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.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mike Webb was stabbed to death, says King County Medical Examiner

Shocking news this afternoon:
The King County Medical Examiner's office has confirmed that Mike Webb died of multiple stab wounds sometime after April 13. The death of the liberal radio host now is being investigated as a homicide.


Webb, 52, was last seen April 13, according to a missing-person report filed in May. His 10-year stint as a late-night talk show host came to an end in December 2005 when he was fired by KIRO-AM/710 after being charged with insurance fraud.

Seattle police crime scene investigators and homicide detectives were combing the house Webb had rented for 14 years in the 2500 block of Third Avenue West.
While we weren't big fans of Mike Webb or his show, we extend our deepest condolences to his friends, family, and loyal listeners in their time of sorrow. In retrospect, it's easier to understand why Webb was so paranoid about a possible attempt on his life. Hopefully, the investigation will uncover clues that will lead police to the arrest of the murderer.

Romney finance chair ran "tough love" company

Yikes. The libertarian magazine Reason has a troubling article raising questions about the conduct of some of Mitt Romney's associates when it comes to "tough love" type programs for teens:
But the link to teen abuse goes far higher up in the Romney campaign. Romney’s national finance co-chair is a man named Mel Sembler. A long time friend of the Bushes, Sembler was campaign finance chair for the Republican party during the first election of George W. Bush, and a major fundraiser for his father.

Like Lichfield, Sembler also founded a nationwide network of treatment programs for troubled youth. Known as Straight Inc., from 1976 to 1993, it variously operated nine programs in seven states. At all of Straight’s facilities, state investigators and/or civil lawsuits documented scores of abuses including teens being beaten, deprived of food and sleep for days, restrained by fellow youth for hours, bound, sexually humiliated, abused and spat upon.

According to the L.A. Times, California investigators said that at Straight teens were “subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse… and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.”

Through a spokesperson, Lichfield has dismissed the similar charges against WWASPS to The Hill as “ludicrous,” claiming that the teens who sued “have a long history of lying, fabricating and twisting the story around to their own benefit.”
I 'm honestly not familiar with Reason magazine, so read at your own risk. The article does seem fairly well sourced, for whatever that's worth.

Yet another example of creepy, right-wing authoritarianism and a fascination with physical abuse. Forget the Romney's dog, these were human teenagers.

If the article turns out to be more or less accurate, it raises serious questions about what kind of people Romney has around him, and whether he is mentally fit to be president. Like we need another set of moral degenerates bent on torture and other acts of extreme depravity in the White House. Most of the world already despises us, and it's going to take decades to repair the damage.

I wish I knew what it is about conservative culture that seems to make them do these things, but I honestly don't know.

It's sad, and sick.

SiCKO is a powerful diagnosis of what's wrong with American healthcare

Michael Moore's latest film, a devastating indictment of the American healthcare system, opens today in theaters across the Pacific Northwest. If you can possibly spare a couple hours this weekend, go see this film. You will be saddened. You will be angered. You may also be inspired to work for change.

I've already seen SiCKO, but haven't been able to sum up my thoughts to write anything about it until today. It's hard to sum up how compelling this documentary is. Even if you've heard many healthcare horror stories, you will be still be gritting your teeth and holding back tears as you watch other Americans struggle to tell their stories of losing loved ones thanks to the beast that is the for profit health insurance industry (and the drug industry, as well).

SiCKO has reinforced my belief (if that's possible) that healthcare for everyone is a right, not a privilege. As John Kerry said in his stump speeches back in 2004, it shouldn't just be a benefit for the wealthy, the elected, and the connected.

Healthcare should be free and universal. No one should have to fight the system, or a system, to get treatment. The answer to every conservative sputter about "socialized medicine" is one word: Unacceptable. Unacceptable, unacceptable, unacceptable. Those phony arguments won't cut it.

Those scare tactics won't work. What we've got is NOT functioning.

This is the richest country on Earth. This is a community of free people. A democracy! There is no reason that any one of us - any American - should be suffering and struggling because of health care costs, because of denied claims, because of high premiums and fees. Everyone should be taken care. of Needs should be met, regardless of ability to pay.

We need a healthcare system that reflects our values. Traditional American values. Not right wing fantasies about free markets and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. None of that libertarian, conservative nonsense. If they want to talk about family values, then let's talk about real family values.

For example, values that mean our elderly parents and grandparents should be able to stop working and retire, and not be forced to sell their homes and live with their children because of skyrocketing medical bills.

The conservative view is that everybody should be on their own. And that's how it is today with out healthcare system. Can't pay? Even if you worked to clear rubble from Ground Zero? Too bad, you're on your own. Don't have health insurance? Too bad, you're on your own. It's your fault, you didn't work hard enough. Got hit with a string of misfortunes? Too bad, you're on your own.

The progressive view is different. We believe in nurturance. We believe in protection, care, community...a common wealth. Mutual responsibility. There's an understanding and a recognition that we're all in this together. These are the beliefs shared by a majority of Americans.

Yet, our healthcare system does not reflect our traditions or beliefs. It needs to be changed, fundamentally. The first thing that's got to go is the for profit health insurance industry. There are some services that just shouldn't be operated under that model. There should never be a choice between giving someone treatment and saving a private company money.

Imagine if firefighting departments across America operated like HMOs. "Sorry, we're not going to put out the fire in your house. You're not pre-approved for our experimental hoses." Sounds ludicrous, of course, and that's because it's unfathomable. Entirely unacceptable. But comparable to our lousy, rotten health care system. However, public policy isn't going to change with Dubya in the White House or slim Democratic control in the U.S. Senate.

The path to reform begins with sending more Democrats, especially progressive Democrats, to Congress, and electing a president unafraid of big pharma and big insurers who. A progressive who will act to address the problems.

The path to reform involves investing locally and nationally in think tanks to study and develop the best policies, media to facilitate public dialogue about legislative proposals, and leadership organizations that can elect courageous public servants who will refuse to be bought off by corporate lobbyists.

We've got a long way to go, but luckily, every so often, we are jolted into action by a work like SiCKO. As depressing as it may be, it's powerful motivation to keep fighting and not burn out.

Snark Alert: Court strikes down Declaration of Independence

Good morning! Here's some snark to go with your orange juice and toast.

Washington, D.C. (Associated Nonsense) -- Shortly ahead of what would have been the traditional birthday of the United States, the Supreme Court has struck down the Declaration of Independence by a narrow 5-4 majority.

Writing for the court's conservative wing, Chief Justice John Roberts declared that the founders of the country "had no actual intention of delivering on promises of life, liberty and happiness" and that conventional liberal claims about the creation of an independent country, while well-intentioned, were "without merit."

Four liberal members of the court strongly dissented, while Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a separate but concurring opinion which stated that it might be acceptable for the United States to be free, but only under certain conditions involving a full moon, the hair of a bald man and ground sheep bones.

Republicans were quick to praise the country's return to English rule. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, said that while this meant the end of his presidential bid, he could live with the results because he intended to travel to London soon to see London Bridge.

Democrats, conducting a debate in a remote area of the country known as PBS, lamented the decision. Meanwhile, Paris Hilton.

The ruling comes as the court considers a lawsuit filed by conservative activist Grover Norquist, who is asking the nine member panel to declare all government illegal and "drowned." The court said in a written statement it will decide next week if it still exists.

World reaction was mixed, with new British prime minister Gordon Brown promising to welcome American subjects back into the realm, and Nicolas Sarkozy of France demanding the return of the Statue of Liberty and an immediate change in McDonald's menus to read "chips" instead of "French fries."

The United States declared its independence from Great Britain in July 1776, following more than a year of war up to that point. Paris Hilton.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Time for a change in the 8th District

Darcy Burner's campaign has just posted a new video assessing Dave Reichert's poor job performance and highlighting the need for change.

It's nicely produced, hits back at the Reichert campaign's sexist ad from last fall, and is just waiting for you to check it out.

Last Friday, I wrote that the 8th congressional district is ready for an authentic progressive, not a mythical moderate. It's great to see that Darcy is already on the campaign trail. These races take a lot of hard work to win.

And incidentally, that's where we come in. Darcy has committed to winning this race. She's prepared to give everything she's got. But she can't do it alone. It's imperative that we show our appreciation for her trust and willingness to listen by investing in her campaign.

The 2008 elections have the potential to be the seal that cements a new progressive majority into place for years to come. If we're to add to our 2006 victories this cycle, we'll need to capture the 8th. We already have a champion for progressive values running hard to take the district in sixteen months. Now we need to give her the resources she needs to compete.

If you can spare some change, please donate to Darcy Burner today.

Coulter and the guys in suits

The internet tubes are great for answering somewhat idle questions, like what kind of company would syndicate Ann Coulter? Turns out Andrews McMeel Publishing, based in Kansas City and the parent company of Universal Press Syndicate, thinks rather highly of itself:
Our Core Values

We treat each other with dignity, honesty, trust, and respect. We value and encourage each other's abilities and creativity.

We seek out, develop and nurture the best creative talent. We set high goals for ideas and customer satisfaction.

Team Work
We work as a team, constantly striving to do what is best for our creators, clients and associates. We share ideas and encourage others to do their best.

We uphold high ethical standards of honesty and integrity in all aspects of our business dealings. We maintain a climate that attracts the best people and provides them with rewarding career opportunities.

Corporate Social Responsibility
We seek to enrich our communities and the lives of the people who live in them, by investing our resources and time.
Yeah, right. What a load of garbage.

Behind every Coulter there's some guys in suits, who don't give a fig what kind of diseased filth is spread as long they make some money. These people are responsible for tons of printed material in US popular culture, and it seems like kind of a stupid business decision to be distributing a minor player like Coulter when the big bucks is in Disney stuff.

It would be a shame for them if progressives started a movement to check books for the name "Andrews McMeel" before purchase. They should check in with Sinclair and ABC/Disney to see how that works out.

See, freedom works both ways. They're free to distribute diseased filth, and I'm free to not buy their products.

I know I'm going to check books for the name "Andrews McMeel" before I buy them.

Immigration reform kills conservative movement

Immigration reform has been pronounced dead:
The Senate today drove a stake through President Bush's plan to legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, likely postponing major action on immigration until after the 2008 elections.

The bill's supporters fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to limit debate and clear the way for final passage of the legislation, which critics assailed as offering amnesty to illegal immigrants. The vote was 46 to 53 in favor of limiting the debate.

Senators in both parties said the issue is so volatile that Congress is highly unlikely to revisit it this fall or next year, when the presidential election will increasingly dominate American politics.
Why, you may ask, does this represent the death of the conservative movement?

It's a Pyrrhic victory for the talk radio haters and the fringe elements in the GOP. The immigration issue was ginned up out of desperation in the first place, as Republicans saw their electoral chances fading over the occupation of Iraq, Katrina and the assorted corruption and disasters that are so emblematic of this administration. Now they have defeated a president of their own party on the one issue where some common sense reforms were proposed.

When people don't have anything positive to offer, they resort to destructive actions. Congratulations, conservatives, you just defeated yourselves. If "the status quo is not acceptable," as many claim, then what does it say about the conservative movement that it could not reign in its worst xenophobic impulses in order to achieve a positive result?

It also bodes ill for Republican presidential candidates, who will be forced out of any tendency toward mainstream positions in order to curry favor with the extremists in Republican primaries. I'm just speculating, but I'd imagine that there might be some rather serious discussions going on in corporate boardrooms over the failure of reform. Does anyone really believe corporate America is going to abide continued, large-scale immigration raids and not act politically?

You'd think conservatives would figure out after 30 years how badly they have been used, but I guess they are kind of slow on the uptake.

Rest in pieces, conservative movement. The mongrel dog may still have fangs, but it's going to be left at the side of the road to fend for itself.

Feeding the beast

Joe Sudbay at AMERICAblog lets David Gregory have it for defending Ann Coulter:
Not kidding. According to NBC's David Gregory we're all missing the very important points that Ann Coulter makes because we get caught up in her hate speech. He just said to Elizabeth Edwards "if you strip away some of the inflammatory rhetoric against your husband and other Democrats, the point she's trying to make about your husband, Senator Edwards, running for the White House is in effect that he's disingenuous..."


Elizabeth Edwards handled it well, pretty much laughing at him -- and made the key point -- this is not about stripping away hateful rhetoric. The hate speech is the issue(.)


The traditional media has created Ann Coulter. They feed the beast. They enable her and her hate speech. And, we're just all really stupid because we think the hate rhetoric matters.
Okay, I get that journalists will sometimes play "devil's advocate" in order to get something answered, and if that's what Gregory was doing here, fine, as insulting as it seems.

Gregory isn't really the issue anyhow; he's been one of the few national reporters who will sometimes challenge White House spokes-bots.

The real issue, as Sudbay points out, is that the traditional media could instantly turn Ann Coulter into a nothing by refusing to give her a platform. She should be censored for making death threats and other low-form comments, but not by the government.

The allegedly "respectable" journalists and the guys in suits on upper floors are the ones allowing this disgraceful lunatic air time. Nobody can make a reasonable argument that the pollution spewed by Coulter (or Limbaugh or O'Reilly for that matter) constitutes serious journalism or civic discussion.

The right will crow about the First Amendment, but let's keep in mind that freedom of speech does not require corporations to air all speech. It's called editorial judgment. If you wouldn't bring on the head of the Klan to talk endlessly about how best to improve race relations, you don't bring on Ann Coulter to discuss a Democratic presidential primary. Coulter issues thinly veiled calls for violence, so morally she's on the same plane as violent white supremacists.

So the next freaking time some journalist starts complaining about bloggers, just say to yourself "Coulter." The double standard is being exposed, big time. Either American journalism decides to re-dedicate itself to professionalism and some semblance of the common good, or it continues its downward path. People are so sick of this crud.

Seattle integration plan struck down

News from back east this morning that will impact Seattle schools:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today rejected school diversity plans that take account of students' race in two major public school districts.

The decision in cases affecting schools in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it leaves public school systems with a limited arsenal to maintain racial diversity.

The court split, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court's judgment. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent that was joined by the court's other three liberals.
I'll reserve comment until I find out more about the reasoning, but thought those in the Seattle area might wish to know.

UPDATE 9:50 AM --The P-I has an article that fleshes things out a bit:
The court split, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court's judgment.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," Roberts wrote for four of the court's nine justices. The ruling applies to school districts that aren't under a court order to remove the vestiges of past discrimination.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent that was joined by the court's other three liberals. Breyer said the ruling would "threaten the promise" of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, and warned, "this is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret."

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion in which he said race may be a component of school district plans designed to achieve diversity.
I have a feeling this is going to be a common situation in the coming years. The fringe elements that dominated the GOP in the 1990's and early 2000's have ensconced their people in the courts and the federal government (can you say USA firings?) to the extent future damage is hard to predict. In conservative la-la land, attempts to counteract discrimination are themselves a form of discrimination.

I suppose now there will be a huge outcry about these activist Supreme Court justices making laws instead of enforcing them.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Romney campaign goes to the dogs

This pretty much assures Mitt Romney an endorsement from Frank Blethen:
The incident: dog excrement found on the roof and windows of the Romney station wagon. How it got there: Romney strapped a dog carrier — with the family dog Seamus, an Irish Setter, in it — to the roof of the family station wagon for a twelve hour drive from Boston to Ontario, which the family apparently completed, despite Seamus's rather visceral protest.

Massachusetts's animal cruelty laws specifically prohibit anyone from carrying an animal "in or upon a vehicle, or otherwise, in an unnecessarily cruel or inhuman manner or in a way and manner which might endanger the animal carried thereon."

An officer for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals responded to a description of the situation saying "it's definitely something I'd want to check out." The officer, Nadia Branca, declined to give a definitive opinion on whether Romney broke the law but did note that it's against state law to have a dog in an open bed of a pick-up truck, and "if the dog was being carried in a way that endangers it, that would be illegal."

And while it appears that the statute of limitations has probably passed, Stacey Wolf, attorney and legislative director for the ASPCA, said "even if it turns out to not be against the law at the time, in the district, we'd hope that people would use common sense...Any manner of transporting a dog that places the animal in serious danger is something that we'd think is inappropriate...I can't speak to the accuracy of the case, but it raises concerns about the judgment used in this particular situation."
It could be worse. It could have been Aunt Edna up there on the roof. I mean, when Christie Brinkley pulls up alongside, you get to going pretty fast.

Senate subpoenas Dick Cheney

Finally! We've been waiting a long time for this moment:
The Senate Judiciary Committee issued a series of subpoenas to the White House, Vice President Cheney’s office, and the Justice Department today related to the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, setting the stage for a major legal showdown between Congress and the Bush Administration.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said the subpoenas seek documents that could shed light on the legal basis used by the administration to justify the wiretapping program. In addition, the panel is seeking materials on the way the program operated, including the relationship between the agency and several unidentified telecommunications companies that aided the eavesdropping program.
This is Democratic oversight in action. We're not holding our breath waiting for the administration to comply, though. This could turn into a major Constitutional showdown.

When John Carlson is wrong

Local right wing radio host and conservative Washington Policy Center founder John Carlson frequently uses the column space he gets from King County Publications, Ltd. (publisher of the Reporter newspapers on the Eastside) to trash Sound Transit’s light rail and the science of global warming. His latest column “When everyone is wrong” is quite the doozy.

John argues that global warming must be hyped, because, well, because:
Back in the late 1970s, there were people who believed that the world was running low on oil and would be out entirely by the 1990s....Many prominent academics, government officials, economists, the Democratic Party, and a good chunk of the Republican Party all shared this belief.

...And what about those who claimed that the “energy crisis” was caused by bad economics, not geology? They were attacked and ridiculed as extremists or dismissed as lackeys of the oil industry.
Hey, John, I have news for you: there is a finite supply of oil on Earth and we are going to run out of it! If the demand for oil continues at the present rate, the world will need 140 million barrels a day by 2035.

A decline in oil production is on the horizon, and when it does get here (as it undeniably will), there will be very little time for us to react.

But we will have trouble even sooner. The non-OPEC controlled oil is going to peak first. If we do nothing by then, we will be at the mercy of a cartel of unfriendly countries for our energy.

Thirty years ago, John, the world did seem to be out of oil.

1971 was the year when U.S. production peaked. Today, we are dependent on other oil rich nations for our supply. But just as U.S. production peaked and declined all those years ago, world production will also peak, and when it does, the age of oil will come to a close whether humans like it or not.

The oil industry, in response to the OPEC embargo, became a lot cleverer. They reinvented their surveying, exploration, and production methods. New drills, sensors, and supercomputers made it possible to get oil that was previously unreachable. The amount that could be extracted from a field was increased dramatically – recovery rates shot up. And harsh environments (unfortunately) became conventional locations to drill.

But these innovations, while they may have postponed the end of oil, are only half measures. Oil is a finite resource. It’s not a random geological event, something that can occur just anywhere. It’s the product of complex geological processes that take place only under very specific conditions. (Since John has no qualms about dismissing a scientific consensus, perhaps he’ll challenge the conclusions reached by the geological community over the years as well).

Again, the worldwide supply of oil is limited, and a day of reckoning is coming. When that day arrives, our economy will be in the toilet overnight.

And what about global warming? Well, maybe it won’t matter by then because our planet will be too polluted for us to save. The window that we have to solve the climate crisis is shrinking fast.

In his column, Carlson ridicules President Jimmy Carter for predicting an end to oil, but Carter was correct. He may not have predicted the right date, but he was unmistaken in pointing out that cheap fossil fuels would not last.

John's analogy to climate change is funny, since the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming. If we would have learned our lesson from that crisis in the 1970s, we might not be in such bad shape today. As Paul Roberts says in The End of Oil, (an objective look at our energy economy, despite the title):
Worse, it is now clear to all but a handful of ideologues and ignoramuses [ahem, John Carlson] that our steadily increasing reliance on fossil fuels is connected in some way to subtle but significant changes in our climate.

Burning hydrocarbons releases not only energy, but carbon dioxide, a compound that, when it reaches the atmosphere, acts like a planet-sized greenhouse window, trapping the sun’s heat and pushing up global temperatures.

The only way to slow global warming is to cease emitting carbon dioxide – a monumental and expensive task that will require us to reengineer completely the way we produce and consume energy.
We have been having the debate about global warming for a very long time. John and other conservatives want to keep it going, indefinitely.

So they make use of their noise machine and their media platforms, hoping to convince fellow citizens to disregard facts.

They just don’t want to believe the science.

Perhaps because, as Al Gore’s work points out, it is an inconvenient truth. It does not fit the conservative worldview. Consequently, we get these absurd columns from Carlson with titles like “When everyone is wrong”.

John trots out one or two skeptics at the end of his column - and these people are supposed to represent a legitimate challenge to the consensus of the scientific community! If a consensus had to be entirely unanimous, there would never be a consensus. There will always be individual scientists who have different opinions.

Because people like John are in charge of our national public policy, we dither, when we could be taking the lead:
The United States is the only country with the economic muscle, the technological expertise, and the international standing truly to mold the next energy system. If the U.S. government and its citizens decided to launch a new energy system and have it in place within twenty years, not only would the energy system be built, but the rest of the world would be forced to follow along.

Instead, American policymakers are too paralyzed to act, terrified that to change U.S. energy patterns would threaten the nation’s economy and geopolitical status – not to mention outrage tens of millions of American voters. Where Europe has taken small but important steps toward regulating carbon dioxide (steps modeled, paradoxically, on an American pollution law) the United States has made only theatrical gestures over alternative fuels, improved efficiency, or policies that would harness the markets to reduce carbon.

As a result the energy superpower has not only surrendered its once awesome edge in such energy technologies as solar and wind to competitions in Europe and Japan but made it less and less likely that an effective solution for climate change will be deployed in time to make a difference.
Incidentally, we won’t see the tipping point that signals the end of our non-OPEC oil supply even when it gets here. Because OPEC countries keep a surplus on hand to use when there is a worldwide shortage, the supply depletion picture is murky. Matt Simmons, an oil industry investment banker, has stated this best:
“Peaking of oil and gas will occur, if it has not already happened, and we will never know when the event has happened until we see it ‘in our rear view mirrors.’”
Another factor is the inverse production dynamic. Normally, in a “free market”, the most accessible oil would be pumped out of the ground first. It's cheaper. But because OPEC controls that, ExxonMobil and other gargantuan oil companies are drilling for the more expensive oil instead, and charging accordingly to cover their higher production costs. OPEC, meanwhile, cleverly sells its oil at the same price and pockets the profit at our expense.

There will be no price warning to signal that the oil supply is being exhausted.

If the market is failing, why doesn’t our government do something? Well, it might, if it wasn’t controlled by a right wing administration that does not want to admit we must change our energy policy. The ideologues in control of our government don’t even care about improving efficiency. Listen to Dick Cheney:
"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."
Uh huh. That's Dick! If conservation isn’t an even an answer, then forget about exploring renewable energy alternatives with these guys. The most we’ll get is lip service in George W. Bush’s State of the Union speeches.

But let’s go back to Carlson’s premise.

Let’s adopt his mindset for a second – give him the benefit of the doubt (though he doesn’t deserve it) and pretend he’s correct. Let’s assume that all those who say the climate crisis is real...are all, somehow, wrong. How does that justify continuing our current approach to energy?

It doesn’t. As John Kerry observed when he came to Seattle last March:
“What if...938 scientific reports, what if scientists from around the globe, what if ministers all over the world….what if all of those people are wrong? What’s the worst that’s going to happen to us?

We’re going to have cleaner air. We’re going to have less disease. We’re going to be healthier. We’re going to have new technologies. Because the solutions to global warming include conversation, invention, and changing bad habits that adversely affect us.

What’s the downside if they’re wrong? Catastrophe.
Kerry could have also mentioned the benefits to our national security. By kicking our fossil fuel habit, we’ll become energy independent, and that means we won’t be at the mercy of OPEC and autocratic despots. The United States of America would be a freer, safer nation – and a leader in sustainability.

John Carlson can dispute the existence of the climate crisis all he wants. He can argue that humankind is not responsible for global warming until he’s blue in the face. But he cannot deny that America will benefit from a massive change in our energy policy. Change won’t be easy, but it can and it must happen – over the objections of the right wing.

They are an impediment, but not an insurmountable obstacle. After all, Carlson’s perspective is the worldview that the best in American values has defeated over and over again in the course of our history.

As Al Gore has recognized, political will is a renewable resource.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards in Portland

Aneurin at Democracy for Vancouver fills us in on an Elizabeth Edwards event in Portland this evening:
Her speech was as she admitted very short, only briefly touching on her battle with cancer, as she chose to spend the majority of time fielding questions from the audience. The questions ranged from Latin American policy to international AIDS funding. As Edwards noted, most Democratic candidates are in agreement in those areas. A question on education saw Edwards clearly in her element, discussing the No Child Left Behind fiasco and replacing it with a more values based system of testing rather than the standardized, one-size-fits-all mess we have now. It was pretty obvious that Ms. Edwards had a command of the educational issue and enjoyed engaging the question, at first congratulating the questioner, a teacher, for her service.
Elizabeth Edwards' appearance in Portland occurred as she was battling Ann Coulter in the national press:
Elizabeth Edwards pleaded yesterday with Ann Coulter to "stop the personal attacks," a day after the conservative commentator said she wished Ms. Edwards's husband, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, had been killed by terrorists.

"The things she has said over the years, not just about John but about other candidates, lowers the political dialogue at precisely the time we need to raise it," Ms. Edwards said by phone on MSNBC's "Hardball" program, where Ms. Coulter was a guest.

Elizabeth Edwards said she did not consult her husband before confronting Ms. Coulter on the air, adding that she felt the pundit's remarks were "a dialogue on hatefulness and ugliness."

"It debases political dialogue," Ms. Edwards said. "It drives people away from the process. We can't have a debate about issues if you're using this kind of language."
Ann Coulter has no business appearing on national television in the guise of a political commentator. She's an insane, hateful person. Shame on those who give her a platform.

Good on Elizabeth Edwards for taking her on.

Bridge planning plugging along

The Columbian fills readers in on the progress of the Columbia River Crossing project, the effort to build a new bridge between Portland and Vancouver on I-5. The Vancouver City Council received updates on the project, according to the article. One interesting tidbit is the potential timeline for federal funding:
The deadlines approach in part because of the congressional timetable for applying for federal money, which will be necessary for the effort. Congress expects to authorize a new five-year, 2009-14 transportation spending plan by fall 2008, contributing to the hurry-up needed for the job, Rorabaugh said.
The article goes on the mention a scheduled July 23 workshop to discuss possible mass transit routes, which will be a huge decision.

My thoroughly non-scientific "cul-de-sac" poll indicates to me that most people might support light rail, if it connects to a sensible local bus system that allows them to use it. Things have changed an awful lot since 1995, and with the county poised to expand the urban growth boundaries transportation needs in Clark County will only increase.

C-Tran intends to open a new transit center at 99th St. and I-5 by the end of the year, abandoning the ill-conceived 7th Street bus mall that runs across the street grid in downtown Vancouver.

Whether light rail could extend very far north is an open question at this point. There's just no getting around the fact that light rail is very expensive, and it certainly wouldn't make any sense to have it serve far-flung neighborhoods directly, but it might make sense to bring it downtown. Hopefully someone can put a dollar figure on the light rail versus bus rapid transit option so people can judge better.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Stripping Dick, part deux

To follow up on this post where I ruminated about how great it would be if Democrats actually did de-fund Dick Cheney, I see now that Todd Gitlin suggests this is the time:
Is this not one of those clear-cut, pivotal moments when a great wave of calls (MoveOn, this means you) should go out to members of Congress? Shouldn't every member of congress have to declare, out loud, how he or she votes on this fundamental measure?

The way Josh and the whole TPM enterprise stepped up on the Social Security issue in 2005 was exemplary. Weaseling members of Congress had to declare themselves.

This time, there are only a few days to mobilize, but why not use them well?
I've never called for a blogstorm, and it's unlikely my little voice could raise one, but it sure would be fun. I honestly see no down side. People don't like Bush but they really, really don't like Cheney. The noise machine would try to defend Cheney, of course, but that's something we should all like to see. Let the radio talkers and bobble heads come to the defense of Dick Cheney, they'll just blow their credibility even further.

The absurdity inherent in the argument that the vice-president is not part of the executive branch is just the surface level justification for stripping Cheney of funds (other than those used to protect him and his family.)

The real reason is to show the American people that this corrupt, incompetent and evil administration must still answer to the people. This is, as Gitlin suggests, the perfect opportunity.

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Freedom of speech for the rich guys

So the Supremes took a strong stand for the First Amendment today and stood up for the right of little guy corporations, aggrieved rich guys and voiceless conservative special interests to influence elections with misleading advertising. The first amendment is sacred and shouldn't be tampered with for any reason. God bless America.

Well, not exactly. The words "bong hits for Jesus" aren't covered because they could be construed as promoting something that some people think is bad. (At least if you are under eighteen years old.) I'm awfully impressed with the intellectual consistency of the Roberts Court so far, how about you?
As we all know, money is speech in this country.

Broadly speaking, what we need is transparency and accountability when it comes to funding political campaigns. There's always a difficulty in crafting rules that will work, as someone will always find a loophole and exploit it. (Or in some cases, simply ignore the rules altogether.) And yes, both sides tend to create "charities" and other entities that are thinly disguised political operations. It's how the game is played, and you can't expect one side to unilaterally disarm.

While the First Amendment is often the basis for striking down attempts to bring sanity to political funding, I'm not sure that having two year long presidential campaigns in somehow enshrined in the Constitution. Would it really abridge our freedom to have a more sensible campaign period, like six months? Do we really need to have the 527's and the faux charities and all the rest?

In the end, there probably is no solution. Public financing appeals to many progressives, but I just don't see it happening. The obvious problem is that many citizens would be simply outraged to have their tax dollars flow directly to political campaigns, no matter the possible benefit. It might work in other democracies, but we live in a country where people can get downright angry about the salaries of state legislators, for crying out loud.

The one thing that really does need to be cracked down on is the use of tax-deductible contributions in politics. The law is widely ignored and there is often little transparency. Technically those uses are illegal, but in practice the law doesn't really exist any more.

NYT profiles Fox Noise owner Murdoch

The New York Times has a long profile of Rupert Murdoch, certainly one of the most destructive media barons ever to inflict his damage on western democracies. If there's one media figure who bears the most responsibility for the debacle in Iraq, there's no question that it's Murdoch, who will surely go down in history beside the war-mongering yellow press of 1898.

The article is long and covers a lot of ground; everything from media ownership rules to his efforts to purchase The Wall Street Journal merit attention. Here's a sample bit from the second page of the web version:
Mr. Murdoch has an army of outside lobbyists, who have reported being paid more than $11 million since 1998 to address issues as diverse as trade relations, programming decency and Internet regulation.

One firm focuses almost exclusively on parts of the tax code that affect the News Corporation. By taking advantage of a provision in the law that allows expanding companies like Mr. Murdoch’s to defer taxes to future years, the News Corporation paid no federal taxes in two of the last four years, and in the other two it paid only a fraction of what it otherwise would have owed. During that time, Securities and Exchange Commission records show, the News Corporation’s domestic pretax profits topped $9.4 billion.

The News Corporation’s outside lobbying team has been a veritable political Noah’s ark. It has included Republicans like Ed Gillespie, former Republican Party chairman; former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato of New York; and the firm headed by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York. But it has also included former Democratic members of Congress, as well as several high-ranking Clinton administration officials, including Jack Quinn, former White House counsel.

Mr. Murdoch’s association with the Clintons is perhaps the best example of his ever-morphing relationships with the powerful, and theirs with him. For years, the former president was a favorite target of The New York Post, which seemed to delight in referring to him as “former horndog-in-chief.”
There's not a lot about the Clintons and their relationship with Murdoch in the article, but it's worth noting that progressives are likely to be watching closely to see what happens going forward. Murdoch is renowned for caring most about money, meaning that he will adapt his publications and influence grubbing to suit the political climate, but Hillary Clinton better be careful, in my view.

In an age of outrages, no greater outrage in the media climate exists than Fox Noise.

Fox Noise is information-age heroin, highly destructive to the body and spirit of democracy. The propaganda, the name-calling, the outright lies and the continued denigration of vast swaths of humanity are simply not things that can be forgiven or overlooked. It functions as a self-validation machine for grass roots conservatives who otherwise might actually come to their senses once in a while. (Most readers probably have an uncle or friend who insists on parroting Fox propaganda, and it makes meaningful political discourse impossible.)

Murdoch owns Fox Noise, so he owns the hate and the lies. Which is why Hillary Clinton better be careful, because everyone will understand the need to neutralize Murdoch as a player, to the extent one can neutralize someone that uber-wealthy, but any further sense of partnership with Murdoch will likely be met with outrage.

Flag waving conservatives get all indignant about someone from Mexico cutting their fruit for them, but probably don't realize that someone originally from Australia is spoon-feeding them propaganda simply to keep his media empire intact. (Murdoch became an American citizen simply to expand his media empire in this country, according to the article.) Murdoch may be conservative, but he's also utterly amoral. It seems clear from his behavior in England, where he switched support from Tory to Labor during the early years of Tony Blair, that he can't be trusted by anyone. It would now be a huge mistake for any Democrats to do his bidding.

If we want to get up in arms about immigrants, the corrosive and illegitimate influence of Murdoch would be a good place to start. Murdoch adds nothing of value to our democracy. He is the epitome of a robber-baron, taking what he wishes and enjoying the benefits of liberty and democracy and offering nothing of value in return. His main contribution to American politics has been to enhance already existing divisions for his own ends.

Murdoch enjoys the protection of the First Amendment, which we all defend. But ever since the very early days of radio gave way to New Deal era regulation, it's been painfully obvious that concentrated media ownership is a bad thing. No one man or corporation should have that much power. So the bargain was that in return for use of the public airwaves, there would be some limits on how much control any one entity could achieve. Murdoch and his conservative lap dogs have continually chipped away at that basic principle.

When we take back our country, it will be time to restore and strengthen media ownership limits, and to do that we are going to need a Murdoch-proof majority. Easier said than done, but like everything else that has happened in the last six years or so, we don't really have much choice but to try our best.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stripping Cheney

The New York Times lets Dick Cheney have it in an editorial:
Vice President Dick Cheney sets the gold standard, placing himself not just above Congress and the courts but above Mr. Bush himself. For the last four years, he has been defying a presidential order requiring executive branch agencies to account for the classified information they handle. When the agency that enforces this rule tried to do its job, Mr. Cheney proposed abolishing the agency.

Mr. Cheney, who has been at the heart of the administration’s darkest episodes, has bizarre reasons for doing that. The Times reported that the vice president does not consider himself a mere member of the executive branch. No, he decided the vice president is also a lawmaker — because he is titular president of the Senate — and does not have to answer to the executive branch. That is absurd, but if that’s how he wants it, we presume Mr. Cheney will stop claiming executive privilege to withhold information from his fellow congressmen.
A Shaun at Upper Left notes, Rahm Emanuel is forcing the issue by threatening to de-fund the office of the vice-president, on the grounds that if Cheney wants to claim he's not part of the executive branch then Congress shouldn't fund his operations. Which sounds like a good idea to me.

I mean really, exactly what branch is Cheney in? I've re-read the Constitution and I can't find the Sith Branch in it anywhere.

Naturally, it will probably never happen, but it sure would be a hoot and a smart move by Democrats if they could actually strip Cheney's office of all money other than that used to protect him and his family. I'm sure the carnage could continue apace without his direct involvement, so there would be no issue of "threatening the troops in the field," since (ahem) Cheney isn't part of the executive branch.

Cheney has declared himself above the control of the people's government, much as a would-be emperor would, and it would serve him right to be stripped of any but the most basic funds. The money saved could be donated to veterans' charities or something.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The 8th District is ready for an authentic progressive, not a mythical "moderate"

On a near daily basis, while following blogs, newspapers, or television and radio broadcasts, I hear strategists, journalists, and would-be candidates droning about the political “center” or the greatness of being an ideological “moderate”.

The latest example comes from Postman on Politics, where the Seattle Times’ chief political reporter quotes Senator Rodney Tom of the 48th District on his newfound aspirations for higher office:
Tom was quick to say he likes Burner.

He wouldn't say anything about conversations they've had about the possibility he would run against her.
"We did talk. I guess I'd rather keep that private. I have a high regard for Darcy. Again, I keep coming back to, 'Who can best win the 8th?'

"The 8th is a moderate district and if there's a strong moderate out there, it's me. I think I share their values and I think I fit this district really well. The thing you have to remember is the 8th isn't about just winning in '08. But you have to have someone who can stay around in the long run and I think I can fit that profile."
The 8th is not a moderate district. Rodney Tom is not a moderate, let alone a “strong moderate”. We at NPI know this because there is no such thing as a moderate. It’s a myth - one of the myths of the center.

To explain, let me first debunk a related myth of the center - the linear myth, which imagines that all citizens are lined up left to right, with the extremists on the end and the “moderates” in the middle. By moving “away from the left”, “towards the center”, one becomes more “moderate”.

Too many people actually believe this is a great strategy. It’s not a strategy at all, it’s a sign of weakness. “Moving to the right” means becoming inauthentic, betraying your values and your base.

There is no definable “moderate” worldview or ideology. There is no consistency to what so-called “moderates” believe. What American holds a political perspective where all possible issues are points on linear scales – and their position is perfectly balanced in the middle on all the scales? I have not met anyone who does.

Can you have a “moderate” position on an issue - like oil drilling in the Arctic? If you’re for limited (or, “moderate”) drilling, you’re still for drilling. Similarly, you can believe that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”, but you’re still for it being legal as opposed to it being outlawed.

If “moderates” as a group do not exist, what about a political mainstream? That’s also a myth. According to polling (which we’re not big fans of), there is supposed to be a real center of public opinion. But polling uses statistics and averages.

There are very few, if any, people out there whose political views correspond to what the polling says most of us believe. This is because there is no “”moderate” ideology connecting each specific issue position.

As George Lakoff and the Rockridge Institute note in Thinking Points (a huge inspiration for this post, which I have borrowed phrasing from), it’s like trying to find a family with 2.3 kids. Such a family does not exist.

So if there’s no such thing as a “moderate”, no “mainstream”, and no political “center”, then what about voters, or Americans, who are clearly not either progressive/liberal or conservative?

The answer is simple: they are biconceptuals, or people who use one moral system in one area and the other moral system in another area of their political thinking. The 8th District could, in fact, be accurately described as a biconceptual district...and Rodney Tom as a biconceptual.

But every single congressional district in America is biconceptual, because no district is inhabited exclusively by progressive or conservative Americans.

It is, of course, true that some districts have more biconceptuals residing in them than others do. If we redefine the word “center” to mean different types of biconceptuals, then there could be a “center”.

But it is very complex. It is not an ideology, but rather, a diverse group of people. It includes partial progressives, partial conservatives, and undecideds (biconceptuals in nonpolitical areas of life but with no fixed moral views governing their politics). “Independents” could be described as belonging to any of the just mentioned subgroups, which are themselves loose, complex, and diverse.

What Rodney Tom means to say is that voters are more likely to support him because he is a partial progressive - and we don't agree. He sets up a contrast between himself and Darcy Burner, who is an authentic and pragmatic progressive.

(Darcy knows we can’t get everything we think is good for America, but we can get much or most of it through negotiation, sticking to our values without being stubborn and uncompromising. Thus she is both authentic and pragmatic).

Darcy ran a very strong campaign last cycle and came very, very close to winning. Only a massive deluge of Republican money (spent on ads, phone calls, and get out the vote efforts) saved Dave Reichert from extinction. It can be argued the GOP put more into the 8th than any other district in the country.

Reichert himself spent every last penny. He began the year 2007 still in debt, as a matter of fact, while Darcy’s campaign emerged in the black.

The 8th congressional district has voted for Al Gore, John Kerry, Patty Murray, and Maria Cantwell. We believe that after just getting to know Darcy in 2006, the district is now ready to elect her in 2008.

In a follow up entry to his report about Tom’s interest in running for the 8th, David Postman provided excerpts of his conversation with Darcy, a conversation that she has also been having with activists all over the region:
At every door we went to, Henry and I were greeted with enthusiasm, and every person we talked to immediately recognized me. Every person we met was eager to talk about the direction they think we should be taking this country.

And at every house, I listened as people clearly deeply affected told me that we needed to end the Iraq war and bring our troops home.
Darcy’s advantages are significant. She has excellent name ID. Her fundraising prowess is unquestionable. Her grassroots and netroots support is rock solid. She is a hard worker, willing to put in the effort it takes to win.

She believes, as we do, that politics is a team sport, and she is a team player, not an opportunist looking to advance her career.

And of course, she is a wonderful person – intelligent, caring, good humored, well intentioned. When she asked me for time to have a conversation in August of 2005, there’s a reason it t took only a few minutes for me to be convinced that I should support her candidacy.

Darcy appeals to all the district’s progressives – again, witness the strong grassroots and netroots support - but she also connects with its biconceptuals.

This makes her a very strong candidate and the ideal choice for the Democratic nomination. Her campaign has, is, and will be concerned with activating progressive values in biconceptual voters – future constituents who share our moral system, but more passively. This is what conservatives do.

They do not surrender their values at all, and yet they win. Voters like a politician who is authentic and honest, willing to negotiate but not lacking integrity.

(It should be noted, however, that many conservatives who ran for office on authenticity betrayed their values when they reached our nation's capitol. There are plenty of examples. DeLay. Ney. Foley. "Duke" Cunningham.)

Rodney Tom is a biconceptual who only decided recently that his values are closer to those shared and held by Democrats, most of whom are also progressives. He became a Democrat and subsequently left his House seat to run for state Senate - a candidacy that NPI supported.

He won, just last fall, and now he represents the 48th as its senator. He owes it to his constituents to continue working hard in Olympia to improve our public schools, transportation infrastructure, and healthcare system, among other issues.

That’s what he should focus on, instead of aspirations for higher office.

As for Representative Chris Hurst, the other Democrat rumored to be mulling a possible run – he would be extraordinarily wise to decide against it.

Hurst, who was the prime sponsor of an unsuccessful bill last session to foolishly reenact Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747, is neither a true progressive nor a strategic thinker (if he was, he wouldn’t have worked so hard to give Tim Eyman and the right wing a free victory). Hurst will not be able to piece together the kind of campaign that Darcy has (and Tom won’t be able to either, for that matter).

The 8th, which has never been represented by a progressive Democrat, is ready to send one to Congress. It's turning blue, but it can't be taken for granted. It will only be won by a Democrat with candor, trust, and faith in progressive values. That candidate is Darcy Burner.

Cowlitz casino hits potential stumbling block

The proposed Cowlitz Casino in northern Clark County may have just hit a big roadblock. The Columbian's Jeffrey Mize reports:
The federal process for reviewing the Cowlitz casino could be undermined by a decision striking down the 2004 agreement between Clark County and the Cowlitz Tribe.

The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board this week declared the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, invalid.

The board's 12-page decision said Clark County failed to comply with provisions of state law and county code when it adopted the MOU more than three years ago.

The decision won't kill the casino plan, but it could stall the ongoing federal process for reviewing the proposed $510 million complex west of La Center.

"I think it seriously undermines any claim that the environmental review is sound for this project," said Eric Merrifield, an attorney for the Perkins Coie law firm in Seattle.
The Cowlitz tribe doesn't seem to agree, and Mize also has a second story posted that gives a little more context.

I'm still pretty sanguine about the casino anyhow. I'm not a big fan of gambling, although I don't have a problem with responsible adults gambling.

The casino, if built as proposed, would fundamentally change the character of northern Clark County, and certainly qualifies as a development project. That being said, I'm not sure why we should be against one kind of development because some influential people have a problem with who is running it or what legal activity occurs there. To oversimplify, why are houses and office parks built by mostly white Clark County developers okay, but a tribal casino isn't?

If the concern is the neighbors in the area, a precedent was already set for that when the amphitheater was built at the fairgrounds. Neighbors had valid and, as it turns out, very legitimate concerns about traffic tie ups and other problems, but they basically got some promises and a pat on the head.

Also, I'm not sure what makes north Clark County so special that they don't get to enjoy the fun and perks of rapid growth in their part of town, too. Remember, only the crazy hippies cared about growth outstripping taxpayer ability to pay for infrastructure, and now that it has, the horse is out of the barn.

Conservatives have complained so long and so bitterly about the Growth Management Act that it's hard to feel much sympathy for them up there. Welcome to the growth jungle. Maybe we should put that light rail line across the river, just in case?

The casino is all tied up in complex federal rules, so what the heck happens next I can't say. But if it's built there could be worse things to do than enjoy some dining and entertainment, and maybe lose a small amount at the blackjack table. Sure, there will be families wrecked through gambling addiction, but that happens with other legal things as well.

Caveat emptor, dudes.

Romney aide accused of impersonating cop

Mitt Romney's campaign is facing a fairly serious and embarrassing problem. Seems one of Romney's top aides is accused of pretending to be a cop:
State Police are investigating one of Mitt Romney's top campaign aides for allegedly impersonating a trooper by calling a Wilmington company and threatening to cite the driver of a company van for erratic driving, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the probe.

Jay Garrity, who is director of operations on Romney's presidential campaign and a constant presence at his side, became the primary target of the investigation, according to one of the sources, after authorities traced the cellphone used to make the call back to him. The investigation comes three years after Garrity, while working for Romney in the State House, was cited for having flashing lights and other police equipment in his car without proper permits.

The New Hampshire attorney general, according to the Associated Press, has also opened an investigation into a report that a Romney aide, later identified as Garrity, pulled over a New York Times reporter in New Hampshire and said he had run his license plate.

New Hampshire law prohibits private citizens from accessing license plate databases or pulling over fellow citizens.
The full article notes that the New York Times reporter is standing by his account.

It's sadly amusing sometimes how puffed up Republican operatives can get. If you ever worked in politics you know the sort -- they live in the fantasy world most often inhabited by 12 year old boys. They seem to have mistaken democratic elections for Cold War spy novels or something.

While it's fun to play at cloak and dagger, and sunglasses and flashing lights are definitely cool and awesome, if the accusations turn out to be true, having someone so seriously disturbed in a key campaign position doesn't reflect well on Romney.

As TPM put it:
I thought this sort of stuff only happened in low-budget teen movies. Anyway, fake cop, fake candidate. Of a piece.
I'm getting a mental image of someone resembling a young Anthony Michael Hall running around Romney headquarters, issuing orders and lamenting how much in love he is with the girl in the mail room.

Let's hope the Romney campaign is careful with the computers.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Atrios hearts Darcy

Wow, it appears Darcy Burner and Atrios got to have a chat.
One highlight of the Take Back America conference was an extended chat I had with Darcy Burner. I actually usually don't like talking to political candidates and certainly don't seek out opportunities to do so. There are a bunch of reasons for that, but the main one is that too many of them, as they're in candidate mode, tend to talk down to you. They don't realize they're doing it, but they can't get past that they're the candidate and you're the potential supporter so conversations end up being like sales pitches.

Burner isn't like that. She's actually capable of holding a normal conversation, and she has a lot of interesting ideas about campaigns and elections.
And Atrios even puts in a link to his ActBlue page, and there's Burner at the top.

Burner clearly earned another shot to run, and NPI is supporting her fully. There's some talk out there about other candidates, and naturally anyone may run for office in a democracy, but I don't see why Burner shouldn't get another crack at Reichert.

My crystal ball has sprung a leak because some moron contractor used a black iron elbow instead of galvanized pipe when the crystal ball was built, but Burner's odds stand to be pretty good in 2008.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Digby the star

Via Eschaton comes video of Digby at the Campaign for America's Future conference going on in Washington, D.C. While there are many fine thinkers and writers in the progressive blogosphere, Digby is often in a class by herself. (Perhaps it has something to do with hiding out and focusing on the writing? Just thinking out loud here.) In any case, she repeatedly gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to our politics and the traditional media.

Her speech is worth checking out, if you have the time. She tweaks a few noses in the pundit class, pointing out that what she does is exactly the same thing -- namely, she has opinions and she writes them down. Fun stuff.

Digby also mentions the secret code that gives us all our instructions, so now that is out of the bag, I'll confess that nobody told me about it.

UPDATE 9:50 AM -- I just checked some code at the Great Orange Master's web site, and I have this message to spread far and wide:
The raven is enjoying the cupcakes. I repeat. The raven is enjoying the cupcakes. You know what to do, just make sure Broder doesn't find out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bellevue Downtown Association endorses regional Roads & Transit package

The Bellevue Downtown Association, which Eastside developer and light rail opponent Kemper Freeman Jr. is a major force in, today endorsed the regional Roads & Transit package (consisting of Sound Transit 2 and RTID) that is going before voters this November. The endorsement is a major embarrassment for Freeman, who would prefer for his hatred of transit to not appear isolated.

Kemper's outfit has actually created videos in the past denouncing public transportation and praising the automobile. In 2002, he donated money to I-776, which sponsor Tim Eyman claimed would shut down Sound Transit's light rail project and repeal Sound Transit revenues.

(The initiative passed narrowly statewide, but lost big in King County. It ultimately failed to prevent the project from moving forward. Central Link is now under construction, due to open in 2009.)

Here's an excerpt from the organization's release:
Citing the pressing need to make substantial long-term investments in the region’s transportation system, the Bellevue Downtown Association (BDA) Board of Directors today voted with an approximate 80 percent majority to support the Roads & Transit package as it moves toward a regional vote in November.

“The Roads & Transit plan offers a multi-modal approach to addressing decades of underinvestment in mobility solutions for our workforce, residents and visitors,” said Warren Koons, 2007 BDA Chair and partner with law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. “It provides a set of critical road infrastructure improvements and will connect Bellevue to Seattle and points east by light rail in support of the vision we share for a strong, viable, livable and accessible Downtown Bellevue.”
Why Kemper despises light rail and the East Link project is somewhat puzzling, given that it will help bring people to his "Bellevue Collection" of malls - Bellevue Square, Lincoln Square, and Bellevue Place. Then again, ideological right wing zealots are not known for their common sense or reasoning skills.

If you (foolishly and stupidly) believe public transportation is only for socialists, and you hate socialism with a passion, then you'll oppose light rail even if it's in your self interest to support light rail.

Finally, a clarification: the Bellevue Downtown Association is not the city's chamber of commerce. A post on The Stranger's SLOG announcing this news earlier today mistakenly reported that the endorsement came from the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. They have not yet endorsed the plan but will discuss doing so soon.

Insurers working to repeal consumer protection act passed in 2007 session

Representative Steve Kirby, as a concerned citizen, is sounding the alarm about Referendum 67 in a message dispatched from his own private email:
Citizens should beware that signature gatherers for a new referendum are working to overturn a new consumer protection law approved by the Washington state Legislature and signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire, according to State Rep. Steve Kirby (D-Tacoma).

The Insurance Fair Conduct Act (ESSB 5726) gives consumers new safeguards against insurance companies that unreasonably deny legitimate insurance claims. Kirby chairs the House Insurance, Financial Services and Consumer Protection Committee and sponsored a similar version of the bill in the House.

"The law we passed simply says the insurance industry must treat consumers fairly. If you paid your premium and file a legitimate claim, the insurance company must honor its commitment," Kirby said.

A coalition of primarily out-of-state insurance companies led by the American Insurance Association filed a referendum petition to overturn the Act the day after Gregoire signed it into law. The proposed referendum (Referendum 67) would ask voters to approve the law again.

An estimated 4,100 Washington consumers fight complaints against insurance companies every year to recover costs related to valid insurance claims, according to the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Insurance companies routinely deny and delay payment of claims, forcing consumers to take their grievances to court where battles can last more than five years, lawmakers and consumer advocates say.

"In your darkest hour, when life hands you a devastating blow, you expect your insurance company to be there when you need it the most," Kirby said. "This law protects the people who don't have the resources or the remedy to stop insurance company abuse. That's most of us."

The insurance industry will need to collect a total of 112,440 to place Referendum 67 on the November ballot. Approval would ratify the law. Rejection would erase the consumer protections it created.

Legislators locally and nationally say the insurance industry is engaged in a nation-wide campaign to deprive consumers of their rights to hold bad insurance companies accountable under the law.

Court actions against the campaign include several class action lawsuits filed on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims. One prominent plaintiff is former Republican majority leader U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, who lost his house in the 2005 disaster.

"The insurance industry makes money when they deny legitimate claims because they take that money to the bank where it sits and earns interest," Kirby said. "We've all heard stories from our family and friends when insurance companies increase your rates or drop you when you file a small claim. This law protects people they drop-kick out the door."
The industry is astroturfing, operating under the banner of a political action committee called "Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates".

[Astroturfing, for the uninformed, is a term for formal campaigns in politics and advertising that seek to create the impression of being spontaneous, grassroots behavior. Hence the reference to AstroTurf (artificial grass) is a metaphor to indicate fake grassroots support.]

If you observe signature gathering activity for Referendum 67, please report it immediately to Permanent Defense so we can track this signature drive and respond (exercising our First Amendment rights) as opportunities arise.

Don't stop thinking 'bout your theme song

Sadly, it's Celine Dion. I know, we're supposed to remain neutral, but there are some things that border on unforgivable. Yikes.

Conserva-nativism jumps the shark

The noise machine is devouring its own:
McCain, who acknowledges that his outspoken support for overhauling immigration laws is complicating his presidential campaign, relayed a story about attending a recent fund-raiser where protesters were standing outside holding signs that declared: "McCain -- traitor."

"I'm a pretty tough guy, and I'm not asking for any sympathy," said McCain, a former Navy combat pilot who spent five years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down in Vietnam. But, he added, "you see something like that and you think, 'Wow, what would make these women . . . think I'm a traitor?' "

He also said the nature of the debate over immigration reflected the "deterioration of the political discourse in America today."

"It disappoints me so much," he said.
Okay, so not many of us on the progressive side are going to feel much sympathy for McCain. He was one of a handful of people who could have used his clout to stop the disastrous invasion of Iraq, and for whatever reason he didn't do it. History will not judge him kindly. Still, he is hardly a traitor.

It goes to show just how far out of control the conservative noise machine is. While we may find it briefly amusing to watch someone like McCain squirm, it also goes to show how dangerous propaganda is and how virulent reactions can be created by demagogues like Lou Dobbs.

You really have to wonder about those of our fellow citizens who can't comprehend they are simply being used (again!) for political purposes. The immigration "crisis" was ginned up because "God, gays and guns" was no longer enough to secure an election victory. And when this "crisis" passes there will be another hot button issue put out to inflame the conservative base, and they won't get what they want on that issue either.

Guess what, cons, you've been suckered, because the only good you were to the GOP was as people who could be endlessly manipulated. When your extremist ideology bumps up against the reality of corporate profits, guess who's going to win?

So go on, conservatives. Find someone else to hate on, it's what you do best. The public reaction to your views only helps us.

The rest of us know there are better ways to deal with things than hysteria, and you are simply proving that point. I mean really, is there a more disgusting image than a bunch of old white guys standing around screaming that John McCain is a traitor? How pathetic.

Maybe instead of chasing Mexicans out of food processing plants we should be worried about Algeria. But then, I thought conservatives are the only ones who "understand the threat we face." Guess not.


Mara Liasson at NPR discovers the vast left wing conspiracy and files a solid report. There's audio and a textual summary available at the link above. The clip has one error - it inaccurately credits Simon Rosenberg with giving the presentation "The Conservative Message Machine's Money Matrix". This presentation was actually created by Rob Stein, a former chief of staff to Clinton's Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.

Organizations like NPI are part of the infrastructure that we need to move the progressive movement forward and advance the common good. Of course, it can't happen overnight. We're running a marathon, not a sprint. The good news is that we're already on our way. We just have to keep building and constructing the institutions we need.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Washingtonians contribute less to the common wealth than most Americans

This isn't really news, but since Tim Eyman constantly repeats the silly mantra that we're the fourth, seventh, third (or some other made up number) highest taxed state in the nation, it bears repeating:
Washingtonians pay less state and local tax relative to their incomes than residents of 36 other states, according to figures recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Washington ranked 37th nationally, paying an average of $105.91 in taxes for every $1,000 in personal income in Fiscal Year 2005, compared to a national average of $112.94. Washington ranked 29th in Fiscal Year 2004.

This is the lowest ranking for Washington since it dipped to 39th during a severe recession in 1982. Washington's ranking has declined from a peak of 11th in 1998, in part because personal income has grown faster than taxes.

Washington also fell below national averages in property taxes. Property taxes dropped by $1.08 to $30.60 per $1,000 of personal income in Fiscal Year 2005, although Washington 's ranking among the states remained at 28th, the same as in Fiscal Year 2004. Washington ranked 24th in property taxes per capita at $1,055 in Fiscal Year 2005, down from 22nd in the 2004 rankings.
What this data shows very clearly is that taxes are not exploding out of control as right wing libertarian zealots like Eyman claim they are. In fact, we're not investing in the common wealth as much as we should be. (Given this reality, on top of our cherished tradition of majority rule, Eyman's I-960 supermajority proposal makes absolutely zero sense. Zero).

Recent news articles about dilapidated and decaying infrastructure make it painfully obvious that the clock is running out on us. Our public schools are underfunded, communities across the Evergreen State are grappling with aging water and sewer systems, and money for parks, pools, and libraries is scarce. First responders continue to send small funding requests to voters just to maintain the current level of service. (Redmond will have two such levies on the ballot this August).

Luckily, on the issue of transportation, we have an opportunity to pass a comprehensive package of road and transit improvements this fall, including an extension of Sound Transit's Link light rail system. The package is a wise investment in our future, even if it's not wholly perfect.

Our tax structure may be regressive and in need of reform, but it is nevertheless outright deceitful to argue that Washingtonians are being overtaxed.

Obama apologizes for "Punjab" memo

Via TPM Cafe comes word that Barak Obama has aplogized for his campaign's "Punjab" memo attacking Hillary Clinton.

Most importantly, he took responsibility and didn't try to weasel out of it. Good on Obama.

Lesson: Democrats should not adopt right-wing frames, to say the least. Hopefully the consultant class will start figuring this out as well.

Future of polls questionable

Here's an interesting article about the challenges cell phones present to pollsters.
About 13 percent of all households in the country have "cut the telephone cord" in favor of cell phones, according to federal figures released last month. That puts this group out of reach of traditional surveys that rely heavily on calls to standard landline phones.

To remedy the situation, surveyors are trying to reach this demographic segment by turning to cell phone surveys and online polls, and reworking the survey parameters that have served them for years. There is even talk of returning to more traditional methods like mailing questionnaires and visiting respondents door to door.
Ironically, we live in a political age where the most minute variations in polls are endlessly discussed both on the internet tubes and on the cable television programs, yet the reliability of the results has never been more in doubt. Folks really need to factor this in when considering the opinions of pundits that mention polling.

NPI has always viewed polls skeptically, if not suspiciously. They might be useful to discover broad trends - like judging how unpopular a president is at the end of a dismal second term, but I think a lot of people don't really care for pollsters and will do what they can to avoid them. It's hard to imagine how ringing people's cell phones is going to do anything but tick people off even more.

The one possible use I've found for answering political questions on the phone is when I suspect it's a conservative or Republican voter ID call. Then I skew my answer so that I get their robo-calls, and if they're dumb enough to leave them on my message machine, then I have a recording of it.

Fun stuff, but then I'm easily entertained.

POSTSCRIPT, from Andrew: The article notes, interestingly, that cell phone only users tend to be younger, progressive, and more technologically savvy. Unless pollsters can identify a non intrusive method for reaching this demographic, the future of polling (at least by phone) will be in serious doubt. Polling that doesn't reflect the attitudes of young people will lead to false impressions, bad information, and inaccurate traditional media reports.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Darryl comes up with a funny bit while guest-posting for The General, this time in a letter to John McCain to suggest what his official smell should be, since smells are clearly so important to Tweety Bird:
Clearly if you want to have any chance of salvaging your own campaign, you’ll need a scent-identity all your own. And I’ve been in the lab working on it. At first I thought “new car scent!” But that was too fresh…too…car-salesmanish—it tended to evoke images of Mitt Romney. Flowery scents didn’t work at all—they all came up “Rudy in drag.” No…we needed something to leverage your campaign’s general state of decay and old-school feel into a positive image.

And we found it: humus. You know that…ripe compost smell…l'eau de la matière de decomposition. Nothing transforms deterioration and rot into imagery of fresh potential and new life quite like the scent of humus.
That's just brilliant. The daddy party frame is so darn funny anyhow.

Obviously the key for male Democratic candidates is the correct mixture of pipe tobacco and cheap aftershave. I know when I get worried about how things are spinning out of control in the Middle East, I go into the bathroom and take a whiff of Aqua-Velva and it cheers me right up. Then I tell myself to put my bike in the garage and wash up, and suddenly the greatest foreign policy disaster of our lifetimes doesn't really matter. If I could get Fred Thompson to make me eat spinach, I bet the situation in Gaza would solve itself.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Clark County JJ is just huge

Clark County Democrats welcomed Air America host Thom Hartmann and Congressman Brian Baird to their annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at the Vancouver Hilton Saturday night.

Announced attendance was over 600 people, which is quite an increase from the dinners I used to help put on in the last century at the Clark County Square Dance Center. We used to be thrilled with 250 attendees.

In those days, we had to set everything up ourselves, including the tables, place settings and the PA, so these are pretty plush digs for the CCDCC. Obviously the Clark County Democrats are no longer the sad orphan party, but may in fact be poised to make even greater gains in the future.

Hartmann opened for Baird with some remarks about how we're all "part of the parade" of democracy:
If enough of us get together and speak out, if enough of us are out there participating, if enough of us are at events like this, if enough of us are giving money or if enough of us are writing letters to the editor, if enough of us are calling talk radio, if enough of us create the parade, then inevitably what's happened in the history of the United States is that a group of politicians, or in some cases an entire movement of politicians, will get in front of that parade.
I guess folks in King County or folks who have attended recent Clark County JJ dinners will find this comment silly, but I was somewhat flabbergasted at the fact the event took up two full ballrooms, one for the dinner and one for the silent auction. One had difficulty at times making a path through the crowd.

On a personal note, I'm someone who walked away from regular party activism some eight years ago, so I must report with humility that not only did many people take time to say howdy, but they embraced me with open arms. For what it's worth, I found it to be a fairly moving experience, seeing so many old friends who were welcoming. I'm most grateful for that.

I did find opportunities to mention NPI, and without exception people were interested and wanted to know more. I didn't get any negative reception about blogging, although it's apparent that many folks still find it a novelty. But luckily, two people did see my name tag that read "stilwell" and called out to me. It's hard to be that famous, but someone has to bear the burden of having two people out of 600 recognize you. Maybe if I shave my head...

Brian Baird's comments were incredibly thoughtful, especially about the Iraq war, and I intend to post about them soon.

Suffice it to say that the Democratic Party is alive and kicking in Clark County, in a way I never dreamed possible in the dark days of 1995. Nothing is perfect, of course, and the local GOP will make its best effort, but for once I'm convinced that we stand better than even odds. We may have a healthy contingent of wingnuts down here, but the party is ready to take them on in 2008.

Agree to our debate, GOP bedwetters

Via both TPM and Eschaton comes some discussion of why Democrats really need to fight back when Tim Russert says things like this:
COLMES: That's why -- you know, candidates of both parties should come on this show. They don't. Democrats don't want to go on with him; some Republicans don't want to come on with me. I think that's wrong. And I think Democrats make a mistake not allowing a debate to take place on the FOX News Channel.

RUSSERT: It's a TV show. If you can't handle TV questions, how are you going to stand up to Iran, and North Korea, and the rest of the world?
Beyond the obvious responses (some unprintable choice expressions come to mind,) I like the suggestion made by Atrios that The Nation and Air America offer to sponsor a Republican debate and see what happens.

Or hey, why not NPI? If Republican presidential candidates won't agree to a debate in Seattle hosted by NPI, with a panel of our choosing, then they are just a bunch of scared bedwetters. We'll make sure there aren't any scary taco trucks in the vicinity, just to assuage their fears of the other.

You know, this is actually fairly simple stuff, we just don't turn it around on Republicans often enough, probably because we understand how juvenile it all is. (Did I remember to throw in the term "bedwetters" yet? Ah, yes, I see that I did.)

But to conservatives this is all very serious stuff, how their pet propaganda network must be hailed as legitimate, because otherwise it calls into question other traditional media practices.

For example, we have the host of Meet the Press saying foolish, foolish things. To suggest that refusing to cooperate with an opposition propaganda network means Democrats would be weak on national defense is patently ridiculous.

Dissing Fox Noise doesn't have anything at all to do with al-Qaeda or North Korea, but for some reason I do have a hankering for pumpkin pie. (OK, now that was juvenile.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

The audacity of xenophobia

This is not cool:
Referring to various ways in which Mrs. Clinton, of New York, and her husband had benefited, financially and politically, from support from Indian-Americans and companies that do business in India, the Obama campaign circulated a document to reporters on the basis that they not reveal where it had come from. Under a bold headline, the document referred to Mrs. Clinton as “(D-Punjab).”

The Obama campaign was forced to acknowledge authorship when the Clinton campaign got a copy and shared it with The New York Times.
A lot of folks in the netroots have serious doubts about the Democratic presidential campaigns and the influence of overpaid and under-intelligent consultants. This certainly has "some stupid consultant thought it was a good idea" written all over it.

We're not taking any sides in the presidential campaign yet, but suffice it to say that this sort of thing reflects poorly on the Obama campaign. We've defended all Democratic candidates when they are unfairly smeared by Republicans and the traditional media, so it's pretty disheartening to see the Obama campaign resort to the same sorts of tactics.

That being said, we hope the Obama campaign takes appropriate steps to determine who is responsible for this piece of xenophobic trash and well, disciplines or fires them.

It would be even better if Obama took responsibility himself and apologized. It's really hard to understand why someone would think this is a good idea at any time, but given the Dobbsian nature of our discourse right now, it was an especially egregious error by the Obama campaign.

Only "good Americans" could work for Justice

Via TPM Muckraker comes a nice little taste of what the USA firings have revealed. The quote is from an anonymous complaint filed about Bradley Schlozman, a former US attorney in Missouri who was also an appointee in the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department:
"Bradley J. Schlozman is systematically attempting to purge all Civil Rights appellate attorneys hired under Democratic administrations," the lawyer wrote, saying that he appeared to be "targeting minority women lawyers" in the section and was replacing them with "white, invariably Christian men." The lawyer also alleged that "Schlozman told one recently hired attorney that it was his intention to drive these attorneys out of the Appellate Section so that he could replace them with 'good Americans.'"

The anonymous complaint named three female, minority lawyers whom Schlozman had transferred out of the appellate section (of African-American, Jewish, and Chinese ethnicity, respectively) for no apparent reason. And in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week in response to questions from senators, the Justice Department confirmed that all three had been transferred out by Schlozman -- and then transferred back in after Schlozman had left the Division.
You know, the Justice Department should really investigate this Schlozman fellow for civil rights violations. Oh, um, yeah, right.

Dino and dead horses

Sometimes it's fun and instructive to slice and dice a story to make a point. Take, for instance, this report about Dino Rossi's stop in Vancouver to promote his "Idea Savings and Loan" or whatever he calls it. The story closes this way:
Asked after Thursday's session why he would put forth so much effort to gauge public opinion if he weren't planning to run, Rossi chose to talk about Gregoire instead.

"All I have to do is say what I'm going to do and the governor does it," he said with a smirk. For example, he recently scheduled talks to business groups in Sammamish and Kitsap County. The governor showed up in both places the following week, he said.

"Imitation is the greatest form of flattery," Rossi said. "Original thought is out the window."
And (slice!) let's take a look at a graph earlier in the piece:
Rossi called for getting rid of the estate tax, passed by Democrats in 2005. "It chases people of means out of our state," he said, and with them go good jobs.
Yeah, um okay. Does the term "dead horse" mean anything to these people? It's funny how the "will of the people" can never be "violated" when it comes to say, unconstitutional budget caps, but it would be just dandy if a way was found to thwart the will of the people on the estate tax.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that Rossi will run again, although the article notes that some in the GOP are getting a little nervous about whether he actually will run. Oh well. That's the Republicans' problem, a sentence I seem to get to type more and more often these days.

Is Ellen Craswell still around?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

8th CD Democrats organization created

I attended the organizational meeting of the new 8th Congressional District Democrats held at the Auburn Machinists Local Union Hall Tuesday evening.

Turnout was good considering the agenda was mostly grooming the by-laws and electing officers. I rode to the event with my Lake Hills neighbor Dave Thomas.

We arrived a bit early and met our soon-to-be chair Brian Kesterson (47th LD Chair and PCO) and a few early birds including Karen Willard (31st LD/Pierce County SCW)

The meeting was called to order at 7 PM by temporary chair Bryan Kesterson.

After some discussion, an initial set of bylaws for the organization was adopted and the 14 people present joined the organization.

The following officers were elected by acclamation:
  • Bryan Kesterson (47th LD Chair and PCO) as Chair,
  • Karen Willard (31st LD / Pierce County SCW) as Vice-Chair,
  • Roger Crew (41st LD PCO) as Secretary,
  • Becky Lewis (48th LD SCW and PCO) as Treasurer,
  • Mike Barer (5th LD SCM) as State Committeeman, and
  • Di Irons (5th LD SCW) as State Committeewoman.
The 8th CD Democratic body, now officially organized, will undoubtedly help in our efforts to elect a new leader to Congress to represent the people of the 8th District.

Politico smears Reid

I wanted to get to the phony baloney smear that Politico put out on Harry Reid, claiming that Reid was mean to the generals, but BarbinMD explains it well:
Of course the reason this comment was never reported is quite simple: the bloggers on the call don't remember this quote. I, along with mcjoan and Kagro X, participated in that conference call and none of us heard Reid say it. And of the four other bloggers who were there, Joe and John from AMERICAblog and Jonathon Singer, have no recollection of it. What's more, Politico's John Bresnahan attributes the quote to "several sources familiar with the interview." None of us was contacted by Politico, so who exactly comprises the "several" people they talked to? They're not saying.
As BarbinMD goes on to note, that hasn't stopped this "story" from spreading all the way to the White House. It gets so old. But that's the Republican Noise Machine for you. Efficient, yet unconcerned about the truth and relentlessly unapologetic about its actions.

UPDATE 6:45 PM PDT -- TPM Muckraker has posted a partial transcript of what Reid said.
REID: Look what this Justice Department has done. And now, with the Surgeon General, we have a man here who has written articles that I think are a little questionable as to in our modern society. He's a medical doctor. And don't worry, he's gonna be looked at very closely.

BLOGGER QUESTION: What's the next step on Gonzales?

REID: Well, I guess the President, he's gotten rid of Pace because he could not get confirmed here in the Senate. Pace is also a yes-man for the President. I told him to his face, I laid it out last time he came in to see me. I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was. But he got rid of his Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, but he still hangs on to this failed Attorney General. And I guess he's gonna [inaudible]. We're gonna keep focusing on it. Every day that goes by, it seems he keeps giving. Now we've learned that the immigration judges are all graduates of Regent University I guess.

REID AIDE: Guys, I think we have time to take one more question...
Um--they weren't even talking about Iraq, it was a passing example. The Politico report was utterly misleading. Context does, in fact, matter.

Still, it's an excellent case study in how the right wing noise machine functions, and how organizations like Politico twist things.

Then the White House and the GOP go on the attack, and the truth is buried under an avalanche of ginned-up right wing outrage.

This is the sort of thing to remember the next time someone in the traditional Beltway media starts lamenting how horrible it is that bloggers exist and how you can't trust them because they're partisan. Yeah, mistakes happen, but Politico seems to be making far too many mistakes and sourcing things thinly, and it always seems to work against Democrats. Mighty curious, it is.

Shorter Hovde

Shorter conserva-tarian columnist Dina Elizabeth Hovde, writing about the shocking fact that Clark County has a workplace diversity program:
I don't have to worry about diversity at my workplace because The Columbian stopped reporting those numbers a few years ago.
But when The Columbian was still reporting to the Knight Foundation, they did manage to crack the 2% mark a few times. That was a little below the reported 13% non-white population of Clark County, but who's counting? I guess Asian-Pacific Islander is pretty white, or white enough Hovde can kind of skip over it. They're inscrutable, but at least they're not, um, black or something.

I say we blame the victims. That way conserva-tarian ideology can continue to exist in its own special universe, right there on the editorial page of The Columbian, unmolested for the most part by anyone who would argue against her or present progressive ideas. Dina has some axes to grind and grind them she shall.

Time for a blogger ethics conference!

"Dobbs" raid in Portland continues to reverberate

One of the strongest political weapons we have is language. In that vein, I'm proposing that the kind of raid conducted yesterday by immigration officials at a Portland fruit processing plant be dubbed "Dobbs" raids, after CNN employee Lou Dobbs. He's done more to foster xenophobia and racism in this country in the last year than probably any single individual, and that's saying a lot. Dobbs' program spread outright falsehoods earlier this year, making false claims about the rate of leprosy among immigrants.

It takes a real man to promote policies that traumatize thousands of women and children.

The Oregonian reports that working conditions at the fresh fruit plant are not good. Yes, people come here to enjoy standing in ice water with sharp implements all around. Freeloaders, right Dobbs?

Blogtown PDX says a Willamette Week article about the Fresh Del Monte plant was cited in the ICE complaint. You can find that WW article here.

An Oregonian workplace blog entry asks whether the raid was designed, as some are charging, to keep workers in line. ICE denies it, but if you were one of the workers, would you complain again?

Letters to the editor are a mixed bag. Clearly a lot of people take their thinking orders from Lou Dobbs, which is kind of pathetic. On the other hand, there are obviously many citizens who are disgusted and concerned about the actual human beings whose lives are being impacted.

There's a point at which policy debates have to yield to common sense. The irony is that the people rounded up at the fruit plant were working. You know, doing an honest day's work for low pay in miserable conditions. I guess that's only admirable to conservatives if you're the right color.

The falsification of identities is troubling, but it's also the product of the asinine immigration situation. It also appears that an employment agency was heavily involved, so the illegal actions were not limited to workers.

The policy needs to recognize basic facts. Workers want jobs and employers want workers. Employers should not be allowed to exploit immigrants, and in return we could fashion a policy that allows people to work legally with a possible path to citizenship. If people come here and work hard, obey the law and become members of the community, I don't see what the big problem is. We've had waves of immigration before, and it made us a stronger country.

As long as economic situations are dire in various countries, people will seek survival. We could at least try to come up with policies that would encourage better conditions in Mexico and other countries, but then that might involve something other than talking points, and (egads!) it could even entail upping our foreign aid expenditures from the one-half of one percent range. It wouldn't necessarily be easy, but long term it might be more productive.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Eliot Spitzer urges Washingtonians to stand behind Governor Gregoire in 2008

Governor Christine Gregoire's reelection campaign kicked off today with a midday luncheon at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, featuring the executives of the Evergreen and Empire States.

Gregoire spoke first, outlining the combined accomplishments of the Democratic legislature and her office in the most recent sessions. She spoke about education, transportation, and healthcare. She spoke of cleaning up Puget Sound, fighting global warming, ensuring fiscal responsibility, and helping bring warring sides to the table for malpractice reform.

Gregoire received strong applause when she affirmed her support for equality, emphatically stating "We are a state that says we will not discriminate."

She spoke of the future... and strongly warned against the mistake of abandoning the next generation, leaving our descendants to fend for themselves.

"Working together we can leave a legacy to our children that is second to none," Gregoire declared, adding that she believes in "laying out that hope and opportunity" that will inspire Washingtonians to have faith in government.

She offered a kind and eloquent introduction for Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was warmly and enthusiastically received by the audience.

Spitzer went to great lengths to praise grassroots activism, saying, "Those of us in government who have put time and energy into environmental enforcement...every one of us here understand that we stand on the shoulders of the grassroots environmentalists who have led the way" ...following that up again minutes later with "those of us in government merely follow."

He sparked laughter when he described once flipping through the pages of CFO Weekly, and seeing a headline that read "Eliot Spitzer is on line one", with the subsequent subheading: "Words you never want to hear".

He moved on to Democratic values, attesting that "we believe in the mission of government" and condemning the right wing's effort to starve government of revenue, with a forceful challenge that was loudly lauded: "I say to those who have [denigrated government]: Your day has come and gone."

He noted that both he and Gregoire served previously as attorneys general, and assessed the current sorry state of affairs in the corporate sector, stating: "It becomes so predictable and easy to live by a set of standards so low that nobody thought simple, ethical rules would be enforced."

Here's a final sampling of remarks from Spitzer's speech:
"We say to people on Wall Street 'Don't defraud investors by lying'".

"You here in Washington are ahead of the curve."

"We as a nation need to invest."

"Nobody wants to live in a state where it's impossible to get healthcare for our children."

"We're here to say: We're back. We're going to enforce the law."

"This is the leadership that we need. There has been an overwhelming abdication at the federal level."

"I can promise you that with Chris Gregoire in the vanguard, states will push ahead... [but] not this White House. They ignore facts, they ignore science, they ignore the law."

"Can we get an Attorney General who understands how to enforce the law?"
Spitzer ended by urging the luncheon's attendees to do everything they could to reelect the Governor and keep Washington on track. He received standing ovations as he entered and left the stage, and he appeared to be relaxed, jovial, and comfortable as he talked.

Gregoire was equally vibrant and cheerful - and she had good reason to be. The huge ballroom was packed and it was hard to spot a table that had empty seats. It wasn't an on the edge of your seat rally, but it was an enjoyable event...and an indicator that Gregoire will be a much stronger candidate than she was in 2004.

Feds protect us from cut pineapple

Portland and Vancouver residents are now safe from the threat of fresh cut fruit:
An estimated 160 federal agents swept into Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and the firm that supplied its workers, American Staffing Resources, arresting three managers and locking up most of the arrested workers in a federal detention facility, where they face possible deportation.
The Oregonian has extensive coverage. Suffice it to say this story has a bit of everything -- an outraged mayor, desperate families, corporate wrong-doing and activists with strong opinions.

It's worth noting that part of the story involves the faking or theft of Social Security numbers by an employment staffing firm that supplied Fresh Del Monte, the fruit company, with workers. If those allegations turn out to be true, nobody should condone that.

The Oregonian reports on how this is also a tale of the politically well connected:
Fresh Del Monte is a $3.2 billion-a-year, politically connected operation controlled by a wealthy Arab family. Incorporated in the Cayman Islands with executive offices in Coral Gables, Fla., it claims to be the world's largest provider of fresh pineapple and the third-largest source of fresh bananas. Fresh Del Monte's global empire includes plantations in Kenya, Costa Rica and the Philippines.

Dennis Christou, Fresh Del Monte spokesman, declined to comment on Tuesday's raid beyond saying that the company had yet to hear from federal investigators.

Reached at his office, American Staffing President Ray McDaniel seemed stunned by the developments. "Oh, my God, I've had better days," he said. The company is cooperating with investigators and conducting its own internal review, McDaniel said.

The company, which paid its Portland plant workers the minimum wage of $7.80 an hour, awarded $6.2 million to its team of top executives in 2006.

Until 2002, President Bush's brother Marvin sat on the company's board of directors. John Dalton, former secretary of the Navy, continues to sit on the company's board.
In a system that economically rewards corporations for engaging in "nudge, nudge, wink wink" behavior when it comes to immigration status, this sort of thing is likely widespread. The challenge is to come up with a sensible system that both protects our borders and allows honest, hard-working immigrants a fair shot at improving their lives.

Working at the fruit plant doesn't sound like a picnic. The Oregonian describes workers standing in near-freezing water for minimum wage-range salaries. Now hundreds of families are being thrown into a crisis, as many workers are being transported to a federal facility in Tacoma. Those without resources could very well be deported.

There are no easy answers, but the demand by righties that immigrants "follow the law" is best answered by stating that the law needs to recognize the reality of immigration and take steps to reward law-abiding work. That's not "amnesty," it's just common sense.

Meanwhile, if you were going to pick up a cup of fresh fruit at a chain grocery in Portland today, you might find there's not as much available as usual.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

State agency calls out Clark County on growth plan

Seems not everyone in the planning universe sees the new Clark County growth plan as a good thing:
There's no need to approve a costly expansion of Clark County's urban areas, the state's economic development agency said in a wide-ranging letter sent last week to Clark County's commissioners.

Vancouver's urban area has more than enough room to pack in homes and jobs for the 80,000 or so newcomers expected by 2024, according to assumptions made by the city's planners and embraced by the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.
Naturally, the response from pro-developer quarters was less than enthusiastic:
That may be true in other places, said Bart Phillips, director of the Columbia River Economic Development Council. But not here.

"It's probably a valid determination for somebody viewing it from 95 miles away," Phillips said.

Vancouver, Phillips said, won't generate as many jobs as the county wants it to unless it pushes out the urban boundaries.

"If we're going to start doing nothing but building 40-story office towers, then yeah," he said. "But that's not the market. That's simply not going to happen."
But it's not just the state or thousands of local residents who have a problem with Clark County discarding the completed 2004 growth plan:
At a public hearing last week, Vancouver Councilman Dan Tonkovich said the city has two major objections to the county's growth plan: expanding urban growth areas; and creating a lower-density area called "Three Creeks" including Hazel Dell, Felida and Salmon Creek.

Tonkovich said the city wants "eye-to-eye contact" with county officials about both issues. But in a letter to the county, he warned that Vancouver will "explore all other options" should the county ignore the city's concerns.

Those options are likely to include appealing the county's growth plan to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. Last week, the city council met with its top planning officials in a closed-door session to discuss litigation.
Land use planning is a very detailed and often technical process. Last week hearings on the new growth plan ran well into the wee hours of the night (well, morning actually.) Citizens, including developers, have a right to be heard.

Big picture, it's hard to see how blowing out the urban growth boundaries is a smart thing to do given the transportation deficits we have. The I-5 corridor especially is a tough situation and will only get tougher.

The issue of jobs is important. It's been a traditional article of faith in Clark County that adding jobs on this side of the Columbia River not only helps citizens but helps reduce transportation needs, and this is frequently used to justify the expenditure of public funds not just by municipalities but by ports as well.

We might need to revisit that assumption somewhat. First, people can live any place they can get to and afford, which used to be an argument righties made against the Growth Management Act (GMA.) But it also works the other way. If a new employer in Clark County needs a skilled worker who happens to live in Portland, they are going to hire that person. I don't know why Phillips is so convinced that there could never be more office towers in Vancouver, even if he is exaggerating the situation. If the CREDC is supposed to help develop jobs, what gives them the right to dictate what type they are? Or is the CREDC too wedded to an old way of doing things to be objective?

This is a regional economy with strong ties to international trade. The arguments about how vital it is to blow out the urban growth boundaries strike me as being the result of, for lack of a better term, an insular and myopic political system in Clark County rather than any sound economic position. A job working to build an office building is probably just as valuable to a worker as a job building tract housing, and if the mantra is jobs, jobs, jobs, then the secondary mantra better be transportation, transportation, transportation. Blowing out the UGB's is the last thing to do in terms of transportation.

The CREDC/BIAW/Clark County position flies in the face of the reality on the ground. The future will bring more density, more detailed planning and hopefully decent transit. The Wild West days of growth in Clark County are gone, if for no other reason than the rangeland has been settled. What's left is, to continue the analogy, the scrub land, often in the form of wetland or steep terrain.

CREDC was set up to promote growth, pure and simple, and it has been wildly successful. The BIAW is set up to ruthlessly promote as little regulation as possible, no matter the validity, and to attack what is perceives as its enemies, and the BIAW, too, has been successful. They sorta goofed up by becoming nothing more than a partisan attack arm of the GOP, but business people are generally resilient and I'm sure over time they will adapt to the realities of Democratic majorities.

The CREDC helped create a growth-dependent economy, or more accurately, an economy based on building residential housing and strip malls that support the automobile culture. That may have seemed like a good idea in 1989 in the midst of a recession, but it doesn't seem so smart in the 21st Century with the Middle East roiled by conflict.

The fact that the city of Vancouver and the state of Washington seem to recognize the folly of the county's actions is significant, but it is not the whole ballgame. With two seats up on the county commission next year, there's no doubt development interests will be pouring their usual hundreds of thousands of dollars into the races. Add to the pro-development mix the Cowlitz Tribe and its casino proposal, and you've got the makings of some real election fun, if you can stand the sleaze.

While some might say public officials are somehow "on the take," a more sophisticated way to view the situation is that there is no political force that has the resources and professional staff to make the case as strongly for a more steady and practical rate of growth. It's not fundamentally a matter of corruption so much as it is a problem of political competition, or a lack thereof. The growth wars don't really follow a partisan map anyhow, which means the Democratic Party as an institution does not play much of an advocacy role for ordinary folks, as it might on national issues.

That being said, we should note that there are many dedicated volunteers who track growth issues and serve on committees and study groups, trying to talk some sense into public policy, and they deserve our thanks. But, in politics, as in many things, money talks.

Change is scary, and the development-dependent business community of Clark County is composed of humans, after all. The days of throwing up McMansions on cheap land are limited no matter how you look at it. It's doubtful that method of building could be sustained for another 20 years no matter how much land is put inside the UGB's; the transportation system just can't handle it. But one last land grab isn't going to achieve much of anything productive for the larger community.

The county has wasted enough money on this pointless, absurd attempt to discard the 2004 plan, and for what? So they can get sued?

County commissioners should cut their losses and accept that the 2004 plan, even if they feel it has some flaws, is relatively solid and will serve us well.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Light maintenance now in progress

We'll be reconfiguring settings for the blog over the next twenty four hours, and consequently, some posts may not show up until much later than that. Your patience and understanding is greatly appreciated.

Everything should be back to normal by Tuesday morning. (We don't expect the blog to be down during this time period, happily).

Blogworthy, June 10th, 2007

Here's the latest edition of our occassional review feature touching on news and developments that we couldn't get around to writing about previously, as well as items we have accidentally overlooked. (This past week, incidentally, was chock full of absurdity and Republican corruption.)

Scooter Libby was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for obstruction of justice and perjury charges in the Valerie Plame case. No matter what the 150+ people will try to convince you, though, he was not convicted of outing Valerie Plame. Dick Armitage admitted he did that, already, though another Dick (Cheney) remains the co-defendant in a civil suit brought on by former ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame.

No, they convicted Scooter for impeding the investigation. But so far, he hasn’t moved into his new digs. Anyway, the neocons, aided by a willfully ignorant traditional corporate media, continue to carp that the sentence is too stiff because he, after all, didn’t out Valerie Plame. Remains to be seen whether Scooter walks on a W pardon. Don’t be shocked.

William Jefferson, the Democratic congressman from Louisiana, was indicted on 16 counts of corruption. He’s the guy who stashed $90k in his freezer. Yes, I think he should resign. No, I don’t think political corruption is suddenly a bipartisan concern. DeLay, Foley, Abramoff, Ney, Noe, Libby, Dolittle, Enzi, McGee, Tobin, and I’m sure I left out a few dozen. And then there's Jefferson. It's entirely lopsided. (Jefferson actually had a progressive challenger last year who we supported, months before his indictment).

Ah yes, the latest Surgeon General nominee. Even in a position that should be utterly devoid of ideology, would we expect anything less than the farthest reaches of the conservative right from a President who still hasn’t quite come to grips with global climate change, occasionally bellows and beats his chest, and calls himself the Decider Guy?

No. So we will have to contemplate James Holsinger, who has in the past suggested homosexuality is something that can be “cured” and has supported exclusion of gays and lesbians from churches. His treatise on “pipe fittings” is certainly scholarly and brimming with wisdom, too.

The debates. Neither were truly remarkable, yet each had its moments of wonder. Joe Biden had moments of passionate honesty on the Democratic side (all the corporate media wanted to talk about was Clinton, though) and for the Republicans, Tom Tancredo stunned folks when he made the remark about Karl Rove telling him to stay away from the White House in the future, and if elected President, he’d return the favor. Postscripts for the debates: Mitt Romney doesn’t know what a non-sequitur is. And Wolf Blitzer doesn't seem to understand the difference between a presidential debate and a first grade classroom with his "raise your hand if you..." nonsense.

And our NASA administrator, Michael Griffin, isn’t really fazed by all this global warming business, either. Who’s to say, after all, that our climate couldn’t be improved? I mean, is this really all that bad? Oh, let’s use his own words, from an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep:
I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown.

And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.
So let’s not do anything, and by all means, keep burning fossil fuels no matter what. The NASA administrator, mind you. Save the salary, hire an ostrich.

Last: We’re going to be in Iraq for a long time. I know some of you are saying “Well, DUH,” into your monitors right now, but this is about to become policy, whereas before it was simply true but unacknowledged, inconvenient and heavily denied. And here’s a thought, a quote I’ll leave with you as you consider who to support in the ’08 elections. It’s from the article I’ve linked to above, from the military folks in Iraq right now who are carefully watching what’s going on in DC concerning this horrendous occupation:
They doubt that Bush will pull the plug on the war or that Congress will
ultimately force his hand.
If this doesn’t spur you to action, to make sure your congressperson doesn’t get complacent about this issue, nothing will.

Lieberman is a fool

As if we didn't already know Lieberman is a dangerous fool, now he's calling for a wider war:
Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Sunday the United States should consider a military strike against Iran because of Tehran's involvement in Iraq.

''I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,'' Lieberman said. ''And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.''
Curiously, Lieberman didn't suggest attacking Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, two other countries that could be defined in the exact same terms.

Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than for us to do something stupid, it helps him domestically. A quick incursion into Iran is almost the worst of every possible world -- we would violate Iran's territory, maybe kill some people, and leave. Brilliant! I'm sure that would teach Ahmadinejad a lesson!

And since we are bogged down in Iraq and possess nothing close to a ground force capable of taking substantial military action, what we're really talking about here is air strikes. They would be about as useful as the Israeli strikes last year in Lebanon, and the people who would likely suffer the most would be ordinary civilians just trying to survive. That's not in our long-term interest, to say the least.

Lieberman is one sick senator, he needs help. And he needs to lose that Homeland Security chairmanship to a Democrat.

Friday, June 08, 2007

King County posts final candidate filings

The filing period for elected office in King County officially closed a few hours ago and the elections division has posted final candidate filings to its site.

Items of note:
  • The Port Commission races have gotten very crowded. Bob Edwards has five challengers for his seat (Position #2), including Gael Tarleton and Jack Block, Jr. who declared their candidacies earlier this year. Joining them: The-Anh Nguyen, Wen Wu Lee, and Thom McCann. Alec Fisken now has three challengers: Stephen Symms, Bill Bryant, and Catherine J. Perkins.
  • Keith Scully and Bill Sherman are the Democratic candidates for county prosecutor. Dan Satterberg is the only Republican who filed.
  • Jim Nobles, a perennial Republican candidate, filed to run as Assessor against incumbent Scott Noble, a Democrat. It's somewhat of a clever move on Jim Nobles' part, because voters may be confused by the last names. However, the race is partisan, and incumbent Scott will have a D next to his name.
  • Richard Pope, another perennial candidate and ostracized Republican gadfly, has filed to run for King County a Democrat. No one else filed to challenge Republican Jane Hague.
  • Democratic councilmembers Larry Phillips and Larry Gossett (of the 4th and 2nd Districts, respectively) are unopposed in their reelection bids.
In the city of Redmond, where NPI is headquartered, three candidates have filed to run for mayor and all the city council races have only two contenders each, which means none of those races will appear on the primary election ballot.

The complete list is here, but not all the elected offices attracted candidates.
21 positions remain where no candidates filed at all. To encourage participation in the electoral process and to comply with Washington election laws, King County Elections will hold a special, three-day filing period next week beginning Wednesday, June 13 and ending at 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 15 for these positions.
In the event no candidates files at the conclusion of the three-day filing period, election officials will declare an election lapse for those positions and the incumbent will remain in the position until the next odd-year election cycle. If the position is vacant, the jurisdiction may appoint someone to serve until the next election.

Mercury newspaper creates havoc in Portland

Who knew The Mercury could cause such a hullabaloo?
A group of people opposing the annual tradition of taping the sidewalk to “reserve” spots along the Grand Floral Parade route plans to pull up duct tape all over Portland Friday night.

The effort was organized after an article apeared in this week’s Portland Mercury newspaper. The editor complained that the tape trashes the parade route and many agree.

The article in the Mercury calls on Portlanders to tear the tape up, with one exception. If parade fans are already sitting in their taped-up spots, they’ll remain untouched.

“If a few, self-centered individuals want to jump in line, we don't feel like that's fair. You can't tape off a spot at the DMV or at the bank and say I'm here, I'm first, and come back tomorrow. You know, stay up all night. Earn your spot," Mercury reporter Matt Davis said.
While the Portland tradition of saving parade spots strikes many as kind of strange, it sounds like it got kind of out of control. Then The Mercury had to jump in and turn it into some kind of crusade, which was funny, but then it wasn't. Didn't the Mercury staff ever see this cautionary WKRP episode? It's all fun and games with media promotions until someone starts dropping turkeys...

With only a few hours to go until the scheduled de-taping of Portland begins, you can check Blogtown PDX for possible updates. Hopefully no SUV driving, McMansion-owning, beer swilling cretins from places like Vancouver have taken offense at The Mercury's playful antics.

Museum's "Adam" also porn entrepreneur

Editor and Publisher relays an item from the AP concerning an actor who played "Adam" in a video at the new Creation Museum in Kentucky:
The actor, Eric Linden, owns a graphic Web site called Bedroom Acrobat, where he has been pictured, smiling alongside a drag queen, in a T-shirt brandishing the site's sexually suggestive logo. The Web site, which has a network of members, allows users to post explicit stories and photos.

He also sells clothing for SFX International, whose initials appear on clothing to spell "SEX" from afar. It promotes "free love,""pleasure" and "thrillz."
So it is Adam and Steve after all! (Sorry, that one was just too easy.)

The museum has pulled the clip, according to the article. No word on the vegetarian velociraptors yet, although my friend's cousin heard they may be involved in a multi-level marketing scheme that sells nutritional supplements. Porn is scary, but not as scary as Amway.

Fun with Google News

Obviously this isn't scientific at all, because one story just broke, but it's still astonishing how many more results one of these stories gets.

We have a story about a celebrity people love to hate versus the retirement of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

You almost miss the shark stories, huh?

Zarelli conference speaker calls for "monitoring" professors and mosques

A Columbian story about the hardliner conference organized by state senator Joseph Zarelli, R-18th LD, reveals something of a Mel Gibson-meets-David Horowitz wingnutfest:
The three-day Convergence Northwest conference in Vancouver wrapped up Thursday with passionate speeches, a graphic video of the aftermath of a Jerusalem suicide bombing, and advice from Israelis to Americans on how to fight Islamic terrorism.


Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese-American woman who founded the American Congress for Truth to educate Americans about the threat of radical Islam, suggested that citizens monitor the lectures of university professors and report the names of mosque owners to the FBI.
There's your David Horowitz influence right there. This is nothing but a transparent attempt to encourage tactics of intimidation. Zarelli organized this conference, so he bears some responsibility for this irresponsible call for harassment of professors and Muslims. I mean, come on. If someone has any inkling that someone is calling for or planning violent attacks, then they should by all means contact the authorities. How would someone "report" the existence of a Mosque to the FBI in any event? Last time I checked the Constitution protects freedom of religion. Obviously Gabriel is a few quarts short of full in the crankcase.

The Columbian article, which seems very balanced, after quoting some differing views on the conference from community members and peace activists, had this response from Zarelli:
Zarelli told The Columbian on Wednesday that the conference was open to the public, including Muslims, but that he did not consider inviting Muslims to make presentations.

"It's not my purpose or goal to understand why somebody wants to kill Americans," he said. "I'm not aware of a whole lot of folks who stand up in the Muslim community and are willing to participate."
Imagine that. Muslims may not have felt welcome!

"Hey, come on down to this conference where we are calling all people of your religion the worst sorts of names, and let's hear your side of it!" Crikey, as they say down under.

Zarelli said he doesn't believe all Muslims are terrorists but he does see the Middle East conflict as a "battle of theology."

"Politically, people don't want to talk about it, to equate a whole religion to violence," he said. "But the fact of the matter is, some who practice in an extreme nature are believers in that particular faith."

Thursday afternoon, Gil Kleiman, a veteran Israeli police investigator who has investigated 48 Palestinian suicide bombings, presented what he called "a course in terrorism 101." He showed a gruesome police video of the aftermath of the suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus in January 2004 and another of a 14-year-old would-be suicide bomber who was apprehended by police with explosives strapped to his belly.
And there's your Mel Gibson-type fascination with physical destruction and gore.

Notice how Zarelli felt compelled to temper his language, making his statement confusing, to say the least. Either the whole religion is violent and worthy of being attacked, in the view of the Likud-GOP convergence, or only "some" are truly violent.

But it's not that difficult to understand what they really mean. They're the good guys, all Muslims are the bad guys and you should "monitor" and report people who don't agree to the FBI. Gabriel's comments are especially inflammatory.

It would be most unfortunate if Zarelli or his supporters start trying to mess with professors at WSU-Vancouver or Clark College, or to start harassing peaceful worshipers of any faith. I think Zarelli would quickly find that Clark County is more diverse and willing to defend the Constitution than he realizes, and we would do so peacefully and lawfully.

In a strange way, Zarelli did progressives a favor by holding such a bizarre, extremist event. He confirmed publicly what many of us already knew to be true -- that for the fundamentalist fringe of the GOP, their theology is the only framework that can be used to view foreign policy. Unfortunately, that framework couldn't make a woman with a liquified brain get up and walk, and it holds little hope of creating progress towards peace in the Middle East. It's an extremist ideology that is rejected by most Americans, who tend to be more reality-based and practical.

It will be interesting to see if this little foray into international affairs causes Zarelli any problems in the state Senate. He's ranking member of ways and means, so it's not a truly idle question. Conservatives were quick to pounce when Sen. Eric Oemig, D-45th LD, proposed an impeachment resolution. Obviously Zarelli's conference was after the session was over, and he is free to pursue his passions using private if unrevealed dollars, but it's pretty embarrassing to have this guy as one's state senator, as I do.

Democrats face an uphill battle in the 18th LD, but it, too, is changing, as people move here and the country as a whole becomes more and more disillusioned with Republican fantasies. If there were ever going to be a year where a Democrat could challenge Zarelli, 2008 could be it.

It's an obvious question to ask whether Zarelli is contemplating another run against Democratic Congressman Brian Baird (WA-03,) to which I must answer that I have no idea. Zarelli ran against Baird in 2002 and lost, so it's hard to see what has changed in Zarelli's favor. After the 2006 election in which Baird handily trounced Republican Michael Messmore, most folks figured Messmore would try again in 2008. But that's a GOP problem.

I'll be sure to "monitor" Zarelli's actions, although I won't be calling the FBI about it.

Night at the Creation Museum

Via Daily Kos front-page Devilstower comes a hoot of an article from a tech site that went on a "field trip" to the new Creation Museum in Kentucky:
As you walk through the museum, the contorted reasoning to explain the formation of the Grand Canyon in hours or the rapid creation of thousands of breeds of dogs in a matter of weeks is augmented by what can only be described as a house of horrors about the dangers of abortion and drugs and the devil's music. A wall is covered in articles from newspapers and magazines showing what happens when society lives without the museum's brand of fundamentalist Christianity as its guiding light. Stem cell research, abortion, and homosexuality are center stage. Their representation of the modern world consists of a a seedy-looking alley, replete with rats, trash, and a church being demolished. It might have worked better if they'd set it to Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones, but I'm not sure Mick and boys would have gone for that.
I've often complained about the funhouse institutions on the right, but this place sounds like an actual hall of mirrors.

Plus I'm jealous, because by all rights the Creation Museum should be in Seattle, right next to the Discovery Institute. As Carl (blogging at HA) noted yesterday, Seattle's own funhouse institution has a new "textbook" out that is apparently a laugh a minute.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Oregon may cap payday loan rates

Oregon is poised to cap interest rates on short term consumer loans:
The Legislature eradicated triple-digit interest rates on consumer loans in Oregon with a vote Wednesday that payday and car title lenders say will seal their demise.

The Senate voted 18-11 in favor of a bill that caps interest rates on all consumer loans under $50,000 at 30 percentage points above the federal reserve discount rate, now at 6.25 percent.

The action reinstates a usury law in Oregon and completes approval of a package of bills requested by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to protect consumers from the high interest rates charged by short-term lenders. Oregon payday lenders charge an average annualized rate of 528 percent on loans, which are typically for about $300 over two weeks.
Wow, the Legislature over in Oregon is on a roll. I always wondered what happened to the concept of "usury." At least in Oregon, it got repealed during the Reagan recession.

King County candidate filings update

The Seattle Port Commission races are getting quite interesting; three candidates have filed in each race, but incumbent Bob Edwards (who needs to be ousted to ensure a progressive majority) is not among the six who have filed.

For Position #2: Thom McCann, Gael Tarleton, Wen Wu Lee
For Position #5: Alec Fisken, Stephen Symms, Bill Bryant

Jack Block, Jr. was also expected to file for Position #2 but hasn't yet.

Josh Feit writes on SLOG that Symms' entry into the race is bad news for Fisken:
Fisken's theory is that Bryant supporters asked the shipping company exec to put his hat in the ring in order to crowd the field to force a primary—which will make Fisken's race more difficult.
We disagree. A primary can actually benefit Fisken because it gives him an opportunity to increase his name ID with a core group of voters. Symms' filing means he'll have to run strong going into the primary and will then have momentum for the general election.

A strong candidate and a strong leader should not be afraid of an election. The primary is an opportunity for Fisken's campaign - not a problem.

Josh also writes that:
it’s likely antsy voters will just throw him [Fisken] out too.
Perhaps if he does nothing, that's what will happen - but why should that be the case? This statement sounds defeatist. Fisken needs to communicate with voters and explain what he stands for. If he runs a good campaign, he won't be associated with the Davis and Edwards cabal.

Most incumbents who are holding county office and up for reelection have filed (including Scott Noble, Larry Gossett, Larry Phillips, Jane Hague). Keith Scully, Futurewise's legal director, has filed to run for prosecutor as a Democrat, versus Dan Satterberg.

The Elections Division warns:
Tomorrow marks the end to this year’s candidate filing week, a period that occurred earlier than in years past as a result of the August 21 primary

"We have received over 300 filings to date, a number that is considerably lower than normal at this point in candidate filing," said Sherril Huff, Director Designee of Records, Elections and Licensing Services Division. "In fact, there are 50 positions that have yet to have a candidate file."

To appear on the fall ballot, all candidates must file a declaration of candidacy online by 4 p.m., in person or by mail no later than 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 8. Mail-in filings must include a notarized declaration of candidacy with the appropriate filing fee and must be in the hands of King County Election officials by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, June 8.
If you intend to file, tomorrow is your last chance.

Talentless Beck may get WaPo radio show

So what I don't get is this: if the traditional media game is all about the money, which means in broadcast it's all about the ratings, why on earth would The Washington Post radio division be thinking about hiring right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck?
As Beck has gained a greater audience, more and more people are turning him off.

In January 2006, CNN Headline News also wanted to increase its ratings and brought on Beck because of his “incredibly entertaining personality.” But since that time, his ratings have plummeted. Chris Achorn at My Two Sense noted that at the end of May, Beck’s numbers “were LOWER then a year ago when he was just starting.” His viewership continues to be one of the lowest on cable news...
The more people listen to Beck, the less they tend to like him, or so it appears.

So how do we explain why the guy not only still has a job but may get another one?Traditional media types will sometimes lament how little bloggers understand about their rough and tumble business, but there are too many talentless conservatives given platforms to believe these are all business decisions.

The only plausible explanation for the continued existence of the Glenn Beck show is that there are people in suits on upper floors that want him on the air, and are willing to engage in wingnut welfare to keep his show alive.

The free market rules!

Oregon may restrict political robo-calls

Oregon's Legislature is moving ahead with a bill that would perhaps mean doom for those infernal automated political calls in that state:
A bill restricting automated political "robo-calls" finally got out of the House rules committee Wednesday, a week after sponsors threatened to go around legislative leaders to bring the popular idea to the floor.

Telephone users who have signed up for the do-not-call list -- which already protects consumers from commercial solicitations -- also would be free from political automated calls under Senate Bill 863.
I'd imagine that come election season, a huge majority of citizens would sign up. It's not a "freedom of speech" issue to spam people with computerized recordings, it's harassment.

And since the GOP figured out how to play dirty pool with them by making calls in the wee hours of the morning and leaving the impression that Democrats were behind the calls, the best thing to do is get rid of them altogether.

I hope Oregon passes this into law, so I can pester Washington lawmakers next session to do the same thing. There's just no justification for the blasted things. Obviously, legitimate uses of automated calling by schools, workplaces and public safety agencies can still be allowed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hartmann, Baird to be featured at Clark JJ Dinner

Looks like the Clark County Democrats have some great speakers for their June 16 JJ Dinner:
The Clark County Democratic Central Committee is pleased to announce that Air America Radio Personality Thom Hartmann and Congressman Brian Baird will speak at this year's Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Saturday, June 16.

Hartmann will make comments and introduce keynote speaker Congressman Baird.
Click through for more information and reservations.

Live free or, not

You have to admit New Hampshire police are fair. They arrested one reporter at the Democratic debate and one at the Republican debate.

If the standard is that campaign staff can have reporters who act like jerks arrested, well, you know, make your own joke.

Freaking out the wrong thing to do

What our great Orange Master says:
Remember, the whole point of terrorism is to sow terror. Every time a conservative or the Bush Adminsitration freaks out at a potential act of terrorism, the terrorist win. They don't actually have to set off the bomb, they just need to scare people. So every freak out is a victory for the enemy. Fox News? One of the terrorists' biggest allies. The Bush Administration? The terrorists couldn't have done it without them. And those "manly men" conservatives that are perpetually wetting themselves in fear?

Well, when even the most hapless, incompetent, laughably unworkable plots get them riled up in a tizzy, you don't even need competent terrorists to be effective.
If only our culture had a cautionary tale about what happens to little boys (and US attorneys in Brooklyn) who cry "wolf," maybe they would stop it with the Hyperbole Alerts.

Conservatives simply don't understand the real threat, which is international and domestic terrorism carried out by ideological and religious extremists. The people killed by Tim McVeigh are just as dead as the people killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

But terrorists need a basic level of functional ability, as any good law enforcement officer would immediately understand.

Wetting the bed at crazy talk by losers who can't tie their own shoes may be good politics, or so the Bedwetter Faction thinks, but in the end it dulls the public to the real threat. The media may fall for it every time, but normal people aren't even listening to the baloney any more.

Only progressives understand the real threats, both because we say so (to answer conservative logic with similar logic) and because there is more than one type of threat. But the threats have one thing in common: they are the result of extremism. There are Muslim extremists, Christian extremists, Jewish extremists, right-wing extremists and left-wing extremists. None of them represent democracy as embodied by American ideals.

"Terror" is a tactic, not an ideology. German locomotive engineers in France in 1944 were probably justly terrified that partisans would attack them, but in the interest of destroying the Nazi state it was justifiable for the French to disrupt the German war machine. But there's really no doubt that French freedom fighters were right and the Nazis were wrong.

The U.S. is not a fascist state, nor is Israel. The people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the airliners did not deserve their fate. Ordinary people in Israeli pizzerias and Palestinian refugee camps and the West Bank (and Baghdad for that matter) don't necessarily deserve their fate either.

The real enemy is anti-democratic extremism, be it racist, religious, fascistic or some combination thereof. Either one's movement embraces the ideals embodied in the U.S. Constitution and other democratic traditions, or it doesn't. There can be localized modifications to democracy around the world based on local cultures, but broadly speaking the right to life, liberty and happiness is endowed to all people by their Creator, as some dead white guys once put it.

Not so shockingly, there are movements within the United States that don't always live up to these ideals. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious bigotry and misogyny still rear their ugly heads from time to time. So while Islamic extremism is indeed a grave threat, now and then it would be refreshing if we acknowledge that our own society is less than perfect, and that the way forward should not involve creating more classes of people to hate based on who they are rather than the actions they take.

The idea that Islam is a single, monolithic entity is patently ridiculous on the face of it, but sometimes Republicans veer dangerously close to endorsing that claim. If Joe Zarelli, for example, is going to have a conference about Israel, he takes some responsibility for who he invites and what that person stands for.

And before the government goes crying "wolf," it should take measure of what it is telling the public. It's happened too many times now, and that's a threat to everyone.

Another Friedman Unit passes

As Atrios notes, another FU has gone by. This time it's six months since the Iraq Study Group released its findings.

Does anyone actually think the "reassessment" in September will lead to any substantive policy changes?

As Jon Stewart put it some time back while being interviewed by a journalist, (I paraphrase and can't remember the show,) the Bush administration keeps telling us our way of life depends on the occupation of Iraq. It's so vitally important that we have sent all of an extra 10,000 troops to Baghdad.

If it really was that important, we would have a draft in order to deal with it, and then people who don't really pay much attention might suddenly start caring a lot. There's a disconnect there, and the American people know it.

Iraq Forever!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

In Brief - June 5th, 2007 (Gore Edition)

Here is today's quick news digest - haven't done one of these in a while.
  • Seems there's been a lot of decent people in local and national politics dying lately. Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas became the latest loss earlier this week. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends. The Democratic Governor of Wyoming, Dave Freudenthal, will appoint a successor from a list of three names submitted by the State Republicans.
  • Keith Olbermann explored the nexus of politics and terror on his show Monday night in a must watch segment. Crooks and Liars has the video.
  • Fenced into a corner, the greedy and shameless Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is dropping a lawsuit against a woman it had baselessly accused of downloading music from peer to peer (P2P) networks. Because the case has been dismissed with prejudice, the defendant (Tanya Andersen) will be able to attempt to recover attorneys' fees.
  • Fox Noise can't seem to rid its broadcast of suspicious errors. The Republican Party mouthpiece yesterday showed footage of Congressman John Conyers as it talked about the indictment of Representative William Jefferson. Fox has since offered a lame on-air apology which has not satisfied Conyers, who is disgusted, but like the rest of us, not surprised. TPM has the clip.
  • Over the weekend, determined to continue its losing ways, the state Republican Party unanimously endorsed Tim Eyman's Initiative 960. NPI's Permanent Defense Journal has more.
And finally, here are links to a number of other stories and posts about Gore's appearance at Town Hall Monday night:
We may post audio from Gore's talk later this week after we do some editing and compression. (It runs about fifty minutes).

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

Talky talky

I can't stomach presidential debates for either party a year and half before the election, so I'll let Digby sum up the GOP debate tonight:
The rhetoric coming out of these guys is really quite extreme, even by GOP standards, but I guess that's just because the front runners are all a bunch of flipflopping hypocrites who have to fake some kind of red-meat qualifications for the base. They've opted for bullying machismo, which is actually quite smart. It's the tie that binds. They certainly have given up on the "law 'n order" platform with their nearly unanimous support for a Scooter pardon -- especially the ex-federal prosecutor Giuliani who couldn't stop whining and twisting his little lace hankie about how unfair it all was.

I think McCain did well tonight, with a little of his old fashioned patented "straight talk" about bush screwing up the war and defending his unpopular stance on immigration. He sounded more like his old self. He apparently isn't a racist and/or actually recognizes that the Republican party is busily pounding nails in its own electoral coffins with their rather, shall we say, intemperate views on illegal immigration, considering just how big and growing the hispanic population in this country is.
I suppose there are people who have to watch the debates, because it's their job, but otherwise I just don't get it. Surely most people would rather watch super models eat snails on islands while singing.

If we had a parliamentary system I suppose it's possible the government would have fallen by now, but we don't, and it hasn't, so at least until late fall the attraction of watching Wolf Blitzer talk is lost on me.

Republican Debate Talk Meter

Scooter: Not enough too much

Just as I was thinking how lucky Scooter got off for being the only zit Patrick Fitzgerald could actually pop in the whole ugly CIA scandal (30 months for obstruction of justice and perjury) I saw a different perspective on Time's Web site: The sentencing judge was really harsh on poor Scooter.

First of all, the reporter is conflating two issues—obstruction of justice and actually outing Valerie Plame. The latter hasn't actually been proven yet. Thanks to Scooter. This is why he's now about to serve 30 months in a prison—he prevented people who were trying to get at the truth from doing their jobs. Federal prosecutors tend to frown on that sort of thing.

What got to me was the insistence that the sentence was unusually long, given the crime he committed. And like it or not, he committed a crime. At least one.

Here's what I. Lewis Libby did: He lied to a Federal Grand Jury. Repeatedly. What he lied about was what he knew concerning the identity of a covert CIA agent. Yes, corporate reporter, she was covert, no matter how hard your friends at CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC or anybody else may still squeal that she was not.

And while Libby was lying, Plame's career was already done. She was probably lucky to escape with her life; who knows how many people didn't? The writer glibly states that Plame was undercover for “at least 18 months” with the tone that indicates it barely counts, like one of those degrees you get online in three weeks for fifty bucks. In fact, Plame herself had testified before a subcommittee in March of this year that, before she was outed, she had been undercover for about five years.

So why is poor Scooter's sentence so harsh? Because they can't really do much more, given the law. But don't panic, corporate writer, he'll probably be pardoned (enjoy your 13 hunks of silver, James Carville), so after the delays and appeals, he'll probably end up doing Paris Hilton time, if that. Such brutal treatment.

But we hope for that mistake, that nugget of evidence, that door to open, that act of courage for someone within this administration to say "Yes, Cheney did this as political retribution, with Rove's help." Maybe it tumbles down to Gonzales. Maybe the house of cards finally falls flat.

Dean, Durbin to kick off YearlyKos Convention

The Thursday night lineup was officially announced today:
Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2003, will kick off the convention as Thursday’s evening keynote speaker. Dean addressed the Netroots community at the 2006 YearlyKos Convention in Las Vegas.

"Gov. Dean has been one of the most influential forces in the new progressive movement," said Gina Cooper, YearlyKos Convention executive director. “His belief that every citizen matters, from California to Connecticut, from Alaska to Mississippi, matches our belief that the voices of regular Americans deserve to be heard. It’s an honor for Gov. Dean to return to our venue and present the opening keynote."

Dean will follow opening remarks from Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga and a warm Chicago welcome from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate’s assistant majority leader.
Friday morning will feature General Wesley Clark as keynote speaker. Clark also was present at last year's YearlyKos Convention. Organizers expect to announce more than 100 speakers, panelists, and workshop presenters between now and August. Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Barack Obama, and Gov. Bill Richardson have already confirmed their participation in a Presidential Leadership Forum set for August 4th.

"Conserva-kangaroos" rule Conservapedia

Alex Beam at The Boston Globe takes a look at Conservapedia and finds out some neat stuff:
Conservapedia is just like Wikipedia, except that its 11,000 entries read like they were personally vetted by Pat Robertson and the 700 Club. Fed up with Wikipedia's purported liberal bias, Conservapedia's founder, Andrew Schlafly, son of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, has created "an encyclopedia you can trust."

And you can trust them, to give you some pretty loopy definitions. Their entry on kangaroos, for instance, says that, "like all modern animals . . . kangaroos are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah's Ark prior to the Great Flood."

You may not recognize the word "baramin." It's a 20th-century creationist neologism that refers to the species God placed on earth during Creation Week. Special for kids: I wouldn't use that word on the biology final. Although maybe your parents could sue the local school board for failing to teach the Book of Genesis in science class.

More on Conserva-kangaroos: "After the Flood, these kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land with lower sea levels during the post-flood ice age, or before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart, or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters."
You can't make this stuff up, although Sadly, No! had to point out that they didn't make up the entry on unicorns when they posted about it in February. From Sadly, No!:
This entry is real:

"The existence of unicorns is controversial. Secular opinion is that they are mythical. However, they are referred to in the Bible nine times,[1] which provides an unimpeachable de facto argument for their once having been in existence."
Did I mention you can't make this stuff up?

Beam, the Globe columnist, had some fun proposing a definition for his newspaper:
The Boston Globe: A newspaper/Communist front organization, long known as "Pravda on the Charles." [See: New York Times; "Izvestiya on the Hudson."] Mouthpiece for Senators Ted Kennedy, Jean Kerry, and Godless Harvard. Pro-abortion; pro-gay marriage; pro-gun control. Featured writers: Jeff Jacoby, others.
Sounds about right. For Conservapedia, that is.

The conservative "brand" is about finished. It's jumped the shark so many times that The Fonz has a ski rash, and Joni has divorced Chachi -- twice. It's now 1979 and Ralph is in rehab. Mr. Cunningham went broke in a failed time share investment. It's all over, except for the dedicated 28 percenters, who sit steadfastly by their televisions every Friday night, hoping against hope for one more good episode, but everyone else is watching "Dallas."

Clark County filings include Campbell

The Columbian tracks Clark County candidate filings:
A Washington State Patrol sergeant filed Monday to run for Fire District 5 commissioner, only three days after the ­district was hammered by a $3.53 million sexual harassment judgment.

Roy Rhine, who twice ran for state representative in the 17th Legislative District, intends to challenge incumbent ­Conrad Geiger, the only one of the three fire commissioners up for re-election this year.

Rhine said last Friday's verdict had little to do with his decision. Rhine said he has longtime connections with the district, as a volunteer and volunteer coordinator.
Another filing of note is that Pat Campbell, who lost to Jim Dunn in a 17th-LD House race in 2006, has filed to challenge long-time Vancouver city council member Dan Tonkovich. Some readers may recall that Campbell ran a nearly zero-budget campaign in both the primary and the general elections, upending former city councilman Jack Burkman in the 2006 Democratic primary.

Before anyone dismisses Campbell's chances, it's worth remembering that hardly anyone gave him any chance against Burkman. Obviously a city council race is a different kettle of fish than a Legislative race, but I would imagine Campbell still has a decent amount of name recognition out in the eastern part of town.

Tonkovich, in my view, is a thoughtful, pragmatic but thoroughly establishment candidate. Which could be worse, as Vancouver does okay on some stuff and not so great on others. Trying to revitalize downtown and thinking about transit are worthy goals that hold promise, but they are also a perennial Achilles heel for council members. There's a big chunk of east Vancouver that still harbors resentments over the late 1990's annexation, and that happens to be the 17th-LD portion, Campbell's home area.

It's been roughly a decade since the annexation of east Vancouver, the area roughly from I-205 to NE 164th Ave, and there has never emerged a serious opposition movement to the established order in Vancouver. Which could mean Mayor Royce Pollard has done such a great job that everyone is satisfied, or it could mean that the only people motivated enough to challenge things are often far-right anti-tax folks, or it could mean that so many people came here from somewhere else they just don't care. It is worth noting, once again, that since most people don't actually read The Columbian, and nobody else covers city issues much at all, most people simply don't know what's going on.

There have been on-going tensions between Vancouver and Clark County over potential annexations, and those could be exacerbated by the new 20-year growth plan the county is adopting. (Public testimony is scheduled for this evening and tomorrow evening.) So it will be interesting to see what conversations a Pat Campbell candidacy might create.

Candidate filings underway in Washington

The first few days of June are filing week in Washington State this year, thanks to a new and much needed law that moved the primary from September to August for the first time this year. In King County, the major races are for Port Commission, County Council, Prosecutor, and a host of city and special district positions.

The elections division is maintaining a running list of who has filed here. At the county level, those who have already filed include:
  • Scott Noble, Assessor (incumbent/Democrat)
  • Alec Fisken, Port Commission Position #5 (incumbent/progressive)
  • Dan Satterberg, Prosecutor (open position/Republican)
  • Jane Hague, County Council (Position #6, incumbent/Republican)
Filing ends this Friday, June 8th.

Monday, June 04, 2007

My message to Al Gore

As I stood in line to get my copy of The Assault on Reason signed, I thought briefly about asking - or pleading with - Gore to run for president.

But I didn't.

Others have already done that, and will continue to do so. I wanted to send a different message. And so, when I got to the front of the line, I simply said:

"Thank you for your work to restore our democracy. It means a lot."

Gore looked up briefly, smiled as he signed my copy, nodded slightly, and replied, "Thank you, I really appreciate that."

He was in fine form tonight. When we weren't giving him a loud ovation, we were listening with rapt attention as he spoke, following his every word. The enthusiasm was tremendous. He was clearly moved by the reception, and we were not disappointed in our high expectations. Al Gore is an American hero.

Postscript to Gore's appearance

The questions that Al Gore answered from the audience - he took several following his riveting talk about The Assault on Reason - were as follows:
  • How do you engage people who don't believe in global warming? Gore replies: You have to enagage them. If they're willing to discuss facts, that's huge. Introduce them to An Inconvenient Truth.
  • How do you feel about the potential sale of the Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch? (and its impact?) Gore's reply: Not enthusiastic, doesn't like the (extremely right wing) editorial page but worries the newsroom and the quality reporting will be harmed.
  • Why wasn't more done on global warming during the Clinton Administration in the 1990s? Gore's reply: I respect the decision we took, but I wasn't in charge of setting it. It just didn't become a priority.
  • How do you change behaviors, not just minds? Gore's reply: We are close to creating a critical mass for solutions. We all have to be a part of the push for change - that means reaching out to our neighbors and family first.
It was an fantastic, fun, and well attended event. I enjoyed it immensely. Those of us that went were thrilled to have the opportunity to listen to the man who should be serving his second term as President today. (As Al win some, you lose some, and then there's that little known third category).

Two commenters have asked if there was a Draft Gore presence. Yes, there certainly was. Lots of people wore buttons and drove to the event with bumper stickers. Nobody interrupted Gore's talk to urge him to run for president.

The audience displayed controlled passion. Many of us want Gore to run, but we can communicate that to him without having to yell it.

The P-I has an article about the Draft Gore activities at the event.

LIVE from Town Hall: Gore closes speech

Al Gore is now closing his speech here at Town Hall, sharing his optimism that America will recover from today's crises to become a greater nation.

"The Internet offers a source of wonderful and great hope that we can reestablish the integrity of democracy." But it is in danger, he added, because the policy of net neutrality is under assault.

In his last comments, he thanked Seattle and praised the region, saying, "What a great city this is. What a great political community this is."

"The Rebellion lives, in the Star Wars metaphor. One of the centers is here."

Gore then took a few questions from the audience (I'll cover those in my post event wrap up) and received another lengthy standing ovation from the audience before departing for the downstairs where he will be signing copies of The Assault on Reason and An Inconvenient Truth children's edition.

LIVE from Town Hall: Gore describes the consequences of the rise of television

Al is now talking about the powerful consequences that television has had on our society and on democracy. The rise of television has brought about the rise of a meshing of journalism and entertainment, Gore said.

"Who we are, as citizens of this country, depends not just what we learn at school, or what our parents teach us. It depends on how we communicate with one another. Whether we trust one another."

"We can look as far as we can see, but we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to disenthrall ourselves and shed the delusions that people force upon us."

"We have to attend to the cracks in the foundation of our democracy. In order to solve the climate crisis, we've got to be honest."

Gore pointed out that good journalism can easily fall by the wayside if the owners of media outlets are more interested in making money than the public good.

"There are now gatekeepers to the public square. You can't get in. You have to buy 30 second advertisements."

"All of the sudden, the ideals of the public interest are now considered by the ideology of the current administration to be a myth."

LIVE from Town Hall: Gore traces the origins of democracy and the rule of reason

Gore is now talking about "information ecology", science's understanding of the human mind, and the beginning of democracy in ancient Athens.

"For the thousand year period between the fall of Rome and through the Renaissance, democracy had disappeared...The inacessibility of knowledge to the majority of people supported the structure of feudalism."

But then, Gore said, the printing press sparked a new revolution was born. "Out of this new information ecosystem a new reality was born."

"The philosophical movement known as the Enlightenment was born of this new reality."

"After ancient Athens and Rome, we were the first big break in that pattern," Gore said of America's founding being an interruption of traditional autocratic regimes.

"The print medium and the ecosystem that flowed out of it was open and accessible, and a meritocracy of ideas."

"In the 1920s, radio was the first significant challenge to the printing press. But newspapers still reigned supreme."

"In the devastating interwar period, radio served as the single most powerful of the tools Hitler used to indoctrinate that generation of vulnerable Germans. Mussolini, likewise relied on radio. Goebbels said, without radio it would have been impossible for the Nazis to do what they did."

LIVE from Town Hall: Al Gore gets huge welcome

I'm now live at Town Hall blogging Al Gore's Assault on Reason presentation. The former Vice President has just walked out on stage to a massive standing ovation which he clearly appreciated. Gore held his hand over his heart, smiling and thanking the audience once he had a chance to speak.

Gore kicked off his talk with a few jokes, and then began talking about his efforts to "tell the story of the climate crisis."

"I was convinced long ago that the evidence was overwhelming," he said of global warming. "I was raised with a belief that sooner or later truth will come riding to the rescue," he added. "That hasn't happened with the climate crisis. Why not?"

"The idea that truth is relevant...the idea that one can create one's own reality...I don't understand it philosophically, but it's just wrong."

More from Town Hall shortly...stay tuned...

Live coverage of Al Gore tonight!

Al Gore will be at Town Hall Seattle tonight to talk about The Assault on Reason, his new book about the challenges facing American democracy.

The event has unfortunately already sold out (it didn't take long once sales began) but if you didn't manage to get a ticket, you can still follow what's happening in real time, because I'll be liveblogging the event tonight here on the Official Blog.

Coverage will start at around 7:30 when the event kicks off. See you then.

Zarelli conference aimed at conservative churches

The Columbian runs a preview story about this week's conservative "Convergence Northwest" conference in Vancouver. (See here, here and here for previous NPI posts about this "GOP-Likud" convergence.)

It's not a big surprise that it's all about the conservative churches. From The Columbian:
Goals of the conference are to discuss conditions in Israel, examine the threat of terrorism and to further Israeli links with local leaders.

But a specific target will be Christian churches, Zarelli said.

"One thing we're focusing on," he said, "is education of people who don't have any clue what's going on, especially pastors of Christian congregations."

Zarelli, a conservative Christian himself, traveled with his wife, Tani, to a similar conference in Savannah, Ga., last fall and to Israel in December, where he met some of the conference speakers. In January, he was appointed to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security advisory council.
It's also not a surprise that the Bush administration would want a fundamentalist like Zarelli as an adviser to Homeland Security. An apocalyptic approach is the only means by which one can "truly understand the threat," as these folks are so fond of putting it.

So the nutshell summary is that Zarelli is putting on a conference designed to promote a faith-based foreign policy that places Israeli interests at the top of the U.S. agenda, not because of any geo-political imperative but because that's what the right-wing churches dig. Hey, I'm no enemy of Israel, and democracy should be supported, but an honest assessment requires an acknowledgment that U.S. and Israeli interests are not always identical. The Zarelli conference certainly seems geared towards promoting extremists both here and in Israel, which is just what the Middle East fracking needs right now.

And really, it grows so tiresome, this "we're the only ones who understand things" baloney, which was repeated yet again in the article, albeit not by Zarelli. No, conservatives, you generally don't understand squat, because you're so busy looking under the bed that salient points tend to escape you. I'm a simple, ordinary person, but offhand even I can understand why someone might hate living in a refugee camp for 60 years. Deal with the whole problem, conservatives, and you might find progress could at least appear on some distant horizon.

The other news in the Columbian article is that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader and ex-prime minister, will have to deliver his keynote speech by video hook up.

Chasing the Mexicans

Here's an item published in The Olympian on Saturday. It seems if one group sponsors a forum to help immigrants understand their legal rights and then the government conducts a raid, it might hold attendance down a wee bit:
SHELTON — Organizers had expected about 75 Latino residents to turn out during a daylong forum about their legal rights in the United States.

Two of the three who did attend were told by others that they were crazy for doing so. The third said she only showed up because she recognized two lawyers on hand who had represented her in the past.

Anxiety is high in the area’s Latino community after agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took 16 undocumented immigrants into federal custody during a Thursday morning raid in Shelton.
It's not actually clear that the raid was deliberately conducted that morning to mess with the forum, but according to The Olympian article, the head of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs is asking our two U.S. senators to investigate the raid.

The "debate" on immigration is broken, with sensationalists like Lou Dobbs simply stirring up anger and resentment in pursuit of ratings.

Meanwhile, the quality work of an actual journalist who covers immigration, Sonia Nazario* of the Los Angeles Times, receives comparatively scant attention. Her 2006 book Enrique's Journey illustrates the tremendous odds and hardships often faced by immigrants, and you would think Americans would muster up just a tad of compassion for women and children who face such dire situations. From the publisher's web site:
When Enrique is five years old, his mother, Lourdes, too poor to feed her children, leaves Honduras to work in the United States. The move allows her to send money back home to Enrique so he can eat better and go to school past the third grade.

Lourdes promises Enrique she will return quickly. But she struggles in America. Years pass. He begs for his mother to come back. Without her, he becomes lonely and troubled.

When she calls, Lourdes tells him to be patient. Enrique despairs of ever seeing her again. After eleven years apart, he decides he will go find her. Enrique sets off alone from Tegucigalpa, with little more than a slip of paper bearing his mother’s North Carolina telephone number. Without money, he will make the dangerous and illegal trek up the length of Mexico the only way he can–clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains.
You really have to ask yourself why this country is twisting itself into knots over immigration right now. Is it really all that much different from say, three years ago or twelve years ago?

There are, naturally, practical problems that come with an influx of newcomers, including but not limited to language barriers, social problems and (gasp!) even crime, which should be properly viewed as a result of poverty rather than ethnicity. But we've successfully dealt with immigration before in this country, even those crazy Irishmen (he said, thoughtfully stroking his red beard while sipping a delicious Guinness early one morning.)

It's really hard to see the current climate on immigration as anything but another conservative hate-fest. I suppose next year they'll move on to another group their base can hate on.

Why Republicans tend to be such insecure, frightened bedwetters about everything is beyond me. This is a great, strong, wonderful country. We can handle people who speak Spanish and even people who peacefully pray to Allah, if we would just calm down a little and deal with things in a practical matter. Who knows, we might even benefit and learn things from people who come from other countries.

People still want to come here because, despite the last six and a half years, this is still the land of opportunity. The vast majority of them want to raise their families and enjoy a secure existence, just like our forefathers. At the point where the term "border security" becomes a euphemism for "chase and harass the Mexicans because it's good politics," we have a serious problem on our hands.

Remember, War on Terror! War on Terror! War on Terror! How stupid is it to divert scarce resources to go on a Lou Dobbs immigration jihad?

Last time I checked al-Qaeda doesn't have any training camps in Sonora.

* Blogger Ethics Disclosure -- I have never met Sonia Nazario, but I am familiar with her work because I knew one of her siblings at a university in the Midwest. I'm a fan of her work.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Hurrah for smoke filled rooms with strippers

Aneurin at Democracy for Vancouver has an interesting and savvy take on the news that state Republicans have decided to allocate 51% of their national convention delegates based on the results of the primary:
The state Dems clearly missed an opportunity here in how you play the PR game. The state R’s now get to claim the mantle of direct democratic elections, no matter that the primary date of February 12th will be meaningless given that the national primary day of February 5th will determine both party’s nominees.
Of course, what is seldom reported is how national Democratic Party rules make life so difficult for Democrats in Washington. This is not a new thing, but I finally went and found the language, and it should be obvious how this affects us:

1. Participation in the delegate selection process shall be open to all voters who wish to participate as Democrats.
1. Democratic voters shall be those persons who publicly declare their Party preference and have that preference publicly recorded.
I'm certainly no rules expert, but since we don't have registration by party in this state, voters at some point would have to publicly identify themselves as Democrats, either by signing a declaration or requesting a Democratic ballot, which also tends to cheese a lot of people off.

It's interesting how folks in Washington hold their right not to be identified with any party so dear, and I've come to accept it as a somewhat unique part of our state's political legacy. Those of us who grew up in party registration states may not see it quite the same way, but the end result is that it creates a logistical difficulty in holding a presidential primary, at least on the Democratic side.

All the blather in the press about smoke-filled rooms and such is just stupid. In 2004 I set up in the school kitchen with some whiskey and cigars, but it didn't do much good, because you can't smoke on school property anyhow. I was thinking of bringing strippers but it was kind of spendy.

The silly thing in all this, as Aneurin notes, is that it won't matter, as the nominees will likely have been chosen by the time Washingtonians caucus or vote by mail or send up flares or whatever. The bigger problem is a bizarre and archaic nomination system that still gives smaller, rural and whiter states too much influence, although we'll see what happens this go round with California moving to Feb. 5.

Hyperbole alert level mauve!

Goldy is a librul-horsie-fascist terrorism doer.

Goldy's diary might have been good for a spot on the Daily Kos rec list, but as Steve Martin used to wonder, is it okay to yell "movie" in a crowded firehouse? One must be careful about confusing our conservative friends.

Clearly Guyana is an existential threat. Let's hope the chickenhawks warbloggers and the Wall Street Journal editorial board have plenty of Cheetos on hand, they're going to need them.

You load 16 tons and whatta ya get?

At The Oregonian, columnist Susan Nielsen smacks around the U.S. Supreme Court over its recent decision regarding paycheck discrimination:
Men today earn less than their fathers. Women earn less than men. Both genders get unfairly docked for being perceived as too old, too young or the wrong color.

This risk of pay discrimination isn't just a problem for Lilly Ledbetter, the ordinary Alabama woman who lost her high-profile case before the U.S. Supreme Court last week. It's a problem for every American who earns a paycheck. It will take years, plus an act of Congress and a new president, to restore the civil rights ignored by the Bush administration and stripped away by the court's new majority.

This court just gave businesses a free pass to cheat their workers.
It was a ridiculous ruling by the court. As Nielsen points out, the absurdity of requiring people to file suit within 180 days of their first unequal paycheck should be obvious. We knew Justice Samuel Alito was going to be a disaster, and sure enough, here he is authoring an opinion that is a gross insult to all working Americans.

As if Congress doesn't have enough damage to undo, this issue presents yet another task. But it will take getting a Democrat in the White House before we can truly move forward on paycheck equality. I'm also afraid the damage that will be done by the Roberts court could be rather fearsome. Rove didn't get his permanent Republican majority, but he did get enough extremists on the court to set us back about 100 years.

Paying women 80 cents on the dollar for their labor is morally repugnant, and it has some very real consequences for single moms and their kids. You'd think if modern conservatism was in any way consistent, people who go to pieces over the mention of snowflakes would at least want already born children to have the best possible shot at success in life. But I guess it's easier to worry about clumps of cells sitting in freezers rather than do something constructive about actual walking, talking, breathing beings. As the old joke goes, to a conservative life begins at conception and ends at birth.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Steve Gilliard of "News Blog" dead at 41

Blogging pioneer Steve Gilliard has passed away after an extended illness.

Meteor Blades at Daily Kos has sort of a tribute diary.

Gilliard rose to blogging prominence as a "Kos alumnus" and his News Blog became a must-read. His straightforward style and fierce intellect will be sorely missed, and it must be noted that in a medium that seems to have a deficit when it comes to African-American voices, Gilliard's take on race in America was often very valuable. Gilliard wasn't, of course, only a "black blogger," he could demolish virtually any right wing baloney as well as anyone.

Our sincere condolences to Gilliard's family, friends and many, many admirers.

POSTSCRIPT from Andrew: I just want to note how dismayed all of us are at this news. Steve was an innovator, a true American patriot who believed in fighting back against right wing politics of fear, and a hero to many. He will be greatly missed. This is a terrible loss for the netroots community.

Reichert among least influential in Congress

Darryl at HA catches this Alicia Mundy piece concerning how low Dave Reichert has dropped in relevance. From The Seattle Times:
The annual power rankings from have dropped Reichert, now a sophomore Republican, from 168th among 439 members to 419th. That puts him lower than emissaries from the District of Columbia (100), Guam (177) and Puerto Rico (377), none of whom represent a state or have actual voting rights in the House.

It's one of the miseries of suddenly waking up in the minority party.
There's an interesting bit Mundy has near the end of her article:
A longtime Democratic staffer with the delegation, who begged for anonymity, said Reichert's in a tough spot.

GOP House leaders are keeping their members on a tighter leash than they did last Congress. Republicans who cross over get press, but they face retaliation inside their own party.

And it won't gain them Democratic allies unless they have a "safe seat" in their district. Reichert barely won re-election; Democrats want his spot and have no reason to help him succeed in Congress.
Just imagine, people play politics in Washington, D.C. Stunning. Note to "longtime Democratic staffers with the delegation:" don't beg, it's unseemly.

Reichert may be in a tough spot, but that's little reason to feel sorry for him and those who editorialized in favor of his election. Reichert chose to remain a a rubber stamp representative on the occupation in Iraq and many other issues, so now he gets his reward. Tough.

The citizens of the WA-08 could be enjoying the benefits of having Darcy Burner as their representative, but hey, there's an election next year.

The question editorial writers might want to start asking themselves is how on earth Reichert is going to do much of anything for the 8th District while being a member of a minority party that simply won't allow true independence. People need Congress-critters to represent their interests, not the interests of Karl Rove and John Boehner. It's hard to envision Reichert growing into the sort of pragmatic politician that could successfully buck the top-down nature of the GOP, which has been more intent on punishing those it perceives as enemies than on doing the people's work.

As it stands now there are 418 districts (and territories!) with more influence than WA-08, which is pretty sad for the home district of that big software company up there.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Fire district, city of Vancouver lose harassment suit

Progressives in Clark County tend to lament the "good old boy" system that runs things around here. You know there is stuff that happens that never makes the paper, but of course, nothing changes until somebody does something.

Well you can't be too literal about being a good old boy, I guess, because you might just get hit in the wallet:
A jury awarded $3.5 million in damages Friday afternoon to four women who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fire District 5, its top administrator, Marty James, and the city of Vancouver.

The verdicts, announced after a day and a half of jury deliberations, came after a four-week trial punctuated by accounts of vulgar language and raunchy e-mails.

The $3.5 million total makes it one of the biggest judgments in Clark County history and the biggest award against an employer.
It's amazing these kinds of things would still happen, but then, Clark County is a throwback sort of place. At times it's charming and at times, as in this instance, it's downright bizarre. Hello! Anyone ever hear of appropriate workplace behavior?

Here's the really screwy part:
When asked if he intends to stay on as the district’s administrator, James replied: “Well, we’ll see.”
The guy just lost a $3.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit, and he's not sure if he'll resign?


This had apparently been going on for a significant length of time, so it's kind of troubling that something wasn't done. According to today's Columbian article, one of the plaintiffs claimed she told Vancouver's fire chief about the harassment, which he denies.

What a mess. The city of Vancouver is also on the hook somewhat over this, so they probably better take a look-see in their own house as well.

State Supreme Court Justice retires

Justice Bobbe Bridge is leaving the state's highest court at the end of the year:
Bridge, 62, has served on the court since 1999. She is retiring to become the founding president of the Center for Children & Youth Justice, a new non-profit group funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire has the sole authority to pick a replacement for Bridge. But that person will have to go before voters in the 2008 election.
It'll be interesting to see who Gregoire chooses as a successor.

The plot sickens

Tim Griffin resigned today.

So what, you say. Just another in a long list of neoCons in the train of Republican corruption headed over the cliff.

Well, this gets interesting.

Tim Griffin--a US Attorney--is Karl Rove's protege. A young Anakin Skywalker who hasn't quite been fitted with the black helmet yet. Smeagle before he takes up eating raw fish and tracking Hobbits.

Mr. Griffin resigned on the heels of some actual investigative journalism executed by one of the handful remaining in America. Ironically, he works for the BBC, but lives in New York. I'm talking about Greg Palast, of course.

Seems that Congressman John Conyers actually bothered to read Armed Madhouse, and following that bit of enlightenment, wanted to make sure Palast wasn't simply making stuff up concerning caging lists and how hundreds of thousands of votes weren't really stolen in the '04 elections, but prevented.

Unfortunately, he wasn't making anything up.

Equally unfortunate: You won't see anything like this today in American corporate press. This CNN story is fairly typical. The official word from Griffin is that he's pursuing “opportunities in the private sector.”

As this whole US attorney scandal unfolds, it will become clearer to even the most casual news observer—no matter how much the corporate media here in the US tries to hide it—that Karl Rove's vision of securing a “permanent Republican majority” involves more than smear tactics and lies and manipulating the Evangelical Right. It involves not only rigging elections, but stacking the court system in case they get caught doing it. And you can't stack a system without loyal Bushies.

Samson, Comey Goodling, and now Griffin. How many more dominoes have to fall before CNN and company acknowledge there's something bigger going on than questionable hiring and firing practices?

Gee, Tim, it's just that crazy conspiracy nut Greg Palast and that old Congressman Conyers that nobody listens to. What's got ya so nervous that you'd actually run away?

Bernstein book raises questions about media

Media Matters takes a look at Bernstein's coming book about Hillary Clinton, and notes Bernstein raises a lot of questions about press coverage of the Clintons. It's not easy to excerpt excerpts, so go check it out if you wish.

The question Media Matters asks is a good one: will the media cover this criticism of itself?

The truly mind-numbing thing about the topic of the traditional media is that conventional wisdom amounts to a version of the Big Lie technique. The media absolutely savaged Democrats, especially the Clintons, in the 1990's, and there are simultaneously millions upon millions of kool-aid drinking conservatives who still insist the media has a liberal bias, and portions of the media establishment seem to still be very, very scared of the conservative charge, baseless as it is.

If the media were liberal you wouldn't get non-story stories about Democratic candidate haircuts and minor real estate deals, but any time a Democrat goes to the salon or the broker they better keep an eye out, because Matt Drudge and the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal might be there to spin up some fantastic tale out of nothing.

Nothing ever seems to change on any fundamental level. Sure, there are good reporters out there, and good editors and good organizations that do top-flight work. But taken as a whole, political coverage in this country is generally puerile to a point bordering on self-parody. (Insert standard reference to The Daily Show here.)

About the best we ever seem to get is a "pox on both the parties" approach, which might be fine in peacetime I guess. Problem is we have an incompetent administration running two wars supported by propaganda networks and newspapers (I'm looking at you, Fox Noise Channel and Washington Times.) And these propaganda outlets are given an awful lot of leeway by other outlets, with a few notable exceptions such as Keith Olbermann.

The harm that comes to democracy from propaganda should be obvious. How many of our fellow citizens still truly believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks?

The reluctance by many traditional media outlets to state the obvious, that there is a large, powerful Republican-leaning noise machine that dispenses sound globs and talking points daily, may be understandable but it's also maddening. But with the possible election of a Democratic president in 2008, (assuming the haircuts go off okay,) I'm sure the press will once again question everything.

Bernstein's book will be the perfect opportunity for some real self-examination in the media.

Lou Dobbs is pathetic

Over at Orcinus, David Neiwert dismantles Lou Dobbs and his pathetic attempts to avoid responsibility for spreading lies claiming that immigrants have a tremendously high rate of leprosy:
Actually, Dobbs reasserted the false statistics as "factual" as recently as three weeks ago. And nowhere in this entire diatribe does Dobbs clear the air and explain to his audience that the leprosy statistics he cited -- 7,000 cases -- referred to a thirty-year period, not a three-year period. He claims that a separate report did so, but if it did, it was (a) buried, and (b) completely inadequate as a correction.
CNN is really shredding whatever tiny amount of credibility they had left, which is too bad, because at times some of their reporters do some pretty decent stories. But that gets overshadowed when propagandists like Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs are allowed to spread their filth. It's offensive.

As Neiwert points out, Dobbs has never been held accountable for using the white supremacist movement as a source.

What's tragi-comic about the entire immigration "debate," which is not so much a debate as a Republican talking point, is how much it has turned into an exploding cigar for the GOP. There's not a lot funny about the racist overtones of the immigration "debate," but apparently a lot of Republicans are so ticked off at Bush over immigration they stopped giving much money.

The whole thing would be hilarious, except for the plight of very real human beings who come to this country to seek economic opportunity and liberty -- you know, those cornerstones of American values that conservatives always talk about but like to reserve for a particular type of person when possible. (Read: white, straight, Protestant, for starters.)

As long as the underlying conditions are favorable to immigration, such as extreme poverty in portions of Mexico and Central and South American, people will seek to come here. We could build walls from now until eternity and it wouldn't do much to slow the tide, although some individuals might find themselves blocked. Dobbs has generated ratings for himself by exploiting racist tendencies in this country, and just because he also throws in some economic populism doesn't excuse Dobbs his falsehoods nor his deliberate role as a political actor. You can call what Dobbs does by many names, but it's not traditional journalism.

We need a leader, and with his popularity at Nixonian levels Bush doesn't have much of his vaunted political capital left. And that is, strangely enough, too bad on this issue, because if nothing else, when it comes to immigration, Bush doesn't seem nearly as whacked out as people like Dobbs.

Not Punny: Via Eschaton comes this priceless smackdown by Alison Stewart. You may recognize the evil-speakers as John "Stroll in the Park" McCain and none other than the Infamous Bill-o the Clown:
And then there‘s Senator John McCain and Bill O‘Reilly. Let‘s just say you know you‘re watching Fox News when Mr. O‘Reilly said immigrants would, quote, “break down the white Christian male power structure.”


BILL O‘REILLY, HOST: That would sink the Republican party, I believe, so we‘d have a one-party system, and change, pardon the pun, the whole complexion of America. Am I wrong?



STEWART: Personally, I don‘t really pardon the pun.
Ouch. First they laugh at you, Bill, then they laugh at you some more, then they vote for people who will actually help the country instead of try to tear it apart.