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Sunday, April 30, 2006

In Brief - April 30th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Kossack grokgov has set up a new website, Thank You Stephen Colbert, to thank the comedian for ripping Bush, the GOP, and right wing media to shreds at the White House Correspondents Dinner. If you haven't seen the video yet, watch it in Flash here (Part I), here (Part 2), and here (Part 3). Transcript is here.
  • The Seattle Weekly reports that the Washington State Republican Party has retired its $1 million debt from last year's lawsuit challenging the election of Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire.
  • Senator Maria Cantwell was on Face the Nation this morning, opposite Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. If you watched, then you know she did a great job.
  • Shaun over at Upper Left approvingly reviews the list of Democratic litigants suing to prevent Bush and congressional Republicans from ignoring the Constitution.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

John Kenneth Galbraith ... 1908-2006

One of the few remaining giants of economics died last night, having lived a long and fruitful life. John Kenneth Galbraith was a school unto himself. His analysis of the post-war industrial corporate United States lifted a veil for many of us.

Galbraith was of a generation when economists mattered, and when economies worked in the creation of a broad middle class. Like the great John Maynard Keynes, Galbraith took an active role in government, particularly under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He was Kennedy's ambassador to India, where he provided immense and timely service.

It was a time when economists who grew from the Great Depression spoke directly and forcefully and insightfully. They were a cut above today's crop, among the best minds of their generation. Now we have market followers holding the coats of politicians and ideologues or calling down from academic minarets in half intelligible jargon that at its best applied to another time or circumstance.

The Nobel Prize in economics is made forever superfluous for never having been awarded to this man. The half-baked Rational Expectations theorists, the unimportant historians, the wrong mathematicians, and the Monetarist hacks have all received the Prize, but Galbraith never did. Undoubtedly this is because the Prize is awarded by a committee from the Swedish central bank, not as others by a Nobel committee, and thus is subject to the rectal myopia of bankers. But since it is only awarded to the living, it has now lost its last opportunity for relevance.

It was not only his theory and analysis, but Galbraith's wonderful writing style and the gravity and scope of his mind, which placed things in appropriate scale and weight and inexorably clarified his subject.

He was a liberal from his heart and from his mind, a man who knew economics as cooperation, not competition, as a building of society, not a scramble for the top. A wonderful, humorous, wise man.

An economic theory for the world we know

An extremely important piece by economist James K. Galbraith appears in his monthly Mother Jones space, "The Econoclast."

"The Predator State" tells you everything you already knew about corporate evil, but it becomes a system or "model" here under Galbraith's pen. I have not seen this elsewhere. In a page and a half it brings together ... Well, if I had that many words I could tell you. Since I don't, I won't spoil it by trying. I'll just tell you to read it and give you a taste:
"Today, the signature of modern American capitalism is neither benign competition, nor class struggle, nor an inclusive middle class utopia. Instead, predation has become the dominant feature – a system wherein the rich have come to feast on decaying systems built for the middle class. The predatory class is not the whole of the wealthy ... but it is the leading force. And its agents are in full control of the government under which we live."
By "model" and "system," I mean this is not simply a rehash of grievances or a litany of new outrages. This is an explanatory tool for what has happened and what is likely to happen. Economists like systems, and we will hold on to a good explanatory model long after all evidence in support of it has been discredited. Witness Supply Side, or the New Classical economics of Academia. In Galbraith's exposition we have a system for which the evidence is mounting every day.

I have been critical of Galbraith (James K.) in the past for not completing the loop of his thought. In this case he has completed it perfectly, and the accomplishment is a great benefit to us all.

The text of this issue is not yet up on the Internet where I can find it. When and if it shows up in a legitimate format, I'll amend this post with a link to it.

AND HERE IS THAT LINK: Mother Jones and the Econoclast

Saturday, April 29, 2006

FairPAC forms to counter BIAW group

The P-I's Neil Modie has an article this morning about a welcome political development:
Reacting to the creation of a political action committee to elect conservative-leaning candidates to the state Supreme Court and other judicial posts, a coalition of mostly progressive organizations is forming a political committee of its own.

[...]

FairPAC's initial supporters also include such generally left-of-center organizations as Naral Pro-Choice Washington, Washington Conservation Voters, Washington State Labor Council, Service Employees International Union, the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association and Equal Rights Washington.
There had been some concerns that major Washington State progressive groups might not be able to get their act together, but with the formation of FairPAC, those worries are eased greatly.

The BIAW and its allies will not go unchallenged this November when they attempt to install their own extremist candidates on the court. We look forward to seeing FairPAC get off the ground and ultimately defeat this right wing assault on our independent judiciary.

New numbers? No.

The new OFM Six-Year Outlook made it to the front page this week under the head "State goes from feast to famine on budget" (TNT, 4.26.06). This is not the budget hole we have been warning about the state dropping into, so we won't be doing any gloating, yet.

The omelette may have one fewer egg in the latest OFM (Washington Office of Financial Management) recipe, but it is not "feast to famine." We've had a couple of good years, but our family is growing and the farm is not. Under the leadership of Chris Gregoire we have a year's worth of canned goods in the cellar and we've stocked some staples, but there ain't no feasting in this house.

The "respite from budget woes" that will "end abruptly" is really only the underlying deterioration agitated by a bit of this and a bit of that. Most of it is mandatory, a bit of it the few new initiatives from the last session.

In fact, there are no changes to projected revenues from the February 15 version of the Outlook, and it is revenues that worry us. The housing boom is tapering off and higher fuel prices will squeeze retail sales. Even before that, where OFM sees a 5% underlying growth, we put it at under 4%. But maybe they are waiting on Chang Mook Sohn and the Office of Forecast Council to tweak revenues. [Not that oil prices and the Forecast Council have agreed on a direction yet. They're still debating. During the session, Mr. Sohn suggested prices in the $50-$60 per barrel range. A couple of years ago, the Council's forecast came out projecting a retreat in oil prices to under $30 just before they took off. Now they are $70-plus and rising.]

The whole budget situation was, of course, obfuscated immediately by Republican state senator Joe Zarelli, who threw out his tired old pitch and labeled it a "spending problem." I wish he would direct his remarks to his own party and the federal budget that is driving this country into the ditch.

Helen Sommers is chair of the House committee assigned spending (Appropriations). She points to the "unbelievably high costs in the medical area." Elsewhere there is mention of 12 percent "inflation" for medical assistance.

"Inflation" is a term for a general rise in the price level. A specific rise is called a "cost increase." It may be driven by increased participation in a program, or it may be an increase in the unit cost of a particular good or service, but there is not specific "inflation." This messy language messes up thinking, and it's been there for at least five years. (I know, "picky-picky.")

The substantial point is that comprehensive health care reform could solve everybody's problems. My friend who lost his job has VA coverage. But his wife doesn't. Nine hundred dollars ($900) per month. The state budget has big bills for the uninsured, partly insured, and a host of employees. Likewise the Feds and the local governments. Likewise businesses of every kind and size. This health care crisis is an inflating ring around our necks, and it's going to choke us all.

It needs to be dealt with as a particular cost increase. It is acute, not chronic.

Look for a fuller examination of the OFM Outlook on Prediction Tuesday in two weeks.

NPI Radio Alert

If you're in the Tri-Cities, I'll be on 610 KONA AM this morning at 10:15 AM discussing the disastrous consequences of Initiative 917.

UPDATE: Just finished about a half hour ago (10:40 AM). Tim Eyman was also on and spouting his usual nonsense about how we're one ofd the highest taxed states in the nation. For more information about the dangerous consequences of I-917 visit Permanent Defense.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I-917 Endangers Our Future

This is the second in a special, several part series on the threat that this year's crop of right wing ballot measures pose to the sustainable future of Washington State. A reminder that you can help the progressive movement take advantage of our First Amendment rights by reporting right wing signature gathering activity when you observe it occurring. And don't forget that you have every right to urge fellow voters not to sign a petition for a right wing ballot measure.

About a year ago, right wing zealot and initiative profiteer Tim Eyman announced his plans for a 2006 initiative to wipe out a substantial part of the 2005 Transportation Package approved by the state Legislature and Governor Christine Gregoire.

Earlier this year, in January, Eyman followed through on his plans by filing Initiative 917, which, if passed, will not only destroy some $2.7 billion in sorely needed transportation funding, but also harms the ability of Puget Sound voters to determine their own destiny.

Eyman's initiative effort is largely subsidized by his sugar daddy, Michael Dunmire, who last year poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into I-900 and is apparently willing to dump a similiar amount into I-917. With a massive influx of money from Dunmire, Eyman should be able to buy his way onto the ballot - again.

I-917 has serious consequences for Washington State. Were it to pass, it would wipe out funding for Amtrak, the State Patrol, Washington State Ferries, and highway safety projects. It also impacts Sound Transit by taking away the ability for the agency to collect a motor vehicle excise tax (MVET).

If that happened, the agency would lose 20% of the funding for Sound Move projects – which could impact current Sounder commuter rail, ST Express bus services, and plans for future projects. Defeasing bonds, which is what Eyman wants, would pose a serious service challenge for all transit modes, including Sound Transit express buses, the most widely supported mass transit option.

I-917 is also another assault on home rule. It would seriously hurt the Puget Sound region's ability to generate local transportation funding by removing the MVET as an option for raising revenue.

The 2005 Transportation Package is a significant, sorely needed investment in transportation infrastructure. Without public investments in transportation, our state's sustainable future is jeopardized.

Previous Eyman initiatives have made it extroadinarily difficult to move forward by axing projects and services. The Legislature and Governor Gregoire acted courageously last year to restore lost funding and get the state back on track. Now, Tim Eyman is attempting to derail their efforts.

He's not only disrespecting the state's political leadership, but he's also disrespecting the voters of Washington State, who last fall sent a clear message about investing in transportation by voting down I-912 in large numbers.

There's a lot riding on our transportation system: our goods, our jobs, and most importantly, our safety. If we want our communities to be healthy, then we must invest in a safe, modern, and viable transportation system. It's the appropriate thing to do.

We believe in an effective government, and an effective government must be properly funded so it can serve its citizens well.

We have a moral responsibility to defeat proposals such as Initiative 917, and ensure that our commmunities are well served by a strong, safe, and efficient transportation system.

If you are approached to sign I-917, tell the petitioner you oppose this assault on our sustainable future - and report the incident to Permanent Defense.

Fix your own house, Sonics

Ultimatum: Sonics, Sonics owners, NBA -- Step up to a little responsibility your own selves. Millionaire owners and millionaire players want taxpayers to pony up $200 million for another re-do of the Coliseum, this one mostly so the team can seal inside whatever economic benefit there is to having them in town.

Hello, NHL, as Omir the Storyteller suggested in his comment to our last Sonics post.

David Stern, Sonics GM Wally Walker, and Sonics principle owner Howard Shultz have been playing tag team wrestlers on the city council, with governor Chris Gregoire officiating. So far it's been lots of flaming leotards and smack vs. a brick wall.

Fix your own house. And I'm not talking about Key Arena. I'm talking about the financial mess of a league that requires an annual payroll for 12-15 players of $80 million, generates a business you need $200 million to buy into, gives tax breaks of three times operating losses, and still requires extorting more from the citizens. It's a monopoly run amok. Come up with something that gives us some choices or protects us from you having no competition.

The NBA proved itself a methodical monopoly when it absorbed women's basketball. It started its own league, then ran the competition into the ground via the television contract. But enough is enough. It's time for these guys to clean up their own business so teams compete on the court, not in my wallet.

And if they don't?

I'll do nothing.

Which is exactly what the Sonics ought to do for the remaining three years on their lease.

David Stern, NBA Commissioner, refuses to take any responsibility.
"I would say that the city is making it pretty clear of what they want us to do, and we'll accommodate them."
Huh?
What I mean is they're not interested in having the NBA there. We understand that, we understand that there are competing issues, and the mayor is free to make whatever decisions he needs to make and I support that. But that's a pretty strong signal and I think that the existing ownership has said they don't want to own a team that's not in Seattle, so I know what they're in the process of doing. So we'll just see how this play ends."
It's a weird strategy for the NBA to throw away Seattle, because that's what they're doing if they insist on a price that is this ridiculous structure and its gametime-only amenities. If the national economy turns down, it may be that Seattle has the only lights left on outside the oilfields. It would be a good place to have a sports franchise.

[We really ought to look into these tax rules. According to the Seattle Times, a kind of depreciation on player contracts is allowed "for the first several years after they buy a team" which can be used against other tax liabilities.(?)(!) Could it be the "losses" are soon going to become losses, as in real money, and this is what is generating the interest in new revenue?]

The suite owners are already writing those costs off their corporate taxes. The bonds that financed the last remodel are tax exempt. Since Washington has no state income tax, the players (several earning over $5 million per year) pay more into the general funds of other states than they do into Washington's.

So the citizens are doing their fair share.

Thanks to the Mayor and Council for not caving in.

We'll see how the play ends.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

New Official Blog Template Released

We've once again upgraded the design and format of the Official Blog to better serve our readers. This upgrade is released as Version 3.5.

The first part of the upgrade is the comment and trackback feature, which we've been tweaking over the past week. As was announced yesterday, if a thread has comments in it, or if a trackback ping has been left, the link will display as "Comments >>" instead of "Comments" (or, "Trackback >>" instead of "Trackback"). This should take care of the unreliable post counter while allowing readers to see whether a thread is empty or not.

The second part of the upgrade is the improved sidebar. We've added a Campaigns section with link buttons to the Peter Goldmark campaign and our ActBlue page. We've also improved the code in order to provide better compatibility across multiple browsers and platforms.

Finally, the last part of the upgrade are the improved post pages. Post pages (accessed by permanent links) will no longer display the entire sidebar when loaded. Only some elements - such as the Navigate NPI menu, the Infocenter, Previous Posts, and the Archives dropdown selector will display on post pages. This should improve speed and reduce clutter on those pages.

While these changes are minor, they will hopefully create a better reading and viewing experience.

BREAKING: Finkbeiner won't seek reelection

Bill Finkbeiner, who has represented the 45th for the last 14 years, has announced he won't seek reelection to the state Senate:
As for what’s next, I will continue the privilege of representing the people of the 45th District until the end of the year. I will also continue pursuing my master’s degree. It’s an exciting time in my life, and I am looking forward to putting everything I have learned in school, the private sector and the Legislature to use in future endeavors.

Finally, I want to bid a fond farewell to all the senators I have served with, but especially to the members of my caucus. They have been tremendous to work with and work for. It has been a real honor to serve with them.
Toby Nixon, the 45th's only Republican Representative (Larry Springer, a Democrat, is the other representative), has publicly stated (and confirms his previous statements to David Goldstein here) that he would run for state Senate if Bill retired.

So apparently Toby Nixon is running against Eric Oemig for the State Senate, and the 45th District Democrats now have an opportunity to run a candidate for an open seat. Legislative races are sure to be a hot topic at next week's monthly meeting.

When asked to respond to Finkbeiner's announcement, Eric Oemig told NPI:
My reasons for running haven't changed - only the opponent. I am as committed to making Washington stronger as I was when I started running.
Perhaps Eric's reasons for running haven't changed, but the dynamics of the race have changed, and not in a bad way.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In Brief - April 29th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • We've listened to feedback from readers and have modified the comment and trackback feature to indicate when there are comments in a thread. If a post has comments in the thread, the "Posted by" line will show "Comments >>" instead of just "Comments", and trackback will work the same way.
  • Rep. Charlie Gonzales of Texas made it clear today where his loyalties lie: with Verizon, At&T, Comcast, and the telecom/cable industry. (Full story from Josh Marshall's TPMcafe).
  • The AP reports that Tim Eyman sent an e-mail today supporters and the media, revealing that (supposedly) only 8,718 signatures (a fraction of what's really needed) have been gathered for Referendum 65. The Permanent Defense Journal has more.
  • BlatherWatch has the details on the new 710 KIRO lineup. Dave Ross is moving back to the mornings (9 AM -12 PM) and Ron Reagan is getting his own midday show (12 PM - 1 PM).
  • Tony Snow confirmed today that he's giving up his radio show to become President Bush's new press secretary. We wonder whether Snow, despite his punditry skills, will be able to do a better job than Scott McClellan, given what he has to work with in this administration.
  • Progressives lose a friend in Jane Jacobs, who has died at the age of 89. The Project for Public Spaces has a tribute.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Housing, pensions, disappearing dollars

One of the dreadful experiences of understanding a little economics is to watch those approaching retirement vote against schools. They have dollars in the bank, their kids are grown, Why should they worry?

Another is looking at the enormous investment in housing. Homeownership is a beautiful thing, look at the employment and tax revenue coming in, How can we lose?

The May 2006 issue of Harper's has on its cover a man carrying a house on his back. The article is entitled "The New Road to Serfdom." In it there is a graphic I pray is not correct. It identifies 90% of debt since 2000 as being mortgage debt. That would mean only 10% of debt has gone to credit cards, college loans, and oh yeah, plant and equipment.

The current debt-driven economic activity is founded on housing investment. Investment creates jobs up front. Every kind of investment. But investment in essentially passive assets, like housing, does not generate economic well being down the road like productive assets do – education and equipment and so on. It generates interest payments.

The Harper's article is instructive, if a bit pat. It's great if you like charts, because that's what it is - a dozen charts with explanatory captions. It advises of a possibility that low interest rates lure people into enormous debt loads, possibly shackling the owner to his house for decades, making payments as equity shrinks, giving lie to his hope for a valuable asset at the end of his working years.

The situation is similar to the pension crisis. (See the Seattle Times 04.04.06 article.) For dozens of years people worked, in part, for the promise of an affluent retirement funded by the company's pension. Now, one after the other, the corporation's promise has been turned over to the government for fulfilment. The "self-made" men and women wait in line to see what can be salvaged of their expectations.

Bethlehem Steel, US Airways, Kaiser Aluminum, Pan Am, and locally Consolidated Freightways, Lamonts, and Longview Aluminum, have given up their pension obligations to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which now has $56 billion in assets v. $79 billion in future liabilities.

The point I want to make is that today's sure bet is tomorrow's last place finisher. Do not look at dollars. Dollars are a great medium of exchange, but a lousy store of value. They're a good way to compare goods, as in eggs are expensive, cars are cheap, but it is wrong to assume that both are being measured by a standard unit which has value in itself. They are expensive and cheap relative to each other. The dollar is simply a medium to make the comparison.

If you want your house to be worth something, or your pension to be there, or your stocks to pay off, you need to build an economy that works, with workers who will be able and willing to pay the price you want. It is their demand, not some numbers on a bank statement, that ensures value. You can lock up your greenbacks and bury them in the ground, but without that growing economy, they'll turn to dust no matter how well you wrapped them. There is no "I've got mine, now you guys fend for yourselves." You can be robbed by inflation, crashing stocks, ballooning health care, etc., etc., etc., but at its root it will always be a weakening economy that could have been floated by sound investments and reasonable trade structures.

Taxes for schools will generate economically viable citizens and reduce unnecessary drains on public coffers in the future. These are the people who will buy your house, fund your pension (including Social Security) and make your stocks worth something.

Mortgage borrowing, federal debt, everyone a millionaire... It's a hoax that is often too disturbing to contemplate, so we don't. But someday we'll have to. Our hind ends will get blasted if we keep our heads buried in the sand.



P.S. - In my last post I forgot to mention that Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury Secretary under Bush, also termed "not acceptable" W's 1990 scam with Harken Energy that we covered earlier this year. "Did I ever do an untimely filing of Form F?" O'Neill said. "No. Any other questions?"

It's timely now because W's fellow travelers at Enron are in the dock this week.

Join Lillian Kaufer this Saturday

Democrats and progressives are invited to join Lillian Kaufer this Saturday for a campaign kickoff event. Lillian is running for State Senate in the 44th Legislative District, hoping to replace Republican Dave Schmidt. She has been endorsed by the 44th District Democrats, Democracy for Snohomish County, and State Representatives John McCoy and Al O'Brien.

Saturday, April 29th
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Chuck's Seafood Grotto
1229 First Street
Snohomish, WA 98290

The campaign invites you to come enjoy delicious gumbo, chowder, and cajun music in honor of Katrina's victims.

Please RSVP to karenelowe2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com if you're planning on attending.

Inslee supports Net Neutrality, but other Democrats don't

FreePress' SavetheInternet coalition website has a map up where you can see the House Energy & Commerce Committee members' stance on Net Neutrality. Fortunately, Representative Jay Inslee (who represents NPI's home district) has already voted to support a free Internet and will no doubt do so again when the opportunity arrives.

But the same can't be said for all Democrats on the committee.

Here are the Democrats on the committee who have already gone on the record and voted against Net Neutrality. If you can, please call them or send a fax and ask them to protect internet freedom from corporate interests by voting for Ed Markey's amendment top preserve net neutrality.

Bart Stupak (D- Michigan, 1st)
http://www.house.gov/...
(202) 225 4735
(202) 225 4744 - Fax

Tom Allen, (D - Maine, 1st)
http://tomallen.house.gov/...
(207) 774-5019 (phone)
(207) 871-0720 (fax)

Mike Ross (D - Arkansas, 4th)
http://www.house.gov/...
1-800-223-2220
(202) 225-1314 (fax)

Jim Davis -- (D - Florida, 11th)
http://www.house.gov/...
tel: (202) 225-3376
FAX: (202) 225-5652

UPDATE: McJoan at Kos has news:
The Committee just rejected the Markey amendment to preserve net neutrality, 22-34. Democrats Rush, Green and Gonzales all voted no. Since we couldn't squash this telcom give-away in the House, next we'll focus on the Senate. We did manage to flip quite a few Democrats, however, so that's the good news, that and the Senate looks to be friendlier to us on this issue.
Additionally, Matt Stoller at MyDD has this observation, declaring that the momentum is shifting in our favor:
All four targeted Dems by McJoan on Daily Kos [Stupak, Allen, Ross, Davis - the ones above] flipped to our side, and many of the Congressmen both for and against this campaign mentioned the blogs and angry constituents.
Good, but the fight's not over. Since there's only 100 Senators we should have an easier time targeting those who are friendly to the telecom and cable companies.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Democrats slam McGavick with FEC complaint

And unlike the complaint the Republicans filed against Darcy Burner, this one looks like it actually could have some merit:
After Mike McGavick became a U.S. Senate candidate but while still chief executive of Safeco, the company agreed to give him a lucrative "golden parachute" that amounted to an illegal corporate campaign contribution, the state Democratic Party contends.

"The corporation's 'sweetening of the deal' for Mr. McGavick after he became a candidate was a blatant violation of federal law," state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz charged in a complaint being filed with the Federal Election Commission today.

[...]

The Democrats' complaint says the Republican violated federal campaign finance law "because Safeco 5 altered the terms of Mr. McGavick's compensation after his candidacy for office began, yielding Mr. McGavick millions of dollars he would have otherwise forfeited."
The Seattle P-I's Neil Modie has more details here. It'll be interesting to see what happens to this, to say the least. While this complaint doesn't sound frivolous - McGavick's departure from Safeco was very unusual, and prolonged - that doesn't mean the FEC will fine the McGavick campaign. Still, it's good to know that Chairman Dwight Pelz gives as good as he gets.

UPDATE: Full text of the complaint is available here.

Join Eric Oemig at his campaign kickoff

Democrats and progressives are invited to join Eric Oemig to build a stronger, brighter Washington this May 12th at a campaign kickoff event. Eric is running against incumbent Republican Bill Finkbeiner in the 45th District.

Friday, May 12th
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

The Hollywood Schoolhouse
14810 NE 145th St.
Woodinville, WA 98072

Guest Speakers will include:
Ralph Gorin
The Hon. Brian Weinstein
Randy Gordon

Learn more about Eric’s vision for Washington State! Snacks will be provided. The requested donation is $30 and children and are welcome.

Please RSVP to RSVP (at) Oemig (dot) com

UPDATE: Eric is now running against Toby Nixon, see this post for details.

I-920 Endangers Our Future

This is the first in a special, several part series on the threat that this year's crop of right wing ballot measures pose to the sustainable future of Washington State. A reminder that you can help the progressive movement take advantage of our First Amendment rights by reporting right wing signature gathering activity when you observe it occurring. And don't forget that you have every right to urge fellow voters not to sign a petition for a right wing ballot measure.

Several months ago, a group of anti-tax zealots led by right winger Dennis Falk launched a 2006 initiative campaign to repeal Washington State's estate tax and wipe out hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for public schools.

The group, known as the Committee to Abolish the Washington State Estate Tax, is funded mostly by a few wealthy Washingtonians who don't want to pay their fair share to support the state's education system.

State law directs that the revenues collected from the estate tax be placed directly in the Education Legacy Trust account.

The Office of Financial Management notes that the Education Legacy Trust Account is used only for deposit into the student achievement fund and for expanding access to higher education through funding for new enrollments and financial aid, and other educational improvement efforts.

The Education Legacy Trust helps fund a number of important projects:

  • Initiative 728, which voters overwhelmingly approved to help keep class sizes in our schools manageable;
  • 7,900 higher education enrollments;
  • Financial aid for higher education (increasing the State Need Grant to 65% of the state median income from 55%); and
  • Other education needs (increased Learning Assistance Program – LAP spending).
And this assault on educating funding comes at a time when we as a state can least afford it. We are already facing a crisis:
  • Washington ranks 46th in the nation in class size.
  • Washington ranks 42nd in the nation in education spending.
  • We have $2 billion less for schools this year because of the decline in state funding that began two decades ago.
  • We spend $548 less per student than we did in 1992.
  • We are dead last in compensation among the five West Coast states -- and well below the national average, too.
Our state's sustainable future - the legacy of the Evergreen State, the well being of our communities - is endangered by Initiative 920.

We cannot afford to have a substandard education system. Our country and our state are facing huge challenges, and there is no way future generations will be ready to tackle tough problems if they do not have a good education.

NPI believes that every child is entitled to (and should enjoy) an enriching and fulfilling life. Every child deserves an opportunity to succeed and prosper. A strong and robust public education system gives every child such opportunities and discriminates against no one.

We cannot have a strong and robust education system if we do not provide adequate funding. The old arguments that schools are inefficient or wasteful (and therefore undeserving of additional funding) are conservative diversions. I-920, however, is not even about providing additional funding - it would take away existing funds.

The estate tax affects only the richest Washingtonians. It is the most progressive mechanism available to raise revenue our state desperately needs to meet its commitments. Any other way we raise revenue will force lower and middle income families to pay more - and that's unfair.

We have a moral responsibility to defeat proposals such as Initiative 920, and ensure that every child gets the opportunities they deserve to be successful. If you are approached to sign I-920, tell the petitioner you oppose this assault on our sustainable future - and report the incident to Permanent Defense.

No change at the White House

Karl Rove is in charge of economic policy. As the NYT puts it, "Mr. Bush's Treasury secretaries ... have not had their own voices on economic policy and have been effectively subordinate to Karl Rove." (NYT, 4.5.06) And as former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill put it, "It's all about sound bites, deluding the people, pandering to the lowest common denominator."

Rove's reassignment was window dressing. "Strategic planning" undoubtedly means "continue to spin and dissemble." At most it means the day-to-day happy face news format has been running long enough for to continue on its own. Rove is going nowhere, barring indictment. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld are not expendible. They are George Bush.
O'Neill and Lawrence Lindsey were let go back when the first wave of Bush economic promises fell through, those surrounding the stimulus value of tax cuts for the rich. This was after the excuse "it's all because of 9-11" had been milked dry. The bad news demanded sacrifice. So they sacrificed these two, blood on the altar of public opinion, so as not to have to change policies.

It was O'Neill who noted the influx of immigrants demanded an aggressive jobs program. His estimate was that 100,000 to 125,000 jobs per month are needed just to absorb new entrants into the work pool. It remains a miracle of modern statistical science that, for example, employment rose less than a million between 2002 and 2004, yet employment dropped 0.3 percent. A bare minimum of two million would have been needed just to stay even. We've talked about this before.
Now O'Neill's successor, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow is making noises about leaving. Like as not, he wants out before the economic stuff hits the economic fan, so as to avoid the inevitable sacrifice of the scapegoat. Snow will be remembered as one so bereft of principle that after staking his reputation on the need for balanced budgets, he held the coats of the men who exacted a trillion more dollars of red stuff from the future of the country. Adriana Huffington had this to say at the time of his appointment

It is a bit surprising Snow did not take advantage of Josh Bolten's "If you're thinking of leaving in the next few months, do it now." Snow leaked explicitly his plan to leave in the next few months. Possibly he has taken some hope from Rove's reassignment and imagines he might move up the ladder into a position of actual influence. Futile dream. It is more likely that Bolten, even though he once worked at Goldman Sachs, can't find anybody else interested in the job.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Net Neutrality - Save the Internet

The future of the Internet is in doubt. This is not a joke and it's certainly not a laughing matter:
Telephone and cable companies like AT&T and Comcast want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all. They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors.

These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of an even playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content and services — or those from big corporations that can afford the steep tolls — and a leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.
Fortunately, FreePress has formed a coalition called Save the Internet to fight for Net Neutrality:
The SavetheInternet.com Coalition today launched a campaign to defend the free and open Internet from a bill being voted on in the House of Representatives beginning this week.

Congress is currently rewriting our nation's telecom laws. The SavetheInternet.com Coalition will mobilize public pressure to force Congress to resist a multimillion dollar lobbying effort by Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon to gut Network Neutrality, the Internet's First Amendment.

"Network neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet," said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. "It ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing companies like AT&T from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites and services. Net neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online — and the public demands Congress not dismantle it."

Without Net Neutrality, issue organizations would essentially have to pay protection money to dominant Internet providers or risk that their Web sites were not as fully functional as corporate sites.
Visit the Save The Internet website now to learn more about this important issue and what you can do to urge Congress not to sell out to powerful telephone and cable companies.

Tracking Right Wing Ballot Measures

Permanent Defense continues to closely monitor and track the campaign committees for the major right wing ballot measures that stand a good chance of having the resources and financial backing to make it onto the ballot this year.

Help the progressive movement take advantage of our First Amendment rights by reporting right wing signature gathering activity when you observe it occurring. And remember that you have every right to urge fellow voters not to sign a petition for a right wing ballot measure.

Many, if not most, Washingtonians will refuse to sign any of these initiatives once they discover the consequences. They're not going to get an objective summary from the petitioner. Paid petitioners usually get paid by the signature, and many of them aren't very truthful (or aware - some aren't even native to the state).

Here's how the major right wing initiative efforts are doing in terms of fundraising. Top donors and the amounts they've given are shown above the fundraising totals.

Initiative 917
Repeals $2.5 billion in sorely needed transportation funding
Michael Dunmire: $157,700
Total Contributions During Campaign (including in-kind): $261,030.85

Comment: There does not seem to be another donor who has contributed more than five hundred dollars. Eyman's base of donors has been shrinking for years, and many of his former top contributors are nowhere to be seen. Initiative 917 is mostly a Michael Dunmire funded effort. Eyman has spent most of the above total, but if Dunmire continues to give him money at the current pace, Eyman should be able to buy his way onto the ballot - again. This is not a surprise, and Permanent Defense continues preparations for a fall campaign against I-917.

Initiative 920
Repeals the state estate tax, which funds the Education Legacy Trust (public education)
John Nordstrom: $25,000
Gene E. Lynn: $15,000
George Suddock: $8,000
Martin Selig: $5,000
Donald Root: $3,000
Total Contributions During Campaign (including in-kind): $74,089

Comment: Some interesting names have contributed to Dennis Falk's attempt to repeal the estate tax, including John Nordstrom and Martin Selig. I-920 appears to be lacking funds. Unless Falk and his cohorts can pick up the pace and find more special interst support, their chances of making the ballot are probably slim.

Referendum 65
Repeals ESHB 2661, the civil rights legislation
All donors: $685
Total Contributions During Campaign (including in-kind): $10,041

Comment: The fundraising for R-65 has been amazingly sparse. Eyman and the Fagans appear to have loaned the R-65 committee a total of $9,000. It appears no paid signature gatherers are involved in this signature drive. There have been only a couple of sightings of individuals circulating Referendum 65 petitions. State law mandates that referendum petitions against a measure passed by the Legislature (like R-65) must be filed with the Secretary of State not later than ninety days after final adjournment of the session in which the measure passed. The Secretary of State's office tells NPI that this leaves Eyman until June 7th to turn in signatures.

Initiative 933
Destroys the state's growth management laws, creates loopholes for developers
Americans for Limited Government: $50,000 (based in Glenview, Illinois)
Washington State Farm Bureau: $49,5000
Snohomish County Farm Bureau: $20,000
Thurston County Farm Bureau: $20,000
King County Farm Bureau: $19,500
Lewis County Farm Bureau: $10,000
Spokane County Farm Bureau: $10,000
Total Contributions During Campaign (including in-kind): $207,485.08

Comment: As is obvious from the list of top donors, the Farm Bureau is the major force behind this initiative. The out-of-state contribution from Americans for Limited Government is interesing and definitely add credence to the argument that this is a special interest initiative. The ALG website includes quotes from Ed Crane, a board member plus a founder of the Cato Institute, and Tom Coburn, the right wing Oklahoma senator who is "Chairman Emeritus" of ALG. If fundraising continues at this pace the Farm Bureau should also be able to buy its way onto the ballot. A strong coalition has already formed to fight the initiative.

Initiative 946
Denies illegal immigrants many government benefits
No contributions reported

Comment: It's unlikely that this initiative will qualify for the ballot.

Initiative petitions must be filed with the Secretary of State's office no later than the close of business on July 7th, 2006. By that time we'll have a very good guess as to which measures will make it and which ones won't. Expect Eyman to turn in signatures for I-917 early as he did last year with I-900. The Farm Bureau and Dennis Falk's group will probably turn in closer to the deadline if they have enough signatures.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Goulish Christmas for Corporate America

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments sez:
2003 - $48 billion
2004 - $59 billion
2005 - $81 billion
2006 - $93 billion
On an accrual basis, the yearly costs are double and triple these. That is, the war materiel and human beings sacrificed have costs for replacement that we will not see this year or next. Remember when somebody got fired for saying the adventure might cost upwards of $200 billion? We are now spending $10 billion per month in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stiglitz and Bilmes have estimated the eventual cost to be over $1 trillion, after indirect costs -- such as increased fuel prices -- are thrown in. That's $50,000 for every Iraqi man, woman and child.

And for this, they get 3 hours of electricity per day, unsanitary water, and a civil war. Not a very good deal for anybody. Well, it is good for the vendors of these faulty goods -- Corporate America. While ordinary Iraqis and ordinary Americans are paying in blood, bone and misery, Exxon, Boeing, Halliburton, Bechtel, and so on are raking it in.

Not by accident. The Bush administration, and Republicans in general, are champions and clients of corporate boards. (The Department of Defense web site calls it the biggest, baddest "company" in America.) The war, its supporters, its apologists, and its beneficiaries are primarily corporatists.

They were hired to secure and rebuild a devastated a country. In that they have failed. Not fallen short. Failed. They have taken the money and provided nothing but excuses. Some, including the Seattle Times, have called for a halt to the rebuilding because it, or security for it, is too expensive. More appropriate is a START to rebuilding, by people who can do the job, not the US corporate oligarchy. Start with an independent contracting office through the UN. Security costs disappear when the natives are doing it for themselves.

Some time ago I estimated the cost of corruption in the Bush Iraq adventure would be over $10 billion. Out of a rebuilding budget of $20 billion, this seemed to be pretty aggressive. But it's not only the rebuilding, it's the profiteering of suppliers and opportunism of the oil giants.

ERROR, ERROR. ($50,000, not $500,000) This post included too many zeros. At more than one trillion dollars net cost to the US for the Iraq War, as suggested by Stiglitz and Bilmes, each of the 26,074,906 Iraqi men, women and children would account for only $50,000, not the $500,000 I allowed to get online. Forgive, please. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. Yes, I will apologize personally to your friends if you dropped that number on them as a result of my foolishness.

Another Seaside Development Update

Work on Seaside, the next version of Pacific NW Portal, has progressed a lot more slowly than we would have liked.

When we originally mapped out our timeline for the new version, we thought we'd be done by now. In fact, we thought we'd be done by the end of March. The reason that everything is taking so long is that we keep running into problems we'd like to solve. Not problems with the new version that's in development, but the current version.

Seaside will be the most compatible version of Pacific NW Portal - ever. It should look beautiful on just about any platform.

We've noticed that people don't seem to be aware of many of Pacific NW Portal's features. While a huge number of people have seen the front page, some of the other pages have been underlooked. Seaside incorporates new features that will help guide visitors to the content on other pages.

To remind everyone that Seaside is coming, the main page now includes a teaser graphic which links to the latest development update.

When will it be done? That's a good question, and unfortunately, the answer is probably not in April. That's the bad news. The good news is that it should be ready before too much of May has gone by. We're planning on ramping up development so we can be finished, because we're as eager to get Seaside launched as anyone is to see it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Today is Earth Day

Today, as most of you know, is Earth Day - the day where many Americans go out into their communities to work for a healthy planet and the day when the Bush administration pretends to care about the environment.

If you're looking for a few chuckles, Grist Magazine has compiled an interesting Earth Day list that's worth checking out.

If you live in East King County, in or around the communities of Redmond, Woodinville, Duvall, or Carnation, and you want to make a commitment to try out organic food (good for you, good for the environment) PCC Natural Markets is making things a whole lot easier for you. Their new Redmond store, to be located at the corner of Avondale Road and NE 116th Street, is set to open soon. Find out more.

You can support renewable energy by signing or getting others to sign Initiative 937, the Energy Security Initiative. Sponsors are working to get I-937 on the November ballot so that the right wing doesn't have a monopoly on ballot measures - and so Washington State can make progress in transitioning away from fossil fuels.

The Washington State Department of Ecology has a list of Earth Day events if you're interested in taking action and doing something for the environment.

Finally, we want to leave you with a few words from Paul Roberts, the author of "The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World".
The American lifestyle is twice as energy-intensive as that in Europe and Japan, and about ten times the global average. The United States is thus the most important of all energy players: its enormous demand makes it an essential customer for the big energy states like Saudi Arabia and Russia. Its large imports hold the global energy market in thrall. (Indeed, the tiniest change in the U.S. energy economy - a colder winter, an increase in driving, a change in tax law - can send world markets into a tailspin.)

And because American power flows from its dominance over a global economy that in turn depends mainly on oil and other Fossil fuels, the United States sees itself as having no choice but to defend the global energy infrastructure from any threat and by nearly any means available - economic, diplomatic, even military.

The result of this simultaneous might and dependency is that the United States is, and will be, the preeminent force in the shaping of the new energy economy. The United States is the only country with the economic muscle, the technological expertise, and the international standing truly needed to mold the next energy system. If the U.S. government and its citizens decided to launch a new energy system and have it in place within twenty years, not only would the energy system be built, but the rest of the world would be forced to follow along.

Instead, American policymakers [cough, the Bush administration] are too paralyzed to act, terrified that to change U.S. energy patterns would threaten the nation's economy and geopolitical status - not to mention outrage tens of millions of American voters.
We highly recommend that book, by the way, and encourage you to get your own copy from Powell's and read it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Free Thinking Friday

The traditional press is panicking because they are losing circulation. Management is responding to market pressure, not readers. In Seattle and surrounding areas, conventional wisdom suggests some major papers will go under.

This would seem to create a wonderful negative synergy that might somehow be exploited to return responsibility to the newsroom and the publisher's office.
My grudge became a vendetta with the 2004 elections.

Washington's newspapers spared no ink when the gubernatorial race went into overtime. They reported ad nauseum claims from Chris Vance and various attorneys about fraud, in King County, somewhere. No fraud was found. The case they brought to a Chelan County courtroom was so weak it didn't have a breath left afterward to utter the word, "appeal."

On the opposite side, rampant and demonstrated purposeful disenfranchisement of voters occurred in Ohio under the direction of that state's Bush campaign chair (and Ohio secretary of state) J. Kenneth Blackwell. The fraud was documented in an extensive report from the offices of Congressman John Conyers, supported by a subsequent GAO study. Not one word in the Seattle Times. Not one word in the Seattle P-I. Not one word in the Tacoma News Tribune. Not one damned word.


This is, to be sure, not the only example of the so-called liberal media walking in lockstep with reactionaries, but it is one which demonstrates how completely these newspapers have failed as objective, responsible media. Utterly failed.
Panic! Losing circulation!
A closer look reveals that shrinkage is occurring for major newspapers as much in the Seinfeld sense as in circulation. Molly Ivins wrote a couple of weeks ago that newspaper's management is being spooked by a few Wall Street analysts. Readership is down 13 percent since its 1985 peak, but publicly traded US newspapers average a 20 percent profit margin. The reduction in staff and news coverage, according to the redoubtable Ms. Ivins, is not likely to improve either readership or the bottom line. Ivins opines that the recent purchase by McClatchy of Knight Ridder, a company three times its size, was made possible by fears, not facts.

On a broad scale, Ivins reports on a bid by the Newspaper Guild in alliance with the Communication Workers of America on 12 newspapers that must be spun off from the McClatchy-KR merger. These are not remnants and include the Philadelphia Inquirer, San Jose Mercury News and St. Paul Pioneer Press. Should the sale go through, these could presumably be run as news organizations.

In the Puget Sound area we certainly have a number of advertising circulars masquerading as newspapers, but there are also a number (say three or four) of newspapers which have pretenses to relevance. They look very much like each other. And the dance of death between the PI and the Times is ongoing news.
So what do I propose?

I have no suggestion. I have only bitterness. Somebody else might have a scheme. I do not see much to choose between the top three or four. I do think a winner might look more like the New York Times than the King County Journal.

Alan

Postscript on Newsweek:

When did Newsweek get so bad?

I don't know if I'm ahead of the curve, or if Newsweek missed the curve. I picked up a copy from a bus seat the other day. They were channeling Karl Rove and FoxNews style reporting on Iran. It is almost funny that in Iran the mirror image of our right-wing nuts is beating the other side of the drum trying to get some juice for their own failed regime.

Has nobody noticed that sanctions worked in Iraq? Intelligence failed, but sanctions worked.

The Republicans will apparently stop at nothing during campaign season. This administration is incompetent and corrupt. Are we really going to witness a replay of the Iraq calamity? Let the international community lead. And sanctions work.

Viewing Comments and Trackback

We've updated the display of the Official Blog to eliminate the comment and trackback count numbers at the bottom of each post.

This change was made for two reasons: first, it's been our observation that the counter has been unreliable at times, displaying a "0" when there are actually comments in the thread.

Secondly, we wanted to shorten the number of characters in the "Posted by" line. Some of our authors have long names, and we'd prefer to keep everything on one line so that nothing gets bumped to a second line.

We apologize if anyone feels inconvenienced, but we ultimately decided this was a change that would improve the Official Blog. You can still leave (or view) comments and trackback pings by clicking on the links at the bottom of each post.

What do Democrats stand for?

Markos linked to a really good article today in the Economist about the 2006 midterms, and offers a cryptic warning for the D.C. establishment (and yes, Rahm and Chuck, that means you guys, and the DCCC/DSCC):
Democrats in DC think that keeping their mouths shut and letting the country see the GOP debacle in all its glory will earn them dramatic gains. The corrosive consultants whisper in their ears that taking a strong stance will only earn them enemies, galvanize partisan Democrats to turn out. So they remain in relative silence. Heck, even admonishing Dems like Russ Feingold who have the temerity to speak out against the disaster in DC.

But silence doesn't motivate. People ARE seeing that Republicans can't govern. There's no way around that. What they AREN'T seeing is how Democrats will be any different. How they offer change.

The GOP WILL motivate its voters come November. They'll rail on abortion and gays and scary brown people crossing the southern border and how Democrats want to take their Bibles away. And their core supporters will turn out. And Democrats, unless they realize that they need to inspire, will find those huge gains will fail to materialize.

You cannot have leadership without offending someone. Someone once said you could measure Bobby Kennedy's greatness by the number of enemies he had. George Bush and Karl Rove know this, and they don't care who they offend as they seek to inspire and motivate their core supporters.

DC Democrats are afraid to lead. They're afraid to inspire. They're afraid to offend. They're afraid to clearly state their core principles. They're simply afraid.

And that better change soon.
I've heard several times from various people, a few of whom have been in D.C. this year, that all we need to do right now is sit back and let the Republicans self destruct. And seven to eight weeks out from Election Day, we go on the offensive and finally talk about what Democrats are about.

That's not going to work. Democrats need to start inspiring now. Not in September, not in October - now. Democrats need to articulate their values. Voters need to hear what the party stands for. The progressive base needs to be energized to go to work to win in 2006.

If you want some evidence that the current strategy of staying silent isn't working, look at the somewhat dismal progressive turnouts in some of the recent special elections for progressive candidates like Ciro Rodriguez and Francine Busby. Nothing can be taken for granted.

Sure, the GOP is doing awful, but are activists are fired up to take down the GOP this November? Right now the answer is no. Instead of constantly sending out emails asking for money, the people running the campaign committees ought to turn to Howard Dean to get some ideas for motivating people.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

In Brief - April 20th, 2006

Here's your quick news digest for today:
  • The Associated Press has an article today about Darcy Burner's recent fundraising success. The Republicans offered nothing except spin when they were asked for comment. "'There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit in Seattle that any liberal activist can pick if they are running a congressional campaign,' Jonathan Collegio said. 'Reichert still has a 2-1 (cash) advantage, and I would seriously doubt that Burner would continue to raise money at that clip. There’s a long way to go.'" Translation: Republicans are worried sick about the prospect of losing the 8th Congressional District.
  • According to FOX News, the official cable channel of the RNC and Dick Cheney, Bush's approval ratings are at an all time low. Surprise, surprise.
  • More good news from Sound Transit recently: the Emerald Mole is making significant headway on the Central Link Beacon Hill Tunnel. Sound Transit's contractor says the project is going smoothly.
  • Russ Feingold's leadership PAC, the Progressive Patriots Fund, had an impressive first quarter.
Something you want to share? Feel free to post it in the thread below.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer voices confidence in Darcy Burner

Congressman Steny Hoyer, the U.S. House Democratic Whip, is visiting the Left Coast this week and appeared last night at a well attended fundraiser for newly minted Democratic star Darcy Burner.

Darcy, if you haven't heard already, is mounting an extremely serious challenge to Dave Reichert in the 8th District. She has managed to become not only the talk of the party, but increasingly, the talk of the state's political establishment.

Hoyer spoke to the attendees of last night's fundraiser at length, displaying admiration for the enormous strides Darcy's campaign has made and talking about the rapidly approaching midterm elections.

"There is the deepest chasm I have ever seen between the two parties," Hoyer noted during his speech, emphasizing the differences between the Democrats and the GOP.

"Fiscally, this is the most irresponsible group of people that have ever been in Washington D.C.," he added, speaking to the country's endangered financial health and the wasted surplus.

(It's worth mentioning that while he spoke, it was so quiet in that room that you could have heard a pin drop - everyone was listening intently.)

"The only way we can change America in 2006 is to elect Democrats to the House and Senate," Hoyer stated. "Our country’s in trouble. It needs us."

He then voiced strong confidence in Darcy's campaign.

"Darcy Burner is a young woman who fits this district, in my opinion, like a glove," he continued, praising her understanding of the constituents of the 8th that she's seeking to represent.

He reminded the crowd that he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi can't visit every district in the country. "We visit the ones we think we can win," Hoyer said. As he ended his remarks, he recalled Tip O'Neill's observation that all politics is local.

"Darcy Burner is your opportunity to answer the question, 'What can I do for my country?'" the Congressman declared. He concluded his thoughts and introduced Darcy, who smoothly delivered her own speech. The two then answered several questions from attendees, after which point the event ended.

It's plainly evident to just about any observer that this race is attracting national attention. Republicans are panicking, and since they have nothing to attack with, they're trying to immerse Darcy in a sea of little controversies that they've invented. So far they've had Stefan Sharkansky level baseless, silly accusations - and they've filed a frivolous FEC complaint.

Apparently, that's the best they can do.

They're powerless to stop the momentum of this campaign and this candidate. While Dave Reichert seems lost and without a theme, Darcy is running a vibrant, energetic operation that continues to pick up speed - and money.

And not just from local Democrats.

As Steny Hoyer left, he announced to the remaining crowd with an enthusiastic smile that he was giving Darcy his own financial contribution of several thousand dollars, handing Burner an envelope. Now there's someone who knows that actions speak louder than words.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

BREAKING: McClellan resigns, Rove loses post

Breaking news this morning:
The overhaul of the White House staff continued today as Karl Rove gave up his portfolio as senior policy coordinator to concentrate more on politics and November's midterm Congressional elections and Scott McClellan stepped down as the president's chief spokesman.

Mr. Bush announced that the policy position will be taken by Joel D. Kaplan, who is now the deputy budget director.

The moves came after a pledge on Monday by the new chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, to "re-energize" the White House's internal operations. They leave the White House with three deputy chiefs of staff: Mr. Rove, Mr. Kaplan and Joe Hagin, who handles adminstrative matters.Mr. Rove has been Mr. Bush's senior political adviser since his campaign for governor in Texas. Just over a year ago, he was promoted to deputy chief of staff in charge of policy development.
A very interesting development indeed.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

McGavick would vote to continue Bush's irresponsible fiscal policies

So far in the campaign, (Lobbyist) Mike! McGavick! has mostly refused to talk much about his values or his positions on important issues, preferring to stick to his theme of "civility".

But yesterday, the McGavick campaign revealed that (Lobbyist) Mike would vote to continue the irresponsible fiscal policies of the Bush administration, further validating State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz's insistence that McGavick would be nothing but a rubber stamp for an administration that has failed, and continues to fail, America.

In an email to supporters, McGavick attacked Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell for not supporting Bush's agenda and declared that he would never, ever vote for "a tax increase":
Dear Supporter,

Today is the last day to file your income taxes - don't you think too much of your hard earned money goes to the federal government every year? The forms we are required to fill out are too complicated and as if that isn't bad enough, the taxes we are forced to pay are still too high! One of my top goals as Senator will be to keep taxes low and burdens off businesses.

Take action today to solve our tax problem. Help send me to Washington, D.C., to fight for you- and with you- for lower taxes and real reform in the federal government.

On the issue of taxes, my views and those of our current Senator, Maria Cantwell, are very different.

Senator Cantwell's record on taxes speaks for itself:
  • Maria Cantwell voted for the largest tax increase in American history
  • Maria Cantwell voted against the Bush tax relief plans in 2001and 2003
  • Maria Cantwell voted 8 times to reduce the Bush Tax relief package of 2001 (a total of $980 billion)
  • Maria Cantwell voted 31 times to reduce the size of the 2003 tax cut package
On the other hand, I believe government's role is to provide citizens with opportunities for success. And I believe that comes through lower taxes and creating a climate in which small businesses can thrive. As I travel throughout our state its clear that Washingtonians want lower taxes and more of their own hard-earned money in their own pockets. People tell me all the time that government doesn't need any more of our money. They believe lower taxes mean a healthier economy- and what the government really needs is serious reform. I couldn't agree more!

I believe:
  • We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent putting you and your family in control over more of your hard-earned money
  • We should permanently repeal the death tax because families, small business owners and farmers should be allowed to pass on their success to their children
  • Increasing taxes only stunts economic growth and will make the deficit problem even bigger
  • We can solve our deficit problem, but we must start meaningful reform of the bloated federal government, getting it in line with 21st Century standards and cutting waste.
I am so committed to tax reform in Washington that I have signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to never vote for a tax increase.

Please join me today to bring tax relief to the families, business owners and job creators in Washington. Thank you for your support.

Best,

Mike McGavick

P.S. I need your immediate support to spread my message of tax reform to the voters in Washington. Please follow this link to make a secure online contribution of $500, $250, $100 or $50. Washington needs a Senator who will vote in the best interests of you and your family. Thank you.
(Emphasis mine)

It's crystal clear from this email that a vote for Mike McGavick is a vote to continue jeopardizing the financial health of the United States of America.

Taxes are neither an affliction nor a burden. They are public investments, investments in the future of our society.

The federal government has made very wise investments with taxpayer money - such as the interstate highway system, the Internet, and the hundreds of scientific and medical breakthroughs that have resulted from funding the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, to name a few examples.

The sustainable future of America is in trouble as long as the Republican right is in control of the federal government - and, especially, Congress. Sending another corporate con to the U.S. Senate will only make the serious problems we face even worse.

That's why we can't afford (Lobbyist) Mike McGavick.

Cheney visit raises money, nothing else

Vice President Dick "Deadeye" Cheney was in Washington State yesterday to help GOP fundraising efforts for Doug Roulstone, (whose challenge to Rep. Rick Larsen in the 2nd District will likely fall flat) and Lobbyist! Mike! McGavick!, who is vying to unseat Maria Cantwell.

At yesterday's fundraiser in Everett were Cheney, McGavick, Reichert, Roulstone, and other big names (like Rob McKenna). While there don't seem to be any photographs of Reichert or McGavick with Cheney, Roulstone was apparently not afraid to have himself pictured along the very unpopular veep.

Cheney and Roulstone

Speaking of Cheney's trip, Representative Waxman recently released a new minority staff report that shows that taxpayers pay over 95% of the cost of flights by the President and Vice President for campaign-related events:
Using figures from 2002, the last time the President and Vice President traveled on behalf of others in a nonpresidential election cycle, the report projects that taxpayers will spend over $7 million in 2006 on presidential and vice presidential political travel.

As political campaigns are gearing up around the country, the President and Vice President will be heavily involved in making campaign appearances and participating in fundraisers for candidates. In just the first few months of this year, they have already traveled to numerous campaign-related events.

The President and Vice President can legally participate in campaign and fundraising events for candidates. But when they do so, the taxpayer bears most of the cost. The President and Vice President travel across the country for political rallies and fundraisers in expensive military aircraft that cost tens of thousands of dollars per hour. The trips also involve costs associated with the use of Secret Service and transportation, food, and lodging for staff.
Once again, we have to ask: Isn't this an example of government waste? Shouldn't the McGavick and Roulstone campaigns be reimbursing taxpayers for the cost of the trip? Wouldn't that be the right thing for responsible Republican candidates who are against waste to do?

Cheney's visit here may have raised money for the Roulstone and McGavick campaigns, but unfortunately for Diane Tebelius, it didn't succeed in raising anything else.

Texas justice?

My neighbor Dan won't be watching the Enron corruption trial this week when Jeffrey Skilling and Kenny Boy Lay go under cross-examination. But Dan is as much a victim as anybody of the orgy of fraud that permeated and exuded from the energy trader as any of its workers or stockholders.

Dan was the last employee at Pioneer Industries here on the Tacoma Tideflats. Pioneer produced chemicals – sodium hydroxide, chlor alkili (used in pulp production) and others. Pioneer came to the Tideflats when industrial rates were a fraction of a penny per kilowatt-hour. It closed in 2002, a move directly related to the Enron-rigged energy price spikes.

That energy price manipulation was a key to the economic malaise up and down the West Coast. (Had Gray Davis appropriately highlighted this fact, the nation would never have had to endure the humiliation of a Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.) The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did nothing but aid in the coverup. In fact, it was the Snohomish County PUD whose lawyers uncovered and publicized the some of the most grotesque fraud.

"Kenny Boy" used to roam the governor's mansion in Texas as the deep pockets for W's campaign operation. He was the single largest donor. Later he collaborated with Dick Cheney to construct the energy policy Enron exploited.

The costs are still being paid. Portland General Electric, for example, was bought by Enron in 1997 for $2 billion in stock and $1.1 billion in assumed debt. (How much this was eventually worth is an unanswered question.) It was from the offices of PGE that the inventor of "Death Star," John Forney, operated. The sleazy dealings have continued there.

It is amazing that it became cheaper to import the wood products chemicals for Weyerhaueser rather than have them produced just down the street. The city council and everybody else did what they could do, but heavy users of energy – Kaiser Aluminum went down, too – had to be thrown overboard in those high seas. Of 175 employees in 2002, Dan became the last one. He just ran through his accumulated vacation, and I guess his pension is sound, but .... He loves to work, and he's looking at taking whatever work he can find that doesn't focus on driving. But it should have been Pioneer on the Tideflats.

So let's remember, when the focus is narrowed by the camera lens to a courthouse in Houston, that the fraud of Enron – Skilling, Lay, Fastow and the rest – was far, far, far broader. It not only ruined the employees of that company and gouged its stockholders, it put people out of work as far away as Tacoma. It disrupted and retarded the economies of more than a few states and burdened the lives of millions of people.

Were I their jailer (and were they in jail), I would be tempted to leave the keys to their cell inadvertently on the table, so perhaps a crew of those most directly lied to and cheated and ruined could "discover" them and dispense a little more direct justice.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Listen to an extended interview with Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong

We've released our first podcast for April 2006 (and fifth overall). This episode is a special edition, featuring an extended interview with Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD.

As anyone who's read this blog recently knows, Markos and Jerome are on a national tour promoting their new book, Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People Powered Politics.

I talked to both of the authors about some of the book's core themes when they stopped in Redmond earlier this month.

The reason this episode is a special edition - and the reason why we're calling it an extended interview - is because it's longer than usual.

Our podcasts have generally been under 10 minutes, but this one is slightly longer than 30 minutes.

We had a difficult time editing anything out because we felt this was such a wonderful conversation. Markos and Jerome are simply great people to talk to, and they have a lot to share. We covered a lot of ground in this interview, and we even talked about some things that aren't really discussed in Crashing the Gate. It's definitely worth a listen.

We recommend you subscribe to our Media RSS feed so you can be notified immediately when new podcasts are released.

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.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

Today is Easter Day, and we're also in the middle of the week of Passover. For those of you who are observing either holiday, please accept best wishes from all of us at NPI.

We're on break from posting for the rest of the weekend. If the weather's good where you are we hope you'll get out and enjoy the sunshine.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Radio Blues

I had Thom Hartmann up on the AM radio in the old pickup the other day. He was talking about the Commons. He seemed to be saying that in our particular society we have marked as too important for the private sector the Commons, things such as police and courts and national defense, and so have delegated them as the sole province of government.

This, of course, is nonsense. Perhaps this is not what he was saying, because the snip I caught was short, but it sprung my spring, and I ... fired off an e-mail.

The Commons, as any schoolchild knows, was the common pasture of old shared by the villagers, upon which anybody could graze their cattle. Most of the land, of course, was owned by the landed gentry and off limits. The upshot of the Commons arrangement was inevitably and exclusively lots of emaciated cattle and a completely decimated pasture. There was no incentive to manage the pasture properly, because if you did, your neighbor just introduced his cow instead. Thus the resource was exhausted and nobody made a living.

The Commons of modern times is the environment, the oceans, the air, the water. The exhaustion of these resources proceeds apace because it is in no single person's interest to do anything but use it as much as he can, and the efforts of those who may reduce their spoilage is overwhelmed by those who will take their place. The solution is similar, if politically more difficult.

In the old days, they divided the Commons into private parcels which the owner would have the incentive to manage wisely. Result: fences, fat cows, good pasture, property disputes. Today, since there is no opportunity to fence off the ocean or the sky, the conversion to collective management or ownership would need to take a different form. Unfortunately, this improbable new type of property right is likely the only remedy for the deteriorating situation in which we find our planet.

Thom missed this point clean – if I heard him correctly – by assigning police and the courts to the Commons. I said as much in my message. These instead are "public goods." Courts and representative governing bodies and such are foundational institutions, so calling them goods might be a bit disrespectful, but apt in its way. Police and fire protection, however, and roads and schools, public health and national defense, are clearly public goods. They are not the province of government because of a public moral about keeping them out of the hands of the private sector. They are supplied by the government because the private sector cannot handle them. The market cannot do public goods.

Why?

The two main properties of public goods is they are not excludable and they are not depletable. Taking the example of a road. It is not depletable because it doesn't matter how many cars go over it. It is as useful to the first car as it is to the one hundredth, or one thousandth, or – okay, maybe there is a limit. But it is certainly not in the ballpark of a private good like a candy bar or house, where one person's use reduces the usefulness to anybody else.

So public goods give and keep on giving. Unfortunately, also unlike private goods, use is not excludable. Consider a toll on every road. Not going to happen. This second attribute requires some form of coercive universal financing – taxes. Otherwise the free riders would appear like moths to the street lights. Imagine national defense. If your neighbor is paying for it, why should you? He's protected. Simply by living next door, you're protected.

So Thom got the full brunt, perhaps more succinctly than this. And I got ready to listen to the radio to hear any indicating he'd read it. But in the dark of the morning, before he was up on KPTK, I got an e-mail back! Scared the ---- out of me. It said, "Interesting. Why don't you call the show and educate me on the air."

After defibrillation, I resolved to do it. I called in. The same coordinator who does Hartmann does Sam Seder. I told him my name, confident extended minutes in witty discussion would soon follow. I got cut off. I called back. My heart was pounding ... for the first thirty minutes. Then I began to get involved in the programming. Then there was something else. Suddenly it's, click, "Hi caller, you're up, we have about a minute."

My entire life was compressed into that minute, so it was in a way appropriate that it began with the wilting of my grand expectations. He didn't even know who I was, or that I was responding to his request. I babbled on, responded to a couple of questions with revolutionary intensity, and at the end, heard, "Good point."

We're close, Thom and me.

Not included in that minute, I regret, was the point that public goods create private wealth. I am not talking about imaginary well-being, I am talking about financial wealth. Consider a bridge, even the expansion of a bridge to a peninsula. The bridge or police or school is produced at cost. The massive increases in property values from new access, the employment value of schooling, or the many external values of public safety are received by private actors at full market value. They are usually many times the costs of these goods. (Thus the high cost-benefit ratios you hear mentioned, but don't know what to make of.) It is the property holder in Gig Harbor, the engineer wherever she goes, the Boeing company, the freight hauler and the business owner who get these financial rewards minus the taxes they pay.

This is the single most important reason that countries which invest heavily in public goods (and thus have high tax rates and large governments) are precisely those countries which are most prosperous.

[Note to self: call no more radio shows.]

Taxpayers to foot entire bill for Cheney's appearance at McGavick fundraiser

Here's a question for fellow progressive activists: When was the last time you heard a so-called "fiscal conservative" pontificating that government is wasting our money, that we'll be better off with smaller government, and that cutting taxes and reducing our budgets is necessary and good?

Probably, not very long ago.

But as every progressive knows, the Bush administration has never put into practice the ideas of "fiscal conservatism". Instead, the administration has continually rewarded corporate friends with giveaways, subsidies, and tax breaks. (Can anyone say, "CHA-CHING"?)

It's also, of course, run up huge deficits. And it's wasted a colossal amount of taxpayer money, all while continuing to cut revenues.

The administration, to fiscal conservatives' dismay, has become the ultimate example of inefficiency and financial mismanagement.

Take the Vice President's upcoming trip to Spokane to raise money for Mike McGavick. Cheney certainly isn't coming out here on government business, yet the entire cost of his trip, (which is to further the political prospects of the Republican Party by raising money), is being paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

Here's the cost projection for Cheney's visit:
Flight operating costs for Air Force 2 (round trip): $174,624

Number of White House Staffers: 10
Average daily salary (65,000-150,000 annual) $462.96
Total White House staffer costs: $4629.63

Number of Secret Service agents: 20
Average daily salary ($100,000 annual): $370
Total Secret Service Costs: $7,400

Approximate hours of local security (including rehearsal): 8 hours
Number of local security personnel: 30 police officers
Average hourly salary ($52,120 annual): $26.50
Total local security personnel costs: $6360

Number of cars in motorcade: 8 cars
Miles traveled (roundtrip): 23.72 miles
Total gas costs of motorcade (doubled to account rehearsal): $65.78
Total Security Costs: $18,455.41

PROJECTED TOTAL COST: $193,079.41
Isn't this an example of government waste? Shouldn't the McGavick campaign be reimbursing taxpayers for the cost of the trip? Wouldn't that be the right thing for a responsible Republican candidate who's against waste to do?

Republicans don't seem to believe in the values they preach. The McGavick campaign apparently has no problem with letting taxpayers pay for the expense of bringing Cheney out here to raise big bucks for McGavick's bid to unseat Maria Cantwell. But looking back at (Lobbyist) Mike's history at Safeco, it's probably not surprising.

We don't need another Republican in the U.S. Senate who will continue to vote for the irresponsible fiscal policies of the Bush administration. We need a Senator who will stand up and fight waste, corruption, and corporate welfare. We need to reelect Maria Cantwell.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Taxes, Damn Taxes and Statistics

EPI's new book on tax avoidance and evasion and the IRS Bridging the Tax Gap yields confirmation of what you already knew, only it's more so.
  • Tax avoidance up, IRS staffing and budget down. Between 1992 and 2001, FTE positions decreased by 20,000. The IRS oversight panel wants a 13% increase this year. Bush has budgeted 4%.

  • The average audit rate in 1978 was 2.15% for individuals. In 2002 (the book's data year), the rate was .65%. The average cost of an audit is $1,300. The average yield is $71,000.

  • Tax shelters. Shift your income to categories with low rates, shift your deductions to circumstances where rates are high. The enormous cost of compliance professionals may be half accounted for by tax avoidance professionals [my thought]. The demise of Arthur Anderson after the Enron fraud apparently was as much a warning to the IRS as to accounting firms. Tax shelter fabricator KPMG has been indicted, but penalties sought are not as high as they might be, maybe on the premise that the firm is too big to let fail.

  • The so-called "AGI Gap," the difference between adjusted gross income measured by the IRS and that gathered by other sources and reported in NIPA (National Income and Product Accounts), is nearly one trillion dollars. By far the largest gap is in the problem child "nonfarm proprietors," $400 billion.

  • The great brouhaha of the late 1990s led by Senator William Roth (R-DE) painted the IRS as a modern day inquisition. The upshot was A Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Subsequent investigation by the GAO has failed to substantiate the horror stories.

  • Economically, the complexity of the code favors evasion and avoidance, duh, and it may be that legal avoidance is more damaging to the economy than the criminal evasion.
Since you're fried on taxes today, we'll leave it at just those few bullets. The book is much fuller than this sampling. It includes interviews with former commissioners and an academic economic treatment at the end.

Suffice it to say complexity is unnecessary, useless and distortionary. Mining the tax system as a form of employment would dry up overnight with honest taxation. And lastly, for tonight, the pork that gets so many headlines is chump change compared to the giveaways to corporations and rich individuals through the tax system

Cantwell sends letter to Rumsfeld demanding answers on depleted uranium

Today, Senator Maria Cantwell sent a letter to Donald Rumsfeld on the question of medical research on servicemembers exposed to depleted uranium (DU) aerosols, NPI has learned.

David Edelman, who has put a lot of energy into researching this, explains:
The core of the letter relied on questions that Dr. Tim Takaro and I framed after a month-long examination of the Department of Defense's so-called "Capstone Study." I have been assured that Sen. Cantwell's commitment to this issue will extend beyond this letter. I hope to have more news in the near future.

While this letter is not the end of the depleted uranium issue, it is an accomplishment that comes after a great deal of work. In particular, I'd like to recognize Dr. Tim Takaro of Simon Frazier University, without whose help this letter would not have been possible.

I'd also like to thank task force members Amy Hagopian and Aaron Katz (University of Washington) and Alice Woldt (36th District Democrats) for their support, advice and practical help.

In addition, I like to thank the following for their support: Kelley Bevans (36th District Democrats, Issues Chair); Peter House (36th District Democrats, Chair); Jason Bennett (36th District Democrats, Executive Board member); Ken Kadlec (Legislative Aide, Rep. McDermott's office, and 43rd District Democrats); Judith Shattuck (45th District Democrats, Executive Board Member); Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility; the 45th District Democrats; the 43rd District Democrats; the Washington State Democratic Central Committee and its Progressive Caucus; and Democracy for Washington.

I would also like to thank the hard-working members (current and former) of Sen. Cantwell's staff: Lisa Cipollone (former King County director); Bill Dunbar (former State director); Layth Elhassani (former Legislative Director for Foreign Affairs); Jennifer Griffith (Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director); Kurt Beckett (Chief of Staff); and Jonathan Hale (Legislative Director for Foreign Affairs).

Finally, I would like to express my deep gratitude to Sen. Cantwell for demonstrating her commitment to this critical issue.
We applaud Senator Cantwell for sending this letter. We hope she will continue to demonstrate to progressives that she does care about these very important matters.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Meet a Petitioner? Tell Us!

A reminder to all progressive activists: this is initiative season and the right wing is feverishly working to qualify several really destructive initiatives for the ballot. Paid signature gatherers are out right now soliciting signatures for measures such as I-917 (repealing transportation funding), I-933 (destroying the growth management laws), R-65 (reversing the recently passed civil rights legislation) and so on.

If you see petitioners collecting signatures for any right wing initiative, please use Permanent Defense's reporting tool to tell us about it so we can more efficiently organize and mobilize.

We also have buttons available that you can add to your own blog or website pointing to the reporting tool. The smaller version of the button is on the Official Blog's sidebar (to your right) while Permanent Defense's main page has been using the larger version.

Feel free to download either or both:

Report Right Wing Signature Gathering Activity
(Smaller version - 14 KB)

Report Right Wing Signature Gathering Activity

(Larger version - 16 KB)

The more people that know about the reporting tool, the better. If progressives keep their eyes and ears open and report signature gathering activity when they observe it, that will help us to track how the right wing signature drives are going and allow us to mobilize volunteers that we can send out to exercise our free speech rights.

Telling voters who might sign these petitions the other side of the story is extremely important if we want to stop Eyman and his right wing cohorts from deceiving the public.

Our thanks to everyone who adds a button to their site for their help.

NOTE: Attempts to spam the reporting tool with bogus submissions are easily defeated, and we warn people with such intentions not to bother. You're wasting your time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Scared of Darcy Burner's campaign, state GOP files frivolous FEC complaint

The Washington State Republican Party (WSRP), incredibly nervous about the strength of Darcy Burner's campaign in the 8th Congressional District, has filed a frivolous complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging that federal election laws were violated.

The GOP complaint, which was apparently filed yesterday, is aimed at legal volunteer activities conducted by private citizens, including NPI's own Media & Communications Director, Andrew Tsao, who is also a co-organizer of Eastside DFA.

The GOP alleged that Eastside Democracy for America (DFA) paid for a campaign event that was not listed in any of Burner's federally-mandated campaign disclosures, and produced and distributed a videotape of the event.

In response to this frivolous attack, Eastside Democracy for America, which was named in the complaint, wishes to make the following absolutely clear:
  1. Eastside Democracy for America is a citizens group of progressive minded Americans living in the Bellevue and surrounding areas of Washington State.
  2. Eastside Democracy for America is not a 527, a PAC, non-profit organization, company or corporation of any kind We are an informal group of private citizens who gather regularly to work together towards an equitable, just, free and economically sustainable America by taking local political action towards that goal.
  3. Eastside Democracy for America was inspired by the grassroots efforts of the Howard Dean campaign in 2004, and by the PAC Democracy for America (“DFA”). However, we have no affiliation, legal or organizational, with Democracy for America. We conduct no regular business with DFA, receive no funds, provide no funds to them, nor are we beholden to any DFA mandates, policies or programs. We use freely available tools that are posted on the DFA website for organizing, identification and political activities.
  4. Andrew Tsao, co-organizer of Eastside DFA and producer of the video materials mentioned in the FEC complaint, is a private citizen and registered Democrat who resides in Bellevue, Washington. He received no funds from the Darcy Burner campaign to produce the videos. He produced the video with volunteer efforts, with equipment he owns privately, and edited, duplicated and distributed the videos entirely on his own. The total out of pocket expenses for producing both videos mentioned in the FEC complaint was less than $200.00. He was not paid for his efforts, nor did anyone involved receive any payment for their services. This was entirely a volunteer, grassroots effort, not involved in any corporate, PAC, 527 or non-profit organization. In addition, the event mentioned on October 10, 2005 was an Eastside DFA meeting held at the Northwest Arts Center, rented by Andrew Tsao for less than $50.00.
  5. Andrew Tsao made the video material available to the campaign of Darcy Burner for Congress to use as they see fit, at no cost. He also provides free copies of the videos to any group, citizen or organization wishing to view the videos. Andrew Tsao has not received, nor intends to receive, any compensation, financial or otherwise, from this endeavor.
Chapter 100.74 of the Federal Elections Campaign Act states that an individual may volunteer personal services to a campaign without making a contribution as long as the individual is not compensated by anyone for the services.
Personal Services

Basic Rule: No Compensation

An individual may volunteer personal services to a campaign without making a contribution as long as the individual is not compensated by anyone for the services.

100.74. Volunteer activity is not reportable.

EXAMPLE: An attorney, working as a volunteer (i.e., he receives no compensation from anyone), writes policy papers for the campaign.

Note, however, that if volunteers are, in fact, paid for their services, the activity is no longer considered volunteer activity, and the payments, if made by someone other than the campaign itself, result in in-kind contributions, which must be reported by the campaign. 100.54.

(Exception: "Free Legal and Accounting Services," above.)
It is clear that the Darcy Burner campaign and Eastside DFA have not violated campaign finance law. NPI calls on the Federal Election Commission to dismiss this frivolous complaint immediately and remind the Washington State Republican Party about Chapter 100.74 of the Federal Elections Campaign Act, which they apparently have no knowledge of.

Darcy Burner's campaign reacted swiftly.

"Because of people’s desire for change, hundreds of people helped Darcy raise twice as much as Congressman Reichert last quarter. This obviously spooked the Republican," said Zach Silk, campaign manager for the Darcy Burner campaign, who denounced the attack.

Republicans are crowing that Darcy's campaign "tacitly admitted" to violating election laws because the video has been removed from Darcy's website. But NPI has learned that the video was previously removed because it was outdated, having been created in October of 2005, which was more than six months ago. The campaign was planning on adding a new video to the website soon.

UPDATE: The original video has been restored and is now once again available at Darcy Burner's website.

Republicans have nothing credible with which to attack Darcy Burner's campaign, so they have resorted to picking through public records, making personal attacks, and filing frivolous complaints with the Federal Election Commission.

That's not what the voters in the 8th Congressional District care about. The voters in the 8th care about Dave Reichert's record, and that's exactly what this campaign will be about.

Fight for Net Neutrality

FreePress has the story on the telecoms' bid to destroy the free Internet:
A new fight is brewing over the future of communications in the United States. It pits the nation's largest cable and telephone companies against those who believe the Internet should support the free and independent flow of ideas.

Broadband is the battleground. As more Americans upgrade to high-speed Internet connections, the companies that control the "pipes" are plotting out new ways to profit from the demand. The telco and cable giants want to fence off the Internet: one area for the haves — who will pay a premium to enjoy life in the fast lane — and the other for the have-nots.

The innovation and creativity of the Internet are the result of its foundation as an open roadway. At serious risk is the idea of "network neutrality" — a guiding principle of the Internet that ensures all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice. Corporate greed threatens to bring the Internet’s promise of advanced communications for all to a halt.
Just last week, a House subcommittee rejected by a 23-8 vote an amendment by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) that would have required net neutrality.

If we don't act, the free Internet as we know it may cease to exist. Learn more about the threat here and what you can do to fight it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cantwell, Kerry speak in Seattle on importance of winning in 2006

U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and John Kerry appeared side by side tonight at a cheerful reception in Seattle to speak to supporters and talk about the importance of taking back Congress and the country in 2006.

The senators were accompanied by Teresa Heinz Kerry and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (who were repeatedly praised for their outstanding environmental work), among other special guests. Following a kickoff speech by Mayor Nickels, Senator Kerry delivered a glowing introduction for Senator Cantwell.

He reminded the audience of more than 1,000 about Maria's tireless work in the U.S. Senate fighting against drilling in the Arctic Refuge and fighting for the ratepayers of Snohomish PUD, who were victimized by the crooks at Enron.

Kerry also thanked everyone for their hard work in 2004 and expressed his gratitude for what he said was an unprecedented get-out-the-vote effort. "You surpassed all of our expectations," Kerry declared, to rousing applause.

After Kerry had delivered an encouraging assessment of Maria's work in the U.S. Senate and her reelection bid, Cantwell herself came to the podium to speak.

She was so warmly received that at times it was difficult to hear what she was saying because the applause and the cheering from the audience was so loud. She began by thanking Senator Kerry for his support of her campaign and his help in making the Arctic filibuster a success.

"This is Kerry country," Cantwell said of the Pacific Northwest, recollecting that Kerry won Washington State in 2004 by some 54%. She also recalled her own narrow victory in 2000 over incumbent (and entrenched Republican) Slade Gorton.

She repeatedly spoke of what a Kerry presidency would have meant for Washington State, especially on key issues such as energy independence and healthcare.

Addressing the administration's failures in Iraq, Cantwell declared to thunderous applause, "This year must be a year of transition. In 2006 we must get the Iraqi people back on their feet and bring our troops home."

Though Senator Cantwell has been repeatedly criticized for not having a position on Iraq, it was clear tonight that she does indeed have one.

Senator Cantwell believes that our presence so far in the region hasn't made Iraq a freer, safer, healthier country. She is evidently frustrated with the administration's inability to bring stability to the Middle East, and its constant stonewalling.

Finally, Cantwell underlined the importance of winning in 2006 just as Kerry had earlier, and reminded the crowd that there are other important races at stake this year.

"Wouldn't we like to send one more woman to the United States Congress?" Cantwell asked, referring to Darcy Burner's candidacy in the 8th Congressional District, which drew a huge roar of agreement from the audience.

Cantwell appeared to be confident, happy, and joyful, ready to take on Mike McGavick and win in November. By the end of the event it seemed everyone shared her enthusiasm. A large number of people stayed behind to shake hands with the senators.

It was a great event - an upbeat event with an incredibly supportive crowd, twice what some of the organizers had expected.

Senator Cantwell's speech had great themes. Most importantly, she showed that she does have a position on the Iraq War and that she is very concerned about the administration's mismanagement of the conflict.

With summer approaching, the campaign is finally beginning to kick into high gear. There's only about seven months until Election Day. It's time to get to work and give McGavick and his cronies a sound thrashing they won't soon forget.

Prediction Tuesday

The Washington State Input-Out Model is a favorite playground of local economic guru Dick Conway. He got his start with early versions of this I-O model, in connection with the Minnesota Implan Group, which at one time had a proprietary interest in the thing. A couple of years ago Conway directed an update. The I-O model has been footnoted and cited innumerable times, but it remains a thing of mystery to me.
It is advertised as a tool for gauging the impacts of specific known stimuli as they circulate through the economy. It appears to be a spreadsheet, at the top and continuing to one side is input, on the left and continuing down is output, by sector, or SIC, and in the intersecting cell there is a ratio to three digits.... well, here's the link.

The most recent update was begun in 2002 and released in 2004, with tables specific to 1997. I do not see government in the table. So demand is seen as a function of specific industry demand, for which reason it is a supply-oriented tool. For forecasting, it could provide an early warning signal, with a lead time that might be helpful for earthquakes. But that is not its purpose.
As long as I have you here, though, and have failed to make connections with the relevance of this effort, I will emphasize that output is determined by effective demand, not supply. All schemes dedicated to improving the economy by improving the lot of the supplier, the corporation, the investor, and so on, "supply side" schemes, have disappointed.

The I-O model reminds me of a larger problem in economics – the overuse of mathematics. Algebra is great. Mathematical symbols can describe complex relationships clearly. But a whole wing of the house of economics has been built on the faulty premise that the economic system is a closed system. Another wing, the statistical wing, has been built on the presumption that there are independent variables. The two wings often connect to the detriment of good understanding.

With the assumption that economics is the science of a closed system, mathematicians have applied the tools of thermodynamics to an area of human behavior. With the assertion that there are independent variables, statisticians have mapped a course to the point upon which they are already standing.

A notorious example of things gone awry is that of Long Term Capital. A couple of Nobel Prize-winning economists established a hedge fund strategy based on mathematical and statistical analyses of arbitrage (exploitation of price differences in different markets, often bond or securities markets). It worked fine for awhile, until it didn't. When Russia defaulted on its bonds in 1996, the high leverage (heavy borrowing) of the scheme nearly broke the back of the financial system. It took some late-night arm twisting before a consortium of banks and finance houses bailed Long Term Capital out. At one time it had derivative positions of about $1.25 trillion. To my knowledge, the principles did not return the Nobel Prize nor its generous endowment.

All of which has little to do with the Washington I-O Model, which is not particularly mathematically sophisticated, but simply arithmetically complex (as far as I can tell). And before you scold me, I see its intent, I just don't see that the logic in its assumptions. Are these relationships considered to be stable? What about general income effects? And where is the conduit of government?

I bring it all up because this is prediction Tuesday here at the blog, and I don't have any competitor's predictions to talk about. The best I can find is the word "moderate" used as a verb. "Inflation will moderate." "Job growth will moderate." Is that, "Look for the same only less so?" "Or more so?"

Give me something, or I'll dust off the Economic Report of the President for next time.

Stefan Sharkansky, reckless blogger?

I don't believe that a person's record of successfully predicting the outcome of election challenges is necessarily relevant to their fitness as a citizen blogger, and no, I wasn't looking for this sort of thing - a fellow blogger was the one who first brought it to my attention.

But Stefan Sharkansky's prediction from June of 2005 is interesting in its own way. David Goldstein, fellow writer, political analyst, and comedian par exellence, sent me links to two posts during the heat of the election challenge trial last June and told me I had to read them. Some excerpts:
He [Bridges] will either use the proportional analysis as proposed by the Republicans or punt on the issue by using an even more generous standard for tossing out illegal votes that will help the Republicans. I believe the Democrats have little credibility with the judge on this issue, and only the Republicans have given him a practical (if imperfect) path for moving forward. (June 4th)

As I've mentioned before, I'm predicting that Judge Bridges will set aside the election. (June 5th)
What's interesting is that the prediction was apparently made on the same day that Stefan left for Wenatchee. Perhaps he was predicting carelessly because he was distracted thinking about his travels. (I mean, how could anyone have made such a silly prediction after witnessing what happened in that trial?)

Again, this doesn't necessarily reflect on his fitness as a reputable citizen blogger (well, maybe it does - you decide!), but his blog traffic is likely to face some ups and downs over the next seven months.

In the interest of having reliable analysis out there, I hope Matt Rosenberg does most of the future predicting for unSoundPolitics.

Editor's Note: Not funny? Sorry. Stefan's just not very good at humor and as a consequence it's kind of hard to turn any of his material into a really good joke. I tried my best.

Ballot stuffing?

AP reporter Curt Woodward wrote a story yesterday about the now infamous online state quarter poll which was reprinted in this morning's Seattle P-I. The headline:

Washington State QuartersBallots stuffed in online vote on state quarter design

Here's a question for whoever came up with this lousy headline: Since it's an online poll and there are no paper ballots, why would you want to use the phrase "ballot stuffing"?

(If you remember the election challenge last year, a number of Republicans accused Democrats - including party officials, Ron Sims, and the Governor herself - of cheating and committing fraud. And there were allegations of "ballot stuffing". Wingnuts would like people to believe there's some connection).

The right phrase to use would be freeping, but maybe the traditional media hasn't heard about that yet.

People like Stefan Sharkansky of unSoundPolitics have tried to draw a subtle parallel between this online state quarter poll and the 2004 gubernatorial election, which is pretty laughable.

It was obvious to anyone who examined the poll closely that something wasn't right because you could press your back button and vote again. However, the poll was set up that way intentionally. It wasn't a mistake:
The State Quarter Advisory Commission initially allowed an unlimited number of votes from a single Internet address so family members sharing a computer could each register their favorite, spokesman Mark Gerth said.
Maybe they had good intentions, but they should have been aware of the freeping phenomenon. And while we're on the subject, polls can still be freeped even if there is a good mechanism set up to only allow one vote per computer or IP address. Sometimes such mechanisms can be defeated simply by deleting cookies.

We commend the State Quarter Advisory Commission for seeking public input, but we hope they realize that online polls have very serious drawbacks and can easily be manipulated.

(My favorite quarter design, by the way, is the third one down from the top).

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pictures from Markos and Jerome's Pacific NW Tour

Markos and Jerome conclude their Pacific NW Crashing the Gate tour today with a fundraiser this evening for Rob Brading, who is running to unseat Oregon's speaker of the House, Republican Karen Minnis (better known as the Wicked Witch). More details are available here.

For your enjoyment, here are some photos from their appearances in the Seattle are Friday and Saturday. All the events were a big success.

Markos and Jerome speaking at the Seattle Labor Temple

Markos and Jerome speaking at the Seattle Labor Temple (Friday, April 7th)

The crowd at the Seattle Labor Temple continues to grow as people arrive

The crowd at the Seattle Labor Temple continues to grow as people arrive. (Friday, April 7th)

Markos speaks to the crowd at Redmond's Marymoor Park

Markos speaks to the crowd at Redmond's Marymoor Park. (Saturday, April 8th)

People listen to Jerome speaking as Markos looks on

People listen to Jerome speaking as Markos looks on. (Saturday, April 8th)

Carl has some more pictures from Friday at the Washington State Political Report. And there's a nice writeup of the Friday night event here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

It's the economy, stupid

We can foam at the mouth over the shredding of the Constitution, the hypocritical leaks, the torture of innocents, or the criminal activity in Iraq, but at the end of the day, elections will be won or lost on the economy.

While polls may show Iraq on top as a voter concern today, always clustered near the top are: economy, jobs, social security, budget deficits, energy costs and health care. These are the economic issues. Yes, even health care. It will be sold on its economics, not its value as a social program. Business, government and consumers are going to go broke without a comprehensive fix.

The GOP is driving us down the road to ruin.
If you like charts, check out the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities slideshow on the current fiscal debacle going on in DC.

When he took office, George Bush was presented with projections of $5.6 trillion in surpluses over a 10-year period. He and his compliant Congress have turned that into $3.4 trillion in deficits. That's $9 trillion in losses. Or $900 billion per year. This is through 2011. The longer term is bleaker.

Where did the money go?

Tax cuts ate one-half, Defense increases ate one-third, Entitlement increases ate one-tenth.

In their latest budget excercise, Bush & Co cut Medicaid, foster care, student loans, child support enforcement, K-12 education, energy, environment, transportation, veterans medical care, and shifting costs to states in massive amounts, Bush & Co. and at the same time increased the deficit by $168 billion. Tax cuts.

Up until now, GOP tax cuts have meant $500,000 per year for people making $10 million or more according to the New York Times. CBPP estimates millionaires averaged $110,000, the top 1% got $40,000, the top 20% got $5,400, and the family in the middle got $748 -- hardly enough to sink an economy for.

The tax cuts that went into effect on January 1 were worth one dollar if you made between $75,000 and $100,000 per year. Below that, zilch. Above that, you're in the money. $20,000 if you made $1 million or more.
My favorite politician is Chris Gregoire. It used to be Senator John Kerry, but he didn't play the Economy card like he should have, being focused on Iraq. If he'd played it, it would be President Kerry. Same thing with Al Gore. His issue was Character.

But as Bill Clinton used to say, It's the economy, stupid.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

This Governor is the Real Deal

We need to pick up the option on Chris Gregoire. You can't do any better than she has done. Heck, you can't even do as good. This is Field of Dreams stuff. And like any great player, she makes those around her better, too. Highlights for one citizen:
  • Medical liability agreement

  • $940 million surplus in the bag to plug the dike in the next biennium

  • Civil rights act (at the legislature's lead)

  • Puget Sound clean-up

  • 4-year school in the Tri-Cities
On economics
  • Beginning to compete on quality education, not tax giveaways, and thus starting a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom.

  • Partnering with Oregon on transportation. It's about time we started working together. We don't need to fight over puny high tech companies, we need to maximize our geographic advantages.
On education (and if you don't think this is economics, too, tell me who is going to pay your social security and make your stocks worth more than mattress filler)
  • Department of Early Learning -- BIG payback coming on this one.

  • Washington Learns, a down to the foundation, 18-month study of how to do education right.

  • Q: Chaired by who? A: Chris Gregoire.
I luv this guv.

McGavick ditches campaign manager

It seems the Lobbyist! Mike! McGavick! Campaign! (sorry, couldn't resist) is having some serious issues. NPI has learned that Ian Goodhew, who has apparently managed McGavick's campaign over the last eight months, is leaving the campaign.

It's unclear whether he was forced out, asked to leave, or that he simply overtaxed himself and decided to quit.

But for Republicans, Goodhew's departure is a worrisome sign. The McGavick campaign has had a very, very difficult time finding its footing and continues to repeatedly stumble. Right now, the entire operation is on very shaky ground. Despite dumping a lot of money into TV ad buys McGavick hasn't moved in the polls at all.

Stae Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz declared that Goodhew's departure is simply another sign of a poorly run campaign:
The McGavick campaign lost their message and now they’ve lost their manager.

Lobbyist Mike! said he was running as a healer and a moderate, but then he turns around and invites Dick Cheney to town and is flying up to Alaska to take money from Big Oil courtesy of Sen. Ted Stevens.

This is a sign of a floundering, desperate campaign that has been trying to hide the fact that Lobbyist Mike! is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration.
McGavick needs money so he's turning to reliable big names like Ted Stevens and Dick Cheney to help wealthy donors cough up more special interest money for his campaign. That's certainly not going to sit well with Washingtonians. The Evergreen State simply doesn't need another senator in the pocket of the corrupt Bush administration.

Spectacular reception for Markos and Jerome in Seattle

The first day of Markos and Jerome's Pacific NW Crashing the Gate Tour has concluded - and I have to say, it was a huge success.

The authors were fabulous in both of their radio appearances (Jerome on KUOW's Weekday at 9 AM, and both authors on The Dave Ross Show at 4 PM). But more importantly, they got a spectacular reception at their speaking events (one at Microsoft, the second at the Labor Temple in Seattle).

Especially at the Labor Temple, it was a packed house. You could hardly find a place to sit down. Mostly the authors responded to attendees' questions, although they did give introductions. They also signed a lot of books.

It seemed that a lot of the discussions Markos and Jerome had throughout the day were centered around one idea: how the Democratic Party can save itself and start winning again. There were a fairly large amount of people who tied their own personal experiences into their questions.

You could practically detect the frustration in the air at the public events. It's obvious that progressives are sick of "business as usual" in the Democratic Party.

Seattle area progressives turned out in large numbers to hear Markos and Jerome because they are a refreshing change from the normal palette of political speakers we hear from. Quite often the speakers are candidates holding out their hands asking for money, or party leaders pontificating.

The progressive grassroots - now also the netroots - are longing for change. Not just here, but everywhere across the country. We need leaders who are courageous. adventurous, and not afraid of taking the Republicans head on.

We need leaders who can confidently tell voters what the Democratic Party is about and why the party's values are also America's values. Timidity doesn't work. As Markos stated more than once yesterday, we've already pretty much hit rock bottom. We don't control any branch of the federal government. It's time to stop heading in the wrong direction.

But Crashing the Gate can put the party back on course. It's great that this very important message is now available in an offline medium. Blogs have their advantages, but so do books.

If you missed last night's event at the Labor Temple, there's still a chance to meet Markos and Jerome. Come out to Marymoor Park at midday today to meet the authors. More details are available here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Attacks on Burner an effort to distract the media from Reichert's record

Over the last few days, right wing blogger and GOP hack Stefan Sharkansky has developed an infatuation with leveling pathetically ridiculous personal attacks at Darcy Burner, the Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District.

Stefan's silly criticisms, which have already been refuted on HorsesAss and Slog (among other places), are stupidly absurd and without merit, and not worth debunking again here. But there's a reason these attacks are being made.
The Republicans are afraid.

They know that Dave Reichert is weak - very weak. They know that he's vulnerable. They know that Reichert is no moderate, and that he is facing a challenger who will not hesitate to expose Reichert for who he really is.

And now that Darcy Burner has shown her fundraising prowess by raising a huge amount of money in the last quarter, hacks like Stefan have been no doubt been instructed by GOP party leaders to go on the attack - even if they have absolutely nothing to attack with.

They want to distract the media from the real story - Dave Reichert's truly awful record in Congress. But we won't let that happen.

Here's the record that voters in the 8th CD really care about:
  • Reichert voted to slash Medicare and Medicaid. (HR 4241)
  • Reichert voted to give billions in tax breaks to the oil industry. (HR 6)
  • Reichert flip-flopped and voted against opening the Arctic to oil drilling before he voted for it. (The Seattle Times, December 28, 2005)
  • Reichert voted to open hundreds of thousands of acres of public land to private development. (The Seattle P-I, November 12, 2005)
  • Reichert voted against VA funding and extending healthcare for families National Guard and Reserve personnel. (Amdt to HR 1815)
  • Reichert voted against the creation of a plan for withdrawal from Iraq. (Amdt 26 to HR 1815) (Amdt 26 to HR 1815)
  • Reichert voted in favor of weakening House Ethics Committee rules to protect Tom DeLay (HR 5)
  • Reichert voted against stem cell research. (HR 810)
  • Reichert voted against increased funding for state and local law enforcement. (HR 2862)
  • Reichert voted to allow nuclear waste to be stored at Hanford - "Surprisingly" said the P-I on June 1, 2005 - and voted for massive tax breaks for oil companies. (HR 2419 & HR 6)
  • Reichert voted to gut student loan programs. (HR 4241)
Dave Reichert is not a good representative for the people of the 8th District. He's another vote for Tom Delay (or was) and another vote for George Bush. It's time for Dave Reichert to leave Congress. His first term must be his last term.

The people of the 8th Congressional District deserve a representative who actually shares their values. Someone who believes that every American deserves an opportunity to succeed. Someone who believes in protecting our environment for future generations. Someone who believes that all young Americans should have the chance to get a college education.

That someone is Darcy Burner. She's running for Congress this year because she wants to change the direction of this country. A vote for Darcy is a vote for a better future. A vote for Reichert is a vote for higher deficits, fewer opportunities, and more unchecked power for George W. Bush.

That's what this campaign is about. These efforts to attack Burner's personal and professional background are outrageous and predictable. The media should ignore this garbage and investigate the real story: Dave Reichert's record.

Markos on the Colbert Report

You may have seen Markos Moulitsas on the Colbert Report last evening. I watched the show and enjoyed it immensely. Markos and Stephen managed to exchange a lot of playful banter while also getting to the core themes in Crashing the Gate.

Colbert asked some pretty good questions. One of his first was, "What is this gate and why are you crashing it?" I liked that question because a lot of people who aren't regular readers of Kos, MyDD, and other progressive blogs may not understand what this "netroots" phenomenon is about. Many people don't understand that the Democratic Party needs to be rescued from the D.C. establishment that currently has too much control of it.

Colbert can be tough - in fact, he can be brutal, as he was to Congresswoman Darlene Hooley (of Oregon's 5th District) earlier in the show. But Markos kept his cool and made a few great jests of his own. Maybe he felt nervous but I think he conveyed the themes he wanted. It really was a thrill seeing a graphic of Crashing the Gate up on the TV screen.

Markos and Jerome are in the Pacific Northwest this weekend as part of their nationwide Crashing the Gate tour. All of us at NPI are delighted they're here and hope you'll join us in welcoming them to the great states of Washington and Oregon.

A reminder that later today Markos and Jerome will be on 710 KIRO's The Dave Ross Show, and they'll be at the Labor Temple at 7 PM. The following day, they're over on the Eastside at Redmond's Marymoor Park. Find out more in our special coverage section here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Greenspan v. Bernanke, different words, same tune

The use of the language is different, thank God, but the economics are the same. Alan Greenspan spoke and wrote in a manner so circular and dissembling, that while it might have been obfuscatory and fundamentally dishonest, it was fascinating, like watching a spider spin.

Greenspan never bothered to untangle the meaning from the words he used. He just left the whole mess there on the table to be dissected like chicken entrails by the shaman interpreters of Wall Street.

Ben Bernanke, his replacement as Fed Chairman, promises to have a different, cryptic, use of the mother tongue. It will be code. Certain phrases will have specific implications. For example, "continuing interest firming may be needed" means look for another quarter point hike next month. Once we know the code, there will be no knots. That may be good. It may not.

But unfortunately, tragically, the same tedious and impotent economics informs them both. Bernanke shows no more imagination than Greenspan. He will continue to focus solely and exclusively and without deviation on the interest rate, even now that the short-term rate that the Fed controls has become disconnected from the long-term rate.
[Note that the "prime rate" is now and has been for some time just the short-term rate plus 3 percent. At one time it was connected to long-term financing by banks. Now it seems to be little more than a credit card benchmark.]
Bernanke also continues Greenspan's nonsensical repition of the importance of "core inflation." Core inflation excludes energy and food. Energy and food comprise a good chunk of the average family's budget. Energy prices eventually show up in the price of other goods and services, anyway, but cutting energy loose from his calculations has a particularly troubling implication for the Fed's approach. To the Fed, to Greenspan and now to Bernanke, all inflation is demand-pull inflation. But energy price hikes are the quintessential cause for demand-pull inflation. At the same time, energy is actually a competitor of labor. A rise in energy prices is cost push inflation that simultaneously reduces demand.

Andrew Oswald of Britain's Warwick University has pointed out that everything in our economy is a combination of energy and labor. Even extraction of resources. This means that when energy goes up in price, the price of labor must go down to compensate. Since wages are "sticky" and resist going down, the price cut in labor comes in the form of unemployment. (Oswald has the distinction of predicting the 2001 recession accurately at a time when others were predicting Dow 36,000 and the arrival of permanent prosperity.)

Obviously unemployment is not now at levels that reflect the enormous rise in the price of energy. That is because we have staved off the day of reckoning by borrowing like addicts. So the threat, or likelihood, is that an inflation scare will cause the Fed to try to shut down an economy on the brink of collapse.

Greenspan left with the economy awash in a sea of red ink, a rising tide that has lifted all boats for the moment. Unfortunately this red tide stains everything in sight, including our futures. At the very time we should have been saving, we were borrowing. When we should have been investing in people and facilities and research, we were investing in passive housing. When we should have been stabilizing. We were risking.

One would hope for a better captain and a new compass for the storms we face ahead.

Markos and Jerome on The Dave Ross Show Tomorrow

As I wrote in my last post, we've launched a special section on Pacific Northwest Portal to provide a guide to the Northwest tour for Crashing the Gate. This page includes details of the many events scheduled, as well as coverage from the regional blogosphere and the traditional media.

We've updated the page with the announcement of tomorrow's major radio appearance:

Markos and Jerome on The Dave Ross Show
Friday, April 7th, 2006 - 4 o'clock hour
710 KIRO AM Seattle

If you're near a radio, please tune in. You can also stream on the Internet, here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Markos and Jerome in the Pacific NW: Special Coverage Section Launched

As many of you have heard, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD are in the Pacific NW this month (April 2006) promoting their new book, Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People Powered Politics.

We've launched a special section on Pacific Northwest Portal to provide a guide to their Northwest tour. It includes details of the many events scheduled, as well as coverage from the regional blogosphere and the traditional media.

Use the page to make your plans to come see the authors, and follow the publicity surrounding the tour.

I am responsible for putting together the Marymoor event which is on Saturday, April 8th, and assisting the authors during their time in Seattle. If you would like to attend the event please RSVP to event (at) nwprogressive (dot) com and let us know you're coming. It is a public event; the media is also welcome.

Apple announces new software to let users run Windows XP on Macs

Well, this is a very interesting development:
To broaden its appeal in a Windows-dominated world, Apple Computer Inc. unveiled software Wednesday to help owners of its new Intel-based Macs run not only its own operating system but also Microsoft Corp.'s rival software.

Apple's shares surged as Wall Street bet the move would help Apple grow its current worldwide personal computer market share beyond the current range of 3 percent to 4 percent by attracting more business and home users.
The software, which is in beta, is called "Boot Camp". It is available now. Apple says the software will allow users with a Microsoft Windows XP installation disc to install Windows XP on an Intel-based Macintosh computer.

Basically, Boot Camp makes it possible to have a computer that can run both Mac OS and Windows. Users can switch between the operating systems by rebooting their Mac machines. Boot Camp will be a part of Apple's next version of the Mac OS (Leopard).

It's certainly intriguing news. It sent Apple shares soaring in trading today.

Microsoft's response?
"We're pleased that Apple customers are excited about running (Windows), and that Apple is responding to meet the demand." Kevin Kutz, a director in Microsoft's Windows Client Group, said in an e-mailed statement.

Microsoft declined to comment further.
It'll be interesting to see whether Apple can persuade more consumers to buy Macs now that there's software available to run both operating systems on Apple's hardware.

(By the way, if you're wondering, you won't be able to do the reverse - run Mac OS X on a standard, Intel-based PC):
"We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac," Phil Schiller, company senior vice president, said in a June interview. The company has not gone into specifics, but appears to be using a TPM (trusted protection module) chip as part of its authentication mechanism.
So if you don't need or want the Mac operating system, you're better off just buying the typical PC out on the market today from a company like Dell, HP, Gateway, or any of the others.

Coming clean at the Taxk Force

I came home last night to find an e-mail from our esteemed chair admonishing me for extracurricular activities for not informing the other members of Tacoma's Revenue Task Force that I had been posting here. I was not trying to hide out, not consciously, at least. I had checked with the legal counsel to the committee to make sure blogging was okay. I had not advertised the activity more to avoid political distractions in what should be a straightforward look at municipal financing. Also so as not to blow my own horn. And a little bit because I am wary of the Open Meetings Act.

(So Task Force members, don't use the comment function on this site till we get a ruling on whether that would constitute "deliberations." If you see yourself caricatured here, it's because I'm focused on the economics. The characters are not nuanced. Honest.)

Now the Faithful Thirty-Nine will likely be expanded by ten or eleven for a day or so, and to make life easier, I have collected the posts on the Taxk Force below, so you won't have to scroll through the past three months. Also check out the Pacific Northwest Portal, the regional information gateway and media center created by NPI's resident genius (and Executive Director) Andrew Villeneuve and company.
And here is a piece on a state income tax, with a very good comment from Jeanne Large appended.

Get in the shoes of the taxpayer

Area libraries pick up Crashing the Gate

I'm pleased to report that the King County Library System has picked up Crashing the Gate, the trailblazing new book from Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD.

At the end of my review of the book posted nearly a month ago, I wrote:
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.
Early last March, while I was reviewing Crashing the Gate, I visited my local library and searched the catalog for the book. I didn't find any mention of it, so I filled out a book request form, asking KCLS to buy the book. I also showed the staff my copy.

A couple of days ago, I received an email from KCLS letting me know that I had a hold available for pickup at the Redmond Regional Library. I was puzzled, because I didn't remember having recently placed any holds.

I was delighted when I checked the details and saw the hold was for Crashing the Gate. The library apparently put the book on hold for me because I filled out that book request form asking them to buy it.

I checked out the library catalog online and observed that the library system has purchased multiple copies of the book. Currently, there are 15 holds on first copy returned of 8 copies. The Seattle Library System has also purchased multiple copies of the book; so they have it in their catalog as well.

The lesson is that one of the best things you can do to help promote Crashing the Gate is to ask your local library to stock the book, especially if you live in a rural or suburban area that has a smaller library system. SPS and KCLS may have the book catalogued now, but I'm betting that most of the smaller libraries in the Pacific Northwest (and across the nation) do not.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reminder: Markos and Jerome in Seattle This Weekend!

A reminder that 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. Please RSVP if you are planning on attending. [You can RSVP to event (at) nwprogressive (dot) com]

There will also be an event the night before in Seattle at the Labor Temple (begins at 7 PM) which we also encourage you to attend. The Labor Temple is located at 2800 1st Avenue. The event is being held in Hall 1.

SurveyUSA vs. Strategic Vision

Recently Stefan authored a post on unSoundPolitics which carried the results of the March Strategic Vision poll of Washington State voters. (It's worth remembering that Strategic Vision is a GOP polling firm).
The poll found that 39% of respondents approved of Gregoire’s job performance; 52% disapproved; and 9% were undecided.
Stefan and his cohorts, of course, claim that Gregoire is very unpopular.

But the March SurveyUSA poll paints a very different picture. According to the SurveyUSA poll (conducted March 16th, 2006) 47% of voters approve of Gregoire's job performance, while 46% disapprove and 6% were unsure. The SurveyUSA poll tracking graph shows that the Governor's approval ratings are slowly but surely rising over time, with some incremental decreases scattered throughout the last few months.

The 47% figure is in fact the highest in the history of Gregoire's term thus far. Considering that a year ago Gregoire was in the mid-thirties (in the SurveyUSA poll) her current numbers are pretty good. And they should continue to get better in the coming months (and years).

Surprisingly, the Strategic Vision and SurveyUSA polls aren't too far apart on Cantwell and Murray. Both polls put Murray at 55% approval for last month. SurveyUSA has Cantwell at 51% approval, while Strategic Vision (again, the GOP outfit) has her at 49%. And (according to SurveyUSA) Cantwell's approval rating from Democrats remains strong - it's at 75% for March, which is a healthy figure.

The sizable discrepancy between the polls asking voters how they feel about the Governor's job performance is certainly interesting. But given that Strategic Vision is an operation run by partisans, the SurveyUSA poll is certainly more credible. It also seems accurate considering the other information we have about public opinion of the Governor.

The right wing was hoping the passage of Initiative 912 would underscore the Governor's supposed unpopularity last autumn, but of course it failed (by a large margin) and Gregoire's position solidified.

If the current trend continues (and we believe it will) Gregoire's popularity and approval ratings will continue to slowly rise, much to Stefan's disappointment. We'll be watching in the months ahead to see how the numbers change in both polls - especially Strategic Vision's.

Monday, April 03, 2006

BREAKING: Delay to leave the House

We're finally rid of him. He's announced he won't seek reelection:
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), a primary architect of the House Republican majority who became one of the most powerful and feared leaders in Washington, told House allies Monday night he will step down from the House rather than face a reelection fight that appears increasingly unwinnable.

The decision came just three days after his former deputy chief of staff, Tony C. Rudy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges, telling federal prosecutors of a criminal enterprise being run out of DeLay's leadership offices. Rudy's plea agreement did not implicate DeLay in any illegal activities, but by placing the influence-buying efforts of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff directly in DeLay's operation, the former aide may have made an already difficult reelection bid all but out of reach.
CNN has been abuzz with the news this evening. Apparently Delay will be holding a press conference tomorrow to make his decision official. In a way, it's kind of a shame, because it means we won't have the satisfaction of defeating him at the ballot box. Still, he'll be gone.

UPDATE: TIME Magazine has this interesting detail:
DeLay said he is likely to leave by the end of May, depending on the Congressional schedule and finishing his work on a couple of issues. He said he will change his legal residence to his condominium in Alexandria, Va., from his modest two-story home on a golf course here in the 22nd District of Texas. "I become ineligible to run for election if I'm not a resident of the state of Texas," he said, turning election law to his purposes for perhaps on last time. State Republican officials will then be able to name another Republican candidate to face Democrat Nick Lampson, a former House members who lost his seat in a redistricting engineered by DeLay.
He's certainly going out in style - the corrupt scumbag.

PD: Eyman's Referenum 65 petitions filled with outrageous lies

What a surprise...Tim Eyman continues to lie and mislead voters. Here's what you need to know from the Permanent Defense Journal:
Washington state voters should be aware that Tim Eyman and the religious right are once again attempting to deceive and mislead the public. Permanent Defense has obtained copies of Eyman's R-65 petition, which, strangely enough, he has not been distributing to his email list of supporters. (Eyman's small band of supporters have been getting fundraising emails and petitions for Initiative 917).

On the front of the Referendum 65 petition are the words:

NO PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT, NO QUOTAS, NO SAME SEX MARRIAGE

The entire subheading is a lie.

ESHB 2661 (which is the law Eyman is trying to repeal with R-65) does not give not anyone preferential treatment. In fact, it does just the reverse - it explicitly outlaws preferential treatment by banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

ESHB 2661 also has nothing to do with quotas or same sex marriage. To imply that it does is an outright fabrication, crafted to scare the electorate.

Ironically, below this subheader, there is the Ballot Measure Summary, which reads:
ESHB 2661 amends the state’s law against discrimination to prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation” in employment, housing, credit, insurance, health maintenance contracts, public accommodations, and commercial boycotts or blacklists. “Sexual orientation” includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity.

State marriage laws are not modified, employment goals or quotas are not required, nor any specific belief, practice, behavior or orientation endorsed.

Religious organizations and owner-occupied dwelling units are exempt from this law.
That Eyman has the gall to make voters think ESHB 2661 is about preferential treatment, quotas, and same sex marriage is an outrage. But it's not a surprise.

Permanent Defense strongly encourages voters not to sign Referendum 65, and to report signature gathering activity for this measure when they see it.
To report right wing signature gathering activity, follow this link.

UPDATE: I was going to upload a graphic but fortunately David Goldstein has already done that, so here you go:

Eyman Lies

Sunday, April 02, 2006

View from the Taxk Force

The last meeting of Tacoma's ground breaking Revenue Task Force (nee City Services Tax Task Force) was kinda rocky. It turns out there was a reason the city council named us "stakeholders." We were holding onto our stakes for dear life the other night. (No, we were not driving them through the hearts of our opponents.)

The voice of small nonprofits was particularly strident. Her view was that nonprofit enterprises of all sizes and descriptions are virtual monastics in service to the greater good. To suggest they might support some of the city services like fire and police protection was a heresy unworthy of any of us. Instead, we should balance the budget by eliminating COLAs for employees and letting them pay part of their health insurance to boot.

I am a heretic of long standing, so I did speak up, not on the absence of saintliness in her preferred financing scheme, but rather I pointed out that nonprofits were getting a big fat subsidy from the city when they accepted services without paying for them.

Well! (the voice was louder, of course) It's an explicit subsidy. Everybody knows about it. Payment in part for the services.

It's not explicit at all, and I said as much. It's something not paid. Nobody even knows how much it's worth.

I got support from the other economist on the Taxk Force, who diplomatically picked out the other nonprofit representatives to talk to. Our eleven members include four holding the stakes for nonprofits -- two (including the chair) from the University of Puget Sound, the aforementioned head of the nonprofit center, and an accountant whose connection to the sector is still vague in my mind.

The other economist doubted that UPS would expect the city to write out a check in the amount of service it provides. She received an answer of modest length on the value of UPS to the community and how they handle some security in-house and how the library is open to the public and heavily used. (Make a note of it. The city's libraries might be closed. Staffing is so tight there are "rolling closures" if a librarian has the temerity to get sick.)

Heretic or not, I really don't have it in for nonprofits, particularly not UPS nor the small-scale social service agencies represented by Ms. Cut-Their-Salaries-Through-the-Back-Door.

If she'd read the material, she'd see my variation on the city manager's proposal excludes all nonprofits except the very largest, say, the hospitals. It eschews the use of the property tax, which has to be levied on all property at a single rate. As a tool to get to some of the apparent tax dodges, like the small seminary which keeps the old Weyerhaeuser mansion off the books, it could work. But when applying it to operations of diverse dimensions, it becomes a blunt instrument.

I like nonprofits. I operate without making a profit myself. I'm not into squeezing turnips, either, which is what trying to get revenue form these smaller agencies amounts to. On the other hand, there's a lot of highly paid people operating in those medical centers on the hill and not paying a dime to the city.

Heck, maybe we could charge them by the ambulance load.

Latest Elway poll suggests Democrats will retain Legislature

Via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, we learn that the latest Elway poll is out - and once again there's good news for Democrats:
Voters in Washington state give an 11-point advantage to Democrats in a generic election for the Legislature, according to the latest Elway Poll. Forty-four percent favor Dems while 33 percent would vote for the GOP.

Pollster Stuart Elway says the breakdown of the numbers is even more worrisome for Republicans. Nine in 10 Democrats plan to vote for members of their own party, while three of four Republicans were sure they'd vote for GOP candidates. Independents said they favored Democrats by a two to one margin.

The poll of 405 registered voters in the state was conducted March 20-22. The margin of error is 5 percent.
Despite the hysterical, silly ranting of zealots like Tim Eyman, voters seem pretty happy with Olympia's leadership. This poll is certainly evidence of that idea.

This isn't a surprise, of course, especially coming on the heels of the landmark victory against Initiative 912. It is a another vindication of legislative and gubernatorial successes.

Governor Christine Gregoire and state legislators have a lot to be proud of. In the last two years they've made significant progress on a lot of tough issues, including transportation, civil rights, and increasing environmental protections. This year, Democrats have a chance to extend their majorities in both houses and come back for the 2007 legislative session stronger than ever.

On a smiliar note, the AP's David Ammons has a piece this weekend asking, "Will anyone remember Rossi if he runs again?"

If Rossi does choose to run again it's likely that many voters will remember his 2004 bid (after all, the 2004 election received a huge amount of media attention).

The huge problem for Rossi is that it won't be 2004, and it will be a completely different race. He will have been out of the public limelight for almost four years (if and) when he kicks off his 2008 candidacy, as Ammons noted. His old themes won't resonate.

Whether voters remember Rossi or not won't be very important. What will be important is whether the electorate will be satisfied with Governor Christine Gregoire's leadership. And unfortunately for Rossi, they probably will be.

So far, Gregoire has been a very strong governor, refusing to duck even the toughest issues. She has worked very diligently to tackle some of the state's hardest problems, bringing warring factions together and insisting on results.

There's no reason to believe this won't continue, especially since it seems that Gregoire will once again have a friendly Legislature to work with for the remainder of her first four year term.

One unknown and complicating factor is the slew of right wing ballot initiatives that could be on the ballot this year. But as I wrote many times last year while we were fighting I-912, we can turn these challenges into opportunities.

The problem for the GOP and the right wing, of course, is the chance of failure.
If their ballot measures fail, Gregoire and the Democrats will enjoy an even stronger position. With their major decisions vindicated by voters, there would be little for Republicans to go on the offensive with.

Republicans can't insist the gas tax is controversial any more because it was explicitly upheld by voters. What happens if the same thing happens this year? What happens if the Farm Bureau and its allies fall short and don't destroy the growth management laws? What happens if Tim Eyman's I-917 fails and the transportation package remains intact (again)?

Since the GOP has little hope of recapturing the Legislature, a lot of energy will be put into ballot measures. (So far, the right is working on I-917, I-920, I-933, and R-65). But if those efforts fall short - and we will do our best to make sure they will - the Republicans will be in pretty bad shape.

Our friends at Progressive Majority are working hard to make sure that Democrats are very competitive in this year's legislative races, and they will have our full support. We will also be very active in supporting Maria Cantwell and Darcy Burner.

But you can bet that we'll have an extremely significant focus this year on derailing every single one of those right wing ballot measures. If we can deflect all those challenges, we will create enormous opportunities for even more victories in the years that follow.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Seaside Development Update

(Note to our readers: This is not an April Fools' Day joke).

A few people have recently asked me what "Seaside" (Pacific Northwest Portal Version 4.0) will look like, and exactly what it entails.

If you're familiar with Pacific NW Portal's development history, we like to keep things under wraps and not say too much. There are several reasons for this. One is that we don't like making promises we can't keep. We don't want to promise new features that eventually end up being unfeasible or unworkable.

Another is that we typically don't know exactly what the new version will encompass until we're almost done working on it. Our development process has always been flexible. We can incorporate new ideas at almost any point, to a certain extent. This is very true of Seaside - the vision of what it entails has been a work in progress all along.

I mentioned earlier that Seaside is first and foremost about reliability. While this hasn't changed, this doesn't mean you shouldn't expect new features. Seaside is a major upgrade, similar to True Blue, which was launched over six months ago and transformed the site. And of course True Blue had lots of new features.

But the improvement we all liked most about True Blue was the stability it introduced. We want Pacific Northwest Portal to work and display properly for as many people using as many different platforms as possible. So when we started working on Seaside, the first question we asked was, "How do we make the site work and display more reliably?"

We've had about eight months to evaluate the success of True Blue, and identify areas where we can improve. We already made some public changes - we released two minor updates in August, a semi-major update in October, and another minor update in late November.

How close is Seaside to completion? We don't feel like the finish line is necessarily in sight right now, but we do think the new version will be ready this month. As we get closer we'll post an update and give you a better idea, but we're pretty confident it will be ready before April is over.

April Fools Day

Okay, so maybe you got our April Fools Day joke. Or maybe you didn't.



In case you haven't figured it out, PortalSelect is fake. We have absolutely no plans to charge people to access Pacific Northwest Portal.

Why did we do this?

Well, first, we wanted to have a bit of fun, but on a serious note, we also wanted to make a point. PortalSelect is a parody of TimesSelect, which is the New York Times' walled off section of its website. You basically have to pay fifty bucks to get access to it (which we think is ridiculous).

Our philosophy is that news and commentary should be free. That's what the Internet is about. Before TimesSelect, columnists such as Paul Krugman received a lot of attention from the blogosphere. That has all but evaporated - it doesn't happen any more. The New York Times is apparently more interested in short term profit then expanding its readership (and growing its business), which is too bad.

In introducing TimesSelect, the company has made itself less relevant and damaged its reputation. Their website is now littered with little orange graphics which point out which articles and content are walled off.

There's a very real possibility that the Seattle Times Company may try something similiar should the P-I go under. (The Spokane Spokesman-Review already has, and that's why we almost never link to them). If and when the Times is a monopoly in Seattle, they may think they have nothing to lose. Well, they do, and we'll make sure they know that.

But you can rest assured that the entire NPI network will always remain free. (And yes, we promise we'll never play a trick like this again.)

Higher minimum wage helps us all

Notice how unemployment spiked when we began indexing the minimum wage? Not.

A recent column from John Burbank reminded me that Washington is almost civilized in its treatment of low wage workers. Burbank is head of EOI, the Economic Opportunity Institute, based in Seattle. He and EOI were prime proponents of initiative 688, which garnered two-thirds of the vote in 1998 and tied the minimum wage to inflation. He is, and should be, justifiably proud of the measure. The wage rate is now $7.63, highest in the nation, two and a half dollars above the federal minimum of $5.15.

Watch out! The sky has not fallen! Quite the contrary. Jobs are plentiful.

Burbank's column tied the minimum wage into a cheery little formula for job and income growth that he projects onto the current situation: "the blossoming economy, increases in productivity, a minimum wage that keeps up with inflation, and public investment in education and transportation."

As you know, I do not see a blossoming economy. I see one juiced on debt, which includes the poison pill of its own demise. The increases in productivity Burbank sees we could debate, and may another time. (I certainly do not see productivity improvements translated into wage increases.)

I do agree – even more than Burbank does (and if one can agree more) – that the minimum wage is helping economic vitality. No doubt.

It once was a tenet of economics texts, right behind the first law, that the minimum wage discouraged employment because it kept wages above the equilibrium intersection of supply and demand. Then a study was done on the East Coast (for $5 I'll get the cite) which demonstrated that employment went UP after an increase in the minimum wage.

Foam could be seen seeping through the beards of academia. Humph! Not possible!

Possible and true. Even if it is still ignored in the classroom. Why? As a demand sider, I say the wages of low-paid people tend to get spent quickly and possibly in venues operated by other low-paid people. An increase in demand generates its increase in supply, as always.

The same sort of dynamic is taking place in Washington. A dollar spent on low-wage labor very likely doesn't go very far geographically or temporally, and generates far more stimulus than a dollar spent on high-wage labor or profits or rents.

Beyond that, it could be that people are drawn to the state for these low-wage jobs, particularly as other state's economies weaken. Illegals and those who assist them. People create wealth. More people, more economic activity. Whatever the reason, it is only too clear that jobs have not died under the burden of our civilized minimum wage policy.

The last element in Burbank's formula was investment in education and transportation. Yes. These produce a healthy society and a healthy economy, improving productivity. I disagree that we have invested as much as we need to in these critical areas. I also question whether our spending on highways and their partners automobiles and gasoline is very smart. (Rail, high efficiency rail, publicly managed rail, clean, Washington-made, future-oriented, community-building rail. Is better.) Aside from productivity, remember, too, the jobs in education and transportation (both construction and operation), while not high-paying, can generate middle class households.

Lastly, and perhaps closer to the core of Burbank's contention, we need to fully appreciate that business comes looking for good education and transportation infrastructure. I know this is what the Guv believes. And both of them are right. The most instructive matrix on business siting decisions I ever saw is from work done for the 2002 Gates Commission, the Tax Structure Study. (You'll have to rotate it on your PDF reader.) It's on page 12 of this link.

See how taxes are far down on the list, behind workforce, transportation, and of course, number one, market. Notice that higher taxes are necessary for better education and transportation. Draw your own conclusions.

(Hint: Investment in education and transportation is the right answer.)

Announcing PortalSelect

Today, the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce PortalSelect, a new service from NPI providing you with exclusive online access to the best news & views.



Free Trial! Sign up before the end of April 1st and get full access for two months. Cancel anytime.

What's this about?
As a result of unexpected traffic surges over the last month, NPI's server costs have increased dramatically and we have made the decision to switch the Portal over to a subscription system. A recent user survey conducted by NPI suggested that advertising would be unpopular, so we chose a subscription-based system instead.

This isn't fair...you didn't even provide advance warning!
Well, life's not fair. We don't have endless resources. Money doesn't grow on trees here in the Evergreen State (unfortunately). We have hosting costs and those must be taken care of. If you like Pacific NW Portal enough, we're sure you'll become a subscriber. You know what the Portal is about: Round the clock access to the most important political news and analysis in the region.

What about other NPI websites?
Access to our Official Blog, core site, and Permanent Defense will remain free.

OK, so how much is it?
Full access to Pacific NW Portal, including our new PriorityEmailSupport (to resolve your display problems) is available to you for the low, affordable fee of $3.00 a month. Partial access (front page, Washington and Oregon state pages, no email support) is available for the even lower fee of $1.00 a month.

How do I get access?
The first step is to sign up for an account. Once you've entered your personal information you can choose a full or partial subscription. We accept either Visa or MasterCard (we may soon be able to accept American Express as well, we're working on that). You will receive a confirmation email asking you to confirm your new PortalSelect account.

Thank you for your patience during this time of transition, and sorry for the confusion.

If you're irritated about this and require a better explanation, click here.