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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My letter to MSNBC

I urge every progressive activist to speak up and strongly applaud Keith Olbermann for his outstanding response to Donald Rumsfeld, which aired last night.
Dear MSNBC:

Last night's special commentary on Countdown responding to Donald Rumsfeld was truly, truly amazing. Keith Olbermann is MSNBC's best host and a real journalist. Keith speaks for me and a majority of Americans who are sick of this administration's deception, attacks on our patriotism, and the continued occupation of Iraq.

Keith's words were powerful, inspiring, and sorely needed. Finally, an authentic, honest voice speaking for the heart and soul of America on cable TV, not another member of a legion of pundits or talking heads repeating right wing spin.

I implore you to ignore the people who will surely demonize Keith for reminding us all that dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

And, as a cable viewer, I want to thank you for keeping Countdown with Keith Olbermann on the air. Countdown is perhaps the main reason why I usually watch MSNBC and not CNN.

Sincerely,

Andrew Villeneuve
The right wing is of course angry at Olbermann and attempting to intimidate MSNBC executives into getting rid of Countdown. We must speak up and make our voices heard. Here are the email addresses to send your letter to:
viewerservices@msnbc.com
letters@msnbc.com
countdown@msnbc.com
KOlbermann@msnbc.com
dabrams@msnbc.com
There's no need to write a long essay. What MSNBC executives need to hear now are thousands of short, to the point, heartfelt thank yous. And be sure to watch Countdown tonight at 5 PM Pacific Time.

UPDATE: Olbermann reported on Countdown that the response to his special commentary yesterday was astounding, adding that MSNBC's inboxes were "overflowing" with positive comments. Olbermann also said that many viewers had requested that the commentary be rebroadcast on tonight's show.

That isn't going to happen, but Olbermann did remind viewers they can watch the commentary again and again on MSNBC's website.

If you haven't written a letter yet, please write now.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In Brief - August 30th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • First, a bizarre news item - is Canada contributing to a slush fund to the Bush White House, in a midterm election year? Elliot J. Feldman of the Tyee has the details.
  • The Washington Supreme Court was asked yesterday to reconsider its backwards ruling on marriage equality. Even though it's unusual for such a request to be granted, the couples who filed the original lawsuit and their attorneys say the stakes are too high to ignore the opportunity.
  • The state Democratic Party and local party organizations in Thurston and Mason counties are so sick of traitor Tim Sheldon that they're helping contribute to a war chest for his challenger. At a news conference earlier this week, State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz called Sheldon, who supported Bush in 2004, the "Joe Lieberman of Washington state politics". Pelz also remarked that "we have two DINOs in this state and that is two too many" - referring to former state Senator Dino Rossi.
  • Keith Olbermann takes Donald Rumsfeld to the woodshed in a brilliant commentary tearing apart Rumsfeld's comparison of Iraq war critics to appeasers of Hitler. Video is available here.
  • Kudos to Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for taking a firm stand against the occupation of Iraq. Anderson addressed between 4,000 and 5,000 protestors just hours before Dubya's arrival in Utah.
Finally, a reminder to our readers that our outstanding contributor Jason Black has posted two great interviews this week - one with U.S. Representative Jay Inslee and the other with Rodney Tom, the Democrat running for State Senate in the 48th.

If you have something you'd like to add, please leave a comment.

NPI celebrates three year anniversary

This month, the Northwest Progressive Institute celebrates its three year anniversary. I know I can hardly believe the organization has existed for thirty six months, but that is indeed how long it's been.

I founded NPI a year and a half after entering politics and setting up Permanent Defense. I saw the need to present a compelling alternative to the worldview of George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and Tim Eyman. I knew that being on defense wasn't enough. I wanted to create something with a more comprehensive mission.

I knew of the importance of infrastructure and envisioned laying the groundwork to build a local, progressive think tank. I had very little in the way of resources, but that did not deter me in the slightest.

I created a framework and then implemented that framework into a very basic website filled mostly with empty space. That website was launched three years and a week ago from today - August 23rd, 2003. Shortly thereafter, NPI stopped being one person's dream and instead became a team effort as additional members joined.

My initial intent was to build an evolving platform of sorts - a base of ideas, solutions, and policy recommendations for creating a stronger, freer, safer, and cleaner America. Three years later, that platform remains unfinished and in development, but we've certainly made progress.

And that hasn't been our only project, either. Later endeavors included this blog, Pacific Northwest Portal, our multimedia section, and the conference for local bloggers held last January, to name a few.

Throughout the last three years I have run into many people who have laughed at or dismissed either me or NPI itself, or both. I have even encountered a few activists who don't take this organization seriously and have displayed hostility. But that has never stopped me.

It hasn't stopped people from joining, either.

I remain aware that we will not be considered a credible operation or organization in the eyes of many people until we have a sizable budget, office space, a paid staff - in other words, hefty resources.

So what?

The political establishment can think whatever it wants, and it's going to anyway whether I like it or not. But looking back, I can say with confidence that we have had three years of unbelievable growth.

We're going to keep growing, and someday in the future, we will have funding, offices, and a payroll. However, we'll never forget our roots. NPI will always be an organization driven by grassroots activists.

I can't wait to see what happens over the next year.

Rodney Tom Talks About the Issues and Running As A Democrat

This is Part 2 of the interviews I conducted with Jay Inslee and Rodney Tom at a fundraising event for Rodney held this past August 9th. Part 1 is here.

Jay Inslee and Rodney TomRodney, currently a state representative, is running for State Senate in the 48th District. He switched parties earlier this year, leaving the Republicans for the Democrats. Below is the transcript of our conversation, or if you're a fan of audio clips, you can listen here.

In the transcript, "JB" is me, "RT" is Rodney Tom.

JB: Rodney Tom, what prompted you to run for office?

RT: Really education. I just looked at - My kids go to Medina Elementary where we're very fortunate. And well we have this school auction every year and it raises 200, 250 thousand dollars. And I started to go down the items that covers and I'm starting to look at this list going "that sure looks like it should be covered, and that should be covered, and that should be covered, and that looks pretty basic."

JB: [Covered] by the state, you mean?

RT: Correct. And from that I'm like "what are we doing at the state level?" And then I started to think, you know, when I grew up my parents weren't wealthy. What happens to these schoolkids who don't have parents from wealthy areas? Do they just go without, or...? So that was really my passion for getting into politics was making sure that every child has the opportunities that I had growing up with an excellent education so that they can compete in the global economy.

JB: Yeah somebody tried calling that "No Child Left Behind" once.

RT: Right, No Child Left Behind I think had great promise, but you've got to fund it and that's what we need to do here at the state level. We can't just talk about great education, we have to make sure that we have the resources behind that to make it a reality.

JB: So, how's your campaign going so far?

RT: Incredible. I'm at about 4900 doors so far, and I can tell you that [from] the message at the door it's going to be an absolutely fantastic year. Obviously there's a lot of anxiety with where the Republicans and the President have taken our country at the national level. People are very satisfied with where the governor and the legislature - what we've done at the state level in moving forward some education measures, in moving forward some of the transportation measures, and addressing some of the health care issues. And I think there's such a contrast there in that: the success we're having at the state level and the kind of the chaos we've seen at the national level. And I think that the voters out there - It's just going to be a great year in November.

JB: So having talked to a reasonable swath of the 48th District, or at least a good cross section of the kinds of people who live here, what's your take on the pulse of the district?

RT: The district is a very moderate district. If you look at the 48th, two years ago George W. Bush was 42%, Nethercutt was 42, even Dave Reichert lost the 48th by 5 points to Dave Ross. The district is very much in our favor and I would say having knocked on 4,900 doors that those numbers are probably 5 points light in our favor coming into this election. So I think - taking all the considerations as far as the national mood, how I fit this district, [that] we have a state senator currently who's completely out of sync on probably the top 12 issues in this district - I just think it's going to be a great year.

JB: So outside of education what's something the legislature should be doing to make Washington a better place?

RT: I think there's a lot of things we can be doing, as far as transportation, getting a transportation system that is coordinated, that works together. You know it's going to take some roads, it's going to take some light rail, and more importantly on that I think we need to incorporate our housing policies with our transportation policies. I think that's one area where we kind of fall short.

JB: You know I haven't really heard anybody mention those two items together. Could you expand on that a little bit?

RT: Sixty percent of the new home buyers in Snohomish County work in King County. We don't have a transportation infrastructure either now or in the future that's going to accomodate that kind of growth. We need to make sure that the growth that's occuring is by the job centers.

So what I want to do is start moving some of the ways that we're projecting our growth. Trying to make sure that our job base and our housing base are together so that, you know, we can have people ride their bike, we can have them walk, we can have them take a short transit trip instead of these longer and longer commutes across counties.

JB: So, rank-and-file voters - or at least general folks on the street that I talk to - don't seem to get the connection between every Tim Eyman initiative that comes down the pike and the fact that they're pushing the state ever closer and closer to having an income tax. And when you think about how we fund the state there's obviously two options, an income tax or fees and use taxes on roads and national parks and whatnot. What's your take on those two sources of funding and what is best for the state?

RT: Well I still think an income tax is probably a little ways off. We might have some issues here as far as there is some federal legislation that would pretty much decimate our current B-and-O structure as far as taxation. That accounts for about 18% of the revenue that we gather at the state [level]. If that were to go away, I mean, we can't just make up for an 18% hole.

Having knocked on the doors I have, I can say that I think property taxes are near their top - and that's pretty much across the board; Republicans and Democrats will tell you that - and I think sales taxes are pretty close to being at the top. And with the new initiatives coming up as far as transportation, I think [sales taxes] will be at their peak. Plus the regressive nature of that I don't think is good for moving foward.

So I think it's something that we're going to be looking at. I think in the short term there are some other avenues out there as far as looking at some of the business credits [...] that we're giving that really produce no economic benefit. They're pretty much a give-away and we need to start looking at some of those and figuring out where we can get some of this additional revenue.

JB: So if you could change something about the state Democratic party organization, what would it be?

RT: Great question. I think what I would do is, I think our database - and this is kind of more of a technical nuts-and-bolts type thing -

JB: Hey, infrastructure matters.

RT: Correct. The database I think needs to be much more user friendly. I know when I'm out doorbelling, and I'm looking at the database and it's saying this guy's an independent, and the guy's saying, you know, "I've never voted for a Republican, I always vote Democrat," and I don't have the ability to change that on the database. I think we can have much [more accurate] databases if we give more local control. And that's one area where I think the Republicans, and I'll be quite honest, they are a better organized effort in their database.

They're very targeted. They're able to focus on specific voters, specific issues. And that way they don't have to go with their mean-spirited philosophy on everything, but they can kind of pick one or two issues that are instrumental to that voter, or important to that voter. And they just stress that for that voter. And then for the next voter it's another two issues.

JB: So they're doing personalized politics in some sense.

RT: Correct. And we need to get to that level. And I think you get to that level through a very sophisticated database. And that's the next level of politics. I think we have the message, we have the issues, but we need to market it better. Right now we're being beat on the marketing side.

JB: So there's an obvious overlap between what you just said and the local progressive blogosphere and the netroots, which are, you know, a bunch of pretty tech-savvy people with a progressive mindset. So I'm wondering, what are you doing to engage the netroots, with the Northwest Progressive [Institute] and HorsesAss, and sites like that in your campaign?

RT: Obviously we're talking with the individuals who are blogging, and obviously we have a website. And just trying through all of our materials trying to engage people back to the website. Actually, when I'm at the door, most people are pretty surprised, one, to have met you, and usually they don't have questions in mind. But that's one area where we are, you know, getting communciation back from the voters.

It's kind of like "ok, I know I caught you by surprise, but here's my website on this brochure, I'd love to hear from you when you do have a question." And then about five minutes after you leave, you know, they come up with their question and they're viewing us through the internet.

But the internet is going to become more and more of a tool, and I've seen that over the election cycles, and I think this year it's going to be very important, and we will have a website that will accomodate that. Again, from my doorbelling, it's going to be a great year for Democrats.

JB: All right. Well, Rodney Tom, thank you for talking with us.

RT: Thank you.

Will McGavick denounce Ted Stevens?

Last Thursday, Republican candidate Mike McGavick, who longs to be George W. Bush's next rubber stamp in the U.S. Senate, registered his unhappiness with a certain, unknown Senator who used a Senate parliamentary maneuver to block government transparency legislation from coming up for vote.

Here's a backgrounder on the story:
In an ironic twist, legislation that would open up the murky world of government contracting to public scrutiny has been derailed by a secret parliamentary maneuver.

An unidentified senator placed a "secret hold" on legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., that would create a searchable database of government contracts, grants, insurance, loans and financial assistance, worth $2.5 trillion last year. The database would bring transparency to federal spending and be as simple to use as conducting a Google search.

The measure had been unanimously passed in a voice vote last month by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and had support from heavy hitters such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. It was on the fast track for floor action before Congress recessed on Aug. 4 when someone put a hold on the measure.

Now the bill is in political limbo. Under Senate rules, unless the senator who placed the hold decides to lift it, the bill will not be brought up for a vote.
And now, here's what Mike McGavick had to say on his blog last week in response to the article:
McGavick: This is a sad state of affairs when a senator (or senators) secretly prevent legislation to remove secrecy. The American people have a right to know how their money is being spent. We need senators who are willing to hold their colleagues accountable for this sort of thing, regardless of party.
Well today, we found out who that Senator is. From TPM Muckraker:
A spokesman for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) just confirmed his boss was the man behind the secret hold on the Coburn/Obama spending database bill, which has captivated a segment of the political blogging community in recent days.

"Sen. Stevens does have a hold on the bill," said the spokesman, who would only speak on the condition he not be named. He added that Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) office was notified of the hold after it was placed
Well, now, isn't that interesting! We now have Mike McGavick on the record condemning this kind of behavior.

Is Mike McGavick going to come out and condemn Ted Stevens as well - or will he try to beat a retreat from his earlier comments?

Stevens and McGavick have deep ties. The Alaska Senator has held a lavish fundraiser up north for McGavick and cut a personal check to Mike's campaign for $2,000, according to the most recent FEC reports. It's pretty rare for a Senator to contribute heavily to the challenger of a colleague.

Stevens also has claimed that he pulled legislation he introduced in the U.S. Senate at McGavick's bequest. And the Seattle Times even ran a front page story by reporter Alicia Mundy back in June detailing Stevens' involvement in Washington State's U.S. Senate race.

Mike McGavick is once again trying to have it both ways. He desperately wants to become part of the Republican establishment in Washington D.C. and support his buddies George W. Bush and Ted Stevens, but he knows he can't win if he reveals that. So he's trying to run as the anti-establishment candidate. It's Orwellian deception at its finest.

Announcing Northwest Roots

The Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased this morning to announce the launch of a new communications and networking service for local progressive activists - Northwest Roots, or NWroots for short.


The goal of this project is to provide local bloggers and activists with an all in one service for e-mail, instant messaging (real time conversations over the Net) and personal/event planning. Here's a Q&A about how this all works.

Why are you doing this?
We launched this project because we want to facilitate better communication among the local and regional netroots (hence, Northwest Roots). It's a decentralized network, meaning every participant is in the driver's seat, free to pursue their own projects, work on their own causes, and forge relationships with other activists.

What are the benefits?
Every participant gets a new, clean email address (like yourname@nwroots.org) with more than 2 GB for email storage. Participants can also use their account to create their own personal calendar and view the master NWroots calendar, which will list events, meetings, and functions of interest to the community. And upon joining, each participant is added to the contact list of every other participant. It's like having a base of new acquaintances to build on instead of merely starting with a blank address book.

What's the cost?
There is no cost to participants - zero. It's completely free.

Who can sign up?
Any progressive or Democratic activist living in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, or Montana can apply to join. If you have your own blog, or you're already involved in a progressive organization or Democratic Party, be sure to mention that when you apply - it'll allow us to process your application faster. You do not need to be an NPI member to join NWroots, although existing and future members of the Northwest Progressive Institute are entitled to automatic access to the service. If you'd like to join both NPI and NWroots now, you only need to fill out our Join Us form.

What if I already have an email/IM provider and or calendar software?
You can still sign up, of course. But don't submit an application unless you intend to use or at least try out the NWroots service. Otherwise, you're just denying someone else the opportunity to become a participant and enjoy it. A limited number of accounts are currently available. If you join and decide later you don't want or need the service, you can request that your account be deleted so another progressive can have the chance to join.

How does it work?
You access the service (including webmail, web calendar, and chat) through your Internet browser (for example, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari.) Optionally, you may download software for enhanced instant message capabilities.

If I join, will I only be able to use my account for political work?
No. You can use it for all your communications needs. It's just like having an account with a free webmail provider, i.e. Hotmail or Yahoo, except that it comes pre-loaded with tools for networking with other progressives.

My question wasn't answered.
Contact us with your questions, or if you really want to, go ahead and submit an application so you can try out the NWroots service for yourself.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Prediction Tuesday: GOP will cave on sales tax deduction

Several weeks ago Maria Cantwell charged up the blogosphere when she posted here at NPI ("Washington State's Working Families Deserve Better") explaining her vote on the minimum wage bill. Senator Cantwell pegged a gratuitous gouging of tipped workers in the bill for what it was, a cynical Republican ploy.

But that bill was called the "trifecta" by its sponsors because it also included a bill eviscerating the estate tax and another, the "extenders," which was an extension of several actual tax breaks for actual Americans that might actually help somebody besides the rich -- namely the R&D credit, the higher education expense deduction, and the state and local sales tax deduction.

This last part - the sales tax deduction - is worth hundreds and thousands of dollars to individual Washington taxpayers. Residents of most other states have long enjoyed deduction of their state taxes, because most have an income tax, and state income taxes have been deductible since they were invented. Citizens of states without income taxes got deductibility of their sales taxes only recently.

The prediction this Tuesday is this: When this pathetic Congress reconvenes in a few days, if it does nothing else, it will pass out the extenders. Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate minority leader, has promised to move the bill. Whether he gets a chance or it becomes sweetening for another Republican poop pie is a matter of arcane Senate rules that are beyond my ability or interest to fathom.

I do know, however, that among the other states in the same boat with Washington are Texas, Florida and North Carolina. And I know that in the spring Republicans used some of those arcane Senate rules to extend a dramatic reduction in dividend and capital gains taxes [which apply if you are too rich to use a 401(k)] out to 2011. Will they really go home in an election year having to explain they were so busy taking care of the rich they couldn't deliver actual value to their constituents?

Also, a repeat of a late addition to the last Prediction Tuesday: Anyone who wants to explore apprenticeship opportunities in Washington should start at the Labor & Industries website that shows a full listing of the programs and application procedures. If you want a career with a future in a skilled trade, check it out.

Jay Inslee on Lamont, the Blogosphere, and the Minimum Wage bill

A couple of weeks back, on August 9th, I had the opportunity to interview Jay Inslee briefly at a fund-raiser held on behalf of Rodney Tom.

Jay Inslee and Rodney TomI'm sure most of our readers don't need me to tell them that Jay is our state's 1st district representative. Rodney Tom, however, is a less well known fellow. He's running for the State Senate in Washington's 48th district, which is my neck of the woods.

I have an interview of him from that same event, which I will post tomorrow.

Jay is always good to talk to, and this was no exception. He let me grill him on what Lamont-vs-Lieberman means - recall, this interview happened the day after Lamont's victory in Connecticut - so I was naturally curious to hear Jay's take on it, from his perspective inside the beltway.

He also had some great comments on the blogosphere and the value of sites like NPI, Daily Kos, Atrios, etc., in the modern political dialogue, and a great sound-bite about the recent minimum wage bill.

Below is the transcript, or if you're a fan of audio clips, you can listen here. In the transcript, "JB" is me, "JI" is Representative Inslee.

JB: First question I have to ask, obviously yesterday was Tuesday, so, Lieberman vs. Lamont?

JI: I predicted that was going to be the result and I think it showed where the heart of the Party is right now. And I think that, you know, we clearly have a need that was well expressed in Connecticut to stand up to George Bush. It's just very clear that Connecticut Democrats didn't believe they had a candidate who was doing that.

It's a fundamental defining event of our time: whether we're going to be a check-and-balance to the President. And the incumbent wasn't cutting the mustard doing it. And the voters spoke. And it is a significant event. Incumbent senators do not get beat that much.

JB: No, not very [much].

JI: It's a very unique thing.

JB: Do you see any long-term change coming to the party establishment as a result of this?

JI: I've got to tell you, if you haven't figured out that the heart of the Democratic party demands people with backbone to stand up to George Bush - if you haven't figured that out already, it shouldn't take the loss of a Senate seat in a Democratic primary to show you that. That should be obvious [from] talking to Democrats. And people in the street.

And it's not just Democrats either; people demand restoration of Democracy in D.C. And I look at this not so much as either a Republican or a Democratic issue, but [as] restoration of our basic checks and balances system. And if you haven't understood why that's imperative, I don't know what it will take. Except a sledgehammer.

JB: Well, it's great to hear you say that. So, living in the 8th District, I don't get a lot of 1st District news these days, you know, since they moved the line past my house a few years back. So how's your campaign going?

JI: It's going well. I have an opponent, who has filed, so we're going to have a race. And, you know, [I'll] go pedal-to-the-metal just like I always do. But I'm helping a lot of candidates. I'm helping Darcy Burner, I've helped Peter Goldmark, I'm helping all the Democrats around the country. I'm helping a candidate in Iowa, I'm helping one in Virgina. So I'm helping people everywhere around the country that I can help out. This is a great year to be involved. This is the year to go to the barricades. I've been in politics now since 1988, and there's ten times more at stake this year than there has been in the past.

JB: So to what degree are you engaging the netroots [activists]? Like the Northwest Progressive [Institute], and DailyKos, and HorsesAss, and other blog sites like that?

JI: Well, you know, I'm an avid reader. You know, I try to contribute when there's a vacuum to fill. I don't feel a need to dominate the space, you know, because politicans have their own niche, and I think people ought to have access to the blogs not dominated by politicians.

But I'll contribute when I think there's sort of a vacuum. But they're very valuable to my thinking and to understand what people are thinking. And I read them every single day, and they're just a tremendous tool of democracy. It's been a great thing to develop because it's "distributed democracy." The more you have multiple centers of influence, the more democracy will work.

JB: Which blogs do you read constantly? Or regularly?

JI: DailyKos, I read HorsesAss, I read Atrios' Echaton every day, you know. I read Huffington Post, but I'll also read the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI. So, you know, I'm not a - I'm an eclectic.

JB: It's been interesting to see the blogs doing better journalism than the [New York] Times lately.

JI: That has happened. And it certainly happened in the Iraq war, where the mainstream [traditional is a better word] press really did abdicate its responsibility to question the administration. And I think that's one reason people have turned to blogs. Because they recognize the [bloggers'] willingness to challenge some of those conventional truths.

JB: So when January comes around, and you get to help elect a new speaker of the House, what's the first piece of legislation that you want to put forth?

JI: Well my personal preference is to put up the new Apollo Energy Project, to passage, which is the project I'm working on to create a new energy economy for the country. I think if you look at all of the issues, that is the most fundamental for a variety of issues. It's a trifecta.

It deals with our national security issues, breaks our addiction to Middle Eastern oil, not be wrapped up in wars in the Middle East for oil, or associated with oil. It solves global warming, which is going to eat us alive if we don't act, and it creates new jobs in this country. So it's a trifecta. It just touches a lot of our concerns.

JB: Well and I'm glad you're working to get Peter Goldmark elected. He just knows that stuff inside and out.

JI: He's a plant geneticist who understands enzymes, and cellulosic ethanol... [laughs] He's on top of it.

JB: So what's Washington State's biggest problem right now that you, in the other Washington, can help do something about?

JI: Electing some more Democrats to the Congress from the State of Washington. That's our fundamental need right now, to move the country. What are our local issues, I mean, there's no secret that they're education, transportation, and helth care. Those are the biggest three. And we have a host of environmental challenges. So I'm not sure I can pick one, but to do something nationally we have to get some poeple elected who will change the country. And we have a good chance to do that.

JB: OK, so in your opinion, does the neoconservatives' pattern of action amount to class warfare against middle and lower-income Americans?

JI: This is in a sense class warfare, and they've been winning. Unfortnately. And as a result we're seeing a further stratification of society. You really could not design a more perfect window into the soul of the other side than the bill that passed last week.

JB: Which one was that?

JI: The effort to gut the minimum wage.

JB: Oh sure, yeah.

JI: Gut the ability to provide health care and education for Americans, because in the same day - in the same bill! - they gave people with estates of $100 million twenty million dollar tax relief, and cut waiters and waitresses, servers, minimum wage from $7.63 to $2.13. Now that is quite a feat of gluttony and greed, to do that in the same bill. To identify the venality and avarice of these people - to deny the people serving them food, cutting their wages five dollars an hour - while giving $20 million tax relief to certain estates.

That could only be designed in Hollywood to demonstrate how greedy these people are. So yeah. And that's a disrespect for work. These people disrespect work. And workers. And I was very angry on the floor - I gave a speech on the floor, I don't know if you knew about this - I called them out on it. I sort of called these Republicans out. I said if you want to come down to defend - I said I challenge anybody to come to the floor to defend cutting the minimum wage.

I challenge anybody to do that. Nobody would do it. They'll put it in a bill, but they were ashamed to do anything [on the floor] about it. Dave Reichert, with all due respect, voted to cut the minimum wage then claimed he didn't know it was in the bill.

JB: Yeah, what a surprise.

JI: Yeah, what a surprise. Well, I gave a speech on it. I guess he wasn't watching the floor.

JB: Well, Jay Inslee, thank you for talking with us.

JI: Thank you. I'll see you out on the dance floor.

JB: Absolutely!

Note: that last is a reference to the fact that I am part-owner in a ballroom dance studio in Redmond, where I keep threatening to make Jay and his wife take lessons!

Pacific NW Portal Version 4.1 Launched

We've finished some minor tweaks to Pacific Northwest Portal today, including the deployment of a new syndicate member.

As a result of Will's decision to close down his blog (Pike Place Politics), we found it necessary to once again begin a search for a replacement to fill in the gap on the Washington Outlook page. We have come to a decision.

Pike Place Politics will be succeeded by EWPolitics, run by Gerald Toompas from the eastern half of the Evergreen State. Gerald has been doing a good job of covering the happenings in the Peter Goldmark for Congress campaign and we're pleased to welcome him to the syndicate.

We've also improved our unique Daily Kos diary tracker, found on the Highlights page. The tracker's search capabilities have been significantly expanded. It is now able to automatically identify many new diarists from the Pacific Northwest and aggregate their posts.

And finally, we've also upgraded our filtering technology to ensure that right wing websites continue to be filtered out of our traditional media news wires.

Monday, August 28, 2006

In Brief - August 28th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Congressional Quarterly today upgraded its rating of the race for Washington’s 5th Congressional District to "Republican Favored" from "Safe Republican". CQ, which also interviewed Goldmark, says that he is is a "credible threat" to freshman incumbent Cathy McMorris.
  • McCranium also has an interview with Peter Goldmark that's definitely worth reading. If you're inspired to help Goldmark (and we hope you are) then you can send him your most generous financial contribution here.
  • David Goldstein has posted a succinct analysis of ex-Safeco CEO Mike McGavick's strategy of avoiding the issues in his bid to become George W. Bush's next rubber stamp in the U.S. Senate.
  • John Kerry is sending out an email tomorrow to hundreds of thousands of Democratic donors, urging them to contribute money to the campaign of Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland, who is running for Governor of Ohio. The email slams current Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, reading in part "he used the power of his state office to try to intimidate Ohioans and suppress the Democratic vote." Hard to say with any certainty that the election was stolen, but it's sure hard to dispute that Republicans cheated.
  • Chris Bowers has posted an interesting House Forecast at MyDD (PDF) which contains his predictions for the outcome of congressional races across the country. Burner and Grant are in the forecast, but Goldmark didn't make it.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

One year ago, a warning was issued

This now famous National Weather Service bulletin for New Orleans was issued exactly one year ago, and remains a potent reminder of the ferocity and intensity of Hurricane Katrina:
000
WWUS74 KLIX 281550
NPWLIX

URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGENATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005

...DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED...

.HURRICANE KATRINA...A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.

THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE...INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY...A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.

AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD...AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS...PETS...AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING...BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.

AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR HURRICANE FORCE...OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE...ARE CERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.

ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET...DO NOT VENTURE OUTSIDE!
The National Weather Service did its job and served the American people admirably. The starkly worded warning became "a significant moment for the NWS during Katrina," according to a report released later. The warning was influential in persuading New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration and FEMA failed the American people, displaying only ignorance and stupidity:
"We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy."

- MICHAEL CHERTOFF

"I must say, this storm is much much bigger than anyone expected."

- MICHAEL BROWN

"I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

- GEORGE W. BUSH, September 1st, 2005

"Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job."

- GEORGE W. BUSH, September 2nd, 2005
The Center for American Progress has put together a great timeline looking back at Katrina related events over the last year, available here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A word in favor of "corporate subversion"

"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August"

- Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff, September 2002, on the rollout of the Iraq War.
What "product" the Bush machine has in mind for us this election season remains to be seen. But I am ignoring Card's advice and rolling out my own product without waiting for the end of August. That product: "Corporate Subversion."

Yes, I know, the term has undoubtedly been used before, but I feel it deserves special attention and incorporation into our lexicon this season and for the rest of our political lives. The term can be an antidote for many things and a convenient catch phrase to fall back on when we need time to gather our thoughts. In this way it is similar to the Right's "tax and spend," "cut and run," and "activist judges."

"Corporate Subversion," however, has benefits not possessed by the Right Wing's subriquets:
  • It is true. Corporate interests have subverted virtually every aspect of the government and the society. (See list below.)

  • Most Americans agree. Poll after poll shows a substantial majority of Americans believe corporations exert far too much influence -- subverting the government and the society. This sense becomes particularly active around clear examples of corporate malfeasance, for example, the Enron collapse and subsequent trials. This anti-corporate sentiment is a key to the progressive majority which is the base for resurrecting our democracy.

  • It applies across the board. As above, and below, corporate subversion is ubiquitous and disastrous. Thus, using this term virtually anywhere is appropriate.

  • Raising awareness of and countering corporate subversion will make a difference. This is more or less a corollary to its being true. The difficulty with the Right's hot buttons is that they are only good for agitation value. You can hit the button a million times, but it doesn't fix anything and usually only makes matters worse. This is the problem with being dissociated from reality. "Corporate Subversion" is connected to reality.
Use it early, use it often:
Corporate subversion of the election process
Corporate subversion of campaign finance
Corporate subversion of health care
Corporate subversion of foreign policy
Corporate subversion of rebuilding Iraq
Corporate subversion of energy policy
Corporate subversion of environmental controls
Corporate subversion of media
Corporate subversion of Agriculture
Corporate subversion of transportation systems
Corporate subversion of trade policy
Corporate subversion of scientific research
Corporate subversion of government
Corporate subversion of education
Corporate subversion of the economy
Corporate subversion of tax laws

and so on.
Bonus Phrase: In honor of Dick Cheney, who four years ago today said:
"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends ... and against us,"
This corner is giving a sneak preview of

"Brutal Stupidity."


This phrase is still in its developmental stage, but it promises to be the perfect antidote for "cut and run" and "weak on terrorism" and lead the conversation into torture, erosion of civil rights, and lack of results from enormous expenditures of blood and treasure.

(Special thanks to Mother Jones.)

Farm Bureau almost alone in pushing I-933

Initiative 933, the "pay or waive" developers' initiative that will be on the general election ballot in November, is so controversial that many groups once expected to support it have either declared themselves neutral or are just staying out:
Eleven years ago Washington's homebuilders, real-estate agents and big timber companies teamed up with the state Farm Bureau to supply most of the money and muscle behind a property-rights initiative that voters ultimately rejected.

A similar measure, Initiative 933, has qualified for the November ballot. This time, though, the Farm Bureau is pretty much running the show alone.

Its powerful allies from 1995 either are sitting on the fence, decided to remain neutral or have embraced Initiative 933 only half-heartedly.

The state's leading developers are providing scant backing for a measure opponents label a "developers' initiative."
They all have their reasons: the BIAW, of course, is busy trying to pack the state Supreme Court. The Realtors and Master Builders say their members are divided or the initiative itself is poorly drafted. But perhaps there is something else:
Western Washington University political scientist Todd Donovan says those organizations' minimal involvement in the I-933 campaign may signal they have made their peace, to some extent, with the land-use and environmental laws that pushed them into the property-rights camp a decade ago.

"The Growth Management Act has been around a long time," Donovan says. "It's the status quo now."
And, surprisingly, the same goes for the timber industry:
In 1995 Simpson Timber, Plum Creek and Longview Fibre — all owners of large expanses of Washington timberland — were among the top 10 donors to Referendum 48. This time they're neutral.

[...]

Much has changed since 1995, he said: The industry has agreed to rules that limit logging along streams and elsewhere, in part because it recognized federal endangered-species regulations could trump anything the state did.

"We've come to the conclusion that we can live with the regulatory environment in which we're working now," Wilkerson said.
Most of the resources for the Yes on I-933 campaign will have to be provided by the Farm Bureau or Howard Rich, the out of state, right wing real estate mogul who has supplied hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for signature gathering.

I-933 is probably the most dangerous initiative on the November ballot, assuming I-917 does not qualify. It's dangerous because in one fell swoop it neutralizes or eliminates most of the Evergreen State's growth management or anti-sprawl regulations. That's why a broad coalition, including Futurewise, PCC Natural Markets, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, and Permanent Defense has formed to fight it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Raid the Red Zone with Richard Wright

WA-04 is an opportunity to elect an independent Democrat and get rid of a Republican party hack. Doc Hastings is known for little else but rolling over for corporate interests and the party bosses.

He was directly complicit in the Medicare Part D drug fiasco, having personally held the vote open long past its appropriate conclusion so additional lawmakers could be frogmarched into the chambers to pass the thing.

The result: Eight months of needless confusion followed by endless years of billions in excess profits to pharmaceutical corporations.

Who was the chairman of the House Ethics Committee during the past two years, years of unparalleled corruption, corruption that brought down the once-invincible "Hammer" DeLay?

It was Doc Hastings, from right out there in Central Washington. Friend to Jack Abramoff. Yes, lovable Doc Hastings. That's not a farmer's tan he's wearing.

You'd think Hastings would have gotten some goodies for his home district with all this abetting of corporate subversion, but no.

Hanford remains a problem. NAFTA -- which Hastings was told to vote for, so he did -- has burned Central Washington farmers who can't compete with the low-wage countries.

Doc is just warming a seat for the GOP until he can move out onto K Street in the other Washington.

Hastings web site is featuring his bill on the Kennewick Man. Any real platform is hard to find. Iraq is AWOL. On trade, he has managed to translate "mealy-mouthed" into print.

If you want answers on agriculture, talk to Peter Goldmark in the 5th.

Hastings' photo ops are in front of V.A. facilities at the same time he's supported the Bush budgets which screw veterans. And he's the last man alive who still professes to believe the Bush garbage about Social Security.

Hastings has no answers except the tried and true. Blame it on activist judges, he told a recent water resources meeting, and he proceeded to call out the "activist" Portland judge. Cut taxes, is a favorite. Never mind exploding debt or high-priced wars.

Perhaps his highest profile issue is tax cuts. He has wrapped himself in the estate tax. Who in his district is subject to the estate tax, I don't know. Likely less than .00001 percent of the voters. (Farms are exempt.)

Why do I know Richard Wright will be independent? Because he has not gotten the support he deserves from the Democrats, either state or national. It's as if they think Central Washington is too dumb to hold Hastings to account.

This is the year when lock-step Republicans get walked off the plank -- it's in the polls. But with support from the party absent, Wright will have little incentive to hold too close to the party line when he's elected. Voila, independence! That may be a good thing considering his district.

This next month is critical. Support the Wright campaign at the official site. Or if you want to wake up the DCCC, write in Wright at the DCCC's site. That is, click on the link and type "Richard Wright (WA-04)" in the "Other" space.

The picture is Doc fresh from his official House web page.

Friday, August 25, 2006

In Brief - August 25th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced today that several European countries, namely Italy and France, have committed to supplying about half the troops for a new 15,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. Annan has warned that the fragile ceasefire is liable to fall apart without peacekeeping forces. The Bush administration has declined to participate, mostly because our military is unnecessarily stretched thin thanks to the neocon-ordered invasion of Iraq.
  • Meteorologists are sounding the alarm about Tropical Storm Ernesto, which formed in the Carribbean on Friday and could easily morph into a hurricane threatening the Gulf Coast - very close to the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst disasters to hit the U.S. (besides George W. Bush). Ernesto also has the potential to damage offshore oil and gas rigs in the Gulf.
  • Surprise, surprise - David Postman comments on an Associated Press story which reveals that the pro-Reichert ads by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were funded by Big Pharma - the drug industry.
  • A DailyKos diarist thoughtfully analyzes the reason why George W. Bush just can't seem to talk straight.
  • Joe Lieberman is having a lot of trouble finding a credible Democratic firm to take care of his website and technical needs. They started with Blue State Digital (who laughed them off) and they haven't had much luck since - everyone is turning them down.
Oh, and one more thing: if you haven't seen the video of Darcy Burner addressing a recent meeting of the Democratic National Committee, you can see it here. To clarify, it wasn't the Democratic National Convention as some bloggers have mistakenly reported. The convention only happens every four years.

If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Loaded Orygun makes waves

Congratulations to our friends TJ and Carla from Loaded Orygun, who have been catching the eye of the Oregon traditional/corporate media lately. From the Salem Statesman-Journal:
Democrats and liberal bloggers are attacking state Rep. Billy Dalto, R-Salem, for hiring his mother -- a Latin jazz vocalist from New York City -- as his legislative aide last summer, just as she was experiencing financial woes.

The issue could pose a problem for Dalto's re-election race against Democrat Brian Clem. It widely is considered one of a handful of House races that could tilt control of the chamber in November.

Republicans control the House with a 33-27 majority, but Democrats expect to make gains in the fall.

[...]

The issue grew political legs July 28, when liberal blog Loaded Orygun revealed that Adela Dalto had filed for bankruptcy right after she was hired by her son and failed to report her legislative income in bankruptcy filings.
(Emphasis is mine). The reporter who wrote the story, Steve Law, did not bother contacting TJ or Carla for a quote.

Still, a mention is a mention, and kudos to both of them for making Loaded Orygun a must read blog for the Beaver State political establishment!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

BREAKING: McGavick reveals DUI

Mike McGavick, in a posting today on his campaign blog, revealed several "personal failures" in his life (as he called them), including a DUI:
The second terrible mistake, which was difficult to discuss with my teenage son, was that I was cited for DUI when I cut a yellow light too close in 1993. I was driving Gaelynn home from several celebrations honoring our new relationship and should not have gotten behind the wheel. Thankfully, there was no accident, but it still haunts me that I put other people at risk by driving while impaired. All in all, it was and remains a humbling and powerful event in my life.
McGavick's whole post is here. The revelation was the headline story on KING 5's five o'clock broadcast this evening (and probably other channels as well).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dispatch from Olympia: I-917 verification process is slow and methodical

As Jonathan reported yesterday, I’m working on a couple of special projects this week in addition to taking some time off – a vacation.

Dispatch from OlympiaSince early yesterday morning I have been in Olympia representing the Northwest Progressive Institute and Permanent Defense as an observer, watching the signature verification process for Initiative 917.

The Secretary of State’s policy (in the interest of public disclosure) is to allow observers from both the sponsors and opponents to observe the initiative petition check. The opposition to I-917 is a broad coalition and includes many different, diverse groups.

A number of those groups (such as ours) are helping to supply observers.

Observers are allowed to closely watch any and every aspect of the canvassing. However, we cannot interfere with the work of the checkers (the individuals hired by the Secretary of State to help with the verification), question them directly about their decisions, handle petitions or computer systems, or record names and addresses from the petitions.

For security, we are required to wear name tags issued by the office identifying ourselves as observers. We’re also required to sign in and out when we come and go. We’re here to make the process open and transparent, as it should be. We are not here to disrupt the check, but to bring more integrity to it.

The entire process is run very efficiently, responsibly, and professionally by the Secretary of State. Checkers work quietly at two banks of state government owned computers. In all, there are about thirty checkers and almost ten second checkers working at once. (The job of the second checkers is to make sure the check is accurate. As I wrote, this is a professional operation).

The work begins every day at 6 AM in the morning and concludes at 9:30 at night, and checkers work only one of two shifts – the morning shift, which ends at 1:30 PM, or the evening shift, which begins at 2 PM.

The reason the hours are extended is that the check must be finished before the general election absentee ballots get printed and sent out. Checkers break during their shifts for lunch or dinner and for rest.

The process is lengthy. Some 266,000 signatures on petition sheets are being compared against the state’s database to verify that every voter who signed is registered. Checkers use impressive software developed in house by the Secretary of State’s office to perform a search of the database (which runs on SQL Server).

The software actually displays the signature of the voter (from the registration) which is then compared to the signature on the petition. If the penmanship looks alike, the voter is credited and the signature is accepted.

In many cases, however, the signature is rejected.

The signature may be a duplicate – in other words, the voter may have already been credited as having signed the petition. When a checker stumbles across a duplicate, the software alerts the checker, who notes a flag in the file and then notifies their supervisor. The supervisor then retrieves the petition sheet with the already credited signature to determine if it is indeed a duplicate.

The signature may also be invalid for one of several reasons:
  • Not found (can’t find a name, or the address is different and signature doesn’t match)
  • Missing (name and address mach, but signature is missing)
  • No match (name and address match, but the signature does not)
Rejections are important because every duplicate or invalid signature lowers the total number of valid signatures from the 266,006 total submitted by Eyman and his cohorts. If there are less than 224,880 valid signatures, I-917 will not appear on the ballot in November.

The Initiative 917 petitions are grouped into volumes, which are distributed to checkers for verification using a sign in/sign out system.

Checkers then meticulously compare the signatures on the petition with the signature on file, by calling up the voter registration on the computer system, as I noted earlier. It is obviously much faster to search the database this way then it is to go through the paper voter registration files.

According to the WAC (Washington Administrative Code), “a single distinctive trait is insufficient to conclude that the signatures are by the same writer. There must be a combination or cluster of shared characteristics. Likewise, there must be a cluster of differences to conclude that the signatures are by different writers.”

So checkers are instructed to err on the side of caution. Additionally, addresses need not match, because voters frequently move and forget to update their voter registration. Signatures don’t have to be exactly identical to count, just sufficiently similar, and the age of the original signature is taken into account.

Checkers also try to look for misspellings, identify both last names if a hyphenated name is not immediately found, or discover if someone’s name has changed.

That’s why the process is taking so long. But the way it’s being done now is a huge improvement from ten years ago – the last time the Secretary of State had to do a full count of all the signatures for an initiative. In that instance the elections division had to rent another building, spread the voter registration cards out on tables, and hire about a hundred people to do the check. (The initiative ultimately qualified). Computers make the process faster, cheaper, and more accurate.

There are 677 volumes of petitions. Each volume contains 25 petitions and each petition has 20 lines on it (though not all of the lines may necessarily be filled in with signatures). Each volume is assigned a number and each petition or page within each volume is numbered.

We are about a fifth of the way through the count (approximately 22%, to be more precise). The Secretary of State started the full count around the beginning of the month, following the certification of I-937 for the ballot, and it has been going on since then.

The elections division says it could very well be the end of September before they finish the count, unless a court intervenes and disqualifies any signatures on a petition not signed by the signature gatherer who circulated it. That’s a possible scenario, of course, and we’ll know if that happens.

Having now observed this process for myself, I can say all the more confidently that Tim Eyman’s assertions of theft or mishandling of petitions are entirely ridiculous and unfair. The office is being thorough, accountable, and careful in everything they do. The staff are helpful, courteous, and polite to observers. This is exactly how government is supposed to work, serving the people.

I believe Eyman is discouraged and ready to give up on I-917. Why else would he announce he’s going to bring his circus (to quote my good friend Jonathan) to Seattle itself? I had to laugh when I heard the news. As Tim Ceis says, this could easily backfire and make it harder for opponents of the mayor’s transportation improvement package to prevail.

I may try to post on my work in Olympia again tomorrow. Until my next post, I’ll leave the Official Blog in the capable hands of other Northwest Progressive Institute members. If you have any questions for me, please leave a comment in the thread and I’ll see if I can answer the next time I post.

Highlight the hypocrisy

Ending the catastrophe in Darfur is within our capacity. That gruesome destruction of life needs to end as soon as possible for the sake of all our souls.

It is do-able. We can rejoin the community of nations if we lead NATO in enforcing an end to the atrocities there immediately, not after five more months of slaughter as is currently envisioned.

Darfur stands in stark relief against the quagmire of Iraq. By raising our hand in protection of basic human rights, such as the right to life, we show strength that arises from conviction and correctness and that action does not have to be -- as it is in Iraq -- accompanied by stupidity, coercion and deviousness. Darfur is a crisis where the mission can be clear to our forces and results can be attained.

Raising the profile of this calamity can highlight the hypocrisy of the Bush foreign policy -- American domination focused on oil for the benefit of corporations.

John Edwards, former Democratic candidate for vice president, has an urgent plea out right now. Edwards is the essence of a bleeding heart liberal. His compassion ought to be emulated by us all. You can act through his web site, or at the Save Darfur website, or get deepeer into it at DarfurGenocide.org. A summary of the recent history is available at Human Rights Watch.

In Brief - August 23rd, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest - haven't done one of these in a while:
  • College campuses across Washington State are leading the way in becoming more environmentally friendly. From composting to constructing green buildings, the faculty and students of major educational institutions are breaking ground in creating a more sustainable society. Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Christine Frey has more in this must read article.
  • Joel Connelly points out several of the grave consequences that our region faces if we do not act to stop global warming in a powerful column this morning.
  • Incumbent Alaska governor Frank Murkowski lost a primary battle last night, continuing what hasn't been a good month for incumbents. Murkowski, a Republican, has pledged to support his party's nominee in the general election (Sarah Palin) against Democrat Tony Knowles. Knowles was beating Murkowski solidly in recent polls, but with a new opponent he'll have a tougher matchup.
  • DemfromCT has a nice post on DailyKos about reading Dubya's approval ratings - and what that means for this year's midterm elections.
  • Two right wing business groups have formed their own committee to back Initiative 920, splitting off from Dennis Falk's group, the Committee to Abolish the Washington State Estate Tax. The two groups, the Association of Washington Business and the National Federation of Independent Business/Washington, refused to comment on the matter, according to David Postman.
Finally, here's a cartoon from Andrew Wahl that sums up the many staggering challenges that America is facing.

Many Challenges

If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Grange loses again as 9th Circuit affirms "Top Two" primary is unconstitutional

Wonderful news this afternoon:
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals refused to reinstate Washington's "top-two" primary system, ruling Tuesday that it infringes on the rights of political parties to choose their own nominees.

The top-two system was ruled unconstitutional last summer - before it was ever used - by U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly. The state attorney general's office and the Washington State Grange, which promoted the system, asked the appeals judges to overturn that decision.
We are very pleased by the 9th Circuit's ruling. We have long argued that the "Top Two" primary, put into place by Initiative 872, is not constitutional. (See our Special Report on the primary system and why it's unsound for the state. )

So is the leadership of both the State Democratic and Republican parties:
"We are delighted with the ruling," said Dwight Pelz, the chairman of the state Democratic Party. "This means Democrats and all political parties will be able to have a direct voice in choosing their nominees for office."

He said the state has already conducted a successful election under the Montana primary, "and we've demonstrated that voters can navigate through new ballot. The state will adopt to the new system, and democracy will move forward."

[...]

Diane Tebelius, the state Republican chairwoman, also cheered the ruling. "The 9th Circuit affirmed the importance of the First Amendment and emphasized that candidates do not have the right to hijack the party name for personal political ambition. We believe it's a victory for everyone."
Pelz and Tebelius are absolutely right. This is a victory for Democrats, Republicans, and anyone who cares about grassroots politics.

The decision ensures that the open primary (better known as the pick-a-party primary) will remain in place this year and perhaps for the forseeable future.

The state and the Grange could appeal the decision, but they're 0-2 now and not likely to prevail on appeal. The Grange is clearly contemplating backing a new initiative to make all offices nonpartisan - a horribly misguided idea that we will strongly oppose if the Grange pursues it.

Peter Goldmark posts to DailyKos

Peter Goldmark, our outstanding candidate out in Washington's 5th Congressional District, has posted a diary at Daily Kos sharing his background and vision for Eastern Washington and the United States. An excerpt:
As I talk with people in the district, it's clear to me that we are ready for assertive change in Eastern Washington. I am listening to your voices, and I'm eager to represent your interests with my experience, energy and ideas.

A vote for Peter Goldmark is a vote for:
  • a leader who listens to voters, speaks out for their interests, thinks independently,
  • a leader who asks tough questions and faces tough issues head-on,
  • a leader who has run an successful business and ranch,
  • a leader who knows the challenges of running a family farm and making ends meet.
  • a leader with integrity and ethics who will work hard for the Fifth District.
Just like working at the ranch, there are always more campaign tasks than hours in the day, but we're making progress every day.
Read the whole thing. If you have an account at Daily Kos, please give it a recommend.

Executive Director goes on assignment, Tim Eyman admits defeat

Our Executive Director, Andrew Villeneuve, is beginning a one week vacation this morning to focus on a couple of important self-assigned projects as well as take some time off to rest and relax. He'll still post to the Official Blog while he's gone - just not very often.

As a result, other Northwest Progressive Institute staff members, including myself, will be posting more frequently in his absence.

Andrew will be spending part of his time in Olympia representing NPI and Permanent Defense as an observer, watching the Initiative 917 signature verification process. (I-917 is Tim Eyman's initiative to eliminate nearly $3 billion in statewide transportation funding for ferries, railways, the State Patrol, Sound Transit, etc.)

The Secretary of State is conducting a full count of all the signatures submitted for I-917 because Eyman submitted too few extra signatures and failed the random sample check at the end of last month.

The full count could take until the end of September, though it will likely end sooner if the courts rule that I-917's petitions are not valid unless their declarations are signed by the respective signature gatherers who circulated them.

The Secretary of State says there are 3,000 such unsigned petitions representing 60,000 signatures. Since Eyman only submitted about 266,000 signatures, the loss of those petitions would put I-917 well below the 224,880 minimum number needed to qualify - and thus put an end to I-917.

But not necessarily Eyman's shenanigans this year.

Eyman, who has apparently decided that I-917 will ultimately fail to qualify for the ballot, has hatched a new gambit to keep him in the spotlight. By doing so, he is tacitly admitting his defeat. I have to say it will be very satisfying to add I-917 to our failure chart as another in a long list of Tim's dismal FAILURES.

Back to Eyman's latest gag. Surprise, surprise - it involves Tim sticking his nose in King County's business again. Actually, more specifically, Seattle's business.

I'll let reporter Angela Galloway explain.
Professional initiative sponsor Tim Eyman has launched an effort to defeat a fall ballot measure that would increase Seattle property taxes to fund road, bridge and sidewalk improvements.

Eyman, who has never before led a Seattle-centric political campaign, said he doesn't know yet whether his group will sponsor a full-fledged campaign or simply seek to play counterpoint in debates, voter guides and the media.

At the very least, Eyman said, he wants to shine the limelight that follows him on the unusually designed measure.

"We're very concerned that the (debate over how to replace the ailing Alaskan Way Viaduct) seems to be gobbling up all the attention," Eyman said. "Say what you want about us but when we get involved there seems to be a lot of attention brought to the issue. And I think that that is critically important to something like this."
When Tim says "when we get involved", he really means "I", because Tim Eyman's circus only has room for one act, and that's Tim Eyman, the dancing, lying, manipulative, crackpot media monkey.

In all seriousness, though, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis is right:
Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis predicted that Eyman is so unpopular in the city his campaign would backfire. "Tim Eyman's going to help us," Ceis said.

"I don't think people in Seattle want a watch dealer in Mukilteo telling them what to do," Ceis added, referring to Eyman's second job. "He comes out against things in order to make money. He's a mercenary and I don't think Seattle voters like him at all."
They certainly don't. With the exception of I-900, (an initiative which increased funding for performance audits and gave the state auditor huge powers - instead of cutting taxes) it seems there has not been a single Eyman sponsored initiative that has passed Seattle - or King County for that matter.

Eyman's meddling in Seattle's business is par for the course (of course). It comes as no surprise that his statewide initiatives have historically been written with language that strips local communities of the ability to make decisions about their future. Take Initiative 917, which can't yet be counted out.

I-917 modifies or eliminates specified taxing authority related to Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs), Public Transportation Benefit Areas (PTBAs) authorized to implement passenger-only ferry service, Regional Transportation Investment Districts (RTIDs), Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs), and certain county level transportation taxing authorities.

In non-bureaucrat, what the previous paragraph means is that Evergreen State voters lose the power to vote on whether to increase revenue to pay for transportation investments specifically in their communities. It's an all out assault on home rule.

And it's aimed at the Puget Sound region and Seattle in particular. Voters and elected officials in the Greater Metro area have approved the creation of several special districts in recent years to raise money for tranportation improvements and services. We've got the RTA (better known as Sound Transit), RTID (for road improvements), PTBAs (for ferry service) and so on.

Besides I-900, I can't think of a single Eyman initiative that hasn't had disastrous consequences for the City of Seattle. That would certainly explain why Emerald City residents harbor such disgust for Tim. Now the Mukilteo profiteer is butting into their affairs again, uninvited.

But wait...hasn't Tim Eyman opened his mouth before, opining that he doesn't care what Seattle does, so long as it doesn't affect him? Oh yeah...that's right. From the time capsule that is the World Wide Web (and thanks, Seattle Weekly):
"If Seattle voters want a tax increase for the monorail, hey, knock yourselves out. We've always contended that any tax increase that any taxing district wants to support is fine, as long as it goes to the voters."

- TIM EYMAN, February 6, 2002
"Knock yourselves out", eh?

Well, it has already been well established that Tim Eyman is a liar and hypocrite. And it's perfectly obvious why he's now positioning himself to campaign against Greg Nickels' package of transportation improvements.

As I noted earlier, Tim Eyman needs some kind of pony to ride to keep media attention focused on him. Otherwise he would become irrelevant.

Tim has successfully manipulated the media even as he's lost battle after battle. But Eyman's ship may have just run out of fuel.

Turnout at his most recent press conferences for I-917 was lackluster and Eyman has taken a beating on conservative talk radio for claiming the Secretary of State's office stole signatures for I-917.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. I think Deputy Mayor Ceis is right - Eyman's move could very well backfire and help the Mayor convince Seattle voters to support his city transportation improvement package.

And keep a close watch on the Official Blog this week as our Executive Director reports from Olympia with news on Initiative 917.

Monday, August 21, 2006

We got rolled

A new mythology is arising about Iraq, that an intricate web of lies from Bush and Cheney duped a credulous public into supporting the preemptive attack. Mother Jones has a good chronology in the latest edition.

Yes, there were lies. The mythology, however, is that intelligent people didn't know what was happening. Most of the people reading this right now knew.

If you think back, it was not the lies themselves, but a campaign of hysteria and character assassination and jingoism surrounding the few pallid lies that forced the door open for Bush's invasion. We were rolled by a Karl Rove media campaign.

Many, many knew the drumbeat of lies was fabricated. If you recall those days, and you had any sense, you remember objecting and protesting, and you remember it was like shouting into a hurricane and having your voice swept away. Europe, out of the reach of the propaganda machine, knew. Many here knew with certainty and put up their "Attack Iraq? NO!" and "No Iraq War" signs.

Those signs are still up. We knew the American onslaught had to be pushed in over the tops of the weapons inspectors, not because an attack by Saddam was imminent, but because a clean report from the inspectors was imminent.

It was, in fact, the need for an overt campaign for the war that most betrayed its illegitimacy. A preemptive strike halfway around the world -- If you don't like it, you are unAmerican or a sissy or stupid. And look, here's Colin Powell at the UN with his dog and pony show.

There is no good war, but the only legitimate wars are those we are dragged into, wars as a last resort. If you need a parade to get people out for a war, it is not going to turn out well.

The mythology that nobody knew what was going on because of Bush lies may give a couple of dozen Democratic senators some cover, but it masks things more troubling.

One, the Rove campaign/propaganda machine is still in place and still armed with the same weapons of hysteria, character attack, and jingoism, the methods and means of turning a few lies into a tide of public opinion.

It will be rolled out soon in support of the Republican Congress, timed to reach its crescendo the first week of November. We will need to take the opportunity of this campaign to expose the dirty business.

Two, the Bush goal was reached. We are stuck in Iraq. The only way out is through. This does not mean abandoning the soldiers to their role as ducks in a shooting gallery. It means getting them into defensible locations, and giving them missions that have clear definition and a prospect of success.

It means getting the corporate vultures like Halliburton out of there and getting the country rebuilt. To my mind, it means partitioning the country into areas which can be policed and protected by the indiginous populations.

Three, the lies and the media campaign and the process of enforcing this blunder, with its underlying policy of American World Dominance, have FEMA-ized the State Department and the military. The competent people who objected have been shown the door, quit in disgust, or have muffled their competence in order to keep their jobs. The ideologically driven boobs are left in the offices, pushing the same buttons and getting the same bloody, bogus results.

The whole mess has left us a dozen times less secure than before the attack.

Matt Stoller unfairly criticizes Darcy's first ad

Matt Stoller posted a series of disappointing posts on MyDD earlier today, taking Darcy Burner's first ad ("Bio") out of context and then unfairly criticizing it. Stoller wrote, in part:
It's obvious that Darcy Burner is a great candidate who feels passionately about Iraq...She's articulate, powerful, intelligent, and progressive. She knows the politics, she has a great story, and will be a fantastic Congresswoman. I'm really blown away by her commitment to public service and her authenticity as a communicator. She's running for Congress because of her three year old son, and she wants Congresspeople who are willing to ask the hard questions.

And yet, Steve McMahon's firm has produced a horrible ad that is out of sync with the incredible raw material they have to work with. The conflicts of interest in his work with corporate and GOP clients are obvious, and explain the 'affordable health care' bland messaging.

What the hell is going on? Who recommended that she work with this firm? She's a first time candidate whose career has been spent at Microsoft, so it's not like she knows these people. Someone got her to hire this firm. Who was it?
Well, Matt...to answer your most pressing question, it was Governor Howard Dean himself (among others) who strongly advised Darcy's campaign team to bring McMahon, Squier & Associates on board. Your distate for the firm is obvious, but not apparently shared by Chairman Dean.

I was very surprised to read Matt's criticism because I believe he is missing the point. Matt didn't see exactly what he wanted to see in the ad and I think that's why he's disappointed. (He seemed more unhappy after he found out that McMahon's firm produced it).

But Matt Stoller is not the intended audience for this ad. He does not live in the 8th Congressional District or even Washington State. He is not on the ground and lacks the perspective that we have on this race.

Stoller could have asked us for our thoughts on the ad before posting to MyDD, but he didn't. He saw it, concluded it was awful, and proceeded to blast it to pieces - only stopping at the end of his commentary to write "I'm just one person. What do you think? Is this ad good? Am I being too harsh?"

One of the things I liked most about the ad is that it doesn't talk about Iraq, or which party Darcy represents, or mention the Bush administration. This is Darcy's first ad - not her last. It's an introduction to her, so it needs to be about her - not about the Bush administration's failed policies.

By all means tackle Iraq, criticize the administration, demonstrate that Democrats are the party that shares the priorities of the American people. This campaign has already proved its ability to be innovative, aggressive, and capable of playing by the Crashing the Gate playbook.

The way Matt Stoller is reacting, you might think this is the only ad Darcy's campaign will ever produce! Fortunately, that's not the case.

This is not a campaign being micromanaged out of the District of Columbia. The staff is top notch, local talent. The best. Additionally, Darcy has turned to many of the highest caliber political strategists in the state for advice, and her outreach to the Democratic grassroots throughout the state has been impressive.

This ad is not a misstep. This ad is an effective, cheery, and uplifting introduction to a person who wants to go to bat for the people of the 8th Congressional District. Someone who shares their values, understands their struggles, has been in their shoes.

Darcy Burner is that someone.

I have every reason to believe that we are on track and headed towards a victory over Dave Reichert this November. And I hope that next time Matt Stoller critiques our strategy and our message, he'll actually talk to us first.

Cantwell rallies supporters at Tractor

Senator Maria Cantwell spoke tonight to an energized crowd of supporters at Ballard's Tractor Travern, part of a 26 stop "Putting Us First" tour. The event, billed as "Seattle Unites" was a unique conclusion to the tour's first nine days.

Bradbury Press Plays for Cantwell At The Tractor Travern

The event featured several high profile King County Democrats, including Executive Ron Sims and Congressman Jay Inslee, as well as Congressman Jim McDermott. Featured bands included Ellen Says No, Bradbury Press, and Will Wakefield and the Congress Hotel.

Cantwell, who gave the keynote speech, sounded as fresh and invigorated as I've ever heard her. She's been in the District of Columbia so much recently that it was great to see her campaigning with supporters for a change.

Cantwell spoke of needing to "change the agenda" and shake up the establishment in our nation's capitol. A few sound bites from her speech (Cantwell did not read from prepared remarks):
On Iraq: "We want to change the course in Iraq, not stay the course in Iraq."

On healthcare: "Every small business owner should have access to the same healthcare that I get as a United States Senator."

On education: "I want to invest in Pell Grants. Everyone should be able to afford a college education."

On McGavick's ability to self fund: "Now I have to fight against somebody who may be able to put in ten plus million dollars in this campaign...that's why I'm counting on all of you."

On moving forward: "Let's put it in drive and get this thing going."
Six years ago, Senator Cantwell promised to travel to every county, every year - and she's kept her promise, traversing our beautiful Evergreen State tate and listening to constituents' concerns.

Recently, the Senator was in Bremerton meeting with local veterans and seniors and discussing healthcare, and made it clear that she shares the priorities of Washingtonians.
Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care and prescription drug coverage. Unfortunately, the president and the Republican leadership keep abandoning Washington seniors to higher drug costs, and failing Washington veterans by cutting funding for veterans' health care. Those are the wrong choices. We can do better.
Can there be any doubt that the campaign is now in full swing?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

2006 and the netroots wave

Notable Kossack kid oakland has a fine diary up on DailyKos in which he points out examples of outstanding Netroots Endorsed candidates across the country, noting that while each one is unique, they share one thing in common: they're backed by a force of local activists who are all part of one movement, one trend, one wind of change:
You see, wherever we have a powerful netroots candidate we also have the development of the ingredients of a netroots wave. Local blogs and local grassroots activists create energy for other nearby races. That's what a netroots wave is about. We in the netroots aren't just interested in winning for winning's sake: we believe deeply and passionately that our country's leadership has failed us, and we embrace those candidates ready to help us make change in our state houses and in Washington D.C.

You could see this conviction, feel it even, in how we interacted last June at Yearlykos. We in the netroots are serious and energized. We are building this wave district by district and state by state. We in the netroots are working together...we are hungry for exactly the kind of change that these new leaders represent...and it shows.
Kid Oakland is right. The other side can waste their time with insults. We mean business. We are indeed tired of Republican control of Washington D.C., right wing dominance of the media, and always being on defense. We want to accomplish something - namely, we want to win back our government from the criminals who are in the process of dismantling and destroying it.

We are building an institution that specializes in strategic thinking and development of progressive ideas/values. A volunteer organization driven by the grassroots - both online and offline.

We are laying a foundation to help build the infrastructure that will allow us to match what the right wing has at its disposal. And this infrastructure will be movement powered - not establishment powered.

The Northwest Progressive Institute is an example of that. We are open to any progressive activist who wants to make their voice heard.

We are working to develop an evolving platform on just about every issue, from economic policy to civil liberties, from healthcare to energy, that can be used as a compelling alternative to the failed conservative agenda.

A platform available to all progressives through the world's greatest marketplace of ideas - the Internet.

We understand that beating the right wing can't be done in just one election cycle. While supporting great candidates like Darcy Burner, Peter Goldmark, and Richard Wright, we're also assembling a clearinghouse of ideas and solutions.

Merely pontificating on the sorry situation our country is in gets us nowhere. There is nothing to do but work as hard and tirelessly as we can for a more progressive future. We cannot afford to become cynical or burn out.

We just need to keep going.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New Hampshire's tradition of arrogance

I am getting really, really tired of these guys:
Democrats shook up tradition on Saturday by vaulting Nevada and South Carolina into the first wave of 2008 presidential contests along with Iowa and New Hampshire — a move intended to add racial and geographic diversity to the early voting.

The decision by the Democratic National Committee leaves Iowa as the nation's first presidential caucus and New Hampshire as the first primary, but wedges Nevada's caucuses before New Hampshire and South Carolina's primary soon afterward.

[...]

New Hampshire objected loudly to the lineup and has threatened to leapfrog over the other contests to retain its pre-eminent role.

"The DNC did not give New Hampshire its primary, and it is not taking it away," New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said.

Secretary of State William Gardner, also a Democrat, emphasized again Saturday that it will be his office, not Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who picks the state's primary date.

"That's going to be based on state law, and it will be a date that honors the tradition," Gardner said after the DNC action. "It appears that he's in the driver's seat taking the Democratic National Committee on a collision course with the New Hampshire tradition."
The people running New Hampshire seem to think their state has a God-given right to anoint the Democratic nominee for president every four years. How dare anyone propose making the process more democratic! I mean, how dare they:
"It's pretty insulting and disrespectful to the potential candidates and to the people of the state that they're being threatened," said Gardner.
Being threatened?

Oh....that's right. It's not about preserving "tradition", it's about the tremendous business that New Hampshire enjoys every other election cycle.

I've got news for you, William Gardner and John Lynch. You and your constituents are not superior to anyone else. In this country we have a document which declares that all of us are created equal. You do not have a God-given right to be the first state in America to hold a presidential primary.

It's about time the privilege that your state has enjoyed for so long was taken away. Might I remind you this is our party's nominee, not your state's nominee. Your criticism of Governor Howard Dean, who represents the whole of the Democratic National Committee (which has elected representatives from every state) is outrageous and unfounded. It is clear that it is based on selfishness.

Your state had the arrogance to pass a state law basically declaring New Hampshire to be superior to the rest of the United States of America. As University of Virginia politial scientist Larry Sabato noted:
Why should two small, heavily white, disproportionately rural states have a hammerlock on the making of the president? Together, Iowa and New Hampshire are a mere 1.4 percent of the US population, and about 40 percent of their residents are rural—double the national proportion. Their average population of African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos is 3.6 percent, while the nation as a whole is 24.6 percent minority. Even if one assumes, incorrectly, that the two states are somehow representative of their Northeast and Midwest regions, the South and West (containing 55 percent of the country’s people) are left entirely out of the critical opening window of presidential selection [...]
How about we in Washington State pass a law that requires our state to hold our presidential primary a week before yours? Wouldn't that be something?

Snark aside, the system we have now for picking our party's nominee is unfair and broken. Sabato has identified a solution called the "Regional Lottery Plan". David Yepsen (the dean of the Iowa political press) has proposed another solution:
The two parties should agree that the first state allowed to have a contest in the nomination process will be the closest one in the last presidential election. The second-closest state will get the second contest, etc.

That way both parties avoid process fights and are starting their campaigning - and their candidates are expending their greatest efforts - in those states likely to be the most competitive in November.
The DNC ought to forge ahead in its attempt to shake up the process for the selection of our party's nominee. In the end, though, a permanent solution will likely require more - a constitutional amendment, an agreement with the Republicans, or possibly even a compact between states.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Democrats need to wake up

The presidential election of July 2 is not over in Mexico. Widespread irregularities have been documented. Manuel Lopez Obrador and millions of his supporters are demanding a vote-by-vote recount. The elections commission has authorized a recount of only 9 percent of the polling places.

Election fraud is an issue that needs to be front and center in the USA in November. We need an alert press, and an alert public.

Why no complete recount? What is the downside of a damned recount?

The only downside is a potential loss for the right-wing candidate Felipe Calderon. If he wins a recount, he has legitimacy. If he loses, democracy has won.

In the States, aside from the generous insult to our neighbors to the south by ignoring this event, the downside is the bungling of a chance to prepare the public and a listless media for shenanigans when our own elections roll around. Democrats need to say this is a serious problem. We need to say we are not going to interfere, but if the same situation occurred in the United States, we would want a recount. Elections are the most important process of a representative government. They are just short of sacred. They need to be completely above suspicion.

If Democrats want to say more (and they don't have to) they can roll out a list of improvements, such as at Vote Trust USA (who also are ignoring this event). They definitely need to stop short of whining about the last election. Let the press "discover" those events. It shouldn't be hard.

We posted on this when the election commission rolled out its partial recount decision and the occupation of Mexico City began. Lopez Obrador is not a sore loser. He knows he has won. If he hasn't, what's the problem with showing him?

Where the hell is John Kerry on this?
Where is Al Gore?
Jimmy Carter?

This is the time to stand up.

Help Darcy Burner win fabulous prizes!

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, better known as the D Triple C, has launched an online contest to allow Democratic activists across the country the opportunity to pick three favorite candidates. The three winners will receive special support from the DCCC in the form of prizes like these:
  • A fundraising email from Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi or DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel to our list;
  • A phone bank run out of the Democratic National Headquarters for their campaign;
  • The feature spot on our Web site to get their message out, with a link to their campaign contribution page;
  • An online chat with the DCCC community to exchange ideas on the campaign and the future of our country.
The contest ends on August 23rd. That's next week. Please visit the DCCC's website today and cast your vote for Darcy Burner. Darcy is mounting a strong, aggressive campaign to turn the 8th Congressional District blue, but she could use all the support she can get. Let's make her one of the winners!

While you're voting, please write in Peter Goldmark's name in the "Other" box - he could use our support too! Don't wait - visit the DCCC's website and vote now!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tax Force shoots Tacomans in the foot

After six months of deliberations and analysis, Tacoma's Revenue Task Force passed overwhelmingly a proposal very similar -- as similar as possible -- to the city manager Eric Anderson's original proposal, minus only any mention of nonprofits.

Although details are very sketchy, possibly by intention, it is clear that in order for tax revenue to increase by 6 percent, one target, the city's tax bill for a resident would double. A remarkable achievement.

Notice I didn't say the property tax bill. This is the total tax bill, after allowances for the elimination of the city's B&O and local option Sales tax.

Double? How is that possible? Answer: Because of (1) a net shift from businesses to homeowners and (2) an end to the taxes that can be "exported."

Property is disproportionately residential, so a shift to a property base would shift taxes from business to residents. Sales and B&O taxes are to some extent exported. This quality is underappreciated on the Tax Force, although the 2002 Gates Commission report had only good things to say about it, specifically, "The [jurisdiction] should minimize the tax burden on [its] taxpayers by choosing a tax system that maximizes the extent to which taxes can be exported (paid by nonresidents)." The Commission goes on to give helpful examples. But we have our own.

A Tacoma shopper in a Puyallup store pays into that city's sales tax. The Puyallup shopper returns the favor in Tacoma. The tax burden in each case is exported to the other's city. Add to this the situation of manufacturing and other businesses whose customers dwell outside the city and who pass the B&O across the city's boundaries along with the goods.

The owner of a $200,000 home in Tacoma would see their property tax bill rise by about $1,500. [Mind-numbing details of these calculations are below.] But they would lose, generously, a little over $400 in retail B&O and city option sales taxes. The net boost to the city's revenue stream is 6%, remember. The net boost to the city's portion of the resident's tax bill is 115%, more than double.

Here's the calculation (and an illustration of the type of discussion I enjoy, but which puts others to sleep).
Assume the city's property tax rate is $3 per thousand (about halfway between the 2005 and 2006 rates). The current contribution of the property tax is 22 percent of the General Fund. The target for the City Services Tax (CST) levy is 80 percent. (More, actually, 40% police, 30% fire, 6% library, 4% administration, and the 6% increase to fill the projected gap, or 86% of current GF revenues.)

Increasing the CST levy from the current 22% to 80% is a factor of 3.64.

Using our $200,000 home as an example. Currently the city's portion of the property tax bill is $600 (200 x 3). Under the CST, it would be, yes, 3.64 times this, or about $2,180.

BUT, the plan calls for the removal of the city's 1% local option sales and its B&O taxes. So the homeowner loses a burden associated with those taxes. Great! How much is it?

Assume a resident spends $3,000 per month in Tacoma (not Puyallup) on products and services subject to the sales tax. (Food and drug purchases would not be subject to the sales tax, but we'll pretend they are. Have to be conservative.) Assume the B&O tax on the retail sector is paid by consumers. Assume the B&O tax on other sectors (manufacturing, services, construction, etc.) is paid by businesses or their out-of-city customers. Enough assumptions.

The city's local option sales tax bite would be $360 for the year ($3,000 x 12 x .01). The retail portion of the B&O would nip another $55 ($36,000 x .00153). For a total cost to this homeowner of the Sales and B&O taxes of $415.

Thus, the current bill = $1,015 (600 + 415)
The proposed CST levy = $2,180 (as above)

Just hit me with a rubber hose.

caveat: Utility taxes remain the same under both the current and proposed schemes.

note: Last week's "consolidated proposal" raised the same revenue with no increase to the property tax. It's burden to a resident would be identical to that above.
At least we saved the nonprofits.

Federal judge rules administration's warrantless spying is unconstitutional

Good news today:
A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate end to it.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy, as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.
Of course, the administration will appeal the decision and ask for the ruling to be put on hold, but this decision is a victory for freedom regardless. The NSA spying program violates the principles on which the United States of America was founded and needs to be shut down. Now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

About that alleged terror plot...

Andrew Sullivan has a great post on his TIME blog, Daily Dish. An excerpt:
So far, no one has been charged in the alleged terror plot to blow up several airplanes across the Atlantic. No evidence has been produced supporting the contention that such a plot was indeed imminent. Forgive me if my skepticism just ratcheted up a little notch.
Sullivan goes on to quote from Craig Murray, formerly Britain's Ambassador to Uzbekistan and now a prominent critic of Western policy in the region, who has questioned what is really going on.
None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries.

As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

The gentleman being "interrogated" had fled the UK after being wanted for questioning over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to cast some doubt on his reliability. It might also be felt that factors other than political ones might be at play within these relationships. Much is also being made of large transfers of money outside the formal economy. Not in fact too unusual in the British Muslim community, but if this activity is criminal, there are many possibilities that have nothing to do with terrorism.

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another 9/11".

The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.
Given the Bush administration's history of political manipulation, and given that Tony Blair is the administration's closest ally abroad, the possibility that this "immiment plot" was almost completely manufactured seems conceivable at worst and likely at best...given what we know right now.

More Sullivan:
I wonder if Lieberman's defeat, the resilience of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the emergence of a Hezbollah-style government in Iraq had any bearing on the decision by Bush and Blair to pre-empt the British police and order this alleged plot disabled. I wish I didn't find these questions popping into my head. But the alternative is to trust the Bush administration.

Been there. Done that. Learned my lesson.
We, on the other hand, have never trusted the Bush administration, and for good reason. George W. Bush and his handlers are liars. They've lied to us before. This is really starting to look like it's just another one of their lies.

And it's worth remembering that Republican National Committee and other top right wing operatives were given advance notice of this alleged plot before news of the arrests became public. Presumably so they could use it as a weapon against Democrats.

Travelers across the United States and in Britain have apparently been inconvenienced or had their vacations/trips disrupted for no good reason.

Our government, currently controlled by people who don't believe in good government, is playing politics with terror, and that's unacceptable.

Washington Defense Updated to Oppose I-920

We've launched an improved version of Washington Defense to serve as an online presence for defeating Initiative 920, which would repeal the state's estate tax. Today's much needed upgrade includes a revamped home page and several additional pages with news coverage, a look at the initiative's wealthy backers, and tools and resources for activists.

Washington Defense was previously equipped to fight Initiative 912 last year.

We'll continue adding new pages and material in the days and weeks ahead. A strong and vigorous campaign will be mounted this fall by a diverse coalition of individuals and groups opposed to taking away our children's future.

Port of Seattle terminal evacuated

Unusual news this afternoon:
Bomb squads are responding to Terminal 18 on Seattle's waterfront after a canine bomb team found possible explosives in a container, the Coast Guard said this afternoon.

Mike Milne, spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said "a couple of (cargo) containers were set aside for standard exam'' and a CBP dog trained to detect explosives "alerted on it."

CBP followed standard protocols and summoned the Port of Seattle Police bomb squad "to see if there is a threat."

The container was supposed to hold oily rags but inspectors found objects that were not on the inventory. U.S. Customs and Border Protection then sent in its bomb team.
UPDATE: A bomb squad inspected a pair of Pakistani cargo containers, but thankfully no explosives were found. The P-I has more.

Senator Maria Cantwell issued this statement in response to the incident:
Today’s evacuation of the Port of Seattle's Terminal 18 provides a stark reminder that our seaports remain vulnerable to attack. They remain vulnerable in great part because we have not made the necessary investments both here and abroad to secure our ports and the global supply chain. We must focus our efforts on screening cargo at the port of origin before it is loaded on a vessel destined for the U.S.

Port security remains woefully under-funded, and because of this, vulnerabilities we have known about for years continue to pose a threat to our communities. This shortcoming undermines the overall security of our nation and threatens the viability of our economy.

Legislation currently exists that would enhance the security of our seaports significantly.

However, the Republican leadership in the Senate has refused to bring this legislation up for consideration despite the continued urging from senators on both sides of the aisle.

We are operating on borrowed time and we must act now to address these threats. I’m calling on the Senate Majority Leader to bring up port security legislation as soon as the Senate returns from recess. The House has passed port security legislation and the Senate must act.
This statement serves as additional proof that it is the Democrats (especially our own Senators - Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray), not the Republicans, who want to implement policies that will ensure the safety of America. Republicans talk a good game but their real agenda has already been exposed - and it's a farce. The United States deserves and needs better leadership.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Murder, Spies & Voting Lies - The Clint Curtis Story - Aug 17th, Thurs

Former Republican Clint Curtis, computer programmer turned whistleblower turned Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, will be coming to Seattle for a fundraiser, documentary showing and book signing.

He will also demonstrate the vote flipping program he was asked to write by now-Congressman Tom Feeney. After blowing the whistle, his dog was killed and the Inspector General of the Florida DOT was found dead in a Georgia motel. This story is right out of James Bond, except it's a true story. Bev Harris will also be attending to talk about monitoring the midterm elections to make sure the Republicans can't get away with foul play.

Here are the details:
Murder, Spies & Voting Lies, The Clint Curtis Story
Seattle Labor Temple - 2800 1st Ave - Seattle
Thursday, August 17th, 7 PM

Sponsored by the Citizens to Stop Computerized Voting
Call 206-228-9490 for more information
The event is open to the media and the public. Bloggers are welcome.

Help him win the primary by attending this exciting event or by making a contribution at ClintCurtis.com Get directions at Google Maps, or find transit schedules on Metro's website.

Sen. Cantwell clarifies her position on Iraq

Senator Maria Cantwell yesterday clarified her position on the Iraq conflict, reaffirming her previous stance that 2006 must be a year of transition and that we need to begin the process of bringing American troops home.

Here's what the Senator said yesterday:
If the Congress knew then, what we know today, even the Republican leadership would not have brought it to a vote.

If the Bush Administration had done the hard work of building an international coalition to really contain Saddam, there would have been no vote.

If I knew then everything that I know today and the Republican leadership still brought it up for a vote, I would have voted no.

While mistakes were made in the way Bush took us to war, the Republican led Congress has not done its job of providing aggressive oversight of the Iraq war. In the days ahead, the Congress must use the power of the purse to hold the Bush Administration accountable for more progress towards beginning to bring our troops home this year.

We will always make sure our troops have everything they need to do their jobs well, but we will look at other cost cutting measures.

I am for changing the course in Iraq , my opponent is for staying the course. I oppose permanent bases in Iraq , my opponent does not share that belief. We do have different views of where to go next in Iraq.

The Iraqis must take over responsibility for their own security this year.
Some months ago I wrote here of our concern that the Senator was not taking a clearer position on Iraq, that it was hurting her campaign, and expressing the hope that her position would evolve. And indeed, it has evolved - bit by bit.

With this latest statement, Cantwell's position on Iraq has improved over the last year or so from being murky and unknown to clear, sharp, and consistent with what the majority of the American people believe.

We applaud Senator Cantwell for reinforcing her position and making it absolutely crystal clear that she does not agree with the way the Bush administration is (mis)managing our incursion into Iraq.

Lawsuit filed to throw out I-917 signatures

The coalition working to defeat I-917 on this November's ballot isn't sitting on its hands waiting for the Secretary of State to announce what happens to Eyman's latest misguided initiative. The offensive action has begun:
Foes of Tim Eyman's latest $30 car-tab initiative want Thurston County Superior Court to throw out about 3,000 pages worth of voter signatures. That would kill Eyman's chances of a public vote this fall.

Fifteen business, labor and environmental organizations announced the challenge on Tuesday, invoking a 2005 law that requires signature-gatherers to personally sign a declaration that the information on the petition is correct.

Initiative 917 solicitors did not sign the statement on more than 3,000 of the 17,000 petitions, and those pages must be thrown out, the group said.

"The Legislature passed a law to ensure that signature-gatherers are honest and accountable," said Steve Mullen, president of the Washington Roundtable, the organization of top corporate CEOs. "There has been substantial fraud in other states, and laws like this are necessary to keeping the initiative process clean and to protect the voters."

The new law requires that petitions include a signed declaration on every sheet.
It's good to see this lawsuit has finally been filed.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nominate Peter Goldmark on DailyKos

DavidNYC has a post on DailyKos asking for nominations for candidates who should be "Netroots Endorsed". Candidates who are "Netroots Endorsed" are listed on the ActBlue page for major blogs, including Daily Kos and MyDD. Please leave a comment on Daily Kos seconding a nomination for Peter Goldmark.

Peter Goldmark is the sole Democrat running for Congress in Washington's 5th Congressional District. Goldmark, of Okanagan, Washington, is a rancher and founder of a biotechnology research laboratory, DJR Research, Inc. Lake Research has released polling that shows he can win the district.

And Goldmark has also shown an interest in engaging bloggers and grassroots activists not only in the 5th, but throughout the state. Goldmark is very similiar to Montana Democrats Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester. This is a unique opportunity for the national netroots to invest in another competitive race out West. Click here to leave a comment in support of Peter.

Media Matters takes CNN to task

David Brock wants an explanation - and so do we:
August 14, 2006

Jonathan Klein
President, CNN

Rolando H. Santos
Executive Vice President and General Manager, CNN Headline News
One CNN Center
Atlanta , GA 30348

Dear Messrs. Klein and Santos :

I am writing to express my great concern over an incident that occurred on your network Friday, August 11, 2006. As the Think Progress weblog noted, during a discussion on CNN Headline News of the recent Connecticut Senate Democratic primary won by Ned Lamont, anchor Chuck Roberts asked: "Might some argue, as some have, that Lamont is the Al Qaeda candidate?"

One expects to hear this kind of hyperbolic rhetoric -- which also perfectly plays into the Republican Party's baseless smears of Democrats as soft on national security -- coming from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, or Michael Savage. CNN, however, is supposed to be a legitimate news organization.

Mr. Roberts might have a defense if it were actually the case that people were calling Mr. Lamont "the Al Qaeda candidate." But as Arianna Huffington pointed out on CNN's own Reliable Sources yesterday, the smear appears to be entirely the creation of Mr. Roberts. We note that Mr. Lamont's opposition to the Iraq war is shared by a majority of the American people; we hope it is not common practice among CNN anchors to refer to most Americans as Al Qaeda sympathizers.

I presume you have a sincere commitment to responsible journalism and accountability within your news organization. We at Media Matters for America, along with your viewers, would like to know what action you intend to take in response to this incident. Will CNN be issuing a retraction? Will Mr. Roberts be offering Mr. Lamont an on-air apology? Will some disciplinary action be taken against Mr. Roberts?

We eagerly await your response.

Sincerely,

David Brock
President and CEO
Media Matters for America
We'll be waiting to see if CNN's top brass step forward and take responsibility - or whether they just pay no attention and again prove that the traditional, supposedly "legitimate" traditional media are just lapdogs for the Republican Noise Machine and the Bush administration.

UPDATE: Well, well. This is good to hear - Chuck Roberts apologises to Lamont for saying he's "the Al-Qaeda candidate":
You know, I owe you an apology. Last week, I led into an interview with a guest analyst and really botched the set-up. The guest had wanted to discuss the Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman statements suggesting that terror groups — Al Qaeda type, to use Cheney’s words — would be buoyed by your win, but I posed it badly, stupidly ad-libbing about "some saying Lamont is the Al-Qaeda candidate." No one, in fact, used that construction. Anyway, I wanted to correct the record, and I’m glad we had this chance to do it. Now, let’s get to the insinuations that were lobbed...
We commend Chuck Roberts and CNN for setting the record straight, and having Ned Lamont on for an interview.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Mike! McGavick! gets some help

Mike McGavick, whose campaign for U.S. Senate seems to be stuck in the mud of obvious and false pretenses (like "civility") apparently hasn't doing so well in the fundraising department.

Why else would McGavick decide to loan himself $2 million and bring in Laura Bush for a series of events designed to whip up cash for the campaign and the state Republican Party?

The First Lady's (tenative) schedule is as follows:
On Aug. 30, Bush will headline a $250-a-head breakfast fundraiser at the Bellevue Westin. Photos with the First Lady will cost $2,500.

Later that day she travels across the mountains to Kennewick for a $150-a-head lunch event, with $1,000 photos.
Raising money is unquestionably hard work, and it seems McGavick and his staff are tired of doing it (either that, or they're just really bad at hitting up GOP donors for dough).

Besides, what better use is there for that extroadinarily generous (and over the top) severance package Mike got from Safeco?

Of course, Mike's check to himself has ignited a debate over whether the action triggers the Millionaire's Amendment. As Neil Modie explains:
The two campaigns disagreed on whether the contribution triggers the "Millionaire's Amendment" in the 2002 federal Campaign Reform Act, which is intended to let candidates match the fundraising of wealthy, self-financing opponents.

If it does apply, it would allow Cantwell to ask her supporters to donate as much as six times the normal individual contribution limit of $2,100 for the primary and $2,100 for the general election -- in other words, a total of $25,200 per person.
And, as you'd suspect, McGavick & Co. are trying to have it both ways (again):
"Mike's contribution triggers the Millionaire's Amendment for his primary opponents only. It has no effect on Senator Cantwell," [McGavick spokesman Elliott] Bundy said.

[...]

So far, the only "opponent" McGavick has criticized or mentioned is Cantwell. And in a July 25 letter challenging her to nine debates, McGavick wrote, "Simply put, both of us have made it clear to the public and the press that this race is between the two of us, regardless of primary opposition."
Isn't it interesting how Mike!'s view of the race changes to become the most convenient position for the campaign at any given time?

With just under three months to go before the general election, we now have a pretty good idea of who Mike McGavick is and what he represents. Mike! is:
We already have enough rubber stamp Republicans in Congress on Capitol Hill. We don't need any more. What we do need are more representatives and senators like Maria Cantwell, who will work for an America that is stronger, healthier, safer, cleaner, and freer - not an America where the federal government is just a tool to do the bidding of big corporations.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Questions for Joe

Former Democrat Joe Lieberman lost no time in aligning himself with his new party, trotting out the long-discredited Bush association between Iraq and 9-11, and trying to paste it onto the airline bomb plot uncovered by the British.

A few questions for the former Democrat might clear things up. (The correct answers are in parentheses.)

How many Iraqis were involved in the airline bomb conspiracy?
(None)
How many from American allies?
(All)
What is the connection between the airline bomb plot and Iraq?
(None)
Will the British put the plotters in Gitmo?
(No)
Will they be subject to torture?
(No)
But even innocent people are "disappeared" and subject to torture, we know these guys are guilty.
(No response)
Is Karl Rove handling your PR now?
(He's certainly offered to).

Republican Noise Machine goes into overdrive to spin arrests in Britain

Ever since it became publicly known just over 24 hours ago that British investigators had arrested dozens of suspected terrorists and foiled a plot to destroy commercial aircraft over the Atlantic, the Republican Noise Machine, working in concert with the Bush administration, has gone into overdrive to aggressively spin the news.

Right wing pundits and media hacks, eager to seize hold of anything that might put Democrats on the defensive, are taking their signals from the Republican National Committee and the Bush administration, which had advance knowledge of the British investigation before the arrests were made. Reports Cox News Service:
The White House confirmed Thursday that senior administration officials have been aware since at least last weekend that British authorities were moving toward arrests in an alleged terrorism plot.

Some of these top officials worked in concert with the Republican National Committee to blast Democrats after Tuesday's primary defeat of Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a supporter of President Bush's Iraqi war strategy.
Let's make this absolutely, crystal clear: it is simply undeniable that what George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and the Republicans are doing is playing politics with terror. They've even devised gimmicks that they can use for mass manipulation.

Rather than being carefully responsible with the information they received from British authorities, Bush's cronies turned around and gave it to top GOP operatives to use in attacking Democrats, especially Ned Lamont, the winner of the Connecticut primary for U.S. Senate.

Republicans don't care about making the American people safer. But they do care about anything they think they can mine for political points. Bush's handlers are so confident this will pay off that they can't resist gloating about it. From Agence France-Presse:
"Weeks before September 11th, this [the raid] is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.
That's right. Who cares if terrorists want to kill thousands of American citizens flying in our nation's own airlines over the Atlantic? All that matters is how big it's going to play, how well can it be spun and used to help Republicans.

Media Matters reports that several major traditional media outlets have unsurprisingly allowed many of these nasty and false attacks to go unchallenged and unrefuted.

The Republicans aren't just using the raid to launch a media blitz, though. They're also using it for fundraising. Here's an excerpt from an email sent out by the Republican National Committee (supposedly penned by Rudy Giuliani), hours after news of the arrests broke:
Today, President Bush faces a similar challenge. In the middle of a war on terror, we need to remain focused on furthering Republican ideas more than ever before. We can't turn back now. [...]

That's why I am emailing to ask you for a favor: will you click here to make a contribution of $500, $250, $100, $50, $35 or $25 to show your strong commitment to our Party and our principles?
The message is very subtle, but simple: if you don't want to be the victim of a terrorist attack, then you need to donate to the Republican Party. Because if Republicans don't stay in control of Washington D.C., America won't be safe.

It is a complete and absolute lie. It is cheap, dirty, hardball politics. It's un-American. This is Exhibit A of why the Republicans need to go.

They are the party of irresponsibility. They want to exploit the emotions of the American people by playing on everyone's fears. And at the same time, they want to avoid a real debate on the issues. They are cowards.

The Republican stranglehold on our nation's capitol is choking American democracy to death. We must mount the strongest effort possible to end one party rule in Washington D.C. this year.

It will require courage, it will require innovation, it will require unity, and it will require resilience. But it can be done, and it must be done.

And as Adam Nagourney of the New York Times writes, this election cycle is going to be far different from previous ones. We're fighting back:
But in a sign of how this campaign might be different, Democrats struck a tone notably different from the elections of 2004 and 2002, when for the most part their strategy was to try to turn the subject away from national security. This time, Democrats attacked Republicans as failing to improve airline security and, most of all, argued that the decision to invade Iraq had been a distraction that depleted United States resources and allowed the world to become more dangerous.

"The war in Iraq had nothing to do with the war against international terrorism, or very little to do with the war on terrorism," said James Webb, a former Reagan administration official running as a Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia. "It has distracted our attention, it has pulled our forces in, and we are now in a situation where we have 135,000 on the ground, which affects our ability to do a lot of things that we would be able to do otherwise."
A new people powered movement of Americans from diverse backgrounds is lifting up the Democratic Party, and a new group of Democratic candidates, unafraid to fight back against Republican smears, has emerged to carry the banner for the party of true American values in 2006.

It won't be easy to neutralize the Republican Noise Machine. But we, the netroots, are growing stronger with each passing day. We can turn this challenge into an opportunity - and win.

This fall, we will muster every last iota of time, talents, and treasure that we can afford to put forward. We can and will defeat the Republican politics of fear and change the direction of America.

Our fellow world citizens cannot save American democracy - only we can do that. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

UPDATE: How interesting. Apparently, the release of that Giuliani email was a mistake. At least, that's what the RNC wants us to believe:
Democrats assailed the Republicans Friday for e-mailing a fundraising appeal mentioning the war on terror hours after British authorities disclosed they had disrupted a plot to blow up aircraft headed to the United States.

"In the middle of a war on terror, we need to remain focused on furthering Republican ideas more than ever before," former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said in a letter that asked for donations to the Republican National Committee.

The RNC blamed a low-level staffer for distributing the fundraising appeal, which the party said had been scheduled for release before news of the plot broke.

"Once the RNC learned of this error we ceased distribution of the e-mail," said Tracey Schmitt, a party spokeswoman.

Democrats didn't accept the explanation.

"The defeat of the London plot is a warning that we should redouble our efforts to defeat terrorism. It shouldn't be used as a political defibrillator by Republicans on electoral life support," said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats' campaign committee.
So, either the people running the Republican National Committee are really careless, or they're pathetic liars. I'm inclined to go with the latter rather than the former. Nice to see the DSCC is on offense.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Track major races with our Elections Digest

We launched a special coverage section focusing on the 2006 elections with Seaside last May, but its performance for a while was sluggish - feeds loaded slowly or not at all. However, those problems have been solved. Take a look - and make it a regular stop when you visit Pacific Northwest Portal.

The page will give you the latest posts for major races across the Pacific Northwest and let you track candidates like Maria Cantwell, Darcy Burner, Peter Goldmark, Larry Grant, and Ted Kulongoski.

It will also show the latest posts about right wing initiatives and legislative candidates in Washington and Oregon.

Try it out and let us know what you think.

Beware of security changes at SeaTac

To our greater Seattle area readers: if you're flying this weekend or anytime soon, you need to be aware of new restrictions that have just been implemented at Seattle Tacoma International Airport (and airports across the country):
Because of events in the UK overnight, security levels at US airports have been changed.

Liquids, creams or gels are banned in carry-on luggage. The exceptions are medication in the original prescription bottle and baby formula.

Passengers are still allowed to buy beverages post-security, but will not be able to take them on aircraft.

Travelers may see an increased police presence in the airport, and other additional security measures are being taken.

There has been some confusion about the changes in security because of reports in the international media about rules in the UK. The best information about rules applying to US air travel can be found here.
The new restrictions are creating long lines, unfortunately, so make sure you don't have any of the newly restricted items in your carry on bags, and get to the airport early.

BREAKING: Darcy Burner unveils first TV ad

Darcy Burner's campaign unveiled its first television ad this morning, entitled "Bio", which highlights Darcy's rich background and priorities for America and the 8th Congressional District.

The sixty second ad will give many voters their first introduction to Darcy's campaign of change and likely force the Reichert team to respond quickly.

View the ad here. (You may need to download and install the Windows Media plugin if you are not using Internet Explorer).

Watch for the "Lamont moment" at the end.

After viewing it several times, I have to give it a big thumbs up. The music, the images, and the message are very compelling and sure to resonate with voters.

Help Darcy keep the ad on the air by contributing to her campaign.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lamont win a sweet victory but also a probable turning point

To many progressive activists, last night's win over Joe Lieberman in Connecticut seems like a surreal dream, an impossibility come true, a miracle. Despite the backing of the nation's political establishment, endorsements by many prominent Democrats (and right wing pundits) Joe Lieberman was tossed aside by his own constituents for a more authentic candidate.

A majority of voters threw their support behind someone who understands and shares the frustrations and dreams of the American people, both in Connecticut and throughout the United States.

Ned Lamont is a hero for putting his name, his reputation, and a lot of his money on the line to give his fellow citizens a choice. Voters turned out in record numbers in that primary not to hand the establishment figure the usual win, but to back the voice for change.

Lamont's triumph is a sweet victory, not just because it took so much work, and not just because Joe Lieberman has been a hindrance to the caucus for so long, but really because we've been headed in the wrong direction for so long.

We've invested in races like Paul Hackett's in Ohio, Ciro Rodriguez's in Texas, and Francine Busby's in California - only to see those candidates come close, but not clinch a victory.

In recent weeks we have been chalking up wins everywhere: Tester's victory in Montana and Webb's in Virgina preceded last night's win in Connecticut. And Lamont wasn't the only primary challenger who won last night: two other incumbents, both in the U.S. House, fell to primary challengers - Cynthia McKinney in Georgia lost to Hank Johnson, while Joe Schwartz in Michigan (a Republican) lost to Tim Wahlberg.

Three challengers defeated three incumbents last night in contests to decide who will go forward carrying the party banners in November.

But the Lamont victory especially signals what may be considered, months and years from now, a turning point in American politics, quite possibly the beginning of a realignment. In many ways it's too early to tell.

One diarist on DailyKos is writing of 2006 as "the year American democracy was saved". The defeat of Lieberman is a major event for every elected Democratic officeholder throughout the country.

It is a very clear assurance that a new people powered progressive movement is capable of not only making noise, but winning elections.

This isn't our first win, and it won't be our last. But it's very significant. A message has just been sent that selling your soul to the other side, as Joe did, is a costly and unacceptable move. Lieberman and his admirers stand for a Democratic Party that serves the Republican Party in our nation's capitol.

That's something we can't afford.

We need a united Democratic Party forcing Republican capitulation - not the other way around. And if we're to have a united Democratic Party, then that means ego driven traitors have to go. Joe Lieberman was the defining example, and now he's gone from the Democratic ranks.

A writer for TIME Magazine declares that "the Netroots' moment has arrived." Well, actually, we've had quite a few good moments before this (including electoral victories - Tester's triumph comes to mind) but there's no denying the shock waves this upset has created.

The 2006 midterms are being redefined. They will be both a national referendum on George W. Bush and a series of local contests that play out in congressional districts from Florida to Hawaii. Democratic challengers can gain the upper hand under either pretense with the proper machinery and message in place to create a real competition.

Many establishment forecasters are saying the Lieberman defeat should be a warning shot to Republicans, not a cause for celebration:
Mr Sabato said it was the Republicans who had the most to fear from the unpopularity of the president and the war.

"The real question is what happens with Bush and Iraq through November. If the war somehow ceases to be the disaster that it is, and if Bush somehow manages to rise to something close to 50% [approval rating], then this could backfire on the Democrats.

"But as long as Bush and the war remain unpopular, then this will not be a problem for the Democrats in 2006," he predicted.
Dubya and his team have shown zero interest in straying from their "stay the course" policy. It's highly unlikely the situation in Iraq will improve much before Election Day. Furthermore, many Republicans are overconfident and believe that in the final weeks they can stop Democrats by framing as weak on national security and lacking the will to finish the job in Iraq.

The problem is that framing like that isn't going to work against the new, hardened progressive challengers emerging to run for Congress this year. Many are in fact Iraq veterans, or have solid military credentials (think Webb in Virginia) and know how to fight back (hence the name "Fighting Dems"). You could call them the Paul Hackett Democrats.

America is ready for change. We see indication after indication that this is the year when a blue, refreshing tidal wave sweeps across America and ends the Republican lock on Congress.

What happened in Connecticut yesterday could very well be the beginning of that wave - the turning point when the Democratic Party became a real opposition party that fights back rather than a weak and unattractive alternative to the Republicans.

Who will stand with Lamont and the netroots?

A lot of high profile Democrats across the country are now stepping forward and announcing or pledging their support for the Democratic nominee in the Connecticut primary - Ned Lamont:
True Democrats will stand with Ned Lamont, the Democratic nominee, not EGO Joe Lieberman, George W. Bush's favorite "independent".

UPDATE, BREAKING NEWS! Our own Senator Maria Cantwell has just released a statement through her campaign:
"I congratulate Ned Lamont on his victory last night. I respect the decision of the Connecticut Democrats in choosing their nominee and I will support him."
Well done, Senator, well done! Let it be known far and wide that Ned Lamont is the Democratic nominee in the great state of Connecticut, and that Joe Lieberman is no longer a Democrat - not even in name!

UPDATE II: Cantwell's opponent, Mike McGavick, has announced his support of EGO Joementum - what a big surprise:
"We don't have to agree on all issues, but this nation is desperate for leaders that will look beyond their party leaders to help our families and communities-even if it might put their own re-election in doubt. In support of Sen. Lieberman's campaign for civility, I wish him the best, and Gaelynn and I plan on contributing to his campaign."
You do that, Mike. In November, we will defeat you here in Washington and get rid of Joe once and for all in Connecticut.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

LAMONT WINS, delivers victory speech

Ned Lamont is now appearing before supporters and giving his victory speech. A few excerpts (transcripted live):
"Thank you so much...Hey everybody, sorry to keep you waiting so long...drinks [are] on me! Let me say a couple of things. They call Connecticut the land of steady habits...tonight, we voted for a big change!"

"Stay the course! That's not a winning strategy in Iraq, and it's not a winning strategy for America....if you work hard, and play by the rules, and you make good choices, oppotunity will come your way."

"It's time to fix Congress!"

"We succeeded here thanks to you...the grassroots, the netroots...this is a coalition for change."

"I am proud to carry the banner as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate."
The AP has called the race...Lieberman has acknowledged his defeat...and the winner of the Connecticut Democratic primary for U.S. Senate is:



Ned Lamont!!!!!!

UPDATE: Democratic incumbent Cynthia McKinney has been defeated by Hank Johnson in the Democratic runoff for the 4th Congressional District in Georgia. The Atlanta traditional media is calling the race for Johnson, who crushed McKinney 59% to 41%.

And, in MI-07, Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz lost to challenger Tim Walberg 55% to 45%. This was a horrible night for incumbents, and seems to indicate a Democratic tidal wave in November may not be so unlikely.

UPDATE II: Establishment support for Lieberman is starting to crumble. Crooks & Liars has this exclusive:
A check from Hillary Clinton’s HILLPAC is being cut to Ned Lamont for five thousand dollars. She’s the first one to be counted on and make good on her promise to support the winner of the Connecticut primary. We can only hope that the rest of the Democratic Party stands behind Ned in his bid to win the Senate seat.
And the Washington Post reports that Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh has announced his support for Lamont. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Rahm Emanuel seems to have already moved beyond Joe:
"This shows what blind loyalty to George Bush and being his love child means," said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the leader of the Democratic House Congressional campaign. "This is not about the war. It’s blind loyalty to Bush."
A well deserved ouch.

BREAKING: Lieberman speaks, won't concede

DINO Joe Lieberman is speaking at election night party and is thanking his supporters for "standing by me". Here's some of his remarks:
"In this campaign, we've just finished the first half, and the Lamont team is ahead. But in the second half, our team, Team Connecticut, is going to surge forward to victory...(cheers)"

"I am of course disappointed by the results, but not discouraged. The old politics of partisan polarization won today. For the sake of my party and my country, I cannot and will not let that result stand."
So Lieberman apparently has no interest in Democratic unity. Joe Lieberman is only concerned about staying in power. He's trying to play the victim in this speech, denouncing the "partisan bickering" in Washington D.C. It's kind of funny, but he sounds almost exactly like Mike McGavick.

Lamont holds narrow lead with 70% of precincts reporting

We're past the halfway point, and the results don't seem to be changing much - Lamont's lead is hovering at about 52%, while Lieberman is at about 48%. The Lieberman camp, while somber and unhappy, does not appear ready to concede for the sake of Democratic unity. Reports the New York Times:
With a record number of Democrats voting, both campaigns and state officials said at 9:30 p.m. that it was too early to call the race for either candidate. While Lieberman advisers made grim predictions of defeat in interviews, they also held out hope for an unexpected boost from late returns in Hartford, New Haven, and other traditional strongholds for Mr. Lieberman.

"Senator Lieberman realizes that the early returns show him slightly behind, but his mood is up, he’s looking ahead, and he’s going to be a Democratic senator whether he wins tonight or wins in November," said Lanny J. Davis, a friend and adviser to Mr. Lieberman, in a telephone interview after leaving Mr. Lieberman’s hotel suite in Hartford.
The Hartford Courant has additional coverage. This primary is torpedoing the trend from other states, and breaking records in Connecticut.

UPDATE: Lanny is now giving an arrogant interview to WTIC in Connecticut filled with distortions and absurd analogies, dismising Lamont as a one issue candidate and remarking that "nobody knows who he is". Well, if that's true, then why is Lamont winning? Explain that, Mr. Davis.

Lamont holding early lead in CT primary

Lamont continues to hold on to an early lead in the Connecticut primary for United States Senate - get the latest results from Pacific NW Portal. Hartford Courant is providing good coverage and reports that the mood at Lieberman headquarters seems to be somber:
It was cautious, rather than the standard "cautiously optimistic" assessment that campaign operatives often spout. To be sure, Lieberman's press spokeswoman Marion Steinfels said, "it looks good, we're hearing that there's a big turnout -- it feels good," but the Lieberman partisans were not so sanguine.

"Well, there's always November," said one, acknowledging what miught happen about 7:30 p.m.
Also, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is reportedly losing in Georgia. This hasn't been a good night so far for out of touch Democratic incumbents.

UPDATE: MyDD and Daily Kos are having problems - so if you can't access either, it's not your computer. It's high elections related traffic.

Lamont/Lieberman Coverage

We'll be following the results in from Connecticut's U.S. Senate primary throughout the rest of the evening here on the Official Blog. Pacific NW Portal will also offer coverage from its front page through its newsflash ticker. There will not be an In Brief post tonight.

According to Lamontblog (earlier today) "nothing is left except for the voting". Well, the polls are closing, so now nothing is left except for the results.

UPDATE: The first results are in - with 3% in, Lamont is apparently crushing Lieberman 60% to 40%. These are only early returns, of course.

UPDATE II: New results in now - Lamont 56.2%, Lieberman 43.8%, 7.35% in. The front page news ticker is being constantly updated with the latest.

UPDATE III: PsiFighter37 is liveblogging at DailyKos from Lamont headquarters. MyDD's Chris Bowers, Atrios' Duncan Black, and Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher are also there.

Pacific NW Portal Syndicate Change

As a result of Carl Ballard's decision to close down the Washington State Political Report (announced last week), we found it necessary to start evaluating potential replacements to fill in the gap on the front page. We came to a decision today, one that we're rather proud of.

Taking the Report's place on the front page will be Mollie Bradley-Martin's Liberal Girl Next Door, a (very) thoughtfully written blog about local and national politics. You can find Mollie's perspective syndicated below Washblog and to the left of Preemptive Karma on the front page.

I hope you'll join us in welcoming Mollie to the syndicate.

I-937 officially qualifies for the ballot

Three statewide initiatives have so far qualified for the ballot, the latest being Initiative 937. The Secretary of State has finished the random sample check:
Sponsors of Initiative 937 submitted a total of 337,804 petition signatures to the Secretary of State. Election officials conducted a random sample of 10,334 signatures, of which 9,094 were valid signatures – 1,240 were determined invalid. Signatures are invalid if the signer is not a registered voter or if he or she signed more than once.

The petition was checked using the “random sample” process authorized by state law. Under the process, a statistically valid percentage of the signatures are selected at random and checked against voter registration records. A mathematical formula is then applied to the results to obtain a projected rate of invalidation.

Election officials examined 10,334 (a 3 percent sample) on Initiative 937. From that inspection, it was determined that the measure had an invalidation rate of 23.96 percent.
The Yes on I-937 campaign issued a statement explaining why it's so important that I-937 is on the ballot this year:
"As Washington's demand for energy grows, we can choose where we get our electricity," said Yes on 937 communications director Bryan Flint. "We can either burn more fossil fuels like coal that pollute the air, or we can use more clean, affordable renewable energy like wind and solar power – produced here in Washington. We are proud to be a constructive initiative — the only one on the November ballot aimed at building a positive future for Washington residents."
This is the one ballot measure that we can actually support this year. To learn more, visit the website of Washingtonians for Energy Security.

Monday, August 07, 2006

BIAW's Walking for Washington flooding Eastside neighborhoods with literature

The Building Industry Association of Washington's "Walking for Washington" program, which I have previously written about here, here, and here (see this post if you want to know who else is bankrolling) has ramped up its efforts to promote its slate of candidates for Supreme Court to voters.

BIAW Slim JimWalking for Washington paid workers are flooding Eastside residential neighborhoods with literature, according to reports we've received from activists and even our own members.

In many precincts, the BIAW's hired hands don't even appear to be bothering with voter identification - they're just leaving literature at the door of every house.

The most common piece is this slim jim, which features photos of both candidates and a short, bulleted list touting each candidate's background.

The side featuring Johnson bears this footer:
NOTICE TO VOTERS (Required by law): This advertisement is not authorized or approved by any candidate. It is paid for by Building Industry Association of Washington, PO Box 1909, Olympia, WA 98507
(Emphasis is mine).

The BIAW knows, after Dino Rossi's narrow defeat in 2004, how important King County is to the outcome of any statewide vote. King County is home to at least a third (if not more) of the state's total population.

Seattle, which tends to vote heavily Democratic and liberal, is figured to be a lost cause - but the Eastside and the southern part of the county are not.

The BIAW is attempting to use its Walking for Washington field program to convince suburban and rural voters to support its own slate of candidates (Stephen Johnson and John Groen). What they're trying to do this year brings back memories of the BIAW's 2003 committee to pass Initiative 841 - Workers Against Job Killing Rules.

The committee purported to represent organized labor when in fact it represented its nemesis - the BIAW. Its paid media, especially TV ads, were successful in confusing voters. Initiative 841, a sweeping repeal of ergonomics rules, ended up passing, though not by a large margin.

I've talked to many people since the 2003 election who accidentally voted the wrong way on I-841 because they didn't understand the issue. The BIAW's literature is carefully scripted. It never mentions that Steve Johnson is a Republican. It also does not contain buzz phrases like "property rights", which it makes it sound more neutral and less ideological.

It does, of course, contain the addresses for Groen and Johnson's websites.

But there can be no doubt that Walking for Washington is an operation created to help ensure an ideological takeover of the state Supreme Court - a right wing ideological takeover.

Justices Alexander and Owens are the incumbent justices the BIAW has targeted. Please follow the links to their websites to learn more about them. You can also contribute to their campaigns to help them fight back against the BIAW and its slate of candidates.

If you've had literature dropped off at your house, or if you've been approached by a Walking for Washington worker who came to your door - or both - please let us know about your experience.

In Brief - August 7th, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • This has not been a good week so far for BP, which was forced to announce that it would have to shut down operations at its Prudhoe Bay oilfield in northern Alaska. The "green" image the company has tried to cultivate is now in jeopardy, analysts say. Of course, the Bush administration reacted by announcing its support for loaning oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to West Coast referines to ease a supply shortage. How typical. Here's a novel idea: why not just ask Americans to conserve and use less instead? The solution must be to reduce usage and improve efficiency, not maintain the status quo. People seem to forget that oil is a finite resource. This incident also reinforces the case against Arctic Refuge drilling. With all the problems with the Alaskan Pipeline and Prudhoe Bay, how does the industry and its Republican allies expect us to believe that we can drill in the refuge without disturbing its fragile ecosystem?
  • Justice Antonin Scalia has turned down, without comment, an appeal by Tom Delay's lawyers, who were hoping the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn a lower federal court decision prohibiting Republicans from replacing Tom Delay's name on the ballot in the Texas 22nd Congressional District.
  • MyDD reports that House Democratic challengers are doing well across the country. Locally, Darcy Burner and Peter Goldmark come to mind.
  • An Associated Press political writer concludes in an analysis that the Republicans are on the defensive heading into this fall's elections.
  • Representative Bob Ney of Ohio has decided not to seek reelection after all. Ney, who is the incumbent in the 18th Congressional District, has been dogged by extensive links to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His Democratic challenger, Zack Space, remains upbeat about his chances of defeating his new Republican opponent, Joy Padgett, in November.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Stephen Stills In Concert For Darcy Burner

Note from the Executive Director: We are pleased to welcome Jason Black to the Official Blog for this important guest post, and we hope this is merely his first posted entry here - not his last.

At the end of last month, on July 26th, Stephen Stills came to Washington State to show his support for Darcy Burner's bid to unseat Dave Reichert and represent the Washington's 8th Congressional District.

Anybody who remembers the 70s will know who Stephen Stills is. You youngsters reading this will know him better by the name of the group he was in: Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Stephen Stills was in town for a concert tour date, but graciously arrived a day early to headline a concert/fundraiser for Ms. Burner.

Darcy Burner with Stephen Stills

For anyone young or old who is as-yet unaware of this race, let me just tell you that Darcy is an amazing candidate. Given the support she needs, she is going to clean Reichert's clock on November 7th.

I've been involved with this race since last September, although I should be clear that I hold no official position in her campaign other than ardent supporter.

Darcy is warm, personal, and carries an air of trust I'm just not used to finding in politicians or candidates. She is also astonishingly smart and well-informed on darned near everything, which makes her exactly the sort of person I want representing me in Congress.

Stephen Stills got the crowd going with his take on modern day America and all her many problems, then launched into a short but very well received set of songs. Later I learned that Mr. Stills is doing several of these types of concerts this year, for progressive candidates whose message resonates with him. I wonder where else he'll show up before November?

Stephen Stills Singing

Listen (8.5MB MP3; 0:21:07)

As the evening was winding down, after most of the guests had left, Ms. Burner was kind enough to let me, and a few bystanders who were still there, interview her for a few minutes. It was an interesting conversation, touching on everything from the personal to the political.

I was particularly interested to hear Darcy's take on some of the other hot races in the nation right now, and some fascinating stuff about the WA-05 race with Peter Goldmark.

She has some particularly insightful comments about the relationship between state party organizations and races like Darcy's and Peter's, which really shows the whole "50 state strategy" from a different perspective than we usually hear it. I really hadn't ever considered donating to my local state party organization, but I have to say that I am now!

Here is the transcript of my interview, which I would encourage everyone to read (or, again, Listen; 11.3MB MP3; 0:28:26).

It's really worth the time it'll take you. This is the sort of stuff we ought to be hearing from every single person running for office, and every single person holding office: unvarnished truth, straight from the heart, without all the political double-speak. If you listen to nothing else, skip ahead to 11:10 where Darcy talks about why she's running.

You can read it in the transcript, but it's so powerful hearing her say it. You want to talk about progressive values being family values, there's the best statement you'll hear on the subject.

If you like what you hear - or if you merely want to see new leadership in the House - please send her some love. Thank you.

[Note: "JB" is me, the interviewer; "DB" is Darcy Burner; everyone else is "Bystander".]

JB: So, Darcy Burner, how's your campaign going?

DB: Really well, thank you, Jason.

JB: Good, glad to hear it. So, you must be getting a lot more name recognition, face recognition. You're not wearing your usual "Darcy Burner/I-am-the-candidate" pin.

DB: I figured this was a small enough fund raiser that everyone would figure out who I was.

JB: I think you were probably right. What have you learned about campaigning?

DB: Huge, gargantuan, vast numbers of things.

JB: Two big things?

DB: Two big things. You don't get anything you don't ask for. And so you just get over your shyness and ask if you need it. And in a campaign like this when people believe, they'll give it to you. All you have to do is ask. I think the second big important thing is that grassroots power is going to trump special interests any day. And that the trick for Democrats is really figuring out how to harness the grassroots.

JB: And what have you learned about yourself in the course of doing this?

DB: [laugh] I’m capable of asking people for money in the first 5 seconds I've met them, which is not something I would ever have done before. I think for me it is mostly about getting over my preconceived, you know, shy Midwestern I-don't-want-to-bother-anybody ideals.

JB: I have that too. I'm not from the Midwest but yeah, I have that too.

DB: Exactly. I have had to get past my tendency to not want to be a bother.

JB: Have you gotten the impression that - I mean, having gotten over it and everything, and thus, being a bother--that people are bothered?

DB: Mostly not. Occasionally. I mean I do so many phone calls so many outreach events that I will occasionally run into somebody who views me as bothering them. But that's pretty rare. Mostly people at least this year, at least in this race, are incredibly frustrated about the direction the country is going and are incredibly excited about the opportunity to participate in the process that can change the direction of this country whether that participation is by volunteering, contributing money, by posting things, right, they're incredibly exited to be participating.

JB: So what's your take on the pulse of the district?

DB: There is an unbelievable amount of energy in the district around the idea of changing the direction of the country. We're going door to door in the district, we're talking to people on the telephone, I’m talking to people at fairs and festivals and things. And huge numbers of people, huge numbers of voters, are ready to see this country change direction and are ready to act to make that happen. I’ll give you a quick anecdote. So I filed for this office on the 15th of June last year. And on the 4th of July of last year I marched on the 4th of July parade in Carnation.

JB: Right, there are pictures on your website.

DB: Right, there are pictures on my website. And in that parade, I got at best a lukewarm reception. There were some people who wouldn't shake my hand, a couple of people who shouted out that, you know, they didn't like Democrats. I had a couple of people greet me enthusiastically, but literally most people were like "eh, not interested." We marched again in that parade this year, and the experience was completely different. This year I had huge numbers of people shouting enthusiastically. As I would walk by, I would hear people shouting "That's Darcy Burner! She's the Democratic candidate for congress!" They were like "Yaaay!" I had nobody – nobody - who wouldn't shake my hand. Not a single person.

JB: That's got to make you feel good.

DB: It was terrific. and I had so many people say to me "I’m so excited. Thank you so much for running. You've got to win." And having had the experience of last year and this year to compare with each other it was a completely different feeling on the ground. The voters in this district are ready for change.

JB: So this year obviously contrasts strongly with last year. Back then, did you have doubts that this was the right thing to do or that this was winnable?

DB: Well I knew at the time that I got into the race that there were a lot of things outside my control that were going to have a huge impact on how my race specifically went and on how the year went for Democrats very generally. But I was willing to place the bet that it would be a good year for Democrats and that I could make this happen. Because the alternative was we just give up, and say the Republicans can have it all. And that was completely unacceptable to me.

[Bystander chatter, leading to the subject of late cycle attack ads]

JB: So when [Dave Reichert] runs his attack ads in the last 3 weeks of the campaign, what infrastructure do you need to have in place to have an ad the next day that rebuts it or, you know, sets the record straight?

DB: The biggest thing we need is just money. We've got one of the best media firms in the country working on the race. We've got a researcher on the campaign who's pre-assembling all the data and things we think we're likely ever to need as quick response. And the only thing we need is to make sure we've got the money to get up on the air. That's it. Money, money, money.

JB: You make it all sound so easy.

[More bystander chatting, leading to the subject of Democratic messaging]

Bystander: I mean Democrats are lame at [messaging]...

DB: But I come into this with some small advantage, which is that I spent 5 years doing strategic messaging for Microsoft, as my job - My job at Microsoft was to change the direction of the industry by convincing people they wanted to go in a different direction.

Bystander: Will you be able to play a role in shaping [your ads] then?

DB: They're my campaign ads. [laughter]

Bystander: Just remember, no Howard Dean screams.

DB: I am on best behavior. [laughter]

Bystander: The best [inaudible, probably "Stefan" of unSoundPolitics] could give you was a picture of you staring admiringly at Jim McDermott.

DB: ...Yeah, at a fundraiser with all of the Democratic congresspersons from Washington state.

Bystander: Was that the fundraiser back in February? I was there.

DB: We had the entire delegation there, as you recall, and it was just one picture [from a scene] that was cropped. That's the worst they can do. That and the fact that I got A’s in law school and that I'm a mom. Those are what they're holding against me.

Bystander: They're running on empty. The Mom thing might be tough, though.

[Bystanders having fun with some family values sarcasm.]

DB: I know, I know. Well, you know, apparently being a mom disqualifies you from everything else in the minds of at least some of them.

Bystander: That's what they're writing? They'll write anything. They'll attack you for anything.

DB: I have no actual skeletons, which frustrates them to no end. And so at the moment the best they can do is to say "Oh my goodness how can she do this to her son?" to which my response is "why do you think I'm running? Have you looked at what the Republicans are doing to this country?" I look at what kind of a life I want my son to have as he's growing up and I say it does not matter what individual choices I make as a mother, I can't give that to him unless this country changes direction. And the only way it changes direction is if the Democrats take control of the House.

Bystander: And if anybody else is a parent that has a job, they'll know it's true. You understand.

JB: The question is, can you be that blunt, right, in an ad? Can you be that blunt in the public voice? One thing that I think a lot of voters are really tired of is the fact that you have to listen really hard, to listen past the bullshit when a politician talks to get if there's any message there at all.

DB: But Jason you've known me long enough to know that I am happy to communicate clearly.

JB: I know that. I guess what I'm wondering is how much bluntness will the voters take before they get turned off?

DB: Voters actually really appreciate straightforward answers. And I do my best to give a straightforward answer to every question I can. They want to understand where it is I stand, and I want them to understand where it is I stand. And then they can make an informed decision. And right now, the vast majority of voters in this district, making an informed decision, are going to choose me over the incumbent any day.

JB: So when you fly into Washington, and you've won -

DB: [Laugh] I have an event horizon on November 7. I have no idea what happens after November 7. Then I'm going to sleep for about 36 straight hours. And then we'll see where we go from there.

JB: Well what's the first thing you want to do in Washington when you step off the plane, and here's this new city you're going to call home for the next I don't know how long?

DB: Find my office.

[Bystander chatter about the National Archives]

DB: One of my favorite days I that have ever spent in Washington D.C. I spent just in the Library of Congress. I can spend large amounts of time very happily in the Library of Congress. And I have a sister who lives just outside of DC, so I have plenty of occasion to visit and I have good moral support once I get there.

Bystander: Is this the sister you were talking about last night? The FBI agent?

Bystander: The one that had to declare bankruptcy?

DB: No, different sister. My family is a little bit complicated. And I'll go ahead and get this on tape so that we have it for posterity.

Bystander: No, that’s ok.

DB: No, no - I was adopted as a baby. My biological mother was you know, young. I was an accident, and so she gave me up for adoption. And the family I grew up in is the family that I am typically talking about when I talk about my family. But when I was 20 I met my biological mother and her family. And she has two other daughters, one of whom is an FBI agent who works on counter-terrorism and is in Washington DC.

Bystander: Don't tell me her name.

DB: No, she's not classified. It's fine.

Bystander: Just like "24."

DB: And the other of whom runs an organic bakery in the mountains of New Hampshire.

JB: That sounds like fun!

DB: And then I also have also met my biological father, who's married and has other children, and so I've got this very complicated family structure. most of the time when I'm talking about my family, I'm talking about my adoptive family. The family I grew up with. You know, who shaped a tremendous amount of who I am. Those are the siblings I fought with when I was growing up, the ones who call me to demand presents when their new babies are born. But I do have other siblings as well.

JB: So are your--the family that you grew up with, are all the children adopted?

DB: No, my oldest brother is adopted, and I was adopted. My other three siblings are biologically the children of my parents. My oldest brother was adopted, then they had my older brother. And then they were told they weren't going to be able to have any other children. And they really wanted a girl. My mom wanted a girl that she could dress in ribbons and bows, and so they adopted me. And she got over her disappointment eventually, as I was a Tonka Truck kind of kid. Tonka Truck, take things apart, pieces of tape recorders all over the house kind of kid. And two years and a day after I was born, my younger sister was born who was into ribbons and bows and Barbie dolls. So my mother got what she wanted just not quite in the way she expected. And then my youngest brother was born. The miracles of modern technology. They - it was because of medical advancements. My mother is RH- and my father is RH+, and so once they invented Rho-GAM it was much more straightforward for my parents to have more children.

Bystander: What does your husband do?

DB: He is a software architect at Microsoft.

JB: How's Henry taking all of this? [Interviewer’s note: Henry is Darcy and Mike's very blonde, very cute, three-and-a-half year old.]

DB: He loves to say "Mommy for Congress!" [laughter] No, he thinks this is great. He loves the campaign staff. We have a corner of the campaign office that's set up for him so he can come in and play. He likes the buttons, and he recognizes the logo. And events like tonight's event where it's appropriate for him to be here we're happy to bring him too and he feels like he's participating. And of course I set time aside to spend with him. I actually have scheduled time on my calendar, every week, right, it is set aside for spending with Mike and Henry. Because my family is important to me. And I'm not willing to - not willing to sacrifice them. And they're incredibly supportive of me.

JB: And we thank them for it. So are you having fun?

DB: Yeah, most days

JB: What's the most fun thing about campaigning?

DB: The most fun thing is actually the amazing shows of support that we're getting in the course of the campaign. I mean, the Democratic Party - the state Democratic Party--did a crab feed back in February, and I got up on the stage at the crab feed and there were like 1200 people in the room. They started chanting my name, and I was, I was literally almost in tears, right, because that level of support was so unexpected. I addressed the King County Democrats and had a similar just overwhelming--people are so... hungry for change. So ready to help. So excited about the possibilities. And that is incredibly fun to feel the energy in the room. I went to the state convention in Yakima, right, and there were more than 1000 - I don't know, I don't know how many. There were huge numbers, a couple thousand people, I think - filling this auditorium, right, and when you get a standing ovation from a crowd like that.. (Watch Darcy Burner enter the 2006 Democratic Convention)

Bystander: Did you think "What did you get myself into?" Did that go through your mind at all? Because now, obviously, you're in it, and I'm sure you appreciate more than anybody what it's going to take for these next few months.

DB: The point of no return for me was the moment I accepted a campaign contribution from someone else. I had made a decision very early on that once I accepted the first campaign contribution, that I was completely in this and I was in it to win it. because I wasn't going to take somebody else's money until I was ready to make that level of commitment. So, that was June of last year. I’ve been in it, you know, completely ever since. I went into this knowing that it was going to be really hard and expecting it to be really hard. I wasn't anybody's hand-picked candidate. You know I didn’t' have a huge amount of notoriety going into it. And I was running against somebody who was going to be kind of tough to beat. But truthfully, the level of support that I have gotten has been incredible both in terms of being a morale boost for me and giving the campaign momentum, and a little bit unexpected. And it's made a huge difference. There are - most of the time the campaign is easier than I thought it would be.
JB: I’ve got to tell you, the fact that you're a self-selected candidate is a huge plus in my book. You know, call me a sentimental old fool, I believe what the founding fathers wanted, about government being made up of real citizens, with real concerns.

DB: And that, I am.

Bystander: Not professional millionaires. You know, that's kind of discouraging on the national level. Seems like most people - the first qualification is how many millions of dollars do you have to your name.

JB: Can you pull a Ned Lamont, and self fund yourself till November. Not that he's doing that, but he - if nobody gave him another dollar he'd still run a well funded race, right?

DB: Well, and you know, I certainly understand all the things that are broken with our campaign finance laws. If I had not been able to raise money, I would have been dead in the water. And it was not clear for a long time whether I was going to be able to raise the kind of money it was going to take.

Bystander: Big money.

DB: Oh, it's a huge amount of money. It's a huge amount. We've raised more than a million dollars. And, you know, I have to raise another million-and-a-bit dollars in order to do what we need to do in this race. We now think we can probably do it, we've got the momentum we've got the support--

Bystander: A hundred-some days?

DB: A hundred and ... four days right now. Depends how you count it. Zero based or one-based.

JB: Well, zero-based of course!

DB: Well that's kind of my take on it. That shows that we're programmers.

JB: Yes, we are. Another big plus in my book. Because, you know, there's nothing about programming that's not reality-based.

DB: Yes, that’s true.

JB: Computers do not work on ideology.

DB: No, they do not.

[Bystander banter, as some fellow heads home.]

JB: Speaking of supporting national candidates, once we've given as much as the FEC will let us give you -

Bystander: What is that, anyway.

JB: Individually, $4200 per cycle. $8400 per couple.

DB: $8400 per couple. So, there aren't that many people who have completely maxed out. The other races I would certainly--

JB: Well, for folks elsewhere in the country who might be listening to this.

DB: And I would certainly encourage, by the way, people to consider giving money to the state party organizations. Like to the Washington State Democrats. Because they are doing a lot to help me. So for somebody who's maxed out to me, and who wants to make it possible for me to get the kind of help and support I need from the state Democrats, make sure they have the resources they need to do that. And by all means, tell them that you're doing it because you appreciate that they're helping me, but make sure they have the resources they need. There are a number of other candidates of whom I am particularly personally fond. They are some of the targeted candidates at the House level and at the senate level. Obviously Maria Cantwell locally. And she's doing a great job on fundraising but that's an important race. I think that my next favorite Senate race personally is actually Jack Carter in Nevada who I had the opportunity to meet.

JB: Big favorite of the Kossacks.

DB: Yeah, and I found him incredibly compelling. I would love to have him as a senator. I would love to have him as a senator.

JB: He grew up with a great role model for a dad, so--

DB: That he did, and he seems to have turned out pretty well. In terms of other House races, there are so many good ones to choose from. I mean, my inclination--there are probably 43, 42 or 43, House seats in play at this point. And people are divided about whether the thing they want to do is to contribute to the top tier of those races to maximize the chances that we'll take the 15 seats that we need, contribute to kind of the second or third tier of those races to increase the odds that those candidates will be viable so that if there's a big enough wave we take as many seats as we possible can, or to contribute to candidates who are even outside of that 42 or 43 race range, to see if we can't kind of boost them a little.

JB: To force the Republicans to spend money in districts they would otherwise not be spending money.

DB: Right. So in terms of the top-tier targeted candidates who are my favorites, you know, I'm fond of Phyllis Busansky in Florida, Tessa Hafen in Nevada, Jill Derby in Nevada. I, you know, think terrific things about all three of those candidates. In terms of candidates who are not in that list of 42 or 43 my favorite hands-down is Peter Goldmark, who is running in Eastern Washington.

JB: In the Washington 5th, right.

DB: Peter Goldmark would make an incredible member of congress. I mean here's somebody who's a rancher who has a PhD -

Bystander: Does he really?

DB: He does. [chatter] you know, has done pioneering work in plant genetics. When you start to talk about bio-fuels he knows that subject completely cold. You know, one of the most ethical and honest people I've ever met. He is incredible and he would make an incredible member of Congress. And he's running - the only reason, the only reason that this is not a targeted race is that that district is really tough. It's a very republican district. Cathy McMorris won it last time, against a well-funded strong Democratic candidate when it was an open seat and she won by 20 points. But it's also the district that sent Tom Foley to congress for years and years and years and years. So it is possible for them to elect a Democrat. So Peter Goldmark is my favorite dark horse, really long shot candidate.

Bystander: Well maybe I mean this cycle some of the momentum that's going on right now, he's got a shot?

DB: He may. Well, and I'll be honest, if there is any human being who can win that district this year, it's Peter Goldmark. [He] looks great in a cowboy hat!

[Bystander comments, amounting to "What are his chances?"]

DB: I haven't seen any polling in that district, but Peter's a smart guy. He wouldn't be running if it were impossible. Just because the conventional wisdom is that that district is, you know, going to be incredibly hard to win doesn't mean he can't win it. So far he seems to be doing everything right.

[More banter]

JB: Ok, one more question, and we'll let you go get some sleep. What do you look forward to changing most when you get to the House?

DB: The leadership.

JB: The House leadership?

DB: The House leadership. I mean, then there are lot of things that follow from that. But I am really looking forward to the opportunity to cast my vote for a new Democratic Speaker of the House, a new Democratic Majority Leader, and a new Democratic Whip. That would be a real pleasure. And that alone will have a huge impact on the direction of this country.

JB: All right. Well, knock 'em dead, Darcy Burner. Thank you for talking with us.

DB: Thanks, Jason.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

One of the Pacific Northwest's earliest and best lefty blogs shuts down

The venerable Washington State Political Report, founded by Vashon Islander and American patriot Carl Ballard in January of 2004 - and the recipient of the 2005 Neiwert Award for "Best News Digest" - just shut down for good last Friday, to our disappointment.

Why? Its creator says he's ready for something new:
I couldn’t be more thrilled with the competition both that I’ve discovered and that I’ve seen start up. Where once, writing about Washington State seemed like a narrow focus, now it seems quite wide. And there is some burn out writing the same sort of blog for a few years.

I’d like to keep doing local, but be meaner and more focused on the right wing. There’s already a blatherwatch, of course, but there isn’t anybody who calls bull on the unsound politics and the Bill Virgins of the world on a regular basis.
WSPR was one of the first blogs selected for syndication on Pacific Northwest Portal. A couple of months ago, with the debut of Version 4.0 (Seaside) in May of 2006, it moved onto the front page to help anchor the Washington State column.

Now that it's defunct, we'll have to replace it, and we're sorry to have to do so. From our perspective, WSPR filled a valuable niche in the local blogosphere. As we noted last December:
Want a quick recap of what's happening around the state and the Pacific Northwest? You'd better head straight on over to Carl Ballard's Washington State Political Report. The Report undoubtedly provides the regional progressive blogosphere's best news digest, with frequent links to what other blogs and traditional media outlets are covering, as well as brief commentary from Carl and his guest bloggers. Even better, the Report is easy to read and covers developments and news items that are often ignored by other progressive bloggers. Our thanks to Carl Ballard for continually and reliably delivering such a great abstract of local political news and views.
We're sad to WSPR go, but we hold out hope that Carl Ballard will remain an active participant in the regional progressive blogosphere. We'll be watching with interest to see what his next endeavor will be.

Mass Action Follows Mexico's Election Tribunal's Order of Only a Partial Recount

Supporters of Manuel Lopez Obrador have stormed the streets of Mexico City and threatened to occupy the airport after only a partial recount of the disputed July 2 presidential election was ordered by the Federal Electoral Tribunal.

"Vote by Vote!" chants drowned out the judge's statements as the decision was announced on television. A recount of 12,000 polling places was ordered, while claims of arithmetical errors in at least 72,000 have been raised. Lopez Obrador has appealed for calm, but the situation remains unstable.

Lopez Obrador and his supporters have occupied the streets of Mexico City for several weeks. Over a million supporters massed last Sunday. The announced winner, Felipe Calderon, is a member of the ruling PAN party, and would likely continue the corporate-friendly practices of current president Vincente Fox. Lopez Obrador has called for policies to build Mexico's economy from within. His plans have been likened to those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Evidence of possible fraud were itemized at the Philadelphia Independent Media Center in an August 2 story by Jonathan David. The list includes (quote):
  • Mexican television news reporters hacked into the computers of the IFE and found that the IFE and PAN had been sharing data on registered voters before the election, in clear violation of the nation’s election laws.
  • Most exit polls showed AMLO [Lopez Obrador, from his initials "Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador"] ahead throughout the day of the election. In the preliminary vote count on the evening of the election, July 2, Calderón never trailed. (Ian Welsh, July 16, 2006)
  • The IFE preliminary results of the election showed Calderón ahead from the beginning. At first the margin of lead was by 7 %. As the night wore on, Calderón’s per cent lead declined to under 1 % but the actual number of votes that he remained ahead remained constant. Political scientists and statisticians have claimed that this irregularity is not really possible. Some have suggested that a silent algorithm may have been added to the computerized tallies. Others have suggested that the tally may have begun with Calderon having a pre-existing bank. (James K. Galbraith, "Doing Math In Mexico: While Mexicans take to the streets over the presidential vote, democracy's fairweather friends are standing silent.")
  • There was a significant drop off of votes for López Obrador as the actual ballot counting raced toward the finish line. “Vote drop offs” mean that while a ballot was caste and tallies were recorded for local officials and for legislators, no choice for presdent had been made. Thus, there were many more ballots caste than there were votes for president. Election specialists maintain that this kind of drop off never happens: voters are motivated to vote by the person at the top of the ticket, not by those at the bottom. (Ian Welsh, July 16, 2006)
  • All reports of ballot boxes that have been opened and recounted show that the recounts differ significantly from the official tally sheets (called acta-s) recorded on election day. The difference has been that López Obrador received more votes than officially noted and Calderón received fewer than recorded. Even New York Times, through its reporters Ginger Thompson and James C. McKinley Jr has noted this trend. (Ian Welsh, July 16, 2006)
  • Current President Vincente Fox of the PAN consulted on the telephone with the head of the electoral commission (IFE) on the night of the elections, in apparent violation of Mexico’s electoral laws.
  • López Obrador has turned over a 900 page document to the TRIFE of evidence of fraudulent practices close to half of Mexico’s 133,000 polling places. Aside from the evidence of massive vote drop off, ballots have been found in the trash on the side of roads videos made of workers stuffing ballet boxes and changing tallies sheets, recordings were made of telephone conversations between PRI and PAN workers to challenge PRD in some voting places, and the intervention of current President Vincente Fox. (Radio interview with Matt Pascarella podcast on KPFT)
  • In a potential conflict of interest, one of Calderón’s brother-in-laws co-founded a computer company named Hildebrando hired to do voter registration databases for the country showing manipulation of electoral system. (Pascarella)
  • Independent journalist Greg Pallast reports IFE hired the same computer company in the US that Jeb Bush used to remove 90,000 voters from Florida’s voter registration lists, in the name of removing felons.
  • While was not widespread, systematic, conspiratorial fraud, Josh Holland of Alternet writes, the clean election mechanisms that are new in Mexico were trumped by the old habits. The PRD is an outsider party. (Joshua Holland, “Mexico: Calderon Hasn’t Won” July 10th, 2006.) Perhaps the PRD’s status as an outsider party allowed insiders to manipulate tallies in individual polling places.

Sound Transit wants to hear from you

Sound Transit - the voter approved, multi-county agency charged with planning, building, and operating regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound - wants to hear from you.

Since its creation in the mid nineties by the people of urban Puget Sound, Sound Transit has been working to build a regional transit network that now serves 10 million riders a year.

But Washington State's most densely populated area is growing fast. More residents and more traffic are coming - and Sound Transit says it's time to get ready. The agency is preparing to go to voters in 2007 with a package of new proposed projects that would dramatically improve on our existing mass transit system.

Sound Transit wants to hear from you, the taxpayer (and the voter) about what projects deserve the highest priority:
Sound Transit [has] officially kicked off the public comment period, going live with a new interactive website and questionnaire.

"It’s time to come together as a region and decide how we should extend mass transit," said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Bellevue City Council Member Connie Marshall at a morning news conference [last Tuesday] atop elevated light rail tracks overlooking Seattle’s rush hour traffic on I-5.

Together, Sound Transit and the Regional Transit Investment District (RTID) are working on an integrated plan for road and transit projects to address rising congestion as the region’s population grows by 1.2 million over the next 25 years. Sound Transit’s public comment period that gets underway today provides an opportunity to shape the transit projects that will go to voters in November 2007 as part of the plan.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for the people of our region," said Marshall. "Instead of commenting on decisions already made, everyone in the region can help shape what our future will look like. There’s no time to waste. As part of the transit expansions we need to move forward by extending the light rail tracks we’re standing on today to reach further east, north and south and move forward with other transit projects and services such as added commuter rail and ST Express bus service, more park-and-ride facilities and HOV access ramps."

Sound Transit is offering a variety of methods for the public to get involved, starting with [the] launch of a new website featuring a detailed questionnaire, an interactive map and information on the three transit system expansion options.

Starting in September Sound Transit and RTID, which is putting together a companion roads package, will hold a series of public open houses throughout the region (dates and locations to be announced) on the options for the combined transit/roads package.

"We need to hear what projects and what level of investment our region’s residents want," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. "Today’s decisions will determine what kinds of communities and lifestyles we pass on to future generations."
The online questionnaire and details on the three transit package options the Sound Transit Board has identified for public review are available here.

This is your chance to make your voice heard - your chance to tell Sound Transit what you think, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican.

Some Republicans are actually starting to figure out that "no new taxes" is not a very good position to have on transportation (which is a huge statewide issue).

Eric Earling, who has become unSoundPolitics' most thoughtful writer, has challenged uSP readers to come up with some reasonable ideas for improving our transportation system. Unfortunately, many of the ideas we saw in that comment thread - eliminating HOV lanes, widening highways (it doesn't work), killing the very successful Sounder - are counterproductive, and nonstarters.

If you're interested in participating in the planning process to decide what will go before voters, please follow this link to the awesome, interactive site for SoundTransit 2. Take the questionnaire, play around with the map, and learn about what's on the table.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

In Brief - August 5th, 2006

Here is today's extended news digest:
  • Team Cantwell has launched a new campaign ad, "Sound", which highlights the Senator's efforts to protect Puget Sound from people like Ted Stevens, who wants increase supertanker traffic. You can watch it here.
  • The Cantwell campaign has also just announced that the Senator will kick off the August recess with a a statewide tour where supporters will have the opportunity to listen to her speak and personally thank her for putting Washington State first. The first one is tomorrow in Seattle at 11:30 AM at 152 Denny Way.
  • It's been a busy week in the U.S. Senate. On Thursday night, the Senate passed an amendment introduced by Joe Biden of Delware and our own Maria Cantwell. It prohibits the establishment of permanent U.S. military installations in Iraq and forbids the U.S. government from exercising control over Iraq's oil resources. The amendment is included in a pending Defense Department funding bill. Here's what Cantwell had to say:
    "I do not support having permanent military presence in Iraq. I want our troops home as soon as possible. We need to encourage the Iraqis to take complete control of their own security as soon as possible so U.S. troops can come home. Building permanent bases in Iraq would not get us closer to this goal and it would send the wrong message to the Iraqi people, our allies, and the world about U.S. goals to have Iraqis control their own defense."
    Doesn't sound like the kind of thing Mike! McGavick! would say, does it? Nope. Mike just wants us to "stay the course." And, while I'm mentioning good 'ol Mike!, check out this post by The Stranger's Josh Feit on McGavick's support for "teaching the controversy" (meaning, teach creationism in science classrooms)
  • Representative John Conyers blogs about a newly released, must read special report entitled "Constitution in Crisis".
  • Listen to interviews with Governor Christine Gregoire and Darcy Burner on the latest Doublespeak episode.
  • New polling out from Lake Research shows that Goldmark has a fighting chance in the 5th Congressional District against Cathy McMorris.
  • Somebody is push polling in the 8th District for Dave Reichert and the Republicans with incredibly loaded questions.
  • Get your fill of the latest happenings in the Connecticut Senate primary race from Lamontblog. There's only two more days before the August 8th primary, and both sides are now working furiously on their GOTV (Get Out the Vote) operation. Don't underestimate Lieberman's paid force!
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Saturday at the Races - Polls and Trolls

Joe Lieberman is trailing by six lengths going down the stretch, but the race in Connecticut isn't over yet. (The Quinnipiac Poll puts it at 54-41 Lamont). An LA Times poll shows that the environment is a winner for Democrats, with the issue growing in concern to voters and Democrats seen as best able to address the problem of global warming, by 49-12.

The real eye-opener is an NPR poll aggregating the 50 most competitive Congressional Districts (40 Republican, 1 Independent, 9 Democrat):
  • Only three in ten plan to vote for the incumbent
  • Democratic voters are more motivated, but interest is high across the board. (Look for an all-out October smear, as Republicans try to hold down the vote.)
  • Democrats are ahead in both generic and named candidate responses. That is, both specific and general.
  • Democrats are up in seats held now by Republicans by +4. In seats currently held by Democrats, they are +31.
  • Democrats lead in the 23 "top tier districts" 53-43, but they also lead in the other 27 by 47-44.
  • Quoting: "In 2004, the total vote in these 50 districts went Republican by about 12 points. In our current survey, voters in these same districts say they would vote for the Democrat over the Republican by about six points."
  • GOP manufactured hot button issues -- gay marriage, stem cell research, flag burning have the attention of many, but they have not pushed the economy or Iraq off the viewscreen.
  • Independents look a lot like Democrats on many issues.
A Pew Research poll out this week showed Republicans are turning off the news when in comes to Iraq, and indeed are tuning out all foreign affairs news, with 18 percent fewer following Iraq "very closely" now compared to April 2004. Iraq viewership among Democrats is -5 over the same period, and -9 for Independents. For general international news it's -20 for Republicans and -9 for both Democrats and Independents.

Bush's approval-disapproval ratings have held steady since June at around -20 (58 approve, 38 disapprove) in an average of five polls. This is a plateau (or an underwater shelf) after a steep slide which began in January.

Larry J. Sabato at UVA publishes his Crystal Ball, which seems to be clearing a bit for him. Only a month ago he was predicting just a "micro-wave" for the Democrats. Now it's up to a net gain of 12-15 House seats and 3-6 Senate seats. It needs to go higher.

Donkey Rising reports that voter turnout efforts by Democrats, including the DNC, may be a weak link on election day. Nancy Pelosi, among others, has been critical. One long-time operative said, "The last-minute, throw-money-at-it approach ... does not really solve the fundamental failure to organize .... The DNC is moving in the right direction, but needs to do more, fast."

In Washington, Darcy Burner is doing well enough that push-pollers (negative calls disguised as polling) have been reported already.

Peter Goldmark may get some more serious help now that he is showing well v. Cathy McMorris in the 5th District, despite low name recognition.

Richard Wright in the 4th has Bush-DeLay front man Doc Hastings for an opponent. It has been a major advantage for other Democrats to run against lock-step Republicans, since Bush is not polling well anywhere and the Democratic message is still vague in the voter's ear.

How is the economy doing in the race?

Ginning the till at election time is a campaign strategy perfected by Richard Nixon, and it has been a staple of national politics since (excepting Jimmy Carter), under the rubric "political business cycle." "It's the economy, stupid," was Bill Clinton's ubiquitous message to his staffers in the win over the first Bush. So what's up in the polls?
  • The Conference Board's Present Situation Index is still pretty high, near its highs of 2001, before the first Bush recession. Expectations are weak, however. The Board's Expectation Index is back below 90.
  • The Economic Optimism Index from Investors Business Daily and the Christian Science Monitor is sniffing its five-year lows, along with the same poll's Presidential Leadership Index and National Outlook Index.
  • A good Democratic campaign agenda could be got from the list of American's chief concerns at Public Agenda.
We may do well to inoculate the campaign against the "October Surprise" by emphasizing the blatant ineffectiveness and sleaziness on the domestic anti-terrorist front. Then if the Terrorism comes into play for some reason, it will be a wild card.

There's no doubt, the opportunity is here for Democrats, and the fight will be a lot easier if we keep them on the run.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Minimum Wage Vote, Jay Inslee and the Sales Tax Red Herring

It was good to see the number and unanimity of support for Senator Cantwell's post and her vote on the minimum wage. (The exception among the comments was a red herring thrown in on the sales tax deduction; more about that below.)

Kudos also to Jay Inslee who was all over this minimum wage bill. He used his two minutes on the House floor to hammer the key point right through the heart of the Republican sponsor and then to call him out. It is Inslee's attitude of suppressed outrage that endears him to me. Many of us feel it, but Inslee expresses it so very well. This Republican operation is sleaze and corruption, hypocrisy and dishonesty. Inslee is going to be a good and effective progressive leader for a long time to come. We need a couple three more.

Inslee's key point, of course, was that the tips issue, the effective cut in the wages of hundreds of thousands of workers in states like Washington, was a poison pill that doomed the bill from the start. The call-out was a direct challenge. He pointed out the Republican co-sponsor in an I yield my time so you can come down and tell me why this is okay (not a direct quote) type challenge. The poor fellow tried to make a brave front, but the game was up. He was reduced to: "Has the Congressman heard of these four letters -- E-I-T-C?" Then debate was cut. How lame is that? To use the Earned Income Tax Credit, a Democratic initiative from the 1990s, to say matters would somehow come out okay.

Sales tax red herring

In the comments section below the Senator's post, somebody who didn't know what he was talking about faulted Cantwell for the loss of the sales tax deduction. This will not happen. As we posted in May, Republicans used the budget rules to extend tax cuts for the rich beyond 2008, the capital gains and dividends reductions, rather than take care of elementary fairness in the sales tax deduction. Republicans realize the popularity of the sales tax deduction, and its inevitability, and want to play that tune closer to election time. Remember, Florida and Texas are also states with sales taxes and no income tax.

But even more to the point, Where was this deduction before Maria Cantwell? It wasn't.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Senator Cantwell: Washington State's Working Families Deserve Better

(Note from the Executive Director: On behalf of all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Senator Maria Cantwell to the Official Blog. We are deeply honored that she is sharing her perspective with our readers in this special guest post.).

I grew up in a working family – a family with five kids. Our parents worked hard and we worked hard alongside them.

With the help of financial aid, I was the first person in my family to go to college. Without it, I couldn't have afforded to go to school. But even the aid didn't go far enough to cover all of my costs, so I bartended too. And it was hard, tough work.

I know how important a living wage job is and what a fine line there is between making enough to get by and making enough to plan ahead for your family's future.

I cannot support what amounts to a minimum wage penalty for over 122,000 Washington minimum wage earners. Why would the federal government work to lower the maximum wage rather than setting a minimum protection?

I am not buying this cynical Republican ploy.

It isn't, however, the first time Republicans have tried to convince us that we can't have strong businesses and a living wage. In Washington State we have been proving them wrong for almost a decade. In 1998, Washingtonians overwhelmingly voted to raise our minimum wage for every worker to one of the highest in the country, and our economy continues to thrive. Why would we change course now?

There is a better choice than what the Republicans offered – we can increase the minimum wage fairly for all working families and we can do it without penalizing Washington and six other states for already doing right by our citizens. I've been working in Congress to increase the minimum wage, because I know that Washington State's example shows how we can do much better for all our working families. We should not settle for anything less.

But instead of doing what's right, instead of doing what they ought to – the Senate Republican leadership made a different choice. And that choice is wrong for Washington State.

So here are the cold hard facts on why I am voting to protect the Washington State minimum wage.

The Republican proposal is a bait and switch. They wrote the language so that it preempts our state law. What they're calling a minimum wage increase is in fact a minimum wage penalty for 122,810 workers.

The Republican proposal would cut these workers minimum hourly wage by $5.50. That means workers who earn $7.63 an hour plus tips could see their wages drop to $2.13 an hour plus tips.

The Republican plan directly targets Washington families already struggling just to get by. Many of the workers who would be most affected are already juggling multiple jobs just to make ends meet. These workers' average annual income is only $16,000. That's the poverty line for a family of three. The Republican proposal cuts these workers' income to $4,400 annually plus tips.

I hope Republicans are ready to start leaving really big tips on the table for those workers to help them make up the difference.

When America's families are facing rising prescription drug costs, tuition rates, and gas prices, how can we take money away from those who are barely getting by?

The Republican leadership in Washington D.C., just keeps making choices that are wrong for Washington State. Rather than making it harder for some Americans to afford basic necessities, we should be working to make health care, education, and energy more affordable.

They've refused to put that agenda on the table and Washington State's working families deserve better.

Senator Maria Cantwell

Flameout at the Tax Force

Thursday in the neighborhood we are going to open again the doors of Tacoma's tax reform panel, the City Services Tax Task Force, which yesterday looked into alternatives to the city manager's city services tax and didn't like what they saw. Voting 7-2 against the only alternative that would raise as much revenue, the task force has apparently decided on the original plan, or maybe no plan.

Your obedient correspondent authored a scheme which would have created no new taxes, while at the same time generating the needed revenue and allowing small businesses a $600,000 standard deduction on the B&O, not to mention giving ice cream to every child on the 4th of July. What's not to like. Taxes were nudged up, down and sideways. Up a bit on the largest firms, down for a penny on retail of food and drugs, and sideways to the so-called nonprofit hospitals. Zero effect on the property tax. It was kind of a sculpture in spam, considering the funky medium of taxes available to the city. But I don't mind telling you I was a bit miffed when it went down in flames.

Partly because it spoiled my sculpture and partly because it left the city manager's (he does have a name, Eric Anderson, a wonderful, dedicated, thick-skinned fellow) original plan as the only alternative to fill the gap on the table.

Apparently the devil is in the details, because the task force found a lot of devil in mine, and there is at this point very little detail on the city manager's plan. We can guess, though, that after it gets through our task force there will be no reference to nonprofits. And we know the property tax is the only funding source identified for police, fire and library. This means a 300-400 percent hike in the city's part of the property tax, at least $1,200 more per year on a $200,000 house and a minimum bump of $50 in my monthly rent.

I will guess that, even though we offer them up to one cent on the sales tax and the mysterious B&O tax goes away, voters will not embrace the mporting of the burden into the property tax.

Some time ago I suspended blogging here from respect for the deliberations of the group. Though the readership may be slightly smaller than the Western World, it seemed to cause some concern. I return to it today in search of revenue. I'm not convinced we've understood the need for new revenue after the Eyman initiatives. The revenue architecture is just not sturdy enough for the load ahead. Anderson bought two years with a workforce reduction and reorganization that cut close to, but did not hit the bone. Beyond the second year, it's not pretty.

Mind you, if the property-based scheme gets to the ballot, I'll vote for it. No question. The city's ability to fulfill its mission, the primary services of police, fire, library, streets and roads is in doubt without new revenue. And maybe I'm being premature. I admit that constricting the tax base by a wholesale shift to property taxes is something natural sensibilities, or maybe my economics training, allows me to witness only with a physical queasiness.

Yes, the TF has other revenue plans on the table, but none that come close to filling the gap. One is to take advantage of the legal window now open to raise the property tax to the 106% limit. Another is a form of occupancy tax. There are three related to roads funding. Then there is the grand plan for the B&O borrowed from the Gates Commission of 2002. After all, every city in Washington is up against the same problem.

But as a practical matter ...

BREAKING: I-933 officially qualifies

As expected, Initiative 933 (the "pay or waive" initiative that creates land use mayhem and destroys growth management) has officially qualified for the ballot. The Secretary of State has finished the random sample check:
Sponsors of Initiative 933 submitted a total of 317,353 petition signatures to the Secretary of State. Election officials conducted a random sample of 9,711 signatures, of which 8,524 were valid signatures – 1,187 were determined invalid. Signatures are invalid if the signer is not a registered voter or if he or she signed more than once.

The petition was checked using the “random sample” process authorized by state law. Under the process, a statistically valid percentage of the signatures are selected at random and checked against voter registration records. A mathematical formula is then applied to the results to obtain a projected rate of invalidation.

Election officials examined 9,711 (a 3 percent sample) on Initiative 933. From that inspection, it was determined that the measure had an invalidation rate of 17.12 percent.
As with I-920, we've known for months this piece of garbage was headed for the ballot. A diverse coalition of organizations has come together to defeat Initiative 933. Learn more and pledge to vote no here.

Cantwell, Murray to vote no on estate tax/minimum wage sham

Washington's two U.S. Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, announced this morning that they will both vote against the Republican bill which would cut salaries for Washington State’s minimum wage tip workers, dealing the GOP and Senator Bill Frist a big setback. More information...

In Brief - August 3rd, 2006

Here is today's extended news digest:
  • The state Democratic Party has launched a new website to shine some sunlight on Dave Reichert's record in the U.S. Congress. The site carefully examines votes that matter most to Washington families and concludes that Dave Reichert stands consistently with the Republican leaders in Congress - not with the people of the 8th.
  • Veteran political observer Charlie Cook (a well known member of the political establishment) is forecasting a Democratic rout this November. He says "the political climate will be extremely hostile to Republican candidates" and believes turnout will favor the Democrats. Cook also notes: "In the House, where Democrats need a 15-seat gain to win a majority, Republicans have 15 seats that the Cook Political Report currently rates as tossups. No Democratic seats remain in that column." The Stakeholder has more.
  • The White House, unsurprisingly, is trying to slick up its press briefing room to better package its propoganda.
  • Senator Max Baucus of Montana and his family suffered an unfortunate tragedy this week when it became known that his nephew had been killed during combat operations in Iraq over the weekend. Baucus said the family was "devastated by the loss." We extend our deepest condolences to them.
  • Montana's other U.S. Senator, Republican Conrad Burns, continues to make a fool of himself by insulting first responders.
  • The Senate voted Tuesday to open 8.3 million acres of federal waters in the central Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell voted against, but the bill passed anyway. It now has to be reconciled with the House version, which calls for even more drilling. The Republican controlled Congress really has become a joke. No leadership, no foresight, no planning for a sustainable future, no willingness to hold the administration accountable. Just political games and backwards policies that we don't need.
  • Finally, some good news: a federal judge this week barred Secretary of State Sam Reed from enforcing a new law that keeps Washingtonians from registering to vote if their names do not perfectly match identifying information in other government databases.
  • Check out this interesting study about online newspaper readership.
  • You might also want to take a look at this must read from The Onion: Bush Grants Self Permission To Grant More Power To Self.
There's so much going on in the Lieberman/Lamont contest these days (with the primary less than a week away) that it needs its own subsection. So here goes:
  • First, an eye opening video which uses numerous TV clips to show who Lieberman's real allies are: Republicans. You have to see it.
  • Here's a nice perspective on why Lieberman is bad for the entire Democratic caucus. Also, Markos explains why an independent Lieberman bid hurts the Democratic Party.
  • The College Republicans are so enthusiastic about Joe Lieberman that they want to join his campaign team. And speaking of his campaign team, Joe is reportedly planning a shakeup if he loses the primary. Lamontblog has more.
Finally, here's an inspiring picture, courtesy of the Freewayblogger, that suggests things aren't as gloomy as we might think. According to the anonymous solider who put it up, "The command there loved it!"



If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

BREAKING: I-920 officially qualifies

As expected, Initiative 920 (repeal of the estate tax) has officially qualified for the ballot. The Secretary of State has finished the random sample check:
Sponsors of Initiative 920 submitted a total of 395,219 petition signatures to the Secretary of State. Election officials conducted a random sample of 12,059 signatures, of which 10,514 were valid signatures –1,535 were determined invalid. Signatures are invalid if the signer is not a registered voter or if he or she signed more than once.

The petition was checked using the “random sample” process authorized by state law. Under the process, a statistically valid percentage of the signatures are selected at random and checked against voter registration records. A mathematical formula is then applied to the results to obtain a projected rate of invalidation.

Election officials examined 12,059 (a 3% percent sample) on Initiative 920. From that inspection, it was determined that the measure had an invalidation rate of 15.45 percent.
We've known for months this piece of garbage was headed for the ballot. Now we need to roll up our sleeves, get to work, and defeat it.

UPDATE: David Postman confirms that the Seattle Times Company is involved in the Yes on I-920 campaign.

Apparently Frank Blethen wants the estate tax repealed so badly that he's willing to associate his company with someone as despicable as Dennis Falk. How much do you want to bet the Seattle Times endorses I-920 in November?

Hurrah for Darcy! CQ upgrades WA-08

Wonderful news this morning:
Republican officials scoffed when Darcy Burner — a former executive with computer software giant Microsoft but a first-time candidate for public office — emerged as the Democratic challenger to freshman GOP Rep. Dave Reichert in Washington’s 8th District. The Republicans contended Burner was a weak choice to take on Reichert, who won a close 2004 race in the politically competitive suburban Seattle district on the strength of his long tenure as the elected sheriff of King County.

But Burner’s strong debut as a campaign fundraiser and her growing list of endorsements from key Democratic support groups have made it harder for her opposition to argue that she is a “B-list” recruit. Though Reichert appears to maintain at least a slight edge in the fall contest, CQPolitics.com has changed its rating on the race to its more competitive Leans Republican category from Republican Favored.

Reichert still enjoys a substantial fundraising lead in the race, with his most recent report to the Federal Election Commission showing he had raised $2 million and had $1.1 million cash on hand as of June 30. But Burner’s $1.1 million in receipts and $770,000 cash as of that date made her one of the best-funded House challengers this year.
When I first met Darcy Burner, I saw very clearly the potential of a formidable challenger to Dave Reichert. Darcy has proved she will be able to wage the kind of aggressive, grassroots driven campaign it will take to win this race. If Republicans aren't already worried about losing WA-08, they should be. We're going to take the district from them this November.

Daily Kos readers, if you're confused and looking for Pacific Northwest Portal, it's here. This is the Official Blog, our daily perspective on world, national and local politics - another part of the Northwest Progressive Institute's network.

Times chief political reporter says Mike McGavick wants it both ways on Iraq

Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman was on KUOW's Weekday earlier this week talking about "all things political", including Washington's U.S. Senate race, with host Steve Scher and two other members of the traditional media (Angela Galloway and George Howland).

They also talked about right wing initiatives (and couldn't quite associate the proper numbers with the subjects), judicial races, and the 8th Congressional District contest between Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert. But the most interesting discussion concerned Cantwell vs. McGavick, which will be generating the most headlines this fall.

The four got to talking about Mike McGavick's attempt to portray himself and Senator Maria Cantwell as being in agreement on the Iraq War. McGavick was quoted a month ago by Associated Press reporter David Ammons as saying very simply, "The senator and I agree on Iraq."

He made similiar comments to KING 5's chief political reporter on the July 16th edition of Upfront with Robert Mak:
Mak: Is there any significant difference between you and Senator Cantwell [on Iraq]?

McGavick: Not that I can discover. I mean we might have, we might have voted one way on this little thing or that little thing but in general...I think the Senator and I agree."
Yeah, right. Mike McGavick would have us believe it just boils down to tiny little insignificant details.

Unfortunately for Mike, that's just not the case.

Earlier this summer, at the end of June, the U.S. Senate took a vote on two Democratic backed measures calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. As the Seattle Times reported:
An overwhelming majority of the chamber's Democrats — including Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell — backed a resolution that urged President Bush to start the troop redeployment by the end of this year but stopped short of setting a deadline for complete withdrawal.
The Levin amendment, as it has become known, specifically called on the President to "submit to Congress a plan by the end of 2006 with estimated dates for the continued phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq." (The amendment text is available here).

Earlier this month, David Postman wrote about the AP article for the Seattle Times, excerpting McGavick's quote ("The senator and I agree on Iraq"). He noted that McGavick had announced his opposition to the Levin amendment:
Cantwell voted for a measure calling on the Bush Administration to start bringing troops home by the end of the year. McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy said McGavick opposed that move.
So let's get this straight: Mike McGavick tells reporters and supporters in no uncertain terms that he and Senator Cantwell share the same position on Iraq.

But then, when Senator Cantwell casts an important vote in favor of troop withdrawals - something the administration refuses to even talk about - McGavick's campaign says he would have voted the other way. How can they be in agreement and disagreement on the same issue at the same time?

The answer is, of course, they can't. There's a phrase that's often used to describe this game Mike McGavick is playing - and it's called trying to have it both ways. Here's Postman's take from his KUOW appearance on Monday (transcripted):
David Postman: The problem is —I just happened to watch on C-SPAN the Senate debate on the two Democratic resolutions about troop withdrawal from Iraq.

They were big, long, ugly debates—remember this was the cut-and-run, cut-and-run, cut-and-run debate — and Republicans right down the list said, ‘If you vote for either one of these, you’re putting troops in danger, you’re doing this, you’re doing that, you’re doing all these other things.’

Well, McGavick says, ‘Well you know, there’s just politics on both sides. Sure Maria voted for Carl Levin’s amendment for a non-specific withdrawal date, and I wouldn’t have done that. But, you know, that’s neither here nor there – it’s just a tiny little thing.’

Well, wait a minute — I listened to the debate...Didn’t sound like a tiny little thing, it sounded like the difference between loving America and putting troops in danger. So, can you have it both ways? I don’t know.

Steve Scher: At some point... somebody will have to push him to make a clearer statement, you’re saying.

David Postman: Yeah, I mean he says, on one hand, ‘I support the president’ and then on the other hand ‘Maria and I agree.’ Well, both those things can’t be true.

George Howland: Yeah, well who’s going to hold him accountable? I mean, maybe the press...

David Postman: I will, George.
The reality is that Mike McGavick represents nothing more than a rubber stamp for George W. Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress. We already have enough of those in the U.S. Senate.

What's needed is accountability and oversight. The Levin amendment was a good step in that direction, but McGavick is already on the record saying he opposes it - while Cantwell is on the record as having voted for it.

The difference between the two candidates is not "this little thing or that little thing". Senator Cantwell wants to start the process of bringing our troops home now. Mike McGavick and George W. Bush do not.

As Rahm Emanuel has remarked, they want to stay the course, stand pat, and stay put. They want to continue the status quo - waste more taxpayer dollars, and needlessly sacrifice more precious American lives.

This country can't afford that.

That's why we need to retake the Congress this year. We need people like Maria Cantwell on Capitol Hill who will stand up to the administration and chart a new direction for the United States - both at home and abroad.

And we certainly need people in our state's press corps like David Postman, who will challenge candidates like Mike McGavick when they try to play games with voters and have it both ways at the same time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Prediction Tuesday - Construction Employment

Last Prediction Tuesday we decided it was a Midas touch of the Governor that was keeping the fire lit under the economy, and continuing the string of plus-side corrections to revenue numbers. I didn't mention it at the time, but in looking through the June forecast for reasons weakness hasn't shown up yet, one thing really bugged me. It is illustrated in the following chart.

It is not so much that the lines of the future look improbably pacific compared to the radical agitation of the past. This is a function of using actual observations to inform the past and projections based on macroeconomic movement (i.e., ignorance) to inform the future. And it is not the seeming contradiction in the lines, where sometimes employment goes up as the other two go down, or vice versa. This has to do with the lag between permit and construction.

What troubled me was that the change in employment somehow stays above the changes in the projected permit activity. The difference may look tiny on the chart, but the green line stays higher. Construction firms don't have you on the payroll unless you're working. What gives? If anything, it should be lower.

I asked my friend (... I like him, he tolerates me ...) in construction trades. [Now this gets interesting, so follow along to the end.]

Commercial construction, says he.

I said, of course, "What commercial construction?"

The Olympics is drawing construction labor from north of Seattle. Snohomish County has broken ground on a $4.1 billion sewage treatment plant. Sound Transit is all over the light rail in Seattle, and that's going to go on for awhile. DOT projects, including the second Tacoma Narrows bridge, are going full steam, and Olympia and the Port of Tacoma have just signed off on a study of a rail coordination facility in the South Sound.

Public works! That's what commercial construction! The Keynesian in me loves it.

That is very interesting, but here is the really good part:

Skilled construction work is in demand and will be in demand over the next half dozen years. The kind of work that is done on these complex, long-term projects. If you need a career and don't mind union benefits, union wage scales, being reliable and being motivated, get hold of one of the union apprenticeship programs. This is not $8 per hour framing that is over at the end of the season. It is skilled work, and it is not particularly seasonal, and there are openings. The union programs are the best, says my friend, and biggest.

Unskilled or semi-skilled workers are going to be looking around for other jobs after residential building tapers off, and it likely mean significant dislocation and stress for some of us, both newcomers and others. But skilled workers are at a premium. Some projects go unstarted because there aren't enough skilled workers for the top layer to graduate into site supervision. That is, the tools are needed, so upward mobility is retarded.

So, clink! To public works! Good employment. Better infrastructure for everybody. And support under demand for local businesses. Your tax dollars at work. Clink!

NOTE: Anyone who wants to explore apprenticeship opportunities in Washington should start at the Labor & Industries website www.lni.wa.gov that shows a full listing of the programs and application procedures.

Emergency rally to be held tomorrow for a fair minimum wage

Congressman Jay Inslee and local labor leaders have called an emergency rally for tomorrow to demand a fair minimum wage bill. HR 5970, which has passed the House and is now heading to the U.S. Senate, contains two cynical provisions inserted by Republicans serving their corporate masters:
  • Permanent cuts to the estate tax for very wealthy estates - exempting up to $5 million per person or $10 million per couple
  • Invalidation of state laws providing a minimum wage for restaurant and other tipped employees, a provision that will affect thousands of workers here in Washington
HR 5970 hurts the thousands of workers in our state who receive tips by invalidating our state law that sets the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees at the same minimum wage as all other employees.

Washington is one of only seven states with such a law. Not surprisingly, though, Washington's 3 Republicans - Dave Reichert, Doc Hastings, and Cathy McMorris - voted for HR 5970.

The Washington State Labor Council reports that this bill will cut the pay of workers in our state who earn tips by as much as $5.50 an hour.

Join hundreds of workers and fellow Democrats at tomorrow's rally to protest this despicable bill and demand a fair minimum wage bill.

When: TOMORROW, Wednesday, August 2nd at 2:15 PM
Where: Seattle Center - Intersection of Taylor and John at the base of the Space Needle
Who Will Speak: Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01), Congressional candidate Darcy Burner (WA-08), Rick Bender, Washington State Labor Council

If you live in Washington, please CALL Senators Murray (206-553-5545) and Cantwell (206-220-6400) and ask them to oppose this bill! (While you're at it, please also ask Senator Murray to come out in favor Net Neutrality.)

UPDATE: The P-I has harsh words for HR 5970.

Gregoire vows to fight right wing initiatives

Governor Christine Gregoire has become quite the outstanding leader (excerpts from yesterday's AP article):
Gov. Chris Gregoire vowed Monday to help defeat three prospective ballot measures with conservative roots, including Tim Eyman's troubled third run at $30 car tabs.

In a news conference, Gregoire reinforced her opposition to Initiative 933, the Washington Farm Bureau measure that says government should pay landowners for regulations that damage property values, or waive those laws.

Gregoire also opposes Eyman's I-917 and the small-business-endorsed [NOTE: This is misleading. A right wing federation which purports to represent small businesses has endorsed] I-920, which would repeal Washington's estate tax.

The estate tax measure would siphon money away from a special account pegged to education, which is needed to maintain voter-mandated class size limits, Gregoire said.

"I think it's appropriate that those who have prospered in this state contribute to the work force needs of tomorrow, and that's to ensure they leave a legacy by making sure our children have the kind of quality education we need to compete," Gregoire said.

Gregoire said Eyman's measure would harm transportation by cutting available construction money.

"I hope it doesn't qualify. If it does qualify, I will fight it" in the same way she opposed efforts to repeal state gas tax increases last year, Gregoire said.
Gregoire also reiterated her commitment to a fair and independent judiciary, and denounced any tricks being played by individuals such as Michael Johnson (who have filed to run in Susan Owens' race).

The Governor's leadership and willingness to speak against all 3 of these deplorable right wing initiatives is commendable. Her predecessor, Gary Locke, seemed paralyzed by Tim Eyman and never responded in a strong fashion to attacks on the state's communities and treasury.

Thank goodness our Governor is ready to fight this garbage that's been put on the ballot thanks to armies of mercenaries financed by right wing millionaires.

Safeco shareholder sues McGavick

Safeco shareholder Emma Schwartzman (who is the great, great granddaughter of a Safeco founder) today announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of Safeco shareholders against former CEO Mike McGavick.

The lawsuit claims that McGavick wasn't entitled to the $28 million payment he received from Safeco after he resigned as chief executive officer. Additionally, the suit claims Safeco's board violated federal securities laws by concealing the magnitude and extraordinary nature of the payout.

Schwartzman appeared at a press conference with her attorneys, declaring:
If you or I take money that doesn’t belong to us, it’s called theft. When a Board of Directors and their CEO do it – that’s called corporate waste. Mike McGavick didn’t earn the $28 million, he knew he wasn’t entitled to it, but he took it anyway.

I have brought this lawsuit to protect the assets and integrity of Safeco Corporation -- a company that is important to me, my family, and my community.
Her attorneys also made it clear the Democratic Party (and the Republican Party, for that matter) had no knowledge of the lawsuit today. More information is available here.

In Brief - August 1st, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • The Swift Voat Veterans for Smears are back. And instead of targeting Senator John Kerry, they've decided to go after Jack Murtha. No matter. This time, we'll shut them down, good and proper. We're going to destroy their credibility, just like we destroyed Tim Eyman's (well, that's kind of unfair, because we had some help from Tim). These guys are goin' down!
  • Montana Senator Conrad Burns has been shooting off his mouth again. Doesn't he know when to just shut up?
  • Mike McGavick has been called out on his lies once again. Josh Feit of The Stranger recently caught McGavick on the record talking about "state issues" (which McGavick told him he doesn't talk about), including two Supreme Court races in which the BIAW is fielding candidates.
  • Matt Stoller reports on just how lame Joe Lieberman's events are.
  • The major dailies all have recaps of President Clintons' appearance last night in Seattle. Jerry Cornfield of the Everett Herald has by far the best recap of the "Celebrate Washington" event. The P-I and the Times also have stories.
In The Times story, State GOP chair Diane Tebelius was quoted as saying:
Clinton will get a warmer welcome from the left-wing base of the Democratic Party than the president. If Clinton came over to Bellevue, he wouldn't get the reception President Bush did. The lake seems to divide us.
What nonsense. Tebelius must be living in another decade.

From her comments, you'd guess that liberals (or Democrats, or progressives) only live in Seattle and nowhere else. And once you cross over to the eastern shore, it's solid Republican territory. Tebelius is deluding herself if she really believes that. If President Clinton wanted to appear in Redmond, or Bellevue, for that matter, he could easily get a warm welcome.

Need we remind Tebelius that the 8th Congressional District, which is most of the Eastside, has voted for John Kerry and Al Gore in the last two presidential elections? Or that it supported Patty Murray in 2004? Or that an increasing number of Democrats are getting elected in Eastside legislative districts?

And the northern Eastside, part of the 1st, (where NPI is headquartered) is represented by another Democrat - Jay Inslee.

He will soon have a new colleague in Congress from the 8th - Darcy Burner. What will Teblius' spin be if (and when!) Darcy wins?

Lastly, here's a cartoon from Andrew Wahl mocking Tim Eyman's incompetence.
Eyman Rejected

If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.