Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Aside

Seattle Times readers knock Richard Davis’ idea to eliminate statewide elected offices

In Tuesday’s Seattle Times, prolific establishment business writer Richard S. Davis had a column suggesting we ought to do away with statewide elected offices like the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the state Treasurer.

“We elect too many statewide officials,” Davis begins, going on to declare, “As I’ve written before, this structural albatross reduces accountability, frustrates effective coordination within the bureaucracy and makes state government less responsive.”

Where’s the evidence for that conclusion? Davis doesn’t offer any. The most he does is suggest that a recent tax reform proposal by Treasurer McIntire and Superintendent Dorn, which Governor Jay Inslee doesn’t support, is “unproductive”.

Davis thinks it’s a problem “to have statewide elected officials lobbying each other, the Legislature and the public in pursuit of their policy goals.”

But amusingly, by the end of his column, Davis concedes that it would make sense to keep the attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, and treasurer as independently elected positions. That’s four of the nine.

And the lieutenant governor would still be elected too, just with the governor as part of a ticket. (We do agree that would make a lot of sense). That’s five and six!

So Davis is really only for eliminating the positions of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commissioner of Public Lands, and Insurance Commissioner.

Those positions are all defined in our Constitution. Our founders thought they should be independently elected. They deliberately chose to construct an executive department that consisted of individuals elected independently of the governor. (At the federal level, the President and Vice President are the only elected officials; everyone else in the executive branch is an appointee or in the civil service.)

Seattle Times readers didn’t have many good things to say about Davis’ column.

“If we wanted efficiency, we could just elect a king for four years who could take the place of the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary.  Wouldn’t that be a efficient?,”  retorted a commenter calling him or herself Drunk Fan. “Accountability would definitely follow authority and guarantee all laws and policies would agree.”

“Hmmm – seems his answer to an ill-informed apathetic public is to cater to them with more appointees and more centralized power,” said commenter Bottom Feeder.
“Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Speaking of ill-informed, he’s forgotten about the Supreme Court [justices] being elected statewide.”

“Well, I confess that I am confused,” wrote commenter Eastward.

“There is apparently a thesis that state government is inefficient or ineffective, and the way to cure this is to curtail the number of elected officials.”

“Did I read this correctly? We are not talking about eliminating jobs, or combining functions, or privatizing certain tasks. We simply want fewer people elected so that voters don’t have to choose, say, an auditor.”

“Now, that does not strike me as giving accountability for inefficiency or even corruption. It simply makes it easier to elect a single administrator, like a Dino Rossi, and have him appoint a bunch of folks that think like him.”

“What’s left off the ballot that makes you say they take up to much space? asked commenter RBTom. “Having appointed officials is what reduces accountability. Having appointed officials unable to act because their boss has other priorities is what makes government less responsive.”

“And exactly what’s wrong with having elected officials offer solutions to the state’s worst problem (the 2nd most regressive tax structure in the country)? You should thank them for trying to move the state forward.”

“There is one official elected to look exclusively after the interests of schoolchildren in this state,” noted Acadian04. “It would be unfortunate if that official had to subsume those interests to the broader policy agenda of the Governor.”

Quotation

It’s nice to see that even an effective, very well funded, pervasive lobbying campaign cannot win when it was wrong.

— Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, reflecting on Comcast’s failed bid to merge with TWC. (via Bloomberg Politics)

Recommended Link

VICTORY! Comcast to drop bid for Time Warner Cable

Cable giant Comcast is reportedly set to abandon its proposed $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable after the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission refused to grease the skids for a merger.

Recommended Link

Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger runs into opposition at the FCC

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that FCC staff are poised to recommend that Comcast’s proposed tie-up with Time Warner Cable be subjected to a hearing by an administrative law judge, which is a definite sign that staff don’t think the merger is in the people’s best interest. Combined with reported opposition to the megadeal at the Department of Justice, this could result in the companies abandoning their plans to combine. The FCC and DOJ used similar maneuvers to kill AT&T’s attempted acquisition of T-Mobile in 2011.

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President Obama speaking at Everglades National Park

President Obama delivers an Earth Day address at Everglades National Park in Florida (Still via White House Live).

Excerpt from transcript:

Here in the Everglades, you can see the effect of a changing climate.  As sea levels rise, salty water from the ocean flows inward. And this harms freshwater wildlife, which endangers a fragile ecosystem. The saltwater flows into aquifers, which threatens the drinking water of more than 7 million Floridians.  South Florida, you’re getting your drinking water from this area, and it depends on this. And in terms of economic impact, all of this poses risks to Florida’s $82 billion tourism industry on which so many good jobs and livelihoods depend.

Joining President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell (a Washington State native!) for today’s Everglades National Park tour were Robert Johnson, Director of the South Florida Natural Resources Center; Shannon A. Estenoz, Director of the Office of the Everglades Restoration Initiatives, Department of the Interior; and Park Ranger Alan Scott, who served as the tour guide.

Recommended Link

Oklahoma concedes that wastewater wells cause quakes

The Republican-dominated government of Oklahoma conceded today that science has conclusively demonstrated that the underground disposal of wastewater is resulting in earthquakes on a large scale.

Quotation

Hated Texas Ranger to
Player I’m glad we didn’t sign last year to
Player I’m annoyed we overpaid for this year to
Player I’m reconciled to having on the team to
Player whose early home runs I like to
Player I’m beginning to love to
“Where’s my Cruz jersey!?”

A Lookout Landing commenter’s ode to Nelson Cruz, following the Mariners’ improbable 11-10 win over the Texas Rangers earlier today. Cruz had two home runs and batted in the game’s winning run with a single in the bottom of the ninth.

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Recommended Link

In plain sight: How the Marathassa oil spill took hours to find

A fuel spill in Vancouver’s picturesque English Bay has raised serious questions about the federal government’s ability to respond to a marine oil spill. The Globe and Mail’s Justine Hunter pieces together what happened.

Recommended Link

Justice Department on verge of opposing Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger

Staff attorneys with the United States Department of Justice are said to be preparing a recommendation that Comcast not be allowed to merge with Time Warner Cable, according to a report by Bloomberg.

 

Quotation

There are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far… This is an example of it. It’s gone too far. Enough! Enough! Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job.

— President Barack Obama, expressing his frustration with Senate Republicans in a news conference with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy (The New York Times).

Recommended Link

Big Oil is about to lose control of the auto industry

A pollution-free revolution is about to shake up the automobile industry, resulting in cars that don’t burn fossil fuels, Bloomberg reports.

 

Recommended Link

TurboTax maker linked to astroturf campaign against free, simple tax filing

Intuit and its allies are continuing to work against proposals for what’s known as return-free filing, ProPublica’s Liz Day reports in this must-read piece.

Recommended Link

Is NATO losing its edge on defense?

The BBC talks to several former military leaders and security analysts who worry that the United States and NATO are wasting money on hideously expensive high-tech weapons and equipment that don’t last very long.

Recommended Link

The U.S. House “Anti-Science” Committee: What climate crisis?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Joel Connelly shares highlights from the opening address delivered by U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer at NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala last Friday evening.

Quotation

Mr. Rubio’s failed effort at immigration overhaul exemplifies the challenges he faces. He held twenty percent of the vote in primary polls at the beginning of 2013, but his standing collapsed along with immigration and has never recovered. His ill-fated effort may not be on the minds of most voters today, but he lost the support of many on the right. And in later renouncing his own reform effort, he lost credibility with much of the center-right. In the end, he was on the side of no one.

— Nate Cohn: Marco Rubio is talented, but out of position (New York Times)

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Video Clip

Hillary Clinton says she is “running for president because everyday Americans need a champion—and she wants to be that champion.”

Watch her announcement video to kick off the campaign, Getting Started.

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Quotation

If this insurrection is driven by something other than a blend of ideological extremism and personal animosity, it is not clear what that might be. But it is ugly, it deepens mistrust of government and it harms the office of the president, not just Mr. Obama.

— The New York Times: A new phase in anti-Obama attacks

Chat Transcript

Let the tweets fly! Donald Trump, T-Mobile CEO John Legere get into a big public fight

DONALD TRUMP: T-Mobile service is terrible! Why can’t you do something to improve it for your customers. I don’t want it in my buildings.

JOHN LEGERE: I will serve all customers in the USA openly but I will obviously leave your hotel right away based on this. #checkingout

DONALD TRUMP: @TMobile You service is absolutely terrible – get on the ball!

JOHN LEGERE: and by the way he didn’t try to move my room, he had the musicians removed… #nicemove #Presidentlike?

DONALD TRUMP [Retweeting]: “@naughtoriousBIG: T Mobile service sucks and it took a Trump to call him out! @realDonaldTrump for President!”

JOHN LEGERE: checked out.. Now I don’t have to watch tv with the 1st 9 channels being the Trump family saying how wonderful they are:)

DONALD TRUMP: [Retweeting]: “@MikeandDawnNY: @JohnLegere I’m a TMobile customer 4 10yrs & DT [Donald Trump] is right. Also he’s Presidential unlike Joker in WH now & Hillary the Liar”

JOHN LEGERE: @realDonaldTrump @TMobile I serve customers 100%. Your hotel employees are great hard working t-mobile customers and great ppl. Them I like

DONALD TRUMP [Retweeting]: “@tica1975: @realDonaldTrump @TMobile TMobile sucks can’t believe someone like you would promote such a @#$%i company. Compassionless Co.

JOHN LEGERE: Found a great hotel. Going to sleep. This hotel loves its customer as do I… And t-mobile service is amazing.. And I can see Trump motel!

Recommended Link

Reject Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, California official says

One of the five California officials who will vote on Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable says the merger should be rejected, Ars Technica reports.

Video Clip

VIDEO: Watch nine-year old Sydney Smoot destroy Florida’s new standardized test in front of her local school board

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT courtesy of The Washington Post:

This testing looks at me as a number. One test defines me either as a failure or a success through a numbered rubric. One test at the end of the year that the teacher or myself will not be able to see the grade until the school year is already over. I do not think all this FSA testing is accurate to tell how successful I am. It doesn’t take into account all of my knowledge and abilities, just a small percentage.

Way to go, Sydney! You have a bright future in activism ahead of you.

Quotation

Dear Judy,

No one is crediting you with starting the Iraq war. We know you were not actually on the team that took us into the biggest, most tragic US foreign policy debacle ever. You were just cheering from the sidelines. Your attempt to re-write history is both pathetic and self-serving.

Sincerely,

Valerie Plame

Former CIA covert operative Valerie Plame Wilson, responding to this column by disgraced New York Times reporter Judith Miller.