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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween from NPI!

Election Day is now just four days away. Don't forget to mail in your ballot or head to the polls this Tuesday and cast a vote for Barack Obama, Chris Gregoire, Peter Goldmark, John Ladenburg, Jim McIntire, and NO on Initiative 985 - plus Darcy Burner and Yes on Sound Transit Proposition 1 if you live in the 8th Congressional District, urban Puget Sound, or both.

Above: Barack O'Lanterns created by Northwest Progressive Institute staff

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On the campaign trail with Roger Goodman

Yesterday afternoon, as part of my personal commitment to help Democratic downballot candidates cross the finish line first this November, I took a break from blogging and headed out on the campaign trail with Representative Roger Goodman, who is running for reelection in NPI's home 45th Legislative District.

Like many other Democratic candidates around the state, Roger spends almost every day out in the field doorbelling and talking to voters.

And because he spends a lot of time campaigning out in rural neighborhoods (where horses and dogs outnumber people) he needs trusty campaign volunteers who can give him a lift from house to house.

I signed up for the job because Roger Goodman is a dependable champion for equality, fairness, opportunity, and prosperity.

In other words, the values that the families out here on the Eastside share.

He's a supporter of the Homeowner's Bill of Rights (one of NPI's top legislative priorities), he prime sponsored legislation that expanded early childhood education (HB 3168) and his proposal to hold drunk drivers accountable was signed into law last spring (HB 3254 requires persons convicted of driving under the influence to breathe into an ignition interlock device before they can start their vehicle).

First elected to the Legislature in 2006, Roger has quickly built a reputation as a hard worker and a dedicated public servant. During his freshman term he served as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and will likely become the Chair if reelected. (The wonderful Pat Lantz, who served as Chair for many years, retired from the Legislature a few months ago).

Yesterday turned out to be one of the most refreshing afternoons I've had in a long time. Watching Roger meet with voters and listen to their concerns reminds me what people powered politics is all about.

It's easy for an activist (and especially easy for a blogger) to get trapped inside a media bubble, tethered to a desk, crunching the crosstabs in the latest poll or jumping to respond to a pathetic editorial in the Seattle Times.

But horse race coverage, polls, editorials, and the like are ultimately sideshows and distractions. What really matters is the mortgage. Job security. College affordability. Finding enough credit to keep the small business going and growing. The things that regular folks are dealing with.

A real grassroots campaign treats voter contact as a big deal.

Knocking on doors is about making the effort to connect with constituents. True representation means two-way communication.

It's something that Roger is really good at.

When he goes to the door, he takes the time to have a meaningful conversation if a voter wants to share what's on his or her mind at length.

Frequently, voters are surprised and impressed to see Roger out in their neighborhood. And that's understandable, because nowadays most "modern" political campaigns are waged solely through direct mail blitzes, broadcast ad wars, robocalls, and the media. Voters don't get to see candidates in person.

Most of the voters that Roger meets are eager to share their concerns. Taxes are widely seen as unfair and unbalanced, although people clearly believe in government and want it to be effective: "Things have to get paid for somehow".

(Fiscal management wouldn't be such a big problem if Olympia would have the courage to enact progressive tax reform, but alas, that just hasn't happened).

On education, the WASL is almost universally disliked as a counterproductive assessment that wastes time and stresses out kids. Voters also want the rising cost of tuition and healthcare to be addressed.

Sprawl and development are other top concerns. Many rural landowners are worried about exurban blight - the spread of bland subdivisions filled with McMansions that take the place of a big meadow, wild ridge, or a grove of trees.

It's difficult for me to truly capture and share these conversations in a post.

Almost nobody rattles off a list or uses the kind of general language I just did at the door. When voters talk about what's on their minds, it's almost always in the form of a story; a short, yet rich and deeply personal narrative about what is affecting them and their families.

As I write this post, the 2008 election cycle is drawing to a close, but opportunities still abound to escape that media bubble and make a difference.

Don't fool yourself into thinking you're not needed: This is an "all hands on deck" moment. Don't consider volunteering on a campaign to be beneath you. It's fun, rewarding, and frequently eye-opening.

Best of all, there are many different ways to have an impact. You can walk your precinct, join a phonebank, distribute information to voters who need it, assist people who need a ride to the polls, or spend the better part of a day helping a candidate knock on doors (as I did).

If you know all of your neighbors and friends are already voting for Barack Obama and Chris Gregoire, then talk to them about downballot candidates like Peter Goldmark, John Ladenburg, and Jim McIntire. Tell them about the consequences of Initiative 985, the More Traffic Measure, and the benefits of Sound Transit's Proposition 1 (Yes on Mass Transit Now).

Don't let these final few days pass by without getting involved.

Obama to contest Arizona?

Looks like Barack Obama will continue to press his advantage nationally, and may move the fight to Arizona, John McCain's home state.
Obama’s senior aides are intrigued by several late polls that show a narrowing of the presidential contest in Arizona. Most recently, on Tuesday a Cronkite-Eight poll (named for Arizona State University's journalism school and the local PBS channel) showed the state a statistical tie, with the Arizona senator just 2 points ahead of Obama. That poll suggests Arizona is too close to call, with Obama making significant gains among women and independents.

The campaign is now seriously examining a late surge into the state. That may include ramping up TV advertising, on-the-ground staff or even deploying the candidate to stop there. Obama is scheduled to make a Western swing late this week, making an Arizona visit possible.
How bad is it in Arizona for John McCain? So bad he's having to spend money. Money equals resources and there's no way a Presidential candidate should have to defend his home state this late in the game.
John McCain and the Republican National Committee are now running robocalls attacking Obama as weak on terrorism -- in McCain's home state of Arizona, according to multiple readers from the state.

The call signals genuine worry about McCain's home state at a time when several polls show the race to be much closer than expected there.
If Obama puts more resources into Arizona, he's likely to sweep Bob Lord into Arizona's 3rd Congressional District, costing conservative John Shadegg his seat (ironically, it's McCain's old seat).This election continues to demonstrate what a transformational figure Barack Obama is, uniting the people in a common cause for the common good, and will likely result in the biggest landslide in a presidential election since Ronald Reagan nearly shut out Walter Mondale in 1984.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NPI interviews Peter Goldmark - a rancher who's ready to protect our public lands

This evening the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to announce the release of our first podcast for October 2008: an interview with Peter Goldmark, the Democratic nominee for the post of Commissioner of Public Lands. Peter took a break from shaking hands at last week's big rally with Joe Biden to talk to us about the progressive change he wants to bring to the Department of Natural Resources.

This episode is part of the Downballot Project, an effort by the Northwest Progressive Institute to cover races and ballot measures that have been overlooked or ignored by the traditional corporate media.

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

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

Click the "Listen" link to hear the episode in your browser (Adobe Flash player required for playback), or read the transcription below.


Peter Goldmark: Ready to protect our public lands

ANDREW VILLENEUVE: Hello and welcome to the Northwest Progressive Institute’s first podcast for October 2008. I’m Andrew Villeneuve, the Executive Director of NPI, and I’m pleased to be your host for this episode.

The 2008 general election is just days away from coming to a close, and while the contests for president and governor have received significant attention from the traditional media, many downballot races haven’t, including the close competition for Commissioner of Public Lands between Democrat Peter Goldmark and incumbent Republican Doug Sutherland. The outcome of this race will decide who leads the Department of Natural Resources for the next four years.

The job is a serious responsibility, because DNR manages over five million acres of state-owned forests, wilderness, underwater slopes, and agricultural lands. It has an annual budget of over three hundred million dollars.

At a recent Democratic rally headlined by Senator Joe Biden, I had the opportunity to talk to Peter Goldmark about his candidacy for Commissioner of Public Lands. What follows is the audio of that entire interview, which runs just over five minutes.

ANDREW VILLENEUVE: Alright, so Peter, the race for Lands Commissioner is in its final stretches. How do you feel it is going?

PETER GOLDMARK: I feel the race is going really well. I am really indebted to all the support I am getting all across the state, from people in education, from farmers, ranchers, from labor, from Democrats, from some Republicans. The race is really strong right now.

ANDREW: How are your final advertisements being received?

PETER: Very well. We’ve got TV up here in the I-5 corridor, TV in Spokane, Eastern Washington... We just put up a new radio spot, which features a pilot who flies aerial tankers for fire retarding. And it’s a very, very strong commercial.

ANDREW: What are your chief criticisms of Doug Sutherland's performance as Commissioner?

PETER: That he’s beholden to the special interests. You can see that from his policies from the lax oversight on the Lewis County floods to the PDC reports that show that he gets over half of his dollars from the very industries he’s supposed to regulate. And that’s wrong, because it draws into [the race] the issue of conflict of interest. I know the voters don't like to see people – politicians - receiving a lot of money from the interests that they [are charged with overseeing].

ANDREW: What do you think of the endorsements that Sutherland has received, from like the Spokesman Review, which said he is a better candidate?

PETER: Well, the Spokesman-Review is an Eastern Washington newspaper and it’s a very conservative newspaper. I am not surprised that they picked the Republican member of the campaign. They are very favorable to Republicans. That’s very predictable, unfortunately.

ANDREW: Unfortunately. How are you being received in Eastern Washington, though, by the people?

PETER: Very well. They know I am a rancher. They know I care about their same values. They know that’s where I have grown up and lived all my life, and that I will work in interest of everybody and make sure that the interests of Eastern Washington have an opportunity to be heard in Olympia. I think that’s important.

ANDREW: What’s your field plan?

PETER: My field plan, for my campaign?


PETER: Well, the field plan has been to get a lot of material out to all the different counties. And we’ve done our best to do that. It’s a big state. We’ve gotten a lot of materials out. We have paid special attention to some of the populated counties and will continue to do that.

But I’ve traveled through Eastern Washington extensively.

ANDREW: And what about in Okanogan, your home county?

PETER: We’re paying some special attention to Okanogan County. Because that’s my home; that's where I’ve been born and raised. And yes, we’ve got some special issues going on there and some special media there as well.

ANDREW: If you become the chief of the Department of Natural Resources, is there anything you will change immediately? What’s going to be your first order of business if you get elected?

PETER: Well, the first order of business will be to work to partner with the Legislature and the federal delegation to get funding for some pilot projects to start to convert some of our waste biomass into energy for jobs and to diversify the income stream for schools. That’s top on my list.

ANDREW: Are you going to change the state's approach to firefighting at all?

PETER: Yes. I will. I am a lifelong firefighter. I have seen some deficiencies. And I've got some excellent ideas to make sure that [putting the] fire out [is our] highest priority.

ANDREW: Do you have a position on the Maury Island mine - the proposed mine that Glacier Northwest is trying to create there?

PETER: Yeah, I am very concerned about that particular issue. Making sure we know who really owns that resource, and making sure whatever happens there is compatible with the cleanup and recovery of the Puget Sound.

And I know that the residents there - there are lots of environmental concerns - I want to make sure those are addressed.

ANDREW: And speaking of the Puget Sound cleanup… you support the Governor's efforts to clean up the Sound?

PETER: Absolutely… Absolutely. We must get started on that. That’s a valuable… it’s one of the most valuable natural resources of the state.

ANDREW: And what role will your department play in that cleanup if you’re elected?

PETER: It should be a leader in the whole cleanup, because the Commissioner of Public Lands has direct oversight on all the aquatic lands and much of the uplands as well. It should be a major player.

ANDREW: And most people don't know that, right?

PETER: Most people don't realize that, and the fact that the uplands play a huge role in the health of the Puget Sound.

ANDREW: Could you remind our listeners how much authority the Department of Natural Resources has? What’s their budget, and how many employees, and how many acres of land do they oversee?

PETER: Well, the budget is approximately $250-300 million a year, [there are] 1500 employees, [DNR has] direct oversight on five and half million acres of state public lands, and then oversight on timber harvest on another nine million acres of private forested lands across the state. That adds up to about a third of the state’s acreage. It’s a huge responsibility, worthy of everyone's consideration.

ANDREW: Do you think that inspections in the state need to be stepped up, like for mining and other interests? Do you think that we’ve fallen behind?

PETER: I think we need to make sure that all rules are fairly enforced. I don't think they are being fairly enforced now. And I think that public health and safety should be a component of that enforcement.

ANDREW: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with our listeners?

PETER: I think this is a very exciting time. The election is really almost on us. Many people are voting. It’s great opportunity to change out the leadership in the Department of Natural Resources and make it responsive to the public's needs.

ANDREW: Great, thank you for talking to us. Congratulations on the race you’ve run so far and good luck.

PETER: Thank you.

We’d like to thank Peter Goldmark for taking time out of his busy campaign schedule to talk to us.

If you have questions about this episode or suggestions for future ones, please get in touch with us by sending an email to feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org.

Also, please remember to mail in your ballot or head to the polls on Tuesday, November 4th and vote.

It’s important that we all fulfill our civic duty in this historic election.

We hope you'll join us for our next podcast later this month. For the Northwest Progressive Institute, I’m Andrew Villeneuve. Thanks for listening.

Dino Rossi's Buildergate deposition reveals little more than evasions

Dino Rossi's deposition in the lawsuit against the Building Industry Association for breaking Washington's public disclosure laws was a study in legal jostling and hostility, with the lawyer for the plaintiffs at one point accusing Rossi's counsel of harassment.

Representing the plaintiffs, retired Justices Faith Ireland and Robert Utter, are attorneys Mike Withey and Knoll Lowney.

Rossi is represented by attorney Michael Patterson.

In his answers to the first round of questions, Rossi admitted to having a basic understanding of the state of Washington's campaign finance laws and that the public disclosure of campaign finances are in the public's best interest.

Gee, what a novel concept.

Attempts by Mr. Withey to get Rossi to answer even the simplest question were obstructed at every turn by Mr. Patterson, eventually leading Withey to call his behavior "the grossest obstruction he had ever seen," and declare that "I am going to call the judge." Rossi's attorney was evidently trying to run out the clock and obstruct as much as possible so Rossi could avoid having to say too much.

As Patterson observed and definitely contributed to, the tone of the participants in the testimony did little to counteract the public's negative perception of lawyers.
You don't have to stare at me in disdain. This is a process and we've already got a bad name, lawyers do, and lawsuits like this and your conduct during this deposition where you are staring at me in disdain...doesn't do anything with regard to the decorum of our profession.
Rossi's attorney was more than happy to fill sheets of transcript with gems like this instead of allowing Withey to ask and receive answers to his questions. Rossi could have left the room for all the two warring lawyers would have noticed.

Rossi continued to assert that he was asked by BIAW leader Tom McCabe to intervene in a squabble between that organization and the Master Builders Association. The gist of the rift was over combining their resources in order to support "pro business candidates." At this time Rossi was "75 percent sure that I would never run for office again."

The issue of whether or not Rossi was legally a candidate at the time of his contact with MBA executives is central to Rossi's involvement in the lawsuit and Rossi stayed on message, repeating his 75 percent likelihood against his candidacy approximately twenty times during his testimony. Under state law, candidates are not allowed to coordinate their campaigns with political action committees working on their behalf.

Withey and Lowney's strategy appears to be to get Rossi to admit that he knew that the BIAW was fundraising on his behalf, even before he officially announced his candidacy on October 11, 2007.

Rossi repeatedly alluded to a 2007 Public Disclosure Commission investigation in which he was accused of trying to evade public disclosure rules, but was exonerated. At the end of today's interview, Withey asked Rossi if documents showing Rossi investigating the amount of support he would have as a candidate for governor, or information about his contact with the BIAW and the MBA before he declared his candidacy was given to the PDC during their investigation.

Basically, it turned out that those investigators didn't get all the facts and Rossi was ultimately let off the hook.

The lowdown: if you judged just from the testimony, Rossi doesn't appear to be the sharpest tool in the shed, and while that may be true, there was also a great deal of stonewalling and evasion going on made to look like ignorance. While Rossi was good at staying on message, after five campaigns and now two investigations, he's had far too much experience with campaign finance laws to be so slow at understanding them.

We look forward to the judgment of the court to determine if Rossi or the BIAW is guilty of evading Washington's campaign finance laws. I am glad that such laws exist to provide some measure of transparency in this often murky business of campaigning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Catch Barack Obama on The Daily Show tomorrow

Tomorrow night Barack Obama will make another appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, marking the fourth time he's been on the show. Obama will appear via satellite from Florida, where he continues to campaign.

In case you've been living in a cave, and aren't sure when The Daily Show airs, let me remind you that you can see Barack Obama and Jon Stewart at 11pm tomorrow night on Comedy Central. The show will repeat at 1am and then 10am, 2pm and 8pm on Thursday.

Judge Kallas refuses to allow Dino Rossi to postpone deposition

This morning, King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas denied a request by Dino Rossi and his attorneys to postpone Rossi's deposition in the Buildergate investigation to next Monday, November 3rd - the last business day before the 2008 general election is scheduled to take place.

The ruling means that Rossi must show up tomorrow morning to testify... or he will be in contempt of court. The deposition will begin at 10 AM at the offices of Rossi's lawyer and last until 3 PM with a one hour break from noon to 1 PM.

The media will not be allowed to observe the deposition, the judge has ruled, upholding an objection by Rossi's lawyers. However, partial transcripts of the deposition will be made available almost immediately afterwards,

Attorney Mike Withey, who represents the plaintiffs (retired Justices Robert Utter and Faith Ireland) said of the ruling:
This order, as with the prior orders of Judge Kallas, upholds a central purpose of the campaign finance laws that were passed many years ago by the people of this State: that the voters should have the right to know who is financing campaigns and what the sources of millions in campaign funding is. It's a day of reckoning for Dino Rossi.
We commend the Court for refusing to allow Dino Rossi to obfuscate and delay this investigation. Buildergate is a very serious matter. The people of Washington State deserve nothing less than a complete and truthful account of Dino Rossi's involvement in this scandal.

The GOP Death List

The Republican party has a "death list" that ranks all the house and senate races in order by how likely they are to lose the race. Among Republican incumbents, Dave Reichert is number 12 on that list, as of October 23rd.

The list makes for some interesting reading, but as far as I can tell, the only thing Reichert has going for him compared to the other candidates on the list is money: he's got more than most. They've got him listed with almost 1.2 million in cash-on-hand, compared to Darcy Burner's $770,000.

It brings to mind a question. Should it all come down to money? Should the selection of our district's representative come down to who has more cash? Or should the quality of the candidates somehow also factor into it?

I think the candidates themselves ought to matter. We shouldn't just elect whoever can afford to sling more mud than the other. But, since the GOP's so-called "death list" seems to place such stock in money, let's talk about money for a minute. Because it's not like Dave Reichert has really earned his.

Reichert is a notoriously anemic fund-raiser. Let's face it, he's kind of "Mr. Invisible". It's not like I ever see him in the news or hear about anything he does in Congress, unless it's election season. Dave Reichert seems to have made a career, short though it has been, of flying under the news-cycle radar. He just doesn't do anything that's worthy of talking about. As such it's little wonder that he has trouble attracting a broad donor base.

Consequently, the Republican Party keeps having to bail him out. They recently gave him 1.1 million dollars in late-cycle funding, a figure suspiciously close to his reported cash-on-hand. And just last week we learned that our local television stations have effectively donated five hundred thousand dollars worth of advertizing to him, which hasn't been paid for (a sufficiently egregious and blatant violation of FEC regulations that the Burner campaign has filed a formal complaint over the matter).

Without his friends in high places, Reichert's campaign would be broke. But with friends like those, always willing to pay to keep their reliable rubber-stamp vote in the Congress, I guess Dave Reichert doesn't really need to waste his precious time fund-raising.

Burner's campaign, on the other hand, has done amazingly well in raising campaign cash from the grassroots. Which is just a fancy way of saying "from people who are sick and tired of Dave's brand of "representation without representation," as it were. Her most recent quarterly FEC filings show that she has raised a total of 3.1 million dollars in this election cycle, compared to Reichert's 2.01 million.

So overall it's an expensive race, and what Reichert can't manage to raise himself, his RNC and media buddies will chip in for him (and if somebody explain to me how that fits with the old canard that the country is supposedly being ruined by the "liberal media", I'll be much obliged).

What is interesting is the difference in each candidate's small-dollar donations. According to the Seattle Times, $938,000 of Burner's money comes from individual small donations (those at or under the FEC's definition of "small" as $250). The Burner campaign is citing a median donation amount of $50, and the article reports that Darcy Burner has 2742 individuals on its donor rolls. Reichert, by contrast, has raised a truly pathetic $141,000 in small-dollar donations, and has just 1283 donors on its rolls.

Darcy Burner has raised over 6.6 times as much money from ordinary people than has Dave Reichert.

That pretty much tells you all you need to know about where her support comes from, where Reichert's comes from, and who each person would be beholden to if elected.

Burner's support comes from the very same people that her economic plan would benefit to the tune of $4000 per year (hint: the plan's title is "Putting the Middle Class First").

Reichert's support comes from people whose taxes actually would go up under Senator Obama's plan (hint: it ain't Joe the Plumber).

That's the difference between a populist candidate and an elitist candidate. I'll take the populist every single time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

BREAKING: Machinsts announce tentative agreement in Boeing strike

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) has just announced that it has reached a tentative deal with The Boeing Company to end the multi-week strike that has halted production of the 787 Dreamliner and other aircraft.

Here is the union's full statement:
October 27, 2008, Washington, D.C. – The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) announced today that it reached a tentative agreement with the Boeing Company on a contract that will provide job security for its members and limit the amount of work outside vendors can perform in the workplace.

The agreement was hammered out over a five-day period with assistance from federal mediators and participation at the bargaining table by IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger and IAM General Vice President Rich Michalski. Additional resources and technical support was provided by various departments at IAM headquarters.

Job security and the use of suppliers were key issues in the strike that began on Sept. 6, 2008. Among the other issues resolved in the latest round of bargaining were wage rates, health care benefits for current and future employees, pension improvements and work rule changes designed to improve productivity.

Full details of the 4-year accord will be withheld until they can be compiled and distributed to IAM members in all Boeing locations.

The tentative agreement has the unanimous endorsement of the IAM negotiating committee and will be presented to members for a ratification vote, which will take place in 3-5 days. A simple majority is required to ratify the tentative agreement.

"After 52 days of striking, we have gained important and substantial improvements over the Company's last, best and final offer that was rejected on September 3rd. Your solidarity brought Boeing back to the table and made this Company address your issues," stated District 751 President Tom Wroblewski. "Each of you stood up and did your part to win this battle, which was a fight against more than just Boeing, but against corporate America. Boeing is profitable because of our members' hard work and by standing together our members ensured they receive a bigger share of those profits."

"This tentative agreement is the result of hard work and great sacrifice by many people," said IAM Aerospace Coordinator Mark Blondin. "But no one deserves more credit than the workers at Boeing, who conducted themselves with dignity and determination throughout this ordeal. On behalf of the entire negotiating committee, I want to say it has been our honor to serve as their representatives."

The IAM represents nearly 27,000 employees at Boeing facilities in Kansas, Oregon and Washington and California.
Congratulations are in order to IAM leadership for this breakthrough. The contract still has to be approved by the Machinists themselves, but it sounds like a deal has been struck that both sides can accept. Let's hope so.

UPDATE: Here's an excerpt from Boeing's statement on the deal:
"This is an outstanding offer that rewards employees for their contributions to our success while preserving our ability to compete," said Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "I thank both negotiating teams and the federal mediator for their hard work and commitment in reaching this agreement. We recognize the hardship a strike creates for everyone - our customers, suppliers, employees, community and our company - and we look forward to having our entire team back."

By mutual agreement, details of the agreement will be released first by the union. If employees vote to approve the offer, it will end the strike by approximately 27,000 employees in Washington, Oregon and Kansas.
Even if striking Machinists vote to approve this revised offer, Boeing will still have to return to the negotiating table in the next few days, because the company's agreement with the members of Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace is due to expire soon.

We wish SPEEA and Boeing luck in coming up with a fair contract.

Vote yes on Sound Transit Proposition 1 - get more bus service

Tonight the Washington State Democrats are holding the fifteenth annual Warren Magnuson Awards to recognize people who are helping to grow the Democratic Party. Craig Robinson, brother of Michelle Obama, is our special guest.

I'm standing at the Evergreen Point station in Medina waiting to catch a Sound Transit Express bus. I've been waiting for more than ten minutes because the first 545 that came by did not even stop to let me on.

Why? Because it was packed tighter than a can of sardines.

I could clearly see through the windows that there was barely an inch of extra space on board. The driver looked apologetic but he knew he could not take on another passenger. So he was forced to roll right on by me.

It is experiences like these that illustrate how badly we need the improvements that Sound Transit Proposition 1 would provide.

If approved, Prop 1 would add over a hundred thousand hours of Express bus service beginning in 2009. And it would fund the expansion of Link light rail in three directions - north to Lynnwood, east to Redmond, and south to Federal Way.

It's great that transit is becoming increasingly popular.

However, our system shouldn't be this overcrowded. We need more Express bus service as badly as we need Link light rail.

Fortunately, Proposition 1 would deliver both... but only if we the people say yes. The choice is in our hands.

BREAKING: Dino Rossi must testify in Buildergate case, Judge Kallas rules

A huge victory was won today for open government and transparent campaigning:
Judge Paris Kallas ruled in favor of the voters' right to know today, setting the stage for a Rossi deposition on Wednesday at 10:00 am. Rossi will be forced to testify under oath about his personal involvement in an illegal fundraising campaign orchestrated by the Building and Industry Association of Washington. Funds raised from the campaign were directed to a multi-million dollar BIAW war chest to support Rossi's bid for Governor. The Attorney General is now prosecuting the BIAW's fundraising as illegal.

"Dino Rossi will have to tell the whole story about his role in the BIAW's illegal fundraising campaign – before the election," said Knoll Lowney, counsel for the retired Supreme Court Justices who filed suit against the BIAW and Rossi. "There's no denying that this ruling is a big win for voters," Lowney added.

Rossi attempted to quash the subpoena by arguing that the Court doesn't have jurisdiction and that the case has political implications. His lawyers argued that a deposition about his role in Buildergate would be an "undue burden" on his candidacy.
Rossi's deposition (if he gives it) should be released to the public and the news media later in the day on Wednesday.

The Northwest Progressive Institute strongly applauds this ruling. It's time for Dino Rossi and his campaign to stop obstructing justice and cooperate fully with this investigation. The people of Washington State have a right to know what happened in the Buildergate fundraising scandal.

UPDATE, Kathleen: The last thing Rossi wants to do during the week before Election Day is to spend a morning in a room explaining his involvement in a fundraising scandal. But the timing of the testimony is not coincidental. Judge Paris Kallas intends for the information to come forth prior to the election in order to satisfy the Fair Campaign Practices Act.
Early discovery allows the parties to confirm - or dispel - the allegations before the election," she [Kallas] hand-wrote in the order. And such prompt investigation furthers the purposes of the Fair Campaign Practices Act ... which include 'complete disclosure of all information respecting the financing of political campaigns,' as well as 'full access to public records so as to assure continuing public confidence of fairness of elections.
In other news, a new poll conducted on behalf of the University of Washington today has Gregoire up over Dino Rosis, 51 to 45 with 4 percent undecided.

Political scientist Matt Barreto says:
The new data suggest that Gregoire is benefiting tremendously from Obama's popularity in Washington: Her decision to endorse Obama back in February is now paying dividends with many Obama supporters also supporting Gregoire.
Good news, but we can't take anything for granted at this point.

Justice is served: Federal jury finds Ted Stevens guilty of lying about gifts

The bigger they are, the harder they fall:
A jury has found U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens guilty of all seven counts of lying on his financial disclosure forms.

It is the highest-profile felony conviction in a sweeping four-year federal investigation into corruption in Alaska politics, and a rare conviction by a jury of a sitting U.S. senator.

As the verdict on the first count was read, Stevens slumped slightly. When the second count was read, his lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, reached over and put his arm around Stevens' shoulders.
The verdict almost feels like the end to an episode of Law & Order.
The corruption trial, which began Sept. 22, featured 24 government witnesses and 28 defense witnesses. Stevens himself took the stand in his own defense, a tactic that appeared to hurt him after he was painted by prosecutors as a disagreeable and mean-spirited man who considered himself above the law.
Stevens could appeal the verdict, but the conviction is already likely to cost him his Senate seat - and cause irreparable damage to his reputation. His Democratic challenger, Mark Begich, has not (at least to our knowledge) issued a statement, but when and if he does, I'll update this post.

UPDATE: Begich's statement:
This past year has been a difficult time for Alaskans, but our people are strong and resilient and I believe that we will be able to move forward together to address the critical challenges that face Alaska.
Stevens had gambled on being acquitted, declaring that he expected his innocence to be recognized after having his day in court.

Instead, he was found guilty on all seven charges.

Taking a closer look at the contest for Washington's Lands Commissioner

One of the most important downballot competitions voters must resolve this November is the contest for Lands Commissioner between Okanagan rancher Peter Goldmark (the Democratic nominee) and incumbent Doug Sutherland (the Republican nominee).

At stake is who will lead the Department of Natural Resources - the agency that manages over five million acres of state forests, underwater slopes, and agricultural lands - for the next four years.

Incumbent Doug Sutherland has been at the helm for nearly eight years, and his two terms in office have been characterized by lax oversight, giveaways to timber and mining interests, and poor stewardship.

Peter Goldmark is running to change all that.

Throughout the last few weeks, he has debated Sutherland more than half a dozen times: before the Association of Washington Business, the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and newspaper editorial boards.

Many of these debates have been aired on TVW, a cable television channel that serves as Washington's equivalent of C-SPAN, but they've received very little coverage in the traditional media. (That's why, last month, we launched the Downballot Project, an effort to provide better political coverage of critically important and under-appreciated contests like the race for Lands Commissioner. This post is part of the project).

One of the more more memorable exchanges in the race happened a month ago over in Central Washington before the Yakima Herald-Republic, one of two newspapers the Seattle Times Company owns east of the Cascades. (The Walla Walla Union Bulletin is the other). The debate can be streamed on demand from TVW's website, but for those who don't have time to watch (and those who prefer reading to streaming video) a recap of the debate follows.

Doug Sutherland opened by reviewing the job's responsibilities and summarizing the different types of lands the Department of Natural Resources manages.

He then talked about his background.

Peter Goldmark opened with a nice biographical sketch, touching on his qualifications and his motivations for running. He launched into a criticism of Sutherland's mismanagement by talking about some of the lawsuits that have been brought against the Department on Sutherland's watch.

Sutherland tried to make a case for his reelection by greenwashing his tenure, taking pains to explain how his office created a plan for sustainable harvest calculation. Goldmark responded by criticizing Sutherland on the Department's slowness of obtaining FSC certification and the way the Department has dealt with lawsuits, observing that negotiating often leads to a quicker and more inexpensive resolution than digging in and fighting.

The participants were next asked about their campaign support. Sutherland was asked about contributions from loggers,, construction companies, and mining firms. Goldmark was asked about his support from unions and environmental groups.

Goldmark commented that he thinks it is wrong that Sutherland is supported by the same companies he is supposed to regulate.

He pointed out that Sutherland's friends have formed an independent political action committee (the Orwellian-named "Committee for Balanced Stewardship") which has amassed over half a million dollars from over half a dozen powerful timber and mining interests. In contrast, Goldmark emphasized that he has over 2,300 supporters from across Washington State.

Sutherland countered that those in the industry trusted him (that's supposed to be a good thing?), and that he has been endorsed by two former Democratic Speakers of the state House, former Governor Dan Evans, and Jim Ellis, who he characterized as leading conservationist. He also claimed that he does not treat his friends differently when they break the rules.

Goldmark was asked about his charge that forests have been destroyed under Sutherland's administration without much public input.

As an example, Goldmark cited as an example a trade that occurred in eastern Pierce County near Thun Field, where three hundred and twenty acres of state forest were traded to a developer for an acre and a half of cement under a Walgreens drugstore in Pierce County. Goldmark stated:
It was basically a back‑room trade that was worked out between the developer and Sutherland or his employees, and it converted forest over the objection, I might point out, of sixty or more school children and a number of individuals.
He added that the developer on the other end of the deal is one of Sutherland's special interest donors - and that such donations have resulted in lax oversight of timber and mining interests.

The Lands Commissioner needs to be doing business out in the open, Goldmark concluded. He promised that if elected, there will be no backroom deals.

Sutherland proceeded to give his side of the story of the land swap. He claimed that the parcels were bid on by two anonymous developers, said the parcels were auctioned off, and identified the parties who were contacted before the sale.

Sutherland claimed that the parcels involved in the trade were appraised to be of equal value, and that the parcel he received from the trade generated $484,000 a year in rent, while three hundred and twenty‑acre parcel wasn't generating any revenue. He argued that there was a public process, that it came before the Board of Natural Resources twice (as Lands Commissioner, Sutherland is Board Secretary), and that he didn't know who the two developers were until it came to the Board.

Goldmark pledged to inform the Board if the beneficiary of a trade was somebody that had donated to his campaign.

Next, Sutherland was asked about last year's devastating Lewis County floods, the controversial clearcuts that happened before the flooding, and the relationships between his office and the timber companies that logged the devastated slopes.

Sutherland called the storm severe, describing some of the slides that occurred during the flooding. He claimed that no rules were broken and that bad slides still would have occurred without any clearcutting.

Goldmark suggested that Sutherland was exaggerating the severity of the storm, and observed that the Department of Natural Resources downgraded the area to a lower slide risk when it approved the application to cut trees. Goldmark also stated that the Forests & Fish law of 2001 ought to have protected the flooded Lewis County watershed, but didn't because it isn't far-reaching enough. A lack of regulatory review made the flood worse, he contended.

Sutherland replied that the Forests & Fish law can't be extended to cover areas that are currently exempt unless state law is changed. Goldmark confirmed he would seek a the authority to make those changes from the state Legislaure if necessary.

Sutherland said that the Department of Natural Resources had initiated a comprehensive analysis of the slides and was reevaluating risk factors.

Goldmark was asked about wind energy.

Goldmark said he would support the development of all forms of renewable energy, including wind, biomass and geothermal. He stated:
I will make the creation of a new industry around clean, green renewable fuels a centerpiece of my administration as Commissioner of Public Lands.
Goldmark added that we should be using waste biomass from forest products to power our electric grid.

In a quick follow-up, he was asked if the Department of Natural Resources had approved too few or too many wind leases.

"I think we need to move more aggressively to get more leases," Goldmark said.

Sutherland claimed that he was already doing that, mentioning a few proposed wind farm projects that the Department is working on.

Each candidate then gave a closing statement.

Sutherland said he's proud of his public service and his record. He tossed in an insult of the state's largest city, saying "You can't have everybody in downtown Seattle making the determinations of what's really important in the rural areas of this state."

Goldmark stressed his Eastern Washington roots and background in agriculture. "I will serve the public," Goldmark declared. Promising to protect the common wealth, he added, "I will not accept money from those companies that I will regulate."

Two weeks ago and nearly a month after hosting the candidates in person, the Yakima Herald-Republic published its endorsement in the race. Their choice? Peter Goldmark.
After careful consideration, this is a race in which we're going to call for new blood and direction. The lands commissioner heads up the important state Department of Natural Resources and we'll back Goldmark, who we would like to see take the agency into a new era.
We agree. It's time for new leadership at the Department of Natural Resources and it's time for a fresh approach from the eastern side of the mountains.

It's time we elected Peter Goldmark to be our next Commissioner of Public Lands.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Poll Watch: Burner leading Reichert 50-46

Thursday, KING5 television released a poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, on the race for Washington's 8th congressional district. The poll shows Burner leading Reichert by 50 to 46 percent, with 4 percent of respondents undecided

Burner's lead is just equal to the poll's 4% margin of error, meaning that this result is at the very outer edge of still being a so-called "statistical tie." In other words, it's still very close.

What is interesting about this poll, however, is the cross-tabular results (a.k.a. "crosstabs" to most political junkies these days), which break down the overall poll sample into many different sub-groups.

As expected, Reichert is strongly winning among self-identified Republicans, as Burner is doing among self-identified Democrats.

Nothing very earth-shaking there. But among the various sub-categories, there are some definite pieces of good news for the Burner campaign (and by extension for the 8th District as a whole, if I may say so myself).

Youth - Darcy is winning the youth vote, defined rather broadly in this poll as anyone 18 to 34 years of age, by a healthy margin of 16% (55 - 39). The most current voter registration statistics from the Secretary of State's office indicate that this group contains 24% of the statewide electorate.

This correlates well with SUSA's likely-voter model at 21%. Either way, that's a great margin to have in one of the larger demographic slices of the electorate. Factor in enthusiasm for Barack Obama among this group and Obama's incredible get-out-the-vote efforts this year which, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the final numbers show this group comprising 30% or more of actual voters.

Independents and Biconceptuals - Connecting with biconceptuals is key for any candidate who wants to win. In SUSA's crosstabs, Darcy leads self-identified independents 49 to 44 percent, with 7% undecided.

SUSA also asks people whether they consider themselves conservative, "moderate", or liberal, and gives us that data too. Unsurprisingly, Reichert's got a lock on the conservatives, and Darcy has a lock on the liberals. But Darcy is also favored by biconceptuals (people who self-identified themselves in the poll as "moderates") by a whopping 22 points, at 59 to 37 percent with again 4% undecided.

The Secretary of State doesn't track voters by ideological stance (thank goodness), but SUSA's likely voter model puts 46% of the electorate into this category.

Already Voted - Actual votes, of course, are what really matters. And among people who told SUSA that they've already voted, Darcy is leading by an 18 point margin, at 57 to 39 percent. Obviously, that margin is unlikely to hold up through election day, but it's a great start.

And with SUSA estimating that this group accounts for 20% of likely voters, it represents a nice chunk of votes in the bank already for Darcy Burner.

It's not all good news, of course. Among pro-choice voters, Darcy is only winning by 66 to 30 percent. It shocks me that 30 percent of these voters still indicate a preference for Dave Reichert, and illustrates that Reichert has been effective in hiding his true anti-choice views from the public, and/or that Burner still has work to do in educating people about that.

Given that pro-choice voters constitute a huge 62% fraction of SUSA's likely voter model, that's nearly a fifth of the electorate who might be persuaded to vote for Darcy if they knew how steadfastly opposed Reichert is to reproductive rights.

We'll see how it all comes out in the wash on November 4th, but until then my congratulations to the Burner campaign for a third great consecutive poll. One poll doesn't mean much. Two polls can easily be a fluke. But when three polls in a row show the same thing, that's a trend.

It's no wonder Sheriff Hairspray needs a half-million dollars worth of unpaid advertising, courtesy our local television stations, to blast the district with a last-minute smear campaign. It's up to us to make sure that doesn't succeed.

Donate, if you can, to give Darcy the funds she needs to get her message out. Volunteer - and really, almost everyone should be able to volunteer in some way - through Darcy's campaign office, through the coordinated campaign for Governor Gregoire, or on your own through tools like And above all else, GET OUT AND VOTE.

Friday, October 24, 2008

LIVE from Seattle: Al Gore is in the house!

Governor Gregoire introduced Al Gore to an expectant audience. You may know him as a former senator and vice-president, and some might consider him to be a rightful president as well. Since those days he has also written two best-selling books, won an Academy Award and the Nobel Peace Prize. After considering those accomplishments, Gregoire is even willing to believe that Gore did invent the Internet.

Gore's visit, closely following Joe Biden's record-crowd stop in Tacoma, is a testament to the importance of our governor's race and how strongly national Democrats feel that Gregoire must remain in office.

Introducing Gore Gregoire said, "He has inspired people around this great nation."

After substantial applause, Gore began his program by commending Inslee for his tireless work on behalf of our planet and its atmosphere. He delivered a special shout out for Peter Goldmark, Democratic candidate for public lands commissioner.

Gore tells the audience:
Gregoire established the Rainy Day Fund and everyone knows that in the state of Washington, that fund must be of considerable size...
I feel I know the state and have many close friends here as I look around the room...but I am surprised that this race has been so close for so long as it has been.
Gore linked the Rossi/BIAW philosophy to the failed Bush administration policies: dismantling government, ignoring the enviroment and taking advantage of workers.
We have seen this at the national level and we have seen the final verdict. Look at the result.
Dick Cheney's attachment to foreign oil precipitated the Iraq War. $700 billion goes overseas each year to pay for this national attachment. Gore says that a "thread" connects this oil dependency to our economic crisis and to our planet's climate crisis.

Gore informs us that we dump 70 million tons of carbon into the Earth's atmosphere each day. That is a staggering thought.

Gore humorously read an article which shows Dino Rossi evading the fact that humans are responsible for climate change. "I read an article the other day in which it takes patience to build patience," Gore says.

Rossi obviously tries Gore's patience as his strong denunciations of Rossi's ignorant position brought the crowd to its feet with thunderous applause.

Developing countries like China and India are now contributing 53% of the world's annual carbon emissions. Planning for the future will include wind, solar and advanced geothermal energy (headquartered in Washington).
We are positioned to be a leader. This shift to renewable energy will pick up steam. (Jokingly) Steam is probably the wrong word to use here.
Around the world we are seeing investments made in alternative energy and countries are forming emission cutting treaties.
Remember, the Stone Age didn't end due to a shortage of stones and the oil age will not end when we run out of oil. We must build a new energy infrastructure that is free forever and runs on sun and wind...When we do that we are laying the foundation for generations...
When the demand for oil and coal goes up, the price skyrockets. When the demand for solar and wind go up, the price goes down. I think I like those economics better!
Gore is concerned about the future. We are on a path to an average 11 degree Fahrenheit increase in global temperatures in this century, which is far beyond any worst case scenario.

The summertime North polar ice cap is in the process of disappearing in five years. This melting affects the location of the ocean and wind currents, including the jet streams and the Gulf Stream. The CO2 absorbed by our oceans acidifies them, affecting the life within.

Gore wishes that he could convey just what this means to him. When he travels the world, people tell him that they are waiting for the United States wake up on climate change and provide leadership. National leadership in our country has been sadly absent.

Gore offers Washington state to his world audiences as an example of a part of our country that has been a leader on the crisis. He plans to continue his relationship with Washington and Chris Gregoire after Gregoire is elected to a second term. With Obama in the White House, Gregoire will have a powerful partner in curbing our addiction to foreign oil and blazing a trail into the future with clean, renewable energy.

All it takes is leadership. We know who the leaders are an we will put them in office to get the job done.

LIVE from Seattle: Gregoire supporters gather to welcome Al Gore

The mood is upbeat at the Sheraton hotel in beautiful downtown Seattle. Both high-powered and everyday Democrats from around the area are reconnecting with enthusiasm, feeling cautiously optimistic about their chances in the other Washington this year.

Today they will confirm their support for Governor Gregoire here at home and help to give her a final push over the finish line, just eleven days away. Al Gore is headlining this fund raising event and every one of the 1,500 seats have sold out. The crowd is looking forward to seeing Democratic hero Al Gore.

Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01) introduced the governor and her family. Representative Inslee has a special connection with Gore due to both of their hard work on environmental issues. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are both present, as well as former Governor Gary Locke and House Speaker Frank Chopp.

Inslee made a special plea for our good Democratic candidates down the ballot. Personally, I am focusing my efforts on my own representative, Roger Goodman (D-45), who has really represented my values in Olympia during his first term.

Inslee reminded us of Gore's many accomplishments: Nobel prize, Academy award, former vice-president. Will a place in the Obama administration be his next achievement?

The governor was in a jovial mood, fist pumping the crowd and high-fiving Congressman Inslee.

Inslee cited for the crowd the three reasons that he supports Gregoire: she has consistently worked for the middle class, she has been a regional leader on climate change and she is a fighter. As governor she fought the Bush administration and as attorney general she fought tobacco companies and achieved results for our state.

Gregoire took the stage and threw a news flash at the audience--this Halloween she will entertain the governor's mansion's 1,500 kid visitors as our favorite Spanish-speaking cartoon character, Dora the Explorer. Bueno Gregoire!

Gregoire denounced the ugly smears that Rossi has painted the airwaves with, along with the huge influx of outside money coming into the race. "This governor's office is not for sale!"

Rossi won't indicate where he will cut the state budget despite the fact that his plans add over $4 billion to the state deficit.

He is also mum on climate change--Rossi won't say whether humans cause climate change or not. According to Gregoire:
What the state of Washington needs is real, bold leadership on climate change and...I am there to provide that leadership.
I have issued over two dozens emergency declarations [caused by climate change.] We are at risk.

We will lead again in the Western states [on climate change.]
We have already met 40% of our goal to reduce carbon emissions. It is an economic issue...This is a chance for a new, green economy...We will have an economy that will pull us out of the economic crisis we are facing.
We are now the fifth largest producer of wind power in America...We have put in place renewable fuel standards.
Our state is even looking at algae, drawing overseas investors who are interested in creating renewable energy from the gooey, sea plants.

Gregoire told us that she is ready to fight. Fight for her girls, for my children, for a better education for Washington students and, with Barak Obama, for a better America than Bush has left us.

Al Gore is still to come...

Gaming community turning against Electronic Arts over bundled DRM, malware

Why is software giant Electronic Arts treating its loyal customers like criminals?

That's a question many gaming enthusiasts have been asking recently following the release of the long-awaited EA title Spore, a game designed by Will Wright (the creator of SimCity) and Maxis (the studio Wright founded, now owned by EA).

Spore, which runs on Windows and Mac, "allows a player to control the evolution of a species from its beginnings as a unicellular organism, through development as an intelligent and social creature, to interstellar exploration as a spacefaring culture," as Wikipedia puts it.

To many (if not most people) that sounds like a fun game.

There's just one problem: Spore comes purposely bundled with invasive, hidden software that installs itself to a player's computer and is almost impossible to remove. The software, known as SecuROM, is supposed to deter unlicensed use by preventing players from making copies of the game.

SecuROM is developed by a division of the consumer electronics conglomerate Sony, which also owns Columbia Pictures and Sony BMG, comprising dozens of record labels (from Arista to Zomba Music Group).

Sony has become infamous for releasing compact and digital video discs that contain spyware or encryption schemes than render them unplayable.

Most notably, almost three years ago, Windows expert and security researcher Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals discovered that a Sony BMG disc he had played on his computer had secretly installed a rootkit (a program designed to seize control of an operating system) deep inside the kernel of his Windows machine, without his consent or knowledge.

Russinovich researched the rootkit and realized that it not only tampered with Windows' normal handling of compact discs, it made any Windows system on which it was installed more vulnerable to viruses.

Russinovich published his findings, and within weeks, a huge scandal and media firestorm was born - fueled in part by Sony itself.

At first, Sony executives tried to simply dismiss the matter, which led to an even bigger public relations disaster. The company then offered a utility to remove the rootkit, but the software utility was defective:
The uninstaller Sony initially provided removed the rootkit, but in turn installed a dial-home program that posed an even greater security risk.

Sony eventually provided an actual uninstaller that removed all of Sony's DRM program from the user's computer.
Sony soon found itself slammed with multiple lawsuits, including a class action suit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and another suit filed by Attorney General Greg Abbott on behalf of the people of Texas.

The Federal Trade Commission also investigated the scandal and announced in January of 2007 that Sony had agreed to settle charges that it violated federal law.

Several months after the FTC settlement was announced, several irate Sony customers discovered that selected DVDs released by Sony Pictures would not not play - even in Sony DVD players! - because of Sony's deployment of a secondary copy prevention scheme called ARccOS. The company was forced to recall a number of DVDs and address the compatability problems.

Weeks later, another malware problem cropped up - this time relating to hardware manufactured by Sony's electronics division.
Security specialists are warning that Sony's MicroVault USB, which is a biometric USB storage device, cloaks driver software in a Windows directory that could be used by malware to avoid detection from security applications.
Because Sony has a long and disturbing history of duping, spying on, and even suing their own customers neither it nor EA can be trusted when they say SecuROM is harmless - as an EA spokesperson tried to tell the Washington Post:
We would never put any spyware on anyone's computers. That's not going to happen.
Wanna bet? Does EA think their customers are stupid?

Does EA brass assume people are totally ignorant of SecuROM manufacturer Sony's history of deceit and lawbreaking?

Gamers, understandably, don't want malware on their computers, and they have responded to Electronic Arts' decision to silently include the software in titles like Spore (without any notice on the box or in the End User License Agreement) by waging a massive online protest.

Thousands of enthusiasts have registered their displeasure by writing negative reviews about Spore on

As of this morning, there are 3,100 reviews of the game - 2,584 of which give Spore one star, the worst rating on Amazon's five star scale.

In comments on countless forums across the Internet, thousands more have committed to boycott the game because of Electronic Arts' bundling of malware. Many enthusiasts have teamed together to create Reclaim Your Game, an anti-digital restrictions management campaign aimed primarily at EA.

Gamers are also angry at Electronic Arts' boneheaded decision to only allow the game to be installed a few times. First it was only three installations total allowed; EA has since raised the limit to five following online protests.

(It could have been even worse - EA initially planned to require the game to authenticate every ten minutes or it would shut down).

One gamer succinctly described the stupidity of this in an Amazon review:
This is actually a RENTAL, not a bought game because it only lets you install 3 times. If you install over 3 times then you must call EA customer support and beg them to let you play the game you bought. Did I mention the call is not free? If you live outside the U.S. it will be a very expensive call.

DO NOT BUY THIS, and if you do buy it keep in mind that you are renting it. Not buying it. Whats really ironic about this is the DRM hasn't even stopped the pirates as it was pirated a few weeks ago. And the pirated version doesn't have Securom or install limits which makes it a better version. EA shouldn't treat its consumers like trash if they want my money.
Digital restrictions management is pointless because there is always somebody somewhere who is bright enough to crack or disable whatever copy prevention scheme the industry can come up with.

Consequently, professional hackers get a fun challenge from the use of DRM while loyal customers are punished... and abused.

That's the case with the hacked version of Spore, which has already been downloaded through BitTorrent over half a million times.

And speaking of abuse, at least one Spore customer - Melissa Thomas - is fed up. She's filed a class action lawsuit against Electronic Arts in U.S. District Court, requesting "disgorgement of unjust profits and damages for trespass, interference, unfair competition and consumer law violations."

The suit contends:
What purchasers are not told is that, included in the purchase, installation, and operation of Spore is a second, undisclosed program.

The name of the second program is SecuROM, which is a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) for computer games. Although consumers are told that the game uses access control and copy protection technology, consumers are not told that this technology is actually an entirely separate, stand-alone program which will download, install, and operate on their computers, along with the Spore download.

Consumers are given no control, rights, or options over SecuROM. The program is uninstallable. Once installed, it becomes a permanent part of the consumer’s software portfolio. Even if the consumer uninstall Spore, and entirely deletes it from their computer, SecuROM remains a fixture in their computer unless and until the consumer completely wipes their hard drive through reformating or replacement of the drive.
You can read the complete text of the lawsuit at Courthouse News.

It's a shame that Electronic Arts won't acknowledge or admit that the inclusion of digital restrictions management in its products is harmful and counterproductive. Until EA changes it ways, we wholeheartedly support and encourage a boycott of its products, including Spore and the upcoming Red Alert 3.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mass Transit Now unveils terrific radio ad explaining the benefits of Proposition 1

Earlier this month (as we knew they would) wealthy right wing special interests, including Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Jr., launched a deceptive radio ad filled with lies about Proposition 1, Sound Transit's regional plan to expand bus service, build light rail, and extend commuter trains.

The "No to Prop 1" ad distorts and exaggerates the cost of the plan, without even attempting to discuss the merits of the proposed projects.

It also tries to depict Sound Transit as a failure:
Prop 1 is more Sound Transit promises, but can you name one promise they have kept?
That's a false rhetorical question we can easily debunk... with visual proof:

View of the front of a Kinkisharyo light rail vehicle

Light rail isn't open to the public yet, but it's coming. As promised. Now it's time to utilize the lessons we've learned from this groundbreaking project, which has been well-managed after what was a rocky start.

What the "No To Prop 1" ad doesn't mention is that Sound Transit has a superb track record of delivering projects on time and under budget. In fact, since the early 2000s, Sound Transit's Board has had an official policy of under-promising and over-delivering, which ensures that the agency can build what voters approve.

Ironically, the people behind "No to Prop 1" - including Kemper Freeman, Jr. but also Mark Baerwaldt, John Niles, and Bruce McCaw - have been hindering Sound Transit's progress for years by filing lawsuits, driving unfair media coverage, and urging federal officials not to give Sound Transit any money.

Nevertheless, since 1996, Sound Transit has successfully deployed a region-wide network of express buses that provide an alternative to driving through congested corridors, launched and extended the immensely popular Sounder commuter rail service, and has almost finished construction of Central Link light rail, which is over ninety percent complete and due to open next year.

In addition, Sound Transit is set to begin work on University Link, which will bring light rail across the Montlake Cut. (The University Link project is already funded and is not part of this year's Proposition 1 proposal).

To help voters understand the incredible value of Proposition 1, the Mass Transit Now campaign has unveiled a concise, informative, and appealing radio ad that beautifully lays out the benefits of investing in alternatives to the automobile. We think it's one of the best ads of the 2008 election cycle.

But you don't have to take our word for it. Click play to have a listen:

The emphasis on the Express bus service improvements is excellent, because we at NPI have heard from more than one voter who seems to think this package only encompasses rail projects - and that's not true. If Proposition 1 is enacted, a hundred thousand additional hours of Express bus service will be added starting in 2009 - a big and critical increase in service that will help overcrowded routes.

That's immediate relief that commuters would get in just a few short months.

The great thing about Proposition 1 is that it addresses both our short and long term needs. All of the money ...all of it... will be invested in attacking gridlock where it's the worst: in the key north-south and east-west corridors that many of us rely upon to get from home to work and back.

A vote for Proposition 1 is a vote to wisely spend our tax dollars building a transportation system that will give us all choices and get cars off the road.

Even if you have no intention of ever setting foot inside an Express bus or a Link train, you benefit from Sound Transit's Proposition 1... because less traffic means a more reliable commute for everyone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A "degree in computer science with a special field in economics"

Today, the Seattle Times posted a story taking Darcy Burner to task for referring to her Harvard degree as an "economics degree" in her recent debates with Dave Reichert, rather than referring to it as a "degree in computer science with a special field in economics".

Um, pardon me while I yawn.

Sure, it's good for each and every one of us to be clear and specific in our claims. But in a debate when the moderator has a stopwatch on you, I think you can be forgiven for taking a verbal shortcut on that one. As campaign spokesman Sandeep Kaushik quipped, the full description of her degree "doesn't exactly flow off the tongue."

It's their perogative, but if the Times is going to get their knickers in a twist over Burner's description of her college degree, the least they could do is to exercise similar scrutiny over Reichert's claims in those debates to be a congressman who makes his decisions on the basis of "facts and research" when the evidence of his record and his now infamous video-clip admission from the 2006 campaign that he votes like his party leaders tell him to clearly shows otherwise.

Don't forget: The only reason this came up at all is because Darcy's education happens to be relevant to America's current economic woes. Mr. Reichert can make no such claim. I'm sorry his Associate's degree in social work doesn't benefit him with the same insights into economics as Burner's "special field" affords her, but you have to admit the irony here is quite thick. If her degree had been in something completely unrelated, she wouldn't have mentioned it and the Times would have had to go looking elsewhere for something to fill their column-inches. Similarly, if the economy wasn't the overwhelming national crisis on everybody's minds, again she wouldn't have mentioned her degree and the Times would be left with nothing to criticize.

But the economy is in a crisis, and Burner did happen to study some economics in college, and gosh darnit if that might not just be a relevant tidbit for a voter or two.

That Darcy used fewer words than she could have to describe her degree before delivering her characteristically substantive answers to the debate questions, contrasts strongly with Congressman Reichert. In his debate performances and recent appearance on KUOW Presents, he made a so strong habit of beginning his answers with such hyperbolic accounts of his own record as to border on neurotic compulsion. Like somehow we won't believe he's qualified for the job if he doesn't try to pull a major snow-job on us every chance he gets. Which, come to think of it, we might not.

Obama's got it right on this one: we're definitely in political "silly season." I for one don't care where Darcy Burner came by her economic knowledge, so long as she knows what to do with it. As far as I can tell, she does. Her economic plan just plain makes sense for the middle class. My family would sure benefit from doubling the dependent child deduction and eliminating the marriage penalty. My family would sure benefit from making permanent those few among the currently-temporary tax cuts that happen to target the middle class. Burner's economic plan takes $4,000 less out of the pockets of the average middle class family in the 8th district. I don't know if my family is average or not--maybe we'd do better, maybe worse--but I'll take the odds on her plan any day versus the odds on Reichert's no-plan-at-all.

I honestly don't care one iota where either Darcy Burner or Dave Reichert went to school. Not one bit. It's the quality of their ideas today that interests me. And on that score there is a clear difference between the two candidates in this race. Only one candidate in this race has demonstrated an ability to generate new and innovative ideas that address America's problems head-on; that candidate happens to have gone to Harvard. The other one has demonstrated an uncanny ability to tow the party line and support the policies of the least popular President in the history of polling; he happens to have gone to Concordia Lutheran.

Hm. I guess Harvard really is a better school, after all...

McCain receives endorsement of Al Qaeda

Today, John McCain received the stamp of approval from Al Qaeda, an endorsement not welcomed by the campaign.
"Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election," said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the "failing march of his predecessor," President Bush.
The irony here, is that despite its disingenuous attempts to portray Barack Obama as being sympathetic to terrorists, McCain actually ended up getting the endorsement of terrorists. Scoreboard shows McCain 1, Obama 0. Now, I'm not going to cast aspersions on the McCain campaign the way they've done to Barack Obama, but this further underscores the damage that John McCain and George W. Bush have done with this debacle they call a foreign policy. Terrorists are laughing at the United States and hoping that McCain gets elected so he can continue Bush's folly. As Governor Bill Richardson said in the primaries, "Being stubborn isn't a foreign policy."

Complaints filed over Rob McKenna's attempt to quash Buildergate investigation

Progressive advocacy network and Northwest Progressive Institute ally Fuse Washington announced late this morning that it is filing several complaints against Rob McKenna alleging that McKenna illegally used his authority as Attorney General to quash the investigation into the Buildergate fundraising scandal by providing cover for Dino Rossi's efforts to ignore a subpoena.

Fuse says:
The complaint alleges that McKenna violated the Ethics in Public Service Act, and was filed with State Auditor Brian Sonntag as provided for under State law. Fuse also filed a public disclosure request seeking additional information about McKenna's actions, as well as an ethics complaint with the Washington State Bar Association.

"It's difficult to explain the Attorney General's actions in this matter as anything other than an effort to provide Dino Rossi's campaign with legal arguments to support his attempts to dodge a subpoena," said Aaron Ostrom, Executive Director of Fuse. "His involvement in this case is highly inappropriate and very unusual. In fact, we have been unable to identify any other instances where the Attorney General weighed in with legal analysis on a citizen suit that he was not a party to without being asked by the court or appropriate official."
If you're not familiar with what McKenna did, here's a quick explanation of what happened. A few weeks ago, retired justices Faith Ireland and Robert Utter sued the Building Industry Association of Washington and announced their intent to sue Dino Rossi over his involvement in the Buildergate fundraising scandal.

Lowney & Smith PLLC, which represents the justices, quickly sought to compel Dino Rossi to testify under oath by asking the court to approve a subpoena.

The BIAW and Rossi immediately began fighting the subpoena in court. But they also turned to their good old buddy Attorney General Rob McKenna for help.

McKenna acted quickly, sending out a highly unusual letter to all the parties in the Buildergate case suggesting that retired Justices Ireland and Utter had not met jurisdictional prerequisites and procedural requirements necessary for a citizen enforcement action. The letter also stated that the Attorney General's office did not believe the lawsuit in King County Superior Court should continue.

The AG's letter, which amounts to an attempt to give Dino Rossi a Get Out of Jail Free card, was then hyped in press releases sent out to the media.

And that leads us to today. Here's Fuse again:
The AGO issued the letter and its analysis without any request from the King County Superior Court or any other appropriate official.. The Attorney General's Office refused to retract the letter despite a formal request accompanied by evidence of how it was being misused by Dino Rossi's lawyers.
The Northwest Progressive Institute strongly denounces Rob McKenna's unwelcome interference in the Buildergate investigation. McKenna is obstructing justice by inappropriately using his office to influence the Court on Dino Rossi's behalf. This is an outrageous misuse of power and it must end.

Rossi's "citizens movement" doesn't come cheap

The Building Industry Association of Washington is making Dino Rossi's "citizens movement" a little more attractive to strapped-for-cash citizens. It might surprise "Reduce the Minimum Wage" Rossi that the BIAW is luring paid canvassers with a wage of $12 an hour, almost $4 an hour more than Washington's minimum wage.

Walking for Washington is the BIAW's answer to real grassroots support by citizen volunteers. For four hours a day, six days a week, Washington's most aggressive right-wing lobby will pay $12 an hour to canvassers willing to drop Rossi literature at doors in Eastern King County.

Those grassroots are looking a little bit like artificial turf to me.

When real support is lagging, the BIAW has plenty of resources to draw upon. The group has already given nearly $7 million to Rossi's campaign for governor, more than any other issue group.

The Seattle Times explains why the BIAW is putting so much dough into Rossi's campaign:

Its agenda is simple, says Tom McCabe, who in the past two decades has led the group from one room and two employees to a renovated Olympia mansion with 45 staffers.

The group, which represents 13,000 home-building contractors, wants lower taxes and fewer regulations, particularly environmental ones, McCabe says.

That's putting it lightly. From an earlier NPI story:
They despise regulation - everything from environmental laws to ergonomics rules. The BIAW has used the initiative process repeatedly to get voters to repeal worker and environmental protection legislation it opposes....

[In 2006 they sued] to prevent Puget Sound orcas from being listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Obviously the BIAW feels thwarted by Governor Gregoire's strong leadership on environmental protection, leadership strong enough to win her legions of unpaid volunteers, ready to spread the word without asking for cash.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good October

In the years ahead, we may come to remember these exciting final few weeks of the 2008 election season as the Good October of the American People.

With our economy slowly unraveling, voters in this country are clamoring for a fundamental change in the way this country is managed.

Barack Obama now holds a commanding lead over John McCain. His projected electoral vote tally is well into the three hundred range.

Democrats lead in eight of nine races needed for a supermajority in the United States Senate and are statistically tied in three others.

Al Franken and Jeff Merckley have broken ahead in their Senate races and Democratic leads continue to grow in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico.

The Democratic Party holds significant leads in major state races across the country. Beverly Purdue leads her Republican opponent in North Carolina's
gubernatorial race. Jim Himes leads Christopher Shays in the Connecticut 2nd.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and independent observers project Democratic pickups all across the country.

Darcy Burner is leading Republican Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District.

In the race for the governor, the news continues to be bright. Over the weekend, she picked up endorsements from the Spokesman-Review and Everett Herald, which supported Rossi in 2004. Gregoire has twice as many newspaper endorsements as Rossi.

Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas has moved a hearing on Rossi's subpoena, an ominous signal to the Republican and one indicating that Judge Kallas will be scrutinizing motions filed by both parties.

Joe Biden was in Tacoma on Sunday, urging all Washingtonians to get behind Governor Gregoire. Biden permanently unhitched Rossi's wagon from Obama's message of change, saying that "all that change will be lost" if this state does not re-elect its Governor.

Al Gore will be here on Friday to add his own vigorous endorsement for the Governor's re-election.

On Monday, The Olympian published an article rebuffing Rossi's claims about his healthcare cut and lauding the Governor for taking the lead on healthcare coverage for all children. They reported that Rossi's 2003 budget did, in fact, cut 18,000 kids off healthcare and then reduced enrollment further by another 9,500.

When the Democrats took over, enrollment in child healthcare immediately shot up. That's the record given to us by the Governor. Free healthcare for every child. It's something Barack Obama supports and, with his leadership, we may be able to give the entire country, with our state leading by example.

Crosscut, a notoriously conservative blog, published an article last week detailing the Governor's successes in reducing the budget and giving her credit for taking the lead on that issue. They reported that Washington's economy is one of the most stable in the nation, leading our neighbors in the Pacific Northwest.

This is an exciting time for the Democratic Party and for everyone in the country. On November 5th, let's hope we will finally escape from our long national nightmare start rebuilding this country under new leadership.

Our work in Washington must renew the hope and the promise of the American dream as we move forward, together, as one.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Burner and Reichert on KUOW

[ed: KUOW just reported that Barack Obama will be taking a day and a half off the campaign trail starting Thursday morning to visit his grandmother Madelyn Dunham in Hawaii. His grandmother is reportedly quite ill. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the entire Dunham and Obama families. Update: this DailyKos story has a few details and an address where well-wishers can send postcards.]

Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert are on tonight's episode of KUOW Presents. Their segment is scheduled to air at 9:20. Liveblogging (and inevitable typos) to follow, so stay tuned.

The segment is starting. It's going to be 10 minutes with Darcy, then 10 minutes with Dave, interview by Ross Reynolds.

Here's Darcy Burner's segment, questions in bold:

How are you handling the dislocation from the fire?

We're doing ok. We've rented a house with a back yard and blueberry bushes. We'll be ok in the long term.

Are you seeing any effects of the economic crisis in the 8th district?

Yes, lots. I've met many, many people who are having trouble finding work, refiniancing houses, who have lost huge chunks of their retirement savings and are now concerned about being able to retire.

Do you agree with Reichert's statements against the bailout package?

I do agree. The money is clearly not being spent well (AIG's $440000 "retreat", etc). The bailout doesn't address the root causes of the problem, and is extremely prone to abuse. The Federal Reserve has done some good with its efforts to un-freeze the credit crunch. That's to the good. But we need to make sure this doesn't happen again. We saw this happen in the Great Depression, it happened in the S&L crisis in the '80s, and now again because we don't have adequate oversight of the financial industry. Reichert and those like him who are running on a "deregulate deregulate deregulate" platform are doing terrible damage to this country. It's absurd that the nat'l debt has doubled in the 5 years since my son was born. We need real fiscal responsibility in Washington, D.C. When the government does a bailout, taxpayers need to get equity and those investments need to structured in a way that gives taxpayers a decent return on that money.

What government programs could you see being cut?

Shrink-wrapping pallettes of cash and shipping them to Halliburton. We're going to have to get smarter about investing in things that grow the economy, rather than spending on things that achieve nothing and get us nowhere.

Your plan for tax cuts?

Double the standard deduction, the dependent care tax credit, make permanent the sales tax deduction. That's a $4000 savings on federal income taxes for the average family in the 8th district.

Reichert says that doesn't make sense because it mixes itemized and non-itemized deductions [ed: or something like that. I didn't quite catch the question].

But congress gets to decide how this works. If my proposals worked under current tax law, I wouldn't need to make them. But Congress can decide to permit people to itemize AND take the deductions I'm proposing. People need help now. Incomes have gone down by about $1000/year over the past 8 years, while the cost of living has gone up by about $9000/year. That $10,000 gap, driven largely by fuel and housing costs, is forcing people in this district to go to food banks just to make ends meet.

What about Bush's tax cuts?

Those tax cuts were passed through Congress with an expiration date built in. Certainly I believe that any tax cuts targeted at the middle class should be preserved. The marriage penalty should be addressed, etc. But wealthy individuals and profitable corporations should pay their fair share, and right now that's not happening.

Who would you define as wealthy?

The better question is to ask who is currently not paying their fair share. For example, hedge fund managers who avoid taxes by paying a lower capital gains tax rate instead, even though it's not their money they're investing. All I'm asking is that they should pay income taxes on their income, regardless of how they got it.

[Reichert's turn]

What about the economy?

We'll get through this. America will be ok. Our unemployment rate is up at about 6% in WA, people are now starting to feel the impacts of the economy here at home.

What about the bailout?

I voted no twice. On both occasions it was based on lack of protections for taxpayer money. The administration had to come ask us for it, because Congress is the keeper of the purse-strings. Even Pelosi didn't like it. I had the same questions as she did, but she voted yes and I voted no.

But given that the bailout package passed, how should the money be spent?

There have to be protections put in place for that money. We need to have the expert hearings that are taking place now, testify before congress, answer the tough questions to find the reasons we got her and then apply solutions. Increasing the FDIC cap was a good thing.

Burner says you and other Republicans are responsible for deregulation.

My response is that pointing fingers is not the solution. [ed: convenient answer, Dave, especially when the fingers are pointing at your party.] It's not one thing that caused this, but a series of things over decades. [ed: true enough, and just about all of those dominoes were pushed by folks named Nixon, Reagan, Bush, McCain, and Graham. Here's a great capsule history of that very series, folks. Highly recommended reading.] One thing that has come out is that some people lied about their incomes to get loans, and banks didn't follow through to check up before giving them a mortgage.

700 billion for the bailout. 2 wars. Yet you supported Bush's tax cuts. How does that add up?

Good question, and I had the same question. How are we going to pay for Soc. Sec, Medicare? But I voted no twice on the bill. One thing that would create some confidence would be to let the FDIC chairman have a seat on the oversight board. With Paulson in control, it's like the fox guarding the henhouse.

Are we seeing signs that the bailout is working?

Some signs, but hardly full recovery. The market hasn't come back up nearly as much as it went down. The administration has had to use a shotgun approach.

[ed: right about here Dave got cut off for the end of the segment. In all fairness to him, the answers to his last questions didn't have as much of a chance to be coherent as they could have because of what I felt was a poor job by Ross Reynolds of actually letting him answer the question. Ross interrupted Dave at least twice, interjecting new questions, and derailing that part of the conversation. On the other hand, if Dave was a direct about getting to the point of his answers in the first place, without first trying to spin up a framework in front of his answers that makes him look good, I don't think he wouldn't have gotten interrupted. So, not a great job by either of them, there. It may have sounded great on the radio, but as someone trying to take notes all I can say is that although Burner talks faster than I can type, at least I don't have to listen to her prattle on wondering when the actual answer is going to start; it starts immediately.]

McCain done in Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa

Here's CNN anchor John King (via Markos):

Most people top in the McCain campaign now believe New Mexico and Iowa are gone, that Barack Obama will win New Mexico and Iowa. They are now off the dream list of the McCain campaign. More interestingly, most top people inside the McCain campaign think Colorado is gone.

So they are now finishing with a very risky strategy. Win Florida. Win Nevada ... And here is the biggest risk of all -- yes they have to win North Carolina, yes they have to win Ohio, yes they have to win Virginia, trailing or dead-even in all those states right now. But they are betting Wolf on coming back and taking the state of Pennsylvania. It has become the critical state now in the McCain electoral scenario. And they are down 10, 12, and even 14 points in some polls there. But they say as Colorado, Iowa and other states drift away, they think they have to take a big state. 21 electoral votes in Pennsylvania, Wolf, watch that state over the next few weeks.

Not only is it good for Barack Obama if John McCain is pulling out of New Mexico and Colorado, but it helps the campaigns of Democrats Tom Udall and Mark Udall, both running for U.S. Senate, because their Republican opponents are on their own. And with both Udalls sporting nice leads in the polls, these two seats are looking like Democratic pickups. That's two more on the road to 60.

But in looking at the presidential race, in 2004 George W. Bush swept New Mexico (5 electoral votes), Colorado (9 electoral votes) and Iowa (7 electoral votes). That John McCain is conceding these states and Michigan (17 electoral votes) is incredible. He's effectively spotting Barack Obama a 38 electoral vote lead. Think Al Gore would have liked 38 more electoral votes in 2000?

Colin Powell, Barack Obama, and Darcy Burner on foreign policy.

Although Colin Powell is not personally on the ballot anywhere in the United States right now, if you like his foreign policy positions and you live in Washington's 8th Congressional District, you have two chances to vote for them on November 4th.

Amid the excitement and buzz about Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama yesterday, this little bit from MSNBC's story caught my eye:

Powell said a major part of his decision to turn his back on his own party was his conclusion that Obama was the better option to repair frayed U.S. relations with allies overseas.

“This is the time for outreach,” Powell said, saying the next president would have to “reach out and show the world there is a new administration that is willing to reach

In particular, he said, he welcomed Obama’s president to “talk to people we haven’t talked to,” a reference to Obama’s controversial statement that he would be open to direct diplomacy with Iranian leaders.

“I think that [Obama] has a definite way of doing business that will serve us well,” Powell said.

So, of course, you can support Powell's foreign policy goals by voting for Barack Obama. But you can cast a second vote in support of international consensus-building by voting for Darcy Burner.

If you watched or listened to either of her debates with Dave Reichert a couple of weeks ago, or if you read the liveblog coverage, Darcy's clear and strong stance was identical to what Powell expressed yesterday:

A go it-alone foreign policy doesn't work. We have to work with our allies and friends to solve problems.

This is something that progressives across the board have been arguing ever since 2003 and the runup to the Iraq war. The Bush Doctrine of "whoever I want to invade, whenever I want to do it, and nevermind what anybody else thinks" is flawed to its core. The Bush Doctrine costs us allies and earns for us animosity and resentment wherever we go.

The Bush Doctrine does everything imaginable to make it easier for people across the world to hate America and Americans.

Osama Bin Laden must surely view the Bush Doctrine as a flat-out gift from Allah, a sign from above that Allah wants Bin Laden's terrorist agenda to continue. Because the Bush Doctrine and its all-too-predictable ripple effects make it worlds easier to recruit new members to Al Qaida.

I know this. Darcy Burner knows this. Barack Obama knows this. And yesterday, none other than Colin Powell spoke up on the national stage to say Enough! This policy is broken, it is causing worlds of harm to America for no real benefit, and it must stop.

Anyone who wants to see America's standing in the world improve, and who wants to start addressing the real cause of terrorism, has two chances in November to vote for something better. One vote for Barack Obama, and one vote for Darcy Burner.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We don't need what Rossi is selling

So he thinks he can erase the deficit? Is that all he can do?

Apparently that's all the Seattle Times really cares about. The Sunday paper's endorsement of Rossi made the case that Dino "The Salesman" Rossi will "erase the state's huge projected deficit without raising taxes." They base their judgment on the fact that when Dino was in the senate he took Governor Locke's balanced budget and pushed it through the legislature.

So he was good at selling Locke's misguided budget, but what did he actually contribute?

I don't know that he contributed much, but this is what he sold:

If he balances the budget like he tried to do last time, then 40,000 low-income Washington kids will have no health coverage and will end up getting their medical needs met in emergency rooms at the taxpayer's expense, end up spreading germs at school and not feeling well enough to learn.

If he balances the budget like he did last time, he will go against voter-approved Initiative 728 and keep money from public schools that was intended to reduce class sizes which are currently some of the country's highest.

If he balances the budget like last time, he will raise taxes. When making "his" budget, Rossi raised taxes on nursing home beds and on liquor.

Chris Gregoire has fought for children's health insurance and for improved health benefits for seniors. She is a champion for the disadvantaged and in tough economic times, she will not lower the ax on those of us who are suffering the most. When Gregoire faced a big budget deficit in 2004, she did raise some taxes, on cigarettes, liquor and rich estates, but these taxes were targeted on areas that could most afford the increase.

From the Olympian:

Gregoire said in the 2004 campaign that she wouldn't raise taxes, but she says her argument was that it was wrong to raise general taxes during an economic downturn.

"I am committed — was and am — that in economic tough times, you don't raise taxes like property tax, sales tax and B&O (business-and-occupations) tax. And I didn't," she said.

So even if Rossi can erase the deficit, what next? What is his vision for Washington?

He lacks specifics not only on his budget cutting plan but on pretty much everything else. The Seattle Times couldn't find any other reason to recommend him, and when I look at Dino I can't see much more than a salesman standing out in front of a big lot of SUVs that no one is willing to buy.

We just don't need what you're selling.

Joe Biden electrifies Tacoma, urges support for Chris Gregoire and Darcy Burner

The following is a partial transcript of Senator Joe Biden's remarks this afternoon in Tacoma, Washington. A full transcript is coming, but we wanted to publish the first part of Biden's speech - in which he urges support for Chris Gregoire and Darcy Burner - early, for those of you who weren't there.

Senator Joe Biden Addresses Rally for Change in Tacoma
Sunday, October 19th, 2008 at Cheney Stadium

Hello Tacoma!

Well, I tell you what...Thank you all! Thank you all!

But I know why you're here. I know why you're all here. Where I come from [takes Gregoire's arm], this is called power.

Thank you all so very much. I tell you what...this is as close as I've come to playing pro baseball. I was a center fielder.

Your coach gave me a jersey, Number Twenty One [holds up jersey with his name on it, then says...] Put me in coach, I'm ready to play!

Joe Biden On Stage

By the way, as we say in the Senate, if you'll pardon a moment of personal privilege here... Twenty one reminds me of the most famous number in all of American college sports. It's Number Forty Four. It was my alma mater, Syracuse; Jimmy Brown wore it. Ernie Davis, if you've seen the movie [The] Express, wore it.

And one of your own, right here, who has a car dealership, one of the greatest running backs in the history of college football and pro football... Floyd Little, Number Forty Four, lives right here! And I know he's here somewhere...Floyd, you tried to help me make it. I used to have soft hands, but I guess they figured they'd run over me too quickly.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's an honor to be here, and I want to thank you for making this stadium today - temporarily changing the name, from Cheney Stadium to Obama-Biden Stadium - besides, if it was Cheney Stadium, we'd be in undisclosed location! We'd never have been able to find it!


I'm happy to be here with my good friend Norm Dicks. Norm and I have served a long... a long time together. And Jim McDermott... and two of my closest allies in the Senate, and two of my best friends: Patty Murray... God love ya, Patty! I tell ya something: You don't mess with Patty!

And Maria Cantwell! We're all talking about energy; Maria Cantwell, from the day she hit the Senate, started talking about energy...

She's going to be someone that the Obama-Biden administration's [going] to be looking to, literally, to lead our way out of our dependence [on foreign oil].

And you know, you're never taken for as much as you're worth in your home state, because everyone knows Patty; they know her as Patty.

Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Chris Gregoire, and Joe Biden

But let me tell ya - all kidding aside - Patty Murray is one of the most influential members of the United States Senate. She's the engine that keeps our operation going. And Patty, one of my jobs, for real, God willing, if we win... and I'm going to be spending a lot of time with you... because my job's going to be to help put through Barack's agenda through the United States Senate.

And the person we're going to look to the most... is Patty Murray!

And Patty, we're going to have a new colleague in the House. We're going to have a new colleague in [the] House. Darcy... by the way, where's Darcy, here?

Darcy Burner, I wanna tell you... [looks around for her, but can't see her].

[Appeals to crowd] You gotta explain to Darcy... [then, finally notices people pointing to Darcy, who is part of the crowd standing front of the stage]

Darcy! Now, only one message I want you to understand. The way it works is, that when I pick up the phone as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Darcy, and I call a House member - with the exception of Norm Dicks - they take the call.


Norm knows more about national security than I do, so he doesn't take the call. But [generally] they take the call.

But we all know vice presidents ain't much. We got that. We understand that. I understood that when I took the job. [Crowd objects] But... the only deal I want, the only rule I want, Darcy, you gotta promise me... when I call you, you'll say, "Come up, Joe." Okay? You promise?

[Darcy promises]

Alright! Good luck to you, kiddo!

[To the crowd] You gotta elect her!

Folks... [Crowd chants, Darcy, Darcy] You got it!

Darcy, you also are going to be in the Congress working back home for one of the best - and I mean this sincerely - one of the finest governors in the United States of America, Governor Gregoire.

You know, the kind of change Barack and I want to bring this country will be lost, will be lost here in the State of Washington if you don't reelect Governor Gregoire. She's already doing it. She's already doing it!

Folks! I'm hearing the simple message that the governor has already begun to deliver. And it's change... change, the right way. Change the right way. And the governor's already begun this year.

The crowd around the main stage

You know, as I came out of the locker room... I kind of like coming out of the dugout, it brings me back to, you know, the good old days.

You can't see this [holds up photograph] but, Coach left a note for me. He said, "I thought you might like to see your predecessor at Cheney [Stadium]."

And there's a picture here of two of the three men, here, that I served with. [Describes picture] John F. Kennedy, speaking at this podium, and Warren Magnuson, and Scoop Jackson. Well, ladies and gentlemen, this a crowd befitting Warren Magnuson and Scoop Jackson!

[End transcript, for now]

Colin Powell endorses Obama-Biden ticket

This morning on Meet the Press, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
On the Obama side, I watched Mr. Obama and I watched him during this seven-week period. And he displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one. And also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor. I think that he has a, a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well.


So, when I look at all of this and I think back to my Army career, we've got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now? Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities--and we have to take that into account--as well as his substance--he has both style and substance--he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world--onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.
But Powell didn't just endorse Barack Obama. He issued scathing remarks about the type of party the Republican Party has become, with its policies of scorch and burn.

This endorsement does a couple of things for Barack Obama. It further diminishes John McCain's boasts that he's the one who will work in a bipartisan manner. And it shores up Barack Obama on foreign policy experience and/or ability to lead the military.

It would have been easy for Colin Powell, a career military man, to have endorsed John McCain. With Colin Powell's endorsement, Barack Obama has more than crossed the experience threshold.

Read the whole transcript for the complete remarks of Secretary Powell.

LIVE from Cheney Stadium: Here he is, the Next Vice President of the United States!

Senator Joe Biden has just taken the stage here at Cheney Stadium to a thundering, roaring welcome. He's walking across to the podium now, greeting Governor Chris Gregoire, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Maria Cantwell.

He began by talking, at great length, about top contests here in Washington State...the fight for governor and the fight for the 8th Congressional District.

Biden quickly singled out Darcy Burner by name, sternly but cheerfully telling the crowd, "You gotta elect her!"

And he praised Governor Chris Gregoire as a valuable partner the Obama-Biden administration needs. Without Gregoire in charge, the Evergreen State will slide backwards, because Dino Rossi and his right wing Republican allies are poised and ready to destroy years of progress. They're desperate to win.

"The kind of change that Barack Obama and I and trying to bring will be lost here in the state of Washington if you don't reelect Chris Gregoire," Biden said.

"Let me remind you, polls don't determine the outcome of elections," he declared, urging everyone present to register to vote, mail in ballots or go to the polls, and then turn out neighbors to vote.

"Cast your vote now! Get this rolling now!" he shouted to roaring applause.

"This is the single most consequential election since 1932," he added, to cheers of "Yes!" and "That's right!"

More than ten minutes later, he brought the stadium to its feet again as he used Darcy Burner's framing of the Iraq occupation, stating, "We're going to end this war responsibly! We're going to bring our troops home!"

"We're going to try to staunch the bleeding as best we can. But then, we have to start addressing the underlying problems," Biden explained later, championing the idea of tackling causes instead of symptoms.

This has been a TERRIFIC speech so far. We're just having an awesome time here. I have never heard Joe Biden so forceful, so thoughtful, and so eloquent.

This is a stump speech with local flavor, with punch, with humor, with conviction, filled with passion and substance.

This is what we all came to hear.

It's thrilling and energizing to be here, among a crowd of over twelve thousand fired-up Democrats from all over Pierce County and Puget Sound.

LIVE from Cheney Stadium: Maria, Patty, and Chris warm up the crowd for Joe Biden

The Rally for Change is now well underway here in Tacoma. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have taken the stage to roaring applause, speaking to the need to keep Governor Chris Gregoire at the helm of our great Evergreen State.

The Governor herself is about to take the stage...

And here she is! Wow, what a welcome! Everyone is on their feet, cheering...

...The Governor is speaking now, chastising Dino Rossi and his BIAW supporters for their nasty campaign of les and deception.

"The followers of the George W. Bush policies are...[making] a last ditch effort to make those failed policies become a part of our great state.

"Let us send a message to those special interests: Washington State and the governor's office are not for sale!"

LIVE from Cheney Stadium: Stage snapshot

Here's a view of the main stage inside of Cheney Stadium (from the press riser):

This photo was taken using my BlackBerry Curve's camera, so it isn't of the highest quality, but it gives you a feel for the crowd and the main stage.

What seating is left here at Cheney Stadium is rapidly disappearing. People who are just coming in are being asked to sit in the bleachers off to the side, which don't provide a very good view of the stage.

At least there's still overflow seating available for those who are still out there.
We're due to hear from Governor Chris Gregoire in a matter of minutes.

LIVE from Cheney Stadium: Darcy Burner!

Cheney Stadium is beginning to fill to capacity here in Tacoma, and Congressman Norm Dicks has just finished introducing our champion for change in the 8th Congressional District...people powered politics hero Darcy Burner.

Darcy began her brief remarks by telling the story of her admittance to Harvard, when she was given a scholarship on the condition that she study economics. "That was the best advice I ever took," she said, to applause.

If Anerica wants new leadership and new solutions for a future, then it's time to send a Democrat to the White House, Darcy declared. "We must change, we can change, and we will change when we elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden."

"We need to make the investments in growing our economy so our kids have a better world than the one that they found," she added. "And on November 4th, with the help of all of you, we are going to get that change."

Darcy was followed by Congressman Adam Smith, who urged the crowd to join him in doing everything possible to elect Barack, Joe, and Darcy, and reelect Chris Gregoire. He reminded everyone to take nothing for granted.

"Work every day like we're two votes behind in every one of these races."

LIVE from Cheney Stadium: Goldmark, Ladenburg address Rally for Change

We've just heard from two candidates running in downballot races here at Cheney Stadium: Peter Goldmark, who is seeking the office of Lands Commissioner, and John Ladenburg, who is seeking the office of Attorney General.

While the candidates were warmly welcomed, their biggest applause lines came not when they talked about their own campaigns, but when they talked about Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Chris Gregoire...our nominees for President, Vice President, and Governor, respectively. What this shows is that even though we have great candidates running in these downballot contests, general public awareness of what the Attorney General and Lands Commissioner do is pretty low.

Peter Goldmark was introduced by Congressman Jim McDermott, who, in his introduction of Peter Goldmark, mentioned that he supports the Northwest Progressive Institute's Downballot effort to provide better political coverage of under-appreciated races. We had a chance to interview Peter about how his campaign is going, and we'll release that interview as a podcast shortly.

We're due to hear from Darcy Burner next.

LIVE from Cheney Stadium: Logistics update

Welcome to the beginning of our live coverage of today's Rally for Change in Tacoma, Washington, with Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The NPI team is reporting to you live from on site. It's a bit chilly here at Cheney Stadium, but everyone seems to be dressed warmly, which is excellent.

The parking lot at Henry Foss High School and Cheney Stadium is completely full, so if you haven't arrived here yet, don't try to park there.

The line to get in the stadium currently stretches several blocks around the parking lot. The doors are open and people are filing in, but it's slow going because it takes time to move people through the security checkpoints.

If you're in line, just be patient...there's plenty of space inside, and you shouldn't have a problem finding a place to sit or stand. In fact, there's quite a bit of space still on the field in front of the podium where Joe Biden will speak. People are being invited to come down to the field.

It will undoubtedly be full by the time the main program begins.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Is Sarah Palin a racist?

Everywhere she goes, Sarah Palin is stoking the fires of fear and racism, appealing to the lowest common denominator in her audience. Last week, for example, the mob turned on an African-American member of the media telling him to "Sit down, boy."

While not explicitly condoning such behavior at her rallies, Sarah Palin has done nothing to discourage this disgusting behavior. But racism on the campaign trail didn't just come from nowhere. When Sarah Palin became governor, she told a prominent member of the African-American community that she did not plan to hire any minorities for her staff.

Gwen Alexander, the president of the African-American Historical Society of Alaska, told me that Palin stated defiantly that she had no intention to hire any minority staffers. And according to Bishop Dave Thomas, senior pastor of Anchorage-based African-American church Jesus Holy Temple, the Palin administration excluded black business owners from the Alaskan oil and gas pipeline board. "We wasn't even able or allowed to go into the meetings" to seek contracts for the pipeline, Thomas told me.

Palin further alienated Alaska's black community by becoming the first Alaskan governor in recent memory to not recognize the Juneteenth celebration of the emancipation proclamation. "She doesn't hire any black people, she doesn't have any on her staff, so it's not a surprise that she doesn't support our Juneenth celebration," Alexander said. [emphasis mine]

But not hiring minorities isn't enough for Sarah Palin. Apparently, Governor Palin used a racial epithet to demean Barack Obama in public, and frequently uses them with regard to native Alaskans. And if you thought George Allen calling S.R. Sidarth "macaca" was bad, Sarah Palin looks like David Duke by comparison.

“So Sambo beat the bitch!”

This is how Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin described Barack Obama’s win over Hillary Clinton to political colleagues in a restaurant a few days after Obama locked up the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

According to Lucille, the waitress serving her table at the time and who asked that her last name not be used, Gov. Palin was eating lunch with five or six people when the subject of the Democrat’s primary battle came up. The governor, seemingly not caring that people at nearby tables would likely hear her, uttered the slur and then laughed loudly as her meal mates joined in appreciatively.


Besides insulting Obama with a Step-N’-Fetch-It, “darkie musical” swipe, people who know her say she refers regularly to Alaska’s Aboriginal people as “Arctic Arabs” – how efficient, lumping two apparently undesirable groups into one ugly description – as well as the more colourful “mukluks” along with the totally unimaginative “f**king Eskimo’s,” according to a number of Alaskans and Wasillians interviewed for this article. [emphasis mine]

Regardless of what political party she represents (Republican, Alaskan Independence or otherwise), the racist venom spewed forth by Sarah Palin is unbecoming of a potential leader of the free world, and it's time for her to go back to Alaska and retreat from the national political scene.

Do you live in pro-America?

In an attempt to further drive a wedge between and divide the American people, Sarah Palin unleashed her latest diatribe on the campaign trail today.
Palin also made a point of mentioning that she loved to visit the "pro-America" areas of the country, of which North Carolina is one. No word on which states she views as unpatriotic.
I'd like to challenge Senator Palin to tell us where the anti-American parts of our nation are. My guess, though, is that Palin is generalizing, marginalizing and denigrating highly populous urban areas that tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

Senator Joe Biden didn't take too kindly to Governor Pain's words and issued his own response.

But forget about what we liberal blogger types say about Sarah Palin. As the story goes, we're supposed to hate her and write terrible things about her. So don't take our word for it. Take Peggy Noonan's (she worked for Saint Ronnie the Hallowed as a speechwriter).
She is not as thoughtful or persuasive as Joe the Plumber, who in an extended cable interview Thursday made a better case for the Republican ticket than the Republican ticket has made. In the past two weeks she has spent her time throwing out tinny lines to crowds she doesn't, really, understand. This is not a leader, this is a follower, and she follows what she imagines is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken-hearted thing whose pain she cannot, actually, imagine.


In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It's no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.
Well said, Peggy. Well said, indeed. Questioning the patriotism of good and decent Americans who have a different opinion than you is a vulgarization of political discourse.

Trick or Vote!

This Halloween, you can hop on The Bus and make a difference. Finally, energetic young progressives have figured out how to make campaigning fun.

Has a campaigner wearing a cape ever come to your door? How about one wearing an Obama mask? This Halloween you might be visited by folks who don’t want candy. They want your political support instead. Or maybe instead of staying home this year, you want to break out your Batman costume and get on The Bus too.
The Washington Bus [a youth-oriented, traveling advocacy group] is…..teaming up with grassroots groups across the country to present Trick or Vote, America’s largest non-partisan get-out-the-vote canvass... in costume!
In the Seattle area, The Bus will take 250 costumed volunteers canvassing with a goal of knocking on 8,000 doors. When they're done, the group will celebrate the night and their success with a party on Capitol Hill. What better way to spend the holiday than getting out the vote and partying with progressives?

If you’ve ever doorbelled for a candidate, you know how much work it is to trudge up and down driveways and not find a single voter at home. On Halloween, a porch light will tell you if voters are home or not. Doors will open magically for you.

Plus, if you want to make a difference, canvassing is the way to do it. A Yale University study has shown that personal voter contact increases voter turnout almost 10 percent more than impersonal methods like mailers, radio and television ads do.

Imagine the effect you could have by talking to 20-30 voters only five days before election day. And if you dress up like Sarah Palin you can really scare them into voting. You 'betcha!

On Vetting

It seems John McCain hasn't done his homework again. Joe the Plumber isn't what he seems. And his 15 minutes of fame are up, hopefully with John McCain's soon to follow.
A day after making Joseph Wurzelbacher famous, referencing him in the debate almost two dozen times as someone who would pay higher taxes under Barack Obama, McCain learned the fine print Thursday on the plumber’s not-so-tidy personal story: He owes back taxes. He is not a licensed plumber. And it turns out that Wurzelbacher makes less than $250,000 a year, which means he would receive a tax cut if Obama were elected president. [emphasis mine]
In other words, the Joe the Plumber story that John McCain would have the American people believe is a fraud. But the problem here is yet another instance when McCain failed to vet, in this case, the Joe the Plumber myth.

So if we apply McCain's penchant for rushing into things without fully checking them out, what do you think a McCain Administration might look like? Four words: More of the same.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Senator Joe Biden to headline rally in Tacoma this Sunday

The Obama campaign has just announced that Senator Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee and Barack's running mate, will hold a Change We Need Rally this Sunday at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. Biden will focus on the campaign's plan to improve economic security for American families.

The doors will open at noon and the program is scheduled to begin at 2 PM. Arrive early in the morning if you want to avoid what will likely be long lines.

The campaign says tickets are not required but an RSVP is strongly encouraged. Readers, to RSVP, please follow this link to Barack Obama's website.

The address for Cheney Stadium is 2502 South Tyler Street, Tacoma, WA.

Also, please note that signs and banners are prohibited (for security reasons). Leave all bags and backpacks at home. The campaign asks that you limit personal items. Best advice? Bring a light but warm jacket that will keep you dry (perhaps a windbreaker with a hood), your personal effects, your digital camera, and nothing else. Bring water bottles for the car or bus ride.

You can expect signs to be distributed at the rally.

We'll be posting live reports and tips here on The Advocate before the rally (from on-site), so if you're planning on going and you own a smartphone, subscribe to our RSS or Atom feed so you can stay updated in real time.

Governor Gregoire chalks up newspaper endorsements across the Evergreen State

With October half-over and ballots about to head out in the mail, newspapers across Washington have started releasing their endorsements, including the most important statewide race on the ballot: the close and fierce contest for governor between Governor Chris Gregoire and Dino "Lower the Minimum Wage" Rossi.

Despite the strength of Rossi's campaign, which is the best-funded and best-organized Republican campaign for the governor's mansion in recent history, and despite the conservative leanings of most newspaper publishers and editorial boards, Rossi has so far received no major newspaper endorsements.


Maybe it's because Chris Gregoire is one of the most dedicated public servants in Washington's history, who has successfully negotiated compromises on tough issues like medical malpractice and water use.

Or maybe it's because her job performance as chief executive earned Washington an "A" grade from Pew Research's Grading the States project. (Washington was only one of three states to receive the prestigious "A").

Or maybe it's because (according to Forbes Magazine) Washington is the third best state in the country to do business - up from fifth last year.

Or maybe it's because Chris Gregoire had the courage to push through enactment of the 2005 Transportation Package and restore the Education Legacy Trust after the estate tax (which funds it) was struck down in 2006. (Voters ratified both of those decisions by rejecting right wing attempts to undo them).

Or maybe it's because Gregoire implemented the voters' will by putting money into lower class sizes and cost of living increases for underpaid teachers.

All of the above are compelling reasons for Governor Gregoire's reelection - and they explain why Team Gregoire has seven times as many major endorsements.

Editorial Scoreboard

But let's give our state's newspaper publishers a chance to explain their rationale for backing Chris in their own words.

Let's begin with The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Gregoire is a known, trustworthy performer. She led state agencies well for years, and has done the same for the whole state. Gregoire has made improvements and smart choices in perhaps every area of major responsibility, many long neglected.
Here's The Oregonian:
Gregoire has brought Washington to within sight of becoming the first state with health coverage for all its children, persuaded voters to increase the gas tax to help take on the state's sclerotic transportation system, and begun a major effort -- with a long way to go -- to clean up Puget Sound.

Washington voters closer to the Columbia should also appreciate her energetic efforts to prod the feds to speed the cleanup of Hanford.
And The Columbian, which endorsed Dino Rossi in 2004:
Gregoire knows how to help Southwest Washington. Last November, within two weeks of extensive reporting in The Columbian about foot-dragging by the state Department of Ecology in cleaning up the old Alcoa waterfront site — plus a stern “Help us out, Chris” editorial — Gregoire ordered the DOE officials to get cracking, and they did.

Last month, within one hour of the Community Economic Revitalization Board abruptly withdrawing a $12.5 million grant it had mistakenly awarded Vancouver’s waterfront redevelopment project, Gregoire promised capital-budget funding for the project and vowed to expand the program to include Vancouver’s efforts.
And the News Tribune of Tacoma, which has also switched to Team Gregoire:
There’s a reason Rossi was able to fight Gregoire to a statistical tie in 2004 – one ultimately decided by an infinitesimal and fiercely disputed 133 votes.

Yet we’re endorsing Gregoire this time around. Although we’ve had disagreements with her, we’ve been impressed by her overall performance as governor. Some examples:

Gregoire “gets” early childhood education. She has worked to turn the state into a leader in this field.

She’s been a champion of higher education. In Pierce County, for instance, she secured funding to expand both the campus and the enrollment of the University of Washington Tacoma.
The Olympian says:
When revenues began to slide, Gregoire, like any good manager, took immediate steps. She imposed a state hiring freeze, limited consulting contracts and discontinued unnecessary travel. Coupled with 1 percent across-the-board spending cuts, Gregoire says she has already taken steps to trim the projected $3.2 billion deficit by $1.5 billion. And let's not forget Gregoire balanced a budget with a $2.2 billion deficit when she took office after beating Rossi by 133 votes in 2004. She created the rainy-day fund and has been a solid steward of state resources.
Gregoire also has the support of two weekly newspapers, The Stranger of Seattle and the Inlander Northwest of Spokane:
By all indicators, we're entering a tough stretch here, and Washington state will feel it. In times like these, we need to choose the kind of competence and experience that Gregoire offers, not the false promises of a man who, until very recently, was proud to be a chip off the old Bush block.

- Inlander Northwest

Want some reasons to get fired up about Gregoire? Here are a few: She pushed through climate-change legislation, added tens of thousands of kids to the state's children's health-insurance program, increased the state housing trust fund by $50 million, and has consistently signed Democratic-agenda legislation that her opponent would have vetoed.

- The Stranger
What does Rossi have?

Well, he's got the right wing Centralia Chronicle (the owner of that paper is a big, big, big supporter of Tim Eyman) but that's about it.

Rossi has lost the The Columbian and News Tribune. It's possible he will also lose The Herald of Everett and The Seattle Times.

The Spokesman-Review, Yakima Herald-Republic, the Walla Walla Union Bulletin, and other newspapers also haven't weighed in yet.

Will Rossi even the score a little bit or get shut out? We'll get the answer within a couple weeks. But there's one thing we already know: Rossi would have to net all of the major remaining papers just to catch up with Chris Gregoire.

Presidential debate post-mortem

A few observations about last night's Presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.

1. The closing statements: Obama focused on us, and McCain focused on himself.
Here’s McCain’s: “I have a record of reform, and taking on my party, the other party, the special interests…” And Obama’s: “You know, over the last 20 months, you've invited me into your homes. You've shared your stories with me. And you've confirmed once again the fundamental decency and generosity of the American people. And that's why I'm sure that our brighter days are still ahead.”
Should a presidential campaign be all about the person running, or should it be about all of us as a nation?

2. Regarding appointment of Supreme Court Justices, once again, John McCain got his facts wrong.

I voted for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg. Not because I agreed with their ideology, but because I thought they were qualified and that elections have consequences when presidents are nominated. This is a very important issue we're talking about.

Senator Obama voted against Justice Breyer and Justice Roberts on the grounds that they didn't meet his ideological standards. [emphasis mine]
For the record, Senator McCain, Justice Breyer was nominated by President Clinton and seated on the Court on August 3, 1994. As Barack Obama's official Senate biography notes he was:
Sworn into office on January 4, 2005, Senator Obama has focused on tackling the challenges of a globalized, 21st-century world with fresh thinking and judgment that no longer settles for the lowest common denominator. [emphasis mine]
So tell me Senator McCain, how does an Illinois State Senator vote in the United States Senate to confirm a Supreme Court Justice? Are you alleging voter fraud?

3. Why does John McCain hate women?
Obama: Those are all things that we put in the Democratic platform for the first time this year, and I think that's where we can find some common ground, because nobody's pro-abortion. I think it's always a tragic situation.


McCain: Just again, the example of the eloquence of Senator Obama. He's health for the mother. You know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything.

That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, "health."
John McCain is a callous, heartless bastard who would rather let a pregnant mother die than give her the option of terminating her pregnancy in which the end result might be her own death. John McCain has said some idiotic things, but mocking a mother's health in order to force her to have a child is pretty low. Memo to pregnant women: never mind if your health and safety dictates that an abortion is the best course of action as determined by you in consultation with qualified medical professionals, John McCain would rather let you die.

But then, after the way McCain berated his own wife, Cindy, in front of staff and reporters, we already knew he didn't respect women.

4. And then there's education. Despite the fact that teachers in our schools go to college and get specialized training and certification, McCain thinks anybody off the street can be a teacher.
MCCAIN: We need to encourage programs such as Teach for America and Troops to Teachers where people, after having served in the military, can go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations which -- or have the certification that some are required in some states.
Certification? We don't need no stinking certification? Apparently John McCain thinks we need standards of excellence for our students, but not our teachers. And he wants to put these uncertified teachers in the classroom with the hard-working good teachers who got their degrees and certifications. Undoubtedly McCain would want to pay these uncertified teachers the same wages as their certified counterparts.

5. "Spread the wealth" and "Joe the Plumber". If you had these on your debate bingo cards, congratulations you're the big winner. Seriously, though, throughout the debate John McCain was red-baiting every time he used the phrase "spread the wealth" with regard to Barack Obama. It was his code for calling Obama a communist.

6. What was up with all the maniacal grins and goofy facial expressions? Between those and throwing out every attack line he could at Barack Obama, John McCain reinforced that he truly is that grumpy old neighbor who yells at the kids, "Get off my lawn!"

Dear Time Magazine: stuff it!

Today TIME magazine has an article about the Burner/Reichert race.

While I would ordinarily be delighted to see such high profile coverage of our little district, in this case the article can't be said to make a lot of sense. You can read it for yourself, or read the DailyKos analysis of it, but the suggestion in the article is that if Darcy loses this race, it will be the fault of the netroots.

Or in other words, me.

You see, I'm a blogger living in WA-08 who advocates all the time for Darcy Burner. So you'll understand if I take that just a little bit personally.

All the more when I consider the thick and acerbic irony of TIME Magazine, a bastion of the traditional media if ever there was one, making that claim.

Here's the thing: if Darcy loses it will be primarily because voters don't actually understand who she is and what she's all about, or conversely, who Dave Reichert is and what he's all about. And responsibility for any failing in that regard lies squarely at the feet of the traditional media.

Remember, it's THE MEDIA'S JOB to educate the public about the candidates over and above simply reporting what the candidates say about themselves and each other. There's a reason that the media, our independent, free American press, is called the "fourth estate".

While the legislative, judicial, and executive branches are the first three estates of government, and while they have their (increasingly useless) checks and balances between them, the media serves as an indispensable check on them. The media exists to hold the three estates of government accountable to the people.

Our Founding Fathers knew that slime grows in the dark. That's why they made an explicit point of writing freedom of expression and freedom of the press into our Constitution so that the media could, then and forever, shine light onto the operations of government for the American people to see.

So, TIME Magazine, when you tell me that it'll be MY fault if Darcy loses, you'll surely understand my inclination to politely tell you to take your glossy-paged magazine into the nearest available bathroom stall, tear out a sheet, and put it to a more appropriate use.

I and every other activist in the netroots community - whether we're covering Darcy's race or Scott Kleeb's race or any other important House, Senate, gubernatorial, judicial, executive, or commissioner's race across this nation, do what we do for exactly one reason:

Because you guys, the big boys of the traditional media, have forgotten how to do your job. You have somehow come to accept shining a pitiful little 3 watt Christmas tree bulb instead of the blinding spotlights you used to wield. (Woodward and Bernstein, anyone? Remember those guys?)

Those of us who are tired of living in the dark have little choice (because we love our country, thank-you-very-much) but to take time away from our families and our jobs to cover the stories you won't cover. To shed that light.

That's why I write and talk about Darcy's leadership, her intelligence, and her Iraq and Economic plans all the time. That's why I blog about how useless Dave Reichert has been as a congressman.

That's why I refuse to let him get away with claiming the glory for catching Gary Ridgway when he let that mass murderering psychopath run free for five years longer than he needed to.

Because you, the corporate media, only seem to want to publish horse race stories that can be written from a newsroom, I'm stepping up to do what I can to help the voters get to know who Darcy Burner is and what she's all about. And to help the voters get to know who Dave Reichert is and what he's all about.

I'm not a full time reporter...but then, I have to hold down a real job, too. I do what I can. I do it because at the end of the day, I know one thing. The more voters get to know Darcy, the more they like her. And the more they know Dave Reichert, the less they like him.

Again, to the people who run TIME Magazine...if you had a shred of self-respect about you, you'd quit making me do your job for you.

And if you had a shred of accountability, you sure as heck wouldn't blame me for what is ultimately your failure and the collective failure of your peers in the traditional media to educate the voters.

If Darcy wins what is surely an incredibly difficult race, the credit will go to her, to her amazing campaign staff, to the army of volunteers who do what they can, who give of themselves and their time and effort, and yes, some small share of it to me and all the other Americans who belong to the netroots community.

But if she loses, the fault must surely rest with those who have both the responsibility and the resources to shine those really bright lights: you, Time Magazine, and the rest of the traditional media. I'm sorry you couldn't be bothered to do your jobs, but come on, whose fault is that?

Surely not the fault of those who stepped up and did what we could.

LIVE from Seattle: Kemper Freeman Jr. brings flying libertarian circus to CityClub

Today, Seattle CityClub is holding the latest forum in its "Community Matters" series of election-related events. The subject of today's discussion is "Transportation on the Ballot: Proposition 1 and Initiative 985".

The discussion consists of two debates: One between King County Councilmember Dow Constantine and libertarian Bellevue Square owner Kemper Freeman, Jr. over Sound Transit Proposition 1, and between Tim Eyman and Ron Sims over I-985.

KIRO 7 chief political correspondent Essex Porter is moderating the debates.

We're about twenty minutes into the Proposition 1 debate so far, and the main lowlight has been the slew of favorite false claims and distortions from our local flying libertarian circus - presented by Kemper Freeman Jr. in his low, gravelly voice. Already Kemper has trotted out the tired, misleading "only one percent or less of all trips occur on transit" canard, and he has also argued that rail isn't cost effective as buses (an unfair apples to oranges comparison).

Among Kemper Freeman Jr.'s other claims so far, in his own words:
  • Seattle has "the eighth best bus system in the country"
  • "We're being sold a very expensive fib that light rail can do it better" than buses (here he's talking about the cost effectiveness of the Link system)
  • "Hundreds of buses and hundreds of bus routes can do better than a light rail line" (Dow quickly pointed out that it would actually take thousands of buses to do the job of light rail)
  • Sound Transit's promises "have already been made and broken"
  • "I did support Transit Now" [the Metro bus package] in 2006
  • "I-985 does a lot of things that I think are good for transit and all of us" (By letting anyone use high occupancy vehicle lanes during rush hour!?)
Dow has done a pretty good job of refuting Kemper's nonsense, especially considering that reframing is naturally tough when you're up against the libertarian flying circus, which has nothing to offer but anti-transit propaganda.

At one point, Dow stated emphatically, "The other cities that have successful bus systems...all of them...have light rail."

UPDATE: Bill LaBorde of the Transportation Choices Coalition just asked Kemper how he can talk so enthusiastically about creating bus rapid transit and bus lanes (instead of rail) while at the same time supporting I-985, which would open high occupancy vehicle lanes and bus lanes to general traffic.

Kemper dodged the question, instead talking about eliminating "pinch points" by widening highways. Memo to Kemper: Building bigger and wider urban canyons does not ease gridlock. It simply does not work.

UPDATE II: Someone just asked about tunnel and bridge safety. Dow explained that it's actually safer to be underground during an earthquake (because the tunnel moves with the earth) and that engineers believe light rail across I-90 is feasible.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama, McCain face off in final presidential debate

Starting momentarily, from the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY will be the final presidential debate between Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain. The debate will be moderated by CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer. The debate is to be 90 minutes and focus on the economy and domestic issues.

Look for John McCain, in a last-ditch, desperate effort to take the fight to Obama on his terms. McCain has promised to bring up Obama's connection to Bill Ayers, so there may be some fireworks.

Tune into this thread for regular live updates of the debate, as the action happens.

6:00 pm Bob Schieffer is explaining the rules. He promises the opportunity for follow-up questions. Schieffer has just introduced the candidates ho have come out on stage to applause. First question is regarding the economic crisis, and Shieffer has reviewed their plans and asks why each candidates' plan is best. McCain answers first, thanking Hofstra and giving his regards to "our beloved Nancy Reagan". McCain talks about angry Americans, blames the problem on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, says we need to reverse the decline of home ownership. McCain wants to take $300 billion of the $750 billion bailout and buy home mortgages so that people can stay in their homes. McCain says he wants t put homeowners first.

Obama is up next, thanking the hosts, his opponent, and the moderator. He says the bailout is an important first step. What we haven't yet seen is a rescue package for the middle class. Obama mentions he has proposed several things: focus on jobs (end tax breaks for companies that offshore jobs), help families right away (middle class tax cut for people making less than $200,000 and penalty free access to IRA's), help homeowners with their mortgages.

McCain follows up with lies about Obama's plans for small businesses and talks about his conversation with a plumber earlier in the week and said he ended the conversation with "spread the wealth around", as if Obama is a Communist. He didn't say Communist, but McCain was speaking with such disdain you could tell he wanted to.

Obama makes a good point about taxes that nobody likes to pay taxes, but we have to make appropriate investments in our country. McCain says we don't need to spread the wealth around. Why not when

6:12pm Next question is about the deficit. Won't programs you're proposing have to be postponed, trimmed or cancelled? Obama goes first saying that yes, adjustments will be necessary. He says he's been a strong proponent of pay as you go, and that with every dollar he's proposing to spend, he's also proposed a cut for programs that don't work. Obama wants to cut programs that don't work, and programs that we do need, should be made to work better. If we make investments now on preventative health care, it will save on Medicare and Medicaid. If we invest in our young people, they will drive the economy in the 21st Century.

McCain can't answer the question and goes back to homeownership and talks about Great Depression era programs that bought up home mortgages. Bob Schieffer tries to get McCain to answer the question and he pivots to nuclear energy, offshore drilling and the need for energy independence.

Finally, he starts answering the question. McCain would implement an across-the board spending freeze. McCain says he knows how to save on defense spending and how to cut programs, proposing to cut subsidies for ethanol and tariffs on sugar cane based ethanol from Brazil. McCain says he'd veto every earmark laden bill, and brings up the "overhead projector" earmark that Obama added to a spending bill again.

Obama points out, in his rebuttal, that earmark account for 1/2 of 1 percent of the total federal budget.

6:23pm In the first "Get Off My Lawn" moment of the debate, McCain gets angry and says to Obama "I'm not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush you should have run in 2004."

McCain also makes a goofy face when Obama points out that his claim about Obama raising taxes on people who make $42,000 a year was disputed by everyone, including Fox News who doesn't agree with Obama on most things.

6:27pm Next question is regarding leadership. Schieffer notes the tone of the campaign has turned nasty. Are each of you willing to say to each other's face what the campaigns and your surrogates have said about each other? McCain goes first. Says he wanted to do ten town hall meetings and that all this could have been different if they had done the town halls together. Says he regrets the tone of both campaigns and calls out Congressman John Lewis for his remarks earlier in the week. McCain says Obama didn't repudiate the remarks made by Lewis and his campaign will tell the truth (which is a lie). McCain claims Obama has spent more money on negative ads than any campaign in history. He's been given his opportunity to live up to his word, and he hasn't mentioned Bill Ayers.

Obama says we expect campaigns to be tough. He says 10 percent of McCain's ads are negative. Obama stays above the fray and says that he thinks the American people are less interested in "our hurt feelings" and more interested in the issues. Obama says he doesn't mind being attacked for 3 more weeks, but says that the American people deserve to have the campaigns talking about the issues, because we can't afford 4 more years of failed economic policies.

McCain follows up by noting that his Arizona Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. What does that have to do with anything?

6:34pm McCain still says he didn't hear Obama say anything repudiating Congressman Lewis. Obama defends Lews' concerns about the racist remarks made at Sarah Palin's rallies, notes that he issued a statement that he believed an unfair comparison was made, and that Congressman Lewis also issued a statement regretting that he may have gone a bit too far in his remarks.

McCain says he's proud of the people who come to his rallies. Says he's not going to stand for people who come to his rallies aren't anything less than the most patriotic people in the country. Says people at Obama rallies have yelled things too. McCain is sounding like a whining, sniveling brat.

6:37pm Enter Bill Ayers. Enter ACORN. McCain is leveling accusations that Obama is associating with terrorists and people who commit voter fraud. Obama responds that Ayers engaged in despicable acts with a domestic terrorist group. He notes that he served on a commission regarding education set up by Walter Annenberg, a friend of Ronald Reagan. Ayers isn't a part of Obama's campaign and won't advise Obama when he's in the White House. He notes his work with ACORN on the Motor Voter law in Illinois. Now he's listing people he does associate with, respectable experts in their fields.

McCain is dong his "Get Off My Lawn" routine again.

6:42pm Next question is why would the country be better off with your running mate as President, rather than his running mate?

Obama notes Biden's vast experience in foreign policy, that's he's never forgotten where he came from. Obama talks about Biden's work fighting for "the little guy". Obama says Biden shares his core values, and that they agree that we have to reprioritize and invest in the American people.

McCain says Americans know Sarah Palin is a role model to women and reformers all across America. He brings out the same stories of Palin taking on Frank Murkowski and the oil companies. No mention of abuse of power. He says she'll sweep out the cronyism. McCain says Palin understands and will be a great advocate for special needs children. He keeps saying he's proud of her. In the realm of the bizarre, he notes Todd Palin's tough guy status. I'm not sure, in light of the Branchflower Report, that Todd Palin's tough guy status is an asset to the McCain campaign.

Obama is asked if Palin has enough experience and responds by saying he'll leave it to the American people.

6:48pm Next question is on climate change. Give us a number of how much you believe we can reduce foreign oil imports during your first term?

McCain says we can eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil, but that we'll keep importing Canadian oil. He wants to build 45 nuclear power plants right away, and wants to store an reprocess spent nuclear fuel, which he says we'll do with "no problem" (I'd like to hear that plan).

Obama notes that realistically we can reduce our dependence within 10 years. He wants to expand domestic production by telling oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres they have leases for or lose them. Obama also wants to put resource in solar, wind, geothermal and biodiesel, and develop a highly fuel-efficient car that is manufactured in the U.S. Obama notes his support for free trade, but notes that future trade agreements must have enforceable labor and environmental standards, and mechanisms to stop China from manipulating its currency.

McCain follows up with a call for offshore drilling. He calls himself a "free trader" and wants worker retraining programs. McCain pitches the Colombia Free Trade agreement, despite Colombia's poor record of union busting [link to come via David Sirota], and harangues Obama for his lack of support for the agreement and tells him he ought to visit Colombia and learn what it's all about.

Obama counters noting an extensive record of labor leaders being targeted for assassination in Colombia, and that without adequate protections for workers he's not going to support it.

6:58pm Next question is on health care. Do you favor controlling costs over expanding coverage?

Obama says we have to do both, by investing in preventative care and cutting bureaucracy and overhead. He also mentions giving the uninsured access to the same health care plan that he and McCain have. In addition, Obama would negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

McCain says we need clinics, health care centers and put medical records online to save on costs. He wants to reward employees who get gym memberships, and give every American a $5000 tax credit to get any kind of health care plan they want.

7:05 pm Next question is on the right to choose. Can you nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with your position on Roe v. Wade?

McCain says Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, and that the issue should rest in the hands of the state, but says he'd never impose a litmus test. McCain says Obama "voted against Justice Breyer and Justice Roberts." If I'm not mistaken, Justice Breyer was appointed by President Clinton, when Barack Obama was in the Illinois State Senate.

Obama says he doesn't want to apply a strict litmus test. The most important qualification is the ability to provide fairness and justice to the American people. Obama believes Roe v. Wade was rightly decided. He notes abortion is a difficult issue, but that women in consultation with their families, doctors and religious counsel are in the best position to make these decisions. Obama says he will looks for judges who have outstanding judicial records, intellect and a real world perspective on the issues.

Obama is now hitting McCain on Lily Ledbetter and equal pay for equal work, which Obama voted for and McCain opposed in the Senate. Obama believes the court should have stood up for Ledbetter.

Obama notes that the issue divides us, but that there is some common ground, that we should educate our youth appropriately, provide options for adoption, and that nobody is "for abortion". Essentially, Obama was talking the "safe, legal and rare" mantra. McCain is mocking the definition of "health of the mother".

7:15pm Next question is on education. Schieffer notes that we spend more than other countries on education , but are behind them as far as achievement.

Obama says there has been a debate between more money and reform. Obama says we need both. We must invest in early childhood education, because every dollar we invest pays back in dividend. He wants to invest in an army of new teachers in math and science. College must be affordable. Obama has noted his proposed $4000 tuition credit for community service, Peace Corps service, or other forms of national service. Obama also calls on parents to be more responsible by turning off the television and instilling the thirst for knowledge in their kids.

McCain is calling for vouchers by pondering who wants to send their kid to a failed inner-city school He also wants to "send failed teachers to another line of work." McCain says charter schools are providing competition with public schools. "Throwing money at the problem isn't the answer." We need to support programs like Teach for America, and that military members should be allowed to go straight into the classroom after their service, without all of the credentialing requirements that are typical in the states.

Obama thinks it's important to have the federal government step up and pay for more of the mandates it places on local school districts. He notes that Bush's No Child Left Behind policy, forgot the money to fund the burden it placed on school districts. Obama notes his support for charter schools, agreeing with John McCain. He also notes that he agrees that bad teachers need to be removed from the classroom, after they've been given opportunity to improve.

McCain is touting vouchers again, noting the Washington, D.C. school system example. Since he's already touted his support for the racist rednecks at his running mate's rallies, it's no surprise that McCain supports vouchers which will create racially segregated schools.

7:27pm Time for closing remarks. McCain is still laughing and has a maniacal grin on his face over some joke he made on vouchers.

McCain goes first on the closing statement. Of course, he starts with "my friends" (does he have any left?) He's giving the "I'm a maverick/reformer who takes on my own party" speech. He says "we have to stop the spending that has mortgaged your kid's future." Never mind the war on Iraq and the dismantling of the economy by the Bush Administration and his key economic advisor Phil "Nation of Whiners" Gramm.

Obama talks about Washington's unwillingness to tackle the tough problems. "The biggest risk we can take now is to adopt the same policies and the same politics". Obama makes the argument for change, and talks about the American people and the decency and generosity he's seen on the campaign trail and better days that lie ahead. While McCain talks about all the bad things he perceives are going on, Barack Obama makes it about the American people and the hope for a better future.

Bob Schieffer closes with what his mama always said "Go vote. It will make you big and strong."

Stay tuned for some post debate commentary and analysis right here on The Advocate.

Last chance to watch Gregoire and Rossi debate

Governor Gregoire and her challenger Dino Rossi are set to debate for the final time tonight in Seattle. The debate will air live at 8 p.m. on both KING 5 News and NorthWest Cable News.

The economy is is sure to be a topic tonight. To prepare yourself, see the Bellingham Herald for a good analysis of the candidates' budget claims, and take a look at the Seattle Times in order to brush up on where they stand on social issues.

You don't hear Rossi talk about social issues often, mainly because his values are not embraced by much of the state. He has more in common with President Bush than he does with most Washingtonians.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Have a beer with Rossi; Let Gregoire run the state

"Dino Rossi seems like such a nice guy." "I hear that he is really friendly."

This situation seems just a little too familiar to me. Think back to 2004, when after four years of Bush’s bad judgment and stupidity, a majority of voters still “liked him” and “would rather have a beer with him” than with John Kerry. Obviously this likeability played a big part in Bush's re-election, because it certainly wasn’t his results in office.

Zoom forward to Washington’s governor’s race. Today, Republican Dino Rossi avoids Bush as if unpopularity were contagious but takes a play right out of his playbook: play up the personality, play down the issues.

Does Rossi have sound ideas, a strategic vision for our state or leadership cred? No.

Does he have a wide, white smile and an affable personality? Yes.

As Rossi explained to a Republican club in Pierce County last year:
I've found you can do pretty much anything you want if you do it with a smile on your face. It's amazing what you can get away with if you do it with a smile on your face.
Just what is it that Rossi would like to get away with? Limiting women’s access to birth control? Reversing recent gains made in gay rights? Or maybe taking away the access to health care that Governor Gregoire worked so hard to give to thousands of low-income Washington kids?

We’ve had eight years of craziness with a president who would be a fun drinking buddy. If beer drinking was a reasonable criterion for choosing a leader, any frat boy would be qualified to grace the halls of power, but when we look a bit closer at Rossi, there is not much else there to see.

What are his big ideas beyond transportation? What has he led other than the passage of an unpopular budget?

Washington will regret making the same mistake twice. In November we must choose between a governor with a strong track record, a vision for a bright future and the intellectual heft to tackle the problems that stand between us and that future, and a candidate who hides his conservative social values and lack of substance behind a gleaming smile and warm personality.

I don’t think we can afford to fall for that trick again.

Final presidential debate tomorrow night

Tune in tomorrow night at 6pm to the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The debate will be moderated by CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer.

As usual, we'll be here providing coverage and live-blogging the debate. So stop by and join the discussion in the comment thread.

McCain's dictator problem

A few months ago we learned that the man John McCain tapped to run the Republican National Convention, Doug Goodyear, was a lobbyist for the repressive junta in Burma.

Today we learn that William Timmons, another lobbyist pal of John McCain's who has been chosen by the Senator to lead his transition team, was a lobbyist for Saddam Hussein.

William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist who John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.

The two lobbyists who Timmons worked closely with over a five year period on the lobbying campaign later either pleaded guilty to or were convicted of federal criminal charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam Hussein's government.

During the same period beginning in 1992, Timmons worked closely with the two lobbyists, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, on a previously unreported prospective deal with the Iraqis in which they hoped to be awarded a contract to purchase and resell Iraqi oil. Timmons, Vincent, and Park stood to share at least $45 million if the business deal went through.

Timmons' activities occurred in the years following the first Gulf War, when Washington considered Iraq to be a rogue enemy state and a sponsor of terrorism. His dealings on behalf of the deceased Iraqi leader stand in stark contrast to the views his current employer held at the time.

So while John McCain and Sarah Palin keep inciting their crowds over a loose association that Barack Obama has with Bill Ayers, it turns out that John McCain has his own questionable connections.

If a man is measured by the company he keeps, then we know what we can expect from John McCain. More of the same. More authoritarianism, more Constitution thrown by the wayside, more flagrant disrespect for international law, more warmongering, more torture, and more questionable judgment from the White House.

That McCain has lobbyists on the payroll who have represented some of the most brutal regimes (or the worst in corporate malfeasance) on the planet has to make you question his leadership. Lobbyists get paid by clients to influence lawmakers to achieve a specific outcome supported by and beneficial to the client.

So exactly where do John McCain's loyalties lie? With Burma? With Saddam's loyalists? Has McCain's campaign been compromised? Is it an act of treason to have agents of foreign governments so involved in a potential McCain Administration? And how does John McCain reconcile his past statements about Saddam Hussein with keeping one of Saddam's agents on the payroll?

You can wear a flag pin, stand up and salute the flag in the morning, cloak yourself in the mantle of the red, white and blue and tell old war stories all you want, but when your campaign is rife with lobbyists who have represented brutal dictators, the emperor has no clothes.

WA-08 just not hurting enough?

As Andrew blogged earlier today, the DCCC's latest polling on Darcy Burner's bid to oust Dave Reichert from congress puts her a few points ahead. But we can't really get too excited, yet. Much as I wish we could, we can't ignore that a) it's just one poll, and not necessarily the least biased one either, and b) this race is the race is still a statisical dead-heat with Burner's reported lead being just barely outside the poll's margin of error. The smallish sample size (400 people) makes me wary too.

While I certainly welcome a friendly poll, this race isn't over yet. Consider:

Matt Stoller at Open Left brings up a very good question, though: in this of all election cycles, when the electorate is mad as hell at the Republican "brand" across the board, why is WA-08 not leaning decisively in Burner's favor?

Ironically, it may be because our Governor has done a good job over the past four years of protecting Washington from the broader economic forces which are causing so much pain elsewhere. In short: voters opt for change when they are personally feeling the pain, and folks in WA-08 may simply not be hurting enough.

And then there's this tidbit from Politico, reporting that the Republican party is spinning into damage control mode and concentrating their meager funds on defending their most challenged seats. They're hanging their brave challengers out to dry (let's be fair here: anyone who would willingly run as a Republican this year against a Democratic incumbent can, I believe, be honestly said to have some bravery in them) in an attempt to save the seats of those Republican incumbents who have arguably done the lousiest jobs for their constituents over the past term.

I'm just saying, if they had done a GOOD job representing their constituents, their seats wouldn't be so vulnerable to Democratic challengers, would they? Irony aside--and there surely has to be more of that to go around this year than RNC/RCCC dollars--it means that we can expect Dangerous Dave Reichert to receive more national Republican money to cover for his own anemic fundraising efforts and a commensurate late-cycle TV and direct-mail blitz.

So whether this latest poll is dead-accurate or way off base, Darcy still has a tough road to travel these last few weeks of the campaign. She knows it (her campaign is looking for canvassers all the time). The DNC, DCCC, and the state party know it (and I hope they step up to help).

And if you didn't before, now you know it.

Please, folks. This race really does matter, and you can help. Obviously, you can contribute to the campaign. But unless you have a spare five million dollars lying around, contributing is probably not the most effective thing you can do. The best thing you can do is volunteer to be a canvasser. Here's why:

A poll taken early last week, before the two Burner/Reichert debates, showed something pretty interesting. When people don't know much about either candidate, they prefer Reichert to Burner by 48 to 45 percent. Like I said before, we're just not feeling enough pain around here to vote for change as a default position. But after learning more about both candidates--their backgrounds and positions on issues--the numbers switch to a 9% LEAD for Darcy Burner (with her winning by 50 to 41 percent).

That's totally credible to me because I know her personally. It makes perfect sense to me that the more people get to know Darcy Burner, the more they like her. I've had that experience myself. There is, after all, a lot there to like.

That is where you, me, and everybody else with two feet or four wheels to get around on can make a difference. Volunteer with the campaign and go knock on some doors. Help voters in this district get to know Darcy, and you'll help her win.

The time is now. Personal voter contact really does matter. Indeed, it's just about the only thing that does.

I don't think anyone reading this wants to wake up disappointed on November 5th. If we come to feel the economic pain later, it'll be too late to undo those lazy votes for Lazy Dave. Reichert will be safe for another two years in his cozy DC office where he doesn't have to do anything but vote like his party leaders tell him. We will have lost the opportunity to send the amazing, talented, brilliant leader that is Darcy Burner to Congress where I know she will not rest until this country is again the world's leading example of freedom, justice, and prosperity.

Personally, I want to live in the free, fair, and prosperous America that I know Darcy Burner will help create, if only we give her the chance.

Poll Watch: Darcy Burner overtaking Dave Reichert in WA-08, new DCCC survey says

We the Northwest Progressive Institute aren't big fans of polling - as we have noted on many occasions - because we think campaigns and the media are over-reliant on public opinion surveys to gauge how people are planning to vote.

But there's a WA-08 poll out this morning that we feel is blogworthy, if only because it contradicts the trend that we've been seeing in polls of Washington's 8th to date. Commissioned by the DCCC and conducted by Bennett, Petts & Normington, it puts Darcy Burner ahead of Dave Reichert, 49 to 44. This is notable because most polls to date have given Reichert a lead of several points. (We think it also shows that polling can be all over the place).

The DCCC says:
Conducted October 8-9, the poll surveyed 400 likely voters and has a 4.9 percent margin of error.

Voters believe Reichert has not gotten much done in Congress and has sided time and again with President George Bush. More voters believe Burner rather than Reichert shares their values and will try to bring change to Washington.

"Darcy Burner's campaign for change is resonating with families who have had enough of Congressman Dave Reichert's support for George Bush's failed economic policies," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Yoni Cohen. "Reichert was a good sheriff but is ineffective in Congress, rubber stamping Bush's war in Iraq and Bush's effort to privatize Social Security and risk seniors' retirement benefits in the stock market. Burner is running to change Washington and provide tax relief to Washington State's middle class families."
A side note: There's that ugly right wing phrase again - tax relief. When are Democrats going to stop using counterproductive conservative frames? Taxes are not an affliction or even a "necessary evil", either. They're just necessary.

Taxes support the common wealth. The common wealth is all the great resources that are available to everyone: a free public education, a transportation system, courts to handle all those corporate law cases, the Internet. To suggest that taxes are an affliction is to suggest that government itself is ineffective or hamrful, which is ludicrous. Without government, our markets and our economy would tumble down and collapse overnight.


Darcy Burner is working awfully hard these days to earn the votes of the people she seeks to represent. While no poll can definitively predict how the election will turn out, what we can conclude is that this is a very close contest and Darcy appears to be holding up well against Republican attacks.

But there will be a fierce onsalught from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, N-FIB (a right wing organization claiming to represent small business owners) and the National Republican Congressional Committee in the coming weeks.

Darcy's campaign team needs to be prepared to counter the lies and distortions from each of these entities instantly.

The campaign has already demonstrated it knows what to do; last month's response to the U.S. Chamber's lying radio ad was excellent. Every vote counts in this race, so neutralizing the other side's desperate attacks is critical.

ID-Sen. Risch supports Social Security privatization

In the aftermath of the financial meltdown we've been experiencing the past few weeks, I've been watching to see if any politician was crazy enough to still support privatization of Social Security. Enter Idaho's Republican Lt. Governor Jim Risch, who is running for U.S. Senate against Democrat Larry LaRocco.

In response to questions from the Gem State Voter's Guide, Risch said he supports the option of at least partially privatized Social Security for young people.

After all of the fraud and waste on Wall Street that caused the economy to tank, Jim Risch wants to hand over the hard earned money of young people (most of whom don't really have a whole lot of money yet) to speculators and corporate fat cats.

But it doesn't stop there. In response to an AARP query of the candidates as to whether or not they support or oppose diverting Social Security payroll taxes to fund individual retirement accounts, leaving his options open, Risch said he needed to know the specifics of the plan to divert the funds.

Presumably, what that means is that Jim Risch wants to know which of his corporate patrons would benefit from such legislation before casting a vote for it.

Larry LaRocco, on the other hand, is unequivocally opposed to privatization.
Social Security has proved to be one of our nation's most successful programs ever established. Social Security has lifted millions of elderly and disabled Americans out of poverty. My mentor and former boss, Senator Frank Church, chaired the Senate Committee on Aging, where he worked to support and expand Social Security benefits. As Senator, I will work hard to follow his example to guarantee benefits for future generations. I will also oppose privatization plans that would divert Social Security taxes to private accounts. I will work to enact a long-term plan to protect Social Security.
Retirement funds and investments have taken a huge hit in the past couple of weeks, and there is a lot of pain being shared by the middle class and those of lesser means. Given that Jim Risch didn't learn anything from George W. Bush's failed attempts to privatize Social Security, and still wants to give your money away there's only one question all Idahoans need to ask themselves: Can you afford to have Jim Risch as your Senator?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Republicans' sex offender fetish

What is it with Republicans and sex offenders? It's getting so ridiculous that the Party (Republican Governor's Association included) is starting to look like former legislators Jim West and Richard Curtis posturing about gays. Methinks they doth protest too much.

Back in 2006, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt sent out ridiculous mailers into various districts claiming that the incumbent Democrats in that district were lenient on sex offenders.

The postcards show a mug shot of a middle-age man with slicked-back hair. His eyes and his name are blacked out to shield his identity. The cards, shown in photocopies provided by Democrats, carry a bold headline that reads, "This violent predator lives in your community."

They also describe sex crimes supposedly committed by the person, then mention the name of a Democratic lawmaker and claim the legislator "refused to impose life sentences for violent sex predators."

The charges by the mailer were bogus, and voters summarily rejected the Republicans' claims by expanding the Democratic majority in both houses of the Legislature.

Fast forward to 2008, and the Republicans are back at it with the sex offenders. This time Governor Chris Gregoire is the victim of a scurrilous mailer by the Republican Governors' Association.

Year after year, the Republican party, particularly as seen in this mailer and the McCain-Palin campaign, plays to the lowest common denominator. It plays on hate and fear at every opportunity. In the 1980's Ronald Reagan warned us of nuclear armageddon, welfare queens and the commies. In 1988, a criminal named Willie Horton was the undoing of Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis' campaign. Congress under Newt Gingrich was all about family values and demonizing those that weren't like them (despite the irony that they didn't seem to have any family values). George W. Bush's administration has played on the fear of terrorism since September 11, 2001.

More locally, its a common feature of Republican legislative campaigns to introduce sex offenders and the most violent, gruesome crime into the mix, and to blame the Democrat in the race for doing nothing to stop the crime or, more disgustingly, for enabling the perpetrators.

The truth is that since becoming Governor, Chris Gregoire has strengthened laws that keep our communities safe and given more resources to law enforcement and prosecutors to keep sex offenders out of our neighborhoods. But don't take my word for it, read this letter from some prominent members of the law enforcement community.

Fear and lies. It's all the Republicans have to run on.

LIVE from Seattle U: Ladenburg, McKenna square off in Attorney General debate

The final scheduled debate between Democrat John Ladenburg and Republican Rob McKenna - the two candidates for Attorney General who will appear on the November ballot - is happening now at Seattle University's Piggott Auditorium.

The debate is co-presented by CityClub and the Seattle Times. Moderating is Diane Douglas; panelists include Jim Vesely (Times editorial page editor), Jaime Hawk (2007-2008 President of the WSBA Young Lawyers Division), and Kelley Testy (the dean of the Seattle University School of Law).

Moderating the debate is Diane Douglas. The agreed-to rules are:
During the first round of questions, each panelist will ask the candidates two questions. For their second question, each panelist will have the option of asking a follow-up question to their first question or asking a different question. For the second round, the format will be the same, but each panelist will ask 4 questions instead of two. Each candidate will have 1 minute to answer each question. There are no formal rebuttals. The first round will comprise of questions related to the Office of the Attorney General – scope, approach, experience, etc.

The second round will focus on issues, topics of interest, and special cases. Between the rounds will be a lightning round where the moderator will pose a series of yes/no questions in which candidates will only be allowed to answer by holding up a card indicating their answer as yes, no, or waffle. Diane will then open up the debate to questions from the audience for 10 minutes. At the end, the candidates will have 1 minute to make closing remarks.
The questions so far have been very good, ranging from office diversity to identifying state Supreme Court decisions that the candidates disagree with.

The first lightning round mostly featured questions that the candidates agreed on (Should we build more prisons? No) but there was one big question that the candidates strongly disagreed on, to prolonged laughter: Is the Attorney General's office a good training ground for the office of governor?

McKenna, not surprisingly, raised his Yes card, then Ladenburg raised his No card.

Ladenburg has been focusing on his extensive experience as a prosecutor in this final debate, highlighting his desire to strengthen consumer protection and be more proactive in taking companies to court that break the law.

"Why should you 'Get Jesse' on KING5 News when you can get the Attorney General of Washington State?" Ladenburg asked.

In the second round the candidates were asked about initiative process reform (which is a priority of the Northwest Progressive Institute).

McKenna opined that the Legislature can fix problems that are created by initiative, and stressed that Washington does not allow its Constitution to be amended by initiative, as opposed to states like California, which do.

Ladenburg said he is concerned about the initiative process being hijacked by "big money" saying he favored strengthening public disclosure laws and adding criminal sanctions for lawbreakers. Without actually mentioning Tim Eyman, to chuckles, Ladenburg added, "I think there are people who run initiative factories and make money off of this...I won't name any names..."

Finally, he said he favored allowing constitutional review for initiatives before they make the ballot - something Rob McKenna declared minutes later in rebuttal that he strongly opposes (he believes it is a violation of the seperation of powers).

Ladenburg replied that he believes constitutional review of an initiatve upon qualification to the ballot is in fact constitutional and doesn't violate the seperation of powers because initiatives come from the people, not the Legislature (which is one of the three branches of government).

Jim Vesely just asked the candidates about multi-state lawsuits.

According to Ladenburg, the increase in lawsuits filed by states Attorneys General is because of the federal government's inaction on consumer protection. Ladenburg declared that he would be a more active Attorney General who is constantly safeguarding the people of Washington State.

McKenna spent most of his time trying to explain the difference between leading a multi-state suit and joining one. He got somewhat lost in the weeds as he elaborated, and was cut off by Diane Douglas mid-sentence.

UPDATE: Final question in the second round is a good one, concerning tribal soveriegnty.

Ladenburg explained that most people don't understand that as sovereign nations, the tribes are equal to, and not subordinate of, the State of Washington. A respectful approach is absolutely necessary when negotiating with the tribes.

McKenna agreed and proudly touted the personal relationships he's built with tribal leaders over the last four years in his "journeys" across the state.

We're on to the audience question period.

First audience question concerns the public role of the Attorney General.

McKenna answered first, saying he believes the Attorney General should be as visible as possible. Ladenburg followed, claiming that much of McKenna's so-called public outreach has consisted of photo-ops and press releases rather than any meaningful efforts towards public education. McKenna's office "has issued more press releases than subpoenas," Ladenburg concluded.

UPDATE II: Bruce Ramsey just asked the candidates about Initiative 1000.

McKenna said he'll vote against it (although he explained that his office will vigorously defend the law in court if it is passed), and Ladenburg added that he will also likely voted against it.

UPDATE III: The final question is about the Attorney General's role in the subprime mortgage mess.

Ladenburg again emphasized how important it is to have an aggressive Attorney General who acts quickly to prevent harm to the people of Washington, rather than investigating too slowly or waiting for other states to act.

McKenna claimed he led in putting together the Countrywide settlement (even though Washington was not one of the first states to sue the company, now a division of Bank of America). McKenna noted that the Attorney General's office will be representing the State Investment Board in future action against Wall Street.

UPDATE IV: Closing statements...

Ladenburg urged the audience to compare his resume with Rob McKenna's - for voters, it really is like choosing a personal lawyer, he said. "The Attorney General is a job that needs to be handled very seriously." He closed by teasing McKenna to prepare his transition team,

McKenna noted that he bested Ladenburg in the primary and was looking forward to serving another four years as Attorney General (and, presumably, preparing to run for governor in 2012 if Dino Rossi is not elected).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What a week: Markets collapse, Wells Fargo to buy Wachovia instead of Citigroup

It's been a pretty crazy week on Wall Street - and across the globe.

Markets around the world have been sliding downwards all week, even after the House of Representatives finally caved last week and passed the Bush bailout bill.

It was the worst week ever for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which fell below 9,000 for the first time in years. On top of that, the S&P 500 has been dropping for eight consecutive days. It's the worst drop since 1933 and the Great Depression. The Dow and the S&P 500 have each lost over 18% of their value in the last five days of trading as nervous investors continue to sell shares.

Here's a summary of some of the lowlights this week:

  • Midweek, the government of Iceland nationalized that nation's remaining big banks, which had been collapsing under a mountain of foreign debt, and closed trading on the Reykjavik stock exchange until October 13th. There are fears the government itself may ultimately have to declare bankruptcy soon if it does not receive financial assistance.
  • Standard & Poor's suggested that General Motors and Ford, the two biggest American carmakers, may be forced into bankruptcy. The report caused shares of both companies to lose almost fifty percent of their value.
  • Billionaire Sumner Redstone, whose family company National Amusements, Inc. is a majority owner of CBS and Viacom, was forced to sell a fifth of his family's stake in both companies to raise cash to pay off loans
  • On Tuesday, the Fed took the unprecedented step of offering to buy the short-term debt that finances many companies' day-to-day operations. The commercial paper market is falling apart, squeezing companies that need credit to grow and expand.
Meanwhile, the battle between Citigroup and Wells Fargo to take over part or all of Wachovia finally came to an end after Citigroup walked away, leaving Wells Fargo free to merge with the Charlotte, North Carolina-based financial services giant.

If you haven't been following along, here's a quick history of the tug of war between Citigroup and Wells Fargo from Wikipedia:
On September 29, 2008, Wachovia announced its intention to sell its banking operations to Citigroup for $2.2 billion in an open bank transaction facilitated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; according to the FDIC, Wachovia "did not fail." Wachovia would have continued to operate as a separate, publicly traded company as the owner of Wachovia Securities, AG Edwards and Evergreen Investments. The sale was agreed to be completed by December 31, 2008.
I blogged on this development when it was announced.

But then this happened:
However, on October 3, 2008, Wells Fargo and Wachovia announced they had agreed to merge in an all-stock transaction requiring no FDIC involvement, apparently nullifying the Citigroup deal. Wells Fargo announced it had agreed to acquire Wachovia for $15.1 billion in stock.

Wachovia prefers the Wells Fargo deal, as it is a much higher valuation than the Citigroup deal, it keeps the banking and brokerage businesses together, and has less of an overlapping territory between the banks, as Wells Fargo is dominant in the West and Midwest compared to the redundant footprint of Wachovia and Citibank along the Atlantic Seaboard and in the South.

Citigroup is exploring their legal options, demanding that Wachovia and Wells Fargo cease discussions, citing an exclusivity agreement between Citigroup and Wachovia. The deal still requires shareholder and regulatory approval.

On October 4, 2008 a New York judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the transaction from going forward while the situation is sorted out. However, this ruling was overturned.

On October 9, 2008, Citigroup abandoned their attempt to purchase Wachovia, allowing Wells Fargo to proceed with a transaction instead. However, Citigroup is still pursuing its $60 billion claims against Wachovia and Wells Fargo for alleged violations of the exclusivity agreement.
The combined company, which is expected to keep the Wells Fargo name, will hold $1.42 trillion in assets. The deal nearly doubles Wells Fargo's stores and ATM network, greatly strengthing its footprint across the eastern United States.

Citi, of course, was furious when Wells Fargo announced its intention to buy all of Wachovia, not just the company's banking operations:
Wachovia’s agreement to a transaction with Wells Fargo is in clear breach of an Exclusivity Agreement between Citi and Wachovia. In addition, Wells Fargo’s conduct constitutes tortious interference with the Exclusivity Agreement.

The Exclusivity Agreement provides, among other things, that Wachovia will not enter into any transaction with any party other than Citi, and will not participate in any discussions or negotiations with any third party. The Exclusivity Agreement also provides that the parties would be irreparably harmed by any breach of the agreement and that the remedy of specific performance of the agreement is appropriate.
Citigroup initially went to court to block the deal, but apparently also began rethinking the wisdom of acquiring Wachovia, which has a mountain of bad assets.

The Wells Fargo deal won't put taxpayers on the hook for anything, unlike Citigroup's proposed buyout of Wachovia's banking operations - a deal brokered by nervous federal regulators.

Citigroup will no longer try to block the Wells Fargo-Wachovia deal, but it will continue to seek some $60 billion in legal damages:
Citi said: "Without our willingness to engage in this transaction, hundreds of billions of dollars of value would have been seriously threatened. We stood by while others walked away. Now, our shareholders have been unjustly and illegally deprived of the opportunity the transaction created."

Citi believes that it has strong legal claims against Wachovia, Wells Fargo and their officers, directors, advisors and others for breach of contract and for tortious interference with contract. Citigroup plans to pursue these damage claims vigorously on behalf of its shareholders. However, Citigroup has decided not to ask that the Wells Fargo-Wachovia merger be enjoined.
Isn't it great that Citigroup gets to have its day in court?

Always remember, nine tenths of the cases heard by American courts deal with corporate law. Our government and our common wealth are what makes economic prosperity possible. We are seeing and feeling the consequences of greed, privatization, and deregulation at this very moment. We are witnessing the ramifications of eight years of Bush economics.

The right wing agenda is a failure. The time is ripe for a new Progressive Era to restore America's financial health and national security.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Breaking: Palin abused power in Troopergate

The Alaska legislative investigation into whether or not Governor Sarah Palin committed any improprieties with regard to former DPS head Walt Monegan and her ex-brother-in-law and state trooper Mike Wooten has now concluded. The report issued by investigator Steve Branchflower has concluded that Palin abused her power in pressuring Monegan to fire Wooten.

The report was made public in a 12-0 bipartisan, unanimous vote. While the McCain-Palin campaign continues to lie and spin this as a partisan witch-hunt, ever step of the way it's been bipartisan. The Legislative Council, a bipartisan group of legislators earlier voted unanimously to proceed with investigating Palin. And even if it were partisan the Alaska State Legislature is controlled by a Republican majority, and those legislators would be able to put an end to anything they deemed as partisan or unfair. They didn't and Palin abused her power.

"Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda ... to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired," Branchflower's report says.

"Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional. It is an individual responsibility imposed by law, and any effort to benefit a personal interest through official action is a violation of that trust. ... The term 'benefit' is very broadly defined, and includes anything that is to the person's advantage or personal self-interest."

One more time, with apologies to Senator Joe Biden, "That's not change. That's more of the same."

To make matters worse today, the McCain-Palin campaign released their own report on Troopergate earlier in the day and prior to the release of the Branchflower report. That's like Dick Cheney inviting the oil companies into the White House to write energy policy. Of course, their conclusions were predictable.

Without a doubt, the next time John McCain and Sarah Palin talk about reform or being "mavericks" (and I hate using their term), they will be lying. Sarah Palin is no different from former Congressman Tom DeLay, incarcerated former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and formerly incarcerated former Congressman Bob Ney, just to name a few of the ethically-challenged Republicans who have inhabited Washington, D.C. in the past few years.

Liveblogging the KCTS Burner/Reichert debate

Good evening everyone! Tonight I'll be LiveBlogging this second (and as far as I know, final) debate between Democrat Darcy Burner and Republican Dave Reichert, who are campaigning for Washington's 8th Congressional seat.

The debate is being broadcast on KCTS television, channel 9 in the greater Seattle metro area, so watch it if you can!

UPDATE: turns out this debate was taped earlier in the day so Andrew wasn't actually watching it live as I had thought. Andrew is planning on attending the debate live and will probably chime in with his thoughts after the event. In the meantime, if you don't have access to a television at the moment, kick back and get ready to hit "reload" a lot.

Coverage is just starting. Tonight's moderator Enrique Cerna. Tonight they'll be covering the economy, the war, health care, education, and other important issues.

The format will be 2 minute opening statement, 90 second answers on questions, no rebuttals but possible followup questions, viewer questions from email, and 90 second closing statements at the end.

Reichert wins the coin toss, so he goes first.

Reichert's opening statement: Thanks to KCTS for the opportunity to share our ideas, praising public television and claiming he has voted continually to support public television funding (I don't know if that's true, but we'll check up on that claim later when there's time). He's thanking his supporters, and says it has been an honor to serve the voters of the 8th district these past four years. Now he's claiming his votes have been based on facts and investigation of the issues to best support the needs of people in the 8th. I just plain know that's not true. Lie #1 from Dave.

Burner's opening statement: She covers her economics degree from Harvard, her Microsoft background, and how that's related to the current crisis and her ability to answer economic questions from voters. She's outlining her economic plan and laying out a brief statement of the core economic problems and their causes. Let's have tax cuts for middle class, policies that grow the economy and small businesses. Let's have oversight and end the recklessness of those in the markets who have got us in this mess.

The bailout: you both opposed the bailout; explain your position and what should have been done?

Reichert: I was in D.C. as part of that process. What was disappointing was that a year ago the administration started hearing signs of trouble, but they waited too long to come to congress to do something. So when they came and asked for 700 billion, we (the congress) said "no that's not how that works, we're going to come up with other ideas." He's claiming to have been in lots of bipartisan meetings geared towards coming up with a different plan (Which, since the 700 billion figure and the substance of the plan never changed, I'd have to say "nice leadership there, Dave"). I voted no because it was rammed down our throats and didn't protect taxpayers.

Burner: The middle class has lost $1000/year for the past 8 years, while costs have gone up by about $9000 a year. As a result, people are now about $10,000 in the hole compared to where they were eight years ago. People are borrowing more and more, and now people's 401k savings have vanished because of this market crisis. But the answer is not to take $2000 out of everyone in the country's pockets, give it to 1 person with no strings attached to do with as he sees fit, so he can give it to the people who got us into this mess. We can get out of this mess, we can fix this, but to do it we need to change who we have in DC working to fix these problems.

[ right about here my wireless died. I decided to take notes rather than try to fix it. Here's the rest. I'm posting the raw notes now; I'll go back through with an update to clean them up. ]

What should be done to stabilize the markets?

Reichert: We have a process in Congress; it's called committee hearings. We need to have hearings with experts, to get to the facts. We haven't addressed the problem yet. We need to find the answers and apply our knowledge to find the solutions [ed: huh? If we find the answers, isn't that enough?]. Then we need legislation to address why we got in this mess. But let's not just throw 700B of taxpayers' money down the drain.

Burner: Whatever process Congress has is clearly not working. She cites a survey saying that half of Americans think we would have better leadership in Congress if we randomly picked people from the phonebook to serve versus the people we have now. We need new leadership in Washington. The problem right now is the credit crunch, and the resulting inability of businesses to get credit for day to day operations. She's covering the specifics of what the Fed is doing about it. She would fix the bailout by adding accountability for every dollar and demanding that taxpayers receive equity in any bankns which get bailouts. She's saying we can do that but only with new people in Congress.

Followup: how should we tweak the existing package to help all Americans in the long term?

Reichert: There are 435 members of congress; he doesn't think you can go to one person [ed: oh, goodness, especially not me! Don't ask me!] and ask for the answer to the crisis. He's citing other congresspeople who have non-economic backgrounds like himself. So, in other words, "don't ask me." The Democrats control this congress, so ask them what to do.

Burner: I'd do 3 things. 1, make sure taxpayers get equity in any banks that the government invests in, to protect taxpayers and their money. 2, make sure bailout money is not used to reward the irresponsible executives who caused this mess (no AIG spa treatments!). 3, unroll these elaborate mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) all the way back to the underlying mortgages, and give the people with the mortgages help to stay in their houses, which would not only help those people directly but would also fix the underlying problem with the MBSs. If those securities become stable again, this whole economic crisis gets a whole lot better.

Should the current middle-class tax cuts be continued?

Burner: Yes. The middle class definitely needs those cuts. And MORE! [ed: I didn't get many direct quotes, but here's one:] "I want to cut taxes further for the middle class". To the tune of $4000/year [ed: which for my family would certainly buy a lot of GET credits for my kids' future education]. Reichert is voting for the status quo. She's asking voters to consider whether they're happy with the status quo and think it's working? Or do they want soemone who will change the status quo to help middle class citizens?

Reichert: Saying how he grew up poor too, so he knows the middle class. Saying Darcy can't have it both ways. Now he's saying something about PAYGO and tax cuts, but it isn't making much sense and I can't figure out what his point is. He's saying that PAYGO has to be paid for by eliminating tax cuts or else cutting services, and is blaming the Democrats for choosing to do it by eliminating tax cuts [ed: again, I have no idea offhand if that's true, but someone should check]. He's criticizing Darcy's numbers saying they don't add up and that they require a taxpayer to somehow fill out two separate and conflicting tax forms. This part didn't make much sense to me either.

Burner: I am not in favor of raising taxes on the middle class. She's saying that Reichert, "unable to find anything in my actual positions to attack, is making claims with no basis in fact." She cites the Times [ed: or was it the PI? One of the local papers anyway] backing her up on that. She wants to lower the middle class's tax burdern and change policies to help middle class tax payers and small businesses. "I propose to help people who are suffering that need a break."

Follow up question: substantiate your claim that Reichert has only passed one bill in 4 years.

Burner: Says this is actually pretty straightforward to do. Citing specifics of Reichert's record, and his 401/439 congressional power ranking, that he's less effective than the American Samoa and Guam representatives who don't even vote in the house. "Citizens of the 8th district would get better representation in congress if they lived in American Samoa or Guam". Saying how her background in economics and technology gives her a unique and powerful ability to represent the citizens of this tech-savvy district. [ed: which is hard to argue with compared to Reichert's professed McCain-like understanding of the economy and background far outside of the tech sector.]

Reichert: I've passed 10 pieces of legislation in the last 4 years. [ed: of course, he didn't list them or anything useful like that]. If my opponent believes I'm ineffective, we should talk about Norm Dicks who has only passed 4 pieces and is ranked as very powerful. Or Adam Smith, who has 2 pieces of legislation to my 10. He's directing people to check the congressional record, saying "it's not always about getting your name on the bill" that it's about influencing the language of the bill. [ed: which sound to me like "I'm such a nice guy I wrote all this other great legislation but I let my hapless colleagues put their names on it." Um, yeah.]

Under what circumstances would you support raising taxes?

Reichert: this is the worst time to talk about raising taxes. He's re-capping his answer about what congress should do about the bailout and the banking crisis. He's really rambling about the bailout now, and we're a long ways from talking about tax policy.

Burner: Now is indeed not the right time to raise taxes. What we need now is a stimulus. Right now is when we want to have a rainy day fund so we could invest in growing the economy. Unfortunately, we've squandered our rainy day fund [ed: presumably a reference to the $600 billion Iraq war bill and the $700 billion bailout package bill] so now we have to increase debt in order to create stimulus. We need policies that spend responsibly so we can create stimulus without going into debt. [ed: I'm pretty sure there was something about balancing the budget amid that, but she was talking faster than I was able to keep up]. When we get out of this crisis, that's the right time to ask wealthy corporations to pay their fair share, so we can put kids through college and live up to the promises we've made to our G.I.s and to retirees. But we can only do that if we change who we send to Congress.

Re-iterate the question: when would you support a tax increase?

[ed: props to the moderator for pushing for a specific answer. After this week's Obama/McCain debate, I can't imagine Brokaw doing that]

Reichert: that's a hypothetical question. Uh. Um. I would be against raising taxes unless this country was involved in a conflict that was so... um something or other. [ed: here, Dave's brain apparently stalled out.] We cannot raise taxes on companies, on people [ed: note, he put them in that order. Companies first, then people]. That's where I am today. Remember, the Democrats control congress! How is any of this my fault?

Burner: Every household in this district understands what it means to balance their checkbook. Every household has to do it. Most of the states have to figure out how to make sure they're not spending more than they're bringing in. We have to be willing to make investments in schools, roads, technologies, to grow the economy. To do that we have to have revenue coming in. I absolutely think corporations should pay their fair share. They're the ones that benefit from stimulus.

Health care. Do you believe that health care in America is a privlege or a right for all?

Burner: every American should have access to high quality affordable health care. The system right now is broken both for those who don't have health care and for those who do. She recounts a conversation she had with a local woman telling her about how much the woman had to pay in premiums, co-pays, prescription drugs, et cetera. "People are getting squeezed. We need to make sure insurance companies aren't making huge profits on the backs of ordinary citizens." We need to make sure people don't need to use emergency rooms as primary care. Emergency room coverate is not an adequate health care plan for America. We need real insurance reform to fix this. I know Barack Obama, when he is president, will fix this and I'm looking forward to being there to help him.

Reichert: I've been heavily involved in working to fix health care [ed: really? Well if you're so effective in congress (see your earlier answer) where are the results? Why is there still a health care crisis?]. I was invited by the Democrats to be part of [a health care working] group. We're looking into how to provide health care for those who can't afford it and don't have it. We had the UAW and GM explain how they're transitioning health care responsibility from the employer to the union. [ed: Um, Dave? Union members pay dues out of their paycheck to support the union. So if the union is paying for the insurance, that's really just that's still on the backs of the people, isn't it? This is just another example of right-wing efforts to shift the burden of providing all forms of services and infrastructure onto the backs of the people in order to turn everything into a private business opportunity for those with the connections to push for it.]

What kind of health care system should we have? Universal coverage? Free market?

Burner: We need a system with oversight, so middle class Americans stop getting squeezed out of access to high quality health care. The government already provides health care for a lot of Americans, through medicare, the V.A., etc. But middle class people who are in the private sector are getting squeezed out of it. Insurance companies need to be regulated to stop "death by spreadsheet" [note, she didn't use that term herself, but it's a great term for the situation we have where people pay huge premiums for insurance that turns around and never actually covers anything because it's a "pre-existing condition" or it's a "non-essential procedure" or because of annual deductible limits that are so high you never actually reach them, et cetera. Anybody else know what I mean, there?]

Reichert: everyone agrees with universal health care, but what does that really mean? Is it the canadian model? The massachussets model? Doctors and patients need to be in charge of medical decisions, not insurance companies. He suggests non-taxable personal savings accounts and small business association health care systems.

Health care vs. the national debt: what entitlement reforms do you support?

Reichert: Move management burden from employers to employees [ed: a recap of his earlier answer]. Provide people with tax incentives to go buy their own insurance. Now he's pivoting over to the bailout and comparing that to the similar cost of annual medicare/medicaid. The dems are in control of Congress! [ed: Take a drink if you're playing the Reichert "it's not my fault" drinking game!.] Oopsie, I ran out of time.

Burner: We need to keep the promises we have made. Retirees barely get by on social security and medicaid. To even threaten reducing those benefits is ridiculous. I will NOT allow social security to be privatized like Reichert wants. Given the markets lately, that position [that putting Social Security money into private accounts that are invested in the stock market is a horrible idea] has been vindicated. With respect to costs, the problem is that medicaid costs end up going to treating complications of underlying illnesses because insurance companies make it so expensive to get primary care that they push people off into emergency room treatment. It's a colossal waste. We need fiscal discipline, and we can get it if we change who we send to Congress from this district.

Followup: what about raising the Social Security retirement age?

Reichert: There have been lots of ideas on Social Security. But we can't cut benefits, raise taxes, or change the retirement age. We need to keep the status quo system. But I never said I support privatizing Social Security. I do support personal savings accounts as a part of a larger system.

Burner: No. We need to keep the promises that we have made. Especially to those who have retired or are near retirement. But Reichert's proposal (personal savings accounts placed into the markets) is the very definition of privatizing soc. sec. The level of risk and recklessness involved in playing the markets is just too high. It's absolutely reckless. But what else should we expect when Reichert has said he doesn't understand economics?

Do you support an Iraq withdraw timetable?

Burner: I do support a timetable for withdrawal. We're spending 10 billion dollars a month in Iraq. Our district alone has spend 2.5 billion dollars in Iraq. That's a lot of schools, a lot of bridges, a lot of businesses that didnt' get started because they couldn't get the money. It's time to demand that Iraq be responsible for its own stability and reconstruction, for dealing with its own population. The generals are saying we could safely withdraw one brigade per month. Based on that and the number of troops we have there now, I favor a 20 month withdraw period.

Reichert: Hey! I never said we should put Social Security money into the stock market! I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I've met with Karzai, lots of generals and other folks over there, including General Petraeus. I get 1st hand information from those people. The reason Burner says 20 months because the surge is working [ed: duh, because it's the same as the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force that worked so effectively in the first gulf war, and which the geniuses *cough*Rumsfeld*cough* in this administration decided they didn't want to use]. I would agree with her, but I won't give a time frame because I'll leave that up to the generals [ed: nice leadership again, Dave. Don't you remember, it's the Congress that's supposed to authorize wars. It says so in the Constitution and stuff.]

Is Iraq still the most important front in the war on terror:

[ed: anti-props to the moderator for a question that, if I were a lawyer in a courtroom, would have me screaming "objection, your Honor! Assumes facts not in evidence!" Upheld, Council, Iraq never was the most important front.]

Reichert: Iraq and Afghanistan are equally important fronts in the war on terrorism. I've been there, I've seen the improvements. The turning point is when the local people step up to kick the terrorists out of their neighborhoods. That has been working in Afghanistan [ed: it is? I thought the Taliban were coming back again these past few years.] We can do the same in Iraq.

Burner: we took our eye off the real threat when we went into Iraq. Bin Laden is the real threat, and he's in those mountains on the Pakistani border. To have gone into Iraq, to have made our selves weaker militarily and diplomatically was reckless. Not to keep the pressure on Afghanistan while the Taliban has been resurgent has been the height of recklessness, yet is a policy Dave Reichert has supported.

Audience question: Do you support manditory reductions in CO2 via federal regulation?

Burner: Yes. The threat posed by golbal climate change is very real, caused by human activity, and we need to address it. She wants Henry to live in a world that doesn't have global famines and rising sea levels. She's recalling hikes as a kid to the Carbon Glacier, and how now that Glacier is almost gone. We have to address this problem. We can do it in a way that makes WA and the 8th district stronger by developing new energy sources through stimulating entrepreneurship and innovation.

Reichert: there are 2 bills in congres that address these issues. The Waxman and Gilcrest bills. I'm on the Gilcrest bill. I do agree that global warming is occurring. We do need to do things now. [ed: here he drifts off into general environmental issueus rather than CO2 reduction] I co-sponsored Wild Sky. I've got my own alpine lakes bill. We all want to preserve the NW greenery and protect the environment for our grandchildren. Cites the PI endorsement and the League of Conservation Voters' score.

Closing statements:

Burner: On July 1 our family lost our house. When my son Henry came in and said the house is on fire, I made a pact with God: let me get my family out and you can have everything else. And we did lose everything. But with the incredible help I received from people all over the 8th district, I learned you can face catastrophe and live through it. This is a country where everyone is facing a crisis. But we can get through it. We must change. Wee must and we can change if we change the people we send to Congress. If we make the changes we have to make, we can turn our hopes into reality.

Reichert: It's been a pleasure to be here, et cetera. Thanks for having us. Thanks for this opportunity. I'm 58 years old, I have a lot of life experience. I was the oldest of 7 kids in a home with domestic violence. I know what it's like to put my life on the line, make life and death decisions [ed: I simply can't let that pass without comment. How Reichert can say that with a straight face when he let Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, wander around free for FIVE YEARS on his killing spree because as the lead investigator on the case he simply never bothered to do a DNA test on a saliva sample from Ridgway, all the while pursuing an unsubstantiated lead against an innocent cab driver, I just can't fathom. Here's my question for you , Dave: How many women did Gary Ridgway kill during those five years? How do you look yourself in the mirror without throwing up? How do you sleep at night? Answer me that, Mr. Sherrif man. Jerk]. To make decisions when people's lives are at stake. I bring the exprience and perspective to research and made decisions based on facts. [ed: no, you don't, Dave. You vote like the Republican leadership tells you. You don't investigate anything. You don't make up your mind about anything. Don't you dare try to convince me that you do, because I'm not buying that lie.] And that's why I've been successful, and I ask for your vote again.

And that's the debate, folks. It was fun to type it all in for you, and I hope you found it informative.

Overall, my impressions were that Reichert didn't come across as hapless as I was expecting. His answers had that veneer of sounding good, without actually daring to have any substance to them. Darcy answered almost all of her questions with specifics (witness her answer on how to fix the bailout bill), and she didn't have to fumble around for any of them. She's a woman who knows her stand on the issues and isn't afraid to say so.

Burner, Reichert debate tonight on KCTS

Seattle's KCTS will host the second and final formal debate between Republican Dave Reichert and his Democratic challenger Darcy Burner this evening at 7 PM. I'll wait until after the debate is over to post my thoughts.

Jason plans to blog the debate in real time as it airs, so feel free to check back here if you aren't near a television at 7 PM.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hackles rise at Gregoire/Rossi debate

I am not sorry that I wasn't able to attend tonight's third debate between Governor Gregoire and "Reduce the Minimum Wage" Dino Rossi because even 300 miles away, I could feel their tension and hostility clearly. The chemistry between the two candidates could be described as a deep dog and cat dislike for one another. It has a tangible presence.

Fortunately, the two stayed on their own turf and only took swipes and growled at each other.

Rossi opened the debate by immediately launching into Gregoire, blaming her for Washington's budget deficit, education and transportation problems. For most of the evening he skirted the questions or gave vague generalities where Gregoire gave specifics about her record.

For example, the question regarding US 395, the North Spokane corridor, which is a local transportation priority, was entirely avoided by Rossi but the governor was able to give a timeline for its completion and claim action on this important project.

On the state's projected budget deficit, Rossi pointed fingers and Gregoire pointed out actions she has already taken to whittle the deficit down to $1.7 billion. While NPI would like to see the calculations behind that feat, Gregoire was able to explain to the audience how Rossi's tax plan would increase the deficit by giving back money to the rich and taking money from the general fund, which funds our schools, and putting it into highways.

According to Rossi, our state economy will fail without his transportation plan but experts have said that his plan which underestimates building costs and is likely to face entrenched opposition will probably fail instead.

The campaigns' ultra-negative ads made Gregoire's negotiations with Indian tribes an early topic. The governor got a chance to defend her position on tribal gambling contracts while smug Rossi enjoyed painting a negative picture of her. It's obvious that the two campaigns would have adopted a higher tone if Rossi didn't enjoy taking the low road so much.

Rossi offered a lame excuse for not supporting embryonic stem cell research (because it hasn't seen many results) and Gregoire reminded him why that is the case: because there is very limited federal funding for it. The governor is proud of Washington's Life Sciences Discovery fund that supports cutting-edge research in Spokane.

As the debate wore on, it became obvious that Rossi wasn't there to answer questions and educate voters on his plan and vision for our state. Instead, his main objective was to make sly jabs and swipes at the governor then engage in rambling, empty talk.

On Hanaford cleanup, blah, blah, no answer...immigrant healthcare, blah, blah, no answer...closing remarks, blah, blah, inanity.

The Rossi response that teed me off the most was the near the end of the debate when Gregoire got to ask Rossi a question. Healthcare is an important issue to the governor and she wanted to put Rossi on the spot for his irresponsible health insurance plan so she asked him exactly which government mandates would he get rid of, which would he keep and how would that impact the cost of healthcare?

Rossi explained that he wants to give us the "freedom" to choose the health insurance plan that fits our needs. The only trouble with that is, you need to know your needs before you choose your plan. For example, Rossi's and his wife's plan covers allergies and chiropracty. That is nice. They can shop for plans based on this coverage that they know they need.

If only diseases and accidents could be planned for, then we could be sure to pick a plan that covers cancer if we are planning to get cancer, or lung disease or knee surgery before they strike. If you make the mistake of contracting a disease before choosing your plan, then you may have the "freedom" to no plans at all because you would be excluded from most plans due to your pre-existing condition. Basically, Rossi would like us to plan to not get sick.

Governor Gregoire stood up well to Rossi's feline taunts tonight but I think she looks forward to taking a bite out of his furry backside in the polls. November can't come soon enough.

Palin's Troopergate lies

Tomorrow, a report is expected to be issued, detailing exactly what Sarah Palin, and her administration (including First Dude Todd Palin) did and didn't do with regard to pressuring DPS head Walt Monegan to fire her ex-brother-in-law Michael Wooten, a state patrol trooper. Palin continues to maintain that nobody contacted Walt Monegan and told him to do anything. Not surprisingly, like many other statements made by Governor Palin, this is also a lie.

Ms. Palin has denied that anyone told Mr. Monegan to dismiss Mr. Wooten, or that the commissioner’s ouster had anything to do with the trooper. But an examination of the case, based on interviews with Mr. Monegan and several top aides, indicates that, to a far greater degree than was previously known, the governor, her husband and her administration pressed the commissioner and his staff to get Mr. Wooten off the force, though without directly ordering it.

In all, the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Mr. Wooten three dozen times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials, interviews and documents show.

“To all of us, it was a campaign to get rid of him as a trooper and, at the very least, to smear the guy and give him a desk job somewhere,” said Kim Peterson, Mr. Monegan’s special assistant, who like several other aides spoke publicly about the matter for the first time. [emphasis mine]

Further adding to Palin's woes, today the Alaska Supreme Court threw out an attempt by Republican legislators to shut down the Troopergate investigation, upholding a lower court ruling, meaning that investigator Steve Branchflower's report on the matter will be issued tomorrow. A full copy of the Court's order can be found here. An opinion is expected to follow, but has not yet been posted on the Court's website.

John McCain continues to disrespect copyrights

Following in the footsteps of Jackson Browne, Heart and others, the Foo Fighters are the latest musical act to blast the McCain campaign for using their music, a song called "My Hero", without permission.
"It's frustrating and infuriating that someone who claims to speak for the American people would repeatedly show such little respect for creativity and intellectual property," the band says in a statement. "The saddest thing about this is that 'My Hero' was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential. To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song."
A man with 7 houses and 13 vehicles using a song celebrating the common man shows incredible chutzpah.

Here's a suggestion for John McCain that's not likely to get him in any trouble: using the music of his contemporaries such as Ludwig van Beethoven or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. At least then McCain wouldn't have to worry about bad press or getting sued.

Peter Goldmark will protect our public lands

Washington's breathtaking public lands are our pride and joy. We often think of them as just places to camp and play but there's more to them than that. They also provide the state trust revenue, jobs and fish and wildlife habitat. Their management is a hefty responsibility and if he is elected lands commissioner, farmer Peter Goldmark will "make sure that serving the public's interest is the top priority of our state's Department of Natural Resources each and every day."

That's right, the public interest, not the timber industry interest.

The Seattle PI has just added to Goldmark's impressive list of endorsements which includes Senators Cantwell and Murray and Governor Gregoire. The PI expects Goldmark to be bolder and more innovative than the eight-year incumbent.

Here's an excerpt from the PI's endorsement:
Democratic challenger Peter Goldmark is the clear choice for state Commissioner of Public Lands. Goldmark, an Eastern Washington farmer, offers a good bet for more careful environmental stewardship, especially on timber lands, a willingness to spur clean-energy production and a good sense for the fiduciary responsibility to earn money from timber, leasing aquatic lands and other activities...

Neither Goldmark or Sutherland, who is heavily supported by the timber industry, is likely to try to make a big shift from logging. But we think Goldmark would be much more open to stricter conservation practices, extensive marketing of timber as green-certified to the highest standard and moving rapidly in new directions. His enthusiasm for clean energy, for instance, suggests he is also likely to spur conservation groups, businesses and others into partnerships that will make for a healthier environment and economy.
I think Goldmark's own words from his website can tell you where his priorities lie better than I can.
We need to take a more thoughtful approach focused on long-term sustainability--for trust revenues, jobs, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and ecological protection rather than sell off our future for short term profits.

McCain's Terrorist Problem

While Sarah Palin continues to go out and lie about Barack Obama's connection to Bill Ayers, with John McCain's implicit approval, it is McCain who should look in the mirror. While Sarah Palin is inciting the mob to brand Obama a terrorist, it is McCain who has been consorting with domestic terrorists, with a Northwest connection.
McCain and Marylin Shannon — a 2008 McCain delegate and former vice chair of the Oregon Republican Party — both appeared at an August, 1993 fundraiser for the far right Oregon Citizens Alliance. McCain appeared against the advice of Mark Hatfield, a GOP senator from Oregon, who feared that the group’s extremist views would taint McCain.

Shannon, who attended this year’s Republican National Convention as a McCain delegate, spoke immediately before McCain and “praised the Grants Pass woman accused of shooting an abortion doctor in Wichita” earlier in the month, referring to her as a “fine lady.” When McCain spoke next, he said nothing about Shannon’s vile comments and delivered his speech as prepared.

Just a few months later, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve a crucial anti-domestic terrorism bill, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. McCain opposed the bill.
What's that they say about glass houses and stones?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rewarding bad behavior

A day after reporting that AIG was living it up at the taxpayers' expense, word comes from Washington today that King Henry has given AIG an additional $37.8 billion.
The Federal Reserve Board said Wednesday that it would provide up to $37.8 billion to the embattled insurer the American International Group to help it deal with a rapidly dwindling supply of cash. [emphasis mine]
Dwindling supply of cash? Perhaps spending over $440,000 on lavish accommodations, spa treatments and food wasn't such a brilliant move. But then again, these guys aren't brilliant or we wouldn't be bailing them out.

There is absolutely no accountability. If there was accountability, King Henry and the Bush Administration would not be rewarding AIG with more taxpayer money after the Bacchanalian orgy at the St. Regis. Furthermore, if the shoe was on the other foot, and Democrats were using taxpayer money to shore up a failing social service program, Republicans would be blustering about fraud and waste.

Gordon Smith: Help Wanted

With the economy tanking and so many people out of work, and in the spirit of bipartisanship cooperation, the Democratic Party of Oregon is helping Republican Senator Gordon Smith fill the position of scheduler in his campaign office.

The ad is brief, and the duties don't seem to be too difficult:
Applicant must ensure Smith shows up for publicized appearances. Applicant must also disclose proof of Smith’s travel throughout the state better than Democratic Party of Oregon.
You see Gordon Smith has a problem with not showing up for appearances at events where he's scheduled to be, which has contributed to not being in all 36 Oregon counties each year, despite his professions to the contrary.

Just yesterday we learned Smith won’t speak at Cascade AIDS Project’s annual AIDS Walk Portland.

“It's busy back in D.C. right now with the budget crisis and all, and there was a miscommunication out of Smith's office. Although it was CAP's intention to have Smith speak, his schedulers had never actually put it on his calendar. Oops. So Smith is going to be a no-show.”
(Willamette Week Online, 10-7-08)

Today, Smith reached all the way to his hometown to brush off a publicized appearance.

“Sen. Gordon Smith not to appear”
(East Oregonian Headline, 10-8-08)

“Sen. Gordon Smith was mistakenly listed among the attendees at this evening's Day of Culture celebration at Pendleton Center for the Arts due to a miscommunication.”
(East Oregonian, 10-8-08)

Good help is hard to find. Thankfully, the Democratic Party of Oregon has the people's best interests in mind and is lending a helping hand to Gordon Smith, so that he can actually do the job the taxpayers in Oregon pay him to do and interact with his constituents once in a while.

If this bipartisan employment endeavor is successful, perhaps the Democratic Party of Oregon can also help Smith Frozen Foods find someone to help it comply with environmental laws and federal immigration laws. That would take two more people off the unemployment line.

Thoughts on the first WA-08 debate of 2008

Earlier today I liveblogged the first debate of 2008 between incumbent Republican Dave Reichert and his Democratic challenger Darcy Burner, hosted by the CityClub of Seattle at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington.

The debate wasn't televised live on any of the major stations, unfortunately, but the traditional media was there in force, and I'm sure KOMO, KIRO, and KING will all air reports on it tonight.

What I found most remarkable about the debate was how far apart the candidates were - and I don't mean on the issues. I'm talking about presentation.

Darcy Burner looked (and sounded) confident. She spoke gracefully, concisely, and forcefully. She mixed in details yet kept her remarks focused on the big picture.

Reichert, on the other hand, came across as unprepared and unsure of himself. There were perhaps about a dozen instances where Reichert ran over his time and either sheepishly stopped himself mid-sentence or was cut off my the moderator. Each time he shrugged it off with an "aw shucks" demeanor, but it was embarrassing. The room was literally laughing at him by the end.

He also said a couple of things that I thought were both honest and funny, but unhelpful to himself. First, early on, he admitted, "I'm not an economic expert." (Darcy Burner, on the other hand, has a degree in economics from Harvard, and she pointed that out in her opening statement).

Second, later, he talked about needing "to send new people to Congress." If that's the case, why is he running for reelection? He's been on Capitol Hill for four years. If new blood is required to fix what is broken (and we agree that it is), then Darcy Burner is undoubtedly the best choice for the job.

Darcy excelled by being coolheaded and crisp throughout the entire debate. She rarely stumbled over words or lost track of the time.

One of her finest moments came when she was answering a question about how Congress should react if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

I'll let Darcy speak for herself here:
Darcy Burner: I feel pretty strongly about this particular issue. I don't think government has any right to make personal decisions like that for people. When I was pregnant with my son Henry - a much-wanted pregnancy - I had complication after complication where my doctor sat down with me and said, "If you continue this pregnancy, you might not survive it." And every single time, my husband and I sat down and talked through it, and decided to continue.

But that decision belongs to us, and there is no politician on the planet who has the right to make it for me.

The idea that there are politicians who think they have the right to tell people fundamental choices about what happens with their bodies is absurd. And I would support not only codifying Roe v. Wade into law, but ensuring that the Constitutional right to basic decisions about one's self and one's privacy is... [added as] a Constitutional amendment if Roe v. Wade were ever to be overturned.
Adding a new amendment to the Constitution explicitly guaranteeing a right to privacy is a bold idea. But bold ideas are what we've come to expect from Darcy Burner, who is unafraid to be honest with the people she seeks to represent.

The outcome of today's debate wasn't even close. It was decisively and clearly a big victory for Darcy Burner.

UPDATE: More on the debate from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Strange Bedfellows and the Seattle Times' Politics Northwest.

LIVE from Meydenbauer Center: Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert debate in WA-08

It's twelve fifteen on October 8th, and that means it's time for the first congressional debate between the two finalists in Washington's 8th Congressional District - incumbent Republican Dave Reichert and his Democratic challenger, our very own Darcy Burner.

We've just been introduced to the panelists for today's debate - Joni Balter from the Seattle Times, C.R. Douglas of the Seattle Channel, and Thomas Tanaka of Leadership Eastside. And now, here come the candidates up on stage!

This will be a very fast paced debate. I'll do my best to keep up.

Opening Statements

Reichert: Thanked everyone for coming, tried to appear folksy and friendly. He said when he started he probably wouldn't use his full two minutes and he didn't. No real substance in his opening statement.

Burner: Began by talking about the degree in economics she earned at Harvard, and her experience in the high tech sector, including her time at Microsoft. Talked about her economic plan to help the middle class.

First question is about the bailout.

Burner: Opposed the Bush plan.

Reichert: Voted against the Bush plan because he didn't think it was well put together.

Second question - what policies do you favor to jumpstart the economy?

Reichert: Homeowners and ordinary Americans need more protection (gee, now there's a thought).

Burner: Three things: First, a stimulus in the form of middle class tax cuts. Second, investment in the future of our country...better schools, renewable energy, etc. Third, we need real fiscal discipline in Washington. There is no such thing as a "free lunch."

Third question - are tax cuts sustainable?

Burner: We need to help out the middle class. They are paying more than their fair share. But Congress also needs to be more responsible with the federal budget.

Reichert: Attacked Darcy Burner's economic plan, arguing that some of the tax deduction components of it are illegal and unworkable. Reichert had to abruptly stop mid-sentence as he realized his time was up.

Fourth question - how do we prevent this crisis from happening again?

Reichert: We need to investigate what got us here in the first place. Admitted, "I'm not an economic expert." Chided the Bush administration for not providing an opportunity to examine the bailout plan.

Burner: We need to re-regulate and restore oversight of the banking industry. When there's no accountability, financial panic can ensue.

Fifth question - What would you support cutting if the deficit is too big? Do you have a deficit target?

Burner: The deficit is too big. We have to bring it under control. We need progressive fiscal responsibility and we need pay-as-you-go rules.

Reichert: PAYGO is a great concept, but it requires cutting spending, raising taxes, or borrowing money. What we really need to do is investing money into new energy and new technology. He ran short of his time again and wasn't able to say what he would cut (after he criticized Darcy Burner for not providing specific details of what she would cut).

Sixth question - What are the biggest issues facing our local industries?

Reichert: Cited transportation as a concern.

Burner: We are incredibly fortunate that we have Microsoft and Boeing here. Would be "one of the most tech-savvy members" of Congress.

Seventh question is about Iraq. What is the wisest course of action?

Burner: Our troops have done a wonderful job. They've actually retrained themselves to do diplomatic work that no one else was doing. They have succeeded in spite of and not because of George W. Bush's failed foreign policy. We must bring the Iraq conflict to close.

Reichert: Our generals run the war. Reichert listens to them. In other words, he's admitting that he just approves of whatever the military wants. "I've been to Iraq", Reichert added later. He was again cut short mid-sentence - "I'm supposed to stop."

Reichert is doing a terrible job of managing his time.

Next question - what's your strategy for winning in Afghanistan?

Reichert: He's talked to people on the ground there and would like to give them more support to accomplish their mission.

Burner: A go it-alone foreign policy doesn't work. We have to work with our allies and friends to solve problems - which the Bush administration hasn't done.

Next question is about enemy combatants.

Should they be protected under the Geneva Conventions?

Burner: It's dangerous for us to set aside the basic protections of the law when we find them inconvenient. Every individual has fundamental rights that the government should not abridge. Every enemy combatant should enjoy the rights they have under the Geneva Conventions.

Reichert: Yes. Agrees with Darcy Burner. In the midst of talking about how wonderful the idea of community is, he was AGAIN cut off mid sentence!

Next question - What is the best way to avoid trouble with another dangerous country?

Reichert: We can't be afraid to act when America is threatened. (Sort of sounds like an endorsement of the Bush Doctrine).

Burner: We can't just deal with our enemies abroad militarily. We have to work diplomatically with our allies to solve problems.

Next question is what is your approach to trade?

Burner: Trade is important but we need to protect jobs here at home. We also need to protect families who are being hurt because many of the products we are importing from aboard are unsafe.

Reichert: Many of our local jobs rely on trade. Expressed concern that Democrats might harm the free exchange of goods by imposing greater protections. And...Cut off AGAIN! The whole room is laughing at Reichert because he keeps getting stopped mid-sentence. Pretty embarrassing.

Next question - Do we have any ability to influence China on human rights?

Burner: We have a big trade imbalance with China. We need to fix that.

Next question - What is your most fundamental disagreement with the presidential nominee of your party (Obama in Burner's case, McCain in Reichert's)?

Burner: Disagrees with Senator Barack Obama about the bailout package. In her judgment the bailout package was not well crafted. It gave a blank check to the Bush administration and that was unacceptable.

Reichert: Wanted to give the same answer that Darcy give.

Next question: Is further expansion of expanding NATO eastward worth the cost (antagonizing Russia)?

Reichert: The offer should be laid on the table. We need to listen to what leaders in Russia and other powers are saying.

Burner: It's certainly good for the United States to have many friends. We need to open up a dialogue with Russia so we're working together more and butting heads less. We can't build walls around this country.

Next question is about immigration.

Burner: We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need greater enforcement. We need to crack down on corporations that are employing people who aren't here legally. We need a pathway to citizenship.

Reichert: Republicans have been waiting for the Democratic leadership to come up with an immigration bill and they haven't. The system is broken and it needs to be fixed.

Next question is about our healthcare system. Does it need to be reformed?

Reichert: Obviously, yes. Expressed hope that we could come together to improve healthcare access.

Burner: Every American should have access to quality medical care. People are sick of being nickel-and-dimed to death. There are too many people who aren't getting the care they need because it is too expensive for even those who have insurance. We need to invest in preventative care and force the insurance companies to pay for preventative care.

What should Congress do if Roe v. Wade is overturned?

Burner: Government has no right to make personal decisions about people's health. The idea that there are politicians who want to dictate what people do with their bodies is absurd. Would support codifying Roe v. Wade into law.

Reichert: Says he thinks everyone in the room knows where he stands. Long pause..."My religious belief is that life begins at conception...Congress has no say in Roe v. Wade."

Did he just say that?

Next question - Do you believe the climate crisis is a fact and caused by humans?

Reichert: Talked about his high scores from some environmental groups - "some of my Democrat friends." It's Democratic, genius.

Burner: The science is unambiguous. We have to address the climate crisis. This is an opportunity to fix our energy policies. We have here in WA-08 companies that are investing in renewable energy. We need to stop sending people to Congress who take money from big oil companies (like Dave Reichert).

We're now moving into the audience question period.

First audience question is from Toby Nixon, about D.C. vs. Heller. Do you agree with that decision?

Reichert: Yes. One word answer.

Burner: Agreed.

Next audience question is a follow-up on the global financial crisis.

Burner: We can't allow big American companies to cook the books and break the law. Deregulating is counterproductive. Noted that Reichert published an op-ed last summer in the Puget Sound Business Journal saying that regulation and government is the problem.

Next audience question is what are the consequences of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq? Wouldn't there be a "bloodbath" if we just packed up and left?

Burner: Cares about responsibly exiting Iraq, which is why she created the Responsible Plan to end the occupation of Iraq with General Eaton. The path in that plan is what we need to follow.

Reichert: "The truth is...this is an Irresponsible Plan." We need a transition team in place, we can't just leave. "General Petraeus is right."

Next audience question is about education.

Reichert: Every child in America deserves an education. We need to focus on science, technology, engineering, and math education. We need to create a path for people who want to go to trade school.

Burner: We must provide the best education we can to everyone. That isn't happening right now. Good teachers need to be rewarded and bad teachers fired. We can't have the federal government imposing mandates on teachers to teach to a test. No Child Left Behind needs to be replaced with something better.

Next question is about Medicaid and Medicare. Doesn't the bailout undermine the federal government's ability to provide those services?

Burner: If we're going to bail out Wall Street then taxpayers need to be paid back. It can't just be a giveaway to big corporations.

Reichert: Continued to talk about education (the last question). Touted his endorsement from the Washington Education Association. Attacked Nancy Pelosi for voting for the bailout. "I took two no votes to protect that $700 billion," he said.

Final audience question is from Karen Cooper of NARAL.

Do you believe that the federal government should continue funding abstinence-only education when we have ample proof that it does not work?

Reichert: Families have a responsibility to teach their kids about sex...yadda, yadda, yadda...

Burner: Abstinence only education does not work. Chided Reichert for not answering question. Kids deserve medically accurate information about the consequences of their action.

Closing Statements

Burner: Spoke emotionally about the lessons she learned from the fire that destroyed her home early this summer. We can get through this global financial crisis if we work together.

We can change, but we have to change who we send to Congress.

Reichert: "I came to this job in an unorthodox way...I still look at myself as Joe Blow from Kent, Washington." People should appreciate the heat he takes for voting against drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

And that's it!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain's military gaffe

Following in the footsteps of his running mate Sarah Palin, who last week named a Civil War general as the NATO Commander in Afghanistan, tonight Senator John McCain gave General David Petraeus a promotion: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
At around the 10:08 mark, John McCain calls General David Petraeus the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He actually heads up U.S. Central Command.
McCain's campaign will likely dismiss his remark and do a kabuki dance about his war hero status. But this isn't the first time McCain has promoted General Petraeus. He did it back on July 27 too.
MCCAIN: I believe that, when he said that we had to leave Iraq, and we had to be out by last March, and we had to have a date certain, that was in contravention to -- and still is -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Petraeus.
Are McCain's mental faculties not all there? Does McCain fail to learn from his mistakes? Either way, the man who touts his military record at every turn and acts as if he's the fountain of all knowledge with regard to the armed forces, should know that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is Admiral Mike Mullen. A Navy man ought to know that.

Obama, McCain face off in second debate

The second presidential debate of 2008 has just begun at Belmont University in Tennessee, moderated by Tom Brokaw of NBC. The "town hall" style debate will last ninety minutes and will focus on multiple topics, though a lot of the questions will probably be about the credit crunch.

Ken and I will be checking in throughout the debate. The Think Progress team is also going to be doing extensive liveblogging.

6:10 PM: Nice opening by Obama, who responded to the first question about the financial crisis by explaining how his agenda for America would help the middle class. Obama also faulted the Bush administration and his opponent (Mr. Regulator) for allowing this mess to happen.

John McCain, for his part, jumped into attack mode almost immediately.

McCain is also doing quite a bit of wandering around, seemingly trying to get as close to the audience as possible.

When Tom Brokaw asked McCain who he would appoint as Treasury Secretary, McCain paused and deadpanned, "Not you, Tom."

What kind of an answer is that?

6:20 PM: Oops:
The second questioner of the night, a young African-American man, was named Oliver Clark. Toward the end of his response to Oliver’s question, however, McCain forgot his name and called him “Alan.” McCain also told Oliver that he was probably ignorant of the housing market, saying, “I bet you may have never heard of them before this crisis.”
Does McCain think he'll get points for insulting audience members?

6:30 PM: The discussion is turning to energy. Obama has explained the importance of achieving the goal of energy independence.

McCain has told lie after lie about Obama's campaign platform, from fiscal management to energy to healthcare. Fortunately, Obama is doing a good job of both setting the record straight and staying on offense.

6:50 PM: Nice framing from Obama - correctly describing global warming as "the climate crisis". And when Tom Brokaw reminded the candidates they were going over their time, Obama said, "I'm just trying to keep up with John."

7:00 PM: A few minutes ago, responding to McCain's attacks on his healthcare system, Obama asserted that healthcare "is a right". Bravo! He also reminded the American people that McCain voted against expanding SCHIP - the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

7:05 PM: Obama just ripped McCain on Iraq, offering a brilliant and concise critique of how disastrous the occupation has been...and how John McCain has been nothing but a cheerleader for George Dubya Bush. "We have to fundamentally change...America's foreign policy," he concluded.

7:20 PM: McCain continues to distort Obama's position on Pakistan. Obama insisted that he be able to respond so he could debunk McCain's lies, and he offered a powerful refutation of McCain's nonsense about idolizing Teddy Roosevelt and "speaking softly". (Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran, anybody?)

7:30 PM: The debate just wrapped up. A couple important things happened in the last ten minutes.

Brokaw asked the candidates if Russia today is "an evil empire" (as Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union). Obama did not answer directly (Yes or No?) as prompted, and neither did McCain, who said "Maybe."

Then there was an audience question: How would you as president respond if Iran (hypothetically) attacked Israel. Would you commit American troops?

McCain described Iran as a threat but didn't directly answer the question. Obama said "We will never take military options off the table" but added that we must "use all the tools at our disposal" to solve a potential crisis diplomatically first.

Obama noted that we can lessen Iran's power to make mischief by reducing our need for Middle Eastern oil (that means investing in renewable energy) and working with the international community to impose tougher sanctions.

The final question was What don't you know and How will you learn it?

Obama answered with grace and humility, saying that his wife could probably provide a longer list than he ever could. McCain merely said that what he didn't know was what everyone else didn't know.

I'm not a neutral observer, but I think Obama won this second debate hands-down.

AIG: Still living it up

Despite reports to the contrary and the stock market tanking, life appears to still be good on Wall Street. You see, only on Wall Street can you get corporate welfare from the federal government one week, and still live the high life the next week.
A week after the insurance giant, American International Group, received an $85 billion federal bailout, its life insurance subsidiary, AIG General, held a weeklong retreat for its top sales agents at the exclusive St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, Calif. Expenses for the week, lawmakers were told, totaled $442,000, including $200,000 for hotel rooms, $150,000 for food and $23,000 in spa charges.
AIG got an $85 billion taxpayer bailout from the federal government and went on a spending orgy. And you didn't even get a facial or massage, a nice fuzzy bathrobe and slippers, filet mignon and a glass of $100/bottle wine, or even a mint on your pillow for your investment. You got nothing. Wanna see what your tax dollars bought? Don't worry, there's no surcharge for looking (yet).

Just imagine what King Henry and his corporate buddies will do with the $700 billion Congress just gave him the authority to spend.

Outrage doesn't even begin to cover it.

LIVE from Link: All aboard light rail!

It's hard to believe that this day has finally arrived.

After years of planning, design, engineering, construction, and testing, the first ride aboard Sound Transit's new Central Link light rail system is happening.

I'm actually blogging live from the train at this moment, via mobile broadband.

Aboard are Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Greg Nickels, many members of the Sound Transit Board, and a huge media delegation, including television and radio journalists, newspaper reporters, and bloggers.

View of the front of a Kinkisharyo light rail vehicle

We left Othello Station along Martin Luther King Jr. Way in the Rainier Valley about ten minutes ago and we're rushing southbound towards Tukwila, where we'll stop and change directions, heading back to where we came from.

This is truly an awesome experience.

Championing light rail for Puget Sound (and preventing Tim Eyman from derailing the construction of this Central Link line) is the cause that launched my political activism and this organization over six years ago.

Being able to actually step on board this train... and then feel it move under my feet... is really something. I've been on trains in other cities, from Chicago to Denver. But to be able to ride a train in Seattle - it hasn't been possible until today. Less than a year from now (in July of 2009 to be more specific) Central Link will officially open to anyone and everyone who wants to ride.

Inside of Link Light Rail in motion

The train is surprisingly quiet; many of the journalists aboard are remarking how smooth the ride is. There's space for bikes, and there's space for disabled seating, too. The trains have flow floors so it's really easy to walk or roll aboard.

I've got the camera filming the scenery outside as we pass by, with occasional shots of the interior of the train.

We're just getting on to the elevated guideway now...We're literally flying over Interstate 5, doing about thirty to thirty five miles an hour. We're not actually running at full speed because this is a test train.

Just think...months from now, on days when traffic is at a standstill, Link will soar over the parking lot that is our state's most traveled highway on its way to Tukwila and Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

UPDATE: We've just stopped. This is as far south as we're going to go - we didn't quite make it to the Tukwila Station.

Now we're going to run in the other direction. The operator is walking through to the other cab to take us northbound. Senator Murray and Mayor Nickels are all smiles. Cameras are everywhere. Tonight, on the local news, hundreds of thousands of people will get a glimpse of the future of transportation in our region.

They'll see the inside of a roomy, comfortable train that can't get stuck in traffic, doesn't emit dirty clouds of exhaust, and won't fall behind schedule.

UPDATE II: We're back at Othello. On the way back I interviewed Sound Transit Chief Executive Joni Earl about today's groundbreaking event. I also talked to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels outside at the station.

Link Light Rail train at Othello Station

As you might expect, they're both thrilled with today's event. It's the first time they've been able to ride Link themselves.

I'll update this post as soon as we've edited and released those interviews.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rossi's plan steals from schools

Fresh back from a tiring weekend hashing out Washington's education issues with the Washington State PTA, I was dismayed to see the details of Dino Rossi's plan for the 2009-2011 state budget.

All I could hear was WHOOSH--the sound of desperately needed education dollars flying out of the general fund and back into the pockets of the very rich and the state transportation department.

For starters, Rossi proposes a repeal of the estate tax which affects only the richest 1% of us, at a cost of $235 million per budget period. This revenue normally goes directly to Washington schools.

Next, his transportation "plan" which one transportation expert called "divorced from reality" would take $800 million from the general fund. Now, I know from the PTA that 40% of that fund goes toward education, and that state lawmakers are prepared to ask the legislature for more money from that fund this year in order to bring our educational system up to par with the rest of the country. Where will that money come from if Rossi is taking from the pot? Will he try to cut more low-income children off Medicaid in order to make up the loss like he did in 2003?

When Rossi endorses Initiative 985, we really know that he is not serious about education or even traffic congestion for that matter. Has he seen the Office of Financial Management's financial impact statement on I-985? They estimate the financial cost of that boondoggle at $238 million, not to mention the cost to local governments and the decreased traffic efficiency. Guess where that money will come from? Right, the general fund.

The Gregoire campaign reminds us of the governor's financial accomplishments:
Governor Gregoire worked to pass the Rainy Day Fund, held the line on spending in the last legislative session and responded to the changing national economy and state revenue shortfalls by finding savings in the current budget. Those savings and the Rainy Day Fund will give our state a surplus of around $800 million at the end of the budget cycle. The current cuts are estimated to save an additional $500 million from the next biennial budget.
Rossi's budget plan would add $1.27 billion to the projected budget deficit and hurt schools. How is stunting our kids' education by giving the rich a tax break and making bad transportation decisions good for our state? Our schools and our kids (Washington's future workforce) are already behind.

Gregoire has a track record of sound fiscal policy and dedication to education. I'm not prepared to watch our elementary, high schools and colleges fall further behind because Rossi prefers highways to an educated populace.

George W. Bush is allowing you to be poisoned

In my lifetime I've seen airlines deregulated, lived in California when utility companies were deregulated, watched the captains of financial industry rape the common wealth of my country after John McCain's economic advisor crafted laws that benefited the industry and lobbied on behalf of it, and now I'm watching the Bush Administration disregard the health and welfare of the American people, all in the name of the Almighty Dollar. Warning: George W. Bush is hazardous to your health.
The Bush administration has abruptly halted a government program that tests the levels of pesticides in fruits, vegetables and field crops, arguing that the $8 million-a-year program is too expensive — a decision critics say could make it harder to protect consumers from chemicals in their food.
That's right, the Bush Administration believes that we the taxpayers can afford a $700 billion blank check for the corporate welfare, but it's unwilling to spend a measly $8 million (by comparison) to safeguard our health against known carcinogens, because it's "too expensive".

The good news is that after ingesting enough pesticide-laden produce, we'll be so full of the bug juice that we don't have to worry about bees, mosquitoes, or any other common insects that sometimes bite or sting humans. We'll be walking insect repellent. The bad news is that the pesticides will have riddled our bodies with cancerous tumors, so we better pray that Bush and the Republicans haven't exempted our employers from contributing to our health care coverage, otherwise we'll be headed for the emergency room, bankruptcy and the morgue, in that order.

Deregulation is one thing, but endangering the public health is criminal.

Electoral map looking good for Obama

With John McCain already folding up his tent in Michigan, now word comes that he's on the verge of losing Virginia, a reliably GOP state in presidential elections since 1964, too.
The two best indicators of which states the campaigns are serious about – time and money – tell the story.

Since wrapping up the Democratic nomination in June, Obama, his wife, Michelle, and his running mate Joe Biden have visited the commonwealth a combined 12 times. The candidate himself was in the Tidewater city of Newport News Saturday.

Obama is also plowing millions into Virginia, blanketing the airwaves with TV and radio ads, filling up mailboxes with leaflets and, along with the state party, operating 49 campaign offices.

Together, McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, have held just one campaign event in Virginia. And the campaign has taken its ads off the pricey Washington, D.C. network affiliates that reach into the entire swath of the Northern Virginia, the commonwealth’s most populous region. [emphasis mine]
Virginia has 13 votes in the Electoral College. It's been a reliable Republican stronghold in the past, but that certainly isn't an indicator of future performance, especially given the recent elections of Mark Warner and, subsequently, Tim Kaine as governor. That Virginia is in play is a testament to the Obama ground game and the resources the campaign has available to put traditional red states into play. Obama's gains in Virginia are also a function of John McCain blowing the state off. You can't expect voters to vote for you if you don't put in the effort. But John McCain thinks he can mail it in, because he's still taking weekends off.

McCain also seems to be doing his level best to lose the senior vote in Florida, by proposing tax credits that would be paid for by cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
John McCain would pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, a top aide said, in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs.
This comes after McCain called Social Security a disgrace.

And it never helps when your own campaign shoots itself in the foot., by admitting that it is muddying the waters by throwing out smears instead of talking about the issues that matter to most Americans.
"It's a dangerous road, but we have no choice," a top McCain strategist told the Daily News. "If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we're going to lose."
One of the greatest allies a candidate can have in the final month of a campaign is known as the Big Mo. That's momentum. Having the appearance of the Big Mo can help a campaign ride the crest of a big wave to victory. Of course, the opposite is true too. If your opponent has the Big Mo, your campaign is likely to crash and burn in the final weeks of the campaign.

While it certainly appears that Barack Obama has the Big Mo on his side, this is no time for progressives/liberals/Democrats to get complacent. Republicans are already playing their dirty tricks trying to steal the election. We still have much work to do, and we can't quit until November 5, but on this day things are looking better than ever for Barack Obama.

Where was Republican Rob McKenna when Countrywide customers needed him?

Are you paying attention to downballot races in this November's election? You should be. The outcomes of several contests will have a direct impact on your life.

Consider the story of Countrywide, my former mortgage company. Countrywide has been in the news a lot this year after its unethical lending practices were exposed (such as rewarding employees for selling risky loans).

It turns out that John Ladenburg, the Democratic nominee for Attorney General, has been calling on his opponent Rob McKenna for months to join a group of Attorneys General in filing a lawsuit against Countrywide, which became another division of the monster that is Bank of America at the beginning of the year.

The Office of Financial Institutions, which is under the Governor, acted months ago. Apparently, McKenna never went to court but jumped forth to announce a settlement based on the lawsuits brought by Attorneys General form other states.

In response, John Ladenburg's campaign issued this statement:
"I am disappointed that after months of calling on McKenna to take action against Countrywide (see June press release from Ladenburg's website) that he stood on the sidelines only to come in at the 11th hour right before an election and announce a settlement based on the law suits of other states."

"What you didn't hear from Rob McKenna today is that he never filed a lawsuit against Countrywide. You never heard if he would lobby Congress to prevent this from happening again—the story of Countrywide will become just the prelude for the next great rip-off of consumers without an Attorney General willing to call for increased regulation."
The deceptive ploy of taking credit for the work of others at the last minute seems to be a big Republican trend, from John McCain's campaign on down.

It's time we had an Attorney General who actually cares about consumer protection. We can't wait another four years for a real successor to Chris Gregoire.

Peter Goldmark launches new television ads

Recently, I was fortunate enough to take part in the filming of an ad for Peter Goldmark at Green Lake. It was a pleasant morning, and I got to meet supporters of his from all over, some of whom had journeyed in early by ferry. The park was beautifully lit with morning sun, and we did it in a few takes. We were provided with coffee and pastries. It was a fun experience.

I've been waiting for word on the ad - and have now received word from the Goldmark campaign that several ads are being made.

Peter Goldmark is the Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Public Lands, and is a rancher from Okanogan. He has managed his family's wheat and cattle ranch for more than thirty five years. He wants to protect Washington's five million acres of forest, shoreline, grazing lands, and aquatic resources.

Here's some background from the Goldmark campaign, which distributed a press release this morning announcing their ad buy:
The advertising, running on cable channels throughout Washington, focus on two of the issues highlighted by Goldmark throughout the campaign: DNR's [The Department of Natural Resources] failure to enforce rules that could have limited the devastating landslides that impacted Lewis County last December, and a well publicized land deal where 320 acres of state forest were traded to a longtime developer ally of Sutherland in exchange for a parking lot in Des Moines.

The common link, says Goldmark, is that both ads highlight how Republican Sutherland rewards large contributors to his campaigns and a political action committee that operates on his behalf.

"Follow the money, and you can see where Doug Sutherland's priorities lie," said Goldmark. "He turned the other way while his largest corporate contributor clear cut miles of steep slopes-in Lewis County and elsewhere - and when wealthy developers come looking for sweetheart land deals, he is willing to bypass public input to assure a good deal for his friends."
Watch the ads on YouTube:
Ending backroom land deals - now there's a platform we can get behind.

The campaign says that each spot has its own unique twist:
The ads, while similar in theme, differ in style. One ad features stark images of the clear cut hillsides with Washington residents describing the scene. The ad ends with Goldmark surrounded by people describing his philosophy for land management.

The second ad was shot in the actual drug store parking lot now owned by the people of Washington. In a humorous take on a serious subject, volunteers are posed as traditional users of the land: a logger, a family of hikers, and a father and son fly fishing-clearly out of place in a parking lot.
So why shoot in that parking lot?
"We wanted to show the ridiculousness of Sutherland's actions," said Goldmark. "The Lands Commissioner first and foremost must be a steward of the public trust, and that means protecting lands for use now-and into the future. It's not a Commissioner of Public Parking Lots."
The contest for Lands Commissioner is emerging as one of the closest races of the 2008 election cycle. Goldmark is within striking distance of Sutherland - if some polls are to be believed, he's even slightly ahead. Unfortunately, Sutherland's longtime buddies are coming to his aid:
Goldmark has outraised his opponent in direct funds, but in keeping with the themes of the advertising, the timber industry and other interests have placed nearly $600,000 into a political action committee for the benefit of Sutherland's campaign.

Weyerhaeuser, the company allowed to clearcut the Lewis County lands, put another $100,000 into the fund just last month.
We'll be keeping a close eye on this race in the days and weeks ahead.

Burner vs. Reichert: it's personal, part II

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of Dave Reichert. Not only has he wasted his ime in office by voting exactly how he's told rather than exercising one iota of thought on behalf of his constituents, but as I wrote the other day his voting record also makes it personal for me.

I've posted many reasons on this blog why I believe people ought not to vote for Dave Reichert. Now it is time to present the flip side of that argument: reasons to vote for Darcy Burner. That's an important distinction, voting affirmatively for someone rather than negatively against the other person. I'll write more about that in an upcoming post, but for now let's stay on topic.

It didn't take long to brainstorm an admirable list of qualities Darcy has that make me actively support her. After I had the list, it was clear that they fell into two categories. One is a "nuts and bolts" category of practical, hands-on qualities that make her good at what she does. The other is an emotional category of personal traits that make her a good human being.

I'll start with the practical, hands-on qualities, because in the end we are ultimately voting on whether we think she can get the job done:

Brains. There's no doubt about it, Darcy Burner is smart. She is incredibly quick-minded, a fast learner, and has the great gift of being able to immediately understand the ways in which complex circumstances and situations relate to one another. After a lifetime of living with politicians who don't seem able to think beyond the next set of poll numbers--let alone show any interest in doing so--I long for leadership smart enough to turn our ship of state to a heading that points away from disaster. At heart, I'm a "root causes" guy; I would much rather figure out the underlying root cause of any particular societal problem and address that, rather than look for band-aid solutions that merely address the symptoms of the problem. I know Darcy Burner is smart enough to figure out those root causes too, and is smart enough to understand that the most economic way to fix the problems is to go after the root causes.

Values. Darcy shares my values. She certainly doesn't share everyone's values, but she shares mine. Or I share hers, however you want to spin it. We agree that the Right's efforts to privatize more and more elements of government (such as Social Security) represents a threat to the viability of the middle class. We agree that government has a valid and critical role in balancing the demands of business and industry (which provide people with jobs and necessary income) with the needs of people to have a healthy and vibrant planet to live on. I could list a whole bunch more, but you get the idea.

Courage. Darcy Burner has got to be one of the bravest people I have ever met. The easiest thing in the world to do is not to act. To sit on your hands and say "wow, that's a pretty big problem," and then do nothing. But Darcy acts. When she sees a problem she can do something about, she has the courage to take the initiative and do something. How many of us, when faced with the question of how to provide our child with the best possible chances in life, would stop to consider that, first, our kid won't have many chances if the middle class gets wiped out by Right-wing efforts to turn every necessity of life into a revenue opportunity for their corporate buddies? (There's that shared values thing again.) How many of us would realize that the root cause of that threat to our kid's future is failure of the government to adequately protect and represent its citizens? (There's that incisive intellect again.) And even if we did, how many of us would then have the flat-out courage to say well, I guess it's up to me to fix it, quit our jobs, and run for Congress? Not many, I would say, but that's exactly what happened to propel Darcy Burner into this race. That is also exactly the kind of courage and intellect in support of my values that I long for and crave in my elected officials.

Leadership. Leadership is the almost inevitable result of brains in combination with values and the courage to act. True to form, even before being elected to the House, Darcy Burner has shown a truly stunning degree of national leadership. When it became clear that the current House wasn't going to present any kind of serious alternative to the Bush administration's Iraq strategy (if you can call that morass of thoughtless and short-sighted blunders a strategy), again she said well, I guess it's up to me to fix it, and went off to create the Responsible Plan to end the war. In doing so, she has led the country to a different perspective on the war--that we actually do have a way to end the war responsibly, and that to do otherwise would be the height of irresponsibility--rather than the utterly bankrupt straw-man choice presented by the Bush administration between staying in Iraq forever or letting Al Qaeda overrun the Earth. (A false choice, I'll add, that has been taken up wholeheartedly by Senator McCain.) We should all be so fortunate to have Darcy's brand of effective leadership advocating for us in the House. I'm not going to pass up this unique chance to get it.

Influence. Leadership is one thing. Effective leadership, however, is something else entirely. It's called "influence". An effective leader influences people to think about things in different and more useful ways. An effective leader influences people to act in support of the changes needed to better their own and the world's situation. Darcy has already shown that she can influence a nation to think differently about Iraq (and in that case, to view the choice in much more realistic and useful terms). If you've ever been to her campaign office you will have seen how effective she is at influencing people from all over Washington to act, to volunteer for her campaign, because they know that electing Darcy Burner is the most effective thing they can do to address the root cause of the problems in their lives: ineffective government. Darcy uses all her talents--her brains, values, courage, and leadership, to create influence because influencing the masses to act for the common good is the only way things ever change. Just ask Gandhi, or Martin Luther King. They couldn't have changed anything without their ability to influence the people. As anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

So yes. I have an incredible amount of confidence in Darcy's ability to get the job done. Why? Because she's already getting the job done, and she's not even in office yet. Imagine what she can accomplish when she has official standing in Congress.

Those are the hands-on qualities that make me enthusiastic in my support of Darcy Burner. But there are emotional and personal qualities as well that I can't overlook.

Honesty. When you listen to Darcy Burner speak about any issue, it's impossible not to come away with the impression that she really believes what she's telling you. That's it's coming first and foremost from her, and not from a poll statistic. And if you ever press her on an issue, she's got the brains and depth of knowledge to explain exactly why she feels or believes how she does on that issue. There's no Palin-esque dodging the question and steering her answer back to canned talking points. Darcy has the guts to take a stand, stick with it, and defend her stand to anyone. It is refreshingly honest, and throws into stark and unflattering contrast the gutless, dismissive, vacuous, sound bite answers that have come to characterize political discourse in this country.

Trust. The other thing that comes through crystal clear when you hear Darcy speak--and indeed, I doubt she could hide it if she tried--is her strong passion for all the issues that face America today. Couple that with the honesty of her answers, the values we share, and her enormous intellect to figure out solutions, and you get trust. She's smart and she shares my values, so I trust her to deal with all America's problems in ways that are in my family's best interest. She's passionate about fixing them, so I trust her not to give up when the going gets tough, which it certainly will.

Friendship. Lastly, and most personally, Darcy is my friend. I met her in 2005, when her first campaign was just getting started. It was pretty much a fluke event. I certainly had no idea who she was before that. Back then, few people across the 8th district did but the impression she left me with was so strong that I knew immediately she was someone I had to support. We've interacted many times in the three years since then and I am glad now to number her among my friends. I have closer friends, certainly. What with her super-busy schedule, I have friends I see considerably more often. But she's my friend just the same. She's a good person. Her husband Mike is a good person. Her son Henry is a cool kid who I selfishly hope becomes a role model for my own slightly younger son. I know it's not possible, but I wish everyone had the chance to meet her and get even that same first impression as I got three years ago.

My enthusiasm for Darcy ultimately comes down to two things: I know she can do the job, and I trust her to do that job very well on behalf of my family and every other regular, work-a-day family across this country. Those are the reasons I support Darcy Burner. That's why I'm so eager to vote for her, and not merely against Dave Reichert. I hope others across the district feel the same.

Donate. Volunteer. Change America.

BREAKING: Retired justices intend to sue Dino Rossi over his role in Buildergate

Two retired State Supreme Court justices are filing suit against Dino Rossi and the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), Washington State's most powerful right wing lobby, for willfully violating public disclosure laws in their effort to build a massive war chest to take down Governor Chris Gregoire, according to a press release just issued minutes ago by the plaintiffs.

Documents released last week by Smith & Lowney PLLC, which represents retired Justices Faith Ireland and Robert Utter, directly link Dino Rossi to the Buildergate fundraising scandal. Rossi's campaign has downplayed the evidence, claiming that Dino wasn't a candidate at the time the BIAW was trying to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from local affiliates without reporting the money.

The goal of the suit is to expose the full extent of Buildergate and Rossi's involvement in it, since Rossi won't talk about what happened voluntarily:
The suit seeks discovery authority to determine Rossi’s precise role in the BIAW fundraising, and seeks to have these answers before the election. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin further illegal expenditures between now and the election.

The Justices claim that Rossi’s participation in the BIAW’s fundraising efforts resulted in several serious violations of the State Fair Campaign Practices Act (RCW 42.17). Under this Act, a candidate cannot coordinate with a political committee to raise funds in support of his or her campaign. By doing so, the committee becomes ineligible to make “independent expenditures” and is limited to spending $2,800 on the candidate’s race.
And what of Rossi's "I wasn't a candidate then" defense?
Rossi has argued that he had not publicly declared his candidacy when he assisted the BIAW in raising money for the association’s elections war chest. But the law stipulates that a person becomes a candidate when he helps a political committee to amass funds to support his candidacy.

The evidence in the case suggests Rossi knew funds were being raised to support his bid for governor and that he helped raise the money by making phone calls and other personal contacts to potential donors while solicitations were pending.
In Dino Rossi's world, he might not be a candidate until the moment he decides he is, but state law says otherwise, as the justices have explained. The minute a prospective candidate starts raising money, they instantly become a candidate in the eyes of the public disclosure law whether they like it or not.

The suit against the BIAW will proceed immediately, according to Smith & Lowney. The plaintiffs cannot actually add Dino Rossi as a defendant until fifty five days have elapsed. But they have made it very clear they intend to sue Rossi as well.

We'll have more on this breaking news later today. Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Gregoire receives two enthusiastic endorsements

Every time I see the governor she wows me. When she makes a speech she is poised and confident and when she responds to questions she provides intelligent, thoughtful answers.

The lady's got class. (Wish I could say that about another female governor lately in the news.)

I am not the only one who holds Gregoire in high regard. Two Washington newspapers are throwing their unequivocal support behind her: The Columbian of Clark County and The Seattle P-I.

The Columbian endorsed "Reduce the Minimum Wage" Rossi in 2004, and Clark County was practically a break-even area for the governor that year, giving Rossi a slim 1,000 vote lead over the governor. But during the past four years Gregoire has proved to The Columbian editors that she is a friend of the county and deserves to continue to lead. Maybe Gregoire's strong local record will give her an edge in Clark county this year.

From The Columbian:
...That record reveals Gregoire to be a tough, no-nonsense, hard-working advocate, especially in the areas of public education and health care...

Rossi and other critics assail Gregoire most often in an area — the economy — where she actually shows strength and versatility. She helped turn an inherited $2.2 billion deficit into a balanced budget. And as the national economy erodes, Gregoire has hunkered down in the face of the state’s projected $3.2 billion deficit. In June, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, she halted a three-building project at the capital after costs increased from $260 million to $370 million. A new data center, space for the Department of Information Services and State Patrol offices will have to wait.
The Seattle metro area with its large, Democratic population propelled Gregoire into office, so the Seattle P-I's endorsement comes as no surprise. The difference is that now she has "proven performance" to recommend her. They tout her "improvements and smart choices" in education, health care, the environment and state finance.

From the P-I:

In Chris Gregoire, Washington has a governor who has served the state well during relatively good times. She is a good bet for a future likely to be less rosy economically.

Washington voters should re-elect Gregoire based on proven performance, capability and drive. Especially for uncertain times, she's a much more proven leader than her Republican rival, former state Sen. Dino Rossi...

At the end of the day, we believe she is cable of tightening [the budget] while retaining a solid, moral, well-grounded vision of wider opportunities, better health and improved transportation.

I have had the good fortune to have seen Governor Gregoire speak at least five times in the last couple of years without even trying, but that is not too surprising considering that she is constantly engaged with the public whether it's a campaign year or not.

Considering the state of the country right now, I feel more confident about what the future will bring knowing that Gregoire is looking out for me in Olympia. Her record proves it.

Governor Gregoire hits the campaign trail

Locked in a rematch with Dino "Reduce the Minimum Wage" Rossi that is shaping up to be the closest gubernatorial race in the country, Governor Chris Gregoire is spending long days on the campaign trail, meeting voters and listening to their concerns on every topic imaginable.

Yesterday was no exception, as the governor stopped at small business after small business across the Eastside, including the Pancake Corral in Bellevue, Kahili Coffee in Kirkland, and the Speakeasy Cafe in Duvall.

I made a point of dropping by Kahili Coffee yesterday afternoon because it's daily meet-and-greets like these that are at the real heart of Chris' campaign.

You wouldn't know it from reading the traditional media's coverage, which is all too often newsroom-based reporting on the horse race. Polls, debates, staged events, complaints by party chairmen, and the occasional recap of a rally or lavish reception are what comprises the news in the gubernatorial race.

But that isn't where the real action is.

The real action is the candidates winning people over vote-by-vote.

Granted, the governor can't win over all Washingtonians by visiting with them in person. She doesn't have the time to sit down with everyone.

But that isn't a good reason not to talk to people - and she knows it. Gregoire takes the idea of public service very seriously, and she feels an obligation to be as accessible to constituents as possible. She's often on the campaign trail.

It's also where she seems the happiest.

When she came through the doors of that Kirkland coffee shop yesterday, a burst of cheers and applause broke out as patrons realized the state's chief executive had just walked into their midst. That brought a big smile from the governor, who immediately began shaking hands, posing for pictures with students, and listening to stories. She looked relaxed and at ease, with no trace of exhaustion.

Governor Gregoire meets Kahili Coffee patrons

Yet she must have been incredibly tired, because she puts in long days. She's out and about by seven in the morning, and she doesn't get home until ten at night. She doesn't take breaks or try to recuperate on weekends because there is no time. Campaigning and governing the state demand her full attention almost every minute that she is awake. She has a tough schedule.

Somehow, she manages to stay focused like a laser.

When a voter is telling her something important, it's easy to tell, because her whole facial expression changes. She looks solemn. She maintains eye contact, listening attentively and occasionally nodding, absorbing the conversation.

The topics she hears about the most are education, transportation, healthcare, and jobs. Voters frequently present her with problems that have a local or personal twist (I can't pay off my student loans, I wish the state would do something about the unsafe arterial that runs in front of my house).

Governor Gregoire poses for a picture with constituents

The governor may not be able to solve many problems on the spot, but she does take voters' concerns with her. It's how she approaches the job. Caring and responsibility seem to be in her blood.

Gregoire's most vocal right wing detractors do not understand this. They have no idea who she is as a person. They despise what she stands for and they have tried to brand her as a self-centered, ignorant elitist.

On any given day out of the year, you can find sneering references to "Queen Christine" on local right wing websites or in emails sent out by Tim Eyman.

Most of these disgruntled right wing activists are clueless. They have just decided that they loathe Chris because she isn't in lockstep with their worldview.

Perhaps if they met her in person, they would appreciate that their governor cares about their prosperity and their future - even if they only care about their own.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Seattle Times endorses Death with Dignity, opposes Tim Eyman's Initiative 985

The Seattle Times is taking progressive stances on two of the three statewide ballot measures before voters this November, according to the paper's Sunday advance edition, which became available earlier today on newsstands throughout the region.

The endorsements for I-1000 and against I-985 are somewhat surprising given the Seattle Times editorial board's conservative bent, but nevertheless welcome.

In endorsing Initiative 1000, the Times stated:
Make no mistake: This is assisted suicide. It is a grim decision, and many may think it is a wrong one, but we believe it should be the right of the terminally ill to decide for themselves.
Several paragraphs later, the Times described the measure's built-in safeguards:
I-1000 aims to protect the patient by making him or her ask for the lethal dose several times, once with witnesses and in writing. It requires two doctors to certify the patient has an untreatable disease likely to be fatal within six months.
Finally, the Times concluded:
But for the voters to reject I-1000 is to deny the patient the right to make the decision at all. On the grounds of compassion for the suffering, and recognition of the individual as a moral agent, death with dignity is a right that should be allowed.

Each of us will always entitled to our own personal views on this issue, regardless of whether I-1000 passes. We can make the choice for ourselves.

I-1000 does not force anyone to do anything, it merely decriminalizes a choice that people are already making.

We at NPI believe it is immoral to dictate to other people what their choices in life should be. Imposing beliefs on other people inevitably leads to a loss of freedom all around. That's not the kind of society we want.

We also applaud the Times editorial board for urging voters to "get smart" and "say No to Initiative 985". We're heartened to see the Times take such a strong position on Tim Eyman's latest scheme to wreck our common wealth.

An excerpt:
I-985 is a poorly packaged jumble of different proposals that will - please listen carefully - worsen traffic in certain areas. It makes no sense to design a functioning, complicated traffic system by initiative.
Exactly. The Times nails the consequences, too:
Within a few weeks of this measure's effective date, fewer commuters will ride the bus because they lose the time advantage. The result will be more cars on the road and more congestion by mid-December. Happy Holidays to you.
This is part of the reason why we call I-985 the More Traffic Measure. Instead of providing attractive alternatives to driving, I-985 encourages people who are already using transit to get back into their cars. That's a stupid and irresponsible idea. Air pollution and sprawl are already bad enough.

What's more, I-985 will create new safety hazards:
Consider westbound Highway 520 approaching the bridge across Lake Washington. The three-occupant HOV lane is narrow shoulder not design to handle a crowded lane of traffic. It works today because fewer cars and buses use it. Put more cars in the skinny lane and it becomes dangerous and backs traffic up to Interstate 405 as cars jostle to fit three lanes into two.
There's also an excellent paragraph debunking Eyman's nonsensical provision that takes away red light camera money from cities.

This is one of the most concise and accurate Seattle Times endorsements we've ever seen. They have ably described most of the major problems with Eyman's initiative - although the one major thing they left out is the harmful fiscal impact.

(Initiative 985, if passed, would make our looming deficit much worse because it eats up hundred of millions of dollars from our state's treasury that have already been committed to our schools or other public services.)

Our thanks to the state's paper of record for rejecting the folly that is Initiative 985 and recognizing the true spirit of Initiative 1000.

Learning about the downballot races

It's easy to be overwhelmed by all the races represented on the November ballot, especially during a General Election. Many people, myself included, tend to rely heavily on the Voter Pamphlet when voting on local issues and candidates. It seems intuitive that there would be a tendency to go with name recognition, which would favor incumbents, and research does back this up.

An article in today's P-I reports on statewide races and cites Todd Donovan, a political scientist at Western Washington University.

He points out that many voters don't know what the duties of a particular office are, and do vote in such a way that incumbents are favored.

A survey by local pollster Stuart Elway shows support for incumbents, but also reveals that many voters are remain undecided, a month before the election. Even by election time, some of them are actually likely to leave the downballot spaces blank!

The article goes on to highlight the downballot races and we will be following them here on The Advocate. The races discussed by the P-I were Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Lands Commissioner, Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Secretary of State, Auditor and Insurance Commissioner.

Washingtonians need to take an increased interest in these races, because the outcome influences our lives more directly than most of us realize.

Biden, Body Language, and Pasting Palin

In a prior post, I examined how Barack Obama's body language in the first presidential debate exuded presidential confidence and a position of power. I contrasted it to John McCain's body language, which came across as deferential to Obama's superior presence.

After watching Joe Biden debate Sarah Palin, as well as portions of Katie Couric's interview and the SNL spoof of the same, I thought it would be fun to perform a similar analysis. I am not going to get into there general performances, but will focus instead on the subtle nuances.

Let's start with Biden. During some of Palin's "oh gosh, that's just that Washington insider stuff again", he exhaled deeply and loudly. Whether it was planned or an expression of sheer exasperation I cannot say; I can say that I've done that plenty of times when cross-examining a witness who just will NOT answer the question. Quite a few times the split screen CNN cameras caught Biden shaking his head in disbelief, presumably over Palin's complete and utter lack of ability or desire to say anything more specific than that she was McCain's running mate.

I'm not sure how well it went over with undecideds, but I though Biden's use of the phrase "let me say that again . . . ." came across as impatient Palin's half-truths and flat out refusal to engage in anything remotely like a debate.

For me, Palin's body language and facial expressions came across as worthy of an elected executive--the mayor of a small town rather than the Republican nominee for vice president.

Whether others feel Biden ran roughshod over Palin's lack of knowledge on anything other than ruining Alaska's environment to "drill baby drill" for oil I cannot say. I can say that she came across to me as someone who, when asked to write an essay on all she knows about foreign affairs and the national economy, leaves the pages blank. In her mind, and it seems like in the mind of McCain's campaign team, she answered the question perfectly--an empty page does represent all she knows about foreign affairs and the national economy.

You can't see my body language right now, so I'll use words and be direct in communicating directly what I think Governor Palin brings to the table as a vice presidential candidate: a blank page.

Progressive justice in the twenty first century: Part four 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 been following this series so far, the you know all you need to know to follow along with this part. I'd like to look at a day in the life of three typical MHC cases: one that originates at the booking/in-custody arraignment; one that has been in the court and the defendant is ready to be released on a trial run basis, and one who opts in fully to the court. Each example assumes that the person is competent to stand trial, and is capable of knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently signing a medical release of information (ROI).

Let's explore the in-custody arraignment, or first appearance. That is where most MHC referrals are made. The case would be set over from the morning jail calendar to the afternoon MHC calendar. The defendant would be arraigned and bail would be set just as it would in the jail, except that the location is a regular courtroom, which is much more respectful than the jail. The MHC liaison would talk with the defendant, as would the public defender handling that day's arraignments.

If the defendant is potentially a good fit for the court, he/she will be asked to sign a "release of information", or ROI. The ROI authorizes the defense and prosecution, along with the MHC liaison, defense social worker, to have access to and discuss the defendant's mental health situation and suitability for MHC in greater detail. The defendant has a choice of whether to sign an ROI. His or her choice to keep such personal information private will always be honored, but without that information the defendant will not be offered the possibility of MHC.

If things look good, the MHC liaison will begin putting together a release plan so that the defendant can be released from jail into clean and sober housing and mental health treatment. The case will be continued for a sufficient time to enable the MHC court liaison to make the proper arrangements. That may require that the defendant wait in jail. From the prosecution perspective, public safety is better protected by holding the defendant in jail until a stable release plan is in place. From the defendant's perspective, it may be better to wait for a stable release plan than to be released to the streets with no place to go and not treatment plan in place.

That brings us to the second example: the defendant who is ready for a trial run. Even if a beneficial release plan is in place, both prosecution and defense may want to see how the defendant would fare in mental health court before committing for the two-year probation period. For the prosecutor, the question is whether the defendant is a able to comply, which would justify offering MHC's benefits in exchange for a more creative case resolution. For the defense, it is better to learn in advance whether committing to MHC would be setting up the defendant to fail. The court liaison sets up "conditions of release", or CORs, which are similar to the conditions the defendant would abide by upon final resolution of the case.

We have now reached the third example: the defendant who, having done well on is ready to "opt in" to MHC by resolving the case. The defendant commits to two years of intensive monitoring, but also reaps the benefits of having MHPs on his or her side, helping to find housing and treatment, and navigating the difficulties of finding funding to pay for it all. The prosecution may require a guilty plea but request less jail time, or may offer a form of diversion in which the case is continued for two years and, if the defendant completes the conditions, the case is dismissed. For me personally as a prosecutor, I base my decision on a combination of what traditional prosecution concerns. On the traditional side, accountability for criminal behavior, public safety, and the need to have a person's criminal history reflect their criminal behavior. On the therapeutic justice side, a resolution that gives the defendant the best chance to succeed on probation, which will decrease the seriousness and/or frequency of the defendant's criminal behavior.

MHC is not a plea mill. Defendants who opt in sign on for a rigorous two years of monitored treatment. But one of the most fulfilling things than I get to see in MHC is a defendant "graduating" from the court. There is nothing more rewarding than to see rehabilitation work. Society benefits in terms of increased safety and reduced criminal behavior from the defendant, as well as its desire to act humanely. The defendant benefits by being able to live a better life outside of jail.

Given the population of defendants in MHC, it would be naive indeed to expect 100% compliance over a two year period. The next part in this series will explore what creative and therapeutic sanctions are available to meet everyone's goal of reducing the defendant's criminal behavior.

That's all for now.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Inslee, Baird again explain their bailout votes

Back on Monday, Representatives Inslee and Baird released statements outlining their respective views on the bailout bill demanded by the Bush administration. Today, following this second (and successful) House vote, both Democrats again tried to explain the thinking behind their vote.

Here is Representative Inslee:
Our credit challenge is real, but this plan was both inadequate and inequitable. It protected neither the taxpayer nor the need to address the underlying reason for this credit crisis - the collapse of the housing market.

We are now reaping the bitter wind of the great irresponsibility of Wall Street. It’s not enough to have a provision asking for some unidentified President to present some unidentified plan to take back taxpayer money from Wall Street.

It was an illusion of protection. We also must do more to help people stay in their homes by addressing the root of this financial crisis, the collapse in the housing markets. We should work for a plan to require that taxpayers get what Warren Buffet gets - equity.

I repeat that I am willing to stay here and keep working for a bill that works for taxpayers and addresses the real problem. The fundamental problem is the housing crisis and the effect is it having on American families and homeowners.

I realize the need to find consensus and I hope this plan works to firm up credit, but this plan is far short of what the American people need.
And here is Representative Baird:
In the past week, I have received thousands of emails and hundreds of calls from folks in Southwest Washington. People are understandably concerned and angry about this situation. I share their concern, and their anger.

However, when the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve both said we could soon face conditions worse than the Great Depression, doing nothing was not an option.

If do not act millions of people will lose their jobs, their retirement savings, their businesses and farms will disappear and a financial catastrophe will ensue. We’ve been put in a terrible situation. While this bill is far from perfect, it will help prevent the current economic crisis from getting worse.
So there are your two perspectives - one from Camp Nuh-uh and one from Camp Hafta, as Daily Kos has characterized it. Maybe Camp Nuh-uh should be called Camp We Need Better Plan, because many who voted against this bill - like Jay Inslee - are for taking proactive action that addresses the causes of this crisis instead of just attempting to throw money we don't even have at the symptoms.

U.S. House passes bailout bill with sweeteners added, WA's McDermott joins No camp

A few minutes ago, enough members of the United States House were finally coerced into voting for the Bush administration's bailout legislation to get it through Congress. The final vote was 263 for and 171 against.

H.R. 1424 (Final Vote on October 3rd, 2008 - 1:22 PM)
Question: On Motion to Concur in Senate Amendments
Bill Title: Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

Breakdown was 172 Democrats for, plus 91 Republicans, and 63 Democrats against, plus 108 Republicans. Leadership of both parties favored the bill.

The Washington State delegation's votes did not change from Monday with one notable exception - Jim McDermott apparently had a change of heart and has decided not to authorize a government-funded Wall Street giveaway.

So the final tally: Representatives Jay Inslee, Dave Reichert, Jim McDermott, Doc Hastings, and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers voted no while Representatives Adam Smith, Brian Baird, Rick Larsen, and Norm Dicks voted yes.

In Oregon, Representatives David Wu, Darlene Hooley, and Greg Walden voted yes while Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer voted no. Idaho's delegation was also split: Representative Mike Simpson voted yes while Bill Sali voted no.

UPDATE: An excerpt from McDermott's statement:
The other day I said I voted in favor of the House bailout bill because I trusted Democratic leaders who worked tirelessly to represent Main Street. I still do, but Senate Republicans changed all that.

When Republicans force a bill that ignores the plight of Americans, but includes so-called sweeteners, that is not worthy of support. When Republicans force a bill that slips in more earmark spending, that is not worthy of support.

When Republicans force a bill through that includes an accounting gimmick, that is not worthy of support. The Senate dug an enormous ditch alongside Main Street, and they want the House to drive into it.
Gotta watch out for those "sweeteners"...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Liveblogging the vice presidential debate

The first and only vice presidential debate for the 2008 election cycle is about to kick off in St. Louis between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. It will be moderated by Gwen Ifill of PBS, running ninety minutes and covering a wide range of topics.

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

First question is about the bailout bill that just passed the Senate last night but failed to clear the House on Monday.

Biden: Contrasted how Senator Obama has responded to the crisis with John McCain's erratic and flimsy position.

Palin: Claims she and McCain are reformers who will make everything better. If only America will be foolish enough to elect them...

Second question is about shrinking polarization and reducing partisanship.

Biden: Has a long record of reaching across the aisle, working to solve problems. But we can't solve a problem that we don't admit exists. Reminds viewers that John McCain recently said "the fundamentals of our economy strong" the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch was sold.

Palin: McCain was talking about the American workforce when he said "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." So, um, Sarah, why didn't he just say, "All hail the American worker!"

Third question: Who is to blame for the subprime mortgage crisis?

Palin: Lenders are to blame. There is greed and corruption on Wall Street and John McCain and I will stop it. An obligatory "hockey mom" reference.

Biden: Barack Obama warned of this crisis years ago while John McCain told the Wall Street Journal he was always for deregulation. John McCain's right wing economic philosophy has failed. The middle class is paying more than its fair share in taxes and Barack Obama will help families meet

Palin: Claimed Obama voted "ninety four times" to increase taxes.

Biden: Under Palin's deceptive standard, John McCain would have voted to increase taxes more than four hundred times.

Next question continues the discussion about taxes.

Biden: This is about fairness. Families who make less than $250,000 will . John McCain wants to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to America's wealthiest and major corporations.

Palin: Attacked Biden for saying that it's patriotic to pay taxes. Espoused the right wing principle that "government is the problem".

Biden: Refuted the lie that most small business owners would be asked to pay more under the fiscal policy of an Obama administration.

Next question: what would the candidates slow down or put on hold?

Biden: We'll probably have to slow down our foreign aid. We need to end loopholes for corporations that purposely

Palin: Didn't answer the question but instead talked about taking on oil companies in Alaska (but "bless them" for the energy they provide).

Biden: Reminded viewers that McCain is for drilling and corporate welfare while Barack Obama supports investing renewable energy. Perhaps Sarah Palin convince John McCain to support a windfall tax on oil companies.

Next question is about bankruptcy.

Biden: There are relief measures that we could implement that would help banks and borrowers, but the Bush administration and the right wing doesn't want those on the table.

Palin: Ignored the question and started talking about energy policy again. Slammed "East Coast states" for not allowing Alaska to drill for all the oil it wants. (Sounds like she is talking about the Arctic Refuge).

Next question is about the climate crisis.

Palin: Doesn't want to argue about the causes, wants to address the consequences, presumably by increasing emissions through the burning of the oil that we're going to be drilling if McCain and Palin get elected.

Biden: You can't come up with a solution if you don't understand the cause. John McCain has voted over twenty times in the last few decades against funding renewable energy sources which are the solution.

Next question is about gay marriage.

Palin: Doesn't support marriage equality, but claims she wouldn't attempt to restrict the rights of gay couples.

Biden: Doesn't support redefining the legal definition of marriage. Will take Sarah Palin "at her word" when she says she doesn't want to abridge civil rights for gays.

Next question is about Iraq.

Biden: We need a timetable and a plan to responsibly exit Iraq.

Palin: Sharply assails the Democratic ticket for not supporting Bush's policy. Joe Biden and Barack Obama want to wave a white flag and surrender in Iraq (by um, giving Iraq back to the Iraqis).

Which is a bigger threat - a nuclear Iran or an unstable Pakistan?

Biden: Pakistan needs our attention because the open and porous border with Afghanistan is where al Qaeda is hiding.

Palin: Both Iran and Pakistan are threats that must be dealt with. Didn't provide many specifics.

Next question is about sitting down at the table with adversaries.

Palin: Paraphrased John McCain's attacks on Barack Obama for being willing to talk to our enemies. Because, apparently, talk is for chumps.

Biden: Defended a strong commitment to diplomacy, explaining that Barack Obama will restore our respect abroad and reestablish ties with alienated allies. Mocked John McCain for saying several weeks ago that he wouldn't meet with leaders in Spain, a NATO member.

Next question is about Israel.

Palin: Israel deserves our full and unwavering support.

Biden: The administration's policy in the Middle East has been an utter failure. Says slowly and forcefully “No one in the United States Senate has been a better friend of Israel than Joe Biden.”

What about genocide? When are interventions abroad justified?

Biden: We can save tens of thousands of lives by intervening abroad when appropriate. We need to address the crisis in Darfur.

Palin: Agrees on Darfur, but again assails Biden for not wanting to continue George W. Bush's disastrous foreign policy.

If you become President, what would your priorities be?

Biden: Barack Obama and I share the same priorities. Were I to become president, I would work to implement all of his major initiatives: a more effective government, a more prosperous economy, a stronger military, a fairer healthcare system, and greater opportunity for all.

Palin: Would continue most of John McCain's Bush-style policies, but since they're both mavericks (ahem) she might change some priorities.

What is the role of the Vice President?

Palin: Endorses Cheney's distorted view of the vice president's office, being somehow split between the executive and legislative branch.

Biden: Forcefully refutes Palin's nonsense. Dick Cheney has been one of the most dangerous vice presidents in American history. Says Cheney ought to know that the vice president is the president's deputy and is part of the executive branch. Reminds viewers that the vice president has no power over Congress except to break tie votes in the Senate.

What is your Achilles' heel as a candidate?

Palin: Aw's so tough being a mom, with kids heading off to college, but ready for the job (despite be "unprepared").

Biden: Passionate, but as someone with thirty years of public service, he has the wisdom and the judgment to be vice president.

Closing statements!

Palin: We are so blessed to be Americans. We have to fight for economic freedom and national security freedom (nice phrasing, Sarah). Again cites Reagan. John McCain is the only guy who has ever fought for you.

Biden: There's a need for fundamental change in this country. The 2008 election is the most important of our lifetimes. The Obama-Biden administration will measure progress by whether any American families can live the American dream and build a better future for themselves.

And with that, we're done!

John McCain concedes Michigan

Those 17 electoral votes in Michigan are now likely safe in the Barack Obama column, since John McCain's campaign is pulling all of its resources out of the state.
John McCain is pulling out of Michigan, according to two Republicans, a stunning move a month away from Election Day that indicates the difficulty Republicans are having in finding blue states to put in play.

McCain will go off TV in Michigan, stop dropping mail there and send most of his staff to more competitive states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida. Wisconsin went for Kerry in 2004, Ohio and Florida for Bush.

A McCain aide confirmed the move and chalked it up to the state's Democratic tilt and the resources Obama had put in place there.
Of course, Republican allied interest groups will still run independent expenditures against Barack Obama in Michigan, but this is a good sign for the Obama campaign.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Senator Maria Cantwell says bailout bill before Congress is flawed to its core

Minutes ago, the United States Senate voted seventy four to twenty five to pass fundamentally flawed legislation that would bail out Wall Street's mistakes to the tune of nearly three fourths of a trillion dollars.

Ken posted the roll call earlier

Voting yes were Senators Patty Murray, Larry Craig and Gordon Smith. Voting no were Senators Maria Cantwell, Mike Crapo and Ron Wyden.

Senators Obama and McCain voted yes.

The following is the text of Senator Cantwell's unprepared remarks (delivered earlier this evening on the Senate floor) calling for a redesigned solution that addresses the causes of this financial crisis - a solution that safeguards America's common wealth and holds Wall Street accountable.
Mr. President, I don't think 5 minutes would possibly be enough time for me to explain all the things I would like to say. I am sure I could spend an hour talking about credit default swaps. I am sure I could spend 2 days talking about the lack of transparency in the financial markets.

I am sure I could spend a lot of time explaining what I think is the right thing we should do to put as much liquidity into the markets as possible. So I will try to be succinct.

I came to the Senate knowing what it is like to take a tough vote. To make the decision that is right for the American public. It’s most important to do the right thing. I also know what it is like to see millions of dollars in the stock market go away and watch a stock bubble burst.

I also know what it is like to stand on the Senate floor, as I did 3 years ago, when someone tried to cram legislation in the Defense authorization bill to open up drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and I said then that is was the equivalent to legislative blackmail.

I am not going to vote for this legislation tonight based on whether someone crams in tax credits, for which I actually have fought so hard. I am going to render my decision based on what I think is important for the American people.

I think there is something that is missing in our discussion. I applaud Chairman Dodd who has worked hard on the Banking Committee. I applaud my colleague who just spoke, who spoke eloquently about the need to do something.

But the problem with the legislation before us is that it is choosing winners and losers in corporate America. It is inserting the Federal Government in a role in which they decide, along with the private sector, exactly how funds should be allocated.

I am for the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government backing these institutions. What I am not for is turning the keys to the Treasury over to the private sector.

There is much we could agree on tonight. We could agree on the new changes to the FDIC rule. We could agree on mark to market accounting changes and to bringing better marketing and accountability to the system.

We could agree on the up-tick rule and other predictability measures that help the market understand that there is a broad commitment by this institution to do something to help stabilize the markets.

But I am very concerned about the "pick here, pick there" approach that has transpired in the last several weeks.

I ask you to just think of one institution, in my State, Washington Mutual - which I would not necessarily applaud for its subprime lending rates or for its use and backing of credit default swaps, but I would ask you to consider the fact that as that institution was forced into sale by this Government.

Who were the winners and losers in that?

JPMorgan got the assets of that institution and benefited from that. In fact, JPMorgan predicted to me on a conference call the night they acquired Washington Mutual that after one year with their investment, they would have an over $500 million on that investment. That is a 27 percent returned in one year.

The FDIC got some money out of that, too. And then to say nothing about the over 60,000 shareholders who were wiped out.

My complaint is: where is JPMorgan - who should be standing up for the retirement plans, the deferred compensation plans, and other packages that the employees at that company were due?

It is very convenient for us to now choose that we are going to add to JPMorgan's bottom line. In fact, if we would instead do what I am suggesting, we could have an equity proposal instead of having TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, as the roof over America.

Instead, we could have an equity program where the United States would leverage our capital and spur ten to twelve times the private sector investment at the same time, our Nation would be better funded, better prepared, for the onslaught of trouble that is still going to remain after we pass this legislation.

I could not even get my amendment to be considered.

So, so much for the transparency of the Senate.

I am going to continue to work for this idea, for equity, for a more leveraged position, and that we do the traditional role that Government has done time and time again: to use our equity to leverage the private sector to secure our economy.

Thank you Mr. President, and I yield the floor.
We at at the Northwest Progressive Institute strongly applaud Senator Maria Cantwell for her courageous vote.

She is a dependable champion for the public interest, and her speech tonight (which was not prepared in advance) is filled with uncommon sense.

Barack Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership would be wise to listen to the very serious concerns that Senator Cantwell raised.

If this bailout bill is supposed to be a cure, it's almost worse than the disease that caused it. This is not the timely, deliberative reform that America needs.

Senator Patty Murray statement on bailout

Below is the full text of a press release from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) regarding the bailout plan passed by the Senate this evening. Senator Murray voted yes on the bill.

“Today communities across America, and far from Wall Street, are hurting. Families are struggling to fill up the tank, to afford health care and to send their kids to college. And even if they’ve played by the rules, paid their bills on time and have good credit, they are now at risk because of the Bush Administration’s failure to rein in Wall Street greed.

“People want to know if this crisis is real. I have asked the same question of Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke. I have spoken with economic experts and Washington state business leaders. Companies like Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft and Avista have made it clear that something must be done. Homebuilders and farmers have contacted me asking Congress to act. But, most compelling to me are the conversations I’ve had with Washington residents who want to buy a home or get student loans and are worried. They are having a hard time getting credit and they don’t know what to do.

“Across the board there is deep and genuine concern about market collapse and the potential impact on jobs, credit and retirement accounts.

“But what makes taxpayers across the country so rightfully angry is that this situation was preventable. I have heard from thousands of Washington residents who say, ‘don’t bail them out.’

“I understand the anger of those who want to let Wall Street shoulder the consequences of their own misdeeds. I am angry too. But the reality is that those who created the problem won’t be those who are hurt most. The hardest hits will be taken by average Americans.

“We have already experienced a slowdown in home sales and construction. Our hometown bank, Washington Mutual, has faltered and failed. It’s becoming more difficult to get a loan or to refinance a home. But if this crisis worsens, credit could dry up completely – both for consumers and for companies seeking to make their payrolls. The bottom line is that without a steady stream of credit, American businesses can’t pay their workers and Americans will lose their jobs. That’s why a rescue plan is urgently needed.

“This is not the legislation I would have written. It’s not legislation I wanted to support. But this is not the time to tell America’s families, ‘Sorry, you’re on your own’ and hope for the best. And that’s why I support the bill we’ll vote on today.

“The President’s plan was a non-starter. We said no to his blank check. No to free rein with billions of taxpayer dollars. No to golden parachutes. What we hope to pass today is a more prudent agreement to anchor rescue dollars to strict Congressional oversight and review by independent economic experts. We added taxpayer protections including help for families hit by the foreclosure crisis and plans to recoup money from any institutions that see a profit. And in the end, we hope that most, if not all of the taxpayer money we’re investing will be returned once this crisis comes to a close.

“Congress has to be vigilant in our oversight of how this law is implemented. Every transaction that takes place regarding this funding will be on the Internet for all Americans to see. And I strongly support the FBI’s investigation into the current crisis on Wall Street. If fraud and criminal activity are uncovered, the individuals responsible must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“We also have to take a hard look at the factors that brought us to this point and seriously address them. Congress must hold hearings on the causes of this crisis and the regulation reform that is desperately needed. The next administration has to work with Congress to pass and implement new regulatory measures so that taxpayers are never put in this terrible position again.

“This package is not a cure-all. It’s an attempt to keep an already bad situation from getting much worse.

“Americans who are hurting today will still be hurting tomorrow and it will take both investment and honesty to get our economy back on track. We’ve seen where a ‘you-can-have-it-all’ attitude has left us. The next administration will inherit this economic crisis along with many other serious challenges. I hope our new President is honest with the American people about where we stand and what it will take to move America forward.

“We know what it will take to move forward and get back on our feet. We have to invest in the infrastructure and education that creates economic growth and jobs. We have to value our workforce and find a way to make health care affordable and accessible. We have to invest in research and development and reward innovation. We have to implement a smart, forward-looking energy policy that ends our addiction to foreign oil once and for all. It’s time to put America’s families first and restore their faith that government works for, not against, them.

“I grew up with a country at my back – one that when my own father got sick and could no longer work was there with Pell grants and student loans and even food stamps when we needed them. I will always remember that. I will support this rescue package because the American dream of owning a home or going to college is simply too important to take a back seat to politics or to be put at risk by the misdeeds of Wall Street.”

Reaction on the bailout from around the Senate

Here are excerpts of some of the statements made by Democratic Senators on the bailout this evening.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who voted no:
"This bill does not effectively address the issue of what the taxpayers of our country will actually own after they invest hundreds of billions of dollars in toxic assets. This bill does not effectively address the issue of oversight because the oversight board members have all been hand picked by the Bush administration. This bill does not effectively deal with the issue of foreclosures and addressing that very serious issue, which is impacting millions of low- and moderate-income Americans in the aggressive, effective way that we should be. This bill does not effectively deal with the issue of executive compensation and golden parachutes. Under this bill, the CEOs and the Wall Street insiders will still, with a little bit of imagination, continue to make out like bandits.

"This bill does not deal at all with how we got into this crisis in the first place and the need to undo the deregulatory fervor which created trillions of dollars in complicated and unregulated financial instruments such as credit default swaps and hedge funds. This bill does not address the issue that has taken us to where we are today, the concept of too big to fail. In fact, within the last several weeks we have sat idly by and watched gigantic financial institutions like the Bank of America swallow up other gigantic financial institutions like Countrywide and Merrill Lynch. Well, who is going to bail out the Bank of America if it begins to fail? There is not one word about the issue of too big to fail in this legislation at a time when that problem is in fact becoming even more serious.

"This bill does not deal with the absurdity of having the fox guarding the hen house. Maybe I'm the only person in America who thinks so, but I have a hard time understanding why we are giving $700 billion to the Secretary of the Treasury, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, who along with other financial institutions, actually got us into this problem. Now, maybe I'm the only person in America who thinks that's a little bit weird, but that is what I think.
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) who voted yes on the bill:
Failure to act would make today’s economic cloud even bigger, and more dangerous.

Failure to act could unleash the lightning bolts of recession and a downpour of unemployment.

Failure to act could turn this cloud into a storm that tears through our entire economy.
The plan in front of us is not perfect. I wish that we did not need it. I know that many Americans do not want it.

But this is the best way to quickly disperse this economic cloud and guard against a bigger storm. Like it or not, we must have a plan big enough to counter our economic woes in a systematic, comprehensive way.

I will vote for this legislation because America is under a cloud — and we cannot linger here. Congress must make sure that this crisis does not get worse.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) who voted no:
“In 2004, Congress rushed through the process of authorizing the Iraq war, failed to verify the answers to the questions it received from the Bush administration, and five years later we have spent over $600 billion on the war in Iraq.

“Now, in 2008, we have been rushed into voting on a package that would spend $700 billion in a far shorter period of time to address the credit crisis that threatens our markets. In my judgment, the bill we are considering tonight leaves far too many questions unanswered, and misses the mark in addressing both the causes and potential cures for the current crisis.

“First, the bailout package provides help to large institutional investors who took foolish risks. Rather than extending assistance to get credit flowing at appropriate levels again to shore up confidence in our markets, it is likely that much of this money will go to those who don’t deserve a taxpayer bailout for their miscalculations. Wealthy investors, who ought to know better, shouldn’t be allowed to gamble with taxpayer money.

“Second, the Senate in this package is still failing to address any of the regulatory lapses that created an environment ripe for greed-driven abuses. There should, at a minimum, be a commitment to votes on reigning in the worst abuses that led to this crisis.

“And third, there is not one bit of assistance in this package for homeowners struggling to make ends meet. My constituents don’t understand that, and neither do I.
Senator Joe Lieberman (Party of One) who "voted for and strongly supported" the bailout:
“This evening, the Senate took a meaningful step toward reversing the current economic crisis while protecting the interests of American taxpayers,” said Lieberman. “Restoring confidence in our financial system is critical to all Americans. Workers rely on the markets for their retirement security, and for the financing of their homes, their cars, and their children’s college tuition. Small and large businesses rely on the credit markets to keep their companies running and their employees paid. The Senate’s bipartisan vote sends a clear signal that the time has come to set aside partisanship and act in the nation’s interest by sending this critical legislation to the President as soon as possible.”
And finally, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton who seemed to be waving the white flag as she voted yes on the bailout:
“Tonight we will vote on legislation none of us wish we were considering and none of us can afford to see fail. The costs of inaction are far too great. We are already seeing the consequences of a freezing credit market that will only worsen,” Senator Clinton said. “We failed to tackle a home mortgage crisis, and now we are facing a market crisis. If we fail to tackle the market crisis, we risk an even deeper economic crisis. I don’t think any of us want to see irresponsibility on Wall Street compounded by ineffectiveness in Washington. That’s why we must act, even as we do so with regret and reservations, because we have little choice.”

Senator Barack Obama on the bailout

Below is the full text of the remarks of Senator Barack Obama, as prepared for delivery on the Senate floor today. Senator Obama voted yes to approve the bailout.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Barack Obama today made the following statement on the Senate floor on the Emergency Economic Stabilization legislation (H.R. 1424), which is being voted on in the Senate later this evening:

As prepared for delivery:

"The fact that we are even here voting on a plan to rescue our economy from the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street and Washington is an outrage. It is an outrage to every American who works hard and pays their taxes and is doing their best every day to make a better life for themselves and their families. They are angry that Wall Street's mistakes have put their tax dollars at risk, and they should be. I am too.

But while there is plenty of blame to go around and many in Washington and on Wall Street who deserve it, all of us - all of us - have a responsibility to solve this crisis because it affects the financial well-being of every single American. There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out.

When the House of Representatives failed to act on Monday, we saw the single largest decline of the stock market in two decades. Over one trillion dollars of wealth was lost by the time the markets closed. And it wasn't just the wealth of a few CEOs or Wall Street executives. The 401Ks and retirement accounts that millions count on for their family's future became smaller. The state pension funds of teachers and government employees lost billions upon billions of dollars. Hardworking Americans who invested their nest egg to watch it grow saw it disappear.

But while that decline was devastating, the consequences of the credit crisis that caused it will be even worse if we do not act now.

We are in a very dangerous situation where financial institutions across this country are afraid to lend money. And if all that meant was the failure of a few big banks on Wall Street, it would be one thing.

But that's not what it means. What it means is that if we do not act, it will be harder for Americans to get a mortgage for their home or the loans they need to buy a car or send their children to college. What it means is that businesses won't be able to get the loans they need to open new factories or make payroll for their workers. And if they can't make payroll on Friday, then workers are laid-off on Monday. And then those workers can't pay their bills or pay back their loans to someone else. And it will go and on and on and on, rippling through the entire economy. Thousands of businesses could close. Millions of jobs could be lost. A long and painful recession could follow.

This is not just a Wall Street crisis - it's an American crisis, and it's the American economy that needs this rescue plan. I understand why people would be skeptical when this President asked for a blank check to solve this problem. I was too, and that's why over a week ago, I demanded that this plan include specific proposals to protect the American taxpayer - protections that the Administration eventually agreed to, as well as Democrats and Republicans here in the Senate and over in the House.

First, I said we needed an independent board to provide oversight and accountability for how and where this money is spent at every step of the way.

Second, I said that we cannot help banks on Wall Street without helping the millions of innocent homeowners who are struggling to stay in their homes. They deserve a plan too.

Third, I said that I would not allow this plan to become a welfare program for the Wall Street executives whose greed and irresponsibility got us into this mess.

And finally, I said that if American taxpayers are financing this solution, then they should be treated like investors - they should get every penny of their tax dollars back once this economy recovers.

This last part is important, because it's been the most misunderstood and poorly communicated part of this plan. This is not a plan to just hand over $700 billion of taxpayer money to a few banks. If this is managed correctly, we will hopefully get most or all of our money back, or possibly even turn a profit on the government's investment - every penny of which will go directly back to the American people. And if we fall short, we will levy a fee on financial institutions so that they can repay us for the losses they caused.

Even with all these taxpayer protections, this plan is not perfect. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have legitimate concerns about it. I know many Americans share those concerns. But it is clear that this is what we must do right now to prevent a crisis from turning into a catastrophe. And to the Democrats and Republicans who have opposed this plan, I say - step up to the plate and do what's right for the country, because the time to act is now.

I know many Americans are wondering what happens next. Passing this bill cannot be the end of our work to strengthen our economy - it must be the beginning.

As soon as we pass this rescue plan, we need to move with the same sense of urgency to rescue families on Main Street who are struggling to pay their bills and keep their jobs. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need to pass an economic stimulus plan that will help folks cope with rising food and gas prices, save one million jobs by rebuilding our schools and roads, and help states and cities avoid budget cuts and tax increases. A plan that would extend expiring unemployment benefits for those Americans who've lost their jobs and cannot find new ones.

We also must do more than this rescue package does to help homeowners stay in their homes. I will continue to advocate bankruptcy reforms to help families stay in their homes and encourage Treasury to study the option of buying individual mortgages like we did successfully in the 1930s. Finally, while we will all hope that this rescue package succeeds, we should be prepared to take more vigorous actions in the months ahead to rebuild capital if necessary.

Just as families are planning for their future in tough times, Washington will have to do the same. Run-away spending and record deficits are not how families run their budgets, and it can't be how Washington handles people's tax dollars. It's time to return to the fiscal responsibility we had in the 1990s. We need to go through the budget, get rid of programs that don't work and make the ones we do need work better and cost less. With less money flowing into the Treasury, some useful programs or policies might need to be delayed in the years ahead.

But there are certain investments in our future that we cannot delay precisely because our economy is in turmoil. We cannot wait to help Americans keep up with rising costs and shrinking paychecks by giving our workers a middle-class tax cut. We cannot wait to relieve the burden of crushing health care costs. We cannot wait to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our roads and our bridges and investing in the renewable sources of energy that will stop us from sending $700 billion a year to tyrants and dictators for their oil. And we cannot wait to educate the next generation of Americans with the skills and knowledge they need to compete with any workers, anywhere in the world. Those are the priorities we cannot delay.

I won't pretend this will be easy or come without cost. We will all need to sacrifice and we will all need to pull our weight because now more than ever, we are all in this together. What this crisis has taught us is that at the end of the day, there is no real separation between Main Street and Wall Street. There is only the road we're traveling on as Americans - and we will rise or fall on that journey as one nation; as one people.

I know that many Americans are feeling anxiety right now - about their jobs, about their homes, about their life savings. But I also know this - I know that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. We always have.

During the great financial crisis of the last century, in his first fireside chat, Franklin Roosevelt told his fellow Americans that "..there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people themselves. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. Let us unite in banishing fear. Together, we cannot fail."

We cannot fail. Not now. This is a nation that has faced down war and depression; great challenges and great threats. And at each and every moment, we have risen to meet these challenges - not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans. With resolve. With confidence. With that fundamental belief that here in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us. That's who we are, and that's the country I know we can be right now.

I want to thank the extraordinary leadership of Chairman Dodd and the Banking Committee as well as Chairman Baucus and Majority Leader Reid. I also want to thank the leadership in the House of Representatives.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation."

Liveblog: Senate bailout vote

The vote in the U.S. Senate, which just concluded, was 74-25 in favor of the bailout. Senator Ted Kennedy did not vote. Technically, the vote was to approve the amendment to the House bill before the Senate. A second vote on final passage of the bill, which Senator Harry Reid has noted will be the same, is currently ongoing on the floor of the Senate.

As for Northwest Senators, here is how they voted:

Senator Maria Cantwell voted no .
Senator Larry Craig voted yes.
Senator Mike Crapo voted no.
Senator Patty Murray voted yes .
Senator Gordon Smith voted yes.
Senator Ron Wyden voted no.

Thank you to Senators Cantwell, Crapo and Wyden for their no votes. Senator Cantwell, in particular, gave a great speech on the floor earlier today, one we're told was not from prepared remarks. We'll post the full text as soon as we receive it.

And though he's not in Washington, Oregon or Idaho, thanks also to Senator Jon Tester of Montana for his no vote. Jon is one of those Better Democrats who got elected in 2006. We need more like him.

Stay tuned to The Advocate for more coverage.

Gregoire/Rossi tangle tonight

As a nice warm-up before tomorrow's Biden/Palin face-off, you can catch the third debate between Governor Gregoire and her opponent Dino Rossi tonight at 7 p.m. on your local PBS station. The event will be held in Yakima and KCTS 9's Enrique Cerna will moderate.

Washington voters will be watching for more substance and less hostility from the two candidates. If Cerna has been catching the news, maybe Rossi will be asked to explain his Buildergate involvement.

Rossi denies involvement in Buildergate

Progressive advocacy group Fuse provides excellent coverage of Rossi's involvement in the BIAW's illegal fundraising scheme, complete with online references for the truly wonky.

It's all there, the legal documents, the Master Builders Association meeting minutes, and it's plain to this observer that Dino Rossi was indeed soliciting campaign funding from top MBA officers, despite his ludicrous claims to the contrary.

Here's Rossi defending his phone calls to three MBA officers from today's front page of the Seattle P-I:

...Rossi said the calls had nothing to do with a campaign because he was not running for office at that time.

Asked if he had solicited money, he said: "No."

Instead, Rossi said he had called on behalf of the BIAW to mediate in a dispute between the two organizations.

"They are not always on the same page," he said. "Before I decided to run for governor, they asked me to come in and talk to them and see if they could put the relationship back together again. In the end it didn't work. They both ended up going their separate ways because they have different realities."

It's clear from the context in the MBA meeting minutes that Rossi's calls addressed campaign funding and his so-called mediation was so insignificant that it was not even worth mentioning at that same board meeting. I think that future evidence will catch Rossi in this rather obvious lie.

To get to the bottom of the matter, it's important that there is no conflict of interest in the attorney general's office. Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna's close relationship with the BIAW creates this conflict. NPI urges McKenna to appoint an independent special prosecutor to handle the case.

The BIAW's tentacles reach too many corners of our state's political system for our comfort.

Burner vs. Reichert: for me, it's personal.

I've written a lot about the race for Washington's 8th Congressional District, and why I want to see Darcy Burner elected as my next representative in the House. A lot of it has to do with Reichert being a rubber-stamp for the Bush administration. That's bad enough, but I've talked about that before.

What I've never talked about before is this--for me, it's personal.

I know firsthand that Dave Reichert simply does not care what happens to me or my family. As a former King County Sheriff, he ran his first election campaign on a law-and-order, safety-oriented platform. His basic message was "I was in law enforcement, so I know how to keep your family safe."

But then in his first term he took votes that specifically placed my children at risk. In 2006, the FDA put new regulations into effect relating to food labeling, having to do with making allergy warnings clearer, stronger, and more specific. The goal was to enable people who are allergic to milk, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, soy, et cetera, to be safer about what they eat.

A bread production line, for example, may bake loaves for several different recipes. Some recipes may be dairy free, other not. One recipe might be a raisin-nut loaf, while another is plain white bread. Some people are so severely allergic to nuts, for example, that cross-contamination from a batch of bread for one recipe to a batch for another can give them an allergic reaction. And as anyone who has watched ER or House or any other medical drama show knows, severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can be deadly.

Since just about everything we eat these days is processed in commercial facilities, this matters. Since my kids have allergies to dairy products, nuts, and eggs, this really matters to us.

The food industry didn't especially like these new regulations. They meant extra expense: internal processes necessary to track allergens and determine what products needed to have what specific warnings. The new regulations also allowed states to impose their own, possibly more stringent, warning requirements.

So the food industry fought back. Their lobbyists drafted HR 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act. This bill aimed to take the teeth out of the FDA's efforts to protect consumers. The bill would eliminate the state-by-state portion of the rules, thus effectively forcing America into a lowest common denominator mode of food labeling. "Uniformity" in this case is a code-word for "cheap and profitable."

For a shining few months while the regulations were in effect, my wife and I noticed a difference. Food labels were clearer, more informative, and specific about the particular ingredients that might cause problems for our kids and the specific nature of the risk. We could make informed choices.

Then HR 4167 came up. When I learned about it, I wrote to Congressman Reichert and asked him please not to place the demands of the food industry ahead of my family's safety. Reichert sold us out. Now I know that Senators and Congressmen take votes for all kinds of different reasons, and I just wanted to know what his reason was. So I wrote to him again--an actual on-paper letter, not just e-mail--to ask him why he had voted to make it harder for my wife and I to keep our kids safe.

I started my letter this way:
It is with deep regret, anger, and a sense of betrayal that I learned today of your Aye vote on HR 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act.

And I ended with a request for an explanation:

Yesterday you voted to make my family less safe, despite my plea to you to do otherwise. You owe me an explanation of how your vote for national, lowest-common-denominator standards is better for my family than the rigorous state laws HR 4167 will overturn. It had better be a good one.

I never got a response. None. Dead silence. Crickets chirping. I think that speaks volumes, don't you?

My family's particular challenge is food allergies. What's yours? Do you think for one minute you can trust Dave Reichert to vote in your interests? Or will he vote interests of corporations who fill the RNC's campaign coffers? Here's a hint: the RNC is set to send $1.1 million dollars of that money to Reichert's campaign.

You bet this is personal for me. Sure, Reichert was in law enforcement. But if he does know how to keep our families safe, he sure doesn't vote like it. Dave Reichert has squandered his public trust, and has squandered his precious time in office. He does not deserve another two years on the public's dime. Vote Burner for Congress this November.