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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Washington can't afford Mike McGavick

It's becoming more and more apparent to Americans that the destructive policies of the Bush administration and its rubber stamp Republican Congress are slowly wreaking havoc on America's health and sustainable future.

Our country's finances are in shambles. We're deep in debt, while at the same time, Republicans are rewarding mega conglomerates and wealthy individuals with huge tax cuts. We're mired in an endless quagmire in Iraq - a country we preemptively invaded for no good reason. Our country's national resources are being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Federal laws are being rewritten to favor big corporations, like the entertainment industry and the credit card companies. And all the while, Republicans are trying to wipe out funding for everything from Pell Grants to PBS.

Voters will have a choice this November to decide what they think of the administration and its cronies in Congress.

Every day it becomes plainly evident to more citizens that the Republicans running Washington D.C. are a disaster. The turning point for many was Hurricane Katrina last year. For others, it was the indictment of Scooter Libby.

There is only one way to stop the downward slide we're in, and that is to start changing the leadership in Congress. In order for that to happen, we need to retake the House of Representatives and the Senate away from the corrupt Republicans. We accomplish this by defeating Republican incumbents and defending Democratic ones.

There are Democrats in Congress who stand up to the administration every day and are fighting hard to hold Bush accountable.

Maria Cantwell is one of those Democrats. Washington can either return her to the Senate - or, it can send another Republican to D.C. who will simply vote in lockstep with George W. Bush.

The stakes are high and the consequences are huge. The choices we make now will have a big impact on the future.

What does a vote for Mike McGavick mean? Here's an idea:
  • A vote for Mike McGavick is a vote for fiscal irresponsibility, because Mike supports the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and the administration's misguided fiscal policies, at the expense of hardworking families.
  • A vote for Mike McGavick is a vote to weaken our public education system. McGavick supports Bush's "Every Child Left Behind" legislation, and has previously suggested privatizing public universities - an alarming, radical proposal designed to create a tiered education system - one for the haves, and one for the have nots.
  • A vote for Mike McGavick is a vote for a Constitutional amendment (proposed by Bush and the right wing) to ban gay marriage and make inequality the supreme law of the land. McGavick has said he supports the amendment.
  • A vote for Mike McGavick is a vote to let oil companies like Exxon Mobil (which are writing checks to the McGavick campaign) off the hook.
  • A vote for Mike McGavick is a vote in support of the administration's shady domestic spying programs, which Mike has voiced support for.
As Representative Jay Inslee likes to say, Americans have had "a bellyful" of this administration and its disastrous policies. All they're offering is "stay the course" - and that's not an acceptable option.

The direction of this nation cannot be changed if more Bush cronies are elected to the U.S. Congress.

And that's why Washington just can't afford Mike McGavick.

Seattle Weekly mentions Seaside

Thanks to George Howland for the mention:
Blogger-activist wunderkind Andrew Villeneuve has had the best guide to local lefty blogs, Pacific Northwest Portal, (www.nwportal.org), but on Thursday, May 26, the 19-year-old Bellevue Community College student from Redmond upgraded his site. It looks prettier, works faster, and now features a list of 242 liberal blogs—up from 30 blogs—from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and Montana. You'll also find news headlines from around the region and NOAA weather reports. Now if only Villeneuve can achieve his other goal in life: shutting down initiative king Tim Eyman. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
However, it's always hard to get the little details right, so I'll clarify a few things: first, Seaside actually launched last Wednesday (May 25th), but it is true that we didn't get finished tweaking it until the end of Thursday. So the launch did kind of stretch over two days.

Second, we didn't go from 30 blogs to 242 overnight, as might be implied. At the very beginning (when we started in January 2005), we had 30 blogs in the directory, which is what Howland meant. Oddly enough, though, the number of blogs added with Seaside (Version 4.0) is also 30. We climbed from 212 to 242, and we'll be adding more again soon.

The site isn't all mine, either. Though I'm executive director, Pacific Northwest Portal, like the rest of NPI's network, is a joint effort.

I have lots of goals in life, but Howland is absolutely right that one of them is shutting down Tim Eyman (who isn't a king of anything). That's what first got me interested in political activism and it certainly provides inspiration to keep on organizing and mobilizing for change.

We like our debt

With no comment, here is a chart of borrowing by major sector over the past twelve years.

This is borrowing by year, not aggregate or total debt. Federal borrowing shown here is the so-called "unified" budget, meaning the operating budget after it gets done raiding Social Security. In coming days, we'll put up some other charts from the Fed's release. Then we'll comment.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Rahm Emanuel leads rally for Darcy Burner

Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, just finished speaking at a packed and very energized rally on Mercer Island for Darcy Burner, the Democrat who is challenging Dave Reichert in Washington's 8th Congressional District.

Emanuel was one of many speakers, including State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz and Rodney Tom, who is running for the state Senate in the 48th against Republican Luke Esser. All three spoke about the importance of winning back Congress in 2006, holding the administration accountable, and changing the course of America.

As in past speeches, Darcy spoke knowledgeably about the situation we face in Iraq - and why we owe it to our men and women in uniform to come up with a plan for giving Iraq back to the Iraqis.

She delivered her remarks smoothly and concisely. It is clear to anyone who listens to her speak these days how comfortable and relaxed she is in front of a podium or in front of a microphone.

Emanuel seemed pleased to be in attendance, despite the fact that he'd apparently just gotten off a plane and had come a long way out from Illinois. He was very polished, and made a compelling argument about the importance of winning this year, in 2006, not in 2008.

"We can stay the course, or choose a new direction," Emanuel said. "But all the Republicans want to offer is stay the course, the status quo - stand pat."

"All Dave Reichert wants to do is rubber stamp Bush's policies," Emanuel continued. "Voters needs to know there's a choice."

"Every election, and every effort [to take back Congress] starts in individual Congressional Districts," he noted. "And you have a candidate who fits the district perfectly."

"We're going to invest alongside you," Emanuel declared, of the DCCC's commitment to the race. "But you have to make it happen. We can't do it without you."

Darcy continues to do an admirable job of blending her personal background, her motivation for running, her values, and her priorities into her presentation. She has crafted a very appealing, unique and personable stump speech that is not only convincing, but also inspiring, and even captivating.

The rally, although short, was exceptionally well attended and filled with a contagious spirit. Attendees were delighted to hear the news (just announced today) that Dubya himself is coming out in mid June to raise money for Dave Reichert's campaign.

All of the speakers repeatedly emphasized the importance of this - because, as most activists know, Dubya's handlers don't allow him to appear at a fundraiser with just any Republican candidate. Bush is coming out because Reichert's campaign is in danger. Darcy's campaign, on the other hand, is strong, robust, and refreshing.
The campaign is thinking strategically and creatively, reaching out to the netroots, and engaging voters early. But Darcy needs our help - our time, talents, and treasure - to continue to make this race competitive. It's clear from today's rally that she's beginning to get the kind of support she really needs to wage a powerful, successful effort.

If you observe signature gathering for right wing initiatives, please report it

A reminder to progressive activists: If you happen to see petitioners collecting signatures for any right wing initiative, please use Permanent Defense's reporting tool to tell us about it so we can exercise our free speech rights and talk to voters about the consequences of these initiatives.

Permanent Defense has 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)

Help us 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 people like Tim Eyman and their right wing cohorts from deceiving the public and destroying our sustainable future. Thanks to everyone who adds a button to their site or uses the reporting system for their help.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Memorial Day

Hopefully, you had a pleasant and enjoyable weekend with family and friends, and paused to remember and reflect on those who gaves their lives in service for this country.

But unfortunately, not everyone had such a great Memorial Day. The death toll continues to climb higher in Iraq, and the insurgency make itself painfully and tragically apparent to the news team at CBS.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Taking it to 'em in Eastern Washington

Supporting Democrats in Eastern Washington is not throwing your money away.

In the 4th, Doc Hastings is vulnerable. The rule of thumb is an incumbent is safe unless there is an explicit reason for the voters to turn him out. Here there is. Doc as the disappearing chair of the Ethics Committee has been the doorman for the House of Corruption, Tom DeLay's lapdog. He's also the tactician who made the Medicare drug bill fiasco a reality. Opposing him is a truly good man in Richard Wright. Wright is the perfect counterpoint -- compassionate rather than cold; honest and straightforward rather than secretive and conniving, and as a successful businessman with a dozen physical therapy clinics, he's just the man to re-write the drug bill and help a transition to universal health coverage. A simple swap of Wright for Doc would raise the integrity level in the House by 15 points.

In the 5th, GOP incumbent Cathy McMorris is of a different gender and not quite as dumb as Dave Reichert, but of the same ask-no-questions party line mold. She has a big problem in the demographically gifted Peter Goldmark -- rancher, scientist, environmentalist, farm advocate. If Goldmark can split the small towns and farms, then carry Spokane with it's 65% of the voters, he wins.

Your money may be well placed in these races. Early support is very big, not only to finance campaign activities, but to demonstrate seriousness to future donors. If either or both of these candidates get close to winning, it will at a minimum force a defense of these seats by Republicans and draw off action from other races. Also, the GOP smear machine will not be quite so convincing in October if it has to fire in four directions (Cantwell, Burner, Wright, Goldmark), rather than one or two.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pledge to see "An Inconvenient Truth"

Over 100,000 individuals have pledged so far to see the new documentary film by Davis Guggenheim, starring the man who should be our President - Al Gore.

An Inconvenient Truth, which is now playing in select theaters across the nation, is all about the threat of global warming, the science that proves it's happening, the and the political war on that science (led by Republicans) that has led to the nation's inability to take action:
Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.

An Inconvenient TruthIf that sounds like a recipe for serious gloom and doom -- think again.

From director Davis Guggenheim comes the Sundance Film Festival hit, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, which offers a passionate and inspirational look at one man's fervent crusade to halt global warming's deadly progress in its tracks by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it.

That man is former Vice President Al Gore, who, in the wake of defeat in the 2000 election, re-set the course of his life to focus on a last-ditch, all-out effort to help save the planet from irrevocable change.

In this eye-opening and poignant portrait of Gore and his "traveling global warming show," Gore also proves himself to be one of the most misunderstood characters in modern American public life. Here he is seen as never before in the media - funny, engaging, open and downright on fire about getting the surprisingly stirring truth about what he calls our "planetary emergency" out to ordinary citizens before it's too late.

With 2005, the worst storm season ever experienced in America just behind us, it seems we may be reaching a tipping point - and Gore pulls no punches in explaining the dire situation. Interspersed with the bracing facts and future predictions is the story of Gore's personal journey: from an idealistic college student who first saw a massive environmental crisis looming; to a young Senator facing a harrowing family tragedy that altered his perspective, to the man who almost became President but instead returned to the most important cause of his life - convinced that there is still time to make a difference.
Predictably, when Dubya was asked by the media if he would see Gore's film, he replied "Doubt it".

Bush also suggested we should "set aside whether or not greenhouse gases have been caused by mankind." The man who shouldn't be President may not care about our environment, or our future, but we do - and the man who should be President does, too:
Gore said the causes of global warming should not be ignored.

"Why should we set aside the global scientific consensus?" Gore said, his voice rising with emotion. "Is it because Exxon Mobil wants us to set it aside? Why should we set aside the conclusion of scientists in the United States, including the National Academy of Sciences, and around the world including the 11 most important national academies of science on the globe and substitute for their view the view of Exxon Mobil. Why?"

"I'm a grandfather and he's a father and this should not be a political issue," Gore said. "And he should ask the National Academy of Sciences ... whether or not human beings are contributing to global warming."
This is a film that America must see. This is an issue America must understand. Will you make a commitment to go see the film on its opening weekend? Click here to pledge to see the truth, and join hundreds of thousands of other concerned Americans in showing you care about the future of our country - and the future of planet Earth.

The economic answer to immigration

Non-answers to the immigration problem begin with those of Charles Krauthammer, which include erecting a wall along the entire border and in one motion legalizing those inside the country and slamming a miracle door that keeps everybody else out. This goofiness follows directly after Krauthammer lampoons Bush for thinking he can close the border with a military style action. And of course, there is no shortage of liberal straw men in Krauthammer's analysis.

In fact, liberals like Thom Hartmann have made the case that illegal immigration is a favor to Corporate America because it depresses the price of labor by increasing its supply. He and others have correctly pointed out that if employers of illegals were jailed for hiring them, the flow would be stanched quicker than any size electric fence could accomplish. (Notably, Krauthammer fails to mention this central alternative to the Berlin Wall of the South.)

But the real answer, the economic answer is to provide development support for the populations where they currently reside: Basic investment in roads, utilities and education, not subsidies to factories on the edge of town, whose only mission is to exploit cheap labor before it has to cross the border.

The advantages to this approach are numerous, beginning with the avoidance of silly spending on low-wage soldiers running around in the desert trying to catch an evil tide of Jack-in-the-Box counter clerks. If the same dollars were spent on schools, it would give the carpenters among those counter clerks work on that side of the border. Second, and more importantly, it would generate human capital there. And both sooner and later it would generate well-being, a truly indigenous economy, and even real demand for US goods.

Instead,we pretend we have something here that everyone wants. Hell, all we've got is debt. If they're looking for debt, we ought to let them have some. From that perspective, it's the IMF and the World Bank who are the primary coyotes. Let's lock up those guys.

OR

(before the depressing part)

(to expose the charade completely)

Let's just set up our retirement villages in Mexico, take the bedpans to the nurse's aids, rather than make them carry their kids across the desert to get to us. Our retirement checks will go further there, the climate is nice, and they need more fat people.

Now for the depressing part.

Imagine how much worse the immigration issue would be if the jobs dried up. The flood of immigrants seeking work in the US has already sparked its inevitable response. But the word "crisis" is misapplied to the current situation. With an economic downturn, a crisis will come into full flower. When employment starts dropping again, as it must, the pressure on these people will be enormous.

Now they are employed, in building trades and personal services. These would be the first jobs to go. When those occupations dry up, not only will the illegals begin to look elsewhere, but legal Americans will come looking for their jobs.

Lock them out! Deport them! It is an immigration problem!

In fact, it is an economic problem, a trade problem. To a very real extent, people flood into the US because the economies of their native countries have been decimated by a trade regime instituted by the US. The agriculture that has been the backbones of many of their economies and provided the framework for their societies has been wiped out by cheap American imports.

The point is often made that menials can earn four times the wage here in the United States that they can in Mexico. First, Four times nothing is still not a living wage. Second, People only need self-determination and a chance for survival, not big bucks, and it is these minimum conditions that are becoming scarce.

Since the 1970s the economies of the developed and newly industrial countries have increased steadily, if in some cases not spectacularly. Economies of underdeveloped countries have contracted by one-third. It is not material extravagance these folks are rushing into when they come across the border, it is want they are fleeing. All for the benefit of the industrial farm that has already wiped out the family farm here at home.

In the 1940s and 1950s a choice was made about how to support farmers in the US. One camp preferred income supports. The other preferred price supports. Price supports won. From that point on the industrial farm became inevitable, inevitable because of a simple calculation: the cost of farming an additional acre is always lower than the average cost. In econo-speak, the marginal cost is lower than the average cost.

Thus, bigger is always cheaper. And in the nearly perfectly competitive world of farming, that is the metric that destroyed the family farm. It is now destroying the farms of people all over the world.

In the United States, people have clung to the remnants of the agrarian lifestyle with ferocious intensity. To no avail. They have been forced into cities or live 80-hour work weeks, subsidizing their farms by employment elsewhere. The farmers of underdeveloped countries have it worse. There is no successful industry to transition into. There is no place to go.

What is the answer? The first real answer is to eliminate farm products from trade agreements. Every country has a national security need to grow its own food and have a diversified crop base, not a plantation-only economy. Further, in most societies which are not developed industrially, farming is an organizing structure, a healthy place to build, raise children, and so on. It rewards hard work and skill and can create family wealth.

Yes, population grows at a rate where not all farm children can grow up to be farmers, but it is likewise true that the decimation of the farm population both here and abroad is not a result of population pressure, but of mechanization, subsidies, and chemicals. And so long as marginal cost is less than average cost, the calculation comes out minus for a healthy agrarian society. (There are ways -- not all of which are income supports -- to reverse that equation.)

A solution in the end will mean higher farm prices, but higher incomes and greater demand for other goods, more stable societies, and far less pressure to "keep them out." Whether higher farm prices will translate into higher food prices is not completely a sure thing. Probably it would. But much of the price of food goes to the cartel of food processors. That is a story for another day.

By itself, allowing countries to protect a diversified and healthy farm society, by tariffs and otherwise, will not eliminate immigration problems. It is a step in the right direction, the direction of building and sustaining domestic demand in these struggling societies. But more is needed.

Nothing has ever in the history of economics been so nefarious as the insistence of the powerful that the developing world must balance its budgets and even run surpluses in trade to get investment capital, while the powerful themselves ignore those same rules and run massive deficits for themselves.

Schools and roads and water and power ought to be our exports to these countries, not slave-wage factories and ecological nastiness. We have made the world a plantation economy, not a global economy. Low-priced goods and commodities are the only product we will accept. Were these thriving societies, with effective demand of their own, the free trade model could work.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Guilty as sin at Enron, and Crawford

Bush insider Ken Lay's face sagged like he'd gotten a cold look at himself in the Hereafter. Guilty on all counts. He and Jeff Skilling will spend the rest of their lives in jail. Most of their crimes will go unpunished, however, or at least unjudged by a court. As one commentator put it, it was like when they nailed Capone .... it was for tax evasion, not for gangland murders or racketeering.

The enormous damage Enron did to Western states in the energy market manipulations, the devastating impact on employees and investors, the corruption of the political process and the offices of government, these crimes are so immense that they make the punishment a joke for being no more than that for a repeated armed robber or drug dealer.

Sadly, not all of the Enron criminals will be judged or punished. I am not referring to the few who turned state's evidence for reduced sentences, but to the hundreds more who participated in the looting party, many of whom took big bonuses at the end, like the crew taking to lifeboats while the ship with all passengers aboard sinks behind them.

And to, of course, the major co-conspirators in Enron's crimes who will not face charges. Dick Cheney and George Bush aided and abetted the rise of Lay and Enron, and vice versa. Lay was the single largest contributor to the Bush political machine. His Enron money machine bought him a position on the board of El Presidente, Inc. It gave him the opportunity to set energy policy with Dick Cheney. Down came the regulations. Into the void stepped the Enron racketeers. (It's reported that Lay sat down with Cheney to mark up an oil map of Iraq -- pre-9/11.)

Bush made millions in Enron-style cheating, as we pointed out in a previous post (info courtesy of Paul Krugman's The Great Unravelling)

But is the current Medicare drug policy really any different? Let the Pharmaceuticals write the policy and then watch them feed on the sick and elderly and the taxpayer. It is identical to the way Enron fed on the energy markets. This corruption is a way of life. It's disgusting. It's not even well hidden, clearly visible behind a flimsy fence of ridiculous lies and FoxNews attacks.

It's similar to the Lay-Skilling defense itself. "We were doing a good and honorable job. A couple of our subordinants flim-flammed us and the rest was just bad luck. Anyone who says otherwise is a lying son of a bitch." That's a defense?

When the Feds got Skilling and Lay, they did good. But this is not netting a whale. It's just picking off one of the sharks. The others are still feeding.

PS: The one to hang for the Medicare drug fiasco is Doc Hastings of our own 4th District. (Yes, the same Doc Hastings who as chair of the Ethics Committee stonewalled investigation of Tom DeLay.) The one to fix the problem is the guy who is running against him -- Richard Wright. Check out our recent Q&A with Wright.

Cantwell votes against Hayden's confirmation

Attention to all you impractical progressives out there who constantly spend your time online railing against Maria Cantwell: we've got something for you to ponder about this morning.

The Senator was just one of 14 Senate Democrats to vote against the confirmation of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden (you know, that guy, the one at the heart of the NSA domestic spying programs) to lead the CIA:
The 78-15 vote to confirm Hayden included the support of several Senate Democrats.

[...]

Dissenting votes came from Democrats who expressed concern over the National Security Agency spying program that monitors the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens without warrants while pursuing al Qaeda suspects.
Cantwell joined Sens. Russ Feingold and Barack Obama, who are widely considered progressive champions, in voting no on Hayden's confirmation. A Democrat In Name Only wouldn't be making this kind of vote.

Too many Washington State progressives have stupidly fixated their energies on attacking Senator Maria Cantwell when they could be investing their time, talents, and treasure making a difference in other races - if they just can't bring themselves to help her.

We have to ask the question: don't you people want to win? Why not get involved and help out a progressive running for state legislature, or sign up to help Darcy Burner in the 8th Congressional District?

Too many pixels have already been devoted to this intraparty debate, and I'll conclude by saying that the evidence speaks for itself. Cantwell's voting record is progressive. She has made many, many good votes during her first term, and this is surely one of them.

(Watch for people who try to paint Cantwell with the "DLC" label in the comment thread - those are typically the ones who have a problem thinking practically. Principles are more important than anything else - including strategy, and winning.)

Despite the fact that she's a freshman Senator, she has never hesitated to stand up to senior Republicans on issues such as Arctic drilling, allowing supertankers in Puget Sound, or investing in renewable energy. Maria Cantwell is a leader in the United States Senate - a leader we can be proud of.

Cantwell wasn't the only Northwest senator to vote against Hayden. Kudos also goes to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, another one of the 14 Democrats voting against his confirmation. Here's the list of those opposed - note that it does not include Senator Patty Murray:
NAYs --- 15
Bayh (D-IN)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Obama (D-IL)
Specter (R-PA)
Wyden (D-OR)
A few Democrats did not vote, including Senator Barbara Boxer of California, another widely Senator widely considered a progressive champion.

Once again, applause to Maria Cantwell for standing up and casting a vote against a man who has shown no repsect for our Constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Victory on Net Neutrality

Great news from the District of Columbia!

The House Judiciary Committee has just passed the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006″ — a bill that helps protect Net Neutrality.

The vote was 20-13-1 on the Judiciary Committee. All Democrats voted for the bill, except for one, who voted "present". The Democrats were joined by six Republicans. (The other thirteen Republicans supplied the no votes).

The bill, H.R. 5417, now moves to the full House and will be considered after Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess. Here's the text of the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Sensenbrenner and cosponsored by Democratic Rep. John Conyers:
A BILL
To amend the Clayton Act with respect to competitive and nondiscriminatory access to the Internet.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006’’.

SEC. 2. PURPOSES.
The purposes of this Act are to promote competition, to facilitate trade, and to ensure competitive and non discriminatory access to the Internet.

SEC. 3. AMENDMENTS TO THE CLAYTON ACT.
The Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. 12 et seq.) is amended — (1) by redesignating section 28 as section 29, (2) by inserting after section 27 the following:

DISCRIMINATION BY BROADBAND NETWORK PROVIDERS

SEC. 28. (a) It shall be unlawful for any broadband network provider—
  1. ‘‘to fail to provide its broadband network services on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions such that any person can offer or provide content, applications, or services to or over he network in a manner that is at least equal to the manner in which the provider or its affiliates offer content, applications, and services, free of any surcharge on the basis of the content, application, or service;
  2. ‘ to refuse to interconnect its facilities with the facilities of another provider of broadband net work services on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms or conditions;
  3. ‘(A) to block, to impair, to discriminate against, or to interfere with the ability of any person to use a broadband network service to access, to use, to send, to receive, or to offer lawful content, applications or services over the Internet; or ‘(B) to impose an additional charge to avoid any conduct that is prohibited by this subsection;
  4. ‘ to prohibit a user from attaching or using a device on the provider’s network that does not physically damage or materially degrade other users’ utilization of the network; or
  5. ‘ to fail to clearly and conspicuously disclose to users, in plain language, accurate information concerning any terms, conditions, or limitations on the broadband network service.
‘‘(b) If a broadband network provider prioritizes or offers enhanced quality of service to data of a particular type, it must prioritize or offer enhanced quality of service to all data of that type (regardless of the origin or ownership of such data) without imposing a surcharge or other consideration for such prioritization or enhanced quality of service.

‘‘(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a broadband network provider from taking reasonable and nondiscriminatory measures—
  1. ‘‘to manage the functioning of its network to protect the security of such network and broadband network services if such management does not result in discrimination among the content, applications, or services on the network;
  2. ‘ to give priority to emergency communications; or
  3. ‘ to prevent a violation of a Federal or State law, or to comply with an order of a court to enforce such law.
‘(d) For purposes of this section -
  1. ‘ the term ‘affiliate’ means — ‘‘(A) a person that directly or indirectly owns, controls, is owned or controlled by, or is under the common ownership or control with another person; or ‘‘(B) a person that has a contract or other arrangement with a content or service provider concerning access to, or distribution of, such content or such service;
  2. ‘‘ the term ‘broadband network provider’ means a person engaged in commerce that owns, controls, operates, or resells any facility used to provide broadband network service to the public, by whatever technology and without regard to whether provided for a fee, in exchange for an explicit benefit, or for free;
  3. ‘‘the term ‘broadband network service’ means a 2-way transmission service that connects to the Internet and transmits information at an average rate of at least 200 kilobits per second in at least one direction, irrespective of whether such transmission is provided separately or as a component of another service; and
  4. ‘‘ the term ‘user’ means a person who takes and uses broadband network service, whether pro vided for a fee, in exchange for an explicit benefit or for free.’’, and by amending subsection (a) and the 1st sentence of subsection (b) of section 11 by striking ‘‘and 8’’ and inserting ‘‘8, and 29’’.
----END ----

The Northwest Progressive Institute applauds the House Judiciary Committee for approving this important legislation which protects Internet freedom. The Internet is the most democratic medium of communication ever invented, and the government cannot allow it to be subverted by telephone and cable companies for corporate profit.

Torching the town

Republicans in their extension of federal capital gains and dividends tax cuts have effectively destroyed the possibility of fiscal solvency. (See last week's coverage.) At the same time, it is an indication they may have given up on retaining effective control of Congress. Otherwise, Why would they worry about the years 2008-09? Those are the years affected by the capital gains extension.

While the corporate Republicans who dominate our government are stupid, they are not dumb. They must see the continuation of these massive deficits into the retirement years of the baby boomers is to finance what a millstone is to swimming. If they are assuming the loss of Congress, they may be setting up the Democrats as the bad guys who raise taxes "just like we told you they would."

The continuation of capital gains and dividends tax cuts is, then, the equivalent of torching the town after you've looted it. These are rich man's cuts, affecting only the top 2% of the population. Securities in 401(k) and other tax shelters are not affected, either now or at payout time.

But as I mentioned before, capital gains tax rates rising was negotiated in the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (aka the Bradley Bill) as a condition for top marginal rates falling. Now that the Republicans have reneged on that deal, perhaps it is time to consider top marginal rates of, say, 60 percent for those earning $500,000 or more.

But again, don't worry about your sales tax deduction on next year's income tax. Pretty soon here, the GOP will roll out the cameras for its :Champion of the little guy" show, and as our hero against the big bad government they will propose to extend the sales tax deduction and the other middle class tax cuts. Democrats will join them, as they should. This may be repeating myself, but remember, Washington is not the only sales tax state. Texas, Florida, and North Carolina (Frist) are also on that short list of states without an income tax.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

LWSD warns Hutcherson, Antioch after participation in "Referendum Sunday"

[NOTE: I have updated this post for better clarification.]

On Sunday, I posted a report here on the Official Blog, complete with pictures, showing Ken Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church participating in Tim Eyman's "Referendum Sunday", collecting signatures for the ballot measure which asks voters to overturn the recently passed civil rights legislation banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In that post, I wrote:
It is unclear whether Antioch [which is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity] violated any rules or regulations by facilitating the collection of signatures for Referendum 65 on public school property (specifically, the Lake Washington School District's property).
According to the district, apparently Hutcherson and Antioch did run afoul of the law by collecting signatures for a referendum on school district property.

The Lake Washington School District (where I received my elementary, junior high, and high school education) has sent a letter to Hutcherson and several other churches which rent space for their services, warning them about signature gathering. Here's the letter they sent:
May 24, 2006
Dear Church Leader:

We saw in the news media last week that organizers of Referendum 65, a proposed ballot initiative, have focused on working with churches to get enough signatures to place it on the state ballot. As the leader of a church that holds services on school district property through a building use permit, it’s important that you understand the legal restrictions on activities that take place on public property in order to protect your organization.

In fact, under Washington state law, the facilities of a public agency, i.e., the Lake Washington School District, may not be used directly or indirectly for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot proposition (RCW 42.17.130). Our attorneys have advised us that collection of signatures on any proposed ballot initiative on school property is a violation of that law, as campaigning for any candidate for elected office would be. Therefore we cannot allow your organization or another organization at your invitation to come onto district property for any efforts that would assist a political campaign of any kind.

While we have worked with political organizations that use our facilities to ensure their understanding of these restrictions, I recognize that we have we may not have made these requirements clear to other users groups. We will be adding this restriction to the building use guidelines so that it is clearly spelled out. Since we do not know if churches that use our schools may be participating in this event, we wanted to bring this concern to the attention of all churches using our facilities. I appreciate your cooperation on this issue, for the protection of both of our organizations. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Janene Fogard
Deputy Superintendent
Eli Sanders, who originally posted this letter over at SLOG, raises some interesting questions about this issue and the validity of the signatures collected:
Kathryn Reith, the district’s spokeswoman, tells me seven other churches that rent space from the district were sent the same letter today. She says it’s too soon to tell what action might be taken against them or against Hutcherson’s Antioch Bible Church if it can be proved that they were collecting signatures on public school property during Referendum Sunday — a state-wide, church-based effort to help Eyman gather the 112,440 signatures he needs by June 6 in order to get R-65 on the November ballot.

“We didn’t know whether any of them did [collect signatures],” Reith told me. “But we thought it was important that we clarify through our attorneys whether [collecting signatures] would be legal.” (She added however, that she had not yet seen these pictures, which allegedly show R-65 signatures being gathered outside Hutcherson’s Sunday service at Lake Washington High School’s gym.)

The letter to the chuches, which cites this state law regulating the use of public facilities in political campaigns, also raises broader questions:

Could opponents of R-65, which would repeal Washington’s new gay civil rights law, go to court (or to state elections officials) and demand that all signatures collected on school grounds be invalidated? And if the Lake Washington School District alone has eight churches renting its facilities, exactly how many school districts state-wide have churches renting facilities from them, and how many of those churches collected R-65 signatures on public school property during Referendum Sunday?
Well, we do in fact have proof that Ken Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church was indeed collecting signatures on school property - just outside the Lake Washington High School gym. We would be willing to assist in any effort to take action, legal or otherwise, against Hutcherson and Antioch for breaking state law - if, in fact, they actually did break state law. This is a grey area and certainly open to interpretation.

As for Eli's question about whether R-65 opponents can go to court, it's certainly a possibility - but probably unlikely. A new state law (which recently took effect this year) requires petitioners who circulate petitions to sign a declaration affirming that they circulated the petition. So it would theoretically be easier to track down which petitions were circulated on school property.

Nevertheless, it would definitely not be a slam dunk case. But it's good to see that Hutcherson and his cronies have been caught in the act.

People need to know about their outrageous campaign to legalize discrimination.

Seaside is HERE - Version 4.0 Launched

Yes, it's finally here. At long last.

Pacific Northwest Portal Version 4.0 has been completed and launched. The waiting, the anticipating, the delays - are over.

It's a huge step forward into a new era of our history.

The new Pacific Northwest Portal is sleeker, edgier, faster, and definitely more reliable. It has more information than ever before, but yet it's better organized so that you can quickly find and access it.

Seaside is the most compatible version of Pacific NW Portal - ever.

For the whole scoop, see the overview.

Version 4.0 started with your feedback. This relaunch is all about delivering a better website. We're striving to live up to our mission of providing you with the latest political news and giving you easy access to the unique, independent viewpoints that characterize our region.

We want you to tell us what you think. What do you think of the changes? How can we improve even more and serve you better? Let us hear from you.

Haven't seen the new site yet? What are you waiting for? Take a look.

UPDATE: I've posted a diary about Seaside and the strength of the local blogosphere at Daily Kos.

Overview of the Improvements in Seaside (Pacific Northwest Portal Version 4.0)

The following blog post describes and details all of the changes we made to the new Pacific Northwest Portal Version 4.0, organized in several categories:

Overall Site Improvements and New Pages
  • Greatly improved compatability - and now more Apple friendly. For non Windows users. Pacific NW Portal previously used to suffer from annoying compatability problems that prevented the site from displaying properly on Macintosh and Linux machines. Those problems have been eliminated. Significant improvements to the codebase, including enhanced CSS stylesheets, mean Pacific NW Portal should look beautiful no matter what operating system or browser you're running. (For example, if you run Apple's Safari, you should see Pacific NW Portal display just like somebody using Microsoft's Internet Explorer would see it).
  • Coverage of Montana. You asked for it, you got it! By popular demand, Pacific Northwest Portal now covers five states - Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and - Montana! Not only will you be able to find links to progressive Montana blogs in our Regional Blogs Directory, but Montana is now included extensively in our Highlights section (more on that later in this post).
  • New Blog Submission page. Progressive writers who haven't made it into our Regional Blogs Directory and aggregator can now submit their blogs through a special submission page. You can also use this page to submit corrections for out of date or mistaken information.
  • Footers improved on all pages. The footers at the bottom of all Pacific NW Portal pages now use only Trebuchet MS font instead of Garamond, thereby eliminating the font from all main pages. They also have an updated link to the latest version of the Creative Commons license.
  • 2006 Elections Digest page. The 2006 Election Digest page allows you to browse recent posts about major races within the Pacific Northwest, like the races for U.S. Senate and the 8th Congressional District (Washington) or Governor (Idaho and Oregon).
  • Feed Reliability Improved. Feeds should load more quickly and more consistenly in the future. We've also removed clutter in the codebase to facilitate faster loading.
  • Improved Graphics. All the Garamond text headers have been removed and replaced with softer, smoother image headers using the same font used for Pacific Northwest Portal's title graphic - Book Antiqua.
The Front Page
  • New Syndicate Member. We are delighted to welcome Loaded Orygun to Pacific Northwest Portal's front page. Loaded Orygun, jointly written by Neiwert Award winners TJ and Carla, will help anchor the Oregon column in the second row, just below Blue Oregon.
  • Washington State Political Report Moves to Front Page. The Washington State Political Report, an original member of the Expanded Washington group, is moving to our front page in the fourth row. The Report has been promoted to the front page for its timely and frequent updates, extremely well rounded coverage, and sensible commentary.
  • Faded Tri-State Graphic. A recurring complaint of some visitors is that the light purple tri-state graphic we've had in place as background at the top of the front page was too annoying. As a result, we greatly increased the fade on the graphic so it's more subtle and easier to read the text on top.
  • Reorganization. The elements just before the columns of syndicated blogs on the front page have been improved. You'll now see Regional Focus (three links to top stories from around the NW), What's New (recent site improvements and news from NPI) and Quick Links, one of which points to NPI's homepage. (The other two point to Pacific NW Portal utilities).
  • Go Beyond The Front Page. Too many Pacific NW Portal visitors end their visit at the front page and don't bother to look inside the other sections. To help point you to content throughout the site, the bottom of the front page has been completely revamped to include a graphical site map which links to the other major pages. You can access this element by clicking the "Explore Pacific NW Portal" link in the Quick Links area.
  • Welcome Center. Finally, the front page includes a new Welcome Center, on the right side of the page just below the navigation bar. The Welcome Center will greet you and display a small photo based on the time of day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). The Welcome Center also includes an autorefreshing menu of tips that can help guide you to content on other pages of Pacific NW Portal. Lastly, the Welcome Center includes a "Breaking on the Regional Wire" shortcut which displays the latest post on the Wire. (Keep reading to find out more about the Regional Wire).
The State Pages
  • Name Changes. Expanded Washington and Expanded Oregon are no more. We decided it was time for a name change. The Evergreen State page is now called The Washington Outlook, and the Beaver State page is now called The Oregon Dispatch.
  • Syndicate Overhauled. We have dramatically reshaped the syndicate on both state pages, replacing almost a dozen blogs. New syndicated blogs on The Washington Outlook include McCranium, Pike Place Politics, and MajorityRules Blog. The Oregon changes are even more drastic: new blogs include Olson Online, Onward Oregon, Portland Freelancer, Worldwide Pablo, and Ridenbaugh Press. We believe these blogs will provide much better local coverage of Oregon politics, and will remain frequently updated.
  • Statistcs Update. The statistics on both state pages were updated to relect the latest estimates from the U.S. Census.
  • Regional Wire Shortcuts. As on the front page, both state pages will display a shortcut to the most recent posts on the Regional Wire (and again, more on that later in this post.)
Highlights
  • Completely Revamped. The Highlights section has been completely redesigned from the ground up to present the best of the regional blogosphere. On the left side of the page is the "Regional Wire", which displays the most recent posts, sorted chronologically, from the hundreds of local progressive blogs in our Regional Blogs Directory. On the other side of the page is "Under the Radar" which showcases quality content that's not always easy to find.
  • The Regional Wire. The Regional Wire is Pacific NW Portal's new highly intelligent aggregation system, tasked with constantly monitoring the hundreds of local progressive blogs in the Regional Blogs Directory for new posts. The Regional Wire covers all of the five states represented by Pacific NW Portal. The Wire is capable of displaying recent posts either from across the entire region or by state. On the Highlights page, the Wire is borken down by state - Washington, Oregon, and Idaho/Montana/Alaska. As previously mentioned, Pacific NW Portal's front page features a "Breaking on the Regional Wire" shortcut that changes to show the one most recent post from across the NW blogosphere. The Washington Outlook and the Oregon Dispatch also feature shortcuts to the Regional Wire which display the three latest posts from within the state.
  • Under the Radar. The "Northwest Bloggers on Daily Kos" diary tracker has been retained and incorporated into the "Under the Radar" area on the Highlights page. The tracker will now show you the latest six diaries from NW Kossacks, instead of four . Below the diary tracker is the Podcasts aggregator, which displays recent episodes from NW podcasters. And below that is the Electoral Buzz feature, which displays posts from candidates' blogs (yes, you read correctly - that means candidates like Jon Tester, Larry Grant, and Darcy Burner). Finally, below all this is the special content archive, where you'll find links to past special sections we've put together.
Regional Blogs Directory
  • Massive Upgrade. The Regional Blogs Directory has undergone one of the biggest tranformations in its history. The directory is now much more user friendly, has better graphics, is newly freshened, and includes exciting new features.
  • Tips At The Top. The top of the page includes links to other Pacific Northwest Portal directories and hints on how to make the most of the Regional Blogs Directory.
  • Click on a state. Below the tips is a horizontal graphical navigational system. Clicking on any state's outline (there are five to choose from) will take you down the page to that state's blogroll.
  • Blogroll refreshed. Over forty new blogs have been added, including a dozen from Montana (The Treasure State). We also removed links to ten dead blogs that have disappeared off the Net. Our total blog count now stands at 242, up from 212 in our last directory update back in November 2005.
  • See more with tooltips. The most exciting change we've made to the directory, though, is the new mouseover feature we've added. Just mouse over any blog in the directory and a tooltip menu will pop up and display additional information about that blog, including the writer's specific location (city) and a description. Try it out right now!
Other Pages
  • About Us. The About page has a newly updated site map, the history has been brought up to date, and Pacific Northwest Portal's policies have been revised for better clarity.
    Contact Us. We're introducing an improved, simpler feedback form, we've added user comments, and refined the Knowledge Base to better help you troubleshoot any difficulties viewing the site.
  • Toolkit. The Toolkit page has a couple of minor improvements: first, a new Regional & National Labor Report has been added, bringing you headlines from several labor-oriented blogs, and second - the broken traffic camera images for Portland and Boise have been fixed.
  • Resources. The Resources section has been greatly improved. As before, you'll still find links to the NW Media and Democratic Party Directories at the top of page. The Community Center, however, has been reorganized into a new layout for better presentation. Instead of three narrow columns, information displayed in two wide columns and a row underneath stretching across the page. And when you click on the Drinking Liberally thumbnail on the page, the page will darken and show you an expanded view with a map of all the U.S. Drinking Liberally chapters.
So there you have it. Those are all the changes that comprise Seaside - the new Pacific Northwest Portal Version 4.0. Why not take a look yourself?

Gregoire climbs in both SurveyUSA and Strategic Vision polls, but discrepancy remains

It's once again time to compare new polling data from polling firms SurveyUSA (neutral) and Strategic Vision (a Republican outfit). The numbers have changed in both polls, and the news isn't good for Republicans.

In SurveyUSA's poll, of 600 adults, conducted May 15th, Gregoire climbed to a 50% approval rating, up from 48% last month. (44% disapproved, 6% were unsure). This is the third consecutive month that her approval ratings have increased in the SurveyUSA poll.

The Strategic Vision poll, which surveyed 800 likely Washingtonian voters, was conducted May 19th-21st and found that 39% of voters approved of Gregoire's job performance (up just a little from 38% last month) while 51% disapproved. (9% were unsure).

The Strategic Vision disapproval rating is almost an exact opposite of the SurveyUSA approval rating, which is indeed interesting. The discrepancy between the two polls has remained, as we predicted, and again we have to ponder if Strategic Vision's poll is somewhow weighted against Governor Gregoire.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Darcy Burner is "Netroots Endorsed"!

This is HUGE news - Matt Stoller at MyDD has announced that the next Netroots Endorsed candidate is our own Darcy Burner!
The next netroots candidate is Darcy Burner in Washington's eighth Congressional district. The district is trending blue, and Burner is incredibly smart and a natural camapigner going against vulnerable incumbent David Reichert. She is also young (35) and web-savvy, having worked at Microsoft, and these traits will serve her well in a House that is desperately in need of new blood. She has promised, for instance, to post on her Congressional web site a list of all meetings with lobbyists by her or any staff member, which is a fundamentally new approach to governance.
This is an amazing victory for the regional blogosphere in the Pacific NW - working together, we have ensured that this important race gets the national attention it deserves.

Darcy is now at the top of the "Netroots Endorsed" page at Actblue.

Kudos to everyone who took time to participate in helping nominate Darcy on MyDD and Daily Kos. Your words of support and encouragement made a huge difference. And of course, credit goes to Darcy herself for making netroots outreach one of the most important priorities of her campaign.

This is a significant accomplishment - something we should all be very proud of.

Roger Goodman to run for 45th LD open seat

Exciting news: the 45th Legislative District, NPI's home district, now has a solid Democrat running in all three races for State House and State Senate this fall!
Attorney and criminal justice policy expert Roger Goodman announced today he will run for the State House seat vacated by Rep. Toby Nixon in the 45th Legislative District.

"Our region is extraordinary and at the same time faces some serious challenges. I'm eager to roll up my sleeves to address challenges like reducing traffic congestion, securing affordable health care and strengthening our educational system," said Goodman.

Goodman is the former Executive Director of the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission, where he worked with the legislature to toughen penalties on domestic violence and to provide more treatment for drug addicts in the justice system. He currently directs the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project, which has assembled a large and influential professional and civic coalition working to reduce crime, improve health and save public money through better drug laws.

"I have a record of bridging differences and finding practical solutions and I'll rise above the partisan bickering to get that done," said Goodman. A Harvard-trained policy analyst, he brings impressive credentials to the race, including significant stints as a Congressional chief of staff and legislative director in Washington, D.C.

As a legislator, Goodman will focus on these priorities:

Bringing Down the Cost of Health Care: Creating a system that protects people during times of medical need and, at a minimum, providing all children with quality health care.

Seamlessly Connecting the Eastside with Downtown: Expanding capacity on 520, adding more transit and creating teamwork in Olympia to help ease movement of commerce and people around the region.

Creating a Public Education System for the 21st Century: Prioritizing the recommendations from the Governor's education commission "Washington Learns" and taking the steps needed to recruit and retain quality teachers, provide fair testing for graduation and prepare our kids for the future.

Ensuring Our Neighborhoods Are Safe And Secure: Roger will use his background and years of experience on criminal justice issues to make our homes, schools and neighborhoods more safe and secure.
We look forward to seeing Roger join state Senate candidate Eirc Oemig in mounting a vigorous campaign to capture this seat and help turn our home district blue this fall. If you're interested in meeting Roger and learning more about his candidacy, come to the next meeting of the 45th District Democrats.

Monday, May 22, 2006

McGavick sticks it to Washington taxpayers

Do you remember last month when (Lobbyist) Mike McGavick said:
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!
(Emphasis mine). That's funny. So Mike McGavick wants Washington State taxpayers to keep "more of their own hard-earned money in their own pockets."

If that's the case, then why is the McGavick campaign forcing Washington State taxpayers to pay huge expenses for the Vice President Dick Cheney's trip last month to raise money for McGavick's campaign coffers?
When Vice President Dick Cheney visited Washington last month to bail out his campaign, Mike McGavick said he and the GOP would pay the local costs for Cheney's Lobbyist! Mike fundraiser in Spokane – so that taxpayers wouldn't have to foot the bill.

News reports on Spokane television have revealed not only that security and other expenses are now at least twice the original projections but that despite his promises, McGavick is sticking taxpayers with the bill.

"Mike McGavick promised taxpayers he would not stick them with the bill for Dick Cheney's special interest whirlwind tour of Washington state," said Dwight Pelz, Chair of the Washington State Democrats. "Turns out that Lobbyist! Mike shoots about as straight as Dick Cheney when it comes to telling Washingtonians the truth."

As it turns out, when McGavick said he was "planning to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the trip" he meant something different than the cost of the trip. And when McGavick said, "the party and we actually have to bear those costs, so they're not, they're not borne by the taxpayers" – that just wasn't true.

Read the facts for yourself.

BEFORE: McGavick Promised To Cover Costs, Not Leave Taxpayers on The Hook
  • McGavick said no taxpayer cost: "For the expenses that are borne directly by the Vice President when he does political things, the party and we have to actually bear those costs, so they're not borne by the taxpayers." [KREM 5 PM News, 4/19/2006 ]
  • KREM reported: "McGavick told us he is planning to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the trip." [KREM 5 PM News, 4/19/2006 ]
  • KSKN reported: "US Senate candidate Mike McGavick says he will pay all the security costs for Vice President Cheney's Spokane visit." [KSKN 10 pm news, 4/19/06 ]
  • KREM reported: "When I asked Mike McGavick if it's worth the cost to taxpayers to bring a dignitary like a Vice President to Spokane , he said his campaign and the Republican Party would pay for it." [KREM 5 PM News, 4/19/2006 ]
WHEN THE BILL COMES DUE: DOUBLE Projected Costs
  • KREM and KSKN have each reported on the costs to Spokane 's fire and police departments for the Cheney visit: over $20,000.
  • Twice Original Projections: "Vice President Dick Cheney's trip to Spokane will cost taxpayers about twice more than expected." "The bill comes out of the city's general fund--which is funded by taxpayer dollars." [KSKN 10 PM News; KREM 11 PM News, 5/15/2006 ]
  • Police and Fire Dept Shelled Out Cash: The police department spent over $17,000 and the fire department about $3000. [KREM 11 PM News, 5/15/2006 ]
AFTER: McGavick Says Local Taxpayers Will Pay
  • KREM reported: "When Mike McGavick told KREM Two News that taxpayers won't have to be burdened with certain expenses, he wasn't talking about security." [KREM 5 PM News, 4/24/06 ]
  • KREM reported: "Other costs, like overtime for law enforcement will be paid for by you, the taxpayer." [KREM 5 PM News, 4/24/06 ]
  • KSKN reported "McGavick's campaign says it will not reimburse security costs." [KSKN 10 PM News, 5/15/2006 ]
McGavick Shoots Back: Taxpayers Can Afford to Pay for the Cheney Visit Because He'll Cover the Cost of Air Force Two, But Is That Really True?

McGavick isn't giving a straight answer on whose paying for travel costs either. His staff is only saying they paid a "significant amount" for Cheney's travel expenses. Since the rest of the tab will be picked up by taxpayer, McGavick should disclose what his campaign actually paid and let taxpayers and voters decide if their promise to "reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the trip" is truthful and accurate or is just like their claim to cover local security costs.

BEFORE: "Definitely Reimburse"

McGavick staff: "Well we consider the Vice President's travel costs, which they have the Vice President flying over to be a direct expense that we should definitely reimburse for." [KREM 5 pm news, 4/24/06 ]

WHEN THE BILL COMES DUE: At least $160,000
  • "How much did Cheney's most recent trip out here cost? Using the House committee's figures, flight operating costs for Air Force Two totaled at least $160,000, probably more." [Connelly, Seattle PI, 4/19/06 ]
NOW: They Won't Say How Much…Significant Amount? Part? Contributed Already?
  • KREM reported: "McGavick's campaign as well as the Republican Party have paid a significant amount for Mr. Cheney's travel expenses. And that's it." [KREM 5 pm news, 4/24/06 ]
  • "A spokeswoman for McGavick said his campaign contributed to the vice president's travel expenses but did not specify how much or to whom the money was being paid." [Spokesman Review, 4/19/06 ]
  • KREM reported: "His spokesperson says McGavick will pay part of the vice president's travel expenses, but security is left to local taxpayers." [KREM 11 PM News, 5/15/2006 ]
So much for Mike McGavick's promises. He's now not only demonstrated that he would vote to continue the reckless, irresponsible policies of the Bush adminsitration - but that he and his campaign are also fiscally irresponsible themselves.

They just want to stick it to Washington taxpayers.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that (Lobbyist!) Mike! McGavick! is an extremist who would march in lockstep with D.C. Republicans on just about everything. Washington doesn't need a Senator who will be a rubber stamp for the careless and unaccountable Bush administration.

That's the bottom line: The Evergreen State simply can't afford Mike McGavick.

Seaside Launches Tomorrow

We're pleased to report that we are on track to finish development of the next version of Pacific Northwest Portal (Seaside). While a few matters need to be resolved, we're fairly confident that they will be completed by the end of today.

So, we are setting a launch/debut date for tomorrow - Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006. Unless we run info some unforeseen complication, Version 4.0 will go live tomorrow morning. Be sure to check in and see the improvements.

UPDATE: Launch has been delayed until Wednesday morning while we make sure everything is in working order. We ran into a couple of annoying hurdles that we didn't expect.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

BREAKING: Antioch Bible Church participates in Eyman's "Referendum Sunday"

Ken Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church was a participant in this morning's "Referendum Sunday" petition drive to legalize discrimination against people of different sexual orientation, NPI has learned.

Sources demonstrated to NPI (see the images below) that a large folding table was set up outside of the Lake Washington High School gymnasium, where the Antioch Bible Church meets for Sunday services, to allow members of Hutcherson's congregation to sign petitions for Referendum 65 as they exited the building.

Referendum 65 Close Up

An organizer was also distributing petitions to congregation members for circulation, along with instructions. According to our sources, the organizer made a point of asking congregation members to sign the back of the petition, and when asked when they were due back by, was quoted as saying "We'd prefer to have them back by June 1st". (June 6th is the deadline for Eyman to collect signatures to be turned into the Secretary of State's office).



It is difficult to estimate how many other churches besides Hutcherson's participated in this morning's petition gathering activity. The Seattle P-I reported yesterday that Eyman was hoping for 5,400 or more churches to take part in an organized petition drive this morning.

According to our sources, after about twenty minutes, interest in the petitions dissipated and the organizer was left alone behind the table with only a few individuals nearby.

It is unclear whether Antioch [which is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity] violated any rules or regulations by facilitating the collection of signatures for Referendum 65 on public school property (specifically, the Lake Washington School District's property).

But whether it's legal or not, it's still an outrage that government facilities are being used in a campaign to legalize discrimination against large groups of American citizens.

NPI will have additional photographs available shortly.

UPDATE: Here are a couple of additional photos (thumbnail images only):

Additional Photographs

The first image, on the left, gives a better perspective of how the table was set up. Note the carboard box filled with Referendum 65 petitions, outlined by a white rectangle. The image to the right shows an Antioch Bible Church trailer parked nearby, with the tagline "Black & White In a Grey World".

UPDATE II: KING 5 aired a report tonight about Eyman's "Referendum Sunday" showing footage from Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, where the pastor (Alec Rowlands) could be seen and heard urging members of his congregation to sign Referendum 65 in his sermon/speech during the service.

Protestors could be seen demonstrating outside the chapel.

The report also showed parts of a video distributed by "Sound the Alarm", a group distributing DVDs to evangelical churches across Washington State. According to KING, a concerned-looking woman says on the video, "Your child could have a cross-dresser for a teacher and there's nothing you can do about it."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Referendum 65 Endangers Our Future

This is the third 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.

For dozens of years, activists for equal rights have struggled mightily, against fierce and bewildering opposition, to amend Washington State's laws against intolerance so that discrimination against people of different sexual orientations is outlawed.

The breakthrough came only this year, when the State Senate finally approved EHSB 2661 and sent it to Governor Gregoire, who signed it into law.

But even before the Governor could sign the legislation and make it official, the despicable Tim Eyman was announcing plans to ask the people of Washington State to overturn it.

Eyman (whose driving motives have always been somewhat unclear) is now pushing the religious right to mobilize and collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place Referendum 65 on the ballot.

Eyman has sent thousands of petitions to churches, hoping to organize what he calls a "Referendum Sunday" (which evokes, for us, some memories of the "Justice Sundays"). Eyman wants churches to distribute the petitions to their memberships tomorrow and have them returned in a week, full of signatures, for collection.

There are stories about Eyman's plans today in numerous media outlets. While media coverage of this struggle has been mostly clear, editors and reporters sometimes miss the mark. Here's one headline (from KOMO TV's website) which could use some correcting:
Eyman Asks Churches For Help On Gay Rights Measure
So what's wrong with it? The headline makes it sound as if the measure is about gay rights - or, equal rights. That's not what Referendum 65 is about. Referendum 65 is about legalizing discrimination.

Think about it.

We're talking about asking Washington State voters to say it's perfectly acceptable under the law to hate other people and refuse them products or services because of who they are. That's immoral and unjust.

Though bigoted evangelicals will be lining up right...and well, right...to eagerly embrace Referendum 65, any true Christian will recognize immediately that this completely goes against the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus' entire life was about ministering to other people and rejecting no one.

But the religious right has distorted Jesus' teachings, and has been engaged for years in the spreading of fear and hate.

We have defeated this kind of thinking time and again throughout American history. The fight for equal rights has been a long and bitter struggle. But as George Lakoff has noted, with each landmark advancement we have made in civil rights, we have united our country more firmly behind our finest traditional values.

We cannot afford to have a society where citizens are not treated equally under the law. It's bad enough that there are people in Washington State - and in America - who are brimming with hatred and bigotry towards their fellow human beings. It is absolutely unacceptable for our state's laws to reflect the idea that it's OK to discriminate.

What's really sad is that much of this intolerance is based on unnecessary fear. As Yoda says in Star Wars: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate...hate leads to suffering.

The end result of discrimination is human suffering - and that is most certainly a threat to the sustainable future of our state's communities.

If we truly value fairness...if we truly value impartiality...and if we truly value compassion (and we do) then we cannot afford the evil that Tim Eyman and his cronies are trying to sell.

We have a moral responsibility to defeat proposals such as Referendum 65, and ensure that all Washingtonians are treated equally under the law...with dignity. If you are approached to sign R-65, tell the petitioner you oppose this assault on our sustainable future - and report the incident to Permanent Defense.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Referendum 65 Update

A footnote to the Permanent Defense Journal analysis about Referendum 65, posted earlier today, and available here. The Associated Press is now reporting that Eyman is asking (evangelical) churches for help with his measure to legalize discrimination:
Referendum 65 sponsor Tim Eyman is hoping churches will help him gather signatures for the measure to roll back a gay rights law.

He has sent 5,400 churches in Washington petitions for what he calls Referendum Sunday. He's asking the churches to help gather signatures and return them the following Sunday, May 28.
This is very important: if you see someone gathering signatures for Referendum 65 (or any other right wing initiative) please report the incident to Permanent Defense immediately.

UPDATE: More information about Tim Eyman's planned "Referendum Sunday" in favor of discrimination is in tomorrow's Seattle P-I.

In Brief - May 19th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Tim Eyman is attempting to sound more optimistic about his chances of turning in enough signatures to quality Referendum 65 for the ballot. The Permanent Defense Journal explains why we can't trust what Eyman says.
  • The other day I posted on the NRCC's vicious attack ad that party hacks put out comparing Democratic congressional candidate Francine Busby with teenage drunk drivers. We've always known that the Republicans don't just play dirty against Democrats - they also do it to themselves! Check out this ad from the campaign of California Republican Bill Conrad.
  • Don't forget about tomorrow's rally with Russ Feingold.
  • Senator Maria Cantwell wants you to be a citizen co-sponsor of her new Clean EDGE Act. The Act is a sensible plan to cut dependence on foreign oil, invest in renewable energy alternatives, and remove tax breaks for oil companies like ExxonMobil.
  • America's reputation abroad continues to deteoriate. Seems more and more of our fellow world citizens don't like us. If we want to change such perceptions, we must start by changing our leadership - and then ultimately adapting our lifestyles.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Q&A: Richard Wright

If I had a remote on real time, I would have started Richard Wright’s speech where he ended it: “...Restore integrity and honesty to the House of Representatives, establish a fair and honest drug plan, end the Iraq war so those soldiers can come home and be rejoined with their families.

“If there ever was a time we needed a change in this district, it is right now. We need to approach this campaign as if it were the final victory needed to secure a Democratic Congress.”


Amen! Removing DeLay lapdog Doc Hastings ought to be first priority for anybody interested in an ethical Congress. That is what Richard Wright is trying to do in the 4th Congressional District -- Central Washington from Wenatchee down through Ellensburg and Yakima and into the Tri-Cities.

I tried to find some questions that were not too easy. Richard was very generous in his answers.

NPI: We on the West Side have a view of Eastern Washington as a few frustrated liberals surrounded by blank-eyed dittoheads. What do you need to do to wake people up?

Wright: I feel that the majority of voters are extremely busy. Economic pressures require them to work longer than they would like. This limits their ability to understand the complex issues facing this nation. This is exacerbated by our media which seems to me nothing more than political propaganda in many cases. Voters are starting to realize that many of the problems they are facing are result of very poor decisions by their elected officials. High gas prices are a huge issue for the families, farmers, and ranchers in Eastern Washington. People are tiring of the Iraq war. My conversations with voters give me hope that they are now really ready for a change.

NPI: How is the Medicare Drug Bill fiasco playing? I heard you connecting it directly to Hastings.

Wright: This bill is a license to steal from our seniors. This bill has been a disaster. It will take some time to educate the seniors on how Hastings was responsible for passage of this confusing bill. Hastings was responsible for timing the vote that passed narrowly. After the allotted 15 minutes, the bill had failed. Hastings kept the vote open for 3 hours allowing the President time to twist the arms of legislators and pressure them to change their votes. One senior told me “you can conceal anything if you make it confusing enough.” This program is so complicated it is easy to conceal fraud and it is difficult to determine if the seniors are getting the promised benefit. My mother actually pays $500 more under the program than before signing up. According to the bill, she was supposed to get an $800 benefit. This bill is a license to steal from our seniors.

Extending the date to sign up is not the solution. The solution is a complete overhaul of the program. I rallied with supporters in Pasco and Yakima on May 15, calling for Hastings to step down as Chairman of the House Ethics Committee. We held these events on the deadline for signing up for the program because of Hastings’ manipulation to get the bill passed. We do not feel its right for a Congressman who cannot follow the rules of the House to be the Ethics Committee Chairman.

NPI: We at NPI have advocated closing the holes in the federal budget by rescinding the tax breaks for the rich and adopting family friendly taxation such as PPI’s plan. [We posted on this in November.] You’ve made the budget debacle one of your campaign themes. How do you see it?

Wright: The budget deficits are threatening the economic viability of this nation. The fiscal irresponsibility of our elected officials is also weakening our currency. I have taken several trips to Europe and I’ve seen the value of the dollar decrease against the Euro over the past few years. If we truly view this as a global economy, we should view our currency on global terms. That means it should concern us when our currency loses value. I’m sure those who benefit from tax breaks also lose when our currency devalues. My approach to the budget deficit would be to do everything we can do to control spending and if that is insufficient to balance the budget, our first step should be rescinding the tax breaks for high income earners.

NPI: There is a large, established Hispanic population in Central and Southeast Washington. What is your take on the immigration debate?

Wright: Immigration is a huge issue in our district. It is an issue that divides people. Even in the labor arena, there are differences of opinions. The problems we’re having with immigration showcase the problems we’re having with our borders. It seems that if we were truly concerned with national security, the first thing we would have done is secure or borders. This lax border security has made it easy for immigrants to cross into this country. I also read that the United States has dumped farm commodities in Mexico which has put one million corn farmers out of work. This has increased the number of immigrants looking to this country for gainful employment. The jobs are here and Americans are hiring.

It creates a situation where people will do what it takes to get here. Our farmers and ranchers are dependent on a dependable labor supply. I believe all people need to be treated with dignity. These are hard working people and we can’t deny that. I feel compromise is in order to approach and solve this problem.

NPI: You built a successful health care business, but I’m not sure exactly how it works. Can you describe it? In what form do you see affordable health care finally arriving?

Wright: I started a physical therapy private practice in 1982. This company has now grown to 11 clinics in three states with 60 employees. The main reason for our success is our concern for providing the best quality of medical care for our patients. Additionally, we have developed a business plan which we call “The Columbia Way of Doing Business”. It rewards employees who work hard and help the company succeed. It also rewards physical therapists who help us expand our company. We have been successful at growing the company at 15% per year. We will be opening three more clinics this year. We now have 22 physical therapists working for the company.

Over the past 20 years only three therapists have terminated their employment before retirement. Even though we’re a small company, we have tried hard to become a great company. We are very innovative with rewarding our employees. We have profit sharing for all full-time employees. We also have health-care benefits, stock options, fitness bonuses, marketing bonuses and an excellent retirement program. We have been nominated for the Mid-Columbia Small Business of the Year Award. This will be given out on May 18th. I am presently President of this company but it now only is taking about 5 hours per week of my time.

Our first step in decreasing health-care costs should be prevention. Our company has developed an injury-prevention program for a local potato processing plant. Their injury rate has decreased by 70% and they have saved millions in L & I premiums. We need to stress proper diet and exercise. Our company pays employees for exercise and weight-loss.

I believe the best approach to delivering health-care services would be to fine-tune the Medicare Program. Our company has treated over 10,000 Medicare recipients over the past 20 years. Medicare is a great insurance program with a very low administrative cost. The Medicare Reform Act of 2003 has damaged the program. The biggest problem was the Medicare Drug portion of the bill. That portion of the bill needs to be completely revised.

We need to get the private insurance companies out of this program. We should allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices and also administer the program, in the same manner that the Medicare Part B is run. This drug program is so complex that is easy to conceal fraud and difficult to determine if our seniors are getting the promised benefit. After fine-tuning Medicare we need to experiment with bringing other populations into the program. Perhaps Medicare could be the payer for large corporations. We could also begin to allow other age groups to be covered under the program. I would start off with those aged 60 to 65. This group would still be responsible for paying their premiums so it would not adversely affect the budget. Because Medicare is so much more efficient that traditional insurance, there should be a huge cost savings. Over a 10-year period we could gradually bring everyone into the Medicare Program. This ten-year period would also allow insurance companies time to adjust to these changes.

NPI: What is the biggest obstacle between you and the House seat?

Wright: The support I’ve felt in the district has been overwhelming. People are ready for a change and the enthusiasm is contagious. It’s a great feeling. The fact remains that my biggest obstacle is getting the necessary resources needed to get my message out. I feel I have great ideas and there are certainly plenty of issues to discuss, but it will take money to communicate my message. This is also a heavily Republican district, requiring me to reach people with messages that resonate with all voters in the District who are fed up with the status quo, regardless of their party affiliation. Our approach to the budget deficit should help with this.

NPI: I was concerned you weren’t getting off the ground soon enough, then I visited Hastings’ campaign web site. It hasn’t been updated in eighteen months. I was concerned you didn’t have the charisma to win. Then I remembered Doc. You have no problem. How do you compare yourself to the current officeholder? How do you expect him to run?

Wright: I feel good about the organization and timing of the campaign. We’ve been at it since the first of the year. Our campaign office is in place, we had a fantastic kick-off tour and I am now touring the district speaking to groups of seniors about Medicare. I am putting everything in to this and I believe with hard work I’ll win.

As far as comparisons with Hastings, I think the only thing we have in common is that we both graduated from Pasco High School. Hastings did not finish college. I attended BYU for 4 years studying business and science before transferring to the University of Washington Physical Therapy School. I graduated in 1979. I started my business from scratch. Hastings was handed his father’s janitorial supply company.

My main hobby has been international travel. I was in London when President Bush pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol. I was in Germany when he began talking about Iraq. I was in the Virgin Islands when the war started. In 2005, I visited London 5 days after the bombings. I was in Australia when the Bali bombings occurred. I have traveled to China in 1983, 1991, 1998 and 2004. I visited the Guangzhow trade fair twice and have seen the dramatic changes in that country.

I feel I have a much more accurate and informed view of our country and how our policies affect the world. I speak the Cantonese dialect of Chinese. I believe that Mr. Hastings will keep a low profile during this campaign and will not respond to my statements. He will probably try to delay a debate as long as possible.

NPI: How is the Iraq war playing in your district?

Wright: The Iraq war is one of the primary reasons I’m running for Congress. This prolonged conflict is losing support all over the country. I wrote Mr. Hastings before the war, encouraging him to follow the recommendations of the United Nations. Of course, he went along with the administration and voted for the resolution of force. He has voted the GOP party line 97% of the time. I have always felt this war was ill-conceived and that we never had nor do we now have a reasonable exit strategy. I do support our troops and appreciate their sacrifices. We now need a new course for our troops’ sake and for the sake of the Iraqi people.

NPI: What are the major issues you see?

Wright: I see the major issues to be high gas prices, insecure borders, ballooning budget deficits, a confusing Medicare drug plan and a Congress rife with corruption. Gas prices, in particular are on Americans’ minds and affecting their way of life. Our media reminds us of the high corporate profits of oil companies at the same time we pay painfully high prices for gas. I will always put American citizens and hard-working families before big corporate interests. We also need to address the urgent issue of American dependence on foreign oil. This is an area where we need to apply good old American ingenuity and come up with innovative solutions. This is about the environment, national security, and economic stability all in one. It’s very important to me.

NPI: What question would you like to answer that I haven’t asked?

Wright: You have asked some very good questions. Many Americans are concerned about the direction of our country – 70% feel we’re on the wrong track. I feel this upcoming election is extremely important to the future of our nation, and I think people understand the gravity of their decisions at the polls this November. I feel this is the year to win. Thank you very much for the interview.

You can contact the Wright campaign at their website to contribute or volunteer. McCranium is following the Wright campaign.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Shut down the Rail Study

If this is what the Legislature had in mind, they should have just asked Big Rail what they want. Michael Fischer of Cambridge Systematics, the Transportation Commission's consultant on the million dollar plus statewide rail study, gave his first report Tuesday. Consultant speak hung from like cobwebs in the room by the time he was done. (Quite a contrast from Doug MacDonald, Transpo Secretary, in the morning. MacDonald speaks like Barney Frank, to the point, with flavor, perspective and weight.)

It was clear even in this early look that the strategic interests of Washington in passenger transport and in getting freight off freeways would be victims in the ultimate report of too many trees in front of the forest.

Capacity is the problem. Everybody knows it. For one reason or another the consolidation of the railroads in the 80s and 90s was followed by a reduction of capacity in the West. Now, strangely, railroads are able to raise rates for the first time in decades. What we heard Tuesday was a screen shot of the current situation portrayed as a culmination of the inevitable. Some unnamed natural law (perhaps the market) justifies the obsession of Class 1 railroads with intermodal cargo and commodities, trade goods. This obsession bypasses Washington and its transportation needs on its way from Asia to the Midwest and vice versa.

We are being prepared for winners and losers, and the state will be told at the end of the day that only a few of the short lines are "strategically positioned" to survive, and that the economics of standardization makes intermodal traffic the highest priority. Handling individual cars is a thing of the past, and so on.

Phooey. We need the big view. We can't let the railroads use restricted capacity as an excuse to jack up rates the way Oil has used reduced refinery capacity to jack up gas prices, or force traffic off rail onto the roads to make room for container trains and grain trains. The state needs to see what $5 billion, or even $10 billion, over ten years will buy in terms of capacity -- particularly passenger capacity and short-haul. If Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Union Pacific are not interested in infrastructure, the state has got to get interested.

The freeway system simply cannot absorb the growth projected for it. If for the cost of retrofitting a single HOV lane onto I-5 we could lay hundreds of miles of track and add facilities I don't even know what are to make rail work smoothly, we need to do it.

Rail is clean, it is reasonably cheap to build, it is low maintenance, and it would extend the life of the road system immeasurably to shift freight from trucks to trains. The I-5 corridor is either first or second in terms of freight in the nation. Each semi causes 16,000 times as much wear on the roadway as a car. Funding rail is attractive, because it is easy to toll the users. (Which is not to say gains to the environment and savings on the freeways shouldn't generate some financial reward to rail, just that a revenue stream other than taxes would look good to bond buyers.)

But none of this is even a blip on the radar of the report as it is being laid out. The analytical tools we're being shown are tweezers, when the proper scope requires fork lifts. We don't have time for an exercise in mediocrity. Incremental improvement is fine, so long as the increments are substantial. If we're going to talk winners and losers, let's make shippers and the state partners on the winning side. Or at least see if it's possible. The Legislature or the Commission needs to shut down this study until it gets into the ballpark with regard to scale and perspective.

NRSC, NRCC resort to vicious mudslinging

It's not even autumn yet, but the Republican Party's campaign committees are already gearing up their Rovian machine of sleaze and filth with which to attack Democrats and anyone who they think might threaten their hold on power.

Down in California, the NRCC (the House campaign committee) is so afraid that Democrat Francine Busby will capture the House seat once held by Randy "Duke" Cunningham that they've produced a disgusting, unbelievable (and dumb) attack ad comparing her to teenage drunk drivers.

(We're not making this up. Wish we were).

The first page of the ad reads:
Teenagers can be irresponsible...even dangerous.
Well, that certainly clears up one thing: the GOP has abandoned any pretense of trying to reach out to young people. Apparently it's not worth the effort any more because it's too obvious to young Americans that the Republican Party doesn't care about them.

The second and third pages are adorned with the headline:

Politicians are even more irresponsible than teenagers.
Yeah...like those guys running the show in Washington D.C. - you know, um, Bush, Hastert, Frist, and their posse? Yeah, them. We'd have to agree that those politicians are certainly more irresponsible than most teenagers. It takes a great deal of skillful make-believe to attempt to unfairly smear Francine Busby when you have such an obvious double standard to hide.

And of course they're always looking to go out with a bang. Here's the text of the last page of the NRCC's ad, which reads in large type:
Which is more irresponsible? A teenager or a politician?
See the whole ad for yourself here. It takes viciousness, lies, and deception to a whole new level. But what's even more absurd is what a stupid ad this is. Is this really the best they can do?

Meanwhile, the NRSC (the Senate campaign committee) has busied itself bombarding the Washington State press corps with online attack pieces screaming that Maria Cantwell wants to tax Washingtonians out of their homes. (Basically, the usual delusional Republican deceptions). Republicans don't have the courage or the integrity to provide honest, ethical leadership. Republicans just can't govern!

We need to elect a Democratic Congress in 2006 to put America back in the proper direction and hold the out-of-control Bush administration accountable.

Our fiscal health is endangered, our credibility and reputation aboard is in tatters, our country's natural resources and public lands are being squandered, and corruption is rampant. We can fix the huge mess the Republicans have made of our country - but it will take a long time. We need to get started as soon as possible.

Redmond PCC opens for business

As I reported last week, PCC Natural Markets is opening its eighth store, this one on the northern edge of the beautiful City of Redmond.

The store's grand opening was this morning. Present were the leadership of PCC (Puget Consumers' Cooperative) and Redmond Mayor Rosemarie Ives, along with Councilmember Richard Cole.

After a bit of speechifying (in which the mayor noted that the building which houses the new PCC will be going for the LEED Gold certification - a Redmond first - the ceremonial ribbon was cut and the large crowd of people who had gathered swarmed into the new store to explore.

The new store, huge by PCC standards, is located less than 2 miles away from NPI's Redmond headquarters. It features a wide selection of quality organic food, and a cafe in the front.

It will be open for business daily from 6 AM to 11 PM. We will certainly be regular patrons there.

After the store opened, I spoke with Tracy Wolpert, CEO of PCC Natural Markets, and asked him what he liked most about the new store.

He told me that he was especially pleased that PCC now had a store that could serve the greater Redmond community, including, he said, people who had moved out to the Eastside from Seattle and were PCC shoppers when they lived in the Emerald City. He was also pleased that PCC was bringing more jobs (and good jobs) to Redmond.

To learn more about the new Redmond store, visit PCC's website. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's some photographs of the new store:

PCC Natural Markets Redmond Store Grand Opening

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Election Day yields few surprises

Today was primary election day in several states, including Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Kentucky. The results are in, and there are very few surprises.

In Pennsylvania, state treasurer Bob Casey trounced his two primary opponents, Chuck Pennacchio and Alan Sandals, capturing 85% of the vote. Casey now heads to the general election, where he hopes to topple vulnerable GOP Sen. Rick Santorum .

The GOP establishment in Harrisburg (Pennsylvania's capital) took a heavy beating, as 13 incumbents were defeated, including both of the state Senate's top Republicans.

In Oregon, incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski won the Democratic primary with 54% of the vote. His two challengers, Jim Hill and Pete Sorensen, split the rest of the vote.

Ron Saxton emerged as the winner in the Republican primary and will face Kulongoski in the fall. And as predicted, all of Oregon's incumbent representatives in the U.S. House won their primaries easily.

Here in King County, the city of Redmond's levy lid lift is (sadly) failing by a large margin, with 61% opposed. Unless the city asks again for a revenue increase, public services such as police and fire are likely to suffer. Two other levies - one in Des Moines, the other in Shoreline - are passing.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the opposition to Redmond's Proposition 1, which has apparently failed (as mentioned above) was led by right wing activists such as David Carson, a SoundPolitics regular who has absurdly whined about the city building "a massive monument to Mayor Ives in the new City Hall".

Carson is apparently one of those Tim Eyman types who thinks that we can have it all and not pay for it. No matter, this is a progressive community - we can figure out a solution to maintain quality public services.

Redmond's city leadership shouldn't be discouraged. You won't always win approval from voters - ask the KCLS board, which has experience in that area.

Senator Feingold coming to Seattle!

The Washington State Democrats invite you to come meet Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold (yes, that guy - you know, the one who introduced the censure resolution and has opposed the Patriot Act from the start?)

Join fellow Democrats in canvassing the neighborhood afterwards to take back the United States Senate. This is an event you don't want to miss - and here are the details:
Rally With U.S. Senator Russ Feingold and your favorite King County Elected Officials
Saturday, May 20th (this Saturday)
12:30 PM
Whittier Elementary School
1320 NW 75th Street, Seattle WA
* Parking is available in the back playground lot on 13th Avenue NW
This is the rally and volunteer opportunity you have been waiting for - so don't hesitate! The Democratic Party needs you to help get our country headed in the proper direction again.

RSVP to rvsp (at) wa-democrats (dot) org, ASAP to let organizers know you're planning on attending.

Gas prices work

HOV lane use is up, general purpose lane usage is down, the Transportation Commission heard this morning (Tuesday). More than that, weekend traffic is down (except Mother's day, when it was up), King County purchased 117 new vanpool vans, rideshare inquiries are up, transit ridership is up.

Year-over-year traffic changes mapped against gas prices show indisputable results. Doug MacDonald, Transportation Secretary and the best re-hire in Governor Gregoire's tenure, said, "The long-term implications are profound" for higher priced gas.

What is surprising to me is that nobody is surprised that gas prices cause behavior change. Depressing to me is that few see this as an answer, but as a problem. Depopulating the planet is a nuisance, but a hit in the purse for driving an SUV is a crisis.

Higher prices mean a closer correlation to costs, including environmental costs and infrastructure replacement costs. Prices correlated to real costs means people will make better decisions. At the same time, energy alternatives will have a chance in the marketplace. The terrible and real problem with higher prices is that the proceeds go to oil monopolies and despotic foreign governments, not to rational public investment. This means not only are the rich are continuing to exploit public goods, but a great deal of financing is going out of our communities. No tax ever bled a state like excess profits to Oil have. The same money in the form of tax revenue funding public goods would be a boon.

MacDonald said he would endeavor to get some of the information up on the Department's web site, but what good is a map if you're going to use it for toilet paper?
An interesting note at the end of today's morning session: MacDonald was reporting on a recent trip to Melbourne (which he describes as a "parallel universe"). He cited an important source of funding for highways -- insurance. All auto insurance is provided through a public corporation. Premiums are used to fix "black spot" roadways, dangerous spots, such as are the target of the "nickel" program. The savings in reduced payouts is channeled back into the next "black spot" fix. A healthy cycle, I'd say. Better transportation through economics.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What's Not in the P-I: Article about political bloggers leaves a lot to be desired

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an article this morning splashed on the center of its front page, entitled "Political bloggers rally the troops", which is a decidedly disappointing look at the local blogopshere's influence (especially in the 8th Congressional District race.)

The article, written by P-I reporter Gregory Roberts, lacks depth, and rather than examining a wide cross section of the local blogosphere, it focuses on perspectives from just a few individuals, most of whom are considered national bloggers, not local ones.

Despite our involvement in the 8th District race, and our efforts to unite and strengthen the local blogosphere, NPI isn't mentioned anywhere in the article, and we weren't alone in being ignored.

As The Stranger's Eli Sanders writes:
I could be petty and complain that the P-I didn’t note the Slog in its list of local blogs that are watching the Burner race closely (even though we have a significantly higher readership than the other blogs mentioned).
Eli and his colleagues at The Stranger have every right to feel annoyed, just as we do. They have played a huge role in helping boost Darcy's candidacy, through helping her fundraising efforts on SLOG and through a glowing piece in their print edition. They've kept a very close watch on this race.

For our part, NPI is among Darcy Burner's earliest backers - we've been supporting her campaign since August 2005, at a time when other bloggers were still unsure and contemplating who to support.

For example, David Goldstein, who the P-I's Roberts oddly labeled "likely the leader on the left side of the thriving local blog band", wrote last fall that he was "loath to take sides this early in the campaign" and "not yet convinced that either [Darcy Burner or Randy Gordon] is the right candidate to take on Reichert." (Hint to Roberts: the progressive blogosphere is not a band, and not led by any one individual - that's the beauty of the medium).

We at NPI, on the other hand, were convinced that Darcy Burner was the right candidate and stood a great chance of beating Dave Reichert.

We took the lead, under the guidance of our Executive Director, Andrew Villeneuve, and worked to convince the rest of the local blogosphere to support Darcy's candidacy. By the end of last January, we had succeeded, and the local blogosphere was firmly and unanimously united behind her.

Darcy, of course, deserves a lot of credit herself for making netroots outreach a priority of her campaign. She was gracious enough to take time of out her busy schedule to appear at the first ever Pacific Northwest Progressive Bloggers' Conference last Olympia, organized largely by our Executive Director, and the talented Lynn Allen, who writes at Evergreen Politics.

The P-I article mentions the conference, but doesn't credit its hardworking organizers, who spent months putting it together.

The P-I article also fails to mention endeavors like NPI's Pacific Northwest Portal, which has been instrumental in uniting the local progressive blogosphere and helping make it effective.

It's not so much the site itself that has made a difference, but the community that has grown up around it and the relationships that have been forged between the bloggers and activists who it represents. Before Pacific Northwest Portal's launch, the local progressive blogosphere was largely disunified.

The P-I article unfortunately gives the impression that the strength of the blogosphere flows from a few individuals - but that's just not true.

The progressive blogosphere isn't strong because of one individual and his or her influence - it's strong because it's a democratic community. People control their own destiny.

As Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong themselves wrote in their book, Crashing the Gate, (which the P-I's Roberts mentioned, but apparently hasn't read):
The fact is that we are part of a truly organic effort that is decentralized. We are no more "leaders" than anyone else who frequents our websites. We have laid the groundwork and helped build the "public square," but it is the community that provides the energy and shapes our agenda.

That's why this movement is so effective - and so threatening to established powers. It is leaderless. It cannot be harness, controlled, or co-opted.
There are hundreds of progressive bloggers in the Pacific Northwest who make up that community locally, and thousands more nationwide. And that's just the writers - there are many more readers.

This won't be the P-I's last article about the progressive blogosphere. We hope the next article they publish won't ignore the critical points I've mentioned, and will accurately convey the strengths of the medium.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tribal stations to escape gas tax?

A more effective toll booth than the gas pump has yet to be devised. This is a fact which escaped US District Court Judge Thomas Zilly in November when he ruled that stations on Squaxin and Swinomish tribal lands need not pay the 31 cent state gas tax. See TNT

It would be one thing if distributors and consumers walked into the stations, but everyone drives, and everyone drives on the road. They need the roads to the same extent they need the gasoline. Don't need one without the other. The gas tax goes 100% to roads. A rebate to tribes has been worked out through DOL to account for native consumers and tribal roads.

The sales tax ought to be collected on gasoline, but it's not. Gas is favored just like food and drugs, all specifically exempted.

So what was the rationale? "The burden of the tax falls on retailers, not consumers." If somebody drives away without paying, tribal reasoning went, the retailer has to pay the tax. Sounds good to me, said the judge. Humbug. If they don't drive away, the retailers don't pay the tax. Better to order restitution for thievery than throw out the gas tax.

This is nonsense, but it has lawmakers, e.g., Sen. Ken Jacobsen (D-Seattle), concerned. Maybe they should be. Apparently the legal gene trumps the economic common sense gene. It was, after all, a majority of the State Supreme Court in 1932 which dismissed a voter approved income tax on the preposterous grounds that income is a form of property. The income tax that had been voted in carried a graduated rate. Under the State's constitution, property can be taxed only at a single rate. So if income is property, it cannot be taxed at more than one rate. And if a river were dry land, we'd have fewer fish.

Judge Zilly should be apprised that the fact that consumers pay the gas tax is proven by the inelasticity of gas prices. When the price goes up, consumption doesn't go down very much. He might also be interested to know that Washingtonians pay the taxes of Alaska. Alaska lives on oil revenue. Oil accounts for upward of 90 percent of general state revenue in Alaska, and we don't mean gas tax.

Interestingly, taxes are levied on oil company profits in Alaska, and an argument is currently going on as to whether to raise them to 22.5 percent, as opposed to 20 percent.

It is very unlikely we are going to see a rush to tribal gas-shops like the ones to the smoke shops. The tribes affected by Zilly's ruling immediately established a 31 cent tax of their own. More dangerous is that something with serious economic consequences might get into the courts.

In Brief - May 14th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Truthout is reporting that Karl Rove has been indicted. If it's true, it isn't surprising - we'll see whether Patrick Fitzgerald has something to say in the next few days.
  • Here's something worth reading, or at least skimming: Jerome a Paris debunks a truckload of silly and repetitive arguments from opponents of wind power on Daily Kos.
  • Wayne Madsen of the Salt Lake Tribune points out that a Gore presidency in 2008 isn't such an unlikely scenario. (We'd love to see Al run for President in 2008. Were he to run, we bet he could clear a lot of other potential candidates out of the field pretty early). And speaking of Al Gore, the man who should be our President now opened Saturday Night Live (SNL) last night with a humorous Oval Office address to the nation that assumes he has been in charge of the country for the last few years. The clip is available on YouTube.
  • The Seattle P-I Editorial Board commends State Sen. Pat Thibaudeau in an editorial tomorrow for deciding to move on and not seek reelection this fall, thus clearing the way for Ed Murray to run unopposed. The P-I had another good editorial this morning, finishing up its series on energy, in which the Apollo Alliance (which our own Rep. Jay Inslee and Senator Maria Cantwell are involved with) was mentioned.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Saturday Construction Update

We're just a few hurdles away from having the next version of Pacific NW Portal (Seaside) ready for the regional community. We're almost halfway through May, and we're feeling pretty confident that it will be ready before the month is over.

We've probably done more testing on this package of updates than any other in the site's history. And so far, we're pleased with how development has gone (although not the speed of it, we would have preferred to have been done long before now).

What should you expect from Seaside? The really simple answer is more and better. More features, more consistency, more blogs, better reliability, better speed, better functionality.

We will continue to post updates on our progress as we get closer to the launch of Version 4.0 In the meantime, we've launched a development history page where you can see how Pacific NW Portal has been improved bit by bit since its deubt on January 31st, 2005.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Objectivity is apparently not important to the Seattle Times

On Tuesday, the Seattle Times ran an article by reporter Andrew Garber about five proposed ballot measures (four of them right wing) which have active campaigns behind them (I-937, I-917, I-920, I-933, R-65).

The article, which wasn't very long, included a summary of the five ballot measure and the website address for the each of proponents - but not the opponents, even though there are in fact websites online opposing all but one of the measures mentioned.

In response, I wrote a letter the same day, on behalf of NPI, which the Times has not printed. (Maybe they will print it, but I'm guessing they probably won't):
Editor, The Times:

Recently, The Times ran a short article about statewide initiatives with active campaigns [An initiative sampler, Local News, May 9th] by reporter Andrew Garber. I was disappointed to discover that The Times chose to promote the websites of the various initiatives’ proponents – but not their opponents. For a news organization that values objectivity, I believe that is a serious oversight.

For the record, here are the addresses of known opposition websites to all but one of the initiatives in the article:

No on Initiative 917
No on Initiative 920
No on Initiative 933
Yes on Referendum 65

The Times owes it to its readers to carefully present both sides of an issue – not just one side. I hope such an oversight will not occur in the future.


Andrew Villeneuve
Executive Director, Northwest Progressive Institute
By pointing readers to proponents' websites (and thereby aiding proponents' efforts) but not doing the same for opponents, the Seattle Times is sending the message that objectivity and quality journalism - which it claims to value - are not important.

Websites for different sides of an issue can easily be found through a search engine. Google "No on Initiative 917", for instance, and you'll find Permanent Defense's website on the first page.

There is no excuse for this careless oversight.

If the Times is indeed a respectable news organization, they would acknowledge their omission by printing my letter. But I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Free-Thinking Friday

Wal-Mart v. the B&O, King Kong v. Godzilla

The B&O tax is a blunt instrument that bludgeons low-margin retailers. It could be a perfect match for Wal-Mart. Imagine this, a 2% tax on a special category of retailers, those grossing $4 million or more per year. It could be done with the B&O. Whatever its other faults, which are many, the B&O is the most flexible of Washington's major taxes. Wal-Mart is precisely the type of business -- large, vertically integrated purveyor of out-of-state goods -- which currently benefits most from the gross receipts base of the B&O. Not in this variation!

Maryland passed a bill earlier this year requiring 8 percent of a company's payroll be spent on health care for its employees IF the company fell in the category of those employing 10,000 people or more. In Maryland, that category included Wal-Mart and ... well, Wal-Mart.

What is the problem with Wal-Mart? It comes to town, or actually to the outskirts of town, hires people at poverty wages to purvey Chinese goods. This immediately guts the business districts far better than any neutron bomb. It puts pressure on state services both from those whose living wage jobs that are lost and those whose new poverty wage job at Wal-Mart comes without benefits -- primarily health care.

People will say I'm picking on Wal-Mart. No. There are other such retailers, Target, for example. No benefits, low wage, Chinese imports. Heck, we have a clutch of them just off the border here in Tacoma in Fircrest. It would be a mistake to cut any of them off from their opportunity to pay their fair share.

The Washington Wal-Mart law would not involve a new tax, just a creative use of the existing B&O. There is a specific retail category in the B&O. A credit or deduction could be devised to target the level of the high volume model that Wal-Mart has used like a bulldozer over the retail business in the state. It might not be $4 million; it might be $10 million.

The proceeds of such a tax could be distributed to the cities nearby, with legitimate retailers allowed to deduct their city B&O's if any have had the good will to locate inside city boundaries. Or the proceeds could go into the general fund to defray the expense of dealing with a prime corporate predator. It might just seed an expansion of rational health care.

At a minimum it would be a spectacle, to watch the two juggernauts in battle.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

So-called "relief" will hurt bad

Not deterred by polls or fiscal integrity, the Republican Congress continued to gut the future of the country to fund empty tax giveaways to the rich. Never mind the ballooning cost of their war, nor the continuing deficits and looming debt, it was important to lock in the big boys' favorites, dividend and capital gains cuts, for two more years -- the years after 2008. Thus a gain of $41,000 for millionaires and $100 at best for the middle income, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Capital gains taxes were raised to the rates of ordinary income during the 1986 Tax Reform Act as a trade-off for reducing marginal income tax rates for the top tiers. Since then, it has been a Bush family tradition to renege on the 1986 deal. With full control of Congress, W has done it in style, to the great detriment of us and our children.

Notice that not one penny of the Scroogian December cuts in Medicaid, student loans, veterans health, child support enforcement and the rest has gone to deficit reduction. It has all, and four times more, gone to these benefits for the predator cult.

This reconciliation bill came in under $70 billion, which it did by duplicity and worse, to avoid exposing the action to filibuster in the Senate. So this one has the least defensible tax cuts, and the more popular -- including my favorite, the sales tax deduction -- are coming in a second round. Part of the staging. This was the bill that was the litmus test for fiscal responsibility.

In any event, if you were worried that there would be a lull in the feasting at the public trough by the rich, or that Republicans would run from W's falling approval into some sort of fiscal responsibility or fairness, you can rest easy tonight. They have continued their unbroken string of dishonest, incompetent, corrupt, profligate budgets.

Details at CBPP
or the Tax Policy Center

NSA: Now Spying on Americans

An article in USA Today this morning is reigniting the smoldering debate over the Bush administration's extensive (and outrageous) domestic surveillance programs:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

AT&T's Real LogoThe NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.
(Image courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Foundation)

September 11th has, is, and continues to be used as an excuse to launch massive spying programs - not on terrorists or enemies abroad, but on us - American citizens. The Bush administration's abuse of power is unacceptable and intolerable.

In an attempt to respond to the newly ignited uproar, Dubya today declared:
The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.
Uh huh. So we should just shut up and "trust the President" like Dave Reichert does? Hell no. We know where this is going. Hunter of Daily Kos asks:
Am I right in assuming that, if we looked, we could find administration officials and right-wing pundits vowing up and down at each stage that the next stage was a complete impossibility, a mere fabrication of paranoid minds?

And what will be the next revelation that we're told, by the exact same government sources and partisan hacks that assured us none of what we now know to be happening was happening?
Wingnuts may defend Dubya, but Congress has increasingly had enough. Congressional Democrats are outraged and demanding answers, while Republicans are skittish and busy attempting to distance themselves from the administration.

The NSA, as Rep. Ed Markey put it, stands today for Now Spying on Americans. It's an outrage, but it's true.

The public needs to know that while Democrats remain in the minority, there will be no investigations, no hearings, no oversight, and no accountability in the wake of relevations like this. It is imperative that we take back Congress and start putting an end to these assaults on our civil liberties.

If you'd like to demand answers from your phone company about the illegal giveaway of your private records, here are links to do so:

AT&T | Verizon | BellSouth

UPDATE: The Northwest's own mcjoan, who for many months now has been a front page contributor to Daily Kos, is in this morning's P-I article about the blogosphere's reaction to the latest NSA relevation:
Wrote mcjoan on the popular liberal blog Daily Kos:

"Does anybody really believe that they are just tracking all of our phone calls for the hell of it, and not listening to them? Tell me another one."
That's a nice quote, too.

Thibaudeau out, Murray in

Ed Murray wants to represent the 43rd District as its state senator, and it looks like he now has an open path:
Democratic State Sen. Pat Thibaudeau said today she will not seek re-election this year in Seattle's 43rd District.

That clears the way for state Rep. Ed Murray, who announced earlier this spring that he would run against Thibaudeau in the Democratic primary.

Thibaudeau, 73, was first elected to the state House in 1992 and then to the Senate in 1995. She has served in the past as chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee, but currently chairs no committees.

Thibaudeau was appointed last week by Gov. Christine Gregoire to serve as co-chair of a new commission that is supposed to craft a five-year plan to tackle the soaring costs of health care.

Murray is looking to fill the seat once held by his mentor, Sen. Cal Anderson, the Legislature's first openly gay member. After Anderson's death, Murray lost to Thibaudeau in the race for the open seat.
The race to replace Murray in the House, on the other hand, has turned into an interesting competition, with quite a few individuals vying for the nomination, including Dick Kelley, Bill Sherman, Jim Street, Stephanie Pure, Lynne Dodson, and Jamie Pedersen. No doubt the field will become narrower as September approaches, but there will, in all likelihood, be a competitive primary.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

SurveyUSA vs. Strategic Vision - Update

Last month I wrote about the sizable discrepancy in Governor Gregoire's approval ratings between pollsters SurveyUSA and Strategic Vision, noting that the gap between the two was roughly ten percentage points. I concluded then:
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.
A month later, we have new polling numbers to look at - and the gap remains.

In April's SurveyUSA poll (April 9th 2006) of 600 adults, Gregoire climbed to 48% from 47% last month, a new high point. 44% disapproved in the poll, while 7% responded that they were unsure.

If the trend holds (we predicted it would last month - so far, we're correct) and Gregoire continues to climb, that will indicate that the Republican attacks against her from the first half of 2005 just aren't sticking any more.

The Strategic Vision poll (of 800 adults), on the other hand, which was done in late April, found that 38% of respondents approved of Governor Christine Gregoire's job performance; 53% disapproved; and 9% were undecided.

That's a ten percentage point difference from the SurveyUSA poll - a suspicious discrepancy. We strongly believe the SurveyUSA numbers are a more accurate assessment of how Washingtonians think the Governor is doing.

Expect Republicans to tout the Strategic Vision numbers while conveniently ignoring the poll results from SurveyUSA. Don't let them get away with it. Pull out the more reputable information and raise questions.

Will there still be a big discrepancy in future months? Time will tell, but the answer is probably. We don't know what methodology Strategic Vision is using, but there's a possibility that it's somehow weighted.

Strong correlation with nonsense

Pop-economics guru Thomas Friedman calls it the "petro-ist" state, and correlates wealth in oil with retarded economic and political reform. The Cato Institute's William A. Niskanen runs a regression and shows tax cuts lead to growth in the size of government.

Please.

Petropolitics

Friedman's "First Law of Petropolitics," as expressed in a recent column, posits the following: "The price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions in petro-ist states." Implying that wealth corrupts, and the higher the wealth, the less interested the powers that be are in sharing it.

This price, however, is the measure of the value of the oil, primarily to the United States. The price is not randomly generated, nor free from the interest of Americans. An equally valid formulation, one which Friedman avoids, is to say that the more valuable a country's oil resource to the US, the less democracy they can expect. The spin is a bit different, eh? And it IS spin, not sound thinking. But "Flat Earth" Friedman fails on one more ground. The most corrupt and corrupting oil rich state in the world is arguably the state of Texas, and he forgot about them.

Friedman is making big bucks these days on an old hustle, the information society, the horizontal game. He has whipped up hysteria about not being left behind as we enter a brave new world. Let's at least acknowledge that a whole mob of young people have already been left behind. The great rush into computer science that busted with the dot.com collapse is now marked only by the quality of staffing at our PC help desks. Eighty thousand dollar educations for $15 an hour jobs. We need everybody, amigos, for real problems, and this is just a new Klondike. The suppliers get rich, the prospectors go home broke.

Starve the Brain

A second remarkable article comes out of the Atlantic. The author of "Stoking the Beast" http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200606/tax-cuts stalks the elusive honest man and finds him in William A. Niskanen, the chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute. The fellow "recently analyzed data from 1981 to 2005 and found ... when he performed a statistical regression that controlled for unemployment .. 'no sign deficits have ever acted as a constraint on spending.'" Thus, ta-da, tax cuts lead to big government.

Similar to Friedman's error, the variables are not independent, as is required for using regression analysis. A regression is a simple (for a computer) method of correlating data set A and data set B. But a correlation is meaningless by itself. Toes pretty much correlate to having elbows, for example, but toes do not cause elbows, nor do elbows cause toes. Both are common attributes of having a body.

And of course, here we have deep tax cuts correlating to booming government spending. Both are simply attributes of fiscal incompetency abetted by the current dominance of a predatory corporate culture. Fiscal responsibility comes in a different form and produces different results, two of which happen to be (over the past 15 years) smaller government and paying the bills.

Is Atlantic playing to a target audience when they run this kind of drivel? $75,000 plus white men, i.e, predominantly Republicans, but literate Republicans, with a need to obfuscate to cover their lifestyle? Their conclusion is not that the "starve the beast" claim is nonsense of a caliber equal to tax cuts during wartime, but that Mr. Niskanen has discovered something new and important.

?

Official Blog Upgraded Again

Why another upgrade so soon? Because we like having the freedom to tinker. (That, and we decided a few adjustments would improve the functionality.) This upgrade is released as Version 3.6.

You'll notice we've made a few changes to the blogroll, including the addition of a few new blogs. We also corrected an RSS link which got broken after we renamed one of the feeds. (All of the feeds are now in good working order).

Lastly, we improved the archiving system. On index pages (including this page - the main page) you will now see a list of archive links from which you can choose to browse posts from previous months. The dropdown menu was retained for post pages (accessed by permalinks) for faster loading and a cleaner, shorter sidebar column. Post pages should always load very quickly.

That takes care of the meta housekeeping for now.

Redmond gets its own PCC next week

A week from today (May 17th), PCC Natural Markets will be opening its eighth store in Redmond amid much fanfare:
Redmond Mayor Rosemarie Ives will perform a ceremonial ribbon cutting at 8 a.m., to which the public is invited, and then the store will officially open for business.

The 23,382 sq. ft. grocery store, located at 11435 Avondale Rd. N.E. (at the intersection of Avondale and N.E. 116th), will offer greater Redmond area shoppers a wide selection of organic and natural products in one of the "greenest" structures in King County. Building enhancements that maximize energy efficiency and minimize waste are expected to qualify the store for LEED certification, which would make PCC Redmond the third grocery store in the country to be awarded this distinction, and the first to attain the LEED Gold level.

"We are very pleased that PCC is able to respond to the many requests we've received for another Eastside location," said Tracy Wolpert, CEO. "It has been very gratifying to work with many local producers and community groups in bringing our fresh, natural shopping experience to Redmond and surrounding neighborhoods."

The new store will showcase an expansive produce department featuring local, organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables; a 100% natural meat and sustainable seafood department; a full-service deli with a fresh sushi bar; and an extensive selection of domestic and imported wines and beers. It also features interior and exterior customer seating, and a state-of-the-art classroom and teaching kitchen, where cooking classes for adults and children be will offered through the popular PCC Cooks program.
As I wrote last November, this is very good news for residents of Redmond and surrounding communities. Shopping for wholesome, organic food will be much more convenient. It will be wonderful to welcome PCC Natural Markets to Redmond.
NPI members will be at the grand opening a week from today - and we'll be posting a recap of it here on the Official Blog.

Copy of Bush's Florida trip schedule discovered...in the trash

WUSA has this very interesting, exclusive story:
How much do you think Osama bin Laden would pay to know exactly when and where the President was traveling, and who was with him? Turns out, he wouldn't have had to pay a dime. All he had to do was go through the trash early Tuesday morning.

It appears to be a White House staff schedule for the President's trip to Florida Tuesday. And a sanitation worker was alarmed to find in the trash long hours before Mr. Bush left for his trip.

It's the kind of thing you would expect would be shredded or burned, not thrown in the garbage.

Randy Hopkins could not believe what he was seeing.

There on the floor next to a big trash truck was a thick sheaf of papers with nearly every detail of the President's voyage.

“I saw locations and names and places where the President was going to be. I knew it was important. And it shouldn't have been in a trash hole like this,” he said.

[...]

The documents detail the exact arrival and departure time for Air Force One, Marine One and the back up choppers, Nighthawk 2 and Three.

It lists every passenger on board each aircraft, from the President to military attaché with nuclear football. It offers the order of vehicles in the President's motorcade.
For an administration obsessed with secrecy and security, this is a pretty embarrassing slipup. That's not the only thing that has made its way into the trash over the last five years.

It's a mistake that serves nicely as a metaphor for what the administration has done to this country. They've trashed our country's fiscal health, our reputation in the world, and our environment.

It will take a long time to clean up the mess they and their Republican cronies in Congress have made. The sooner we can get started, the better.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

In Brief - May 9th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • A reminder that Eric Oemig's campaign kickoff event is this Friday at the Hollywood Schoolhouse. More details are available here.
  • If you haven't yet registered for Camp Wellstone Seattle yet, what are you waiting for? If you've never been through the training before you owe it to yourself to take part in this amazing learning experience. Five or six bloggers went to the training last year, and we all highly recommend it.
  • The Bush administration is encountering resistance to Dubya's latest pick to head the CIA. Even Speaker of the House Hastert is opposed.
  • From last week: In a surprise announcement made by the soft drink industry and the Bill Clinton Foundation, the nation's largest beverage distributors have agreed to halt nearly all sales of sodas to public schools - a step that will remove the sugary, caloric drinks from vending machines and cafeterias around the country. More on their unexpected voluntary step here.
  • Yesterday, Orbusmax posted a link to a P-I article about declining circulation at Seattle's two dailies (the Times and the P-I), using this headline: NORTHWEST NEWSPAPER CIRCULATION CONTINUES DESCENT: P-I DOWN 9%, TIMES 5%. Appended below this link was the comment, ORBUSMAX: HERE'S A REALLY GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHY...which linked to this P-I editorial about the Republicans' increasingly dim prospects this November. The argument that local newspapers are losing readers because they aren't conservative enough is not just a myth, it's completely ridiculous. Not surprisingly, it's been made before - I debunked it pretty thoroughly last November. Nice try, Orbusmax.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Prediction Tuesday preempted by FoxNews Confidence

I know it's sad for some of you to visit me and find me on my front step, shaking my cane at the traffic, hollering about how things are going to Hell in a Chinese handbasket. "Poor fellow," you say to yourselves, "It's Prediction Tuesday, and he's just going to embarrass himself again with some doom and gloom."

Well, I don't go out in front except to get the paper. I hang out in the basement, safe from UV rays and spies. Maybe I am alarmed by positive predictions. You may see a Chicken Little in me, but I see a room full of reverse Chicken Littles in you, sanguine because the roof hasn't collapsed yet. Sure, you see plaster dust is starting to fall, but just because you haven't started sneezing ....

... It turns out that my image of you is just another paranoid delusion. The attitude that the economy is doing well is confined to people of the Republican persuasion. I call it FoxNews Confidence (TM) or the Karl Rove Recovery (TM).

A Pew Research Center report demonstrates that while 56% of Republicans see the economy doing well, only half that many Independents share a similar view, and even fewer Democrats.

All of which does not excuse me for not having done my homework. I promised a closer look at the last 6-year forecast, but I'm not going to do it this month.

I couldn't tease anything new out of things.


I'll review the June edition of the Office of Forecast Council's Washington Economic and Revenue Forecast in detail next month. Promise.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 1.24.06

Monday, May 08, 2006

I-920 proponents getting desperate?

NPI's Permanent Defense has received reports that blank I-920 petitions have mysteriously been inserted into copies of the latest edition of the Capitol Hill Times. (If you don't remember, Initiative 920 is the initiative to repeal the state's estate tax, which funds public education.)

One of the individuals who reported this to us commented, "They are obviously expecting Capitol Hill residents to take up their fight for them. Who do they think we are, anyway???"

Sounds like a pretty desperate tactic.

I myself spotted a blank I-920 petition at the King County Convention last Saturday (and was pretty shocked to think that someone, perhaps an overly ambitious signature gatherer, would have thought it wise to bother asking progressive Democrats to sign a right wing initiative).

Readers, if you have information about this incident, please report it to Permanent Defense immediately.

Pursuing an energy policy for the 21st century

Kudos to the editorial board of the Seattle Post Intelligencer for beginning a series of editorials this week about reducing our energy consumption and transitioning away from fossil fuels:
What we need from government is energy independence, generated by a science-based, long-term strategy founded on conservation and alternative energy sources.

What we've gotten is pandering.

$100 rebate checks? Roll back the federal gas tax?

Tax breaks on hybrid vehicles people are already lining up to buy?

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off the West Coast?

Nukes? Price-gouging claims and remedies?

Does no one understand that providing cheap gasoline may not be the best thing our government can do for us?

Television news harps on "pain at the pump." What are the risks that without substantive changes in energy production and consumption in this country the pain will be far more severe and persistent?

Would it be better to raise the federal gas tax to create a fund for alternative energy research and development? (Especially in incremental steps.)

Should there be a tariff on imported petroleum rather than on imported alternative fuels?

Is it unwise, even reckless, to continue America's upward curve of fossil fuels consumption if the world's oil supply is nearing its peak, just as developing nations such as China and India dramatically increase their energy consumption?
Unfortunately, too many Democrats in Congress seem to have forgotten about the future and are engaging in the same pandering as Republicans.

We need to elect Democrats to Congress who will pursue a smart, sensible, long term energy policy - not foolishly attempt to lower the price of gasoline. That's why we need to elect Darcy Burner to represent the 8th Congressional District. She understands how important a long term energy policy is for America.

"The Bush Republicans have failed to implement comprehensive energy policies that address our demand for oil. The right way to solve this problem is to immediately pursue policies that reduce our addiction to oil and hold irresponsible oil companies accountable," Burner said last week.

Here's her proposed series of investments and policy changes that would reduce the country’s demand for oil and punish irresponsible oil companies:
Meaningful price-gouging legislation. We must establish a federal ban on price gouging for oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products during national emergencies, provide civil and criminal penalties for price gouging, ban market manipulation, and require greater transparency in oil and gasoline markets.

Establishing Incentives for Alternative Vehicles and Increasing Vehicle Fuel Efficiency. We must dramatically increase incentives that encourage the production and sale of clean and efficient hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. At the same time, we must increase the fuel economy standards of cars and light duty trucks.

Creating the Next Generation of Revolutionary Energy Technologies. We must provide seed money for fundamental research needed to develop high-risk, high-reward technologies and build markets for the next generation of revolutionary energy technologies, such as those emerging from smart grid, solar, and fuel-cell research.

Commitment to a New Energy Policy. We must immediately increase energy research and development funding and extend the renewable energy production tax credit.

Deploying New Engine Technologies and Expanding Clean Energy Alternatives. We must increase research and development funding for new vehicle technologies and new fuels so that these emerging technologies can be deployed in the next three to five years.
We're tired of Republicans in D.C. pretending to care about this issue but offering only lip service, not real solutions. We need leaders at all levels of government who will put together and implement a solid energy policy that is appropriate for the 21st century. And we know that Darcy Burner will be such a leader. That's why we need her in Congress.

Stephen Colbert becomes a Net sensation

Ever since Stephen Colbert delivered his amazing smackdown of Bush and the right wing just over a week ago at the White House Correspondents' Dinnner, he's been the talk of not just the progressive blogosphere - but the nation as well.

Reaction to Colbert and the dinner has become a massive senation. A huge number of people are searching Yahoo and Google to find the video, transcript, or read coverage of the event. Ratings for The Colbert Report soared 37% last week in the aftermath of the event. (Has a C-SPAN broadcast ever been so entertaining?)

This excerpt from Wikipedia neatly captures what a phenomenon this became so quickly:
According to CNET's News.com site, Colbert became "one of the Internet's hottest acts" after video of his performance spread across the Internet. Within three days of the event, clips of the speech had climbed to the #1, #2, and #3 spots atop YouTube's "Most Viewed" video list. Before YouTube took down the video, the various clips of Colbert's speech had been viewed 2.7 million times in less than 48 hours.

The popular blog Crooks and Liars was the first place where the video became available, and although their downloadable file (which is no longer available) only covered part of Colbert's speech, they drew over half a million hits in one day, their busiest day on record.

Google Current reported that, after Colbert's comic routine, one of the top gaining searches at Google was for "C-SPAN," the station that first broadcast video of Colbert's "tribute" to Bush. In the days following the roast, "C-SPAN" was searched for more than twice as much as "Jennifer Aniston". Google also saw a surge in searches for items such as "Colbert", "Stephen Colbert", "Colbert Bush", and "Colbert dinner".

Yahoo!'s the buzz log reported that searches on Colbert were up 5,625% during the week and climbing even higher.

The trade journal Editor and Publisher was the first news outlet to report in detail on Colbert's performance. After publishing the article, they reported that their web site drew "possibly its highest one-day traffic total ever." Salon, which posted several articles on Colbert's performance, reported that they hit traffic heights surpassed only by their election and Abu Ghraib coverage.

For a week afterward, the top search term at Technorati was either "Colbert" or "Stephen Colbert". All week, the Internet continued to buzz about the speech; 70,000 articles were posted about Colbert's roast of Bush on the following Thursday, the most of any topic.

A website called Thank You Stephen Colbert, created by Salon writer Michael Scherer,logged over 50,000 "Thank You's" within the first five days after the dinner.

Chicago Sun-Times TV Critic Doug Elfman credited the Internet with promoting an event that would have otherwise been overlooked, stating that "Internet stables for liberals, like the behemoth DailyKos.com, began rumbling as soon as the correspondents' dinner was reported in the mainstream press, with scant word of Colbert's combustive address."
Everybody's talking about it. When our own U.S. Representative, Jay Inslee, stopped by the King County Convention, the first thing he told the audience (jokingly) was that he was forming a presidential committee for Stephen Colbert.

The bottom line: Stephen's performance may not have been liked by the Washington press corps, but the savvy host of Comedy Central's Colbert Report knew exactly who he was playing to: the millions of unhappy Americans at home who are sick of the Bush administration getting a free pass for so long.

That's the power of the democratic Internet.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Nominate Darcy Burner on Daily Kos!

Yesterday, I urged readers to leave a comment at MyDD seconding a nomination for Darcy Burner to become a "Netroots Endorsed" candidate:
Matt Stoller has a page up on MyDD asking for nominations for candidates who should be "Netroots Endorsed". Candidates who are "Netroots Endorsed" are listed on the ActBlue page for major blogs, including Daily Kos and MyDD. Please leave a comment on MyDD seconding a nomination for Darcy Burner.
DavidNYC has posted at Daily Kos today with a similar call for nominations. Please go to Daily Kos and leave a comment seconding Darcy's nomination.

A hill high enough to see

The Predator State by James K. Galbraith is up on the Web now. Please take a look at it. It is short, less than 1,000 words. I know I posted on it last week, but this is as important an analysis as was John Kenneth Galbraith's half a century ago.

It is not intellectually satisfying to me to divide the world into good guys and bad guys and the ignorant. I want a system which can explain, by incentives or otherwise, how a guy can become good, bad, or ignorant. Perhaps it is the Buddhist in me, or the Jeffersonian egalitarian, but I am of the mind that each of us could have as easily become the piss-bum or the corporate cutthroat or the beatific monk depending on opportunity and circumstance.

This exposition by Galbraith, to be sure, has deep moral implications. It is not the dry and arid speculation on models of choice or whatever amuses the puzzle-prone. Galbraith identifies the evil-doers (they are who we think they are) and those who are complicit (sometimes us). He sketches the evolution of the economy from the post-war middle class and its industrial monopolies to the conditions of today.

One has the sense of coming right-side up, or of finding a glass which brings things finally into focus, or of finding a hill high enough to let one survey the whole field and appreciate the interrelatedness of activities.

Which is not to say that this piece by Galbraith or its elaborations will explain the next stage of the economy. It is, like the elder Galbraith's, a system very much explanatory, but tied only to its segment of history. When the institutions change, or disintegrate, we will need another Galbraith.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Get Darcy Burner "Netroots Endorsed"

Matt Stoller has a page up on MyDD asking for nominations for candidates who should be "Netroots Endorsed". Candidates who are "Netroots Endorsed" are listed on the ActBlue page for major blogs, including Daily Kos and MyDD. Please leave a comment on MyDD seconding a nomination for Darcy Burner.

Since the beginning of her run for Congress, Darcy Burner has made reaching out to the regional netroots a major priority of her campaign.

She's posted three diaries on Daily Kos (with more on the way) visited Drinking Liberally at least three times, and appeared as the special guest at the first ever Pacific Northwest Progressive Bloggers' Conference.

Please post a reply to Cherisse's comment and second the nomination. Darcy is our candidate - let's get her Netroots Endorsed!

Recap of the King County Convention

Earlier today the King County Democrats held their 2006 Convention to hear from candidates for elected office, adopt a platform, and consider resolutions. This post is a recap of the event.

The convention was held at the hall of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, one of the major sponsors of the event, and lasted for about five hours, counting about forty five minutes for registration and refreshments, which began at 2 PM.

The convention was called to order by King County Democrats Chair Suzie Sheary at exactly 2:45 PM, at which point it was obvious to any observer that the convention was going to be a very well attended event. There were so many delegates and guests in attendance that the back wall had to be opened up so more seating could be made available.

The first speaker was 7th District Representative Jim McDermott, who as always, received an enthusiastic reception. McDermott made a point of asking the delegates whether they'd had enough of right wing control of the country (which got a very loud chorus of YES).

McDermott's message was simple: if you've had enough, get out and work for change. (If you haven't had enough, he added, just sit back and turn on your television). Perhaps the most important thing Democrats in Washington State can do this year, McDermott told the audience, was to help elect Darcy Burner.

McDermott was followed by the former president of NARAL, Kate Michelman, who was introduced by Suzie Sheary and State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz. Michelman thanked delegates for a warm reception and quickly proceeded to speak about the significance of reelecting Senator Maria Cantwell to the U.S. Senate.

After completing her brief remarks, Michelman welcomed Senator Maria Cantwell to the stage. As Cantwell entered the hall (to thunderous applause) she was accompanied by a band of drummers and dozens of cheering Democrats waving Maria Cantwell signs or holding Maria Cantwell banners.

It was a very impressive reception.

The Senator delivered a confident, upbeat speech, drawing an especially loud roar when she mentioned her environmental protection efforts (and, of course, the successful Arctic Refuge filibuster from last December comes to mind). She was in a combative, fighting mood, and that was great to see.

Senator Cantwell Exits

Maria was followed by Representative Adam Smith and then State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, who reported on the party's candidate recruitment efforts and positioning for the 2006 midterm elections.

NPI's own Representative Jay Inslee (1st District) was next. Inslee drew a loud laugh and applause when he jokingly proclaimed he was putting together a presidential committee for Stephen Colbert. Inslee touted I-937, the Energy Security Initiative, and then launched into a passionate appeal to the delegates to channel every last bit of frustration they'd ever felt over the last six years into Darcy Burner's campaign for Congress.

With that, Inslee asked the audience to help him welcome Darcy Burner.

Like Maria Cantwell, Darcy made her way to the stage through a standing ovation of delegates, followed by a parade of sign waving supporters chanting "DARCY! DARCY! DARCY! DARCY!".

After the applause finally quieted, Darcy gave what I consider to be the finest address I have ever heard her give. Ever.

It was powerful. It was poignant. It was precise. It was polished.

It was perfect.

It had a nicely balanced mix of personal background and inspiration, expression of Democratic values, forceful condemnation of Republican failures, articulation of possible solutions to our nation's crushing problems, and a passionate appeal for support.

Not once did she ever lose focus, stumble, or forget what exactly what she wanted to say. I never saw her look down. She had those delegates captivated, listening to her every word, and frequently interrupting to applaud.

I've heard Darcy speak on a lot of different occasions, and each time, she's gotten better. I am so proud of how well she presented herself and her candidacy - all of us at NPI are.

Darcy and her message resonated amazingly today.

Darcy Burner Speaks

I think she easily managed to convince any doubters in that hall that she has what it takes to win the 8th Congressional District and knock out Dave Reichert. Republicans should be very, very afraid. They'll sling their mud, and they'll make stuff up. But we'll be ready. When they lie, when they exaggerate, we'll be there to slam those attacks down before they can get traction.

This impressive performance was followed by State Representative Ross Hunter, who spoke briefly and then introduced newly converted Democrat Rodney Tom.

Tom got a very warm reception and surprised almost everybody in the hall with his comments. He even spoke about the 8th Congressional District race, saying, "I've met Dave Reichert. I know Dave Reichert. And he's as dumb as a post."

This drew a loud burst of laughter and applause, and as it finally died away, Tom added, "And that's an insult to posts," drawing a second round of chuckling and cheering.

Moving to his own race, Tom noted that "Luke Esser is 'Senator No'. 'No' to transportation, no to education, no to equal rights." He concluded his remarks and thanked delegates for their support.

Next were two of the Supreme Court justices running for reelection this year - Gerry Alexander and Tom Chambers. Each spoke for roughly two minutes and made important observations.

Alexander declared that "a judge who has taken the oath (of office) should not have a preconceived agenda" referring to the slate of candidates that the BIAW backed Constitutional Law PAC is pushing this year. (The BIAW and its right wing allies are hoping to buy a majority on the state Supreme Court).

Chambers proudly spoke of his voting in recent years to declare "certain initiatives" (ahem, Tim Eyman initiatives) unconstitutional. Chambers noted that it's not easy for the state Supreme Court to declare an initiative passed by the people unconstitutional.

Both justices ended by thanking the delegates for the opportunity to speak.

Thy were followed by King County Councilman Dow Constantine, who urged delegates to "take back our future" and restore integrity to government.

After a litany of other speakers, who all spoke briefly, the convention finally moved forward to consideration of the proposed platform. The platform was adopted section by section, with occassional objections and one proposed amendment (which failed to pass) to the Foreign Policy section.

After the passage of the platform, a motion was made to send the resolutions (which never made it to the floor) to the King County Democrats' Central Committee for consideration. The convention was then adjourned.

Joe Biden, meet George Marshall

David Broder gave the partition of Iraq a boost in his Washington Post column Thursday. Broder supported Senator Joe Biden's idea of a federation with national defense in the hands of the central power and otherwise locally determinant, separated into Sunni, Shi'a and Kurdish regions. Partition like this is not the complete answer, nor is it the utterly outlandish idea that the Bush regime has painted. It is a "recognition," as Broder puts it, of reality. Recognizing reality is a difficult thing for the Radical Right and the Bush team. But as we've said here, we have three choices: partition now, partition after a long and bloody civil war, or unity under a tyrant like Saddam who enforces it the Rumsfeld way.

The demise of unified Iraq has been sufficiently foreshadowed. If you ask a European or two, you get the impression this quagmire and disintegration was inevitable. (During the delay in agreeing on a prime minister you could almost hear the scuffling in the back rooms as people jockeyed for position and consolidated their bases.)

The country of Iraq has no history. It was cobbled together for the convenience of the British, and held together by nothing less than the iron rule of Saddam (shake my hand, Don Rumsfeld) Hussein. To make a stable society, we will need to recognize indigenous leadership, of which there is none spanning the three major groups. The Kurdish region is already a state unto itself, and participation in a united Iraq is mere courtesy to Americans for all their help. The Sunnis seem to be the basis for the most active insurgency. The Shiites, as the majority, must be weighing how many American guns they can use without becoming illegitimate to their own people.

But until an economic system comes into being which generates the possibility of self-determination and self-reliance at the individual and family levels, it won't matter if mullahs, ministers or monarchs are in charge, the result will not be stability. For in order to have a "fabric" of society, there needs to be a weave of relationships, not mobs with guns, nor camps, nor long lines – but schools, workplaces, a house to build, and so on.

What is needed is a Marshall Plan.

The limit to the dumping of money into Iraq has long since passed. Abandoning the rebuilding effort as a mess and a bad job, as the Seattle Times, among others, has suggested, is not the answer. What is needed is a Marshall Plan. Not the airlift of corporate corruption into a devastated country, but a program modeled on the original, immensely successful plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

Background
World War II was fought by all Americans and won by all Americans. It's financing did not include big tax breaks for the rich. The rich and their corporations benefitted enough from the intense demand. We did not allow systematic corruption. During the war, the Congress – notably the Truman Committee – rooted out and exposed war profiteering and fraud. The current Congress provides no oversight whatsoever, which is a clear and obscene violation of its Constitutional mandate.

And when the War was over, under the leadership of General George C. Marshall – twice Time's man of the year, once during and once after the war, "the great man," as Truman called him – the US rebuilt the society of Europe at the same time rebuilt the shattered infrastructure.

The Marshall Plan worked directly with and for the indigenous economy. It identified and supported their projects, through their business, labor and political leaders. Europeans identified the needs and the methods. Americans provided technical assistance and material. People had work and that work developed an economic structure and stability.

This approach was partly in recognition of the mistakes following World War I, when the Allies had insisted on huge reparations from Germany. The Economic Consequences of the Peace was written by John Maynard Keynes, a young civil servant who resigned from the negotiating team at Versailles when the outcome became apparent. In this book, Keynes correctly predicted the turmoil resulting in Nazism and the Second World War as the outcome of the literally impossible terms of peace. So after the Second World War, with the need not for revenge, but for stability in the face of advancing Stalinism, the victors developed the Marshall Plan, not only for the defeated, but for the devastated allies.
In Iraq the US has chosen a different route. Here we have imported American machinery, manpower and plans and attempted to impose them on the landscape. In the process, staggering amounts have been lost to corruption and more to expensive security to protect the work sites and workers. The sitting vice president benefits from his continued association with one of the largest contractors, one cited regularly for overbilling and other fraud, recently for spending nearly $80 million drilling in unstable geology. Incompetence and corruption and Corporatism.

The enormous security costs associated with protecting Americans will leave on the same planes as the American contractors. Efficient, focused and functional rebuilding will arrive on flights carrying independent contracting authorities, perhaps from the UN or another agency with a semblance of legitimacy. Reestablishing reliable utilities will do more than any number of political deals to pacify and stabilize the country. And most helpful of all would be putting Iraqis back to work. Defense intelligence reportedly estimates that six out of ten Iraqi workers are without a job. [Widely reported from John Murtha and not disputed by anyone in authority as far as I am aware.] Sixty percent unemployment! How can that be? The country needs enormous reconstruction. There should be work for everyone. And how can idleness of that magnitude be anything but destabilizing?

What Iraq needs is not American projects produced by American corporations. The whole idea of constructing facilities then handing over the keys to whatever secular or religious faction happens to be in power is just a recipe for further failure.

Why Seattle needs the Alaskan Way Tunnel

Seattle City Councilwoman had a guest column published yesterday in the Seattle Times (Now's not the time to cheap-out on the viaduct) in which she describes why the Alaskan Way Tunnel is a good investment:

After witnessing my colleagues on the Seattle City Council lay out money to study a "cheaper option" for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, I can't help ask: What part of "no" don't we understand? The Washington Legislature is not going to give us $2 billion simply to tear down a state highway without an equivalent replacement. Instead, legislators gave Seattle two choices to replace the viaduct: a bulkier, larger aerial structure; or a cut-and-cover tunnel.

[...]

As part of my research, I traveled to San Francisco last December to learn about the Embarcadero redevelopment, where an aerial freeway was replaced by a surface boulevard and trolley lines. There, I met with elected officials, community and environmental leaders and planner Boris Dramov, famed for his role in Embarcadero/waterfront redevelopment.

I learned a great deal, including the relationship between geography and commerce. San Francisco is seven miles square and has numerous routes through the city; Seattle is nine miles long and — in places — barely three miles wide. I learned San Francisco does not have a trade-dependent waterfront like we do in Seattle.

But what works in San Francisco — a city with multiple layers of mass transit — won't solve Seattle's problems. A shallow cut-and-cover tunnel will simply serve us better, enabling Seattle to have a park-lined pedestrian waterfront on one level with a transportation artery briskly moving traffic beneath its surface. Buses must be part of the solution.
Godden makes the excellent point that Seattle is unique and has unique problems. What works for other cities - especially bigger cities that have a stronger mass transit system - won't work here. It's worth remembering that Seattle's first high capacity transit system - Central Link Light Rail - is only 40% completed.

Here's one final excerpt that argues why the current viaduct needs to be replaced, not just torn down:
I, too, long for the pedestrian waterfront that the "no-build" forces seek. But common sense tells me — without a tunnel beneath it — that surface amenity won't exist. We would only be building a four-lane, traffic-choked, truck route on our waterfront, while packing our residential and retail streets with the thousands of cars with clouds of pollution that were displaced in the process.
Read the whole thing. This guest editorial isn't some knee jerk defense of the Alaskan Way Tunnel, it's a thoughtfully written piece that makes very compelling arguments. We have a choice: we can make a long term investment in the future of our transportation system - an investment that will be safer, cleaner, less noisy, and give us back our waterfront - or, we can cheap out.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Porter Goss resigns as CIA director

He never should have been CIA Director in the first place:
Porter J. Goss abruptly resigned today as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a post that had been diminished in the restructuring of the intelligence bureaucracy after the Sept. 11 attacks.

With Mr. Goss sitting next to him at the White House, President Bush said the director had offered his resignation this morning. "I've accepted it," Mr. Bush said... He did not mention a successor, but The Associated Press reported that a senior administration official said one could be chosen as soon as Monday.
Goss has his own reasons for resigning - so don't listen to those who say this is part of a "White House shakeup".

Maria Cantwell's backwards position on Iraq is undermining her reelection bid

It's high time that Maria Cantwell took a look around and realized that her support of George W. Bush's costly war is having costly repercussions that are hurting her reelection campaign.

Over the last few months (and yes, even years) we've supported Maria, often making the argument that many of the attacks being leveled against her are unfair - and that a grueling primary fight won't help our party and the progressive movement in the long run. And we believe the arguments we've made still have merit.

We've been called "Democratic cheerleaders" because the members of this organization been unwilling to level much public criticism at high profile figures like Maria Cantwell.

That's not because we don't have any criticism, but mostly because others were (and still are) doing a fine job of that.

This organization is, and always has been, against the preemptive invasion and occupation of Iraq. That's not a secret. For years, we've had a "Cost of the Iraq War" counter on our network's home page - and sadly, we've watched that figure climb higher - and higher - and higher - and higher still.

After what's happened in the last couple of days, we feel it's time to comment.

Yesterday, Maria Cantwell had a guest editorial published in the Seattle Times about Iraq, which her campaign no doubt hoped would clarify her position and reduce the amount of criticism being leveled at the Senator.

We had high hopes that she would demonstrate her position on the Iraq conflict has evolved, and that she recognizes the administration has failed (miserably) to accomplish anything.

But we were disappointed. Instead of holding the Bush administration accountable, Cantwell laid the responsibility elsewhere, with puzzling sentences like, "The president must make sure that the international community follows through on its promises."

The entire guest editorial was written under the odd pretense that somehow George W. Bush is going to listen to the advice that's being offered and take action. But it should be obvious to any realistically-minded observer that there's no chance of that happening. Bush is out of touch with reality and unwilling to do anything that would end the costly quagmire we're stuck in.

The Seattle Times itself followed up this morning, printing a story on its front page by political reporter David Postman (Cantwell's stance on Iraq keeps volunteers away, party chief says) which makes it clear that Maria's backwards position on Iraq is indeed costing her:
Sen. Maria Cantwell's continued support for the occupation of Iraq and her lack of regret for voting for the invasion in 2002 is making it hard to recruit volunteers for her re-election campaign, the chairman of the state Democratic Party says.

The liberal activists who dominate the party's grass roots oppose the war and have been looking for Cantwell to distance herself from President Bush's position.

"Definitely right now there are a lot of activists who are not signing up to work on her campaign, and that's very clear," state party Chairman Dwight Pelz said Thursday.
So there you have it: the Chairman of the State Democratic Party is quoted on the front page of the state's largest daily as saying that Maria Cantwell's position on Iraq is costing her grassroots support.

Hopefully Maria sees this article, because it's time that she realizes how much her stubbornness is weighing down her reelection bid and disappointing even her most ardent supporters.

Postman goes on in his article to reference criticism from Arthur Ruger, who writes at Washblog (among other places) and has been a great supporter of Pacific Northwest Portal:
Pelz said anti-war Democrats will vote for Cantwell in November in her race against Republican Mike McGavick, but the campaign can't depend on them to knock on doors, make telephone calls or help with other chores usually done by volunteers.

That point was made recently on the popular local liberal blog washblog.com. Arthur Ruger, a state employees union leader, wrote about what he called Cantwell's "blind and proud unwillingness to recognize a foolish and cowardly political act" in voting for the war.

But he said tough questions about the war should not be seen as opposition to her re-election. "I'm going to vote for Maria but she gets no free pass from me," Ruger wrote.

Cantwell's position reflects what Pelz sees as a broader problem among Democrats in D.C.

"Their inability to have a sharper message on Iraq is hurting our recruitment of volunteers," he said. "Those people tend to be highly passionate Democrats and they feel strongly about the war."

Pelz said he recently delivered that message to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
We understand it can be tough for someone like Maria Cantwell to change her thinking. But she needs to. She is only one of 100 Senators in the United States Senate and only one of forty four Democratic Senators.

We need Maria Cantwell to be a leader. We all make mistakes. Even people like Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith - who supported the war authorization - have now said they votes were in error. As Postman noted in his article, that leaves Maria alone as the only Democrat in the congressional delegation having expressed no regrets.

Joel Connelly even noted in his column in this morning's Seattle P-I that the Senator is "bedeviled by Iraq".

If Maria Cantwell doesn't want to come out and admit her vote was a mistake, that's understandable. Making public mea culpas is difficult. The least we expect, though, is that she'll untether herself from the administration and criticize the disaster they've made of Iraq.

We will continue to support Maria Cantwell, but unless she changes her views on the administration's handling of the Iraq conflict, that support will be given reluctantly.

Q&A: The Minimum Wage with Brock Haussamen

Brock Haussamen operates a web site Raising the National Minimum Wage: Information, Opinion, Research dedicated to information on the minimum wage. He commented on a post last month, and we inveigled him into responding to a few questions on the subject. Well, maybe more than a few. (This is good stuff.)
NPI: Washington has the highest minimum wage of any state in the nation, since it has risen with inflation (been "indexed") from the time it was enacted in 1995. Are you aware of any research tracking the rising minimum wage with joblessness or possibly population increases? That is, in your recent comment you provided the site for a study which showed actually a positive correlation between a minimum wage and employment growth. Has anything else been done along these lines?

BH: A 2006 report from the New York-based Fiscal Policy Institute says it all: States with Minimum Wages above the Federal Level have had Faster Small Business and Retail Job Growth. One example of these statistics: Small businesses in high minimum wage states grew by 5.4% from 1998 to 2003, compared to 4.25% growth in the other states. The report is careful to say that the results don’t prove that a higher minimum wage brings about economic growth, only that the old argument that an increase leads to job loss and economic decline doesn’t square with the facts.

The Economic Policy Institute in Washington D. C. watches the relation between the state minimum wages and the state economies carefully. One of their studies, Jeff Chapman’s Employment and the Minimum Wage includes a discussion of Washington state’s loss of employment during the years of its rising minimum wages, a correlation that minimum wage opponents like to point out. Chapman counters that the state’s decline in jobs occurred in the manufacturing industries, especially aerospace, a high-wage sector unaffected by minimum wage changes; Washington’s restaurant industry grew solidly during the same period.

NPI: What is the argument against raising the minimum wage and who makes it?

BH: Conservatives oppose the minimum wage on the grounds that since wages follow the logic of economics--the more expensive something is, the fewer buyers there will be -- raising the minimum wage will lead to reduced employment or reduced hours of employment. They also argue that the minimum wage is so often paid to teenagers starting out in part-time jobs that it is an inefficient way to help poor families. The underlying theme is the perennial conservative one: tampering with the open market never helps anyone.

Who makes it? Check out the position of the National Restaurant Association on the minimum wage. Busloads of its members descend on Congress when minimum wage amendments seem headed for a vote.

NPI: If you were king, how would you structure minimum wage legislation?

BH: We hear the calls to raise the minimum wages and the fact that the federal minimum doesn’t even provide enough for a family of one adult and two children to rise above the poverty line. But what we don’t hear is a model, a definition, for what a minimum wage ought to be. As king, I would declare that the federal minimum wage should meet the basic needs of a single adult worker, with no children, in the states with low costs of living. The living wage for a single adult runs from $6 to $9 an hour in these, so the Kennedy bill for $7.25, while low, is appropriate. Families would need more than this, of course, but higher living wages, negotiated within communities, are better suited for meeting the needs of family budgets. Unlike the living wage, the minimum wage serves the purpose of being a rock-bottom wage floor, and it makes sense to base the amount on what the adult worker himself or herself would need to live adequately.

There is no easy answer to the question of providing a federal minimum that is appropriate for all parts of the country, so I would use the federal minimum wage to protect workers in the low-cost states and encourage states with higher costs of living to pass their own state minimums, as they have been.

NPI: Would you index the federal minimum wage to inflation so it rises each year?

BH: I think the federal minimum wage should be reviewed every year by an administrative board for an increase based not only on recent inflation but also on other factors such as employment figures and anticipated inflation. At the federal level, for a nation this size with our regional economic diversity, automatic indexing of the kind adopted in Washington, Oregon, and Florida might have complex unintended consequences, from what I read. A more flexible commission-based approach, such as that used in England, makes more sense to me.

NPI: How does the current minimum wage correspond to a livable wage?

BH: Living and livable wages are higher than minimum wages. Living wages are set usually in cities or counties as ordinances applying to workers hired by the local government. They are based on the federal poverty levels for a family or on local housing costs and usually run from $8 to $10 per hour or higher.

NPI: To wages in other industrial countries?

BH: This varies widely, since over a hundred nations use some form of the minimum wage. In U.S. dollars, the minimum wage in Canada varies by province from $5.19 to $7.03. In Mexico, from $4.11 to $4.36. In France, it’s $9.18. The United Kingdom http://www.lowpay.gov.uk/ uses a system I like: a minimum wage of $8.91 for those over 21, a lower minimum for 18 to 21-year-olds, and an even lower one for younger workers. Such an age-based minimum wage helps address concerns about minimum wage benefits being wasted on teenagers. See Wikipedia's list of minimum wages in other countries.

NPI: Senator Kennedy has a bill up to raise the minimum wage. How would you characterize it?

BH: The bill itself just specifies dollars and dates to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act: an increase from $5.15 to $5.85 within 60 days after passage, to $6.55 one year later, and to $7.25 one year after that. The tricky part will be the trade-offs that accompany its passage through Congress. Federal minimum wage increases have been and can be joined with reductions in the type and number of workers covered, for example, or special tax breaks for business owners.

Readers can sign on as citizen co-sponsors of the Kennedy bill.

NPI: How would you frame the debate?

BH: People debate the minimum wage along two lines, the economic one and the moral one, what seems economically necessary from each side’s point of view and what seems fair and just for the poor, for the employer, for the tax payer, and so on. I think that each side has its gut-level reaction that is seldom expressed directly, though. Supporters feel that damn it, in a country this rich, there is no excuse for paying poverty wages to working people, that exploiting low-wage labor has a long and ugly history and must be resisted. I think opponents feel that although they want to help the poor, they’re not, damn it, going to cut into their hard-earned profits to do it.

NPI: Why your personal interest in this?

BH: I’m a community college English professor nearing retirement. Trying to reduce poverty feels like what I want to work on for the rest of my life. A year ago there was no Web site that brought together all the sides of the minimum wage issue, and I think it’s important that there be one.

NPI: What does a typical minimum wage-earner look like?

BH: Because the federal minimum at $5.15 has become so low, only 479,000 workers in the nation earned exactly that wage in 2005. But the number who earn between $5.15 and $6.15 is in the millions. If a Washington resident stays at a motel in Idaho, where the minimum wage is the same as the federal one, the room might be cleaned by a young Latina who probably makes in this range. The young man or woman wrapping a hamburger at a fast-food restaurant makes at or near the minimum. So does the middle-aged African American man picking up the trash around a camp ground.

NPI: What does the typical supporter for a minimum wage hike look like?

BH: Public support for raising the minimum wage usually runs between 75% and 80% in the polls and is even higher at the moment. So supporters look like all of us.

NPI: What does the typical opponent of higher minimum wages look like?

BH: According to the polls, an opponent is mostly likely male, white, over 50, wealthy, and a conservative Republican.
Thanks very much to Brock. This is the definitive short treatment. We will likely impose on him again as the economics section at NPI comes under rebuild over the next three or four months.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

In Brief - May 4th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • According to the latest Elway poll, Senator Maria Cantwell has maintained a 20 percentage point lead over Republican challenger Mike McGavick. The poll was conducted last month. Cantwell leads 52 percent to 23 percent, while 26 percent were undecided. The poll of 405 Washington voters has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
  • Darcy Burner continues to make waves on a national level after her amazing fundraising success in the first quarter. Kossack Superribbie has posted a "May House Race Rankings" that mentions Darcy as a "first tier" candidate:
    18. Washington 08 (Darcy Burner vs. Rep. Dave Reichert): Burner raised some eyebrows by outraising Reichert. A win here would be huge--getting Reichert out of this winnable suburban Seattle seat before he gets entrenched.
    If you'd like to help take back Congress this year, the best way to make that happen is to contribute to Darcy's campaign.
  • A nice aerial photo of Sound Transit's Central Link Light Rail project is currently the Seattle Times' Most Viewed picture from the newspaper's online gallery. The project is more than 40% finished and slated for completion within a few years.
  • Senator Kerry & Representative Hinchey have introduced legislation to repeal more than $28 billion in wasteful tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies. Learn more here.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Washington State's priorities not important to Rob McKenna

Steve Zemke over at Majority Rules has posted a letter he wrote to Rob McKenna, asking why the state Attorney General's office isn't joining other states in a lawsuit recently filed against the Bush administration over weak fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks.

As Steve notes, Washington State passed clean car legislation in 2005 that the Attorney General is responsible for defending.
Dear Attorney General Rob McKenna,

Yesterday the California Attorney General and nine other state Attorney Generals and the District of Columbia and New City filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging the Federal fuel efficiency standards set in March for light trucks and SUVs. (1)

Almost all of the states in the lawsuit have passed Clean Car Legislation patterned after California's. Washington State passed such legislation last year.And Oregon is in the process of enacting similar rules.

As part of the final standards issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 52 page memorandum was added by the current administration stating that the Federal Government, not the states , have the authority to regulate CO2 emissions.

It would seem to me that the state of Washington needs to respond to this issue, not just because it challenges legislation passed by the Washington State Legislature, but also because of the need for Washington State to do all it can increase fuel efficiency and cut gases that contribute to global emissions.

Thank you for your response.

Sincerely,
Steve Zemke
Steve's question is a good one: where exactly is Rob McKenna? Why isn't Washington State a party to this lawsuit? Is it because Rob McKenna doesn't want to upset his friends in the automobile industry?

In instances like these, we're reminded of how wonderful it is to have a decent Attorney General. Unfortunately, in 2004, of four Republican and Democratic candidates, we got the worst one - Rob McKenna.

Even Republican Mike Vaska, who ran in the 2004 primary against McKenna (and who received our endorsement for the Republican primary) would have been a better Attorney General.

To his credit, McKenna ran an aggressive campaign, helped by his right wing friends at the BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington - currently attempting to buy the state Supreme Court), and easily defeated the winner of the Democratic primary, Deborah Senn, who ran a poor, below the radar campaign for the general election.

We would have liked to have seen Mark Sidran win the primary and go on to run in the general, but unfortunately, he didn't win - in part because of meddling in the race by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

As we noted in our primary endorsement, he would have been a stronger candidate and likely would have had a great shot at defeating McKenna:
Two Democrats are running for the position of Attorney General: Mark Sidran and Deborah Senn. Since we like both of them, this endorsement was a tough decision. We gave it to Mark because of his excellent legal background, which will serve the state well, and his opposition to Tim Eyman. Mark has been willing to stand up to Eyman on talk radio, even challenging him, which is the kind of leadership we need. Sidran is a likeable, nice guy, who will hopefully be more progressive as Attorney General than he would have been as Seattle Mayor. Vote Mark Sidran for his leadership experience and his willingness to take on Tim Eyman.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer concurred with us, observing:
In leading a huge law firm, the attorney general must balance strong advocacy in defending the state's interests against outside claims with strong internal risk management to avoid claims in the first place. Sidran struck that sort of balance as city attorney
And perhaps not surprisingly, even Republicans conceded that they were hoping for a Senn victory in the 2004 Democratic primary:
Republicans, who seem to respect Sidran as a Giuliani-like figure who tamed the liberal beast as city attorney, clearly prefer the match-up with Senn. King County Council Member Rob McKenna, the early Republican frontrunner, admits as much, saying he believes he will be able to draw sharper contrasts should she become the Democratic flag bearer.
The point is, it would be nice to have an Attorney General who would go to court to protect the state's interests. We believe Mark Sidran would have been a competent, effective Attorney General who would have provided meaningful leadership and service to the people of Washington State.

Instead, we're stuck with Rob McKenna, who doesn't seem to be paying attention (perhaps because he's too busy mulling a run for higher office?) and apparently doesn't care about adequately defending our state's government.

The people of the state of Washington and their representatives clearly want stronger environmental protections, but obviously Rob McKenna is concerned only with his priorities - not theirs.

Governor unveils new state quarter

Here's the winning design, which got 45% of the vote in a recent online poll:

Winning Quarter Design"Washington has a vested interest in the quarter – all quarters already have one side that honors Washington with a profile of our first president," said Governor Christine Gregoire.

"With the minting of our design, these quarters will be 100 percent Washington."

The governor's office said the imagery was chosen because, "Mount Rainier is an internationally recognized icon for Washington, [and] salmon are a well-known image of northwest culture."

Stephen Colbert's Performance at Correspondents' Dinner is Must See Video

Stephen Colbert's amazing performance as the featured speaker at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner has become the talk of the blogosphere this week, and has caught the attention of millions of people.

The appearance, which is still available (you can stream it here from Democracy Now, or here from AOL/ABC) is a blistering takedown of the administration, right wing media, the GOP, and the nation's largely uncritical traditional media outlets with biting humor.

The audience didn't find all of Stephen Colbert's jokes to be very funny, but Colbert no doubt expected that. Anyone who watches the Colbert Report on Comedy Central should have known what to expect.

To watch Stpehen Colbert on the podium at the dinner, speaking right in front of Bush, lampooning the hapless president with zinger after zinger was, well....deliciously satisying.

According to Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post, Colbert's remarks apparently caught the President off guard:
"Colbert crossed the line," said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.

" I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry]," said a former top aide. "He's got that look that he's ready to blow."
What? Surely these people aren't suggesting that Mr. Tough Guy from Texas, the Decider, the Resolute President, got steamed because of a short comedy routinue? How can they possibly whine about Colbert "crossing the line"?

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer bemusingly inserted himself into the debate this week when he said he didn't like Colbert's performance, and thought many of the jokes "were in bad taste". Well, which ones? Because everybody at NPI - and we're definitely not alone - thought that everything Stpehen Colbert said was brilliant.

America Online did an unscientific poll on its news site, and as of yesterday, most respondents were voting overwhelmingly in agreement that Colbert's jokes were funny:
How funny was Colbert?
Very 50%
Not at all 27%
Somewhat 23%
Total Votes: 122,040

Were his jokes appropriate?
Yes 65%
No 35%
Total Votes: 121,114

The numbers get even better when specific jokes are quoted:

''But guys like us [Colbert and Bush], we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking 'in reality.' And reality has a well-known liberal bias.''
How would you rate this joke?
Hit 67%
Miss 33%
Total Votes: 127,982

''Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half-empty. Because 32 percent means it's two-thirds empty. There's still some liquid in that glass, is my point. But I wouldn't drink it ... The last third is usually backwash.''
How would you rate this joke?
Hit 68%
Miss 32%
Total Votes: 86,785

''Mr. President ... guys like us, we're not some brainiacs on the 'nerd-patrol.' We're not members of the 'factonista.' We go straight from the gut, right sir? That's where the truth lies.''
How would you rate this joke?
Hit 66%
Miss 34%

''I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.''
How would you rate this joke?
Hit 81%
Miss 19%
Total Votes: 81,272
Note on Poll Results

''By the way ... if anybody needs anything else at their tables, just speak slowly and clearly into your table numbers. Someone from the NSA will be right over with a cocktail.''
How would you rate this joke?
Hit 80%
Miss 20%
Total Votes: 78,840
Stephen made excellent points while staying in character, and without using any kind of language that might be considered obscene. Too bad if the critics expected something different. Disrespect the Presidency? Sorry, but Dubya has already done that (and not just the office, either - he has shown a profound lack of respect for the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights).

Jon Stewart called Colbert's performance "balls-alicious", and for good reason. Here's a look at some of the sharp zingers Stephen tossed while he was at the podium:
  • "I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."
  • "I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the 'No Fact Zone'. Fox News, I hold a copyright on that term."
  • "I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."
  • "I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias."
  • "It's like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is."
  • "Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash."
  • After denying that the administration was rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, "this administration is not sinking, this administration is soaring! If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!"
  • "The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday -- no matter what happened Tuesday."
  • "And though I am a committed Christian, I believe everyone has the right to their own religion - be you Hindu, Jewish, or Muslim, I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour."
If you haven't seen the video yet, you owe it to yourself to watch it now - and see what everybody else is talking about.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Access to NPI network disrupted

Since this morning, untold numbers of potential visitors have been unable to access the NPI network because of a bizarre and serious problem with DNS (domain name system) resolution that our website hosting company and its partners were experiencing. (Not a result of any malicious attacks or anything, just a weird glitch).

Previously, if you typed www.nwprogressive.org into your browser (say, Firefox) you got an error message like this:

Server not found

Firefox can't find the server at www.nwprogressive.org.
  • Check the address for typing errors such as ww.example.com instead of www.example.com
  • If you are unable to load any pages, check your computer's network connection.
  • If your computer or network is protected by a firewall or proxy, make sure that Firefox is permitted to access the Web.
However, the network itself is not down - it's working fine. The trouble is simply that the domain name isn't (or wasn't, it is as of this evening). And unfortunately there's nothing we could have done to fix the problem ourselves.

We apologize for the inconvenience - thanks for your understanding.

I will update this post as soon as there is any news.

[UPDATE, 9:50 PM] The domain appears to be working again - finally! You should now be able to get to the Official Blog, Pacific Northwest Portal, or the NPI core site using our domain, www.nwprogressive.org. Permanent Defense's domain is also working again (www.permanentdefense.org). I updated what I wrote above to clarify that the domain is now working.

Again, sorry about the technical difficulties.

If only the drunks didn't have the checkbook

Last week's report from the Social Security Board of Trustees confirmed that the internal financing of Social Security remains solid for more than thirty years out. In 2040 reserves will be gone and absent adjustments benefits would be reduced to 74 percent of those promised, which are more generous than any delivered today. That is a long way from the calamity predicted by Bush in his drumbeat for privatization. Unfortunately it also discounts the damage the man is doing to the operating budget and the economy as a whole.

Social Security reserves are kept in the form of government bonds, a secure enough instrument if the knotheads were not in charge. But in case you didn't notice, the budget is running in the red zone and has been for the five-plus years Republicans have controlled all branches of government.

Ten years out, at the same time debt service becomes a serious problem for the budget, the Social Security fund will stop subsidizing it. We have gone into debt at the very worst time, baby boomers. It won't matter if our first class ticket says IBM, In God We Trust, or Fidelity, we're not getting to Shangri-la if the plane comes apart in mid-air.

[The real internal financing problem is with Medicare, as we will report next week.]

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the cost of the Bush tax cuts is three times the shortfall in Social Security. Surprised?

Interesting that the Trustees still continue with the "infinite horizon" boondoggle introduced in 2003. Actuaries and other honest observers shot the thing down so thoroughly, you'd think they wouldn't patch it up again. Most of those "infinite horizon" deficits which were used to scare us kick in after 75 years (two-thirds after 2080) and so are subject to assumptions that must be channeled from Nostradamus.

Again, though, the near-term danger is not Social Security's financing, it is the buffoon who has the checkbook.

Technical Problems

If you're seeing this message then you have in fact managed to reach our network (lucky you). We're having some domain issues, which is why it appears that our site is down (it actually isn't, the domains just aren't working). These problems should be solved before today is over.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

In Brief - May 2nd, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Senator Maria Cantwell will be talking about gas prices on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer tonight (KCTS 9 in Seattle, KBTC in Tacoma), opposite of one of the GOP's most vulnerable incumbents -- Rick Santorum - at 6:00 PM, PDT (Pacific Daylight Time).
  • Matt has a great post up at MyDD about Net Neutrality, including an excerpt from a recent NY Times editorial favoring an open internet and a list of things you can do to make a difference. Additionally, Rep. Ed Markety has introduced his Net Neutrality amendment as stand alone legislation (more at AlterNet)
  • The Seattle P-I and KOMO have some interesting coverage of yesterday's rallies in support of immigrants. The New York Times has photos and a recap of other rallies across the nation.
  • The Hill has a story about the DCCC's "Red to Blue" program, and at the bottom, they have a listing of the most promising challengers (apparently grouped by the percentage that Kerry got in that CD.) Our own Darcy Burner is at the top of the list.
  • So, just days after Dubya said he believed the Star Spangled Banner should be sung in English, a Think Progress commenter reminds us that Bush would sometimes join in singing the national anthem in Spanish during his 2000 campaign. How deliciously ironic.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

If they fix it for you, Rush, you'll never whore again.

Republicans might be forgiven for thinking they could buy off outrage on gas prices with $100 checks. After all, it was a miserably modest tax break for middle income earners that brought them the budget-breaking giveaways to the rich. Dollar-for-dollar, the poison we swallowed with that bit of sugar is going to be much more deadly than this would have been.

But it looks like the public is going to fill the sponsors of this idea with arrows before they can get back in the fort. The sad part is that there appears to be no change in the debate. The gas-o-holics continue to blab about ANWR drilling, and the good guys focus on oil company profiteering.

Which is not to say that oil companies are not enjoying their ride, nor that they are innocent in market manipulation, nor that they shouldn't be slammed with excess profits taxes or even regulated like utilities. The corporatists ...
(I use this word, even though it sounds weird, because the alternative is "fascist," as in Mussolini fascism, which is a corporate takeover of the state. I heard recently "friendly fascists." That seemed like more of an amusing oxymoron or a sugar coating. If anybody gets a better term for this calamity, please let me know.)
... The corporatists mesh state and corporation most completely on the energy issue. Enron writes the energy plan. Oil companies decide what the solution is to gas prices. The sitting president and vice president will be back on the boards of energy firms as soon as they leave office.

Naturally the $100 vote-for-me bribe on the part of Republicans has no significance economically. Equally absurd is Rush Limbaugh's plaint, "What kind of insult is this? Instead of buying us off and treating us like we're a bunch of whores, just solve the problem."

You might not be a whore, Rush, but you're an idiot. This is the party that brought you Iraq, Medicare Part ? drug benefits, FEMA and Hurricane Katrina, energy deregulation, the federal budget. If they fix it, stand back.

Let's not learn the wrong lessons here, though. Gas prices are not too high. The profits of oil companies are too high by a factor of ten or so. The spending by individuals and the society is twice too high. But this is because are far too dependent on gasoline than a sane group of people ought to be. We continue to squeeze more lanes of concrete at ever higher costs into our cities, roads which will wear out quickly under the weight of increasing freight. We have, absurdly enough, no meaningful, coordinated plan to move to the next stage.

But the per-gallon price is not too high. Why?
First, we can see clearly now that $3 gas is doing more to produce fuel-efficient cars than any number of CAFÉ standards. It is time to abandon the CAFÉ struggle. It took too much effort and it didn't work. Let's go to green taxes, like on carbon, or just oil and gasoline. Regulations are too easy to wiggle through. Witness the Hummer as a tax-benefitted farm machine.

Second, the price of gas does not cover the real costs of producing and consuming it, as it should if the market is going to be efficient. Geopolitics is obsessed with oil. Wars are not cheap. But even greater (imagine it) is the environmental calamity we are bringing down upon our heads. Neither of these is represented at the gas pump. The market discounts both completely, and so subsidizes our own destruction.

Third, a higher price makes alternatives financially feasible. Let me add quickly that the price must also be stable for alternatives to be developed through the private market. The wildly fluctuating prices of the past three decades have discouraged innovation, where a stable price, even at the average, would have produced market alternatives. Broad-based energy planning and production is absolutely vital to the survival of our society. A key part of "broad-based" must be alternative energy developed as a response to market incentives. "Market incentives" here means "price."
The natural resolution to this situation is to capture a great part of the difference between a high price and the actual cost of delivering gasoline to the pump, and use it for the purposes of developing alternative energy. Currently this difference is being captured solely for the purposes of expanding the profits of oil companies.

Rebates to gas consumers? No. Better to pay people for not consuming.

Register for Camp Wellstone Seattle

Camp Wellstone, the signature training program put on by Wellstone Action, is coming back to Seattle this June - and registration is now open. Here's a brief summary of what the training is about:
Camp Wellstone is a training program that teaches progressives how to win on issues and elect good candidates. We use a distinctive approach to politics, based on Paul Wellstone's success at integrating grassroots organizing, electoral organizing, progressive public policy and ethical leadership.

The training is highly interactive, combining exercises, lectures, and simulations over the course of 2.5 days. Camp runs Friday from 2:30pm-9:00pm, Saturday from 9:00am-6:00pm, and Sunday from 9:00am-3:00pm. We keep you busy the whole time! The exact location of each camp will be announced in the coming weeks.

Camp Wellstone is divided into three tracks:
  • Candidate track. This is for people who have made the decision to run for office.
  • Campaign track. This track focuses on how to be an effective staff or volunteer member of a winning progressive campaign.
  • Citizen activist track. For people interested in citizen lobbying, issue advocacy, and community organizing, this track provides skills in how to win on issues.
The cost is $75 or just $35 for students, low-income, or unemployed participants.
NPI strongly recommends this training for any progressive who hasn't yet experienced it.

This is perhaps the most invigorating, inspiring, and innovative training for progressives that exists. You'll come away from the camp empowered and excited to work for change.

Monday, May 01, 2006

SaveTheInternet Petition from MoveOn

MoveOn has a new petition where you can voice your concerns about the importance of preserving Net Neutrality:
Congress is now pushing a law that would end the free and open Internet as we know it. Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress hard to gut Network Neutrality, the Internet's First Amendment and the key to Internet freedom. Net Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open most easily for you based on which site pays AT&T more. So Amazon doesn't have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer.

Many members of Congress take campaign contributions from these companies, and they don't think the public are paying attention to this issue. Let's show them we care - please sign this petition today.
Petition campaigns aren't typically the big guns that win a political battle, but doing something is better than doing nothing. Show you care about the issue and speak out. If you have the time and energy to do more, then do more.

Write to your Representative and Senators. Write to your local newspaper and share your position. Bring up the issue when you're talking with your family, friends, or neighbors.

We can't afford to lose the one open, truly democratic medium of communication that we have. This is a battle we must win - and one we can and will win, if we work together.