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

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mandatory evacuation of New Orleans ordered by Mayor Nagin

Three years to the week after Hurricane Katrina...
Warning that Hurricane Gustav is the "mother of all storms," Mayor Ray Nagin late Saturday ordered a mandatory evacuation of the West Bank of New Orleans for 8 a.m. Sunday and the east bank for noon.

"We want 100 percent evacuation," Nagin said. "It has the potential to impact every area of this metropolitan area."

Katrina had a footprint of about 400 miles, he said. Gustav is about 900 miles and growing, Nagin said.

"This is worse than a Betsy, worse than a Katrina," he said.

Todd Kimberlain, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center, said he's not sure what Nagin meant by the storm's footprint. However, he said, "if he means the area of most severe impact, it's not a fair comparison at this point."
If you live in the New Orleans area and you happen to be reading this post at home for some reason...get out now. Pack up and leave immediately. Don't wait for the storm to get another hour closer.

It's sad - and scary - to think that New Orleans could be flooded out and ravaged by a storm even more powerful than Hurricane Katrina. Whether Gustav does terrible damage to the city remains to be seen, but nobody in the path of the hurricane should stick around and wait to find out.

Storms like Katrina and Gustav are painful reminders of the importance of emergency preparedness and environmental protection, which go hand in hand.

One of the biggest problems in Louisiana is coastal erosion, which is destroying the buffer zone that helps shield the rest of the state from severe storms like Hurricane Gustav. Much of the land loss is the direct or indirect result of thoughtless human activity. See for yourself:

Louisiana Land Loss

The above image was created by the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force, a federal project begun in 1990. Unfortunately, the federal government has only provided a small sum ($60 million) annually to help fund this important environmental protection endeavor.

The accompanying paragraph reads:
Coastal Louisiana has lost an average of 34 square miles of land, primarily marsh, per year for the last 50 years. From 1932 to 2000, Coastal Louisiana lost 1900 square miles of land, roughly an area the size of Delaware. If nothing more is done to stop this land loss, Louisiana could potentially lose approximately 700 additional square miles of land, or an area about equal to the size of the greater Washington D.C. – Baltimore area, in the next 50 years.
This is a serious problem...and not enough is being done about it. New Orleans may always be vulnerable to hurricanes, but it is within our power to lessen their severity by stopping the destruction of Louisiansa's coasts.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obamas use Darcy Burner's Iraq framing

There was much to appreciate in the many, many speeches of the Democratic National Convention. But for me, what stood out were two lines delivered by Michelle and Barack Obama in their respective speeches.

Both Barack Obama and his wife Michelle talked about bringing the war in Iraq to a "responsible end". Before Darcy Burner put together the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, the debate was all about the majority of Americans saying "we have to get out!" and the Bush administration saying "we can't get out, chaos would descend upon the earth!"

Their straw-man argument was to suggest that since they couldn't find a responsible way to end the war, that no such way existed and therefore we had to stay. No matter how long. No matter the cost in lives or the debt incurred to our great great grandchildren.

Darcy Burner was one of the only ones to stand up and say what most Americans were already thinking. 'No. I dont' accept that. There has to be a responsible way to end this war.' And she went out and found one.

She convened a group of serious experts on the subject - people with military, legal, and economic expertise as well as experts in the religions and cultures of the region - and put together a detailed plan for how to end the war responsibly, without leaving the Iraqis in the lurch.

She went out and created something Bush, McCain, and the rest of the neocons have claimed couldn't exist. (Although to be fair to John McCain, he at least seems to admit the possibility that the war could end after another hundred years.)

After the Responsible Plan was unveiled, the dialogue about the occupation shifted. In part because Darcy had the uncommon good sense to give the plan a clear, descriptive name, she gave people and pundits alike new language to frame the whole Iraq debate. No longer was the debate about ending the occupation or not, it was about whether we should end the war responsibly or irresponsibly. In that framing, the choice is as obvious as any choice on anything can get.

Since publishing her plan, the plan has been endorsed by a slate of fifty six candidates for the U.S. House and four candidates for U.S. Senate.

They won't all win elected office, but in this year's climate of political change you can bet that a whole lot of them will.

What Darcy has done is unprecedented: put together a formidable caucus of people who will be in a position to do something about ending the war. And she's done it before she or any of them are even elected.

To hear both Michelle and Barack Obama use Darcy's language, her new framing of the Iraq issue in terms of responsibility, tells me that Obama knows about the Responsible Plan and at least tacitly endorses its central themes even if political reality prevents him from co-sponsoring it himself.

This is what Darcy has done. She has shifted the national debate on what is arguably the most important foreign policy problem America has faced since World War II in a direction which aligns with what the majority of Americans want.

And she's not even elected yet.

Poor Dave Reichert. He's already got quite a problem with his "slacker congressman" image, what with not having done a darned thing to earn his pay and congressional health coverage these past four years.

He's been rated less influential than the non-voting house member from Guam. And hearing both of the Obamas echo Darcy Burner's Iraq framing in their speeches, it is equally clear that he is less influential than his un-elected challenger.

November 4th simply cannot come soon enough.

Denver recap: An incredible four days

Last night in Invesco Field was as exhilarating as anything I've ever witnessed (outside of the birth of my daughter). Although I was and still am a vehement Hillary supporter, and although I still believe Hillary is the better choice, I will unhesitatingly cast my vote for Obama on November 4.

As for the convention itself, I have only three words: WOW, WOW, WOW. I don't know what things looked like on television, but the atmosphere on the floor was electric. Washington's delegation had decent seats, though the view from some was blocked by a camera platform. I got there early enough to get a seat with a view. I thought the first two hours would be dull, since primetime starts at 5 PM.

I thought wrong. How can one be anything other than moved listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s two children. Walking around drinking in the ambiance was a popular past-time. My delegate credential gave me access to virtually everywhere in the stadium (as has been the case the entire week), so I could move about with ease. The musical entertainment wasn't too shabby either - Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder were great. I don't like Michael MacDonald (former lead singer for the Doobie Brothers), and apparently neither did anybody else around me.

I am proud to say that the Washington State delegation led the way in dancing in the aisles. How many people can say they danced to Stevie Wonder live! And even our superdelegates got in on the fun. I have pictures of U.S. Reps Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott, and Governor Christine Gregoire, shakin' and bakin', and even State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz got in on the action.

And I had a chance to talk with Representative Adam Smith, whom I worked with from 1993-1995 in the Seattle city Attorney's Office. I spent the entirety of Obama's speech yelling my voice out in wonderment alongside Rep. Rick Larsen, and laughing with him. I asked him if Obama's speech made him proud to serve in the House; he said it made him proud to be an American.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the famous people I saw, photographed, and was photographed with. Washington was seated next to Massachusetts, so I got some good photos of John Kerry.

I also got a photo with him, and with Patrick Kennedy. If I had been faster on the draw, I would have gotten a picture of Jesse Jackson.

Al Gore was enjoyable to listen to, but the build-up to Obama's speech went like clockwork. Obama was electric, and the audience reaction was one of spontaneous, energetic and unwavering support.

As I gathered with several of my fellow Clinton delegates, we examined Obama's speech under calmer circumstance.

We did find some things that still left us concerned about the general election. Some of Obama's proposed timelines seemed too ambitious. For example, promising that we will end our oil addiction within ten years seems a a promise unlikely to be kept. I can't say whether that is the result of a quieter setting for our analysis or a subconscious continued preference for Hillary over Obama. I can tell you that I screamed myself hoarse, and still can't talk twelve hours later.

The bottom line for me is this: I participated in one of the most, if not the most, significant national conventions in American history for either party.

Surprise! McCain's veep pick is Sarah Palin

This morning, John McCain stunned the Washington, D.C. political establishment by tapping a relatively unknown governor from Alaska to be his running mate.

It's a choice that many are already comparing to the first George Bush's choice of Dan Quayle. And it is a choice that destroys McCain's ability to attack Barack Obama as "inexperienced" or "not ready for president".

If McCain believes an Alaska beauty queen has the judgment and wisdom to lead the United States of America, then how can he argue Barack Obama, who has worked as a community organizer, served as an Illinois state senator, and a United States Senator isn't ready for the job?

Not to mention what he has learned as a candidate, having been tested repeatedly in grueling debates, primaries, and caucuses.

Barack Obama is ready to be President. It's not clear that Sarah Palin is ready to be Vice President. Before becoming governor, she was:
...a former beauty queen, ex-high school basketball star and onetime TV sportscaster. She's also the subject of an ethics investigation in her home state of Alaska that's connected to her firing of the state's public safety commissioner.

The commissioner, Walt Monegan, alleged he had been pressure to fire a trooper who had been married to Palin's sister and split with her in an ugly divorce.

The Alaska state Legislature voted last month to hire an independent investigator to probe whether Palin or anyone connected to her had pushed Monegan to fire the trooper, Mike Wooten.
What's more, Sarah Palin doesn't even understand the job of vice president. Here's what she told CNBC about a month ago:
PALIN: As for that "V.P. talk" all the time...I tell ya, I still can't answer that question uh, until somebody answers, for me, What is it exactly that the V.P. does, every day?

I'm used to, uh, being very productive and working real hard in an administration...we want to make sure that that V.P. slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that, uh, that question.
Conservative host Lawrence Kudlow actually had to inform her that the vice presidential job is in fact, a very important and serious job:
KUDLOW: Well, I worked in the White House during President Reagan's first term. Let me assure you - and I've spent a lot of time in the Bush White House as a journalist in meetings with.. interviews - it's a pretty big job, Madam Governor. It's a real big job. You'd be surprised how big the veep job is these days.
Palin's answer to Kudlow's question about being McCain's running mate in this interview is solid proof that she doesn't have what it takes to be Vice President.

Talk about being not ready for the job. She admitted on national television that she doesn't understand what the vice president does.

Hello!? Sarah, have you ever bothered to read the Constitution? Don't you know that the Vice President is President of the Senate? Do you understand that the vice president becomes Commander-in-Chief immediately if the president becomes injured, dies, or resigns? Do you realize that you would be traveling abroad and representing the United States of America in the president's stead?

In this case, Kudlow is right. Being vice president is a pretty big job. It's nothing to be dismissed lightly. Who wouldn't want to be Vice President?

When it comes time for the vice presidential debate, I believe Joe Biden is going to make Sarah Palin look pretty ridiculous.

The choice of Palin likely secures Alaska for McCain, but that doesn't mean Mark Begich can't take down grumpy Ted Stevens.

And the selection of Palin may cost McCain votes across the country from voters who will soon hear - courtesy of the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign - that Palin doesn't know much about how our federal government works.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

LIVE from Denver: Obama was phenomenal

I'm not sure I can find words that truly describe the power of Barack Obama's acceptance speech tonight. After talking to family, friends, and watching some of the talking heads on television, I guess I'll start with phenomenal.

Obama Speaks

I won't say perfect, because there were a few things in there I didn't like. Specifically, the rhetoric on taxes (the right wing framing on this issue, which much of the party's leadership has accepted, has to go), clean coal (an oxymoron if there ever was one) and nuclear power (if we could make it safe, why haven't we done it already? And what do we do with the toxic waste?)

But those quibbles are ultimately insignificant - it was a groundbreaking speech.

For the first time in recent history, the Democratic Party's presidential nominee stood firmly behind the progressive values that the United States of America has long cherished but at times forgotten.

Obama explained, in a concise and concrete way, that empathy is the underlying foundation of America's promise and its spirit:
This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong.

Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.
Obama reminded the nation that when we support and care for each other, we can do amazing things. We can meet challenges that seem difficult or impossible.

That is what progressives believe. It's the American way.

He didn't just define what progressives stand for, however. Obama dismantled the right wing's general framing on economic security with precision, ease, and force:
Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know.

Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans?

How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure.

It's time for us to change America.
This is the kind of tough eloquence we at NPI have been wanting to hear for a long time. Finally, a Democratic leader has made the most of an opportunity to tell the American people in no uncertain terms that the right wing agenda is a failure. That we as a country are better than this.

It was beautifully done. The setup, the baiting of McCain, and the interlaced answers providing a biting progressive response.

Accepting George Lakoff's advice, Obama also talked about mutual responsibility... being our brother's keeper, and our sister's keeper. Being accountable to each other. Working towards a "common purpose" for the common good. Building a common wealth that will provide broad prosperity and opportunity for all.

A few weeks ago, we were concerned that Obama wasn't hitting back hard enough against John McCain. Winning an election means taking the fight to your opponent, and Barack was allowing John McCain to spend way too much time on offense.

Tonight, Obama was in fighting form, repeatedly going after McCain and mocking his love affair with the policies of George W. Bush. Yet he did not sound desperate, angry, or mean. Instead, he came across as smart, pragmatic, and dignified.

Even the cable television pundits were falling all over each other to praise the speech. Chris Matthews couldn't stop talking about how great it was. Pat Buchanan spoke of it as the best convention speech ever. Even much of the Fox Noise crew had to grudgingly admit that it was good.

What's more, the McCain response was dismissed as silly and ridiculous.

Barack Obama hit a grand slam with his speech. The Republicans will try to steal the spotlight tomorrow with the unveiling of McCain's running mate, but nobody who watched this speech is going to forget about it anytime soon.

LIVE from Denver: The Next President of the United States - Barack Obama!!!!!!!!

The moment has finally arrived.

The time is now.

In seconds, Barack Obama will accept the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States before a gathering of some seventy five thousand Americans at Invesco Field in Denver, Colorado - the first black nominee of a major political party in the history of our nation.

Senator Dick Durbin just introduced Barack Obama, urging everyone to return home with renewed vigor to work for victory in this election.

Obama's moving, introduction video is concluding.

The Democratic Party's newest top leader and statesman is about to deliver an address to the largest crowd he has ever stood in front of: the tens of thousands here plus all those watching around the world on television.

The video is ending....and out he comes.

The noise is almost deafening. The lights are beautiful, the flags glorious...what a moment this is. Something we will treasure forever, after our ears recover from the incredible explosion of sound.

It's possible that Obama may have to wait for several minutes before he can start talking...everyone is so excited that no one wants to sit down and be quiet.

Okay, we go!

"It is with profound grace and humility that I accept your nomination," Obama began, starting the roaring applause again.

He continued on to honor the previous nights' speakers - Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, and his wife, Michelle.

Obama Speaks

"Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story – of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to," Obama said.

“It is that promise that has always set this country apart – that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well," he continued, again drawing applause.

"This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive," he continued.

"Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third."

"And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough!" Obama said. The chant of "Eight is enough!" immediately began, and concluded after about thirty seconds as Obama resumed speaking.

"I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change," Obama said, referring to McCain's voting record.

Addressing the Republicans' longstanding claim that Democrats are weak on national defense, Obama declared: "We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country."

The crowd roared at the mention of two of the twentieth centuries' greatest presidents (both of them Democrats, naturally).

"Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans...Democrats and Republicans – have built, and we are to restore that legacy," Obama said.

“As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home," he affirmed, as the lights grew brighter and the arena burst into applause.

As Obama concluded his speech, the noise reached a fever pitch. Obama stood and waved as a dazzling array of fireworks suddenly began to explode.

Confetti and streamers floated into the air and Invesco Field sparkled as thousands of cameras went off simultaneously. Michelle, Malia, and Sasha joined him on stage first, with Joe and Jill Biden just seconds behind.

Obama, Biden families wave to convention

What a spectacular convention and thunderous finish! I shall never forget this night as long as I live. An incredible, amazing speech. Whatever expectations I had of Barack Obama were surpassed - no, make that crushed - by his tough eloquence on this final night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

LIVE from Denver: Al Gore...magnificent

We've just heard Al Gore, one of the most honored and revered leaders in our party, deliver one of his most compelling speeches ever. Gore's welcome was so loud that Invesco Field shook with the power of rumbling thunder: tens of thousands of pounding feet, clapping hands, and cheers.

Gore began by reflecting on the attitudes of many Americans eight years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush president.

"Eight years ago, some said there was not much difference between the nominees of the two major parties and it didn't really matter who became president," Gore said.

"Our nation was enjoying peace and prosperity, and some assumed we would continue both, no matter the outcome. But here we all are in 2008 - and I doubt anyone would argue now that election didn't matter."

Al Gore walks onstage at Invesco Field

Later, he added: "Today, we face essentially the same choice we faced in 2000, though it may be even more obvious now, because John McCain, a man who has earned our respect on many levels, is now openly endorsing the policies of the Bush-Cheney White House and promising to actually continue them, the same policies all over again...Hey, I believe in recycling, but that's ridiculous."

Gore compared Obama to Lincoln, pointing out the many parallels between the two.

"Before he entered the White House, Abraham Lincoln's experience in elective office consisted of eight years in his state legislature in Springfield, Illinois, and one term in Congress, during which he showed courage and wisdom to oppose the invasion of another country in a war that was popular when it started but later condemned by history...The experience that Lincoln's supporters valued most in that race was his powerful ability to inspire hope in the future at a time of impasse."

"He was known chiefly as a clear thinker and a great orator with a passion for justice and a determination to heal the deep divisions of our land. He insisted on reaching past partisan and regional divides to exalt our common humanity."

As Bill Clinton put it last night....sound familiar?

Gore closed with a strong and stirring call to elect Barack Obama this November:
"As we bow in reverence, remember the words of the old proverb: "When you pray, move your feet."

And then let us leave here tonight and take the message of hope from Denver to every corner of our land and do everything we can to serve our nation, our world and our children and their future by electing Barack Obama president of the United States of America
Gore offers wisdom that America should have been benefiting from these last eight years. We hope Barack Obama will give him a distinguished role in his administration.

LIVE from Denver: Inside Invesco Field

After standing in one of the longest security lines I've ever stood in, we (myself, DiAnne, and Garlin) finally managed to get inside of Invesco Field.

The mood in here is joyful (and that is an understatement). Most people have American flags to wave. The delegates are actually on the field itself, with broadcast TV tents on the perimeter.

In midfield is a large stage with a blue pedestal colored walkway and pedestal extending outwards. That's where Obama will give his speech. The seats are slowly filling up as people pass through security and enter the stadium.

The "seat numbers" on the community passes are meaningless which means people can get away with saving seats for friends who should be sitting in another section. Ah, well.

Sheryl Crow was just onstage singing, and we heard from Mr. Udall, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Colorado. Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia is currently speaking.

Remembering the dream

Tonight, as Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for President, the first African-American in any major party to be his party's standard-bearer, let us remember 45 years ago when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. The dream has never died, and as Jason noted in his earlier post, we have come a long way in 45 years, but we're not there yet.

Go here to watch the video of Dr. King's speech. You can also find the text of the speech here.

Let us remember Dr. King's words:

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends - so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

And let us remember that the richness of the American experience comes from its past as a melting pot of various cultures, who have worked together to build this great nation we live in today. Let us all remember that it is our responsibility and our legacy to build a better future for all of our children and grandchildren, regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation.

Let us believe in the dream and make it a reality.

45 years of dreaming

I'm sure I don't need to tell anybody that today is a pretty historic day.

On this day in 1963, Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. There were some two hundred thousand people in attendance to hear his message of equality and justice for all. And tonight, exactly 45 years later, Barack Obama is going to deliver a speech in Denver accepting his nomination as the Democratic candidate for President. Obama will be speaking to some seventy-five thousand people live, with millions more watching at home on television or the internet.

I’m looking forward to watching to Obama’s speech tonight, because he is a inspirational and uplifting speaker, because this is a truly historic moment that I don't want to miss, but also because I am eager to hear how he will relate the events of today with Dr. King’s message of 45 years ago.

I have no inside scoop as to what Obama will say, but I know what connection I hope he draws between 1963 and 2008.

45 years have done a lot to bring reality closer to the vision of King’s dream. We're not there yet, but we're certainly a lot closer. The day that an African-American becomes the likely next president of the United States is unassailable evidence to that.

However, although the past 45 years greatly eased the divisions between black and white, in many ways we have simply replaced that division with others: east against west, Christian against muslim, and rich against poor. The specific sin of racism has been replaced with a more general crime of intolerance.

We have seen this in spades since 9/11, which is now almost seven years in our past. The Bush administration and Neo-con theorists who have ghost-written Bush's policies have elevated intolerance to an art form, almost to a national pasttime.

We have seen countless examples of intolerant attitudes from them since then: from their less-than-strident statements about the hate-crimes against American sikhs and muslims in the days immediately after 9/11, to their not-so-subtle marriage of fundamentalist christian rhetoric with public policy language, to their border-fence against scary central-american brown people.

In these and many more examples I am constantly stunned at the hypocrisy of people who with one face profess to follow the teachings of Christ, while with the other face consistently pursue policies which divide, subjugate, and punish those who are different than themselves. To the best of my knowledge, the teaching of Christ include loving thy neighbor as thyself, and loving even thy enemy. Division, subjugation, and intolerance just weren't in the mix.

Today Barack Obama will deliver a historic speech to a nation in crisis. The fact that his speech falls on the 45th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech--one of the most famous, powerful, and significant public speeches in American history--will certainly not be lost on him.

My dream is that while accepting his nomination for the most powerful office on earth, he also uses the opportunity to inspire us to go beyond King's dream for racial justice in America. That he lays out for us the critical need for us, both as a nation and as an increasingly connected species, to take the next logical step.

My dream is to hear Barack Obama impel each and every one of us, in the powerful oratorial style that only he can summon, to create a world everyone understands the value of tolerance, and respects the right of others to think, live, and believe differently than themselves.

Martin Luther King shined a very bright light on one horrible, inexcusable example of intolerance right here at home, and did much to bring it to an end. But now we must carry that torch forward. We must accept, in King’s words, the fierce urgency of Now, and shine the light of tolerance into all the corners of the earth that remain dark.

LIVE from Denver: The ultimate protest

Walking to catch a train earlier today, I witnessed a woman getting her picture taken with a crew of heavily armed police officers standing out on the sidewalk. She was wearing a goofy grin and posing as if she were a model. The police were smiling and enjoying the spectacle.

As I watched this scene (and laughed) a thought occurred to me. Hardly anybody has bothered to go over to the caged "free speech zone" during this convention. By staying away, people are thus protesting the very idea of a "free speech zone".

Instead, they're walking the 16th Street Mall waving placards, handing out literature, playing music, chanting - or getting their pictures taken with the police.

The ultimate protest is refusing to fear the militarization of this city. To carry on exercising our Constitutionally guaranteed First Amendment rights no matter what.
Using freedom is defending freedom.

LIVE from Denver: Cantwell, Inslee, delegates talk to NPI about their convention experience

This morning, the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce the release of our second podcast for August 2008.

This episode, recorded live at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, features a series of interviews with pledged delegates (Brad, Liz, David) and superdelegates (Senator Maria Cantwell, Representative Jay Inslee) who were kind enough to share their perspective on the Convention with NPI.

You'll hear the delegates talk about everything from the speeches to navigating Denver's transportation system.

These interviews were recorded in high definition audio on Tuesday and Wednesday using our Olympus portable recorder - equipment that we were able to acquire thanks to your generous support at the 2008 Spring Fundraising Gala.

To subscribe to our podcast, plug our multimedia feed into your favorite aggregator - or click the below button to do so if you are an iTunes user.

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

We'll try to get the interview transcribed and we'll update this post when we've got a transcript finished.

LIVE from Denver: Roll call vote an emotional moment for Clinton delegates

Last night was another one for the history books.

As a Clinton delegate, the only way I can think to describe the experience is up and down and all around. At the Hillary delegation event earlier in the day, Hillary formally released her delegates, asked us again to support Obama in November, told us she intended to vote for Obama, and asked us to "vote your conscience".

The roll call vote at the convention took quite an emotional toll on the Washington Clinton delegates. Speaking for myself, I felt angry at the way it was handled--it seemed like any state which might give Hillary a strong showing (California, for example), passed. And a large number of Clinton delegates voted for Obama.

I spoke with delegates from two other states, and they described being pressured intensely at their morning delegation breakfasts to vote for Obama.

While I respect any Clinton delegates conscious and voluntary decision to seek party unity by voting for Obama, I felt outraged at the coercion.

When Hillary moved to suspend the rules and nominate Obama by acclimation, several Clinton delegates, including me, broke down and cried.

Then came intermission. That was the low point of the entire week for me -emotionally and physically drained, and a bit numb.

One of the unexpected by welcome gestures of unity came from some of the Obama delegates, who gave out compassionate hugs.

Fortunately, things got better from there, as we heard from Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Joe Biden. Bill was incredible, as usual, though I must say Hillary was even better last night. As for Kerry, if he had spoken four years ago like he did last night, this convention would have been all about his re-election campaign. Biden's son gave a moving speech and introduced his father Joe.

Joe Biden's speech was riveting when he spoke from the heart about his family, but went back to typical when he started on the "message" part of his speech. Obama made an on-stage appearance, and the session ended on a high note.

So what about unity? For me, unity means a group of people working cohesively to achieve a common goal, in this case working to elect Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.

But the path to unity differs from person to person. I needed closure and a catharsis before I could truly feel part of the Obama movement.

Before last night I intended to vote for Obama in November, but did not feel good about it. But for me, last night brought me to a place where I can feel comfortable voting for Obama in November. I am now wearing Obama buttons.

I realize that most of you reading are probably Obama supporters, and I don't know know if you can relate to my experience.

But I hope you can at least understand it.

McCain health care advisor doesn't believe in uninsured

First, McCain advisor Phil Gramm called us a bunch of whiners and said, regarding the economy, that we were in a recession of the mind. Now, McCain's health care advisor, John Goodman, has come up with a plan to deal with the uninsured.
So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime," Mr. Goodman said. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured.
The context here is that Goodman believes that since emergency rooms can't turn away people who need treatment, that this is a form of insurance. Under Goodman's logic, John McCain can claim we already have universal health care, though we all know this is far from the truth.

The solution to the problem is not to "disappear" people from official government reports. The solution is to find a way to ensure all Americans have access to affordable, quality health-care. And though emergency rooms may provide high quality care, they are not in the business of preventative care. In the long run, the cost of treating a serious illness or injury at an emergency room is much higher than giving a patient access to preventative care.

Emergency rooms aren't insurance for the poor, they're for use in an emergency. I can only hope that the John Goodman who is promoting this logic to John McCain is the comedian and not a bonafide policy advisor. Regardless, that McCain is taking this advice seriously, shows that we're looking at more of the same if McCain is elected President.

The iPocalypse is upon us

More great news for owners of Apple's iBrick iPhone. After botching the launch of its latest, greatest, must-have product, Apple has been forced to reveal that a security flaw allows unauthorized access to private contacts and e-mails, even when the phone is locked.
A security flaw in Apple Inc's iPhone allows unauthorized users to gain easy access to private contacts and e-mails even when the device is locked, but the company said a fix is on the way.

Popular technology blog Gizmodo and an online forum run by the Mac Rumors site showed that it took only three taps to gain access to locked iPhones, which run the latest 2.02 iPhone software.
That's great customer service for you. Apple will sell you a product that is virtually useless in its first few days, and then over a month later, they'll inform you that none of your data is safe on the device. Were they so desperate to try to take away market share from RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry, that they put a product out there that wasn't ready for prime-time?

Don't worry iPhone users, a fix is coming. It just might be after your personal information is stolen. Beware the iPocalypse.

And yes, this blogger owns a BlackBerry Curve.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Senator Biden's Speech

Below is the full text of the remarks given by Senator Joe Biden on his acceptance of the Democratic nomination for Vice President. You can find video of the speech here.

Since I'm not in Denver, I can only guess that the speech was as great in the hall as it appeared on television. Particularly striking to me were these words right near the end of the speech:
Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up. Our people are too good, our debt to our parents and grandparents too great, our obligation to our children is too sacred.
As Americans, it's in our blood to know that no matter our circumstances we can always better ourselves and our situation. The United States has been built on Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories of people looking to make a better life for their families. With Barack Obama and Joe Biden, we can once again believe in the American dream, which the Bush Administration has stolen from millions of us.

Here is the full text of Senator Biden's speech:

Beau, I love you. I am so proud of you. Proud of the son you are. Proud of the father you've become. And I'm so proud of my son Hunter, my daughter Ashley, and my wife Jill, the only one who leaves me breathless and speechless at the same time.

It is an honor to share this stage tonight with President Clinton. And last night, it was moving to watch Hillary, one of the great leaders of our party, a woman who has made history and will continue to make history: my colleague and my friend, Senator Hillary Clinton.

And I am honored to represent our first state--my state--Delaware.

Since I've never been called a man of few words, let me say this as simply as I can: Yes. Yes, I accept your nomination to run and serve alongside our next President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

Let me make this pledge to you right here and now. For every American who is trying to do the right thing, for all those people in government who are honoring their pledge to uphold the law and respect our Constitution, no longer will the eight most dreaded words in the English language be: "The vice president's office is on the phone."

Barack Obama and I took very different journeys to this destination, but we share a common story. Mine began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and then Wilmington, Delaware. With a dad who fell on hard economic times, but who always told me: "Champ, when you get knocked down, get up. Get up."

I wish that my dad was here tonight, but I am so grateful that my mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, is here. You know, she taught her children--all the children who flocked to our house--that you are defined by your sense of honor, and you are redeemed by your loyalty. She believes bravery lives in every heart and her expectation is that it will be summoned.

Failure at some point in everyone's life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable. As a child I stuttered, and she lovingly told me it was because I was so bright I couldn't get the thoughts out quickly enough. When I was not as well dressed as others, she told me how handsome she thought I was. When I got knocked down by guys bigger than me, she sent me back out and demanded that I bloody their nose so I could walk down that street the next day.

After the accident, she told me, "Joey, God sends no cross you cannot bear." And when I triumphed, she was quick to remind me it was because of others.

My mother's creed is the American creed: No one is better than you. You are everyone's equal, and everyone is equal to you.

My parents taught us to live our faith, and treasure our family. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they try.

That was America's promise. For those of us who grew up in middle-class neighborhoods like Scranton and Wilmington, that was the American dream and we knew it.

But today that American dream feels as if it's slowly slipping away. I don't need to tell you that. You feel it every single day in your own lives.

I've never seen a time when Washington has watched so many people get knocked down without doing anything to help them get back up. Almost every night, I take the train home to Wilmington, sometimes very late. As I look out the window at the homes we pass, I can almost hear what they're talking about at the kitchen table after they put the kids to bed.

Like millions of Americans, they're asking questions as profound as they are ordinary. Questions they never thought they would have to ask:

* Should mom move in with us now that dad is gone?
* Fifty, sixty, seventy dollars to fill up the car?
* Winter's coming. How we gonna pay the heating bills?
* Another year and no raise?
* Did you hear the company may be cutting our health care?
* Now, we owe more on the house than it's worth. How are we going to send the kids to college?
* How are we gonna be able to retire?

That's the America that George Bush has left us, and that's the future John McCain will give us. These are not isolated discussions among families down on their luck. These are common stories among middle-class people who worked hard and played by the rules on the promise that their tomorrows would be better than their yesterdays.

That promise is the bedrock of America. It defines who we are as a people. And now it's in jeopardy. I know it. You know it. But John McCain doesn't get it.

Barack Obama gets it. Like many of us, Barack worked his way up. His is a great American story.

You know, I believe the measure of a man isn't just the road he's traveled; it's the choices he's made along the way. Barack Obama could have done anything after he graduated from college. With all his talent and promise, he could have written his ticket to Wall Street. But that's not what he chose to do. He chose to go to Chicago. The South Side. There he met men and women who had lost their jobs. Their neighborhood was devastated when the local steel plant closed. Their dreams deferred. Their dignity shattered. Their self-esteem gone.

And he made their lives the work of his life. That's what you do when you've been raised by a single mom, who worked, went to school and raised two kids on her own. That's how you come to believe, to the very core of your being, that work is more than a paycheck. It's dignity. It's respect. It's about whether you can look your children in the eye and say: we're going to be ok.

Because Barack made that choice, 150,000 more children and parents have health care in Illinois. He fought to make that happen. And because Barack made that choice, working families in Illinois pay less taxes and more people have moved from welfare to the dignity of work. He got it done.

And when he came to Washington, I watched him hit the ground running, leading the fight to pass the most sweeping ethics reform in a generation. He reached across party lines to pass a law that helps keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. And he moved Congress and the president to give our wounded veterans the care and dignity they deserve.

You can learn an awful lot about a man campaigning with him, debating him and seeing how he reacts under pressure. You learn about the strength of his mind, but even more importantly, you learn about the quality of his heart.

I watched how he touched people, how he inspired them, and I realized he has tapped into the oldest American belief of all: We don't have to accept a situation we cannot bear.

We have the power to change it. That's Barack Obama, and that's what he will do for this country. He'll change it.

John McCain is my friend. We've known each other for three decades. We've traveled the world together. It's a friendship that goes beyond politics. And the personal courage and heroism John demonstrated still amaze me.

But I profoundly disagree with the direction that John wants to take the country. For example,

John thinks that during the Bush years "we've made great progress economically." I think it's been abysmal.

And in the Senate, John sided with President Bush 95 percent of the time. Give me a break. When John McCain proposes $200 billion in new tax breaks for corporate America, $1 billion alone for just eight of the largest companies, but no relief for 100 million American families, that's not change; that's more of the same.

Even today, as oil companies post the biggest profits in history--a half trillion dollars in the last five years--he wants to give them another $4 billion in tax breaks. But he voted time and again against incentives for renewable energy: solar, wind, biofuels. That's not change; that's more of the same.

Millions of jobs have left our shores, yet John continues to support tax breaks for corporations that send them there. That's not change; that's more of the same.

He voted 19 times against raising the minimum wage. For people who are struggling just to get to the next day, that's not change; that's more of the same.

And when he says he will continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq when Iraq is sitting on a surplus of nearly $80 billion, that's not change; that's more of the same.

The choice in this election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier; they require a wise leader, a leader who can deliver change--the change everybody knows we need.

Barack Obama will deliver that change. Barack Obama will reform our tax code. He'll cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people who draw a paycheck. That's the change we need.

Barack Obama will transform our economy by making alternative energy a genuine national priority, creating 5 million new jobs and finally freeing us from the grip of foreign oil. That's the change we need.

Barack Obama knows that any country that out teaches us today will out-compete us tomorrow. He'll invest in the next generation of teachers. He'll make college more affordable. That's the change we need.

Barack Obama will bring down health care costs by $2,500 for the typical family, and, at long last, deliver affordable, accessible health care for all Americans. That's the change we need.

Barack Obama will put more cops on the streets, put the "security" back in Social Security and never give up until we achieve equal pay for women. That's the change we need.

As we gather here tonight, our country is less secure and more isolated than at any time in recent history. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has dug us into a very deep hole with very few friends to help us climb out. For the last seven years, this administration has failed to face the biggest forces shaping this century: the emergence of Russia, China and India as great powers; the spread of lethal weapons; the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water; the challenge of climate change; and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front against terrorism.

In recent days, we've once again seen the consequences of this neglect with Russia's challenge to the free and democratic country of Georgia. Barack Obama and I will end this neglect. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we'll help the people of Georgia rebuild.

I've been on the ground in Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms: this Administration's policy has been an abject failure. America cannot afford four more years of this.

Now, despite being complicit in this catastrophic foreign policy, John McCain says Barack Obama isn't ready to protect our national security. Now, let me ask you: whose judgment should we trust? Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he said only three years ago, "Afghanistan--we don't read about it anymore because it's succeeded"? Or should we trust Barack Obama, who more than a year ago called for sending two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan?

The fact is, al-Qaida and the Taliban--the people who actually attacked us on 9/11--have regrouped in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and are plotting new attacks. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff echoed Barack's call for more troops.

John McCain was wrong. Barack Obama was right.

Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he rejected talking with Iran and then asked: What is there to talk about? Or Barack Obama, who said we must talk and make it clear to Iran that its conduct must change.

Now, after seven years of denial, even the Bush administration recognizes that we should talk to Iran, because that's the best way to advance our security.

Again, John McCain was wrong. Barack Obama was right.

Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he says there can be no timelines to draw down our troops from Iraq--that we must stay indefinitely? Or should we listen to Barack Obama, who says shift responsibility to the Iraqis and set a time to bring our combat troops home?

Now, after six long years, the Bush administration and the Iraqi government are on the verge of setting a date to bring our troops home.

John McCain was wrong. Barack Obama was right.

Again and again, on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was proven right.

Folks, remember when the world used to trust us? When they looked to us for leadership? With Barack Obama as our president, they'll look to us again, they'll trust us again, and we'll be able to lead again.

Jill and I are truly honored to join Barack and Michelle on this journey. When I look at their young children--and when I look at my grandchildren--I realize why I'm here. I'm here for their future.

And I am here for everyone I grew up with in Scranton and Wilmington. I am here for the cops and firefighters, the teachers and assembly line workers--the folks whose lives are the very measure of whether the American dream endures.

Our greatest presidents--from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy--they all challenged us to embrace change. Now, it's our responsibility to meet that challenge.

Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up. Our people are too good, our debt to our parents and grandparents too great, our obligation to our children is too sacred.

These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election. The American people are ready. I'm ready. Barack Obama is ready. This is his time. This is our time. This is America's time.

May God bless America and protect our troops.

Rudy on executive experience

The Republicans are starting to look more like the Keystone Cops than an organized political party, in trying to elect McSame John McCain.

Take Rudy, for example. Rudy has endorsed McCain, but someone forgot to note that in his talking points. In this interview with MSNBC, while trying to take a shot at Barack Obama, Rudy puts a hit on his own candidate.
"The reality is that this is not the time to have somebody who has no executive experience as President of the United States."
You see, Barack Obama may have no executive experience, but neither does John McCain.

With friends like Rudy, John McCain doesn't need enemies.

LIVE from Denver: Joe Biden accepts the vice presidential nomination

After a heartwarming introduction from his son, Beau, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware emerged in front of a packed convention hall to accept the Democratic Party's nomination for Vice President of the United States.

Biden spoke at great length about his upbringing and the values his mother (who watched the speech from high up in the PepsiCenter) instilled in him:
Barack Obama and I took very different journeys to this destination, but we share a common story.

Mine began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and then Wilmington, Delaware, with a dad who fell on hard economic times, but who always told me: “Champ, when you get knocked down, get up... get up.”

My mother's creed is the American creed: no one is better than you. You are everyone's equal, and everyone is equal to you.

My parents taught us to live our faith and treasure our family. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they try.
Biden talked about the traumatic experience of losing his wife and daughter, and how that changed his life forever.

He talked about his work as a United States Senator, and his belief in the enduring promise of the American dream.

He took John McCain to task for wrongly impugning Barack Obama's character and wisdom, providing example after example of McCain's lapses in judgment.

He spoke of the hope this Democratic ticket brings to the nation.

"Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up," Biden said.

Finishing with a flourish, he was joined onstage by Barack Obama, who briefly addressed the Convention and thanked the Clintons for their support. He opined that Hillary Clinton had "rocked the house" on Tuesday.

The Convention now moves to Invesco Field for its final night.

LIVE from Denver: An interesting night

What an evening it has been.

First I had a wonderful Cajun feed courtesy of the Big Tent (more Fat Tire Ale) and then I headed over to the MSNBC sound stage to see what was going on.

My timing was very lucky because I caught a bit of Rachel Maddow on stage with her buddy Pat Buchanan. Despite the limits of my camera I was able to get up close enough to get some good shots.

I'll include just Rachel and Pat, to conserve space, but I enjoyed documenting the revved-up crowd and more cottage-industry Obama merchandisers.

There was also quite a bit of security.

I returned to the Big Tent in time to hear Bill Clinton (our dear "Bubba") speak. He did a really good job of righting some of the damage inflicted during the primaries. He emphasized Obama's readiness to deal with the challenges a President faces. He reminded us that some felt he was too inexperienced in the beginning.

I have a feeling a colleague will cover this thoroughly, so these are just brief impressions. I had heard earlier that John Kerry would speak tonight and I knew it was true when I heard strains of "It's a Beautiful Day" by U2.

I've heard Kerry speak on many occasions, met him several times, and worked on his campaign at many levels so I know that he starts in the stilted Senatorial fashion until he warms up. Warm up he did.

He got in some really good lines and I can't remember them verbatim. Suffice it to say he turned the "voted for it before he voted against it" accusation against Senator McCain, as compared with Candidate McCain.

So the night continues. I'm all set after hitting Office Depot for batteries and like some of my colleagues and those around me, I don't expect to get a lot of sleep. I've been taking plenty of street photos for a couple of other blogs that I share with people in other cities.

I think the most interesting things I saw today were probably members of the Texas delegation drinking at a sidewalk cafe and telling their waitress all the bad things Bush did, and then Obama Girl getting into an elevator.

Then, of course, Rachel Maddow.


LIVE from Denver: Bill Clinton deconstructs Republican attacks on Obama

Moments ago, our first primetime speaker of the night, and the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, took the stage and walked to the podium.

Clinton was greeted by sustained and thunderous applause from the convention, which ignored his repeated requests to sit down and be quiet so he could speak.

When Clinton was finally able to begin speaking, he quickly drew applause again by declaring his unequivocal support for Barack Obama. Reminding delegates of Hillary's speech last night, and her commitment to do everything she could to bring him into the White House, he stated "That makes two of us".

"Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States," Clinton went on to say, attacking head-on the Republicans' claims that Obama is inexperienced with glowing praise of Barack's candidacy. "A President Obama will choose diplomacy first and military force as a last resort," he added.

Clinton went on to slam the Republicans' record, noting that America began to see the disastrous impact of the GOP's right wing agenda beginning in 2001, when it gained control over every branch of the federal government.

And he compared Obama's candidacy with his own in 1992, reminding delegates of the Republicans' attack on his youth and perceived "inexperience".

"Sound familiar?" he asked.

Smiling, he predicted that Barack Obama would succeed and triumph at the polls just as he did sixteen years ago, because Barack "is on the right side of history".

When it comes to blowing the doors off the Republicans' noise machine, there are few better suited for the job than Bill Clinton. What a speech!

BREAKING, LIVE from Denver: Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee!

It's official: After an incredibly long nominating season, Senator Barack Obama is the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States.

In an incredible show of party unity, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking for the New York delegation, moved that the convention suspend the rules and select Barack Obama as the party's nominee via voice vote, or acclamation.

The motion carried easily and was immediately adopted, putting an end to the roll call vote and slamming the door shut on the traditional media's Clinton/Obama narrative of campaign conflict.

Moments later, Speaker Pelosi announced that Barack Obama accepted the party's nomination and would formally do so at Invesco Field Thursday night.

Bill Clinton and Joe Biden are scheduled to address the Convention during primetime tonight. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who heads his caucus' campaign commitee, is currently explaining the importance of bolstering the Democratic majority in the United States Senate.

LIVE from Denver: Guests at the Big Tent

The Big Tent in Denver has had the honor of hosting an unbelievable number of guests today. As DiAnne posted earlier, Governor Schweitzer stopped by this morning, but we've also been fortunate enough to be joined by Senator Dick Durbin, Joe Trippi, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Texas Senate candidate Rick Noriega, and our very own Governor, Chris Gregoire, among others.

It's been a fun-filled morning and afternoon.

I had the opportunity to ask Governor Gregoire some follow-up questions about her reelection campaign, adding on to our interview with her at Drinking Liberally, recorded a couple of weeks ago before the primary. We'll try to get that audio up as soon as possible as part of our podcast.

The Governor is pretty thrilled with how well she did across the state in a low turnout, stale primary election. And she should be.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Michelle Gregoire, one of her daughters, who is working on the campaign and staffing her mother at events. It's wonderful to see the Governor's family so committed to her campaign.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt is scheduled to come by tomorrow, and we may have other surprise guests drop in and pay us a visit as well.

LIVE from Denver: Governor Schweitzer "Knights" Markos

I really thought Governor Schweitzer of Montana brought down the house last night. Bill Clinton's reaction shots on the television screen were priceless. This morning, I reclaimed my "blogger couch" and before long, Markos of DailyKos came along and autographed a copy of his book for me. A few minutes later, Governor Schweitzer came up to get one too.

He also presented Markos with one of his trademark bolo ties. "This is like being knighted in Montana," he said.

This couch is the best vantage point I have found during this convention. Yesterday Katie Couric did an interview of the Kos writer sitting next to me, and just now I watched Vincent Bugliosi get irate because DailyKos allegedly hadn't reviewed his book. (From what I'm hearing, they never even received one.) T. Boone Pickens is speaking upstairs, and I think he just paid for our lunch.

I have a feeling today is going to be a real carnival.

Congressman Don Young losing Alaska primary

With results coming in from the Alaska primary, Congressman Don Young (R-Bridge to Nowhere) is currently losing his race to Lt. Governor Sean Parnell.
With 83 percent of precincts reporting in the Republican U.S. House primary at 1:30 a.m., Parnell was leading but less than one half of one percentage point separated the two candidates. The difference was just 263 votes, with Parnell up 41,613 to 41,350.


Parnell was helped by the fact that Young, Alaska's lone member of the U.S. House since 1973, spent more than a million dollars of his campaign contributions on legal fees. Young refuses to say exactly what his legal fees have been paying for, but the congressman is connected to several federal investigations. They include the wide-ranging federal probe into corruption in Alaska politics, which has focused on the fundraising practices of Veco Corp.
Hopefully Don Young will be retired in this primary and Americans can stop worrying about how their tax dollars will be wasted on projects that do nothing for anyone.

Ethan Berkowitz, the state House Democratic Minority Leader, was the winner of the Democratic primary and will face the winner of the Parnell-Young race.

LIVE from Denver: Wednesday state breakfast

I'm at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center in south Denver, listening to a fun lineup of speakers talk to the Washington delegation.

So far we've heard from David Rolf, President of SEIUHealthcare 775NW, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota (who filled in for John Kerry at our State Convention in June), Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, and our very own Brian Baird and Jim McDermott, who represent the 3rd and 7th Congressional Districts, respectively.

Briefly, here's what each of them talked about:
  • David Rolf asked delegates to stand strong for organized labor. It is thanks to unions, he noted, that American workers enjoy the economic security they have today (although admittedly, prosperity has been eroded by decades of right wing anti-union policies)
  • Amy Klobuchar filled us in on some of the backstory of her June trip out to speak to our state convention. Apparently, it was her daughter's thirteenth birthday party, and her husband had to be the host for over a dozen of her daughter's friends, who decided to have a tea party. The Senator also told us a very funny Bill Clinton story.
  • Ray Nagin thanked Washingtonians for all the work we've done to help restore and rebuild New Orleans. A Barack Obama presidency is vital, he explained, if we want to avoid future disaster-response disasters. (We need a President who won't appoint an inexperienced crony to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency).
  • Brian Baird brought his computer up to the podium and read the highlights of a nasty smear e-mail that is being circulated by the right wing against Barack Obama. He warned delegates that the hard work of actually electing Barack Obama to the White House remains ahead of us. Jim McDermott echoed Brian's perspective on the importance of the election.
At present, Dwight Pelz is reviewing logistics for Invesco Field on Thursday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

LIVE from Denver: True greatness

Hillary was true greatness!!

I can't think of any other way to describe her speech tonight. I am proud to be a Democrat; I am proud to be a Hillary supporter.

Less is more with this post.


LIVE from Denver: Hillary Clinton!!!!!

Hillary Clinton is due to step up to the podium in just minutes here in Denver. At present, we're watching a funny, moving video about her candidacy, with a bit of self-deprecation tucked into the tributes to her incredibly long campaign. Included were several references to the cracked glass ceiling...and many interviews with her family and close friends and supporters.

Chelsea Clinton is now on stage to introduce her mother.

UPDATE: The music is over, but the applause and cheers are still going seems no one wants to be quiet.

It sounds like thunder inside of the PepsiCenter.

"My friends, it is time for us to take back our country, Senator Clinton said early on in her speech. She continued, "It is time for us to unite as a single party, with a single purpose...We are on the same team."

"And none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines."

"No McCain," she declared. The convention hall boomed in response, a mixture of laughter, cheers, and applause.

"Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our President," Clinton added.

Clinton went on to honor the memory of slain Arkansas Democratic Chair Bill Gwatney and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones.

"I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? ...Or were you it in for all the people in this country who feel invisible?" Clinton asked, urging delegates to join her in working to elect Barack Obama President.

With an agenda like that, it makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities...Because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart.
What a zinger! This has been a TERRIFIC speech!!

LIVE from Denver: Governor Schweitzer fires up the Democratic National Convention

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, whose improbable 2004 victory was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal election cycle, is currently on the stage at the PepsiCenter, firing up the thousands of delegates gathered and waiting to hear from Senator Hillary Clinton, who is due to speak next.

Most of Schweitzer's speech has focused on energy independence.

"At a time of skyrocketing fuel prices, when Americans are struggling to keep their gas tanks full, John McCain voted twenty five times against renewable energy," Schweitzer said, attacking the presumptive Republican nominee.

"Against biofuels. Against solar energy. He even voted against wind energy," Schweitzer continued to loud boos.

Moments later, to a roar of laughter and applause, he declared:

"If you drilled in all of Senator McCain's backyards...even the ones he doesn't know he has...that single proposition is a dry well."

"America needs energy independece," Schweitzer said, as he wrapped up his speech. "The petro dictators will never own American wind and sunshine...We should never again be beholden to their barrels of crude."

LIVE from Denver: Funny quips from warmup speakers, Warner keynote

This evening's festivities are well underway here in Denver tonight, with Mark Warner taking the stage minutes ago to begin his keynote address.

Introducing himself to the national audience watching live, Warner talked about his own background and initial failures in business. He quickly moved on to explain what Democrats would do if we held the White House. Economic security, environmental protection, clean energy, healthcare, and technology would all be priorities under President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Warner said.

"In just four months, we will have an administration that actually believes in science," Warner declared, to cheers and applause.

Later, describing the Democratic Party's belief in raising everyone up together, he said, "We see our common ground as sacred ground."

He added, "This about the future versus the past."

Warner was proceeded by Janet Napalitano, Kathleen Sebelius and Bob Casey, who each delivered funny but stinging jabs at John McCain's campaign.

Janet Napolitano, who is Arizona's governor, was first.
Barry Goldwater ran for president, and he lost. Mo Udall ran for president, and he lost. Bruce Babbit ran for president, and he lost. For this next election, that's one Arizona political tradition I'd like to see continue.
Sebelius was second. Reminding delegates of Dorothy's famous line in the Wizard of Oz - when Dorothy is trying to get home - she quipped:
John McCain's version: There's no place like home...or a home...or a home...or a home...or a home...
And then, Senator Bob Casey:
John McCain calls himself a maverick, but he votes with George Bush more than 90% of the time...that's not a maverick, that's a sidekick.
Darn right.

UPDATE: Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is speaking now, really sticking it to McCain. It's oh so satisfying to watch Democrats fight back and hammer the Republicans and their failed right wing agenda.

Another instant classic:
You know, it was once said of the first George Bush that he was born on third base and thought he’d hit a triple. Well, with the twenty two million new jobs and the budget surplus Bill Clinton left behind, George W. Bush came into office on third base. And then he stole second.

And John McCain cheered him every step of the way.
Well said, sir! Well said, indeed!

LIVE from Denver: Cantwell speaking now

Senator Maria Cantwell has just taken the stage as part of the U.S. Senate Democratic women's presentation, to speak briefly about the need to end our addiction to fossil fuels and begin the switch to renewable energy sources.

Cantwell had difficulty beginning her speech due to the loud cheering from the Washington State section. She smiled, acknowledged the Evergreen State's delegates, and proceeded to condemn the Bush/McCain approach to energy.

New leadership is needed, Cantwell says. A new President is needed.

"Let's elect Barack Obama... [a man] with a vision for a new energy future for America," Cantwell declared to applause.

UPDATE: The Senators have just left the stage together to the strains of "Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves" by the Eurythmics.

LIVE from Denver: Celebrating the anniversary of the 19th Amendment

Today marks eighty eight years the 19th Amendment granted women a right they should have had since the Constitution was written.

The Washington delegation breakfast provided two excellent surprises in the persons of Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. They were enjoyable to hear, and were more than willing to let us take photos with them.

I went with my wife and daughter to the EMILY's List event, which featured speakers Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Michelle Obama.

For those unfamiliar with EMILY's list, it is devoted to advancing the success of women in politics. We still need more women in the Senate, Congress, and as Governors. Of the eleven female Senators, two are from Washington State, and in addition, Washington is the only state in the nation to have a female governor and two female Senators serving on Capitol Hill.

The event started about forty minutes late, which was more than aggravating. Hillary is scheduled to speak tonight, and several of us had to leave before Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama could speak.

It was either that or risk not getting in to the convention hall. Passing through the security checkpoints is no picnic.

Senator Barbara Mikulski introduced Hillary. Senator Mikulski was fantastic - she is tough, determined, fierce, and fearless.

And the applause for Hillary was so long and so loud that she could not begin to speak for several minutes. She spoke eloquently about Democratic success in November, party unity, and the importance of women participating in politics

Susan B. Anthony died 14 years before the 19th Amendment passed. If she had lived to see that day, she wound undoubtedly have been proud.

If she had lived to hear women like Hillary Clinton and Barbara Mikulski speaking as Senators, she would undoubtedly have been proud.

UPDATE: I just finished listening to Dennis Kucinich speak at the convention. He was riveting. To hear three incredible speeches in less than ninety minutes is draining, but I still have another Hillary speech to come. I'll send more tonight after the end of the convention session.

LIVE from Denver: Congressman McDermott in the Big Tent

Jim McDermott just stopped by the Big Tent to chat with local bloggers. He was his usual jovial self. I also saw Deborah Senn.

It's nice to have distinguished elected officials visit with bloggers from their home states. It's been happening all day, as long as they are able to go through the desk and obtain a pass to get in.

Several times today I have been asked to show my blogger credential and I did see a former North Carolina Congressman turned away.

Space in the Big Tent is limited, and although the security isn't as tight as the PepsiCenter's, we have checkpoints here too.

This is a short post, but I'll add more if any other "locals" are spotted. It's time to get out into the sunlight.

LIVE from Denver: On the floor

I just passed through the security checkpoints at the PepsiCenter and joined the Washington delegation out in the seats right above the floor at the Democratic National Convention. The atmosphere is pretty festive in here; the Convention hall is not completely full (as is typical for an afternoon) but those who are here are having a good time. The speeches are punctuated by frequent musical interludes.

View of the convention floor

The Congressional Black Caucus is currently on stage - Benny Thompson, the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security in the House, is speaking.

The caucus is honoring the many victories won by the civil rights movement and the Democratic Party over the years.

UPDATE: We're watching a video tribute to remember many great Americans who have died over the last four years. Hamilton Jordan, Coretta Scott King, Lady Bird Johnson, Tom Lantos, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Robert Matsui, Peter Jennings, Parren Mitchell, James Olin, Bill Proxmire, Ann Richards, Tim Russert, and many other distinguished elected leaders or political icons.

UPDATE II: We are now being addressed by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Dennis Kucinich is scheduled to speak shortly, and then the Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association - Joe Manchin.

Leahy is slamming the Bush administration for its backwards energy and economic security policies. A lovely snapshot of rustic Vermont scenery is on the screen above him. And the convention hall is starting to fill up.

Live from Denver: The Media Circus

I was just interviewed by a woman from the New York Times and earlier Katie Couric was running around here with an entourage.

Dan Rather spoke upstairs (see Andrew's post from earlier about Rather's presentation) but I did not leave this prime couch location, for it's great people watching and eavesdropping, as well as a place to plug in the laptop, drink Blind Roast Coffee (actually roasted by a blind man) and watch representatives of corporate media try to find out what goes on in the Big Tent.

It was enjoyable to tell the reporter why I don't watch television, even to see what others are watching.

I don't necessarily eat fast food every day to see what that's like either. I told her that my primary news sources are NPR and the Internet and have been ever since the 1991 Gulf War, which the media seemed to treat as a video game. It was amusing when she asked me my cell phone number and I would have had to look it up (since I use it as little as possible) so gave her my email instead.

I also told her that I had attended both YearlyKos conventions, Netroots Nation and the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston as well as this one.

Like travel guru Rick Steves, I believe strongly that it is better to travel "close to the ground." It is pleasant to sit here on my couch and watch an interview going on not ten feet away from me, but I'll soon venture upstairs for the talks or out on the street. Andrew is inside of the PepsiCenter, so will be close to the action. One thing I know - the food will be better here in the Big Tent - and cheaper.

LIVE from Denver: Dan Rather speaks at the Big Tent's Digg Stage

Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather just spoke to a filled room upstairs at the Big Tent in Denver about media consolidation and the problem with entrusting huge corporations to responsibly report the news to us.

There have been so many mergers, acquisitions, and buyouts that almost every major news organization belongs to a larger conglomerate which may be in the entertainment business or belong to some other industry that has nothing to do with news, Rather observed. He added that these corporations are so big that it is hard to know who to hold accountable, because the era when the most influential news organizations were small and run by individual publishers ended long ago.

Rather also talked about the shortcomings of the commercial media model. When journalists are essentially accountable to stockholders to turn a profit (as is the case today) they can't truly provide a public service.

News organizations rarely scrutinize their parent conglomerates (when was the last time you heard NBC take General Electric to task?)

What is needed, Rather said, is more independent media that recognizes the value of news as a public service and not a moneymaking business.

Rather did urge the audience to keep up the pressure on the big corporate press. When we join our voices together to protest or call for reform, we are heard inside the office on the top floor, Rather said.

The takeaway for me was an affirmation of what I already believe: Commercial media, by design, is flawed. America needs nonprofit news institutions that can fearlessly hold power accountable and provide an objective view of the world.

UPDATE: Welcome Reddit readers!

LIVE from Denver: Assassination plot?

Apologists for the Mile High security we've got here in Denver will probably argue that this incident - which we still don't know very much about - justifies all the militarization around the PepsiCenter:
Authorities are investigating a possible threat against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Aurora police arrested a longtime drug user Sunday afternoon during a routine traffic stop where the man was seen "weaving," sources said. Two possible other accomplices also were arrested, according to police.

Police found four weapons, including two rifles and two handguns, in a rented pickup.

That arrest then led authorities to a second man staying at the Cherry Creek Hotel at 600 South Colorado Blvd in Glendale. When authorities knocked on the man's door, they say he jumped out of his sixth floor window, landing on an awning and running from the scene. They say they soon found him with a broken ankle. He too was arrested.
The local news got the assassination story going with this report:

CBS4 had reported one of the suspects told authorities that they were "going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a ... rifle … sighted at 750 yards."

Law-enforcement sources told CBS4 that one of the suspects "was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative."
The U.S. Attorney for Colorado, however, says that the feds are confident Barack Obama isn't threatened. A news conference has been scheduled for this afternoon to brief the press on the matter.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A huge victory for Save the Trees

Congratulations are in order to our friend Steve Zemke and all of the courageous North Seattle neighbors, who won another tremendous court victory today when a judge barred Seattle Public Schools from razing a greenbelt at Ingraham High:
King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick on Monday ordered the district to leave untouched a grove of more than 60 trees they wanted cut down to make way for a construction project on the northwest Seattle campus.

The pro-tree folks were thrilled with the ruling. They're challenging the district's assertion that felling the mature Douglas firs, Western red cedars and Pacific madrones wouldn't harm the environment. That challenge could hold up development permits required by the city.

To avoid those potential delays, the district tried another route. They withdrew the permits for the project and told the neighbors they were going to cut down the trees, then reapply for the city permits.

Opponents accused the district of being a "schoolyard bully," trying to pull a fast one by avoiding public process.

In issuing his preliminary injunction Monday, Erlick agreed that the approach wasn't justified.
The fight is unfortunately not over because district administration is being asinine, pledging to fight the injunction instead of just complying with the court's decision.

This has gone on long enough. It's time for the school district to admit it erred, and take the expansion of Ingraham High back to the drawing board.

Alaska Republicans Love Corruption

In other news, not happening in Denver, Senator Ted Stevens appears to have a clear road to continuing to be his party's standard-bearer in his race to keep his U.S. Senate seat, despite being indicted on corruption charges. Apparently, Alaska Republicans love them some corruption.
Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, faces six challengers Tuesday in Alaska's primary, but his recent indictment on corruption charges poses little threat to Stevens' quest for the GOP nomination to seek a seventh full term.


In a letter to the Anchorage Daily News, one supporter said Stevens has done more for the state than anyone in history.

Concerning Stevens' home remodeling, "shame on all of us for not helping with the project," wrote Richard Rhyner, who has lived in Anchorage for 50 years. "After all he has done for us, every man, woman and child should have chipped in to build our greatest Alaskan ever a home the size of the White House."

How disgusting that a corrupt politician would garner this level of support. I doubt Mr. Rhyner is the only Alaskan who has such feelings for "Uncle Ted".

Thankfully, Ted Stevens does have to worry about the general election. Thankfully, the people of Alaska have Democrat Mark Begich to clean house and sweep out the entrenched culture of entitlement and corruption that permeates Ted Stevens.

Mark Begich is running a great race so far, and is ahead in the polls depending on which poll you look at. But Mark Begich can't do it without some help, as the Corrupt Bastards Club and the Republican Noise Machine, will throw everything they have at Begich.

Though we tend to focus on Jeff Merkley in Oregon and Larry LaRocco in Idaho on this blog, and for good reason, we'd be remiss not to mention our neighbor to the north in Alaska, and ask that if you have some spare change, please give Mark Begich a donation and retire Ted Stevens.

LIVE from Denver: A roaring welcome for Michelle Obama

We're about to hear from the future First Lady of the United States - Michelle Obama - who is being introduced by her brother, Craig Robinson, the men's basketball coach at Oregon State University.

"Tonight, I don't want to just introduce my sister, I want to introduce you to my sister," Robinson began. "The girl I grew up with. The poised young woman I saw her grow in to. The compassionate mother, aunt and sister-in-law she is. The passionate voice for women and children she has become."

"And the type of first lady she will be."

He went on to talk about his relationship with Michelle as a young person, reminiscing, "When we were young kids, our parents divided the bedroom we shared so we could each have our own room. Many nights we would talk when we were supposed to be sleeping. My sister always talked about who was getting picked on at school, or who was having a tough time at home."

"I didn't realize it then - but I realize it now - those were the people she was going to dedicate her life to: the people who were struggling with life's challenges," he concluded to applause.

Introducing his sister, he said, "Please join me in welcoming an impassioned public servant, a loving daughter, wife and mother, my little sister and our nation's next first lady: Michele Obama."

The roar in the convention hall was loud to welcome Michelle Obama. But it was nothing compared to the massive ovation she received when she finished her speech. Her remarks were emotional. Powerful. Captivating.

As Michelle spoke, relating her life's story, her values, her faith in the promise of America, the delegates grew more and more spirited.

Michelle Obama reached out to America tonight. And though I can't be in every household watching to witness the reaction of the millions tuned in, I believe she connected in a heartfelt way with the nation tonight.

Midway through her speech, she drew tremendous applause by praising Senator Hillary Clinton, whose campaign for the presidency was long and fierce.

"I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history – knowing that my piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work."

"The same conviction that drives the men and women I've met all across this country...People like Hillary Clinton, who put those eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters – and sons – can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher."

The delegates responded with thunderous applause and cheers.

Later, as she talked of Barack's commitment to his daughters, the C-SPAN cameras showed delegates tearing up, touched by Michelle's openness.

"And in the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago," Michelle said. "He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father's love."

What a picture she painted with those words. It was so strong, so compelling, that I could see that moment in my own mind.

But she didn't stop there.

"And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they'll have families of their own."

"And one day, they – and your sons and daughters – will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They'll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country – where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House – we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be."

This is the Michelle Obama I've come to know and love, watching her over the last year and a half on the campaign trail.

Michelle Obama is a wonderful, wonderful person. She showed that tonight. She showed the compassion she has for her family, her community, and her country.

And even after she had finished her speech, the magic wasn't over.

Her daughters joined her on stage, and as the song Isn't She Lovely played, they waved to the delegates. But then, the music faded out, and Barack Obama himself appeared on screen. In an unscripted moment, he had a conversation with his daughters in front of thousands of delegates and millions of Americans watching on television. It was beautiful to hear his daughters exclaim brightly, "Hello Daddy!", "I love you Daddy!", or "Where are you, Daddy?"

The Republicans will have nothing like this at their convention.

UPDATE: More than one caller to C-SPAN is saying they were swayed by Michelle Obama tonight and have made up their minds to vote for Barack.

LIVE from Denver: Goosebump time

Joe Biden just made a brief appearance from the upper gallery.

I don't know why he showed up, but I felt confident and proud to see him. I think he is a great addition to the ticket. Strange as it may sound, I feel like Biden helps unify the party and brings some much-needed balance to the ticket. When word got around that he was in the upper gallery, people went wild here on the floor.

And when that ended, Caroline Kennedy gave a great speech in tribute to her uncle, and in tribute to Barack Obama.

Then Ted Kennedy came out to speak, and he was in great form. He promised in as determined a manner as I've seen, that he will be at the inauguration.

This has been beyond what I expected - and I had high expectations coming in.

This is awesome!!

LIVE from Denver: Ted Kennedy!

I really love the part of town that the Big Tent and Alliance Center are located in, with the wonderful indie bookstore and old brick buildings and many drink and food establishments. We were well provided for here, with pizza, burritos, sandwiches and several types of local ale (I am relishing my Fat Tire).

So far we have either "live" MSNBC or CNN coverage on big screen televisions and I basically don't "do" network cable infotainment, but have no choice until they figure out how to honor our request for the C-SPAN live feed.

That said, I did love just now seeing John Kerry on the floor and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg is speaking now. She is emphasizing that Obama and Biden have come along just when our nation needs them the most. Obama offers the change we need and she has heard from people all over the country who feel hopeful, just as people did when her father was running.

"I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them but I do now - Barack Obama." She went on to talk about "Uncle Teddy" and how he has made life better for people all over this country and throughout the world during his forty six years in the United States Senate.

She is highlighting his work to enact a decent minimum wage, preserve Social security and all the other services that help people from early childhood through old age. For all of these, "Teddy is your Senator." As Caroline says, he also helped end apartheid and spoke out against the war in Iraq, and has seldom missed a special event concerning one of his sixty or so close relatives.

Personally, I supported both John Kerry and Barack Obama because of the blessing of Ted Kennedy. It is a thrill to now hear Caroline introduce the tribute to Senator Kennedy. I'm going to sign off now and watch. I hope you're watching too.

It was wonderful, and now the crowd is going wild for Ted Kennedy himself. The bloggers in this dimmed room are rapt.

"It is so wonderful to be here," he starts, "and nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight."

He speaks of changing America, restoring its future, rising to our best ideals, and electing Barack Obama the President of the United States. He pledges to be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when Obama is inaugurated.

(Chants of "Teddy, Teddy" erupted on the floor) He then speaks of a season of hope for justice and prosperity for the many not the few.

"This is the cause of my life - new hope." His oratory style has not dimmed at all. The reaction shot of Joe Biden is awesome.

"We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama - Yes We Can and finally, Yes We Will." This is an inclusive speech, an inspiring speech.

Our soldiers must be committed to a mission not a mistake, he said. He reminds us that JFK didn't say it was "to far" for us to go to the moon and there is still an American flag on the surface. "We scale the heights...I know it, I've lived it... and we can do it again."

"The hope rises again and the dream lives on."

The crowd went wild again and I myself am remembering my sixteenth summer when the flag was planted on the moon, and that it's been forty years now since RFK was taken down by a bullet.

"Still the One" began playing as he finished.

I would be happy to just remember it this way, without it being analyzed by a bunch of pundits, so I believe that's what I'll do. It's also amazing to think that all this is going on within easy walking distance from us!

LIVE from Denver: Evening program begins

The evening program is well underway here in Denver on this first night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Earlier this afternoon, the convention was officially called to order by Chairman Howard Dean. The colors were presented, the national anthem sung, and the Pledge of Allegiance recited.

Convention CEO Leah Daughtry welcomed the delegates to Denver, and the Rules and Credentials Committees made their reports.

A series of videos, presentations, panels, and speeches followed. Party leaders provided an overview of the 2008 Democratic Platform. Most of the party's officials - including Treasurer Andrew Tobias, Secretary Alice Travis Germond, and Parliamentarian Doris Matsui - delivered brief remarks.

After a few videos and musical performances, Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the stage. She was warmly welcomed, although delegates did not seem wildly enthusiastic about her defense of the Democratic Congress' record, which was a key part of her speech. Delegates were pleased to hear her praise Hillary Clinton, however.

"All Democrats salute Senator Hillary Clinton for her excellent campaign...Our party and our country have been strengthened by her candidacy," Pelosi declared.

Following Pelosi's speech, a video presentation of Jimmy Carter's work to restore New Orleans was shown, and the former President appeared onstage with his wife to acknowledge the the delegates, although he did not speak.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. of Illinois is currently addressing the Convention.

LIVE from Denver: Greetings from Colorado - another Big Tent Blogger

I landed in Denver over the weekend and drove out to Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, at the base of Pike's Peak.

I decided to get a taste of Colorado politics and culture. I first visited the Focus on the Family Visitor Center and then the homes of two Obama activist supporters who will watch Barack speak on Thursday night.

Today, I checked out my digs (free lodging, but in suburban Denver) and the logistics of putting the rental car in the over-packed Park & Ride and riding light rail into downtown. Just as in Boston in 2004, the stations were closed around the Convention Center, so we had to get out far away and walk.

I too was mindful of the ultra-high security, which felt like something out of a futuristic movie. There were helicopters overhead, a few curiosity seekers or wandering delegates on foot, in pedicabs or on bicycles and then scores of police, some in riot gear. There was no signage, so delegates who originated on the wrong end of the Pepsi Center had to traverse a long distance to get around the security fence, which seems like an endless barricade.

There are so many levels of credentials and passes - for those getting into the PepsiCenter, for those destined to get into Invesco Field on Thursday night to hear Obama, for those going to the Starz party (Hollywood types), and the Big Tent (full week, day, volunteer, media passes).

I must say the latter pass - which Andrew, Garlin, and I each have - are a great deal with food and drinks and wireless and speakers.

I spent some time at the Alliance Center, which is a rather amazing building. The lights sense natural light and adjust accordingly and the toilets flush at several levels as well. The Big Tent was crowded and I'd forgotten my power adapter so I checked out the media lounge upstairs as well as the Digg Stage.

When I was there, a panel was underway with David Sirota, John Podesta, Thom Hartmann, and Arianna Huffington.

I had just come from The Atrium, which is the chill-out spa created by Arianna, with massages, vegan food and an atmosphere which is pretty much the antithesis of the circus down here in the blogger area or the street outside. Arianna showed up and I was able to get a photo of her blogging.

I also very much enjoyed the vendors out on the street. I saw Rednecks for Obama and probably a dozen t-shirt and button stands, as well as roving Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant figures. They were a favorite with a group of Japanese dressed in traditional kimonos.

Here in the Big Tent there is a big screen television and tonight there is a full program. In the meantime, there's a Happy Hour and lots of eats. There are corporate sponsors at all levels, from the high rollers to small businesses.

I'll be interested in what's going on in the PepsiCenter and with the convention, but I prefer to be out covering some of the street action and party people as well - it's a perfect place for an anthropologically-minded person.

So far I have met delegates from quite a few states and run into my favorite reporter from The Nation and a few other folks, besides my colleagues at NPI.

I'll sign off for now and check back in later.

LIVE from Denver: Elizabeth's vantage point

Elizabeth Willmott is a fellow delegate, though she is from the 7th CD. One of her recent posts about the convention is as follows. Enjoy.
Denver... the first time I visited this fair state was 1995, on my graduation from high school. I was a Boston girl on an Outward Bound program, rafting and sport-yaking down the Green and San Juan rivers in southeastern Utah.

I remember being stunned by the scale of the landscape features. My dad had encouraged me to try something adventurous and farther afield from my home coast of New England. It was the first time I had been to the American West (not counting Cali, of course) and I fell in love with it.

That trip sealed the deal for me: I would be an environmentalist all my life. I remember thinking, "What if all the politicians who make the decisions for us had to come here on an Outward Bound program? Wouldn't they be environmentalist too?"

On some level that trip may have also been a stepping stone to my life now, working for a brave leader in another western state... to reduce the impacts of climate change on our land and our lives.

Now as I sit in our Washington State delegation's hotel getting settled in for the Democratic National Convention this week, I look out at the black-eyed susans in the garden and it's clear where I am. Denver... and I hope this trip motivates me to do as much as the first one did.
Hopefully Elizabeth will sign on and post here herself soon.

LIVE from Denver: Inside the PepsiCenter - Democratic National Convention begins

After walking about one mile through some nasty heat, I finally made my way into the convention hall. It is smaller than I imagined, but there's a lot of moving and music and energy. It's not anything like a county convention back home - at least not yet. It's a whole different experience.

People are getting their booklets signed, taking pictures of the room, and getting others to take their pictures.

In short, it is part "first day of school" and part "last day of school."

I need to conserve laptop battery power, so I'll sign off for now.

LIVE from Denver: Convention coverage

We've just released an update to Pacific NW Portal's front page that allows you to better track local convention coverage. Among the special features are a news ticker that flashes the latest happenings from the Mile High City, a widget displaying the latest image from our photostream, and an aggregator indexing local blogs that have writers in Denver to cover the convention.

Want more? The Big Tent's website has a comprehensive list of participating blogs that are covering the convention from Wynkoop Street.

A few delegates are blogging at the state party's website. Susan Levine, an Obama delegate, blogged about this morning's breakfast experience earlier today.
Gov. Napolitano: doing a great job pumping us up - including talking about the need to assume that John McCain will lead us in more misunderstatements. She also, comically, talked about how most Arizonans have 1 home. In fact - there is no Governor’s mansion. Instead, there’s a Governor's condo.

Gov. Howard Dean: emphasizing the need for turnout in the east side of WA state in order to help Gov. Gregoire win.

Rep. Jay Inslee: sharing that he’s willing to do everything needed to help Dems win across the state. Keying in on that John McCain was AWOL on biggest energy vote for clean energy. Shared a lot of other examples of how to create Green energy. Republicans saying that clean energy is a pipe dream is a complete lie. Use “Susan Petty” as an example - who is on Greenlake inventing new ways to generate energy. Then introduced Apollo Alliance.
We'll be posting more updates straight from The Big Tent and the PepsiCenter throughout the day - keep The Advocate open in your browser and press F5 (Refresh) to see the latest Denver updates.

LIVE from Denver: Mile High welcome

Editor's Note: Michael Finkle is a Democratic activist who is representing the 8th Congressional District in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. Like the rest of us here at NPI, Michael believes in opening up the political process, and that's why he wants to share his experience as a delegate with all of you. I hope you'll join me in welcoming him.

Excitement has been running as high as the Mile High City itself for the convention, and that was just Sunday. I'll preface this post with a disclaimer: I am a Clinton delegate, and was an active participant in the petition drive that helped get her name being placed in nomination. (I also truly believe in the priorites of the Democratic Party...such as ensuring reproductive rights, enacting universal health care, and getting out of Iraq.) So I hope you will enjoy my liveblogging.

I plan to follow closely two fascinating threads in my convention coverage. First, what do people think of Obama's VP choice, Joe Biden?

The more I think about it, and the more I talk with other people, the more I like his choice. Biden fills in Obama's lack of experience as a statesman, and he is not afraid to go after McCain verbally.

As a Hillary delegate, I initially harbored hopes of an Obama-Clinton ticket, but have concluded that Obama made a wise choice in not choosing her. I think she can and will campaign vigorously for her.

The second thread is the "unity" thing.

I just got back from a meeting of the Clinton sub-caucus. We elected a delegation chair (Paul Berendt), and did a 'round-the-room' where people could present their feelings about the vote, Hillary, Obama, and unity. (The meeting wasn't a secret - three reporters attended).

As with any meeting of Democrats, there were some differences of opinion on whether to vote for Hillary even if she "releases" her delegates.

My view, which I expressed at the sub-caucus, is that the purpose of the petition drive was to give Hillary a choice of whether to be placed in nomination.

The Democratic Party is all about freedom, and freedom of choice. For me, that means I get to choose whether to vote Hillary on the first ballot. That also means that other Clinton delegates get to choose whether to vote for Hillary or Obama - voting is a matter of personal choice, and that freedom should be honored.

My personal plan is to vote for Hillary on Wednesday, and to cheer at Invesco Field on Thursday. I have spoken with other Clinton delegaes from Washington, and most, though not all, have similar thoughts.

Tomorrow should the busiest, and for me the most exciting, day. Emily's List is holding a celebration of women's right to vote. August 26th, 1920 is the date on which the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was passed.

It should be exciting.

Some of my comments on the subcaucus, by the way, will likely be in tomorrow's Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The Convention is a great opportunity to network and meet other Democrats. last night there was a joint reception with the Oregon and Arizona delegations, who are also staying at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center Hotel.

From what I could see, most of the Washington delegates stuck together, although the delegates did not stay separated into groups based on candidate preference. There was plenty of mixing and friendly conversation. And a sense of unity.

My guess is that the overwhelming majority of delegates will feel unified on Thursday. Our differences are insignificant compared to what we have in common.

More later.

LIVE from Denver: Convention primer

A lot is going to be happening here in Denver over the next few days. This post provides an overview of how things have been set up and what's happening when. It's presented in Q&A style for easy reading.

Here we go!

Q: Where are the Northwest delegations sitting in the PepsiCenter?
A: This map (PDF, 4.5 MB) shows the layout inside of the arena. Zoom in at least once to see the state abbreviations. Washington is behind New Mexico and Montana, up above the actual floor. Oregon unfortunately has the worst location in the entire arena - as far back and away as it gets. Idaho is situated far back too, but not stuck in a corner like the Oregonians are.

Q: Which states have the best seating?
A: Illinois, of course (Barack's home state), Florida, Michigan (the rulebreakers), Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Alaska, New York, and North Dakota.

Q: What does the convention schedule look like in the evenings?
A: A quick overview of the big speakers, by day, is as follows:

Monday: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Jim Leach, Claire McCaskill, Michelle Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, plus a tribute to Senator Edward Kennedy (Kennedy is likely to make an appearance, according to multiple news reports).

Tuesday: Hillary Clinton, Mark Warner, Brian Schweitzer, Deval Patrick, Kathleen Sebelius, Janet Napolitano, Joe Manchin, Jim Doyle, Ed Rendell, Ted Strickland, David Paterson, Chet Culver, Bob Casey, Jr., Patrick Leahy, Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel, and Chris van Hollen.

Wednesday: Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle, Evan Bayh, Jay Rockefeller, Harry Reid, Ken Salazar, James Clyburn, Robert Wexler, and Richard M. Daley. Tribute to veterans by Patrick Murphy and Tammy Duckworth.

Thursday: Barack Obama, Al Gore, Bill Ritter, and speakers to be announced.

The complete schedule is on the official Convention site.

Q: Did they come up with themes for each night?
A: Yes. Monday's theme is One Nation, Tuesday's is Renewing America's Promise (focus on economic opportunity and prosperity), Wednesday is Securing America's Future (focus on national defense and diplomacy abroad), and Thursday's is Change You Can Believe In.

Q: Where should I tune in if I want to watch the proceedings at home?
A: On television, C-SPAN will be your best bet for live and unfiltered gavel to gavel coverage, as CNN and MSNBC will frequently cut away from the speeches to feature their talking heads and army of conservative pundits.

The official DNC site is also offering video streaming in high definition - and you can even select your own camera angles.

Q: What kind of presence do the cable networks have?
A: They're trying to be noticed. CNN is situated in what appears to be a rented brick building just a stone's throw away from the PepsiCenter. The slogan, CNN=Politics is featured on multiple sides of the building. MSNBC has a stage nearby with banners featuring the likeness of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. I haven't seen the Fox Noise facilities, but I can tell you that Fox got an unfriendly reception this weekend (YouTube video) when they reported on a protest march.

Q: What does the stage look like?
A: The design of the podium and the stage were just unveiled this weekend by the Democratic National Committee. Take a look at the photos.

Q: What is security like?
A: Very heavy. Read my post from Sunday night for a firsthand account of the militarization around the PepsiCenter and Invesco Field.

Q: Who is the Convention Chair?
A: The Temporary Chair is Howard Dean, who runs the Democratic National Committee. The Permanent Chair is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Q: Are the Republicans in town?
A: Naturally. The Associated Press went out of their way to do a profile of the Republicans' efforts to distort and disrupt our Convention:
The GOP effort includes a "war room" and media center less than a mile from the convention hall and making top Republicans such as Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney available for press conferences and satellite interviews to television stations across the country, especially in swing states.

There's a new GOP web site with videos and ads, along with plans for rapid responses to attacks on GOP nominee-to-be John McCain and to speeches from the Democrats.

A staff of two dozen has set up shop in temporary workspace up the road from the Pepsi Center and thousands of journalists. Security at the war room is tight to avoid problems with Democratic protesters.
Democratic planners have been anticipating a Republican presence, however.

Q: What's the weather like in Colorado?
A: Currently warm and sunny with a few clouds on the horizon. The forecast looks good for the Convention. There was thunder last night in the Rocky Mountains, although it was pretty quiet in Denver itself.

Have a question that I didn't answer? Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

LIVE from Denver: High security zone

After arriving in Denver early this afternoon and stowing my luggage, I decided to make the most of an opportunity to explore downtown Denver and view the final preparations for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

I was expecting security to be tight, but I was surprised by the extent. Walking around the PepsiCenter felt like strolling around the perimeter of a fortress. The PepsiCenter is blocked off by a combination of concrete barriers, heavy duty chain link fences, and armed checkpoints with metal gates.

The police presence around the PepsiCenter is so huge that it feels like a military base. There is literally a policeman on every corner. Crown Victoria police interceptors are parked on each block. Unmarked government Chevy Suburbans can be seen cruising through the streets regularly, or idling next to sidewalks.

It appears as though every truck, building, or structure inside the perimeter is guarded by a legion of police or private security forces. I could see them standing around or pacing back and forth inside through the fence.

The barriers are not just an impediment to drivers - they're difficult to navigate on foot or on a bike, too, because of the way they've been deployed. The PepsiCenter can only be approached from a few certain directions, and the patchwork road closures have turned the security perimeter into a maze of sorts.

The police know it, too.

As I was walking not far from one of the roadblocks, the driver of a Jeep slowed down to ask two policemen a question. I overheard one of the policemen laugh seconds later and say something along the lines of, "Having trouble finding your way through our obstacle course?" The driver's response was inaudible but I felt for whoever it was. It really is possible to get stuck in there - there's more than one street that looks like an exit but is barricaded, making it a dead end.

I appreciate the concern that's gone into the convention planning, but I can't help but wish that the security wasn't so dominant and rigid. It's overshadowing what should be a festive gathering of American patriots and an exercise of our First Amendment rights to free assembly, free speech, and free press.

We should be able to strike a balance between safety and openness. Right now we're paranoid about the former and not giving much thought to the latter.

That has got to change.

LIVE from Denver: Stormy skies in the Rockies


NPI's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention to begin tomorrow

It's finally time for the curtains to close on what has been the longest presidential nominating season in history.

This week, Democrats from across the United States of America will meet in Denver, Colorado to nominate Barack Obama and Joe Biden as the next President and Vice President of the United States, and conduct party business.

We're pleased to announce that the Northwest Progressive Institute team will be there all week long bringing you live coverage from the Mile High City. Our live coverage officially kicks off tomorrow, but those of us arriving in Denver today may file a post or two this evening.

If you've never been to a convention and are curious to know what goes on at one, here's a summary provided by the Democratic National Committee:
A typical day in the life of a delegate or alternate at a National Convention begins with a state delegation breakfast meeting. At this meeting, delegates will hear from their state’s prominent Democratic leaders, as well as from special guests including national political figures and campaign surrogates. Delegates and alternates will also receive their credentials for that day’s Convention proceedings at breakfast.

At past Conventions, following their breakfast sessions, delegates attended caucus meetings and/or training sessions.
The Convention proceedings usually begin in mid-to-late afternoon each day, though no official schedule has been set thus far for Denver.

DNC Chairman Governor Howard Dean acts as the Temporary Chair of the 2008 Convention and will call the Convention to order on Monday. The first item of formal business for the Convention to act on is the report of the Credentials Committee, which will resolve all questions concerning the seating of delegates. The second item of business is the report of the Rules Committee. Among its many responsibilities, the Rules Committee will recommend the permanent Convention officers, including the Permanent Convention Chair. Following approval of the Rules Committee report by Convention delegates, it is presumed that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will take the gavel as the Permanent Convention Chair. At past Conventions, the keynote address has typically been on Monday evenings.

The Tuesday of the Convention has generally featured debate and discussion of the Party’s proposed National Platform.
In the past, the Wednesday of the Convention kicked off the Party’s formal presidential nominating process with nominating and seconding speeches for presidential candidates being given. The alphabetical roll call of states and territories by the Convention Secretary is a memorable feature of past Wednesday nights. Sometimes the Party’s presumptive vice presidential candidate will also speak on Wednesday.

The final day of the Convention – Thursday – features the nomination of the vice presidential candidate. The Convention concludes with the acceptance speech of the Party’s presidential nominee.
Be sure to stop by the NPI Advocate often - we'll be filing frequent reports on the Convention.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama, Biden appear together in Illinois

A year and half after launching his presidential campaign in Springfield, Illinois, on the steps of the Old State Capitol, Barack Obama returned to officially announce the selection of his running mate - and the next Vice President of the United States - Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

Obama introduced Biden as "a statesman, who doesn't have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong" to loud cheers and applause.

Biden, for his part, credited Obama for running a revolutionary campaign and inspiring millions of people to become involved in American politics.

Describing his own political philosophy, Biden emphatically told the assembled crowd: "We believe that our tomorrows will be better than our yesterdays."

He added that the powers that be in our nation's capitol are more entrenched than ever. "In all my time in the United States Senate...I have never in my life seen Washington seem to be so broken."

Firing a shot across the bow of John McCain's campaign, Biden said: "These times call for more than a good soldier...they call for a wise leader. A leader who can deliver real change." He described Barack, in contrast, as "a clear eyed pragmatist who will get the job done."

The money quote of the speech, however, was this:
You sit at your kitchen table and worry about how to pay the bills. That's not something John McCain has to worry about. He worries about which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at.
That McCain "I can't remember how many houses I own" gaffe has been political gold for Obama's campaign this week.

Here's the full text of Obama's remarks as prepared for delivery.
Nineteen months ago, on a cold February day right here on the steps of the Old State Capitol, I stood before you to announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.

We started this journey with a simple belief: that the American people were better than their government in Washington – a government that has fallen prey to special interests and policies that have left working people behind. As I've travelled to towns and cities, farms and factories, front porches and fairgrounds in almost all fifty states – that belief has been strengthened. Because at this defining moment in our history – with our nation at war, and our economy in recession – we know that the American people cannot afford four more years of the same failed policies and the same old politics in Washington. We know that the time for change has come.

For months, I've searched for a leader to finish this journey alongside me, and to join in me in making Washington work for the American people. I searched for a leader who understands the rising costs confronting working people, and who will always put their dreams first. A leader who sees clearly the challenges facing America in a changing world, with our security and standing set back by eight years of a failed foreign policy. A leader who shares my vision of an open government that calls all citizens – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – to a common purpose. Above all, I searched for a leader who is ready to step in and be President.

Today, I have come back to Springfield to tell you that I've found that leader – a man with a distinguished record and a fundamental decency – Joe Biden.

Joe Biden is that rare mix – for decades, he has brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn't changed him. He's an expert on foreign policy whose heart and values are rooted firmly in the middle class. He has stared down dictators and spoken out for America's cops and firefighters. He is uniquely suited to be my partner as we work to put our country back on track.

Now I could stand here and recite a list of Senator Biden's achievements, because he is one of the finest public servants of our time. But first I want to talk to you about the character of the man standing next to me.

Joe Biden's many triumphs have only come after great trial.

He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His family didn't have much money. Joe Sr. worked different jobs, from cleaning boilers to selling cars, sometimes moving in with the in-laws or working weekends to make ends meet. But he raised his family with a strong commitment to work and to family; to the Catholic faith and to the belief that in America, you can make it if you try. Those are the core values that Joe Biden has carried with him to this day. And even though Joe Sr. is not with us, I know that he is proud of Joe today.

It might be hard to believe when you hear him talk now, but as a child he had a terrible stutter. They called him "Bu-bu-Biden." But he picked himself up, worked harder than the other guy, and got elected to the Senate – a young man with a family and a seemingly limitless future.

Then tragedy struck. Joe's wife Neilia and their little girl Naomi were killed in a car accident, and their two boys were badly hurt. When Joe was sworn in as a Senator, there was no ceremony in the Capitol – instead, he was standing by his sons in the hospital room where they were recovering. He was 30 years old.

Tragedy tests us – it tests our fortitude and it tests our faith. Here's how Joe Biden responded. He never moved to Washington. Instead, night after night, week after week, year after year, he returned home to Wilmington on a lonely Amtrak train when his Senate business was done. He raised his boys – first as a single dad, then alongside his wonderful wife Jill, who works as a teacher. He had a beautiful daughter. Now his children are grown and Joe is blessed with 5grandchildren. He instilled in them such a sense of public service that his son, Beau, who is now Delaware's Attorney General, is getting ready to deploy to Iraq. And he still takes that train back to Wilmington every night. Out of the heartbreak of that unspeakable accident, he did more than become a Senator – he raised a family. That is the measure of the man standing next to me. That is the character of Joe Biden.

Years later, Senator Biden would face another brush with death when he had a brain aneurysm. On the way to the hospital, they didn't think he was going to make it. They gave him slim odds to recover. But he did. He beat it. And he came back stronger than before.

Maybe it's this resilience – this insistence on overcoming adversity – that accounts for Joe Biden's work in the Senate. Time and again, he has made a difference for the people across this country who work long hours and face long odds. This working class kid from Scranton and Wilmington has always been a friend to the underdog, and all who seek a safer and more prosperous America to live their dreams and raise their families.

Fifteen years ago, too many American communities were plagued by violence and insecurity. So Joe Biden brought Democrats and Republicans together to pass the 1994 Crime Bill, putting 100,000 cops on the streets, and starting an eight year drop in crime across the country.

For far too long, millions of women suffered abuse in the shadows. So Joe Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act, so every woman would have a place to turn for support. The rate of domestic violence went down dramatically, and countless women got a second chance at life.

Year after year, he has been at the forefront of the fight for judges who respect the fundamental rights and liberties of the American people; college tuition that is affordable for all; equal pay for women and a rising minimum wage for all; and family leave policies that value work and family. Those are the priorities of a man whose work reflects his life and his values.

That same strength of character is at the core of his rise to become one of America's leading voices on national security.

He looked Slobodan Milosevic in the eye and called him a war criminal, and then helped shape policies that would end the killing in the Balkans and bring him to justice. He passed laws to lock down chemical weapons, and led the push to bring Europe's newest democracies into NATO. Over the last eight years, he has been a powerful critic of the catastrophic Bush-McCain foreign policy, and a voice for a new direction that takes the fight to the terrorists and ends the war in Iraq responsibly. He recently went to Georgia, where he met quietly with the President and came back with a call for aid and a tough message for Russia.

Joe Biden is what so many others pretend to be – a statesman with sound judgment who doesn't have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong.

Joe won't just make a good Vice President – he will make a great one. After decades of steady work across the aisle, I know he'll be able to help me turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington, so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people. And instead of secret task energy task forces stacked with Big Oil and a Vice President that twists the facts and shuts the American people out, I know that Joe Biden will give us some real straight talk.

I have seen this man work. I have sat with him as he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and been by his side on the campaign trail. And I can tell you that Joe Biden gets it. He's that unique public servant who is at home in a bar in Cedar Rapids and the corridors of the Capitol; in the VFW hall in Concord, and at the center of an international crisis.

That's because he is still that scrappy kid from Scranton who beat the odds; the dedicated family man and committed Catholic who knows every conductor on that Amtrak train to Wilmington. That's the kind of fighter who I want by my side in the months and years to come.

That's what it's going to take to win the fight for good jobs that let people live their dreams, a tax code that rewards work instead of wealth, and health care that is affordable and accessible for every American family. That's what it's going to take to forge a new energy policy that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil and $4 gasoline at the pump, while creating new jobs and new industry. That's what it's going to take to put an end to a failed foreign policy that's based on bluster and bad judgment, so that we renew America's security and standing in the world.

We know what we're going to get from the other side. Four more years of the same out-of-touch policies that created an economic disaster at home, and a disastrous foreign policy abroad. Four more years of the same divisive politics that is all about tearing people down instead of lifting this country up.

We can't afford more of the same. I am running for President because that's a future that I don't accept for my daughters and I don't accept it for your children. It's time for the change that the American people need.

Now, with Joe Biden at my side, I am confident that we can take this country in a new direction; that we are ready to overcome the adversity of the last eight years; that we won't just win this election in November, we'll restore that fair shot at your dreams that is at the core of who Joe Biden and I are as people, and what America is as a nation. So let me introduce you to the next Vice President of the United States of America...
Naturally, a few seconds after the speech ended, the punditocracy went to work obsessing over every stumbled sentence spoken by Obama and Biden.

That was when I turned the television off.

Friday, August 22, 2008

NPI celebrates five year anniversary

Five years ago, after eighteen months of fighting Tim Eyman through Permanent Defense, I came to an important, yet frustrating, realization.

It was August 22nd, 2003 - a sleepy, peaceful summer day.

Despite having won an important victory several weeks before, when Tim Eyman's Initiative 807 failed to qualify for the ballot, I was feeling restless and disheartened. Eyman's attempt to paralyze the Legislature had been thwarted, but so much else seemed to be going downhill. The Bush administration was wreaking havoc on America's health, tearing into our nation's common wealth with a wrecking ball (to borrow a metaphor from Thomas Frank).

Washington's Democratic governor, Gary Locke, had just collaborated with one of the state's most anti-government Republicans to put together a shortsighted, ineffective budget that failed to address the needs of the Evergreen State.

The Democrats had lost control of the United States Senate to the Republicans only nine months before during the 2002 midterm elections.

The Building Industry of Washington was in the midst of revving up a campaign of deception to trick voters into repealing new ergonomics rules (Initiative 841).

And of course, Tim Eyman was promising he'd be back in 2004 with an initiative that would gut local public services like police and fire protection to the bone.

Everywhere I looked, it seemed the right wing had the upper hand.

As I reflected on this sad state of affairs, I wondered what progressives like myself could do to break the right wing's stranglehold on our democracy. Holding our ground against the other side whenever possible was important, I concluded, but focusing all of our energy on defense would mean that at best, we'd only keep the right wing from winning and carrying out their sinister agenda.

We needed to be able to go on offense to truly have a positive impact we wanted on our country. To do that, we'd have to be able to clearly articulate what we stood for, not merely what we were fighting against.

We'd have to be able to refine and hone our ideas so that our vision would stick when we pitched it - whether to a coworker during an elevator ride, to friend at a baseball game, to a live audience on television or radio, to hundreds of thousands of readers in a newspaper op-ed, or in any other conceivable setting.

We needed infrastructure. Idea factories for progressive thought.

Out of this realization, from very humble beginnings, the Northwest Progressive Institute was born on that quiet summer day.

It was like a spark igniting a tiny but fiercely persistent flame.

What was I doing, deciding right then and there I was going to build a think tank? I didn't have any management experience. I didn't have a college degree in hand (I was only heading into my junior year in high school). And I had no understanding of corporate or nonprofit law at the time, either.

But like most entrepreneurs, what I did have was the determination to learn and see an idea to fruition. Since what I wanted - an innovative progressive strategy center that could provide research and resources to activists - didn't exist, I took Mahatma Gandhi's advice: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

I brought my idea online, setting up a web page that provided a more detailed blueprint of what I envisioned. After some thought, I settled on a name that reflected what I hoped would represent what I wanted to create.

I knew what I was doing was mostly unprecedented. I didn't have the experience and wisdom of someone like John Podesta, or the resources of his Center for American Progress (which was launched that same summer). I had no angel investors, no business plan, no equipment, no team, no budget, and no guidance that first day. In fact it's more than fair to say I had almost nothing.

But I'm one of those people who believes it's possible to make something out of almost nothing. I've stuck with this challenge for five years now, repeatedly refusing to give up or burn out. Why? Because empathy is ingrained into every fiber of my being. I care about improving the human condition - leaving the world a better place than I found it. It's my moral responsibility to do what I can to raise the quality of life for as many people as I can.

That's why I'm a progressive, why I'm an entrepreneur, and why I am a Democrat.

I've devoted a substantial part of my life to building NPI. But I'm not the only one who has invested my time, talent, and treasure. I'm blessed to be surrounded by an incredible team of people who believe in NPI as much as I do.

They're a constant source of strength for me... and this organization would simply not be where it is today without their efforts.

Today, I thank them and cherish their involvement. And I also thank those of you who are reading this post for your support. You've helped make the Northwest Progressive Institute successful and influential. Words just don't do justice to the appreciation I have for all your encouragement.

As we turn the page and head into our sixth year, I'd like to take a look back at some of our favorite moments - a sampling of the events that have shaped the Northwest Progressive Intitute into what it is today. Without further ado, here's a countdown of what could be our top ten favorite moments.

10. Forum on Improving Networking & Media Strategies with Lisa Brown (February 12th, 2007) Part of the second annual NWroots Conference held in Olympia, Washington, this event brought together legislators and activists to talk about the potential of new tools like blogs and wikis. Participating legislators included Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Representative Ross Hunter, Representative Maralyn Chase, Representive Zack Hudgins, and Senator Eric Oemig.

9. Defeating Initiative 892 (November 2nd, 2004) Although the 2004 elections were largely disappointing, the overwhelming defeat of Tim Eyman's nefarious gambling measure was a huge victory that NPI's Permanent Defense helped make a reality. In addition to distributing yard signs and literature, Permanent Defense published extensive anti-892 resources that ended up being accessed by tens of thousands of Washington voters throughout the fall of 2004.

8. Senator Cantwell guest posts for the NPI Advocate (August 3rd, 2006) Responding to her opponent Mike McGavick and Republican leaders' pressure on Democratic senators to support what became known as the ill-fated minimum wage trifecta bill, Senator Maria Cantwell authored a guest post for the NPI Advocate (then known as the Official Blog) announcing her intent to oppose the bill, which she accurately termed a "cynical Republican ploy". The post made it to the front page of Google News, drawing tens of thousands of readers from across the U.S.

7. Al Gore at Netroots Nation (July 19th, 2008) In a surprise appearance that electrified the convention, America's leading statesman came to Austin to thank and honor the the tireless work of the countless champions of people powered politics that make up the netroots community. To quote from Gore's remarks, "You will tell your grandchildren about the first two meetings of Netroots effort that was historic to retain the integrity of American democracy".

6. Launch of Pacific NW Portal (January 31st, 2005) Since its inception at the beginning of 2005, the Portal has been one of the most popular destinations for local progressives. While we often advertise it as the white pages for the regional netroots community, the Portal isn't just a gateway to blogs. It serves as a comprehensive resource for news, politics, and opinion in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. Frequent improvements through the first half of 2005, culminating in "True Blue" in July 2005, greatly enhanced the Portal's reliability and usability, making the site more helpful to activists.

5. YearlyKos Presidential Leadership Forum (August 4th, 2007) Featuring all of the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates except for Joe Biden, the forum was a refreshing break from the many staged debates that were poorly produced by traditional media outlets. Audience participation was welcomed and encouraged, with Dr. Jeffrey Feldman facilitating questions directly from YearlyKos attendees. The forum was hailed as perhaps the most open and intriguing exchange between the candidates during the entire election cycle.

4. Chris Gregoire declared the winner of the 2004 gubernatorial election (December 23rd, 2004) In the closest statewide race in Washington's history, Chris Gregoire became the governor-elect of the Evergreen State, triumphing after an exhaustive manual recount showed her with a one hundred and twenty nine vote lead. (This later became a one hundred and thirty three vote lead following an unsuccessful election challenge by Dino Rossi, when Judge John Bridges disqualified the votes of four felons who declared under oath they voted for Rossi or Ruth Bennett, the Libertarian candidate).

3. Fighting Initiative 912: Viaduct Hazard Demonstration (October 26th, 2005) In the final days before the November 2005 general election, NPI's Washington Defense project, which had already raised several thousand dollars to fight I-912 (a repeal of the Legislature's increase in the fuel tax), organized a media event intended to highlight the dangers of not replacing damaged structures such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The event, held at the 1st Avenue South onramp to the viaduct, featured a large sign which read: Warning! Entering I-912 Disaster Area - To Fix This Roadway, Vote NO 912 - as well as Washington Defense's signature orange diamond signs declaring "Safety First - NO 912" The event was one of the first ten stories on KIRO Television's five o'clock broadcast. It was also covered by KCPQ Television and KIRO 710 Newsradio.

2. The Blue Wave: Election Night 2006 (November 7th, 2006) NPI provided continuous live coverage of the 2006 midterm elections, which were nothing less than a titanic victory for Democrats and a resounding rejection of Republicans and right wing ideology across the country. Senator Maria Cantwell was reelected, right wing initiatives were overwhelingly defeated, and Democrats added heavily to their majorities in the state Legislature. In just seventy two hours - spanning Election Day, before, and after - NPI broke all of its preexisting traffic records.

1. Spring Fundraising Gala (May 16th, 2008) Our first-ever fundraiser, held at the Redmond Town Center Marriott was, to put it mildly, a smashing success. Turnout surpassed our expectations, our guest speakers (Mike West, Chip Hanauer, Major General Paul Eaton (Ret.), and Darcy Burner) were fantastic, the music provided by Don Mock was wonderful, and the many supporters who came were incredibly generous. We'll never forget that night. But we will do it again - the Spring Fundraising Gala is now an annual tradition.

Here's to a great sixth year!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Extended Obama interview from 1995: the man hasn't changed

I recently stumbled across this web page, which contains an extended, three-part interview with Barack Obama after the publication of his book Dreams from My Father. It is a remarkable conversation with a remarkable man, and all the more interesting because it is now thirteen years old.

Anyone who tells you that Obama's positions and beliefs today are ones he has adopted recently, as a result of polling or other political convenience is wrong, and this interview shows it. There is a brief word about Rev. Wright towards the end, but that if anything only underscores the contrast between Obama and Wright: if anyone has changed since this interview was filmed, it's Rev. Wright.

But election-year politics aside, the video brings into sharp focus something else I've been pondering about Obama for a long time: his remarkable ability to draw support from people of all stripes. The rich and the poor, people of every shade of pink, brown, and in between. The young and the old alike.

What is it about Barack Obama that makes him so appealing to so many? Why is it that his supporters fit no easy stereotype?

Part of it is background. When I was a kid, there was a series of public service cartoons that ran on Saturday mornings called Schoolhouse Rock.

One of my favorite ones was called The Great American Melting Pot. ( The style of it looks kind of dated now, but that silly little cartoon still chokes me up because of its wonderful message: in America, everyone can succeed. And that's Barack Obama. He's the best of what the American "we welcome all comers" idea can produce.

Obama's life and his experience reflect so many cultures, times, places, and traditions that no matter who you are in this country or where you come from, there is a some part of your own story echoed in the events of Barack Obama's life.

I, for example, am a white man who grew up in a redneck former logging town in Arizona. But like Barack, I came from a family whose parents couldn't make it work. I share with him the understanding of what it means to grow up without your father in the house. Both of our lives have been profoundly shaped by that.

To anyone reading this, whatever your circumstance I'll bet you there's something significant that you and he share. Well, almost anyone. If you grew up rich and pampered, without a care in the world, then you may have trouble empathizing with Obama's life, experience, and accomplishments.

The other part is his compassion. His relentless focus on the real fates of real people. To watch the interview and hear him talk about his early days as a community organizer, you can see that he actually cares.

He actually cares about what happens to people.

The sincerity of his efforts to make a difference are unmaskable. I don't think he could hide them if he tried, and I'm glad he doesn't.

You add his compassion to his vast store of shared experience with ordinary Americans, and you get a man who people can believe in. Who they can rally behind. Who inspires people to believe that tomorrow can be better than today. Who motivates people to take tomorrow into their own hands and make it better.

You get a candidate who can weld the many and disparate fragments of the American population into an unstoppable coalition. A body public who can be energized to resurrect the dreams of the dying middle class.

A populace who will no longer accept crumbs instead of bread. A citizenry who will put Barack Obama into the White House.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dead heat in WA-08! (King County)

The King County Elections website just posted some updated numbers from yesterday's primary election. The most exciting result - unofficial though it is so far - is that Darcy Burner is running just a few hundred votes behind the incumbent Dave Reichert in King County. Here are the results so far.

Note that since this is the primary, there are several other names on the ballot:

James E. Vaughn (Prefers Democratic Party) 2152 3.16%
Dave Reichert (Prefers Republican Party) 31966 46.88%
Keith Arnold (Prefers Democratic Party) 886 1.30%
Darcy Burner (Prefers Democratic Party) 31566 46.29%

UPDATE: See the raw results yourself.

Reichert is still favored in Pierce, which means his overall lead across the district is larger than what it is in King County.

There are several stunning and exciting things about the King County numbers. First, it's remarkable that Darcy is in a statistical dead-heat with the incumbent, in the primary. All too often, primaries are low turnout affairs, with civic-minded conservatives turning out in larger numbers than progressives.

This year's primary in particular has seen pretty disappointing turnout considering what's at stake in November.

We knew she could (and would) make a strong showing, but still major kudos are in order for Darcy, her campaign team, and every volunteer who called voters, knocked on doors, or helped people to the polls yesterday.

Second, Reichert is garnering comfortably less than fifty percent of the vote. Historically speaking, election cycles in which a sitting congressman can't break fifty percent in the primary nearly always result in that member of Congress losing their office in the general election.

Third, since this is a top-two system, it is clear that Darcy will be the standard-bearer for the Democratic Party. No great surprise.

But look at those percentage numbers again. It is a reasonably safe bet that many, (if not most) of the voters for those other "Prefers Democratic" candidates will come home for Darcy in the general, giving her a shade over 50% to Reichert's 47%. Being as there are no other "Prefers Republican" candidates on the primary ballot, Reichert's potential for improvement in November seems limited at best.

And lastly, one comment about the top-two format.

Much as I think it's a poor excuse for the election reform we really need, it does do one thing for us: it pits Darcy and Dave head-to-head on the same ballot, like they will be in November.

This is pretty unique, and it means that Darcy's strong showing sends a clear signal to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee: don't waste your precious dollars in WA-08 again. It's no secret that the Republicans are defending an awful lot of really weak seats this November, and they'll be lucky if they can keep the bleeding to less than a dozen or so seats.

To do so, they'll be looking long and hard at where to put the comparatively few dollars they have at their disposal.

If the certified results at the end of this primary verify what we're seeing with today's interim results, the message to the RNC will be unmistakable: their six million dollars of 2006 cycle funding bought them two years of rubber-stamp votes for Bush's policies, but they'd be fools to waste another dollar here in 2008.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fairhurst, Johnson, and Stephens easily cruise to reelection again token opposition

Washington State's three incumbent Supreme Court justices appear headed to victory in tonight's primary with Justices Fairhurst and Johnson easily winning more than a plurality of total votes cast so far.

Justice Debra Stephens, who was unopposed, was assured of victory weeks ago when her only opponent withdrew. In tonight's competition, Mary Fairhurst had no trouble defeating Michael Bond (she's currently at 61%), and Charles Johnson was almost equally successful against Frank Vulliet and James Beecher (he has 58%).

Because judicial elections are decided in the primary if a candidate receives a majority, Fairhurst and Johnson can rest easy knowing they'll be back on the Supreme Court for the next six years. Their races are over.

In King County Superior Court races, however, there's been more action, as there are several races in which one candidate will be eliminated.
  • In the Position #37 race, Jean Rietschel and Barbara Mack appear likely to move on to November, leaving behind Nic Corning.
  • In the Position #1 race, Tim Bradshaw and Suzanne Parisien appear likely to move on to November, leaving behind Susan Amini.
  • In the Position #10 race, Regina S. Cahan and Les Ponomarchuk are set to move forward, leaving behind Jean Bouffard.
  • In the Position #22 race, Holly Hill and Julia Garratt are set to move forward, leaving behind Rebeccah Graham.
And there's good news in the Court of Appeals race on the Olympic Peninsula, where Robin Hunt is easily beating right winger Tim Ford, 64% to 35%.

Dino Rossi losing in all the key swing counties

For months, Dino Rossi's campaign has been banking on a strong showing in today's primary election, with the hope of building momentum to use against Governor Chris Gregoire in the fall. Because primary elections tend to be low-turnout affairs with conservative voters comprising a higher percentage of the participating electorate, they tend to favor Republican candidates.

But if tonight's county-by-county results are any indication, Dino Rossi is in trouble...big trouble. Not only is Rossi losing big in King County, the state's most powerful Democratic stronghold, he's behind in key swing counties like Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Clark, Whatcom, Kitsap, Island, Thurston, and Skagit.

Those swing counties - many of them in the Interstate 5 corridor - are where the people are (see map below), and Gregoire currently has the edge in all of them. And with more Democratic voters expected to participate in the November general election, Gregoire should be able to rack up an even more impressive victory.

Washington State Counties with More than 50,000 Registered Voters

Rossi is also losing Jefferson, Mason, Pacific, San Juan, and Grays Harbor, which all supported Chris Gregoire in 2004.

[CORRECTION: The initial version of this post incorrectly asserted that Rossi "should be winning" the above-mentioned counties, failing to note that Gregoire won across most of southwest Washington in 2004. The point I wanted to make is that Rossi is underperforming in rural counties that he won big last time around, while Gregoire's support has hardly diminished at all.]

Gregoire's strong showing across Western coastal counties is indisputable evidence that the Democratic Party has broad statewide appeal.

Earlier in the week, Rossi was faring surprisingly poorly in counties such as Asotin and Whitman. Although he is currently ahead in both, Gregoire has managed to keep the race closer than expected in counties Rossi should be winning easily.

[Updated August 22nd to reflect the latest returns].

Congressional Roundup

Here are some of the early numbers for Congressional races in Washington state. There are no real surprises here. Only those candidates who are currently in the top 2 are listed. And the numbers I’m using are from the Secretary of State’s website.

Also, we're still waiting on additional numbers in the 8th Congressional district


Jay Inslee(D) 51,641 67.63%

Larry Ishmael(R) 24,714 32.37%


Rick Larsen(D) 54,598 55.59%

Rick Bart (R) 35,806 36.45%


Brian Baird(D) 55,606 51.75%

Michael Delavar(R) 20,380 18.97%


Doc Hastings(R) 54,712 60.64%

George Fearing(D) 31,286 34.68%


Cathy McMorris Rodgers(R) 58,357 54.70%

Mark Mays(D) 21,522 20.17%


Norm Dicks(D) 51,953 58.11%

Doug Cloud(R) 25,925 29.00%


Jim McDermott(D) 29,375 71.35%

Steve Beren(R) 6,576 15.97%


Dave Reichert(R) 27,186 47.27%

Darcy Burner(D) 25,460 44.27%


Adam Smith(D) 38,847 67.07%

James Postma(R) 19,075 32.93%

WA 08 - Early Results

It's still early in the evening, but after a first look at the numbers, Congressman Dave Reichert holds a slim lead over Darcy Burner. Reichert leads with 27,186 votes for 47.27% of the vote to 25,460 votes for 44.27% of the vote for Darcy.

Thus far King County is a tight battleground, with Reichert's advantage only 216 votes. In Pierce County, Reichert's lead is 1510 votes.

However, this being the primary and all, it's important to note that turnout is much smaller than what is expected for the general election.

The general election is bound to bring out more Democrats, with Barack Obama on the ballot, and it's well known that primaries have lower turnout that general elections with a Presidency at stake. So look for the Obama effect to bring more votes to our Democratic challengers in the fall.

Stay tuned for more updates as the Northwest Progressive Institute brings you our election night coverage.

First look at Washington primary returns

The first election returns for the night have been's an overview of how things are shaping up:
  • Supreme Court races look really good. Justices Fairhurst and Johnson are cruising to reelection (Justice Stephens is unopposed).
  • Initiative 26, the Republican-backed scheme to make King County elections nonpartisan, is unfortunately passing as we feared it would.
  • Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi are running a close contest. Gregoire currently has the edge, 48% to 45%.
  • Brad Owen, Sam Reed, and Brian Sonntag are easily winning big majorities in their races (Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, respectively).
  • Peter Goldmark is closely trailing Doug Sutherland in the race for Lands Commissioner. He's at 48%, Sutherland is at 51%.
  • Randy Dorn is running second behind Terry Bergeson for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Bergeson is at 41% to his 30% with several other candidates splitting the remainder of the vote. If Dorn can pick up the other candidates' supporters he could beat Bergeson in November.
In NPI's home legislative district, the 45th, State Representative Roger Goodman is making a good showing against Republican Toby Nixon, who Roger replaced in the state House two years ago (when Toby ran for state Senate). Toby is running against Roger in the hopes of getting his old seat back.

Congratulations, Rachel!

Terrific news this afternoon, courtesy of Keith Olbermann:
Happy Now?

The network will be formally announcing this tomorrow, but I am pleased to inform you in this fully authorized leak, that as of Monday, September 8, our mutual friend Ms. Maddow will become host of her own show, on MSNBC, at 9 PM Eastern Time.

And, yes, we will be making another unofficial announcement of this on tonight's edition of Countdown. My guest to analyze the Rachel Maddow news will be Rachel Maddow.
All of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute extend our warmest congratulations to Rachel, who truly deserves this opportunity. To say we're thrilled is an understatement - this is simply wonderful.

Rachel was just in Seattle over the weekend for AM 1090's "We the People" forum, and received perhaps the loudest accolades of all of the hosts when she was introduced by Lee Callahan, for good reason: she is a beacon of hope in an otherwise dreary cable TV news landscape.

She's been a guest, then a star analyst and fill in host for Keith Olbermann...but now she's a network anchor. She's got her own show after only five months of drawing a paycheck from MSNBC.

How'd that happen? Any ideas, Keith?
4) Yes, I had something to do with it.
5) Yes, you had something to do with it.
6) Yes, this is why I never really responded to any of the 41,754 comments that all pretty much read "And get Rachel her own show, nitwit."
By supporting Rachel, we've helped convince one of the biggest media conglomerates in the United States to give a young progressive woman her own primetime newscast. What a victory!

Words cannot express our happiness at this moment. Hurrah for Rachel Maddow! And hurrah for greater diversity at MSNBC!

NPI releases 2008 primary endorsements

Primary Election Day has arrived in Washington State, and that means it's time for all of us to exercise our civic duty and vote.

If you vote at the polls, remember you have until 8 PM to weigh in. If you vote by mail, your ballot must be postmarked by today, or it won't count.

Not sure who to vote for? Our endorsements for the primary election are as follows:

Partisan races
Thanks to the implementation of the lousy "Top Two" primary, Democratic and Republican voters have lost the right to nominate one standard bearer who will represent their party on the November ballot.

Since Democratic voters no longer have the power to nominate candidates, the party's grassroots (who represent the Democratic electorate) have done so in most jurisdictions. Our recommendation is to vote for the Democratic nominee in partisan races where there's more than one candidate running.

In federal races, we endorse our incumbent Democratic representatives as well as challengers Darcy Burner, Mark Mays, and George Fearing.

For Governor, we endorse Chris Gregoire, whose record as our state's chief executive is unmatched by any of her recent predecessors. Gregoire has worked diligently to better our quality of life by investing in public services and infrastructure, including our transportation system and public schools. She's led the way on environmental protection and bolstered healthcare for thousands of children. We need to keep her in the governor's mansion working for us.

For Lieutenant Governor, we endorse Brad Owen.

Although we don't like his taking of Building Industry Association of Washington money, he does an admirable job presiding over the State Senate, and he is a loyal deputy to Governor Chris Gregoire.

For Secretary of State, we endorse Jason Osgood, who will work to protect our right to a secret ballot, ensure our elections system is open and transparent, decertify unreliable vote-counting machines, and end the use of the Secretary of State's office as a bully pulpit. Jason will also introduce accountability measures to ensure that purges of the voter rolls are legitimate and accurate.

For Commissioner of Public Lands, we endorse Peter Goldmark, who will bring competent leadership back to the Department of Natural Resources. There's no one better qualified than Peter for the job.

An Okanogan rancher, former Washington State University regent, and scientist, Peter knows how to wisely manage our public lands. Incumbent Republican Doug Sutherland is a tool of mining and timber interests who couldn't care less about environmental protection. It's time we replaced him.

For Insurance Commissioner, we endorse Mike Kreidler, who has done of outstanding job of looking out for the people of the Evergreen State. Kreidler helped defeat the insurance industry's attempt to repeal a law last year that allows consumers who are mistreated to get fair compensation from their insurer. Notably, during his current term he also stood firm in rejecting Premera Blue Cross' application to become a for profit company - a decision which was upheld by the Court of Appeals. Kreider is a champion for Washington's good health and its future.

For State Treasurer, we endorse Jim McIntire, whose strong grasp of finance makes him the best candidate to succeed incumbent Mike Murphy. McIntire has served in the state House of Representatives for years, where he worked to strengthen fiscal responsibility, restore the estate tax, and create a Constitutionally-protected rainy day fund. In addition to his private economic consulting practice, he teaches economics and government at the University of Washington. He has the public and private sector experience needed to wisely manage the state's treasury.

For State Auditor, we make no recommendation. Regretfully, we cannot endorse incumbent Brian Sonntag as we did four years ago. Besides taking money from the BIAW, Sonntag has spent too much time listening to Tim Eyman and not enough time listening to the public. The state auditor's office recently announced it would begin yet another performance audit of Sound Transit, its second in as many years. At a time when so many other local and sate agencies are deserving of his scrutiny, we are disappointed to see Sonntag wasting state resources doing the bidding of conservatives desperate for fodder to use against Sound Transit.

For Superintendent of Public Instruction, we endorse Randy Dorn. Incumbent Terry Bergeson has done a terrible job administering our schools system. From mismanaging money to obsessively focusing on standardized testing, Bergeson has let teachers, students, and parents down. And her political pandering this year is plain evidence that she cares more about getting reelected than providing sound leadership. Someone needs to clean up the mess she's made and get us back on track. There's no candidate in this race better qualified to take on this tough job than Randy Dorn, who has served as a teacher, school administrator, legislator, and union leader.

For Supreme Court, we endorse incumbent Justices Mary Fairhurst, Charles W. Johnson, and Debra Stephens. All are extraordinary public servants (rated Exceptionally Well Qualified by the King County Bar) who have excellent legal experience and a record of impartiality and fairness. None of their challengers have made the case that change is needed at the State Supreme Court.

Justice Stephens is unopposed. Justice Fairhurst has only one opponent, which means the outcome of her race will be decided tonight. Don't forget to vote for Justice Fairhurst - it really counts.

For King County Superior Court, we endorse:
  • Position 1: Tim Bradshaw
  • Position 10: Regina Cahan
  • Position 22: Rebeccah Graham
  • Position 26: Laura Gene Middaugh
  • Position 37: Nic Corning
  • Position 53: Mariane Spearman
For state legislature, we again urge you to vote for the Democratic nominee, except in the 36th and 46th Districts, where the local party organization has not clearly chosen a standard bearer.

NPI interviews Governor Gregoire

This morning, the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce the return of our podcast, which we originally launched in January 2006.

Our first episode of the year (with more to come in the weeks ahead!) is an interview with Governor Gregoire, who stopped by the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally last week for a conversation with the local netroots.

The governor talked to NPI about her momentum heading into the primary, what she wants to accomplish in her second term, Initiative 985, the Homeowner's Bill of Rights, and providing aid to returning veterans.

In this episode you'll also hear Chris' remarks at Drinking Liberally and the sixty second radio ad recorded by Barack Obama urging Washingtonians to vote for her in the August 19th primary election.

To subscribe to our podcast, plug our multimedia feed into your favorite aggregator - or click the below button to do so if you are an iTunes user.

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

We're doing our best to get the interview transcribed and we'll update this post when we've got a transcript finished.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gordon Smith's company still polluting Oregon waterway

Beth Slovic at Willamette Week is reporting that Gordon Smith's frozen food company has once again leaked pollutants into Pine Creek:
According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, an employee of Smith Frozen Foods contacted the state agency on July 29 (while the plant was processing corn) to report an overflow from the company's wastewater lagoon that "resulted in a milky discharge to Pine Creek." The plant — located in tiny Weston, Ore. — responded by placing portable pumps in the creek to remove the contaminated water, the DEQ says. On Aug. 4, the company submitted a "corrective action" plan to the DEQ, listing its efforts to clean the spill, prevent future ones and investigate the cause of the July 29 overflow.
According to Slovic's piece, the DEQ considers the incident a "Class 1" violation, which means it can "harm aquatic life, contaminate drinking waters, and impair recreational, commercial and agricultural uses of water." This would be considered a serious violation by the DEQ.

Smith's company has been cited over a handful of times, according to Slovic, for these types of environmental violations. A total of about $28,000 in fines have been levied so far, with more sure to come for this latest infraction.

It's ridiculous that Smith's company can't get its act together on this one. After having multiple violations over the years...why can't Smith get this company, which he's been in charge of years, to stop fouling the water in Oregon?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Michael Phelps makes Olympic history

Stunning. Incredible. Astounding. Remarkable.

The news that U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps had captured his eighth gold medal and turned in his seventh record-breaking performance in the 2008 Olympiad was not unexpected when it flashed across my BlackBerry's screen earlier this evening... but it was delightfully thrilling all the same.

Phelps' accomplishments at these Games will surely rank as one of the finest achievements in Olympics history for decades, possibly even centuries, to come.

While "greatest Olympian ever" may not necessarily be an appropriate honor for Phelps (we have to pay our respects to the many other outstanding competitors in years past who set many world records at consecutive Games, after all) Phelps is undoubtedly one of the world's greatest athletes.

And not just because he's a fast swimmer, either. As Seattle P-I columnist Art Thiel writes, Phelps is a man of integrity:
The cynics are certain that Phelps had to be crooked to so dominate an increasingly competitive swim world.

Of course, I don't have proof that he hasn't used performance-enhancing drugs. But many know, yet don't often explain, that he volunteered to be part of Project Believe, an initiative this year from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that recruited Phelps and 11 other elite athletes for intensive blood and urine testing leading up to the Olympics.

The idea was to help regain public confidence in Olympics sports by having premier athletes go through far more rigorous testing than the industry standard.

Only once in Phelps' many press conferences this week did the subject come up, and it was the only time Phelps expressed a little defiance.

"They can say what they want -- I am clean," he said. "I did Project Believe with USADA, where I purposely wanted to do more tests to prove that. People can question all they want, but the facts are facts and I have the results to prove it."
As Phelps drew closer in his pursuit of the gold medal record, he captivated the United States. Millions of Americans not familiar with his hopes and dreams tuned in and became excited:
Thousands of miles and oceans away, his country was watching. Word trickled back to him that his races were leading the news, that 70,000 people had watched his race inside M&T Bank Stadium after the Ravens' exhibition loss to the Minnesota Vikings. That may have been the greatest reward of all.

"My big goal is to change the sport of swimming," Phelps said. "For the kids coming up in the sport and also for of the sport in America. So my goal is starting to happen, but there is still a long way to go with that. I'm sure Bob and I can think of something in the next four years."
And fellow athletes are deeply impressed:
Leisel Jones, a gold medalist from Australia, said her biggest thrill here was not her own victories, but watching Phelps.

"What do you really say to that other than shake their hand and shake your head, and wonder will anybody come close to that again?" said Ian Crocker, one of so many swimmers Phelps beat here. "Probably not. Not in my lifetime."
The pride of an entire nation is perhaps best summarized by U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth, who declared in a statement:
An extraordinary chapter in Olympic history has been written here in Beijing by one of the greatest athletes of all time.

We could not be more proud of Michael, in the manner by which he competed, represented our country, and represented the Olympic Movement. The fact that his eighth medal was won in a team relay signifies Michael's commitment not only to his own quest, but to the importance of teamwork and representing his country.
Extraordinary is a fine adjective, but Michael Phelps makes that word sound like an understatement. Even magnificent doesn't seem to quite accurately describe the breadth of his accomplishment. It's simply unprecedented. Skeptics thought Phelps' goals were lofty and unreachable.

He proved them wrong.

And along the way, he took the United States of America (and the world) on a thrilling ride that will not be forgotten. We have just witnessed one of the most spectacular moments in the history of sports. We ought to savor it - who knows when, or even if, a feat like this will ever be repeated?

Michael Phelps is a champion who is truly in his own league.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

LIVE from Seattle Center: Concluding thoughts

We're in the final minutes of AM 1090's "We the People" forum here at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, and the conversation is getting lighthearted, with the hosts cracking jokes around the recent Bigfoot/Sasquath "discovery".

The final (serious) question, or theme, is about biconceptualism - specifically, are most biconceptuals closer to progressive America or conservative America?

(The panel unanimously agreed yes.)

So why does the right wing agenda dominate our national conversation? The answer is naturally multifaceted - we have a corporate traditional media that is more interested in ratings, sales, and profits than quality journalism.

Then we've got a Republican Noise Machine in this country that unceasingly repeats the same message, influencing (or polluting) the focus of the traditional media.

And finally, we progressives have an idea deficit, and cognitive difficulties to boot. Our fellow Americans don't know what we stand for because we just haven't done a good job of defining ourselves and communicating our true values.

The town hall is now wrapping up; and all the hosts are in agreement - it's time we went out and took advantage of the great August nightlife. Maybe we'll have an impromptu Drinking Liberally - who knows.

Anyway, the NPI team is signing off for tonight. We'll add a few photos for you here before we power down our computers for the evening.

So long from Seattle Center!

LIVE from Seattle Center: We're back

After a break to chat with the crowd and renew their energy, the panel is back onstage and contemplating who Obama will choose to be his running mate. Crowd opinion is leaning towards Joe Biden, while Evan Bayh and Hillary Clinton are not receiving much positive crowd response. The panel seems to agree with the audience; they think Biden would bring more experience to the ticket.

Russ Feingold's name brought a strong roar from the audience and Wesley Clark also has a lot of support (more than Biden).

Moderator Ron Reagan jokes that McCain should consider Joe Lieberman, while Mike Malloy suggests that Mitt Romney would be a great choice and has the added advantage of keeping the evangelicals at home on election day. Thom Hartman thinks that Romney could bring a lot to the McCain ticket: money and "cleanness".

Moving on to the subject of religion, Randi Rhodes emphasizes that Barack Obama can comfortably talk about religion and about the compassionate side of religion: helping those in poverty, providing healthcare to everyone.

The panel thinks that people aren't paying attention to what the Bush administration is doing except for the vigilant, "wonky" progressives. (Yay us!) According to Randi Rhodes, "We are the front line of democracy."

The panel is bouncing great ideas back and forth like the U.S. Olympic volleyball team with a volley ball. A constant theme of the evening is that Republicans are trying to destroy and shrink government by privatizing it, while progressives know that government can be "good." The success of the social security program is one good example of successful government.

The Republicans have tried to chip away at this old-age insurance by privatizing it but Americans wouldn't have it. And we need to be reminded which party supports one of our most important government safety nets and who wants to destroy it.

UPDATE: Race is on the table now. Whether people discuss it or not, race will play a part in the presidential campaign. Malloy and Rhodes see a lot of racism in the country and its effects on the election will be complex. Whites and blacks might vote with race in mind, which could either give Obama votes or take them from him. We'll have to see how it plays out in November.

Blame for the September 11th attacks is being assigned to the "Bush Crime Family." Have we heard the true story? There were too many clues that something was in the works with Osama bin Ladin. Seder sees signs of a conspiracy: July meetings with the Taliban in Afghanistan, flight schools, the presidential daily briefing.

The issues tackled tonight have been thought provoking and the panel has been articulate and insightful. I think they enjoyed the opportunity to have this conversation together and even ham it up a bit. Hopefully they take their show on the road again so more Americans can have the pleasure of listening.

LIVE from Seattle Center: It's time for the Democratic Party to define what it stands for

Here at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, AM 1090's "We the People" panel is in the midst of a stimulating and intriguing conversation about rebuilding the Democratic Party's identity and articulating our values.

"The way we change the Democratic Party is to change the way we win," Rachel Maddow said, adding that the party truly needs to decide what it stands for so the party can have enforceable standards.

Currently, the party lacks a real standard, which leaves room for corporate suck-ups like Steny Hoyer (the Democratic majority leader).

So what does the Democratic Party stand for? Suggestions from hosts on the panel included good government, peace, broad prosperity, and populism.

UPDATE: Returning to the topic of FISA, Sam Seder predicted that Republicans will come out in mid-2009 (assuming Barack Obama moves into the White House in January) and complain that America is being spied upon.

And once again, the panel reflected on the Democrats' weaknesses: the party's inability to go on offense, reframe, or master political theater.

"We need to use their own video against them," Stephanie Miller suggested.

UPDATE II: On the topic of George Bush's legacy, the hosts agree that George W. Bush will answer at some point for his crimes at The Hague - maybe even within fifteen years, as Thom Hartmann predicted.

D.C. Democratic leaders are somewhat complicit in the administration's lawbreaking, the panel agreed, because Congress has done such a bad job of exercising oversight of the executive branch.

Stephanie Miller observed that the scope of the Bush administration's misconduct is so broad that the American people are actually numb with outrage.

UPDATE IV: We're taking a fifteen minute break.

LIVE from Seattle Center: "We the People" all star panel kicks off

AM 1090's annual town hall forum has just kicked off here at Seattle Center's Exhibition Hall, where a packed house of progressive activists have gathered to listen to a panel of nationally syndicated talk show hosts talk about the 2008 presidential campaign and American politics.

Five of us from NPI are here, liveblogging and taking pictures.

The panel includes Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, Sam Seder, Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, and Stephanie Miller, with Ron Reagan moderating.

Each host was introduced individually by AM 1090's Lee Callahan to deafening applause (the cheering and clapping really echoes around in this auditorium!).

The leadoff topic for discussion is Barack Obama's recent positioning on offshore drilling and energy. "It's a scam issue," declared Mike Malloy, referring to the Republicans' more drilling good posturing. The hosts are all pretty much in agreement: Obama should stake out a clear, unequivocal position against wasting money digging up more fossil fuels and favoring investment in renewable energy.

"The point is, you say no more giveaways to Big Oil," Sam Seder added. "You turn it around and put them on the defensive."

UPDATE: The panel has moved on to media culpability, and the media's coverage of the presidential candidates.

"I feel like right now what's happening in cable news is that they're absolutely, positively focused on Barack Obama," Rachel Maddow said. (Rachel, of course, broke into television not long ago, becoming a star analyst for MSNBC during the nominating season). She added that Barack Obama is guaranteed to win in November if the election is about Bush and McCain, but stands a fair chance of losing if the Republicans succeed in making the election a "yes or no" vote on him.

Sam Seder agreed, saying "The Obama campaign has been late to recognize that [McCain's strategy of turning the election into a referendum on Obama]."

"In my opinion, the Obama/Clinton campaign got dragged on a lot farther by the media than it otherwise would have," Thom Hartmann reflected.

Randi Rhodes thinks that Obama is capable of taking control of this race.

"I have a feeling that a sophisticated guy who knows exactly what he's doing," she said. Thom Hartmann suggested that Obama's campaign would not have supported having Hillary Clinton's name entered into nomination if it wasn't the best way to heal the rift within the Democratic Party.

UPDATE II: The panel briefly touched on the conflict between Russia and Georgia. ""We're the ones who encouraged them [Georgia] to punch the bully," Stephanie Miller said, slamming the Bush administration's foreign policy. The hosts all agreed that the American public doesn't really understand the full extent of the United States' involvement in the conflict.

Ron Reagan just introduced a new topic for the panel to discuss: election integrity. The biggest problem with our elections, the panel concurred, is that we have outsourced our voting apparatus to unaccountable corporations.

"I think Americans are disgusted with a lot of the privatization of our core government functions," Rachel Maddow said. Ron Reagan pointed out that the Republicans have been deliberately sabotaging the government so that they can then claim government is ineffective and inefficient compared to the private sector. Thomas Frank's new book The Wrecking Crew was mentioned as an excellent primer on the Republicans' strategy of sabotage.

UPDATE III: The panel just touched on Social Security (continuing the conversation about privatization) with Sam Seder noting that the system is not in a crisis and needs only minor adjustment to remain solvent well into the future. But Republican propaganda about Social Security persists because the media doesn't do a good job of cutting through right wing spin.

And Democrats in Congress, who are terrible at reframing and strategy, aren't making things any better. "The Democrats are absolutely incompetent at doing political theater," Thom Hartmann declared to roaring applause.

Sam Seder added that the party isn't as unified as it could be because there is an entire faction in bed with corporate America, and the only way to purge these corporate Democrats from the party will be to pick them off one by one.

The Washington State PTA believes I-985 will hurt kids

Here's yet another reason not to vote for Tim Eyman's deceptive traffic initiative, I-985 - Washington's children. In the interest of our state's youngsters, the Washington State PTA has taken a stand against Initiative 985. The problem is that up to $655 million in sales tax over five years could be diverted from the state's general fund, which funds education, and stashed into a special highway fund. According to the parent-teacher organization:
The Board was concerned that the diversion of general fund moneys would result in unacceptable cuts to other programs, particularly K-12 education, health care and other programs that are important to children.
Our schools have to fight for every dollar they get. Let's not further shrink the pie that funds them and other state necessities in order to pursue gimmicky traffic schemes.

I'm Voting Today - Who Will Protect Our Vote?

As I peruse my ballot and materials I've collected about the candidates, I pause to think about how critical general elections were affected by Republican Secretaries of State such as Katharine Harris in Florida and Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio. The course of history was changed - negatively.

I have a friend who has made election integrity her issue and I know that she recommends the candidate that NPI has endorsed, Jason Osgood . I can also listen to this KEXP interview.

For the past four decades, Washington’s Secretary of State has been a Republican. We have had some very close elections (Cantwell for Senate, Gregoire for Governor) and it is time for a change! The Secretary of State is Washington’s Chief Elections Officer and in this role is literally responsible for protecting our democracy. Before running for Secretary of State, Jason was an election integrity activist, who has been fighting for transparent and secure elections.

The incumbent, Sam Reed, promotes vote counting machines, like touch screens, that make it impossible to insure that votes are recorded and counted as cast. Respected organizations such as the Brennan Center, MIT, Princeton, and others have all shown that these machines are insecure, inaccurate, and do not meet the standards required by the Help America Vote Act.

As Secretary of State, the first thing Jason promises to do is a top-to-bottom review of the state’s voting machines, like the review conducted by the California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Jason is also a software engineer who knows that the systems currently used in elections require technical knowledge so that election officials will not be at the mercy of private vendors. He has many years of project management experience and promotes transparent government as well as secure elections.

I was also involved in a group suit against Ralph Nader and Sam Reed was no help. I won't go into that right now, but I think I am ready now to cast my vote for Secretary of State.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The ugly truth about the Mouse

Apparently, Disneyland is not The Happiest Place on Earth.
Cinderella, Snow White, Tinkerbell and other fictional fixtures of modern-day childhood were handcuffed, frisked and loaded into police vans Thursday at the culmination of a labor protest that brought a touch of reality to the Happiest Place on Earth.


At the heart of the issue is a free health care plan that has been provided to Disney hotel workers through a trust fund that Disney and other unionized hotels in the area pay into.

Briceno said that in exchange for the free medical plan, union members agreed in previous contracts to a lower wage for hotel workers in the first three years of their employment.

But Disney now wants to eliminate the free health plan for new hires and wants to create a new class of workers who put in less than 30 hours a week, said Briceno. Those part-time workers would receive no sick or vacation pay and not be given holidays, she said.

The company also wants to increase the number of hours full-time employees must work before qualifying for the health plan, she said.

We're talking about an amusement park that costs the average family of four (assuming 2 adults, 2 kids under 10) $256 for one day's admission. That's not to mention all of the money that Disney makes off of films, sales of film-related toys and merchandise, revenue from retail stores (Disney Store), hotels (Disneyland Hotel and others), television (ABC & ESPN) and other sources. And they're saying they can't afford to pay their workers? This is one of the wealthiest companies in the world. But I guess as with the Republican Party, the family values that Disney preaches apply to everyone except themselves and the riches only belong to corporate fat cats and not the workers who helped make the company what it is today.

Then, to make matters worse, the cold-hearted bastards went and arrested Cinderella, Tinkerbell, Snow White and other beloved characters in front of a bunch of kids. That had to look good for the corporate image.

Michael Phelps wins seventh gold medal

Minutes ago at the Water Cube in Beijing, China, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won his seventh gold medal of the 2008 games, tying him with fellow American Mark Spitz for the most gold medals won at any one Olympics.

Phelps won the men's one hundred meter butterfly by a hundredth of a second, coming from behind to take the lead and the gold.

In less than forty eight hours, Phelps will attempt to surpass Spitz' record and become the first human to win eight gold medals at one Olympics.

He'll be competing in the butterfly leg of the men's four by one hundred meter medley for the United States. The relay is Phelps' only remaining event.

As New York Times reporter Jason Stallman writes, Phelps has done a great job of living up to all the pre-Olympics hype:
Phelps came to Beijing with heavy expectations on his shoulders. He had won six golds and two bronze medals in the 2004 Games in Athens, falling short of his goal. But in Beijing, when the pressure is on, Phelps seems to turn it on.

He smashed his world record in the 400-meter individual medley on Sunday and set an American record on his leadoff 100 in the Americans’ record-setting 4x100 freestyle relay on Monday. He also set records in the 200-meter butterfly, the 4x200-meter freestyle relay and the 200-meter individual medley.
There is no guarantee that the United States men's team will take the gold in Sunday's medley, which encompasses the four main disciplines of swimming (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle). The team will have to deliver a flawless performance for Phelps to earn his eighth gold.

All of us at NPI wish Team USA the best of luck this weekend.

Jayne Carroll: In the weeds or smoking them...tough to tell.

One of the reasons that the Republican Party of Oregon finds itself in dire straits is that Oregonians are no longer buying their schtick. We've watched right-wing, government hating folks get elected to the legislature both at the state and federal level (and don't even get me started on W), and frankly, their inability to do anything having to do with actual governance and leadership has shown us that they don't belong there.

And let's not forget their messengers. Those vile-mouthed, hate-spewing, rhetorically vomitous creatures whose sole job is to tear down good government and everything that goes with it.

Enter Jayne Carroll. Ms. Carroll has a radio program out of Hillsboro, aired in an afternoon drive slot. I tried to stream her show this afternoon but had trouble with the feed. So maybe one day soon when I need my ears to bleed, I'll tune in while driving.

The Hillsboro Argus newspaper has also seen fit to give her a column. Her latest screed virtually drips with venom toward Secretary of State Bill Bradbury:

What has the man, who has used his almost eight years as secretary of state to benefit his political party and agenda at all costs, done this time?

Bradbury has removed the Republican legislative nominee for House District 29, Forest Grove businessman Jeff Duyck, from the ballot. Duyck was considered a strong candidate to defeat Democrat incumbent Chuck Riley in November. District 29 covers downtown Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Cornelius.

Duyck lives just southwest of Forest Grove on the dividing line between House Districts 26 and 29. For almost a decade, the Washington County Elections Office had assigned Duyck to District 29. He won the district's Republican nomination in the May primary; Bradbury's office certified his victory.

On June 12, a Forest Grove woman filed a complaint with Bradbury questioning Duyck's eligibility to run. She contended that while the majority of Duyck's property is in District 29, his house on the same property is not.

Bradbury's operatives reviewed the claim with Washington County; they all concluded that Duyck legally resided in District 26. Last week, Bradbury officially stripped Jeff Duyck of his Republican nomination and notified party officials that they had until Aug. 26 to find a replacement.

Isn't that convenient? With the Republicans threatening to win back a bare majority of the Oregon House, one of their most promising candidates is struck down by a Democratic secretary of state.

I'm curious if Jayne wrote this column while her head was firmly implanted where the sun don't shine. The ignorance displayed by this woman is alarming to the point of being appalling.

First of all, Duyck's house is outside the boundary for the district. The Constitution in Oregon is crystal clear on this issue. A person must live in the district for at least one year before representing that district in the Oregon House. Even if Bradbury had allowed Duyck to stay on the ballot, it would have been illegal for him to serve in the legislature for that district.

As far as the GOP/Duyck "threatening to win back a bare majority", Carroll is in la-la land. Duyck was a decent candidate, but hardly a shoo-in. In fact, Duyck's candidacy was extremely hampered by two things: 1. Running against a multi-term incumbent who is well-liked in his district 2. An Independent Party candidate who was spurned by the GOP, ready to suck lots of votes away from Duyck.

Not to mention the fact that polling around Oregon shows that the Republicans are likely to LOSE seats in districts that have been traditional strongholds for them. So rather than gaining back a slim majority, they're more likely to slip even further into the minority.

The Argus should seriously reconsider having this woman in their paper. Its irresponsible and frankly silly to keep someone who writes this kind of ignorant garbage on the payroll.

Review: McCain gets a "Free Ride"

Here’s one "Mythbuster” that you won’t find on television, or in most other media for that matter. In their new book “Free Ride: John McCain and the Media”, authors David Brock and Paul Waldman shatter the national media’s heroic, larger-than-life portrait of Senator John McCain.

Examining an important topic in this election year, “Free Ride” documents the various storylines the media has spun and blended together to become the McCain myth. The authors explore the traditional media’s infatuation with McCain and also expose his uglier sides that the media choose to ignore.

“Free Ride’s” message is that McCain has carefully crafted a public self-image that sets him apart from other politicians.

His former prisoner of war status, his very visible break with his party on campaign finance reform and his chummy relationship with reporters have earned him a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card with the media.

As noted unapologetically on the front cover of the book, “The press loves McCain. We’re his base.” (Chris Matthews, MSNBC)

Unfortunately, Matthews’ attitude is the norm for reporters covering McCain.

Brock and Waldman serve up quote after quote of uncritical, adoring press coverage of the senator. The authors also have numbers to back up their claim of preferential treatment. Not surprisingly, in the years leading up to the 2008 election McCain has lead all politicians in mentions in the press and in coveted appearances on Sunday morning talk shows.

“Free Ride” delves into the impact that McCain’s Vietnam experience has on his image. It notes that McCain is not the first veteran in politics to be lauded for his military service, but the media’s regard for McCain’s experience takes admiration to a whole new level. Part of this appreciation comes from the media’s belief that McCain modestly avoids mentioning his Vietnam service, although Brock and Waldman are able to find numerous examples of McCain doing just that.

In fact, McCain built his 2000 presidential campaign around his military history. As the authors write, even if McCain didn’t mention his POW experience, “reporters would do it for him.”

It is obvious from quotes in the book and independent research that the authors are spot on in their analysis of the value of McCain’s military service.

McCain uses it for all it’s worth without being blamed for exploiting it. He has discovered that it’s a useful tool for getting out of tricky situations: a well positioned prisoner of war reference will stop most opponents in their tracks.

Campaign finance reform provided the perfect opportunity for McCain to make a very public break with his party.

According to “Free Ride”, the press saw the co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill as a principled reformer who wanted to rid Washington of dirty money and would even split with his party to do so.

Brock and Waldman contend that supporting campaign finance was actually not a risky move for McCain because it was popular with the public, and even more importantly, it was popular with the media.

We’ve been told repeatedly by the media that McCain is a maverick and been given so many reverent examples of this that it is hard to distinguish whether this description is actually fact or opinion.

The authors make a strong argument that McCain is “neither a moderate nor a maverick”, but a loyal and “stout conservative.”

They argue that most politicians occasionally vote and write legislation with the other party, but when John McCain does it makes national headlines, solidifying his “maverick” reputation.

In fact, McCain’s voting record has earned him consistently strong ratings from conservative organizations like the American Conservative Union, but low ratings from progressive groups such as the People for the American Way and the League of Conservation Voters. Are these groups reading the same news as the rest of us?

The most powerful point that “Free Ride” makes is that McCain has cultivated a special relationship with the press.

This relationship is the key to his glowing media portrayal. McCain has turned the typical reporter-candidate relationship upside down. Instead of carefully parsing his words, giving each journalist the same stale talking points and limiting his accessibility, McCain “give(s) reporters exactly what they want.”

He is never off the record and he doesn’t censor himself.

His off-color and self-deprecating remarks show the press how human and “authentic” he is. After spending time on McCain’s campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express, Tucker Carlson, said, “The average journalist inevitably concluded that John McCain was about the coolest guy who ever ran for president.”

This makes me wonder if the media is asking the coolest guy the really tough questions and if they are capable of criticizing his mistakes:
Among the many benefits for McCain is that when he does say something problematic, reporters brush it off, to a degree they would never do with other politicians. McCain’s friendly relationship with the press functions as a protective cloak, shielding him from potentially damaging stories.

Brock and Waldman provide plenty of evidence of this cozy relationship and they sprinkle it throughout the book, inspiring plenty of jaw-dropping amazement.
Authors Brock and Waldman are CEO and senior fellow respectively, at Media Matters, a progressive research center dedicated to monitoring Republican misinformation in the media.

Their background makes them especially fit to explore the topic of John McCain’s media free ride and they do a thorough job of citing their evidence.

David Brock is well acquainted with the conservative media since he was active in it in the 1990s. After writing a best-selling attack book on Anita Hill and an inflammatory magazine article on the Clintons he did a philosophical turnaround, eventually recanting his right-wing reporting methods and exposing the right-wing echo chamber in his 2004 book, The Republican Noise Machine. Other journalists have cast doubt on his veracity in the past, but the well-cited text and the contribution of Paul Waldman give “Free Ride” plenty of credibility.

“Free Ride” is an interesting look at the McCain-media relationship. It creates concern about how much of the real McCain Americans will see in the mainstream media during the 2008 presidential election.

Voters need the facts not warm and fuzzy cheerleading. As Brock and Waldman point out, “There may be no greater influence on the coverage a presidential candidate receives than what kind of guy reporters think he is.” Reporters, put down your pom-poms and concentrate on seeking truth and writing about it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Light in the dark corners of anti Death With Dignity politics

There's something about shining a bright light on politics and campaigns that really puts a crimp in some people's day.

Take the campaign against I-1000 (Death With Dignity), for example. The idea that people might know who was financing their efforts was so genuinely heinous that they sued in an effort to keep it quiet.

So what horrible, awful groups were giving to that campaign that they wanted so badly to keep it out of the public eye?

The Catholic Church, it seems.

Specifically, The Archdioceses of Denver, Cincinnati, Newark, Brooklyn and Portland (Ore).

Now it totally makes sense that the Catholic Church would come out against Death With Dignity. They're uber conservative and tend to sport what I consider a fairly twisted definition of "life", when it begins and how it supposed to end. But free speech gives them every right to be wrongheaded and so who am I to stand it their way?

So why work so hard to hide it? Its not like the Catholic Church has a bad rap, right?


Each of the Archdioceses pouring money into the coffers of the campaign against Death With Dignity have problems with priest sexual abuse scandals.

And yes, every single one of the Archdioceses that's given to the campaign against I-1000 is involved in multiple sexual abuse scandals with priests. I checked. There were 68 individual Diocesans that had complaints filed against them in Portland alone. In fact, the Archdiocese of Portland was still handing over documentation to attorneys as late as April 2008, after refusing to release them for years. Some of the individuals mentioned in the documents were still being placed in public ministries.

The Portland Archdiocese was in so deep over all the court costs and payments to victims, in fact, that they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004. They did so presumably to protect parish assets, school money and trust funds from abuse victims seeking restitution for the suffering at the hands of priests.

Apparently they've recovered from their financial woes long enough to shuffle cash up north to the people working against giving citizens autonomy over their own lives.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lowered expectations

As we saw during the Presidential primary season, as politicians get closer to an election or a fundraising deadline, they like to play the expectations game. Sometimes, a strong candidate can use the expectations game to keep the bar low while surpassing it with ease and surprising the competition. We saw that with Barack Obama's fundraising early on in the primaries. In later primaries, both Obama and Hillary Clinton lowered expectations in states where one or the other expected that their competitor would win.

But more frequently, candidates lower expectations when they fear that they're not going to live up to the hype their campaign is trying to generate. This way, when the candidate gets the disappointing result that they are expecting, they can express some satisfaction that they're "right where they're supposed to be." Or as Joe Lieberman claimed in a moment of delusion when he finished a distant fifth in Iowa in 2004, "we are in a 3-way split decision for third place."

Enter Dino Rossi, he of the G.O.P. Party (that's Graveyard of Progress), who is now blaming polls, past election data, and unions for what he expects to be a less than stellar showing on August 19.

It turns out the Moore Information poll Rossi commissioned last month that showed the two rivals tied at 45 percent also showed that Gregoire enjoyed a 51 percent to 42 percent lead among voters who have voted in the last four elections.

And with turnout in the primary predicted to be just 46 percent — Rossi believes it could be lower — those voters will have a greater effect on the outcome of the primary.

The campaign also cites past elections data suggesting Republicans have a tendency to poll poorly in the primary. Secretary of State Sam Reed suggested that last week, though he couldn’t point to data that would support that.

Rossi’s campaign also argues Gregoire’s TV advertising and union organizing will boost the governor’s numbers.

But the blame doesn't stop there. Rossi has a new ad out that blames Governor Gregoire for raising the state's gas tax and talks about "the Olympia blame game". What Dino fails to tell the public, is that he voted in 2003 to raise the gas tax when he voted yes on Substitute House Bill 2231 not once but twice (click on the View Roll Calls link for Senate votes). SHB 2231, which was signed into law by Governor Locke, clearly states in Section 401, Subsection 2:
Beginning July 1, 2003, an additional and cumulative motor fuel tax rate of five cents per gallon applies to the sale, distribution, or use of motor vehicle fuel. This subsection (2) expires when the bonds issued for transportation 2003 projects are retired. [emphasis mine]
Dino Rossi obviously is intimately familiar with "the Olympia blame game," scapegoating anyone and everyone, including amateur cameramen who attend public press conferences. In the end though, regardless of his own lowered expectations, we're seeing the Dino Rossi we've come to expect. Dino Rossi will say anything to get elected.

Feds force Metro Transit to cancel special game-day service to Seahawks games

Want an example of the right wing agenda in action? Well, here you go:
A new federal regulation has taken public shuttle service away from football games nationwide, and Seattle is no exception.

The news has fans like Jim and Amanda Peterson upset.

The Petersons have held season tickets for six years. As parking became more expensive around Qwest Field, they let Metro Transit shuttles do the driving for them.

"It seems like the thing to do with gas prices, and it costs like $25 to $40 to park," said Amanda Peterson. "So it just made sense from a cost standpoint and freeing up traffic as well."
What federal regulation, you ask? Why, the one intended to promote privatized transportation at the expense of the common good:
It prohibits public transportation agencies like King County Metro Transit from providing shuttles if a privately owned agency wants the job.

Federal officials say the goal was to create more free market competition, and not tie up taxpayer dollars.
First, there is no such thing as a "free" market - that is a right wing talking point and a myth. As linguistics professor George Lakoff observed in his bestseller Don't Think of An Elephant: "All markets are constructed for someone's benefit; no markets are completely free. Markets should be constructed for the broadest possible prosperity, and they haven't been."

But more importantly, shuttle transportation is a resource, a common good, that should be provided by government as a public service to its people. Forget about private competition. This stupid, misguided federal regulation bars local transit authorities from providing sports fans with an alternative to driving.

Abraham Lincoln once said that "The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves in their separate and individual capacities."

Providing shuttle service to big events is something that government can do for this region more effectively and more cheaply than any private entity can.

As it turns out, the market is going to leave Seahawks fans high and dry:
For the 5,000 Seahawks fans that use Metro shuttles on game day, the regulation means no shuttle service at all, since the Seahawks passed on the $20 per passenger bid offered by a single private operator.


The Seahawks said they turned down the private company because it was too expensive and because the bid did not include approvals to use park-and-ride lots, roadways, and staging areas to operate the shuttles smoothly
It figures there would be no competitive bidding from the "free" market. The harm of this federal meddling is already obvious. We call on Senators Murray and Cantwell, and our Democratic representatives in Congress, to do whatever they can to get this counterproductive restriction on public transit agencies canned.

Judge puts tree cutting on hold, grants restraining order to Save Our Trees

A huge victory for our urban forests was won today by the North Seattle neighbors fighting to save a greenbelt at Ingraham High School:
A grove of trees near Ingraham High School received an 11th-hour reprieve Wednesday when a King County Superior Court judge ordered a temporary hold on school district plans to fell them.

Seattle Public Schools planned to begin removing the trees Friday over the objections of neighbors who argue that a hearing examiner erred when he found earlier this year that the cutting wouldn't significantly affect the environment. Chief Civil Judge John Erlick's decision Wednesday afternoon bars the district from felling the trees until Aug. 27 at the earliest and affords neighbors an opportunity to seek a permanent restraining order.
The district, which apparently anticipated possible legal action by the neighbors, told the court that it signed a contract with Weiss Tree Service and Logging Company last week that awards the company a penalty if it can't cut the trees this weekend.

The district subsequently asked in court that the neighbors pony up a bond to cover the penalty that the district deliberately included in the contract.

Our good friend Steve Zemke (who is one of the plaintiffs and attended the 3 PM hearing earlier today) told NPI that the district originally asked for a $25,000 bond but the judge ultimately reduced it to $7,500.

The neighbors have twenty four hours to post the bond money.

They will be back in court in two weeks to seek a permanent injunction against the district to preserve the greenbelt and force the classroom expansion to be sited in a more appropriate location on campus.

NPI applauds Judge Erlick's decision to grant a temporary restraining order. We'd also like to salute the courage of those involved in the grassroots Save Our Trees effort. Their determination has stopped the chainsaws...for now.

Neighbors file lawsuit to stop Seattle Public Schools from destroying Ingraham greenbelt

A group of North Seattle neighbors that have been fighting for months to save a valuable grove of trees at Ingraham High School from being destroyed have taken their battle to King County Superior Court to prevent the Seattle Public School District from moving ahead with its plans to raze the trees this weekend, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

The school district wants to cut down the trees (considered to be a rare plant community under the Washington State Department of Natural Resources' Natural Heritage Program) to make room for an expansion of the building, which neighbors argue could easily be sited elsewhere on the property.

Ingraham Tree Grove From the Air
The above snapshot from Microsoft Virtual Earth, via Windows Live Search Maps, shows the Ingraham tree grove from the air (click for a larger version).

The greenbelt includes sixty eight Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and Pacific madrone trees. All three species are native to the Pacific Northwest.

Last Thursday, tired of having its nefarious plans stalled by the neighbors' concerns, the district withdrew its building permit applications with the City of Seattle and announced its decision to unleash chainsaws on the grove.

The district purposely withdrew its building permits to escape the environmental review process and duck regulatory oversight from the City of Seattle. Mayor Nickels has condemned the district's scheme and urged it to stop. But the district administration and the school board aren't listening.

The district figures it will just start the construction process over after the Ingraham greenbelt is wiped out and there are no more trees to save.

Out of options, the neighbors went to court.

The School Board, meeting last night in executive session, decided to ignore the lawsuit, declining to postpone the tree razing scheduled for this weekend.

A hearing was originally scheduled for September 2nd, but neighbors, represented by attorney Keith Scully, are now asking for a temporary restraining order to stop the district from chopping down the trees. King County Superior Court Judge Erlick is scheduled to consider the request in an hour in Room W 10-60.

The district's mean-spiritedness seems to know no bounds. According to our good friend Steve Zemke, one of the organizers of the effort, the school district responded in court by demanding a bond from neighbors.
The Seattle School District is further trying to stifle legitimate review of their decisions by asking that a bond of $10,000 be posted because they signed a contact with Weiss Tree Company that money be paid if the trees aren’t cut on Friday. Weiss would pay the Seattle School District $33,000 for the trees.

This contract was obviously written and signed by the School District to be an impediment to Save the Trees or any other group filing any legitimate appeal of their actions. In addition the School District is asking for a bond of $400,000 for inflation costs for the delay of a project that they just withdrew the building permits on from the city review process.
NPI strongly condemns the district's actions. The school board's disinterest in conservation and environmental protection is appalling. It is absurd that those charged with the oversight of the education system in the state's largest and most progressive city simply don't care about the value of urban forests.

We hope that King County Superior Court will put a stop to the district's plans and its intimidation of Ingraham High School neighbors.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Governor Gregoire stops by Seattle Drinking Liberally, answers questions

Earlier this evening, Governor Chris Gregoire became the latest Democratic leader to stop by the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally, joining a long list of elected officials, candidates, and dignitaries that have taken time out of their evenings to talk to the local netroots and thank the community for its support.

Governor Chris Gregoire at Seattle Drinking Liberally

Gregoire, who was warmly welcomed, spoke for several minutes before answering nearly half a dozen questions and adding an autographed campaign bumper sticker to the "Republican St." sign that hangs above the bar at the Montlake Ale House. (The sign was previously plastered with Kennedy/Johnson, Carter/Mondale, and Clinton stickers at a Drinking Liberally redecorating party months ago.)

Republican St gets a new bumper sticker

The governor stuck around after that to shake hands and talk to bloggers and activists one-on-one. She was kind enough to answer questions for NPI, and we'll be publishing our interview with her as a podcast before the end of the week.

The governor was upbeat and cheery during her visit. She joked that she had made sure to bring her ID this time, referring to the incident at Hannah's in Olympia earlier this month when she was carded and turned away from the door because she didn't have documentation proving that she was old enough to drink alcohol.

Dino Rossi's Bush-style campaigning shows his disdain for open government

Dino Rossi may not be very forthcoming about his Bush Republican values, but at least we know from his behavior (and his campaign's actions) what he thinks of transparency and open government:
Off-duty police officers last week forcibly removed a Democratic Party cameraman from a news conference where the Seattle Police Officers' Guild was giving its endorsement to Republican Dino Rossi.

Guild members threatened the young man with arrest and made an emergency call to 911, bringing uniformed officers to the scene. Cameraman Kelly Akers was warned about trespassing.
News conferences are supposed to be public events, so how it is possible for someone like Akers to be trespassing at one?

So much for freedom of the press.

Lest we forget, early American newspapers were partisan rags, and the pamphleteers were fiercely opinionated. There was hardly any objective reporting in those days, or established mass media outlets.

Freedom of the press back in the 1700s and 1800s basically meant the freedom to be a partisan author or publisher. That's what the Founders wanted to protect. These days we have cameras, but the meaning of the Constitution hasn't changed.

The real question, though, is what is Dino Rossi afraid of?
"We don't allow them in to collect attack video," Rossi spokeswoman Jill Strait said.
Attack video? What Akers wanted to film was the same event that KING 5, KOMO 4, and KIRO 7 were all invited to record. Akers simply showed up at Rossi's press conference to exercise his First Amendment rights.

And Rossi's handlers, apparently fearful that the Democratic Party might catch some campaign-ending gaffe on tape, reacted by physically assaulting Akers.

Who's really engaging in attack politics here? Dino Rossi's minions. Literally.
"We're sorry that it had to end that way," Strait said of Thursday's incident. "But he wouldn't have to be escorted off the premises if he had just left when he was asked to. I really think he was trying to provoke an incident by refusing to leave."
All Akers wanted to do was attend the press conference. The provocation was provided by off-duty Seattle police officers who got in his face, grabbed him, and demanded in harsh, unfriendly voices that he leave. Dino Rossi irresponsibly allowed this to continue and did nothing as Akers was pushed out.

Rossi's minions are so desperate to keep the cameras away that they have even resorted to fencing off areas of public parks with yellow Caution tape.

Perhaps the slogan for Rossi's campaign should be Keeping the Public Out of the Public's Business. Seems like a fitting way to sum up his bid for office.

While Rossi supporters do their best to keep Rossi's events as staged and orchestrated as possible, Rossi is busy knocking Governor Gregoire as behind the wall of a closed-off, out of touch Democratic establishment in Olympia.

Apparently what Rossi is really doing is foreshadowing what his own Bush-style administration would be like.

Chris Gregoire, meanwhile, is running an open and accessible campaign. The doors at her events are open and Republican operatives are allowed to film her speaking. Gregoire isn't afraid of the public - she knows she serves the public, and she embraces the idea of open government.

Dino Rossi wants to be governor pretty badly. Since coming up short in his first bid, he hasn't done much except lay low and contemplate taking on Chris Gregoire again. And from the day he announced his decision to run, he's done his best to constantly surround himself with yes-men and yes-women, avoid discussing his views on issues that Washingtonians care about (like reproductive rights) and distort the accomplishments of his opponent.

Rossi has shown himself to be a George W. Bush wannabe who would take a wrecking ball to our government. Washington State can't afford that. We need to keep Chris Gregoire as our governor. She works for us.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Governor Gregoire says she'll work to pass Homeowner's Bill of Rights in 2009

Last week, Governor Gregoire sat down for an interview with The Stranger to talk about the 2008 election, her record as governor, and her positions on several issues of importance to the publication's team of writers.

One of the issues that came up during the interview was the Homeowner's Bill of Rights, NPI's top legislative priority.

Here's a transcript from the video (emphasis mine):
GOV. GREGOIRE: I have a good working relationship with [House Speaker] Frank Chopp...I really do. We couldn't have accomplished all that we have over the last four legislative sessions if we didn't have a good partnership going...I don't happen to agree with him on everything.

I don't happen to agree with him, for example, on some transportation issues. I don't happen to agree with him on [the] Homeowner's Bill of Rights. So there are a number of areas where I don't agree with him. And there are occasions in which, despite our disagreement, he wins, and occasions in which, despite it, I win.

Now, next legislative session... I think we ought to take head on, the Homeowner's Bill of Rights. I think it's the right thing to do.

And if it wasn't acutely obvious it was the right thing to do [before], [it is today], based on what we're seeing happening in the state now, and across America, more importantly... it is the absolute right thing to do.

THE STRANGER: But how do you feel about the Speaker of the House pushing back against you on this very...I mean, what seems like a very fundamental, you know, Democratic Party issue (or what should be) this homeowner's bill?

GOV. GREGOIRE: He has a right to his own opinion, and I respect that. As long as he doesn't stand as a barrier to letting his caucus vote. So I will maintain I have a right to go in that caucus and a right to advocate to them...There have been things that he has not agreed on in the past, but, he has allowed to let the caucus vote. And I have won some of those and I have lost some of those.
We at NPI extend our heartfelt thanks to our Governor for going on the record in support of passing the Homeowner's Bill of Rights next year. We care deeply about changing our broken liability laws for a reason. This is about justice for families that are suffering. Justice for Washingtonians who have been wronged.

We especially appreciate the Governor's statement that Chopp should avoid being a barrier. Unfortunately, in the past, he has been an obstacle to getting the Homeowner's Bill of Rights through the statehouse. At the end of the last session, he purposefully held up the bill in the House Rules Committee, preventing it from going to the floor for a vote.

We trust that next year (if reelected) Governor Gregoire will be stepping in to ensure that there is a the bill can finally become law. (It already has support in the Senate, where it has passed more than once).

Chris Gregoire's commitment to pass this much needed consumer protection legislation is exactly the kind of real leadership and public service that have been the hallmarks of her first term as Washington's chief executive. Chris genuinely cares about improving our state's quality of life. Anyone who objectively looks at her record can see that. Her concern is evident in her passion for the job.

And it's a tough job. It won't get any easier in the next four years - our state's challenges are only getting bigger. The need for progressive tax reform - an issue the Legislature has repeatedly ignored or sidestepped in recent years - will be on the front burner, for instance, as our fiscal problems escalate.

But if there is anyone who is capable of steering Washington through a storm, it's Chris Gregoire. She's smart, she's forthcoming, and she's determined to fight for the people of the Evergreen State... no matter what.

Winning Democratic campaigns must look outside of King County for votes

A little earlier today the Secretary of State's office sent out a memo to the press with a table showing an up to date count of the registered voters in Washington State. As of August 8th, there are 3,415,077 people registered to vote, out of an estimated total population of 6,468,424 (so a little less than half).

As you might suspect, most registered voters live in a county with a significant urban area. King (Seattle), Pierce (Tacoma), Snohomish (Everett), Spokane, and Clark (Vancouver) are the five counties with the most registered voters.

The following map shows the state broken apart, with higher density counties shown with larger proportions than more rural ones.

Washington State Counties with More than 50,000 Registered Voters

Democrats and progressives working on statewide campaigns should observe that the state's most reliable Republican counties are shown at the original scale (in light turquoise) on the map. Collectively they comprise only 17% of registered voters, - which is less than King County alone.

While King may have more weight than all of those combined rural counties, what it doesn't have is a majority of the state's registered voters. Just over half of civic-minded Washingtonians live somewhere besides King (which is strongly Democratic) or those rural counties (which are strongly Republican).

Counties that will make the difference to a winning statewide campaign include Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Clark, Kitsap, Thurston, Whatcom, Yakima, Benton, Skagit, and Cowlitz. In addition, it should be noted that several counties in the turquoise bloc (particularly Whitman, Grays Harbor, and Walla Walla) are potential pickup opportunities for the most organized Democratic campaigns.

The takeaway from this map is that a statewide campaign really does need to be run statewide. Spending lavish sums of money on television ads or direct mail in King County at the expense of operating a field effort in swing counties is a grave mistake. Campaigns that creatively allocate as many resources as possible outside of King County will enjoy a great return on their investment.

More editorial boards blast Gordon Smith

The latest Gordon Smith ad is drawing serious fire from two more major newspapers in Oregon. First, the Statesman-Journal in Salem called Smith this week's "Loser":

LOSER: Sen. Gordon Smith's latest campaign ad. It berates his Democratic challenger, House Speaker Jeff Merkley, for a $34 million upgrade of the Oregon Capitol. Memo to Smith: Those renovations and new furnishings had bipartisan support from legislators. P.S. The Oregon Legislature manages to balance its budget, unlike Congress.
But the real highlight is the paper of record in Pendleton, where Smith claims his hometown:
The decision on how to bring Oregon's symbol of statehood out of the dark ages of decorating was a bipartisan matter which had widespread support on both sides of the aisle.

As taxpayers, we could become wrapped around the axle that the Oregon Legislature has decided to spend a few million bucks replacing old desks and chairs. On the other hand, we ought to hope that our state capital and the offices therein represent a respectable image.

That it has become a major campaign issue in the race for the U.S. Senate is ridiculous.

Neither Gordon Smith nor Jeff Merkley are running for the Oregon Legislature.

What should really bother us is the fact that gasoline is more than $4 a gallon, food prices continue to rise and the home mortgage system has tanked. We are engaged in funding a war that threatens to undermine our well-being and that of our children. Much of the world dislikes us despite the fact we continue to send them boatloads of money.

Government employment at all levels is rising at a much, much faster pace than employment in the private sector - a disproportionate ratio that cannot be sustained if our economy is to remain viable.

Yes, there are lots of genuinely meaningful issues that need to be addressed in this important race for the Senate.

New furniture for Oregon's capital is not one of them.
Smith's television ads continue to represent a serious Achilles heel for his campaign. They've been fraught with errors and innuendo. Fortunately, the local print media seems to be keeping a watchful eye on Smith's foibles..for now.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oregonian ed board delivers smackdown to Smith

The avalanche against Gordon Smith's latest anti-Merkley ad continues to build.

On Friday, the state's paper of record issued a scathing editorial against Smith:
Given how few serious problems face the United States in this election year, it was inevitable that Oregon's U.S. Senate campaign would get to the issue of furniture. Not to mention rugs. Two-term GOP Sen. Gordon Smith is running for re-election on the charge that the Democratic candidate, House Speaker Jeff Merkley, was part of spending too much on the state Capitol remodeling project. Smith's new TV spot laments the Legislature buying $4,000 walnut desks and $2,700 leather sofas in refurbishing the Capitol, for a total of $2 million in furniture. We can sympathize with his point. There's a certain appeal to the idea of state legislators assembling their own office furniture from Ikea.

Except that 150,000 Oregonians a year visit the Capitol, producing hard wear on its furniture and rugs. In the last purchase, when the two new legislative wings were added 30 years ago, the state went cheap, with predictable results. This time, a bipartisan committee of six legislators concluded it would be better to buy furniture likely to last 50 years.

The desks and cases have been built by Oregon Corrections Industries, a group that can be counted on to still be around -- and standing behind its work -- 50 years from now.
That's just the opener. The real sting is savored toward the end:
Still, there are reasons Smith might have been startled by the whole state Capitol remodeling project. After all, Oregon's effort is being finished in time and under the original $34 million budget, leaving $4 million to fix ceiling leaks that hadn't been addressed in the original plan.

During most of Smith's time in the U.S. Senate, Congress has been building a visitor center onto the U.S. Capitol. Four years late and $325 million over its original $300 million budget, it's scheduled to open in December -- reportedly because Congress didn't want it getting too much attention before the election.

During most of the construction, Smith's Republicans were in charge of Congress, and Smith himself was on the key Senate Committee on Finance and Upholstery.

Spending advice from Washington, D.C., is always welcome, but you could see why the Oregon Legislature's performance might make Smith want to sit down. Still, it's hard to see him getting startled by a $2,700 sofa.

After all, consider how many millions he's spending to try to keep his seat.

That's calling it like it is.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer profiles Democrats who are taking BIAW money

Six and half years ago, frustrated by Tim Eyman's harmful initiatives and the lack of a year round opposition that was as persistent and determined as he was, I launched Permanent Defense, which to this day continues as an effort to safeguard the Evergreen State from right wing attacks on our common wealth.

Part of what led me into activism was my disgust at Olympia Democrats' willingness to capitulate to Eyman and his allies. It seemed to me that there were few people within Washington politics who were willing to do battle with Tim.

So I stood up. I took a stand against Tim Eyman, against his ill-conceived initiatives, against the power of the right wing, against their agenda of crippling government and our democracy through incremental subversion and destruction. I got involved, because I felt my own values were under attack, and I couldn't watch from the sidelines any longer. I just couldn't watch while other Democrats capitulated and foolishly gave Eyman and his allies what they wanted.

I couldn't because I knew it was wrong. Immoral. Unacceptable.

Throughout my six and a half years of activism I've also been a loyal Democrat. I've never voted for a Republican and I probably never will. I am a firm believer in our party's First Amendment rights, especially of free assembly. And I don't usually let my differences with other Democrats get in the way of my supporting them. Politics is a team sport and the party is a big tent.

I'm not loyal to the party, however, because of who runs it or who is in it. I'm loyal to the party because of the progressive ideals that the party has championed during most of its history.

And when I see those ideals being abandoned or compromised by Democratic leaders who profess their love for common good, I, like the other wonderful people who work with me at the Northwest Progressive Institute, have a hard time staying quiet. It's why I didn't hesitate to criticize Governor Gregoire when she called a special session to reinstate Tim Eyman's Initiative 747.

And it's why I felt compelled to say something after prominent House Democrats who'd received money from the state's meanest, nastiest right wing lobby (the Building Industry Association of Washington) killed the Homeowner's Bill of Rights at the end of the legislative session earlier this year.

It's appalling that there are people within the Democratic Party who can justify taking money from a sleazy organization that is viciously opposed to everything we believe in as Democrats, uses dirty tricks and nasty rhetoric in pursuit of its agenda, derives its multimillion dollar political war chest by exploiting a loophole in state law, and couldn't care less about destroying the environment or infringing upon Washingtonians' privacy.

Yet, as Seattle P-I reporter Chris McGann discovered in the excellent report he filed for this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, such Democrats exist, and many of them hold powerful positions.
Many of the Democrats who have accepted contributions from the builders wield considerable influence. They include Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, state Auditor Brian Sonntag and lawmakers who head legislative committees governing transportation, finance, education, corrections, higher education and public safety.

Despite loud criticism about the BIAW's politics, none of the checks has been returned.
And for once, we have to agree with Dino Rossi:
"The hypocrisy on the other side is pretty clear," said Republican Dino Rossi, who is challenging Gregoire in the governor's race. "They are willing to accept the money even though they are beating (the BIAW) up as well."

Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island, agreed.

"It's a real shame and a stain on my party," he said. "My fellow Democrats would cry foul when the BIAW levies vicious attacks on our governor and environmentalists, and then they hypocritically accept campaign contributions from BIAW PACs. It's no wonder most people are so cynical of politicians. You would think that the Democratic Party would put principle before money, but some in my party just can't help themselves."
Indeed, the state party and Governor Gregoire's campaign have repeatedly made the BIAW a centerpiece of the gubernatorial campaign.

State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, who at any hour of the day could give a fine speech decrying the BIAW, is apparently unwilling to take a stand himself to insist that the Democratic Party be clean of the BIAW and its money.
Pelz said he hasn't asked Democrats to refuse contributions from the builders.

"That's not my job as state party chairman," he said. "Candidates and members of the Legislature make decisions about who they accept donations from. The state party would never accept a donation from the BIAW because we don't agree with their goals, and we don't agree with their values, and we don't agree with their message, and we have no respect for them."

The party won't punish candidates who accept contributions from the BIAW, Pelz said. "That's a decision between that candidate and his or her voters."
And as for those whose campaigns are benefiting from BIAW money?
Rep. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island, said he saw no conflict of interest in the fact that the state Democrats have vilified the BIAW and accused Rossi of being "owned" by the group.

He said the BIAW's attack ads against Gregoire were unconscionable but said it would not make sense to return donations from the group


Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said she doesn't like the BIAW's politics.

"It's reprehensible to try to buy an election," she said.

But she's comfortable with accepting the group's campaign contributions.

"Building issues themselves are not political," Clibborn said.
Really. "Building issues themselves are not political"?

I guess "abortion issues" aren't political either. Or "transportation issues". I mean, those have absolutely nothing to do with politics, right? Please. Stop insulting our intelligence. Don't pretend there's no connection between the BIAW's cash and your politics. Your constituents know better.

There's no excuse for taking BIAW money. None.

Any Democrat who does is condoning the BIAW's politics of destruction and demonstrating that they care more about seizing political power than fighting for progressive values.

The BIAW, like other business interests, does not donate to a candidate for no reason. They expect to get something in return. Like lawmakers agreeing to use their influence to kill the Homeowner's Bill of Rights. That's the whole point of their campaign contributions. Money buys influence.

Politicians who deny that are kidding themselves.

Chairman Pelz and Governor Gregoire are totally justified in criticizing the BIAW for its politics of destruction. But their criticism rings hollow if they're just going to look the other way and ignore the BIAW's contributions to Democratic leaders, including Gregoire's own deputy! If they truly want to put a stop to the BIAW's politics of destruction, they should start by eradicating its influence within our party.

Courtesy of the P-I, here is the list of Democrats who have received and accepted money from the BIAW this election cycle.
  • Lt. Gov. Brad Owen – $1,600
  • State Auditor Brian Sonntag – $1,600
  • Rep. Deb Wallace – $800
  • Rep. Marko Liias – $800
  • Rep. Christine Rolfes – $800
  • Rep. Al O'Brien – $800
  • Rep. Pat Sullivan – $800
  • Rep. Fred Jarrett – $800
  • Rep. Judy Clibborn – $800
  • Rep. Deb Eddy – $800
  • Rep. Ross Hunter – $800
  • Rep. Liz Loomis – $800
  • Rep. Larry Springer – $800
  • Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen – $800
  • Sen. James Hargrove – $675
  • Rep. Dave Quall – $250
  • The House Democratic Campaign Committee also got an $800 contribution.
Representative Mark Ericks, the seventh member of the seven Democrats I called out in March for refusing to support the Homeowner's Bill of Rights, should also be on that list, as he received contributions from the BIAW at the end of April. The others' names are emphasized in bold on the list above. Speaker Frank Chopp is not on the list, but of course he is at the helm of the caucus, and the caucus campaign committee received a contribution from the BIAW.

Desperate times, desperate Smith

The latest contrivance to ooze from Republican Gordon Smith's flailing general election campaign has already been deconstructed here. Thankfully, the Oregonian's Harry Esteve took on the challenge as well. Given that his report on the ad will no doubt be given more credence than mine (and seen by a heckuva lot more people), I'm glad to see it.

Esteve's Anatomy of a U.S. Senate race ad gives the reader a step-by-step look at Smith's newest negative attack ad against Oregon House Speaker, Democrat Jeff Merkley. The ad, in a nutshell, attacks Merkley for a bipartisan bill which paid for woefully necessary updates and fixes to the Oregon State Capitol.

Esteve demonstrates how Smith's campaign planted the story with the Oregon media:


Smith campaign staff persuade Bruun and two other House Republicans, Wayne Scott, of Canby, and Bill Garrard, of Klamath Falls, to sign a letter expressing concern about the furniture price tags.

Before the letter is given to legislative leaders, a Smith staffer delivers a copy to the Associated Press bureau in the state Capitol. The campaign also offers the AP an exclusive interview with Smith on the furniture issue. The story goes out statewide, but the headlines aren't what the campaign is looking for. That comes later, when The Oregonian runs a front-page story that focuses on the furniture upgrades and the cost.

"It's always better to have a story vetted through the media," says Chuck Adams, a Republican media strategist who has worked for Smith in the past. "It adds a lot of credibility. It makes it twice as strong."

Ahhhh...Chuck Adams. I dubbed Adams the Douchebag of Double-Dealing Dirt back in 2006 for his sleazy, nasty campaign tactics. Given his cheering for this latest Smith ad, its a confirmation of what I (and now Harry Esteve of the Oregonian) are saying about it. Adams has a long and storied history of participating in trumped-up shit about Merkley, too. At least we can count on him to be consistent.

Esteve notes that reaction to the ad is pissing off some Republican state legislators who supported the bill:

Plenty of Republicans voted for the office renovations. And some are less than pleased with the ad, because it sours voters on all incumbents, not just Merkley.

"I knew when I cast my vote -- and others knew when they cast their vote -- that we'd have to face some criticism from some people." says Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day. He just didn't think the harshest words would come from Smith.

Well Senator Ferrioli, what did you expect? Gordon Smith is a desperate guy--and desperate times call for desperate measures. You didn't think he'd step on your neck to get what he wants? Welcome to Rove-style Republican politics, man. Makes you wanna run right out and vote for Smith now, doesn't it?

If Gordon Smith wasn't so detached and out-of-touch with the electorate of Oregon, he wouldn't have a problem. If he wasn't a rubber-stamp, reliable Bush-Cheney vote for the last six years, he wouldn't have a problem. Now in his sad effort to hold on to his a sweet and cushy Senate gig where he doesn't actually represent the will of Oregonians, Smith is desperately throwing bullshit at our TV--hoping something will stick.

What a two-faced rat bastard.

How voter ID laws are used to fix elections: one person's experience

You may have heard of attempts to require stricter identification to vote, which is really just an attempt to disenfranchise large swathes of the electorate. Here is one person's experience testing just what these kinds of laws mean.
My son and I were given several chances to leave by the police. To go back home and just forget about voting. I will give the officers that much. They really did not want to arrest us. On the other hand, between the officers and the six election judges, none were willing to even ask what should be done. Even as my son had succeeded in getting hold of someone at the Election Board, who had authority (Brad lastnameunknown), the police officers refused to speak to the Election Board when "Brad" made that request.

My son was told to turn off his phone and get out of the parking lot, or he would be taken to jail along with me. I told him to get in the car, drive home, and be prepared for my phone calls.

One officer then turned to me and said, "This is your last chance. Leave and never come back here."

I said, "You're kidding, surely. Never? And where do I vote in November?"

"Are you going?" he asked again.

I asked, "You mean leave without even having an answer as to why I am not allowed to cast my ballot?"

His answer was nonverbal; but he leaned in close, and I knew he was waiting for an answer.

"Uhhh... with all due respect, officer... I feel that if I did so, I would be betraying my own conscience, and setting a bad precedent for all those citizens who share my right to vote."

About two nano-seconds after finishing my sentence, an officer behind me grabbed my wrists, handcuffed me, pulled me by the arm and pushed me into the back seat of a caged police car.

...The ticket states that I, on 11PM of this date "did knowingly cause a disturbance/disorderly conduct to wit: acts in a violent or tumultuous manner foward another, placing such person(s)in fear of safety by (and this is the part I find fascinating) refusing to show proper I.D. when voting".
Learn more about voter protection at the Election Incident Reporting System.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bill Clinton to speak at DNC

NBC News is reporting that the Obama campaign has offered President Clinton a speaking slot on Wednesday evening at the DNC.
NBC News has learned that the Obama campaign, in an effort to quiet talk of the Obama-Clinton drama, has offered Bill Clinton a speaking role on Wednesday night at the Democratic convention -- before the vice presidential running mate speaks.
Given that Barack Obama has already gone on record saying that the next time we hear serious talk from his campaign about a Vice-Presidential nominee, it will be him making the announcement, I feel pretty safe putting my money on someone other than Hillary Clinton being the VP. If Obama was going to use Bill Clinton to introduce his wife as the VP nominee at the DNC, he would have kept this info on the speaking slot under wraps, so as not to fan the flames of speculation prior to his announcement of a running mate. So I'd say scratch Hillary Clinton from the short list.

Update: Tom Raum and Nedra Pickler (Associated Press) are noting on HuffPo that Senator Clinton is expected to speak on the second night of the convention. If true, Hillary is definitely not the VP nominee.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The road to Smith's retirement is paved with the corpses of his former colleagues

So after finding out this week that he's not bringing sexy back, Oregon GOP Senator Gordon Smith has decided to go all partisan on our asses. He's attempting to cut down a bipartisan budget to repair and fix up the dilapidated offices at the Oregon State Capitol--cuz the slope he's skidding down in desperation to make crap up about Jeff Merkley is well--just not moving fast enough. So what the hell, right?

By way of background, I've been in those offices at the Capitol a number of times. It's like Laugh-In puked all over a Wickes clearance room. Cheap and ugly furniture that was falling apart--a total waste when it was purchased back when Hendrix roamed the earth. And the carpet looked like something my dog might accidentally pee on, mistaking it for the lawn. Not to mention the cheap wiring and plumbing--and creaky fixtures. The place was a disgrace.

In fact it was so bad, so rip-snorting awful, that even the faux budget pinchers popped up about it:

"I lived for 11 years in the building with that godawful 1970s cloth furniture," says Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, who served on the legislative oversight committee.

"If you sat down (on the couches), you couldn't get out of them."

Should you be under the impression that's only Senate Republicans in a snit about the state of the building and it's furnishings, allow me to disabuse you:

"There's a perception that we're trying to make a palace, and that isn't what we're trying to do," says state Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, who adds that his office furniture is so old that he couldn't give it away at a garage sale.

The Capitol is "the people's building," says Krieger, who is helping map out the renovation. "All I'm looking at is bringing it up to an acceptable standard and a decent workplace."

For those of you scoring at home, "R" means "Republican". That'd be the same party Smith takes money from while trying not to stand too close to their stink--lest it rub off.

Meanwhile, the way I hear it, when Gordon Smith was President of the Oregon Senate back in the mid-ninteties-his offices sucked so bad that he forced the Senate Secretary out for the duration so he could plant his butt someplace a little shinier. More on that in a few days, hopefully.

And let's not forget that the Republicans had control of the Oregon House for sixteen years--allowing this mess to go on. The Democrats are the ones that finally stepped up to invest in making Oregon's government a professional place to work and govern. The Republicans were too busy screwing over public education, working families and the environment to pay attention to the walls falling down around them.

Not to mention that Smith and his GOP cronies aren't exactly the pinnacle of budget restraint--all nine trillion dollars of nonrestraint.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Reality check: No guarantee of a sweeping Democratic victory in 2008

Over the last few months - and maybe even since the midterm elections in 2006 - I have heard countless allusions to 2008 being a redefining moment in American politics, a watershed cycle, a change election that will reshape government at every level, setting America on the path to a more promising future.

I've witnessed jubilant state party leaders proclaiming 2008 to be the year our party retakes the White House, amidst a celebratory atmosphere in Spokane.

I've heard pundits predict the other side has no chance of retaking Congress, and observed even Republican leaders conceding the same thing.

I've heard fellow Democrats say in conversation that the Republican brand has been so badly tarnished that anyone who runs under the party's banner is doomed, and all we Democrats have to do is walk past them towards the finish line.

I've even had conservative friends assure me that we are going to trounce the Republicans so soundly that the feat won't be repeated for another hundred years - and Democrats will have an overwhelming mandate from voters to govern.

It's all too easy for us to get in the habit of making assumptions and assertions about what November will bring. We forget that nothing is certain.
"Our great business in life is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."

- Thomas Carlyle
There is no guarantee of a sweeping Democratic victory in 2008. None.

Any Democrat who thinks electing our ticket and winning back the White House will be a cakewalk is gravely mistaken and in for a rude awakening.

Looking around, I see a Democratic Party that is in many respects mentally unprepared for battle. We should be putting on our helmets and preparing to fight, because we are due on the field for a match with the Republicans. Candidates who appreciate this, like Darcy Burner, are mobilizing now. They are marshaling volunteers, revving up the phonebanks, sending teams out to walk precincts, turning the campaign office into a beehive of activity.

But not all Democrats are picking up the pace, especially in some of the downballot statewide races - where stellar Democratic candidates are sitting on their war chests. Presumably, they're waiting until the very end to spend almost of it on paid media that will be lost amidst the thunder of the presidential campaign.

That is not the way to win.

The organization EMILY's List takes its name not from some person called Emily, but from an acronym - "Early Money Is Like Yeast." The same idea holds true for early effort. Or early advertising. Or early anything. Meandering along towards autumn is a mistake, for autumn is the beginning of the season of No Spare Time.

Democrats need to have a sense of urgency now. As in, NOW. NOW! Election Day is only getting closer; we have less than a hundred days to go.

The end of summer is rapidly approaching. The Republicans know it. They can feel the prevailing wind against them. They are desperate to hold on to what they've got. That includes the White House, which they illegitimately seized twice.

And a desperate foe can be a dangerous one.
"Facing it, always facing it. That's the way to get through. Face it."

- Joseph Conrad
Our (presumptive) nominee should be setting the tone. But as Cenk Uygur, host of Brave New Foundation's Meet the Bloggers says, he isn't.
Obama has not attacked at all. This is the same mistake Kerry made. He [Kerry] could have pounded Bush for all of his mistakes; instead he hardly laid a glove on him because he wanted to run a positive campaign. That's ridiculous.

There is a difference between hard hitting ads and negative campaigning. In my mind, negative campaigning is when you make stuff up about the other guy (like McCain did about Obama not visiting the troops in Germany because he couldn't bring cameras) or go after him personally (like McCain did when he compared Obama to Britney Spears). But going after your opponent's record isn't negative campaigning; it's explaining why it's a bad idea to vote for the other guy. That is part and parcel of a political campaign.
As Cenk adds a little later in his post, it's all about taking control of the discussion. Reframing the debate. Leading, not following.
Obama wins simply by having this conversation. If the question is -- does John McCain blindly follow George Bush -- Obama doesn't even need to win that debate. He wins simply by having that debate. What is stuck in people's mind is how much McCain voted with Bush.
And what's going to happen if Obama lets McCain and his Republican allies dictate the focus of the conversation America has this autumn?
If they don't have this kind of killer instinct, they will run a stupid, mushy campaign that will get rolled over by the Rove acolytes and wonder how they got their lunch money taken again.

And by the way, they are well on their way to doing this already. The offshore drilling flip-flop was a disaster. You undermine all of your arguments, all of your surrogates and give away your strength when you agree with the other side. Watch this clip for a full understanding of why this type of concession is the best way to lose an election.

Americans want a politician who is strong. That doesn't mean a politician willing to start more wars or one who mindlessly brags about being tough on national security. It means someone who is willing to stand their ground.
I've said this before, but it bears repeating again.

People respect authentic leadership. They vote who they identify with. Who they can trust. That's what is ultimately most important - not a candidate's positions on the issues.

And that's why Obama would have done better to stick to his guns and say we can't drill our way out of our energy problems, instead of conceding that what the other side wants could, well, just possibly, maybe be part of a mix of solutions. Retreating from a principled position signals weakness and a lack of authenticity. It alienates the base and gives the other side an avenue of attack.

The Republicans are going to blast Obama no matter what he does. If he refuses to sell out on his values, they'll scream about it and make up all kinds of lies about his campaign (i.e. Obama will raise your taxes by $2,435.09 or some mythical figure). If Obama concedes anything, they'll snicker and call him a hypocrite.

A "flip-flopper", to use their framing.

("Flip-flop", incidentally, has unfortunately entered the American political lexicon. Republicans started using the phrase unceasingly in 2004 and Democrats have made no effort to eradicate it, which is a shame, because the phrase doesn't respect the complexity of politics, especially the legislative process).

Republicans are going to be out there attacking us for the rest of the summer and all through the fall with increasing intensity. They won't be giving any quarter. They're going to fight and fight hard. It's time Team Obama realized that.
"A problem well stated is a problem half solved."

- Charles Franklin Kettering
Here's Cenk again:
I don't know if they know this, but they are running against McCain. He is their opponent. Their job is to defeat him. To beat him. To make him lose, and hence, become a loser.

This isn't some esoteric campaign of Barack Obama versus history. That's what the McCain camp wants. This is a real political fight between two real people. And until Obama realizes that and gets in the fight, he is not going to win. Take a swing, for the love of God. Show the American people you can be a man, a strong leader, someone who can knock an opponent down.

If we want Barack Obama to be the first black president and not just the first black nominee of a major political party, we need to get ready for battle.

If we want to reelect Chris Gregoire as our Governor, defend our Democratic legislative majorities, replace Dave Reichert, Doug Sutherland, and Rob McKenna with Darcy Burner, Peter Goldmark, and John Ladenburg, we need to go to work.

If we want to knock out Gordon Smith and Jim Risch, we need to throw our firepower behind Jeff Merkley and Larry LaRocco.

If want to wipe that silly grin off Tim Eyman's face and beat back Initiative 985, the More Traffic Measure, we need to roll up our sleeves and get moving.

If we want to pass Sound Transit 2 and put our region on the path towards reliable rapid transit for all, we need to take action. Not next month, not a few days from now, not even tomorrow - we need to set sail NOW!

The August 19th primary is two weeks from tomorrow. The November 4th general election is eleven weeks after that. The clock is ticking.
"A positive thinker does not refuse to recognize the negative, he refuses to dwell on it. Positive thinking is a form of thought which habitually looks for the best results from the worst conditions."

- Norman Vincent Peale
If we want to win...if we really want to retake the White House...if we're really hungry for change... we can't lay around and enjoy the summer.

We need to donate. Phonebank. Knock on doors. Distribute literature. Talk to neighbors. Register people to vote. Urge people to vote. Disseminate endorsements. Learn how to use VoteBuilder. Attend a training or train others. Show up to support our candidates. Encourage friends to volunteer.

Organize; build infrastructure.

At Evergreen Politics, my good friend Lynn Allen has posted a stirring roundup of some of the fine people who are out there doing something. They are the heroes who are fearlessly blazing a trail to change, one step at a time.

We need more of that. The Democratic Party needs an infusion of fighting spirit and a can-do determination. The celebratory, joyful mood needs to be ditched. If we win in November, we can party for the rest of the year - all through the holiday season. But right now we have a battle to fight. We can take nothing for granted.
"Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified."

- Dr. Samuel Johnson
We're up against an opponent that's not afraid to stoop to cheating, dirty tricks, or disenfranchising voters. That means we have to be vigilant, resourceful, and unyielding. When the Republicans strike, we have to return fire, quickly. When we see an opportunity, we must strike immediately and throw the Republicans on the defensive. We must drive them back as far as we can without pausing.

Rapid response will be crucial in September and October. Minor skirmishes and engagements will be won or lost in a matter of hours - maybe even minutes.

Candidates whose names are not Barack Obama, Chris Gregoire, Jeff Merkley, or Darcy Burner will have less money to spend on paid media and less media attention. Their campaigns will need to be creative and inventive.

They will need to maximize the potential of the Internet, build a strong field operation, and look for ways to make it into the morning newspapers, midday talk shows, or the five o'clock broadcasts.

They'll need to devise and execute a plan for boosting the campaign's visibility to the public and increasing awareness via word of mouth.

The earlier they execute, the better, because the noise will rise to a fever pitch as every other campaign turns up the volume.
"Do the thing and you will have the power."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson
It's up to us, the grassroots and the netroots, to give our candidates a helpful push when they need it, hold party leadership accountable as valuable resources are allocated, and constructively criticize whenever we see time, talent, and treasure being wasted or possibilities squandered.

We are the ones we have been waiting for. There is no guarantee of a sweeping Democratic victory in 2008. This is a marathon election cycle that is coming to a close. We are capable of deciding the outcome. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to step up now and make a difference in 2008.

Darcy Burner unveils first 2008 television ad

Darcy Burner's campaign has just launched their first television ad for the 2008 cycle, "Taking Stock". It's a beautifully written, wonderfully filmed ad that presents a biographical sketch of the candidate and her experience on the campaign trail.

The ad, which runs sixty seconds, opens with pictures of Darcy's childhood, continuing on to show video highlights of her work testing toxic toys, helping women succeed at Microsoft, putting together the Responsible Plan, bouncing back from the fire that destroyed her Ames Lake home last month, and fighting for economic security for the people of the 8th.

Almost all of the narration in the ad is done by Darcy herself. She speaks in a convincing, confident, and reassuring voice. The musical accompaniment strikes a solid chord, and the ad is impressive in its combination of thoroughness and simplicity. There's a theme that presents a concise message - here's a candidate who is willing to take on any challenge and work incredibly hard for her constitutents - but also plenty of supporting detail.

Burner spokesman Sandeep Kaushik said this afternoon that the ad will run for at least a week on broadcast and cable. From the campaign's press release:
This is a significant television buy, well into the six-figures...After months where our Republican opponent has had all the benefits of incumbency, including the ability to send district voters hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of glossy campaign-style mail pieces at public expense, we are now moving forward aggressively to level the playing field.
In short, the ad is a super start to Darcy's paid media campaign.

We're also proud that someone from NPI is in the ad.

In the segment about the Responsible Plan, NPI Outreach & Advocacy Director Rick Hegdahl (also an advisor to can clearly be seen standing next to Darcy as she talks to veterans about ending the occupation of Iraq.

What's your take on Darcy's first ad of the season? Let us know by sharing your reaction in the comments.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Seafair 2008 features a preview of the greener future of hydroplane racing

Today's the big finale for Seafair, Seattle's annual summer celebration, with the Unlimited Hydroplane finale and the awarding of the Chevrolet Cup, plus the Blue Angels Performance and the KeyBank Airshow.

If you're not on your way to the shores of Lake Washington, you can tune in to KIRO TV for Seafair coverage. NPI hero and Unlimited Hydroplane legend Chip Hanauer (one of the speakers at our amazing Spring Fundraising Gala last May) will be coanchoring the broadcast with KIRO's Steve Raible.

Incidentally, on Friday, Chip was back on the water (nearly ten years after his retirement!) in a prototype boat jointly sponsored by Boeing and the Ellstrom Elam Plus team. The prototype was built to test the feasibility of a boat running on biofuels specially engineered by Imperium Renewables.
[W]hen final testing took place last month, it was the biojet-burning turbine that had the attention of many, including Scott Carson, the chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and Bill Boeing Jr., whose father started the company.

After Hanauer brought the U-787 back to the pits, several computer readouts gave results that had crewmembers and Boeing officials high-fiving. The mixture of biojet and regular jet fuel had nearly identical power, performance and reliability as regular jet fuel.
Since the initial tests were very promising, the boat was made ready for the Chevrolet Cup qualifying run.

So how did the qualifying run, which brought the boat close to top speed, go? From the Seattle Times sports notebook this morning:
Chip Hanauer bumped up his qualifying speed to 147.631 mph during an early run in the 787 Boeing boat that runs on biofuels.

Hanauer, who said he would qualify the boat but not race it, would have been the seventh-fastest qualifier of the 13 boats that made it over the 130 mph standard.

Hanauer, retired after winning 61 times, only one short of the all-time mark of the late Bill Muncey. Villwock is third on the list with 55 wins.
Congratulations to Chip, Boeing, the Ellstrom family, and Imperium on their success.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wal-Mart executives pressuring workers not to vote Democratic this November

Yesterday, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal ran a front page story about Wal-Mart management's outrageous attempts to convince its workforce to vote Republican this November by equating a Democratic win with unionization, and equating unionization with lower pay and fewer jobs.

Evidently, Lee Scott and cohorts are worried sick about the prospect of an Obama administration and large Democratic majorities in Congress.

The horror of universal healthcare and and a livable wage!

Somebody's gotta put a stop to those Democrats from restoring America and giving everyone an opportunity to realize their full potential!
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.
It's no wonder Wal-Mart management is scared.

If their employees become part of a union like the United Food and Commercial Workers, the company will be forced to actually respect its employees and start treating them like humans instead of garbage.

Workers would get better pay and benefits thanks to collective bargaining.

So what are Wal-Mart executives doing? Trying to intimidate their workforce by badmouthing Democrats and lying about how unions work.
The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.

"The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill [the Employee Free Choice Act] will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,'" said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. "I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote," she said.
What a load of rubbish. It's Wal-Mart that doesn't want its workers to be able to have a vote on whether to unionize or not. Democrats are all for empowering Americans, while Wal-Mart is fiercely opposed to the idea.

Wal-Mart executives are clearly frightened by the thought of their employees gaining the power to stand up for themselves.

Responding to the Wall Street Journal article, Wal-Mart Watch Director David Nassar accurately described the company's real intentions:
Wal-Mart seems willing to do anything to maintain a status quo in which the company pays poorly, refuses to compensate workers for time worked, discriminates against workers and offers poor benefits.

Wal-Mart wants its workers to believe it has their best interests at heart, but as workers told us this week when coming to us with these stories, they know better. The current Wal-Mart culture is good for Wal-Mart executives, good for the Walton family, but very bad for Wal-Mart's hourly employees.
Meghan Scott at had similarly harsh words for the company.
For all its PR moves and gimmicks over the last year, it is still business as usual at Wal-Mart. The retailer has been caught red-handed trying to intimidate workers and scare them into voting against Democrats.

Wal-Mart has once again been exposed for what it really is: a corporation that will go to any length to put profits ahead of its workers. Wal-Mart has talked a lot about changing its ways on health care, the environment and workers rights, but this article shows that all that talk hasn't translated into action.
Since 1964, Wal-Mart has spread across America like a plague or cancer, wiping out untold numbers of small businesses on Main Street, polluting our environment, and contributing to an explosion in suburban sprawl.

This Flash animation documents the horrifying growth of Wal-Mart through the years, from Arkansas to every corner of the United States. It's hard not to feel sick watching the number of stores multiply like an uncontrollable infection.

The Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) has relatively few Wal-Marts compared to the East Coast, in part because of the dominance of Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale, which has set the standard in the retail industry for treating workers and customers well, in addition to shareholders.

Costco is also more environmentally sensitive than Wal-Mart, where the words "corporate responsibility" are just that - words, and nothing more.

Wal-Mart is unfortunately one of the biggest, meanest, most powerful corporations in the world, sharing the title of America's largest company with ExxonMobil. But Wal-Mart isn't unstoppable. The company can be beaten - and it has been beaten.

You can make a difference, first and foremost by not shopping at Wal-Mart and second, by encouraging your family, friends, and neighbors not to shop there either. If you're yearning to do more,'s Action Center can help you get started watchdogging your local Wal-Mart, writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or planning an event.

Friday, August 1, 2008

SiteMeter causing blogs and websites to crash in Microsoft's Internet Explorer

Readers who attempted to access The NPI Advocate during the last few hours in Internet Explorer (the browser of choice or habit for a majority of you, according to our server logs) probably were confronted with an abrupt and cryptic error message that looked like this:
Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site
Operation aborted
That error message was caused by embedded code from SiteMeter, a tool for monitoring and analyzing website traffic.

We have removed the problematic code, so The Advocate should now load without crashing inside of Internet Explorer.

The Core and the Portal do not have SiteMeter code embedded, so those parts of our network have not been affected by this problem.

We believe this problem began occurring shortly before 6 PM Pacific Time. As of yet, there appears to be no fix.

Regardless of what happens next, we won't be adding the SiteMeter code back in. It's redundant since we get better information from our own server logs. Plus, we've been trying to reduce excess JavaScript and cookies that collect unnecessary information about you for third parties (along with its counter, SiteMeter serves a cookie from Specific Media, an ad targeting firm).

Also see: One Project Closer, Wizbang, BitsBlog

UPDATE, Saturday morning: More information on the cause of the problem from The Reference Frame. It's a bug in Microsoft's Internet Explorer that SiteMeter developers didn't test for when they updated their scripts.

Certainly Microsoft deserves blame for the defects in its browser - and problems like this are a good reason to switch to Firefox, which NPI strongly recommends - but the SiteMeter guys are responsible for pushing out a problematic update to their scripts that caused websites to stop loading for the millions of people who use IE. And they still haven't acknowledged the problem as of this morning update.

Also, welcome Wired visitors!

UPDATE II, Saturday 12:20 PM: SiteMeter finally responded to this a few minutes ago on their blog, although they don't seem to have grasped the extent of the problem. As they say, the error message could be caused by SiteMeter code falling outside of the HTML body tag, but SiteMeter code properly placed by webmasters inside of the body tag was also causing the error.