Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monthly Archives: April 2011

The second roast of Donald Trump

Readers who are regular viewers of Comedy Central may recall that the network not long ago aired a roast of Donald Trump, the most recent in a series of profanity-laced celebrity roasts that the Viacom subsidiary has sponsored.

Earlier tonight, Trump was unexpectedly roasted for a second time in as many months – except this time, it was President Obama doing the roasting, rather than the likes of Lisa Lampanell, at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Here’s the relevant excerpt:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There’s a vicious rumor floating around that I think could really hurt Mitt Romney. I heard he passed universal healthcare when he was governor of Massachusetts. Someone should get to the bottom of that… and I know just the guy to do it. Donald Trump is here tonight!

Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder, to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter. Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?

All kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example … no seriously, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice – at the steakhouse – the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around, but you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership, and so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meat Loaf… you fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.

Well handled, sir! Well-handled!

Say what you will about Mr. Trump… he certainly would bring some change to the White House. Let’s see what we’ve got up there.

The Donald Trump White House

Donald Trump's White House, as envisioned by President Obama (Courtesy of C-SPAN)

The New York Times reports that Trump did not take kindly to the jokes.

It was almost painful to watch, the juxtaposition of the president, flexing his new post-birther comedy chops, and the real estate mogul-cum-politician, grimacing at his table as Mr. Obama basked in his post-long-form-birth-certificate glow.

Maybe it was painful for the Times’ Helene Cooper, who doesn’t like to see rich white guys being roasted, but I enjoyed watching Trump’s discomfort immensely when the C-SPAN cameras panned to him. Trump deserved to be made fun of at length after all the silly nonsense he’s spouted on radio, cable television, and daytime talk shows. He was practically asking for a ribbing.

And he got one – both from the President and from Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers, the evening’s headliner. Seth wasn’t pulling any punches either:

SETH MEYERS: And then of course there’s Donald Trump. Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke.

Donald Trump often appears on Fox, which is ironic, because a fox often appears on Donald Trump’s head.

If you’re at the Washington Post table with Trump, and you can’t finish your entrée, don’t worry… the fox will eat it.

And if I can, for a moment, talk about the birther issue. When did we get so suspicious about where people were born?

A USA Today poll last week said thirty-eight percent of Americans think the President was definitely born in the U.S. In the same poll – in the very same poll – only five percent more said Donald Trump was definitely born in the U.S. Has it reached the point where Americans only think someone was born here if they saw it?

I know I was born here. And I know my younger brother was born here. But when it comes to my older brother… I can only take him at his word.

Gary Busey said recently that Donald Trump would make a great president. Of course, he said the same thing about an old rusty birdcage he found.

Donald Trump owns the Miss USA pageant, which is great for Republicans, because it will streamline their search for a vice president.

Donald Trump said recently he has a great relationship with the blacks. Though, unless “the Blacks” are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken.

I like that Trump is filthy rich, but nobody told his accent. His whole life is models and gold leaf and marble columns, but he still sounds like a know-it-all down at the O.T.B.

Mr. Trump may not be a good choice for president, but he would definitely make a great press secretary. How much fun would that be?

[imitating Trump]

Kim Jong-il is a loser. His latest rally was a flop. I feel bad for Ahmadinejad. He never… The man wears a windbreaker. He has no class. I, on the other hand, sell my own line of ties. You can find it at Macy’s. In the flammable section.

Through it all, Trump sat stone-faced, intently looking forward, but never laughing (or even looking relaxed) as he was peppered with zingers.

He evidently wasn’t happy that he had become the butt of the night’s best jokes, even though he himself agreed to Comedy Central’s proposition to have some of the country’s most foul-mouthed comedians roast him some time ago.

Then again, being made fun of by Lisa Lampanelli isn’t the same as being made fun of by the President of the United States in front of the White House press corps.

So now we know: Donald Trump can’t stand to be made fun of by people with more credibility than him.

That doesn’t bode well for his supposed presidential aspirations.

Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” released

For the last several years, the end of April has meant another release of Ubuntu (the world’s most popular GNU/Linux distribution), and 2011 is no exception.

Yesterday, Canonical – which sponsors the development of Ubuntu – announced the release of Version 11.04, codenamed “Natty Narwhal”. Natty succeeds Maverick Meerkat, which was released back in October 2010, and brings a host of changes across Ubuntu’s many editions and derivatives.

The change that most people are talking about is the advent of Unity, which is now the default shell in the regular edition of Ubuntu. Unity is not a replacement for Gnome, which has provided Ubuntu’s desktop environment for years; rather, it is a replacement for a part of Gnome. Unity was originally developed as a shell interface for netbooks. Now it’s in the standard flavor of Ubuntu.

Reaction to Canonical’s decision to make Unity a critical component of Ubuntu has been mixed. There are those who love the change, and those who don’t like it at all. And there are a few folks in between. I’m one of them, because I don’t actually use the standard “flavor” of Ubuntu. Instead, I use Kubuntu.

That “K” prefix stands for KDE, a powerful free software compilation that has undergone a long evolution since its creation in 1996.

KDE is actually more than just a desktop environment, which is why the community that develops has begun calling it a software compilation.

Since KDE comes with its own beautiful, feature-rich graphical shell called Plasma Workspaces, Kubuntu has no need for Unity.

(Unity is technically incompatible with the rest of KDE in any case, so even if Kubuntu’s developers wanted to replace Plasma with it, they couldn’t).

Kubuntu users are thus unaffected by the changeover to Unity. But that doesn’t mean that Kubuntu 11.04 is devoid of new features. To the contrary! Kubuntu 11.04 includes KDE 4.6, the most polished incarnation of KDE 4 yet, along with Firefox 4, LibreOffice 3.3.2, and updated versions of every major KDE application (like Amarok, the music player, or KRDC, the remote desktop client).

There are a great many subtle enhancements, from the cleaner and more intuitive task manager to the improved search functions in Dolphin (the file manager). Applications using the GTK toolkit (Firefox, Inkscape) now look much nicer on Kubuntu because they make use of KDE’s Oxygen artwork.

A considerable number of bugs have also been identified and fixed.

Changes common to all Ubuntu flavors include a newer version of the Linux kernel, a newer version of the Server, support for Intel’s Intelligent Power Sharing, and improvements to many major filesystems that Ubuntu supports, including ext4.

“Ubuntu 11.04 offers exciting opportunities for businesses to improve the reliability, security and manageability of desktop, cloud and server deployments, challenging the traditional license or subscription fee model and embracing open-source technology,” said Canonical CEO Jane Silber in a statement.

In my view, Natty is very much a worthwhile upgrade. Although there was some doubt as to whether the Ubuntu developers could get Unity working well by release day, the late reviews of the standard flavor have been generally positive.

And Kubuntu Natty? Well, it rocks! 🙂 It’s faster, more reliable, more powerful… an upgrade in every sense. If you’re an Ubuntu user and you find that you don’t like Unity, consider making the jump to Kubuntu. Try out Plasma Desktop. Discover its many strengths for yourself.

Happy downloading!

Thanks for a memorable evening!

Our 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala is now history. After months of planning and preparation, the big night finally arrived… and we had a blast!

On behalf of NPI’s staff and board, I want to thank everyone who participated in the event, particularly our Master of Ceremonies, Bob Ferguson, and our speakers – Timothy Ford, Reuven Carlyle, Scott Macklin, Jay Inslee, and Peter Steinbrueck.

We had a full lineup, but the different perspectives made for a very refreshing and diverse speaking program. That’s something we strive for – it’s something people have told us over and over that they love about the event.

Additionally, I want to thank Don Mock, Steve Kim, and Jacques Willis for the wonderful music they provided. They have a sweet sound, and we very much enjoyed it during the reception (and afterwards, as we were breaking down).

We also had outstanding bar service thanks to our sponsors Jessica Greenway and Ken Nelson. A big thank you to them for taking on that responsibility.

NPI's 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala

Guests listen to Peter Steinbrueck's keynote address at NPI's 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

While we are still adding up the receipts, I’m pleased to report that we did well, as in past years. The success of this event will allow us to make new investments in digital infrastructure that will greatly benefit our existing projects and permit us to launch additional ones.

As I mentioned during my remarks, tomorrow we will begin accepting nominations for the Lynn Allen Fellowship. The Fellowship is an opportunity for young progressives to learn organizing skills and practice the art of bringing people together (as opposed to just studying it).

Applicants who are accepted will help NPI and NWroots organize the 2011 NWrootsConference, taking place this July 9th in Pioneer Square. They’ll also assist us in preserving Lynn’s legacy online at Rebuilding Democracy.

Lynn did a good deal of the heavy lifting required to pull off the first NWroots Conferences. I know because she and I worked together on those events. She had experience that I did not, and her experence helped me become a better organizer. In honor of Lynn, I want to pass on that knowledge to others.

Finally, before Peter Steinbrueck began speaking last night, Bob Ferguson mentioned that audience members could submit questions for Peter which would be answered in a later podcast. We are still accepting questions. You can leave yours in the comment thread, or direct it to @nwprogressive on Twitter.

Again, thanks to all who came to our 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala for a memorable evening and a wonderful event. Your support means everything to us, and keeps us moving forward even in tough times.

Meet the hypocrites: Donald Trump

Since reality show host and corporate blowhard Donald Trump has decided to express his political views and go through the motions of being a serious political candidate, we’re happy the treat him as one. While the Donald breathlessly blew his own horn this morning regarding the President’s birth certificate (something this shameless self-promoter does frequently),  he also took aim at China and its economic policies, exposing himself as a hypocrite.

While visiting a defense contracting firm in New Hampshire, Trump showed diplomatic skill not seen since the days of George W. Bush, when he criticized China.

“China is raping this country,” Trump told employees at Wilcox Industries, a company that manufactures tactical equipment for U.S. military forces.

These comments followed Trump’s earlier remarks at a press conference where he blasted China for “ripping off this country.”

Methinks the gent doth protest too much.

Guess whose men’s clothing line is made in China? That’s right, the Donald J. Trump Collection is produced in China, where it wouldn’t be surprising if he is exploiting the cheap labor to pad his bottom line.

Now, Trump has long complained about Chinese currency “manipulation” and has called for a large tariff on imports of products from China in order to bolster U.S. manufacturing. But he has also gone further, urging Americans to buy fewer products from China, claiming that Chinese goods are shoddy and maintaining that, in his own business dealings, he favors American manufacturing over Chinese manufacturing.

All of which makes it a little strange that Trump’s own brand of clothing is made in China.

It’s hardly surprising to us that the words and deeds of a corporate magnate such as Donald Trump do not match. If he is to run for President, Mr. Trump can expect a full airing of his words and deeds.

White House releases President’s long-form birth certificate; birthers not satisfied

Apparently hoping to fan the flames of the “birther” controversy (which is making the right wing look ridiculous) President Obama today authorized the release of his “long-form” birth certificate, which, under the laws of the State of Hawaii, would otherwise not be subject to public records requests.

I’m guessing the White House knows full well that the release of this document isn’t going to shut up any birthers. Those who have convinced themselves Barack Obama isn’t an American citizen and wasn’t born in Hawaii were never going to be appeased with a long-form birth certificate.

But our brain-dead traditional media just loves faux controversies like this, as evidenced by CNN’s recent “special report” on the matter. Releasing the long-form birth certificate gives television commentators more evidence to use against those kooky birthers with when they inevitably end up talking about this.

The White House benefits if would-be Republican presidential hopefuls are spending their time in debates arguing whether Barack Obama was born in Hawaii or not. It makes the Republican Party look silly and dominated by conspiracy theorists. Meanwhile, Obama can look, well, presidential.

Hilariously, right wing organizations are releasing statements saying they’re withholding judgment until they can carefully scrutinize the document, and noting the “lateness” of its release.

Barack Obama is not – and never was – under any obligation to release his birth certificate. Like any other American, he is entitled to the privacy that the law affords. His high-profile accusers, interestingly enough, have not bothered to release their birth certificates. Where’s the proof they were born here? How do we know that they’re American citizens? Maybe they were secretly born somewhere else!

In fact, according to birther logic, none of us are really Americans. Not unless and until we’ve plastered our long-form birth certificate on a signpost somewhere so any of our fellow maybe-citizens can see it.

A sane, rational press corps committed to true journalistic principles would not legitimize the baseless conspiracy theories of people who despise Barack Obama. Unfortunately, we don’t have a sane, rational press corps. The White House has decided to take advantage of the situation and leverage it for political gain. Nothing wrong with that tactic, I suppose, if the First Family has signed off on it.

But I think I speak for a great many other progressives when I say this whole birther sideshow is just more evidence that our media is in greater decline (in almost every respect imaginable) than any other institution in this country.

And that’s a problem, because without a healthy, ethical, and vibrant fourth estate, we can’t have a meaningful conversation with each other. Nor can we know what our government is doing in our names.

POSTSCRIPT (Ken): There are some who see the President releasing his birth certificate as a good thing, certain to cause the press corps to further marginalize birthers (as if they were doing that already, which they’re not)  and surely to change the narrative to how the Republican party will now deal with its crazy wing. I’m not so sure that’s the case.

In the President’s statement today, he said:

“We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.

I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest.  But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press.  We do not have time for this kind of silliness.  We’ve got better stuff to do.  I’ve got better stuff to do.  We’ve got big problems to solve.  And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them — not on this.”

The irony here is that President Obama succumbed to the endless media stories and silliness on the subject, which he purports to want to avoid. By releasing his birth certificate the President didn’t appease his opponents, who can never be appeased.

Phil Berg, who filed one of the original birther lawsuits, now believes that Obama was adopted by his Indonesian father and lost his U.S. citizenship:

“I think the issue is that he’s not any more natural born. I don’t care if he releases his birth certificate or whatever,” said Berg. “Let’s see his records coming back through immigration.”

Orly Taitz, once called ‘Queen of the birthers’ and who was responsible for a number of lawsuits, is verifying the document’s authenticity and now believes that the president is using a false social security number.

It’s a tried and true tactic in electoral politics to  make marginal to false claims about your opponent to distract them from the task at hand. What is priceless is when a candidate or elected official spends time refuting such charges by producing evidence to the contrary. Diverting the opponent’s attention by forcing them to  fight dubious and false claims, takes their focus away from the issues of the day and, when an opponent, such as Obama, addresses those charges it gives them a measure of legitimacy.

President Obama doesn’t need to waste his time addressing the falsehoods perpetuated by a group of (arguably) racist malcontents or a loudmouth corporate robber baron. It does not serve him or the American people well to dwell on or respond to these issues. As he simply said today, we’ve got bigger problems to solve and we do not have time for this kind of silliness.

Happy Easter 2011!

Rejoice! Rejoice!
This is the day that the Lord has made, be glad about it. Everybody rejoice, rejoice!
This is the day that is made – be glad.

Lyrics from Rejoice by Kenneth W. Lewis

For your reading pleasure on this joyous Easter Sunday, here is an account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the New Testament.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

The Gospel of John, 20:1-9 (New American Standard Bible)

If you are observing the Easter holiday today, please accept best wishes from all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute. May your celebration of Christ’s Resurrection be peaceful and memorable.

NPI’s 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala is only one week away… and you’re invited!

As of this evening, our 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala – which will take place at the Community Center at Mercer View – is just one week away.

It’s shaping up to be one of the best events we’ve ever put together, and we hope to see many NPI supporters there.

The speaking lineup consists of Bob Ferguson (our Master of Ceremonies), respected litigator Timothy Ford, yours truly, State Representative Reuven Carlyle, Dr. Scott Macklin of the University of Washington, former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, and U.S. Representative Jay Inslee.

Refreshments will be available from our dinner buffet, and drinks (beer and wine) available from our bar. Music will be provided by Don Mock, and there will be books for sale, courtesy of our very own Steve Zemke and Third Planet Books.

If you haven’t bought a ticket yet, there’s no time like the present:

Can’t make the event? You can still make a donation!

NPI needs your help today to continue organizing and mobilizing for change.

Unlike many other organizations and unlike campaigns, we sink most of the dollars we receive directly into infrastructure to support our movement. NPI is not for-profit. We are the local progressive movement’s Swiss Army knife. We are here to empower fellow activists, to help our allies think long-term, to develop and refine ideas for a better future, and to reframe the debate.

The media, research, and outreach work that we do requires a significant amount of digital infrastructure – for instance, newsgathering equipment and computer servers. When you contribute to NPI, you’re helping us build this infrastructure.

The more infrastructure we have, the more effective we can be, and the more time we can spend on offense as opposed to defense.

We can’t do what we do by ourselves… your support makes what we do possible. We want to give you an opportunity to see in person how we’re stretching your dollars, meet other supporters, and hear from inspirational speakers, while enjoying refreshments and great music from local artists. That’s what our Spring Fundraising Gala is all about. We hope you’ll join us on April 28th.

Researchers’ discovery demonstrates that Apple users don’t really own their devices

Two security researchers investigating visual uses for geolocation data revealed today that gadget giant Apple has been secretly shipping spyware inside of its mobile operating system (iOS) that constantly records its customers’ whereabouts.

The discovery, which has ignited a firestorm of criticism, was first made public at O’Reilly Radar by the researchers (Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden) prior to being announced onstage at Where 2.0, a conference about the “business of location”, presently taking place in San Francisco.

To us and other critics of Apple, the discovery is a grim confirmation of our longstanding suspicions about the company’s business practices and policies.

Over the years, we have repeatedly condemned Apple for marketing and selling gadgets which its customers cannot fully control, except by jailbreaking (which voids the warranty). Now we find out that Apple has programmed all of its devices to track its users’ movements.

And to be clear, we’re not talking about a list of general locations. No, we’re talking coordinates for longitude and latitude, plus precise timestamps, nearby Wi-Fi networks, and other information.

Shockingly, all of this information that Apple’s devices collecting is being stored in an unencrypted file, which means a thief with hacking skills can easily map the movements of any person they can steal an iPhone or iPad from.

(Warden has released an open-source application that allows iPhone users to map the information that their device is recording about them. It’s pretty amazing).

The researchers stress that at this time, it doesn’t appear that iOS devices are “phoning home” to Cupertino with this data. But that’s no consolation. Undoubtedly, Apple has the capability to remotely command any device that has this information to transmit it to servers under its control.

If what Apple is doing isn’t illegal, it should be. No doubt whoever designed and implemented this spyware checked with Apple’s lawyers to make that it is covered under the “end user license agreement”, or EULA, that a user must agree to after purchasing and activating one of Apple’s devices. If true, it doesn’t mean Apple is completely protected against litigation over this, but it will make it difficult for any outraged customers to get justice in a court of law.

The time has come for Congress to step in and act to ensure that Americans’ right to privacy is protected from unaccountable corporations like Apple, Google, and Facebook, which continue to invent new excuses to justify their unacceptable business practices. These companies are waging war on the very idea of a right to privacy. They are making the Internet, and all of us, less secure in the process.

Apple’s decision to join Google and Facebook in this race to the bottom is especially ironic considering that Apple is responsible for one of the most famous cultural references to the works of George Orwell: the famous 1984 ad.

Less than thirty years after producing that ad, Apple increasingly resembles the Big Brother-esque entity it once appealed to Americans to reject.

Legally, the hardware that Apple sells belongs to the people who buy it. Practically, however, the hardware that Apple sells remains under its control well after a customer takes possession of it, because the software answers to Apple, not the user. And Apple’s policies are draconian.

For instance, only non-free software that Apple approves of can be downloaded and installed on its devices. Apple’s terms even prohibit the distribution of software released under copyleft through its App Store.

The Library of Congress has ruled that jailbreaking an iPhone or iPad is legal, but less than ten percent of Apple’s customers reportedly jailbreak their devices.

People who buy Apple’s gadgets are thus more like renters than owners.

And Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden’s discovery just affirms that. Apple’s tracking is being conducted involuntarily. The only way to opt out is to not use iOS at all. So much for freedom from conformity.

How do we change Congress and put an end to rampant corruption?

When our founding fathers put together our plan of government at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, they spent a great deal more time hammering out the details that concern the legislative branch (Congress) than the details that describe how the other two branches are supposed to work.

This was not accidental – our founding fathers believed that the branch of government charged with making laws would play the leading role in determining the direction of the country. Though generations of presidents and judges have increased the stature and importance of their own branches of government, Congress has not diminished in importance.

It doesn’t always assert its power, but it is still our only lawmaking institution.

Unfortunately, Congress is susceptible to corruption.

Our founders did not anticipate the advent of the paid lobbying industry, which dominates the discussion in our nation’s capital at the expense of the people members of Congress are supposed to represent. Ending corruption is what respected professor Lawrence Lessig calls a “first problem”. By that he means a problem that is not necessarily more important than other problems (like the climate crisis) but one that must be solved in order for others to be solved.

We have not made much headway in solving this “first problem” of corruption. In fact, with the Corporations United ruling last year, things have only gotten worse.

Obviously, amending the Constitution to reverse Corporations United and end the practice of equating corporations as persons is of paramount importance. But what else should be done to change Congress and put an end to rampant corruption? We’re putting together a list of possibilities and we’d like reader input. What do you think? How would you like to see Congress changed?

Please share any suggestions you have in the comments.

The search for a long-term answer for coherence in Ryan Blethen’s columns

Apparently oblivious to the reality that he has as much credibility as Tim Eyman does when it comes to talking about protecting public services, Seattle Times editorial page editor Ryan Blethen has penned yet another column lamenting the dire straits that Washington’s public universities are in.

The piece, which ran in today’s Sunday edition, does a good job of pointing out the obvious… and a great job of conveniently ignoring the Seattle Times’ role in putting lawmakers and universities in the grave position they’re in at this moment.

For instance, Blethen insensibly writes:

What makes the proposed cuts to higher ed in the House, Senate and governor’s budgets so egregious is that our state’s campuses have been neglected for years and now have to take huge cuts. By now the Legislature should have found a way to properly funnel money to the universities. They have not and now the schools face another large reduction.

If Ryan wants the Legislature to find “a way to properly funnel money to the universities”, then why did his family twice endorse unconstitutional Tim Eyman initiatives to make raising revenue more difficult? Why did his family campaign so vigorously and dishonestly against Initiative 1098, which would have dedicated more than a billion dollars annually to education funding?

Oh, that’s right… I forgot. Platitudes are the only support the Blethens are willing to offer our public schools and colleges.

As the idiom goes, talk is cheap. Sometimes it’s pointless.

Ryan’s columns on this subject, and so many others, are worthless, because when push comes to shove, he won’t put his money where his mouth is.

The Blethens have repeatedly endorsed initiatives that put the Legislature in a straitjacket, long-term, knowing the consequences. They most recently did so last November. Now, half a year later, they’re lamenting the consequences.

What gives, Ryan? Seriously. What gives? What motivates you to write these disconnected columns? If you’re even going to go near the topic, at least have the courage to admit that the paper you edit has repeatedly taken sides against schools and universities when election time has rolled around.

In leaving those details out, you pretend that your readers are ignorant, and will take what you say seriously because your intentions appear noble. Newsflash, Ryan: Your readers aren’t as stupid as you seem to think they are.

There is really nothing that you can say about this topic that would contribute to the public discourse in any meaningful way. Not after what you’ve done.

You offer no solutions or prescriptions in your column. All you do is condemn the Legislature – the democratic lawmaking body your family urged voters to make undemocratic – for not investing in our schools and universities.

Olympia does not seem willing or capable of properly funding higher education. The Legislature and the university presidents should work together and by the next biennium budget come up with a stable source of revenue for our state’s public universities.

As our readers know, there is no way our Legislature can strengthen any of our vital public services as long as I-1053 is in place. It simply isn’t going to happen. I-1053 was intentionally designed to make sure state legislators can never come up with a stable source of revenue for anything; all it takes is seventeen state senators out of forty-nine to veto any revenue idea. The Blethens surely know this, too.

Yet they continue to publish meaningless “pro-education” boilerplate.

After this budget biennium there needs to be a better, more stable and long-range answer. Students cannot keep absorbing the cost.

Because of I-1053, I-960 before it, and the rejection of I-1098, students are going to keep absorbing the cost. Well, those that can still afford to go to college in the first place. Those that can’t, won’t.

They will have been denied the opportunity to get a college education thanks to the self-centered thinking espoused by the Seattle Times.

And speaking of affordability, Ryan adds insult to injury with his claim, A public education in Washington is relatively cheap. No parents that I know of with sons or daughters in college would agree with that statement.

The truth is just the opposite: For all but the wealthiest families, a college education in Washington is a significant, if not an extreme, financial burden.

Tuition is expensive. Books are expensive. Housing is expensive. Yes, the federal government does provide financial aid, but for many families it only mitigates the costs by a fraction.

As far as the right wing is concerned, that’s the way it should be. Families that aren’t wealthy haven’t earned the privilege of sending their sons and daughters to college. They weren’t disciplined enough, and so they should be punished.

I-1053 is a right wing plot to choke our common wealth to death, so that government no longer works and income inequality reaches unthinkable proportions. Last autumn, Seattle Times aided and abetted the corporate lobbyists that worked with Tim Eyman to bring the plot to fruition, whilst fiercely denouncing I-1098, a progressive plan which would have required the already-wealthy to pay a little more in membership dues so that we as a state could get a lot more.

Not once have they apologized for their role in putting our state into a perilous position. Instead, from their offices on Fairview, they have bizarrely continued to preach the value of the very institutions of learning which they have helped stab in the back. The Blethens seem to such inflated opinions of themselves that they assume nobody is going to connect the dots.

The fastest way for them to gain goodwill from the city and region they claim to represent would be to eliminate their editorial page altogether and leave the editorializing to the columnists in their business and local sections, who actually seem to care about keeping Washington a good place to live.

Timothy Ford joins the outstanding speaking lineup for our 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala

Any supporter who has attended one or both of our two past spring fundraising galas knows that we try very hard to bring some of the brightest minds from around our region to the stage at our event. That’s because our gala isn’t just about trying to raise money – it’s about thanking our loyal and dedicated supporters with an enjoyable and rewarding evening.

Our speaking program is a big part of that.

We believe we’ve put together a strong and diverse speaking program for this year’s event. Our announced speakers include U.S. Representative Jay Inslee, former Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, State Representative Reuven Carlyle, and Dr. Scott Macklin of the University of Washington.

This afternoon, I’m honored to reveal that they will be joined at the podium by respected Seattle attorney Timothy Ford, one of the many great lawyers at MacDonald Hoague & Bayless. As his biography says:

Tim’s civil practice ranges from major civil rights cases to claims of legal and medical malpractice, negligence and products liability, to highway design and car truck accidents. At the trial level, he has won clients in those areas millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements.  In the appellate courts, his cases have repeatedly made law expanding the legal rights of patients, workers, criminal suspects, and prisoners.  He has been called by one authority “the preeminent civil rights litigator in this region.”

Tim has held an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell for over twenty five years; he has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America for more than a decade; and he has been included in nearly every “best lawyers” list of Seattle lawyers ever published in the popular press.

We are among those who are inspired by Tim’s practice. Tim is what our friend and linguist George Lakoff would call a public protection attorney – somebody who truly cares about the rights and the health of fellow citizens, and who has put his talents to work to help those who need justice the most.

We’re very grateful that Tim is taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in our event. And we hope that you will, too.

If you haven’t bought a ticket to our event yet, now’s the time:

Can’t make the event? You can still make a donation!

NPI needs your help today to continue organizing and mobilizing for change.

Unlike many other organizations and unlike campaigns, we sink most of the dollars we receive directly into infrastructure to support our movement. NPI is not for-profit. We are the local progressive movement’s Swiss Army knife. We are here to empower fellow activists, to help our allies think long-term, to develop and refine ideas for a better future, and to reframe the debate.

The media, research, and outreach work that we do requires a significant amount of digital infrastructure – for instance, newsgathering equipment and computer servers. When you contribute to NPI, you’re helping us build this infrastructure.

The more infrastructure we have, the more effective we can be, and the more time we can spend on offense as opposed to defense.

We can’t do what we do by ourselves… your support makes what we do possible. We want to give you an opportunity to see in person how we’re stretching your dollars, meet other supporters, and hear from inspirational speakers, while enjoying refreshments and great music from local artists. That’s what our Spring Fundraising Gala is all about. We hope you’ll join us on April 28th.

Jay Inslee to speak at NPI’s 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala on Mercer Island

I am delighted to announce this morning that Jay Inslee – my representative in Congress and a true champion for economic security and environmental protection – will be speaking at NPI’s 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala (with all proceeds to benefit NPI), happening two weeks from tomorrow on Mercer Island.

If you follow national politics, you know that Jay has been a courageous leader on a great many issues, who has been unafraid to take tough votes. Jay voted against the creation of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) in 2008, and more recently, he voted against extending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. He has stood up to save Internet radio stations and fought for net neutrality. And he has worked tirelessly to persuade his colleagues to invest in renewable energy so America can break its dependence on fossil fuels.

Jay is a true leader who walks his talk. He’s trustworthy and dependable. That’s why we’re so excited that he’s going to be joining Peter Steinbrueck, Scott Macklin, and Reuven Carlyle as speakers at our 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala.

If you haven’t bought a ticket to our event yet, now’s the time:

Can’t make the event? You can still make a donation!

NPI needs your help today to continue organizing and mobilizing for change.

We know times are tough and things seem bleak. Funding for vital public services is being gutted while tax breaks for powerful corporations that are making big profits are being left intact. Congress and state legislatures are making shortsighted decisions… or they’re on the verge of doing so.

But if we want to do something about this sorry situation and prevent our quality of life from being further jeopardized, we need to strengthen our movement. We need to build infrastructure that enables us to communicate and organize more effectively. The other side is way ahead of us.

That’s why they’ve been able to frame the debate on their terms. We’ve been stuck in a purely defensive mindset for too long.

I founded in NPI in 2003 because I came to the realization that maintaining a permanent defense against Tim Eyman’s initiatives wasn’t enough. When we neutralize right wing initiatives, all we are doing is stopping bad things from happening to our region. Defense doesn’t move us forward.

NPI was created to help the progressive movement go on offense. We are here to empower fellow activists, to research and propose ideas that are in harmony with progressive values, and to reframe the debate.

But we can’t do this all by ourselves… your support makes what we do possible. We want to give you an opportunity to see in person how we’re stretching your dollars, meet other supporters, and hear from inspirational speakers, while enjoying refreshments and great music from local artists. That’s what our Spring Fundraising Gala is all about. We hope you’ll join us on April 28th.

Camp Wellstone returning to Seattle: Don’t miss an outstanding training opportunity

Camp Wellstone, the signature training offered by the organizing geniuses at Wellstone Action, is returning to Seattle for the sixth or seventh consecutive year – I’m losing track 🙂 – about a month from now.

The 2011 camp will take place at Seattle Pacific University on May 13th, 14th, and 15th. (SPU is actually where it was held when I participated back in 2005.) Registration is open now, and rates are very reasonable (it’s based on ability to pay). There are three tracks:

  • Electoral Campaigns: Tools and Tactics for Success
  • Citizen Activism: Grassroots Advocacy and Organizing
  • Being a Candidate: How to Run and Win a Progressive Campaign

All the tracks are excellent – they’re just a bit different in what they cover. The first track is ideal for any activist planning to work on a campaign in the near future. The second is ideal for activists who are engaged in working on issues long-term. And the third is perfect for any progressive planning to run for office.

Most of NPI’s staff and board have been to a Camp Wellstone, whether in Seattle or another city. Without a doubt, it is the best training opportunity an activist can take advantage of. It is incredibly empowering and rewarding.

We simply can’t recommend it enough.

If you’re not already a Camp Wellstone alumni, you need to become one. We urge you to register today and claim your spot. Don’t miss out!

Idaho Taliban claims God’s support for pregnancy due to rape

Earlier this week the Idaho House passed a bill to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks on the basis of a disputed scientific report that claims that a fetus can feel pain at that point. The bill, which does not have an exemption in cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormality, now goes to Governor Butch Otter for his signature. Reasonable people (and unreasonable ones too) argue all the time about whether or not allowing a woman to terminate her pregnancy should be allowed. That is not the issue I’m writing about here.

What is the issue is that the bill’s prime sponsor, Representative Brent Crane (R-Nampa) has crassly suggested that if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, that it is God’s will for her to have a child.

The Idaho bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told legislators that the “hand of the Almighty” was at work. “His ways are higher than our ways,” Crane said. “He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.”

It wouldn’t be surprising to me if Representative Crane feels the same about  sick patients in the hospital. Who needs doctors anyway? If it’s God’s will that sick people die, under Crane’s logic, they most definitely will. Sounds like Mr. Crane has been attending services at the Westboro Baptist Church.

Such perversion of religion to fit ones political worldview makes Representative Crane no better than the Taliban or Osama bin Laden.