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 2013

Ed Markey, Gabriel Gomez have early leads in Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate special primary

Voting in Massachusetts’ special election to determine who will represent the Democratic and Republican parties in the race to succeed Senator John Kerry has ended, and the results are beginning to trickle in.

As of just before 5:45 PM Pacific, with around one-fourth of precincts reporting, U.S. Representative Ed Markey and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez led their respective challengers for the Democratic and Republican nominations. Each had been considered his party’s frontrunner, so these results aren’t too surprising.

Here are the numbers:

MA-Senate – Democratic Special Primary
April 30, 2013 – Results as of 05:41PM Pacific
56 of 2172 Precincts Reporting – 26%

Ed Markey: 58% (74,623 votes)
Stephen Lynch: 42% (53,766 votes)

MA-Senate – Republican Special Primary
April 30th, 2013 – Results as of 05:42PM Pacific
538 of 2172 Precincts Reporting – 25%

Gabriel Gomez: 52% (26,782 votes)
Mike Sullivan: 35% (18,056 votes)
Dan Winslow: 13% (6,652 votes)

Results are coming in at a steady pace, so it’s likely these numbers will be outdated by the time many NPI Advocate readers see this post.

However, it’s always nice to have a snapshot.

Ed Markey’s lead stood at 61% earlier when fewer votes had been tallied and reported. It has since shrunk, but not by that much. Gomez has been in the low fifties for a while. His closest challenger is Mike Sullivan, but he’s pulling in enough votes that third-place finisher Dan Winslow can’t be called a spoiler.

Democrats Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch, as many readers may know, are both members of Massachusetts’ U.S. House delegation. Markey is considered to be more progressive and has a stronger voting record, according to ProgressivePunch.

The Boston Globe reported that turnout for this election was fairly low, with polling places not seeing much activity. Election fatigue may be party to blame – last year’s elections dominated airwaves and mailboxes for a pretty long time.

UPDATE, 6:20 PM: The Associated Press and major news outlets are projecting that Markey and Gomez are the winners of their respective primaries. With more than 70% of ballots now counted, it’s evident that their opponents aren’t going to close the gap. It will be Markey vs. Gomez from now until June 25th.

Kings set to stay in Sacramento after NBA committee unanimously rejects relocation

The Sacramento Kings are going to stay in Sactown.

In a short statement issued a little bit ago, the National Basketball Association revealed that its Relocation Committee has unanimously voted to recommend rejection of the Kings’ application to move to Seattle.

(The Kings are currently owned by the Maloofs, who struck an agreement to sell the team to a group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer back in January).

The NBA’s full Board of Governors (consisting of the league’s existing owners) will meet on May 13th to consider the matter. The board is expected to adopt the Relocation Committee’s recommendation.

The rejection of the application does not mean that the Maloofs have to sell to the ownership group organized by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

However, if they want to sell the franchise and cash out, they don’t appear to have any other options at this point.

The decision is a defeat for the Maloofs (who tried to sell the team to an ownership group that wanted to move it away out of spite) and for Chris Hansen, whose ambition collided with the determination and persistence of the denizens of Sacramento, led by Mayor Kevin Johnson, himself a former NBA player.

Johnson lauded the recommendation with a series of tweets congratulating Sacramento and applauding the enthusiasm of fans in Seattle:

That’s what I’m talking about SACRAMENTO!!!!! WE DID IT!!!!!

— Kevin Johnson (@KJ_MayorJohnson) April 29, 2013

I’ve never been prouder of this city. I thank the ownership group, city leaders, but most of all the BEST FANS IN THE NBA!!!

— Kevin Johnson (@KJ_MayorJohnson) April 29, 2013

I want to take my hat off to Seattle. You’re a great city,had a great proposal, unbelievable fans & no doubt deserve a team in the future.

— Kevin Johnson (@KJ_MayorJohnson) April 29, 2013

5:00PM @firestonepublic! Be there!

— Kevin Johnson (@KJ_MayorJohnson) April 29, 2013

Kings fans reacted on Sactown Royalty, a leading Sacramento Kings fan blog, with jubilation and contempt for the Maloofs. (And that might be an understatement).

“The second I saw the news go up on Twitter, I started bawling all over my computer,” one fan wrote. “A glorious moment and I’d just like to wave as the Maloofs walk away and contemplate how they failed at failing a city.”

“If anything, in the end, I thank Hansen for taking the Maloofs out of our lives,” said another, contemplating the victory. “In reality, without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today, feeling the way we do today.”

A few self-professed Sonics fans joined in the celebration as well.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for Sacramento Kings fans,” a fan styling him or her self as UniversalGuru wrote. “You are a testament to true fandom and an example of what every fanbase should strive to achieve.”

“I hope that Kings fans will support Seattle in their effort to rejoin the NBA (hopefully through expansion),” UniversalGuru added.

“Congratulations are not enough to describe how you must feel. I know, because it’s the antithesis of what we went through in 2008. I know that I’ll be rooting for you during the 2013-2014 season.”

That last comment sums up our sentiments.

We at NPI would like to see men’s professional basketball return to Seattle, but only through an expansion franchise. That’s why we’re very glad that Sacramento has succeeded in its efforts to keep the Kings. All of our other pro teams (Mariners, Storm, Sounders, Seahawks) truly can be called hometown teams, because they started play in Seattle and have always belonged to Seattle.

Had Chris Hansen succeeded in his efforts to take Sacramento’s team and bring it here, it would not have meant the return of the SuperSonics. It would have meant the transformation of the Sacramento Kings into the Seattle Kings. It would have meant that Seattle would have stolen another city’s team, just as the Sonics were taken from Seattle five years ago by Clay Bennett and his henchmen.

The NBA would now be wise to award Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer an expansion franchise. In Hansen and Ballmer and the Nordstroms, the league has an enthusiastic ownership group who are passionate about bringing the NBA back to Seattle and have forged a partnership with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine to make it happen.

McGinn and Constantine both depicted their resolve and enthusiasm as unchanged despite the NBA’s recommendation against the relocation.

“I’m proud of how Sonics fans have rallied together to help Seattle get a team,” McGinn said. “We’re going to stay focused on our job: making sure Seattle remains in a position to get a team when the opportunity presents itself.”

Constantine agreed.

“I’m disappointed, but undeterred in our quest to bring NBA basketball back to the Pacific Northwest. Today’s decision doesn’t mean this effort is over. From what I saw at the presentation in New York, Chris Hansen and his team have made the superior offer and the best pure business case for the NBA to return to Seattle.”

“We have a documented fan and business base ready to step forward when the time comes. We are patient, but determined. I look forward to continuing our work with the Hansen group to return NBA basketball to the major media market and loyal fans of Seattle, King County, and Washington State.”

Special session to begin on May 13th; Inslee says budget negotiations will continue

A special session of the Washington State Legislature will begin two weeks from tomorrow in order to give lawmakers more time to hammer out a budget for the 2013-2015 biennium, consider a transportation package, and address policy priorities that Senate Republicans refused to vote on, Governor Jay Inslee announced at a press conference in the Legislative Building this evening.

Inslee made his announcement less than an hour after the 2013 regular session of the Legislature adjourned sine die without a budget or approval by the Senate of several key bills the Governor had asked the Legislature to send to his desk.

Among those bills Inslee would like to see advance in the special session are the Reproductive Parity Act and the DREAM Act, which did not come up for a vote in the Senate because Rodney Tom allowed his caucus’ most extreme members to prevail in blocking the legislation from getting to the floor.

Inslee also wants to finish developing legislation to strengthen the state’s DUI laws. Representative Roger Goodman, who represents NPI’s home legislative district, has been at the forefront of that effort, which began late in the session.

Inslee told reporters that negotiations over the budget will continue during the two week break in between the end of the regular session and the special session he has called. However, the two sides remain far apart, and we doubt there will be a compromise ready for lawmakers to vote on when they return on May 13th.

The text of Inslee’s special session proclamation is as follows:

WHEREAS, in accordance with Article II, Section 12 (Amendment 68) of the Washington State Constitution, the Legislature adjourned its 2013 regular session on April 28, 2013, the 105th day of the session; and

WHEREAS, work remains to be done with respect to the 2013-2015 biennial operating and capital budgets and bills necessary to implement those budgets; and

WHEREAS, work remains to be done with respect to the 2013-2015 biennial transportation budget and bills necessary to implement that budget; and

WHEREAS, work remains to be done with respect to critical policy bills that need to be acted upon by the Legislature; and

WHEREAS, the Speaker of the House [Frank Chopp], House Minority Leader [Dan Kristiansen], Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Leader [Rodney Tom], Senate Democratic Leader [Ed Murray], and Senate Republican Leader [Mark Schoesler] working together with the Governor may agree upon additional matters that are necessary for the Legislature to address;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jay Inslee, Governor of the state of Washington, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article II, Section 12 (Amendment 68) and Article III, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution, do hereby convene the Washington State Legislature in Special Session in the Capitol at Olympia on Monday, May 13, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. for the purpose of enacting legislation as described above.

Signed and sealed with the official seal of the state of Washington this 28th day of April, A.D. Two-thousand and Thirteen at Olympia, WA.

The Constitution provides that a special session may last up to thirty days. The governor has the power to call a special session, but he cannot end one. If the Legislature cannot reach agreement on a budget by the end of the first special session, a second special session may have to be called in June.

The anatomy of a headline: Some stories on Federal Way tragedy imply it’s part of Seattle

Last night’s deadly rampage in Federal Way – which resulted in the deaths of five individuals at the Pinewood Village apartments complex just off Pacific Highway South – has focused national and international attention on our region.

Although the tragedy occurred in Federal Way and authorities there are handling the investigation, several national and international media outlets are incorrectly characterizing the event as a “Seattle shooting” or a shooting in Seattle, implying that it happened in our region’s biggest city. In fact, the Federal Way city limits are some twenty miles south of the heart of Seattle, and driving from one city hall to another takes twenty-five minutes… in good traffic.

A quick check of stories pertaining to the tragedy on Bing News revealed some headlines that are misleading and could have been better written.

Let’s compare a few:

Our own local media, of course, don’t need to say “Seattle area”. We here in Washington know where Federal Way is.

There are a lot of details about this tragedy we still don’t know. We do know that the man killed by police last night – who is suspected of killing the others – had a license to carry a concealed weapon. And he was abusive: Law enforcement knew this guy, because he’d been violent before. Unfortunately, he was armed last night, and he did terrible damage with his weapons.

We at NPI extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed in this senseless act of violence. Another mass shooting has resulted in more death and destruction. We’re left to wonder: When is enough enough? When are we going to put human rights ahead of “gun rights”?

U.S. House endangers digital freedom by passing CISPA for the second year in a row

Ignoring a veto threat from President Barack Obama, the U.S. House of Representatives voted today to pass Republican Congressman Mike Rogers’ Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known as CISPA, for the second year in a row. The vote on final passage, which happened this morning, was two hundred and eighty-eight to one hundred and twenty-eight.

Ostensibly, CISPA is intended to help bolster Internet security in the United States and make it easier for the U.S. government and major corporations to share information about cyber threats. In reality, CISPA is a threat to our digital freedom and civil liberties, and gives the government more spying powers.

CISPA did not make it out of the U.S. Senate after passing the House last year, which is why it was reintroduced in the House this year. The 2013 incarnation of the bill has followed a similar trajectory to the 2012 incarnation. It was shepherded through committee by Mike Rogers, amended slightly, and then approved on the House floor despite a veto threat from the White House.

The vote for and against the bill was bipartisan, but most no votes came from Democrats and most yes votes came from Republicans.

The roll call for the Pacific Northwest was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democrats Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Denny Heck (WA), Kurt Schrader (OR); Republicans Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, Dave Reichert (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Mike Simpson (ID), Don Young (AK), Steve Daines (MT)

Voting Nay: Democrats Suzan DelBene, Jim McDermott (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Pete DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer (OR); Republicans Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA) and Raúl Labrador (ID)

Two days ago, we asked our region’s U.S. Representatives to vote against this latest incarnation of CISPA. Most did not, but we are very grateful to those who did, particularly Suzan DelBene, who represents NPI’s home district.

DelBene said in a statement sent to NPI shortly after the vote that CISPA 2013 was simply too flawed to earn her support.

“While I support the goals of this legislation, the CISPA bill voted on by the House today unfortunately does not offer necessary protections to safeguard Americans’ privacy and constitutional rights,” she said.

“I commend the good faith, bipartisan effort by my colleagues to draft effective legislation, but today’s bill still falls short. While the bill voted on today is an improvement from last year’s version, it ultimately fails to adequately protect civil liberties. It grants immunity to corporations that don’t protect the personal information of customers that they freely share with the federal government.”

“This bill doesn’t do enough to prevent personally identifiable information or the private communications of individuals from being collected by federal agencies. This is inconsistent with our nation’s values regarding individual privacy.”

We strongly concur and we thank Representatives DelBene as well as Representative McDermott for casting an informed and courageous vote. We also extend our thanks to Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Raúl Labrador for their no votes. They were the only Republicans from our region to vote no.

Three of Oregon’s four Democrats also voted no.

We are very disappointed in our region’s other Democrats for their aye votes. CISPA is fatally flawed legislation that lacks robust privacy and civil liberties safeguards. It is not well drafted. That is why we are strongly opposed to it and it is why President Obama has threatened a veto, both last year and this year.

Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Denny Heck, and Derek Kilmer should have followed the lead of Representatives DelBene and McDermott and voted no on CISPA 2013.

We will be in contact with each of them to express our disappointment in their votes over the next few days. We now urge our region’s U.S. Senators, especially Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Ron Wyden, and Jeff Merkley, to put a stop to CISPA in the U.S. Senate so this poorly written legislation never gets out of Congress.

U.S. Senate’s NRA caucus blocks legislation to require background checks on more gun sales

A bipartisan proposal to require background checks on the sale of firearms at gun shows and over the Internet has failed to advance in the United States Senate after being successfully filibustered by forty-one Republicans and four Democrats.

By a vote of fifty-four to forty-six (with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voting nay so that he has the ability to bring up the legislation again later) the Senate nixed the amendment carefully crafted by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to strengthen background checks, an idea that public opinion research suggests around 90% of the American people support.

Senators from the Pacific Northwest were evenly split on the amendment. The roll call from our region was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (OR), Jon Tester (MT)

Voting Nay: Democrats Mark Begich (AK) and Max Baucus (MT); Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID), Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Begich and Baucus were two of the four Democrats who voted against the amendment. The other two Democrats were Mark Pryor of Arkansas and the recently elected Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

As mentioned, Harry Reid also voted against the amendment after he knew what the outcome would be, so that he has the ability to bring it back to the Senate floor at a later point in time. (Reid supports background checks and would have voted aye if there had been fifty-nine other aye votes).

Several Republicans joined with the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus in support of the amendment. They were Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine, and surprisingly, John McCain of Arizona.

McCain’s Arizona seatmate Jeff Flake, who the White House and activists had previously hoped might vote in favor of the amendment, voted nay after announcing he would join the Republican filibuster last night.

Our friends at the PCCC are launching an ad campaign against the four Democratic senators who failed the people of the United States of America by joining in the Republican filibuster to block the Manchin/Toomey proposal from moving forward.

We at NPI are particularly disappointed in Senators Begich and Baucus for standing with the National Rifle Association (NRA) instead of the vast majority of Americans, including responsible gun owners, who support closing the background check loophole so that criminals can’t avoid scrutiny by buying firearms at gun shows or over the Internet. They had an opportunity to demonstrate political courage and they squandered that opportunity. Shame on them.

White House threatens veto of Mike Rogers’ reincarnated CISPA in its current form

Legislation making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives that could further erode our civil liberties would be vetoed by President Obama were it to reach his desk in its current form, the White House said today.

In a formal statement of administration policy on H.R. 624, more commonly known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, the Office of Management and Budget outlined what President Obama wants to see in a cybersecurity bill from Congress and characterized the current version in the House – backed by Representative Mike Rogers – as unacceptable.

The Administration recognizes and appreciates that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) adopted several amendments to H.R. 624 in an effort to incorporate the Administration’s important substantive concerns. However, the Administration still seeks additional improvements and if the bill, as currently crafted, were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill. The Administration seeks to build upon the continuing dialogue with the HPSCI and stands ready to work with members of Congress to incorporate our core priorities to produce cybersecurity information sharing legislation that addresses these critical issues.

Emphasis is theirs.

Prior to today’s veto threat, the House had been moving towards a vote on this latest incarnation of CISPA, so the statement sent out less than a couple hours ago is very timely and welcome. Our allies in the Internet Defense League have been working hard to stop CISPA in its tracks; the ACLU even created a petition asking the White House to do just what it did today.

CISPA is fatally flawed legislation. Democrats like Adam Schiff and Jan Schakowsky tried to fix some of the bill’s most troublesome provisions in committee but their amendments were rejected. The amendments to the bill that were adopted amount to little more than window dressing. They don’t fix the bill’s problems.

If you haven’t heard of CISPA before (or have heard it mentioned in the news but aren’t familiar with its dangerous provisions), the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a good rundown of it that you ought to read.

It was proposed in the last Congress and even passed the Republican-controlled House, but it didn’t make it out of the Senate.

We urge all readers and supporters to join in the campaign to defeat CISPA, and we ask all of our representatives – Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Dave Reichert, Adam Smith, Denny Heck, Suzanne Bonamici, Greg Walden, Earl Blumenauer, Pete DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Raúl Labrador and Mike Simpson – to vote against CISPA if it comes up for a vote in the House.

At least two killed, dozens wounded in blasts at Boston Marathon finish line

Terrible news out of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

Two people were killed and at least 23 people were injured in two explosions that rocked the Boston Marathon steps away from the finish line.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said two more explosive devices were found near the area, and they were being dismantled.

The first blasts happened at about 2:50 p.m. near the intersection of Boylston and Exeter streets. Bloody spectators were carried away from the area, and witnesses said several victims lost limbs.

“People started throwing down the barricade and running over one another. I literally saw the garbage barrel explode, and I ran as fast as I could,” said one runner.

Boston police said two people died, and at least 22 were injured. Many tired and scared runners were seen wandering around the area, desperate to find loved ones.

Boston police said that within the last hour, there was an additional explosion at the JFK Library, but there are no known casualties or injuries from that explosion. Police don’t know if that explosion is related to the first two, but they are treating all the explosions as if they are linked (which makes sense).

Police have so far refused to confirm the number of casualties but the traditional media is reporting that at least two are dead and twenty-eight injured. All those injured have been transported away from the scene.

At this time, we don’t have a lot of solid information about this incident, or who is responsible. But it appears these blasts were an act of terrorism, not an accident, given that there were multiple explosions all in the same vicinity, and all during the afternoon of a public holiday (Patriot’s Day) in Massachusetts, when there are traditionally a lot of people downtown.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has asked people to go home (or back to their hotel rooms) and avoid congregating in crowds.

The White House says that President Obama has been notified and has directed his administration to provide whatever assistance that Massachusetts needs.

FOR MOREThe Boston Globe is liveblogging the aftermath of the blasts.

EYEWITNESS VIDEO: A person who was near the explosions in Copley Square has uploaded a short clip to YouTube. The clip begins right after the first explosion and shows reaction to the second. The Boston Globe, meanwhile, has graphic footage of both of the explosions. Be warned: It’s not for the faint of heart.

Bad news for the Pacific Northwest: KOMO owner Fisher agrees to sell itself to Sinclair

And just like that, another local institution is gone.

Fisher Communications, one of the last independently-owned media companies in the Pacific Northwest, has decided to sell itself to an out of state, right wing media conglomerate for $373 million, the company announced today.

“After conducting our review of potential strategic alternatives, the Board concluded this all-cash transaction was the best path to maximizing value for shareholders,” said Paul A. Bible, Chairman of Fisher’s Board of Directors, in a statement.

“Sinclair is the largest independent TV broadcaster in the country, and we believe its commitment to the industry — along with its greater scale and sizable resources — will provide our stations, team members and business partners with new opportunities to flourish,” said Colleen B. Brown, Fisher’s President and CEO.

We disagree. Fisher’s decision to sell itself is bad news for our region, bad news for media diversity, and bad news for all who care about good journalism.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is the media conglomerate that made a name for itself (in a bad way) during the 2004 presidential campaign when it became known that it was forcing its local stations to air an anti-John Kerry “documentary” called “Stolen Honor” on the eve of the election. This prompted a fierce backlash and a “Stop Sinclair/Boycott Sinclair” campaign, which took a serious toll on Sinclair’s stock.

(We covered this on The Advocate back in October of 2004).

Though nowhere near as huge as Disney, Viacom, CBS, Comcast’s NBC Universal, or Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, it is still a big company – it’s the largest owner of local television stations in the United States. Its portfolio already consists of some eighty-seven stations in nearly fifty media markets.

Lately, Sinclair has been on a buying spree. Only a couple of months ago, it reached an agreement with KIRO7 owner Cox Communications to buy four of their stations. And last year it bought six stations from Newport Television. Prior to that, it bought eight television stations from Freedom Communications in 2011.

A commenter on the blog TVNewsCheck, reacting to the news of Fisher’s sale to Sinclair, asks a good question: Where is Sinclair going to find the money to run all of these stations that it is gobbling up?

We are now seeing a total lack of responsibility in broadcasting: According to a March 12 regulatory filing, Sinclair Broadcast Group had $2.27 billion in debt (as of Dec. 31) and is seeking nearly $1 billion in loans to refinance existing debt and support the recent acquisitions of Barrington Broadcasting Group and certain Cox Media Group stations.

According to Bloomberg, the company is also selling $600 million of bonds to pay down existing debt. In the past two years, Sinclair has spent roughly $1.5 billion… buying Freedom on credit for $385 million, Four Points for $200 million, Newport for $467 million, and, most recently, Barrington for $370 million and four Cox stations for $99 million. It has also been reported that Sinclair is trying to buy Titan Television Broadcast Group and its 12 mid-to-small-market stations. Translation: Sinclair continues to buy television stations with money it doesn’t have. How much cash will Sinclair have to operate and improve these stations they are gobbling up? How does this help preserve the voice of local braodcast? It doesn’t.

Colleen Brown claims that Sinclair’s “greater scale” and “sizable resources” will allow the stations she’s currently running to flourish. That’s a load of corporate mumbo-jumbo. Executives attempting to justify a zillion past mergers and acquisitions have made similar claims using similar buzzwords.

Corporate mergers fail more often that marriages, as CNN reported in 2009. A 1999 study by accounting giant KPMG (PDF) found that eighty-percent of mergers “failed to unlock value”. What’s more, half of the mergers examined destroyed value.

The sales agreement announced today is bad news for the Pacific Northwest. Fisher’s stockholders will get a payout and Sinclair’s executives will take over their assets. The rest of us get nothing out of this – in fact, we stand to lose a lot.

This is a deal only the one percent could love.

Fisher’s investors will be compensated for their shares by Sinclair with money we presume Sinclair doesn’t even have, given its recent regulatory filings.

And then a long list of television and radio stations that used to be locally owned will become cogs in yet another out of state media conglomerate’s empire.

As Jon Talton says:

Broadcasting, which uses the public airways, has become one of the most consolidated industries in our era of monopolies, duopolies and cartels. All across the country, formerly proud local stations have been absorbed by the Borg of a few big players.

The Federal Communications Commission has done nothing to stop the trend, so don’t expect it to stop the sale of Fisher. But the result is not just lost jobs, but the loss in communities of some of their most important, and influential, touchstones. There’s less competition and innovation, fewer choices and distinctive local stations.

We’ll have more on this later today. Stay tuned.

Senator Maria Cantwell on Sally Jewell: “I know that science will be her compass”

Editor’s Note: The following is the text of Senator Maria Cantwell’s speech on behalf of Interior nominee Sally Jewell, delivered on the floor of the United States Senate earlier today. (Jewell was confirmed by a vote of 87-11). Video of the speech is available on YouTube. Our thanks to Senator Cantwell for sharing her remarks with our readers here on The Advocate as a guest post.

Mr. President, I join my colleagues from the Northwest to come to the floor this afternoon to speak in support of the nomination of Sally Jewell as Secretary of Interior. And, like my colleagues from the Northwest, I want to express how much we appreciate her willingness to serve and how proud we are of her legacy and interest in a variety of issues so far. And, obviously, the Department of Interior – with its broad range of services – is so important to us, including everything from our National Parks, to our wildlife refuges, to offshore drilling lease management, to the important science done by the US Geological Service and many other things.

In fact, I read that the Department of the Interior was called the “Department of Everything Else.” As a nominee, Ms. Jewell came before our committee and I want to thank her family for their willingness to support her — and their efforts to come to Washington, D.C. Because Sally is the exact type of leadership we need at the Department of Interior. She represents a balanced person who knows how to help a growing business like she did, and served on the University Board of Regents, and also worked on the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association.

She has done everything in business from dealing with oil fields in Oklahoma to commercial banking to — of late — running REI, one of our most successful companies in the Pacific Northwest.

So I know she has the kind of leadership that it takes to figure out these issues – about best use of public lands or the vigorous challenges the Department faces when it comes to modernizing the bureaucracy or thinking about climate change at the same time you are talking about deep-water drilling.

So it’s a myriad of things that we have to forge through and Sally Jewell is the right person with the right balance to get that done.

Having grown up in Washington where over forty percent of our land is public land, Sally understands these Western issues – whether it’s water rights or salmon recovery or understanding the impact on water levels, fire season, wildlife on BLM lands, or the importance of access to hunting and fishing – I guarantee, because she grew up there, Sally Jewell understands these issues.

And I know that she’s been involved in many organizations to express that. And that has been a good training ground for her. I’m confident because she is trained engineer, she’s going to bring a very pragmatic can-do attitude to the Interior Department’s management and problem-solving effort.

I know that science will be her compass and I know that she is not going to have an ideological bent. But she’s going to have a get it done mentality. Given the importance of the Interior Department’s agencies and very challenging mission, I’m excited that we are going to have somebody with the business background and a science background at the Department of Interior.

So I hope that our colleagues will vote today to move Ms. Jewell out of the United States Senate so that we can get her into the Department of Interior. So that she can begin this important job and continue to move our nation’s agenda forward. As the Chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee I look forward to working with Ms. Jewell on all the issues related to Indian Country as well.

There is much to accomplish, much to address and I think that her background is exactly what we need. So I hope my colleagues will move quickly on this issue.

And I thank the Chairman, Senator Wyden [of Oregon], for his leadership in moving her nomination through the process.

U.S. Senate confirms Sally Jewell as America’s next Secretary of the Interior in 87-11 vote

Good news out of our nation’s capital for a change: The United States Senate, by a vote of eighty-seven to eleven, has voted to confirm Washington’s own Sally Jewell as America’s next Secretary of the Interior.

Jewell, a longtime Evergreen State business leader, is the outgoing chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Incorporated, better known as REI.

“I am pleased that today the Senate took bipartisan action to confirm Sally Jewell as our next Secretary of the Interior,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released a few minutes ago by the White House. “With her extensive business experience, including her background in the energy sector, along with her lifelong commitment to conservation, Sally is the right person for this important job.”

“She brings an important mix of strong management skills, appreciation for our nation’s tradition of protecting our public lands and heritage, and a keen understanding of what it means to be good stewards of our natural resources.”

“Sally’s commitment to energy and climate issues, her belief in our strong government-to-government relationship with Indian Country, and her understanding of the inherent link between conservation and good jobs ensure that she will be an exceptional Secretary of the Interior,” the President added.

“I am very glad she is joining my team, and I look forward to her counsel on these important issues, as we continue to leverage our natural resources responsibly while protecting our nation’s treasures for generations to come.”

The board of REI also issued a statement praising the confirmation vote.

“Speaking on behalf of REI’s board and staff, we thank Sally for her seventeen years of service to the co-op and wish her all the best with her new adventure in the ‘other Washington’,” said Brian Unmacht, REI’s Interim CEO.

“Thanks to her outstanding leadership, REI is in strong shape and well-positioned for the future. As she did at REI, Sally Jewell will lead the Interior department with integrity, balance and wisdom.””

Jewell succeeds Colorado’s Ken Salazar as the fifty-first Secretary of the Interior.

The Pacific Northwest delegation voted unanimously to confirm Jewell. The roll call for our region was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democrats Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester and Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK); Republicans Jim Risch and Mark Crapo (ID), Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Voting Nay: None

Although no senators from the Pacific Northwest voted against Jewell’s nomination, eleven spiteful Republicans from outside the region refused to make Jewell’s confirmation vote unanimous. These Republicans were:

  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • Mike Enzi (R-WY)
  • Deb Fischer (R-NE)
  • Mike Johanns (R-NE)
  • Mike Lee (R-UT)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Tim Scott (R-SC)
  • David Vitter (R-LA)

Not surprisingly, these eleven are some of the U.S. Senate’s most conservative members. Five of them are from states east of the Mississippi River. Senators from the conservative Midwest and the swing Rocky Mountain states were mostly behind Jewell, with the principal exception of the Wyoming and Nebraska delegations.

Considering how often Republicans vote against President Obama’s nominees, it’s impressive that Sally Jewell garnered the votes of most of the Senate Republican caucus. Now that she is confirmed, she can assume her new position.

Agencies Jewell will oversee include the National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the recently-created Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Sally Jewell is the second Washingtonian to serve as Secretary of the Interior; the first was Richard Achilles Ballinger, who served under President Taft more than a century ago. (Ballinger was once the mayor of Seattle). One Oregonian (Douglas McKay) and two Idahoans (Cecil Andrus, Dirk Kempthorne) have also served as Secretaries of the Interior during the past century.

Inslee and Higher Ed: Disappointing

The past week has not been a good one for higher education. As Governor Inslee (looking back to before November, it feels nice to call him ‘Governor’), released his budget priorities last Thursday, it included a recommendation for tuition to increase 3-5% (3 percent for regional universities like Western Washington University, 5 percent for Washington State University and the University of Washington). This is combined news from the middle of March that the tuition increases in Washington are the second worst in the nation, ranking only behind Arizona. This also runs against the logic asserted by a recent poll which found that voters in Washington state overwhelmingly support increased funding to higher education.

While this news contains a bit of personal relief (I was raised in Arizona), Inslee’s recommended tuition hike will add on to the nearly $4,200 increase in tuition since 2008. While more money is proposed for financial aid, this does nothing to solve the affordability issues in higher education, especially because of the growing “dead-zone” comprised of students whose families make too much to receive financial aid, but not enough to actually pay for college. In addition, low income students are scared away by the “sticker shock” of high tuition prices, regardless of the aid they receive.

Additionally, Inslee’s proposal creates a “competitive enrollment pool” for schools to compete for money to increase slots for Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering degrees. This is similar to Governor Gregoire’s budget before she left office, but ignores higher education as a whole, even though he acknowledges how much tuition has increased in his budget priority document.

In other news detrimental for our system of higher education, the Washington State DREAM Act is dead. Despite a coalition of immigrant, student, and youth organizations, HB 1817  failed to be put to a vote in the Senate Higher Education Committee, despite having the votes to go into law.  Although the current Senate Majority Leader, Rodney Tom (~-Medina), supports the DREAM Act, this either calls into question his effectiveness as Majority Leader or his support of the DREAM Act itself.

This outcome is not expected, seeing as after the hearing for the Act last Thursday Senator Barbara Bailey, the Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, published an op-ed saying that the DREAM Act was an unfunded bill, despite supporting a bill that would allow more than 1,000 students attending Western Governors’ University access to the same source of financial aid. Western Governors’ University is an entirely online university, and it seems that Senator Bailey would rather support a very peculiar form of education rather than see students who are undocumented, students who are striving to achieve their degrees and have overcome giant obstacles to be at the best universities in the nation for degree completion.

The next step in higher education funding will be when both houses of the legislature release their budget. As this process happens, students are struggling to pay for college, and universities are struggling to retain faculty and staff that will continue offering the quality education students need for success. Additionally, it will be critical that funding for higher education comes from new revenue, as if it originates from cuts to other programs it will affect students just the same, as many current and future students rely upon programs such food assistance the same as non-students in our state. In fact, these programs contribute to providing students the opportunity to earn their degree.

Governor Inslee’s budget priority proposal was disappointing regarding higher education, and while it included much needed investments in K-12 education and healthcare, it is critical that higher education is made more affordable and accessible for students in Washington; both current students and students to come. Whether the Senate will do so without cutting other programs is unsure; the best chances for the best budget for all parts of our state, a responsible budget for our commonwealth, will likely come from the House.