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

Stick it to Tim Eyman by voting “Maintained” on all “Advisory Votes” (Push Polls 16, 17, 18)

Washington’s thirty-nine counties have now mailed ballots for the November 2017 general election. Although there are no statewide initiatives or referenda this year (which is unusual and hasn’t happened since 1985) we unfortunately still have Tim Eyman’s unconstitutional “advisory votes” cluttering up our ballots.

Until we can get rid of these stupid things, we urge you to join us in sticking it to Tim Eyman by voting “Maintained” on all three of them. Voting “Maintained” is the best way to protest the existence of what are really push polls cooked up by Eyman to stoke anti-tax sentiment from Neah Bay to Clarkston.

Vote Maintained on Tim Eyman's push polls

Vote “Maintained” to stick it to Tim Eyman. Click on the graphic to see our full ballot guide for 2017.

These push polls are required by a ten year old Eyman initiative that hasn’t been fully struck down or repealed yet: I-960, which narrowly passed in 2007.

For the first few years after I-960 was enacted, the provision requiring the push polls was not enforced, with even Eyman having admittedly forgotten about it.

Since 2012, elections officials have complied with the provision at significant cost to taxpayers — even though it is probably not constitutional. (Washington’s Constitution only provides for binding initiatives and referenda plus constitutional amendments; it doesn’t authorize any other kind of ballot measure).

We maintain a page over at Permanent Defense which nicely breaks down what the “advisory votes” are, and why they are really right wing push polls subsidized with taxpayer dollars. Be sure to check out this resource if you haven’t before.

As the “advisory votes” are an Eyman scheme, they are only triggered when the Legislature adopts a bill that raises or recovers revenue for the state treasury. Conversely, bills that cut taxes or public services do not trigger an “advisory vote”, because cuts are to Eyman’s liking.

The three bills that the Attorney General identified as raising/recovering revenue this year are part of the state’s operating budget. They are:

Tim Eyman actually sued the state in August to demand that provisions within the aforementioned bills be subjected separately to an “advisory vote”. That would have resulted in even more wasteful clutter on our ballots. Thankfully, Eyman lost.

Joining NPI in urging Washingtonians to vote “Maintained” on all of Eyman’s latest batch of push polls are The Stranger, Fuse Washington, and The Seattle Times (Yes, The Seattle Times! Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.)

The Stranger’s mantra — especially with respect to House Bill 2242 — is “Vote Maintained, then demand better funding solutions from our state legislators.”

We agree. For the time being, vote “Maintained” — the best way to stick it to Tim Eyman. In 2018, we’ll once again have opportunities to insist that the Legislature finally take steps to make our upside down, worst in the nation tax code less regressive. And we may end up with a Senate Democratic majority that will be far more receptive to the reforms we need than the Senate Republican Caucus of No.

Vice President Joe Biden endorses Manka Dhingra for the Washington State Senate

Democratic State Senate hopeful Manka Dhingra has picked up the endorsement of Vice President Joe Biden, her campaign announced this afternoon.

“I am proud to endorse Manka Dhingra to represent the Eastside in the Washington State Senate,” said Biden in a statement. “Manka is an experienced prosecutor who has dedicated her life to strengthening her community. I especially appreciate her efforts to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault, protect victims of crime, and advocate for improved mental health programs. If elected, she’ll break the gridlock on issues like gun responsibility, women’s rights, and education funding. She will help solve real problems for Washington’s middle class families.”

Biden served with distinction and honor as Vice President of the United States from January 2009 until January 2017. Previously, he represented Delaware for decades in the United States Senate. Biden received the enthusiastic support of voters across the Eastside in 2008 and 2012 when he and President Barack Obama were the Democratic nominees for the highest offices in the land.

“I deeply appreciate Vice President Biden’s endorsement,” said Dhingra. “Like him, I’m committed to ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed, that everyone is respected and valued before the law whether they are a woman, LGBTQ+ or an immigrant, and that every middle class family can afford to live and grow without fear of losing their health care or their home. Vice President Biden’s tireless commitment to criminal justice reform and opposing domestic violence is inspiring and I’ve worked hard on these same issues here in our community.”

Biden was the principal drafter of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013.

Biden’s endorsement will undoubtedly help Dhingra make her closing pitch to voters. The deputy King County prosecutor bested her Republican opponent Jinyoung Lee Englund in the Top Two election by more than ten points.

In last year’s heated contest for Senate in the 41st District, Democratic standard bearer Lisa Wellman’s campaign received a similar boost from President Barack Obama, who also endorsed Mike Pellicciotti and Kristine Reeves in the 30th LD.

Wellman went on to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Steve Litzow, while Pellicciotti defeated Linda Kochmar and Reeves defeated Teri Hickel.

Seattle Times endorses Jinyoung Englund to keep spiteful Senate Republicans in power

Continuing a long tradition of endorsing Republicans in key state and federal races, the Blethen-controlled Seattle Times editorial board has belatedly published an endorsement of Jinyoung Lee Englund, the Republican Party’s candidate for the state Senate in Washington’s 45th Legislative District.

To the surprise of many, the Times neglected to make an endorsement in the contest prior to the Top Two election — which Englund’s Democratic opponent Manka Dhingra easily won. But with ballots due to be mailed for the November general election in a matter of days, the Blethens have decided to back Englund.

Why? Because a Jinyoung Englund win means that Republican Mark Schoesler and his spiteful Caucus of No will remain in power and remain in a position to obstruct, quash, and delay… which the Blethens absurdly say is in the state’s best interest.

The Times’ unsigned editorial tacitly admits the editorial board considers Manka Dhingra to be the superior candidate. “A senior deputy King County prosecutor, Dhingra has a longer list of professional accomplishments, working on issues important to our region and this editorial board, such as crisis-intervention training, mental health and criminal-justice reform,” the editorial notes.

This editorial is the latest proof that the person really doesn’t matter more than the party, at least not to newspaper publishers like Frank Blethen.

We seem to hear that mantra a lot from newspaper editorial boards in this state, including The Seattle Times. If they truly believed in people above parties, they’d make endorsement decisions based on merit, and merit alone. But, as we can see, for the Blethens, party politics trumps qualifications, resume, and experience.

Manka Dhingra may have lived on the Eastside for decades. She may know her neighbors exceptionally well. She may have a “longer list of professional accomplishments”, in the words of the editorial, than her opponent. She may be better prepared to assume this important elected position than Englund.

But none of that ultimately matters.

What does matter is that Manka Dhingra belongs to the Democratic Party and would vault the party into the majority in the Senate if she wins.

Democratic control of both legislative chambers is not something Frank Blethen wants. Hence, the Times editorial page is backing Englund.

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

In other words: Vote Republican! The Times is basically saying to voters in the 45th: Don’t worry about assessing which candidate is better qualified to represent you — just vote for the candidate who identifies with the Republican Party.

I happen to be a partisan voter and party official myself, so I have no problem with the logic of recommending a candidate or voting for a candidate because they belong to a particular political party. But I do think it’s ridiculous when newspaper editorial boards try to have it both ways… profess to be above party politics, but later turn around and make endorsement decisions on the basis of party politics.

I emphatically disagree that divided government is serving the state well. Back in the summer, I filed a lengthy post here explaining why Mark Schoesler and his Caucus of No need to be ousted from power by voters. Read that post if you’d like to hear the Times’ endorsement rationale rebutted and refuted.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the Blethen-owned Times has a long tradition of endorsing Republican candidates in key state and federal races going back to the turn of the century. This is an editorial page that has backed:

  • Dino Rossi over Chris Gregoire (twice);
  • Mike McGavick over Maria Cantwell (in 2006);
  • Cathy McMorris Rodgers over Don Barbieri (2004);
  • Dave Reichert for the United States House over all of his Democratic opponents except for Dave Ross (2004) and Suzan DelBene (2010);
  • Susan Hutchison over Dow Constantine (2009);
  • Rob McKenna over Jay Inslee (2012);
  • … and perhaps most infamously, George W. Bush over Al Gore (2000).

In most of the aforementioned matchups, the Democratic candidate has gone on to win in spite of not receiving the Blethens’ support… and then, after demonstrating a capacity to govern, has ended up securing an endorsement from the Blethens in the course of their next campaign. This has happened to U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Governor Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and others.

When endorsing Republicans for executive positions, the Times’ rallying cry has often been, we need a culture change and the Democratic candidate can’t provide it. For example, here’s what they said in 2009 when they endorsed Susan Hutchison:

Susan Hutchison is a political outsider and brings a host of fresh ideas of how to tackle the budget. Because of this potential, she earns the endorsement of The Seattle Times.

Her opponent, Metropolitan King County Council Chairman Dow Constantine, has been on the council since 2002 and has led the budget committee. He is an insider who has had his chance to effect change at the county. He has not done so and it seems unlikely he would be able to as the executive.

Emphasis is mine. Constantine routed Hutchison in the election and quickly established a reputation as a competent executive with a passion for excellence.

Four years later, in 2013, the Blethens admitted they were wrong about Dow and enthusiastically hitched their wagon to Team Constantine.

Dow Constantine deserves to be re-elected — and no doubt will be re-elected — as King County executive.

He has done a good job even in the eyes of many who voted for his opponent. He has been an able administrator of county government during a time of prolonged economic weakness.

Because of his success, nobody of stature has run against him. His opponent, Alan Lobdell, is a man who has never held political office and has raised almost no money.

Emphasis is mine.

Similarly, in 2000, the Times said George W. Bush would make a good president.

Bush won, unlike Susan Hutchison, and turned out to be a disaster, prompting the Seattle Times to backtrack and endorse John Kerry in 2004.

Four years ago, this page endorsed George W. Bush for president. We cannot do so again — because of an ill-conceived war and its aftermath, undisciplined spending, a shrinkage of constitutional rights and an intrusive social agenda. The Bush presidency is not what we had in mind. Our endorsement of John Kerry is not without reservations, but he is head and shoulders above the incumbent.

If voters in the 45th District ignore the Blethens’ ill-advised prescription for Washington’s future and elect Manka Dhingra, she may well go on to earn an endorsement from them next year when she stands for election again.

The Blethens and their editorial board are on record in support of many ideas they know don’t have a chance of passing the Legislature so long as Republicans run the Senate… like the Voting Rights Act or tougher restrictions on oil trains. Don’t they want to see those ideas get considered? If not 2018, when?

The longer Republican control of the state Senate goes on, the worse off Washington will be. The status quo has produced disastrous results. Especially this year. We have no capital budget and a hastily-assembled operating budget that didn’t get the public input and scrutiny it needed before it was voted on.

Three times in four years, Republicans have brought the state to the verge of a government shutdown in order to gain leverage in budget talks. Their behavior keeps getting more extreme, and their rhetoric more arrogant.

And yet the Blethens want to keep them in charge. They are so invested in the concept of divided government they’re willing to overlook awful results.

But I imagine my neighbors in the 45th will feel differently as they sit down to cast their ballots these next few weeks. This district voted for change in August by a big margin. Now we’ll see if we get a similar result in the final round.

Senate Republicans naturally don’t want to give up their power. But if voters in the 45th take it away, the 2018 legislative session could go from being more of the same gridlock we’ve endured for years to refreshingly fruitful and productive, giving organizations like NPI and newspapers like the Seattle Times plenty of opportunities to flex our advocacy muscles in support of worthy ideas Washington needs.

Book Review: Read Zoë Quinn’s “Crash Override” to understand the Trump error

In response to a recent Buzzfeed article about behind-the-scenes goings-on of Milo Yiannapoulus’ and Breitbart’s propagation of racist, white nationalist thought, Washington Post journalist Philip Bump declared, “An early chapter of every book documenting the Donald Trump era will be about Gamergate.”

Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn

Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate by Zoe Quinn (Hardcover, PublicAffairs)

If Bump’s prediction comes to pass, Zoë Quinn’s book Crash Override will be cited by scholars for decades to come as an essential text to understanding the Trump error.

In Crash Override, which is partly an autobiography, Quinn tells the story of Gamergate and how she’s worked to defend everyone against vicious online mobs since.

Quinn had first gotten widespread attention as a video game developer in 2013 for her text-based “Depression Quest“, an interactive representation of what it’s like to experience depression when you seem capable of making only the worst and most unhealthy decisions instead of any good ones.

Depression Quest was unique and creative and earned many positive reviews.

Then, in 2014, Quinn’s abusive ex-boyfriend went online to smear her reputation and accuse her of sleeping her way into getting good reviews.

A group of people — mostly angry young white men — began a sustained campaign of harassment, threats, and stalking that principally targeted Quinn and other women in a series of disturbing incidents that became known as Gamergate.

Quinn’s Crash Override: How Gamergate [Nearly] Destroyed My Life and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate is really more like four or five books, and it’s not exactly a criticism to say that each might have been a full work in their own right instead of portions of this fairly brief two hundred and thirty-eight page one.

Quinn believes the larger underlying problem involves people inside of tech companies being themselves unwilling to solve eminently solvable problems.

Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter are staffed (in part) by the same sort of angry white males who are entirely capable of automating copyright infringement takedowns or visible nipples, but claim nothing can be done about specific, detailed rape threats or exhortations of genocide because free speech is sacrosanct.

Toward the end of the book, Quinn also examines the consequences of society’s failure to confront and counteract abusive behaviors in their early stages.

People have to gradually build their courage for dramatic action. Domestic violence is one of the few common threads connecting men involved in mass murder, even when ideology and means of accomplishing a destructive end differ.

Steve Bannon saw the potential of exploiting such people, but mostly angry young white men (in his words, rootless white men) who could be brought into a movement by first attacking vulnerable people on the Internet over video games and sci-fi culture. He recognized Quinn’s tormenters and people like them could be organized into a political force and harnessed to achieve even more corrosive ends.

Quinn writes that she wasn’t surprised by Donald Trump’s victory in the Electoral College because she had already felt the speartip of a movement driven by nothing more than the hatred of anyone expecting to be treated with equality.

There aren’t more of those people than decent people, but there are enough of them, and they’ve been properly activated and motivated to be harmful.

Having been at the receiving end of the fury of white nationalists and their enablers, Zoë Quinn understands Gamergate better than anyone. Read “Crash Override” if you want to better understand the primordial pools that nurtured juvenile, petty misogyny and racism until it could be brave enough to enthusiastically spread Russian propaganda on behalf of the Trump campaign and demonstrate in public.

They were a figurative torch-wielding mob lighting up their keyboards with “ironic” hatred and doxing before they were a literal torch-wielding mob, actually chanting Nazi slogans and assaulting people in communities like Charlottesville, Virginia.

But don’t just read Crash Override to understand how we got to this sad juncture in our nation’s history. Read Crash Override to understand what can be done now as we live with forms of intimidation and harassment that never could have existed prior to the advent of an always on, Internet-connected culture — and what we still need to do as a society to confront and stamp out these toxic behaviors.

Manka Dhingra says yes to simple majorities for school bonds, Jinyoung Englund says no

In a matter of weeks, voters in Washington’s 45th Legislative District will be deciding which political party controls the state Senate in 2018.

By electing Democratic candidate Manka Dhingra, voters in the 45th could oust Republicans from power and put the Senate under Democratic management for the first five in five years. On the other hand, by electing Republican candidate Jinyoung Lee Englund, voters in the 45th could preserve the status quo.

Given the huge implications of the contest, many civic organizations have been inviting Dhingra and Englund to appear at candidate forums to introduce themselves to voters and answer questions. Both have become accustomed to fielding questions about the McCleary case, traffic congestion, and other hot topics, as the organizers of each forum have tended to cover the same ground.

Refreshingly, the Northshore PTSA decided — in addition to asking boilerplate questions about McCleary — to inquire if the candidates agree that we should lower the threshold for passage of school bonds to a simple majority.

This a worthy idea that has been discussed in the Legislature, but hasn’t yet been referred to voters for their consideration as a constitutional amendment.

The candidates’ answers could hardly have been more different. Here is a transcript of the Northshore PTSA’s question and the candidates’ responses to it:

QUESTION FROM NORTHSHORE PTSA: Right now, to pass a bond to raise funds to build schools, a local bond ballot measure must have sixty percent plus one of the vote. Do you support changing the law [actually, the Washington State Constitution] so that a simple majority of the voters — fifty percent plus one — can pass a bond?


MODERATOR: You actually have twenty seconds.

MANKA DHINGRA: Oh. I’m good with that answer. You know? Well, it could go on. I refer you to my earlier answers about still having portables. You know, we worked hard at Einstein Elementary for two years to get enough money to build a playground, because we didn’t have the money… in Redmond, in one of these affluent areas, so that our kids could have a playground.

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE JINYOUNG LEE ENGLUND: I oppose it, because when we build new buildings, I think we need to do our due diligence and educating the public in committing to what amounts to a second mortgage for families that live in these school districts. I think that — again, before we go to people and say we need more money — that whoever is asking for that needs to do their due diligence in providing a comprehensive plan so that the families that are having to pay it can be equipped to do that.

Very illuminating.

As noted by the PTSA, in order to construct new buildings and facilities, school districts throughout Washington State need to be able to borrow money. Before issuing bonds, districts need to obtain permission from voters at an election. Presently, the threshold for bond passage is three-fifths of at least forty percent of the registered voters in a school district — the so-called sixty/forty rule.

If minimum turnout is below forty percent, the bond fails. If turnout is sufficient but fewer than sixty percent (three fifths) of voters vote aye, the bond still fails… even if it gets 59.9% of the vote, which would ordinarily be considered a lopsided result.

As we’ve noted many times here on the Cascadia Advocate, when the threshold to pass a ballot measure or bill is greater than fifty percent, control over the outcome ends up being in the hands of a few as opposed to the many.

As recently as ten years ago, the threshold to pass a school levy was the same as a bond. But in the 2007 legislative session, the House and Senate — both then controlled by Democrats — referred to the voters a constitutional amendment making the standard for passage of such levies a simple majority.

Voters approved the amendment in November 2007, and ever since, the many have been in control of the fate of school levies, instead of a few.

But the sixty/forty rule has remained in effect for bond measures. That has made financing the construction of badly needed new facilities in many school districts difficult. In many cases, a majority of voters have been supportive, but not the requisite supermajority currently required to authorize a bond issue.

Recognizing that such decisions ought to be made by majority vote, Democratic Representative Mia Gregersen in 2015 proposed a constitutional amendment (HJR 4210) to lower the threshold for passage of school bonds to a simple majority — providing the bond measures appeared before voters at a general election.

Republican Representative Dick Muri reintroduced the proposed amendment this year with Gregersen as a cosponsor. Fittingly, it was assigned the number “4204” — the same number given to the successful constitutional amendment permitting school levies to pass by a simple majority vote ten years ago.

Similar amendments were introduced by Senator Mark Mullet in the Senate (SJR 8202) and Representative Monica Stonier in the House (HJR 4203) this year.

None of these proposed amendments advanced beyond a public hearing.

But next year could be different. It all depends on what happens in the 45th.

If the Senate gets new management and a new member from the 45th who supports simple majorities to pass school bonds, prospects for referring an amendment to the voters to consider at the next general election would brighten. But if Republicans remain in power in the Senate, the likelihood of there being a debate and floor vote in both houses on the idea in 2018 will be pretty much nil.

California DISCLOSE Act signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown to combat dark money

Fires, hurricanes, the Trump-Corker spat, and the fate of the JCPOA with Iran dominated the news this weekend. Amidst all of the bad news, though, there was some good news: California has a tough new law that takes aim at dark money in politics, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the landmark California DISCLOSE Act (AB 249), the nation’s most comprehensive election disclosure law.

“No more fine print,” said the bill’s author, Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin. “California voters will now be able to make informed decisions, based on honest information about who the true funders are of campaign ads. This transparency is critical to our democracy and I am proud that California has taken this historic first step to shine the light on ‘dark money’. Hopefully this will encourage others to follow suit.”

Assembly Bill 249, authored by Assemblymembers Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) and Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, requires ballot measure ads and independent expenditure ads for or against candidates to clearly and prominently disclose the identity of their top three funders, and includes first-in-the-nation follow-the-money rules to make ballot measure ads show their true funders.

“With the quiet gesture of a signature, Governor Brown has loudly proclaimed California to be the national leader on the most important issue of our era: taking our democracy back from the special interests and restoring it to the people,” said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign, sponsor of AB 249.

“Every American who cares about democracy owes Governor Brown, Assembly Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin, and all the bold leaders in the California Legislature of both parties who helped AB 249 pass an enduring debt of gratitude.”

Thanks to AB 249, it will no longer be possible for big corporations or other moneyed interests to conceal their identities using shell PACs in ballot measure or independent expenditure advertising. This is a breakthrough worth celebrating.

NPI congratulates the California Clean Money Campaign and all the activists who worked tirelessly to make AB 249 a reality. This important new law will lead to fairer elections in the Golden State and hopefully inspire other states (like Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) to follow suit by enacting similar laws of their own.

At the beginning of this month, before Brown had acted on the bill, the San Jose Mercury News published an excellent story recapping how the bill made it through the California Assembly and the California Senate despite several obstacles, which ended with this well-written explanation of what AB 249 does:

What it would do: Assembly Bill 249, by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, proposes sweeping changes to disclosures on campaign ads. It would require the three largest contributors (of $50,000 or more) to be listed on ballot measure ads or ads about candidates by outside groups.

A new look: On video and TV, the disclosures must appear against a solid black background in a clear font that is not all-caps, fill the bottom third of the screen and stay up for a full five seconds. Each of the three major funders’ names must appear on a separate line. Disclosures on radio ads would need to be made with the same speed as the rest of the ad — no more speed-talkers.

Print, TV, video, radio, mass mailers, robocalls: The bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to sign into law, would apply to print, online, TV and radio ads as well as mass mailers and robocalls. Requires radio ads and robocalls to name the two largest funders.

Here in Washington, Democratic State Senator Andy Billig has sponsored similar legislation several times (which NPI has supported), but it has regrettably never made it out of the Legislature. In 2018, though, it may have better prospects with a Democratic Senate majority. NPI is committed to working with Senator Billig to ensure that Washington State takes action to combat dark money in politics.

Documentary Review: Ava DuVernay’s “13th” offers eye-opening look at mass incarceration

If you have yet to see Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning documentary “13th”, you should really make plans to screen it as soon as possible. This short commentary will surely not do it justice.

Ava DuVernay’s “13th”: The story never changes

Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 100 min
Director: Ava DuVernay
Watch the trailer

Kevin Gannon, Professor of History at Grandview University, who is white, sums up the challenge we as country face today early in the film: “History is not just stuff that happens by accident. We are the products of the history our ancestors chose, if we’re white. If we are black, we are products of the history that our ancestors most likely did not choose. Yet here we all are together, the products of that set of choices. And we have to understand that in order to escape from it.”

This powerful film discusses the ways slavery has continued to oppress black people in the United States, long after the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution was ratified and adopted in 1865. Though the Thirteenth Amendment outlaws slavery, there is a clause that creates one major loophole: “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

This loophole has been exploited continuously since the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to continue to legally enslave black people. In order to use this loophole to full effect, blacks were targeted for arrest for such “crimes” as vagrancy and rounded up in large numbers to work the fields they had only so recently escaped. Thus the the mythology of black criminality, which is still so insidious today, was born and spread in order to keep a steady flow of free labor.

The prison population of the United States remained fairly constant until the 1970s, when the modern era of mass incarceration began. Richard Nixon started us down this path, with his talk of “law and order” and a “war on crime.”

Ronald Reagan “turned a rhetorical war into a literal one,” according to Michelle Alexander, author of the “The New Jim Crow.”

President Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill further accelerated the rates of incarceration while also slowing the release of prisoners thanks to the “three strikes” scheme that requires life sentences for people convicted of three felonies.

All of this history covered in the film leads up to a jarring revelation: that there are more black people in the United States under criminal supervision now than there were enslaved in the South in the 1850s. Though our total population represents only 5% of the world’s population, we are home to 25% of the world’s prisoners.

Another shocking aspect of the film was that among the many academics, activists, and politicians interviewed was none other than former Speaker of the House and failed Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Even more amazing (for me, at least) was what he had to say: “The objective reality is that virtually no one who is white understands the challenge of being black in America.” This acknowledgement of racism in America and the multiple effects it has on the lives of black people was refreshing to hear from a Republican.

Jelanie Cobb, Professor of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut, addresses the harmful stereotypes that have been used against black people for centuries in the US in the context of the current fight against mass incarceration: “If you look at the history of black people’s various struggles in this country, the connecting theme is the attempt to be understood as full, complicated human beings. We are something other than this visceral image of criminality and menace and threat to which people associate with us.”

Watching this documentary would be a good first step to help dispel those stereotypes within ourselves and to hopefully inspire us to work together for greater racial justice in general, and reform in the criminal justice system specifically.

“13th” is currently available on Netflix, or can be seen at a screening by Wedgewood Meaningful Movies on Friday, October 13 at 7 PM. You can see a full list of locations and documentaries being shown by the Meaningful Movies Project here.

A Jinyoung Englund win would mean more inaction on gun violence in Washington State

More Americans have been killed as a result of gun violence since 1968 than have died fighting for our country on the battlefield during its entire history, yet Congress — which is currently controlled by the Republican Party — continues to refuse to take any meaningful actions that would address this pandemic.

That means that in the short term, states are going to have to lead the way in identifying and enacting solutions to save lives and protect communities.

Within the last three years, Washington has passed two laws to respond to the scourge of gun violence. The first was Initiative 594, approved in 2014, which requires universal background checks on gun sales in the state. The second was Initiative 1491, overwhelmingly passed last year, which allows family members to petition the judiciary for extreme risk protection orders.

The passage of I-594 and I-1491 were very positive developments for the well-being of all Washingtonians. But there is more we should be doing — much more.

Unfortunately, because Republicans have been in control of the Washington State Senate for the last few years, the Senate has been a graveyard of progress. Bills to require responsible gun ownership have failed to gain any traction, let alone a vote. In a matter of weeks, though, the Senate majority could flip… and if it does, it’ll be a new day in our state’s capital, with better prospects for legislation we need.

Legislation like a new law banning the sale of bump stocks, which Democratic State Senate candidate Manka Dhingra has said she will introduce immediately.

(Dhingra is vying to represent the 45th District as its next state senator; if she wins, Democrats will control the Washington State Senate beginning at the end of November, ending five years of Republican control of the chamber.)

“It is unacceptable that we have one hundred gun deaths every day in this country,” said Dhingra in a news release issued by the Senate Democratic campaign.

“I am tired of hearing about mass shootings and school shootings on the news. There are reasonable and realistic steps we can take to make it harder for people to commit suicide with a gun, or perpetrate domestic violence, or go on one of the terrifying mass shootings that have become all too common. I am committed to taking immediate action by using my experience as a prosecutor and advocate for mental health policy in the Senate to help keep our families and communities safer.”

Specifically, Dhingra wants to:

Ban bump stocks

Dhingra will work with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and prime sponsor legislation banning bump stocks and other devices that turn legal semi-automatic firearms into effectively fully-automatic machine guns. It has already been reported that the Las Vegas shooter had at least twelve guns modified with bump stocks so they could fire hundreds of rounds per minute. This method circumvents laws already on the books intended to prevent civilians from possessing fully automatic weapons.

Close loopholes for domestic violence offenders

Currently in Washington state, those convicted of domestic violence offenses lose access to guns with one exception: those convicted of domestic violence (DV) harassment. As a law enforcement official, Dhingra has seen domestic violence offenders take advantage of this loophole to keep their guns and put the victims of their harassment at serious risk. More than half of all women murdered with guns in the US are killed by intimate partners or family. When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, it increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent. Dhingra will propose legislation to close this loophole so all domestic violence perpetrators are equally held accountable.

Bar individuals who have a history of violence and are found to be incompetent from having access to guns

When an individual is charged with a serious or non-serious misdemeanor offense and is found to be not competent by a court of law to proceed to trial, the case is dismissed. Individuals who are charged with serious misdemeanor offenses who cannot go to Western State Hospital for restoration services still keep their right to possess a firearm, and Dhingra will close this loophole. In her time as a prosecutor running King County’s Regional Mental Health Court, Dhingra has seen individuals with concerning history of violence go through the system repeatedly, utilizing loopholes to stay in our communities all the while waiting for something more serious to happen. We have to ensure that individuals who are charged with crimes, have been found to be not competent due to mental disease or defect and have a history of violence cannot access their guns.

After Dhingra and her team announced that she is ready to lead in combating gun violence as the 45th District’s next state senator, her Republican opponent Jinyoung Lee Englund made a statement of her own, in another “me too” moment.

“I support enhanced background checks,” Englund said. “I believe they are necessary to ensure criminals and those with mental illnesses are not allowed to possess a firearm and roam freely in our communities. I am committed to finding real solutions to the problem, and it begins with enhanced background checks.”

Englund also made this declaration in her statement: “I believe every day citizens should not be able to turn a gun into a fully automatic weapon.”

(We’re not sure what is meant by “every day citizens”, but guessing that means anyone who’s not a servicemember or law enforcement officer.)

Read the whole thing, though, and notice that while Englund pays plenty of lip service to “solutions”, there’s no commitment to introduce or shepherd through the Senate any specific ideas to combat our gun violence pandemic. Nowhere does Englund pledge to introduce a bill to enhance background checks, for example.

And that’s because, regardless of whether Englund’s stated beliefs are sincere, she and the operatives running her campaign know full well that if she wins, it means more legislative inaction on priorities like gun responsibility — because she is the twenty-fifth vote the Republicans need to preserve the status quo in Olympia.

Top Senate Republicans like Mark Schoesler and Mike Padden — whose financiers are bankrolling Englund’s campaign — are firmly in the pocket of the gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association (NRA). They’ve given no indication whatsoever they are open to bucking the NRA and working with Democrats to advance necessary measures to protect Washingtonians from gun violence.

As long as Schoesler is majority leader and Padden controls the Senate Law and Justice Committee, the Senate will remain a graveyard of progress on this and many other pressing issues, as Senator Jamie Pedersen explained to the Seattle Times:

“Nothing’s going to happen if we’re not in control,” said Pedersen, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Law and Justice Committee. [Pedersen is Padden’s counterpart.] “And if we do take control, then I think there are some things we can definitely do.”

As for an outright ban on assault weapons, “I think that’s a nonstarter for now,” he said.

While he acknowledged that no law would be certain to stop gun violence, Pedersen said passing legislation over time would tighten the laws enough to cut down on gun deaths.

Among Englund’s financial backers are the Gun Owners Action League of Washington, which is on the record as opposed to bills requiring safe storage of guns and allowing the destruction of forfeited firearms.

The group has given $1,000 to Englund’s campaign.

Englund told The Seattle Times she doesn’t agree with all of the group’s positions. But that doesn’t matter. The gun lobby knows that if Englund wins, Schoesler and Padden stay in charge, and will retain the power to kill off any gun safety bills they don’t like. The gun lobby can overlook Englund’s divergence from the party line. They need her to enable their accomplices in the Senate to stay in power.

What ultimately matters to them is the majority, not what Englund tells Eastside voters in an effort to attract support for her candidacy.

It is important that every voter in the 45th understands this dynamic.

Progressive talk is coming back to Seattle’s airwaves: Welcome, KODX-LP 96.9 FM!

With bad news in abundance these days, it’s always a relief when we have good news to share. And we have some really good news to pass along and celebrate: Seattle is gaining a new independent media outlet that will air progressive news and views over our publicly owned airwaves.

KODX-LP 96.9 FM will be a low power FM radio station broadcasting 24/7 out of the University District. It will be possible to pick up the station over the air in a large swath of Seattle, extending to both sides of the Ship Canal, and for those outside of the coverage area, it’ll be possible to listen online via livestream.

The station is being put together by Earth On-the-Air Independent Media, which has been around since the late 1980s. Earth On the Air got its start producing a radio magazine; since the 1990s, it has collaborated with grassroots organizations and documentary filmmakers on media literacy projects.

“KODX’s purpose is to be a forum for radical, progressive voices, issues, and perspectives,” its organizers say. “Shows will be produced both locally and nationally with content that builds toward economic, racial and environmental justice, and peace. Community groups and local volunteers will be trained to produce shows, air content, and help with running the radio station.”

Although Seattle is one of the most progressive cities in the country, progressive voices are not as well represented in the region’s media landscape as they ought to be. That’s especially true with respect to the terrestrial broadcast segment. Greater Seattle has not one, but two radio stations specializing in right wing talk (KVI, KTTH) and a third (KIRO) that airs multiple right wing shows as part of its lineup.

From 2004 until 2013, greater Seattle had a progressive talk radio station airing nationally syndicated programming — AM 1090 KPTK, originally an affiliate of Air America Radio. But at the end of 2012, KPTK was converted into KNFQ “The Fan” by its owner, CBS Radio, after executives in New York decided that making the station part of a national sports talk radio network would be more lucrative.

With most existing licenses for broadcasting terrestrial radio controlled by big corporations with faraway headquarters, efforts to resurrect progressive talk in Seattle haven’t amounted to anything more than talk. But thanks to the passage of legislation during the Obama years, barriers to setting up low power FM stations were removed. That prompted Earth-on-the-Air Independent Media to apply for a license from the Federal Communications Commission.

Service Designation: FL Low Power FM (LPFM) station or application
Channel/Class: 245L1
Frequency: 96.9 MHz (Construction Permit)
File No.: BNPL-20131029AGJ
Facility ID number: 192326
CDBS Application ID No.: 1630982

If you’d like to learn more about the effort to start up KODX-LP FM, you may want to RSVP for the station’s launch party, taking place on Thursday, October 5th from 6:30 — 9 PM at the University Temple United Methodist Church.

More details are available here.

Trump regime sends Tom Price packing after disastrous tenure at Health & Human Services

The Price is Wrong

Good riddance:

Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, resigned under pressure on Friday after racking up at least $400,000 in travel bills for chartered flights and undermining [Donald] Trump’s promise to drain the swamp of a corrupt and entitled capital.

Already in trouble with Mr. Trump for months of unsuccessful efforts to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care program [the Patient Protection Act], Mr. Price failed to defuse the president’s anger over his high-priced travel by agreeing to pay a portion of the cost and expressing “regret” for his actions.

The report that led to today’s Friday news dump appeared on September 19th, 2017 in Politico, authored by Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan:

In a sharp departure from his predecessors, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week took private jets on five separate flights for official business, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial travel.

The secretary’s five flights, which were scheduled between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, took him to a resort in Maine where he participated in a Q&A discussion with a health care industry CEO, and to community health centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, according to internal HHS documents.

The travel by corporate-style jet comes at a time when other members of the Trump administration are under fire for travel expenditures, and breaks with the practices of Obama-era secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States.

Price, a frequent critic of federal spending who has been developing a plan for departmentwide cost savings, declined to comment.

Since Politico’s report was published, Trump has openly suggested on several occasions that he might get rid of Price. Price’s departure is officially being characterized as a resignation, but the truth is he was forced out of the regime.

Price — who opposes LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and Medicare —  was tapped by Trump as his choice for the role last November. He resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives to join the cabinet, creating a vacancy in GA-06.

Price’s tenure at the Department of Health and Human Services was short… and disastrous. As Secretary, rather than looking out for the well-being of the people of the United States of America, Price tried repeatedly to sabotage the care that millions depend on, including by plotting with his former colleagues in Congress to eviscerate the Patient Protection Act. Fortunately, on that front he failed.

Price also made erroneous statements about medication-assisted addiction treatments that had to be called out by doctors and scientists.

And then, of course, there were the the pricey chartered flights.

“Even before his taxpayer-funded luxury travel was discovered, Secretary Price was an unacceptable choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services — not only given the serious, unanswered questions about improper financial benefits stemming from his work in Congress, but also because of his ideologically driven approach to health care and in particular women’s health and reproductive rights,” said United States Senator Patty Murray in a statement provided to NPI.

“The fact that this decision took this long only indicates the extent to which the Trump Administration allows its senior officials to put themselves, and partisan politics, ahead of families and communities,” Murray added.

“I hope President Trump takes this opportunity to select a new Secretary of Health and Human Services who will truly put patients and families first, and I look forward to a rigorous and comprehensive nomination process.”

U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal called for Price’s resignation in a letter sent last week with several of her colleagues.

“You have routinely made use of expensive private jets for official travel, bypassing cost-effective alternatives and wasting hundreds of thousands of tax dollars,” noted Jayapal and her colleagues Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Ted Lieu of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, and Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, who are all Democrats.

“At a minimum, the American people expect cabinet secretaries to lead with integrity, accept accountability, and use public resources responsibly,” the five members wrote. “In light of your breach of the public trust, we write to urge you to do the right thing and immediately tender your resignation.”

Donald Trump proceeded to make the same demand. And now Price is out. So no more Mister Price Guy. HHS will need new a new chieftain; let’s hope whoever is nominated by the regime is less extreme than Price was.

Republican Jinyoung Englund goes negative again, one week after agreeing 45th LD Senate contest should be more positive

In a pathetically desperate attempt to resuscitate its prospects, the campaign of Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund has launched a fresh torrent of false attack ads against her Democratic opponent Manka Dhingra — just days after Englund agreed with Dhingra in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters that the contest between the two of them needed less negativity.

Attack ad created by Jinyoung Englund's campaign

Attack ad created by Englund’s campaign, claiming Manka Dhingra is for “heroine injections”. Oxford defines heroine as “a woman admired or idealized for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities”.

The ads, which drew the attention of KCPQ’s Jon Humbert, are appearing on social media and across the web.

Not only are they laden with false claims and innuendos, they contain mechanical errors, as Humbert wryly noted in this tweet.

Englund’s negative offensive actually began before the debate, as is evidenced by the upload date of this attack video — part of the “Stop Manka” offensive. It went up on YouTube as an unlisted video on September 14th, four days prior to when the candidates appeared onstage together at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center at the invitation of the League.

During the debate, the candidates were memorably asked this question:

MODERATOR NATALIE BRAND: This is another audience question, which says: “So far, this race has been very negative, with hit ads against both candidates. Do you think it’s important to make a more positive and substantive campaign?” And we’ll start with Ms. Dhingra.

Here’s how they each responded.

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE MANKA DHINGRA: Absolutely. I think it is crucial that campaigns do really talk about honesty and integrity. And there are a lot of special interests out there, but what’s coming out of my campaign [is positive]. I am being very clear with everyone that’s that’s affiliated with my campaign to make sure that we are running positive messages. Because it is about my message, what I stand for, my work background, and what I want to do for the people of the 45th District. I obviously cannot control the special interests, but everything coming out of my campaign is going to be about my work background, my experience, my qualifications, and what I will do to represent each and every one of you.

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE JINYOUNG LEE ENGLUND: So I agree. You know, I think that every candidate and every campaign should really focus on what they intend to do for their district. And that’s why I’ve been very clear about my priorities. It’s to protect people in our district from new or more taxes that aren’t necessary, to work on real, immediate transportation solutions, and to ensure that we continue to prioritize education funding in our state.

You know, it was actually Ms. Dhingra’s supporters that went negative first, during the primary… they spent half a million dollars. And threw the first punch. And I thought that we, just being a new kind of candidate, you know, both being women and first time, that we could have a different campaign. And I was actually very shocked to see that happen, and quite disappointed in that.

You know, I think moving forward, you know, I would love to make sure that whatever pieces come out of our campaigns or supporters… that it does really focus on… on issues. And that we’re really very clear on, you know, what do we stand for, for our districts.

Shorter Jinyoung Englund: Do as I say, not as I do.

Considering that Englund has been involved in Republican politics for years as a party operative, I don’t buy her claim that she was “very shocked” to see negative ads appearing online, in the mail, or in another medium concerning her campaign back in the spring. Her own supporters have poured a small fortune into a shell PAC laughably called “Working Families”, which has been the vehicle for multiple waves of attack ads intended to tarnish Manka Dhingra’s reputation.

And now Jinyoung Englund’s campaign is running highly negative “Stop Manka” ads of their own. Attack ads that attempt to make voters feel uneasy about Manka by invoking what Englund and the Republican Party think are scary bogeymen (Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray) or raising the specter of an income tax or safe consumption sites.

Attacks like these did not work in the Top Two election… in fact, considering the election results, which were disastrous for Englund, it’s reasonable to conclude the previous set of attacks backfired, and actually helped propel Dhingra to victory.

Republicans have had weeks to come up with a new strategy for the autumn to revive Englund’s prospects. Apparently, all they could think of to do was essentially to run the same play that didn’t work for them in the last round: going negative with poorly written, poorly designed ads that reek of desperation. How pathetic.

And how paradoxical. Remember, this is the same party whose candidates often like to say on the campaign trail that simply throwing more money at a problem won’t solve that problem. How many times have we heard that party talking point?

The Washington State Republican Party has no bigger problem right now than Englund’s flailing campaign. If she loses, the Republicans lose their Senate majority by the end of November. They certainly know they’re in a precarious position, but they can’t seem to think of any way to lift their candidate up.

So they’ve instructed Englund to join them in the gutter, throw as much mud at Manka Dhingra as possible, and hope that some of it starts sticking.

And that’s what Englund is doing, despite having said in a public debate that she agreed with Manka Dhingra that campaigns like hers should be run honestly and with integrity, and should focus on positive messages. Shameful.

Sound Transit keeps moving forward despite attacks from Tim Eyman, right wing talk radio

Ride The Wave may be Sound Transit’s current and best known slogan, but it’s not the only tagline the agency has used during its two plus decades of operations.

Around the turn of the century, as Sound Transit was working to develop more realistic plans for building the network of light rail, commuter rail, and express bus service authorized by voters in the 1996 Sound Move vote, it had a different motto: Moving Forward. Those words no longer appear prominently on Sound Transit’s website or public documents like they once did, but the sentiment they stand for remains deeply infused in the agency’s culture — as evidenced by its leadership’s commitment to accelerating and delivering projects in uncertain times.

Last year, voters in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction gave it the green light to extend Link light rail in all directions, develop new bus rapid transit lines in key corridors, add service hours to ST Express routes, and expand Sounder commuter rail with more trains and more stations, handily approving the agency’s Phase III expansion proposal. The outcome of that vote left the agency’s critics stunned and infuriated; disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman memorably characterized it as “a gut punch” when asked by a reporter for his reaction to the election results.

Shock has since given way to anger and scheming. Eyman — along with his Sound Transit-loathing accomplices on right wing talk radio — are hell bent on “sticking it to Sound Transit”. Their objective? Force the cancellation of as many voter-approved ST3 projects as possible by sabotaging the agency’s funding.

Eyman tried twice in 2016 to qualify a statewide initiative that would repeal Sound Transit’s authority to levy vehicle fees. Both attempts ended in failure, but Eyman has decided to try again. For this attempt, he’s getting help from right wing talk radio hosts like John Carlson, Dori Monson, and Jason Rantz, who have been using their programs to beat the drums for Sound Transit’s incapacitation.

Their yapping has seemingly gotten louder and sillier with each passing week. Fortunately, neither their on-air rants nor Eyman’s multiweekly email tantrums have stopped Sound Transit from getting the people’s work done.

Last week, the agency hosted an event at the site of its future Northgate Link light rail station with U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, who represents Seattle in the U.S. House. Representatives of local media outlets were afforded the opportunity to see the progress the agency’s contractors have been making towards the completion of North Link, which is scheduled to open in 2021.

North Link will bring light rail service to Northgate via the U District and Roosevelt neighborhoods, which will each have an underground station. At Northgate, the alignment transitions to an elevated configuration alongside Interstate 5 and the Northgate mall. Construction of the three station North Link extension is proceeding both on schedule and on budget, Sound Transit says.

Happily, North Link’s tunnels and cross passages have already been dug, which means the most challenging components of the extension are already done with.

But Sound Transit won’t be stopping at Northgate. When North Link service begins in a few years, the agency wants to be well on its way to Lynnwood and beyond. Weary commuters throughout the region want alternatives to gridlocked highways like I-5 as fast as possible — and Sound Transit is anxious to deliver for them.

Whether the agency can succeed at controlling costs and finishing on time or not will depend on whether Congress defies Donald Trump and keeps federal dollars flowing to transit projects. Trump’s budget office has proposed gutting funding for Amtrak and public transportation all over the country.

Lynnwood Link is among the projects that would be affected.

Pillars at the site of the future Northgate Link Light Rail station

A post shared by NPI (@nwprogressive) on

“We are grateful for the leadership of Congresswoman Jayapal, Congressman Rick Larsen, Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell and other members of our congressional delegation toward maintaining critical federal transit funding, and particularly the $1.17 billion grant for starting Lynnwood construction next year,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said, emphasizing the importance of federal dollars to past, present, and future Link light rail projects.

“Federal funding for Link light rail is critically important to connecting our communities and strengthening our economy,” agreed Jayapal, who has taken up the mantle once worn by Jim McDermott as greater Seattle’s champion in the United States House of Representatives.

“Our region is doing its part to fund the growth of our mass transit system. But without strong federal partnership, project timelines will be thrown off and residents will continue to struggle with congestion,” she noted.

“I will do everything I can to ensure that the Federal Transit Administration follows through on funding the Lynnwood Link so that we can deliver the high-quality transit our region needs without harmful delays.”

The Northgate Station construction site is a busy place. Absher Construction serves as general contractor for the project, while subcontractor Granite Construction is responsible for the elevated guideway. Jacobs Engineering and CH2M are responsible for construction management through a joint venture, North Star.

Wide angle view of the Northgate Station construction site

A post shared by NPI (@nwprogressive) on

It is worth remembering that Sound Transit’s original Central Link line and University Link extension (which opened last year) would not have been built without federal dollars. The agency in 2003 secured a hard-won commitment from the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress to provide money to construct Link’s first twelve stations, trackway, and initial maintenance base.

Sound Transit wasted no time in getting started once Congress had given the project its blessing. Within weeks of getting the green light, ground was broken, beginning nearly six years of construction and later systems testing.

In 2007, Sound Transit finalized an agreement with the Port of Seattle to speed up completion of Airport Link. The SeaTac/Airport station ultimately opened to the public just five months after the initial twelve stations.

By that point, Sound Transit was already hard at work on University Link, an extension financed to an even greater extent with federal dollars than the original line. U-Link opened in the spring of 2016, six months ahead of schedule and over a hundred millions under budget, to wide acclaim. The inauguration of service to Capitol Hill and University of Washington prompted an unprecedented ridership boom that impressed critics and boosters of Sound Transit alike.

U-Link’s debut was followed in September of 2016 by the opening of Angle Lake Link, a new southbound terminus located in the City of SeaTac.

Angle Lake Station celebrated its first anniversary yesterday.

Meanwhile, today, Sound Transit inaugurated two new Sounder round trips on its south line, demonstrating it’s actively working to provide Pierce County commuters with more options for getting to work without a car.

“The new trains will provide more choices, more capacity and more frequent departures,” the agency said in a news release distributed last month.

“With the addition of these two trains, there will be thirteen daily roundtrips on the Sounder south line in South King and Pierce counties. During peak hours, Sounder trains will arrive as often as every twenty minutes.”

“In the morning peak, an additional train will run between the first Lakewood departure at 4:36 AM and the 5:45 AM departure. This additional train will help ease congestion on the line’s most crowded trains.”

There are also improvements to Sounder’s PM schedule.

“In the afternoon, the new schedule will provide earlier service to Lakewood during the traditional peak, and reduce the gap between the first and second trains to 40 minutes,” Sound Transit explains.

“To enable this earlier departure, the 2:35 PM southbound train will terminate in Tacoma, with connecting express bus service from Puyallup to Lakewood. The last evening trip will depart King Street Station ten minutes later, at 6:30 PM. Additionally, a third reverse-peak roundtrip will be added, allowing late morning travel to Tacoma and early afternoon travel to Seattle.”

Finally, to ensure more people can utilize the midday train that Sound Transit debuted a year ago, additional cars are being added.

The new schedule can be found here.

Because Sound Transit does not own the right of way Sounder operates on, it has not been able to expand the service as fast as as many commuters or its own leadership would have liked. (Sound Transit pays Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway both for access to its right of way and to operate its Sounder trains.) Nevertheless, the service has a much better schedule than it did when it first launched around the turn of the century.

In addition to regular weekday service, Sound Transit also operates special “game day” service to help fans get to events at Safeco and CenturyLink fields.

Sounder South does not yet have a late evening train running in either direction, which it really ought to have to accommodate people who get off work late or wish to spend the first couple hours of their evening in the city.

These developments show that Sound Transit and its many partners have become adept at making progress on multiple fronts simultaneously, which is great news for everybody, even transit haters.

Projects are presently in the planning phase, in the design phase, or are under construction in every single subarea within the agency’s jurisdiction.

The now-completed Angle Lake Station in SeaTac — along with the construction zones dotting the Eastside and Seattle neighborhoods north of the Ship Canal — are visible proof that the projects financed by the ST2 system expansion approved by voters eight years ago will soon be a reality.

Sound Transit’s staff and board are doing their best to speed up the successor ST3 projects approved last year to liberate even more communities from lack of mobility options, but those efforts will be for naught if Eyman and company succeed in their sinister quest to cripple Sound Transit. That’s why NPI is working to ensure Eyman’s ill-conceived I-947 gets the vigorous opposition that it deserves.

Book Review: Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider re-examines the biggest tragedy of the 1900s

Laura Spinney's Pale RiderIt’s become a standard bit of twentieth century trivia that as terrible as the First World War was, the 1918 flu pandemic coinciding with the armistice killed more than the conflict itself.

Now, an especially pedantic person might want to argue that WWI really was the beginning of the ‘Second Thirty Years War‘.

They might treat as bookends both world wars — roping together all battlefield deaths, all civilian bombings, every atrocity and genocide, every preventable famine and epidemic.

And put together as a single historical event, they would claim, all the misery springing from human malice between 1914 to 1945 resulted in up to one hundred million deaths during those three decades.

But, as British science journalist Laura Spinney relates in her latest book Pale Rider, the pandemic known in its time as the Spanish Flu (but definitely not originating in Spain) may have killed as many people in three years as humankind did during thirty years of war, infecting one out of every three people on the earth while killing one in twenty of the global population.

Within a tidy 295 pages, Spinney asks (then attempts to answer) the question, “How did we allow ourselves to forget a tragedy of such enormity?”

Spinney’s technique for handling the material is in itself remarkable as she fast-forwards and rewinds, switches in scale from micro to macro, delving into how viruses were first seen under electron microscopes, explaining what the letters and numbers like H1N1 signify in how the flu functions, then zooming out to the path of disease across continents and its effects on societies along the way.

It’s in the third chapter where she most impressively balances the scales of personal and global, providing a seemingly endless series of anecdotes of the Spanish Flu’s progression as it intersects with people’s lives from China to Brazil to Alaska, and you feel how it matters to each person.

It’s the equivalent of the September 11th attacks, Challenger explosion or JFK’s assassination, except it was a tragedy experienced instead of received electronically.

The root of influenza in Italian is exactly as it sounds, referencing the influence of unseen powers on human affairs. But Spinney manages to also show the reverse: how humans influenced the spread and rapaciousness of the disease.

Most intriguingly, Spinney explores the idea that by putting this 1917 version of influenza into the cauldron of hell that the trenches of the Western Front were, it naturally developed into the most virulent and apocalyptic version of itself possible.

An officer disinclined to take a soldier off the front lines for a little fever would quickly change his mind when confronted with a soldier coughing up pints of pus and limbs turning black. That may have been the strain that got back to the general population.

In the end, the only noticeable failing of Spinney’s book is that she mentions early on how the vast majority of people died outside of Europe and North America — more than eighteen million people in India alone — yet she devotes relatively few pages to describing the impact the disease had on those places.

She does spend some time outside of her buying audience’s world, and whatever relative dearth of coverage may be due to the limited sources Spinney has available to her as a non-polyglot, non-specialist. But if you’re going to mention how more people died in India than “The War to End All Wars”, there’s an expectation you’re going to find a way to get a bit more specific about the flu’s effects there than, by my count, some small mentions across six or seven pages.

Nevertheless, Spinney has managed to research and write a concise but comprehensive work deserving to be part of your private library if you enjoy history or epidemiology whatsoever. It may even get you looking for more region-specific books the on pandemic to delve deeper into what she covered.

Unfortunately, it may also cause you break out into a cold sweat when you remember Republicans are looking to cut $1.2 billion from the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention next fiscal year.

Documentary Review: “We the People 2.0” examines the decay of American democracy

In order to protect our environment from messy oil and gas projects, hazardous waste, toxic pollution, and industrial agriculture threatening local farming, a new iteration of democracy is necessary. At least, that is the argument put forth in “We the People 2.0,” a 2016 documentary produced by Tree Media.

This compelling film starts off by highlighting multiple American communities that had been struggling to fight back against projects that were causing serious damage to their local environment. In Licking Township, Pennsylvania, for example, strip mining has irrevocably altered the landscape and caused dead streams.

Poster for We the People 2.0

We the People 2.0
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 91 min
Director: Leila Conners
Watch the trailer

Meanwhile, in Willmington, California, an oil refinery operates immediately adjacent to a residential neighborhood, where everything is coated with a thin layer of ash and soot from the constant burning.

Some of the most striking images from the film come from Broadview Heights, Ohio, where there are ninety oil wells in thirteen square miles, many of them in people’s backyards, by churches, and even next to schools.

In one incident, oil spilled onto an elementary school playground.

This inability of communities to prevent environmental damage or to hold corporate entities accountable for the environmental damage they cause is due to our current environmental regulatory system, according to organizers from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).

Featured prominently throughout the documentary, they argue the regulatory system functions simply to regulate the rate of destruction of the environment, not to prevent destruction, as most would hope.

For example, in the United States regulatory system, the burden is on the individual or community to show how a corporation is violating regulations of an existing permit; the burden is not on the corporation to prove that they are in compliance with a permit. Community activists are essentially “boxed in” by four things:

  1. State and federal preemption;
  2. Dillon’s Rule, which is that local jurisdictions only have the power to make laws that the state or federal government explicitly allow them to;
  3. the Commerce Clause; and
  4. corporate personhood.

As stated by one of the CELDF organizers, what is happening is “not an oil and gas problem, it’s a democracy problem.”

The best way out of this box, proposed by CELDF and with a growing record of success in communities throughout the country, is “rights-based” legislation: creating true, local democracy.

Some of the communities profiled have passed laws for either a Community Bill of Rights, or ordinances asserting the Rights of Nature. Through these laws, decision-making about local projects are brought back to the local level.

In Broadview Heights, Ohio, when residents started complaining to the City Council, the Council claimed there was nothing they could do.

Ohio House Bill 278 prohibits localities within the state from limiting oil and gas production; all decisions are made by the state regulatory body often stacked with members connected to the very industry they are tasked with regulating.

However, since Broadview Heights passed a Rights of Nature ordinance in 2012, the installation of new oil wells has been prevented.

While the film ends with a hopeful tone about the progress being made through rights-based organizing at the local level, it does not address questions about potentially undesirable and inevitable side effects.

For instance, if the goal is “true, local self-government,” what effects would achieving that have on the efficacy of state and national government? How could equal protection, guaranteed by the federal government, be safeguarded if each city can make their own laws outside of the current state and federal legal systems?

If we can’t answer these questions, we’ll be dealing with a potentially bigger governance problem than we started with.

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