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

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Chevy Commercial You Have to See

Via Kos and Democratic Underground, we learn that someone with a brilliant sense of humor has taken advantage of the Chevy Apprentice website to create a car commercial that finally speaks truth to power.

See what I mean - follow this URL to see the commercial ON Chevy's website! (Macromedia Flash player required).

Chevy Becomes A JokeChevy launched the website as part of their big promotional for "The Apprentice", Donald Trump's "reality" show, which is currently in its fifth season. (It airs Monday nights on NBC). They probably have no idea what they have unleashed...

Dozens upon dozens of other satirical spoofs are now being created by imaginative progressives, but none that I've seen have yet topped the beauty of this first one (if you want more, here's some good ones). That particular combination of the video and music provided by Chevy with biting commentary is just amazing.

This effort surely deserves an award!

Here's my commercial. I put it up against all the soundtracks and I liked this one the best.

Wishing it were true

Illegal immigration is an economic problem, not a legal one. No matter what their status under the law, immigrants are going to come and they are going to stay, so long as their lives are better here than back home.

Whether they are categorized as illegals or guest workers, they will pull the market price down for unskilled and semi-skilled labor. The question is not how to keep them out, the real question is, Why don't they stay home?

Thom Hartmann makes the point repeatedly that corporations encourage illegal immigration from the callous calculation that increasing the supply of labor drives down the price. Other progressives, particularly in labor, agree. I agree. But the option of reducing this labor's influx does not exist in the real world. Increasing the demand for labor in the places that need building would be another option.

Most people would stay in their native countries were it not for persecution or abject poverty. And in some real sense we are going to import the products of those countries or we are going to import their people.

What used to be called the Third World is not doing well. While the rest of the world develops, dozens of countries and a billion people fall further and further into desperate conditions. It will only get worse as clean air and clean water become commodities that they cannot afford.

The development model promulgated by the corporate elite, with its henchmen the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, is built on setting up little industries and competing with other countries on the basis of cheap labor. It ends up as a beggar-thy-neighbor race to the bottom.

A very little investment in roads and schools could generate a very great return in the capacity of these countries, providing their basic institutions are not corrupt. Nations which are not plantation economies have an organization around farming that ought to be encouraged, not destroyed by flooding their markets with the products of American industrial farms.

In the background of it all is a trade regime that does not work. And the U.S. has been the main beneficiary. For more than two decades, America has run massive trade deficits. We have not been trading goods for goods through the medium of money. We have been trading our money for their goods. Someday they are going to come to us and want to finish the exchange, giving us the money they have collected and getting our goods. We're going to look around and see a few airplanes and some agriculture, and realize that in the process we have exported our industry and we have no goods. If it makes their money worthless, so likewise it makes our money worthless.

It is in this context that “free trade” and “open markets” exist. The World Bank would not lend to the US with its balance sheet. They would enforce austerities on us that would drive us into depression.

Once I got off on the broken trade regime, I lost the opportunity for a clean path back to the subject of illegal immigration. I'll just say people are coming here because our money is worth more than theirs, and then close with a personal note. The Mexican people I know are industrious and hard-working and entrepreneurial. Coming to the US is not what their parents wanted for them. But what are their choices? It is a shame they cannot, for whatever reason, employ their skills in the land of their birth. It is a shame we cannot help them.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mike Webb Writes Us A Letter

Mike Webb, who was fired from 710 KIRO not too long ago, recently visited our website and was kind enough to share his thoughts with us. Reprinted below is the letter Webb wrote to us.
I looked over an old critique celebrating my termination from KIRO and "hoping" for a "better liberal" to replace me on the air.

Well, I hope you're happy. Instead of relying on the tried and true American concept of innocent til proved guilty, your blog was joyful over my departure. Now, I have added 5 stations to my nightly network show and can only hope that more like-minded people will get there heads out of the sand and SUPPORT liberal voices who DO make it to MSM.

Without that mainstream, little blogs and lefty websites do nearly nothing to activate voters. That's why, as sad as it is, Democrats are so timid: they know they need the voters. They want to do right by the voters, but they NEED the money, so they have to appease two factions.

That must change, but until it does, it requires pioneers like myself, Bernie Ward, Ray Talieferro and the late Bill Gallant who have paved a path into the mainstream -- hitting middle America with the truth.

Tell, me: Who else on the number one commercial station in ANY market talked to the executive director of The Project for a New American Century? Who scored the first interview with Joseph Wilson?

Who set up a forum template that included "the rock star" (Eddie Vedder), "the activist" (Jeff Sediki) and "lawmaker" Jim McDermott to have a no-holds-barred discussion of liberal politics on a station like KIRO. And all you had to say after the unfair termination of my employment -- instead of backing me -- or at least asking questions -- was "we hope they get a better liberal". Well, I hope you enjoy the stories at night about women's breasts and toy cars because that's about as political as it will get.

Mike Webb
General Manager, Mike Webb Media
First of all - thanks for writing (or typing), Mike. We at NPI are always appreciative of feedback.

I'd like to discuss a few of the contentions Mike made.

First of all, there was no celebration at NPI over Mike's termination from KIRO. We certainly didn't throw a party and drink champagne. There was nothing to celebrate. We merely expressed our hope that KIRO would find a better host (not that we expected anything to happen - we're not holding our breath waiting for Entercom management to improve the station).

Second, Mike knows perfectly well that we had nothing to do with the termination of his employment at KIRO. Nothing we could have said would have made any difference or changed the outcome. Mike is responsible for himself and his actions.

Ultimately, I guess we'll find out whether Mike is indeed innocent or guilty...we'll see what happens in court. But as far as I know nobody at NPI has ever presumed that Mike is guilty. To be honest - none of us have really given it any thought. That's probably because we have better things to do then contemplate Mike Webb's innocence.

As for Mike's comment about blogs - he apparently doesn't know much about the blogosphere, or else he'd know that progressive blogs aren't so little.

Sites like Daily Kos, Atrios, and Talking Points Memo get millions of visitors every week. Our blog and many others here in the Pacific NW are not in that league, but we do very well.

It's interesting that Mike mentioned the "mainstream" media (or, MSM) in his letter. Apparently Mike doesn't consider himself mainstream. Well, we don't share that view. Progressive values are America's values. Conservatives would have us believe we're out of the mainstream, but that's just not true.

However, I think I know what Mike means. The right phrase to use is traditional media (others have suggested corporate media, or even legacy media).

For your information, Mike, this organization (and its blog!) has appeared in the traditional media not once, not twice, but dozens of times.

Last year our executive director (Andrew Villeneuve) had two guest columns published, one in the Seattle P-I and one in the Everett Herald. He was interviewed at least three times last year by reporters from your old station, 710 KIRO, for news segments. He led a demonstration against Initiative 912 that made the five and six o'clock broadcasts on KIRO TV (and the KCPQ ten o'clock broadcast).

The P-I's Robert Jamieson quoted something I said about Ken Hutcherson in one of his columns earlier this year (Flying on a right wing and a prayer). That's just the tip of the iceberg of the media coverage we got last year.

David Goldstein of HorsesAss helped force Mike Brown of FEMA to quit from the Bush administration last September by disclosing that Brown had been previously forced to resign as the "Judges and Stewards Commissioner" for the International Arabian Horse Association.

He followed this up a month later by publishing a devastating report on the family troubles of David Irons, the GOP's candidate for King County Executive. The account was picked up by the traditional media - including your old station, 710 KIRO.

And of course, BlatherWatch made the Seattle Times when its owner, Michael Hood, reported the news of your arrest!

I could go on with more examples...but my point is, the regional progressive blogosphere is not little, nor is it powerless.

In fact, it's very influential. We may not be able to directly reach a significant part of the electorate, but we can reach them indirectly, and that's huge.

One last point I want to make. Until a few years ago, when I started following politics closely, I was unaware that Mike's show even existed. (The only local radio host I knew by name was Dave Ross). As I began learning more about talk radio, I was startled to discover that conservatives practically owned the medium.

But I was genuinely excited when I was looking around for liberal hosts and I stumbled onto Mike's name on some website. I decided to tune in that evening and listen to the show.

I tuned in as I worked on my computer...but I didn't hear what I expected. The conversation (which was basically a rant about Bush) didn't seem interesting. I was, quite frankly, bored.

After about an hour I realized I wasn't even listening to the show any more - I had forgotten about it as I concentrated on my work. I eventually decided to go back to listening to music.

A few months after that experience, I was in my car heading home from an election night party. I tuned to 710 KIRO, hoping to catch a news report about the local election results... but instead all I heard was Mike Webb droning on and on about the Bush administration. So I changed the station to KOMO 1000 AM.

I had the opportunity to listen to Mike's show (or parts of it) a few other times, but it was always national politics. Never local. And it was not intriguing or interesting.

Consequently, when Air America debuted nearly two years ago, I wasn't terribly enthusiastic (unlike some of my friends at NPI, who were ecstatic) but I reluctantly decided to tune in and listen to the O'Franken Factor, as it was called then.

I was blown away. I loved the show. It captured my attention and it was funny. I've been a fan of the show and many of the others on Air America ever since.

That same month, I decided I'd finally try another local host. I listened to Dave Ross (this was, of course, before he quit to run for Congress) and after a couple days I was surprised to find I liked his show too.

In fact, I've found KVI's Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson to be more entertaining and engaging than Mike Webb. I may disagree with their politics but their shows have never bored me.

I just checked out Mike's "WebBlog" to see what the main topics were for tonight's webcast. And perhaps not surprisingly, they are:
Bush Blames Media For His War
Speaking of Freely Speaking
The Healing Power of Prayer
Christian American Hostage Released
I scrolled down the page. Other than a reference to the "The Seattle Capitol Hill Masacre" (Masacre, Mike?) - which was also national news - I didn't see any discussion of local news or local politics.

At NPI, we truly believe in the concept that all politics is local. Think globally - act locally. Unfortunately, Mike only seems to have the first part down. He should follow Dave Ross' example.

Amazingly, Ross not only talks about local politics - he also acts. He ran for Congress in 2004 and was especially helpful in educating voters about the consequences of Initiative 912 last year.

(In fact, Ross invited our executive director on his show in late October to pitch that anti-912 demonstration I mentioned earlier - on the air).

I'm not joyful that Mike Webb is gone from KIRO. Nobody at NPI is. We just hope that the suits at Entercom and CBS Radio will finally have the sense to overhaul the lineups at KIRO and KPTK and add more engaging hosts like Dave Ross, who would focus on a blend of both local and national politics and breathe life into the medium of talk radio.

In Brief - March 30th, 2006

Here's your quick news digest for today:
  • The publishers of the Seattle P-I and Seattle Times will move their life-or-death contract dispute into binding arbitration, with no possible appeal. If the publishers' proposal is approved in court it will take place in May 2007. That's when we'll find out whether the P-I will survive or not.
  • P-I columnist Robert Jamieson urges society to stop criticizing the parents of the two young girls who were killed in last weekend's shootings on Capitol Hill (and we agree).
  • So Blue Cross of California apparently has a "retroactive review department" devoted to finding ways the company can escape its obligations to members who become seriously ill. Now that's sick.
  • Talking Points Memo Muckraker has dug up the IRS 990 form for Move America Forward, the nonprofit founded by Howard Kaloogian, a former state assemblyman who is now hoping to capture Duke Cunningham's old House seat.
Something you want to share? Feel free to post it in the thread below.

Join Us At Marymoor Park

The founders of Daily Kos and MyDD (Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong) are coming to the Seattle area on April 7th and 8th for their American tour of Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People Powered Politics.

Please join us for a picnic at Redmond's Marymoor Park on Saturday, April 8th! Details are here. You need to RSVP if you are planning on attending.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Darcy Burner on The Dave Ross Show

Darcy Burner, the Democratic candidate challenging Republican Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District, appeared on The Dave Ross Show this evening to talk about why she's running for Congress and take questions from callers about her candidacy.

We have an audio clip of Darcy's appearance - you can listen to that here.

Darcy has two more days to raise money before the end of the quarter. If you can afford to give, she could use your most generous contribution right now. She is very close to her fundraising goal!

State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz has said of Darcy:
Darcy has captured the imagination and support of grassroots Democrats and the endorsement of the entire Democratic Congressional delegation.

Darcy is a thoughtful, hard working candidate who will fight for the families of the 8th District. Growing up in a military family and rising as a leader at Microsoft, Darcy understands the issues facing the people of the district from the high tech centers in the north to the working families in the south.
If we are to take back the House of Representatives we need to knock off at least fifteen Republican incumbents. Dave Reichert is one of the Republicans we need to beat. He may pretend to be a moderate, but we know he's really just a loyal follower of Tom Delay. The evidence is in his voting record.

If you want to see new leadership in Congress, please make a difference and contribute your time, talents, and treasure to Darcy's campaign.

NPI: Two years of blogging

Today marks the two year anniversary of the founding of the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

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

Two years ago, the political climate (and the blogosphere) were very different. In two years we've witnessed an amazing surge of growth in the progressive blogosphere and a resurgence in the progressive movement.

Exactly two years ago, I launched this blog with a short post at 11:02 AM:
Welcome to the new Northwest Progressive Institute blog! Here, you can view the thoughts and ideas of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

We'll be posting daily updates, so check back often!
In the last year, since our first anniversary, we followed the gubernatorial election challenge to its conclusion (with three posts during every day of the trial in Wenatchee), opposed Initiatives 900 and 912, and chronicled developments in local, national, and regional politics.

In August of 2005 we launched a sweeping new template for this blog and have continued to tweak that to improve your reading experience. That same month, we also had a recap of the kickoff conference for PLAN - the Progressive Legislative Action Network.

In the autumn we ran our famous "Disaster Picture of the Week Series", highlighting the consequences of not investing in transportation infrastructure.
We were there on Election Night, bringing you live updates as Ron Sims was reelected and I-912 was defeated.

Over the last year this blog has carried our organization's announcements, breaking news stories, political analysis, and investigative reports (such as our March 31st post about Dave Reichert's Social Security Town Hall forum, published shortly after our first anniversary, which drew attention - and several thousand visitors - from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo).

In May we published a one-on-one interview with Al Franken, considered by many to be Air America's top host, and in June we published a special guest editorial on political parties and grassroots politics, written by Reed Davis.

It has indeed been one amazing year, filled with both victories and setbacks (although we think there were more victories then setbacks!) Here's to another great year filled with as many highlights, if not more, then the last.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Golden ends candidacy

Democrat Debi Golden is reportedly ending her candidacy for state senator in the 48th Legislative District, NPI has learned.

This leaves Rodney Tom, who recently defected from the Republican Party, with an open field to seek the Democratic nomination and then go on to run against incumbent Luke Esser.

We'll hopefully have more details for you shortly.

Hear an interview with candidate Eric Oemig in our fourth podcast

We've released our second podcast for March 2006 (and fourth overall). This episode is a departure from our previous format. We want to give our listeners a variety of audio content and make our podcast exciting.

This episode features an interview with Eric Oemig, a successful software engineer who is the Democratic candidate for state Senate in the 45th Legislative District (NPI's home district), running against incumbent Republican Bill Finkbeiner.

Listen to the interview and hear Eric discuss his vision for Washington State and offer his perspective on the race.

If you want to subscribe to our Media RSS feed to be notified immediately when new podcasts are released, follow this link.

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

If you are an iTunes user and want to subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, click the button above to do so directly.

Sonics Recap

The Sonics want a theme park. The Seattle City Council doesn't want to pay for it. What are the economics?

First, the financing....
Key Arena was renovated last in 1995, to the basketball team's specs, with money from revenue bonds. Revenue bonds actually use money generated by the building to pay for its construction, a concept that was called "unique" .... Of course, they are tax-free bonds, so even these imply a significant public subsidy.

As late as October of ‘03, Sonics head man Wally Walker said, "Key Arena is a wonderful place to watch a basketball game. We are not unhappy with it." (PI, 10.20.03)

Then, as councilmember Jim Conlin puts it, "for reasons on which the interested parties do not agree," the revenues betan to fall short, and the city began to pay debt service out of the General Fund.

During this past legislative session the team pitched the legislature with a plan for a $220 million reconstruction of the Key to be financed by an extension of the current hospitality taxes. The new rehab was not so much to improve the "wonderful" basketball arena as to create internal capacity for dining and drinking .... Financed by taxes on restaurants.

Like Disneyland... The creation of Disneyland's Orlando site came about because the company looked across the street in Anaheim and saw all those motels and fast food stores making big bucks off being across the street from Disneyland. So the company built where it could own "across the street," capture the positive externalities, as it were. That's what the Sonics want to do. So there goes the last fig leaf of economic benefit for the city. Oh, and after the city builds it, the Sonics want to run the new building.
Now the politics ....
The city council was not too happy about the broken spokes on the revenue bond wagon. Times are tight in a post-Eyman world. So the Sonics went directly to the legislature, and they brought in David Stern, NBA commish, Mr. Fatuous, to say "A substantial amount has been done for the baseball and football teams. I'm here to personally find out whether the same is being considered fairly for the NBA. If not, that's a decision we can accept. But we'll have to act on it ourselves."

Meaning they'll move the franchise. And not to Bellevue. Oklahoma City, maybe.

Stern called the Key Arena deal the "least competitive lease in the league."

But sports are popular. Especially when the team is winning. Openly opposing a stadium or arena is a good way to get unelected. Gary Locke's finest hour was in leading the fight to keep the Seahawks in Seattle when they tried to sneak out the back door.

The current Guv did not object to the Sonics' request, but insisted that they get agreement with the city and then have a public vote of the taxpayers. Neither came true.
That brings us to the economics ....
A 1922 Supreme Court ruling essentially exempted pro sports from monopoly control because they are "exhibitions" and not interstate commerce. For many decades team owners used their monopoly position to exploit fans, and they used their monopsony (single-buyer) position to exploit the players. When players won free agency, they joined the owners in exploiting the fans.

There is only one league in each sport, baseball, hockey, basketball, football. Leagues intentionally keep the number of franchises below the number of markets which could support them in order to extort concessions from cities and arenas and to keep the value of the franchise high. If competition shows up, they coopt it or suppress it.

The supposed economic benefits for a city of having a team do not exist. Check out the bomb blast zone around Royal Brougham, the site of the baseball and football fields. Ringed by parking lots, the facilities are cut off from the surrounding area. The only businesses benefitting are a few in Pioneer Square catering to beer sucking.

One estimate is that a sports franchise has the economic impact of a small department store, hardly what you'd spend $220 million to keep.

The jobs are primarily low-wage seasonal jobs. The three dozen (max) good salaries in the Sonics organization don't stick very close in the off-season. (It's ironic that California and New York, with income taxes, actually see more contributions from Sonic players than Washington does. Incomes are pro-rated and allocated to the sites where teams play.)
The bottom line ....
Maybe Howard Schultz will sell or move the team. Fine. We'll just get a team from the other league. What? No other league! Talk about non-competitive.

Monday, March 27, 2006

NPI's Education page goes live

Remember that "network maintenance" I told you we were doing to the NPI core website last December?

Well...we never really finished it. We got started and then, in mid January, realized we had more ambitious goals for the website. While we mapped out a strategy and a plan for reaching those goals, we turned our attention to other projects. So that "network maintenance" project never was completed.

We pulled a lot of pages offline for the network maintenance project, and haven't put them back up - until now. For that, we apologize. We have now figured out where we want to go and how we're going to get there. We're back on track.

There's no good reason to keep those sections offline, and there's no reason why our core website should be filled with dead links. So we've brought most of the pages we took down back online, including the National Defense section, the Technology section, and the Links & Media section.

And today, we're also filling in one of the dead areas - we've put up the Education section. So far, it's basically an expression of our vision and values for the public education system, but we think you'll agree it's better than having nothing there. We'll obviously be expanding this and other sections as time goes on.

You should no longer see "Network maintenance in progress" messages when you click on any of the NPI link buttons to the right.

While I'm on this subject, I might add that the next version of Pacific Northwest Portal - "Seaside", or Version 4.0, is coming along nicely. Development is now proceeding at a very rapid pace. We hope to have it ready for you in April - and we're working as fast as we can. We know, we know - it's been four months since the last update!

Thank you for your patience and support.

Golden, Goldmark profiled in today's P-I

Democrats Debi Golden and Peter Goldmark, candidates for the 48th Legislative District and the 5th Congressional District, respectively, are each making an impressive appearance in this morning's Seattle P-I.

Peter Goldmark, a 59 year old Okanogan County rancher who recently decided to challenge Cathy McMorris in the 5th Congressional District, is glowingly profiled by Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly, whose column today is a must read:
The McMorris-versus- Goldmark race is not likely to be a marquee race for national Democrats this fall. And that is just fine with Goldmark. He intends to be an "independent Democrat" beholden only to the 5th District.

The rural, agricultural Democrat -- nurtured by the New Deal, public power and Grand Coulee Dam -- used to be a constructive part of Washington's political ecology, much like the moderate, urban Republican.
Connelly gives a concise and rich description of Goldmark's background, and gives us a tantalizing glimpse of what we'll likely be seeing from him on the campaign trail.

Goldmark recognizes that unseating McMorris will be an uphill fight. He knows that he must convince the voters of the 5th District that he would be a better representative. And he knows that in order to win, he will have to put some distance between himself and the state Democratic Party, which is unfavorably viewed by many voters throughout the Inland Empire.

We Democrats still have a lot to learn if we want to truly become a big tent party. One thing we have to do is embrace and support candidates like Peter Goldmark, who won't necessarily be able to check off all of the boxes on the stereotypical Democratic laundry list of issue positions.

Some Republicans have dismissed Goldmark, confidently predicting that McMorris will triumph just as she did in 2004 when she easily beat Don Barbieri.

But that's a mistake. As Brian Schweitzer and the Montana Democratic Party showed in 2004, Democrats can win in areas that had previously been consistent in electing Republicans.

If Goldmark runs a strong campaign and works hard to appeal to voters in the 5th District - making it clear that his values are their values - he can make the race very competitive. We believe that he can and will do just that, and we'll be following this race very closely over the next seven months.

Also in the P-I today is a look at the race for state Senate in the 48th Legislative District, where progressive Debi Golden and newly-minted Democrat Rodney Tom are looking to unseat Republican Luke Esser, who admits he's in for a real challenge:
"I'll be the first to confess, it's a competitive district," he said. "But I don't think it's changed radically, or much at all, in the last couple years.
Maybe it hasn't changed radically over the last two years, but over time, the 48th Legislative District has become more and more progressive, as Debi Golden points out:
"I think the district has changed," she said. "It's become much more progressive."

She said Esser is out of touch with those changes.

"He's anti-choice, anti-women basically, I don't think he's good on health care and, even though he's on the Transportation Committee, I think he's obstructionist," she said.

Eastside voters are willing to invest in their priorities such as transportation and education and they support a more liberal social agenda, she said.

"We have good solid working class neighborhoods along with the Gold Coast," Golden said. "And because we have a lot of diversity we also have a lot more tolerance for gender differences -- so yes I support the civil rights bill."

Last year Esser voted against the 9.5 cents-per-gallon gas tax and roads plan.

A few months later, 48th District voters made a strong statement in support of the tax when they shot down Initiative 912, which would have repealed that tax, by a 2-1 margin.
State GOP Chair Diane Tebelius claims that Luke Esser is a great legislator, but she's wrong. He is not. He's completely out of step with his district on important issues like transportation and gay rights.

State Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz is absolutely right: the Eastside is turning Democratic. That's why right wing ideologues like Esser, who won't support equality or investing in transportation improvements, shouldn't be representing the Eastside in Olympia.

After this November, there is a very good possibility that the 48th may be represented exclusively by Democrats: Ross Hunter and Deb Eddy as state representatives, and either Debi Golden (our favorite) or Rodney Tom as the district's senator. The two are competing against each other in the primary this September (and we do hope they both run positive, clean campaigns).

Debi Golden and Peter Goldmark are candidates in completely different races in completely different districts, but they are both representative of the potential blue tidal wave that seems poised to wash over America in the 2006 midterm elections.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

FEC draft regulations aren't bad

Adam B over at Daily Kos reports that the FEC draft regulations for political activity on the Internet are now online for your perusal.

There had been great concern that the FEC might propose rules that would force bloggers to follow harsh public disclosure requirements, including possibly even trying to calculate how much a link to a federal campaign might be worth.

But fortunately, the FEC's proposed regulations aren't like that at all. Here's ElectionLaw blogger Professor Rick Hasen:
As a matter of substance, this is about everything that the Internet political community could hope for: broad exemptions for most political activity on the Internet, except by those entities that are already highly regulated (such as political committees and candidates). On top of the explicit, clear, and broad exemptions for election-related blogging and other political activity (even if done by incorporated blogs under most circumstances), the draft FEC document went out of its way to expand the media exemption to cover the Internet, and to make clear that the term "periodical publication" is meant to apply broadly to any kind of reporting or commentary, no matter how updated and no matter how partisan it might be. The proposed rules also create very generous safe harbors for individuals engaged in independent political activity on corporate or union owned computers.

On the whole, I think these are very good rules in preserving robust political speech on the internet that takes place without much danger of the corruption of candidates.
From the looks of it, we've done a good job voicing our concerns to the FEC and making it clear that freedom of speech shouldn't be subject to to a heavy load of campaign finance regulations. We must continue to do so.

Pouring blood and treasure into the sand

The invasion and occupation of Iraq will cost $1 trillion or maybe twice that according to Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, and his co-author in the assessment, Linda Bilmes of Harvard's Kennedy School.

In addition to staging the event and maintaining the actors on the road until at least 2010, the costs include lifetimes of disability payments, the loss of the contributions of the dead and debilitated, higher recruitment costs, replacement of billions in military equipment and munitions, interest on the debt financing, higher oil prices, and of course, the payments to the corrupt.


Meanwhile the unemployment rate in Iraq is 60%, according to Rep. John Murtha, who has seen intelligence information. Presumably many of the existing jobs are in the military or police or in support to the occupation.

And the country descends into civil war. Except it's not civil war, because the unified Iraq was a fiction cobbled together by the British according to the geography of oil, a fiction then enforced by the Baathists and the brutality of Saddam Hussein.

Attempting to maintain the fiction, which is the official US policy, involves empowering "leaders" who are simply politicians in or out of religious garb, people who cannot produce a stable society, and can only exercise a kind of control over a particular faction.

Far better to empower workers and technocrats by bankrolling reconstruction enterprises, perhaps partnered with, but not directed by, non-Iraqi businesses. The UN could set up a contracting office that would have some legitimacy. Creating economic order would generate civil stability, irrespective of what party occupies Government House.

Restoring electricity and water service to their own neighborhoods and industries would generate a self-reliance far exceeding that of casting a vote in a foreign-sponsored election.


The only advantage of continuing on the current non-path is to the Bush regime, who can claim at the front end that it is working and at the back end that we were betrayed.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Domenech quits Washington Post

Ben Domenech, the GOP hack and conservative blogger hired by the Washington Post just a few days ago, has resigned as allegations that he has routinely plagiarized other works have reached a fever pitch.

Numerous progressive bloggers, including several members of the Daily Kos community, as well as Atrios and others, have uncovered instance after instance of plagiarism by Domenech and publicly reported it.

Yesterday, Media Matters called on the Washington Post to fire Domenech without delay. And Jim Brady, executive editor of the Washington Post's website, (who was responsible for hiring Domenech in the first place) claimed that he was prepared to fire Domenech had the RedState co-founder decided not to voluntarily resign.

Apparently Brady is now looking for another conservative blogger to replace Domenech. His stubborn desire to get a right wing viewpoint on the Post's website is puzzling. There is absolutely no reason to hire a conservative blogger unless the Post is also going to hire a progressive blogger for balance, as DHinMI (who also assailed Brady for not knowing how to use Google) points out.

Let the Domenech fiasco be a lesson to the people who run traditional media outlets, boasting of their objective reputations: don't hire people until you've thoroughly vetted them and don't hire a fiery partisan from the right without also hiring one just as passionate from the left.

Heck hath no fury like an economist scorned

The projected long-term growth rate in state General Fund revenue is built on little more than hope and a fuzzy trend line. At the end of the day, it still comes up short.
Irv Lefberg is the state Office of Financial Management (OFM) chief forecaster. You may remember a post in which I was taking Irv to task for saying the underlying rate of growth in state revenues was 5% when it wasn't, and for picking 90% of personal income growth as a measure, when personal income has little to do with our tax yields. The actual experience of the past ten yeiers has been under 4% and dropping in the big three -- Retail Sales, B&O and Property.

Irv answered that the underlying growth rate is 5%, they expect it to be in the future, and besides which the Office of Forecast Council and Chang Mook Sohn agreed. And he sent me a spreadsheet on the legislative changes that have been made since 1993, the implication being, I guess, that if the legislature stops cutting taxes here and there, the growth rate will appear from the mist as 5%.
Bazz Fazz. Phooey.
I sent the e-mail: Irv, I am still puzzled. Maybe I didn't ask the right question. Let me try this one. Are state tax revenues projected to rise by five percent per year in the absence of legislative action? Thanks. Alan
Since then, the freeze, the dark night of space, the great silence. Up until this point, we had a pretty good thing going. I would ask questions, and he would respond by annotating each in blue. Now I feel rejected. I suppose it's possible that he doesn't want to go on record saying the legislature has to do something to generate the historical trend. I don't know. I'm confused and angry.

Look, if we're going to base revenue projections on inflation, let's use the same inflation for our expenditures. We don't. (Actually, we should work outside inflation entirely, if possible.) If we are using historical growth trends, let's use ones of recent vintage. And personal income is better used to mark a personal income tax. A sales/B&O/property mix should use median income. Median income is stagnating.

Here's the chart again.

Even if revenues come in under OFM's official figures, we'd still be 10 percent short in five years. That is, revenues need to grow at 7% just to make a balanced budget. They will grow about half that fast, excluding untoward inflation or population influxes that will bring costs along with their revenue.

In the absence of tax reform (and there seems to be an absence of tax reform), the choices are minimal if we want to remain somewhat civilized here in the state. The best one is to create a comprehensive health care system. Major costs coming up are related to health care, both for employees and for clients of the state's systems. Many of these are off the General Fund budget, but many are not.

Aaron Dixon: Unqualified for public office

Aaron Dixon, the Green Party candidate who is running for no reason other than to give Republican Mike McGavick a better shot at knocking off Maria Cantwell, appears to be completely unqualified for public office.

David Goldstein of HorsesAss yesterday revealed that Dixon is an inactive voter:
I’ve made repeated inquiries with Dixon’s media contact (his wife Farah), and so far she has been unable to confirm or deny his voter registration status. She said she thought he voted in the last election, but King County’s voter database clearly doesn’t credit him with casting a ballot. And to further cloud his registration status is the fact that while he claims to live in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, the address on his inactive registration is smack dab in the Central District.
Conservative activist Richard Pope, who last year ran for a seat on the Seattle Port Commission, has discovered more about Aaron Dixon by looking through some court records:
Aaron be’s married to Verlenia Murphy, also known as Verlenia Dixon. Aaron done file a dissolution action against Verlenia in King County Superior Court No. 05-3-08358-5 SEA on December 6, 2005. Aaron wuz plannin’ to waltz on into court just yesterday and gets himself divorced from Verlenia. But Verlenia done gots herself an attorney – Rebecca Kenison – and she musta be fightin’ Aaron over this whole process. So maybe they will have to go to trial on November 13, 2006, the Monday after the general election. So much fo’ Aaron plannin’ to marry this Farah anytime soon.

[...]

Aaron Dixon has failed to pay the following traffic fines (which do not include interest at 12% per annum and collection costs of about 35% imposed on unpaid fines sent out to collection):

King County District Court No. IS0133390 KCP, Operating Motor Vehicle Without Insurance on January 20, 2005. Failed to respond to ticket. Total fine of $590.00 imposed on March 11, 2005. Sent to AllianceOne Receivables for collection on June 22, 2005.

King County District Court No. IS0140956 KCP, Operating Motor Vehicle Without Insurance and Defective Tail Lamps on April 12, 2005. Failed to respond to ticket. Total fine of $691.00 imposed on June 6, 2005. Sent to AllianceOne Receivables for collection on August 3, 2005.

King County District Court No. I03925758 WSP (East Division - Shoreline), Failure to Wear Safety Belt on May 20, 2004. Requested mitigation hearing to reduce amount of fine. Judge reduced the fine from $101.00 to $75.00 on July 12, 2004 and gave him time to pay the fine. Failed to pay anything on the fine. Fine increased to $127.00 on December 27, 2004 for failure to pay. Sent to AllianceOne Receivables for collection on July 27, 2005.

Aaron Dixon probably owes LOTS and LOTS of traffic fines in Seattle Municipal Court. Unfortunately, the system that I subscribe to does not provide much information on Seattle Municipal Court. I only get a listing of criminal cases from that court, and not traffic infraction ticket cases. And the criminal cases only show the case number and date of violation, with no court docket and not even what the charge was. To get Seattle Municipal Court detailed information, you have to go down to that court and use their computer system.

In any event, Aaron Dixon owes $1,408.00 – plus interest and collection costs – just for his King County District Court unpaid tickets. I wonder if the Green Party is going to help him pay off his traffic fines?

Aaron Dixon has lots of criminal experience as well – 18 cases in the last 17 years.
What a shame that the Green Party embraced Dixon as a candidate without thoroughly checking out his background. They should have realized that candidates for elected office are subject to a high level of public scrutiny.

This has to be a major embarrassment for the Green Party. They ought to withdraw their support of Dixon immediately.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Be afraid, Stefan. Be very afraid.

Stefan Sharkansky has a post up at unSoundPolitics attempting in vain to put a damper on the enthusiasm that's been building around the campaign of Democrat Darcy Burner, who is challenging Republican Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District.

According to Stefan (who famously predicted that the GOP was going to win the gubernatorial election challenge - we'll never let him live that down) "the various lunatic fringe Democrats" are "going ga-ga over this year's unknown and inexperienced Eastside Congressional candidate".

The various lunatic fringe?

Last time I checked, just about everyone in the Democratic Party is behind Darcy Burner's candidacy. From the progressive blogosphere, which is united in its support of her, to the Democratic organizations in the 8th CD (including my own, the 45th Legislative District Democrats, which gave her an early endorsement at its last meeting) there is broad netroots and grassroots support for Darcy.

She has the backing of the entire state's Democratic congressional delegation, from Norm Dicks to Jay Inslee.

Just recently, Senator Patty Murray and State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz sent out fundraising emails on her behalf. She's also been endorsed by former Governor Gary Locke and dozens of other Democratic leaders.

And as you mentioned, she has the support of Howard Dean - and Eli Sanders wrote a great profile of her for The Stranger.

The various lunatic fringe?

No, Stefan - this is the united Democratic Party of Washington State standing behind its nominee for the 8th Congressional District.

You should be afraid, Stefan. Afraid that next January, the Washington State congressional delegation will no longer include Dave Reichert.

You naively think that just because Darcy Burner hasn't been in the state Legislature, she can't beat Dave Reichert? Not much of a political analyst, are you, Stefan? Well, you should be afraid. Darcy Burner is smart, a hard worker, and a fast learner. She understands the people of the 8th Congressional District. And she will mount an extremely strong challenge to Reichert.

But don't take my word for it, Stefan. Inexperienced GOP Sen. John McCain was in town this week, and he reportedly told KVI afternoon host John Carlson that this was going to be a "tight race".

And I agree. This will indeed be a very competitive race. Dave Reichert is a vulnerable incumbent and a weak congressman. His constituent services are terrible, he avoids the public, and worst of all, he's in Tom Delay's pocket. He does not share the values of the people he represents.

Darcy Burner is currently working hard to meet a challenging fundraising goal ($320,000 cash on hand) and is in need of your support. Please give Darcy a generous contribution today and help give Stefan a reason to be nervous.

The Story Without an End

Over the last week, President Bush embarked on a media tour of America to bring his personal message about the Iraq debacle directly to the American people. His message? American troops will most likely remain in Iraq indefinitely.

In a series of speechs, Bush pleaded for support from an increasingly disillusioned populace. He cited real progess in Iraq, argued for patience, and warned against the dire repercussions of "retreat".

CNN, FOX, MSNBC, USA TODAY and the usual suspects of the corporate media machine, dully and dutifully reported the President's remarks, all of which culminated in his current Iraq War policy: It will be left to future presidents and generals to decide the fate of the U.S. entanglement in Iraq.

Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld also took to the podium at the same time, asserting the same message.

When the President of the United States and his cabinet take to the airwaves and the presses in such a coordinated fashion, there is a lot at stake. What was behind the strategy of announcing an indefinite military committment for the U.S. in Iraq? Why now? What effect will such an announcement have on the nation?

There are always two levels of meaning to any such media and communications strategy, derived from examining the way in which messages like this are disseminated in America.

The first level is the immediate repercussions to the status quo: Low poll numbers and weak support for the war are targeted at home. Overseas, allies and other nations that have a national interest tied to the war must consider the consequences. That is to say, the American public is meant to be informed of a new twist in an ongoing narrative, whereby the long term presence of American forces in Iraq becomes an accepted reality. Once that reality is accepted, any real oppostition to this presented reality is by definition "unrealistic". The foreign audience for this news is meant to hear a different nuance: American forces will be in the region indefinitely, so any hopes insurgents or other opportunists might have are also unrealistic.

The second level is the more intriguing. Underneath the concerted effort to communicate a "new message" about the war, is a subtext regarding American economics and American politics.

1. Economics, which some would argue are the baseline causes of all wars, are meant to be impacted in a positive manner. A long term U.S. commmitment to the region spells stability for local economies, oil prices, and investment potential. Locally, a long term occupation speaks to a new free market that will need U.S. goods, capital, and investment.

2. Politically, a long term U.S. presence in the region denudes the topic as a source of election conflict, encourages regime stability in the Middle East, and sends a signal to Asia and Europe that the military balance in the world has shifted in a permanent manner. By further imbeddng the U.S. in the region over time, the Bush adminstration hopes to weaken the argument for withdrawal. As evidence mounts of expensive, permanent bases being built in Iraq, this strategy is already in play. Political opponents of the President lose ground arguing for a withdrawal as the billions invested there increases. Too late to cut and run. Too much invested. Too many negative repercussions.

Using the corporate media platform to lay out this mode of thinking can be very effective. Because the corporate media reports the President's speeches as news, there is no room for opining on the event. Unless the organization is blatantly a public service media outlet for the President, as Fox News is. In tha case, there is overt confirmation of the message.

Bush's remarks on the potential long term presence of American troops in Iraq went by in the public perception in the course of a three day news cycle. Therefore, the news itself passes on into oblivion, but what remains is the subtext.

Corporate investors, oil speculators, foreign leaders are meant to read the subtext of the message as a signal. It is an assurance that the United States never embarks on a policy, no matter how wrong-headed, without accounting for the ramifications of future economic factors.

The most alarming truth in this subliminal strategy of communication is the lobotomized acquiesence of the voter base. As messages about a war without end are presented to the American public, we should expect a reasonable and responsiible level of objection. However, from the neutered Democratic leadership in Congress, to the well-behaved corporate media matrix, to the "Joe Beer Can" populace, there is barely a whimper. The real voice of scrutiny exists only in the blogosphere.

When the corporate media becomes nothing more than an obedient delivery device for military-industrial PR, the public interest is imperiled.

In this story of a war without end, the central character is a comatose electorate attached to a feeding tube. Beware the doctor's bedside manner.

Media Matters asks Washington Post execs to fire partisan conversative blogger

Media Matters President & CEO David Brock has written a letter to executives at The Washington Post, asking that the Post fire a recently hired partisan conservative blogger who does not seem to care about civil political discourse. The open letter is as follows:
Dear Messrs. Brady, Downie, Jones, and Graham, and Ms. Little:

I write today to request that you terminate Ben Domenech’s employment and affiliation with the Washington Post.

We appreciate the value in news outlets such as yours offering readers a wide range of opinion and insight, so we do not take this action lightly.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when the Post revealed that it had hired a conservative blogger, even though the Post does not employ any liberal counterpart to Domenech.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when it became clear that he has scant journalism experience but is, rather, a partisan Republican political operative with no place in a news organization.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when his first post consisted of little more than sneering insults of his readers, describing progressives as “shrieking” and “unhinged” -- exactly the sort of personal insults Brady has previously declared unfit for use by readers describing Post employees in the comments section of the Post’s blogs. The double standard inherent in the Post publishing Domenech’s vitriolic attacks on readers, while repeatedly denouncing readers’ criticism of Post employees, troubles us, but did not cause us to urge Domenech’s dismissal.

But, with each hour bringing new evidence of Domenech’s racially charged rhetoric and homophobic bigotry, the time has come for the Post to end its ill-conceived relationship with Domenech. Examples of Domenech’s views include:
  • In a February 7, 2005, post on RedState, Domenech wrote that he believed people should be “pissed” that President Bush attended “the funeral of a Communist” -- referring to the funeral for Coretta Scott King. As you know, labeling the King family “communists” was a favorite tool of the racists who opposed them.
  • In another RedState post, Domenech compared “the Judiciary” unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.
  • In still another RedState comment, Domenech posted without comment an article stating that "[i]t just happens that killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime" and that "[w]hite racists have reason to be grateful for what is sometimes still called the civil rights leadership" because black leaders "are overwhelmingly in support" of abortion rights.
  • In yet another, Domenech wrote that conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, “needs a woman to give him some stability.”
Domenech has also been caught at least once apparently fabricating a quote. A June 20, 2002, Spinsanity.org entry demonstrated that Domenech made up a quote he attributed to Tim Russert in order to defend President Bush.

In a post on RedState.com, Domenech once agreed with a commenter who called Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin “an embarrassment to the saner heads at the paper.”

It is time for “saner heads” to prevail. Will The Washington Post honor its history as one of America’s most respected news organizations -- or will it stand with Ben Domenech, tacitly endorsing his assault on Coretta Scott King, his offensive suggestion that a gay man “needs a woman,” and his fabrication of a quote?

America is watching.

Sincerely,


David Brock
President & CEO
Media Matters for America
The Post's actions thus far have been very embarrassing. NPI joins Media Matters in calling on The Washington Post to fire Ben Domenech and demonstrate that it is indeed a credible, respectable publication - not a right wing rag and a home of bigots.

Another evil right wing initiative

Initiative 924 just died, but there's a new measure which is taking its place:
Washington voters may be asked to decide in November whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to receive public benefits.

Bob Baker, a Mercer Island resident who heads a group called Protect Washington Now, has filed an initiative to force the state to deny illegal immigrants benefits like those in a handful of programs administered by the Department of Social and Health Services.
This proposal is assuredly un-American and will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem of illegal immigration. Absolutely nothing.

Not surprisingly, the people backing this initiative are the same type of folks who decided to play vigilantes in Arizona:
Baker volunteers with the Minuteman Project, which got its start in Arizona two years ago to spot and report illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico.
Fortunately, there is already an opposition group forming to counter Mr. Baker and his ilk:
"Washington residents won't stand for this form of imported initiative," said Michael Ramos, co-chairman of From Hate to Hope, a coalition of 40 local groups formed to campaign against the measure.

"They're proposing to deputize social-service providers as immigration agents and hold them accountable for service the state provides, when it will be a rare case that an undocumented person will be provided such a service."
Here's hoping that Baker and his vigilante pals fail to make the ballot altogether. We already have enough evil right wing initiatives to contend with.

Ferry Queen of the North sinks off the coast of British Columbia

About twenty four hours ago, the B.C. ferry Queen of the North sank off the coast of British Columbia, south of Prince Rupert, not far from the small village of Hartley Bay. All 102 passengers were safely rescued, according to news reports. The ship sank with numerous vehicles on board.

The Washington Post has more:
The ship, Queen of the North, apparently hit a rock about 1:40 a.m. Pacific time while on an overnight run between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy, according to Daniel Bate, a spokesman for the Canadian Coast Guard in Vancouver.

It was traveling the scenic, rugged inside passage of the central coast, a series of interior channels and waterways.

The ship listed, and sank slowly over the course of an hour, Bate said, allowing the passengers to get into life boats while the ferry sent out a Mayday distress call.

A large Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker ship, the Sir Wilfred Laurier, was on patrol nearby, and arrived within 30 minutes, according to news reports in Canada. A fishing trawler from the tiny fishing village of Hartley Bay also moved toward the sinking ferry, and both ships began taking passengers from life boats.
The CBC also has a thorough report with some accompanying video to provide some visuals. You can also check this out this link to Google Maps Canada which will show you a satellite map with highlighting indicating where the ship sank.

As the Post notes, the ship is quite a loss:
[The Queen of the North] measures 410 feet long and can carry up to 700 passengers and 115 cars. It has a formal dining room and a cafeteria, as well as a lounge, cabins, children's playroom and video arcade.
Just for comparison purposes, the Washington State Ferries' biggest ships (there are three in the Jumbo Mark II Class) measure 460 feet in length and can carry up to 2,500 passengers, 218 vehicles, and 60 commercial vehicles. B.C. Ferries' biggest ships (the Spirit Class) are 549 feet in length and can carry 2,100 passengers and 470 cars.

The community of Hartley Bay should be commended for their superhuman effort to rescue the people on board the ship. Now the B.C. Environmental Ministry must move quickly to begin cleaning up the mess the ship left behind, and the sinking must be investigated.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Crunching the numbers to fit the PR box

Coincidentally with the need for a happy face on the president's economic performance, unemployment statistics got a boost from a mysterious statistical genie.

Since the latest series began in 1959, the participation rate in the labor pool -- the number of working age people looking for jobs -- has climbed steadily. Beginning in 2001, the number began to fall, and it has continued to fall. Absent this curiousity, 2005's unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent, rather than the fairly moderate 5.1.

Something smells when the current administration can only claim the addition of 4.8 million jobs over five years, while adding 1.9 million to the rolls of the unemployed and still get something to brag about on the nightly news. Clinton's eight years saw 18.4 million new jobs, and a subtraction of 3.9 unemployed.

The labor pool has grown inexorably since statistics have been kept. It tends to react a bit with the availability of jobs, it's a fact, but not this much. One of the wonders of employment statistics is that even as the denominator has grown, under Democratic presidents the unemployment rate has consistently dropped from one year to the next.

The Bush II collapse of the labor pool is, however, unprecedented. While the participation rate has come down a tenth of a point here and there, it has come down more than one-tenth only four times since 1971 -- in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

I began to look closer at this when I caught on to John Williams pieces on how official numbers are crunched until they fit the PR boxes. I admit I don't know exactly the methodological gymnastics that produced these particular participation rate anomolies, but they are there, and they're in the breakouts for the state, too. Maybe I'll subscribe to Williams' newsletter for us.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Debt, monetizing debt, lying about debt

The Senate voted to lift the debt limit by $781 billion last Thursday. Total debt is up to nearly $9 trillion. The Bush deficits keep adding to the pile. As big as they are, they are still being understated. Official numbers on the deficit depend on a continuing back door into Social Security Funds.

It's not that I mind filling Social Security Retirement and other funds with federal bonds. What I mind is the bankrupting of the operating budget by incompetence and lying and then concealing the extent of the crime. The level of borrowing is an important measure of solvency. A bond is a debt instrument. Claiming we're not borrowing when we are is a fraud.

I also mind the hoopla of a couple of Republican Senators objecting to this casino financing in the name of fiscal responsibility. This is strictly a show for the benefit of the folks back home. Big debt and Republicans go together (see chart).

The great preponderance of debt, as you can see, has been incurred during the stewardship of Republican presidents.

This is business as usual for them. Much like John Ashcroft showing up behind the desk of his own K street lobbying firm is business as usual.

A NYT story says that in an hour long interview, "Mr. Ashcroft used the word ‘integrity' scores of times." )

Integrity for Ashcroft is similar to fiscal responsibility for Republicans as a party, just labels on marketing props, not actual codes of conduct. The amount we owe has now ballooned to such an extent that, along with the impending expansion of Social Security and Medicare and the unwillingness of the GOP to face facts, the continued solvency of the federal government has come into question.

Will we be able to raise taxes to the level needed to pay off these debts and meet our entitlement obligations at the same time? Particularly when the party putting on the show is the hate-taxes party? Some financial advisors and economic observers have begun talking openly about "monetizing the debt."

"Monetizing the debt" is lingo for using the printing press to pay off bonds. It's an act of desperation. Obviously it is not expected by investors, because US government bonds are still trading at a high price. But they should worry. The security and liquidity of government bonds, which is why they are trading at such a price, is not guaranteed.

Most folks worry about inflation, which is inevitable with monetizing debt. I worry about default, or a "change in terms," where bonds are not paid as promised, but on an "adjusted schedule." After all, the printing presses are in control of the bankers, the Federal Reserve being the central bank. Bankers hate inflation. Screws up their interest rate calculations. Or it could be a combination.

Whatever happens won't be pretty. These are financial stresses never before seen, and the fallout will be both domestic and international.

But what else do we do? We are incurring debt at a sickening rate. Pretty soon money is going to cost more. Rising interest rates will mean a slowing domestic economy and higher debt service for the government.

In ten or fifteen years (no, not tomorrow), or when the cracks become apparent, we're into the deep doo-doo. In the Clinton era, Rubinomics combined with very low energy prices gave us the break we needed. Unfortunately, we didn't take advantage of it.

You get what you pay for

There's an article this morning in the Seattle Times about traffic congestion - the "SR 520 Vortex" in Redmond:
Some consider it the "Vortex of Hell."

It may lack the notoriety of the agonizing creep through the Interstate 5/Interstate 90 interchange and the name recognition of the "Kirkland crawl" along Interstate 405. But this place, where Highway 520 ends in a messy series of junctions with Highway 202 and Redmond's Northeast Union Hill Road and Avondale Road Northeast, has become one of the region's most frustrating bottlenecks.
I know all about the 520 Vortex in Redmond. I deal with it nearly every day, and usually successfully. As a longtime resident, I know how to slip right through the whole mess and make it home without spending a lot of time sitting in traffic.

It's not always that bad, but sometimes it can be downright awful.

For people who live further east than I do, the "vortex" is practically unavoidable, and hence it's very frustrating.

The Times notes that "improvements are coming" - Redmond, King County, and WSDOT are working together to solve the problem. But for people who are moving into the area, the improvements can't come fast enough:
Don Cairns, Redmond's transportation-services manager, said he's amazed at how many people move east of the city limits and then call within days demanding to know when someone's going to improve traffic along roads such as Avondale Road Northeast, Northeast Union Hill Road and Novelty Hill road.

"They're appalled and they can't believe how bad it is," he said. "But they're actually part of the problem. They're alone in their vehicle."
I've talked to many longtime residents who keep wondering why anything hasn't been really done until now.

Here's why:
Planning for most of the needed fixes began more than a decade ago. Improvements to the end of Highway 520 were all but approved in 1992, but funding fell through after voters called for an end to the state's motor-vehicle excise tax and opposed higher gasoline taxes.

Likewise, King County lost millions in transportation funding when Initiative 776 eliminated the $15 vehicle-license fee in 2004. The county decided to focus its resources on projects that improved safety or kept existing roads and bridges open and to postpone others that would primarily ease congestion, said Paulette Norman, the county's road engineer.
Here's the message I have for frustrated citizens who are stuck in traffic on deteoriating, unsafe roads:

You get what you pay for.

It's a very simple concept, but one that seems lost on a lot of people. There is no free lunch. If you cut government spending, you are going to lose projects, services, and even personnel.

Abraham Lincoln said it best:
"The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves in their seperate and individual capacities."

- Abraham Lincoln (1854)
What Lincoln meant was that we need government to provide important public services like transportation. Individuals, on their own, do not have the money or resources to build their own highways or operate their own public bus routes. Only the government can and will provide these services. But we get the level of service we pay for.

Taxes are public investments - investments in the infrastructure society needs. In fact, that's really what they should be called: public investments.

Permanent Defense has been trying to spread this message for years. And slowly but surely, it's dawning on more and more people.

Since Initiative 776 in 2002, Tim Eyman has been mired in a 1 for 5 slump, with only one successful initiative (I-900, in 2005, and that initiative didn't cut public investments).

Additionally, voters rejected Initiative 912 last November, keeping the new gas tax (a significant investment) the Legislature approved in place.

People are sick of hazardous bridges, unsafe roads, and congested bottlenecks. Something needed to be done. Public investments needed to be made. And they were. But those investments remain under attack.

The state says some $2.5 billion in transportation funding is threatened by Eyman's Initiative 917 - including funding for ferries, the State Patrol, Amtrak Cascades, and highway safety projects.

That initiative must be defeated.

We can't build our way out of traffic. It doesn't work. But we can design road systems that at are more efficient at moving vehicles (without adding lots of new lanes). We can make sure the roads we have are safe and maintenanced, and we can replace hazardous bridges or other structures that have become unsafe.

We can add new bus routes and extend high capacity transit (HCT) out to the suburbs, something the City of Redmond has included in its Transportation Master Plan. We can change the way we plan, designing our urban areas around people instead of automobiles, and zoning appropriately to prevent sprawl.

There are solutions to the mess we're currently in. It starts with protecting existing investments from being destroyed. When it comes time to vote on Initiative 917 (and other right wing initiatives, assuming they get on the ballot) we'll be asking voters to vote NO - and reminding them that you get what you pay for.

Subscribing to NPI's podcast

I was recently asked by someone how to subscribe to our podcast in a podcatcher (an application that is used to download podcast media files). It's fairly straightforward - most applications have a tool where you just enter the URL of the media RSS feed and the software takes care of everything for you.

In Juice (formerly iPodder), the most popular podcatcher, click the "Subscriptions" tab and then the "Add a Feed" button (it's a plus sign). You can then add the URL of our Media RSS feed, which is located here. Click Save. Juice will add NPI's media RSS feed to your subscriptions. Use the "check for new podcasts" button to download our latest podcasts.

To download older episodes in the podcast, check the episodes you want to download and click the green "Check for new podcasts" button again.

In iTunes, you can subscribe quickly by clicking on the Advanced tab at the top of the screen, and then clicking "Subscribe to Podcast". You would then copy in the URL of our media feed.

You can also search for "progressive" in the iTunes podcast directory and the Northwest Progressive Institute will come right up. Then you simply have to click the subscribe button and you can download episodes.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Should Nancy Pelosi be replaced?

Kos contends she's been an ineffective leader for the House Democratic caucus and assails inside-the-Beltway thinking:
The conventional wisdom amongst D.C. Democrats appears to be, "if we're quiet enough, Republicans will do themselves in and we'll benefit." Problem is, that people don't trudge to the polls to vote against candidates. They are required, in our Democracy, to check a box FOR a candidate.

And Democrats are doing everything in their power to ensure that people have no reason to go to the polls. They aren't going to vote for Republicans. That much is clear. But why should they vote for Democrats, the same Democrats who have failed to stand up to Republican excesses over the past five years?

These poll-obsessed and their risk-averse consultants looked at Bush's high numbers in the wake of 9-11 and internalized their appeasement strategy. It did them no good in 2002 and 2004. Then in 2005 and 2006, as Bush's numbers keep finding new lows, these DC Dems can't break their habits.

In the Senate, Harry Reid has caused Republicans no small amount of heartburn. But in the House, Democrats under Pelosi's leadership have been all but neutered. How many ethics complaints has Pelosi and her team filed? None. And they ostracized Chris Bell when he filed his complaints against DeLay. How did Pelosi react to Lois Slaughter's seminal report on Republican corruption? She quickly and meekly pulled it from her website when Republicans raised a stink. She just attacked Feingold for introducing his censure resolution. And she's leading the charge to destroy sites like this one by regulating them to death.

The pattern is clear -- target and eliminate any party individual or institution that stands up to the Republican juggernaut.

I think House Democrats in 2006 would be well served by casting about for a new leader, whether we win the House or not. And to think I was once a fan of Pelosi's ...
Personally, I have been very unimpressed with Nancy Pelosi's leadership. I get a lot of emails from her (and the DCCC) asking for my money, but it doesn't seem like she's on the offensive much against the House Republican caucus. What is she doing to build momentum for the 2006 elections? A truly effective minority leader is a serious pain in the majority party's side. Ask Harry Reid.

Pelosi's lack of initiative and timidity is a problem. The House Democrats should look for a new leader.

What do you think? Post your thoughts in the thread.

BREAKING NEWS: Eyman violates the law again - and lies to supporters

Once again, initiative profiteer Tim Eyman has made a costly mistake, printing up thousands of petitions for Initiative 917 that are invalid under state law, NPI's Permanent Defense has learned.

The news was first reported by MajorityRules, a citizen action organization which shares Permanent Defense's mission of fighting Tim Eyman and his anti-tax initiatives, working for real tax reform in Washington State, and promoting the value of public services.

Permanent Defense has more in its Special Report, which you can find here, but the basic story is that Eyman carelessly failed to correctly follow a new state law that requires initiative petitions to include an oath that must be signed by the signature gatherer who circulated the petitions.

The oath affirms that the person who circulated the petition followed state law and did not bribe voters or forge their signatures.

The Secretary of State has announced that petitions that are out of compliance with the law will be rejected - which means all of the original petitions Eyman printed up for Initiative 917 are potentially worthless and won't count.

But that's not what Eyman told his supporters. In a letter this month, Eyman blatantly lied, assuring his supporters that the old petitions are "still good and acceptable" when in fact that may not be the case.

Additional information can be found in the Special Report.

If you are a member of the media and would like to contact Permanent Defense for comment on this story, follow this link.

UPDATE and Clarification: Originally MajorityRules (and subsequently NPI and Permanent Defense), reported that the petitions did not include the required declaration at all. As it turns out, the original petitions do include the declaration, but it is incorrectly printed and it blends in seamlessly with the text of the initiative, which makes it nearly impossible to see. For more information, see the updated Special Report or Steve's update at MajorityRules.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Initiative 924 appears dead

Hooray - one less right wing initiative to worry about. This is very good news:
It appears that the First Class Education for Washington Initiative, which if passed would have forced school districts to spend 65 percent of their budgets on "classroom instruction," has been suspended.

Brian Janssen, chairman of the Initiative 924 campaign, wrote in an e-mail to the Washington Association of School Business Officials that he was unable to gather enough funds to ensure the campaign's success.

Janssen had been invited to attend the association's conference in May to discuss the initiative but declined, saying: "To ensure success we needed to run a multimillion-dollar campaign, with most of the funds frontloaded for kickoff. With my commitment to being a full-time father to my three young kids, I was unable to fully pursue this to the degree necessary and couldn't provide more funds than I'd already committed."

Janssen's e-mail didn't specify how long the campaign would be suspended or if the group would try to resurrect it later on.

[...]

According to reports filed with the commission, the group received $9,100 in contributions in January — $5,000 of which came from Janssen. The group did not file a report by March 10, the deadline to report any contributions over $200 for February.
There are so many right wing initiatives this year (others with serious backing include I-917, R-65, I-920, and I-933) that it was going to be difficult for Janssen to raise money for his own effort.

Unless you have a sugar daddy (like Eyman does) or you've got a coalition of groups with major money (like the Farm Bureau and the BIAW) it's very hard to raise enough money to buy your way onto the ballot. Brian Janssen just found that out the hard way.

Get in the shoes of the taxpayer

We progressives make a big mistake when we insist that the only fair reform to state taxes is a personal income tax.

Bill Gates, Sr., busted the effort of the 2002 Tax Structure Study when he obsessed during legislative hearings about the virtues of the personal income tax. For one brief moment, he had the public's attention on this difficult subject. He ignored the Commission's first and best recommendation – to scrap the albatross of a B&O tax in favor of a subtraction method value added tax, and talked at length about income taxes. The public just shrugged it off as more of the same, and a great opportunity was lost. (Our "Basic Reform to the B&O Tax" accomplishes the intent of that recommendation, by the way, without all the folderol of scrapping one form and starting up a new one.)

Yes, a personal income tax is a fairer tax, and would be preferred absent the obvious political realities – and absent the tax structure realities facing the average taxpayer. The taxpayer is already faced with a personal income tax from the feds, and a payroll tax that is being operated as an adjunct to the income tax. She may be forgiven for not wanting another deduction on the pay stub.

I remember sitting in a House Finance Committee in Olympia and listening to Rev. John Boonstra of the Association of Washington Churches and the Tax Fairness Coalition. He gave impassioned testimony about how voters would respond responsibly if only they were given the straight scoop about the progressive advantages of an income tax. I thought it was a noble naivety, a feeling similar to the one from listening to Bill Gates.

Then the same feeling came over me the other night as I listened to the firefighters' local president Pat McElligott insist that voters would support new property taxes once they understood what they were getting for their money. Pat probably had the best case, but none of the three appreciated the difficulty of talking about taxes to the average citizen.
First, the word "tax" has been given the connotation of leprosy or incest in a targeted effort by the Radical Right to reduce the size and scope of government. Realizing that public programs like Social Security and schools have wide public support, the Right has chosen to focus on the financing mechanism – taxes. And they have largely been successful. People who would laugh if you told them they could have a house without a mortgage now sincerely think they should have public services without paying taxes.

Second, there is a cacophony of talk the average citizen has to sort through in dealing with taxes, and very little of it is economically informed. I watched a video produced by a city government with real citizens talking about where their tax money goes, how they didn't realize where it goes, and how they were happier when they realized it goes for this or that. Taxes don't "go" anywhere. They stay right in the community. More than eighty percent of your tax money goes to pay the salary of a fellow citizen. Match that with where your money goes at the gas station or the mall. This is an important thing to understand. If small business were not enthralled with fairy tale capitalism, they would understand that government not only provides services they need, but keeps market demand in the neighborhood.

Lastly, though, we need to see the tax structure from the taxpayer's point of view, not from the government's point of view. Instead of talking down to them, we need to get behind them and see things as they see them. State tax reform, as I said, often gets stuck on an income tax as if it were balanced. It is balanced from the perspective of state government, but not from the standpoint of the one who writes the checks. Voters distrust anything new in the realm of taxation, so when they don't see balance where it is advertised, they don't stop to listen to the rest of the pitch. Real balance would come with a turn to business taxes, broad-based, equitable business taxes founded on ability to pay.
Reforming the B&O in a way that generates revenue and ends the free ride of the big corporations will look good taxpayers (he said, with charming naivety).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cantwell, Obama hold rally calling for wider access to quality education

U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Barack Obama appeared together today at Garfield High in Seattle to speak to several thousand people packed into the school's gymnasium about the importance of giving every child in America an opportunity to succeed.

The senators decried the Bush administration's deep education cuts and touted their successful amendment in the Senate Budget for 2007 (which partially undoes these cuts).

"The president wants to gut dozens of programs with a proven track record of success in helping disadvantaged students finish high school and enroll in college," Senator Cantwell said. "Cuts to the TRIO and GEAR UP programs alone would strip $6 million in vital education funds from Washington State."

Cantwell's speech was preceded by remarks from King County Executive Ron Sims and presentations from three different educational programs which are making a huge impact on the Seattle community: Seattle SCORES (an after school program which uses soccer to inspire literacy in elementary school children), Friends of the Children (which providing mentoring to vulnerable kids making a 13-year commitment to each child in the program beginning in kindergarten) and Making Connections (a UW Women's Center program which helps 100 socio-economically disadvantaged students from schools in the Seattle urban area with skills to succeed in high school and strategies for college preparation).

Cantwell followed these extensive and captivating presentations with a speech that was smoothly and passionately delivered.

Cantwell attacked the Bush administration for choosing to ignore America's youth and then praised the many innovative programs that have lifted up some of the community's most disadvantaged students.


"When one third of the president's proposed cuts come from education, we have a serious problem of misplaced priorities. This is the wrong policy for America."

"Too many American students are growing up without the resources, support, high standards, and basic achievement demands they deserve," Cantwell noted.

But before Cantwell could start her speech she was interrupted by a small group of inconsiderate protestors who stood up and unfurled a black banner criticizing Maria's support for the war, which contained a second line: "Don't Barack-O-Bomb Iran".

The protestors didn't seem to have noisemaking devices but they were loud enough to make it hard to hear the Senator, who first waited, and then told the protestors they'd made their point. When this did not shut them up, County Executive Ron Sims jumped out of his chair and grabbed one of the microphones, beginning a loud "Cantwell! Cantwell! Cantwell!" chant that quickly turned into a loud roar which completely drowned out the protestors while they were led away by event volunteers.

Cantwell remained undaunted, delivering her remarks with energy and vigor.

Senator Barack Obama followed Cantwell with a powerful and inspiring speech that was filled with wisdom and common sense. He also condemned the Bush administration's inexplicable, outrageous cuts in education funding.

"[We say we believe that...] every child is special. Everybody gets an opportunity. But our budgets have not reflected that," Obama said.


"A promise of a good education is what made this country work. Today, that idea is in danger," Obama added.

And in a slap at groups like the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (a conservative think tank) Obama emphatically stated, "It is not enough for us to propose an 'either or' proposition for education. We need reform and we need more money."

(The Evergreen Freedom Foundation opposes additional funding for education and insists that the system must be "reformed" first. Their goal appears to be to destroy the public education system).

The event was a huge success - and very exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was joined by fellow bloggers David of HorsesAss, Lynn of Evergreen Politics, Will of Pike Place Politics, and Carl at the Washington State Political Report.

The Cantwell campaign said that all of the nearly 2,000 tickets were distributed yesterday in a little over an hour after becoming available, and the turnout was certainly very impressive.

The press also showed up in force, as did the Garfield High School community.

Robert Jamieson called the event "photo op" for Cantwell this morning for Cantwell in his P-I column, but that's not what it was.

This event was all about taking a stand for public education and showcasing the success of innovative programs in the Seattle area. This event was about showing how disadvantaged kids can excel when they get the resources and support they deserve, and listening to their personal stories. Finally, this event was about Maria Cantwell and Barack Obama making a commitment to fight for wider access to quality education.

Maria Cantwell and Barack Obama care about giving every American child an opportunity to succeed. They believe that everyone deserves a good education - not just the wealthy or the connected. And they share our values.

That's why we need them in the U.S. Senate fighting for us.

P-I editorializes on signature season

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has joined us on the Think Before You Ink bandwagon:
As it often is, this year's gap between the end of the legislative session and the start of the full-fledged election campaign will be filled with attempts to garner the signatures to put various initiatives and referendums on the November ballot.

Three measures voters will soon have foisted upon them are such poor public policy choices that they shouldn't even make it to the ballot. When confronted by signature solicitors for any or all of them, we recommend you decline to sign.
The three measures the P-I is critical of are I-933 (the developer's initiative), I-917 (Eyman's new initiative to gut transportation) and Referendum 65 (Eyman's other measure to wipe out the landmark civil rights legislation that just passed the Washington State Legislature. (We might add that there are two other initiatives you definitely shouldn't sign: Initiatives 920 and 924, which would devastate public education).

The P-I editorial board is right on. Think before you ink - don't sign an initiative that would destroy the future of the Evergreen State.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Carns still doing the GOP's dirty work

He just never quits - and we're not going to quit calling attention to these outrageous attempts to deceive the public:
A Republican sheriff is criticizing GOP political tactics for upsetting some Snohomish County residents.

At issue are automated phone calls, placed to about 10,000 homes, that told residents a dangerous unidentified sex offender "has been released into your community."

The calls were generated by the Olympia-based Speaker's Roundtable, a political action group tied to Republicans in the state House.
Very strongly tied, as a matter of fact. The "Speaker's Roundtable" is a front organization for Republicans like Richard DeBolt (who heads the House GOP caucus). They've tasked Kevin Carns, a GOP hack (and professional troll) with doing the dirty work for them while they pretend to absolve themselves of all responsibility and knowledge of his activities.
Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart said the messages prompted at least 40 calls to his office from worried residents.

"This was uncalled for," Bart told The Herald newspaper of Everett. "I don't run the party. If they had asked me, I'd have said not to do it."

The phone messages described crimes committed by Jeffrey Henderson, who recently moved to Lake Stevens after serving a 19-year prison sentence, The Herald reported.

The calls also mention Reps. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, and John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, and say they refused to vote on a bill that would lock up child rapists for life.
Well, what did you expect, Sheriff Bart? That people like Carns would make an effort to tell the truth? Honest communication is something he's incapable of. He's already proved that.

KOMO 4 News also reported on this story and why the sheriff is angry about what Carns is doing:
Sheriff Rick Bart says he worries the calls will further inflame the public: "We went through this 14 years ago in South County. Some neighbors took it in their own hands and burned down someone's house and I don't want it to happen again, and that's what I'm worried about."
But that's not what Kevin Carns is worried about. He doesn't care. As long as it helps Republicans in next fall's elections and hurts Democrats, it's OK. So what if it's not true?

Carnes told the Everett Herald that "more campaign materials based on sex offenders are planned". That's certainly not a surprise, but it's not welcome news. As Representative Dunshee said:
"This is a new level of slime. You want people to take notifications seriously. Using them for a political purpose like this scares people. It's that threat that is more important than the politics of it."
You can listen to an audio clip of the messages here, from the Everett Herald. The calls are clearly meant to scare and intimidate voters. It's cheap, it's reprehensible, and it's completely unacceptable.

When are Republican leaders going to demand that Kevin Carns be fired?

Robert Legg, a Lake Stevens pastor, and Mike Hope, a Seattle police officer (the two Republicans who are challenging Democratic Representatives Hans Dunshee and John Lovick this fall) should immediately call for the termination of Carns' employment and demand that the party refrain from executing any additional dirty tricks. They should, but they probably won't.

It's up to traditional media and regional progressive blogosphere to help call attention to this garbage and expose it. The Herald editorialized against the calls this morning, saying in part:
The GOP candidates who this campaign aims to benefit, House candidates Mike Hope and Robert Legg, should loudly denounce the effort. So should all current House Republicans, whose reputations stand to be sullied by it. It's not nearly enough to say "I had nothing to do with it."

This garbage undermines serious efforts to protect citizens through effective notification. It's not just bad politics, it's despicable.
It's just wrong and it should be condemned.

We commend Jerry Cornfield at the Everett Herald for his excellent article, and we commend the editors for putting the audio of the call on the Web so everyone can hear it.

I love to hate the B&O, but ...

The State's Business & Occupation tax (B&O) remains one of the worst taxes ever anywhere. Its base of gross receipts penalizes small business, growing business, in-state business, investing business. But worse is the myriad of baby B&Os that dot the Puget Sound region in the revenue architecture of three dozen cities. These baby B&Os are taxes separate in form and application from the State's version and until recently from each other. Their main purpose seems to be to create complexity, inefficiency and resentment.

So personal consistency was abandoned this week when I dropped a memo on Tacoma's Revenue Task Force proposing an expansion of the city's B&O as an alternative to city manager Eric Anderson's property tax based initiative. The memo is in two parts, a critique of Anderson's proposal and an outline of the alternative.

The alternative uses a reformed city B&O to target bigness and nonprofits, both of which are underrepresented at tax time. It drops well more than half of the smaller businesses from the rolls and thereby reduces compliance problems and further mitigates some of the bias of the State's B&O. Plus, it dispenses with a statutory dance with the legislature needed to squeeze the holdings of nonprofits into the city manager's proposed property tax base.

Of course, it is all still in the conceptual stage. The reception was pretty good at the Task Force meeting. But questions were many, and there was the requisite challenge from the Chamber of Commerce representative. At least it opens up the range of options. And it certainly enlivened the debate.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

In Brief - March 16th, 2006

In Brief is a new feature that we debuted recently. It's simply a bulleted list of news items that we want to mention to you but don't want to do a whole post on. You can expect to see more of In Brief in the future.
  • The Stranger has a must read feature article about Darcy Burner, written by Eli Sanders, entitled "Fighting Mood". The article is perhaps the most comprehensive written thus far about Darcy's candidacy, and it's an outstanding profile.
  • Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne has been chosen by Dubya to succeed Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior. (Kempthorne had previously served as mayor of Boise and then as U.S. Senator from Idaho). Kempthorne has a horrible, shoddy environmental record and has consistently received a 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Chris Oates of Liberal Idaho has more at Daily Kos.
  • The Senate voted 51-49 Thursday to pass a budget bill which contains a provision for drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Two senators who might have voted against the budget bill - Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Olympia Snowe of Maine - were persuaded to vote in favor of it with the inclusion of hurricane relief money and low income heating assistance. League of Conservation Voters Northwest Campaign Manager Mike Palamuso made his displeasure known:
    "In yet another blatant abuse of power, anti-environmental leaders in the Senate are using the budget process in a misguided attempt to open one of America's most pristine wild places to oil drilling: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We applaud Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) for her tireless leadership in protecting the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling. Last year, she successfully fought back an effort by Senator Ted Stevens (AK) to hold hostage vital funds for our troops and Hurricane Katrina victims in order to reward Big Oil special interests. Now, on the heels of the biggest oil spill on Alaska's North Slope, she is once again standing up for this national treasure."
    The budget bill now moves to the House of Representatives. We'll be watching how Dave Reichert votes on this bill with great interest.
  • Proponents of Initiative 933, now popularly known as the "developer's initiative" (because it creates huge loopholes in the state's growth management laws for developers to exploit) have won the battle over the I-933 ballot title. Judge Richard Hicks, who obviously has a conservative bent, approved a ballot title for the measure that's almost identical to the wording the Washington State Farm Bureau wanted. The language is misleading and deceptive, and this setback means the Community Protection Coalition and its allies, including Permanent Defense, will have to work extra hard to convey the dangers of this initiative to voters.
Something you want to share? Feel free to post it in the thread below.

Grateful Slaves in Kitsap

Following is the text of my letter to the Kitsap Peninsula Journal. after Adele Ferguson's article opining that Blacks should view slavery as God's means of getting them to America.

Dear Kitsap Business Journal:

That you would publish such ignorant racism by Adele Ferguson is irresponsible enough. That you would evoke our Constitution's First Amendment to justify it is an offense almost as rank as Ferguson's hate-writing. Our precious First Amendment is the hallmark of free speech, not hate speech. It does not protect discourse or journalistic practices which do harm to the general welfare.

Pulling the article after it was published does not exonerate your paper from its responsibility in this tragedy.

There can be no amends for the damage that has been done. For minorities who work hard, believe in America, and love our freedoms, reading the work of Ferguson takes all of us back to the 18th century. There, we had to suffer the indignation of such attitudes as Ferguson's. There, we had to tolerate such patronizing and ill-informed speech propped up by our local press. There, we had to stomach such adolescent thinking passing itself off as professional journalism.

As a career media professional, I am ashamed of my trade today. Therefore, I reject her as a colleague, fellow journalist, and American. In the name of all that is good and free in our great nation, your paper owes all true Americans a sincere apology, as does Adele Ferguson.

How long will it be before we live in an America where such travesties are no longer tolerated?

Goldmark will challenge Rep. McMorris in 5th Congressional District

Josh Feit at the Stranger has great news:
I ran into Democratic state party chair Dwight Pelz last night, and he was talking up Peter Goldmark, a rancher in Okanogan county who he’s lined up to challenge first term GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris in Eastern Washington’s 5th U.S. congressional district. Goldmark agreed to run this weekend.

“The news is, I’ve got someone to run in the 5th!” Pelz said when I asked him what he was working on these days as the new chair.

Former Democratic Speaker of the House Tom Foley hailed from this very turf, so yes, it’s possible to elect a Democrat in the 5th. Foley was run out in the GOP Revolution in ‘94. Pelz says McMorris is a consistent vote for Bush and the race in the 5th will be a bellwether check on how the Country feels about President Bush.
Goldmark hd previously said he wouldn't run, but it seems he's changed his mind. McMorris has a serious challenge on her hands.

As Howard Dean says, you can't win unless you show up, and fielding strong candidates in districts like the 5th CD is just what we need to do if we want to win in November.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Seattle Times awards Eyman another guest column

This morning the Seattle Times took pity on poor Tim Eyman - a virtually unknown Washington State citizen who has an extremely difficult time getting his voice heard in Olympia - and awarded the Mukilteo resident a guest column to promote his new pro-discrimination referendum.

It's no secret that Eyman is a master of media manipulation. The profit-minded initiative sponsor is the only individual we know of who can repeatedly trash the state's press corps and come away at the end of the day with an "exclusive" wire story from the Associated Press, in-depth segments from Seattle's four broadcast TV stations, and column after column from major Evergreen State daily newspapers.

As I wrote back in December, this favoritism is getting pretty old.

Special attention from the media is a key reason - perhaps the key reason - why Eyman remains influential. Every time an outlet like the Seattle Times gives Tim an opportunity to pontificate, they are assisting him in his crusade to destroy the sustainable future of Washington State.

The Seattle Times can expect to receive a harsh letter of condemnation from us for again lending visibility and credibility to a demagogue who's making a profit trying to cripple our government - the very foundation of our society that makes our communities safe, clean, and livable.

48th District Democrats affirm Debi Golden's right to run against Esser

Yesterday, news spread quickly that former Republican State Representative Rodney Tom, who represents the 48th LD, has switched parties so he can run as a conservative Democrat and challenge progressive Debi Golden for the Democratic nomination in the state Senate race. (The winner of the primary will go on to face Republican Luke Esser in the general election).

Tonight, the 48th District Democrats held their monthly general membership meeting, which was attended by both Debi Golden and Rodney Tom.

After Rodney Tom had spoken to the LD, NPI's own Andrew Tsao stood up and introduced a motion which called on the district to affirm Golden's right to seek the nomination. (Golden has been pressured by Democratic leaders to drop out and allow Rodney Tom a clear field):
I am asking that this body take up and vote on the following motion: That the 48th District Democrats supports the right of Debi Golden to maintain her candidacy for the state Senate campaign. This vote would be considered a sense of the assembly and be entered in the record.
After a heated debate, the membership voted to approve the motion, with 32 voting in favor and 3 voting against.

(Note: Originally I reported that the vote was 32 to 14. That was an error. It was 32 to 3, with 14 abstaining. Sorry about the error.)

NPI commends the membership of the 48th LD for affirming that Debi Golden has the right to maintain her candidacy. There is no question that Golden is a loyal Democrat. She has played by the party's rules and done what the party has asked of her. It is unfair of party leaders to now ask Golden to leave the race.

It sends the message that loyalty to the party will not be rewarded - and that's the wrong message to send. But fortunately, that's not the message the grassroots are sending.

Democrats in the 48th LD should be proud of the vote they took tonight.

Coming Soon: Seaside (Pacific NW Portal 4.0)

We're made significant progress on the next version of Pacific Northwest Portal. Version 4.0, which is the next version, has been given the code name "Seaside".

"Seaside" is first and foremost about reliability. Our chief goal with 4.0 is to improve the site so it works more smoothly, more often, and displays consistently across more platforms/browsers.

"Seaside" will not feature a radically new design or a lot of additional pages (although we do have some surprises in store), but it will have a more user friendly interface and navigational assistance to help point out content that's not on the front page.

As usual, many of the changes we're making are changes that have been suggested by people who regularly use Pacific NW Portal. We read every comment or suggestion that's submitted to us, so if you see something that you think can be improved, we want to hear about it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

State Housing and Employment

Cheery news always sticks to the top of the Business page, while grimmer news seems to slip into the fold. Housing slows and its, "Home buyers don't have to pull the trigger as fast." An uptick in the jobless rate, "No problem... There is really no negative to put on this." (TNT) I'm here to put the negative on it. And the second Tuesday is now prediction Tuesday for state and local economic numbers.

While the overall economy in Washington will fare better than that of the rest of the country, as we enter the second dip of the Bush recession, state and local revenues will suffer, housing will suffer, and employment will suffer.

Housing
Home sales in most of the state have reached their peak. King County's will top out pretty soon. By this time next year (end of February reports), home prices will be down 5 to 10 percent in King County and 10-20 percent elsewhere in the state. Here are our benchmarks.

Actual February 2006 median home sale prices

King County - $345,000
Pierce County - $250,000
17-County Area * - $283,000
(*covered by Multiple Listing Service)

Predicted February 2007 median home sale prices

King County - $325,000
Pierce County - $220,000
17-County Area - $250,000


Picking the peak of a trend is the most difficult. Things tend to trend over long time periods. Can't find anybody else making predictions about housing. If you see some, drop us a line.
Employment
Employment growth will be nonexistent in Washington over the coming year. That is, zero job growth. I am not going to predict the unemployment rate, because it's been boogered by the Bush team and I haven't got a handle on it.
Background from economist John Williams:
"Richard Nixon had a highly publicized war with the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the unemployment data. Nixon wanted to report the unemployment rate as the lower of the seasonally adjusted or unadjusted number, at any given time, but not specify same to the public. While that approach was unconscionable at the time and never used, basically the same methodology was introduced in 2004 as "state-of-the-art" by the current Bush administration."

I just played with some employment growth v. employment rate figures from the 2006 Economic Report of the President. Clinton added 18.4 million jobs in his eight years. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 to 4.0. Bush added a total of 4.8 million jobs in five years, and the unemployment rate rose only to 5.1. Supposedly its down to 4.7 now. Something is very funky. I'll give you a chart next week.
State Revenue
Tax revenue growth has been set at 5% by OFM's chief forecaster Irv Lefberg. I've tried to budge him, but he's sticking to it. (Actually official baseline growth is only 2.2% next year, but it jumps to 5.7 in 2008 and continues at about 5 percent thereafter.) Barring legislative action, revenue will grow substantially slower -- 1.1% short term and 3.0% long term.

I'll pick on Irv Thursday.

Bellevue legislator Rodney Tom switches parties

In a surprising development, Bellevue state legislator Rodney Tom, who is currently serving his second term as a representative for the 48th Legislative District, today announced his intention to switch parties and seek the Democratic nomination to run against the 48th's incumbent state senator - Luke Esser:
“Senator Luke Esser and the Republicans in Olympia have moved so far to the right they no longer represent the interests of mainstream voters. They have become more focused on partisan politics than real results,” said Rodney Tom. “Running and serving in the Senate as a Democrat will allow me to be more effective at solving problems, making smart investments in education and transportation and ensuring fiscal responsibility.”
Tom certainly has our praise for finally realizing that the Republican Party has lost touch with the electorate, and we're happy to have him as part of the Democratic Party.

But there is already a great Democrat in the race against Luke Esser - a Democrat with strong credentials - and that's Debi Golden, who narrowly lost to Tom when she ran against him in 2004.

Golden, a Camp Wellstone graduate, currently works at Bellevue Community College in business planning and court interpretation. She has publicly announced her intention to stay in the race, despite the fact that House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown have extended Tom a very warm welcome.

Tom has already laid the groundwork for his defection to the Democratic Party. There have been rumors that the 48th's other representative (Ross Hunter) had been strongly encouraging Tom to make to the switch, and Tom has already hired Democratic consulting firm Moxie Media to help him win the nomination.

Tom clearly recognizes that the 48th LD is not a Republican district. The district gave John Kerry and Dave Ross a strong show of support of 2004, and of course Debi Golden herself came close to defeating Tom two years ago, despite having little political experience (as I mentioned earlier, Golden is now running for state Senate, challenging Luke Esser).

Former Kirkland mayor Deb Eddy was also preparing to mount a strong challenge to Tom, hoping to replace him in the state House. With Tom out of the picture it's very likely that Eddy will have an excellent shot at winning her race.

But now that Tom has declared his intention to see the nomination against Esser, the 48th suddenly has a primary battle on its hands.

As the 48th (and the Eastside as whole) becomes more and more Democratic, it is deserving of a state senator who truly represents the values of the district's electorate.There's only one real choice for Democrats in this fall's primary - and that's Debi Golden, a true Democrat and a true progressive.

Review: Crashing the Gate is a breath of fresh air for the progressive movement

As the title of this post notes, this is a review of Crashing the Gate, a new book that explores why the Democratic Party is out of power and unable to win elections, especially at the federal level.

Crashing the GateNow, the Northwest Progressive Institute doesn't normally publish book reviews, although we do have a Reading List of titles we believe are worth buying or checking out from your local library.

But we couldn't pass up the opportunity for Crashing the Gate, the first book from fellow bloggers Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong, of Daily Kos and MyDD, respectively.

So, on behalf of NPI, here is my review.


Crashing the Gate is a short and powerful primer which explains how the Democratic Party must be saved from itself. My first thought after I initially read it from cover to cover (in one afternoon) was how concise and captivating it was (the book itself is 177 pages - not counting the foreward or the endnotes).

Even if you're a regular reader at Daily Kos, and even if you've read material with similiar themes before (like Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant, Brock's The Republican Noise Machine, and AlterNet's Start Making Sense) I think you'll still thoroughly enjoy Crashing the Gate.

I think what's really appealing is that the book is written so that activists who aren't that familar with the blogging phenomenon can understand and appreciate the message it contains.

Markos and Jerome start off by quickly noting why abandoning the Democratic Party is a foolish idea, and why changing it (from within) is much more practical. They then launch into a clever categorization of the major conservative groups within the Republican Party: the corporate cons, the neocons, the theocons, and the paleocons.

The examples they use to define each group are easily understandable because they're all recent - in fact, most are from 2005. That's another thing I really liked about the book. You get the feeling that it really is set in the present, and you can read all of it without skipping a beat (depending on how fast you read, of course).

Yet another intriguing feature of the book is the interwoven interviews, which are well incorporated into the text and clearly reinforce the points the authors are trying to make, instead of distracting the reader.

Markos and Jerome have done an admirable job of blending history and vision in the book. Other books I've read have given too much weight to one or the other, but Crashing the Gate has a balance of both.

They begin the second section of the book with the succinct statement, "The Democratic Party stands for everything, yet it stands for nothing" opening the argument that the whole of the party is really never greater than the sum of its parts. I've certainly found this to be true in my own political experience.

Though the conservative movement has issue groups, Markos and Jerome say that those groups seem to operate outside of the structure of the Republican Party - often contributing to the success of the party from behind the scenes - whereas the progressive movement's single issue groups are the party (and the face of the party).

The authors contend that most of the progressive "single issue" groups (i.e. environment, labor and reproductive rights) have such a narrow focus that they seem incapable of looking at the bigger picture - which is critical for long term success.

They point out the party needs to craft a broader narrative that helps explain what progressive, Democratic values are to voters. As Markos and Jerome observed, "At the end of the day, it's hard to build a movement or strengthen a political party when its constituency groups are tugging it in a dozen different directions."

And they note that while Washington D.C. may be mired in the archaic, status quo - progressives in states like Colorado and Montana (the two examples they used) have succesfully put together strategies for revitalizing the party and its message.

And they emphasize the bigger picture - over and over again: "Working to make sure Democrats win control is more important than sabotaging the chances of any candidate that doesn't check off every box on the liberal laundry list."

I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. It's why I support candidates like Maria Cantwell even though I may disagree with them on key issues.

One of the book's most powerful and sweeping paragraphs is about midway through the book. Markos and Jerome describe what must happen if Democrats want to win - not just in states that are considered bastions of liberal politics, but anywhere in the United States:
"The 'Democratic Party coalition' of the last few decades has failed. It must be replaced by a new progressive movement, one that is dedicated to finding those common bonds that tie us together while tolerating the sorts of differences inevitable in any 'big tent' gathering. And that movement needs to remain outside the party, giving Democratic candidates the freedom to get elected in all parts of the country without being smeared by association to any particular interest group."
Crashing the Gate then moves on to talk about how the Democratic establishment in Washington, D.C. has run roughshod over local candidates and local campaigns, stifling innovation and ignoring new talent in favor of hiring the same consultants over and over again - including consultants who keep losing.

Markos and Jerome demand to know why it makes sense to continually reward Democratic consultants for failure. "It's a veritable revolving door," they declare of the D.C. establishment. "The system is not a meritocracy."

Bob Shrum is notably singled out in this section for his terrible track record (0 for 8 in presidential elections) and his firm's tendency to pocket as much money as it can at the expense of the candidates Shrum and his cohorts are advising.

But the part of this section that I liked the most is the part which dissects how Democratic candidates - following the advice of their consultants - have been doing their advertising (and why it isn't very effective).

Markos and Jerome use examples from recent elections to back up their argument that Republicans have done a better job figuring out to appeal to voters' emotions, and note that the GOP regularly reaches out to Madison Avenue's corporate ad shops for help in crafting their messages.

And as you might expect, the two insist that Democrats begin to take advantage of the changing media landscape, and recognize that reaching voters today is different than it was twenty or thirty years ago.

Crashing the Gate makes a strong case for purging the party's loser consultants and rewarding success and innovation - not failure. And that change obviously cannot start with the consultants, because they aren't going to fire themselves. But it needs to happen if the party wants to start winning elections.

The next section of the book (Laying the Groundwork) details two important areas where the left has fallen behind - ideas and media - that have already been fairly well covered by authors George Lakoff and David Brock, who wrote Don't Think of an Elephant and The Republican Noise Machine, respectively. (In fact, oddly enough, one of the sections is entitled "THE NOISE MACHINE".)

This section does includes a short interview with George Lakoff, although there is no interview with Brock, which I would have liked to see. Brock, who currently heads Media Matters as its President & CEO, is perhaps the progressive movement's best expert on right wing media.

Markos and Jerome called attention to the amazing and incredibly rapid growth of the progressive blogosphere, which I agree has been growing by leaps and bounds.
Traffic to the Northwest Progressive Institute's network of websites has grown at a stunning rate. Traffic for the year 2004 was about thirty times higher than it was in 2003, but that was nothing - traffic for the year 2005 was roughly four hundred times higher than it was in 2004. Three months into 2006, it seems we'll be easily surpassing last year's record growth by the time December is over.

After talking about media, Markos and Jerome next move on to the conservative leadership pipeline - which is also something Brock and Lakoff covered - but Crashing the Gate offers multiple examples and references that you won't find in either of the other two books.

The authors argue that the progressive movement needs to take better care of its young talent, creating networking and job opportunities and training candidates to run for office. Fortunately, there are already a few organizations trying to fill this void - Wellstone Action and Progressive Majority come to mind - but I agree that there needs to be a bigger effort.

In one of the last chapters (Civil War) Markos and Jerome use the story of Howard Dean's presidential election campaign to explain how the business of raising money has changed - and how McCain-Feingold forced the Democratic Party to reconnect with real people.

The chapter ends by describing Howard Dean's unlikely comeback to become Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, neatly transitioning into the last chapter of the book, which is based on several major themes (most importantly, show up - or compete - to win) and also paints a glowing future in online organizing for the progressive movement.

Crashing the Gate ends with the bold assertion that the progressive netroots movement is leaderless, decentralized, and truly organic (it cannot be "co-opted", as Markos and Jerome put it) and thus the people who comprise it are truly in control of their own destiny.

I am in absolute agreement with this conclusion. I can confidently say that I would not be where I am today without the Internet. Nobody told me to found NPI or Permanent Defense - I decided to create these organizations (and their websites) on my own.

I have encountered people who have tried to laugh off this organization as a joke or a powerless force, but I - and the people who have joined NPI - have remained undaunted. Markos and Jerome are right. We cannot be harnessed or controlled.

The online progressive community is not the new ATM for the entrenched Democratic establishment. It is not made up of spectators, either. It is made up of truly committed activists - many, if not most of whom are used to accomplishing a lot with very few resources. We will decide our own destiny.

Crashing the Gate is simply a beautifully written book with an inspiring, enlightening message. The text is practically seamless and transitions well from one topic to the next.

It offers knowledge, but more importantly, it offers wisdom - and a realistic vision for changing the Democratic Party. It is a breath of fresh air for the progressive movement - and a welcome addition to my library.

I'll be strongly recommending Crashing the Gate to my neighbors, who remain puzzled as to why John Kerry ended up losing the 2004 presidential election and are discouraged about the future of this great country. Now I can give them something short and powerful to read that will also give them hope.

If you haven't purchased your copy of Crashing the Gate, I strongly encourage you to buy it from Chelsea Green or Powell's. You can also ask your local library system to stock the book, whether you're buying it or not, I've asked KCLS - the King County Library System - to add it to their catalog.

Still another reason to support the Alaskan Way Tunnel

Numerous proponents of the Alaskan Way Viaduct "rebuild" option have often said that they want a new viaduct because they want to keep the sweeping view you can enjoy while driving on the current structure.

Seattle's deputy mayor, Tim Ceis, has bad news for them:
Any new structure built to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct would not only be 50 percent wider but would obstruct the panoramic views for many drivers, the Seattle City Council was told Monday.

"Views would be gone for cars," said Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis. "People counting on views would be out of luck."

Many people who support rebuilding the viaduct cite the sweeping views along the waterfront as their main reason for preferring that to a tunnel.

Ceis said drivers of taller vehicles, like SUVs and trucks, probably would still see the waterfront. But the view from most passenger cars would be a blank wall. He said the Federal Highway Administration said lane barriers on a new viaduct would have to be solid, unlike those on the viaduct today.
The tunnel's only real disadvantage is cost. It's true that this would indeed be a significant investment for the city (and the region). But it is an investment worth making.

The tunnel option simply has the most advantages:
  • Safety. The most important advantage. The Alaskan Way Tunnel will be exceptionally safe from both earthquakes and fires. It will have a state of the art traffic communications system, along with full shoulders, lane widths and emergency access.
  • Open up the Waterfront. The current viaduct is a barrier. It divides the downtown area and the waterfront. But a tunnel will allow for open space and revitalization of the waterfront. The waterfront could become a truly great public place.
  • Lower noise levels. The tunnel option is expected to have noticeably lower noise levels in the central waterfront compared to today, making the area more pleasant for pedestrians, residents, and nearby businesses. Reducing nose pollution would also help revitalize the waterfront and make it attractive for tourists - an economic benefit.
  • More environmentally friendly. Constructing a tunnel (and tearing down the concrete viaduct) will lead to less air and water pollution, leading to a cleaner waterfront.
  • The tunnel would not take as long to construct. The state estimates construction of the tunnel would take seven to 10 years, while the "rebuild" option would take 11 to 12 years.
  • A new viaduct would be bigger. The "rebuild" option will mean that we get a viaduct that is 50% wider than the current structure. We don't need a bigger, uglier concrete structure killing the waterfront for the next half century or longer.
  • View will be lost anyway. As Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis explained to the city, a new viaduct won't give many drivers the "sweeping view" they enjoy from the current structure (unless perhaps you own a truck or SUV). That eliminates the ridiculous argument that we need a new viaduct to preserve a beautiful drive.
The tunnel option simply makes the most sense. The only remaining hurdle is financing. But that's a challenge that can be met. Mayor Greg Nickels will have to work exceptionally hard to continue building support for this long term investment.

He also needs to realize that the city has another megaproject on its hands: the State Route 520 floating bridge, which also needs replacement.

Nickels needs to listen to the concerns of Eastside leaders and work with them (and the state) to come up with a plan for moving forward on replacing the bridge. They have until mid-2007.

Voters in the central Puget Sound will be voting on a regional transit and roads package in November of next year which will likely include key funding for both megaprojects, along with a host of other projects - many which will come from the board of Sound Transit.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bill O'Reilly: "I don't do personal attacks"

On the February 23rd edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly insisted to actor and activist Mike Farrell that he doesn't "do personal attacks."

Oh REALLY? Seriously, where did he come up with that statement? "I don't do personal attacks?" Oh, sorry, we forgot. It's the same place where he got the idea that he'd only said "shut up" a couple of times. (Watch Outfoxed [2004], and you'll see O'Reilly say - and yell - "Shut up!" more than a couple of times).

Never content to let O'Reilly get away with a lie, our good friends at Media Matters for America have assembled a video montage of Classic O'Reilly:
At Media Matters for America, we monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Bill O'Reilly's steady stream of misinformation gives us plenty of material, and we thought it particularly noteworthy when he denied making personal attacks, given that he has such a long history of making them.
Follow this link to see O'Reilly attack everyone from Cindy Sheehan to the population of Europe.

Media shakeup: McClatchy to buy Knight Ridder

The New York Times is reporting that Knight Ridder, the second largest newspaper company in the United States, has agreed to sell itself for about $4.5 billion in cash and stock to the McClatchy Company, a fellow newspaper publisher that is half of Knight Ridder's size:
Because Knight Ridder is so much bigger than McClatchy, the merger is likely to create some upheaval for both companies. McClatchy could sell or close some of the Knight Ridder papers and could take further cost-control measures in its own newsrooms to help finance the deal. It was uncertain when the deal would be completed.

Knight Ridder, based in San Jose, Calif., has almost three times as many dailies as the 12 owned by McClatchy. Knight Ridder's $3 billion in revenue for 2005 was more than twice McClatchy's $1.2 billion.

[...]

"McClatchy is a dolphin swallowing a small whale," said Chuck Richard, an analyst at Outsell Inc., a research firm for the information industry.
In the Pacific Northwest, Knight Ridder owns The Olympian, the Bellingham Herald, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise (all of which were recently acquired in a trade with the nation's largest newspaper publisher - Gannett). Knight Ridder also owns a 49.5 stake in the Seattle Times Company.

McClatchy already owns the Tacoma News Tribune, one of the state's biggest dailies, the Tri-City Herald, The Puyallup Herald (not a daily), The Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor) and Anchorage Daily News (in Alaska).

The deal gives McClatchy a powerful footing in the Pacific Northwest, and especially in the Evergreen State. It will own or have a stake in a significant number of Washington State's major daily newspapers.

Here's a map which illustrates what I'm talking about:

McClatchy PapersThe newspapers shown in blue are papers that the McClatchy Company already owns or will own when it buys Knight Ridder.

The newspapers in gray are owned by the Seattle Times Company, which McClatchy will acquire a significant stake in (49.5%) when it buys Knight Ridder.


Here's how the major papers in the state currently stack up in terms of circulation (Data from Audit Bureau of Circulations, March 2005). Papers McClatchy owns, will own, or will acquire a stake in are highlighted in bold:
  1. The Seattle Times (Seattle Times Co.) 233,268
  2. Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Hearst; New York, N.Y.) 144,836
  3. The News-Tribune, Tacoma (McClatchy; Sacramento, Calif.) 128,937
  4. The Spokesman-Review, Spokane (Cowles Publishing; Spokane) 115,954
  5. The Herald, Everett (Washington Post Co.; Washington, D.C.) 50,775
  6. The Columbian, Vancouver (Columbian Publishing Co.) 49,726
  7. Tri-City Herald, Kennewick-Richland-Pasco (McClatchy; Sacramento, Calif.) 42,438
  8. King County Journal, Kent-Bellevue (Horvitz Newspapers; Kent) 42,410
  9. Yakima Herald-Republic (Seattle Times Co.) 37,934
  10. The Olympian, Olympia (Knight Ridder; San Jose, Calif.) 33,808
  11. Kitsap Sun, Bremerton (Scripps; Cincinnati, Ohio) 30,270
  12. Wenatchee World (Woods family; Wenatchee) 24,426
  13. Bellingham Herald (Knight Ridder; San Jose, Calif.) 23,928
  14. Longview Daily News (Lee Enterprises; Davenport, Iowa) 21,739
  15. Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon (Skagit Valley Publishing; Mount Vernon) 17,836
  16. Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles (Horvitz Newspapers; Kent) 17,152
  17. The Chronicle, Centralia-Chehalis (Lafromboise Newspapers; Centralia) 14,183
  18. Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Seattle Times Co.) 14,103
It'll certainly be interesting to see how the Blethens react to news of this sale. (The Blethens are the majority owners of the Seattle Times Company).

Publisher Frank Blethen has long been a critic of media consolidation, and it's no secret that he isn't exactly friends with Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder. What will Blethen's attitude be towards McClatchy - the new minority owners of his company?

This deal certainly has major implications for the region, but unless McClatchy decides to close down one or more of its local papers, we won't be seeing too many repercussions here. According to the New York Times article, McClatchy is supposed to have a reputation in the industry for good management and award-winning journalism, so perhaps this deal may have positive consequences for the region - but we'll see.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Decline to Sign: Think Before You Ink

A reminder that petitioners are now out collecting signatures for several right wing initiatives which could seriously jeopardize Washington's future.

I-917 PetitionThe initiative with the most petitioners right now (according to reports) is Initiative 917, Tim Eyman's initiative to gut transportation funding.

Eyman himself has been seen out in front of stores collecting signatures for I-917. Petitioners collecting signatures for I-917 are most likely to be paid and employed by Eyman's close ally Roy Ruffino, who runs "Citizen Solutions".

The image to the left depicts what the I-917 petitions look like.

If you see a petitioner collecting signatures for Initiative 917 (or another right wing initiative) please report the activity immediately to Permanent Defense.

And if you see voters being approached by a petitioner asking them to sign I-917, let them know the measure would gut over $2.5 billion in transportation funding, including money for Amtrak Cascades, highway safety, and Washington State Ferries.

Materials will soon be available from Permanent Defense that you can use to let voters know about the consequences of this dangerous initiative.

Politics, the Heartland, and "Stuff"

Two weeks ago today I was sitting in MSP marveling at the Goose-B-Gone posters and the Fox News bookstore outlets. (I'm not making this up.) I had more than a couple of hours between planes, so I wrote what I thought was a humorous little post about competence. Competence. How the Heartland values competence above all else and how linking GOP governance to the complete absence of competence – a very short link – would make them "the other guys" to a large part of America.
(Yes, I know Minnesota is the other way from South Dakota, but they have jets if you connect in that direction. Through Denver, it's prop planes flying low.)
I made the mistake of showing the post to a cousin whose opinion I value very much. Either the piece wasn't written very well or there's a deep-seated defensiveness I couldn't get by. In any event, the message heard was not that the Heartland cares about competence, but that they don't got any.

That, of course, is not so. Self-reliance and the distance between farms tends to generate ability out of seed corn.

The question turned not on the skill of city mice v. country mice, but on my being willing to wait a couple of days till the weather warmed to start a truck. This was not appropriate respect for a borrowed vehicle. But my goodness, it was minus twenty-six and the hood latch was frozen! (Note: I did start the truck and deliver it full of gas. Saving my reputation, I guess.)

Anyway, it was clear I didn't have the proper respect for property.

Guilty.

Then it hit me. This is what the Heartland cares most about. Even more than competence. This is what citizens of every state care most about. Stuff! Sometimes they even confuse it with the concept of "responsibility."

The upshot is that if we on the Left want to reach these people, we need to promise them more money and give them goodies. That means we're in trouble. We can promise the poor sufficience. The moderately well off can keep their stuff. The rich? We'll debate that later. But more? More material is not sustainable. No.

It is absolutely astounding how many of our fellow citizens spend all or most of their time obtaining, storing, cleaning, maintaining, insuring and displaying material goods. These are citizens we are not going to reach with messages on the environment, education, poverty, justice, civil liberties, women's rights, workers' rights, geopolitical balance, health care, or any of the other issues that matter and that the Radical Right is screwing up. Why? Because these citizens think all this noise is just an excuse to get them to give up some of their stuff.

That, or because they can't hear us. They're at the goddam mall getting more stuff or exchanging this stuff for that stuff.

There's a line called "object referral" in Hindu thought which says people will identify who they are by the things they own. A BMW owner is better than a Ford owner. Who are you? I'm a BMW owner. And driver. I live in a house in Sahalee. I'm an Ipod user. I'm a boat owner. I show horses. New shoes? Yes. You like them? Etc., etc. Who they really are is another discussion, but be sure, a person is not any aspect of a material thing through the mechanism of ownership.

Studies have shown that when it comes to material possessions and happiness, it is not the absolute level of possessions that contributes to subjective measures of happiness, it is the relative level. So if your mud hut has a better roof than your neighbor's, you are just as happy as if your garage has a BMW and Jim has to park his Jetta on the street.

Even the boys from the Black Hills tend to look at your pickup before they look at your face. The assembly of things in the shed often seems analogous to the phalanx of servants at the door in an earlier age.

But I ascribe virtue to myself where there is simply a missed gene. I have never understood the fever for stuff. Just like I never got disco, or even the Stones. I take some heart that the most gifted economist of the 20th century John Maynard Keynes did not have a material view of the world either, or an academic one, for that matter. According to Joan Robinson, another first-tier economist, Keynes had an aesthetic view of economies. Poverty was ugly. Unemployment was stupid.

My cousin said to me, "You keep right on with that political B.S., Al. I got business to take care of. But thanks for watching my back."

What he meant, I'm not sure. I have the image of watching the back of an ostrich. Ten years from now if he looks up and sees things are not like what he expected, he is going to get very excited. Is he going to have the wit to blame the right party, or will he just pick the closest one?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fudging the numbers, scripting the happy talk

Available today at this link is an interview with John Williams, a Republican kind of guy and an economist who has been tracking how government statistics have diverged from reality over time. His Shadow Government Statistics project displays a much different economy than the official figures, an economy more like the one you and I experience. The cherry picking of numbers I razzed EPI about last week is a sneeze to the finagling of officials' hurricane.
Inflation, for example, is systematically understated, and has been since the early 1990s. Williams estimates about 2.7% should be added to official inflation figures to compensate for dubious statistical tricks. The consumer price index (CPI) should be at 7%, rather than the official 4%. Particularly annoying to Williams is the geometric weighting of the CPI, a scheme devised by Alan Greenspan and George I's chief economist Michael Boskin, and later incorporated into official numbers under Bill Clinton.

Inflation was previously measured by checking the price of a fixed "basket" of goods from one period to the next, a collection of goods such as might be purchased by an average consumer. Under the Greenspan/Boskin scheme, the substitution effect was incorporated. The idea is when steak gets too expensive, people will substitute hamburger, so hamburger instead of steak should be in the basket. The price of the basket with hamburger is, of course, not so expensive as the basket with steak, so inflation does not rise so much. In other words, the CPI has become the price rise of a deteriorating standard of living.

Other clever means of suppressing inflation include "hedonics," from the same root as hedonism, which allows products which have improved in quality – say a washer with electronic controls as opposed to twist dials – to be valued at a lower price. The theory is they are not perfectly comparable.
Williams dismisses out of hand any claim to legitimacy such machinations have, but he says the exercise was not primarily to amuse voters around election time, though this was definitely a welcome adjunct. No, the real intent was to reduce the payments and obligation sunder Social Security, since these are tied to the CPI. And it has done that. Williams suggests that if all the tricks and their cumulative effects were reversed, payments to Social Security recipients would be 43% higher.

Equally insidious, however, is the tendency of this operation to overstate economic growth. The most popular economic measurement is the growth of real GDP, real meaning inflation-adjusted. If inflation is understated, real GDP is overstated. (Maybe you just count the "for rent" and "for sale" signs.)

By Williams calculations, the economy is on the verge of the second part of a double dip recession, and may already be in contraction. Inflation is 7%. And unemployment – as measured by the formula of the Depression years – is running at 12%.

In some parts, maybe he is over the top. Using accrual accounting for Social Security is not particularly apt. But Williams adjustments do make the numbers and the experience of the average working person come into the same picture.

Initiative 933 ballot title challenge delayed

Yesterday the Seattle Times reported on the legal "war of words" over the ballot title of Initiative 933. The ballot title of an initiative is the text which describes the measure on the ballot. It's what voters see when they go to the polls or when they take out their absentee ballot.

The Times explains how this "clone" of Oregon's disastrous Measure 37 would work pretty well:
Initiative 933, filed last month by the Washington State Farm Bureau, would give state and local governments a choice: in most instances, either pay landowners the difference when land-use regulations lower property values — or waive those rules. Property owners would be entitled to exemptions or compensation for restrictions imposed as long ago as 1996.
The two versions of the initiative are as follows. The first version, which was supposedly drafted by James Pharris in the Attorney General's office, is basically a gift to the Farm Bureau (the initiative's sponsor). Pharris will deny it, but it seems he relied on their focus group and polling data to give them a favorable ballot title. It reads as follows:
"This measure would require compensation when any government regulation damages the use or value of private property, forbid regulations that prohibit existing legal uses of private property, and provide for exceptions and conditions."
The key word in that paragraph is "damage". Why is "damage" a key word? Because according to the Farm Bureau, it polls well. This is the loaded question that the Farm Bureau asked respondents of its poll last fall while it was working on putting I-933 together:
“If there were an initiative on the ballot that would require state or local government to pay a property owner if a government action damaged the value or use of their property, would you vote yes to support the initiative or no to oppose the initiative.”
About 80% of respondents to the poll apparently said they would support such an initiative.

Opponents of Initiative 933 have filed a ballot title challenge - basically, contesting the language the Attorney General has proposed in court. Ballot title challenges are heard in Thurston County Superior Court. There is no appeal of the judge's decision. Here is the language opponents have proposed:
"This measure would require government studies before adopting restrictions on property use, exempt or pay property owners who object to certain zoning, environmental and other laws, and prevent regulations prohibiting previously-existing uses."
The case was supposed to be heard yesterday before Thurston County Judge Chris Wickham, but NPI has learned that the judge ended up putting it on hold. The judge reportedly recused himself because he is a member of one of the groups that filed the ballot title challenge - the Audobon Society.

The Farm Bureau apparently did not mind this and was willing to have Wickham hear the case, but the judge decided he would recuse himself anyway. The case will be delayed for another week and another judge will be appointed to hear it. We'll see what happens next week.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Gale Norton resigns from the administration

No real cause for celebration. Whoever replaces Norton as Interior Secretary isn't going to be any better:
Interior Secretary Gale Norton resigned Friday after five years in President Bush's Cabinet and at a time when her agency is part of a lobbying scandal over Indian gaming licenses.

In a letter to Bush, Norton said the resignation would be effective at the end of March.

"Now I feel it is time for me to leave this mountain you gave me to climb, catch my breath, then set my sights on new goals to achieve in the private sector," she said in the two-page resignation letter.
How convenient. Disappear into the private sector (where there's more money to be made) before that lobbying scandal gets any bigger. What's up with Norton's resignation letter? An attempt to be poetic?

We already have enough advocates for laying waste to our nation's natural resources. Good riddance to Norton.

2006 legislative session wraps up

The session is over for this year. Most legislators will now be focusing on the autumn elections. Some of the highlights, courtesy of the AP:
EARLY BIRDS: Session lasted 59 days, one shy of the 60 allowed for election-year gatherings.

BRAGGING RIGHTS: Lawmakers passed rewrites of state operating, construction and transportation budgets and a package of business tax cuts. Also bills dealing with gay rights, WASL alternatives and remedial help, water, energy and biofuels, medical malpractice, unemployment insurance, sex predators, earlier primary date, tobacco sampling ban, regional transportation, bestiality ban and e-waste.

BURIAL RITES: Lawmakers "offed" bills dealing with eminent domain, health care at Wal-Mart and other large employers, reporter shield law, payday lending restrictions, higher gambling age, a facelift for the Sonics' arena, identity theft and making the Walla Walla sweet our state vegetable.

FREE LUNCH: Maybe not, but lawmakers struck down the $5 day-use fee for parking at state parks.

BUDGET IN 13 SECONDS: Using a $1.6 billion surplus, lawmakers set aside $935 million in various reserve accounts, boosted spending by $522 million and approved over $50 million in business tax cuts.
And speaking of elections - the Seattle Times has an interesting article this morning: "Republicans say legislative moves by Dems dim GOP election hopes". Here's an excerpt:
Democratic leaders acknowledge that the more centrist items on this year's agenda will leave little campaign fodder for the Republicans.

"What are they going to complain about?" [Speaker of the House] Chopp asked.

Even some Republicans are grumbling about how difficult it will be to go after Democrats.

Chopp and the Democrats have been "eating our lunch," said Rep. Fred Jarrett, R-Mercer Island.

Lawmakers on both sides say the odds are good that Democrats will gain seats in the fall and return next year with even bigger majorities.
It's funny. Not so long ago I remember hearing a lot of gleeful predictions from Republican activists (and even some elected officials) who were sure they would be back in the majority after the 2006 elections. Now we're hearing a different story. It keeps changing.

Certainly, the defeat of I-912 last fall was a huge disaster for the Republican Party. Many Republicans were counting on I-912 to put Democrats in an awkward position and give them an advantage going into 2006.

Their gamble backfired.

Perhaps the party will think twice before endorsing any of this year's crop of right wing initiatives, all of which would only hurt Washington State.

Tacoma Taxk Force Underway

Tacoma's Revenue Task Force is accelerating rapidly. We may not be going very fast yet, but considering we started at zero mph, the acceleration is great.

The City Services Tax Task Force was nominally created by the city council, but more by the effort of new city manager Eric Anderson. He wasn't on the job six months before he recognized the long-term squeeze Tim Eyman and the rest of the deadbeat dads have put on the city's revenue.

At our first meeting we introduced ourselves and listened to the Finance Director and pretended we knew what we were supposed to be doing. At the second we heard from Anderson and got some of our own ideas on the table.

Anderson carried in from Iowa and Illinois an idea of spreading the cost of basic city services – police and fire – to all those who benefit. Seemingly an admirable sentiment, except when those free riders are powerful nonprofits like hospitals and private universities. In an earlier life, it had been Northwestern University. Anderson tried to enact a tuition tax, and "it took four days for the legislature to pass a bill outlawing the idea."

In Tacoma, it's the University of Puget Sound and the hospitals surrounding Wright Park. Two people from UPS are on the task force, David Droge, a professor in small group dynamics and task force chair, and John Hickey, from the business office. Nonprofits have two representatives as well, Liz Heath and Mike Renner.

Anyway, Anderson's idea of extending taxation to nonprofits is going to get a severe review. (Prior to our meeting with Anderson last week we were set to see a video on property tax. The television showed a few seconds of the news as the video was being cued. The image was of the effigy of somebody, maybe George Bush, in flames. "That's part of our video," Anderson said. "Right after my last meeting with the nonprofits.")

To me, anyway, the key is not the nonprofits, although the idea of taxing them is certainly the issue arousing the most heated debate. The big ones can afford to help the city out. The little ones we can let go. There's not enough revenue there to make it worth trying to collect anyway.

The key is Anderson's idea of using the property tax as the vehicle. At the outset, we need the okay of the legislature to tax the property of nonprofits. It's allowed, but only to fire districts. Then he proposes abandoning the city's B&O, abandoning the city's 1% of the sales tax, and expanding the property base by the holdings of the nonprofits. This new base would be responsible for perhaps 75% of the city's general fund expenditures. Since right now the property tax is only about one-fifth of revenues, even if nonprofits expand the base 30 percent as Anderson estimates, the shift of the load means a bump up in the rate of 2.3x.

Billing monthly is part of the plan, and that would take away some of the sting, but not enough to get by the voters, I'm afraid. And it will need to go past the voters, not only at the beginning, but periodically. That's the last part of the scheme, to submit increases to a "city services referendum" periodically to the voters, allowing them to choose whether they want the services or the few dollars a month they'd save.

There are two other major troubles connected to a big shift to a property tax base. First, the size of the increase would mean a renegotiation of tens of thousands of private contracts between landlords and tenants. Not a happy event for either party. Second, the property tax is not exportable. Tacoma residents traveling to Seattle to shop leave a little in the kitty in the form of the sales tax. Seattle residents in Tacoma should return the favor. Likewise, the B&O tax is collected from businesses operating in the city, whether or not they have property here. The property tax, by contrast, is paid almost exclusively by Tacoma.

I have an alternative based on using both the B&O and property taxes which retains the advantages of transparency and accountability from the Anderson proposal. I'll post it or a link to it after I submit it to the group next week.

One good thing, we changed the name from the City Services Tax Task Force to the Revenue Task Force. Try saying City Services Tax Task Force.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dubai gives up, Republicans relieved

Looks like Bush won't get an opportunity to exercise the veto pen:
Bowing to ferocious opposition in Congress, a Dubai-owned company signaled surrender Thursday in its quest to take over operations at U.S. ports.

"DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations ... to a United States entity," the firm's top executive, H. Edward Bilkey, said in an announcement that capped weeks of controversy.

Relieved Republicans in Congress said the firm had pledged full divestiture, a decision that one senator said had been approved personally by the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

The announcement appeared to indicate an end to a politically tinged controversy that brought President Bush and Republicans in Congress to the brink of an election-year veto battle on a terrorism-related issue.
So PortGate is apparently over. But the damage has already been done. Bush is looking more and more like a lame duck - mired in scandals and bad news, unable to do anything with his agenda.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

BREAKING: High winds force closure of SR 520 Floating Bridge

The state Department of Transportation has closed both directions of the State Route 520 Floating Bridge for the rest of the day due to high winds.

According to WSDOT, Beam No. 5, used to open and close the bridge, has been damaged, and the span has been closed as a safety precaution. Drivers are urged to avoid the highway and use alternate routes for the evening commute.

UPDATE: WSDOT says:
We closed the SR 520 Bridge after crews discovered damage to a trunion beam in the bridge's drawspan.

Once crews discovered the damage they closed the bridge and opened the drawspan to prevent further damage to the bridge.

We are trying to complete repairs and reopen the bridge before Thursday morning's commute.

SR 520 is closed between Lake Washington Boulevard on the west side of the bridge and 92nd Avenue NE on the east side of the bridge.
UPDATE II: Just a celebratory note - this is the one thousandth post on the Official Blog, which will be two years old at the end of this month.

NPI releases third podcast

We've released our first podcast for March 2006 (and third overall). The focus of this podcast is right wing ballot measures and the harm they pose towards a sustainable future for Washington State.

The podcast also examines why the initiative process has been hijacked by special interests, and explains how progressive activists can work together to help voters think before they sign a ballot petition. Listeners are urged to take advantage of Permanent Defense's reporting tool to let us know about signature gathering activity.

Report Right Wing Signature Gathering Activity

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.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

TX-28: Cuellar prevails over Ciro Rodriguez (again)

The election results from TX-28 turned out to be very disappointing. There was a big focus on this race and a lot of national promotion of Ciro but it didn't pay any dividends. Henry Cuellar, perhaps the nation's most obnoxious Democrat-In-Name-Only, appears to have prevailed over Ciro Rodriguez in the Democratic primary - again.
It's over. The early voting totals were terrible. Cuellar pulled 12,772 (57.98%) of the early vote. Ciro got 7,579 (34.40%), and Morales got 1,678 (7.62%). This thing was lost before today even began.
Well, at least there was an effort. Unseating incumbents is a difficult business to begin with. I wasn't on the ground in TX-28 so I have no idea why Ciro Rodriguez's voters didn't turn out.

Better luck next time.

UPDATE: Well, Ciro sure doesn't want to give up. More power to him:
"As far as I am concerned we are in a run-off. We will be picking up our signs from the polls and re-using them in thirty days. Until we know exactly what happened today in Webb County, this race is not over.

"I wouldn't be here if I hadn't gotten the support of the online community. It's been overwhelming to see how people can make a difference, and make things happen by coming together, even if it an hour of blockwalking, a few phone calls or $20 and $40 dollars at a time. We must have the final word in who our leadership will be, not the special interests, and we must keep up this fight. I want to think the thousands who have given their time and resources to push this campaign forward.

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart for each and every kind word, dollar bill and one cent."
That's the kind of fighting spirit I like to see. The days of Democrats rolling over and collapsing in close elections need to be over.

Economy on meth, but it's smiling

The difficulty in communicating the true condition of our economy to the larger public lies in the fact that the rotting walls are concealed behind flowery wallpaper. Enormous federal and private borrowing have created an artificial demand which obscures the decay. It won't take much of a tremor to severely damage the structure. Even the current tepid situation cannot be sustained, much less built upon. But there is demand, and the house hasn't fallen apart yet.

Because many on the left are convinced of the underlying weakness of the Bush economy, we sometimes fudge the numbers to show it. An EPI snapshot last week compared productivity to income and net worth. The period 1998-2001 was compared with the next three year period 2001-2004. Not surprisingly the boom years of the late 1990s treated people better than the best years following Bush's tax breaks for the rich. But it looks suspicious when we cherry pick the time periods.

I won't reproduce the chart for fear of copyright infringement, but the sums are Productivity 8.2% v. 11.7%, first period v. second, and Median Family Income 9.5% v. 1.6%. A bit more ambiguity occurs if you look at the stream of productivity vs. real hourly compensation, as below.


The underlying point is valid. Under Bush and the corporate domination of government and the economy, the fruit of productivity increases has been stolen from working people. Ravi Batra has made the wage-productivity gap a cornerstone of his analysis. This is an intriguing if not completely convincing tack, and certainly points in the inevitable direction. One should also note that productivity can be got by several means, one of which is cutting hours and producing the same product. Hours suffered under the Bush regime.

Economic understanding is at a postwar low, however, and even after six years of bullshit and spin, with massive deficits and little to show for it, Bush has not needed to change his line. His doofus economics still gets a hearing.
"Losing jobs is painful, so let's make sure people are educated so they can find – fill the jobs of the 21st century. And let's make sure there's pro-growth economic policies in place. What does that mean? That means low taxes; it means less regulation; it means fewer lawsuits; it means wise energy policy."
... pitiful.

Can Rodriguez unseat Cuellar in TX-28?

We'll know tonight. Some information on the primary from Chuco at Daily Kos:
The common wisdom is that in order to overturn the results of the last cycle (when he lost by 58 votes), Ciro Rodriguez will have to do a better job of turning out the vote in his home base of Bexar County (San Antonio), and hope that the opposite happens in Webb County (Laredo), the home of closet Republican Henry Cuellar. Well, early voting is over in the primaries, and the totals for both counties are in.

Early voting is a good indicator of the total turn out because normally 65% of the voters in the Democratic primaries cast their vote early. In Webb County, the early vote totals were 2.5% below the early votes cast in the last cycle. The opposite is true in Bexar County, where there is an early vote increase of 7.3% from those cast in 2004. Laredo's decrease is especially noteworthy because its booming population growth allowed for a 4% increase in the number of registered voters for this election, versus the numbers registered in March of 2004.

My analysis is that there will be a decrease in the overall number of voters in Laredo in this cycle, from those that voted in 2004, because a stirring race for county sheriff in 2004 tweaked the turn out in the last cycle. The decrease in early voters in Laredo this cycle, despite a significant increase in registered voters, tends to prove my hypothesis.

Another point worthy of discussion is based on the fact that the 28th CD takes in only a part of Bexar and Webb Counties. This cycle, a race pulling out many voters in Webb County is for an open county commissioner's seat, contested by 6 candidates. Unfortunately for the sell-out Cuellar, this commissioner's district is wholly outside the 28th CD. On the other hand, the race turning out the most voters in Bexar County is for a highly-contested state senate seat between Madla and Uresti (both San Antonio home-boys), in a state senatorial district which overlaps the 28th CD in Bexar County. Accordingly, in my estimation the gap between the 2.5% decrease in early votes in Webb County versus the 7.3% increase in Bexar County, is actually greater when you consider only the voters eligible to vote in the 28th CD race (those totals are not available).
Tom Delay also has to survive a primary tonight in TX-22 - that'll be another interesting race to watch. Delay will likely survive the primary and end up facing Democrat Nick Lampson in the general election this November. I certainly wouldn't mind that scenario. I'd love to see Lampson knock Delay out of the House once and for all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Seattle Times discovers yet another reason to support the Alaskan Way Tunnel

Yesterday the Seattle Times published an article by reporter Mike Lindblom which noted that a rebuilt version of the Alaskan Way Viaduct would be 50 percent wider than the current structure.

Viaduct ComparisonNPI opposes the construction of a new viaduct for multiple reasons - primarily because it isn't the safest option, but also because it would be another ugly eyesore and a barrier to making the city a better place.

As Allied Arts Waterfront Committee chair Sally Bagshaw noted, "The aerial structure itself is absolutely not an acceptable option. It will kill the waterfront for the next 75 years."


Lindblom discovered that several legislators who are pushing for the state to abandon the tunnel and focus on the unfeasible "rebuild" option were unaware that a new viaduct would be a lot wider:
Asked about size last week, Reps. Helen Sommers and Mary Lou Dickerson, both anti-tunnel Democrats from North Seattle, thought a new aerial highway would leave the same footprint as the 1952 version. Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, a tunnel supporter and House Transportation Committee chairman, knew the rebuild would be bigger. Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, had no idea.

"It certainly couldn't be any uglier," she said.
Here's why a new viaduct would be so much wider:
  • Columns would be 8-foot-wide cylinders, to withstand the worst expected earthquake in 2,500 years, project manager Ron Paananen said. The current viaduct has 4-foot-by-5-foot rectangular supports.
  • New shoulders would allow cars to pull off the highway, which is impossible now — as seen on Friday morning, when a truck had a flat near Pioneer Square and slowed morning traffic.
  • Traffic lanes would be 12 feet wide. On the current viaduct, some are 10 feet or leaner, so trucks and buses can't fit into them.
As I wrote last Friday, replacing the current viaduct with a tunnel is a sensible investment:
A tunnel would be safer, allow the waterfront to be revitalized, and would take less time to construct then the "rebuild" option. It would also be cleaner, with less air and water pollution.
Seattle has a golden opportunity to redefine the waterfront and build a safe aterial for transportation at the same time. It's nice to see that Mayor Greg Nickels and his administration have recognized this and are continuing to work hard to make the Alaskan Way Tunnel a reality.

AP writer's criticism of Jon Stewart falls flat

So the AP's Frazier Moore wasn't too impressed with Jon Stewart's hosting gig last night. In a review which a number of media outlets inside and outside the U.S. have already picked up (Stewart disappoints as Oscars host), the TV writer attacked the Daily Show host for being bland and un-funny, declaring that Stewart's "usually impeccable blend of puckishness and self-effacement fell flat in the service of Oscar."

When I first saw the review on the Seattle P-I's website, I was unhappy that no effort had been made to clearly denote that the criticism was an editorial, not part of an objective article. Since then, at least the P-I has clarified that it is an editorial by putting "review" in the headline. Good for them.

Frazier Moore may not have liked Jon Stewart's performance - but I sure did, and so did many other critics. On ABC's post-Oscar show, two of the nation's most well known film critics - Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper - said Stewart was "fabulous" and "great" as the host of the Oscars.

Leslie Gray Streeter, writing for the Palm Beach Post, said Stewart's monologue was the "best opening montage ever". Writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, columnist D Parvaz wrote:
The question of the night was this: Can Jon Stewart save the Oscars? The answer, thankfully, was hell yes -- he can, and did.

Stewart managed to do what a long list of hosts, including big talents like Chris Rock and Steve Martin failed to do, which is to remain true to their comedy while dealing with the format of the show

[...]

Of all of Stewart's triumphs last night, the best was the fact that he didn't make a single "I wish I could quit you," joke. Instead, he pointed out that "Capote" showed Americans that "not all gay people are virile cowboys. Some are actually effete New York intellectuals." God, here's hoping they offer him the gig again next year.
William Arnold, also authoring a review for the Seattle P-I, wrote that Stewart did pretty well for a rookie host:
In his debut outing as Oscar host, comedian Jon Stewart did, I think, surprisingly well. He was stiff in the opening and throughout the first half seemed slightly intimidated by the surroundings. But he loosened up in the second half and commanded the rest of the ceremony like Billy Crystal at his best
Moira MacDonald, over at the Seattle Times, didn't have too much to say about Stewart's performance, but she did have praise:
Jon Stewart, hosting for the first time, seemed at ease and landed a few effective one-liners. "Good Night, and Good Luck," he said, wasn't just the title of an Oscar-nominated film but was "the way George Clooney ends all his dates." After a montage of issue movies, he intoned in basso tones, "And none of these issues were ever a problem again." He mostly avoided political humor, though he did note that Björk, she of the famous swan dress, wasn't present this year because "she was trying on her Oscar dress, and Dick Cheney shot her."
Finally, here's Gene Seymour, writing for the Chicago Tribune, who declared that Stewart had succeeded as a host:
Let's see now. What was it they were worried about? That Jon Stewart would be too esoteric? Too political? Too much the cable cult figure to make it as an Oscar host?

Please.

Stewart did exactly what a contemporary Academy Awards host is supposed to do. He's supposed to keep the zingers coming fast enough to work the room while nudging and winking at those of us watching at home.
There. Take that, Frazier Moore. Jon Stewart was no disappointment. He was a breath of fresh air into the Oscars. I am delighted that producer Gil Gates asked him to host this year, and I hope he's offered the job again next year.

Jon Stewart may not have fallen flat in his Oscar performance - but Moore's criticism sure did. And Moore's shoddy review may have been picked up by a lot of media outlets, but it's definitely not the critical consensus.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jon Stewart hosts the Oscars

Right now, live on ABC. Stewart's opening monologue was very funny - complete with a joke about Dick Cheney and poking fun at various Hollywood personalities. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Leslie Gray Streeter, writing for the Palm Beach Post, calls it "the best opening montage ever". And the opening sketch, which poked fun at the Academy Award hosting job, was absolutely hilarious. Here's a short recap of some the jokes from the opening monologue.

So far, George Clooney is the winner for Best Supporting Actor, and King Kong is the winner for Best Visual Effects. Wallace & Gromit just won for Best Animated Film.

UPDATE: Another hilarious sketch - narrated by one of the Daily Show's best voices (can you guess who!?) poking fun at all of the nominees for Best Actress with a seriods of "political" ads campaigning for or against one or more of the other nominees.

The Best Motion Picture of the Year is: Crash (an upset: Brokeback Mountain was considered the favorite, and a huge triumph for independent film distributor-studio LionsGate)

Other award winners:
Supporting Actor: George Clooney, "Syriana."
Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener."
Animated Feature Film: "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit."
Costume: "Memoirs of a Geisha."
Documentary Feature: "March of the Penguins."
Documentary (short subject): A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin."
Makeup: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
Animated Short Film: "The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation."
Live Action Short Film: "Six Shooter."
Visual Effects: "King Kong."
Sound Mixing: "King Kong."
Sound Editing: "King Kong."
Original Score: Gustavo Santaolall, "Brokeback Mountain,"
Best Song From A Motion Picture: "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp", written and performed by Three 6 Mafia
Best Foreign-Language Film: Tsotsi, from South Africa
Best Film Editing: Hughes Winborne, "Crash"
Achievement in Cinematography: Dion Beebe, "Memoirs of a Geisha"
Best Actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana, "Brokeback Mountain"
Best Original Screenplay: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco, "Crash"
Best Director: Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"

Oscar winners previously announced this year:
Honorary Academy Award (Oscar statuette): Robert Altman.
The Gordon E. Sawyer award for technical achievement (Oscar statuette): Gary Demos.

Capitalism, the Movie

And they call us starry eyed idealists.
"Laughable and Simplistic" - Cleveland Star
Fantasy and the business world - Des Moines Plain Dealer
Outrageously inaccurate - Kansas City Register
Fortunately most moviegoers are less credulous than Clive Crook in the latest Atlantic. Clive tells a story much more inane than the sappiest Pollyanna about the virtues of capitalism. He ends with the moral, "It will all be okay if we only believe." It is the tired and trite tale of how government interference screws up the free and efficient operation of business. That which brought us our immense prosperity and abundance falters only because of unnecessary meddling.

Clive is frustrated because he cannot find anyone – not economists, not corporate leaders, not even their conservative mouthpieces in Congress – to support him.

Economists are reluctant to get on board because they know the same hands off free market capitalism that infatuates Clive actually brought us the Great Depression and the similar economic "panics" of the years prior to World War II. Only after the rise of Big Government and the moderation of business's domination of markets did fairly steady increases in prosperity begin.

"Competitive markets are great, but you can't make any money in them," say the corporate leaders. "Instead let us dominate markets and something will somehow trickle down to you. What's good for GM is good for the US, don't you know."

Only a few beady-eyed folks in tinfoil hats actually press our elected representatives for more free markets. Instead Congress and state legislatures are begged by business for more tax breaks and market protections, and entreated by consumers and labor for relief from corporate predation.

Is it the marketplace which created prosperity, cloning itself into ever higher forms? Or was prosperity seeded, watered and pollinated by public education, publically financed railroads and transportation systems, more or less uniform laws, systematic regulation of those precious markets, and of course, research universities and government-led space and defense projects?

The successful economies today are not those where the invisible hand swings most freely, but those of Scandinavia, where there are two hands clapping, where public research and develpment augments private. Where social security is social and secure.

The root of Clive's distress is his continuing confusion between the corporate capitalism that exists in the world today and the free market capitalism that exists in the minds of people who need to get out more. The difference between the two is night and day, not degrees of inflection.

The incredible market failure in Oil is a current example. Immense environmental and geopolitical costs are invisible to the market price of fuel, which thus results in a massive subsidy of our own destruction. Hands off these corporations in the name of free markets is like saying, Hands off serial killers in the name of animal rights.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Sonics get nothing this year

We're certainly fine with that:
The Sonics' future in Seattle was left in question Saturday after Gov. Christine Gregoire and legislative leaders announced there would be no vote in the Legislature this year on a taxpayer-funded expansion of KeyArena.

But Gregoire and lawmakers pledged to work with the team, as well as with city and county officials, to come up with a plan that might fly next year.

Gregoire and lawmakers had given the Sonics, city and county until noon Saturday to reach agreement on a funding package. They weren't able to do that.

"The time has run out," Gregoire said.
Remind us again why we need to continue bailing out professional sports teams (which, for the most part, seem to have wealthy owners) with public money?

If they can't succeed on their own, then that's too bad. It doesn't make sense to me to give the Sonics millions of dollars in public money while some people in our society are starving or don't have a place to live.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Precinct caucuses are tomorrow

Washington State Democrats will meet across the state at 2 PM tomorrow for the midterm precinct caucuses. Attendees will focus on grassroots organizing and the development of of the party's platform. They will also elect delegates for the legislative district caucuses and county conventions.

Citizens who consider themselves Democrats are strongly urged to come to the precinct caucuses. To find out where your precinct is meeting, please visit the Washington State Democrats' Precinct Caucus locator page. Many neighboring precincts will meet together in "clusters" within the state's 49 legislative districts.

Precincts within the 8th Congressional District should be seeing a video of Darcy Burner or perhaps they will even see Darcy herself.

Key threat to Alaskan Way Tunnel defeated

Good news from yesterday:
The proposal to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel may have gotten a nine-month reprieve Thursday, with the state House moving to put off a decision until early next year and let Gov. Christine Gregoire determine the viaduct's future.

A House budget amendment putting an April 1 deadline on financing the tunnel was withdrawn Thursday after Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels objected and state senators made clear they didn't like the deadline proposed by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle. A House committee adopted Dickerson's amendment earlier this week.
Representatives Dickerson and Helen Sommers foolishly thought it would be a good idea to force the city and the state to drop the tunnel option and focus solely on the unfeasible "rebuild" option.

Though building the Alaskan Way Tunnel would be more expensive, it's a worthy investment. The cheapest solution is not always the best solution. A tunnel would be safer, allow the waterfront to be revitalized, and would take less time to construct then the "rebuild" option. It would also be cleaner, with less air and water pollution.

The current viaduct is unsafe and really ought to be shut down immediately. But tearing down the viaduct and ultimately replacing it with nothing is not a feasible idea. As the region continues to grow, a second arterial through Seattle will become more important than ever.

Obviously you can't build your way out of traffic, but it makes sense to have more than one limited access arterial going through Seattle that is not restricted by traffic lights. Such an arterial keep the express buses moving through downtown.

More lanes aren't necessary, but the tunnel won't have more lanes than the current viaduct has. The tunnel could also be shut down and used as a key transportation lifeline in case of emergencies like a serious earthquake. Simply put, the tunnel is a sound investment that the city and state ought to make.

Another lousy online poll

The Puget Sound Business Journal's latest "Business Pulse Survey" question is:

If the U.S. Senate race were held tomorrow, would you vote for Democrat Sen. Maria Cantwell or Republican challenger Mike McGavick?

Of course, online polls are entirely meaningless, unscientific, and inconclusive...but that's no reason to let the other side win. You can cast your vote for Maria here.

Meanwhile, the Mike McGavick campaign continues to try and make hay over yesterday's non-event:
In a stunning reversal of policy credited to work done by Mike, Sen. Ted Stevens yesterday announced that he is not going to pursue his bill to overturn the Magnusson amendment. Stevens' bill could have allowed an increase in the amount of tanker traffic in Puget Sound.

Through a constructive dialogue Mike started with Stevens on the tanker issue last year, he was able to demonstrate to Stevens that the wishes of Washingtonians should be respected.

[...]

As Mike said: "I'm glad that, as a candidate, I was able to win on this issue for our state."
Some win. Stevens was incredibly stupid to introduce the legislation in the first place, and he continues to provide Sen. Maria Cantwell with ammunition for her reelection campaign. It's hard not to burst out laughing when you hear the words "stunning reversal of policy".

Oh...and by the way...to whoever authored this "McGavick Update" ... it's Magnuson, not "Magnusson".

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mike McGavick's new campaign theme is the same as the old one

This morning, Republican Mike McGavick held a press conference at his headquarters to tout his "central campaign theme" with the local media. The event, which was announced earlier, was carefully timed to occur after this news from Washington D.C. became known:
In an abrupt reversal, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens said Thursday he will not pursue legislation that could have loosened a law limiting oil tanker traffic in Puget Sound.

The proposal would have changed key portions of the 1977 Magnuson Amendment, which limits expansion of oil refineries and the number of oil tankers entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. The law, named after the late Sen. Warren Magnuson, D-Wash., restricts expansion of oil traffic unless it is "for consumption in the state of Washington."

Stevens said he decided to drop the legislation after discussing it with fellow Republican Mike McGavick, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat from Washington state this year.

"I have never in my 38 years in the Senate asked to have any bill I introduced be permanently postponed, but that is my intention now," Stevens said in a speech on the Senate floor. "For years, I fought for Alaska's right to determine our state's future and develop our own energy resources, particularly on the Arctic Coastal Plain. I defer to this policy now because I believe the people of Washington ought to make this decision."
Oh...how nice.

If Stevens truly believes "the people of Washington ought to make this decision", then why did he introduce the legislation in the first place?

According to sources, McGavick used his event this morning first to declare victory over the withdrawal of Stevens' legislation, and second, to push his "central campaign theme" - which turns out to be nothing more than a repackaged version of Mike's earlier calls for "more civility":
I really believe that when we look to Washington D.C. right now we see a culture in which to many people are caught up in, of permanent campaigning. For every issue is an opportunity to raise money and issue press releases, have petitions that capture more names to raise more money, to issue more press releases but not to get together to have heart-to-heart conversation and try to solve problems.

I think that's exactly why people are so frustrated with Washington right now - with Washington D.C. right now - [this] is exactly the kind of voice of Northwestern common sense, of Northwestern civility, that I think by being added to the Senate I can help break that down and get Washington D.C. back to solving the problems that confront families.
McGavick would not say whether Stevens or Cantwell had been "uncivil" in the debates over the tanker proposal and Arctic drilling, instead preferring to stick to general assaults on the "culture of permanent campaigning" of the U.S. Senate.

Aside from attempting to take credit for persuading Ted Stevens to drop his tanker proposal, McGavick apparently had nothing new to say.

Unfortunately for Mike McGavick, a call for more "civility" is not going to help him win in November. A recent Elway poll showed that Maria Cantwell currently enjoys a 55 to 25 percent lead over Mike McGavick.

44% of those polled stated that a Democratic incumbent is more likely to reduce partisanship than a Republican challenger, while 26% disagreed. And even more alarming, McGavick polls seven points behind a generic candidate!

Mike McGavick has nothing to run on. His campaign appears stuck in first gear, unable to get any traction whatsoever. He only has one theme and it's not resonating with voters.

So far, McGavick's candidacy has been completely uninspiring, dull, and boring, filled with endless kickoff events but nothing of substance. If this is the best the GOP can do it's hard to imagine how McGavick will manage to get more than 40% of the vote next November.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Deserting the ship

Last week, Al Franken talked about a Neocon confession written for the NYT Magazine by Francis Fukuyama, an instructor at John Hopkins University and apparently a noted Neocon. ("After Neoconservatism," New York Times Magazine, 2.19.06.) I had to pick it up.

I was disappointed. I was thrilled. I was perplexed.

As an intellectual foundation, this is beach sand. Neocons knocked down the gate with their big budget spin machines and this is all they have? They didn't use Occam's Razor, they used Occam's Silly String. Rather than work from evidence to conclusions, Neocon thinking runs from conclusions to a misapprehension of the facts. And there is no economic part of it.

You can get an idea of where they were, when after an apparently long trip of self-searching Fukuyama expresses this as an epiphany: "Good governance, which involves not just democracy but also the rule of law and economic development, is critical to a host of outcomes we desire ...."

Actually, that is the outcome we should desire. But he never really gets the point, because this "democracy" of which he speaks is a top-down version provided by the "benevolent hegemon," i.e., the U.S. Real democracy never penetrates his thinking.

In the category of strange discoveries:
Neoconservatism was begun by a cadre of New York intellectuals in the late 1930s and early 1940s, many of whom started out as Trotskyites. Being disillusioned by Stalin's dictatorship, they extracted lessons and applied them to the pragmatic liberalism that informed this country's development from FDR until Reagan.

Later in the piece, Fukuyama identifies a position articulated by Neocon authors as "Leninist." "They believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as a farce when practiced by the United States."

He does point out that Americans who wanted to defend the country from nuclear attack – Jackson Democrats, he calls them – do not have the same appetite for a war to promote Democracy for the godless, or at least Falwell-less.
The "benevolent hegemony" which I always assumed was an affectation of arrogance invisible to its practitioners is actually a conscious program. The following is a tenet from one of the texts: "It is precisely because American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality that other nations find they have less to fear from its otherwise daunting power."

Obviously this was written before the Iraq War, but still ... can it be that where I assumed was a cynical and ruthless pursuit of parochial interests was instead this Pollyana foolishness?

No. It can't be. This intellectual base is so weak that it rose to power only on the strength of Texas Oil and a corporate coup d'etat led by Dubya and Cheney. Any theoretical pretensions are simply a fig leaf to cover the Right's doing what it wants to do because it has the power to do it. It is similar to Reagan and Supply Side economics. Supply Side is a totally fatuous proposition based on the idea that the only incentives that work are big incentives for those already at the top. But Reagan wanted to spend himself silly and cut taxes at the same time, so he raised the Laffer Curve from the back of a napkin to national policy. (The Laffer Curve described how cutting taxes can increase revenue. Don't Laff, Dubya is blowing the same smoke today.)

Near the end of the piece, Fukuyama rises to the full extent of his professorial frame and announces, "Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support." Then he trots off down the anchor chain and into the dockside warehouses.

I have the feeling that he didn't know this wouldn't work only because up till now nobody has been dumb enough to try it.

Pacific NW Portal Due For Major Upgrade

Pacific Northwest Portal hasn't received a significant update since last October, and it's about time for an upgrade. We're hard at work putting together new features and reconfiguring the site to make it easier to use.

A number of people have asked if we were even working on the site and the answer is yes. I am not sure when the new version will be ready but I think there's a good chance it will be this month. Keep in mind that we still have quite a bit of work to do and a lot of improvements that we want to make.

Your feedback, as always, is welcome. If you have suggestions or comments concerning the new version, please send them to us.