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, September 21, 2007

Poll Watch: SurveyUSA and Elway on the Roads & Transit ballot measure

There has been some interesting discussion about the recent SurveyUSA poll commissioned by KING5 Television (a subsidiary of Belo Corp.) showing little support for Roads & Transit. Many opponents have gleefully touted the poll as evidence that the package is sinking. Unfortunately for them, the poll is flawed.

The team at NPI has had a longstanding tradition of taking polls with a huge grain of salt. Polls can be deceptive and inaccurate.

A single poll is a snapshot in time and is difficult to draw conclusions from. Trends (looking at groupings of polls over time) are more useful, but still, the only meaningful poll happens on Election Day.

The results of this SurveyUSA poll are inconsistent with the many public and private polls that have surveyed Puget Sound residents about Roads & Transit.

Those polls (like this one) asked questions that were much more neutral, and all of them have found support at fifty percent or higher, with some above sixty percent.

Not all of the SurveyUSA questions in this poll were actually about the package. Only Questions 3 and 4 were. They were asked in a way that all but guarantees a negative result, and were as follows:
Would you support or oppose raising the sales tax by point-five percent to pay for proposed 50-mile extension of Sound Transit light rail?

56% oppose, 37% support, 6% not sure

Would you support? Or would you oppose? Creating a car license tab excise tax of $80 on every $10,000 of a car's value, in order to pay for improvements in state highways, bridges and local roads?

65% oppose, 30% support, 5% not sure
Notice the questions don't even talk about the specific details of the projects. The question about light rail doesn't say where the light rail will go!

(There are later questions asking about how often residents might ride the system which describe the hubs served, but that information was not incorporated into Question 3). And the question about roads and bridges doesn't identify a single project. It's just generic.

All the emphasis is on costs, without any specific explanation of what voters are getting for their money.

SurveyUSA says it interviewed "600 adults" for this robo-poll, and 513 of them "identified themselves as registered voters in Washington".

(Note that robo-polls can't actually verify the identity of the respondent, because the questions are asked of whoever answers. The respondent could be a teenager or out of state visitor - the computer can't tell who presses the buttons.)

The responding households were all from King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, but it appears not all of them live inside the boundary of the Sound Transit/RTID taxing district, which only encompasses the urban areas inside the three counties.

And that's a problem. Asking people who live outside of the boundaries of the district what they think of the package is kind of like asking Idahoans what they think of Governor Christine Gregoire. Idahoans don't get to vote for Washington's governor, so why does it matter what they think of her?

The SurveyUSA poll is flawed, plain and simple, and does not fit the trend. It's a total outlier and shouldn't be taken seriously.

The most recent Elway poll, by contrast, does correspond with the trend. Conducted September 10th-13th, it affirms what previous polling has already shown: after a barrage of attacks against the package in recent weeks, support has held up remarkably well. Overall support was holding steady at 54 percent, within the margin of error of the previous Elway poll, which had it at 57 percent.

Support is broad, and the package has more than a majority in all geographic subareas. The takeaway? Voters know our transportation system is underfunded and they want change. The Roads and Transit package will deliver that change, in a comprehensive, balanced package that offers choices and options.

The polling indicates that neither component of the package musters more than a majority by itself. People seem to like the combination, despite what the Sierra Club has claimed. They want a mix of solutions. And, in fact, many of the RTID projects are explicitly designed to benefit transit.

A no position on Roads and Transit means saying no to an expansion of light rail, HOV lanes, and bike lanes. It means no to improvements in Sounder and ST Express bus service. It's a vote against building a regional network of transit. That's the wrong choice for our future.

Transit Digest - September 21st, 2007

Today, we're debuting a new feature on the Official Blog, similiar to In Brief and Blogworthy. Transit Digest will run weekly on Fridays and cover brief transportation news items from the previous few days. Here's the first edition!

WSA Board of Directors votes to Support Roads and Transit Measure: WSA, the largest statewide association of technology companies and executives in the world, came out this week in support of Roads & Transit. In doing so they recognized that this plan represents our best chance to build transit, improve roads, and get people moving.

Traffic in eighteen cities is apparently worse than Seattle's congestion:
Seattle's rating has improved since 1999 when its congestion ranked second-worst in the nation. Transit use and ridesharing are relatively high here, and recent studies take that into account.

This year's report says Seattle commute times are not deteriorating as quickly as they are in some areas.
Transit works. It reduces congestion and it makes commutes reliable. People all over Puget Sound are clamoring for mass transit service - especially rail.

Sims refuses to adopt stance on Roads & Transit measure: The King County Executive won't take a position despite pressure to do so.
Four years ago, when Sound Transit asked the federal government to approve construction of a Seattle light-rail line, King County Executive Ron Sims was the chairman and public face of the agency.

King County Executive Ron Sims, long an advocate of light rail transit, said Tuesday he'll remain neutral on the $47 billion, three-county road-and-transit ballot measure to be decided by voters Nov. 6.

Sims said he's been "vigorously" approached by both sides in the ballot measure issue for his backing but has decided not to take a side.

"I've always taken this position," Sims said Tuesday evening. "I've told people in political circles I won't support or oppose it. It's a very significant proposal that voters are really going to have to dwell on and think about."
Seattle gets a glimpse of its transit future: The Downtown Seattle Tunnel is reopening for public use after Sound Transit retrofitted it for Link service and made numerous improvements.
The reopening is one of several projects coming soon to better move commuters throughout the region.
  • In the South Lake Union area, a red streetcar arrived by truck Monday afternoon, the first of three to begin service in December.
  • Two Sounder commuter trains will be added Monday between Seattle and Tacoma, and one will be added to Sounder's Everett-to-Seattle line.
  • Link light-rail trains begin service from downtown to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in the second half of 2009. Train tests inside the tunnel will start in October, on nights and weekends, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said.
  • And high-occupancy lanes are being added in Everett, Tacoma, and Highway 99 south of the airport and on the Interstate 90 floating bridges.
Have something to add? Please leave a comment.

A heartfelt thank you to Senators Murray, Cantwell, and Wyden

All three of our Pacific NW Democratic senators did us proud yesterday in refusing to support the Cornyn amendment to condemn MoveOn's newspaper advertisement. Senators Murray and Wyden voted no, while Senator Cantwell registered her protest by refusing to vote, joining Senators Joe Biden and Barack Obama, who also abstained.

(The other Democratic presidential candidates in the U.S. Senate, Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd, voted no).

We are proud of all of them for showing their resolve to stand up to the Republicans' tricks in the U.S. Senate. Many Democrats ran for the hills, but our Northwest Democrats stood up to the GOP's theatrics.

Olbermann slams Bush in Special Comment: "Your hypocrisy is so vast"

Our favorite TV host delivered another outstanding Special Comment last night:
Terrorizing your own people in hopes of getting them to vote for your own party has never brought as much as a public comment from you?

The Republican Hamstringing of Captain Max Cleland and lying about Lieutenant John Kerry met with your approval?

But a shot at General Petraeus, about whom you conveniently ignore it, was you who reduced him from four-star hero to a political hack, merits this pissy juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television?

Your hypocrisy is so vast that if we could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq you could realize your dream and keep us fighting there until the year 3000.
And then:
Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the General’s skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of ‘the planted last question’ at a news conference, to indicate once again that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party in terms of character assassination and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond.

That is not only un-American but it is dictatorial.

And in pimping General David Petraeus and in the violation of everything this country has been assiduously and vigilantly against for 220 years, you have tried to blur the gleaming radioactive demarcation between the military and the political, and to portray your party as the one associated with the military, and your opponents as the ones somehow antithetical to it.

You did it again today and you need to know how history will judge the line you just crossed.
In today's era of the Republican Noise Machine, with right wing pundits saturating the airwaves, it's so nice to have at least one guy who speaks truth to power. The full Special Comment is here, you can follow the same link and launch the video player to watch it, or download it from Cooks & Liars.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The stupidity of our healthcare system

Yesterday I wasted a small slice of my evening watching the local news at 6:30 PM, and I caught a story about two men (Tony Murphy and John Preston) who had heard a woman screaming for help in front of her burning home because her son was trapped inside. With no other help apparently in sight, these two rushed into the home, risking their lives, and managed to evacuate the son to safety.

They suffered only minor injuries (including smoke inhalation) but were taken to the emergency room as a precaution. Here's the part that makes me angry: that ambulance ride and hospital visit came with a $2,200 bill.

And the kicker:
Because he had just started his job at Precision Door and Cabinet, Tony's health insurance hadn't kicked in.

"He puts his life on the line and now he's having to deal with financial ramifications of that," said former co-worker Patti Olson.

"I didn't get out of the truck and go 'how much money do I have? How much is the hospital?'" said Tony. He was thinking about the man whose life he and John were about to save.
This is the stupidity of our health care system. You can run into a burning house, save someone's life, be a hero - and get stuck with the hospital bill! It's insanely ridiculous! America is the richest country on Earth, but we don't have universal healthcare. We don't have universal coverage.

This situation is a travesty and something needs to be done about it.

I'm tired of hearing these lame excuses from the right wing about healthcare, like the scare phrase socialized medicine - that's just pure nonsense. We've already got socialized firefighters and socialized libraries. If the private sector can do everything, why do we have government?

Oh, that's right...because it can't!

And one of the things the private sector cannot do is provide universal health coverage. Why? Because it's a fundamental human right - and private businesses aren't about protecting human rights, they exist to make money. Insurance companies can't make money protecting every person in America.

Since every person needs healthcare, providing that coverage ought to be the responsibility of government.

A few days ago I was watching an ABC special on Michael Moore's SiCKO, where John Stossel took it upon himself to go talk to the executive of the health insurance industry's association.

I didn't catch the whole interview because my phone rang in the middle of it, but in the first part, this executive was replying to one of Stossel's questions by deriding all the "unnecessary claims" made by patients.

That was the point where I wanted to shout back, slowly and clearly: You...don'!

If I need a procedure done, that decision should be made by me and my doctors. I shouldn't have to get permission from some corporate bureaucrat who is trying to look out for his or her company's bottom line.

Those who are fortunate enough to belong to a union are lucky, they're probably covered. And that's one of the huge benefits of belonging to a union: thanks to the power of collective bargaining, you can actually get decent healthcare insurance. But only a small percentage of America's workforce belongs to a union.

The undeniable truth is that the healthcare system in this country is broken and needs to be fixed. As Democrats across the country begin voting or caucusing to select a presidential nominee, we must ask ourselves: which of the candidates will have the strength to push for the real change that is needed, and not fold to pressure from the right wing, the D.C. establishment, or the corporate cons?

The real masters of political theater

You want political theater? They'll give you political theater:'s "General Betray Us" advertisement was condemned today by the U.S. Senate.

Voting 72-25, senators passed a resolution sponsored by conservative Republican John Cornyn of Texas.

The anti-war group's full-page ad appeared in The New York Times last week as Gen. David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill. It carried the headline "General Petraeus or General Betray Us? Cooking the books for the White House."

Presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd voted against the resolution. Sen. Barrack Obama did not vote.
Republicans love to complain about spending time discussing the disastrous consequences of the Iraq occupation, but when a group of Americans places an ad in a newspaper, watch out! The Republican Noise Machine is on full-blown howl mode, while prominent Republicans such as John McCain have declared that MoveOn should be "thrown out of the country" - proving once again that the right wing secretly despises freedom of speech.

Think about the significance of that remark. You say something "disgraceful" (as Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon characterized the MoveOn ad) and the consequence of that is that you get thrown out of the country? That's not free speech, nor is it the American way.

MoveOn has ridiculed the amendment, noting:
The U.S. Senate just told you to sit down and be quiet when they passed a Republican amendment condemning MoveOn.

Every day, our brave men and women are dying in a bloody civil war this Senate has done nothing to stop. Yesterday, they couldn't even pass a bill to give soldiers adequate leave with their families before redeploying. But they're spending time cracking down on a newspaper ad?

So, we're making clear where America stands. We're releasing a statement from MoveOn members — and anyone else who feels the same way — saying, "We will not be quiet, we will fight back. We will keep speaking out until Congress forces an exit plan for this awful war."

Maybe you liked our General Petraeus ad. Maybe you thought the language went too far. But make no mistake: this is much bigger than one ad.

It's part of a larger campaign by Fox, the right-wing echo chamber, and Republicans like John McCain (who said we should be "thrown out of the country").

They're doing it because they're hurting: Polls show last week's Bush Administration PR blitz increased the number of Americans favoring withdrawal5 and vulnerable Republicans are sinking lower and lower in the polls (or announcing their retirement).

And it has one purpose: to intimidate all of us. To send a message that anyone who speaks unpleasant truths about this war will pay. To make everyone — especially politicians — think twice before they accuse the administration of lying.

If it looks like we're on the run, people will think twice before they speak out. Will you send a message today to Dick Cheney, Fox, Bill O'Reilly, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Karl Rove — and the Democrats without the guts to vote against this — that it's not working?

We've changed our home page to just run the names of people who sign on. We'll report the totals to the media all day. And if we can find an electronic billboard in Washington, D.C., we'll run the names there, too.

And after you add your name, you can go one step further. We've put together a fair but hard-hitting ad that highlights how, yesterday, Republicans blocked a bill to give our troops adequate family leave before going back to Iraq. If we can raise enough money, we'll air this ad across the country and take the fight back to the real issues — this terrible war and its impact on our troops and the Iraqi people.

This morning, the Senate didn't pass an exit strategy for Iraq. They didn't pass a bill to cover millions of uninsured Americans or combat the climate crisis. Nope — they condemned 3.4 million Americans for speaking out against the war.

Let them know them it's not going to work.
If voting to condemn a newspaper ad is not "political theater", then somebody tell me what is.

Republicans complain about "political theater" one week, then turn around and insist on meaningless votes that waste the Senate's time. All they've proved today is that they are the real masters of the art they profess to despise.

UPDATE: ThinkProgress has more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another GOP congressional retirement

Proud wingnuts who previously boasted that the Republican Party will retake Congress in 2008 must be wincing these days:
Another Congressional Republican is headed for the door. Congressman Jerry Weller will reportedly announce tomorrow that he is not seeking re-election.

President Bush carried his district with 53% in 2004, and Weller was re-elected with 55% in 2006. With those non-landslide margins in a district that simply was not targeted, we might just see the Democrats trying for a pick-up in a possible wave election next year.

Weller is perhaps best known for a series of land deals in Nicaragua and for his marriage to Guatemalan Congresswoman Zury Ríos Montt, daughter of former right-wing dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.
On the Senate side, Republicans are defending 22 seats, while Democrats are only defending twelve. Democrats are poised to pick up seats across the country, in Oregon, Colorado, Virginia, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Maine.

I smell another fresh breeze on the horizon - a second blue wave rushing forward to clean the stained sands of government that need a new round of disinfectant (as today's unacceptable GOP filibuster of habeas corpus restoration so clearly illustrated - Washington, D.C. is not Democratic enough).

Help prevent a dirty coal plant from being built in Kalama along the Columbia River

The last thing we need is another fossil-fuel burning, smoke belching facility:
Seeking to stop a power plant that would spew millions of tons of global-warming pollution into Washington skies, several leading environmental and clean-energy groups have filed to intervene in the permitting process for Energy Northwest’s proposed 680-megawatt coal-fueled facility in Kalama, Wash.

The organizations – including the Washington Environmental Council, the Sierra Club’s Cascade chapter and NW Energy Coalition, all represented by attorneys from Earthjustice – are urging members of the public to insist that state regulators reject Energy Northwest’s permit application, beginning with comments at the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council’s public hearing this Thursday evening, September 20th, in Kalama.
Energy Northwest, incidentally, was formerly known as WPPSS - the Washington Public Power Supply System. WPPSS, also known as "whoops", is famous for defaulting on $2.25 billion worth of bonds (the largest municipal bond default in the history of the United States) after its proposal to build a network of nuclear power plants across Washington State was scrapped.

(If you ever drive Highway 12 past Satsop you can still see the giant cooling towers rising above the line of trees, dominating the landscape, remnants of one of the abandoned plants that WPPSS never finished).

As Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda says, "This is a 19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem. People in the Northwest want bold action to turn the tide on global warming, not more polluting fossil-fuel technology."

We need to step up our conservation efforts and focus on the development of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This WPPSS Energy Northwest proposal is a perfect example of what we shouldn't be doing.

This plant, if built, would produce pollution equal to the emissions of 70,000 additional cars on Washington state roads!

If you want to voice your opposition, you can show up at tomorrow's hearing, which begins at 6:30 PM tomorrow in the Kalama Community Building, 126 N 2nd Street in Kalama. The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council will also accept written comments on the plan until October 20th.

Comments may be mailed to:

Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council
Attn: Stephen Posner
P.O. Box 43172
Olympia, WA 98504-3172

To send an email instead, and/or learn more, visit the NW Energy Coalition.

GOP filibusters habeas restoration

This is what Republican values are all about:
A Republican filibuster in the Senate today shot down a bipartisan effort to restore the right of terrorism suspects to contest their detentions and treatment in federal courts, underscoring the Democratic-led Congress's difficulty with terrorism issues.

The 56-43 vote fell short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote on the amendment to the Senate's annual defense policy bill. But the measure did garner the support of six Republicans, a small victory for its supporters.
Why should you care about habeas corpus? Because it's our greatest constitutional right. Senator Patrick Leahy explains:
Last year, Congress committed an historic mistake by suspending the Great Writ of habeas corpus — not just for those confined at Guantanamo Bay but for millions of legal residents in the United States. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing in May on this bill illustrated the broad agreement among representatives from diverse political beliefs and backgrounds that the mistake committed in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 must be corrected.

The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, S.186, the bill on which this amendment is based, has 30 cosponsors. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported it on a bipartisan basis. I hope Senators will review the Committee report on this measure.


The Great Writ of habeas corpus is the legal process that guarantees an opportunity to go to court and challenge the abuse of power by the Government. The Military Commissions Act rolled back these protections by eliminating that right, permanently, for any non-citizen labeled an enemy combatant. In fact, a detainee does not have to be found to be an enemy combatant; it is enough for the Government to say someone is "awaiting" determination of that status.

The sweep of this habeas provision goes far beyond the few hundred detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, and it includes an estimated 12 million lawful permanent residents in the United States today. These are people who work and pay taxes, people who abide by our laws and should be entitled to fair treatment. Under this law, any of these people can be detained, forever, without any ability to challenge their detention in court.

This is wrong. It is unconstitutional. It is un-American.
The only Northwest senators voting to filibuster were Larry Craig and Mike Crapo of Idaho. Senators Murray, Cantwell, Wyden, and Smith voted in favor of ending debate, joining 52 of their other colleagues, mostly Democrats.

Republican senators supporting the filibuster who are retiring included John Warner of Virginia and Wayne Allard of Colorado. Susan Collins also supported the filibuster - we hope Tom Allen doesn't let the people of Maine forget that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fed slashes interest rate

Today's move was expected, but the intensity was surprising:
The Federal Reserve today lowered its benchmark interest rate by a half point, a forceful policy shift intended to limit the damage to the economy from the recent disorder in the housing and credit markets.

While an interest rate cut was widely expected, there had been profound uncertainty about whether the Fed would choose a more cautious quarter-point reduction. But the bolder action and an accompanying statement, both approved by a unanimous vote of the central bank’s policy-setting committee, made it clear that the Fed had decided the risks of a recession were too big to ignore.
Bonddad and Mark Thoma have already posted their take on today's news.

Gregoire approves wind power project

Well done, Governor:
Governor Chris Gregoire today announced that, after extensive review and careful consideration, she has approved the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project.

"It is clear that Washington is growing and with that growth our demands for energy resources also grow. It is the clear and compelling policy of the state to prefer new resources that have the least impact on our state’s natural environment," wrote Governor Gregoire in her letter to Jim Luce, chair of the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), dated September 18.

"Our legislators and our citizens have recently articulated their strong preferences for renewable resources. Those policies are not in doubt and I remain committed to them...The benefits of this project are considerable and will accrue to the citizens across our state."
Last month, we strongly urged the Governor to take this course of action, and we are delighted that she has followed through. Once again, Chris Gregoire proves what a capable and wise leader she is.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mr. Hegdahl Goes to the Other Washington

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in our nation's capitol after an uneventful flight from Seattle for a VoteVets event with veterans from across the country.

I participated in a fun evening gathering at the Arlington McCormick and Schmick's, which was highlighted by a pep talk and some advice for the 40 OEF/OIF veterans by retired general and former presidential candidate Wesley Clark.

VoteVets flew dozens of veterans into town for a two day training and lobbying effort to support the troops by advocating for an end to the Iraq occupation (and preventing a possible invasion of Iran).

The featured speaker at today's training (during the luncheon) was Paul Begala, political consultant, commentator and former advisor to President Bill Clinton. It was a very casual but entertaining lecture on messaging.

Tonight we had a happy hour meet-and-greet with several members of Congress including: Joe Sestak (PA-07), Patrick Murphy (PA-08), Tim Walz (MN-01), John Hall (NY-19), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Shelley Berkley (NV-01) and Albio Sires (NJ-13).

The food and the company were outstanding. It was wonderful meeting our representatives and getting real face time with many of the leaders that veterans rely on to make well informed decisions.

Tomorrow's schedule includes a grand finale, during which we will assemble for a press conference (a time and place has not been finalized yet) with members of both houses. We will demonstrate that Iraq veterans stand firmly with our Democratic leadership in our united wish for an end to an unjust war - and to return our military's focus to actually fighting terrorism where it exists rather than continuing to perpetuate a conflict that creates it.

I will post a follow-up on my return Wednesday.

In Brief - September 17th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Europe's second highest court today upheld a sweeping 2004 antitrust ruling against Microsoft, which fined the software company $613 million and ordered it to share confidential networking protocols with rivals as well as offering a version of Windows without a built-in copy of Windows Media Player. Several of Washington's U.S. representatives have issued statements condemning the decision, including Dave Reichert, who blasted the effects of the ruling as a "new European tax on American innovation". According to the Wall Street Journal, European regulators "hailed the court decision as a victory for consumers, who, in the words of Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, are 'suffering at the hands of Microsoft.'"
  • Democratic preisdential hopeful John Edwards has announced a bold proposal that would cut off healthcare for the President, Congress and all political appointees in mid 2009, if a universal health care plan for all Americans has not been passed by then. Good to see that Edwards means business.
  • George W. Bush today nominated former federal judge Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States. Mukasey's nomination surprised many observers who expected the administration to nominate someone with a closer connection to Bush. Democrats have largely expressed satisfaction with the pick, and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy says their focus now "will be on securing the relevant information we need so we can proceed to schedule fair and thorough hearings. Cooperation from the White House will be essential in determining that schedule."
  • Neil Modie has a comprehensive report on Dino Rossi's possible candidacy for Governor in 2008 (Rossi run for governor? All signs point to yes) in this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, including an amusing anecdote about Rob McKenna's assurance to the Tacoma News Tribune that Rossi was "definitely going for it." David Horsey has followed with a cartoon for publication in tomorrow's P-I.
  • Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad, who represents Minnesota's 3rd District, announced today that he won't seek a tenth term in office. MN-03 is now up for grabs and is considered a key pickup opportunity for Democrats. MNPublius has more.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

More nonsense from Van Dyk

In a recent column, Ted Van Dyk has some choice words for the upcoming Proposition One, also know as the Roads and Transit Ballot Measure.

The local establishment reflexively scorns Eyman. It, too, reflexively endorses proposals opposed by Eyman. Keep Washington Rolling, the front organization backing the Proposition One ballot measure, has drawn big dollars from the contractors, subcontractors and others who eat at Sound Transit's trough. But it also has gotten $200,000 from Microsoft, $75,000 from the Seattle Mariners, and $50,000 each from PEMCO Insurance Co. and the Washington Association of Realtors, among other donors.
I’m not entirely sure what Van Dyk's point is aside from the fact that people and entitites give money to support things they like and will benefit from.

What Van Dyk fails to note is that the contributions of those corporations directly involved with Sound Transit’s clearly nefarious projects are minuscule compared to the contributions by businesses, individuals, and organizations that have the foresight to see how important this plan is, even if they won’t help build it.

Van Dyk goes on:
Urban analyst Joel Kotkin, in a recent Wall Street Journal essay, related the experience of other metro areas with light rail systems that have "minuscule ridership but consume a disproportionate share of transit funds that might go to more cost-efficient systems, including bus-based rapid transit." That is precisely the outlook for the proposed regional system here. It would eat the major share of the $38 billion, over 20 years, to be allocated to the Sound Transit-RTID package, which neglects vital bus transit, bridge and highway needs. Yet corporate sponsors are heedlessly backing the scheme, which would further snarl transportation and harm the economy. They make Eyman seem sensible.
Van Dyk seems to be under the impression that the Roads & Transit package must solve every transportation problem in our region, from rebuilding SR 520 to filling the potholes in front of his house. No plan can do everything, but this regional package has been specifically designed to augment existing and future investments at the local, regional, and state level.

(Van Dyk also says nothing about the mountains of public input that went into drafting this plan: all the countless workshops, briefings, and feedback sessions held by Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District).

Bus rapid transit and other solutions are an important part of an effective system, but they can’t do it alone. Fixed rail is a critical component of the transportation systems of almost every major city in the world.

Where light rail has been built, communities generally decide to expand their systems after construction - because rail works. I'd like to see Van Dyk come up with examples of municipalities that have ripped up their light rail tracks because the system was a waste or failure.

It also seems that Van Dyk has forgotten that voters in King County recently approved Transit Now, which funds bus rapid transit and other bus improvements around King County. Roads and Transit supports this. The addition of 30 miles of HOV lanes funded by the plan is essential to a functioning bus system.

Opponents of this package (like Kemper Freeman Jr.) like to say that light rail will only carry a “miniscule” portion of "daily trips" - such as taking the kids to soccer, going to a movie, shopping at Costco, and so on.

If you adopt that misleading view, most of our important highways don't carry much of our traffic either. For example, the Alaskan Way Viaduct currently carries 110,000 daily trips out of 12.6 million - that's less then 1%.

Most of the congestion in our region occurs in key highway corridors, not the neighborhood streets that run in front of our houses. Roads & Transit is a powerful set of projects targeted largely at these corridors. You could say the package is an investment in a reliable commute.

Comparatively, fully built out, with trains running every few minutes, light rail can carry 12,000 passengers per hour. That's the equivalent of six highway lanes operating at peak efficiency, which in our hilly and curvy region, rarely happens. And without the congestion and pollution that roads bring.

David Goldstein has more on Van Dyk's perplexing admiration of Tim Eyman.

Say goodbye to TimesSelect

Well, now we can all read Frank Rich and Paul Krugman online again:
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight Tuesday night, reflecting a growing view in the industry that subscription fees cannot outweigh the potential ad revenue from increased traffic on a free site.

The move comes two years to the day after The Times began the subscription program, TimesSelect, which has charged $49.95 a year, or $7.95 a month, for online access to its columnists’ work and to the newspaper’s archives. TimesSelect has been free to print subscribers to The Times, and to some students and educators.
Glad to see they've realized their mistake.

Now, if only the Spokesman-Review would do the same...

Water Taxi to run through October

Metro announced today that the Elliot Bay Water Taxi will continue to run through October this year. Yet again, a transit based solution has experienced record breaking ridership. In each month of this year, more people road the service compared to last year.

The Water Taxi will run during peak morning and afternoon hours during October. Service will also be available late Friday night and for special events.

The King County Council recently formed a King County Ferry District to operate passenger only ferry service in our region. Potential routes include: Vashon Island to Seattle, Kirkland and Renton to Seattle, and Des Moines to Seattle. The District is also considering taking over operation of the Elliot Bay Water Taxi from Metro.

The District is in the process of adopting bylaws and a business plan. The next step is to prepare a levy proposal to be placed before the voters of King County. Water borne transit can play a significant role as we transition from single occupancy vehicles towards transit based solutions.

The cost of commuting by bicycle

David Neiwert has an interesting column in today's Post-Intelligencer defending bike commuters. What I found most interesting was his reference to a study on the relative costs of bikes vs. cars.
A 1995 study titled "Whose Roads?" by cycling advocate Todd Litman laid all this out in detail. The study estimated that automobile users pay an average of 2.3 cents per mile in user fees, including fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, while they actually impose 6.5 cents per mile in road service costs. Who pays the difference? It's picked up by general taxes and property assessments. So while bicyclists pay an equal share of those taxes, they impose costs averaging only 0.2 cents per mile in road service costs.

The amount bicyclists overpay leaps out when you look at the costs of local roads, the roads cyclists use most. Litman found that only a third of the funds for their construction and maintenance comes from vehicle user charges; local property, income and sales taxes pay the rest. Automobile user fees contribute only about 1 cent per mile toward the costs of local roads but simultaneously impose costs more than six times that amount.
It makes sense when you think about it. A car weighs upwards of 3 or 4 thousand pounds, whereas a bike, with person, only weighs 200-250 tops. Not to mention the external costs of air pollution, global climate change, and unfortunate Middle Eastern encounters, that are caused by cars.

Even if we ourselves don’t cycle, we benefit from others doing so. The recent accident near the University Bridge underscores the risks facing cyclists. One way we can better protect them is through more segregate lanes. Another is by simply being more careful when we drive. We all have an obligation to watch out for cyclists and give them a safe amount of room.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Clark County might charge school districts for traffic creation

What's not really stated in the linked article here, but obvious to long-time observers of the growth struggles in Clark County, is that Democratic county commissioner Betty Sue Morris is trying to find traffic capacity for her developer pals anywhere she can before she presumably retires next year. And she's now stating for the record that the county will take it out of the hides of the school districts if it can, and couch it in environmental terms to boot:
Morris wants the county to charge new high schools a fee, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, based on the traffic they generate. All other developments pay that traffic impact fee, but the county has always given schools a pass. In the new system, schools might get a discount by building smaller parking lots or taking other measures to cut driving.
When I lived in the Evergreen School District, and that board some years ago looked into what could be done to have some kind of "concurrency" system for schools similar to that for roads, I was told by at least one school district official that wouldn't work because the districts have an unofficial understanding with the county. Basically, the county wouldn't apply traffic concurrency standards to the schools, easing their ability to site and build new facilities that have been so desperately needed due to growth. That sort of worked for a while, but now the value of traffic capacity is becoming so high that it's going to be in the interests of the pro-developer county government to not leave anything on the table, even for something as worthwhile as schools.

So if the county ever decides to charge school districts for the trips they generate, look out. All bets are off, and the first thing people should demand of their school district officials is that children be given the same consideration as asphalt when it comes to financing needed infrastructure. Think about it. Roads have to be at least planned and financed when traffic capacity is used up, but there is no similar provision for schools. Taxpayers pick up the bill and the Republicans blame us. It's fiendishly clever, if underhanded and destructive to quality of life.

Clark County is about to enact the Great Land Grab of 2007, only three years after the supposed 20 year growth plan was enacted, but there's never going to be enough transportation money to fuel the developers' dreams. Which is why school districts in Clark County now find themselves being greedily eyed by the seemingly unstoppable forces of endless sprawl.

Note to school board members in Clark County: Betty Sue Morris is issuing you a warning, right there in The Columbian. You don't need to pay the county to encourage more environmentally friendly commuting options by students. Taxpayers agree to fund schools for education, not to subsidize developers.

It's an outrageous suggestion on the face of it, and we can at least hope some brave school board members in the county will call Morris on her threat.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Throw bills from the balcony

I know it's dangerous to read more into one event than it warrants, and you have to watch out for those dreaded media and conservative narratives, but this AP story about today's protest in Washington, D.C. certainly has a Vietnam-era feel to it:
Several thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where more than 190 protesters were arrested.

The group marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Their numbers stretched for blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue, and they held banners and signs and chanted, "What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now."


About 13 blocks away, nearly 1,000 counterprotesters gathered near the Washington Monument, frequently erupting in chants of "U-S-A" and waving American flags.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson, speaking from a stage to crowds clad in camouflage, American flag bandanas and Harley Davidson jackets, said he wanted to send three messages.

"Congress, quit playing games with our troops. Terrorists, we will find you and kill you," he said. "And to our troops, we're here for you, and we support you."
Well, Buzz, we all want good things for our troops and bad things for terrorists, so mainly you've stuck it to us with your fashion choices. I'll raise you a Charles Manson tattoo and call you on Altamont. Let me know when you enter the 1980's and start buying Izods and argyles.

My crystal ball needs a new needle because the albums keep skipping, but it seems we are in some kind of calm before the storm. I don't mean that all hell is going to break lose tomorrow, but given the fact that nothing in our Iraq policy changed after the ballyhooed Bush Report, I give it two years tops before a whole lot more people are willing to go into the streets. I could be wrong, naturally, but I do sense a change.

The caution that must be raised is that today's protests, even with relatively substantial numbers of arrests, are tame compared to the 1960's. One interesting aspect is that the vastly lowered transaction cost of organization and communication wrought by the internet has not led, so far, to the use of the medium to organize strategic, nation-wide protests designed to ratchet up pressure on the government. In short, there is not a broad-based direct action movement outside the ANSWER coalition, and whatever one thinks of ANSWER, it seems unlikely that after four-plus years ANSWER is the answer.

That's not a slam at those who currently organize protests, but a recognition that things simply have not gotten to the point where public opinion has shifted enough. Organizers can only do so much. There has to be a shift in public opinion towards that direct action. It's worth considering whether the obvious lack of progress in the small step of starting to end the occupation of Iraq will mark the beginning of such a shift.

By comparison, the civil rights movement in the 1950's and early 1960's was engaging in civil disobedience rather than simply demonstrating, with all that entails. There was a commitment to be arrested over unjust laws and a willingness to endure great physical hardship, and even death, without resorting to violence one's self. A person would have to be pretty sure that elections alone are never going to achieve one's goal before going that route. There's no doubt that Martin Luther King and the myriad other people in the civil rights movement understood they had to go that route, but even they had their doubts at times.

Doubts about electoral politics were, to my way of understanding, a tremendously sad aspect of the tragedy of the 1960's regarding the Vietnam War. As much sacrifice, blood and terror that civil rights advocates endured, they had won an historic and ultimately lasting victory. The franchise had been secured for blacks, but within a few short years the peace movement that sprang forth from nuclear freeze, civil rights and free speech roots on (mostly) white college campuses had come to believe that electoral politics was not going to end the war. Shut out from the levers of power in the Democratic Party, and with the Republican Party, as now, not an option, what was to be done?

I oversimplify, of course, as any short discussion of the time period must, but I believe that basic tension between "establishment politics" versus "direct action" was real and that we face the potential of such a tension reappearing among Democratic activists. There are notable signs of growing frustration within the netroots, much as there was among young activists who formed such initially democratic organizations as SDS.

That being said, old-fashioned street protests have become entirely predictable and are mostly underplayed or ignored by the media. Police forces are far, far more professional than a generation ago when it comes to dealing with protests, meaning that the mindless savagery of a Bull Connor or a Richard J. Daly is not on display. To be clear, there may be individual acts of inappropriate police behavior, but it sounds like today's protesters had to work pretty hard to get arrested.

I would hasten to add that the progressive blogosphere has tradionally eschewed street protests, by and large, but given that the stakes are rising I believe there will be a greater willingness in the future to consider them.

It's easier said than done, but perhaps what is needed is a form of direct action that is more creative, less directly confrontational but far more subversive of government legitimacy over the occupation of Iraq. If you've heard of "freeway blogging" perhaps you'll forgive the clumsy appellation "Daily Show Direct Action." (And I can hope, anyhow, that Jon Stewart would forgive it and recognize it for the compliment it is.)

If anyone could come up with something against the war as brilliant as this account of a counter-demonstration against white supremacists in North Carolina they would be lionized forever:
White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled “Tight Shower!” and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

At this point several of the Nazi’s and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have a heart attack. Their beady eyes bulged, and the veins in their tiny narrow foreheads beat in rage. One last time they screamed “White Power!”

The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh…” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…”, “WIFE POWER!” they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!”

It was at this point that several observers reported seeing several Klan members heads exploding in rage and they stopped trying to explain to the clowns what they wanted.
I can't easily find an account of this clown-ter protest anywhere in the traditional media, but it's so brilliant it doesn't matter whether it actually happened as described or not. If it did, it should go down in progressive annals as one of the greatest direct actions ever, and if it didn't, whoever wrote it up should get a special award and a lot of money to keep doing it. What we need is not more arrests, but more white flour, combined with continued efforts to change the Democratic Party.

Ideas are more powerful and valuable than anything else, you know. Something has to give sooner or later, and the later it occurs, the higher the cost to our national security, our troops and our country's unity.

Jane Hague faked academic credentials

Whatever credibility and respect Jane Hague may have once had is now gone:
King County Councilmember Jane Hague [who represents the 6th District], in the midst of an already troubled re-election campaign, said Friday she takes full responsibility for widely circulated reports that she has a college degree that she doesn't have.
This is pretty serious: Hague already had a DUI and rude conduct towards the police hanging over her. Now comes another humiliation.

You'd think Hague would take the opportunity to completely own up to her shortcomings. But nope...she remains defensive:
"What is the point here? Are you trying to call me a liar?" she asked at one point...Friday's telephone interview came nine days after Hague publicly apologized for speaking rudely and profanely to a sheriff's deputy and two state troopers who arrested her for alleged drunken driving June 2. She has pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.
I'm starting to see an increasingly powerful pattern here.

Embarrassing news about Jane Hague breaks, Jane Hague maintains that she's somehow innocent, and blusters that somebody else is responsible. Yeah, right. So somebody forced Hague to drink too much that night she drove drunk? Somebody else created her resume for her? Please. (And those incidents are just the tip of the iceberg, as David Goldstein recounts.)
Hague, 61, attended Western Michigan University between 1964 and 1968 but didn't graduate, the registrar's office said Thursday. The reports that she earned a degree in business or business and economics were published between 1991 and 2000.

"I'm willing to say that if there were erroneous reports, then you may call me guilty. You can call me guilty because the buck stops here," the Bellevue Republican said.

Asked why several "Who's Who" books said she had a bachelor's degree from Western Michigan, Hague said at first, "Beats me." She then speculated that her staff members may have inadvertently filled out forms with incorrect information.
Sure, we believe you, Jane. It must have been somebody else who submitted those erroneous reports. It would be below you to fake having a degree.

Oh, wait:
Jon Gelberg, senior managing director of special projects at Marquis Who's Who, said Hague submitted the information printed in that company's publications.

If you live in the 6th District and Hague is your councilmember, you might want to learn more about your other choice in the November election: Richard Pope, who won the Democratic nomination in the August 21st primary.

Rudy "Matt Foley" Guiliani jumps three sharks!

My name is Rudy Giuliani and I am a motivational speaker.

The only thing more sad than motivational speakers are the childish fools who would take seriously a person who shirked the Iraq Study Group to be a motivational speaker.

It's bad enough our debate over Iraq is so uninformed in this country.

The last thing we need is a guy who should be living in a van down by the river pretending to be president. I guess since the cowboy-actor thing has run its course, the Republican children need a new kind of "corporate daddy."

Guiliani might ditch the family, but at least he gives the discipline they so badly desire. How nice it would be for the rest of us if conservatives would seek some counseling for their strange compulsions rather than trying to foist them off on everyone.

Might as well just elect Zig Ziglar himself. Corporate propaganda designed for mid-management suckups is not a political philosophy, although it does seem to bring in rather astounding sums of money.

September 11th! September 11th! Repeat as needed.

And by the way, if the best this guy can do is accuse Democratic candidates of being silent, he might as well pack it in now. Rudy has not said anything today about Fred Phelps, so I must assume he endorses Westboro Baptist Church. What a maroon.

Sierra Club loses bid to change voters' guide

Yesterday, two King County Superior Court judges denied the Sierra Club's reuqest to augment the Roads and Transit con statement with their critique of the RTID component, and to change the membership of the con committee.

The judges, ruling in two separate suits brought by the Sierra Club, found that Sound Transit had followed the law in both instances.

The Sierra Club is the only major environmental organization to oppose the measure. The Washington Conservation Voters, the Washington Environmental Council, Futurewise, and other groups dedicated to a sustainable Earth strongly support Roads & Transit.

They believe, as we do, that by investing in fifty miles of new light rail, thirty miles of new high occupancy vehicles lanes, enhancements to Sounder commuter rail, and Park & Ride expansions we can decrease single occupancy vehicle use and improve our transportation choices.

Additionally, by removing dangerous choke points that cause congestion, we can improve the reliability of our bus system and make our roads safer.

We agree with the Sierra Club that the climate crisis must be addressed, and that includes changing our habits. But opposing this transit-heavy package simply because it contains a few road projects is senseless. This is one of the greenest transportation proposals ever sent to voters. The RTID portion of the package includes an unprecedented amount of money for environmental mitigation.

Roads and Transit is good for the environment and good for our region.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rental car tax shouldn't apply to Flexcar

The Seattle Times published an editorial this morning joining us and many others in opposing the recent Department of Revenue decision requiring Flexcar to pay the rental car tax:
Flexcars are different from rental cars in a practical sense — if not under state law. The state Department of Revenue should find a way to exempt Flexcar from the rental-car tax, as the governor has requested. Failing that, the Legislature should act because the cars help achieve important public-policy goals: reducing carbon emissions and congestion.
Exactly. A rental car is a temporary service people use when on vacation or to get around when a car breaks down. By contrast, Flexcar is pooled ownership.

In many ways joining Flexcar is like buying a timeshare, only without the three hour high pressure sales pitch. It doesn't make sense to require timeshares to pay the hotel tax, and we should not require Flexcar to pay the rental car tax.

Additionally, as the Times notes, shared vehicle programs are part of the solution to the climate crisis, they help fight congestion and they encourage conservation. When we collect revenue for our common wealth - the public treasury - we should target the polluters, not innovators and problem solvers like Flexcar.

Fox gets pool coverage for 2008 DNC?

Via Open Left comes this tidbit from Media Bistro:
TVNewser has learned Fox News will be the pool for the Democratic National Convention in Denver beginning August 25, 2008. And NBC News will be the pool for the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis the following Monday, September 1.
If true, that is beyond baffling.

Earth to Democratic Party: do you think Fox Noise will get the party affiliations correct, even at a Democratic (or as they would say, Democrat) convention? I can already see the Chyron screens now:

"Dennis Kucinich, R-Ohio."

"Hillary: still standing by her man?"

"Barak Osama: I love Islamic radicals."


It is not a stretch to say that E! would be a more legitimate choice for pool coverage than Fox Noise.

A local high school AV club would be a more legitimate choice. A trained monkey that bangs a microphone on a table would be the equivalent of Fox Noise workers, although the monkey still would hold the slight edge in accuracy.

What in the name of Sam Hill is the DNC thinking?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oklahoma's Coburn blocks Wild Sky

First those Oklahomans snap up our basketball team, now one of their paleocon senators attempts to stop the protection of wilderness within our state:
A plan to protect more than 106,000 acres of wilderness in Washington state from motorists, logging and new roads has hit an unexpected snag in the Senate.

Supporters of legislation to create the Wild Sky Wilderness Area had expected the Senate to quickly send the bill to President Bush after the House unanimously passed the measure in April.

Instead, it has run into a roadblock set up by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a fiscal conservative on a mission to stop what he considers out-of-control spending by Congress.
Hey, Tom! You want to put a stop to the Grand Old Party's tradition of borrow and spend? Make it your personal "mission" to end that pesky occupation in Iraq. You know, the one that is costing our treasury billions of dollars every week.

That's right, billions. Tell your buddy Dubya down the street from Capitol Hill to knock it off and start bringing our troops back home.

Call up Dick Cheney and have a word about those no-bid contracts for companies like Halliburton. Tell ExxonMobil and friends that they don't need a dime in subsidies with all those record profits they've got.

Just imagine, Tom, how much money you could save us all if you got busy eliminating real wastes of taxpayer dollars instead of standing in the way of legislation to protect an American wilderness.

But who are we kidding? You're no champion for fiscal responsibility; you're just a critic of using our treasure to preserve the common wealth.

Right wing columnist distorts what happened at Baird town hall

Dina (Elizabeth) Hovde of The Columbian tries to keep the right-wing messaging going regarding the Baird town hall meeting. Apparently she just caught the replay of Brian Baird on CVTV, the local government cable station:
It was painful watching U.S. Rep. Brian Baird defend himself against disgruntled supporters at an Aug. 27 town hall meeting. I caught the spectacle - which came just short of a public flogging- on television.


People were booing, laughing and eye-rolling. Baird pleaded for understanding or patience, only to be met with scowls and scoffs. With friends like that, who needs Republicans?
Over at Ridenbaugh Press a few days ago, Randy Stapilus, who was actually at the meeting, had a decidedly different take:
Baird did make his case, outlining it in some depth in the opening 15 minutes or so of the meeting, and expanding on it in response to questions; the audience sat quietly as he made his initial points, and only occasionally hooted at him later.

He was shouted at on several occasions, usually by individuals barking a short slogan, but he was not silenced; he handled the meeting with skill and grace (both tested severely) and maintained control of the proceedings. When he had something to say, he spoke; when he wanted to cut off a rambling monologue, he did (on several occasions), and the crowd accepted that.

A number of questions were asked, and Baird answered them. The session was highly emotional, and emotions were expressed along with more intellectual responses, but it did not degenerate into chaos.
One highly unfortunate aspect of the entire Baird-storm is that the right wing media and their plants in traditional media continue to just make stuff up. (Long-time readers may recall that Hovde came to The Columbian from Jeff Kemp's Families Northwest, a Washington state based Dobson affiliate.)

It's ridiculous that Hovde, who works for the daily newspaper in the largest county in WA-03, forms her opinion weeks later from a government channel replay. Meanwhile, Stapilus proves himself ten times the journalist Hovde could ever hope to be.

So who is less credible, blogs or traditional media? Basically Hovde is NRO-lite on newsprint, published in a newspaper with a declining circulation of under 50,000 in a growing county with over 400,000 people.

And people wonder why newspapers are in trouble. The opinion pages certainly aren't compelling people to subscribe.

Sound Transit continues to deliver with rollout of new Sounder service to Tacoma

From the Executive Director: We're pleased this evening to welcome a new contributor and staff member, Scott Gifford, to the Northwest Progressive Institute. This is his first post - expect many more to come!

Seven years ago, Sound Transit launched a regional commuter rail service known as Sounder, which allows thousands of Puget Sound residents to get to work without driving their cars and getting stuck in traffic. Sounder has two runs which each connect Seattle to other Puget Sound cities: a northern run which links Everett to Seattle, and a southern run which links Tacoma to Seattle.

At the time the service was launched, the right wing anti-infrastructure crowd insisted (and still does) that the Sounder runs were a waste of money, a pointless subsidy, and claimed people wouldn't ride them.

But they were wrong.

The partial closure of I-5 showed the amazing potential of rail transit for our region. Ridership jumped to almost 10,000 riders a day during the period of construction and remains at over 8,000 a day - on a system offering a limited number of trips per day, on tracks owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe that are shared with freight trains.

People in this region ride rail and want rail.

Beginning September 24th, Sounder service will expand with two new weekday round trips in the south and one in the north. New trains will serve "reverse commuters" who travel from Seattle to Tacoma in the morning and back again in the evening.

The new City of Destiny service is so named to honor Tacoma's motto. Today, at a King Street Station unveiling, Sound Transit debuted a locomotive wrapped in a vintage red and gold design incorporating an artistic depiction of Tacoma's surroundings.

New City of Destiny Sounder Service
(Photo courtesy of Sound Transit)

By 2008, Sound Transit expects to have 9 daily round trips in the South, with 2 being reverse commute trains, and 4 running in the North. If Proposition 1, the Roads and Transit ballot measure, passes in November, Sounder will be expanded with 7 new or improved stops.

The Democratic response: America cannot afford to continue this disastrous occupation

Here is the text of the official Democratic response to George W. Bush's eighth primetime address on Iraq, which claimed the escalation to be a success.

Good evening.

I'm Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island, and I was privileged to serve in the United States Army for 12 years.

I opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. It was a flawed strategy that diverted attention and resources away from hunting down Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. And since then, too often, the President's Iraq policies have worsened America's security. Hundreds of billions have been spent. Our military is strained. Over 27,000 Americans have been wounded, and over 3,700 of our best and brightest have been killed.

Tonight, a nation eager for change in Iraq heard the President speak about his plans for the future. But once again, the President failed to provide either a plan to successfully end the war or a convincing rationale to continue it. The President rightfully invoked the valor of our troops in his speech, but his plan does not amount to real change. Soldiers take a solemn oath to protect our nation, and we have a solemn responsibility to send them into battle only with clear and achievable missions.

Tonight, the President provided neither.

As a former Army officer, I know the great sacrifices our soldiers and their families make. Our military can defeat any foe on the battlefield. Yet, as General Petraeus has repeatedly stated, Iraq's fundamental problems are not military, they are political. The only way to create a lasting peace in Iraq is for Iraqi leaders to negotiate a settlement of their long-standing differences.

When the President launched the "surge" in January, he told us that its purpose was to provide Iraqi leaders with the time to make that political progress. But now, nine months into the surge, the President's own advisers tell us that Iraq's leaders have not, and are not likely to do so. Meanwhile, thousands of brave Americans remain in the crossfire of another country's civil war.

So tonight, we find ourselves at a critical moment.

Do we continue to heed the President's call that all Iraq needs is more time, more money, and the indefinite presence of 130,000 American troops -- the same number as nine months ago? Or do we follow what is in our nation's best interest and redefine our mission in Iraq?

Democrats believe it is time to change course. We think it's wrong that the President tells us there's not enough money for our veterans and children's health care because he is spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. We have put forth a plan to responsibly and rapidly begin a reduction of our troops. Our proposal can not erase the mistakes of the last four and a half years, but we can chart a better way forward.

That is why our plan focuses on counter-terrorism and training the Iraqi army. It engages in diplomacy to bring warring factions to the table and addresses regional issues that inflame the situation. It begins a responsible and rapid redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. And it returns our focus to those who seek to do us harm: Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

An endless and unlimited military presence in Iraq is not an option. Democrats and Republicans in Congress and throughout the nation can not and must not stand idly by while our interests throughout the world are undermined and our Armed Forces are stretched toward the breaking point.

We intend to exercise our Constitutional duties and profoundly change our military involvement in Iraq. We ask Americans of good will of whatever party to join with us in this historic effort to restore the strength and security of the United States. I urge the President to listen to the American people and work with Congress to start bringing our troops home and develop a new policy that is truly worthy of their sacrifices.

Thank you.

Pacific NW leaders respond to Bush on Iraq

George W. Bush's insistence on waiting another Friedman Unit or two (or maybe three...four...five...) has drawn condemnation this week from Pacific Northwest leaders. First, here's Jay Inslee, who represents Washington's 1st District.
The president is playing a shell game. He wants Americans to think he’s drawing down forces in Iraq, when in reality he’s staying on the same, failed course. Reducing troop levels by 30,000 is not part of some master plan; it’s a necessity because our armed forces are stretched thin and cannot sustain surge levels.

This so-called strategy puts us right back at square one – with 130,000 men and women on the ground in Iraq with no end in sight. We need more than a reduction to pre-surge troop levels; we need to start an orderly redeployment of U.S. forces. The American people, and especially U.S. troops, deserve a lot more than a shell game.

We can’t allow President Bush to just keep kicking the can down the road. His Six-Month Syndrome – asking for another six months every six months – is costing too many American lives.
Larry LaRocco, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Idaho:
As an Army veteran and a Congressman who voted against the Gulf War in 1991, I have opposed the Iraq War from the outset. After more than four years, many tho us ands dead and injured and billions of dollars of debt, it’s long past time for Congress to re-assert its authority over the cost of the war.

According to the Center for American Progress report in June 2007, the first Gulf War cost $92.8 billion. The current cost of the Iraq War is estimated to be $566 billion compared to $600 billion for World War II and $652 billion for the Vietnam War. These figures do not include the costs of veteran’s benefits, health and disability costs that most experts estimate will exceed a trillion dollars

At a minimum, Congress ought to enact legislation now to change the military mission in Iraq as called for by the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. Beyond that, I support a significant and immediate draw down of forces in Iraq. The U.S. cannot afford to sustain the current level of troop deployment for years without end.

Ultimately, the Iraqi people must decide to end the violence. Vietnam taught us that internal wars cannot be suppressed by outside forces. And we must be mindful that the Iraq War could spread beyond its borders to Iran and elsewhere.

Congress must act now and not wait for the next President to bring the Iraq War under control.
Darcy Burner, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House, WA-08:
I have one question for President Bush, General Petraeus, Congressman Reichert, and our other leaders in Washington, D.C.: when will it end?

Publicly, yet again, they are asking for six more months. Six months ago they asked for six more months. Six months before that they wanted six more months. We are now learning that Bush administration plans to not even end the surge until August of next year, and will keep some 130,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely. Privately, the Bush administration is telling allies like Congressman Reichert that with their support they expect to keep the war going for another decade.

That is outrageous and unacceptable. The deaths in Iraq of nine more of our brave men and women in uniform was announced today. We have already squandered $450 billion for this misguided war. So I ask again: when will it end?

I suspect that is really a trick question, because the American people are realizing that President Bush and Congressman Reichert have no intention to bringing this war to a responsible close. If we let them, President Bush, Congressman Reichert and those who think like they do will keep this war going forever.

Unfortunately, taking full advantage of a credulous inside-the-Beltway media establishment, they have succeeded for now – yet again – in turning the D.C. debate into how long the surge should continue.

That is not what ordinary Americans want. For them, it is not about the surge, it is about the war. This is the only real question: do we want to end the war, or do want to continue it for another five or ten years?

I stand for bringing the war to a responsible close. Congressman Reichert stands for dragging it on and on and on and on even as it tears apart our military, breeds new terrorists and destroys our reputation around the world.

Yes, ending this war may take some time to complete, because extricating ourselves from Iraq is going to be a complicated operation. We have to do this right, in a way that preserves American interests as much as possible, keeps our troops as safe as possible and gives the Iraqis the best possible chance to create a stable government in our absence. But no more excuses, no more delays -- we need to start now.

So I join the American people in asking a simple question. And we are going to keep asking it, until we get a straight answer from President Bush and Congressman Reichert.

When will it end?
Jeff Merkely, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Oregon:
Despite all evidence to the contrary, President Bush and his top advisers continue to insist the escalation of the Iraq war is a prescription for success. It is mind boggling just how disconnected from reality this administration really is.

And despite his efforts to remake his record, Gordon Smith voted for this escalation and is just as responsible as George Bush for the ongoing debacle in Iraq.

Unfortunately, there are no good options in Iraq.

Lasting peace will only be achieved when the Iraqi government makes the political decisions needed to bring the Iraqi civil war to an end; and when the Bush Administration engages in diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors in the region, including Syria and Iran.

Congress has never granted the president the authority to use our troops to police a civil war in Iraq. And they shouldn't. It is time to bring our troops home, and we should start today. If the president won't exercise his duty as commander-in-chief to bring an end to this war, Congress should do it for him.
Our thanks to these and other fine Democrats for standing up to the administration and its allies. This occupation has been a failure, a quagmire, and a mistake. It is time to bring it to an end. If this Congress (which is not nearly Democratic enough) will not do that, it is time to send new leadership to our nation's capitol that has the courage to act.

Want to see the real State Constitution?

You know, the one Tim Eyman wants to amend? Here's your chance:
Secretary of State Sam Reed will have on display the Washington State Constitution in the lobby of the Office of the Secretary of State on Monday, September 17th.

In honor of Constitution Day, the original State Constitution will be available for public viewing from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm.
If you plan to visit the Capitol next Monday or anytime in the near future, you can find directions, a primer on parking, and additional info at the GA website.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jon Stewart will host the 2008 Oscars

Surprising news, but hey, I'm not complaining:
Jon Stewart is getting a do-over as Oscar host. America's favorite faux newscaster, who drew mixed reviews for his first stint in 2006, has been picked for a return engagement in February, the film academy announced Wednesday.

"I'm thrilled to be asked to host the Academy Awards for the second time because, as they say, the third time's a charm," Stewart said Wednesday in a statement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

"He did a great job two years ago," Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates told The Associated Press Wednesday.

"You need a host who is not afraid of the unexpected, who can stand out and really work a room and deal with a live show. Jon, of course, does that on his show every night."
He didn't get mixed reviews from me - I thought he did a terrific job, and I know he'll give another great performance next year. I can't wait until the 2008 Academy Awards - it's going to be a fun night.

BIAW's Walking for Washington is back in business - to help Dino Rossi

During the last three months, NPI has received a growing number of reports from citizens and activists sharing details of their experience with hired hands gathering data on behalf of Walking for Washington, the extensive field program of the right wing Building Industry Association of Washington.

(I have previously written about Walking for Washington, see these posts from the archive for additional background):
What we know from these reports is that the BIAW is in information gathering mode, attempting to collect data that could help Republican Dino Rossi in a potential rematch against Governor Christine Gregoire in 2008.

The BIAW is employing young people to knock on doors and take surveys of Washington voters, the results of which presumably will be used in the creation of paid media (as independent expenditures) against the Governor.

And perhaps, given the tight cohesion between the BIAW and Rossi, clearly on display in 2004, the information will be quietly passed along to Dino's own team for use in crafting campaign themes and a message.

Here is how one citizen described their experience to us:
I was given a fifteen question survey about issues like transportation, education, healthcare, etc. The final question was "if the election were held tomorrow, who would you vote for? Gregoire or Rossi?" The questioner got upset when I pointed out Dino had not declared his candidacy.
Rossi has indeed said little about his plans to run in 2008. The state GOP and its allies are betting he will and are making preparations based on that assumption. Dino, however, has said he will not make his final decision until this December - which means after the November 2007 elections. (Perhaps he's waiting to see what happens with the ballot measures and the many local races).

Not much about the survey was neutral in structure or tone. As one activist recounted, the questions were "pitting Gregoire against Rossi", which obviously suggests the BIAW is trying to mine potential angles of attack.

According to our reports, the BIAW's questioners have claimed that Walking for Washington as a "nonpartisan research group" when citizens have asked who is responsible for the survey. But that's really not true. Walking for Washington is a field program, not a research group, and the entity to which it belongs acts like an arm of the GOP, though it may be technically "nonpartisan" on paper.

At least some and maybe all respondents were also asked to identify themselves as "moderate", conservative, or liberal. (Because there is no "moderate" ideology and extremely few, if any, true "moderates", a self-identification question such as this yields misleading data).

Some citizens have told us they were motivated to contact us after becoming suspicious when they saw the BIAW's hired hands looking at car license plates and making apparent entries into their handhelds. Why the BIAW would want or need data from car license plates raises a flood of questions.

Walking for Washington's PDC reports list dozens of payments to individuals for "voter ID" work, which is simply the term used for this type of information gathering project. Anyone who has walked their precinct or participated in a campaign field effort is likely familiar with voter identification. It is typically used to narrow the range of persuadable or unknown voters for future get out the vote efforts. The data is helpful in making critical campaign decisions.

Walking for Washington's 2007 expenditures also show a number of payments to Sewell Consultancy of South Carolina - $4,000 per month in February, March, June, July, and August, tagged simply as "monthly consulting" with no further elaboration.

Walking for Washington also contributed $1,000 to the Clark County Republicans on February 5th, 2007 - an expenditure which stands out because it is the only transfer of money from the committee to the Republican Party itself this year.

The only contributors to Walking to Washington this year are the Building Industry Association of Washington and one of its committees (It's Time For A Change), which was created and used last year in an unsuccessful attempt to pack the Supreme Court with right wing ideologues.

Some of the contributions are listed as in kind, for a total of $35,617.82. Three regular contributions of $30,000 are listed as well, each made by the BIAW. The total number of contributions for 2007 is $125,617.82.

It's Time for A Change was a shell committee which accepted large chunks of money funneled from ChangePAC and expended those funds on electioneering.

ChangePAC was the BIAW's actual fundraising vehicle; it served as a depository for large amounts of money from wealthy conservatives who wanted a right wing takeover of the courts. Its major donors are as follows:
This list, which includes every ChangePAC donor contributing at least $1,000 at once or more, is a Who's Who of the right wing establishment and donor community in Washington.

Certain names stand out: the BIAW at the top, with its hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, John Stanton of Western Wireless, Michael Dumire, who bankrolls Tim Eyman, Charles Simonyi of Microsoft, Bellevue Square Managers, controlled by Bellevue developer and anti-light rail fanatic Kemper Freeman Jr., and Susan Hutchison. Part or all of Bruce McCaw's contribution, interestingly, was refunded on September 25th of last year.

Notice also how many construction and homebuilding companies there are, not just individuals. Some wealthy conservatives donated themselves and then donated additional funds through their businesses.

Much of the ChangePAC money was sent to It's Time for a Change (the BIAW's shell PAC), and some of that was sent to Walking for Washington (the BIAW's field program). The BIAW controls all of the committees - they are registered to the same address, their finances are managed through the South Sound Bank, and Elliot Swaney is the treasurer for each.

(Swaney is also the BIAW's Political Affairs Director.)

While Walking for Washington has only been funded with money from the BIAW or ChangePAC (via It's Time For A Change) so far this year, past financial support - since the program's inception in 2004 - has come directly from other organizations and businesses which are not prominent contributors to ChangePAC:
We intend to continue keeping an eye on the activities of the BIAW and Walking for Washington. If you receive a phone call or a visit at the door from Walking for Washington, let us know about your experience in detail.

As mentioned above, the BIAW has been sending young people (high school or college age) out to collect data, dressed in Walking for Washington T-shirts and carrying Palm Pilots or a similar kind of digital handheld for recording information. That's what to be on the lookout for.

Adrift in late 2007

Leaving aside reports, testimony, politicians and generals, if there are "no good options in Iraq,", shouldn't we choose an option that allows us to end our involvement (hopefully sooner rather than later?)

After all the Sturm und Drang, and after conceding that we aren't going to waltz out tomorrow, does anyone actually understand our long-term policy in the Middle East? The whole "empire" thing tends to not work out so well. That's not a talking point, it's an incontrovertible historical fact born out too many times to list.

Since little is being said about Israeli-Palestinian relations, the radicals in Saudi Arabia or (further away) Pakistan, and U.S. energy policy is essentially to consume as much as we can afford, we don't really seem to have a broad idea of what to do. Note to the neocons: supporting Likud is not a comprehensive foreign policy.

So it's more improvisation.

But go buy something, preferably on credit. That will help.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Port reconsiders bad dumping plan

Yesterday I condemned a Port of Seattle plan to dump a ton of toxic waste (contaminated with PCBs) right into Elliott Bay after the Seattle P-I reported on the proposal. Well, earlier today, the Port Commission decided to reconsider:
PCB-contaminated mud dredged from a Superfund site may be headed to a landfill rather than being dumped into the open waters of Elliott Bay as planned.

Port of Seattle commissioners unanimously directed their staff Tuesday to work with King County on a proposal to send the material from a dredging project in the Harbor Island Superfund site to a landfill.

The project had cleared the environmental hurdles set for it by federal and state agencies, but environmentalists -- with support from the state's newly formed Puget Sound Partnership, King County Executive Ron Sims and various scientists within the state's Department of Ecology and Department of Fish and Wildlife -- said the current momentum toward a cleaner Puget Sound calls for higher standards.
This is heartening news. As David Dicks, the Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership, said in applauding the move:
The Port Commission's decision demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship and is the type of 'above and beyond' action that will help us achieve our goal of a healthy Puget Sound by 2020...The success of the Puget Sound Partnership will depend on the willingness and ability of governmental and private entities to take actions that will benefit Puget Sound. The Port Commission has provided us with a model of how to do this.
Perhaps Alec Fisken says it best: "If we are going to err, we want to err on the side of a cleaner Puget Sound." I say this decision was a no-brainer, but I'm still cheered by the Port's action.

Smells like no primary

Looks like it may be harder to "primary" Brian Baird than some people think. From The Olympian:
Critics of U.S. Rep. Brian Baird will have to look a little further if they think they can get someone like Krist Novoselic, former Nirvana bassist and active Democrat, to run for Congress in 2008.

“Let me put it this way: ‘No way. Brian Baird has made good decisions for the 3rd district. I was proud of his vote against the war” in 2002, Novoselic said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his Grays River home in southwest Washington.

Novoselic, who wrote a book about returning to grassroots politics and considered a run for lieutenant governor a few years ago, said a Vancouver activist approached him about taking on Baird. Word of that solicitation has circulated in Olympia, where anti-war activists are looking for someone to take on Baird after the five-term congressman expressed support for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for a longer time.
The rest of the article is pretty much Novoselic further singing the praises of Baird. It's a hard lesson for those who think they can find a credible candidate to challenge him. People are certainly within their rights to try, but it's a pretty uphill climb. There may be a state legislator or two who will be asked, but those folks have generally been Baird supporters as well.

It would be a significant and rather earth-shaking event in the district if any current Democratic elected officials would agree to run against Baird.

It might seem strange to folks who don't know the district, but Baird has built up a pretty large contingent of supporters over the years.

While he can do some maddening things, I don't get the sense that most observers think he is doing those things out of plain, crass political motives.

Baird's kind of an oddball, in a good sort of way. I don't think he ever discarded his professor mode. He said his bit on Iraq, and caught hell for it.

He also stood there and took it.

We'll see what happens. However it works out, it's certainly been one of the most intense episodes I can recall in WA-03.

King County Republicans: Bill Sherman is "incapable of administering justice"

NPI has learned that the King County Republican Party recently sent out a letter signed by Chairman Michael Young requesting financial support for GOP candidates in key King County races, including Jane Hague (who is seeking reelection in the 6th District, opposed by Richard Pope) Jim Nobles (who is challenging incumbent Democrat Scott Noble for Assessor) and Dan Satterberg, running to succeed Norm Maleng as King County Prosecutor.

Evidently Young cannot stand the thought of a Democrat succeeding the late Norm Maleng, because he made a strong effort in his letter to impugn the Democratic nomineee's integrity, suggesting that the prosecutor's office under Bill Sherman would be unfair and partial. Here are key excerpts from the letter:
"As a committed Republican, Norm Maleng capably led his office for nearly 30 years. Including his distinguished time of service, Republicans have held this office for 60 years. Now is not the time to surrender this office to an extreme fringe liberal who is incapable of administering justice for all King County residents."


In my time as Chairman, I have never felt more passionate about defending a seat in county government as I do this one. It is crucial that we maintain control of the Prosecutor's office. If we do not, justice will not be served to the citizens of our county. Folks, there is a reason Republicans have been elected to pursue justice in this county for six decades running, and it is up to us to remind voters why.

Please take this urgent request to heart and consider joining forces with the King County Republican Party to make 2007 the year Republicans turn out to protect our county's future."
This is how these guys intend to honor the legacy of Norm Maleng?

Young's claim that somehow only Republicans can be trusted to uphold the law and protect the people of King County is absurd and outrageous. Bill Sherman is exceptionally well qualified to serve as the people's attorney, and his commitment to to high standards is unquestionable. Bill is all about freedom, fairness, justice, protection, and mutual responsibility. That is simply who he is.

Bill is one of the greatest and kindest people I have ever met. It angers me that anyone would suggest he is "incapable of administering justice." What grounds does Young have for making such a ridiculous statement? None whatsoever!

We call on Dan Satterberg, Sherman's GOP opponent, to denounce these comments, and assure the voters of King County that he is opposed to the view that "justice will not be served" unless he is prosecutor. Unfortunately, it seems that he is only willing to do so halfheartedly: David Postman reported this morning that Satterberg tried to brush off the attack:
So what does Satterberg think of Young's attack on Sherman? In many ways Young's letter seems to be precisely the sort of partisanship that Satterberg says has no place in the prosecutor's office. I asked him about it this morning.
"I'm happy to have help of anyone that wants to help me. But I don't agree that justice would come to a grinding halt in King County. I just think I'd do a better job."
Satterberg said he didn't see the letter until it arrived in the mail. But he has no objections. He says Young is doing what he needs to do to raise money for the county party. It's clearly a different approach than Satterberg takes in his public campaigning, where he focuses on his years of experience in the office and continuing Maleng's non-partisan ways.
"Those other labels and stuff, that's what party chairmen do. ... You have to raise money for your party in the way you think gets some sense of urgency in the troops."
Don't make excuses for the King County GOP, Dan. If you don't agree, then say that. Don't say, "I don't agree" and then dismiss the matter. The allegation against Bill Sherman was serious and unfounded.

Young's comments are akin to those of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other Republicans who have tried to scare Americans into voting for the GOP by declaring that America would or will be less safe with Democrats in charge. Their implication: if you vote for the Democrats, the terrorists win.

That's the same kind of tactic used in this letter. It says if Republicans don't keep control of the prosecutor's office, "justice will not be served" ...because the other candidate is "incapable of administering justice".

And why is that? Because Sherman is liberal? Or as Young and the KC GOP put it: "extreme fringe liberal". Typical. That's what Republicans like to say about all of us. To them, we say: there is nothing extreme about being liberal and progressive. Our values are traditional American values.

We will proudly assert that as often as we have to.

Young's statements about Sherman are despicable and wholly without merit. He should be ashamed of himself for making them.

There is no place for these rank, groundless gutter attacks in our political dialogue. Michael Young and the King County Republicans owe Bill Sherman an apology and a retraction. Dan Satterberg, meanwhile, still has the opportunity to condemn this Rovian viciousness and demonstrate whether or not he shares Bill Sherman's belief in a prosecutor's office that delivers justice for all.

Port Commission endorses Roads & Transit

More and more organizations and political leaders are getting on board:
The Seattle Port Commission today unanimously endorsed the Sound Transit/Regional Transportation Improvement District measure that will appear on the November general-election ballot in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

Proposition 1 would invest in key transportation corridors, including State Routes 520, 509 and 167, and Interstate 405. It also would fund the next increment of transit projects for Sound Transit, including extending light rail south from Sea-Tac Airport to Tacoma and north from Seattle to Lynnwood
See the full list of endorsers at the campaign's website.

A sad six year anniversary

Today is the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. In honor of those who died that day, I am republishing the poem I posted last year.

Two thousand one, nine eleven
Two thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.
A bearded man with stovepipe hat
Steps forward saying, "Let's sit, let's chat."

They settle down in seats of clouds,
A man named Martin shouts out proud,
"I have a dream!" and once he did
The Newcomer said, "Your dream still lives."

Groups of soldiers in blue and gray
Others in khaki, and green then say
"We're from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine"
The Newcomer said, "You died not in vain."

From a man on sticks one could hear
"The only thing we have to fear.
The Newcomer said, "We know the rest,
trust us sir, we've passed that test."

"Courage doesn't hide in caves
You can't bury freedom, in a grave,"
The Newcomers had heard this voice before
A distinct Yankees twang from Hyannisport shores.

A silence fell within the mist
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say
What was in the hearts of the two thousand plus that day.

"Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports
Worked our gardens, sang our songs
Went to church and clipped coupons
We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought
Unlike you, great we're not"

The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, "Don't talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see
You died for freedom, just like me"

Then, before them all appeared a scene
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams
Death, destruction, smoke and dust
And people working just 'cause they must

Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone
"Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman
Side by side helping their fellow man!"
So said Martin, as he watched the scene
"Even from nightmares, can be born a dream."

Down below three firemen raised
The colors high into ashen haze
The soldiers above had seen it before
On Iwo Jima back in '44

The man on sticks studied everything closely
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly
"I see pain, I see 20 tears,
I see sorrow - but I don't see fear."

"You left behind husbands and wives
Daughters and sons and so many lives
are suffering now because of this wrong
But look very closely. You're not really gone.

All of those people, even those who've never met you
All of their lives, they'll never forget you
Don't you see what has happened?
Don't you see what you've done?
You've brought them together as one.”

With that the man in the stovepipe hat said
"Take my hand," and from there he led
Two thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven
On this day, two thousand one, nine eleven.

- Anonymous, dedicated to the victims of September 11th

Monday, September 10, 2007

Yes on Roads & Transit rolls out ads

You may have noticed that we've added a link to the Yes on Roads & Transit campaign to our right sidebar. The campaign to approve the RTID roads proposal and Sound Transit 2 plan, which is shifting into high gear, is rolling out television ads on cable today. The ads briefly explain how the region benefits from this long term investment in transportation infrastructure.

The ads are all based on the same template, but geared towards different areas of the region. This is the successful approach that was used during the NO on I-912 campaign. What the campaign is doing is educating voters so they can make an informed decision. In other words: Here's the projects that would be built in your area - you get to decide if this is a good plan.

You can view all the different versions at YouTube.

Insurance industry astroturfer urges voters to reject Referendum 67 in letter

Last Friday, I received a letter from an "independent insurance agent" named Ray Peretti, who is actually an industry lobbyist, warning me about the allegedly terrible consequences should Referendum 67 pass. From what I can gather, many registered voters all over my area also received this letter. (You can read a scan of that letter here. )

Suffice it to say, for starters, that Peretti is not very independent. It's a campaign letter, if you read the incomplete disclosure at the bottom of the page. (Note to Ray: check with the PDC on how to do a proper disclosure.)

The campaign group "Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates" has nothing to do with consumers and is simply a front group for the insurance industry.

The key reform contained in Referendum 67 is that consumers could sue for up to triple damages when they are denied payment on a legitimate claim, which the Legislature determined would be a reasonable consumer protection.

Right now consumers are virtually defenseless against insurance company abuse, because even if a consumer goes to court and wins 100% of what is owed them, they still have to pay legal expenses.

Last month Olympian reporter Brad Shannon detailed the tremendous sums of cash the insurance industry is throwing into the state campaign against R-67, and he also quoted an attorney (gasp!) who neatly summarized the heart of the matter:
At issue with Referendum 67 is Senate Bill 5726, which Democrat-led legislators approved this year as a consumer protection measure. The bill authorizes consumers to sue for up to triple damages for denied legitimate claims in the area of fire, home, auto, long-term care and other non-medical insurance not covered by the state’s patient bill of rights law, said trial lawyer lobbyist Larry Shannon, who spoke at a forum on ballot measures last week in Lacey.

Shannon said the law is needed because consumers cannot be made whole when trying to force insurers to pay what they owe.

Although a person can sue an insurer for nonpayment, there is no incentive for insurers to pay because a consumer can only recover the amount owed under the claim — from which legal costs are deducted.
The horror stories about insurance companies in the aftermath of Katrina are numerous and should serve as a warning to those of us out here in earthquake country--the insurance companies, in many cases, will simply not pay legitimate claims and they need to be held accountable. When an industry won't even pay the claims of a Republican senator you know something is amiss.

The first thing one finds out upon Googling Ray Peretti is that he was president of the PIA, the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, and he had this to say at the beginning of his term in 2005. From the PIA web site:
“I’m from Washington, and I’m here to help you,” Peretti jokingly told his fellow agents and board members from around the country who gathered in September in Portland, Oregon to officially install him on September 11, 2005. “But don’t worry,” he hastened to add, “I’m from the other Washington. The one on the Potomac where the government spends our money that it doesn’t have — that’s the Washington PIA has to keep an eye on.”
So while Peretti's letter gives the impression he is just a concerned local agent, he is in fact an industry flack-lobbyist with a decidedly conservative bent, at least judging from what he and his insurance pals find amusing. The PIA has recently joined the campaign against R-67, according to an industry newsletter web site.

Leaving that aside, what about the claims Peretti makes? Unsurprisingly, the letter is full of half-baked conclusions and misleading right-wing corporatist gibberish.

Lawyer-baiting is so wide-spread and well, dumb, that you would think it would no longer be a viable tactic. But not to Peretti. It's hard not to imagine a ballroom full of these insurance guys and gals, laughing at how they will stick it to those darn lawyers once and for all, and if a few "Grandma Millies" pay the price, oh well. Just the cost of doing business.

While Peretti's childish attempt at humor when he chortles that R-67 should be re-named "The Lawsuit Promotion Act of 2007" may resonate with some conservatives, it's probably not so funny to people who have had their home destroyed and may not be made whole even after taking the insurance companies to court. The campaign against R-67 is clearly an attempt to make sure a basic consumer protection is gutted.

But what about California? Didn't they have a bad experience?

Peretti clearly suggests that is the case, but unfortunately, he plays extremely loose with the facts. The "Reject R-67" campaign seems to be repeatedly referencing Proposition 103, a 1980's measure that sought to roll back insurance rates. From the California Department of Insurance:
Proposition 103 (Section 1861.01 (a) of the California Insurance Code (CIC)) required that every insurer reduce its rates to at least 20% less than the rates that were in effect on November 8, 1987 unless such rollback would lead to a company's insolvency. This provision was later changed by the California Supreme Court to allow companies a fair rate of return. Since 1989, the Rate Regulation Division has been responsible for negotiating with insurance companies to meet their rollback obligations.
So while it's true that the California Supreme Court, in effect, changed Prop. 103, there's more to the story than that.

While I'd agree that insurance law is hardly a scintillating reading topic, does Peretti have to slant every single point he makes with distortions?

The Proposition 103 Resource page from The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) details the many consumer protections the measure offered, and in what could be taken as a warning to the citizens of other states, offers this little tidbit:
* THE LEGISLATURE AND PROP. 103. The Legislature is not allowed to rewrite Proposition 103 in any way that undermines its protections.

Proposition 103 was necessary because the California Legislature was too beholden to the insurance industry and refused to pass needed reforms. To protect itself against the insurance lobby once it became law, Proposition 103 specifically prohibits the Legislature from hostile amendments. That hasn't stopped the Legislature from trying, though.
So Prop. 103 was only a "disaster" because the insurance industry has never stopped trying to make it one. Big surprise.

According to a fact sheet put out by the pro-consumer Approve 67 campaign, the industry knows it is spouting baloney and has been told so by some very knowledgeable people right here in Washington state:
The same insurance industry lobbyists and executives who are paying for this campaign know that this is deceptive. They were forced to admit in front of Washington’s Legislature that this bill has nothing to do with the California experience and were directed by committee chairs in the House and Senate to abandon this argument because it is patently false. Once more, the California law actually stabilized premiums three years before the law in question was overturned.
The Peretti letter claims repeatedly that R-67 will raise insurance rates, which naturally is what the insurance industry wants people to believe.

But that's only true if one believes the industry's specious claim that there will be a flood of lawsuits, because R-67 doesn't regulate rates. From the FAQ section of the Approve 67 web site:
Will Referendum 67 increase my insurance premiums?

No. Referendum 67 does not address insurance premiums in any way. Insurance premiums in Washington have consistently risen and fallen with the market. In fact, the insurance industry continues to be one of the most profitable industries in the state and nation, as profits have skyrocketed to record highs in the last two years.
It's important to understand that insurance companies have nothing to fear, and rates can't be raised, if the industry pays legitimate claims. In other words, follow the law like the rest of us.

The triple damages would have to be imposed by a court of law, so the insurance industry's arguments are substantially without merit. In those cases where courts find that industry conduct is so egregious as to warrant damages, then our system of justice allows every member of society their fair day in court, not just corporations with pockets deep enough to fend off ordinary folks.

Don't be fooled: make sure to support R-67 by urging your friends and co-workers to vote "Yes" to keep these basic consumer protections on the books.

Washingtonians are usually smart enough not to be fooled by blatant corporate power grabs, and we have every reason to believe our citizens won't fall for insurance industry tricks this fall.

MoveOn doesn't speak for me

What Rolling Stone said:
What a ******* stupid thing to do.

“General Betray Us”?

For God’s sake, it’s not even clever. A bad pun driving a despicable message.
Sure, it's all fun and games going after an obscure Congressman from Southwest Washington who foolishly waded into the snake pit, for whatever reason. Not so much fun now, huh?

The problem is that "MoveOn" and "blogs" usually occur in close juxtaposition in the traditional media. A handy example is this front page story in The Oregonian about Brian Baird:
Liberal group has launched an advertising campaign attacking Baird in his district. He is the target of angry screeds from bloggers.
We're being lumped in with people who are acting like the mirror opposite of the neoconservatives whose agenda we despise. Houston, we have a big, big problem. MoveOn doesn't speak for me, not with this stuff. We can crash the gates without that kind of rhetoric.

Take my decoder ring, please.

Port's dumping plan needs to be trashed

The Port of Seattle is planning to dump a ton of toxic waste right into Elliott Bay, because apparently, it's convenient, cheap and's just the Earth:
Port of Seattle Chief Executive Tay Yoshitani says he wants to run the "cleanest, greenest and most energy-efficient port in the United States."

But some environmentalists are calling the meaning of his words into question because of a port project that has received permission to dump PCBs in Elliott Bay.

PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls, toxic chemicals used as fire retardants that were banned in the 1970s. They are so toxic and so long-lived that they are usually measured in parts per billion -- yet the port proposes to dump 9 pounds of them into the bay for an upcoming dredging project. The mud to be dumped would come from an area being studied for cleanup as part of the Harbor Island Superfund site.
PCBs are some of the most toxic chemicals ever invented by humans. They are extremely hazardous and highly dangerous. Why any person with a brain would think it okay to toss toxic sludge right into the waters just off the shore of a major American city where people live, work, and play is beyond me.

It is simply outrageous that the government, whether it be Ecology, the Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, or any other authority charged with protecting our state's environment, would consent to or approve of this terrible idea. I don't need statistics, evidence, or findings to sum up this whole proposal: it's stupid and reckless. Some things are just obvious.

This garbage should be disposed of in the safest manner possible. It does have to go somewhere, but that somewhere should NOT be Elliot Bay. Hang the expense of safe disposal. The health of our bodies and our ecosystems is more important.

I'm tired of hearing excuses and retorts like, it's the cost of doing business or, your fears of grave consequences are exaggerated. We are already paying the price for a lack of foresight on the part of our ancestors, who did not fathom the ramifications of their decisions. We cannot afford to continue making the same mistakes and leave our children with an even bigger mess.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Social engineering, Clark County style

From The Columbian:
The Clark County of 2044, as depicted in Boldt's map, shows the county's entire west side covered by one uninterrupted urban area.

In addition to Vancouver and other urban areas existing today, the color map included a splotch of red spreading across more than 55,000 acres from Proebstel through Dollars Corner to Woodland. The red blot, roughly 87 square miles, represents the area that would need to be added to existing urban areas to accommodate another four decades of steady growth.

The map anticipates the county's population would have more than doubled to 871,000.
And I'm sure there will be a population of 872,000 SUVs, all fueled by cheap, plentiful Middle Eastern oil.

It's not that growth won't happen, it's that it usually happens in fits and starts over longer time periods. That's been the case historically. My crystal ball needs a new battery, as I'm going with the hybrid crystal ball, but it's kind of hard to imagine another 15 or 20 year period of uninterrupted growth.

Recessions are to be expected - depressions, hopefully not, thanks to FDR.

But this does point out the need for a practical transit system. The social engineering road worshipers must be stopped, before they social engineer us out of a livable community. With light rail, Marc Boldt's vision could be realized sooner rather than later. I bet we could get a half million people into Battle Ground alone if we ran the line right through there.

What? Oh, right. The right wing doesn't like the evil choo-choo trains and want us to sit in traffic coffins for hours on end listening to their talk radio heroes. Then their heroes, who are sponsored by auto dealerships, can fulminate away against higher taxes caused by social engineering...or something like that.

You see how perfect it all is, Yossarian?

Oregon deserves a better U.S. Senator

The Oregon Democratic Party has been keeping track of Senator Gordon Smith's recent shenanigans, and the picture isn't pretty. Here's one of Smith's most recent self-imposed entanglements:
Uh Gordon, do you want to try that again?

Smith tried to convince The Register-Guard editorial board Tuesday that he barely worked with Vice President Dick Cheney and the White House when they made a political decision to abuse environmental and commercial resources to get him re-elected in 2002. The 2002 Klamath River water diversion ended up destroying coastal fishing communities.
Smith downplayed his connection to Cheney in that chapter. He said he did not recall speaking with the vice president, but did lobby President Bush during a flight on Air Force One to allow some of the basin's water dedicated for imperiled sucker fish to be diverted to withering croplands and pastures.

"I was not familiar with all the things the vice president was doing," Smith said, referring to the Washington Post's account."
(The Register-Guard, 8-8-07)

Yet, in 2001, Smith demonstrated clear and direct knowledge of Cheney’s involvement.
“Dick Cheney stopped that order from coming down," Smith said. "He ordered the biologists back to Washington to see if there were some way to get around the conclusion that all available water must go to protect endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and threatened coho salmon in the lower Klamath River."
(Herald and News, 4-9-01)

Smith even ran TV ads touting his coordination with the White House.

"Where is the honesty from Gordon Smith?" DPO Chair Meredith Wood Smith asked. "In 2001 he couldn’t stop talking about his coordination with Vice President Cheney and the White House. Now, he says he barely worked with them. Gordon Smith has let the truth become a casualty in his re-election bid. His disregard for the truth is troubling and a disservice to Oregonians."
Oregon readers, if you're weary of this nonsense and ready for new representation in our nation's capitol, head over to Stop Gordon Smith and help make change a reality.

F.U. lefty bloggers forever!

I guess the real question in all this is which side is actually falling for bin Laden's mind games? From Think Progress:
The media continue to equate progressives with terrorists, echoing the rhetoric of the Bush administration. As ThinkProgress highlighted earlier today, New York Times columnist David Brooks yesterday said that in the newest tape, bin Laden sounds like he has been “reading lefty blogs.”

Right-wing bloggers have also joined in. At Hot Air, Allahpundit claimed bin Laden sounded like a “socialist icon,” invoking many of the same passages Brooks did. At Political Vindication, Uncle Seth the Noble went further, claiming bin Laden sounded like Daily Kos’s Markos Moulitsas. Frank J, a Pajamas Media blogger, concluded “Kos has to get this guy as a diarist before HuffPo does.”
It takes some real mental midgets to help bin Laden, but then when you see the words "David Brooks" and "Pajamas Media," calling them mental midgets is giving them credit they don't deserve.

I don't know why, exactly, certain media and political elites have decided that people like us don't count as citizens, and are worthy of vitriol and dismissal, but it's pretty clear we (still) don't count for anything. Dissent equals treason in their view. It doesn't matter if we are law-abiding American citizens or loyal party activists. We might as well buy that 1968 VW Micro-Bus, a lid and some sleeping bags, 'cause we'll always be the dirty hippies to some. Watch out for the brown acid blog, man, it's tainted.

We weren't wrong about the invasion and occupation of Iraq when it was fashionable to support it by inhaling Freedom Fries, so maybe it's just elite sour grapes.

It's pretty illustrative of how intellectually and morally bankrupt portions of the traditional media and the right wing have become that all they can do on the eve of the Bush Report is play the "traitor card" for the eleventy billionth time. The rules of this blog preclude using the only appropriate response, but if we print the words "Friedman Unit" or "F.U." one more time you get the idea.

Since we're not playing beanbag, maybe the only thing we ordinary citizens can do is make elites pay a heavy political price at the polls and let the chips fall where they may.

I'm generally in favor of teamwork, but it's not the dirty hippie terrorist lefty bloggers who are doing the damage right now. If some media and political elites keep telling us things are true that we know to be false, and then blame the resulting political rancor on us, then any "party splits" or "tensions" are on their heads, not ours.

Do some of these clowns who says nasty things about lefty bloggers even know how blogs work? As Digby once pointed out, you think things and then you write them down, just like other people do. It's called "writing." For some reason you can say the most outlandish and stupid things if it's printed on newsprint or right-wing blogs and nobody seems to much care. Sometimes, in fact, saying stupid and outlandish things seems to be a requirement for getting noticed in our overall and political culture. Lindsay's a lush and Michelle is evil, but dude, they are so hot, so there's money to be made. Works okay in Hollyweird, I suppose, maybe not so much in a certain company town on the Potomac.

Just because ordinary people are now on the internet tubes doesn't mean people weren't thinking things in the past. What's changed is that editors, politicians and media companies no longer have a virtual monopoly on speech. Their collective heft is still vastly greater than ours, but the wall has been breached.

And that is the real reason why some elites fear us and hate us. Joe Lieberman is only the most extreme example, as his pathetic ego couldn't handle criticism over the disaster in Iraq.

This isn't about Iraq or terrorism, in the end, it's about democracy. The little people are supposed to be satisfied with a bone here and there, maybe a pat on the head from their supposed betters. Never mind how badly they have botched things, they know best. A way of life in a little town on the Potomac is at stake, and when push comes to shove, they will fight to the bitter end for that way of life.

So I guess we better shove as hard as we can, if that's how it has to be. We don't have to be brutally vicious about it, but we can be insistent and work toward ensuring our future representation more accurately reflects the wishes of the citizenry. The alternative is an endless succession of F.U.'s.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

In Brief - September 8th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Lee at EFFin Unsound criticizes the Tacoma News Tribune editorial board's lame and haughty blog post chiding Darcy Burner's scheduler for (gasp) requesting a meeting more than a year out from the 2008 election. A word of advice to the Trib: Any time is a good time to talk about the issues that face this country and this region.
  • The King County Council has decided to ask voters this November whether to put a charter amendment (Initiative 25) on the general election ballot in 2008. I-25, sponsored by Toby Nixon and strongly backed by the local right wing, would create a new elected director of elections for King County. Voters must approve the charter amendment's place on the 2008 ballot this year and then approve the amendment next year or I-25 won't take effect. We urge you to vote NO on I-25.
  • I-24, Dick Spady's bizarre proposal to set up a "citizen councilor network" of small discussion groups, was also adopted yesterday by the King County Council. Spady is so confident his idea will achieve something that he has offered to pay all the staff costs for the first two years.
  • At Washblog, Particle Man says that 34th District Democrats Chair Ivan Weiss (who is a frequent commenter and loyal reader of NPI) is interested in filling the House seat that Rep. Joe McDermott will likely vacate when he takes over for Senator Erik Poulsen, who resigned to become government relations director for the Washington Association of PUDs.
  • Finally, the last part of David Horsey's "Empire Rising" satirical history, which he began before the 2004 elections, is now up at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's website.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Another week of Baird?

For those who are tired of hearing from Brian Baird about Iraq, (and who isn't?) get ready for more next week. From The Seattle Times:
Congress awaits another major update Monday, when Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, is scheduled to brief lawmakers.

Meantime, Baird has so many requests for interviews that he already has offered a two-hour media availability Monday, after Petraeus and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, testify before the House.

Baird has a right to say what he wants, and he was the target of some incredibly vicious statements. For every nasty comment he endured there were likely dozens of us who preferred to state our disagreement more gently. I'm afraid that the actions of Move On and VoteVets simply made things worse in the district. Yeah, it ain't beanbag, but you go after people hard enough they stop listening and they get bitter.

While it's true that Baird deserves criticism from outside the district, since the occupation of Iraq is the number one issue facing the country, Democratic activists in the district will have to ask themselves some hard questions about whether to continue supporting Baird. It is, in the end, for Democrats in the district to decide whether to challenge him in the primary.

While this may be an easy call for some folks, the decision might not be so simple for those who recall the Linda Smith days and the positive things Baird has done. In short, he's not a Lieberman, even if a lot of us think he's wrong about Iraq.

But enough is enough. There are 435 members of the House, and while Baird is an intelligent, thoughtful member, he's just one guy. And really, it's not exactly Baird's fault that the traditional media operates in the fashion it does. He drew a lot of attention simply because he is a Democrat who voted against the initial invasion and held pretty firmly to a dim view of the occupation until late August. The real story is that there's only one Baird.

He's not the Most Important Democrat in America, as Atrios dubbed him a few weeks ago. Nobody outside the Northwest had really heard of him before he made his recent pro-esclation pronouncements.

Now that he's famous and has studied the region, maybe he can offer some opinions about Iran in the coming weeks. If it comes up, you know.

Supreme Court unanimously rules to allow I-960 to go to the ballot

The Court didn't agree that there was a justiciable scope challenge:
Neither of appellants' challenges is subject to preelection review. I-960 does not purport to amend the constitution, whatever its practical "effect" may be. Appellants' argument is essentially that the initiative would be unconstitutional if enacted. We made clear in Coppernoll that we will not entertain such a claim prior to an election. The challengers there similarly argued that provisions of a proposed initiative were "unconstitutional and accordingly exceed[ed] the legislative power as a matter of law." Coppernoll, 155 Wn.2d at 302.

Specifically, the challengers claimed that the initiative's limitations on noneconomic damages and contingency fees were beyond the initiative power because they invaded the jury's exclusive constitutional authority to determine damages and this court's exclusive constitutional authority to regulate the practice of law. But we rejected this argument, seeing it properly as not a subject matter challenge but a challenge to the constitutionality of the initiative. Id. at 303-04. We declined to adopt the notion that "any proposed legislation that could be potentially unconstitutional would operate as an amendment to the constitution [and therefore would be] beyond the legislative power." Id. at 304.
If you compare several parts of I-960, you can argue that it looks like it is amending the Constitution. But apparently the Court is not interested in invalidating a measure that pretends to be legislation when it isn't. It's an amendment dressed up as an initiative, but no matter, the Court says.

We believe this simply opens the door to more mischief in the future. Given the Court's ruling today, we wonder: is pre-election review ever appropriate? Initiative 960 will be on the general election ballot where it doesn't belong.

We are committed to helping mount the most effective "No" campaign we can. But even if we fail, and I-960 passes, it is extremely unlikely that it will ever become law. Its constitutionality will be challenged post-election and it will be struck down. All Eyman and his supporters have won today is a temporary reprieve. They are free to celebrate that if they want. They won't be celebrating in a few months.

Blogworthy, September 7th, 2007

Here's the latest edition of our occasional review feature touching on news and developments that we couldn't get around to writing about earlier, as well as items we have accidentally overlooked.

A new report says observations match computer predictions about a massive loss of Arctic ice before the year 2050, according to NOAA scientists in Seattle. They compared computer models predicting the ice loss with reliable sea ice observations made between 1979 and 1999 and reached the same disturbing finding: several areas of the Arctic Ocean (including the East Siberian-Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea) will have lost more than 40 percent of their winter and summer ice by the middle of this century. Another bit of gloomy news that shows we need to get serious about tackling the climate crisis.

Larry Craig supporters at the Battle Ground based "American Land Rights Association" (who have made it their longstanding mission to fight against the creation of national parks, conservation efforts, and other environmental protection laws) have announced a boycott of the airport where the (soon to be former) senator was arrested:
"By ambushing Senator Larry Craig, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport police have effectively declared war on the West," the association said this week in a broadside.

"They are primarily responsible for greatly weakening private property rights and federal land use advocates in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and in Congress."
Ah yes, poor Larry Craig. If that guilty plea doesn't prove his innocence, I don't know what does. Shame on those no-good airport cops for enforcing the law - it's just despicable! Do they know what they've done? How dare they treat a United States Senator like any other American citizen!

(Naturally, the General has offered his congratulations to the group and its leader for their defense strategy).

The New York Times reports that Fred Dalton Thompson is aiming to convince the Republican base that he is the heir apparent to GOP idol Ronald Reagan. Thompson, who finally admitted that he is officially running for the Republican nomination, has been greeted with jeers and jokes from the already declared candidates, and his campaign's fundraising has lagged badly.

Still, he will likely be a force, given his popularity in the right wing, which loves to scream about "the liberal Hollywood elite" while eagerly embracing any conservative who comes out of Hollywood.

Surprise, surprise - the Bush Justice Department (if you can call it that) has come out against Net Neutrality, assuring the administration's corporate con allies that they won't block their attempt to create a tiered Internet. Because what could be better than stifling innovation, squeezing consumers, and ensuring inequality? It's the free market - let Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast do whatever they want. Forget about the common wealth and the common good.

As Harold Feld says:
"It would seem that the President and the Justice Department cannot do enough for AT&T and the other companies that agreed to spy on the American people. Without network neutrality, companies are free to turn over user information without a warrant or block users from desired content ­ as AT&T recently did 'accidentally' by blocking Pearl Jam's criticism of the President during a concert performance carried on AT&T's broadband service."
He's got more in this PDF.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Department of Revenue says Flexcar users must pay rental car tax

Fees are going up, at least for the near future, unfortunately:
Thousands of King County residents who use the Flexcar car-sharing service will be charged an extra 9.7 percent "rental car" tax after the state Department of Revenue determined that car-sharing services were essentially rental car businesses.
The Seattle P-I quoted Department of Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow as apologetically saying the agency has no choice but to "administer the law as written." Fortunately, Ron Sims isn't taking this change lying down:
King County Executive Ron Sims insisted that car sharing was not car renting and said Thursday that the county would go to the Legislature to exempt car-sharing companies from the rental car tax.

"We're going to take it to Olympia next year," said Sims, who is not a Flexcar member. "You're taxing something that we see as more of a public transportation element and one that we think is beneficial to the strategies we have for getting people out of their cars."
Kudos to Ron for his pledge. We will be joining him in enthusiastically supporting legislation to clarify that the rental car tax should not be collected from customers of services like Flexcar. Flexcar is about providing convenience for Puget Sound residents who don't own a car or don't have one available. It is not a rental company like Alamo, Hertz, or Enterprise.

Live from Olympia: Supreme Court hears challenge to Tim Eyman's I-960

The Supreme Court just heard oral argument in Futurewise v. Reed, the legal challenge to invalidate Initiative 960 and strike it from the ballot. The court was in session for less than fifty minutes; it went into recess just before 2:20 PM. Knoll Lowney spoke for the plaintiffs, Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even spoke on behalf of Secretary of State Sam Reed, the defendant.

The justices listened intently during the hearing as the attorneys outlined their arguments. Knoll spoke about the distinction between the issues of scope and unconstitutionality, which are key to this case because a question of constitutionality is not considered appropriate for pre-election review, but a scope challenge - determining whether a proposed initiative is within the people's legislative power - is appropriate.

As the State Supreme Court observed two years ago in Coppernoll v. Reed (this is from the headnotes in the opinion):
An initiative does not exceed the scope of the state legislative power if (1) it is legislative in nature and (2) it will enact a law that is within the State's power to enact. In applying this test, a court looks to the fundamental and overriding purpose of the initiative and not the mere incidentals to the overriding purpose. Examples of initiatives that exceed the scope of the state legislative power are those that purport to enact a federal law and those that purport to amend the United States or Washington Constitution.
Emphasis is mine. Because I-960 purports to amend the Washington State Constitution (the fundamental, organic laws of our republic) we have argued, and the plaintiffs are contending, that the Court should act to strike I-960 from the ballot and set an important precedent that protects the supreme law of our land.

The Constitution is just a document. If initiatives can be proposed that alter what the Constitution says, the Constitution starts to become meaningless. That is what this case is about. Eyman wants to change rules that were established long ago because he wants to put a chokehold on representative democracy. He doesn't agree with the values of those who hold power (Governor Gregoire and the Democratic House and Senate) so he is attacking our very tradition of majority rule.

During the hearing Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and his colleagues asked Knoll Lowney about other cases in which statewide initiatives (as opposed to municipal measures) were stricken from the ballot prior to an election.

Knoll cited Goldstein v. Gregoire, noting that while the Supreme Court never considered the case, the Superior Court decision had the effect of barring I-831 from the ballot. (I-831 was our good friend David Goldstein's initiative to have Tim Eyman declared a horse's ass. It began as a joke, but before the Superior Court killed the initiative, several dozen thousand signatures were collected).

The state, of course, argued that preelection review is not appropriate and urged the Court not to enjoin Initiative 960. Even pointed out that the initiative would likely be challenged in court within days if it was passed by voters. But as Knoll said, the Court has an opportunity here to set a precedent that lets sponsors know that abuse of the initiative process will not be tolerated. That measures which are clearly not within the people's legislative power to enact will be filtered out.

The initiative and referendum process was set up with parameters and guidelines for a reason. It was and is intended to be an asset to our democracy. Citizens (sponsors) and legislators are under the same constraints in lawmaking: the Constitution may not be changed except as provided by the amendment process. If a law is proposed that ought to be an amendment instead, it is outside of the legislative power and should be invalidated.

The Supreme Court will probably rule within the next few days, given that county elections officials need to know whether to include I-960 on the ballots that are mailed out to voters. We hope the Court rules to void this improperly proposed amenment, disguised as an initiative, and sets a badly needed precedent.

UPDATE: The Court's website says opinions in this case "may be filed" tomorrow, Friday September 7th. Looks like the decision will be quick.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

BREAKING: Rodney Tom drops out of 8th District race, will support Darcy Burner

Rodney Tom announced to his supporters this morning that he is ending his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 8th Congressional District and is endorsing Darcy Burner, who now becomes the only declared Democratic candidate. No doubt Tom realized after the Burn Bush fundraiser that his campaign stood no chance of overtaking Darcy's. A wise move on Tom's part.

UPDATE: Here is Tom's statement:
State Senator Rodney Tom, D-48th District, announced today he is withdrawing from the 8th District Congressional race. "Our fundraising was going great, but Darcy Burner’s campaign has been phenomenal", Tom said. "Darcy has over 3,200 contributors, an incredible statement to her broad base of support. Reichert's idea of campaign finance reform is having $10,000 dinners. Democracy was never intended to be limited strictly to millionaires. Clearly, he’s out of touch with the common voter."

"My purpose from the start was to replace the current Congressman with someone who actually represents the values of the 8th district. Dave Reichert is completely out of step with the values shared in this district. Darcy Burner’s campaign has proven they have the leadership, strength and momentum to win next November."

Tom plans to refund 100% of the contributions made to his campaign. "I’m just so appreciative of their incredible support. I'm a firm believer in both business and politics that you should always leave whomever you come in contact with better off then before they dealt with you." He will personally pay for all the campaign expenses incurred to date so that his contributors will receive a full and complete refund. "I’ve always believed in being frugal, both in government and in campaigns. People expect and deserve a lot of bang for their buck," said Tom. "The bottom line is we must now unite behind Darcy and bring real leadership and representation to this district."

Tom plans to continue his focus in the State Senate on improving education. "I’m ending this campaign, but I will never stop fighting to make education our top priority both at the state and national level. We have to take education to a much higher level if we are going to be competitive in a global, high tech economy."
Here is Darcy's official response:
Senator Tom called me this morning to let me know that he is pulling out of the 8th District congressional race and is formally and enthusiastically endorsing my candidacy. We will be working together in the future to bring real change to the district.

I want to publicly thank and commend Senator Tom for the grace with which he conducted his campaign. He has proven himself to be a strong voice for positive change and a wonderful addition to the Democratic Party. We share so much, including our determination to bring this war to a responsible close. And we both understand that Congressman Reichert’s brand of Bush-style conservatism does not represent the views of the voters in the 8th Congressional District.

I think Senator Tom's decision today is further confirmation that our message of bringing principled leadership and real oversight to Washington, D.C. is resonating across the 8th district.

This war is breaking our military, busting our budget and burning our bridges with the rest of the world, and while the press and the pundits and inside-the-Beltway Bush allies like Congressman Reichert may be fine with staying the course, ordinary Americans are wiser than that...we need strong leaders in the other Washington with the good judgment and the courage to fight to get us out of the Iraq quagmire, and I am committed to providing that leadership.
We applaud Senator Tom for pulling out and demonstrating that his commitment to a Democratic victory in the 8th is more important than his personal ambition. We're thankful for his willingness to be a team player.

Former Representative Jennifer Dunn dies

The state has lost another significant political figure:
Jennifer Dunn, a former six-term member of Congress, former chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Party and one of the state GOP's most respected members, died Wednesday, her family announced. She was 66.

A statement issued by the office of her son, King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, said, "Jennifer collapsed from a pulmonary embolism in her Alexandria, VA apartment and never regained consciousness. She passed peacefully surrounded by family."

Coincidentally, Ms. Dunn died five days after the death of Karen Marchioro, who served as chairwoman of the Washington State Democratic Party during almost exactly the same period Ms. Dunn headed the state Republicans, both starting in 1981.
We extend our sympathies to Reagan and the entire Dunn family, and to her friends as well, at this extraordinarily hard time for them. Who could have guessed that we would lose both Karen and Jennifer in one week?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Two Democratic legislators announce plans to leave, 2008 field gets more interesting

Two Democratic legislators announced plans today to quit the state Legislature to move on to other things.

First, Senator Erik Poulsen (D-34) made it known that he is resigning at the end of September to take a job with the Washington Public Utility Districts Association as government relations director. Poulsen's replacement will be determined by the precinct committee officers of the 34th LD Democrats, who may propose three nominees to the King County Council, which must pick one of them.

The individual the council selects must run for election to keep the seat in 2008 (if he or she so chooses).

The 34th is heavily Democratic and whichever Democrat ultimately takes Poulsen's place will likely be able to hold the office for much longer.

One of the district's two representatives, Joe McDermott, says he is interested in moving to the Senate. The other, Eileen Cody, is not (in part probably because she would lose her seniority in the House).

If McDermott takes Poulsen's place, the Democratic PCOs of the 34th will also have to nominate temporary successors for him.

Meanwhile, in the 46th, a heavily Democratic LD in north Seattle, longtime Representative Jim McIntire says he won't seek reelection to the House in 2008 but will instead run for state treasurer. That sets up a potential Democratic primary in 2008 with candidates vying to succeed McIntire. The LD's chair, Scott White, is reportedly already in the race and securing endorsements for his bid.

With McIntire's decision to seek the office of state treasurer, we can add another possible pairing to the 2008 field. (The current treasurer, Democrat Mike Murphy, is supporting his Republican deputy for the office. Way to show your partisan loyalty, Mike!) Other potential matchups include Gregoire v. Rossi for Governor and Goldmark v. Sutherland for Lands Commissioner.

Gregoire and Sutherland are the incumbents in each race.

Other incumbents who will likely seek reelection include: Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen (D), Secretary of State Sam Reed (R), Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler (D), State Auditor Brian Sonntag (D), Attorney General Rob McKenna (R). They'll all have challengers before long.

FEC dismisses complaint against Kos Media, says blogs enjoy press exemption

Today is a great day for the netroots community with the Federal Election Commission's dismissal of a complaint against Daily Kos and Kos Media, filed by one John Bambenek, who had claimed that the site was in violation of FEC rules unless it registered as a political committee. The FEC has tossed the complaint, reaffirming that political blogs enjoy the press exemption:
Kos Media qualifies as a media entity in its function of operating DailyKos. DailyKos is available to the general public and is the online equivalent of a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication as described in the Act and Commission regulations.

Additionally, DailyKos is precisely the type of online media presence the Commission contemplated when revising the media exemption provided in 11 C.F.R. §§ 100.73 and 100.132. An examination of DailyKos and other supporting materials demonstrates that the site’s primary function is to provide news and commentary to millions of viewers through its "blog" entries providing news stories with links to "breaking news," original political commentary, and calls to action.

Like traditional media outlets such as newspapers and magazines, DailyKos has a publisher, Moulitsas, who appears to retain editorial control over the content of the site, and a list of contributing editors, who along with Moulitsas appear to be "front page posters" and draft stories.

Further, registered users of DailyKos may post responsive comments, which are similar to letters to the editors in traditional media outlets.

In addition, Kos Media’s creation and distribution of the DailyKos falls within the scope of the exemption. First, the complaint does not allege, nor does publicly available information indicate, that Kos Media is owned or controlled by a political party, committee, or candidate.

Second, by creating and distributing the DailyKos, containing news stones with links to "breaking news," original political commentary and calls to actions akin to editorials, Kos Media is acting within its legitimate press function that qualifies it as a press entity.

As such, Kos Media’s creation and distribution of the DailyKos falls within Kos Media’s legitimate press function. Moreover, Kos Media's operation of DailyKos is the type of activity contemplated by the Commission during its rulemaking regarding the media exemption....

While the complaint asserts that DailyKos advocates for the election of Democrats to federal office, the Commission has repeatedly stated that an entity that would otherwise qualify for the media exemption does not lose its eligibility because it features news or commentary lacking objectivity or expressly advocates in its editorials the election or defeat of a federal candidate.
We applaud today's action by the FEC and we urge Washington State's equivalent, the Public Disclosure Commission, to follow its example. (The PDC is considering possible rules for political blogs). Individuals or entities that own political blogs should not be forced to register committees or follow any burdensome regulations.

Monday, September 03, 2007

In Brief, 2007 Labor Day Edition

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Miss Laura, in a succinct post entitled "Unions Matter", excerpts a passage from Solidarity Remembered and displays an AFL-CIO graph showing that unionized workers of every ethnicity and gender have higher median weekly earnings than their nonunion counterparts.
  • At OpenLeft, Eating Liberally's Kerry Trueman talks about the environmental and health impacts of grilling, plus alternative meals that are just as tasty.
  • Crooks and Liars features a Labor Day clip from AFSCME..
  • David Sirota, who is launching a nationally syndicated, weekly newspaper column through Creators Syndicate this autumn, reports on the progress of his new book, The Uprising, and presents a nice Labor Day reading list.
  • The Honorable George Miller, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, calls for a redoubling of efforts to improve worker safety.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Republicans not abiding by their own professed moral standards

"Mr. Craig ... was arrested in June in an undercover sex sting in an airport toilet..." - The Guardian

In honor of Larry Craig's resignation, here is a short reminder of the declining moral values of the Republican party:
  • Former House Speaker and possible presidential candidate Newt Gingrich cheated on his wife while attempting to impeach then-President Bill Clinton. In 1999, he served his wife the divorce papers while she was in the hospital getting treated for cancer.
  • In the 1980's, Republican preacher Jimmy Swaggart cheated on his wife with a prostitute. Not to be outdone, theocon leader Ted Haggard cheated on his wife with a male prostitute that was also his meth dealer.
  • Donald Rumsfeld authorized the rape of Iraqi children in order to humiliate their parents.
  • Mark Foley tries to hook up with male pages via instant message.
  • Republican legislator Ted Klaudt was arrested for molesting and raping his foster children, none of whom were over the age of 16. It should be noted that South Dakota was paying him to raise them.
  • Councilman Joseph Monteleone Jr. was found guilty of asking underage girls to have sex with him and fondling them.
  • And, via (go there for many more names and scandals), even the newly resigned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is not without his own problems. There are allegations that he helped cover up sexual abuse by guards in Texas, who were preying on teenage male inmates.
Enjoy your Labor Day. And don't forget, your taxes pay their salaries.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Missed opportunity is the fault of the whole Democratic team, not just party leaders

David Goldstein has a post at HorsesAss responding to an editorial in the Seattle Times criticizing the Democratic chairs of the state and King County party organizations for "failing voters" in the 6th County Council District race. Says the Times: "Democrats blew the chance to give voters a stronger choice."

David argues that the blame deserves to be distributed more broadly, including the "unimaginative field of potential challengers", none of whom were willing to "take one for the team". I agree, but speaking of politics being a team sport, where was David Goldstein during the write-in campaign for Brad Larssen?
I haven’t been shy about criticizing my party for failing to be in a position to take advantage of this opportunity, and have openly ridiculed the hopeless primary write-in campaign.
Ah, not doing anything...because he judged the effort to be hopeless. Well, we knew the chances were very slim that Brad would win...but that didn't stop NPI's contributors from urging voters to write in his name on their primary ballot.

I see David's conclusion about the 6th as pretty much the same attitude many Democratic leaders have adopted for years in looking at the political map.

Don't compete where it's "hopeless". Avoid "hopeless" districts. Don't give any help to "hopeless" candidates, especially write-ins. Because heaven forbid, we might end up wasting our capital on people whose prospects are not as good as those of our most promising candidates.

I believe we need to compete everywhere to win, at every level, not just federal but also state and local. That means the party should have a candidate running for every partisan office at every election across the state and the country. And that candidate should receive netroots support...even if it's a write-in.

Nationally, this view has been called the fifty state strategy, and it is widely shared within the netroots community and at the Democratic National Committee - where Howard Dean has sparred with Beltway insiders who don't like the approach. But it was applied successfully during the 2006 election cycle and the party won a great victory as a result. Few are disputing the wisdom of the strategy now.

As the filing period drew to a close last June, and it became obvious that there wasn't going to a heavyweight challenger to Jane Hague, the party should have found the money to pay the filing fee for any activist who was willing to run against Hague. And Brad Larssen, a veteran advocate and vice chair of the 45th District Democrats, was willing.

We were happy to support Brad's campaign, unlike David, but it never should have been a write-in. His name should have been on the ballot in the primary election. He would have likely won the nomination, and would now be preparing for a general election campaign in a Democratic district against a weakened Jane Hague - with plenty of support from the party, the netroots, and the progressive movement.

Brad ended up being such a compelling candidate that he convinced the P-I and the Times to editorialize on his behalf before the primary. The editorial boards of Seattle's two dailies saw his candidacy as an effort worth supporting, not ridiculing, despite Brad's very unfavorable odds.

And, to almost no one's surprise, Brad didn't come close to winning the primary, though he did manage an impressive 30% of the vote. Brad's defeat set the stage for this morning's editorial, in which the Times blamed party leaders, grumbling:
State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz or King County Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Sheary failed voters in a significant way.

Even before the June 2 driving incident, both knew that although Hague was a leader on the county budget, she was not the most compelling councilmember. They knew, too, that her campaign office had difficulties with contributions and that her district is turning more Democratic every day. Where were these two when there was a chance to mount a strong challenge against her?
It's so nice to see that the Times is so perturbed about our party's affairs. Now what does this editorial remind me of? Oh yes, that's it...a concern troll.

We haven't forgotten that last year, before one of the most sweeping Democratic victories in American history, the Times saw fit to endorse only Republicans in the state's three competitive federal races.

They supported Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert, and Mike! McGavick! over Peter Goldmark, Darcy Burner, and Maria Cantwell.

The last endorsement was particularly ridiculous and perplexing, after the Times endorsed Cantwell in 2000 (when she was a challenger) and editorialized many times in support of the senator's work on key issues the paper professed to care about during her first term in office. But apparently, Frank Blethen's desire to see the estate tax repealed overrode all other considerations.

Laying the blame solely at the feet of Suzie and Dwight is unfair.

Yes, they are in positions of leadership, but they considered recruiting a candidate for the race to be a top priority and pursued many potential candidates. Ross Hunter and Debi Golden were approached. Either would have made a fine nominee.

Even Darcy Burner was asked, despite the fact that she lives outside of the district and had already decided to challenge Reichert again.

The only mistake made by party leadership was waiting to file Brad Larssen until after the close of the regular filing period. If you're reading this and wondering why they waited, here's RCW 29A.28.011:
If a place on the ticket of a major political party is vacant because no person has filed for nomination as the candidate of that major political party, after the last day allowed for candidates to withdraw as provided by RCW 29A.24.131, and if the vacancy is for a state or county office to be voted on solely by the electors of a single county, the county central committee of the major political party may select and certify a candidate to fill the vacancy.
Emphasis is mine. So an assumption was made that no one would file as a Democrat for the 6th, thereby allowing the county committee to choose a candidate to appear on the ballot. But someone did file: perennial candidate Richard Pope, a quirky lawyer who has run for judge, port commissioner, county prosecutor, and other offices, always unsuccessfully.

(The Municipal League routinely rates him "not qualified").

Richard has claimed to be both a Democrat and a Republican at different times. He ran against Norm Maleng for prosecutor in 1998 as a Democrat, distributed literature urging the State Central Committee of the Democratic Party not to elect Dwight Pelz as chair, served as a Republican PCO, and filed public disclosure complaints that cost the Republican Party a significant amount of money in fines.

King County Democratic Chair said last June in a statement to the press that Pope "denied the Democratic Party the right to do a party file during the week of June 11 – 15, 2007 and we had a candidate ready to file."

What the law makes clear, however, is that major parties only enjoy such a right if no resident of the jurisdiction in question files to run under the party's banner. Richard Pope isn't a dependable Democrat, but he identified himself as such in his paperwork, paid the fee, and submitted his materials at the last minute, after he saw that no one else was going to.

Had Brad Larssen filed earlier with the support of the county party, the current situation could probably have been avoided. Of course, it would have been nice to see one of the 6th District's more prominent Democrats step up to the plate and challenge Hague. We know there's at least one person who is qualified and clearly has the ambition - recently minted Democrat Rodney Tom.

I don't live in the 6th District myself, but I wish now that I had paid more attention to the race and worked to help recruit a candidate. Those of us in the netroots community here in the Northwest ought to make an effort to involve ourselves in candidate recruitment and keep a sharp eye out during the filing period. We could have been more involved in finding a challenger to Hague, but we weren't.

The entire Democratic team within the 6th and its surroundings - every party leader, every activist, every precinct committee officer, every blogger, every citizen involved in the party - shares part of the blame for this missed opportunity. Some share more than others, but the whole team is ultimately at fault. By not filing a candidate during the regular filing period, we forfeited the race.

This matter is a valuable reminder that nothing should be taken for granted, and resources should be expended to ensure the party always has a solid, if not outstanding, candidate in every partisan race. When Democrats compete everywhere, Democrats stand a much better chance of winning.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Today's GOP: Greed Over Principle

TPMmuckraker has put together a nice analysis detailing total Republican losses from scandal and complacency. Here's TPM's Paul Kiel:
As The New York Times notes this morning, scandal has pursued them into 2007. “The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness,” says one Republican strategist.
Hint, hint to Congressional Democrats - you have nothing to fear from standing up to Dubya and his Republican allies.

Not only is it the courageous thing to do, but given the weakened position of the Republicans, it should be the easy and obvious thing to do.