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

Friday, June 30, 2006

It's the end of the quarter

That means it's time to give whatever you can to support candidates like Darcy Burner, Peter Goldmark, and Richard Wright. It doesn't matter if all you can afford is $5 or $10. Small contributions go a long way - they add up. Small contributions are also a show of support:
And once a candidate can show broad support, he or she can do two things: 1) prove to the big money donors, labor unions, and PACs that the candidacy is viable and worthy of higher level support, and 2) build a list for future activism and fundraising. Richard Morrison in 2004 took the $80K we raised for him directly and turned that in $480K by the end of the campaign.

Yeah, that means if you donate that they'll hit you up for money again. But here's the beauty of people-power -- would you rather they be working their butts off to inspire you into giving more money, or would you rather they be talking to corporate donors to get them to open up?
A hundred people donating $10 means a thousand dollars. There's never been a better time to contribute than right now.

So even if you can't spare much, take action today and make a donation. We'll never move America forward if we don't take back the Congress.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tim Eyman turns in signatures for I-917

Tim Eyman was in Olympia this morning turning in what he claims are 252,000 signatures for Initiative 917, (his proposal which would gut $2.7 billion dollars in statewide transportation funding), NPI has learned.

Eyman, who showed up in a Buzz Lightyear costume as a media ploy, apparently did not attract very much attention for his press conference. (Perhaps because he and his cronies flagrantly burned the press corps earlier this month, telling reporters they'd been "duped").

224,880 valid signatures are required to qualify an initiative for the ballot. Eyman says he needs 30,000 more signatures to cushion against duplicates or invalids.

We think he already had all of his signatures at the beginning of last June and has just been sitting on them. We fully expect Eyman to show up in Olympia next week and turn in more signatures (the ones he's still sitting on), enough for a comfortable cushion to ensure I-917's qualification.

As this has been long anticipated, it's not much of a news development.

UPDATE: Eyman is receiving little more than a passing mention on the evening news broadcasts. KIRO, which did send cameras to Eyman's press conference, did not air any sound bites from Eyman, choosing only to show short footage of Eyman dressed as Buzz Lightyear while anchor Margo Myers narrated.

Cantwell victorious in fight with Enron

This is why we need Senator Maria Cantwell representing us in the U.S. Senate:
Snohomish County electricity users got a hard-won break Wednesday when a federal agency excused their utility from paying millions in contract penalties to bankrupt energy giant Enron Corp.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that Snohomish County Public Utility District need not pay termination fees on a contract it broke with Enron, because Enron used financial fraud to induce the utility to enter the contract.

With interest, the penalty could have topped $120 million. The average customer could have been stuck with a bill for $400 to satisfy the penalties, said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who has worked alongside the Everett-based PUD for several years to achieve this outcome.
As P-I reporter Dan Richman noted, today's victory would not have been possible without the hard work put in by Sen. Cantwell:
FERC's actions Wednesday were enabled by legislation pushed through by Cantwell.

The so-called Cantwell Amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave the commission -- and not the federal court still overseeing Enron's bankruptcy -- the authority to determine whether the Snohomish PUD was required to pay contract-termination fees with numerous utilities.

All this time, Snohomish County ratepayers have had a big $120 million bill hanging over their head," Cantwell said in a teleconference late Wednesday. "To finally get relief, it's a great victory."
Chalk up another win for Senator Cantwell, who in her first term has achieved some incredible victories despite Republican control of Congress. (Last year's triumph over pro-drilling forces comes to mind as perhaps the most amazing).

Would Slade Gorton have taken on Enron and fought tirelessly for consumers? Would Mike McGavick? Most certainly not.

(However, we wonder how long it will be before McGavick tries to take credit for this victory. Like many Republicans, McGavick wants everything both ways).

Very few Republicans ever bother to show any real concern for protecting consumers. They can't govern, either. Republican policies - the conservative agenda - have failed our country. That's why it's so important that we have Democrats in the U.S. Senate who do care about standing up for all of us. Leaders like Maria Cantwell.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Minimum Wage - Bidness as Usual for the GOP

In the smoke of last weeks Iraq War foofaraw, the GOP Senate killed an increase in the minimum wage. Republican leaders blocked a vote on the measure to ramp it up from the current $5.15 to $7.25 over two-plus years. That would still fall short of Washington's standard.

Republicans explicitly repeated claims that increasing minimum wages costs jobs, although evidence points in the opposite direction, as Brock Haussamen told us a couple of months ago.

Eighty-eight percent of Americans favor or strongly favor an increase in the minimum wage, and 82 percent view it as important or a top priority.
The government is managed for the front page, not for the benefit of the people. Edward Kennedy said the first bill passed in a Democratically controlled Senate would address the minimum wage.

Connelly slams right wing initiatives

Joel's column this morning is one of his best ever:
When a petition-bearing mercenary slides up to you in the next week and asks help in putting an initiative on the November ballot, here's suggesting you recall the slogan from Nancy Reagan's anti-drug campaign: Just say No!!!
Besides urging readers to avoid signing right wing petitions, Connelly also makes a clear, concise case against each of the three major right wing initiatives which will likely be on the ballot this fall: I-917 (sponsored by Tim Eyman, guts transportation funding), I-920 (sponsored by Dennis Falk and backed by Martin Selig, wipes out money for public education) and I-933 (sponsored by the State Farm Bureau, would create legal loopholes for developers and land use mayhem).

Informative flyers presenting the opposing case to each of these three initiatives are available here:
We will continue to maintain a strong focus on initiatives. Though there is only a week and a half left before the turn in deadline, we do want to encourage you (once again) to report right wing signature gathering activity if you observe it. Free speech belongs to all Americans.

Network neutrality amendment fails

The vote was tied: 11-11 in committee:
On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) voted against the Senate Commerce Committee’s sweeping revision of U.S. communications laws. Cantwell faulted the committee’s failure to pass a net neutrality amendment that would have established a principle of nondiscrimination when it comes to Internet content.

Cantwell voted against final committee passage of the bill citing concerns over net neutrality, the lack of build-out provisions for new video service providers, and the elimination of numerous consumer protections.

The committee passed the legislation on a 15-7 vote.

"Overall, consumers are the big losers with this bill. Protecting consumer rights should have been the first priority, but sadly, this bill doesn’t meet the mark," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

"We need a system that looks out for ordinary Americans, fosters innovation, and keeps our marketplace of ideas open to a broad range of diverse voices. We can’t risk allowing discriminatory practices that may stifle competition and restrict access. I’m going to continue fighting for a better bill that looks out for the interests of all Americans."

Along with Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), John Kerry (D-MA), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Cantwell cosponsored an amendment to the telecom bill that is based on the Snowe-Dorgan Internet Freedom Preservation Act (S. 2917) and would have ensured net neutrality. Today, they offered a narrower version of the legislation, which failed on a tie vote.

In a win for media diversity, the committee did accept a measure introduced by Senators Cantwell and John McCain (R-AZ) based on their Local Community Radio Act (S.312). This legislation would implement the recommendations of an FCC report on low-power FM radio stations.

These stations, with a broadcast range of about 3.5 miles, provide an affordable alternative to community groups unable to obtain expensive full-power radio station licenses on very scarce broadcast spectrum.

The FCC created this new classification of stations in 2000, but Congress later rolled back the Commission’s ruling with a rider to an appropriations bill. The McCain-Cantwell amendment would repeal this rider, allowing local community stations to flourish.

"Right now, Washington has about 15 licensed low-power FM licensed stations," said Cantwell. "With about 18 in Oregon and ten in Alaska, these stations provide a valuable, independent voice to schools, community groups, and others during a time of mass media consolidation and concentrated media markets."

"We need to make it easier for these stations to thrive. Originally, 68 groups in Washington state applied for low-power stations, but most of these were denied because of a law we don’t need."
Kudos to all the Democrats on the Commerce Committee for standing up in favor of Net Neutrality.

Deconstructing Falk's lies

I just appeared on The Dave Ross Show on 710 KIRO this morning, representing the opposition to Initiative 920. It was a refreshingly different experience from yesterday and I had the opportunity to make all the points I wanted to make. I focused extensively on the cuts to public education that will result if I-920 passes.

Falk, who was on the segment before me, argued that the estate tax is "morally wrong" in his quavery voice. When Ross asked me about that argument, I replied by pointing out that it fits right in with the conservative frame, or worldview. Right wingers believe if you're wealthy, you must be successful, and why should the successful be punished?

But as we have seen in this country, the conservative worldview - the conservative agenda - does not lead to good policy or a good society. Just because you have money doesn't mean you're successful.

I was asked to come on the show last minute, so I didn't get a chance to prepare (as I would have liked) and consequently, I was a little off balance. Too many "you knows" and "I means". But, regardless, I think I did pretty well.

We have an audio clip of my appearance and we'll likely put it up shortly, so you can listen yourself.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In Brief - June 27th, 2006

Here is today's quick (national) news digest:
  • The flag burning amendment has failed by one vote in the U.S. Senate.
  • A lot of interesting developments have taken place recently in the Connecticut primary race - Lamontblog has excellent coverage.
  • Surprise, surprise - Rush Limbaugh was detained at the Palm Beach Airport yesterday, caught in posession of Viagra. Michael Hood predicts this will hasten Rush's exit from talk radio - and we agree.
  • Josh Marshall comments on a speech that Dubya made this morning, pledging to try (again) to privatize, or phase out, Social Security after the midterm elections. Congressional Republicans can't be too happy about this announcement.
  • Net neutrality is still under attack. Please call your senators (1-800-426-8073 to be connected toll-free to the Capitol Switchboard) - Murray and Cantwell, Wyden and Smith, or Craig and Crapo. Then call these senators.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Our Nuclear Legacy

From the Executive Director: I am honored this evening to welcome a new member and contributor to our organization. A great progressive, Marylin Olds, has joined NPI as a Contributing Editor. This is her first post on the Official Blog, with many more to follow in the coming weeks and months.

As a kid growing up in the Yakima Valley, a favorite way for us to survive the desert summers was to head to the Columbia River.

At the time we had no idea how closely our lives came into contact with the world's most prolific plutonium production site, our own Hanford. Who among us noticed that the top-secret Manhattan Project had roosted in our own backyards years earlier?

Folks knew less back then about radioactive waste. If the government understood more than we did, they didn't care.

Nine plutonium production reactors were built along 51 miles of the Columbia so that its fresh cold water could more easily cool the highly toxic process. What happened to the contaminated river water afterwards? It was kept in holding tanks for six hours and then piped right back into the river.

Hanford proudly supplied the plutonium core for the atomic numb in 1945 called "Fat Man". It was dropped over Nagasaki searing and disintegrating more than 115,000 men, women and children.

The goal was to force Japan to their knees and end WWII. Nagasaki's destruction was a resounding success.

The Cold War brought frantic mass production of plutonium, this time as a hypothetical deterrence to the Soviet Union in the form of nuclear weapons stockpiling. Hanford performed its part admirably, providing two-thirds of all American plutonium created.

Today Congress and the Dept. of Energy (DOE) are treating the Hanford waste cleanup like an aging racehorse. When her chances looked good enough to bring her government glory, she was ridden hard and put away wet. Now that there's no glory left in the eyes of her government beholders, they try to pretend she doesn't exist.

Sixty-seven confirmed leaks of toxic underground waste at Hanford have (years ago) leaked through the earth and reached ground water. Gravity is moving a one million gallon plume of radioactive toxins toward the Columbia River.

In 1989, the Tri-Party Agreement was signed by the DOE, the EPA and the state Dept. of Ecology to legally establish Hanford cleanup timelines and guidelines. The DOE signed on as managers and agreed to clean up 99% of the waste.

The DOE has shown their lack of commitment to the project by allowing substandard design and construction practices on the new vitrification plant. The vit plant is where the toxic waste will be melted with glass for supposedly safer storage.

The DOE has used courtrooms to skirt actions and has even tried to re-label some toxic wastes as less harmful than they are currently labeled.

Construction of the Hanford vit plant is now on hold at 30% completion since last summer because of earthquake design flaws. The plant cost estimate is now at $11.3 billion (triple the original estimate) and the projected start of operation is set at 2018 (a delay of seven years).

The longer the cleanup takes, the more possible the toxic plume will reach the Columbia.

Most of us have realized by this time that the DOE is more interested in new nuclear production plants than in getting yesterday's toxic catastrophes cleaned up according to its 1989 agreement. It's up to us to keep them in line.

The Columbia is the lifeline of the entire Pacific Northwest. Fishing, farm irrigation, recreational use are all jeopardized.

Congressional committees are showing a frustrated lack of enthusiasm at continuing the funding of Hanford's vit plant. The project could be deserted, even as our politicians are fighting fisticuffs for the money.

Hanford remains the most contaminated site in North America. Will there ever be a technology allowing radioactive toxic waste to be safely stored? No one knows for sure. Until they do, why should we consider promoting new nuclear power sites?

For more on Hanford, see such watchdog sites as: Heart of American Northwest, Hanford Watch, and the Government Accountability Project.

I-920 should qualify, thanks to Martin Selig

This isn't good news, but at least we were expecting it. It's always better when it isn't a surprise.

The I-920 campaign is planning to turn in its signatures this Friday at 1:30 PM, at the Secretary of State's office in Olympia, NPI has learned. (In case you forgot, I-920 is the right wing initiative to repeal the estate tax).

Despite early mistakes in the campaign, Dennis Falk and his cronies have (apparently) managed to pull through. How'd they do it? Pretty simple: they got a wealthy backer (Martin Selig, who donated over $400,000) and hired an army of paid petitioners under the employ of Roy Ruffino to go out and gather signatures.

The estate tax, which I-920 would repeal, provides hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for public schools - money that goes directly towards the Education Legacy Trust. The trust is now at serious risk.

You can learn more about I-920 at Washington Defense. NPI, along with a coalition of many other organizations, will be strongly opposing I-920 in November.

NPI Radio Alert

I'm scheduled to appear on KISW 99.9 FM (Seattle) later this morning, on the BJ Shea Morning Experience at 8:10 AM or so to debate I-920 sponsor Dennis Falk. (I-920 is the right wing initiative to repeal the estate tax).

You can listen live here.

UPDATE: Well, um...that was fun. I didn't even spend hardly any time debating Dennis Falk because the host (his name was Steve, if I recall correctly) was so rabidly in favor of repealing the estate tax, and I thought, a conservative as well (though he claims he's not of any ideological persuasion), throwing just about everything in the conservative handbook at me that he could muster. I was called "ignorant", a "joke", a "socialist", and "on a liberal high horse".

I fought back, of course, but it's more difficult to come across clearly when the host has a studio mic, and you're on the phone, and the show can decide how loud everybody is. So, basically the environment was stacked against me.

Nevertheless, I did try hard to get my point across - that this is really about equality, fairness, and opportunity, though the host disagreed vehemently, obviously. The oddest part came at the end of our exchange, when he said this:
Host: Well the bottom line is this: First of all, I think the reason the public schools system is the way it is is because we encourage people to continue to have babies ridiculously without any control - I would like to see something -

Me: How does that factor in here? (Host tries to talk over me)

Host: Listen my friend - you know what, our population base is coming from idiots who just think they can pop out a baby without being ready to have a baby - which pretty much is almost every case that's out there, Hispanic or not.

Me: Really.

Host: Oh yes!

Me:: That's a gross mischaracterization.

Host: Not at all. We have more single mothers in the state of Washington per capita than any other place in the country, there genius. And you know why? Because women think they can pop out kids any time they want, and they're a drain on our system. Let's be honest here. You wanna - if you wanna really shrink school sizes, then teaching people how to have families responsibly is the way you go. Not taking money from the rich - again, to fund organizations and governmental agencies that will reward people for being idiots and not being responsible. Which is what you're doing.
Yeah, tell me that last bit there isn't a conservative worldview - strict father, bedrock right wing philosophy. It was completely absurd - but not to a right winger. It fits perfectly into their frame. From a different perspective - a progressive frame, a nurturant parent worldview - this argument sounds unbelievably stupid.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cut the crap and Run the Gummint

The Bush plan for Iraq -- "More of the same, whatever that is" was stubbornly defended in the Senate last Thursday. Or rather Democrats were vigorously attacked for recommending a phased withdrawal. Majority leader Bill Frist issued a pastiche of Rove-isms, sometimes even forgetting where to put the period.

It turns out that a similar plan was run up to the White House by the generals where it got a more hospitable reception. The policy-by-campaign-need likes the prospect of a reduction in troop strength in a few months, along with the "news" that the Iraqis are taking over. Bush and Rove have seen the light -- the headlight of the November elections, that is.

In the media timing category, the Saturday news shadow seems to be a convenient place to announce US casualty information these days. Data on deaths from last week was delayed until nobody was looking.

The most prominent "more of the same media-driven policy" is Immigration. This has been carefully selected for its media and campaign value, being one of the few issues where Republicans have an even approval rating. It plays on fears and jingoism and self-righteousness, and even offers an opportunity for scapegoating if the economy turns down toward election time. "Jobless? Not our fault. It's them Mexicans. And we're on the job to keep them out."

One suspects in the back room discussions some reactionary voices mentioned the big mobilizations of immigrants this spring. And of course, a wall and a military response will be just the right stuff for corporate sponsors to peddle the latest in night vision goggles and laser scopes and other high tech gear in outfitting the pennies per hour National Guard troops. Gotta catch them dangerous immigrants before they get in and empty some old lady's bedpan.

Not of interest is the environment or global warming. These critical parts of our future have Republicans skimming single digits in the polls. Better find another issue. The Economy? No. Too much debt and not enough confidence. Health care? Don't even mention the words.

Also notably absent is any effort to address Delay-style corruption. The Republican Congress is playing dumb with lobbying reforms long promised, but which will never arrive.

Cut the crap, Run the government.

Darcy Burner continues to pick up steam

Following George W. Bush's recent visit to the Evergreen State (on Karl Rove's orders) to raise megabucks for incumbent Republican Dave Reichert, the Darcy Burner campaign, which is working to topple Reichert in November, is pressing ahead at blazing speed.

Reichert Appears With George W. Bush

Darcy was recently featured at an event put on by the House Democratic leadership, and has received support from Senator John Kerry. Last Friday, the campaign announced it had surpassed its goal of $75,000 raised in just a couple of short weeks, to offset the Bush fundraiser.

And today, Darcy was added to the sidebar on Daily Kos along with other select candidates who are also "Netroots Endorsed". Additionally, Markos made this announcement:
The Netroots ActBlue page, maintained by MyDD, Swing State Project, and Daily Kos, has added a bunch of new candidates in the past few weeks (while I was distracted by the end of the book tour and YearlyKos), and is about to grow by four candidates today.

The recent candidates are Darcy Burner in WA-08 and Patrick Murphy in PA-08. I'll write more about them soon.
We of course are looking forward to seeing Darcy featured on the DailyKos front page. While the traditional media pundits are wrong that Markos is some sort of gatekeeper or blogger king, he and his fine guest bloggers do decide what goes on the front page - and DailyKos is the world's most popular progressive community.

A reception is being held tomorrow for Darcy in Renton by the King County Democrats. If you can make it, be sure to come! I'm planning on going on behalf of NPI and I hope to see you there.

Reception for Darcy Burner, 8th Congressional District Candidate
Tuesday June 27, 2006 - 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Renton Carpenters Hall
231 Burnett Avenue North in Renton

Food and refreshment will be served and donations will be graciously accepted.

George W. Bush is Not Incompetent - Food For Thought From the Rockridge Institute

The following is a piece from The Rockridge Institute that was posted today on Daily Kos as a diary. It's very thought provoking, and I'm reprinting it in its entirety here, as encouraged by the authors, because I think every progressive activist, Democratic consultant, candidate, or staff person needs to read this.

If you're someone who has already read "Don't Think of An Elephant", you may find yourself wondering if this is a new chapter of that excellent handbook. It isn't, but it easily could be.
George Bush is Not Incompetent!
by George Lakoff, Marc Ettlinger and Sam Ferguson

Progressives have fallen into a trap. Emboldened by President Bush's plummeting approval ratings, progressives increasingly point to Bush's "failures" and label him and his administration as incompetent.

For example, Nancy Pelosi said "The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader." Self-satisfying as this criticism may be, it misses the bigger point.

Bush’s disasters — Katrina, the Iraq War, the budget deficit — are not so much a testament to his incompetence or a failure of execution. Rather, they are the natural, even inevitable result of his conservative governing philosophy.

It is conservatism itself, carried out according to plan, that is at fault. Bush will not be running again, but other conservatives will. His governing philosophy is theirs as well. We should be putting the onus where it belongs, on all conservative office holders and candidates who would lead us off the same cliff.

To Bush’s base, his bumbling folksiness is part of his charm — it fosters conservative populism. Bush plays up this image by proudly stating his lack of interest in reading and current events, his fondness for naps and vacations and his self-deprecating jokes.

This image causes the opposition to underestimate his capacities — disregarding him as a complete idiot — and deflects criticism of his conservative allies. If incompetence is the problem, it’s all about Bush. But, if conservatism is the problem, it is about a set of ideas, a movement and its many adherents.

The idea that Bush is incompetent is a curious one. Consider the following (incomplete) list of major initiatives the Bush administration, with a loyal conservative Congress, has accomplished:
  • Centralizing power within the executive branch to an unprecedented degree
  • Starting two major wars, one started with questionable intelligence and in a manner with which the military disagreed
  • Placing on the Supreme Court two far-right justices, and stacking the lower federal courts with many more
  • Cutting taxes during wartime, an unprecedented event
  • Passing a number of controversial bills such as the PATRIOT Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, the Medicare Drug bill, the Bankruptcy bill and a number of massive tax cuts
    Rolling back and refusing to enforce a host of basic regulatory protections
  • Appointing industry officials to oversee regulatory agencies
  • Establishing a greater role for religion through faith-based initiatives
  • Passing Orwellian-titled legislation assaulting the environment — “The Healthy Forests Act” and the “Clear Skies Initiative” — to deforest public lands, and put more pollution in our skies
  • Winning re-election and solidifying his party’s grip on Congress
These aren’t signs of incompetence. As should be painfully clear, the Bush administration has been overwhelmingly competent in advancing its conservative vision. It has been all too effective in achieving its goals by determinedly pursuing a conservative philosophy.

It’s not Bush the man who has been so harmful, it’s the conservative agenda.

The Conservative Agenda

Conservative philosophy has three fundamental tenets: individual initiative, that is, government’s positive role in people’s lives outside of the military and police should be minimized; the President is the moral authority; and free markets are enough to foster freedom and opportunity.

The conservative vision for government is to shrink it – to “starve the beast” in conservative Grover Norquist’s words. The conservative tagline for this rationale is that "you can spend your money better than the government can." Social programs are considered unnecessary or "discretionary" since the primary role of government is to defend the country’s border and police its interior.

Stewardship of the commons, such as allocation of healthcare or energy policy, is left to people’s own initiative within the free market. Where profits cannot be made — conservation, healthcare for the poor — charity is meant to replace justice and the government should not be involved.

Given this philosophy, then, is it any wonder that the government wasn’t there for the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Conservative philosophy places emphasis on the individual acting alone, independent of anything the government could provide.

Some conservative Sunday morning talk show guests suggested that those who chose to live in New Orleans accepted the risk of a devastating hurricane, the implication being that they thus forfeited any entitlement to government assistance.

If the people of New Orleans suffered, it was because of their own actions, their own choices and their own lack of preparedness. Bush couldn’t have failed if he bore no responsibility.

The response to Hurricane Katrina — rather, the lack of response — was what one should expect from a philosophy that espouses that the government can have no positive role in its citizen’s lives. This response was not about Bush’s incompetence, it was a conservative, shrink-government response to a natural disaster.

Another failure of this administration during the Katrina fiasco was its wholesale disregard of the numerous and serious hurricane warnings. But this failure was a natural outgrowth of the conservative insistence on denying the validity of global warming, not ineptitude.

Conservatives continue to deny the validity of global warming, because it runs contrary to their moral system. Recognizing global warming would call for environmental regulation and governmental efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Regulation is a perceived interference with the free-market, conservatives’ golden calf. So, the predictions of imminent hurricanes — based on recognizing global warming — were not heeded. Conservative free market convictions trumped the hurricane warnings.

Our budget deficit is not the result of incompetent fiscal management. It too is an outgrowth of conservative philosophy. What better way than massive deficits to rid social programs of their funding?

In Iraq, we also see the impact of philosophy as much as a failure of execution.
The idea for the war itself was born out of deep conservative convictions about the nature and capacity of US military force.

Among the Project for a New American Century’s statement of principles (signed in 1997 by a who’s who of the architects of the Iraq war — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby among others) are four critical points:
  • we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future
  • we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values
  • we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad
  • we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.
Implicit in these ideas is that the United States military can spread democracy through the barrel of a gun. Our military might and power can be a force for good.

It also indicates that the real motive behind the Iraq war wasn’t to stop Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, but was a test of neoconservative theory that the US military could reshape Middle East geo-politics.

The manipulation and disregard of intelligence to sell the war was not incompetence, it was the product of a conservative agenda.

Unfortunately, this theory exalts a hubristic vision over the lessons of history. It neglects the realization that there is a limit to a foreign army’s ability to shape foreign politics for the good. Our military involvement in Vietnam, Lebanon, the Philippines, Cuba (prior to Castro) and Panama, or European imperialist endeavors around the globe should have taught us this lesson.

Democracy needs to be an organic, homegrown movement, as it was in this country. If we believe so deeply in our ideals, they will speak for themselves and inspire others.

During the debate over Iraq, the conservative belief in the unquestioned authority and moral leadership of the President helped shape public support.

We see this deference to the President constantly: when conservatives call those questioning the President’s military decisions "unpatriotic"; when conservatives defend the executive branch’s use of domestic spying in the war on terror; when Bush simply refers to himself as the "decider."

"I support our President" was a common justification of assent to the Iraq policy.

Additionally, as the implementer of the neoconservative vision and an unquestioned moral authority, our President felt he had no burden to forge international consensus or listen to the critiques of our allies. "You’re with us, or you’re against us," he proclaimed after 9/11.

Much criticism continues to be launched against this administration for ineptitude in its reconstruction efforts. Tragically, it is here too that the administration’s actions have been shaped less by ineptitude than by deeply held conservative convictions about the role of government.

As noted above, conservatives believe that government’s role is limited to security and maintaining a free market. Given this conviction, it’s no accident that administration policies have focused almost exclusively on the training of Iraqi police, and US access to the newly free Iraqi market — the invisible hand of the market will take care of the rest.

Indeed, George Packer has recently reported that the reconstruction effort in Iraq is nearing its end ("The Lessons of Tal Affar," The New Yorker, April 10th, 2006). Iraqis must find ways to rebuild themselves, and the free market we have constructed for them is supposed to do this. This is not ineptitude.

This is the result of deep convictions over the nature of freedom and the responsibilities of governments to their people.

Finally, many of the miscalculations are the result of a conservative analytic focus on narrow causes and effects, rather than mere incompetence. Evidence for this focus can be seen in conservative domestic policies:

Crime policy is based on punishing the criminals, independent of any effort to remedy the larger social issues that cause crime; immigration policy focuses on border issues and the immigrants, and ignores the effects of international and domestic economic policy on population migration.

Environmental policy is based on what profits there are to be gained or lost today, without attention paid to what the immeasurable long-term costs will be to the shared resource of our environment; education policy, in the form of vouchers, ignores the devastating effects that dismantling the public school system will have on our whole society.

Is it any surprise that the systemic impacts of the Iraq invasion were not part of the conservative moral or strategic calculus used in pursuing the war?

The conservative war rhetoric focused narrowly on ousting Saddam — he was an evil dictator, and evil cannot be tolerated, period. The moral implications of unleashing social chaos and collateral damage in addition to the lessons of history were not relevant concerns.

As a consequence, we expected to be greeted as liberators. The conservative plan failed to appreciate the complexities of the situation that would have called for broader contingency planning.

It lacked an analysis of what else would happen in Iraq and the Middle East as a result of ousting the Hussein Government, such as an Iranian push to obtain nuclear weapons.

Joe Biden recently said, "if I had known the president was going to be this incompetent in his administration, I would not have given him the authority [to go to war]." Had Bush actually been incompetent, he would have never been able to lead us to war in Iraq.

Had Bush been incompetent, he would not have been able to ram through hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Had Bush been incompetent, he would have been blocked from stacking the courts with right-wing judges. Incompetence, on reflection, might have actually been better for the country.

Hidden Successes

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Bush-is-incompetent frame is that these "failures" — Iraq, Katrina and the budget deficit — have been successes in terms of advancing the conservative agenda.

One of the goals of conservatives is to keep people from relying on the federal government. Under Bush, FEMA was reorganized to no longer be a first responder in major natural disasters, but to provide support for local agencies. This led to the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina.

Now citizens, as well as local and state governments, have become distrustful of the federal government’s capacity to help ordinary citizens. Though Bush’s popularity may have suffered, enhancing the perception of federal government as inept turned out to be a conservative victory.

Conservatives also strive to get rid of protective agencies and social programs. The deficit Bush created through irresponsible tax cuts and a costly war in Iraq will require drastic budget cuts to remedy.

Those cuts, conservatives know, won’t come from military spending, particularly when they raise the constant specter of war.

Instead, the cuts will be from what Conservatives have begun to call “non-military, discretionary spending;” that is, the programs that contribute to the common good like the FDA, EPA, FCC, FEMA, OSHA and the NLRB. Yet another success for the conservative agenda.

Both Iraq and Katrina have enriched the coffers of the conservative corporate elite, thus further advancing the conservative agenda. Halliburton, Lockhead Martin and US oil companies have enjoyed huge profit margins in the last six years.

Taking Iraq’s oil production off-line in the face of rising international demand meant prices would rise, making the oil inventories of Exxon and other firms that much more valuable, leading to record profits.

The destruction wrought by Katrina and Iraq meant billions in reconstruction contracts. The war in Iraq (and the war in Afghanistan) meant billions in military equipment contracts. Was there any doubt where those contracts would go? Chalk up another success for Bush’s conservative agenda.

Bush also used Katrina as an opportunity to suspend the environmental and labor protection laws that Conservatives despise so much. In the wake of Katrina, environmental standards for oil refineries were temporarily suspended to increase production.

Labor laws are being thwarted to drive down the cost of reconstruction efforts. So, amidst these "disasters," conservatives win again.

Where most Americans see failure in Iraq – George Miller recently called Iraq a “blunder of historic proportions” – conservative militarists are seeing many successes. Conservatives stress the importance of our military — our national pride and worth is expressed through its power and influence.

Permanent bases are being constructed as planned in Iraq, and America has shown the rest of the world that we can and will preemptively strike with little provocation.

They succeeded in a mobilization of our military forces based on ideological pretenses to impact foreign policy. The war has struck fear in other nations with a hostile show of American power. The conservatives have succeeded in strengthening what they perceive to be the locus of the national interest — military power.

It’s NOT Incompetence

When Progressives shout "Incompetence!" it obscures the many conservative successes. The incompetence frame drastically misses the point, that the conservative vision is doing great harm to this country and the world.

An understanding of this and an articulate progressive response is needed. Progressives know that government can and should have a positive role in our lives beyond simple, physical security.

It had a positive impact during the progressive era, busting trusts, and establishing basic labor standards. It had a positive impact during the new deal, softening the blow of the depression by creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

It had a positive role in advancing the civil rights movement, extending rights to previously disenfranchised groups. And the United States can have a positive role in world affairs without the use of its military and expressions of raw power.

Progressives acknowledge that we are all in this together, with "we" meaning all people, across all spectrums of race, class, religion, sex, sexual preference and age. "We" also means across party lines, state lines and international borders.

The mantra of incompetence has been an unfortunate one. The incompetence frame assumes that there was a sound plan, and that the trouble has been in the execution. It turns public debate into a referendum on Bush’s management capabilities, and deflects a critique of the impact of his guiding philosophy.

It also leaves open the possibility that voters will opt for another radically conservative president in 2008, so long as he or she can manage better. Bush will not be running again, so thinking, talking and joking about him being incompetent offers no lessons to draw from his presidency.

Incompetence obscures the real issue. Bush’s conservative philosophy is what has damaged this country and it is his philosophy of conservatism that must be rejected, whoever endorses it.

Conservatism itself is the villain that is harming our people, destroying our environment, and weakening our nation. Conservatives are undermining American values through legislation almost every day.

This message applies to every conservative bill proposed to Congress. The issue that arises every day is which philosophy of governing should shape our country.

It is the issue of our times. Unless conservative philosophy itself is discredited, conservatives will continue their domination of public discourse, and with it, will continue their domination of politics.
The authors and Rockridge Institute invite free distribution of this piece - so don't hesitate to send this to your family, friends, and fellow activists. We at NPI believe this is excellent food for thought.

It's very easy to forget the lessons from Don't Think of An Elephant; I myself find it useful to keep that handbook on my desk next to my computer or with me in my travel bag for easy reference.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Right wing petitioners resorting to desperate tactics in final days

With less than two weeks to go before the deadline arrives for turning in initiative petitions to qualify for the ballot this fall, a couple of right wing signature drives are in full swing.

The campaigns for Initiative 920 (which would repeal the estate tax) and Initiative 933 (which would create loopholes for developers) are working furiously to gather signatures, mostly through paid petitioners under the employ of Tim Eyman's cohort Roy Ruffino, who runs a business called "Citizen Solutions".

The petitioners are showing up everywhere, and they're doing anything and everything they possibly can to get signatures, including lying about the initiatives they want Washingtonians to sign on to.

As The Stranger's "unpaid intern", Sarah Mirk, discovered:
Tipster Kendra called to say she ran into some petitioners for I-920 (which would repeal the WA estate tax) outside the Safeway on 15th and Harrison who weren’t telling the whole truth. Big surprise in politics, right? Still, she claimed the signature gatherers told her that the estate tax affects every income bracket and when she loudly accused them of being liars, they called over Safeway security. The grocery cop heard the complaint and then told Kendra, "Keep up the good work!"
After hearing from Kendra, Sarah decided to approach the petitioner herself, and recounts the conversation she had in this report.

Sarah and Kendra's experiences are not isolated cases. Permanent Defense has been receiving a truckload of reports from progressive activists and other citizens who have reported the shady and desperate tactics of right wing petitioners. Here are a few snippets from the many reports we've received:

Said Patty Murray supported it and that it would take no money from education.

[...]

He told me I didn't believe in democracy by not signing

[...]

He got really weird and fast-talky and tried to distract me when I asked who was sponsoring the bill, who was funding everything, who was paying him, etc.

[...]

Said the estate tax only pays for Washington Education Legacy Trust, construed the trust to be a specialized scholarhip fund for rich kids.

[...]

He said that I-920 would save family farms, and that the threshold was $600,000.

[...]

That the estate tax was not about the Super Rich, that they are untouchable and will always keep their money so repealing the tax didn't really help them at all. He said that this tax was an attack on the middle class. That the tax was on estates as low as 750,000 and that if I owned a house in the Capital Hill area I could lose it to the tax. He told the woman next to me (before I could engage him in conversation) that this was the tax that took away everything that good people worked for all of their lives.

[...]

She said that the estate tax was against property rights. Very persistent even though I refused to sign the first time.
Again, this is just a tiny sampling of the large numbers of reports that we've received about petitioners lying about Initiative 920, harassing or bullying citizens into signing, and not complying with state law.

I-920 isn't the only initiative being circulated, either. I-933 is also in active circulation, as are petitions for two other right initiatives (I-917 and I-946) which aren't widespread - though the Seattle Times did report yesterday morning that the I-946 campaign is complaining that its petitioners are being told to stop gathering signatures in parks. (Roy Ruffino is also quoted in the article).

Besides posting the report excerpted above, Sarah also recently wrote a good article for The Stranger explaining the danger of these four right wing initiatives, and she was kind enough to include links to Permanent Defense and Washington Defense in it.

In these final days, it is absolutely critical that progressive activists keep their eyes and ears open. If you spot right wing signature gathering activity, report it immediately here.

As a citizen, you have as the right to discourage voters to sign right wing petitions. Remember that the other side does not have a monopoly on the First Amendment. Exercise your free speech rights and deconstruct lies and misleading claims for other voters whenever you get the opportunity.

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)

You can also pass out literature. Here's links to some flyers you can print at home and take with you when you leave your house, in the event you run into right wing signature gatherers:
  • Initiative 920 Informative Flyer. This handout describes how I-920 hurts our public education system and who's behind it. Produced by the Committee to Protect Our Children's Legacy and made available by Washington Defense.
  • Initiative 933 Informative Flyer. This handout helps voters understand what I-933 is really about, tagging it as the "Too Many Questions and Loopholes" initiative. Produced by the Community Protection Coalition (of which Permanent Defense is a member) and made available by Permanent Defense.
  • Initiative 917 Informative Flyer. This handout explains the significant consequences of repealing nearly three billion dollars of statewide transportation funding. Originally produced by Keep Washington Rolling, improved and released by Permanent Defense.
Your activism - no matter how you choose to get involved - makes a huge difference.

While it's definitely worthwhile to mount decline to sign campaigns, the reality is that we are likely going to be facing a trifecta of threats this November anyway. I-917, I-920, and I-933 all have wealthy backers with deep pockets. We've said this many times, but it's always worth saying again: if you have half a million dollars to spend, you can buy your way onto the ballot, no matter what your issue or ideology.

Of the three signature drives, the one we're currently receiving the most reports for is Initiative 920. That's because Dennis Falk and his funder Martin Selig (the prolific Seattle developer) have paid for a massive, last minute, all out effort to collect signatures in the hopes of qualifying I-920. And they've still got time left.

Expect I-920 to qualify, despite early tactical mistakes in the campaign by Falk. Selig's money is probably going to put this piece of garbage over the top.

The next initiative with the most reports is I-933. The initiative is being circulated alone, but it's also being bundled with I-920. This is not a surprise, of course, since both campaigns have hired Roy Ruffino and Citizen Solutions to run their signature drives.

The third initiative likely to qualify, Tim Eyman's I-917, isn't currently being reported to our system at all. We suspect this is because Tim Eyman already has the signatures he needs, despite stating earlier this month that he only had roughly 142,000 signatures.

(224,880 valid signatures are needed to qualify. Usually you need a cushion of about 30,000 to 40,000 more, because many signatures will be duplicates or otherwise invalid.)

So why would Tim lie about the number of signatures he has? If he has enough, why not triumphantly broadcast that to the media? There are several reasons. First, Eyman enjoys trying to keep the press and the state's political establishment in suspense for as long as he possibly can.

Second, Eyman might be planning to claim that the initiative was in trouble in early June, but in the last few days, his "junkyard dog supporters" pulled through in a huge surge of momentum and got enough signatures for qualification. (He wants to portray I-917 as a "son" of last year's failed I-912).

But third...Eyman might be lying for purely selfish reasons. David Goldstein and I have wondered if Eyman is hoping to deceive his wealthy backer, Michael Dunmire, by claiming he needs more money to finish the I-917 signature drive.

We already know that Eyman tends to keep his allies in the dark from the stories that have come out of the failed R-65 campaign. Could Eyman be trying to get an extra few hundred thousand dollars from Michael Dunmire to line his pockets with?

All Tim would have to do would be to report the money as an expense to Citizen Solutions - and his good buddy Roy Ruffino - for signature gathering. Then he and Roy could help themselves to Dunmire's money. I-917 would still make the ballot, since the signatures would have already been purchased. Dunmire would never know the difference.

For those of you who might dismiss this scenario as farfetched, it's worth remembering that Tim has ripped off his donors in the past, and been sued by the state of Washington for violating campaign finance laws (Eyman eventually settled with the state and agreed to never serve as treasurer for a campaign again). As they like to say, old habits die hard.

Fortunately, these initiatives are not being ignored. We've obviously spent a lot of time focusing on them, but the good news is that coalitions have been forming over the last few months to fight all three.

Should I-917 make the ballot (as expected) it will be fought and defeated by the same coalition that stopped I-912, including NPI's Permanent Defense and Keep Washington Rolling.

Should I-933 make the ballot (as expected) it will be fought and defeated by the Community Protection Coalition, a huge group of organizations that has been preparing for this fight for many months. NPI's Permanent Defense is a member.

And, should I-920 make the ballot (as we now expect it to) it will be fought and defeated by a group of progressive forces including SEIU and the WEA (Washington Education Association).

More surprisingly, the coalition also includes the world's richest man, Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft. (Gates donated $10,000 to the Committee to Protect Our Children's Legacy last March).

Of the three coalitions, the Community Protection group has been the most active, organizing kickoff parties to stop I-933 in nearly every county, running full-page advertisements in major newspapers, launching a new website, and staging protests in downtown Olympia, Vancouver and Spokane.

It's going to take a lot of resources to stop all three of these right wing initiatives from passing in November, assuming they qualify. But we must stop these assaults on our sustainable future. We managed to score some major victories last year - and now we need to do the same thing again.

While we're doing that, we also want to make sure we get a progressive initiative, I-937, qualified and passed. Follow the link to the Yes on I-937 campaign to learn how you can help.

Finally, please remember - if you see right wing signature gathering activity occurring, do not hesitate to report it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

McGavick working hard to inflate his image

In recent weeks, the McGavick campaign and the state Republican Party have been working overtime attempting to inflate and embellish the former Safeco executive's image to make him more attractive to Evergreen State voters.

They're having to work around a major problem: the fact that Mike McGavick is in cahoots with the Republican establishment in Washington D.C. - you know, the guys who are currently in power and doing a fine job of disparaging the Constitution, not to mention wrecking our nation's financial health, environment, and international reputation.

McGavick's handlers and their lackeys know that the people of Washington State don't think very highly of Dubya or the Republican controlled Congress Bush holds on a leash. So that's why they're doing everything they possibly can to try and sell Mike McGavick as something he's not - because they know Mike won't win if voters know what he really stands for.

To that end, they have been working hard to convince the press corps that McGavick is moderate, that he's independent, that he cares about issues important to Washingtonians, and that he represents change.

(None of these claims, of course, are true). But for example:
  • McGavick recently claimed that he's long supported increased vehicle fuel efficiency (CAFE standards), and then snidely suggested that Maria Cantwell was late to the issue. Darryl at Hominid Views did some investigating and found out that the exact opposite was the case: Maria was active in pushing for more stringent CAFE standards very early in her first term, while Mike has no public record on the issue.
  • Just today, McGavick tried to take credit for Maria Cantwell and Brian Baird's success in getting the Republican Congress to maintain the state sales tax deduction from the federal income tax, dispatching a laughable, self-congratulatory press release. As David Postman succinctly states on his blog at the Seattle Times, McGavick is "trying to become the non-incumbent incumbent, getting credit for the good things while continuing to criticize the dysfunctional nature of Congress."
  • All this week, Republicans have been crowing about new polling numbers from GOP pollster Rasmussen Reports which purportedly show that Maria Cantwell's lead over McGavick is narrowing. David Goldstein explained yesterday why the poll is irrelevant and Republicans are just full of hot air.
  • A few days ago, McGavick criticized the right wing Free Enterprise Fund for airing a TV ad showing Maria's head superimposed on a vulture's body. (The ad harshly criticizes Sen. Cantwell for voting against permanent repeal of the estate tax). McGavick issued a statement calling for the ad to be pulled. The statement is meant to make Mike look like a moderate and the civil campaigner he claims to be. (But how "civil" is it to dishonestly assert you're a leader on an issue and your opponent isn't; when the truth is actually just the reverse?)
  • McGavick has also spoken to the Mainstream Republicans of Washington State, complaining about the "name calling and partisanship" that goes on in D.C. What we want to know is why Mike is so cozy with the very establishment that he's spending so much energy criticizing. As Joel Connelly notes in his column this morning, McGavick has had fundraisers with mining industry lobbyists, oil industry lobbyists, Sen. Ted Stevens (an establishment figure if there ever was one), stumped with Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss and Mitch McConnell, and dined with financial services executives. McGavick, Connelly correctly concludes, is a Bush Republican.
Connelly also compared the Cantwell campaign to the Army of the Potomac in the same column, saying it was "clunky" and "unwilling to move boldly, or move at all."

We disagree with that statement.

Now, of course the Cantwell campaign could be doing better - because there's always room for improvement. But the campaign has made some important strides in recent weeks, including the debut of a brand new website with a blog, multimedia, tools for organizing events, and information about Maria's positions on the issues.

The communications team has been busily relaying information to the press about Maria's work in the U.S. Senate fighting for energy independence, preserving Net Neutrality, ending National Guard equipment shortfalls, and so on.

The fundraising staff have been doing their part, carefully building up a war chest while McGavick has wasted money on huge advertising efforts that haven't done much to help his candidacy.

President Bill Clinton is scheduled to appear with Cantwell at a fundraiser in late July, which will undoubtedly give a huge boost to the campaign.

While McGavick's handlers are working to inflate Mike's image and loudly trumpet nonexistent accomplishments, Maria Cantwell is toiling away in our nation's capital, fighting for Washingtonians and holding the Bush administration accountable for its abuses of power.

McGavick's team is going to try and sell the former executive to the people of the Evergreen State as an unRepublican Republican. But unfortunately for Mike and his handlers, the Cantwell campaign isn't going to let them distort the truth over these next few months - no matter how hard they try.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Back from vacation

I just returned today from vacationing for a few days in central Washington with family and friends. Everybody needs a break once in a while, and I wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to get away and relax. (That's why I haven't been posting the last few days).

We visited Alta Lake State Park while we were over on the other side of the Cascades. It's a small, tranquil lake surrounded by rocky cliffs and trees. The state park isn't big, but it's a delightful place - beautiful scenery, a beach, nice campsites. Here's a photo:

Alta Lake Photo

Visiting Alta Lake reminded me of the point I made in my last post, before I left: quality public services require an investment from us, the people of Washington. State parks and recreational facilities couldn't exist for all citizens to enjoy without our tax dollars.

There is no free lunch. There are tremendous consequences to slashing government revenue. Parks and green spaces add so much to our communities, and unfortunately they're often the first to lose funding when cuts are made.

The state parks system, in the last few years, has been so starved for money that officials instituted a daily vehicle parking fee:
The State Parks and Recreation Commission initiated collection of a statewide day vehicle parking fee on Jan. 1, 2003. It was a year of budget cuts, following years of restricted budgets for parks. The fee was put into place to keep parks open and also to make improvements. From 2003 through 2005, State Parks collected approximately $11 million in fees. In 2003-05 much of the money was used to make improvements in parks all over the state.
Park attendance subsequently dropped after the fee was created, and the Legislature and Governor responded in the last legislative session by repealing it. Again, the point here is that public services cost money. A great parks system helps preserve Washington's beauty and history, attracts visitors from other states and countries, and makes our communities strong.

But we can't have a great parks system for free. We have to make the investment.

"For the good of all, first the poor"

That is the signature line of the populist candidate for president of Mexico. The July 2 election in that country will be pivotal in terms of stemming the tide of illegal immigration. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised a New Deal style public works program and protection for the Mexican agrarian economy in the form of tariffs on US corn and beans. This type of structural improvement will succeed where the sweat shops on the border scheme championed by Vincente Fox and US corporations has only hurt.

It is estimated that 47 percent of Mexican people live on less than ten dollars a day. No wonder 400,000 per year are voting with their feet and entering the US illegally. As we pointed out, economic development is the economic answer to the immigration problem. The fear tactics and military response of Bush and the Republicans is another made for TV event that has no chance of success.

RegenerationMan at DailyKos picked up on my original post and blogged an excellent piece on the Regenenerative Zone Method. Lopez Obrador is counting on public works and protecting the Mexican farm economy from cheap American imports. Both together would work far better than each separately.

The second and essential element to a Mexican recovery is control of organized crime. Mexico is the kidnapping capital of the world, and Mexican drug gangs are engaged in an open shooting war with each other and the police.

Lopez Obrador's principal opposition is Felipe Calderon of Fox's PAN party, who is waging a US style campaign of big media and promises of tax cuts. The Mexican people may be best served by an election system far better than her neighbor's to the north.

Gas prices work

We may have this object lesson in front of us for years to come, but I want to point out again that high gasoline prices are redesigning America's passenger car fleet, and are the impetus for a major boost in ethanol production. We posted on the improved use of the HOV lanes.

The unacceptable problem is that the proceeds of high prices are going to Big Oil. That needs to change. An immediate progressive tax on the price above $2 needs to be instituted, a tax that ensures gasoline remains high in price, but revenues return to the public good. So long as prices remain high, a host of good ideas will be brought to market. But if investors were certain that fluctuations wouldn't wipe them out, even more would be forthcoming. A great idea with gas prices at $2.50 can be a bust if they fall to $2.25.

The state is in the absurd position of having high prices hurt -- yes, hurt -- gas tax revenues. Why? because the gas tax is an excise by the gallon, not by the dollar. When prices go up, consumption goes down.

A progressive tax at the federal level could be immediately returned to the taxpayers in the form of reduced withholding rates, or even payroll tax rates. The object is not to increase revenue, the object is to put gas prices at a level that relates at least remotely to their costs.

Right now, the price of gasoline accounts for only three things: The cost of production and distribution, the cost of roads (through the gas tax, and profits to oil companies and cartels. Totally absent from the equation is the immense environmental calamity we are facing, the geopolitical catastrophe we've created in search of future supplies of oil (see Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, etc.), and the many of the elements of sprawl. It is a total market failure that these costs are not included in the price.

The Europeans are decades ahead of us on this. Keep the high prices, but lose the corporate profiteering.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Barriers to Voting

As a proud member of the League of Women Voters, I am very disturbed by a report in the June issue of hte LWV National Voter. "New Barriers to Voting" points out that the 2004 campaign saw more effort being put into registering voters, but more recently access to the ballot box is being restricted.

The statewide database requirement in the happy sounding Help America Vote Act (HAVA) has been an excuse to "make it harder for eligible applicants to register. Voter registration drives are being restricted in a number of states by , among other things, requiring programs to sign up and get training from the state, sometimes at limited locations and times.

Washington State is mentioned in the "Rejection by Typo" section for its statute requiring rejection of applications by mail if there is no exact match with drivers license info. Applicant error, clerical errors in the elections office or DMV can exclude registrants in a process that was intended to ease a burden. Note that low-income and non-English speaking applicants suffer most, as they may move more often and have a more difficult time with the filling out of forms.

Links:

Project Vote
LWV
Brennan Center

Another governor to work with Eyman?

Gary Locke was the last governor to promote ratification of an Eyman initiative after it was ruled illegal by the courts. That was I-695. It was a body blow to cities and transit agencies who still have not recovered. It was a low point in the Locke governorship.

Now it seems like Chris Gregoire, my favorite politician, is contemplating the same thing. According to the Dave Ammons and the AP, "Gregoire pledged Monday to work with the Legislature to pass property-tax limits if the courts throw out the voter-approved Initiative 747."

Local government is suffocating. Core services are already being cut. The future holds only a long, slow strangulation as they struggle to meet their mandates. If Gregoire and the Legislature want to freeze the state's portion of the property tax, fine. But leave the cities and counties out of it.

That is the compromise that is needed.


Gregoire's contention that people are being taxed out of their homes is problematic. Home prices have erupted so much that the average family cannot afford the average home. Mortgage interest is deductible from federal taxes. The 1% lid is below inflation, so the real revenue from property taxes is dropping. There are senior exemptions for the very low income. People are getting squeezed out of there homes not because their property taxes are going up, but because their incomes are stagnating. The wealth in their homes, illusory as it may be, has been tapped again and again by homeowners in the form of equity loans.

At least let the lid match inflation.

Tim Eyman, as usual, has nothing to offer, and was quoted too freely in the AP article. The amount of energy required to fix the damage after this demagogue runs his lies down through the all-too-credulous voting public has been enormous. If he were a household product, he would have long since been run out of business by product liability suits.

The Governor needs to take a cold look at this issue. The state property tax is devoted exclusively to schools. If the guv thinks they can take the cut, let it be so. But Washington's cities are not enjoying the flush of expectation for new revenues such as that ChangMook Sohn issued for the state last week. (Though I have never heard so many glum words used for such a rosy event.)

If the court strikes down another Eyman initiative, it won't be because of a typo. Show some respect to the judiciary. And show a little compassion for the jurisdictions down the food chain.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Methanol: The missing link to the hydrogen economy

The need for alternative energy is now. Oil dependency has to be reversed now. It is incompetent and stupid to plan on increasing our reliance on foreign oil, as mapped out by the Bush-Cheney-Enron-Big Oil energy plan (NEP). Greenhouse gas emissions have to be a primary enemy.

The hydrogen economy beckons from twenty or more years in the future, when hydrogen fuel cells will theoretically replace gasoline. But there is a gap. In that gap the only conveyance available will be a hand basket.

That gap can be filled by methanol, a hydrocarbon that can be used directly as fuel, can be created with existing technology from abundant domestic coal, and can replace the petroleum as the building block for a multiplicity of products, from plastics to fertilizers. On the front end, methanol can step into the fuel distribution system currently devoted to gasoline. On the back end, with enough research and development it can be produced in a process that actually consumes carbon dioxide, possibly even atmospheric carbon dioxide, but certainly CO2 produced in industrial operations.

Eventually hydrogen energy can be converted into methanol and methanol fuel cells, bypassing the technical difficulty (in the sense that leaping the Grand Canyon is a "difficulty") of hydrogen's volatility. Methanol can be come the common currency of an alternative energy economy, converting all forms into a fuel. It can serve to bridge the gap from oil to hydrogen. And it can start not immediately, but relatively soon.

I am not an engineer or a chemist, but I am an economist. Our current adventure in Iraq is proof that oil is too expensive in every way. The daily news stories on global warming are proof that an alternative path needs to begin now. Waiting for things to get worse only means the mitigation measures will need to be harsher. And methanol offers an alternative to a massive corporate infrastructure that will be served. Developing it is cheap compared to the investment that is needed to extract the oil in the Gulf that will be needed, even if conditions there were sufficiently placid to allow that investment.

University of Florida report on methanol from coal


A new book by USC's George Olah:
The Methanol Economy
Forget about the hydrogen economy. Methanol is the key to weaning the world off oil. George Olah tells us how to do it.

By Kevin Bullis

Wikepedia

Wiley (Olah's publisher)

Iran Daily

Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access

The first meeting of the Washington State Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access will take place on Thursday, June 22, 2006. Governor Chris Gregoire and Senator Pat Thibaudeau will serve as Co-Chairs of the commission.

Governor Gregoire formed the commission to find ways to provide accessible, affordable, quality health care for all Washingtonians.

The task of the commission is to recommend to Governor Gregoire and the Legislature by December 1, 2006, a sustainable five-year plan to substantially improve access to affordable health care for all Washingtonian residents.

Other members of the commission are Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle), Senator Lisa Brown (D-Spokane), Representatives Eileen Cody (D-Seattle), John Serben (R-Spokane), Bill Hinkle (R-Cle Elum), and Senators Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee) and Alex Deccio (R-Yakima).

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Secretary of Health Mary Selecky, Health Care Authority Director Steve Hill, Doug Porter from the Department of Social and Health Services and Robert Malooly from the Department of Labor and Industries will also serve as commission members.

As progressives, we should be advocating for the following:

ONE MEDICAL PLAN. It must be privately delivered and publicly administered, thus eliminating the massive and complicated bureaucratic mess that we currently have.

All residents would be provided with one medical ID card that would essentially direct payment for medical services from a centralized claims processing clearinghouse to either doctors, hospitals, clinics, labs or pharmacies.

Patients would be free to choose their own doctors and hospitals.

COMPREHENSIVE benefits. It would cover all primary and preventive services as well as prescription drugs, vision, dental and hearing services.

UNIVERSAL coverage, meaning it covers everybody regardless of age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational level, income, employment or marital status.

CONTINUOUS benefits, thus eliminating "job-lock" - the odd link between employers and health insurance coverage.

GUARANTEED ACCESS. This means that all residents will be entitled to health care services wherever they are provided, and "as" the services are available. Pre-existing conditions will also be included for treatment.

Blue Ribbon Commission Meeting Agenda:
  1. Sign-in and coffee (8:30 - 9:30).
  2. Welcome and introduction of commission members.
  3. Review work plan and resource book.
  4. Review and discuss problem and vision statement.
  5. Review and discuss criteria for evaluating proposals.
  6. Lunch on your own (12:30 - 1:30).
  7. Stakeholder feedback on problem statement, vision statement, and criteria (break-out sessions).
  8. Report to Commission from break-out sessions.
  9. Wrap up and next steps (4:30 - 5:00).
Directions to:
Olympia High School
1302 North St. NE
Tumwater, WA (front entrance)

From I-5 north or southbound,
Take Exit 105B (Port of Olympia),
Take first left onto Henderson Boulevard, then
Turn right onto Carlyon (Pioneer Elmentary School, 1655 Carlyon, is on the left corner),
Continue on Carlyon.
Olympia High School is located on your left.

The Performing Arts Center is located on the backside of the building.

Monday, June 19, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Washingtonians investing less than other Americans

This isn't breaking news for any well informed progressive activist, but it may come as a surprise to those who continue to contend (and like to pretend) that Washington State's residents are suffering under a staggering amount of taxes.

The truth is that Washington State's taxes (we like to call them public investments) aren't high at all. You wouldn't get to that conclusion by listening to our state's right wing, though.

Tim Eyman often likes to claim we're the 4th highest taxed state in the nation - and of course our friends over in the right wing blogosphere never seem to stop complaining about state government spending. Interestingly, they never seem to criticize the enormous and wasteful expenditures of the Bush administration (can anyone say, "CHA-CHING?")

But thankfully, there's actually good data out there that does give us a good idea of how we stack up against other states. And presented using an honest frame, it shows where we are and where we ought to be. From the Department of Revenue:
Washington's state and local taxes were the 29th-lowest in the country during Fiscal Year 2004, according to figures just published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

State and local taxes were $106.27 per $1,000 personal income, compared to a U.S. average of $110.43 per $1,000. Washington ranked 10th lowest among 13 Western states.
This data, of course, doesn't fit with the right's frame - the idea that we live in the most overtaxed area in the country, or even the world. This information is useless unless it is presented with an honest frame.

But wait - there's more:
Washington ranked 28th in property taxes per $1,000 personal income, at $31.68 compared to a U.S. average of $34.75.

[...]

Tax collections per $1,000 personal income were $107.53 in 2000 and $100.90 in 2002. The low 2002 figure was due to strong growth of personal income relative to taxes for that year and was the lowest rate of taxes per $1,000 personal income since 1981.
What this data tells us is that our taxes are NOT skyrocketing and that we are BELOW the national average in taxes collected. And we've actually been trending downwards for decades, certainly long before Tim Eyman & Co. ever came along.

In related news today:
Gov. Chris Gregoire pledged Monday to work with the Legislature to pass property-tax limits if the courts throw out the voter-approved Initiative 747.

[...]

She declined to state a position on the correct percentage, but indicated that perhaps neither the old number nor the 1 percent cap is the best solution.

The 6 percent, she said, clearly begins to tax people out of their homes and the 1 percent limit appears to cause cutbacks on core local services that people need.

"I think we need to have an open discussion about this," she told a wide-ranging news conference. "We need to have a delicate balance here. We need to make sure people can afford to pay their property taxes and we need security for those homes, whether that's firefighting or law enforcement possibilities.

"I clearly do not believe 6 percent is anything the public at large, particularly our lower income and our first home owners, can afford.

"I will be looking to my colleagues in the Legislature ... to find some continuing relief from the tax burden on property taxes."
Initiative 747, which took effect in late 2001, has been a nightmare ever since for Washington State's local elected officials, who have had to cut needed public services because of lost revenue. In fact, I-747 has practically bankrupted a number of cities across Washington.

According to the Department of Revenue, the loss to the state property tax totals $226,923,000 for the 2005-2007 biennium while losses to local taxing districts total $571,496,000. That's $571 million dollars - an enormous sum of money.

The loss to local governments in 2006 alone is some $285 million dollars.

That's not money going into a black hole. That's money that pays for first responders (police, fire, paramedics), libraries, pools, parks, and other vital public services that make our communities good places to live. Who wants to live in an unsafe neighborhood with no green spaces, recreational facilities, or opportunities to expand your knowledge?

Public infrastructure is incredibly important. Not only does it include the services I mentioned above, but also schools and our transportation system. All of these public services have been attacked in the past by right wing initiatives. And the attacks keep on coming.

Governor Christine Gregoire has an opportunity to do something about the problems I-747 has created whether or not the state Supreme Court upholds Roberts' ruling. The Governor and the Legislature ought to work together to repeal I-747 and replace it with wiser policy.

Instead of cutting taxes, let's reform the state's tax structure. We can start by getting rid of the huge amount of ridiculous exemptions that are given out every year to businesses and industries that don't need them. Sunset legislation should be passed to require a periodicial review of tax exemptions so that policy does not simply become perpetual.

Ultimately, the property tax needs a serious restructuring, and the sales and business occupation taxes need to be abolished and replaced with progressive income taxes and or value added taxes, which are much fairer.

We believe (and deserve) a fair tax structure, a responsible government, and strong public services. Right wing initiatives give us just the opposite. That's why proposals from zealots like Tim Eyman and Dennis Falk are threats to our sustainable future - threats we can't afford to ignore.

We owe it to ourselves and later generations to not only stop these right wing assaults, but design and implement policies that address the real problems we face.

It's tough to provide the kind of leadership it takes to improve and invest in our communities, but we believe elected officials like Governor Gregoire, Speaker Chopp, and Senate Majority Leader Brown are capable.

Effective leadership, however, means not only making decisions, but listening. Olympia needs our help and our input to move Washington forward. The right wing may scorn the legislative process, but we embrace it. The Founders of this country believed in representative democracy, and so do we.

Effective leadership also needs something else - accurate information.

We cannot make tax reform a reality - or make any decisions whatsoever - using inaccurate information. That's why science is so important. That's why research by government agencies like the U.S. Census Bureau is so important.

Washingtonians need to know the facts. Unfortunately, putting the facts out there isn't enough. Simply refuting the other side's spin is not enough. And that's why reframing is so important.

Taxes are not an affliction. They are not a burden. The phrases "tax relief" and "tax burden" are part of conservative framing and should be completely discarded.

The conservative frame, unfortunately, is prevalent just about everywhere, and that's where our greatest challenge lies. Ever noticed that a lot of candidates running for office, even Democrats, run on "low taxes" or make a promise to keep taxes low? It's a trap, and Christine Gregoire unfortunately fell right into it as a candidate.

(So far though, as Governor, she has sidestepped just about all the traps laid in her path by the other side, and it's certainly made the local right wing very angry.)

Before presenting this important information to a fellow citizen, reframe.

Start out with values like fairness, freedom, and prosperity. Use a story that helps explain why taxes are really wise investments in our future. When you've succeeded in getting your audience to accept the honest view, then share this information and help enlighten them.

In Brief - June 19th, 2006

Haven't done one of these in a while...Here is today's quick news digest:
  • State Department of Transportation officials are reiterating that the State Route 520 floating bridge over Lake Washington needs replacement, after doing a weekend inspection. For my perspective (shared by all of us at NPI) on why the bridge absolutely must be replaced, read this post.
  • There's an excellent article in this morning's Seattle Times about wind power. More specificially, the construction of wind farms in Central Washington (Klickitat County).
  • Another Kossack, wmtriallawyer, has made the decision to run for office...not elected office, but a party office (his county's Democratic Central Committee).
  • Dick Cheney continues to bizarrely insist that the Iraqi insurgency entered its "last throes" in May of 2005. Think Progress has the video. Jon Stewart is right - it's definitely time for Karl Rove to replace Cheney with a new model.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

It's a quagmire, a tar pit

The Left makes a big mistake if Iraq becomes a litmus test for who is a progressive. The invasion was a blunder, a crime, a turning point, a tragedy, but what to do now is not so obvious as the radio ranters pretend.

Facts:
  • In 2005, the US imported just over 55 percent of its oil, about 11.5 million barrels per day. In 2015 we will need 5 million barrels a day more. Ten years after that, in 2025, another 4 or 5 million barrels a day. At the same time the domestic contribution will decline, even with optimistic projections for ethanol and other substitutes.
  • Over the next 20 years we will increase our dependence from 55 percent to 70 percent. Sources aside from the Persian Gulf will grow in production capacity, but also in consumption. The only potential for the volume we will require is the Persian Gulf. Where we are hated, and all the more now that we have deserved it so well.
  • Other industrial states, China in particular, will be competing for new production.
  • Saudi Arabia is the key source, not Iraq. The population of Saudi Arabia is predominantly young, poor and un- or under-employed. Thirty percent of college educated men have no jobs. Per capita incomes have shrunk from $22,000 to $7,000 over the past 20 years. Iran has a similar demographic. It makes for an unstable situation where the repressive regime in power cannot afford to be seen in public with the Americans. (The first thing the US did after invading Iraq was to close its bases in Saudi Arabia, left open only because we reneged on promises to close them after the Gulf War. If our soldiers leave Iraq, they are not going back to Saudi Arabia.)
  • The Persian Gulf and the other oil-rich countries are unstable politically and are more often than not rotten with corruption. The increases in oil production from these countries will require immense investment and technology not available within those countries. That technology and investment will not be forthcoming from private vendors absent significant reduction in the risk.
  • Let me repeat that point. The oil production we will need from these countries is not now in the cards. To get to the level needed, immense new investment is needed. This is investment and technology only the Oil Giants possess. These countries do not care to have Oil Giants dictating to them, nor really anything other than a nationalized oil industry. (Immense. Three quarters of a trillion dollars worth of investment.)
  • The Neocon scheme was to occupy Iraq, liberate it from Saddam, in the warmth of victory establish bases there to protect a fledgling (or Quisling) democracy, and thus establish the security Big Oil demands for its investment and secure the energy future of the Homeland. It was the Stratego scheme.
Best is a partition along the lines of a loose federation of strong Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite states, with the US redeploying its troops to those semi-permanent bases and guaranteeing the borders for a weak central government. There is no stable political situation that does not involve partition. As we've written, the country does not have a history, being cobbled together by the British. It does not have a leadership except that identified with one of the major factions. It was kept together by the iron fist of Saddam Hussein, and there is no amount of diplomacy or statesmanship that is enough to do what he did with brutality. To tap the legitimate leadership, we will need to cede power to the factional leaders.

Obviously a loose federation, having weak members, may offer a bigger fig leaf for US presence as protection from neighbors, but it will not enough. The unfortunate final answer is that there is no answer. By invading, we have deserved to be hated and have been undone by our own incompetence, belligerence and corruption.

Redeployment along the lines of the Murtha plan and following John Kerry is as sound as any responsible approach. I believe this is what Cantwell and Hillary are angling for. The worst thing we on the Left can do is pretend there is one simple solution. The more we get into a wrangle about it and, in fact, insofar as Iraq dominates the conversation at election time, the less well served will be the progressive cause.

Health Care .... Social Security .... Global Warming .... Environmentally Friendly Energy .... Medicare Drug Benefits .... Eliminating the Culture of Corruption .... Salvaging the Financial House .... Returning Competence to Government Offices .... Restoring the Bill of Rights .... Curbing the Power of the Corporate Predators .... The Emerging Desperation of the Working Class. There is too much to be done to get into a fight with a tar baby.

The economic answer to Iraq does exist, however. Just as oil is the reason for being there, it begins with oil. First and foremost, we need to eliminate our dependence. Second we need to let the market deal with the extraction problem. Having American soldiers as basically rent-a-cops for oil investment is bogus and will never come to any good.

The rest of that answer for another time.

A good source: Blood and Oil, Michael T. Klare, 2004.

Why campaign in Seattle?

Why not?

Stefan Sharkansky has a stupid, short, ridiculous post up at Sound Politics asking why Darcy Burner would speak at a rally in Seattle:
(Picture)

Darcy Burner with State Democratic Party Chairman "Cuba" Dwight Pelz, at an anti-Bush rally at Westlake Center.

If Darcy Burner wants to represent the 8th District, why is she campaigning in Seattle?
Gee, I dunno, Stefan - maybe because she can? There's nothing wrong with campaigning in Seattle, or anywhere else in Washington, or the U.S., for that matter. Republicans and Democrats alike frequently campaign or go to events outside of their districts. As a matter of fact....I seem to remember this headline from a year ago:
Cheney to campaign in Seattle for Reichert

Vice President Dick Cheney will visit Seattle Monday to raise money for freshman Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash.

Cheney's office confirmed the visit late yesterday. Cheney, who also campaigned for Reichert last year, is scheduled to address a noon luncheon at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle.

Lee Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said the vice president was looking forward to visiting Washington state.

"Congressman Reichert is an important member in the House, and we look forward to working with him on a number of issues," McBride said.
So, Stefan - let me ask you this simple question: if Dave Reichert wants to represent the 8th District, why did he hold a fundraiser with Dick Cheney last year - in Seattle!?

You see, Stefan? You have no point to make here. You'd like to have some ammunition to fire at Darcy Burner's incredibly strong and growing campaign, but you just don't have any. Keep making pathetic, hypocritical, and meaningless attacks like this, and you'll be the laughingstock of the local blogosphere and the Evergreen State press corps.

Oh wait, I forgot - you already are.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Monetary Policy. Myth. History.

You may share the angst of Ben Bernanke as he watches incipient inflation rising in his crystal globe, its awful power to strip the economy of value looms ever larger. Should he strike with the only tool he has, the short-term interest rate?

Or from fear of shutting down the economy, should he let the noxious cauldron percolate a while longer? The cries from Wall Street plead for mercy, but he is firm in his discipline.

I don't care how much their suits cost or who is licking their shoes to make them so shiny, this tableau is a myth. No matter how many people believe, it doesn't make it so.

For one thing, the interest rate is not the only button on the monetary policy console. It does not have to do double duty. In fact, in cost-push inflation, it does little to help control inflation. We have come to the point of Wizard of Oz economics, where so long as the man behind the curtain is not called out, his power reigns. It has led to absurd chains of reaction, where good economic news is bad for the Market because of what the Fed will think.

Now we hear rumblings of how it is employment levels that are dangerous. That whole nonsense was disproven in the 1990s, theoretically by Nobelist Robert Eisner and then empirically when unemployment dropped to near historic lows without tickling inflation.

How did the central bank get complete control of one-half of economic policy? Representative governments of other industrial countries have not been so generous to the money lenders.

A concise history.

Prior to 1951, the Federal Reserve operated as did many "independent" agencies, like the FAA, FCC, SEC, and so on down the list of acronyms with oversight duties, but only limited policy-making authority.

Then, in the darkest days of the Korean War, with President Truman's approval ratings in the W zone, with Douglas MacArthur grandstanding his way across the country, and with the Treasury Secretary in the hospital, a clandestine agreement was reached between the Federal Reserve and an undersecretary of the Treasury named William McChesney Martin.

The "Treasury Accord" ceded control of monetary policy -- interest rates and money supply -- to the Fed. William McChesney Martin found a home as chairman, ostensibly as the administration's man. In fact, he brought the control of monetary policy firmly into the camp of the central bank. Years later Truman happened to meet him on a street. He left the Fed chief with a single word. "Traitor."

Control of interest rates and monetary targets had been essential in the successful handling of the enormous federal debt accrued during World War II. The successful transition from war to peace would have been impossible without it. Bankers chafed, however, under the experience of the post-war inflation. Of course, they targeted their criticism to profligate politicians, not to the policy.

But the timing of the coup had little to do with economic circumstances. Inflation had become a non-issue, even with the Korean War. The politicians were responsible. Truman would leave office as the only postwar president to net a budget surplus during his administration. The timing had everything to do with political opportunism. The president had other battles to fight and could not risk a showdown with the staid and stuffy.

An economic policy to be effective must have its two major parts -- fiscal and monetary policy -- working together. Otherwise a jobs policy, for example, such as promoting public works and modest deficit spending can be completely undone by a tight monetary policy which shuts down investment. Or in the current situation, a reckless accumulation of debt by the federal government can be exacerbated by a compliant Fed.

Truman's chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Leon Keyserling later estimated that hundreds of billions of dollars were lost to the economy just through the 1970s from excess interest costs, and this was before the big debt binges of Reagan and the two Bushes.

Bush leaves the Evergreen State - and we say good riddance

Dubya has come and gone from Washington State:
President Bush made a brief stop in the Seattle area this morning to raise money for Republican candidates in Washington.

Air Force One touched down at Boeing Field at 9:45 a.m. through low clouds. An Issaquah woman, Sheryl Sheaffer, whose three soldier sons, and only children, now serve in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, was to be among the greeting party for Bush.
And here's the photo that we've been longing to see for a very, very long time:

Reichert Appears With George W. Bush

There can no longer be any doubt: Dave Reichert is a Bush Republican.

And it turns out that Karl Rove didn't just send Bush here...he came himself:
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Bellevue, and presidential aide Karl Rove disembarked from the plane, along with Bush.
Good riddance to Rove, too.

One last note: As I drove over to the rally in Westlake Center this morning, I observed several state patrol cars parked along the shoulder at the Medina exit, a state trooper positioned on the pedestrian bridge near Lake Washington, and several WSDOT utility trucks with cones and other tools.

Live from Westlake: Rally Concludes

After hearing from State Sen. Adam Kline, we were treated to a short speech from Darcy Burner, who was greeted very enthusiastically by the large crowd assembled in the plaza with Burner signs, Cantwell signs, and a lot of handmade signs calling for a much needed investigation of the Bush administration.

Here's a few pictures from the rally, including one of Darcy speaking:

Westlake Rally Against George W. Bush

The rally may be over, but the need for grassroots support is not. If you haven't yet made a contribution to Darcy's campaign, now is a great time to make one.

Live from Westlake: Rally Underway

State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz has just kicked off the Democratic Rally in downtown Seattle, blasting Dubya and his failed policies. King County Councilmember Dow Constantine followed, urging Democrats to keep on fighting for a brighter future.

State Sen. Adam Kline is speaking now.

The "Bush Chain Gang" is here at Westlake as well, as are television cameras from all the major Seattle stations.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Housing bubble floating ever upward?

Global Insight rated housing for many NW cities. The results could be scary. I gave Global Insight a bad time for its predictions on oil prices and inflation, but here they rate housing in line with Dean Baker's analysis at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. (On the same scale, that is. I don't know what the methodology is.) See Baker's "The Menace of an Unchecked Housing Bubble."

Notice the closer you get to California, the more overpriced housing is. If you look at the full list, California is all above 60%. Also, notice the further east (or actually toward the Midwest), the less overpriced housing becomes. Many cities in the Great Plains and Midwest have housing that is actually underpriced.

When the assessor comes around, he is judging market value based on comparable sales. That is the price in the newspaper. That is the bubble price. But beware. If housing returns to a level predicted by long-term trends, this is the amount your equity could drop.

That is not only bad news for you, since you're on the hook for the difference between your loan value and the equity (and the bank can ask for that difference in cash), but it's bad news for the state's economy, since residential construction has been the engine of growth over the past five years.

Seniors gather to voice opposition to Dave Reichert's support of Bush policies

Today has been a very exciting day.

Following Darcy Burner's very successful post to Daily Kos this morning (303 users have recommended so far) a group of local seniors gathered on Mercer Island at Dave Reichert's headquarters to voice their opposition to Reichert's support of Bush plans on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The seniors delivered a letter to Reichert's staff articulating their concerns and demanding to know why Dave Reichert claims to be "moderate" and "independent" when he wholeheartedly supports Bush administration policies.

"Dave Reichert has consistently rubberstamped Bush's failed agenda and his disatrous policies on seniors' issues - privatization of Social Security, cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and drug laws written by and for the pharmaceutical companies instead of the seniors that need help," Bellevue resident Tom Way told reporters. "We need fresh new leadership in Congress, not someone that will stand shoulder to shoulder with George Bush."

The gathering was covered by KING 5 and KCPQ 13.

Other notes concerning the Bush visit:
  • SLOG has the exclusive scoop on new polling numbers released by Darcy's campaign.
  • Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman has the details on John Kerry's efforts to help raise money for Darcy's campaign.
  • Washington State Democrats are having a big rally tomorrow, June 16th, at Westlake Center (400 Pine Street) in Seattle to make it perfectly clear that George W. Bush is not welcome in the Evergreen State. Darcy will be speaking, as will State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz and a number of other local officials. I'm planning on attending, and I hope you'll join me.
  • A number of activists are reportedly planning to protest Bush's visit from boats on Lake Washington, along the Medina shore.
If you haven't already contributed to Darcy's campaign, please make a contribution today. This is when it really matters. Karl Rove is hoping to blow us out of the water with one fundraiser. We can't let that happen.

Darcy Burner needs our support

Please Recommend Now!!!!

Darcy Burner has posted a diary to Daily Kos, appealing for support from the netroots to help offset the $800,000 that Republican incumbent Dave Reichert hopes to raise from tomorrow's fundraiser with George W. Bush in Medina:
Dave Reichert is a Bush Republican, a Dick Cheney Republican, and a Tom Delay Republican. Tom Delay has given thousands to Reichert's reelection campaign. Dick Cheney was in Seattle a year ago today holding a fundraisier for Dave Reichert.

And tomorrow - President Bush will arrive in Medina for an exclusive, private gathering to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Dave Reichert. Reichert has said the goal for the fundraiser is $800,000.

We don't have the ability to call together wealthy pals to dump money into this race.

But we do have you.

Karl Rove sends Bush to very few districts around the country to raise money. The fact that Rove is sending Bush here is a clear sign that they are very afraid of losing this seat.

If we're to beat Dave Reichert - if we're going to take back the 8th this November - we need to maintain a competitive edge.

I have made a personal investment to win this. But ultimately, this race is in your hands. I need your help to show Karl Rove that bringing the President into a race is a bad move.
Please read the whole thing - and recommend.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

McKenna will appeal I-747 ruling

Gee, he sure made up his mind up pretty quickly....wonder why?
The state will appeal a judge's ruling that struck down a 2001 initiative limiting property tax increases, Attorney General Rob McKenna said Wednesday.

King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts ruled Tuesday that Initiative 747 was unconstitutional because voters believed they were amending another initiative - I-722 - that had passed earlier but had already been declared invalid.

[...]

McKenna said his office plans to file its direct appeal to the state Supreme Court this week.
And of course, the speedy decision has nothing to do with the fact that Rob McKenna was a coauthor of Initiative 747...or does it?

Nah...of course not.

So, Rob, what about Initiative 297? Are you going to appeal that decision, too? Or are you just not interested in defending that voter approved initiative?

A Organic Carrot, A Spider, and Hope

Organic carrots give me hope. Hope that is indelibly rooted in the future. No pun intended. A week ago there were a couple of articles in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that piqued my interest.

One was about a woman who found a black widow spider in the grapes that she had purchased for her daughter’s lunch and the other about organic food gaining more popularity in grocery stores.

My interest here is not to write about spiders and organic food per se, but rather to draw a distinction between where the food was grown and why it is so absolutely necessary for this country of ours to implement a national health care program.

A program whereby everyone participates, regardless of their financial situation or health status, with benefits that are sufficiently comprehensive to provide access to appropriate, high-quality care without endangering individual or family financial security.

Let me start by explaining why I thought the first article was interesting. According to the P-I, the woman brought the grapes home, spotted the spider crawling around on the grapes on her kitchen counter, fetched a jar and put the spider in it. She then took the trapped spider to the zoo where zookeepers intended to eventually display it to the public.

Everything turned out all well and good, but let me pose a hypothetical question at this juncture: “What if the woman had discovered the venomous creepy crawler only after it had bitten her daughter?”

I dare say that instead of going to the zoo, they probably would have made a beeline for the emergency ward in the nearest hospital. The focus of attention would have been centered on the girl’s health since a poisonous bite can sometimes be deadly.

Supposing the spider had actually bitten the girl, would medical treatments have put the proverbial bite on her family’s finances to the point of paralyzing her parents’ purchasing power, consequently poisoning their credit rating as well?

Keep in mind that one family member’s innocent misfortune nowadays can hurt the whole family financially. In addition, would this one incident put a red flag on her health record, making her ineligible for future claims because her insurer might deem her a financial risk?

Will her parents’ health care premiums increase to equal their monthly mortgage payment, making them fall back on a “pared-down” plan leaving them now underinsured, thus opening them up later to even more financial risk in the event the untoward strikes another member of the family?

Sadly, the way our current health care system is set up, the girl would have sooner than later been pitted financially against her parents and likewise pitted her against her own health as well.

With many other health care plans around the globe, parents would never worry about losing their homes due to a spider biting one of their kids. Plus, their health care premiums would be the same from one month to the next; it’s as if the biting incident never occurred.

What’s more, there would be no pre-existing eligibility requirements that would disqualify her from receiving care in the future for two reasons: one, once you are enrolled in the national health care plan, you are in, and two, access to medical care is guaranteed – there are no eligibility requirements.

Not only is health care a right in other countries, health is the raison d’être in the grand scheme of health care. Not so in the United States: illnesses and accidents are to the health insurance/financial/pharmaceutical complex as coal and natural gas are to energy conglomerates – natural resources that are to be exploited for maximum profits.

The popularity of organic food is promising, not just because organic fruit and vegetables are cultivated without using pesticides, hormones or other chemicals, but because I sense people are once again considering every meal as a moment to nourish the body, just like a good book nourishes the mind and peaceful music enchants the soul. Others associate organic produce with re-establishing our culinary culture of generations past.

Likewise, serving up traditional dishes during seasonal festivities restores childhood memories when cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents would gather around the table to share stories old and new. All in all, the art of honoring those you cherish in your family, in your circle of friends, and in your community can be reclaimed by sharing good food.

Good food, though, needs time to grow, to gather by hand, clean, cut or peel, cook and digest. Sadly, though, our culture hasn’t devoted enough time to good food over the past thirty some years.

That’s why I find increasing sales trends for organic fruits and vegetables hopeful, an indication that we are finally breaking free of the death grips of consumerism and embracing the desire to participate collectively as citizens in the future well-being of our community.

This new trend signals the rebirth of good nutritional standards while at the same time sustaining the local economy. We regard the local grocer as a steward who is entrusted with procuring garden-fresh fruit and vegetables cultivated by small farmers in organically certified native soil.

Elementary and secondary school systems are encouraged to contract with local organic food vendors to provide students with natural, locally grown foods, in the hope that our community’s youth is getting the proper nutrients they need to build strong bodies and healthy minds.

In my view, promoting local, organic produce is a statement advocating wholesome principles in support of small farmers and a rejection of some bland, industrial food commodity originating from the production line of a global agribusiness which eventually finds its place on supermarket shelves in the form of a package.

According to the P-I, the spider got a free ride inside a package of grapes imported into the United States from a country south of the border. The spider is problematic for two reasons.

First, I consider the spider to be the emblematic embodiment of free-trade policies and its poisonous “market access” bite has already killed 38,310 small farms in the U. S. between 1995-2002.

Wasn’t the intention of these free-trade agreements to create more jobs instead of eliminating them? Small native farmers can’t survive financially when they have to compete with large global agribusinesses that are subsidized to bring mass-produced alimentary commodities to our domestic markets.

Isn’t this too high a price to pay for grapes in the month of May when we normally eat them in season around September? On top of that, what do these huge agricultural conglomerates give back to our communities anyway? Their workers don’t pay into Social Security or Medicare.

These subsidized agribusinesses don’t pay local, state or federal taxes either. If farmers lose their jobs, our tax base diminishes, meaning that we have less support for our public schools. As we all know, a good education improves our quality of life.

Further, how can we level the playing-field in the food market so that small mom-and-pop restaurants serving good locally grown food can flourish once again, so that neighborhood grocery store owners can make a decent living selling organic fruit and vegetables to their community, and native family farmers can successfully live off the land by supplying restaurants and grocery stores unadulterated produce?

I think one way to level the playing field is to guarantee access to health care for all farmers big or small. This means that farmers will be entitled to health care services wherever they are provided, and “as” the services are available. Pre-existing conditions would also be included for treatment.

Once access is guaranteed, medical services will have to be paid for. Farmers, like any other business owner, would pay a monthly fee that would be funneled into one public medical security fund. Hospitals, doctors and other medical clinics and suppliers would then be paid from this general fund for services rendered.

Depending on the yield of the harvest in any given year, the number of years in operation and the number of family members, the medical health care assessment will go up or down accordingly.

Under no circumstances would the medical security fee be based on actuarial profit margins of the health care provider or on the health of the farmer.

What’s more, overhead costs of operating a farm would go down roughly 30% because there would only be one comprehensive public medical plan, thus eliminating the massive and complicated bureaucratic mess that we currently have.

Farmers would be provided with one medical ID card that would essentially direct payment for medical services from a centralized claims processing clearinghouse to either doctors, hospitals, clinics, labs or pharmacies.

Farmers can already track FedEx packages, bank, trade shares, file taxes or re-new their driver’s license on-line.

Wouldn’t it be better and simpler for the farmer, and for the doctor, if the farmer could choose his own doctor, bring his ID card with him, swipe it in a card reader at the time of service and then have the doctor be paid on the spot with an electronic funds transfer?

What does all this mean? It means that more organic farmers would have more money available to maintain their farms, purchase more land, diversify their product lines, and save for retirement.

It means farmers will finally have a choice in choosing their own doctors for a change. It means that as a small farmer you won’t have to take on that second job in the city just because it provides health care benefits.

It means that your coverage will continue if you decide to get out of farming. It means that there no longer will be any procedural barriers from accessing care. It means that your hired hand will have the same coverage as you.

It means that you can be a volunteer fire fighter without having to worry about coverage. It means the organic farmer will practice what he likes best without worrying about losing the farm to an illness or an accident.

Finally, it means the organic carrot will reclaim our sovereignty over the intrusive free-market spider. I consider the organic carrot a sign of hope, a promise that our quality of life will be improving. It will take time, but I have hope

(Source USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, “Farms and land in Farms 2002,” Feb. 2003, at 1.)

Tim Eyman's record full of failures

In the wake of yesterday's court victory over Initiative 747, we decided to take a look back at history and see how this development affects Tim Eyman's lengthy record. It turns out that Eyman's record includes almost no successes (despite his outlandish claims) but is instead filled with failures and defeats chalked up over the last eight years or so.

Now, we could have included in this survey the dozens upon dozens of failed initiatives that Tim has filed but never actually attempted to qualify for the ballot, but we decided to be generous and only include the initiatives that Tim has actually put money and resources into.

We also could have thrown in last year's failed I-912, which Tim backed and strongly endorsed, but we generously left that out as well.

The criteria for determining whether an initiative was a success was as follows:
  1. Did the initiative pass, take effect, and survive any legal challenges?
  2. Did the initiative accomplish the main intent stated by Tim Eyman?
So, two very simple, straightforward requirements made up the litmus test. And based on that test, here is the chart showing Eyman's record:

Tim Eyman's Record

You're welcome to use this image for yourself (so long as you note NPI as the source) but please download and re-upload it to your own server if you're going to use it on your own site.

Alternatively, we have included all this information as a PDF, available here.


The information in the chart speaks for itself. All except for Initiative 900 last year, and Initiative 776 in 2002, Tim Eyman's ballot measures have been invalidated by a court, failed to qualify for the ballot, or been defeated by voters.

We won't dispute that Initiative 900 was successful. Though it was unnecessary and poorly written, it hasn't inflcted serious damage on state government, mostly because State Auditor Brian Sonntag has been using the powers given to him by I-900 wisely. (Obviously we have no idea if the next auditor will be so trustworthy; that's an issue that will require future attention).

This brings us to Initiative 776. Why is it classified as a failure?

The answer is that while Initiative 776 did successfully repeal local motor vehicle excise taxes in four of Washington State's thirty nine counties, it failed to accomplish its main goal: thwarting Sound Transit's Central Link light rail project.

If you look back to news articles from 2002, you'll see Tim Eyman claiming that I-776 was meant to be a "revote on light rail". Eyman made it very clear that the main intent of I-776 was to drain revenue from Sound Transit and force the agency to shut down plans to build Central Link.

Though I-776 narrowly passed and narrowly survived a legal challenge, it failed to stop Sound Transit from moving ahead with Central Link. Light rail in Seattle has now been under construction for several years and is slated to be operational in 2009. I-776 has simply not accomplished its main purpose, and is thus a failure.

So Tim Eyman's record of success is 1 for 11 over the past eight years. That's a pretty dismal record. It certainly suggests that Tim Eyman is a paper tiger.

Given that Tim Eyman is a creature of the media, it's no surprise that Tim Eyman's actual record doesn't match the public perception that many Washingtonians have of him. Reporters frequently call him an "initiative guru" or an "initiative king", which only fuels this mistaken perception.

The press corps and regional opinionmakers need to understand that Tim Eyman is not just a salesman or a liar, but a failure. You get to this conclusion by analyzing the facts, not listening to Tim's spin.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Webb wins in Virginia

More good news coming off of the heels of Jon Tester's victory in the Montana primary last week:
James Webb, a former Navy secretary during the Reagan administration, won a rough Democratic primary fight in Virginia on Tuesday for the right to challenge Republican Sen. George Allen in November.

Webb, a former Republican who switched parties over his opposition to the Iraq war, defeated Democratic lobbyist Harris Miller after winning the support of several influential Washington Democrats.
What do D.C. political observers think about that? Here's Larry Sabato's take:
"Allen fears Webb. And he ought to," Sabato said. "Webb has some conservative positions and a conservative background in some ways, but he is staunchly anti-Iraq war. He's got military and intellectual credentials that make George Allen wilt."
James Webb will be a very serious challenger to the incumbent Republican Senator (George Allen) this November. It's good to see the best candidate is going forward to represent the Democrats.

Chalk up another victory for the netroots.

Cantwell launches new website

We are pleased to announce to our readers that Maria Cantwell's campaign team has launched a brand new virtual presence at cantwell.com, complete with a dazzling array of resources and tools for activists to take advantage of.

The site even has a blog, and badges you can put on your own website. You can also plan parties or events or send a letter to the editor.

"We're reaching out to every voter in the state, mobilizing Washingtonians behind Maria Cantwell's record of fighting for Northwest values and standing up to special interests," says Matt Butler, campaign manager for Cantwell 2006.

"There's tremendous support for Maria Cantwell all over Washington state, and the new tools on our website will help tap into that grassroots enthusiasm and maximize our volunteer efforts."

BREAKING: I-747 voided by court

NPI has received word that Tim Eyman's Initiative 747, passed by Washingtin State voters in 2001, has been struck down in its entirety by King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts.

I-747 capped state and local property tax increases at 1 percent per year. It came on the heels of Initiative 722, passed by Washington State voters in 2000 and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Whitman County and several nonprofits recently sued to have Initiative 747 declared unconstitutional. They argued that I-747's ballot title failed to accurately portray its subject, and the initiative itself did not properly describe the part of RCW (the Revised Code of Washington) it was amending.

An excerpt from Roberts' decision:
When I-747 went to the voters on November 6, 2001, the voters were incorrectly led to believe they were voting to amend I-722. They were incorrectly led to believe they were voting on a change in the tax increase cap from two percent to one percent. Instead, they were voting on a change from six percent to one percent. The voters were misled as to the nature and content of the law to be amended, and the effect of the amendment upon it. The constitution forbids this.

When the voters approve an initiative measure, they exercise their power just as the Legislature does when enacting a statute. Amalgamated Transit Union, 142 Wn.2d at 204 (citations omitted). Both the legislature and the people acting in their legislative capacity must act consistent with the constitution. Id. Any law is presumed constitutional unless its unconstitutionality appears “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Tunstall v. Bergeson, 141 Wn.2d 201, 220 (2000); City of Bellevue v. Miller, 85 Wn.2d 539, 543-44 (1975); Brower v. State, 137 Wn.2d 44 (1998) (a statute enacted through the initiative process to be treated to the same presumption of constitutionality as one passed by the legislature). There can be no doubt that in this case, I-747 violates the constitution.
What this means is that I-747 is completely invalidated, and thus no longer in effect.

Knoll Lowney, who represented the plaintffs suing to invalidate I-747, said in a news relase: "The Court’s decision is a critical victory for our public school system. The court today confirmed that Eyman made false promises in pushing Initiative 747. He talked about giving taxpayers more rights, but really was stealing money from our schools, fire districts, and hospitals."

The decision and its appendices are available from Permanent Defense.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, who defended Initiative 747 (the state always defends voter approved initiatives) will doubtless appeal this decision. After all, McKenna helped write Initiative 747! But reading through Roberts' opinion, the reasoning seems pretty sound, and hopefully it will not be overturned on appeal. It's likely this is now headed to the state Supreme Court, where the other author of I-747 - Jim Johnson - sits as a justice.

We expect Johnson to recuse himself from the case.

This is a victory, to be sure. But remember that I-776 was also struck down in King County Superior Court a few years ago and later restored by the State Supreme Court in a divided decision.

Again, this is good news, but it's too early to celebrate the death of I-747.

UPDATE, 3:40 PM: The Seattle P-I has the story up on their website. Here's the last paragraph of the article:
With the failure of Referendum 65, only two of the last six ballot measures sponsored by him [Eyman] have reached the ballot. Voters approved only one of the two, last year's Initiative 900. It empowered the state auditor to conduct performance audits of state and local government agencies, but the Legislature had already passed a similar law.
It's absolutely wonderful to see the press is picking up on the point we've been making repeatedly for months: Tim Eyman is not just a liar, but a failure.

Right Wing Initiatives Still A Threat

It's tempting for Evergreen State progressive activists to spend a lot of time and pixels focusing on major high profile races for elected office - like Maria Cantwell's U.S. Senate race, or Darcy Burner's U.S. House race.

While there's no doubt those races are important, we can't forget that our state is still threatened by several major right wing initiatives which have the potential to do tremendous damage to our communities.

Despite the failure of Referendum 65 last week (which actually wasn't an initiative) there are three other right wing ballot measures with active campaigns behind them, vying to get on the ballot. These three initiatives are:
I-917 - Guts needed transportation funding
I-920 - Eliminates money for public schools
I-933 - Creates loopholes for wealthy developers
Any of them could make the ballot. In fact, all of them could make the ballot.

You may remember that Initiative 917 is Tim Eyman's other ballot measure. A week ago, Eyman appeared in Olympia in a Darth Vader costume with several boxes of what he said were I-917 petitions (which he didn't turn in to the Secretary of State).
Since Eyman hasn't turned in signatures yet, it's likely the case that he doesn't have enough. In a recent letter (mailed to supporters last Monday), Eyman claimed he only had 142,000 signatures. That's about half of what he needs to get on the ballot.

If that number is true (and we have no idea whether it is or not, since Tim Eyman cannot be trusted to tell the truth) then Eyman has a lot of ground to cover with less than a month to go until the deadline.

But expect that Eyman will make it. His wealthy backer, Michael Dunmire, gave him another $75,000 last month, according to PDC filings, for an aggregate total of $307,000 to Eyman's I-917 committee.

Eyman also gave almost $50,000 last month to his friend, Roy Ruffino, to finance a force of paid signature gatherers to collect signatures for Initiative 917. That's not a surprise, of course - Eyman and Ruffino have been working together for years.

But more worrisome is that the I-920 campaign, led by Dennis Falk, is now doing the same thing. The I-920 campaign gave a whopping total of $90,000 to Ruffino's Citizen Solutions last month to hire paid signature gatherers for I-920.

This explains the recent surge of reports Permanent Defense has been getting from activists who tell us that they were asked to sign a petition for I-920 (which would repeal the estate tax, a major source of funding for public education).

So where's the money coming from? Who's bankrolling I-920?

It seems the I-920 campaign has found its own sugar daddy: developer Martin Selig. Selig has contributed over $100,000 to the campaign in the last thirty days. On May 12th, he donated $20,000 to the campaign; on May 22nd, he donated $30,000. On May 30th he donated $40,000. On June 2nd he donated another $30,000, and a week later, he donated another $30,000. And just last Saturday - three days ago - he donated another $10,000, bringing his aggregate total to $167,500.

Neil Modie wrote a good article on I-920 last Friday - which I pointed out while I was in Las Vegas (Repeal of estate tax has wealthy backers). In the article, Modie notes that Selig and John Nordstrom (of the Nordstrom family) have essentially served as Michael Dunmires for Dennis Falk and his cronies:
Between them, the two have contributed more than two-thirds of the money raised so far by the Committee to Abolish the Washington State Estate Tax, according to its most recent campaign finance report.
But it appears that Selig is the one who's responsible for making the recently launched paid signature drive possible. If Selig keeps making donations - and it seems he will - there's a very good chance we'll be seeing I-920 on the ballot this fall. That's not good news, of course, but we ought to be prepared for the possibility.

There's one more right wing initiative that could and probably will make the ballot this year - and that's Initiative 933, which creates loopholes for wealthy developers.

Like I-917 and I-920, I-933 also has a sugar daddy: the out of state "Americans for Limited Government" group, which in the last thirty days has donated $150,000. The most recent contribution of $50,000 was made a week ago.

Most of the rest of the funding for I-933 comes from the Washington State Farm Bureau, which is sponsoring the initiative.

What's the Farm Bureau spending all this money on? A paid signature drive, of course. Guess who they hired to run it?

The answer is none other than Roy Ruffino's Citizen Solutions. In the last month, the Farm Bureau has doled out $85,000 to Ruffino's group (in three payments) for the I-933 signature drive.

So Ruffino is doing the signature gathering for not just one right wing initiative, but ALL of them. If you encounter a petitioner collecting signatures for I-917, I-920, or I-933, there's a good chance the person is working for Ruffino and subsequently being compensated with Dunmire, Selig, or ALG money.

All of the figures I used in the above paragraphs are coming from very recent PDC reports - some filed just yesterday. The numbers demonstrate that we may unfortunately end up with a troika of major right wing initiatives that we need to defeat in November. And each poses a serious threat.

These signature drives would not be possible without the support of multimillionaires and special interests, proving our point that the initiative process has indeed been hijacked.

There is now less than a month to go before the deadline to turn in initiative petitions. During these last few weeks, it's absolutely critical that you report right wing signature gathering activity if you observe it.

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 our sustainable future from being destroyed. Thanks to everyone who adds a button to their site or uses the reporting system for their help.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Prediction Tuesday - Play Along!

Washington's Office of Forecast Council released a preliminary June economic forecast package addressed to the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors. It includes a fun sheet for them to fill out, and thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can play along. Details further down in this post.

Strange and wonderful variations from my thinking are projected into this forecast, many apparently by Global Insight, the Forecast Council's macroeconomic consultant.
  • Oil prices are expected to decline from 2006 through 2009
  • Inflation (viewed through the CPI) is supposed to drop, from 3.2 percent in 2006 to half that in the next three years.
  • Unemployment is predicted to stay low, at under 5.0 percent over the next three years.
Other notes of interest include:
  • "During the first four months of 2006, core inflation in Seattle shot up at an annual rate of 6.0 percent, twice the 3.0 percent US rate."
  • Housing permits fell 10,200 in Washington, about 20 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005 to the first quarter of 2006.
  • Overall Washington construction employment will stay positive.
Oil prices declining is not something anybody ought to be predicting. Not only is the international situation, ah, unsettled, but demand is increasing for imports and will be for the indefinite future, unless we get a mega-project in alternatives going. Beyond this, the decline in the dollar means upward price pressure on those imports as measured in dollars. And if you think domestic oil producers are going to ignore that fact, you need a crash course in predatory corporate behavior.

I was not aware, until I saw this material, that anybody thought inflation was going to go away. As I posted just a few days ago, even the Wall Street Journal has predicted "Get Used to It: Inflation is Here to Stay."

Interest rates are supposed to stay up. Where is the decline in inflation going to come from?

But let's play the game. Here is the form that members the Council of Economic Advisors were given to fill out so as to "gauge the reasonableness of the preliminary economic forecast [and to serve] as the basis of an alternative economic and revenue forecast." (A bigger version is the back page of the first link above.)

Here's how to enter. In the thread for this post, enter whatever name you want to collect the prize (it will be a virtual prize), and then each category you want to enter, followed by the five numbers, each separated by a comma.

Here's a sample:
US
Real GDP 2.5, 2.5. 0.0, 3.0, 3.5
IPD 4.0, 4.5, 4.5, 5.0, 4.5
Mortgage Rate 6.5, 6.6, 6.8, 7.0, 7.2
Oil Price 71.0, 72.0, 76.0, 80.0, 85.0

Probability: 90%

WA
Real PI 2.6, 4.0, 3.0, 2.0, 2.0
Wage & cet. 2.6, 2.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5
Mfg 3.5, 3.5, 1.5, 4.0, 4.0
Const. Emp 6.0, 6.0 , -2.0, -2.0, -2.0
Permits 48.0, 45.0, 40.0, 40.0, 45.0
Avg. Wage 2.5, 2.5, 2.0, 1.5, 2.5
Please notice the column headings. The first is 2006:Q2, the quarter just past. The second is the current year.

We're closing this round on Sunday. For more tables, check out the Council's web site. If you don't want to do them all, pick and choose, you can still win! Winners will be notified and/or congratulated at each step (depending on whether they leave a contact address).

Come on. I bet we all do well against the house.

What is good for GM is bad for America

In the mid-1950s, GM executive Charles Wilson was up for confirmation as Secretary of Defense for Dwight Eisenhower. In this setting he issued one of the more famous tenets of corporatism. "What's good for America is good for GM, and vice versa."

It caused an uproar then, but the full fallacy has only become clear over time, as the tragedy of gas guzzlers, corporate infiltration of the government and global climate change comes clear. GM has spent its energy manipulating its industry and the political process and public demand, rather than identifying a need and filling it.

Early on GM was implicated, and actually found guilty in a courtroom, of systematically purchasing and then closing the track of streetcar lines in several US cities. That "light rail" capacity today would be worth billions.

After the War the company concentrated on its marketing and was the prime sponsor of the Car Culture. "See the USA in your Chevrolet. America is asking you to call." Under Eisenhower and Wilson and GM Board member Lucius D. Clay, the 41,000-mile "National System of Defense and Interstate Highways" came into being. Yes, the Interstate Highway System was enacted as a defense measure. Some economists at the time opposed it on the grounds it was designed to compete directly with the rail system. As it did.

GM has never shied from using its influence directly and indirectly to combat increased vehicle mileage (CAFE) standards, championing at every turn the gas guzzler. It's response to global warming was to buy and promote the Hummer. Now the company is failing. The vehicles the company has on the market are below par and vulnerable to high-priced fuel. Its debt is in the junk bond class.

When they come calling for a bailout, the federal response should be, You brought this on yourself. We will be cleaning up your mess for decades, environmentally and industrially. We cannot afford any more "good" for General Motors.

Relive the Pacific Northwest CTG Tour

Remember last April when Markos and Jerome came to Seattle to promote their new book, Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People Powered Politics?

During their two days here in Puget Sound, they made appearances at the Labor Temple, Marymoor Park, 710 KIRO, and - Microsoft.

Well, Microsoft Research has put up a fifteen minute clip of their talk on the Research Channel website. So if you missed the tour, or just want to relive it, you can stream the clip here (Windows Media Player is required, of course - it's Microsoft). Click the orange Launch Presentation link to begin streaming.

We're very appreciative that Markos and Jerome made the Pacific Northwest a big part of their tour, and we hope they'll come back to our region soon.

Locke rushes to the front of the parade

Former governor Gary Locke is showing some real appetite for public service. He's taken the transportation bull by the horns and is organizing a pre-election "aggressive public education effort ... before handing matters off to the actual ballot campaign." This is re the Fall 2007 package of Puget Sound projects.

Sitting here in the North End of Tacoma, I have a great view of our transportation dollars at work. And I have discovered a key that will unlock a voting bloc long opposed to transportation funding. But before I reveal that key, I should warn you, there are a few cautionary notes at the end, about the path Locke has set out upon and overall transportation strategy.

At the intersection of I-5 and US 16 a "Nickel" project is transforming one of the worst (if not the worst) interchanges in the state into a working piece of infrastructure -- in full view of 120,000 motorists a day. It's a poster project for DOT. Then, only a few miles down the road, a brand new span is crossing the Tacoma Narrows onto the Key Peninsula. It is from across that new bridge, to open in the fall, that the key to the election can be seen, standing and waving.

Property values.

They are skyrocketing, as speculation moves in even before the bridge deck arrives from South Korea. Mind you, neither a new 520 bridge, nor increased rail, nor a solution to the Alaskan Way viaduct problem will inflate already inflated home and property values but transportationn improvements like those may be the only way to keep them from crumbling.

We have predicted here that the peak of the housing boom (or bubble) has arrived, and a long, perhaps slow, steady decline in home values will begin this year. That drop in values will begin in the suburbs, particularly in those not well served by transit and roads, in the house plantations.

If Locke and his cronies can point to Gig Harbor as an object lesson, he can appeal to the self-interest of the most recalcitrant group of voters: the anti-tax property owners in the exurban and rural areas.

Transportation improvements can keep home values up. [Dropping values will not mean dropping taxes, please note. The revenue from property taxes on existing construction is relatively constant. Dropping values only mean the homeowner is on the hook for any equity overhang, plus if this is his/her "retirement account," he/she may be doomed to watch it shrink as the need for it draws nearer.]

The message to property owners: Can you afford NOT to increase transit and transportation access?

So much for the key to victory. Now for the cautionary notes:
  • Locke has assembled a team, including John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur, who have no credentials in public service. It reminds me of Locke recruiting Indian-fighter Slade Gorton to lead his last transportation campaign to defeat.
  • Second, the opening salvo in this current effort came in the form of an e-mail to deep pockets and corporate leaders. Elitism does not sell well to conservatives, and progressives distrust corporate interests. A message of "We know best" and "It's for your own good" will just cause voters to change the channel.
  • Third, heavy investment in new roads is no good. Replacing deteriorating or outdated structures, sure. Maintain current surfaces, yes. But the roads/cars/gasoline technology has to change. Now it is time for rail/transit/alternatives.
  • And lastly (and I know I'm preaching to an empty choir loft), transportation needs to be funded by gas taxes, not sales taxes. What is the rationale for allowing Big Oil to reap Big Profit while we dump more burden onto the sales tax? High prices are changing the American passenger car fleet. High prices are driving demand for alternatives. The problem with price is not level, but who gets the revenue.
A progressive tax on gasoline above $2 per gallon should be immediately instituted. It doesn't really matter where the money goes. At the federal level, it could go right into lower withholding rates and back into the pockets of Americans. (No, this is not a repeat of the $100 buy-off.)

At the state level, the absurd reality is that higher prices mean lower state revenues from the gas tax. Why? Because it is levied on a per gallon basis. When prices go up, consumption goes down. Lower consumption means lower revenue. I have argued at length for the retail sales tax to be applied to gasoline. (I think that's when the choir left.) But to subsidize it like food and drugs is patently absurd.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

YearlyKos Reflections and Extra

I'm now back in Redmond, thankfully, where there's much less advertising, no slot machines, and vehicles don't become so hot that you can't touch anything in them (seatbelts, the glove compartment, even the steering wheel).

I have to admit that I enjoyed my time in Las Vegas. But I wouldn't want to live there. I like living here. Specifically, I like living here in the Puget Sound region, in Washington State.

It's always been home to me - and it always will be.

YearlyKos is over, but it was very exciting while it lasted. It was an amazing experience. Honestly, I think the trip was worth it just to meet people. But on top of that, we had great panel discussions, speeches from Democratic luminaries, free goodies, and lots of attention from the traditional media.

I promised another photo montage when I got back, and here it is. This includes pictures from Saturday, the third day of YearlyKos. I'd do a montage for today, too, but there wasn't that much to take pictures of. Plus I was busy packing and didn't have much spare time.

Photo subjects include The Riv, the sound/DJ tables, George Lakoff, Kossacks, Howard Dean, Bush impersonator James Adomian - and of course, Markos.

YearlyKos Photo Montage

Markos is in the center of this collection, with his restless son Aristotle perched on his shoulders.

Aristotle looks remarkably like I did when I was little, especially his light hair, which his mother (Elisa, Markos' wife) assured me would get darker, as mine has.

A few last thoughts: If you didn't see Markos on Meet the Press this morning, you really need to watch it. He was exceptional - didn't fall for any of Russert's tricks or "gotchas".

Teacherken has a nice reaction to YearlyKos here.

Also, Bloomberg has an interesting piece here from Roger Simon, which is somewhat flawed (for instance, I always cringe when I see the phrase "Internet web log"). But here's the major error Simon made:
The event, called the YearlyKos, was organized by Markos Moulitsas, a self-described Democratic activist and founder of the Daily Kos Web site.
That's wrong. YearlyKos was not organzed by Markos. It was organized by Gina Cooper, who simply got Markos' blessing to use his name as the brand for the convention. She and hundreds of volunteers put the event together. I emphasize the word "volunteer" because it wasn't a moneymaking venture.

I have tremendous respect for that kind of dedication, because I'm a volunteer myself - as is everyone at NPI.

Simon should have done a better job with his research. It doesn't sound like he was even at YearlyKos. If he was, that's embarrassing.

Live from Las Vegas: YearlyKos coming to an end

Well, it's Sunday morning, and YearlyKos is just about over. We're having a morning brunch and one last panel to reflect back on what we learned, what we accomplished, and what we need to do once we get home.

Last night was truly awesome - it seems just about everybody was impressed with Harry Reid's speech last night. I know I certainly had a good time talking to other Kossacks afterward. I met activists from all across the country - Montana, New York, Florida, North Carolina.

YearlyKos has been getting quite a bit of press.
And here's something amazing for you: Markos' programmer, who goes by the username ct on Kos, had his residence destroyed by a truck which plowed through last night. He was fortunately not home at the time (since he was in Las Vegas) so he and his family were unhurt. He diaries what happened here.

Here's a picture I snapped of Harry Reid as he left the stage after his keynote address. I'll have another photo montage for you, hopefully, before the day is over.

Senator Reid at YearlyKos

One thing I truly enjoyed about YearlyKos that made this gathering very different from the state convention last weekend is that the atmosphere was just more relaxing. No tension over platforms, resolutions, or Maria Cantwell.

More important than anything else, perhaps, was that this conference we had - this convention - allowed us all to inspire each other, to learn from each other, and energize each other. By strengthening the bonds of community, I believe we have taken ourselves to new heights. There's no limit to what we accomplish.

We will have another YearlyKos next year - I am certain of it. And you can bet that next year's will be even bigger and better than this gathering.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Live from Las Vegas: Give 'em hell, Harry!

We've just heard from YearlyKos organizer Gina Cooper, who has taken the time to thank everyone who made this amazing convention possible. We also took a look back at the last three days in pictures - looking at the faces of YearlyKos, and heard from another one of the great Laughing Liberally comedians.

We are about to hear from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Here are his remarks, as prepared for delivery - feel free to follow along.
Markos and Jerome begin their book with a quote from Ghandi:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

As a former boxer, I know a fighter -- and a winner -- when I see one, and as Senate Democratic Leader, I'm glad there are so many of you fighting on our side. Whether it's spreading the truth or fighting for what's right, you have made a tremendous difference for our country and the Democratic Party.

It was you who was quick to stand against the Swift Boat Smear of John Kerry.

It was you who defended Valarie Plame and Joe Wilson against Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

It was you who helped Democrats win key victories in Social Security and the Nuclear Option.

And it is you -- today -- who are making sure the truth is heard.

Tonight, I'd like to ask you to keep up the fight.

The Internet has changed the way we live, but one of the things that has impressed me the most is how it has given Bloggers like you the power to spread information.

In fact, I believe with the Internet and Blogs we are witnessing a revolution in communications -- on par with the advent of the printing press in the 15th Century.

The printing press wrestled control of information away from a powerful few -- namely Kings and the Church. And it is the same with the Internet today.

Prior to the explosion of Blogs, our national debate was controlled by a handful of media conglomerates. Like the Kings and the Church of old, these powerful entities controlled what news and information made it into the public square.

But not anymore. Not with the Internet.

To get heard today, you don't need money. Just good ideas. For the price of a computer and high-speed Internet, you can have a Printing Press, TV Studio and Radio Tower in one.

The Internet has put the power of information in our hands, and now it's time we use it.

In the coming months, America faces a great choice. And for such a great choice, the question we must answer is simple.

Do we -- as a country -- unite and change direction towards a better future for us all, or do we continue in the wrong direction of the last six years, a direction that has resulted in three dollar gas, a mess in Iraq, a crisis in health care, and incompetence in government?

You and I have an answer to that question.

Unfortunately, Republicans do too.

Washington Republicans appear to have no interest in changing direction, or taking on the issues before us. Their only goal is to stay in power -- even if it jeopardizes the future for us all.

You see, Bush Republicans know what we all know. And that's if Americans focus on real issues in this country, Republicans are in trouble. So instead of finding ways to fix health care or make progress on energy, they plan to spend the coming months stoking the fears that divide us, and distracting us from the problems at hand.

Look at the Senate, where the Republican agenda consists of Red Herrings like flag burning, the Estate Tax, and Gay Marriage.

It's the same, old, divisive playbook they always use -- only this time, it doesn't take into account the new team competing against them on the field.

Of course, when Republicans aren't busy dividing the country and playing to our fears, they're busy rubber-stamping the agenda of George W. Bush.

I read an article in the Boston Globe awhile back. It was filled with some astounding facts.

When President Clinton was in office, the Republican Congress required his administration to spend 140 hours testifying about the Christmas cards it sent.

140 hours!

During the Clinton years, the House Government Reforms Committee issued 1,052 subpoenas to the administration and DNC.

1,052 subpoenas!

Now, how many hours do you think they logged regarding Abu Ghraib?

12.

How many hours do you think they've asked President Bush to spend justifying his actions in Iraq?

Zero.

The facts don't lie, and neither do the results.

Because Congressional Republicans rubber-stamped the Bush energy policy that only Exxon-Mobil loves, Big Oil has accumulated billions in profits while families have paid an Arm, Leg and Their First Born at the pump.

Because Congressional Republicans rubber-stamped the handpicked judges of the Bush radical right, the federal Bench is filled with judges who are turning back the clock on equal rights and turning the constitution on its head.

And because Republicans have rubber-stamped this President every step of the way, the rights of Americans have been trampled at home and our troops have been put at risk in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Congressional Republicans have abandoned their obligation to our troops.

No real investigations into why they didn't have body armor.

No real investigations into why they didn't have a plan to win the peace.

And no real investigation into the manipulation of pre-war intelligence which is why Democrats shut the Senate down.

I'm proud of the actions we took last November. Up until that point, Republicans had done next to nothing to investigate the White House and its manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to war.

So, with the world watching, we embarrassed them into action, and I closed the Senate.

Since then, the Intelligence Committee and its Chairman, Pat Roberts of Kansas, have begun to inch in the right direction, but even today, they're dragging their feet.

Back in November, we were promised a comprehensive, five part report on pre-war intelligence, and from what I understand, we'll soon get three of them: one dealing with Ahmed Chalabi, one dealing with the accuracy of intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, and one dealing with our predictions about post-War Iraq.

Now, I'm interested in the results of those findings, but come on, we need this Committee to get on with its work!

Anyone who watches CNN knows that Chalabi was wrong, our intelligence about WMDs was wrong, and the Administration ignored predictions about post-War Iraq.

What we need to know -- and still don't know today -- is whether the White House intentionally cherrypicked and politicized intelligence to sell the war. I think we know where the evidence points.

But tonight, let me be clear: I'm not pushing for these answers because I am a Democrat, and I'm not singling out Chairman Roberts because he is a Republican.

All of us -- as Americans -- need to know if we were intentionally misled to war in Iraq, so we can make sure it never happens again.

There have been too many lives lost -- 39 in Nevada -- and too much money spent for us to get it wrong again.

We face many threats -- threats that have grown worse -- because this administration took its eye off the ball. We must address these threats, but we must not be manipulated into acting for ideological or political gain.

Next week, I will introduce new legislation that will require intelligence community professionals to monitor and back-up in writing every word administration officials utter about Iran.

Every thing they say will have to be supported by facts. I have no doubt the White House won't like this requirement, but after what they did in Iraq, the American people deserve nothing less.

Democrats will continue to hold the President's feet to the fire, but what we really need -- if we're going remove the rubber-stamp from Washington -- is the help of everyone here.

Tonight I have a game plan for all of us, and it requires three things.

First, call Republicans on their silly, political games.

We know Republicans are going to attack with everything they have. They do it every year. But this time, it's going to be different.

Because of you, no attack will go unanswered.

Because of you, no lie will avoid the truth.

And because of you, no distortion will become a distraction to Democrats.

Under my watch -- and with your power -- what happened in 2004 will never happen again.

When Republicans start their attack machine, we'll shut it down with the facts.

Second, make it clear where Democrats stand.

There's an urban myth in Washington that Democrats don't stand for anything. Like all urban myths, it couldn't be further from the truth.

This summer, we need you to break it.

Republicans are in the majority. They set the national agenda.

We don't have a bully-pulpit, but we do have you. We need you to be our megaphone.

Democrats may be the minority in Congress, but we speak for the majority of Americans.

We believe in honest leadership, and cleaning up the corruption of Jack Abramoff and waste of Halliburton.

We believe in keeping America safe and secure, and have a tough AND smart plan for REAL security, not trumped up threats.

We believe in energy independence by the year 2020, so we can protect consumers at the pump and reduce the causes of global warming by tapping into the renewable energies like we have in Nevada.

We believe in stem cell research, an affordable college education, fixing Medicare Part D.

And we believe Iraq is THIS President's war, and it's time for him -- not the president who follows, as President Bush has suggested -- to find a way to turn Iraq over to Iraqis, so our troops can begin to come home and America can refocus its attention on destroying Al Qaeda and addressing the threats that have grown on the Bush Administration's watch.

With Zarqawi gone and the cabinet filled, we need more than platitudes next week when the President convenes a conference with Iraq's leaders and his War Cabinet. He must present a concrete plan -- a plan for Iraqis to take control of their own security.

Last year, the United States Congress on a bipartisan basis passed legislation demanding President Bush make 2006 the year of significant transition in Iraq. We are approaching the mid-point of 2006, but instead of transitioning out, President Bush has sent more troops in to handle the surge in violence.

Our troops and the American people have been exceedingly patient as mileposts in Iraq have passed without progress. The President is asking too much if he expects us to do it again.

Finally tonight, I ask you to never give up, not even for a day.

If we're going to change the direction of our country, it requires the hard work of us all.

I've talked tonight about the power you have online, but each of use has power off-line as well.

In the coming months, get out in your communities, talk to your neighbors, and make sure everyone recognizes that together, we can take America in a new direction.

Together, we can reject the agenda of Distract, Distort and Divide, and embrace a new direction for us all.

We know what's coming.

We know our game plan.

Now, let's get out there and get to work.

Thank you.
I'll post additional observations after the conclusion of the speech.

Live from Las Vegas: Evening Keynote About to Begin

I'm back at the Riv after relaxing for a few hours at the Trendwest resort I'm staying at. Got a chance to swim (and float) in the pool, get a bite to eat, and watch part of a baseball game on TV. Earlier, before I took a break, I was watching the Net Neutrality panel, which ended up being an intriguing discussion. I'm now waiting, as everyone else is, for the evening keynote to begin.

Word is that tonight's speech is going to be a real gem. We're going to be hearing, of course, from the Democratic Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, but that's not all that's on the schedule. I'm off now to find my seat in the Royale Pavilion.

I'll try and post another update shortly.

Live from Las Vegas: Lunch with Gov. Warner

After this morning's infrastructure panel, I decided to go to Lakoff's panel on framing (Whose Freedom? What Progressives and Conservatives Mean By "Freedom" and "Liberty" and Why It Matters For Elections).

Lakoff did a really good job of explaining what conservatives believe "freedom" is. For example, religious liberty to conservatives means having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, or having "In God We Trust" engraved on our coins. The presentation was essentially a summary of Lakoff's new book, Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea.

Today's sessions are shorter than yesterday's; each is only an hour in length. After the Lakoff workshop, I headed up to the press room to put the photo montage in the last post together, and to see what's happening on Pacific Northwest Portal.

I went back to the Royale Pavilion for lunch, joining most other convention attendees. Upon entering I noticed that just about every chair in the room had been draped with a black T-shirt from Mark Warner's Forward Together PAC. He really has gone all out to make his presence known at YearlyKos.

I'd never heard Warner speak before, and though I've heard the "we have to transcend partisanship" speech a million times before, Warner did come across as genuine. He knows how to present himself. He clearly demonstrated how he stopped bickering in Virgina and got people to work together instead.

Warner touched on all the important issues in his address - from fiscal policy to environmental policy, from foreign policy to Net Neutrality. (He also mentioned broadband access many times.) He talked about innovation, the need for a strong education system and a strong healthcare system.

And he did sound presidential, but if he's going to run for the Democratic nomination, he's going to need to talk more about the whole country and not just Virginia. We need a fifty state nominee, not a one state nominee.

Of course, this is 2006, and it's early. Warner's a smart guy. He understands the Internet revolution and he understands how important we are. That's why he made YearlyKos such a huge priority - putting on a big gala reception, giving all convention attendees free goodies, and delivering a speech over lunch today.

After Warner's address we were treated to another hilarious appearance from Bush impersonator James Adomian. Then, we heard from several netroots candidates - Eric Massa, Joe Sestak, and Brian Keeler.

Next are the last series of panel discussions and workshops, and then after that it'll be on to the evening festivities and the end of the last full day of YearlyKos.

Live from Las Vegas: More Photos

As promised earlier, here is another montage of photos from YearlyKos. These photos are all from yesterday, and range from snapshots of panel participants to glimpses of Vegas at night.

YearlyKos Photo Montage

And yes, that image at the bottom (the computer) really is an ice sculpture. Engraved into it were the words "Blogosphere at the Stratosphere". The big image in the middle, to the right, shows Senator Barbara Boxer giving her keynote address.

As I was finishing this post, a reporter from NPR walked up and asked to do an interview with me. He asked if I would write that I was being interviewed in real time as he interviewed me - so, here goes:
I'm currently being interviewed live by NPR at the Royale room where we're about to hear from a superstar panel of netroots candidates.
Turns out the reporter - Luke - is from the Seattle area and went to Nathan Hale High School, which operates my favorite radio station, C 89.5. He guessed I was a Mustang from RHS.

What are the odds?

Live from Las Vegas: Building Infrastructure

I just finished watching the panel on building progressive infrastructure. It was a lively and interesting discussion, focusing on assembling the people, organizations, and tools we'll need to take back our government and our country from the radical right.

A lot of the examples cited by the panelists (Markos, Jerome, Dave from Seeing the Forest, and David Sirota) are, unsurprisingly, recent ventures. Mentioned progressive groups included The Center for American Progress, Air America Radio, Media Matters, Progressive States Network, and others.

Markos, who was on the panel, reminded the audience that "the tools are there to build organically." What he meant, of course, was that the Internet has made it possible to create your own blog, venture, or grassroots political organization.

NPI itself is a such an organization - a volunteer think tank - built not using traditional resources, but mostly with the Internet, and at little to no cost. We're building infrastructure. And we're creating, maintaining, and using online tools for offline organizing.

It was good to listen to a discussion about creating infrastructure - think tanks, progressive media outlets, leadership institutions - because without it, the progressive movement can't win. This is strategic, long term thinking, planning for the future. The more organizations we have in place doing this kind of work - like Wellstone Action and Progressive Majority - the more quickly we'll be able to find our way out of the political wilderness.

Other panels going on at the same time as this one were: Changing Education, Communicating the Progressive Vision, Legal Roundtable, Environment Roundtable, and Engaged Television.

Live from Las Vegas: Dean Addresses YearlyKos

Day Three has begun here in Las Vegas, and what better way to kick off the festivities than with a morning keynote address from Governor Howard Dean, the great DNC Chairman?

Before we heard from Dean, we were treated with an appearance by Bush impersonator James Adomian, who did the State of the Union impression on YouTube last January.

NDN leader Simon Rosenberg followed, introducing Dean to the crowd.

Here's a rush transcript of most of Dean's remarks, courtesy of thereisnospoon.
This is not an individual effort: this is the handoff between the baby boomers and the millennial generation. This is a movement that is not so different from the movement in the 60’s. In the 60’s we fought for a bunch of things, but we lost our way in the 1980’s when the Me Party Took it Away from the We Party. They are the party of big government, of secrecy in government, and of the largest nationa debt in the history of the world.

You are a generation who knows more about the world than we do. You understand that you are citizens of the whole world; we thought we were citizens of the country, and part of the world, but because of the Internet you are citizens of the world who understand that people are people everywhere.

We are now engaged in a community that wants to restore American values. Not of Bush and Cheney’s values, but of the values of all Americans all over America. We aren’t just about beating up on the Right Wing—the president is at 30% in the polls—though they do need reminding.

But the American people want to be united again, and that’s why I think the politics of scapegoating aren’t working anymore. And that’s where you come in.

When I lost the primary in 2004, a lot of young people were disappointed. The advantage of being 50 is that you cdan look backward as well as forward; and I understood that in order to take back America for American values, it’s a daily fight. That’s what the right wing did. They did it for 30 years.

I love the Democratic Party. But this isn’t about the Democratic Party; it’s about the United States of America. And the Democratic Party is merely a vehicle.

But this is a tough fight. Those guys win elections by scapegoating. We won’t do that, because it’s not in the interests of America. And that’s the difference between us: they will put their interests before the interests of the United States of America, and we will not do that. HUGE APPLAUSE

This is the new town meeting—except this is the town meeting where everyone gets to speak, not just the people that the President wants to let in. And we have an entire department at the DNC who sits there reading you and what you have to say. This is how to take back America—working to support the people who work everyday to take back this country: by encouraging community participation—and by throwing out the trolls on your blogs who aren’t helping.

This movement is independent and self-starting. Simon Rosenberg’s organization is doing Spanish-language ads during the world cup. Pretty smart! If you trust people in their own neighborhoods to do the right thing, it generally works out, instead of having the supposed moral high ground in Washington do it all for them.

We need your help. There is more to this than just doing what you all do. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Democracy Bonds: sign up at Democrats.org. If we have 30,000 giving us $20 a month, any time some special interest comes out and says that he would like to give us a bunch of money in exchange for a stand on a certain vote, we can say, “We don’t need your money. Look at all of these contributors.”

Most people agree with our issues, and not the Republican issues. If you just poll issues, more people believe that it is immoral to let a child go hungry at night than let two loving people get married. Most people believe that it is immoral to send our troops to a foreign country without telling them why they are there. Most people stand with us on most things.

But there is one more thing we need you to do: run for office. The more decent people there are in office, the harder it is for the sleazebags to be there. Ultimately, if your generation wants to make its mark on politics, voting is not enough; giving money is not enough; you’ve got to get engaged in helping out campaigns and running them yourselves. Become a library trustee. Get involved in your communities.

We want a different America: we want open and honest government back in our country again. We want a strong defense that tells the truth about what we’re doing with them. We want a public school system that works. We want a pension system that isn’t being raided. I want our party to stand for a living wage and a balanced budget.

We can do these things. And we’re not going to be perfect. First of all, thank you for coming to my defense every time a Washington politician said we should do it the old way: you guys are the best. And you know what? The Washington politicians are around: Harry Reid was a middleweight boxer. This guy knows how to fight. He shut down the Senate. Not all those Washington politicians are what you think they are, and you’re going to heard from a good one tonight.

The other thing I want you to do is to keep doing what you’re doing. Most people get their news from the Internet. We’re the REAL free marketeers. And by the way, I don’t think the telephone companies should be preferentially charging to let people in!

It may not always feel like this to you, but you are the vanguard of real change in America. You are the way we eliminate the corporate stranglehold. You are the way that ordinary America can talk back to us. Television changed the process in 1960, and now it’s strangling the process.

The people in this room have the responsibility for leading this revolution. But the perspective I want to leave you with is this: there will be things within the tent that we disagree with. We’re not a healthy movement if we don’t have those disagreement. But healthy movements managed to maintain their effectiveness in spite of disagreements; the unhealthy ones succumbed to personal disagreements and backbiting.

But real reform is here: the people who read your stuff every day and wants real change in America. And the goal is far larger than any egotistical or ideological framework it exists in. And that means that in the middle of our fighting, we put aside our differences and work together. Because block by block, precinct by precinct, we will take American back for the people who built it. Thank you.

QUESTIONS: What can the DNC do to leverage the politicians. When are we going to use our powder, and not keep it dry?

ANSWER: We do have to remember we’re part of a huge team trying to lead America into a better place. You need to keep doing what you’re doing. But there are tactical decisions that need to be made, and they are genuine struggles. What should the plan to get out of Iraq be? Obviously, no one agrees with the President. But there are strategic decisions, and tactical decisions. But know that you have a strong influence; what you write, people in Congress are reading. And I want you to know that.

QUESTION: What can we do to help our people get elected?

ANSWER: We’re interested in long-term. We’re interested in ground game, getting volunteers into campaigns. I think that McCain-Feingold was a good thing, all this considered. But McCain-Feingold is also very strict about what we can discuss openly. We can’t sit and strategize openly about what we’re doing. But we will be on the ground in particular races where we think we have a remote chance.

QUESTION: In your mind, how real is the danger of paperless voting?

ANSWER: Our position is that we should not have black box voting. Optical scan with a paper ballot is the only legitimate form of voting. It is very clear that you cannot trust machines—not even ones with a voter verified paper trail. What you need is a system that we have in Vermont, where you use paper ballot and optical scan, with all the ballots you can count. We have the Democratic Lawyers’ Council, and we fight ID laws that are trying to return us to Jim Crow, we fight against the sort of suppression tactics that Blackwell did in Ohio. These machines cannot be relied on, and the American people know that. We’re going to bring paper trail voting back, just as Governor Bill Richardson did in New Mexico.

QUESTION: I think that all roads lead to publicly financed elections. Is there some way to make this a sexier subject?

ANSWER: It’s not a very sexy subject. We need to get dirty money out of politics—and not just the Tom Delay type dirty money. The truth is that most politicians don’t just take a check and say I’ll vote for you. But it’s also perception: most people believe that politicians do that. The problem is like the voting machines: it’s not just the real problem, it’s also that there’s a reason to suspect. We need public financing of campaigns, and it’s already started in several states in the SouthWest.

UP NEXT: Several panels and workshops this morning, and then we'll break for lunch. Stay with the Official Blog - the fun at YearlyKos continues all day today.

Live from Las Vegas: Out Partying

I apologize for the gap in between updates. I was having a good time partying, and I might have even posted something brief were it not for the fact that my laptop battery needed recharging. But it's good to take a break sometimes anyway.

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day, and today promises to be just as packed with panels, workshops, press conferences, meetings, and .... parties. DNC Chairman Howard Dean is scheduled to address us later this morning. I'm definitely looking forward to that.

Back to earlier this evening. After doing some blogging (my last post) I packed up and joined other progressive Washingtonians heading for the Triple 777 downtown (a really nice, comfortable restaurant with excellent food, lots of widescreen TVs, and WI-FI. It's also a brewery). About 30 of us were there from Washington (including Eli Sanders of The Stranger) congregating for a few hours to talk, eat dinner, and drink (in my case, deliciously refreshing ice water) and get our T-shirts.

We progressives from Washington State are organized: not only are we all quite well connected to each other electronically, but we also took the initiative in setting up offline gatherings before we even got here. And, thanks to switzer, we have a Washington State YearlyKos T-shirt! Bright orange, stylish, and complete with the names and URLs of most of the major progressive blogs in the Evergreen State on the back.

We could have enjoyed each other's company for even longer, but at around 9 or so we all left, most of us heading for the Blogosphere at the Stratosphere party put on by Governor Warner's Forward Together PAC - which spared no expense in putting on a grand event.

It wasn't just in any old room in the building. The party was at the top of the Stratosphere Tower, which at 1,155 ft (350 meters) is the tallest structure in Las Vegas and the second tallest west of the Mississippi River. It's also the tallest observation tower in the United States.

After the elevator ride up, we were greeted by a band, a huge amount of food (mostly appetizers), ice sculptures, and panoramic views. I ran into a lot of people I knew and some I didn't. I had an opportunity to talk to Susan Gardner (better known as SusanG) of DailyKos for a while. Also at the party I found Dean Nielsen of Progressive Majority Washington and Aaron Belenky of the state Young Democrats.

Governor Warner was predictably surrounded by a crowd for the duration of the party but I did manage to say hello to him as he left the hotel. (The elevator ride, by the way - going up or down- is like being on an airplane. )

After spending two to three hours at the Stratosphere we returned to our own hotel, and I sat down to write this post. I'd better stop writing, or I will be up all night long. So I'm off to get some sleep, and I'll be back early in the morning to continue providing live coverage of YearlyKos. I'll also post another photo montage or two tomorrow.

If you're hungry for more YearlyKos coverage, check out Neal and Lynn on Evergreen Politics.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Live from Las Vegas: YearlyKos Media Whirlwind

The number of reporters and traditional media folk here at YearlyKos is staggering. Look around, and you realize that there are cameras and notepads out everywhere. C-SPAN and PoliticsTV are at YearlyKos carrying footage of the proceedings, and it seems most of the major media outlets have representatives here. Even 60 Minutes sent a camera crew.

I was interviewed extensively just a little bit ago by Jerome Armstrong of MyDD (for PoliticsTV, I believe) about NPI, Darcy Burner's race, and my thoughts on YearlyKos. That was a rather fun experience. I was able to say just about everything I wanted to say, and it was a blast to be able to share my perspective. The tail end of my conversation with Jerome was watched by Matt Bai of the New York Times, who I was then introduced to.

I've also seen people from the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Palm Beach Post, and several Las Vegas area media outlets. It was also just announced that Markos is going to be on Meet the Press with Tim Russert this Sunday.

Right wing media, believe it or not, is here as well. FOX's John Gibson is distorting things as usual. And the National Review's Byron York has been catching a lot of flak for his apparent role in outing Armando of Daily Kos.

We Pacific Northwest Kossacks (those of us here at YearlyKos) are having a gathering of our own tonight in Las Vegas to chat and enjoy drinks. (I'll be enjoying ice water, of course). I'll file another report here soon with more news and observations.

Live from Las Vegas: Relive YearlyKos

I'm watching the "Hot Topics" panel discussion right now. We've talked quite a bit about the Lieberman/Lamont race, the national political mood, and the upcoming 2006 midterm elections in general. (It is, of course, the "Hot Topics" panel).

I wanted to mention, though, that you can see the important parts of YearlyKos for yourself on video. While C-SPAN isn't covering everything, PoliticsTV has a number of video clips that are worth watching, if you weren't here - so you can relive YearlyKos for yourself:
Other panels or workshops meeting right now:
  • Moving Beyond the Failure of Conservative Economics - Sterling Newberry, Rep. Brad Miller, Linda Beale, Kathleen Tyson-Quah, Hale Stewart
  • The View from the Ground: Iraq Veterans on the War and Returning Home - Paul Rieckhoff, Perry Jefferies, Robert Acosta, Abbie Pickett
  • Technology in the Labor Movement & Field Integration Presenters: Mike Noonan, John See, Judith Freeman and Chris Kenngott
  • Building a Progressive Media Infrastructure Roundtable hosted by Kim Spencer
    Feminism Roundtable hosted by Elisa Batista
The Hot Topics panel is currently talking about the possibility of a Republican "October Surprise" this fall.

Live from Las Vegas: Totally Meta

Markos is moderating a panel about Daily Kos itself right now (the "Meta Kos" panel). So far this has been one of the best panel discussions yet. Panelists include Chris Bowers, Hunter, SusanG, and McJoan.

SusanG just finished talking about the difficulty of getting readers to follow you over to your own site from Kos itself, and addressed the pros and cons of crossposting.

"I want there to be more sites like Daily Kos," Markos says.

They've opened it up to questions. First one: "How do I navigate the sea of content on Daily Kos?" (Gee, no easy answer for that one.)

This panel is being broadcast right now on C-SPAN 2 - you can watch the stream here, over the Net, or you can watch if you have basic cable.

Other panels going on right now:

  • The Culture of Journalism: Getting a Story Out There - Naomi Seligman, Sam Seder, Adam Green, John Amato, John Aravosis
  • Healthcare- Tom Mattzie, Ezra Klein, Hale Stewart, Jennifer Palmieri
  • Framing Workforce Issues in the 2006 Election: How to talk to voters about economic security. Presenters: Naomi Walker, David Carpio, Tula Connell, Jesse Berney and Chris Kenngott
  • Winning in the States: Skills workshop on Passing the Progressive Agenda. Presenter: Nathan Newman
  • Religion Roundtable hosted by Kety Esquivel
UPDATE: The panel just concluded. We had a lot of people ask questions, some of them very intriguing - most related to site structure, how to find what you're looking for, encouraging lurkers to comment, expanding the Recommended List, rewarding diarists who do good work, and so on.

I saw Markos afterward and asked him about the possibility of doing a "sort by locality" feature where you could sort diaries by region or state. We do this on Pacific Northwest Portal through the Kos diary tracker, and I find it very handy for spotting diaries I myself would otherwise miss. Markos, as I expected, is understandedly loathe to add new buttons or clutter.

The most practical solution we could think of, as far as Daily Kos itself is concerned, was to make better use of the tag system, so people could sort by state (i.e. "Washington") or region (i.e. "Pacific Northwest").

The trick is getting people to put the proper tags on their diaries about local politics. Perhaps, with some encouragement from the frontpagers (or contributing editors, as they like to call themselves) such a system could work. Because I think being able to find diaries from writers in your particular geographical area is cool.

Live from Las Vegas: Senator Barbara Boxer Speaks

Our keynote address over lunch today was given by Senator Barbara Boxer, one of the U.S. Senate's few progressive champions, who spoke to the importance of what we're doing to change the Democratic Party and change our country.

Some key lines from Boxer's speech:
"This convention is a testament to the notion that every single person can make a difference."

"We're facing a White House that is dangerously incompetent."

"If someone says that gay marriage threatens their marriage, then there's something wrong with their marriage." (Addressing Republican arguments that gay marriage threatens traditional families).

"If you really want to do something about marriage, raise the minimum wage!"

"You shouldn't worry about what other people think. Keep on doing what you're doing - it's working." (Addressing what the D.C. establishment thinks of the progressive blogosphere)

"You have awakened a sleeping giant in this country." (On the importance of the Internet).
UP NEXT: More panel discussions, the exibition hall is opening, and a few organizations (i.e. MoveOn) will be hosting meetings for bloggers.

Live from Las Vegas: More Blogging Fun

I'm not the only one providing YearlyKos coverage, or even live convention coverage. Others are chronicling the happenings here as well:
There's obviously other stuff out there I didn't mention or haven't come across. If you have a link you think I should add, please post it in the comment thread.

UPDATE: A couple of other things I wanted to mention today, which don't relate to YearlyKos, but are important: first, the Seattle P-I has a good article by reporter Neil Modie about the growing opposition to Initiative 920, which may or may not make the ballot this year. Second, The Nation has a really good article about Progressive Majority Washington that is a must read. Darryl comments on it here.

Live from Las Vegas: Photo Time

According to the old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a photo montage with a number of pictures capturing some of what happened yesterday, including the evening reception:

YearlyKos Photo Montage

The man in the top right photo, if you can't recognize him, is General Wesley Clark. Most of the other pictures are from the evening reception featuring Tom Tomorrow and Markos Moulitsas.

Live from Las Vegas: CIA Leak Panel

Jane Hamsher, the founder of Firedoglake, has just finished introduced the speakers on the CIA Leak Investigation Panel, which appears to be - thus far - the most well attended panel. It's being held in Royale 5-8, the same room where last night's reception took place. That's probably a good thing, because it seems like half of all convention attendees are here!

Ambassador Joe Wilson is speaking now. He announced himself as "Mr. Valerie Plame", which got a big laugh. He personally thanked the audience for their support, and said he had met no one who had not wished him and Valerie the best.

UPDATE: Wilson observed that there has been no focus on identifying the person who put the lie about Saddam and uranium in Bush's State of the Union speech back in 2003, yet everyone now knows his wife and her identity.

Wilson was brief in his remarks, but inspiring. He was followed by Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post, who saluted attendees for starting their own conversation (on the Internet, the most democratic medium ever invented), and Murray Waas, whose investigative reporting has played a key role in the CIA leak investigation. Murray is speaking now.

UPDATE II: The panel is finished. It was simply outstanding. The panelists had a great discussion about the leak investigation, where we're likely headed, and how blogs have impacted the case. Each speaker provided a unique perspective that was different from anyone else's. I think that's part of what made the panel so great: it was truly made up of all-star experts who not only have extensive knowledge, but aren't afraid to speak their minds.

One of the best lines during the panel came from former CIA officer Larry Johnson, who concluded his remarks by declaring: "How the Republicans can excuse what is nothing short of treason is beyond me."

That drew thunderous applause from the audience, of course.

The other panelists, Christy Hardin Smith and Marcy Wheeler, didn't deliver any stirring lines, but their ability to analyze the investigation is amazing. I wish they could have talked for another hour because they have so much insight to share.

Other panels or workshops taking place at the same time as this one included:
  • Sustainable Energy - Energize America - Jérôme Guillet, Mark Sumner, Adam Siegel, George Karayannis, Governor Bill Richardson
  • Ethics, Corruption, and Movement Politics - David Sirota, Dave Johnson, Melanie Sloan, Joe Trippi
  • Immigration Round Table hosted by Simon Rosenberg
  • Current Events Round Table hosted by McJoan

Live from Las Vegas: Day Two Underway

Day Two of YearlyKos has begun. After a long rest last night, I'm back at the Riv to attend the first of many panels throughout the day. I picked the Championing Science panel, with Chris Mooney, Dr. PZ Myers, Wendy Northcutt, General Wesley Clark, and Stephen Darksyde.

General Clark just finished speaking. I like that he's not only very intelligent, but also very witty. He has a lot of sensible ideas for improving our education system and bringing the federal government's focus back to actual science.

Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, is now speaking.

Other panels or workshops going on right now are:
  • Progressive Players - Tom Matzzie of MoveOn, Arshad Hasan of DFA, Gloria Totten of Progressive Majority, and Nathan Newman of Progressive States Network
  • Reforming the Electoral Process - Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Krist Novoselic, Micah Sifry, John Morris, and Adam Bonin
  • Using the Blogosphere Workshop - Presenters: Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller
  • Behind Enemy Lines Workshop: Engaging Right Wing Talk Radio and Coming Out on Top - Presenter: Mike Stark
UPDATE: Just shook hands with General Clark, who was greeting convention attendees on his way out of the room. A very impressive Democrat. I remember he did a lot of traveling with John Kerry in 2004, joining him on the stump throughout the campaign. There's loyalty for you.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Live from Las Vegas: This Thing is Huge!

We just walked into the ballroom set up for tonight's reception, and realized what a spectacular job the YearlyKos team has done in putting this together. This is a real convention. Refreshments, lights, a big stage, big screens, decorated tables adorned by candlelight - the works.

The number of attendees is astounding. The diversity here is even more incredible - people from all walks of life are here, because they believe in the power of people powered politics.

We've heard from Gina Cooper, the organizer of YearlyKos (who appropriately received a standing ovation for her efforts), and we're now watching and listening to Tom Tomorrow, the famed cartoonist and creator of Hell in a Handbasket.

I also wanted to mention that earlier, before the reception, I ran into Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Hunter of Daily Kos, and General Wesley Clark. I also spotted Maryscott O'Connor of My Left Wing.

UPDATE: After a truly amazing presentation from Tom Tomorrow (who even showed us cartoons that he'd not yet published) we heard from Markos himself. (Here's his keynote address as prepared for delivery). Markos, of course, got a massive, lengthy standing ovation. He seemed surprised (and pleased - at least, I hope he's pleased) but finally got started.

After this, we saw a video ("Mission Accomplished Man") and then the evening reception was for the most part concluded.

Live from Las Vegas: YearlyKos Kicks Off

I've only been in Las Vegas for a few hours, but already it seems YearlyKos has gotten off to a very promising start. It's looking like a very big event, and everything is being handled professionally. We even got goodie bags! I checked into my hotel a while ago, and I'm now at the Rivieria, where the convention is being held.

I've already run into Markos - we crossed paths in the hallway shortly after I registered for the convention.

Currently many convention attendees are at caucus meetings - i.e. a meeting for MyDD readers, and a meeting for Fire Dog Lake readers. I'm in the hallway outside - I've popped into several of the meetings and all seem to be going well. Here's a list of the groups that are meeting now:
  • Firedoglake Caucus hosted by Jane Hamsher- 5:45 PM - 7:15 PM
  • MyDD Caucus hosted by Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers- 5:45 PM - 7:15 PM
  • Mother Talkers Caucus hosted by Elisa Batista- 5:45 PM - 7:15 PM
  • Science Bloggers Caucus hosted by Steven DarkSyde- 5:45 PM - 7:15 PM
  • Asian-American Caucus hosted by Curtis Chin- 5:45 PM - 7:15 PM
  • Native American Caucus hosted by Neeta Lind- 5:45 PM - 7:15 PM
The scheduled event for later tonight is a reception featuring Tom Tomorrow, Laughing Liberally, and of course, Markos himself.

I'll post another update shortly when I have additional news or observations to share.

One km of road, not 10 km of wall

An important corrolary in the economic answer to immigration as posted here earlier this week (and picked up by Daily Kos, see abject gratitude below) is the connection it would make to the political aspirations of Mexico.

I am not talking about amorphous, unfocused, general aspirations of a downtrodden people, I am talking about intelligent economic schemes for development as articulated by the political leaders of the country -- specifically the three candidates now vying to replace Vincente Fox as president in the Mexico's July 2 general election.

"Our country is emptying out, our towns are emptying out -- they have only women, children and old people," as PRD's Manual Lopez Obrador (former can-do mayor of Mexico City) was quoted in a recent Maria Elena Salinas column. Housing and public works construction, says Lopez Obrador, can be the engine for stimulating the rest of the economy.

Lopez Obrador is one of three in the race to succeed Vincente Fox, and the furthest left. Felipe Calderon of Fox's PAN party said he would prefer to build one kilometer of road, rather than 10 kilometers of wall -- an apparent attempt to divert another deluded Bush adventure in the desert (and its funding) into something more productive.

Roberto Madrazo of the mainline PRI promises both job creation and tax cuts as a means of stemming the exodus of migrants (and likely as a means to pander to voters). No income tax for those earning less than 10,000 pesos (about $1,000) per month.

Classic Keynesians like public works as a stimulant. Public infrastructure will produce value far beyond its cost for years to come and will generate real jobs now. But whichever of these candidates wins the July 2 election, supporting their agenda rather than continuing to pimp for US corporate johns is the way to build both political and economic stability -- and end the "immigration problem."
Note of gratitude: It was very cool that the piece on immigration made it onto Daily Kos as a diary, recommended even. I barely know what that is, but I know it is cool and that it generated a whole stream of intelligent observations and comments on that site.

Among those notes was the observation that Mexico still faces some weaknesses in their institutional framework, some data on how cheap American farm products have decimated farming, and lots of support for turning the debate on immigration onto this productive track and getting it off the fear-based track on which it now rides.

Also, see continuing work by the Daily Kos diarist RegenerationMan, particularly tommorrow's diary on "how to regenerate those poorest 90 micro-regions with a minimum of startup money. There will be charts. The Fence Don't Make No Sense!"

Victory on the estate tax - for now

Good news from the District of Columbia:
Senators voted Thursday to reject a Republican effort to abolish taxes on inherited estates during an election year with control of Congress at stake.

GOP leaders had pushed senators to permanently eliminate the estate tax, which disappears in 2010 under President Bush's first tax cut, but rears up again a year later.

A 57-41 vote fell three votes short of advancing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the Senate will vote again this year on a tax that opponents call the "death tax."
Democrats, especially Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, were instrumental in ensuring today's victory. We were pleased to see that Senator Cantwell joined her fellow caucus members in voting against cloture.

Al-Zarqawi Reportedly Killed

The leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq has apparently been killed by a U.S. airstrike:
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida-linked militant who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq, has been killed in a U.S. air raid north of Baghdad, Iraq's prime minister said Thursday.
Despite this news, don't expect the violence in Iraq to die down. Bush will spin this as a great victory and a sign of progress, but it's hardly going to change the situation in Iraq.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

YearlyKos Liveblogging Starts Tomorrow

A reminder to our readers: I'll be representing the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) at the YearlyKos convention this weekend, just as I did last weekend at the state Democratic convention

I'll be providing live coverage and frequent updates from Las Vegas. You can check in here for regular updates starting tomorrow (Thursday), June 8th. I'll be liveblogging until Sunday, June 11th. Look for my first YearlyKos post in the afternoon tomorrow when I arrive in Las Vegas.

Stop the Estate Tax Repeal

The U.S. Senate today opened debate on a bill to repeal the estate tax (H.R. 8). Repeal of the estate tax would escalate the dangerous situation our national finances are already in, and give the wealthy a huge tax break they don't need.

When you consider that there's a very long list of issues the Senate should be working on right now - for example, raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits for Katrina survivors (benefits just expired!), reversing recently enacted cuts in vital services, and getting to work protecting services from additional cuts in the new appropriations bills - this effort to enrich our country's top multimillionaires and billionaires is an outrage.

Please call Senators Murray and Cantwell if you live in Washington, or Senators Wyden and Smith if you live in Oregon, at this toll free number: 1-800-459-1887.

That's the U.S. Capitol Switchboard.

Ask to be connected to your Senator's office. (The best thing to do is just to call twice - once for each Senator). When you're connected, deliver a simple message, like this:
Please vote no on any effort to repeal or drastically cut the estate tax. With all the problems America faces, the Senate should not be wasting our national resources and its time on a giveaway of hundreds of billions of dollars or more to a handful of multimillionaires. We simply can't afford this draconian assault on our future.
Thanks for taking action.

The Fed and the Market and a Prediction

The past couple of days are only the most recent of a general decline in the markets. Our Executive Director sent me a link to a Daily Kos diary by bonddad recounting Fed action and a mainstream take on the Market downturn. It will be no surprise to habitual readers that I have little patience for either.

The Fed:
It is reasonably clear that the U.S. economy is entering a period of transition. For the past three years or so, economic growth in the United States has been robust, reflecting both the ongoing re-employment of underutilized resources as well as the expansion of the economy's underlying productive potential, as determined by factors such as productivity trends and the growth of the labor force. Although we cannot ascertain the precise rates of resource utilization that the economy can sustain, we can have little doubt that, after three years of above-trend growth, slack has been substantially reduced. As a consequence, a sustainable, non-inflationary expansion is likely to involve some moderation in the growth of economic activity to a rate more consistent with the expansion of the nation's underlying productive capacity.

(Remarks by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke at the International Monetary Conference, Washington, D.C., June 5, 2006.)
This quasi-academic jargon seems to be borrowed from the outgoing master of obfuscation, Alan Greenspan. Underneath is pap. I'm sorry. In this corner we have not recognized the supposed recovery of the past three years. To say the economy recovered or "economic growth was robust," you need to explain away the enormous private and public debt. If you don't, you are saying a credit card is a paycheck.

If you excuse the debt by saying it went to building productive capacity, then how come we've run out of productive capacity? In fact, the private debt has gone to housing (a nonproductive asset) and to consumer debt (much of it folded into mortgages by home equity loan). The public debt has gone to a stupid adventure in Iraq, to a raid on our Social Security Funds, and to tax cuts for the rich. We showed charts last week. I have another one here somewhere I'll put up Thursday.

We explained just yesterday why raising interest rates into cost-push inflation (aka stagflation) is not useful, how it precipitated the last bust when Greenspan did the same thing, and how it exposes a deep misunderstanding of the economy. [What, you say, could be a deeper misunderstanding than calling a credit card spending binge a recovery?]

The crippling fact is that the single source of strength in this economy is productivity growth, and that has been compromised away. On the front end, productivity has not translated into wage and income growth for the working class, and hence not into broad-based demand. (See EPI's work on this point.) On the back end, I suspect, much of the so-called growth in productivity actually comes from downsizing, outsourcing and other cost-cutting that is not really growth in productivity, but shedding labor.

The Market


One of my friends is a market watcher and outstanding saxophone player. He has recounted how he watched in frozen fascination several years ago as the dot.com bubble burst, allowing his portfolio to dwindle before his eyes without acting. Not this time. He saw this market tanking over three weeks ago, Thursday and Friday, May 10-11. Down. Broadly down. He trimmed his exposure. And I give him credit here for probably picking the turning point, because I do not watch the market.

You get the picture from bonddad's comments at Daily Kos that inflation-fighting via the interest rate is widely perceived as a cause of market weakness. It may be. But it is not a primary cause of economic weakness. The Fed's short-term rates have become disconnected from the long-term rate-setting. The real question is, What is the reason for any Market strength? As Chris says, What good news is there out there?"

None. Massive budget deficits, massive trade deficits, huge debt overhang (soon to be worse for higher interest rates), abysmal war, declining dollar, terrible exposure to energy prices, corporate corruption, shrinking manufacturing capacity, and of course, a incompetent regime in power. What good news IS out there to make someone buy a stock?

Stock prices are at their current levels not because of strength in the economy, but because the guys overseas have to do something with the dollars we keep sending them, because baby boomers are hoping to squeeze another little bit out before they retire, and maybe because rich people need a place to park their tax cuts.

Market behavior is herd behavior. [One of the most absurd contentions ever was the "efficient market hypothesis," the idea that the market factors in all information efficiently. No. It is herd behavior.] And this herd ought to be spooky. They really have no good place for their money, with housing glutted and bonds paying low rates. But they can't afford to lose too much.

Prediction

Look for a wholesale if somewhat gradual shift out of the country, particularly in face of the declining dollar. And look for a market crisis, sooner or later. Derivatives have likely supported the market by masking risky behavior. Derivatives are not well regulated. A shift south in the Market could expose some rickety underpinnings to the whole contraption.

On the other hand, I'm an inveterate doom-sayer.

[But aren't those termites under that roller-coaster?]

Eyman's failure the latest in a series of losses

In this morning's Seattle P-I, reporter Neil Modie concisely drives home the point we've been making for years about Tim Eyman and his image:
The public perception of the attention-loving Eyman has been that of a successful promoter of tax-cutting or tax-limiting initiatives. But that perception is out of date.

With the failure of Referendum 65, only two of the last six ballot measures sponsored by him have reached the ballot. Voters approved only one of the two, last year's innocuous I-900. It empowered the state auditor to conduct performance audits of state and local government agencies, but the Legislature had already passed a similar law.
Those were the best two paragraphs in a newspaper article that I've read in weeks. Somebody finally picked up on the point that we've been trying to make.

Modie's entire article is a real gem, and also includes scathing comments from former state GOP chairman Chris Vance, who went out of his way to blast Eyman and his ballot measures. Here's a sampling of Vance's comments:
"Now he's coming in and hijacking issues and shoving his way into an issue because it's become a business for him. It's how he gets paid." (Vance, on Referendum 65)

"I would think this issue would light a fire with people, and (Eyman) even had a built-in infrastructure with evangelical churches helping." (Vance, on the potential popularity of R-65 with the religious right)

"It's about people in Spokane and Wenatchee voting to repeal taxes adopted in King County." (Vance, on Initiative 917)

"[Tim Eyman is damaging] the legitimate perception of the initiative process. When you've got a clown out there in a Darth Vader suit lying to the press and things like that, it's not good for the initiative and referendum process." (Vance, on Eyman's behavior)
Wow. I really can't find anything in this article that Chris Vance says that I disagree with!

That's a first, and truly amazing. Modie has Vance quoted pretty extensively in this thing. According to Modie's article, Vance also said most GOP leaders loathe Eyman (not a direct quote).

That's a bit surprising, because we know Eyman sends email regularly to GOP luminaries like Dino Rossi. Rossi has certainly expressed support for Eyman in the past, as has Rob McKenna (who actually helped write I-747). Maybe they've wisely decided not to do that any longer.

Yesterday's spectacular demise of Referendum 65 was a great victory, not just for activists fighting for equal rights, but for all Washingtonians. This campaign to legalize discrimination is dead.

It's very fitting that ESHB 2661 will now take effect today.

Local evangelical leaders, by the way, are clearly very unhappy with Eyman after Referendum 65 bombed yesterday:
[Gary Randall, president of the Faith and Freedom Network] said he wasn't happy with the way Eyman handled the campaign, calling his antics "embarrassing."

[...]

The lack of signatures, [The Rev. Joseph] Fuiten said, tells him that "Tim Eyman has a knack for messing stuff up. He's kind of an interloper on this whole thing, in my opinion. Part of the deal is resistance to him."
Randall told me and reporters standing around him that Eyman had kept him in the dark and largely uninformed throughout the entire campaign. It seems pretty certain that the religious right is determined never to work with Tim again. Can't blame them for that decision, of course, but hopefully they will continue to fall short without Tim being around to wreck things.

One Eyman ballot measure down, one to go. Eyman still has a month to collect signatures for I-917. We're pretty sure he's going to make it with a Dunmire-financed army of paid signature gatherers working to collect what's needed.

So expect Initiative 917 to be on the ballot - and hope it isn't. What is nice, though, is that we already have one less right wing ballot measure to worry about this year.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

EYMAN FAILS

BREAKING NEWS FROM NPI AND PERMANENT DEFENSE
News originally posted at 4:45 via mobile, updated at 5:15 and 6 PM

OLYMPIA - Tim Eyman showed up today at the Secretary of State's office clad in a blue t-shirt reading "Let the Voters Decide", but he didn't have the signatures necessary to qualify Referendum 65 for the ballot.

According to Eyman (who can't be trusted) the number of signatures collected was 105,103. Eyman tabulated several different counts of signatures in front of the media, and scowled in exasperation as he realized he simply didn't have enough.

Eyman Fails

Of course, Eyman is a proven, admitted liar - so his signature count is a worthless number. He probably had much less.

Eyman cohort Jack Fagan opened a bottle of sparking cider before Eyman tallied the numbers. The liquid appropriately shot up through the top of the bottle and splattered onto the ground.

So Referendum 65 will not qualify for the November ballot, and the Washington Won't Discriminate campaign - and Permanent Defense - is already victorious.

This, of course, is simply another failure in a growing list of failures for Eyman. Other recent failures include I-892 and I-864 (2004), I-807 (2003) and I-267 (2002).

Eyman and his allies appeared very downcast after it was apparent they did not have enough signatures. Leaders from right wing religious groups spoke defensively, trying to spin the defeat, but acknowledged they had failed.

A direct look at inflation

Even the Wall Street Journal says, "Get Used to It: Inflation Is Here to Stay." That part is right. The mumbo-jumbo that follows about "core inflation" could be flushed.

Let us take another direct look at the phenomenon of inflation.

Inflation is a general rise in prices. There are two kinds: demand-pull and cost-push.

Demand-pull inflation occurs when an overheated economy creates demand for goods that supply cannot handle. This occurs after wars, for example, when pent-up demand meets supply crimped by industries that have been destroyed or are not yet geared to consumer goods. The last time it occurred in the US was during the Johnson years, when the Vietnam War and the Great Society bid up the price of wages and products. But that was a mild case. After World War II, the whole world went shopping in America. Demand was over the top. That was a severe case.
Two attributes of demand-pull bear noting:

One, Wages can keep pace with rising prices, so it is those on fixed incomes who are hurt, not the working person. Eventually, and sooner rather than later (as in a year or two), production capacity will expand enough to moderate prices. This is particularly true now with global sources of supply. The "spiraling inflation" or "accelerating inflation" that preoccupies the Fed has never really happened with overheating. Currency collapse? Yes. Not from too much demand.

Two, There is a business boom associated with this type of inflation. That may seem to follow obviously from excess demand, but it is furthered by the fact that consistently upward prices mean that it is profitable to produce in the earlier, lower-cost times and sell into the later, higher-priced times. A corollary is that it may pay manipulators just to hold onto commodities and watch their price increase. This mandates a strong anti-monopoly regime, because a competitive market will defeat this strategy.

If demand-pull sounds familiar, it shouldn't. We haven't seen this in several decades.
Cost-push inflation is that associated with increases in producer costs which must be passed on as a matter of business solvency. This is what we see in energy price inflation, where the cost of production and transport goes up, so the price to the consumer goes up, the "surcharge" era. Health care costs are built into prices in a similar way. As are credit costs. Devaluation of currency adds more. This is the era of stagflation, such as we are entering again.
What!? Credit costs? Did I get that one by?

Yes. The cost of business operations is increased by the cost of capital.

But then doesn't the Fed increase interest rates to try to STOP inflation?

That they do. Does it work? No. In cost-push, it just increases costs. Of course, pretty soon there is a recession and people lose their jobs and demand IS so constricted that prices can't go up. But this is like amputation as a remedy for a hangnail.
Case History: In 1999 and 2000 Fed Chairman Alan "Maestro Magoo" Greenspan read "inflation" in his tea leaves. Unemployment was low, but it had been low for years without triggering an inflation. Ah ... but oil prices had begun to rise.
Greenspan hiked interest rates and learned quickly that it is easier to stop an economy with high interest rates than it is to restart one with low rates. In three years, Fed-controlled interest rates hit historical highs, then dropped to historical lows as the economy tanked. Those low interest rates are with us today, but precious little economic health.

We are seeing the same behavior in Ben Bernanke, Greenspan's replacement at the Fed. Energy cost-push inflation has begun to show itself, so he is raising interest rates. Long-term rates are beginning to follow.
What is the logic? If we are hoping to cut demand by raising rates, Why not just let energy prices do it themselves. Nothing bleeds effective demand better than siphoning it off into oil cartels and mega-corporations.

There is no logic. There IS a kind of funny sequence of reactions in the Market (capital M), however. When inflation begins to rise, stocks fall. Not because buyers are afraid business will begin producing more in anticipation of selling later into a higher-price, higher-wage environment.

No. It is entirely because they know from experience that the Fed will raise rates. And they know interest rate action will depress the economy. This is in spite of the fact that long-term rates have become separated from short-term rates. Too bad Fed action doesn't do anything to the inflation -- except add fuel to the fire.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Introducing Larry Kalb

As Executive Director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, it gives me great pleasure tonight to welcome a new member and contributor to our organization.

I am pleased to announce that a great progressive, Larry Kalb, has joined NPI as our Senior Policy Analyst on Healthcare.

Not only will he be working to build the Healthcare section on our core website and helping to spread the progressive vision of a universal healthcare system, but he'll also be contributing regularly to our Official Blog.

To help introduce Larry to you, our readers, we asked him a few questions about his views on healthcare, and his life experiences. But before we get to the Q&A, here's a short personal background:

Larry currently works in Bellingham for the Whatcom Transportation Authority as a finance department assistant. Prior to this he was an independent German and French to American English technical translator translating corporate and legal contracts, standard operating manuals, websites and patents.

Larry also lived eleven years in Europe, studying one year in Salzburg, Austria and working six years in Paris, France as an instructor teaching English as a second language. Larry was also director of administration for a fine arts school in southern France for four years before coming to the Northwest. Larry holds a Master's degree in German language and literature from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He speaks fluent French as well.
Additionally, Larry was a national delegate to both the 2000 and 2004 Democratic National Conventions for Bill Bradley and Dennis Kucinich, respectively. Larry is uniquely qualified to talk about the politics of health care reform and about the nuts and bolts of a working system.

All of us at NPI are confident that Larry's rich background, education, and life experiences make him well suited to write and talk about this and other important issues. And now, here's our Q&A with our new Senior Policy Analyst on Healthcare.



Q: You lived in France for a period of time. The French health care system is one of the best. Could you talk about that experience?

Good health is the raison d’être in the grand scheme of the French health care system. Every citizen is guaranteed access to basic quality medical care regardless of pre-existing conditions, age, sex, race, religion, financial status, place of residence, occupation or familial situation. As a documented resident of France I enjoyed the same comprehensive health care benefits entitled to a French national.

The process of obtaining medical care was quite simple. To begin with, I was required to register with the regional Medical Services Bureau to establish a dossier profile particular to me, that is to say, marital status, gender, monthly salary, bank account information and place of residence. Once that was processed, I was issued a medical card and was free to consult the primary health provider of my choice.

Though I could have consulted any number of general practitioners in the neighborhood, my preference was to walk to see the doctor whose practice was right around the corner.

After walking five minutes, I arrived at his office which consisted of a simple waiting area attached to a separate examination room. But what was most striking about his office was that there were no receptionists or assisting nurses or any lengthy paperwork to fill out; he was the only person in the office. My doctor exercised the standard rule of “first come, first served, so I had to wait my turn.

Once my doctor diagnosed my illness, he prescribed medication, swiped my medical card to record my co-payment (that was the equivalent of about $20), and I was on my way to the nearest pharmacy. (I have to point out here that no matter where you go in France for treatment of an illness or an accident, there is only one uniform national prescription claim form and your medical card is valid throughout the entire country).

The pharmacist then filled my prescription, swiped my card to account for the cost of the medication that the French health care system covered and I paid the remaining balance. The transaction was complete.

The advantages of the French health care system are numerous and the most important ones should be emphasized.

First of all, basic medical care is publicly administered and privately delivered, meaning that I was free to choose my own self-employed health care provider. Patients and the public medical services administration compensated that provider. Secondly, my coverage was portable, in other words, I was covered regardless of my employment status or where I lived.

Third, I was guaranteed access despite any pre-existing health conditions or financial ability to pay. In brief, there were no eligibility requirements whatsoever. Lastly, medical benefits were comprehensive. No, elective surgery generally is not covered, but general medical services are always provided.

Q: One advocacy group has targeted Wal-Mart, and successfully (in Maryland) sponsored a bill to impose health care costs on the retail giant, at least partly to illustrate the value of a universal health care system to business. What do you think about that strategy?

While "Fair Share" legislation has been successfully enacted in some states across the United States in recent years to force big employers like Wal-Mart to either provide affordable health insurance for their workers or pay into a state insurance pool, other states still have "free-riding" mega corporations that rely either on federal programs like Medicare to cover employees who are senior citizens or on state health programs to insure children of employees who can not make a dollar stretch far enough to afford family plans.

When neither federal or state health care plans are available, many workers of these large businesses have no other alternative than to rely on charity care by hospitals. But having hospitals shoulder the rising cost of medical care for the uninsured is not a solution either. Still other workers turn to working second jobs that do provide health care benefits or to working spouses whose companies offer family coverage.

Washington State contends that fair share legislation in this state would allow access to coverage for the uninsured thus minimizing health care cost shifting to insured patients. Absent such legislation, the Coalition claims, would increase costs while also menacing the affordability of health insurance already in place for the insured.

"Fair Share" legislation would level the playing field for companies that struggle to compete with Wal-Mart and to help offset the tens of millions of dollars that taxpayers shell out to cover the cost of caring for the uninsured.

The rationale behind such a proposed policy is that it requires companies with more than 5,000 employees to pay at least a 9 percent tax toward health care so as to eliminate "health care dumping" by giant retailers whose main objective is to be more profitable. Some smaller companies already pay as much as 25 to 30 percent of their operating costs on health care coverage for not only their employees, but also on their spouses and children.

Even though I too believe everyone should pay their fair share for quality medical coverage, there are some drawbacks in the proposed "Fair Share" legislation. First of all, such legislation would leave the health care insurance industry firmly in place, allowing them free rein in raising premiums and trimming benefits sans fin. It is common knowledge that a corporation is legally bound to put the interests of the shareholder first; health care insurance corporations are not expected to put their customer’s interests ahead of their shareholders'.

The continual rise in health care costs spells nothing but bad news for small businesses in Washington state: it would keep the size of payroll down, put off hiring of new employees while at the same time leaving some positions unfilled. Some full-time workers will be converted to part-time, some may even be terminated. In their place will come temporary or outsourced workers.

Goods and services will continue to increase in price, rendering them uncompetitive in the market place. Lower profits mean lower take-home pay for the business owner which, in turn, threatens the viability of the business.

Less spending translates into less sales tax being paid which correlates into fewer revenues being collected by city, county and state coffers. The worker…well, the worker gets takes the heat from all sides now, not just the burning sensation at both ends.

Q: Any estimate of the economic impact of true reform?

This question implies a negative impact, but I want to people to start thinking of the positive outcomes.

The greatest economic stimulus ever experienced in American history would come about once true health care reform is enacted for the entire nation. Imagine lowering the cost of health care across the board by 25 to 30% over a span of five years by making an electronic claims and payment system interoperable between doctors, hospitals, clinics, labs, and pharmacies.

With some industries nationwide we can track FedEx packages, bank on-line, trade shares, file taxes or re-new a driver’s license. Wouldn’t it be simpler and better for the patient, and for the doctor, if the patient could choose his or her own doctor, bring their health care ID card with them, swipe it in a card reader at the time of service and have the doctor get paid on the spot with electronic funds transfer?

Doctors would save anywhere between 30 to 45% in overhead costs by eliminating the need for outside billing and collection services, not to mention all the clerical staff employed to fill out insurance forms.

What could you do with the money you would be saving if true reform were enacted? Encourage entrepreneurship of small cottage businesses would be created providing jobs for artisans who otherwise would have had to depend on their spouse for insurance coverage. Small family farms would again be able to flourish with the extra money available to put back into buying land, purchasing and maintaining equipment and hiring extra help to till the land.

Artists would be able to study the fine and performing arts to their hearts' content. Galleries would pop up all over the Midwest reclaiming the virtuous culture of painting, drawing, folklore and storytelling.

Business owners would again become more competitive in the market place once they have funds to take on the desired engineer or specialist to create the most innovative product.

Families would be able to save for their kids’ college education or put down money for a new house or car, buy new clothes, or simply go on vacation since there would be no need to work that second job that provided health care benefits. Non-profit organizations would be able to hire more people and contribute more to the betterment of society.

We would preserve our investment in higher education by separating health care coverage from employment, more economic opportunities are created. When our college graduates are unable to find worthwhile employment in Washington, our investment in their training is wasted and Washington loses more of its intellectual capital. Additionally, new graduates will not suffer a gap in health coverage while they search for that first job.

True health care reform would encourage humanitarian treatment for migrant workers through the inclusion of critical but under appreciated migrant workers and their families in the health care system. In doing so, we assure the responsible support of those who otherwise would be at the mercy of illness and ultimately burden the emergency facilities of our hospitals.

True health care reform would encourage early retirement to open opportunities for younger people by making it possible for a worker to retire. Universal coverage system will make it possible to do so, thus opening an employment position for a younger person.

True health care reform would encourage the unemployed to accept entry-level positions - the entry-level position will still provide health care benefits equal to that of an executive-level position.

True health care reform would permit lawmakers to move on to other critical matters by finally resolving the health care crisis - since every year the legislature devotes substantial time to debating, again, the issues surrounding access to health care, Medicaid allowances, coverage for Washington employees, and medical malpractice reform, all of which detracts from other critical issues of the day. A bold move to resolve the health care dilemma through a balanced and fiscally responsible solution opens the legislative agenda for other matters.



I hope you'll join me in welcoming Larry to our organization. Look for him to be posting regularly here on the Official Blog beginning this week.

GOP “Mainstreamers” Question Mark

Sam Reed, who took a heckuva beating from his own party for following the law during the gubernatorial election, is heading up “Mainstream Republicans of Washington State.”

“If it is going to be a tough year for Republicans statewide, then mainstream plays an even more important role,” sez executive director of the group Alex Hays.

Assuming there are still a couple of breeding pairs extant, moderate Republicans COULD make a comeback, I suppose. And it IS going to be a tough year for the GOP. The extremism, incompetence and corruption of the Radical Right has gotten too big for their blanket of lies to cover. Their only hope now is that the Rovemeister can create enough cacophony around election time to deaden the senses of voters.

Do so-called “mainstream” Republicans deserve attention? No. They didn’t stand up then and they aren’t standing up now. They’re just hoping to be a fall-back position for the disillusioned and betrayed. It’s not moderation, it’s opportunism. Moderate does not mean weak-kneed.

Irrespective of the party within the state, the national Republicans will not be moderating. Write it down. The Radical Right and its corporate financiers have too much to lose from a return to integrity, such as would be required of any “moderates.” If the Democrats control the House, there will be investigations. If the ethics process can shake free of the Republican stonewalling led by our own 4th District's Doc Hastings, heads will roll. The wingnuts will be pulling out all the stops – ALL the stops – to maintain power.

It is our great good fortune that this is not a presidential election year. It will be harder to organize the propaganda on a Congressional district level than the national level. But they will try. By attack and distortion. By orchestrated military adventurism. By last-minute crises. And of course, by rigging the machines, intimidating voters, and the usual fraud.

It's worth nothing that Mike McGavick is not a member of the Mainstream Republicans, taking his script and funding instead from the anti-environment, Big Business, Hard Right.

BREAKING: Eyman uses media - again

BREAKING NEWS FROM NPI AND PERMANENT DEFENSE

OLYMPIA - Tim Eyman (wearing a Darth Vader costume) and his cohorts arrived at the Secretary of State's Elections office this morning, to dupe the media into giving them more coverage for their campaigns to destroy transportation funding and legalize discrimination.

Eyman Dupes Media In Darth Vader Costume

Eyman turned in NO SIGNATURES for Referendum 65, and said he had no idea how many signatures might have been collected. Eyman only said he would be back the next day at 4 PM to turn in signatures for Referendum 65.

Eyman did have petitions - but they were for Initiative 917. And according to Eyman, the campaign for I-917 only has about 142,000 signatures - roughly 110,000 - 120,000 short of what is typically needed these days for an initiative to qualify. Even though Tim brought down boxes of signatures for I-917, he didn't turn those in, either.

Most major media outlets (including the four big Seattle TV stations - KOMO, KING, KIRO, KCPQ) were there, and many reporters were disgusted to learn that Tim was once again just trying to use them. Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman and Stranger reporter Eli Sanders were among the most angered, and peppered Tim with pointed questions about his motives and credibility.

Eyman partner Mike Fagan even told reporters, "Feel like you've been duped this morning? Well you have."

That says it all right there.

UPDATE: Eli's take:
This was one of the most unprincipled press conferences I’ve ever seen, and my sense is that the reporters whose time was wasted this morning are furious. I hesitate to even write about it, given Eyman’s “no such thing as bad press” mantra, but I do think it’s important to give a sense of how dishonest he’s willing to be in order to get a camera in front of him. It will be interesting to see how the dailies and the television stations handle this stunt — if they give it any attention at all.
Couldn't agree more. For too long the media has given Tim Eyman too much free press and too much exposure. When will it become clear to reporters that Eyman thinks they're worthless, just tools to be used in his campaign efforts?

I showed up representing NPI not to give Eyman exposure that he doesn't need, but to provide opposition. We make no secret of the fact that we're not objective on this blog. We never give Tim Eyman free press or a free pass - we constantly deconstruct his phony arguments, lies, and sound bites, and we're going to continue doing that for as long as he's in business.

UPDATE II: Eyman didn't just waste reporters' time. He also wasted taxpayer money:
Reporters figured "bringing down" petitions meaned "turning in" petitions, as did the Secretary of State's office, which had seven staffers on hand, ready to count the thousands of petitions they expected. (Two were temps, hired at $12-$14 an hour just for this.)
Perhaps the state ought to do a performance audit of Tim Eyman, liar, who uses anything and everything at his disposal - the media, public resources - to advance his campaigns. Eyman is no king or populist hero. He is basically a greedy businessman making money by destroying funding for public services that improve our communities.

Despite all of his boasting and crowing, there's the chance he won't have enough signatures tomorrow to qualify Referendum 65. And if that's the case, it will be more apparent than ever that Tim Eyman is powerless and unpopular among Washingtonians.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Convention Experience, Part II

I'm proud to say I was one of the callers who phoned in tonight to the Turi Ryder Show, where David Goldstein was guest hosting. I called in to talk about the convention, discussing the high attendance numbers, the candidates, and the energy in Yakima.

We've posted my appearance on KIRO with David in the Audio Archive; you can listen to it here.

One other thing I wanted to discuss: yesterday, Diane Tebelius and Brad Harwood (who does communications for the state GOP) put out a press release claiming that Democrats aren't united behind Maria Cantwell:
Today a divided Democratic Party met in Yakima and attempted to rally the troops for the 2006 election cycle. As anticipated, Democrats were fiercely divided over the Iraq War, and their incumbent US Senate candidate, Maria Cantwell. Cantwell voted for the war and has voted for every Congressional appropriation in support of it. Her speech to convention delegates earlier today was met with mixed responses.

“There is a clear division within the Democratic Party over Maria Cantwell” said Washington State Republican Party Chairman Diane Tebelius. “The Democratic base’s obvious lack of enthusiasm for Cantwell is definitely going to hurt her in November. Republicans, on the other hand, are enthusiastically united behind Mike McGavick.”

Reactions to Cantwell’s appearance at the convention were mixed. Many delegates sported “No War” buttons, and before her speech chanted “No more war.”
What a laughable distortion of the facts.

I've never seen fellow Democrats more united in their resolve to change our country. Democrats are most certainly not divided over the Iraq War. With the exception of a tiny few, just about every candidate and every Democratic delegate in attendance would have told you (if you asked) that the Iraq War has long been a disaster, and that we are overdue in giving Iraq back to the Iraqis.

The idea that the party is "fiercely divided" over Iraq is simply ludicrous. Maria Cantwell may have murky position on the war, but that's not "fierce division" within the Democratic Party.

Cantwell has been criticized for her position on Iraq, not just once or twice, but many times. And it's true that one of her greatest weaknesses as a candidate is her very confusing stance. I certainly wish she'd stand up to the administration on this issue. But I think Maria is unsure herself what her position ought to be.

Nevertheless, Cantwell does indeed enjoy strong support. The minority that do not support her at all - the ones who favor another candidate - are loud and vocal, but they are most certainly a small minority.

Tebelius and Harwood implied in their release that anyone sporting a "No War" sticker or "No War" sign (which many delegates were wearing or holding) is not a Cantwell supporter. That's a stupid assumption.

I oppose the Iraq War, and I did in fact have one of those signs with me. Yet I wholeheartedly support Senator Maria Cantwell.

And the fact that the room was dotted with those signs proves my earlier point that the party is almost unanimously united in its opposition to the Republican engineered war in Iraq.

Tebelius and Harwood also claimed, using David Postman's reporting:
Even the state chair of her own party, Dwight Pelz, chastised her during his opening speech
That, of course, is a lie. What Chairman Pelz said was that this is a Republican war, started by a Republican President and Secretary of Defense, and that "not a Democrat in Congress would have voted to force a Democratic President to invade Iraq."

Ask Dwight Pelz if he wholeheartedly supports Maria Cantwell and you will hear a resounding "YES". Like me, Chairman Pelz strongly opposes the Iraq War, and yet is also a big backer of Maria Cantwell.

If you take a look back at my convention coverage you'll find a photo of major Democratic leaders standing by side with Senator Cantwell to show their support. Dwight Pelz is in that photo.

Finally, Tebelius claimed "the rift in the Democratic Party is not going to heal overnight. Washington voters are not going to vote for a party that does not have a clear message."

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties are a hundred percent united a hundred percent of the time. Tebelius should know this, after her own party had a heated debate over immigration at their convention which resulted in a platform plank that many elected Republicans find unacceptable.

Democrats are concerned about Senator Cantwell's position on Iraq. The majority, like me, are still supporting her even though we wish she'd establish a clear antiwar position. Then there are a minority who see Cantwell's murkiness on the war as totally unacceptable, and are supporting another candidate like Mark Wilson, "Mr. Perennial", or Hong Tran.

But we as a party have never been more united in pursuit of our goals.

I have talked to many activists who are opposing Cantwell in the primary who say they will vote for her in the general election, because they understand the consequences of electing Mike McGavick, who is completely backwards on just about everything.

Mike McGavick, by the way, is only the Republican frontrunner. He is not the Republican candidate, because he also has challengers: C Mark Greene and Brad Klippert.

So actually, Republicans can't be that united behind Mike McGavick, because Mike has not just one but two primary challengers. Of course, McGavick will probably win the GOP primary with ease - just as Maria Cantwell will win the Democratic primary with ease.

The bottom line is that Tebelius and Harwood don't have any ammunition or points to make. The best they could do was put out a weak press release which completely misstates the situation within the Democratic Party.

They failed miserably, and if this is in fact their best shot, I'm feeling pretty confident that Mike McGavick will be trounced by Senator Maria Cantwell in November.

The Convention Experience

I've posted a diary at DailyKos detailing my experience liveblogging the 2006 Democratic Convention this weekend:
Over the last two days (Friday and Saturday, June 2nd - 3rd) I've been in Yakima, Washington, attending the Washington State Democrats' 2006 Convention, representing the Northwest Progressive Institute - and providing live coverage of the proceedings on NPI's Official Blog.

I'm not going to use this diary to relive everything that happened at the convention, but I do want to share my experience with fellow netroots activists.

I believe this was the first convention in our state party's history to be liveblogged, and not only that, but also "livepictured" and "livevideoed".

Over a total of two days, I wrote 17 posts detailing happenings at the convention. I actually posted more than that because I updated several of my posts. So I actually "posted" close to thirty times.

The average amount of time most delegates spent at the convention (excluding when we all retired to our hotel rooms to sleep) was roughly 26 hours. If you divide that by the number of times I posted, that's about a post every single hour - which is pretty amazing.
If you have an account at DailyKos, please recommend.

NPI launches Video Library

Following yesterday's debut of our first video clip, we're launching our expanded Video Library today, with three additional clips from two of our candidates for U.S. House - Darcy Burner and Peter Goldmark.

Unlike yesterday's clip, these aren't original films from us, but we're exhibiiting them to help our candidates broaden their reach.

We've updated the Troubleshooting page and created a Video Library homepage where you can access all of the clips.

We've also created a Multimedia gateway page which points both to to the Audio Archive and the Video Library.

We'll be adding additional clips as time goes by, so keep watching the Official Blog - it'll be announced here first.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Live from Yakima: Convention adopts resolutions opposing right wing initiatives

State Democratic Convention delegates have just voted to oppose all of this year's major right wing initiatives, including I-917, I-920, and I-933. A resolution was also adopted by the convention endorsing "YES" on Referendum 65.

This is an extremely meaningful move that will allow the state party to use its resources to aid in progressive efforts to fight right wing initiatives. I was hoping when I arrived at the convention yesterday that this would happen, and I'm delighted that it has.

But I certainly agree that the platform and resolutions process can be improved, and I think Chairman Pelz's idea of appointing a committee to figure out ways to improve this process is an excellent one.

UPDATE: After a lot of items in the "good of the order", the convention has adjourned. Delegates are now leaving in large numbers.

A COUPLE OF ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS: I've been asked for my thoughts on the candidates running against Senator Maria Cantwell in the primary. Each was allotted three minutes to address the convention. Of the two candidates (Wilson/Tran), Mark Wilson clearly has stronger support. I was annoyed during his speech that his supporters kept walking back and forth in the front of the room holding their large banner - it was distracting.

Much of what Wilson said mirrored what Cantwell said in her stump speech - issues like healthcare, environmental protection, workers' rights - except for a few key differences: Wilson makes it absolutely clear what he thinks about the Iraq conflict, and he described Bush and his administration as "terrorists" (which is just too far for a serious candidate to go in a speech because it provokes backlash from voters). His comments degrading Cantwell's leadership on environmental issues were pretty dumb. All of Wilson's criticism of Maria Cantwell is basically tied to the issue of Iraq. Without the Iraq conflict, Wilson would have very little to run on.

It's worth remembering that he's a perennial candidate. He's also run against Patty Murray and Jay Inslee (and been trounced in those elections).

Hong Tran was even less impressive. I didn't hear anything from her that I thought made any sense at all. The attacks on Cantwell were baseless, ignored key facts, and were easily refutable. Tran sure made Mark Wilson look good.

It's been said that you have to have a big ego to run for public office, but both Wilson and Tran appear to have super-inflated ones. Neither is a serious challenger to Senator Maria Cantwell. Still, it was appropriate that the party gave them some time to make their points.

Thus ends my live convention coverage - hope you found it useful and enjoyed it.

Live from Yakima: The Platform

We've finally moved beyond speakers and charter amendments and we're now deep into the discussion on the platform.

There was an attempt to end further amendments to the platform, thereby ending debate and review of the platform. The vote, which required a two thirds majority, failed, 377 to 328. The tally committee (including me) was called into action for that vote because it was too close for the chair to call.

We made it through a few sections, like Agriculture, Education, Energy and the Environment, and we were talking foreign policy when a second attempt to end debate on the platform was made. That attempt, coming at about 5:15 PM, was successful, and it appears we're about to vote on the platform as a whole.

UPDATE: After a really, really, really long debate, we have just passed the platform, 376 to 213.

ANOTHER UPDATE: We're now trying to consider a lot of resolutions all at once. Somebody has moved that we adopt the Platform Committee's recommendations on time sensitive resolutions (like opposing Initiative 933, for example). This is a sensible proposal because the state party actually could make a difference against some of these right wing initiatives, whereas the state party can do much less about resolutions concerning national or international issues.

Live from Yakima: Watch Darcy Burner enter the 2006 Democratic Convention

We couldn't think of a better way to launch our new and long planned Video Library than to bring you a clip of Darcy Burner's entrance into the 2006 State Democratic Convention.

Click to launch video

Click to launch the video from our Multimedia section.

Delegates heard another rendition of Darcy's innovative stump speech late this morning. Darcy was the last major candidate to speak before the party moved on to other business. And she certainly did an excellent job.

CONVENTION UPDATE: Well, we've now heard from Paul Berry, the Chair of the Credentials Committee (of which I am a member) who has delivered the preliminary credentials report.

There are 839 delegates have signed in. Additionally, 61 alternates were seated for a total of 900 voting delegates. The total number of potential delegates (that is, the maximum number of people who can be elected under party rules to attend the convention) is 1582.

So out of 1582 potential delegates, we have 900...and that's not bad.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I forgot to mention that we heard earlier from Mike Honda, the Vice Chairman of the DNC, who delivered the keynote, and Eileen Macoll of the state party. I had a chance to say hello to Congressman Honda as he passed through the lobby into the convention hall.

We recessed for lunch and have resumed the consideration of business. The first items were two charter amendments to the state party charter which would add members to the Central Committee.

The second was an amendment which would give Young Democrats of Washington two permanent voting representatives on the central committee (one male, one female, as per party rules).

The first amendment was considered and rejected by a large margin - possibly 4 to 1, perhaps even 5 to 1. The reason for the large rejection was that the amendment to the state charter was seen as conflicting with the DNC charter, and was thus deemed unworthy of adoption.

The Young Democrats' amendment, on the other hand, enjoys clear and widespread support and does not have a potential conflict with the DNC Charter. However, a vote to amend the charter of the state party requires a high standard: according to our parliamentarian (David McDonald) 765 of the delegates must vote in favor for the amendment to pass. This might seem like a high number, but the rule is thus: a majority vote of the delegates to the state convention is required to adopt a charter amendment. So that's a majority of the 1582 potential delegates - and a majority would be 765 votes.

We have completed one vote already. That was a hand vote where tally committee members, including myself, counted delegates raising their credentials to determine the result of the vote. Based on that vote the amendment failed narrowly, because there were only 728 votes in favor. Backers of the amendment (including myself) called for another vote, this one by written ballot.

That vote is being tallied now by a few Tally Committee members, and we should know the result soon.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: In the second vote (written ballot) the YD amendment is short by six votes, but there's some questions surrounding just how many votes constitutes a majority for a charter amendment. The Young Democrats continue to press forward hoping to get the amendment adopted.

Live from Yakima: Candidates Speak

Sorry for the lack of an update - wireless connectivity has gotten a lot more spotty for some reason, so it's harder to post.

We have now heard from the last of the major candidates seeking elected office this year.

Congressman Jim McDermott led off by introducing Senator Maria Cantwell, who was led in by a giant parade supporters waving signs and banners. And there was plenty of instrumentation - a marching band and bagpipes, too.

(I should mention at this point that David Postman also has a nice recap of Maria's reception and speech which basically mirror my observations).

"Everybody knows how important the 2006 election is," Cantwell stated in the beginning part of her speech. "My family has been getting out the vote for over seventy five years."

The speech was not very different from Maria's previous addresses, of course. She didn't bring up anything I haven't heard before, but despite the fact that it covered all the same topics, it still had a unique freshness to it.

She was also a bit more forceful, especially when she shouted, "This Senator will not be bullied and will not be bought!" (referring to the oil soaked Republicans' attempts to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling.

"We want an investment in our future. Never let the other side criticize our idea and our ideals," Cantwell told the delegates.

One little bit I hadn't heard in previous Cantwell speeches was a nice line about the administration's failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina:
The real lack of patriotism was showed by the Department of Homeland Security when they failed to help thousands of Americans get out of the way of a hurricane.
Cantwell ended her remarks by pledging to "to campaign from every corner of this state."

As she left the stage the room was filled with confetti and ballons, and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" was played over the loudspeakers.

Richard Wright was the next speaker, surrounded by his family, and managed to top his speech from the Congressional Breakfast. He looks every inch the candidate and he definitely took Doc Hastings to the woodshed.

"We don't need a Congress that is muzzled and held on a short lease by this president," Wright said. "My opponent, Mr. Hastings, is a big part of the problem. As chair of the Ethics Committee, he had turned a blind eye to to bribery and corruption in Congress."

"Over 70 percent of Americans think this country is going in the wrong direction," he added.

Peter Goldmark was next, and his speech was completely different from the one he gave at the Congressional Breakfast. It was longer, it was better, it was sharper.

Goldmark's theme was "the time is now," which makes sense. Running for Congress is hugeue endeavor, a huge commitment, and very few people will choose to jump into a race they don't think they can win.

On why he's running, Goldmark declared, "People are tired of Republicans. Real tired. We must take full advantage of this electoral opening."

"People are being lied to. People are tired of corruption and greed, and no bid contracts."

Finally, Goldmark noted that "we must have a plan that clearly differentiates us from the Republicans" if victory is to be achieved.

More observations on the final candidate who addressed the delegates (guess who that was?) in my next post.

Live from Yakima: Clinton addresses delegates

The state party just played a video clip of President Bill Clinton, addressing the Washington State Democratic Convention. Here's the text of his address:
“I’m really sorry I can’t be with you in person in Yakima for the state Democratic convention this year. I’m very grateful for all that the Democrats of Washington did for me in 1992 and 1996 to help move our country forward. And I’m grateful for your continuing commitment to our party and your service to our nation.

“I know the main reason you’ve all come together this year is to win a big election for my friend, Senator Maria Cantwell. It is so important that we send Maria back to the Senate to keep fighting for the values we all share, to keep fighting for the change in direction we know our country needs.

“Maria has become an important leader in the Senate in a relatively short time, a voice for common sense, one who always puts your interests first. I’ll never forget that as a freshman in the U.S. House, I saw first hand the kind of leader she is.

“When our country faced a critical decision about our future economic path, Maria showed leadership, casting the decisive vote that put our country back on the road to a balanced budget and a surplus that brought us the longest economic boom in history, over twenty-two million new jobs, moved one hundred times as many people out of poverty in our eight years as in the previous twelve under Republican leadership.

“For this brave vote, she became a target, and ultimately she lost her House seat. But she didn‘t quit. She knew that leadership is not always about making the easiest decision, or the vote that makes everyone happy in the short run.

“After five years of working in the high tech economy, Maria put it all on the line again for a Senate seat in 2000. Two thousand, two hundred and twenty-nine votes later, she won, and so did we. Since then, Maria has been a star in the Senate, fighting for our country and our party, and the things we believe in, every single day.

“Last Christmas, I couldn’t have been more proud of Maria, when they added drilling in the Arctic Refuge to a defense bill, the Republicans thought no one would dare to stop them, but they didn’t know Maria. She led the way, and stopped them cold. She opposed both Justices Roberts and Alito because she feared their privacy position would undo settled law.

“Her outstanding record on the environment, on protecting a woman’s right to choose; those are second to none. Maria was the first person in her family to graduate from college, with the help of a Pell Grant, and she never forgot that. Every day in the Senate, she fights for the dream of a college education for everyone, against an administration that has cut back on college aid, and weakened the direct loan program that we put in, that saved billions of dollars for college students and led to an all-time high enrollment.

“Maria is leading the way to energy independence, because she knows America can innovate our way out of dangerous dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil.

“Because Maria stands up to special interests in the other Washington , they’ve made Washington state a top target this year. You, more than most Americans, know that every single vote counts. Just look at Senator Cantwell and Governor Christine Gregoire. Every vote counts, so make yours count.

“Now they are determined to turn Washington from a blue state to a red one, and they focus on you this year because they know Maria Cantwell is out there voting for the people, and against their efforts to concentrate power and wealth and increase unaccountability.

“It’s up to all of us to make sure Maria wins in November. You can go home and work the grassroots, door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor. You can make sure she wins.

“Now, more than ever, we need her courageous leadership in the Senate. We are so close to recapturing control of both houses of Congress, and Washington state is now in play for the Republicans. One vote can change the direction of our entire country.

“Thank you for all you’ve already done, for me, for the Democrats, for America . But especially, thank you for everything you will do to make sure Maria wins this year. Bless you.”
Congressman Jim McDermott is now speaking.

Live from Yakima: Delegates watch Lou Dobbs

In an interesting development, as part of Dwight Pelz's introductory speech to convention delegates, the state party is playing the Lou Dobbs vs. Diane Tebelius debate from Lou Dobbs' CNN show last Wednesday up on two big screens.

Democrats gave Pelz a standing ovation after the clip was finished.

Live from Yakima: Convention Called to Order

State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz has just called the convention to order...we've watched the presentation of the colors, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and heard the National Anthem.

We are now being welcomed to Yakima County and the City of Yakima by local Democratic leaders.

Live from Yakima: Congressional Breakfast Recap

The Congressional Breakfast has just concluded. We heard from three of our incumbent representatives and our three challengers in the 4th, 5th, and 8th.

Leading off was Jim McDermott, who told delegates to "give Democrats the gavel." And why? "Because what the gavel gives is the power to set the agenda," McDermott thundered. (And, of course, he's right, we need that majority."

"On Election Night, the last states that will come in will be the West Coast states - and we're going to make Nancy Pelosi the first woman speaker in U.S. History," McDermott continued.

"And if you want a change, you've got to take the gavel away from Mr. Hastings and give to a Democrat who will change the Ethics Committee."

With that, Congressman McDermott welcomed Richard Wright to the stage. I hadn't heard Richard address a big crowd before and I was extremely impressed with his presentation and his sense of humor. He seemed more at ease than any other speaker - maybe because he's at home in the 4th District.

After describing his background, he launched into an appeal for support.

"If you want a fighter, you can look at me," Richard told the audience. "We are going to give this election everything we have. We are going to wake up with a Democratic Congress in the 4th Congressional District."

He was followed by Congressman Jay Inslee, our representative in Congress, who recalled when he represented the 4th District before losing his seat back in 1994. He was very inspiring.

"We believe it is time for America to start living our dreams rather than succumbing to our fears," Inslee declared. "We believe in the power of hope."

He introduced Peter Goldmark, who sounded kind of like Darcy did back in late 2005 when she got started. But if Peter's the kind of candidate Darcy is - and I believe he is - then a few short months he will be an excellent campaigner.

After summarizing the Republicans' failures to govern, he told the audience, "It can't go on, folks. We've got to turn this around - this year."

Representative Rick Larsen of the 2nd District followed. His theme was about reaching out - reaching out to neighbors, and fellow citizens, not just Americans, but world citizens.

"We know we have an obligation beyond ourselves - to help our community," Larsen said. He introduced the last speaker, our own Darcy Burner, who didn't manage to top her speech at the King County Convention (which I think so far is her best ever) but did elicit quite a few standing ovations from the audience. She did stumble a couple of times, but it was early in the morning - and it's very easy to be tired. I know I didn't get as much sleep as I wanted last night.

Darcy observed that "there are only five races the President has taken a personal interest in". (If you haven't heard, Bush is coming to stand side by side with Dave Reichert later this month.)

The main proceedings are about to start shortly, and I have credentials work to do, but I'll post another update soon.

Live from Yakima: Day Two Begins!

After all of yesterday's activity, I was very glad to get some much needed rest last night and take a break from blogging. But Day Two has begun, and I'm back at my laptop, ready to continue our live coverage.

The Yakima Herald-Republic made the convention their top story in this morning's paper, with the headline "Dems hope to keep riding high" and a huge picture of Governor Christine Gregoire and Senator Maria Cantwell splashed at the top of the front page.

Reporter Leah Beth Ward wrote the story, which apparently isn't online yet. Her reporting largely mirrors my observations about the convention yesterday, beginning with an interesting sub headline:
State convention upbeat as governor leads rally for Cantwell's re-election

Democrats convened their state party convention in Yakima on Friday by vowing to win bigger majorities in the Legislature, make inroads in the U.S. House and hang on to the Senate seat held by Maria Cantwell.

[...]

For the evening, everybody was a Democrat as Pelz, a feisty cheerleader, jabbed at the Republicans. He noted the GOP also met here last weekend in what he called "a vain search for any signs of life."

Introducing Gov. Christine Gregoire, Pelz drew loud cheers by reporting that the state party is about to retire $4.5 million in debt incurred as a result of its legal fight to defend Christine Gregoire's narrow victory in 2004 on the third count over Republican Dino Rossi.
The Congressional Breakfast is just getting underway here at the Yakima Convention Center, and, like last night's gala banquet, it is completely packed. Following the breakfast, delegates will begin signing in for the day and we'll kick off the main proceedings.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Live from Yakima: Day One Reflections

The first day of the 2006 Democratic Convention is finally over - and what a day it's been. The real action is tomorrow, when we'll hear from candidates, vote on a platform, and consider resolutions.

The signs are already going up in the main hall at the Yakima Convention Center. Following the conclusion of the gala dinner earlier this evening, campaigns scrambled to claim wall "real estate", which went fast as staff quickly tacked up large blocs of rally signs promoting their particular candidate.

It really is amazing how many people are here. The convention center and the hospitality suites at the Red Lion Hotel were packed all evening long with Democrats. And though there are a number of activists who have gripes with the party or a particular candidate (like Maria Cantwell) they're still here participating in the party process along with their fellow Democrats.

One thing I forgot to mention earlier: I talked directly with Governor Christine Gregoire and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown before they spoke at the banquet and congratulated them for providing outstanding leadership for Washington State - especially the landmark civil rights legislation and the 2005 Transportation Package that both deserve credit for making a reality.

The Governor was clearly having a good time; she was especially delighted to hear that the party had eliminated the debt from the election challenge.

Two Yakima TV stations provided television coverage of the convention this evening. KIMA TV (the CBS affiliate) made it their top story and gave Senator Maria Cantwell fairly generous airtime. They carried her remarks on multiple issues, including gas price gouging and immigration. KIMA also showed footage of the gala banquet and aired a few snippets of Governor Christine Gregoire's speech.

They have an article online here, but the second paragraph contains an embarrassing mistake:
"We consider Yakima a very important place for the 2006 elections. It's gotta lot of attention lately and we're going to keep coming back.," says Senator Maria Cantwell (R).
Hmmm...how did that happen? Apparently somebody forgot to proofread the report and hastily threw it up there. It's always important to get your R's and D's in order so you don't confuse people. Hopefully KIMA will correct their mistake.

(KIMA, by the way, followed their convention coverage with a clip of Mike McGavick, who is also apparently in Yakima this weekend).

KAPP (the ABC affiliate) had coverage from reporter Tania Reyes, which didn't lead off the news, but was near the top of the broadcast. Like KIMA, they showed footage from the gala banquet, but they also had a sound bite cut from an interview they did with Governor Gregoire after she addressed the banquet. KAPP also aired a clip prominently showing Rep. Maralyn Chase's booth and signs out in the lobby of the convention center. Their coverage is summarized online here.

Other convention coverage: Chris McGann filed this report for the Seattle P-I, and Times chief political reporter David Postman is also commentating on the convention at his blog (and he was kind enough to link to NPI earlier, too!)

I'll check around for new articles about the convention in the morning; there's bound to be a few more then.

It's hard to anticipate how the convention will go tomorrow, but if today is any indicator, I think tomorrow will be a great day for Washington Democrats. A few other Democrats who participated in the platform process earlier today have told me they're pretty confident our platform this year is going to be solid. And hopefully that's the case.

It's off to bed now for some much needed rest; I'll resume live updates starting tomorrow morning.

Live from Yakima: Washington State Democrats Unite Behind Maria Cantwell

The gala banquet has just begun...and all the stars are here: the congressional challengers, Senator Maria Cantwell, Governor Christine Gregoire, Representatives Larsen and McDermott, and legislative leaders like House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.

And now... BREAKING: State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz has just announced the party is now "free of debt" from last year's gubernatorial election challenge, which cost the state party $4.7 million dollars. State Democrats gave him a lengthy standing ovation.

Governor Gregoire followed the State Chairman, delivering a rousing speech about the values of the "Real Washington" - our Washington, the Evergreen State. "You ain't seen nothing yet," Governor Gregoire declared, after reviewing the accomplishments of the last two legislative sessions. "Get us the majorities we need and we will have a great session in 2007."

She introduced Senator Maria Cantwell, who appeared as energized as I've ever seen her. Cantwell gave her familiar stump speech, but with a new, fresh twist, building on Governor Gregoire's "Real Washington" theme, and calling on Democrats to "keep the state blue". She was enthusiastically received by the huge audience.

Speaking of Senator Cantwell, major Democratic leaders gathered with Sen. Maria Cantwell just before the banquet to show their support for her reelection campaign.
"Maria is a progressive hero in the Senate, fighting for Washington families and stanindg up to the Bush administration and big money special interests again and again," said Representative Jim McDermott. "Maria's strong leadership on choice, energy, and the environment are second to none. We are united as Democrats and determined to return Maria to the Senate so she can keep fighting for our Northwest values."

And here they are, standing side by side with her:

Democrats Unite Behind Cantwell

From left to right: Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, House Speaker Frank Chopp, Congressman Rick Larsen, Governor Christine Gregoire, Senator Maria Cantwell, Congressman Jim McDermott

Other Democrats Endorsing Senator Cantwell Today (but not pictured): Senator Patty Murray, Congressman Brian Baird, Congressman Norm Dicks, Congressman Jay Inslee, Congressman Adam Smith

Brad Owen is speaking now and is introducing Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.

UPDATE: The gala banquet has concluded. We heard from Senator Lisa Brown, and then State Representative Bill Grant, then House Speaker Frank Chopp (who delivered a pretty fiery speech, reviewing recent legislative successes) and then finally Chairman Pelz concluded the dinner and bid Democrats a good night.

I'll post again with some more reflections later tonight, when I get to the hotel. Until then, I'll be relaxing and enjoying the company of other Democrats.

Live from Yakima: Senator Cantwell Arrives

Senator Maria Cantwell has just arrived at the 2006 Democratic Convention. I only talked briefly with her but she thanked me for all the work that NPI is doing, noting that "it's really needed." And we, of course, agree.

The gala banquet is about to start soon as well. Everyone is having a good time - I'm certainly enjoying myself immensely.

Live from Yakima: The Candidates Are Here!

All three Democratic congressional challengers have arrived at the 2006 Democratic Convention: Darcy Burner, running in the 8th, Richard Wright, running in the 4th, and Peter Goldmark, running in the 5th.

I spoke to each candidate briefly in the lobby of the Yakima Convention Center. All the candidates are clearly upbeat and energized. The atmosphere here is electric...there's so much happening, and so many people here!

David Postman of the Seattle Times has just arrived, and staffers for Maria Cantwell's campaign are showing up practically every other minute, it seems. Delegates appear to be in a jovial mood. The gala banquet is just forty five minutes away - when the state's congressional delegation and Governor Christine Gregoire will unite behind Senator Maria Cantwell's reelection campaign - in grand style.

You can expect another update fairly soon.

Live from Yakima: Media and Bloggers Here

A number of reporters and bloggers have arrived at the Yakima Convention Center for tonight's festivities (and, presumably, tomorrow's as well).

Besides the local TV news crews I mentioned earlier, the Seattle Post Intelligencer's Chris McGann is here, as is Leah Ward from the Yakima Herald-Republic and Sean Cockerham of the Tacoma News Tribune.

David Postman of the Seattle Times is supposed to be on his way here as well.

Bloggers here, besides myself, include Neal of Peace Tree Farm, and eventually, we'll be joined by Steve from MajorityRules and Jimmy from McCranium.

Excitement continues to build inside the convention center. Volunteers are cheerfully passing out "I Luv the Guv" stickers and buttons for just about every Democratic candidate imaginable. And sales for T-shirts and merchandise are brisk.

UPDATE: Just met a new blogger, Roger Erickson from the Kitsap Peninsula, who started his own blog last month.

UPDATE II: Ralph Thomas from the Seattle Times has arrived, as has Jim Camden of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Live from Yakima: Over 50% Registered

According to the Credentials Committee Chair for the State Democratic Convention, over 50% of delegates elected to the state convention from the legislative district caucuses back in April have already signed in and registered, as of 2 PM.

That's pretty amazing, considering it's still very early and registration has only been open since 9 AM earlier today. There should be even more delegates arriving tomorrow morning. And this convention is in a midterm year, not a pesidential election year.

What does this mean? It means Democrats are energized and inspired to take back our country this year and work for change. That's a very encouraging sign.

Live from Yakima: More Democrats Arriving

The convention center is humming with activity now: lots of delegates checking in, attending caucus meetings or trainings, and engaging in conversation.

I took a quick trip across town for lunch and to check into my hotel about an hour and a half ago. I just got back, and things are clearly getting busier.

A couple of TV news crews were here during the 11 o'clock hour getting State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz on camera to talk about the convention. Almost all of the lobby area is filled up with tables, either for delegate check-in, or stocked with merchandise and literature, or representing a particular candidate/campaign.

I'm off to a committee meeting now; I'll post again with another update shortly.

Live from Yakima: Checked In!

Well, I've arrived in Yakima, and I just signed in for the 2006 State Democratic Convention. (I'm an official delegate to the convention, and I'm also serving on the Credentials Committee.)

The Yakima Convention Center is buzzing with activity; there's a lot of Democrats here already, and it's still early on Friday morning. There'll be meetings and other functions going on throughout the rest of the day.

Numerous campaigns have booths set up, including Darcy's, Maria's, Richard Wright's, Washington Won't Discriminate, and others.

I'll post another update again soon when I have news or other observations.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Liveblogging the Conventions

A note to our readers: I'll be representing the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) at two important conventions this month - the 2006 Democratic State Convention this weekend, and the YearlyKos convention next weekend.

I'll be providing live coverage and frequent updates from both, whenever Internet access is available (it should be at the state convention, and it definitely will be available all the time at YearlyKos, because Air America Radio is sponsoring it).

You can check in here for regular updates starting tomorrow for the state convention, and next Thursday for YearlyKos. Here's the convention dates when liveblogging will be taking place:

June 2nd - 3rd: State Democratic Convention Liveblogging, from Yakima
June 8th - 11th: YearlyKos Convention Liveblogging, from Las Vegas

The fun starts tomorrow.

Eyman makes appointment to turn in signatures for Referendum 65

The Seattle P-I's Chris McGann files an interesting report:
Whatever the reason, Tim Eyman was mum Thursday about whether he has enough signatures to get the measure to repeal the state's new gay civil-rights law on the ballot.

"We haven't put out any announcement and when we have we'll definitely let you know," said Eyman, who in recent years has found increasingly attention-grabbing ways of presenting his initiative signatures for review.

He apparently wasn't so coy with Tina Clarke, initiative supervisor for the Secretary of State's office, who confirmed that Eyman made an 11 a.m. appointment on Monday to turn in signatures for Referendum 65.

About an hour later he e-mailed a terse announcement: "We'll be bringing down petitions ... Monday." Two weeks ago, Eyman reported that volunteers had gathered 30,755 signatures, a far cry from the 112,440 needed by Tuesday's deadline to get the measure on the ballot this fall.
It's hard to say whether Eyman has enough signatures to make the ballot or not. This could be an appointment to actually turn in signatures, or it could be a stunt, where Tim tries to keep everyone in suspense as long as he possibly can, and make an announcement like "we came really close, but we didn't make it" which is what he did a couple years ago with I-864.

Expect that Eyman will have the signatures needed, so you're not surprised, but do hope that he's actually failed and has extended his recent losing streak.

GOP cheated Kerry out of the Presidency

Robert F. Kennedy has a new article in Rolling Stone which points to a lot of convincing evidence that suggests Republicans cheated in Ohio to "win" in 2004, just like they cheated in Florida to "win" in 2000:
Like many Americans, I spent the evening of the 2004 election watching the returns on television and wondering how the exit polls, which predicted an overwhelming victory for John Kerry, had gotten it so wrong. By midnight, the official tallies showed a decisive lead for George Bush -- and the next day, lacking enough legal evidence to contest the results, Kerry conceded. Republicans derided anyone who expressed doubts about Bush's victory as nut cases in ''tinfoil hats,'' while the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as ''conspiracy theories,''(1) and The New York Times declared that ''there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale.''(2)

But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad(3) never received their ballots -- or received them too late to vote(4) -- after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment -- roughly one for every 100 cast.(10)
The article is complete with sources, and is a must read for Democrats and anyone concerned about fair and honest elections.

I like my ice water

The Seattle P-I has an article about Drinking Liberally, and surprisingly, I'm mentioned in it, although just briefly:
On the TV in a corner of the Montlake Ale House, the Clippers battled the Suns in a pro basketball playoff game. But on this Tuesday night, as on every Tuesday night, the barroom talk focused on a spectator sport of different sort: politics.

[...]

And everyone was Drinking Liberally -- even Andrew Villeneuve, a teenage blogger from Redmond who stuck to ice water.
I do indeed go often to Drinking Liberally, and I always stick to ice water. I like ice water. It's refreshing and keeps my focus sharp so I can both work and talk to other bloggers and activists. Even if I was of drinking age, I'd just stay away from alcoholic beverages.

I also believe in living a healthy lifestyle. I don't smoke, I walk and bike whenever I get the opportunity, and I shop for organic food at PCC Natural Markets. (If you don't, you should - the food is not only better for you, but tastes great!)

The P-I's Gregory Roberts didn't mention my age, instead just describing me as a "teenage blogger". That's a pretty broad age span. If you're curious, I'm actually 19, and only eight months away from being twenty. I'm officially two decades old a few weeks after 2007 rolls around.

I firmly believe that more young people should get involved in politics. Unfortunately, Drinking Liberally would seem to discourage aspiring young activists who aren't 21 from taking part, but you can certainly come and not drink. I do.

But I think Democrats and progressives ought to figure out a strategy for reaching out specifically to young people (individuals of high school or college age) and getting them involved. Maybe that means putting on a regular event like Drinking Liberally, but minus the alcohol, and probably making it less frequent.

For example, a regularly scheduled monthly meeting could be organized at a Seattle area restaurant (not a bar though) where young people could have a bite to eat, discuss political strategy, and enjoy ice water.

One of the great things about Drinking Liberally is certainly the continuity. It goes on every Tuesday night at the Montlake Ale House. If you're in the mood to talk politics with other activists, you just show up. And you can bring your laptop with you: the Ale House is Wi-Fi equipped so you can surf the blogosphere or just get some work done.