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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

2006 State of the Union

This year's speech was essentially the same as last year. It consisted mainly of:
  • lies
  • misleading statements
  • calls to enact bad legislation
  • more lies
  • Orwellian language
  • Absurd references to genuine American heroes
  • even more lies
If you really want to read the text of the speech, it's available here. The Democratic response, delivered by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, is available here.

UPDATE: More press for Drinking Liberally. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an article this morning written by Sam Skolnik, who attended last night's special State of the Union edition of DL:
It was a special night for the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally, a group of left-leaning folks who meet weekly at the Montlake Ale House to imbibe and talk politics.

President Bush, antagonist numero uno, was giving his annual State of the Union speech, and a crowd of about 30 mostly young, professional-looking liberals were there to jeer him on.

A local chapter of the national group was formed in January 2005 by Seattle man Nicholas Beaudrot. Since then, attendance has grown from a half dozen to more than 20 drinkers a week, he said. Guest speakers, including local politicos such as King County Executive Ron Sims and Rep. Ed Murray, have stopped by to address the group.

Tuesday evening, attendees drank when Bush spoke phrases such as "September 11" or "terrorist." They laughed when he appeared to mispronounce certain words. They booed when he called for the renewal of the Patriot Act. And they cheered loudly for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) when she was shown smiling and shaking her head as Bush defended his use of warrantless telephone wiretaps.
And sometimes there are even more than twenty people there - it can be hard to tell, depending on how busy the Montlake Ale House is. Find out more information about Drinking Liberally on our Resources page.

NPI releases second podcast

We've released our second podcast for January 2006. The focus of this podcast (not surprisingly) is Pacific Northwest Portal, as today is also the one year anniversary of the website's existence.

Also in the podcast is an overview of how the regional progressive blogosphere responded to the GOP's recent sickening ad campaign, which attempted to get voters to believe Democratic legislators wanted to protect sex offenders and not innocent children.

If you want to subscribe to our Media RSS feed to be notified immediately when new podcasts are released, click here. Our podcasts are also available through iTunes.

Pacific NW Portal Celebrates One Year Anniversary

One year ago I posted this announcement here on this blog:
The Pacific Northwest has a new information gateway and media center for progressives and Democrats.

Pacific NW Portal has just launched online at www.nwportal.org.

The portal features a "newswire" for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and the United States, as well as the callsigns and station numbers for all the regional Air America stations.

It also allows visitors to see the latest 4 posts from 12 different blogs - 4 in Washington, 4 in Oregon, and 4 in Idaho - a total of 48 posts, all on one page!

[...]

The portal also has a calendar, and a directory of progressive blogs and websites for all three Northwest states.

And on top of that, it has an extremely comprehensive media directory for Washington, Oregon, and Idaho - including newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations.

If you like in the Northwest, Pacific NW Portal is designed for you. Find out what like minded bloggers in your state or region are saying. Browse the latest headlines from your state or enjoy easy access to forward thinking blogs and websites. From a single page, access dozens of newspapers/TV and radio stations in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.

See how easy it is to stay connected with politics from one web page!

Check out Pacific NW Portal now at www.nwportal.org.
It's hard to believe, but Pacific Northwest Portal is indeed one year old. Thirty blogs are now syndicated, and 214 blogs are linked from our Regional Blogs Directory. I could not have possibly anticipated the significant growth we've experienced over the last twelve months. And here we are, beginning our second year of operation.

To everyone who has visited Pacific Northwest Portal or recommended it to a fellow activist, thank you. A special thanks to those bloggers that link to the Portal or display a "Syndicated" link button. Your support is invaluable and sincerely appreciated by all of us at NPI.

I've posted a diary with more thoughts on the anniversary at Daily Kos.

"Now I see his true colors"

Tim Eyman's attempt to reverse HB 2661, just passed last Friday and to be signed by the Governor tomorrow, is already backfiring:
The move to repeal the gay rights bill drew fire outside the gay community.

Yelm resident Tony Engler, 47, said his view of Eyman has changed because of Monday's filing.

"I'm not gay or Christian, I'm not a right-wing whacko or a bleeding-heart, tree-hugging Evergreen liberal," Engler said.

"I'm just a guy who's partially disabled and who has laws set up out there to protect my rights to live as a human, not as some second-class citizen," he said. "I'm glad the Disability Act was established before Tim Eyman came along or I'd still be fighting high curbs in crosswalks.

"I used to think Tim Eyman was an OK kind of guy, fighting the good fight; now I see his true colors."
NPI and Permanent Defense are already gearing up to get ready to fight Eyman this year. The response to Eyman's filing yesterday was astounding. We were contacted by dozens of people who want to know what they can do to help stop Tim's wicked schemes.

We expect we'll be hearing from even more people today.

Tim Eyman is no citizen's champion. He is a greedy right wing zealot interested only in his own ego and profiting at the expense of other people. And with his action yesterday, it seems more and more people are beginning to see Eyman for what he really is.

Other reactions to yesterday's filing:
Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said a voter initiative is the wrong way to deal with minority rights.

"I would never welcome any minority group having their rights put on the ballot," Murray said. "The fact that we are now going down the road where majorities are going to decide the rights of minorities flies in the face of what this country is all about. What's next, are we going to decide that certain religions are going to be on the ballot?"

[...]

"I think he is looking for another paycheck," said Rep. Joe McDermott, D-West Seattle.

[...]

The Washington State Labor Council condemned Eyman's plan.

"Let's hope that Washington's Christian faithful focus on the Bible's many lessons of tolerance when they come across Merchant Eyman's table, and opt not to sign his petition," said union spokesman David Groves. "Or they might mimic Jesus' rare display of anger and righteous indignation, and just flip it over."
We will stand with groups like Equal Rights Washington to fight and defeat Eyman's evil schemes. To join the grassroots effort, click here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Goodbye Maestro Magoo

Seldom has one man received so much credit and done so little to deserve it. Alan Greenspan's last day on the job is tomorrow, January 31, 2006.

I am certain the central bankers have found another person who will not threaten them in new Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. I am even more certain they have found a person with more integrity.


No single person exercises more control over the economy than the chairman of the Federal Reserve with his control over monetary policy. Greenspan was not elected and he didn't need a spotless private life, yet he held office through four administrations, Democrat and Republican. He maintained office simply on the reputation of being an inflation hawk, a reputation he built and maintained to the detriment of millions of Americans.

A great deal of credit for his appointment and longevity goes to his skill in cultivating the power elite. As described in Bob Woodward's book Maestro, few couples are more prominent on the A-list social scene in the nation's capitol than the Fed chairman and his wife NBC White House correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

Perhaps less surprising, but surprising nonetheless, is the portrayal of Greenspan as a master manipulator of the bureaucracy at the Fed. More than one governor has quit in frustration at being unable to influence policy.

As familiar as Greenspan's coke bottle glasses and his deeply furrowed face is his manner of speaking, an obfuscating and convoluted style that he apparently inherited from his father. It goes with him wherever he goes. He is said to have proposed marriage twice to Mitchell before she accepted. She had not understood the first time.
Let's hear it in his own words.

"Economic conditions and considerations addressed by the committee are essentially the same as when the committee met in February. The committee remains concerned that increases in demand will continue to exceed the growth in potential supply, which could foster inflationary imbalances that would undermine the economy's record economic expansion."

That was from March 2001. Seems to make sense in a way, "inflationary imbalances" is kind of a odd way of saying inflation, perhaps. Except there was no inflation. There was never any inflation. The statement accompanied a quarter point hike in the federal funds rate.

Skip ahead a year.

"Our accelerated action reflected the pronounced downshift in economic activity, which was accentuated by the especially prompt and synchronous adjustment of production by businesses utilizing the faster flow of information coming from the adoption of new technologies."

This was accompanied by a lowering of the federal funds rate. It should have read, "I screwed up big time."

Between those two pronouncements, Greenspan's stock tumbled as far as that of any of the dot.com start-ups. Once revered as the architect of permanent prosperity, Greenspan was then blamed for an unnecessary slump, before he was forgotten in the fallout from the tragedy of 9-11. That event, in fact, caught him in Europe where he was begging the EU central banks to lower their interest rates to bail out the economy. He was locked out of the country for three days when air travel was shut down.
Both Greenspan and Bush later took advantage of the terrorist attacks to excuse the subsequent economic downturn. In the past, wars have been identified as good for the economy. This time they were just good for cover.

Let's go over it again. At the beginning of 1999 the American economy was booming, the stock market was booming, help wanted signs were everywhere. The U.S. had barely paused on its upward trajectory as Russia defaulted on its bonds and Asian currencies melted down. We were invulnerable.

Then Alan Greenspan saw inflation in the tea leaves, or said he did, and the Fed began to ratchet up interest rates. Wall Street scratched its collective head. What inflation? The only thing on the horizon was the 2000 presidential election. By the time he stopped, the prime rate stood at 9.5 percent. In real terms it was the highest since the Reagan/Volcker recession of 1981.

The worst of it was that it occurred at the same time as a rise in oil prices and an explosion in energy costs, definite drags on an economy which certainly did not need the additional burden of higher interest rates. Too late, the Fed found out that it was much easier to stop an economy with monetary policy than it is to restart one. The prime rate sat at post-war lows for more than two years, and the recovery is still doubtful.

Prior to its occurrence I would have bet large amounts of money that George W. Bush would not reappoint Greenspan for his last four-year term. W's father, H.W., was no great friend of Greenspan's, blaming him for the slowdown in 1991 which hurt his reelection chances. The elder Bush is quoted as saying, "I reappointed him and he disappointed me."

My amazement wore off quickly when Greenspan strode into Congress and said the budget surplus was a threat to our nation's future. Without support from this so-called economic genius, the Bush tax cuts would likely never have come into being. I posted the nonsensical reasoning last month.

His chairmanship of the Social Security Commission in the early 1980s that raised payroll taxes with the promise of putting Social Security on firm financial footing has been completely discredited by his contributions to the undermining of fiscal integrity in the federal budget, in concert with George W. Bush, and its inevitable toll on the entitlement funds.

As he retires, Greenspan can look out on a sea of red ink, both federal deficits and private debt, and count it as his legacy. He can point to his contribution in keeping the dollar overpriced and thus our trade deficits high. He can say with confidence that he has reduced the Fed's tools for affecting the economy to one, the federal funds rate. Maestro Magoo can know with confidence that he operated in a manner consistent with retaining his job and consistent with nothing else.

Another reason to hate Tim Eyman

Apparently Eyman's new mission is to make himself popular with crazy right wing fundamentalists:
Tim Eyman filed an initiative and a referendum this morning aimed at getting rid of the gay rights bill passed by the Legislature on Friday.

State law bans discrimination based on race, sex, religion, marital status, disability and other categories. The gay rights measure passed by the Legislature adds sexual orientation to that list. Gov. Christine Gregoire plans to sign the Legislation Tuesday.

[...]

The gay rights measure passed by the Legislature has been around in some form for 29 years. Gregoire today said she'll fight any effort to undo the new law.

"I'm surprised someone would file an initiative to say let's discriminate against our fellow citizens," Gregoire said. "It strikes me as counter to the values of the state of Washington to have an initiative now that would say to the people of the state of Washington it's ok to discriminate... against gays and lesbians."
Words cannot describe our anger and disgust for this liar, bigot, and profiteer.

Tim Eyman is truly an evil person.

He seeks to cripple the very institutions that form the foundation of our representative democracy.

He seeks to appeal to the people of the state under false pretenses, masquerading as a faux populist and distorting the truth, attempting to convince the electorate to stab itself in the back.

He seeks to destroy funding for our most precious and valued public services - services that make our communities livable, like police and fire protection, libraries and schools, parks and pools, and public works.

He seeks to make our society less safe and undermine our economy by wiping out government investments in transportation infrastructure.

And now he seeks to allow discrimination and inequality in Washington State.

Tim Eyman is a filthy, despicable creature. This organization, the Northwest Progressive Institute, and its Permanent Defense division, will not allow Tim Eyman to go unchallenged.

This organization will stand up not only to defend transportation funding, but it will also stand up to defend equality and civil rights.

Tim Eyman has been defeated before. He will be defeated again. Whether or not his measures get on the ballot this year, we will work to stop him. The fight against Eyman is a battle to save the future and the health of Washington State. We can and we will win it.

We are in the midst of putting together the resouces necessary to organize a grassroots fight against Eyman's measures. If you'd like to be a part of this effort, click here.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Times slams right wing education initiative

It's rare they have such a stellar editorial, but today is one of those days:
Requiring school districts to put 65 percent of their dollars into the classroom won't resolve the financial pressures felt by public education; it would make them worse.

The 65-percent solution is gaining steam across the country — 17 states are considering the idea — and an initiative is in the offing in Washington state. The popularity of this punitive plan is its dubious claim to offer something for nothing. Districts would redirect their operating budget to put nearly two-thirds into the classroom, theoretically freeing up billions without raising taxes.

[...]

But nothing is free, especially not money in the classrooms. The funds freed by a 65-percent rule is money taken from other areas critical to education. This includes curriculum development and teacher training. A school that gave short shrift to developing cutting-edge content and quality teachers would not be successful long.

The 65-percent plan is 100-percent wrong. It offers a one-size-fits-all funding formula for districts that vary in need and spending habits. Such a move wouldn't enhance education, it would severely limit it.

To comply with such a mandate, districts would be forced to make cuts in personnel and services such as custodians and cafeteria personnel.

[...]

The rest of a district's operating budget is not wasted simply because it isn't strictly classroom spending. It includes items that play an equal role in education: think nurses, librarians and guidance counselors; bus drivers and building maintenance.

[...]

Today, most districts are leaner and meaner versions of their former selves, a change forced by economic realities and the rigors of education reform. Regular state audits show strong improvements in the way districts spend and account for money.

The 65-percent solution isn't smart budgeting and it isn't necessary.
We agree. Washingtonians should shun this ill-devised initiative. It will not lead a more sustainable future.

"Fat Boy," "Death Star" and "Lucky Dub"

George Bush's spiritual brethren at Enron will finally go on trial. Jury selection begins tomorrow in a Houston federal court. The headliners were once Kenneth Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Rich Causey, but Causey, formerly Enron's top accountant, turned state's evidence. Attorneys for the other two tried unsuccessfully to get a further delay, saying a fair trial in Houston (remember "Enron Field") was not possible. Eighty percent of citizens there have a negative view of the gentlemen.

These are George Bush's fellow travellers, not only because "Kenny Boy" Lay and other Enron insiders were among his buddies and prime political backers, but more so because Enron-type fraud was Dubya's preferred MO. Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff are into low-brow graft next to Bush and corporate cooking of the books.

One mode of corporate fraud, the "fictitious asset sale," was beneficial to both Bush and Enron. Company A sells its asset to Company B at an enormous price, adds the gains to profits, wows the market with the balance sheet, sells a lot of high priced stock, and hopes nobody finds out that Company B was just Company A under another name and the asset was worth a fraction of the sale price.

Details: The story was recounted by Paul Krugman in the July 2, 2002, NYT. In 1989 George had gotten on the board of Harken Energy when Harken bought his tiny, money-losing, highly indebted company Spectrum 7 for $2 million ("because his name was George Bush"). Harken was losing money too, but was able to hide its losses with profits generated by the sale of an asset, its subsidiary Aloha Petroleum. Eventually the SEC ruled the transaction to be phony because the purchasers of Aloha were simply a group of Harken insiders (who had, in fact, borrowed much of the money from Harken itself).

Before the stock tanked, Mr. Bush sold off two-thirds of his share, $848,000 worth, and in spite of insider trading laws requiring prompt disclosure, neglected to inform the SEC for 34 weeks. An internal SEC memorandum concluded that he had broken the law. No charges were filed. Daddy was president.

The rest of Bush's business career reeks as well. The proceeds from Harken were invested in the Texas Rangers baseball club, and after "an equally strange story," as Krugman puts it, George became a truly rich man.

So when we relive the Enron market-rigging scandal, think not only of "Fat Boy," "Death Star," and "Get Shorty," but also of "Lucky Dubya." They've all cost us dearly.

These and other stories from his NYT columns were collected in Krugman's best-selling book The Great Unraveling: Losing our Way in the New Century. Krugman is an object lesson in why economists speak of things with the term "relative." Today he is viewed by all as definitely on the left, but during the first part of his career the economist was so much in the center you might have called him "apolitical." It wasn't Krugman who changed position, it was the rest of the landscape that moved to the right.

Footnote: Son of Enron. The New York Stock Exchange welcomed Refco, a commodities broker, in August. Refco stock spiked 25 percent. In October its CEO Phillip Bennett was arrested for fraud when it was found that $430 million in debt had been kept off the books. A week later Refco filed for bankruptcy.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Democrats elect Dwight Pelz as State Chair

It's been a long day - and it certainly was a long meeting this afternoon, as the Washington State Democratic Central Committee met to decide who would be the state party's new leader.

I was there, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to hear the candidates in person and talk face to face with Democratic leaders and activists.

I'm going to post a more detailed writeup later, but here's a brief recap regarding the election itself.

First, as the headline of this post makes clear, Dwight Pelz is indeed the new Chairman of the State Democratic Party. Under the state party's rules, a candidate for party office needs a simple majority to win (so 50% + 1). This often requires voting on more than one ballot, as was the case today.

Voting on the first ballot began at about 3:30 PM. The result of this vote was announced just after 5 PM, and was as follows:

Dwight Pelz: 82 votes
Laura Ruderman: 69 votes *
Jean Brooks: 13 votes

165 pieces of paper were submitted with votes on them. One ballot was declared invalid because it was a proxy that had been submitted by email. With the invalid proxy thrown out, the simple majority threshold was reduced to 83 (from 84). (Also note that one of the Central Committee members abstained on the first ballot and did not submit a vote, but this didn't affect the threshold).

But here's where things got interesting. The asterisk next to Laura's vote count is referencing the fact that one of the ballots cast for Laura was challenged. The ballot (which was a proxy) was legitimate but it was cast with special instructions: the vote was to go to Mark Hintz if he was a candidate, but if not, then the vote would go to Laura. The debate was whether the ballot should be accepted or thrown out under party rules.

Ultimately, the Central Committee as a body voted almost unanimously to accept the ballot. The acceptance of the ballot meant that the threshold for winning a simple majority was not lowered to 82 votes (which would have meant a Pelz victory) and thus a second ballot became necessary.

The votes on the second ballot were announced not long afterwards, and the results were as follows:

Dwight Pelz: 95 votes
Laura Ruderman: 70 votes

And that is that. The state Democratic Party has a new Chairman, and it will be Dwight Pelz's responsibility to ensure that the state party is successful in the 2006 elections cycle - not only on the state and local levels, but also in federal races, which have added importance this year.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I'll have more to say shortly when I post a more detailed recap. I hope to have that completed before the day is over.

GOP selects Tebelius for State Chair

It's an interesting choice, to be sure. Here are more details from the AP:
With 113 of 117 state committee members voting, Tebelius received a majority of votes to defeat the party's current vice chairwoman Fredi Simpson of Wenatchee. Tebelius succeeds former party chairman Chris Vance, who earlier this month announced his resignation to pursue a better paying job in the private sector.

Details of the vote were not being released to the public, spokesman Brad Harwood said Saturday evening.

Tebelius of Bellevue has served as a Republican National committeewoman for five years. She ran for Congress in 2004 and lost to U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in the primary. She has been an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle since 1986.

Simpson was endorsed by former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, Attorney General Rob McKenna, U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings and Reichert, and former party chairman Dale Forman.
As the article notes, the Republicans have kept fairly quiet about the voting process at their committee meeting, and that's about all the details that are known at this point. We'll see how Tebelius does as GOP chair.

UPDATE: Richard Pope left this question in the comment thread: "Gee, Andrew, you got the results of the GOP election a little over an hour BEFORE Stefan Sharkansky did. How did YOU manage the scoop?"

How did I? Well, as you might guess, there were journalists representing traditional media outlets at the state Democratic committee meeting who were there to observe and report on what happened (and who won). I (and many other Democrats) heard the news that Tebelius had been elected from a journalist. I subsequently posted that news here from my mobile phone, and added the update from the AP later.

So yes...I suppose I "scooped" Stefan Sharkansky.

Economists "oops" day

Maybe there was something to that interest rate inversion stuff. Commerce Department numbers released Friday show GDP growth back down to 2003 levels, at 1.1% and falling.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) snapshot depicts slow growth across the board, not just in autos. Growth in consumption, business investment, residential investment, and exports all fell from the third quarter into the fourth quarter. Final sales of domestic output actually shrank in absolute terms.

An earlier EPI piece showed that federal tax cuts have produced no new jobs. Forget the happy talk. Employment growth was generated not in the private economy from tax cuts, but came from new government spending. Jobs from Defense-related and discretionary spending was estimated at 2.82 million between 2001 through the end of 2006. Total job growth, as above, was only 2.0 million. Jobs generated by the tax cuts have actually declined the difference of 820,000. This in spite of the rock bottom interest rate regime the Fed has been following until recently.

Without job growth, there is no possibility of overall economic growth. Even the total of 2 million jobs over five years is fewer than Bill Clinton averaged every single year of his presidency, while shrinking the deficit.


What does this mean?
The Bush tax cuts have produced less than nothing. The economy is weaker for the effort. This is because those cuts have been targeted to the rich. The rich don't spend out of new income such as they get from tax refunds, but rather out of accumulated wealth.

It also means George Bush does not know what he is doing. Wait, you say, Dubya knows exactly what he is doing -- He is operating fiscal policy for the benefit of his rich corporate buddies. Fair point. What Bush does not know is that in the process he is killing the economy for everyone and choking off any possibilities for a rebound with big new debt.

He invaded Iraq with a purpose, too, but without understanding reality or the ramifications of his adventure. He and his Neocon ditto tank have produced a situation without an answer in the Middle East. They may have done the same thing with the domestic economy.

As Robert Rubin pointed out last week, the US -- alone among industrial nations -- has combined huge federal deficits and stagnant incomes with a very low personal savings, high personal debt and enormous trade deficits.
Yes, I am the voice of doom and gloom. It may surprise you that the economy of these posts is different than that witnessed to by the talking heads. It surprises me as well. Economics is not in the height of its glory right now, but surely we can do better than the line by Laurence J. Peter: "An economist is an expert who can explain precisely tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today."

Most of the problem is politicization, both internal academic politics and the Heritage Foundation style. A new report from scientists at Emory University studied committed political partisans with MRIs. They discovered that reasoning centers in the brain were quiescent during the process of evaluating politically charged material, but circuits lit up that are connected with emotion and resolving conflicts. When acceptable conclusions were reached -- often by suppressing or ignoring difficult information -- circuits associated with behavior reward came on line. "Much like that seen when addicts get a drug," according to Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory. (See "Partisans don't let the facts get in the way of the truth.")

If you've ever seen economists argue, you know this is what is happening. Entire schools are built on logical flaws or assumption errors, supported only by vigorous debate and polemics. Very much too bad.

Friday, January 27, 2006

KIRO cancels Erin Hart's show

First it was Allan Prell...then Mike Webb...and now, Erin Hart. Via BlatherWatch:
Another liberal talk host is gone from the Seattle market.

"There is no easy way to say this," KIRO's Erin Hart begins her farewell letter apparently sent out to her email list. She goes on to announce the elimination of her live Saturday & Sunday talk show.

The liberal talk host says the split is amicable and due to "cost-cutting at Entercom." She says several others will be eliminated or will change format.

She will continue, she says, doing fill-in for KIRO and sources say she'll continue to have access to KIRO studios to do her Denver show.

Frank Shiers, (Sat. 7-10p; Sun. 4-7p) apparently is safe. Stay tuned.
Entercom management would be wise to find some new progressive radio hosts to fill in the gaps at KIRO. We have a suggestion for them: how about giving David Goldstein, who writes HorsesAss, his own show? It'd be great radio. It would be entertaining, funny, and informative.

VICTORY! Civil rights bill passes Senate!

At long last...this landmark legislation will go to the Governor's desk:
The Senate today voted 25-23 to approve a gay rights bill and ended the debate over legislation that emerged in Washington the same year singer Anita Bryant began her "Save Our Children" crusade against such protections.

The bill would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, lending and employment.

Twenty four of 26 Democrats were joined by one Republican and approved the bill with a one-vote majority.

Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, has championed the legislation for a decade. The openly gay legislator, who waited in the wings for the vote, embraced his partner as the clerk read the vote count.

"I'm very happy," Murray said. "It's a moment of joy."

Democrats said the bill was about preventing discrimination.

A tearful Majority Leader Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, uncorked champagne in her office to celebrate the occasion.
CONGRATULATIONS to Senator Ed Murray and all who worked hard to pass this bill. This is a monumental day in Washington State history.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

DeBolt, Carns kept caucus members in the dark

Representative DeBolt, who last May wrested the leadership position of the House Republican caucus back from Representative Chandler, is refusing to apologize for the GOP's despicable dirty tricks campaign. DeBolt needs to resign from his leadership position - immediately. He has brought shame upon the Republican caucus.

DeBolt won't taken responsibility. He's a chicken - a coward - a magnet for corruption. And fellow Republicans are horrified by his (and Carns') recent actions:
Though he raises money for the Speaker's Roundtable, DeBolt said he does not keep tabs on its activity, does not review its budgets and did not orchestrate the ad campaign. He said that was the work of Kevin Carns, who works for both political committees.

"What they do, they do," DeBolt said of the Speaker's Roundtable.

But others, even some Republicans, disputed the "arm's-length" relationship DeBolt described.

"I think leadership bears some responsibility," said Rep. Bruce Chandler, a Granger Republican who led the caucus last year. "Inevitably, anything the Speaker's Roundtable does reflects on leadership."

DeBolt said he hasn't heard complaints from other Republicans. But several have apologized, Grant said.

That includes Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, whose eyes began to well up when asked about the ad campaign.

"I'm appalled at it," he said. "I came over here to build bridges and this burns those bridges. It makes me want to throw up. My constituents didn't send me over here to do this."

Haler, who said he apologized to at least three Democratic colleagues Tuesday, said DeBolt "has no room for deniability." He and Chandler said rank-and-file caucus members were not told the campaign was coming.
DeBolt and Carns kept GOP caucus members in the dark. This filthy smear campaign is the work of a very small number of people, but it ultimately reflects back on the whole Republican Party. By refusing to accept responsibility and apologize, DeBolt has ensured that he will never lead the caucus again. As David Goldstein notes:
DeBolt won his leadership position by a single vote, and I’ve already heard from a reliable source that at least one of DeBolt’s former supporters has sworn “never again.” There will be a leadership challenge after the current session, and DeBolt will lose.
The smear campaign that DeBolt and Carns orchestrated is completely backfiring. And now that even Republicans are condemning it, you have to wonder how people like Stefan Sharkansky feel about having stepped forward to shill for DeBolt, Carns, & Co.

(Stefan, if you remember, identified the sex offender on the postcards as a Level III sex offender from Pierce County. Wonder who fed Stefan that information).

Stefan is apparently content to be a tool for the corrupt Republican caucus leadership, which cares not about governing, but about seizing and maintaining power.

Tacoma tax plan needs a shot

A couple of days ago I interviewed for a seat on the task force being set up by the Tacoma city council to investigate and analyze city manager Eric Anderson’s city services tax scheme. It wasn’t too long ago on the opinion page of the Tacoma Weekly that I was roundly criticizing Anderson and his plan and the horse he rode in on.

Things change. Anderson’s presentation has changed for one. He’s dropped the "user fee" tag he began with and now he calls it a tax. It is a tax. He’s dropped the occupancy part, so it is no longer subject to criticism as a poll tax.

And I changed. I have a new appreciation for a voter approved tax dedicated to the core missions of city government. Police, fire and libraries comprise the main business of city government, and it is these services that are most directly threatened by the current flimsy revenue architecture.

So far as I know, this is the only forward looking plan in the state to address the inevitable funding shortages to come. If anyone else is aware, please let me know. Otherwise it appears cities are willing to watch doe-eyed as their services come under the knife year after year. Tacoma will be opening the door for all cities if the plan goes through, because its implementation will require state approval. The state needs to approve any new forms of local taxation. That step is part of what will be a difficult road.

The shortfalls we face are, of course, the handiwork and the something-for-nothing right wing and their tax-cut initiatives. We are witnessing the same dynamic on the national stage, where an enormous new tower of debt is being built, a tower which is more and more unstable and which threatens to collapse on our futures, all so tax cuts can continue for the rich.

Locally we don’t have the option of constructing such a tower, since states and municipal governments are required to balance their budgets. This means if we tell the city to cut taxes, we tell the city to cut services. Our kids may not get the schools and police and parks they need, but the tax bills they get from us in twenty years will be entirely federal.

This city services tax is a way of making things, as they say, "transparent." Voters get to choose whether to have the appropriate level of services or not. Increases to the baseline level of revenue would be submitted in a periodic referendum, probably synchronized with the budget cycle.

Eyman and his cohorts ought to love this voter inut, but they won’t. They are in the business of bashing a vague "big government." They are not in the business of making the painful choices that follow when people buy their fiscal snake oil. For that they employ the simple if disingenuous tactic of denial. And then they leave it to the bureaucrats and politicians to do the dirty work.

One valid complaint heard from many citizens is they don’t want to give up their representative government. We hired these officials to make these decisions, they say, not to put them up for voter micromanagement. It’s a good point, but at least it could be an object lesson and a wake-up call. Taxes are simply the financing for public goods. You can’t have the goods without the taxes.

Let’s give Anderson’s idea a fair hearing and tweak it if it needs tweaking. There are dozens of complexities and a couple of potential dead-ends that need to be examined. But before that there are also misconceptions to be eliminated, and not left to stew for months and confuse public discussion. The following points ought to be broadcast to a wary public at the beginning of the process:

1. Your regular property tax bill will go down.

2. Your utility bill will go down.

3. You will get a new bill, possibly every other month.

4. No government agencies, no schools, no park districts will be taxed.

But first! Even before that! If I get chosen, I will force (by filibuster if necessary, so watch out!) a change in the name of the tax. "City services tax" is not right. It is not a tax on city services, like a utility tax is a tax on utilities, or an income tax is a tax on income. This would be a tax based on property value for the benefit of city services. I like "city services assessment," differentiating it from the bi-yearly bill, which would be a "parks and schools assessment." Besides "assessment" is more alliterative.

In Brief - January 26th, 2006

In Brief is a new feature that we're debuting on the blog. It's basically a bulleted list of news items that we want to mention to you but don't want to do a whole post on. We're not quite sure if In Brief will be daily or less frequent, but you can expect to see it often in the future.
  • Tim Eyman is on 710 KIRO right now (On Dave Ross' show) blustering on...and on...and on...in my opinion Ross is treating Eyman way more decently than he deserves. Ross is even laughing at some of the things Eyman is saying. They are talking about the initiative process (see this post from yesterday) not transportation.
  • The Stranger's Cienna Madrid has written a great article about Drinking Liberally. Darryl from Hominid Views and David Goldstein of HorsesAss appeared in the article.
  • MyDD, one of the national blogs that links to Pacific NW Portal, has relaunched its website.
  • Susan Hutchison has decided not to seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Safeco executive Mike McGavick is unopposed in his bid to challenge Cantwell. In the 8th District, the Democrats are in the same position, with Darcy Burner the only candidate trying to unseat Dave Reichert.
  • David Goldstein has revealed that Kevin Carns, the Republican attack dog who's been defending the GOP's fake sex offender ad campaign to target Democratic legislators, is a professional troll who has been posting comments on his blog for over a year.
  • KIRO 7 investigators have traced how Republican House Leader Richard DeBolt has been using his position in the Legislature to press $3 million in tax money through another agency -- and subsequently back to his bosses in the private sector. It's money for a railroad segment that goes to just one place. See the whole story to learn more. Democrats are now proposing to redirect that money elsewhere, perhaps to help the safe routes to schools program.
  • Mark Hintz has left the race for state party chair. The front runners are now Laura Ruderman and Dwight Pelz. Jean Brooks is also still in the race.
Something you want to share? Feel free to post it in the thread below.

Initiative efforts launching from right to left

Item number one: the Washington State Farm Bureau moved forward with its plans to attack growth management a couple days ago:
The Washington Farm Bureau, which began talking about a property rights initiative more than a year ago, set the process in motion Tuesday by vowing to fight government regulations that restrict land use.

A filing with the secretary of state allows the 34,000-member Farm Bureau to begin a relatively early campaign to collect 235,000 signatures by July 7. The goal is to win a spot on the November ballot.

Called the Property Fairness Initiative [more like the End of Zoning Initiative], the measure's intent is "to protect (the) use and value of property from excessive regulations by state and local government."

The Farm Bureau has its work cut out for it. Voters soundly rejected a measure 10 years ago that would have required local governments to compensate landowners when regulations reduced their property values.
The Farm Bureau also has opposition. We won't let them get away with distorting the truth and destroying growth management. We'll be working with groups like Futurewise this year to make sure this initiative is defeated.

Item number two: Brian Janssen, head of the local chapter of a right wing group trying to deform the education system, took some flak over the initiative proposal he's filed with the Secretary of State:
Some of the state's top education advocates are coming out swinging against a proposed initiative that would require school districts to spend 65 percent of their budgets in the classroom.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson, the state teachers union and the League of Education Voters aren't waiting for the initiative backers -- part of a national grass-roots movement -- to gain momentum here.

"It's being called the '65 percent solution,' but we regard it as really 100 percent deception," said Charles Hasse, president of the Washington Education Association, which represents K-12 teachers statewide. "It's a shameful and deceptive effort to distract people from the real issues facing students and schools."
The two initiatives mentioned above are just half of the threat this year. There's also Tim Eyman's initiative to gut transportation funding and another right wing group's bid to destroy the estate tax.

But thankfully, there is some good news - a progressive initiative was filed yesterday:
A coalition of conservationists and clean energy advocates filed an initiative Wednesday that would require Washington state utility companies to increase the amount of renewable sources in their electricity supply to 15 percent by 2020.

Washington would join 20 other states and the District of Columbia that have a so-called renewable portfolio standard; Maine has the highest, at 30 percent.

Under the initiative, which would also require utilities to invest in energy conservation programs, utilities with more than 25,000 customers would have to meet 15 percent of their annual load with resources such as wind power, solar energy or sewage gas.

Supporters say such a move would stabilize rates for electricity customers, offer economic development opportunities for rural communities and add jobs, all while helping lower emissions.

"This initiative will secure Washington's energy future," said Sara Patton, executive director of the NW Energy Coalition, one of several groups that make up Washingtonians for Energy Security.
Finally, a progressive initiative that we can support. The other side already has four major initiative assaults underway. We now at least have a decent proposal that helps us create a sustainable future.

The coalition that filed this initiative includes U.S. Representative Jay Inslee, who has been very active on this very important issue. Democrats ignore energy at their peril, as this Kos diarist explains.

If you're interested in getting this energy initiative on the ballot, visit Washingtonians for Energy Security.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Murray will oppose Alito

This just in from DC:
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Wednesday she will oppose Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, saying he did not show he will be an independent judge who will uphold the rights and liberties of all Americans.

"With our rights and freedoms on the line, I will not take a chance on Judge Alito because I have serious questions about his independence and commitment to protecting our rights and liberties," Murray said in a speech on the Senate floor.
Good for Senator Murray. Alito is a threat to a secure, free, and just America. He must be opposed - and filibustered.

American Rights Through Asian Eyes

On January 24th I attended the Asian Pacific American briefing session leading up to the February 2nd APA Legislature Day in Olympia, Washington. An annual event, the day is an opportunity for Asian Americans from all over Washington state to gather at the state capitol and present a legislative agenda, hear the Governor speak, and rally as an increasingly influential constituency. The expected crowd could reach 3000 Asian American citizens from every corner of Washington.

In politics, the view of the social landscape one has is profoundly affected by WHERE one stands. Issues, philosophies and legislation combine to create a complex topography on an ever-evolving map of federal and state law.

After listening to the fine briefing on the APA legislative agenda given by Tony Lee, I came away with a new point of view. Some issues I thought I already possessed a solid, detailed picture of now seemed sharper, more defined, and unfortunately, more sinister than I had previously perceived them to be.

One of the key elements of the APA legislative agenda involved voter’s rights. The landmark federal legislation known as the Voting Rights Act of 1964 is set to expire next year. Since the tumult of the early 1960’ s that led up to a new opportunity for Americans to participate in our democracy, many of us take for granted the fundamental right to vote.

However, that right to vote is now under attack in our society. Since the successful gerrymandering of Congressional Districts in Texas that brought Tom DeLay to power, there has been a growing awareness among the people of how elements within the Republican Party seek to suppress the voting rights of minorities, the poor, the disenfranchised, and people who speak English as a second language. Voters, in other words, who tend to favor Democratic candidates and initiatives.

Here in Washington State, Senate Republicans are preparing a bill that would require proof of citizenship in the form of a birth certificate or passport in order to vote at the polls. It is sponsored by Republican State Senator Pam Roach. Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? Why shouldn’t someone have to prove they are a citizen in order to vote?

Now look at the issue from another point of view :

1. There is a significant, elderly African American population who were not born in hospitals, where birth certificates were readily accessible. These citizens were born at home. Often the reason was because they could not get adequate maternity care because of discrimination and segregation. This is a cultural fact the Republicans are well aware of. The sometimes complex structure of the poor, migrant African American family in America prevents easy tracing of roots, and often does not rely on a paper trail. Should a citizen in this situation be denied the right to vote? Even when they present proper identification?

2. Many Asian Americans face language barriers when trying to participate in our democracy. Older immigrants who are naturalized citizens are no less befuddled than the rest of us when faced with hanging chads, hole punches, computerized voting machines. Should they be deprived of the right to have someone come into a voting booth to help them cast a ballot? The greater majority of states already have such rules on the books, but not Washington.

3. I heard firsthand the stories of Asian Americans who faced intimidation and rudeness at the polls. Asian and Latino names are often misspelled, mispronounced or mislaid. Voters have been told their names are not on the rolls because frustrated poll workers do not want to spend extra time seeking out “foreigner” names or reconciling ID inconsistencies. Should these people be denied the right to vote?

One side note: currently only about a third of the representatives in the U.S. Congress possess a passport. Good luck at some polling places.

When you examine this issue from another point of view, it becomes clear that the Republican measures that are sold to the public as “voter reform” or “vote confirmation” are really “voter manipulation” schemes in disguise.

As Americans we must stand up and protect not only our rights, but the rights of our fellow citizens. When a political party uses the right to vote to exclude, limit and control who has a say in our democracy, we remain silent at our own peril.

If the current ethics and spying scandals in Washington DC have taught us anything, it is that we need to look at who stands to gain and who stands to lose when our representatives advance measures affecting our basic rights as Americans.

When you look at issues like this from another vantage point, the landscape of the American Dream takes on a whole new perspective.

I am grateful to the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Washington for giving me the opportunity to see things in a different light.

I know the view from the Olympia Capitol steps is going to be great on February 2.

Rubin's Rx

Clinton's economic guru, former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin, wrote a piece in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal on what's up with the economy. "Rubinomics," you will remember, was widely credited with turning things around under Clinton. It concentrated on a return to fiscal fundamentals, deficit reduction, targeted tax breaks, open markets, and social spending on education and against poverty. His piece today continued on the same line. (Why not?)

Rubin says (in my translation, see below):
We are in deep do-do, and the Supply Side nonsense that things are going to turn around is bull.

Big deficits cannot be tolerated, since we are facing big payouts in entitlements, exorbitant health care costs, and years of underfunding education. Medicare is several times as great a problem as Social Security.

Our fiscal problems are made worse because the U.S., alone among the developed nations, has combined them with very low personal savings rates, high personal debt, and enormous trade deficits -- currently over 6% of GDP -- stemming partly from our budget deficits.
[It is fair to note here that trade deficits were not much better under Clinton/Rubin.]

We can close more than three-quarters of the deficit by rescinding the tax breaks for the rich. There is no other practical means.

The current illusion of strength in the economy comes from the housing boom, which was generated by low interest rates. Low interest rates have come from (1) Greenspan rolling over for W like he never did for Bill and me, (2) foreign central banks propping up the dollar for their own trade purposes, and (3) lack of demand for capital from business (not a good thing). Interest rates will go up soon, largely because federal deficits are going to bid them up.

We need significant new public investment, both to turn around the decline in people's incomes and to equip our citizens to participate in economic growth.

Global integration, including all nations, must continue. Essential to its success is reducing global poverty. Further integration will be politically possible only if everybody is "participating" here at home, as above. It is problemmatic that who want global integration do not support the significant domestic investment needed to get people participating on a broad scale, and those who want the domestic investment on people are not so sure about globalization.
End of translation, you saved 745 words.

Rubin has experience turning bad situation around, although he and Clinton did have a couple of breaks not available today. For example, when they cut the deficit and interest rates fell, a huge re-fi boom followed. This will not happen again; interest rates are already low and all the re-fi-ing has been done. And oil prices fell for Clinton and Rubin, then stayed low, and fell some more before rising a bit at the end. Low oil prices are no longer on the horizon. Also, the technology boom was probably not entirely invented by the Clinton or his vice president.

I was impressed particularly by Rubin's call for broad public investment to first develop human and physical capital, but also to get people's incomes going up again. The likelihood of such a program is dim at best, even under a Democrat. The return to fundamentals in the first year of the Clinton administration was far from painless. The modest tax increase it required cost Democrats control of Congress. (Recall that Maria Cantwell's yes vote cost her a second term in the House, when she was defeated by anti-tax demagoguery.)

But it would work.

Translator's technical notes:

One thing I didn't know about Rubin is he has a very abstruse style of writing. While he is not purposefully ambiguous as is Alan Greenspan, it is very thick. The following examples depict how the original text has been transposed into blogish.

The title "We Must Change Policy Direction," to "Change Policy!"

A sample paragraph: "Re-establishing seriousness of purpose regarding economic policy and acting to meet the challenges of our era will require our political system to do what it is not doing today: making choices that are very difficult politically, compromising among divergent views in order to reach common ground, and putting aside ideology in favor of facts and analysis."

This paragraph was omitted as superfluous. Had it been included, it would have read, "We need to get together, face facts and show some backbone before it is too late."

Mine is simply an aggressive rendition of Rubin's opinions. They are not my own, even if there are some similarities.

Eyman back in Olympia tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, Tim Eyman plans to be back at the Capitol Campus in Olympia - but not to file a new initiative. No, Eyman is actually going before the Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee to testify against various bills designed to reform the initiative process.

The committee's calendar for tomorrow morning's 8 AM hearing (which Eyman is exhorting his supporters to come to) includes the following:
  • SB 5556 - Requiring initiatives and referenda to set forth repealed language in full. (Fraser)
  • SB 5412 - Modifying the impact of statewide initiatives on local tax authority (Prentice)
  • SB 5879 - Prohibiting out-of-state contributions to gambling ballot measures. (Prentice)
  • SB 5147 - Prohibiting payment of petition signature gatherers on a per-signature basis. (Kohl-Welles)
  • SJR 8201 - Amending the Constitution to remove initiatives and referenda powers. (Jacobsen)
It's funny. Eyman doesn't seem to care about showing up to hearings for bills concerning the subjects of his initiatives - like performance audits or transportation. But the moment a legislator calls for reforming the initiative process Eyman is suddenly there.

But it's not that mysterious once you think about it. The current system is easily manipulated. The initiative process has been hijacked by special interests which are using it to thwart the Legislature's work.

Take last year's I-912, an attempt to destroy the Legislature's 2005 Transportation Package. It failed thanks to a lot of hard work from many organizations (including NPI), but it could have passed, and caused significant trouble.

Eyman is a perfect example of how the process has been abused. And naturally, if you're the abuser, you want to keep things the way they are so you can keep abusing.

Some of the proposed reforms - like requiring paid signature gatherers to be paid by the hour (instead of by the signature) are indeed sensible, needed reforms. The purpose of these bills is to start a discussion about reforming the process - because it needs to be reformed.

The question is: What's the best way to fix the problem?

Eyman is urging his supporters to bombard legislators with emails yelling at them for trying to "tamper" with the initiative process. Eyman constantly defames the Legislature (those "politicians"), even though he himself is a politician, and a highly paid one at that.

The sponsors of the bills listed above ought to be commended for recognizing this problem and taking steps to end abuse of the initiative process.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

8th Congressional Race Update

NPI learned earlier today that the two other people who were interested in seeking the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District have decided not to get in after all. Paul Abrams and Menno Van Wyk are out of the race, leaving Darcy Burner as the sole Democrat seeking the nomination.

The Burner campaign is firing on all cylinders and has been extroadinarily successful in raising money. Darcy appears often at Democratic events in and around the 8th District, if you'd like to meet her, check out her Events list.

Legislators demand apology from GOP

The legislators who were targeted by the Speaker's Roundtable, a front organization for the Washington State GOP, have sent a letter to the Republican House leader (Richard DeBolt) demanding an apology.

The letter, courtesy of VanBlog, is as follows:

January 24, 2006


Representative Richard DeBolt
Minority Leader
Washington State House of Representatives

Dear Representative DeBolt:

We, the undersigned members of the House of Representatives, have been the targets of your campaign committee in recent days. Because we refused to bring to the floor a bill that had not received a public hearing as of that date, a bill that most members had not even seen or read, we are being accused of “refusing to impose life sentences for violent sex predators.”

It is an egregious lie, frankly, and unworthy of the good people in your caucus.

However, we are not the true victims of this action. Thousands of families in Washington received phone calls and postcards falsely warning of a “violent predator” living in their communities. Parents we’ve spoken with were unnecessarily alarmed; children seeing the postcard were needlessly frightened.

Fear-mongering, exploiting children for political gain, lying to the public – these are the kinds of stunts that should not be acceptable here in Washington state.

Last June you signed a letter asking for donations to the Speaker’s Roundtable, the organization responsible for these calls and postcards. You were recently quoted in the Olympian saying that these political decisions are being made independent of your caucus.

Whether you are directly involved in these decisions or not, these innocent people deserve an apology and we are asking you to give them one today. Please let the people of our state know that this sort of political tactic was a mistake and will not be repeated.

Only then can we get down to what we all want to do: pass meaningful legislation that will protect children and convict more sex offenders.

Sincerely,

Rep. Bill Grant
Rep. Pat Lantz
Rep. Geoff Simpson
Rep. Deb Wallace
Rep. Tami Green
Rep. Derek Kilmer
Rep. Pat Sullivan
DeBolt and his cronies need to apologize immediately. They made a serious mistake and they need to acknowledge that.

Seattle Times finally covers GOP dirty tricks

It's several days late, but here's the story from the Times:
House Democrats on Monday accused Republicans of dirty politics for mailing out 25,000 postcards that accuse certain lawmakers of being soft on crime and protecting violent sex offenders.

The postcards show a mug shot of a middle-age man with slicked-back hair. His eyes and his name are blacked out to shield his identity. The cards, shown in photocopies provided by Democrats, carry a bold headline that reads, "This violent predator lives in your community."

[...]

The cards are part of a $75,000 Republican ad campaign that Democrats say is targeting lawmakers in swing districts for the November election. In addition to the cards, the campaign is using radio spots, television ads and automated phone calls.

"It's politics at its worst," fumed House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.
Indeed. But it's much more than that.

As usual, the Republican leadership tried to pretend it wasn't involved:
House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said he had nothing to do with the ad campaign and referred questions to Kevin Carns, executive director of the Speakers Roundtable, a GOP political-action committee (PAC).
"Nothing to do" with the ad campaign, eh? Richard DeBolt is such a liar. Of course he was involved. The GOP's stunt on the first day of the session was certainly his doing; and that was the setup for this ad campaign.

It's the classic denial. DeBolt was and no doubt still is involved. He and his cronies are feeding people like Stefan Sharkansky information because the regional progressive blogosphere is investigating these dirty tricks and exposing the Republicans' lies. Stefan is the surrogate they're using to respond.

From the Times article:
Carns said there was discussion of an ad campaign even before the vote was taken, but the ads weren't created until afterward.
See what we mean? This was all designed and planned out months ago. No doubt DeBolt, who recently wrested the leadership position of the House GOP caucus away from Chandler, thought this would give the GOP an edge.
The mailing infuriated Democrats. "The entire postcard is a lie," Kessler said.

For example, she said, although the postcards claim the sex offender pictured lives in a particular district, the same photo appears on all the cards.

Carns said the cards aren't supposed to be taken literally. "I would have loved to put an offender from each specific district and not obscured their name. But we'd have put ourselves at liability to do so," he said.

He used one picture, with identifying information blacked out, "as a metaphor," he said.
Metaphor, indeed. What a lame, phony excuse. If this is a metaphor, where's the disclaimer? Of course the postcard is a lie. It's unrefutable. The postcards say: "This violent predator lives in your community" which is a flat out lie. The whole postcard is built around the premise that these guys live in your community and Democrats are for public policy that would leave your family unprotected - completely distorting the Democrats' position. Again, it's a LIE.

Republicans are lying with their postcards, TV ads, and robocalls. They don't have anything legitimate to hold over the heads of their Democratic counterparts so they're just making up lies.

It's a campaign designed to stir up mistrust and angry feelings among constituents of these Democratic legislators. It's filthy and disgusting, and it's happening while lawmakers are in Olympia trying to do the public's business.

Every single editorial board across the state ought to condemn these sleazy tactics. And every single media outlet that prides itself on objectivity ought to investigate this story and allow the public to see the truth.

Joined at the unholy hip.

Shall we begin a betting pool to see how many "Orange Alerts" there will be leading up to the November mid-term elections?

The Republicans and Al-Qaeda now depend on each other like surgically grafted Siamese twins. One depends on the other to enhance their power base.

The Bush administration has fallen for every psychological trap Osama Bin Laden has laid, with their trumpets blaring and their pants down.

Unable to make any headway in the war on terror over the last four years, the Republicans point to Michael Moore and progressive thinking America: must be their fault.

The Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz cabal relish their opportunities to employ cheap citizen control tactics whenever possible. How many elevated alerts were there before the 2004 election?

How many since?

Not since Munich in the 1930's has a political party manipulated the honest patriotism of its people towards one end: power for power's sake.

(This blog entry is a cross-post from a comment I submitted to Daily Kos "Osama's talking points" January 24.)

Monday, January 23, 2006

GOP dirty tricks: TV ad and robocalls

Another update on the Washington State Republicans' dirty tricks. Courtesy of The Olympian, here's a transcript of the robocalls:
Kevin Carns, executive director of The Speaker's Roundtable, a political committee attached to the House Republican Organizing Committee, has sent recorded messages into the homes of voters in swing districts. "Republicans proposed putting child molesters in prison for life. But the Democratic Legislature refused to have a vote on the issue," one message declares.

"Their proposal releases sex predators back into your community with electronic monitoring. ... Tell the Democrats to protect children and not violent criminals."
(emphasis mine)

Also, Washblog has the TV ad the Republicans created here.

Once again, the Republicans are distorting and manipulating the facts. Their strategy is to out-tough the Democrats. No matter how tough Democrats try to make themselves, the Republicans will try to take it a step further.

The GOP is morally bankrupt. They lack wisdom and common sense. It's clear that they don't care about good public policy (especially on important issues like dealing with sex offenders) - instead, they care about winning and holding power. It's their priority. It's on display for everyone to see.

Their whole strategy this legislative session is to take advantage of Democrats whenever possible. Exploitation's the game. Rather than attempt to work in a bipartisan fashion to govern, Republicans are deploying their sleaze machine to attack Democrats in their own districts during the legislative session. It's disgusting and deplorable.

And it has to end. Voters need to know about these dirty tricks. Voters need to know what they're getting from the Washington State Republican Party.

Postcard update: GOP dirty trick widespread

We have reports in now that constiutents of Democratic legislators in the 16th, 17th, 26th, 28th, and 47th Legislative Districts have been targeted with fake "sex offender notifcation" postcards.

Rep. Derek Kilmer offered this report:

The postcards were sent into our district as well. Most of the calls that I’ve received (at my home and at my office) have been from people who are angry about the cards – feeling that the Republicans were politicizing the issue of protecting our kids. We have had a couple of folks who called to ask if they could get the address of this sex offender – people who were concerned that it was an accurate portrayal.

My wife and I are expecting our first child in March. Nothing is more important to me than making sure our child – and all of the kids in our state – are safe. I’m offended by efforts to play politics with important issues.
And apparently they're using the same picture and description in every single district they've mailed the postcards out to. That "offender" sure lives in a lot of different communities and regions - the Vancouver (Wash.) metro area, Walla Walla, Kent, and the Kitsap Peninsula, to name a few.

Where is the media? This is an outrage. The Republicans are using sleazy, disgusting campaign tactics to scare and intimidate voters. And they're lying. They're feeding the public misinformation. The respected media institutions of the Pacific Northwest say they strive for objectivity, so let's see it.

Which reporter is going to be the first one courageous enough to call the Republicans on their filthy tactics? If nobody reports on this the GOP is going to think it's OK to continue executing nasty stunts because there are no consequences. If the press is truly serving the public, then it has an obligation to investigate this.

UPDATE: Apparently the person on the postcard is in fact a sex offender...I was pretty sure the GOP wouldn't just get a guy with a mugshot. unSoundPolitics offers this really lame explanation:
The person depicted in the postcard is a level 3 sex offender last known to be in Pierce County. He is "considered at a high risk to reoffend" and is somewhere in the community, but "has no supervision requirement", so we can't be sure exactly where he is. There are laws to protect sex offenders from harassment, so I'm not going to post his name, but go to the Pierce County list of Level 3 Offenders and you'll find him listed in an unincorporated part of the county. I post the description of his brutal crimes in the extended entry.
It's still a flat out lie to tell people outside of that area that this offender (with a photo and a description) is in their community. The GOP is cheap and sleazy.

NPI podcasts to be heard on the radio

Our Executive Director has posted a diary to Kos:
We have only barely begun to counter the Right's dominance of the airwaves. Air America, which is not even two years old yet, has had a promising start, but still we have a long ways to go.

The Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) is working to help build an infrastructure that will enable the progressive movement to take the country back from the Right. We believe the Internet is the medium that will allow us to do this.

We also believe that we need to offer more than text and graphics.

That's why, last week, we launched the first in what will become a regular series of podcasts.

Podcasting is basically using RSS to distribute audio content over the Internet, which can be listened to on both computers and mobile devices.

Today, NPI is pleased to announce that our podcasts won't just be distributed over the Internet - they'll also be aired on the radio.
Follow this link to read the whole thing. If you have an account at Kos, please recommend also.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

McGavick, Rove Inc.

Mike McGavick stepped out in front of Washington voters recently to tell the public about himself and his campaign against Maria Cantwell.

Fortunately for him, he did not have to formulate one original thought in the process. McGavick simply referred to his Karl Rove Talking Points Kit: Fear, Divisiveness, Profit at any Cost, Corporations First, Cultural Warfare.

He evoked the Republican's failing war on terror as a reason he should be sent to the Senate. As if the Republican majority already there has been able to make us safer since 9/11.

He suggested putting the squeeze on the border with Canada to keep Americans safer: as if Al Qaeda might be pouring across from there, not hiding in plain sight in our "friend" nation, Pakistan.

He called for "civility" in the Senate, after the draft-doging Republican leadership has called decorated war veterans "cowards" and "people who give comfort to the enemy."

He expressed sympathy for Alito's tearful wife, but no sympathy was dispensed for the dead of hurricane Katrina after Bush's crony "Brownie" bungled the FEMA response.

He promised to balance the budget the Republican's have decimated, but did not mention his own bonus of $2 million while 1,200 workers were laid off at Safeco when he was CEO.

He had conservative Reverend Joe Fuiten lead the invocation at his campaign event, but presumably the prayers were only for approved Christians, not just anyone.

His "talking points" campaign only shows how far the reach of Rove's double-speak is. Republicans will keep selling their cheap bag of tricks until we the public reject these poorly made products, and send them back to the corrupted company that sells them.

One can only hope the citizens of Washington know a McGavick-Rove Inc. product when they see one.

A jobless recovery is not a recovery III

Full employment was once the primary objective of presidential economic policy. It was required by law, mandated by Congress in 1946 under Harry Truman in the Full Employment Act. That Act required an annual report to describe what the president was doing to achieve this end. This report, The Economic Report of the President, is still a terrific source of data, but it has lost its focus on jobs and has become little more than repository for failed predictions.

In 1946, the object lessons of the Great Depression and then World War II were fresh in the minds of the people and their lawmakers. They knew that the Depression was only the deepest in a series of crippling troughs that had afflicted the prewar capitalist economy. Previously these events were called "panics." (The much milder downturns subsequent to World War II have been termed "recessions.") But the Great Depression was the formational event of generations.

The economics of this period was energized by three things: the development of Demand Side economics under John Maynard Keynes (KANES), the commitment of many of the most capable minds of the era to solving the social pandemic of Depressions, and the patent fact that the successful economies of the 1930s were those of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.

The economic discipline suggested by Keynes, which is now considered so left wing, actually delivered capitalism from its own internal contradictions. The mobilization of the country during World War II demonstrated beyond a doubt that government action and organization could effectively focus the apparently uncontrollable energies of a capitalistic market economy.

What emerged from the Depression and the War has been called welfare capitalism or social capitalism. It was not the unfettered capitalism of pre-Depression years, but capitalism nonetheless. To be clear, though he was a prominent figure in political circles, and an able advocate, no country implemented Keynes' prescriptions as a blueprint, not even Britain. Roosevelt's New Deal was more an American invention than a knock-off of the British economist's ideas. To demonstrate his reach, however, realize that prior to Keynes macroeconomics did not even exist conceptually.

The Americans, followers of Keynes and others, who schooled themselves on the Depression and instituted the New Deal, were key players in the financing and industrial organization of World War II. They then managed a very dicey transition back to peacetime. After that they sponsored a postwar economics focused on jobs, and won the peace with the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe (arguably saving democracy and capitalism there). From this period arose the steady trend line in growth we now take for granted. (We take more or less steady growth for granted even though it has not been the experience for half of our population for the past 25 years.)

Richard Nixon said in 1972, "We're all Keynesians now." Since the moment he spoke the words, they have become less and less true. The stagflation of the 1970s, the Supply Side debacle of the 1980s, even the return to fundamentals under Clinton and Rubin in the 1990s, and especially the bullshit first, ask questions later, policies of George II, have left us adrift in a confusion of laissez faire combined with corporatism that allows only tinkering at the margins.

The successful economy of the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s has gradually been left behind. Calling the current US economy successful when its citizens are hungry, cold, sick without care, homeless, uneducated, clinging to meaningless jobs, unable to meet clear and obvious environmental challenges, uncertain of their futures, is simply sick. The class structure that has emerged and now demands dominance is not a necessary evil to promote dynamic markets. It is simply decadence and decay.

The successful economies are those of Scandinavia, where 50 percent of GDP goes to taxes, and the government is a true partner with business and labor. That 50 percent includes true social security with health care, plus other high-value public goods, including government sponsored R&D that helps business. (Helping business in America means tax giveaways to the rich and powerful.) Even to dream of this system is impossible in the political and economic climate of modern America.

We sit at a crisis point in the governance of the country, a crisis point in the ecological life of the planet, and a crisis point in the social welfare of our society. We see education, energy, transportation, health care, the environment as burdens too heavy for our aging population. We experience a globalization captured by corporate powers and have little idea of what to do about it but object. We hear a lot about the information economy, and the needs of the new technical age, and looking forward is essential. But equally important is to reform the old technologies and systems, to rid ourselves of the entrenched corporatism that controls them, and to regain control of the government, with its disastrous incompetence and cronyism, they have put in power.

The magic of the 1990s was new industries, the tech industries, that demanded skilled workers and created an upward mobility that refreshed everything. Rational work-first economics is still viable. It requires appropriate valuation of public goods such as education, environmental balance, public health, etc., and the willingness to structure government and the market accordingly. These many challenges can be the very engines of growth, if we but define value and then create and realize that value by putting people to work.

That would be a recovery.

Seahawks Headed to Super Bowl Forty!

The SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, for the first time in their history, have earned a trip to the Super Bowl. They'll take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit in just two weeks. The Seahawks, also for the first time in their history, are NFC Champions.

The final score in the game was 34-14. Shaun Alexander had two touchdowns, and Seattle's defense intercepted Carolina Panters quarterback Jake Delhomme three times. Matt Hasselbeck had an outstanding game...and Seattle fans finally have something to really cheer about.

WA State GOP executes sick political stunt

Just when you thought they could sink no lower...they do.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more Rovian than it already has...it does.


The Washington State Republicans have executed a political stunt that is so nasty, despicable, and sickening that past dirty tricks pale in comparison. This stunt is downright filthy...as filthy as can be.

The Speaker’s Roundtable, a front organization for Washington State Republicans, have set up a slick, sick campaign to target Democratic legislators, claiming that Democrats want to protect sex offenders and not innocent children. They're going all out, with TV ads, robo calls, and postcards....like this:



Here's what the Republicans did:

On Day 1 of the session, House Republicans launched the party's first offensive. They tried to hijack the Democrats' jealously guarded right to determine the agenda and timing, demanding immediate consideration of a tough GOP bill to greatly expand punishment of sex predators.

The point politically was to paint Democrats as soft on crime and themselves as the victim's friend. On the issue itself, the Republicans wanted to shame the Democrats into showing greater urgency and to beef up the version that Democrats were sponsoring.

They knew full well that virtually all legislation goes through committee first, for public hearings, amendment and policy debate. If a price tag is involved, as there clearly is in this case, the measure then goes to a budget committee. Then it routes through the Rules Committee, the final gatekeepers before consideration by the full body.

That takes days or weeks, not hours.

Republicans lost the preordained vote, but scored on the political Richter scale. Soon "robo-calls" were flooding telephone lines in key swing districts and radio and cable TV ads were right behind. The message was that Republicans favor strong penalties and the Democrats "refused to have a vote on the issue. ... Tell the Democrats to protect children and not violent criminals."
These tactics are beyond cheap and beyond shameful. This mudslingling is so vile and dishonest that it's unbelievably difficult to counter with the truth.

This is a deliberate attempt to extract Republican legislative victories. The Republicans don't have a real agenda or real solutions for Washington State, so they have to play dirty if they hope to have any kind of advantage in next fall's elections.

The Republicans don't seem to actually care about helping victims of awful crimes. Instead, they're looking for something to hold over Democrats' heads. As Rep. Dunshee explains:
Democrats say it has become a matter of one-upmanship.

"Whatever we do on sex offenders, the Republicans will want to do more," Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Arlington, told The Herald newspaper. "If we want to hang them, they'll want to hang 'em and shoot 'em. And if we want to hang them and shoot them, they will say they want to hang 'em, shoot 'em and electrocute 'em."

Rep. Al O'Brien, a retired beat cop who heads the Criminal Justice Committee, said "The bottom line is, can we protect the kids? If you're out there just to do political stunts, this doesn't cut it."
The posctard image from above is courtesy of VanBlog, a project of Vanguard, Vancouver's only source of alternative news, politics, arts, dining and entertainment.
One of VanBlog's writers is Jon DeVore, who used to write Columbian Watch (which all of us at NPI miss, we're very glad to see him blogging again). Jon has been working pretty hard on this story. Here's an excerpt from his most recent post:
In the course of reporting that story for the next issue of Vanguard, due out Jan. 26, I learned that the Speaker's Roundtable, the GOP political action committee responsible for the assault on Democrats, has sent a post-card style mailing into at least three districts, including one aimed at Democratic Rep. Deb Wallace of the 17th District. My sources tell me that the office of 28th District Rep. Tami Green (D-University Place) reports a similar mailing. There may be and probably are others.

I've seen a lot of offensive things as a participant and observer of politics, but this is one of the most vile things I have ever seen.
Now, here's where things get even more disturbing, if that's possible.

This morning, DailyKos user Buckethead21 updated his Kos diary with a postcard that looks almost identical to the one we just showed you above. Except this postcard is targeted at Rep. Bill Grant of the 16th District, which includes Walla Walla.



How can the same sex offender live in both Clark and Walla Walla Counties, which are over a hundred miles apart from each other?

Oh, and by the way? Seems the person who's pictured in that mailer isn't a registered sex offender...certainly not in Deb Wallace's district. Jon DeVore reports again:
I did have someone sit down and go through ALL of the Clark County Level II and Level III sex offenders (the ones there are pictures for) on the state web site. (http://ml.waspc.org/) He found NOBODY that even remotely resembles the person in the mailer in Clark County.

I personally went through every photo of someone listed for “rape of a child” in Clark County myself today, with no matches.
The Republicans are apparently making up fake sex offenders to use in their disgusting postcards. Did they think they weren't going to get caught in a lie? Or do they just not care? The Republicans aren't just dirty, but they're stupid as well.

As we get more information and more images of these despicable postcards, we'll update this posting and possibly add another post.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Miss our first podcast?

If you haven't heard it yet, listen to it now.

Our first podcast offers a description of the history, mission, and vision of the Northwest Progressive Institute, an explanation of why building a progressive infrastructure is a key step in taking back America from the radical conservative right, and finally, what NPI hopes to achieve by podcasting to the world.

We're excited to announce that it's now available in iTunes' Podcast Directory...just search for "Northwest Progressive Institute" and it should come up immediately.

A jobless recovery is not a recovery II

Employment growth is the best simple measure to watch in judging economic well-being. GDP is misleading. It describes the agitation of a market economy and includes borrowing as earning. We covered that last week. Employment is better. Aside from the obvious benefits to job holders and their families, which ought to be a primary consideration, job growth is closely related to investment, balanced budgets, falling poverty levels and other measures.

The following charts describe economic performance by president. (I am pressing them into service for the present discussion because they're what I have at hand. ) We can assume that presidents determine economic policy and that Democrats are more bottom up vs. Republicans top down.)

First, notice the correlation between investment and employment. Employment growth and investment are mutually reinforcing and create a productive cycle of growth. Investment creates jobs which creates demand which stimulates production and more investment, which creates jobs which stimulates.... You could begin with jobs create demand which stimulates production and investment.... Or demand stimulates production and investment which creates jobs which stimulates....

This last was the genius of Keynesian fiscal stimulus. It has been bastardized by the current administration to read tax cuts for the rich are good for the economy. In fact, tax cuts for the rich do not create demand because the rich spend out of accumulated wealth, not out of new income, which they just put in the bank. The same money to the poor or middle class -- boom! The sonic barrier. Cuts to social programs are patently inefficient economically.

It is a cycle. One element cannot be isolated and glorified to the exclusion of the other elements. Trickle down economics has attempted to isolate investment through investment tax breaks and preferences to savings. Insofar as these reduce demand from other sources or jobs, the experience is frustration. Witness the abysmal performance of Supply Side measures under Reagan. I do understand that all investment is not created equal. Investment in palatial residences will not yield the same long-term benefits as, say, investment in energy technology.

Next, notice the absence of a relationship between the unemployment rate and employment. The unemployment rate is calculated as the number of unemployed people looking for work as a percentage of the total civilian labor force. The labor force expands when there are good jobs to be had, and it contracts when there are no jobs worth having. People go to school, go on disability, go underground, hang out, become "discouraged workers," etc.

This expands and contracts the denominator, which makes a weak measure that unfortunately has been relied on too much. The Fed, for example, treats the unemployment rate as sensitive indicator of impending inflation, which it is not.

(To be fair, see that these numbers are through 2004. I guess W is finally on the positive side in terms of creating jobs. New annual numbers are out next month.)


Just so we cover it, and assume that employment growth means bad news for profits, notice that profits are steady in all weather -- as a percentage of total income. The implication of this "as a percentage" is that Democrats and stronger growth mean a stronger bottom line in absolute terms as well. The fascination of corporations for Republicans has more to do with CEOs and managers and an insider control mentality than it does for all shareholders' interests.

The business community seems to be captive to the Republicans, even small businesses, though I suspect it is more the organizations that purport to represent these folks that are in the Republican camp (easier to lobby for tax breaks than sound economics?). But look again at the jobs numbers when you hear, "Being a successful businessman, I know how to create jobs." Entrepreneurs are in the business of identifying opportunities for investment, which means potential demand. Investment can be stimulated by technical innovation or pressing public need or other factors. Jobs are created by the cycle of investment and demand as identified above.

Now, see how GDP is stronger under Democrats, but kind of respectable under Republicans. This is because -- thump -- a lot of that GDP under the GOP is generated by borrowing. I posted the federal borrowing chart last week, as well as a measure unique to me called "Net GDP," which was GDP minus federal borrowing, what GDP would have done without the borrowing. If you look that one up, you will see its similarity to the two charts at the top. Federal borrowing as a short-term stimulus effort is okay. It cannot become a way of life, as it has under Republican administrations.

Finally, in a chart that is not going to come through very well on the blog, but I find in my tedious way extremely fascinating is the unemployment rate year over year. I know I just panned the unemployment rate as flaccid and weak on fundamentals. But look, under Democrats the unemployment rate goes down, like stair steps, consistently, no matter what other evens are going on, no matter how many new job-seekers come into the market. (Exceptions, 1948, when Truman had to deal with 9 million men and women returning from service in the War, and in 1980, when Volcker panicked and restricted the money supply and Carter choked under the Iran crisis.) No matter how big the denominator gets, the numerator outpaces it. Very cool.

Friday, January 20, 2006

House passes civil rights legislation - HB 2661

Good news. Now it's on to the state Senate:
The state House on Friday passed a much anticipated gay rights bill by a 60-37 vote and kept the legislation on track for expected passage in the Senate.

Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, took the lead on the bill. “This discrimination is a reality,” Murray said. He asked members to appeal to the "better angels of our nature" and send a message of inclusion by voting in favor of the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has promised that she will bring HB 2661 before the chamber quickly. It's still not too late to lobby your state senator to urge them to vote in favor of HB 2661, whether they have or haven't in the past.

MSNBC and me

I felt compelled, as someone who has directed many shows for NBC to write the following letter to Chris Matthews after his infantiled comments on his show HARDBALL.

Dear Mr. Matthews:

To equate an American media professional like Michael Moore to Osama Bin Laden is not only a demonstration of sleaze journalism at its worst, it is downright cowardly and un-American.

Your lack of professionalism and decorum are depressing to not only fellow media professionals, but all Americans with a conscience.

I can only imagine that the flood of response you are no doubt receiving about this transgression of yours only fuels your desire for more controversy, ratings, fame.

I have directed many episodes of NBC programming. Shame on NBC for not firing you outright, and shame on you for calling yourself a news professional. I call on you to apologize to Mr. Moore on the air, and resign immediately.

Sincerely,

Andrew Tsao
Directors Guild of America
Member #016361

Sound Transit launches Emerald Mole to dig Beacon Hill tunnels

On Monday, I told you that our Executive Director, Andrew Villeneuve, was taking some time off from blogging to pursue other projects for NPI. His first few days off have certainly been busy ones.

On Wednesday, Andrew attended the launch ceremony for Sound Transit's Emerald Mole Tunnel Boring Machine. The machine, which is approixmately 21 feet in diameter and 30 feet long, will be used to dig the Beacon Hill tunnel system, a key part of Sound Transit's LINK Light Rail line.

Sound Transit's contractor for the project is Obayashi Corporation, which is responsible not only for digging and excavating the tunnels, but also the vertical shaft that will eventually house four high speed elevators that will bring riders down to the trains below in about 20 seconds.

The two tunnels - one for carrying southbound trains, the other for carrying northbound trains - will be dug seperately. The Emerald Mole is starting to bore the first tunnel from the west side, right under Interstate 5.

Here's a description of how the tunnel will be built from Sound Transit:
As it moves forward, the Emerald Mole will excavate dirt while a conveyer system moves spoils out of the back of the tunnel. A pre cast reinforced concrete liner will be assembled immediately behind the Emerald Mole to provide structual support and prevent settlement in the surrounding ground. The liner will also provide a firm footing for the Emerald Mole to push against and propel itself forward. The contractor [Obayashi] will build a temporary rail system to bring in pre-cast segments of tunnel liner. Excavated material from the tunnel will be stockpiled at the west portal and then trucked away.
Andrew reports that the launch ceremony was well attended:
There were a lot of people there...representing the blogging/activist community were myself and Ben Schiendelman, who writes Higher Frequency. Also with us was Richard Berkowski, of People for Modern Transit.

The media was out in force - all of the major television stations were there, as were reporters from 710 KIRO, the Times, and the P-I.

Several elected officials also showed up - Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Greg Nickels, and County Councilmembers Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine. Most of the people there, however, were either Sound Transit staff members or Obayashi personnel, because the event wasn't open to just anybody.

Hard hats and safety vests were required if you wanted to go up and see the Emerald Mole. Most people were even wearing them down below where the actual ceremony was being held.

I had an opportunity to go up and see the Emerald Mole for myself. It is indeed fairly massive. Everyone signed their name on the side of the machine, with some people scrawling messages of hope for the success of the light rail line.

In order to get to the the west portal, where the Emerald Mole was positioned to be begin digging, you had to walk around yard after yard of trailing machinery, which I'm told is about as long as a football field. That certainly seemed to be the case.

It was an exciting event. It certainly reinforced my feeling that the light rail project is indeed moving forward.
Of course, they say every picture is worth a thousand words.... so, here are some photos from the event. Thanks to Andrew for the pictures. Click on the thumbnails to see a bigger view.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Who's Lying? Hutcherson, or the AP?

From the Stranger's SLOG:
Earlier this week, in a story picked up by local television stations and both major Seattle dailies, eastside Rev. Ken Hutcherson announced he is launching a nation-wide boycott of Microsoft, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, and other companies that are supporting Washington’s gay civil rights bill. From the Associated Press story that ran all over the nation:
The Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, said he would formally issue the boycott Thursday on the conservative radio show Focus on the Family.
It would have been a big deal for Rev. Hutcherson to appear on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio show, which is part of the powerful religious right media machine and reaches nearly 9 million people across the country each week. Well, today is Thursday. And no sign of Rev. Hutcherson on Dobson’s national broadcast, which today concerned “Confronting Abortion Through Prayer.” What gives?
Click the link to read the whole story. The bottom line is that Hutcherson did not appear on James Dobson's national Focus on the Family show today. He did appear on a few Washington stations as part of a "drop-in".

Futhermore, The Stranger's Eli Sanders also reports that that Hutcherson told him this:
“The AP was wrong,” Rev. Hutcherson told me. “I never said I was going to announce a boycott today.”
For the whole story, see this excellent post from Eli Sanders.

Good news on midnight budget machinations

Southwest Washington's Rep. Brian Baird was understating it with "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.”

The subject was the "martial law" gambit by which Congressional leaders evaded normal House rules for the budget reconciliation and defense appropriations bill and rushed through a 774 page report between midnight and 6:00 a.m. December 19, exactly one month ago. (The affair was lost a bit in the furor over ANWR drilling, foiled nicely, thank you, by our state's junior senator.)

“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.

They didn't get it. The final vote on the reconciliation spending bill was taken after all of 40 minutes of debate. Never mind a monopoly on power, some things still need to be done in the middle of the night.

That is the bad news. We told you about it at the time. There is good news.

The Senate deleted some minor provisions and the bill has to go back to the House for another vote. This time there will be no confusion about what the legislation would do, and maybe some public accountability. The next vote may be as early as February 1.

The bill as it sits now:
  • Increases in Medicaid co-payments and premiums, and reductions in Medicaid benefits (many affecting children), that total $16 billion over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Institutes substantial and controversial changes in welfare policy.
  • Reduces in child support enforcement funding which would, according to CBO, mean $8.4 billion of child support over the next ten years will go uncollected.
  • Delays certain SSI payments for up to a year for many poor individuals with disabilities who are found eligible for SSI.
  • Changes federal foster care rules that will hamper states from supporting certain relatives who are raising children because the children’s parents are unable or unfit to do so.
  • For the first time since Medicaid began, the conference agreement allows states to deny contraception to poor women. Family planning services are a mandatory under current Medicaid law.
A kinder face to the big drug companies and managed care corporations.
  • It drops key elements of the Senate bill that would have garnered substantial savings in the corporate exploitation Medicare and Medicaid programs.
  • Abandons the Senate's preference to eliminate a $10 billion fund to encourage preferred provider organizations to participate in Medicare.
Details of this are at CBPP. Thanks also to the National Women's Law Center and ActNow.

Ken Hutcherson, overzealous Dobson clone

It's always nice to be quoted. From this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Hutcherson hopes his battle cry will resound on "Focus on the Family," a national conservative talk radio show powered by Dr. James Dobson. It makes sense that he would choose this program to spread his message. Dobson says his syndicated show touches more than 220 million people across the globe each day, far more people than the 3,500 people who flock east of Seattle to Hutcherson's mega-church each week.

Hutcherson is Dobson's Mini-me and just as overzealous.

"It's no surprise that these two -- Hutcherson, the clone, and Dobson, the master -- are conspiring together to fight this landmark legislation," says the Northwest Progressive Institute, which describes itself as a liberal forum of thought on politics, government and policy.
My thanks to Robert Jamieson for the mention. Those of you who haven't read his column this morning, "Flying on a right wing and a prayer" should do so immediately - it's a great read.

By the way, I looked up the website of Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church on Netcraft. Seems as recently as February of 2003 they were running on Microsoft's Windows 2000 Server. (Since then, they've been running on FreeBSD, a Unix clone).

But get this - James Dobson's Focus on the Family website IS running on Windows Server and always has been, according to Netcraft.

How ironic - Hutcherson is airing his call for a boycott of Microsoft in a taped radio conversation with Dobson, yet Dobson's organization, which is hosting him, still runs its website on Microsoft software. Good luck with that boycott, guys.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

NPI launches new Audio Archive, releases inaugural podcast

Today marks another significant milestone in NPI's history.

Today we are pleased to announce the return of the Special Projects section and the launch of our completely redesigned Audio Archive.

We are also delighted to release our first ever podcast, produced by Media & Communications Director Andrew Tsao, with many more to follow. Our plan is to offer you at least two podcasts a month, although we may do additional podcasts focusing on a special topic.

Our first podcast offers a description of the history, mission, and vision of the Northwest Progressive Institute, an explanation why building a progressive infrastructure is a key step in taking back America from the radical conservative right, and finally, what NPI hopes to achieve by podcasting.

The Audio Archive itself is a repository of all our podcasts, sound bites, clips from radio appearances, advertisements, recorded speeches, and other audio files. The Archive currently contains 22 audio clips (including our first podcast).

iTunes users should be able to find our podcasts in Apple's Podcast Directory relatively quickly. When we release a new podcast, you can also expect to see an announcement here on the Official Blog about it.

Of course, you're welcome to subscribe to our new Multimedia Feed yourself using your favorite podcatcher. Summaries of clips in the Multimedia Feed will now appear on the right hand sidebar here on this blog, so as the announcement posts scroll off the page, the podcasts still remain easily accessible.

Finally, this blog itself has received a minor update - the blogroll has been updated, we added some new buttons to the sidebar, and of course we're aggregating our own Multimedia Feed as well.

A reminder - network maintenance is still in progress. Today's announcement means a significant phase has been completed, but we still have more to go. Don't be surprised if some sections are still not available.

So what are you waiting for? Turn on your speakers or whip out your earphones, and listen to our inaugural podcast. As always, we'd love to hear what you think - leave a comment in the thread and tell us!

ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights challenge Bush's spy program

A bit of good news from yesterday: the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights are challenging the Bush administration's illegal domestic spying program and calling for its immediate end:
The Center for Constitutional Rights is suing Bush, the head of the National Security Agency and the heads of the other major security agencies.

The organization, which represents hundreds of men held as enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must now audit old communications to determine whether "anything was disclosed that might undermine our representation of our clients," said Bill Goodman, the center's director.

The Detroit lawsuit, which names the National Security Agency and its director, said the program has impaired plaintiffs' ability to gather information from sources abroad as they try to locate witnesses, represent clients, do research or engage in advocacy.

It was filed by the ACLU, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greenpeace and individuals on behalf of journalists, scholars, attorneys and national nonprofit organizations that communicate with people in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere.

[...]

"One reason why the United States is held in such low esteem ... today is because we are seen as hypocritical," he said. "We vow to promote individual freedom as the central purpose of foreign policy, and then we violate individual freedom with this secret warrantless surveillance."
Of course, Bush shill Scott McClellan, when given an opportunity to respond, declared the lawsuits were "frivolous". (We certainly know what to expect if the administration loses the lawsuits: it'll be the fault of those "liberal activist judges" who need to be tossed off the bench.)

The Bush administration is using the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, as an excuse to strip away our most precious civil liberties. It's completely unnecessary and it's entirely unacceptable. It has to end - immediately.

McClellan's pathetic sideshow isn't the least bit funny.

This administration is defying United States law, ignoring our sacred Constitution, and attacking anyone who dares to disagree or challenge this betrayal of the American people. We need to stand up and defend our freedoms.

We cannot allow our democracy to be undermined, weakened, and subsequently destroyed by Republican tyrants in their lust for power, all in the name of safety and security.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A jobless recovery is not a recovery Part I

We are told daily that GDP is up and our economy is moving forward, but we are working longer and harder just to keep up, and the quality of life seems to be deteriorating. EPI's snapshot this week shows real income has declined for most of us during the "recovery" of the past three years.

GDP is a bad measure of economic activity. It does not measure the health of the economy, nor the well-being of its citizens, only the agitation on the market side. Wars, crime, alcoholism -- the economy's "bads" -- count just as much as the "goods" of food and shelter.

Environmental damage is completely ignored. Actually, we count the clean-up in GDP, but the original damage? Didn't happen. Also see the current Bush defense of oil-based energy policy. No longer does he doubt the science of climate change, now he says our economy cannot afford to do anything about it. Bill Clinton has labeled the claim "flat wrong." (What happened to "Bull!"?) Clinton has, in fact, proposed an economic future for America based on the development of energy technology.

An alternative measure to GDP -- the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) -- which takes into account the facts on the ground is actually down more than 45% since 1975.

GDP counts borrowing as earning. And growing debt is the only explanation for the current rise in GDP. The value of goods purchased, added together, equals Gross Domestic Product. This is like adding your paycheck to your credit card balance and calling the total your earnings.

Am I just a loyal liberal footsoldier dissing the good news of GDP and exploiting the bad news of massive debt, falling incomes and tepid employment growth, all for the prurient interest of my fellow radic-libs? I don't think so.

I am more like the nonplussed Frenchman who objected to the US invasion of a Middle East country on flimsy pretext. When the adventure turned out to be a catastrophe, I was not surprised. The economy is similar. I'm just happy economist jokes are less offensive than French jokes.

The parallels are striking. The Bush-Cheney axis decides what they are going to do, and the facts and "official" rationale are relegated to the PR department, where they will be adjusted daily for public consumption. In Iraq, the "imminent threat of WMD" changed to "getting rid of Saddam" changed to "establishing democracy."

With tax cuts, Bush first promoted them "because it's your money" (talking about the surplus). Subsequently we learned it wasn't our money, after all, it was our kids' money. But, don't worry, it's not going to us anyway, it's going to the rich.

When things started to tank, tax cuts became "a necessary measure to help the economy after the terrorist attacks." This is, in fact, the line that sold Congress. Bull! One, 9-11 had a mild effect at most on the economic trajectory. Airlines, for example, suffered far more from fuel prices than from the temporary discouragement of travellers. Two, and more to the point, the Bush tax cuts and the shameless slicing away at our social and educational programs cannot help the economy. That policy gun is pointed 180 degrees away from the target. To improve spending and consumer confidence, and thus demand for domestic business, fiscal decisions should favor the middle and lower class, not the rich.

Now he says, "Stay the course." If we are lucky, the course is circular, because off the bow it looks like we are heading straight for the rocks.

Next time, a look at employment as an alternative measure of economic health.

Allan Prell Tonight at Drinking Liberally

Michael Hood of blatherWatch is bringing along a special guest to tonight's Drinking Liberally:
Former KIRO talker, Allan Prell will attend Seattle's Drinking Liberally, the weekly Tuesday gathering of liberal media folks, progressive bloggers, local politicians, and some of the choicest blatherers in town.

It all happens starting at 8p at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Ave E. in Seattle's Montlake neighborhood.
Want to meet Allan? Here's your chance! All you have to do is be at the Montlake Ale House tonight at 8 PM.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bigots Hutcherson, Dobson team up to attack companies supporting civil rights

The Associated Press has just released this "newsbreak" announcing that Ken Hutcherson, the pastor of the right wing Antioch Bible Church, is going to call for a national boycott of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and other businesses that have officially come out in support of Rep. Ed Murray's civil rights legislation, HB 2661:
Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in the east Seattle suburb of Redmond - also home to Microsoft - said he would officially make the call for the boycott Thursday on a national conservative talk radio show, Focus on the Family.

"We're tired of sitting around thinking that morals can be ignored in our country," he said. "This is not a threat, this is a promise. Check out the past presidential election. We made the moral issue the No. 1 issue."

Last week, several companies, including Microsoft Corp., Boeing Co., Hewlett Packard Co., and Nike Inc. signed a letter urging passage of the measure, which would add "sexual orientation" to a state law that already bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance based on race, gender, age, disability, religion, marital status and other factors.
Nice to know that these two right wing bigots are in league with each other. Hutcherson is essentially a clone of Dobson's, except he's much smaller. That's all the information you need if you haven't heard of Hutcherson, but you have heard of Dobson.

"Focus on the Family" is of course Dobson's organization. And it's no surprise that these two - Hutcherson, the clone, and Dobson, the master - are conspiring together to fight this landmark legislation. They are propogators of hate. And they must be stopped.

This is the year to pass this legislation. This is the year to make a stand for equality and deliver to the Governor legislation which will ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination does not have a place in Washington State, or for that matter, the United States.

We are stronger than people like Hutcherson and Dobson. We believe in human dignity. They believe in fear. But we can beat them. Many of America's finest have defeated this kind of hatred time and again in the course of our nation's history. And they have won. If they can do it, so can we.

Rapid Retrograde Regression

Wynn Cannon, chairman of The League of Washington Taxpayers, was quoted in today's Seattle Times as saying:
"We're not against education, but we think the district's emphasis has changed from the 'three R's,' from basic-education requirements, to technology. Computers are a shortcut, in our opinion. With a proper focus on teaching 'the basics,' children shouldn't have access to classroom computers until high school."
This is the core of the arguement against the February 7th Bellevue School District levy: No computers until high school. Focus on reading, writing, arithematic.

An entire generation of our students is already vastly behind the rest of the world when it comes to academic standards.

The 21st century demands not only fundamental skills, but skills that match the rapid and evolving flow of information around the world. That means employing technology, multiple languages, new skillsets to teach our children to compete and innovate.

America's greatest asset has always been brainpower. That asset is being challenged overseas in a daunting manner. China gradutes more literate, multi-lingual, technically savvy students than we do right now, today. India is following suit.

Cannon intends to send people door to door to distort and alarm the citizenry about the levy, which earmarks money for much needed classroom upgrades in Bellevue. His organization is philosophically righteous, serving as a taxpayers watchdog, but blunt force politics such as fighting this school levy only exposes the knee-jerk nature of his thinking, and it imperils our children as well.

If they ring your doorbell, explain that you are for advancement, and against shortchanging the next generation. Tell them to try moving into the 21st century along with the rest of us.

Network maintenance progress report

We still have a long way to go, but we've also made a lot of headway. At this point I'd say we're halfway to where we need to be in terms of upgrading the network and relaunching the core website.

Note that we are not changing the design (look and feel), just improving accessibility and adding content.

When we started back in mid December we had the idea that we could be done before 2006 arrived. Things have taken a lot longer than we expected. It's not just the core website that needs work, it's also Permanent Defense's site.

Even the Official Blog and Pacific NW Portal need updates now, but don't worry, we aren't going to bring either site offline to do the upgrades.

I'm looking forward to the completion of this project, because it sets the stage for even greater things to come later this year and beyond.

By the way, I want to address a rumor that's been going around the blogosphere over the last twenty four hours. Some people seem to think that Andrew "exiled" himself because of the reaction to last Friday's post. That's not the case.

He just decided that he needed some time off so he could rest. Blogging was taking up too much of his time and he really wants to take the lead on completing this big network maintenance project.

So he's taking a short (and in my opinion, well-deserved) break. I can assure you he will be back. I'll be posting much more regularly until he returns.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Higher Ethical Standards

Last Thursday, Darcy Burner's congressional campaign announced the release of Darcy’s House Rules, a plan detailing how her office will interact with lobbyists if elected.

Burner points out that today's Republican controlled Congress is serving special interests and not working to actually represent the people. Burner has challenged her opponent, Dave Reichert, to adopt similiar rules for the remainder of his term.
Darcy Burner will hold her official House office to the highest standards of ethical conduct. She will go beyond the current lax laws that allow lobbyists to control lawmaking in Washington and demand that her office lives up to a higher standard.

The work of Washington’s 8th Congressional District office is the work of the people not the work of powerful DC lobbyists.

NO SECRET LOBBYIST MEETINGS: My office will report all meetings that any member of my staff or I have with a registered lobbyist, to be updated on my website once a week.

NO HELPING MEMBERS CASH IN: No member of Congress with whom I have served who becomes a federal registered lobbyist will be allowed to lobby my staff or me on any issue for 5 years after that member has left Congress.

NO HELPING LOBBYISTS CASH IN: No former member of my staff who becomes a registered federal lobbyist will be allowed to lobby my staff or me on any issue for 5 years after they have left my employment.

NO FAMILY LOBBYISTS: No direct relation of any member of my staff or of mine who is a registered federal lobbyist will be allowed to lobby my office or me.

NO LOBBYIST SPONSORED TRAVEL: All trips by my staff or me will either be official trips and thus paid by Congress or they will be paid by each person taking the trip or, if either partisan or campaign related, by my campaign funds.

NO LOBBYIST GIFTS: No gifts will be accepted by my staff or by me from any registered federal lobbyist.

COMPLIANCE: Any member of my staff who willfully violates any of these rules will be terminated.
We need a representative in Congress who actually works for the people of the 8th Congressional District. And it's clear that there is only one candidate now in this race who we can trust to do that: Darcy Burner.

Noemie Maxwell has also posted a great interview with Darcy which you can read here.

Is China dumping the dollar?

Reported in the Washington Post and picked up at Daily Kos with much alarm was the apparent intent of China to move some of its foreign exchange reserves away from the dollar. (All this by way of Pacific Views.)

Why? What does it mean? John Campanelli at DKos says, "In sum, we're screwed." (It was more descriptive yesterday, but has apparently been edited down.)

This was and is inevitable. "Trade" is trade of goods through the medium of exchange, the currency. It is not trade of the currency for the goods. It is supposed to be goods for goods. China can't eat all the dollars it has absorbed in its years of trade surplus with the US.

Standard economic theory predicts that in situations of trade imbalance, the currencies' exchange rates will adjust, making the goods of the surplus country relatively more costly and those of the deficit country more cheap. Standard economic theory, so far as I know, does not have an answer to why this has begun only after 30 years of immense US trade deficits -- if it is even happening now.

The dollar's value as de facto reserve currency may have made it valuable in itself. Remember, the last truly stable exchange mechanism went down with the collapse of the Breton Woods system under Nixon. Currencies have floated against each other since then, often to the detriment of the weaker nations. A notable exception is the aforementioned China, which pegs its ruan against the dollar and does not allow it to float.

Be that as it may, if as the Post report suggests, China is moving away from the dollar toward the euro, what is the catastrophe that will follow?

DKos put their finger right on it. The main problem is PANIC!

Markets operate on the principle of the herd. The currency market is a herd of rhinos. Too many people have too much money stuck in too many dollars. If they get spooked and the run starts, it could get ugly before it is over, as they try to get out before their investment loses value. This has been a worry of the Progressive Caucus of the US House for a decade. That group extrapolated a run on the dollar from the experience of the Asian currency crisis; they identified rogue speculators as the likely cause. There was some support at the time for the Tobin Tax, a tiny tax on currency transactions that would not hurt legitimate trade, but would multiply for speculators as they roam the world in search of small gains.

The cause of the dollar's demise will not be speculators, although George Soros and others stand to make a bundle from their short positions in the greenback. The dollar is the victim of decades of trade deficits, the renewed and now apparently unending federal budget deficits, and the myopia of the Federal Reserve.

A simple depreciation of the dollar which did not produce immediate panic might not be so bad. The goods of Boeing and other American manufacturers would be more competitive. It could ease our sea of red ink, since most of the debt is denominated in dollars. But it would be bad for prices. Imports would go up. American goods would be bid up by foreigners. A key commodity that we cannot avoid importing is energy, oil and natural gas. Some of the recent rise in oil prices is, in fact, not an increase in the price of oil but a decrease in the value of the dollar. Energy price increases would increase costs for manufacturers, and it would create a cost-push inflation.

Inflationary pressures will always cause an overreaction at the Fed. The Fed will panic. Anything over 5% will bring out the artillery. It doesn't matter that energy costs are reducing the purchasing power of American consumers, the Fed assumes that any inflation is to be snuffed out by higher interest rates. The distinction between cost-push and demand-pull inflation is invisible to Alan Greenspan, his successor and all the bankers who control monetary policy. Whenever they see inflation, they see an overheated economy and they apply the remedy, higher interest rates, tighter credit and higher unemployment. (Of course, you can't have people borrowing expensive dollars and paying them back with cheap ones, but you have to have some sense about it.)

I am not predicting the future, I am predicting the past. It has been the uniform, universal, continual and unchanging response of the Fed, when inflation rises, to pour water on the fire, even if inflation comes in the form of rain. It is not inconceivable that higher interest could lead to higher costs and thus to the dreaded "spiraling inflation." More panic.

The appropriate response to a significant depreciation of the dollar and consequent inflationary pressure is to take our medicine, which is the sea change in the price level. This will not be happy news to those whose non-indexed pensions lose their value, or to those workers whose wages do not follow the general rise in prices, or to those sectors who are left behind, or to those investors .... to a lot of people. But it is a return to reality and the inevitable result of a significant decline in the dollar.

But don't worry. That won't happen. The Fed most certainly will not allow a sea change in the price level without a fight. They will misidentify the cause and apply the nuclear remedy. Millions of unemployed will be the unwilling soldiers drafted into the battle. This will not lead to any other destination, but will make the road there a lot more volatile and dangerous.

A significant depreciation of the dollar would have one more result. Economists would have to pay attention to trade deficits again. During the Reagan years, trade imbalances were the big econom news. Economists explained them by pointing to the Reagan budget deficits, saying the higher interest rates needed to attract capital into bonds produced a higher dollar. The higher dollar disadvantaged domestic manufacturers. The period is often called the de-industrialization of America.

Unfortunately for economists, the budget deficit went away during the Clinton years, but it did not take the trade deficit with it. In fact, the trade deficit increased. Economists simply ignored their mistake and switched to the "they like us" model. Trade deficits were good because the capital inflows (the dollars returning to the land of dollars) meant the rest of the world thought America was a good place to invest.

Now we simply ignore it and pretend things are okay. After all, it's been like this for a long time.

Until now.

Clearing the Air

What I am about to write (or what you are about to read) is very likely and most possibly one of the most important posts in the history of this blog.

On Friday, I typed a post, entitled "Pelz campaign playing fast and loose with the truth in bid for state party chair?"

After the publishing of that post I was sure I was not going to touch the subject again, not beyond the updating of the original post.

But I now find it absolutely necessary that I address it again.

Since Friday, I have come under attack by many people - including people I consider friends - who are very unhappy that I published what I did. I have also been praised by other people, again people who I consider to be friends, for trying to shed some light on the race for state party chair.

I need to make some clarifications which I now feel I owe to every reader of this blog and every Democrat in the state party.

First, I do not hate Dwight Pelz. It is not my intention to destroy his candidacy for state party chair - despite what I posted on Friday. In my other assessments of the race for state party chair I have been very fair in respecting Dwight as a candidate. I am not, and haven't been, engaged in some kind of ongoing campaign to stop him. I don't even consider myself an opponent or a detractor of Dwight's. Obviously Friday's post makes it look like I am. For the record, I am not.

Furthermore, I want to remind every single reader that this organization (and, it just so happens, with my personal concurrence) endorsed Dwight Pelz in his bid for City Council. We did not have to issue a dual endorsement - we heard from many people who urged us just to endorse the incumbent, Richard McIver. (You can see the endorsement here).

Second, despite some people's assertions, I do not have a favorite candidate in the race for party chair. I am truly undecided. And I don't think my support really matters. I am not on the State Democratic Central Committee; I have no vote. And I am not interested in trying to lobby members of the Central Committee, either. In fact, I do not intend to make an endorsement of any of the candidates remaining in the race - period. I am just going to watch what happens.

All I want is a chair who understands the importance of the grassroots, will work to improve the party's message and communications strategy, and makes use of the Internet as a medium.

I published a post on Thursday that conveys the concerns of other Democrats who wanted important questions answered. And I am in fact glad that reports contained in my post have been contradicted.

I am extremely grateful, and indebted, to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, for coming forward and leaving a comment in the thread attached to the post clearing up the confusion. I have always respected her leadership in the state Senate and now I am even more impressed.

I am also very grateful to people who have offered me additional information about the letter sent by the Pelz campaign which contains the endorsements of the Governor and Senator Murray.

I have heard reports that some individuals took it upon themselves to reprint my post and pass it around at meetings that Dwight himself was at yesterday.

I'm very disappointed to hear that, and I wish to make very clear that I had no involvement in that - absolutely none whatsoever.

I'm not happy because I'm pretty sure those materials don't contain the updates I posted yesterday. And I want people to know the truth. The original post is now outdated. I said when I first posted that I welcomed corrections. And I've posted corrections.

I am now sorry for having personally jumped into this in the first place. Really, I think my role is to try to help the new chair (whoever that ends up becoming) and the party's leadership build a stronger Democratic Party, and offer my assistance in helping the Party make use of the Internet as a medium.

I also admit it would have been a good idea to do more research and inquiry before publishing what I published. And I should have attempted to contact Dwight to give him (or his campaign) a chance to say something.

However, I happen to be the kind of person who believes in learning from mistakes. I've certainly learned from this experience.

I have removed the original post from Friday. The questions contained within it have been raised - what's in the post is already out there. I would just like to put it behind me.

Finally, in the interest of fairness, I wish to offer Dwight Pelz and his campaign a personal invitation to send me a guest post, up to a thousand words, which I will subsequently publish here on this blog. It could explain why Dwight is running for chair, what his vision for the party is, seek to address any/all of the concerns contained in Friday's post, or something similar. And I hope Dwight's campaign takes advantage of my offer.

One more thing - effective immediately, I am quitting blogging for the next couple of weeks - perhaps longer, I will figure that out. Other NPI members will step up and keep the Official Blog up to date. I will make one exception - and that is: if I receive a guest post from Dwight (and/or his campaign), I myself will be publishing it.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

SEAHAWKS WIN!!!

Normally we don't cover sports on this blog, but NPI members have agreed that a Seahawks playoff win would merit a special post. So here it is!
The Seahawks will host an NFL conference championship game next Sunday -- and a chance to go to their first Super Bowl ever -- thanks to a 20-10 playoff win over the Washington Redskins today at Qwest Field.
The Seahawks win their first playoff game in decades. Excitement in Seattle will be at a fever pitch on the eve of next week's game.

Economic prognosis from the state's forecaster

I watched Victor Moore and ChangMook Sohn in front of the Senate Ways & Means committee Wednesday. Moore is head of the Office of Financial Management and was outlining the governor's budget. Dr. Sohn is head of the Office of Forecast Council, and he was there to predict revenues and economic events.

Moore did a good job, but I've covered the budget elsewhere.
One Note: Low-income heating assistance has already passed both houses and been signed by the governor. The Guv had called for speedy action. She got it. Kudos.

Quite a difference from the disgrace in the other Washington, where in an apparent fit of pique over losing drilling rights in ANWR, Republicans took federal low-income heating assistance off the table. It had lost its meaning as a bargaining chip. See December 27, NPI "Payback ..." post or CBPP.

On the revenue side, Sohn's revenue update for January 10 shows another increase to the surplus. Real Estate Excise taxes were up 6.5% and Revenue Act taxes (retail sales, B&O, utility, mostly) were up 4.1%, netting a neat $27.8 million. The update displays a drop in school levy collections without explanation, and what is likely to be a continuing disappointment in cigarette taxes (as smokers avoid the tax by stopping or smuggling).

To the committee, Sohn was slow in his delivery, but he was pointed on one topic. He said that while the acceleration of housing activity would level off, the sector would continue to be strong, and would not collapse. This and continuing higher oil prices were the two primary economic determinants for the coming year.

When asked about interest rates, Sohn pointed to the rise in short-term rates due to Fed action, probably to 4.75% later this month, while long-term rates seem to be stuck at 4.5%. The good doctor did not fret, as some others have, about the so-called interest rate "inversion," (although it was covered in his November forecast). Short-term interest rates should always be lower than long-term rates, because of the risk premium.

Interest rates are a poser. As Sohn points out, short-term rates are rising. Long-term rates ought to be rising, too. But they're not. Is this a good thing? Or does it indicate basic weakness? (Or maybe strength? There are many who see it this way. Imagine stable, low interest rates as far as the eye can see. It's a worthy goal, but this is not how you do it. I am reminded of Dow 36,000 and the "New Economy" of the late 1990s, an economy which had finally outrun recessions.)

Long-term rates should be rising not only to reflect short-term rates plus risk premium, but because mortgages and federal debt are stoking demand, while at the same time the weakness of the U.S. trade situation should be weakening the dollar.

The fact that long-term rates are not rising means to me that there is plenty of supply. Which means investors want safety over return. Not a good sign. Boomers are scared out of the stock market. Asian countries are flush with the booty of huge trade surpluses and are stashing dollars. Wealthy individuals have tax cuts they don't know what to do with. It certainly ain't coming from working families, since household debt has increased markedly since Bush got in, and net savings went negative for the first time in history according to a December report by EPI.

A creative alternative explanation is available at the Economist's View blog. (Please keep in mind when reading this stuff that inflation has been dormant since the early 1990s, and Greenspan gets the credit no matter what he does, raise the rate to 7% or lower it to zero. Please review my previous takes on Maestro Magoo, and discard the idea that the market has confidence in the Fed.)

(The Economist's View blog and this one would be useful to compare over a period of time. The author believes housing is poised to take off again. I do not.

An end to the bubble or no?

Predicting an end is not so difficult. The alternative is to forecast a boom that goes on forever, like the .... Well, I guess we haven't had one. If it's a bubble, it will burst. This is my opinion. When houses stop appreciating, things will not flatten out, as Dr. Sohn predicts. They will begin to descend, because the speculative motive will have disappeared. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research has shown that house prices are already well outside their historic relationship with the rental market. It is by no means the case that houses are being bought exclusively by first-time homebuyer. Quite the contrary. Prices are often outside the range of this group, except with the off-the-wall mortgage instruments.

Dr. Sohn's view is that this is not a bubble, but a run-up in housing that will level off benignly. Thee are plenty of folks who present this view. I hope so. Though if you've made your money, you might want to get out of the market now, just to be safe. You could always put your gains in ... government bonds.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fear is the answer

Today's P-I has a story detailing a Republican PAC's unveiling of a cable TV ad that will run heavily in the south part of the WA-8th CD. It exploits the current new sex offender legislation debate, and attacks Democrats as being against harsher sentencing rules. Washington House Republicans tried to ram their reactionary bill through the legislature, but were blocked by Democrats, who are working on their own sex offender legislation.

What is behind all this sudden rancour over tough sentencing laws? The strategy employed by the Republicans is designed to lay the groundwork for the re-election of Dave Reichert to the 8th CD. It uses a fear issue to portray Democrats, and by extension any Democratic congressional candidate, as being soft on crime. By inference, it helps bolster Dave Reichert's "He's the Sheriff" image by supplying him with a solidified rural base in the south part of the 8th district who tend to vote values over self interest, like most rural Republicans.

It is good, tough politics by Washington state Republicans, who are certainly feeling the pressure from their Party leaders to keep the 8th CD seat. The question of the day is, how will the Washington state Democrats respond to this tactic?

The Washington Democratic Party, preparing to install a new Chair, must act swiftly, decisively and skillfully to this move. Can it do so? If not, we risk losing traction in the crucial south end of the 8th district at a key moment.

There must be a targeted reponse in the south end of the 8th CD that exposes the Republican stunt as a fear tactic. This response must also trumpet the Democratic Party's committment to the safety of families and communities by underlining our support of law enforcement, and detail the fact that the Democratic sex offender legislation will in fact be better, stronger, more effective. In short, take the high ground in the values debate, confront the wedge issue, offer a better solution.

Republicans are delivering this cable ad to the 8th CD swiftly with the sense that the Democratic Party will be slow, unsure and lackluster in responding to this campaign tactic. Are they right?

Reflections on the Unity Coalition forum

Last Sunday, The Unity Coalition held a candidate forum to give candidates for Chair of the State Democratic Party a chance to speak. The forum was held at the Carpenters Hall (Local 1797) in Renton.

The easiest way for me to offer my thoughts on the five candidates is to go through the questions and summarize my observations of the candidates’ responses.

A disclaimer: now, my observations are not entirely complete – because each candidate only had a minute to respond to each question, and I had to type fast to take notes. Also, these are my interpretations of the candidates' responses. This should not be regarded as some kind of transcript. These reflections are my personal views - not the collective views of NPI. And there's a lot of material here, so my writeup isn't as polished as I would like it to be.

The five candidates at the forum were Jean Brooks, Bill Harrington, Mark Hintz, Dwight Pelz, and Laura Ruderman.

Here we go.

Question #1: Money is called the mother's milk of politics. What is your track record of raising money?

Jean Brooks: She said she would “build on the base” and the successes of retiring Chairman Paul Berendt. I didn’t think she provided many specifics in her answer.

Bill Harrington: He declared that raising money was a “serious responsibility.” He had a difficult time coming across clearly to me when he talked – of course, it’s not his fault that his voice is somewhat hard to hear. Bill said he would reach out to “the gas tax people” - or, business and other groups that have traditionally been GOP donors but have recently been turned off by the party’s support for repealing the gas tax.

Mark Hintz: He stressed teamwork and the importance of working with elected officials to “dial for dollars” (greater collaboration, basically). He also mentioned using the Internet to raise money. That struck a chord with me.

Dwight Pelz: He reminded attendees that he raised a quarter of a million dollars for his city council race. Dwight didn't talk much about new ideas, but said he had support from traditional donors from WEA, SEIU, the trial lawyers, and several other major groups who wanted him to chair the state party. That’s nice, but what about new ideas, Dwight?

Laura Ruderman: She talked about breaking fundraising records when she ran for state House and the $600,000 she raised for her secretary of state race. I thought she came across very well and was able to condense what she wanted to say in one minute without losing focus.

Question #2: How will you build a stronger, more competitive party?

Bill Harrington: His major idea was sending some state party money (I think the figure was ten percent) back down to the legislative districts.

Mark Hintz: He talked about his experience as an LD and county chair. He said “counties and LDs need to do this on their own” - in other words, independence is important if the party is to be successful at the local level. The state party can’t be undermining local parties.

Dwight Pelz: He stated that the party chair needs a working understanding of the party. Dwight said if he was elected chair he'd be visiting every county party organization every year. He will emphasize training, technology, and equipping the grassroots.

Laura Ruderman: She said she knows what it takes to reach out to every corner of the state. According to Laura, “We can win in any part of the state” if we field good candidates. “It's about communication and training.” Laura would respect the local party members. Again, I thought she was clear in her response. I like the focus on improving communication – an area in which the party must do better.

Jean Brooks: She declared that organizing needs to start at the PCO level. She appeared to me to be reading off notes or some kind of other reference when she was speaking.

Question #3: Describe your executive experience and governing philosophy (as a manager).

Mark Hintz: He said has a great background in management (first, he’s a father, and second, he’s worked in several different companies in the private sector). Mark said he has managing skills and experience dealt with large amounts of money.

Dwight Pelz: He stated that he was trained as a community organizer. He wants to build a strong central committee and executive committee. According to Dwight, a strong organizer empowers the grassroots and the leaders. I liked this answer.

Laura Ruderman: Laura reminded the audience that she worked for several years at Microsoft. Her managing philosophy is: you hire the best people you can find and empower them to do their jobs. That's what she'd do as chair of the state party in regards to the front office. She stated that she had a track record of hiring good legislative assistants while in the state House.

Jean Brooks: Jean appeared to be reading or working from notes again. That didn't sit well with me, because I think the state party chair needs to be able to think on his or her feet and speak quickly and concisely.

Bill Harrington: Bill was hard to hear and I couldn't quite make out what he was saying during the entirety of his speech. He seemed to be talking about his membership on various important federal commissions and his work in Congressman Norm Dicks’ office.

Question #4: How are you going to make the tent big enough for people of color (specifically groups like the Native Americans):

Dwight Pelz: He stated that we need clarity and each caucus within the party needs its own goals. Dwight would sit down with caucus leaders to talk about where to go.

Laura Ruderman: Laura sensibly stated, “All of us would sit down with the caucus leaders.” She then declared that we need to provide more training to Unity Coalition caucus members. According to Laura: “We should provide more opportunities for anyone who wants them.”

Jean Brooks: Basically her answer was: More of a partnership is needed between the party leadership and the caucuses.

Bill Harrington: Bill was hard to understand again. I didn’t have a problem hearing him – just deciphering what he was saying. During his answer he did state, “You have to care.” That’s true, of course. You do have to care. But then what do you do?

Mark Hintz: Mark said we need to act: “We need to be more aggressive.” He really didn't provide any specifics though. I would have liked some more definitive ideas.

Question #5: How would you win in future years? 2006, 2008? How would you lead the party to victory?

Laura Ruderman: She stated that Democrats need to look at local knowledge and penetrate organizations like the state Grange which have been taken over by Republicans. This is a very good observation. Laura seems to have an idea of what’ll taken to win in Eastern Washington. She reminded the audience she was one of the first Democrats to win on the Eastside of King County.

Jean Brooks: She stumbled as she started giving her answer, but finally steadied herself. “We have to go to the base of the Democratic Party in every area,” Jean said. Or: “We need to get Democrats everywhere.” Of course we do. What’s the plan for getting Democrats to win more local races?

Bill Harrington: Bill would raise goals for getting more people out to precinct caucuses (seems like a good idea). He said he we would file an initiative to move the primary from September to August. That’s a terrible idea. The primary issue needs to be addressed through legislation. The party has no money to waste on senseless initiatives.

Mark Hintz: He would work to improve the Democratic message. Mark would help local party members find money and resources to support local candidates. Mark stated “We need to build a better farm team.” I liked this answer. He focused on message (or buzz) and money – which are key ingredients for any winning campaign. Good thoughts.

Dwight Pelz: He had a creative answer and stated that we need a longer range vision. And Dwight said we need to advance the party in Eastern Washington. Essentially he was saying that we need to find a better way to express our values in enemy territory.

Question #6: How would you make sure that the party is supportive of veterans and the military?

Jean Brooks: She appeared to be confused, but then came up with a response. Stated that veterans are a force that can be reckoned with. She would listen to veterans (yes, and who wouldn’t?) She said that we can't let Republicans keep saying we're weak on the military. Agreed, but how do we counter the GOP?

Bill Harrington: Declared that we don't have a strong statement on national defense (So we need to write one?) He talked about federal issues like lack of armor and not about how the Chair would support and or respond to veterans He did say that the party platform needs to be strengthened.

Mark Hintz: Mark said that we as Democrats need to fight for veterans’ benefits. We let our veterans know we care about them.

Dwight Pelz: We need a stronger message that shows the party cares about veterans. Talked about his recent vote on the county council. Wanted to reinforce Patty Murray's hearings on veterans issues.

Laura Ruderman: Laura stated that “we've let the other party define us.” She declared that we need to be defining ourselves instead (so basically, a better message?) and that we cannot let charges go unanswered. Laura suggested that we get folks from the veterans' caucus in front of TV news as spokespeople for our party and promote Patty Murray’s work in fighting for veterans (for example, fighting to prevent veterans’ hospitals from closing). I like the original ideas.

Question #7: How will the party maximize participation with specific groups within the party? Specifically in terms of scheduling?

Bill Harrington: He stumbled in trying to respond, but then stated that he would schedule meetings further out (my question is: How does that solve the problem?). Bill’s message was that we need to more sensitive.

Mark Hintz: Mark’s response was that we have to have respect different groups (religious, ethnic, gender, etc.) but we also have to compromise so we can move faster. I thought this was a reasonable answer.

Dwight Pelz: Asked for the question to be repeated, then declared that precinct caucuses should be at a different time of the week (not Saturday) so that no religious groups would be offended.

Laura Ruderman: Laura asserted that we know when the holidays are, and so we shouldn’t have such a problem with scheduling. She said that the party should work around holidays and religious solemnities. She also told the audience that people from the metro Seattle area can in fact go to other areas around the state for meetings.

Jean Brooks: Jean’s response was to say that we should have a resolution or we should address it through the platform (Is the platform really the appropriate place to talk about scheduling?) According to Jean, if we work together, we can figure out what works best for most people.

Question #8: What can the state chair do to increase participation by disabled people in the state party - specifically running for office?

Mark Hintz: Mark would increase outreach to disabled people. After some confusion he managed to say, “It's about unifying the party.”

Dwight Pelz: Dwight responded by saying that the party needs to communicate better with advocates of the disabled community. That community needs to be welcomed into the party and asked to become more active.

Laura Ruderman: Laura rephrased the question, and outlined a process in her answer – first, the party needs to think, then it needs to listen, then it needs to act. Laura said the party should translate its materials into different languages (including Braille). And at events we should have translations for speeches into sign language.

Jean Brooks: She would meet with the disabled community and listen (So where’s your original idea? I didn’t hear one).

Bill Harrington: I couldn’t quite make out all of Bill’s answer, despite straining to hear. He went off into some story about a candidate who's running for Congress in Illinois.

Question #9: What do you believe is the party's responsibility to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community and how will you manifest this responsibility?

Dwight Pelz: Dwight was very assertive in saying that be believed there could be no compromise on the party’s support for the GLBT community. In Dwight’s words, we need to stand up for gays and lesbians. He said that having a big tent is fine but the party cannot waver in its support of equal rights.

Laura Ruderman: Laura stated that she wasn’t scared of the issue. According to Laura, we let this be divisive issue and it shouldn't be. Laura’s response was basically that we as a party just need to stand up for civil rights and not be afraid of the other side.

Jean Brooks: This is a direct quote – the first words out of her mouth: “What I have to say is ditto.” Again, I didn’t hear any original ideas, just repetition of what other candidates had already stated.

Bill Harrington: Bill started off by saying he agreed with Laura and then said that the party needs to elect more Democrats to the state legislature so Ed Murray’s civil rights legislation can be passed. (However, the following day - which was last Monday – Sen. Bill Finkbeiner confirmed he would vote for the bill, so it may pass this year after all.)

Mark Hintz: Mark said that we need to listen to the GLBT caucus or we won’t have unity. I didn’t get much else out of his response.

Question #10: We have a defined platform. How will you support our candidates and elected officials to respect the platform?

Laura Ruderman: Laura’s response was that we need to close the rift between elected officials and party members. According to Laura, that way elected officials will feel more tied to the party and will respect the platform.

Jean Brooks: All I got out of her answer was that “we can’t push the platform on people who don’t like it.” No, but we can strive for our elected officials to have a better respect for the platform.

Bill Harrington: His response this time around was one that I liked. Bill stated that our elected officials are turning away from the party because other groups are giving them money and resources for their campaigns (too true). To address this problem, Bill said that Democrats should be raising more money on the local level to assist our candidates.

Mark Hintz: Mark also had a creative idea. He’d help connect candidates and elected Democrats to the local party organizations – and invite them to meetings and events. I think there’s work to be done in this area and it’s good to see Mark recognizes that.

Dwight Pelz: Dwight declared that Democrats should be proud of the platform. As a party, he said, we should not strip away the “D” beside candidates’ names if they don’t respect the platform, but he would ask every Democratic candidate for office to read the party platform. That’s another idea I like.

Question #11: What your vision for the direction of the party? Where do African Americans fit in?

Jean Brooks: She was confused that it was her turn to answer first. All I could hear was redundant talk about being unified. Unity and being unified is great, but I’m interested in specific ideas.

Bill Harrington: Bill did have an idea – he’d hold forums that would focus on issues that are of concern to the African American community (such as civil rights). This could be helpful.

Mark Hintz: I heard a generic answer: more “I’ll meet with them and listen to their concerns”. I did not hear a specific idea.

Dwight Pelz: Dwight was also somewhat generic. He would work with the caucus to develop “strategies” to help the African American community. Yes, but what kind of strategies?

Laura Ruderman: Laura didn’t provide many specifics either. What I heard from her was that the party needs to come together, not fracture. but when it comes together, then peoples' concerns need to be addressed instead of being forgotten. I agree, but that’s not much of an original answer.

Question #12: How would you fund programs (i.e. training) to help Hispanics and other ethnic groups?

Bill Harrington: Bill said that it was more of a legislative question. I agree to some extent, but there are some things the party can do.

Mark Hintz: He had something creative this time – he talked about how the Snohomish County party had worked to be multilingual. Specifically, people who speak other languages like Spanish should be able to download materials off the party website into their own language.

Dwight Pelz: Dwight declared that we need to register more Hispanic voters and involve more Hispanic activists. He also agreed with Mark and stated that the party website should be translated into Spanish (and presumably other languages).

Laura Ruderman: Laura responded by saying that the party needs to maintain constant contact with ethnic communities, not just appear and disappear around election day. I thought that was a good point.

Jean Brooks: After repeating what other candidates said, Jean said that the front office should reflect diversity in hiring.

Question #13: The executive committee is unbalanced because there are four women and fourteen men. How do you make it more equitable?

Mark Hintz: He would increase outreach and set a to increase participation by women. He had somewhat of a difficult time responding.

Dwight Pelz: Dwight reminded the audience that the state’s top three elected officials (all Democrats, of course) are women. The state party chair shouldn't be involved so much because powerful women are already competing well.

Laura Ruderman: Laura of course declared that electing a woman as state party chair would help, which elicited laughs. She agreed with Dwight that women are competing well within the party.

Jean Brooks: After she agreed with Laura, what I heard was that “we need to keep addressing the issue.” I would have liked to have heard a more creative answer.

Question #14: Is it time for change in the makeup of the state central committee (meaning more representation of ethnic groups?) Why or why not?

Dwight Pelz: Dwight said that it would require a charter review. He affirmed that there is a problem as far as the representation of ethnic groups goes, and that the central committee should be diverse.

Laura Ruderman: Laura stated that the state committee needs to be more representative of many different groups - ethnic, gender, disabilities, etc. In her view, less splintering will happen if the state committee is more diverse.

Jean Brooks: She said we should look at changing bylaws and taking actions to address issues that people present.

Bill Harrington: Bill’s idea was to have LD chairs and vice chairs meeting every year (or twice every year) to figure out how the central committee could be more diverse.

Mark Hintz: I couldn’t catch much of his response. Something about working with the community to build stronger relationships? I’m sure it was more substantive, but I was momentarily distracted.

Question #15: What is the role of labor in the state party?

Laura Ruderman: Laura reminded the audience that she supported collective bargaining while she was in the state Legislature. According to Laura, labor has a significant role in helping organize and elect Democrats.

Jean Brooks: Her response was that we’ve strayed from supporting labor and we should go back to supporting them.

Bill Harrington: Bill declared that labor is currently facing troubled times, and there are no easy answers (often in politics, there aren’t easy answers). Bill would stay in contact with labor leaders and push for increased legislative action.

Mark Hintz: He said that labor has historically helped the party a lot – and that labor deserves more support from the party.

Dwight Pelz: Dwight responded by saying that the party needs to reach out to workers. He said he’s worked as a union organizer and won union elections, and thus has a solid relationship with labor groups (which would help him to be an effective party chair).

The candidates then gave closing statements. I'm not going to summarize those because there wasn't a lot of new information.

Based on this forum, I would say the two best candidates are Laura Ruderman and Dwight Pelz. Both seem to be able to communicate clearly, which is extremely important. Laura especially has some innovative ideas. She realizes the party has a problem when it comes to communication and public relations and that we need to improve.

I think of the five candidates Laura is also the most technologically savvy. She mentioned to the audience at the end of her closing statement that she has a podcast available for download on her website. I think Laura would be the kind of chair who would reach out to bloggers.

Dwight Pelz can't be written off, though. I sensed that Dwight is the kind of person who is empowered and wants to empower other people. He would be good at organizing and leading the charge to return fire at the Republicans when fired upon. And our next chair does need to be able to aggressively respond when we come under attack.

I do like Mark Hintz but I didn't think he was able to articulate himself so well. Despite this, Mark has some positive attributes and I won't write him off, either. I'd like to hear more from him.

I don't think Jean Brooks and Bill Harrington are serious contenders for state party chair. They're great people, but we can't have a party chair that the electorate can't understand, or who is confused.

I view good communication and speaking skills as vital. And it certainly does help if you have a strong voice. I believe that Laura, Dwight, and Mark communicate pretty clearly when they want to say something, and that's a major reason why they are each serious contenders.

Laura Ruderman and Dwight Pelz each have websites, I haven't seen websites for the other candidates yet.

What do you think? Feel free to post your thoughts but keep our comments policy in mind. Corrections and or additions are most welcome.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

King County Journal forgets how to read.

Following is the text of my letter to the King County Journal, whose January 11 opinion in support of Alito amounted to a regurgitation of Republican talking points:

Dear King County Journal:

In the January 11, 2006 opinion in support of Samuel Alito being confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court, you quoted Alito on the issues of Roe v. Wade, presidential powers, and judicial prejudice.

You also chose to use only quotes that are almost verbatim from the Republican Party "talking points" excerpts from Alito's statements, which purposely obfuscate his true beliefs. This shell game with the truth has become a national past time for the Republican Party, and a national embarrassment for its citizens.

Alito has consistently stated his support for the Unitary Theory of government, where presidential powers are seen as widespread and essentially above written law. Since his days with the Reagan White House, he has advocated an imperial presidency. The full, unedited quotes are available in Federalist Society Symposium papers from 2001, and from public statements he made as far back as 1986. His own refusal to admit details of his membership to the Princeton Alumni groups that is racist and sexist further indicates this habit of selective information.

The point here is that sound bites and talking points do not make up a proper inquiry into the character of someone who is going to serve on the highest court in the land. To imply obstructionist behavior on the part of Democrats seeking accuracy is to acquiesce to Bush's personal imperial desires.

In advocating his confirmation without seeking independent verification and documentation, you fail the fundamental test of sound journalism: being a voice for the truth, with verification and proper sources.

The surplus is off the table

Chris Gregoire did not say the V word, but the implication was clear in her message to the legislature Tuesday. She did not say, "I'm sure we all want to do the prudent thing, so let's make nice and be cautious." She did not say, "Let's all go along to get along." She said,
"As we look ahead to the next year, we will need every dime just to cover the increased cost of our existing services, particularly in education and health care.
...
"Saving the amount of new revenue I propose is something that has never been done before – but its time has come. [This is] a budget that is practical, prudent, and responsible. I accept the fact that we may have differences over how to spend this supplemental budget. But let me be clear, I cannot sign a budget that next year would require cuts harmful to the people of this state."

The people in the chamber understood her, even if the news reports the next day missed the point.

And they did.

Most reports I saw were along the lines of "a laundry list of spending proposals thrown out by the spendthrift Democrats." In other words, wrong.

Gregoire's budget has some mandated spending increases, for caseloads and teachers COLAs and the like. But there are very few new proposals -- biodiesel, cleaning up Puget Sound, low-income heating cost relief. And there was detail and organization, showing this may be visionary, but it is not pie in the sky.

The press is still preoccupied with looking for some kind of illegitimacy in Gregoire's election. Get over it. The judge threw every Republican argument on the legal garbage heap. Rossi couldn't salvage a scrap to cover an appeal. These guys in the press wouldn't know fraud if Kenneth Blackwell bit them on the leg.

(I notice nobody on the Republican side of the aisle has proposed a change to the process, in spite of their demands for a revote last time.)

Again, this budget and the address to the state legislature Tuesday demonstrate leadership. There were clear priorities, concentration on core missions, and little doubt about the direction. This is the kind of person who will get us where we want to go, whether or not you agree with her on every jot and tittle.

I think it has to do with her coming out as who she is. This is the lesson of Paul Hackett. Don't give them what the focus groups say they want, give them who you are and what you believe. Otherwise, as with a certain former governor, you end up looking superfluous, like someone hunting for a parade to jump in front of.

Another leader who has apparently been talking to Gregoire is John Kitzhaber, former governor of Oregon. The Guv's health care discussion has nuances that seem to be right out of Kitzhaber's excellent new proposal. Kitz is another real person. Check out his program at the Oregonian or the Onward Oregon blog, January 9.

Gregoire, Murray throw weight behind Pelz

Via Howie in Seattle (thanks for the tip):
Dear Central Committee member-

Our party faces a very important election that will help determine ourfuture and our effectiveness. After many successful years, our party chair Paul Berendt, is stepping down. Later this month you will be asked to pick a replacement for Paul. Few other choices you make in the next year will hold greater consequence for Washington State Democrats and whether or not we continue our record of success.

As you know, during Paul's tenure our party has regained majorities in both housesof the state legislature, recaptured a majority of our federal congressional elegation, and retained critical statewide constitutional offices, including Governor. Working with party leaders and concerned citizens all over our great state, we have built an effective voice for Washington state's working families. The stakes of the coming debates with the Republicans could not higher - that's why we need continued effectiveleadership in our party.

As a member of our party's Central Committee, you will chart the course of our party's future. You will be asked to choose between many individuals with a variety of backgrounds, all of whom have shown commitment to our
party's ideals and aspirations.

But one candidate among them stands out - Dwight Pelz.

Dwight will come to this job with a wealth of experience in precisely the areas that will make him an effective Chair, and he has been a passionate advocate for the values we all share.

Whether it's grassroots organizing or articulating our party's message, ensuring that our campaigns will have the resources they need to succeed or being responsive to the people who make up the heart of our party - Dwight's experience and commitment are unparalleled. He is a life-long Democrat who we are confident possesses the skills and know-how to help lead our party to victory.

You will help determine our state's future direction through your vote.

We do not enter this debate lightly, but because the stakes are so high we feel compelled to act. Together we can build on our past successes and create a brighter future for all of Washington. We hope you'll join us in supporting Dwight Pelz for our State Party Chair.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Governor Chris Gregoire
Obviously Pelz is the front runner, and these endorsements make him the favorite to win (notice that Cantwell did not join Murray and Gregoire in making this endorsement). I have some more thoughts on the race for party chair which I'll be posting in a reflection later today (or early tomorrow)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Network maintenance is still in progress

For those of you who were wondering, the NPI network is still undergoing renovation. We've been slowed down a bit by other events, like the conference in Olympia, but not stopped. I'd rather not give an estimate for when we will be done but I can say it will be soon. When we're ready to roll out the changes we'll make a major announcement.

Alito Hearings: Kennedy rips Specter

ThinkProgress reports (video here):
Just now, Sen. Kennedy requested that Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter issue a subpoena to the Library of Congress for documents related to the right-wing group Concerned Alumni of Princeton, of which Alito was a member. The documents contain “clipping files, background information, correspondence and memoranda, financial records, fund-raising material, lists of supporters, minutes of meetings, issues and other items.” The documents are critical because Alito now claims he can’t remember anything about his involvement with the group.

Specter refused to rule on the request, claiming it’s the first time the request had even been made. Actually, Sen. Kennedy sent a letter on December 22 making the request:
It is likely that a formal request for access directly from you on behalf of the Committee would be received with more cooperation than the CRS has received so far, and we urge you to make such a request as soon as possible.
The letter was also reported widely by the Associated Press.

When Kennedy noted that he had sent the letter, Specter replied that there is a big difference between “sending” a letter and someone “receiving” it. He then banged his gavel loudly.
Good for Senator Kennedy. Democrats need to keep the pressure on. Extremists like Alito cannot be allowed onto the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More press coverage of yesterday's news conference

Here's an excerpt from a Longview Daily News article that appeared this morning which focused on Eyman's press conference yesterday (original article not available on the Web):
Eyman was also shadowed by Andrew Villeneuve, chairman of Permanent Defense (Eyman named one of his political-action committees Permanent Offense).

"It's the same thing. Eyman gets attention and people hear the state is wasting money," he said. "He doesn't offer real solutions, just rhetoric."
Not only did I shadow Eyman, but I spoke in response to his phony attacks on state legislators and the Governor for having the courage to invest in transportation.

Preparation for the fall campaign is now underway. We won't be bothering with contingency plans. We are making the assumption now that Eyman will get hundreds of thousands of dollars from Dunmire and that he will in fact be able to buy his way on to the ballot.

We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us. But the 2005 Transportation Package must be protected. We can't afford to lose $2.5 billion in valuable projects that will improve safety, relieve congestion, and bolster our economy.

Permanent Defense will be on the front lines every day this year fighting back against this cynical and arrogant attempt to destroy our state's future. We invite you to join us.

No wonder they chose the color red

"Political business cycle" was a term used to describe the ginning up of the economy just prior to a presidential election. The data in these charts describes another political business cycle.

Manipulating the economy for political ends was a technique, perhaps not first, but best developed by Richard Nixon. He blamed the recession of 1959-60 for his loss to Kennedy, and gone to school on it. When he got in office, with a compliant Fed, he made sure good economic news greeted voters on election morning.

Subsequently, Ronald Reagan erased the memory of the most desperate recession in postwar history (1981) with some good economic news in 1983-84. Never mind the debt we are still paying off. George Bush I did not get the response from Alan Greenspan he needed, and thus not the bump he needed.

Jimmy Carter was perhaps the worst player, since he backed off expansionary policies out of fears for inflation, suffered a slowdown in the last year of his first term, and did not see a second. Clinton was surely aware of the phenomenon. He didn't need to do much but crow in 1996, but in 2000, he made a calculated and unprecedented move to release stockpiles from the strategic petroleum reserve to cut energy prices in the year running up to the election. I still think if Gore had run on the economy, he would have won, instead of running on ... morals? Well, whatever he ran on.

The following charts have nothing to do with that. These simply describe the behavior of GDP and budget under the administration of the two parties. "Net GDP" is my formulation to show what the economy would have done without the borrowing. GDP is more a function of demand than supply, and when you increase demand by borrowing, GDP loses its usefulness in describing the health of the economy. Nobody is going to say credit cards are the same thing as paychecks.

If you want to get the full discussion, you'll have to buy the book. But this is what happens to GDP when you subtract the borrowing (or add surpluses), including the borrowing from Social Security and other social programs.





Note to W: Borrowing massive amounts of money because you cut taxes on the rich does not lead to economic strength.

Governor Christine Gregoire arrives for State of the State Address

The Joint Legislative Session is in progress now...you can watch on TVW. The Governor got a pretty good reception. Plenty of cheers and extended applause - from both caucuses, apparently. Probably just polite applause from the Republicans.

Lt. Governor Brad Owen announced the arrival of several other dignitaties - the nine justices of the State Supreme Court, several statewide elected officials (everyone except for the state treasurer, it seems).

Other special guests: Former Governors Rosellini and Gardner, Congressman Jay Inslee, Congressman Dave Reichert, and King County Executive Ron Sims (interestingly, Reichert and Sims were seated next to each other).

A number of foreign consular-generals were also in attendance.

The State Patrol's color guard brought in the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance was duly recited, followed by the national anthem.

Governor Brad Owen has introduced Her Excellency Governor Christine Gregoire for the State of the State Address.

So far, the Govenor has reviewed the success of the 2005 Legislative Session, talking about the Transportation Package, funding the initiative that mandated higher pay for teachers, passing new environmental laws (including the clean car/emissions law) and so on.

The Governor is then talked about education - supporting students, paying teachers a fair salary, and providing assessment alternatives for the WASL. These remarks received a standing ovation from state legislators and special guests.

The Governor also proposed expanding Running Start. This proposal received another standing ovation.

Gregoire next moved to healthcare: "I believe healthcare is a basic right - it is not a perk!"

And she challenged state legislators to pass legislation to assist low income families pay their heating bills this winter. The Governor declared, "Washington families should not be left out in the cold while oil companies cash in on record returns."

Gregoire also called for legislation on energy independence: "It's time we have an energy policy based on Washington grown and Washington owned."

She then outlined her proposal for cleaning up Puget Sound and emergency preparedness, saying that her proposed budget includes money for a tsunami warning system and earthquake readiness.

Gregoire also explained why she is proposing to save a large amount of the surplus for later years, warning lawmakers that she will not sign a budget that will lead to "draconian cuts" in the future.

Gregoire concluded her speech with an emphatic, "GO SEAHAWKS!"

The full text of the Governor's prepared remarks is as follows:
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished justices of the court, honored officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, former Governors Rosellini and Gardner, Congressman Inslee, Congressman Reichert, King County Executive Sims, members of the Consular Association of Washington, my fellow citizens:

Good evening. It is an honor to stand before you for this State of the State Address. To honor our achievements, to appraise the “State of our State,” and to preview greater things to come.

Joining me at the rostrum are my daughters, Courtney and Michelle.

This is a big day for our family. This afternoon we were at the Temple of Justice to attend Courtney’s swearing in ceremony to the Washington State Bar. Mike and I are obviously very proud of her and delighted, as some of you have heard me say, that she is now going to actually be paid to argue.

Michelle is a college junior and will study abroad this year. Now, more than ever, the study abroad experience is vital for young people so they can better understand the truly competitive global world.

My daughters are my best friends, my passion, and a constant reminder of the incredible challenge we face to prepare our children to pursue their dreams.

While the fifth member of our family isn’t with us, in light of recent days I’d like to paraphrase from a speech delivered in 1944 by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Some have not been content with attacks on me, or my spouse, or on my daughters. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Franz.

Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Franz does resent them.

You know, as soon as he learned that the fiction writers had concocted a story he couldn’t defend himself and was a cost to taxpayers, his Pomeranian soul was furious.

He has not been the same dog since.

Our family dog Franz has a real kinship with FDR’s dog Fala.

Also joining me is my husband and best friend Mike – also known as First Mike. Mike is a retired Medicaid fraud investigator and a Vietnam combat veteran.

Mike has worked extremely hard in the last year for Veterans. Thanks to his work, the work of Veteran’s organizations, and the support of this Legislature, last session was one of the most productive in history for former servicemen and women. It was a fitting outcome considering the incredible debt we owe them.

Mike served as a member of our bipartisan team that last year successfully worked to persuade the Base Realignment Commission to keep the doors of Washington’s key military installations open. It was a major victory for our communities, for our economy, and for the men and women who serve this country and have come to love our state.

I would also like to thank Dr. Don Argue who gave today’s opening prayer. He shares my belief that the best solutions for many of our problems lie not with government, but with people and organizations in our communities.

Last, and certainly not least, let me introduce some very special guests. The safety of our troops in Iraq and the plight of hurricane victims were heavy on all our minds in 2005. Our National Guard troops have been on the front lines fighting in Iraq and were among the first responders to the devastation left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

We owe these troops a hearty thank you and are indebted to them for their selfless service to others. God Bless them.

They serve as a symbol of the patriotism of all of our citizens.

Obviously we can’t have all our troops here, but I would like to introduce Staff Sergeant Dale Flory, an Iraq combat veteran.

Staff Sergeant Flory, on behalf of the people of Washington, thank you and your colleagues for your service and we are delighted to have you home safe.

Next I would like to introduce Master Sergeant Michael Readnour. Washington’s National Guard was one of the first to step forward and help the people of the Gulf Coast after Katrina’s devastation.

They represent the outpouring of generosity by our citizens who opened their hearts, wallets, and homes to our fellow citizens of the Gulf Coast.

Master Sergeant Readnour, thank you and your colleagues for your commitment to service and your willingness to leave your families behind in order to help those in need.

Sadly, 45 men and women who called Washington home died in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005. I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence for these brave soldiers and their families.

Thank you.

In the last year I have been all around this great state and met a lot of people. I found their values and dreams are very similar. They value personal responsibility, service to others, and providing new opportunities for our kids and families.

Consider Megan and Martin Clubb, owners and operators of L’Ecole Number 41 Winery in the Walla Walla Valley. They are carrying on the great vision of Megan’s parents, Jean and Baker Ferguson, who had the foresight to recognize the extraordinary wine producing potential of Washington.

Or consider Tatyana Fedorchuk, a 39-year-old mother of five and immigrant from Ukraine. She is building a new life by taking English classes and earning nursing assistant credentials at Everett Community College.

And Barbara and Steve LeVette who live on Hood Canal. Concerned about failing septic systems fouling Hood Canal, they rallied their homeowners association to develop an innovative treatment plan through a public-private partnership.

I tell these stories because they are an important reminder that this is a state of diverse people who are doing exciting things.

Our job isn’t to get in the way, but to offer help where needed and carry on the values that have made this state great.

In this magnificent building it is easy to think that our work is terribly difficult and incredibly important.

But our work isn’t as tough as what people face back home. Running a small business. Becoming a proud new American. Protecting the environment. Raising a family. Keeping their loved ones safe. Keeping a job. Providing a helping hand to a neighbor.

Our job is to represent them in a way that is worthy of their struggles.

A year ago, we fought for the people. In 2005 we began building a brighter future by putting partisan politics aside, by being bold and demanding change, and by relying on traditional Washington values of opportunity, responsibility, and service to others.

This year, we need to build on that success. We need to continue improvements in our education system. We need to make our families safer and more secure. We need to improve access to quality health care. We need to keep our economy growing. And we need to protect our quality of life.

That foundation – the outstanding legislative session of 2005 – has already elevated Washington to a new level of opportunity.

In our state the news is good. Our economy has turned the corner with 85,000 new jobs—that’s a seven-year high.

And around the world, I am pleased to report that Washington State is viewed like a small nation. When you say, “I’m from Washington” in Japan and China, they know that means Washington State.

And our reputation is stellar – we are about quality – quality products, quality agriculture – like our cherries and wine – and a quality environment.

Going beyond our promise, we’re providing health insurance to 73,000 additional children. This is a major step toward our vision to guarantee every child has health insurance by 2010.

We made education our number one investment in 2005.

Voters recognized how critical smaller class sizes are by passing Initiative 728. But it wasn’t until last year that we fully implemented the will of the voters, and we went one step further, we set up the Education Legacy Trust Account to permanently fund smaller class sizes.

To attract and retain quality teachers we fully funded another citizens’ initiative – teacher salaries.

And we took down the “no vacancy” signs at our colleges and universities so nearly 8,000 more students could attend.

The transportation package was truly a bi-partisan effort by legislators who knew that leadership involves risk. Let’s have a big hand for you who fought and won passage of our historic transportation package last year – with a special “bow and hurrah” to the leadership of Rep. Ed Murray, Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, Rep. Beverly Woods, and Senator Dan Swecker, and for our voters who supported the plan even though gas prices at the pumps were stretching their family and business budgets to the limits.

Another important bi-partisan vote produced the Life Sciences Discovery Fund. To be honest with you, I don’t believe we understand yet the vast potential this initiative has for our state.

This bold investment in a 21st century industry will lead to medical breakthroughs that will save the lives of friends and loved ones by finding cures to some of our most dreaded diseases like Parkinsons and Cancer.

And it will help ensure for human wellness that we continue to produce the highest quality and safest agriculture in the world.

Having been a caseworker myself, I understand the challenge of protecting our children. So, I signed an executive order requiring social service workers to get to a child’s doorstep within 24 hours of being notified of a life in danger.

Keeping our promise, we’ve implemented an initiative to make government more accountable and transparent – and we’re well ahead of our goal to eliminate 1,000 state government middle managers.

We also took important steps to improve and protect our quality of life.

At certain times of the year, Hood Canal, one of the jewels of our state, becomes a dead zone where aquatic life is killed off. We are working to bring Hood Canal back to life with real on-the-ground projects that work.

We adopted tough emission standards for new cars and required new “green building” standards for public buildings.

There was much, much more. For example we took steps to ramp up our fight against the ravages of meth.

It is important to note that even though we were handed a $2.2 billion budget shortfall, we did all this without a general tax increase -- no sales tax, no business and occupation and no property tax increases.

So we had a good year – a very good year in 2005. But you know what, we aren’t done yet.

One area where we need work is early learning. Let me be candid with you.

How would you grade a system where less than 50 percent of the kids are prepared to learn when they reach kindergarten?

Or a system where half a dozen early learning programs in state government are spread across numerous agencies and have no clear vision?

We know children with early learning success are more likely to finish school, more likely to go to college, less likely to be unemployed and less likely to commit crimes.

Our children are born to learn, and the first and best teacher in a child's life is the parent. But when parents and their families want help with care outside the home, we must be there for our kids.

We need less bureaucracy. We need to stop falling behind the rest of the country. We need to make sure our children are ready to learn when they hit kindergarten.

Business leaders understand the value of early learning. They know it is an investment in the future.

So we're creating public-private partnerships because this is about communities, and no one wants government to tell them how to parent.

For the last month or so we have seen the battle lines forming over requiring certain performance standards for our students.

I traveled to Europe and Asia and witnessed firsthand our competition and, believe me, we don’t let our children down with high standards. We let them down if we retreat. And we fail them again if we don’t prepare them to succeed.

Before we talk about lowering standards, shouldn’t we first:
  • Show all our students- boys and girls, black and white, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, rich and poor- we believe in them?
  • Demonstrate we support their teachers by paying them a decent wage?
  • Provide individualized help to students so they can achieve the standards?
  • And develop alternative assessments for those who need them?
I have talked to hundreds of high school students in the last year, and I will tell you, I believe in them. I will not give up on them.

And I will not accept 1/3 of our students dropping out of high school.

I have learned that if we entrust students with responsibility for their own future, they will do amazing things.

Many students do not feel their high school classes relate to their future. Programs like Navigation 101 challenge students to choose alternative careers and enroll in courses needed to achieve that dream. As a result, students engage in more rigorous coursework because they are in charge of their future.

We have “Running Start” for college. But what about kids who don’t want to go to college?

We need Running Start for the trades.

Education and health care are interwoven: An unhealthy child can’t learn.

Too many working families and senior citizens in Washington are uninsured or underinsured and only an accident or illness away from financial hardship.

There are too many disparities in health care.

This is inconsistent with our values. I believe health care is a basic right and not a perk.

Late last year I met with Pam Roberts, a single mom in the Spokane Valley. Like a lot of parents, she is struggling to cope with overwhelming home energy bills. We have watched as gas prices increased a dollar a gallon over the past year.

I am challenging you to pass, in the first week of this session, initial assistance for our neighbors and friends who are struggling with high home heating bills. Washington families shouldn’t be left in the cold while the oil companies cash in on record returns.

For the longer term, I am proposing an energy agenda that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create another 21st century industry in Washington.

Farmers like Ted Durfey in Sunnyside are ready to grow the biofuel business in Washington. But they need help getting started. With a strategic investment of low interest loans we can help launch this 21st-Century industry and provide new markets for energy crops likes canola or mustard.

It’s time we have an energy policy based on Washington grown and Washington owned.

As we work to create and attract business, we need to remember that our quality of life is key to our success.

Our natural resources not only provide beauty and recreation, they are the lifeblood of our economy.

That’s why environmentalists, local government, sportsmen, tribal and business leaders have all joined our renewed efforts to preserve and protect Puget Sound.

There’s work we must do now. My budget includes money to speed the cleanup of toxic waste, restore salmon habitat, help homeowners repair failing septic systems, and improve oil spill prevention and response.

We’re approaching the clean up of Puget Sound by embracing what we call the Washington Way: a bottom-up, grassroots strategy that sparks citizen energy and engages our farmers, environmentalists, and landowners who live and work near the Sound.

It is a legacy we must leave.

Sadly, too many of the 2005 headlines told terrible tales of hurricanes, tsunamis, and attacks by sex offenders and terrorists. The lesson is we have to be prepared and invest in our personal safety and security.

I am, therefore, proposing actions to help protect Washington families. My budget includes funds to improve tsunami warnings in our coastal communities, improve our earthquake readiness and strengthen detection and tracking of a pandemic flu.

I also requested additional funding for the state patrol for ferry security and highway safety.

Our families need to know when a sex offender is moving into the community. We need to toughen the penalties for sex offenders who fail to register.

We have been blessed with higher than expected revenue. My supplemental budget pays the bills, makes targeted investments and saves money for the future.

I know some of you want to spend more money.

So did I.

I know some of you want to cut taxes.

So did I.

As we look ahead to the next year, we will need every dime just to cover the increased cost of our existing services, particularly in education and health care.

Our state budgeting has been a roller coaster. We spend when we have a surplus and we struggle to make painful cuts when the economy slumps. It is time to even out the ride. While the roller coaster is fun at the amusement park, it is no model for state budgeting.

By treating our budget like a Washington family budget – we will ensure stability and avoid tax increases or Draconian cuts tomorrow.

So my budget pays the bills and keeps the retirement system sound. It makes targeted investments for the future, and it puts money aside to pay the bills that will come due in a year.

Saving the amount of new revenue I propose is something that has never been done before – but its time has come.

It’s a budget that is practical, prudent, and responsible. I accept the fact that we may have differences over how to spend this supplemental budget.

But let me be clear, I cannot sign a budget that next year would require cuts harmful to the people of this state.

As I look out over this great chamber, I am reminded of nine voices that once echoed here fell silent last year.

These are the voices of those who put service to others over their self-interests and who shared our Washington values of responsibility and opportunity.

In March we lost Rep. Ruth Fisher-our state’s original “Steel Magnolia.” On a sidewalk precisely twenty-five feet outside Heaven’s gate, Ruth stands puffing on a Marlboro Light in grudging respect for the passage of Initiative 901. Her rich life and commitment to the greater good offer proof that “surliness” is next to “Godliness!”

We also lost Senators Dick Hemstad, Martin Durkan, and Bob Bailey, and Representatives Charles Kilbury, Stan Bradley, Russ Austin, Geraldine McCormick and Speaker Tom Swayze.

They were Democrats and Republicans, and each was emblematic of what our collective credo should be: that public service transcend partisanship and that politics is about getting real things done for Washington families.

Let’s continue to honor their spirit of responsibility, opportunity, and service to others.

Each of us, irrespective of our political party, owes it to the families of our great state not to lose our way; each of us must see ourselves through history’s lens, and create a legacy by building on our success.

We cannot be distracted by partisan politics, special interests, or political maneuvering.

We are all here to serve others. That is our call to duty.

So in the spirit of responsibility, opportunity and service, let’s get to work and build on the foundation we created together last year.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the people of Washington State.
A pretty solid, well delivered speech.

Press coverage of yesterday's filing

The Associated Press story written by Curt Woodward covering the news conference in the Secretary of State's office has been most widespread:
State Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, stepped in to question Eyman's initiative, spawning a minor shouting match between the two men. Kline later held up a copy of the state's proposed 2006 supplemental budget while asking Eyman which programs should be cut to make up for his tax-cutting measure.

He said Washingtonians approve of some reasonable vehicle fees because they know the money is put to good use. “People are going to make the connection — the taxes they pay go to pay for services they need,” Kline said.

Eyman opponents, citing a state Department of Transportation estimate, said the new measure would cost the state about $2.5 billion over 16 years.
That last part there was a key part of our news release, and it's good to see that at least this important number made it into the article.

The Olympian, KIRO, KOMO, the Seattle P-I (online only) and KGW carried the AP story. The Seattle Times, Seattle P-I, and the News Tribune mentioned Eyman's initiative within the context of other news stories.

Fortunately, Finkbeiner's confirmation that he would vote for the civil rights bill prevented Eyman from getting very many headlines.

Monday, January 09, 2006

45th District should be represented by someone with integrity

Eric Oemig, a candidate for State Senate in the 45th District, has released a statement in reaction to Senator Bill Finkbeiner's announcement confirming that he would vote for the civil rights bill this year:
It is hard to stomach my own State Senator saying "I don't agree with the politicization of people's personal lives..." after voting against civil rights legislation while he was leading the Senate Republicans. Now that he is up for re-election, he has stepped down from his leadership post and will vote for it.

It is also hard to believe that anyone with real world experience is just now coming to terms with the discrimination of gays and lesbians. I do not presume to understand Bill Finkbeiner's motives, but he is either seriously out of touch or incredibly politically opportunistic.

Our district deserves better. Our district deserves someone with real world experience in the business community.

Our voters deserve someone who can explain their position on something and then vote that way. If in some way, I have added some political pressure on Senator Finkbeiner to vote his conscience, this campaign has already been worth it.
Eric Oemig announced his campaign to run for state Senate almost a week ago and plans on mounting a serious challenge to Finkbeiner this fall. We'll continue bringing you news and analysis focusing on this race throughout the remainder of the year.

Television Coverage of Eyman filing

So far, KOMO, KIRO, and KING have all aired reports of Eyman's filing. All of the stations showed Senator Adam Kline confronting Eyman and interrupting his press conference to ask him "Where's the fat, Tim?"

KIRO's first report (KIRO runs a half hour of news from 5:00 to 5:30 and then a whole hour starting at 6 PM) was the longest and included sound bites from both Kline and Eyman. Essex Porter reported for KIRO.

It seems KOMO ran two reports - one early in the five o'clock broadcast and one late. The later one just showed the Kline/Eyman confrontation, but the earlier one (with Keith Eldridge reporting for KOMO) likely gave Eyman more exposure. KING apparently gave Eyman the least coverage of all and focused on the legislative session in general rather than just his initiative.

UPDATE: KIRO ran another segment shortly after 6 PM that was about as long as their first segment. The video footage didn't change very much.

Eyman files new initiative to gut transportation funding

This morning, before the 2006 Legislative session was gaveled open, Tim Eyman and his pals (Mike and Jack Fagan) were in the Secretary of State's office announcing the filing of this year's initiative: an attempt to destroy funding for much of the 2005 Transportation Package.

Permanent Defense responded by releasing a statement this morning condemning the initiative and vowing to fight it. Stopping Eyman will be an extremely high priority this year for the Northwest Progressive Institute and our Permanent Defense division. Despite the recent victory over I-912, the 2005 Transportation Package remains under assault.

I was there on behalf of NPI and Permanent Defense, (To the left you can see a picture of Eyman and his cronies with their chalkboard prop) and I can report that the press conference was well attended by the Olympia press corps.

I expect to see a lot of coverage today and tomorrow. Both myself and Senator Adam Kline (D-Seattle), spoke on behalf of the opposition.

The Transportation Choices coalition, an ally of ours, was also present and will no doubt be working with us to stop this initiative.

It's safe to assume that Eyman has a commitment from Woodinville millionaire Michael Dunmire to supply enough funding to buy the necessary signatures to get on the ballot. Preparation for the fall campaign must begin now - not next month and not six months in the future, but now.

Yes, there are going to be federal races this year. Yes, there will be legislative races. But we ignore this threat at our peril. Every blogger, every activist, and every citizen who cares about having a healthy state to live in should make defeating this initiative an important priority. This is not the only threat we face, but it is huge.

Permanent Defense will serve as the central resource for fighting this campaign. In the coming days and weeks the site will be significantly upgraded to offer more information about the consequences of this incredibly destructive initiative.

Vance stepping down

What a pity:
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said today he is stepping down to pursue a job in the private sector.

Vance, a former state legislator who has been GOP chairman since 2001, would not reveal his future employer.

He said his decision was prompted by family concerns, particularly his two children, who are nearing college age.

"College is now looking me right in the face, and paying for college," Vance said. "My entire adult life I have gone from one temporary political job to another. Being chairman has been tremendous, but it is not a job you retire from."
Now the Republicans are electing a new chairman as well.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Your phone records are NOT private

This is simply outrageous and needs to end immediately:
In a nutshell, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story two days ago about a Web site that sells phone records, for cells and land-lines, for $110 a pop. The company boasts on its own Web site:
Give us the cell phone number and we will send you the calls made from the cell phone number.
So I went to their site, plopped down $110, and within a day I had a list of every single phone number that called my cell, or that I called from my cell, for the month of November. I even had the dates the calls were made, and for a premium I could find out how long the calls were.
That's right - anyone can buy a list of your incoming and outgoing phone calls, right over the Net, for just $110. And it's both cell phones AND land lines. Your phone records are most certainly NOT private.

What's being done about this? One Democratic senator has already taken action:
Some online services might be skirting the law to obtain these phone lists, according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has called for legislation to criminalize phone record theft and use.

In some cases, telephone company insiders secretly sell customers' phone-call lists to online brokers, despite strict telephone company rules against such deals, according to Schumer.

And some online brokers have used deception to get the lists from the phone companies, he said.

"Though this problem is all too common, federal law is too narrow to include this type of crime," Schumer said last year in a prepared statement.
Even FBI agents are vulnerable:
[T]he FBI paid Locatecell.com $160 to buy the records for an agent's cell phone and received the list within three hours, the police bulletin said.

[...]

Frank Bochte, a spokesman for the FBI in Chicago, said he was aware of the Web site.

"Not only in Chicago, but nationwide, the FBI notified its field offices of this potential threat to the security of our agents, and especially our undercover agents," Bochte said. "We need to educate our personnel about the dangers posed by individuals using this site and others like it. We are stressing that they should be careful in their cellular use."
For many people, this is going to come as an unbelievable shock. But it's true. Your phone records are essentially up for sale to anyone who has a hundred and ten bucks. Locatecell offers these "services":
Reverse Cell Phone Number Lookup $65

Find Name and Address from number. Additional Cell Reverses available including Canadian Cell $85, and International Cell $250.

Find Current Cell Phone Number $95

Give us the name and any combination of address or SSN and we will send you the working cell phone number.

Cell Phone Call Record $110

Give us the cell phone number and we will send you the calls made from the cell phone number.
So much for privacy. Anybody - reporters, political enemies, law enforcement (without a warrant), your spouse, your business competitors - anybody who's got $110 can spy on you.

This has to end. Even most Republicans should be able to agree with us on this one. If you're concerned about your privacy, call your telephone company and ask them to put a password on your records.

Aravosis has more here in a must-read post.

Mike Webb Responds

A couple of days ago, Mike Webb apparently stopped by and left a comment in the thread attached to the news of his arrest. As you are no doubt aware, Mike Webb was recently fired from 710 KIRO and had the plug pulled on his show.

In the interest of fairness to Mike (since we've been critical of him) his comments are reprinted below. Here's his say:
If you think KIRO will get a progressive more assertive and accurate and challenging than me, think again. I literally put my life on the line by Coming Out on the air when we had no Will and Grace or Queer As Folk. I told the truth of my life to shocked listeners. At age 15, I was dodging billie clubs and rocks fighting to get stories of Vietnam War protests on the air at KMPX in San Francisco .. Probably when you were in diapers.

And about this thing called "journalism." Someone told me it's supposed to be where you get some facts to report. Like: I was not arrested. There was no bail. There was no jail. Someone neglected to include the police report where I was hit by a driver running a stop sign, but I guess that doesn't matter.

That I shelled out a ton of money because somebody didn't want to honor their deal. One thing there will be is vindication. If you think journalism - even advocacy journalism (which I strongly support) requires only to link to or reproduce the rantings of a "fake liberal" such as michael hood at blather watch who very "liberally" said I ordered a "BIG DICK" at Dick's (how nice and "liberally" homophobic) and published a piece that said I should load my "gun, place it to my head, end it all, it's over", well maybe a little night school is in order. Another piece of "liberal" enlightenment.

Peace,
A Real Progressive, Mike Webb

(January 6th, 2006)
Feel free to respond in the thread (but keep our comments policy in mind: have something of value to say).

History Sez: Budget surpluses lead to program cuts

Experience contradicts a recent Yakima Herald Republic piece that began, "When the state Legislature convenes Monday, you can bet that $1.4 billion surplus is going to be burning a hole in its collective pocket -- despite promises from everyone from the governor on down to be 'prudent' .... Every special interest in the state will argue that its desire for more money and new programs will best serve the young/ old/ poor/ underprivileged/ needy/ disadvantaged/ most deserving." cite

Wrong.

In fact, both at the state and national levels, and with the enthusiastic support of the wingnuts at the Yakima paper, short-term budget surpluses have been turned into long-term program cuts. How? By cutting taxes irresponsibly. Tax cuts have swamped spending increases. Since taxes are simply the financing mechanism for public goods, when you cut taxes, you cut public goods.

(What used to be one of my favorite columnists, Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune, pulled out the same stereotype in a column in mid-December, although I see he recently has attempted to finesse the issue, saying the legislature "and initiative writers" have historically "spent" surpluses in the form of tax cuts.

At the national level, the budget surplus passed on to the Republican power elite was transformed overnight into tremendous tax cuts. The cuts were portioned out as an early snack for working families followed by an unending series of banquets for the already wealthy. These tax cuts have been absorbed primarily by borrowing, that is, shifting the taxes plus interest to our future selves and after we die to our children.

The Radical Right has sold the notion that we can have the house, but paying the evil mortgage is optional. In order to maintain this myth, we are literally taking out more loans to make the monthly payment. When the day arrives that we need to pay both our current tax bills and that from these Bush giveaway years (plus interest), we will be facing some very tough choices.

Now these self-created budget deficits have offered Republicans an opportunity to grandstand, trumpeting as "fiscal responsible" cuts in social programs, student loans, Medicaid benefits, and child support enforcement (of course). These cuts are short-sighted and mean, and are driven only by ideological myopia. Rescinding the tax cuts for the rich is the fiscally responsible move.

Here in the state, we are all familiar with the Eyman initiatives which sold the voters "painless" tax cuts. They were painless only as long as a temporary surplus numbed our nerves. That anesthetic wore off quickly and we are still suffering. (Pity the cities and transit agencies whose tax base was lopped off. The state filled in its own holes with sin taxes, but has left local agencies to bite the bullet.)

The $1.4 billion surplus is an uptick in a downward trend. It needs to be allocated along the lines of Gregoire's supplemental budget proposal -- reserving the bulk of it against the shortfalls ahead. This can be an object lesson on the inadequacy of the state's revenue architecture. By following the governor's lead, the Dems can demonstrate which party is fiscally responsible in both Washingtons and make selling responsible tax reform much easier when the time comes.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Conference a huge success

You may have noticed that the last couple of days have been somewhat slow on the blog. I apologize for not posting myself, but I have a good excuse.

Over the last couple of days, I've been in Olympia, Washington, meeting with fellow bloggers, legislators, and legislative staff in a conference organized under the umbrella of NPI - the first ever Pacific Northwest Progressive Bloggers' Conference.

I believe I can confidently say that the conference was a resounding, amazing success, and that everyone who participated learned a lot.

It is incredibly fun to finally meet people whose writing you've been reading for months (or maybe even years) face to face, and strike up a discussion about politics and how to move the progressive movement forward.

I'm glad that we put this event together, because getting together and engaging in a dialogue with other people (other bloggers) who you respect is extroadinarily productive. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels they benefited.

I want to thank every blogger who came down to Olympia to participate in the conference. We had an outstanding turnout.

I also want to thank my principal co-organizer. Although I worked hard putting this together, nothing would have happened without Lynn Allen of Evergreen Politics, who poured a lot of time and energy into this.

It was a huge investment for both of us - but I think it paid off tremendously. I certainly hope to collaborate again with Lynn on future events that are just as successful as this was.

We have a lot of work to do to clean up the mess the Republicans have made. This year we have an opportunity to change the course of our nation, restore some balance to the federal government, and steer America back towards the proper direction.

This conference was a great way to kick off a year of activism. Now it's time to move forward and start making a difference.

It was George W, drunk at the wheel!

The problem of a supine media is not only that they deliver lies so long as they are spoken by the President in front of the flag, it is also that there is no place to go to find the truth that is not under attack by the Radical Right. Reporting has become a balance of "opinions." This is confusing to the nonpolitical, and they would prefer to tune out the raucousness. This, and the need to win politically and soon, have distilled themselves into a recurring dream.
I am in the front passenger's seat of the car. It is dark and raining. Mom, Grandma and the two kids are in the back seat. My idiot brother-in-law is driving, and he's drunk. I'm telling him to watch out, pull over, let me drive, and he's just getting madder and going faster. I'm faced with the dilemma of whether to try to wrestle the wheel away, pull the key from the ignition, or continue a fruitless argument.

The folks in the back seat definitely know something is wrong, but they can't quite see what. I try to tell them, and point out the lurching and hitting barricades and driving in the wrong lane against traffic is not what we want. But the idiot brother-in-law screams louder about how I'm trying to destroy the family and it's my jealousy and all kinds of BS that don't even make sense to me. I look over, and it is not my brother-in-law, it is George W. Bush with his knuckles white on the wheel.

The dry drunk has control of the car. The people with the real power are the people with the purses in the back seat. He will do what they tell him, but they're scared, confused and can't see clearly out the windshield.
"Democrats can't win and Republicans can't govern," it is said. The Right has focused on winning at all cost and gotten hold of the keys without learning how to drive. But winning has to do with getting the people in the back seat to say, "Pull over George. Let John drive." Getting them to say that means we need to talk to them where they are, about the issues they can see.

This does not mean abdicating the defense of the Bill of Rights nor foreign policy issues that get indistinct in the mist of competing claims. But the same sponsors that brought you the lies of Iraq bring you the lies of Big Oil, the Medicare drug fiasco, the denial on climate change, the corruption, and inevitably the absence of security.
One trick the Rove media machine pulls out is to make outrage look like hysteria. And a little bit of excess neutralizes a lot of good when it gets twisted by the master. Look like what happened in the George W was AWOL situation. The guy got special treatment from pulling strings, didn't show up for training, and at best sat in an office reading magazines hiding from the War, but because CBS ran a piece with some forged papers, the issue is neutralized. Never mind that the roster of chicken hawks didn't serve, compared to the Democrats whose patriotism they challenged.

Who remembers the duplicity exposed in Newt Gingrich's phone call? All we remember Jim McDermott's endless defense against the leak.
The issues that resonate with the back seat are everywhere.

The first one is character.
It is becoming more and more clear that you cannot trust these guys. Enumerate the One Thousand One Lies of George W. Bush. This is even the softest spot about Iraq, the intentional public lying. The corruption, both the Abramoffs and the Enrons.

Then security. Climate change with no possibility of a missile shield, the incompetent ignoring of the WMD stockpiles in the former Soviet Union, and really, the inadequacy of secret police action in protecting us against terrorism.

Finally, the economy. The evaporation of a surplus into an enormous and growing debt, the continual bleeding of jobs, losing the social safety net. Careful, don't get hysterical again.

Speaking to the people in the back seat is a little bit of what George Lakoff was talking about in his moral politics. The perspective is completely changed when W turns out not to be the solid citizen, but the drunk behind the wheel.

Finkbeiner to vote for HB 1515?

Progressive Majority Washington thinks so:
According to trusted sources, Senator Finkbeiner told the 45th District Republicans that he was going to vote in favor of equal rights ... will he keep his promise, or fold over like a waffle again?
Edie from Progressive Majority has some thoughts here.

If this turns out to be the case, it's certainly an illustration of what a flip flopper Bill Finkbeiner is. First he's for civil rights, then he's not, and then he is.

The 45th District needs to be represented by someone with integrity - not someone who's going to change his vote on an important issue every year.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It's SS, Social Security, not BS

I'm probably too defensive to make a good blogger. I hate it when ignorance leads with its mouth. Recently I pointed out that the real danger to Social Security is not its own internal financing, but the $500 billion deficits the renegade Right that is planting like land mines on the road ahead.

Some folks decided to comment. Before I answer those comments (and while I cool down a bit), let's find one that resonates with many and hit a few high points on the social programs front. (If you must, you can join me in the mud at the end.)
"Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid consume nearly half of all federal spending, and within the foreseeable future could consume the entire federal budget."
[Note: So when you hear "smaller government," please understand it is code for gutting these programs.]
Because the population that is served by these great social programs is growing, the programs themselves are growing. They are, excepting Bush's Medicare drug boondoggle, well-designed and well run. Social Security is impeccably financed. Even critics during the recent privatization campaign pointed to complete solvency until 2030, and some even granted 2050. The operating budget is insolvent today by the same measures.

The high points:
Point 1: Social Security is well run, costing 1% in administration for benefits to hundreds of millions of Americans.

Point 2: The Medicare Part D drug benefit program is, as Sen. Tom Harken D-IA put it, "a debacle." The giveaway to the drug companies costs too much and its creating confusion, anxiety and anger among seniors.

Point 3: President Bush, in mid-December, became the first and only president in the fifty-year history of the White House Conference on Aging to dodge the event. Preferring not to get feedback on his misbegotten privatization plan for social security or on the Medicare drug fiasco, Bush instead met in closed session with a hand-picked group of oldsters in a high-end gated community in suburban Virginia. (see NPR coverage)

Point 4: Only single-payer health care can cut the costs, bring corporate profiteering to heel, and deliver the services everyone needs. Such a system could be a boon to strapped state and local governments whose budget projections are blown up by ever-expanding health care costs.
Financing advice to George II: When faced with easily anticipated costs (after all, the boomers weren't born yesterday), balance the books, shed debt and program efficiently.

Now for those pot-shots that missed the pot:
"The Social Security program is the epitome of our (selfish) generation saying a fiscal "F-You" to our grandchildren, and always has been. Despite the fact that the US Government has outlawed pyramid schemes, they have allowed this largest of all pyramid schemes to continue for almost 70 years."
Listen to yourself, "pyramid scheme .... 70 years."

It is an intergenerational contract. We've supported it with patently regressive payroll taxes only because we like the program. Prior to the New Deal, retirement security was bought by having lots of kids and hoping they liked you when you got older. When social security arrived, children had the assistance of the government. Everybody's children supported everybody's parents. Instead of a room in the back, oldsters kept their own places. (Is this really so hard?)

From the same commenter:
"Contrary to Alan's statement in this article that Social Security "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", Social Security started paying out very slowly - because no money had been paid in. And its financing is NOT impeccable, because it depends on contributions from a workforce that is increasing at a MUCH lower rate than are the ranks of those who will receive benefits."
Please see the SSA's history. A program of this scale had never been tried. It was passed in 1935. By 1937 people were registered, and the program began. In March, the first lump-sum benefit was paid (albeit only 17 cents). In the first year $1.25 million was paid out to 53,000+ beneficiaries. By 1940 $35,000,000 was paid out to 222,000 beneficiaries. Dependents and survivors were added in 1939, disabled workers were added under Eisenhower, and SSI was established by Nixon.

Yes the workforce is increasing slower than beneficiaries. That's why we've been paying into the trust fund. And don't tell me we haven't been paying. The trust fund will continue to run $200 billion surpluses into the next decade.
"Had Congress never been allowed to tap the SSI Trust Fund, the program would be OK. But because Congress has spent all Social Security moneys collected since the 1950s, and all that is in the Trust Fund is a series of IOUs, the program is somewhat of a joke to begin with, and is definitely on shaky ground. This did NOT start with GWB; it started with the 40 years that Congress was controlled by the Democrats, starting in the 50s."
Bull. These "IOUs" are government bonds. Until George II, US bonds were considered the safest investment in the world. These are not IOUs.

Bull 2 Reagan and the two Bushes built the debt that bleeds the trust funds, not Democrats. Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. Democrats have produced the only balanced budgets, under Truman, Johnson and Clinton. Only Eisenhower among Republicans produced responsible budgets.
"The revisions to the program that Alan speaks of so reverently will ultimately be the downfall of SSI. It was never intended to be a retirement fund for everyone, or a social safety net for spouses or children of those who died before retirement. The selfish members of Congress over the last 50 years made changes to please their constituents that they knew would put more weight on future generations - to whom they would not have to be accountable.
It's very thick in here. It WAS intended to be "a retirement fund for everyone and a social safety net for spouses and children." That was the explicit, loudly proclaimed and applauded function.

[The commenter confuses OASDI - Old Age Survivors and Dependents; Disability; and SSI. Not a big point.]

Social Security is solvent. It is the operating budget that is in disarray. And Medicare and Medicaid may not be in good shape. They are being exploited by people who pay themselves poor and used to funnel money to Bush's pharmaceutical donors, but these are not Social Security.

Another says,
"On one hand the liberals want to cut the deficit and on the other hand they want more spending. I don't get it!"
This is the distillation of the crap. Is it liberal to want to cut the deficit? No, it is just responsible. Is it conservative to sabotage the government? I don't think so. Maybe.

Okay, that's it for the year. I won't do it again. I promise.

Abramoff did NOT give to Democrats

The GOP talking points are spreading like wildfire (and thanks in part to the Associated Press, which has apparently decided that Abramoff clients equal Abramoff himself). John Aravosis reminds us of the truth:
Here is the list of who Abramoff gave money to, per Michael Petrelis' research:

$172,933 - Republican
$88,985 - special interest
total: $261,918

That's 229 donations and not a DIME to Democrats.

The list of donations is long, but it makes a great visual, so I'm posting it anyway. Next time you hear someone say that this is a bipartisan scandal, whip out this list and laugh.

This comes from Newsmeat.com, they have all the FEC data. I just counted, and I think this list of GOP donors and organizations is around 15 feet long. Someone on our side REALLY needs to print out this list and get in front of a camera. Hell, every single one of our pundits should have this list with them on TV and just roll it out on the table.
Follow the link to get the splendid visual.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

8th Congressional District Race Update

I just returned home from a meeting of the 45th District Democrats, where we were addressed by Darcy Burner, who is for the moment the only candidate officially in the race, now that Randy Gordon has decided to end his bid.

Darcy's campaign is firing on all cylinders: she's surpassed the $200,000 mark for the end of the quarter, she's put together an incredibly talented group of people to run her campaign, and she's been getting some high profile endorsements from people like former Governor Gary Locke (read more about that here).

If you didn't see Darcy's last post to Daily Kos, you might want to take a look at that as well. It's all about how bills that would actually make America safer have been languishing in Dave Reichert's House subcommittee for over six months - which is one of the things Darcy mentioned in her speech to the 45th District Democrats' membership.

If you're interested in this race (especially if you live in the 8th District) I strongly urge you to check out Darcy's website to learn how you can help.

Talmadge withdraws from race for party chair

Phil Talmadge has announced that he will not be seeking the position of state party chair later this month. Remaining candidates include Dwight Pelz, Laura Ruderman (who addressed the 45th District Democrats tonight), Mark Hintz (chair of the Snohomish County party), Bill Harrington, and others. More details to follow shortly.

2005 David Neiwert Awards Coverage

Yesterday's Neiwert Awards, besides being carried on Pacific Northwest Portal (and an announcement made here) were also carried on Orcinus and Daily Kos.

Here's links to the reaction from recipients of the awards:
Congratulations to all our recipients, again. Keep up the good work in 2006.

Microsoft downplaying WMF vulnerability

A must read article from the Washington Post this morning:
Security experts yesterday criticized Microsoft Corp. for waiting until next week to address a recently revealed flaw in the Windows operating system that they say is unusually dangerous.

The experts took the unusual step of urging users to install a patch created by a private developer, saying Microsoft is downplaying the severity of the security hole.

The flaw, revealed last week, allows hackers to break into computers running versions of Windows software -- from Windows 98 through the most recent Windows XP. The flaw allows computers to be infected with spyware or viruses by visiting a Web site or opening on an image or link in an e-mail or instant message.
We agree. Windows users should install the unofficial patch (instructions for protecting your computer are here). More from the Washington Post:
Thomas F. Liston, an incident handler with the SANS Internet Storm Center in Bethesda, said Microsoft was downplaying the threat from the flaw.

"They're just keeping their fingers crossed that this doesn't blow up in a big way until the 10th," Liston said.

Another computer-security firm, Symantec Corp., said Microsoft's decision to delay the patch for another week presents attackers with a "seven-day window that attackers could exploit this issue in a potentially widespread and serious fashion." The Cupertino, Calif., company raised its threat alert to the highest level in 16 months.

Liston said hundreds of Web sites are exploiting the flaw. Malicious hackers expanded into instant messages on New Year's Eve to take advantage of the vulnerability, he said.

In an advisory posted on its Web site earlier this week, SANS urged Windows users to download and install the unofficial patch. SANS and other security experts checked the patch to ensure that it fixes the security flaw without compromising other programs or creating other problems for the users, Liston said.
The patch is safe. Again, NPI urges you to follow the above link and take the necessary steps to protect your machine. A final excerpt from the Post article:

Until Microsoft releases its patch, customers should practice "safe computing habits," such as updating anti-virus software and avoiding unfamiliar Web sites, [a Microsoft spokeswoman] said. However, it's unclear whether safe computing is enough because the exploit it altered every time it infects a new machine, making it tougher for anti-virus software to detect it.

F-Secure Corp., the Finnish anti-virus company that first spotted the exploit on the Internet on Dec. 27, also vouched for the safety of the unofficial patch and advised customers to use it.
The world's top security experts advise you not to wait for Microsoft. We concur. (Microsoft, by the way, has in fact completed their fix - they are now testing it, but refuse to release it until next week).

Windows users who are serious about computer security should install the unofficial patch and not leave their systems unprotected. It's too bad Microsoft is downplaying the WMF vulnerability, because it means more users are going to leave their computers unprotected until the "official" patch is released. You don't have to be one of them. Protect your OS now.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Eyman keeps getting columns and coverage

Last week, in a post entitled "Media needs to stop giving Tim Eyman special attention" I wrote about how we are tired of seeing the Washington State press corps display favoritism for initiative profiteer Tim Eyman.

Last week, Eyman had op-ed columns in several major newspapers: The Columbian (December 26th), the Everett Herald (December 28th), the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (December 29th), and the Tacoma News Tribune (December 30th).

That's almost four columns in a row. Each one was mostly the same as the others - in fact, the Everett Herald and the Seattle P-I ran the exact same column for Tim, word for word.

This morning, the Seattle P-I offered Eyman another gift, this one in the form of a news story. Its title: "Remember $30 car tabs? They could be coming back".

Why does the media feel compelled to use Eyman's buzzwords? The title is lousy at best and misleading at worst. It makes no mention of the massive cuts in transportation spending that will inevitably result if the initiative passes. Those cuts will have a significant effect on the quality of life in our communities.

The article does offer some quotes from state legislators, who are again courageously defending the 2005 Transportation Package:
"We feel it's reasonable," said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. "There is a direct correlation between the weight of a car and (its) wear and tear on roads."

[...]

But, in what has become a perennial debate, Democratic transportation leaders in the Legislature warn that traffic congestion, highway safety and freight-mobility efforts will suffer if voters buy in to Eyman's next effort.

"It has the potential to undo everything we did last year," said Seattle Democratic Rep. Ed Murray, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Also, license-fee revenues are more flexible than those raised by gas taxes, said Haugen, who heads the Senate Transportation Committee. In Washington, gas taxes can be used only for highways and car ferries. But the weight fee would pay for projects such as increased freight-train service in rural Washington, pedestrian-safety efforts and a new passenger train from Seattle to Portland, she said.

Murray added that voters supported such increases when they rejected the gas-tax repeal in November. Eyman "needs to listen to the voters, too," he said.
That last bit there from Senator Murray is something we've been emphasizing, too. By pushing ahead with his initiative to gut transportation funding, Eyman is clearly disrespecting Washington State voters, who spoke loudly and clearly last November in rejecting I-912.

Thanks to Eyman's arrogance, the transportation funding we sorely need remains under attack. Permanent Defense is committed to fighting Eyman's attempt to destroy our state's future, and we'll be bringing you regular updates on how you can help.

We'll also be keeping a very close eye on the media and correct misinformation when we see it.

This recovery quacks like a hippo

More and more top heavy, as profits expand and wages and incomes contract, the national economy continues to suffer under corporate domination. The Bush team's massive deficit spending has weakened the economy as lived by the average American, even as it compromises our future.

A policy statement from the Economic Policy Institute ("What's wrong with the economy?" included the following numbers:

Inflation-adjusted hourly and weekly wages are below November 2001.

Median household income (inflation-adjusted) has fallen five years in a row, from $46,129 in 1999 to $44,389 in 2004.

The inflation-adjusted debt of U.S. households has risen 35.7% over the last four years.

The number of people living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million since 2000.

More than 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since January 2000.

The personal savings rate is negative for the first time since WWII.

Private sector jobs are up a miserable 0.8%. (If this is a recovery, it doesn't quack like one. Never before has a recovery produced less than 6.0% job growth over the same time span.)

Households health care bills rose 43-45% for married couples with children, single mothers, and young singles from 2000 to 2003.

Nearly 3.7 million fewer people had employer-provided insurance in 2004 than in 2000.

This is the trend. At this rate we are not going to survive our "recovery." Remember, we've added trillions of dollars in new debt to get here.

Oh, the good news?
35% of the growth of total income in the corporate sector has been distributed as corporate profits, far more than the 22% in previous periods.

Eric Oemig to challenge Finkbeiner in 45th

Kirkland software engineer and political activist Eric Oemig, who also hosts the cable television show Moral Politics, today declared his intention to run against incumbent State Senator Bill Finkbeiner for the 45th District seat:
"Our district needs a leader who focuses on the basics. We need to solve problems in education. We can improve the financial health of our families and our businesses by making health care affordable. Everyone saves money when we waste less time in traffic," said Oemig. "Our tax dollars should be spent on programs that return more value to families and businesses than we pay in."
Finkbeiner ought to be worried: he's in for a fight. Eric Oemig will be a committed, intelligent candidate who will run a strong campaign to win. A former Microsoft employee, Eric is a progressive candidate who also has a keen understanding of the business world.

Finkbeiner is clearly vulnerable, especially after his vote last session against Ed Murray's civil rights legislation. We don't think that Bill Finkbeiner really represents the people of this district. The 45th needs a new state senator who isn't afraid of the religious right:
"Bill Finkbeiner has been in Olympia since he graduated from college. Our district wants new leadership. We have things that need to get done. Finkbeiner spends his time flip-flopping trying to appease the right wing of his party instead of addressing the needs of the district.

I worked in the private sector to eliminate inefficiencies. I will work to bring that same attention to fiscal accountability to state government. More importantly, I have the integrity to make sure people know how I will vote on key issues."
If elected, Eric Oemig has made clear that he will be more than happy to vote in favor of the civil rights bill, thus ensuring its passage.

Eric Oemig will be a formidable and credible challenger to Bill Finkbeiner. We will be following Eric's campaign and analyzing this race with great interest in the months to come.

The 2005 David Neiwert Awards

This morning, the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to present the 2005 David Neiwert Awards to honor the achievements and accomplishments of the Pacific Northwest's most active progressive bloggers this past year.

This is of course the first year of the awards, which we hope to make an annual and celebrated tradition.

The awards are named for David Neiwert, a freelance journalist and the founder of one of the Northwest's most respected blogs, Orcinus, which has been on the Web since the beginning of 2003 and is currently syndicated on Pacific NW Portal. Besides writing Orcinus, Mr. Neiwert has reported for MSNBC.com and has also penned several oustanding books, including Strawberry Days, Death on the Fourth of July, and In God's Country.

NPI thanks Mr. Neiwert for graciously agreeing to allow us to name this awards tradition in his honor, and we offer our congratulations and heartfelt thanks to the winners of this year's awards.

See the recipients now: jump to the David Neiwert Awards on Pacific Northwest Portal.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Why do they hate America so much?

We feel kind of sorry for this guy (this was submitted to our website):
You and all that support you are anti-American and obviously work for the state. What you are doing is discusting and self destructive. Because of you and the Stalin style gov. that runs this state I am going to make some very sweeping and dramatic changes to the way we do business here. These changes will come in the form of new laws that will no longer permit or encourage your way of thinking. Yes I have much experience in this field, you can check my credentials with LP siding that spent billions in liability claims due to my efforts or you can check with the cable TV provider tha no longer exists due to my efforts to name a couple.
Well, what can we say? The guy is obviously delusional. If he really does hate freedom that much, he could always move out of the U.S.

Anybody want to write him a letter? Darryl? J.C.? Carl?

Windows Users: Protect your computer from WMF vulnerability immediately

Attention all Microsoft Windows users:

Please protect your machines from the WMF vulnerability immediately. Here are the steps to do so, recommended by F-Secure and the good people from the SANS Internet Storm Center:

Step 1. Unregister this DLL file to protect yourself. Here's how:

  • Go to the Start menu. Click on Run.
  • In the dialogue box, type the following, exactly as it appears here: regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll
  • Click OK. After a few seconds, Windows should say that the DLL was unregistered successfully. Click OK.
Step 2. Install the unofficial patch recommended by F-Secure and SANS. Click here to download the patch. Follow the instructions to install the patch. When installation is complete, you will be prompted to reboot your computer. SANS has analyzed this patch: "It does only what is advertised, it is reversible, and, in our opinion, it is both safe and effective." I myself have the patch installed and have experienced no problems in Windows. This is a good patch.

Don't wait. Do not pay any attention to people who advise you to wait for Microsoft. They're advising that you leave yourself unprotected until the geniuses here in Redmond [two miles from our HQ] figure out a solution. Protect your operating system and your machine now.

Think long term, like two years

There is no meaningful surplus in the state's budget. The Governor's supplemental budget document confirms what we have been saying here. Those people who want to spend the $1.4 billion identified by the Forecast Council or dispense it in the form of tax cuts should set their pumps up somewhere else. This pond is a mirage.

Fully $900 million is set aside in reserve accounts and pension hedges, and rightly so. Much of the rest ($281 million) goes to cover caseload and classroom increases (in DSHS, Corrections, K-12 enrollment, teacher's salaries) that are required, mostly, to serve populations drawn to the state by its "strong economy."

Washington does have strength in its economy with Microsoft and Boeing, high-tech, agriculture and trade, but these sources are not what is floating job growth nor the up-tick in Olympia's revenue. The source of those has been the housing boom, or bubble. I can't put my finger on it right now, but I read somewhere that half of new jobs in the state since 2000 have come in residential construction and services from mortgage lending to landscaping. State revenues benefit from the boom by way of retail sales, home sales, construction labor (which is subject to sales tax), and the added property value represented by new homes.

Once the boom is over, the hangover begins. The equity people have routinely taken out of their homes to pay their credit cards off disappears, along with its attendant spending, because house values will no longer be appreciating. Residential construction dries up, and with them the special sources of revenue strength to the state. And we are stuck economically.
Today's revenue architecture is archaic and inadequate in Washington, a rattletrap of pre-war vintage. It is looking at handling $2.9 billion in new costs over the next biennium, according to preliminary estimates cited in the supplemental. These costs will suck up the Guv's $900 million in reserves and come looking for more. There won't be more. There will be less.

Not only can we not cut taxes, we are going to have to add capacity. Because of the scale of new revenue needed and the fact that current sources are maxed out, this means we are going to have to remodel the system. It is no longer a question mainly of regressivity and fairness, it is now also a question of basic adequacy. Both can be addressed in the same reform.

The 2007-09 legislature may be the place. Democrats may expand their majority, and it would be a good use of political capital to get Washington's fiscal ship seaworthy for what may be some difficult economic times ahead.

Nationally, the Bush economic blunder machine is cutting the roots of economic stability and spending the retirement and college funds on new toys for the rich and war games in Iraq. ("Games" is not to denigrate the immense cost in human lives and the devastation to America's standing in the world. It is to characterize the attitude of the Administration.)

My reading of the Gregoire budget indicates an appropriately conservative approach. The few new proposals are not inordinately expensive, being limited to: $38 million to help high schoolers pass the WASL, $42 million to begin Puget Sound clean-up, a $17.7 million biodeisel development project, $46 million to maintain WorkFirst against federal cuts, and $23.6 million to help schools, state agencies and low-income families with expected spikes in energy bills. Publicized initiatives like the tsunami warning system improvements, medical and crop research, construction at the Veteran's Home and perks to the aircraft industry are either very modest financially or off budget.

If Chris Greqoire and others can defend their fiscal caution in colorful terms that highlight both the economic uncertainties and the need for a workable tax system, then it may set up the inevitable debate and decisions ahead.

WARNING: Windows users, you are at risk to new security vulnerability - act now

This is extremely important. The media at large has been slow to catch on, but this needs to be spread far and wide, now:
A previously unknown flaw in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system is leaving computer users vulnerable to spyware, viruses and other programs that could overtake their machines and has sent the company scrambling to come up with a fix.

Microsoft said in a statement yesterday that it is investigating the vulnerability and plans to issue a software patch to fix the problem. The company could not say how soon that patch would be available. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Mike Reavey, operations manager for Microsoft's Security Response Center, called the flaw "a very serious issue."

[...]

Unlike with previously revealed vulnerabilities, computers can be infected simply by visiting one of the Web sites or viewing an infected image in an e-mail through the preview pane in older versions of Microsoft Outlook, even if users did not click on anything or open any files. Operating system versions ranging from the current Windows XP to Windows 98 are affected.

[...]

Mac and Linux computer users are not at risk with this attack, even if their computers run Microsoft programs such as Office or the Internet Explorer Web browser.

Reavey encouraged users to update their anti-virus software, ensure all Windows security patches are installed, avoid visiting unfamiliar Web sites, and refrain from clicking on links that arrive via e-mail or instant message.

"The problem with this attack is that it is so hard to defend against for the average user," said Johannes Ullrich, chief research officer for the SANS Internet Storm Center in Bethesda.

At first, the vulnerability was exploited by just a few dozen Web sites. Programming code embedded in these pages would install a program that warned victims their machines were infested with spyware, then prompted them to pay $40 to remove the supposed pests.

Since then, however, hundreds of sites have begun using the flaw to install a broad range of malicious software. SANS has received several reports of attackers blasting out spam e-mails containing links that lead to malicious sites exploiting the new flaw, Ullrich said.
There is no official patch for this vulnerability yet from Microsoft. F-Secure and the SANS Internet Storm Center recommend that you install this unofficial patch, created by an expert and trusted Windows programmer.

Don't wait - act now. SANS has this for those of you with second thoughts:
Looking forward to the week ahead, I find myself in the very peculiar position of having to say something that I don't believe has ever been said here in the Handler's diary before: "Please, trust us."

I've written more than a few diaries, and I've often been silly or said funny things, but now, I'm being as straightforward and honest as I can possibly be: the Microsoft WMF vulnerability is bad. It is very, very bad.

We've received many emails from people saying that no one in a corporate environment will find using an unofficial patch acceptable.

Acceptable or not, folks, you have to trust someone in this situation.

To the best of my knowledge, over the past 5 years, this rag-tag group of volunteers hasn't asked for your trust: we've earned it. Now we're going to expend some of that hard-earned trust:

This is a bad situation that will only get worse. The very best response that our collective wisdom can create is contained in this advice - unregister shimgvw.dll and use the unofficial patch. You need to trust us.

We have very carefully scrutinized this patch. It does only what is advertised, it is reversible, and, in our opinion, it is both safe and effective.

The word from Redmond isn't encouraging. We've heard nothing to indicate that we're going to see anything from Microsoft before January 9th.

The upshot is this: You cannot wait for the official MS patch, you cannot block this one at the border, and you cannot leave your systems unprotected.

It's time for some real trustworthy computing. All we're asking is if we've proved ourselves to be worthy of your trust.
Don't wait for Microsoft. Act now to protect your computer.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Comments Policy for 2006

We have decided that there will be a new comments policy on the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog this year.

We decided a new comments policy was necessary after carefully reviewing the thread attached to Jonathan's post on Senator Cantwell's successful efforts to block drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

We do not have comment threads on this blog so that Republican hacks and members of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists can drop by and leave RNC talking points, or deliberately trash this organization and the progressive movement.

The comment threads exist for intelligent discussion, and to allow readers to point out mistakes in our posts or offer additional information.

From here on out, the comments policy is as follows:

  • No profanity. We don't care what your political persuasion is - no profanity, please. There is no need for it. The radical right is trying to engage in a culture war. Their goals are to divide and disrupt. When swearing matches erupt, that's a victory for them.
  • Don't type in all caps. Over the past year, we've observed that a couple commenters deliberately type in ALL CAPS. All caps is equivalent to shouting. Again, (as you may have noticed) the right is trying to engage in a culture war. When shouting matches erupt, they win. Commenters who type in all caps will be first warned and then banned if they continue to comment in all caps.
  • Have something of value to say. We're going to be flexible with the definition of what we consider to be value. Value could be humor (including snark and satire), a polite correction, a personal viewpoint, new information, and so on. Value is a broad definition. For our policy, it covers everything that we don't consider trolling (or disruptive behavior).
We will not hesitate to ban anyone who repeatedly shows that they have nothing of value to contribute to the discussion on our comment threads. There are other liberal/progressive blogs on the Net which allow trolls to comment. This is not one of them. Trolls are not allowed.

And just so that this is clearly understood - in our eyes, a troll is not necessarily someone with a conservative point of view. People who have something thoughtful to say are always welcome to comment. People who offer misinformation, jeering, and nothing of value are not welcome to comment here.

For the last couple of weeks, we've had comment moderation enabled, which has allowed us to screen comments before they are posted. Comment moderation is now off, and comments will appear immediately upon posting.

If we notice that our comments policy is not being respected, we will turn comment moderation back on, but we'd prefer not to. Please respect the comments policy. To our loyal and polite commenters, thank you for your patience. It's greatly appreciated.

Welcome 2006!

Happy New Year to all of our readers! NPI has high hopes for 2006. We still have a lot of work to do if we want to take back America - but this could be the year when it starts. It's time to hit the ground running.

Over the next few weeks, NPI will begin launching a sweeping series of rollouts that will take this network to a higher level.

Stay tuned. 2006 has just arrived.