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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Foley scandal explodes

Republicans have a huge problem on their hands:
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) issued a statement Saturday in which he said that he had informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of allegations of improper contacts between then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and at least one former male page, contradicting earlier statements from Hastert.
Republicans are corrupt and imploding, but we cannot expect to become the majority party by idly standing by. Democrats must press forward - hard - and put Republicans on the defensive. This is the year to end the GOP control of the House and Senate and restore common sense to Congress.

Friday, September 29, 2006

VFW endorses Maria Cantwell

Team Cantwell got a huge boost today with the announcement that the Veterans of Foreign Wars have endorsed her reelection bid:
"I am honored to accept the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee,” said Cantwell. “We must never take for granted the sacrifices of the men and women who have given so much to our country. It has always been important to me to fight for veterans and the men and women who serve our country today, but the work I try to do doesn’t compare to how hard these men and women have fought for our country. Congress should recognize and honor the service of these heroes and the sacrifices their families have had to make by making sure that we stand up for them."

"I couldn’t be more proud to have Maria Cantwell as my Senator," said Skip Dreps, member of Northwest Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans for Cantwell. “She fights every day for the men and women who have fought for our county. She is working to protect our VA hospitals, and to ensure veterans have access to top-quality health care at prices they can afford. She is working to deliver fair survivor benefits for veterans’ families. She is working to pass the GI Bill for Life to make sure those who serve our country will always have the door to higher education open to them."

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee endorsement was based on her support for veterans', national security and defense, and military personnel issues. The organization reviewed her record and noted that during her term in office, Cantwell has been a consistently strong advocate for veterans, fighting for them to get affordable, quality health care, expanded educational opportunities, and fair survivor benefits for veterans' families.
We must do everything we can to send Maria Cantwell back to the U.S. Senate so she can continue working for the families and the veterans of Washington State.

Call to Action: Keep Habeas alive!

I've personally started a project to keep habeas corpus and justice alive in the United States of America because I believe this is something worth fighting for. I've posted a diary over at DailyKos detailing my idea which I urge you to read and recommend.

GOP corruption reaches new heights

Another Republican member of Congress has left in disgrace:
Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., abruptly resigned from Congress on Friday in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former teenage male page.

"I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent," he said in a statement issued by his office.

His departure sent Republicans scrambling for a replacement candidate less than six weeks before midterm elections in which Democrats are making a strong bid to gain control of the House.
Foley resigned because traditional media outlets obtained transcripts of instant message conversations Foley had with underage Congressional pages that included sexual advances. (You can see for yourself here).

Foley's departure from Congress and decision not to seek reelection creates a problem for Florida Republicans. Foley will stay on the ballot and any votes he receives will go to the Republican nominee (under Florida election law) but it's unlikely that many voters will feel comfortable casting their vote for Foley after the wave of negative press subsides.

Democrat Tim Mahoney now has a very real shot at winning, and the GOP's prospects have taken another hit.

But there's another dimension to this scandal that is just becoming known:
The page [who conversed with Rep. Foley] worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who said Friday that when he learned of the e-mail exchanges 10 to 11 months ago, he called the teen's parents. Alexander told the Ruston Daily Leader, "We also notified the House leadership that there might be a potential problem," a reference to the House's Republican leaders.

Foley was a member of the Republican leadership, serving as a deputy whip. He also was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
So Dennis Hastert knew about this, but did nothing? That's asbolutely unacceptable. Hastert has some serious explaining to do. As for Foley, if he is truly sorry about his actions, then he will donate his entire multimillion dollar reelection warchest to charity.

The ironic thing about catty blogs

A week ago, David Goldstein provided a much needed takedown of unSoundPolitics' post-primary spin and fabrications in an entry titled "The truth about catty blogs".

As David succinctly pointed out, Stefan Sharkansky and his herd of pixel slingers have already foolishly squandered away their credibility with the press...and they have only themselves to blame. Liars and unscrupulous party hacks just don't make very credible political analysts (for obvious reasons).

In his critique, David responded to Stefan's gleeful mocking by pointing out that the attack had no factual basis whatsoever:
First there was Stefan’s dig…
Goldstein’s other coup this week was to predicted [sic] that Doc Hastings would be defeated in the primary. (He won 77% to 23%). Keep up the good work, David. At this rate, soon you’ll be making Joni Balter look good!
And then Stefan’s puppy Eric picks up on the meme, talking about how my “euphoria prompted some puzzling preening” about Hastings.

Only problem is, I never predicted Doc Hastings would be defeated. Never. Never ever.
And indeed, if you go back and read through David's original, short post musing over the idea of Hastings facing a tough primary challenge, you'll notice that nowhere does he predict a victory for Claude Oliver. In fact, he explicitly stated, "Quite frankly, I find this [the idea of an Oliver victory] hard to believe".

So where did Stefan Sharkansky and Eric Earling come up with the idea that David had made such a prediction?

Stefan could have misread what David wrote, but I find it hard to believe he could be that stupid. I'm inclined to think he blatantly lied just so he could have some hollow fun with his readers at David's expense. And Eric Earling then seemingly got the meme from Stefan, picking up on the fabrication in one of his own posts.

But what is absurdly ironic is that Stefan attempted to dishonestly mock David by pretending that David made a big, out-of-left-field political prediction...when, in fact, Stefan himself has made actual, significant predictions that turned out to be completely wrong.

For example...remember this? (Google it!)
I rarely make predictions, but I feel comfortable predicting today that Judge Bridges will set aside the election.

Stefan Sharkansky (May 29th, 2005)
and this:
He [Bridges] will either use the proportional analysis as proposed by the Republicans or punt on the issue by using an even more generous standard for tossing out illegal votes that will help the Republicans.

I believe the Democrats have little credibility with the judge on this issue, and only the Republicans have given him a practical (if imperfect) path for moving forward...

As I've mentioned before, I'm predicting that Judge Bridges will set aside the election.

- Stefan Sharkansky (June 4th, 2005 and June 5th, 2005)
Classic. Oh yeah...so, how'd that turn out for you, Stefan?
Finally, with respect to proportional deduction, the Court concludes that an election such as this should not be overturned because one judge picks a number and applies a proportional deduction analysis.

To do so, within the context of the facts of this case, would constitute the ultimate act of judicial egotism and judicial activism which neither the voters for Mr. Rossi or for Ms. Gregoire should condone.

The Court concludes that mere voter crediting, without other evidence, is not sufficient to show that someone voted. The Court concludes that the election contest petition should be dismissed with prejudice and the certification of Ms. Gregoire as governor confirmed.

- Judge John Bridges, June 6th, 2005
Stefan Sharkansky has absolutely no business laughing at anybody for making predictions (especially wrongfully attributed ones) given that he himself made what you might call the mother of all predictions last year.

He declared, with confidence, that he believed the gubernatorial election was going to be thrown out, and that Bridges would decimate the Democrats' case. But just the opposite happened, and before the day was over, Rossi had ended the challenge. (Stefan also predicted, by the way, that Rossi would win the gubernatorial election back in November 2004.).

And then yesterday, Stefan bemusedly attempted to snicker at Darcy Burner's campaign for sending out what he termed a "hilarious" email, which informed Seattle supporters that volunteer opportunities were available within the city limits. Stefan titled his post "Because that's where her supporters live" and added:
I guess Darcy has an easier time getting phone bank volunteers in Seattle than in her own district.
That was dumb, of course, but amusingly, guess what the Reichert campaign has on the front page of its website this week...as the top headline?
REICHERT ENDORSED BY SEATTLE POLICE OFFICERS' GUILD
Unusual step for Seattle Guild - eighth first responder group to endorse Reichert

Taking the unusual step of endorsing a political candidate outside their jurisdiction, the Seattle Police Officers' Guild has endorsed Congressman Dave Reichert for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington's Eighth Congressional District.
Obviously the Reichert campaign believes this out-of-the-district endorsement is hugely important...it's front and center on their website, and it was clearly a news release as well. So, following Stefan's logic - this is a big deal because Seattle is where Dave Reichert's supporters live.

David Goldstein put it best - these posts are undoubtedly "typical of the kind of intellectually lazy rhetorical subterfuge that Stefan routinely passes off as fact." If Stefan doesn't want to be considered nothing more than an inane cog in the local Republican Noise Machine, he might want to start offering his readers some conjecture resembling real political analysis.

But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Columbian doesn’t value quality journalism

Since Goldy’s scoop about The Columbian making a donation of $5,000 to a campaign committee supporting Initiative 920, the estate tax repeal, I’ve been besieged by ones of people demanding that I come out of blog hibernation and address the burning issue: What is The Columbian’s problem?

Frankly, I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years. There are some decent reporters at The Columbian, and despite its rather low market penetration it remains the only locally owned media of any size.

It’s the paper of record for Clark County and all that.

We could speculate endlessly about whether publisher Scott Campbell, who keeps a pretty low profile and is rarely even mentioned in the media in Clark County or Portland, is more of a rich guy trying to buy himself some peace by caving in to the wingnuts or is, in fact, a wingnut himself. And we would get nowhere. He ain’t saying.

A recent news story, or more accurately the lack of a local news story, combined with a fawning editorial column, tell us pretty much everything we need to know about The Columbian.

Earlier this month, Americans United filed a lawsuit against The Northwest Marriage Institute over its use of federal money to promote Bible-based counseling. The “institute” is housed on the east side of Vancouver, in an area dominated by strip malls, fast food joints and such. You can have breakfast with The (Burger) King and then save your marriage through The King, so to speak.

The lawsuit made pretty big news. It was even in The New York Times. (Warning! Times Select required.) I don’t know enough about lawyerin’ to say if the case will become a landmark, but it does seem like a potentially significant challenge to the Bush administration’s “faith based initiatives.”

So I was more than a little surprised on that day earlier this month that I could not find an article about the case on The Columbian’s web site.

I asked a friend who still subscribes to the print version whether it was in that edition, and she could not find an article.

I always hesitate to claim that a newspaper did not cover something, because it can be easy to miss stories, even for dedicated news junkies.

So I’m not going to state categorically that they didn’t run a story, but if they did, I didn’t see it that day. My friend, a dedicated subscriber who usually reads the paper cover to cover, didn’t see one either.

What can be stated is that, upon searching The Columbian archive a few weeks later, the best I could come up with was the AP story everyone else carried, which looks like it moved on the wire the night before.

Which appears to mean that they buried or did not print an AP story about their own community, a story that even ran on The Guardian Unlimited.

Now, I can be sympathetic to the time pressures and workloads newspaper reporters face. Campbell isn’t known for paying well. But instead of assigning a reporter to look into the local angle, The Columbian said nothing.

To be accurate, the newsroom said and did nothing. After all, east Vancouver is as much as eight miles from their office, and it might as well be on another planet. Plus dialing those phones is hard work.

In rode none other than editorialist Elizabeth Hovde, who was hired away from Jeff Kemp late in the last century to provide the op-eds with a suitably pro-conservative slant.

Hovde penned a column the next day singing the praises of Bible-based counseling groups, without actually stating that the groups she is promoting are religious.
One local effort, Thriving Families (www.thrivingfamilies.org), is working with the government, churches, businesses and community leaders to make an emphasis on marriages commonplace.By acting as a clearinghouse for marriage-strengthening and marriage-saving resources in the area, Thriving Families is hoping to see an increase in happy marriages, fewer divorces and more kids anchored in homes with their married mom and dad.
Notice how quickly the word “churches” flies by?

Did Hovde actually mention the AU lawsuit? No. Did she allude to it? No. Without any mention of the timing, Hovde simply promoted religious groups. She did, near the end of the column, mention churches again.

Many area churches also have resources available for marrieds and remarrieds those in sickness and in health.
Why, the churches have resources to help your marriage, in addition to the organizations the churches fund! So even though the entire column is promoting Protestant Christian religious organizations, churches only come up as partners and added resources.

(And it’s worth noting here--I’m not arguing that Hovde may not promote religious groups, I’m arguing that being deceptive about it is a huge journalistic sin, editorial page or no editorial page.)

And as an added kicker, Thriving Families describes itself as “a community partnership with Families Northwest.” Which is, of course, the outfit run by Jeff Kemp. Small world.

So here you have an alleged journalist who is still carrying water for an organization she left around a decade ago, working for an alleged newspaper that can’t or won’t do accurate reporting in its community even when national news organizations are reporting about a newsorthy event in Vancouver.

I know journalists get sick and tired of hearing the “bias” charge, but just because the right made a blood sport of it does not justify discarding basic notions of completeness and fairness. Passing things off as something they are not, as Hovde did, amounts to a calculated lie.

Ignoring or downplaying legitimate news stories, especially in a peculiar media market that receives mostly news about a state they can’t vote in (that would be Oregon, BTW,) is a severe violation of the public trust. I talked to more than one dedicated Columbian reader who knew nothing of the AU lawsuit. We can't have political discourse if things are deliberately hidden from the public.

What’s wrong with The Columbian? Elizabeth Hovde, for starters. The editors, for another. It's sad that Vancouver doesn't even have a real newspaper.

UPDATE: David Postman of The Seattle Times, who has been following the newspaper donations in support of I-920, noted how The Columbian ran a pro-920 column written by Don Brunell, the president of the Asssociation of Washington Business. The column ran on Sept. 19, as Postman notes, the day after The Columbian made the $5,000 donation.

Brunell defended himself in Postman's comments by stating that his column appears every Tuesday in The Columbian. Guess we should start monitoring the business section, too... which reminds me. Where do they put the Labor Section? Does Rick Bender have a column in The Columbian?

LaSalata may advance to general election

Earlier this month, in the immediate aftermath of the September 19th primary, the returns in the race District Court (NE Electoral District, which includes NPI's headquarters) looked incredibly disappointing.

The most unqualified candidate in the race - Bellevue lawyer and GOP hack Richard Pope - emerged early with a somewhat narrow lead, which he has continued to hold. The second most unqualified candidate - Mary Ann Ottinger, who has been repeatedly censured and suspended from judicial office - appeared to be the runner up in second place, while the only qualified candidate, Frank V. LaSalata, came in third (and last).

But over the last week and a half, LaSalata's fortunes have improved. He has moved into second place while Ottinger has slipped into third. His lead is very small, but it has slowly increased, and hopefully tomorrow's final tally of ballots will push it higher still. The race is so tight that a recount may be necessary.

We strongly hope LaSalata makes it through the primary and advances to the general election. Having to choose between Ottinger or Pope in the general election would be simply awful. Neither of them should be on the bench.

Cantwell, Murray vote against torture

Both of Washington State's U.S. Senators voted against (the McCain torture bill) today in the Senate. The final vote was 65-34. Applause to both of our Senators for voting against this appalling legislation.

UPDATE: Senator Cantwell's rationale:
"The legislation voted on by the full Senate will permit the Bush Administration to undermine the Geneva Conventions, broadly expand the definition of enemy combatants, allow for coerced and secret evidence and abandon habeus corpus. For more than three years, our ability to try terrorists has been hampered by the Administration’s refusal to abide by U.S. law. The provisions in this legislation may be once again deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, only further delaying our goal of bringing the terrorists to justice."
(end update) Democrats who betrayed the party include: Carper (Del.), Johnson (S.D.), Landrieu (La.), Lautenberg (N.J.), Menendez (N.J), Pryor (Ark.), Rockefeller (W. Va.), Salazar (Co.), Stabenow (Mich.), Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.)

Chafee was the only Republican to break with his party, and was joined by Vermont's Jeffords and in voting with the Democratic caucus. Joe Lieberman, as usual, sold out to the Republicans and voted with his true leader, Bill Frist. Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine did not vote.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid made an unwise tactical decision not to pursue a filibuster of the bill, and it was thus brought to the floor for a vote.

This is what we're building in Iraq

Are you surprised? I'm not.
A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, federal investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts aimed at preparing Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most important civil security project in the country — and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."
(Emphasis mine). There's hardly any commentary I can add to this article that does it justice - it really speaks for itself. Invading Iraq was a truly awful idea to begin with, but on top of that, the occupation of Iraq has been horribly mismanaged by the Bush administration.

And here at home, things aren't much better. Republicans in Congress are busy trying to do Bush's bidding by gutting funding for everything from veterans' benefits to Pell Grants and stamping their approval on his domestic spying and torture programs. The conservative agenda has been the real disaster. It's time we changed direction and charted a new course for our country. That begins with electing a Democratic congress.

LimeWire countersues RIAA

A major technology newsbreak this week: Lime Group, which distributes the innovative LimeWire peer to peer file sharing client, is striking back at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for attempting to put it out of business:
LimeWire LLC has countersued the biggest record companies, charging them with anticompetitive behavior.

The suit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, follows the closing of most of the popular file-sharing Web sites due to lawsuits initiated by record companies. It also comes on the heels of a suit filed by 13 record companies against LimeWire, accusing the developer of music piracy and demanding damages that could amount to $476 million.

LimeWire now charges the record companies with colluding to create a monopoly over the digital distribution of copyrighted music. The record companies "have engaged in these unfair business practices for the specific purpose of eliminating sources of decentralized peer-to-peer file sharing and acquiring a monopoly over digital distribution of commercially valuable copyrighted music and movie content," the lawsuit reads.
The U.S. entertainment industry, including the RIAA and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) have been attempting for years to stifle innovation and intimidate other businesses, not to mention their own customers. We strongly applaud LimeWire for standing up to these out of control corporate cartels. They probably won't win (U.S. laws on copyright and other issues were written by the entertainment industry) but at least they're trying.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mileposts on the road out of Iraq

A blueprint for leaving Iraq is offered by George McGovern and William R. Polk in their new book Out of Iraq, being published in October by Simon & Schuster. An excerpt appeared in the latest edition of Harpers. It is a technically complete treatment of how to disengage in a responsible way. It begins with the compelling case for withdrawal, including:
  • Polls show only 2% of Iraqis consider Americans to be liberators.
  • Iraq has become the primary recruiting and training ground for terrorists; it is a strategic necessity to withdraw.
  • Current US expenditures run $246 million each day.
  • We continue to throw good money after bad and to throw good lives after those already wasted. The sacrifice undergone so far is, in fact, W's explicit rationalefor staying the course -- so "they will not have died in vain."
What is it that needs to be done to be responsible, and not to leave a stateless situation and chaos?
  • Establish an international stabilization force comprised of contingents from Muslim countries, paid for by the US, outfitted with arms, transportation and communication equipment currently in the theater. (est. cost: $5.5 billion for two years.)
  • Establish a police system out of the "home guards" working with the national police to stabilize and secure the country. Avoiding warlordism or dominance of one or another militia will take up to five years of training, coordination and the support of respected indigenous leaders. The US has no useful role to play in establishing this system. (cost: $1 billion.)
  • Avoid reconstituting a heavily armed national army. Such a force would bring more instability. The army ought to be reorganized in a manner similar to the US Army Corps of Engineers and assigned a rebuilding function. (cost: $500 million.)
  • End the construction and development of permanent US bases. The official line is that bases are not being built, but they are. (cost: savings of unknown billions.)
  • Immediately withdraw the mercenary "personal security details" by stopping payment on their contracts. These are the most despised symbol of the occupation. (cost: savings of unknown billions.)
  • Clean up land mines and other unexploded or radioactive ordinance. (cost: $250 million for initial survey, unknown cost for removal.)
  • Reconstruct Iraqi infrastructure. The World Bank estimates $25 billion in public infrastructure has been destroyed. The work should be done by Iraqis and funded through the most local civil authority possible to foment grass roots democracy. (cost: $25 billion +.)
  • Demolish the blast walls and wire barriers that scar Iraq physically and symbolically, using Iraqi workers. (cost: $500 million.)
  • Rescue and restore as much as possible the archeological and cultural sites. ["Astonishingly, one American camp was built on top of Babylon.... The 5,000-year-old site at Kish was also horribly damaged."] (cost: $750 million.)
  • Undertake an independent accounting of reconstruction funds. The UN handed over billions of dollars in Iraqi oil revenue to the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority). Accounting was never completed. Massive fraud is evident in the billions of no-bid contracts delivered to US corporations like Halliburton. Reports are that oil has been sold at discount to American corporations. These issues need to be fully accounted for and remedies exacted.
  • All contracts currently let should be voided and the Iraqi government given the charge of renegotiating them or opening them to competitive international bids.
  • Reparations need to be made to civilians for lives lost and property destroyed, for injuries from the war or subsequent torture. Claims should be assessed by an independent international body. (cost: $2 billion.)
  • Reconstitution of the Iraqi civil service, which has been decimated with the departure of judges, lawyers, social workers, journalists, etc., following the war. (cost: $500 million.)
  • Reconstitution of the Iraqi public health system, including recruitment and training or return of thousands of public health workers, as well as reconstruction of hundreds of health centers, clinics and hospitals. (cost: $20 billion.)
  • Official and unofficial apologies for the devastation visited on the Iraqi people. (cost: ?)
Even if these costs were twice the numbers indicated, the savings to the US would be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have estimated the cost of four more years in Iraq at $1 trillion.

McGovern and Polk call for a withdrawal of troops and the institution of a multinational force. Certainly the American senior command needs to be replaced by competent internationally respected commanders. But the world cannot afford to leave chaos on the ground or the opportunity for a permanent blood bath.

Better would be the multinational force identified by McGovern and Polk, backed by Coalition troops under UN or NATO command in camps away from the populace, to enforce a separation of warring sides and prevent home guards and militias from becoming expeditionary armies.

We've made a helluva mess in Iraq, and it's going to take a complex and massive effort to set things even close to right, but it needs to be done. Any alternative will be even more difficult.

Poll Watch: Darcy Burner in a strong position

Several recent polls indicate that Darcy Burner is making Washington's 8th District race extremely competitive. There are several weeks to go before Election Day (though absentee voting will start sooner) and Darcy's campaign still has a lot of work to do. But she's already in a position of strength.

We don't talk about polls too much here on the Official Blog - in our view, they're not all that useful. The ultimate poll is on Election Day. What's more important than polls is fundraising, volunteer commitment, and word of mouth. How many non-activists have you mentioned Darcy Burner to recently?

Regardless, I'm going to take an opportunity to sift through a few polls - rather than discussing each poll seperately in a different post.

The earliest very encouraging poll on Darcy's race was done by Constituent Dynamics, and I analyzed it here. It showed Darcy ahead of Reichert, 49% to 46%. The second poll came out this week. It was conducted by Grove Insight for EMILY's List. Reichert is ahead in that one, 44% to 43%, which is to be expected, since he has excellent name recognition and Darcy does not.

(That she trails so closely, within the margin of error, says a lot about her powerful and aggressive grassroots campaign).

The newest poll was conducted by SurveyUSA, and is supposed to be announced in detail tonight on KING 5 News. It will show Reichert ahead of Darcy, 50% to 48%. That's a substantial improvement from SUSA's poll in the race a month ago which showed Reichert ahead 54% to 41%. If Darcy continues to improve at the rate she has (according to SUSA's tracking) she'll win handily.

UPDATE: KING 5 just had a report about this latest poll on the five o'clock broadcast. According to KING5, this SurveyUSA poll "identifies not just registered voters, but likely voters." (empahsis mine)

This is a useful tidbit because it indicates that the people who are actually going to show up at the polls or mail in their ballots are more supportive of Darcy than registered voters in general. It also makes it apparent, as I mentioned previously, that her name recognition is improving.

Chris Vance was on KING5 providing "analysis", and he suggested that Reichert and the GOP will soon act to define Darcy because she's closing in.

But Darcy has already defined herself and will continue to do so. The attacks against her thus far, especially those made by local right wing bloggers, have been astonishingly pathetic.

UPDATE II: More information is available from SurveyUSA now, including this memo attached to the poll:
Fierce Fight for GOP To Hold Seat in WA8: In an election for the U.S. House of Representatives today, 9/27/06, in Washington's 8th Congressional District, incumbent Republican Dave Reichert and Democratic challenger Darcy Burner are neck and neck, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for KING-TV Seattle.

6 weeks to the 11/7/06 general election, Reichert gets 50% of the vote. Burner gets 48%. Reichert wins by 12 points among men. Burner wins by 9 points among women. Reichert gets 92% of Republican votes. Burner gets 86% of Democrat votes. Independents favor Reichert by 5 points. Reichert leads 94% to 5% among those who approve of President Bush's performance in office.

Burner leads 79% to 18% among those who disapprove of Bush. President George W. Bush's approval rating among likely voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District is 39%. Reichert was first elected to Congress in 2004. In a SurveyUSA poll of WA8 Registered Voters released 8/24/06, Reichert led Burner by 13 points. That data is not directly comparable with the results of today's poll, which screens for, and measures the intentions of, Likely Voters.
The bottom line in all of this? This is a tight race...all the polls suggest that. It's fun to look at data, but the data is just a snapshot of a point in time, and not necessarily a precise snapshot either. Anyone wanting to make a meaningful impact should take action by volunteering or contributing.

In other news, Seattleites definitely dislike Tim Eyman a lot. This is obviously evidenced by Seattle's rejection of Eyman initiatives and routine disgust expressed by residents of the Emerald City in various forums.

But incredulously, SurveyUSA did a poll last week in which registered voters were asked what they thought of dear old Tim.

Unsurprisingly, 65% said they didn't like him. Another 23% were netural. Only 11% said they viewed him as favorable. 1% were not sure. So the message is clear: if Eyman wants to continue meddling in Seattle's affairs he better be ready to get booed out of town.

Darcy Burner is back - on DailyKos

Please read and recommend her important message about protecting a free Internet and preserving net neutrality. Then, make a contribution to her campaign if you haven't already - either a financial donation or a volunteer commitment.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Carl Ballard is back in action

On Friday we announced that Carl Ballard's new blog, EFFin' Unsound, has become the newest member of the Pacific Northwest Portal syndicate. Today I want to take the opportunity to point out one of the posts Carl wrote over the weekend - a critique of a recent press release issued by the state Republicans.

Carl explains why it's so ridiculous than Republicans, including Diane Tebelius, are celebrating (and salivating) over State Senator Tim (Zell) Sheldon's win in the primary over progressive challenger Kyle Taylor Lucas.

He also exposes their hypocrisy - calling Dwight Pelz and the Democratic Party "intolerant" while heaping praise on Mike McGavick's faux campaign of "civility".

I hope EFFin' Unsound is here to stay - because I'm really glad to see that Carl Ballard is back in action. He is an indispensable voice in the local blogosphere.

Monday, September 25, 2006

...And, Darcy's follow-up ad: "Had Enough?"

This link was just posted over at MyDD:

Have You Had Enough?

This is great stuff. Darcy Burner should run her own similiar ad.

Clinton, Wallace, Olbermann

I just reminded myself why I don't watch a lot of TV news.

President Clinton's smackdown of Fox News' Chris Wallace yesterday is all over the news, of course, but not having seen clips of it, I figured I'd check out “The Most Trusted Name In News” to see what was up.

So I watched a segment of CNN's Paula Zahn Now. With remarkable effort, she tried to get James Carville and Paul Begala to admit that Clinton's response to Wallace was a calculated ploy to stir up the Democrats before the election.

Timing, don'cha know.

I wish I could properly convey the vibrating glee Paula showed during the exchange. The smirking, the impatience with their answers, the insistence of a political motive. Truly bile-inducing.

Fortunately, Carville and Begala were having none of it. Both essentially said his response was appropriate, and that if it stirred up the Democratic base, fine. But it certainly wasn't his primary objective.

But this is what news has become. The bias is so pervasive, it's hard to remember what news should be. For a glimpse of that, I watched the last half-hour of Keith Olbermann's Countdown. Sure, there was some silly stuff--the “Oddball” segment, and the bit about “kung fu racecar drivers.” A break from the morbidity, I suppose.

Then he got down to Number One, his take on the Wallace/Clinton interview. Olbermann's analysis was so thorough and so lucid, I had to remind myself I was watching cable news. For those last ten minutes or so, I really found some hope for television journalism.

That hope is still tempered by the lack of a Fairness Doctrine, but I found myself wondering, if Keith Olbermann can do it on MSNBC in 2006—provide a counterbalance to the histrionics of the Right—maybe others might see the wisdom in following his example.

I can dream.

As for the Clinton interview, I hope Olbermann was right: Our former President basically gave us (Democrats) the green light to call the current President's bluff on terrorism, the Republican cornerstone of this election cycle. We should step up to that challenge.

He said, essentially, you're not going to blame this one on me. This guy was in office for eight months prior to 9/11/01, and he did nothing about bin Laden or terrorism. I tried, I failed, but I did try. Bush did not try.

And wasn't it nice to have somebody respond in an impassioned, forceful, articulate way to a right-wing sniper? We may have to thank Chris Wallace after all, if Olbermann turns out to be right.

For my part, I'll still rely on the few dozen RSS feeds I have for news, plus my local paper and a few magazine subscriptions. At least until we have more Keith Olbermanns out there.

Darcy Burner releases newest TV ad

It's called "Promise", and you can watch it here. It's thirty seconds in length and hard hitting. We give it a big thumbs up.

Judge rules against GOP ploy in PA

The Grand Old Party (ahem, I mean the Green Old Party) has failed in its attempt to get a candidate on the ballot to take away votes from Democrat Bob Casey.
A judge has just ruled that Green Senate candidate Carl Romanelli is off the ballot in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

That strikes a deadly blow to Pennsylvania Republicans' gambit to draw votes away from Democrat Bob Casey by fielding a Green candidate. As we reported earlier, all of Romanelli's support was from conservative donors, and Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) volunteers worked hard gathering signatures to get Romanelli on the ballot. The Santorum campaign has admitted steering help toward the Romanelli campaign.
Republicans will do anything to win. Cheat, steal, lie, engage in trickery. They don't care about fair elections. They care only for staying in power.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Torture? Yes, sir, right away, sir.

Well, that one bright light I saw last week was indeed the headlight of an approaching train.

In the space of days--days, mind you--the previous Republican holdouts (John McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Warner) went from a principled, staunch rebuke of the President's torture program to a tacit acceptance that the mainstream media played as a compromise. This analysis does a good job in sorting that out.

It was no compromise. It was a rout.

McCain & Co. bent over backwards so far they could view the world from between their own ankles. Thanks to them and others, the torture program will soon become law in the United States of America.

It will say, The President of the USA will generally follow the Geneva Conventions unless he finds their words inconvenient in his own political and/or sadistic agenda. He will be able to interpret these conventions any damn way he pleases.

Oh, the torturers/interrogators won't be able to rape or kill (directly), but waterboarding is still okay, and most of those stress positions are still in play, too.

So, what are some of the practical results of this "compromise," should it become law (you know, as if this President pays attention to such trivia anyway)?
  • US troops in any hostile territory become targets of the same brutal treatment if captured, and I'd guess somebody more depraved than Rumsfeld or Bush would try to one-up American interrogators at some point;
  • US credibility in nearly any human rights or even civil rights effort is flushed down the toilet, along with the concept of American Democracy and American Freedom. We will be viewed for what we have almost become: a neo-fascist, theocratic oligarchy, with torture tolerated,
  • al Qaeda and nearly every other extremist, terrorist organization will get a second chance at credibility with the more moderate factions in the Middle East. They can now say with confidence, "See? They torture, kill, and mock us - and Islam. And it's not just 'a few bad apples,' as their president tells you. It's their policy." Thanks to this administration, they are now correct.
  • Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. will be immune from prosecution if something goes awry in this whole sordid mess - even if somebody with a spine finally blows the whistle on them. Thank you, Alberto Gonzales.
  • No doubt about it: This new desire for torture will result in a lot more confessions from detainees, and it will get them a lot faster. Trouble is, these confessions are likely to contain untruths.
  • As if it hasn't happened already, more people in the Middle East will hate the United States. Who cares, say the neocon Republicans? Well, I do, and you should, too. Like it or not, we all share the same planet, and it's getting smaller by the day. If we continue to treat the Earth as if it were expendable, we will suffer the consequences.
We have become the crazy neighbor, the guy next door who abuses his wife and kids. You never see him hit her, but you hear her screams, and you see the fear embossed in the kids.

You keep calling the police, you keep trying to bring attention to the matter but people ignore you because he seems to be a nice guy, with a nice job and a tidy yard. The kids are hard working students, and they go to church regularly.

Fact is, nobody knows what goes on in that house, and the people in it keep standing up for that guy. Maybe if enough neighbors complain and bug the police enough, they'll go out one more time, and maybe that time he'll make the mistake of showing who he really is and he'll finally be caught red-handed.

He will deny at first, and then he will insist God told him it was acceptable to sacrifice their physical well-being for their spiritual, or something along those lines. And his wife and kids will still be protesting his innocence until the trauma wears away and they realize what freedom really means.

As we cling to our last few years of power, and the last few drops of our petroleum based economy, it's scary to think that future generations may view us as the people that allowed barbarism to return and acquiesced to ending this grand experiment called American Democracy.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hawaii Senate race: Akaka holding early lead

Believe it or not, today is an election day - Hawaii holds its primary on a Saturday. And the results are just coming in:
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka has an early lead tonight in the first printout of election returns in his highly anticipated race against fellow Democrat Ed Case.

"It's not as good as being ahead, obviously," Case said just after the first returns. "They're the absentees. We'll see what happens with the regular vote. That's all you can say about it."

Akaka arrived at the Dole Cannery Ballroom at 7:34 p.m. wearing an orange-print aloha shirt, but did not immediately speak to supporters or reporters.

As the results were displayed on two large projection screens, the more than 300 Akaka supporters rose to their feet and broke into a chant of "six more years."
Case is a younger, conservative Democrat who apparently has long had his eyes on higher office. Too impatient to wait for Sen. Akaka to retire, Case decided on a primary challenge. But it doesn't look like his gamble is paying off. Akaka, according to the most recent returns available, has 56% of the vote (47,446) while Case has only around 43% (36,642).

UPDATE: Akaka wins - Case has conceded.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Seattle City Council joins Mayor Nickels, endorses Alaskan Way Tunnel

Good news today:
The Seattle City Council today voted to adopt a tunnel as the preferred alternative for replacing the Alaskan Way viaduct, eliminating a public advisory vote in November.

The council voted to embrace the tunnel – the same position it took two years ago – after learning of soaring costs for both the tunnel and an elevated rebuild of the viaduct.

The ordinance also said, "In the event a tunnel proves to be infeasible, the city recommends development of a transit and surface street alternative."

Mayor Greg Nickels, who had initially supported a vote, said he changed his mind after learning of the new numbers, feeling they were too uncertain to send to a vote.

The State Department of Transportation on Wednesday said new costs estimates increased the price of a tunnel from $3.6 to $4.6 billion and the elevated structure from $2.4 billion to $2.8 billion.

The council also supported an ordinance by Councilman Peter Steinbrueck, that asserted a new elevated viaduct would violate the city's waterfront zoning laws and wouldn't be allowed.
The Alaskan Way Tunnel is a reasonable and prudent investment that the the city and the state need to make. A tunnel is the safest, most environmentally friendly option that preserves the capacity of Highway 99. A tunnel also allows Seattle to reclaim its waterfont and create a vibrant public space.

It's tempting to pick the cheapest option that preserves capacity - the viaduct rebuild. But that would be a mistake.

This is a one hundred year opportunity to make the right decision - a decision that will affect Seattle for a very long time. It is heartening to see that leaders like Mayor Greg Nickels and Councilman Steinbrueck have the vision and the foresight to continue supporting the tunnel despite its high price tag.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is a dangerous, unsafe structure. Demolishment of the structure should begin as soon as possible - the waiting has gone on long enough. Funding for the tunnel does not need to be entirely secured before the structure is closed and removal begins. The idea that we have to settle on the replacement option before beginning demolition of the viaduct is a false choice.

And the argument that we have to pick the viaduct rebuild option because a potential earthquake will strike is also phony.

Pacific NW Portal Syndicate Change

Due to the disappearance of EWPolitics, we have had to look for a replacement to fill the gap on the Washington Outlook page.

The search is now over and we are pleased this morning to announce the syndication of EFF'in Unsound, the new blog from Carl Ballard. (Carl used to write the now defunct Washington State Political Report).

Welcome back to the syndicate, Carl.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Primary Results Update

There's been a few developments in some of the key races in the primary:
  • John Groen has conceded defeat to Gerry Alexander. Alexander continues to lead in the returns, 54% to 45%. The BIAW, for its part, seems unconcerned that its negative ad barrage failed, and is threatening to drag future judicial contests into the gutter.
  • Justice Tom Chambers widened his lead over challenger Jeanette Burrage and has almost 60% of the vote, according to the most recent returns.
  • All three of the incumbent Court of Appeals judges we endorsed who were facing right wing challengers won their primaries with ease (to be more specific, Joel Penoyar, Christine Quinn-Brintall, and Mary Kay Becker).
  • In the 43rd, Jamie Pedersen remains in the lead with 24% of the vote, trailed by Jim Street (22%) and Bill Sherman (17%).
  • Legislative candidates we endorsed who won their primaries: Al O'Brien, Claudia Kauffman, Deb Eddy, Darlene Fairley
  • Legislative candidates we endorsed who lost or appear to have lost their primaries: Dick Kelley, Kyle Taylor Lucas, Jack Burkman, Lillian Kaufer
Now it's on to the general election. In November we will decide a U.S. Senate seat, nine races for Congress, three seats on the Supreme Court, eight Court of Appeals races, five Superior Court seats, ninety-eight races for State House, and twenty-two for the State Senate. Additionally, we will vote on three statewide ballot initiatives, two of which are horribly destructive.

(It's worth noting, though, that many of the judicial races have already been decided because only one or two candidates filed in the primary).

There are only a few weeks left. Autumn is here - and so are the midterm elections.

RIP Revenue Tax Force

It was a good day for risk-takers at the Tacoma city council's study session Tuesday. Tacomans have to be heartened to see how quickly the Council blew the smoke off the Majority Report of the City Services Tax Task Force.

The chair of the task force wasn't halfway through a tedious Power Point presentation when Mayor Bill Baarsma pegged the principle recommendation as a "non-starter."

Some other apt questions followed from other Council members, which caused more discomfort. (e.g., the majority's suggestion was that the Council "explore" the alternative. The apt question? What about it needs exploring?)

My personal discomfort came in the few hours before the meeting. I spent it in solitude, with a focused visualization of something between an inquisition and a public dunking. As it turns out, I was called upon to introduce the Minority Report, and acquitted myself tolerably.

At least I didn't swallow my tie, and the Council's attention seemed to be in the "on" position.

If you've been following this adventure, you'll know why I couldn't go along with the majority and instead, with a single co-conspirator, submitted a Minority Report, containing actual revenue options and a clear critique of the main concept and its preferred (by the majority) variation.

At a minimum I think we salvaged something of the process with which to go forward, although "going forward" means being referred to the Finance Committee, not the early advisory referendum envisioned earlier. (The Council may have been more aware of our activities than I suspected.)

So, Rational Revenue Enhancement - 1, Self-Interested Process Manipulation - 0.

The "city services tax" concept is dead, insofar as it is a predominantly property based tax. There will be no shift from business to residents.

And the revenue options we developed in the Minority Report are still on the table, though it be a side table.

Tacoma's financing problems are not unique. If we can make something work here, it could work in other strapped Washington cities. The revenue gap is not going away without some treatment. I'll keep you posted.

Diebold: Broke and Brokener...

Holy crap.

Sorry not to be my usual semi-cogent self, but ... holy crap.

So I'm at a meeting all day, and I hit the web this evening only to learn what is perhaps the biggest piece of Diebold news since the early 2004 stories about Diebold's vulnerabilities and ties to the Republican party.

In a nutshell: there is now a strong "if it walks like a duck" case to be made that the Georgia election in which Vietnam veteran Max Cleland was ousted from his Senate seat was probably cooked.

Fraudulent.

Stolen.

At the very least, highly highly irregular. A DailyKos diary breaks the news, more cogently than I'm capable of at the moment, with all sorts of details and suggestions that we check out tomorrow's Rolling Stone magazine.

Doesn't sound like there's quite "smoking gun" evidence yet, but like I said before ... QUACK!

P.S. This is another good reason to flip control of the House and Senate this year. So we can actually get some congressional inquiries going into this quite un-holy crap.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Event Notice: Dance with Darcy Burner!

I am organizing a fundraiser/dance party for Darcy Burner, to be held this saturday evening. Depending on what mailing lists you're on, you may already have received an invitation to this event. Either way, there are still a number of seats available, so I'm opening the invitation to everyone!

I would strongly encourage anyone who has not had a chance to meet and talk with Darcy to attend; she's exactly the sort of person we need in Congress, and meeting her in person really makes that clear.

Here are the details:

What: A fundraiser and dance party for Darcy Burner, held at DanceWorks Studio!
When: Saturday, September 23, 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Possibly later if people want to stay to dance more.
RSVP: event coordinator Thomas Pitchford - tpitchford5 (at) comcast (dot) net

Full disclosure: I am part owner of DanceWorks Studio, but the campaign is paying the normal rental fee for the facility.

Cantwell crushes challengers in primary

Senator Maria Cantwell soared to an easy primary victory yesterday, capturing over 90% of the vote against four nonserious challenges, including Hong Tran, who a tiny minority of Democrats had championed as a protest candidate.
As of this afternoon Cantwell had roughly 91% of the total, and 319,960 votes. Tran, the closest challenger, was at 4% with 16,658 votes.

Senator Cantwell issued a statement last night after it became apparent that she had won her primary with great ease:
I am honored to win the Democratic primary. It has been the greatest honor to represent Washington in the Senate and hope to earn that honor again in November.

I want to thank all of my supporters, especially the hundreds of volunteers across Washington state who went door to door to encourage people to vote in this primary election. Thank you for your hard work all these months – I’m looking forward to spending the next days and weeks working side by side with you to make sure we keep this seat working for our Northwest values and the people of Washington State.

I believe we should put you first. There is a choice in this election – a choice between continuing to pursue policies that benefit the special interests and changing the agenda so that it matches the values of Washingtonians and reflects your priorities.

I will continue to run a true, issues based campaign. I will continue to fight to make sure Social Security remains a safety net for America's seniors. We need to change the course in Iraq so our troops can start coming home this year. We need to make health care and prescription drugs affordable for everyone in Washington state, especially our seniors. We need to lower energy costs so working families aren’t paying for oil company record profits. We need to help America invest in domestically-produced biofuels and alternative energy technologies and become less dependent foreign oil. We need to make sure every child gets a quality, affordable education so they can get ahead. We need to protect our environment. And we need to create high quality, good paying jobs to keep the American Dream alive for our families in Washington state.

During the next seven weeks, I’ll continue my work putting Washington first in the Senate, and I’ll keep traveling the state to hear from you about the issues that matter to you.
Meanwhile, Hong Tran was bitter in defeat, expressing hostility not only towards the state's open primary system, but also towards Darcy Burner and Jim McDermott:
"Ned Lamont is like a trillionaire," she said. "It's only because he has money and he's running against Lieberman, who everyone hates, that makes people like him. His history is not being a progressive."

Tran says much of that critique is true of Darcy Burner, the Democrat running against Rep. Dave Reichert, and the darling of the Democrats this year.

"People have really been enamored of her. But she has no public service background. She's another millionaire running. ... Unfortunately a lot of voters think when someone has money it makes them legitimate."

[...]

"He's like this icon. People think that Jim McDermott epitomizes a good liberal and his voting record would not be any different than mine. But to be in a position like that, in such a safe district, you could do so much more."

She said McDermott has based his career on being "antagonistic with Republicans and be critical of people" and should instead use his tenure to do more for the district.
Tran's comments are not only ignorant and inaccurate, but they're also arrogant. We can understand if she's not happy about her poor showing in the primary - 4%, after all, is not much of a protest vote. But her attacks on Darcy Burner and Jim McDermott are completely ridiculous and unfounded.

Tran doesn't seem to want to be part of the Democratic Party. Well, good riddance then. She can become another principled loser like Aaron Dixon, who has freely admitted that he hopes his candidacy will lead to a McGavick victory. Some liberal. With friends like Dixon and Tran, who needs enemies?

But Cantwell's excellent showing in the primary (which was even better than McGavick's - he had 85% of the Republican total and 218,677 votes) is good news. Contrary to what a tiny minority in our party have been saying, the Senator does not appear to be in trouble.

She can and should beat M!ke McGavick but nothing can be taken for granted. Team Cantwell must work as hard as it can in the next few weeks to win the hearts and minds of as many Washingtonians as possible.

Environmental Victory: roadless rule is back!

You may recall some years back that the Clinton administration instituted the Roadless Area Conservation Rule that protected some 58 million acres of unspoiled forest land from development. That rule, to no-one's great surprise, was rolled back this past May by the Bush administration.

That action spurred Washington's very own Jay Inslee and a group of House members to put forth the Roadless Area Conservation Act, which would codify into law the Clinton-era rule. The action also spurred a coalition of four State Attorneys General and 20 environmental groups to file suit, seeking to uphold the rule.

Today, all these supporters of the environment scored a victory when federal Judge Elizabeth Laporte upheld the Roadless Rule, throwing out the Bush administration's plan to re-allow development in those areas.

Of the defendants in the suit, the Judge wrote "Defendants are enjoined from taking any further action contrary to the Roadless Rule without undertaking environmental analysis consistent with this opinion."

Inslee thanked the court, saying "Pristine forests are national heirlooms that should belong to all Americans, not special interests. Thanks to the courts today, they're back in the hands of a grateful people who have an obligation to preserve them for generations to come."

Here in Washington state, this decision affects some two million acres of National Forest, more than 20% of the National Forest land in the state. For more information on the Roadless Area Conservation Act, see Jay Inslee's House webpage. For more information on today's court decision, you can read Judge Laporte's decision here [PDF].

UPDATE: This is what Christine Gregoire had to say about the ruling:
"Today is a great day for Washington; I am very pleased with the decision of the court. Roadless areas contribute to our quality of life and our economy by providing clean water, fish and wildlife habitat along with recreational and business opportunities. During the public comment period for the 2001 Roadless Rule, Washingtonians submitted over 80,000 comments – 96% of which supported complete protection of all roadless areas on national forest lands in the state.

"I am committed to exercising all options to protect the character of our roadless areas. We joined the lawsuit to protect these lands because the federal government should not have rescinded the 2001 rule without following the rulemaking requirements. We have also moved forward with the state-specific petition process and, after reviewing the court's decision, will carefully consider our next steps."
The Governor's leadership is deeply appreciated.

I-933 is worse than Oregon's Measure 37

This is why we have to defeat this pile of garbage:
Initiative 933 is estimated to cost state agencies $2 billion to $2.18 billion over the next six years for compensation to property owners and administration of the measure. In the same time period, the initiative is estimated to cost cities $3.8 billion to $5.3 billion, based upon number of land-use actions since 1996, and is estimated to cost counties $1.49 billion to $1.51 billion. Costs are derived from the requirement that, with specific exceptions, state agencies and local governments must pay compensation when taking actions that prohibit or restrict the use of real and certain personal property.

[...]

It is estimated that county governments planning under the Growth Management Act could see potential claims for compensation [developers or landowners demanding that the government pay them or waive the rules] of approximately $1.4 billion over six years.

[...]

Although these compensation numbers seem large, they are in a range of what has been occurring in Oregon following the passage of Measure 37 in November 2004. As of August 11, 2006, 2,949 claims had been made, affecting 168,677 acres, worth $3.9 billion. Since the Initiative is broader in scope than Measure 37, higher compensation values are anticipated.
This analysis is from the Office of Financial Management (OFM) which has releases its fiscal impact statement for Initiative 933. The analysis is clear. Initiative 933 has the potential to inflict devastating harm and create complete chaos. All this can be avoided if we work hard to educate our fellow voters about the consequences of this special interest ballot measure.

WA-05, Goldmark vs. McMorris: Analysis from Yesterday's Primary

First, a brief bit of news. Yesterday, Peter again spent some time at DailyKos, posting his fourth diary there and spending an hour or so in the comments section answering questions.

This was on occasion, as you've likely read here or elsewhere, of his race against Cathy McMorris being upgraded by the DCCC to "Emerging Race" status.

[Editorial note, my not-so-humble opinion: I'll admit I'm a bit cynical about the DCCC. Frankly, I don't trust them with my money and would much rather do the research myself and donate directly to the candidates who resonate with me.

Reading between the lines on their Emerging Races page, I get the sense that "Emerging Races" is a euphamism for "Gee, I guess we should have been supporting these folks all along!" Whatever the case may be, I'm glad they're seeing the light now. Welcome to the party, DCCC!]

And now, the main event.

As you're no doubt aware, Washington's primary election was yesterday. Although Washington's partisan primary system muddies the waters somewhat, we can still draw some conclusions about the general election from last night's results.

Here are the raw results, by county. Don't worry, you don't have to digest the raw results in their entirety. Feel free to gloss over them, I'll tell you what I think they mean afterwards. Note that all of this data comes from the Secretary of State's Primary Election Results page:

Total Votes Cast with Party Breakdown:

County (D). Votes (R). Votes Total % (D).
Adams 434 1534 1968 22.05
Asotin 2229* 2811* 5040 44.23
Columbia 278 8701148 24.22
Garfield 300 417717 41.84
Lincoln 539 20202559 21.06
Okanogan 1852 1744 3596 51.50
Pend Oreille856 2119 2975 28.77
Spokane 26902 35055 61957 43.42
Stevens 2204 3524 5728 37.55
Walla Walla 2188 3639 5827 37.55
Whitman 1370 3239 4609 29.72
TOTAL 39152 56972 96124 40.73


Here are the vote totals for Peter Goldmark and Cathy McMorris, again by county:
County Goldmark McMorris % (D). Relative Performance (%)
Adams 172 750 18.66 -3.40
Asotin 1599 2016 44.23 0.00*
Columbia 214 680 23.94 -0.28
Garfield 208 373 35.80 -6.04
Lincoln 439 1461 23.11 +2.04
Okanogan 1737 155752.73 +1.23
Pend Oreille 737 1656 30.80 +2.03
Spokane 24118 28834 45.55 2.13
Stevens 1968 3070 39.06 +0.59
Walla Walla 1745 3245 34.97 -2.58
Whitman 1248 2698 31.63 +1.90
TOTAL 34185 46340 42.45 +1.72


* Estimates; Secretary of State's election results website has not provided (D)/(R) split for the raw ballots in Asotin county yet, although they did provide (obviously) counts in the Goldmark/McMorris race.

I used the percentage from that race to estimate the (D)/(R) ballot split in the first table, although doing so obviously that means that we can derive no useful relative performance data for Peter in that county.

Observations

First, the bad news: As a straight vote-count, Peter loses this election 42.45 percent to 57.55 percent. But, of course, that isn't the whole story because it's a partisan primary where one's selection of who one can vote for is limited.

Now, some good news: Peter out-performed expectations. That is to say, the actual number of votes cast for Peter exceeds the number you would expect to see given the overall party split in the total number of ballots cast.

It's not a big amount, that +1.72% at the bottom of the second table, but it's there. Particularly heartening is that Peter's best relative performance is in Spokane county, which has the lion's share of the votes. That's not the whole game of course, but it's a good sign, and indicates that Peter's message and/or Cathy's poor job performance are having some effect.

Further, Peter's largest negative performances (in Garfield and Adams counties) were also in two of the smallest counties. This is not to say that Peter should think he can blow off campaigning there, but that poor performance there will certainly hurt him less than elsewhere.

[Fair warning: The rest of this analysis is to a degree speculative, because there isn't raw data that directly addresses the difference between our partisan primary system and the open general election. I am forced to make some assumptions and educated guesses along the way. I will tell you what those are when they occur, and you're entirely free to leave some comments telling me why my assumptions and guesses are no good.]

So what's it all about?

In a word: undervotes. A word we all learned about from Florida 2000, ballots in which no vote for a candidate was recorded.

Undervotes in this election are 4967 for Peter, 10632 for Cathy. Or in other words, 4967 ballots marked as (Democrat failed to indicate a vote for Peter, while over twice as many Republican ballots failed to indicate a vote for Cathy.

The obvious and hopeful conclusion we would like to draw from that is that ten thousand Republican voters across the district would prefer to vote for Peter, but can't do so in the primary.

While that would be nice, a) it's still not enough to overcome the 17819 vote difference between total Democratic and Republican ballots in the whole election, b) if we do that then we have to be fair and assume the converse position for the 4967 Democratic undervotes and assign them to McMorris. The truth is almost certainly somewhere in the middle.

I find it more instructive is to look at undervotes as a percentage of total D and R votes cast. Because it certainly is significant that McMorris had twice as many undervotes as Goldmark.

What we really want to do is estimate, out of those undervotes, the percentage of Democrat and Republican crossover voters. Let's do the math:

(D) undervotes: 4967 out of 39152 total ballots = 12.69%
(R) undervotes: 10632 out of 56972 total ballots = 18.66%

In an uncontested partisan primary, which both of these are, there are three main reasons why undervotes could occur.
  1. the voter just didn't bother to mark a vote for the sole option available to them.
  2. the voter made some kind of mechanical error in marking their ballot such that the ballot couldn't be counted.
  3. the voter would have preferred to vote for the candidate of the other party.
Reasons 1 and 2 should be fairly constant across the entire electorate, as they represent causes that have nothing to do with a voter's preference of candidate.

If we make the generous (to Goldmark) assumption that every single Democratic undervote was of type 1 or 2, then we would expect a similar percentage of Republican undervotes due to those same reasons.

That leaves an excess difference of almost 6% in McMorris' undervotes, which we can conclude may represent the percentage of Republican crossover voters who would have preferred to vote for Peter. That assumption - 0% (D) crossover voters and 6% (R) crossover voters - yields a general election prediction of Goldmark 44.29% / McMorris 55.71%. Still a win for McMorris, but not by quite as much as in yesterday's raw results.

Of course even that generous assumption for Peter, that no (D)ocrat would vote against him, is almost certainly too generous.

Just to get a sense for what might be going on, let's imagine that a full one-half of the Democratic undervotes were of type 3. That's surely more than reality, and as such represents some sort of worst-case scenario. That would leave 6.35% of type 1 and 2 undervotes as the base undervote rate, meaning that McMorris now has an excess difference of 12.31% in her undervotes!

The revised prediction, sending the crossovers from both sides over to their preferred candidates, is actually slightly better for Peter: Goldmark 45.44% / McMorris 54.56%. This counter-intuitive result is because the assumption forces us to also conclude that the Republican crossover-rate is higher.

The Elephant in the Room

What we can't measure, of course, are voters who indicated no party preference. Those voters did not get to voice an opinion on Goldmark or McMorris. So you need to appreciate these results with that large grain of salt. We just have no idea, on the basis of the primary election results, what the heck those people are feeling or how they might vote come November 7th.

Conclusions

Any way you slice it, at this point McMorris is seemingly still winning this race. Goldmark and his campaign crew clearly have a bunch of work left to do between now and November 7th.

There are positive signs, in that his message seems to be resonating in Spokane, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, and Whitman counties.

However, something is clearly not working in Walla Walla County, and perhaps there the message needs to be tweaked for those voters' more specific concerns.

I don't live there, so I won't claim to have any idea what those are, but clearly Peter's people need to take a look. Personally, I think that Peter's core strategy of crafting a one-two punch out of farming concerns and homeland security, in the form his concept of "national security crops" is brilliant.

Tying those in with the more left-leaning concerns over global warming and the environment makes it a one-two-three punch. I do believe that if Peter can effectively communicate this message across his district, then he has a shot at winning. I still think it's a fairly long shot, but the target is visible.

One thing, though: even the most generous analysis of yesterday's election puts Peter 8700 votes behind in the general. It will be tempting to concentrate in Spokane county, where Peter is already doing better than the party split would indicate, and where the bulk of the voters are. But I think that would be a mistake.

To overcome that vote difference in Spokane County alone would mean taking that county 57% to 43%. That's a mighty tall order. For now, I think, Peter needs to stay on the road, getting his great message out there.

More results are in

To their credit, the team at King County Elections apparently worked through the night to get the election returns uploaded and available to the public.

The latest returns have not changed many of the outcomes, although the results are certainly more conclusive now that all the poll precincts have been counted.

In the statewide races, the totals have remained virtually unchanged. Gerry Alexander and Tom Chambers appear victorious, having defeated their right wing challengers. Susan Owens and Stephen Johnson will move on to the general election.

The three Court of Appeals judges facing right wing challengers (Penoyar, Becker, Quinn-Brintall) were handily winning as well, according to the most recent information. Despite a flood of negative ads and gutter politics from the right, the incumbents appear to have carried the day. That's a huge relief.

In the 43rd, Jamie Pederson is still the top vote-getter, although he is closely trailed by Jim Street. This race is definitely too close to call and it will likely be decided by the late absentees. Bill Sherman is third, while all the other candidates are behind in the distance with less than 15% of the vote.

In the 44th, Lillian Kaufer is unfortunately losing to Steve Hobbs, although the counting of new ballots could change that result. In the 47th, Claudia Kauffman appears to be doing quite well against Ed Crawford.

In the 35th, Kyle Taylor Lucas is losing to Tim Sheldon, the Democratic traitor who is really a Republican in disguise - however, Sheldon shouldn't be celebrating yet. The last tabulations were early last night and new ballots could change the result.

Complete results for all the races we're watching are available at Pacific NW Portal.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The numbers aren't what you think they are

As of 10:25 PM Pacific Time, King County has still not posted any results from precinct polling sites. All that's up are stale absentee numbers that are hours old.

King County Elections says that it's taking longer this year to process returns this year - and here is why:
Poll results are expected to come in later this year. With new, accessible voting units, closing the polls will take longer. In addition, new requirements mean the county will not modem results from King County’s 508 polling places. Instead, poll results will be manually uploaded beginning around 10 p.m. and continue until 98-to-100 percent of polling places are reported online.
Except that 10 PM has come and gone, and there is no new information available almost a half hour later.

A lot of the results in key races are almost entirely meaningless because what has been reported is a small percentage of the total votes cast. Stay tuned...

UPDATE: As of 10:48 PM, a few new returns have trickled in, but the numbers remain inconclusive. The data in the statewide races is more conclusive, however, since the results are combined from 39 counties.

Supreme Court incumbents seize early lead

All three of Washington State's incumbent Supreme Court justices are in the lead over their challengers, according to the latest results available at 9:30 PM Pacific Time. Earlier in the evening John Groen was defeating Gerry Alexander, but the Chief Justice has since seized the lead back and widened it in the subsequent hours.

Alexander is currently at 53% while Groen is at 46%.

Susan Owens is also comfortably ahead, 45% to 32%, over challenger Stephen Johnson. Due to the other candidates who filed in this race, both Johnson and Owens will likely move on to the general.

And Justice Tom Chambers is handily beating Jeanette Burrage, 57% to 42%.

The three court of appeals judges facing right wing challengers are all ahead as well.

Meanwhile, Sen. Maria Cantwell is cruising to victory in the primary. Currently she had 91% of the vote (McGavick only has 85%).

Developing....

Action alert: Peter Goldmark on DailyKos!

Just a short post today.

Peter Goldmark is going to be posting a new diary on DailyKos TODAY at 2:00 PM. As is his custom, Peter will be hanging around in the comments for a while to answer questions.

So please give it a look (you can find Peter's diaries here), and be ready to post your questions about alternative fuels, family farms, and plant genetics. If you like what you see, please RECOMMEND Peter's diary using the "Recommend" ('natch) button on the right hand side of the page. It would be great to get Peter's diary into the Rec list, so more people see it and are driven to his donation page.

Hint: a lively discussion in the comments certainly helps convince people that Peter is the real deal. Which he is.

UPDATE: Here's the diary permalink.

Today is Primary Election Day - please vote

Primary Election Day has finally arrived. If you have not yet cast your ballot, don't forget to do so. If you're an absentee voter, remember that your ballot must be postmarked by today or it won't count.

NPI is pleased today to release its endorsements in contested legislative races on the Democratic ballot across the state. You'll find those below, along with our already released endorsements in judicial races.

DEMOCRATIC BALLOT
Legislative Races
  • State Rep. Legislative District #1, Pos. #1: Al O'Brien
  • State Rep. Legislative District #17, Pos. #2: Jack Burkman
  • State Senate, Legislative District #32: Darlene Fairley
  • State Senate, Legislative District #35: Kyle Taylor Lucas
  • State Rep. Legislative District #43, Pos. #1: Dick Kelley
  • State Senate, Legislative District #44: Lillian Kaufer
  • State Senate, Legislative District #47: Claudia Kauffman
  • State Senate, Legislative District #48: Deb Eddy
NONPARTISAN BALLOT
State Supreme Court
  • Position 2: Susan Owens
  • Position 8: Justice Gerry Alexander
  • Position 9: Justice Tom Chambers
Court of Appeals
  • Division I, District #3, Position #1: Judge Mary Kay Becker
  • Division II, District #2, Position #3: Judge Christine Quinn-Brintall
  • Court of Appeals Div. II, Dist. #3, Pos. #1: Judge Joel Penoyar
On each page you'll find our statements concerning each endorsement, links to the endorsed candidates' websites, and a listing of other notable endorsements the candidate has received.

More information is available at our 2006 Elections Center - which provides the latest news and analysis on local, state, and federal races across the Pacific Northwest.

An important page accessible from the Elections Center is our 2006 Supported Candidates Overview page. This page highlights key candidates we support in this election cycle and includes a picture of the candidate, the office they're running for, and contribute/volunteer links.

Also, don't forget that tonight Pacific Northwest Portal will be providing live special coverage of the primary election returns, offering results and analysis.

Tester (D) leading in MT Senate race

Two out of ten U.S. Senate offices in the Pacific Northwest are being contested this election cycle. One is in Montana. The other, of course, is in Washington. Democrats are leading both races.

Democrat John Tester is leading incumbent Republican Conrad Burns in the Big Sky in what is a referendum on Burns (and Bush). The Republicans have promised to spend $10 million in the state, and Tester hopes to match it.

That's more than $20 per person -- and who knows how much per vote, since the electorate will be plenty turned off by November. Last cycle, Tom Daschle and John Thune conducted a media- and mail-a-thon in South Dakota and did little more for the Republic than give folks plenty of fire starter for the winter.

Burns is directly connected to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Abramoff said he and his staff were cozy with the Burns office, in a relationship that paid off in appropriations for clients.

Burns campaign has imploded mostly, however, on a series of gaffes and blunders, some of which are as embarrassing to Montanans as the corruption. Conrad lost it in front of a -- get this, in a post 9/11 world -- a group of firefighters. He attacked them for not doing their jobs effectively.

Late last month, Burns called on the governor (rising Democrat Brian Schweitzer) to call a state of emergency for an ongoing fire. The Governor had done that a full month earlier.

Then he implied his house painter, "a nice little Guatemalan man," might be illegal. His comment that the war on terror is a fight against those who "drive taxicabs in the daytime and kill at night," was ....

So it is Tester's race to lose, and he is showing no signs of doing that. In particular, to my mind, is his turning the tax question to appropriate advantage by attacking Burns for his tax hikes on education.

Tester's ‘Higher Education, Deeper Debt’ report shows the consequences of Sen. Burns’ tax increases on Montana students and their families.

Burns and other Republicans in the last budget cycle voted to cut student loan programs by $12.7 billion, ended tuition tax credits, and froze the maximum Pell Grant, the leading college scholarship program. This came at a time when the cost of tuition at Montana colleges and elsewhere is skyrocketing. Real tax increases on reall people.

Tester is a onetime public-school teacher and current president of the Montana Senate. He sports a flattop haircut and drives a pickup truck. ("Special interests will never hitch a ride in this truck).

And he currently works a farm of 1,800 acres. He was drawn into politics eight years ago as a result of the electricity deregulation fiasco which enriched Enron and gouged several Western states. Hopefully another Democrat in the Senate will mean an end to that kind of corporate feeding frenzy on America.

Should both Cantwell and Tester be elected, the Northwest's representation will be split between Democrats and Republicans.

Two Democrats from Washington, two from Montana, and one from Oregon. In the next cycle (2008) incumbents who will have to face the voters include Republican Larry Craig in Idaho, Gordon Smith in Oregon, and Ted Stevens in Alaska, along with Democrat Max Baucus in Montana.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The open primary is here to stay

Tomorrow is primary election day, and for the last few days, the nostalgic whining and complaining about Washington State's open primary (the pick-a-party primary, or Montana-style primary, as it is often referred to) has reached its zenith.

What numerous pundits and a sizable group of voters are unhappy about is the fact that the primary is now actually a primary and not part one of a two part general election. Not surprisingly, the people who are the most unhappy are the folks at the state Grange. They're threatening to sponsor an initiative to remove party affiliation from the ballot altogether.

The Grange ought to stop with that nonsense and listen to the advice of the Tacoma News Tribune:
Face it: Vote-for-anyone primary is gone for good

Even in a democracy, the voters don’t always get what they want. As the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals made clear this week, Washington’s voters aren't going to get their old unrestricted primary election system back.

The Washington State Grange and others who’ve been fighting this losing battle for six years would be wise to let it go.

[...]

One "remedy" now being proposed by the Grange – ending all partisan elections in Washington state – is bizarre and destructive.

Parties can certainly run amok, but they are essential to modern democracy. Declaring war on them through the election laws would be idiotic.

Nearly everywhere else in the country, primary elections are understood to be party affairs. The vast majority of states don’t allow citizens to participate in primaries unless they have publicly declared their personal party affiliations.
In Washington State, voters are not required to publicly declare their party affiliation - hence, the primary is "open". It is only fair and reasonable that the selection of nominees for each party is made by that party's members - in other words, the voters who choose to identify with that party.

The News Tribune editorial board is absolutely right. The open primary - the system that preserves our constitutional rights and gives voters broad choices in the general election - is here to stay.

Torture Is Not Vague, Sir

The President is angry that Congress won't let him torture people.

I heard this (and I'm paraphrasing) on a radio talk show recently, and while I understand the sentiment, and the relationship between Bush and Alberto Gonzales, Gonzales and Abu Ghraib, and Abu Ghraib and the Geneva Conventions (oops, none!), I has assumed I was hearing typical talk show hyperbole — most likely true, but in strict terms, an opinion of the host.

But then I heard this, straight from the Elephant's mouth. The following is an exchange between our President and Steve Holland, the Reuters White House correspondent, on Friday, 9/15/06. [Full transcript]
Q Can I just follow up?

THE PRESIDENT: No, you can't. Steve. If we follow up, we're not going to get -- I want Hillman to be able to ask a question. It's his last press conference -- not yet, Hillman. (Laughter.) Soon. You and Wendell seem --

Q Thank you very much, sir. What do you say to the argument that your proposal is basically seeking support for torture, coerced evidence and secret hearings? And Senator McCain says your plan will put U.S. troops at risk. What do you think about that?

THE PRESIDENT: This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court's ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article III of the Geneva Convention. And that Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation. And what I'm proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal. You know, it's -- and so the piece of legislation I sent up there provides our professionals that which is needed to go forward.
When I heard this — and I did hear the clip, which was even more chilling — it was the first time fear fought anger in my perception of this man. He is saying, and the context is pretty clear, that “outrages upon human dignity” is too vague a sentiment, and therefore subject to interpretation.

Setting aside the dissociative pathology for a moment, General Article III of that Geneva Convention also states this:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
Can this President really mean what he says? “Outrages upon human dignity” is even defined with an example in the same sentence, which he saw fit to chop to serve his own purpose. Can this man believe this phrase is vague enough to coerce his own Congress to actually ratify a legalized torture program?

He won't call it that, of course.

Later in the news conference he refers to “professionals” being allowed to do a proper “interrogation.” He cites the example of Khalid Sheik Muhammad as being a successful torture victim. Except the information he gave was next to worthless, as it is in most, if not all, coerced confessions.

There is more to disturb the Average American in this exchange, to chill the soul of any decent human being. He returns to Article III repeatedly during the press conference in a mocking, irritable tone, challenging the “clarity” of language no other world leader has misunderstood or deemed fuzzy in 57 years.

For a few seconds, reading the transcript without the sound track, it looked like a discarded Stephen Colbert parody that was just too over-the-top even for him.

Nope. This is our President.

The irony: This President, known for his verbal klutziness, minced words and flung euphemisms about like those dreaded nuanced politicians he scorns.

But the Luntz talking points couldn't have been clearer: torture becomes “alternative interrogation methods” under the new program, and those who carry out the torture orders are “skilled professionals.” And “clarity” means skewing the language of the Geneva Convention's General Article III to the point where countries could abide by it or not.

The only bright spot is that he's getting a fight from within his own party, mostly from people who have served in the military, not the least of which is John McCain. They understand that if the USA can employ these tactics openly, so could our enemies.

They understand that if we begin to use these tactics, we have plunged to moral depths from which we will never recover. So far this thin coalition of reason and compassion is holding its ground.

But the President continues to peddle this program, even today.

If your skin isn't crawling yet, consider this: George W. Bush has jiggered the English language to avoid the Constitution (signing statements), to prosecute an illegal war and resulting occupation (Iraq; conflation of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein), and to listen to your phone calls any time he wants (NSA spy program, or in administration lingo “Terrorist Surveillance Program”).

So how might he employ his newfound tools of questioning? On terrorists? Prisoners of war? Enemy combatants? Seditious detainees? Suspects? Persons of interest?

Protesters?

The issue is beyond politics, beyond Red and Blue, beyond taking sides. This is about the erosion of our basic humanity. This must stop. We must draw the line here, now, and we must never approach it again.

Family farmers oppose Initiative 933

The NO on Initiative 933 coalition, of which NPI's Permanent Defense is a member, has released its first TV ad, viewable here (Adobe Flash Player required). It's short, sweet, and very informative.

The ad features Dave Hedlin, who speaks for the hundreds of family farmers across Washington State who have announced their opposition to this special interest giveaway to greedy developers. Endorsers include:
  • Blue Heron Farm
  • Buty Winery
  • Craven Farms
  • Farm Bank Project
  • Farms Northwest, Inc.
  • Finest Kind Orchards
  • Gordon Dairy
  • Hart's Nursery, Inc.
  • Kirsop Farm
  • Lark Haven Farm
  • Mesman Farm
  • Mother Flight Farm
  • Nash's Produce
  • Olympia Food Co-op
  • PCC Farmland Trust
  • PCC Natural Markets
  • Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland
  • Sunny Pine Farm
  • T&T Orchards Inc.
  • Taylor Shellfish
  • Tilth Producers of Washington
  • Twin Tails Farm
  • United Farm Workers
  • Western Students for Sustainable Food
  • Western Washington Agricultural Association
  • Whatcom County Agricultural Preservation Committee
  • Winlock Meadows Farm
  • Woodward Canyon Winery
I-933 is not the answer to problems in state and local land use laws. It is absolutely critical that we defeat Initiative 933 this November and protect our quality of life.

Diebold is really, really, extra broken.

As a followup to Thursday's post about the Princeton Diebold hack demonstration, today we learn that it's worse than that.

As if Princeton's demo wasn't bad enough, now we learn that the locks which safeguard the memory card inside a Diebold voting machine use keys which you can get darn near anywhere, including your local hotel mini-bar.

Freedom to Tinker has the story, with details about the many many places you can find these keys.

So basically, the locks which the Princeton guys say they can consistently pick in about 10 seconds, don't really even need to be picked by someone wanting to subvert an election. Odds are you'll have an easier time finding one of these keys--and with fewer raised eyebrows--than finding a set of lockpicks.

The intrepid election hacker is now nearly all set: just gin up some sort of fake ID with your state's official seal on it, dress in a suit, and show up bright and early at the polling station. Armed with your official looking key, who's going question you when you brazenly install your "last minute bug-fix for the machines". "Fix," of course, being the operative word.

Now then, I ask you again: have you registered to vote absentee yet?

Left Coast to lead the way in marine protection

This is welcome news.
The Governors of California, Oregon, and Washington today announced an historic partnership and action plan for ocean and coastal resource protection along the Pacific Coast.

The joint effort, to protect the ocean and coast, was announced in Long Beach to more that than 1,000 attendees of "California and the World Ocean ’06," by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was joined by his fellow governors, Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski and Washington’s Chris Gregoire, via live satellite from Portland.

The regional agreement will forge a long-term partnership to tap world-class experts in each state and tackle challenges facing the ocean and coast including:
  • Ensuring clean coastal waters and beaches for citizens of the region;
  • Protecting and restoring healthy ocean and coastal habitats;
  • Promoting effective ecosystem-based management of ocean and coastal resources;
  • Reducing adverse impacts from offshore development;
  • Expanding ocean and coastal scientific information, research, and monitoring;
  • Increasing ocean awareness and literacy among tri-state residents; and
  • Fostering sustainable economic development in coastal communities.
Congress and the Bush administration are refusing to provide leadership, so it's up to the states to step in. Washington, Oregon, and California have worked together on new clean car standards and on global warming. With the formation of this historic partnership, the Left Coast has taken another step forward in creating a more sustainable future for later generations.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Prepare for Republican attacks against Darcy

So it begins. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the equivalent of the DCCC, is putting nearly $2 million into attack ads in several competitive congressional districts across the country - including Washington's 8th.
MAJORITY COMMUNICATIONS INC.
274 MARCONI BLVD.
SUITE 260
COLUMBUS, Ohio 43215

Purpose of Expenditure: Mailing Service
This Committee OPPOSES The Following Candidate: DARCY BURNER FOR CONGRESS
Office Sought: House of Representatives
State is Washington in District 08
Date Expended = 09/15/2006
Person Completing Form: CHRISTOPHER J. WARD
Date Signed = 09/15/2006
Amount Expended = $25,586.91
Calendar YTD Per Election for Office Sought = $41,861.91
You can, of course, help Darcy prepare for his onslaught by contributing to her campaign. It is critical in these final weeks that we do everything we can to retake Congres. If you've had enough of disastrous Republican one party rule, vote with your dollars and donate to the fight to chart a new direction for America.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tacoma: Municipal finance meets Mr. Paper

The virtual publication of the Minority Report of Tacoma's Revenue Tax Force (whose activities have been sporadically chronicled here over the past six or eight months -- see below) was delivered to the virtual in-boxes of city government this morning. The majority report is also e-available. Piles of real paper will arrive Monday.

At issue is the financial architecture of the city. Will it be strong enough or broad enough in the foundation to carry the demands for city services -- fire, police, library, streets and roads -- into the next few decades? Or not?

This is only step three in a journey of a thousand steps which had better get some momentum soon, or we're not getting there in this lifetime. Still, an inch closer is an inch closer.

It was fun. It was educational. I learned that who controls the process can control the outcome. Graduation comes Tuesday, at a city council study session.

If anybody else is working with the fiscal problems of Washington cities, it would be good to hear from you. Obviously the legislature and the Association of Washington Cities are interested, but I am not connected enough to know of any real relief in sight. All I see is more piling up on existing sales and property taxes.

Previous posts on the Tax Force:

Friday, September 15, 2006

GOP hacks attack Governor Gregoire over surprise auction for Darcy Burner

Unsurprisingly, (un)SoundPolitics and perennial candidate Richard Pope (who is currently running for District Court) are jumping all over Governor Christine Gregoire for holding an impromptu auction last night to raise money for Darcy Burner, our candidate for the 8th congressional district.

The complaint, which is actually based on my liveblogging, is nothing more than another frivolous, baseless attack against the Governor - filed by a pathetic, lazy attorney who seems to spend his days in front of a computer, pontificating on politics in the comment threads at HorsesAss and unSoundPolitics.

Indeed, Richard Pope has been rated "not qualified" in his most recent attempt to seek elected office (previously, he's also run for at least Port Commissioner) because of "unprofessional conduct" in four court cases where Richard was sanctioned and or fined for missing filing dates, frivolous motions and other court delays.

I also have to congratulate Stefan for his ridiclous headline attacking the Governor - "sewer of corruption (XX)". That's a total fabrication, but I understand why such language is being used.

So many Republicans have recently run afoul of ethics guidelines (and state/federal laws) that party hacks like Stefan and Richard are following a strategy of attempting to hit back whenever they anything that appears remotely questionable.. They want to be able to say, "See? Democrats are just as corrupt."

And of course the press - the traditional media - eagerly buys this nonsense, because corrupt politics and corrupt politicans make a great story. It's all about selling papers and driving up ratings.

The Governor's office has assured us that Pope's complaint is without merit, pointing out that the Governor is perfectly entitled to hold private events at the mansion. The office added that there is actually historical precdent for this - dating from the Evans administration, when the issue was first raised.

The mansion has hosted many private events in the past, the Governor's office says, including non-political functions (like a reception for the Boys & Girls Club).

No funds from the state treasury are used to put on private events, and guidelines from the State Auditor's office are carefully followed. It's also worth noting that Governor Gregoire has made the mansion more accessible to the public than previous administrations.

In fact, the mansion can actually be rented by the public for private events, although the Governor may decline any request.

While Governor Christine Gregoire is Governor of the State of Washington, she is perfectly within her rights to auction off a dinner at her home.

This complaint, filed by a sloppy lawyer and promoted by a smug party hack, is nothing more than an attempt to taint Governor Gregoire with bad press that she does not deserve.

Cantwell e-mail appeal to supporters brings in thousands for Darcy Burner

In a noble gesture of goodwill, Maria Cantwell's Senate campaign today sent out an e-mail appeal to supporters urging them to give to Darcy Burner's campaign for the 8th Congressional District.

While Karl Rove headlined a high-dollar fundraiser for Dave Reichert, Cantwell supporters were giving generously to offset Reichert's gains.

The email, dispatched this morning, has already raised over a staggering $31,000 for Darcy - and that was just in the first four hours!

Here's what Cantwell wrote:
There's a major political upset in the making here in Washington state - one that could tilt the balance of power in Congress to the Democrats. Today, Karl Rove is here to stop that from happening.

In our 8th Congressional District, Darcy Burner is on the verge of defeating her Republican incumbent in one of the most hotly contested races in the country. Darcy has been surging in the polls and has the Republicans scrambling. They know they can't afford to lose this seat and they are pulling out all the stops: George Bush has been here, Dick Cheney has been here, and now it's Karl Rove's turn.

Today, Rove is headlining a huge high-dollar fundraiser for Darcy's opponent. This is a big moment for the Republicans and they will raise a lot of money today. But, if we act right now, we can turn this into a big moment for Darcy.

You know that I am currently in a tough battle for my own reelection and that my race has also been targeted by the national Republican Party and the White House. Given my situation, I hope the fact that I'm asking you to help Darcy serves as an indicator of how important this race is to our country. Today, with Karl Rove here working for her opponent, I don't think there is anything more important than helping my friend fight back against what is coming her way.

Darcy is going to be an outstanding Congresswoman. She is smart, experienced, and courageous. She will stand up to the Bush Administration, the Republicans in Congress, big oil companies, and special interests. She will stand up for us and for our values. We not only need to win back Congress, but we need to win it back with people like Darcy Burner.

When Dick Cheney came to town you came through for me. When Bill Frist came to town you came through for me. Today, with Karl Rove in town and control of Congress hanging in the balance, we need to come through for Darcy.
We strongly applaud Team Cantwell for this very thoughtful act of kindness. It especially means a lot to those of us who have invested a lot of time, energy, and money into Darcy's candidacy.

Darcy can't win this race without our help. If you have not already done so (or even if you have) please make a donation today. It's one of the wisest investments you'll ever make. If your budget is tight and you don't have money to spare, consider volunteering your time to help out the campaign.

Oregon right wing religious group runs afoul of U.S. tax law

Our friends down south in the Beaver State have uncovered yet another example of the "it's OK if you're a right winger" phenomenon:
Over in Oregon's 30th House District, constituents have been recieving phone calls asking if folks will put up a lawn sign on behalf of GOP candidate Everett Curry. Curry is running for an open seat against Democrat David Edwards.

This is no great shakes on its face. It's common practice to cold call people in a district in an attempt to garner their support.

The funny part about this call however was that it appears to have come from a tax-exempt religious organization. That would make it illegal.
Carla's got more at Loaded Orygun, including the message in question, her subsequent investigation, and findings. Great work!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Live from Redmond: Speakers stress importance of winning the 8th in 2006

The special benefit at Redmond Town Center for Darcy Burner has just concluded, and the consensus is clear: it was certainly a memorable event, in no small part because of Governor Gregoire's fiery enthusiasm and impromptu, unplanned auction which delighted everybody.

Gregoire Speaks at Fundraiser for Darcy Burner Not For Reuse

She is truly one of the best elected officials our state has ever had.

Following the Governor we heard fom a panel of speakers (all women, of course!) who talked about getting out the vote, the importance of outraising Reichert, the success of the equal rights movement, and the significance of connecting with working families.

Each speaker had a theme, a plan, or a point they wanted to focus on. It was an interesting and refreshing lineup. The variety definitely contributed to the success of the event.

Darcy then spoke for the last time and tied everything together. The following are excerpts from her closing remarks.
"So we have talked a lot tonight about what's wrong with the direction of this country. And I know that it’s on our minds a lot of the time."

"George Bush and Dave Reichert have put this country on the wrong. And this Congress and this Congressman will never stand up to George Bush. But I will!"

"I’ll tell you right now that we can have a Congress that will keep its promises to the American people...We can have a Congress that puts our priorities first...[and] we can have a Congress that answers to the people of this country, not the President."

"There is a tremendous amount of work for us to do in the next 43 days. But we can absolutely win this seat."
We can take back control of Congress, and we can do it this year if each of us commits to doing all that we can. You can contribute or volunteer for her campaign as well as the campaigns of many other important candidates from our elections overview page.

Live from Redmond: Gregoire leads auction for Darcy Burner

I'm blogging live right now from the Redmond Town Center Marriott, at a special event for Darcy Burner - a benefit advertised as Women in Leadership, Addressing the Challenges of a Changing World.

It's a great feeling to be here at this event with some of my favorite people, including of course Governor Christine Gregoire and Darcy Burner. It's especially cool that it's being held here in the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest - the City of Redmond, where NPI is headquartered.

Darcy kicked off the event by acknowledging several of the most important guests:
"I want to start by saying thank you to many of the people who are here, who have built the ladder, rung by rung, that I'm climbing."
After a brief greeting, Darcy welcomed the Governor of Washington State, Christine Gregoire, to the podium. The following are excerpts from the Governor's speech.
"For some people you give a minute of silence. Ann Richards would never accept that. So let's give a cheer for Ann Richards!"

"Darcy has a lot in common with my husband. She grew up in a family of veterans. My husband is a veteran. She and my husband send the exact same message across the State of Washington: No matter how you feel about the war, it is up to each and every one of us to support our men and women in uniform. It's time we had a voice in Washington D.C. that says that."

"She also comes from a family of educators. She understands that every one of our children deserves an opportunity to succeed. We need to have early childhood education so that every child has a chance to learn before they hit kindegarten."

"Darcy understands the biggest crisis facing the people of this district: healthcare."

"It's amazing path that we're on. It isn't about Democrats and Republicans. Every Republican governor in the country will tell you that. Every week we get another letter [from the federal government] saying, 'we're cutting welfare funding' or 'we're cutting homeland security'."

"That's what Darcy Burner takes to Washington D.C. - a fight for the working families of this district."
The Governor ended her remarks by announcing a surprise, instant auction to raise money for Darcy Burner. She offered a dinner for two at the Governor's Mansion in December and kicked off the bidding at $100. The winning bid ended up being nearly $4,000.

The Governor is just now departing, and we'll be hearing next from a panel of speakers, including Jay Inslee's wife Trudy, Pam Eakes, Karen Cooper, and Diane McDaniel.

It's official. Diebold is fundamentally broken.

Yesterday, Princeton researchers released the results of their investigations into a Diebold "accuvote" machine. They had a press release and everything. I'm guessing you didn't hear about it on the news. So, presented for your democratic (that's with a little-d) pleasure:

DailyKos has the story (Shame on you, those of you in the traditional media, for ignoring this story!)

And YouTube has the researchers' demo.

Read the story. Or just watch the video. If you give a damn (or even some small portion of a damn, howevermuch that works out to be) about how this nation is run, on behalf of yourself or your children or whomever, both should set off deeply distressing alarm bells for you.

Now then, if you haven't gone and changed your voting preference to receive an absentee ballot, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

WA-04 ripe for the picking

As soon as voters hear the message, Richard Wright will win in the 4th, according to a poll released today by Wright's campaign.

The Evans/McDonough Company surveyed likely voters in Washington's 4th District August 15-17 and found a startling shallowness of support for Tom DeLay lapdog Doc Hastings.

Anna Fahey, Wright's campaign manager, told me:
The amazing thing is that we've heard that this poll shows Hastings weaker than any of the other incumbents in the state -- at least in preliminary polling.

We're not sure how Darcy's new numbers measure up.

Hastings came back with his own poll numbers that show him in the lead, but we know that with 17% undecided and only 22% definitely voting for him the race is truly wide open at this late stage.

The fact is, when people hear our message and compare the candidates, Richard comes out on top.
Evan's/McDonough's findings:
  • Only one in five voters (22%) say they will "definitely vote to reelect Hastings." Another quarter (28%) say they will "probably vote to reelect Hastings." Hastings' combined reelect of 50% is extremely weak for a six-term incumbent and suggests that he is genuinely vulnerable.
  • Voters in this district are not happy about the direction of the country (59% wrong track) and are unusually pessimistic about the direction of their local area (40% wrong track). These are surprisingly negative numbers in a traditionally Republican district and suggest that voters in this district are looking for change.
  • Despite the fact that challenger Richard Wright is not well known at this point, Wright is within single digits of Hastings after voters hear a positive description of each candidate, and Wright pulls ahead of Hastings after the comparatives. After hearing additional information about Wright's positions as a conservative Democrat, Wright opens up a 10-point lead on Hastings.
  • Although Hastings is well-liked, his personal popularity does not translate into votes. Hastings has several issue positions and votes that are unpopular and out of step with the district. This, combined with the district's overall negative mood, keeps Hastings from being able to convert his personal popularity into vote support.
  • Richard Wright's resume as a conservative Democrat fits the 4th District well and appeals to Democrats, Independents and even Republicans. Once voters learn more about Wright, he pulls ahead of Hastings in a district where self-identified Republicans outnumber Democrats by 12 points, and where Hastings has a name ID advantage over Wright.
  • This survey shows that as Wright becomes better known in the district, Hastings' vote advantage will evaporate. There is a 38-point net shift in the survey towards Wright from the first vote to the final vote, suggesting that there are a significant number of persuadable voters in this district who are ready for change and looking for an alternative. Particularly noteworthy is Wright's lead among Independents after they hear comparatives among the candidates: 47% to 25%.
  • Finally, the shift to support for Wright over Hastings after voters hear the comparatives occurs among all 4th District citizens regardless of how often they have voted in recent elections, party affiliation, where they live in the District, and whether they are over or under the age of 50.

Methodology

This memo is based on the results of a telephone survey of likely 2006 general election voters in Washington's 4th Congressional District. A total of 410 interviews were conducted August 15-17, 2006. The overall margin of error for these results is + 4.9 points at the 95% confidence interval.

Huge victory in Montana over Howard Rich

Great news from the Treasure State today:
A state District Judge in Great Falls Wednesday ruled that three statewide initiatives set to appear on November’s election ballot are invalid.

Thousands of signatures collected for Constitutional Initiative 97, Constitutional Initiative 98 and Initiative 154 by out-of-state signature gatherers [were] deemed invalid, according to Judge Dirk Sandefur’s decision.

Although the decision will likely be appealed, Wednesday’s decision disqualifies the three initiatives from appearing on November’s ballot.

The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by initiative opponents who claimed the integrity of the initiative process was tainted by paid out-of-state signature gatherers.
4&20 blackbirds has more, as does Left in the West. Now, if only we could get that kind of accountability here in Washington State...

A few reminders....

A few things we'd like to mention briefly:
  • If you vote by mail, you've probably already received your absentee ballot for next week's primary election. Of critical importance in the primary are the judicial races, especially the three contests for Supreme Court. We released our endorsements in statewide and regional judicial races early this week, all conveniently available on one web page. This is a good place to refer fellow voters who don't know which candidates to vote for
  • Does free email, chat, and calendar (with generous storage limits) sound good to you? Read more and or sign up for NWroots, a new communications service for progressive activists.
  • If you haven't heard our podcast interview from earlier this month with Paul Blank of WakeUp WalMart, why not listen or download it now? You can also subscribe to our podcast here, or click the button to do so in Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute
There are only eight weeks left until the general election.

Will Bush push the official collapse of Iraq past election day?

Joe Biden, me, senior Iraqi leaders, Les Gelb, and unnamed experts have one thought in common: partition of Iraq is inevitable, and better to do it soon, in an organized way, than wait for the bloodbath to run its course.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush is reading from Al Qaeda travel brochures while standing in front of a map of Iraq, telling the same lie over and over (and admittedly getting a few more adherents after each speech).

Democracy in Iraq is no longer leading the speech, because democracy has failed, and whatever happens after the Congressional elections, the next Bush mistake won't be the democracy promised eight short months ago.

How long can Bush and Rove distract the electorate from the sickening civil war of death squads or from the Iraq "reconstructed" for the benefit of his and Cheney's corporate buddies? Will it be long enough to get past the election, when "non-democratic" US action is the plan?

We posted here, let's see, in July, June, May,(on the roll-out of the Biden/Gelb plan) and March on the logic and desirability of partitioning the country and allowing the Iraqis to rebuild.

In August, Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, repeated in compelling terms a plan for order and stability that involves partition, a plan developed with Les Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations. ("A Plan to Hold Iraq Together," Washington Post, August 24,2006)

Specifically, (quote)

  • First, the plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions. The central government would be left in charge of common interests, such as border security and the distribution of oil revenue
  • Second, it would bind the Sunnis to the deal by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue. Each group would have an incentive to maximize oil production, making oil the glue that binds the country together.
  • Third, the plan would create a massive jobs program while increasing reconstruction aid -- especially from the oil-rich Gulf states -- but tying it to the protection of minority rights.
  • Fourth, it would convene an international conference that would produce a regional nonaggression pact and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments
  • Fifth, it would begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, while maintaining a small follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of terrorists.
(end quote)

The whole Biden piece is worth reading. Finally a way out. A hard way, no doubt, but better hard reality than simplistic fantasy.

Unmarked in this space, but the subject of a floor speech by redoubtable Jim McDermott in the House, was the July revelation in Britain's Independent, that high Iraqi officials admitted "A sectarian break-up of Iraq is now inevitable."

"Iraq as a political project is finished," a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: "The parties have moved to plan B." He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. "There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west," he said.
...
"The government is all in the Green Zone like the previous one and they have left the streets to the terrorists," said Mahmoud Othman, a veteran Iraqi politician. He said the situation would be made worse by the war in Lebanon because it would intensify the struggle between Iran and the US being staged in Iraq. The Iraqi crisis would now receive much reduced international attention.
We have created an environment of weak government, a failing state, with convenient US soldiers as targets. Just the sort of vacation spot terrorists might enjoy.

It's time to get the security and reconstruction on the road, by admitting the inevitable and enabling the natural domestic leadership to take responsibility and giving the indigenous population, over 60 percent of whom are unemployed, a job rebuilding their country.

Or wait until the day after the election to see what Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney have in mind.

P.S.: In recent days the "federalism" (read partition) idea has gained currency among the Shiites. It is already a fact for the Kurds, who have their soldiers guarding the border. Below is a possible map. See the Independent for a discussion of the current federalism plan.



Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Chafee beats Laffey

An interesting end to the GOP primary fight in Rhode Island:
In a key victory for the national Republican Party, incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee on Tuesday fended off a fierce primary challenge from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey.

With nearly three-quarters of the state's precincts reporting, Chafee, a maverick Republican who had often been at odds with party leaders, won 55 percent of his party's primary votes. Laffey earned 45 percent of the GOP vote.

The measure of victory was unexpected. Days before the primary, polls showed the two candidates running even.
Chafee doesn't get a breather. He now has to face Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in what will be a hard fought campaign.

Put a fork in it, it's done

We already knew Tim Eyman's Initiative 917 was history last week, but here's the final confirmation - the last nail in the coffin:
Sponsors of I-917 submitted a total of 266,034 petition signatures to the Secretary of State. Election officials conducted a full check of all the initiative's signatures, of which 219,175 signatures were valid, and 46,859 were determined invalid. Signatures are invalid if the signer is not a registered voter or if he or she signed more than once.

Initiatives need a minimum of 224,880 valid voter signatures to qualify for a spot on the ballot.
Getting on the ballot with a wealthy sugar daddy should have been a cakewalk for Eyman, but he couldn't manage to do it. We will continue to work hard to ensure that his initiative factory stays dark and out of business.

UPDATE: Eyman has sent out a snail mail letter to his supporters in which he repeats his claim that he had enough signatures. A few excerpts:
Right after the Secretary of State alerted us there was a discrepancy with Initiative 917's signature count (we turned in 300K but they told us 6 days later it was 265K) we should have provided our supporters with more details about what happened. We kept hoping that I-917 would qualify anyway and that we could instead focus on the fall campaign.

[...]

By the Friday, we submitted the last of them [petitions] bringing our total to 300,353 signatures. Based on our nine years of experience doing initiatives, we thought that was it.

But just before 5 PM on Thursday, July 13th, six days after the deadline, we got a faxed letter from the Secretary of State saying the count was 265,809. I called Tina Clarke [who works for Sam Reed] immediately & she quietly listened to me for about 10 minutes as I sputtered half sentences - "How could ..." "But we show ..." - "Now what do we..." - "I just can't believe..."

We held out hope that they would discover their mistake. We wrote a letter asking for a recount. After it, the total changed to 266,006.

Jack, Mike, and I were flummoxed. We never thought something like this could happen. We didn't know what to say or what to do. Days later, we lashed out at the Secretary of State. Then, some of our supporters pointed out that attacking the government agency that was verifying I-917’s signatures was probably not a smart move. So for the past several weeks, we’ve waited for the process to unfold, hoping things would work out. Sadly, they didn’t – the Secretary of State will be announcing soon that I-917 will not be on the ballot.

[…]

Although no final decision has been made yet, based on lots of feedback from supporters and our own evaluation and analysis, we will likely sponsor an initiative in 2007 that reduces & controls property taxes. Good choice? We would welcome your feedback.
In his letter, Eyman also included a copy of his “weekly signature reports” which purportedly show that Eyman and his cohorts had the number of signatures they’d claimed to have turned in.

The “weekly signature reports” along with “other internal emails and documents” were, according to Eyman, subpoenaed by Preston Gates & Ellis, the law firm representing a coalition of organizations that filed suit last month to invalidate petitions which had not been signed by the signature gatherer who circulated them.

At first glance I didn’t think much of the email Eyman that reproduced. For all I know the figures are just made up, invented. But after taking another look I made a couple of important discoveries.

The week by week report (which is really just an email) is separated into two parts – one for how many signatures are collected by paid petitioners, the other for how many are collected by volunteers.

According to the report, as of June 6th, 2006, (“Week 18”) 200,694 signatures had been collected by paid petitioners, while 63,032 had been collected by volunteers.

What’s funny is that June 6th, 2006, is the same day that Eyman paraded before reporters in a Darth Vader costume, telling them he’d be back the next day to turn in signatures for Referendum 65. However, Eyman also used the stunt as an opportunity to talk about the progress of I-917 (and this is absolutely a direct quote – his own statement – his own words):
As far as "Save Our $30 Tabs" Initiative 917 is concerned, in the past 4 months, our thousands of supporters have successfully gathered 142,613 signatures. We need an additional 140,000 signatures in the next 4 weeks. Reaching the halfway point in signatures is a huge milestone but it's clear that we've got our work cut out for us. We need one last big blitz of signatures from our supporters before July 7th to qualify for the ballot.
This, of course, only proves one thing: Tim Eyman is a liar. He has contradicted himself with his own numbers.

He told the press on June 6th, 2006, that his supporters had collected 142,613 signatures – that they were at the “halfway point”. But his internal report says on that date the campaign had 263,726 signatures.

The email Eyman included in the letter with the weekly tallies also shows that very few signatures were collected in the weeks after June 6th, 2006 by paid petitioners. This is actually consistent with the reports we received at the time from our right wing signature gathering monitoring system.

Indeed, for the weeks that we received no reported sightings of I-917 petitions being circulated, there are blanks on Eyman’s report – meaning that zero signatures were collected by paid petitioners for those weeks.

So what actually happened?

Since that information corroborates we can safely conclude that by the beginning of June, Eyman was, (or thought he was) almost done with his signature drive. He explicitly lied to the press corps on June 6th, 2006, when he said he had 142,613. In reality, he probably had far more.

How many? That we don’t know. We can’t trust Eyman’s numbers because Eyman is a liar. For all we know these numbers have just been completely made up. As I wrote above, the only thing we know for certain is that Eyman lied because he has given out contradictory figures.

My suspicion is that Eyman thought he had I-917 in the bag. What other explanation is there for why Eyman didn’t have paid petitioners out in full force collecting for I-917 in June? He had a sugar daddy willing to write checks to fill his coffers with all the money he needed.

The most plausible explanation of what happened is that somebody in Eyman’s operation made a mistake. It wasn’t necessarily Tim himself – it could have been one of his cohorts. The number of signatures the campaign actually had was miscalculated. And by the time the mistake was discovered, the July deadline had arrived and there was nothing that could be done about it.

Eyman apparently decided to wing it, hoping I-917 just might have enough signatures to qualify.

So he turned in what he had. And on the last day to turn in petitions, he attempted to create proof that he had in fact submitted 300,353 signatures by writing the number down on a piece of paper and then getting the Secretary of State’s receptionist to stamp it.

Eyman then pretended to be shocked when he the Secretary of State’s office announced he’d only turned in around 266,000 signatures. He disputed the Secretary of State’s announcement and tried to fool everyone into believing that he had proof by claiming he had a valid receipt. However, this charade fell apart quickly once it was revealed the document was entirely meaningless.

This is all conjecture, of course. Speculation. But it makes sense. Eyman has never offered a sensible explanation. He has refused to accept any responsibility or blame. The only scenario he’s offered for the discrepancy between what he claims to have submitted and what the state actually got is that petitions were “pilfered” – either by somebody in Sam Reed’s office or somebody else.

And that, of course, is laughable.

Initiative 917 failed because of the incompetence of its sponsors.

All they have to back up their claims is rhetoric, spin, and accusations. They’re not a professional, veteran operation. They’re a bunch of sloppy amateurs.

Eyman has admitted that they did not photocopy the petitions, didn't count the number of petitions turned in, and didn't keep records of how much each box of petitions weighed.

They didn’t keep good records because they’re lazy and careless. They’re not so concerned with qualifying ballot measures as they are with making money. So long as Eyman & Co, can keep lining their pockets, everything is good.

They owe it to their supporters to come clean about everything that happened, but they won’t.

As for next year, Eyman’s s multimillionaire backer appears ready to supply the money needed to run a campaign to slash property taxes. That’s not a surprise, of course. We fought this battle back in 2004 against I-864 and won. There’s no reason we can’t win again in 2007.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Olbermann on fire again

Another incredible commentary (video here):
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bipartisanship, and then showed that to them, "bipartisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

[...]

The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?
Amen. Finally, someone is saying what has needed to be said, for so long, and so badly. I'll repeat what I have said before: Keith Olbermann surely is the Edward R. Murrow of our time.

Schweitzer's visit "spectacularly good"

One of our longtime readers, bluesky, posted a glowing report in our comment thread about last weekend's benefit in Wenatchee for congressional candidates Peter Goldmark and Richard Wright. It's such a good writeup that I'm reposting it below for the benefit of all our other readers.
It was GREAT fun! The room was packed. There were more people wanting to go than there were dinners, so a few gave up their meals so that more could attend.

I've never seen that many Democrats in one place in this area (more than 450), and what a great feeling in that room. Excitement. Buzz. Righteous anger and optimism. Laughter.

Peter Goldmark spoke for about three minutes, but that was enough to see his mojo working. This guy is going to win. Richard Wright was more fired up than I've EVER seen him. And didn't have his 3 x 5 note cards!

I honestly didn't think he had that gumption, but I guess Goldmark and Schweitzer are contagious. I actually thought, maybe he could whip Dick Doc Hastings...

Speaking of Schweitzer...that guy is spectacularly good. Truly. He had the attention of everyone for more than an hour. Told funny and pointed stories. Told about how he won the governor's office. The first time he had ever been in it was the day he took over, and he threw away the key to the door.

"This office is open to everyone," he stated. And some of what he has done in the short time he has been there...progressive and populist actions. Immediately put money into education, at all levels. Anyone in Montana who wants to go to college can. Put a one dollar tax on each pack of cigarettes, which goes to health care for children.

The history of the first Montanans is now taught from first through the 12th grades throughout the state, so that the new Montanans will know some of the 10,000 years of cultural history. He has so many ideas of how to run the government for the people and for the nation... Oh SWOON!

Since the Republicans can't get to him on his record (because most people in Montana agree with what he has been doing) they try to nail him for wearing jeans and boots to work and bring his dog to his office every day.

His dog, (a border collie, I think he said), can spot a lobbyist from 40 feet, and growls at them before he takes his place under the desk. Schweitzer does not take PAC money. He went out and earned all his donations from the people of Montana. And that's how they met him and he met them.

AND, he is having a good time! I want to move to Montana...no, we need to find more people like him to spread around the country.

And then he auctioned off his silver bolo, proceeds to go to Wright. On top of everything else, he is a gifted auctioneer, and hilarious. He got $2,000 out of that crowd!

He is a treasure in the Treasure State. I hope someone taped his talk tonight. Someday soon, I have a feeling everyone will hear him speak.
Indeed. I met Governor Schweitzer in person when he came to Seattle a year ago for the Progressive States Network kickoff, and I thought to myself, I don't know if I've ever seen a Democratic leader who is so authentic, approachable, and friendly.

We're fortunate that our three congressional challengers (Burner, Goldmark, and Wright) share those traits. They will all make excellent representatives...we just need to get them elected.

Yes, but are we safer?

While Andrew's 9/11 tribute was lovely, there is a larger point that isn't addressed by the vast majority of the many, many such tributes I've read today. Don't get me wrong; five years is a milestone, and I've done my own share of remembering and introspection about those people who we in so very much the wrong place at the wrong time. Such tributes are fitting and altogether proper.

But my own remembering and introspecting has also considered life five years ago, and life now. Certainly, many things have changed for me personally. My wife and I are no longer newlyweds. We have a son now, whose future occupies much of our thoughts, and another child coming soon who we are eager to know and love. It is largely on their behalf that my own 9/11 thoughts have turned inexorably to the question "Yes, but are we safer?"

9/11 showed that there are significant chinks in the American national defense. Five years is a considerable amount of time in which to address many of them. So, I must ask, are we safer?

Arguably, no.

Some post 9/11 changes to our immigration and customs procedures will make it harder for terrorists to enter the country. Impossible? Hardly. It's still far too easy for a terrorist to enter the U.S. by land--on foot, if necessary--from Mexico or Canada. Or by private ship to any of dozens and dozens of seaports. But not impossible, and, I would argue, the "cure" involved in making such entries impossible would be far worse than the disease.

Airline security has made planes harder to hijack, but is it impossible to bring down another large building? Hardly. Truck bombs. Aerosol fuels injected into a building's air system. Take five minutes and think of ten more ways that would be entirely feasible to a foolish fundamentalist fanatic (to borrow Zbigniew Brzezinski's entirely apt appelation) willing to sacrifice their own life to their cause.

For five years, port security has lapsed. Airline security has become only marginally better, at the expense of tremendous inconvenience to Americans of all stripes. Meanwhile, the Iraq occupation has done nothing but recruit new terrorists hand over foot. As time has passed they have more reasons (increasingly legitimate reasons, I might add. Really. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if you wouldn't be mad as hell at America) to hate our country.

Then we have the Patriot Act, illegal NSA wiretapping, secret CIA prisons, our own Guantanamo Gulag, and FBI crackdowns on constitutionally protected political speech (look what happens to protesters who aren't happy with Bush).

We have increased danger from without. We have new dangers from within.

Are we safer? Hell no.

And I know exactly at whose collective feet the blame lies. It's the same fellow who has turned lies into the lingua franca of politics, and who has worked so tirelessly today, visiting all three attack sites, to make political hay out of the five year anniversary of some 3000 deaths.

Oh, and hey Steve, who commented on a post from last Friday: I toldja so.

American threatens ABC with lawsuit

American Airlines (not a random American citizen) is threatening to sue ABC over its shoddy "Path to 9/11" mockumentary:
I think it is important for you to know that ABC had factual errors in its dramatization, and we are looking at possible legal actions as a result. According to the 9-11 Commission report, it was not American Airlines, nor was it even the right airport that was depicted. In reality, it was another airline, flying out of Maine.

Please know this was a tragic incident in our company's history and we hope you will be sympathetic to our employees and our airline on this day especially. Again, we are outraged by this situation, and we alerted ABC about its gross error. It is very unfortunate.

Roger Frizzell
Vice President, Corporate Communications & Advertising
American Airlines
Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation has sent another letter to the House of Mouse expressing its anger:
September 10, 2006

Dear Mr. Iger,

We are deeply disappointed that ABC and the Disney Corporation chose to air "The Path to 9/11." The final product was fraught with error and contained contrived scenes that are directly contradicted by the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report. The film has undoubtedly cemented in millions of viewers' minds a false impression of critical historical events.

While there is not enough room here to fully document the fiction in your film, attached to this letter is a detailed fact sheet listing the numerous inaccuracies in the film according to the 9/11 Commission.

Nine days ago, we wrote to you asking simply that the miniseries tell the truth, as researched extensively and definitively by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. We asked that your network not present outright fiction as historical fact to the American public. In fact, we took pains to detail sequences in the movie that were plainly invented, based upon the version of the film that was shown to television critics and distributed to many conservative commentators. During our two recent conversations, you assured us that you were personally taking the responsibility to ensure that appropriate edits to the film would be made. Publicly, ABC said that the editing process was ongoing and that it was irresponsible" to condemn the film before seeing the finished product.

Having now seen the first night of this fiction, it is clear that the edits made to the film did not address the factual errors that we brought to your attention. "The Path to 9/11" flagrantly ignored the facts as reported by the 9/11 Commission and invented its own version of history. The result, in our judgment, is irreparable damage to the Commission's work. More importantly, it is a disservice to the American people.

That the film directly contradicts the findings of the 9/11 Commission is troubling. That it defames dedicated public officials is tragic. But the fact that it misleads millions of people about the most tragic and consequential event in recent history is disgraceful.

Sincerely,

Bruce R. Lindsey
Chief Executive Officer
William J. Clinton Foundation

Douglas J. Band
Counselor to President Clinton
Office of William Jefferson Clinton
Amusingly, though, "Path to 9/11" didn't get good ratings last night, despite the publicity and controversy. It trailed NBC's "Sunday Night Football" and only managed to tie CBS' rerun of a previously released documentary.

A day to remember


Two thousand one, nine eleven
(Several) thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.
A bearded man with stovepipe hat
Steps forward saying, "Let's sit, let's chat."

They settle down in seats of clouds,
A man named Martin shouts out proud,
"I have a dream!" and once he did
The Newcomer said, "Your dream still lives."

Groups of soldiers in blue and gray
Others in khaki, and green then say
"We're from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine"
The Newcomer said, "You died not in vain."

From a man on sticks one could hear
"The only thing we have to fear.
The Newcomer said, "We know the rest,
trust us sir, we've passed that test."

"Courage doesn't hide in caves
You can't bury freedom, in a grave,"
The Newcomers had heard this voice before
A distinct Yankees twang from Hyannisport shores.

A silence fell within the mist
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say
What was in the hearts of the five thousand plus that day.

"Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports
Worked our gardens, sang our songs
Went to church and clipped coupons
We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought
Unlike you, great we're not"

The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, "Don't talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see
You died for freedom, just like me"

Then, before them all appeared a scene
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams
Death, destruction, smoke and dust
And people working just 'cause they must

Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone
"Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman
Side by side helping their fellow man!"
So said Martin, as he watched the scene
"Even from nightmares, can be born a dream."

Down below three firemen raised
The colors high into ashen haze
The soldiers above had seen it before
On Iwo Jima back in '44

The man on sticks studied everything closely
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly
"I see pain, I see 20 tears,
I see sorrow - but I don't see fear."

"You left behind husbands and wives
Daughters and sons and so many lives
are suffering now because of this wrong
But look very closely. You're not really gone.

All of those people, even those who've never met you
All of their lives, they'll never forget you
Don't you see what has happened?
Don't you see what you've done?
You've brought them together as one.”

With that the man in the stovepipe hat said
"Take my hand," and from there he led
(several) thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven
On this day, two thousand one, nine eleven.

- Anonymous, dedicated to the victims of September 11th

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Columbian editorial on Eyman off the mark

The (Vancouver) Columbian offered a half-right, half-wrong analysis of Tim Eyman's recent failures in a bemusing editorial this morning, curiously titled: In Our View - Eyman in a Slump.

Well, at least they've figured that out!

Though the Columbian's editorial writer mentioned that Eyman is 0-2 for the year, he or she didn't make it clear that Eyman has actually been "in a slump" since 2002. (If you check out our failure chart you can easily see that Eyman and his operation have been on the rocks for a while).

But the worst part of the editorial, by far, was this sentence:
As the initiative kingpin nurses his wounds and looks for solutions to his slump, he should reflect on the basic purpose of initiatives.
First of all, Eyman is not a "kingpin". Random House defines "kingpin" as a person of great importance. In other words, someone who's relevant.

Eyman is actually not relevant and hasn't been for years. He appears to be relevant because media outlets like The Columbian continue to call him a "kingpin" and treat him with a fairness and respect that he doesn't deserve.

The writer's choice of words is also ironic. The writer used language that inflates Eyman's image in an opinion where he or she comments on his failures.

Secondly, the next part of the sentence reveals the author of this piece feels a great deal of sympathy for poor, poor Tim Eyman. "Nurses his wounds"? "Looks for solutions to his slump?"

Those of us Washingtonians who value our quality of life and believe in strong, livable communites don't want Tim Eyman to be successful. We don't want him to find "solutions to his to slump".

And actually, Eyman has indicated that he doesn't worry about being successful. In other words, he doesn't really care about his ballot measures. What he cares about the most is money (and media attention). He's still getting both.

Only someone who is out to line his pockets would ask his supporters to reward him with money in an email announcing a a major failure:
The Secretary of State will be reporting soon that the I-917 campaign turned in about 220,000 valid signatures, a few thousand short of qualifying. That's really close and the lesson we've learned is to work even harder from now on. This experience has also inspired us to rededicate ourselves to provide the voters with a greater voice in the political process.

[...]

If you appreciate our past, current, and future efforts, then please donate generously to "Help Us Help Taxpayers." You can fill out the form below and send us a donation of $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 or more (there are no limits on the amount that can be given) to our offices in Spokane. Or, you can go to our website and contribute by VISA or MasterCard. Either way, please send in your most generous donation RIGHT NOW.

We would be extremely grateful for any financial assistance you can offer. Thank you for your consideration.
(Emphasis mine). Eyman doesn't need to "reflect on the basic purpose of initiatives".

Initiatives are merely the means for bringing Eyman fortune and fame, which is what he's really after. Personal profit is more important to him than ideology.

The author of this editorial either doesn't understand Eyman - or does, but is just being deceptively nice.

Another problem with this editorial is the author's assertion that last year's Initiative 900 "was needed because the Legislature had refused to act on the matter." That's actually not true.

The state Legislature had already passed HB 1064, (giving the state auditor the authority to hire independent contractors to do annual performance audits of state agencies) before Eyman turned in a single signature for Initiative 900.

Bills similiar to HB 1064 had passed the state House in previous sessions, but got held up in the State Senate, which was controlled (at the time) by Republicans, including State Senator Dino Rossi.

The legislation made it through thanks to a change of leadership in the State Senate after the 2004 elections.

The rest of the editorial is okay - standard, if somewhat bland, fare. What you'd expect from the political establishment and the traditional media.

Those of you who are reading the Official Blog from Clark County and Southwest Washington would be better off getting your political commentary in print from alternative media like the Vanguard.

NPI launches 2006 Elections Center, releases endorsements in judicial races

Today, the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce the debut of our 2006 Elections Center - which provides the latest news and analysis on local, state, and federal races across the Pacific Northwest.

The Elections Center has dual blog feeds for Washington and Oregon bringing you the latest election-related news from Pacific Northwest Portal syndicate members. It also has links to Washington Defense and Permanent Defense.

Key information, such as election dates, how to register to vote, candidate filings, and other resources can also be found there.

An important page accessible from the Elections Center is our 2006 Supported Candidates Overview page. This page highlights key candidates we support in this election cycle and includes a picture of the candidate, the office they're running for, and contribute/volunteer links.

Additionally, the Elections Center is the place to go to find our endorsements for key races. And with the launch of today's Elections Center, we are also pleased to announce our endorsements in Evergreen State judicial races for the September 19th primary.

NONPARTISAN BALLOT
State Supreme Court
  • Position 2: Susan Owens
  • Position 8: Justice Gerry Alexander
  • Position 9: Justice Tom Chambers
Court of Appeals
  • Division I, District #3, Position #1: Judge Mary Kay Becker
  • Division II, District #2, Position #3: Judge Christine Quinn-Brintall
  • Court of Appeals Div. II, Dist. #3, Pos. #1: Judge Joel Penoyar
On our page for judicial races, you'll find our statements concerning each endorsement, links to the endorsed candidates' websites, and a listing of other notable endorsements the candidate has received. We will repost this list on Primary Election Day and remind you that it's accessible from the Elections Center.

We will next be releasing our endorsements in Democratic legislative contests.

Preparing for a potential pandemic

Ron Sims and Dorothy Teeter have written a simple, broad, informative and easy to read overview of the potential for pandemic influenza.

It arrived in my mail late last week with illustrations and everything as the latest edition of the King County newsletter "Health Matters." Just the thing for someone who is easily confused, particularly about unfamiliar and alarming sounding events, like me.

The link is here. Health Matters. Print it out. Have your kids read it to you. Below is information on how to get hard copies, for yourself or your group. Better than anything else I have seen, it lets you know how to prepare and why and what to expect, from macro to micro.

Highlights:
  • Everybody will be sick or will be taking care of sick people
  • Avian flu is not pandemic flu
  • The single best thing you can do to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands
  • Health services will be rationed, health care givers will be sick, too, so be prepared to take care of sick people at home
  • Be ready to stay home yourself
The King County web site is good, too.

Also from the World Health Organization "Ten Things to Know."

Eliminating the fear factor as this sort of information and straight talk can do is a good start in successfully dealing with this event.
Re Health Matters Pandemic issue, If you want one hard copy for yourself or fifty for your group, contact
Meredith Li-Vollmer
Risk Communication Specialist
Public Health - Seattle & King County
999 3rd Avenue, Suite 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 296-4313

Saturday, September 09, 2006

7:00 Tonight in Wenatchee

The keynote speaker for a benefit for Richard Wright and Peter Goldmark that is being billed as the "largest ever Democratic event in Central Washington" will be popular Montana governor Brian Schweitzer.

Goldmark, the Democratic candidate from the 5th Congressional District, will fly his single engine plane to Helena and return to Wenatchee for the Chelan-Douglas County Democrats’ annual Jefferson Jackson dinner.

The fundraiser at the Wenatchee Convention Center starts at 7:00 PM, after a private reception, and runs to 10:00. It could be a galvanizing event for a new breed of straight-talking, high quality Democrats running for office in the Red Zone.

Schweitzer has a 70% job approval rating in a state with a majority of registered Republicans. The Montana legislature is now controlled by Democrats and the Democratic US Senate candidate, Jon Tester -- another Montana farmer -- is likely to beat the long-term Republican incumbent, Sen. Conrad Burns.

The burly, funny Montana rancher reportedly volunteered for the keynote address when he found out Wright was running against long-time Tom DeLay lapdog and House "Ethics" Committee Chairman Doc Hastings.

Tickets sold have topped 430, but there may still be room at the Wenatchee Convention Center.

There is a lot of buzz about Schweitzer. Newsweek's Howard Fineman and others have written about his political acumen and his never-talk-down-to-the-people populist charm. He is a champion of the environment, alternative energy and clean coal technology.

Schweitzer aims to make Montana a "lobbyist-free zone" and worked with Montana's libertarians to significantly curtail the Patriot Act there.

High Plains Democrats like Schweitzer, Goldmark and Wright have a real chance to connnect the blue across the top of the country, from Washington through Montana and into the Dakotas and Minnesota.

These guys are not going to touch the Second Amendment, but they are up to their eyeballs in integrity, intelligence and competence.

It should be fun.

Recovery? Who? Where?

The economic recovery and the onset of good times reported on the financial pages have passed much of America by in the night. Median income for those under 65 fell, the poverty rate rose, and more people by number and percent are without health insurance today than at the beginning of this "recovery" in 2001. These are the findings of a white paper released Friday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
  • Median income for those under 65 fell again in 2005 and is now $2,000 lower in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars than in 2001. That's a 3.7 percent cut.

  • The poverty rate is higher today (12.6 percent) than in 2001 (11.7 percent).

  • Health Insurance coverage is lower. The number and percentage of people without health insurance was much higher at the start of 2006 than in 2001.
These findings corroborate the feelings of a good majority of Americans. The economy they see is not doing as well as the economy the Bush machine describes in its well-orchestrated media pushes. Even the official unemployment rate is suspect, as we posted (see unemployment with a stable participation rate post).

So who is recovering?

A second CBPP white paper released Thursday has a positive ID on that.
  • In the first half of 2006 the piece of the pie going to corporate profits was bigger than at any time since 1950, having grown under Bush at twice the average rate of other recoveries.

  • The share going to wages and salaries was at its lowest level on record (77 years).

  • Hourly private nonsupervisory wage earners (four out of five of us) made less now than when the "recovery" began in 2001 in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. This came in spite of productivity numbers growing faster than in all but one of the previous recoveries. This blows up the official line that productivity gets translated directly into wage gains.
This is not really a recovery. It is an accounting gimmick, as we borrow growth from the future via massive federal deficits (see the "Net GDP" post ) and enormous and growing private debt (see borrowing chart post).

The economy is not stronger, but much weaker.

Prediction Tuesday says any more of this kind of "recovery" and we'll all be dead. For our scare story on what happens if we borrow too much see scare story post. And for our early warning about when a recovery is not a recovery, see "A Jobless Recovery is not a Recovery," Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Can't stand 2 more years of Bush? Vote (D) in November

There's no big secret that if control of the House of Representatives flips over to the Democrats after November, that we'll probably see impeachment hearings for Bush and Co. At the very least, investigations.

They definitely deserve it, and there are certainly plenty of entirely Constitution-based misdeeds in their resume on which to impeach both Bush and Cheney.

Of course, impeachment, as we learned a few years ago, means little without a subsequent conviction by the Senate.

Something happened today, during the Friday "news dump", that makes the chances of conviction a bit more likely (though it's worth remembering no U.S. President has ever been convicted and removed from office).

What happened was that the Senate Intelligence Committee has completed its report on the pre-war Iraq intelligence.

Tthe results are said to be a damning indictment of Bush and Cheney for their relentless push to war contrary to all available intelligence. DailyKos has the story, and here are links to the reports (PDF):

Pre-War Intelligence Accuracy
Role of the Iraq National Congress

The links imply that there's a third report, but as of this writing I can't find a link to it. I would encourage everyone to take a look at these two, though, which are powerful enough on their own.

What this means, in my opinion, is that if Bush and Cheney are impeached on account of pre-war intelligence misuse, it will be extremely hard for the Senate not to convict them, because the Senate's own report confirms the charges.

Regardless of who controls the Senate, it's damn hard to just turn around and say "oh, well, I know it was our committee that made these findings, but it's still not enough to convict."

I'd have to look up who's going to be up for re-election in 2008, but there have to be enough Republican senators who would like to keep their seats that, with the addition of Democratic senators and those Republican senators who still have some sense of integrity and true patriotism, a conviction could be achieved.

So if you don't want two more years of Bush/Cheney horror and a Republican rubber stamp Congress, vote (D) in November. Pass it on.

We need this woman in Congress

This is Darcy Burner. You probably know who she is by now. I've been involved with her campaign for Washington's 8th Congressional District seat for almost a year now (as has nearly everyone else at NPI), and I’ve come to know her as a warm, compassionate person.

Darcy BurnerShe’s an intelligent, thoughtful human being who takes the time to learn about the issues in order to have a meaningful, well grounded opinions about them. She understands local issues not just for their local impact, but with the understanding of how they relate to the big picture of America. Darcy is exactly the sort of person I want representing me and my family in Congress.

I was talking a few days ago about this campaign, and the involvement I've had with it, with a co-worker, and he asked me an interesting question.

He's fairly cynical about politics (but really, can you blame him?), and he asked “well, aren’t you helping this person get elected because that will grant you a higher level of access once she’s in office?”

Basically, he was accusing me of influence peddling. My gut reaction was to say “well, no!”, but at that moment I couldn’t really explain to him why it wasn’t. Because the truth is, he’s right—if I help get Darcy elected, then yes, she probably would take my call if I ever felt like calling her up.

And I can see how he’d think that’s what I was after, because right now, I spend a lot of time trying to get Dave Reichert to "take my call," as it were. Doing my duty as a citizen to let him know what I think about the issues.

I have to do this because he tends to vote quite consistently against the best interests of me as an individual, against my family’s, my district’s, my state’s, and my nation’s best interests.

He votes quite consistently for the best interests of large corporations, and of course, his political party. It ticks me off that I have to work so hard to remind him what he ought to be doing with his time in D.C., and it ticks me off that I have so very little to show for my efforts.

If anything, the two years since Dave Reichert was elected have given me a real perspective on what life must be like in non-democratic countries, because the truth is, I’m not represented in Congress. And if you live in the 8th district, neither are you.

Sure, Dave Reichert is nominally our Congressman, but he isn’t representing us. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with his votes; his voting record shows quite clearly that he votes to please his corporate sponsors and party leadership, which means he's representing them, not you.

On the other hand, I know that Darcy really cares about making America better. She’s a person who has the integrity to actually vote her conscience.

Darcy has been kind enough to talk with me several times about all sorts of issues I care about, everything from health care to education to national security and what the heck we do about Iraq.

Her opinions on these issues tell me that she and I are basically in agreement on the direction we'd like America to be going. A direction that is quite divergent from the path we're actually on. What a refreshing change!

For instance: imagine that a bill came before the Congress that would actually do something useful about helping parents with the spiraling costs of sending kids to college.

It doesn’t matter if Darcy would take my call, because the truth is, I wouldn’t have to call her. I already know she’d vote for that in a second, because she wants her son Henry to be able to go to college just as much as I want my kids to.

Or if a bill came up that would drastically reduce the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to restrain and penalize corporate polluters, I already know she’d vote against any such bill.

She understands our obligation to leave a clean and safe planet for Henry and the rest of his generation. After all, they’re going to be here a lot longer than we are.

Or if a resolution were put before the House of Representatives to authorize the President to invade, let's just say, Iran, I already know I would never have to call her about that.

Of course she wouldn’t vote to authorize such a thing. She doesn’t want Henry to grow up in a world dominated by fear, and she doesn’t need me to explain to her that the way to peace is through honesty, compassion and respect for everyone’s culture. She already knows that peace cannot be won through guns, bombs, and indiscriminate killing.

There’s no influence peddling, because in the end, Darcy and I already have the same priorities. Sure, she'd probably take my call, but what would be the point of calling? I couldn't really influence her because she's already at the place I would want her to be anyway.

Katrina SurvivorAmerica is in some serious trouble. If you can’t see that, you need to open your eyes and look around. I see trouble all over the place. Things we need to fix right away. We can only fix this by electing honest people who will actually represent us.

People who genuinely want to make progress towards a better nation and a better world. People who want to take America to a place where everyone can live better, not just the richest 1% of us.

And that, as I went back and explained to my co-worker, is why I support Darcy Burner for Congress. It's why I contribute money to her campaign.

It's why I'll be volunteering full time on the days leading up to election day, and it's why I'll be casting my vote, with pride and a sense of deep gratitude for the privelege of doing so, for Darcy Burner. And if you live in the 8th district, I hope you'll join me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I-917's demise is significant

There's a lot of news and developments to digest this week. But given our organization's longstanding commitment to defeating Tim Eyman, today's announcement that I-917 has too many invalid signatures to qualify deserves more reflection...a proper obituary.

For us, it's a really sweet victory, because it's one less right wing initiative to fight in November, and it makes Eyman 0-2 for 2006.

For Eyman...well, I certainly can't imagine Tim is feeling very good right now. This is his most spectacular failure ever, and certainly not one that we were expecting. How Tim managed to trip himself up so badly remains a mystery because he has insisted that he turned in a fairly sizable cushion of signatures.

But Eyman likely knew back in July that this was going to happen.

He was ready to continue blaming everything on Secretary of State Sam Reed's office (a favorite scapegoat of right wing hacks since the 2004 gubernatorial election) when he got unexpectedly humbled on conservative talk radio.

After his grilling from John Carlson, Eyman changed his stature and seemed much more subdued in subsequent emails and letters to supporters.

We can only guess that what happened is that Eyman (or one of his cohorts) miscalculated the number of signatures they had collected and didn't realize it until a few days before the deadline - when it was too late to do much about it.

Eyman then made the decision to submit what he had, hoping it just might be enough - and used a made up number, likely the figure that was his original target - when he triumphantly declared to the media how many signatures were turned in.

He had the Secretary of State's receptionist stamp a piece of paper he'd written this figure on with the intent of having some additional proof to parade before the press corps later.

Unfortunately for Eyman, nobody bought his blustering and his charade with the receipt collapsed on arrival. Eyman's claims were widely dismissed or laughed at. Even right wing ideologues abandoned him, save for a few, including his sugar daddy, Michael Dunmire, and his pals, the Fagans,

Eyman, known for being cocky and opportunistic, was probably overconfident or distracted (or both) during the last two months of the initiative season. He certainly overreached when he decided to attempt to force a vote to repeal the anti-discrimination legislation passed by the state House and Senate.

Even if Eyman was distracted by R-65, that campaign ended a month before the deadline to turn in I-917. Yet in those final weeks, the only petitions on the streets were for other initiatives, including I-920 and I-933. Eyman had the opportunity to ensure he had a sizable cushion of signatures, but didn't.

Eyman was doomed by his own incompetence. Even if it wasn't his miscalculation, he bears the ultimate responsibility for not double and triple checking the work of his stooges. Eyman's entire operation has been exposed as lazy and careless. He doesn't take safeguards such as photocopying petitions and he doesn't keep good records.

Why not?

Because for Eyman, the ballot measures don't really matter that much. What matters to Eyman is money. So long as Tim is lining his pockets, he's happy. The big question is how long will it be before his multimillion dollar backer, Michael Dunmire, stops writing checks to fill Eyman's coffers.

Money is the only thing that stands between Tim Eyman and obscurity.

It's been said that the worst damage to a politician's reputation or career is always self-inflicted. From repeatedly submitting poorly worded initiatives to taking money and lying about it, Tim Eyman has shown the people of Washington State that he's nothing more than a sloppy, greedy zealot.

He continues to defeat himself.

With Initiative 917 dead, the future of the 2005 Transportation Package appears secure. Revenues appropriated to improve public infrastructure will remain intact. The investments being made in communities statewide will remain undisturbed.

In closing, here's Eyman in his own words - some classic quotes for your enjoyment. All emphasis is mine.
..."It is absolutely critical that you contribute to our compensation fund. And we ask that you donate as much as, if not more than, what you gave during the signature drive."

(September 19th, 2005)

"Same goes for I-912, the gas tax repeal initiative. Put a fork in
it, it's done. It's going to be approved overwhelmingly in November.
Why? Because we've beaten this coalition of opponents (Big Business, Big Labor, politicians, and the press) year after year after year in these same tax battles. Even opponents know it's over."

(September 26th, 2005)

"With I-912, inevitably approved this fall, voters will say NO to Queen Christine's underhanded effort to sneak through a multi-billion tax increase when the voters clearly opposed it. But of the $8.5 billion tax increase imposed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, I-912 only repeals $5.5 billion of it. '$30 Tabs, Round 3' fulfills I-912's mandate by repealing the remaining $3 billion tax increase. It finishes the job that I-912 started. IT'S RIDICULOUS TO MOW JUST HALF YOUR LAWN -- IT'S DUMB TO PAINT JUST HALF YOUR HOUSE. IT'S WRONG FOR US TO START SOMETHING AND NOT FINISH IT....The only way we'll succeed is if you support next year's effort."

(September 26th, 2005)

"Politicians need to look in the mirror and realize that it's their broken promises that have caused this distrust."

(January 3rd, 2006)

"It's early, but Jack, Mike, and I are thrilled with the energy and enthusiasm for SaveOur30Tabs Initiative so far. We're buried in phone calls, emails, and faxes from our supporters asking for more petitions. The feedback we're getting from people who are out getting signatures has been overwhelmingly positive - voters are eager to sign our petitions."

(February 27th, 2006)

"We have weekly reports showing our voter signature counts and we're certain we turned in 300,353 voter signatures. At this point, we will wait to see what the results are from their random sampling, and full count if necessary. Since the required number of voter signatures is 224,880, their recount number is still likely to be enough to qualify I-917 for the ballot."

(July 19th, 2006)

"Again, contrary to Nick Handys claim....Nick Handy was untruthful...Nick Handys claim that the July 7 receipt showed 265,806 signatures is demonstrably false."

(July 23rd, 2006)
Lies, unfulfilled boasts, right wing spin. Or Tim Eyman in a nutshell.

BREAKING: Tim Eyman's Initiative 917 fails to qualify for the 2006 ballot

NPI’s Permanent Defense has received confirmation that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 917 will fail to make the November ballot.

We have been tracking the verification process for weeks - I was even an observer - and now we can finally broadcast far and wide this very good news.

As of today the Secretary of State has found a total of 42,772 invalid signatures. Because 224,880 valid signatures are required and because only 266,006 were turned in, this means the initiative does not have enough to qualify.

The Secretary of State apparently will continue to check the rest of the signatures submitted for verification, but Initiative 917 is officially dead.

UPDATE: Time to give the Failure Chart a new entry.

Eyman's Record Full of Failures

Tell KOMO not to air "Path to 9/11"

Eli Sanders of The Stranger reports that our local ABC affiliate, KOMO TV (owned by Fisher Broadcasting, Inc. which also owns KVI) is planning to air the right wing mockudrama and work of fiction, "Path to 9/11":
I'm told by a programming director at KOMO that they’ve been receiving quite a few angry calls and emails (and some thank-you notes) about the station’s plan to air The Path to 9/11. But as of now, the station has no plans to pull it.
Please call, write, email or fax KOMO and register your disgust and unhappiness with their plans. Here's their contact information, but this is the best place to write to:
programming@komotv4.com
And, if you're someone who likes to watch the local news, let them know you'll be tuning in to KIRO or KING in the future.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leadership is making it clear that Disney and ABC will suffer the consequences if they don't relent:
The Senate Democratic leadership just threatened Disney's broadcast license. Note the use of the word "trustee" at the beginning of the letter and "trust" at the end. This is nothing less than an implicit threat that if Disney tries to meddle in the U.S. elections on behalf of the Republicans, they will pay a very serious price when the Democrats get back in power, or even before.

This raises the stakes incredibly for Disney.
Let it be known: Bob Iger & Co. are on notice.

President Clinton to ABC: Pull this trash

It's just beautiful to see legions of former or retired officials from the Clinton administration stepping forth to harshly condemn ABC's upcoming "mockudrama", the "Path to 9/11" miniseries with a right wing slant.

Those who have denounced or criticized "Path to 9/11" include Cressy, Albright, Berger, and Clarke.

Even an FBI agent who consulted on the "mockudrama" quit halfway through because the producers were just "making things up".

Now President Bill Clinton himself is demanding that ABC not air this trash:
A furious Bill Clinton is warning ABC that its mini-series "The Path to 9/11" grossly misrepresents his pursuit of Osama bin Laden - and he is demanding the network "pull the drama" if changes aren't made.

Clinton pointedly refuted several fictionalized scenes that he claims insinuate he was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal to care about bin Laden and that a top adviser pulled the plug on CIA operatives who were just moments away from bagging the terror master, according to a letter to ABC boss Bob Iger obtained by The Post.

The former president also disputed the portrayal of then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as having tipped off Pakistani officials that a strike was coming, giving bin Laden a chance to flee.

"The content of this drama is factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate and ABC has the duty to fully correct all errors or pull the drama entirely," the four-page letter said.
Talking Points Memo has the entire text of the letter.

Steve Gilliard has a list of people and companies to contact to apply maximum pressure. And ThinkProgress has a center set up where you can tell ABC to tell the truth. The Disney corporation's behavior in response to these criticisms has been completely unacceptable. They have refused to see the light - so now we must make them feel the heat.

UPDATE: Check out the Open Letter to ABC.

UPDATE II: It's paying off - Scholastic has caved:
Educational media giant Scholastic, Inc. announced it's dropping its original classroom companion guides to a controversial new docudrama, and replacing them with materials stressing critical thinking and media literacy.

"After a thorough review of the original guide that we offered online to about 25,000 high school teachers, we determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues," said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic, in a press release.
Excellent. We must continue to amplify our voices and force ABC and its affiliates to drop this right wing garbage. Memo to ABC chieftain Bob Iger: the longer you dig in your heels, the bigger the price your company will pay.

I-937: Take a Lesson from History

All civilizations run on energy. On Easter Island, in centuries past, energy came in the form of trees. Nothing happened on Easter Island without trees: no fires for cooking, no materials for building houses, no canoes for fishing, and no wooden poles for raising the enigmatic giant stone statues which stand to this day with their backs toward the sea.

But as the population of Easter Island grew, its need for trees outstripped the ability of the island to grow them. The civilization of Easter Island collapsed when someone, finally, cut down the last tree [New Scientist; subscription required].

The Easter Islanders were unable to develop new sources of energy, which spelled ruin for their entire culture.

Without trees, they were trapped. No trees meant no civilization, and no means of escape. Some surely escaped, or tried to, in whatever dugout canoes were available. But the vast majority of them were stuck on that island, for what they surely knew was an impending an unpleasant end.

One can only imagine the horror the Easter Islanders must have experienced, when they realized the trees were running out, and there was nothing they could do about it. One can only imagine the misery of being the person who had to chop down that last tree - whatever it was used for - knowing that the needs of the moment demanded it, while at the same time it sealed their fate.

One can only imagine the anguish of the family that burned the last stick of firewood to cook a meal, knowing that the end was near. One can only grieve for the suffering those people endured in the chaos and social collapse that followed.

It doesn't take a Ph.D. historian to appreciate the lesson of Easter Island. We are in a similar situation today. Of course, our civilization doesn't run on trees. It runs on energy. Specifically, fossil fuel energy.

Think about how much of modern American life is absolutely and completely dependent on energy. We don't mine iron ore and make steel without it. We don't plant and harvest crops without it.

We don't transport food to our grocery stores without it. We don't even transport ourselves to the grocery store without it. We don't even - ironically enough - harvest trees without it.

As we approach the day of so-called Peak Oil, we are on the verge of cutting down our own “last tree.” Some say we have already passed that day. Regardless, our incredible reliance on fossil fuels becomes a dire threat to our civilization.

The inevitable end of oil and coal spells the end of our way of life, the end of our televisions, running water, internet service, our vehicles, our paved roads, and yes, our grocery stores.

Thankfully, we are not in the hopeless situation of the Easter Islanders. We have the knowledge and technology to create new, cleaner, healthier, sustainable sources of energy to drive our civilization forward. All we need now is the good sense to do it.

You'd have to be an oil industry executive to argue against the need for sustainable energy. To everyone else, it's obvious that we need it.

This debate started with the energy crisis in the 1970s, and I am ashamed that we have done so little as a society since then to advance renewable energy.

I am ashamed that America has allowed corporate oil interests to dictate our energy policy, during the very decades when America had the most ability to sway the habits of energy production and use for the entire world.

What the hell are we waiting for? The oil will run out. We all know this. It’s not “if”, but “when.” And when the oil stops, if we’re not prepared, we run out of energy. The lights go out, water stops coming out of your tap, everything grinds to a halt.

It’s frightening, to be sure, but it will happen if we don’t take steps now. Burying our heads in the sand does no good. We have to start somewhere. Here in Washington, the Clean Energy Initiative (I-937), does just that - it makes a start.

We've let ourselves get way, way behind on this one. Maybe too far, I don't know. If we had started in earnest 30 years ago, we’d probably have our renewable energy by now. We'd probably be free from our dependence on oil, imported or otherwise.

We almost certainly wouldn't be engaged in a pointless oil war as we are right now. We don’t have another 30 years left to solve this problem.

We have to start now.

Washington's Initiative 937, the Clean Energy Initiative, does exactly this. I encourage you to read the initiative text for yourself.

Unlike typical corporate giveaway legislation with nice sounding names (anybody remember the “Healthy Forests” bill?), I-937 is very well crafted to do exactly what its title suggests: encourage the development of clean, sustainable energies for now and the future. I’m voting for this initiative.

When we look at the alternative, there is no other sane choice. Our present course of action of doing nothing, also known as fiddling while Rome burns, is unthinkably irresponsible towards our children and towards our duty as stewards of the Earth.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mulally's been there, done that

Ford is reeling. It has the oldest fleet on the road. Its F series trucks and Explorers are getting hammered by high gas prices.

Alan Mulally made a big contribution at Boeing by cutting production times on the 787 and shortening product rollout schedules. Can he do the same at Ford?

It doesn't matter. Half a dozen automakers are scrambling for the dwindling American car market. This is no two-man fight as with Airbus and Boeing. GM is conducting a perpetual price war.

Toyota has grabbed the mainstream auto market and is now moving into trucks. (Toyota surpassed Ford in US sales in July for the first time in history.) Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, and more.

U.S. automakers got hosed in the 1980s by not being ready for high gas prices and by the high dollar created by Reagan's big deficits. It happened again. Ford can turn it around twice and still lose half the troops before they take a hill.

By the way, - how long has Alan Mulally been on the job at Ford? It was announced yesterday, but my guess is a minimum three weeks.

I don't have any inside stuff, I just note that August 18th, Ford announced a slash in production that bears the Mulally stamp.

"Full details" of additional actions were to be announced in September. Otherwise the big "decline comment" on particulars. It's September.

Obviously Boeing knew he was leaving Chicago for Detroit. They had his replacements lined up and grinning.

And it makes sense for the new CEO to avoid the Simon Legree label the first day on the job. Imagine what would have happened had Mulally been hired, then announced mass production cuts.

The sourest note on Mulally's trumpet was when he began to wave the flag.
"This is a United States icon, and Boeing is a United States icon, and some people think the United States can't compete in the design of products, and I think we can. We've shown that at Commercial Airplanes, and I think absolutely we've shown that at Ford."
Stop.

The United States may have corporate bosses in the White House and Halls of Congress, but corporations have saved their benefits for a chosen few, not the rest of us.

At Boeing Mulally outsourced, downsized and even sent sensitive technology to Japan -- the wing for God's sake -- to be manufactured there.

The United States lost tens of thousands of jobs under Mulally so he could keep a corporate icon shining. When you think about it, it's a perfect illustration of the corporate subversion of the middle class economy.

And let there be no doubt in anybody's mind that under Mulally, Ford will close U.S. plants and open others elsewhere.

If patriotism is a Ford, expect to see Alan Mulally keep his Lexus.

Tell ABC to tell the truth

While ABC, which proudly touts itself as "America's Broadcasting Company" is providing copies of its fictionalized miniseries "The Path to 9/11", to right wing media hacks, it won't even allow Clinton administration officials the same privilege.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger aren't too happy.

Albright (Think Progress has copies of her and Berger's letters):
While I have requested a copy of the broadcast, I have yet to receive one. I have been informed by some who had been given the right to view the broadcast that the drama depicts scenes that never happened, events that never took place, decisions that were never made and conversations that never occurred; it asserts as fact things that are not fact.

For example, one scene apparently portrays me as refusing to support a missile strike against bin Laden without first alerting the Pakistanis; it further asserts that I notified the Pakistanis of the strike over the objections of our military. Neither of these assertions is true.

In fact, the 9/11 commission reports states (page 117), "Since the missiles headed for Afghanistan had had to cross Pakistan, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was sent to meet with Pakistan's army chief of staff to assure him the missiles were not coming from India. Officials in Washington speculated that one or another Pakistani official might have sent a warning to the Taliban or Bin Ladin."
Please take action and tell ABC to tell the truth about September 11th - instead of airing right wing fiction.

Darcy Burner ahead of Reichert in new poll

A new poll has just been released by RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics for the 8th District. It shows Darcy Burner ahead of Dave Reichert, 49% to 46%. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points. The sample size was 1,051. Here's the methodology:
The Majority Watch polls, a project of RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics, comprise polls conducted using interactive voice recognition (IVR) technology over the telephone. In each of 30 contested U.S. House Congressional districts (CDs), a representative sample of about 1,000 voters were selected from voter lists provided by each state. The interviews were conducted August 27-30, 2006. Results were weighted to represent the likely electorate by demographic factors such as age, sex, race and geographic location in the CD. No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than 3 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all voters in a CD were polled. Each district polled was divided into sub-areas for purpose of analysis.
The poll has a lot of interesting breakdown, more than you'd usually expect. There's a lot of information about the sample itself, include age, gender, race, marital status, income, ecuation, occupation. If you take a look you can see all the results laid out nicely, complete with visuals.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In Brief - September 5th, 2006

Here is today's extended news digest:
  • Keith Olbermann has done it again. In a special comment on President Bush’s speech, MSNBC's Countdown host says Bush will regret following in the footsteps of Donald Rumsfeld in comparing war critics to Nazis. Olbermann is surely the Edward R. Murrow of our time. If you want to show your appreciation, it doesn't hurt to write to viewerservices@msnbc.com.
  • Good news from the 5th District: Peter Goldmark will soon report a total of over $300,000 raised during the last two months. His opponent, Cathy Ann Rodgers (nee McMorris) has just filed her August 30 report with the Federal Elections Commission, showing that she raised only $161,000 during those same months. This is the second time that Peter has significantly outraised his opponent. The Goldmark campaign has now raised some $510,000 since April, while the Republican has managed only $286,000.
  • Representative Louise Slaughter has a special post up on DailyKos asking activists to remind ABC that the netowork has a responsibility to make clear that its deceitful "Path to 9/11" is not a documentary. Another diarist has a post with Richard Clarke's response to a key scene in the fictionalized movie. And yet another writer describes Scholastic's shameful participation in spreading the "Path to 9/11" garbage.
  • Meanwhile, ABC correspondents are reporting that Osama bin Laden, America's most wanted man, will not face capture in Pakistan if he agrees to lead a "peaceful life," - and that's according to Pakistani officials. So much for Dubya's claim that his administration is working with allies "to deny terrorists the enclaves they seek to establish in ungoverned areas across the world."
  • Eli Sanders of The Stranger disclosed that Ed Murray has endorsed Jamie Pedersen in the six way race for the open seat in the 43rd District.
Oh, and one final thing - Mike McGavick appeared on 710 KIRO host Dori Monson's show today for questioning. McGavick said, tellingly, "I enjoy a drink. Drink too much and drive? No. No, I will not." He also admitted that "social drinking is a part of my life", confirming what many observers had quickly suspected after he initially made his half-hearted confession.

Too much, eh? That seems like a pretty loose standard. McGavick says he won't follow a zero tolerance policy about drinking and driving. Another indication he isn't responsible enough to serve the people of Washington State in the U.S. Senate.

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

Prediction Tuesday - Housing Slumps

Across the US, housing statistics are beginning to reflect the sharp slowdown over the past year. Many sectors of the economy are affected by the housing market: appliances and furnishings, building materials, the finance industry.

The slowdown in housing was even blamed when Ford shut one of its pickup assembly operations: Contractors use a lot of pickups. An economy which has floated on cheap money and housing construction is settling down into the sea of red ink.

EPI's Snapshot last week highlighted some of the indicators:
  • Sales of existing homes fell to near 2004 levels.
  • New home sales are well below last year's level.
  • Inventories -- homes currently on the market -- are at record highs.
  • Supply? Demand? Of course prices are softening.
  • Jobs directly related to housing contributed 14.1% of employment growth in 2004, 15.4% in 2005, only 4.5% this year.
  • This does not count jobs related to household goods, such as appliances, or other ancillary employment
  • Residential construction's contribution to GDP growth dipped to -0.4% in the second quarter of 2006, after peaking at over 1.0% a year earlier
As Bernstein and Bivens of EPI say, "Even more important in terms of dollars pumped into the economy is the appreciated home values, which have been an important source of stimulus over the past few years."

This last point corrects a claim I copied Sunday from the Center for American Progress, which said that increased personal debt is arising from purchase of big ticket items, not consumer debt.

This is less true by the amount of home equity that has been withdrawn to finance current purchases, the "home as a piggy bank," factor.

Depreciating housing values will have the effect of stopping the home equity stimulus. If the disparity between sagging home values and the amount loaned is "called in" by the lender, it could begin to act as a real drag.

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research was even more blunt in an op-ed in Tom Paine entitled "The Coming Housing Crash."

"This is a very different picture from a year ago," he says.
  • Sales of new and existing homes are both down more than 10% from last year
  • Mortgate applications are down 20%
  • Sales prices are barely above last year, and actually down in real (inflation-adjusted) terms

  • The vacancy rate for ownership units has hit a new high, along with inventories of both new and existing homes
Baker made his reputation in being one of the very few economists to peg the dot.com bust. There he concentrated on the historic trend in price/earnings ratios. Here he's applying a similar historical trend analysis to the housing market:
"Ordinarily, house prices rise at roughly the same rate as other prices. Nationwide, house prices stayed virtually even with the overall rate of inflation from 1950 to 1995. However, in the last 10 years they rose by more than 50 percent, after adjusting for inflation. This created more than $5 trillion in housing bubble wealth."
With the bubble finally deflating, we're looking not just at lost paper wealth, but at the loss of millions of jobs. The fallout will be severe. As Baker puts it:
"The crash and post-crash world will not be pretty. Millions of people will lose their jobs and their homes. Unfortunately, the economists who led us down this path are not likely to be among the ones who suffer severe consequences."
The Census Bureau/HUD Residential Construction Release on August 16, had the following tidbits:
  • Building permits for all housing units were 21% lower than a year earlier; 30% lower in the West;
  • Single familiy units were 23.5% lower overall; 33.5% lower in the West;
  • Housing starts for all units were 13.3 percent lower than a year earlier; 13.9% lower in the West;
  • Single family units started were 16.6% lower overall; 25.8% lower in the West;
  • Housing completions were 2.3 percent above one year ago; but they were 16.2% lower in the West;
  • Single family completions were 1.2% higher overall; but a full 19% lower in the West.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo produce the Home Builders Housing Market Index. A number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor.
  • The August HMI index was its lowest since February 1991; the index has fallen for seven consecutive months;
  • The single family home sales segment fell to 36, the sales expectations segment fell to 40, the sales traffic segment fell to 21;
  • The total HMI index fell to 15 in the Midwest, to 41 in the South, and to 42 in the West.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Live From Town Hall: Elected Officials Speak

We've just finished hearing from three of our most important elected officials - Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Jim McDermott.

Here's some excerpts from Patty Murray's speech:
"We're spending a lot of money on emergencies around the world, but we're not spending money on emergencies here at home. A lot of people look at those challenges and give up, but that's not what the people in this room are going to do. We're going to wake up!"

"We want our friends who traveled across the country to know that we've got one of the most progressive minimum wages in the country."

"We offer proof that strong businesses, strong workers, and strong communities can go hand in hand."

"What we're saying is that the largest company in America and one of the most profitable can afford to do better."

"We all know that the Bush administration is no friend to working people."

"This November is our chance to put this country back in the proper direction."
Senator Cantwell:
"This Senator wants to be standing on the Senate floor in 2007 fighting the privatization of Social Security."

"This is about the cost of living and Wal-Mart paying a decent minimum wage."

"Instead of opening up the gates of opportunity in education, this administration is slamming them shut...We have to change that!"

"When there is not transparency on drug costs...there is mischief that happens."

"i don't understand why people in America can't have access to the same health care plan that a United States Senator has."

"I want to thank the organizers for bringing this tour here. Seattle has a way of making things happen."
Congressman Jim McDermott:
"After 35 cities, I'm glad to say you saved the best for last."

"When we lose sight of the common good - something to take care of all of us - Wal-Mart thinks it can make $11 billion dollars and not take care of its employees."

"We've got five million more people in this country in poverty since Bill Clinton left office at the beginning of 2000."

"Can you dream of something better than this? Can you believe a country can have health insurance for everybody? Can you believe we could have a living wage?"

"We are coming to an election...we need to reelect Maria and elect Darcy Burner across the lake."
So long from Town Hall....I'm signing off, as the event has ended.

Live From Town Hall: A Costly Truth

Paul Blank, the campaign director for WakeUp WalMart, just took the stage to talk about the tour and the goals of the movement a few minutes ago. (To get an idea of what he's saying to the audience here at Town Hall Seattle, listen to this interview that he recorded with me two days ago).

UPDATE: We're now watching the WakeUp WalMart presentation, A Costly Truth, which paints in clear, stark terms why we're talking about WalMart as a social and political issues. Here's some snippets from the presentation.
  • Wal-Mart is #2 on the Fortune 500 (used to be #1)
  • 315 billion in sales in 2006
  • 11.2 billion profits
  • 1.38 million employees
  • 3,800 stores
  • Wal-Mart is bigger than Microsoft, Boeing, and McDonalds - combined. It's a massive company with a massive impact.
  • Wal-Mart has the most stores in Arkansas. One store per 30,248 Americans in Arkansas. If Wal-Mart was like that in every state in would have 9,690 stores by 2025 based on its growth in Arkansas. It could be the first company with trillion dollar sales.
  • Full time Wal-Mart employees will earn $2,200 below the 2005 poverty line for a family of four. And This year, Wal-Mart this year is shifting 200,000 employees from full time to part time so it can pay them even less.
  • 54% percent of Wal-Mart employees, by its own account, have no company health care (that's over 700,000).
  • In 18 out of 19 states where the data is available, Wal-Mart leads all employers with workers on public health care.
  • The number of workers insured by Wal-Mart declined by 2 percent between 2005 and 2006 after the introduction of their "value health care plan"
  • Subsidizing Wal-Mart's healthcare costs will cost American taxpayers over $1.4 billion this year
  • The Waltons, descendants of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton are worth $77 billion
  • Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's CEO, makes 871 times what the average Wal-Mart worker. The average full time Wal-Mart worker would have to work a 1000 years to earn what Lee Scott made in 2004.
  • Wal-Mart's business practices ripple across the country. If WalMart pays poverty level wages, why should any other retailer pay higher? And if WalMart leaves its workers without health care, why should other employers do anything differently?
  • Wal-Mart would be able to give each of its U.S. employees a raise of $1.45 an hour and only have to raise prices by one penny per dollar (actually less than a penny).
We will be hearing from our U.S. Senators shortly.

Live From Town Hall: Event kicks off

The Seattle Labor Chorus just kicked off the Town Hall meeting for WakeUp WalMart and we just heard from Teamster leader John Williams, who was our first speaker. Steve Williamson of UFCW is currently introducing local elected officials. A large number of state senators and state representativeshappen to be in attendance, as well as Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark.

UPDATE: The treasurer of UFCW has just introduced Ron Sims, who is one of Washington State's best, most fiery speakers. Sims said, in part:
"Nobody should ever have to work and not have health care...nobody should have to see their pension go away....no one should ever have to work for anything less than a living wage."
Sims brought the crowd to their feet with his loud declaration proclaiming that Democrats will retake Congress in 2006 and retake the White House in 2008.

UPDATE II: We're now watching a short video clip produced by WakeUp WalMart introducing the organizers and highlighting the reasons for the "Change Wal-Mart, Change America" tour. It includes footage from news networks, Robert Greenwald's documentary film, and WakeUp WalMart's own team.

Live From Town Hall: WakeUp WalMart Holds Final Event of 35 Day Tour

Tonight, WakeUpWalMart.com's "2006 Change Wal-Mart, Change America ” 35-day cross-country bus tour, ends at Town Hall Seattle.

Since launching on August 1st in New York City, the 2006 "Change Wal-Mart, Change America" bus tour will have traveled over 8,000 miles, held 54 events with some of the nation's most prominent political leaders, signed up over 25,000 supporters, and visited 19 states and 35 cities in 35 days.

Washington's two U.S. Senators are set to join 7th District Congressman Jim McDermott as hosts for this final event. The organizers I accompanied from Portland on Saturday will be giving their "Costly Truth" presentation, modeled on the style of former Vice President Al Gore’s smash hit documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."

I'm here at Town Hall and will be bringing you live updates over the next few hours as the event progresses.

Until then, here's the fifth installment of WalMart Facts.

Wal-Mart and China

Wal-Mart buys much of its merchandise from China

  • Wal-Mart reports that it purchased $18 billion of goods from China in 2004.
  • Wal-Mart was responsible for about 1/10th of the U.S. trade deficit with China in 2005. [“U.S. Stock Investors Wary of Analyst `Yuan Plays': Taking Stock, Bloomberg, 7/1/05]
  • If Wal-Mart were an individual economy, it would rank as China’s eighth-biggest trading partner, ahead of Russia, Australia and Canada. [China Business Weekly, 12/02/2004]

Many of Wal-Mart's “American Suppliers” actually manufacture most or all of their products in China

  • An example of an “American Supplier” is Hasbro, headquartered in Rhode Island. Today, Wal-Mart is the largest purchaser of Hasbro products—accounting for 21 percent of all Hasbro goods or more than $600 million in sales. But Hasbro reports, “We source production of substantially all of our toy products and certain of our game products through unrelated manufacturers in various Far East countries, principally China.” Hasbro specifies that “the substantial majority of our toy products are manufactured in China.” [2004 Hasbro 10-K filed with the SEC]

Wal-Mart's Chinese factory workers are treated poorly

  • Workers making clothing for Wal-Mart in Shenzhen, China filed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart in September 2005 claiming that they were not paid the legal minimum wage, not permitted to take holidays off and were forced to work overtime. They said their employer had withheld the first three months of all workers' pay, almost making them indentured servants because the company refused to pay the money if they quit. [New York Times, September 14, 2005]
  • Workers making toys for Wal-Mart in China’s Guangdong Province reported that they would have to meet a quota of painting 8,900 toy pieces in an eight hour shift in order to earn the stated wage of $3.45 a day. If they failed to meet that quota, the factory would only pay them $1.23 for a day’s work. [China Labor Watch, December 21, 2005]

Elsewhere workers producing goods for Wal-Mart also face appalling conditions, despite Wal-Mart’s factory inspection program

  • Workers from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Swaziland brought a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart in September 2005 asserting that the company’s codes of conduct were violated in dozens of ways. They said they were often paid less than the legal minimum wage and did not receive mandated time-and-a-half for overtime, and some said they were beaten by managers and were locked in their factories. [New York Times, September 14, 2005]
  • A female apparel worker in Dhaka, Bangladesh, said she was locked into the factory and did not have a day off in her first six months. She said she was told if she refused to work the required overtime, she would be fired. Another worker said her supervisor attacked her “by slapping her face so hard that her nose began bleeding simply because she was unable to meet” her “high quota.” [New York Times, September 14, 2005]
  • In 2004, only 8 percent of Wal-Mart inspectors’ visits to factories were unannounced, giving supervisors the chance to coach workers what to say and hide violations. Wal-Mart claimed it planned to double unannounced visits by its inspectors but that would still leave 80 percent of inspections announced. [CFO Magazine, August 2005]
  • A former Wal-Mart executive James Lynn has sued the company claiming he was fired because he warned the company that an inspection manager was intimidating underlings into passing Central American suppliers. Lynn documented forced pregnancy tests, 24-hour work shifts, extreme heat, pat-down searches, locked exits, and other violations of the labor laws of these Central American countries. [New York Times, July 1, 2005 and James Lynn to Odair Violim, April 28, 2002, www.nclnet.org]

Connelly on the condition of organized labor

The Seattle P-I's Joel Connelly has written what has to be one of his best columns of all time, published this morning:
In what I hope was an early-morning miscue, the weekend KPLU newsreader recently told listeners that "labor bosses" were gathering in Wenatchee for the Washington State Labor Council's annual convention.

Defining terminology, on the airwaves and deftly inserted in mainstream [traditional] media, has been one of the right wing's small triumphs in forging America's new Gilded Age.

Anyone who protests social injustice is a "bleeding heart." Those who commit themselves to its prevention are "do-gooders." "Liberal" is practically a curse word. Anybody who preaches reconciliation is "soft" -- on crime, on communism, on "Islamic fascism."

Union officials get labeled as "bosses," while executives who slash corporate payrolls or dump employee pension plans get celebrated as "cost cutters" and "downsizers."
This column has so much wisdom in it that it almost makes me wonder how Joel squeezed it all in.

The point about today's era being a new Gilded Age is something that resonates powerfully with me personally. I have long argued that point, making comparisons between the corporate titans of today and those of about a hundred years ago.

Many of the reforms put into place during the progressive era of the early 1900s are now used by the right wing as weapons - for example, direct democracy: initiatives, referenda, and recalls (remember Gray Davis?)

The system is stacked against labor today. The laws are unfriendly, the people in charge (Bush's people, that is) are unfriendly, and the perception of labor is often hostile thanks to right wing media and infrastructure. They seem to work nonstop, crafting garbage like this:
America today is more than ever an equal-opportunity society where individuals can rise on their merits, a condition that makes unions irrelevant.

- Max Green Epitaph for American Labor (published by a right wing think tank)
Organized labor has suffered defeats but it is certainly not defeated. The challenge now is to reverse the decline, organize, and make investments in progressive infrastructure. That's just what unions across the country are doing or starting to do, but labor must be patient: it will take time before the dividends can be reaped.

Drowning in Debt

America's GDP growth is predicated on a rising tide of personal and federal debt. With rising interest rates and stagnating incomes, with retiring baby boomers and outsourced industries, it remains to be seen whether the economy can withstand a storm on this sea of red ink.

We've posted on the enormous federal deficits and their relation to growth. (See the "Net GDP" post.)

Now, according to a recent report by the Center for American Progress:
"America's middle class is drowning in debt. A typical middle income family earning around $45,000 a year saw its debt burden grow by 33.1% between 2001 and 2004, even after adjusting for inflation. Debt relative to income rose even more, to 33.9%, during this period for middle income families. Personal bankruptcies among these households are rising steeply.

"The reasons for greater economic distress among middle class households are not hard to pinpoint. Slow income growth ... has not kept pace with the rising cost of big ticket items such as housing and education loans, medical expenses and transportation...."
Increased debt is being generated not by profligate credit card spending, as noted, but by borrowing for big ticket items -- homes and education. For the first time debt has exceeded income, and in spite of low interest rates, debt payments are higher. Highly indebted households continue to grow in number, with one in seven households making debt payments greater than 40 percent of income.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mexican recount and local spin

As edited by the letters troll at the TNT, here is a letter on the ongoing crisis of the Mexican elections. On the plus side, the standoff in one of our closest trading partners has gotten a bit coverage from the paper in recent days, first a paragraph on page three, then an editorial (which was the raison d'etre for the paragraph), then a highly edited letter (mine) published Friday.

On the minus side,the most accurate account of the situation appeared in the letter. And better than the one they published was the one I wrote. You judge.


Original:

Dear Editor,

We've been having quite a few disputed elections in recent years, and every once in awhile one of them makes the pages of the News Tribune.

This one was the July 2 presidential election in Mexico. It got more ink in Wednesday's editorial column than it has on the news pages, but at least you acknowledged it. You made much of Lopez Obrador's similarity to Hugo Chavez, and didn't spare any vitriol in denouncing Obrador as a whiner and a sore loser, but in your editorial he somehow becomes the cause of the emigration into the US, although he is trying to oust the ruling party and the policies that are emptying out Mexican villages.

Missing from your pages is any account of the largest peaceful mass action since Corazon Aquino and the people of the Philippines toppled Ferdinand Marcos decades ago. Former mayor Lopez Obrador and millions of his closest friends have occupied Mexico City for six weeks.

Also missing is an explicit statement of what Obrador and his partisans are calling for: a vote by vote recount of the very close, and in spite of your assurances, far from fraud-free election. Why not a complete recount? If Calderon wins, case closed. He has legitimacy. What is the rationale against a recount? Opposing a total recount means either you're either afraid Calderon will lose or you're afraid massive fraud will be uncovered, or both.

TNT version:

What'’s to fear by holding a true election recount?

ALAN HARVEY; Tacoma
Re: "Lopez Obrador: Sore loser or worse"” (editorial, 8-30).

The July 2 presidential election in Mexico got more ink in the editorial column than it has on the news pages, but at least it was acknowledged.

The editorial made much of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador'’s similarity to Hugo Chavez and didn'’t spare any vitriol in denouncing Obrador as a whiner and a sore loser. But in your editorial he somehow becomes the cause of the emigration into the U.S., although he is trying to oust the ruling party and the policies that are emptying out Mexican villages.

Missing is any account of the largest peaceful mass action since Corazon Aquino and the people of the Philippines toppled Ferdinand Marcos decades ago. Former mayor Lopez Obrador and millions of his closest friends have occupied Mexico City for six weeks.

Also missing is an explicit statement of what Obrador and his partisans are calling for: a vote-by-vote recount of the very close, and in spite of your assurances, far from fraud-free election.

Why not a complete recount? If Calderon wins, case closed. He has legitimacy. What is the rationale against a recount? Opposing a total recount means either you're either afraid Calderon will lose or you're afraid massive fraud will be uncovered, or both.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

NPI releases seventh podcast

Our coverage of WakeUp WalMart in the Pacific Northwest continues with the release of the first episode for this month - an interview with Paul Blank, the campaign director of WakeUp WalMart, who talked with NPI about the "Change Wal-Mart, Change America" tour.

If you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, or ideas for future episodes, send us a note.

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

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

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

Live From the Road: We're Here

After about three hours on the road, we're pulling into downtown Seattle for the final leg of the WakeUp WalMart tour.

I've heard a lot of interesting stories from the organizers and learned more about Wal-Mart's detrimental effect on our communities.

I'll be releasing our latest podcast shortly, recorded live and on the road, with the campaign director for WakeUp WalMart.com.

For now, here's the fourth installment of WalMart Facts.

Wal Mart's Impact on Communities

Wal-Mart’s growth negatively impact worker’s wages

  • The most comprehensive study of Wal-Mart’s impact showed that the stores reduced earnings per person by 5 percent. This 2005 study by an economist from the National Bureau of Economic Research used Wal-Mart’s own store data and government data for all counties where Wal-Mart has operated for 30 years, It found that the average Wal-Mart store reduces earnings per person by 5 percent in the county in which it operates. [David Neumark, The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets 2005]

The Cost of Wal-Mart’s entry into a community can be significant

  • According to a 2003 estimate, the influx of big-box stores into San Diego would result in an annual decline in wages and benefits which could cost the area up to $221 million [San Diego Taxpayers Association (SDCTA), 2003]

Lower wages mean less money for communities

  • When an employer pays low wages to its employees, the employees have less money to spend on goods and services in the community, which in turn reduces the income and spending of others in the community. In other words a reduction in wages has a multiplier impact in the surrounding area.
  • For instance, in 1999, Southern California municipalities estimated that for every dollar decrease in wages in the southern California economy, $2.08 in spending was lost-- the $1 decrease plus another $1.08 in indirect multiplier impacts. [“The Impact of Big Box Grocers in Southern California” Dr. Marlon Boarnet and Dr. Randall Crane, 1999.]

Wal-Mart hurts other businesses when it comes to town.

  • In Maine, existing businesses lost over 10 percent of their market in 80 percent of the towns where Wal-Mart opened stores. [Georgeanne Artz And James McConnon, The Impact of Wal-Mart on Host Towns and Surrounding Communities in Maine, 2001]
  • Food stores in Mississippi lost 17 percent of their sales by the fifth year after a Wal-Mart Supercenter had come into their county, and retail stores lost 9 percent of their sales [Kenneth Stone and Georgeanne Artz, The Economic Impact of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Existing Businesses in Mississippi, 2002]
  • Over the course of [a few years after Wal-Mart entered a community], retailers' sales of apparel dropped 28% on average, hardware sales fell by 20%, and sales of specialty stores fell by 17%. [Kenneth Stone at Iowa State University, “Impact of the Wal-Mart Phenomenon on Rural Communities,” 1997]
  • In towns without Wal-Marts that are close to towns with Wal-Marts, sales in general merchandise declined immediately after Wal-Mart stores opened. After ten years, sales declined by a cumulative 34%. [Kenneth Stone at Iowa State University, “Impact of the Wal-Mart Phenomenon on Rural Communities,” 1997]

Wal-Mart destroys the environment

  • Between 2003 and 2005, state and federal environmental agencies fined Wal-Mart $5 million.
  • In 2005, Wal-Mart reached a $1.15 million settlement with the State of Connecticut for allowing improperly stored pesticides and other pollutants to pollute streams. This was the largest such settlement in state history. [Hartford Courant, 8/16/05]
  • In May 2004, Wal-Mart agreed to pay the largest settlement for stormwater violations in EPA history. The United States sued Wal-mart for violating the Clean Water Act in 9 states, calling for penalties of over $3.1 million and changes to Wal-Mart’s building practices. [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 12, 2004, U.S. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 2004 WL 2370700]
  • In 2004, Wal-Mart was fined $765,000 for violating Florida’s petroleum storage tank laws at its automobile service centers. Wal-Mart failed to register its fuel tanks, failed to install devices that prevent overflow, did not perform monthly monitoring, lacked current technologies, and blocked state inspectors. [Associated Press, 11/18/04]
  • In Georgia, Wal-Mart was fined about $150,000 in 2004 for water contamination. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/10/05]

Wal-Mart increases vehicle traffic

  • A 2004 study of estimated additional driving costs of Supercenters in the San Francisco Bay area concluded that there would be up to an additional 238 million vehicle miles traveled per year. [Supercenters and the Transformation of the Bay Area Grocery Industry: Issues, Trends, and Impacts. Bay Area Economic Forum, 2004]
  • These extra miles traveled could cost communities in the Bay area up $ 256 million in additional costs for infrastructure repair and environmental degradation. [Supercenters and the Transformation of the Bay Area Grocery Industry: Issues, Trends, and Impacts. Bay Area Economic Forum, 2004]

Wal-Mart desecrates sacred grounds

  • A nonprofit group that oversees the care of Native Hawaiian remains filed a lawsuit in 2003 against Wal-Mart, the State of Hawaii and the City of Honolulu. It alleged they violated state law dealing with the protection of preservation of human remains and desecration of graves. More than 60 sets of human remains were found at the Wal-Mart construction site in Honolulu. [KHNL-TV/KHBC/KOGG, HI. 7/20/2005]
  • In 2004, Wal-Mart built a 71,902-square-foot store near the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in San Juan Teotichuacan, Mexico. Teotihuacan was called "the place where the gods were created" by the Aztecs. [Knight Ridder, 10/25/04]
  • In 1997, the Alliance for Native American Indian Rights in Tennessee called for a retail boycott of Wal-Mart after construction began on a site for a new store near Nashville. According to a state archaeologist, the site contained 150 graves. [Fulton County Daily Report, 11/30/00, Chattanooga Free Press, 11/23/98]

Wal-Mart's empty stores are blighting communities

  • As of May 2006, Wal-Mart Realty has listed 320 vacant or soon to be vacant properties that the company is looking to lease or sell. They total to over 25 million square feet. Combined they are more than 6 times larger than the Pentagon building and larger than 440 football fields. [www.walmartrealty.com]
  • Wal-Mart’s rapid expansion of Supercenters and Sam's Clubs has contributed to hundreds of vacant stores across the country. [“Wal Mart site: Use as is or rebuild?”, Dallas Morning News, 2/20/02]
  • When Wal-Mart decides to convert a discount store into a larger Supercenter, it is often cheaper or easier simply to relocate entirely. David Brennan, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn, noted that Wal-Mart stores relocate so regularly that, “it is not uncommon to relocate right across the street." [“Home Depot to Move from Old to New Store Next Door,” Providence News-Journal, 8/17/03]
  • Wal-Mart’s stores are uselessly large for most other tenants. An average discount store is 97,000 square feet. Wal-Mart’s Supercenters are on average nearly twice as large at 186,000 square feet. [www.walmartfacts.com]
  • Also Wal-Mart often resists other large retail stores moving in. A president of a major real estate developer in Dallas said in 2002, “They're not going to be very receptive to any retailer going into it and even if they sell it, they might put a non- compete clause in there.” As one Wal-Mart spokesperson said in 2004, "There are times when it's in our interest to get the property moving faster, but we're certainly not going to give a competitor an advantage." [Dallas Morning News 2/20/02, Wall Street Journal, 9/15/04]
  • Wal-Mart planned to build another 60 million square feet of store space in 2006, or roughly the equivalent of 1,040 football fields or 16 Pentagon buildings. [Wal-Mart Stores, Twelfth Annual Analysts' Meeting, FD (Fair Disclosure) Wire October 25, 2005]
You can also download this as a PDF.

Live From the Road: After 34 days on the bus...

I asked the WakeUp WalMart organizers what they thought of the tour so far, after thirty four days on the road visiting community after community. They told me it's "one of those rare experiences you have in life" - the kind where you really feel like you're reaching out and making a difference.

Almost everywhere they go, they said, they get a positive reaction - even in really conservative areas of the country. People show concern for many different issues - from the outsourcing of jobs to healthcare.

It's not a traditional partisan debate - WalMart has brought people from very diverse backgrounds together who are worried about the direction the company is taking.

Even the WalMart truck drivers they pass on the road in Smiley give a friendly thumbs up or honk to show their appreciation.

In fact, it seems the only people who have reacted negatively are critics like Robert Samuelson of Newsweek, who wrote:
On any list of major national concerns, the "Wal-Mart problem" would not rank in the first 50. Why, then, are some leading Democratic politicians spending so much time talking about it? People who ask that question may conclude that Wal-Mart, though a tempting target as a political symbol, is mostly a diversion from weightier issues where what politicians think and do really matters.
Obviously, critics like Robert Samuelson and Sebastian Mallaby are dead wrong in their analysis. They're completely out of touch. They don't know what real people are going through.

How Samuelson could possibly write that the "Wal-Mart problem would rank in the first 50...on any list of major national concerns" is certainly beyond me. WalMart is America's biggest retailer, with thousands of stores nationwide and 1.39 million employees. The company made $11.2 billion dollars in profit last year.

Every decision the company makes has a profound impact on our nation's economy, on state budgets, on the environment, on healthcare costs, and so on.

The opposite of what Samuelson wrote is the actual truth: WalMart is one of the biggest national concerns there is.

And here is the third intallment of WalMart Facts. I'll be posting a new factsheet with each post I write.

Wal Mart Costs Taxpayers

Your tax dollars pay for Wal-Mart's greed

  • The estimated total amount of federal assistance for which Wal-Mart employees were eligible in 2004 was $2.5 billion. [The Hidden Price We All Pay For Wal-Mart, A Report By The Democratic Staff Of The Committee On Education And The Workforce, 2/16/04]
  • One 200-employee Wal-Mart store may cost federal taxpayers $420,750 per year. This cost comes from the following, on average:
    • $36,000 a year for free and reduced lunches for just 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families.
    • $42,000 a year for low-income housing assistance.
    • $125,000 a year for federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families.
    • $100,000 a year for the additional expenses for programs for students.
    • $108,000 a year for the additional federal health care costs of moving into state children's health insurance programs (S-CHIP)
    • $9,750 a year for the additional costs for low income energy assistance.
    [The Hidden Price We All Pay For Wal-Mart, A Report By The Democratic Staff Of The Committee On Education And The Workforce, 2/16/04]

Health care subsidies compared to executive compensation

  • Excluding his salary of $1.2 million, in 2004 Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott made around $22 million in bonuses, stock awards, and stock options in 2004.
  • This $22 million could reimburse taxpayers in 3 states where Wal-Mart topped the list of users of state-sponsored health care programs, covering more than 15,000 Wal-Mart employees and dependents. [Wal-Mart Proxy Statement and News Articles GA, CT, AL].

Your tax dollars subsidize Wal-Mart's growth

  • The first ever national report on Wal-Mart subsidies documented at least $1 billion in subsidies from state and local governments.
  • A Wal-Mart official stated that “it is common” for the company to request subsidies “in about one-third of all [retail] projects.” This would suggest that over a thousand Wal-Mart stores have been subsidized. [“Shopping For Subsidies: How Wal-Mart Uses Taxpayer Money to Finance Its Never-Ending Growth,” Good Job First, May 2004]
You can also download this in PDF.

Live From the Road: Local group rallies against Wal-Mart in Vancouver

Well, we just got back on board the bus after stopping in Vancouver, at the Clark County Public Services building, for a rally with the WalMart Watchdogs, a local group fighting Wal Mart from building a store in Salmon Creek.

Oddly enough it's the first unplanned event that has happened so far on the tour. Here's a photo of the event:

Rally in Vancouver

And here is the second intallment of WalMart Facts. I'll be posting a new factsheet with each post I write.

Wal Mart and Health Care

Wal-Mart’s Health Care Plan Fails to Cover Over 775,000 Employees

  • Wal-Mart reported in January 2006 that its health insurance only covers 43% of their employees. Wal-Mart has approximately 1.39 million US employees. [Source]

Wal-Mart’s Health Insurance Falls Far Short of Other Large Companies

  • On average for 2005, large companies (200 or more workers) cover approximately 66% of their employees. If Wal-Mart was to reach the average coverage rate, Wal-Mart should be covering an additional 318,000 employees [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005 and here].

Wal-Mart’s Health Care Eligibility is Restrictive

  • Part-timers—anybody below 34 hours a week – must wait 1 year before they can enroll. Moreover, spouses of part-time employees are ineligible for family health care coverage for 2006. [Wal-Mart Stores, “My Benefits, New Peak Time Benefits Making ad Difference For You,” 2006]
  • Full-time hourly employees must wait 180 days (approximately 6 months) before being able to enroll in Wal-Mart’s health insurance plan. Managers have no waiting period. [Wal-Mart 2006 Associate Guide]
  • Nationally, the average wait time for new employees to become eligible is 1.7 months. For the retail industry it is 3.0 months. [Kaiser Family Foundation & Health Research and Educational Trust, 2005]

All of Wal-Mart’s Health Plan’s Are Too Costly for Its Workers to Use

  • Since the average full-time Wal-Mart employee earned $17,114 in 2005, he or she would have to spend between 7 and 25 percent of his or her income just to cover the premiums and medical deductibles, if electing for single coverage. [Wal-Mart 2006 Associate Guide and UFCW analysis]
  • The average full-time employee electing for family coverage would have to spend between 22 and 40 percent of his or her income just to cover the premiums and medical deductibles. These costs do not include other health-related expenses such as medical co-pays, prescription coverage, emergency room deductibles, and ambulance deductibles. [Wal-Mart 2006 Associate Guide and UFCW Analysis].
  • Wal-Mart trumps the affordability of its new health care plan. According to Wal-Mart, “In January [2006], …Coverage will be available for as little as $22 per month for individuals” [www.walmartfacts.com]
  • What Wal-Mart’s website leaves out: Coverage is affordable, but using it will bankrupt many employees. Wal-Mart’s most affordable plan for 2006 includes a $1,000 deductible for single coverage and a $3,000 deductible for family coverage ($1,000 deductible per person covered up to $3,000). [Wal-Mart 2006 Associate Guide]

Wal-Mart Admits Public Health Care is a “Better Value”

  • President and CEO Lee Scott said in 2005, "In some of our states, the public program may actually be a better value - with relatively high income limits to qualify, and low premiums." [Transcript Lee Scott Speech 4/5/05]

Wal-Mart’s Health Care is Getting Costlier

  • Between 2000-2005, the cost of premiums rose 169 percent for single coverage and 117 percent for family coverage. [UFCW analysis of annual Wal-Mart Associate Guides].
  • In comparison, premiums for family coverage in the U.S. have increased only by 59%, from 2000-2005. [Employer Health Benefits: 2004 Annual Survey, Kaiser Family Foundation & Health Research and Educational Trust, 2004] Wal-Mart Employees Pay More for Health Care Costs
  • In 2004, Wal-Mart employees, in total, paid approximately 41% of the plan costs [Wal-Mart IRS 5500 Filings, 2005].
  • Nationally for 2004 on average employees paid for only 16% of single coverage costs and 28% of family coverage costs [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005].

Wal-Mart Covers Less of the Health Care Costs Compared to Its Competitors

  • In a state analysis, the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services found that in 2003, Wal-Mart covered only 52% of total health care premium costs compared to K-Mart which covered 66%, Target which covered 68%, and Sears which covered 80% [“Employers Who Have 50 or More Employees Using Public Health Assistance,” Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, 2/2005]

Wal-Mart’s Spending Falls Below Industry Standards

  • Wal-Mart’s spending on health care for its employees falls well below industry and national employer averages. In 2002, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart spent an average of $3,500 per employee. By comparison, the average spending per employee in the wholesale/retailing sector was $4,800. For U.S. employers in general, the average was $5,600 per employee, Therefore, Wal-Mart’s average spending on health benefits for each covered employee was 27% less than the industry average and 37% less than the national average. [Bernard Wysocki, Jr. and Ann Zimmerman, “Wal-Mart Cost-Cutting Finds a Big Target in Health Benefits,” Wall Street Journal September 30, 2003 p1]

Wal-Mart Only Spends 77 Cents an Hour Per Employee for Health Benefits

  • In 2004, Wal-Mart spent $1.5 billion on its health insurance. This amounts to an employer contribution of around only $0.77 an hour per employee. This accounts for approximately a half-percent of Wal-Mart's $285 billion in sales in 2004. [Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart Internal Memo, 2005, Wal-Mart Annual Report, 2005].

Wal-Mart Increased Advertising More Than Health Care

  • In 2004, Wal-Mart spent nearly the same amount on advertising as it did on health insurance. In 2004, Wal-Mart reports that it spent $1.5 billion on health care benefits and $1.4 billion in advertising. [Wal-Mart Annual Report 2005, Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart Internal Memo, 2005]
  • Between 2003 and 2004, Wal-Mart increased its advertising budget by $434 million, only increasing its spending on employee health care by $100 million. That means Wal-Mart increased its spending on advertising by 45 percent while only increasing its spending on employee health care by 7 percent. [Wal-Mart Annual Report 2005, Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart Internal Memo, 2005]
  • In fact, Wal-Mart has consistently increased spending on advertising more than its spending on employee health care. Between 2002 and 2003, Wal-Mart put more new funds into advertising than into health care. Wal-Mart increased spending on advertising by $290 million, while only increasing health care spending by $215 million for the same period. (note: this also occurred in 1995-96, 1997-98,1998-1999). [Wal-Mart Annual Reports and 5500 Filings]

One Out of Six Wal-Mart Employees Has No Health Care Coverage At All

  • This is more than double the national percentage for large firms (firms with over 100 employees). In fact, we estimate that Wal-Mart accounted in 2005 for more than 1 out of every 40 uninsured workers who are employed at a large firm. [Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart Internal Memo, 2005; Wal-Mart Annual Report; “Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Coverage: Sponsorship, Eligibility, and Participation Patterns in 2001,” Bowen Garrett, Ph.D., released by the Kaiser Family Foundation September 2004].
You can also download this in PDF.

Live From the Road: Blogging from the WakeUp WalMart Bus

I'm onboard Smiley, the WakeUp WalMart tour bus, and we are currently stopped in Vancouver, Washington, for a meet and greet with a local group in the midst of a "site fight" - in other words, they're trying to stop Wal-Mart from opening up yet another megastore and forcing nearby small businesses to liquidate. After we get back on the road I'll be posting another update.

And here is the first intallment of WalMart Facts. I'll be posting a new factsheet with each post I write.

Wal-Mart Wages and Worker Rights

A Substantial Number of Wal-Mart Associates earn far below the poverty line

  • In 2001, sales associates, the most common job in Wal-Mart, earned on average $8.23 an hour for annual wages of $13,861. The 2001 poverty line for a family of three was $14,630. [“Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?”, Business Week, 10/6/03, US Dept of Health and Human Services 2001 Poverty Guidelines, 2001]
  • A 2003 wage analysis reported that cashiers, the second most common job, earn approximately $7.92 per hour and work 29 hours a week. This brings in annual wages of only $11,948. [“Statistical Analysis of Gender Patterns in Wal-Mart’s Workforce”, Dr. Richard Drogin 2003]

Wal-Mart Associates don't earn enough to support a family

  • The average two-person family (one parent and one child) needed $27,948 to meet basic needs in 2005, well above what Wal-Mart reports that its average full-time associate earns. Wal-Mart claimed that its average associate earned $9.68 an hour in 2005. That would make the average associate's annual wages $17,114. [“Basic Family Budget Calculator” online at www.epinet.org]

Wage increases would cost Wal-Mart relatively little

  • Wal-Mart can cover the cost of a dollar an hour wage increase by raising prices a half penny per dollar. For instance, a $2.00 pair of socks would then cost $2.01. This minimal increase would annually add up to $1,800 for each employee. [Analysis of Wal-Mart Annual Report 2005]

Wal-Mart forces employees to work off-the-clock

  • Wal-Mart’s 2006 Annual Report reported that the company faced 57 wage and hour lawsuits. Major lawsuits have either been won or are working their way through the legal process in states such as California, Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. [Wal-Mart Annual Report 2006]
  • In December 2005, a California court ordered Wal-Mart to pay $172 million in damages for failing to provide meal breaks to nearly 116,000 hourly workers as required under state law. Wal-Mart appealed the case. [The New York Times, December 23, 2005]
  • A Pennsylvania court, also in December 2005, approved a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. by employees in Pennsylvania who say the company pressured them to work off the clock. The class could grow to include nearly 150,000 current or former employees. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 12, 2006 ]
  • In Pennsylvania, the lead plaintiff alleges she worked through breaks and after quitting time — eight to 12 unpaid hours a month, on average — to meet Wal-Mart’s work demands. “One of Wal-Mart’s undisclosed secrets for its profitability is its creation and implementation of a system that encourages off-the-clock work for its hourly employees,” Dolores Hummel, who worked at a Sam’s Club in Reading from 1992-2002, charged in her suit. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 12, 2006 ]

Wal-Mart executives did not act on warnings they were violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

  • Wal-Mart has known for years of a massive companywide problem of fair labor standards violations but did not take sufficient steps to address the problem. An internal Wal-Mart audit of one week of time records in 2000 from 25,000 employees had alerted Wal-Mart officials to potential violations. The audit found 60,767 missed breaks and 15,705 lost meal times. It also alerted Wal-Mart executives to 1,371 instances of minors working too late, during school hours, or for too many hours in a day. [Steven Greenhouse, “Suits Say Wal-Mart Forces Workers to Toil Off the Clock,” New York Times, A1, 6/25/02]
  • Despite this knowledge, Wal-Mart had to settle in January 2005 for violations that took place from 1998 to 2002, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $135,540 to settle U.S. Dept. of Labor charges that the company had violated provisions against minors operating hazardous machinery. [Ann Zimmerman, “Wal-Mart's Labor Agreement Is Criticized by Former Official,” Wall Street Journal, 2/15/05]
  • In March 2005, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $11 million to settle allegations that it had failed to pay overtime to janitors, many of whom worked seven nights a week. [Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 11/7/05, Forbes, 10/10/05]
  • The State of Connecticut, investigating Wal-Mart’s child labor practices after the federal investigation ended, found 11 more violations. In June 2005, Connecticut fined Wal-Mart Stores Inc. $3,300 over child labor violations after a state investigation found that some minors lacked proper paperwork and were operating hazardous equipment at the stores. [“Wal-Mart Is Fined for Child Labor Violations,” Bloomberg News, June 22, 2005]
You can also download this in PDF.

Live Coverage of the WakeUp WalMart Tour About To Begin

I'm currently at Overlook Park in Portland, Oregon, at an event for WakeUp WalMart's 2006 Change Wal-Mart, Change America tour. A team of organizers is traveling through nineteen states fighting for good jobs, affordable health care, and a better life for American families.

I'll be joining the WakeUp WalMart team on their bus, Smiley, as we travel to Seattle for the last leg of the tour. Keep following the Official Blog for live coverage, beginning a little later today.

My Life Among the Neoliberals

Members of the Tacoma Revenue Tax Force may be surprised to hear the word "liberal" associated with themselves, but these are the folks to whom I am referring, and the term is "Neoliberal."

It derives from 19th century England, free trade and laissez-fair economics. The alternative term that I feel fits the practice of Neoliberalism is "Corporate Capitalism."

Others might use "Free Market Capitalism." All of the terms are misnomers, for the school is not liberal, it ignores the dominance of corporations, and its practitioners may have the hymns of the free market memorized, but ignore fully half of them in practice.

Beyond this, in order to get the concept to fully function, you have to ignore reality -- the reality of government except as a distortion and the reality of empirical data which demonstrates the whole scheme simply does not work.

Seeing glazed eyes among my readers, I return to the point at hand.

The last session of Tacoma's Revenue Task Force concluded Wednesday evening with the adoption of a truly singular document, a report containing three proposals:
  • A non-revenue proposal, which prescribes a system of fines for excess police and fire calls.
  • A non-new proposal, the "levy lid lift," which is a measure newly revived by court action. Cities can now raise the property tax to 106 percent of current revenue, as opposed to 101 percent.
  • A political non-starter. The city manager's original idea for a city services tax minus the only element that would have given it a chance to work -- extending the tax base to nonprofits. This last proposal was adopted a month ago, then analyzed (in a Queen of Hearts order of things), and finalized Wednesday amid some jocular acknowledgement of its absence of political appeal.
The people on the Tax Force are good people who -- aside from one notable exception -- will not gain financially should this report's recommendations survive. But most are where they were at the beginning, anti-tax. These are frugal folks who manage money and operations well and accept the economics of the times as if it were an extension of this frugality and competence.

And the economics of the times is Neoliberalism. Government produces no value and only rides on the backs of the private sector. Taxes are a good way to bleed a vibrant economy. Etc.

As a city, this ultimately means that the services of police and fire protection are less valuable than those of beer truck drivers or hairdressers, no disparagement intended.

It means that production of roads and bridges is of less economic value than production of whatever private infrastructure you want to put in this blank. And it means debating particular policies is ultimately frustrated by the acceptance of the general myths.

Thus the dominating advantage Neoliberalism or Corporate Capitalism or Free Market Hypocrisy has over reality-based economic schemes -- everybody knows the tune. It is familiar. So familiar it is sometimes referred to as "common sense."

(Just as, I suspect, the tenets of communism and the rule of the proletariat were once referred to as common sense in the USSR, even as overt bureaucratic corruption brought down the system.)

For the advantage of familiarity there is no easy cure. The New Deal Keynesianism responsible for the enormous prosperity between World War II and the rise of Reaganomics was well understood by policy-makers, but never found a popular expression, partly ....

Oops, more glazing.

So the problem facing us at the Tax Force and forums like it is how to debate good policy particulars while avoiding easy answers based on demonstrably wrong -- but widely popular -- assumptions.

I have no answer to this. If I did, I would have used it at the Tax Force. I suppose it could begin with -- in the case of taxes -- challenging the fallacy that there is no economic value to public goods.

In fact, public goods have enormous value, real direct economic value, which is not recognized by the market because it is broadly shared and the market only recognizes a transaction value. Still, the second bridge to Key Peninsula is generating astronomical gains in property values, dollar gains to private economic actors.

Primary and secondary education produces six times or more its cost in value to the educated, their employers and the society benefited and not burdened. Courts provide the essential arbitration of private market contracts without which a market economy would unravel. And so on.

This is a simple concept which is easy to corroborate and blows up the theory that supply and demand in a private market produces all value. But since it lies outside the current framework, it is viewed with the suspicion that it is somehow a trick or plot against the status quo.

Another angle might be the direct look test -- to simply point at the corporations domination of the private marketplace.

These do not exist in Free Market Hypocrisy. A company which can manipulate demand, or coerce labor, or rig the rules with government? It cannot happen in a system where everything is competition, free markets, and supply and demand.

Housekeeping
  • The final document ended the last evening at the Tax Force without my signature. That will be applied to a Minority Report, which will detail the eight or ten different ideas that have some practical application to revenue and a couple ideas to mitigate the B&O, not all of which were mine. The Minority Report will be available through NPI beginning the week of August 12, and will contain a context appendix (process, this question, the fact that the same problem is in front of all cities, etc.) and a technical appendix. We'll put up the official Tax Force version, too, so you can see if I'm blowing smoke or not.
  • The Alternative to Neoliberalism is a Post-Keynesian view -- less familiar, but no more complicated. It's major advantage is that it works in the real world. Briefly, output depends on aggregate demand (a proposition sometimes borrowed by others when tax cuts for the wealthy need a fig leaf of justification). Government provides infrastructure, public services, structure and enforcement. Corporate power is offset by institutional mechanisms such as the minimum wage, union organizing power, regulation, and so on. Supply and demand market operations are supported where their built-in incentives can efficiently supply private goods (supported in the sense of keeping the rules fair, e.g., curbs on monopoly).
There is, of course, a lot more to this discussion, but although it is Miles Davis to me, I understand it is polka bands to the rest of you. A more complete discussion can be got at Thomas I. Palley, "From Keynesianism to Neoliberalism: Shifting Paradigms in Economics," 2004.

Friday, September 01, 2006

McGavick's confession was deceitful

Just like Tim Eyman, Mike McGavick is a right wing politician who has a lot of trouble telling the truth:
A 1993 Maryland police report, obtained Friday, shows that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick was less candid than he seemed last week when he disclosed a previously unknown arrest for drunk driving.

For example, in a sketchy, four-sentence description of the incident on his campaign Web site Aug. 24, McGavick wrote that he was stopped when he "cut a yellow light too close in 1993" while driving home with Gaelynn, now his wife.

The Montgomery County, Md., police officer who arrested him Nov. 21, 1993, said in his report that he saw McGavick "drive through a steady red light."

The candidate, who is running against Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, said in an interview last week that he was issued a citation but wasn't arrested.

But the police report and a police spokesman Friday said McGavick was placed under arrest, handcuffed, driven to a district police station and handcuffed to a desk while he was questioned and signed various forms.
Neil Modie has more, if you follow the link. It doesn't come as any surprise - in fact, it's par for the course. Mike McGavick is running on civility and yet he can't even give a truthful confession - it had to be a stunt orchestrated to generate sympathy and praise from persuadable pundits.

The DUI arrest McGavick admitted casts doubts about his integrity and moral judgment. According to the evidence we have, Mike McGavick and his wife were both drunk - not tipsy, mind you, but drunk. They'd had way too much to drink.

Yet Mike McGavick made the decision to get behind the wheel of a car. It was an unwise thing to do, it was an illegal thing to do, and it was an immoral thing to do. And he did get caught.

Over a decade later, in his campaign for U.S. Senate, McGavick confessed this and other personal transgressions in a gimmick designed to bolster his credibility and win him new admirers who are tired of corruption and dishonesty in politics.

Sadly, even though Mike McGavick himself opened his own can of worms, he did so half heartedly and untruthfully.

The U.S. Senate is already crammed with dishonest Republicans. Washington State needs a senator who will provide leadership, show courage, and hold the administration accountable. And the person to do the job is Maria Cantwell - not Mike McGavick.

One year after: Lessons from Katrina

Hurricaine Katrina hit a bit over a year ago, and we're still cleaning up after it. I thought I would take a few moments to reflect on what Katrina really taught us about ourselves as a nation.

A lot of people have argued - persuasively - that the administration's poor response to Katrina speaks volumes about the soul of the Republican party. To be perfectly honest, it bothers me a great deal to lay the blame that poor response at the feet of "the Republican Party" because I don't think that's fair.

The Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, is composed of millions of Americans, many of whom were just as shocked as we progressives were about the whole thing, and many of whom dug just as deeply into their own pockets to donate money to help the victims of Katrina.

Those are not the people whose failings Katrina pointed out so vividly - or should I say, so morbidly - and to impugn them in the blame simply because they tend to vote for the men and women with the Rs after their names doesn't seem fair.

The lesson we should take from Katrina is not about the Republican Party. It's about something much deeper. What Katrina did was to show us the enormous distance, measured in lives and destruction, between two different philosophies about America.

Two different philosophies that could not be more different from one another. I don't find it useful to confuse the philosophies themselves with any particular party labels, so I will dispense with party labels from here on out.

One philosophy is the notion that "we're all in this together": that people should support each other. That society - which is just a fancy word for "we" - has a moral responsibility to help people who fall on hard times, just as we would wish for someone to help us.

That individuals - again, a fancy word for "we" - have a responsibility to be diligent, honest, and work hard in order to support the society that supports us. We're all in this together, and we all succeed or fail together. Along with that philosophy come other notions that derive from it.

For instance, that there must be a balance between individual (and corporate) freedom to do whatever the hell one likes, and the overall good for society. You can doubtless think of many other examples.

The opposite philosophy, of course, is the notion that "you're on your own, buddy." That you should expect no help, ever, from society, for anything. Neither should you be obligated to help anyone, anytime, with anything, ever. Some poor shmuck wants his kids to be educated?

Well then, he should darned well pay for it himself! He wants health care? Then he should suck it up and pay his insurance premiums. He doesn't feel secure enough in his neighborhood?

Well, then he ought to build a wall around his house and hire some security guards. He ought, in fact, to provide for all his own needs, and never ask you to pay a penny in taxes to help with any of that stuff. To each, quite literally, his own.

That latter philosophy can be quite appealing if you happen to be tremendously wealthy. You can easily afford to provide yourself and your family with every possible thing you could want or need, and you naturally don't want to pay substantial sums in taxes to support society at large.

But, of course, that latter philosophy falls down pretty quickly, because even the uber-rich can't build their own roads, sewer systems, telecommunications infrastructures, electric power plants, farms, hospitals, etc. Even the uber-rich can't, on their own, research new remedies and treatments for cancer and other currently un-cureable aliments.

People who hold the latter philosophy want to have it both ways: they want to keep all their money for themselves, never pay a penny in taxes, yet they still want the state to provide them with well-maintained roads, a well-policed society so they can live in safety, a nearby and quick-responding fire department and ambulance service, and so on. They don't recognize that it just isn't possible to live comfortably and be completely un-beholden to a larger society.

It simply isn't feasible to live even as well as someone earning $20,000 per year, yet remain completely un-beholden. One could, it is true, go buy 40 acres of land out in the middle of the woods, hunt and fish, live in a cave, make one's own buckskin clothes, and hope to God never to hurt one's self badly enough require medical attention. That is, live like an 1800s mountain-man in the wild west.

Anyone willing to accept that standard of living and the work it takes to maintain it, can indeed manage the "you're on your own, buddy" philosophy just fine. But anyone who wants to live well and comfortably will inevitably require help from society. This is the double-standard of the "you're on your own, buddy" philosophy.

The "we're all in this together" philosophy, however, explicitly recognizes - and celebrates - the interdependence of human beings. It explicitly recognizes and pursues the notion that by helping each other, everyone can be safer, more comfortable, and healthier. By promoting the overall social good, we can raise the tide for all of our boats, as it were. It recognizes that if you'd like to have help when you need it, then you must provide help to others when they need it.

This is not a new philosophy. It goes back, literally, to whatever precursors of Homo Sapiens made the jump from being solitary animals to being social, tribal primates.

Human beings are an undeniably social species. We are not like animals that live their lives alone, only coming together during mating season to find a quick one-night-stand to preserve the species, before going off alone again for another year.

Human beings live in societies for a reason: it's nicer, it's easier, and the results are better. The simple fact of our social natures shows our predisposition towards that shared-success philosophy.

Recent history gives us several examples of Americans' tendancy - regardless of party label - towards this compassionate philosophy as well.

When the tsunami struck Indonesia and India just before New Year's Day a couple of years ago, Americans donated millions and millions of dollars of their own money to help total strangers in far off parts of the world put their lives back together.

When Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, Americans generously donated over a billion dollars to aid agencies to help our cajun brothers and sisters get back on their feet.

That's real Americans - you and me types, the ones living paycheck to paycheck - who donated that money. That wasn't corporate America. That wasn't David Lesar, Halliburton's current CEO, or Rupert Murdoch, or any of a bunch of other "you're on your own" billionaires you could name. That was regular people. The paycheck-to-paycheck types. The ones who get it that we're all in this together.

America is presently engaged in a heated debate about which of these philosopies our government should espouse. I think that the evidence, in the form of how real Americans behave when the chips are really down, makes the answer obvious. We are an "all in this together" people.

Unfortunately, the debate is almost never framed in those terms. The "you're on your own" crowd argues against government and against taxes - because it's a lot easier to argue against taking a chunk out of our paychecks than it is to argue against having a functioning society in which everyone benefits - while the all-together crowd argues for taxes - failing to frame the argument in terms of the functioning society those taxes go to support.

Arguing about taxes and the size of government is the wrong argument to be having: governments are nothing more than tools created by societies to advance their philosophies, and taxes are nothing more than the method the "we're all in this together" societies use for promoting the good of all.

When you cut taxes, you cut everything else. You cut society. You cut the ability for each of us, through the tool of our government, to support our fellow citizens. You cut the ability of the rest of society to help you when you need it.

When you cut taxes, you push everyone towards living in the go-it-alone mode, whether they like it or not. Arguments over how taxes should be assessed, how much the tax should be, and how the money should be spent are surface arguments that do not address the core question: what kind of people are we, and what kind of society do we want to live in.

We are, today, poised between these two diametrically dissimilar philosophies. In November, we will be asked once again to choose between them, in the form of little marks on ballots or careful taps on touch-screens.

The real lesson of Katrina, what that hurricaine showed us one year ago, was the consequences of making the wrong choice, of choosing against our own true natures. We know what kind of a nation we want to be.

When November comes around, it is up to each one of us to vote accordingly. To vote not on the basis of party label, but on the basis of these philosophies and which candidates' statements and records most closely align with the philosophy we happen to believe in.

If we make the right choice, we need fear no hurricaine, no earthquake, and no terrorist, because no matter what happens, we'll be there for each other.

Hurricane Ernesto hits the Carolinas

It's certainly no Katrina, but still a reminder that this is hurricane season:
Tropical Storm Ernesto made landfall on the southern North Carolina coast late Thursday, coming ashore with heavy rains but sustained winds that fell just short of hurricane levels.

The storm's official arrival near Long Beach in Brunswick County came near the end of a long day of rain in the eastern half of North Carolina.

Ernesto dumped more than 8 inches of rain on the Wilmington area — a record for Aug. 31, according to the National Weather Service.

And it sparked fears that even in a state that has seen widespread drought this summer, the rain might be too much of a good thing.

"We need some rain around here — just not all at once," said Jean Evans, a convenience store worker on North Carolina's Holden Beach.
Our friends at AccuWeather, Pacific Northwest Portal's offical weather partner, say Ernesto made landfall near Long Beach, North Carolina, at 11:30 p.m. EDT Thursday with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph:
Ernesto will bring heavy rain and the threat of flooding from the Carolinas to the Great Lakes states into the Labor Day Holiday weekend. At 2 a.m. EDT Friday, the center of the storm was centered about 20 miles north-northwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. Ernesto was moving to the north-northeast at about 15 mph.
Meteorologists also report that Category 2 Hurricane John is bearing down on the tip of Baja, Mexico. Though the U.S. has had a respite from costly storms like Dennis, Ivan, and Katrina, it's only a matter of time before we're hit again. And hurricanes aren't the only natural disasters that could happen either. The West Coast is susceptible to earthquakes, the Midwest to tornadoes, and so on.

Unfortunately, the current administration is more concerned about playing politics with terror and doling out corporate subsidies than it is with strengthening public infrastructure, assessing emergency readiness, and bolstering disaster preparedness efforts at the local level.