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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Are you registered to vote? Have you been disenfranchised?

You may have heard that Republican operatives are trying to take advantage of the current economic crisis, by attempting to have voters who lost their homes through foreclosure, removed from the voting rolls by having their addresses invalidated.

Are you registered to vote? Do you know if you're registered to vote? Could you have been disenfranchised without knowing it?

Thanks to America in Solidarity, you can check your status, regardless of the state you live in, make changes to your address if necessary and ensure that come November 4, you're able to cast your vote for the candidate of your choice.

In Washington, if you're listed as inactive, you only have until October 4 to complete your address change to be eligible to vote on November 4.

Since the 2000 election, it has been a tactic of the GOP to try and disenfranchise as many voters as possible. The dirty tricks are already starting for this election cycle.

• Republican party officials in Michigan plan on challenging the voting rights of those whose homes have recently foreclosed, of which 60% are African-American

• Wisconsin’s Attorney General, a Republican, recently sued the state’s election board to try to remove 20% of the registered voters in this critical swing state

• In Virginia, another battleground state, the AFL-CIO reported that Republicans deliberately tried to confuse student voters about where they are eligible to register and vote.

So click on this link, find your state, and verify if you're registered to vote today. Forward the link to friends and family so they can ensure their right to vote is protected.

And if you are aware of any efforts to disenfranchise voters in the Northwest, please drop us a line in the comments and give us as much detail as possible.

Troopergate Update: Witness flips like a fish out of water

Troopergate just keeps getting worse for Sarah Palin. Especially when it's coupled with stories like this from the Anchorage Daily News, which show her complete lack of ethics.

Via Mudflats:
One of the witnesses called by Stephen Branchflower (independent investigator of the legitimate Troopergate investigation) put herself in a tricky spot.

Murlene Wilkes, owner of Harbor Adjusting Services, and holder of a $1.2 million/yr. contract with the State of Alaska to handle workers compensation claims, apparently told a big fat fib. When Branchflower asked her if the governor’s office had ever asked her to deny a workers compensation claim for Palin’s ex-brother-in-law Trooper Mike Wooten (the trooper in “Troopergate”), she said no. Never. Really.


Problem is, that there are actually honest people in the world….and one of them works for Murlene Wilkes at Harbor Investments. This unnamed worker made a little phone call to the tip line that Branchflower set up at the beginning of the investigation. According to the tipster, yes indeed, the governor’s office DID put pressure to deny the claim.

Hard evidence contradicting sworn testimony has a certain effect on people. Murlene Wilkes, faced with this situation, decided to change her testimony according to a report in The Public Record. Now, with the little extra incentive of avoiding perjury charges, she has admitted that she was asked to deny the claim - at the direct request of Sarah and Todd Palin.

Another day, another lie from Sarah Palin. As Joe Biden says, "that's not change. That's more of the same."

BREAKING: Dino Rossi was personally involved in the BIAW's illegal activities

A couple weeks ago, we reported that Washington State's Public Disclosure Commission had completed an investigation of the state's most powerful right wing lobby, the Building Industry Association of Washington, finding it guilty of multiple violations of our campaign disclosure laws. The Attorney General's office, acting on the PDC's referral of the complaint, subsequently took the BIAW to court, although the lawsuit will likely and conveniently not be resolved for months.

(Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna is a supporter of the BIAW, and the BIAW is a supporter of his. Reportedly, McKenna told the BIAW back in 2004 that he owed them a big thank you for playing a critical role in helping him get elected).

Today, the law firm representing the complainants in that PDC investigation - Smith & Lowney PLLC - released documents obtained through discovery in an unrelated federal lawsuit that show Republican Dino Rossi was directly involved in the building industry's illegal fundraising activities.

Here is an excerpt from the statement released by Smith & Lowney that explains what we know from the evidence in these documents:
The evidence released today shows that Mr. Rossi was not just a beneficiary of these illegal activities, but was a knowing and active participant. The Attorney General’s lawsuit found that the illegal fundraising campaign involved BIAW senior officers soliciting contributions from 15 local building groups. According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, this fundraising was illegal because BIAW was not registered as a political committee and the proceeds of the fundraising were concealed for over a year. AG Complaint ¶¶ 3.9, 4.3.

The MBA [Master Builders Association] was one of the groups solicited for a donation. On April 30, 2007, BIAW President Daimon Doyle attended the MBA’s Board meeting to solicit a donation to BIAW’s campaign fund, which was considered a “Fund for Rossi,” according to Sam Anderson, the MBA Executive Director. Based upon a formula, MBA was targeted for a donation of over $570,000! The Board decided to table the request until the next meeting three weeks later, expressing concern that most MBA members were democrats and may not appreciate the donation and also about other pressing MBA expenses including building repairs.

When MBA leadership met next on May 21, 2007 at a “Chair Officers Meeting,” the discussion turned to BIAW’s pending request for campaign funds. While discussing the request, all three of the MBA’s top officers reported that they had received calls from Dino Rossi. The one call for which additional detail is provided clearly confirms that Rossi called to support a MBA contribution to the BIAW’s governor’s race war chest. The minutes leave no question that Dino Rossi spoke to this officer about whether and when MBA would give to the BIAW’s governor campaign fund. The officers receiving calls from Rossi were then-MBA President Doug Barnes, First Vice President Joe Schwab, and Second Vice President John Day.

It is clear that Dino Rossi was aware of and participating in the fundraising campaign at issue in the Attorney General’s suit. Rossi knew that a solicitation request was pending before the MBA board during that three week period; he made calls to each of the three top officers during this period; and he talked by phone to at least one of the officers and specifically discussed the pending fundraising solicitation. The officers clearly understood that Rossi was calling about the solicitation, since they reported the calls while discussing the solicitation, and John Day communicated to Rossi the Board’s position on the solicitation.
As the firm says, there are many questions that these documents do not answer. But now that we know Dino Rossi is involved, his campaign can no longer try to wash his hands of this very serious violation of the law.

As mentioned earlier, this evidence was obtained by Smith & Lowney through the formal discovery process in a pending, unrelated federal lawsuit:
The documents being released are not under any protective order and involve violations of law currently being prosecuted by the State Attorney General. As such, we believe their disclosure is appropriate if not ethically required.
Rossi has been unwillingly caught in the middle of this.

He owes the people of Washington State and his opponent, Chris Gregoire, an apology for not disclosing his involvement in this matter. But he owes us more than that. He owes us a full explanation of what happened. The public deserves to know everything. If Dino can't be open about his campaign activities, then we can hardly expect his administration to be transparent either.

We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars here, which is not a small amount of money. Dino and the BIAW were aggressively looking for contributions to put into their massive anti-Gregoire war chest.

As for Rob McKenna, it is clear that his ties to the BIAW create a conflict of interest. McKenna needs to appoint a independent special prosecutor to handle this case so that the public can be confident in our justice system.

Monday, September 29, 2008

More ethical lapses for Palin

Meet Sarah Palin, alleged would-be reformer.

When Palin needed to sell her house during her last year as Wasilla mayor, she got the city to sign off on a special zoning exception -- and did so without keeping a promise to remove a potential fire hazard.

She gladly accepted gifts from merchants: A free "awesome facial" she raved about in a thank-you note to a spa. The "absolutely gorgeous flowers" she received from a welding supply store. Even fresh salmon to take home.

She also stepped in to help friends or neighbors with City Hall dealings. She asked the City Council to add a friend to the list of speakers at a 2002 meeting -- and then the friend got up and asked them to give his radio station advertising business.

That year, records show, she tried to help a neighbor and political contributor fighting City Hall over his small lakeside development. Palin wanted the city to refund some of the man's fees, but the city attorney told the mayor she didn't have the authority.

Gifts, special privileges, favors for friends. Reformer? Not likely. Sarah Palin is sounding much more like a character in the Tom "The Hammer" DeLay, Jack Abramoff saga than an agent of change. She's not going to change anything in Washington, except for maybe her financial status and some dirty diapers.

Bailout: What's next

According to George Stephanopolous, Congress isn't trying to craft a new plan after defeating the bailout today. Rather, the plan seems to be to twist arms and exert political pressure to pass the same plan, or just dress it up in different clothes and hope that the American people don't notice.

Option 1 is to guilt members of the House into voting for the bailout bill when the markets open and start tanking tomorrow. Think Wall Street operatives might make the market tank in order to get a handout from Congress?

Option 2 is to let the Senate pass the bailout first. If the Senate passes the bailout, then pressure is brought to bear on House members to take action on the bailout. If it looks like garbage and smells like garbage, then it is garbage. Don't tell the American people that the putrid stench we smell is actually filet mignon.

Option 3 is to make a few changes to the bill to get enough votes to pass it. I like to call this the "Lipstick on a Pig" option.

Option 4 is to get support for the bailout from more Democrats. So it goes, you'd get the $700 billion plus economic stimulus, plus home heating oil and food stamp assistance, plus infrastructure investments and unemployment insurance spending. In reality, this sounds like a Republican strategy to pin the largest spending bill in history on Democrats, ensuring no affordable, quality, universal health care, no action on climate change, and no spending on programs that actually benefit people under a potential Obama Administration, so that they, the Republicans can continue to make a case for "drowning government in a bathtub."

None of these options that Stephanopolous is reporting are acceptable.

I'm with David Sirota.
Anyone who thinks we should pass the $700 billion bailout bill as is needs to answer a simple question: How does handing over $700 billion to Wall Street help the economy any more than, say, handing over $700 billion to homeowners, or spending $700 billion on a New Deal-style full employment program? In fact, you have to answer an even simpler question: How is handing over $700 billion to Wall Street a BETTER way to save the economy than helping homeowners or investing in the economy? Or how about substantively answering why you think giving $700 billion to Wall Street will help solve this problem, rather than make it worse - and by "substantively," I don't mean simply saying that some other "expert" said it would save the economy, I mean actually making a substantive, logical argument.


I'd say being able to answer basic questions should be a prerequisite for spending 5% of our economy.

Contact your member of Congress and ask them to go back to the drawing board and pass a plan that includes re-regulation, New Deal style economic stimulus, bankruptcy reform, homeowner aid and a speculators' tax.

Continue to bombard your members of Congress with calls and letters. Make them answer the question, especially if they voted yes today.

If this truly is the crisis that we're being told it is, then the Bush Administration owes us answers. Members of Congress who are being briefed on the crisis need to give us answers. They work for us.

Memo to Congress: Don't approach us with a plan hatched over a few days, tell us the sky is falling, and then expect us to engage in an unprecedented corporate giveaway. We're not going to take it.

If these problems are as dire as we're told they are, then they require a well-thought out response.

To our readers: Continue to bombard your members of Congress with calls and letters. Make them answer the question, especially if they voted yes today, and demand accountability, transparency and an end to corporate greed that even Gordon Gecko couldn't have conceived.

Comple House roll call vote on bailout

The following is the complete U.S. House roll call vote on the just-rejected bailout legislation, which failed 228-205. Ninety five Democrats voted against H.R. 3997, joined by one hundred and thirty three members of the Republican caucus.

Final Vote Results for Roll Call 674
H.R. 3997, recorded vote, September 29th 2008 at 2:07 PM

228 yes, 205 no, 1 not voting
140 Democrats for, 95 against. 65 Republicans for, 133 against.

Question: On Concurring in Senate Amendment With An Amendment

Bill Title: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide earnings assistance and tax relief to members of the uniformed services, volunteer firefighters, and Peace Corps volunteers, and for other purposes.

Informally Known As: Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

The ayes:

Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Bono Mack
Boyd (FL)
Brady (PA)
Brady (TX)
Brown (SC)
Brown, Corrine
Camp (MI)
Campbell (CA)
Cole (OK)
Davis (AL)
Davis (CA)
Davis (IL)
Davis, Tom
Edwards (TX)
Frank (MA)
Hall (NY)
Hastings (FL)
Inglis (SC)
Johnson, E. B.
King (NY)
Klein (FL)
Kline (MN)
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lewis (CA)
Lewis (KY)
Lofgren, Zoe
Lungren, Daniel E.
Mahoney (FL)
Maloney (NY)
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum (MN)
Meek (FL)
Meeks (NY)
Miller (NC)
Miller, Gary
Miller, George
Moore (KS)
Moore (WI)
Moran (VA)
Murphy (CT)
Murphy, Patrick
Neal (MA)
Peterson (PA)
Price (NC)
Pryce (OH)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Ryan (OH)
Ryan (WI)
Smith (TX)
Smith (WA)
Van Hollen
Walden (OR)
Walsh (NY)
Wasserman Schultz
Weldon (FL)
Wilson (NM)
Wilson (OH)
Wilson (SC)

Voting nay:

Barrett (SC)
Bartlett (MD)
Barton (TX)
Bishop (UT)
Boyda (KS)
Braley (IA)
Broun (GA)
Brown-Waite, Ginny
Burton (IN)
Davis (KY)
Davis, David
Davis, Lincoln
Deal (GA)
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
Edwards (MD)
English (PA)
Franks (AZ)
Garrett (NJ)

Green, Al
Green, Gene
Hall (TX)
Hastings (WA)
Herseth Sandlin
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson (IL)
Johnson, Sam
Jones (NC)
King (IA)
Kuhl (NY)
Lewis (GA)
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul (TX)
McMorris Rodgers
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Moran (KS)
Murphy, Tim

Peterson (MN)
Price (GA)
Rogers (MI)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Scott (GA)
Scott (VA)
Smith (NE)
Smith (NJ)
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Udall (CO)
Udall (NM)
Walz (MN)
Welch (VT)
Whitfield (KY)
Wittman (VA)
Young (AK)
Young (FL)

Not voting:


Inslee and Baird explain their bailout votes

NPI has received statements from the offices of Representatives Brian Baird and Jay Inslee explaining their respective "yes" and "no" votes on the Bush administration's bailout proposal. Here is Brian Baird's:
This wasn’t a perfect bill, but the economic situation is daunting. In the past few days, Congress was able to take an unacceptable proposal, and mold it into something that would have made the best of a bad situation. Leaders from both parties had worked together in historic fashion over the past week to draft bipartisan compromise legislation.

Unfortunately many members couldn’t get on board. In just the past few minutes, we’re already seeing the results on Wall Street.

I would have never been able to support this legislation without the provisions that Congressman Tanner and I were able to insert into it that protects the American taxpayer. Under these terms, the taxpayer would have been protected from any potential losses. This was key for me.

The average taxpayer didn’t create this problem; they shouldn’t be left holding the bag for it.

Under our plan, five years from now, if the taxpayer were in the red, the President would have been required to submit a plan to impose fees or taxes on Wall Street to recoup those losses.

However, if these investments turn a profit, the taxpayer would have shared in them. I hope we’ll be able to resolve our differences, reconvene later this week and agree on an even better bill.

However, even if we can eventually get this passed, our economy would remain in a very fragile state for some time to come.

The conditions created by excessive debt on both the federal and personal level, our rising trade deficit, and the rising costs of energy all suggest we could still see a recession or worse in the coming months. These are challenging economic times and I believe this bill, while less than ideal, remains an important first step to solving the economic problems facing our country.
And here is Jay Inslee's statement:
The initial plan by Secretary Paulson was completely unacceptable, but the revised package was not much better. For all the talk of protecting the taxpayer, there were only limited promises that the taxpayers’ $700 billion investment would be paid back and there were no provisions to help struggling homeowners.

If we authorize $700 billion in a bailout for Wall Street, we must ensure – and not just hope – that all the money gets paid back to the American taxpayer. The plan we were presented with did not do that.

Also, I saw no real provisions in the revised plan to help stem the real cause of the crisis, which is the collapse in our housing markets. We needed a pro-growth bill to stimulate the economy, and that was not what we got.

But now is the time for Congress to come together again and vote on a real, comprehensive plan that will solve the crisis while still protecting the taxpayers and restarting our economic growth. I am prepared to stay here and in session as long as it takes, and I know many of my colleagues in Congress feel the same.

The American people deserve better. I could not, with good conscience, vote for the bill presented to me.
NPI commends Representative Jay Inslee, who represents our home district, for being the only Washington State Democrat to vote his conscience and oppose this fundamentally flawed bailout plan.

U.S. House rejects bailout plan in bipartisan vote, Clerk's website inaccessible

The United States House has just voted to reject the Bush administration's bailout compromise plan, supported by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the Democratic leadership, and the Republican leadership:
In a moment of historic drama in the Capitol and on Wall Street, the House of Representatives voted on Monday to reject a $700 billion rescue of the financial industry.

The vote against the measure was 228 to 205. Supporters vowed to try to bring the rescue package up for consideration again as soon as possible.

Stock markets plunged sharply at midday as it appeared that the measure would go down to defeat.
Ninety five Democrats joined with a hundred and thirty three Republicans to defeat the legislation. We're just starting to learn the details. We do know from Darcy Burner's campaign that Republican Dave Reichert voted no, but we don't know how the rest of the Washington delegation voted yet.

UPDATE, 11:40 AM: We have the roll call vote for the Washington delegation:
Voting yes: Representatives Brian Baird, Norm Dicks, Jim McDermott, Rick Larsen, Adam Smith

Voting no: Representatives Jay Inslee, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert, Doc Hastings
Reichert, who is in danger of being replaced in Washington's 8th District by challenger Darcy Burner, refused to say before the roll call how he would vote (Reichert gave a lame interview to Northwest Cable News this morning). He eventually voted no, but only after Darcy Burner made it crystal clear that she opposes the bailout plan in its current form.

Immediately following the vote, the House Clerk's website became inaccessible as thousands of people tried to access the roll call vote to find out how members of the House voted. Clearly our legislative branch needs some upgraded hardware; it looks like they don't have enough bandwidth to keep their website online when it is in demand by the people of the United States.

UPDATE: CNBC just aired some cogent analysis about the political impact of this vote. The Democratic leadership is correctly pointing out that they brought more votes to the table for the bailout plan than they promised, and the Republicans, in contrast, brought less.

The rejection means the financial crisis will stay in the news, which isn't good for John McCain. Democrats can remind voters that Republicans are responsible for getting us into this mess and are now standing in the way of taking action, although that last line of argument may not go over well because the bailout (which NPI opposes) is wildly unpopular outside of the Beltway.

Seattle Times debunks Seattle Times' own position against Proposition 1

Yesterday - as we knew they would - the Seattle Times editorial board came out against Sound Transit's Proposition 1, the regional ballot measure that would extend light rail in three directions, expand Express bus service, and boost Sounder commuter trains. The endorsement wasn't a surprise, partly because the Times endorsed no on last year's Roads & Transit proposal, citing light rail as the main reason it considered the package to be a nonstarter.

Predictably, the editorial is filled with misleading or false assertions.

David Goldstein has already posted a nice takedown of it, but as he himself sarcastically observes from time to time, he's just one savvy writer who publishes a blog. What does he know, anyway?

To help out David and the rest of the coalition working to pass Mass Transit Now! (as the campaign in favor of Proposition 1 is known) I'd like to introduce a friend from Fairview who is unquestionably an authority on all things Puget Sound, and believes in the mission and purpose of Sound Transit.

Readers, please welcome...the Seattle Times editorial board!

Confused? Well, don't be! In 1996, the Seattle Times had the wisdom and the courage to recommend a strong "yes" endorsement of Sound Move, the regional ballot measure that created Sound Transit and funded the construction of Central Link. Back then, the Times' reasoning wasn't as faulty as it is today.

Here's how this will work: I'll excerpt key parts of 2008 Seattle Times' scathing editorial blasting Sound Transit 2 from yesterday, and let my good friend 1996 Seattle Times have a first crack at responding. Ready? Let's get started!

Excerpt number one from the 2008 Seattle Times:
THE Sound Transit tax increase, Proposition 1, is a bad proposal. We opposed the same tax a year ago and do so again.


Proposition 1 is being marketed as the solution to an immediate need. Salesmen have made up phrases like "immediately increase buses," "immediate solutions to relieve gridlock" and their favorite, "Transit Now."
What do you think, 1996 Seattle Times?
What the Regional Transit Authority [Sound Transit] offers on the ballot Tuesday is the first step in dealing with a mobility problem all 2.4 million of us from Everett to Tacoma know will only get worse. All of the natural amenities and economic opportunities that will keep our children close to home and employed will attract others to move here.

We will all come together on the same finite stretches of roadway to stew in gridlock. This truth is self-evident to stalled commuters, truck drivers with deadlines and persons late for doctor appointments and soccer matches.
Well put! That's a fair and uplifting argument: We need to come together to provide transportation choices. People who want to solve this crisis aren't salesmen, they're concerned citizens who want a better quality of life.

2008 Seattle Times says that Proposition 1 "is not 'Transit Now'" because we won't realize all of benefits overnight. Should we delay taking action in favor of coming up with a less ambitious package of stopgap measures and quick fixes?
The new plan benefits from a more-focused RTA mission and the public's acceptance that a start must be made toward a solution.
Well, gee, when you put it that all makes uncommon sense. Coupling Roads & Transit together was a disaster last year, but now we've got a smart, well designed package from Sound Transit. No RTID.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and we shouldn't decide not to extend light rail just because it won't be online in a few weeks. What is 2008 Seattle Times thinking? Are we never supposed to be planning for anything but the day after tomorrow?

Let's move on. Back to 2008 Seattle Times:
The salesmen admit light rail is not about now. It's about the future. It's about getting people out of their cars.

This is an improbable view of the future. Most people don't want to get out of their cars. As the world changes, they may buy cars that burn fuel from tar sands, canola, algae or wood chips. They may have electric batteries charged by power from the sun, the wind, nuclear reaction or the heat of the Earth.

But most will have their own wheels because they have their own places to go.
Alright, 1996 Seattle Times, what do you have to say about that?
Opponents are running out of ideas and credibility. No one believes there is any more money, physical room or public acceptance for major new highways and freeways. Republican legislative candidates who don't like the RTA talk instead about pie-in-the-sky people-movers and other fanciful technology better suited to amusement parks than serving a bustling metropolitan area.
Nicely stated! The future isn't cars - that's a twentieth century view. How ironic that the Seattle Times was looking forwards in the twentieth century, while today's Seattle Times is looking backwards.

Let's move on. 2008 Seattle Times says that King County Metro deserves our attention and money. Apparently, we should let Sound Transit wither and die.
No doubt, more people will take transit. But they will demand service over a wide area — and a price they can afford. Wide and cheap. A spider web of service.

In King County, that's Metro: It costs 0.9 cents of tax on every dollar and has buses that go to more than 9,000 stops.
What's your response, 1996 Seattle Times?
Another diversionary tactic is to suggest that King County's Metro has the resources to take up the slack. Wrong.

Metro is adding bus routes but pilfering its budget at the expense of relief for crowded park-and-ride lots.
A concise and biting comeback.

As Sound Transit Boardmember Julia Patterson observed last July, when it comes to alleviating our transportation mess, Sound Transit 2 is the only game in town. No other agency has a plan on the table. Metro is struggling with rising fuel prices and lower revenue forecasts due to the cooling economy. Metro desperately needs the boost that Sound Transit's Express bus fleet expansion would provide.

One last excerpt from the 2008 Seattle Times:
Finally, it is said that Proposition 1 is not about us, but our grandchildren. So it is. It is a proposal to extend two costly rail lines and to oblige our grandchildren to pay for them. The sales tax is raised to 9.5 percent. It is a lot, and it goes on for a very long time.
Okay, 1996 Seattle Times, you have the final word:
Puget Sound's traffic problems have consequences beyond their daily personal toll of delay and aggravation. Marple's Business Newsletter reports that economic developers outside the area use our growing reputation for congestion against us and that companies who have moved here grumble about worsening conditions.

Concerns about the long-term ability to move freight and keep the region attractive to existing and new businesses accounts for generous corporate support for RTA passage and sweeping endorsements by chambers of commerce.

The RTA plan confronts a recognized problem that gets worse every day. Doing something about it begins with a yes vote next Tuesday.
That's an excellent point. If we don't do anything about our transportation mess now, we're only going increase the cost of solving the problem later. Passing the buck to our children and grandchildren would indeed be irresponsible. Making an investment on their behalf is the wise thing to do.

The beauty of Proposition 1 is that it delivers both short and long term relief. Sound Transit Express bus service would start expanding right away, with Sounder improvements following not long after. Light rail planning, meanwhile, would move ahead, and our congressional delegation could seek federal money to accelerate the construction of East, North, and South Link.

I'd like to extend my gratitude to 1996 Seattle Times for helping me explain why 2008 Seattle Times has it all wrong when it comes to Proposition 1. Inevitably, there's something in the editorial I missed, so I encourage you to read David Goldstein's response, which is also pretty thorough.

Don't forget to vote YES on Proposition 1 this November, or as soon as you get your ballot in the mail if you don't vote at the polls.

Progressive justice in the twenty first century: Part Three of a special NPI series

Disclaimer: All posts reflect my own personal views, and mine alone. In my regular job I am a supervising assistant city attorney (a prosecutor who is a manager) for the City of Seattle. I also serve as an adjunct professor of law at Seattle University School, teaching a course entitled "Law, Policy & Mental Health. But I don't speak for either the City or the Law School, or anyone within them.

If you've continued to read this series, you are probably wondering when I'm going to get down to some details about Mental Health Courts (MHCs). Your wait is over.

First, let's go over some ground rules:

1. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

2. A person charged with a crime is referred to as the defendant at all stages of the criminal proceedings. We (yes, I include myself as the prosecutor) try to avoid that term in MHC out of respect for the therapeutic and respectful nature of the court, using the work "client" instead. But sometimes it cannot be avoided, and from the prosecution's perspective, the defendant is an adverse party, not a client.

3. At least with Seattle's MHC, anybody who wants to exercise their right to a jury trial can do so anytime prior to entering into a case resolution (referred to as a "disposition"). That is no different than for a defendant in a traditional court.

4. Those who decide to take advantage of MHC must give up their right to a trial. The manner in which that occurs complies fully with an individual's right to due process and effective assistance of counsel.

Now that the preliminaries are over, let's take a look at some specifics. Most defendants in MHC start out in custody after having been arrested for a crime and booked into jail. The defendant gets arraigned--identified, advised of the charges, and asked to enter a plea, which at this stage will be "not guility".

The public defender's social worker and a neutral mental health professional hired by the court, called the MHC liaison, talk to each potential MHC client to assess whether they suffer from a major mental illness, have or had mental health services within the community, and would like to participate in MHC.

If the defendant is willing and mentally capable of signing a release of information (ROI), the defense will set the case over to MHC for a "looksee". The defendant receives the same due process as any other defendant in a traditional court, except that the courtroom setting is probably more calming than the jail courtroom.

Prior to each court session, the prosecutor, public defender, court liaison, public defense social worker, and the two MHC probation counselors sit down and discuss each case. (If a defendant has an attorney other than the public defender assigned to MHC, then the prosecutor, MHC liaison and MHC probation will meet separately with that attorney; the defendant's privacy is protected.) The purpose of the pre-court conference is for the prosecution and defense to determine whether to offer MHC to the defendant.

From the prosecution perspective, public safety is paramount; the prosecution will not offer MHC to a defendant that appears to pose a public safety threat unless MHC is reasonably likely to decrease or eliminate that threat. There must be a treatment plan that is reasonably likely to work, that the defendant is willing and able to comply with, and that can be monitored regularly, as in weekly or more often.

From the defense perspective, they must discuss options with the defendant,pointing uytut the benefits and risks involved.Two competing outcomes are, of course, getting out of jail more quickly, on the one hand, and getting housing and treatment and a chance at a better at the cost of strict monitoring. The choice to seek help from the MHC belongs 100% to the defendant, taking into account the likelihood of success vs. the likelihood of failure and increase jail time as a result of new crimes and/or probation violations

Next up--"A Day in the Life" of an MHC defendant.

Burner and the irony of change

Everybody understands that campaigning is hard. It's the toughest job interview there is. But what impresses me about Darcy Burner's campaign for Washington's 8th Congressional District is just how hard everyone from Darcy to her campaign managers, staff, and on down to the army of volunteers working on her behalf, works at it. Day and night, seven days a week.

You hear them say things like "It's all right, I can sleep in November."

These people are working incredibly hard, pushing themselves to exhaustion, and they've been doing it for months and months and months straight. And they'll keep doing it for the next five weeks, too. Probably even harder than they have been.

Why do they do it? Because we need change in Washington. Both Washingtons.

The irony is that the change we need is really just a re-affirmation of the traditional values of thoughtful governance and respect for our Constitution, the rights it guarantees its citizens, and the system of checks-and-balances codified within it.

While Republicans have called themselves the party of conservatism for decades, what they're selling is a sham. They're not even trying to conserve anything, and frankly, I don't think they would know how even if they wanted to.

They're not conserving the environment, nor civil or Constitutional rights, nor the middle class, nor our standing in the world, nor the health of our financial system, nor the effectiveness of federal agencies like FEMA, NASA, the FDA, or the EPA, nor the very concept of representational democracy itself. Nothing.

Very little shows this more clearly than this ridiculous 700 billion dollar Wall Street bail-out package. It's not that there are no other ideas out there for how to address this financial mess.

It's that none of the others are getting any press next to this one idea being ramrodded through the legislative branch at the Bush and Paulson.

The irony is that the "change" we really need is "un-change". To undo the horrible changes of Republican sham conservatism began by Reagan and kicked into warp drive by George Walker Bush and his enablers in Congress.

The irony is that top caliber Democrats like Darcy Burner and Barack Obama are actually better conservatives--in the sense that they actually understand what it means to conserve something--than any of the so-called conservatives that fly under the red banner.

This irony is not lost on Darcy Burner. In a recent video, taken shortly after the bailout was first proposed, she calls out the irony that after 8 years of robbing from the taxpayers to give to the wealthy, the solution to this financial crisis seems to be to steal another $700 billion from taxpayers and give it to the wealthy.

[UPDATE: Burner issues statement opposing the bailout.]

Now poor Dave Reichert, who has established a reputation and record for doing precisely nothing during his time in D.C., is facing the toughest challenger he could imagine. And the RNC is set to bail him out again to the tune of a $1.1 million dollar cash contribution.

They're doing it because Reichert has proven that he'll happily vote however they tell him to, and since they're looking at a greatly reduced number of seats in the next Congress, they'll want to maximize their ability to vote as a bloc against progressive measures necessary to fix what Bush broke.

To put that into some context: If the $35 average contribution amount that Darcy is pulling on ActBlue is a good estimate of her general fund raising averages (and I have reason to believe that it is), 1.1 million dollars is roughly the amount that Darcy can raise from the contributions of 31,500 individual donors.

Would you honestly rather have a Congressional Representative who is beholden to special interests, or would you prefer one who is beholden to literally tens of thousands of her own constituents?

I know which one I prefer.

I'm one of those constituents, and I'm sick to death of having a congressman who honestly doesn't care what I think or what happens to my family.

Financial leapfrog on Wall Street continues as Citigroup buys Wachovia's banking arm

Another chapter has been opened in what has been a month of mergers and shakeups on Wall Street with the news that Citigroup is buying the banking operations of Wachovia Corporation, which unlike Washington Mutual, Inc. will continue to operate as a smaller company:
Citigroup will pay $1 a share, or about $2.2 billion, according to people briefed on the deal.

The F.D.I.C. said that the agency would absorb losses from Wachovia above $42 billion and that it would receive $12 billion in preferred stock and warrants from Citigroup in return for assuming that risk.

“Wachovia did not fail,” the F.D.I.C. said, “rather it is to be acquired by Citigroup Inc. on an open-bank basis with assistance from the F.D.I.C.”

Under the deal, Citigroup will acquire most of Wachovia’s assets and liabilities, including $400 billion in deposits and will assume senior and subordinated debt of Wachovia, the F.D.I.C. said.
Citigroup says the deal will create the nation's "leading U.S. retail bank with 9.8% U.S. market deposit share, and total deposits globally of $1.3 trillion."

The deal vaults Citigroup into the League of Monstrously Huge American MegaBanks. Already in the League are Bank of America (which recently bought Merrill Lynch) and JPMorgan Chase (which last week swallowed Washington Mutual after the federal government seized it).

We have to wonder: When is this going to end?

The New York Times notes that the sale will "further concentrate Americans' bank deposits in the hands of just three banks". Reporters Eric Dash and Andrew Ross Sorkin, who broke the news for the paper, add"
Together, those three would be so large that they would dominate the industry, with unrivaled power to set prices for their loans and services. Given their size and reach, the institutions would probably come under greater scrutiny from federal regulators. Some small and midsize banks, already under pressure, might have little choice but to seek suitors.
There is, fortunately, an alternative to the megabanks - and even to banks in general. All this month, with each development in the financial crisis, we've been writing about the advantages of belonging to a credit union. Big banks may be in trouble left and right, but credit unions are doing just fine.

Since credit unions are nonprofit cooperatives owned by their members, they're responsible and accountable to the communities they serve by design. Because credit unions don't serve Wall Street, they are free to focus on the well-being of Main Street instead of trying to turn a bigger profit every quarter.

Inevitably, the quest for bigger and badder profits leads to greed and carelessness, which is how we got into this subprime mortgage mess.

Credit unions have no reason to be greedy, because again, their only shareholders are their members. Any extra revenue generated by a credit union (that it doesn't need to operate or grow) is returned to its members in the form of lower fees and better rates. If that sounds like a good deal to you, consider opening an account with a credit union today and leaving that megabank behind.

Learn more about credit unions at, or find a credit union that you're eligible to join by visiting

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Barack, Body Language, and Besting McCain

I love to look at body language as a barometer of one-on-one dynamics. It comes from my background as a prosecutor. I have tried more than one hundred criminal cases, and tried to get a read on over 1,000 jurors. From the fall of 1990 through the summer of 2006, I taught trial advocacy to 400 or so law students and attorneys, either for the Washington State Bar Association or as an adjunct professor of law at Seattle University School of Law, and individual dynamics formed a significant part of the skills I tried to impart.

So while the pundits were busy listening to the recent debate between Senators Obama and McCain, I was busy watching the subtle nuances of their body language. I'll leave it to the experts as to who "won" the war of words, but Obama looked and acted the leader and decision-maker of the two.

Let's start with name calling. I am referring to how each spoke the other's actual name. It is natural for a person who is more confident, or in a position of authority, to address a subordinate by first name: "John, I think your policy is just plain wrong." It is also natural for the person who is less confident, or in a subordinate position, to address the superior by title: "Senator Obama, I think your policy is just plain wrong."

The difference is subtle. Both people have uttered the exact same phrase. But the relative positions are clearly marked. In terms of the debate, the "name calling" by the two candidates established that Barack Obama was in the driver's seat as far as holding the upper hand viz. respect.

The next area to look at is eye contact. McCain rarely looked over at Obama, while Obama alternated looking at Jim Lehrer and at McCain. If Obama wanted to call B.S., he looked McCain in the eye; if he wanted to make a general point or answer a question directly, he looked at Lehrer. That demonstrates an ability to direct attention where it will do the most good, something one would expect in a President. McCain, on the other hand, virtually never looked anywhere other than at Lehrer, which connotes lack of self-confidence and lack of confidence in his message.

Finally, when the debate ended, Obama shook McCain's right hand but also clasped McCain's right forearm with his (Obama's) left hand. As he did so, Obama said "Good job John". The hand clasp, speaking first, and using McCain's first name combine once again to establish Obama as the leader and McCain as one of the followers.

One could say, quite accurately, that Obama seemed arrogant or cocky. That is not necessarily a bad thing for a world leader. When my President walks into a room of world leaders, I want him* to be the one everyone else looks to for leadership.

So does this mean Obama won the election through this debate? Of course not. Body language and group dynamics are more art than science, and I doubt that Obama's advisors orchestrated those moves; it would have looked fake if they had. But it is consistent with Obama's campaign strategy in the primaries--take the spare votes where you can. I think that there will be some uncommitted voters who subconsciously have switched to Obama based on the debate; hopefully there will be enough and they will be in battleground states.

*If I were speaking of Hillary Clinton, it would be "her".

The upcoming VP debate

This Thursday's debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin should be a fascinating example of dynamics. Take everything I said above and throw it out the window; male-female debate dynamics are a whole new ballgame. I am looking forward to it, and will post my thoughts when it is over.

Progressive justice in the twenty first century: Part Two of a special NPI series

Disclaimer: All posts reflect my own personal views, and mine alone. In my regular job I am a supervising assistant city attorney (a prosecutor who is a manager) for the City of Seattle. I also serve as an adjunct professor of law at Seattle University School, teaching a course entitled "Law, Policy & Mental Health. But I don't speak for either the City or the Law School, or anyone within them.

I want to introduce a concept referred to most of the time as "therapeutic justice". According to the thesaurus on my word processing program, one synonym for "therapeutic" is "healing" The traditional criminal justice system is defined by the two Rs: retribution and rehabilitation.

In my twenty two plus years as a municipal prosecutor, I have come to the conclusion that some criminals are beyond rehabilitation, and retribution is the only tool left. I have also come to the conclusion that rehabilitation within the traditional criminal justice system is inefficient and, if one looks at recidivism rates, rather ineffective for a certain portion of the criminal population.

Enter therapeutic justice and therapeutic courts.

The are three basic types of therapeutic courts: Drug Courts, Community Courts, and Mental Health Courts. I don't have much experience working with Drug Courts, so I'll leave it to others to discuss their pros and cons.

And while I truly believe in the value and effectiveness of Community Courts, the Community Court model does not include the type of law enforcement participation as the Mental Health Court Model. And since I am deeply passionate about - and a staunch champion of - Mental Health Courts, that is what I want to devote the rest of this post and at least the next couple of posts to.

The general concept behind Mental Health Courts is this: if a person is committing crimes based in significant part on a mental illness rather than on a criminal mind, then helping the person manage their illness is both humane and good crime prevention policy.

I will refer to the person charged with a crime as the defendant, because by definition the person is either charged with or convicted of a crime, and "defendant" is the term of art used.

It is worth noting that in Mental Health Court, people are referred to by name, such as Mr. Smith, or Michael Smith, or Ms. Jones or Beverly Jones. It is a much more civilized approach, but for reasons I won't go into here, I believe that using "defendant" is still most appropriate in a traditional court.

I don't want to confuse an insanity defense with Mental Health Courts. Insanity is a legal defense to a crime, based on a person's mental state at the time of the acts charged. The result of a successful insanity defense is acquittal.

Unless the defendant is civilly committed following the acquittal, treatment is not part of the result. Mental Health Courts, on the other hand, are all about treatment. What makes them different is the "players" within the court, more specifically, mental health professionals who know how to navigate the byzantine system of obtaining housing and treatment for those with no money and no health insurance.

In the typical case in a traditional court, the judge orders the defendant to do mental health treatment, and refers the defendant to probation.

Probation gives the defendant a list of providers and the defendant is on his or her own. If the defendant lacks insurance, a support network of family and friends, and a place to live, you can guess how things will turn out.

In a Mental Health Court, a mental health professional assesses what the defendant needs in terms of treatment, housing, food, and funding.

He or she helps the defendant navigate the various funding sources so that the defendant can actually access those services.

Let me end the general introduction here with a few facts and caveats. First, a few useful facts. The first mental health court began in Broward County, Florida in 1995. Right here in Washington, the King County District Court formed the second MHC in the country, followed close by the Seattle Municipal Court's MHC, which was the fourth in the nation.

MHCs come in all shapes and sizes, some of which are more successful than others. The best mental health courts match the culture and needs of the jurisdiction, and thae more explicit goals for which they were formed.

For example, Seattle's MHC differs from King County's, even though they are located within two blocks of one another.

Seattle's MHC tends to serve more of the urban homeless who also have alcohol or drug abuse issues (known as COD, or a co-occurring disorder) while King County's MHC draws its population from unincorporated and from suburban King County.

The demographics are vastly different, as are the approaches.

My next post will give go into detail regarding Seattle's MHC. I'll identify the various roles, how we conduct our business, some of the challenges and criticisms of MHCs and how we respond to them.

And I will also introduce the law enforcement component, along with success stories. I will define success in terms of positive results for the defendant (i.e., a better quality of life and decreased recidivism), as well as positive results for public safety that the public doesn't see (i.e., potentially dangerous defendants suffering from severe mental illness who are prevented from committing violent crimes based on the intervention of the MHC).

I am more than happy to answer questions or engage in conversations about this topic. Please leave a comment below. I will try to include the comment, or at least the gist of it, along with my response.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

U.S. House acts to help Internet radio

A couple of hours ago, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve H.R. 7084, (a bill sponsored by Washington's own Representative Jay Inslee) that will allow the performance fee collector SoundExchange to negotiate an alternative royalty agreement before the end of 2008 with any Internet radio service.

SoundExchange - which is the only organization designated by the federal government to collect and distribute royalties - has been trying to raise royalties for operators of Internet radio services to the point that would force them to go out of business - basically, a "bleed 'em until they die" strategy.

Last year, the government decided to hike rates for Internet radio operators, creating an immediate crisis that has yet to be resolved.

The SaveNetRadio Coalition explains:
A March 2, 2007, decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), a division of the Library of Congress charged with establishing performance royalty rates for “digital radio” broadcasters, increased rates for webcasters by an unjustified and unprecedented 300 to 1200 percent.

Since the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) increase royalty rates for webcasters 16 months ago, there has been an immediate and devastating effect on Internet radio services. Three of the most-listened-to services (AOL Radio, Yahoo! Radio and Pandora) have either left the business, limited listener access to their services, or announced they are likely to shut down in the near future if royalties are not significantly reduced. Just as importantly from the perspective of the artists that depend upon Internet radio, recent Arbitron data demonstrates clearly that royalty-paying webcast listening has diminished substantially since the CRB decision.

Legislation introduced last year to correct the discrepancy between Internet radio and cable and satellite radio providers by establishing an equal rate for all digital radio – cable, satellite and internet radio – at 7.5% of revenue is still pending with more than 150 Congressional cosponsors. The Internet Radio Equality Act (S. 1353/H.R. 2060) was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sam Brownback (R-KA) and in the House by Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Don Manzullo (R-IL).
H.R. 7084 passed the U.S. House at 8:29 PM:
Mr. Tancredo requested the following general leaves to address the House on September 28: Mr. Poe for 5 min and Mr. Jones of NC for 5 min.
H.R. 7084: to amend section 114 of title 17, United States Code, to provide for agreements for the reproduction and performance of sound recordings by webcasters
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote.
The legislation basically adds more time on the clock so Internet radio operators can reach a resolution with SoundExchange.

NPI applauds the passage of H.R. 7084 and urges the United States Senate to quickly follow suit. We call on our Northwest Democratic Senators Cantwell, Wyden, and Murray to help guide Representative Inslee's bill through the Senate as quickly as possible so it may be signed into law.

What's left of Washington Mutual, Inc. files for bankruptcy in Delaware

With JPMorgan Chase now in possession of Washington Mutual's bank division, the remainder of the once mighty savings and loan giant has filed for bankruptcy:
In the voluntary petition filed late Friday, the company listed assets of $32.9 billion, and debts of $8.2 billion, putting it in the top 10 largest U.S. bankruptcy cases ever filed.

Bank of New York Mellon, as a trustee for debtholders, was listed as the company's largest creditor.

According to the petition, Washington Mutual is being represented by New York law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges, which also represents Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in its Chapter 11 case.
The petition was filed across the country in Delaware, a state with laws very friendly to the banking industry.

In related news, Bloomberg has a good article on how WaMu's failure has shaken Seattle. The New York Times has a background piece on JPMorgan Chase executive Jamie Dimon, who snapped up WaMu earlier this week.

Progressive justice in the twenty first century: Part One of a special NPI series

Disclaimer: All posts reflect my own personal views, and mine alone. In my regular job I am a supervising assistant city attorney (aka a prosecutor who is a manager) for the City of Seattle. I also serve as an adjunct professor of law at Seattle University School, teaching a course entitled "Law, Policy & Mental Health.

The views and conclusions expressed in the or any other post under my name reflects my own views and conclusions.

They should not be attributed to the City of Seattle, or any department, agency or division within the City of Seattle, or to Seattle University or any officials, schools, colleges or any other entity within the University.

That doesn't really leave much, other than my own musings, which is all I want to post anyway.

This is the first of a series of posts relating to progressive policy directions designed to ensure public safety proactively and respectfully, implemented by the police, prosecutors, public defenders, and the community.

If you want to see more about my background, so you can assess my credibility, my bio and CV are available from NPI's About section.

And now, let's get to the actual topic for this post.

I am a late-stage baby boomer. My 91-year-old father fought in World War II, and I was born closer in time to the end of that war than to the end of the Vietnam war. My earlier memories of law enforcement consisted of media coverage of the Watts riots in Los Angeles, where I was living, the infamous "Chicago 7" from the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and the tragic shooting during demonstrations at Kent State University. We had a sit-in at my junior high school in 1970, and a sit-in at my law school in 1978. I think I have the credentials to recognize turbulent times for the police and the public at large.

When I tell people what I do for a living, they are often surprised to learn that I am a progressive Democrat.

That amuses me more to no end; I find it deliciously ironic that people whose political beliefs decry pre-judging anyone based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation,etc., are perfectly willing to do so because of my profession.

I have historically been somewhat of an independent - a very liberal Republican or a rather conservative Democrat. Times have changed, and so have the party's platforms, but my progressive values haven't.

I will admit that I voted for Republican Dan Satterberg for County Prosecutor, but that's because I've known him professionally for about eighteen years, and believed (and still believe) that he is the best person for the job.

So what does a politically liberal prosecutor have to say in these posts that is worth your time to read?

For one thing, I've seen a large number of law enforcement agencies up close.

From my days as a Deputy City Attorney prosecuting cases in Los Angeles, I worked with Los Angeles Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the California State Police (a small agency not to be confused with the Highway Patrol in the Golden State), the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, the Los Angeles County Marshal's Office (since merged into the Los Angeles County Sheriff).

From my days up here in Seattle, I've worked with the Seattle Police Department, the Washington State Patrol, the King County Sheriff's Office, and the Seattle Marshal's Office. I've even given a presentation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I have a lot of experience with the criminal justice system.

What I plan to do over the next several days or weeks is explore some of the cutting edge policing techniques that are progressive, respectful and productive.

I'll introduce the concept of "therapeutic justice" and what that means for Seattle and King County, and I'll discuss the good and the bad.

I'll also describe some community/prosecutor/police programs that are designed to avoid litigation rather than engage in it.

I hope you will find future posts as interesting to read as they will be to write. I probably won't be able to write a new one every day. I'll write as time allows - my first responsibilities are my professional duties and family time, so the posts may come grouped together or spread apart.

Thanks for reading. Look for futur installments in this series in the month ahead.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Well, he ain't Miss Congeniality

Ever the beauty pageant fan, John McCain is now adopting its lingo as he repeatedly reminded us at tonight's presidential debate that he is "no Miss Congeniality." I guess it's time to give "maverick" and "former prisoner of war" a rest, both of which were used sparingly tonight. Good restraint, Grumpy.

At the debate, both Obama and McCain seemed rather teed off at one another, and while you had to look hard at Obama to see it, McCain seemed to be literally seething with irritation at some points and then trying to cover it up with a somewhat maniacal grin. The point goes to Obama for emotional control.

To the busy person on the street, just tuning in to this race for the first time, Obama's grasp on the issues and calm confidence might have come as a surprise, considering how his opponents' campaigns have painted him as being inexperienced. McCain's kooky expressions and edginess on top of his Thursday debate cancellation stunt may have reinforced their doubts of his mental stability.

If you're like some, and wanting to have a beer with a candidate is your main voting criteria, then the McCain at tonight's debate is the guy hunched over your local bar morosely nursing a scotch, that you try to avoid catching the eye of as you talk to the bartender. Sour, angry.

As for Obama, I was disappointed that he missed some areas where he could have called McCain out: McCain's mostly imaginary support for veterans and his sell-out on one of his signatures issues, torture.

But there were many important things that he did right: He put the focus on the middle class and their needs, like health care, college tuition and safe roads and bridges. He clarified his tax cuts. He identified America's two biggest threats abroad: instability in Afghanistan and nuclear terrorism.

Lastly, he described his vision for an America that is once again admired and dreamed of by people all over the world.

While McCain tossed in lots of congressional jargon and rehashed jokes (K.G.B.), Obama avoided wonkiness and was clear and specific. I look forward to seeing more improvements from him in debate number two.

Judging by the public response to the debate, it looks like McCain and his beauty queens might not be taking home the golden crown this year.

They would make a great first runner up.

Obama easily wins first debate

We admit that we're biased, but we're looking forward to hearing Republicans attempt to claim that John McCain outperformed Barack Obama in tonight's debate with a straight face. Obama blew McCain away with his calm and determined responses. He appeared comfortable and at ease, while McCain repeatedly looked unhappy and unsure of himself. Obama was able to respond at length to almost all of McCain's attacks, and punctuated his points at times with biting examples.

Lehrer was outstanding as a moderator, and the debate was well paced and riveting, although frequently John McCain's rhetoric was tired, insulting, and dull.

Obama had to interrupt McCain several times during the debate to correct the record when McCain attempted to lie about Obama's positions.

Obama could have been a bit sharper at times, but he turned in a solid performance, and compared to McCain, he was spectacular.

A few of Obama's best moments came when he addressed McCain directly:
At the time, when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said you knew where the weapons of mass destruction were - and you were wrong. You said we were going to be greeted as liberators - you were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shi'a and Sunni, and you were wrong. ...if the question is, who is best equipped as the next president to make good decisions about how we use our military, how we make sure we are prepared and ready for the next conflict, then I think we can take a look at our judgment.
Then there was this:
It's been your president who you said agreed with ninety percent of the time who supported this orgy of spending. You voted for almost all of his budgets. To stand here and say that after eight years you're going to lead on controlling spending and balancing our tax cuts for middle class's kind of hard to swallow.
And finally:
John, you're absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say. But, coming from you, know, in the past, threatened extinction for North Korea and sung songs about bombing Iran...I don't know how credible that is.
Obama scored direct hit after direct hit when it was his turn to speak, coolly responding to McCain's unfair attacks on his record and reminding McCain that the job of president requires character, judgment, and integrity.

First 2008 presidential debate kicks off...

The first presidential debate of 2008 has just begun at the Ford Center in Oxford, Mississippi, moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS. The debate will last ninety minutes and will focus mainly on international affairs and national defense, although there will be questions about the global financial crisis.

I'll be liveblogging the entire debate. The Think Progress team is also going to be doing extensive liveblogging.

The first question concerns the bailout plan proposed by the Bush administration.

Obama: Any rescue plan needs to protect Main Street, curb abuse of power by corporate executives, strengthen oversight, and put meaningful regulations on the book to prevent this from happening again.

McCain: Hopeful that a deal can be reached, hopeful that House Republicans will sign on to a plan so a deal can be brokered.

Crossfire: Obama talked about addressing the root of the financial crisis, while McCain paid lip service to all of the progressive principles Obama stands for - opportunity, prosperity, protection, responsibility, fairness.

The second question was a follow up centering on the budget.

McCain: Denounced earmarks and claimed he would slash spending if he becomes president (really, John?) Accused Obama of trying to obtain extra money for pet projects in his home state.

Obama: Earmark reform is important, but earmark reform is not a recipe for getting American families the help they need. Oh, and McCain's tax cuts for the wealthy will deepen the hole by an amount that dwarfs the total sum of all of Congress' earmarks added together.

Crossfire: Obama reemphasized his agreement on earmark reform and refuted McCain's attacks on his record. McCain defended his tax cuts and Obama explained the folly of his stance on taxes (he supports cutting taxes on top of the existing loopholes that have already made a mockery of our tax code).

The third question: what priorities would the candidates adjust, given that a Wall Street bailout would be very expensive.

Obama: We need to invest in science and technology is education, make college more affordable, rebuild our infrastructure, and begin a real transition to renewable energy sources.

McCain: We need to cut spending and get rid of government waste. Defense cost overruns need to be brought under control. McCain specifically mentioned his opposition to the Boeing contract. (Memo to Boeing executives: A great way to respond would be to endorse Barack Obama).

Crossfire: Moderator Jim Lehrer asked the candidates to clarify how the bailout would affect their platforms. Obama said he would cut out individual components out of his proposals. He also noted that we can obtain savings by withdrawing our occupation force from Iraq.

McCain talked about a spending freeze on the entire executive branch except for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans' Affairs.

Next question: What are the lessons of Iraq?

McCain: Defended the occupation of Iraq and the escalation of that occupation under George Dubya Bush last year. Repeated Bush talking points about bringing democracy to the Middle East.

Obama: Reminded viewers that he opposed the occupation of Iraq from the beginning, and believes we need to refocus our resources defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. We have to use our military force wisely.

Crossfire: McCain and Obama argued at length about Iraq. Obama slammed McCain's support of the occupation, noting that he had been wrong from rhe very beginning about everything: the duration of the conflict, being greeted as "liberators", and dismissing the potential for violence between different groups in Iraq. McCain tried gamely to respond by claiming Obama has opposed funding the troops. Obama debunked that lie and slammed McCain again for his irresponsible and unsound judgment.

Next question concerns Afghanistan: Do we need more troops there?

Obama: Would send two to three additional brigades to Afganistan quickly to deal with al Qaeda and the Taliban. We need to deal with the growing poppy trade and providing assistance to the Afghan government.

McCain: Won't ignore the lessons of history. Yeah, right... Says Pakisan is a "very important element" in this. Attacked Obama's willingness to launch a strike into Pakistan as dangerous. (What's wrong, John? Aren't you for preemptive attacks anytime, anywhere?)

Crossfire: Obama blasted McCain in a beautiful response, noting that McCain has a history of provocative rhetoric (Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran) and calling for the extinction of North Korea. McCain gamely tried to respond but failed to refute Obama's scathing, calmly delivered attacks.

Next question is about the threat from Iran.

McCain: If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is a big threat that we can't ignore. We need a "League of Democracies". (Um, hello? John? Ever heard of the United Nations? You know, that organization born out of the Allied coalition that won World War II and defeated fascism?)

Obama: The policies of George Dubya Bush (including the occupation of Iraq) have strengthened Iran's influence and power. Talking about punishment and isolation is counterproductive and only makes bad actors like Iran stronger.

Crossfire: McCain accused Obama of wanting to legitmize hostile leaders by meeting with them without preconditions. Obama fired back, pointing out that even past Republican presidents have engaged in direct diplomacy, and that Henry Kissinger and other secretaries of state have called for meeting Iranian leaders "without preconditions". McCain smiled and looked uncomfortable as Obama slowly and surely hauled him to the woodshed.

Next question is about Russia.

Obama: We need to reevaluate our relationship with Russia. The United States must support Eastern European and Central Asian democracies. But we cannot return to a Cold War posture with Russia.

McCain: Derided Obama's response to the Russian/Georgian conflict last month, claiming he "doesn't understand" the situation there.

Crossfire: Obama reflected that we have to anticipate some of these problems. Russian and Georgian peacekeepers should not be stationed across those nations' respective boundaries, Obama noted. McCain proceeded to distort Obama's position on nuclear energy, to which Obama tried to respond.

Final question: What is the likelihood of another attack like September 11th?

McCain: Less than it was the day after September 11th, 2001. Touted his supposed "bipartisan" record of "reaching across the aisle" to protect America. Mentioned "Holy" Joe Lieberman. Our intelligence capabilities have to be better.

Obama: The biggest threat to the United States is a terrorist carrying a nuclear weapon. We have to do more to stop nuclear proliferation. We also have to disarm and destroy al Qaeda. America's standing in the world, which has been severely damaged by the Bush administation, must be restored.

Crossfire: Responded by trying to justify staying in Iraq. Obama pointed out that McCain and Bush have been focused on Iraq to the detriment of the national defense of the United States of America. We have weakened our power to project our forces around the world because of the occupation. The occupation is draining funds that are needed to keep American economic security strong.

We're in the final moments....McCain has the last word on how great he is.

OR-Sen. Gordon Smith endangers employees

It has been determined that working for Gordon Smith can be hazardous to your health.
A full scale Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OR-OSHA) investigation of Smith Frozen Foods in 1998 found that the company was knowingly exposing their employees to dangerous carbon monoxide levels and refusing to address the problem. According to multiple complaints filed with OR-OSHA, workers at Smith Frozen Foods were nearly passing out due to the exhaust fumes coming from forklifts in the plant’s freezer.
[Memorandum in OR-OSHA File, 11/21/98; Notice of Alleged Safety or Health Hazards, undated]
This report comes on the heels of revelations of Smith's company hiring undocumented workers, and being cited repeatedly for environmental violations.

Gordon Smith can't even run his own business without running afoul of the law. Why anyone would consider him a viable candidate for public office is astonishing.

Jeff Merkley is our guy. While Gordon Smith rubberstamps the Bush Administration, Jeff Merkley stand strongly with us by opposing policies like the $700 billion bailout. Recent polls, something we at NPI don't take a lot of stock in, are showing Jeff leading in this race. But Jeff Merkley still needs your help, so please send some spare change his way.

Governor Gregoire on the demise of WaMu

Last night, Governor Chris Gregoire issued a strong and forceful statement on the unfortunate and sudden end of savings & loan giant Washington Mutual. Gregoire called recent developments on Wall Street "sickening" and correctly observed that a lack of federal oversight is to blame for our economic crisis:
Like all working families, I am sickened by the recent failures of financial institutions on Wall Street. And like my fellow Washingtonians, I am saddened and disappointed that Washington Mutual, which grew from a small Seattle savings institution to one of the nation’s largest lenders, has had to sell its banking operations.

The sale of this Washington icon is more evidence that the federal government’s failed regulatory policies of the past eight years – in this case related to the mortgage markets – hurts Washington working families and Washington’s economy.

My hope is that J.P. Morgan Chase and Company will consider WaMu’s employees, customers and its importance to the economic and social fabric of our state. Today, I exchanged phone messages with J.P. Morgan’s Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, and I plan to talk with him in the morning. I will monitor further developments closely in the days ahead.
In another development, Washington Mutual, Inc. announced this morning the conditional exchange of preferred securities into depository shares.

We'll have more on this news later today.

JPMorgan Chase begins WaMu takeover

Washington Mutual customers, who have been left in the dark about the thrift's seizure and closure by WaMu's own leadership, are finally getting some answers about what they can expect in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

An update to WaMu's homepage posted early on Friday, September 26th, read:
WaMu Customers
Welcome to JPMorgan Chase
The text linked to a page on Chase's website, which added:
We're proud to welcome you to one of the nation's largest banks; as of September 25, 2008, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has acquired the deposits, loans, and branches of Washington Mutual. Your deposits remain insured by the FDIC and are now also backed by the strength and security of JPMorgan Chase. Our combined company will offer superior banking convenience - over 5,400 branches and 14,000 ATMs in 23 states. Here's what this means for you:
The ensuing table attempts to answer the questions "what stays the same" and "what will change". Chase made it plainly clear that the Washington Mutual name and brand will be history before too long:
  • You'll begin to see the Chase name on your statements, online, and on your credit cards as they reissue.
  • Your branch will be re-named Chase and you'll be re-issued new debit cards with the Chase name. Until then, bank as you do today.
  • As our systems merge, you'll be able to use any of the Chase branches nationwide. This won't take place this year, and we'll let you know well in advance of any changes.
Yesterday, ironically, was Washington Mutual's one hundred and nineteenth birthday. It was also its last.

It is a disappointing, grim development for the Pacific Northwest, and for Washington State and the City of Seattle in particular.

Jon Talton, writing for the Seattle Times, calls WaMu's failure "devastating":
With JPMorgan Chase's acquisition of Washington Mutual — nuptials probably performed at the end of a shotgun held by panicked regulators — Seattle will no longer be a major banking center. It will be a market, one of hundreds in the JPMorgan Chase empire.
He added:
The entirely predictable consequence of this deal for Seattle will be the loss of thousands of well-paid jobs, hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space emptied out, and a serious downshifting of local giving. It's through such bloodletting that the numbers make sense for these mergers.
We at the Northwest Progressive Institute are saddened by the painful and sudden end of one of Seattle's oldest and most important companies. Although most of us at NPI do our own personal banking with a local credit union, WaMu had such a big presence here that it was impossible not to feel connected to it in some way.

We extend our sympathies to WaMu employees and stockholders this morning and wish them the best on what will undoubtedly be a very difficult day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Closure and sale of Washington Mutual leaves shareholders with almost nothing

Washington Mutual's inglorious end this evening may not be a disaster for its customers, who will quickly begin a new relationship with JPMorgan Chase, but it is despairing news for investors who hold the thrift's stock:
Shareholders and some bondholders will be wiped out. WaMu deposits are guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation up to the $100,000 per account limit. Customers of Seattle-based WaMu are unlikely to be affected.

JPMorgan Chase — which acquired Bear Stearns only six months ago in another shotgun deal brokered by the government — is to take control Friday of all of WaMu’s 2,300 branches, which stretch from New York to California. The New York-based bank will oversee its big portfolio of mortgage and credit card loans. It will also acquire all of WaMu’s deposits with the sale.

Washington Mutual is by far the biggest bank failure in history, eclipsing the 1984 failure of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust in Chicago, an event that presaged the savings and loan crisis. IndyMac, which was seized by regulators in July, was a tenth the size of WaMu.
The federal government's statement on the closure is as follows:
JPMorgan Chase acquired the banking operations of Washington Mutual Bank in a transaction facilitated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. All depositors are fully protected and there will be no cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund.

"For all depositors and other customers of Washington Mutual Bank, this is simply a combination of two banks," said FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair. "For bank customers, it will be a seamless transition. There will be no interruption in services and bank customers should expect business as usual come Friday morning."

JPMorgan Chase acquired the assets, assumed the qualified financial contracts and made a payment of $1.9 billion. Claims by equity, subordinated and senior debt holders were not acquired.

"WaMu's balance sheet and the payment paid by JPMorgan Chase allowed a transaction in which neither the uninsured depositors nor the insurance fund absorbed any losses," Bair said.

Washington Mutual Bank also has a subsidiary, Washington Mutual FSB, Park City, Utah. They have combined assets of $307 billion and total deposits of $188 billion.

Thursday evening, Washington Mutual was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision and the FDIC named receiver. WaMu customers with questions should call their normal banking representative, service center, 1-800-788-7000 or visit The FDIC's consumer hotline is 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342) or visit
As of 7:45 PM Pacific Time, WaMu's website contained no announcement related to the sale, nor a statement to calm uneasy or panicked customers.

The most recent news releases:
09/24/08 WaMu Recognized as Top Diverse Employer — Again
09/15/08 WaMu Responds to Standard & Poor's Actions
09/11/08 WaMu Responds to Moody's Downgrades
Yesterday, Washington Mutual was one of the most diverse employers in the nation. Tomorrow it will be little more than a shell.

Another reason why Paulson's plan is bad

They don't know why they need $700 billion:
"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."
Leave it to the Bush Administration to just make up a number to pay their buddies in the financial world. No particular reason, no justification, no data to back it up. They just picked a number!

The answer is no. If George W. Bush and Henry Paulson can't provide justification to Congress for why they need $700 billion with no strings attached, and the only rationale they can provide for coming up with that number is that they just wanted a large number, then they get nothing.

That's zero with an infinite number of zeros after it.

Please call your member of Congress and your Senators and tell them no deal. Demand accountability, demand a stake in the profits and a limit on executive compensation. Just get on the phone and rage against this Administration that thinks you're so stupid that they can make up numbers and get anything they want.

JP Morgan Chase to swallow WaMu

The Wall Street Journal is reporting tonight that Washington Mutual will be sold to financial services giant JP Morgan Chase in a deal brokered by the federal government, which seized control of the thrift.

UPDATE, 6:15 PM: Federal regulators have confirmed the sale:
In what is by far the largest bank failure in U.S. history, federal regulators seized Washington Mutual Inc. and struck a deal to sell the bulk of its operations to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

The closing represents the demise of what once was the largest U.S. thrift but came to symbolize many of the worst excesses of the mortgage boom. Federal regulators said WaMu has suffered an exodus of $16.7 billion in deposits since Sept. 15, leaving the Seattle thrift "with insufficient liquidity to meet its obligations." As a result, WaMu was in "an unsafe and unsound condition to transact business," according to the Office of Thrift Supervision.
If the sale goes through, Washington Mutual branches throughout the Pacific Northwest will become part of Chase Bank, and some Washington Mutual employees working in downtown Seattle will likely be laid off.

UPDATE, 7:05 PM: JPMorgan Chase has confirmed its plans for Washington Mutual.
JPMorgan said it is adding branches in California, Washington and Florida and will have 5,400 offices with about $900 billion in deposits, the most of any U.S. bank. The branches will carry the Chase brand and will be integrated by 20, JPMorgan said.
If you bank at Washington Mutual and would prefer not to become a Chase customer, we urge you to start thinking about joining a credit union, as Seattle P-I commenter MizStery did earlier today:
I opened an account at Washington Mutual in 1971 while a student at the UW. I always have been treated well by the folks at WM. Today, Thursday Sept 25th, 2008 at 9:30 am,I pulled out my savings and put it into the Boeing [Employees] Credit Union. I called my sister to advise her of my plans, she said I never thought I would see this day. All I could do is sadly agree.
The great thing about credit unions is that they are owned by their members. Since every customer is a shareholder, credit unions can focus on providing superior service to Main Street - and not have to worry about Wall Street.

A number of terrific credit unions have a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest. For those looking to move their money out of WaMu and into a friendly nonprofit financial cooperative, here are a few choices:
  • BECU (Boeing Employees Credit Union): The nation's fourth largest credit union, known for its innovation and willingness to help striking union members. Membership is open to all Washingtonians. Almost all of its branches are located in Puget Sound.
  • Watermark Credit Union (formerly Seattle Telco): Another well established local credit union centered in the Seattle area with a great reputation. Membership is open to all Washingtonians.
  • First Tech Credit Union: Originally founded by employees of Tektronix. Membership is open to residents of Lane County, Oregon, people who work for the State of Oregon, or Washingtonians and Oregonians working in the high tech sector for companies like Microsoft.
  • Global Credit Union (originally Fairchild Federal): Founded in the 1950s, Global is an excellent choice for residents in the Spokane area or the Tri-Cities.
  • School Employees Credit Union of Washington: Open to Washington teachers, education support professionals, university faculty, librarians, and their family members. An outstanding option for those who are eligible.
  • QualStar Credit Union (formerly Safeway Seattle Employees’ Federal): Another good choice for residents of the Seattle metro area. Membership is open to all Washingtonians.
This is a very short list. You can easily find a comprehensive list of credit unions that you are eligible to join at (requires Adobe Flash player).

Republican Doug Sutherland fails to show up for AWB debate with Peter Goldmark

This morning, the two candidates for Commissioner of Public Lands (Incumbent Republican Doug Sutherland and Democratic challenger Peter Goldmark) were scheduled to debate before the Association of Washington Business Policy Summit in Blaine. (The event, we at NPI understand, is held annually).

But when it came time for the candidates to face off, Sutherland was nowhere to be found. As a result, the debate turned into a question and answer session with Peter Goldmark, who did show up as he promised he would.

It turns out that Sutherland was absent because he thought the debate was taking place later in the day. The Bellingham Herald's Sam Taylor reports:
11:07 a.m. - Sounds like they canceled Sutherland. Democratic candidate Peter Goldmark is going to go at it alone I’ve been told.


11:09 a.m. - An announcer says that Sutherland is actually around Mount Vernon. He had written the wrong time down to attend this event. People in the crowd could be heard grumbling about his tardiness.

An explanation of what the public lands commissioner does: They manage 5 million state-owned acres in trust. Also manages the state Department of Natural Resources.
It's kind of hilarious that Doug Sutherland ended up (unintentionally) blowing off the Association of Washington Business. What does that say about his abilities as a leader? The first rule in politics is show up.

Now, everyone makes mistakes with their calendars from time to time, but doesn't Doug have at least one person on his campaign staff who is tasked with the responsibility of putting together the schedule and verifying its accuracy?

Sam Taylor has posted an excellent recap of Goldmark's address to the Association of Washington Business that we strongly encourage you to read. (You have to scroll to the bottom to start from the beginning, though).

Great reporting, Sam!

Round Two: Gregoire and Rossi debate state's business environment

Gregoire and Rossi get another chance to engage in word-to-word combat tonight at their second debate, taking place in Blaine and sponsored by the Association of Washington Business. Tonight's topic, business, promises that a lot of facts and figures will be thrown around. With the following information, I hope to insulate you against the tendency of candidates to stretch and shrink numbers to suit their purposes.

Rossi is seen as the stronger of the two candidates on tonight's topic, but other than vague campaign rhetoric, he has a slim record to stand behind. The governor has some distortion-proof facts on her side but she is not above a little number tugging herself.

The claim: Rossi's main talking point will be that Gregoire has made Washington a difficult state for small businesses to succeed in, with one of the country's highest worker's compensation and unemployment insurance rates.

The facts: In April 2008, the non-profit and non-partisan Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, representing over 50,000 small businesses, ranked our state as having the fourth best state tax system for small businesses and entrepreneurship in the country.

When she took office, Gregoire inherited very high unemployment insurance and worker's comp rates, but in 2007 she cut both, with the largest savings, about $48 million, going to small businesses.

The claim: Rossi--Washington's current unemployment rate is higher than it was when Gregoire took office.
Gregoire--"I inherited the highest unemployment rate in the country."

The facts: When Gregoire took office in 2005, the national unemployment rate was 5.2%, while Washington's stood at 5.8%, giving the state a 10% higher rate than the country's. Today our unemployment rate has followed the national trend by rising to 6.0%, while the national rate has risen a bit higher, to 6.1%.

Basically, Washington's unemployment rate has gone from being much higher than the national rate to being slightly lower than the national rate since Gregoire took office.

In addition, while the 5.8% unemployment rate when Gregoire took office was one of the highest in the country at that time, it was one of the top six highest rates and not the highest as stated. As my dad likes to say, close, but no cigar.

The claim: In the candidates' first debate last Saturday, the governor stated that Washington has created over 250,000 new jobs since she entered office.

The facts: On her own website, Gregoire states that over 200,000 new jobs were created during her tenure. That is a very safe estimate with the real number probably somewhere between 210,00 and 230,000.

Ready for one more?

The claim: Rossi stated during the first debate that Washington has "one of the highest small business failure rates in America."

The facts: The truth is, Washington has a lot of entrepreneurs. Our state has the third highest rate of business openings a year, but it also has the third highest rate of business failures per year, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. It looks like we are about average when it comes to the small business success rate in our state, but we are clearly not failing. More could be done to help these businesses survive and thrive.

The bottom line: Gregoire has raised taxes but she hasn't raised them on businesses, instead she has cut many business taxes.

The high cost of healthcare is consistently cited as being the number one concern of small businesses and increasing citizen's access to healthcare is one of the governor's priorities. She and the legislature are working to give all children health insurance by 2010, lessening the burden on the small business owner.

Gregoire is also investing in areas that are crucial to business growth: education, health and transportation. She focuses on strengthening children and families which can sometimes run against short term business interests, but in the long run, a healthy, well-educated labor force is essential to business success.

Now you're armed with the facts.

Watch the debate Sunday night on TVW at 6 and 8 p.m.

Reichert lipsticks up his own pig.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 5244, also known as the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights.

Although big banks and President Bush oppose this legislation, Dave Reichert somehow managed to vote for it. For about half a second, I had the following question in mind: "Is this a vote on my behalf as a citizen, or is it an election-cycle attempt to portray himself as the moderate that he most certainly is not?"

Like I said, I wondered for about half a second until I remembered something.

Dave votes like he's told.

Anybody remember this quote from the 2006 election cycle where Dave explained to a room of Republican supporters how sometimes he votes for progressive legislation when his masters tell him to, in order to provide him with political cover for the campaign?
'When the leadership comes to me and says 'Dave, we need you to take a vote over here because we want to protect you and keep this majority, I...I do it.'
Dave Reichert

For anyone who thinks this quote is somehow portrayed deceptively by being taken out of context, go check for yourself. Full transcript of the speech is available here courtesy of fellow blogger Goldy. He further explains how the Republican leadership (this was before they lost their majority in the '06 elections) would go so far as to craft entire pieces of legislation whose sole purpose was to give Dave something progressive-sounding he could vote on. Go on, read it for yourself.

And with the Republicans dropping 1.1 million dollars into his campaign in an attempt to save his seat, you know they're interested in providing him with whatever cover they can. So I'm sure the House Minority Whip told him to go ahead and vote Aye and claim to be doing the people's work.

What we have to realize is that for Reichert, Tuesday's vote just doesn't matter. The bill was going to pass the house no matter what he did. If it passes the senate, Bush will veto the bill. If by some miracle it comes back to the house on a veto-override vote before the election, then you can bet Dave will do his Republican footsoldier duty and will vote against it when it actually does matter.

None of which will stop him from claiming during the campaign that he "voted for the Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights". Some support.

The thing is, if Darcy Burner were currently occupying the WA-08 seat in the house, I have no doubt she'd have voted Aye too. The difference is I know her motivations would have been to cast that vote in her constituents' interest. She'd have looked at that bill, realized "this bill is totally in line with the values and goals of my Putting the Middle Class First economic plan" and would have voted Aye without hesitation. On that basis, I could trust her vote. I know Darcy's vote wouldn't waver if the vote came up again as a veto override.

But Dave's vote? Sure, it's nice to see Dave or any other Republican vote the way we would wish them to. I just wish I could trust it for a second. But I can't, because his record shows a strong pattern of taking faux-populist votes when they don't matter, only to flip his vote when the chips are really down. This is lip service to his "no, really, I'm a moderate" illusion. It's lipstick on the stinking pig of his record. I have no reason to believe otherwise.

Like the saying goes, "if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and votes like a duck, it's probably Dave Reichert trying to duck his record in an attempt to save his job."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another reason to put a hold on the Paulson plan

Federal investigations of potential fraud.
The FBI has opened preliminary investigations into several financial institutions whose collapse created chaos on Wall Street, law enforcement officials tell ABC News.

Investigators are probing investment bank Lehman Brothers and insurer American International Group, or AIG, for possible fraud, according to law enforcement officials.

A senior official tells ABC News that lending giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are in the government's sights, as well.

Of course, federal investigations never stopped the Bush Administration from doing anything. But that doesn't mean that Congress should give King Henry $700 billion to bestow upon his former employer and friends.

So while the FBI conducts its investigations, perhaps Congress can do its due diligence on behalf of the American people so as not to be defrauded by the same characters that brought us this financial mess. Bad decisions are one thing to ask the American people to pay for. But it's unconscionable to ask them to pay for criminal behavior.

ID-Sen: LaRocco releases economic plan

Earlier this afternoon Idaho Democrat Larry LaRocco released the details of his economic plan: America's Path to Recovery and Prosperity.

But this isn't just some guy running for U.S. Senate throwing out a plan. Larry LaRocco has 30 years experience in the financial services industry, including four years on the House Banking Committee, which gives him an informed perspective on the current crisis in American financial systems, and the experience to get the job done right.

Highlights of the LaRocco plan include the following measures:

Addressing the growing health care crisis by ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care through a national health insurance market. LaRocco would also provide incentives for people to enter medical professions and to work in Idaho's under-served areas.

Research and investment in alternative energy, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and nuclear energy. LaRocco's plan cites studies that have shown as many as 14,000 new jobs for Idaho.

Both health care costs and energy costs have the potential to be the next great economic disasters. By addressing them now, Larry LaRocco wants to avert a future crisis.

Solve the current crisis. LaRocco believes we need to be cautious and deliberate, not rushing to a conclusion. LaRocco supports a mechanism similar to the Resolution Trust Corporation, a la the Savings and Loan crisis in the 1990s, and that it should be run by non-partisan, professional staff, with specific benchmarks and deadlines. LaRocco also wants a guarantee that taxpayers get back as much of a return on investment as possible. No guarantee, no deal for Larry LaRocco. Furthermore, Larry LaRocco will not support a plan where the corporate fat cats benefit from "publicly financed golden parachutes."

Return to responsible regulation, that guards against corporate greed and excess. LaRocco's premise for this is that as individuals nobody bails us out if we make poor choices with our money, so financial institutions should not be treated differently than individuals.

LaRocco also supports a balanced budget amendment to ensure that the federal government is spending within its means and not mortgaging the future.

You can find a complete copy of the plan here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Money for nothing

The Bush Administration thinks you're stupid. You're so stupid, in fact, that you're going to give them $700 billion for nothing, and they and their corporate cronies will go on their merry way as if nothing happened.

Here's just one reason why everyone should be calling their members of Congress and voicing opposition to King Henry's magical bailout plan: his former firm will be receiving most of the benefit.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley may be among the biggest beneficiaries of the $700 billion U.S. plan to buy assets from financial companies while many banks see limited aid, according to Bank of America Corp.
Henry Paulson is the former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, the firm that stands to benefit most from his plan. That's par for the course under the culture of cronyism that has permeated Washington since George W. Bush became President.

Are you ok with that? I'm not. It's our money and they work for us.

And now, a message from Henry M. Paulson

Here comes another guy trying to wring as much money as possible out of the gullible. This "chain letter" landed in my inbox this morning, but oddly enough, it isn't from a guy who claims to be in Nigeria...
Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson
Why do I get the feeling I'm about to be scammed even if I don't reply?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Burner: "I will not compromise on upholding the constitution."

Yesterday, McJoan at DailyKos posted a great look at a day in the life on the campaign trail with Darcy Burner. It's a really nice piece overall, showing a lot of what's so wonderful about Darcy and her campaign. Darcy's own remarkable qualities as a person and a leader, the deep and committed support of her campaign's volunteers, and the staggering amount of hard work that everyone from Darcy on down puts into that campaign.

But what really stood out for me were two quotes from YouTube videos at the bottom of the post. One is from a video of Darcy talking about the economic crisis, and she quotes Dave Reichert from an interview with the Seattle Times.

Reichert: "Well, corporations and wealthy investors need tax breaks too."

That pretty much says it all, right? Well, not quite. The last video in the story is a clip of Darcy answering a question about the House's role (and hers, should she be elected) in defending the Constitution. It's an incredible piece. Darcy speaks more directly, candidly, and clearly about this than any politician I have yet seen. She lays it out in no uncertain terms. In explaining how deeply aggrieved she has felt to watch our current House and Senate cave time and time again on defending the constitition (she calls out the retroactive FISA immunity debacle specifically), she ends with the following.

Burner: "I will not compromise on upholding the constitution."

It's one thing to read a quote like this on the screen. But it's something else entirely to watch her do it unscripted and live. To see the look on her face and hear the tone in her voice when she says those words. I wish more politicians had the guts to take a stand like that.

The question is, will the rest of us take a stand and help her get elected? If we love our country, we must. Donate. Volunteer. Make calls and knock on doors. We don't want to wake up November 5th to two more years of Dave Reichert's corporate puppeteers calling his votes in Congress.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

About that Social Security privatization plan...

Now that the Bush Administration has announced a trillion dollar bailout to prop up the floundering economy, is there anyone out there who thinks privatization of Social Security is a good idea?

Let's not forget that Bear Stearns failed and got bailed out. And Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then Lehman Brothers failed and filed for bankruptcy. Then the Fed dished out $85 billion to help keep AIG afloat.

So who still thinks it's a good idea to let the captains of industry, who drove major financial institutions into the ground, manage your Social Security?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

LIVE from Fisher Plaza: Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi square off in first 2008 debate

The first debate between Governor Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi is being taped live from KOMO 4's television studios at Fisher Plaza in Seattle as I type. The League of Women Voters put together the format for the evening and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is cosponsoring. Dan Lewis and Rita Hibbard are moderating.

The first few questions are being presented by reporters, the last few by citizens on the street. All of the questions have been taped in advance.

A coin toss was held before the debate to determine who would opt to go first and last. Gregoire won, and she chose to have the final word instead of the first.

Jumping in with his introduction, Dino began bemoaning our economic problems and defended himself against Gregoire's recent stem cell research television ad.

Governor Gregoire used her opening remarks to remind viewers where she grew up (Auburn, Washington) and lay the blame for much of the economic mess at the feat of George W. Bush, who has been in charge for over seven years.

Economy: Gregoire compared Washington's current budget surplus with the enormous deficit that the other Washington faces. She came out strong listing her accomplishments and attacking Rossi's record.

According to the governor, "We don't need new taxes. When Rossi was in control of taxes he actually raised taxes," including a bed tax on senior citizens.

Rossi, for his part, insisted that he won't raise taxes (of course). Dan Lewis asked the candidates where they would cut spending.

Gregoire plans to let progressive values and priorities guide her when she has to make tough choices about the budget, including spending cuts.

Rossi skirted the issue.

Gregoire hammered Rossi by pointing out she inherited his (and Locke's) $2.2 billion deficit when she became governor and the state now has a surplus (although a projected deficit is looming ahead, as Rossi quickly observed).

Transportation: According to Rossi, we have a transportation problem (no kidding). He said he has a comprehensive plan that is available on his website and gave out the address for his website.

Gregoire agreed that the Alaskan Way viaduct, the 520 bridge, and the Columbia river bridge are safety hazards. Plans and construction on each of these are going forward, she noted. She added that Rossi's plan for an eight lane Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is a nonstarter because the true cost would be prohibitive.

Rossi claimed he'll work with the neighborhoods surrounding SR 520 to get his fanciful eight lane 520 bridge built. Good luck with that, Dino.

Gregoire replied that Rossi's bridge will take money from elementary and high schools. Under Dino, money that the State Legislature decided would be spent on reducing class sizes (in response to the voters' wishes) would instead be spent building bigger and badder roads. "That's just not our values," Gregoire declared.

Jobs: Washington State has created over 200,000 new jobs while Gregoire was in office. She reached out to Eastern Washington by mentioning local jobs her administration has helped create (including aerospace jobs) in Spokane.

Rossi then claimed that our state's unemployment rate is high, but neglects to say that it is lower than the swelling national unemployment rate.

Energy: Gregoire addressed energy by first mentioning the climate crisis. "We are the third greenest state in the country," Gregoire said. She also mentioned that we are also part of the Western Climate Initiative, a multi-state and provincial partnership fighting to address the climate crisis. Rossi and his fellow Republicans are obstacles to tackling this enormous problem, she said.

When it was his turn, Rossi talked about hybrid and electric cars and repeatedly touted how lucky Washington is to have hydroelectric power. Unfortunately, our energy needs are growing and we have maxed out our capacity for hydropower. Gregoire seized on another opportunity to pound Rossi for his absurd fixation on adding lanes to our highways and encouraging people to drive.

Education: Gregoire said she wants more full-day kindergarten and more math and science teachers. Rossi, she remarked, took a billion dollars away from education during his time in the state Senate.

And she explained that in order to carry out his fantasy transportation plan, Rossi would have no choice but to take more money away from our schools.

Rossi addressed dropouts and low math scores. He would like to replace the WASL with a "more fair test." But he didn't provide specifics. Rossi told a story of his life as the son of a Seattle school teacher but didn't elaborate on how he would improve schools. He even failed to rebut Gregoire's charge that he cut promised benefits for teachers when he was in the Senate. Where's the substance, Dino?

Healthcare: Rossi claimed that Gregoire has made healthcare less affordable. I wish that it was actually that easy to identify the reason that costs are increasing so rapidly. The truth is that Gregoire has helped increase access to healthcare. Rossi, on the other hand, would cut people off. He did it before when he was Chairman of the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Gregoire's goal is for all Washington citizens to have affordable healthcare, starting with our children. In her first term, her administration has made healthcare available to 84,000 children who needed it.

Gregoire reminded us that Rossi opposed a Patient Bill of Rights and is opposed to embryonic stem cell research. In his rebuttal to this charge, Rossi used another fuzzy story to avoid admitting that he doesn't fully support stem cell research.

Environmental Protection: Rossi again promoted hybrid cars in response to a question about the environment, and told a story which is too inconsequental to report here. He claimed that his transportation plan will address air pollution and he mentioned moving culverts that obstruct salmon.

Gregoire proudly repeated that we are third greenest state in the country, leading on tackling the climate crisis. She emphasized that Rossi has no plan for cutting emissions or reducing pollution. The BIAW, she added, is a primary obstacle to improving the environment in Washington and Rossi (when he was in the Senate) voted with that building industry almost 100% of the time.

Mass Transit: A viewer asked the candidates about their plans for more mass transit. Rossi shrugged off the idea and quickly began talking about roads and cars, cars, cars. It's obvious he couldn't care less about transit.

Gregoire said she sympathizes with the pain we feel at the pump. She wants to give consumers and commuters choices, including light rail and expanded bus service. She remarked that experts consider Rossi's transportation plan "devoid of reality." His reality contains massive amounts of concrete.

Rossi then whipped out a term that Republicans like to use in a pinch, "freedom". He would give people freedom to chose their transportation mode and accuses Gregoire of wanting to limit mobility with tolls. I guess tolls are not a part of his reality. How will we pay for his highways? Using teacher salaries? If cars are the only option, that doesn't give us much "freedom", does it?

Conclusion: Rossi claimed that we can have world class public schools and balance the budget without raising taxes.

Oh, and of course, "we can fix our transportation mess." Then, with an expression lacking any conviction or passion, he grandly states, "This election is about changing the culture of this state for a generation."

I think he pulled that slogan off some other Republican candidate's website and is test running it on this audience. It didn't work on me, but there probably isn't anything he could say that I would find persuasive.

With grace and poise, Gregoire recognized the struggles of our state. She pledged to be fiscally responsible, noting that she pushed for the creation of the state's constitutionally mandated Rainy Day fund, she reinstated Tim Eyman's property tax cap(which we urged her not to do), and under her watch we have a surplus.

She noted that Rossi cut children's healthcare, cut funds for our schools, and imposed a bed tax on seniors in nursing homes. Rossi may talk "freedom", but she pointed out he doesn't believe in giving women the freedom to choose when to have a child or scientists the freedom to conduct research on embryonic stem cells.

In this first debate, there was a stark contrast between Gregoire's strong record and Dino Rossi's empty storytelling or tired rhetoric.

Voters should remember that Gregoire has accomplished much for Washington even during the last four years under the corrupt Bush administration.

Tonight's performance should reassure voters watching that she has the chops to continue to lead us in the right direction.

I would chose it over Rossi's bitter, empty rhetoric any day.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Seattle Times Endorses Barack Obama

In an Editorial, the Seattle Times has endorsed Barack Obama.

The endorsement opens with a reference to current economic crisis.

An economic Katrina is shattering the confidence of hardworking, middle-class Americans. The war that should never have been in Iraq is dragging on too long. At a time of huge challenge, the candidate with the intelligence, temperament and judgment to lead our nation to a better place is Sen. Barack Obama. Obama should be the next president of the United States because he is the most qualified change agent.

The conservative-reputationed Times at one point unmasks McCain's inability to be effective in dealing with the nation's economy:

McCain is at heart a deregulator. But it is the hands-off and ineffective federal regulatory system that allowed this mess to fester. Obama offered a more coherent approach months ago when he called for regulating investment banks, mortgage brokers and hedge funds and streamlining overlapping regulatory agencies.

The endorsement then goes on to highlight Obama's positions on the economy, energy, the Iraq war and education. This section is "meaty" enough that I will reprint it in full.

On the issues:

• The economy: The Good Ship America is listing in turbulent waters. Sinking mortgage and banking institutions are wreaking havoc at home and abroad. The problem is in the private sector, but it has been made worse by a federal policy favoring big corporations. The Bush administration has not regulated these companies effectively or done what it takes to curb their wants.

Obama understands this better than McCain and makes clear he would do more to correct it. Obama's assistance to the middle class in the form of tax cuts and college-tuition breaks is a centerpiece of his campaign.

• Energy: The energy crisis is zapping our economic well-being. What does McCain want to do? "Drill, baby, drill," to quote the mindless chant at the Republican National Convention. That is not an energy policy. It is a cheap, shortsighted slogan.

Obama has a coherent plan that includes some drilling, as a stopgap, but he looks to a mix of renewable resources. He is more likely to move America off its dependence on foreign oil. McCain has been in office for 26 years and done little to change this dynamic.

• The Iraq war: Many Americans will cast their vote on this one issue alone. Past performance is the best indicator of future conduct. Obama opposed the war, McCain supported it full-bore. Obama has a plan for moving the troops out; McCain seeks "victory," whatever that actually means. The net effect will be more time and money wasted in a country that did not participate in 9/11.

Afghanistan harbors the key culprits, and the situation there is worse than it has been in eight years. Afghanistan is where our bigger effort should be, as Obama has articulated.

• Education: Obama is more practical than ideological on education. He wants merit pay for good teachers and extra training or firing for lousy ones. He wants to double federal funding for charter schools, but not in a way that cuts into the heart of public schools. Obama recently gave a major speech on education. McCain is too low-key on an important issue.

On numerous other issues, from media consolidation to health care, Obama has the stronger take. He makes up for a thin résumé with integrity, judgment and fresh ideas. Obama can get America moving forward again.

DailyKos also has an article on this, which is where I got my original pleasant "head's up" before heading off to bed after a long day.

National economic woes hit home

As many of us peer at our own household budgets, looking for something to cut, Governor Gregoire will also be taking a closer look at the 2009 state budget. A new forecast shows Washington State might face a $3.2 billion shortfall. It makes our own problems look a little smaller, doesn't it?

This shortfall means that instead of receiving $5.6 billion in revenue next year, the state of Washington will receive only $2.4 billion.

As reported in the Olympian, interim revenue forecaster Steve Lerch says:
(This) leaves the state with a surplus for the ongoing budget, but state Senate budget experts said the new forecast could leave the state $3.2 billion short of revenue needs for the budget period beginning July 1, 2009, if programs are carried forward at current levels including inflation, pay increases for teachers and state workers, and other status-quo funding.
In response, Gregoire has asked the Office of Financial Management to find $200 million in savings in addition to the $90 million that the governor cut last month with a hiring freeze and fuel-use and travel reductions.

In her own words:
The national economic slowdown is clearly affecting Washington's economy," Gregoire said in a statement released after the forecast. "We anticipated this decrease, and we are better prepared to weather this storm because of fiscally responsible initiatives such as the Rainy Day Fund and adjustments to spending over the past few months.
It didn't take long for the governor's opponent Dino Rossi to show his own McCainesque grasp of the economy:
It's wrong to blame this deficit on the national economy. We already had a projected deficit in excess of $2 billion long before the recent bad economic news.
Not sure which rock Dino's been living under, but bad economic news has been "recent" for over a year. The subprime mortgage crisis began before Rossi started running for governor. Maybe he just hasn't been paying attention.

Although Washington is located in a far, pristine corner of the United States, we are affected by problems caused by Wall Street and the Bush administration.

The problems facing the national economy over the past year: the rising cost of fuel and food, the decrease in home values, and the increase in foreclosures, have been accumulating here at home too.

We're not alone--thirty-one other states are facing a budget deficit in 2009 too.

State Senator Joseph Zarelli, a Republican, doesn't understand why Gregoire hasn't taken his budget-slashing suggestions such as not implementing family leave, an earned income tax credit for the working poor or expanded all-day kindergarten.

She is avoiding these "remedies" because they primarily hurt lower and middle class families and don't provide long term savings.

Revenue neutral tax credits for the working poor pump money into the economy, and expanding all-day kindergarten is an investment in early childhood education that reaps dividends double the state's investment.

If we lose sight of our values in every economic downturn then we cannot expect to be a state with strong families and a strong middle class.

I have faith that Governor Gregoire, who values education and wellness of our children, will remember her values when she takes out her red pen and starts chipping away at Washington's budget.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Letters, we get letters...

We at the Northwest Progressive Institute get our fair share of strange and cryptic messages sent to us through our website. From time to time, something really bizarre shows up, and today was one of those days.

Before I get to the message, I want to note that we ask folks who submit feedback if they mind us posting or sharing their comments. If they do, we try to respect that preference. The individual who sent us this said he doesn't mind. So here goes:
The Western Coalition for Sustainable Living already takes care of all the issues that you are trying to solve. The WCSL already has all the solutions that you are struggling to find.

Please shut this website down, and close down your organization.

Douglas Stambler
Douglas was kind enough to leave his email address, so I replied:
That explains why I have never heard of it. Does this WCSL even have its own website? I couldn't find one on Google.

A word of advice: Dismissing others' activism while promoting your own is not a good way to make friends.

I wasn't expecting a response, but oddly enough, one came:
the wcsl used to have a website. we're big enough now that we don't need one anymore.

the west side of washington and oregon are far too urbanized to contribute any satisfactory solutions for the mostly rural northwest.

God bless.
It's so good to know there's at least one guy out there who thinks his mighty organization transcends the Internets.

I wonder if Douglas knows that most of Western Washington and Western Oregon are also rural...well, I guess it doesn't matter. Who needs television when there are people like Douglas Stambler around to entertain?

Family values? Abstinence only? Not so much.

Before I begin: a disclaimer. I firmly believe that it is not the government's business what anyone does in their bedroom. Children born out of wedlock are no less of a blessing to their parents than children whose parents are married. Nor do I believe that people who have children outside of marriage should be condemned or considered lesser human beings than someone who has a child while married.

We all know by now that GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is an advocate for abstinence only education in the schools.

And we all know that Bristol Palin, age 17 and daughter of Sarah and Todd, is pregnant and betrothed to self-described redneck tough guy Levi Johnston (whose MySpace page also noted the revelation that he doesn't want kids).

And studies have shown that abstinence only programs are not effective.

Let's also not forget what has been the Republican line for over a generation: no children out of wedlock and promotion of abstinence only sex education.

In 1988, Republican Vice President Dan Quayle criticized fictional television character Murphy Brown for having a child out of wedlock.

In the not-so-distant past, conservative talk show blowhard Bill O'Reilly trashed the family of Jamie Lynn Spears when she announced her pregnancy, for a lack of so-called values.

And John McCain, like his running mate Palin, is a strong supporter of abstinence.

So now it's time for Sarah Palin to step up to the mic and reconcile her strong support for abstinence-only teachings with the contradictions in her family situation. After all, it appears that Bristol Palin was only following the example that her parents, Sarah and Todd, set for her.

That's right, Sarah and Todd Palin were married less than 8 months when their son Track was born. Somebody cue up Hank Williams Jr. singing Family Tradition. I'm sure young Miss Palin and young Mr. Johnston won't mind dancing to it at their wedding.

So much for abstinence. So much for so-called small town family values.

I don't know a thing about where Sarah Palin comes from, other than what she says in prepared speeches and in media puff pieces, but I do know that no matter where you come from, that's called being a hypocrite.

To repeat: I don't care who in the Palin family, or any family for that matter, is having sex with whom. But Sarah Palin is obviously a person who says one thing and does another. Can you really trust a leader like that to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office?

Update - So rather than rely on Alan Colmes for the date of Sarah and Todd Palin's marriage, I decided to try and track down an official copy of their marriage certificate, Unfortunately, under Alaska state law, that's not possible.

Access to marriage and divorce records filed in the Bureau of Vital Statistics office is restricted for 50 years after the date of the event to the persons named on the certificate, their legal representatives, and persons who can prove they are legally entitled. When ordering a marriage or divorce record, you must state your relationship to the person named on the certificate or your reason for needing the record.

And so I also tried to track down Track Palin's birthdate, and Right Pundits (a right-wing blog I won't link to) seems to back up what Colmes posted.
Track CJ Palin was born on April 20, 1989. He is 19 years old.
So now perhaps the traditional media can start asking some tough questions and get definitive answers. I'm not holding my breath.

Obama endorses Darcy Burner!

On behalf of everyone here at NPI, I want to express how absolutely delighted we are today by Barack Obama's endorsement of our hometown House candidate Darcy Burner. We at NPI have been strongly behind her literally for years now, and we're all thrilled to see someone with immense national stature do the same!

Here is the Burner campaign's press release:
Bellevue, WA (September 18) – Senator Barack Obama has enthusiastically endorsed Darcy Burner in her bid for Congress in Washington State’s 8th Congressional District, the Burner campaign announced today.

The Democratic Party’s nominee for president cited Burner’s commitment to helping him bring change to Washington, D.C., as well as her determination to strengthen the American middle class after years of damage caused by the disastrous Bush Republican policies, in making the endorsement.

"The American people want leaders in Congress who are committed to working for change. Darcy Burner will be that sort of leader,” Obama said. “She is tough and determined, and she will stand up for the middle class and work to get our economy moving forward again, and I am proud to support her."

Burner welcomed the endorsement and expressed her own strong support for the candidacy of Senator Obama.

“With our economy hanging on the brink, we need a president with sound judgment and a basic understanding of what it will take to rebuild the middle class and get our country back on the right track. After years of the failed policies of Bush-McCain Republicanism supported by my opponent, we desperately need a change of direction in Washington, D.C.,” Burner said.

“Barack Obama understands what has gone wrong with our economy under the Bush-McCain approach and what we need to do to fix this mess. Now more than ever, we need Sen. Barack Obama as our next president.”
With Darcy's extraordinary policy initiatives on both Iraq, via the Responsible Plan, and on the economy, via her Putting the Middle Class First economic plan, she has single-handedly altered the national dialogue on those subjects. Senator Obama and his campaign, indeed, have adopted Darcy's language and framing of the Iraq issue. So when you hear Senator Obama calling for a responsible end to the war in Iraq, you have Darcy Burner to thank.

That, fellow Washingtonians, is leadership. That is what it means to represent the values of your constituency. (There's a reason it's called the House of Representatives and the "people's house", after all).

That is what we who live in the 8th district have been missing these last years while our house seat occupied by empty suit Dave Reichert.

For helping Obama's campaign find the winning frame on what is undoubtedly the most important international concern of our day, she has certainly earned this endorsement. All of us at NPI thank Senator Obama for recognizing Darcy for the upcoming political talent that she is, and we all hope that an Obama administration will heed her counsel on these and many other issues.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seattle based WaMu puts itself up for sale, local customers flee to credit unions

Seattle based Washington Mutual, the largest savings and loan association in the United States, today disclosed that it is putting itself up for sale, becoming the latest victim of the catastrophic subprime mortgage crisis.

In sacrificing its independence, WaMu joins a stunning list of financial giants claimed by the crisis. They include: Bear Stearns (sold to J.P. Morgan Chase), Lehman Brothers (filing for bankruptcy), Merrill Lynch (sold to Bank of America), Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae (placed into a conservatorship by the United States government) and AIG (which the Bush administration effectively agreed to nationalize yesterday).

The fact that Washington Mutual is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) hasn't calmed customers' anxiety:
Scott Newton, another WaMu customer, also held the deposit insurance in little regard.

"It makes me very, very nervous," said Newton, a WaMu customer of 10 years. "It scares you at night."

A line crewman for King County, Newton had stopped at the branch for some cash Wednesday, but planned soon to close his five accounts, cash out his two CDs, and take his money to a credit union.

"I feel let down by WaMu," he said. The bank had helped him buy two homes and a car, and he had been angry to learn about its financial woes through a co-worker, and not the bank itself.
Early this year, before the markets really started tanking, we made the decision to close the Northwest Progressive Institute's bank account (it was not at WaMu) and do our business with a credit union instead.

We have never for a second regretted that decision.

We congratulate WaMu customers like Scott Newton for making the wise choice to join a credit union. The great thing about credit unions is that they are owned by their members. Since every customer is a shareholder, credit unions can focus on providing superior service to Main Street - and not have to worry about Wall Street.

A number of terrific credit unions have a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest. For those looking to move their money out of WaMu and into a friendly nonprofit financial cooperative, here are a few choices:
  • BECU (Boeing Employees Credit Union): The nation's fourth largest credit union, known for its innovation and willingness to help striking union members. Membership is open to all Washingtonians. Almost all of its branches are located in Puget Sound.
  • Watermark Credit Union (formerly Seattle Telco): Another well established local credit union centered in the Seattle area with a great reputation. Membership is open to all Washingtonians.
  • First Tech Credit Union: Originally founded by employees of Tektronix. Membership is open to residents of Lane County, Oregon, people who work for the State of Oregon, or Washingtonians and Oregonians working in the high tech sector for companies like Microsoft.
  • Global Credit Union (originally Fairchild Federal): Founded in the 1950s, Global is an excellent choice for residents in the Spokane area or the Tri-Cities.
  • School Employees Credit Union of Washington: Open to Washington teachers, education support professionals, university faculty, librarians, and their family members. An outstanding option for those who are eligible.
  • QualStar Credit Union (formerly Safeway Seattle Employees’ Federal): Another good choice for residents of the Seattle metro area. Membership is open to all Washingtonians.
This is a very short list. You can easily find a comprehensive list of credit unions that you are eligible to join at (requires Adobe Flash player).

The problem, of course, with leaving WaMu behind is that it doesn't help the bank or any of the other customers there. The more people who leave, the weaker Washington Mutual becomes. It's understandable that loyal customers may feel guilty about leaving. We urge every WaMu customer contemplating such a decision to carefully and calmly think over their options.

We suspect more customers will consider cutting ties if WaMu ceases to be a independent, Seattle-based financial institution. Banks rumored to be interested in WaMu include J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, HSBC, and Citigroup.

A WaMu combination with any of those would be a major merger.

If you bank with WaMu and you do decide to leave, we again strongly urge you to take your money to a credit union. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Alaskan women: Palin isn't one of us

We've repeatedly heard how much Alaskans love their Governor, Sarah Palin, which has made me doubt the judgment of Alaskans. No more.

Reading this article on Mudflats (one of Alaska's many fine progressive blogs) today deeply reassured me that our northern neighbors do indeed have their heads screwed on straight. As a counter-response to Palin's welcome home rally in Anchorage this week, a few women (you might call them community organizers) staged their own Alaska Women Reject Palin rally.

The numbers speak for themselves: Welcome Palin, five hundred to nine hundred people, versus Women Reject Palin, fourteen to fifteen hundred angry people.

Be sure to watch the video of the rowdy crowd and read the signage.

It makes me wish I was there.

The man who broke the economy

At the end of the Clinton years, we had a pretty good economy.

Anybody remember that?

We had low unemployment and a billions of dollars of budget surplus.

Anybody remember what a surplus is?

Oh, yeah. And we had appropriate regulation of financial markets.

Reg-u-what-tions? Come again?

You know, regulations. Rules and stuff for what banks and credit agencies could and could not do. Rules designed to keep them from--not to put too fine a point on it--destroying themselves with rampant greed and taking the rest of us down with them.

But then Phil Gramm came along. For years the favorite son of the financial service lobbyists, in 1999 and 2000 Gramm carried water for two bills designed to change all that. Bills designed to unlock the gates of greed so the bankers and brokers could run head-long into world of untold profit. (And untold risk, but hey, who's counting?)

This 1999 bill opened the doors for commercial banks to get into investment banking. The 2000 bill created the "credit default swap" instrument, which allowed those banks to create new investments built out of packages of risky loans and sell them to one another.

The banks promptly did, and 8 short years later there was a 45 TRILLION dollar market for these credit default swaps, dwarfing by ten times the size of the legitimate U.S. Treasuries market.

But then after eight years of packaging up bad loans, selling them, dividing them back up, re-packaging, re-selling, trading, swapping, and shuffling until nobody really understood who owned what, the "invisible hand of the market" finally realized "hey, giant house of cards has no blueprint and is built atop a major fault zone on a foundation of bad loans!" The financial sector, understandably, panicked. Wouldn't you panic if you realized you were holding 45 trillion dollars worth of junk that nobody was going to buy anymore?

And the whole thing started to tumble down.

Rarely in history has there been a case where responsibility for the collapse of an incredibly complex system involving the participation of literally thousands and thousands of players can be placed into the hands of one man.

But in this case it can. Responsibility falls squarely upon Phil Gramm, legislative drug mule for the financial lobbyists, co-sponsor and architect of the two bills that let the banking sector go on this eight-year bender of credit default swap insanity.

Phil Gramm. The man who broke the economy.

Phil Gramm. The man John McCain has tapped to be his chief economic advisor.

Does anyone--anyone!--need any further evidence of McCain's unsound judgment? Of his unfitness to lead the nation in these incredibly trying times? No wonder John McCain doesn't understand the economy as well as he should. With advisors like that, how on earth could he?

Monday, September 15, 2008

PDC unanimously rules that BIAW and Master Builders broke public disclosure laws

Acting on a complaint against the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) and its Master Builder affiliates filed back in July, Washington's campaign finance watchdog agency this morning unanimously ruled the state's meanest, nastiest right wing lobby is guilty of repeatedly breaking public disclosure laws.

The ruling is a big victory for transparency and open government - and it comes during the midst of a heated campaign for the governor's mansion.

Evergreen State progressive activists have long believed that not all of the BIAW's political activity was legal and properly reported. Today, the Public Disclosure Commission confirmed those suspicions in its verdict.

To appreciate the significance of today's ruling and its impact on Evergreen State politics, it's important to understand what the BIAW is and what it wants.

While the name implies trade group, the Building Industry Association of Washington is really more like an insurance broker. State law requires businesses, including homebuilders and contractors, to carry insurance (known as workers' compensation) in the event they are injured while on the job.

In return for providing coverage for their employees, employers usually can't be sued for damages when an employee gets hurt or sick at work.

In other states, insurance is sold by private companies, but in Washington, it is sold by the Department of Labor & Industries, which collects payments from business owners and pays claims.

Because building homes is an inherently dangerous business, premiums for workers' compensation insurance are much higher than they are for other industries. However, homebuilding companies can get some of that money back from the Department of Labor & Industries if they have a relatively safe year.

And that's where the Building Industry of Washington comes in.

Under L&I's "retrospective rating" program, homebuilders can opt to get refunds from the state if their claim costs during a calendar year are lower than anticipated. The program is so named because refunds are issued some time after the conclusion of each twelve month coverage period, following an L&I evaluation.

Employers can participate in the program individually, but it's risky. It is far more advantageous to participate in a pool sponsored by a group. Group plans offer bigger annual refunds and allow individual employers to minimize their risk.

Risk minimization is important because under a group plan, even a company that has a bad year can still get a refund - so long as the larger group does well.

The Building Industry Association of Washington offers the state's biggest group plan... and does a good job aggressively marketing it. The BIAW freely admits that its workers' compensation insurance pool is its number one recruiting tool.

That same pool is also the main source of the BIAW's political war chest. The BIAW keeps a hefty percentage of the refund for itself, returning the rest to its more than one dozen local affiliates and their members.

While membership dues cannot be used for political activity (by law) the BIAW claims there are no rules against using refund money for that purpose.

The money that BIAW keeps is more than enough to pay for basic administrative expenses related to workers' comp.

Everything that is left is available for the BIAW to use in independent expenditures supporting the Republican Party and Republican candidates.

Because the BIAW does a good job managing its insurance pool, its members have little incentive to leave, even if they don't like the BIAW's politics.

The BIAW's political agenda is unequivocally right wing, and is perhaps best explained by Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong in their 2006 book Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People Powered Politics:
Corporate cons[ervatives] seek to craft a government friendly to unfettered, unregulated capitalism, not to mention a government that provides generous subsidies and a steady stream of lucrative contracts to further line their pockets - codifying the culture of corruption into the nation's laws.
The BIAW is the strongest and most well funded opponent of the Northwest Progressive Institute's top legislative priority - the Homeowner's Bill of Rights, which has died at the hands of House Speaker Frank Chopp two years in a row. (Chopp is one of the few Democrats the BIAW respects).

It almost goes without saying that the right wing fanatics who run the BIAW are among Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi's strongest supporters. Their hatred for Governor Chris Gregoire runs deep; in the BIAW's January 2008 newsletter Building Insight, Gregoire was attacked as "a heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead."

Since Dino Rossi lost the gubernatorial election in 2004, the BIAW has been salivating over the thought of a rematch, and has been been raising money with the explicit intent of blasting Gregoire on the airwaves and by direct mail. The BIAW's advertising is filled with lies and distortions that unfairly attack Democrats. The BIAW has also resorted to dirty tricks to aid Dino Rossi's campaign.

During Rossi's election challenge in 2005, BIAW leader Tom McCabe unsuccessfully tried to get U.S. Attorney John McKay involved on Rossi's behalf. When McKay declined, McCabe tried to get McKay removed from his post, and even sought the intervention of 4th District Representative Doc Hastings.

Among the BIAW's unethical practices is trying to avoid complying with campaign transparency rules, which is what today's ruling was about.

Instead of reporting all of its political activity as required by law, the BIAW has historically tried to hide its tracks from public view. Besides failing to report all of its contributions, the BIAW has used shell PACs to mask its expenditures, creating a confusing money trail that reporters and observers must decipher.

For years, the BIAW has avoided being caught, but finally, they've been nailed. It took a complaint signed by several prestigious retired justices and the threat of litigation to compel the Public Disclosure Commission to investigate.

Now the investigation is complete and the BIAW has been found guilty of several of the charges (the rest were dismissed by the PDC).

The PDC found that BIAW's Member Services Corporation subsidiary was illegally concealing over half a million dollars in retrospective rating refunds intended to be used for political expenditures, and that multiple BIAW affiliates (the King and Snohomish Master Builders) spent almost half a million more dollars on electioneering without reporting the contributions.

But whether the BIAW will truly pay for defying the law is uncertain. The most the PDC can do on its own is slap the BIAW with a small fine.

A larger fine would have to be sought by Attorney General Rob McKenna.

The PDC has referred this case to the Attorney General's office, but we believe it is very unlikely that McKenna will opt to prosecute the BIAW, as they are strong supporters of his (and he is a strong supporter of them).

McKenna's office must decide by this Friday whether to prosecute.

McKenna's Democratic opponent, John Ladenburg, ought to make use of the next few days to build public pressure against McKenna and force him to act.

Even if that fails, however, the BIAW isn't necessarily out of the woods.

Attorney Knoll Lowney, who represents both the citizens that filed the PDC complaint and the BIAW trust beneficiaries who are suing the right wing lobby in court, said in a news release today that next week the plaintiffs will ask Thurston County Judge Christine Pomeroy to issue an injunction to stop the BIAW's diversion of retro rebate funds for political spending and unauthorized purposes.

Regardless of what happens next, fleeting justice was finally served today against a corrupt, abusive, and power hungry right wing special interest. The BIAW can scream "Unfair!" until the cows come home, but the ugly footprints they've left on our state's political landscape speak for themselves.

Palin as a disciple of Bush/Cheney/Rove

Further proof that McCain-Palin would be a four year extension of Bush Administration policy: Sarah Palin gets by with a little help from her friends.

So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.

Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.[emphasis mine]

A love of cows and a connection to the Governor apparently qualifies one to be the head of the State Division of Agriculture in Alaska. Sounds a lot like Mike "Heckuva Job" Brownie to me.

But cronyism isn't the only lesson Sarah Palin learned from the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records. [emphasis mine]

So much for the open government that true conservatives claim to want. Practicing as Karl Rove preaches, Palin and her staff take sensitive or potentially embarrassing conversation off the state system into private e-mail so as to circumvent the public's right to know. Conducting the business of the Alaskan people in a cloak of secrecy smacks of the very same Potomac fever that infests Washington, D.C. right now. It's what McCain and Palin purport to clean up, if elected.

As Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Biden says, "That's not change. That's more of the same."

I suppose all we have left to find out is that Sarah Palin had energy companies write energy policy for Alaska, that she believes the Constitution is merely a suggestion, and that she, too, shoots her hunting partners in the face when she goes in for the kill.

Regardless, it appears that Sarah Palin has learned their lessons well.

Update - One more lesson Palin has learned: refusing to cooperate with official government investigations.

Financial meltdown roundup

It's been a pretty dismal day economically around the world. Here is a roundup of the latest developments in the financial meltdown on Wall Street:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped like a rock today, losing over five hundred points on the news of Lehman Brothers' imminent bankruptcy. It's the biggest slide since the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. While the news was bad for the Dow, it was worse for other indexes: the S&P 500 lost 4.7% and the Nasdaq lost 3.2%.

Abroad, the markets have taken a beating. The New York Times reports:
In Europe, benchmark stock indexes were off nearly 4 percent in London and Paris and almost 3 percent in Frankfurt.
CNN's Jack Cafferty read some great comments on air this afternoon from viewers who are refusing to buy the Bush-McCain-Palin spin about the economy:
The last “once in a century financial crises” in this country was the Great Depression run by Republicans, with a Republican President Hoover, who didn’t know much about the economy either. It took a Democrat to get us out of that one then and it looks like it may again.
Here's another email:
It is embarrassing for me to admit I am a Republican. McCain-Palin represent everything wrong with politics. I can’t believe that man said our economy is structurally sound. But considering he doesn’t know how many homes he has, yes I do believe it! I am voting for Barack Obama, a Democrat for the first time in 30 years.
Reacting to the weekend bombshell about Lehman and the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America, Barack Obama said in a statement:
This morning we woke up to some very serious and troubling news from Wall Street.

The situation with Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that are generating enormous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets.

This turmoil is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.

The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren’t minding the store. Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.

I certainly don’t fault Senator McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to.

It’s a philosophy we’ve had for the last eight years – one that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

It’s a philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise, and one that says we should just stick our heads in the sand and ignore economic problems until they spiral into crises.

Well now, instead of prosperity trickling down, the pain has trickled up – from the struggles of hardworking Americans on Main Street to the largest firms of Wall Street.

This country can’t afford another four years of this failed philosophy. For years, I have consistently called for modernizing the rules of the road to suit a 21st century market – rules that would protect American investors and consumers.

And I’ve called for policies that grow our economy and our middle-class together. That is the change I am calling for in this campaign, and that is the change I will bring as President.
Meanwhile, John McCain continued to insist this morning that the economy is sound: "Our economy, I think, is still -- the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times."

Which economy is he talking about?

Bush's failed right wing agenda is to blame for deteoriating economic security

This is a remarkable moment in the life of our nation...Never has the promise of prosperity been so vivid. But times of plenty, like times of crisis, are tests of American character...Prosperity can be a tool in our hands - used to build and better our country. Or it can be a drug in our system - dulling our sense of urgency, of empathy, of duty.

Our opportunities are too great, our lives too short, to waste this moment.

- George W. Bush, August 3rd, 2000

Eight years, one month, and twelve days ago, George W. Bush accepted the Republican nomination for President of the United States in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, paying lip service to the great progressive values of empathy, prosperity and opportunity before a nationwide audience of millions.

Since seizing control of the White House (with the help of the Supreme Court) Bush has presided over one of the most disastrous errors in American history, squandering international goodwill abroad, abusing the power of government, rolling back environmental and consumer protections, aiding and abetting corporate tycoons and lawbreakers, violating treaties, illegally rewarding friends, disobeying the Geneva Conventions, assaulting civil liberties, launching a preemptive attack on a nation that posed no threat to us, using fear to scare voters, dismantling regulatory oversight of the private sector, and obscenely wasting America's common wealth through large transfers of money to the richest of the rich.

For nearly a decade, Republicans, led by the former governor of Texas, have been thrashing the health out of the United States of America, tarnishing our nation's image, destroying its promise, and corrupting its capitol.

The wanton destruction of government, the greed, the gluttony, the overconfidence, and the swagger that have defined the Bush presidency have taken an unbelievable toll - a toll that we may not recover from for decades.

The failure of Bush's right wing agenda is painfully apparent on days like these, with the news that two of the nation's largest investment banks will soon cease to exist. One, Lehman Brothers, is filing for bankruptcy; the other, Merrill Lynch, will soon be a division of the mammoth Bank of America conglomerate.

Both firms are faltering as a result of the effects of the subprime mortgage crisis, which has weakened dozens of once mighty American financial giants.

Since the trouble began, Wall Street has looked to the federal government for help. And the Bush administration has obliged, first by assisting J.P. Morgan Chase take over Bear Stearns, then by placing mortgage underwriters Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under the management of the United States.

(So much for the "free" market.)

But perhaps deciding they couldn't justify sticking taxpayers with the bill for more of Wall Street's mistakes, Treasury officials refused to provide cover for potential buyers of Lehman Brothers. And so, unable to find a savior, the firm is being forced into bankruptcy and eventual liquidation.

Matthew Yglesias muses:
Can someone remind me what it is that all these financial wizards were getting paid so much money to do? Is there some reason you need to pay top dollar to find someone capable of managing an institution into the ground?

Unfortunately, American economic woes extend far beyond Wall Street. Millions of families are grappling with the United States' deteriorating economic security.

In the last year, eleven commercial banks have closed, most notably California's IndyMac Bank, which controlled nearly $20 billion in deposits. Worse, more closures are seemingly on the horizon:
Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, a research firm, predicts that approximately 110 banks with $850 billion in assets could close by next July. That's out of 8,400 federally insured institutions, he said, which together hold $13 trillion in assets.
Unemployment is at a five year high of 6.1%. It's expected to get worse before the year is over and the next president takes office.

Prices for food and fuel are outstripping wage increases, handing American workers what the New York Times dubs "a de facto pay cut".

Families, meanwhile, are buried under more debt than ever.

And the housing bubble is drastically reducing state government revenues at a time when we need our common wealth to be strong.

This is what the right wing agenda has brought us. For most of this century, Republicans have been in control of all three branches of the federal government. (Democrats are now the majority in Congress, but the Senate Democratic caucus has only a tenuous hold on the chamber and the House Democratic caucus is weak thanks to the presence of Bush Dog Democrats).

Instead of holding Wall Street accountable, Bush and the Republicans have done the bidding of corporate titans eager to expand power and profits.

Instead of working to ensure that markets are fair and constructed for the broadest possible prosperity, Bush and the Republicans have pursued an unwise and thoughtless hands-off approach, deriding government oversight as counterproductive.

Instead of investing the Clinton/Gore surplus into America's future, Bush and the Republicans have engineered tax cuts that transferred our valuable public savings into the private bank accounts of millionaires and billionaires.

Instead of strengthening regulations that could have helped prevent or lessen the crisis we find ourselves in, Bush and the Republicans have tried to erase New Deal economic protections put into place by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Instead of helping American workers help themselves by fostering the growth of collective bargaining, Bush and Republicans have waged an all out war on unions.

Instead of conserving for emergencies, Bush and the Republicans have spent like there's no tomorrow, running up massive deficits.

Instead of embracing government's moral mission to empower people, Bush and the Republicans have carried out privateering (privatization + profiteering) schemes that have hurt all of us, whether we live in a small town or a big city.

Instead of acting to stop criminals like Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling of Enron from defrauding consumers and state governments, Bush and the Republicans cheerfully looked the other way while American citizens were gouged.

Ultimately, however, the names of those in charge don't really matter. What does matter is the deeply flawed conservative moral system they believe in. It is that conservative worldview that is truly to blame for this mess. Bush has just been following the agenda laid out by America's leading conservatives.

And as this right wing agenda has torn our nation asunder, it has become increasingly unpopular. Consequently, many conservatives are trying to distance themselves from Bush - even claiming that Dubya isn't a "true conservative".

But he is. It is his stubborn adherence to the bedrock principles of conservatism (i.e. every disciplined man for himself) that have mired our country in a disastrous quagmire in Iraq and led to a weak economy at home.

This Second Gilded Age cannot continue.

We need a new Progressive Era and leadership that can heal the massive wounds conservatives have inflicted upon our country.

Just a few months from now, on January 20th, 2009, the Bush error will be over - but only if we can win this election.

Should McCain and Palin prevail, the nightmare will simply get worse, for this year's Republican ticket is every bit as right wing as Bush and Cheney.

America's economic and national security are at stake in November. We're in a deep, deep hole with only a pinprick of light at the top.

It's time we quit digging.

Bank of America eats Merrill Lynch

The monster financial conglomerate that is Bank of America is getting even bigger with the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, one of Wall Street's most storied brokerages:
In a rushed bid to ride out the storm sweeping American finance, 94-year-old Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed late Sunday to sell itself to Bank of America Corp. for $50 billion.

The deal, worked out in 48 hours of frenetic negotiating, could instantly reshape the U.S. banking landscape, making the nation's prime behemoth even bigger. Early Monday, the two firms said the directors of both companies had agreed to the deal, which will be subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals.
If you're keeping score at home, you know that this is just the latest in a long series of Bank of America takeovers. Every few months, the company seems to be enlarging itself in dramatic fashion.

Here's a review of some of Bank of America's largest twenty first century meals, based in part on information provided by Wikipedia:

October 27th, 2003: Bank of America buys FleetBoston Financial for $47 billion in an all-stock deal, making it the United States' largest bank by deposits. The deal eventually closes in 2004.

July 13th, 2004: Bank of America buys the Kentucky-based National Processing Company for $1.4 billion from National City Corporation.

June 30th, 2005: Bank of America buys credit card giant MBNA for $35 billion in cash and stock. Bank of America inherits forty million U.S. accounts and nearly $140 billion in outstanding balances.

November 20th, 2006: Bank of America buys the United States Trust Company from the Charles Schwab Corporation for $3.3 billion.

September 14th, 2007: Bank of America buys ABN AMRO North America, LaSalle Bank Corporation, and LaSalle Corporate Finance from ABN AMRO for $21 billion, giving Bank of America a staggering $1.7 trillion in assets. The acquisition makes Bank of America the largest bank in the Chicago area. Across the Midwest (in Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana) BofA adds 411 branches, 17,000 commercial bank clients, 1.4 million retail customers and 1,500 ATMs.

January 11th, 2008: Bank of America buys Countrywide Financial for $4.1 billion. Officially, Countrywide is merged with Red Oak Merger Corporation, an independent subsidiary created by Bank of America in an attempt to control liability. As of the end of last year, Countrywide provided services for nine million mortgages collectively worth $1.4 trillion.

September 15th, 2008: Bank of America buys Merrill Lynch for $29 a share, making it the largest financial services company in the world.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gregoire: Where's the change?

Governor Gregoire moves the dotted line Dino Rossi has tried to draw between himself and Obama, right back where it belongs, between Rossi and President Bush. She argues that Obama's "change" is not the type of change that Dino Rossi has planned for Washington State.

Here's an excerpt from Gregoire's article in the Daily Kos:

George Bush brought us eight years of failed policies that have hurt our nation and communities. He slashed healthcare for children, opposed safeguards for our air and water, denied the existence of global warming, opposed comprehensive stem cell research and put special interests ahead of our interests.

With a record like that, it’s not surprising that times are tough and a message of "change" is resonating with voters. It’s also not surprising that Republicans all over the nation and up and down the ticket are co-opting this message.

If you support Obama/Rossi, you haven't been paying attention. All change is not equal:
Take my Republican opponent, Dino Rossi. He opposes comprehensive stem cell research, a woman’s right to choose, safeguards for our air and water, and puts special interests ahead of our interests. As chair of the state Senate’s budget committee, he slashed healthcare for children.
Barak Obama is an exciting candidate who understands Gregoire's push for a green economy and better healthcare for children, protection of the environment and of a women's right to choose. Gregoire caucused for Obama in the primary, honored him at the Democratic National Convention and is a proud supporter of his vision for America. If elected, Obama will enact some of the policies that Gregoire has already brought to our state. Gregoire has already brought change to Washington.

Blogworthy, September 12th, 2008

There's been so much happening this week that giving each news item we we'd like to touch on its own post is unrealistic. So, to quickly round up some of the important developments that are going on, here's the latest edition of Blogworthy.

The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund has released a hard-hitting, emotionally compelling ad blasting Sarah Palin for her support of aerial wildlife slaughters. The ad brutally depicts the practice, showing a low flying aircraft with gunmen inside using high caliber rifles to shoot and kill wolves. This is one of the best ads we've seen so far this cycle. Take a look.

Speaking of Sarah Palin, film critic Roger Ebert feels so strongly that she isn't qualified for the Vice Presidential job that he penned a scathing column panning her selection as John McCain's running mate. An excellent read.

Hurricane Ike is poised to strike the Texas coast late today or early tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service, which is warning of big floods:




As of 2 PM Pacific Time, Ike was a Category 2 storm with winds at 105 MPH.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama spoke to representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers today by satellite, attacking John McCain and his lobbyist friends for standing in the way of Boeing's efforts to fairly win the Air Force's tanker contract.

Here is an excerpt of his speech, courtesy of the campaign:
John McCain just doesn’t get it.

Just ask your brothers and sisters at Boeing. Because while it was right for the Pentagon to cancel competition yesterday for the next generation of tankers, it was wrong for John McCain to reward two of the Washington lobbyists who worked against Boeing with jobs on his campaign.


Just ask the workers across this country who have seen their jobs outsourced. The very companies that shipped their jobs overseas have been rewarded with billions of dollars in tax breaks that John McCain supports and plans to continue.

So when American workers hear John McCain talking about putting country first, it’s fair to ask – which country?
A judge has slammed the door on Republicans' attempts to bury a competitive U.S. Senate race at the bottom of the ballot in Mississippi in violation of state law. A Republican-controlled elections commission, which answers to corrupt Republican Governor Haley Barbour, had schemed to dampen turnout in the race (with the idea that Democratic leaning voters wouldn't bother to finish voting) by illegally moving it below downballot races.

The case is likely to be appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which is unfortunately also controlled by Barbour allies.

Meanwhile, another Republican - entrenched Republican Norm Coleman, who currently controls the office once held by the great Paul Wellstone - has made a major advertising blunder that could cost his campaign millions of dollars.

DailyKos explains:
The senior Senator's latest ad features the former Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota attacking Coleman's Democratic opponent, Al Franken. The ad specifically mentions Franken by name, in fact.

Unfortunately for Coleman, he is required to air his own likeness on screen for four full seconds in such an ad, or he forfeits the right to enjoy the "special candidate rate" for broadcast advertising.
However, it's not clear that the law Coleman violated will be enforced:
So what will happen to Coleman? The ball is in the court of Minnesota's broadcast stations; should they continue to offer the lower rate, however, they may be subject to legal action by the Franken campaign, the Minnesota DFL, or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It is unknown whether legal action would actually be pursued in such a case.

The relevant law, passed in 2002, has never been litigated before, so the campaigns and parties are in uncharted waters here.

This story could go away overnight, or wind up deciding the campaign in Minnesota. It's anybody's guess what will happen, at this point.
Finally, a bit of news in a race down south: if an internal Democratic poll is to be believed (and we at NPI are suspicious of polling in general) Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jeff Merkley is gaining ground on incumbent Gordon Smith, one of the wealthiest Republicans in the country:
Jeff Merkley (D): 43 (38)
Gordon Smith (R-inc): 41 (47)
Dave Brownlow (C): 6 (4)
(MoE: ±3.7%)
The poll was conducted last week by Benenson Strategy Group of likely voters. The parentheses show the numbers from the poll conducted in August.

Smith appears to be in trouble with undecided and independent voters, who do not have a favorable impression of his job performance. Hopefully, this is the year that Democrats capture a majority of U.S. Senate seats in the Pacific Northwest. It won't happen without hard work, though. If you're reading from Oregon, please head on over to Jeff Merkley's website today to volunteer or donate.

Jeff needs your help to make the U.S. Senate more progressive.

WA-08: Burner releases economic agenda

Poor Dave Reichert.

You almost have to feel sorry for the guy. First, Darcy Burner single-handedly changed the national framing around the Iraq debate by releasing the Responsible Plan to end the war. Before her, the debate was a "leave or stay" debate. Now it's a "leave responsibly or irresponsibly" debate.

(Side note: the latest evidence in how her action will probably help a dozen or so other house challengers get elected comes in the form of Rabbi Dennis Shulman (NJ-05) and his response to the DailyKos "Orange to Blue" program:
I oppose residual forces in Iraq – I support a rapid and responsible withdrawal under the guidance of military leaders tasked with structuring just that, the most rapid & responsible withdrawal of all American forces.
That's twice in a single sentence he echoes Darcy's framing of the issue. Note, too, how the framing has evolved beyond simply a responsible end to a "rapid and responsible" end, an even stronger framing. No wonder the right-wing hates evolution!)

As if that weren't enough to put Hairspray Dave on the ropes, now Darcy has released an equally thoughtful and cogent economic agenda designed to Put Middle Class Families First. This is a plan that seeks to answer the question of how we fix U.S. economic policy in ways that encourage and support the growth of the middle class.

As too many of us have become aware of first-hand, the "trickle down" mindset created by Ronald Reagan and pursued with a relentless lack of mercy by George Bush has done nothing but create misery and hardship for those of us who, not to put too fine a point on it, aren't rich.

It's class warfare. Countless Republican policy initiatives of the past 28 years have, as their underlying goal, to shift the costs of social infrastructure and services onto the backs of working Americans. Why? So their friends in big business don't have to pay for it, or so they can claim to be doing Americans a favor by cutting their taxes.

They never mention, of course, what people are going to lose out on because of that. And every time, it gets just a little bit harder for working Americans to afford their children's education, their mortgages, their health care, their food and fuel.

This should be obvious to any policy maker with a basic high-school grasp of economics. It strikes me as a shameful failing of our policy makers that it now takes an unelected candidate for the U.S. House to say what should have been said long ago: These policies are killing the middle class, they have to be fixed, and here's how to do it.

All I can say is God Bless Darcy Burner for having the intelligence and the outright moxie to do it.

First the Responsible Plan, and now the Putting Middle Class Families First plan. I look forward to seeing Darcy's newest plan shapes the national dialogue on economic issues and the middle class.

Ask yourself this: when was the last time Dave Reichert did anything which changed the way the nation thinks about any issue? That's right, never. No wonder Dave Reichert was rated less influential in his House seat than the non-voting House member from Guam. And now, once again, Darcy Burner has shown that he is also less influential than his unelected challenger.

You almost have to feel sorry for the guy.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin's insights

As if the American people haven't had enough John McCain's 100 year war in Iraq, and his vocal stylings on "Bomb Iran", now his partner in crime, Sarah Palin, is suggesting the United States go to war with Russia.

As Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has unique insight into Russia.
Palin also said she had some “insight” into Russia because “they are our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”
Apparently the only substantial foreign policy experience one needs to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency is to look out across the horizon as far as one can see. Then, by some divine intervention (as I'm sure is the case with Palin), all knowledge on foreign policy is gained. Following this wondrous miracle, one becomes qualified to send troops out to implement "God's plan."

So hurry, for a limited time only, dial 1-800-GOP-2008 and for a contribution of your first born or the price of a barrel of oil (whichever is higher), they'll send you a pair of high-powered binoculars, so that you too can be a foreign policy expert. Quantities are limited, while supplies last, void where prohibited by law.

Honor and McCain

There's been a lot of talk lately about honor with respect to John McCain.

His latest move, which proves the old saying "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and shows that, for McCain, partisan politics trumps everything, including family: is the hiring of Tucker Eskew for his presidential campaign.

Who is Tucker Eskew you ask? Here is Eskew's official White House bio.
Tucker directed communications for the South Carolina presidential primary campaign of then-Governor George W. Bush.
And what happened in South Carolina in 2000? Eskew smeared John McCain and his family.
A smear campaign during the primary in February 2000 here had many in South Carolina falsely believing that Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, was a drug addict and that the couple’s adopted daughter, Bridget, was the product of an illicit union. Mr. McCain’s patriotism, mental well-being and sexuality were also viciously called into question.
So we now know that John McCain values the presidency more than he values his family. That McCain would hire a man who delivered such vicious and patently untrue hits against him and his family, and helped George W. Bush beat McCain for the Republican nomination, shows just how little character he has and what little honor he has. Very few men would hire a man who once trashed his wife and daughter. Most of us would find it hard not to punch the guy in the face. Apparently, John McCain has no sense of honor and no respect for his wife or his daughter. Well, we already knew what John thought of Cindy.

Those signs in St. Paul at the GOP convention shouldn't have read "Country First", they should have read "Me First."

Sorry about that...

While working in the archive, we accidentally replaced The Advocate's front page with the monthly archive from a year ago (September 2007).

Everything should now be back to normal. Sorry for the inconvenience.

In memoriam, seven years later

Today is the seventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks. In honor of those who died that day, I am republishing a poem I've posted the last couple of years:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- by Paul Spreadbury, dedicated to the victims of September 11th

September 11th: Time to take stock

Seven years ago, on a beautiful September day much like this one, almost 3,000 people from over ninety different nations died a senseless death that ultimately lead our country into an unnecessary war.

The world's goodwill extended to the U.S. after the tragedy of 9/11 was squandered by the Bush administration's belligerent foreign policies, and President Bush's hunt for the man responsible for the attack has faltered.

When remembering victims today, let's consider what the government has done to make us safer in the last seven years.

According to a new bipartisan report, despite Bush's heavy anti-terrorism rhetoric, his administration's real progress in fighting terrorism has been slight. From Indiana's JournalGazette:
The bipartisan Partnership for a Secure America gave the United States an overall grade of C. The government received in total three D's, eight C's and seven B's in areas such as sustaining support of foreign scientists and governments, integrating programs to prevent nuclear terrorism and strengthening multilateral law enforcement efforts.
This panel is composed of 22 former U.S. officials and is co-chaired by Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 911 commission, and Warren Rudman, former senator and co-chairman of a 2001 blue-ribbon commission on terrorism.

There's one bright spot here; the Bush administration's last grade on terrorism, in a 2005 report, was a D. Anti-terrorism efforts have moved from poor to middling which is progress, but there's still a lot of room for improvement.

The panel offers solid recommendations for protecting America against another 9/11. We must encourage the future Obama administration to listen to security experts and enact policies that keep Americans safe rather than just fearful.

The hidden Palin agenda?

Where even to start with Sarah Palin?

Of course much has been made about McCain's incredibly un-subtle, ham-fisted attempt to woo Hillary Clinton supporters by means of picking Palin as his running mate. As VP picks go, it has been called everything from puzzling to moronic to a "hail mary play".

And you know what? I think "hail mary play" probably comes closest to reality (if we can even use that term with a straight face in light of the traditional media's seeming inability to compare politicians' statements with reality). I really believe that was McCain's primary reason.

But then the truth started coming out.

Troopergate. Bridgegate. Earmarkgate. Infidelitygate. Shotgun-weddinggate. Rape kitgate. Inexperiencegate. Wolfgate.

And that in just the first week since McCain picked her.

What on earth are we in for next week? Everybody from north, east, west and middle is realizing she's got a few screws loose even for a hard-core right winger. She scares the heck out of Matt Damon. VP-fetishism over her has driven Christopher Moore to a truly first rate piece of dialectic about why he supports Obama. The only folks who seem to like her are southern evangelicals (and not even some of them).

So it all makes me wonder if there's another agenda behind the Palin pick, and after some thought I think there is.

It all gets back to the pick being a hail mary play in the first place. Because you don't make that play if you think you have a shot at winning through ordinary means. So I think that McCain, deep in his lying little heart, believes he's not going to win in November. I think McCain already knows he's in deep, dark, electoral water and can feel the undertow pulling him away from shore.

So what does he do? He throws a hail mary pass and hopes for a miracle. But he chooses a particular hail mary pass that gives him an out if the miracle--surprise surprise--fails to materialize. And that's where Palin comes in.

Simply put, McCain picked Palin because she creates a path for him not to have to accept responsibility for his own abominably lousy campaign.

Palin's pick was weird, even by GOP standards, but it was justifiable for at least three reasons: it makes a play for Clinton voters and thus attempts to undermine Obama's base, it firms up his support among evangelicals (well, except for the ones who don't forget what the Good Book says), and it draws the media attention away from the surging Obama campaign.

But the hidden agenda is that she's so bad, so shockingly ill-qualified, so wretchedly ignorant about the basics of governance and foreign policy, that McCain now has an excuse for failing in November. Now, when he goes down to defeat like he must surely believe he will, he can blame his running mate.

She's his pick, of course, and therefore she's his responsibility, but that won't matter. He'll just lie and say he didn't know about her record, about her ignorance, about the graveyard of skeletons in her closet. Or he'll say that she hid that stuff from him. And he'll blame age-discriminating Palin-hating voters who worry that McCain will drop dead in office.

The miracle McCain was hoping for from his hail mary play hasn't--and almost certainly will not--appear. But the excuse it gives him certainly will.

George Will tells Americans not to look into their wallets

George Will really confounds me, and judging by recent numerous and critical letters to the editor, I am not the only one he frustrates.

In Sunday's Seattle Times, Will turns the nation's economic anxiety into superficial materialism. Bringing up Ronald Reagan's successful campaign question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" now being reused by the John McCain campaign, he asks us not to consider our financial situation when voting, but instead to look at abstractions such as "romance, fly fishing and grandchildren." Don't distract us from the real question. The last time I checked, these meaningful items are not the responsibility of the federal government. Giving Americans a fair shot at financial well-being is.

Will laments:
We do, unfortunately, live, as Edmund Burke lamented, in an age of "economists and calculators" who are eager to reduce all things to the dust of numeracy, neglecting what Burke called "the decent drapery of life." In this supposedly rational and scientific age, the thirst for simple metrics seduces people into a preoccupation with things that lend themselves to quantification.
It seems a lot of Americans are preoccupied with "things" today, things like food, jobs, and gas for their commute, things that cost considerably more today than they did a year ago. The economy is far and away the most important issue to voters who are considering the presidential candidates, and at 6.1%, the national unemployment rate is the highest it's been in five years.

When asked by a pollster whether or not they are better off than they were four years ago, voters understand that their love life is their own responsibility, but creating an environment where Americans can receive a fair wage, receive health care that won't bankrupt them and afford to keep their kids in food and tennis shoes is the government's.

When choosing a presidential candidate to represent them, voters will consider their wallets, and righly so. Perhaps George Will also believes Phil Gramm, John McCain's former top economic advisor's statement that Americans are in a "mental recession." It's not all in our heads.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Idaho U.S. Senate debate today

This evening at 6 p.m. Mountain/ 5 p.m. Pacific, candidates for the U.S. Senate in Idaho will be debating in Sandpoint. Democrat Larry LaRocco and Independent Rex Rammell will be participating, though notably absent will be Republican Lt. Governor Jim Risch. Risch was invited to participate in the debate, but failed to respond.

Risch's decision to not participate in the debate is underscored by the DSCC deciding to target Idaho as a winnable race, earlier this week.

Larry LaRocco's campaign is streaming the debate live on the Internet, and they have provided us the embed code so that we can bring the debate to you. So tune in right here on this post at 5 PM if you're in Washington/Oregon or 6 PM if you're in Idaho.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McCain's problem with women

John McCain's cynical ploy to pursue the votes of "Hillary voters" (is there anyone out there still planning to vote for Hillary?), by naming Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, is just that, a ploy.

You see, McCain isn't so strong on women's issues or in his interpersonal relationships with women, so he thought he'd add Sarah Palin to the ticket, thinking the women would mindlessly follow.

Consider this:

Senator McCain, if given the opportunity, would overturn Roe v. Wade.

McCain used a slang term for the female anatomy to yell at his wife, Cindy, in front of staffers and reporters, no less.

John McCain thinks rape is funny, and at least one of his wealthy supporters does too.

John McCain cheated on his first wife, Carol, who was in a bad car accident that left her crippled and married the former Cindy Hensley.

Earlier this year, John McCain offered up his wife, Cindy, for a topless contest at the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Given McCain's resume, he's better suited to run for President of the fraternity house, not President of the United States. Next thing you know we're going to find video of John McCain hanging out with Joe Francis for another installment of Girls Gone Wild.

But, you see, Sarah Palin doesn't come out smelling like a rose either.

As Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin charged rape victims for their own forensic exams, commonly known as rape kits. Sarah Palin's policy: get raped, pay to prove it. So raped victims got victimized twice.

So any notion from pollsters that women are flocking to John McCain because he brought Sarah Palin on board is crazy.

I haven't met a single woman who admires the qualities John McCain seems to possess with regard to women. Maybe Sarah Palin didn't fully vet him before joining the ticket.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rossi Bringing Bobby Jindal to the Pacific NW

This Wednesday, t 6 PM, Dino Rossi is bringing arch-conservative Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to town for a fundraiser at the Bellevue Hilton.

I have heard a little whining that Obama should have put Hillary Clinton on the ticket. Had this happened, I believe McCain would have put "rising star" Jindal on the ticket instead of Palin.

It would have been no different - a pick that would likely have been just as popular with his "base." In either case, it would be a social conservative who was younger and who could be said to represent a new demographic.

In the case of Jindal, he recently signed into law a "chemical castration" bill, which can be seen on video here. He is also an off-shore drilling enthusiast. Although conservatives think nothing of spreading rumors that Obama is a Muslim, Jindal was born a Hindu (to immigrant parents) and converted to Catholicism. Like Palin, Jindal opposes abortion without exception. He opposes stem cell research. He has an A rating from Gun Owners of America. He has voted 97% with the Republican caucus.

Since the Palin choice seems to represent an appeal to the base, I can only imagine that Rossi is taking McCain's lead in trying to use a right wing governor to increase his conservative support while simultaneously trying to play to biconceptuals.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gregoire makes a good impression

While attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver last month, Governor Gregoire was being closely observed, as recorded in a guest op-ed column in Monday's Seattle P-I. The observer was Colorado policeman, Frank Vanecek, who drove and provided security for Gregoire and her staff while in Denver, and his opinion cast the governor in quite a favorable light:
Several things about the governor are remarkable -- her energy, the things that appeared to be her priorities, the way she dealt with people, including me. I was essentially a taxi driver with a badge, yet Gregoire was very thoughtful and considerate of my well-being and me.
Mr. Vanecek goes on to say:

I've spent much of my 28 years in law enforcement as an investigator, interacting with thousands of people and making judgments on their truthfulness and character.

My conclusions after spending time as a "fly on the wall" with Gregoire is that she is a person of integrity who has the interest of her state at heart and puts that interest above her own.

Since we've seen that the electorate puts a high premium on personality and likeability when choosing its candidates, testimonies like these, from a Republican nonetheless, show a governor that is an admirable person both in and out of the limelight.

Sarah Palin continues lies about earmarks

Mark Twain once said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics." In the case of Sarah Palin, any way you look at it, she's lying. This evening in a campaign stop in Albuquerque, Sarah Palin continued her lying about earmarks.
Palin claimed she "championed reform of earmark spending by Congress, and I told the Congress thanks but no thanks on that 'Bridge to Nowhere,'" she said, ommiting mention that she'd campaigned for governor supporting the bridge. "If our state wanted a bridge, we’d build it ourselves."
Palin can say what she likes about earmarks, but her record and the facts show otherwise. For Governor Palin to suggest otherwise is disingenuous and an outright lie. Sarah Palin loved earmarks when it was politically expedient for her.
But records show that Palin -- first as mayor of Wasilla and recently as governor of Alaska -- was far from shy about pursuing tens of millions in earmarks for her town, her region and her state.

This year, Palin, who has been governor for nearly 22 months, defended earmarking as a vital part of the legislative system. "The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship," she wrote in a newspaper column.


Wasilla had received few if any earmarks before Palin became mayor. She actively sought federal funds -- a campaign that began to pay off only after she hired a lobbyist with close ties to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who long controlled federal spending as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He made funneling money to Alaska his hallmark.
So not only did Sarah Palin pursue earmarks, she hired a lobbyist with ties to a Senator who is currently under indictment for corruption.

Unfortunately, since the traditional media is still jonesing over Palin's penchant for moose burgers, and she's not taking any questions from the media, you won't find this information anywhere but in the progressive blogosphere, for now.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rossi's math similar to McKenna's

Face it; math is just not a Republican strong suit.

If you've been following along with Attorney General Rob McKenna's back and forth about what kind of McCain showing in our state would propel Dino Rossi into the governor's mansion, we can now add Rossi's own miscalculation.

In a recent interview with KUOW's Ross Reynolds, Rossi claimed that he outperformed George W. Bush by 8% points in 2004.

Unfortunately, looking at that claim a couple of different ways, I still don't come up with 8%. The best I can give him is a difference of a little under 5%.

Political campaigns love numbers even if they don't know how to use them, and right now the numbers don't look too good for either McCain or Rossi in Washington. Beyond the numbers, McCain's own state campaign chair is publically pessimistic about McCain's success in our state and Rossi has abandoned his party's nominee and is hanging onto the coattails of Washington's likely victor, Barak Obama. Doesn't he know that will get him nowhere?

If you are a supporter of Barack Obama, you know that the change he will bring is just the opposite of the regressiveness that Rossi plans for Washington. Not only do Rossi's numbers not look so good, but neither does his vision for our state.

AM 1090 adds The Ron Reagan Show to lineup

One of our locals is back on the air (no, it's not Goldy but hopefully he's next), and a great addition to progressive talk radio. In a press release earlier today, AM 1090, Seattle's Air America affiliate made it official: the Ron Reagan show will be airing at 5 p.m. weekdays, and syndicated nationally, beginning September 8.

Ron Reagan is a longtime resident of Seattle, who has hosted radio programs here, as well as, a daily TV show on MSNBC. His voice strengthens an already stellar lineup on Air America. Here's more from the press release:
Progressive Talk, AM1090 (KPTK) has announced the launch of The Ron Reagan Show, to be broadcast live from the KPTK studios each weekday afternoon at 5:00 PM beginning on Monday, September 8. The one-hour program will be nationally syndicated through Air America Radio.

“Ron has joined KPTK and Air
America during special election and convention coverage, and listeners have been pleased and excited by his insight, story-telling ability, and entertaining style”, said Paul Fredricks, KPTK Operations Manager. “He has previously hosted radio programs in Seattle
and a daily TV show on MSNBC, and also did a fantastic job as the moderator of this years AM1090 Townhall Forum "We The People". “

In a related announcement, The Rachel Maddow Show, will now be broadcast weekdays from
3:00-5:00PM, PT, to allow Rachel more time to bring truth to the masses through her own nightly television show on MSNBC.
Congratulations Ron and good luck with the new show. We'll be listening.

Nancy Wilson responds to McCain campaign's use of Barracuda

Well, that didn't take long.

As Andrew reported last night, after his acceptance speech last night the McCain campaign used Heart's "Barracuda" as background music to promote the image of his running mate, Sarah Palin. Andrew also noted that Heart is known for its support of the Democratic Party, and that McCain has a history of using artists' music without permission.

Here is Nancy Wilson's response to the use of her music by the McCain campaign, and the statement Heart sent out.
With that elephant in the room, Heart's Nancy Wilson felt compelled to personally respond. "I think it's completely unfair to be so misrepresented," she said in a phone call to after the speech. "I feel completely f---ed over." She and sister Ann Wilson then e-mailed the following exclusive statement:

"Sarah Palin's views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image. The song 'Barracuda' was written in the late 70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The 'barracuda' represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there's irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."

Perhaps McCain will use Dancing Queen next to promote Palin's image. Anybody know if ABBA supports Democrats (and yes, I know they're Swedish)?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What community organizers are doing

Last night, Sarah Palin revealed her disdain for community organizers. Today, she may have found out what community organizers can do.

Wellstone Action! made sure to inform Governor Palin of the responsibilities of a community organizer. They would know since they've trained over 20,000 of them, including me and our Executive Director, Andrew Villeneuve.

But, as Taegan Goddard reported earlier today, since Palin's speech last night the Obama campaign was on pace to raise $10 million before John McCain went on stage tonight. As for the Republicans, the best the RNC could do was $1 million, after a speech loaded with red meat designed to fire up the Republican base.

$10 million overnight isn't the result of a few large donors. It's because of community organizers, who are bringing their friends and neighbors into Barack Obama's campaign for change. It's people-powered politics, something the GOP (that's Graveyard of Progress) derides. Door by door, block by block, we're creating the change we want to see in our country, and they're afraid of us.

Notes on John McCain's speech

Well, it looks like John McCain's speech in St. Paul is finally over.

I was watching at the beginning, but I didn't want to fall asleep without taking advantage of a delicious backyard grill, so I went outside midway through to eat dinner. By the time I came back, the speech was still going, and I didn't miss one second of its conclusion, complete with the obligatory confetti and balloon drop.

A few thoughts on the speech:
  • Thanks for the shout out to Team Obama, Senator McCain. It'd be a lot easier for us to respect your ticket if you would kindly tell Sarah Palin to stop telling lies about ours.
  • Speaking of Sarah Palin, it sure seems like she has overshadowed McCain throughout these last few days in St. Paul. Chuck Todd, on MSNBC, opined on the post-speech broadcast that the 2008 Republican National Convention was Palin's show. It's telling that McCain's biggest applause line during his speech was his reference to his running mate.
  • Do McCain's campaign staff not watch the Colbert Report on Comedy Central? Once again, they had McCain delivering an important primetime address to a television audience in front of a green screen (for at least part of the time). Later, it was a blue screen. My guess is, it'll soon be time for another Stephen Colbert Green Screen Challenge.
  • Did the McCain camp get permission from Heart to play "Barracuda" after the speech had ended and Palin was onstage waving to delegates with him? The band, also famous for its hits "These Dreams" and "Never", is known for its loyalty to the Democratic Party. And McCain's campaign has a history of using songs without getting permission from the artists.
  • In what I would call a metaphor for a bankrupt party lacking fresh ideas and substance, convention organizers tried to incorporate fireworks into the conclusion of McCain's speech, mimicking the grand Democratic finale at Invesco Field a week ago. Except the Republicans' fireworks weren't real. They were fake: a looping tape played on a screen behind McCain and Palin.
  • Analyst Jeffrey Toobin is calling McCain's speech one of the worst ever from a presidential nominee - "shockingly bad", to use his word choice.
Finally, in what might just be the funniest and best moment of the entire night, former Pennsylvania Governor and one-time potential vice presidential choice Tom Ridge accidentally committed a major Freudian slip on MSNBC attempting to respond to a question from Tom Brokaw:
BROKAW: But the fact is, governor, that you have had eight years of a Bush administration a lot of Republicans in Congress for the last eight years, so why wouldn't the American people say, look, they had their shot, we're going to change?

RIDGE: Because John Bush - because John McCain is very much his own man.
Hilarious. Those twelve words sure say it all, don't they?

UPDATE: Obama's official response:
Tonight, John McCain said that his party was elected to change Washington, but that they let Washington change them. He’s right. He admonished the ‘old, do-nothing crowd’ in Washington, but ignored the fact that he’s been part of that crowd for twenty-six years, opposing solutions on health care, energy, and education.

He talked about bipartisanship, but didn’t mention that he’s been a Bush partisan 90% of the time, that he’s run a Karl Rove campaign, and that he wants to continue this President’s disastrous economic and foreign policies for another four years. With John McCain, it’s more of the same.

That’s not the change Americans need. Barack Obama has taken on the special interests and the lobbyists in Illinois and in Washington, and he’s won. As President, he’ll cut taxes for 95% of all working families, provide affordable health care to every American, end the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and eliminate the oil we import from the Middle East in ten years.
The conventions are over. Now, the final heat towards November 4th begins.

The Palin record, part 2

Since the McCain campaign only had a couple of days to vet Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, we're taking it upon ourselves to help out with that process and let the American people get to know what the McCain campaign won't tell them. So here is the another installment of the Palin record.

As Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin fired the police chief for getting in the way of her campaign contributors, including bar owners and NRA members.

After taking over as Mayor of the small town of Wasilla, Palin fired the longtime local police chief. The former police chief, Irl Stambaugh says he was fired because he stepped on the toes of Palin's campaign contributors, including bar owners and the National Rifle Association.

Stambaugh's lawyer, William Jermain, says the chief tried to move up the closing hours of local bars from 5 a.m. to two a.m. after a spurt of drunk driving accidents and arrests.

"His crackdown on that practice by the bars was not appreciated by her and that was one reason she terminated Irl," said Jermain.

In his 1997 lawsuit, Stambaugh also alleged that his stand on restricting concealed weapons upset the NRA.

So much for the law and order image that the Republican party has carefully cultivated for the last 25 years. I say it's an image because, with many Republican lawmakers, the law typically only applies to people outside the good old boys network.

As for John McCain's emphasis on Sarah Palin's status as "Commander-In-Chief" of the Alaskan National Guard: she's never given them an order. Sure she has the title, but she has no experience actually serving in the role. In that respect, she and I have the same amount of experience, since I've never given an order to the Alaskan National Guard either.

Later, when questions were raised about Palin's lack of experience in national and international affairs, the McCain campaign pointed again to her military command experience as governor. Some reporters have tried to follow up.

"Can you tell me one decision that she made as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard?" CNN journalist Campbell Brown asked Monday while interviewing McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. "Just one?"

Bounds couldn't, because Palin has never personally ordered the state guard to do anything.

It's also likely that the Bush-McCain doctrine of cowboy diplomacy and war, a la the Wild Wild West, has so depleted the number of Alaskan National Guard members in the state, that there is nobody for Governor Palin to give an order. That's not her fault, it's the fault of John McCain and the Bush Administration.

And what of those earmarks that Palin so loves to say she hates?

Wasilla had received few if any earmarks before Palin became mayor. She actively sought federal funds -- a campaign that began to pay off only after she hired a lobbyist with close ties to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who long controlled federal spending as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He made funneling money to Alaska his hallmark.

Steven Silver was a former chief of staff for Stevens. After he was hired, Wasilla obtained funding for several projects in 2002, including an additional $600,000 in transportation funding.

That year, a local water and sewer project received $1.5 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, which combs federal spending measures to identify projects inserted by congressional members.[emphasis mine]

Close ties to a Senator who is under indictment for corruption? That will merit some future research. But for now, it's clear that Sarah Palin has been lying about her opposition to earmarks.

And in the true spirit of the culture of corruption, Palin has also used public resources for campaign purposes.
In her 2002 Lt. Governor bid, Mayor Palin used city employees, telephones, computers, fax machines for campaign fundraising and literature. On her candidate registration form, she used her City Hall fax number, and her mayoral e-mail address. Records show that Wasilla city property was used to contact supporters, donors, media contacts, and media purchasing. [Anchorage Daily News, 7/21/06]
Political reformer? Maverick? No, just more of the same from the Republicans.

Barack Obama responds to Sarah Palin

On the stump today, Barack Obama wasted no time in hitting back at Sarah Palin and the Republicans for their shameless political theater last night:
You wouldn't know that this is such a critical election by watching the convention last night. I know we had our week.

And the Republicans deserve theirs. But it's been amazing for me to watch over the last two nights.

If you sit there, and you watch it. You're hearing a lot about John McCain, and he's got a compelling biography as a P.O.W.

You're hearing an awful lot about me. Much of which is not true.

What you're not hearing is a lot about you.

You haven't heard one word about how they're going to make the health system work - so that when a union is negotiating with a company it's not all just a discussion about higher premiums and you guys can actually start talking about higher wages and benefits.

You haven't heard one word about how we're gonna create more apprenticeship programs like the ones we have here. Or give other people a chance to train in new trades.

You haven't heard one word about getting serious about green and alternative energy. The kind of work that is resulting in all the expansion and hiring here.

You haven't heard one word about how we're going to strengthen unions so that working people get a decent stake.

You haven't heard one word about how we're going to improve math and science education so that we can hire more engineers to create more products in green technology.

You haven't heard one word about how we're going to deal with any aspect of the economy that is affecting you and your pocket day to day.

Haven't heard one word about it. Literally. Two nights. They have not said a word about it. They have not said a word about it. They've had a lot to say about me. But they haven't had anything to say about you.

And the thing that I'm insisting on in this election is that we can't keep playing the same political games we always play.
Well said, sir. Well said!

Whereas in the past, there might have been no strong Democratic response forthcoming from the nominee, this year is different.

This year we have a champion who won't back down or cower in the face of Republican attacks and viciousness. This year we have a leader who will fearlessly lead our party into battle against the Republicans.

This year, we have Barack Obama.

And as Barack says, we have ourselves. Millions of us, who have come together to take back our country. Barack has provided the inspiration; we have provided the time, talent, and treasure in this people-powered campaign. We will continue forward, united in our efforts to win the White House this November.

And nothing Sarah Palin or John McCain can say or do is going to lower our spirits. The destruction of our common wealth by the right wing has gone on long enough.

This year, it ends.

The Palin record

Last night at the RNC, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin introduced herself to those of us in the other 49 states, since most of us only really know that she apparently eats moose burgers, is a hockey mom, has five kids and is married to some guy called the "First Dude".

Last night we found out that Palin hates community organizers.

But here's what we know about Sarah Palin the politician, and it ain't pretty.

As Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin tried to ban books fom the library and force her religious beliefs on everyone else.
Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
Threatening to fire the librarian sounds eerily familiar to the Troopergate problem Governor Palin currently faces, except the librarian wasn't a family member.

During her 2006 gubernatorial race, Sarah Palin suggested that creationism be taught in schools.
The volatile issue of teaching creation science in public schools popped up in the Alaska governor's race this week when Republican Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state's public classrooms.

Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."
More recently, Governor Palin has declared American military intervention in Iraq to be God's will. Sounds a lot like a certain American President who invokes the Almighty at every opportunity.

And let's not forget that Sarah Palin is in denial about climate change.

In an interview for the September issue of the conservative magazine Newsmax, Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, said she does not believe climate change is caused by human behavior.

“A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made,” Palin said in the interview, which was posted online Friday.

As the article notes, even John McCain and the Republican Party platform don't hold those beliefs, so Palin isn't even in the mainstream of her own party.

So don't be fooled by the good looks and smile, the photo ops with the family (including tonight's view of the Governor holding her infant son on stage), the repetition of the word hockey mom or the recitation of some poll that says that Governor Palin is the most popular governor in America. Sarah Palin is a conservative extremist who will aid John McCain in continuing the failed policies of George W. Bush.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin is a disgrace to the United States

Just a few hours ago, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin delivered a mean-spirited speech almost entirely devoid of substance - filled instead with pathetic, schoolyard taunts and low blows aimed at Barack Obama.

Here is a sample of her rhetoric:
I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.

I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening.
Then there were the lies:
I told the Congress "thanks, but no thanks," for that Bridge to Nowhere.
That was about her own record - and it's not true.

She also lied about Obama:
We've all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers.

And there is much to like and admire about our opponent.

But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform -- not even in the state Senate.
"Not a single major law"? Let's review the record, shall we, Sarah?

While in the United States Senate - since January 2005, when he took office as the junior senator from the state of Illinois - Barack Obama has prime sponsored one hundred and thirty one bills. He has cosponsored six hundred and nineteen bills.

But enough numbers. Let's talk specific examples.

One of the bills Sarah conveniently overlooked in her speech was the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, which Obama cosponsored and contributed substantially to. It passed the Senate unanimously and was signed into law on September 26th, 2006. Ironically, Senator John McCain was also a cosponsor, and even more ironically, he publicly thanked Senator Obama for being involved with the bill and working to ensure its passage.

Sarah also apparently hasn't heard about the Lugar-Obama proliferation and threat reduction initiative, which Dubya signed into law on January 11th, 2007. A press release from Lugar's own office credits Obama with having "authored" the law:
Authored by U.S. Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL), the Lugar-Obama initiative expands U.S. cooperation to destroy conventional weapons. It also expands the State Department’s ability to detect and interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction.

“The United States should do more to eliminate conventional weapons stockpiles and assist other nations in detecting and interdicting weapons of mass destruction. We believe that these functions are underfunded, fragmented and in need of high-level support,” said Lugar, Republican leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The Lugar-Obama initiative will help other nations find and eliminate conventional weapons that have been used against our own soldiers in Iraq and sought by terrorists all over the world,” said Obama.
Gee, that sure sounds like a pretty importance piece of legislation.

Barack Obama authored it with a senior Republican senator, worked to get it through the U.S. Senate, and George W. Bush himself signed it.

What was that you were saying, Sarah?
In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.

They're the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms...
Wow, apparently Barack Obama has already made it as a Washington reformer in Sarah Palin's book. All it took was some bipartisan collaboration in our nation's capitol. His name appears on a major law - the Lugar-Obama initiative!

He must be one of those people who has used his entire career to promote change. Real change, not the kind of lip service we hear from Sarah Palin and John McCain.


How about the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2005 (PDF), which Obama was the primary sponsor of. It was cosponsored by twelve other Senators, including four Republicans.

Dubya signed it into law on December 22nd, 2006.

I could go on, but I've made my point.

Sarah Palin lied to the American people about Barack Obama's record earlier tonight. She lied about Obama's accomplishments as a legislator by saying he doesn't have any. She mocked his years of selfless public service.

She derided his success. She impugned Obama's character by accusing him of not truly caring about the working families he seeks to represent.

Palin practically spent the evening projecting her own contempt for true American values and ideas onto Barack Obama. That is, when she wasn't falsely claiming that our corporate traditional media is a tool of the left.

It was a disgusting, sickening example of Rovian-style deviousness and manipulative, divisive Republican rhetoric. No legitimate criticisms, just hateful and spiteful attacks. It was right wing, Orwellian doublespeak at its finest.

The delegates undoubtedly thought Palin hit a home run with her speech chock full of red meat. But people watching are appalled. Appalled.

Republicans can't stand being backed into a corner; it seems rather obvious they've been smarting from Barack Obama's speech for days. Tonight, Sarah Palin tried to strike back by going for the gutter... being as nasty and unfair as possible.

Guess what, Sarah? I've got a newsflash for you. Your mean-spiritedness isn't going to put a damper on our optimism. Your attacks on our party and our nominee are only going to strengthen our resolve. Your hate-filled rhetoric isn't just drawing our condemnation, it's drawing our determination.

Readers, the best way to fight back is to turn words in action. Sign up to volunteer for a Democratic campaign - now. Pledge to help a candidate. Get involved.

I just did tonight - I'm going to be out there in my legislative district working to help return Roger Goodman to the State House of Representatives and send Republican Toby Nixon, his challenger, packing.

Nothing irritates Republicans more than to have to put up with resilient Democrats who won't back down or roll over.

I know firsthand - I've had Tim Eyman's sugar daddy, Michael Dunmire, scream obscenities in my face in the halls of the John L. O'Brien Building in Olympia.

He was mad because he didn't like my activism.

Judging by Sarah Palin's remarks tonight in her acceptance speech, we Democrats touched a nerve last week with our Convention.

No, make that several nerves.

Now they're trying to go on offense with a ferocious, poised counterattack. No matter; we can answer their assault by launching maneuvers of our own. In every state, every congressional district, every municipality, we can pick up our telephones, our walking shoes, our clipboards, our literature...and do our part to make a unified Democratic juggernaught victorious in 2008.

Why does Governor Sarah Palin hate community organizers?

Apparently, Governor Sarah Palin hates community organizers. Tonight, in her speech to the Republican National Convention, Palin took aim at Barack Obama's former employment, belittling the profession.
I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.
Among other things, it appears that Governor Palin isn't up to speed on what community organizers do. Here is a good place for her to go and find out what exactly community organizers do and what responsibilities they have.

Organizing is a grassroots activity. It often starts at the basic level of society among ordinary citizens where all sorts of issues arise. Regardless of their political, economic, religious, or other viewpoint, people who share a common purpose or concern often organize to achieve that purpose or to address that concern. At the local level, they may work to save a historic building from demolition, build power for a working-class community, or establish zoning regulations for a new development. At the regional, national, or international level, they may campaign to solve environmental problems, improve health care for children, or bring educational issues to the political forefront. Regardless of the issues or campaigns, they always work for change.


While organizers work with many different groups of people, they most frequently assist those at the lower end of the economic ladder - the people who historically have had the least power. The issues low-income people face may vary, but include access to health care and housing, neighborhood safety, education, race relations, economic equity and environmental conditions. Organizers do not make changes directly, but they play a variety of key roles. They serve as educators, trainers, and mentors and are sometimes viewed as agitators as well. Their job is to harness the energy of individuals and help direct it down a path that will enable the group to achieve its goals. They help develop leaders among ordinary people and train these leaders to create a local organization that will involve increasing numbers of people and be self sustaining and more powerful over time.
So let's take a look at why Governor Palin hates community organizers.

1. Community organizers work to bring people together for the common good. The only interest Governor Palin and Senator McCain care about is their own interest (and likely the rate their bank gives them).

2. Community organizers frequently assist the poor to improve their circumstances. Senator McCain, Governor Palin and their fellow Republicans only care about improving the circumstances of corporate America and the richest 1%.

3. Community organizers work for change. Barack Obama will bring us change we can believe in. Senator McCain and Governor Palin love the status quo and will bring us four more years of the same old thing.

4. Community organizers develop leaders among regular folk, like you, me and our neighbors. Senator McCain and Governor Palin fear regular people coming into power because it will put a halt to the gravy train that they and their rich friends are on, and send them off into the political wilderness.

People powered politics is all about community organizing. It's up to each of us to be our own community organizer, to talk with our friends and neighbors about the progressive future we all want and the importance of electing Barack Obama to help us start realizing that vision. We can't just be content to sit back and vote for Obama.

The choice is clear in 2008. You can vote for Barack Obama, who easily could have pulled down a six-figure salary after coming out of Harvard Law School, but chose to organize regular people for the common good. Or you can choose more of the same, and you'll continue to get screwed for the next four years. For me, that's not a choice, it's a call to action.

Palin loves pork

Ever since Senator John McCain introduced Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, she's been playing up her alleged hatred for Congressional earmarks.
"I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere," Palin told the cheering McCain crowd, referring to Ketchikan's Gravina Island bridge.
But the evidence shows otherwise. You see, Governor Palin actually campaigned in 2006 on building the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere."
The Alaska governor campaigned in 2006 on a build-the-bridge platform, telling Ketchikan residents she felt their pain when politicians called them "nowhere."
But it doesn't end there. It's not enough to try to waste your tax dollars for a bridge to nowhere. Governor Palin still has the taste for pork, despite what she says in current political situations.
Just this year, she sent to Sen. Ted. Stevens, R-Alaska, a proposal for 31 earmarks totaling $197 million — more, per person, than any other state.


Palin's requests to Congress came at a time of huge federal deficits, while Alaska state revenue was soaring due to rising oil prices and a major tax increase on oil production that Palin signed into law in late 2007.

As a result, Alaska this year was in such a money-flushed condition — with no state income tax or sales tax and total state revenues of $10 billion, double the previous year's — that Palin gained legislative approval for $1,200 cash payments to every Alaskan. [emphasis mine]

But rather than spend the state's money on projects in the state, Governor Palin came to the federal government looking for a handout. Imagine what she would do as Vice-President, second in command, and representing a state where bringing home the bacon has become something of a sport.

McKenna: If Obama wins, Dino Rossi is toast

Washington State's Republican Attorney General, Rob McKenna, who is running for a second term this fall, told delegates at the Republican National Convention this morning that Dino Rossi would need a big McCain victory to beat Chris Gregoire:
McKenna predicted that the Democratic Party would be working incredibly hard this cycle to elect Obama, saying that "they have an inferiority complex because they've been losing," though he acknowledged that it is very rare for one party to hold the office of the presidency for more than eight consecutive years.

"It is just about turnout," he said, and brought up the Democrats fundraising advantage this time around. "We don't have that kind of budget. We have got to get out there and do it the way we have always done it, with a lot of hard work."

Finally McKenna talked about the coattail effects of the McCain-Palin ticket, and suggested it had a crucial relationship to gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi's chances.

"If he carries it, Dino wins," McKenna said of McCain, and urged the delegates to work hard to at least keep the presidential vote close. "If he fails to carry it by ten or twelve points, Dino doesn't win."

There is no way John McCain is going to carry Washington State by "ten or twelve points". It ain't gonna happen. Now, maybe a McCain victory is within the realm of possibility, but it's still highly unlikely.

Washington is not viewed as a battleground state by most political observers and analysts. And for good reason - Barack Obama is pretty popular around here.

So what is McKenna doing by saying this? Trying to lower expectations? How does this statement help Dino Rossi, his campaign manager, Afton Swift, or the rest of "Team 133"? If you look at Rossi's advertising, and Gordon Smith's down in Oregon, it's clear that they're making a play for Obama voters. They know they need ticket-splitters to win their races.

And so will Dave Reichert....or Rob McKenna, for that matter.

If everyone who votes for Barack also votes for John Ladenburg, McKenna is probably out as Attorney General. Is he also praying for a big McCain spread so that he can stay in office? Or does he think he's got more appeal than Rossi because he's a better salesman and he has the advantage of incumbency?

McKenna's comments are fun to talk about, but Democrats should be focused on turning them into a reality. Let's do all we can to help elect Barack and our many fine candidates running in downballot races.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Grandpa Fred thinks you should quit whining

Continuing the meme started by former Texas Senator and John McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm, that America is a nation of whiners undergoing a recession of the mind, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson (R-Law & Order) tonight addressed the Republican National Convention and added his two cents to that line of thinking. That's right, I watch this stuff so you don't have to. And tonight, it's all sunshine and roses from Fred Thompson.
We do so while taking a different view of our country than that of the other party.

Listening to them you'd think that we were in the middle of a great depression; that we are down, disrespected and incapable of prevailing against challenges facing us.
Guess what Grandpa Fred? As usual, we're right and you're wrong. Let's look at the facts:
• Current Administration will leave the nation with largest deficit in history — The Administration’s 2009 budget will leave the country with a $482 billion deficit, trumping its previous $413 billion record set in 2004.

• Debt balloons under Administration policies — Since the President took office in 2001, the debt held by the public has swelled by $2.0 trillion, an increase of 59 percent – with most of it financed by foreign investors.

• Economic growth is anemic — GDP grew just 1.9 percent in the second quarter of 2008 – mainly because of the economic stimulus Congress passed. This follows growth of just 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2008 and revised negative growth (a contraction) of -0.2 percent in the last quarter of 2007, fueling the argument that we are already in a recession.

• Thousands of jobs lost — Private payrolls have lost 578,000 jobs since December. To date, this Administration has created just 58,000 new jobs per month on average compared with 237,000 per month under President Clinton.

• Household incomes have fallen — Real median household income has decreased by almost $1,000 under President Bush. During the Clinton Administration, real median household income rose by $6,000, or 14.0 percent.

• The President’s fiscal policies impose heavy debt burden on America’s families — The $2.0 trillion added to the public debt under this Administration equates to $26,000 in additional federal debt for every family of four in the U.S. – far more than most families have received in tax cuts.
That's not to mention that George W. Bush and John McCain have presided over the weakest economy since World War II, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
Rather, examination of a broad range of key economic indicators indicates that the economic expansion that began in 2001 was on balance, weaker than average. In fact, with respect to GDP, consumption, investment, wage and salary, and employment growth, the 2001-2007 expansion was either the weakest or among the weakest since World War II.

Moreover, the economy's performance between 2001 and 2007 was weaker, overall, than its performance in the equivalent years of the 1990s, years following significant tax increases. GDP growth was somewhat weaker than in the 1990s, and job creation, investment and wage and salary growth all were substantially weaker.
In fact, according to the same study, the only economic indicator that has grown, and grown rapidly, in the past 8 years is corporate profits. Is anyone surprised by this?

So Senator Thompson, unless you're a corporate fat cat or one of the richest, most privileged people in the country, economic times are bad. That's not some Hollywood script that you're used to reading, nor is it the little boy crying wolf, as you'd like to paint Barack Obama. That's the truth, and in the words of one of your fellow thespians, "You can't handle the truth."

Joementum for the GOP?

Zell Miller Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (Party of One) will be addressing the 2008 Republican National Convention this evening. This is the latest of Lieberman's attempts to sell out the party that nominated him its Vice Presidential candidate in 2000.
The 2008 Republican National Convention today announced the program of events for Tuesday, Sept. 2. The program will feature speeches by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson. Their remarks will reflect the convention's overall theme, "Country First," and the theme for Tuesday's events, which is "service."
Any evidence of Lieberman once being a Democrat is gone. He's not an independent Democrat, or whatever he calls himself. If the Senate Democrats gain enough seats in November, and Lieberman can be marginalized and irrelevant, then it's time for Senator Harry Reid to strip Lieberman of all of his committee assignments and perks of the majority party. It's time to send Joe Lieberman into political Siberia so that we'll never hear from him again.

Unless of course it's at a future GOP function.

Thanks, Google, but no thanks

Demonstrating its increasing ambition to compete in more markets traditionally dominated by Microsoft, Google this week confirmed that it is launching its own browser - Chrome - which will compete against Internet Explorer and Firefox:
All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser.

We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends -- all using a browser.

Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build.
The question we have for Google is - why should we rely universally on your products and services as opposed to Microsoft's?

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Google is in pursuit of what Microsoft has today: domination on the desktop. Eric Schmidt and Company aren't content just to be the top search engine around. They want to be the provider of choice for webmail, calendar, documents, syndicated ads, feed reading, computer search, user-submitted video, blogging, the mobile phone experience... and so much more.

Recently Google launched Knol, "a project which aims to include user-written articles on a range of topics". Gee, that sounds like Wikipedia!

And now...along comes Chrome, perhaps Google's most aggressive and ambitious attempt to wrest market share from its partners and competitors.

We have to ask - what exactly is Google's aim in taking Microsoft, Apple, and others on in so many different markets so rapidly?

And what's next? Is Google going to make the leap into hardware? Compete with and become an online retailer? Google is at risk of overextending itself by moving so far away from its core business of search.

It's a problem that has plagued Microsoft, which has struggled to keep its products up to date in recent years and lost market share in the process.

It used to be that Microsoft focused mainly on operating systems.

Then the company started branching out like crazy: office productivity software, dialup Internet service, webmail, online search, mobile phones, gaming and gaming consoles, digital music players. That's not even close to a complete list.

And of course there was the company's attack on Netscape in the 1990s (Netscape Navigator would eventually be reborn as Mozilla Firefox years later).

Just as we don't like the idea of Microsoft exerting unchallenged domination over the software industry, we don't like the idea of Google becoming the next Microsoft. No one company should have that kind of control in the marketplace.

The Guardian's Jack Schofield wonders if there's even anything original in Google's browser, which is receiving a lot of hype and attention:
Google can't even think up a new name: Microsoft Chrome was an old tool that allowed "Web developers to add multimedia features to HTML using Microsoft's DirectX technology".
Paul Thurott concludes:
[W]hat we've really got here is an example of Google pulling a Microsoft: Creating an unnecessary me-too product that they can use for product tie-ins. All of the features here are present in existing browsers, all of them. So what does Google really bring to the table? Not much, it seems.
And as for Chrome itself...having tried it, I can definitely say I'm not impressed. Chrome took plenty of time to install as it repeatedly butted heads with Kasperksy Internet Security, wanting access to registry key after registry key.

And based on the security prompts, it seems to me that Chrome is a bit too invasive for a company whose motto is supposedly "do no evil".

The interface is cute, but I prefer how Firefox has things laid out. Firefox is also more customizable. And I found Google's claims about speed to be totally overblown: web pages did not load more speedily than other browsers. In fact, it was the other way around. Firefox served up web pages more quickly than Chrome.

With extensions like CookieSafe and NoScript, Firefox is also much safer than Chrome, Safari, Opera, or Internet Explorer.

The genius of both extensions is that they allow a user to change security settings easily on a site-by-site basis. Adding a site to the whitelist, or "trusted" category automatically reloads the site with cookies and Javascript allowed.

Compatibility wise, Google Chrome is solid. All the AJAX and Javascript applications I tested worked fine. And Google Chrome allows you to change the default search engine to something else if you want (Windows Live, Yahoo Search, Ask, or AOL, which uses Google, are the other choices included by default).

What Chrome simply isn't is superior to Firefox. In my view, the folks at Mozilla have the best browser on the market today.

Firefox is stable, compact, and clean. It's easy to make your own, with thousands of add-ons (themes, extensions, and plugins) available for download. It performs well under heavy constraints (lots of tabs open). And it is better supported, thanks in part to broad, collaborative development.

A final note...I use Firefox, and in particular, the extensions I mentioned to protect my privacy, exposure to malware, and downloading of unwanted ads. Chrome, on the other hand, may itself be packaged with ads in the future:
17. Advertisements

17.1 Some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions. These advertisements may be targeted to the content of information stored on the Services, queries made through the Services or other information.

17.2 The manner, mode and extent of advertising by Google on the Services are subject to change without specific notice to you.

17.3 In consideration for Google granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Google may place such advertising on the Services.
That's an excerpt from the Chrome Terms of Service.

So thanks, Google - but no thanks. I'm going to stick with the best. Mozilla Firefox is effective, fast, safe, usable, and under constant improvement. Best of all, it isn't a product owned by a company named Microsoft or Google.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Police brutality at Republican National Convention is out of control

Authorities in Minneapolis and St. Paul are abusing their powers and violating the Constitution of the United States by arresting reporters without cause:
Democracy Now! radio host Amy Goodman and two producers were arrested while covering demonstrations at the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn. Goodman was released after being held for over three hours, but is still waiting to hear when Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar would be released.

"I was down on the convention floor interviewing delegates when I heard that two of our producers had been arrested," said Goodman. "I ran down to Jackson and 7th Street, where the police had moved in."

Goodman said that when she ran up to find out what was going on, she was also arrested.

"They seriously manhandled me and handcuffed my hands behind my back. The top ID [at the convention] is to get on the floor and the Secret Service ripped that off me. I had my Democracy Now! ID too. I was clearly a reporter."
The arrests come in the wake of numerous raids the police are carrying out against property owners who are housing RNC protesters. Phony justification (like suspected fire code violations) were eventually given as the rationale for the raids, with police refusing to divulge their original suspicions:
St. Paul Police spokesman Tom Walsh said they were executing a search warrant.

"The cause for the search warrant is not public at this time," Walsh said.
"Not public at this time"? Who do these guys think they are? America's first responders are supposed to UPHOLD the law, not IGNORE it. Breaking and entering to execute a search is illegal without probable cause.

These guys clearly all need to be given pocket Constitutions, because it's evident they've forgotten what the Fourth Amendment says:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The fact that the police won't share what their "probable cause" is means they don't have one. The basis for these raids and these arrests seems to have been fabricated. Even legal observers are being arrested.

Peaceful protest - the right to free assembly and free speech - are also rights guaranteed to Americans by our Constitution. Nonviolent demonstrators and journalists are being spontaneously arrested for no good reason. These arrests need to cease immediately and those responsible for instigating this police brutality need to be relieved of command and placed under investigation.