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: January 2012

Suzanne Bonamici elected to succeed David Wu in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District

Oregon’s congressional delegation is finally whole again.

After having spent nearly six months without representation in Congress, voters in the Beaver State’s 1st Congressional District (which spans the northwestern part of the state) finally got the chance this month to choose a new representative to serve them in the U.S. House. And tonight, with the first batch of ballots tallied and reported, it’s clear who their choice is: Democrat Suzanne Bonamici.

Bonamici, a former state legislator, presently holds a commanding lead over Republican rival Rob Cornilles, according to results released just minutes ago. She has a greater percentage of the vote than all three of her opponents combined.

Just take a look at these returns:

James Foster: 3.11% (4,413 votes)
Rob Cornilles: 37.52% (53,215 votes)
Suzanne Bonamici: 55.97% (79,386 votes)
Steven Reynolds: 3.15% (4,473 votes)
Write-in Votes: 0.25% (348 votes)

Bonamici will succeed David Wu, who resigned in disgrace from the House last August only a few weeks after The Oregonian reported that he made unwanted sexual overtures towards the daughter of one of his friends and campaign donors.

Prior to her campaign for Congress, Bonamici had won election three times to Oregon’s Legislature. She was elected in 2006 to Oregon’s House, then later appointed to serve in Oregon’s Senate. She successfully defended her Senate seat in 2008 and again in 2010.

Bonamici brings some diversity to the Pacific Northwest’s congressional delegation, which is dominated by men. (Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are the region’s only female members, and they both serve in the United States Senate). She is expected to be sworn into office in a few days.

Congratulations to Suzanne and her campaign for winning tonight and winning big. Oregon’s 1st may be a Democratic district, but no election is a sure thing.

We look forward to seeing Suzanne join the House Democratic caucus in the Other Washington, and contribute to the well-being of our region.

Happy seventh birthday, Pacific NW Portal!

One of our most important projects, which we’ve been investing a lot of energy into lately, is turning seven today: Pacific NW Portal, first launched on January 31st, 2005, has now been online for a grand total of eighty four months. Since the day it launched, it’s helped to bring the netroots of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho together, and it’s made following political news from around the region much easier.

A month and a week ago, the Portal received a huge makeover with the unveiling of Version 5.0, codenamed Newport. (Portal releases are named after cities and towns on the Oregon coast). Newport was several years in the making, and we’re very happy with the reception it has received.

We are continuing to make improvements to Pacific NW Portal – just last week, we released Version 5.1, a minor update to Newport, codenamed Agate Beach. And preliminary work is already under way on Version 6.0, driven by your ideas.

In honor of Pacific NW Portal’s seventh birthday, here is a roundup, or compilation, of comments we’ve received over the years from NPI readers and fellow bloggers about the project and what it means to them.

From the day it was launched, Pacific Northwest Portal instantly became a must-have bookmark for anybody interested in perusing progressive news and views from the Pacific Northwest.

— David Goldstein

An ambitious blog of blogs for the progressive Pacific Northwest plus news and weather. An indispensable resource.

— Michael Hood

Of course, the need for a handy online fix of progressive political news is even more acute in places like Idaho. Red State Rebels is honored to be part of the Pacific NW Portal mix.

— Julie Fanselow

I can imagine the amount of work that goes into doing all this.  Your site provides a great resource to the NW Blogosphere. Resources like this and the PNW Topic Hotlist provide Pacific Northwesterners with unique tools for the benefit of progressives. Other regions of the country should be jealous!

— Daniel Kirkdorffer

It’s always good to see you guys on top of things, I know that for at least me you are a huge asset to Idaho bloggers and the politicians we support.

— Chris Oates

<3 Pacific NW Portal is my homepage. Rock on.

— NPI reader Sandals

It looks great – and is much improved. I like the highlights of NW bloggers a lot. I just registered with the site and bookmarked it, which I didn’t do the last time I visited before the changes.

— Tom Kertes

On behalf of the Oregon House Democrats, thanks for this critical work.

— Oregon State Representative Chip Shields

I am a Corvallis, Oregon progressive and occassional blogger. I have been keeping my eye out for NW-related sites, so I will make sure to head over to Pacific NW Portal right away. I have been meaning to begin writing more regularly, so I am happy to see that other NWers will have a chance to see my writing!

— Robin Ozretich

Liberals in the Northwest have been behind the game in getting their mutual-support act together (yours truly is notably slow on this particular uptake), but the appearance of Pacific NW Portal is decidedly a step in the right, er, left direction.

— David Neiwert

The Northwest Progressive Institute has a nice link for Pacific NW Portal. I’m still looking around but it’s got good info, and is well organized.  

— Carl Ballard

Pacific NW Portal is truly a “portal” into politics and political blogging in the Pacific Northwest. It is a fount of information and connection to progressive groups and thinkers.

— Rowan Wolf

To everyone who has supported Pacific NW Portal over the years – whether by sending in suggestions for improvement, reporting bugs, spreading the word about the site, or just visiting it and using it – thank you, from all of us at NPI.

Big vote on marriage equality tomorrow

In a matter of hours, Washington’s Senate is set to take up Ed Murray’s bill, SB 6239, to make marriage equality the law of the land across the Evergreen State. At least twenty-five senators (including some Republicans) have already committed to vote in favor of the bill, so it is expected to pass.

However, if you are a Washingtonian, it is still a good idea to let your senator know that you support this important civil rights legislation.

Don’t know who your lawmakers are? Plug in your address and find out!

A companion bill is advancing in the House and is expected to pass there as well; the House also has the option of simply adopting SB 6239, which would send the legislation to Governor Chris Gregoire’s desk. Gregoire announced her support of marriage equality several weeks ago and is prepared to sign the bill.

The right wing has promised to force a public vote on marriage equality by launching a referendum campaign once the bill has been signed. 120,557 valid signatures are required to qualify a referendum for the 2012 ballot, which means opponents of marriage equality will minimally need to gather somewhere in the neighborhood of 170,000 signatures total (to offset invalid or duplicate signatures).

If a referendum qualifies for the ballot, the earliest that marriage equality could become the law of the land would be in December 2012, following the certification of the presidential election results. (A law subject to referendum does not go into effect; instead, it is placed on hold for the duration of the election).

Readers should keep in mind that referenda work differently than initiatives. If the right wing forces a referendum on marriage equality, those of us wanting to keep the law will need to vote to “approve” the referendum.

(Yes, we know… it’s confusing).

Permanent Defense will be working to track the right wing’s signature drive once a referendum campaign is launched. We’ll have more details on how you can help in the coming weeks.

Congressional insider trading bill being considered in the U.S. Senate today

Last week in his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama renewed the call to end the little-known unethical practice that helps members of Congress increase their wealth through insider trading.

Today the Senate will consider S. 2038, sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman (Party of One – Connecticut) which will prohibit members from trading in information that they receive that is not generally available to the public in order to buy or sell stock and positively affect their portfolios.

If you or I engaged in these kinds of actions, the Securities and Exchange Commission would investigate and we’d be subject to criminal laws on insider trading. However, members of Congress, who are in a position to receive sensitive and confidential information, have not been subject to the same laws. At NPI, we enthusiastically applaud the effort to end congressional insider-trading and to hold members of Congress accountable to the same laws that all citizens must abide by.

A similar bill is being considered in the House of Representatives. Representative Louise Slaughter has been trying to get the House to take up this issue for years, but it never really moved forward. Slaughter today insisted that House Republicans quit stalling and bring the legislation up for a vote.

“Tonight our counterparts in the Senate will begin voting on a bill that has been in their chamber for eleven weeks. I’ve been pushing the STOCK Act in the House for almost six years. Now that it has the support of more than half of the House chamber, there should be no further delay,” Slaughter said in a statement. “The American people are angry and expect more from Republican leadership than continued stalling. It’s time for Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to bring the STOCK Act up for a clean up or down vote.”

Bill to require more transparency in ballot measure advertising moves forward

Earlier today, along with NPI board member Steve Zemke and NPI contributor Steve Breaux, I participated in a public hearing in support of House Bill 2499, prime sponsored by Representative Andy Billig. HB 2499 would require advertising for or against ballot measures in Washington to include the name and address of the entity paying for the advertising; entities that are political committees would also have to disclose the names of their top five contributors.

The bill wouldn’t stop big moneyed interests from hijacking the initiative process, but it would make astroturfing more difficult. If HB 2499 is enacted, it will be harder for the likes of BP and Bank of America to hide behind fake names like “Citizens for Fiscal Restraint” in their advertising. And that would be a good thing.

Our old buddy Tim Eyman showed up at the hearing yesterday to denounce HB 2499 and another bill sponsored by Billig which won’t be moving forward (HB 2500). Eyman said nothing we haven’t heard before – he used up pretty much all of his time condemning the very public hearing he war participating in.

Hilariously, only a few minutes later, after all of the testimony had been given, the four Republicans on the committee retreated into an adjacent conference room for the purposes of caucus – with Tim Eyman as their invited guest.

After they returned, executive session resumed. House State Government Committee Vice Chair Sherry Appleton moved that HB 2499 be reported out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation.

At least two of the Republicans took the opportunity to condemn the bill, attempting (and failing) to refute some of the points that we had made in our testimony. However, they offered no amendments.

The bill was subsequently reported out, with all seven Democrats (Representatives Hunt, Appleton, Darneille, Dunshee, Hurst, McCoy, and Miloscia) voting in favor and all four Republicans (Representatives Taylor, Overstreet, Alexander, and Condotta) voting against. Prior to the vote, Republicans asked that the bill be sent through Ways & Means, despite it not having a fiscal note. If this happens, there will probably be another hearing on the bill. Otherwise it moves to House Rules.

Whether HB 2499 gets to the floor for discussion and debate will be up to House Democratic leadership, including Speaker Frank Chopp. But at least it survived the first cutoff and remains alive for the time being.

Pacific NW Portal 5.1 (Agate Beach) released

Last month, when we unveiled Pacific NW Portal Version 5.0 (codenamed Newport), we also committed to adopting a more frequent release cycle for the project, delivering improvements on a more incremental basis, like we did during Pacific NW Portal’s early days seven years ago.

I am pleased today to announce that the first fruits of our new approach have borne fruit. Today, just one month after Newport went live, we are releasing its successor: Version 5.1, codenamed Agate Beach.

Agate Beach is what’s known as a maintenance release. As the version number indicates, it is simply a more polished incarnation of the last major release (Newport). It’s sort of the inverse of an overhaul.

Agate Beach is an unincorporated community in Lincoln County near Newport, Oregon. It is named for the agates (a variety of silica) found on the shores there. It is accessible to the public as a state recreational site.

Agate Beach

Agate Beach, Oregon (Photo by Mike Krzeszak, used under a Creative Commons license)

The following post constitutes our official changelog for Version 5.1. Please feel free to leave questions, suggestions for future versions, or other thoughts on Agate Beach in the comment thread.

Overall Site Enhancements

  • Full titles for articles and posts now appear on mouseover. Many of Pacific NW Portal’s feeds truncate titles to save space (and always have). This allows items to be neatly presented. Unfortunately, this often means some words get cut off. We have reprogrammed our feeds with truncated titles so that readers have the ability to mouse over a link and see the full title in a tooltip. This way, it’s possible to preview the full title before clicking the link.
  • Feed titles and descriptions now truncate with proper ellipses. In the past, cut-off descriptions and titles ended in two dots (..) to signify the omission of the rest of the description or title. However, a proper ellipsis has three ellipsis points (…), as defined by the Chicago Manual of Style and NPI’s own Style Guide (in draft). We have reconfigured Pacific NW Portal so that it truncates all cut-off items with proper ellipses.
  • Federal, State, and Local columns now line up more consistently. We’ve eliminated some alignment problems by making a couple of adjustments to Pacific NW Portal’s stylesheet. Items appearing under one of these three front page columns are no longer permitted to spill over and take up more than their allotted space.
  • Visited links now tracked. Pacific NW Portal now displays clicked links in purple (which is the universal default most browsers adhere to) instead of the same blue used for unvisited links. This should make it easier to distinguish between already-read and not yet-read posts.
  • Bugs and blemishes fixed. We’ve resolved a few minor problems relating to user experience and layout. Some were browser-specific. For instance, in Mozilla Firefox, an annoying gray rectangle was appearing whenever the Previous or Next buttons were clicked. We’ve made that go away. And on the BlackBerry PlayBook, one of the carousel slides was appearing at the edges of adjacent slides. Not anymore.

Regional Blogs Directory Update

Here is a list of the blogs we have added to Pacific NW Portal’s Regional Blogs Directory since Newport (Version 5.0) went live.

All of these blogs were added to the Washington column.

Our thanks to all who continue to support Pacific NW Portal. Enjoy the new version!

Liveblogging the 2012 State of the Union

Welcome all to NPI’s 2012 coverage of the State of the Union address. We’ll be updating this post periodically throughout the President’s speech.

Various dignitaries are currently filing into the House chamber, and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) just entered the chamber to a standing ovation. Giffords looks radiant. Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly is a guest in the First Lady’s box, along with Warren Buffet’s secretary and others.

We’ve learned that the designated Cabinet member this evening, who will not be attending the State of the Union, is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. One Cabinet member is so designated each time the President delivers the State of The Union Address, in case of a catastrophic event and to provide continuity of government.

Following Representative Giffords, the Supreme Court Justices and Mrs. Obama made their entrances. President Obama is not far behind.

UPDATE, 6:10 PM (Ken): President Obama has entered the House chamber to sustained applause, stopping to embrace Representative Giffords and shaking Chief Justice Roberts’ hand, among others’ as he makes his way up the aisle. In a few moments Speaker John Boehner will introduce the President and he will begin his remarks.

UPDATE, 6:20 PM (Ken): The theme of the President’s speech thus far appears to be the American Dream and the promise of our nation. President Obama is striking a positive tone, with the aspirational language that we’ve come to expect .

Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.


The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.

The President is in his element and at his best when he dares his fellow Americans to dream and believe in the promise of our great nation.

UPDATE, 6:30 PM (Patrick): Obama talked about increasing spending on education and making it harder for students to be pushed out of our educational system and increasing student aid. He also called on states to make higher education a priority. This is beyond good, considering the policy of divestment states have pursued in regards higher education. He also mentioned some of the tragic changes to the Pell Grant and student loans which were added to the omnibus spending bill passed at the end of the year.

UPDATE, 6:40 PM (Ken): Here’s a few observations about the President’s speech so far.

The first of the President’s guests for the speech has been mentioned: Jackie Bray, a single mom from North Carolina. Judging by her reaction to the President’s remarks, it’s obvious she was unaware what he was going to say about her.

Ronald Reagan, beginning with his 1982 address, is credited with establishing the tradition of honoring special guests seated in the gallery (commonly known as the President’s box).

Vice-President Biden and Speaker Boehner have almost identical stone faces behind the President, with only Biden taking the time to applause from time to time. At least Boehner isn’t crying again.

When President Obama mentioned the need for comprehensive immigration reform, Senator McCain looked like the cat that ate the canary and had a sly grin on his face. Depending on whether or not it’s an election year, McCain might be for immigration reform. During election years he’s as reliably anti-immigrant as any conservative Republican.

The President just reinforced a conservative frame by using the words “tax relief” with regard to small business. Further enforcing Republican dogma, President Obama’s energy policy seems to include more drilling for oil, despite following up with words about natural gas and renewables.

Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years. Not only that – last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

Perhaps the President needs a reminder about the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

UPDATE, 6:50 PM (Patrick): Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood perked up when Obama talked about issuing an Executive Order to speed up construction projects. Obama then went on to say that those project needed to be funded, and that we need to “[t]ake the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.” He definitely trying to come out strong for the year on the jobs front.

UPDATE 6:55pm, Ken: Here’s an overview of some of the new policy initiatives announced by the President during his remarks tonight.

  • A call for states to require all students to stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen. While certainly laudable, this policy wouldn’t be practical for some students whose circumstances in life may keep them from school so they can support their families.
  • Directing the Administration to open more than 75 percent of potential offshore oil and gas resources for exploration and drilling. See Deepwater Horizon disaster reference earlier.
  • Allowing development of clean energy on public lands to power three million homes.
  • Signing an Executive Order to reduce the bureaucracy that slows down construction projects. As most construction projects deal with state and local regulation, we’re curious as to the wording of this order and how it will affect our state and municipalities.
  • Legislation to Congress for a plan that will give homeowners an opportunity to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates. There would be a small fee on large financial institutions will help pay for the program.
  • President Obama asked Congress for a bill that bans the deplorable practice of insider trading by members of Congress, which is currently legal, and he pledged to sign it. NPI fully supports such a reform.

The President also ordered federal agencies to eliminate rules that don’t make sense.

We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill – because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.

The President pledged to establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments.

He also said that he has directed Attorney General Eric Holder to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.

UPDATE, 7:15 PM (Patrick): The President is spot on when he talks about shared responsibility. Tying together his earlier point about the economic gains of the post-World War II era (where the marginal tax rate for the wealthiest was 90 percent) to the fact that since then have created a radically more unequal tax code today), he framed the issue in stark terms: “Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that [un]common sense.”

UPDATE, 7:20 PM (Ken): President Obama just wrapped up the State of the Union on a high note, with hopeful, inspirational rhetoric echoing the beginning of the speech, when he referenced the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. The conclusion was vintage Obama and the President, as usual, nailed the delivery.

One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates – a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job – the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other – because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.

So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those thirteen stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.

Thanks for following along with us tonight. We’ll post a roundup of SOTU analysis worth reading later tonight or tomorrow morning.

Marriage equality gains twenty-fifth vote in state Senate; Haugen to vote yes

Great news this afternoon: We finally have the votes to pass marriage equality in the Washington State Legislature!

Minutes ago, Senator Mary Margaret Haugen – who had previously said she was only willing to support putting the issue on the ballot for a public vote – reversed her position and decided to join the forces of equality.

Here’s the first few paragraphs of her statement:

I have received many letters, emails, phone calls, very heartfelt, from both sides of the issue. I’ve also received a number of very negative comments from both sides.

For some people, this is a simple issue. I envy them. It has not been simple or easy for me.

To some degree, this is generational. Years ago I took exception to my parents’ beliefs on certain social issues, and today my children take exception to some of mine. Times change, even if it makes us uncomfortable. I think we should all be uncomfortable sometime. None of us knows everything, and it’s important to have our beliefs questioned. Only one being in this world is omniscient, and it’s not me.

I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs. It’s not always easy to do that. For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.

But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.

Senator Haugen deserves a lot of credit for being willing to rethink her stance. Those of us at NPI who are Christians don’t believe that legalizing marriage equality is at odds with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

But even if it were (as many fundamentalists incorrectly argue it is), America is a nation founded on the separation of church and state.

That separation is what guarantees us our religious freedom.

Each religion certainly is within its rights to decide on its own definition of marriage. But it is immoral and improper for government to dictate who can marry whom. LGBT couples in committed relationships who want to marry should have the freedom to do so. Marriage equality is a matter of equal rights under the law. We are very glad to see that Senator Haugen has recognized that.

So is Senator Ed Murray.

“I want to thank Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen for her decision today,” Murray said in a statement of his own. “I know that she takes her responsibility to her constituents and their communities very seriously. I know she listens to them. Her stand on an issue that is both so personal and so contentious in every community is truly courageous. I believe Sen. Haugen has shown the upmost in thoughtfulness and consideration – and her decision means families across our state may step out of a special second class and into equality this year.”

We at NPI welcome the news that marriage equality now has the votes to pass both the House and the Senate. In a matter of weeks, we hope to see it signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire. That will be a great day.

We fully expect that the religious right will launch a referendum campaign to put the issue on the ballot in November of 2012. We will do our part to urge voters to uphold the law in the event they are successful in forcing a vote.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion names new chief executive officer and board chair

Big, big news out of Waterloo (Ontario) tonight: BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, one of Canada’s largest and most prestigious companies, has announced that its two top executives – who have jointly led the company as as co-chief executive officers and co-chairmen of the board for many years – are stepping down from those positions, effective immediately.

Research in Motion Logo

Research in Motion

Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, who are both fifty, said in a statement that they believed the time had come for fresh leadership at Research in Motion.

“There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership,” Lazaridis said. “Jim and I went to the Board and told them that we thought that time was now. With BlackBerry 7 now out, PlayBook 2.0 shipping in February and BlackBerry 10 expected to ship later this year, the company is entering a new phase, and we felt it was time for a new leader to take it through that phase and beyond. Jim, the Board and I all agreed that leader should be Thorsten Heins.”

Lazaridis and Balsillie stressed that they will both remain on RIM’s board. Lazaridis will serve as Vice Chair, alongside new Chair Barbara Stymiest, who has been a director of the company for several years. In addition, he’ll heading up a new Innovation Committee for the board, which is expanding to eleven members with the appointment of Prem Watsa, CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings.

Watsa, now one of RIM’s largest shareholders, is widely considered to be a savvy and thoughtful investor; he has, on occasion, been referred to as the “Warren Buffett of Canada” by the business press.

Thorsten Heins

Thorsten Heins, the new CEO of Research in Motion (Photo courtesy of RIM).

RIM’s new CEO, Thorsten Heins, is no stranger to the company. Last August, he was promoted to serve as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Product and Sales, after having served as Senior Vice President for RIM’s handheld business unit. Prior to joining RIM in 2007, he served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Siemens AG, Europe’s largest electronics and electrical engineering company.

“Mike and Jim took a bold step eighteen months ago when RIM purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade,” Heins said. “We are more confident than ever that was the right path. It is Mike and Jim’s continued unwillingness to sacrifice long-term value for short-term gain which has made RIM the great company that it is today. I share that philosophy and am very excited about the company’s future.”

Research in Motion has scheduled a global town hall meeting tomorrow for its employees to give them a chance to ask questions and get answers from its new CEO and outgoing co-CEOs. The town hall will take place at 7 AM Pacific Time.

The company has already posted a series of get-to-know Thorsten Heins videos on its official Inside BlackBerry blog, in which Heins discusses his vision and objectives for the company, as well as RIM’s upcoming PlayBook 2.0 update.

As BlackBerry users and enthusiasts, we at NPI have become increasingly concerned about Research in Motion’s future – though we believe the company gets a bad rap from the tech press, which is enamored with Apple and Google. There’s no question that RIM has stumbled recently, though it is hardly on the verge of collapsing or going bankrupt. We’ve long felt that what the company needs is a strong leader who can deliver products in a timely fashion and do a better job of managing expectations. And it appears RIM now has such a leader in Thorsten Heins.

Heins has already made one smart move: Earlier this evening, he personally called the founder of CrackBerry (one of the world’s most popular BlackBerry communities) to share the news of his promotion to the top job. That’s the kind of outreach that RIM needs to be doing more of. A well-run company is a company that makes itself as accessible as possible to its loyal customers.

We extend our congratulations to Mr. Heins on his new responsibilities. We wish him nothing but the utmost success. For years, we have depended on BlackBerry smartphones and tablets to keep us connected to NPI’s virtual infrastructure while on the go or in the field. And we will continue to. Our work requires a mobile platform with robust messaging capabilities, built-in security, and well-supported productivity applications. BlackBerry is that platform.


News networks project a Newt Gingrich victory in South Carolina Republican primary

If news networks’ projections are to be believed, Newt Gingrich has just won the 2012 South Carolina Republican primary, making him the third candidate in the party’s narrowing presidential field to have won a nominating contest this month. As pundits on cable television are noting, never before have Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina Republicans each picked a different Republican as their top choice for the nomination before. That means history is being made tonight.

Gingrich’s victory, if confirmed by the actual results, would be a huge boost to his campaign heading into the Florida primary on January 31st. Gingrich finished behind most of his remaining rivals in both Iowa and New Hampshire, but stayed in the race and now appears to have reaped the rewards of being persistent.

Polling done within the last few days indicated that Gingrich’s campaign was gaining momentum, leading many pundits to speculate that he might win tonight. The former speaker, who was sacked by his own party after the 1998 midterms, turned in a fierce debate performance on Thursday night and also benefited from the endorsements of Rick Perry and Sarah Palin.

The race is expected to immediately shift to Florida, one of the nation’s most populous states, beginning tomorrow. The four major candidates still in the race (Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, and Paul) have all agreed to a debate on Monday night in Tampa, the host city for the 2012 Republican National Convention.

UPDATE, 4:39 pm: Very few votes have actually been tallied and reported yet. Notice how small the statewide numbers are… no candidate has more than 1,000 votes, and Romney currently has the lead (which probably won’t be the case in a few hours). No precincts have fully reported yet. These are very early numbers!

Michele Bachmann
0.20%4 votes
Herman Cain
0.61%12 votes
Newt Gingrich
25.18%497 votes
Jon Huntsman
1.98%39 votes
Gary Johnson
0.05%1 vote
Ron Paul
9.32%184 votes
Rick Perry
2.18%43 votes
Mitt Romney
47.67%941 votes
Rick Santorum
12.82%253 votes

UPDATE, 5:29: Here’s where the race stands now, with 148 of 2,130 precincts reporting. Gingrich appears to be building something of a commanding lead.

Michele Bachmann
0.10%44 votes
Herman Cain
1.38%600 votes
Newt Gingrich
37.21%16,201 votes
Jon Huntsman
0.34%148 votes
Gary Johnson
0.03%13 votes
Ron Paul
14.12%6,146 votes
Rick Perry
0.59%258 votes
Mitt Romney
27.37%11,917 votes
Rick Santorum
18.86%8,212 votes

UPDATE, 5:38 PM: The mood at FreeRepublic, a popular hangout for movement conservatives, seems pretty jubilant tonight. Here’s a sampling of the comments:

Boo Yah!

And that happened because people vote for ideas that appeal to their aspirations, hopes and dreams.

This is Newtastic!

— by Vendome

Open Message to Rove and the GOP: Romney is a fake robotic Ken doll that stutters and needs to give up running already.

— by Dubya-M-DeesWent2SyriaStupid!

Newt… Newt… Newt …….Thank You God for answering our prayers!!!!!!!

— by SweetCaroline

Outstanding. And I hope Santorum comes in second and beats Romney, too. Rick can come off like a stiff…but he is a man of his convictions. It’s a shame the earlier debates didn’t give him as much facetime as the most recent one. We’ll see how the vote totals come in…

— by SueRae

There seems to be plenty of anti-Romney sentiment on other national conservative blogs and forums as well. They’re the only two candidates left that the Republican base seems to be rallying around. Ron Paul has his own constituency (libertarians) but that group only ascribes to some right wing values, not all.

Whether Santorum will have the resources to vigorously contest Florida remains to be seen. But Gingrich will be landing in the Sunshine State with a burst of momentum following his apparent victory tonight.

As long as Gingrich can battle to a draw in Florida, he’ll be well positioned to move on to Maine and Nevada, which hold caucuses on February 4th.

UPDATE, 7 PM: 1,516 of 2,130 precincts reporting in. Gingrich is clearly the winner. He’s been gaining all night and will finish with more than 40% of the vote.

Michele Bachmann
0.08%323 votes
Herman Cain
1.12%4,447 votes
Newt Gingrich
39.39%156,940 votes
Jon Huntsman
0.18%720 votes
Gary Johnson
0.03%134 votes
Ron Paul
13.56%54,026 votes
Rick Perry
0.44%1,740 votes
Mitt Romney
27.29%108,720 votes
Rick Santorum
17.92%71,407 votes

Note that Herman Cain – the former Godfather’s Pizza executive – is getting more votes than Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, and Jon Hunstman combined. If you’re wondering why, it’s probably because of this.

Leaders of opposition to SOPA and PIPA in Congress congratulate Net strike organizers

As we reported earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scrapped plans to hold a vote on the “Protect IP Act”, also known as PIPA, next Tuesday.

PIPA is one of the two MPAA and RIAA-backed bills that would permit major media conglomerates to indirectly censor the Internet, using the long arm of the Department of Justice. The netroots community has been working in cooperation with activists from across the political spectrum to defeat the bills, culminating in Wednesday’s Internet strike… a global protest against PIPA and its House equivalent, SOPA (the “Stop Online Piracy Act”).

Those efforts paid off today with Senator Reid’s decision not to bring PIPA to the Senate floor next week, and Texas Republican Lamar Smith’s separate announcement that SOPA will not be moving forward (for now) in the House.

The leaders of the bipartisan effort against the bills all released statements praising the news and thanking protest participants for jolting Capitol Hill.

“Senator Reid’s decision to pull PIPA from the floor is the right one. Legislation impacting the future of the Internet is simply too important to get wrong,” said Oregon’s senior senator, Ron Wyden, who singlehandedly stopped PIPA from advancing to the Senate floor in 2011 by placing a hold on the bill.

“PIPA’s authors have been right to identify copyright infringement and the online sale of counterfeit goods as a problem that Congress should work to address. The problem with the approach taken by PIPA and the House, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is that it treats the Internet as if its only purpose was to promote infringement. That approach not only resulted in remedies that would have done irreparable harm to online innovation, openness and free speech, it neglects the considerable opportunities presented by today’s digital economy.”

“Congress should take this opportunity to do more than work out a compromise bill, Congress should take this opportunity to gain a better understanding of the digital world and look for ways to both protect and promote digital trade and innovation,” he added.

“I believe the OPEN Act is a good place to start. But before we think about next steps, we should reflect on the history that was made this week. More than 15 million Americans got involved in a policy debate demonstrating that even in the face of some of the biggest and most powerful special interests, every voice counts.”

Washington’s Maria Cantwell agreed.

“I appreciate Senator Reid’s decision to postpone a vote on the PROTECT IP Act” Cantwell said in a midafternoon statement. “America’s economy thrives on innovation and freedom of speech. We can’t afford to rush an Internet policy that could trample on our innovation economy.”

“This week, the American people clearly spoke – and their voices were heard. Thank you to the thousands of Washingtonians who raised your voices this week to support an open and free Internet.”

“As we move forward, I’ll continue to advocate for a policy that protects both creative content and online freedom of speech. I was proud to be part of the original bipartisan coalition offering an alternative to PROTECT IP. Now, I encourage Congress to consider the OPEN Act, which addresses illegal piracy and security while keeping the Internet open for free speech and innovation.”

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa also congratulated strike organizers and participants after Reid announced his decision to put off a vote.

“Supporters of the Internet deserve credit for pressing advocates of SOPA and PIPA to back away from an effort to ram through controversial legislation,” Issa said in a news release. “Over the last two months, the intense popular effort to stop SOPA and PIPA has defeated an effort that once looked unstoppable but lacked a fundamental understanding of how Internet technologies work.

Other statements from opposition leaders:

We at NPI thank Representatives Issa, Polis, and Lofgren, as well as Senators Wyden, Cantwell, Paul, and Moran for their leadership in defending the Internet against these ill-conceived bills. Were it not for them, these bills might be law right now… which is a very scary thought! Thankfully, neither PIPA or SOPA is on our books, and the Internet remains open and free. We must continue to be active in protecting the Net from future misguided legislation.

Harry Reid calls off next week’s vote on PIPA

Another victory! From Senator Harry Reid’s office:

In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.

There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.

I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.

Reid had earlier said he would not bother whipping Democratic votes for the bill. Now he’s putting off the vote together, which is great news. It doesn’t mean PIPA is dead, but at least it’s not going to be advancing next week.

This victory would not have happened were it not for Wednesday’s Internet strike. Our day of action convinced more than half a dozen PIPA co-sponsors to drop their support of the legislation, and led more than a dozen undeclared senators to announce their opposition for the first time.

Now we’ve achieved something more: We’ve forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – a self-proclaimed “admirer” of the bill as drafted – to pull it off of the table for the time being. That’s a pretty significant accomplishment.

The MPAA’s Chris Dodd has conceded that SOPA and PIPA’s momentum has been lost. He gave away as much in  a conversation with the New York Times, which sought an interview with him to get his reaction to the Internet strike.

On Thursday, however, Mr. Dodd appeared to have all but thrown in the towel on the bills in their current form, and was talking about lessons learned. He acknowledged his side had committed a misstep by allowing Hollywood to become the face of laws that were intended to protect not just movies, but also more mundane products — for instance, home smoke alarms — that are frequently counterfeited abroad, sometimes with disastrous effects.

If Dodd truly thinks that Hollywood’s only misstep was not being clever enough with its P.R., he’s got more disappointments coming to him.

Support for SOPA and PIPA collapsed because the bills that Dodd’s own people helped draw up are fatally flawed. Dodd and his crew of lobbyists do not understand how the Internet works, and they still (wrongly) think the best way to grow their profits is through punitive, draconian legislation instead of innovation.

For years, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) have been treating their own member media conglomerates’ customers like criminals, imposing digital restrictions management on content, slapping intimidating warnings on discs and trying to stamp out online file sharing by filing an endless series of lawsuits (even managing to target families without computers). These measures have utterly failed to stamp out online copyright infringement.

SOPA and PIPA would not improve matters. Legitimate speech on the Net would be stifled and legitimate commerce on the Net would be undermined, while those determined to share movies, books, music, or software would each other would continue to do so through darknets or other means of sharing not yet invented.

We firmly believe that SOPA and PIPA are too fatally flawed to be fixed. Darrell Issa and Ron Wyden’s OPEN Act (which is totally different legislation) is worth a look, but Dodd, speaking on behalf of his trade group, has already taken pot shots at their proposal and made it clear he’s not interested.

It’s evidently his way or the highway.

That kind of attitude isn’t going to get Dodd what we he wants. We will continue to vigorously oppose this legislation in cooperation with our many friends and allies in the Internet community. And working together, we’ll prevail and protect the most democratic medium for communication ever invented.

Governor Gregoire declares state of emergency in response to winter storms

Governor Chris Gregoire proclaimed a winter storm emergency this morning, following a series of events that have forced schools and offices to shut their doors and made many roads impassable.

“This is purely a precautionary measure,” Gregoire said in a news release.

“So far, we haven’t received any requests for state assistance – but we know weather conditions are rapidly changing. I want to make sure we have every resource available to ensure our communities are safe. This proclamation would allow us to activate the National Guard if we need to.”

“It also allows state agencies to respond quickly to any storm-related requests from cities and counties for state assistance. A brief waiver of the restrictions on dairy truck drivers’ work hours is needed now to avoid shipment delays that could mean the loss of nearly $1 million a day for the state’s dairy industry.”

The proclamation also allows the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray to be activated to coordinate the state’s response to the winter weather.

Puget Sound Energy, the state’s largest utility, said that tens of thousands of its customers were still without power following the onset of this morning’s ice storm, which is definitely not helping matters. Here’s PSE’s latest update:

Puget Sound Energy crews Thursday morning are working under extremely difficult conditions. Trees and limbs, weighed down by ice-encrusted snow, are breaking off and damaging power lines, resulting in new power outages to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

Due to hazardous field conditions with falling limbs and trees, some PSE crews on Thursday morning have needed to stay clear from working near trees, impeding damage assessment and repair work. Crews will resume their work as soon as it’s safe to do so.

As of 11 a.m., PSE is responding to 515 outage locations affecting approximately 184,000 customers. Hardest hit areas are in Thurston and Pierce counties and parts of King County. Since heavy snows began on Tuesday morning, PSE has restored power to approximately 51,000 customers in Western Washington.

PSE has requested 140 additional power line crews from other parts of the country to assist with repairs and restoration work, which is expected to extend well into the weekend. There are 75 four-person power line crews, 27 two-person tree crews and 76 servicemen available and assisting with restoration efforts.

We appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to repair power as quickly as possible, with safety our top priority.

People who need to report a power outage, should call Puget Sound Energy at 1-888-225-5773.

WSDOT says the ice storm is affecting the entire state. It is trying its best to keep roads clear, but cautions that downed tree limbs and collisions are making travel very difficult on state highways.

Sound Transit has been forced to stop operating its Tacoma Link streetcar due to ice buildup on the wires. Most of its Express bus runs are also on reroute due to the storms. The same goes for King County Metro and other local bus agencies.

The National Weather Service warns we’re still not out of the woods:


Stay home if at all possible:


Pacific NW Portal’s Extended Weather page has lots of useful links for dealing with winter weather, along with the latest seven-day National Weather Service forecast and updates from trusted weather blogs.

Mission accomplished: Internet strike turns SOPA, PIPA into a top story for the first time

We’re back!

Twenty-one hours ago, we took down this blog, The Advocate, along with Pacific NW Portal and our home page to protest two destructive bills that threaten Internet freedom, stability, and security: the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “Protect IP Act” (PIPA). In their place, we activated an action center explaining our reasons for going dark and urging readers and supporters to join us in conveying our opposition to our region’s representatives in Congress.

Tens of thousands of other sites took similar measures as part of what became a coordinated, global Internet strike against censorship… the biggest, most widespread virtual protest ever organized.

Some sites went partially or completely dark, like we did, making content temporarily unavailable and redirecting traffic to a blackout page. Other sites got readers’ attention through splash pages or popups. Still others chose to censor their logos to emphasize the call to action.

Though the style and approach of blackout varied from site to site, the objective was the same: Raise awareness and mobilize opposition to two very bad bills in Congress that have metaphorically been flying under the radar for months.

Did we succeed in doing that? We absolutely did. This was a historic, unprecedented event, characterized by broad participation and high visibility. It changed the debate over these bills, and in a good way.

As Rachel Maddow observed on her MSNBC show earlier tonight (emphasis ours):

We cover all kinds of protests on this show. All kinds of nonviolent, direct action. All kinds of ways that people try to get Congress to do something if they are not a member of Congress. Occupy Congress yesterday converged on Capitol Hill for rallies and meetings with lawmakers. Occupy D.C. has been sleeping outside in the capital city for months now. The Tea Party marching on Washington, including that one big, really big, march they had back in their heyday… the 9/12 one. People storming legislative hearings. People screaming from the galleries until they’re hauled outside and arrested. People do a million different things to try to get Congress to move.

But I never seen Congress move so far, so fast, on just one day of protest, as the way they did today, when Google put up that censored bar, that redacted bar, over their logo, and Wikipedia turned off the lights.

How effective was today’s protest? Well, besides the huge amount of badly needed media coverage that was generated, the calls, tweets, emails, and faxes produced by the strike resulted in at least twenty U.S. senators distancing themselves from PIPA, or declaring their outright opposition to PIPA. (That’s the Senate version of the legislation, which is scheduled for a procedural vote next week).

In other words, this protest caused the positions of a fifth of the members of the crusty, undemocratically-run institution that we know as the United States Senate to change from either undecided or in favor to against, or leaning against.

That is a pretty remarkable outcome.

Two of the senators who spoke out against SOPA and PIPA today hail from our own region: Patty Murray and Jeff Merkley. We at NPI have been urging them to join their colleagues Ron Wyden and Maria Cantwell in taking a stand against SOPA and PIPA for more than a month. Today, they finally responded.

Merkley, who serves as Oregon’s junior U.S. Senator, spoke out first mid-morning (Pacific Time) with a fairly unequivocal statement:

Thanks for all the calls, emails, and tweets. I will be opposing #SOPA and #PIPA. We can’t endanger an open internet.

In a second tweet, later in the day, he added:

Protecting IP is important, but we need to carefully tailor the solution. #PIPA and #SOPA don’t cut it.

Murray, who serves as Washington’s senior U.S. Senator (and heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) chose to weigh in towards the end of the day. She tweeted that she has reservations with the bills as currently written:

Protecting IP is vital for jobs & econ in WA, but I have real concerns with #SOPA & #PIPA as currently drafted. Changes should be made. -PM [Patty Murray]

Murray and Merkley were not among the cachet of senators recruited by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to sponsor PIPA, so their comments today should not be characterized as reversals of past positions.

However, their colleague, Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, is on the list of cosponsors and was – until last Friday, a few days after the strike had been announced – considered to be supporter. But he isn’t any longer.

As the remaining portions of PIPA progress, I will continue to seek out meaningful amendments and alternative proposals to address the bill’s current flaws.  Since I am no longer a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, remaining a cosponsor of the bill provides me the opportunity to be an active participant in the process of addressing the most serious concerns raised by my constituents. I would not vote for final passage of PIPA, as currently written, on the Senate floor.

Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York, another Democratic cosponsor (and the target of a rally in Manhattan), told constituents on her Facebook page that she has concerns with the bill, but stopped short of pledging to oppose it.

Thank you for all your messages regarding Protect IP. I agree there are real concerns with the current legislation & I’m working to make important changes to the bill. We must work to strike a balance between ending online piracy to protect New York jobs & ensuring Internet freedom so our tech community can continue to flourish.

Sixteen Republican senators have also joined the ranks of the opposition in the last forty-eight hours. Most issued short statements through Twitter or Facebook that they would not be supporting the legislation.

Here’s the complete list, in alphabetical order:

You’ll notice that six senators on that list have their names emphasized in boldface. That’s because they are – or were – cosponsors of PIPA. Their defections, along with Ben Cardin’s, means that PIPA has lost seven of its cosponsors.

ProPublica’s “SOPA Opera”, which tracks where members of Congress stand on SOPA and PIPA, now puts the number of supporters at sixty-two and the number of opponents at one hundred and two. That’s a dramatic change from what the numbers were a few days ago.

Here’s a few more metrics which illustrate how successful the protest was:

  • According to Wikipedia, “more than 12,000 people commented on the Wikimedia Foundation’s blog post announcing the blackout. The breathtaking majority supported the blackout.” In addition, the encyclopedia says more than one hundred and sixty-two million people saw Wikipedia’s blackout page, and more than eight million entered their zip code to find their elected representatives’ contact information.
  • Google disclosed that more than 4.5 million people signed its petition to
  • The White House said that as of 1:15 PM Pacific Time, a total of 103,785 people had signed “We the People” petitions requesting that the Obama administration defend the Internet. One an anti-SOPA petition had 51,689 signatories, while another had 52,096 signatories.
  • BlackoutSOPA reports that (as of this writing) 79,926 people had changed their profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook to protest SOPA and PIPA. These badges were seen by an seen by estimated 64,594,252 Twitter followers and 10,772,942 Facebook friends.
  • Fight for the Future, which hosts the American Censorship Day and SOPA Strike websites, has tallied the total number of participating sites at 75,000. 350,000 people used its tools to contact their elected representatives during the Day of Action.
  • Twitter announced that from 12 AM Eastern until 4 PM Eastern, its users posted 2.4+ million SOPA-related tweets, with the top five terms as follows: SOPA, Stop SOPA, PIPA, Tell Congress, and #factswithoutwikipedia. That’s an average of 150,000 tweets an hour, or 2,500 every minute.
  • Midway through the day of action, Engine Advocacy tweeted that its system was handling 2,000 calls a second to Congress. The high number of calls caused the Senate’s phone system to become jammed.

Though all of us who care about Internet freedom can certainly be proud of what we’ve accomplished today, this fight is not over. SOPA and PIPA are not dead. Let me repeat that: SOPA and PIPA are not dead. The Internet strike didn’t kill these bills… it merely weakened them.

That in itself is very important, but we’ve absolutely got to keep the pressure on. Winning a legislative battle like this requires endurance.

Fortunately, we’ve made some major strides. Before this week, not many people knew about the threat posed by SOPA and PIPA. And there are undoubtedly people out there who still don’t know. But not as many as there used to be.

This week, for the first time, these bills became a top story – in newspapers, on cable television networks, on radio shows, on corporate media websites. And that’s because of the strike. We collectively forced the media conglomerates that are behind SOPA and PIPA to report on our objections to these bills. And we gave Capitol Hill a good jolt. But we have so much more work to do. We must remain vigilant and active to ensure that Congress doesn’t mess with Internet freedom.