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

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Radio Alert

I'll be on 710 KIRO tonight with David Goldstein talking about initiative process reform and HB 1087. Tune in on your radio at 9 PM or listen via the live stream from KIRO's website. TJ from Loaded Orygun is supposed to be on during that hour as well to talk about Oregon's ban on paying petitioners by the signature, which Beaver State voters enacted in 2002.

Postscript: TJ never called in but we did have a great hour long discussion about Friday's hearing and reforming the initiative process in general. Senator Eric Oemig joined us for one segment by phone to talk about related bills in the Senate. (He represents NPI's home district, the 45th.)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Demystifying Simple Majority for Schools

One of the most important items on the Legislature's agenda this year is a proposed change in the requirements for the passage of school levies and bonds. Currently, in order for either type of proposition to become law, what is known as the 60/40 rule must be satisfied in a special, primary, or general election:
  • Voter turnout (or validation) must be at or above 40%
  • Approval of the levy or bond must be at least 60% (a supermajority).
Conversely, a simple majority would be approval by 51% of the voters, regardless of voter turnout. Simple majority voting would bring schools into parity with the current requirements for voter approval of jails, libraries, museums and stadiums.

A school levy designates usage of property tax revenues for public schools. Levies can be used for improving class size, creating academic programs, providing books/supplies, etc. There are two types of school levies:
  1. State school levies: Approved and paid for by all Washington property owners, the revenue from these levies is distributed to school districts throughout the state.
  2. Special levies: Approved and paid for by voters in a specific school district, revenues from these levies are used only for the school district that approved them. A local school district’s only option for raising local tax dollars is asking voters for approval of a school levy.
A school bond is long-term debt issued by the school district. The bond is sold to raise funds to pay for school construction and improvements. School bond funds can only be spent on capital improvements. They are repaid over a period of years from local tax revenues.

Schools get money through a convoluted, arcane process involving state budgets, bonds, levies, old rules that were grandfathered in long ago for some regions, and, for all I know, your grandfather.

On top of that, declining state revenue has forced school districts to be more reliant on local school bond and levy dollars.

This increased dependence widens the disparity between wealthier districts that pass their school measures and poorer ones that frequently fail school measures. Yet all students are being held to the same academic standards whether their school districts have local bond/levy dollars or not. There is an amazing array of Simple Majority bills on the floor this year:
  • HJR 4201 / HJR 4204 / SJR 8202 / SJR 8207 – Amending the state Constitution to provide for simple majority authorization of school levies. HJR 4201 had a hearing in the House Committee on Education on January 19th. It is now awaiting committee action. SJR 8207 has received a public hearing in the Senate Education Committee. It now passes to that chamber's Rules Committee for a second reading.
  • SJR 8203 - Amending the state Constitution to provide for simple majority authorization to approve school bonds. SJR 8203 has been heard in the Senate Education Committee, and it received a "do pass" recommendation.
  • SB 5028 - Providing for a simple majority authorization of school district bonds. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education, had a public hearing on January 15th, and is currently awaiting committee action so it can move forward.
The bills for constitutional amendments require:
  • A 2/3rds vote of both houses of the Legislature, and (assuming this occurs)
  • Approval by a simple majority of the voters in November.
While bills have passed the House of Representatives numerous times in the past, we have never been able to meet the supermajority requirement in the Senate. With your support, let's make this the year we get this legislation through so the people of the Evergreen State may decide.

Dwight Pelz reelected as Chair of the Washington State Democrats

I'm live at the state party reorganization meeting in Olympia, where just moments ago (with no opposition) Chairman Dwight Pelz was unanimously reelected as the leader of the Washington State Democratic Party by vote of acclamation. He received a standing ovation from the audience. Newly reelected Chairman Pelz thanked the Central Committee and touted the party's successes in 2006.

I'll update this post with the full slate of officers elected at this meeting shortly.

UPDATE: There is a competitive race for Vice Chair - Eileen Macoll, the current VC, is being challenged by Rosalinda Guillen. I'll post on the outcome of this race as soon as the votes are counted, tallied, and announced.

UPDATE II: This is not related to the Democratic meeting, but Luke Esser has reportedly just been elected the new Chairman of the State Republican Party. The vote of their Central Committee was 71-43. Defeated Chairwoman Diane Tebelius immediately left the meeting as Esser took over. As of this update (2:29 PM) he's still presiding over the Republicans' meeting in Tukwila.

UPDATE III: Macoll has been reelected, 86 to 68.

UPDATE IV: Also semi-unrelated: David Postman, who is in Tukwila, reports that Doug Roulstone told him that he and the GOP candidates in the 1st, 3rd and 9th congressional districts for the 2006 midterms have committed to running again. They would be challenging Reps. Larsen, Inslee, Baird, and Smith, respectively.

UPDATE V: Luis Moscoco, the current Secretary of the Party, is being challenged by the President of the State Young Democrats, Krystal Wood. The tally committee is counting the votes in this race and we're waiting to hear the outcome.

UPDATE VI: Luis Moscoco has been reelected, 107 to 49. Chairman Pelz also announced the election of Luke Esser to the Democratic Central Committee.

UPDATE VII: Habib Habib has been unanimously reelected as Treasurer. The rest of the meeting is just party business (like reports from committees, the chair, DNC representatives, the raffle, etc.)

So the slate of officers remains unchanged: Dwight Pelz, Chair, Eileen Macoll, Vice Chair, Luis Moscoco, Secretary, and Habib Habib, Treasurer.

Executive Director testifies in support of HB 1087 and initiative process reform

NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve testified yesterday in support of HB 1087 before the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Affairs. His prepared testimony, with added commentary on the state of direct democracy, is as follows.

Chairman Hunt, Members of the Committee:

My name is Andrew Villeneuve. I am the Executive Director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, a regional think tank headquartered in Redmond.

I am pleased to be here today to voice, in person, our organization's support for HB 1087, which would prohibit the compensation of paid petitioners on a per signature basis, and to thank Representative Appleton for sponsoring this bill.

In recent years, many in the state Legislature, not to mention a great number of citizens, have become rightly concerned about the use of the initiative and referendum to undermine the legislative process and representative democracy.

Both the initiative and the referendum, along with the recall, were established in the progressive era of the early twentieth century to circumvent political bosses, though the American tradition of direct democracy is more deeply rooted in the town meetings of New England dating from several centuries prior.

Citizen lawmaking originally spread across this country because state legislatures were unresponsive in creating laws that the people needed to protect themselves from special interests, laissez-faire economics, and the era's robber barons.

But in today’s day and age, the tables have been turned. Direct democracy has been corrupted and co-opted by the same special interests which have for decades been attempting to influence lawmakers and the legislative process.

Today’s special interests have gotten exceptionally clever at mounting P.R. campaigns to convince the general public they are grassroots and the ballot measures they are proposing are beneficial to the common good.

This faux populism, which is known as astroturfing, is practiced not only by long established interest groups but also a number of individuals masquerading as heroes for working families.

Several U.S. states, including this one, are home to one or several manipulative right wing ideologues who try to dominate politics and use the initiative and or referendum to change public policy, especially fiscal policy. They never run for office (instead they harshly criticize those who are elected), they are never satisfied and ready to call it a day, and they are unaccountable.

They are typically handsomely compensated by a wealthy backer and do not need to worry about earning a living. Thanks to their sugar daddies, they can afford to make a career out of attacking representative democracy.

It’s their full time job - they are paid politicians.

Occasionally, they show up and participate in the legislative process, usually to whine and pretend they’re a victim who is being attacked when lawmakers talk about reforming direct democracy.

In this state and others, initiative and referendum campaigns are rarely mounted any more out of genuine concern for the common good, the well being of society, or the health of our democracy. Nor are they launched by a true grassroots force or volunteer army of concerned citizens.

It’s been said you can qualify any proposal for the ballot – no matter your ideology, no matter your idea, no matter your proposition’s constitutionality – if you have enough money. Say just upwards of half a million dollars. And it’s true.

When a special interest has access to enough funds and they fail to qualify something they’ve put money into it’s almost always because of incompetence or laziness – not because people wouldn’t sign a petition.

Without any opposition present at the scene, a petitioner can easily persuade plenty of citizens, whether registered voters or not, to put their name and signature on whatever they’re hawking.

Direct democracy has become a big business and signatures have become a commodity. The process is no longer being used as its founders wanted and envisioned it to be. Instead of remaining an asset to our republic, it has become a tool for subversion. That’s why it’s in need of reform.

Opponents of this bill are here today making the argument that, if enacted, it would seriously harm, impede, or even destroy the people’s right to initiative. Such claims could not be more absurd or ridiculous. This bill is a commendable attempt to strengthen the integrity of the process.

Opponents are misconstruing it as an attack on free speech and an attempt to fix a nonexistent problem. Their assertions simply do not make sense.

The simple truth is this: if paid petitioners are compensated on a per-signature basis, there is an incentive for fraud – because the more signatures you collect, the more money you make. Just because there isn’t a mountain of evidence in the Evergreen State doesn’t mean that fraudulent activity isn’t occurring. We don’t have obvious corroboration in Washington because we haven’t bothered to look.

But next door, just south of the Columbia, in Oregon, suspicious watchdog groups and government agencies did investigate, and they found fraudulent activity. The Oregon Department of Justice earlier this decade pursued two high profile cases against petitioners which resulted in convictions.

The first was the prosecution of Paul Frankel, who allegedly used a classic “bait and switch” technique. At Portland’s Lloyd Center, a shopping mall,. he used a fake petition which purportedly supported a measure that would lower gas taxes. He kept this petition at the top of his clipboard.

After convincing passerby to sign it, he would then tell them they were required to “verify” their signature by signing all the pages he had underneath – which were in fact real petitions for real ballot measures.

It was also discovered that Frankel had forged the signature of a Department of Justice investigator on petitions that were later found in the office of Bill Sizemore, executive director of Oregon Taxpayers United.

Sizemore is a perfect example of a right wing ideologue who set up shop to dominate state politics as an anti-tax crusader. Frankel was convicted of forgery in December 2001.

James Gurga, who worked with Frankel, was convicted of forgery the following year, in May of 2002. Gurga’s unethical practices included the outright forgery of signatures on petitions, the circulation of petitions with false signatures on them, the requisition of signatures from identified non-voters, the solicitation of duplicate signatures, the placing of false information on petitions, and obstructing signers’ access to legally required information.

Numerous other petitioners in Oregon have been suspected or accused of similar practices. Upon further investigation some were found to have criminal records or backgrounds – a definite indication that these individuals probably did not think fraud was beneath them.

It is time to discourage the incentive for fraud by making it illegal for petitioners to be compensated by the signature, and to provide for appropriate punishment if the law is violated, as Oregon has done.

Oregon’s law, in fact, was enacted by the people of that state through their initiative process. Measure 26 was approved by a three to one ratio. Opponents will make the argument that this legislation is unconstitutional. In 1994 a U.S. District court judge did invalidate a previous Washington State ban on those grounds.

But more recently, just last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is a higher federal court, upheld Oregon’s ban in the case of Prete v. Bradbury. The court found Oregon’s law to be a “lesser burden” on free speech, not a “severe burden”.

In its decision, the court referenced an earlier case heard by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000 where North Dakota's ban on paying petitioners "on a basis related to the number of signatures obtained" was challenged.

The court observed that this case, Initiative & Referendum Inst. v. Jaeger, presented a better framework for analyzing Prete v. Bradbury than other cases involving money and free speech. An excerpt from the 9th Circuit’s opinion:
“In Jaeger, the court noted that the state had an "important interest in preventing signature fraud" in the initiative process, and that the state had supported that interest with evidence that paying petition circulators per signature encouraged such fraud. Further, the plaintiffs had ‘produced no evidence that payment by the hour, rather than on commission, would in any way burden their ability to collect signatures. The [plaintiffs] have only offered bare assertions on this point.’”
Indeed, opponents will claim HB 1087 would drive up the cost of qualifying an initiative or referendum for the ballot. That they are so concerned about the financial impact it might have on their campaign coffers is a clear signal that they are not representatives of some populist manifestation or grassroots cause.

A proposal that truly has popular support should be able to get enough signatures through a drive conducted mostly or completely by volunteers.

Volunteer drives are rare these days because most groups wanting to qualify an initiative or referendum find it much easier to raise money to pay for a signature drive than do the hard work to organize and mobilize volunteers - especially if they have access to a large back account and especially if their proposal is self serving.

These astroturfers want this cottage industry to remain unregulated. The free speech argument is a convenient cover they use to prop up or bolster their contentions. The cost of a signature drive is not a determinant which should factor into the Legislature’s deliberation over initiative process reform.

Consider that there are other elements which impact the cost of a signature drive, including political participation. Every four years, we elect a Governor, and the participation in that election is used as a basis to determine how many signatures will be required to qualify a measure for the ballot. For initiatives, it’s eight percent, for referenda, four percent of the number of votes cast.

Consequently, if turnout increases in a gubernatorial election, the cost of a signature drive does too because more signatures will be needed to qualify a ballot measure. Are moneyed interests going to campaign against increased political participation because it would make it more difficult for them to qualify future proposals for the ballot? Probably not.

In summary, because the great State of Washington has an interest in preventing fraud and protecting the people’s rights, its Legislature should enact House Bill 1087 as a safeguard over the objections of critics. Free speech, while one of America’s most important liberties, is not unlimited. If reckless or malicious speech is permissible our democracy suffers a result.

The Northwest Progressive Institute strongly urges this Committee, the entire Legislature, and the Governor to do everything they can to ensure the initiative process is used appropriately, ethically, and constitutionally. We emphatically support House Bill 1087 and recommend its passage.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Rove, Bartlett subpoenaed

Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett could be forced to testify in the trial of Scooter Libby, according to Newsweek.
Both Rove and Bartlett have already received trial subpoenas from Libby’s defense lawyers, according to lawyers close to the case who asked not to be identified talking about sensitive matters.

While that is no guarantee they will be called, the odds increased this week after Libby’s lawyer, Ted Wells, laid out a defense resting on the idea that his client, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, had been made a “scapegoat” to protect Rove. Cheney is expected to provide the most crucial testimony to back up Wells’s assertion, one of the lawyers close to the case said.

The vice president personally penned an October 2003 note in which he wrote, “Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the other.” The note, read aloud in court by Wells, implied that Libby was the one being sacrificed in an effort to clear Rove of any role in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq war critic Joe Wilson. “Wow, for all the talk about this being a White House that prides itself on loyalty and discipline, you’re not seeing much of it,” the lawyer said.
Of course, there's no blue dress involved so perhaps we're getting all excited about nothing. It's only about the lies and the honor of the office when a Democrat is in office. If only Rover had speculated in pork futures or something...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rockefeller accuses Cheney of interference

A Democratic U.S. Senator is accusing Dick Cheney of trying to stall the investigation into false intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq.

From McClatchy Newspapers:
Vice President Dick Cheney exerted "constant" pressure on the Republican former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to stall an investigation into the Bush administration's use of flawed intelligence on Iraq, the panel's Democratic chairman charged Thursday.

In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia also accused President Bush of running an illegal program by ordering eavesdropping on Americans' international e-mails and telephone communications without court-issued warrants.

In the 45-minute interview, Rockefeller said that it was "not hearsay" that Cheney, a leading proponent of invading Iraq, pushed Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to drag out the probe of the administration's use of prewar intelligence.
It's going to be a long two years for Republicans and their supporters.

The noise machine will try to claim this about "revenge," but of course it's not about revenge, as justifiable and delicious as that would be. It's about the rule of law, the Constitution and whether people in the executive branch can be held accountable for their misdeeds.

Cheney's role in this administration has usually been simply described as "active," or in some similar vein; what has been lacking is serious reporting on the role he took not only in pushing the fiasco in Iraq but in the deliberate abuse of civil rights.

This basically guarantees Cheney a lavish book deal, a consulting contract on cable and maybe an endowed chair somewhere. It's the American way. If this administration's members are ever held accountable, a political tradition that dates back to the end of World War II would come to an ignominious end. The fetching style of smear politics perfected by Dick Nixon, Joe McCarthy and Henry Kissinger won't die that easily; of that you can be assured.

Right Wing Initiative Watch: Hutcherson's understanding of direct democracy is poor

The bigoted pastor of the Antioch Bible Church, Ken Hutcherson, has sent an email to his supporters about an appearance he'll be making this Friday (tomorrow, January 26th) on satellite radio to defend the filing of his initiative to overturn the recent expansion of Washington State's civil rights law.

It includes an update on the status of the initiative Hutcherson filed which demonstrates he's in unfamiliar territory.

Courtesy of Eli Sanders:

Dear Prayer Warrior,

This Friday January 26th, I will be interviewed at 12:30 PST, by Michelangelo Signorile on Sirius Satellite Radio. Michael is a radio talk show personality who is gay and he has called to debate me regarding the initiative that I submitted to Olympia last week, to repeal HB 2661 (the sexual orientation/civil rights bill that was passed last January). This will be on the gay channel of Sirius Satellite Radio. Here is a brief description of his show:
Monday to Friday 2 pm - 6 pm EST Signorile puts sizzle in the afternoons with his provocative brand of hot talk that sends homophobes and right wing zealots running for cover! Michelangelo draws newsmakers and community leaders, as well as icons from pop culture to politics, to talk about the issues of the day, and you’re invited to join them live on the air.
Pray for me as I speak about the “Initiative to Repeal HB 2661," that I will speak clearly and concisely regarding the details of this initiative, and that the truth behind HB 2661 be evident to all who hear me. This show is one of the largest in the gay community, it will touch many people - remember “ONE LIFE.”

The initiative is currently waiting to see how many signatures we are going to have to gather. Please be in prayer also for the money that we need to print and distribute the petitions for people to sign.

Your Pastor,
Hutch
Only someone who is clueless how direct democracy works would write a sentence that reads "The initiative is currently waiting to see how many signatures we are going to have to gather". Hutcherson either does not understand the initiative process - or he does, but he can't explain it.

Either way, this message makes him look bad.

Those of who know something about the initiative process are aware of how many valid signatures are currently required to make the ballot - 224,800. The deadline for submitting petitions this year is July 6th, 2007.

Any registered voter can sponsor an initiative (of which there are two types - this is an initiative to the people, and if it qualifies it would go directly to the ballot instead of to the Legislature, which is the other path).

Sponsors must file a printed or typewritten copy of the complete text of the proposed initiative or referendum with the Secretary of State. Each proposed measure, when filed, must be accompanied by a filing fee of five dollars ($5.00) and a sworn affidavit that the sponsor is a legal voter of Washington.

After filing, the initiative gets sent to the Office of the Code Reviser, which within seven days must do the following:
  • Review the draft for technical errors and style;
  • Advise the sponsor of any potential conflicts between the proposal and existing statutes; and
  • Return the proposal with the Certificate of Review to the sponsor with any recommended changes. All changes made by the Code Reviser are advisory and are subject to approval by the sponsor.
The sponsor then has 15 working days after the submittal of the initiative to the Code Reviser to refile the final draft of the measure with the Secretary of State, accompanied by the Code Reviser's Certificate of Review.

After refiling, the Secretary of State will assign a serial number to the proposed initiative and forward it on to the office of the Attorney General for formulation of the ballot title and summary.

The Code Reviser is reviewing what Hutcherson filed at the moment because the initiative does not yet have an assigned number. It is thus waiting to be finalized and refiled. It is not "waiting to see how many signatures we are going to have to gather."

It's amusing that Hutcherson is asking his supporters to pray for money to print petitions. Evidently the campaign coffers are pretty low right now. We'd be surprised if they can't scrounge together enough money to print petitions.

The real difficulty is getting enough signatures. It's hard to distort what this is about - legalizing discrimination - and most Washingtonians aren't interested in condoning bigotry. A signature drive that lacks a ton of money needs superb organization and coordination to make the ballot. At this juncture Hutcherson doesn't appear to have either, and that's good news. We'll be watching closely to see if he gets any help from someone who knows what they're doing.

CBS correspondent asks public to view story

Via Eschaton we learn that CBS's chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan, has resorted to sending an email asking for help in getting one of her stories out to the public. From Media Channel Dot Org:
One would assume that Ms. Logan, as CBS chief foreign correspondent, has a fair amount of influence as to what stories she gets to cover, and that most of her important stories, once produced and delivered, will be broadcast. But when the story comes out of the mean streets of Baghdad, and doesn’t fit the officially-sanctioned narrative of Iraqis and US soldiers working arm in arm to help protect thankful Iraqi citizens, even chief foreign correspondents sometimes need to ask for help in getting it seen. Imagine our surprise recently when–over the digital transom–we received a copy of an email from a frustrated Lara Logan....

In it, Logan asks for help in getting attention to what she calls “a story that is largely being ignored even though this istakingplace everysingle [sic] day in Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.”

The segment in question–”Battle for Haifa Street”–is a piece of first-rate journalism but one that only appears on the CBS News website–and has never been broadcast. It is a gritty, realistic look at life on the very mean streets of Baghdad, and includes interviews with civilians who complain that the US military presence is only making their lives worse and the situation more deadly.
The Tiffany Network this guy worked for seems long gone.

If you're willing to deal with some seriously annoying commercials, you can watch Logan's report here. There are some graphic images, but the American people deserve to be told the truth about what is happening in Iraq.

City and Port of Vancouver endorse staff plan for new Interstate 5 bridge

Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard drew some headlines this week when he endorsed light rail and tolls for a new I-5 bridge. As regular readers know, the project goes by the somewhat cumbersome name Columbia River Crossing. A vote is likely next month by the 39-member task force on whether to move forward with the staff recommendations.

While the focus earlier this week in the media was on Pollard's forceful comments, equally important may have been a letter sent to the CRC by the City of Vancouver (PDF file.) It's worth a read if you are following the project, but briefly put it endorses the staff recommendations to build a new "mid-level" span that includes either light rail or "bus rapid transit." Among the reasons cited to reject other possible options, such as re-use of the existing structures or the construction of "arterial" bridges for local use are increased traffic downtown and the use of scarce land.

The Port of Vancouver also sent the CRC a letter (also presented in PDF format.) The port is likewise endorsing the staff recommendations, and the port presents a number of concerns about how best to ease mobility for port clients at specific intersections and interchanges. One issue the port raises is the possibility that aligning light rail or "bus rapid transit" along Mill Plain Boulevard could someday eat into capacity for use by the port.

One thing to note about the city of Vancouver: it's one of the members of the CRC's Project Sponsors Council. Which means this, according to the CRC web site:
The Project Sponsors Council will receive recommendations from the Task Force, public input, and advice from the Project Development Team and concur on whether to move forward based on those recommendations.
I'm certainly no expert, but it certainly seems like some very important "stake-holders," to use a term that is tossed around a lot, are lining up in favor of the staff proposal.

Over at Portland Transport, Chris Smith has been posting questions from the CRC open houses so people can discuss them. He seems to be posting a new one every day or so, which is great. It's like an internet open house. Kinda.

If you have time, it's interesting to get the opinions of people south of the river. There is a shocking lack of communication between residents north and south of the Columbia River, and maybe if you have time you can have a look. And be nice, for crying out loud. Portland Transport looks like a respectable place, not some flame war joint.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Free The Truth, sound the alarm

The Federal Way School Board last night ditched its ridiculous but temporary moratorium on Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, even as board members defended their actions using the cover argument that they did not want students to be blindly indoctrinated without hearing more than one point of view.

(Their pretense about hearing from all sides is completely moot in this case because there is no longer a scientific debate about global warming).

The boneheaded decision has caused some progressive minded citizens to contemplate challenging the incumbents on the school board, which would definitely be a good thing. The Federal Way School Board needs to be more representative of the community it makes decisions for.

Most of the current board members unsurprisingly have ties to the local right wing, including the ultraconservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation, an organization with a mission of destroying the public education system, one step at a time. (One of their immediate goals is union busting, or more succinctly, the destruction of the Washington Education Association).

Meanwhile, over in Yakima, the principal of Eisenhower High has unfairly stopped the school's environmental club from screening An Inconvenient Truth, saying the film must first go through the materials process (which consists of a committee review and then ultimate approval by the principal, who wields veto power) to determine if it has educational value.

The principal's action surprised the club and its adviser, who did not think the process applied to club activities. And why should it? Club participation is voluntary. Public school buildings across America are used for optional extra curricular activities that are not part of the school day nor the core curricula.

In fact, schools are often simply used as meeting spaces, lent out to individuals or groups whose business is wholly unrelated to education.

Eisenhower's principal, Stacey Locke, did not provide a satisfactory explanation for her actions (and we would not have expected her to be able to supply one). Eisenhower's environmental club should have the right to screen An Inconvenient Truth, and indeed, the film is not only completely appropriate in that setting, but it should also be shown in science classes.

Scotland's already doing it:
Former US vice president Al Gore's climate change film is to be shown in all of Scotland's secondary schools, it has been announced...Plans to show it were announced ahead of an event in Glasgow attended by Mr Gore and former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.
It's one of the most important and lauded documentary films of all time. It should be part of the curriculum. Even right wing media have been swayed by The Truth. As Fox Noise Channel's Roger Friedman says, "It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative...your mind will be changed in a nanosecond."

Audiences across the country have been shaken to their core. The general public is more aware of and more concerned about global warming than ever before. Americans of all ages are eager to hear what Al Gore has to say.

Gore just this week came to the Pacific Northwest - to Idaho, and more specifically Boise - to give his slide show and extended, updated lecture on global warming. Julie from Red State Rebels has a terrific writeup of his appearance, which was nothing less than a giant hit:
The former vice president brought his famous "slide show" to BSU on Monday night, much of it the same as what he presented in the film An Inconvenient Truth. But Gore continues to update and tailor his presentation for each audience he's addressing - so here, for example, he highlighted how the incidence and severity of forest fires has increased with temperatures over the past decade.

He noted that he was in Japan last week for that nation's premier of An Inconvenient Truth, and observed how, in Japanese, the word crisis is represented by two symbols: one for danger, one for opportunity. To get to the opportunity, we must face up to the danger, he said.

Gore is not afraid to face the skeptics, the ranks of whom he said are dwindling faster than glaciers. What if your child had a fever, you went to the doctor, and the doctor told you to take action - but you said, "Well, I read this science fiction book and I'm not sure what you're saying is true"?

Gore said folks who still question global warming are those who, if their child's crib was on fire, would declare their child flame-retardant.

To the skeptics, he shows evidence of glacial earthquakes in Greenland - seven in 1993, quadruple that in 2005. He shows studies that revealed how, of 928 peer-reviewed scientific studies, none disputed global warming - but 53% of 636 articles in the popular press did so (including this morning's Page 1 story in the Idaho Statesman).

He also roundly debunks the false choices between a vibrant economy and a healthy environment, noting how growing legions of CEOs are embracing the idea that we can have both.
Read the whole report and the diary at Daily Kos. Julie also has a good roundup of the news stories about Gore's visit.

It's time to free the truth. Political will may be, as Al Gore says, a "renewable resource", but we will not be able to summon the strength to deal with this crisis until a greater number of us understand the threat. And that's where An Inconvenient Truth comes in and why it is so critically important. As Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the film:
In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.
It is not acceptable for school administrators and school boards to block, ban, or mire this film in bureaucratic red tape. The truth needs to be free, no matter how inconvenient it may be.

Obama should take on Fox Noise Channel

News Hounds reports that Keith Olbermann has hit upon the perfect moniker for Fox: "Fox Noise Channel."
On "Countdown" on Tuesday (January 23, 2007), Olbermann referred to FNC as the "Fox Noise Channel" while bestowing his "Worst Person in the World" award on Fox News' John Gibson, host of the "Big Story."

Gibson won the award for sticking with the fake story promoted by right-wing media outlets, including the Fox News, or Nothing, or Noise Channel, about Barack Obama having attended a radical Islam school while a child living with his mother and step-father in Indonesia.
Atrios has been banging this drum for a while.
This is a point I've returned to repeatedly, but the mainstream media - the "serious" media - really needs to figure out how to handle outlets like Fox. Aside from their complete lack of ethics or standards, they also imagine (or claim to imagine) they're correcting an imbalance which doesn't exist.
At Daily Kos, Devilstower chimes in with this:
As usual, no one on the right seems to be interested in facts when they've got a good character assassination underway, especially if they can sling mud at Obama and Hillary at the same time. Stopping now would be slander interruptus.
Doubtless the Fox types will start howling about their First Amendment rights, so it's worth noting that while Fox has considerable leeway under the doctrine of free speech to criticize public figures, there are some limits. Whether Fox and Insight Magazine crossed that line is a question for lawyers.

If the answer to speech one disagrees with is more speech, it is incumbent upon media outlets who consider themselves respectable to condemn outlets who disregard even the most basic notions of fairness and accuracy. People who work at Fox Noise Channel are no more the colleagues of serious journalists than those at supermarket tabloids. There are superficial similarities, as tabloids are printed on paper, but it's hard to imagine that Pulitzer Prize winning reporters consider people making up stories about UFO's to be in the same line of work. Making up vicious stories about Democrats out of whole cloth is just as disreputable.

The real problem, of course, is that there are people in this world who either won't or can't distinguish between the blatant lies of Fox Noise Channel and reality. When the Swift Boating starts, a certain segment of the population believes it, making rational discussions about issues and candidates that much more difficult. Most readers probably know someone who watches Fox Noise Channel a lot, and it's like talking to someone who lives in a different country sometimes. As the GOP continues its downward slide, these bitter-enders are likely to become increasingly more desperate and outlandish.

Just as entertainment celebrities eventually became fed up with the supermarket tabloids, the smear against Obama should be the final straw. Obama is sometimes criticized in progressive circles for not having much record of accomplishment, but this might be a golden chance for him to do something profoundly helpful for the cause. Who would be a more articulate person, whether in the court of public opinion or a court of law, to once and for all expose Fox for what it is? Think of it as a Scopes Monkey Trial for the media.

Obama should call them all out: Gibson, O'Reilly and Hannity, and see if they are men enough to debate him. Just sayin'.

Republicans filibuster minimum wage bill

Hear that, working America? The GOP doesn't think you deserve a pay raise:
On a 54-43 vote, Democrats lost an effort to advance a House-passed bill that would lift the pay floor from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour without any accompanying tax cut.

Opponents of the tax cut needed 60 votes to prevail.
Well, well. Looks like we've got ourselves a merry band of Republican obstructionists! Weren't these the same guys who were complaining about Democratic filibusters not so long ago?

There's just one difference: this bill is in America's best interest. But it's been blocked...because the wealthy get nothing out of it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid forced a vote and most of the Senate Republican caucus has shown their true colors.

They don't care one iota about working families. A minority of the chamber has stymied legislation that would greatly benefit lower and middle income families (see our white paper on the minimum wage, released several weeks ago).

Among those supporting the filibuster was Oregon's Gordon Smith, an endangered Republican who needs to go in 2008. Smith's unacceptable vote is a slap in the face to the people of the Beaver State. Following orders from the GOP leadership is apparently more important than truly representing his constituents.

This action by Smith and his fellow Republicans is appalling - but par for the course.

UPDATE: TJ has more on Smith at Loaded Orygun.

More nonsense from New Hampshire

It seems New Hampshire's elected officials are throwing another fit about the possibility of being upstaged in the presidential sweepstakes by not just Iowa, but gasp - Nevada! - as well. The horror! The tradition will be ruined!

We've written about this previously (see New Hampshire's tradition of arrogance and Haughty New Hampshire wants to stay on top). We only hope the DNC refuses to allow this absurd pompousness to continue. The presidential primary process needs to be reformed and improved whether New Hampshire and Iowa like it or not.

Kerry won't join presidential sweepstakes

According to an official who asked to remain anonymous, Senator John Kerry will formally announce later today that he does not intend to seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2008 and will instead run for reelection as one of Massachusetts' two senators. It's a wise move, one that will benefit the party and free Kerry from worrying about the toll another campaign would take.

Since Kerry is not going to run it will be interesting to see if he decides to endorse his former running mate, John Edwards, or perhaps stay out of the sweepstakes altogether and make no recommendation at all.

Baird town halls set

The media advisory for Brian Baird's town hall meetings is out. In addition to the one Thursday evening in Vancouver, which I mentioned yesterday, there is one scheduled for Friday in Napavine.

Town Hall Meetings on the Budget and the War in Iraq
Fort Vancouver High School Auditorium (5700 E 18th Street, Vancouver - Map It!)
Thursday, January 25th, 2007 - 7:00 PM

Napavine Elementary School, Cafeteria (209 E. Park, Napavine - Map It!)
Friday, January 26th, 2007 - 7:00 PM
Note that Google Maps doesn't seem to like the address of Napavine Elementary, and tries to take you to Chehalis. So you're on your own there, but the "Map It" link will take you to Google Maps. Try typing in "Napavine Elementary.

Both events are sponsored by Representative Brian Baird's office and open to the media and the public. Bloggers are encouraged to come.

Clearing up confusion about the Columbia River Crossing project

Here's a good illustration of how terminology can impact public perception.
For months now, officials from the project -- a joint operation of Oregon and Washington -- have been saying the bridge will have three through lanes in each direction, not counting onramps, offramps and breakdown lanes.

But now, official descriptions of the proposal say the bridge will be have "five or six lanes." That doesn't mean lanes were added; it's just a switch in terminology.

"It's the wording," said Danielle Cogan, task force spokeswoman.

Yes, it will still have three through lanes, but now the onramps, offramps and breakdown lanes are included when counting lanes. Five or six lanes will cross the bridge in each direction, Cogan said, although one may be, for example, an exit-only lane to eastbound Highway 14 in Washington, or an exit to southbound Interstate Avenue in Portland, or a place to change a flat tire.
The article goes on to note that the CRC has received a lot of comments complaining that we would be spending $2 billion to build a bridge with the same number of lanes as the existing bridge. That's simply not the case. A new bridge would involve at least three "through lanes" and any number of "exit" lanes.

Leaving controversial transit questions aside, it seems clear that efforts are being made to address safety, interchange and overall design issues. Put simply, the 1917 highway technology would be replaced, as it stands in the current staff proposal, by 2007 highway technology. It's still cars, but it would be a drastic improvement. Having "drop-off" lanes that serve Hayden Island and downtown Vancouver, for example, would free up a lot of room.

There are tons of issues to be sorted out, but this was a smart move by the CRC. People were misunderstanding the proposal, thinking it would only involve three total lanes in each direction. While there are legitimate arguments to be made about the staff proposal, it's important that everyone at least understand what it is.

UPDATE: Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who is certainly not shy about speaking his mind, declared his support for light rail and tolls yesterday during his "State of the City" speech. From The Oregonian:
Pollard, delivering his annual State of the City address, embraced light rail, saying he wouldn't support an Interstate 5 bridge replacement plan that didn't include it. He said vehicle tolls would be essential to pay for the new bridge. And he said that a $20-per-vehicle license tax would be needed for new transportation projects elsewhere in the city.
As the article notes, at least one city council member and two county commissioners were not exactly jumping for joy.

It's an interesting development, to say the least. The city and county have clashed repeatedly over growth-related issues, especially annexation. An article in The Columbian about the speech has Pollard "hinting" that it might be time for Vancouver to chart its own course when it comes to transit.
During his speech, Pollard hinted that it might be time for Vancouver to break away from C-Tran and form its own transit agency.

Afterward, Pollard said he made that comment because county commissioners appear ready to use their power to veto C-Tran decisions and block the transit agency from backing a bridge project should it include light rail transit.
One more thought about tolls: if the new Interstate 5 bridge is tolled, what implications does that have for the existing Interstate 205 bridge not far upriver?

Sacrifice

The rats are leaving the ship.
When the White House press secretary publicly absolved Rove in the leak but later refused to clear Libby, Libby sought Cheney's help in defending himself, Wells said.

"They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb," Wells said, recalling Libby's end of the conversation. "I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected."

And why wouldn't they, Wells asked the jury, because Rove was Bush's chief political adviser, "the man most responsible for making sure the Republican party stayed in office. He had to be protected."
My crystal ball needs a new vacuum tube, but it's possible that in a few short months (or less) there will be something of a mad scramble to the lifeboats at the White House.

When Bush talks about "sacrifice," this may not be what he had in mind.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth nominated for Oscars

Former Vice President Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim, was nominated today for Academy Awards in two categories: best documentary feature and best original song. The critically acclaimed film, a huge hit with audiences across the country, is the third highest grossing documentary in the United States to date and has brought the crisis of global warming to the forefront like never before.

An Inconvenient Truth is available on DVD and you can also purchase the companion book which nicely complements the documentary. If you have not yet seen the film, what are you waiting for? You owe it to yourself, your family, and your friends to see the truth.

State of the Union Liveblogging

The 2007 SOTU has just kicked off.....here we go. Observations and updates will be posted regularly below throughout the speech.

Think Progress has the embargoed text of the speech.

I: Bush kicked off this year's address by congratulating Nancy Pelosi on her ascension to the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives....and then proceeding to acknowledge the "Democrat" majority in Congress. What a phony show of respect from the leader of the Republic Party.

II: Dubya called balanced budget and spending restraint...but who has done nothing as deficits have skyrocketed and millions of Americans have suffered in poverty? Oh yeah....that'd be the Decider, Missing From Action.

III: As for earmark reform...Dubya's got a double standard, and his health care "plan" would cut funding from hospitals. Health savings accounts with no real savings - that's sure going to help patients and their doctors.

IV: Bush is obviously not serious about investing in renewable energy, or he wouldn't be supporting an increase in domestic oil production. He didn't even deliver on last year's promises. It's also worth nothing that dependence on foreign oil has actually increased during his occupancy of the White House.

V: CNN just cut to John McCain...who seems to be asleep! Condoleeza Rice, meanwhile, looked bored and both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry appeared to be wishing they were somewhere else.

VI: Once again, Bush feigns interest in Middle East democracy. As for escalation, that policy has already been tried...and it's failed. Sending more American troops to Baghdad and environs will not quell the violence in Iraq.

VII: Bush is now going into a long drawl about diplomacy, the United Nations, and his strategy for a peaceful world - yadda, yadda, yadda...

VIII: Bush is ending his speech with anecdotes about Americans who exhibit traits or characteristics that his speechwriters found to be compelling.

IX: Completely absent from the speech, unsurprisingly, was any mention of Hurricane Katrina or the challenges facing New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Now, for something better. Something that makes coherent sense. Here's the text of of the Democratic response, delivered by Senator James Webb of Virginia.
Good evening.

I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown - an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy - how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy - how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy - that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues - those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death - we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us - sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable - and predicted - disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.
Much better than the lame State of the Union address we just heard.

2007 SOTU Impression

Forget what's on your TV. The real State of the Union action has already happened - and you can watch it on YouTube.
James Adomian is back with his fantastic Bush impression and another pre-emptive satirical strike on this year's State of the Union address. And the Democratic response at the end is hilarious!
For more comedy from Adomian & Company, check out Patriot Facts.

You may also be interested in Drinking Liberally's SOTU Bingo, or a drinking game (please drink responsibly) or the SOTU eating game.

It's time we changed our transportation focus

Last Friday, Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck gave a powerful speech arguing against a new viaduct during a special meeting of the council. Here's an excerpt from it, courtesy of The Stranger's Eric Barnett:
We will be a laughingstock. We will be an embarrassment. We will not be able to stand on our leadership. We will not be able to be taken seriously when we talk about sustainability and the environment if we do this. There is a solution that’s more cost-effective and more financially responsible that we can develop.

It would save the state money if they would just free us from this stranglehold of focusing on auto capacity. Twenty-five years from now, if we proceed with this plan, this elevated structure will be congested, backed up to West Seattle the day it opens. If we don’t take steps to address our transportation problems now, it will be gridlock.

This is not a choice about my political future. If I could trade this job today and stop that elevated freeway I would do it in a flash. It is that important to our city, this beautiful place, the environment we live in that is so envied by people the world around.
Building a new viaduct would certainly be a mistake, but Steinbrueck really hit upon something that is more important in his remarks which eschews the viaduct debate - and that is that we need to change our transportation focus from moving cars to moving people.

We're just not there yet.

Case in point: While elected officials, activists, and citizens in Seattle and King County argue about how to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Evergreen Point floating bridge (a debate which is also sucking up oxygen in Olympia) WSDOT bureaucrats and the folks working on the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) package are unbelievably considering asking voters to fund a new cross-base highway down in Pierce County as part of the proposal.

That's right. A new highway. State Route 704 would cross an imperiled ecosystem that supports some of the rarest wildlife in the western half of the Evergreen State. It would be accompanied by a widened 176th Street, a two-lane road that starts where the freeway would end.

That's not how you solve congestion. A new highway isn't even capacity replacement, it's new capacity.

New pavement is nothing short of a giant encouragement for more people to drive - and it almost always leads to more sprawl.

Despite all the evidence that it does not work, the political establishment and many interest groups are still stuck in the wrong mindset. The following excerpt from the book Suburban Nation describes this phenomenon in better depth.
The simple truth is that building more highways and widening existing roads, almost always motivated by concern over traffic, does nothing to reduce traffic. In the long run, in fact, it increases traffic. This revelation is so counterintuitive that it bears repeating: adding lanes makes traffic worse.

This paradox was suspected as early as 1942 by Robert Moses, who noticed that the highways he had built around New York City in 1939 were somehow generating greater traffic problems than had existed previously.

Since then, the phenomenon has been well documented, most notably in 1989, when the Southern California Association of Governments concluded that traffic assistance measures, be they adding lanes, or even double-decking the roadways, would have no more than a cosmetic effect on Los Angeles' traffic problems. The best it could offer was to tell people to work closer to home, which is precisely what highway building mitigates against.

Across the Atlantic, the British government reached a similar conclusion. Its studies showed that increased traffic capacity causes people to drive more - a lot more - such that half of any driving-time savings generated by new roadways are lost in the short run. In the long run, potentially all savings are expected to be lost. In the words of the Transport Minister, "The fact of the matter is that we cannot tackle our traffic problems by building more roads."

While the British have responded to this discovery by drastically cutting their road-building budgets, no such thing can be said about Americans.

There is no shortage of hard data. A recent University of California at Berkeley study covering thirty California counties between 1973 and 1990 found that, for every 10 percent increase in roadway capacity, traffic increased 9 percent within four years' time. For anecdotal evidence, one need only look at commuting patterns in those cities with expensive new highway systems.

USA Today published the following report on Atlanta: "For years, Atlanta tried to ward off traffic problems by building more miles of highways per capita than any other urban area except Kansas City...As a result of the area's sprawl, Atlantans now drive an average of 35 miles a day, more than residents of any other city." This phenomenon, which is now well known to those members of the transportation industry who wish to acknowledge it, has come to be called induced traffic.

The mechanism at work behind induced traffic is elegantly explained by an aphorism gaining popularity among traffic engineers: "Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt." Increased traffic capacity makes longer commutes less burdensome, and as a result, people are willing to live farther and farther from their workplace.

As increasing numbers of people make similar decisions, the long-distance commute grows as crowded as the inner city, commuters clamor for additional lanes, and the cycle repeats itself. This problem is compounded by the hierarchical organization of the new roadways, which concentrate through traffic on as few streets as possible.
The authors of Suburban Nation used Atlanta as one of their examples, and indeed Atlanta's problems are well known. So well known that the famous standup comedian and Daily Show regular Lewis Black started off one his appearances there by complaining about the city's transportation disaster:
Nice to be back in Atlanta, nice to see that you've really worked out your traffic problems. You don't [care] about it, do you? I guess this must be my sixth appearance here and every time I've begged the audience, I'd plead with you...do something...and nobody seems to [be concerned]...I've tried as hard as I can to explain that you're living a psychotic lifestyle and you don't care.

Six lanes, six lanes of traffic....and nobody moves. I mean, that's just unbelievable. And what's truly extraordinary is those signs you put up, over the road. The electronic ones. The ones that say, "Oh, you have 4.5 miles to go from Point A to Point B, and it'll be 45 minutes." Why do you do that to yourselves?

There are too many cars everywhere. Nobody seems to deal with this reality. It's beyond belief. And you guys? Public transportation? You're just like, "Ha, ha, ha, ha! Who needs it!?"

But there are too many cars, and there's going to come a point where, I'll tell you, one morning, you'll get in your car, and you won't be able to back out of the driveway. There'll be cars on every inch of the road. You know, there'll just be a complete meltdown.
New pavement is counterproductive, so why is Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg so eager to build this new highway?

There are other foolish examples as well. Some Eastside lawmakers keep talking about further widening Interstate 405. What is that supposed to accomplish? Have these people forgotten that Interstate 405 was built in the first place as a bypass for the already crowded I-5? Now I-405 is considered to be one of the most, if not the most, clogged highway in all of Washington State.

We built Interstate 405 and traffic hasn't gotten any better. Instead, it got worse, like it has in other cities. But the solution to the mess has stayed the same. Albert Einstein once allegedly said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

It's time to change the way we look at transportation. If we think about moving people instead of moving cars, then the obvious solution is not building new highways and laying fresh pavement. It's constructing effective transit systems and giving people a choice. If walking, biking, or taking mass transit is convenient, people will do it. So let's make those options realistic and practical.

We've already made some progress. Sound Transit, a favorite target of the local right wing, is one of the best things that's ever happened to Puget Sound. Its express bus and commuter rail services are allowing a huge number of metro residents to feel comfortable abandoning their automobile.

I'm one of them. When I go to downtown Seattle, I often take Sound Transit's 545 Express because it's quicker and more convenient than driving.

You don't have to worry about parking - and when State Route 520 is congested, as it so often is, you roll right by the metered onramp lines and slow moving traffic jams in the HOV lanes.

Sound Transit is actually proposing an increase in the frequency of service on Route 545 because it is so popular. I can attest to that - I saw riders turned away on a November trip I took during peak hours because the bus I was on was simply too crowded to hold them. There appeared to be more people standing than sitting.

And light rail? Central Link is under construction and on track for completion in 2009. When it's finished, it will provide a seamless connection between SeaTac International Airport and downtown Seattle.

Tacoma Link, a shorter line which has already been operating for several years, has already exceeded ridership expectations. Central Link is perhaps the smartest transportation project this region has ever embarked on.

Already planning is underway to extend the line to serve more urban neighborhoods. Puget Sound voters will be asked this November to approve additional funding to extend light rail in several different directions as part of Sound Transit's Phase 2 proposal.

Our dollars are most wisely spent investing in transit systems and taking advantage of redevelopment opportunities that arise from their construction or expansion. Replacing unsafe structures such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct or the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge should be a top priority, but building brand new highways or widening existing ones is not a sensible course of action.

Special Baird town hall on war and budget

I've learned that Brian Baird is planning a special town hall meeting on Thursday in Vancouver to discuss the war in Iraq, the federal budget and other topics.

There is some chance that bad weather elsewhere in the country could disrupt Baird's ability to fly west, according to Kelly Love with Baird's Vancouver office. Barring that it will be a good chance for citizens to express their opinions about this infernal war and the infernal escalation.

As an aside - I know I'm supposed to be on a blog break until tomorrow, but I thought this information warranted a brief post. I'll be officially back tomorrow.

The event details:

Town Hall Meeting on the Budget and the War in Iraq
Fort Vancouver High School Auditorium (5700 E 18th Street - Map It!)
Thursday, January 25th, 2007 - 7:00 PM
Sponsored by Representative Brian Baird's office
The event is open to the media and the public. Bloggers are encouraged to come.

Monday, January 22, 2007

In Brief - January 22nd, 2006

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • A new coalition of progressive interest groups called They Work For Us has been formed to instill discipline in congressional Democrats. The coalition includes SEIU, the United Steelworkers, MoveOn, the American Association for Justice, and Kos Media. It will target renegade Democratic lawmakers whose priorities are out of step with their constituents with primary challenges. As organizer Steve Rosenthal put it, "our PAC will encourage Democrats to act like Democrats - and if they don't - they better get out of the way."
  • Puget Sound Energy has been fined to the tune of nearly $1 million for illegally selling customers' private data to an outside marketing firm. The utility admitted in a settlement earlier today that it transferred 65,000 plus phone calls from new or relocating customers to company that then attempted to sell them telephone service, lawn care, or newspaper subscriptions.
  • P-I columnist Joel Connelly's column this morning (Sexism's alive and well on the right) is a must read and surely one of Joel's finest. Using a plethora of examples, he observes that prejudice is a favorite weapon of the Republican Noise Machine, a weapon that's unlikely to be laid down anytime soon.
  • The Washington Post's Peter Baker and Jon Cohen have an analysis of the political mood going into tomorrow's State of the Union address. The second headline of their article cryptically reads "Iraq Overshadows Domestic Outreach". The article sifts through the results of a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which say Bush's approval rating is at is lowest level ever and that most Americans no longer trust him to provide leadership in a time of crisis. It's no wonder the public is unhappy. The conservative agenda has been exposed very clearly as nothing less than a complete disaster and we're paying the price - not just figuratively, but literally too.
Finally, don't forget to check out NPI's improved homepage.

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

NPI's homepage revamped

It's time our front page was revised and improved to clean out outdated material and allow for a cleaner presentation - so we gave it a makeover. The new version (1.8) is now live and available for your viewing pleasure.

Expect the Orwellian in State of the Union

George W. Bush will appear before Congress tomorrow evening to give the annual State of the Union speech, and we'll be following it live here on the Official Blog with updates, observations, and analysis.

Expect to hear a lot of empty rhetoric that sounds good on delivery but won't be backed up with any kind of subsequent action. In other words...expect the Orwellian. For example, Bush's speech writers love to insert language about investing in renewable energy, but this is never followed by any meaningful investment.

The Center for American Progress provided evidence for such an observation this morning when it referenced an article from the conservative Washington Times which noted that "of the 12 initiatives that he proposed or called on Congress to pass in 2006, the White House can claim complete success on just three." (And that was with Republican control of both chambers!)

The Center's four part series on the State of the Union is available through the following links: Environment, National Security, Healthcare, and Economy.

Finally, don't be surprised if Joe Lieberman is mentioned when Bush talks about "bipartisanship" and assume you'll be hearing some defense of the administration's escalation policy, and perhaps an answer to the House Democrats' successful "100 Hours" agenda, which has put the administration and Republicans on the defensive.

Jim Webb will deliver the Democratic response after Bush has spoken. Fellow Virginian Tim Kaine (who was elected Governor in 2005) had the honor of responding last year.

Bill expanding high school completion programs passes the state House

Congratulations to Representative Dave Upthegrove and all who lobbied in support of House Bill 1051, which opens pathways to higher education for many students who might otherwise become discouraged and drop out. The bill passed the House of Representatives today, 73 to 21 (see the roll call).

Here's a more detailed analysis of the bill from legislative staff:
Finds that the state's commitment to providing a basic education for all public school students under the age of twenty-one should continue until a student earns a diploma.

Therefore the legislature intends to expand high school completion programs at community and technical colleges for older students who have not yet received a diploma but are eligible for state basic education support.

Provides that, in accordance with this act, each community or technical college shall make available courses or a program of study, on the college campus, designed to enable students under the age of twenty-one who have completed all state and local high school graduation requirements except the certificate of academic achievement or certificate of individual achievement to complete their high school education and obtain a high school diploma.
HB 1051 now moves on to the state Senate for consideration.

Alaskan Way Tunnel...back from the dead?

The Governor has slightly altered course again:
Gov. Christine Gregoire this morning left the door open to replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel.

Without committing herself to a course of action, the governor said she wants to hear what voters say in a March 13 election in Seattle on the viaduct.

"There is no question that the next big issue is what do the voters say," Gregoire said at a news conference today.

[...]

"The end of the legislative session is the final say because we're moving forward with one of the two options we had in December (the elevated highway or the $4.6 billion tunnel) or whatever the Legislature may choose alternatively," Gregoire said.
Or whatever the Legislature may choose alternatively? So that means if the Legislature wanted a surface/transit option, that's what we would get? That's what the Governor would support? Well, it is good to know that our state's chief executive has respect for the legislative branch - unlike that other guy occupying the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue until January 2009.

What's really funny about today's development is what it does to all those news headlines from last week. The P-I and the Times hurried to declare the tunnel's death in boldface at the top of their websites and then in print the next morning. But the tunnel still has a shot in Olympia, apparently.

We know that Speaker Chopp and some in the Seattle delegation are decided (on a new viaduct) but they can't have their way unless the Senate and the Governor agree (and that's assuming they can muster a majority in the House). And even if the legislative and executive branches unanimously agree on a new viaduct, the city could still fight it, and opposed citizens could file lawsuits to block it.

But that conflict is most definitely postponed until the after the advisory vote, which is guaranteed to be one of Seattle's most high profile special elections in recent memory. Let the campaigns begin!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Tackling the daunting environmental challenges we face, one step at a time

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) recently moved the minute hand of their Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight (which represents the figurative end of civilization) in acknowledgment of several major environmental challenges that affect the entire world, including nuclear proliferation and global warming.

Whatever you think of the Doomsday Clock, there's no denying that we are facing some serious problems. As Representative Jay Inslee recently said, "if we don't solve global warming, nothing else will matter."

Priorities for a Healthy Washington recently presented a workshop outlining this year's priorities for the 2007 legislative session:
  • Clean Air and Clean Fuels
  • Enhancing the Wildlife and Recreation Program
  • Saving Puget Sound
  • Eliminating toxic PDBE Flame Retardants
All the priorities are important, but given that the clean air and clean fuel proposals address the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (the cause of global warming) they are perhaps the most significant. Two bills have been introduced that address the emissions problem by reducing fossil fuel consumption.

HB 1303 (sponsored by Representative Mary Lou Dickerson) would create the Clean Diesel Initiative, a school bus replacement incentive program, a clean fuels initiative, and a plan to reduce emissions of the state's motor pool. This bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources on Wednesday, January 24th, at 8:00 AM.

SB 5287 (sponsored by Senator Phil Rockefeller) encourages the development and use of renewable energy. State agencies would be required to meet certain energy consumption targets beginning in 2009. The bill has been referred to Water, Energy & Telecommunications, but no public hearing has been scheduled yet.

On the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 (H.R. 6) as part of the caucus' "100 Hours" program. The legislation is unlikely to make it past the White House and Bush's veto, but at least Congress is making an effort to act in America's best interest.

Richardson joins presidential sweepstakes

The New Mexico governor has decided he's going to be in the running:
"I am taking this step because we have to repair the damage that’s been done to our country over the last six years," Mr. Richardson said in a statement. “Our reputation in the world is diminished, our economy has languished, and civility and common decency in government has perished."

He highlighted his experience, from United Nations ambassador to state governor, as making him uniquely positioned to tackle a range of international and domestic tasks, from getting American troops out of Iraq to improving the economy and energy independence.
Richardson's competition includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards (those three constitute the probable top tier) as well as Tom Vilsack, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd, who are in the race but unlikely to capture the nomination. The field is only going to keep getting bigger.

Richardson's most important advantage is probably that he's a governor, not a senator. No senator has won a race for the White House since JFK in the 1960s. That's not to say it can't be done, but it hasn't been happening in recent decades. The only other governor in the race thus far is Vilsack, who isn't likely to become the nominee. Richardson has a better shot at getting into the top tier and defeating Obama, Clinton, and Edwards, the front runners.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Right Wing Initiative Watch: Hutcherson refiles to overturn civil rights law

Ken Hutcherson, the bigoted leader of the Antioch Bible Church, has refiled his proposal to overturn Washington's recently expanded civil rights law, ESHB 2661, as an initiative to the people. Hutcherson used his own name to file, but unlike last time (when he filed an initiative to the Legislature) he used an Olympia post office box instead of Antioch's own address.

Hutcherson's initiative is essentially the same thing as last year's Referendum 65, which Tim Eyman failed to qualify for the ballot.

Initiatives to the people currently require at least 224,800 valid signatures from citizens registered to vote in Washington. The actual number of signatures needed is significantly higher (270,000 is probably the minimum number required) because a certain percentage is always invalid. Fail to collect enough extra, and you won't make the ballot - which is what happened to Tim Eyman's I-917 last year.

Permanent Defense will soon be reactivating its system for reporting the activity of right wing petitioners so that the the signature drives of Hutcherson, Eyman, and others can be monitored. Data from the system last year allowed Permanent Defense to accurately forecast that I-920 and I-933 would make the ballot, and later, confirm that Tim Eyman shut down I-917's signature drive in early June at about the same time he failed to qualify Referendum 65.

Another initiative which purports to protect traditional marriage has been filed by Seattle resident Gregory Gadow, but it's not what you'd suspect it is. Here's a description of what the initiative is supposed to do from Gadow's website:
Marriage will be restricted only to those couples able to have children together....Couples married in Washington will have three years from the date of their marriage or 18 months from the date the initiative becomes law, whichever is later, to either have children together or provide documentation that they have fulfilled the primary purpose of marriage.

Failure to comply would result in the marriage being annulled.

Couples married outside of Washington who live in this state will have three years from the date of their marriage or 18 months from the date the initiative becomes law or 30 days from the date they move into this state, whichever is later, to either have children or provide documentation that they have fulfilled the primary purpose of marriage. Failure to comply would result in the marriage being unrecognized as a valid marriage until proper documentation is filed.
An interesting proposal, to be sure, but it's probably not headed anywhere.

Now, there's no denying that anyone who has the money can get anything they want on the ballot, but who is going to supply the half a million dollars it'll take to qualify this? Gadow's own website, in a dated statement from last year, says "we must raise at least $300,000 over the next ten months" which is an acknowledgment of the cost of a paid signature drive.

Three hundred grand probably won't cut it, though. Upwards of half a million bucks is the minimum a sponsor needs to buy his or her way on.

Hutcherson and Eyman appear to be the only right wing zealots serious about qualifying something this year....so far. We'll be keeping watch over the next few months to see if they're joined by anyone else.

Hillary Clinton announces she's running for president - to no one's surprise

The former First Lady says she's in, and in to win:
If successful, Mrs. Clinton, 59, would be the first female nominee of a major American political party, and she would become the first spouse of a former president to seek a return to the White House.

Her entrance into the race followed Mr. Obama’s by less than a week, and highlighted the urgency for her of not falling behind in the competition for money, especially in New York, her home turf, where the battle has already reached a fever pitch. It also set off rounds of e-mail messages and conference calls among both her allies and opponents.
The announcement comes as a shock to no one. The media has been talking about a Hillary run since before the 2004 presidential election. Clinton says she's determined to capture the nomination, but she will have strong competition. She is by no means guaranteed to become the standard bearer.

Meanwhile, the media's obsession with "centrism" reaches a new high.

Viaduct replacement chaos

A political war has reached a new climax in the Emerald City and the Evergreen State and it's not likely to get any less intense anytime soon. (For an overview of the latest developments, this Seattle Times story by Bob Young is a good primer). There are so many different factions in the fight that it's hard to see how there will ever be a consensus to reach a decision.

First there are the factions that support only one of the replacement options:
  • New elevated highway
  • Tunnel
  • Surface/Transit (Long term solution)
  • Remove the viaduct and implement a mitigation plan (short term solution)
Then there are factions that are more open minded and support more than one of the above options (for example, tunnel or new viaduct, tunnel or surface/transit). There is yet another faction making the ridiculous argument for a retrofit.

Mixed into this now are two new dueling factions - one of which wants Olympia to break through the political gridlock and the other which is defending home rule and Seattle's right to have a say. Along these new lines there's a third group, comprised of people from both of the above mentioned dueling factions, which supports moving the funds committed to the viaduct over to the State Route 520 bridge project if progress can't be made quickly.

Even more confusing, a number of people who were previously in one faction are now in another. (For example, the Governor previously was agreeable to a tunnel or new viaduct but now she apparently supports only the latter).

Local commentators in the traditional media, along with newspaper editorial boards, have been bemoaning the lack of action, but they, like everyone else, have an opinion on what should happen to the viaduct.

Is anybody really to blame? It's so easy to attack the Governor, or Mayor Nickels, probably the two highest profile figures in this political conflict. But the electorate appears to be on all sides of this too. Around the Web, on local websites, blogs, and forums, there is division and disagreement about the issue of the viaduct's replacement - reflecting what is happening between political leaders.

The Seattle City Council is divided, the House and Senate are divided - even the Seattle delegation to the Legislature is divided! Throw in the mayor and the governor, who are sticking to their guns, plus a whole army of activists and interest group leaders, and you have a recipe for chaos.

We can all agree on one thing - we need to do something (whether that means tear down the viaduct and replace it with a new structure, or tear it down because it's unsafe and see if we can mitigate its loss, or tear it down and implement long term solutions, or retrofit it). But we can't agree on what to do. Almost all of us are saying no action is not an option...and we're right.

Some people, like Speaker Chopp, now seem dead set on forcing a new viaduct through (which we think is a strategic mistake on his part). Trying to push large groups of people out of the way is not an approach that is likely to yield results. The City Council is hoping the advisory vote will lead to a way out, but there's no guarantee that Seattle voters will send a clear message.

If the March vote does not lead to a consensus, this battle may very well move into the judicial system with a storm of litigation in the not too distant future.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Taking some time off

I'll be away from the Official Blog until next Wednesday due to family celebrations. (Birthday, birthday, birthday, anniversary. Yeah, I know. It seemed romantic at the time. Now it just seems soggy on the way to the restaurant.)

Have a great weekend.

Greedy Sonics demand public assistance

Representatives from the group that owns the Seattle Sonics (led by Clay Bennett) yesterday told Governor Christine Gregoire and legislators they want $300 million in public assistance (i.e. taxes) for a new arena, as well as financial help from whatever city gets the new complex. The total cost is apparently between $340 million and $360 million with around $170 million more for land and parking lots.

What's in it for taxpayers, you ask? Apparently nothing:
While saying Sonics owners will pay part of that cost, Bennett wrote that he could not yet provide a number because owners are still calculating how much money they would make off the new building.
That's right - taxpayers are going to be asked to foot almost all of the bill so that Bennett & Co. can make money.

To that, we say: no thanks.

It's time for elected officials to just say no. A message needs to be sent to the sports industry that the free ride is over (at least in the Evergreen State). You want a brand new, shiny arena? Then raise the money to pay for the cost yourselves. Don't arrogantly approach the Legislature with the expectation that you'll get a treasure chest overflowing with money placed at your feet.

Amazingly, the Sonics' lobbyist tried to claim they weren't asking for a handout:
"This is not the Sonics and the Storm coming down here and asking the taxpayers to fund the facility, it's asking the Legislature to authorize King County to engage in an economic development project," said lobbyist Linda Hull, who represents the team.
You could have just admitted it, Linda. Instead you tried to deny it. You can dress up your proposal with all the spin you want, but it's still a handout.

We have more important priorities to deal with in Washington State. Education, transportation, environmental cleanup, healthcare...the list goes on and on. Government's responsibility is not to cover the cost of stadiums for privately owned sports teams. The Sonics are asking for more help than was given to construct either Qwest Field or Safeco Field. That is outrageous!

The Sonics need to understand, in no uncertain terms, that they need to take care of the financial burden themselves without public assistance. Their ownership group includes four billionaires. With so many concerns in need of attention, the last thing elected officials should be doing is paying any attention to this nonsense.

It's time for a Homeowners' Bill of Rights

"A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse.”

- Thomas Jefferson, 1787

Each year, hundreds of unsuspecting Washingtonian homeowners discover deficiencies with their new home. These problems include (but are not limited to) faulty design, code violations, cracked foundations, moisture problems that lead to toxic molds, substandard workmanship, and structural issues.

Many have already suffered great losses: their life's savings, their physical and emotional health, and home value depreciation.

Better regulations are needed to ensure the quality of homes and guarantee building contract security. Under current law, building contractors can be licensed in one day without passing qualifying tests, and Washington ’s building code enforcement process does not prevent lax inspections that overlook major building flaws. Once homeowners find defects, there is often no recourse.

Washington is one of the few states that does not recognize a common law cause of action for negligent construction. Therefore, losses can only be recovered if a building contract explicitly guarantees non-defective performance.

Buyers of older homes are doubly disadvantaged – not only do they lack legal recourse for construction defects, but they are not entitled to continue a home’s initial warranty to protect themselves.

Washingtonians have a right to expect to purchase a quality home and builders' compliance with the building code. The Evergreen State needs a homeowner's bill of rights. An overview of what's been proposed in the State Senate this session:
Negligent Construction Cause of Action: Creates a cause of action for residential construction defects and extends the statute of limitations for a right of action against a builder from six years to ten years – a more likely time period in which home defects are discovered. (SB 5046)

New Home Warranties: Creates a minimum standard for new home warranties and extends original buyers' home warranties to subsequent purchasers, regardless of when the buyer sells to the next purchaser. (SB 5049)

Notice to Cure Clarification: Clarifies the statute of limitations in condominium construction defect cases. If a claimant’s case is dismissed without prejudice for failure to give notice and opportunity to cure, the statute of limitations for the construction defect action will toll. (SB 5048)

Contractor Licensing/Surety Bonding Requirement: Requires builders to be licensed, to pass certain competency requirements, to be financially accountable for defects in work performed, and requires that they carry insurance for negligent construction. Rather than a mere $12,000 surety bonding requirement, bond amounts would reflect a more realistic estimate to ensure performance. (SB 5045; will be heard in the Labor, Commerce, Research & Development Committee.)
At a work session earlier this week, Senator Brian Weinstein and Democratic lawmakers heard stories from victimized homeowners while representatives from the ultra right wing BIAW tried to insist that new regulations were unnecessary. A recap and audio clips from the work session are available from the Spokesman-Review.

Hearings on the bills in the package are scheduled for January 18th, 23rd, and 25th. Most of the bills are coming before the Consumer Protection & Housing Committee. To get details on a hearing, follow one or more of the above links.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Death by radio

And then there's the story of a California Entercom station that will probably be sued over a moronic stunt:
As participants in KDND-FM's water-drinking contest chugged bottle after bottle, a listener called in to warn the disc jockeys that the stunt could be fatal.

"Yeah, we're aware of that," one of them responded.

Another DJ said with a laugh: "Yeah, they signed releases, so we're not responsible. We're OK."

Those comments, and others made during the Jan. 12 "Morning Rave" radio show, appeared to give little regard to the risk of water intoxication. But just hours after the contest, a woman who guzzled nearly two gallons was dead.
I guess that's the standard in radio these days. Someone has to actually die.

Of course, nobody will ever likely be held accountable in any meaningful sense of the term. A payment here, a settlement there; just the cost of doing business. The corporate suits at the top, who are ultimately responsible for the pollution and degradation of the public airwaves, probably don't have much to fear.

The radio station fired a bunch of staff, which is appropriate, but we have a real problem in this country with irresponsible shock and talk radio. There's nothing wrong with making a profit. But you do wonder about the character of people who would watch someone unknowingly commit suicide and make jokes about it.

Congressional Democrats have plenty to do, but they really need to start hauling media executives up to the Hill for some chats, live on C-Span. They can start with Entercom and Disney.

Today in Democratic real estate transactions

From tomorrow's Washington Post comes word that John Edwards sold a house to some people who might not be so nice, or so it is alleged. There's no actual evidence that Edwards knew much at all about the buyers, who seem to be the ones who wanted their identities concealed.

As anyone who has ever purchased or sold a house knows, most real estate agents try to keep the parties apart as much as possible. That way it's all business, or so the theory goes. But I am shocked by the story, because it didn't deserve much coverage, and certainly not page A1.

This in a town where a GOP Congressman had a yacht but no clear means to purchase one and apparently that really didn't cause much concern. Time to review The Clinton Rules, which aren't so much a set of rules as a pattern of press conduct. Let's hope Edwards doesn't decide to make his yard bigger.

Columbia River Crossing open houses affected by weather

Chris Smith at Portland Transport notes that last night's scheduled open house regarding the Columbia Rver Crossing Prject was cancelled due to weather, but officials hope to schedule another one in Clark County.

He also notes they've added a new open house on Hayden Island on Jan. 30. You can see the schedule of open houses at the CRC web site. Hayden Island is pretty close to Clark County. It's just over...the bridge.

If you're interested in this project, the 39 member task force is scheduled to vote on the staff recommendation in February. So January would be a good time to make your views known. This is going to be a tough process even if everyone acts with goodwill.

Not everyone can be an expert, of course, but a few minutes looking around on the CRC web site or going to an open house is a good way to start.

Entercom dumps Seattle stations

Pennsylvania based Entercom announced today it is trading KIRO, KBSG, and KTTH along with some Cincinnati stations to Bonneville International in exchange for for three FM radio stations in San Francisco.

Entercom will still own four Seattle stations: KMTT-FM (103.7), KISW-FM (99.9), KKWF-FM (100.7) and KNDD-FM (107.7), but they're all FM stations. Entercom apparently has decided it wants out of the Seattle AM market.

If you've never heard of Bonneville, here's a short backgrounder on the company:
Bonneville International Corporation, managed by Deseret Management Corporation, is a broadcasting company wholly owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church). Headquartered in the Triad Center Broadcast House in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bonneville's name alludes to the prehistoric Lake Bonneville which once covered much of modern-day Utah.

Bonneville owns about 30 radio stations and one television station. Additionally, the Bonneville Communications arm provides broadcast distribution services to non-profit organizations, notably the LDS Church during its semi-annual General Conferences.
Bonneville previously owned KIRO before Entercom acquired it, so the station is returning to its former owner. It'll be interesting to see what happens to these three stations under Bonneville's management.

Nickels, Drago defiant on viaduct

Here's their statement following yesterday's meeting:
We are deeply disappointed with the announcement today by the Governor and legislative leadership. After asking for a public vote, the leadership in Olympia is now saying they are not interested in the opinions of Seattle citizens. Instead, they are threatening to impose a new elevated freeway or, even worse, taking state funding away from the most dangerous section of highway in the state of Washington. No other city in the state has been treated in this manner.

It is clear that Olympia is not interested in a real solution to the Viaduct replacement. The proposal for the Surface/Tunnel Hybrid offers a more cost-effective, environmentally-sound transportation solution that will save over $1 billion compared to WSDOT's inflated six-lane alternative.

Olympia has arbitrarily rejected the Hybrid solution and ignored the advice of their own Expert Review Panel. Their assertion that the Hybrid Tunnel had not yet been validated rings hollow in light of the Governor's order that WSDOT stop working on this proposal last Friday.

The voters of Seattle have a clear expectation that they will be given honest choices; that their voices will be heard; and their choices respected.

This is a choice about the future of our city, not about politics in Olympia. We will move forward with our plans to put the question on the ballot and let the people of Seattle decide the future of our city.

We will follow the will of the people of Seattle, not the dictates of Olympia.
It is worth noting that Olympia's leaders are also democratically elected, but the point about home rule and local control is well taken.

The Governor and the state Legislature would be foolish to attempt to force the city to accept the construction of a new viaduct and we strongly advise them not to pursue such a course of action. Olympia can try to back the city into a corner, but that won't stop the onslaught of litigation that will surely ensue if the elevated replacement option is pursued.

Fortunately, one influential lawmaker has already declared his opposition:
Ed Murray, D-Seattle, a vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he would oppose any move to force an elevated highway on Seattle.

"For Democrats to dictate to a local jurisdiction what a project looks like flies in the face of everything Democrats have tried to do to protect local control and preserve quality of life," he said.
The Governor and the Speaker would be wise to listen to Murray's words.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Semi-tough conference call

Adam Wilson's blog at The Olympian reports on a conference call held yesterday by House Republican leaders. According to Wilson, liberal bloggers and regular reporters were invited to call in, but it sounds like not too many folks other than Wilson and a few conservative bloggers got the word. One of the GOP leaders on the line was Rep. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale.
The Olympian was the only member of the mainstream [traditional] press to chime in to a conference call with House Republican leaders this morning, joining three conservative bloggers.

---snip---

For instance, a blogger from Island County named Mike rapped with Ericksen about automatic versus semi-automatic guns before things got going.

“There’s a couple of bills in the hopper that are ugly, to say the least,” said Mike.

“I think everybody aught to access to those automatic weapons,” said Ericksen, explaining he didn’t think they are any more dangerous than a semi-auto.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. As everyone knows, it's all about the hunting and it's hard to hit a deer from an SUV while on semi-auto.

Our side should really do some conference calls with bloggers. (Or maybe we do and nobody tells me?) It'll be fun. I'd really like to discuss my mandatory gay marriage proposal with Democratic leadership, on the record, with reporters listening. Hello? My access code seems to be wrong.

UPDATE-- A humor-impaired commenter takes offense at my hyperbole regarding SB 5185, to which I link above. Too bad. You don't give Pam Roach a gun AND an off road vehicle, think of the humanity.

Conservatives just have no sense of humor at all sometimes.

Tear down this viaduct

Governor Christine Gregoire, state legislative leaders, and elected officials from the City of Seattle met today for a final make or break discussion about replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. After a long meeting, the Governor emerged to announce that there are only two options left - "move forward with an elevated viaduct replacement or reprogram funding to the 520 replacement project."

The governor says that no action is not an option - and she's right. That is why it is time to move forward, demolish the viaduct, and shift most of the money set aside for its replacement to the State Route 520 floating bridge project, which is no less deserving of the funds (in fact, it's probably more deserving since its loss would be more devastating to the Seattle metro area).

The city's leaders are completely opposed to a new viaduct for a number of reasons, while the state's leaders are opposed to a tunnel (mostly because of the cost hurdle, which Mayor Nickels has largely failed to overcome).

We have supported a tunnel and we will still support a tunnel if funding can be found to pay for it. But there doesn't appear to be enough. It's time to give very serious consideration to the option the governor and WSDOT don't seem interested in thinking about - a surface/transit option.

With light rail arriving in 2009, and with a good mitigation plan, Seattle might be able to cope just fine without a free-moving Highway 99 along its central waterfront.

It's time to put plans in motion to remove the Alaskan Way Viaduct before Mother Nature decides to remove it for us at a far greater expense - and allow the State Route 520 program the opportunity to jump ahead.

UPDATE: Erica Barnett has excellent analysis of this over at SLOG.

D.C. Highlights - January 17th, 2007

Here is today's overview of interesting items from our nation's Capitol:
  • Representative Jay Inslee will lead an hour of debate on the House floor tonight (at around 7 PM Pacific Time) on an energy bill slated for consideration tomorrow. H.R. 6, or the Clean Energy Act, is the last of six bills House Democrats pledged to pass as part of their agenda for first 100 hours of the new Congress. H.R. 6 would close tax loopholes and exemptions currently enjoyed by big oil and natural gas companies. It sets up a reserve to fund clean-energy and energy-efficiency proposals with an estimated $14 billion in savings over 10 years. Tune into C-SPAN tonight at 7 PM if you want to watch Inslee in action.
  • Maria Cantwell's office has announced the Senator will host a coffee for constituents who are visiting Washington, D.C. most Thursdays at 8:30 AM. If you will be in the District of Columbia and would like to attend, please get in touch with her staff (202) 224-3441 so they can hold a spot for you. Her first two constituent coffees of the year are set for Thursday, January 18th and Thursday, February 1st.
  • The House today passed the College Student Loan Relief Act (H.R. 5), 356 to 71, which was introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) on January 12, 2007 with 211 co sponsors. The bill made it out of committee and to the floor in short order. Some Republicans attempted to delay the legislation but their motion to recommit failed. H.R. 5 reduces interest rates for student loans, ensures that all student loans are one hundred percent insured, and removes loopholes for banks, among other things.
  • Senators Joseph Biden (D-Del), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) and Carl Levin (D-Mich) have introduced a resolution in the Senate which denounces Bush's escalation plan. Hagel, of Nebraska, said he would "do everything I can to stop the president's policy" while Levin and Biden warned Bush and his advisors not to ignore Congress.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

James Riekena, Rest in Peace

The occupation of Iraq has claimed the life of another young American solider:
The Defense Department says a 22-year-old soldier from Redmond, Wash., died Sunday of injuries suffered when a roadside bomb blew up near his vehicle in Iraq.

The soldier, Specialist James D. Riekena, was assigned to a unit from Post Falls, Idaho, the 145th Brigade Support Battalion.
Over three thousand of our nation's men and women in uniform have lost their lives in this conflict, which was started by an unnecessary, preemptive invasion that was sold to the American public and Congress by the Bush administration and its allies on false premises and a pack of lies.

I see news briefs like this - as well as obituaries - frequently. And though I always feel sadness over the lives lost, this particular tragedy is different for me.

I knew James Riekena.

I wasn't a close friend of his, but I was an acquaintance, and I've always thought of him as a great person. He was a friendly mentor who was loyal, dependable, and helpful. I am grieved by his death but I am sure I cannot comprehend how saddened his family is feeling at this moment, and how much they are hurting knowing that he is gone from this earth.

Here's a brief biographical sketch, courtesy of P-I reporter Mike Barber:
The second of five children, Riekena is survived by his mother and his father, John D. Riekena, who works for Washington Mutual and lives in Redmond. Born in Montana, Riekena moved with his family to the Redmond area in 1993. He was an Eagle Scout and graduated from Redmond High School in 2002. He went to Idaho to work and joined the National Guard there, becoming a combat engineer, before moving back to Redmond.

His specialty was finding and disarming bombs.
Watching Bush's stooges on the Daily Show tonight, defending their latest plan to escalate this conflict, was nothing less than utterly disgusting. America is sick of their dishonesty and carelessness. Iraq has cost billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of precious American lives, and these guys are on cable TV talk shows saying we need to sacrifice more. Repeating the same old garbage.

These people know nothing about sacrifice.

Bush and Cheney are perfectly comfortable sending our troops off to war, but they refused to serve our country themselves when they had the chance decades ago. Neither do they have any qualms about launching a barrage of personal attacks against people who did serve and are opposed to their failed, flawed policies. (Remember the swiftboating of John Kerry? I haven't forgotten it).

James Riekena wanted to serve his country, serve on the front lines, and he did. But he didn't need to be a casualty of a war started and perpetuated by a gang of ambitious chickenhawks and conservative zealots seemingly divorced from reality (or at least uninterested in its consequences).

James was only 22. Had he lived, I am sure he would have had a rewarding life. It's a terrible shame that it got cut short so tragically.

It's an Oversimplification®

Nothing says January like football, some snow and a public relations/lobbying campaign by Washington REALTORS®. I saw a cable ad for them and boy is it slick. Nice web site. The Washington REALTORS® are deeply concerned about firefighters, teachers, police officers and nurses being able to afford houses. Presumably so they can sell them some.

From the "take action" section of the web site comes this nice sample letter you can send to your state legislators:
Dear [ Decision Maker ],

Our population is growing but the supply of homes isn't keeping up. Homebuyers have to drive too far to find an affordable home. That's caused long commutes, traffic jams and sprawl. And home prices have increased by 160 percent in some parts of Washington.

You know we've got a problem when even middle-income citizens, the backbone of our communities -- the firefighters, teachers, police officers and nurses -- can't afford to live in the communities they serve.

Unfortunately, poor government planning has limited the supply of homes near where people work. Too many people are frustrated by the lack of home choices, sky-rocketing home costs, and traffic congestion.

The primary cause is the failure to plan for enough homes to meet the demands of growth. Local government has not provided the infrastructure (roads, sewer, water) required for new homes, and has not planned for enough homes to keep up with job growth.
It's that darned bad government, not letting them build enough houses! Of course. Why, we'll simply jack up tax rates to pay for that infrastructure and, presto, problem solved. No?

Just to be sure I'm getting the message correctly, I checked the issues page:
The reason for the stunning price increases is simple: demand for middle-wage homes far outstrips supply. The shortage of homes that families can afford is pushing them out of our communities and onto the freeways. Teachers, firefighters, police officers and other middle-wage people should be able to live in the communities they serve.
I'm not sure if the Legislature itself actually builds affordable houses. What would be cool is if there is a group that, you know, represents people who build houses. Washington REALTORS® could ask them to please build more affordable houses, and then firefighters and teachers and police officers and nurses could buy them, and Washington REALTORS® could stop using their money to buy cable ads.

Here's a thought: over eleventy billion houses have been built in Clark County in the last fifteen years, yet the median home price continues to skyrocket. I'm not an economist, but maybe there are other factors besides simple supply and demand that affect housing costs? Maybe Washington REALTORS® could hire an economist and have her look into it, although it would be a shame to mess up such a nice web site with its gorgeous pictures of firefighting teaching nurses.

Baird to appear on The Colbert Report

Brian Baird will be on the The Colbert Report tomorrow night as part of the show's on-going bit "Know a District." From ScrippsNews:
It's not exactly the WWF Smackdown of comedy.

But Wednesday night, Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., tangles with funnyman Stephen Colbert. During taping last month the two sparred over everything from Rorschach tests to Willapa Bay oysters, from Chilean raspberries to the Vancouver Sausage Fest and Mount St. Helens.

Baird is no stranger to comedy. He rode a wicked imitation of President Bush to the title of "Funniest Celebrity in Washington" in 2005. Colbert with his nightly "Colbert Report" has developed a cult following among Gen-Xers with his general snarkiness and sarcastic wit on cable television's Comedy Central network.
Thank goodness Enumclaw is not in the 3rd District.

Obama's officially in

Illinois Senator and traditional media darling Barack Obama officially launched a campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States today, filing paperwork to create a presidential exploratory committee that will allow him to fundraise and set up his campaign.

Obama's announcement is not a surprise, but his entrance into the race will change the dynamic. If Obama doesn't win in the primaries and caucuses, look for him to become a likely vice presidential choice. His presence on the ticket would greatly strengthen the presidential candidacy of whoever does capture the nomination.

No insult meant to Times journalists

David Postman, responding to yesterday's meta post, writes:
Villeneuve says NPI won't take advertising. I'm not sure if that makes his promotion of the PI charity or a political campaign. Whatever the case, Villeneuve repeats an old canard that has been discredited by an anti-trust investigation.
Because the Seattle Times Company manages the P-I's business operations - advertising, classifieds, marketing, circulation, delivery, etc. - its owners are and have been in an excellent position to sabotage the P-I's circulation and position the Seattle Times as Washington State's newspaper of record.
After two years of investigating, the feds "did not find sufficient basis to conclude that the Seattle Times Company engaged in improper conduct that is likely to lead to monopolization of the Seattle newspaper market." It's not clear if Villeneuve has done subsequent work to back up his claim of sabotage.

He continues:
With respect to Times journalists, including David Postman, and columnists like Danny Westneat, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is simply a better newspaper at present. That is in part because management at the P-I cares greatly about what is best for the community and not just what's best for its ownership.
Andrew, by perpetuating a fiction that somehow journalism at The Times is compromised by our local owner while the PI's New York owners allow them do what what's best for Seattle, you insult all Times writers, this one included. And I'm sure your dismissive comments about journalism at the Times comes as a surprise to Pulitzer Prize judges who have given the paper numerous reporting awards in recent years, as well as other groups that have awarded the paper a long string of the most prestigious journalism prizes in America. Is Frank Blethen sabotaging the PI in those instances, too?
Unfortunately, I think Postman misinterpreted what I wrote. We think quite highly of the Times' news division and its journalists - including not only David Postman, but also colleagues Jonathan Martin, Ralph Thomas, Andrew Garber, Mike Lindblom, and so on.

We don't believe that journalism at the Times has been compromised by its owner - though I could see where Postman might get that idea from my writing, as he tends to be very defensive of his paper (which is understandable). But he evidently got the wrong impression from my post.

It's not journalism at the Times that we're worried about. It's primarily the editorial content and the use of company resources to further a political agenda that is at odds with what is in the region's best interest.

If Frank Blethen had his way last year, we'd be cutting taxes so he could line his pockets at the expense of Washington's children. And if Frank Blethen has his way, the P-I will be out of business soon and his paper will be metro's only daily (with no competition at all, not after the close of the King County Journal).

In my post yesterday, I made no claims of sabotage. If you reread what I wrote, you'll see that I merely said the Times' owners are and have been in an excellent position to sabotage the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's circulation. That doesn't mean that's surely what they did.

Sabotage, of course, is naturally hard to prove. If your goal is to sabotage the efforts of your opposition, you don't want them to be able to prove that you were or are trying to undermine them. We can't substantiate such an accusation, which is why I didn't make one. However, we can be suspicious. And given Frank Blethen's recent behavior, it's no surprise that we are.

Just because the Bush administration's Department of Justice concluded there wasn't enough evidence to continue an antitrust investigation in 2005 doesn't mean that nothing underhanded has happened. Justice's action does not discredit our suspicions.

In the end, what we really want is to preserve competition in the Seattle media market, because we believe that consolidation is not a good thing. We're asking our readers to consider supporting the P-I, but that does not mean we think badly of the journalists who are doing good work at the Seattle Times.

Postman responds

I'm off to play in the snow, seeing as school is canceled, so I don't have a lot of time to blog. I did want to acknowledge David Postman has responded to Andrew's "meta-goodness" post from yesterday evening. You're welcome to check it out if you have the chance.

Clearly Postman feels some kind of line has been crossed. Maybe it has. I'm as hard on the media as anyone, so I'm not really one to talk. Later I'll try to sit down and come up with something logical to say. I do know that I enjoy commenting and exchanging emails with Postman, and I enjoy his blog.

UPDATE: Andrew has responded (see this post).

Republican Senator Wayne Allard to retire

Colorado's Wayne Allard has decided to honor his term limit pledge and call it quits:
"Today, I'm announcing that I will honor my term limit pledge to the people of Colorado, and not seek reelection to the United States Senate in 2008...I believe a promise made, should be a promise kept," he said.

Allard's announcement today at the state Capitol touches off a political scramble -- particularly on the Republican side where several people are said to be contemplating a run or are being encouraged to seek the seat.
Democratic Representative Mark Udall of Colorado's 2nd District appears to be the favorite for the nomination. There is no clear favorite on the Republican side and it's not unlikely that there could be a nasty primary battle. Democrats have an excellent opportunity to capture this seat. This announcement makes the DNC's selection of Denver for its 2008 convention look even better than it already did.

Pacific NW hit with yet another snowstorm

It's snowing in many areas of the Northwest this morning, especially in the corridors along the I-5 metro corridor. There are more school and road closures and garbage collection has been postponed for some neighborhoods.

WSDOT has an advisory for motorists:
Winter weather has again made an appearance during commute hours and WSDOT crews are out clearing roads and helping drivers. While no major traffic collisions have been reported this morning, traffic is moving slowly on all major routes. If you must drive, prepare for a long commute.

WSDOT has more than 200 vehicles fighting snow and ice on Western Washington highways and freeways, including snow plows, deicers, sanders, and dump trucks. Crews have been out since early today applying deicer throughout the region, and continue to de-ice with liquid, sand and salt. If drivers see plow trucks, allow them room to work.

Temperatures are dropping throughout the Puget Sound region and drivers are encouraged to consider adjusting their schedule. Weather forecasts indicate the snow should decrease by 10 a.m., but wet roads could freeze during overnight hours.

Crews are concentrating on the major routes first as these lanes move the most traffic. Drivers are advised to use extra caution on all roads this morning.
Pacific NW Portal's Winter Weather Preparedness section provides access to forecasts, traffic cameras, weather bulletins, and tips for protecting your home and vehicle from the elements.

Automagical Washington Post

Here's an interesting headline from The Washington Post: Bush Shifts Deficit Burden to Democrats.
President is calling the bluff of Democrats, who won control of Congress in part by accusing Bush of reckless fiscal policies, political analysts say.
Sadly, as you may have noticed, it appears that the leading newspaper in the nation's Capitol now requires registration to view misleading and slanted inside the Beltway stories. So we're simply left to wonder how the mighty "W" is calling our bluff. Perhaps he's giving a televised speech about it, or clearing brush or going on vacation at Martha's Vineyard.

(Sorry, that was his dad. This whole registration thing has me off kilter.)

Maybe, somehow, if an internet user clicks on the WaPo site, he or she will be auto magically transported to the real Washington Post.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Michelle Malkin (gasp) proven wrong

It all has to do with a photo of John Kerry sitting at a table at a military base in Iraq.
A photo of John Kerry eating breakfast "alone" in the U.S. Embassy mess hall in Baghdad was circulating in the right-wing blogosphere, touted as evidence that he was shunned by the troops. The left-wing blogosphere's initial response was to question the authenticity of the photo due to the erroneous date/time stamp on the photo (caused by the photographer failing to set the date on the camera) and the presence of the flags of Britain and Portugal in the background (which other photos and personnel on site have confirmed are really there--and the Portugal one will be removed since Portugal no longer has personnel in Iraq).

Michelle Malkin supplied evidence of the authenticity of the photo (but failed to recognize that it disproved her claim of Kerry being snubbed) by locating another photograph with Kerry, wearing the same shirt, sitting and eating with the troops. She then harshly criticized those who argued that the photograph was a fake, throwing out charges of "hysterics" and "moonbattery."
It's even made Snopes. (You can see one of the photos there, as well the details about why the photo was real.)

So the question is when, if ever, will newspaper editors figure out that Malkin is not a responsible figure? Or do they already know this and simply keep printing her columns anyhow? You expect this sort of thing from the hoi polloi of the internet tubes, not the sanctified Op-Ed pages.

Why we call it the Official Blog - and more meta goodness

Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman published a post at his blog today excerpting an earlier post by our very own stilwell which critiqued a Times editorial about the Democratic response to escalation. Near the end of his post, Postman asked:
(Why is it the "Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog"? Is there a proliferation of unofficial NPI sites?)
Many people have either asked or (we're sure) wondered this very question. It certainly wasn't named that because we were worried about a "proliferation of unofficial NPI sites". It also isn't meant to imply that any other blog or blogger is somehow any less authentic or genuine than we are.

About three years ago, when NPI was only about six months old, I was looking for a way to easily present our members' commentary and analysis. We tried retooling NPI's front page to allow for easier updating, but manual updating was still a chore.

I eventually realized that what we needed was a blog. Blogs, of course, are powered by software that takes care of publishing, archiving, and allows for people to leave feedback - as well as automatic feed generation. Having a blog would allow contributors to focus on writing, which was the goal.

Defined rather simply, a blog is just a type of web page that is easy to update with new material - and usually in chronological order. That's a broad characterization; some people prefer more specific definitions.

Blogs have become popular because you don't have to be an expert at coding HTML or any other web languages to publish your thoughts online.

We wanted to create a blog not just for sharing commentary on news and events, but also to publish announcements about completed projects or endeavors in progress - any release that we "intend for the notice of the public", as Random House notes in its definition of the word official.

We envisioned the blog as the primary periodical for the organization itself - a one-stop shop where you can read about what's new at NPI, plus follow our perspective on current events.

And we have indeed used the blog for just that purpose. When Pacific Northwest Portal is updated, when we release a new podcast, or a white paper, we disseminate the completion of such projects here and often provide in-progress reports as well, before we announce the news elsewhere or through other means.

That's the story behind the name of the blog and use the word official. We aren't worried that someone might try to set up an online journal and claim it represents the view of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

At a couple points during the last two years, we considered renaming the blog to eliminate confusion, but we never settled on a new name we liked, and we ultimately decided a name change was likely to create nothing but more confusion.

Some self-appointed critics of this organization (you know who you are) point to the name of the blog or even the name of the organization itself as evidence that we think too highly of ourselves. They're mistaken. It's true that you have to have some ego to be involved in politics, but we're way more humble than they believe.

NPI is much more than simply a blog (something critics have apparently not figured out) though it is certainly true that NPI is not on the level of other, established think tanks yet. We aren't in a position where we can be directly compared. Our beginnings and our approach make us all the more revolutionary.

You know you're uniquely different when you have critics who sneer, "How could they claim to call themselves an institute?"

We are completely aware that some people will never take us seriously until we have more impressive resources - like a significantly sized budget, a paid staff, and office space. Our goal is to take NPI to that level, but even when we get there, our mission, focus, and grassroots commitment will remain unchanged.

Some of our critics have attacked not only NPI itself, but also me personally. I'm always disappointed when I observe someone point out my age and then attempt to mock me. I remember years ago being shocked that people would try to marginalize me by using my age to discredit me. Such behavior no longer surprises me, but I still find it sad. Nobody likes being disrespected and insulted.

(I do, however, have to chuckle when critics bring up my age and then get it wrong - as they often do. If you're curious, I'm twenty).

Many civic-minded groups have launched or participated in projects aimed at getting young people registered to vote and then getting them to vote. Despite this admirable work, the number of young Americans who vote is still dismally low. And politics is actually about much more than voting.

There is general agreement in society that apathy among young people towards the democratic process is not a good thing.

Political leaders are making decisions that affect me and my peers - yet, most young people are uninterested in politics. The Internet has lowered the barrier for political participation of all ages (and especially young people, who tend to be technologically savvy), but the Internet is not a cure all. America has a long way to go before this problem is even slightly alleviated.

I won't go into any more depth at the moment, but I will add that this is an issue I plan to write about more frequently in the future.

I and NPI remain undeterred by contempt or ridicule. We will continue moving forward, battling hostility whenever and wherever necessary. We're pursuing a vision. I doubt anyone who is dismissing us today will be dismissing us for very long.

We are receptive to constructive feedback and we are perfectly capable of laughing at ourselves now and then, but we're serious about what we're doing.

I want to address one other thing in this post, which is the button on our sidebar which urges readers to support the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. David Postman noticed it and wrote the following:
I also see that my friends at the PI are marketing to the blog's liberal readership, with an ad that says, "Support a two-newspaper town." I'm not sure I've seen any local papers advertise on independent blogs before. Interesting development.
Postman is actually mistaken. That's not an advertisement from the Post-Intelligencer, it's a badge we created ourselves - and without a "please" or "thank you" from the P-I. We don't accept or allow advertising and have no plans to change our policy.

Unlike other groups, we don't want newspapers to collapse and disappear. Print as a medium still has tremendous value. But it's very likely that the companies that own newspapers now will find themselves out of business in the near future, or at least they will find themselves struggling, unless they start thinking of themselves as a news operation and not simply a newspaper.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is a valuable resource for all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute. Reporters such as Neil Modie offer excellent political analysis and quality journalism that benefits the entire community. Columnists like Joel Connelly offer great insight and steadfast viewpoints (which while we don't always agree with, we do enjoy).

David Horsey, a two-time Pulitzer winner, is one of the finest editorial cartoonists in the country. He's extremely creative and an avid thinker. And in general, the P-I editorial board has been a voice for common sense, a better society, and wise investments in our future and our children's future.

The P-I's owners (Hearst) operate the paper under a Joint Operating Agreement with the Seattle Times Company, which is controlled by the Blethen family (and more specifically Frank Blethen) who now want out of the agreement.

Because the Seattle Times Company manages the P-I's business operations - advertising, classifieds, marketing, circulation, delivery, etc. - its owners are and have been in an excellent position to sabotage the P-I's circulation and position the Seattle Times as Washington State's newspaper of record.

With respect to Times journalists, including David Postman, and columnists like Danny Westneat, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is simply a better newspaper at present. That is in part because management at the P-I cares greatly about what is best for the community and not just what's best for its ownership.

This stands in stark contrast to the Seattle Times, where Frank Blethen has used the paper as a blunt instrument to further his own personal agenda (for example, Blethen's efforts to repeal the estate tax - which benefits him but isn't in America's or Washington's best interest)

Additionally, the Times editorial board has been producing editorials recently that are unnecessarily vicious and or dishonest (the Mike McGavick endorsement, which actually contradicted past Times editorials, was perhaps the most outrageous).

The Times is also in a better position, circulation wise, with 212,691 subscribers to the Post-Intelligencer's 126,225. The P-I, as mentioned above, is disadvantaged because the Times Company runs its business operations and can thus easily give priority to its own paper while still claiming it is a good "representative" for the P-I.

Like fellow members of the Committee For a Two Newspaper Town, we think Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region benefit from competition between two newsrooms and two editorial boards. At present the better of the two newspapers is smaller and faces a more uncertain future. So we've put up a badge urging readers to show their support by subscribing to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Ex-Congressman Frost says Obama will "implode"

This small item in yesterday's Kansas City Star caught my eye. (It's at the bottom of an interesting colulmn about the obsession with crime reporting on Kansas City television stations, also worth a read.)
Spotted at Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ Overland Park inaugural gala: former longtime Democratic Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, now with the Polsinelli law firm.

Frost said he expects U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign to implode eventually. And he said the cocaine dustup a couple of weeks ago amounted to Obama’s “welcome to the NFL moment.”
I think Frost means a "welcome to the Fox Swift Boating Olympics" moment.

Frost, of course, was the "stop Dean for DNC chair" candidate and head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the late 1990's. (Nice job, by the way, Frost. We sure enjoyed being in the minority.)
Mr. Frost appears regularly on Fox News as a political commentator and writes a column for the Fox News Web site.
Little Liebermans like Frost are a dime a dozen, of course. Nothing unusual about a money-grubbing conservative Democrat In Name Only hopping on the gravy train after a career in Congress.

But it's an illustrative little snapshot of where things will go if Obama announces. Why someone who says they are a Democrat would work for Fox News (which is still run by Nixon operative Roger Ailes, for crying out loud) is beyond me.

The only reason it matters, of course, is that part of the mission of Fox News is to give a platform to Liebermans and Frosts, in order to cause problems in the party. Without Fox, neither one of them has much national influence.

We're likely to see such underhanded tactics a lot in the coming months, and the game is pretty simple. Critical comments are made, which then allow the broader media to report that "questions are arising within the party," when in fact Frost now represents nothing but his own pocketbook.

I'm not certain how Obama would perform as a presidential candidate, but I'd hardly predict that he would implode. But then, I don't have the inside knowledge that comes from working for Fox News.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

An excerpt from Letter From Birmingham Jail. Here King is responding to being branded an "extremist." (Typos are contained in the original manuscript.)
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
If you have time and haven't read this document for a while, take a look. King gives one of the best explanations of creative non-violence to be found anywhere.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

House Bill 1051 - Giving students more options for a rewarding education

Creating new opportunities and options for Washington's young men and women to succeed is one of the most important goals our government is tasked with in our state constitution (Article IX, Section 1):
It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.
The King County Democrats' Legislative Action Committee and NPI support the recently introduced High School Completion Bill, an exciting piece of legislation that opens pathways to higher education for many students who might otherwise become discouraged and drop out.

This bill allows students under the age of 21 who have completed all of their graduation requirements except their Certification of Individual Achievement to enroll in high school program at a community college or technical college and earn a high school diploma.

The bill also allows young adults to participate in their high school graduation ceremony and then go on to complete their diploma in a college setting. This can reduce the stigma they may feel about not finishing with their peers. (Those of us who are no longer young remember how much we cared about what our peers thought when we were in high school).

Representative Dave Upthegrove
will be sponsoring this bill this session and estimates that about 4,900 students would take advantage of this pathway - including 1,000 students whose first language is not English. This legislation could result nearly 5,000 averted dropouts. The only cost is the cost associated with continuing to educate a student.

The bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Education Committee this week and may make it out of committee the same day. Readers, if by chance you can make it to Tuesday's hearing, it would be wonderful if you could stop by and add your name to the sign in sheet in support of the bill.

The committee chair is hoping to limit testimony, as the agenda is full and they had heard from the public at length on this issue last session. However, a show of support for the bill is still important!

Hearing on House Bill 1051
John L O'Brien Building - Hearing Room B
The Capitol Campus (416 14th Ave SW), Olympia, 98504
Tuesday, January 16th, 2007 at 1:30 PM
House Education Committee (the bill's prime sponsor is Rep. Dave Upthegrove)
The hearing is open to the media and the public. Bloggers are encouraged to come.

Pick your reality

From The Washington Post tomorrow.
Faced with substantial opposition both in Congress and among the American public to their Iraq plans, President Bush and Vice President Cheney vowed yesterday to forge ahead with the deployment of more than 21,000 additional troops.
And McClatchy's Washington bureau today.
President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more American troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration's statements about Iraq.
This sort of thing was called "the credibility gap" during the Vietnam War.

If anything, the credibility gap may be greater today, although the level of social strife is not even remotely comparable to the 1960's. But the Johnson administration was at least composed of very talented, smart people who were thoroughly wrong. (Thus the title of David Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest.") Eventually someone like Clark Clifford came along and told the truth, late in the day though it was.

The current administration, at the top levels, could be the most dense group of people ever put in charge of our government. There isn't a first rate thinker in the whole lot. Name any of the figures responsible for this mess: Cheney, the now resigned Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz or Bush himself, and you come up with a group of people who should be running an insurance office in Dubuque. (Apologies to those in the insurance business and Iowans.)

They can't explain why another division or two would do any good, and there is no fundamental change in strategy, just some vague tactical proposals that may even do more harm than good. Throw in some loose talk about Iran and a lot of Americans are getting extremely concerned.

Someone on Air America suggested that it's going to take some GOP Senators going to the White House and laying down the law. Frankly, I'm not certain that would do it. But we should all hope some of them have the patriotism and guts to try. This is madness.

In Brief - January 14th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • All tyrants are brought to justice sooner or later. Well, not really. In the U.S. we give them book deals.
  • How to deal with tolls on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
  • Arch-conservative state senator Joe Zarelli (R-Ridgefield) appointed to Homeland Security advisory committee. Sleep tight tonight.
  • There are a wide variety of proposals to reform aspects of Washington state's election system.
  • If we build strategic hamlets gated communities in Iraq, what happens if Iraqis want to order a pizza?
  • When it comes to the Seahawks, remember, they play the game on the field. So if they win, I told you so. And if they lose, it was because of the officiating.
If you have something you'd like to add, leave a comment.

UPDATE: The Seahawks lost, but it was still an entertaining game.

More importantly, David Neiwert posts the transcript of an interview he did with Spocko, the Bay Area blogger who has exposed the hate rhetoric of a Disney-owned radio station and was sent a cease-and-desist order by The Mouse. Interesting read, check it out if you can.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A recap of CityClub's 2007 legislative preview

The 2007 session of the Washington State Legislature started last Monday, January 8th, and is scheduled to end April 22nd. This is a 105-day long session, in which adopting a biennial budget will be the focus.

Two Democratic leaders, Sen. Lisa Brown (Spokane, 3rd LD) and Rep. Lynn Kessler (Grays Harbor, 24th LD), and two Republican leaders, Sen. Mike Hewitt (Walla Walla, 16th LD) and Rep. David Buri (Colfax, 9th LD) presented an overview of what we might expect in the 2007 session for several hundred members and guests of the City Club on January 5th.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown pledged to insure all children in the state by 2010 and to invest in our people, in education and health care, echoing the Governor’s priorities.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt pointed out that last year, Republicans passed five points of their 11-point agenda, including funding the Rainy Day Fund, education, transportation, health care and a property tax bill.

He noted that in this Senate, "it only takes one Republican to pass a constitutional amendment" - perhaps referring to removing the supermajority requirement for passage of school levies.

"We are always looking for fiscal responsibility," he said. "We’ll stick with [Governor Locke’s] Priorities of Government," a system of zero-based budgeting where every request has to be proven a priority to be funded.

House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler's priorities are, "Education, education, education, then health care, jobs and business...We put almost $1 billion in the bank last year." Kessler noted she is in charge of making sure the session ends on time. Last year they ended one day early.

House GOP Floor Leader Buri said, "The minority has a very important role. We've seen what happens when we have unrestrained power in one party,."(Presumably, he's referring to Congress, not the Washington State Legislature).

"On 60 to 75% of what we do, we agree unanimously...we need to strike a balance between responsive but limited government that includes education, strengthening families and ensuring trust."

Commenting on the Governor's budget, Sen. Brown called it, "a good starting point," especially the rainy day fund. "Education is an expenditure, but also an investment that creates a better future for all of us."

Sen. Hewitt was less optimistic. "The Governor’s budget spreads $1.8 billion in new policy. Going forward, that creates a bow wave. Only 18% of it is on education. The state pension system is several billion in arrears that should be fully funded. Sen. Zarelli and I will be on the K-12 Education Committee to make sure that we have our top fiscal people on the policy committee."

Lynn Kessler reminded the audience, "We had to cut $5 billion over the previous four years when the economy was down. We’re just starting to make it up [to restore services]."

Asked what can reasonably be done in this session about math and science education, Sen. Hewitt said, "Washington Learns gave us a good blueprint. People getting a high school diploma should not need remedial math when the get to college. The need for remedial classes is one measure of success."

Sen. Brown, who is an economics professor, said, "We need to keep standards as a spotlight on improvements in the system."

"We’ve got to focus on math and science, to create new strategies, improve teacher qualifications and keep the kids interested."

Rep. Kessler: "Math scores point out that our system failed the kids. We need to pass a standardized math curriculum for the state. Then we can ask them to pass the WASL." "We also need to focus on early learning and use full-day kindergarten to help those 50% of kids who are not ready for 1st grade.

Asked about the prospects for gun control legislation, Sen. Brown said, "Gun control bills will come forward. I don’t know if we have the votes to pass them. I live next to Idaho. It needs to be done on a national level to be effective. Added Rep. Kessler, "I don’t think we have the votes. We have Democrats who are NRA members. Let’s put our concern on things we know we can pass."

Asked about the State Housing Trust Fund, which advocates are asking to be tripled, to $363 million as a down payment on the $1.7 billion in needed to end homelessness, Sen. Brown said, "We have been making increases every year. I support a significant increase. The Governor proposed an increase. As far as tripling it, we have other priorities in the capital budget."

Rep. Kessler observed that "Speaker Chopp is pushing for [an increase]. Housing the homeless is his heart and soul. People who get housing have gotten back on their feet. We support investments of this sort. When I was without power for several days, I imagined what it would be like to also be without walls and a roof. It really brought it home to me. We have to continue to work toward this goal."

Seattle Councilwoman Jean Godden asked what the state can do to help cities. Sen. Brown replied, "Pass a streamlined sales tax bill to keep from eroding state sales tax [on the internet] and a unified system for collecting sales tax [to match other states]. We can also work with local governments to fund mental health and criminal justice funding for drug courts."

Here's to a great 2007 session filled with meaningful accomplishments.

Introducing the Legislative Action Project

With the 2007 Washington State legislative session already convened and underway, Olympia has already become a busy place...and it's only going to get even busier as bills move through the legislative process. At times it can seem almost daunting to keep track of everything of interest.

That's why we're introducing the Legislative Action Project.

A group of NPI's own contributors will be working in partnership with a group of talented volunteers from the King County Democrats' Legislative Action Committee (who we've brought on board our blogging team) to monitor and track what's moving inside the statehouse.

We worked hard to increase our majorities in the House and Senate during the 2006 election cycle. Now that we've succeeded, it's time to follow up by taking a stand for common sense policies that reflect the populist progressive values the electorate recognizes and believes in. That means grassroots lobbying, but it also means supporting lawmakers who have the courage to propose bold reforms.

Here's an overview which gives a good idea of the scope of this project:
  • Comprehensive, timely legislative blogging, including backgrounders on bills and updates on their current status.
  • Analysis and breakdown of proposals
  • A special series of "Priorities" podcasts, featuring conversations with lawmakers and a look at legislation moving through the statehouse
  • Useful tools and information for making your voice heard in Olympia
We're pleased to announce that we're kicking off the project today. As always, we welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tim Eyman: an irresistible failure

Initiative profiteer, right wing zealot, and admitted liar Tim Eyman may be mired in a difficult slump, but that hasn't stopped the traditional media from treating him with all the relevance, respect, and reverence you'd expect an honorable dignitary or seasoned international statesman to receive.

Whenever Tim Eyman wants to announce something, he knows he can call up the Associated Press and request an article. The AP periodically obliges him, as it has twice this week - first on Monday when the session convened and Eyman filed the latest incarnation of his Minority Rules Initiative, and for the second time yesterday when Eyman announced how he and his partners were divvying up Michael Dunmire's reward to them for failure.

Neil Modie has another article about Eyman's haul in the P-I this morning. While we still don't think it deserves to be a story in the newspaper, at least Modie's article was solid reporting:
Eyman's e-mail touted a new tax-limiting initiative he has filed for 2007. But it made no mention of his defeats in 2006: two statewide measures for which he failed to obtain enough signatures to qualify for the ballot; a Seattle proposition that voters passed over his opposition, and court rulings that went against two of his previous initiatives.
Eyman almost never talks about defeats and setbacks, but that doesn't mean the media should follow his example. Even with access to a millionaire's coffers, Eyman is still a failure. His track record is horrible. But what he is very good at is lining his pockets. Though he had no accomplishments to speak of in 2006, Tim didn't hesitate to help himself to Michael Dunmire's money.

Eyman is nothing more that a front man for a special interest....a wealthy conservative Woodinville multimillionaire.

The Associated Press aren't the only folks in the state who treat Eyman with a reverence and relevance he doesn't deserve.

Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman wrote a post this week about Representative Appleton's bill to reform the initiative process by changing the way paid petitioners can be compensated:
A person who pays or receives consideration based on the number of signatures obtained on an initiative or referendum petition is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable to the same extent as a misdemeanor that is punishable under RCW 9A.20.021.
Appleton has a significant number of cosponsors for her bill, including several Republicans. It's a common sense reform that we strongly support. Postman, of course, wanted a reaction to the bill, and contacted Tim Eyman because he "has used paid signature gatherers extensively".

There are many other groups who have also used paid signature gatherers extensively. Eyman didn't have a measure on the ballot in 2006, yet Postman still asked him for his reaction.

Why did Postman go to Eyman? Because Eyman is visible.

And why is Eyman visible, despite failure after failure? Because of endless media coverage, which Postman just played a part in reinforcing.

What bothers us more, though, is that Postman then printed Eyman's response (which included an obvious lie) without any comment of his own. Here's Eyman:
This radically increases the cost of qualifying an initiative for the ballot. This won't impact the big guys -- doctors, lawyers, teachers'
unions, and other special interest groups -- they've got the money to overcome this doubling of the cost. Who's affected? Initiative campaigns like ours that draw thousands of small contributions from thousands of heroic supporters.
That last sentence is nothing short of a complete, baldfaced lie. Eyman knows he doesn't have a grassroots operation. Around eighty percent of recent initiatives have been funded solely by Michael Dunmire and his wife, including I-917 and I-900. And before that, the gambling industry subsidized I-892. Tim Eyman is no different than any other special interest - and he undoubtedly knows it.

If an initiative truly has grassroots, populist support, its sponsors shouldn't need to rely extensively on paid petitioners for the collection of signatures. Eyman does because he doesn't have "thousands of small contributions from thousands of heroic supporters."

Eyman can't even get away with that outrageous claim on a technicality. Look it up yourself. I just reviewed the PDC reports for Eyman's I-917, and confirmed what we already knew. It didn't even have one thousand contributions, let alone one thousand contributors. (Many of Eyman's supporters are repeat contributors).

Eyman vastly exaggerates the number of supporters he has. We know because we were able to compare his claims to an actual number we could tabulate after he carelessly made his entire e-mail list public.

Unfortunately, David Postman added no postscript to Eyman's comments, which surprised us. We would have expected Postman to point out Eyman's lie immediately, and we have asked him to...but so far, he hasn't.

What Tim Eyman can get away with is shocking. He's in a category all by himself.

Direct democracy has become a business and citizens' signatures have become a commodity. Naturally, Tim Eyman opposes any change that improves honesty, transparency, and openness - though he claims to want those things in government. He has a double standard.

All Representative Appleton wants to do is make it illegal to pay by the signature, thus removing the incentive for signature fraud and removing the incentive for petitioners to pressure citizens into signing petitions.

It doesn't seem to matter that Tim Eyman is an utter failure. It doesn't seem to matter that he thinks it's okay to trick the press corps and show callous disregard for journalists' time. It doesn't seem to matter that Tim Eyman is an admitted liar. The traditional media in this state still finds him irresistible. He gets airtime, guest columns, news briefs, quotes, credibility and respect.

Eyman's saintly treatment seems to be just part of a pattern, a trend in the media which Media Matters President and CEO David Brock skillfully documented in his 2004 book, The Republican Noise Machine. (If you haven't read it - what are you waiting for?). Eric Boehlert followed Brock last year with a book that had a more specific focus (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush).

Alternative media is experiencing tremendous growth partly because the traditional, corporate media has fallen down on the job. Evergreen State media outlets, with the possible exception of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have shown no indication they're going to end their sponsorship of Tim Eyman's free ride anytime soon.

Disturbing trends in morning television

The Huffington Post has a video link.
Paula Abdul's press tour to promote the new season of "American Idol" spun out of control today when she landed in the Pacific Northwest.

Paula's curious "appearance" on Seattle's Q13 FOX Morning News took a fast nose dive as the pint-sized Idol judge slurred and giggled her way through the interview.
And they said Danny DeVito was wasted on "The View."

How these anchors don't completely lose it is beyond me. Plus it's nice to find out at the end that Paula is promoting a new Bratz movie and dolls. Or shot glasses. Whatever. A sad day for heterosexual males who came of age in the 1980s. One can try to remember the Laker Girl, but she's gone.

Thanks but no thanks

So what happens when Democrats in Washington state do something bi-partisan like give an eastern Washington Republican an important vice-chair position?

Her caucus seemingly can't handle it.
Rep. Maureen Walsh stepped down Thursday as vice chairman of the House Committee on Early Learning and Children's Services, The Associated Press reported. Walsh, R-College Place, was one of two Republicans selected by Democrats for top committee posts in December, in a nod to bipartisanship. Rep. Tom Campbell also was named chairman of the newly formed Select Committee on Environmental Health.

"Maybe it was naive of me to not think it would cause any problems," said Walsh, who also cited family concerns as part of her decision. Her husband died in April, and she has a 14-year-old son attending school in Olympia during session.

"When it boiled right down to it, the fact that I had some folks in my caucus who would view me a little different or not see me as a team player ... I don't need that. I don't need that at all," she told The Associated Press.
It's a partisan system. It always has been and always will be.

Broadly speaking, the main distinction to be made is this: you can be partisan and try to tell the truth the best you understand it, or you can be partisan and tell whatever lies you think will further your political fortunes. Each party will have some individuals who fit one or the other category, but what's important is the overall institutional character of each party.

It appears that enough GOP members in the Washington House had a problem with Walsh accepting the position that she felt the need to step down.

We're confident enough in Speaker Frank Chopp's leadership abilities that we won't say what he should do now. But it's worth noting that this kind of deflates any future complaints from the GOP about not getting enough committee slots. I mean, we give them stuff and then they give it back, what do they want?

Twisted into pretzels

The attack poodles at The Seattle Times foul their kennel with a bizarre piece of Democrat-bashing in this editorial.
Political arm-waving and high-profile votes on nonbinding resolutions and other artfully worded parliamentary expressions of opposition are worthless. They do not inform the public about the nature of the president's military escalations, and more importantly they do nothing to turn off the flow of dollars that keep the administration's disastrous mission alive.

---snip---

Democrats were elected to confront the president's grievous war. They are not allowed a news cycle of snappy quotes only to plead legislative complexity in confronting the financial mechanisms that extend the war.
That's rich. That stupid Constitution and all, you know. And I wonder who would be the first to excoriate Democrats should they field a resolution that doesn't pass Constitutional muster?

If The Seattle Times actually wants the war to end, why was it necessary to be so condescending to the party that could get that accomplished? And what's up with being irked by "snappy quotes?" Weird.

This isn't 2003. If the staff of the Times wants to tell someone what to do, they can go back and read everything written by Judith Miller in 2002-2003 and then look in the mirror for a while. Maybe they can reflect upon how this war might not have happened, or not happened the way it did, if the press didn't roll over and become a bunch of jingoistic, flag-waving puppets themselves.

Looking past the snide tone of the editorial for a moment, consider it in context. First, the Times endorsed Dave Reichert, who narrowly won re-election over Darcy Burner, thanks mostly to the underhanded endorsement by the newspaper. And what did Reichert have to say about Bush's escalation?
chirp chirp chirp
That took real guts, didn't it? Good thing he didn't resort to "snappy quotes." Or any quotes, actually.

And speaking of stunts and gimmicks, how can we forget this brilliant little episode from the Time's chosen U.S. Senate candidate?
Although McGavick’s press release invoked Warner and Hagel’s names in the subject line and heavily implied his proposal was warmly received by the GOP Senators, both felt the need to clarify that McGavick’s statements did not represent their views on the course forward in Iraq. And even though McGavick used the word “we” when articulating his position on Secretary Rumsfeld, both Senators felt the need to clarify that neither spoke to McGavick about Rumsfeld.
This is Bush's war. The Times knows that, and they endorsed Reichert and McGavick anyhow.

At a certain point, publications destroy their own credibility with their transparent bias, and dare we say it, partisanship. I'm not quite certain where this leaves The Seattle Times, besides twisted into pretzels most of the time.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Drivers urged to slow down on highways

The Washington State Patrol has an important message for drivers throughout the Evergreen State: Don't drive the speed limit on interstate highways or state routes. Slow down to forty miles per hour.

Hundreds of drivers have already victimized themselves by thinking they can go at regular speeds when the temperature is hovering around freezing and it's hard to tell what is water and what is ice.

The bottom line: better be safe than sorry.

Also, if you abandoned your vehicle on a state highway, WSDOT asks that you contact the Washington State Patrol at 425-649-4370.

Other winter weather updates:
  • See the latest round of school closures
  • King County reports that Metro Transit buses will be operating on snow routes again for the Thursday afternoon commute, and bus passengers should expect service delays. All travelers should expect dangerous road conditions after sunset today, as melting roads refreeze.
  • All King County District Court locations were closed today. Residents should anticipate that courts may be closed again tomorrow due to the weather.
  • WSDOT is planning to completely close I-405 northbound in Bothell for road work tonight. Drivers are advised to avoid I-405, and to stay off the roadways altogether.
Pacific NW Portal's weather partner AccuWeather reports that the low tonight will be 18°F (RealFeel®: 21°F). That's almost ten degrees colder than the low last night. It'll be partly cloudy and cold. Anything that is wet and anything that melted will be a slick sheet of ice tomorrow morning. So if you can avoid going out - staying at home is a really good option.

Pacific NW Portal's Winter Weather Preparedness section has advice on how to prepare your home and vehicles for cold, icy, snowy, and windy weather.

Baird issues a caution about Bush's plan

There's a fairly important caution near the end of Brian Baird's statement regarding George W. Bush's speech about Iraq last night. From the text of Baird's statement via The Columbian:
"The founders of this nation intentionally and quite clearly gave the Congress the power to check an overzealous or irresponsible executive and Congress needs to exercise that power. We need to insist on answers to these core questions, and if those answers are not forthcoming or compelling, we need to demand a change in strategy and set clear limits on what will or will not be allowed to go forward.

"Those, in the administration or within the Congress itself, who suggest that Congress should not or cannot exercise this authority have a different, and I believe dangerous, understanding of the foundation of our Constitutional Democratic Republic. If the President, the Congress, or the people themselves believe that Congress, as the directly elected representatives of the American people, have no voice in whether or not our country begins or remains at war, and whether or not our sons and daughters will be sent to die, then none of us, not the President or the Congress, has any business trying to bring a democracy to other nations because we have lost sight of how our own republic is supposed to function. That, in the long run, may be a much greater concern and threat than what happens in Iraq."
Baird voted against the authorizing legislation that allowed the initial invasion of Iraq. He's been consistent and steadfast since the beginning, but still wisely and compassionately supportive of the needs of our military personnel.

It would be premature at this point to speculate what will happen. The administration and its broad array of conservative stink tanks contend that the 1973 War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional. Among other things the act requires "consultation" with Congress during on-going hostilities.

Conservatives have, in the past, argued essentially that the War Powers Resolution would hamper a Commander-in-Chief from acting swiftly, among other things. But that's not the issue now. This thing is going on four years old already.

It's clear that the Constitution gives the power to declare and fund wars to Congress. In the 20th Century, notably during the Vietnam War, this proved ineffective, leading to the War Powers Resolution. Best I understand it's never been truly tested. (The Congressional Research Service 30-year report I linked to above is rather lengthy, but worthy of further reading.)

Will we have a Constitutional tussle? Frankly, we don't know yet. But this administration has shown no signs of acknowledging anything other than its own power. We're confident Baird and the rest of the Democrats in our delegation will continue to be strong defenders of the Constitution.

Associated Press disappoints again

Veteran political reporter David Ammons is apparently so bored down in Olympia that all he can think to write about is how much money Tim Eyman made this year from his compensation fund:
Tim Eyman and his initiative partners will share a salary fund of more than $173,000 for their 2006 efforts, even though they failed to qualify for the ballot last year.

Eyman said Wednesday that he and Jack and Mike Fagan, a father-son duo from Spokane who help run the conservative-leaning initiative factory, will split the money that contributors mailed to a compensation fund.

Eyman, the frontman and ubiquitous media personality who also runs a fraternity watch business from his Mukilteo home, will get $86,743. The Fagans each will get $43,367.
Seriously....what is wrong with the AP's Olympia bureau?

This is beyond ridiculous. It shouldn't have been put on the wire. Washingtonians don't care how much money Tim Eyman and his pals got from multimillionaire Michael Dunmire and a few other select wealthy wingnuts over the last six months.

Eyman does this every year. He asks his supporters for money. He gets a big fat check from somebody like Dunmire. Handsome compensation for failure. This has been happening annually for years. It is simply not news! Who cares about this? Answer: Almost no one.

I wasn't even going to write about this until I saw the AP headline and sighed in exasperation. And indeed, we could write something every time Eyman sends an email out or makes a comment, but we don't.

Just because Tim Eyman wants to announce something doesn't mean it is news. This is the second time this week the AP has done this. They are dropping fast on the Seattle Times Company® Scale of Embarrassment™.

We want to respect and like the AP. But with nonsense like this, it's hard to.

Hooray! Denver picked for the next DNC

The Democratic National Committee and Chairman Howard Dean have selected Denver as the site of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

This decision acknowledges the tremendous importance of the West, especially the rocky mountain west, and sends a message that the West can and will be won...by Democrats! Dean issued the following statement:
"I am delighted to announce that the city of Denver will host the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I congratulate Mayor Hickenlooper, Governor Ritter, Senator Salazar and the members of the Denver Host Committee for assembling an outstanding bid that demonstrates the community’s commitment to organizing a first-rate national convention that will put our nominee on the path to victory in 2008.

There is no question that the West is important to the future of the Democratic Party. The recent Democratic gains in the West exemplify the principle that when we show up and ask for people's votes and talk about what we stand for, we can win in any part of the country. Additionally, we have a number of strong Democratic leaders in the West who will be a part of showcasing the vision of Democratic leadership for America as we introduce the next Democratic President in the Rocky Mountains.

New York is a wonderful city but in the end, it was the strength of Denver’s bid that made it the best choice. From the state-of-the-art facilities to the commitment of community leaders to hosting an outstanding event, Mayor Hickenlooper and the host committee made clear that the Denver convention will be a great one. We thank the team for its hard-work during this process and look forward to working with them over the next year and a half to put on the best Democratic convention in history."
The convention will be held from August 25th to the 28th, 2008. NPI strongly applauds this choice and thanks the DNC for its wise decision.

Primary colors

Hans Dunshee is working on getting rid of dual ballots in primaries.
OLYMPIA – An estimated 10,000 citizens cast ballots in last year’s Snohomish County primary and saw their votes go uncounted because they didn’t pick which primary – Democrat or Republican.

“Many of those citizens voted straight Democrat or straight Republican,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish). “They just didn’t check the box. That’s why I helped write a law to fix this problem so we can count those votes. If a citizen takes the time to get informed about issues and go to the polls, it’s our job to make sure their voice is heard. Let’s count every vote.”

Snohomish County had some of the worst problems with voters not checking a box for which party primary they wanted to participate in, Dunshee says, and that’s because Snohomish chose a single, consolidated ballot. Other counties didn’t have the check-box problem because they gave multiple ballots to each voter and let them pick either the Republican, Democrat or independent version.

“I like the single ballot because it saves taxpayer money,” Dunshee said. “This reform gives us the best of both worlds, because now we still save money but we don’t leave uncounted ballots lying around because of this loophole.”
Clark County had the "check box" problem, too, and what you don't know is how many people simply refused to check it out of principle.

I know it seems odd to folks who moved here from party registration states, as I did 17 years ago, but Washingtonians pretty much see it as a birthright not to be forced to declare their party affiliation.

While the blanket primary seems dead and buried, there's no reason not to have separate ballots for each party. And they need to be different colors. I don't care what color the Democratic ballot is, but the Republican ballot must always be either pink or salmon, until they restore the "ic" in Democratic Party.

Fix the same sex marriage situation

It's time to right some wrongs. From the AP via The Olympian:
Less than a year after the state Supreme Court upheld Washington's ban on same-sex marriage, the issue is being taken up again by the Legislature.

Two bills dealing with same-sex couples are scheduled to be announced at a news conference today: one to allow same-sex marriage, the other calling for domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples.

Supporters say the dual approach is necessary to extend benefits such as hospital visitation rights and end-of-life decisions to same-sex couples, while continuing to push for full marriage rights.

"Our goal is marriage equity, and we will work for that," said Rep. Joe McDermott, D-Seattle, one of the Legislature's five openly gay lawmakers who are working on the measures. "In the meantime, our effort is to provide immediate relief, immediate benefits, to same-sex couples."
The article has a quote near the end from a Bothell pastor, but for some reason it just didn't get my blood boiling or anything. Maybe it's how lovely everything looks in the sun and snow, or maybe it's because Joe Fuiten has seen his power diminished so dramatically. Granted, Fuiten and the rest of the far religious right are entitled to participate in the system, but they aren't entitled to keep denying people their civil rights.

Ed Murray, the Democratic state senator from Seattle, had a better quote:
"The rights of minorities should not be put on the ballot for majorities to decide," he said.
Honestly, the culture wars won't work very well for Republicans any more. They jumped that shark with the Schiavo business, "intelligent design" and the freakish behavior of fundamentalist pastors in Colorado.

Time moves on. Most people understand it's wrong to deny hospital visits and a host of other things simply because people are gay. Hopefully the Legislature will agree and fix this wrong.

Why don't they pay for it at least?

Kos:
And yeah, of course they won't go anywhere near a draft. They don't believe in their war that much, enough to kill them electorally for a generation. But if the struggle is so dire and dark, why not do something as tame as repeal their precious tax cuts for the wealthy? Heck, not only could they start paying for their war, but maybe they could even use it to buy armor for the poor saps headed over there without it.
Indeed. We mostly focus on the human costs, which are severe, but at something like $8 billion per month this war is an economic drain too. In one month we could pay for a new Viaduct, a new SR 520 bridge and a new I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver, just to put it in perspective.

Yet the media frames persist, despite any factual evidence to back them up: liberals are crazy people who want to spend, spend, spend, and conservatives are thoughtful, frugal people who watch out for taxpayers.

It's not opposite day, it's opposite decade.

School district bans An Inconvenient Truth after one right wing parent complains

The Federal Way School District has appallingly decided to place a moratorium on the showing of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth because one wingnut parent doesn't like the former Vice President or his documentary, which doesn't include a Book of Revelations perspective on global warming:
"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."
Um...can you can say, wacko?

If Mr. Hardison doesn't want his children exposed to - gasp - science, then why are they enrolled in public schools? There is no doubt a good private school not too far away that teaches creationism. (How about the Federal Way Christian Academy, 30817 Pacific Hwy S).

This is a stupid, ridiculous decision, one that we hope is quickly overturned. An award-winning, critically acclaimed, scientific documentary about the most important issue facing the world is exactly the kind of movie that should be shown in the classroom. There isn't a debate over global warming any more. The consensus is in: global warming is for real and we're causing it.

Given that the debate is over (well, the oil industry would like to pretend it isn't) it's absurd that school board members are saying students should hear from global warming skeptics. That's a harmful policy that reflects a lack of understanding about how science works. Again, the scientific debate is over.

Naturally, other students want the movie to be shown:
"I think that a movie like that is a really great way to open people's eyes up about what you can do and what you are doing to the planet and how that's going to affect the human race," said Kenna Patrick, a senior at Jefferson High School.
The Federal Way school board has made a dumb, boneheaded decision that hurts its student population. NPI strongly supports the revocation of this moratorium and urges the school board to reverse itself...immediately. It is especially important that young people hear Gore's message. This is a crisis the next generation is going to be dealing with for a long time.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Another snowstorm hits Puget Sound

Snow, ice, hail, and freezing temperatures combined to create a difficult commute for residents around Puget Sound this evening. Colleges and school districts are already announcing they'll be closed tomorrow (see an updated list). In the neighborhood where NPI is headquartered, the snow is already several inches deep.

Much of State Route 520, which links Seattle with Redmond, was a parking lot earlier this evening... in both directions. Traffic was also jammed on I-90, I-5, I-405, and other major highways for miles. The Washington State Patrol's forces have been strained attempting to respond to all the accidents.

WSDOT has more than 200 trucks on the road in Western Washington, manned by 200+ personnel working the storm. Equipment includes snow plows, sanders, dump trucks, graders and deicers. All onramp meters have been temporarily deactivated. King County is also putting their crews to work:
More than 120 road workers will be out through the night plowing and sanding, as necessary. But the division strongly advises motorists to monitor weather reports and road conditions before they plan to travel. If conditions remain hazardous, they should consider postponing their travel if at all possible.
It is still snowing in some areas, although most of the showers have tapered off. Temperatures are expected to drop into the twenties tonight.

Pacific NW Portal's weather partner AccuWeather reports that the low tonight will be 24°F (RealFeel®: 26°F). It'll be partly cloudy and cold. Anything that is wet will be a slick sheet of ice tomorrow morning. If you have to go out, put chains on your vehicle. If you can, just stay at home.

Pacific NW Portal's Winter Weather Preparedness section has advice on how to prepare your home and vehicles for cold, icy, snowy, and windy weather.

Bush tries to sell escalation

As of this writing, Dubya's presidential address is in progress. Surprisingly, Bush acknowledged previous efforts have been "failures". It sounds well packaged. But the McCain Doctrine is not a sensible course of action. It is merely a desperate gambit to avoid withdrawal. It's stay the course on steroids.

Bush said he is forming a new "bipartisan" working group to work on his strategy, and - surprise, surprise - mentioned Joe Lieberman (who is no longer a Democrat) by name. He mentioned no other politician. Who else is in this "bipartisan" group?

Bush also said he would also deploy a new carrier group to the Middle East to block any interference in Iraq from Iran.

More troops, more equipment, more money, more empty promises of peace and diplomacy, more conservative framing, more divisive rhetoric, more lives in jeopardy...more of the same, and more justification for more of the same.

Escalation is the wrong answer. Enough is enough!

POSTSCRIPT: Most of the potential frontrunners for the Democratic nomination, (even Hillary Clinton) have now clearly stated they can't support the President on escalation. Another item of interest - CNN ran a report profiling the National Priorities CostofWar project, emphasizing what we could have done with the money we've spent in Iraq if we had spent it here at home.

Oops...Apple announced iPhone too soon

Apparently they weren't so close to reaching an agreement after all:
Cisco Systems Inc. said Wednesday it is suing Apple Inc. in federal court over Apple's use of Cisco's registered iPhone trademark for its new handheld device.

Cisco has owned the trademark on the name "iPhone" since 2000, when it acquired InfoGear Technology Corp., which originally registered the name.

And three weeks ago, Cisco's Linksys division put the trademark to use, releasing an Internet-enabled phone called "iPhone" that uses the increasingly popular Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

On Tuesday, Apple unveiled the iPhone, its "game-changing" touch-screen-controlled cell phone device that plays music, surfs the Web and delivers voicemail and e-mail.

"Cisco entered into negotiations with Apple in good faith after Apple repeatedly asked permission to use Cisco's iPhone name," said Mark Chandler, Cisco senior vice president and general counsel, in a statement. "There is no doubt that Apple's new phone is very exciting, but they should not be using our trademark without our permission."
Ouch. Well, this development may very well take a bite out of Apple's plans to launch this product. Cisco wants the courts to bar Apple from copying its iPhone trademark, and it seeks protection of its brand.

UPDATE: Indeed, Cisco wasn't happy at being blown off. From Cisco's blog:
Today’s announcement from Cisco regarding our suit with Apple over our iPhone trademark has spurred a lot of interesting questions. Most importantly, this is not a suit against Apple’s innovation, their modern design, or their cool phone. It is not a suit about money or royalties. This is a suit about trademark infringement.

Cisco owns the iPhone trademark. We have since 2000, when we bought a company called Infogear Technology, which had developed a product that combined web access and telephone. Infogear’s registrations for the mark date to 1996, before iMacs and iPods were even glimmers in Apple’s eye.

[...]

So, I was surprised and disappointed when Apple decided to go ahead and announce their new product with our trademarked name without reaching an agreement. It was essentially the equivalent of “we’re too busy.” Despite being very close to an agreement, we had no substantive communication from Apple after 8 PM Monday, including after their launch, when we made clear we expected closure.
Cisco is understandably upset. Few people enjoy being blindsided.

How to create a failed state

We've been there.
On March 18, 1969, American B-52s began carpet-bombing eastern Cambodia. "Operation Breakfast" was the first course in a four-year bombing campaign that drew Cambodia headlong into the Vietnam War. The Nixon Administration kept the bombings secret from Congress for several months, insisting they were directed against legitimate Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge targets. However, the raids exacted an enormous cost from the Cambodian people: the US dropped 540,000 tons of bombs , killing anywhere from 150,000 to 500,000 civilians.

Shortly after the bombing began, Sihanouk restored diplomatic relations with the US, expressing concern over the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. But his change of heart came too late. In March 1970, while Sihanouk was traveling abroad, he was deposed by a pro-American general, Lon Nol. The Nixon Administration, which viewed Sihanouk as an untrustworthy partner in the fight against communism , increased military support to the new regime.

In April 1970, without Lon Nol's knowledge, American and South Vietnamese forces crossed into Cambodia. There was already widespread domestic opposition to the war in Vietnam; news of the "secret invasion" of Cambodia sparked massive protests across the US, culminating in the deaths of six students shot by National Guardsmen at Kent State University and Jackson State University. Nixon withdrew American troops from Cambodia shortly afterwards. But the US bombing continued until August 1973.

Meanwhile, with assistance from North Vietnam and China, the guerrillas of the Khmer Rouge had grown into a formidable force. By 1974, they were beating the government on the battlefield and preparing for a final assault on Phnom Penh. And they had gained an unlikely new ally: Norodom Sihanouk, living in exile, who now hailed them as patriots fighting against an American puppet government.
You don't suppose Bush will come on television tonight and start pointing at a map, do you?

Nixonism, Kissingerism and Bushism are basically reckless militarism. Notice how it is hardly ever discussed in the U.S. media that our policies may inadevertently help create the "failed state" that is the backbone of conservative talking points. When you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail.

The Congress doesn't want escalation, the uniformed military is at the very least highly concerned about continued degradation of our capabilities, and the American people spoke at the ballot box. That should be enough, but not with this administration.

Fun for the kids

Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia) has proposed the Pacific chorus frog be named the state amphibian.
I think we'll be able to avoid the fierce potato versus onion battle that doomed naming the state vegetable" in a recent session, Williams said. "I don't think there's any particular frog lobby out there that will protest."
I would be careful. You never know if supporters of the Columbia Spotted Frog might get energized.

But yeah, those potato people, they were off the charts. Here it is snowing and now I want a nice fresh Walla Walla sweet.

Fox anchor calls Senator Ted Kennedy "hostile enemy" of United States

This is not very civil.
This morning on Fox News, anchor Gretchen Carlson called Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) a “hostile enemy” of the United States because he has demanded that Congress vote on whether to approve funding for escalation in Iraq. In an interview with White House counselor Dan Bartlett, Carlson compared Kennedy to insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, saying that Kennedy represented the same kind of force “right here on the home front.”
This is a stupid game and the American people aren't buying it any more. Anyone who thinks Fox News is real also believes professional wrestling is real. It's widely known that Fox gets it marching orders from the White House and the RNC, so this stunt is just typical right wing posturing.

Has it dawned on Rovian spawn Bartlett that one reason Democrats at the grass roots got off the mat is because they got tired of being called traitors for disagreeing with administration policy?

Keep it up, Fox Republicans, keep it up. You call Ted Kennedy a traitor, you call all of us traitors. Basically what you're doing is allowing us to laugh in the faces of reporters who want to talk about civility and bi-partisanship. We always knew you would never be able to conduct yourselves in a civil fashion, so I don't know why the press kept pushing that silly idea in the first place.

There are other things that should be said, and will be said elsewhere, but I'm not allowed to say them on this particular blog. But when I go fishing and I put a worm on a hook, I pretend to be the worm talking to the fish, encouraging the fish to take the bait.

D.C. Highlights Murray and Cantwell: "No" to escalation

Looks like our U.S. senators are going to stick together. In fact, it seems to me that the Democratic Party is pretty united in opposing the escalation.
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington State said Tuesday they oppose President Bush's plan to send thousands more U.S. troops to Iraq.

"The voters asked for a change of course in November. The generals asked for a change of course," Murray said at a Capitol news conference. "I do not believe escalating this war is a solution to the crisis facing Iraq today."

Cantwell, at a separate event later in the day, said the United States should focus on diplomatic and political solutions in Iraq - not an escalation of the war.

"To think we're going to control that (conflict) by sending more troops is not the right thing to do," Cantwell said.

A troop buildup might have worked a year or two ago, Cantwell said, but with sectarian militias now firmly established in Baghdad and other parts of the country, "I don't think 20,000 troops is going to stop that."
Bush can propose it, but escalation of the war isn't likely to happen. The public is opposed and so are congressional Democrats.

It's called the power of the purse.

We need to listen to our uniformed military commanders.

Download Columbia Crossing forum audio

The audio file from last Thursday's forum in Portland about the Columbia River Crossing project is now available from your listening enjoyment.

The clip features the panel discussion held during the forum and runs about 23 minutes total. It's an interesting discussion - so check it out if you have 23 minutes.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Apple announces its iPhone, Dell introduces new Plant A Tree program

Apple founder and chief executive Steve Jobs today confirmed much the incredible media hype of recent weeks in announcing Apple's plans for an iPhone:
Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs on Tuesday announced the iPod maker's long-awaited leap into the mobile phone business and renamed the company just "Apple Inc.," reflecting its increased focus on consumer electronics.

The iPhone, which will start at $499 when it launches in June, is controlled by touch, plays music, surfs the Internet and runs the Macintosh computer operating system. Jobs said it will "reinvent" wireless communications and "leapfrog" past the current generation of smart phones.
The iPhone will operate exclusively on AT&T Inc.'s Cingular Wireless network. Models will cost around half a grand and are supposed to become available at the beginning of the summer. However:
..the company's lawyers have yet to finalize an agreement to license the name from networking gear maker Cisco Systems Inc.

Cisco has owned the trademark on the name "iPhone" since 2000, when it acquired the company that originally registered the name, InfoGear Technology Corp.

And three weeks ago, Cisco's Linksys division put the trademark to use, releasing an Internet-enabled phone called "iPhone" that uses the increasingly popular Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.
Apple wasn't the only company with an intriguing announcement today, though:
Dell introduced a new environmental "Plant a Tree for Me" program in which it offered to plant a tree for every PC sold. It also challenged the industry to follow its lead with a free recycling program.

[...]

Dell also unveiled several products.

One of them was a "Home Media Suite," which included a new media center PC based on Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming Windows Vista operating system, a 27-inch flat-panel monitor, a printer and wireless router. Dell said it will be the first PC that can play back and record premium cable content.

Dell said it will also offer a new online data-migration service called "Dell DataSafe." It's an online service in which users would let Dell store their digital photos, movies, music or other data, so Dell could pre-load the data onto a customer's newly purchased systems.
Kudos to Dell for continuing to be a leader in recycling and environmental programs (which coincidentally is an area where Apple needs to improve).

State of the State Address in progress

Governor Christine Gregoire is currently delivering the State of the State Address to a joint session of the Washington State Legislature.

The Governor says she expects a spirit of cooperation from the House and Senate during the coming 105 day session, and reminded legislators that "she'll be downstairs" "pushing and nudging" them to take action.

UPDATE from stilwell: The governor, by the way, continues to get better marks from the public in approval polls:
Fifty-two percent of Washington residents approve of the job Gov. Chris Gregoire is doing, according to a new Elway Poll.

The survey of 405 registered voters was taken Dec. 28-29. The margin of error was 5 percent.

In July, 45 percent of those surveyed felt Gregoire was doing an excellent or good job while 52 percent said her performance was only fair or poor.
All that Republican nonsense from early 2005 is wearing off, slowly but surely.

Guests present included Governor Booth Gardner, Governor Mike Lowry, King County Executive Ron Sims, and the chieftain of the Swinomish tribe. The other elected executive officials (the Secretary of State, Auditor, Lands Commissioner, etc.) and the nine Supreme Court justices were also in attendance.

The address was as follows:
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished justices of the court, honored officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, Governor Rosellini, Governor Gardner, Governor Lowry, King County Executive Sims, Snohomish County Executive Reardon, the Honorable Brian Cladoosby, the Honorable Fawn Sharp, and the Honorable Lee Adolph, members of the Consular Association of Washington, my fellow citizens:

Good evening. It is an honor once again to stand before you and talk about the state of this great state.

Thank you, Rabbi Bridge, for starting us off this evening with the opening prayer.

Joining me at the rostrum is my husband Mike – or First Mike as he has become known. He is a Vietnam combat veteran and has spent the last two years working on veterans issues, a subject which he is passionate about. He is a great dad to our two daughters, and a great husband, who, to borrow a line, knows me best and loves me anyway.

Also joining me is my daughter, Michelle, who will graduate from college in May. She not only has gotten darn good grades, she has provided us with four great years of college soccer which we will dearly miss. Michelle, along with her older sister, Courtney, who can’t be with us today, can always be counted on to keep me grounded.

I would also like to introduce Mike’s mother, Mary Gregoire, and his brother, Denny, and Denny’s wife, Barb Tennis.

Not joining us is our dog, Trooper. It has been a long time since Mike and I had a puppy – if you know what I mean.

Like you, my family is the center of my life, and making life better for our families is the real measure of our work here in Olympia.

It has been a hard year for many Washington families as wind, fires, and floods plagued the state in an unprecedented series of natural disasters.

Sadly, some families suffered the ultimate loss in 2006 when family members in the armed services, law enforcement, and firefighting lost their lives. Still others perished from natural disasters in our state.

Would you please join me in a moment of silence for these individuals and their families?

Thank you.

Despite the damage from storms and fires and the terrible toll of lives lost, Washington families have a bright future.

They have a bright future because we have adopted a basic principle: the status quo in Washington is not good enough.

We have fought for change – responsible change. We have demanded accountability. And the results are clear.

Thousands of children will have a better shot at life thanks to our new emphasis on early learning.

We have kept our promise to cut class sizes in our K-12 schools.

We honored the wishes of voters and approved teacher pay raises.

We opened the doors to colleges and universities to more students.

We promised to provide health care to more children than ever before – and we delivered.

More people are working – 155,000 new jobs were created in the last two years.

Exports from our trade-dependent state are up 40 percent – headed to a record $45 billion year, and based on successes from my trade missions, I look forward to more growth in the future.

Together, we have taken steps to help forest land owners and farmers. We cut taxes on diesel fuel, farm equipment, and the timber B&O tax.

Last year we promised to set aside money for the future, and we delivered. Let’s deliver again this session. It is the responsible thing to do.

New 21st century industries – like a biodiesel plant in Grays Harbor – are forming. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil must be a priority.

We did what some thought was impossible – we negotiated medical malpractice reform, and patient safety has been enhanced as a result.

Together we have fought discrimination.

We passed tough new crime-fighting bills. One has helped reduce the number of meth labs by 50 percent.

We protected our children and communities by increasing sentences for sex offenders and prohibiting sex offenders from entering areas frequented by children, such as schools, parks and playgrounds.

And when law enforcement said they needed help locating sex offenders who have been released from prison, we passed tough new sex offender registration laws.

We broke a decades-long stalemate with an agreement that will provide farms, fish and communities water they desperately need from the Columbia River.

We increased access to state parks and began preparing for the centennial celebration of our parks system in 2013.

We promoted investments in renewable energy and green buildings, and we curbed auto emissions.

We’ve taken on these challenges, solved real problems for real people, demanded accountability and made the kinds of changes the state needs to continue moving families forward.

We have made real progress and we are changing the way we do business.

In the past we saw a state without a clear vision for the future.

Today we see hope, opportunity and steady progress toward a secure future.

In the past, we’ve seen partisanship, bureaucratic inertia, political caution and business as usual in Olympia.

Today, together, we are fighting for change that is responsible, demands accountability, and is providing the solutions Washington needs.

This is the Washington we all want.

But just in case anyone here thinks we can rest on our laurels, I have one message for you. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

We have turned the corner, but we have work to do.

In too many cases we are using 20th century tools to solve 21st century problems, and nothing short of change will allow us to produce a better future for Washington families.

I have traveled the state and listened to our citizens from Spokane to Everett and Vancouver to Tacoma.

We all want the same things for our families – quality education, reliable health insurance, and a good job. Our challenge is to stand in the shoes of our citizens, see the future through their eyes, and find common ground that provides the change needed for a future Washington families can count on.

Today I want to talk about a vision for change and an agenda that provides:
  • An education system families can rely on;
  • An economy that offers opportunity for family-wage jobs;
  • Health insurance families can afford;
  • An environment where families can thrive;
  • Communities where families feel safe;
  • And a state government that is performance-driven and accountable to Washington’s families.
I still vividly remember going to work with my mom on Saturdays at the Rainbow Cafe in Auburn. She was a single parent and a short order cook who never let me forget how much she loved me and taught me a lot about hard work.

Mom also taught me about the importance of education, and as I think back on it, I guess she never let there be a doubt that with hard work I would be the first person in our family to get a college degree.

Mom, as usual, was right, and the power of a good education is even truer today. We need an education system families can rely on to prepare their kids for the globally competitive job market of the 21st century.

That’s why my number one priority this session is education. I ask that you join me in addressing this priority. The best way to grow our economy and secure a bright future for our children is to make significant investments in a renewed education system now.

There is no better example of where we have held on to a 20th century system while we face 21st century problems.

We need change when about a third of our students don’t complete high school and about half of our kids aren’t ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.

Even parents of kids who are graduating are worried. They want to know that our education system is preparing their children to compete for good jobs with students from countries like China, India, and Ireland.

We have students, teachers and school administrators with the right stuff, but we have saddled them with an education system built for yesterday’s needs.

We must change our education system and invest in it now.

For far too long our early childhood education system has fallen behind the rest of the country.

Last session we began the necessary change by recognizing that our children are born ready to learn. We invested in early learning so more kids in the first five years of life have a chance to succeed in school and life.

Now let’s take the next step. Let’s give more kids a chance to get quality early learning opportunities so they enter kindergarten ready to learn. I am proposing we add more early learning slots for kids than we have in almost two decades.

The research is clear. For every dollar we invest in early childhood education we get $8 in return with children who are more likely to graduate from high school and college, get a good job and raise their families and less likely to get stuck in our social service net or the criminal justice system.

But perhaps the power of early learning is better expressed by a mom.

Here’s what Shanta Hibbit of Seattle wrote to the Tiny Tots Development Center.

“Today is a wonderful day. My son Avery is on the pathway to Kindergarten next year.

"Do you know that Avery can write his full name? He is so excited about that. He shows me every chance he gets.

"He recognizes colors, shapes, and even speaks some Spanish.

"Being a single mother can be stressful and difficult. I work very hard daily in the office and at home for the purpose of creating a future for my children.

"Raising my children in a community where opportunity for education at times is limited, is extremely challenging.

"Avery’s self-esteem and excitement about learning is beyond belief at times. The early learning programs at Tiny Tots are wonderful opportunities for families like mine.”

Parents are the first and best teachers, but as Shanta says, we can all use some help.

I am proposing we invest in a voluntary five-star rating system for child care facilities to raise the quality of early learning. We rate restaurants, hotels, and music, don’t you think we should rate the places we entrust with our children?

And let’s lead the rest of the nation and give our five-year-olds the early boost they may need by phasing in voluntary all-day kindergarten. I propose we focus first on schools with high poverty levels where students can benefit the most.

We all know teachers teach and students learn better in smaller classrooms, particularly in the early grades of Kindergarten through 3rd. Let’s continue to lower those class sizes and ensure our children are truly ready for the 4th grade with a solid foundation in reading, math, science, arts and music, a foreign language and the skills needed to be good citizens.

This nation met the challenge of President Kennedy in the 1960’s to be the first to put a man on the moon. Our modern day moon challenge is to meet the math and science crisis facing our state and nation.

Three-quarters of Americans believe that if our next generation fails to improve skills in math, science, and engineering, it risks becoming the first generation of Americans who are worse off economically than their parents.

They have good reason to be concerned when about half our students failed the 10th grade math WASL last year. But I will contend that our students didn’t fail, our math education system failed them.

So let’s attack this challenge with the same zeal and success that we did the moon challenge.

I propose that for the first time we reduce math and science class sizes to the nationally recognized standard of 25 students to 1 teacher.

But it doesn’t help to have small class sizes without skilled teachers.

In Washington, only about half of our math teachers have a degree in math. We need to help our teachers teach by providing them the training and coaching they deserve.

My goal is to recruit 750 new math and science teachers by offering college scholarships, loan forgiveness, and recruiting those in the private sector who want to contribute to our children’s future.

And we must change the hodge-podge of math curricula we have in our state and even within the same school districts. For many students, math and science are tough enough. When a family moves, let’s help our kids succeed. If a child starts school in Aberdeen and finishes in Ritzville, she should be learning the same material.

We should have no more than three curricula options in the state and we need to tie our math and science education to international standards so we know our kids can compete with anyone.

The good news is that if we continue to press for responsible change, we will get results. I have seen it happen at Eisenhower Middle School in Everett where teacher Shannon Depew has started a new, more personalized program for students who failed the math WASL.

Shannon’s once-struggling students are excelling at math, and it just shows that with talented teachers and our increased investment in an education system for the 21st century, we can make a difference.

We have the vision to succeed and the opportunity to invest in that vision. But we also need to make sure schools are accountable to our families. I am proposing new performance standards so we invest in programs that work and show that tax dollars are being used wisely.

A high school education in the future may not be enough to find a good job. That’s why we need to continue our investment in running start for the trades, our school-to-work partnerships and mentoring programs to provide the kinds of specialized skills our economy needs.

In the past few years we have done a good job of opening the doors to our colleges and universities. We created unprecedented new access to college degrees at campuses in Vancouver, Tri-Cities, Bothell and Tacoma.

Students now can enroll in a B.A. degree program at community colleges in South Seattle, Port Angeles, Bellevue and Bremerton.

But we need to do more. We need to provide graduates in high-demand fields.

A survey of Washington businesses shows that we are not keeping pace with employer needs – especially in fields like computer science, engineering and construction.

We’re importing workers for good-paying jobs. Don’t you think our sons and daughters should get a shot at those jobs?

I am proposing we expand college and university enrollment by 8,300 students, including an unprecedented 3,300 slots in high-demand fields ranging from nurse’s aides to doctors, and engineers to construction workers.

Our University of Washington schools of Medicine and Dentistry and Washington State University’s School of Nursing are top-notch.
Let’s expand these programs in Spokane to train doctors, dentists and nurses that will serve our health care needs in more rural areas.

It is long overdue for our state to have a tuition policy. For example, in 1994 tuition was raised by over 12 percent and the next year by almost 15 percent. We must make the costs predictable and affordable for students and families.

So let’s cap tuition increases at all our colleges and universities.

To encourage more students to enroll at our community and technical colleges, I am proposing we freeze tuition.

The single greatest investment we can make in our economic security is education.

But if we are to make these changes real, we must do it together.

I was proud of a Yakima Herald-Republic editorial last summer that said I was shredding the Cascade Curtain and creating one Washington. I’d like to invite you to join me at the shredder and help us expand our economy to make sure all regions of our state have a chance to attract good family-wage jobs.

In the last few years we have invested in 21st century opportunities that tie our state’s economy together.

One example is our initiative to launch a new biodiesel industry which will help us be energy-independent, lead the nation, if not the world in alternative energy, provide new markets for Washington agricultural products, and stimulate new businesses.

In Grays Harbor, Imperium Renewables is building the largest biodiesel refinery in North America. The plant will provide 50 family-wage jobs and buy from Washington farmers, so we will support those families, too.

Another example is our 2005 initiative creating the Life Sciences Discovery Fund. Our state is among the leaders in global health research. The promise is real in our laboratories today where we are discovering cures to the world’s most dreaded diseases, driving up health care quality and driving down costs.

This card is one example of the future. It is a lab on a card where at a cost of maybe $5 to make one of these you can get results within an hour, where today it can cost $200 and take 5 to 7 days.

It is being developed right here in our state. This holds the promise of changing the cost and quality of our health care. It can also create good Washington jobs.

At the center of these 21st century jobs are our two internationally recognized research institutions. Let’s continue to support global health research at the University of Washington and alternative energy at Washington State University.

Now picture yourself in the Tri-Cities, Seattle, Spokane or Vancouver. Within a five-minute walk, you pass by cutting edge research facilities and offices of four or five of the world’s leading companies in health care technology, silicon chip production, or alternative fuels.

This vision is not far-fetched. I have personally seen its beginnings around the world. We have much of the foundation in place, now all we have to do is help regions create Innovation Zones which can serve as a powerful magnet attracting investment money, new businesses, creative people and good 21st century jobs.

Economically, we really are more like a small nation than a state. We export more than twice as much per worker as any other state in the country and the sky is the limit. With our container ports initiative, we will continue to be the gateway to America for goods from Asia, and a leading exporter of high quality products whether it’s airplanes, software, wine, potatoes or cherries.

While we need a new economic vision, some things don’t change. We have to take care of our traditional business base. Forbes recently ranked us the 12th best state for business. But there is intense competition and we need to stay competitive.

We need a new partnership, investments and support for our local economic development councils. I propose opening new small business development centers in Pullman, Grays Harbor and Kelso, and we need to improve broadband service to rural communities.

And let’s not forget that small business remains the backbone of our economy.

This year we will keep more dollars in the pockets of workers and businesses by reducing their payments to unemployment and workers’ compensation by more than $400 million. That’s the kind of economic incentive we need to keep creating good family-wage jobs.

And in my dictionary, good family-wage jobs are those that pay well and provide affordable health insurance.

For many people in Washington, they fear they are a diagnosis away from bankruptcy.

I know that many of the solutions to the health care crisis facing our nation must involve the federal government. But we have to step forward and find innovative solutions for Washingtonians.

Join me again this session and invest in kids’ health care so we can continue our steady progress toward our goal of all children having access to health care by 2010. I propose covering an additional 32,000 children.

Children’s health insurance without access to a doctor is unacceptable. Raising the reimbursement rates for pediatricians can make health care real for our children.

And we will protect kids in our state from preventable diseases by spending $26 million to increase childhood immunizations, making our state one of the few in the nation providing vaccines to all children.

Changes in Medicare have been a real challenge to many of our senior citizens who found themselves having to split, skip, or go without life-saving medications. We need to make sure Washington’s seniors have access to their medications.

Over the last two years we have saved $46 million by bulk purchasing drugs for state health care systems. We can save an additional $21 million next year.

We are blessed in Washington to have wonderful agricultural and farm forestry communities.

How many of you know where Windust, Washington is?

Not many. Let me help you.

It is near Kahlotus.

I’m still getting a lot of blank stares.

Windust is a wide spot in the road in Southeast Washington. It is in the heart of wheat growing country.

As a young girl, I spent summers in Windust helping on the farm while my uncle harvested wheat.

It was hot, hard work, but what really made an impression on me was the wonderful culture and values in our farming communities.

Hard work. Independence. Strong families. Love of the land. A sense of stewardship and an intense desire to keep the land in the family and in farming for generations.

Together farming and forestry are an economic powerhouse for this state, with forestry providing 50,000 jobs and the food and agricultural industry generating a $29 billion economy.

Thanks to our Columbia River initiative, farmers like Clark Kagele have real hope for the future.

He and his neighbors above the Odessa aquifer have watched in desperation for years as their wells, livelihoods and lifetime investments in their farms go dry.

But now work has begun to bring Columbia River water to the Odessa.

We need more change if we want to preserve our forest and farm lands from pressure to convert to housing developments or shopping malls.

We need new tools to help owners of working farms and forests capture some of the higher economic value, and preserve the working farm for generations to come.

I urge you to create an office within the Conservation Commission to put these tools to use, allowing families to do what they love and do best, farm.

In Washington we have an environment that is good for our economy and allows our families to thrive. Our quality of life is why most of us live here and it keeps and draws businesses to our state.

We began the cleanup in Hood Canal. But we have more work to do to protect the jewel of the Northwest, Puget Sound. Today, it looks beautiful on its surface but beneath that surface, it is sick and in some places dying.

I think the goals for Puget Sound cleanup are pretty simple. I want families to be able to swim in it, fish in it, and dig shellfish from its beaches.

If all the contaminated sites in Puget Sound were put together, they would cover nine square miles, an area the size of Edmonds. Mercury, lead, arsenic and other poisons in the sediments can pass up the food chain to fish.

That won’t meet my measure of fishable.

You can think of the marine waters of Puget Sound like a bathtub – they swirl and circulate around instead of being flushed out to the Pacific Ocean. Every time it rains or snows, millions of gallons of stormwater pick up pollution as it runs off roofs, streets, parking lots and highways and flows into our bathtub.

You wouldn’t put your child in this bathtub.

So we must stop this flow of stormwater, or the Sound won’t meet my test for swimmable.

Every day, we flush more than 175 million gallons of water and human waste into septic systems – the equivalent of filling 265 Olympic size swimming pools every 24 hours. Many septic systems are aging and in disrepair, allowing waste to reach the Sound.

If we don’t solve this septic problem, we can’t depend on the Sound being diggable.

Thanks to the work of the Puget Sound Partnership, we can reach a healthy Puget Sound by 2020. It will take all of us recognizing we are part of the problem, and working together, we are all part of the solution.

I am proposing we make an aggressive start to clean up the mess before it’s too late.

And by the way, I am calling for real on-the-ground work that will bring results all of us can see and the life under the surface can feel.

A Washington that families can count on requires that the state do what it can to ensure the safety and security of families in their communities.

Despite inflation from the costs of foreign oil and materials demand around the world, I am asking that we continue to fund all the transportation projects we promised the public over the last few years with safety projects coming first.

I am requesting that we take action before it is too late on our mega-projects like the Viaduct in Seattle, the 520 bridge, the bridge connection from Vancouver to Portland and the north-south freeway in Spokane. And when we think transportation, let’s think 21st century in terms of need, funding, safety and design.

When disaster strikes in most communities across this country, we have found that first responders have different communications systems so they can’t talk to each other.

We are no different. For a $13 million investment we can take the steps toward solving this problem in Washington. While we can’t prevent a natural disaster, we can be prepared.

I won’t accept the status quo in state government, so we are changing the culture of state government and holding it accountable for results.

Early in my career I prosecuted cases of child abuse and neglect, so I know how important quick response to complaints can be. That’s why I required a response to cases of child abuse and neglect within 24 hours, seven days a week. DSHS is meeting those deadlines and we now know the quick response is reducing child abuse and neglect.

The vision, agenda, and budget I propose to you today is guided clearly and distinctly by the principle of responsibility.

We have a responsibility to change the status quo, to fight for innovation, and to make changes that will mean a better life for Washington families.

We have a responsibility to invest wisely in education, health care, our economy, and the environment.

We have a responsibility to provide a helping hand to those in need.
And we have a responsibility to save for the future and plan ahead for tough times.

We advise families to save for a rainy day and government should be no different. A year ago, we delivered on our promise to keep surplus dollars in the bank. We need to do it again. And also create a permanent Rainy Day Fund as part of our Constitution.

Today, I am asking you to join me with an initial investment of $262 million in that Rainy Day Fund. Nothing can be a more important lesson in responsibility than showing future generations that we know how to save.

We can save money and still invest in a future families can count on – a future with an education system families can rely on, an economy that offers opportunity for family-wage jobs, health insurance families can afford, an environment where families can thrive, and communities where families feel safe.

I want to thank those of you who are returning this session for your work and cooperation the last two years.

And I’d like to take a moment to thank those legislators who are not back this year. It is a big sacrifice to be away from your families, jobs and communities, and I want to recognize their great contributions to this state. Many, like Senators Alex Deccio and Pat Thibaudeau, served years in Olympia and we will miss them.

For returning members and our new members this year, I promise you I will have an open door.

I will be honest with you and you will know where I stand.

I will listen to and respect you and your ideas. All I ask in return is a willingness to put aside differences, find common ground and do the work of the people of our great state.

I suspect I don’t have to remind anyone here, but during this 105-day session I will be downstairs helping you, nudging you, pushing you to take action.

When this session ends let’s have people say we got things done, we made change – responsible change – and we continued providing families a future they can count on.

In closing, let me read a few lines from Aujzha Taylor-Shaw, a graduate of Madrona Elementary School in Seattle.

"I believe people are the world and we can ake it a better place.

"I believe that all people should have joy and hope

"That is unbreakable, that no one can shatter."

Let’s go forward with Aujzha’s sense of optimism.

Together, let’s leave her the inheritance she and future generations deserve.

And most important, let’s not forget that her optimism, and the optimism of all our families, will happen if we remain committed to the principle that the status quo is not good enough and we will provide the kind of change families can count on.

May God bless all of you and God bless the great state of Washington.
TVW is airing the Republican response live next.

UPDATE: The Republicans just finished. They had a specific response from Rep. Mary Skinner and then a dull, boring press conference below a picture of George W. Bush that stretched on...and on...and on. It mostly featured the same tired criticism of Governor Gregoire and the Democratic majority.

Monday, January 08, 2007

This has to be the dumbest AP article - ever

Shame on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for putting this joke of an Associated Press article on their website:
Eyman files Taxpayer Protection Initiative
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Tim Eyman says he's filed the "taxpayer protection initiative" in Olympia.

It would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or voter approval for any tax increase.

Any proposal to raise taxes would have to go through a study by the state budget office, with public hearings, on its cost over ten years.

The initiative doesn't yet have a number and Eyman says initiatives won't be available until early February.

But Eyman does have a Web site (article displays URL of website)
That's actually it. There isn't any more; this isn't an excerpt. The whole thing reads like a short, badly worded press release written by an amateur publicist. It's not journalism and it's certainly not quality reporting.

There's so much wrong with this "article" I hardly know where to begin. First, this isn't even news and shouldn't have been put on the wire. (Eyman already received coverage last month for announcing his 2007 initiative.) But it was.

Second, the headline. It uses Eyman's framing. It looks like the subject line of an email he might even write to his supporters. An objective reporter would not merely copy the one-sided language of a political demagogue. That's laziness for you.

Next, the body. The first paragraph (or line) sounds juvenile.
Tim Eyman says he's filed the "taxpayer protection initiative" in Olympia.
Once again, Eyman's language is used, albeit this time in quotes. The first sentence in the body, which is duplicative, states no new information. The state capitol is mentioned but any intelligent reader knows the seat of government is Olympia (where ballot measures would obviously be filed).

A citizen doesn't actually have to appear in person in Olympia to file an initiative. They can be filed electronically with the Secretary of State's office, which is headquartered within the Legislative Building on the Capitol Campus. (It also maintains another building out on Union Street where its Elections Division is based). Eyman apparently filed electronically this year.

The second and third paragraphs are a simplistic attempt to describe what the initiative does. There is no analysis or breakdown, no depth, no discussion of the consequences or the possible unconstitutionality of the proposal.

(For example, the Constitution says explicitly that the Legislature has the power to approve bills with a simple majority - and this initiative would require a supermajority vote for a broad category of bills, effectively meaning the Republican minority would get to run the statehouse).

The fourth paragraph contains an error which makes it painfully obvious the reporter who wrote this (there was no byline besides "ASSOCIATED PRESS") didn't check their work over very carefully:
The initiative doesn't yet have a number and Eyman says initiatives won't be available until early February.
Emphasis is mine. It's petitions, not initiatives. "Initiatives" can't "become available until early February".

I almost started laughing when I saw the last line:
But Eyman does have a Web site
Well, of course. Any savvy activist or businessperson puts up a website these days if they're trying to sell something - whether that be fraternity wristwatches or badly written right wing initiatives. The address for Eyman's website is supplied but there is no link to the opposition.

The perfect finishing touch for a lousy, wimpy, poorly written news brief.

There is actually another version of this article which uses different wording but sounds just as dumb. This version comes from KOIN's website. Again, no author byline, just this credit: The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Like before, there's a stupid headline:
Washington State Anti-Tax Initiative
That's the headline. It doesn't even have "filed" on the end! It's a title without any verbs! And even if it had "filed" on the end, it would still be a bad headline. Anti-tax initiatives are filed every year. It's not a new phenomenon. Headlines need to be more descriptive than that.

The first paragraph:
Anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman plans another tax-limitation ballot measure for the state of Washington.
Who writes this stuff? What's with the shabbily constructed sentences and the redundancy? But let's continue:
He says he has filed the "Taxpayer Protection Initiative".
Once again, Eyman's terminology is used. No objective paraphrasing. Then there's a rehash of the simplistic explanation present in the other version of this article (as discussed above). Finally:
Critics say that would make it very difficult to raise any taxes at all. Eyman says that's the point; on his Web site, Eyman argues that because the Democrats control both the governor's office and the legislature, that more tax increases are in store unless something is done to stop them. He claims to have enough signatures to qualify his measure for the November 2007 ballot.
The first few sentences in this paragraph could use better word choice and mechanics, but let's forget about those and focus on that last sentence:
He claims to have enough signatures to qualify his measure for the November 2007 ballot
That's right, folks. Before the initiative has even received a ballot number or title, before any petitions have been printed...the media is reporting that Eyman claims he ALREADY has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot!

Tim Eyman - what a a magician! Renowned around the world for the ability to conjure over 224,000 signatures at any given moment, whenever he needs them!

Humor aside, Eyman has not, to our knowledge, made such a claim. So that means the reporter who wrote that Eyman did is careless. The error about the signatures may not have actually come from the AP (it could be KOIN, and it's hard to tell) but what difference does it make?

There are plenty of people in the traditional media who often like to thumb their noses at the blogosphere, at citizen journalism and the open publishing revolution. They accuse us of being unprofessional and not being interested in objectivity (among other things) at the same time they're putting out garbage like this.

There's so much they get wrong that organizations like Media Matters are can stay constantly busy catching it and pointing it out.

The traditional media seems locked in a race to the bottom. Everything has to have entertainment value. Celebrity relationships and incidents are the top headlines. Crime dominates the local news. What's deserving of coverage is underreported, what's not is given priority billing.

The traditional media has no ground they can stand on to criticize us.

The article discussed above (both versions of it) is below the standards of the Associated Press and below the high standards for good journalism. It's even below the standards for a subjective blog - because it contains factual inaccuracies!

The Associated Press is in the powerful position of being able to set the agenda - decide what's important and what deserves coverage. Given the responsibility they enjoy, this kind of sloppiness is unacceptable and inexcusable. The crew at the Olympia bureau need to clean up their act, stop doing favors for Tim Eyman, and make a strong effort to deliver fair and comprehensive coverage. If they can't or won't, they risk losing what's left of their credibility.

Reward your friends

Jimmy at McCranium catches an item from Chris Mulick's Olympia Dispatch about Rep. Maureen Walsh (R-College Place.) Walsh had the decency to object to the GOP's fake sex offender postcard last year. One of the targets of the postcards was her Democratic seat-mate in the 16th District, Bill Grant.
It turns out her criticism may have helped her lose one committee assignment and gain another. When House Republicans doled out assignments last month, Walsh found she was no longer their ranking member on the Children and Family Services Committee.

"It was rather disappointing to see that," Walsh said.

But she won't go without. In a rare move, House Democrats named her vice-chairwoman of the Early Learning and Children's Services Committee.
Ah, the memories. That sure worked out well for the GOP, didn't it?

That was an ugly story to cover. Sadly, Vanguard is no more, but I'm still here and so are the Internet Tubes. Here's to a 2007 session free from the Rovian efforts of the Speaker's Rountable (we hope.) And why aren't they called "The Minority Roundtable?"

Bush dumps Harriet Miers

Facing the likelihood of spending much of his time in the near future in front of judge and jury, Bush has sent his long-time legal counsel, Harriet Miers, away.
"Bush advisers inside and outside the White House concluded she was not equipped... and that the president needed someone who can strongly defend his prerogatives."
Bush's prerogatives will largely be avoiding personal indictment or the discovery of embarrassing information. Miers apparently does not have the legal mind for the job - despite Bush's unqualified endorsement of her for an even more prestigious and demanding position back in 2005 - that of a United States Supreme Court Justice.

Her replacement, Fred Fielding, previously served in the Reagan and Nixon administrations and was recruited to stave off congressional oversight from the newly empowered Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill.

Fielding was instrumental in the effort to fend off the Watergate investigation - though he never became tainted by the scandal, the Washington Post notes. Don't expect Representatives Waxman, Conyers, Dingell, and other veterans to be intimidated, though.

Military launches strike against two suspected al-Qaida terrorists

It appears we are going after some al-Qaida operatives in Somalia.
A senior Pentagon official confirmed for NBC News Monday that a U.S. helicopter gunship conducted a strike against two suspected al-Qaida operatives in southern Somalia. It was not immediately known whether the mission was successful.

The U.S. Air Force helicopter, operated by the Special Operations Command, flew from its base in Djibouti to the southern tip of Somalia, where the al-Qaida suspects were believed to have fled from the capital, Mogadishu, CBS News reported.
We'll see how this operation shakes out and reserve judgment. I may even have to re-think this post at some point. Too early to tell of course. If we did get some people involved in the 1998 east Africa embassy bombings, as the MSNBC story suggests, that would be great.

Newspapers hate Christmas

At last we know who is responsible for the War on Christmas. It's the fault of newspapers!
PULLMAN, Wash. -- Police have solved the case of the missing Christmas lights in Pullman.

After a theft was reported over the weekend, officers were able to follow footprints in the snow to two juveniles who had 200 bulbs in their possession.

The 12-year-old and 13-year-old are accused of taking light bulbs, strings of lights and other outdoor decorations while on their morning newspaper routes.
Not good for subscriptions, I would imagine. Kids will be kids sometimes. Kind of destructive, though. Why in my day we would have been banned from playing Pong at the Sears customer service pickup area for a month. Did I mention we only had four TV stations? And we had to change the channel by getting up and walking over to the television?

These whipersnappers today, with their phones and their blueberries and their Super Nintendos, I tell ya. Technology is the root of all evil. They should make these kids watch All in the Family.

Geraldo threatens to "beat up" Olbermann

What is it with right-wing media figures always threatening violence? From The Orlando Sentinel:
So here's one I missed over the holidays -- Geraldo Rivera coming to town and threatening to beat up on Keith Olbermann.

Apparently Geraldo was visiting with 104.1 FM's Monsters just before Christmas, when they asked him about the time he made international headline for disclosing too much information about troops in Iraq. Geraldo claimed the incident was blown out of proportion, largely by NBC -- and specifically Olbermann. Geraldo then began mumbling semi-audible names, seemingly meant to describe Olbermann: "midget ... punk ... slimeball."
Then, according to the Sentinel post, Geraldo referred to Olbermann by a vulgar name for part of the female anatomy and said he wanted to fight him.

Oh, I cannot wait until Olbermann gets ahold of that item.

Another Fox News loser, cancelled and adrift, drowning in his own pathetic desire to have someone pay attention to him. Sad, really. Way back in the 1970's Rivera had real talent. What a cautionary tale.

And forgive me, I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding always was that if I were to phone a right wing talk show and threaten to beat up the host, I could be arrested.

Odd, how that works. Now, I suppose Rivera could have been "kidding around," but it's becoming a rather tired joke. Man Coulter already did that schtick, hardy har har har. You know, how funny it would be to poison a Supreme Court justice. Comedy gold, I tell you.

Be sure to take your civility tablets, though. If we propose providing health care for children or something we don't want it mistaken for rudeness.

The Mouse messes up

In Googling around about the case of the blogger Mr. Spocko, who had his blog shut down by his ISP after a Disney-owned radio station threatened to sue, I ran across a nice summary of the situation on something called FASTForward Blog.
Spocko’s Brain had posted dozens of examples of KSFO right-wing morning drive talk show hosts, who are known for such tasteful exercises as enacting a mock electrocution of New York Times editor Bill Keller in a defective electric chair, calling for the execution of journalists they deem liberal, labeling themselves “pro torture, demanding that callers make fun of Islam and referring to Barack Obama as “Halfafrican.” Spocko also sent letters to KSFO’s advertisers, inquiring if they really wanted their brands associated with the views expressed on the station, and inviting them to listen to program segment audio files posted on the Spocko’s Brain site.

In late December, Disney lawyers sent Spocko’s Brain and its ISP, 1&1 a cease-and-desist letter because of alleged copyright violations against the ABC Radio affiliate. 1&1 Internet took the site down entirely on January 2.

Once the dispute became public, much of the blogosphere rushed to Spoko’s defense and dozens of web hosts stepped forward to provide access to the disputed KSFO audio files. The Electronic Frontier Foundation volunteered to defend the blog against legal action. Some of the biggest and most widely read political and media blogs–like DailyKos–provided extensive coverage of the controversy and posted the disputed files, daring Disney to sue them. Selections were posted on YouTube.
Goldy was scheduled to have Mr. Spocko on-air last night on KIRO 710. While I missed that, it's an outrageous case of a large media corporation throwing its weight around.

The real story is how KSFO doesn't want its advertisers to know what kind of filth they are supporting. Mr. Spocko was trying to expose hate radio for what it is. As FASTForward Blog notes, there aren't enough lawyers in the world to control the blogosphere, and attempts to censor it often backfire.

It's always struck me as strange how corporations that spend millions of dollars protecting their images turn around and give ad dollars to the worst sort of racists and homophobes. As Mr. Spocko so ably demonstrated, it's largely because the scum that grows on right-wing AM radio is rarely exposed to any sort of scrutiny by the wider media.

Sunlight and oxygen are the true means by which we will change the media landscape in this country. One has a Constitutional right to say nearly anything one wishes in political speech, but that doesn't mean corporations who fund hate radio should continue to get a free pass. We applaud efforts to expose those who profit from hate.

MORE-- Spocko's Brain, the official title of Mr. Spocko's blog, as a new host apparently. So you can go there and see what kind of vile, inhuman stuff KSFO puts on the air. If progressives said stuff like that there would be federal agents at our doors within hours. But as always it's okay if you're a Republican.

What, we can't take a joke? Torturing people and digging up corpses-har har har har har. Nothing like some virulent racism thrown in also to get your commute under way. The idea of Nancy Pelosi with a bulls-eye on her eyes, simply hilarious. Classic comedy.

Shut the Alaskan Way Viaduct down

In yesterday's Seattle Times, columnist Danny Westneat muses over the city's painless adjustment to the closure of the downtown bus tunnel for light rail construction, and he proposes an experiment:
So here's my modest proposal: Let's just try it. Close the viaduct. It's unsafe anyway, remember? Let's come up with a thousand-point plan like they did for the bus tunnel and shut down the viaduct for a month or two. Then see what happens.
We agree with Danny. In fact, back in October of 2005 we penned a letter to Governor Christine Gregoire urging her to shut down the viaduct and post warning signs around it about the dangers of an earthquake.

WSDOT will, of course, tell you the viaduct is safe to drive on - and there will be others who will insist a comparison to the bus tunnel closure doesn't make sense. And Highway 99 is one of only two free flowing routes through Seattle. But it's worth recognizing several things:
  • Whether we rebuild the viaduct (a bad idea), build a tunnel (a good idea, if we can get over the cost hurdle) or simply tear it down (an option that shouldn't be off the table) the viaduct will still have to be closed at some point. And mitigation (doing a "thousand little things") will then be necessary.

  • We need a contingency plan in place in case the viaduct gets put of commission by a disaster or the discovery of a weakness during a maintenance inspection, or some other problem. And no plan is a known good one unless it's tried out. Call it an emergency readiness test.

  • If an earthquake does happen (whether a minor or major trembler) and the viaduct sustains damage, it's likely that the structure will have met its end. Repairs may not be possible at that point, and even if they happen to be, they probably wouldn't be worth it. The viaduct would have to come down - or the rubble of it would have to come out and the waterfront cleared. Earthquakes are unpredictable. An earthquake could happen tomorrow. Experts say there's 1-in-20 chance that the viaduct could be shut down by an earthquake within the next decade.
In the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, the Cypress Street Viaduct in San Francisco unexpectedly collapsed, causing 42 fatalities. The structure was built on filled land, which is highly susceptible to soil liquefaction during an earthquake (and exhibits larger ground motion). The similarities to the Alaskan Way Viaduct are unnerving.

I make a habit of staying away from the Alaskan Way Viaduct. I try not to drive on it, park under it, or walk under it. I see something ominous in that hulking concrete structure and I personally can't wait until it no longer exists.

On its website, WSDOT says:
As the Governor stated in her findings, "no action" is not an option. The longer we wait, the more we risk. The viaduct and the seawall are at risk of failure from earthquakes (with unacceptable risk to lives as well as property) or irreversible loss of use from age and deterioration.
Since no action is not an option, since safety is a paramount concern, and since the viaduct will have to be torn down under any replacement scenario, it would seem we haven't got much to lose by shutting the structure down now.

Critics can whine about "economic losses" resulting from a viaduct shutdown all they want. That won't change the fact that a planned shutdown and mitigation will be far less expensive and disruptive then a shutdown caused by a disaster. A planned closure has to happen sooner or later or the structure will never be replaced. We may as well get started.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Introducing D.C. Highlights

We're debuting a new feature on the Official Blog which is rather similar to our "In Brief" series of posts. It's called D.C. Highlights, and it will feature tidbits from our nation's capitol.

We intend to present it near daily whenever Congress is not in recess. Rather than summarizing what the traditional media's take is on the top stories, NPI writers will be looking for items of interest to you, our readers, as well as developments that affect the Pacific Northwest. (For example, a bill concerning the Wild Sky Wilderness, which is free to move forward with Richard Pombo out of the House and Republicans out of power).

Here is the first D.C. Highlights, recapping the first two days of session:
  • Nancy Pelosi, to no one's surprise, became the first woman elected Speaker of the House in American history. During the opening ceremonies, she was handed the gavel by John Boehner, who is now the Minority Leader. Pelosi, since officially becoming Speaker, has stressed that congressional Democrats won't support Bush's attempt to escalate the war in Iraq and are ending the administration's free ride.

  • Several Washington Democrats moved up the ladder as Congress convened last Thursday, including Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. (Murray is now the fourth highest ranking Democrat in the caucus, while Cantwell has received a seat on the Finance Committee). Meanwhile, half of the Democratic members in the U.S. House delegation are or are likely to become chairmen (Representatives Smith, Dicks, McDermott).

  • Representative Jay Inslee of NPI's home district flew back from the District of Columbia yesterday to deliver the keynote speech at the Priorities for a Healthy Washington legislative workshop. Inslee mentioned that he's working on a new book (Apollo’s Fire: America’s Quest for Clean Energy) and promised to continue championing the goals of the Apollo Alliance. Inslee also talked about recent developments in solar and other alternative energy technologies. He floated the idea of a revenue neutral tax shift - creating a carbon tax but reducing the payroll tax to create an incentive for lower emissions. Inslee was upbeat, cheerful, and well received.

  • A photo slideshow of some of the welcoming parties for the 110th Congress is available here from the folks at MyDD. Of course, it wasn't all parties and ceremonies. Congress also got down to serious business. The House passed a package of rules that sets the operating guidelines for the 110th Congress. Items of importance? Ethics reform, efforts to ensure civility, cracking down on arm twisting, and a return to fiscal responsibility (PAYGO).
Finally, what can we expect in the days ahead? A January preview:
H.R. 1: Implementing 9/11 Commission Recommendations (Jan 9th)
H.R. 2: Raising the Minimum Wage (Jan 10th)
H.R. 3: Stem Cell Research (Jan 11th)
H.R. 4: Prescription Drug Negotiating Authority (Jan 12th)
Pelosi has specifically reserved all the bill numbers up until number 10, so there's likely several more pieces of legislation in store as well. All of this does have to make it through the Senate before it reaches Bush's desk, but at least the House will be working for the American people for once.

Even Utah isn't buying it

Bush has lost Utah.
A Salt Lake Tribune poll conducted last week shows Utah's support for Bush's handling of the war in Iraq has taken a substantial plunge in the past few months. Just 41 percent of Utahans say they support Bush on Iraq - marking the first time a Tribune poll has found fewer than half of Utahans in the president's war camp.

Meanwhile, the poll shows Utahans about evenly split on whether to send more troops to Iraq. About 44 percent of Utahans back a "surge" - an option Bush reportedly is considering, and which has much lower nationwide support.
Nobody is buying the escalation. Not even the people in Utah.

What starts to become problematic is that apparently nobody can reason with Dubya. His daddy's folks can't, Henry Kissinger can't, and of course Bush isn't interested in what Congress has to say. (Signing statements, anyone?)

So maybe the question the media should be asking instead of "why won't Democrats cave in by being bipartisan" is "what in the world is wrong with this president?" We've never seen anything like this. What happens if they Give a Presidency and Nobody Came?

Leave a comment recently?

If you commented on a recent post (and your comment was not a bunch of gibberish with a link to buy Viagra, Cialis, etc.) it should be appearing in the thread you left it in. We had to enable moderation for awhile while we created filters to block a tremendous amount of spam (sudden onslaught) - and we didn't have time to go through the queue. But no legitimate comment got deleted!

We apologize for the annoyance.

Seattle Times burns through the truth

As Goldy points out, talking about budget issues in this state by using mostly raw dollar figures ignores a pretty important aspect of the equation.
Indeed, as a share of the total state economy, Gov. Gregoire’s budget actually represents a reduced investment — a smaller share of state resources than any of the six budgets that directly precede it.
A good example of the kind of bad reporting to watch out for is this rather insulting "user's guide" to the 2007 Legislature posted by The Seattle Times. See if you can spot any kind of emphasis:
State lawmakers get out the checkbook starting Monday as they convene in Olympia to write a new two-year state operating budget.

They'll also divvy up billions of dollars in transportation and construction spending, and consider major education and health-care legislation.

Democrats control the House and Senate, as well as the governor's office. Lawmakers start the 105-day session with a projected $1.9 billion surplus for the 2007-09 biennium.

Gov. Christine Gregoire last month proposed a $30 billion two-year budget that would burn through much of that surplus. In all, Gregoire wants to increase state spending by about $4 billion, with more than half going to education. She would add nearly 3,800 new state workers, not counting the hundreds of new teachers.
Objective, huh?

Yet journalists tend to bristle when they get called on their use of loaded terms. What's being offered to the readers of The Seattle Times is an obviously slanted version of what will happen in Olympia, and there's no other way to put it.

These are investments that have to be made because years of neglect have put us in a hole. Even with that, state spending will actually go down as a share of personal income.

It's time for some better journalism this session. Emphasizing spending in the fashion of the Seattle Times is the lazy reporter's way out. These are proposals to very real and specific problems, and it's time the media outlets in this state recognize that the citizens want some of these problems solved. There will be proposals that can be improved, of course, and (gasp!) some of them may even be poor ideas.

But we need a quality educational system and we need a workable transportation system. Sharp focus on how to deal with issues like that will be appreciated by the citizenry. Cavalier coverage that tries to sensationalize the budget process doesn't do anyone any good, and is not in the public interest.

Fight homelessness, not the homeless

Ask almost any person in America if ending homelessness is a worthy goal worth pursuing, and you're likely to hear a yes.

But the way some people act, you'd hardly get that impression.

It's been said that we are better defined by our actions than our words, and that's certainly true in the case of the misplaced and regretful opposition to SHARE/WHEEL's Tent City 4, a roaming encampment of homeless citizens that is hoping to make St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond its temporary home shortly.

Almost everywhere Tent City has gone on the Eastside, it has faced an uphill battle against fearful and apprehensive people. There's been obstructionism, protesters, and red tape - miles of it, coming from municipal officials determined to do everything in their power to get rid of or harass Tent City.

I've seen this kind of behavior before, but seeing it now from people who live in my neighborhood is disheartening. How can people act like this? Were the situation reversed, I can't imagine any of them would appreciate being treated this way. It's appalling, it's disgusting, it's unacceptable, it's outrageous.

Perhaps it's evident in my writing that I feel very strongly about this subject. I am a progressive and a Christian, and consequently I possess deeply held values and convictions. The actions of nearby residents who I am almost afraid to call neighbors are embarrassing to me. How can there be such hostility?

Let me describe specifically what I'm talking about. From an article in last month's Kirkland Courier:
Bothell recently slapped Tent City 4 with a $4,000 bill (which has since grown to $5,000) for the time devoted to processing the application for the permit to stay at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in August. Tent City 4 reportedly was hamstrung by the many conditions attached to the permit and never moved there, as it had hoped. Instead, it moved to the Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church in unincorporated King County. The First Evangelical Lutheran Church paid the bill - as it would have crippled the non-profit SHARE/WHEEL - reportedly under protest.

There have been similar legal twists and turns associated with the city of Woodinville. In fact, a series of civil infractions filed by the city against SHARE/WHEEL employee Scott Morrow were recently dismissed by a King County judge.
As SHARE/WHEEL notes, "Tent Cities are legal. The King County Court of Appeals said on September 27, 2001, that 'tents are obviously habitations' and that the use of tents is not in itself sufficient reason for declaring a zoning violation or refusing to grant a land use permit."

That hasn't stopped some folks from doing everything their power to work against Tent City 4 instead of asking, "How can we help?"

Tent Cities aren't just legal, they're clean, safe, well-run operations with a strong sense of community. There is zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol, weapons, violence or abusive behavior, physical or verbal.

About a third of the residents of Tent Village are couples or families. Generally at least half of the residents are working full-time, and many of the rest are working part time or in an educational program. According to the article referenced above (published last month), between 70 and 80 percent of the residents of Tent City 4 are employed, which is a very high figure.

Tent City 4 has already proven itself to have a good reputation. Police departments around the Eastside report the absence of a spike of suspicious or criminal activity in areas where the encampment has stayed.

St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond (which is where I worship) has generously opened its doors to host Tent City 4. The church and SHARE/WHEEL have worked jointly to navigate the permitting and land use process. Unfortunately, some residents have filed appeals attempting to impose some of the most ridiculous conditions on both the host and the organizers...like demands for a fence, constant monitoring, duplicative identification, and warrant checks of Tent City 4 residents.

As both St. Jude and SHARE/WHEEL note in their own appeal, such permit conditions are unreasonable. Just because someone is homeless doesn't mean that they're a criminal. People deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Who would want a government-mandated fence around their home, a guard assigned to watch you, and an investigation of your background when you move in on the presumption of guilt instead of innocence? Probably none of the folks who claim these things are needed.

Tent City 4 is a self-policing entity with a code of conduct and already has a system in place for background checks of its residents. The objections that have been raised amount to nothing more than obstructionism.

Tent City is not a legitimization of substandard housing, as the organizers observe:
Are we legitimizing sleeping in doorways and dying under bridges? That's the alternative to tent camps.

SHARE/WHEEL is one of the largest single adult shelter facilitators in Seattle. We are constantly involved in creating new shelters. We have been instrumental in creating transitional shelter and affordable housing. We are working all across the spectrum of need — from immediate survival to permanent stability.

No one individual stays in the camp forever; people move on to better options. And other people in need move in, to stay safe and warm until they, too, can find better options. The average length of stay at Tent City is about six weeks.
Despite the unfortunate and misplaced hostility, Tent City 4 appears to be receiving a lot more support than it has in other communities.

Redmond city officials have thankfully not been as difficult to work with as those in other municipalities. Redmond's senior planner told the Seattle Times that comments at last month's hearing were about evenly split between supportive residents and those in opposition.

There is still a lot of work to do to change public perceptions about Tent City. Fortunately, SHARE/WHEEL has a web site which helps debunk some of the myths about Tent City - and we encourage you to check it out.

If you're interested in finding out how you can help Tent City 4, you can call St. Jude at 425-883-7685 or visit the Tent City 4 organizational website. St. Jude's page about Tent City is here.

America is supposed to be the land of equality and opportunity. Regardless of our political beliefs, all of us should be making a commitment to fighting (and ending) homelessness - not fighting the homeless.

Columbian criticizes "armchair critics" of bridge project

Columbian editorial page editor John Laird takes on those he calls "armchair critics" when it comes to the Columbia River Crossing project.
The armchair quarterbacks, myth spinners and sidewalk superintendents aren't about to go away. For many of them, screaming "No!" is like a hobby. But until they bring 60 experts, 39 local leaders, dozens of public meetings and $50 million in seed money to the debate, they really won't carry a lot of clout.
Public process is messy, of course. Part of living in a democracy is that people with crazy ideas can show up and have their say, too. But good on Laird for pointing out that the various myths surrounding this project, which he carefully demolishes, are not particularly helpful in moving things forward.

That being said, all government projects deserve oversight and scrutiny. (Imagine if we had that the last six years in Congress!) But criticism has to be based on the facts, as best they can be determined.

You can wish for a third bridge, you can pray for a third bridge, you can stand on your head or stamp your feet. There is nowhere to put a third bridge (which would need a new highway) without destroying things that citizens on both sides of the river deem very valuable. We're talking about homes and businesses.

So, as is too sadly often the case, it's time for conservatives to get real. The CRC project will likely go forward sooner or later, and progressives may not find the solutions ideal in all cases.

Many in Portland seem to be asking why on earth they should support a new bridge at all. Whatever solution is decided upon needs to have consensus on both sides of the river. Compromise may be needed. It's called being reasonable.

Pelosi: no blank check for escalation

Much as we figured, not only is Nancy Pelosi smart, she's tough. There will be no blank check for escalation. Think Progress provides video and transcript of Pelosi on Face the Nation this morning:
SCHIEFFER: So, you’ve told him what you don’t want to do, and that is to expand the size of the force in Iraq even on a short-term basis. But what if he decides to do that? What will be your action then?

PELOSI: If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now. The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them.

But if the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it. And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions. And we’ve gone into this situation, which is a war without end, which the American people have rejected.

SCHIEFFER: Now, let me ask you, and make sure I understand exactly what you are saying because, up until now, Democrats have not been enthusiastic about using the ultimate weapon, and that is to cut off funding.

PELOSI: We won’t do that.

SCHIEFFER: But you will not vote any more money to expand the size of the force there?

Is that what you’re telling us?

PELOSI: I’m saying two things. We will always support the troops who are there. If the president wants to expand the mission, that’s a conversation he has to have with the Congress of the United States.

But that’s not a carte blanche, a blank check to him to do whatever he wishes there.

And I want to make a distinction here. Democrats do support increasing the size of the Army by 30,000, the Marines by 10,000 to make sure we’re able to protect the American people.
So, Republicans, what's it gonna be? A "bi-partisan" discussion, or more attempts at media manipulation?

This is going to be very difficult for George W. Bush. As Pelosi points out, he's never experienced what it's like if the Congress actually does it job.

Let's be clear about this, too, just as Pelosi was. Nobody who is serious would propose cutting off funds for troops already deployed. You don't do that to your fellow citizens. You get them home and you take care of them. But forcing the administration to justify the escalation is something the American people expect of their Congress.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Seahawks win a close one, 21-20

Not that we normally cover football, but since it's the playoffs, here's a sports flash: The Seahawks just moments ago triumphed in their first post season match against the Dallas Cowboys, 21-20. It was kind of an unusual game.

The Seahawks got a miracle near the end (when the game seemed lost) as Dallas was about to kick a short field goal.

But the snap went awry and the Cowboys fumbled the ball. The Seahawks recovered and kept possession until the final two or three seconds. So they win by one point. There'll be a lot of happy fans across the Northwest tonight.

Haven't we had enough wind?

Fortunately, not so many people out of power this time:
High winds led to widespread power outages in the north Puget Sound region, just weeks after a windstorm left much of Western Washington in the dark.

Puget Sound Energy, the state's largest electric utility, had about 6,700 customers without service, spokesman Dave Reid said Saturday. At the storm's peak, there were 34,000 people in the dark.
Puget Sound Energy has put up a great FAQ and graphic illustration on their website about the mid-December windstorm with answers to all kinds of questions (like, why did my neighbor have power but I didn't?) You can view it here.

GOP members oppose PAYGO

Washington's GOP members of the U.S. House are against paying as you go.
"I will vote against it because it raises taxes," Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., said in a telephone interview "The easiest fix is always to raise taxes."
No, the easiest fix is to make stuff up. Democrats are taking away the credit cards, son. Somebody has to be responsible.

If Reichert and the rest of them want to be against PAYGO, so much the better in 2008. What happened to the kinds of Republicans who were always walking around talking about balancing their checkbooks? They would huff and puff angrily about how regular Americans have to balance their checkbooks and so should the government. Now they're like the proverbial drunken sailor.

It's a good thing Reichert is so independent.
That is Reichert's strength. He is a not an ideologue like U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, the Pasco Republican who does the bidding of House Republican leadership.
Um, well, maybe not so much:
It's the second day of the new Congress, and already Democrats are making it easier to raise taxes," Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said in a statement.
Of course, nobody has actually proven that the debt and deficit exist, they're just theories that should be investigated.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A random thought about civility

There can't be any meaningful civility in American politics as long as millions of Americans believe the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Lars Larson and Sean Hannity. You know the list.

There are a few logical ways this could end. Millions of people could stop believing the aforementioned media personalities and their ilk, the Republican Party apparatus could stop relying on such personalities, or eventually the Federal government could take some kind of action to ensure that other voices get equal say.

The first option is the best. The second option seems unlikely, and the third option presents real Constitutional questions.

So if you ask me it's up to regular Republicans. Just like real change came from regular Democrats, it's up to our fellow ordinary citizens who still call themselves Republicans to change their mindset. Just stop it with the Fox News and the talk radio. You'll be happier and maybe even lose weight.

It's called critical thinking, look into it. Especially about Iraq. The McCain Surge won't work, and you know it.

A clash of miniscule proportions

This headline on a David Ammons story in The Olympian sounds pretty serious--"Governor, legislative leaders preview session, clash on budget" But check out the lede:
Gov. Chris Gregoire and state legislative leaders agreed Wednesday on an ambitious and expensive wish list for the upcoming 105-day session - overhaul of public education, creation of new jobs, expansion of health care and crimefighting.
After reading further down the story, you find out that the clash seems to be a result of Democrats not setting the table with cucumber sandwiches and offering paper instead of cloth napkins:
Their pledge of bipartisanship didn't take long to unravel, with minority Republicans accusing the ever-more-powerful Democrats of planning a budget raid that will leave the state is a deep deficit in a few years.
It's those stupid "pledges of bi-partisanship" again. Notice (again) that it's the Republics who are being partisan! Geez Louise.

Here's the rule in 2008: no matter how many seats we win, never promise to be "bi-partisan" ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. Ever. The public doesn't care. Democrats can find another way to be polite, like sending over scratch tickets or something with a note that says "good luck!"

Then people like David Ammons can't write about perfunctory post-election good manners as if it actually means anything, when it doesn't.

Clean elections forum tonight

If you haven't heard about tonight's event about public campaign financing, please consider attending. Here are the details:

Clean Elections Forum
Town Hall, 1119 8th Ave, Seattle, 98101 (Map It!)
Friday, January 5th, 2007 - 7:30 PM
Sponsored by Washington Public Campaigns
The event is open to the media and the public. Bloggers are encouraged to come.

Panelists will include:
Our friend DAVID SIROTA, the best-selling author of Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Have Conquered Our Government — and How We Can Take It Back

State Senator Ed Ableser (Arizona)
State Representative Linda Valentino (Maine)
State Senator Jim Kastama (Washington)
State Representative Mark Miloscia (Washington)
State Representative Shay Schual-Berke (Washington)
State Senator-Elect Eric Oemig (Washington)
Ken Alhadeff, MC/Moderator
The panel will take questions from the audience.

Corporate America's "Man of the People"

Bush is rumored to be thinking of nominating Michael E. Baroody, a corporate lobbyist, and executive vice-president of the anti-union National Association of Manufacturers, as the new head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In an interview on June 22, 2006, Baroody ventured his opinion that litigation against the asbestos industry are, in his words a "scandal", although scientific papers dating back to 1898 linked asbestos with conditions such diffuse pleural thickening and pleural plaques (often fatal), mesothelioma (often fatal), as well as lung cancer - and corporations were found to have deliberately withheld this information from workers for decades.

Baroody never mentions the lives and loved ones of the 600,000+ claimants over the last few decades in the asbestos "scandal", many of whom paid the ultimate price after being deliberately duped - but instead attempts to point to the fact that litigation has "bankrupted more than 75 companies" as the real outrage.

So much for Baroody's views on consumer protection. So much for "compassionate conservatism". Baroody's lamented bankruptcy figure even bely two key facts - most of the indicted corporations simply creatively reorganized to avoid litigation (and let the isolated asbestos-related spinoff take the damage) as well as the obvious, which is that a bankruptcy is a legal device that aborts fiduciary responsibility on the part of the plaintiff (the asbestos company).

Baroody is simply one of countless hundreds of Bush cronies who could care less about the health of working Americans. In this administration, he's unfortunately in good company.

Last night's bridge forum

Last night I attended a forum in Portland about The Columbia River Crossing project, the effort to do something about the current I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver. I say "do something" rather than "build a new bridge," because after attending the forum it's pretty clear to me there is nothing even remotely approaching consensus on what to do.

The forum was sponsored by Coalition for a Livable Future, Environmental Justice Action Group, Friends of Clark County and the Columbia Group of the Sierra Club.

The most interesting part was the panel discussion, which was moderated by Ethan Seltzer, a professor of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State. Seltzer has a lively wit and did an admirable job of keeping the discussion focused, especially during the question and answer period.

The main thing I'm taking away from the event is that there are some legitimate concerns about narrowing options so much.

CRC staff gave a presentation outlining their proposal to move forward with three basic options: a required "no-build" option, a new freeway bridge with light rail or a new freeway bridge with bus rapid transit. So basically you've got "do nothing," which the federal government requires to establish a base line for comparison, and building a fairly expensive new bridge with transit.

Task force members representing "stakeholders," ie state and local governments and interested citizens and groups, could vote on this proposal as early as February, which would move the process forward to a draft environmental impact statement (or "DEIS.")

Reading between the lines, I wonder if political pressure will build to come up with a "medium cost" option.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart likes to note that one should avoid presenting people with a choice like "buy a Porsche or walk," alluding to the likely $2 billion cost of a new project that has been circulating in the media.

One audience member noted that the public and task force members are being asked to narrow options before cost analysis has been completed.

The explanation given by CRC staff last night seems to be that the DEIS process is lengthy and expensive, so there's a desire to winnow options. Which may be true but is somewhat problematic in terms of getting community acceptance.

The event was fairly well attended. One organizer reported there were 54 people.

Topics discussed by the panel and audience included health effects like asthma, the idea suggested by an economist that putting tolls on the current bridge might obviate the need for a new bridge, and some discussion centered around accepting the fact that I-5 is only going to have so much capacity "downstream" no matter what is done to the I-5 bridge.

One of the panelists was activist and blogger Chris Smith, who writes the blog Portland Transport. Check it out if you have the chance, he has a lot of interesting things to say about regional transportation issues.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

NPI releases first white paper for 2007 - Raising the Minimum Wage

We're pleased to announce the publication of our first white paper for 2007 - "Raising the Minimum Wage", authored by Brock Haussamen, an expert who studies and tracks the issue.

The policy brief, which is based on his published research about the subject, offers extensive background information, a look at the current situation at the federal, state, and local (or municipal) levels, as well as four recommendations for a sounder minimum wage. It also debunks "too good to be true" arguments, especially from opponents of an increase.

We want to express our appreciation to mcjoan for featuring the paper (already!) on Daily Kos' front page. We hope this policy brief proves useful to the local and national progressive movement in fighting alongside elected Democrats in the effort to raise the minimum wage.

Bush's Extraordinary Alternative Energy Source - Hot Air

What ever became of switch grass?

As we approach the latest installment of the Bush's State of the Union address this month, a common thread is found in each since 2001 - Bush has reserved a respectable portion of his commentary touting his energy policy:
  • State of the Union 2006: a 22% increase in clean energy research, development of better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen, "switch grass" as a biofuel.
  • State of the Union 2005: "Clear Skies"(non) regulation, "strong funding" for hydrogen-fueled cars to clean coal.
  • State of the Union 2004: modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy (by invading Iraq, no doubt).
  • State of the Union 2003: $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles.
  • State of the Union 2002: encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil (again, no doubt by invading Iraq).
  • State of the Union 2001: Here's a direct quote - "We can produce more energy at home while protecting our environment, and we must. We can produce more electricity to meet demand, and we must."
In 2000, approximately 52-58% of US oil consumption was from foreign reserves, and today that figure is 68%-73%. While figures are illusory, (some say by design) it's clear that the rate of US dependence on foreign oil has been rising precipitously over the last seven years.

Some of Bush's energy plans were never funded, other announced energy plans were actually cut, and there's ample evidence that some years' energy initiatives were little more than entitlements to big oil.

Consider the $1.2 billion in research funding for hydrogen-powered automobiles from Bush's speech in 2003. Enough time has passed, and the investment was sizable enough that you would think visible, real-life, everyday results should be readily apparent to every one of us today.

Thirty years ago, when Jimmy Carter announced his energy policy, the proliferation of solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses was immediate, exciting, and impossible to ignore. Yet, an internet search for current developments in hydrogen-based transportation yields little or nothing.

These lost opportunities have a direct impact on us in the Pacific Northwest, as we are both a hungry market for alternative energy products, as well as innovative developers of such technologies, especially if you include our Canadian neighbors to the north (Ballard Power comes to mind).

There is virtually no evidence of any positive results of any of these energy initiatives, and largely much the opposite, but there has been a decided resonance inculcated by the redundant pronouncement of these grand plans each year.

I commonly speak to intelligent, informed citizens who speak of Bush's persistent call for an energy revolution, and even see the conventional press often do much the same, ostensibly as a result of Bush's consistent pattern of rhetoric about the topic. It's an easy prediction that similar meaningless energy commentary will find it's customary place of honor in the 2007 State of the Union as well.

Whatever one might think of John Kerry as successful candidate, many of his pronouncements from the 2004 presidential campaign ring ominously true today.

"No young American solider should fight and die because of our dependence on foreign oil." Kerry also told us Bush "isn't being straight with the American people" and, "just because he (Bush) says it, doesn't mean it's true". There's often little satisfaction in being dead right.

People who are civil don't insult each other needlessly

What Digby says.
I hate to step on all the good feelings of brotherly and sisterly love we all feel today, but when I hear the new Minority Leader John Boehner call us the "Democrat party" in the same speech in which he is calling for civility, I can't help but wonder whether he knows what that means.

You see, it actually isn't very civil at all to change the name of someone's else's political party against their will. In fact, it's universally considered rude and cretinous not to call people by the names and designations by which they wish to be called.
Indeed. Every time one of these GOP leaders deliberately drops the "ic" from the name "Democratic Party," he or she is deliberately engaging in a small but important act of disrespect. It's become so common that you often see it in letters to the editor, and many newspapers don't even seem aware of the insult.

If we're going to have a "Democrat Party" how about a "Republic Party"?

It would be a small but important thing if Republicans decided to stop it with the deliberate dropping of the "ic." It would be downright civil of them.

But don't hold your breath.

Congress-critters gone wild!

I've been watching coverage of the U.S. House on C-Span, and it's nuts. There are Korans and dirty hippies smoking marijuana cigarettes everywhere, pictures of Che Guevara adorn the walls and Steny Hoyer is doing beer bongs. It's worse than the GOP feared. I thought I saw Jay Inslee driving a Volvo inside the chamber! Is that Pelosi? Nancy, get off the table!

Seriously, welcome to the new era. You no longer live under a government completely dominated by the most inept and corrupt people ever to inflict their misguided views on the United States. The air smells sweet today.

It's a light posting day for me, but hopefully Andrew will check in later with more news and views.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Biggest ethics reform already achieved

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the biggest and most meaningful ethics reform already occurred. It happened on Nov. 7 when the people voted out the Republican majorities in Congress.

This effectively killed the K-Street project. There was no example, substantive or symbolic, that better demonstrated the utterly amoral abuses of power the GOP Congress committed.

Sure, banning flights on corporate jets is important, as are other reforms, but the American people recognized that removing the GOP from control of Congress was the simplest and easiest path to a more honest legislative branch.

Something to keep in mind tomorrow as stories appear about Democrats failing to ban complimentary diet sodas on bus trips to Arlington putt-putt courses.

Become a poll worker

With the new year upon us, King County Elections is urging residents to resolve to support democracy (as well as meet other civic-minded citizens) by serving as an Election Day poll worker in 2007. As Jim Buck, interim director of King County Records, Elections and Licensing Services, says:
"Poll workers will help ensure almost 379,000 poll voters have the chance to make their opinions count. The Feb. 6 special election requires we hire and train nearly 2,000 poll workers to staff 236 polling places and the clock is ticking to fill these positions."
More information:
Voters in nine jurisdictions will be voting on ballot measures during the February 6 special election. King County Elections is still looking for 300 poll workers, mainly in the Duvall, Carnation and Seattle areas.

Poll workers are responsible for opening and closing the polls and issuing ballots to voters. Workers will receive a four-hour, paid training, and the position requires attentiveness and a commitment to helping people navigate the election process.

Poll workers in King County receive around $118.00 for their service on Election Day, which begins at 6 AM and ends once the poll closing procedures are completed, around 9 PM.
Individuals interested in serving as a poll worker should call the Poll Worker Coordination Office at 206-296-1606.

A virtual President

This article about the Speaker of the House is amazing.* I guess it means Nancy Pelosi is the "Virtual President," which means she is as powerful as the President!

It's truly an amazing article.
The contrast with the members of the ancien regime was startling. The (Party Name) of the (Number) Congress are largely (descriptive adjectives.) The white males among the devastated (Party Name) ranks are older and tired looking. As (The New Speaker) prepared to give (possesive adjective ) surprisingly conciliatory opening address, several vanquished (Party Name) committee chairmen -- among them former Foreign Affairs chairman (Congressman) of (State)-- paced the back aisles, pale ghosts of caucuses past. One chose to look at the bright side. As chairman, he said, "you're dealing with a bunch of little rug rats whining about what they want and what they didn't get." Ceding power is "like getting out of the day-care business. All of a sudden, it looks like a good deal." So is (The New Speaker) nanny to the nation? (Pronoun) will certainly get to conciliate and cajole, to deal and dole out, to demand and deliver -- with all the clout of a victorious revolutionary, with all the prestige of a virtual President.

The actual and virtual Presidents prepared for the week with different evocations of political power. (The Actual President) spent the first few days in (State) on vacation. He did not seem like a man with many worries as he (engaged in a manly activity) with four old friends in (a section of his state.) At a local restaurant he chatted up patrons and posed for pictures. Still, he was winsome and a little wistful, enthusiastic about his home state, reluctant about returning to Washington. Referring to birds he had seen earlier, sitting by the hundreds in fields along the road, he said, "I identify with those little ducks out there." Unlike in Washington, he noted, it is illegal in (State) to shoot sitting ducks from the roadway.
Remember this article tomorrow.

*A few minor changes have been made to the article. The names and party affiliations have been ommitted, as have the identities of any individuals mentioned in it. I am not stating what year it was written. Still, obviously it means Nancy Pelosi is now practically the President. Hooray!

Security theater

Matt Stoller has a great post about something called "Security Theater." It sums up well how frustrated most Americans are with so-called security measures that don't do anything meaningful to protect citizens but increase the power of government.
Security theater is at heart state-sponsored tyranny. For instance, not having liquids on planes doesn't appreciably change the risk of terrorist attacks, but it prevents you from having liquids on planes. Making grass illegal doesn't reduce drug dependency, but it does increase the ability of the government to imprison substantial parts of the population using arbitrary methods. There is a direct trade-off between security theater and freedom, but our risk is not reduced through security theater. The war in Iraq has reduced our freedom of action dramatically, and it did for a time make us feel safer. But it is costly and has increased risk for all of us in many ways.

As progressives, we aren't against security measures or authority, but we are offended by Security Theater. We are reality-based in orientation and find, say, stupid stories on cyber-terrorism insulting. We believe that individuals have a role to play in statecraft, and find the lies necessary to sustain the perception of risk in Security Theater insulting and destructive.
Stoller gives credit for the term to a cryptographer and blogger named Bruce Schneier. Americans are not stupid. They understand useful and reasonable efforts to keep public spaces safe. But they also understand that when some guy is confiscating Grandma's hand gel, things have gone too far.

Of course, the ultimate in security theater is the color-coded terrorist alert system. I defy anyone to offer a meaningnful definition of the difference between "guarded" and "elevated." This isn't blood pressure, for crying out loud.

We don't live in a police state (mostly) but we do live in a "hassle" state. Every time you turn around someone has to hassle you in the name of "security," and as with most situations any behavior that could be construed as objection is risky, so we just shrug it off. Some months ago I was ordered to throw away a half-empty bottle of water on my way into the Rose Garden, children in tow.

Not that big of a deal, but still stupid since I could then walk about 100 feet and purchase a nearly identical bottle of water for only $4.

Apparently staying hydrated is a monstrous threat to public safety, as airline passengers found out last year.

The GOP "credibility problem"

David Postman is in the other Washington, and recounts an encounter with Republicans at a couple of press conferences:
But if there was a message of change, and there's little argument about that, it was a change from the way Republicans have done business for 12 years. It struck me that they might have a credibility problem with those voters who see how defeat gave Republicans a new-found appreciation for openness and inclusion.

I asked Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, about the credibility gap.

"There is a challenge with that, without a doubt."
Seems like a well placed question by Postman. Refreshing and minty fresh even.

While Democrats won the election, so far there is no evidence that the GOP as an institution is ready to abandon its churlish ways, so it's critical that people understand the game here. GOP leaders still think they can play chicken with the Democrats, and frankly I don't think Pelosi or any Democrat will fall for it. We won, the GOP lost, they should get over it.

PS: (Extended Dance Version of this post:) What part of "no" don't conservatives understand? By opposing us, conservatives are objectively pro-terrorist. If Republicans had been in charge during World War II, we would all be eating Borscht. I'll have the Freedom Toast with Liberty Syrup. This country was founded by secular progressives. There is no right to bear arms. We're just kidding with the violent talk, can't conservatives take a joke? How many conservatives does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: Jane Fonda and Ted Kennedy!

We now resume our regularly scheduled posting about the funeral of Gerald R. Ford, which has now gone on longer than his administration.

Port of Seattle selects new CEO

Just announced - a replacement for Mic Dinsmore:
The Port of Seattle Commission today selected industry veteran Tay Yoshitani as the Port’s new chief executive officer, replacing Mic Dinsmore, who has announced his resignation.

Yoshitani has led Ports in Oakland and Baltimore and was deputy executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. Born in Japan, he is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University. He received airborne and ranger training in the Army prior to service in Vietnam, and was discharged with the rank of captain. He currently is a consultant and lobbyist in Washington , D.C.
Emphasis is ours.

It figures that we'd get another consultant/lobbyist who may simply continue business as usual. Then again, without seeing Tay Yoshitani in action it's unfair to start comparing him to Mic Dinsmore. His selection was unanimous - even watchdog commissioners Alec Fisken and Lloyd Hara have voiced their support. So we're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

More important than the hiring of a new CEO, though, is getting rid of the corporate, conservative power bloc that currently controls the Port Commission. We have an opportunity to do that this year by defending Alec Fisken and replacing Bob Edwards, as we noted on our most recent podcast.

If partisanship is bad for America, then why are Republicans so partisan?

As The Sideshow puts it:
Digby warns that the Stepford Press is going all-out to tell each other how important it is that Nancy Pelosi rein in the partisanship in Washington. Every time a pundit says something like this, a little bell should go off in your head that says, "I must ask this person immediately how Pelosi is supposed to stop the Republicans from being so viciously partisan."

It wouldn't hurt to start reminding people that "what is partisan" and "what is good for the country" are two different issues, and it is the latter that matters. If the Republicans oppose programs that are good for the country, the Democrats have no choice but to appear "partisan" - because this isn't about being a Democrat, it's about being an American.

So when the Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour, that's partisan - and supporting a raise in the minimum wage is not. When the Republicans want to sneak giveaways to businesses into bills, they are being partisan. When Republicans oppose making it easier for Americans to buy prescription drugs at lower prices, that's partisan. When Republicans turned the Medicare drug benefit into a giveaway for pharmaceutical houses, that was partisan, and if they oppose Democrats' attempts to amend the benefit bill to lower costs, that will be partisan, too.
Washington, D.C. must be an amazing place, where even recent history is to be discarded in favor of new narratives that fit into the world view our media mandarins wish to concoct for us on behalf of the noise machine.

It seems like only a few months ago that voting for Democrats was voting for terrorists (according to Dubya and other Republicans). That was such a wonderful, bipartisan era.

There is still a woeful double standard at work against us. If you're a Republican, Nixonian dirty tricks, lies and "jokes" about assassinations are just vigorous politics and we should stop being so sensitive.

But if Democrats propose policies that favor ordinary Americans over corporations, it's proof that Democrats are being excessively partisan.

It's bizarre.

Cantwell's "cool intelligence"

P-I columnist Joel Connelly examines Maria Cantwell's recent re-election, her new spot on an important Senate committee and her trip to China.
Still, in this era of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, we ought to celebrate high-profile women who display cool intelligence.

They're not yet comparable to the "gold dust twins," as Maggie and seatmate Sen. Henry Jackson became known in the 1970s. But Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have done a skillful job in balancing their interests -- and the state's -- in the "other" Washington.

Cantwell is the first Washington senator in more than 70 years to sit on Finance, the committee that writes federal tax laws. Murray is a subcommittee chairwoman on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls the purse strings of the federal budget.
It's a fun column worth a full read. Connelly is kind of mean to intellectual lightweights, but it's not as if Hilton or Spears likely read the P-I.

As the new Democratic Congress gets set to convene, it's nice to contemplate how well we will be represented in the Senate. Like it or not, a state benefits greatly from Senators who hold key positions, and we're in pretty good shape.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Columbia River Crossing forum in Portland

A quick reminder about an event being held this Thursday in Portland:

Columbia River Crossing Forum
New Columbia Community Education Room, 4625 N. Trenton St (Portland, OR)
Thursday, January 4th, 2007 - 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Sponsored by Coalition for a Livable Future, Environmental Justice Action Group, Friends of Clark County and the Columbia Group of the Sierra Club.
The event is open to the media and the public. Bloggers are encouraged to come.

If you're coming from Vancouver, you can take TriMet line #6 to line #4

Forum Moderator: Ethan Seltzer, Portland State University
Panelists: Joe Cortright, Economist, Impresa Consulting
Bruce Podobnik, Lewis & Clark College
Chris Smith, citizen activist and Portland Transport founder
Steve Stuart, Clark County Commissioner (invited)

For more background on the project, go to the Columbia River Crossing page. If you have questions, contact the Coalition for a Livable Future.

I'm looking forward to this event, because although I have done my best to follow the subject, there is always something new to learn. And it will be great to hear what folks in Portland are thinking about the bridge project.

From the double standard department

TPMmuckraker on the Republicans' latest scheming:
Republicans aren't yet an official minority in the House, but they're already beginning a campaign to portray themselves as victims of a heartless Democratic majority.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter circulated to fellow Republicans, three House GOPers are trying to push a "Minority Bill of Rights" -- based on a two-year-old proposal by then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
A minority bill of rights, hah! Where was this concern for the minority during recent sessions? The GOP only cares about "minority rights" when they are the minority.
An ironic case in point: When Pelosi made her proposal to protect Democrats in 2004, GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert (IL) refused to entertain the idea, let alone reply to her correspondence.

One can only assume that McHenry, Cantor and Price are hoping for a more sympathetic audience with Pelosi than the one she received then.
Republicans are victims of the failed conservative agenda. They have only themselves to blame. If we're going to have a "minority bill of rights" then it needs to become a permanent fixture in the Congress so that the recent arm twisting, abuse and overreach practiced by Republicans never happens again.

What's her name, again?

The Columbian is praising AG Rob McKenna's support for a bill requiring that local governments notify property owners of possible condemnations in writing.
Legislators should support McKenna's state open-records proposals.

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, a rising Republican star who does not let politics interfere with his role as the state's chief lawyer, believes public records ought to be easy for the public to find, read and copy. It is a passion that has not let up in his first two years in office, and the public is the better because of it.

Last week, McKenna proposed that the 2007 Legislature change the law in ways that make all kinds of sense. The first item on his legislative wish list is so logical, one might have assumed McKenna's proposal was already in the law. He wants governments that propose to condemn land be required to send a certified letter to all such property owners early in the process.
Legislators are already supporting it. Certainly at least Lynn Kessler is anyhow. I think she's called "majority leader," so there's some chance the bill will get a fair amount of attention. No word on how The Columbian's editorial writers view Kessler. I guess she's not so much a "rising star" as "a Democrat," so of course we just won't mention her. At all.

Then there's that one other lady who also supports it, I can't for the life of me remember her name. She's like the President of Washington except states don't have Presidents. She's a Democrat, I know that. It'll come to me, even if The Columbian didn't mention her either. I'm pretty sure the President of our fine Evergreen State gets to help send proposals to the Legislature along with the other elected officials in the executive branch - but I'm no expert.

Get real

You knew this would happen. From The Washington Post:
House Republicans have begun to complain that Democrats are backing away from their promise to work cooperatively. They are working on their own strategy for the first 100 hours, and part of it is built on the idea that they might be able to break the Democrats' slender majority by wooing away some conservative Democrats.
Yes, what Democrats must do is compromise, compromise, compromise - or we'll be seeing stories and columns about how Democrats are not playing nice.

I don't know a lot about Nancy Pelosi, but she doesn't strike me as stupid. I'm going to make a bold prediction and state that Pelosi is a lot tougher than people might think. So, nice try, but give us a call when you get real.

Here it is January 2nd and my New Year's wish is for a media that doesn't always have a Pavlovian response when the Republican Noise Machine goes into full spin. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked.

Remember, Blue Dress equals Watergate and Front Yard equals Duke Cunningham. Today's corollary - Passing Bills equals The K Street Project.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Banished Words for 2007

Lake Superior State University, in its celebrated annual tradition, proposes an exit strategy for 2006: the 32nd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. The list is released every New Year, and here is the 2007 list for your enjoyment.
GITMO -- The US military's shorthand for a base in Cuba drives a wedge wider than a split infinitive.

"When did the notorious Guantanamo Bay Naval Base change to 'Gitmo,' a word that conjures up an image of a fluffy and sweet character from a Japanese anime show?" -- Marcus W., St. Louis, Missouri.

COMBINED CELEBRITY NAMES -- Celebrity duos of yore -- BogCall (Bogart and Bacall), Lardy (Laurel and Hardy), and CheeChong (Cheech and Chong) -- just got lucky.

"It's bad enough that celebrities have to be the top news stories. Now we've given them obnoxious names such as 'Brangelina,' 'TomKat' and 'Bennifer.'" -- M. Foster, Port Huron, Michigan.

"It's so annoying, idiotic and so lame and pathetic that it's 'lamethetic.'" -- Ed of Centreville, Virginia.

AWESOME -- Given a one-year moratorium in 1984, when the Unicorn Hunters banished it "during which it is to be rehabilitated until it means 'fear mingled with admiration or reverence; a feeling produced by something majestic." Many write to tell us there's no hope and it's time for "the full banishment."

"The kind of tennis shoes you wear, no matter how cute, don't fit the majestic design of the word." -- Leila Hill, Damascus, Maryland.

"That a mop, a deodorant or a dating service can be called 'awesome' demonstrates the limited vocabularies of the country's copywriters." -- Tom Brinkmoeller, Orlando, Florida.

"Overused and meaningless.' My mother was hit by a car.' Awesome. 'I just got my college degree.' Awesome." -- Robert Bron, Pattaya, Chonburi, Thailand.

GONE/WENT MISSING -- "It makes 'missing' sound like a place you can visit, such as the Poconos. Is the person missing, or not? She went there but maybe she came back. 'Is missing' or 'was missing' would serve us better." -- Robin Dennis, Flower Mound, Texas.

PWN or PWNED -- Thr styff of lemgendz: Gamer defeats gamer, types in "I pwn you" rather than I OWN you.

"This word is just an overly used Internet typo. It has been overused to the point that people who play online games are using it in everyday speech." -- Tory Rowley, Corunna, Michigan.

NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS -- Heard in movie advertisements. Where can we see that, again?

"How often do movies premiere in laundromats or other places besides theaters? I know that when I want to see a movie I think about going to a shoe store." -- Andrea May, Shreveport, Louisiana.

WE'RE PREGNANT -- Grounded for nine months.

"Were men feeling left out of the whole morning sickness/huge belly/labor experience? You may both be expecting, but only one of you is pregnant." -- Sharla Hulsey, Sac City, Iowa.

"I'm sure any woman who has given birth will tell you that 'WE' did not deliver the baby." -- Marlena Linne, Greenfield, Indiana.

UNDOCUMENTED ALIEN -- "If they haven't followed the law to get here, they are by definition 'illegal.' It's like saying a drug dealer is an 'undocumented pharmacist.'" -- John Varga, Westfield, New Jersey.

ARMED ROBBERY/DRUG DEAL GONE BAD -- From the news reports. What degree of "bad" don't we understand? Larry Lillehammer of Bonney Lake, Washington, asks, "After it stopped going well and good?"

TRUTHINESS – "This word, popularized by The Colbert Report and exalted by the American Dialectic Society's Word of the Year in 2005 has been used up. What used to ring true is getting all the truth wrung out of it." -- Joe Grimm, Detroit, Michigan.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR -- The chewable vitamin morphine of marketing.

"Ask your doctor if 'fill in the blank' is right for you! Heck, just take one and see if it makes you 'fill in the blank' or get deathly ill." -- R.C. Amundson, Oakville, Washington.

"I don't think my doctor would appreciate my calling him after seeing a TV ad." -- Peter B. Liveright, Lutherville, Maryland.

CHIPOTLE – Smoked dry over medium heat.

"Prior to 2005 . . . a roasted jalapeno. Now we have a 'chipotle' burrito with 'chipotle' marinated meat, 'chipotle' peppers, sprinkled with a 'chipotle' seasoning and smothered in a 'chipotle' sauce. Time to give this word a rest." – Rob Zeiger, Bristol, Pennsylvania.

i-ANYTHING -- 'e-Anything' made the list in 2000. Geoff Steinhart of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, says tech companies everywhere have picked this apple to the core. "Turn on…tune in…and drop out."

"Banish any word that starts with it. i am just tired of it. it's getting old. -- Brad Butler, Adrian, Michigan.

SEARCH -- Quasi-anachronism. Placed on one-year moratorium.

"Might as well banish it. The word has been replaced by 'google.'" -- Michael Raczko, Swanton, Ohio.

HEALTHY FOOD -- Point of view is everything.

Someone told Joy Wiltzius of Fort Collins, Colorado, that the tuna steak she had for lunch "sounded healthy." Her reply: "If my lunch were healthy, it would still be swimming somewhere. Grilled and nestled in salad greens, it's 'healthful.'"

BOASTS -- See classified advertisements for houses, says Morris Conklin of Lisboa, Portugal, as in "master bedroom boasts his-and-her fireplaces -- never 'bathroom apologizes for cracked linoleum,' or 'kitchen laments pathetic placement of electrical outlets.'"
You can see the lists for previous years at Lake Superior's site.

Mielke attacks bridge project

The rancid right in Clark County continues to work itself into a lather about a new I-5 bridge. This time it's former state representative and failed county commission candidate Tom Mielke teeing off in a letter to the editor.
As a former state representative, I won't sit quietly by and let the Columbia River Crossing cook the numbers with obviously misleading facts concerning an alleged 68 percent of Clark County supporting light rail.

The $50 million wasted by the CRC to convince us that light rail is "needed," could almost pay for two new freeway interchanges.

Now, with their preordained outcome achieved, we're left with tearing down a perfectly good I-5 bridge, replacing it with a $2 billion bridge with the same number of general-purpose through lanes, excepting that it will accommodate "light rail," be "more pedestrian friendly," have "bike lanes" and again have an "HOV lane."

Oh yes, I've heard they will be tolling both the I-5 and I-205 bridges to pay for the "light rail" bridge. Do you see what's happening yet? There are several toll-free options that were ignored to achieve CRC's goal.

We should stop wasting time and address the whole north/south corridor congestion problem. We need congestion relief, and that could be achieved by building a new corridor and an additional bridge over the Columbia.

Please don't give us seven possible years of construction on top of the I-5 congestion that we already have!

Tom Mielke
Battle Ground
Mielke should know darn well how these kinds of projects are funded, and just because he and the rest of the wingnuts in Clark County hate light rail doesn't mean they should be allowed to sabotage the project. A poll like CRC commissioned used to cost around $15,000 some years ago. So even if it cost them twice that today it isn't any substantial portion of the CRC budget.

Staff have to be paid and analysis takes money. If Mielke doesn't like the poll results, that's just too bad. He can go do his own poll and pay for it himself.

You can always find flaws in polls, and while the CRC poll had a major drawback by not asking people how to pay for things, it's just one poll. The only valid criticism of CRC is that they didn't properly anticipate the very predictable way conservatives in Clark County would go on the attack.

Mielke may think the Interstate Bridge is fine, but it has substantial shortcomings. The pilings are not set in bedrock, which raises safety concerns during an earthquake. It's a draw bridge ("lift span" in engineering lingo.)

It has no breakdown lanes, and there are sub-standard interchanges and curves very close to it. So Mielke is either ignorant or is being very disingenuous in his characterization of the existing spans.

No matter how many times it gets explained to them, some people in Clark County just won't understand that there will not be a new corridor nor will there be a third bridge, at least in our lifetimes. Bridges need to go somewhere, and Portland isn't going to bulldoze a bunch of neighborhoods so that Tom Mielke can get to Beaverton faster. They just aren't.

Maybe the Republicans in Clark County will get real and decide to be part of solutions rather than bitter, dead-ender obstructionists, but so far there is little evidence of that. That being said, the CRC process does deserve scrutiny.

The staff of CRC should not be the only driving force, but from what I can tell by following the process in the news, on-line and on CVTV, they seem pretty darn willing to answer anyone's questions. There are 39 people on the task force who will have to vote on the bridge options, and it's unlikely that progressives will like every decision either. But instead of making false claims, we intend to make whatever suggestions we think are warranted and go from there.

Frankly, light rail might not even be the right thing to do. There are arguments in favor of it that make sense, like the fact that Portland has already built so much of it. There are sensible arguments against it, like the cost and the relative lack of density in Clark County. But it makes sense to include light rail in the draft environmental impact study.

Mielke and those who share his view have made a very troubling assumption, namely that everything will always be as it is today. It was only about six months ago that gasoline prices were above $3 per gallon.

Are our attention spans really that short? Do transit opponents ever stop to ponder that rail systems take generations to build, and that perhaps our children and grandchildren might find themselves very much in need of one? It's a responsible and practical thing to at least consider a short light rail line to downtown Vancouver.

And Mielke is just being ridiculous by objecting to pedestrian and bike lanes. Earth to Tom: this is the Pacific Northwest.

People love stuff like that and will use it when it's done well. While it's true that the HOV lanes in Clark County didn't quite work, they may be an option in the future. They're an essential part of transportation infrastructure in big cities nowadays, which is what we are now.

Congestion is one of the prices we all pay for growth. Fifteen years ago voices who warned of the eventual costs of rapid growth were generally dismissed.

The sanctity of the free market demanded that growth be allowed to occur at high volumes, or so went the argument. Now congestion is threatening to cause a continuing drag on the region's economy as freight mobility degrades and businesses start looking to locate elsewhere.

Just as at the national level, hard-right Republicans have managed to con a certain number of people with their simplistic accusations and pie-in-the-sky ideas. To demand a third freeway and bridge makes about as much sense as demanding that magic ponies carry us across the river. Even so, county commissioners have tried to appease folks like Mielke with a separate study about a third bridge, to no effect. Mielke decided to just bring out the blunderbuss.

Reasonable people can debate these things in a reasonable fashion. Mielke has chosen to poison the water, which is sad. This wasn't going to be an easy process to begin with. We're fortunate that Steve Stuart is county commissioner and not Mielke, and we can hope Mielke was only speaking for himself and not one of the other two commissioners.

New Year need to know

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • The Seattle P-I has a neat overview of all the new rules and regulations that go into effect today across Washington.
  • The New York Times reports on last night's party in Times Square, while the P-I offers coverage of local revelry.
  • United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan finished his last term at the world body a few hours ago. The new Secretary General is Ban Ki Moon of South Korea, who faces plenty of daunting challenges.
  • Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union today, bringing the total number of member states to twenty-seven.
  • The One Laptop Per Child program starts delivering computers this year.
  • 2006 was a year of wacky weather for the Northwest. We had just about everything - snow and ice, thunder and lightning, windstorms, record rainfall and a rain streak which caused flooding, a heat wave and unusual dryness in the summer - and some odd combinations of various elements. KOMO reviews the last 12 months.
If you have something you'd like to add, please leave a comment.

Happy New Year!

Depending on your point of view, this is either an insignificant happenstance which doesn't deserve the excitement, an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, or perhaps a reason for a big celebration.

But regardless, 2007 has arrived. Happy New Year from all of us at NPI.

UPDATE (stilwell): Remember, Know Your Rights. All three of them.