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.

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Sound Transit’s Link light rail system turns ten today: Relive the magic of opening weekend

One. Decade.

That’s how long Sound Transit’s revolutionary, high capacity Link light rail system has been in operation and carrying riders, as of today.

It was a beautiful, sunny summer morning on July 18th, 2009, when then Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and then Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton cut the ribbon to inaugurate service between Westlake Center and Tukwila International Boulevard at the Mount Baker Station. Flanked by elected leaders from across the region, they declared that a transportation revolution in Puget Sound had begun.

And indeed, it had.

Wikipedia features Link light rail

Central Link is, fittingly, today’s featured article on the English language Wikipedia

In ten years, Link has seen over 134 million boardings. Ridership has increased  from an average of just over 15,000 weekday boardings to about 77,000 now.

“In the past ten years, more and more riders in the region have learned that Link is a dependable option to arrive at their destination,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Redmond Mayor John Marchione in a Sound Transit press release.

“I want to thank the millions of riders who have made Link so successful and the voters in our region who continue to support the expansion of the system.”

“Because of Link, riders have been spared countless hours sitting in ever-worsening traffic,” said Sound Transit CEO and former FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, who succeeded Lynn Allen Award honoree Joni Earl as Sound Transit’s leader.

“Link’s tenth anniversary comes at a time when we are expanding the network to the North, South and East. By the time Link’s fifteenth anniversary comes around, we expect that more than twice as many riders as we have today will have discovered the advantages of fast, effective light rail.”

Here at NPI, the opening of Link light rail was a watershed event that was covered live at intervals over the course of forty-eight hours, beginning with the preview events on Friday and concluding with the end of free rides on Sunday.

Link light rail commemorative ORCA card

This special, limited edition ORCA card commemorates ten years of Sound Transit’s Link light rail system

NPI’s Permanent Defense was founded in 2002 with the aim of providing vigorous opposition to Tim Eyman’s initiative factory and defending Sound Transit, which at the time was trying to obtain federal funding to begin construction of Central Link. Despite the narrow passage of Eyman’s I-776 that autumn, the agency was able to break ground the following year, just a few weeks after NPI was founded.

Eyman had thought that I-776 would put the kibosh on Central Link.

When it didn’t — and when the then Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush administration approved the provision of federal funds for Central Link — Eyman was left utterly shocked and confused. He had failed, and Sound Transit had won.

Under the leadership of Joni Earl, Sound Transit deftly navigated around treacherous political and legal obstacles (Eyman included) to get Link light rail back on track and ready for construction during a critical two year period stretching from 2001 into 2003. This work culminated in a groundbreaking ceremony held in the Rainier Valley in November of 2003 with Sound Transit boardmembers.

Light rail construction has been continuously underway ever since.

At the time Central Link opened, Sound Transit contractors were already at work extending light rail into SeaTac Airport and the University of Washington.

Airport Link opened in December of 2009; U-Link opened in March of 2016. Angle Lake Link followed in September of 2016. By the time those newer stations opened, construction had begun on further extensions of the Link system.

The next stations to open will be U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate, all in 2021.

Sound Transit is now almost twenty-three years old, having been established when voters approved Sound Move in 1996. After spending a few years trying to find its way, the agency settled into a groove under Joni Earl and began rolling along.

The actual buildout of Link has now been going on for twice as long as the period that Sound Transit spent trying to get its act together.

When the Northgate stations open in 2021, the Sound Move vision of 1996 will have been realized… later than anticipated, but realized nonetheless.

Congratulations to Sound Transit and to everyone who uses Link on ten years of light rail. Here’s to another decade of strong ridership growth and the liberation of commuters from gridlocked highways and streets.

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

July Democratic presidential debate lineup set; Montana’s Steve Bullock makes the cut

Today, the Democratic National Committee announced the names of the candidates that had qualified for the second round of Democratic debates, to be held in Detroit later this month. In a similar format to the last round of debating, twenty candidates will face off over the course of two nights.

Skyline of Detroit

The second round of debates will be held in Detroit (Photo: Shawn Wilson, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

The criteria to enter this round of debates are the same as those for the first round: a candidate must either poll above 1% in three or more DNC-approved polls or have at least 65,000 unique donors to their campaign.

The candidates are, in alphabetical order:

  • Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock,
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Former U.S. Representative John Delaney
  • U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
  • Senator Kamala Harris of California
  • Former Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado
  • Governor Jay Inslee of Washington
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas
  • U.S. Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio
  • Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Andrew Yang

The lineup is almost exactly the same as the first debate, with the single change being that California Representative Eric Swalwell recently dropped out of the race. He will be replaced on the stage by Montana’s governor, Steve Bullock.

Bullock narrowly missed out on qualifying for the first debates (much to his campaign’s outrage), and he will be hoping to use this debate to point out that he was re-elected as a Democratic governor on the same day that Donald Trump won his state by twenty points, arguing that he can woo at least some of the Trump voters back to the Democratic column.

Several Democratic candidates will not make it to the debates in Detroit. Representative Seth Moulton and Wayne Messam, the mayor of Miramar, Florida, have both been campaigning for months, but have failed entirely to make any impact in the polls. Alaska’s former senator, Mike Gravel, has reportedly qualified for the debate based on the DNC’s donor threshold, but failed to make the twenty-person cut off, as the DNC prioritizes polling results over donor requirements.

Two candidates have entered the race since the first debate – former U.S. Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania and California billionaire Tom Steyer – but they will not be on stage. They ave not had enough time to raise either the funds or the polling support required to be included in the debate.

CNN is set to host the second round of debates.

Instead of trying to organize which candidates will debate each other on which nights based on polling, the network will hold a multi-stage live draw on Thursday night to determine the schedule for candidates.

The July debate is almost certainly the last time that viewers will watch so many candidates debate each other at once for the 2020 cycle; the qualifying thresholds for the third debate – set to be held in mid-September – are significantly higher.

To make the third debate this autumn, a candidate must poll at 2% and have over 130,000 unique donors. To date, only five Democrats have met this threshold: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

U.S. House votes to condemn Donald Trump’s bigoted, racist, appalling “go back” tweets

The United States House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly this afternoon to condemn Donald Trump’s bigoted, racist, and appalling tweets aimed at Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. By a vote of two hundred and forty to one hundred and eighty-seven, the House adopted a resolution rebuking Trump’s comments and reiterating that America has and always will be a nation of immigrants.

Four Republicans voted in support of the resolution, while six did not vote. The remaining Republicans voted nay. Every single Democrat voted yes.

House Resolution 489

“Our Caucus will continue to forcefully respond to those attacks on our Members, which reflect a fundamental disrespect for the beautiful diversity of America,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi in remarks on the floor prior to the final vote.

“It’s so sad because you would think that there would be a given that we would universally in this body just say, of course, of course, and there is no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong unified condemnation.”

After Pelosi spoke, Republicans moved to have her comments stricken from the record because she had repeatedly called Trump’s comments racist. However, the House voted along party lines not to strike Pelosi’s comments from the record.

The final vote from the Pacific Northwest was along party lines.

Voting Aye: Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, and Kurt Schrader (OR)

Voting Nay: Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Don Young (AK), Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson (ID), Greg Gianforte (MT)

The four Republicans who defied Trump and his stooge Kevin McCarthy were:

  • Will Hurd of Texas
  • Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania
  • Fred Upton of Michigan
  • Susan Brooks of Indiana

No Republicans from the Pacific Northwest joined them, as mentioned — not even Jaime Herrera-Beutler, who is considered an endangered incumbent by her own party. (Democratic challenger Carolyn Long has announced a rematch for 2020.)

Shame on the bulk of the House Republican caucus for choosing fealty to Donald Trump instead of standing for the principles our country was founded upon.

But thank goodness the House as a whole adopted this resolution. Even if it did not use the word censure, it still called out Trump’s racism and denounced it.

Among the sponsors of the resolution was our own Pramila Jayapal, who said:

I am appalled at the statements coming from the White House, telling people who dissent that somehow you should go back to your country if you criticize the United States.

Well, let me remind you that dissent is patriotic and, in fact, a core value to our democracy, enshrined in our Constitution.

And yes, I am a proud naturalized citizen born in India, a proud patriot, a proud person who belongs in this country. And it’s not the first time I’ve heard “go back to your own country,” but it is the first time I have heard it coming from the White House.

And frankly, Madam Speaker, I am appalled that, on this floor, my Republican colleagues would call any of us anti-American.

That is why this vote is so important.

Because we have to let the rest of the country know that the House of Representatives will stand up for the Constitution and represent and defend every single person in the country, regardless of the color of their skin or the country of their birth.

Madam Speaker, my Republican colleagues have been talking about patriotism, about love of country.

One of them said, “Love it or leave it.”

But what is love, if not to make what we love better through our critique, our work and our service? That is what real Americans do.

We do not stifle dissent, we do not otherize or sow hatred, and we certainly never say, “go back to your country” to a brown or a black person, because that is a racist trope.

I hope that every single member of this chamber – Republican and Democrat – will join me in rejecting the president’s message and vote in support of this resolution. That is the American thing to do.

We agree and we thank Representative Jayapal for her leadership.

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Tim Eyman, “Liberty State” extremists no longer working together after I-1648 debacle

Ten days ago, Tim Eyman’s latest scheme to wreck government and sabotage Washington State’s essential public services ended in failure when Eyman and his cohorts couldn’t come up with enough signatures to qualify I-1648, Eyman’s measure to blow up the 2019-2021 state budget and slap a one year expiration date on all future revenue reform bills passed by the Legislature.

A frustrated Tim Eyman rubs his eyes

An unhappy Tim Eyman was flanked by glum followers at the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex in Olympia. (Photo: Sherry Bockwinkel for NPI).

Within forty-eight hours of admitting I-1648 would not qualify in front of the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex in Olympia, Eyman had already moved on and begun electronically distributing petitions for I-1082, a clone of I-1648, which Eyman wants to qualify as an initiative to the 2020 Washington State Legislature.

Because initiatives are Eyman’s business, he must always have a scheme to sell… it keeps the hustle going. So it was not at all surprising when Eyman sent out an email exhorting his followers to give money and circulate petitions for I-1082, even though I-1648 had just crashed and burned only hours earlier.

Eyman may have thought that by pivoting quickly, he could avoid squandering momentum. But the people behind the “Liberty State” political action committee, chiefly Mike McKee and Cary Condotta (a former Republican state legislator), were not enamored with the prospect of continuing to partner with Eyman.

So they began putting together a plan to strike out on their own.

In a series of message posted to their group, they explained that LSPAC had decided to back I-1648 somewhat reluctantly, and have now decided to go in a new direction. The last of these messages was published yesterday:

Restore Washington is now official.

The mission is to create a large organized network of folks to keep Olympia in check through the initiative and referendum process – “Legislation by the People, for the People” The key feature is having a quality product that will stand up to challenge. Over the years a lot of hard work has gone into products that were subsequently tossed out. That said, these policies don’t have to come from us.

They just have to be fully vetted by our amazing team of top lawyers and political professionals that have offered to help. That way the efforts pay off and confidence is restored in the process. The right organization can do this in a timely manner for very low cost. We actually want to win. We also appreciate the broad band of support across the political spectrum and wish to keep it that way.

As stated before, more than one top constitutional attorney warned us that [Eyman’s] 1648 had issues. A portion of that quote is here.

“The chance that the court will find it an unconstitutional attempt to amend the constitution by a statute rather than an amendment as required by the constitution is 99.9999999%. The constitution does not put term limits on the taxing power so a statute that does attempts to limit a constitutional authority.”

That is only part of the issue but that’s enough to consider another alternative. The new version is the same and we do not intend to impede anyone from supporting it. As most of you know qualifying an initiative is a huge amount of work, time commitment and expense. Our decision to “do it right” will take some time.

We feel that we need to have a product that has the best chance of surviving the inevitable court challenge that will follow.

Blessings,

Mike McKee and Cary Condotta

Take a moment to appreciate the irony here. A group of people who wants to break Washington State apart have rebranded their Facebook group as “Restore Washington”. A radical secession movement is not an effort to restore anything.

Also note the implicit and explicit criticism of Eyman’s initiative factory. Eyman is never mentioned by name, but this message makes it clear that McKee and Condotta really don’t think much of Eyman’s initiative crafting abilities.

Their cynicism is wholly justified: pretty much every measure Eyman has gotten past the voters has been struck down in whole or in part as unconstitutional.

McKee and Condotta’s announcement was praised by many group members.

“What is it our dads taught us all: ‘If you’re going to do something, do it right.’ Thank you, Cary and Mike for Doing it Right,” commented John Carlson, the KVI host, former gubernatorial candidate, and Washington Policy Center founder who had backed I-1648 on his radio program and regularly has Eyman on as a guest.

A fuming Eyman wasted no time in lashing out in an email broadside.

“My former teammates and their Facebook group (Washington for I-1648 renamed Restore Washington) are promising their own tax initiative some time in the future,” wrote Eyman. “Unfortunately, they’re taking a different approach. Their Facebook group will not allow comments or posts that support I-1082 or working together on both. I was removed and I am not permitted to post or comment there and my previous posts have been erased.”

It’s certainly amusing that Eyman continues to act as though people are simply unfamiliar with his lengthy record of lying, cheating, and tricking people.

Even after twenty years of duplicity, Eyman still presents himself as an honest-to-goodness crusader for ordinary people with every fundraising appeal.

In reality, Eyman is a grifter.

He is constantly trying to convince people that it would be in their best interest for them to give him more of their time and money. (But especially their money.)

Eyman’s initiatives are marketed like a miracle product to angry right wingers. People are told that whatever Eyman’s latest initiative is will, for instance, “put a leash” on “those dirty dog politicians”. The efficacy of the product is totally irrelevant, of course… it is their money Eyman is after. Eyman never stops asking for money; all of his emails end with a plea to make a contribution immediately.

Some political observers have theorized that Eyman’s initiatives are intentionally defective so as to ensure that Eyman can keep his lucrative hustle going indefinitely. Whether or not that theory is true, it is certainly the case that Eyman does not bother to draft his initiatives conservatively, which is not the behavior you’d expect from someone wanting their work to withstand a legal challenge.

It is understandable that the “Liberty State” folks are dissatisfied. Representatives of NPI went down to Olympia on July 5th to observe the turn-in rally that Eyman had spent days breathlessly advertising, and they witnessed more of the same duplicity and lack of transparency that Eyman has become infamous for.

Instead of bringing out the petitions that he had in his possession for everyone to see, Eyman kept them out of sight, apparently locked in this trailer:

Truck with undisclosed number of I-1648 petitions inside

Petitions for I-1648 were never brought out of the trailer attached to this pickup truck. (Photo: Sherry Bockwinkel for NPI)

Instead of cluing in everyone as to how the signature drive had turned out, Eyman kept mum until some of the volunteers demanded a number, naturally wanting more information. (Eyman then claimed just under 200,000 signatures had been collected, a figure that cannot be verified and may well be totally baseless.)

And instead of providing a timely declaration that I-1648 had failed, Eyman kept his fans in suspense. He slipped around to the back of the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex and went inside by himself, presumably to cancel the appointment he had made to turn in signatures for I-1648. (The Elections Division had needlessly brought in temporary workers in anticipation of having I-1648 petitions to process, but had to send the workers home because Eyman turned nothing in.)

Before LSPAC embraced I-1648, it wasn’t going anywhere. From what we can tell, Eyman had concluded that he needed something fresher than I-976 (which is on the ballot this November and would gut transit funding at every level) to use as fodder for his endless fundraising emails. So he commissioned the design of a petition for I-1648 and began distributing petitions electronically, just like he did for I-1421 and I-869 in 2016, I-1550 and I-947 in 2017, and I-977 in 2018.

Once LSPAC decided to back I-1648, though, Eyman had some muscle to work with. He became wildly excited with the thought of qualifying something to the ballot with just volunteers, and began pitching I-1648 with greater vigor, seemingly trying to will success into existence.

But the charade could not go on past July 5th.

Prayers weren't enough to qualify I-1648

Prayers couldn’t get I-1648 past the finish line (Photo: Sherry Bockwinkel for NPI)

When the time came to put up or shut up, Eyman did neither. Instead, as mentioned, he pivoted immediately to hawking a brand new initiative… I-1082, a clone of I-1648, declaring that I-1648’s failure was merely a hiccup.

LSPAC’s officers feel differently, and have opted to do their own “Round 2”.

They clearly recognize Eyman as a rival (hence his removal from their Facebook group) and Eyman in turn also recognizes them as a rival despite his lament that they ought to be working together for the greater evil. (I can’t say the greater good here because none of these people are up to any good.)

Like the old adage goes, ye reap what ye sow. Tim Eyman is unworthy of anyone’s trust. Can’t blame the folks at LSPAC for deciding they don’t want their horses pulling Eyman’s cart anymore. Whatever they come up themselves won’t have Eyman’s name on it, but it won’t be good for Washington State, and Permanent Defense will be ready to ensure it is opposed, like we do with Eyman’s measures.

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

Last Week (July 8th-12th) 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, July 12th, 2019.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House chamber (U.S. Congress photo)

9/11 VICTIMS’ COMPENSATION FUND: By a vote of 402 for and 12 against, the House on July 12th passed a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through fiscal 2090. Administered by a special master, the fund pays economic and non-economic damages to 9/11 first responders and their survivors as well as to individuals with health problems as a result of participating in 9/11 cleanup efforts, and to their survivors.

In addition, the bill would allow claims to be filed until October 2089, remove a cap on non-economic damages in certain circumstances and index for inflation the program’s annual limits on compensation for economic losses.

The bill replenishes the fund to avert threatened cuts of up to 70% in pending and future claims and makes whole claims already paid at reduced levels. Although the bill is projected to cost $10.2 billion in its first 10 years, and countless billions after that as cancers and other latent diseases emerge, it does not yet include a “pay for” mechanism or long-term funding means.

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

The State of Idaho

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

The State of Oregon

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

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (10): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck; Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 17 aye votes

$733 BILLION FOR MILITARY IN 2020: Voting 220 for and 197 against, the House on July 12th authorized a $733 billion military budget (H.R. 2500) for fiscal 2020, including $69 billion for combat operations and more than $57 billion for active-duty and retiree health care. The bill:

  • sets a 3.1 percent pay raise for uniformed personnel;
  • addresses global warming as a national-security threat;
  • advances the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison;
  • requires Pentagon strategies for countering Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. elections;
  • lifts an administration ban on transgender military service;
  • prohibits U.S. troop reductions in South Korea below 28,000;
  • funds programs for military victims of sexual assault;
  • … and approves tens of billions for conventional and nuclear weapons while defunding the development of low-yield nuclear weapons.

In addition, the bill requires what would be the first congressional authorization for the U.S. war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces in the Middle East. At the same time, it would effectively repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which, along with the Iraq war resolution approved in 2002, has been the legal basis of U.S. military actions since 9/11.

The bill also would establish twelve weeks’ paid family and medical leave for the federal workforce to accommodate circumstances including childbirth, adoptions, foster care and serious illness. The leave is now available without pay to civil servants under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act.

In addition, the bill allows military personnel who are victims of sexual assaults to receive emergency contraception at base clinics, and eliminates co-pays for contraceptive services provided by the Department of Defense healthcare system.

The bill also would:

  • bar funding for space-based missile defenses;
  • prohibit the diversion of military funds to wall construction on the southwest border;
  • halt the sale of F-35 aircraft to Turkey unless it cancels its purchase an air defense system from Russia;
  • require the Marine Corps to admit women to basic training;
  • fund repair of earthquake damages to military bases in southern California;
  • require more accurate and transparent reporting of U.S.-caused civilian casualties, and provide $250 million to in security assistance to Ukraine.

A yes vote was to send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.

The State of Idaho

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

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (3): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader

Voting Nay (2): Republican Representative Greg Walden; Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer

The State of Washington

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

Voting Nay (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 10 aye votes, 7 nay votes

DEVELOPING LOW-YIELD NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Voting 201 for and 221 against, the House on June 12th defeated a Republican amendment to H.R. 2500 (above) that sought to fund an administration plan to start mounting low-yield nuclear weapons — W76-2 warheads — on submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles. Military planners say low-yield, or tactical, warheads are for use in limited conflicts, in contrast to strategic nuclear weapons, which are designed to destroy targets far from the immediate battlefield.

Advocates say the United States needs to counter Russia’s extensive low-yield arsenal, while critics say the weapons heighten the risk of Armageddon because it is folly to think nuclear war can be waged on a limited basis.

Mike Turner, R-Ohio, called it “unilateral nuclear disarmament” to not deploy low-yield nuclear weapons.

Our own Adam Smith, D-Washington, called the weapon “a mistake” because “it takes us down the road of saying we can have a manageable nuclear war.”

A yes vote was to add low-yield nuclear weapons to the U.S. arsenal.

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, and Kurt Schrader

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

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

Cascadia total: 6 aye votes, 11 nay votes

BUDGET INCREASE FOR COMBAT READINESS, PAY RAISE: Voting 204 for and 212 against, the House on July 12th defeated a Republican motion that sought to add nearly $3 billion to H.R. 2500 (above) for purposes such as expanding combat accounts and increasing the bill’s pay raise for uniformed personnel from the 3.1 percent level requested by Trump to four percent.

Jim Banks, R-Indiana, said: “Let us give our troops the raise they earned.”

Our own Adam Smith, D-Washington, said the bill already funds “the largest pay raise for our troops in ten years.”

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, and Kurt Schrader

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (4): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers; Democratic Representative Kim Schrier

Voting Nay (6): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck

Cascadia total: 7 aye votes, 10 nay votes

NEW RULES FOR ALLOCATING GREEN CARDS: Voting 365 for and 65 against, the House on July 10th passed a bill (H.R. 1044) that would change how “green cards” granting permanent legal status are allocated by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to immigrants living in the United States on temporary, employment-based H1-B visas. Those visas are used primarily to bring highly skilled, well-educated foreigners into the U.S. workforce for periods generally ranging from three to six years, after which they are usually required leave the country if they have not received a green card.

The bill would remove per-country caps on the number of employment-based green cards issued each year, and instead award them first-come, first-served. The current caps prohibit natives of any country from receiving more than 7 percent of the annual number of permanent, employment-based visas.

That disadvantages workers from populous countries supplying large numbers of H1-B recipients. Those from smaller countries do not wait nearly as long.

Ken Buck, R-Colorado, said imposing per-country caps “doesn’t make sense. Our employment-based immigration system has a single purpose, bringing in the best and brightest. We shouldn’t hamstring our economy by placing artificial caps on who can get a green card quicker based solely on where you are born.”

Doug Collins, R-Georgia, said he supports much of the bill, but because it was not subjected to committee hearings to fix what he sees as flaws, it “is not ready for prime time.”

The State of Idaho

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

The State of Oregon

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

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (10): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck; Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 17 aye votes

INVENTORY OF U.S. BASES OVERSEAS: Voting 219 for and 210 against, the House on July 11th required the Department of Defense to provide Congress with an inventory of U.S. military installations on foreign territory along with the cost of operating each one and an explanation of how it serves national security.

The amendment was added to the fiscal 2020 military policy bill (H.R. 2500). The department reportedly owns several hundred permanent bases and short-term military facilities abroad, and the first-ever audit of Pentagon operations, released last November, was unable to pinpoint some of them.

Sponsor Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, said: “The American people deserve to know what their tax dollars are being spent on and not take it on blind faith that every dollar that is given to the Pentagon is a dollar that is protecting their safety.”

Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, said Congress already has access to budget documents showing “in exhaustive detail…thousands of line items on where the Pentagon spending is going right now — domestic, foreign, everything.”

A yes vote was to require an inventory of U.S. military holdings abroad.

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, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck

Voting Nay (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 11 aye votes, 6 nay votes

PRESIDENTIAL CONTRACTS WITH FEDERAL AGENCIES: Voting 243 for and 186 against, the House on July 11th amended H.R. 2500 (above) to prohibit presidents, vice presidents and cabinet members from holding contracts with the U.S. government, just as members of Congress are barred by federal law from doing. The rationale of the ban is that high federal officials, as insiders, could exert undue influence over the terms of the contract.

The expanded ban presumably would prohibit any attempted renewal of the government’s contract for leasing the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to the Trump International Hotel, which generates profits for the Trump Organization and therefore the president.

Our own Adam Smith, D-Washington, called this “a good amendment that will improve the ethics of our government.”

Jody Hice, R-Georgia, said the amendment is “nothing other than, once again, an attack on President Trump and his family.”

A yes vote was to bar top executive branch officials, including presidents, from holding federal contracts.

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, and 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, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck

Voting Nay (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 11 aye votes, 6 nay votes

PROTECTING FEDERAL PERSONNEL AGENCY: Voting 247 for and 182 against, the House on July 11th adopted an amendment to HR 2500 (above) that would scuttle a Trump administration proposal to downgrade the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) by merging it with the General Services Administration (GSA). With 5,500 employees, the OPM administers programs ranging from health insurance to retirement accounts for millions of active and retired federal civilian workers and their families.

The GSA, with a staff of 12,000, is charged with managing federal office space, transportation, communications and procurement, among other duties.

Gerald Connolly, D-Virgina, said:

“The administration’s inadequate plan to dismantle OPM has been a disaster. After realizing that it cannot prevail on the merits, the administration is now resorting to blackmail” by trimming the OPM workforce.

Jody Hice, R-Georgia, said Republicans “want to find ways to improve services for federal employees and get retirement benefits for federal retirees. But we need to keep all solutions and all options on the table.”

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, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck

Voting Nay (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 11 aye votes, 6 nay votes

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Senate chamber (U.S. Congress photo)

JOHN PALLASCH, ASSISTANT LABOR SECRETARY: Voting 54 for and 39 against, the Senate on July 10th confirmed John P. Pallasch, the head of Kentucky’s employment and training agency, as an assistant secretary in the Department of Labor. He will lead the Employment and Training Administration, which consumes nearly two-thirds of the department’s budget while administering workplace programs for 22 million Americans. Pallasch was head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the George W. Bush administration.

Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called Pallasch a “thoroughly well-qualified” nominee.

The Pacific Northwest’s own Patty Murray, D-Washington, said federal job programs need a leader “who is experienced and committed to providing workers with the training, support and benefits they need to succeed in this changing economy. Unfortunately, Mr. Pallasch is not that person.”

The State of Idaho

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

The State of Oregon

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

The State of Washington

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

Cascadia total: 2 aye votes, 4 nay votes

ROBERT KING, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: The Senate on July 11th confirmed, 56 for and 37 against, Robert L. King, the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, as assistant secretary of postsecondary education. He served previously as head of the Arizona Community Foundation and chancellor of the State University of New York system of higher education, and he was an aide to former New York Governor George Pataki.

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 Nay (2):
Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

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

Cascadia total: 2 aye votes, 4 nay votes

Key votes ahead

During the week of July 15th, the House will vote on raising the federal minimum wage and on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress over their disregard of committee subpoenas. The Senate, operating under the auspices of Mitch McConnell, will vote on judicial and executive branch 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, July 13th, 2019

LIVE from Philadelphia: Pressley, Haaland, Omar, Tlaib take the stage at Netroots Nation

Good morning! Representatives from our team at the Northwest Progressive Institute continue to participate in trainings, discussions and plenary sessions at Netroots Nation 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This third morning of the convention was anchored by a plenary session, appropriately titled Making HerStory: The women who are shifting the balance of power in Washington [the District of Columbia; our nation’s capital.]

Dr. Stephanie Kelton, former Chief Economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Community and an economic advisor to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, opened the session by saying that Democrats are changing political discourse and making strides she didn’t think she would see in her lifetime.

“This community has bold aspirations to take this country in a direction we know we can go and become the America that we are all striving to become,” she said.

Reverend angel Kyodo williams then returned to the stage to help everyone find their spiritual bearings prior to the introduction of the next set of speakers.

Next up was Representative Summer Lee, the first black woman elected to represent Southwestern Pennsylvania and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Lee defeated a nine-year Democratic incumbent, Paul Costa, in 2018 with sixty-seven percent of the vote. Prior to running for office, Lee spent many years as an activist, notably working on the Fight for 15.

She said many people asked her if she was running to represent Pennsylvania’s 34th district because of Donald Trump, to which she responded that she ran to tackle the system that created Donald Trump, and she was tired of waiting for someone to effectively represent her community.

She went on to explain that the Democratic Party needs to make sure it is the big tent that it claims to be. “It’s a big tent that seems to get smaller when loud, proud, progressive black women show up,” she said. “A lot of people of color feel left behind by this movement. We have to move to focusing on the people who are oppressed by the systems that created Donald Trump.”

Lee concluded her remarks by encouraging progressive organizations and activists to lift up people of color up who are running for office by actively working on their campaigns, instead of simply paying lip service to the idea of diversity.

Next up was Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell, whose district encompasses part of Philadelphia. She explained that while she may not seem like a typical elected official, her background makes her uniquely qualified to represent her district. Many generations of her family have lived in poverty, struggled with substance abuse, and suffered from domestic violence.

She spoke movingly of her son, who was killed by gun violence, and reiterated her pledge to fight “until her last breath” to combat this public health crisis.

Johnson-Harrell noted that she was first Muslim woman elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and she knows she will not be the last.

“If you are not at the table, then you are on the menu,” she said, repeating a mantra that is catching on in progressive circles across the United States.

“Wherever you are, make sure you claim your authenticity and stand proud, but make room for your sisters and brothers who don’t look like you.”

The vaunted Barbara Lee then took the stage. Lee is a veteran United States Representative whose constituency includes Oakland and Berkeley, California.

She began by speaking about the last time she attended Netroots Nation two years ago, when there were no women in Pennsylvania’s Legislature. During that same conference two years ago, Lee recounted how she kept hearing the phrase “stay woke”, which became a personal rallying cry for her.

Lee said that it’s important to continue to “stay woke” in these dark and troubling times, where misinformation is everywhere. “Equality and the preservation of our planet is not a radical goal and it should not offend anyone,” she argued.

“We’re not just spinning our wheels right now [in the House of Representatives], we are showing people who we are and why progressive policies win with the American people [even if the bills will not pass Mitch McConnell’s Senate].”

She then touted a number of the bills that have advanced out of the Democratically-controlled House since January, including the critical electoral reforms included in H.R. 1, protecting net neutrality, implementing universal background checks on gun purchases, and equal pay for women.

There is still work to do, she observed.

Lee asked for the movement’s support as the House of Representatives acts to defend reproductive rights, research possible reparations for descendants of slaves, and move towards legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana.

She ended by saying we need to stand up to injustices everywhere and asked the more than three thousand attendees of Netroots Nation if they were all in.

Lee left the stage with chants of “All in!” from the crowd.

She the People founder Aimee Allison walked out moments later to introduce the last segment of the plenary session which was a panel made up of Representatives Deb Halaand, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar.

The squad at Netroots Nation 2019

Aimee Allison, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Deb Haaland onstage at Netroots Nation 2019 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Allison said that these four trailblazing women represented not just four congressional votes, but also for millions of people, they represent generations of the struggle for representation. “They represent the best of American democracy and yet, they have faced attacks all year from the right wing and Democratic Party leadership,” she said before welcoming them to the stage.

Allison began the panel by asking the quartet about these attacks, including Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments. Tlaib said that in their roles, they have to be authentic and defend the communities they were elected to protect.

“I have to be unwavering,” she said. “That’s what people sent me to Congress to do. I have to never back down. I have the third poorest congressional district in the country, and that is what continues to inspire me and move me forward.”

Omar agreed and continued by explaining there is a constant struggle with those woh have power and over the sharing of that power. “We have to continue to resist and insist on policies that push our country forward,” she said.

The discussion then transitioned to the crisis at our southern border — where families are being cruelly and unjustly torn apart by the Trump regime — and what the representatives witnessed when they traveled to detention centers.

Pressley said that “this is a time to be intentional with our movement and our coalition building.” She explained that these camps should be thought of as a “pilot program” that reveals what Trump and his cronies (like Stephen Miller) have in mind for the country’s incarcerated population. If the regime can get away with privacy and human rights violation at the border, it will scale up.

Halaand drew comparisons to the disenfranchisement of Native Americans, saying “these issues have been happening for a long time. You have more control over people when you separate them. It didn’t work then, and it is not working now.”

Omar, picking up on her colleagues’ earlier comments, remarked that instead of coming to the table, progressives should shake the table. “We never need to ask for permission or wait for permission to lead,” she said. “Every single vote we take and agenda we push forth is about making sure no one is being left behind.”

Tlaib drew perhaps the largest applause of the plenary session when she declared in response to a question from Allison that Donald Trump would be impeached.

“We’re going to impeach!” she told attendees.

The squad (as Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib, plus Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have become collectively known as) left the stage with Allison and Haaland to a sustained standing ovation, pausing first for a photo.

Later today, attendees of Netroots Nation 2019 will hear from four presidential candidates: Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, and Jay Inslee. That session will close out this year’s convention.

NPI will continue to offer coverage of Netroots Nation throughout the day right here on the Cascadia Advocate, as well as on In Brief.

Friday, July 12th, 2019

Joe Biden tries to revitalize his presidential campaign with foreign policy speech

Joe Biden showcased his foreign policy plans in a major speech on Thursday.

The former vice president rejected the Trump regime’s attempts at dealmaking and isolationism, arguing for a return to the Obama administration’s emphasis on broad international agreements and collaboration through global institutions.

If elected, Biden said he would call a summit of the world’s democratic countries and major companies in his first year in office.

Joe Biden speaking at the 2016 DNC

Joe Biden speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (Photo: Garrett Havens/NPI)

The aim of the summit would be to “refocus our common purpose” and to “challenge the private sector – including tech companies, social media companies – to make their own commitments to make democracy more resilient.”

Biden’s policy contains three major components: Firstly, he would repair democracy by remaking the education system and “ending various practices that are undermining our democracy at home.” Secondly, a Biden administration would work with allies to confront China and other “bad actors” in the global economy. Lastly, Biden plans to restore the hollowed-out State Department, so that the United States can be “back at the head of the table in mobilizing global action.”

The speech appeared to be an effort by Biden to revitalize his campaign after a poor performance in last month’s initial primary debate in Miami.

In the debate, Biden was challenged by Senator Kamala Harris regarding his record on racial justice and was told by Representative Eric Swalwell (who recently dropped out of the race) to “pass on the torch” to a younger generation.

Biden’s team is hoping that with this speech, they can change the conversation surrounding Biden’s record. Many Democratic voters find Biden’s record questionable (to say the least) when they look at his handling of issues like race and sexism. The Biden campaign would instead like to talk about Biden’s vast foreign policy experience and his record as Vice President (as opposed to his record as a United States Senator from Delaware).

Joe Biden with Ukranian officials

Joe Biden hopes to capitalize on his good relationships with foreign leaders. Here he can be seen meetsing Ukrainian lawmakers in 2014 (Photo: United States Embassy in Ukraine)

Biden’s speech could open the gates for more conversation about foreign policy, which has not received that much attention in the Democratic presidential contest so far, to the frustration of some commentators. However, by emphasizing his foreign policy platform, Biden is inviting criticism of a different part of his record.

In 2002, Biden was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq invasion and only slowly changed his tune on the disastrous, destabilizing conflict. Bernie Sanders has already criticized Biden for this, and Biden’s foreign policy speech could encourage more of his rivals to talk about the mistake of backing Bush’s invasion.

Furthermore, Biden’s policies sound great at a sound bite level, but any such plan will likely run into a series of real-world brick walls.

Biden’s call for a summit of democratic nations raises an important question: Who decides which countries are democratic?

Many countries in the world have the trappings of democracy, but it seems highly unlikely that Russia or Iran will be invited to the summit. The United States – the backer of authoritarian regimes Saudi Arabia – can’t expect to be regarded by the world community as a fair arbiter of a country’s democratic status.

Any attempt to “refocus common purpose” among democratic nations will be a difficult challenge given the diversity of ideology and national interests.

It’s hard to imagine Canada and Germany getting on the same page as India, Israel or Poland on a wide range of issues; all three are strong democracies, but they are currently governed by fanatical, anti-democratic, xenophobic leaders who are not enthusiastic about the international partnerships Biden wants to foster.

Inviting the world’s largest companies to participate in the proposed summit is also a recipe for trouble. Megacorporations are not representative of any population; they are inherently undemocratic. (How many employees get to vote for their chief executive officer and senior management?)

Not only that, but the call to tech giants to help strengthen democracy ignores that industry’s behavior. Google, for example, makes billions of dollars by helping China surveil its population, while the cult-of-personality surrounding Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is reminiscent of Stalin’s Russia. Including such actors in a meeting of democratic nations would be an insult to democracy itself.

However, the flaws in Biden’s plan might not matter. One plan for tackling one issue area generally doesn’t make or break a candidacy. The Democratic candidates’ differences on domestic concerns (from healthcare to housing) are likely to be more pronounced than their differences on foreign policy.

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

LIVE from Philadelphia: Netroots Nation 2020 to be held in Denver, Colorado in August 2020

America’s largest annual gathering of progressives will be heading to Denver, Colorado next year for its fifteenth meeting, Netroots Board Chair Arshad Hasan announced a short time ago during the Netroots Nation 2019 opening keynote.

Netroots Nation 2020

Netroots Nation 2020 will be in Denver

NN20 will take place at the Colorado Convention Center, which is located in the city’s downtown core. The Convention Center previously hosted the daytime activities of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in July of 2008 (evening general programs were held at the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field).

“Opened in 1990, with more than one hundred professional meeting planners working together with architects to design every aspect of the building, the result was simple; a sensible, state-of-the-art facility with easy traffic flow and everything you need in a stunningly beautiful building in the heart of downtown Denver,” the facility’s website says on its overview page.

“Expanded in 2005, well-known as one of the most practical and ‘user friendly’ meeting facilities, the Colorado Convention Center is now home to over 230+ events annually. The Colorado Convention Center is located within easy walking distance of nearly 10,000 hotel rooms, 300 restaurants, 9 theatres of the Denver Performing Arts Complex and a wide variety of shopping and retail outlets.”

The convention will return to August next year after being held in July this year (it is always in June, July, or August). The 2020 Democratic National Convention will have occurred several weeks prior in Milwaukee, while the 2020 Republican National Convention will be held soon after in Charlotte.

Thursday, August 13th will be the opening day of the 2020 Netroots Nation Convention and Saturday, August 15th will be the closing day.

The host hotel for next year will be the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, located at 650 15th Street.

If you’re interested in attending, you can register at the early-bird rate here.

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

LIVE from Philadelphia: Netroots Nation 2019 opens with a focus on equity, justice for all

Good afternoon! Representatives of our team at the Northwest Progressive Institute are in Philadelphia today through Saturday for Netroots Nation, where we are participating in trainings, panel discussions, and plenary sessions featuring progressive leaders and activists from across the country.

Netroots Nation began in 2006 as YearlyKos (so named because it was organized by people who met each other online through Daily Kos) and has been held every summer since. This year’s gathering in Philadelphia is the fourteenth.

Traditionally, the programming on the first day of the convention concludes with a conference-wide opening keynote in the evening. And this year was no exception.

There were multiple emotional and engaging speakers tonight, including Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton from the District of Columbia, who emphasized the importance of giving residents of the District full, representative citizenship (no taxation without representation!), and Jess Morales Rocketto from Families Belong Together and the National Domestic Workers Association who spoke about the horrific conditions at the immigration detention centers at our border.

Rashad Robinson from Color of Change delivered a powerful speech in which he talked about embracing racial justice and not ignoring the impact of culture.

He started by explaining the origins of Color of Change, which was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest storm in history.

“It wasn’t just the flood, it was the flood of bad decisions long before and long after,” he said, which left many people in pain and created so much loss. There was a realization that no one cared about upsetting black people. So Color of Change was born as a new way for everyday people to take action and create change, he said. Their goal was to “create a less hostile and more human world, not just for black people, but all people.”

They are working to make sure corporations are not let off the hook for the “right-wing takeover” and for creating a false sense of neutrality. Lately, they have been highly engaged in pushing technology companies to make changes.

This is connected to Robinson’s point that we need to pay more attention to culture. “We can’t think we are better than the people we are trying to mobilize and engage,” he said. When we ignore the ways that culture precedes policy and where and how people get their views (hinting, it seems, at social media as much as traditional media), we make mistakes of not truly understanding the way that things are going, he said.

“Culture is power,” he said, “and far too often we give that power away for far too cheap.” He gave the examples of companies participating in Pride events and rainbow-clad advertising, while donating to anti-gay organizations and politicians; giving lip service to Black History Month; or talking about women’s empowerment when “they care neither about women nor empowerment.”

“Presence does not equal power,” Robinson said. So while representation is certainly important, it is not nearly enough.

We have to think carefully about what we center: “Racial justice wins.”

It is difficult to make change issue by issue, but if we work on racial justice, we can create wins on multiple issues, including healthcare, wages, and education. “Racial justice isn’t charity, it’s strategy,” he said. His final point was that it’s not enough to have a list of issues to address if there is not joy to keep people moving and the infrastructure to make things happen.

Next, Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants, spoke about the power of collective bargaining to create broad prosperity. 

Recalling when she first started working as a flight attendant and did not receive her first paycheck, she talked about how her union “fought for me in a way I couldn’t fight for myself. In our union we are never alone.”

During her speech, she remembered colleagues who lost their lives working on the flights that were targeted in the September 11th terrorist attacks, and telling the story of the Transportation Security Agency worker who committed suicide during the recent Trump promulgated federal government shutdowns. 

But Nelson also spoke forcefully about the power of unions, and twice quoted famed union leader Mother Jones, including her statement, “You will fight and win. You will fight and lose. But above all, you must fight.” 

Nelson also encouraged people to join, build, and lead unions in their communities, saying that it is a great way to build power and create change, no matter where we are in an election cycle.

She noted that Americans like to feel in solidarity, and that during the government shutdown, some TSA agents noticed how supportive the traveling public was of their situation. The threat of a strike that would shutdown the nation’s air traffic control system forced Trump’s hand, giving him no choice but to back down.

“Solidarity and the courage of working people is the greatest force for good in history,” she said. “Change comes fast when risk becomes to great for those in power.” So build your union, build power, shift the balance, and create change.

Nelson then introduced Kat Payne, a Philadelphia Marriott worker, who is fighting to form a union. Nelson provided information for a direct action tomorrow in support of the workers. Payne came to the stage wearing her housekeeping uniform and a large red flower in her afro. She said she is part of the “often silent and invisible army that makes this city thrive,” noting that hospitality is largest-growing industry in the city of Philadelphia.

She also explained that Philadelphia is the poorest big city in country. That’s part of why she and her coworkers are working with Unite Here to unionize, arguing that one job should be enough.

Payne herself works two jobs: housekeeper at Marriott during the day, and bartending at night. Marriott, she noted, is the largest hotel company in the world, so they should be able to pay their workers a decent wage.

Payne finished her speech by saying that there is a revolution in every generation. “I am a proud revolutionary. Let’s make history together.”

She then introduced Reverend Gregory Holston, a local leader in Philadelphia, who has worked with her and other organizers with UNITE HERE.

Holston is the Executive Director of POWER, a coalition of eighty-three congregations in and around Philadelphia working to create change in Pennsylvania. They have member congregations that are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Humanist, and in communities that are urban, rural, and suburban, and with people of all races. They have worked with unions, are part of an education coalition, and in the criminal justice reform movement.

“When we stand together, we can change our systems, he said, noting a nearly twenty-five decrease in prison population in Philadelphia in the last year.

He then reflected on the high poverty rate that Philadelphia experiences (26%, which equals about 400,000 people, about half of which are in deep poverty).

For the last fifty to sixty years, Holston said, people who call themselves progressives have run the City of Philadelphia, but things have not gotten better for many people. So who are the real progressives, he asked.

Who are the people that are really gonna stand up and create progress?

“If we’re not making progress, than you can’t be a progressive.”

He said the problem is that people don’t attack the real issue and really don’t understand the depth of racism and how it affects the nation.

Echoing Robinson’s comments, Holston said that people try to take on issues, but end up trying to treat symptoms instead of addressing the underlying causes.

You can’t talk about economic justice without talking about reparations, or you’re not a real progressive, he said. You can’t talk about mass incarceration if you don’t talk about vacating all records and pay back wages to people that were wrongfully convicted or were victims of the “War on Drugs”.

You can’t talk about climate justice without standing up for black and brown kids with asthma and black and brown people with cancer who have been disproportionately impacted by the siting of environmentally damaging waste disposal and other projects.

“I’m looking for a movement, I’m looking for real change,” he said. “Incremental change is not changing the lives” of people who really need it, he said.

Netroots Nation Board Chair Arshad Hasan, who had welcomed everyone to the convention early in the evening’s program, then cam out to announce that next year’s Netroots Nation will be held in Denver, Colorado.

Hasan explained that during the previous two years, Netroots Nation was held in Atlanta and New Orleans, as it was important to build power in the South, and that now the Convention will be heading to the Rocky Mountain West, a region that progressives have been feverishly working to turn blue.

He then announced the final speaker of the evening: Alicia Garza, co-creator of Black Lives Matter and the Black Futures Lab.

Garza discussed how Black communities are regularly left out of the progressive movement, “at our own peril.” She said the black communities are often used as “window dressing,” to make the movement look diverse, but that the issues and needs of the black community do not factor into the agendas of the campaigns. They are “symbolically but not substantively included,” she said.

Many candidates and elected representatives say that they love and respect black communities, she said, but how much are we actually investing in them? There are “too many fried chicken photo ops and not enough town halls,” she said to applause, and “too many of us are providing cover for this kind of nonsense.”

Recently, the Black Futures Lab conducted a black census, the largest survey of black Americans in over one hundred and fifty years. Some of their findings included that 85% of respondents support a $15 minimum wage, and 90% believe it is the role of government to provide healthcare for all Americans.

Black communities want the same things that most of America wants, she said, yet we can’t say with any certainty that America wants those things for black communities. The most common thing they heard from respondents in the survey was that no one had ever asked them what they wanted for their future.

Black communities are being impacted by the same issues as other communities, but often more intensely (as we saw in 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri). 

“Stop telling us to ignore identity politics and instead to the work to dismantle the disparities,” she said, after listing some of the ways that black people are disproportionately impacted by issues like low wages and healthcare. Instead of using us as window dressing, consider that Black communities are the portals to the future,” she said, and can be a more substantive part of the movement.

Finally, turning to the 2020 election, Garza said it “cannot be won by playing it safe or playing to the middle.” The current regime has stripped middle of all meaning, she said. “Democracy can only be realized if everyone can participate. More is possible when we do better by all of us,” she concluded.

Garza was then joined on stage briefly by the Reverend angel Kyodo williams, who has become a fixture at Netroots Nation over the years.

Kyodo williams (who had previously delivered the convocation) asked how to respond to white people that ask questions about what they are supposed to do in response to messages about focusing on issues that affect black communities.

Garza replied emphatically, “Black people’s issues are your issues too!” and then repeated it again a second time to further drive it home.

Kyodo williams then spoke about shame and how it is built into culture to make people silent. She asked what people, including white people who might experience shame around racism, can and should do to work through that shame.

“We have to transform that shame into deep and abiding love for one another, Garza said, elaborating that we have to keep showing up, as shame is often what keeps us from showing up. Even when you are experiencing challenges with one another, “Keep turning towards each other,” she said.

Garza and Kyodo williams’ conversation concluded the opening plenary session, bringing an end to the first day of Netroots Nation programming.

NPI will continue to offer coverage throughout the next two days of the convention, right here on the Cascadia Advocate, as well as on In Brief.

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Documentary Review: “Knock Down the House” inspires with stories of working people running for Congress

To those not paying attention, it might have seemed like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came out of nowhere to win the Democratic primary for the United States House of Representatives in New York’s 14th District last year.

“Knock Down the House,” a new documentary currently streaming on Netflix, tells the story of her campaign as well as those of three other women who were all recruited and backed by Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress.

These organizations started working in 2017 to recruit “outsider” candidates to run against established politicians in the 2018 election. Among the over 10,000 people nominated by friends and family were Ocasio-Cortez, whose brother nominated her, Amy Vilela in Las Vegas, Cori Bush in St. Louis, and Paula Jean Swearengin in Coal City, West Virginia, who are all featured in the film.

Isra Allison of Brand New Congress explains in the film that their organization doesn’t care about political party, they just want to help elect working people, as they believe this will change politics and they way people see our institutions.

Similarly, Corbin Trent of Justice Democrats says that the biggest issue is the need to remove the corrupting influence of money in politics.

He also notes that Congress is eight-one percent male, mostly white, and has a lot of millionaires and lawyers in its ranks. (In our money-dominated system, about one out of every two members of Congress is a millionaire.)

Saikat Chakrabarti, also from Justice Democrats, says that most people in Congress are just thinking about winning the next election and keeping their jobs. “That’s not the kind of thinking that’s going to fix climate change, or mass incarceration, or the these giant problems that are facing us,” he concluded.

These organizations and their slate of candidates contributed to several new records set in 2018 midterm elections, which saw unprecedented numbers of women and people of color run for office. Many Democratic incumbents in Congress saw primary challenges for the first time in years.

Among the other candidates Justice Democrats supported in 2018 but who weren’t featured in the film were Washington’s Pramila Jayapal (representing the 7th District), Rashida Talib in Michigan’s 13th, Ilhan Omar in the Minnesota 5th, and Ayanna Pressley from the 7th District in Massachusetts. Their website has a form where people can nominate a person they think should run, or you can nominate a district where they think a progressive Democrat needs to be running.

Ocasio-Cortez is shown speaking at a panel discussion at Netroots Nation in Atlanta in 2017 (a session NPI covered here on the Cascadia Advocate) addressing the attitude she and some of her fellow first-time candidates get of “how dare you mount a challenge to someone that’s established?”

“If they’re good enough, they’ll win,” she says matter-of-factly.

“If we’re good enough, we’ll win.”

Also on the Netroots panel was Swearengin, who was running for the United States Senate in West Virginia against right wing Democrat Joe Manchin.

In the film she is shown back home in Coal City, pointing out all the houses where one of the inhabitants has had cancer and then overlooking a closed mining site that used to be a large hillside but in now a scarred landscape.

“If another country [came] in here, blew up our mountains and poisoned our water, we’d go to war,” Swearengin says bitterly. “But industry can.”

While Swearingin campaigned about the damage caused by the coal industry, Amy Vilela in Nevada’s 4th District’s core issue was Medicare for All.

Vilela had been a single mom on food stamps, worked her way through college, and eventually became a Chief Financial Officer of a company.

But she quit that job and sold her house in order to run for Congress. One of her opponents in the race was a former congressman who most recently worked at a lobbying, highlighting some of the ethics problems in our government.

Vilela was inspired to run after her then-twenty-two year-old daughter died two years prior to the filming of the documentary.

She had gone to the emergency room with symptoms of a blood clot, but with no proof of insurance, the hospital would not run the necessary tests. A short time later, she had a pulmonary embolism and was declared brain dead.

Thirty-thousand Americans die every year because of lack of insurance.

“I will never stop,” says Vilela emphatically.

“I’m not going to allow my daughter to have died for nothing.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign didn’t emphasize one particular policy direction, but rather the need for wholesale change across issues.

“Everyday Americans deserve to be represented by everyday Americans,” she says at a Brand New Congress summit with other candidates in her cohort.

Early in the film, she is shown working at her bartending job, and she explains, “It’s called ‘working class’ for a reason: because you are working non-stop.”

While at home with her partner Riley Roberts, Ocasio-Cortez compares a flyer from her campaign to a mailer Joe Crowley sent out to everyone in his district. His is missing key information about the primary, among other things.

“One of these core, core issues for the Democratic establishment is that their consultants are garbage,” Roberts says. “They’re losing. It’s scary that this is, like, the fourth most powerful Democrat in country [in the House of Representatives], and this is the type of stuff that he’s doing.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s strategic and compassionate campaign would, as we all now know, lead to her upsetting Crowley in the Democratic primary. In a district that is 85% Democratic, whoever wins the primary is basically guaranteed to win the general election, which Ocasio-Cortez did of course go on to do.

The other three women featured in the film unfortunately lost their campaigns, but Swearingen and Bush are already gearing up for another race in 2020.

Vilela has not announced if she intends to run again.

Despite only Ocasio-Cortez winning her race, the film ends on the hopeful note of her and Roberts visiting the Capitol in Washington, D.C. a few days after the election. As she sits on a bench by herself, Ocasio-Cortez tells a story to the camera of her first visit to our nation’s Capitol city.

Her father, who died while she was in college, brought her to the District of Columbia when she was five years old. He pointed at the many shining monuments and said, “You know this all belongs to us. This is our government. It belongs to us. So all of this stuff is yours.”

If you are needing a jolt of inspiration to take back our government from Trump and his swamp-creatures, I highly recommend watching “Knock Down the House.” The powerful and passionate women profiled may not all have won their campaigns, but they and the thousands of others who ran for the first time in 2018 have set the stage for future successes… if we all keep fighting.

Monday, July 8th, 2019

Carolyn Long is challenging Jaime Herrera-Beutler again in Washington’s 3rd District

The Democratic effort to flip Washington’s 3rd Congressional District blue officially took flight today with the news that Democratic challenger Carolyn Long has decided to seek a rematch with Republican incumbent Jaime Herrera-Beutler.

Long, a professor of political science and constitutional law at WSU Vancouver, turned heads around the country last cycle when she built a fiercely spirited, credible campaign against Herrera-Beutler in the span of just a few months.

Long, a dark horse candidate, went from being largely unknown in Washington politics to a grassroots sensation in a very short amount of time.

In the Top Two election, Long came in second place with 35.26% of the vote, behind Herrera-Beutler, who managed only a meager 42.07%.

In the general election, Long secured 47.33% of the vote, keeping Herrera-Beutler in the low fifties for the first time since 2010, and outperforming even the vaunted Denny Heck, who unsuccessfully sought to keep the 3rd in Democratic hands in 2010 after Brian Baird decided to retire.

(Heck ran again for the United States House in 2012 in the newly-drawn 10th Congressional District, and has represented it ever since.)

Long is now hoping to finish what she started last cycle. By starting now, she’ll have six months of lead time beyond what she had last year and can make use of the networks she developed last year during her first run for Congress.

Long’s 2020 campaign will focus on healthcare, infrastructure, and education, emphasizing the same priorities she previously campaigned on in 2018.

Long does not support eliminating private health insurance with a Medicare For All single payer system, but does support expanding the Patient Protection Act with a public option, as many Democratic candidates for President do.

Long kicked off her campaign with appearances in Longview, Centralia, and Vancouver. She deliberately made her first stop in Lewis County, a traditionally Republican stronghold that rarely votes for Democrats or progressive causes.

An unapologetic proponent of retail politics, Long is serious about getting out and around the 3rd Congressional District, which spans Southwest Washington.

“There is an impression that it is a red district, but I think it is a competitive district,” Long told The Columbian, the district’s principal newspaper.

The Washington State Democratic Party agrees, and has made capturing WA-03 a top electoral priority for 2020. Republicans, for their part, have named Herrera-Beutler as one of their most vulnerable incumbents — an acknowledgment that Democrats have a real chance of flipping the 3rd in 2020.

“The experience last time showed that people really were interested in the campaign, that our messages reflected those of the people of southwest Washington,” Long told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“And it shows us we need to keep working.”

In 2018, Long won in Clark County but lost Cowlitz, Lewis, Pacific, Thurston, Skamania, Wahkiakum, and Klickitat to Herrera-Beutler.

Cowlitz, which is home to Longview and Kelso, is the second biggest county in the district. Long’s loss there was by a double-digit margin, which is partly why she came up short in the district as a whole. To win next time around, Long must focus on making Cowlitz a true battleground, flipping Pacific to her side, running up her margin of victory in Clark, and minimizing her losses elsewhere.

She will likely have more help for this second attempt. With WA-08 now in the Democratic column after Kim Schrier’s historic victory last year in the midterms, WA-03 will finally get the party’s undivided attention. The table is now set for a major electoral showdown in Southwest Washington in 2020.

Friday, July 5th, 2019

Another Tim Eyman scam bites the dust: I-1648 fails to qualify for the November ballot

There goes another one.

Disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman was forced to admit failure yet again today as his scheme to overturn the Legislature’s 2019 revenue reforms met its demise in Olympia at the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex on Union Street.

Initiative 1648 sought to blow up the state budget by repealing the modest changes the House and Senate made to balance Washington’s tax code as part of the 2019-2021 operating budget. It also sought to slap a one year expiration date on any future revenue increase not subjected to a public vote.

Although Eyman filed I-1648 back in January, he did not launch a signature drive for it until May, after the legislative session had concluded and after he had thrown in the towel on Referendum 80, his short-lived effort to force a vote on the new salary schedule approved by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries For Elected Officials for legislators and statewide elected officials.

A frustrated Tim Eyman rubs his eyes

An unhappy Tim Eyman was flanked by glum followers at the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex in Olympia. (Photo: Sherry Bockwinkel for NPI).

Eager to make I-1648 more than just another forgettable ploy for money, Eyman teamed up with the secessionist group “Liberty State” PAC (or LSPAC) to put some muscle behind the measure instead of phoning it in.

(LSPAC is the militant, Matt Shea-affiliated group that seeks to break up Washington State and carve a large right wing utopia out of one of the two pieces, which would stretch from the Cascade Mountains to the Idaho border.)

LSPAC giddily latched on to I-1648, distributing petitions to right wing activists far and wide. It organized a Facebook group for I-1648 and created a database of locations where I-1648 petitions could be found, delighting Eyman, who cranked up his hype machine as loud as it could go, enlisting his amen chorus on right wing talk radio to advertise I-1648. John Carlson, Kirby Wilbur, Dori Monson, and Saul Spady all dutifully pitched in to give Eyman free airtime.

But it wasn’t enough.

Despite predicting a “tsunami” of signatures for I-1648 on Dori Monson’s show earlier this week, the petitions Eyman was counting on never materialized, demonstrating once again how difficult it is to get on the ballot without hired help.

Late in the afternoon, with the clock ticking on the deadline to submit signatures in support of initiatives to the people for 2019, a deflated Eyman finally conceded defeat. Because the Secretary of State will only accept petitions that contain at least the minimum number of signatures required to qualify, Eyman and his cohorts ended up having nothing to turn in.

Initially, Eyman was evasive with respect to offering an estimate of how many signatures had been gathered. Under pressure to supply a number, Eyman eventually said that nearly 200,000 had been gathered. He repeated that figure in a video recorded in his car and posted to Facebook a short while later.

We have no way of knowing if that number holds any water, however, because Tim Eyman is about the least trustworthy person in the history of the State of Washington. As noted above, there will not be an official count of I-1648 signatures since no petitions were actually turned in for processing.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s staff, however, had assumed there would be petitions to process for I-1648, because Eyman had made an appointment with them to turn in signatures. Consequently, they had workers standing by at taxpayer expense to begin the validation and verification process.

This is not the first time an Eyman signature drive has ended this way.

In 2004, Eyman and his associates Jack and Mike Fagan hauled boxes of petitions for I-864 into the Elections Annex to use as props. They proceeded to hold a press conference congratulating themselves on running an amazingly successful campaign despite not having collected enough signatures to qualify. I-864 — a scheme to slash property taxes — disappeared into the dustbin.

Two years later, Eyman linked up with the fundamentalist right to spearhead a referendum campaign intended to overturn Washington’s groundbreaking law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

With minutes to go before the deadline, Eyman poured himself some sparkling cider and proceeded to announce the campaign had come up short, to the great dismay of multiple right wing church pastors and their political operatives, who proceeded to point fingers at each other in quick fashion.

As with I-864, no petitions were ultimately submitted.

In our statement reacting to the demise of I-1648, I explained that the measure represented a significant and grave threat to countless public services that benefit Washingtonians, from education and behavioral health to firefighting and fish passage modernization. Passage of the measure would have blown up the budget, endangering our communities and jeopardizing good paying jobs.

The demise of I-1648 is especially welcome considering that Eyman has already gotten something destructive onto this year’s ballot. That would be I-976, a scheme to wipe out billions in bipartisan transportation investments at the state, regional, and local levels. We’re working to defeat I-976, and we invite you to join us. If we can send I-976 to the graveyard where it belongs, then Tim Eyman will be zero for seven since 2015 — a truly unprecedented losing streak.

We know from experience that the only way to stop Eyman’s destructive initiative factory is to take him on and beat him. Let’s make it happen!

Thursday, July 4th, 2019

The Declaration of Independence, two hundred and forty-three years later

In accordance with tradition, we are reposting the text of the Declaration of Independence here on The Cascadia Advocate for your enjoyment. The Declaration was primarily authored by our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who drew heavily on the thinking of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke to persuasively lay out the case for the independence of the United States.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

The Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

The famous painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee presenting their work to Congress (John Trumbull/U.S. Congress)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren.

We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare…

… That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Alaska’s right wing governor uses his line item veto pen to attack state universities

Higher education is under attack in the State of Alaska like never before — and the man leading the charge is the state’s chief executive, Mike Dunleavy.

The University of Alaska is the biggest target of Dunleavy’s line-item veto pen, losing $130 million in state support atop the $5 million cut approved earlier by lawmakers. The resulting reduction is nearly 41% of the state’s support for the university system. University officials said the cuts would be devastating to the UA system.

“I believe they’re going to be able to work through this … I don’t believe they can be all things to all people, and I think that’s generally speaking, the state of Alaska. We can’t continue to be all things for all people,” the governor said Friday morning in a news conference that was broadcast statewide.

What Dunleavy really meant to say is that he doesn’t believe in the idea of public education. Like so many radical right wingers across this country, he believes tax dollars should only be spent on corporate subsidies, defense contracts, and law enforcement. All other public services ought to be gutted.

The notion that the University of Alaska is “going to be able to work through” a forty percent cut is absurd, and demonstrates what a fool Dunleavy is.

This is the kind of revenue hit the University system may never recover from.

If the State of Alaska has a foremost economic engine, it’s the University of Alaska. The University is a force for good jobs and economic prosperity.

Dunleavy doesn’t care about Alaska’s future or investing in Alaska’s people. He only cares about his myopic, self-serving, short term agenda of austerity measures.

Everything must be sacrificed in pursuit of a fatter Permanent Fund Dividend.

University of Alaska officials were aghast.

“There’s no question this budget — if not overridden by the Legislature — would be devastating to the university and to our mission and to the state and to our economy now and for years to come,” [University of Alaska President Jim] Johnsen told the UA Board of Regents at an emergency meeting Friday.

Dunleavy’s veto of $130.25 million in state funding for UA is on top of a $5 million cut already approved by the Legislature.

In total, that’s a 41% reduction in state support to the public university system compared to last year. It’s the largest cut in the university’s 100-year history, UA officials said.

[…]

John Davies, chairman of the UA Board of Regents, called the veto “completely irresponsible.” A cut that massive must be phased in over several years — not days before the fiscal year starts, he said.

“To ask us to take a $135 million cut in one year? It’s just beyond the pale,” Davies said. “Whole chunks of the university are going to have to disappear, that’s the only way we can possibly balance the budget. We don’t have any slush funds anywhere.

Here’s Johnsen’s letter to the university community:

University of Alaska response to Dunleavy attack on Alaska's universities

Our team at NPI would like to see how well Dunleavy operates as Governor of Alaska with a sudden forty percent reduction in the funding for his office.

“The fundamental question is now squarely before Alaskans. What’s more important: a healthy economy, our schools, university, and seniors, or doubling the Permanent Fund Dividend at the expense of essential state services? The governor has made his choice clear,” wrote Alaska House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, in a statement sharply critical of Dunleavy’s vetoes.

Alaska’s Legislature could override some or all of the line item vetoes when it gathers for a special session next week. But that would require supermajorities of each chamber of Alaska’s Legislature. Some of Dunleavy’s allies would have to vote against him in order for sense and sensibility to prevail.

NPI stands with everyone who has risen up in opposition to this devastating attack on higher education in the State of Alaska.

We call on every legislator, whether Democratic, Republican, or independent, to vote to overturn this extremely harmful, shortsighted budget veto.