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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Who lobbies for homeowners?

Josh Feit of The Stranger catches an Olympian article regarding a key consumer protection reform that appears to be in trouble in the state House.
Some House Democrats said Friday that they hope Olympia Rep. Brendan Williams was just blowing off steam when he threatened to quit this week over the apparent killing of legislation to give new-home buyers a warranty against construction defects.
The bill in question is SB 5550, also known as "The Homeowner's Bill of Rights." The Olympian described it this way yesterday:
The bill would, starting in July 2008, establish transferable warranties for new homes built in the state.

The warranties would protect against:
  • Defects in materials and workmanship for two years.
  • Defects in electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilating systems for three years.
  • Defects resulting from water penetration for five years.
  • Structural defects for 10 years.
The bill calls for a committee to study issues facing the construction industry and come back with recommendations to the Legislature by the end of this year, but the warranties would still go into effect July 1, 2008.
Sounds pretty reasonable to me. If you can't build a house to those standards you need to find a new line of work.

Naturally, the BIAW has mounted a massive lobbying effort against it; that's what they do. Democrats need to keep in mind that there are no paid lobbyists representing ordinary homeowners, but just about anyone in this state can tell you a horror story involving shoddy construction. If it didn't happen to them they probably know someone who was a victim.

This is a pretty good example of the party needing to stand up to an entrenched special interest, in this case the BIAW.

Passing the Homeowners' Bill of Rights would be a win for Democrats because it puts them on the side of regular folks. Any perceived payback to BIAW would just be icing on the cake, and isn't the true reason to pass it.

And as for Rep. Brendan Williams' unfortunate statement about resigning, well, we've all said stuff we shouldn't have said.

Williams is a valuable member of the Legislature and we trust he will hit himself twice with a wet noodle and keep on keeping on.

Capital budget includes heritage center

Secretary of State Sam Reed is pleased that the state Senate's capital budget includes funding for a new Heritage Center:
Our Senators have recognized how vital it is to make history accessible under one roof.

This kind of momentum is exciting for all who will use this tremendous asset: families who live here, visitors to Washington, researchers, genealogists, and students at all levels. Because the Heritage Center combines the State Archives, State Library, and State Capital Museum exhibits, it is one-stop shopping for any and all with a thirst for Washington’s past.

The Center will provide access to comprehensive collections, allow citizens better access by increasing its hours of operation, and provide adequate display space for precious collections.

I appreciate the Senate’s forward thinking in eliminating the General Administration building. This will have a positive impact on the future of the state’s beautiful Capitol Campus.
According to Reed's office the Washington State Heritage Center will not be paid for out of the general fund.

The financing proposal calls for redirecting current rent for the State Library, contributions from the private sector, and user fees related directly to the Washington State Archives and preserving the state’s corporate history.

The state House still has to concur with the Senate's budget plan before the Heritage Center makes it out of the Legislature.

Friday, March 30, 2007

More revealed about pet food poisoning

There's some disturbing news involving the pet food recall.
ATLANTA, Ga., March 30 — Scientists with the Food and Drug Administration have linked a chemical to the illness and deaths of cats eating tainted food and raised for the first time the possibility that dry pet food may have been affected as well as wet food.

F.D.A. officials said at a news conference today that they have linked the chemical melamine, which they said is used as a fertilizer in Asia, to the kidneys of the affected cats. Thousands of owners of both cats and dogs who feed their pets wet or dry food have complained that their pets have become ill, but the F.D.A. has not yet determined if those illnesses are linked to pet food.

The agency has recalled a batch of contaminated Chinese wheat gluten that was sent to many pet food manufacturers, including one that makes dry dog food.
Um, not to be unduly alarmist, but where else did that wheat gluten go?

I was going to settle in this evening with a movie and a big box of wheat gluten, but I think I'll skip it now.

"Voter fraud" largely doesn't exist

Ralph Neas has an interesting piece up at People for the American Way about the nearly non-existent evidence that "voter fraud" is a problem in this country.
Virtually every academic study of voter fraud concludes that it is not close to being a substantial problem, if it exists at all. For instance, in states where alleged voter fraud was used as the justification for restrictive voter ID requirements, the supporters of voter ID have made the following admissions:
  • The State of Indiana, and its Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita, in defending the state’s voter ID law in court documents, admitted that it could not find one single instance of voter impersonation fraud in the history of the state. Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20321 (S.D. Ind. 2006).

  • The Republican Governor of Missouri, who had formerly been the Secretary of State (and run Missouri’s elections), admitted that elections in Missouri were “fraud-free,” before unsuccessfully defending the restrictive voter ID laws in court. Weinschenk v. Missouri, 203 S.W.3d 201 (Mo. 2006). Missouri’s current Secretary of State agrees, noting in a recent report that “As in previous elections, the absence of reports of voting impersonation or voting fraud in the 2006 election in Missouri was notable.”

  • The State of Arizona and its counties, in defending their restrictive voter registration laws and voter ID laws, admitted that, of the over 2.7 million registered voters in Arizona, not one had been convicted of registering to vote illegally, and not one instance of voting by an ineligible non-citizen had led to a conviction.
This is the legal testimony of those who have the greatest incentive, and the greatest obligation (in order to justify the burdensome restrictions they impose on voters), to prove the existence of real fraud. And yet, they cannot prove it exists.
This stuff is abundantly clear to active Democrats who have been paying attention since the actual fraud called the 2000 election, but in the heat of campaigns journalists have a difficult time sorting out the baloney the GOP throws at the wall. Some loser working for ACORN or something will get caught trying to fake registrations, and the Republicans try to use that as proof of some huge plot. Which is nonsense but it's how they operate.

There's always room for improvement in election systems. Sincere efforts to improve things are laudable, but that's not what happened during the Bush administration and it's not what happened in the Washington State Republican Party after the insanely close 2004 election and recount. Instead, the GOP has tried to deprive many Americans of the right to vote using a variety of shady tactics, including database purges and restrictive measures designed to make registering and voting more difficult for poor and minority citizens.

As the Bush administration continues to drag the GOP towards even tougher times, it's heartening to see honest Republicans like the fired prosecutors speak out against manipulation of the justice system. As the other side continues its discussions about how to find a way out of the political wilderness, they would be well-advised to listen to the John McKays of the world. McKay and I probably don't have a lot in common in terms of politics, but we both realize that you can't have a real democracy if the justice system is subverted for political gain.

Frankly, I doubt that the GOP as an institution will listen to its sensible, honest members. The crackpots are running the show, and have been for a very long time. People who get their information from Rush Lumpenbaugh and Fox Noise are, by definition, living in an alternate universe that has little to do with the world as it is. As someone in the progressive blogosphere pointed out recently, and I regret being unable to recall who it was, it's a lot of work to keep all the conservative fantasies straight. It would be much simpler and better for the country in the long run if we could have reality-based arguments about policies.

We can argue in good faith about how low or high taxes should be, or what to do about climate change, or even how best to combat the still dangerous threat of terrorism. But you can't debate a fantasy, and by endorsing a deliberately false view of the world, the GOP has revealed itself as a dishonest institution led largely by dishonest people. That is the core of our problem in this country today, and frankly it helps Democrats a lot. Because at the rate things are going, the GOP dream of a "permanent majority" has vanished beneath a tidal wave of corruption.

While it might be better for Democrats if the lunatics stay in charge of the Republican Party, deep down I kind of hope that some of the reality-based folks can make some inroads. A healthy two party system can lead to better policy, as no one person or party is likely to have a great solution to every challenge.

But if I were a gambling man, I'd put my money on the crackpots. That's been a safe bet for about twenty years now.

It's the new blogs

It's a jungle in there.
The clash started on a January morning when protesters attacked the cyberspace headquarters of extremist French presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen in the popular 3-D Internet fantasy world Second Life.

Le Pen security forces responded with push guns, whimsical digital weapons that tossed bodies through the air "like rag dolls," according to one witness. Protesters fought back with pig grenades, firing fat pink porkers that exploded in neon pink splatters. When the shooting ended, Le Pen's headquarters lay in ruins, deserted by staff and guards.
What's funny about media coverage of politics in Second Life is that the true nature of Second Life is rarely mentioned. What most people seem to want in their Second Life is smut and gambling.

People who are legally allowed to do smut and gambling can do that, but American politicians might want to go give a look-see to Second Life before they get too involved in it. I signed up recently for a free account, meaning unless I want to give Linden Labs money I'm homeless and broke. Frankly Second Life could be the most boring and insipid thing ever created by humans. No wonder the only thing interesting that seems to happen is virtual terrorist attacks using exploding pigs. People are bored to tears.

And the "economy" in Second Life appears to be essentially a Ponzi scheme. You have to convert real US dollars into "Linden dollars," based on some alleged currency market that is controlled by, guess who, Linden Labs. Nice work if you can get it.

But seriously, someone please tell me what a pose ball is. For research purposes of course.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

NPI commemorates three years of blogging

Today marks the three year anniversary of the founding of the Northwest Progressive Institute's Official Blog.

We began this blog thirty six months ago to provide a liberal, progressive perspective on local, national, and international news and politics.

Back in 2004, the political winds in America were much different from today - and the local and national netroots community was much smaller.

Today the progressive movement is much stronger, the local and national blogospheres are certainly bigger, and NPI itself is more established as an organization, though it is still young and still growing.

The Official Blog was launched three years ago (March 29th, 2004) with a short post at 11:02 AM. About nine months later it began featuring daily commentary, and has been continually updated without fail since then - usually several times a day.

Since our second anniversary, we have provided comprehensive coverage of Darcy Burner and Maria Cantwell's campaigns for federal office, profiled candidates in key local races (like Eric Oemig and Rodney Tom), and we supplied steady commentary as we chronicled developments in local, national, and regional politics.

NPI successfully fought several right wing intiatives through its Permanent Defense division, and his blog hosted a series on the threats presented by each measure.

We broke the news of Referendum 65's demise here on the Official Blog in June (live from the Secretary of State's office in Olympia), and in August I filed a report from Olympia on the signature verification process for Initiative 917.

More recently we ran a visual series to emphasize the mistake of destroying Seattle's central waterfront by constructing a new viaduct.

On Election Night of 2006 the Official Blog offered live, frequent coverage of the 2006 midterm elections in conjunction with Pacific Northwest Portal as traffic exploded, nearly testing the limits of our bandwidth.

As other contributors began taking on more of the day to day political commentary and news analysis, I was able to spend time going to more events. A few highlights of my extensive liveblogging over the last 365 days:
During the last twelve months this blog has also carried announcements from NPI, including the May 2006 debut of Seaside, Version 4.0 of Pacific Northwest Portal.

As we move forward into our fourth year of operation, I have an important change to announce. In a few weeks, before May arrives, I will be quitting the blog entirely so I can better focus on other endeavors and projects for NPI. (Also, I could use some rest). That means I won't be doing any posting.

It'll be an indefinite break (meaning I don't know how long it'll last) - but temporary - I promise I'll be back at some point.

I'm confident that our team of contributors, led by our outstanding Media & Communications Director, will do a fine job in my absence.

As we commemorate a year of growth, victories, and successes, all of us at NPI are looking ahead to a bright future. Here's to another year of milestones!

Red Rover Red Rover

Here's something of a wrap up story about the Sampson testimony today. From McClatchy:
Sampson's sworn testimony appeared to further erode Gonzales' credibility as he tries to hold onto his job. It also raised new questions about the White House's involvement in the firings, as Sampson repeatedly said he couldn't remember details about his interaction with White House officials, particularly with political strategist Karl Rove.
Such a hard time remembering stuff. Karl who? Oh, that guy. The Dancing Fool. If you ask me Karl deserves to win The Gong Show American Idol.

Sampson hearing stopped by GOP procedural move

MSNBC just reported on-air (no internet story yet) that the Sampson hearing has been stopped by a Republican procedural move.

Apparently members can object after a certain number of hours if a hearing is proceeding while the full Senate is in session. Bizarre.

UPDATE 11:44 PDT: MSNBC just reported, again on-air, that the hearings have resumed. Not truly clear at this point what that was all about.

UPDATE II, 2:27 PM PDT-- C-SPAN is now showing the hearing on its main channel.

UPDATE III, 2:40 PM PDT--The hearing is recessed for the day and viewers of the main C-SPAN channel didn't get to see much at all. C-SPAN says on -air that the hearing will be replayed on the main channel in its entirety starting at 5PM PDT.

TPM has video clips of Sampson testimony

TPM Muckraker is posting video clips of Kyle Sampson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, such as this exchange with Dianne Feinstein. TPM Muckraker says there were two interesting bits of information in that exchange:
The first was a glowing letter about Lam that Feinstein presented from the Director of Field Operations for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. Lam was supposedly fired, remember, because she performed poorly on immigration prosecutions. You can read the letter here.

The second was the revelation that after the FBI bureau chief in San Diego complained to the press about Lam's firing, Samspon called FBI headquarters to complain.
You can check TPM Muckraker's main page for other clips from the hearing and Talking Points Memo has been running updates frequently.

Stupid journalist tricks

Maybe the quest for sensationalism has finally gone too far:
A television reporter who says she was doing an undercover investigation into security at hospital maternity wards was arrested after walking into a nursery with a large bag and asking questions about child abduction security.

The arrest came a few weeks after a baby was snatched from a Lubbock hospital by a woman in hospital scrubs who allegedly hid the newborn in her purse.

Cecelia Lynn Coy-Jones, 33, a reporter for NBC affiliate KCBD-TV in Lubbock, was dressed in a similar way and carrying a large red bag when she entered Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo on Tuesday evening.
Ok, then. While it's fine to do a story on hospital security, where in the SPJ ethics manual does it say you can not identify yourself and act as if you are about to commit violent felonies? (I'd saying baby kidnapping is fairly violent even if nobody gets phsyically hurt, and it's certainly a felony.) And here's the explanation from management:
Dan Jackson, KCBD general manager, said the station was doing an undercover investigation to see what security measures hospitals and maternity wards were taking after "recent infant kidnappings in Lubbock by individuals posing as nurses."
Let's hope there isn't a rash of bank robberies in that area.

There's really nothing more infuriating than some sanctimonious television reporter trying to play cop, or in this case, play with the cops and hospital authorities. Like they don't have better things to do.

And ah yes, if you're thinking about the First Amendment, which protects stupid speech, this incident is kind of like yelling fire in a crowded theater when there's no fire. So the reporter's Constitutional right to free speech and pursuit of the story might run headlong into the obligation not to engage in hoaxes and hide behind the First Amendment. There had to be a better way to get at the story.

Maybe they should all stick to chasing Internet perverts over chain link fences. Well, save it for sweeps month of course.

The sad lust between Drudge and Politico

This is absurd:
As Media Matters for America has noted, Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen's March 27 article, "Rookie Mistakes Plague Obama," was apparently flagged by Matt Drudge's website, The Drudge Report, approximately one hour before The Politico posted the article on its website on the evening of March 26. John Harris, Politico editor-in-chief, has written about the media's interest in having their work linked to on the Drudge Report. Several commentators, including blogger Glenn Greenwald, have noted an apparent tendency of Drudge to link to Politico items. Media Matters has reviewed the Drudge Report Archives and found that since The Politico launched on January 23, Drudge has linked to Politico items on at least 45 separate occasions.

In The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 (Random House, October 2006), Harris -- then of The Washington Post -- and then-ABC political director Mark Halperin devoted an entire chapter to Drudge's influence over the media, titled "How Matt Drudge Rules Our World," in which they state that Drudge "leans right" and warned that "[n]o Democratic politician will survive in the 2008 presidential campaign," unless they "understand" Drudge and have a "strategy" to "defend" themselves "against" Drudge. Harris and Halperin noted the great interest on the part of media, political operatives and political figures to have the Drudge Report link to an article or other material of theirs, even citing Harris' own book, The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House (Random House, May 2005) as an example. They also noted that Post editors are "delighted when Drudge does link to stories at" and "frustrat[ed]" when he does not.
Look, "journalists." Matt Drudge is a twisted little idiot who is wrong as often as he is right. He's The National Enquirer of politics.

You don't get to go around claiming to be for SPJ standards and then selectively ignore them. If a journalist was investigating say, an organized crime story, and one of their sources lied to them a billion times, why would they use that person as a source, other than to point out that they are a liar?

Geez, is there really anything more pathetic than "journalists" who live and die by what Matt Freaking Drudge thinks? These "journalists" at Politico are on their way to the Dennis Miller zone. They used to be kind of good at what they did, and then Nine Eleven Two Thousand and One broke their brains into little bitty pieces.

It's some kind of weird semi-famous middle aged guy syndrome, and what's even more sad is that in 2003 they were the "serious thinkers." Turns out their grasp of reality is as tenuous as the right wingers they so admire.

What all journalists need to understand, whether they are good ones, bad ones or indifferent one, is that they are political actors whether they like it or not. And good journalists, at least as defined by the standards of their profession, will carefully check facts and seek multiple sources both for accuracy and balance.

They will also avoid the appearance of bias. Sucking up to Matt Drudge is not good journalism. It's not even journalism as defined by the profession, it's using the cover of journalism to promote RNC talking points, facts be damned.

Wait for it--wait for it (all together now, in CAPS! "TIME FOR A BLOGGER ETHICS CONFERENCE!"

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In Brief - March 28th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Here's John McKay on the suggestion he be given his job back as a United States Attorney with the Department of Justice: Thanks but no thanks.
  • Sam Fox's nomination to be ambassador to Belgium withdrawn. The swift boat scum is thankfully gone. And hey, Belgium is next door to France.
  • Former Gonzales aid Kyle Sampson tries to defend attorney firings in advance of his testimony tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And the hearing is being aired live on C-SPAN 8, the "ocho." (Actually it's on C-SPAN 3, which at last count is available in tens of American households.)
  • John McCain's campaign learns a lesson about the internet pipes, thanks to a Seattle business.
  • Put me on TV or I'll beat you up. The rough and tumble world of a Fox TV cameraman in The Couv.
Finally, it turns out that the two Iraqi bloggers quoted by George W. Bush as proof that things are improving in Iraq actually wrote those words three weeks ago - in The Wall Street Journal.

From Editor and Publisher columnist Greg Mitchell:
Only hours later did the White House reveal that the bloggers were brothers, Mohammed and Omar Fadhil, and these supposedly little-known average Joes had met Bush in the Oval Office in 2004. They are dentists and write an English-language blog from Baghdad called, also available via Pajamas Media.

The White House admitted that Bush had plundered the lines from an op-ed that the brothers wrote for The Wall Street Journal way back on March 5. The White House couldn't even get the date right, as it turned out it actually appeared on March 7.
The noise machine is starting to sputter quite badly. You kind of wonder how reporters can keep from bursting into laughter when Bush Republicans open their mouths. Most things about this administration have had an absurd, surreal quality about them, and it never stops.

If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

PBDEs need to be banned this session

The out of state chemical industry is fighting hard to stop a bill that would eliminate toxic flame retardants (PBDEs). HB 1024 passed the House 71-24 last month and is currently before the state Senate.

If you haven't already, please contact your senator and let him or her know you strongly support this legislation.

Here's a list of the senators who cosponsored SB 5034 earlier - that's the companion bill to the legislation the House passed:
Regala, Eide, Swecker, Weinstein, Franklin, Rasmussen, Brandland, Spanel, Jacobsen, McAuliffe, Poulsen, Keiser, Shin, Pridemore, Fraser, Fairley, Rockefeller, Kline, Kohl-Welles, Tom, Murray, Oemig
If your senator is on that list, you can also thank them for going on the record in support of a cleaner, healthier Washington.

The Seattle P-I had an outstanding front page article on the dangers of PBDEs this morning - another fine report from journalist Lisa Stiffler. It's a must read if you're looking for background on this issue.

Josh Feit looked over the list of exceptions in the bill last week, noticed that many of them exempted Boeing from the ban, and complained about "retarded corporate Democrats" in a post on SLOG last week. I asked the Washington Toxics Coalition about the exceptions and received this response:
We wanted to focus on the highest uses of deca and preventing new uses in the home environment where children crawl around in the dust.

Children are receiving up to 300 times the level of exposure to PBDEs relative to adults, primarily from exposure from breast milk ingestion and inadvertent dust ingestion. Television casings are the largest use of deca.
While there is some deca that has been used in mattresses and furniture, we are trying to prevent a significant new use here.

New federal standards (mattresses) identify deca as a way to comply and similar standards for furniture are on the way. In addition, we wanted to focus on product areas where safer, effective alternatives were already in use and available due to the concerns about fire safety.
Also, I discovered that reformulating alternatives that meets the FAA's guidelines is not something that is easily accomplished - hence the exemptions for aircraft and for Boeing.

It's not about giving one of the biggest companies in the state a free pass. Boeing says it is working with suppliers to "identify and test potential solutions" that would allow it to replace deca-BDE.

So enough with the "retarded corporate Democrats" nonsense. This bill would make a real difference. Surely even Josh Feit can agree that making some progress is better than doing nothing. This bill isn't out of the woods yet, though, so don't wait to let your state senator know that SHB 1024 must be passed this session.

And check out these pictures of Washingtonians who want to be PBDE free.

Crossing project moves into DEIS phase

The CRC project moves on to its DEIS phase now. From The Columbian:
The Columbia River Crossing task force accepted Tuesday night an additional alternative for the draft environmental impact statement it authorized last month. The new idea will study retaining the existing spans of the Interstate 5 Bridge while adding a new bridge.
Interesting bit down in the article about the stance of Vancouver, as expresed by the mayor:
Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, though, won an amendment that minimizes the impact on downtown Vancouver. He worried that the project would interfere with the proposed downtown RiverWest development, at Evergreen Boulevard and C Street, and the former hospital building near Fort Vancouver.

"You can't guarantee me this alternative won't expand, can you?" he asked. "There's great uncertainty for us."

The task force agreed and approved his amendment affirming that property losses will be minimal and not interfere with those projects.
Things do get pretty crunchy right in that segment. (For those familiar with the area, we're talking about the Bill Copps property on which Riverwest will be built. The new Fort Vancouver Library main branch is slated to be part of Riverwest.)

My non-engineer mind cannot fathom how to make a south-bound new bridge, which would presumably be immediately downstream of the existing spans, hook up to I-5 while not cutting into "C" Street properties.

As the engineers tend to say, give us enough money and we'll build it, but while I like the creativity of the "fourth alternative" and I'm glad that it made the cut for DEIS, it could get dicey on the Washington side.

If the new bridge was upstream of the existing spans, that would place it on the "northbound" side and that would impact the fort, as Pollard alludes to.

If you make the southbound new bridge at a "mid-level" height to avoid creating yet another lift-span, the cars have to get up to that height going southbound, which would seem to rule out a short tunnel or something. Ah well, that's why they have engineers. I don't begrudge them their task.


The New York Times calls for a Congressional investigation into the malarkey surrounding the death of Pat Tillman.
The circumstances of this byzantine case cry out for Congressional hearings to get an independent evaluation of just who pulled the strings to sugar-coat a terrible battlefield accident as an instance of heroism under hostile fire.
There have been countless tragedies, of course, and perhaps it's unfair that the Tillman case, as awful as it is, has generated so much press.

Still, this sad episode will probably go down in the history books as emblamatic of the absurd propaganda used against the American people during the Bush II regime. And as is always the case, nobody suffers more than the family.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Puget Sound municipal officials concerned about the negative impact of SB 5803

Elected leaders throughout the state's most densely populated metropolitan area are concerned about the potential harm that SSB 5803 would create by shaking up the region's transportation governance structure.

Several weeks ago, King County Councilman Larry Phillips summed up many of the major consequences of undermining current efforts to send a roads and transit package to voters this fall in a letter to legislators.

His March 9th correspondence is as follows:
I urge you to vote against SSB 5803, legislation relating to regional transportation governance.

I offer the following concerns about this legislation:
  • Jeopardizes the upcoming Roads and Transit ballot measure. The primary problem plaguing regional mobility in the Central Puget Sound region is the lack of investment in transportation infrastructure to keep pace with our rapid population and employment growth. The $16.5 billion Roads and Transit ballot measure is our opportunity to reverse that trend. Attempting sweeping changes in transportation governance prior to the election seriously undermines that effort and will introduce uncertainty, chaos, and, potentially, many more years of indecision and inaction.

  • Causes costly delay. The cost of inaction in 2007 is extremely high. One year of delay on the Sound Transit 2 package raises costs $800 million. With construction inflation increasing more rapidly than sales tax growth, every year of delay puts more projects out of reach. Beyond the dollar cost is the toll on citizens, who are frustrated with wasting their time stuck in traffic and sick of waiting for their representatives to act. Sound Transit is ready to act. Construction of many of the Roads and Transit projects will take ten to twenty years to come on-line after voter approval. Many of these same projects were needed ten or twenty years ago. Delay leaves our citizens and businesses waiting for relief.

  • Doesn’t safeguard voter-approved projects or transit funds. If SSB 5803 were enacted and the Roads and Transit ballot passed, the new governance board would have the authority to override the voters and spend their money on other projects, which undermines voter input and breeds a lack of trust in elected officials. SSB 5803 would also allow taxes currently authorized for transit projects to be diverted for road projects, yet the State Constitution does not allow road revenue to be spent on transit. This creates inequity and further jeopardizes the region’s ability to provide an intermodal transportation system that finally includes a comprehensive grade-separated mass transit system.

  • Fractures planning from implementation. Coordination between planning and project implementation is key for success, yet SSB 5803 would move planning into an agency entirely separate from the agencies delivering the projects.

  • Creates another layer of governance. Rather than simplifying the transportation governance structure, SSB 5803 would add another layer of governance, another layer of complication, and another layer of confusion for citizens.

  • Increases potential for conflict with local jurisdictions. An aspect of Sound Transit’s success working with local jurisdictions is its federated board which incorporates local and regional officials into the planning and decision-making process. SSB 5803 would divorce local officials from regional transportation planning, creating the potential for greater and more frequent conflicts over the scope, siting, and design of projects.

  • Messes with success. Sound Transit enjoys a 65% favorability rating and has regained citizen confidence after its rocky years as a start-up agency. It seems counter-intuitive to introduce radical changes to the agency at such an important time and put control in the unknown hands of a new start-up agency.
Governance changes of this nature should be considered carefully. SSB 5803 would introduce radical changes that haven’t been thoroughly vetted and have received almost no public input.

The Central Puget Sound region needs to get moving on transportation projects. The legislature can best aid this effort by voting against SSB 5803 and supporting our efforts to put a successful Roads and Transit ballot measure before voters in November.

Thank you for your consideration.


Larry Phillips, Councilmember
In a lengthy post earlier this month, I outlined many of the same problems that Larry wrote about in his letter.

The House Transportation Committee is holding a public hearing on SB 5803 this afternoon. I'm representing NPI at the hearing and will testify against the bill if I have the opportunity. You can urge your representatives to oppose SB 5803 by leaving a message with his or her office via Legislative Hotline at the in-state toll-free phone number: 1-800-562-6000.

SB 5803 would mess with success

Ben Schiendelman, an engineering student, transit advocate, and occassional NPI contributor, has a nice guest column in today's Seattle Times outlining the legislation's problems. Here's an excerpt:
Proponents complain that we have 128 local transit agencies — but this does nothing to solve that problem; it only adds a new, inexperienced agency and fractures what we have.

We don't need this. We've done the work — we know what needs to happen next, and the plan is going to voters this year. Why are our own elected representatives in Olympia, specifically the ones whose constituents are most dependent upon transit, getting the state involved in regional issues?

Gov. Christine Gregoire told me a year ago that she didn't feel regional transit governance was an issue the state should interfere with. This would be a good time to reflect on that and realize it was the right position.

Surveys and citizen input consistently confirm that Sound Transit's planned light-rail expansion is exactly what the region's residents want. And we're willing to pay for it, though the Legislature already has delayed the transit package by a year by linking Sound Transit's ballot measure to regional road projects — and letting inflation add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost.
The whole thing is definitely worth reading.

Hutcherson's Latvia involvement examined

David Postman does a ton of digging regarding Redmond pastor Ken Hutcherson's involvement in Latvia against gay rights.

I can't do it justice in an excerpt, so the post gets the ultimate blogging compliment: an admonition to please go read it if you have the chance.

Hutcherson declared his intent to recruit among Eastern European churches in January, so it's hard not to see this as related. It's important to understand what kind of people Hutcherson is associating himself with. Ugly stuff.

Still no video from Hutcherson proving that he was actually appointed a "special envoy" by the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

As Postman notes, Eli Sanders of The Stranger has been all over this story. You can read Sanders' latest post (which deals with a lot of the material Postman has uncovered) as well.

Time magazine jumps biggest shark ever

I guess since Don Rumsfeld won't get to guest-edit at the Los Angeles Times, maybe the folks at Time magazine brought him on.

Because there is no way to explain how this happened:

It's kind of hard to see in the screenshot above, but the US cover story for the new issue of Time is why the Bible should be taught in public schools.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world gets a cover story about the strength of the Taliban in Pakistan.


I mean really, I know I complain constantly about the media, but the Los Angeles Times and Time magazine are two of the premier brands in the industry. They have tremendous power, even in the age of the Internet. And obviously both are being run by corporate muckety-mucks who don't have the sense God gave Adam, so to speak.

I don't know how you clean out the cesspool of ignorance and stupidy that seems to exist at Time-Warner and Tribune Media, but this is approaching Fox Noise territory. 'Cause what Time Magazine did with its covers is absurd on a grand scale. And yes, the First Amendment offers protection to the stupid, so Time magazine has a legal right to put out the most unintentionally ironic set of covers in the history of magazine publishing. And everyone else in the media has a First Amendment right to call them on it.

Okay, I have to go find a way to get my jaw back off the floor now.

(Props to Daily Kos diarist debel u for the catch.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Inside a bubble, week after week

It often seems like George W. Bush and his cronies operate from within a bubble - fenced off from the American people and Congress, shrouded in secrecy, unwilling to acknowledge mistakes or even reality (remember "we will be greeted as liberators" or "the insurgency is in its last throes"?)

That sad metaphor is the inspiration for Andrew Wahl's latest cartoon, reproduced with permission below, which is one of the finest he's ever illustrated.

Bubble Boy

O'Reilly cuts off his partner's microphone

Washington state's very own Lis Wiehl is making headlines after her boss cut off her microphone.
On the March 23 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann named Fox News host Bill O'Reilly the winner of his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment because, as Media Matters for America documented, O'Reilly "had his radio engineer turn off the mike of his own co-host, Lis Wiehl, because she said Gonzales-gate mattered and because she reminded him, under the president's offer to Congress, [White House senior adviser] Karl Rove and company would not have to testify under oath."

Olbermann then observed: " 'Stop talking,' he yelled at her. 'It's not about you, and you're misleading the audience. Stop talking.' He then had her mike shut off for three minutes, and asked rhetorically about Wiehl, 'What can we do to her? What can we do to her?' "

O'Reilly ordered Wiehl's microphone turned off after she asserted accurately that the Bush administration had offered to allow White House staffers to be interviewed privately by members of Congress investigating the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys only if no transcript of the interviews is produced. O'Reilly called her claim a "lie" and maintained that Wiehl "did not do [her] homework."
In addition to her duties as Billo's sidekick, Wiehl is still a University of Washington associate professor of law, according to her Fox bio.

Some Seattle viewers may remember her as a legal analyst for KIRO, and her Fox bio says she still does work for NPR.

I remember seeing Wiehl on television in the distant past, and she struck me as fairly well informed. She really should tell Billo to stick it and go see if MSNBC is hiring.

Rumsfeld won't get to guest edit LA Times opinion section

From the end of an Editor and Publisher article about the demise of The Los Angeles Times' guest editor program:
The name of Donald Rumsfeld also surfaced in recent days as someone who was considered as a guest editor.
There is nothing that can be said about such an idea on a family blog.

I respectfully decline to answer

Good thing the entire Constitution wasn't shredded. Looks like at least one DOJ employee intends to make full use of the Bill of Rights.
Monica Goodling, a counsel to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who helped coordinate the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys, will invoke her constitutional right not to answer Senate questions about the firings, her lawyer said.

Goodling, one of four Justice Department officials the agency said could be interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, will invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege not to answer the panel's questions, John M. Dowd, her lawyer, said in a statement. Dowd said the committee had requested her testimony under oath.
Insert your own ironic comment here. Here's mine: people who don't have anything to hide don't mind. Do they?

Personally I'm glad the Bill of Rights still exists, and I for one will not read anything into Goodling's use of her rights. Well, okay, I'm lying. I'm laughing my fool head off. These are the people who tried to do away with habeas corpus, and now one of them finds that she better use the fifth amendment. Is it Thursday yet?

Bridging the gap between Vancouver and Portland

The Columbian ran an article yesterday about possible tolls on a new I-5 bridge between Vancouver and Portland. County Commissioner Steve Stuart says federal funding will be scant:
Stuart recently spoke with members of the Washington congressional delegation about the bridge and came away feeling its prospects at the federal level aren't bright. The two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, all told him the big federal deficit and the cost of the war in Iraq are making big-ticket transportation projects less feasible.

"We'd be very, very lucky to get even half," Stuart said. "Whatever we come up with is going to require local dollars, and inevitably that means tolls."
He may be right; I can't recall anyone from the Congressional delegation actually being quoted about this issue directly. It's all conjecture at this point anyway.

From what I understand, quality proposals would stand to do well when it comes to federal funding, and there are a lot of devils in those details.

From Portland Transport we learn that veteran transportation planner Jim Howell suggests that the solution is light rail by itself. You can read his guest editorial at the Portland Tribune.

I love it when people in Portland who obviously understand little about Clark County politics think they can tell us what to do. Howell's idea wouldn't be approved by voters or any sane politician in a million years, and it's pretty typical of the pie-in-the-sky mentality among some transportation enthusiasts south of the river.

That attitude is a big potential problem, and it's already manifested itself through various mischaracterizations of the CRC project. Some folks in Portland seem to insist on calling a new bridge "gigantic" and talk about "a massive new 10 lane bridge" when they know darn well that what is proposed is 3 through lanes in each direction, with "drop-off" lanes and interchange improvements.

Constant talk of a "big new bridge" is fairly misleading. But there are forces in Oregon that have utterly misconstrued the CRC, big surprise.

Oregon's Metro talks about "land use solutions" without ever acknowledging that Clark County is poised to blow out the urban growth boundaries. Maybe, as one person has suggested to me, Metro is in fact trying to tell us something, but it would seem to be a rather arduous way to deliver that message. Yeah, our land use policies are messed up. We know. It's called the BIAW, look into it.

Some transportation experts and enthusiasts from Portland talk about "aggressive transportation demand management," which the public doesn't really understand.

What it amounts to is making it so expensive to get across the river that we won't go, or if we have to go because of work or medical reasons we can pay an exorbitant price or use transit.

Which works well in computer models, not so much for a patient needing chemotherapy and the light rail doesn't go where they need. High tolls used to keep people from using the road system as much would be seen as unfairly punitive.

When the public figures out what some people mean by "aggressive transportation demand management," they will justifiably go on a voting rampage against anyone and anything involved in such a plot, should it be put into practice. Agree or disagree with "aggressive TDM," that seems to be the highly predictable political outcome.

Tolls that pay for the project and perhaps upkeep might be accepted, if griped about, but if you start trying to screw regular people who are just trying to get to work, the first thing you're going to see coming across the bridge is a parade of citizens bearing torches and pitchforks.

But I figure if folks in Portland want to tell us what to do, then two can play at the game. (Here goes that little bird again).

Hey, Oregon, here's a land-use idea that will keep thousands of people from moving over here: fund your schools. It's not exactly a secret that one of the top reasons people with kids flee Oregon is how badly public schools are treated.

As long as we're "being creative" and "thinking outside the box" and "being experts," I would posit that greater investments in public schools in Oregon would not only yield long-term economic benefits but slow the long-term increase in commuter trips across the Columbia. So study that, or put that in your pipe or what have you.

You know, I bet someone has studied that. 'Cause everyone I've met from Portland with kids over here says the same thing: they wanted to get away from Oregon's lousy school funding picture.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for light rail if it pencils out (and realistically, the cost is steep and it may not be the best solution in the end).

But we still haven't figured out how to have a bus system that will support transit from Clark County. To be fair, it's still early in the process, but it would be nice to have an idea of how a total system would function and what it would cost. Buses might, after more study in the DEIS, still come out on top as the transit component.

One could argue that the money spent on light rail could be used instead to make a whole ton of improvements to C-TRAN, not the least of which would be freaking bus shelters and street cut-outs so that people aren't standing in the rain and buses don't mess up traffic flow so much. (I haven't actually decided myself, it's just an example of the kinds of decisions that need to be made.)

If people in Portland really want to control cars, they can start with Washington County cars and stop blaming us for all their problems. There is no moral or legal reason to single out Clark County residents for shabby treatment.

Should Portland decide that minimizing automobile use is that important, they should try a London-style center city pricing plan that applies to everyone instead of figuring they can just hose people who happen to live north of the river. Not everyone moved here from Portland, despite the canards frequently tossed around in some circles south of the river.

This is a major metropolitan region, and there are services on the Oregon side that Clark County residents have to access (can you say "Kaiser Permanente?") The I-5 bridge mess is just that-a mess-and it needs to get fixed.

Portland does have legitimate concerns. It is very much worth discussing, for example, ways to reduce air pollution in the corridor. Sure, we don't want to "move the bottlenecks," which might simply transfer pollution-generating congestion from one place to another.

But what seems strangely absent from discussions of this, which tend to focus on north Portland, is where the pollution currently must reside, if congestion bottlenecks cause pollution - Vancouver.

I figured Portland residents would have a different take on things, but I didn't realize how accepted it is sometimes to just consider Clark County "the Other." To exaggerate a bit, it's as if Clark County residents are not fellow citizens who work, shop and play in Portland, but some kind of marauding enemy force to be contained, and if possible, humiliated. It's kind of weird.

Must be the license plates or something, because nobody seems to be talking about forcing 50% of Washington County commuters to take the already existing light rail line. Again, if that's what people in Portland want to do, they should feel free to try it and good luck with that. I hear there is a new Pitchforks R Us opening in Beaverton; that will be handy.

The new Interstate Bridge is not the Mount Hood Freeway, another common canard. A new bridge would be a replacement, not a new corridor. People who insist on comparing a replacement bridge to the never-built freeway are kidding themselves at best, and being obstructionist at worst.

Funny thing - Interstate 5 is an important highway, not Portland's private social experiment. We all want to do things better, but there needs to be give and take, and a willingness to realize that not everyone is going to like the final outcome. There are legitimate safety and efficiency reasons to consider replacing the existing structures.

Finally, the subcommittee to study a fourth alternative was scheduled to meet one last time this morning, in advance of a task force meeting tomorrow evening. It's also worthwhile to explore that alternative in the DEIS, to see if something short of replacing the structures will work.

The CRC staff doesn't think so, but it's important to the process that all reasonable alternatives get a good, hard look, even if it does cost some more money for analysis.

It's understandable that a project this large and complex will generate tensions. What we need is a greater understanding of concerns on both sides of the river, which is probably easier for Clark County residents because most of our media is based in Portland. In any case, large projects are almost always faced with political challenges, but good-faith efforts by those involved have helped in the past and hopefully will continue to be rewarded with progress.

Now about the aesthetic of the design...(just kidding.)

UPDATE, 12:40 PM: The Columbian reports some details of the "fourth alternative" approved Monday. The newspaper says it will include a new southbound only bridge, and:
  • Keeping the existing Interstate 5 Bridge for northbound traffic only, each span with two lanes plus shoulders and off-ramps.
  • Building a new bridge, adjacent to the existing one, with four southbound lanes as well as high capacity transit, whatever system is chosen.
  • Increasing the mass transit capacity to 25,000 riders a day, express buses from 19 to 40 and park and ride lots in the corridor from 1,872 to 7,500.
  • Including bicycle and pedestrian facilities to the existing I-5 Bridge, perhaps on paths built off to the side.
It's an interesting proposal, and at first glance it would seem to deserve serious consideration for inclusion in the DEIS. The whole project is like squeezing a balloon, of course, as anything you do has an effect somewhere else.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Media giants hope to leapfrog YouTube

A couple days ago, executives from two of America's biggest media conglomerates announced the creation a new online video service that they hope can overtake Google's YouTube as an Internet destination - which they view as a threat to the business model they wish to preserve (where content and distribution rights are tightly controlled by a corporate elite).

The enthusiastic presidents of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (Peter Chernin) and General Electric's NBC Universal (Jeff Zucker) couldn't stop boasting about their yet to be named offering, which Chernin said would be "one of the most exciting alliances in the history of the Internet" while Zucker claimed it would be "the largest ad platform on Earth."

A few observers have predictably described this unproven service as a likely "potent alternative" to Google's YouTube. In an article published yesterday, Brian Morrissey offers a better analysis and good quotes from skeptics:
"They're missing the point there. YouTube is not about their content," said Fernanda Romano, ecd at Interpublic Group's Lowe in New York. "The cool thing about YouTube is it's all about participation. It's about the human being, and that's what they're forgetting."
The Internet is indeed a truly democratized, powerful medium. The beauty of it is that it can't be controlled by a handful of executives. YouTube has flourished because it doesn't have autocratic management, as analyst Jonathan Arber of Ovum concluded in his take on the announcement:
This service will not be a YouTube killer, or even much of a competitor. YouTube is popular because it combines equal parts user-generated video content and social networking, as well as mainstream TV episodes and movies from all over the world – it is about users worldwide controlling what they watch and when they watch it.

This new offering from NBC/News Corp seems to be focused chiefly on the delivery of mainstream content, and the control will be strictly in the hands of the content owners.
Zucker and Chernin insist their new service is about "professional" (versus "amateur") content, and have tried to downplay any challenge to YouTube following their initial announcement.

They are of course promising the service will have some kind of digital restrictions management (DRM), which is important to them and fellow control freaks at the helm of the other massive media empires. Here's a question, though: since the service reportedly will allow users to upload their own videos, will individuals who choose to submit their own works be offered protection?

That is, will the service's terms of service allow users to upload videos without surrendering away their intellectual property rights?

Will users receive any revenue from the advertising that will probably run in front of or besides their contributions on this service? Or do these industry bigwigs just expect to reap the benefits of free video donated from a community of users with no strings attached?

The industry obviously makes a big deal about copyright but doesn't seem to care about trampling on the rights of consumers or independent content creators:
Activist groups sued Viacom Inc. on Thursday, claiming the parent of Comedy Central improperly asked the video-sharing site YouTube to remove a parody of the cable network's "The Colbert Report."

Viacom responded by saying it had no records of ever making such a request.

Although the video in question contained clips taken from the television show, Civic Action and Brave New Films LLC argued that their use was protected under "fair use" provisions of copyright law.

With Viacom identified by YouTube as the source of the removal request, they said Viacom should have known the use was legal and thus its complaint to YouTube to have the video blocked amounted to a "misrepresentation" that is subject to damages under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Viacom, which had earlier sued Google for copyright infringement, now ironically is defending itself in a lawsuit alleging abuse of the industry supported Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and censorship of legitimate free speech.

Zucker and Chernin's new service is supposedly open for "business with anyone" but other conglomerates aren't even on board yet. Viacom, already tangled in legal battles as noted above, expressed interest in the new service but has already inked a deal with Joost, a forthcoming peer to peer on demand video service which is currently in beta. (Joost was founded last year by the creators of Skype and is expected to go public this summer).

CBS, meanwhile, has said it will enter into partnerships on an "open, nonexclusive basis" while the Walt Disney Company doesn't "seem to be too eager to work through any entity that could dilute their brand", according to a report in BusinessWeek which cited knowledgeable industry observers.

This service just isn't going to be a "game changer". Streaming video and web advertising aren't new. Neither are streamed television shows - ABC, for instance, offers a number of its most popular shows on its website with minimal advertising. YouTube can adapt - it isn't going to go away.

If anything, it will only become more popular.

McKay on MTP: initial thoughts

I caught a little bit of the segment on Meet the Press that featured John McKay and fellow former US attorney David Iglesias. You can check here for Meet the Press transcripts; (today's is not yet posted as of about 9 AM PDT.)

Being outside the Puget Sound media market, I don't recall seeing McKay on television before. So while I must note that McKay's comments were serious, pointing out that politics cannot be allowed to be the determining factor in prosecutions, this is a politcal blog, which means a litte birdie kept saying to me:

"They fired THAT guy for political reasons? An articulate, distinguished, dedicated and intelligent moderate Republican? They're not geniuses, they're morons!"

Don't know if McKay has any political ambitions, and I don't know where he stands on the social issues that are often so crucial in party primaries, especially on the "R" side, but dang. If this guy ever runs for anything I hope it's for a non-partisan office. I wonder what office lawyers could run for that involves the law and is non-partisan? A supremely interesting question.

UPDATE 11:35 AM-- The MTP transcript for today, March 25, 2007, is now up. Here's an exchange from page two of the transcript where Russert asks McKay about Washington's 2004 gubernatorial election and Republican displeasure with him:
MR. RUSSERT: Wednesday you gave an interview and quoted as follows on this subject: “When they go back and keep shifting stories it tends to indicate there’s a more nefarious reason that they’re not willing to admit to [the dismissals collectively]. ... That’s the real problem, and in my case it may be true because if they put me on,” the “list because I wasn’t aggressive enough in ensuring that the Republican candidate for governor was elected, then that’s a terrible thing.” Very close race for the governorship in your state, the Democrat won by just a handful of votes. You looked into the case, decided you did not find voter fraud. When you applied for a federal judgeship, that issue was raised with you. Correct?

MR. McKAY: That’s correct. I, I was able to go into the White House in a meeting with Harriet Miers and her deputy Bill Kelly, and the very first question that I was asked was, was in reference to the 2004 governor’s election.

MR. RUSSERT: And did they ask you why you did not go forward with an investigation or with indictments?

MR. McKAY: No, they actually asked me why Republicans in the state of Washington would be angry with me. And, of course, all of the actions taken by the federal government, which were not publicly discussed, were well-known to, to my supervisors and, and those who follow our work in Washington, D.C. So I was a little surprised that they would ask me about that, since our office had carefully reviewed the evidence, and really, in the case of the 2004 governor’s election here, the lack of evidence. And the decision that I made not to go forward was a really unanimous decision with the Seattle division of the FBI. So, so from our standpoint, it wasn’t controversial from an evidentiary standpoint, even though it was very controversial in the state of Washington. And, you know, we expected to be supported by people in Washington, D.C., when we make tough decisions like that. And I think that’s a, a really important problem here that folks who, who raise their hand and take—took the same oath I did to support and defend the Constitution didn’t do the same thing we did, which was focus on the evidence and not allow politics into the work that we do in, in criminal prosecutions.

The Legal Services angle on McKay

McClatchy reporter Les Blumenthal writes an article about "old grudges" that dogged John McKay within some GOP circles in the state. The whole thing is worth a read, but the fascinating parts are about how McKay was viewed in conservative circles not just regarding the 2004 gubernatorial election but because he had worked for Legal Service Corporation during the Clinton years, which in wingnut circles meant he had "worked for Clinton," according to the article.

From The News-Tribune:
Known as “Johnny” to friends and family, John McKay served as president of the Legal Services Corp. in Washington, D.C., before being named U.S. attorney. The Legal Services Corp. was created by Congress in 1974 as a private nonprofit corporation to provide legal services to the poor.

Though McKay headed Legal Services Corp. during the Clinton administration, he wasn’t appointed by the president and didn’t work for the administration. Even so, Vance and others said the perception among conservatives was that McKay had worked for the Clinton administration.

“I knew who he was,” Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, said of John McKay. “He worked in the Clinton administration.”
Which shows, once again, that Tom McCabe is one of the most relentlessly partisan big interest group leaders in the history of this state. But it shows the mindset among the hard-core conservatives: to them McKay had already been defined as a traitor to their cause because he maybe thought poor people should have proper representation, and as the article notes, had worked to defend Legal Services Corporation from Congressional attacks.
Tony Williams, Gorton’s former chief of staff, recalled that when passions were running high following the 2004 governor’s race, McKay’s connection to Legal Services and mistaken connection to the Clinton administration raised some eyebrows in conservative circles.

“If people Googled him and saw he ran Legal Services … I can only imagine what my more conservative friends thought,” Williams said.
That's kind of a nice way of saying the wingnuts were out for blood. Which was obvious, but bears directly on what ultimately happened to McKay.

The American people have come to understand how the conservative-captured Republican Party has operated over the last fifteen years or so. You either believe what they believe, no matter how awful or insane that belief might be, or you are the enemy, to be destroyed. That's why nobody would put it past them to use the Justice Department to settle political scores.

It's sad, really. But that doesn't mean Democrats should not conduct investigations. Let the evidence lead where it leads. If McKay was actually fired for reasons other than a political vendetta, we need to know that. But there's a lot of 'splaining left to do, 'cause things don't add up.

Moving forward on healthcare reform

Now is the time to move forward and reform healthcare.

At the federal level, even George W. Bush in his recent State of the Union address, recognized that our health care system is in need of an overhaul. Senator Barack Obama, a presidential contender, called last week for a single payer system to be in place within six years. Representatives Conyers, Kucinich, McDermott, and Chirstensen are supporting Medicare for All in HR 676.

Here in the Evergreen State, healthcare is an important part of the legislative agenda for the 2007 - as it should be. NPI and Democratic organizations across Washington support the adoption and implementation of a national single payer healthcare system, with universal coverage.

Though our goal is clear, there are many potential paths we could take to reach it. Should we, as a state, move incrementally toward improvements in our current system, gradually extending insurance coverage to wider sections of our population?
Or should we support quicker implementation?

Here's an outline of the different proposals under consideration, as well as a primer on some of the organizations supporting them:
  • Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care: This much-anticipated report of the governor's 6 month commission was released this month. It proposes no significant systemic changes, but rather offers a set of 16 recommendations, some of which represent general improvements in overall approach, such as a focus on healthy lifestyles and prevention, use of evidence-based medicine, and improvement in data management. While many of its general recommendations are laudable, it relies heavily on a business model, and its answer to problems of access and lack of coverage is to further tinker with insurance policies. For an excellent critique, see Sherry Weinberg's evaluation.
  • Fair Share Health Care Coalition - This is a broad-based 60+ group including labor, faith, business, rpovider, and community organization interests. The Washington State Labor Council chairs the coalition, which also includes the State Hospital Association; UFCW; SEIU; the Secure Health Campaign, sponsored by the Washington Community Action Network; and Save Health Care in Washington, sponsored by the Community Health Network of Washington. The coalition supports a series of changes, including providing all children with accessible care; supporting small businesses either through expanding Basic Health or subsidizing their insurance premiums; investing in Basic Health; allowing large employers to participate in a state-administered health care pool; and reforming the insurance industry. Bills to watch which further this agenda include HB 1071, Concerning Access of Health Services for Children, lead sponsor Judy Clibborn (41st); SB 5658, which publicly finances catastrophic insurance for low-income employees in small businesses, sponsored by Karen Keiser (33rd); and HB 1569, which would create a state board to certify and oversee health care plans for individuals and small businesses, sponsored by Eileen Cody (34th).
  • Washington Health Security Trust - This bold single payer bill was written by members of Physicians for a National Health Program Western Washington, Health Care for All-Washington, and Health Care That Works. The bill now has sponsors in both the House (Sherry Appleton) and Senate (Rosa Franklin). PNHP is a national physician organization which advocates universal health care nationally; they are now approaching this on a state-by-state basis. This plan would set up a Security Trust to manage an expansive public program. All Washington residents over 18 with incomes over 150% of the federal poverty level and all employers earning $125,000 or more per quarter would contribute to this fund. Tobacco settlement and community health funds would be added. According to its proponents, these sources combined would be sufficient to cover all our residents, including the 600,000 now not insured. The Trust would later negotiate with the federal government to include funding for various federal beneficiaries. While this plan could limit per capita costs to a certain extent by largely eliminating the private insurance bureaucracy for a significant portion of the population, it does not really control the supply side of the care equation.
  • The Oregon Health Plan - Former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, an emergency room physician, heads We Can Do Better, an organization that is preparing a bill for consideration before the Oregon Legislature this year. Currently, branches of this organization are forming in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia. While it is also a single payer initiative, this plan differs from the WHST above in several ways. First, it charges the Oregon Health Fund Board to work with the federal government from the outset to procure state directed funds from Medicare, Medicaid, and the public subsidy portion of employer-sponsored health coverage. It also deals explicitly with issues of cost by defining a set of essential health services and prioritizing coverage of treatments, recognizing that public funds for health care are, after all, finite.
Regardless of the path we choose, we must remember that health care is a basic right. Our overall aim must be to achieve optimal health for everyone. Clearly our current system is broken.

Is it preferable, on the state level, to work in a step by step fashion, while waiting for the federal government to take action, or is it better to insist the states lead the way, in hopes the U.S. Congress will then 'learn by example'?

The Blue Ribbon Commission provides laudable goals for improving overall health. Realistically, the stepwise approaches of the Fair Share Health Care coalition are most likely to be passed by our state congress.

The Washington Health Security Trust plan would offer a more far-reaching approach. Ideally, the basic concepts of this plan, with some modifications, combined with elements of the Oregon Plan to reduce service costs, could assure all Washingtonians that their health care needs could be met, in an affordable way.

Washington could then serve as a model for the rest of the country.

The question is not if, or when, but HOW to achieve meaningful reform. As stated by Guy Saperstein of Democracy Alliance:
"If progressives are going to project progressive solutions and be part of this debate, they will need to do so quickly, because the system is fast collapsing, and decisions are going to be made with us or without us."
He's right. Time to organize and mobilize.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Unanswered questions in McKay firing remain

KOMO posts an AP story with the headline "Political whodunit: John McKay's curious downfall." Mostly it traces the chronology of known events. McKay's lightning-quick fall from favor within the Justice Department certainly seems striking.

But the best part of the article is at the end, where some of the unanswered questions are posed:
Some questions remain. Namely: If Vander Stoep kept McKay off the bench for inexperience, where did the White House counsel's office get the idea that it was the 2004 election? It could have come from McKay's own camp: The e-mail chain suggests Sampson heard McKay had gotten "screwed" on the judgeship from Debra Yang, the former U.S. attorney in Los Angeles and a friend of McKay. Sampson then passed that information to Hoyt.

Also unanswered: Who was the White House's "political lead" in Washington state, to be notified of McKay's firing? State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Hastings, Rep. Dave Reichert, Vander Stoep, then-state GOP chairwoman Diane Tebelius, and Mike McKay have all denied knowing who it was. Rossi did not return calls for this story.
Leaving aside for a moment the bit about the "e-mail chain," which could presumably be cleared up when Sampson testifies, it is going to be very interesting to see who the "political lead" in Washington state was. It's not fair to read anything into Rossi not commenting, of course, and realistically Rossi is smarter than that.

The truly intriguing question is whether someone in the Washington GOP establishment decided to carry their failed attempt to prove fraud in the 2004 gubernatorial election past the ludicrous point that ended before a hand-picked judge in Chelan County in 2005. Or more accurately, if a quest for revenge against McKay for refusing to participate in their cock-eyed scheme to prove non-existent fraud can be shown beyond all doubt.

We'll see.

Montana's US attorney involved in firings

The Great Falls Tribune reports that the US attorney for Montana, who is now the acting number three official at the Justice Department as well, had a role in the US attorney firings.
Bill Mercer, U.S. Attorney for Montana, was involved in efforts by Justice Department officials to push eight of his colleagues out the door, according to dozens of e-mails and memos.


But the records also show Mercer played a prominent role.

During the first half of 2006, Mercer exchanged e-mails with other Justice Department officials regarding complaints against U.S. Attorneys John McKay of Seattle and Paul Charlton of Phoenix. McKay ran afoul of his superiors for backing an interagency information sharing system that they did not like but that the Navy had endorsed, documents state. Charlton had fallen out of favor for creating a new policy that required FBI agents in his state to tape confessions whenever possible, the documents show.

From March 2006 until July, when he returned to Montana for two months, Mercer was in on e-mails and reports that were critical of Carol Lam of San Diego, who prosecuted former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., on bribery charges. Cunningham was convicted and sentenced to prison.
According to the article, Kyle Sampson, the top assistant to Alberto Gonzalez who resigned after this scandal came to light, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Should be interesting.

It seems as if the Justice Department's only defense is to claim that McKay's advocacy for the intelligence sharing system was the reason he was fired. They can and probably will have to make that argument, but it's kind of a tough one to make when a Republican Congressman from the area says McKay deserves to be reinstated.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Looking grim for Gonzales

Alberto Gonzales oversaw the plans to fire US attorneys, according to the AP:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals. The Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Justice Department officials said late Friday.
Also, Goldy and Postman both post about Gonzales' radio inteview on KIRO today. Sounds like it didn't go so well for Gonzales. Postman also notes that Gonzales will be on Meet the Press on Sunday. Hopefully he'll be on the record.

CORRECTION: Gonzales is not scheduled to appear on Meet the Press, the mistake was mine. Here is the for guest list for March 24, 2007.
DAVID IGLESIAS, Dismissed U.S. Attorney -- Albuquerque, NM

JOHN McKAY, Dismissed U.S. Attorney -- Seattle, WA

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), Judiciary Committee

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), Ranking Member, Judiciary Committee

FMR. SEN. BILL BRADLEY (D-NJ), Author, "The New American Story"

The real fraud

McClatchy moves a story this afternoon that pretty well captures the essence of how the Bush administration has sought to use the Justice Department for political purposes:
Under President Bush, the Justice Department has backed tougher state voter identification laws and steered U.S. attorneys toward investigating voter fraud _ policies that critics say have been intended to suppress Democratic votes.

Bush, Karl Rove, the president’s deputy chief of staff, and other Republican political advisers have highlighted voting rights issues and what Rove has called the “growing problem” of Democratic election fraud since Bush took power in the tumultuous election of 2000, a race ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division when it was rolling back long-standing voting rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.

Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was research director for the Republican National Committee. He's denied any wrongdoing.
And further down in the article, John McKay gets mentioned:
John McKay, the ousted U.S. attorney for western Washington state, looked into allegations of voter fraud against Democrats during the hotly contested governor’s race in 2004. He said that later, while being interviewed for a federal judgeship by top Bush aides, he was asked to respond to criticism of his inquiry in which no charges were brought. He didn’t get the judgeship.

Rove talked about the Northwest in his speech last spring to the Republican lawyers, and voiced concern about the trend toward mail-in ballots and online voting. He also questioned the legitimacy of voter rolls in Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

One audience member asked Rove whether he’d “thought about using the bully pulpit of the White House to talk about election reform and an election integrity agenda that would put the Democrats back on the defensive.”

“Yes, it’s an interesting idea,” Rove responded.
The speech referred to in that excerpt was one Rove gave before the Republican National Lawyers Association in April, 2006.

Raw Story reported on that speech, including a quote they attribute to Rove:
"We have, as you know, an enormous and growing problem with elections in certain parts of America today," Rove said. "We are, in some parts of the country, I'm afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where they guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored sunglasses. I mean, it's a real problem, and I appreciate that all that you're doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the ballot -- the integrity of the ballot is protected, because it's important to our democracy."

Also in attendance on Friday was Mark "Thor" Hearne, the National General Counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc. and also the Executive Director of the non-partisan American Center for Voting Rights, which Brad Blog described as "a Republican front group created by high-level GOP operatives expressly for the purpose of spreading disinformation to sidetrack the Election Reform movement in this country."
I know I shouldn't still be amazed at the extent to which Republicans will go to "win," nobody should, but remember: Karl Rove is a political genius.

The weird thing is that if the GOP had just toned it down a little, they might have continued to get away with everything. Randy "Duke" Cunningham could have been content with a few hundred thousand bucks, and maybe he doesn't get caught. Rove could have been content with controlling both Congress and the White House and very nearly the Supreme Court, and maybe there isn't a huge backlash. But the Duke-stir needed a yacht and Rove wanted to dream of a permanent majority. Instead, Cunningham is in prison and Rove has probably wrecked the GOP for a generation.


A narrow but important victory in US House

That was very close.
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to require President Bush to pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by fall 2008, despite a White House veto threat.

The vote, largely along party lines, was voted 218-212.

Democratic leaders spent the last several days corralling enough votes for the measure as they face a caucus divided between a progressive faction in favor of an immediate withdrawal and a more moderate faction that is weary of setting time-tables.
(note-I'm guessing CNN meant "wary" rather than "weary." It happens.)

I was able to listen/watch to portions of the debate in between other tasks, and John Murtha's speech was especially emotional. Leaving aside the antics of Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who kept deliberately making bogus points of order to make comments, there were some pretty strong opinions on both sides.

Please note how much things have changed in a few short months. The Democratic margin would have been higher had some very progressive members decided to support it. So the 212 votes against the measure are not all votes in favor of the Bush non-plan for Iraq. TPMCafe has a list of Democrats who voted against the measure and the names of the two Republicans who voted for it.

The problem for the GOP is that they have been saying the same darn thing for years now. In their view, any attempt to get a handle on this war is somehow detrimental to the troops. (Murtha was very forceful in addressing this baloney.) Any attempt to see an end to the fiasco is "handing victory to the terrorists."

It's just rhetoric from a Republican Party that has nothing constructive to offer, only obedience to the commander-in-chief. The American people have spoken on this point (elections have consequences, as Barbara Boxer reminded James Infohe a few days ago in the Senate.) This isn't a dictatorship and the House is rightly using its power to atempt a change in policy. It's not "micro-managing," as Republican after Republican put it, it's performing a constitutional duty.

Sure, chances of passage in the Senate are slim and a White House veto would be certain. So? For too long Democrats shrank from confrontation with the corrupt, delusional party that had seized control of our government. Make them debate it and make them defend it and, if we get lucky in the Senate by some strange happenstance, make them veto it. Make them defend their war. Because all they have is clichés and demagogic appeals to patriotism, neither of which heal broken bodies and minds.

You can see video clips of Rep. Murtha and Speaker Nancy Pelosi at The Gavel. There are additional clips currently posted at The Gavel's main page. (scroll down)

Clark County growth slows dramatically

Clark County isn't growing as fast as it has in the past.
Mere 2.2% population increase in 2006 was half of peak growth of mid-1990s

Clark County's population is growing at its slowest rate in more than a decade, according to newly released federal estimates.
So the population estimates in the 2004 Comprehensive Plan turned out to be relatively accurate. You can quibble about the difference between an average rate of 1.6% and 2.2%, and of course it will fluctuate over time, but the key point is that it was always unlikely that high rates of growth could be sustained over 20 years. It's also a classic chicken and egg problem.

But the county is still going to discard the 2004 plan (a plan that was supposed to last 20 years) because the 2004 population estimates were "unrealistically low," or however it was justified when a new board took power.

So on the major issues of the day, here is where the government of Clark County stands:
  • We are blowing out the UGB's and discarding the 2004 plan because we must make room for growth
  • We don't like what the CRC is doing about a new I-5 bridge because it would cost too much. But we want to let a lot of houses be built anyway
  • You can't build your way out of congestion, so let's just go with congestion
  • We don't have adequate funding sources for much of anything and, by the way, you know all those new parks you voted for? There's not enough money for those, either.
The 2008 elections are going to be crucial at the local level in Clark County. So far, there's some scuttlebutt and not much more about Democratic candidates who might want to run, but no marquee names. Hopefully some solid candidates will emerge for the two races in 2008. One will be for an open seat (currently held by Betty Sue Morris, D-BIAW,) with the other race featuring incumbent Republican Marc Boldt. (Democrat Steve Stuart is not up next year.)

Please, Clark County Democrats, please let there be some good candidates. I'm not trying to be critical, because I know how hard it is sometimes to recruit candidates, but we've really got to get some good folks in those slots to help Stuart out.

UPDATE-- The Columbian's Gregg Herrington mentions a name as a potential candidate that I haven't seen publicly mentioned before:
The other is Democrat Bob Dingethal, the local representative for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. A 50-year-old, 12-year county resident who is on the city-county parks commission, Dingethal worked for 20 years in the electronics industry and is now earning his master's degree in public administration at WSU Vancouver.

A Ridgefield resident and father of two boys, he says he wants to help make sure we don't follow the example of other parts of the country where "exponential growth ends up as strip malls and housing developments." (He cites Dallas, Texas) He says he's in the talking and learning stage of deciding whether to run and is 50-50 at this point.
Encouraging news, and maybe Dingethal could help shed some light on why the parks district came up short of money so fast, it would be interesting to know more about that.

Iran seizes British sailors

Fifteen British sailors and marines have been seized by Iran. From the BBC:
Fifteen British Navy personnel have been captured at gunpoint by Iranian forces, the Ministry of Defence says.

The men were seized at 1030 local time when they boarded a boat in the Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, which they suspected was smuggling cars.

The Royal Navy said it was doing everything it could to secure the release of the sailors and marines who are based on HMS Cornwall.

They were said to be carrying out a routine patrol in Iraqi waters.
Too early to know a lot of the circumstances. The British are, naturally and rightfully, outraged and demanding their crew and equipment be released immediately.

Whether this represents a dispute over "territorial waters" or something more ominous is not clear.

Good morning!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

In Brief - March 22nd, 2007

Here's today's quick news digest, with extra fiber:
Finally, we have The Inhofe Scale of delusion, named after Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) due to his ridiculous badgering of Al Gore during his testimony yesterday about climate change. Oklahoma, not OK.

Dina Hovde strikes again

Shorter Dina Hovde, while flailing about objecting to the prospect of students being given accurate medical information about that S-E-X (shhhhhh!!!) thing:

The libruls won't let Focus on the Family abstinence-only efforts on sex education be peer-reviewed because they're librul.

The reality being that scientists won't let fake science from Focus on the Family be peer reviewed because Focus on the Family is not a scientific organization, it's a political organization, kind of like the one Hovde was hired away from to inflict her nonsense on Clark County readers. Oh yes, they're all "non-profit organizations," properly organized under the tax code, but funny how they always seem to have an underlying political agenda. Like stopping medically accurate sex education.

So I hereby demand that I be named a Pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, because I have spent years developing my own theology. It's not exactly religious, and it doesn't meet any of the theological standards of the sanctioning organization, but I've dressed it up with some web sites and words and I use some of the lingo. I don't have a degree in religion, but obviously if the Southern Baptist Convention denies me my Pastorship it's because they're conservative.

I need an Advil.

Journalamism, Politico style

Seems newly-launched newspaper/thingy Politico has some serious "egg on its face" regarding its false report that Edwards would suspend his campaign.

That's what happens sometimes when you hire people like executive editor Jim VandeHei or Ben Smith, who had to write a mea culpa.
And with less than an hour before Edwards was to announce, I unwisely wrote the item without getting a second source.
Just to give you a look behind the curtain here at NPI Towers, I too, only had a single source for the information claiming that Edwards would suspend his campaign--it was Politico. And a little birdie said "don't post that, it's not verified."

It's funny to me how people think journalists make good bloggers. That may sometimes be true (and no, we don't want to embarrass anyone by naming names) and it may not be always hold true, but a single source on a story that big? Really?

And please, don't let the on-line nature of Politico fool you. VandeHei came from the Washington Post and Smith wrote for (seemingly) all the non-Times newspapers in New York City. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

It doesn't really make a lot of sense to hire people to stick to SPJ ethics and "good journalism practices" and then have them turn around and violate them because they're on-line. Growing pains for Politico, perhaps, but kind of surprising given the big names they hired.

UPDATE--12:44 PM--Editor and Publisher has more, including the fact that Reuters also got the story wrong. That dang old single source thing again. Good thing we don't start wars 'n stuff this way, cause if some crackpot Iraqi ex-pat had gotten the ear of a NYT reporter, goodness knows what might have happened. We'd probably still be in Iraq.

Edwards will not suspend campaign

John Edwards is not suspending his presidential campaign, the candidate said at a televised news conference in his home state of North Carolina. Elizabeth Edwards has battled breast cancer, having been diagnosed in 2004, prompting speculation that Edwards might suspend or end his campaign due to new health challenges facing his wife.

Edwards is appearing now at a press conference being aired on the cable networks. He told reporters that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has returned, in a rib bone, but stressed that the couple remains optmistic.

Asked by a reporter about his campaign, John Edwards said it will continue and that Elizabeth Edwards will be at his side.

We know that everyone in the netroots and the country wish the Edwards the very best during this challenging time. The Edwards are especially beloved by many in the netroots for their wit, compassion and dedication to this country. They will be in the thoughts and prayers of many, many citizens.

Doc Hastings, Stepford Republican

Doc Hastings is spouting the same old baloney when it comes a Democratic spending measure which would seek to bring the troops home by Fall of 2008. That would mean the war in Iraq would be over five years old at that point. From McClatchy via The Olympian:
Hastings, who has supported the ongoing increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq, will vote against the spending bill unless changes are made, said Jessica Gleason, a Hastings spokeswoman.

"By placing conditions on funds and hamstringing our military leaders, the bill would jeopardize the ability of our troops to win in Iraq and defend America," Gleason said in an e-mail. "Conditions on funding take control away from military leaders and troops on the ground."

But Baird said House Republicans essentially tried the same thing Democrats now want to do when they sought in 1997 to set a timeline and a date certain for the withdrawal of U.S. peacekeeping forces in Bosnia.

"This is situational ethics," Baird said of the Republicans.

Baird said he expected that "most Americans if they look at this will conclude it makes sense. It would be irresponsible to pull out tomorrow. But there needs to be some check on the executive branch when it comes to war."
Baird is a pretty sharp observer, and I certainly remember when Democrats were being assailed by the GOP over Bosnia. They didn't care about things like NATO or stability in Europe, they just saw a chance to attack the Clinton administration, so they did so.

The Bush administration and it lackeys in Congress, during the time they were in control, never developed a cogent military or geo-political plan for the Middle East. It was all based on American politics. Sound bites aren't a foreign policy.

The GOP has been willfully negligient about our security, not to mention the welfare of the troops, so they don't really have much credibility to talk about winning wars or supporting the troops. But it's all Republicans like Hastings have left.

House Democrats should pass the measure, then look around for the remote control used to control Bush's Stepford Congressman from the 4th District. We need leadership, not talking points put out by robots.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"1984" mystery solved

Arianna Huffington "solved" the mystery of who was behind the Hillary Clinton "1984" mashup ad, which you can view on YouTube.

Now the supposed mashup artist has posted at Huffington Post under his real name, Phil de Vellis. He was described by Huffington in her post as the Internet communications director for Sherrod Brown and as being employed by Blue State Digital, a firm created my members of Howard Dean's Internet team. Well, he was until today:
I've resigned from my employer, Blue State Digital, an internet company that provides technology to several presidential campaigns, including, full disclosure, Obama's. The company had no idea that I'd created the ad, and neither did any of our clients. But I've decided to resign anyway so as not to harm them, even by implication.
And isn't that the height of ethics, from the guy who ripped off the greatest commercial in the history of television.

But at least he says he did it using a Macintosh. :-) Up next: Plop, plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is to vote for who I want you to vote for....

UPDATE, 7:25 PM: Chris Cillizza reports at his Washington Post blog that one of the founders of Blue State Digital is, in fact, Obama's director of new media. Make of it what you will.

MORE, 7:50 PM: Obama may have a serious PR problem on his hands. He was widely quoted as saying the following a few weeks back, during the Geffen dust-up:
"I told my staff that I don't want us to be a party to these kinds of distractions because I want to make sure that we're spending time talking about issues," Obama told the paper. He added, "My preference going forward is that we have to be careful not to slip into the game as it is customarily played."
Oopsie. The sad thing for Obama is that he keeps getting damaged by his supporters. It happens, but I'm relatively certain Obama will bounce back pretty easily. But he might want to um, do a staff and consultant review, see if any of them ever did anything rotten in Iowa in 2004.

In Brief - March 21st, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
Finally, shoephone at Evergreen Politics, invoking the ghost of Sam Ervin, demolishes talk of using "executive privilege" as a justification in Purgegate. It's well worth a read.

UPDATE, 1:55 PM: The Stranger's film critic, Annie Wagner, recounts a strange tale involving a shoe, a movie, a "Russia-focused organization" and The Discovery Institute. (Just go read Wagner's post, ok, I can't explain any of it.)

But I am left wondering, considering how Ken Hutcherson has been focused on Latvia and recruiting among Slavic churches in the US, if the apparent involvement of Discovery means that the theocon right has finally gone completely and irretrievably insane. Hey, if you can't win in Kansas, maybe you can try Eastern Europe. It's bizarre, and good on The Stranger for reporting these things.

Republican Reichert calls for McKay reinstatement

In addition to performing a yeoman service with this David Bowermaster article tracing how John McKay went from well-regarded to fired in so short a time span (and we did notice the assist by Postman-hey, we read to the bottom,) The Seattle Times also featured an Alicia Mundy story featuring an idea from Dave Reichert:
Rep. Dave Reichert has come to the defense of fired U.S. Attorney John McKay, whom he praised for pushing the federal government to work more closely with law enforcement in the Seattle area.

"It doesn't seem to me that John's being treated fairly," Reichert, R-Auburn, said Tuesday.

He suggested the Justice Department reinstate McKay as U.S. attorney while the agency and Congress investigate "why they fired him."
Why, that's an excellent idea. Much simpler than nominating him, actually. But I suppose either way would work.

This is what happens when there is a real two-party system in effect. Obviously Reichert must be worried about the fallout next year, and his campaign staff knows Darcy is coming after him again. Still, since Reichert is choosing to take our advice, we'll give credit where credit is due. We're not optimistic that the Bush administration will listen to Reichert, but yes, in a just world McKay would be reinstated and given an apology.

Send Rover on over

Dear Karl:
A House panel on Wednesday approved subpoenas for President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove and other top White House aides, setting up a constitutional showdown over the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

By voice vote, the House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law decided to compel the president's top aides to testify publicly and under oath about their roles in the firings.
Bush, in a late-afternoon statement at the White House, decried any attempts by Democrats to engage in "a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants."

"It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available," the president said.
As the AP article notes, the subpoenas woud still have to be approved by the full Judiciary Committee, headed by John Conyers. Which means Republicans are still wiggling around some, trying to cut stupid deals that amount to "we'll vote for the subpoena if Conyers can prove evidence of wrongdoing." Hey, I know there's a dead body and a guy standing over it with a gun in his hand, but let's not do anything hasty like ask him some questions.

And I can't help but notice that the AP is using the phrase "constitutional showdown." Make of it what you will. In one way the term lends more (ahem) gravitas to the situation than Karl and Friends really deserve. Do the Bushies think the American people will stand for more open defiance of the law at this point? 'Cause there is a little election next year, and if the GOP types running for office thought 2006 was bad, they need to start imagining how bad 2008 could be if they go to the mat over this.

The broad question for Republicans is this: what price will the GOP pay to cover for Karl Rove and the rest of the inept, unpopular and criminal Bush administration? As we saw in 2006, down-ticket Republicans suffered greatly.

I wonder how the prospect of say, 12 Republican state senators sits with their caucus. Voters will just start reflexively not voting for any Republicans at all, no matter how honest a few of them still are.

Ask your legislators to protect Maury Island

A multinational gravel company (Glacier Northwest) has long been planning to construct an industrial dock and barging facility right on top of sensitive marine habitat on Maury Island.

The Reserve, located in central Puget Sound, is home to both endangered whales and threatened salmon, and was originally established to ensure this pristine habitat is protected from the pollution and devastation caused by rampant development. Priorities for a Healthy Washington reports on an opportunity to ensure that the area remains safe from development:
If we don't take action now, plans for this new project will move forward. It's time for us to send the message loud and clear: Not in our Puget Sound!

Fortunately, Senate Bill 6011 would halt industrial construction. The bill would send a loud message that the people of Washington value our special places, and won't put up with new mining operations in the pristine environments of our state's reserves.

Please call your legislators TODAY at 1-800-562-6000 and urge them to support SB 6011 and demand House leadership move it forward.
A short backgrounder on what this is all about:
The Reserve is on the relatively undeveloped east shore of Maury Island, which is strongly favored by the J pod of Orca whales in the winter when they are caring for their new calves. The shoreline is used by salmon from watersheds as far away as the Skagit.

Glacier Mining company has been given an initial go ahead by the Department of Natural Resources to expand its mining operations and construct new facilities in the Reserve. Fortunately, SB 6011, sponsored by Senator Poulsen, would prevent the project from moving forward and will halt the construction of a huge dock related to the expansion of Glacier's gravel mine. The bill passed the Senate with a close vote of 26 to 22, and now is up for hearing in the House.

The Puget Sound Aquatic Reserve system was established to protect the very best pristine habitat in the Sound. Why would we allow these jewels to be destroyed by industrial facilities like gravel mines, especially when we are working so hard and spending so much to protect and restore this special place? Not in our Puget Sound!

The bill will be up for hearing at 1:30 PM on March 21.
Emphasis mine. The hearing is today, so if you want to testify, make plans to head to Olympia later this morning. The hearing is before the House Select Committee on Puget Sound. It will be held in Room E of the John O'Brien Building.

If you can't attend the hearing, please call or email your representatives and urge them to support SB 6011. It is imperative we put an end to Glacier's plans. As the Seattle P-I observes this morning:
What would you miss more: Maury Island's Madrone trees, Chestnut-backed Chickadees and a reasonable supply of fresh water or an even larger gravel mine on the south end of the island?

The odds of anyone looking back 100 years from now and saying, "It's a crying shame we never expanded that sand and gravel mine," are slim. We can't say the same thing for further harming more of our region's natural beauty and the vital habitat it affords our plants and wildlife.
Well put. Now is the time for action. Let your representatives know you strongly believe in protecting Maury Island from harmful development. And if you can make it to the hearing...go.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bring on the oversight

Oh, look - Democrats aren't going to let Dubya enjoy imperial power:
"I don’t accept his offer," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “It is not constructive, and it is not helpful to be telling the Senate how to do our investigation or to prejudge its outcome.”

Responding defiantly on a day in which tension over the affair played out on multiple fronts, Mr. Bush said he would resist any effort to put his top aides under "the klieg lights" in "show trials" on Capitol Hill, and he reiterated his support for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose backing among Republicans on Capitol Hill ebbed further on Tuesday.
What nonsense. Listen up, George - this is America, the land of checks and balances, where all three branches of government are equal. For six years you've enjoyed the benefit of a rubber stamp Republican congress which would do your bidding - but those days are over:
Democrats threatened to subpoena Mr. Rove and the others unless they testified publicly and under oath, while the White House vowed to fight subpoenas in court.

The fallout from the dismissals continued to ripple across the capital.

In the Senate, lawmakers responded to the furor over the firings by voting overwhelmingly to revoke the authority they had granted the administration last year under the USA Patriot Act to install federal prosecutors indefinitely without Senate confirmation.
Good. It's time for Democrats to play hardball and rein in this administration and curb the huge abuses of executive power. The American people expect congressional Democrats to unrelentingly fight this administration's attempt to hide behind the curtains of secrecy and deceit. If there have to be lawsuits to force the White House to comply, then so be it.

A comprehensive legislative update

Wednesday, March 14th (now almost one week ago) was the last day to consider bills in their house of origin, so this week saw the passage or failure of many bills in the other house. Here is an update on many of the bills we are tracking.

Human rights
SB 5336: Creates a domestic partnership registry for same-sex partners. Passed a vote in the Senate; Sent to the House. Scheduled for public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee at 8:00 AM. (Subject to change)

Campaign Financing (Clean Elections)
  • HB 1589/HB 1186/SHB 1186: Providing for public funding of judicial campaigns (The first two bills were combined and merged into the third, which unfortunately never ended up getting a floor vote.)
  • SB 5226 (Providing for public funding of judicial campaigns): Passed the Senate on February 5th.
  • HB 1589 (similiar to SB 5226): Never got out of committee.
  • SB 5278 (Concerning use of public funds to finance campaigns for local office): Never got to a vote.
  • HB 1374 (Creating the Puget Sound Partnership): Passed the House on March 10th, though it was heavily amended. Its companion bill, SB 5372, fared well in the Senate. There will likely be a compromise resulting in a new version which will then go to the Governor for her signature.
  • HB 1761 (Accelerating the cleanup of Puget Sound and hazardous waste sites in the state, requires the DOE to develop a ten-year financing report on needed toxic cleanup. Provides extra funds for urgent cleanup efforts.) Unanimously passed the House on March 12th. Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Water and Energy & Telecommunications at 1:30 PM on March 23rd. (Subject to change)
  • SB 5093/HB 1071 (Insurance Coverage for Children): Senate Bill 5093 and House Bill 1071 increase the percentage of children eligible for state-paid health insurance. Governor Gregoire has proposed adding 32,000 more kids to the state's rolls immediately and then 73,000 uninsured children by 2010. HB 1071 requires the state to provide insurance coverage for children in households with incomes below 250% of the federal poverty level, with the goal of coverage of all Washington children by 2010.
  • SB 5658 (Health Care Reinsurance): Senate Bill 5658 creates a reinsurance program for small businesses. It includes a 25-cent increase in cigarette taxes and $5 million from the health services account. Democratic Senator Karen Keiser's proposal is meant to stabilize insurance markets by reimbursing certain small-group insurers for patient claims above $10,00. It did not get to a vote by the cutoff date.
  • HB 1569 (Reforming the health care system in Washington): Creates a publi-private entity, the Washington Health Insurance Partnership (WHP), to design benefits, collect premiums and oversee a pool of small business employees that would include around 300,000 people to start with. Starting in 2009, businesses with 50 or fewer employees would be required to purchase their health insurance through WHP. The bill passed the House on March 10th. A public hearing was held on the Senate side yesterday.
(A few additional notes about HB 1659: it subsidizes coverage for those making under 200% of the federal poverty level, employers could choose from up to six different health insurance plans, and the BIAW and the Washington Farm Bureau are lobbying against it).
  • SB 5930 (Affordable Health Care): Providing high quality, affordable health care to Washingtonians based on the recommendations of the blue ribbon commission on health care costs and access. This bill is the result of the 2006 Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care, co-chaired by Governor Gregoire. It is a five year plan to improve access to affordable health care to all Washington citizens. This bill is preferred by business lobbyists over its companion bill, HB1569, because it is less ambitious. 5930 passed the Senate unanimously on March 9th. A public hearing was held before theHouse Committee on Health Care & Wellness at 1:30 PM yesterday. It is scheduled for executive session in the same committee tomorrow at 9 AM.
  • HB 2098 (Affordable Health Care): It returned to the Rules Committee for a second reading om March 15th.
Healthcare Program Note: There will be a “Health Justice in Action” forum with Rep. Jim McDermott on March 16 at 7 PM at the UW's Kane Hall.

  • HB 1051 (High School Completion Bill): This bill would allow students under the age of 21 to receive a basic education at community and technical colleges to earn a high school diploma, even if they have not passed the WASL yet (Listen to an interview with Representative Dave Upthegrove about the bill). The colleges must provide the necessary courses to students without charging tuition. Colleges would receive reimbursement from the state's basic education account for providing high school completion courses. It passed the House last January. A public hearing was held on the bill before Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education on March 15th.
  • HB 2322 (Increasing access to full-day kindergarten): Never got to a vote.
  • SJR 8207 (Simple Majority for school levies, Senate version): Failed on a 30-17 vote. And that was with the “November Only” amendment.
  • EHJR 4204 (Simple Majority for school levies, House version) Passed the House on March 12th.
  • SB 5813 (Improving mathematics and science education): Also passed.
  • ESSB 5297 (Sex education): Passed the Senate last week.
  • SB 5627 (Requiring a review and development of basic education funding):
March 14th was sink-or-swim day for many bills, including the Senate simple majority bill. At the end of the session, Republican Senator Joesph Zarelli motioned to bring back the simple-majority for schools bill (ESJR 8207) for reconsideration.

The Democrats moved to go to recess, then came back and adjourned. "Frankly, we were done," said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.

Rather than spend two hours on procedural debates, the Democrats decided to conclude business, she said. The House version of the simple majority bill (EHJR 4204) will return, she added.

So – they were just too tired to bother with this bill? The Republicans are saying that the Democrats scuttled the bill. It appears that the Democrats prefer the House version, which does not include the amendment to force school districts to put their levies only on the Novemebr general election ballot.

In fact, aides do testify before Congress

So the next time some bobblehead gets all confused about White House aides testifying before Congress, Think Progress provides a few examples.
Harold Ickes, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff - 7/28/94

George Stephanopoulos, Senior Adviser to the President for Policy and Strategy - 8/4/94

John Podesta, Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary - 8/5/94

Bruce R. Lindsey, Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President - 1/16/96

Samuel Berger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs - 9/11/97

Beth Nolan, Counsel to the President - 5/4/00
So yeah, it does happen, and anyone who says otherwise is just spinning. It's not like the 1990's is so long ago that people can't look stuff up.

In them days "Executive Privilege" was just an excuse to cover up murdering drug running land dealing futures speculating adultery, whereas today it's so profoundly important that nobody at the White House could conceivably be forced to testify. Or something. Does anyone know if Karl Rove has a blue dress?

That would cinch things.

NYT refers to "constitutional showdown"

In a story dated tomorrow, March 21, The New York Times refers to the impending clash between George Bush and Congress over the testimony of White House staff regarding Purgegate as a "constitutional showdown."
President Bush and Congress clashed Tuesday over an inquiry into the firing of federal prosecutors and appeared headed toward a constitutional showdown over demands from Capitol Hill for internal White House documents and testimony from top advisers to the president.

Under growing political pressure, the White House offered to allow members of Congressional committees to hold private interviews with Karl Rove, the president’s senior adviser and deputy chief of staff; Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel; and two other officials. It also offered to provide access to e-mail messages and other communications about the dismissals, but not those between White House officials.

Democrats promptly rejected the offer, which specified that the officials would not testify under oath, that there would be no transcript and that Congress would not subsequently subpoena them.
After all that has happened, the Bush administration may finally be brought to account over the politically motivated firings of a handful of relatively obscure (to the public, anyhow) federal prosecutors.

While Democrats are right not to back down, I think talk of a "constitutional showdown" may a bit premature. Of course the Bush administration is being petulant, it's the only thing they do correctly.

As the NYT article notes, it can be illegal to lie to Congress, regardless of whether one is sworn, so the game has hardly begun. Congress can be mighty persuasive to individuals it wishes to hear from. As others are pointing out in the netroots, Bush doesn't want Rove to testify under oath so that he can lie.

The Republicans and their facile allies on the internet and cable television will doubtless stick to their tried techniques of obfuscation and attack.

But anyone who has followed the story at all and in good faith must be concerned at the prospect of the US government trying to use the justice system to attack political opponents, which is what this is about at the core. Firing prosecutors who refused to do your political dirty work is not acceptable in a democracy.

We'll see. I would wager the American public may not understand fully what is happening. Yet.

Unofficial Giuliani Second Life HQ now open

Naturally, The General is in command.
"If you see someone on the dance floor you like, you can avoid committing fornication by popping over to the marriage station in the corner and teleporting to The Church of Elvis, Second Life for a quickie wedding," Homewood explains, "After that, you and your new spouse can celebrate your honeymoon at the Giuliani Defense of Marriage Matrimonial Relations Center located in the curtained area near the dance floor."
Conveniently, there's a nearby expedited divorce station as well.

Good grief.

CRC "fourth alternative" group moving forward

The CRC project to do, eh, something about the I-5 bridges across the Columbia River takes another small step forward. A subcommittee is working on a so-called "fourth alternative" to add to the already approved staff proposal, which is best described as a sizeable new bridge with either light rail or bus rapid transit.

Details are starting to emerge about what the "fourth way" CRC subcommitee is working on. From The Columbian:
Rough outlines call for a new bridge with two lanes in both directions that would not offer direct access to Hayden Island. It would improve I-5's peak hour capacity by 10 percent and provide "modest improvements" to freight capacity.

Other options to be studied in the new alternative: reversible lanes, tolling lanes and high-capacity lanes.

The alternative also would call for shifting the lift span on the downstream BNSF Railroad Bridge from the north side to the middle, the better to line up with one of the ship channels under the I-5 Bridge.

That won't be cheap, though. Ron Anderson, deputy consultant project director, said earlier estimates of $41 million to switch the lift span were low. Costs for similar projects around the country were more like $150 million, he said.
The CRC task force is slated to consider adding the "fourth alternative" to the DEIS, according to The Columbian, on March 27.

If you wish and haven't done so, you can read my Jan. 30 blog post "Inside the Columbia River Crossing project." If you're still not familiar with the project, it's kind of an overview. Long for a blog post but about feature length.

Different standards for different immigrants

Righties often like to wail and gnash their teeth over "immigrants not following the rules." Of course, the immigrants they are usually referring to tend to be Catholic, darker complected and come from impoverished areas of Mexico, Central America and South America.

There seems to be a different standard if the immigrants are white Protestants being backed by American fundamentalists. From today's Columbian:
Welcome to the Slavic Christian Academy, the first private school in Clark County targeting young students from Russian, Ukrainian, Belo-Russian and other Slavic-American households.

The school operates in a classroom wing it rents from the Church of the Nazarene-Fourth Plain, near Sifton. It is not affiliated with any one church or denomination, said its principal, Andrey Dolbinin.


One critical glitch needs fixing: The school has a state business license, but has not filed papers needed for state certification as a recognized private school.

Dolbinin said he expects to complete the process soon. Until then, state education directors technically regard Slavic Christian students as being truant. Neither state nor local school officials indicate a desire to initiate a crackdown, however. As a short-term solution, the Evergreen district in which the school lies would be likely to send letters to pupils' parents urging that they register as home-school students.
Neat, let's just ignore our own laws. Isn't that what gets righties all up in arms about desperately poor Latinos coming here?

The point is not that immigrant groups should be unfairly harassed, (like the Hispanic population of Hazleton, Penn.,) but rather that there is a blatant double standard going on, based on the political, religious and ethnic background of immigrants. And it's pretty clear that the American fundamentalist right is seeking new allies.

Readers may recall that a Jerry Falwell-linked group tried to glom on to a phony prayer group controversy recently in the Evergreen School District, and Ken Hutcherson declared his intention in January to make recruiting inroads in Slavic churches. As the religious right in America continues to be exposed as well, crazy, I guess it's not surprising they would seek to find followers from other countries.

Naturally, there can be "teachable moments" along the way, as immigrant groups learn about our Constitution and how the separation of church and state is not only a vital tradition, but a means of securing religious liberty, despite what our home-grown extremists may tell them. But for now, it seems pretty clear that these Slavic immigrants are being recruited into what amounts to a political movement led by homophobes. And that's just sad.

McKay talked to the P-I, oh my

A P-I article suggests that John McKay was also being targeted for dismissal partly because he talked to the newspaper.
Two months before U.S. Attorney John McKay was fired, top Justice Department officials traded e-mails excoriating McKay for commenting in a Seattle P-I story about deep budget cuts and layoffs in his office.
If you read the full article, McKay made the mistake of pointing out failures at DOJ regarding intelligence sharing.

As shoephone at Evergreen Politics puts it after poring through the emails released last night:
Sadly, it's not a novel. It's Your Government at Work. The insecurity and hostility of those populating the place is rivaled only by the idiocy most of us displayed in junior high school. The spoiled kids at the DOJ don't appreciate people with independent streaks and that's one of the main reasons they didn't like John McKay. He didn't fall in line well enough or often enough.
This is an administration that claimed the GWOT is so important that they could discard ancient legal standards and violate whichever laws they deemed necessary. And here you have a guy like McKay trying to make sure that law enforcement can do a good job fighting terrorism, and a bunch of sick Republican political hacks decide it's more important to exact revenge against McKay.

This scandal is the defining symbolic moment of what it meant to be a Republican Party official or politician in the Bush II era. Far worse policies and failures have occured, like the war in Iraq and the aftermath of Katrina, but this one crystallizes for the public the vindictive and incompetent nature of today's GOP.

If Alberto Gonzales had any honor he would resign today, but the buck never stops anywhere with these people.

Monday, March 19, 2007

In fact, it is kind of like "1984"

The San Francisco Chronicle follows up on speculation about the indentity of the creator of a blatant rip-off of Apple's famous "1984" ad. The so-called mashup ad was a hatchet job on Hillary Clinton by an (as of now) anonymous internet user.
Chris Finnie, a Santa Cruz-based Democratic operative, said the widespread coverage given to the "mashup" in GOP circles suggests the ad could have come from a Republican operative and smacks of "Swift Boat" tactics used in 2004 against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"It killed two birds with one stone," she said, by sharply attacking Clinton as being a political drone and smudging "Obama's positioning as the 'Mr. Clean' of politics. This is politics as usual, and by running a smear ad that is associated with him, it puts a dent in that image."
I've been waiting all day for someone to point that out. We'll see.

Could of been a Democrat, but it smells like a Republican hit. Either way, thank you to the anonymous internet jerk who ruined the greatest commercial ever made. If you are connected with any Democratic organization or campaign, may your saddle blanket be infested with a million fleas.

Hmmm...anonymous disinformation designed to pit citizen against citizen, available for easy viewing on a nearby tele-screen. Ironical, huh?

Next up: Mitt Romney is Head and Shoulders above the other GOP candidates, but Rudy can Feel the Tingle.

Is Ken Hutcherson a "special envoy" for White House?

Eli Sanders at Slog is covering a controversy between anti-gay rights preacher Ken Hutcherson and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Hutcherson says he was named a "special envoy" by the FBCI, and the White House says, no he wasn't. Hutcherson has been working with conservative, anti-gay rights politicians and clergy in Latvia as that former Soviet republic struggles to conform to basic EU standards regarding human rights. Hutcherson apparently travelled to Latvia with a person who wrote a book called "The Pink Swastika," according to Sanders' post. The book supposedly claims that gays were responsible for the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. If that's so, it's a new low, even for Hutcherson.

Postman is also on the story, and he's pretty clear on what the White House is saying about this. (No, we didn't name him anything.)

As this is posted, Hutcherson has claimed to Sanders that he has a video proving that he is a "special envoy."

A May 16 article from of the UK and Ireland mentions the struggle in Latvia and Hutcherson's involvement:
Not content with a healthy contingent of home-grown homophobes, religious leaders in Latvia have been importing anti-gay firebrands to support their cause.

Last week, ex-NFL player Pastor Ken Hutcherson flew in from Washington to give advice on fighting LGBT rights.

He was joined by another American, Scott Lively, co-author of The Pink Swastika- Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. This disturbing book is an insane diatribe claiming that ‘homosexualism’ not only gave birth to Nazi imperialism but also led to the Holocaust itself.

The scary tome, which happens to be on its 4th edition, also claims that: “homosexuality is primarily a predatory addiction striving to take the weak and unsuspecting down with it”.

Just in case you were wondering, a ‘homosexualist’ is any person, gay or not, who “actively promotes homosexuality as morally and socially equivalent to heterosexuality as a basis for social policy”.
Ok, then. I keep having to say the same thing, but it looks like Hutcherson has some explaining to do. If he's basically hanging out with Nazi sympathizers, then whatever shred of credibility he still had just vaporized.

King County GOP facing possible legal woes

As Goldy reported on Saturday and Postman picked up this morning, the King County Republicans may be a whole heap of regulatory trouble.
The King County Republicans filed numerous reports late; in one campaign account 74 percent of contributions and 70 percent of expenditures were filed late in 2006. And some came in 268 days late. Reports that were filed were incomplete. The PDC staff investigation found that the party failed to list employer and occupation information for 91 percent of donors required to submit that information. That information was filed last week.
All of which prompts Goldy to ask this morning:
The Seattle Times David Postman picks up the story this morning on his blog, but I find it more than a bit surprising that our local papers have gone to press three times since the report was issued Friday afternoon, without a single column inch of coverage.
It is odd, and Goldy quickly comes up with a short list of previous stories about past Democratic Party run-ins with the PDC.

Who knows, maybe the weekend meant that nobody really noticed. (Trying to be charitable rather than a smart alec, in this particular instance.) It'll probably get picked up by AP now, right?

Jerks have to eat

An article from The San Francisco Chronicle via the P-I sports the headline "He wants to put jerks out of work."
Robert Sutton, a respected 52-year-old Stanford University professor, is a gentleman and a scholar. But that isn't stopping him from making liberal use of an unprintable vulgarity to kick off his new campaign to jerk-proof the American workplace.

Sutton, a management-science and engineering professor, says he's not trying to offend anyone with the blunt title of his new book, "The No --hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't." But he felt he needed to use an "emotionally authentic" term to spur corporate America to stamp out boorish behavior that decreases productivity, drives away talented workers and destroys morale.
I don't think our unemployment insurance system in Washington could handle that many unemployed Republicans.

Even the Wingnut Welfare system couldn't handle the influx, unless China decides it needs to buy a couple of trillion position papers showing how a flat tax will cause manna to fall from heaven. It wouldn't last, though, because Wal-Mart would figure out how to pay people in China poorly to write flat tax position papers, then we'd still be faced with the problem of unemployed EFFWA think tank people hanging around begging for used Ayn Rand books. Then the Discovery guys would form a gang and get in singing knife fights with the BIAW and you know what we would have on our hands?

A musical. Oh, the humanity. Let the jerks keep their jobs, I say.

Attorney firings scandal continues to widen

McClatchy (via The Kansas City Star) is reporting that the US attorney firings scandal may have involved attempts to protect a CIA agent being investigated for corruption.
Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail that said Lam needed to be fired, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday.
The CIA official, according to McClatchy, is none other than Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. From TPM Muckraker's reference section:
Kyle Dustin “Dusty” Foggo was appointed executive director of the CIA, the agency’s third-highest post, in October 2004. A longtime friend of Brent Wilkes, one of two men accused of bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Foggo is currently under investigation by the FBI and the CIA Inspector General in an extension of the Cunningham corruption probe.
No wonder the righties around here are spinning so furiously, trying to insist (still) that there was some huge conspiracy on the part of Democrats in Washington state to steal the 2004 gubernatorial election. It's the only way they can keep what's left of their support from collapsing completely. Because anyone who is halfway honest about the situation can plainly see, as the McClatchy article touches upon, that the changing administration reasons for the firings are ridiculous.

This administration has a lot of 'splaining to do.

Meanwhile, if you're flying, I wouldn't even bother bringing water to the airport, just show up naked without luggage. 'Cause you know the drill now: Bush administration in trouble, Bush administration seeks distraction. Something like... (scratching chin in preparation for dream sequence--)

The zombified corpse of Saddam Hussein has joined al-Qaeda and is living in Laguna Beach, where he is threatening the soft taco supply! Therefore we must dehydrate you, for your own protection.

UPDATE--Think Progress raises the interesting possibility that Lam might have been ready to investigate the White House.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's okay if you're a Republican

Susan Paynter has a great column in tomorrow's Seattle P-I. An excerpt:
Turns out, if my husband contemplated a career turn from journalism, he could run for president after all. This despite the fact that I am his third (and last) wife.

Of course, he'd have to join the Republican Party, a.k.a the party of family values, where divorce is apparently no longer the ballot-booth bugaboo it once was.


...None of the Democratic front-runners to date comes anywhere close to approaching the GOP record of marital malfeasance while, among the key Republican candidates, only Mitt Romney can claim just one wife. And, as a Mormon, he's the one plagued by misperceptions about that church and polygamy?
Alas, it seems that the leading old men of the Republican Party who seek their party's nomination for the 2008 presidential race aren't outstanding exemplars of the values the religious right professes to care about. Of course, depending on your perspective, that's either a good thing or a bad thing.

The trouble with purity begins when exceptions are made:
Last week even Baptist leader Richard Land, head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Associated Press that evangelical voters might tolerate a divorced presidential candidate.
If the religious right isn't going to adhere to a rigid canon, at least they'll be consistent - remember, it's okay if you're a Republican! Exceptions come standard when you wear an elephant on your lapel. After all, it's so much easier when you don't have to practice what you preach.

SB 5803 isn't a recipe for progress

One of our occasional contributors, Richard Borkowski, had a letter published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today responding to Joel Connelly's recent column endorsing a bill that would rewire transportation governance in Puget Sound:
Joel Connelly's column about the necessity for yet another Olympia-created transportation agency seems to be a bit out of touch with reality. Like state Sen. Ed Murray and Attorney General Rob McKenna, Connelly has a continuing grudge match with Sound Transit that is completely out of sync with the residents of the region.

The assumption made by cell-phone executive John Stanton is that voters in Puget Sound are too simple-minded to know who is in charge of transportation. Doing transportation in a multi-county region is a lot different from being at the head of a cell-phone company. There isn't one person in charge and there never will be. Isn't there a spare transportation expert who could have been consulted to advise how to make changes to our transportation agencies?

The only train wreck that will be created is if Olympia puts another transportation agency on the tracks before the November election. One of the strongest recommendations that representatives from Vancouver, B.C., and San Diego made was to aggressively engage the public. Unfortunately, Connelly thinks of that as propaganda.

Most people would call it transparent government. It's largely why agencies such as Tranlink and Sound Transit enjoy high public ratings. Namely, they realize that they serve the public, not the other way around.

Richard Borkowski
While we appreciate Joel's perspective and agree with him on a wide range of issues, we don't share his enthusiasm for this bill. A forced reorganization is not going to improve regional transportation planning - it's going to disrupt it. Many proponents of this governance plan say we can't afford to wait. But a shakeup like this is a recipe for more problems, delays, and setbacks.

Senator Ed Murray and others are correct in pointing out that an increase in integration and coordination would result in more action and less process. But the legislation they've come up with is a step in the wrong direction.

Finland enjoys liberty once again

At long last, Finland shakes off the imperial shackles of NBC with a Conan-free election. But Conan was funny there.

I'll never get in a sauna, at least not while eating a sausage.

MORE: Here's a YouTube clip of Conan being interviewed on Finnish television. Part of this interview was included in the Conan in Finland special.

You can buy the Conan in Finland special via iTunes.

FBI phone records scandal grows

It seems the FBI had severe problems with its requests for phone company records. From The Washington Post:
In each letter, the FBI asserted that "due to exigent circumstances, it is requested that records for the attached list of telephone numbers be provided." The bureau promised in most of the letters that subpoenas for the same information "have been submitted to the U.S. Attorney's office who will process and serve them formally."

But the inspector general's probe concluded that many of the letters were "not sent in exigent circumstances" and that "there sometimes were no open or pending national security investigations tied to the request," contrary to what U.S. law requires. No subpoenas had actually been requested before the letters were sent. The phone companies nonetheless promptly turned over the information, in anticipation of getting a more legally viable document later, FBI officials said.

The use of such letters was virtually "uncontrolled," said an FBI official who was briefed on the issue in early 2005. By that fall, CAU agents had begun creating spreadsheets to track phone records they had collected for a year or more that were not covered by the appropriate documents, according to FBI e-mails and interviews with officials.
Gonzales needs to resign. Now.

Too bad the Justice Department isn't headquarted in King County, 'cause then Tom McCabe could demand an investigation. Sadly, a search of Google Maps reveals that there is no Integrity listed at any address in Rightieville.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My White House knows kick boxing

Tom McCabe (surprise!) wants a federal investigation:
The Building Industry Association of Washington asked U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan to investigate and prosecute anyone involved in fraudulent registration attempts. The association said it had sent him public records it had obtained, including e-mails among county and state officials discussing the ACORN registrations.
Sullivan better do what Tommy says, or Tommy will call his mommy White House and his White House will purge him when she gets home from work.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Anti-viaduct vote climbs higher still

King County has posted a third updated count of votes this evening in Seattle's special election on the future of the waterfront and Alaskan Way. Opposition to the tunnel dropped by the tiniest of margins, but opposition to a new viaduct increased slightly - again. Here's the new tally:

57.28% oppose a new viaduct (up from 56.24%)
42.72% support a new viaduct (down from 43.76%)
69.72% oppose a tunnel (about the same as before)
30.22% support a tunnel (about the same as before)

King County Elections has now counted 154,934 votes.

The overwhelming rejection of a new elevated freeway just keeps getting bigger - and that's great news. The trend has continued as we've hoped. There's no denying that 57% is a huge landslide. Seattle is adamantly opposed to a new elevated highway and it's off the table no matter what its supporters say.

Plame testifies she was covert operative

Valerie Plame testified before a Congressional panel this morning that she was deliberately "outed" as a covert operative for political reasons. From the AP:
Plame also repeatedly described herself as a covert operative, a term that has multiple meanings. Plame said she worked undercover and traveled abroad on secret missions for the CIA.

But the word "covert" also has a legal definition requiring recent foreign service and active efforts to keep someone's identity secret. Critics of Fitzgerald's investigation said Plame did not meet that definition for several reasons and said that's why nobody was charged with the leak.

Also, none of the witnesses who testified at Libby's trial said it was clear that Plame's job was classified. However, Fitzgerald said flatly at the courthouse after the verdict that Plame's job was classified.
Which begs the question of how conservative pundits would know whether her job was classified or not, since you know, that sort of thing is classified. She just told Congress she was a covert operative. Unless someone has evidence to the contrary, it's just more Republican hot air. You can imagine what would have happened had a Democratic administration been accused of unmasking a CIA covert operative.

Also interesting is the testimony of one James Knodell, the White House security director. Editor and Publisher posts an article revealing that nothing was ever done about the leaking of Plame's name.
Dr. James Knodell, director of the Office of Security at the White House, told a congressional committee today that he was aware of no internal investigation or report into the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.

The White House had first opposed Knodell testifying but after a threat of a subpoena from the committee yesterday he was allowed to appear today.

Knodell said that he had started at the White House in August 2004, a year after the leak, but his records show no evidence of a probe or report there: "I have no knowledge of any investigation in my office," he said.

Rep. Waxman recalled that President Bush had promised a full internal probe. Knodell repeated that no probe took place, as far as he knew, and was not happening today.


Democrats challenged his assertion that no probe was necessary since a criminal investigation was underway. They said that the criminal probe was narrowly focused, started well after the leak -- during which the White House apparently did nothing -- and that in any case, the White House was required to carry out its own probe and deny security clearances to anyone who had leaked classified information.

They demanded to know why Rove's security clearance had not been revoked.
Indeed. Well, we know why Rove is still in the White House: the rules don't apply to Republicans, and if he goes down, he's enough of a squirmy little worm that he'll probably be sure to take everyone else with him.

There were hints yesterday that the White House will try to keep Rove from testifying by claiming "executive privilege." Which is what Republican administrations always do. We'll likely find out from the noise machine that Andrew Jackson or someone did it too, proving once again that's it ok to be crooks because all politicians are crooks, so leave us alone.

Primarily a matter of timing

While there's talk of cancelling or moving Washington's presidential primary, one of the things that just isn't true is any talk about "back rooms."

There aren't any "back rooms" available in many cases, unless you break into the school kitchen, and even if there were, how would anyone manipulate dozens and dozens of precincts? I suppose there could be monkey business at LD and county conventions, at least in theory, but by that time the nominee is always known anyhow. Plus I defy anyone to break a rule at a Democratic convention: you'll have 15 parliamentary experts shouting "point of order" faster than you can withdraw the motion.

The "back room" stuff is a lot of garbage thrown out there by people who don't know what they are talking about. Anyone who has ever helped organize caucuses and conventions knows that.

I'll grant that a primary will draw more people, but that doesn't mean it would necessarily have a bigger impact on the selection of Democratic delegates. And of course there is the age-old problem that DNC rules requiring "known Democrats" to choose delegates conflicts with our state's tradition of not having party registration, leading to the filling out of "declarations" that can rub people the wrong way.

But the 2004 caucuses were extremely well attended and brought many people into the process.

It's understandable the some folks may not be comfortable going to a caucus, but the flip side is that it's the only time most people are asked to sit down, discuss things, argue, and then vote. Since most people avoid the off-year caucuses, once every four years doesn't seem all that unreasonable of a requirement. Some people find, much to their surprise, that they really like meeting neighbors with whom they share similar political views.

More important is the timing. With California moving its primary to Feb. 5th, it would seem that if Washington wants in on the action it better follow suit. According to the P-I, talks will continue on that issue.

Stupid voters

OK, I've rather steadfastly refrained from saying much at all about the Viaduct, because I don't live up there. But I think it's okay for me to offer a link to Ryan Blethen's column this morning. Here's a sample:
All Seattle voters had to do was use reason on a nonbinding vote to let Olympia, the Seattle City Council and the mayor's office know that a rebuild is the best option for the city and region.
You stupid voters. Ryan needs to go to Costco.

You have my sympathies, Seattle voters. It's hard when an editorial board loses touch. Been there.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Glenn Beck calls Hillary "stereotypical bitch"

Another day, another right-wing media celebrity hate assault on a Democratic presidential candidate. From Media Matters:
BECK: I don't want to sound like the old ball-and-chain guy, but Hillary Clinton cannot be elected president because -- am I wrong in feeling, am I the only one in America that feels this way? -- that there's something about her vocal range. There's something about her voice that just drives me -- it's not what she says, it's how she says it. She is like the stereotypical -- excuse the expression, but this is the way to -- she's the stereotypical bitch, you know what I mean? She's that stereotypical, nagging, [unintelligible], you know what I mean? And she doesn't have to be saying -- she could be saying happy things, but after four years, don't you think every man in America will go insane? Is it just me? I mean, I know this is horrible to say, but I mean it not -- I would say this if she were Condi Rice and she sounded like that. Condi Rice doesn't have that grate to her voice. You know what I need to do? I need to talk to a vocal expert, because there is a range in women's voices that experts say is just the chalk, I mean, the fingernails on the blackboard. And I don't know if she's using that range or what it is, but I've heard her in speeches where I can't take it.
Beck doesn't need to talk to a vocal expert, he needs to talk to a shrink. Because there is something truly pathological about a person who would say that.

This isn't funny, it's not "entertainment" and Democrats don't need to "lighten up." It's crass, uninformed blithering that once upon a time, should a person have said such a thing, Andy Griffith or some other mythical character from an imaginary America would have agreed that Beck deserves a sock in the chin. Of course, in imaginary America Andy Griffith would have told Opie that we can't do that, because we have to show that we are better than that. Andy was right, real or not, but if the info-tainment complex masquerading as news in this country doesn't find a way to deal with irresponsible figures, there will have to be regulations put in place to protect the public interest.

Yes, yes, the First Amendment. Tell it to Janet Jackson's nipple. You have a First Amendment right to believe nearly anything in this country, but that doesn't mean that media conglomerates should abandon editorial judgement and any sense of civic responsibility because it might make them a little more money.

And yeah, what Beck said is how some "real guys" talk. Guys who are women-hating jerks. That's no justification, any more than racist comments by talkers are acceptable because there are real racists in the country.

Goodness, it's like the worse things get for Republicans the more truly insane they get. It's creepy and bizarre, like watching someone who already had a few screws loose finally just lose it. You know they won't do themselves any good in the end, but nobody can reason with them, because they're nuts. So all you can really do is shake your head and go about your business.

NY Times blisters GOP over McKay firing

The New York Times pens a hard-hitting editorial in tomorrow's issue that portrays the firing of John McKay as emblamatic of a Republican party trying to justify its own attempts at voter suppression. Well worth a full read. It ends this way:
These charges, like the accusation that Mr. McKay and other United States attorneys were insufficiently aggressive about voter fraud, are a way of saying, without actually saying, that they would not use their offices to help Republicans win elections. It does not justify their firing; it makes their firing a graver offense.
Republican support is collapsing for Gonzales. This administration is in big, big trouble. Righties can try to issue weird defenses, but once again the unethical and un-American tactics of the GOP and this administration have been exposed for everyone to see. The only ones who can't see it are those who have deliberately closed their eyes and their minds.

Environmental agenda moving forward

Priorities for a Healthy Washington, a coalition of the groups that make up the environmental community in Washington, reports on its success:
For the fifth year in a row, the Priorities for a Healthy Washington coalition has come together to advance four proposals in the state legislature to improve the health of Washington's people, land, air and water. We have exciting news: more than half way through the 2007 Legislature, your voice is being heard loud and clear - we are on track to succeed with all four efforts!
Item number one:
The bill (ESHB 1024) to eliminate toxic flame retardants, sponsored by Ross Hunter, passed in the House by a huge margin of 71-24 on February 16th. There was significant support for the bill and all amendments to weaken the bill were defeated. Our first hearing in the Senate is March 20th at 10:00 am. We need to keep the momentum going as the chemical industry continues to fight hard to kill this bill. That’s why we have launched a campaign to have supporters to take a photo holding an "I want to be PBDE Free" sign. PBDE is the toxic chemical that this bill would outlaw.
Item number two:
The 2007 session will lay the foundation for a whole new approach to oversee the clean up and restoration of Puget Sound. Two bills are moving forward, ESSB 5372 sponsored by Phil Rockefeller, and ESSHB 1374,sponsored by Dave Upthegrove, that would create a new state agency to get the job done. Both bills passed their respective chambers with wide support, 41-5 (Senate) and 78-19 (House). The bills will continue to be worked on, and our goal is a single bill that includes the best from both - so that the new Puget Sound agency can attain real accountability for results and achieve recovery of the Sound by 2020.
Item number three:
The Clean Air-Clean Fuels bill (HB 1303), sponsored by Mary Lou Dickerson, passed out of the House on March 10th on a 79-18 vote. The bill would deliver better air quality, reduced petroleum dependence, practical climate solutions, and a new source of good jobs in Washington. The next stop is the Senate environmental committee, where there will be hearing on March 21st. For more information on this bill and to take action visit:
And last, but certainly not least:
As our state's population grows, so too does the need for parks, trails, fish and wildlife habitat, and productive farmland. We are working to fund 133 projects for parks and wildlife across the state by increasing the state's two-year investment to $100 million. The House will release its Capital Budget in mid-March, which then will be sent to the Senate. Negotiations are under way, so contact your legislators today! Learn what projects are proposed for your city, county or legislative district and take action to protect them.
In addition, bills that would protect an aquatic reserve on Puget Sound's Maury Island and develop targets for reducing greenhouse gas pollution have passed out of the state Senate and are now being considered by the House.

To leave a message with your legislator, contact the Legislative Hotline at the in-state toll-free phone number at 1-800-562-6000.

You better free your mind instead

If you thought the recent protests at the Port of Tacoma had the look and feel of the 1960's, there may be a good reason. Today's Oregonian has a front page story (replete with artistic photo) about the newly reconstituted Students for a Democratic Society.
At least 14 Lewis & Clark students, including four SDS members, joined those from Olympia and Tacoma last weekend at the Port of Portland to protest the shipment of Stryker vehicles to Iraq.

A video posted on the Northwest SDS Web site and YouTube shows Tacoma police using tear gas against protesters in scenes reminiscent of the 1960s. Danielle Hurley, 19, a freshman and SDS member at Lewis & Clark, says she was hit in the arm and three places in the back by rubber bullets and tear gas.

Both the Reed and Lewis & Clark SDS are recruiting students to join an anti-war rally Sunday in the South Park Blocks of downtown Portland.
So, depending on your point of view, this could be a positive sign of youth interest in meaningful change, it could be that some aging Baby Boomers decided to re-start SDS, or it might represent something of a potential threat to the chances that Democrats have to enact meaningful reform themselves.

The original SDS, of course, had its roots in the nuclear freeze and civil rights movements, progressed to opposing the Vietnam War, and met its ultimate destruction in the insane violence and ridiculous views of the Weathermen. Which isn't to say that today's students who want a democratic society should not act, but it strikes me as rather peculiar to atempt the re-creation of a movement that was not only specific to its time but specific to a particular class of elite (mostly white) college students. But hey, people can act for change as they see best, although frankly I wonder if these new activists understand that being gassed and hit with rubber bullets in Tacoma was child's play compared with what happened in the 1960's. They didn't use rubber bullets at Kent State, and the Chicago police in 1968 were more than happy to take their frustrations out on any skull, press or otherwise, within reach.

But the world and the American politcal parties have changed. The Republican Party is now the party of the South, and a huge upswing in interest not just among students but among people from all walks of life have fed new blood into the Democratic Party.

The world of 1962 that saw a small group of college students issue the famous "Port Huron Statement" was a Cold War world of segregation and computers were the size of houses. The Democratic Party was heavily reliant on its southern base, and the recent memory of McCarthyism weighed heavily on foreign policy decisions. A disastrous involvement in a foreign war loomed large, although in 1962 only the most prescient could have foreseen the scale of the disaster. Communciation and organizing took place at a much slower pace. People used telegrams for messages to Congress.

While racism and other forms of bigotry, especially homophobia, are still all too common, and there are still legal obstacles to be overcome, the basic political conditions of this country are not really the same. Yes, there is a disastrous foreign war, but unlike Vietnam the Democratic Party is moving towards ending it. Legal rights for gay couples are high on the agenda of many Democrats. Progress on all fronts is not as fast nor as clean as anyone would like, but progress is not only present but stands to increase rapidly as the prospects for larger majorities and a Democratic President materialize. Yes, there are regressive forces in the Democratic Party, but it's hardly realistic to think that entrenched power would be completely cleaned out in the four or so years the netroots since the netroots exploded onto the scene.

In the 1960's, students who wished to stop the war or push for civil rights were, in many ways, shut out of the Democratic Party and thus electoral politics. The 1964 Democratic convention featured the famous struggle over whether to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegates, and the 1968 convention was, of course, marred by a police riot. Students literally had nowhere to turn.

That's simply not the case today. The party would welcome them with open arms, if they actually wanted to accomplish change. But if you root around the New SDS web site you might be struck, as I was, at how similar the language and conceptualization of the "new" SDS is to the old.

For example, the Call for March 20 student action from the "new" SDS web site features verbiage that could have been written forty years ago:
We refuse to be subtle in our outcry against this war, we refuse to do nothing and be silent while people are killed in our name for profit for the rich and we refuse to be sent overseas in a war for oil.
Which, you know, would be fine if their path to participation were actually blocked. But it's not. There is no draft, so anyone getting sent overseas volunteered to do so. Yes, there are problems with voting systems and military recruiting, but things just aren't the same as in the 1960's.

It's worth stating that the original SDS, in its non-violent days, was incredibly important. We owe those who came before us a lot. And I share everyone's current frustration not only with the war in Iraq and other vital issues, but with the sick, twisted political-media-industrial complex that allowed that war to happen. But let's be honest: while there were plenty of "small-d" democrats involved with SDS, there was also a labyrinthine set of sub-groups that most Americans, to this day, associate with either communism or socialism.

The association with communism and socialism is probably the most damaging historical legacy of SDS (if you leave the Weathermen out of the equation,) and while it's true that many, many original SDS'ers were bitterly opposed to what ultimately happened, you can't really go back and change things. It's not that Americans today hate and fear communism, it's that communism and socialism are at this point such relics of the 20th century that it seems absurd to identify, even in passing, with a long dead organization that had more than a limited fondness for them. Just as it seems antiquated and well, ridiculous to talk about street protests as a means of accomplishing anything today, when there are so many other outlets.

All that being said, I'm certain there are genuinely sincere individuals involved in the "new" SDS, but I'm fairly dubious of pursuing radical strategies and tactics at this point in history. Frankly, the majority of Americans simply won't support it.

The political risk, of course, is that extremism on the left will be used to attack Democrats and damage their electoral chances. It's not really possible to say if that is likely, although even the hint of continued and increasingly strident street protests probably fills Nixon toady Roger Ailes' heart with glee. It's the satellite video age, and each and every pepper gas canister will be re-run fifty times while Sean Hannity burbbles on and on about "law and order."

You kind of wonder what the "elder SDS activists" who helped re-start SDS actually learned from their experiences.

McKay calls for investigation into firings

Fired US attorney John McKay is calling for an investigation of his and others' dismissals:
The former U.S. attorney in Seattle, John McKay, says his firing and the firing of seven other federal prosecutors should be investigated by the Justice Department's inspector general.

McKay says he's the only indepdent authority in the department who reports to Congress.

McKay told The Associated Press in an interview today that if the inspector general doesn't investigate then the case may go to a special prosecutor.
Question: if a stained blue dress is worth 50 or 60 million dollars in special prosecutor money, how much is this worth?

One state senate, two ledes

The Olympian
Senate Republicans were stunned Wednesday afternoon when majority Democrats ended the day’s debate rather than engage in a floor maneuver to bring back a controversial bill.
The Columbian
Senate Democratic leaders abruptly adjourned Wednesday afternoon rather than reconsider a measure that would allow school districts to pass levies by a simple majority at November general elections.
OK, I don't know who was being stunned and who was being abrupt, although The Columbian says Democratic state Senator Jim Hargrove "fumed" when complaining about Republican Joe Zarelli pulling a maneuver to reconsider simple majority. What we do know is that you can't trust Joe Zarelli: (From The Columbian:)
Zarelli has told The Columbian he would personally campaign for the bill if it contained the November date.
But, of course, he didn't do that. Frankly, I'm not sure what happened yesterday, although we do know that the House passed simple majority, and Democratic Sen. Lisa Brown, the majority leader, has promised that will be brought up. But Zarelli doesn't like that version, according to The Columbian article, partly because it removes the 40 percent turnout requirement.

Maybe senate Democrats should have made the Republicans vote on it yesterday, but I can't say I blame them for essentially going "whatever." Allowing the people to decide once and for all if they wish to tax themselves for education using the same standard as virtually all other elections is an important goal, but it seems Zarelli and the GOP just can't stop playing stupid games. But please, Republicans, do tell us more about how we wish to "lower standards."

You know the old saying: money talks and Joe Zarelli can't be trusted, or so my great-grandfather told me.

Subpoena time

Here they come. Via McClatchy:
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday authorized the use of subpoenas to compel five Justice Department officials to answer questions in a probe into firings and hirings of U.S. attorneys.

The subpoenas will be used only if those officials resist coming forward voluntarily.

Senators also moved to authorize subpoenas for White House officials, including President Bush's political adviser Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers. That authorization will be delayed until next week, at the request of Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the panel. Such delays are routine in Senate panels, invoked by both Democrats and Republicans to buy time.
And, saying she found it ""very difficult for me to believe" that a mid-level Justice official acted alone to change the Patriot Act, Dianne Feinstein wants to hear from that guy too:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged that the panel authorize a subpoena also for William Moschella, a Justice Department official who told McClatchy Newspapers on Wednesday that he was acting without his superiors or the White House when he wrote the provision in the Patriot Act that changed the law on replacing U.S. attorneys - and that he did not intend to circumvent the Senate.
Maybe this will quiet those on the left who feel "nothing is being done."

And maybe, if we get really lucky, the pundits and bloggers on the right who have mounted a pigheaded defense of Gonzales and the administration will finally come to understand that this is a nation of laws, not men.

How about giving McKay his job back?

Dave Reichert has submitted three names as possible replacements for fired US attorney John McKay. So not to disparage any of the nominees (well, maybe just one,) but seeing as McKay was so diligent, professional and well qualified, maybe one of our Senators should um, see if they can get him his job back.

Again, nothing against someone like Michael Vaska, who seems to be not only well qualified but smart (he saw through Tim Eyman's disastrous ideas early on,) but I'm kind of surprised nobody is talking about giving McKay his job back. He already has experience in the office, after all, and while I'm sure all of this has been stressful he's only been away from the office for a few months, kind of like an extended vacation where you testify before Congress and talk to lots of reporters. McKay could not be blamed if he doesn't want that job again, but he should be considered.

Since the bogus Patriot Act provisions that allow replacement of US attorneys without Senate confirmation were supposedly designed by a mid-level Justice Department lawyer (without the knowledge of top officials at Justice or the White House,) then nobody can really complain if Congress quickly strips those provisions out, can they?

Meaning Dave Reichert doesn't get to say squat. By tradition this is the call of the Senators in the state, and it goes to show you how arrogant Republicans are. Even after they lose an election they think they can act like they are the majority. You gotta admire the stones, but you also gotta teach them a lesson. Make them squeal like pigs, really. (And you know they will, but they will be defending not only a bogus law nobody knew about, they will be defending the firing of thoroughly competent attorneys around the country.) A veto, you say? The very idea warms my heart.

Time to throw some Senatorial weight around.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In Brief - March 14th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Recommended reading for today: Eric dePlace has a must-read post at Sightline's Daily Score taking apart what he calls the "equity argument" (that whatever we decide to do with the waterfront and Alaskan Way should not discriminate against workers).
  • Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire today became the first congressional Republican to call for the resignation of Attorney General dishonest Bush crony Alberto Gonzales, bucking his party.
  • At TPMcafe, Mark Schmitt has authored a thoughtful piece on campaign finance reform and clean elections. As Schmitt notes, "Since there will always be some loophole, chasing loopholes increases the value of whoever controls the loopholes that remain. And even if you could close every potential loophole, that's an undesirable result -- too much other speech would be accidentally and inappropriately fall under a regulatory rubric."
  • The Senate last night passed SB 5164 (prime sponsored by Senator Ken Jacobsen), which would transform the state’s volunteer "Veterans' Conservation Corps" into more of an apprenticeship program for veterans returning from combat. The Spokesman-Review has an informative overview with more on the bill.
  • Today at 5:00 PM marked the third cutoff of the legislative session, as it was the last day to consider bills in the chamber of origin. Bills that didn't make it out of the House or Senate to the other are effectively dead for the year. One victim in the House was a bill sponsored by Representative Maralyn Chase that would have added new protections for tenants displaced when developers convert their apartments to condominiums. The Senate, meanwhile, passed a family leave bill, with 32 voting in favor and 17 against. SB 5659 gives workers in Washington five weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or a sick parent. It would take effect in 2009.
The Seattle Times has a great summary of what made it past the deadline which appears in tomorrow's newspaper.

Oh, and if you haven't heard about Steve Jobs' latest revolutionary product...

If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

McClatchy picks up on Media Matters study

McClatchy has an article about the recent Media Matters report detailing how conservatives dominate the Sunday morning talk shows. And it's all well and good until you get to an "expert" they interviewed.
Stephen Battaglio, a TV Guide senior correspondent who follows the television news industry, said it's difficult to quantify political bias by counting the party affiliations of the talk show guests.

"I'm a big fan of the Sunday morning discussion programs," he said. "I think they're the only news programs worth watching, to be quite honest. In terms of political discussion, they're by far the best places to go."

Under the Media Matters study's approach, Battaglio said, Sen. Chuck Hagel - who appeared six times on "This Week" in 2005 and 2006 - would indicate a conservative bias, even though he's an outspoken critic of the Iraq war.

"It's tricky to start trying to measure bias by just looking at party affiliation," Battaglio said. "I think the Sunday news shows are about as down the middle as they can be. They're equally tough on both sides, I would say."
Since when is a correspondent from freaking TV Guide qualified to comment on politics? The example of Hagel is a case in point. He's honest about the war, which everyone can respect, but he is most definitely a conservative.

Don't get me wrong, McClatchy does great work. But it seemed odd to be quoting a television industry reporter rather than a political reporter or expert when it comes to defining the relative positions of politicians. Like asking a crime reporter to comment on the Paris fashion show. They may have an opinion, but that doesn't mean it's worth anything.

But if they get to comment on politics, I get to comment on TV. Here's my comment: it sucks and there is nothing on I can watch with my kids, so I am buying DVD's of shows from the distant past.

There are no commercials, and Gilligan never gets off the island, let alone eats worms in an attempt to stay on the island.

House passes "messaging and driving" ban

The Washington state House voted 73-23 to outlaw text-messaging while driving. The bill now goes before the Senate, which recently approved a ban on hand-held cell phone use by drivers. The House has not voted on that bill.
@TEOTD, YGBKM. im wr2ting thit rite now on te hiway. OMG. mised truk.


Anti-viaduct vote increases with new tally

King County has posted an updated count of votes this evening in Seattle's special election on the future of the waterfront and Alaskan Way. Opposition to the tunnel remained about the same, but opposition to a new viaduct increased slightly from yesterday. Here's the new tally:

56.24% oppose a new viaduct (up from 55% yesterday)
43.76% support a new viaduct (down from 44% yesterday)
69.78% oppose a tunnel (about the same as yesterday)
30.22% support a tunnel (about the same as yesterday)

King County Elections has counted 124,090 votes - 73% of the ballots it expects to receive. It says about half of Seattle's registered voters weighed in by mail.

The overwhelming rejection of a new elevated freeway has grown slightly stronger - and that's great news. Hopefully the trend continues as more ballots are counted.

Attorney firings bring echoes of "Saturday Night Massacre"

Most readers are likely somewhat familiar with the broad outlines of the "Saturday Night Massacre" in 1973, when Richard Nixon fired a Watergate special prosecutor, leading to the resignations of the two top officials at the Justice Department. In many ways that episode has informed American politics for the last thirty-four years. It led to the creation of independent counsels, which later became a tool of the right (I'm looking at you, Kenneth Starr,) and it was a salient moment in the Watergate era that fostered conservative hatred of the media.

The big lie that "the truth is liberal," as Stephen Colbert might put it, in many ways owes its existence to the Watergate scandal. In the conservative movement, any person or institution that tries to challenge their power is to be destroyed, facts be damned. Starting with Archibald Cox and continuing down through the years, we've witnessed the flagrant disregard for Congress and the law (Iran-Contra,) the "politics of personal destruction," (Whitewater and the Blue Dress Affair,) and the career-wrecking personal attacks on patriotic military and diplomatic professionals (Shinseki, Clarke and Plame, to name a few.)

Some things never change, it seems. The politically motivated firings of the US attorneys by the Bush administration may have superficial differences from what happened during the Nixon years, but at its core the sickness is the same.

And now that the Prosecutor Purge is at full tilt, we can take an interesting look at some of the original reporting about the "Saturday Night Massacre," thanks to the Internet and The Washington Post, which has this Carroll Kilpatrick story from Oct. 21, 1973, amongst its on-line Watergate collection:
In the most traumatic government upheaval of the Watergate crisis, President Nixon yesterday discharged Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus.

The President also abolished the office of the special prosecutor and turned over to the Justice Department the entire responsibility for further investigation and prosecution of suspects and defendants in Watergate and related cases.

Shortly after the White House announcement, FBI agents sealed off the offices of Richardson and Ruckelshaus in the Justice Department and at Cox's headquarters in an office building on K Street NW.

An FBI spokesman said the agents moved in "at the request of the White House."
Obviously, Nixon was trying to protect himself from damaging revelations that were an immediate threat to his political survival. So there is that superficial difference from Prosecutor Purge.

But the difference isn't all that profound. Why have the Bush administration and state Republican parties been so adamant that they simply must find evidence of "Democratic vote fraud?" As always, it's part of the "see, all politicians are crooks" argument. If the GOP can convince the media and the citizenry that Democrats are just as crooked as them, the advantage goes to the GOP, which actually did engage in the systematic exlusion of African American voters in Florida in the year 2000. The vote in Ohio in 2004 actually did feature outrageous abuses of power by a Republican secretary of state. Here in Washington, GOP leaders really did try to short-circuit elections law and procedures and bully their way into the governor's mansion.

In short, it's all about politics. For all the years that Karl Rove was touted as a "political genius," it turns out that he is and always has been nothing more than a glorified thug. It's far past time for Rove to be invited to appear before full US Senate committees, live on all networks, and do some explaining. If Rove should decline the invitation, he should be compelled to appear. The American people deserve answers about why their government, which belongs to everyone after all, was yet again turned into an extension of the Republican Party.

And the hearings should be held during prime time. On a Saturday night.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A new viaduct is completely off the table

Despite voters' clear and overwhelming rejection of the elevated option, some elected officials aren't ready to give up supporting a new viaduct:
[Senate Majority Leader] Lisa Brown said the vote appears to definitively shut the door on a tunnel, but she wasn't ready to rule out an elevated highway. She said it's still an option, given that the vote appears to be closer.
Actually, the vote definitely shuts the door on both options no matter what Olympia says. A 55% vote against a viaduct is not close. But that was nothing compared to what Nick Licata said:
Seattle City Council President Nick Licata, who supports rebuilding the viaduct, called the 44.5 percent vote "a pretty solid base for elevated."

"It will definitely keep it alive," he said. "I think that Olympia will have to moderate its stance, taking into account some design elements, seeing if they can make it less bulky, less noisy, and seeing how much open space they can create on the waterfront."
That's just pure nonsense:
A less bulky viaduct? A less noisy viaduct? Oh, yeah, that's gonna happen, Nick. The state's gonna look at the vote and decide to build us one of those slim 'n trim elevated viaducts we've heard so much about.

Nick? The rebuild lost. Badly. Says State Senator Ed Murray: "A loss is a loss. Legislators who lose 55 to 45 don't get to be legislators." Viaducts that lose 55 to 45 don't get to be rebuilt.

...Would someone with some sense - someone who opposes the rebuild, like the majority of Seattle voters - please run against Licata?
The people of Seattle have spoken: a significant majority opposes building a freeway on the waterfront, whether it's underground or suspended in the air resting on concrete supports.

As Danny Westneat says, the time has come for surface+transit:
What a resounding "no" means is: Try something else. And almost every public official who can't agree on an elevated or a tunnel happens to have the same backup plan: a surface boulevard.

It has been ignored. Traffic engineers have been whispering for years that it might work. It's also probably the cheapest. Yet everyone has been so hellbent to get their way that the obvious compromise plan has wallowed in obscurity.
Thanks to the electorate, both a tunnel and a new viaduct are completely off the table. It's time for the Olympia vs. Seattle fight to be over and done with. Elected officials, especially the Governor and Mayor Nickels, should respect the will of the voters, forget about mega projects, and start working to put together a meaningful surface+transit plan.

WSJ pulls a Fox

The Wall Street Journal pens a ridiculous editorial and guess what? The hubub over Prosecutor Purge here in Washington state rates a mention.
Take sacked U.S. Attorney John McKay from Washington state. In 2004, the Governor's race was decided in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129-votes on a third recount. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other media outlets reported, some of the "voters" were deceased, others were registered in storage-rental facilities, and still others were convicted felons. More than 100 ballots were "discovered" in a Seattle warehouse. None of this constitutes proof that the election was stolen. But it should have been enough to prompt Mr. McKay, a Democrat, to investigate, something he declined to do, apparently on grounds that he had better things to do.
That's funny, the Washington state GOP chair at the time says McKay is a Republican.
"I thought it was part of my job, to be a conduit," Vance, who now operates a consulting business, said in a telephone interview. "We had a Republican secretary of state, a Republican prosecutor in King County and a Republican U.S. attorney, and no one was doing anything."
You know, after about the hundredth time that Fox or other right-wing organs "accidentally" mis-identify someone's political party when it suits their purpose, people start to catch on. The bag of tricks is getting mighty empty.

No and No: Voters rejecting viaduct options

Seattle voters rejected both options on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement advisory ballot after a first tally was reported this evening. The surface/tunnel hybrid was losing 69% to 30% while the elevated was losing 55% to 44%. 98,639 votes have been tallied, which is more than half of the projected total.

In a speech at the Edgewater Hotel, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said the vote is a clear message that Emerald City voters don't want a new freeway on the waterfront.

Meanwhile, two school levies (Highline and Skykomish Districts) are passing with supermajorities (sixty percent or better).

[Updated at 9:32 PM with corrections and additional information].

POSTSCRIPT: Just to be clear, I came up with his headline before the P-I came up with one that's nearly identical. As they say, great minds think alike.

Vance talked to Rove's office and McKay

An article attributed to The Seattle Times, and reporter Les Blumenthal, details how former GOP chair Chris Vance talked to both John McKay and Karl Rove's assistant about the recount in the 2004 governor's race. I'm not trying to be discourteous to the Times, but the only place I can seem to find it on-line right now is via the (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel.

(CLARIFICATION: We've received word that Les Blumenthal works for McClatchy rather than The Seattle Times and that the story was erroneously attributed.)

(excerpts in this post are out of order from the article)
Vance said he talked about the governor's race frequently with Glynda Becker, the western states contact in Karl Rove's political office at the White House. Vance said he didn't remember if McKay was discussed.
So here's what you are to believe, if you go read the whole article: Chris Vance called John McKay and was shut down:
Chris Vance said then-U.S. Attorney John McKay made it clear he would not discuss whether his office was investigating allegations of voter fraud in the election. He said McKay cut off the conversation.

"I thought it was part of my job, to be a conduit," Vance, who now operates a consulting business, said in a telephone interview. "We had a Republican secretary of state, a Republican prosecutor in King County and a Republican U.S. attorney, and no one was doing anything."
But he can't recall if he mentioned it to Rove's assistant, to whom he spoke "frequently."

MORE-- The AP via The Columbian moves an article concerning why McKay was fired, and it mentions how Dale Foreman was afforded the chance to present evidence to McKay, as was Tom McCabe, who apparently showed up with a shoebox full of ballots he claimed were suspicious.
Nevertheless, McKay did conduct a preliminary review of the allegations. He assembled a team of four lawyers in his office, plus FBI agents, to review fraud claims, such as by debriefing Republican Party lawyer Dale Foreman about any evidence the party had, and by examining a shoebox of allegedly forged absentee ballots provided by Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington.

"There wasn't one bit of solid evidence," McKay said.

Eventually, a Chelan County judge threw out the GOP's election challenge, saying that even under the lesser burden of proof required in civil, rather than criminal, cases, "There is no evidence that ballots were changed, the ballot box stuffed or that lawful votes were removed from either candidate's ballot box."
So even though they had a chance to present their claims to McKay, they didn't have anything legitimate, as was born out in court.

In other words, most of the claims made to the media and that are still repeated on conservative blogs to this day did not have much, if any, merit, in the eyes of an honest prosecutor or an honest judge.

I'm afraid the GOP has dug itself such a deep hole in this matter that they are going to need a ladder. A tall one.

Gonzales and Rove must resign

What Howard says.
"The best way for Attorney General Gonzales to accept responsibility is for him to step down," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "The Bush White House has consistently put protecting the President and doing his bidding ahead of upholding the integrity of our nation's laws. Karl Rove should pack his bags and go too. His type of leadership doesn't belong at the White House. America deserves better."
Hey. Rough week for the cons and getting rougher by the hour.

SSB 5803 doesn't provide reform

My post yesterday on the transportation governance bill the Senate ended up passing has inspired a much needed discussion that hadn't been taking place about the merits of the idea. As you might expect, at unSoundPolitics, Eric Earling interpreted my post as a "meltdown":
In a sure sign the bill has merit, Andrew Villeneuve is in full-fledge meltdown mode over at NPI lamenting the idea (with a follow-up here once the Senate actually approved the measure)
That's an inaccurate characterization of what I wrote. A meltdown would have been something like an incoherent rant authored in ALL CAPS. My post was a serious breakdown of the consequences of a bill that has been quietly moving through the state Senate, with almost zero media coverage or public debate.

Eric goes on to say this:
Apparently, Andrew seems content with the status quo in which not much at all - if anything - ever seems to get done in substantively moving the region forward toward transportation solutions.
Actually, as Eric knows, projects are underway to move the region forward. For example, there's a big project he's probably heard of - Central Link light rail, now in the late stages of construction, with train testing underway. That project is being built under the auspices of a major agency Eric might have heard of that is focused on delivering transit solutions (a mix of express bus, commuter rail, and light rail services) to commuters - and that's Sound Transit.

We've never said anything along the lines of "we're happy with the status quo." There are many aspects of transportation decision making that need improvement.

But Sound Transit is an agency that's working well - on so many levels - and shouldn't be tampered with. Independent auditors have given it a clean bill of health for nine consecutive years. The agency isn't afraid to experiment with innovative ideas. Its services are popular - I ride frequently and can personally attest to that. But I'm certainly not the only one who has praise for Sound Transit. Here's a blogger who wrote about a recent experience on Sounder:
I can understand why they are adding passenger cars and preparing for additional frequencies. They'll easily fill up the trains they have planned for the next 20-30 years (18 daily frequencies from what I have heard, up from the 8 daily now). Even if they broke out and evened the subsidies to that of auto subsidies over the next 10-15 years they would still maintian very high ridership.

Very impressive to see this working so well.
Seattle Times editorial writer Lance Dickie chimed in last year in one of his finest columns:
Sound Transit is the medium for getting something done. Eastside communities recognize what they need, and they will dog Sound Transit to make it happen. Light rail and the American way. That's super, man.
Then there's fellow Eastside residents who are understandably excited about the prospect of light rail serving the Eastside, including Bellevue and Redmond:
Outstanding! Hardly a week goes by these days without me breathlessly talking about how great it will be when I can head to Seatac from the U.W. campus via light rail....You see, I work on the UW campus. And, because of my job, I spend a lot of time driving to and from Seatac — for my own somewhat-frequent trips, to transporting visiting scholars, or to transport the other scholar in the household. In fact, just this morning, I dropped Kathy off at the Airport. I think it was 6:00 a.m.

You don’t have to just dream about this anymore…check out the Link Light Rail animations. Next on my personal light rail agenda…Light Rail to Redmond!
A Pierce County resident who championed the construction of Tacoma Link observed its usefulness in a 2005 entry:
In December of 2004 my brother and I attended Tacoma's First Night festival on the 31st. This is an arts festival that takes place downtown. Part of the festival involves going to all the museums downtown for free. Since the museums, restaurant and festival's events all took place along the light rail line, it made sense to use it. My brother and I parked at the Tacoma Dome Station, then rode down to the museums where we toured the history museum, the Museum of Glass and the Art Museum. Afterwards, we had dinner at the Harmon, then took the train to the Theater District for the party. The train was packed full with people headed to the night's events. This festival could have not easily taken place without Tacoma Link.
A scientific survey conducted last October found public opinion of Sound Transit to be 65 percent favorable. And it's not just buses that the public likes, contrary to what ST critics might contend. The vast majority of Puget Sound citizens, especially those living on the Eastside, want light rail and don't see buses as the centerpiece of a comprehensive transportation fix.

Don't mess with success. That is what I wrote.

Onward and forward:
Of course as Andrew's posts indicate, he favors solutions focused on mass-transit only, as opposed to balanced combinations of roads and transit prudent people can support, and which actually have a prayer of electoral backing across the populations of King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties in question.
It's already been proven time and time again that you can't build your way out of congestion. We've stated that fact more than once and backed it up with evidence.

That does not mean we're against road and infrastructure improvements or maintenance. It means we see no value in building brand new highways and spending huge sums of money to widen existing ones. And we've expressed that sentiment repeatedly. We said it in 2005 when we were fighting I-912 in response to Brett Bader's whining that the 2005 Transportation Package didn't pay for lots of "new pavement to drive our cars on".

I doubt we'll be happy with every aspect of RTID's portion of the 2007 package when it's all put together. But if Eric assumes we'll oppose the joint package because RTID is included, then he is mistaken.

This new super commission, as I noted in my original post, is a golden opportunity for individuals like John Stanton to use their financial wealth to shape the future of local transportation planning by running candidates in races where it's difficult for grassroots campaigns to compete. That's why I mentioned him. He's behind the bill - and he stands to benefit if it passes.

As for my statement about the wireless industry, I find Eric's attempt at mockery to be a pathetic failure. If you've watched what has happened in the market you know what I'm talking about. AT&T buys McCaw Cellular and renames it AT&T Wireless, Cingular buys AT&T Wireless, Sprint buys Nextel, Alltell buys Western Wireless - look at a timeline of the business and you'll see a familiar trend of consolidation. It goes on, and on, and on.

There are only a few major players left and they're all giant corporations. Our choices have become more limited, and that has not been a good thing. Executives in industry after industry keep offering repeated assurances that mergers will be a boon to consumers - but the evidence proves that's just not the case.

Since this all powerful commission is such a great idea, why stop at transportation? Why don't we just legislate the creation of super commissions to deal with every major issue we have? For example, we could create a megadistrict with authority over all regional schools, governed by a dozen well paid politicians. In fact, we could do away with our current system for municipal governance altogether. Who needs county councils when you can set up issue-based commissions?

More seriously, there's a reason why we have so many special districts, agencies, and municipal governments in our state: we like home rule and local control.

What's ironic about this bill is that it actually adds new bureaucracy on top of everything we've already got. The consolidation, or merger, is basically the transfer of power to these twelve appointed or elected transportation czars that leaves toothless paper entities.

We don't need to imagine that officials elected by the people could actually make decisions about transportation...because that's already the way it works. Last time I checked, almost every single member of the Sound Transit board was an elected official. The board is a good mix of leaders from across the region who were elected by their neighbors to represent them. What's more, the board includes the key officials responsible for making transportation decisions at the county level. So there's already integration and coordination.

There's just no need to create more confusion by adding a new layer of government and stripping down what is already working.

The real problem we face with transportation is that we have a funding deficit. We have many needs and not enough money to pay for them. There is a huge backlog thanks to past neglect and dithering.

Hence, fights have ensued in recent years about how to spend the limited dollars available. Of course, conservatives will say the problem isn't money, just as they do with schools and other public services.

If the right wing had gotten its way over the last few years, we would have ended up with practically nothing in the treasury to pay for any projects whatsoever. There wouldn't be any arguments or debate about what we should build because there would be no funds available to build them with!

To address the shortfall, the Legislature last year paired Sound Transit and RTID at the last minute near the end of the session and told each to work together to create a regional investment package to present to voters. The combination didn't get a warm reception back in the central Sound. Regardless, the two have collaborated to work on a plan which is nearing completion.

Now the Legislature is going to suddenly change all of the rules and rewire the way governance works? There's just going to be a new mandate instituted without any thought or care given to the consequences?

That doesn't make sense. It seems Olympia can't leave well enough alone long enough for anything to get off the ground!

Let me emphasize again that this governance bill won't end the stalemate over what to do with the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It won't prevent bickering over the State Route 520 replacement. How is a commission which is required under the law to operate by unanimous consent supposed to make "decisive decisions"? SSB 5803 is a recipe for more process, not action.

As it's written, this bill doesn't provide any meaningful reform.

Earling asserts that I should do more research. He should act on his own advice and read my writing more carefully before trying to distort and mock it.

Arrogant GOP still fights simple majority

Simple majority is still alive:
The state House has voted once again to support a constitutional amendment to allow simple-majority approval of special property-tax levies for public schools.

It passed on a strong 79-19 vote Monday and now heads to the Senate, which narrowly defeated a similar measure earlier this month.

The House has passed the measure for more than a decade, only to watch it die in the Senate. Two years ago, the measure passed the House on a 73-25 vote, but it was defeated in the Senate, 25-23.
So off it goes to the Senate, where Republicans will, doubtless, stand up there and babble about the WASL standards they wish to impose upon my child, while making sure that it's hard to pass local bond and levy measures. They either can't see or don't care about the obvious contradiction in their positions.

Most people have probably had enough of the antiquated, ridiculous Constitutional amendment passed before most of us were even born, an amendment that frequently turns what would otherwise be landslide victories into narrow defeats. Majority rule is good enough for stadiums but it's not good enough for the schools we put our kids in. And the GOP won't even let the citizens vote on the darn thing, as if Depression era and World War II era votes are somehow sacrosanct. (A point Goldy has made in the past, I believe.)

It was funny, during yesterday's late-night debate over the student press bill, which I caught on TVW thanks to my friends at Starbucks, Republicans kept repeating that freedom isn't the way things work in the real world. (I paraphrase for effect, of course.)

No kidding. In the real world, people who claim to represent positive values constantly find a way to ignore those values in the name of greed and ideological purity. It's obvious that many Republicans don't trust voters in local school districts to decide, using the same standard as virtually every other election, whether they wish to tax themselves to benefit children. That's an awfully arrogant position to take, and sadly, one that will probably prevail in the state Senate, as (irony of ironies) you need a super-majority there to place it on the ballot.

BIAW's McCabe key figure in firings scandal

"Out of control" pretty much describes the actions of the BIAW's Tom McCabe in regard to the Prosecutor Purge. The "he" in the first paragraph here refers to recently fired US attorney John McKay. From the AP via The Olympian:
He said one of his first moves was in response to Thomas McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, who claimed he had evidence of forged signatures on absentee ballots cast for Gregoire.

McKay said he asked Mark Ferbrache, supervisory special agent at the FBI, to assign Agent Joe Quinn to review McCabe's evidence.

Quinn ''seemed distracted, almost bothered that he was talking to me about it,'' McCabe said. ''He never instituted an investigation. No one was ever questioned.

''It started me wondering whether the U.S. attorney was doing his job.''

McCabe subsequently made repeated calls on the White House to fire McKay.

McKay said that when McCabe's materials were examined, ''it was not the conclusion of the FBI that they were forgeries.''
The startling thing, of course, would not be that an extremist like McCabe would call for someone's head on a platter, but that the White House would be stupid enough to listen to someone like McCabe. Remember, McCabe was so hopped up about felon votes that he turned the BIAW into an amateur hour crime lab in his vain attempt to prove organized vote fraud. Have we forgotten the $10 bribe and phoney survey BIAW sent out in its quest to gin up evidence of vote fraud?

Other Republicans mentioned in the article as demanding Justice get involved include former GOP senator Slade Gorton and former Republican state chair Chris Vance. Maybe Vance and Gorton were just engaged in overly theatrical antics, but the public deserves to know who they contacted, what was said and everything else about this sordid affair.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but wouldn't it be ironic if the efforts of Dino Rossi's biggest supporters lead to a scandal that hopelessly damages Rossi's chances in 2008? Normal people would have re-grouped, licked their wounds and figured out how to win more votes next time. Not this bunch. They had to get their revenge, even if it was against a fellow Republican.

Again, be careful what you wish for.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Firings scandal reaches to White House

It's starting to look like the scandal over politically motivated firings of US attorneys goes all the way to the White House. From The New York Times via the P-I:
The White House was deeply involved in the decision late last year to dismiss federal prosecutors, including some who had been criticized by Republican lawmakers, according to administration officials.

In October, President Bush called Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to pass along complaints among Republicans that prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday. Bush did not call for the removal of any specific U.S. attorneys, according to a White House spokesman, but the Justice Department forced out seven of them weeks later, including John McKay of Washington state.
The Washington state portion of this is particularly odious. If you boil it down, Republicans weren't content with their usual histrionics over the razor-thin 2004 gubernatorial election. Trying to take the election with outrageous, unproven charges in the media wasn't good enough.

No, they thought they could bully their way into the governor's mansion, and when that failed, both in a court of law and in the court of public opinion, they wanted revenge against an honest Republican who refused to participate in their malevolent effort. Now that action helps further weaken an already disastrous presidency.

Washington state Republicans should have been careful what they wished for. They exacted their revenge upon McKay, but like a child who has broken a toy, they now find that father is home and the consequences are not yet clear. Unlike a child, Republicans never seem to learn from their mistakes.

It's not like Democrats haven't suffered the bitter disappointment of close elections. Before the 2000 recount even happened, Brian Baird lost a stunningly close election (by 887 votes, IIRC,) in 1996. Did he demand that the Clinton White House go after a public official? Did his supporters spend the next two years vaingloriously claiming that ballot design errors in Thurston County were part of a massive plot?

No. Baird filed for office and won the 1998 election. Like you're supposed to do.

The involvement of the White House puts the attempted Orange Putsch of 2004-2005 in a whole new light. Who else was involved? Who are the Republicans that are being mentioned as "demanding McKay's firing?"

A full and thorough Congressional investigation is most definitely in order.

In Brief - March 12th, 2007

Good evening, I'm Ted Baxter with tonight's quick news digest:
  • A new Media Matters For America report finds that, when it comes to the Sunday bobble-head shows, conservative guests still dominate, despite the change in party control of Congress. Tim Russert, Lou wants to see you in his office. Now. He looks mad.
  • Markos notes progressive values are mainstream values, and 69% of Americans say there should not be a pardon for Scooter Libby. Nice cake, Sue Ellen.
  • Meanwhile, conservative ennui continues to grow. Poor babies. Love is all around, no need to waste it. Opportunity awaits in 2008.
  • The state House of Representatives passed a bill allowing students options in addition to the WASL to graduate from high school. The state Senate passed a similar bill this evening. Group hug!
  • The Army Surgeon General resigns in the continuing fallout over medical care for wounded soldiers. Nothing remotely funny about that story.
Finally, for Seattle residents, tomorrow is No and Hell No Election Day. Don't forget to drop off your ballot, or failing that, make sure it is postmarked tomorrow (March 13.) But really, wouldn't you rather just drop it off?

Two school measures, in the Highline and Skykomish districts, are on the ballot for those voters. For poll voters in those districts, you can check out information about accessible voting and ID requirements from King County Elections.

Stay classy, San Diego.

State Senate passes disastrously flawed transportation governance bill

SSB 5803, which I dissected and wrote against this morning, has just passed the state Senate, with 33 ayes, 14 nays, and two abstaining. I'm disappointed to report that some of our favorite senators, including our own Eric Oemig, voted to support this unneeded, destructive legislation.

Lawmakers urging their colleagues to vote "yes" on SSB 5083 kept repeating a tired and ridiculous talking point: that this governance legislation is needed for the region to move forward. Senator Jacobsen, who was practically the only senator to rise to speak in opposition to the bill on the floor, echoed the points that I made this morning. This bill means more confusion and it punishes success.

Senators Ed Murray and Mary Margaret Haugen, who were instrumental in pushing the bill through the chamber, appear determined to cripple Sound Transit with feel-good legislation that looks to solve nonexistent problems.

And there is a possibility that the counties in the central Sound may refuse to set up the new super commission created by SSB 5803, as Murray acknowledged in floor debate in response to a question from a colleague.

The bill now moves to the House, and we will do everything in our power to put a stop to it. Transportation is a critical issue for Washingtonians and this bill is a recipe for a long series of unaffordable setbacks, delays, and impediments.

UPDATE: The roll call was as follows:
Voting Yea: Senators Berkey, Brandland, Clements, Delvin, Fairley, Franklin, Fraser, Hatfield, Haugen, Hewitt, Hobbs, Honeyford, Kastama, Kline, Kohl-Welles, Marr, McAuliffe, Morton, Murray, Oemig, Parlette, Pflug, Prentice, Pridemore, Rasmussen, Rockefeller, Schoesler, Sheldon, Spanel, Swecker, Tom, Weinstein, and Zarelli

Voting Nay: Senators Benton, Carrell, Eide, Holmquist, Jacobsen, Kauffman, Keiser, Kilmer, McCaslin, Poulsen, Regala, Roach, Shin, and Stevens

Absent: Senators Brown and Hargrove
Kudos to our friends Senators Kilmer, Kauffman, and Shin for voting no, and a special thank you to Senator Jacobsen for speaking out against this bill on the floor.

Coulter losing newspapers, fast

I'll never understand the media zeitgeist. Ann Coulter has been utterly offensive for a very long time now, but I guess she finally crossed some imaginary line. Editor and Publisher reports that yet another newspaper has dropped her column.
Last week, at least seven daily newspapers around the country announced that they had decide to drop Ann Coulter's column in the wake of her latest offensive comment, a reference to former Sen. John Edwards in which she used the term "faggot." An eighth paper has now cut the column: The Herald and Review in Decatur, Ill.
Combined with the victory over Fox Noise Channel, it's clear that the tide is running against right wing extremists.

And that's what the issue is about. Fox and Coulter have First Amendment rights, but as one editor explained in the E&P article, newspapers have to choose whose columns to run. Choosing not to pay Coulter is not censorship, it's an editorial decision about the relative value her column has for readers. Just because very vocal and often hateful conservatives seem to enjoy Coulter's rants doesn't mean there is any intrinsic value in what she has to say.

Sorting out the relative credibility of dozens of opinion writers is something most people don't have the time to do. By publishing columnists, newspapers are putting their imprimatur on them.

This doesn't mean we can't have vigorous debates, and it doesn't mean the internet tubes are going to calm down. I certainly throw some elbows on this blog. But this is, after all, a blog, not a newspaper. We may occasionally do some "reporting" when time and circumstances allow, but in general most people are probably smart enough to figure out we have a particular point of view.

But if newspapers are going to continue to insist that they are somehow special, better and more trustworthy, then they all need to take a good hard look at the columnists they choose to pay. In other words, actually be special, better and more trustworthy, rather than printing the absurd right wing pieces from the likes of Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Jonah Goldberg., to name just a few. It's more than a question of tone, it's a question of intellect and credibility.

Yes, the righties will stomp their feet and hold their breath if they don't get to enjoy the name calling and breathtaking stupidity of Coulter, Malkin and Goldberg, but exactly where is it written that a function of journalism is to make political extremists happy by allowing insults and falsehoods to appear unchallenged? Surely in a country this large some smart conservative writers could be found.

Transportation governance bill is an inane solution to a problem that doesn't exist

An under-the-radar bill that would profoundly alter Sound Transit and other municipal agencies currently tasked with planning, building, and operating transportation systems throughout Puget Sound is quickly moving through the state Senate...and possibly headed for a floor vote as early as today.

SSB 5803 originates from an idea proposed years ago by the Discovery Institute, anti-transit ideologues, and conservative billionaire John Stanton, who was a key Dino Rossi supporter in 2004.

What SSB 5803 does is complicate and confuse the existing decision making process, which is already hard for many citizens to understand. The proposed law would stomp all over home rule and local control by essentially consolidating existing transportation agencies into one larger entity.

If you appreciate how limited your choices are when it comes to mobile phone service, you'll love tycoon John Stanton's plan for shaking up transportation governance.

We're constantly being assured by Wall Street suits that big takeovers will have a positive benefit for consumers. But that's rarely the case. The last thing residents of Puget Sound want to see is a series of massive, confusing, disruptive mergers.

Stanton's plan is a clever ploy for destroying the wall that currently separates revenues allocated for transit and highways - so that at some point in the future, there will be a larger pool of funds to tap to lay more cement in the suburbs.

It's clever because the plan calls for the commission to prepare and implement (with voter approval) a "comprehensive and integrated corridor based mult-imodal regional mobility investment plan" that creates a favored list of "mobility projects" which have regional significance. (Sorry for the mouthful of jargon).

Note the use of the phrase "mobility projects". The bill's definition, which is extremely broad, includes practically any transit or road project you can think of - from offramps to trolleys. What this means is that the commission could create a project list that is heavily dominated by new roads instead of extensions to transit systems. And that is what ends up being presented to voters.

The new entity that SSB 5803 sets up will be run by a board of 12 politicians each compensated by an annual salary that runs into six figures. Four of them would be selected by the executives of Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, and King Counties (Kitsap has a commission chair, not an executive) - and the rest would be elected from eight new sprawling districts.

These new districts would be much larger than county council districts. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for candidates with grassroots campaigns to compete. But the elections would be a bonanza for big business, which would have an opportunity to try and sell handpicked loyalists to voters.

The positions would all be nonpartisan, allowing right wing ideologues to stealthily mask what they actually stand for in the hopes of getting on the commission. And once on, they wouldn't have to worry about listening to constituents - the terms are six years, except for at the very beginning, when three commissioners would serve two year terms and another three would serve four year terms.

And with unanimous consent of the commission required for forwarding any future plans on to voters, one or two right wing, anti-transit members could refuse to sign on to any proposal not to their liking.

SSB 5803 allows people like John Stanton to use their fortune to manipulate the makeup of this new commission by funding candidates who believe in a "roads only" approach. (The commission also seems nicely designed to provide comfortable jobs for Puget Sound area lawmakers leaving the Legislature).

Just imagine...another layer of bureaucracy, incessant wrangling over legal and constitutional issues, a new group of political leaders absorbed in process instead of action...that's what we'd get with SSB 5803.

The all-powerful commission created by SSB 5803 would be directed to hire away Sound Transit's talent in long range planning. It would get veto power over revenue requests, any ballot measures sent to voters, and decisions about transit routes and fares, crippling Sound Transit as a result.

The commission would also swallow the existing Puget Sound Regional Council and the Regional Transportation Investment District (formed explicitly by the Legislature not long ago to prioritize what road projects the region needs).

We believe it's unwise to mess with something that is working well. Sound Transit in particular enjoys widespread popular support and is now finalizing plans to expand its critical light rail system. Opponents and skeptics of light rail, in a desperate attempt to stop Sound Transit's progress, are trying to change the law and the rules that govern municipal decision making in one fell swoop.

Just remember, when you hear Tim Eyman contributor and Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman's team of consultants call for "re-prioritizing" transportation, what they are really saying is, "shift the light rail dollars to road building projects". (Kemper, if you recall, has previously voiced support for the construction of a new interstate highway in east King County to run parallel to I-405).

All you need to do to see the proof of rail opponents' involvement in the governance debate is look at their websites. Rail opponents have consistently lost political battle after political battle because the public wants light rail.

Sound Transit is building and running the effective transit solutions that citizens want and deserve. And the agency is well governed by a federated board made up of elected officials from existing municipalities who are already directly elected by their neighbors. By working collaboratively together, board members have developed a needed regional perspective and are briefed by a professional staff led by an extremely competent chief executive (Joni Earl).

Sound Transit is poised to move forward, ready to take action and launch Phase II. Almost all of the projects in its first phase are done or are nearing completion. With construction costs going up every year (the estimate is $800 million every twelve months), it's time to move ahead, not slow down.

It's discouraging that some senators, including several Democrats, are pushing a bill that punishes success and dismantles the agency.

If SSB 5803 is passed, Sound Transit as we know it now would cease to exist. That would definitely not be a good thing. There's just no good reason to reinvent what works. Needlessly tinkering with the agencies that are actually delivering, like Sound Transit, will do absolutely nothing to solve transportation headaches like the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

That point cannot be emphasized enough. This bill does not solve problems. Instead, it creates new ones at a time when we cannot afford more difficulties.

Establishing a new regional transportation commission is merely a recipe for moving all of these political fights to a new venue...a bigger, shinier arena with handsome compensation for the referees courtesy of taxpayers.

This is a fruitless exercise in navel gazing that gets us nowhere. It is an inane solution to a problem that doesn't even exist, but has serious consequences.

If you like the idea of tossing out community input, tampering with proven results, and discarding years of deliberative planning in favor of allowing a roomful of newly knighted transportation czars to make major decisions, you'll love SSB 5803. If you don't, you should contact your state senator today and urge them to vote "no" on SSB 5803.

To leave a message with his or her office, contact the Legislative Hotline at the in-state toll-free phone number 1-800-562-6000.

Mielke in the dark

Former GOP state represenative and failed county commission candidate Tom Mielke pens another letter to the editor voicing his frustrations with the CRC:
Locations of the hearings are required to be held within the effected areas. To attend, I drove 45 minutes through downtown Portland traffic, paid to park, and was allowed to testify for only three minutes. After the hearing, I had to walk through old town Portland in the dark to get to my car and drive 45 minutes home. Planned inconvenience? At least a good obstacle course.
Yeah, Tom, if only there was another way to get to Portland besides driving a car and parking...

Oh, never mind. It seems Mielke isn't so keen on light rail either.So I guess if there was a "third corridor" he would still have to drive to Portland and park in the dark. Which is probably less scary than the big, bad choo-choo train and all its criminals, but really, I say we just send him a town car for the next meeting. Maybe that would end some of the kvetching.

Try getting over the bridge at rush hour with a sick family member when the medical care they need is at a facility in Portland, now that's something worth talking about. It's not all about "choices" and "agendas," there are real people out there who may actually need a better way to get to Portland, and they probably don't care if it's a new bridge, or a new bridge with light rail or (as is currently being devised as an option) a supplemental bridge that keeps the current spans intact.

Everyone in Clark County, contrary to popular myth, did not move here from Portland. People live here for many reasons, including that they were born here, or they married someone from here, or they found economic opportunity here.

It's a metro region, with many necessary services located on the Oregon side, and everybody is not going to be happy with the ultimate decision. I wanted a monorail, but you don't hear me complaining about a conspiracy against monorails.

Burning the food

The ethanol craze appears to be causing higher meat and poultry prices.
USDA indicated in a report late last week that the ethanol industry's robust demand for corn is elevating the cost of livestock and will hike prices for beef, pork and chicken.

The agency says ethanol is consuming 20 percent of last year's corn crop and is expected to use 25 percent of this year's harvest, driving up the price of corn. The average price of corn is $3.20 a bushel, up from $2 last year.

Higher feed costs will reduce meat and poultry production. The National Chicken Council reported that the price of corn has forced a 40-percent increase in the cost of feeding chickens, and poultry will soon cost more at retail.
But before you feel sorry for yourself because that thick, juicy steak costs so much, consider what effect ethanol demand is having on tortilla prices in Mexico.
But in January, the price of tortillas spiked. Analysts have blamed a global increase in demand for corn to produce ethanol, an alternative motor fuel and gasoline additive. As a result, the cornflour used to make tortillas has become more expensive, and it's harder to sell the tortillas at higher prices.
It's never made much sense to me to see ethanol as anything but a transitional fuel. Sure, it's cleaner burning, and it's (sorta-kinda) one method of harvesting solar energy, but at least in the US we throw tons of petrochemicals on corn fields to make the stuff. So it's not as great as some industry groups would have one believe. Plus ethanol production in the US is so closely tied to the largesse of farm policy that nobody can get elected president without going to Iowa and extolling its virtues.

Naturally, the relative benefits and costs of various alternative fuels will be debated vigorously. Still, sometimes you wonder why we never do cool stuff like hyrdogen highways. It would at least be a start, and the exhaust is about as clean as it gets.

Sorry, the ambassador is all tied up

Always good to know what the folks from the only democracy in the Middle East are up to:
Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador after he was found drunk and naked apart from bondage gear.

Reports say he was able to identify himself to police only after a rubber ball had been removed from his mouth.


Israel has been rocked by a recent series of misconduct and corruption scandals, shaking public confidence in the political leadership.

Haaretz website reports that police found Mr Refael in the Israeli embassy compound where he had been found bound, gagged and naked apart from sado-masochistic sex accessories.
These are our allies, the ones our insane right wingers insist we must defend no matter what, so that the world can end. Maybe since righties care about sex stuff so much (as opposed to mercilessly bombing an entire country in a fit of pique) they will ease off on the whole "Israel is always right no matter what" line.

Birds of a feather and all that, I guess.I've probably quoted this saying that Harry S. Truman attributed to his grandfather before, but it goes something like this:
When a man sings too loud on Saturday night and prays too loud on Sunday morning, best go home and lock up the smoke house.
Please, please, please Washington D.C. press corpse, make Tony Snow answer a question about this. In detail. Please.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

King County unveils new logo

At a county media event earlier today, members of the King County Council, Governor Christine Gregoire, and County Executive Ron Sims unveiled a new proposed logo for the largest municipal government in the state of Washington.

A comparison of the new and old King County logos

The new logo features a likeness of legendary civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If approved, it would replace the old logo of a crown surrounded by a circle which is currently in use. The new logo would be phased in over a multi-year period.

UPDATE: The logo was unanimously approved by the county council today. More information on a couple questions skeptics have asked:
Because the new logo honoring the memory of Dr. King is an original graphic image that will be used only for official King County government purposes, the county is not paying a fee to the estate of the slain civil rights leader. Transition to the new logo will take place over five years in order to keep costs minimal. Current supplies of materials with the gold crown logo will be used up before new supplies are ordered with the new logo. The new logo will be applied to new vehicles and equipment as they are purchased. Some signage and electronic templates that involve minimal costs will be changed over within the next few months.
The county is already using the new logo on its website and in press releases.

Halliburton fleeing to Dubai

Honestly, I thought this was a joke. It appears real, though. From The Houston Chronicle:
Oil services giant Halliburton Co. will soon shift its corporate headquarters from Houston to the Mideast financial powerhouse of Dubai, chief executive Dave Lesar announced Sunday.

"Halliburton is opening its corporate headquarters in Dubai while maintaining a corporate office in Houston," spokeswoman Cathy Mann said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "The chairman, president and CEO will office from and be based in Dubai to run the company from the UAE."
And this little nugget of joy:
Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive from 1995-2000 and the Bush administration has been accused of favoring the conglomerate with lucrative no-bid contracts in Iraq.

Federal investigators last month alleged Halliburton was responsible for $2.7 billion of the $10 billion in contractor waste and overcharging in Iraq.
Don't know much if anything about international corporate laws and rules, but the idea that Halliburton could now flee to Dubai is utterly outrageous. It would certainly behoove Democrats in Congress to look into this.

There's no mention in the article of whether Dubai would, in the future, grant Dick Cheny asylum or not.

The next time a conservative starts telling you how Democrats waste money and tax them too much, here's yet another example of what really happens-corporations get away with the most incredible stuff in this country, and that's why the long-term goal of the GOP was to keep people mad about "welfare queens driving Cadillacs."

If people ever focus on the gigantic problem in our corporate culture where real money disappears, the yachts and the five houses and the forty cars and the golden parachutes will all be in jeopardy.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Darcy's message: I'm in to win

Darcy Burner has posted a message to supporters on her website about 2008:
Over the last several months, many of you have come to me and asked me to finish what we began in 2006. Recently Congressman Reichert has made clear once again how out-of-touch he is by supporting President Bush's plan to put more American troops into harm's way in Iraq, by voting against basic fiscal responsibility for our federal government, and by opposing worker's rights. In the face of his actions, I have realized that you are right.

We need a member of Congress who will work to build the country and the future we deserve. We need someone who will fight to ensure that we keep our promises to the young, to the old, and to all who contribute to making our county great. Thanks to all that you taught me and all you helped me build, there is nobody in a better position to win this seat than me.

So I am in.

But nobody can do this alone. I need to know you are with me. Please help by making a contribution of any size to show me that you'll be there for me again as we work for our shared priorities.

I am, once again, grateful for your support, and look forward to embarking with you on this journey.
The future looks bright, especially in the 8th Congressional District - Darcy Burner is running for Congress again. It's a great day for Washingtonian Democrats.

Friday, March 09, 2007

In Brief - March 9th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest (including items from earlier this week):
  • The Bush administration is buried under more scandals and problems than it could ever dig its way out of, says AP writer and analyst Ron Fournier (our thanks to him for making such an obvious point). The Bush cronies who run the Justice Department are in huge trouble after an audit found that the FBI had abused the Patriot Act and the civil liberties of thousands of Americans. To right wing zealots, our message is: we told you so.
  • Surprise, surprise - Newt Gingrich admitted this week he had an affair during the Clinton impeachment. The ex-congressman's hopes of running for president have probably been dashed for good.
  • Air America is reinventing itself under the leadership of a new CEO, Mark Green, who says the radio network (which he rescued from Chapter 11 bankruptcy) is embracing "fresh ideas for programming, for technology, for partnerships with sister organizations". Air America's history (it's almost 3 years old) has been rocky at times but the venture is still alive, much to the unhappiness of wingnuts everywhere.
  • Representative Henry Waxman of California has announced that Valerie Plame Wilson will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Friday, March 16th (a week from today) which will look at whether White House officials followed appropriate procedures for safeguarding her identity. That's a hearing worth scheduling on your calendar. It'll be webcast and C-SPAN is also supposed to carry it.
  • Ann Coulter's unapologetic nastiness is finally starting to cost her: Three newspapers - The Lancaster New Era, The Oakland Press, and The Mountain Press - have decided to drop Coulter's nationally syndicated column from their opinion pages, according to Editor & Publisher. Media Matters reports that The Times of Shreveport, The American Press, The Sanford Herald of North Carolina and the Daily Chronicle of DeKalb, Illinois are following suit. Meanwhile, about two dozen advertisers have pulled their ads on Coulter's website in the aftermath of her unfair slander of John Edwards.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment in the thread.

Nothing but the wind

Via The General comes the Conservapedia entry on Fox Noise Channel:
Fox News has dominated the ratings of other cable news shows-many Fox News hosts believe this is because they show both sides of the issues and refuse to "pile on" George W. Bush or the Iraq War despite its popularity among liberal agents in the media. Frequently, Fox News will report on "good news" from Iraq, such as new schools being built and new roads being built-while putting the suicide bombings in context of the broader war on terrorism.

In 2005 the White House selected Tony Snow from Fox News to be the new White House press secretary.[3]
So they demonstrate their independence by giving George W. Bush favorable treatment, which led to Tony Snow being named press secretary, and this proves that they are fair. Or something.

Boy, this Conservapedia sure is a valuable source of information. I bet they cover all sorts of topics.

Let's see how global climate change is going today at Conservapedia:
Also, these scientists are mostly liberal athiests, untroubled by the hubris that man can destroy the Earth which God gave him.[5]
But...but...but...but...I thought the Ruskies were the liberal atheists who were going to blow up the whole world, and that's why St. Ronnie made the magical pony defense shield! He just didn't think to make it work against box cutters.

The liquid mash that was conservatism is draining into one giant puddle of mass stupidity. The weaker minds are clearly snapping. If you listen carefully you can hear them ring out, like twigs in an ice storm. An occasional transformer flare, and then nothing but the wind.

Tomorrow's forecast: a partial refutation of global warming, breezy and wet, with highs in the Unitarian-Universalist range at the valley floor, more agnostic in higher elevations. Chance of salvation 25%.

Fox Noise presidential debate self-implodes

It's completely and utterly dead - all thanks to Roger Ailes:
Dear Marty,

A month ago, the Nevada Democratic Party entered into a good faith agreement with FOX News to co-sponsor a presidential debate in August. This was done because the Nevada Democratic Party is reaching out to new voters and we strongly believe that a Democrat will not win Nevada unless we find new ways to talk to new people.

To say the least, this was not a popular decision. But it is one that the Democratic Party stood by. However, comments made last night by FOX News President Roger Ailes in reference to one of our presidential candidates went too far. We cannot, as good Democrats, put our party in a position to defend such comments.

In light of his comments, we have concluded that it is not possible to hold a Presidential debate that will focus on our candidates and are therefore canceling our August debate. We take no pleasure in this, but it is the only course of action.


Tom Collins
Chairman, Nevada State Democratic Party

Harry Reid
U.S. Senator (D-NV)
We commend Nevada Democratic leaders for finally seeing the light and pulling the plug on this terrible idea. Fox Noise is not a legitimate news organization. It is nothing less than a giant propaganda machine for the right wing and does not deserve any honors or favors from Democrats and progressives.

And we strongly applaud John Edwards' campaign for sending that message.

BREAKING: Darcy Burner files to run in '08

Following up on my post from this morning, we're delighted to announce that we've learned Darcy Burner has filed paperwork today with the Federal Elections Commission to run for the 8th District in 2008. (You can view it here). This is a definite sign she's running, and it's incredibly exciting news to us.

(Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman also blogged this development).

We're thrilled that Darcy is ready to take on the challenge of turning the 8th District blue again. She is a proven candidate, an outstanding progressive, and a great person. We're completely behind her campaign and we are certainly looking forward to the day she makes her official announcement.

Taking the 8th District in 2008: Part I

This is the first post of a multi-part series focusing on winning the 8th Congressional District in 2008.

The 2006 midterms aren't far behind us, but already the talk about the 2008 cycle has reached an intensity America really hasn't seen before, especially in the presidential race - readers have probably noticed traditional media outlets are talking nonstop about the campaign and the candidates.

2008 may be a presidential election year, but obviously there will be congressional elections as usual - the entire House and approximately a third of the Senate will be up for election. Here in Washington State, one district that was highly competitive in 2006 will undoubtedly be a top battleground in the next cycle - the 8th. (As we get closer to November 2008, this will probably also become true of the 5th as well).

The 8th Congressional District, geographically centered in between the state's other districts, encapsulates most of the eastern suburban communities across Lake Washington from Seattle - Bellevue, Renton, Newcastle, Sammamish, Issaquah, southern Redmond, Mercer Island - as well as much of south King County. The district also stretches into Pierce County and includes Mount Rainier.

It is a suburban, rural district that has been trending Democratic for years. It has recently supported many Democrats in federal races, including Al Gore, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, and John Kerry.

It will likely be carried by the Democratic nominee for President in 2008 - and hopefully, the Democratic challenger to Republican Dave Reichert, who just barely escaped defeat in 2006. (We assume Reichert will run again, though there are rumors he would rather run for something else).

The other elected offices on the ballot that will be district-wide include the gubernatorial race and the races for all of the other executive positions (such as Secretary of State and Attorney General).

Within the 8th there are many legislative districts, including the 45th, the 48th, the 41st, the 11th, the 47th, the 31st, the 5th, and the 2nd.

Each of these LDs will have at least two offices on the ballot in 2008, as the entire state House will be up for election. Additionally, some districts (like the 5th LD) will have a state Senate race.

Democrats running in LDs partially or wholly within the 8th Congressional District in 2006 had great success. For example, Eric Oemig, Rodney Tom, Roger Goodman, Claudia Kauffman, and Deb Eddy, all of whom were challengers or vying for open seats, won their races decisively. The Democratic nominee in the 8th would benefit greatly from strong challenges to Republican incumbents in the remaining LDs that didn't turn all blue in the 2006 midterms.

Since it is only early 2007, no candidates have formally declared yet, though several Democrats are thinking about it. These include Tony Ventrella, a 710 KIRO radio host, Representative Ross Hunter, and Darcy Burner, the 2006 nominee.

A few Democrats influential within the county party have started a "draft Ross Hunter" website, which is mostly filled with basic biographical information. There was speculation that Hunter would run in 2006 but he ultimately decided not to for a number of reasons - one of them being his health.

Early in the last election cycle, back in the summer of 2005 when other activists and bloggers said they'd wait and see who emerged as the leading candidate for the nomination, we made it plainly clear that we were going to support Darcy Burner because we were confident she would put in the hard work it would take to mount a strong challenge to Dave Reichert.

And we weren't disappointed.

Darcy didn't win but she came extremely close, and has definitely proven that she is a strong candidate. Should she choose to run again in 2008 (and we hope she does) she will enjoy our full and unequivocal support again - and we believe that will also be true of the broader netroots community.

Darcy can take heart that many Democrats holding office in the region have come back from past losses to win.

For example - Washington's Jay Inslee, Maria Cantwell, and Brian Baird. In Montana, Brian Schweitzer. Next door to the Pacific Northwest, down in California, Jerry McNerney. And there are many other examples across the country.

The old adage "if at first you don't succeed...try, try again" is definitely applicable in politics. When Permanent Defense (now a division of NPI) was first launched, our number one mission was to defeat Initiative 776. We didn't manage to do that. We narrowly lost. But we didn't quit. We reaffirmed our resolve and we've won most of the campaigns we've fought since.

Beating back the right wing, as Markos observed last autumn, is a marathon, not a sprint. Why start over when you can build on past successes? Darcy is a proven fundraiser, she's a hard worker, she can recruit volunteers, she has netroots support. We know Darcy and she knows us. Voters know her. She came closer than any Democrat ever has to winning a district that is slowly turning blue.

Ross Hunter and Tony Ventrella have every right to seek the nomination, but they have not run campaigns for Congress before. They have thus have not proven themselves to be formidable challengers. But we know Darcy has, and that's why she is the ideal choice for Democrats in 2008.

Darcy would certainly benefit from the name ID she successfully established in 2006, and she would also benefit from higher Democratic turnout owing to a presidential election year. The district could still be competitive if she doesn't run, but she is uniquely qualified to capitalize on Reichert's vulnerabilities and make him wish he had stayed King County sheriff.

Richardson drops out of Fox Noise debate

Kos announces that Bill Richardson will not be participating in the Fox Noise Channel debate in Nevada:
Bill Richardson just called to say that he will not be doing the Fox News debate in Nevada.

Richardson had been the sole Democrat to confirm his appearance at the debate, which is on life support at this point.
Good on Richardson for joining John Edwards in recognizing the absurdity of participating in a Fox-branded event.

This is turning into a major victory for ordinary Democrats everywhere, whether they consider themselves part of the netroots or not. It's idiotic for Democrats to lend any help to Fox Noise Channel, and nobody can make a case that Fox is a reputable outlet. They have a First Amendment right to spew propaganda and everyone else has a First Amendment right to ignore them or point out that they are nothing but shills for the GOP.

Obama should be next, or at least we can hope so.

UPDATE: Kos says the debate is dead. And as he points out, Obama missed a chance to do the right thing. But still, probably the biggest setback Fox Noise Channel has suffered in its relatively brief history. 2008 is going to be lots of fun.

Justice audit: FBI abused Patriot Act

A review from the Department of Justice itself says the FBI overstepped its bounds:
The FBI improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about people in the United States, a Justice Department audit concluded today.

And for three years the FBI has underreported to Congress how often it forced businesses to turn over the customer data, the audit found.

FBI agents sometimes demanded the data without proper authorization, according to the 126-page audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. At other times, the audit found, the FBI improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

The audit blames agent error and shoddy record-keeping for the bulk of the problems and did not find any indication of criminal misconduct.

Still, "we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities," the audit concludes.
Serious misuses? No, really?

The Patriot Act was a terrible idea in the first place and has not made America safer - but it has infringed on our civil liberties and given the Bush administration too much power. It's time for the law to be repealed. Needlessly sacrificing democracy in the name of security doesn't make sense.


Poputonian, posting at Hullabaloo, excerpts a story concerning Newt Gingrich's admission that he was having an affair even as the Blue Dress Scandal raged, thanks in no small part to Gingrich's efforts.

Then poputonian adds a new word to our political vocabulary:
typocrite ('tip-uh-krit noun): A typical Republican hypocrite.

1 : a typical Republican who fakes good by putting on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a typical Republican who fakes good but acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
3 : a typical Republican whose need for self-gratificaton extends to the public sphere
I like it, plus it's much more succinct than "Elmer Gantryism."

The right has always excelled at word play, and getting the regular media to adopt their phrasing. I'm old enough to remember how they managed to change "anti-abortion" into "pro-life" and how the right utterly destroyed the meaning of the word "liberal."

In many ways, whoever controls the language controls the debate. The classic example of this was the ability of GOP pollster Frank Luntz to get the term "death tax" into wide use in lieu of "estate tax." It may have been inaccurate, but that didn't stop the GOP from running with a cutting little phrase as if it were a serious policy proposal for society, instead of the bribe to the ultra-wealthy that is really was.

"Typocrite" may be a little obscure to catch hold, but feel free to try it out. It rolls off the tongue nicely, and we are provided daily opportunities to use it. For instance, it seems rather typocritical for a member of the US House ethics committee to be pressuring a US attorney to interfere in a state election.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

CRC subcommittee to consider alternatives

Portland Transport smartly notices the meeting schedule and make-up of the subcommittee created to seek another alternative for the CRC project.
The Columbia River Crossing Task Force unanimously accepted the staff recommendation to advance three alternatives into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) process and appointed a subcommittee to identify a possible fourth alternative.

The subcommittee will work to develop a viable fourth alternative that aspires to meet the goals and needs of the Columbia River Crossing project and maximizes the utility of the existing bridges. The Task Force will discuss the subcommittee findings at the March 27 Task Force meeting.
You can click through to see who's on the subcommittee.

They don't have much time and I'm guessing the subcommittee didn't get $40 million and a staff, so if you like underdogs, this may be a classic. They do have (Oregon) Metro on their side, so that's a pretty major factor.

If they can come up with a truly sensible alternative, then it will have been well worth the effort. Basically the whole thing is so complicated that it's like squeezing a balloon. If you do one thing it impacts eighteen other things.

Still, despite my leanings toward the CRC staff recommendation, I'm truly curious to see what the subcommittee comes up with. The project is too important to dismiss earnest, good faith attempts to solve problems creatively. While there is always the risk of debating things to death, or worse, having people dig in and never compromise (can you say "Viaduct?") so far we haven't reached that point down here, best I can tell.

World class cities don't build concrete highways over their waterfronts (Mar 8th)

...Or do they?

Re-Elevate Portland

Measure 2 on Seattle's March 13 special election ballot presents a disastrously flawed option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, as many recent editorials and guest columns in Seattle media have pointed out:
The new viaduct would be:
  • Bigger — at least 50% larger than the current one
  • Noisier — louder traffic noise on our waterfront
  • Uglier — 50% more cement and shadows
Don't let this plan ever get off the ground. Vote NO on 2...and watch for the finale of this special series in the next few days!

Two truths

Michael Seitzman, writing at Huffington Post, has a great paragraph in a short piece about an appearance by Kate O'Beirne in which she atempted to defend Scooter Libby. Really, if you had to pick one paragraph out of the billions on the internet tubes, this one is a good candidate for "how best to explain the mess we are in."
And therein lies the essential problem - there is no longer a shared truth in our culture. There are two truths and they have nothing to do with facts and everything to do with ideology and politics. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have an independent judiciary, so that decisions about "truth" can be made by people who don't have a political stake in the outcome.
The conservative assault on the judiciary is one of the more dangerous things an already reckless movement attempted. Combined with a powerful propaganda apparatus, we came awfully close to a completely authoritarian government in this country. A lot of people aren't so sure the danger has entirely passed, either. Desperate people tend to do desperate things.

On the propaganda front, the sin of Fox Noise Channel is that it allows people who don't follow politics closely to claim to be informed by "watching the news," when in fact the function of Fox is to use people's pre-existing views to promote a particular political party and agenda. It's a vicious feedback loop of ignorance, resentment and hostility.

I'm trying to think of a 20th Century example to compare this technique with, but the will to triumph in doing so eludes me. If nothing else, Fox has gorgeous graphics, even if they are relatively banal.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Investigate Doc Hastings now

A government watchdog group is calling for an investigation into the conduct of Doc Hastings and staffer Ed Cassidy in regards to a call Cassidy made to former US attorney John McKay about the 2004 gubernatorial election. From ScrippsNews:
Melanie Sloan, executive director of the liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Cassidy and Hastings should both be investigated.

"Cassidy didn't just make this call on his own," she said. "He works for Hastings. Hastings must have known."

Sloan said this case was more egregious than many because Hastings was a member of the Ethics Committee and Cassidy was on the committee staff. "They should have known better," she said.
It is high time that Hastings himself be investigated by the ethics committee. It's ridiculous that he is still on that committee, frankly. He was put there by Tom DeLay to render it powerless, and there is no way anyone will trust it with Hastings still present. Hastings needs to be removed immediately, as he is clearly a potential subject.

Democrats in the US House need to move quickly on this matter. The detente that has existed out of fear of an "ethics war" has resulted in a complete loss of confidence by the public in the chamber's ability to police itself. The scandalous case of Mark Foley, which prompted an ethics committee investigation followed by no meaningful action, pales in comparison to this potentially severe abuse of power.

The press in Eastern Washington needs to do its part. Maybe some reporters in Hastings' district could say, ask some questions. As eburger at The Other Side-Online puts it:
What is going on here?

Was our congressman consistently interfering with a federal agency to forward a political agenda (which by the way is against congressional rules).

To the Yakima Herald, Tri-City Herald, and Wenatchee World: WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!!!!!!!

This could be the biggest potential story in central Washington in the last 50 years. So far, y’all have run wire service stories or turgidly recapped the information with some by-the-book journalism.
Indeed. If family-owned newspapers are such a profound benefit to their communities, as they argued when asking for repeal of the estate tax, they need to do their jobs and inform the public what their elected officials have been up to.

C-SPAN caves to pressure - sort of

The cable television network has obviously heard the complaints and is realizing that asserting copyright over footage of committee hearings was a bad move. So they're changing their policy in what we welcome as a sign of progress:
Advancing its longstanding mission of bringing government closer to the people, C-SPAN announced today two major initiatives designed to greatly expand citizen access to its online video of federal government activities, such as congressional hearings, agency briefings, and White House events.

These actions are intended to meet the growing demand for video about the federal government and Congress, in an age of explosive growth of video file sharers, bloggers, and online ‘citizen journalists.’ The policy change is effective immediately.
  • C-SPAN is introducing a liberalized copyright policy for current, future, and past coverage of any official events sponsored by Congress and any federal agency-- about half of all programming offered on the C-SPAN television networks--which will allow non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of C-SPAN video on the Internet, with attribution.
  • In addition, C-SPAN also announced plans to significantly build out its Capitol Hearings website as a one-stop resource for Congressionally-produced webcasts of House and Senate committee and subcommittee hearings [...]
The new C-SPAN policy borrows from the approach to copyright known in the online community as “Creative Commons.” Examples of events included under C-SPAN’s new expanded policy include all congressional hearings and press briefings, federal agency hearings, and presidential events at the White House. C-SPAN's copyright policy will not change for the network's studio productions, all non-federal events, campaign and political event coverage, and the network’s feature programming, such as Book TV and original history series.
We agree the footage of committee hearings - any official House and Senate business - ought to belong in the public domain, which goes beyond putting it under a Creative Commons license.

But this is a step forward. We license much of our content under a Creative Commons license - we are also strong believers in copyright reform as well as an end to digital restrictions management schemes that infringe on innovation, academic freedom, and other legitimate uses of intellectual property.

Now if only TVW would follow suit...

More like this

I don't link to letters to the editor very often, as even in this day and age I don't know if people exactly bargained for having their names put on blogs. Plus there is often an obvious and histrionic effort by the conservatives in Clark County to inundate the letters page with right wing baloney.

So it's refreshing to see someone who has reservations about light rail make an interesting point without accusing everyone who has a different view of bad faith. The letter is headlined "Improve moving A to Z."
There is no third set of rails and therefore no express runs are possible. Currently there are C-Tran express buses that carry commuters between Vancouver and downtown Portland. To me, keeping these runs or expanding them makes more sense than extending light rail to points in Clark County.
I won't put the author's name on this page, in keeping with past decisions not to do so, but the writer should be congratulated and The Columbian should use it as a standard. It might be debatable whether express buses will work as well as the writer hopes, but that's a technical transportation issue, not a matter of ideology.

Those of us who are hopeful about a future light rail to link to Clark County should be honest about it. Light rail is very expensive, and it doesn't go everywhere people need to go. It might be a good first step to a better transit system, or it might simply be too expensive. Hopefully we'll know more in the coming months about the cost. Still, it's encouraging to see citizens come up with interesting viewpoints.

BIAW's McCabe will say anything

BIAW leader Tom McCabe is shooting his mouth off (again:)
What deal did Gregoire cut with the tribes in exchange for their contributions to Alexander's campaign?" said BIAW Executive Vice President Tom McCabe. "Now we finally know the answer."
That would be the same Tom McCabe who is in the P-I because Doc Hastings said McCabe tried to get a US attorney fired because he wouldn't launch an unwarranted investigation into "voter fraud" after the contested 2004 gubernatorial election:
"Tom McCabe of the Building Industry Association of Washington did contact my office in July of 2005 to ask that I urge the White House to replace Mr. McKay and I flat out refused to do so, which Ed Cassidy told him in the bluntest of terms," Hastings said.
Excuse me while my head spins. Hastings (a Republican) says McCabe (a Republican) tried to get a Republican US attorney fired because he wouldn't abuse his office to participate in McCabe's political vendetta, yet McCabe is still credible enough to make accusations about the governor? There seems to be nothing these people can do that will discredit them in the eyes of the regular media.

UPDATE: SusanHu has more today in a diary on DailyKos.

Proof of climate change for conservatives

Obviously global warming has been proven yesterday beyond all doubt.
Summer arrived today, briefly, as unseasonably warm temperatures reached into the 70s in places and broke several records, The National Weather Service reported.
It is being refuted today, with rain and clouds, and will be further refuted next winter, when it will be cold. It will also be refuted at night, when it's not as warm.

Global warming is not real when making a sandwich standing in front of the open fridge; conversely, heating fish sticks tends to increase the reality of global warming.

Lukewarm tomato confit on shaved fennel ice salad will cause conservatives to sit in a corner and weep, so give them a hot dog instead. But serve it cold.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Edwards says no to Fox Noise Channel

The John Edwards campaign will not be participating in the Fox Noise Channel debate ambush in Nevada. Via Kos:
Several of the campaigns I contacted are still trying to make a final determination, but the first to definitely say "no" is John Edwards. Deputy Campaign Manager Jonathan Prince emailed me the great news:

We will not be participating in the Fox debate. We're going to make lots of appearances in Nevada, including debates. By the end of March, we will have attended three presidential forums in Nevada - and there are already at least three proposed Nevada debates.

We're definitely going to debate in Nevada, but we don't see why this needs to be one of them.

Great job by the Edwards campaign on this, showing real leadership on this issue. Hopefully others will soon follow.
It's fashionable in the progressive blogosphere to eschew picking favorites for president right now, but this is a smart move by Edwards.

The netroots will remember this. Really, the only question is how long it will take the other candidates to figure this out.

This isn't complicated. Fox is a biased, hate-fueled propaganda outlet run by former Nixon toady Roger Ailes. The idea of them hosting a Democratic debate is ludicrous.

UPDATE: More responses from other Democratic presidential hopefuls.

This is the best the GOP can come up with?

This is one of the most pathetic things we've ever heard of:
The Washington State Senate Republicans unveiled a new PR campaign introducing a “Soccer Mom” named Beth C. You can see it here.

Here’s what they say about Beth:
"Beth cares about her family's budget and wonders if the state will overspend and raise taxes. She might wonder if her children's school will provide the education they need, how long her commute will be today and how much her insurance co-pays will keep going up. Beth also hopes the state is doing everything it can to keep her family safe."
The problem is: BETH ISN’T REAL! Beth is a stockphoto from the stock photo service CORBIS. In fact, she is stock photo number 42-16880456.

They made up a soccer mom. They bought a picture of her and then pretended they know what she cares about.
Emphasis is mine. Republicans are obviously disconnected from the electorate - why else would they feel like they need to create a fictional character to convey what they think a particular group of voters cares about? Apparently real spokespeople are in short supply...gee, wonder why that is.

Republicans are in retreat across Washington's suburbs because they are out of touch with the voters in those neighborhoods.

You can't solve many problems when you favor dscrimination and endless tax cuts that make it next to impossible to invest in public services and infrastructure communities need to be healthy and prosper.

Republicans are saying they care about our public schools, but most weren't shy about supporting Initiative 920, which would have gutted the Education Legacy Trust.

Republicans are saying care about tackling our transportation problems, but much of the GOP caucuses refused to support the 2005 Transportation Package, and then later, the state party actively worked to repeal it by supporting Initiative 912.

Republicans are saying they care about the cost of insurance, but instead of working with Democrats on a health insurance plan, they have boycotted the Governor's announcement and whined that it doesn't allow private sector innovation (although, to her credit, Senator Pflug apologized to the Governor for "unnecessarily vitriolic" comments she made back in February).

Republicans support an agenda that Washingtonians just don't like. Empty promises, rhetoric, and fictional characters are not going to convince voters that the GOP is actually interested in good government.

Don't cry for me America

News of the guilty verdicts in the Scooter Libby trial has already ricocheted around the blogosphere, so I'll keep it brief.
The verdict was read on the 10th day of deliberations. Libby faces up to 30 years in prison, though under federal sentencing guidelines likely will receive far less.
Of course he will get a light sentence. Not only that, he'll quickly be absorbed into the Wingnut Welfare system, probably get a fellowship somewhere and by 2010 you'll be enjoying "Scooter and Friends" right after the Oliver North show.

Yeah, I know, they never get what they deserve. Frankly, it all dates back to the pardon of Nixon. Not only is Henry Kissinger a free man, he has advised this president. Which is kind of like inviting the arsonist who torched your house how to rebuild it.

One offense conservatives repeatedly commit is choosing to make heroes out of morons and criminals, because it makes them feel good and it makes the dirty hippies mad. Until we break this cycle, any time there is a Republican administration this sort of thing will continue to happen, and any time there is a Democrat in the White House we will have to explore their sex life and real estate transactions to be sure that the media understands that "both sides do it."

There may be huge differences between trading arms for hostages (or manipulating intelligence) and a blue dress, but as long as the public can be convinced that all politicians are corrupt, it opens up a huge window for the GOP to do whatever it wants, at least until someone finally gets convicted and spends a few months down the line in a country club. Fore!

Daze of Orange

Following up on the post below, let's harken back to the turbulent time of social transformation and quest for justice that was the Orange Putsch of 2004-2005.

From The Seattle Times of Jan. 12, 2005:
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance whipped up the crowd by listing the reasons Rossi went to court last week to challenge the election, such as allegations that illegal votes had been cast by felons and dead people. And he drew a friendly chorus of boos when he talked about an "avalanche of errors" by elections officials in Democratic-leaning King County.

"Dino Rossi's not going to give up, and neither are we," Vance bellowed.

Bob Williams, head of the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation, called on the FBI to impound King County's elections records and turn the matter over to a federal grand jury.

"You can give us a revote or you're going to cause us to revolt," warned the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond.
Sadly, the mighty ship Orange Putsch foundered on the rocky shoals of fact and was torpedoed by a liberal judge in Eastern Washington, and then it was set on fire by Vikings who raised taxes and enacted mandatory gay marriage. The rest, as they say, is history, or in the case of conservative bloggers, fantasy.

Anyone feel like an Orange Julius? I would too, 'cept last time I had one I spilled it on my Excel spreadsheet computer program, which tells me the truth about all things in the Universe. Plus it's a felony to spill an Orange Julius on an Excel spreadsheet computer program that one relies upon for the truth, according to a postcard I recently received but did not return to the Washington state GOP.

UPDATE 12 seconds later--I see in comments that there are already over 352 trolls demanding that I mention a certain conservative blogger by name. I was going to, but I don't want to go to rehab.

Hastings staffer contacted US attorney

Looks like more than just conservative bloggers were involved in the failed Orange Putsch after the 2004 gubernatorial election. From The Seattle Times:
During the recount of the hotly-contested 2004 governor's race in Washington state, the chief of staff to Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., called former U.S. Attorney John McKay to inquire about the status of any federal investigations into voter fraud, McKay told a Senate committee today.

McKay told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Ed Cassidy, who now works for Republican Minority Leader John Boehner, called him "some weeks" following the 2004 election, and after a third re-count had determined that Democrat Christine Gregoire had narrowly defeated Republican Dino Rossi.

"I was told the purpose of the call was to inquire on behalf of congressman Hastings" about the status of ongoing investigations of voter fraud, McKay said in response to a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
And for added hilarity:
Cassidy stopped working for Hastings in mid-2005, when he left to join the House Ethics Committee — which Hastings then chaired.
Ethics, right.

It's not much of a secret that conservatives were demanding McKay launch an investigation. What's not clear at this point is how far this potential scandal will go. The possibility that Hastings or his staff tried to pressure a US attorney into launching an unwarranted investigation for political purposes hangs in the air.

Premera ends attempt to become for-profit

Finally, they've made the smart decision:
Premera Blue Cross said Monday that it was withdrawing an appeal to the Washington Supreme Court and ending its quest to become a publicly traded, for-profit corporation.

"It's time to put this behind us and focus on the future," said Scott Forslund, a spokesman for the health insurance company, which serves more than 1.3 million people in Washington.

Premera Blue Cross had been seeking for-profit status since 2002. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler denied the request in 2004, and a state Appeals Court ruled against Premera in 2006. The case had been pending before the state Supreme Court for nearly a year.
Forslund is right in saying that this bid has become "an irritant and a distraction for Premera, its customers and the medical community."

Premera Blue Cross has been a nonprofit for decades - since it started here in 1933. The company unwisely poured resources into what amounted to a campaign to persuade regulators and the public it should have for-profit status.

We know Premera's executives wanted to raise money. They claimed it was to help the company grow, but we believe Premere can do just fine without becoming a publicly traded corporation.

Executives now say the campaign is over and done with and they won't be reviving it by reapplying to become a for-profit. A good move on their part.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Top American commander in Iraq: "One in four" chance Bush's escalation will work

Loaded Orygun reported late last week that Republican Senator Gordon Smith revealed to attendees of the 44th annual Dorchester conference that the top American military commander in Iraq - General Petraeus, the architect of the Bush administration's escalation plan - doesn't believe its odds of succeeding are very good. An excerpt from his remarks at the Seaside, Oregon retreat:
Question: If we were to pull the troops out of Iraq and violence escalated, would you support a resurgence of American troops?

I've never said pull out of Iraq. Secure, train, equip...but don't keep advancing, clearing and retreating. When you're fighting an insurgency you don't do that. Baghdad is a city like Los Angeles, nearly 7 million people. A little fraction is the Green Zone. If you're going to do a surge you don't need 20,000 troops, you need 200,000. We need the Iraqis to step up. General Petraeus tells me we have a one in four chance that Bush's plan will work. We should be nearby to make sure that Iraq doesn't fall into the hands of Jihadists. That's in our interest. We want Iraqis to see that democracy is in their best interest as well. They need to determine how they want to settle their fight. If they do that will produce peace and they will be the freedom fighters of their country.
Smith has to face Beaver State voters in 2008, and has been trying to move away from his prowar position out of fear that it could cost him his reelection:
Until recently, he was a steadfast supporter of Bush's earlier policies in Iraq. He has voted to authorize the war, pay for it and continue it. He has made floor speeches defending the war as part of the fight against terrorism.

His rhetoric began shifting about the time of last year's election, in which Democrats took control of Congress on a wave of anti-war sentiment. Smith has said he began having questions about the war long before that.
Uh huh. To be clear, Smith has certainly not converted to become an opponent of the war in Iraq. He's trying to straddle the fence - he doesn't want to back away from his right wing record, but can't afford to voice unequivocal public support for Bush out of worry that the electorate will sweep him out in the next election cycle. The American people weren't too kind to Republicans in the 2006 midterms.

His struggle is reflected in his comments above. He doesn't want to get behind escalation but makes it clear he's not in favor of withdrawal. He's in the process of attempting to sell his fellow Oregonians an antiwar position, or at least a semblance of one. Fortunately, there will be efforts to hold him accountable.

We have to wonder what Tony Snow would say if asked about General Petraeus' "one in four chance" comments. If the general in charge of putting the plan together isn't optimistic about the plan, that means it's definitely time to abandon the plan. Only the Bush administration and its ultra right wing allies support a disastrous escalation.

Democrats oppose it, the American people oppose it, and American military leaders have little confidence it will be a successful operation. It's not a viable, practical, or sensible option. What we need to be discussing is the plan for bringing our troops home and ending the occupation of Iraq.

CRC and land use: let's be up front

On Sunday The Columbian had an article about the effort to come up with another alternative for the CRC to study in the DEIS phase. This excerpt mentions Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart and Rex Burkholder of Oregon's Metro, both of whom are on the CRC task force:
Stuart and other task force members expressed unease at the narrow range of options. They wanted an additional alternative to demonstrate that the fix isn't in for any one idea and that the group is taking many options seriously.

"We can't expect everybody to be happy when we come to a final decision," Stuart said. "But everybody should be happy with the inclusiveness of the process." Failing to include more alternatives now, he said, might risk losing support for a final choice at the end.

What is gained, asked Walter Valenta, task force member from the Bridgeton Neighborhood Association, if in the end, Clark County commissioners or the Metro Council don't support the project?

"Without another alternative, it would be difficult to get the group to agree," Burkholder said. "We need to win in the court of public opinion. They're going to be the ones paying the bills."

Stuart and Burkholder will head the subcommittee, which includes business people and public officials from both sides of the river. They plan on coming up with the new alternative in time for a vote by the full task force at its March 27 meeting.
If you go back and take a look at the amendment that led to the creation of the subcommittee, item three says:
3. Analyzing in the DEIS a variety of issues relating to land-use, tolling, environmental justice, access issues on Hayden Island, and TDM/TSM measures.
The land use part is particularly interesting for Clark County, as the commissioners are still working on a revision of the 20-year comprehensive plan that was passed only in 2004. The new plan will presumably allow much more development than under the 2004 plan.

The short version of the story is that Craig Pridemore and Judy Stanton, the two commissioners who supported the 2004 plan, quickly moved on. Pridemore got elected to the state senate and Stanton retired from the board, choosing not to run again. The election of Republican Marc Boldt quickly tipped the balance on the board to a pro-developer majority.

Politically, this could get very interesting in 2008. Betty Sue Morris, a staunchly pro-BIAW Democrat, has said she will retire, which will create an open seat. Republican Marc Boldt, the other pro-growth commissioner, will probably stand for re-election. Meaning control of the board is up for grabs.

There has been speculation that Republican state senator Don Benton, who currently represents the 17th District, is interested in running for the Morris seat. Benton has denied that, but since Don Benton and the truth tend to have a somewhat tenuous relationship, it's certainly possible he will run.

Since there have been no mentions of any big name Democrats running, this potential CRC land use discussion is taking place in the context of a political situation where not only has Clark County government decided to increase development, but the odds of changing that range from slim to none, unless local Democrats find some decent candidates.

I'm not begrudging Stuart the chance to offer another alternative to the CRC. Even though staff has said that a supplemental bridge has significant pitfalls, it's ok to include it in the DEIS in my view. But if we want to talk about land use, we need to be up front about what has happened and what is happening in Clark County. Land use policy is moving in the opposite direction of what would be needed to lower costs for the CRC project.

In the end, as Stuart smartly notes, everyone is not going to be happy. Certain elements on the right came out frothing at the mouth at the mere mention of studying light rail, and truth be told there are some folks in Portland who seem more interested in disparaging Clark County than in solving the problem. Which is human nature I suppose, but the practical effect of calling light rail "communistic" or generalizing about Clark County residents is to shut down the willingness of people to consider your point of view. Trains are a method of conveyance, not a political ideology, and people live in Clark County for all sorts of reasons, be it the accident of birth (or marriage,) economic fortune or yes, choice.

But before anyone gets discouraged, let's remember what a big project this is and how trying to include as many voices as possible makes for a cumbersome process. That may be frustrating at times, but that's the price we pay for democracy.

Sometimes perseverance is amply rewarded, if not always well remembered.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Michelle Malkin, potty-mouth

Like all wingnuts, Michelle Malkin can't handle it when people call her out on her baloney. Warning: We have had to use food terms in lieu of the actual foul language used by Malkin, in order to protect the civil:
Whereas, here’s Malkin chatting with Mike Stark at CPAC:

Stark: “What happened, Michelle?

Malkin: “Some punks from the Nation came, and they ambushed me at my book signing.”

Stark: “Heh, that’s real professional.”

Malkin: “Yeah. Such (chicken fried steak.)”

Stark: “What did they do?”

Malkin: “Uh, they had a video camera, and they, uh, started, uh, lambasting my book. (Apple-banana-heads.) I’m sorry, I’m just like, cursing. It’s made me [unintelligible]. ”
Unintelligible, indeed. A video camera lambasting, sounds delicious.

Maybe Malkin's use of foul language will convince newspapers that they should reconsider her column. You know, since the idea of putting people in concentration camps didn't really move them so much.

2007 CPAC reveals conservative demons

Goldy catches this fantastic Max Blumenthal look inside the CPAC conference - and then pulls out a David Horowitz quote:
The left is driven by envy, resentment and a ferocious hatred of anybody on the other side. And that’s because it’s a religious movement which believes that the world can be redeemed, we can end world poverty, we can end racism, sexism and homophobia, if only those damned conservatives would die. And so every leftist has in his heart, is consumed with hate.”
It's always amused me how the right, seemingly without fail, tries to pin its own demons on us. The typical liberal revenge fantasy right now involves hearings, courts of law and the Constitution. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that's the same kind of "hatred" that allowed the Allies to put people on trial after World War II rather than simply executing them.

Conservative revenge fantasies tend to be a little less circumspect, to say the least.

It wasn't our side of the ball who polluted the air waves with people like G. Gordon Liddy, back in the day, talking about "head shots." And it continues to this day.

The fuel mixture on my crystal ball is running a little rich, and in the corners it looks like those asphalt seams are creating a problem, but at the risk of forecasting the future it's possible we will look back at the 2007 CPAC conference as the defining moment where conservatism finally did itself in altogether.

On a weekend where at least two Democratic candidates were speaking eloquently in Alabama upon the anniversary of the attempted march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, conservatives were hanging around with dolphins wearing confederate flags. (Ok, I exaggerate, but not by much.)

If that's the best they have to offer, 2008 is going to be a great election.

MORE-- As usual, Digby says it better than I (or most people) can:
This hideous face of the Republican Party has been obvious to those of us who have been paying attention for a long, long time. It is the single most important reason why our politics have devolved into a filthy grudge match.

For a long time liberals were paralyzed or indifferent as the GOP demonized liberalism as the root of every problem and pathology in American society. We were derided as unamerican, treasonous and evil. After the congressional harrassment of the 90's, the partisan impeachment, the puerile coverage of campaign 2000 and the resulting installation of a Republican president under very dubious circumstances, Democrats of all stripes heard both the Republicans and the media smirking at our outrage and telling us to "get over it."

And all of this was after Bill Clinton had moved the party to the center, had governed as a bipartisan compromiser and the Republicans impeached him anyway. Clearly, the Democratic party was blind if they didn't take the Republicans at their threatening words.
Journalists should really click through and read to the end of Digby's post.

A new Tim Sheldon is born

The (Longview) Daily News has an interview with 19th District Democratic state senator Brian Hatfield about why he voted against a domestic partnership registry.
In 1998, Hatfield opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage to exclude same-sex couples. Hatfield said he voted against the act because conservatives were grandstanding. Gay marriages weren't recognized anyway.

More than once Hatfield voted while in the House to add sexual orientation to the state's anti-discrimination law.

But he was one of four Democrats on Thursday who joined 15 Republicans in voting against creating a domestic-partner registry.


"Something I didn't appreciate and understand 12 years ago (as a freshman lawmaker) was that people of faith are very concerned this is going to hurt our society," Hatfield said. "I've spent the last seven years with a lot of these folks."

Last year, while Hatfield was on a two-year hiatus from the Legislature, lawmakers finally prohibited discrimination against gays --- 28 years after the bill was first introduced.

Then this year, Hatfield said, "Boom! Here comes domestic partnership."

"I guess my 'no' vote was a way of standing up and saying, 'Maybe, this is a little too much, too soon," he said. "We're taking people of faith and kicking them in the teeth, and I didn't want to be a part of that."

What's not helpful is Democrats who buy into right-wing memes. Hatfield is entitled to convert to whatever religion he wishes (the full article briefly mentions a 2000 religious conversion by Hatfield.)

But giving domestic partners things like end of life decisions is not "kicking people of faith in the teeth," even if some on the religious right wish to promote (again) the ridiculous claim that they are the ones being persecuted. It's cruel beyond belief to deny people the right to participate in end of life decisions with their partner, so the crocodile tears shed by Hatfield don't really do much for me.

Of course, the other big thing Hatfield was in the news for recently was sponsoring the NASCAR bill because nobody representing Kitsap would actually do so.

Surprise, surprise, here's the sponsor of the NASCAR bill worrying about how damaging it will be to "people of faith" if gays aren't treated like dirt. (And you notice how "people of faith" implicitly means a certain thing, ie being against the gays, and how all other "faiths" are implicity excluded, right?) It's the NASCAR supporters who have defined themselves as part of the culture war, not us.

It's kind of a shame, because way back in the day Hatfield was an up and coming young star in the party. Now he's just another Tim Sheldon in the making. I'd like to think Hatfield can be pulled back from this horrible fate, since he has always seemed like a decent guy, but obviously he is buying into the kool-aid. Someone get him a video of the Mariners and a real Northwest beverage.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Oregonian columnist was on to Liberty Counsel operative

So when it comes to the ginned-up school prayer controversy in Clark County, it's not really surprising that a Jerry Falwell law school that is five years old and its legal arm are hypocritical on First Amendment rights. This is how these people operate, and their lead man, Mat Staver, has been a very busy person. The involvement of Liberty Counsel in Clark County should be a warning sign to everyone who cares about democracy and freedom.

Luckily, I'm not the only one who sees through it. The Oregonian's Steve Duin wasn't exactly impressed when he attended the recent "Restore America" conference in Tualatin, at which Staver spoke.
Before the backdrop of the flag, Staver saluted the Gospel, then downshifted into Deuteronomy. He wanted to explain the blessings waiting for those countries that "fully obey the Lord" -- including, curiously enough, "a strong military" -- and the curses awaiting those that don't.

There was a time, Staver reminisced, when we could leave our doors and cars unlocked. We were a Christian nation, balanced on the pillars of morality and religion. We were securely tied to the principles of our God-fearing founding fathers, the ones who considered blacks fit for slavery and women unfit to vote.

By "booting God out of the government" and organized prayer and Christian teachings from the public schools, Staver continued, this nation has earned the "inevitable consequences" of disobedience.

A weak military. Sexually transmitted diseases. An excess of imports, not exports. Population growth that owes to immigration, not reproduction.


But as I sat in that sanctuary, listening to this montage of facts and fictions, Christian principles and conservative canards, and, worse, Staver's casual blending of pornography, pedophilia and same-sex marriage, I marveled at the disconnect with the worship service. How did we get here? What happened to the heart of the message? Why is the congregation listening with muted respect or, each time Staver rakes the ACLU, fevered applause?
Good questions from Duin. The religious right has made this a tribal thing, immune to logic or facts. They wish to claim they are being persecuted because they are not allowed to persecute others.

Hopefully more media outlets will understand this basic fact.

Liberty Counsel hypocritical about First Amendment

Liberty Counsel, the Jerry Falwell-linked legal group run by Mat Staver that is trying to horn in on a a ginned-up school prayer controversy in Clark County (see here and here,) tries to insinuate that the students First Amendment rights were violated. Which we could at least consider if Liberty Counsel actually respected the First Amendment.

But Liberty Counsel doesn't respect the First Amendment. Its seems Staver and Liberty Counsel are all for freedom of religion and expression unless they don't like what someone is saying, going so far as to threaten a blogger with legal action:
The billboard, sponsored by "ex-gay" ministry Exodus International, read, "Gay? Unhappy?" After seeing a photo of the billboards online, Watt posted an altered version reading, "Straight? Unhappy?" on his website, Liberty Counsel, an anti-gay legal group representing Exodus, sent Watt a cease-and-desist letter earlier this month claiming the parody violated Exodus's intellectual property rights and threatening legal action if the parodies were not removed. In a response sent today to Liberty Counsel, the ACLU's cooperating attorney, Laurence Pulgram of Fenwick & West, LLP, called upon Exodus to drop its attempts to censor Watt, pointing to case law holding parodies to be Constitutionally protected speech.
Normally I try not to use the word "hypocrite," as it is over-used these days, but in this case it seems fair to call Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel hypocrites.

Liberty Law School: provisionally accredited since 2002

Following up on the ginned-up prayer controversy post below, while googling I ran across a profile of Liberty Law School. Liberty Counsel, the affiliated "religious rights group," has promised to support the aggrieved students in Evergreen.

The Aug. 19, 2006 The Roanoke Times reports that Liberty Law School is um, well, kind of new:
Founded in 2002, with $14.6 million invested so far, it may be too early to judge the provisionally accredited school. Falwell knows his school will earn its reputation based on where his graduates land jobs, and how they comport themselves in courtrooms and in the legal world. The students' rate of passing the bar and other achievements are vital to the school's gaining full accreditation. (bold added)
It's not a secret that the religious right has set out to create its own funhouse mirror institutions to justify attempts to create a Christian theocracy. There's an entire cottage industry out there of "Christian therapists" and probably everything else you can imagine.

The question is why reporters don't seem to understand this from the beginning. KGW, in its initial on-line story, identified Liberty Counsel this way:
According to Liberty Counsel, a non-profit legal organization advancing religious freedom, the students were suspended for 10 days.
Just because a group says in its news releases that it is "advancing religious freedom" does not mean it is so. One can make a fairly convincing argument it is doing the opposite, in fact.

The initial KGW on-line story did not mention Falwell, nor did it mention the affiliated law school's history, such that it is.

There certainly was no mention of Liberty's clear anti-gay rights agenda.The whole story was so obviously a fabricated controversy that it's pretty sad that KGW fell for it. And of course once it's on the boob tube, everyone else has to cover it.

This is a good example of why it's important for journalists to use their skills to inform rather than inflame, and to exhibit some editorial judgement when it comes to the claims made by the far right (and especially the religious right.) While other journalists rather quickly filled in the holes for the public, making it clear that the students had been offered every possible accommodation and that something else was at work, there will still be a certain percentage of the public that resists the facts and clings to the preferred right-wing narrative of persecution.

So thanks, KGW, for enabing the theocratic right to embrace its pre-determined victim status.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Falwell-linked group pushes prayer controversy

Friday night. Time to kick back, settle in to watch some local news--eh? What's this?

Why, it's a student prayer controversy. How nice.

From KGW-TV in Portland comes the shocking tale of evangelical students, most of them apparently Russian immigrants, who want to pray in the commons/lunch room rather than say, a regular room.
The group of about a dozen students were told they could meet -- and were even given their own meeting room and a faculty supervisor.

But that wasn’t good enough, the students said. They wanted to be more visible.

“There wouldn’t be any group that would be allowed to meet there,” because of the location, Carol Fenstermacher of the Evergreen School District said.

According to Liberty Counsel, a non-profit legal organization advancing religious freedom, the students were suspended for 10 days.

The group said a vice principal denied the students a room to meet, and a complaint from a Satanist student prompted the investigation.
A Satanist student! Outrage! And titillating! And sourced only to Liberty Counsel!

What is Liberty Counsel? Oh yeah, that Liberty Counsel, the one founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Apparently it's too long to wait for War on Christmas season and the Easter bunny is on a Disney cruise.

Funny thing: the main Liberty Counsel leader, Mat Staver, was just in the area. He was scheduled to be in Tualatin, OR., for a "Restore America" conference along with other religious right luminaries. That's so weird, he was just here! What are the odds?

See if you recognize any names.
February 23-24 2007 Rolling Hills Community Church Tualatin, OR (click for a map)
2007 Restore America Conference


Speakers include: Dr. Gary Cass, Executive Director of Reclaiming America, Rick Scarborough, President of Vision America, Janet Folger President of Faith2Action, Mat Staver, Dean of Liberty University School of Law, Herb Titus, Founding Dean of Regent University Law School, Marshall Foster, President of the Mayflower Institute, Ken Hutcherson, Pastor of Antioch Bible Church, Stephen Williams, Founder of Prepare the Way Ministries, Judge Charles Pickering, Nominee to 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and David Brog, Executive Director of Christians United for Israel.
Ken Hutcherson, for those who don't know, is an ex-linebacker and pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond. Now a veteran of more Mayday for Marriage events than NFL games, it seems Hutcherson is afraid that the gays will somehow threaten our hetero marriages. Frankly I can never quite figure out how they can do that. (Well, unless someone has some feelings they aren't talking about, anyhow.)

Hutcherson was in the news in late January for his new attempts to forge an alliance with Slavic churches to advance his anti-gay rights agenda. From The Seattle Times on Jan. 27, 2007:
Hutcherson now hopes the alliance will result in signatures for an initiative he filed last week seeking to repeal a state law, passed a year ago, that adds sexual orientation to a state law banning discrimination based on race, gender, religion and other categories.

"We've got a lot of churches to reach," said Hutcherson, who must gather at least 224,800 valid signatures by July 6 to put the initiative on the fall ballot.

"We want to get the Slavic churches, the Russian-speaking churches, the Korean churches, Philippine, Chinese, white, cross-cultural. ... If we're going to win this fight on protecting traditional marriage, we're going to need all churches to work together."
We already know that Hutcherson has fans in Clark County, specifically the GOP, who had him as their keynote speaker just last year.

So interesting, how these high school students suddenly decided that they must pray in the lunch room and that a regular room isn't good enough.

UPDATE 8:35 PM-- The Oregonian fleshes the story out somewhat this evening.
The students had been meeting for about two weeks in Heritage's commons before 7 a.m., when classes start at the 2,400-student school, said Principal Ann Sosky. As the group grew, other students questioned the group's failure to comply with rules for all students and clubs, Sosky said, and tensions began to mount at the Orchards-area school, which is in Evergreen Public Schools.

The group was given brochures about the rights and responsibilities regarding prayer in school, Sosky said, and was told numerous times it could meet for prayer but had to form a club with a staff adviser to do so. The participants also were assigned to meet in a room to not offend other students or interfere with their getting to class, and a teacher volunteered to be adviser, but the group continued to ignore the rules, she said.

One day, a man identifying himself as a youth pastor joined the group, but he would not disclose his church affiliation, Sosky said. He provided a name, but officials haven't determined whether it was legitimate.

Strangers on school grounds create a safety and security issue, Sosky said. Visitors who refuse to sign in at the office and state the purpose of their visit can pose a threat, she said.
Obviously this is being pushed by some adults with an agenda, at least one of whom doesn't seem to want to be identified.

MORE--8:45 PM-- Here's a quote from that February "Restore America" conference by Mat Staver, the Liberty Counsel fellow, from a web site called Journal Chretien:
"One of the things that is part of this conference," Staver notes, "is not only to give [Christians] the lay of the land and the landscape, [to] give them challenges and encourage them, but to mobilize them into political and social action."

The idea is to inform, equip, and empower Christians "so they can go back to their communities, they can register to vote, they can organize individuals in their churches," the Liberty Counsel spokesman explains. "They can also share information" with others, he points out, and "they can engage in the communities."

Staver says Christians have not only a right but also a duty to be involved in cultural issues. "We have gone too far past just mere talk — talk alone doesn’t do enough," he asserts. "Talk alone is just a waste of time."
So here we are two weeks later and they are definitely doing more than talking. This isn't about freedom of religion, this is about thrusting their politics in the face of the community and daring anyone to do anything about it. In other words, extremism of the worst sort.

UPDATE 9:37 PM-- I'm not the only one who thinks something suspect is going on here. An assistant superintendent in Evergreen says as much to The Columbian:
Bentley called the entire flap a “non-story.”

“I’m positive there was also some outside influence on this. There were some folks pushing to make this an issue that aren’t part of our Evergreen community,” he said.

Bentley said leaders of the prayer group had been given a district brochure that lists “Students’ Rights of Religious Expression and Practice.” The guide cites the right of “student-initiated religious clubs” to gain access to “facilities and media” on the same basis as other student clubs.

Evergreen policy also allows students to individually pray “unobtrusively” at any time, so long as it does not interfere with normal school instruction.
All the stories are making one thing clear: the students were offered every possible accommodation. Any claim of religious discrimination seems pretty flimsy at this point.

And on the "Satanist" front, which was a term that Liberty Counsel used, the comments of one student tend to suggest that maybe some exaggeration is involved. Again from The Columbian:
“We’re not bothering anybody. If we’re not preaching and passing out fliers, why can’t we do it?” Gaultier said. “Basically, there are just the pagans who are against it.” She identified herself as Baptist, while several Russian Orthodox students, a Methodist and a Catholic formed the roughly week-old group, she said.
So maybe by "pagans" they mean people who don't want religion shoved down their throat, in which case "Satanist" is not exactly accurate.

And wow, the group is an entire week old, which combined with the mystery-adult-cum-youth pastor, adds up to a political agenda. What a crock.

POOF 10:15 PM--At 6 pm, this story led the KGW newscast, as it was the most important thing in the world at that moment. By the 10 PM newcast on "The CW," or whatever the heck cable channel 3 is called, the story had dropped to 7 minutes in, right behind the state funeral of Anna Nicole. No word yet on how area churches will feel about me eating lunch in their sanctuaries.

Expelling citizens was White House policy

You may recall the 2005 case in Denver where three citizens were expelled from a taxpayer funded presidential forum on Social Security. It now appears that it was White House policy to eject people who might disagree with Shrub. From The Denver Post:
Today's revelations by volunteer bouncers Casper and Klinkerman showed that the decision to eject the activists "was made at the highest levels of the White House," suggesting a policy of excluding potentially-disruptive critics at events nationwide, ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein said after the men were deposed in Denver's federal courthouse.

White House spokesman Blair Jones declined comment.

The bouncers' statements appeared to contradict a White House spokesman's assertion in 2005 that volunteers at the Bush event were responsible for ejecting the Denver Three - self-described progressives Alex Young, Leslie Weise and Karen Bauer. Only Young and Weise are involved in the federal lawsuit.
If you read the full article, you can see that these citizens were indeed guilty of having an anti-Bush bumper sticker on their car and having on t-shirts that said "No more lies," t-shirts which they did not reveal, by the way. Essentially they were guilty of ThoughtCrime.

Keep in mind this was an official government event, not a campaign rally, so there is no basis for comparison at all between this incident and the staged antics by Republicans at a political rally in Washington state last fall.

Of course, it's happier for Bubble Boy if he never understands how much the public actually opposes him, but in a democracy you don't get to expel citizens because some local "bouncers" say so. The authoritarian mindset of these people is breathtaking.

Coulter targets Edwards with more nastiness

So if Ann Coulter baselessly puts down John Edwards on C-SPAN you know what is coming next: an attack on progressive bloggers from the media, which will somehow show that "both sides do it." Outrageous left wing demands that the Constitution be enforced will be held up as examples of this if they are not perfectly "civil." Wash, rinse, repeat.

(And please, don't even try to parse out how Coulter phrased it; she deliberately did that and after a moment the conservatives all cheered. Lovely. Why C-SPAN thinks it is appropriate to show the Two Minute Hate is beyond me.)

C-SPAN's Main Number: (202) 737-3220

Be nice to the people who answer the phone, they just work there. Ask for the comment line.

Un-freaking-believable. Fox Noise Channel you expect. C-SPAN, not so much. Your cable dollars at work.

Zarelli's petulance

The editors at The Columbian smack Joe Zarelli around over simple majority:
Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, had said earlier he would support a simple majority bill if it embraced a November-only provision, which requires such elections to be held only in that month, to maximize voter input. That's been our editorial stance.

And that concession was granted by Democrats, but then Zarelli voted against the bill. Huh? "Even though we're the minority party, Republicans have some say on this, but (Senate Majority Leader) Lisa Brown misstepped when she tried to rush this to a vote without speaking with Republican leaders," Zarelli said when contacted by telephone Thursday. "There's a process that should be followed, and courtesy matters."

Zarelli said he was also bothered by reports that the House might strip the November-only provision out of the bill. When asked if he should be reversing his stances based on what he suspects might happen in a chamber to which he was not elected, Zarelli repeated his devotion to "the process."

The Ridgefield senator is right about one thing: "People outside Olympia don't really understand the politics involved in something like this. Give us a chance to get it done. Ultimately, I'm confident the bill will get out of here with approval." Somehow, the words "dragged, kicking and screaming" come to mind.
The editors made sure to take some digs at Democrats, too, including Lisa Brown and Ken Jacobsen, presumably as defense against the one millionth conservative letter to the editor repeating Sean Hannity talking points and accusing them of being liberal (I think it's some kind of weird S & M thing with The Columbian. "Thank you wingnut reader, may I have another?")

The Columbian is about as solidly pro-business, old school Republican as they can get but in conservative cloud cuckoo land that's liberal. Probably because they dare to say things like "we need to educate our children" instead of singing the tired wingnut refrain about "wastefraudandabuse," which nobody even knows what it means any more. Well, it means a program that I don't personally benefit from, so therefore it's nefarious in purpose and practice.

At any rate, it was puzzling what Zarelli's motivation was to go back on his word, and since it appears to be basically petulance, then he should apologize to the kids in his district. It's a case of typical Republican baloney: sit there and demand that kids pass their asinine standardized tests, all the time trying to destroy the WEA, and then when it comes time to step up to the plate they can't get over their ideological sickness.

New! Modern! It hurts!

I know some folks in the Portland-Vancouver metro may be excited about the planned spring opening of a certain Swedish self-assembly furniture store, but before people do that to themselves they might want to consider the experience relayed by Huffington Post's Danielle Crittenden.
The vast gray space was staffed by a lone "customer service" employee. A line had formed. I looked down at my list. Oops--I had not duly recorded the "bin" numbers of my items, which tell me where they are located in the two story aisles stacked with identical cardboard boxes. And in order to pick up my two "Ektorp" sofas, I had to have a paper from the furniture department stamped by the lone employee. Oddly, he did not exude the same spirit of Ikea friendliness as the "Need help? Just ask!" signs hanging overhead. As I joined the line, it occured to me that I would need a flatbed trolley in addition to my already overflowing shopping cart to transport my items to the checkout and the car. How was I going to manage this?
If Crittenden's story doesn't convince you, this instruction manual might.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

World class cities don't build concrete highways over their waterfronts (Mar 1st)

...Or do they?

Elevate Vancouver

Measure 2 on Seattle's March 13 special election ballot presents a disastrously flawed option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The new elevated viaduct option would be:
  • Bigger — at least 50% larger than the current one
  • Noisier — louder traffic noise on our waterfront
  • Uglier — 50% more cement and shadows
Don't let this plan ever get off the ground. Vote NO on 2...and stay tuned for future installments of this new series!

House Democrats halfway through session

The state House Democratic caucus is marking the session's legislative halfway cut off point with record-setting activity. As of yesterday evening, 166 bills had been sent to the state Senate – more than three times the number approved by the same time time two years ago during the 2005 legislative session.

Here's an overview of bills, grouped by category, that advanced through the chamber prior to this week's deadline:

  • HB 1663 establishes a 5-star voluntary rating system for child care centers *
  • HB 1465 provides child care consultation services to caregivers and parents to equip them with effective strategies in addressing problem behavior in children. *
  • HB 1051 allows high school completion at local community colleges for students above a certain age. (sent to Senate)
  • HB 1573 establishes a state-wide, comprehensive dropout prevention plan. *
  • HB 1096 expands the successful Opportunity Grants program **
  • HB 1779 provides scholarship money for college students aspiring to be math and science teachers. *
  • HB 1222 enhances the State Need Grants, providing increased financial aid for low income college students. *
  • HB 1131 provides college scholarships for foster kids. (on floor calendar)
  • HB 1880 creates the Skills-Based Economic Growth Planning Program. *
  • HB 1882 implements the Washington Learns tuition and financial aid recommendations. *
  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on education sent its recommendations for $1.3 billion new dollars in education spending to the full committee.
  • HB 1071/SB 5093 extends the provision of health care coverage to all Washington children. *
  • HB 1095 implements the Medicare Part D co-payment program for low income seniors. (Signed by the Governor)
  • HB 1569 creates a Health Insurance Connector to simply and improve the purchase of health insurance. *
  • HB 1201 continues health insurance coverage for former foster children through age 21. (on floor calendar)
  • HB 1460 bars small group health insurance plans from discriminating against mental health treatment. (Sent to Senate)
  • SJM 4016 encouraging Congress to continue the vital State Children’s Health Insurance Program. **
Jobs & Economic Prosperity
  • HB 1277 expands the Local Infrastructure Financing Tool.(in Finance)
  • HB 1091 creates innovation partnership zones. **
  • HB 1276 provides funds to market Washington as a tourism destination. **
  • HB 1178 provides more money and resources to strengthen local economic development councils **
  • HB 1278 reduces unemployment insurance rates for start-up businesses **
  • HB 1695 creates a tax credit for high tech research and development. **
  • HB 1715 creates programs to assist small manufacturers in reducing costs and encourages careers in manufacturing. **
  • HB 1525 identifies and eliminates business regulations creating an undue burden on small businesses. **
  • HB 1311 continues the state program that helps small farms market their products. **
Family Security
  • HB 1359 establishes the Affordable Housing for All plan. *
  • HB 1001 combats auto theft. *
  • HB 1008 protects vulnerable adults from those who are supposed to be helping them **
  • HB 1458 requires that property owners be given written notice before their property can be condemned (on floor calendar)
  • HB 2016 protects private property from being forcibly condemned for economic development (eminent domain – in Rules)
  • HB 2054 establishes a one-stop reporting system for identity theft crimes *
  • HB 1347 requires long-term care facilities to develop emergency preparedness plans. (on Floor calendar)
Our Environment
  • HB 1024 phases out use of a toxic flame retardant known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers used in a wide range of household products such as mattresses and laptops. (in Senate)
  • HB 1303 encourages the replacement of older school buses with fuel efficient vehicles. *
  • HB 1374 creates a new state agency called the Puget Sound Partnership tasked with restoring the health of the Puget Sound by 2020. *
* means bill is in Appropriations, ** means bill is in Rules

The state Senate, meanwhile, has passed a landmark domestic partnerships bill (which I wrote about earlier today). However, the simple majority constitutional amendment for public schools has not yet passed the chamber. Please contact your representatives and let them know you favor this critical legislation.

Living in a material world (again)

It's been a whacky week on Wall Street.
Investigators have broken up what they call one of the biggest Wall Street insider-trading rings since the 1980s -- a sweeping, $15 million scandal that involved power brokers at some of the nation's top financial firms and two lawyers.

In announcing the case Thursday, authorities described a criminal operation that used insiders at Morgan Stanley and Co. and UBS Securities LLC to steal valuable secrets from the companies. Prosecutors also alleged a Banc of America Securities LLC broker accepted cash kickbacks and two former representatives of Bear Stearns & Co. obtained UBS inside information.
It is like we're living in the Republican 1980's sometimes, except somehow the music is even worse. Madonna was talented in her own way, after all, and thank goodness standards in pop culture didn't degenerate further.

I wonder if you can still buy a DeLorean?

It's a good thing nobody thinks transferring Social Security to private stock accounts is a good idea any more. Well, nobody that can do anything about it anyhow. The guy with that idea, like the DeLorean, stands to be nothing more than a joke on late night television. At least the car got to be in a popular movie, and John Delorean's approval ratings were at 46% after he was indicted,* which is a lot higher than 29%.

*There may be polls from the 1980's involving John DeLorean for all I know, but I just made that part up. Next thing you know we'll probably find out the vice-president is in bed with the Saudis and there is a rogue Pentagon element running illegal programs involving Iran. Nah, it couldn't happen, and you can stake your entire savings and loan account on that.

Senate passes domestic partnerships bill

Good news today after yesterday's disappointing vote on the simple majority for schools proposal - the State Senate, by a vote of 28-19, has passed a bill to allow more couples the same rights that heterosexual couples enjoy:
[It] would give gays, lesbians, and unmarried heterosexuals age 62 and older the right to visit a partner in the hospital, inherit their property without a will and make funeral arrangements, among other things.
Couples wanting domestic partnership status must share a residence, be at least 18 years old, not be married to another person or in a domestic partnership with anyone else, be capable of consenting to the relationship, not be blood relations, be either members of the same sex, or if in a heterosexual partnership, have one person be at least 62 years old.

SB 5336 is expected to easily pass the state House. Governor Christine Gregoire says she supports the bill and will sign it when it makes it to her desk.

Let the House Finance Committee know you support progressive tax reform

Evergreen State progressive activists have an opportunity this week to influence the House Finance Committee, which is considering two bills (one good, one bad) that relate to revenue and budgeting.

Let's start with the bad. HB 2117, if enacted, would restore the draconian limits of Tim Eyman's Initiative 747, and is an extremely shortsighted idea. It's a huge step in the wrong direction and does nothing to make our tax structure fairer.

Instead, it harms our state's communities and makes it more difficult to adequately fund public services like fire and police protection, parks, pools, or libraries. A one percent cap does not consider factors such as inflation, population growth, or residents' demand for services.

Now to the good. HB 1827, if enacted, would require an accounting of all tax exemptions and giveaways to big business. In the last three years alone lawmakers have approved nearly half a billion dollars in new and extended tax breaks for special interests. These exemptions are almost never weighted against our real priorities (like investments in healthcare, education, or transportation).

HB 1827 increases accountability and transparency in the budget process and allows us to scrutinize all the giveaways. As Justice Louis Brandeis once said..."sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."

The House Finance Committee will be the first to vote on these bills this week, but every legislator needs to hear from constituents to help make sure he or she knows that citizens expect progressive tax reform. Please take a moment to send a message to your legislators. You can also call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to leave a voicemail.

In Brief - March 1st, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Gristmill has some good talking points to thoroughly debunk the recent right wing attacks on Al Gore. No wonder wingnuts are unhappy: the Vice President has been all over the media following the Academy Award victories for An Inconvenient Truth.. CNN couldn't stop talking about a Gore presidential run yesterday evening, showing endless footage from past campaigns and events Al has appeared at (including one last fall for Senator Maria Cantwell's reelection campaign).
  • The Project for Public Spaces has published a guide about turning waterfronts around as part of their recent focus on civic use of shorelines. PPS outlines 13 key steps that planners can use to create vibrant public spaces. Step 10, for example, notes that "waterfronts are dramatically enhanced when they can be accessed by means other than private vehicles."
  • A needed copyright reform bill has just been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rick Boucher and John Doolittle. The FAIR Use Act, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "would remove some of the entertainment industry's most draconian anti-innovation weapons and chip away at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's broad restrictions on fair use." While this bill doesn't bring about complete reform, it's a good start. Help push it through by responding to the EFF's action alert here.
  • White House Resident George W. Bush will veto legislation that would strengthen the nation's security if it passes the U.S. Senate, a spokesman says, because the bill would unionize 45,000 airport workers. 36 Republican senators sent a letter to the administration earlier this week saying they would provide the needed votes to sustain a veto in the 100-member Senate. Forget the 9/11 Commission recommendations. How typical. Republicans can't stop talking about securing our nation against terror but when asked to make a choice between ideology and America's safety, they choose ideology.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.