NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

Last week (June 10th-14th) in Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted

Happy Father’s Day! Here’s how Cascadia’s Members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Friday, June 14th, 2019.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House chamber (U.S. Congress photo)

SEEKING COURTS’ HELP TO ENFORCE SUBPOENAS: Voting 229 for and 191 against, the House on June 11th adopted a resolution (H Res 430) authorizing its committees to ask federal courts to enforce committee subpoenas for documents and testimony from the Trump administration and its current and former officials. The action came in response to the administration’s refusals to comply with House Democrats’ requests for information and witness appearances in more than a dozen areas of inquiry, including Russian interference in U.S. elections, the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, an administration-backed lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act and the separation of immigrant families on the southwest border.

Democrats say the subpoenas embody Congress’s constitutional duty to oversee the executive branch, while President Trump has cited executive privilege to block testimony of his current and former advisers and thwart legislative-branch scrutiny.

On a related track, the Judiciary Committee on May 8 approved civil contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General William Barr for not complying with its subpoena for the entire unredacted report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and underlying materials. The full House has delayed a vote on citing Barr pending the outcome of negotiations to obtain his voluntary cooperation.

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution, which took effect immediately.

The State of Idaho

Voting Nay (2): Republican Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (4): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader

Voting Nay (1): Republican Representative Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (7): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith

Voting Nay (2): Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Not Voting (1): Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Cascadia total: 11 aye votes, 5 nay votes, 1 not voting

PUBLIC EDUCATION ABOUT VACCINES: The House on June 12 voted, 341 for and 83 against, to increase spending by $5 million next fiscal year on a government program to educate the public about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. The amendment was intended to combat misinformation being spread about vaccinations on social media. The vote occurred during debate on a bill (HR 2740) appropriating $99.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services in fiscal 2020 that remained in debate.

Adam Schiff, D-California, said: “The scientific and medical communities are in overwhelming consensus that vaccines are both effective and safe. There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases, and the dissemination of unfounded or debunked theories about the dangers of vaccination pose a great risk to the public health.”

No member spoke against the amendment.

A yes vote was to increase spending on vaccine education.

The State of Idaho

Voting Aye (1): Republican Representative Mike Simpson

Voting Nay (1): Republican Representative Russ Fulcher

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (5): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader; Republican Representative Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (9): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith; Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Not Voting (1): Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Cascadia total: 15 aye votes, 1 nay vote, 1 not voting

“CONSCIENCE RULE” FOR DENYING HEALTHCARE: Voting 192 for and 230 against, the House on June 12th refused to uphold a proposed Trump administration rule under which doctors and workers at hospitals, clinics and other health facilities could deny care to patients that conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs. Scheduled to take effect July 22th, the co-called “conscience rule” would override existing laws and policies that strike a balance between protecting the religious convictions of providers and delivering care in areas including reproductive services. On this vote, the House defeated a Republican-sponsored attempt to fund the rule as part of H.R. 2740 (above).

Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, said:

“We have a First Amendment right to practice our religion in America, and the government forcing someone to act in a way that violates those beliefs is in direct opposition to the very foundation of our Constitution.”

Lois Frankel, D-Florida, said:

“Under this Trump rule, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for birth control, a receptionist could refuse to schedule an abortion for a child rape victim, an ambulance driver could refuse to take a patient suffering from miscarriage to the hospital, all based upon their personal beliefs, not the patient’s welfare.”

A yes vote was to allow the rule to take effect next month.

The State of Idaho

Voting Aye (2): Republican Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (1): Republican Representative Greg Walden

Voting Nay (4): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (2): Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Voting Nay (7): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith

Not Voting (1): Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Cascadia total: 5 aye votes, 11 nay votes, 1 not voting

CLAMPDOWN ON FETAL TISSUE RESEARCH: The House on June 13th voted, 225 for and 193 against, to block funding to implement a newly announced clampdown by the Trump administration on federal support of fetal tissue research. The vote occurred during debate on HR 2740 (above).

In part, the policy would prohibit National Institutes of Health scientists from conducting such research while subjecting academic scientists to an additional layer of ethics and bureaucratic review when they apply for NIH research grants.

Under a 1993 law, the NIH last year funded more than 150 projects by university scientists using fetal tissue donated after elective abortions to pursue treatments and cures for diseases including Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s.

Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, said the administration’s new policy puts “personal ideology ahead of public health.”

Andy Harris, R-Maryland, said additional ethics review is warranted for “one of the most controversial areas of research.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment in support of fetal tissue research.

The State of Idaho

Voting Nay (2): Republican Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (4): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader

Voting Nay (1): Republican Representative Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (7): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith

Voting Nay (2): Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Not Voting (1): Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Cascadia total: 11 aye votes, 5 nay votes, 1 not voting

REPORTING MIGRANT CHILDREN’S DEATHS: Voting 355 for and 68 against, the House on June 13 adopted an amendment to H.R. 2740 (above) requiring the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services to promptly inform Congress and the public when migrant children die while in the custody of U.S. immigration officials.

Sponsor Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said that in September 2018, “a young 10-year-old girl died. This Congress and the American people were not told for seven or eight months about that young girl’s death.”

Andy Harris, R-Maryland, called the amendment “make-believe” because “this administration reports the deaths” of migrant children.

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

The State of Idaho

Voting Aye (1): Republican Representative Mike Simpson

Voting Nay (1): Republican Representative Russ Fulcher

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (5): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader; Republican Representative Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (9): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith; Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Not Voting (1): Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Cascadia total: 15 aye votes, 1 nay vote, 1 not voting

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Senate chamber (U.S. Congress photo)

$300 MILLION ARMS TO BAHRAIN: Voting 43 for and 56 against, the Senate on June 13 turned back a measure (S.J. Res 20) that sought to block the administration’s planned sale of $300 million in U.S. arms to Bahrain. The package consists mainly of surface-to-surface missiles and mobile rocket launching units along with American technical support. Bahrain, which belongs to a Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen, is host to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Backers called this a proxy vote against American involvement in Yemen’s civil war, while advocates of the arms sale it would benefit a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

A yes vote was to advance a measure blocking the arms sale.

The State of Idaho

Voting Nay (2):
Republican Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (2):
Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (2):
Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray

Cascadia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

Key votes ahead

The House will debate fiscal 2020 appropriations bills in the week of June 17th, while the Senate will vote on judicial nominations.

Editor’s Note: The information in NPI’s weekly How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted feature is provided by Voterama in Congress, a service of Thomas Voting Reports. All rights are reserved. Reproduction of this post is not permitted, not even with attribution. Use the permanent link to this post to share it… thanks!

© 2019 Thomas Voting Reports.

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

Book Review: With “No One at the Wheel”, the rich can steal the roads from us — if we let them

Autonomous vehicles, or AVs, will be the most disruptive technology to hit society worldwide since the advent of the motorcar.

This pronouncement by the team of journalist Karen Kelly and former New York City traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz is the sort of boilerplate futurism you’ll find written about any new technology. Likewise, the very next statement could almost be chalked up to typical hyperbole: “Some futurists and policy experts even talk about driving being banned on some or all roads.”

What sets No One At The Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future apart from that sort of replacement-level schlock isn’t where it looks forward, then, but for how it looks backward to show how a similar process already happened.

A century ago, the original grand theft auto was letting the car industry steal the roads from pedestrians and non-motorized traffic. Soon, driverless industries will be in a position to take the roads from the public entirely.

But only if we let them.

Many people like to make comparisons between horséd carriages and how they irrevocably gave way to the horseless ones, but this is the first book I’ve come across to make that comparison direct and examined in detail.

In a different book review, I argued that for all of the breathless adoration about the future of autonomous vehicles, we could achieve huge reductions in traffic fatalities by utilizing proven technology, which coincidentally has proven cost-benefit analyses already performed for it.

Although not the main target of that review, apartheid-era white South African and “rough-upbringing” survivor Elon Musk is as close to the platonic ideal of that position as you could ask for. Arguing that AVs would save many more lives than they’d kill, Musk has called journalists writing critical coverage of AV technology akin to murderers.

“[When] you write an article that effectively dissuades people from using an autonomous car, you’re killing people,” Musk said in 2016.

Yet, Schwartz and Kelly point out that Musk is not nearly interested in pushing mass (public) transit options or even installing more roundabouts.

Roundabouts

Roundabout driving | WSDOT

“Roundabouts, or traffic circles, reduce fatal crashes by 70 to 90 percent compared to standard intersections, and injuries in crashes by 75 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.”

But Musk doesn’t own a roundabout-installation company, so this method of saving lives is not as morally compelling to him.

Perhaps just as importantly, we actually have some idea just how much it costs to install a roundabout, what it can accomplish, and can’t.

The civil engineer Justin Roczniak, known on YouTube as donoteat01, applied this criticism to Musk’s proposed underground Loop under the common engineering distinction between AM/FM, that is “actual machines” and, well, “fanciful magic”.

No One At The Wheel gives examples of other ways that so many promises of Autonomous Vehicles are already achievable if we changed our approach to road travel to something akin to air travel.

And for air travel, no failure leading to a loss of life is acceptable. The reason we don’t lose 35,000 people per year flying is that we know humans are fallible creatures and the system is designed around folks messing up without the result being deadly.

Roundabouts—boringly—don’t involve engaging in elaborate philosophical constructions about which people tied to railroad tracks you’d have to kill in the case of a runaway trolley.

But they do make it much more difficult for any “trolleys” to go out of control, which seems the better investment, all-in-all.

So Schwartz and Kelly lay out a convincing case for why technology will continue to develop to put AVs on the road but that this is a smokescreen for how the real benefits will accrue and who for.

Algorithms can’t unionize, and new, privatized projects are by definition more profitable than maintaining or improving existing public systems.

Whether or not AV tractor-trailers actually make society safer is a moot question. They’ll get rid of a major fixed cost and point of friction for business owners, and with enough money spent on the right campaign contributions and good lobbying, anyone killed by the vehicle’s bad programming will be the ones blamed for putting themselves in danger.

Or, it won’t be the fault of the company for releasing a vehicle that can be easily hacked and driven into a crowd; it will be the fault of the hacker, solely.

Again, the book really shines because it looks at the past and how all of this already happened as automobiles became legally privileged over pedestrians and other modes of transportation in city streets.

It was not natural, it was not easy, but as the virally shareable illustration by Swedish artist Karl Jilg evokes, we surrendered a lot of valuable real estate to dangerous, pollution-belching machines that aren’t there most of the time, and don’t actually get people places any quicker once rush hour hits.

But it was what the automobile companies and associated industries wanted, and they pushed for it methodically with lots of resources behind them.

In the name of progress, carriages no longer had to avoid people: people had to avoid the carriages.

I don’t think Schwartz and Kelly are being inherently alarmist or imagining a wild dystopia; the superhero film Logan did a fine job showing the plausible terror of sharing the road with AV tractor-trailers when it’s your fault for not having a new enough vehicle to drive you better.

They also logically extend the present into a future where the inevitable UberLyft merger and its AV fleet are permanent zombie traffic because it’s cheaper to leave them driving aimlessly, available to pick up folks, than it is to ever pay for parking. In all likelihood, the cars won’t even solve Sudokus as they do it.

Technology is never just technology, and what seems inevitable with benefit of retrospect took tremendous cost and effort in the moment to be made just so and not different.

And yet, the authors provide you some cause for optimism. The United States is not a democracy, we know: we were set up to be a republic, like the Romans.

Our politics are not incapable of producing positive change, in any case, and we could really see huge improvements in the quality of life for everyday people if those are the goals we choose to actually and consistently advance.

Schwartz and Kelly argue that if the Autonomous Vehicles are publicly owned, integrated into mass transit, and utilized only in situations where they make sense like long distance trips and last-mile for people with disabilities, then it could be a boon to people’s time and comfort.

But we have to be vigilant to see that solutions proposed based on new technology actually can do what they promise and without un-mentioned, externalized costs.

If you were an early 20th-century city dweller, getting rid of the danger fatal kicks in the head by a horse and the smelly pollution of manure on the streets no doubt would have made horseless carriages appear an attractive, safe improvement.

Which is the difference between Actual Machines and, well, Magic.​

Friday, June 14th, 2019

NBC announces debate lineups for initial Democratic debates on June 26th and 27th

Following the Democratic National Committee’s announcement that twenty candidates have qualified for the initial Democratic debates, NBC has unveiled its debate lineups. Each consists of ten candidates who will share a stage on a different night at the end of the month in Miami.

Here are the lineups.

NIGHT ONE, Wednesday, June 26:

  • Cory Booker
  • Bill de Blasio
  • Julián Castro
  • John Delaney
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • Jay Inslee
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Beto O’Rourke
  • Tim Ryan
  • Elizabeth Warren

NIGHT TWO, Thursday, June 27:

  • Michael Bennet
  • Joe Biden
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Kamala Harris
  • John Hickenlooper
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Eric Swalwell
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Andrew Yang

The two top polling candidates — Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders — will appear onstage together on the second night.

They’ll be joined by Senator Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who are also in the top tier of the large field, according to polling averages.

The only candidate currently polling in double digits who will appear on the stage the first night is Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Each debate lineup includes at least three United States Senators (yes, 7% of the United States Senate is currently running for President), one governor or former governor, and one mayor. Each also includes at least one United States Representative and one candidate who presently holds no elected office.

Governor Steve Bullock of Montana did not qualify for the initial debates, but he could qualify in July. Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts also failed to make the cut, prompting many political observers on cable television to suggest he end his campaign, which the evidence suggests is getting no traction.

NBC has tapped five — yes, five — moderators for the debates: Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart. Both debates will take place at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

Three channels will carry the debates: NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.

Each debate will begin at 6 PM Pacific Time and conclude two hours later. That’s four hours of live primetime programming devoted to a discussion of Democratic values and policy directions on back-to-back nights.

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Oregon poised to enact groundbreaking “cap and invest” legislation with HB 2020

The State of Oregon is on the cusp of a huge climate action breakthrough.

House Bill 2020 — which would make Oregon the second state in the country to adopt a cap and invest system for pollution reduction — is on its way to the floor of the Oregon State House for a vote after passing out of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means today. The legislation is a major Democratic priority for 2019.

“Climate change threatens our communities, our economy, our ecosystems, and our way of life in Oregon,” said Governor Kate Brown in a statement.

“We have an enormous opportunity to forge a new path on state-level programs to address this crisis. Oregon can be the log that breaks the jam nationally in creating a tailored statewide program that can meet science-based emissions reduction goals while growing the economy and investing in clean energy solutions, rural and coastal communities, and impacted communities.”

“Future generations here in Oregon — and across the United States — deserve us to not just think about their future, but to fight to protect it.”

“I look forward to signing this landmark legislation later this month.”

If you haven’t been tracking the evolution of HB 2020 in the Oregon statehouse, here’s a quick primer on the bill from Joshua Skov, who serves on the faculty of the Lundquist College of Business and the Center for Sustainable Business Practices at the University of Oregon. Skov is a longtime advocate for sustainability.

“HB 2020 is an Oregon version of California’s AB 32, the landmark cap-and-trade legislation,” Skov explained in an April commentary. “It will cap total greenhouse gas emissions, auction permits for the right to emit, and use those auction proceeds to invest in an equitable transition to a low-[polluting] economy.”

“HB 2020 deserves our support, but it also deserves scrutiny in the home stretch. I encourage you to contact your legislators to express support for the bill, as it remains the best chance yet for Oregon to join climate leaders around the world with strong policy action on one of the great challenges of our time.”

Jaime Athos, CEO of Hood River based Tofurky, says the legislation is a huge opportunity for rural communities in Oregon and companies that want to bring jobs to those communities to ensure broad prosperity for all.

“I want rural Oregon’s manufacturers to succeed. I want companies like mine to be able to expand and hire more workers across the county,” Athos wrote in an op-ed last month. “This legislative session, lawmakers in Salem can help local businesses achieve these goals by passing the HB 2020 cap-and-invest bill.”

Athos’ company decided ten years ago to make a big bet on clean energy. They spent money on a new building built to LEED standards with rooftop solar and a super efficient HVAC system and refrigeration system. The result? They achieved annual savings of forty to fifty percent on their energy bills, enabling them to expand their payroll and offer more jobs to people in Hood River.

“If HB 2020 passes, more rural Oregon manufacturers in Hood River County and elsewhere could benefit by investing the bill’s proceeds in similar energy upgrades,” Athos says. “This saves companies money over the long haul, freeing up capital to grow operations and create jobs. Even when they’re not in-house, these jobs matter to rural communities. Just think about the installers who drilled solar panel racking onto our rooftop, or the HVAC technicians who installed our ductwork.”

Athos is absolutely correct. A just and responsible transition to clean energy could be a massive boon for Cascadia’s small towns and small businesses.

This is an opportunity we must not squander. Good jobs and cleaner air go hand in hand. If we want healthy communities, then we need to substantially reduce or end unsustainable activities that pollute our atmosphere, our rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans, and our soil. HB 2020 will help transform our region for the better.

It’s time to accelerate the clean energy revolution in the Pacific Northwest! Let’s get HB 2020 passed and to the desk of Governor Kate Brown to be signed into law.

Monday, June 10th, 2019

Washington voters strongly support requiring presidential candidates to disclose tax returns

Three out of five Washington voters agree that candidates for President of the United States should be required to disclose at least five years of personal tax returns in order to appear on the state’s general election ballot, with a majority of fifty-one percent in strong agreement, NPI’s most recent survey has found.

A bill that would make tax return disclosure mandatory for presidential candidates wishing to appear the ballot in the Evergreen State (SB 5078) passed out of Washington’s Senate on March 12th, but did not receive a vote in the House.

Senate Bill 5078 remains alive because the current Legislature will return for a new session in January of 2020, which may last as long as sixty days.

Bill sponsor Patty Kuderer (D-48th District), who represents NPI’s home legislative district, is committed to getting a version of the bill to Governor Inslee next year.

“Every Washingtonian – indeed every American – should rightfully expect tax return disclosure for all presidential candidates. It has been an essential transparency standard for over forty years,” said Kuderer.

“The stakes for the Presidency are unmatched by any other elected office in our country. In the past, we relied on the character of candidates from all parties to meet this standard, but it is now painfully clear that we can no longer rely on character alone. That is why this bill is so important.”

We agree.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this survey result is that fifty-one percent of the respondents — a majority — said they strongly agree that presidential candidates should be required to disclosure their tax returns. It’s an emphatic endorsement of the work Senator Kuderer has been doing with SB 5078.

Here is the full question we asked and the responses we received:

QUESTION:

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statement: Candidates for President of the United States should be required to disclose at least five years of their personal tax returns before their names can appear on Washington’s general election ballot?

ANSWERS:

  • Agree: 60%
    • Strongly Agree: 51%
    • Somewhat Agree: 9%
  • Disagree: 33%
    • Somewhat Disagree: 10%
    • Strongly Disagree: 23%
  • Not Sure: 7%

Our survey of eight hundred and eighty-six likely 2019 Washington State voters was in the field May 21st-May 22nd, 2019. The survey used a blended methodology with automated phone calls to landlines and online interviews of cell phone only respondents. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for NPI, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.

Support for requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns can be found in every region of the state, even in Eastern Washington, which backed Donald Trump’s 2016 candidacy. 48% of voters there agree presidential candidates should be required to disclose their tax returns in order to appear on the state’s ballot, while 43% disagree and 8% were not sure.

“Our state values honesty, transparency and demands the same of our elected leaders,” said Carl Larson of Presidential Transparency, a group that has mobilized Washingtonians in support of SB 5078. “Washington has no tolerance for the sort of corruption and backroom shenanigans we see in some other states.”

Some opponents of SB 5078 have asserted that the bill is unconstitutional because they interpret it as adding a qualification to the office of President.

However, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office disagrees. In a March 12th opinion, Ferguson assessed that the bill was “likely constitutional.”

“There is nothing inherently unconstitutional about a state regulation that restricts candidates’ access to a general election or presidential primary ballot,” the AGO opinion states. “The United States Supreme Court has upheld ballot access restrictions when they were ‘generally applicable and evenhanded restrictions that protect the integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself.'”

From the 1970s until 2016, the presidential nominees of each major political party have voluntarily released at least one or more years of their personal tax returns. However, the amount of data each candidate has provided has varied wildly.

For instance, Bob Dole released thirty years of returns in 1996, while John Kerry released twenty years’ worth in 2004. George H.W. Bush released fourteen years of returns in 1992; Bill Clinton released nineteen years of returns four years later.

More recently, though, John McCain and Mitt Romney each only provided returns going back two years — the fewest since Carter in 1976 and Reagan in 1980.

Why has there been so much variation? Because there’s no law requiring candidates for President of the United States to release their personal tax returns. It’s a norm that developed in the wake of Watergate which candidates have respected and followed to varying degrees… until Donald Trump came along.

As mentioned, though, even before Trump, there was a disparity with respect to how much information the public was getting from the major party’s presidential nominees. Barack Obama chose to release more than five years of tax returns during each of his campaigns, but his opponents only released two years’ worth.

To ensure that the public and the press can appropriately scrutinize presidential candidates going forward, there must be a minimum standard of disclosure. Presidents of the United States are elected for four year terms and wield an incredible amount of power, incomparable to any other elected position in the land.

How can we assess if a candidate is prepared or even able to govern responsibly if they withhold most — or all — of their recent tax returns? How do we know they’re free of foreign entanglements that could jeopardize our nation’s security?

Voters have a right to know whether someone they are considering supporting for President of the United States is someone they can trust who will faithfully discharge the duties required of them by the United States Constitution.

As ballot access is a matter that has been left to the states, it is entirely appropriate for legislators in Washington to decide that presidential candidates who want to appear on our ballot must disclose at least five years of tax returns.

Our research clearly shows that Washingtonians want their legislators to act to make presidential transparency the law here in the Pacific Northwest.

We call on the Washington State House of Representatives to join the Senate next January in passing a bill requiring presidential candidates to disclose five years of personal tax returns in time for the November 2020 general election.

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

LIVE from Bothell: Democratic PCOs meeting to choose nominees to succeed Guy Palumbo

Good afternoon from Bothell!

Today, the Democratic precinct committee officers of Washington State’s 1st Legislative District have assembled to draw up a list of candidates to succeed Guy Palumbo in the Washington State Senate, who recently stepped down from his position in the Legislature to become a lobbyist for Amazon.

Due to Palumbo’s departure, a vacancy now exists for state senator in the 1st. The Washington State Constitution stipulates that the process for filling a Democratic legislative vacancy begins with the naming of three candidates from the same district and of the same party by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, because the 1st is a multi-county district spanning neighborhoods in north King and south Snohomish counties.

The WSDCC, of which I am a member, specifies in its bylaws that when a vacancy is declared, the state party chair shall call a special nominating caucus of precinct committee officers from that district for the purpose of drawing up a list of three names for the WSDCC to ratify. That’s what’s happening now. I will be updating this post at periodic intervals to summarize the proceedings that are taking place.

2:05 PM: The special nominating caucus has been called to order by Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski.

2:10 PM: There are forty-three Democratic precinct committee officers present and eligible to vote at this caucus. The first order of business is the selection of the procedure that will be used to draw up the lists of nominees.

2:18 PM: Four candidates were nominated to fill the Senate vacancy:

  • David Bain
  • Derek Stanford (currently one of the 1st’s two State Representatives)
  • Hillary Moralez (currently the Chair of the Snohomish County Democrats)
  • Linda Tosti-Lane

2:20 PM: Linda Tosti-Lane spoke first. She asked the PCOs to support Derek Stanford as their first choice and then to vote for her as a second or third choice.

David Bain spoke next and echoed Linda’s request, asking PCOs to support Derek Stanford as their first choice. He also discussed legislative priorities he’d like to see the Democratic-controlled Legislature enact, like additional funding for rail transit (existing funding is presently threatened by Tim Eyman’s I-976).

State Representative Derek Stanford was the third to speak. He summarized his accomplishments as a member of the House and talked about the need to continue making progress towards fully funding public education, strengthening environmental and worker protections, and expanding healthcare.

Hillary Moralez was the final candidate to speak. She emphasized her support of Derek Stanford and asked PCOs to nominate her as “a fighter” who would stand alongside Derek during the final stages of the appointment process.

2:35 PM: Balloting has begun. State Representative Shelley Kloba is offering remarks while the Tally Committee does its work.

2:45 PM: The results of the first round of balloting are in.

  • There were forty-two votes for Derek Stanford
  • There were five votes for Hilary Moralez
  • There was one vote for Linda Tosti-Lane
  • There were no votes for David Bain

Accordingly, Derek Stanford’s name will be placed first on the list of names submitted to the King and Snohomish County Councils by the WSDCC.

Now the PCOs are voting on whose name should be placed second.

2:48 PM: Results are in for the second round of balloting.

  • There were twenty-nine votes for Hillary Moralez
  • There were ten votes for Linda Tosti-Lane
  • There were eight votes for David Bain
  • There was one spoiled ballot (someone didn’t follow instructions)

Hillary Moralez’s name will be placed second on the list of Senate nominees.

Now the PCOs are voting on whose name should be placed third.

2:52 PM: Results are in for the third round of balloting.

  • There were twenty-five votes for Linda Tosti-Lane.
  • There were twenty-one votes for David Bain.
  • There was one abstention.
  • There was one spoiled ballot.

Linda Tosti-Lane’s name will be placed third on the list of Senate nominees.

2:54 PM: Four candidates were nominated to fill the House vacancy that would be created if Derek Stanford is appointed to fill the Senate vacancy.

  • Hillary Moralez
  • Davina Duerr
  • Roy Wilkinson
  • Darshan Rauniyar

We will now proceed to candidate speeches.

3:10 PM: As with the Senate nominees, each candidate for the House vacancy was given five minutes to speak. Davina spoke first, followed by Roy, then Hillary and Darshan. Each candidate is remarkably different than the others: Davina is a Bothell city council member with extensive local government experience, Roy is a veteran who works at Boeing and is active in the labor movement, Hillary is a young biracial Democratic activist currently chairing the Snohomish County Democrats and serving on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and Darshan is a Nepali-American business leader who has previously run unsuccessfully for Congress and the Washington State Legislature.

3:15 PM: Balloting is underway for the House vacancy for the first spot.

3:17 PM: We have results for the first round of balloting for the House vacancy. The outcome was very close between the top two candidates.

  • There were twenty-one votes for Davina Duerr
  • There were nineteen votes for Hillary Moralez
  • There were seven votes for Darshan Rauniyar
  • There was one vote for Roy Wilkinson

3:25 PM: Davina didn’t quite get a majority, so there will be a runoff vote for the first place spot between Davina Duerr and Hillary Moralez.

3:32 PM: There was a twenty-four to twenty-four vote tie in the runoff for the first place spot, so the vote will be repeated. And the vote will continue to be repeated until the tie is broken, State Party Chair Tina Podlodowski says.

Again, this is for the House vacancy that would be created by State Representative Derek Stanford’s move to the Senate, replacing Guy Palumbo.

3:37 PM: Here are the results of the second runoff for the first place spot. One PCO changed their vote from Hillary to Davina, thereby breaking the tie.

  • There were twenty-five votes for Davina Duerr
  • There were twenty-three votes for Hillary Moralez

Davina’s name will be placed first on the list of House nominees.

3:42 PM: Here are the results of the voting for the second place spot.

  • There were thirty-three votes for Hillary Moralez
  • There were twelve votes for Darshan Rauniyar
  • There were three votes for Roy Wilkinson

Hillary’s name will be placed second on the list of House nominees.

3:48 PM: Here are the results of the voting for the third place spot.

  • There were thirty-six votes for Darshan Rauniyar
  • There were eleven votes for Roy Wilkinson

Darshan’s name will be placed third on the list of House nominees.

These are the final list of names for the Senate vacancy:

  1. Derek Stanford
  2. Hillary Moralez
  3. Linda Tosti-Lane

These are the final list of names for the House vacancy:

  1. Davina Duerr
  2. Hillary Moralez
  3. Darshan Rauniyar

The King and Snohomish County Councils plan to hold a joint meeting on June 27th to make an appointment. Whoever is appointed to the two vacancies will be sworn in immediately and begin their new duties as a state legislator.

3:55 PM: The special nominating caucus has adjourned. This concludes our live coverage. Thank you for joining us; we hope you found it informative!

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Last week (June 3rd-7th) in Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted

Good morning! Here’s how Cascadia’s Members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Friday, June 7th, 2019.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House chamber (U.S. Congress photo)

LEGAL STATUS FOR DREAMERS, OTHER IMMIGRANTS: Voting 237 for and 187 against, the House on June 4th passed a Democratic bill (H.R. 6) that would grant permanent legal status and a path to citizenship to as many as 2.1 million Dreamers who were brought illegally to the United States as children and face potential deportation under a Trump administration directive now on hold.

The bill would grant relief to new Americans who were younger than eighteen when they entered the United States; have been continuously present in the United States for at least four years; have clean law enforcement records and have received a high school or equivalent degree and met other conditions.

In addition, the bill would provide the same deportation protection and citizenship path to a few hundred thousand aliens who have been allowed to remain in the United States in recent decades for humanitarian reasons.

They are 3,600 Liberians shielded by “deferred enforced departure status” and 300,000 immigrants from countries including El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti receiving “temporary protected status.” Federal courts have stayed administration efforts to designate these individuals for deportation.

On September 5th, 2017, Donald Trump revoked former President Barack Obama’s executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which temporarily shielded dreamers from potential deportation and gave them the right to work legally. Trump allowed Congress six months to either to write protections into law or stand aside as removals go forward. He said he would work with Democratic lawmakers to enact legislation safeguarding dreamers, but set terms they would not accept. Courts have temporarily blocked Trump’s order.

Zoe Lofgren, D-California, said immigrants protected by this bill and their households “contribute around $17.4 billion per year in federal taxes and $9.7 billion per year in state and local taxes. Annually, these households generate over $75 billion in spending power. That money helps to fuel local economies, creating new jobs and bringing new economic prosperity to everyone living and working” with these individuals.

Ken Buck, R-Colorado, said: “Republicans are for a compassionate solution to help DACA recipients, but that solution must be paired with commonsense border security, interior enforcement and changes in policy to stem the tide of illegal border crossings, human smuggling and frivolous claims of asylum. Tragically, this bill does nothing to address the crisis at our southern border.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

The State of Idaho

Voting Nay (2): Republican Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (4): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader

Voting Nay (1): Republican Representative Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (8): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith; Republican Representative Dan Newhouse

Voting Nay (1): Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Not Voting (1): Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Cascadia total: 12 aye votes, 4 nay votes, 1 not voting

PROHIBITIONS ON ALIEN GANG MEMBERS: Voting 202 for and 221 against, the House on June 4 defeated a Republican motion that sought to make it more difficult for members of criminal gangs to use H.R. 6 (above) as a subterfuge for unlawfully gaining legal status. Democrats said the bill already has safeguards to prohibit undocumented aliens who are a threat to national security, including gang members, from obtaining green cards and a path to citizenship,

Sponsor Ben Cline, R-Virginia, said members voting against his motion “cannot look their constituents in the eye and honestly say that criminals will not get green cards.” But Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, said that by reading the bill, Republicans would learn “that gang members are not eligible even if they have not been convicted of a crime.” A yes vote was to adopt the motion.

The State of Idaho

Voting Aye (2): Republican Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (1): Republican Representative Greg Walden

Voting Nay (4): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (2): Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Voting Nay (7): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith

Not Voting (1): Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Cascadia total: 5 aye votes, 11 nay votes, 1 not voting

$19.1 BILLION DISASTER AID: Voting 354 for and 58 against, the House on June 3rd approved $19.1 billion in disaster aid to homeowners, farmers, businesses, local governments and other entities in more than 40 states and territories struck by natural disasters such as wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes in recent years. In part, the bill provides $1.4 billion to Puerto Rico, including $600 million in food assistance, along with aid to repair storm damage at military bases and funding to mitigate the impact of future disasters in and near cities such as Houston. A yes vote was to send H.R. 2157 to Donald Trumo.

Nita Lowey, D-New York, said this vote repudiates “the political stunts and grandstanding that have made it difficult to deliver much-needed disaster relief to families and communities across America.”

Chip Roy, R-Texas, said it was wrong to “spend $19 billion that is not paid for when we are racking up approximately $100 million an hour in national debt.”

A yes vote was to send H.R. 2157 to Donald Trump.

The State of Idaho

Voting Aye (1): Republican Representative Mike Simpson

Voting Nay (1): Republican Representative Russ Fulcher

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (5): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader; Republican Representative Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (9): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith; Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Not Voting (1): Republican Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Cascadia total: 15 aye votes, 1 nay vote, 1 not voting

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Senate chamber (U.S. Congress photo)

ANDREW SAUL, SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSIONER: Voting 77 for and 16 against, the Senate on June 4 confirmed Andrew M. Saul, 72, a partner in a New York City-based family investment firm, for a six-year term as commissioner of Social Security. During the George W. Bush administration, Saul was chairman of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which manages retirement plans for several million active and retired civil servants and military personnel.

Saul also served as vice chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York, and he has been a Republican Party fund-raiser and congressional candidate. He drew some Democratic opposition, in part, because of his refusal to take a stand on escalating labor management disputes that he will encounter at the SSA.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Saul “has spent decades building a successful career in business and in public administration,” including oversight of retirement programs “relied upon by literally millions of Americans” in the federal workforce.

Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said that when asked about “attacks on the rights of Social Security workers, Mr. Saul provided only vague statements that included no commitments to take meaningful action to improve labor practices at Social Security.” Hollen led a group of sixteen Democrats in opposition to Saul.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.

The State of Idaho

Voting Aye (2):
Republican Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (1): Democratic Senator Ron Wyden

Voting Nay (1): Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (1): Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell

Voting Nay (1): Democratic Senator Patty Murray

Cascadia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

Key votes ahead

The House is expected to vote during the week of June 10th on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress, while the Senate will consider a measure blocking arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar.

Editor’s Note: The information in NPI’s weekly How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted feature is provided by Voterama in Congress, a service of Thomas Voting Reports. All rights are reserved. Reproduction of this post is not permitted, not even with attribution. Use the permanent link to this post to share it… thanks!

© 2019 Thomas Voting Reports.

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Poll Watch: Fewer voters think Donald Trump will lose in 2020 compared to last December

This week, CNN released a poll showing that a majority of voters surveyed currently believe that Donald Trump will win reelection in November of next year.

54% of respondents to the poll (conducted for CNN by SSRS) believed Trump would win, while only 41% said he would lose.  

This week’s numbers are a reversal of the figures from December, when only 43% believed that Trump would hold onto the White House in 2020.  

At the same point in Barack Obama’s presidency (in the Spring of 2011), only 50% thought the first African-American President would win re-election in 2012, despite the fact that Obama had just presided over the killing of Osama Bin Laden. He went on to demolish his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney 18 months later.   

However, that is not to say that Trump has become more popular in the past six months. Trump’s approval rating has fluctuated over the months, but he has remained thoroughly disliked throughout his term in office – he is currently more than 9% underwater, according to Real Clear Politics’ polling average. 

People dislike Trump primarily for his character and behavior.

The most common reasons given for disapproval of Trump are his lying, racism, incompetence and presidential behavior. 

The change shown by CNN’s recent poll comes from an increase in pessimism among those who disapprove of the President. In December, 81% of people who didn’t like the President believed he would lose in 2020.

This number has dropped precipitously, with only 67% holding onto that belief. Meanwhile, among those who approve of Trump the percentage of those who predict his re-election has stayed in the high 80s. 

The poll did not explore the reasons for the change, but several things have changed over the past few months.  

In December, the Democratic presidential primary had not begun, whereas now there are over twenty candidates running. Perhaps a generic Democratic candidate compares much more favorably than the current scrum of many different, inevitably flawed people arguing that they can take on Trump. 

There is also the fact that people can see that Trump’s approval rate has barely shifted over the past few months (hovering in the low forties) despite a government shutdown, multiple resignations and firings from his cabinet and the release of Robert Mueller’s report showing that Trump obstructed justice.

These are the kind of developments hat should tank a president’s approval rating, and yet Trump can ride out any storm at around 40% approval nationwide, giving justified cause for concern to those who disapprove of the President. 

(In Washington State, Trump’s approval rating stands at 35%, as measured by two consecutive public opinion surveys conducted for NPI by Public Policy Polling.)

The Mueller report may be a reason for the drop in those who think Trump will not return to power. The special counsel investigation concluded without any charges being brought against Trump or members of his family, although Mueller emphasized that Justice Department policy is that the current President of the United States cannot be prosecuted for any crimes.

However, despite the apparent pessimism of some, there is still a huge amount of time between now and the general election. Many factors – such as who the Democratic presidential nominee will be, or what new scandals will emanate from the regime’s immoral, imhumane policies – are still unknown.  

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day — the day of the Normandy landings

Seventy-five years ago today, thousands of American troops rushed ashore onto the beaches of Normandy along with comrades from the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Norway, Poland, and Czechoslovakia on a mission to liberate Europe from the grip of fascism and Adolf Hitler’s tyranny.

U.S. troops landing at Normandy

United States assault troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944. Note helmet netting; faint “No Smoking” sign on the LCVP’s ramp; and M1903 rifles and M1 carbines carried by some of these men. This photograph was taken from the same LCVP as Photo # SC 189986. Original Source: Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

It was and remains the largest amphibious attack in the history of the world.

The Allies knew that if the attack failed, it could significantly prolong World War II, so they pulled out all the stops to maximize the chances of success.

They sought to deceive the Nazis into thinking that there would be an attack on Norway and that Calais would be where the Allies would attempt to break into France, not Normandy. They coordinated with the French Resistance to sabotage rail lines, electrical facilities, and telephone and teleprinter cables. And they planned and executed a massive aerial bombardment ahead of the landings.

Paratroopers were dropped beginning shortly after midnight, which is also when the night aerial bombardment effort began. Some advance forces arrived by glider, and were in fact the first to touch down in France that night.

The largest naval fleet ever seen was assembled to ferry troops across the English Channel and provide protection from enemy forces.

6,939 different vessels participated in the operation: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of assorted types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels.

Eight different navies were represented in the fleet.

The United States provided three battleships, which engaged in bombarding coastal targets beginning just before first light on June 6th, 1944.

The Allies came ashore at five different beachheads starting at 6:30 AM (0630). They were codenamed Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno, and Gold.

Map of the Normandy landings, June 6th, 1944

This map shows the five beach zones where Allied forces came ashore on June 6th, 1944 (Graphic reproduced under a Creative Commons license from Wikimedia)

American forces were responsible for the Utah and Omaha zones; forces from Britain, Canada, and other Allied nations were responsible for Sword, Juno, and Gold. Free French Forces commanded by Philippe Kieffer landed at Sword.

The going was particularly tough at Omaha Beach because Nazi fortifications had not been impaired by the aerial bombardment as planned.

Nevertheless, the Allies came ashore, and were able to secure additional territory as the days went on. None of the major objectives for the first day (capture of Carentan, St. Lô, Caen, and Bayeux) were achieved, but in time, they would be. The Allies’ plan to deceive the Nazis worked, and Allied air supremacy prevented the Nazis from finding out about and acting to repel the invasion until it was too late.

Confirmed Allied casualties on D-Day were 4,414; actual casualties were over 10,000. The opposition is estimated to have lost between 4,000 and 9,000.

If you’re not interested in listening to the remembrance speeches that were offered today by current officeholders like Donald Trump and Theresa May (and that lack of interest is certainly understandable), then you might want to instead read or listen to the prayer President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered on that day.

Here’s the audio:

And here’s the text:

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces.

Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace.

They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest.

They fight to liberate.

They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.

Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men.

And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Seventy-five years later, we pause to remember all who were involved in the Normandy landings. The success of the operation set the stage for the end of Hitler’s Third Reich and the liberation of occupied Europe, including France. Men rushed ashore onto those beaches not knowing if they would live or die on a mission of the utmost importance. Many survived, but many did not.

We remember the fallen and we salute their sacrifice.

They died so we could be free, and we thank them.

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

VICTORY! U.S. House passes Suzan DelBene’s National Landslide Preparedness Act

For years, our team at the Northwest Progressive Institute has been calling on our state and federal representatives to increase funding for geologic hazards research and require public agencies to gather the data we need to better understand the risks that we face from landslides, volcanoes, lahars, and tsunamis.

Today, the United States House of Representatives answered the call, at least in part, by passing H.R. 1261, the National Landslide Preparedness Act.

Sponsored by Representative Suzan DelBene, who represents NPI’s home congressional district (Washington’s 1st), this bill would advance our understanding of the geology behind landslides and make funds available for emergency preparedness programs pertaining to landslides.

Here’s a synopsis of the bill from congress.gov:

This bill directs the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to establish a National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program to identify and understand landslide hazards and risks, reduce losses from landslides, protect communities at risk of landslide hazards, and help improve communication and emergency preparedness.

The USGS shall, among other things:

  • develop and publish a national strategy for landslide hazards, risk reduction, and response in the United States (including territories);
  • develop and maintain a publicly accessible national landslide hazard and risk inventory database;
  • expand the early warning system for debris flow; and
  • establish emergency response procedures for the rapid deployment of federal scientists, equipment, and services to areas impacted by a significant landslide event.

The USGS may provide grants to research, map, assess, and collect data on landslide hazards.

The National Science Foundation may provide grants to eligible entities for landslide research.

The USGS (1) shall establish the 3D Elevation Program and the 3D Elevation Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee, and (2) may make grants and enter into cooperative agreements to facilitate the improvement of nationwide coverage of 3D elevation data.

We can’t think Representative DelBene enough for her tremendous work on this bill. Thanks to her leadership and dedication, we’re one step closer to getting more funding for geologic hazards research. This is a great victory for Cascadia.

Suzan DelBene speaking at NPI's 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala

Suzan DelBene speaking at NPI’s 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya LLC)

“This victory has been a long time coming for the victims, families, friends and the entire Oso community, and honors our commitment to do everything possible to ensure we have the tools to help prevent these types of disasters,” said Representative DelBene in a statement following passage of the bill.

“None of us will ever forget March 22, 2014, when a tragic landslide took the lives of 43 people and wiped out homes, businesses and roads. Today’s passage of this legislation allows us to make significant progress in landslide science and will allow communities to be better prepared for when landslides do occur. I look forward to the Senate following suit and passing this bill,” DelBene added.

Aerial view of the Stillguamish River and SR 530 after the March 22, 2014 landslide

The Oso landslide on March 22 resulted in the damming of the Stillaguamish River in Snohomish County. Mud covering the area, including SR 530, is a mile wide. (Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation)

The House passed H.R. 1261 on a voice vote, which means there is no roll call to share and the bill did not attract significant opposition.

Senator Maria Cantwell has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“I know first-hand the monumental impacts our community was challenged with during the 2014 Oso landslide,” said Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin.

“In just over two minutes, we lost forty-three of our family, friends and neighbors, we lost our main highway, our ability to communicate beyond the slide via phone or internet, and medical services,” Rankin recollected.

“Prescription services and transactions were also not available. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the immediate impacts of this one event. The legislation that Representative DelBene has brought forward may not prevent another Oso slide but it gives communities like Darrington data that we can use to make important decisions about land use in hazard areas, response from our emergency services, and redundancy in infrastructure so precious time is not lost in a time of need.”

Mayor Rankin is correct. If we don’t understand the science behind slides like the one that swamped Oso five years ago, then we won’t be able to save lives and property before the next slide hits. That’s why it’s crucial that this legislation be passed and signed into law. And at the state level, the Washington State House and Senate need to give our Department of Natural Resources the funding they’ve been asking for to study slides in the upcoming supplemental budget.

Friday, May 31st, 2019

Senators call on NBC to make climate justice the focus of the first presidential debate

Three Democratic U.S. Senators have released a letter calling on NBC News to make climate justice the focus of the first presidential primary debate.

Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) presented NBC’s News Chairman, Andy Lack, with two strong arguments for their recommendations: firstly, polling among young voters shows their huge concern about the issue, and secondly, the impacts of climate change are being felt across the country in the same way that healthcare and economic issues are.

“According to a recent national poll, nearly all Democratic voters – 96 percent – named climate change as a top issue when choosing a presidential candidate for 2020. In a poll of young voters, a majority of both Republicans and Democrats view climate change as a problem, including a clear majority of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats. They are looking for a candidate who will take meaningful action, and currently 73 percent of young voters disapprove of the approach Donald Trump has taken on climate change,” the letter says.

“This should not be surprising,” the Senators add.

“The impacts of climate change are happening now — from wildfires in California, to flooding in the Midwest, to sea level rise on the coasts. It is an issue that is impacting people’s daily lives and endangering their future safety and prosperity. It is as real as their concerns about health care and the economy, and people deserve to hear how their potential candidates will address this problem.”

These three senators are only the latest in a series of actors to call for a climate focused debate to show voters where all the candidates stand on the issue.

In the middle of last month, Washington’s governor Jay Inslee (who is running on an entirely climate-focused platform) called for a climate focused debate.

In an email to his supporters, Inslee wrote:

“This can’t be a one-off question where candidates get to give a soundbite and move on: Climate [justice] is at the heart of every issue that matters to voters, and voters deserve to hear what 2020 presidential candidates plan to do about it.”

Kirsten Gillibrand – the junior United States Senator from New York who is also running for president – endorsed Inslee’s call, comparing the climate challenge to President Kennedy’s “moonshot” in the 1960s.

As well as elected representatives, many activists are calling for the Democrats to tell voters about their plans for addressing and reversing climate damage.

Students on strike for the climate

Youth holding signs at the School Strike on Friday at the National Mall in support of taking action to reverse climate damage (Photo: Earth and Main, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

The Sunrise Movement – a youth-led political movement that gained national attention when activists protested outside Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office – has called for massive youth mobilization in Detroit at the end of July to coincide with the second Democratic debate.

The Sunrise Movement has three demands for presidential candidates:

  • that they sign the no fossil fuel money pledge;
  • that they make the Green New Deal a day-one policy priority if elected;
  • and lastly that they all commit to a presidential debate on climate justice.

As more and more Democratic candidates sign onto the Green New Deal or versions thereof, and as the Party leadership has become increasingly assertive about the management of their debates (they recently rejected Fox’s bid to host a debate, deciding that the far-right network couldn’t be trusted), it seems like a safe bet that we will be seeing the over 20 candidates set out their vision for the USA’s reaction to the global issue of climate change.

The first Democratic presidential debate will be held in Miami over two nights, June 26th and 27th. On both nights the debate will start at 9 PM Eastern and can be viewed for free on nbcnews.com, msnbc.com and Telemundo’s online services.

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Death penalty legislatively abolished in New Hampshire by bipartisan supermajorities

Progress is possible, even in dark and dangerous times.

That’s the message the New Hampshire Legislature sent today when a bipartisan Senate majority voted to permanently abolish the death penalty in the Granite State, overriding a veto by Republican Governor John Sununu.

“The Senate vote to finally abolish the death penalty in New Hampshire is a remarkable moment in our state’s history,” said Democratic State Representative Renny Cushing of Hampton, the sponsor of the repeal bill and a murder victim. (Cushing’s father was murdered in 1988.)

Last week, the New Hampshire State House of Representatives voted to overturn Sununu’s veto by the narrowest of margins, 247-123. (In most states, it takes a two-thirds vote to override a gubernatorial veto, as with a presidential veto.)

The Senate voted 21-8 to join the House in overriding the veto.

An unhappy Sununu condemned the vote, as did several figures in New Hampshire law enforcement. They’re all the wrong side of history.

New Hampshire legislators have advanced the values that this country was founded upon with their actions today. All Americans should be proud.

There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime. And a death sentence is not justice. The taking of life in response to the taking of life simply perpetuates an ugly cycle of violence, and leaves open the possibility that an innocent person could be sentenced to death and executed for a crime they did not commit.

New Hampshire has just one individual on death row. The state has not executed anyone in eighty years. Yet Sununu lobbied to keep the death penalty in place anyway. With bipartisan supermajorities arrayed against his position, he became merely a spectator to the ultimate outcome instead of having the final say.

As a consequence, New Hampshire has become the twenty-first state to abolish the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, states without the death penalty now include, in addition to the Granite State, Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, and… Washington.

Oregon, Colorado, Pennsylvania and California have imposed moratoriums on executions. The other half of states still have the death penalty.

States with and without the death penalty

States with and without the death penalty (as of May 30th, 2019, graphic by the Death Penalty Information Center)

The death penalty was struck down as unconstitutional in here last October by the State Supreme Court, with all death sentences converted to life imprisonment. Washington’s death penalty statute remains on the books, however, because former Speaker Frank Chopp inexplicably blocked the House from considering a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate that would permanently abolish it.

Last year, NPI found 69% of likely Washington voters surveyed supported life in prison alternatives to the death penalty, including a majority of Democrats, a majority of Republicans, and a majority of independents.

Frank Chopp is no longer the Speaker of Washington State House of Representatives, having resigned earlier this month. House Democrats will choose a new Speaker-designate on July 31st. NPI’s Gael Tarleton is a candidate for the position; the others are Monica Jurado Stonier, June Robinson, and Laurie Jinkins. Both Representative Tarleton and Representative Jinkins participated in NPI’s July 12th, 2018 press conference presenting our death penalty poll findings.

NPI stands ready to work with the new Speaker to ensure the Washington State House of Representatives votes on repealing the death penalty in 2020, cementing Washington’s place among the states that have taken a stand for human rights by getting rid of their death chambers.

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Frontier Communications to leave Cascadia; PNW assets sold to WaveDivision Capital

Telecommunications firm Frontier Communications is saying adieu to Cascadia.

Nine years after taking on debt to buy Verizon’s assets in the region, Frontier Communications is offloading those same assets in a $1.35 billion sale to Kirkland-based WaveDivision Capital, which must be approved by regulators.

If the sale goes through, Frontier will exit the each of the Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana markets where it currently operates.

Frontier Communications' Northwest operations

Frontier Communications’ Northwest operations (Image by DSLReports’ Darknessfall)

Frontier Northwest was formed in 2010 from the merger of Verizon Northwest (previously GTE Northwest) with Frontier’s rural Idaho operations.

“The sale of these properties reduces Frontier’s debt and strengthens liquidity,” said Dan McCarthy, Frontier President and Chief Executive Officer, in a news release.

“We are pleased to have a buyer with extensive experience building and operating advanced fiber-based communications assets in these regions,” McCarthy added. “We will be working very closely with the new owners to ensure a smooth, successful transition for our customers and the communities we serve.”

“We are excited to be partnering with Searchlight on this opportunity to acquire Frontier’s operations in the Northwest,” said Steve Weed, CEO of WDC, and Founder and former CEO of Wave Broadband. “We have a proven track record of customer satisfaction by providing fast, reliable internet connectivity combined with great service and support. Having grown up in the Northwest, I’m excited to be able to continue to serve my community through this new venture.”

“Searchlight” is Searchlight Capital Partners, which describes itself as a global private investment firm with offices in New York, London and Toronto. The company lists Electric Lightwave, Rackspace, and Cengage Learning as some of its investments. (Electric Lightwave was recently subsumed into Allstream.)

“Across the four states, Frontier’s network passes 1.7 million residential and business locations, of which approximately 500,000 are fiber-to-the-premises capable,” Frontier’s news release notes, not mentioning that many of those fiber-to-the-premises connections were created under Verizon’s ownership.

“As of March 31st, 2019, Frontier served approximately 150,000 fiber broadband, 150,000 copper broadband and 35,000 video connections in these states.”

WaveDivision and Searchlight have formed a new company to operate Frontier’s Northwest division. Weed says Frontier customers should not expect any changes.

“This announcement does not change anything for Frontier’s customers or the employees who support them,” Weed emphasized.

“All services [will] continue without disruption, all offices [will] remain open, and all contracts and rates will continue to be honored.”

Reaction on DSLReports, a popular forum for discussing ISPs, was mixed.

“Free at last!” cheered one commenter.

“I think it’s a shortsighted move,” wrote another commenter. “A quick billion for a desperate company. GTE/VZ/Frontier Northwest has been a producer for their respective companies for years. While there’s plenty of rural copper, they have a fully deployed fiber network where it counts – suburban Portland and northern and eastern Seattle. The demographically wealthier parts of both of those cities. Enough to subsidize the rural copper. These states are not like West Virginia or some of the Midwest lead weights which are pretty much a huge copper mess.”

“I also wouldn’t be surprised to see everything outside of Portland and Seattle get sold off again to small independents and cooperatives in the region,” wrote a third DSLReports commenter, responding to a remark characterizing the deal as a private equity play by “vultures picking at the scraps of a dying telco.”

“The fiber assets in the Portland and Seattle areas are much more valuable. This will probably look a lot like when GTE sold off Hawaii to the Carlyle Group back in 2000, who pretty much ran it into the ground before selling it off again. (I think there was even a bankruptcy filing back around 2008 or so.) I think Cincinnati Bell or some subsidiary thereof actually now owns Hawaiian Telcom now. Anyway, mark my words, they are going to sell off these rural areas, piece by piece.”

The companies did not offer much in the way of details of what Frontier customers can expect after the sale close — if it goes through.

Promises that everything will be just fine and dandy have been made before… when Frontier was the new owner to be and Verizon was bailing.

For instance, Frontier provides email to its residential customers and many people in the Pacific Northwest have and use email addresses that end in @frontier.com. Presumably, the new company won’t be called Frontier. And will it even continue to offer an email service? Or will it do what Verizon did and exit the email business entirely a few years ago in the markets where it still operates?

Having to change over to a new email address is a big hassle. If current Frontier customers can’t continue to use their @frontier.com email addresses after the sale closes, that will be very disruptive. Perhaps an accommodation can be worked out. After all, this time, the proposed new owners are based here in Washington State and not on the other side of the country in Connecticut. That’s the silver lining.

We’ll keep you posted on what regulators have to say about this proposed sale. The FCC has to clear the deal and so does the Department of Justice and state regulators — a process that will take many months, if not longer.

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Fourth annual Rooted in Rights Film Festival puts disabled storytellers front and center

It is hard for us to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Too often, we mean well when we advocate for disadvantaged and underrepresented populations, but we risk inadvertently shutting out marginalized voices if our advocacy isn’t inclusive.

At the fourth annual Rooted in Rights Film Festival at Seattle’s Town Hall earlier this month, the voices of people with disabilities were put front and center.

Launched by Disability Rights Washington (DRW) in 2015, Rooted in Rights “tells authentic, accessible stories to challenge stigma and redefine narratives around disability, mental health, and chronic illness.”

Rooted in Rights Program Director Anna Zivarts (@annabikes) began the evening’s program by emphasizing the important of “broadening ideas within our community” and empowering people with disabilities to tell their stories.

Members of the disabled community should be the ones writing, editing, and producing the advocacy materials that reach the general public, she said.

Naturally, DRW’s Rooted in Rights festival leads by example.

The community heard from three disability rights advocates – Wilbert Johnson, Paul Tshuma, and Daisy Wislar – who were each given the opportunity to tell their unique stories on disability rights through film, with their own voice.

Wilbert Johnson is a zookeeper at the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as a nationwide advocate for disability employment.

His film Willing to Work chronicles his journey finding employment with an intellectual disability. After enrolling in a transition program in college, Audubon offered him employment. Now he happily works as a ride operator.

In his post-film live interview with the audience, he unabashedly expressed his belief that everyone deserves a job, and that having a disability shouldn’t discourage anyone from achieving their goals in life.

You can watch his film in its entirety here.

(A side note: all Rooted in Rights videos come with captions, audio descriptions, and transcripts – visual aids that any organization trying to tell a story through film can prioritize creating to make their content more accessible.)

Second to be featured was Montreal-based advocate Paul Tshuma.

A wheelchair user, he advises architects and businesses on how to make all wheelchair users safer through inclusive design. Many buildings, particularly skyscrapers (which seem to never stop being built across our region), leave few options for those with disabilities to escape in case of an emergency.

Tshuma shares a personal anecdote in his film, relating that he was once in the middle of a meeting when a fire alarm sounded and everyone non-disabled rushed down the exit stairwell. With no one to carry him, Tshuma would’ve been tragically stuck had the alarm not been a drill.

The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, passed by Congress in 1990 and signed by the first President Bush, provides good baseline building requirements for those with disabilities, but doesn’t mandate them in many instances.

Tshuma explained that many well-meaning people feel guilty when their organizations don’t offer accommodations for every type of disability, and simply lump together all disabled people to minimize the positive potential impact of any accessibility modifications they propose to make. This regrettably causes inaction, which can unnecessarily put wheelchair users in life-and-death situations.

Lastly, the group was introduced to Daisy Wislar, an advocate for consent education. Speaking from experience, Daisy shared their difficult journey through grade school, where they were “never taught how to communicate physical boundaries” with assigned helpers. Daisy’s goal? Starting the conversation about consent and boundaries for vulnerable people with disabilities.

After each film was screened, an open question-and-answer session was held, with each featured storyteller joining remotely. The questioning skewed towards each storyteller’s personal experiences. For me, the takeaway from the festival was the importance of disability advocacy led by people with disabilities.

We need more of this authentic advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels.