Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Ignore the Seattle Times editorial board and vote YES on I-1631 for a clean energy future

Editor’s Note: This morning, The Seattle Times announced its opposition to Initiative 1631, the groundbreaking measure to put a price on pollution and use the proceeds to fund a just and responsible transition to a clean energy economy. Founding NPI boardmember Gael Tarleton had this to say in response.

The Seattle Times has reporters who are some of the nation’s best journalists investigating the scale and impacts of climate change.

I wish that the editorial board had weighed the exceptional work of their own independent journalists to make their endorsement recommendation on Initiative 1631. Instead, the board recommends a “no” vote. It argues that the measure fails the “accountability” test because an “un-elected board appointed by the Governor would propose” how to spend the $1 billion+/year in pollution fees.

Here’s the deal: this nation, state, and our local governments changed the rules forty plus years ago about giving public money to unelected boards to spend.

It’s how we run government today. Elected officials in Congress, state legislatures, and city and county councils and commissions send billions of dollars to nonprofit organizations. Those nonprofits have unelected boards. They spend public money on health, housing, education, and other public services that used to be provided exclusively by the public sector, specifically by public agencies.

The Seattle Times makes a really lame argument that our ballot measure to combat climate change has an “unelected board” spending the public’s money.

No, it doesn’t. The board that I-1631 would create proposes projects to the governor. The state legislature appropriates the money. Just like always.

The power of the purse rests with the elected Legislature.

Don’t fall for this false argument that “unelected boards” shouldn’t be spending your money. Nonprofit organizations with unelected boards have been spending your money for decades with very minimal accountability to any elected body.

This argument is specious – the editorial board raises an issue that is peripheral to the real impact of this ballot measure.

The entire editorial reads like a “business as usual is good enough” treatise. It implies there is no urgency to tackle the climate crisis and its many ramifications.

It makes me wish I had spent my entire endorsement interview making the case for the editorial board to recommend a “Yes on I-1631.”

Instead, I am making my case to the voters.

Please vote YES on I-1631 to help our state urgently tackle climate change to protect our people and every community, rural and urban, farms and forests, fish and orcas, as we confront the greatest threat to our economy and way of life.

Please vote yes to doing what we can, right now, for the next decade, to protect future generations. It’s time to sprint.

Documentary Review: Rick Steves’ The Story of Fascism in Europe is critical viewing

A few hundred people came out to the SIFF Egyptian Cinema in Seattle on Tuesday night to be among the first to see Rick Steves’ new documentary, The Story of Fascism in Europe. Steves, the author of dozens of lauded travel guides and host of both radio and television travel shows, was there to introduce the special set to premier on PBS next week and take a few questions from the audience.

The event was hosted by KCTS 9, and Steves began his remarks by expressing his belief in the importance of public media. He then said that when he first traveled in Germany, you couldn’t talk about fascism or the Holocaust, but as time went on, that changed. He said that now the country has a “real, inspirational interest in learning from history and educating their electorate.” He contrasted this with our country where some people “seem to be invested in dumbing down our electorate.”

With this film, Steves said he wanted to help share lessons from history, explain the concepts of fascism, and what happened in a step-by-step narrative. He said that the “playbook for an autocrat” includes capitalizing on fear and hatred, scapegoating, and destabilizing the media, among other things. He also stressed that the rise of fascism is incremental, and with each increment, we can resist.

Rick Steves' The Story of Fascism in Europe

The Story of Fascism in Europe
Release Year: 2018
Hosted by Rick Steves
Running Time: 56 minutes
Watch the film

Regarding learning from and about history, Steves finished his introduction of the film by saying, “History may not repeat itself perfectly, but it rhymes.”

The one hour film is a good mix of historical footage narrated over by Steves, the travel expert at historic sites and memorials, and commentary by expert historians, journalists, and travel guides in Germany and Italy.

First the challenges faced by post-World War I Germany are discussed, and how the loss of faith in government led to a vacuum of power into which Hitler and the Nazi Party stepped, with compelling messages about wanting to restore national pride. But Hitler was sent to jail after his calls for revolution led to the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. While in jail he wrote “Mein Kampf”, and decided that when he got out he would try to take power politically rather than by force.

The film then switches to discussing postwar Italy and how, despite being on the winning side in World War I (originally known as the Great War), the country was struggling and on the verge of a Communist revolt.

Mussolini then used the anger and nationalism of the moment to launch a movement. The fascist party initially won a few seats in government, then went on a campaign of physical intimidation. Here Steves notes that fascism often starts with violence. In 1922, after a large show of force with the March on Rome of over thirty-thousand people, Mussolini was granted power.

He loved making regular speeches from his balcony to masses of people, using strong gestures and facial expressions that engaged the crowds.

He promised that he would make Italy “great.” He famously had a large ego, and thought of himself like a new Roman Emperor. Mussolini used the expression “many enemies, much honor” and the belligerence was celebrated.

Is any of this sounding uncomfortably familiar?

Anyway, back to the film…

After his time in jail, Hitler was able to basically follow Mussolini’s playbook in his second attempt to take power, and saw his opportunity after the start of the Great Depression. He promised jobs and a bright future.

He was a powerful speaker, expressed anger well, and used a lot of repetitive rhetoric. He also told big lies and kept repeating them, and also dumbed things down as much as possible. He offered simple answers to complicated problems, and scapegoated Jews and communists for Germany’s problems.

“Germany above the world” was an expression that was used by Hitler and the Nazis, not unlike Trump’s current mantra of “America First”.

His party won a few seats in parliament in 1930, and after the suspicious fire that destroyed the Reichstag, he preyed on people’s fears to seize more power, and became Chancellor in 1933. We all know the horrors that were perpetrated over the next dozen years. Throughout the 1930s, propaganda was very important to the Nazis’ ability to maintain power, including large rallies which utilized a lot of symbolism and were broadcast across the country by radio.

In a fascist state, individualism does not exist and must be stopped. In Italy, it was expressed as “everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” In Germany, “one people, one empire, one leader.”

Intellectualism and the free press were repressed, many books were banned and burned, and only one style of art was accepted.

Italy and German eventually made a “pact of steel” and at the height of Germany’s power during World War II, most of continental Europe was under the control of fascist dictators. Eventually, Allied troops landed in Italy and frustrated Italians overthrew Mussolini and started fighting with the Allies against Germany.

Mussolini was ultimately executed by his own countrymen.

Germans, however, continued to support Hitler even as it was becoming more and more clear that Germany’s defeat was inevitable.

After it became clear Berlin would fall to the Soviets, Hitler killed himself in a bunker.

Spain is touched on briefly in the film, as Franco took power and created a fascist state after a bloody civil war he incited by attempting a coup d’état.

For the most part, Spain managed to stay on the sidelines in World War II (avoiding direct involvement), and Franco maintained power long after Hitler and Mussolini died violent deaths, but Spain suffered by being isolated and behind the times. Fascism always brings great suffering, and then eventually fails.

Much of Europe was left devastated after the war’s end.

There are now many memorials at sites significant to the war and the Holocaust, many of them declaring “never again.” But, the film observes, societies are now facing many of the same challenges that led to fascism in the last century.

While showing clips of European politicians that have gained support in the last few years such as Marine Le Pen, Steves notes the wave of strong leaders who know how to take advantage of fear and a weak press, and states “it can happen anywhere.” The local experts featured throughout the film then give their prescriptions for fighting back against fascism and neofascism.

In Germany, as mentioned before, the importance of a well-educated electorate is acknowledged. They educate people so that something similar cannot happen again; if people see the steps of what happened before they can know how to prevent it from happening again. They want people to be “citizens, not consumers.”

A strong, free press is also critically important, as are people having independent critical thinking. “Don’t trust people that promise easy answers to complicated problems,” one of the experts said.

They all also emphasized that democracy is fragile, and that freedom and democracy are not free. But we are all participants, we are all responsible.

So we all can, and must, fight to save our democracy.

After the film, Steves took a few minutes to thank some of the crew and have them stand up to be acknowledged. He then took a couple of questions from the audience, during which he did an amazing job of never referring directly to Donald Trump but still managing to make it clear where he stood while remaining officially neutral. He expressed that with the midterm elections coming up, it is critical to inspire people to vote. He also noted that fascism is easier to be “nipped in the bud” during its earlier stages than to be defeated later. He says all norms are threatened, and that once something becomes normalized, it is too late.

While this documentary covers a lot of history that may be familiar, it does so through the frame of examining fascism, and so it’s an interesting and valuable film, especially considering what is happening here in U.S. politics and abroad.

In the Puget Sound, the special will be premiering on KCTS 9 at 7 PM on Tuesday, October 23rd. In other areas, check the listings for your local PBS station.

The film is also available to view on Steves’ website.

Flashback: Eight years ago, the Seattle Times deemed Dino Rossi wrong on many big issues

Readers, welcome to another installment in our Flashback series, where we enlist the help of past Seattle Times editorial boards to debunk shortsighted and poorly reasoned editorials published on the Times’ op-ed page in the present day.

Today, 2010 Seattle Times is going to help explain why 2018 Seattle Times’ endorsement of Dino Rossi for the U.S. House doesn’t make sense.

Rossi — one of the best known figures in the Washington State Republican Party — is facing Issaquah pediatrician Kim Schrier, who is making her first run for office. Schrier edged out two fellow Democratic challengers in the Top Two election and is running in the general with their unequivocal support. Healthcare is her signature issue, and she promises to be a check on Donald Trump’s power if elected.

The Times editorial page opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy for President, and has on many occasions criticized his regime along with his collaborators in Congress.

Yet the Voice of the Blethens now sees fit to recommend Rossi to their suburban and rural readers in the 8th District, knowing full well that if militantly pro-Trump, Republican candidates like Rossi win around the country, the result will be a House that remains under Republican control and thus under Trump’s control.

So much for split government, which the Times editorial page repeatedly touted the virtues of during last year’s special elections for the state Legislature.

The Times has of course endorsed Rossi before — for governor in 2004 and again for the same position in 2008 (Rossi was defeated by Chris Gregoire each time). But in 2010, when Rossi made his first run for federal office, the Times passed him over in favor of U.S. Senator Patty Murray, saying she had earned another term.

Let’s compare what the Times said about Rossi back in 2010 with what they’re saying about him now. Here’s 2018 Seattle Times:

Congress needs more people like Rossi, a pragmatic lawmaker with a demonstrated record of working across the aisle with Democrats for solutions that work for the greater good.

Okay, 2010 Seattle Times, what’s your take?

On too many domestic and foreign policy matters, Rossi has not distinguished himself sufficiently from the Republican Party line. He has missed numerous opportunities to establish himself as a Northwest brand of Republican.

Good observation, 2010 Times. Rossi likes to portray himself as a reasonable, sunny Republican in his television advertising and on the debate stage. But that’s not the real Rossi. We know the real Rossi from his time in the Legislature.

The real Rossi is an extremely rigid, uncompromising extremist who opposes allowing women to make their own reproductive health decisions, opposes taking action to reverse climate damage, opposes LGBT rights, and opposes fair revenue. The real Rossi is an enthusiastic backer of hostage-taking Tim Eyman initiatives and would be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump’s agenda if elected.

The real Rossi is also really bad at interacting with people he doesn’t agree with. As a state legislator (representing the 5th and 45th LDs), Rossi went out of his way to make himself unavailable to constituents with differing views than his own.

And on many occasions when he did make himself available, he would monopolize the meeting time by condescendingly reeling off talking points instead of listening.

Let’s move on. Here’s another bit from 2018 Seattle Times:

While Schrier wants to fight, Rossi promises not to. He wants to go to D.C. and put his budget expertise to use. Given his two past statewide elections and national reputation in GOP circles, there’s a better chance he will advance more quickly onto committees and positions where he can make a difference than Schrier would if elected.

Okay, 2010 Seattle Times… your take?

Rossi has impressive credibility balancing a state budget. He would bring real skills to that task in Washington, D.C. Yet on too many big issues, he is on the wrong side or too vague about his intentions.

These two passages are very interesting, aren’t they?

We can see that the Seattle Times has always bought into the Rossi budget expert mythos. On that score, they have been consistent. But Rossi’s supposed fiscal expertise wasn’t enough to recommend him back in 2010. Eight years later, it’s being pitched by The Seattle Times as an asset, along with his party experience.

If Republicans wind up in the minority in the House after these midterms, it will not be to the district’s advantage to be represented by Rossi, regardless of his political connections and his lengthy involvement in Republican party circles. It is common knowledge that he minority in the U.S. House wields very little power.

Here’s the kicker, though.

Even if Republicans do retain their House majority (which the Blethens and their editorial writers seem to be openly wishing for with this endorsement), it would still not be to the district’s advantage to be represented by Rossi because of his poor track record of legislating and providing constituent services at the state level.

Let’s turn our focus to policy.

2018 Seattle Times acknowledges Rossi has a different position on reproductive health than the editorial page does, but, incredibly, brushes that aside because Rossi would not be in the Senate voting on judicial nominations. Um, what? (We look forward to hearing Planned Parenthood’s response to that statement.)

Then, just when you’d expect they might address some of the other major issues facing the country, the editorial simply ends!

Yes, Trump needs to be checked. But the fighting and the divisiveness has led to a hopelessly dysfunctional Congress, where people fight over issues, not push for solutions. Rossi has done that — and he can again.

Turns out, 2010 Seattle Times had a lot more to say about the issues than 2018 Seattle Times. For example, net neutrality was discussed:

On the issue of net neutrality, which involves unfettered access to the Internet, Rossi did not have a clue, even though this issue is pressing within the tech industry.

Ouch! Financial reform was discussed, too:

Murray rises to the challenge. She believes in reasonable government help for the economy, including financial reforms to avoid another economic collapse. Rossi joins other Republicans in opposing them. How can anyone watch the financial meltdown and not want to tighten the rules to protect the system and consumers?

It’s not enough to say these weren’t the right reforms.

Bam!

Net neutrality went unmentioned in 2018 Seattle Times’ endorsement of Rossi. So did financial reform, which likewise remains a pressing issue today.

During his current campaign for Congress, Dino Rossi has not pledged to vote to overturn Ajit Pai’s terrible decision to eradicate net neutrality rules, nor has he committed to breaking up the big banks or do anything, anything at all to protect Americans from Wall Street’s greed and unscrupulous business practices.

Supposedly, these are issues the Times cares about. Eight years ago, the editorial board implied they were litmus test issues.

But this year? Rossi gets a pass.

Anyone who is an observant longtime reader of The Seattle Times has probably noticed that the newspaper’s endorsement rationales are just not consistently well written. Sometimes they can be good and thoughtfully argued, but just as often, they’re really bad. Embarrassingly bad. Pitifully bad.

I think it’s because in key races, Blethen decides who he wants to endorse (or what position he wants to go with in the case of a ballot measure), and then one of the editorial writers has to cook up a justification to go with the recommendation, which may or may not square with the position previously taken by the newspaper.

If the Times’ endorsements were based on the logic of a values system of some sort, there would probably be more consistency and continuity from year to year and cycle to cycle, but the endorsements appear to be based on other considerations — like Blethen’s obsession with getting rid of the estate tax.

And so here we are.

For the third time in fourteen years, Dino Rossi has received the endorsement of The Seattle Times in a bid for higher office. He’s three for four with Frank Blethen. Not bad. But while he has successfully sold himself to the Times’ ownership repeatedly, he hasn’t been able to win statewide. He’s now betting he’ll have better luck in the 8th Congressional District, which Dave Reichert has held since 2004.

Rossi will no doubt welcome this endorsement from the Times. But oddly enough, so may Democrats. After all, the high profile Republicans the Times usually backs don’t win. If they did, we would have had Senator Mike McGavick, Attorney General Reagan Dunn, State Senator Jinyoung Englund, and yes…. Governor Dino Rossi.

This poorly written editorial might well help motivate Democrats who are hungry for a victory in Washington’s 8th to work even harder for Kim Schrier. We’ll see.

Claire Wilson: Washington’s 30th District deserves an effective progressive senator

Although Washington’s 30th Legislative District has a history of voting for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, there was a time not so long ago when the district’s entire delegation in Olympia was Republican.

The year was 2016; the month was January. Democrats had just lost a 2015 special election for the state House to the Republicans and Teri Hickel. Hickel and fellow Republican Linda Kochmar were the district’s representatives. Republicans figured that with their victories in the 30th, they had a viable path to securing a House majority in the 2016 presidential election — or at least forcing a tie.

To their surprise, Democrats recruited two extraordinary candidates to run against Kochmar and Hickel later that year (Mike Pellicciotti and Kristine Reeves). Both won, and thanks to their victories, the 30th LD went from being represented exclusively by Republicans to mostly Democrats again. The twin wins also kept the House in Democratic hands for another two years, to Republicans’ disgust.

The 30th consists mostly of neighborhoods in King County, plus a few precincts across the border in Pierce County. Major cities within it include Federal Way, Des Moines, Auburn, Algona, Pacific and Milton, Washington.

The 30th is diverse and becoming more populous; it is a district where Hilary Clinton won by twenty-one points in the 2016 presidential election.

Given its strong Democratic lean, it may seem surprising to those unfamiliar with the region that it is represented by a Republican in the State Senate.

But that senator, Mark Miloscia, actually identified as Democratic for decades until 2014, when he switched parties and ran as a Republican for the Senate. He won that election over Democratic candidate Shari Song by eleven points.

Claire Wilson, Miloscia’s Democratic competition, is an outspoken supporter of women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ rights, two issues that Miloscia never agreed with his old party on. On those issues, Miloscia has a typical Republican voting record. He voted against the recent bill that banned conversion therapy, as well as against a bill requiring state insurers to cover abortion and contraception.

Wilson was one of two Democrats who filed against Miloscia back in May. She secured 38.3% of the vote in the Top Two election, while fellow Democratic challenger Tirzah Idahosa garnered another 13.6%. That left Miloscia with 48.1% of the vote, while the Democrats cumulatively achieved 51.9%.

Democratic strategists say the results show Miloscia is in big trouble.

Wilson proudly identifies as a lesbian and believes Miloscia no longer represents the increasingly diverse 30th District, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ and youth issues. “I think there’s a lot of change that could happen in my district,” said Wilson. “We need some different perspective and that’s what I’m ready to [provide].”

The Senate hopeful, who has a long history in education and is currently serving her second term as the Federal Way School Board President, told NPI that education is a major issue in the 30th. She hears about it constantly while canvassing.

She cites the unintended consequences the Legislature’s McCleary response bills had on Federal Way schools. Several years ago, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had continuously and detrimentally underfunded public schools, neglecting its paramount duty. The Court even held the Legislature in contempt for failing to comply with its orders to remedy the situation.

The Legislature took years to purge its contempt, in large part because obstinate Republicans chafed at the Court’s rulings and blocked proposals to reform Washington State’s horribly inequitable, worst in the nation tax code. Eventually, the Legislature did adopt legislation increasing teacher compensation and school funding. But at the same time, the Legislature also adopted a Republican scheme to restructure property taxes, which are a principal funding source for our schools.

This levy swipe scheme, as it has sometimes been called, created a host of new problems for school districts like Federal Way.

Wilson has talked about these problems on many occasions, including how Federal Way was shortchanged on funding. She also cites a lack of special education funding and evaluation assessments as other unintended consequences.

Wilson believes that a capital gains tax on the wealthy could be part of the the solution to the continuously underfunded Federal Way Public School System, citing fair revenue as another major issue for the 30th.

“We need to look at [our] regressive tax system and how we change things so that the people who make the most money pay their fair share,” said Wilson.

Last May, NPI research found that 58% of Washingtonians surveyed support a capital gains on the wealthy to fund public schools and higher education. NPI has asked about support for a capital gains tax for four consecutive years and has found a majority of Washingtonians in support of the idea every single time.

Many legislative candidates running in the current election cycle have voiced concerns about Washington State’s tax structure, which is considered the most regressive in the country because those with the least have to pay the most. For example, in Seattle, a family making $25,000 pays an average of 17% of their income in state and local taxes. A family making $250,000, however, ends up paying about 4.4% of their income in state and local taxes.

Wilson hopes to, in the short term, close loopholes written into the state’s tax code that benefit big corporations and special interests, as well as levy a capital gains tax.

Progressive tax reform is the answer to our funding problems, not cuts to essential services, Wilson explains. “It’s not about cutting services to do that, it’s looking at how and what it is that we’re doing and how we’ve created systems that are upside down,” she observed. “The people that make the least should not be hit hardest because of the cost of what it takes to stay in their home, buy food or medication. We have to create a system that is not so upside down.”

Wilson is also concerned that the 30th LD has historically been contributing to service improvements that haven’t yet reached the district.

The 30th, like most populated areas in Washington, is dealing with more and more congestion and projects like Federal Way Link remain years away from completion.

“Folks in this district and in South King County as a whole have paid for a number of years for transportation [improvements] and still have not seen any benefit from the dollars they put in. They understand it takes a number of years and the light rail [expansion] is what we have to do, but we have to have other options so they can get where they need to go,” Wilson told NPI.

Education and transportation aren’t the only issues people in the 30th are worried about, of course. The 30th could benefit from investments in public health, too, especially mental health and services to assist those struggling with addiction.

“So really it’s anything we can do,” Wilson noted. “Whether it’s early learning, as we look at education, or creating solutions to drug and alcohol addiction… all those people [who are struggling] get blamed and shamed. There’s work to be done to leave this place a bit better than it is right now.”

With so many critical issues awaiting action by the next state Legislature, it’s imperative that Washingtonians vote this autumn. Ballots have been mailed to voters across the date and must be postmarked by November 6th or in a drop box by 8 PM that same day. Ballots being returned through the Postal Service do not need a stamp, as all ballot return envelopes have prepaid postage.

Paul Allen: 1953-2018

Tech pioneer and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, who amassed one of the largest fortunes in the world after co-founding Microsoft with Bill Gates, has died due to complications of cancer, his family has announced.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our founder Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and noted technologist, philanthropist, community builder, conservationist, musician and supporter of the arts,” the family said through Allen’s firm Vulcan, Inc. “Mr. Allen died on Monday afternoon, October 15, 2018, from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Seattle. Mr. Allen was 65 years old.”

“Paul loved Seattle and the Pacific Northwest,” said Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf.

“The impact of Paul’s efforts can be seen here at every turn. But the true impact of his vision and generosity is evident around the globe.”

“Paul thoughtfully addressed how the many institutions he founded and supported would continue after he was no longer able to lead them. This isn’t the time to deal in those specifics as we focus on Paul’s family. We will continue to work on furthering Paul’s mission and the projects he entrusted to us. There are no changes imminent for Vulcan, the teams, the research institutes or museums.”

His sister Jody emphasized that Paul deeply cared for his family despite having many business, charitable, and political projects on his plate.

“Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern. For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us – and so many others – we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.”

“Paul Allen stands as a giant in Washington history for the genius vision that was so important to creating Microsoft with Bill Gates. That he went on to do so much more for our state, nation and the world puts him in rarefied company.

“Paul was a major philanthropist who believed in giving at home,” said Governor Jay Inslee in a statement. “Seattle is dotted with the results of his philanthropy and investments, from the unbelievable work of the Allen Institute for Brain Science to the preservation of the world-class Cinerama movie theater.”

“He brought us a Super Bowl championship, a reverence for Jimi Hendrix and a vision for Seattle that today is home to some of the world’s most innovative biotech research and has been the cradle of the city’s economic boom. ”

“He cared about the larger world, too, stepping up to fight ebola and working to preserve endangered animals. He exposed the dark depths of oceans and pioneered privately funded space flight. There’s little in the universe that didn’t interest Paul.”

“Paul Allen’s contributions to our company, our industry and to our community are indispensable,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“As co-founder of Microsoft, in his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world. I have learned so much from him – his inquisitiveness, curiosity and push for high standards is something that will continue to inspire me and all of us at Microsoft. Our hearts are with Paul’s family and loved ones. Rest in peace.”

The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), the Flying Heritage Collection, the STARTUP Gallery in Albuquerque, and the Allen Institute for Brain Science all owe their existence to Paul’s passion for science, history, and culture.

The Allen legacy we appreciate the most could well be the Living Computers Museum + Labs, which is one of the Northwest’s coolest institutions. Located in the SoDo neighborhood, it has an accessible collection of computers from decades past running old operating systems like Windows 95 and Windows 98.

“Living Computers: Museum + Labs also fulfills my hope that the achievements of early computer engineers aren’t lost to time,” Allen says in a welcome letter on Living Computers’ website. “I wanted to provide a website and repository that recognized the efforts of those creative engineers who made some of the early breakthroughs in interactive computing that changed the world.”

Allen was also the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. He kept the National Football League in Seattle during the 1990s on the condition that the Seahawks get a new publicly financed stadium (CenturyLink Field) to play in. They did, and today it is home to the Seattle Sounders as well as the Seahawks.

Allen supported both Democrats and Republicans in his political giving. He recently donated $100,000 to keep Republicans in control of the U.S. House. He also donated $1 million to pass Initiative 1639, which the right wing fiercely opposes.

There are few people who have had the kind of influence on the Pacific Northwest that Paul Allen has had. We extend our condolences to his family and friends.

NPI’s Gael Tarleton: It’s time to sprint to pass Initiative 1631 and save our common home

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, founding NPI boardmember Gael Tarleton, a committed champion for environmental protection, was honored as Washington Conservation Voters’ Legislator of the Year. The following is the text of Gael’s acceptance speech, which she delivered from the stage at WCV’s Breakfast of Champions.

Hello Washington Conservation Voters!

Thank you for believing we must take on climate change.

Thank you for going on offense to bring renewable energy choices to our state.

Thank you for this honor. I am so deeply grateful to be selected as your legislator of the year. I never had a plan to take on the struggle to combat climate change.

But my sisters have told me it was inevitable that I would decide to go climb the highest mountain. That I’d see the challenge of moving beyond a fossil-fuel economy and say: “I am going to give it all I’ve got to win this race.”

We’re in a different kind of race now.

For the past thirty years, we’ve been running a marathon.

Now? It’s time to sprint.

Nonstop. For the next decade.

I love the ocean. I grew up on the Atlantic coast, riding the waves and hanging out at the harbor to watch the fishing boats in a small town called Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts. This is why – when my husband and I moved to Seattle in 1990 – we chose to live on the saltwaters of Shilshole Bay with the North Pacific Fishing Fleet right down the road.

We moved here for my husband to get a PhD at the University of Washington.

But that was just an excuse. The real reason?

The call of the wild salmon and steelhead.

Every year, we’d leave our desk jobs at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. and take two weeks to fly-fish, hike and explore the Pacific Northwest. What we discovered?

The magic of the Olympic rainforest.

The awe of spawning salmon racing between our legs to get upriver.

The mystery of the pink salmon runs every odd year in Puget Sound and Elliott Bay.

The mania of the chum salmon runs at midnight on Hood Canal.

And so we headed west for good, leaving our jobs, families, friends, and D.C. behind us. Nearly thirty years later, I am desperately trying to figure out how we move beyond fossil fuels.

How we prevent more catastrophic climate events from decimating our communities.

How we protect people’s health with clean air, clean water, and clean food.

How we save orcas, wild fish runs, the ocean, forests, rivers, and wheat fields from devastating droughts, fires and hotter temperatures year-round.

The era of climate meltdown has arrived.

Now we must act – not just talk about changing the path forward – but take the new path forward. I will support Washington Conservation Voters, our partners, and my colleagues to get a low-carbon fuel standard.

I will give it all I’ve got to have Washington State get to a one hundred percent clean grid by 2030… because even if we only get to ninety or ninety-five percent, it’s better than settling for seventy percent.

I will keep fighting to protect Initiative 937, because it is helping our state adopt clean-energy solutions in every community.

And we must pass Initiative 1631 on November 6th and put a fee on carbon pollution at long last. There is so much to do. It is hard to imagine victory.

But I go to work every day with my Mom’s favorite saying running through my brain: Carpe Diem. Seize the day.

We must fight every day, for the rest of our lives, to save the Salish Sea so that it is still home to whales and salmon and tribal traditions generations from now.

We must move to a way of life that does not depend on fossil fuels.

Here’s to all of you. Let’s go win this fight for our future.

Thank you so much.

VICTORY! Death penalty abolished in Washington by order of State Supreme Court

Washington took a huge leap forward for human rights this morning with the State Supreme Court’s ruling in State v. Gregory, which holds that the death penalty is “invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”

“Pursuant to RCW 10.95.090, ‘if the death penalty established by this chapter is held to be invalid by a final judgment of a court which is binding on all courts in the state, the sentence for aggravated first degree murder … shall be life imprisonment.’ All death sentences are hereby converted to life imprisonment,” the Court ruled.

A short time ago, NPI published a press release responding to the ruling. In that press release, I lauded the ruling as a tremendous victory for justice.

As I said: “Freedom, prosperity, tolerance, opportunity, and fairness are values we cherish here in the Pacific Northwest. A state-run death chamber is incompatible with those values. We know the death penalty doesn’t deter crime, or bring closure, or serve any useful purpose whatsoever. We are incredibly thankful that today, Washington is joining the world’s other developed societies in renouncing the barbaric, antiquated practice of executing people. This is a tremendous victory for justice and human rights that we will be celebrating for a long time.”

Governor Jay Inslee also celebrated the Court’s ruling.

“Today’s decision by the state Supreme Court thankfully ends the death penalty in Washington,” the Governor said. “The court makes it perfectly clear that capital punishment in our state has been imposed in an ‘arbitrary and racially biased manner,’ is ‘unequally applied’ and serves no criminal justice goal. This is a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice.”

In 2014, Governor Inslee declared a moratorium on executions, preventing anyone from being executed while he is in office. The Supreme Court has just made his moratorium permanent, converting all death sentences to life imprisonment.

There is more work to do.

“Even though the Supreme Court has ended the death penalty in Washington, the Legislature still needs to wipe this disgraceful statute off our books,” I explained in NPI’s press release. “RCWs don’t get changed when the Supreme Court renders a verdict, despite what people might imagine would happen following a ruling like this. The Legislature has an obligation in 2019 to affirm that we are a state that values justice and will never again execute anyone.”

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is thankfully ready to continue the effort to wipe out Washington State’s now invalid death penalty statute.

“Washington’s Supreme Court issued an important decision today,” said Ferguson. “The Court recognized that Washington state’s death penalty is broken. We should act quickly to remove the death penalty from state law once and for all. Next session, I will again propose legislation repealing the death penalty, replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

“It is a profound statement when every member of the Washington Supreme Court agrees that the death penalty is arbitrary, infected with racial bias, and must end,” said Kathleen Taylor, Executive Director of the ACLU of Washington.

“We thank the scores of former and retired judges, religious leaders, and victims’ families who joined the ACLU brief in the case,” Taylor added.

“Racial bias, conscious or unconscious, plays a role in the death penalty decisions across America, influencing who faces this ultimate punishment, who sits on the jury, what kind of victim impact and mitigation evidence is used, and who is given life or death,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson. “That disparity can be described by many words — but justice is not one of them.”

In July, Ferguson joined NPI and five state legislators (State Senators Manka Dhingra and Jamie Pedersen, plus State Representatives Laurie Jinkins, Roger Goodman, and Gael Tarleton) to unveil NPI’s finding that 69% of Washingtonians prefer life in prison alternatives to the death penalty. Our groundbreaking finding demonstrated that the people of Washington were and are ready for abolition.

And today, abolition is the law of the land in Washington. Hallelujah!

Seattle Times endorses Manka Dhingra for a full four year term as 45th District’s senator

Now that she’s an incumbent…

Manka Dhingra is an accomplished and committed professional who should be returned to the Senate representing the 45th Legislative District. The Redmond Democrat’s experience as a county prosecutor and work on mental-health issues are assets as the Legislature continues work to solve the state’s response to its mental-health crisis at a state hospital and in communities.

Of course, last year the Times was telling voters to pass over Dhingra in favor of Jinyoung Lee Englund, a Republican with a much thinner resume.

Englund has less but still credible experience, having worked as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and as spokeswoman for the Bitcoin Foundation.

Recently, Englund comanaged a team that developed a phone app for the U.S. Marine Corps. Her husband is a Marine.

Englund makes a persuasive case that her election will preserve a “balance of government” that will better serve Washington state. For that reason, voters in the 45th should elect her.

The voters of the 45th, in their wisdom, proceeded to ignore the Times and elect Manka Dhingra to take over for Dino Rossi last year. The Senate consequently gained a true Democratic majority for the first time in five years and Dhingra went on to have an incredibly successful inaugural session, sponsoring and cosponsoring bills to strengthen gun safety and improve mental health.

In the August Top Two election, Dhingra crushed her Republican opponent Dale Fonk, the chair of the 45th District Republicans. Her seatmates Larry Springer and Roger Goodman also won with well over 60% of the vote, leaving little doubt that the 45th Legslative District has firmly swung into the Democratic column.

Voters in the 45th have now enthusiastically backed Dhingra in three consecutive elections (August 2017, November 2017, August 2018) — all without the Times’ endorsement. Now, just in time for her fourth election in sixteen months, she has the editorial board’s support, for whatever it’s worth.

Senator Maria Cantwell and Susan Hutchison share a stage for an hour at PLU in Parkland

Just before half past the noon hour yesterday in Parkland, United States Senator Maria Cantwell and her Republican challenger Susan Hutchison walked onstage at Pacific Lutheran University’s Karen Hille Phillips Performing Arts Center for what was billed as the first U.S. Senate debate in Washington of the 2018 cycle.

Unfortunately, the event turned out to be more like a cable news pundit panel gone awry than a debate between two credible contenders for high office.

That’s largely because Hutchison showed up not as a serious candidate prepared to thoughtfully discuss the issues, but as a hyperpartisan Republican operative trafficking in half-truths and outright fabrications. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, since Hutchison has spent the last few years as Chair of the Washington State Republican Party, but it was disappointing nonetheless.

Senator Cantwell won her past two reelection campaigns with ease, handily dispatching insurance executive Mike McGavick in 2006 and State Senator Michael Baumgartner in 2012. What’s more, Republicans have not won a U.S. Senate race in Washington since 1994, the last time Slade Gorton was elected.

Perhaps it was out of a sense of futility, then, that the Republican Party neglected to recruit its own preferred challenger to Cantwell until the last minute of Filing Week, when Hutchison suddenly put her name into the hat and began making silly, inane statements about the Senator’s representation of the state and voting record.

Lacking time to put together a proper campaign or map out a strategy for appealing to a wider swath of Washingtonians than the ones she was tasked with organizing as state party chair, Hutchison has contented herself with throwing red meat to her base at every possible opportunity. Today’s debate was no exception.

She continually praised Donald Trump and denigrated the Democratic Party, telling the polite but skeptical crowd of mostly students that the failed business mogul deserves everyone’s support — or at least the benefit of doubt.

At one point, trying to defend how Trump interacts with other people (including heads of state), she said: “I can’t explain a lot about the Art of the Deal; I haven’t read the book”. That drew chuckles and snickers from some in the audience.

Given how much of a fan Hutchison is of Trump, it’s surprising that she hasn’t yet read The Art of the Deal. Perhaps that doesn’t matter, since it’s a work of fiction. (Although it has his name on it, Trump did not actually write the book. The man who did write it has described Trump as a sociopath and a compulsive liar.)

At another point, Hutchison falsely asserted that George Soros was paying protesters to cause a ruckus in our nation’s capital in opposition to Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. This is a right wing lie that has been debunked by fact checkers, but that didn’t stop Hutchison from repeating it onstage.

Cantwell, for her part, sought to keep her answers focused on policy, declining many opportunities to respond to Hutchison’s barbs and engage in further finger pointing. She touted her work securing more federal resources for tackling wildfires, explained why we have to safeguard the Patient Protection Act so that millions of Washingtonians don’t lose their healthcare, emphasized that she’ll work with anybody to protect DREAMers, and vowed to fight any right wing proposal floated by Paul Ryan’s successors to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Cantwell did, however, take a few swipes at Hutchison during the hourlong exchange. In her opening, she told the audience Washington didn’t need a rubber stamp for Donald Trump. A little later, responding to a question from the moderators, she described the Republican Party as “bankrupt of good ideas”.

The format of the debate was decent, but could have been better.

The hourlong exchange had three moderators: Q13’s Brandi Kruse, KIRO 7’s Essex Porter, and KOMO 3’s Mary Nam. The trio did a very good job sharing the responsibilities, but one moderator would have been sufficient.

My biggest complaint, though, is that the moderators failed to ask a question about the climate crisis, which is the gravest issue that our world currently faces.

(On the very same day the debate took place, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told the world community in its latest report that there’s still an opportunity to halt irreversible climate damage, but only for a short time.)

Instead, they made the climate crisis and environmental protection one of three possible topic choices in an audience poll, along with gun safety and substance abuse. All three issues merited at least one question to the candidates and should not have been pitted against each other in a poll.

The winner of the poll was gun safety, so the final few minutes were devoted to a discussion of that topic, and that portion of the exchange was easily the most substantive and interesting. The candidates staked out sharply different positions, with Cantwell endorsing Initiative 1639 and Hutchison condemning it.

Healthcare, trade policy, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and immigration reform are important topics, and I do not question their inclusion in a U.S. Senate debate.

But I cannot understand why some issues, particularly the climate crisis, always seem to either get relegated to the end, or worse, go unaddressed entirely.

I’d like to see climate be the first topic that gets asked about next time, and I’d also like follow-up questions to be asked to further flesh out the candidates’ positions. I don’t just want to know whether they believe in climate science. I want to know what policies they think should be adopted to facilitate a transition away not just from dirty energy, but our unsustainable use it up and throw it out culture.

How we care for our common home (the Earth) is a much more important and pressing issue than border security. The right wing is of course obsessed with talking about the border (particularly the U.S.-Mexico border) but that hardly means organizers of debates such as this need to prioritize the topic.

With that said, the moderators deserve credit for asking follow-ups when they felt a candidate hadn’t actually answered a question, steering clear of eye-rolling gimmicks (like allowing the candidates to ask each other a question), and conserving time for more questions by dispensing with closing statements.

It was also good that the candidates were not restricted to an absurdly short amount of time to answer a question, like fifteen seconds or thirty seconds.

The audience poll was not a bad idea, but the poll should have been structured so that viewers could suggest possible topics as opposed to having three important preselected topics pitted against each other. Since there were multiple moderators running the show, the bandwidth existed to sort through submissions on stage.

After the debate was over, Hutchison went up to the media room to spew more Republican talking points and ostensibly answer reporters’ questions. Cantwell’s campaign opted to send surrogates to tout her record and accomplishments. Republicans promptly sneered that Cantwell was “nowhere to be found”, but she was actually downstairs talking with Pacific Lutheran University students.

At the time I left the building, Cantwell and her campaign team were still there and the Senator was still talking with students, whereas Hutchison and most of her entourage appeared to be gone. Cantwell could and should have stopped by the media room herself following the debate, but just because she didn’t hardly validates the Republicans’ ridiculous and laughably false narrative about her.

The Republicans may not like it, but this election cycle has been characterized by the Democratic Party going on offense and expanding the number of places where it credibly competes. No Democratic federal or legislative incumbents appear to be in any real danger this year, especially not Senator Cantwell, who held a sixteen point lead over Hutchison back in the spring according to our research polling.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are on defense in three of the four congressional districts they hold in the state, as well as a slew of legislative districts in both western and eastern Washington. Democratic candidates performed well in the August Top Two election, and aim to do even better in November.

Still sounding like the heavily invested Republican state chair she once was, Hutchison dismissed Democratic prospects in the midterms just prior to declaring that she’d taken enough questions, thank you very much.

“There will be no blue wave in November,” Hutchison declared.

We’ll see about that, Susan.

Documentary Review: Michael Moore takes on the Trump error with Fahrenheit 11/9

Michael Moore’s latest documentary checks all the boxes his films usually do: you laugh, you almost cry, you shake your head in frustration, and you chuckle and roll your eyes at some of the stunts he pulls.

In Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore also gives us some reason to hope that, despite the disaster of Donald Trump’s presidency, we can get our country moving back in a progressive direction and save our democracy.

The films opens with clips from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s rally in Philadelphia on the night before the 2016 election; a night filled with hope and the expectation that she would be the next President of the United States.

Then we see clips of Election Day, including many women who are emotional and excited about having voted for a woman to be President for the first time.

Moore notes that few expected Trump to win the election, and shows news clips of various pundits all saying that Clinton is going to win. The New York Times said Trump had only a fifteen percent chance of winning.

And yet, we all know what happened: just after 2 AM Eastern Time on 11/9/2016, the Electoral College was called for Trump.

Moore narrates over the video of Trump and his family coming out on stage to accept victory and notes how no one looks particularly happy or celebratory. Trump had not prepared a victory speech, because he ann expected him to win.

At 2:29 AM, Trump’s face as the next President is projected on the Empire State Building. “How… did this happen?” Moore asks emphatically.

It all started with Trump’s announcement that he was running for President, which Moore says was fake and just for publicity to try to prove his star power to NBC after he learned that Gwen Stefani was getting paid more for being a judge on The Voice than Trump was getting for The Apprentice.

The move backfired, as he spoke without a script and made his infamously vile and racist statements about Mexican immigrants, causing NBC to fire him.

Fahrenheit 11/9 movie poster

Fahrenheit 11/9
Release Year: 2018
Director: Michael Moore
Running time: 2h 8min
Watch trailer

Rather than Trump quietly fading away from society as we all wish would have happened, his sons convinced him to still go through with the two rallies he had already planned and paid for.

He loved the large crowds and the energy and attention he got, so he continued on with more rallies and made it into a real presidential bid.

And the mass media (ahem, CNN) happily gave him plenty of air time, getting ratings and profits off of the crass and crazy campaign.

Audio is heard of a CBS executive saying that “it may not be good for America, but it’s good for our ratings” and admitting that they were making a lot of money from their coverage of Trump.

Moore also targets celebrity news anchors (or, to borrow a term from James Fallows, buckrakers) who were very pointed and aggressive in their interviews of Clinton during the campaign, and like Donald Trump, have been accused of sexual harassment, including Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, and Charlie Rose.

The film then transitions from Trump to discussing another awful elected official, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Moore’s home state of Michigan elected Snyder in 2010. Like Trump, Snyder had no political or public service experience. He was the CEO of Gateway computers, and promised to run the state like a business.

Once in office, he quickly took action to consolidate his power and reward his rich friends by passing a tax break for the rich and convincing the Legislature to pass an emergency manager law. This statute enabled him to replace the democratically-elected mayors and city councils of struggling cities including Detroit and Flint, with his cronies who worked to privatize various aspects of city services and make money for their and Snyder’s friends and supporters.

Moore then explains the basics of the Flint water crisis, and how Snyder and other government officials have failed to take any action to address it. The sheriff of Flint tells Moore that he believes Snyder should be charged criminally, saying “it is an intentional act” to let people to continue to be poisoned by the water.

This leads to some classic Moore antics.

He goes to governor’s office at the state capitol and tries to make a citizen’s arrest of the governor, but he is not there. So Moore fills up a water truck with water from Flint and goes to the governor’s mansion. He gets no response on the intercom at the gate, so he sprays the water over the fence and into the yard.

Going back to Trump, Moore shows footage of the violence against protestors and people of color at Trump’s rallies and how Trump eggs it on.

Trump in his rallies and members of his campaign staff in interviews repeatedly reference “the real America” as being who he represents, as opposed to “leftists.”

But, says Moore, we are a progressive, liberal, leftist country.

A majority of Americans support equal pay, labor unions, a higher minimum wage, a lower military budget, stronger environmental regulations, are pro choice, believe immigration is good for the country, and do not own guns.

If we are the majority, he asks, why don’t we control any of the branches of the federal government and a minority of state governments?

In presidential elections, the Democratic candidate has won the popular vote in six of the last seven elections. Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would have become President if we used the national popular vote instead of the Electoral College to seat winners, which Moore says was written into the Constitution to appease the slave states.

We can’t really call it a democracy if the person who gets the most votes doesn’t win, Moore says. He then proceeds to discuss the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries and the party’s use of automatic, unpledged delegates at its national convention. This turned people away, both from the party and from the election, Moore argues.

“The loss of faith in democracy becomes our death knell,” said a Yale historian interviewed in the film. Autocrats only succeed when enough people give up, he said.

Moore then strikes a more hopeful tone, highlighting many progressive, first-time candidates running for office this year, including New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (the likely successor to Representative Joseph Crowley) and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, who if elected would become the first Muslim woman in Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez, who we see doorbelling in Queens shares a thought with the camera: the concept of “electoral insanity,” which she defines as electing the same people over and over and expecting different results.

Moore then highlights the momentum of other movements sweeping the country, such as teacher’s strikes, which started in West Virginia and were followed up in many other states including Arizona, Kentucky, and Colorado, and the March for Our Lives movement started by the teen survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. On one day there were over seven hundred marches in the United States and over a hundred more in other cities around the globe.

After alternating between an old black and white video about the attributes of despotism and clips of how those are all present in our society today, Moore emphasizes that it “doesn’t need to end like this”.

He ends the film with a clip from Emma Gonzalez’s speech at the March for Our Lives, highlighting the generation of activists that is helping to lead much of the change that is so desperately needed in our country right now.

I definitely recommend seeing Fahrenheit 11/9, as it gives you some needed perspective on things in these challenging times while also stoking your frustrations and motivating you to keep pushing for change. I also learned a few more things about the Flint water crisis that I wasn’t aware of previously.

Fahrenheit 11/9 opened on September 21st and can be screened in theaters across  the Pacific Northwest.

Book Review: In the future of “Unscaled”, AI will keep the rich different from you and me

“The rich are different from you and me.”

“Yes, they have more money.”

No exchange like that between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway ever took place, but it’s a lot more fun to imagine that it did.

The initially curt put-down contains within it the germ of a much more intense concurrence the more you think about it. Unscaled by Hemant Taneja, or “How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts Are Creating the Economy of the Future” manages to embody both readings of that exchange.

The multimillionaire venture capitalist’s book often reads like a literal vanity-press product, talking of its subjects as an excuse to brag about all of the occasions Taneja’s investments thus far have paid off. That includes investments you’ve heard of like the temporary-messages app Snapchat as well as those you probably haven’t, like the “consumer digital health company“, Livongo.

In that way, the experience of reading Unscaled is very much like anyone who’s ever been cornered at a house party by someone you’ve just met, quite sure everything they do will be as interesting for you to hear as it clearly is for them to recount.

But, the rich are different from you and me, and what interests Taneja versus what does not is almost like reading an alien species talk about the implications of technology for the future.

Take this summary of the challenges posed by CRISPR gene-editing techniques.

Wealthy people will have the opportunity to make themselves better, healthier, and smarter than poorer people, creating a gap between rich and poor that’s not just about wealth and opportunity but about talent and physical prowess. … We could end up with a society of permanent classes. Governments must think this through before it becomes reality.

That certainly sounds profoundly important and interesting. Yet even with what’s contained in the ellipses, the entirety of reflection on the subject is one paragraph, and the book then skips merrily along to the genetic-testing company 23andMe’s data disclosure then the future of energy for a paragraph, offering nothing more about how we might avoid actively bringing the world of Gattaca to reality.

I don’t really need two pages on why Jeff Bezos thinks a “Day 1” mindset is important to keeping a mega-corporation virile when you’ve just told me it’s entirely plausible all my descendants will be Morlocks, Hemant.

His premise that the world is unscaling rather than accelerating having-yet-more to the haves is also not entirely convincing when, according to Oxfam, eighty-two percent of all new wealth went to the richest one percent of the globe from 2016 to 2017, and those people already had half of everything, per Credit Suisse, the Swiss banking multinational.

Moreover, if companies like Facebook and Amazon are allowed to extend their monopolies, to buy out their competitors when they need to taste breakfast octopus, to steal from and crush them if they choose not to sell, how exactly are we supposed to see fewer giants? Who the particular giants are may change with time, but that’s sort of like shuffling around which patrician families get to rule Rome.

If, as Taneja argues, the future is unscaled and personalized, and you’re to have an individual product made just for you and no one else, why wouldn’t the companies already capable of creating the most perfect psychographic profile of you based on their access to your data see their advantages increase further?

As to how Artificial Intelligence is going to change all this for the better, well, there’s always a certain flavor of futurist with optimism for what they promise is just about to be possible while never reckoning with how what’s already possible hasn’t realized that same utopian result.

One of the most popular examples of this, in the book and culture generally, is the bright, ever-approaching day when we’ll have self-driving cars.

The most motivated supporters cast the ultimate effect as something akin to eradicating polio because they’re going to be eradicating traffic death and injury, or at least reducing it to close to nothing. Indeed, removing human error from billions of interactions each day globally would be a monumental accomplishment, if the security dangers can be overcome.

But this ignores how for well more than a century we’ve had the technology to effect the largest part of that decrease: investing in mass transit.

Moving folks in tens and hundreds — having professionals responsible for applying their sober, wakeful attention in professionally-maintained vehicles that are accountable to public audit — makes traffic deaths all but evaporate.

For New York City in 2017, there were 214 deaths in a year counting all pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and automobile occupants. By contrast, the car-glutted twelve counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex had a million fewer people than NYC and five hundred more transportation deaths: seven hundred and forty-three.

Mass public transit available to all manages to accomplish other nigh-magical ends like making real estate more valuable by allowing for greater density. It wastes less space mostly-unused roads for single-occupant cars and places to park them. It reduces racial disparities by providing freedom of movement irrespective of wealth. It gives more options for people to live and work where they choose.

Of course, mass transit isn’t a good fit everywhere, but we have managed some further innovations since the American Civil War, like seatbelts sensors and the ignition-lock breathalyzer. That may seem flippant, but of the 37,461 traffic deaths in 2016, 10,428 were related to lack of seatbelts and 10,497 to alcohol impairment.

We don’t actually need more innovations; we just need the will to make automobile transportation rarer and safer. We’ve had the technology to stop drunk driving for 30 years and not done it because it’s too inconvenient to the wrong people.

You see, I totally believe that self-driving vehicles will help companies become even more profitable by giving them fewer employees to pay, especially long-haul truckers and warehouse workers. Those who can afford self-driving vehicles, afford the upkeep, and afford ensuring they’re the ones their algorithm chauffeurs consider most valuable, will feel quite comfortable.

But technology and machines age, and the Trolley Problem turns out not to be so much of a problem as soon as you put it into the context of the real world and real world power dynamics. We don’t care much at all about medical care or protection from natural disasters when it comes to 2.3 million prisoners.

We don’t care about the elderly when they’re too poor to afford a decent assisted living facility. Does anyone honestly believe that Elon Musk would get into a self-driving car with his next girlfriend if it might have to swerve into a pylon just to avoid killing ten people in a homeless camp?

In a country where we go along with permanently separating asylum seekers from their children and force toddlers to represent themselves at deportation hearings, would you be shocked if the algorithm didn’t give any weight to people it couldn’t recognize as being properly-documented residents?

China, famous for its slavish devotion to Black Mirror / Community premises, recently rolled out an actual social score for its citizens.

Why wouldn’t collision algorithms factor that into their trolley problem to ensure that they’re fair to more valuable citizens?

In a capitalist country, why shouldn’t you be able to pay to have your status upgraded for better protection?

One of the few prescriptions Taneja is willing to offer for how a gig-based economy for the ninety-nine percent can avoid massive social unrest of the teeming masses and the perfunctory ritual cannibalization of GMO ultra-rich is the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Along with cheap Virtual Reality and on-demand 3D printing, this may be enough to placate the poor while guaranteeing a society still based on wealth doesn’t churn too much or at all.

More than AI, more than self-driving or self-taught things, there’s a disruptive, unscaling innovation for the future that billionaires and venture capitalists don’t ever seem too jazzed about. Instead of a Universal Basic Income, we could have a Universal Maximum Wealth, Huey Long-style.

If that were the case — if the gulf between rich and poor and what was available to each, now and in the future — weren’t quite so disparate, maybe the only difference between us would be that the rich have a bit more money.

Susan Collins was always for Brett Kavanaugh

If Susan Margaret Collins, sixty-five, of Caribou, Maine, the senior U.S. Senator for the Pine Tree State, was ever really a “Rockefeller Republican”, she isn’t anymore.

In a carefully choreographed, meticulously planned, lengthy floor speech, Collins made it abundantly clear that she fiercely supports Donald Trump’s extremist pick to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

And although she did not say so, it is evident from her remarks that she has supported Brett Kavanaugh all along, despite pretending to be undecided and uncommitted. The only reason she concealed her fervent support for this nomination was so that she could ride in at the eleventh hour and deliver the biggest shot in the arm possible to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.

Like the head of her party, Collins is a con artist.

The speech Collins gave was not the kind of speech given by a senator who was ever conflicted about their vote. It was a speech of a true believer — someone who wants to see decades of precedent upended to advance right wing causes.

And yet, instead of coming clean and admitting that she fully supports the right wing’s decades-long initiative to seize control of America’s judiciary and radically reshape case law, Collins lamely attempted to argue that Brett Kavanaugh poses no threat to women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, or checks and balances.

In essence, Collins tried to accomplish two conflicting objectives with her speech: mount a full-throated defense of Brett Kavanaugh, a man who isn’t qualified to sit on any bench anywhere, let alone the Supreme Court, and square that position with her prized image as an independent-minded “Rockfeller Republican”.

Actions speak louder than words, though, and most of the words that Collins spoke today were empty and not defensible. For example, she said:

Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our Judiciary and our highest court is restored.

No reasonable observer of American politics, whatever their ideological leanings, could possibly say with a straight face that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation will mean less divisions on the United States Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh is arguably the most partisan, unstable nominee the Senate has considered in decades. His disturbing testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week is proof enough of that.

Justice John Paul Stevens cited that testimony when he spoke to a group of retirees in Boca Raton, Florida, saying that Kavanuagh shouldn’t be confirmed. (It is extremely unusual for a retired Supreme Court justice to express a viewpoint on whether a nominee ought to be confirmed or not.)

“They suggest that he has demonstrated a potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities,” said Stevens. “And I think there is merit in that criticism and that the senators should really pay attention to it. For the good of the court… it’s not healthy to get a new justice that can only do a part-time job.”

Collins also preposterously tried to have it both ways with respect to the allegations against Kavanaugh: on the one hand, she said she believed Dr. Ford, but on the other hand, she said she took Kavanaugh’s denials at face value.

The facts presented do not mean that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night – or at some other time – but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the “more likely than not” standard. Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the Court.

Collins cited due process, presumption of innocence, and fairness as her grounds for giving the incredibly entitled and very arrogant Brett Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt. But if she really believes in those principles, why did she call for Al Franken to quit the Senate before the allegations against him had even been investigated?

Susan Collins had the opportunity to be a hero, but as it turns out, she was never interested in pursuing that path. Unlike Lisa Murkowski, who listened to her conscience and voted accordingly, Collins parachuted in at the very end not to save the day, but to become the chief apologist for a man that thousands of law professors urged her not to put on the United States Supreme Court.

Susan Collins would like everyone to believe she’s not like every Republican: that she doesn’t blindly follow Donald Trump, that she thinks for herself, that she parts ways with her party on a host of issues. But in reality, she is a willing enabler of Donald Trump’s administration and a willing collaborator of Mitch McConnell’s.

There will be consequences. Collins may, as many people have suspected, may have a deal with Mitch McConnell to support Trump’s judicial nominees. She may think that she can get reelected with McConnell’s help in spite of her vote for Kavanaugh.

If she does think that, progressive groups say she’s sorely mistaken.

“Susan Collins has betrayed the people, and especially the women and survivors, of Maine,” said the organizers of Be A Hero Team, Maine People’s Alliance and Mainers for Accountable Leadership in a statement. “Thousands of Mainers wrote, called, visited, protested, begged and pleaded with Susan Collins to do the right thing – to be a hero – and vote no. She ignored them.”

“Maine deserves a Senator who would recoil at the idea of confirming a proven liar, an emotionally unstable partisan, to the Supreme Court,” they added. “Maine deserves a Senator who will believe survivors, who will listen to their stories, and who will represent them with honor. Susan Collins is no longer capable of that.”

The three groups have for the last several weeks been collecting pledges for a fund that is to be turned over to whoever the Maine Democratic Party nominates to run against Collins in 2020. The fund was only to be activated in the event that Collins voted for Kavanaugh. Now that she has committed to do so, she is guaranteed to have a Democratic opponent who receives a multi-million dollar war chest upon the commencement of their general election campaign.

Collins is aware of the fund and has disdainfully characterized it as a bribe.

Once again, she is wrong. The fund is a threat, not a bribe. The groups behind it could have simply secured pledges for Collins’ 2020 opponent as a show of force without any conditions, but they made the pledges conditional on Collins’ vote to give her the benefit of the doubt, because they truly wanted her to “be a hero”.

Collins has chosen to be an enabler rather than a hero. As far as we’re concerned, in the words of Senator Maria Cantwell, she just made a career-ending move.

U.S. Senate advances Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to a final vote with Manchin’s help

The United States Senate has voted by the narrowest of margins to end debate on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court and proceed to a final vote, moving the Party of Trump closer to its goal of adding a militant right wing justice on the Supreme Court bench to replace Anthony Kennedy.

Despite the outcome of the just-held procedural vote, Kavanaugh’s confirmation is still not a sure thing because some of the senators who voted for Kavanaugh a few minutes ago haven’t pledged to support him in a final vote.

Every Democratic senator except for Joe Manchin voted to block Kavanaugh’s nomination, and every Republican senator except for Lisa Murkowski voted to move it forward. This resulted in a roll call vote of fifty-one to forty-nine.

Republican Senators Susan Collins and Jeff Flake have not definitively said how they’ll vote on final confirmation. Collins has said she’ll announce her decision later today. Murkowski would seem to be a no based on her procedural vote.

As for Manchin, it would seem he has thrown his lot in with Trump. Of course, he could switch his vote on final confirmation and say his procedural yes vote was only in support of giving Kavanaugh consideration by the Senate.

If Manchin supports Kavanaugh’s confirmation, then Murkowski, Collins, and Flake would all need to vote nay in order for the nomination to fail, because Mike Pence can break a tie in favor of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.

The roll call from the Pacific Northwest on the procedural vote was not along party lines because Lisa Murkowski voted nay.

VOTING AYE: Republican Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID); Dan Sullivan (AK), Steve Daines (MT)

VOTING NAY: Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA); Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester (MT); Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Montana’s Steve Daines has previously said he would not be in D.C. tomorrow no matter what due to the wedding of his daughter, which threatened to put Mitch McConnell and Republicans in a big bind since they can’t spare any votes.

However, a few minutes ago, Daines tweeted: “Just cast my vote for Judge Kavanaugh getting him one step closer onto #SCOTUS. We spoke last night, and I assured him, I will be back to vote YES this weekend if needed. Looking forward to calling Judge Kavanaugh, Justice Kavanaugh.”

What Daines seems to be saying is he’ll make Kavanaugh’s nomination his priority, even if that means upending his daughter’s wedding plans.

Gotta love the Party of Trump.

Is the 26th ready to swing blue with Emily Randall, Connie FitzPatrick, and Joy Stanford?

Swing districts, as the saying goes, are where majorities are made… and lost. Perhaps no place in Washington better epitomizes the phrase swing district than Washington’s 26th Legislative District, which spans the southeastern Kitsap Peninsula. At the end of the Bush error, the district was represented exclusively by Democrats, but Republicans gradually wrested back all three seats.

Now Democrats believe they’re poised to once again flip the district blue.

The 26th’s current legislators are Republicans Jan Angel, Jesse Young, Michelle Caldier. Angel is the district’s senator; Young and Caldier are its representatives.

Angel was the first of the three Republicans to win an election in the 26th.

In 2008, a Democratic wave year, she defeated Kim Abel to become Democratic State Representative Patricia Lantz’s successor. Angel held the seat through the 2010 and 2012 cycles, and moved up to the Washington State Senate in 2013, defeating Dr. Nathan Schlicher in an expensive special election.

Schlicher had been trying to keep the seat in Democratic hands following the departure of Derek Kilmer, a popular Democrat who left the Legislature at the end of 2012 to take over for legendary Congressman and Washington institution Norm Dicks in the United States House of Representatives.

Last May, however, Angel unexpectedly dropped her reelection bid, choosing retirement over yet another campaign. She threw her support behind Marty McClendon, the Pierce County Republican chairman and a perennial candidate.

When Angel moved up to the Senate at the end of 2013, Republicans tapped Jesse Young to take her place in the House. Young was reelected in 2014 and 2016.

In 2014, Republicans completed their takeover of the district by sweeping out retired U.S. Navy Captain Larry Seaquist, who had been elected as part of the Democratic wave in 2006. Seaquist was defeated by Republican Michelle Caldier in one of the nastiest, most bitter legislative campaigns in state history.

Democrats are anxious to reverse all those losses and believe that they have three candidates who can swing the district back into their column this year: Emily Randall, Connie FitzPatrick, and Joy Stanford. In the August 2018 Top Two election, all three candidates finished in first place ahead of their Republican opponents.

State Senator
Emily Randall (Democrat): 49.58%
Marty McClendon (Republican): 46.39%
Bill Scheidler (Other): 4.04%

State Representative – Position 1
Connie Fitzpatrick (Democrat): 48.92%
Jesse L. Young (Republican): 42.13%
Naomi Evans (Republican): 8.94%

State Representative – Position 2
Joy Stanford (Democrat): 41.77%
Michelle Caldier (Republican): 34.89%
Randy Boss (Republican): 18.01%
Marco Padilla (Other): 5.34%

None of the Republican candidaes got anywhere close to securing a majority of the vote in the preliminary round, not even the incumbents Caldier and Young, which is an ominous sign for the party of Donald Trump.

Democrats, meanwhile, say they’re fired up and ready to go.

All three Democratic candidates cited affordability being a central issue facing the county, as well as how the 26th currently deals with growth. The Puget Sound Regional Council expects growth in Kitsap County to steadily increase over the next two decades; from 117,300 residents in 2018 to a likely 363,928 residents by 2040.

“We need to do some real work around bringing good paying jobs to our community,” said Emily Randall, the State Senate hopeful.

Emily Randall speaks at her campaign kickoff, flanked by her campaign team

Emily Randall speaks at her campaign kickoff, flanked by her campaign team (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

She said that, to her, that looks like “creating good educational pathways and expanding our apprenticeship opportunities, but also allowing small businesses to thrive by increasing the business and occupation (B&O) tax exemption level.”

Because Washington does not have an income tax, the state collects a business and occupation tax which is calculated on the gross receipts from business activities. Labor, materials, taxes, and other business costs cannot be deducted.

Connie FitzPatrick, the Democratic challenger taking on Jesse Young in one of the district’s two House races, echoed Randall’s sentiments.

“From what I’m hearing at the doors, I feel [the biggest issues facing the 26th] is property taxes rising that are not commiserate with the rising of income and the lack of smart growth solutions,” said FitzPatrick.

“And to me, those are the top [issues] that lay the backbone for the community, and I hear it over and over throughout the district.”

FitzPatrick believes that it will take multiple solutions to tackle lack of revenue needed to fund public services in her district. She’d like to see Washington lower the requirement for passage of bonds. The state Constitution currently requires supermajority votes to pass bonds at both the state and local levels.

She also believes Washington is sorely in need of tax reform. (The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has ranked Washington’s tax code as the most upside down, regressive tax code in the country.)

Joy Stanford, who is challenging Caldier for the other House seat, agreed, saying: “We have issues that we’re trying to react to because we did not plan for growth.” Stanford hopes that by reducing the threshold required to pass a bond, the 26th Legislative District could finally see two schools built, one in the Peninsula District and the other in the South Kitsap School District.

“As we move forward, I think there is room with a Legislature that will work together in figuring out how we can equitably fund education at the state level,” she said.

South Kitsap School District, in particular, has been feeling the pains of overcrowding and saw multiple bond measures fail over the years to build another high school. In July, the district’s board of directors authorized a general obligation bond measure to appear on the November ballot.

FitzPatrick, who graduated from South Kitsap High School, said that even when she was at the school thirty-one years ago, it felt packed. She explained that many voters in the district have voiced their frustration over years of conversations about new construction for schools but bonds continuously failing.

“They have built all these developments [in the district],” she said. “Yet they’ve needed a high school out there for at least twenty years.”

FitzPatrick said that voters across the 26th seem excited and energized leading into the general election, and says of her fellow Democratic challengers: “We really like each other! We’re in constant contact.”

Stanford concurred, saying that when she’s knocking on doors, she’s happy. She described it as the best part of running for office. “It’s talking to people in their own space,” she explained, adding that her message is well received.

“Our community […] self-identifies as pretty fiercely independent,” Randall told NPI. “This is where my family has called home for decades, since the fifties and sixties and this is the community that shaped me.”

“I think we have great opportunities to drive and grow in a way that’s right for us, but that takes work. And we know how to work here.”

Randall added that she thinks voters in the 26th finally feel heard, and they want those representing them in Olympia to work as hard for them as they have to work to take care of their families in a district in flux.

“I think almost all of us care about most of the same things,” she said. “About being able to build a life that’s affordable and fulfills our dreams.”

Ballots for the general election will be mailed to Washington State residents in about two weeks. For the first time in a general election, no postage will be required to return a ballot through the United States Postal Service.

If 2018 is anything like 2006, the 26th could have very different representation than it does now when January 2019 rolls around.

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