Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Overzealous bouncer turns governor away

It's nice to have a break from serious news and also to realize that I'm not the only one this has happened to. From the Seattle Times:
Gov. Christine Gregoire was turned away from an Olympia bar when she couldn't produce identification to prove she was over 21.
No joke, folks.
Gregoire and her staff had served burgers at the annual Capital Lakefair last weekend and afterward went to the downtown Olympia bar called Hannah's to celebrate. Governor Gregoire did not have her ID with her. The man checking ID at the door said she couldn't get in without ID, even when others pointed out she's Washington's governor. So she went home, but her husband Mike went in.
As the governor told KING5 News, it's best to take something like that as a compliment when it happens.

How to (really) save a life

One of the things that makes me most proud to be an Oregonian is our Death With Dignity Law. The citizens of my beloved home state stood up against an onslaught of extremism from religious and right wing entities and decided to make legal the ability for Oregonians to exercise control over one of life's most personal and intimate decisions. That is, to give terminally ill and in-pain patients the legal right to end their life with prescription medication.

Washingtonians are now being asked to ponder whether or not to pass the same law for their state.

In his Monday column, the Seattle P-I's Joel Connelly balks at the notion.

Interestingly, Connelly's objection comes not from arguing the merits of the proposal, but from the xenophobically-rooted notion that influences outside of Washington State are providing funding and resources for the initiative.

One wonders what happened to Joel's conscience raising columns focusing on influences outside of the state when Washington battled I-933, the land-use initiative mirroring Oregon's Measure 37. This land-use regulatory scheme certainly wasn't Washington-grown. And what of the push against I-884? Not exactly an in-state pushback. Where are the Connelly column inches when it came to outing the efforts of D.C.-based FreedomWorks?

On those, Connelly doesn't trot out the "out-of-state interests" argument.

And what of the recently-filed lawsuit by the opponents of I-1000, who wish to keep their funding sources secret? Connelly's outrage is strangely absent here.

And for good reason. Its a tough haul to argue the merits against giving people autonomy over their end-of-life decisions. Once Washington voters know and understand what DWD is about, they'll vote for it. The only choice Joel has is to pile up all the red herrings he can.

Another problem Connelly faces is the fact that so many people have had to watched a loved one die in excruciating pain. Or perhaps their death came after a period of morphine-induced stupor in which the dying's beloveds were unrecognizable through the haze of the bed-ridden. For some patients, the stupor is as dreadful an outcome as the racking pain.

Examples of these stories are as endless as they are fresh. In response to Connelly, Stranger columnist Dan Savage recounted the death of his mother:

I hate to play the I-just-watched-my-mother-die card, but, um, I just watched my mother die.

My mother had pulmonary fibrosis, a degenerative lung condition, and her death came after a long, miserable week in the hospital. (It also came just eight weeks after her doctors had given her two to five years to live.) She knew that pulmonary fibrosis would eventually end her life, and she’d done some research into just what sort of an end she could expect. It wasn’t going to be pretty. She would, when her time came, slowly and painfully suffocate to death.
Somehow I doubt the "outsiders are influencing the vote" debate is gonna fly with those who mourn not just the loss of their loved one, but the wretched end-of-life experience they had to endure.

But Oregonians know from our experience that it isn't just the ability to take the prescription and end a terminally ill, pain-filled life. It's the knowledge that one has control over one's life and one's own pain that gives patients and their families peace of mind.

According to the Oregon Department of Health Services (PDF), 85 prescriptions for lethal medications were written under the provisions of the DWDA in 2007 compared to 65 during 2006. Of these, 46 patients took the medications, 26 died of their underlying disease, and 13 were alive at the end of 2007. In addition, three patients with earlier prescriptions died from taking the medications, resulting in a total of 49 DWDA deaths during 2007.

In the 10 years since the law went into effect, 341 patients have died under the terms of the law. That's an average of 34 people per year (or just under 3 people per month) actually using the prescription to take their life. In addition, the state is receiving no reports of abuse.

People want this law because they want control and autonomy over their personal life decisions.

In the end, its not about the physical act of taking a breath or the beating of a heart or the pattern of brain waves. It's about a life--and what it really means to "save" it. Is my life "saved" if I have less than six months to live and am racked with pain, unable to feed or dress myself? Is my life "saved" if I'm not able to recognize my children or family because of a wide-open morphine drip?

Or is my life "saved" because I have peace, knowing that if the pain is unbearable, I won't have to be alive-but-dead while I slip away? Not to mention the dignity that comes with living my life on my terms.

Its not a decision for anyone else to make: not Joel, not the Church and not the government.

My life. My call.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Initiative 985 would cripple Puget Sound during rush hour

Last week, I touched on a number of problems with Tim Eyman's Initiative 985, which Permanent Defense is gearing up to fight.

The real intent of the initiative, as cleverly crafted by Eyman, is to steal money out of the state and municipal treasuries (which fund important public services like schools, fire response, or police protection) and stockpile it in a fund that can only be used to widen highways by adding more lanes.

And while that's bad, the news gets worse.

To disguise the real intent of his initiative, Eyman threw in a bunch of low cost gimmicks which are supposed to be funded first, before the money his initiative siphons gets spent on new lanes.

These gimmicks include roadside assistance crews (which the state already has in place) traffic light synchronization (which the state has been working on for years) and opening Puget Sound's HOV lanes to all motorists.

Now, most of the HOV lanes in the state are already open during nighttime hours, but Initiative 985 would force them open at almost all hours of the day. The only times when they would be restricted would be in the morning, from 6 AM to 9 AM, and in the afternoon, from 3 PM to 6 PM, on weekdays.

Beginning at 6 PM - and no, I'm not joking - the HOV lanes would be open to all drivers - were Initiative 985 to be enacted.

Feel a lump in your throat? Or your brow furrowing?

If you've had the misfortune of being out on the highways of Puget Sound during the early evening, you know this all too well:

Rush hour isn't over at 6 PM.

If you're a denier and you don't believe me, you can see for yourself. Here's a snapshot of the Department of Transportation's Seattle traffic map taken at 6:02 PM this evening. Notice all the black and red? That's slow moving traffic. Black is the worst; the DOT defines it as stop and go.

And relatively speaking, this was a good day. Some highways were bad but the trip north or south on the west side was surprisingly open in places.

Here's a snapshot of last Thursday, July 24th, for comparison. You'll notice that traffic is just as bad all-around.

Perhaps it's not a surprise that Tim Eyman wrote his initiative this way. After all, he's been divorced from reality for a long time.

Nevertheless, the danger is that Washingtonians (even those solo drivers who foolishly wish HOV lanes didn't exist) won't fully appreciate the terrible damage this could do to our state when they see I-985 on their ballots.

Most of the traffic jams in our region, the urban heart of the Evergreen State, occur on one of the principal north-south or east-west highways that run through the Sound. You know their names: I-5, SR-520, I-405, I-90, SR-167, and so on.

These highways are the vital corridors that link Pugetopolis together.

Since we don't have any light rail (yet) and minimal commuter rail service (Sounder only serves Tacoma, Seattle, Everett, plus a few points between) we are dependent on our highways for our commute.

It's not just our cars. It's our transit system, too.

Years ago, we had the wisdom to ensure that our buses and vanpools would stay in motion by adding or desginating highway lanes for high occupancy vehicles only. But Initiative 985 threatens to snarl our transit system in the same gridlock that currently plagues everyone who drives by themselves.

How is that fair?

Why should those Washingtonians who are doing their part to lower emissions and reduce traffic be punished for ridesharing? They've earned the privilege of using the restricted lanes that we've historically set aside for them!

Let's think for a moment just about buses, though.

In order for a bus system to attract ridership, it has to meet several criteria. It has to be available, the service has to be high quality, and the purpose of the trip (the best example being the commute to or from work) has to be one for which transit can compete against the automobile.

Routes such as Sound Transit's 545 Express meet all the criteria I just mentioned, which is why they are so popular. The 545 links downtown Redmond with downtown Seattle, serving Microsoft's Overlake campus on the way.

During rush hour, it's a very attractive option for commuters, because it runs frequently and mostly avoids the westbound bottleneck stretching from the I-405 junction to the edge of Lake Washington. Thanks to the HOV lane.

It's often faster than driving - and that explains why demand is so high. I've been on a 545 in Overlake and witnessed riders being turned away.

Imagine what will happen if SR-520's HOV lanes are opened to all comers during the middle of rush hour. What's this going to do to the 545?

Paralyze it. Sound Transit's New Flyers will be mired in the infamous Lake Washington Line, stuck in bumper to bumper bumpers for a good two miles or more, stranded amidst a sea of automobiles.

If the 545 were to become paralyzed, it would lose its competitiveness with the automobile. And that would surely mean a loss of ridership. What's the point of taking the bus if there's no advantage over driving? People who aren't transit-dependent would go back to their cars.

Think about it. People have a hard time ditching their cars and hopping aboard a bus in the first place. Buses just don't appeal to drivers like rail does. If there's no incentive to ride, people who can drive won't bother with the bus.

Consequently, with more cars on the highway, rush hour would get longer. The gridlock would get worse. The commute times more unbelievable. The highways would remain undrivable long into the darkness even in late fall and early spring.

The backups would tie the bus system into knots, bringing Sound Transit's Express service to its knees. Without dedicated lanes to travel in on the highways, it would become very difficult for ST to create accurate bus schedules.

Unpredictable highway conditions would lead to unpredictable travel times, frustrating riders who try to sweat it out.

Any rider leaving work after 5 PM (the traditional end of the workday) would have to scramble to get on a bus that would be able to traverse the HOV lane in gridlocked areas before it turned into a useless parking lot at 6 PM.

Sound Transit could attempt to reroute its buses off the highways. But what difference would it make? Either way, the service would no longer be Express.

And as for vanpools and vanshares...well, they'd be tangled in the same mess. Cross-Sound commuters would be trapped, unable to reach the ferry dock and catch the usual sailings they're used to being able to board today.

Opening the HOV lanes to everyone during the middle of rush hour is guaranteed to be a disaster. It would exponentially worsen traffic. It would hurt our economy, our enviornment, and our families. We would all suffer as a result of the More Traffic Measure, whether we choose to drive now or not.

But we don't have to let this happen. We can stop this terrible idea in its tracks and prevent our transportation mess from taking an awful turn for the worse.

We can and we must say NO to Initiative 985 this November.

Great idea: Car free Sundays!

The City of Seattle has decided to close some neighborhood streets on certain Sundays in August and September to motorized traffic for a few hours, with the goal of encouraging street life and neighborhood pride.

I loved hearing this on KUOW while commuting from work - in my CAR. Our family has been trying to keep our auotmobiles parked on the weekends and do more walking, hiking, and biking. Mayor Nickels' street plan is a good one.

If this small start goes well, the idea could be expanded next summer. The experiment is part of Seattle's "Give Your Car the Summer Off" project. Citizens are encouraged to drive 1000 fewer miles a year. People are planning street events in conjunction with the car-free days. San Francisco, New York, Portland, and Vancouver. B.C. have experimented with similar programs.

The car-free locations are:
Aug. 24 – Volunteer Park and 14th Avenue East. From noon to 6 p.m. 14th Avenue East from Volunteer Park to East Republican Street will be closed to cars. The Volunteer Park Western Loop will also be car-free.

Aug. 31 – Rainier Avenue. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Rainier Avenue South from South Orcas to South Alaska streets Cars will also be restricted on Conover Street, part of 38th Avenue South and South Alaska Street. The car-free day coincides with Bicycle Sunday on Lake Washington Boulevard.

Sept. 7 – Alki Avenue. From noon to 6 p.m., Alki Avenue from California Way Southwest around Alki Beach to the south end of 63rd at Beach Drive will be closed. One lane will be available for the Water Taxi Shuttle and to provide access for residents living along Alki.
The City of Seattle also has more information.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

U.S. Olympic Committee puts the squeeze on local winery

The Olympics are a big business. Just ask the Olympic Cellars winery, which found out the hard way.

Olympic Cellars Winery has reached an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee allowing the winery to keep its name and maintain its Web site as long as wine sales east of the Cascade Mountains are not "substantial."

Other terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Olympic Cellars can only use the name as long as sales east of the Cascade Mountains are not substantial? Whatever happened to free enterprise, capitalism and the American way? Dare to make big money and Olympic Cellars will likely be sued into oblivion.

And since when does the U.S. Olympic Committee own the rights to marketing the word Olympic or any variations of it? Perhaps the USOC will now go after Olympic College, or perhaps Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, CA is in trouble since its sports teams are nicknamed the Olympians and the football stadium is adorned with Olympic rings. While they're at it, why not sue Olympic Paint & Stain, or the federal government (Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest), or even Olympic Arms, Inc. Why not the city of Olympia, since it has the same origin?

I could probably go on with other examples but that would be ridiculous. Just like the USOC's shameful actions towards Olympic Cellars winery. To be fair, technically the winery was in violation of federal law, but that's what happens when you've got lobbyists on your side. They get words like Olympic trademarked so that small businesses with geographic ties to the word can't use them without going broke.

The agreement comes nine months after Olympic Cellars, which is located between Port Angeles and Sequim, received a letter from the USOC citing it for violation of the 1998 Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which gives the committee commercial control of the word "Olympic." The act has been amended to allow businesses on the Olympic Peninsula to use the word in marketing west of the Cascade Mountains.

It's time for Congressman Norm Dicks, who represents the district the winery is located in, and Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to amend this ridiculous law that gives the USOC a monopoly on the Olympic name. Clearly there is room for a small business that has nothing to do with athletic glory to use the name.

It should also be noted that I have absolutely no ties to Olympic Cellars.

Jeff Merkley to Gordon Smith: Give up your dirty Stevens money!

Recent seven-count-indictment recipient Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has been spreading cash to Gordon Smith to the tune of $39,000.

Today, progressive Democrat Jeff Merkley called on Smith to cough up the cash from Stevens--whose indictments include seven felony counts of making false statements in a corruption case.

Merkley is asking Smith to give up the cash linked to the allegedly and probably corrupt Ted Stevens to charities which help provide health insurance to Oregon children. Especially given Smith's supportive non-support of the Healthy Kids initiative that his Republican colleagues in Oregon worked overtime to scuttle, it would be a decent gesture.

Smith claimed to support the Healthy Kids cigarette tax increase while failing to do any work at all to pass the thing.

Which pretty much sums up his entire Senate career.

Update (5:00PM): Smith gives the money to charity. Looks like Merkley holding his feet to the fire counts for something. such a lonely word (for Gordon Smith)

Shorter Smith-supporter: Vote for Gordo cuz he is anti-choice, wants no limits on campaign finance, doesn't give a crap about global climate change and energy prices, wants nothing to do with universal health care and prefers absolutely no regulation of firearms at all.

Yeah...could we maybe get this guy to be the new Communications Director for the Smith campaign? Or at the very least, he should be producing the TV commercials. Way more entertaining than the pap that Smith is pushing out right now.

And frankly, a helluva lot more honest.

(Watch video).

And for those of you playing at home--Merkley is gonna win.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Seattle City Council passes progressive legislation to discourage disposable bags

The Seattle City Council just approved a twenty cent per bag charge on disposable paper or plastic shopping bags as well as a ban on foam containers for food from takeout restaurants. The legislation will effect in January 2009.

I heard the news as I was headed to the grocery cooperative and am going about collecting "permanent" shopping bags we can use. It will also be a relief to stop seeing those indestructible styrofoam containers before long!

The Council voted six to one to enact the legislation, with only Jan Drago dissenting. She said that people like to use the plastic bags for their garbage - a pretty lame excuse for opposing this ordinance. Plastic bags shouldn't even be used as trash liners because most are not biodegradable.

A ban on foam trays used for raw meat and seafood at grocery stores is set to take effect in July 2010. Seattle is not the first city to pass legislation discouraging or prohibiting plastic bags, however. Los Angeles just passed such a ban (which takes effect if the state of California does not pass its own), following in the footsteps of San Francisco, which was first.

According to this rather interesting article in Time magazine, China has banned the distribution of free plastic bags. Restrictions have also been placed on plastic bags in Bhutan, Ireland, Uganda, Zanzibar, and thirty villages in Alaska. Scores of other municipalities and countries are expected to do the same.

Racist graffiti story too close to home

A friend recently sent me a news clipping about something that happened not in the deep south of the United States, but in Vancouver, the largest city in southwest Washington (and the seat of Clark County), home to nearly 160,000 people.

I lived in this town for some time and part of me is not surprised - but it's shameful. I have a friend who lives there now who often tells me about the people with barely-drivable cars that are festooned with right wing bumper stickers.

Here's a sketch of what happened from The Columbian:
Someone scratched the words "White Power" on a car belonging to a Vancouver family who recently posted an "Elect Obama" sign in their front yard. On Sunday, Frank Wastradowski, who lives northeast of Southwest Washington Medical Center, noticed the vandalism on the side of his wife’s 1993 Plymouth. The letters, likely scratched with a key, were about 8 inches tall.

"It’s a hate crime and it’s time we get past racism," he said. Wastradowski said he won’t take the sign down, adding, "That’s my freedom of speech." Since he doesn’t like the idea of driving around with a white supremacist slogan on the car, he plans to speak with his insurance agent about having the damage repaired.
My husband also heard about this on AM 1090, our local Air America station.

This story reminds us that we need to pick up and continue where we left off with the civil rights movement decades ago.

That work may never be finished.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail (PDF), "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

FCC orders Comcast to stop restricting access to the Internet

Yesterday, in a historic decision, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to order Comcast to stop restricting its customers' access to the Internet, quit blocking BitTorrent traffic, and require public disclosure of its network management practices. Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein, Michael Copps, and Chairman Kevin Martin voted in favor of finding Comcast in violation of FCC rules.

As FreePress explains, Comcast has been jeopardizing net neutrality:
Last fall, tests by the Associated Press and others exposed that Comcast was blocking users' legal peer-to-peer traffic by sending fake signals that cut off the connection between file-sharers.

The Max Planck Institute in Germany later confirmed that Comcast was blocking peer-to-peer traffic at all times of the day and night -- not just during times of peak Internet use.

Today's vote follows a months-long FCC investigation, launched in response to filings by Free Press (PDF) and members of the Coalition urging the federal agency to stop Comcast's harmful blocking. Since January, tens of thousands of people have filed comments with the commission, and hundreds have attended public hearings at Harvard, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities.
The FCC in 2005 issued a statement which provided an outline of Net Neutrality principles. According to that document, customers of internet service providers like Verizon or Comcast have the right to access any content or service online, provided that it is legal and does not cause harm to the network.

Friday, July 25, 2008

BREAKING: Retired Supreme Court justices ready to sue BIAW for violating public disclosure law

Editor's Note: This version replaces an an initial draft of this post which was incomplete and did not correctly cite material from the plaintiffs' press release. That initial draft was mistakenly published. My apologies to readers.

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) and its affiliates, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, have been illegally raising and spending money without reporting their activities to the public as required by law, charges a group that includes two prestigious retired state Supreme Court justices. According to a press release sent to NPI this morning, the group is prepared to sue the BIAW and MBA in forty five days if Attorney General Rob McKenna and county prosecutors don't take action.

This morning's announcement is somewhat unusual because normally a party wishing to ensure compliance with the law would file a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission. The intent to sue seems to reflect the serious weight of the plaintiffs' allegations against the Building Industry Association of Washington.

State law requires that the PDC and Attorney General's office be given an opportunity to investigate before a civil suit may commence. Today's notification starts the clock on a forty five day window. The PDC and Attorney General will have until mid-September to decide to follow up.

RCW 42.17.400 states:
(4) Any person who has notified the attorney general and the prosecuting attorney in the county in which the violation occurred in writing that there is reason to believe that some provision of this chapter is being or has been violated may himself bring in the name of the state any of the actions (hereinafter referred to as a citizen's action) authorized under this chapter.

(a) This citizen action may be brought only if:

(i) The attorney general and the prosecuting attorney have failed to commence an action hereunder within forty-five days after such notice;

(ii) Such person has thereafter further notified the attorney general and prosecuting attorney that said person will commence a citizen's action within ten days upon their failure so to do;

(iii) The attorney general and the prosecuting attorney have in fact failed to bring such action within ten days of receipt of said second notice; and

(iv) The citizen's action is filed within two years after the date when the alleged violation occurred.
If the AG and PDC do nothing, the plaintiffs, who are represented by Seattle attorneys Knoll Lowney and Mike Withey, may take legal action on their own. The plaintiffs include retired Justices Robert Utter and Faith Ireland, A-1 Builders (a beneficiary of the BIAW trust) and BIAW trust beneficiaries. As they note in their press release this morning, Washington's public disclosure law stipulates that:
Any organization soliciting money for the purpose of achieving or influencing electoral goals must register as a Political Committee with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), and all of the Political Committee’s financial records must be open to public disclosure.

Former Justice Faith Ireland supports the effort to force transparency in the electoral process. “Washington has good public disclosure laws and when they are enforced, we will have a transparent, accountable political process. Without enforcement, sneak tactics and last minute ambush can unfairly influence the outcome of important races,” Ireland stated.

Former Justice Robert Utter agrees. “I believe the actions of the BIAW violate the letter and spirit of the public disclosure law in this campaign season and in past seasons as well. The law provides for a process to test these concerns. I look forward to a successful determination of the issues.”
The case against the BIAW seems sound:
Some of the evidence documenting that the BIAW and its affiliates misappropriated trust funds to build the massive campaign fund came from BIAW and MBA meeting minutes and internal emails. Information contained in the documents show that the BIAW amassed at least $3.5 million for the explicit use of influencing this year’s election for Governor. Other races, including local races and the race for Supreme Court Justice, were also targeted.

“This may be the most significant violation of campaign finance laws in state history,” stated attorney Knoll Lowney. “As key players in Washington politics, there is no question that the BIAW knows it is violating the law.”

“What makes the situation worse is that their campaign monies come from trust funds that were misappropriated from thousands of small employers across the state,” concludes Lowney.

In a related matter, a class action suit (RE Sources v. BIAW) is pending in Thurston County. That lawsuit, filed by BIAW trust beneficiaries, alleges that BIAW funneled trust money that was earmarked for marketing and promoting worker safety into their political activities. That class action seeks accounting, preservation and restoration of the BIAW trust fund.
According to the press release this morning, there was also a press conference this morning at Two Union Square.

We'll keep you posted on what happens in this case.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Senator Patty Murray applauds Sound Transit for putting Phase 2 on the ballot

Just in from Washington, D.C.:
The Sound Transit Board has decisively resolved to include a new transit measure on the ballot this fall. I applaud the decision to give voters a voice in this process.

With gas prices sky high and transit ridership on the rise throughout the Puget Sound, expanding our transit options is more important than ever. Our region and state must continue to look for innovative ways to expand transportation options for families, help reduce our carbon footprint and grow our region's economy for years to come. Expanding Sound Transit is key to that effort.
Senator Murray has long been a tireless champion for Washington State in our nation's capitol. It was thanks to her efforts that the Bush administration approved hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for Central Link and is requesting money from Congress for University Link.

Senator Murray understands - unlike some people in Olympia - that our region's transportation system must include a vibrant transit network of high speed light rail, commuter rail, and buses that provides choices for commuters.

We at NPI are grateful to Senator Patty Murray for her support of Sound Transit and her enthusiasm for this package. We will do everything we can to move our region forward and win the voters' approval of Phase 2 this November.

BREAKING: Sound Transit adopts new Phase 2 expansion plan, refers it to voters

The Sound Transit Board has just approved a new fifteen year, Phase 2 plan for expansion of its high capacity rail network and bus system.

If the voters say yes, light rail will be extended north to Lynnwood, south through King County towards Tacoma, and east into Redmond (at Overlake). Express bus service will be expanded and Sounder commuter rail increased.

The vote to adopt the plan was sixteen to two. King County Executive Ron Sims and Councilmember Peter Von Reichbauer, a Republican, voted no.

Hilariously, when it was Sims' turn to vote, his head was turned towards Von Reichbauer and he wasn't paying attention. His name had to be called repeatedly to get his attention. There was laughter in the room. Sims turned and uttered a barely audible "no", as if he was embarrassed and ashamed of his decision.

Paula Hammond, Chris Gregoire's voice on the Sound Transit Board, voted yes.

The vote to refer the new Phase 2 plan to the people was unanimous, however.

All of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute would like to express our appreciation to Mayor Greg Nickels and the Sound Transit Board for placing this proposal to expand light rail and transit service before voters. Mayor Nickels, in particular, deserves a tremendous round of applause for patiently working with board members to make this happen.

Today is a great day for the people of Puget Sound. Voters will get the opportunity this November to decide on the future of transit in our region.

The campaign to win the electorate's approval of Sound Transit 2 begins now.

LIVE from Union Station: Sound Transit Board meets to consider Phase 2 plan

I'm here at Union Station, where the Sound Transit Board is meeting to consider placing a second Phase 2 proposal before voters.

We're currently listening to Jim Horn and Dick Taylor of Kemper's anti-transit Eastside Transportation Association bloviate about awful light rail would be. Among their lies and distortions: light rail would make traffic worse (by taking cars off the road, I presume) it would siphon ridership from buses (which is a lie that has been disproved in cities across the country) and it will cost a lot of money (money that Horn and Taylor want to dump into bigger and wider highways).

At one point Horn or Taylor (can't remember which) told the board that they may have heard that the Eastside Transportation Association is anti-transit, and it's not true, despite what boardmembers may read on blogs.

Well, here's a memo to both of you, Dick and Jim: Actions speak louder than words, and your group, the Eastside Transportation Association, is in fact anti-transit. You are against investing in any kind of rail system and your professed enthusiasm for buses is a farce. Your agenda is more lanes and wider highways.

We know it, you know it. It's no use for you to try to pretend otherwise.

UPDATE: City councilmemebers from Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, and representatives from Futurewise just spoke in support of Phase 2.

UPDATE II: We're currently suffering through the pathetically snarky testimony of Will Knedlik, who is insulting Mayor Greg Nickels and the Sound Transit Board in his quavering voice. He wants the Board to put Phase 2 on the ballot because he thinks it will be defeated and Sound Transit's foes will then be able to destroy the agency.

UPDATE IV: Aubrey Davis, former mayor of Mercer Island, just testified in favor. "Let's get moving," he says.

UPDATE V: Ben is liveblogging over at Seattle Transit Blog, though he's not here at the board meeting (he's watching the webcast).

Representatives from the Expert Review Panel are currently testifying.

Almost all of the board is here, although predictably, Ron Sims is missing.

UPDATE VI: Mayor Greg Nickels is now giving an overview of the fifteen year Phase 2 plan that the board will consider adopting this afternoon. He mentioned his humorous op-ed yesterday in the Seattle Times (Ten lame reasons to wait to put a transit proposal before voters).

Oh, and King County Executive Ron Sims just showed up...guess he doesn't intend to miss the vote after all. Also, Paul Roberts is listening in by telephone.

UPDATE VII: Ric Ilgenfritz, Sound Transit's chief communications officer, just provided an overview of the plan's benefits. Some highlights:
  • 34 miles of light rail to Lynnwood, Redmond, and Redondo/Star Lake
  • 65% increase in Sounder rail carrying capacity
  • 25% increase in ST Express regional bus fleet to provide access between major destinations
  • 2030 forecast is 358,000 daily ridership
  • Reduces carbion dioxide emissions by 99,550 metric tons
  • Combined system readily accessible to 70% of the residental population, 85% of employment centers
The board discussion has turned to the financing. Several questions of staff from board members. Councilmember Larry Phillips points out that taxes would be rolled back after Phase 2 is completed (unless, of course, voters approve extending them in another public vote).

Councilmember Julia Patterson is currently speaking about the Phase 2 plan. "We have a moral obligation...not only to the people that elected us, but to their grandchildren," she declared at one point.

"There is no other transportation agency planning anything," she notes. "The state isn't doing it." She added, "Metro Transit Authority's taxing agency has been used up in King County...This is the only game in town."

Regarding criticism of the sales tax, Patterson said, "Let the people of the region decide that. Give them the opportunity to speak their mind on this issue."

UPDATE VIII: There's a rumor that Paula Hammond, the head of the Washington State Department of Transportation, may vote yes on the Phase 2 plan. Her comments so far haven't been revealing. But we will see...Ron Sims may end up being the only no vote, but we won't know for sure until the board actually votes.

UPDATE IX: The board is now considering amendments. Ron Sims is arguing for passage of his amendment which would "accelerate the Transit Now plan". In other words, prop up King County Metro. It figures that Sims would want Sound Transit funding transferred over to Metro.

Sound Transit staff estimate the main fiscal impact at $120 million. It would be a cash transaction, too. John Ladenburg asks why the amendment would only expand bus service in King County and suggests the amendment be amended so all of Sound Transit's partner agencies receive money.

UPDATE X: A number of other boardmembers, including ST's executive, have outlined potential problems with the Sims "Give Us Money for Metro" Plan:
Joni Earl has stepped in. She’s pointing out that the two waves of bus service, 2009 and 2014, are staged the way they are because we’ll need until 2014 to have space available at our bus bases - we’re maxed out on base capacity. She’s essentially saying that this amendment has other problems.
Nickels is outlining numerous "serious concerns" with the Sims/Hammond proposal to transfer money to Metro for local bus service.

Aaron Reardon and Joni Earl have asked Sound Transit chief legal counsel Desmond Brown about the legality of the amendment.

UPDATE XI: Sims' amendment is defeated. Vote is 15 to 3. Sims, Peter Von Reichbauer, and Hammond were the only ones in favor. They're now going to consider a different amendment regarding bus service made by Hammond.

UPDATE XII: While staff work on the text of Hammond's amendment (fine-tuning it) the Board is considering other amendments. Basically, Hammond's amendment lumps the second fifteen percent ST Express service expansion (scheduled for 2014) in with the first service expansion, scheduled for 2009.

UPDATE XIII: Amendments proposed by several boardmembers with minor technical changes in language are being considered and rapidly approved. Larry Phillips is the maker of several of them. Julie Anderson is behind another. And Paul Roberts is behind yet another.

The last Phillips amendment concerns revenue, and calls for Sound Transit to request a more diversified base of funding from the state Legislature. Dow Constantine is commenting on how awful our tax structure is. Hooray for Dow!

UPDATE XIV: Hammond's amendment (with a friendly amendment packaged in to fix some language) is unanimously adopted.

UPDATE XV: The board is moving towards a vote on final adoption of the package. It looks like nearly every board member will be in favor.

Seven US Senators Pledge Support for Diplomacy with Iran

These Senators (John Kerry (D-Mass.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today sent a letter to the President in support of limited diplomatic presence in the country.

“We know that a hands-off approach has isolated us and strengthened Iran,” said Sen. Kerry. “The Administration’s decision to reverse course and join direct talks with Tehran is the right one, however late. While the United States has remained on the sidelines and outsourced our diplomacy to Europe, Iran used that time to continue to master the nuclear fuel cycle and get closer to a nuclear weapons capability. Even if direct dialogue fails to reach an agreement, we will be armed with new leverage that strengthens our hand with Europe, Russia, and China to impose tougher sanctions and begin to reverse this dynamic.”

Full text of the letter is below:

President George W. Bush

Dear Mr. President:

We are encouraged by recent revelations that your Administration is actively reviewing the possibility of opening an interests section in Iran, and write to express our support for this limited but strategically significant U.S. diplomatic presence. By establishing direct contact with the people of Iran, facilitating their travel to America, and increasing our understanding of Iran’s complicated domestic politics, this initiative will advance our national interests.

Along with your welcome decision to send Under Secretary of State William Burns to Geneva to join in talks with Iran over its nuclear program, this will send a positive message to the Iranian people and the international community about our intentions and enhance our ability to apply greater pressure on the Iranian government.

As you know, Iranians are among the most pro-American people in the Greater Middle East. Many hold the United States in high regard as a country that cherishes the values of freedom, tolerance, and human dignity. Despite our strong differences with their government over its nuclear ambitions, support for international terrorism, and hateful rhetoric towards Israel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently said that “[w]e are determined to find ways to reach out to the Iranian people.” Opening an interests section in Iran, as we have done in other countries such as Cuba, is a highly-visible way of accomplishing this important objective.

The United States has not had any diplomatic presence in Iran since the hostage crisis in 1979. As a result, Iranians who are interested in traveling to the United States must go to Dubai to obtain U.S. visas, impeding familial, cultural, and scientific exchanges that over time can begin to transform Iran. The more frequently that ordinary Iranians have an opportunity to interact with Americans, the more likely they are to ignore their government’s propaganda demonizing our country.

At the same time, a limited diplomatic presence in Iran would improve our understanding of the competing political factions that influence Tehran’s decision-making. As Under Secretary Burns recently acknowledged, our knowledge of Iran’s political and policy-making processes is currently rather limited. Iran already operates an active interests section in Washington, DC, ostensibly for these types of reasons, so our own diplomats are at a relative information disadvantage.

While we recognize that this initiative alone will not resolve our profound disagreements with Iran’s leaders, we believe it is a step in the right direction with the Iranian people. If it comes to pass, we look forward to working with your Administration to provide any necessary congressional support.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your reply.

(information from Senator Kerry's office)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vancouver/Portland I-5 Bridge replacement with light rail moves forward

While we wait to see if Sound Transit is on the ballot in November (and it's starting to seem likely), and we hope that it is, progress is being made to the south with all six governmental bodies approving a replacement I-5 bridge over the Columbia River that is six lanes and contains light rail.

All six governmental bodies mulling alternatives to the current Interstate Bridge want a new six-lane structure that contains a light-rail line to Clark College and bicycle and pedestrian paths.

The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council voted 10-3 for a new bridge, cementing the six-lane option as the project's locally preferred alternative.

The council joined Metro, TriMet, C-TRAN and city councils in Portland and Vancouver in approving a new toll structure, as opposed to revamping the existing Columbia River bridge.

It's great to see forward-thinking government bodies of two neighboring states come together for a positive solution that will connect Vancouver, Washington with Portland, Oregon and get people out of their cars. With $4 plus per gallon gas (and no relief in sight), transit options are becoming more necessary than ever. Unlike Tim Eyman's road building initiative (I-985), which will cost us all, investment in light rail will pay economic and environmental dividends.

And while it won't happen anytime soon, I'd love to see a future where light rail in the Puget Sound region is connected to our neighbors to the south.

What progressive leadership looks like.

That's Jeff Merkley and Darcy Burner in the photo. They're the Pacific Northwest's double punch of progressive leadership, ready to take on Washington D.C.

And while we're at it, Merkley shows the country what real progressive leadership is about in his Huffington Post interview during Netroots Nation. An excerpt:

Oregon senatorial candidate Jeff Merkley admits that his race against incumbent Gordon Smith will be one of, if not the, closest fought this cycle. But Oregon's Democratic House Speaker isn't venturing toward the political center in an effort to pick up votes or protect himself against potential criticism. Rather, he's sticking to definitively progressive positions, whether on FISA, Iraq, trade, or environmental policy. And on occasion he's digging his party's presumptive presidential nominee for venturing away from those battles.

"We disagreed on FISA," Merkley said when asked how he differed with Barack Obama. "And I think we have an emerging difference on NAFTA, where I am very concerned about jobs being swept out of the United States by these trade treaties combined with tax policies, and I gather we were closely aligned but as we go to the general election here, we find that Barack is changing a little bit."

Real leadership means forging a different path if others are taking us in the wrong direction. Merkley is showing that he's absolutely ready for that challenge.

And he's been so impressive at showing his readiness, that Merkley is receiving the Blue America endorsement this week. From Howie Klein:

In fact, Jeff is already showing why Blue America endorsed him: he's an independent-minded progressive who isn't going to stop doing what he's been doing for his entire career-- fighting for the interests of American working families. That's probably why he's pulled ahead of Bush's Oregonian rubber stamp in recent polling. And if it ruffles some Democratic feathers, that's not a problem for Jeff. He's sticking to his guns about warrantless wiretaps, retroactive immunity and NAFTA and he even called "to task the Democratic-controlled Senate for not showing the requisite backbone."

Jeff will be a guest this Saturday at 11AM Pacific Time at Firedoglake. He's also on the Blue America page at ActBlue. So dig deep, fellow progressives. Let's get this man to the U.S. Senate!

Bill O'Reilly attacks Al Gore, likens Netroots Nation to "a Klan gathering"

One day we're Nazis, another day we're the Ku Klux Klan, another day we're devil worshippers, or just plain old Fascists. Bill O'Reilly never seems to stop recycling hateful, utterly false and insulting ways to describe us:
On his radio show today, O’Reilly claimed that Gore was now associating himself with the most “hateful group in the country.” “And I’m including the Nazis and the Klan in here,” said O’Reilly.”

He then claimed that attending Netroots Nation was “the same as if he stepped into the Klan gathering”:
O’REILLY: Al Gore now is done. He’s done. Ok. He is not a man of respect, he doesn’t have any judgment. The fact that he went to this thing is the same as if he stepped into the Klan gathering. It’s the same. No difference. None. K, he loses all credibility with me. All credibility.
What, Al Gore wasn't "done" before this? Seriously? I would have thought his condemnation of the Iraq invasion from the very beginning would have finished him and destroyed all of his credibility in O'Reilly's view.

Incidentally, Bill's sentence "He is not a man of respect, he doesn’t have any judgment" is laugh-out loud funny in light of this profane O'Reilly outburst.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

NO on I-985, the More Traffic Measure

Last Friday, the Secretary of State's office announced that Tim Eyman's initiative to worsen traffic was certified for the ballot.

NPI's Permanent Defense, in cooperation with dozens of other organizations, intends to fight and defeat this ill-conceived ballot measure that would make your commute even longer and more exhausting than it already is.

On the surface, Tim Eyman's Initiative 985 may seem to be redundant. Its sponsor says it is all about traffic light synchronization and roadside assistance crews, both things that the state and local governments already do.

But Initiative 985 is really about opening carpool lanes during rush hour and forcing the state to widen highways. After the money that I-985 steals from the state treasury has been spent on roadside assistance crews and light synchronization (which don't cost much money) it can only be spent on more lanes.

It's no joke. Remember, this is a Tim Eyman measure. Language deep in the initiative calls for new lanes and explicitly prohibits spending money on buses, light rail, heavy rail, bicycle lanes, park and rides, wildlife crossings, or ferries!

Because Initiative 985 opens the carpool lanes to all motorists during rush hour, it will have the effect of snarling buses, shuttles, and vanpools in bumper to bumper bumpers. As buses become more and more unreliable due to the loss of their dedicated lanes, more and more drivers will return to their vehicles, causing ever more traffic to fill up existing lanes and any new ones with an endless sea of cars.

Initiative 985 is guaranteed to make everyone's commute worse. Yours, mine, John Doe's, and Jane Q. Public's.

Initiative 985 will take precious time away from you that you would otherwise get to spend with your family because it would make it harder for you to get home from work. Especially if you cannot leave early.

Initiative 985 will also cost us all money. It would siphon $290 million out of the general fund during the next biennium (two year budget) and the rest of the current one. That's money that would otherwise be spent on our kids' education, one of the primary expenses of state government. Millions of dollars would instead be spent fruitlessly widening highways and encouraging people to drive.

It gets worse. Here's Floyd McKay:
I-985 is premised on the same linear thinking that demanded multiple nuclear-power plants 25 years ago, the presumption that, regardless of price, electricity use would increase exponentially forever. Wrong. Four-buck gas will cause people to drive less, use other methods of transportation and buy smaller cars.

Despite reduced driving, transportation construction costs will rise. It will be increasingly important to adapt, to innovate — and, yes, the Department of Transportation needs to see beyond asphalt, the most expensive alternative.

But the rigidity of locked-in rules hampers DOT's ability to change.

Rigidity brings bad ideas, such as restricting use of bridge tolls. I-985 would prevent tolling Seattle's Interstate 90 Bridge to help replace the Highway 520 Bridge. Tolling both bridges would be more equitable and keep toll-avoiders from clogging the "free" bridge, worsening congestion. The bridges are inextricable parts of the regional commute pattern and cannot be separated.
As he says, Tim's latest proposal is indeed bogus.

Protect yourself, your family, and your community from more emissions, more air pollution, more clogged highways, and more chokepoints by voting NO this fall on Initiative 985 - the More Traffic Measure.

Merkley makes gains; Smith campaign spends

The Jeff Merkley campaign continues to gain ground. The widely respected Cook Report moved the race from Republican-leaning to toss up.

The good folks over at Swing State Project take a more cautious approach, but also see the race moving from likely Republican to leans Republican.

Meanwhile, Gordon Smith keeps on his spending juggernaut, releasing a campaign ad that was debunked before it even hit the airwaves. Smith's ads haven't exactly been warmly received. As has been noted elsewhere, Smith is running the most negative Senate campaign in the country and is still behind in the polls.

Or perhaps its the whiney tone of Smith's campaign that's causing the erosion. Smith's latest gripe has to do with issue ads in which Merkley appears--apparently giving the Smith campaign serious heartburn.

Smith is caterwauling to every media outlet in the state and the only ones who seem to care are already firmly ensconced up Smith's ass.

Not even Smith's filing of an FEC complaint against Merkley is generating the outrage Smith is seeking. This may be due to the fact that Smith is no stranger to FEC violation filings himself.

In the meantime, Merkley continues his 100 Towns tour of Oregon--even taking time out to make a splash at Netroots Nation.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels calls out Kemper Freeman Junior's anti-transit gang

Recently Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Junior and his gang launched a new radio ad campaign that attempts to convince the public we should not build rapid transit. Today Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels responded with this statement:
We know who is behind the curtain of the Eastside Transportation Association – the same people whose only answer to the problems of climate pollution and congestion are more freeways, more traffic, and more frustration.

Under Sound Transit’s new proposal, light rail would be extended to Bellevue, as well as Lynnwood and Federal Way.

Those who are lining up against this common-sense measure are stuck in their own personal Oz, a place where our most pressing challenges can be wished away by laying more asphalt.

This November, we look forward to presenting our bus, commuter and light rail solution – a way forward that will cost the average driver the equivalent of one tank of gas a year.

Because we know building a better future takes more than clicking your heels and hoping our gridlock will go away.
The Dino Rossi/Tim Eyman/Kemper Freeman Junior approach of building more lanes and more highways is not a sustainable solution to our transportation crisis. Their proposals would waste hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars on miles of new pavement that will not improve anyone's commute.

Puget Sound needs transportation choices and a rail backbone. Kemper's distortions aside, we can't afford the staggering environmental and economic costs of a "more lanes good - me like more lanes" policy. The libertarian flying circus has some clever messaging...but it's all predicated on lies and myths.

Editor of Austin American-Statesman backs down on Netroots Nation story

Yesterday morning the Austin American-Statesman published a "news" story about Netroots Nation by writer Patrick Beach, whose cynical and derogatory commentary about the convention did not go unnoticed by the community.

Today, the newspaper's editor responded to the outrage with this comment:
Readers expect front-page stories to speak directly and clearly about events and issues. Eliminating the possibility of misunderstanding from our work is a critical part of our daily newsroom routine. When we communicate in a way that could be misinterpreted, we fail to meet our standards.

Our front-page story Sunday about the Netroots Nation convention included doses of irony and exaggeration. It made assertions (that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might find herself at home politically in Beijing, for example) and characterizations ("marauding liberals" was one) meant to amuse. For many readers, we failed.

In trying for a humorous take on the Netroots phenomenon without labeling it something other than a straightforward news story, we compromised our standards.

Fred Zipp, editor
Well - this is about right.

As I went through security at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, I was wearing a shirt with a very subdued looking peace sign. The Transportation Security Administration officer said to me, "Peace sign, huh? Welcome to America."


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gordon Smith: Lawbreaking lawmaker

Who better to say this than Oregon Senator Gordon Smith?
"I think lawmakers should not be lawbreakers," Smith said.
Of course, Gordon has never been a lawbreaker. Or has he?

Open mouth, insert foot.

See, Smith Frozen Foods, a company owned by Gordon Smith, has been fined multiple times for illegal dumping into local Pendleton waterways.
Smith Frozen Foods, the Pendleton-area processing plant owned by U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, has paid a $3,000 fine for discharging wastewater into a nearby creek in late July.

It marks at least the third time since the early 1990s that the company has been fined for polluting Pine Creek, which runs past the plant located a few miles from the city. [emphasis mine]
Gordon obviously isn't aware that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

UPDATE, Andrew: The point needs to be made that Gordon Smith has leveled an accusation against Jeff Merkley that is without merit.

He's just looking for some kind of ammunition he can use in his campaign to shine the spotlight on his opponent. Unfortunately for Gordon Smith, a frivolous complaint won't get him anything more than a few headlines. He can't refute the fact that he's a Bush Republican. That's his biggest problem.

LIVE from Austin: The third annual Netroots Nation comes to a close

I'm sitting in Exhibit Hall Four here at the Austin Convention Center for the final session of Netroots Nation - the Bloggers' Brunch, an annual tradition where attendees can make suggestions and ask questions of a panel of convention staff and bloggers from across the community.

Concerns ranged from the quality of the meals (the brunch, for instance, consisted of juice and muffins only) how to increase traffic in the Exhibition Hall, creating better panels, strengthening diversity by bringing more people in through scholarships, and involving more people from the host city in the convention.

I didn't go to the microphone to make a suggestion, but I'd like to see a more intimate setting in the keynote room next year. Exhibit Hall 4 was too cavernous, with a gigantic open space in the back that was largely dark and void of anything, even furniture. It was just empty space. It would be good to go back to the type of setting we had in Chicago and Las Vegas, with appetizers being served during the evening keynotes, more lighting, and decor to create a cheery atmosphere.

I also hope the convention organizers pick a hotel for Pittsburgh that won't endlessly nickel-and-dime us like the Austin Hilton did.

Every service from the hotel cost money. Higher room fees to access the lounge with the free continental breakfast, fifteen dollars to use the pool and spa, three dollars to receive a package, a dollar and fifty five cents for a color copy, three dollars for a can of soda from the mini-bar that's installed in every just gets really old. Money is tight in this community. We should be able to find a hotel that will provide some basic amenities for free.

The one thing I really appreciated about Austin was the walkability downtown. I was able to walk to all of the parties at bars like the Cedar Door, Maggie Mae's, Club de Ville, or Black and Tan, unlike in Chicago, where we were at least a dozen minutes away from downtown and many of the better eateries.

LIVE from Austin: Van Jones talks about trip to the Arctic, rebuilding America

Van Jones has taken the stage here at Netroots Nation and is telling us about a recent trip to the Arctic that he took with several dignitaries, including former President Jimmy Carter and executives from DuPont and Monsanto.

They went up to look at the receding glaciers and the disappearing habitat for animals such as the polar bear. They left convinced that there was no doubt, as Van Jones put it, that Al Gore had been correct all along.

The climate crisis is real, despite what fanatics on the right wing might think. (Sorry, Stefan and Phil. You guys are just wrong.)

"We cannot drill and our burn our way out," Van Jones declared. But, he added, "We can invent and invest our way out."

We can in his words, "cut demand for energy and diversify supply"... which will lead to millions of new jobs. A green revolution could revitalize the American economy, including the manufacturing sector.

"This fall we are going to launch a massive campaign to accelerate the embrace of green jobs," Van Jones said. "We know about the bad stuff. We're going to start talking about the good stuff."

"We want to be able to tell people for the first time: guess what? This movement for climate solutions is a movement you've been waiting for your whole life."

Van Jones said the message to the American people..and their children... must be simple and inspiring. "We want to retrofit, reboot, repower a nation. We want to give you the training, the technology, to rescue this country."

He warned against what will happen if Obama is elected.

The right wing, he observed, will certainly move to snarl and derail any effort in Washington, D.C. to bring about a green revolution.

They will attack champions for environmental protection and claim that the green revolution is an attack on impoverished Americans.

And that will be a lie.

Because the green revolution will be about lifting everyone up. Empowering millions of people with new jobs. Billions of dollars pumped into the economy.

Van Jones said our greatest challenge is just ahead of us. "We have to figure out how to govern," he said. And we have to work together to bring the country each other. Build a progressive governing majority, a new movement reminiscent of FDR's legendary New Deal Coalition.

He also addressed accountability, saying he didn't expect someone like Obama to be perfect. "My view is we don't need the president to fix everything. We need the president to stop breaking everything," Van Jones said to applause.

LIVE from Austin: A warm welcome for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom

Today is the last day of the Netroots Nation Convention. Historically, Sundays at YearlyKos have included Pastor Dan's multi-faith service and the bloggers' brunch, the final part of the event. This year, the organizers have added a closing morning keynote, which will be delivered by Van Jones.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom just took the stage to introduce Van Jones. He's reviewing some of the environmental protection measures that his city has adopted to curb emissions and improve air quality.

Notably, providing credits for people who install solar panels, converting the taxicab fleet to hybrids, creating greater incentives for recycling, restricting styrofoam, and reusing grease from restaurants as biofuels.

San Francisco is also working on an experimental wave power facility.

"Politicians tend to overstate what they've done," Newsom told attendees with a smile. He reminded the community to look beyond the bragging because actions speak louder than words. "We've got a lot of work to do [if we want to meet Al Gore's one hundred percent goal]," Newsom said.

"This guy is a superstar," Newsom said of Van Jones. "He's going to challenge you...and that's what makes him a superstar."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nevada Republican Party too demoralized to hold a state convention

This is hilarious:
Citing a lack of interest, the Nevada Republican Party has called off its state convention and will instead pick its delegates to the national convention by private conference call.

The state party broke up its original convention in April when supporters of Ron Paul hijacked the proceedings and tried to elect delegates for their candidate to the national GOP convention in September. Party officials tried to reconvene on July 26, but they needed a quorum of 675 and received only 300 RSVPs, according to local reports.

“With so many people concerned about the economy, it simply wouldn’t be fair for us to ask delegates from all over the state to spend money to attend a convention if we know that a quorum won’t be present,” state party Chairwoman Sue Lowden said in a release.
May I add...ha, ha, ha, ha!

I like the part about Ron Paul supporters hijacking the proceedings at the original convention. Yes, as if it's a crime to out-organize another candidate! McCain's supporters have resorted to heavy handed tactics in an attempt to lock out libertarian Ron Paul and his backers.

This is so funny it feels like satire. A joke. But it's true. Hardcore Republicans in Nevada are so unenthusiastic about their nominee and their chances that they aren't even motivated enough to get together to select delegates to their national convention in Minnesota later this summer.

LIVE from Austin: Donna Edwards says we need more and better Democrats

The wonderful Congresswoman Donna Edwards just took the stage here in Austin to deliver the final address for Saturday. So far, her remarks have covered her upstart and successful campaign against the corrupt Al Wynn, life as a politician in Washington, D.C., and what the netroots community collectively stands for.

The focus of her speech, though, was the need for more and better Democrats.

"We need more voices like mine and yours in that Democratic caucus. So we have our work cut out for us."

"We have [great progressive] candidates all across the country. And we need to get behind them," Edwards reminded everyone, citing our very own Darcy Burner, Washington's netroots hero, and Joe Garcia as stellar candidates who she hopes to welcome to the District of Columbia later this year.

Edwards also urged the community to commit to electing Barack Obama...and then holding him accountable once he becomes president. "We need to make sure that when he's inaugurated in 2009 that he's listening to us," she said.

"It's time for us to be honest with the American public about what our energy future really is," Edwards added later, calling for investment in renewables like solar and wind, and new investments in mass transit and rail.

She closed by observing that an end to the occupation of Iraq would be necessary if we're to have the resources to invest in our own future.

"We've got a big debate coming up and we've got to engage in that debate," Edwards concluded, referring to the 2008 elections, and promising to stand behind the House Democratic leadership "when that's appropriate", and stand them down "when that's appropriate." She left the stage to a loud standing ovation.

LIVE from Austin: Netroots Nation 2009 to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Reprising her Thursday night opening appearance, Netroots Nation Executive Director and founder Gina Cooper just took the stage to review the highlights of the convention and announce some forthcoming changes.

These include her decision to step down as Executive Director (though she isn't leaving Netroots Nation; she'll remain on the convention's board). She didn't hint at what she might be doing next, but promised news soon.

She also assured the community that leaders like Nancy Pelosi are impacted by our idealism and activism, and leave the convention closer to the people.

Gina proceeded to thank all of the volunteers and staff who made Netroots Nation 2008 possible - Raven, Mary, Marna, Josh, Nathaniel...the whole crew.

Then Raven and Mary took the stage to announce the host city for 2009.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will host the fourth annual gathering of the netroots next August. It'll be in a union hotel and convention center, too.
Convention organizers say Netroots Nation provides a unique opportunity to help build online and offline infrastructure in the host region, as well as in surrounding states like Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Michigan and New York.

“In Austin, we had a chance to work with a strong, vibrant Netroots community and get feedback from local activists,” said convention spokesman Raven Brooks. “In our new host city, we have the opportunity to not only bring together existing local and regional progressive communities, but also help create new ones.”

Pittsburgh is a leader in green building, touting the first and largest LEED certified convention center in the country.

As part of newly announced effort to make Netroots Nation the most environmentally sustainable bloggers gathering ever, organizers say they plan to introduce a carbon offset program in 2009.

The city’s accessibility to rail travel will also cut down on the overall carbon footprint.
Raven and Mary also announced an expansion of the scholarship program (people will be able to donate to that when they register) and discounted registration for students. As well, discounted registration will no longer be tied to dates...there will just be a certain number of registrations at every level.

LIVE from Austin: A message from Barack Obama

The evening keynote has just begun here in Austin, and the opening act is a video message from Barack Obama, thanking the netroots community for its support and apologizing for not being able to attend the convention in person.

Obama asked the netroots to stand behind him, and agree to disagree when necessary on issues like FISA or telecom immunity.

Obama praised Governor Dean's fifty state strategy, declaring that his campaign would be committed through November to competing everywhere, building lasting infrastructure that can be used to grow the progressive movement for years to come.

Obama closed by reminding the community that winning in November will be difficult and challenging, and even that victory would simply be the first step towards restoring America. He asked us to join him in bringing change to Washington, D.C. and ensuring a united Democratic juggernaught going forward through 2008.

LIVE from Austin: I'm taking the stage for one of the final panels

Yours truly is going to be a speaker at one of the final Netroots Nation panels - From Online Engagement to Offline Activism, in Ballroom F at 4:30 PM Central Time (2:30 PM Pacific Time).

The panel can be streamed live via ustream.

It's hard to liveblog and talk simultaneously, so I'll post a recap afterwards. And perhaps DiAnne or Rick will share their thoughts here while I am speaking.

LIVE from Austin: Crashing the Party

Our first round of Saturday afternoon panels has begun. I'm at Crashing the Party in Ballroom F, where Chris Bowers, Dante Atkins, Jason Melrath, Steve Thibideau, and Brian Keeler are talking about making the Democratic Party more democratic and accountable to the grassroots.

Chris Bowers is currently making the important point that success stories need to be put online because a lack of information is the number one obstacle for people who are trying to get involved in party politics.

UPDATE: Jason Melrath just added to what Bowers said, saying activists can't be upset after losing a battle because there will always be another battle. Progressives need to regroup after a loss.

In the famous words of Mother Jones, don't mourn, organize.

LIVE from Austin: Lawrence Lessig says money erodes trust in politics

We're listening to a very lively keynote by the distinguished Professor Lawrence Lessig, who is explaining how money in the political process has bankrupted Congress as an institution and reviewing the history of corruption, which goes all the way back to the beginning of the country.

"We face the exact same problem here," Lessig said, referring to the Framers' problems in making early American government independent (or nondependent) of private money and influence.

Lessig is eloquent, forceful, and smooth in his delivery; he's one of the most compelling speakers we've been privileged to hear from this year.

Lessig observed that blogs and bloggers are descendants of the pamphlets and pamphleteers that were the first press corps in America, before the New York Times or Wall Street Journal ever existed.

Lessig went on to talk about the work of Change Congress, which is trying to tag, identify, and track candidates who support meaningful ethical reform of government. Like Creative Commons, Change Congress allows people to post badges on their websites showing their support for reform.

In the next week, Change Congress will send letters out to all candidates and members of Congress asking them to sign on to a pledge to reform our nation's most important institution.

Lessig declared that our democracy was in a crisis, and corruption/abuse of power is not the most significant problem that we need to solve, but it is the first problem. Of course, back home in Washington State, that is something we have been working on with the local public financing of elections legislation that made it through the statehouse this year.

UPDATE, DiAnne: Lessig used a very nice graphics - concise, modern, rather telegraphic text and punctuated with pictures, ensuring that did not become the kind of pedantic speaker who merely reads off their presentation so that people would rather be outside.

He presented parallel stories of the corruption of money, whether by influence peddlers soliciting donations for the "Bush Library," a Congressman using official stationary to raise money for his center, researchers with industry conflicts of interest or CDC physician/reviewers recommending drugs when they received money from pharmaceuticals. He talked about parents of autistic children, who find themselves in a no man's land where they don't know whether to trust research because they know there are strings attached.

The bottom line? Trust can only exist when money is kept off the table. Positive examples given included Wikipedia - which, like NPI, accepts no ads - and Lonely Planet Guidebooks, which doesn't accept ads either but also rejects discounts and endorsements. It is not wrong to be skeptical and withhold trust when money is exchanging hands, because money tends to poison trust, Lessig said.

LIVE from Austin: A peek at Netroots Nation....

I'm sitting in the back of a small conference room at the Working Outside of the Box panel--which includes Darcy Burner - who essentially owns this place. Darcy's cachet at this event cannot be overestimated. She's deeply beloved among this group.

The discussion of the panel (which also includes Dean Nielsen, David Goldstein, Blair Butterworth and Matt Stoller) is largely focused on the influence of the Netroots among political campaigns, specifically for the U.S. House.

So far for me, the convention here in Austin has been fascinating. The dynamic between the candidates, issue campaigns, staffers and bloggers is quite the thing to watch. As someone who spends a fair amount of time observing humanity - is as much a theatrical experience as it is a hands-on networking opportunity.

Jeff Merkley was here on Thursday and Friday, making quite a splash. I loved seeing him here among those I think of as my own - embracing them and encouraging them, listening to their concerns and ideas. Jeff has grown so much as a candidate and as a speaker. I am so proud of him.

The quality of speakers here for the panels and other discussions is very good. And the social time is wonderful. I wish that it was a little easier to talk to some of the more influential national bloggers. Many of them are swarmed.

But some of them are also a seemingly a little put-off by the attention and the efforts to speak with them.

There'll be more to talk about later...but I'm going to sit and listen to the panel...

Live from Austin: AL GORE IS HERE!!!!!!!!!!



There were rumors, oh yes, and the news got out, but still...even for me, knowing that it would happen, it was still electric.

Pelosi was just asked a question about environmental protection and solving the climate crisis. She picked up her BlackBerry, fiddled with it, and seconds later...Al Gore's voice boomed across the room....and Al Gore himself strode up onto the stage to a ROARING welcome, as the entire room jumped to its feet, many clambering onto chairs and tables to cheer and applaud.

As Gore was finally able to begin his address, he thanked the community for the warm address. "You represent the leading edge of that new movement to reclaim American democracy," Gore told the crowd.

"I want to talk to you about the climate crisis," Gore said. He moved right on to some of the new science that has recently become available, saying he didn't need to belabor why we need to end global warming.

"One of the ways that we build our capacity to respond is by sketching out a plan to get from here to where we need to be. If you look at the seriousness of this climate crisis, you begin to see how it's connected to the economic crisis, and the national security threat we face," Gore said, detailing the problems that plague us from our overdependence on dirty fossil fuels imported from overseas.

"The older industries that are premised on cheap fossil fuels are being devastated," Gore noted, "by the rise in fossil fuel prices."

"The idea that we can drill our way just so absurd," Gore said, drawing applause. "When you're in a hole, stop digging," he added.

"I laid out this challenge to the nation and I repeat it here today," Gore continued. "It will take slightly longer to convert our fleet of vehicles to electricity, but we can do it," he asserted.

"We have to switch our electricity generation system. We ought to make a commitment to get one hundred percent of our energy from renewable sources."

Gore slammed the status quo, wondering why Americans keep turning to "remedies" that have nothing to do with solving the problem.

He asked the community if it was okay to talk about the Alliance for Climate Protection and its website (people shouted yes, naturally).

Gore closed by reminding the netroots that we are at the cutting edge, and that our children will look back at these conventions as one of the defining moments in the movement to reclaim our American democracy. "You will tell your grandchildren about the first two meetings of Netroots effort that was historic to retain the integrity of American democracy," Gore said.

Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and Gina Cooper

UPDATE: Gore has taken a seat next to Speaker Pelosi and Netroots Nation Executive Director Gina Cooper to answer questions.

First up...will you take a position in the Obama administration?

Gore is unsure. He seems to be leaning against it, but he didn't shut the door on accepting if he was asked. "I am devoting my life to trying to bring about a sea change in public opinion...that supports the truly massive policy change that we have to have [to solve the climate crisis]."

Second...what about food production?

Gore said we're all guilty of eating foods imported from far away.

Part of reducing our emissions will come from growing more of our food locally on family farms and becoming more self reliant.

Third question was about mountaintop mining, which Gore called an outrage and an atrocity. He said he learned a lot about its devastating effects from a recent documentary. He also brought up liquid coal, calling it "insane".

The fourth question was directed at Speaker Pelosi, who took a moment first to thank Al Gore for his visionary us a path to the future. She also attacked the Republicans and the administration for "looking for an excuse, not a reason" to drill anywhere and everywhere for oil. "Don't give him [Bush] any validation on that score, I tell my colleagues," Pelosi said.

Pelosi then addressed the question that had been asked about accountability, saying that she supported new measures to ensure that future presidents would not abuse their powers, and that Congress would consider legislation to force the executive branch to share more information with representatives and Senators.

On to more questions...someone asked Gore about putting wind turbines on power structures. He agrees we need more turbines, but isn't sure if that particular idea (which originated from Buckminister Fuller) would be all that practical.

Next question....what about science education?

Gore says No Child Left Behind has been a failure, and says we not only need more science education, but we need more arts education as well.

Next question...what can we do to stop to electronic waste?

Gore said that major computer makers such as Apple, Dell, and HP are focusing a lot of energy on the problem and working to increase computer recycling and safe disposal. He acknowledged that much more work needed to be done.

Pelosi was asked whether she accepted Gore's challenge to have American electricity coming from renewable sources within ten years. Pelosi called it "possible" and said she's enthusiastic about pursuing the idea.

She said it would be easier for Congress to do more if Democrats took the White House and expanded our majorities in 2008.

Gore was asked about batteries. He express enthusiasm for advancements in battery technology that allow us to get more power for less cost. He also observed that when demand for solar and wind goes up, the price goes down, as opposed to oil and coal, where the price rises when demand rises.

Gore was asked about nuclear energy. He says he is skeptical, echoing concerns I have made here about disposing the toxic waste that gets left behind. He also noted that there is a security concern: wherever we install a reactor, we install capacity for making nuclear weapons (which we don't need more of).

Gore was asked about the impact of global warming on developing countries. "Many of the solutions - putting up distributed energy systems and solar cells...create the jobs that we greatly need [in places like Africa]," Gore said.

"We ought to be in partnership helping these developing countries switch over to renewable energy sources...addressing poverty in the process," Gore said.

Last question (or so it appears) to Pelosi about Iraq. Specifically, this:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.

"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
Pelosi said, "I think it would be a good idea for us to have a high level meeting now with the Iraqis to work out the terms of our redeployment."

"Get out there and elect a Democratic majority in the House and Senate," Speaker Pelosi said. As she stood with Al Gore and Gina Cooper the room erupted in thunderous applause and cheers, with camera flashes lighting the stage.

What an experience!

UPDATE: Gore and Pelosi have stayed to shake hands and talk to community members, a very cool gesture. I just shook the Vice President's hand. I didn't get a chance to talk to him because he did have to leave (but I did talk to him previously when he signed my copy of the Assault on Reason in Seattle).

UPDATE II: More coverage from Think Progress and Ari Melber.

LIVE from Austin: Ask the Speaker

There are probably a lot of people here in Austin who wish that the Netroots Nation organizers hadn't scheduled Nancy Pelosi to talk with us at 8:45 AM in the morning. But nevertheless, a fairly large crowd of us are here in Exhibit Hall Four to have a conversation with the third most powerful elected official in the United States: the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett is currently introducing the Speaker and thanking the netroots community for being a beacon of hope in America.

UPDATE: Speaker Pelosi has just taken the stage to a loud and friendly welcome. You can watch live from home if you'd like.

Pelosi acknowledged the presence of Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina, and our very own Darcy Burner. She also thanked the community for allowing her to speak at Netroots Nation.

"God bless the impatience of youth," Pelosi said, acknowledging that young Americans are hungry for change in America and unwilling to wait to invest in renewable energy and end the occupation of Iraq.

Please know how much I appreciate what you do... You make America more American," Pelosi said. She urged the netroots to be "relentless" in holding her and other elected officials accountable.

The first question concerned inherent contempt and impeachment.

Pelosi didn't tackle the question head on, but she did say that she approved of the work that her Judiciary Committee Chair, John Conyers, was doing in pursuing contempt of Congress charges against Bush administration officials.

Pelosi also slammed the Bush White House for its disrespect of Congress.

"What the administration is doing is tearing up the Constitution and saying: We rule. This is a monarchy," Pelosi said.

The second question concerned FISA and telecom immunity.

Pelosi pinned the blame on the Senate for the recent "compromise" bill that Congress sent to George W. Bush. The gist of her answer was that once seventeen Democratic senators voted for the bill with the Republicans and sent it over to the House, Pelosi's hands were tied because she was then pitted against not only the Bush administration, but a significant number of the Senate Democratic caucus.

This answer didn't resonate with the assembled community, but almost everyone remained respectful and allowed Pelosi to make her case.

The Speaker seemed somewhat hesitant and unsure exactly how to word her answer at times. And that's understandable. It's a tough, informed crowd that expects Pelosi to be as candid as possible.

The third question was about governing vision.

Pelosi's answer seems to be a tour of the issues: environmental protection and energy, economic security, civic planning/transportation, education, technology, and healthcare. "Our strength cannot just be measured [by] our military might," Pelosi observed. She went on for about twenty minutes about all the priorities that the Democratic Congress would address under an Obama administration.

(We can't really do anything now, apparently, because Congress is doing very little to stand up to Bush).

The fourth question: Should the U.S. government bail out General Motors?

Pelosi's answer: In short, no. We need to innovate. The government is not obligated to relive shareholders of the risk they took in investing in an automaker.

Pelosi did say that universal healthcare was needed to ensure that autoworkers have secure pensions after they retire.

The fifth question: What about sex education? Aren't abstinence-only initiatives a waste and a dangerous step backward?

Pelosi agreed wholeheartedly, condemning the Republicans' stance as dangerous to young women. She promised to continue that conversation in the House caucus.

The sixth question: How do we deliver Internet access to more Americans?

Pelosi didn't necessarily answer the "how", but she did talk about bringing broadband to areas that don't have it. She also brought up net neutrality, declaring that America needed government regulation to keep the Internet open.

She criticized telecoms for opposing net neutrality, pointing out that the telecoms were opposed years ago to the very innovations that have made today's digital economy necessary.

Friday, July 18, 2008

LIVE from Austin: F#@% it, we'll do it live!

If there is one phrase that describes the theme of this year's Netroots Nation, it has to be Bill O'Reilly's infamous F#@% it, we'll do it live! explosion from an outtake of Inside Edition, which the FOX Noise anchor used to host.

The phrase has been used everywhere, from Netroots Nation newsletters to T-shirts to banners for the Daily Kos party at Maggie Mae's in Austin, which I just returned from. Most of the television sets in the bar were continuously playing the best parts of the Inside Edition clip (video only, no audio) with some editing, so that O'Reilly's angry gestures and convulsive mouth looped over, and over, and over.

It looked something like the YouTube dance remix, sans audio.

And it was hilarious.

The Daily Kos party at Maggie Mae's on Sixth Street was one of the coolest I've ever been to. Great food, great music, great conversation, and a fine selection of drinks. There were probably more people there packing two floors than at the entire RightOnline confab happening across town (which features the likes of Michelle Malkin and Robert Novak. Its organizers deliberately picked Austin so they could look pitiful in the shadow of Netroots Nation).

My voice is so tired out from talking with dozens of people that I'm going to have to limit my use of it tomorrow so I won't be hoarse for the panel discussion I'm participating in (From Online Engagement to Offline Activism).

Dino Rossi doesn't care what you want to talk about

So Allen Schauffler and David Postman interviewed Dino Rossi for KING 5's Up Front program, which will air on Sunday. As Postman notes on his blog, he asked Dino Rossi why he won't answer questions about issues that he says aren't a part of his campaign. This was the response from Rossi:
I only have so much time to talk to the voters in the state of Washington. ... This is my campaign. I’ll talk about the issues I want to. When people have the guts enough to run for office they can actually talk about whatever issues they want to talk about. [emphasis mine]
Can you be any more condescending Dino? Apparently, you've forgotten that the people elect you to office. These are voters who are affected by policies that the state enacts and implements. And they'll talk to you about any issue they please. And if you don't change your attitude, then good luck getting any votes.

Since I have actually run for office before (when I lived in California), I'm one of the privileged few who get to talk about whatever I want so I'll be sure to make my question count.

LIVE from Austin: So you want to run for office - with Darcy Burner!

We're on to the second round of afternoon panels here in Austin. We're almost done with officially scheduled events for the day. For now, I'm watching a presentation by Darcy Burner and Blair Butterworth about running for office. They're substituting for Progressive Majority's Dean Nielsen, who can't be here.

Since this is Darcy Burner speaking, the workshop is by nature extensive and thorough, with accompanying PowerPoint slides that offer tips on everything from fundraising to organizing to building name ID.

One of the best moments was when Darcy urged attendees to keep backups of their mailing lists of donors (and volunteers).

"You never know what might happen," she said. "Your laptop might get stolen...or your house might burn down," she finished with a fleeting smile.

The audience groaned.

Darcy and Blair also covered how to pick core staff, select a general consultant for a campaign, convince people to become involved as volunteers, work with the local party organization, and launch a field effort. They're currently taking questions from audience members, including prospective candidates.

This is one of the best Netroots Nation events I've been to.

LIVE from Austin: Back to back panels

I haven't had a chance to write about some of the panels this morning yet, but I made an effort to go to more than one, and was impressed by the quality of the discussion and the presentations.

I stopped by Energize America first, with Jerome a Paris, Adam Siegel, Jeff Merkley, and Mark Begich, the last two candidates who will hopefully be replacing Gordon Smith and Ted Stevens (respectively) in the U.S. Senate.

There has been a similar version of this panel in past years but this year's conversation had an added sense of urgency. It's becoming harder and harder to ignore our addiction to foreign oil, and soaring gas prices are changing attitudes. People are more conscious about the cost of driving, heating/cooling a home, and using energy-intensive appliances.

Key to the forthcoming green revolution, the panelists agreed, would be government investment in renewable energy. Federal support for wind and solar would do wonders for growth of alternatives to fossil fuels.

I next checked in on Lone Star Candidates '08, a lively discussion about some of the races in Texas. Local bloggers provided some perspective on the Cornyn-Noriega race (particularly that the Republicans are concerned about losing and are making an extra effort to engage early, demeaning Rick whenever they have the opportunity) and Texas state House races.

The state House was described as a raucous chamber, especially under the Republicans, who famously rammed a gerrymandering scheme through a few years ago. The Democratic Party fortunately has some strong candidates who are running to unseat entrenched Republican legislators.

Following that, I spent some time listening to Working from the Inside Out: Success Stories in Netroots Organizing, a discussion between bloggers and key staff at established progressive organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union about collaboration on issues such as FISA.

The takeaway from the panel for me was that we need more of our own ideas and infrastructure to be successful on Capitol Hill. Corporate lobbyists are very successful at what they do, and the few public interest lobbyists representing the American people are besieged, mostly playing defense. Also, there's a disconnect between Capitol Hill and the rest of the country. It's hard even for those who care to keep track of what's happening on the floor because parliamentary procedure and legislative rules can be arcane and complicated.

Daily Kos contributing editor David Waldman apparently hopes to solve this by launching a new blog that breaks down what is happening in the U.S. House and Senate. I'm looking forward to seeing what he puts together. [Note the correction that fellow editor Joan McCarter is not involved in the project].

LIVE from Austin: Markos vs. Harold!

It's lunchtime here in Austin, and almost all of the attendees are in Exhibit Hall 4 eating sandwiches and watching the debut of Meet the Bloggers with Cenk Ungyur, a project of Brave New Films. This first show features Arianna Huffington, Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake, Baratunde Thurston, and several others. It's really well put together...looks like a professional television show.

It will regularly air in the future at 1 PM Eastern, 10 AM Pacific on Fridays.

Markos and Harold Ford are about to take the stage for the keynote discussion.

UPDATE: Moderator Arshad Hasan kicked things off a few minutes ago by introducing each speaker and then asking each to give an opening statement.

Markos talked about the beginnings of the netroots community, the lack of media access that progressives have historically had, and drew a loud cheer when he said that the community will make primarying the most entrenched, arrogant, and unprincipled Democrats in 2010 a priority.

Ford thanked the organizers for having him and used most of his opening statement to talk about the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council), its origins, and what it does. He also stressed that differences between the netroots and DLC are nothing compared to the differences Democrats have with Republicans. "I am confident that a president named Obama would be very different from a president named McCain," Ford said.

Arshad asked both candidates what should be done to build the party.

Ford focused on appealing to Republican voters, saying that Barack Obama would need to receive the support of people who voted for George W. Bush twice to win the presidency. Markos talked about fielding authentic candidates who represent real American, progressive values, because there are few in Washington, D.C. who truly have their ear to the ground and are listening to their constituents.

The discussion turned to FISA. Ford took several minutes to explain his nuanced position on telecom immunity, arguing that the people at fault are those in the Justice Department who instructed AT&T, Verizon, and other communications companies to turn over information to the government. Markos, of course, noted that there was no popular support for the bill that Congress passed, and that government's job is to protect the people by holding corporations accountable.

In other words, telcoms' spying on their customers should go unpunished.

Arshad asked about holding elected officials accountable.

"I think it's important to remember that they work for us. We don't work for them," Markos replied, drawing applause. Americans can't be intimidated by their senators or representatives, or power won't be wielded responsibly, Markos noted.

UPDATE: We're in Q&A now. Someone from the Roosevelt Institution asked about diversity in the netroots community, citing a concern about the demographic representation at Netroots Nation.

Markos replied by noting that the community is still young and growing, and people of different backgrounds are involved in different ways. Not everyone can afford to come to Netroots Nation and stay in the Austiin "We Nickel-And-Dime You" Hilton.

The next question was aimed at Harold Fold - I'm paraphrasing here, but basically the second part of it was, "Why do you go on right wing media like FOX Noise and smear Democrats with right wing talking points?" (The first part had to do with Ford's voting record in Congress, which Ford stated that he was proud of, and stood by). Ford asserted that he does not smear Democrats and reminded attendees that he no longer works for FOX, although he has "respect and admiration" for his "colleagues" there (predictably, this statement drew boos).

UPDATE II: Harold Ford just got educated.

Responding to his position on FISA, an activist reminded Harold that the lawsuits against the telcos are critical if we want to hold the lawbreakers in the Bush administration accountable, because it is through discovery that the public can find out what actually happened. Ford did not respond due to limited time. At least the point was made to Ford's face in front of everyone.

UPDATE III: The consensus following the lunch from people I've talked to is that Harold Ford sucked. Too much "I respect you, why don't you respect me?" nonsense, and not enough candidness about what Ford really believes.

UPDATE IV: I talked to George Lakoff about the lunch keynote and asked for his thoughts. He called it boring. I have to agree; it didn't come close to my expectations. I was expecting something more real, but then again, this is Harold Ford...I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up to begin with.

In Brief - July 18th, 2008

The big news this morning, at least according to the Seattle Times, is that Sound Transit appears to have the votes to send a light-rail expansion plan to the ballot in the fall. This is fantastic news, but the challenge of getting Phase 2 approved is still before us. Looming on the horizon now is a contentious fall campaign.

The fifteen year plan that the board is considering must win support from voters before the agency can move forward. And already, the libertarian anti-transit flying circus is preparing to launch an all-out attack on the package.

Going to the ballot in 2008 with a light rail package is a wise decision, but that doesn't mean this won't be a tough battle. We're going to have to work incredibly hard to refute the right wing's attacks on rail and Sound Transit this fall. Now is not a time to be celebrating. (Andrew)

Around the Northwest
Around the Nation
Around the World
This Day In History
  • 1925 - Adolf Hitler publishes Mein Kampf.
  • 1976 - Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 score in competition at the Montrel Olympics.
  • 1995 - The Soufriere Hills volcano erupted in Montserrat, devastating the island and forcing most of the population of the island to leave.

Republicans target Michelle Obama

Catching up on local Seattle news while in Austin, I read about Michelle Obama's event for Chris Gregoire and learned that Washington Republicans like those in Tennessee earlier, are going after the Democratic candidate's wife.

They launched a Web ad "welcoming" Michelle Obama to the state. In the video, the King County Republican chair and her cohorts are shown pledging allegiance to the flag (in reference to the false assertion that Barack Obama does not do so.)

"I'm proud to be an American," says the chairwoman, and then they show an old, out-of-context remark by Michelle Obama that has widely used already.

This a a typical attack by a GOP group using cultural issues that McCain then doesn't have to touch.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded:
With our economy in shambles, our nation at war and our challenges mounting by the day, it is beyond sad that the Republican Party of Washington would spend its time launching shameful attacks on the wife of a candidate - attacks our current First Lady Laura Bush has decried. Michelle Obama has lived the American Dream, and it’s love of country that leads Michelle and Barack to make this race.

But how does it strengthen our country to pollute our politics with false and mean-spirited attacks? John McCain promised us better. It's up to him to curb these tactics, or take responsibility for them.
The Governor's office also issued a statement condemning the Republican attacks. "If John McCain is serious about running a “respectful” campaign on the issues, he and Republican leaders like Dino Rossi will denounce this tasteless attack ad and tell the state Republican Party to pull the plug on it immediately," Gregoire said.

Here is the link to Governor Chris Gregoire's diary at DailyKos, about the visit of Michelle Obama to Seattle.

LIVE from Austin:: From Dean to Obama - Four Years

There are a lot of panels going on simultaneously this morning, and though choosing was hard, I decided to go to the From Dean to Obama presentation.

I'm currently listening to Joe Trippi, on a panel with Zephyr Teachout and others who ran Dean's campaign in 2004, along with panelists from Democracy for America, Media Matters and Huffington Post.

Trippi says that culturally, it's time for "bottom up" factors to make an impact. At the end of the Dean campaign, there were one million something blogs - now there are upwards of 80 million. In four years!

Dean understood "bottom up" but it wasn't quite time - Obama understands "bottom up" because that's the way he came up as a community organizer.

John McCain is just now figuring out the internet. He is no longer an "insurgent" candidate within the Republican party. He has some party connections. Obama is able to use bottom up and top down - best of both.

"People power" has taken on a life of its own and some progressive internet networks number in the thousands. There seems to be a consensus that this model works best because of the more flat nature of their organization.

Traditional media is much more hierarchical, therefore less democratic. Content and good fact-checking matter as well - there must be a story, some movement, not just a bunch of neat features and services.

It hasn't worked to "build it and they will come" - and Trippi feels most campaigns still aren't using the internet like they could.

More people now have broadband and this is the first campaign to use independent video widely. Technology has leveled the playing field to an unprecedented level.

In the future, campaigns will be managed by people who did not come up in a "top down" world. Campaigns that are listening to their constituents right now will probably win. Darcy Burner's campaign was given as a good example (by Trippi.)

As Trippi says, four years from now, whatever will be happening at that time would blow us away right now.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

McCain, Phil Gramm and UBS

Citing business practices that allow wealthy Americans to commit tax evasion by manipulating bank secrecy laws, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) today called for the revocation of the banking license of Swiss bank UBS.

"I don't think that any bank that goes to the extent that UBS has gone through to avoid doing what their agreements with the United States require them to do, should be allowed to continue to do business unless they clean up their act," Levin said.

UBS's role in arranging "undeclared" accounts for an estimated 19,000 US citizens was one focus of a hearing by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Levin today.


Levin said UBS practices resulted in its U.S. clients maintaining undeclared Swiss accounts that collectively held "$18 billion dollars in assets that have been kept secret from the the IRS."
Enter John McCain's senior economic advisor Phil Gramm, who recently had this to say about the American economy and those who aren't happy with the status quo:
"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

Phil Gramm is Vice-Chairman of UBS bank, a role that has allowed him to lobby on behalf of banks and predatory lenders at the expense of you and me. Phil Gramm is Vice-Chairman of the bank Senator Carl Levin is accusing of helping wealthy Americans shirk their legal financial obligations. In other words, a foreign bank is manipulating the U.S. system and taking us for all we're worth. It's economic warfare and the rich are getting richer, thanks to John McCain's economic advisor, Phil Gramm.

But you see, John McCain is no stranger to scandal involving financial institutions. McCain was one of the "Keating 5", involved in the savings and loan scandal of the late 1980's.
It all started in March 1987. Charles H Keating Jr., the flamboyant developer and anti-porn crusader, needed help. The government was poised to seize Lincoln Savings and Loan, a freewheeling subsidiary of Keating's American Continental Corp.

As federal auditors examined Lincoln, Keating was not content to wait and hope for the best. He had spread a lot of money around Washington, and it was time to call in his chits.


Keating was no ordinary constituent to McCain.

On Oct. 8, 1989, The Arizona Republic revealed that McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators.

The paper also reported that the McCains, sometimes accompanied by their daughter and baby-sitter, had made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating's opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay.

McCain also did not pay Keating for some of the trips until years after they were taken, after he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln. Total cost: $13,433.
With the economy the way it is, do you really think you can trust John McCain and Phil Gramm to do what's right for you and your family? After all, they've proven time and time again whose side they're on. And it isn't yours.

LIVE from Austin: Empowered by Howard

National Democratic Chairman Howard Dean, champion of people powered politics and a resolute believer in a fifty state strategy, has just climbed the stairs up to the podium to a thundering welcome, waving to thousands of cheering activists and bloggers armed with Change We Can Believe In signs.

Dean began by thanking the Netroots Nation team and explained that he had just been to Crawford, Texas for the first time in his life earlier that day.

"We want real change in America and Crawford, Texas wants real change in America," Dean told attendees.

"If it wasn't for the netroots nation, we would not have a majority in the House of Representatives," Dean said, crediting the community for the sweeping 2006 midterm election victories that the party enjoyed.

"When Barack Obama becomes President of the United States, he will become president of all fifty states, not just those that agreed with him...Barack Obama is the candidate of the future of America."

"He understands that his job is to heal America."

Moving on to talk about the fifty state strategy, Dean declared, "We can win everywhere. And that's why we're doing this."

He received a standing ovation when he mentioned Texas state legislative races - the Democrats will have a majority in the state House if they can pick up five more seats, a majority that can undo the Republicans' crooked schemes.

"When your average campaign contribution is sixty eight dollars, you're owned by no one but the American people," Dean said, referring to Obama's campaign.

"Millions of people have been registered to vote," Dean added.

He proudly reviewed the changes he's made since becoming the Democratic Party's chief executive, noting: "As you know, when we came to Washington, D.C. we fired all the consultants who had been paid money over the years to tell us how to lose."

He went on to describe the success of the VoteBuilder application, available to Democratic campaigns at every level.

"Part of our defense is having a moral authority," Dean said, noting that having a great military isn't enough to keep America safe. He received another standing ovation as he denounced torture and human rights abuse.

He closed by thanking attendees, and praised the Internet as the most important invention since the printing press, because it has revolutionized grassroots politics. "If you want to nourish democracy, you have to keep on doing what you're doing," Dean said. "This is up to you. We are passing the torch...That's what this campaign is really about."

"I thank you not only for what you have done, but what you will do."

LIVE from Austin: Gina Cooper!!!

Netroots Nation Executive Director Gina Cooper has just taken the stage to introduce Chairman Howard Dean, recounting the history of the netroots community and its victory in sweeping Governor Howard Dean into the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. "We've seen new and invigorated communities become more involved in the change we need," Cooper said. She thanked attendees and volunteers for coming to Austin, extending an official welcome to open the Netroots Nation Convention.

UPDATE: Glen Maxey is now introducing Governor Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the man who has strengthened the Democratic Party from the bottom up since taking over the party in 2005.

LIVE from Austin: Opening keynote

We're now just minutes away from the opening keynote address. Almost everyone attending Netroots Nation this year is gathered together in Exhibit Hall 4, the large cavernous space where most of the main festivities will be happening during the weekend. The atmosphere feels much like in past years, with the crowding outside of the doors inside and the sea of tables with signs on them inside.

Playing on the main screen now is a video showing the organizers' work in putting the convention together, along with some scenes from the first day, courtesy of Two Steps Forward Media, which is responsible for Netroots Nation video.

The main program is due to begin in just a few minutes.

UPDATE: Laughing Liberally is kicking things off with some comedy. Baratunde Thurston is up on stage, asking for shout outs from each time zone. He joked that anyone with a pager "should leave now" and climb aboard a special bus outside that would take them back to 1994, complete with a Vanilla Ice soundtrack.

UPDATE II: Brandon Friedman, filling in for Jon Soltz, has just taken the stage to introduce General Wesley Clark.

"I know I speak for thousands of other veterans when I say that General Clark has truly led the way," Brandon said, adding, "General Clark can go toe to toe with anyone when it comes to foreign policy."

UPDATE III: General Clark is now speaking.

"You've been a major force in my life," Clark said, praising attendees. Recounting how he became involved in opposing the invasion of Iraq, he credited the netroots with getting him involved and drawing him in, adding later, "You've given me hope and inspiration in this complex and difficult American political system. You've done that. You made it possible for me to run for office."

"This is a great community because it stands for principles," Clark declared, noting the netroots is also diverse. "You're united by your passion for good government that takes America in the direction it must go."

"If you want to see how significant we are, look at how many members of this community are running for office," Clark noted, asking all candidates present to stand and be recognized. He went on to recognize teachers, healthcare workers, public service defenders, first responders, service members, and veterans.

"You are the guiding compass for America. It's a very serious responsibility," Clark said solemnly to attendees. "Our country needs you. Needs you now. More, probably, than at any other time in recent history."

Donations, votes, and entertainments, are all important, Clark said, but in the end, most important of all in the fight to restore America is ideas - which the netroots community can ably articulate. "You're leaders, so let's move America forward together," Clark said, concluding his remarks.

LIVE from Austin: Afternoon turns into evening at Netroots Nation

It's been a busy afternoon here in the heart of the Lone Star State's capital, with hundreds of bloggers checking in to the Hilton during the first day of the third annual netroots convention. I'm blogging from our booth Ballroom D (the Exhibition Hall) which has seen steady foot traffic all day.

A lot of thought went into the Exhibition Hall this year. The room is spacious (but not too big that it feels empty), easy to navigate, and feels welcoming. We are adjacent to the common area, which is where the Readers & Writers Mixer is just beginning - so we have great visibility.

There are a number of caucuses just wrapping up, including the OpenLeft caucus, the African American caucus, and the FireDogLake caucus. The main event tonight will be Governor Howard Dean's keynote address.

We'll have live coverage of that beginning at 5:30 PM Pacific Time, so be sure to check The Advocate then for our reports.

Here's an overview of some of the better articles or posts about the convention that have been published today or yesterday.
I'll update this post with more links as I find them.

LIVE from Austin: Howard Dean - Democracy for America with Vote for Change

A crowd began to assemble at the park across from the Hilton about noon, and before long, the very cool-looking Vote for Change bus pulled up.

Disembarking were the Texas Democratic Chair, the VP of the University of Texas Student Democrats (voting Democratic for the first time) and Howard Dean!

After introductions, Howard talked about the importance of registering voters, empowering the grassroots in all fifty states and supporting Barack Obama. He emphasized that this election should not just be about taking control of the party once again but about building a permanent structure.

The bus was heading for Louisiana, but Dean started naming off states that need to be won in the fall, such as Virginia, Colorado and maybe even Texas. Supporters with good memories remembered past occasions of the changing of state names, and joined in with hearty voices, topped off with rowdy "heaahhhh!!!" screams.

This was an exciting moment for Texas and for all of us, really.

LIVE from Austin: Lunchtime and caucuses

It's only midday here in Austin, but already it feels like the day has been really long. I've taxed the battery on my notebook and am now blogging from my BlackBerry.

After breakfast this morning, most of our team (including myself) headed over to the Exhibition Hall to set up the NPI booth, which is adjacent to the commons area inside the room. At our booth we're selling convention t-shirts featuring the Washington Progressive Blogroll, offering locally-grown fruit for people to snack on, and handing out information about our work.

We had a fine turnout at our Evergreen State lunch caucus, held at the Moonshine Bar and Grill. The food was excellent, the service wonderful, the conversation upbeat and lively. Over a third of the Washington delegation to Netroots Nation showed up. We talked about some of the downballot races, Sound Transit 2, and events that are happening later this weekend.

I am currently at one of the first afternoon caucuses - the Youth Caucus. We're having a thoughtful discussion so far about where the progressive youth movement is today and where we want it to go in the future.

Hot topics in our conversation through the first hour: leadership development (nurturing young leaders, beginning in high school so they can get experience early on, like I did), uniting behind common goals (i.e. student rights) reaching young progressives who aren't on campus (where many youth organizations are focused), or don't own a computer.

Jim Slattery, who is running against Pat Roberts for U.S. Senate in Kansas, listened to our discussion and then spoke to us briefly about the "generational robbery" that is going on - the giant mess that is being left to future generations by the current Republican administration and their allies.

In particular, Jim told us that energy policy is shameful and embarrassing.

Years from now, our children will be asking why it took so long for us to start moving beyond fossil fuels and slow the emission of the greenhouse gases that are causing the climate crisis.

The agenda for today is mostly caucuses, although Chairman Howard Dean will give a keynote speech tonight. General Wesley Clark will also make an appearance.

I'm headed to the job expo next to talk to people about joining NPI.

Live coverage of Netroots Nation begins today

Starting a little later today, the Northwest Progressive Institute team will be reporting to you live from Austin, Texas, where five of us are in town for the third annual Netroots Nation Convention, formerly known as YearlyKos.

This year's convention is bigger than ever, with a plethora of panels, one of which yours truly is part of. Key presenters include Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will respond to Q&A, Chairman Howard Dean, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, General Wesley Clark, Lawrence Lessig, Van Jones, and Harold Ford, who is slated to appear with Markos Moulitsas tomorrow for what promises to be a lively lunchtime debate.

Most of the events going on today are caucuses - meetings of smaller groups of people who share a common bond (geographical, readers of a particular blog, readers who share a common hobby, and so on).

The Washington State lunchtime caucus will be happening at the Moonshine Bar & Grill about a block away from the Convention Center at noon. If you're reading this from Austin, please remember to join us for lunch! And if you're reading from home in the Pacific Northwest or somewhere else, stay tuned to The Advocate for continuing coverage of the convention, in words, pictures, audio, and video.

UPDATE: There's an excellent article about Netroots Nation in the Dallas Morning News, filed by reporter Karen Brooks. An excerpt:
"I would say we’ve been taking those steps all along, but yes, there’s an emphasis on it right now because there’s the urgency of an election," said Gina Cooper, executive director of Netroots Nation, formerly known as YearlyKos — the convention named after the Daily Kos, the granddaddy of political blogs. "You will see a bigger emphasis on what are the practical things that we do – how do we hit the streets?"

The answer, attendees and organizers say, will include training in how to recruit volunteers, looking and sounding good on TV, getting media exposure, crafting campaign messages, running a successful voter-registration campaign, and precinct organizing.

The somewhat dated stereotype of anti-social, pajama-wearing bloggers has already fallen by the wayside when it comes to most attendees. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Howard Dean, Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, and former White House security adviser Richard Clarke are among the keynote speakers, illustrating the increasing importance of the blogosphere in politics.
It's a well-written article - great perspective on the convention.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Merkley tops Smith in new Rasmussen poll:

Oh yeah, that's what I'm taking about!

Merkley: 43%
Smith: 41%

Mapes: Smith exaggerates in hitting Merkley on taxes

Continuing his excellent coverage of the U.S. Senate race in Oregon, reporter Jeff Mapes takes a big swing at Gordon Smith today for his gratuitous exaggeration of Merkley's record on taxes:

A couple of weeks ago, Sen. Gordon Smith told me that he expected taxes to become a bigger issue in his Senate race with Democrat Jeff Merkley.

"We'll see how people feel about raising taxes in an economic slowdown," he said. On Tuesday, the Smith campaign followed through with a new TV commercial that accuses Merkley of having "voted for higher taxes 44 times over ten years."

Notice the wording carefully. It doesn't say he voted to raise taxes. In fact, many of the votes that Smith references in his new ad are actually votes that Merkley cast against tax breaks for one group or another.

Mapes goes on to tick off a laundry list of specific votes and bills that Smith attempts to cite--smashing each with a rhetorical sledge while outing the blatant dishonesty of the Republican's latest TV ad.

Dishonest Republican? Sorry for the redundancy there.

Unfortunately, Mapes' excellent reporting on the ongoing efforts by the Smith campaign to prevaricate Merkley's record are sitting on his blog instead of getting column inches in the paper edition. One hopes that Mapes's gravitas will yield otherwise very soon.

ACLU: US Terrorist Watch List Hits One Million

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the government now maintains a list of one million Americans on its watch list. These include members of congress, war heroes, nuns and other "suspicious characters."

Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program said that "America's new million record watch list is a perfect symbol for what's wrong with this administration's approach to security: it's unfair, out-of-control, a waste of resources, treats the rights of the innocent as an afterthought, and is a very real impediment in the lives of millions of travelers in this country."

"Putting a million names on a watch list is a guarantee that the list will do more harm than good by interfering with the travel of innocent people and wasting huge amounts of our limited security resources on bureaucratic wheel-spinning. I doubt this thing would even be effective at catching a real terrorist."

The ACLU recommended these controls on the watch list: due process, a right to access and challenge data upon which listing is based, tight criteria for adding names to the lists rigorous procedures for updating and cleansing names from the lists. The ACLU also called for the president to issue an executive order requiring the lists to be reviewed and limited to only those for whom there is credible evidence of terrorist ties or activities. (That will probably have to be the next president.)

The list has reportedly been growing by 20,000 names per month. See ACLU/Watchlist.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bush lifts ban on offshore drilling

Jobs aren't the only things being offshored by Bush Administration policies designed to benefit corporate masters. In a move reeking of political gamesmanship, today President Bush lifted a ban on offshore drilling instituted by the former President Bush.
President Bush on Monday lifted an executive ban on offshore oil drilling and challenged Congress to follow suit, aiming to turn the enormous public frustration about gasoline prices into political leverage. Democratic lawmakers rejected Bush's plan as a symbolic stunt.

With gas prices topping $4.10 a gallon nationally, Bush made his most assertive move to extend oil exploration, an energy priority of his presidency. By lifting the executive ban on coastal drilling, Bush rescinded a White House policy that his father put in place in 1990.

The move will have no practical effect unless Congress acts, too. Both executive and legislative bans must be lifted before offshore exploration can happen. [emphasis mine]

But even if Congress lifts its moratorium, it would be years before the consumer sees any result. And even then there are no guarantees that the result would be one the consumer would like.
Even if Congress agreed, the exploration for oil would take years to produce real results. It is not projected to reduce gas prices in the short term. Even the White House routinely emphasizes there is no quick fix. [emphasis mine]
So basically, all that happens is that oil companies which are currently making record profits, get to drill for oil in areas where it was previously prohibited so that somewhere down the road they can mug us, steal our wallets and make even bigger profits. Sound fair to you?

The truth is, allowing drilling in offshore areas, as in Senator John McCain's plan, will have very little effect on oil prices. And, increasing fuel efficiency standards would have a greater effect than drilling for more oil. From a June 2008 Issue Brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research:
However, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) projects that Senator McCain’s proposal would have no impact in the near-term since it will be close to a decade before the first oil can be extracted from the currently protected offshore areas. The EIA projects that production will reach 200,000 barrels a day (0.2 percent of projected world production) at peak production in close to twenty years. It describes this amount as too small to have any significant effect on oil prices.


In conclusion, if Congress had continued to increase fuel efficiency standards over the last 22 years, we would currently have more than sixteen times the savings in oil consumption than what Senator McCain’s plan promises to accomplish in 20 years by drilling offshore in protected areas– and a proportionately larger impact on gas prices. [emphasis mine]
This move by President Bush has nothing to do with solving America's energy crisis. It has nothing to do with helping the consumer. It has everything to do with a Texas oilman in the White House trying to help his friends pad their bottom line, on his way out the door.

Merkley outraises Smith in Q2!

Merkley=$1.42 million
Smith=$1.35 million

Cash on hand:

Smith=$4.5 million

More here and here.

Add in what the DSCC is able to do to help Merkley, coupled with the superb political climate for Democrats--Merkley is coming on incredibly strong against Smith.

Genocide charges for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been brought up on genocide charges with regard to his harsh treatment of people in the Darfur region, by the International Criminal Court. This is the first time the Court has filed charges against a sitting head of state.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked a three-judge panel at the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for al-Bashir to prevent the slow deaths of some 2.5 million people forced from their homes in Darfur and still under attack from government-backed janjaweed militia.


"I am a prosecutor doing a judicial case," Moreno-Ocampo said. He filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. Judges are expected to take months to study the evidence before deciding whether to order al-Bashir's arrest.
It's worth noting that the United States is not a member of the Court, and neither is Sudan. Alleged war criminals don't like to be held accountable for their crimes.

For more on the conflict in Darfur and Luis Moreno-Ocampo, I highly recommend you watch this film, which retails in stores for about $5.99 with proceeds going to organizations involved in stopping this disaster of humanity. You can also visit Not on Our Watch and the Save Darfur coalition for more info, including ways to get involved.

Announcing... The Advocate!

We're pleased this morning to unveil the new name for our official blog: The Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Starting today, "Official Blog" will be phased out as the official name of this publication. All references to it on our network will be changed.

If you are kind enough to link here, please update your blogroll to "NPI Advocate" (we know Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate is a mouthful!)

What led us to choose The Advocate as our new name?

Out of all the suggestions we considered, Advocate was the name staff unanimously liked the most. It symbolizes our activist roots, our netroots heritage, and advocacy journalism. It reflects our mission and our purpose.

And unlike "Times", "Herald", or similar names, it's not in excessive use. Nationally, there is a well known GLBT magazine called The Advocate. Stamford, Baton Rouge, Contra Costa College, and Newark each have publications by that name.

But that's about it.

The Advocate was also reader submitted. It was one of the first entries that came in during our naming contest. The winner, "JY", was notified back in May and is the recipient of our multi-faceted prize.

We are an organization that believes in listening, so it's fitting that the new name for the Official Blog comes from our community of supporters.

Today begins a new era. Our hope is that the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate become an even better blog in the months and years ahead.

Merkley has awesome quarter; Smith campaign continues downward spiral

Democrat Jeff Merkley's U.S Senate campaign in Oregon announced today that they raised $1.42 million in the second quarter of this year. This total is three times what they raised in the first quarter.

From today's press release:
Online contributions soared for Merkley over the past three months. The Merkley team raised more than $420,000 online in the second quarter, double the previous three quarters combined.
That's a great online fundraising number, demonstrating Merkley's surge in the netroots. Meanwhile, Gordon Smith's campaign continues its bizarre spiral.

Oregonian reporter Jeff Mapes wrote yesterday on his blog about Smith's weird attempt to blast Merkley on tax increases. When Mapes asked for documentation for the accusation, Smith's campaign sent the reporter what appears to be a cobbled-together contrivance. Mapes explains:
For example, most of the money came from two income-tax measures referred to the ballot in 2002 and 2003 when a recession had taken a huge whack out of state revenues. Voters defeated both of them, but the fact is that the Legislature would not have referred the second measure to the ballot if the first had passed.

The other interesting tax vote that the Smith campaign included was on a 2007 bill to divert some $300 million from the "corporate kicker" tax rebate into a rainy-day fund meant to help cover schools and other services in a future downturn. That diversion passed with the support of 17 Republicans in the House and such powerful business groups as Associated Oregon Industries.
So the Smith campaign doubled up on two ballot measures and included an extremely popular bipartisan legislation to create a rainy-day fund in Oregon to make up their total. That's some pretty interesting "new math", even for a Republican.

This is great reporting by Mapes - too bad it's stuck on his blog and not in the paper edition. It deserves to be much more widely read. The Smith campaign's continued problems haven't escaped the notice of editorial pages either. Last week, The Daily Astorian asked, Is Gordon Smith Losing His Edge? An excerpt:
Smith has been uncharacteristically sloppy in recent weeks. First was his statement about gay marriage in which he seemed to be justifying Mormon polygamy before it was outlawed in Utah. Then Smith tried to couple his image with that of Barack Obama, to which Obama objected. As recently as July 4, Smith pulled a boner.To defeat a Senate incumbent, the incumbent must cooperate in his own demise.

After speaking at an Oregon Farm Bureau event, the senator attacked the Rainy Day Fund that House Speaker Merkley helped move through the 2009 Oregon Legislature. Smith said the kicker took money from hard-working Oregon businesses.

The kicker was viewed by Republicans and Democrats as one of the Legislature's great accomplishments. It passed with bipartisan support. Smith's perception that Oregon businesses lost money when the corporate kicker was redirected into the Rainy Day Fund is most curious. The great majority of the corporate kicker goes to out-of-state corporate headquarters, not to Oregon-headquartered businesses.
The editorial also notes that generally for an incumbent to be beaten, the incumbent has to cooperate in his own demise. Smith certainly seems to be showing signs of moving in that direction.

McCain Hasn't Voted Since April

According to Roll Call at the Washington Post, McCain has not shown up for tough votes, or ANY votes, since April.
McCain has not voted in the Senate since April 8.

Harry Reid said, "I should mention how glad my fellow Democrats and I were to have our nominee for president here to vote on these important bills. Senator Obama has come to work and taken tough stands. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Senator McCain," Reid groused. "Perhaps taking tough stands on important issues is not part of Senator McCain's campaign strategy. Perhaps he's just too busy on the campaign trail to do his day job."

McCain avoided controversy (and did not have to leave the campaign trail) by failing to vote on either cuts in Medicare reimbursement for physicians or warrantless wiretapping.

McCain is now the No. 1 absentee in the Senate, and No. 2 (Tim Johnson of South Dakota) has the excuse of recovering from a brain hemorrhage.

How would you like to have to be an Arizona taxpayer and pay this guy for nothing? Imagine what kind of President he'd be!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rossi Refuses to Release Tax Returns

I just read that Gregoire leads Rossi 48-40 but that is too close for comfort when I can drive in the country and see huge Rossi signs without much difficulty.

Then, I heard on local NPR that Governor Gregoirs released her tax returns last Wednesday in response to requests for news reporters, but her opponent Rossi refused to do so. Now, "it's in the P-I", as they say. It's official.

The same pattern was played out in 2004. The Associated Press requested the returns to get a better understanding of their financial ties and connections. Gregoire complied and Rossi remained secretive about his holdings.

Gregoire's returns from 2005-2007 cshow her compensation as a career government employee. receiving a governor's present salary of $163,618. Her husband Mike is a retired public employee.

Rossi's finances were built through a private career in real estate and he added a state senator's income in 1996 but left that office in 2003 to run against Gregoire. In 2007, the Gregoires reported a gross income of $180,179 and a taxable income of $155,181 on which the couple's tax bill was $32,443.

Rossi's state disclosure lists proceeds from his biographical book, rent from an apartment building and pay from his former post as head of the nonprofit Forward Washington Foundation, rent from a Mill Creek medical building and a mortgage and bank accounts. The P-I did not disclose a typical income for Rossi, but the NPR story cited an approximate $250,000 per annum.

Rossi does not appear to be showing a philosophy of transparency in government.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Why are you a Democrat?

Today, the Democratic National Convention Committee, in conjunction with YouTube, announced a contest that will send one lucky winner to Denver.
Individuals can submit video responses at, the Democratic National Convention's YouTube channel, until August 1. Based on the most creative and compelling submissions, the DNCC will narrow the field of entries to five and, starting August 7, the YouTube community will have the chance to vote for their favorites. The video receiving the highest number of votes will win the contest and be announced on August 14.

The winner will receive paid travel and hotel accommodations to attend the Democratic National Convention, to be held August 25-28 in Denver. The winning video will be shown in the Convention hall in front of thousands of delegates and guests and an international media audience.
So go upload your video and tell the world, why are you a Democrat?

Here comes the iPocalypse

Apple (and especially its marketing department) should think twice about knocking Microsoft in the future over a not-so-smooth product launch.

They've totally botched the launch of the iPhone 3G:
Long lines of disgruntled customers wrapped around city blocks across the globe today as Apple scrambled to fix a glitch in iTunes that prevented iPhone acolytes from activating the next-generation phones they had waited hours, even days, to buy.

The problem caused huge delays at Apple stores and other iPhone service providers worldwide, as store personnel wrestled with the issue and word of the problem spread on the Web. In order for an iPhone to be activated, it must be synced up with iTunes.
Oh, darn.
Robbie Sikander, a 16-year-old New York resident from Afghanistan, waited in line for three hours at the Apple store on Manhattan's 5th Avenue for the chance to buy his phone, but because of delays, it never happened.

"I've been waiting for three hours. AT&T is just not working," Sikander told as he walked out of the store. "It made me question Apple. ... "I'm going to come back after lunch to try again."
High expectations + failure to launch = angry, frustrated customers.
Tanya Lawrence, a 28-year-old woman from Brooklyn, began waiting in line at 7 a.m. on Friday and was inside the store by 9 a.m. The system, however, was down.

"I was so livid. It was so anticlmatic this morning," she said.

"The server was down, so in order to activate the phone we had to log on to iTunes, but that was down too. The buzz word this morning was 'just be patient.'"
In short, the iPhone 3G launch is a disaster.

If you already own an iPhone, wait to upgrade to the new firmware. If you don't, you run the risk of having your phone turn into a useless plastic brick.

How low can he go?

Apparently, very low. George W. Bush has no shame, and no sense of what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to dealing with world leaders.

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

This comes as a follow-up act to using the wrong door in China, groping German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and yucking it up with his buddy Tony Blair while using an expletive while the mic was still hot.

Let's hope our Frat Boy-In-Chief stops his antics and doesn't cause any other international incidents before he makes his exit on January 20, 2009. This is embarrassing.

On radio this afternoon: Sound Transit 2

KUOW has announced that Sound Transit's Ric Ilgenfritz (staff) and Deanna Dawson (one of the Snohomish County board members) will be on in the upcoming (one o'clock) hour to talk about light rail and Sound Transit 2.

Dawson will be joined by the Sierra Club's Mike O'Brien.

The discussion will include an overview of the proposed fifteen year package, including the projects and service expansions.

The deadline for Sound Transit to send a proposal to voters is fast approaching. Please tune in, listen to the discussion, and call in to show your support for light rail. Let Sound Transit know that the people deserve a choice... and you want a vote on mass transit expansion this year!

FCC Chairman finds Comcast guilty as charged

We weren't expecting this one:
The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that he would recommend that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, be punished for violating agency principles that guarantee customers open access to the Internet.

The potentially precedent-setting move stems from a complaint that Comcast had blocked Internet traffic among users of a certain type of file-sharing software that allowed them to exchange large amounts of data.

“The commission has adopted a set of principles that protects consumers access to the Internet,” the commission chairman, Kevin J. Martin, told The Associated Press late Thursday. “We found that Comcast’s actions in this instance violated our principles.”

Mr. Martin said Comcast had arbitrarily blocked Internet access, regardless of the level of traffic, and failed to disclose to consumers that it was doing so.
It's almost like a dream...justice from the Republican-dominated, Bush era Federal Communications Commission!
Mr. Martin will circulate an order recommending enforcement action against the company on Friday among his fellow commissioners, who will vote on the measure at an open meeting on Aug. 1.

The action was in response to a complaint filed by Free Press, a nonprofit group that advocates for network neutrality, the idea that all Internet content should be treated equally.

Mr. Martin’s order would require Comcast to stop its practice of blocking, provide details to the commission on the extent and manner in which the practice was used and give consumers detailed information on how it planned to manage its network in the future.

The F.C.C. approved a policy statement in September 2005 that outlined a set of principles meant to ensure that broadband networks were “widely deployed, open, affordable and accessible to all consumers.”
Oddly enough, Martin doesn't even need his fellow Republicans to pass the recommendation. He just needs the votes of the FCC's two Democrats - Commissioners Adelstein and Copps.

Of course, the fight is hardly over, as FreePress notes:
Today we can celebrate a huge victory for real people, but we need to continue this fight to send a clear signal to the next Congress and White House that standing with regular people for a free and open Internet is a winning proposition.
Congress still needs to be pushed - strongly - to make net neutrality the law.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Official Blog era to end on Monday, July 14th

A few months ago, on the four year anniversary of this blog (March 29th) we announced a naming contest to pick a proper (or official) name for the Official Blog.

We arrived at a decision not long after, in mid-April, but didn't announce the new name at that time (although we did offer the person who made the winning submission a ticket to our Spring Fundraising Gala, as we promised we would).

We're now ready, however, to roll out the new name.

As of this Monday, this publication will cease to be known as the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog... although it will still be our official blog, the place where we share our perspective on politics.

We anticipate it may take a while for blogrolls to be updated and all that, but it's time to make this change.

The empire strikes back

Microsoft has had it with Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" advertising campaign:
Speaking at a keynote address at Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference, [Brad] Brooks [VP of Windows Vista consumer marketing], signified that Microsoft was ready to admit mistakes and reposition itself to tell a better story about Windows Vista, to counter attacks by rival Apple and let customers know that Vista is finally stable and ready.
It's about time.
"You thought the sleeping giant was still sleeping, well we woke it up and it's time to take our message forward," Brooks said. "We've faced these challenges before, and we're going to solve them again. There's a conversation going on in the marketplace today and it's just plain awful. We've got to get back on the front foot."

He pointed to selected negative quotes from Windows XP's first year as evidence that operating system launches can often be rocky.
Ed Bott has done a good job of pointing out that Windows XP bashing was quite fashionable not long after its launch. Now XP has become the greatest operating system ever, and Vista is the new target of Microsoft critics.
In the coming weeks and months, Microsoft will launch a huge advertising campaign that's been reported to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Microsoft advertised Vista to small businesses in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today the last two weeks, and plans a much larger wave of ads under the tagline "Free the People." Brooks gave a taste of what's coming with a few swipes at Apple and some selected highlights of Windows Vista's features.
"We've got a pretty noisy competitor out there," Brooks said of Apple whose "I'm a Mac... and I'm a PC," commercials criticize Windows Vista.

"You know it. I know it. It's caused some impact. We're going to start countering it. They tell us it's the iWay or the highway. We think that's a sad message. Software out there is made to be compatible with your whole life." As part of that compatibility message, Microsoft will work to reverse the widely held belief, informed by early troubles upon the operating system's launch, that Vista isn't compatible with many applications and devices.
While I've never been an evangelist for any particular operating system, I've never cared for Apple's P.R. jabs at Microsoft, nor the boasting of Apple fanatics who can't stop talking about how great the Mac operating system is.

I use both Windows and Mac regularly, and in my experience, both have problems. Windows can bluescreen, necessitating a restart, while the Spinning Wheel of Death can make using a Mac incredibly frustrating.

As to security...while Windows users generally appreciate the importance of safeguarding the OS, Apple fanatics seem to think their operating system is invincible and immune to viruses and spyware that is inadvertently downloaded from the Web. I can't count how many times I have been told I wouldn't have to worry about protecting my computer if I switched to Mac by Apple fanatics.

Apple's constant and largely unanswered bragging about the superiority of its products (from Safari to the iPhone) has gotten really annoying. I'm glad to hear that Microsoft has decided to respond.

Maybe in one of their ads they can make light of the fact that Mac remains a lousy platform for gaming.

(More and more titles are becoming available for Mac, which is a good thing, but the list still pales in comparison to what's available for Windows).

Microsoft is correct that the list of software that is not compatible with Windows Vista is shrinking rapidly. For example, a longtime holdout, the United Parcel Service (UPS) began distributing Vista-compatible betas of its WorldShip program for businesses not long ago.

As an organization, NPI's position is that software should be compatible across platforms as much as possible. It's part of the reason why we're big fans of Mozilla Firefox - it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

And it's why we spent months making sure the most recent version of Pacific NW Portal (Seaside) was compatible with all the major operating systems.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown condemns BIAW - where's Speaker Chopp?

Minutes ago, Chris Gregoire's gubernatorial campaign released the text of an open letter to Washingtonians jointly written by state Senators Lisa Brown and Chris Marr, who represent two Spokane legislative districts in Olympia.

The letter calls on Dino Rossi to reject BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington) advertising, including billboards in Eastern Washington that say, "Don't Let Seattle Steal This Election".

We applaud the letter and commend its authors...but we want to know - where's Speaker Frank Chopp? Why isn't his name on this letter as well? (And how about Chopp's deputy, Majority Leader Lynn Kessler?)

It seems like a fair question to ask.

Brown is the top Democrat in the state Senate. Chopp (as Speaker) is the top Democrat in the state House. The two frequently work together...they appealed to progressives across Washington State last year to fight against Tim Eyman's Initiative 960, cosigning a fundraising letter.

What's more, the BIAW is insinuating that constituents in Chopp's district, the 43rd, helped rig the election for the Democratic candidate.

Chopp's signature on this letter would send a strong, reassuring message that he dislikes the BIAW's hardball tactics, attacks on his district, and nasty anti-Gregoire rhetoric. Unfortunately, it's not there now - but it could be added.

And we hope it will be. We at NPI have a simple request to make of Speaker Chopp: Please add your name to this letter. Join your fellow Democrats in rejecting the BIAW's cunningly destructive advertising. Refute the BIAW and Rossi's false notion that Democrats in Olympia are arrogant and completely ignorant of Washingtonians' concerns.

We largely share the same vision for the Evergreen State, Mr. Speaker. As Democrats, we must work together to turn that vision into a reality.

Politics is a team sport. Though we may not agree on everything, we appreciate your many years of fine leadership in the House and respect your accomplishments as leader of the Democratic caucus.

We ask that you join us in doing everything you can to help reelect Governor Chris Gregoire - including adding your name as a signatory to this letter.
An open letter to Washingtonians,

We have accomplished some incredible things in Washington in the last few years. From creating more than 200,000 new jobs, to expanding healthcare to 84,000 more kids to turning a $2.2 billion deficit into a surplus.

How were we able to do this? By working together as One Washington.

Like most others, we want to keep making progress and moving past the petty divisions of the past.

So we were surprised to see the words “Don’t Let Seattle Steal This Election” appear under the name of Dino Rossi on 61 billboards in Spokane.

The ads were paid for by the Building Industry Association of Washington, Olympia’s most powerful special interest lobbyists, a group that has already spent more than $1 million to support the candidacy of their friend, Mr. Rossi.

Less than one month ago, Mr. Rossi spoke at the BIAW’s annual convention. During his introduction of Mr. Rossi, BIAW President Brad Spears said, “We finally have an electable candidate who believes as the BIAW believes...”

The BIAW believes it is time drive a wedge between people in our state, and it’s time for us to find out if Mr. Rossi agrees.

We are calling upon Dino Rossi to denounce and reject the BIAW’s ads and join our call for the billboards come down.

We deserve to know if Mr. Rossi truly “believes as the BIAW believes…”

We may not agree with Mr. Rossi on every issue, but we hope we can at least agree that it is wrong to dredge up the divisions of our past in an election about our future.


Senator Lisa Brown, majority leader, (D) Spokane
Senator Chris Marr, majority assistant floor leader, (D) Spokane
Washington State can't afford a George W. Bush wannabe for governor. We've worked too hard and come too far to lose ground now.

We Democrats must unite behind our governor and work to ensure the next four years are filled with progress and opportunity.

Send Smith packing

A couple of quick hits on this Thursday morning....First, I came across an interesting little blog post on FISA, Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith.

What I really love is the author's note down the comment thread, essentially in response to someone saying they won't support the "Republicrats"..including Barack Obama. The author totally speaks my truth:
Wyden's got my vote for as long as he wants it. Smith can f*** off. I'm voting for Jeff Merkley:
"Congress Should Oppose Telecom Immunity" by Jeff Merkley
And speaking of truth, the newspaper in Astoria is starting to wonder: Has Gordon Smith Lost His Edge?
Smith has been uncharacteristically sloppy in recent weeks. First was his statement about gay marriage in which he seemed to be justifying Mormon polygamy before it was outlawed in Utah. Then Smith tried to couple his image with that of Barack Obama, to which Obama objected. As recently as July 4, Smith pulled a boner.

To defeat a Senate incumbent, the incumbent must cooperate in his own demise.
After speaking at an Oregon Farm Bureau event, the senator attacked the Rainy Day Fund that House Speaker Merkley helped move through the 2009 Oregon Legislature. Smith said the kicker took money from hard-working Oregon businesses.

The kicker was viewed by Republicans and Democrats as one of the Legislature's great accomplishments. It passed with bipartisan support. Smith's perception that Oregon businesses lost money when the corporate kicker was redirected into the Rainy Day Fund is most curious. The great majority of the corporate kicker goes to out-of-state corporate headquarters, not to Oregon-headquartered businesses.
I'm not sure Smith has ever had an edge...but I agree he has been very, very sloppy in his campaign so far.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Political conventions as non-news events

In a year when the Democratic Party nominee is an African-American man, the first time in history that either major party will nominate a person of color, news networks are contemplating limiting coverage of the Democratic National Convention.
Network executives expect Obama’s relatively late-breaking decision to speak at Invesco Field at Mile High, a 76,000-seat football stadium, could add hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs to already cash-strapped news divisions. Each network has budgeted millions to cover the political conventions, but that spending is already accounted for in specific costs ranging from hotel rooms to staffing to building convention platforms.

For most networks, any additional outlays for the convention would come out of their 2008 campaign budget.

Obama’s decision “makes it enormously more expensive,” said Paul Friedman, senior vice president at CBS News. “It does add to the overall question of how the networks should cover what is a non-news event.” [emphasis mine]
Excuse me? Non-news event? Since when is the first time a major political party nominates a person of color a non-news event?

If the traditional media want to skip the DNC, that's just fine with me. NPI will have its team on the ground in Denver, and many other bloggers (both prominent and lesser-known) will be covering the convention. Although I don't agree with the assessment that the DNC is a "non-news event", bloggers will be happy to provide the coverage that people want. And we'll do it better and from angles the traditional media wouldn't dare cover.

It's attitudes like this that are the reason for the decline in newspaper readership and network news viewership, and why more people turn to online sources to get their news.

Senator Maria Cantwell statement on FISA legislation

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) issued the following statement today regarding the FISA legislation, which passed the Senate with immunity for the telecom companies intact.
“We all want to protect our country’s national security interests and Americans from those who would do us harm, but to do so without accountability or without checks and balances is contrary to our country's very foundations.

“I have serious concerns about this legislation including whether innocent Americans’ privacy rights will be respected.

“I am also troubled that this bill would effectively dismiss 40 pending cases regarding telecom companies' participation in the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program. Congress should not be providing blanket immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping programs. We don’t know precisely what those companies did or the full extent of their actions. Congress should respect judicial review and not take away the only opportunity for redress available to American citizens for potential overreaching by this Administration.”
Thank you Senator Cantwell for standing up for the First Amendment (right of the People to petition their government for redress of grievances) and Fourth Amendment (unlawful searches and seizures) to the Constitution.

Make the left coast BLUE in the U.S. Senate

Between Washington, Oregon and California there is only one Republican U.S. Senator: Gordon Smith. He's a rightwing conservative cypher in "moderate" clothing--a pretender to the idea of solving problems across party lines. Smith is an egregious example of what's wrong with the Republican Party today: empty-suits collecting fat checks and big paydays to serve an ideological agenda that's strangling this nation.

The west coast is progressive and we deserve to be represented in Washington D.C. by an individual who governs by our values: Jeff Merkley. Jeff is the epitome of the phrase "More and Better Democrats". He's a dedicated and passionate progressive who we can be proud of.

You can help Jeff's campaign in a big way right now.

Senator Harry Reid is holding a Give Em Hell Harry Challenge:
You’ve raised ten of thousands of dollars for Senate candidates – close to $1,000,000 in 2006 – and helped Democrats take back the Senate. But today, the tables are turning – you’re going to tell us who to raise money for. It’s time for you to choose where we as a community direct our energy, enthusiasm, and dollars.

The winner will get to send two emails to the list, giving him or her financial resources needed to win big this fall, and help us reach our 60 Senator filibuster-proof majority. But hurry! The deadline to vote in the first round is July 10th.

We will then hold a runoff between the top two vote-getters.
This is a great opportunity for Jeff Merkley to expand his grassroots campaign even more! Please take a few minutes and head over to Give Em Hell Harry and vote for Jeff Merkley!

You'll need to hurry. There contest only runs through tomorrow morning.

McCain on Social Security: "It's a Disgrace"

There goes the senior citizen vote, putting Florida into play in November. Even Charlie Crist on the ticket can't help John McCain now.

Speaking at a town hall meeting, McCain said that Social Security is a disgrace.
“Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that’s a disgrace. It’s an absolute disgrace, and it’s got to be fixed.”
Memo to Senator McCain: That's how the system works. It's how it's always worked.

Alienating your peer group, which historically votes in the largest numbers, by calling Social Security a disgrace is not exactly the way to go and win an election. The McCain campaign is reminiscent of Bob Dole's impotent (no pun intended) 1996 campaign, but even Bob Dole knew who buttered his bread.

Perhaps McCain shouldn't tout his experience so much when he doesn't even have a basic understanding of Social Security. Clearly, John McCain is also out of touch with working families, because anyone who earns a paycheck has an understanding of how Social Security works.

Cantwell, Murray, and Wyden support Dodd amendment to strip immunity

Cheers to our Northwest Democratic senators for standing up and supporting Senator Chris Dodd's efforts to strip immunity for telecoms out of the FISA bill.

Jeers to Republican Senators Gordon Smith, Mike Crapo, and Larry Craig for siding with the Bush administration and big corporations. It's time we replaced two of these guys with Jeff Merkley and Larry LaRocco.

UPDATE: All three also voted against cloture (closing debate on the bill) and against the bill itself. Thank you, Maria, Patty, and Ron.

You have done us proud today.

Kudos also to Senator Hillary Clinton, who unlike Barack Obama, stood up for the Constitution, supporting the filibuster and opposing the bill itself.

From Clinton's statement:
The legislation also makes no meaningful change to the immunity provisions. There is little disagreement that the legislation effectively grants retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies. In my judgment, immunity under these circumstances has the practical effect of shutting down a critical avenue for holding the administration accountable for its conduct.

It is precisely why I have supported efforts in the Senate to strip the bill of these provisions, both today and during previous debates on this subject. Unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful.

What is more, even as we considered this legislation, the administration refused to allow the overwhelming majority of Senators to examine the warrantless wiretapping program. This made it exceedingly difficult for those Senators who are not on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees to assess the need for the operational details of the legislation, and whether greater protections are necessary. The same can be said for an assessment of the telecom immunity provisions.

On an issue of such tremendous importance to our citizens – and in particular to New Yorkers – all Senators should have been entitled to receive briefings that would have enabled them to make an informed decision about the merits of this legislation.

I cannot support this legislation when we know neither the nature of the surveillance activities authorized nor the role played by telecommunications companies granted immunity.
Democrats who did not support the filibuster, and who voted for this unacceptable, un-American piece of trash legislation, are as follows:
Max Baucus (Montana)
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island)
Dianne Feinstein (California)
Daniel Inouye (Hawaii)
Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
Herb Kohl (Wisconsin)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Kent Conrad (North Dakota)
Thomas Carper (Delaware)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
Barbara Mikulski (Maryland)
Bill Nelson (Florida)
Ben Nelson (Nebraska)
Barack Obama (Illinois)
Mark Pryor (Arkansas)
Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia)
Ken Salazar (Colorado)
Tim Johnson (South Dakota)
Jim Webb (Virginia)
Shame on each and every one of them.

UPDATE II: The AP's headline is fitting - "Senate bows to Bush."

On FISA dissects the FISA bill as is stands. A few timely quotes:

"It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once."

David Hume (1711 - 1776)

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."

John Adams (1735 - 1826)

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

"Irresponsible power is inconsistent with liberty, and must corrupt those who exercise it."

John Calhoun (1782 - 1850)

"Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army."

Edward Everett (1794 - 1865)

"It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of those liberties which make the defense of the nation worthwhile."

Earl Warren

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

McCain jokes again about killing Iranians

Given the current sad state of foreign affairs under George W. Bush, do we really need another jokester in the White House?

Following up his "Bomb Iran" vocal stylings, John McCain today gave his thoughts on increased cigarette exports to Iran.
"Maybe that's a way of killing 'em," McCain said to reporters during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh. "I meant that as a joke, as a person who hasn't had a cigarette in 28 years, 29 years," he added, laughing.
Not. Ready. For. Prime-Time.

With respect for the U.S. lacking in the global community, the last thing we need is a President who thinks killing people is funny.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Local conservative think tank spokesman using "Seattle Politics Examiner" to promote the Washington Policy Center

While doing a Google search earlier tonight, I ran across the recently created Seattle extension of The Examiner, a network of newspapers and websites owned by Clarity Media Group, which is itself owned by conservative billionaire Philip Frederick Anschutz, the thirty first most wealthy American (according to Forbes) and a George W. Bush donor.

Anschutz' "Examiner" network of newspapers includes three papers which are published in San Fransisco, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The web "Examiner" network now includes five dozen major cities across the country - including Seattle.

The Seattle version, like those in other cities, includes specific "Examiners" by section, like music, sports, food, or...politics. The political section, or, "Seattle Politics Examiner", as it is called, is edited by one John Barnes, who works at the conservative Washington Policy Center.

In his page bio, Barnes fails to mention who his employer actually is:
Born and raised in the Seattle area, John is the Communications Director for a non-profit public policy think tank in Seattle. He is a published historian and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in history. In his spare time you can find John traipsing Washington’s rivers with a fly rod in hand or just exploring the countryside.
But he doesn't have a problem promoting his employer's work on "Seattle Politics Examiner" without clearly disclosing that he works there. His most recent post on the Examiner website is actually a duplicate of a short entry at the Washington Policy Center blog hyping a report by the group that attacks Sound Transit for being engaged with local activists and stakeholders.

Now, anyone who goes to the WPC website, which Barnes linked to, can see Barnes' name on the original entry, so it's not a secret, but it's also not clearly explained at the Examiner, which apparently pays Barnes:
Excited to be an Examiner? You'll join hundreds — and soon, thousands — of others who have accepted our call for local knowledge. And it's really pretty simple, too.

If you can write three concise, timely and relevant posts each week in your topic of choice, then we want to hear from you. Just picture it now: your name in lights all over your city. Your mom will be so proud.

Oh, and we'll pay you for it. A little at first, but as your page views grow over time, so will your ability to make more.
If Barnes is in fact paid by Anschutz' company, then he is making money recycling content he wrote for his other employer without openly admitting that to readers of the "Seattle Politics Examiner".

Considering that conservatives have accused progressive bloggers of not providing adequate disclosure, Barnes' lack of transparency sounds like fair game to us.

It's not just Barnes, though. The Examiner network generally seems to have a conservative slant, which could explain how Barnes got his job as the editor of "Seattle Politics Examiner" ...and why unSoundPolitics' Eric Earling is also an "Examiner". He runs the "Seattle Right Side Politics Examiner", which contains multiple crossposted entries from unSoundPolitics. (Earling, however, notes that he writes for unSoundPolitics - it's in his bio).

You won't be surprised to learn there is no "Left Side Politics Examiner" for Seattle. (There is a national "Progressive Politics Examiner", however).

Anschutz' Examiner network doesn't explicitly claim to be objective, but appears engineered to imply that it is. I looked, but couldn't find any page openly acknowledging a conservative bias.

On the About page ("What is an Examiner"?) the site is presented as being fair and balanced, a la Fox Noise, although those words are never used.
An Examiner is someone in a local market who enjoys informing others about subjects they love. They are the backbone of, they are magazine writers, bloggers, housewives, Ph.Ds, college students and others. The common link between them is that they talk about their knowledge in useful ways. You know these kind of people: they get others excited about their topics and share their knowledge in a fun, useful non-pompous way.
Fun, useful, non-pompous...and opinionated.
They are not bloggers, but Examiners, which means they look closely at topics and examine every aspect of them. Together they form a pool of credible knowledge that has become a local guide to a city through their expertise. In essence, our Examiners create the local knowledge, because by living and doing their thing in their city, they can offer the best insider information.
Credible, expertise, examine, every aspect, local guide, knowledge, insider information....these words, in the complete absence of any language admitting a partisan or ideological leaning, basically invoke the idea of objectivity, inviting the reader to interpret commentary as impartially crafted wisdom. Why not just call it what it is - a site hosting opinionated blogs? Like the "Global Warming Examiner" - check this out for a good laugh.

One of the entries claims that not drilling in the Arctic Refuge will make the climate crisis worse. (Yes, you read that correctly).

Most of Barnes' entries on "Seattle Politics Examiner" so far have been critical of Democrats and progressives, including the state Democratic Party, Mayor Greg Nickels, unions like the Washington Education Association (which conservatives despise) and Representative Norm Dicks.

And the "Seattle Politics Examiner" blogroll?

It only links to traditional media or conservative sites. Listed at the top of the "News" list is local Drudge clone Orbusmax. The Washington Policy Center gets a link, as does the Drudge Report itself, and "Climate Debate Daily", which claims to be neutral but equates skeptics of the scientific consensus on global warming with scientists and thinkers that agree with the consensus.

There are no progressive blogs or websites on the blogroll.

If Barnes edited a page that was appropriately named, as Eric Earling's is, that would be fine, but that is not the case.

The "Seattle Politics Examiner" is conservative opinion branded with an innocent, neutral name and its author is using the gig to promote his work for his other employer without providing a clear disclaimer to readers.

In its current form, the page is really just a second "Seattle Right Side of Politics Examiner" because it has no progressive perspective. Either it needs such a voice for balance, or it should have an actual journalist for an editor.

A little housekeeping

We've been working on the blog template and configuring new server settings for the soon-to-be-renamed Official Blog, and this has resulted in a few side effects, including the temporary disappearance of recent posts from the main page.

(To protect the archives, we simply create a fresh copy of the blog - database, template, and all - to work with, so previous posts don't accidentally go down).

This does, however, disrupt the continuity on the main page, which we apologize for. You can continue reading older posts chronologically by following this link.