.
Well, it's better than nothing. In the coming weeks, watch this blog to hear more about Darcy's campaign.

Maestro Magoo, you’ve done it again!

Alan Greenspan, Fed chairman and master of scatterspeak, addressed again this week the dangers of the huge debt overhang and the federal deficits.

He spoke to the Group of 7 finance ministers Friday, yesterday, saying among other things, the current course of trade deficits is “a pernicious drift toward fiscal instability.” He wants a return to the “procedural restrains on the budget making process” that have been “violated with increasing frequency.”

"Federal operating deficits have cooked us good. The president and Congress did the wrong thing when they got rid of Clinton era tools, pay-go, for one. And Bush and his compliant Congress have thrown away not only fiscal responsibility, but moral responsibility."

[Oops, not quite his words. Forget the quotes.]

What Greenspan doesn’t say and never says is that he’s the one who is driving the bus. As the most powerful non-elected government official in any democracy anywhere, this Fed chairman has set the policies that have allowed us to get to this sorry state.

Emblematic of the Maestro’s competence, and perhaps comforting for those who now worry that he has some forecasting ability, is a speech of mid-2001:

While the magnitudes of future federal unified budget surpluses are uncertain, they are highly likely to remain sizable for some time.” [emphasis added]

He went on in this speech to worry about what the government will do with its bountiful surplus, and he concluded it would be okay if Dubya’s tax cuts went through. This was support Bush needed.
We can’t even see that day in 2001 from here, the pile of federal debt has grown so big. If you think I'm taking him out of context, here's the speech.

Recently Greenspan worried about the financial health of Fannie Mae, the nation’s mortgage lender. Too much debt. The next day he cautioned about the huge burden we have left future generations: we’ve promised the baby boomers more than the economy can produce.

Where was he when this was going on? Pedal to the metal on interest rates. No restriction on the off-the-wall financing instruments like interest-only mortgages. This massive debt, both public and private, is his creation as much as anyone's. The economy can produce much more efficiently and at a higher level if the driver can see where he's going.

The surplus-debt whiplash is very similar to the historic high-historic low interest rate phenomenon. In the late 1990s Greenspan had promoted rates of interest to their highest levels in post-war history. By 2003 they were at their lowest. Four years.

The interest rate is his only tool. It’s amazing. He uses it to motivate the economy, to discourage stock speculation, to combat inflation, whatever. In the post-war period, the economy has always done best when interest rates were stable and the cost of money was predictable. Poeple can plan. Businesses can know what their costs are going to be. Since he’s been in office, Greenspan has ridden the interest rate like a pogo stick and done nothing with any other tool.

After he is replaced at the Fed next year by Ben Bernanke, Greenspan and his wife Andrea Mitchell may no longer be on the A-list in Washington society, but I’m sure he’ll show up in cap and gown from time to time to receive the plaudits of the children of Wall Street.

“Ah, Magoo, you’ve done it again!”

Friday, December 02, 2005

KTTH dumps Mike Siegel

According to blatherWatch, Entercom has decided to say goodbye to Mike:
Mike Siegel won't be back Monday morning.

And who'll be in his place in the 6-9a morning drive slot on KTTH? It'll be those bad boyz of the desperate right, Dan Sytman and Dave Boze, who made quite an impression with listeners last summer filling in during Siegel's numerous absences.
I appeared on Mike's show shortly after Election Day earlier this month. Seems I was one of his last guests. I hope Boze and Sytman are more friendly to any future lefty on-air guests they have.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Rossi endorses McGavick for Senate

There was a lot of news yesterday, and there was one important item that I wanted to get to today because I blogged so much yesterday. The AP has the story:
Republican Senate hopeful Mike McGavick on Wednesday picked up the endorsement of 2004 gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi as well as the state's three Republican congressmen and many top GOP activists.

McGavick, 47, who ran Slade Gorton's successful U.S. Senate comeback bid years ago, soon will retire as chief executive officer of Safeco Insurance to campaign full time.

He has been endorsed by Gorton, former Gov. Dan Evans, former Rep. Jennifer Dunn and other party elders. But Rossi was a big addition to the roster Wednesday, since he's the titular head of the party and probably the best known and most popular GOP figure in the state.
This all but ends all speculation about who Cantwell's challenger will be. McGavick had a virtual lock on the nomination - it's doubtful he'll even have any primary opposition. Nobody else is currently in the race, and after Rossi's endorsement, it's hard to see why any other Republican would want to challenge McGavick.

Leave it to Rossi, of course, to make some idiotic comment that has no truth to it whatsoever:
Rossi, who appeared with McGavick at a joint news conference in Seattle, called it "a great opportunity for change."

In an interview, he said:

"I think he will be a terrific United States senator. Over time, he will have the stature of a Magnuson or a Jackson. He has the ability and the leadership."
The stature of legendary Democrats Warren Magnuson and Scoop Jackson? How dare Dino Rossi attempt to make such a comparison!

Fortunately, someone was outraged on our behalf:
The comment prompted an angry reaction from state Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt, who was in Phoenix for a meeting of the Democratic National Committee. McGavick doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Democratic lions Magnuson and Jackson, he said.

"This really makes my blood boil," he said in an interview. "McGavick would be in the rotten tradition of Slade Gorton. Scoop and Maggie came from modest beginnings and believed in taking care of the poor. Mike McGavick is a corporate insurance executive who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth."
Darn right. McGavick's going to try and sell himself as something he's not. He'll be slickly presented as a moderate just as Rossi was. But McGavick is no moderate. The Democratic Party had better do a good job tearing down the curtains around McGavick and exposing his record and history. They couldn't make Rossi's past stick with him during the 2004 gubernatorial campaign. They need to improve significantly for 2006 - we can't afford to make that kind of mistake again.

It's snowing in Redmond

It's midday here in Redmond, and it's snowing like crazy. Flurries and flurries of white flakes are coming down without pause. At NPI headquarters, the snow is sticking to the ground and appears to be fairly dry.

If temperatures stay the way they are, we could be looking at more snowfall tonight and possibly a much thicker layer of snow.

As always, you can get the forecast for your area from our Toolkit page. Also see our new Winter Weather special section, with links to everything from rider alerts to home preparedness tips.

Tacoma to study maverick revenue scheme

In a special budget meeting Wednesday night, the Tacoma city council agreed to explore a singular remedy for its projected revenue shortfalls. The idea, which was put up by first-year city manager Eric Anderson, would connect key city services to a new tax at levels explicitly determined by the voters. The council agreed to convene a citizens advisory group to examine the plan.

The scheme is basically a monthly city property tax dedicated to police, fire and library services -- the core of city government. Current B&O, utility and other taxes would be eliminated -- including the city's portion of the existing property tax. In Anderson's initial outline, the tax would extend to all property holders other than houses of worship, which would include private schools and universities, nonprofit hospitals, charities, and others. A base level would be set by a city-wide vote, and any subsequent increase would go to a referendum.

While it is not exactly an act of desperation, Anderson's idea is definitely, as Mayor Bill Baarsma said, "a long shot."

The referendum element means that citizens will have the means to decide if they want the tax or not, and if they don't, they will see the effect in services. It thus makes voters responsible for balancing the budget. When Anderson was asked if this wasn't giving up on representative government, he said, "it's too late," meaning that the state initiative process has already degraded the role of city councils and legislatures in this area.

In Tacoma, councilmembers were careful to limit their support to the process of exploration, not the plan itself. A task force of as-yet-to-be-named stakeholders and citizens will be convened early in 2006. Should the idea pass muster there, an advisory referendum is targeted for June.

Should that pass, the result would then have to go through Olympia. Cities are creatures of the state and they cannot unilaterally institute taxes, and Tacoma would need enabling state legislation.

Virtually all cities have been squeezed since the passage of I-695 and I-747, the anti-tax, anti-government initiatives of the late 1990s. This effort will be watched with interest from both sides of the mountains.

COMMENT:

The state had better be free with its authorization, should it ever get to that point. They have no business obstructing any effort of a city to address its fiscal problems. It was the state through initiatives and by legislative action that opened these wounds.

Something has to be done. Cities are in an impossible position long-term. And we've gotten to the long term. It's a shame Tim Eyman doesn't have to figure this out.

I'll have a more complete take on it for you next week, including a note on the issue of abdicating representative government.