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

Monday, July 7, 2008

Gordon Smith: Discrimination against gays and lesbians is okay

Back in the days when it was socially acceptable to deny work and housing to certain ethnic or racial groups, immigrants and Americans were forced to deal with politicians who turned their backs on the plight of people who simply wanted to live and work and build a life for themselves and their families.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s. Enter Republican Gordon Smith.

In 1996 during a very heated and intense run for the U.S. Senate against Ron Wyden, Smith came clean on his position allowing for discrimination against gays and lesbians:
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Smith said Friday that he believes it is okay in some circumstances to discriminate against homosexuals.

At a news conference at his campaign headquarters, Smith was asked whether it was all right for a landlord to refuse to rent an apartment to a gay person simply because the person is gay.

"There may be circumstances where someone for religious reasons would not want to "rent to a gay person" and I would not want to compel them to do so", Smith said.
The fact that someone running for office to represent all Oregonians (and yes, we have gays and lesbians in Oregon [PDF - see page 5]) would hold these views is astonishing, especially after all we've been through as a society.

Apparently for Gordon Smith in the nineties, not all men and women were created equal.

It's entirely possible that Gordon Smith no longer holds the view that it's perfectly acceptable to discriminate against individuals based solely on their sexual orientation. Last week, I put in a call to Lindsay Gilbride, spokesperson for the Smith campaign. I also sent her two emails, asking for clarification on Smith's current position on this matter.

Neither my call or my emails were returned/answered.

So for now, this is what we have on the record: Gordon Smith thinks it is okay to deny you housing if you're gay.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Poll Watch: Washington "just barely" a battleground state

Polls (which we at NPI don't care much for) always vary, both in what they report and in the track record for what they predict.

Strategies 360 shows Obama with an eight point lead over McCain in Washington state (47-39), though other polls have shown stronger leads.

McCain is also running far ahead of the Republicans in general, since as many as 61% had a negative opinion of President Bush in the same survey. McCain scores 44/46 for positive/negative. Obama did well in Washington's caucuses, but needs to consolidate the Clinton bloc here. His positive/negative ratio was 54/37.

Margin of error for the poll was 2.75%.

Darryl has more analysis at Hominid Views

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Declaration of Independence

Posted for your reading pleasure on this Fourth of July, 2008, a beautiful document. Never have the emphasized sections (in bold) below seemed so important. The Bush administration has savaged our traditions, ignored the law, stomped all over our widely held values, destroyed our respect abroad and damaged our well being at home. It has depleted the common wealth, imposed a crushing debt on our children, and squandered our natural resources.

It has refused to plan for the future and has used the politics of fear to intimidate the American people into accepting unjust, unfair, un-American policies. It is, without a doubt, the most disastrous administration in all of our history, and the day that it is abolished will be a time for monumental celebration.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Oregon Update: It still sucks to be a Republican

It's been a wild and wooly week in Oregon politics. Two rather prominent stories outlining more problems for Republicans were front and center.

First, GOP Oregon House candidate Jeff Duyck (rhymes with "pike") is being forced to drop his candidacy for District 29 because he doesn't live in the district. The move isn't without a lot of controversy. Duyck has been voting in the district for seven years and election officials had told him previously that he lived there. But as it turns out, Duyck's property is bisected by the district boundary line. His home and other structures on the property are on the District 26 side of the line.

Duyck can appeal the decision, but its unlikely he'll succeed. The Secretary of State's office has no choice under Oregon law. A person running for office must live in the district at least a year before running.

While this definitely sucks for Duyck, who followed the rules as he knew them to be, it highlights more ineptitude by the Oregon Republican Party. Jeff Duyck is one of their top recruits. The people in charge of running their House races should known Duyck's property was at the edge of the district and going over the maps with a fine-toothed comb.

The other big news this week is decision by the Oregon Supreme Court to affirm a lower court decision against racketeer Bill Sizemore.

The court ruled in favor of two teachers unions and upheld a $2.5 million judgement won against Sizemore in 2002.

It's not clear yet if Sizemore is personally liable for the judgement.

Bill Sizemore is Oregon's version of Tim Eyman, Sizemore is just way more blatant about skirting the law. And in this rather prominent case, shattering it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rossi inappopriately used Aquasox mailing list to boost campaign

The Rossi campaign is either getting really desperate or really careless in its hunt for donors to pump up the Republican's campaign war chest.

Recently, Rossi, who holds a tiny ownership stake in the Everett Aquasox, used his connection to the minor league ballclub to obtain thousands of fan email addresses. He then sent out an invitation to a fundraising event to benefit him in violation of the Aquasox' privacy policy.

Aquasox co-owner Tom Hoban, with whom Rossi also owns a 1.4 acre commercial property in Mill Creek worth upwards of $5.25 million, helped the campaign get access to the team's mailing list. After the e-mail blast became public, Rossi's spokeswoman Jill Strait suggested that Rossi had no knowledge of Hoban's activities and in addition, told the Everett Herald that the Dino Rossi fundraiser was "not a partisan event."

Yet Hoban took the stage right after Rossi at a "Campaign Kickoff Luncheon" last December, to solicit money and to reveal his scheme to use the baseball team to boost Rossi's gubernatorial bid.

Washington State Democrats say Rossi is using a front group to build donor lists, not to mention violating the privacy of thousands of baseball fans. As their spokesperson Kelly Steele pointed out: "After 8 years of deception and lies from George Bush, the last thing Washingtonians need is Bush Republican like Dino Rossi – who has now been caught in a bald-faced lie – in the governor’s mansion."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sonics moving to Oklahoma City

Say goodbye to the Seattle Sonics, if you haven't already. Tomorrow, they'll be on their way to Oklahoma City.

The City of Seattle and Sonics owner Clay Bennett (known as Professional Basketball Club LLC in court proceedings) came to a settlement prior to Judge Marsha Pechman's decision that was to have been issued at 4 p.m. today. The details are as follows:

The city of Seattle will be paid $45 million in exchange for letting the Seattle SuperSonics move to Oklahoma City this year as part of last-minute settlement announced this afternoon.

Sonics owner Clay Bennett would have to pay the city an additional $30 million in five years if the city is unable to secure another NBA team, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said.

Nickels said the NBA agreed that a renovated Key Arena would be suitable to support a new team. However, the mayor said the state Legislature must pass a funding bill next year to help pay for a renovation.
The Sonics name, history and presumably colors will remain in Seattle.

NBA Commissioner David Stern, continuing his efforts to extort solicit public funds for a new arena, issued this statement:
“We are pleased that the Sonics and the City of Seattle have settled their litigation. While the decision has been made to relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma City, the NBA continues to regard Seattle as a first-class NBA city that is capable of serving as home for another NBA team. In order for this to occur, a state-of-the-art NBA arena must be funded and constructed in the Seattle area, a subject that has been extensively debated -- but not ultimately acted upon -- by local political and business leaders over the past four years. We are pleased that the City remains committed to addressing this fundamental requirement for the return of NBA basketball to Seattle and we hope that other elected officials critical to a solution will support the City’s efforts.

“We understand that City, County, and State officials are currently discussing a plan to substantially re-build KeyArena for the sum of $300 million. If this funding were authorized, we believe KeyArena could properly be renovated into a facility that meets NBA standards relating to revenue generation, fan amenities, team facilities, and the like. Assuming the funding can be committed, the league is willing to work with the City on the design and construction of the rebuild to facilitate this result. Under these circumstances, if an opportunity arose in the future for an NBA team to be located in Seattle, we would support that team playing its home games in a re-built KeyArena, if it wished. However, given the lead times associated with any franchise acquisition or relocation and with a construction project as complex as a KeyArena renovation, authorization of the public funding needs to occur by the end of 2009 in order for there to be any chance for the NBA to return to Seattle within the next five years.

“We are pleased that Steve Ballmer has expressed the continuing willingness of his group, Seattle Center Investors, managed by Seattle developer Matt Griffin, to be a part of the solution for returning NBA basketball to Seattle. The NBA will keep SCI and the City informed if opportunities arise in the next five years for franchise sale, relocation and/or expansion. Under the circumstances outlined above, the NBA would be happy to return to the City of Seattle.”[emphasis mine]
Since all that's left of the Sonics is memories, here is David Stern back in 1995 waxing poetic about the renovated Key Arena.

Full disclosure - 2 points:

1. As a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders (and Lakers too. I'm from L.A.), I'm familiar with teams leaving the big city for other locations. It hasn't been the end of the world for L.A. (though the NFL still hasn't returned), and that's because there are 2 professional baseball teams, 2 basketball teams, a hockey team, 2 Major League Soccer teams, a WNBA franchise and many other opportunities, not to mention my USC Trojan football team that probably could have beat the Miami Dolphins last year. In addition, with no local teams, there are no blackout issues and so more football can be watched on the television on Sunday, than could be watched with 2 hometown teams. Seattle also has other professional sports and entertainment, and this won't be the end of the world, though personally I hope the NBA does return to Seattle so I can take my kids to a game.

2. I am a staffer at the state Senate, and I have strong opinions about the issue of public funding and the way this whole situation with the Sonics has gone down. But I won't be expressing those thoughts here due to conflict of interest (real or perceived). My opinions as expressed on this blog are mine and are not necessarily representative of the Senator I work for.

Last night, we launched a website where you can leave messages of support for Darcy Burner and her family following the tragic fire that destroyed their Ames Lake home. We'll be placing comments on a message board that we'll give to Darcy thanking her for all she's done and encouraging her to keep doing. also features a photo repository so you can upload any pictures you have of Darcy, Mike, and Henry to replace the memories that went up in smoke (images are not displayed publicly, but will be given to the family).

Earlier this evening, Darcy issued a statement letting supporters know more about her situation and her plans. Here's the full text of the update.

After the fire that destroyed our home yesterday, Mike, Henry and I spent last night together at the home of close family friends in Redmond. For all of those who have been asking, thank you again for your expressions of concern.

Considering the circumstances, we are holding up well. I am particularly relieved to see that my son Henry seems to be fine this morning.

He has been playing with Bruce Wayne, our golden retriever, who miraculously survived the fire inside the house. This whole ordeal has reminded me once again of the importance of what really matters in life: family and friends.

Last night Mike and I have begun the long process of restoring what we have lost. I bought a new pair of glasses, and we visited the Value Village in Redmond to buy some clothes.

Mike and I are working on replacing our driver’s licenses, credit cards and other critical items that were lost in the fire.

We intend to rebuild our Ames Lake home, which thankfully was insured. For the next few weeks we will stay with friends while we secure longer-term accommodations to cover the period our house is being rebuilt, a process that may take up to a year.

Regarding my campaign, it will continue. Anyone who knows me also knows that I do not give up easily, and am certainly not going to give up now.

I am going to cancel my schedule through the end of this week as I spend time with my family and we work to get our lives back in order.

It will take a few weeks at least to deal with all the issues, but I expect to return to a limited campaign schedule sometime next week. We’ll play it by ear from there. In the interim, my campaign staff will continue their work, so please feel free to contact them if you have any thoughts or questions.

I again want to thank the first responders who dealt with the fire yesterday. They did a remarkable job, and I remain grateful for all that they do. For all those that have called to ask if they can offer financial and other assistance to us, know that we are going to be fine. If you would like to do something to help, let me again suggest a contribution to either your local humane society or animal shelter in memory of our cat, Charlotte, who did not survive the fire, or to the Washington State Council of Firefighters Benevolent Fund.

To all those who are reaching out, I thank you again from the bottom of my heart.

Darcy is taking some time off from campaigning to rebuild her life, which means she won't be fundraising. This is where we come in.

Darcy has always been there for us, on all of the important fights that matter, FISA included. Now we can return the favor and keep her campaign going strong by collectively donating to her campaign.

That's what people powered politics is all about.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Darcy Burner's home destroyed by fire

As if there wasn't enough bad news in the world these days, we just learned that Darcy Burner's home was destroyed in a fire this morning.

Thankfully, she and her family are safe and unharmed.

KOMO News and Belo's Northwest Cable News have the story.

So far there is no information on what may have caused the fire. All we know is that the Darcy and Mike's son Henry was woken by the smoke sometime this morning and alerted the rest of the family.

Good job, Henry. We're proud of you.

My thoughts and those of all NPI staff are with the Burner family today. NPI will be happy to coordinate any offers of help or assistance that our readers wish to make. Please leave them in the comments. Thank you.

UPDATE, Andrew: At this time, origin of the fire is thought to be a lamp that shorted, but we will know more after fire investigators complete their report. It does not appear the fire was intentionally set by anyone, spokesman Sandeep Kaushik tells NPI. He's at the scene.

UPDATE II, Jason: Darcy and her family really have lost everything except each other - and us. We've heard from the Burner campaign that they're putting together a list of things that Darcy and her family need, so we can coordinate any offers of help that NPI readers make with that list.

Please, folks, it's hard enough running for Congress to give each and every one of us a better country to live in without also having to contend with having your home ripped out from under you. Let's all give what we can.

UPDATE III, Andrew: Readers, if you have photos of Darcy, Mike, and Hnery, please send the originals to feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org now as an attachment. We'll collect them and give them to the Burner family.

Darcy may have some photos stored offsite, but a lot of the family's recorded memories went up in smoke this morning when the house burned.

The P-I and Times each have detailed stories on the fire.

UPDATE IV, Andrew: Here is Dave Reichert's statement on the fire, graciously provided to NPI by Reichert's campaign office:
After learning of the fire at the Burner's home this morning, I was relieved to hear that Darcy, Mike and Henry were safe.

While the loss of a home is tragic, family and loved ones are irreplaceable. My thoughts and prayers are with them as they work through their loss. At times like these we are reminded that nothing is more important than family and loved ones.
Good to see the Congressman express his sympathies.

Jeff Merkley: Oregon grown; Netroots fueled!

Oregonians have the opportunity to elect a true progressive Oregon leader to the U.S. Senate: Jeff Merkley! Oregonians are desperately in need of a progressive to fill this seat. Our current representation is a sorely lacking empty-suit who doesn't understand Oregon and apparently doesn't care to.

Jeff's deep Oregon roots, incredible world experiences and foreign policy background give him skills and perspective that an empty-suit like Gordon Smith doesn't have.

Jeff Merkley is the most progressive Senate challenger in a competitive race in the nation.

Progressives have been incredibly frustrated with Congress over the last couple of years. After having been handed the majority in both chambers, it was expected that Democrats would push through on issues important to progressive voters. But instead, we've watched time and again as Democrats lost their way.

Jeff Merkley is not just a great progressive. He's a progressive leader. As Oregon's House Speaker on 2007, Merkley led the most productive and progressive legislative session in a generation, with a razor thin majority. Because of Jeff's incredible leadership, the Oregon House passed the entire Roadmap for Oregon's Future: a highly progressive plan for Oregon's workers, education, health care and the environment. Jeff helped bring Republicans on board with the vast majority of this legislation--and created bipartisanship not seen in the Oregon House for years.

Had Jeff been Senator for Oregon, his votes would have been vastly different than Gordon Smith on the weighty issues facing our nation:

The Senate votes that still haunt us today


In February of 2008, the Senate voted to pass the updated FISA bill which granted retroactive immunity for telecom. 19 Democrats voted for the bill. Senate Democrats like Chris Dodd led an effort to strip immunity from the bill. Unfortunately without more support from his Democratic colleagues, Dodd lost the battle in the Senate. Merkley's opponent Gordon Smith voted in favor of the FISA bill.

Jeff would have voted BLUE

Jeff Merkley would have stood next to Dodd in support of the FISA filibuster in the Senate. Merkley is adamantly opposed to illegal surveillance and immunity for telecom. Jeff spoke out on the blogs and urged his supporters to sign on to a petition in support of a FISA filibuster.


During confirmation hearings in October of 2007, Michael Mukasey refused to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture. The Senate confirmed him anyway, with six Democrats crossing party lines to confirm the nomination. Merkley's opponent Gordon Smith voted to confirm Michael Mukasey.

Jeff would have voted BLUE

Jeff Merkley opposed confirmation of Michael Mukasey and would have voted against him. Would it have made a difference? No one can know for sure. However, having another strong voice against such a confirmation, especially one with the national security experience Jeff has, would have been valuable to our country and the constitution.

Reid/Feingold Amendment to End the Iraq War

Back in 2007, Reid and Feingold pushed an amendment forward that would have redeployed troops within 120 days of enactment and cut funding for the war. 18 Democrats voted against the bill as well as Merkley's opponent Gordon Smith.

Jeff would have voted BLUE

Jeff Merkley would have stood alongside Reid and Feingold and would have done everything in his power to end the Iraq War. It's also worth noting that Merkley is opposed to leaving a single base in Iraq and wants all American contractors to leave the country. Merkley believes that Iraqis should be the ones rebuilding their own country and that Congress needs to investigate war profiteering.

Employee Free Choice Act

Back in 2007, the Democrats were finally united behind passing a bill making it easier for workers to form a union. The problem was that Republicans were also united in an effort to block the bill. Republican Gordon Smith voted to block the bill from hitting the Senate floor.

Jeff would have voted BLUE

As House Speaker, Jeff championed the card check and pushed it through the Oregon House. He also passed a resolution urging the Senate to do the same. Jeff has pledged to personally take up the Employee Choice Act if he's elected to the Senate.

This week, Merkley is one of the Top Ten candidates on ActBlue, largely fueled by the "Who Fuels Jeff Merkley's Campaign--You!" effort, which includes the video below:

Monday, June 30, 2008

George Fearing: 4th Congressional District deserves better representation

Democratic challenger George Fearing, who is running for Congress against Republican Doc Hastings in the 4th Congressional District, joined the Klickitat County Democrats on Thursday to present his priorities for a healthier Washington:
"Klickitat County needs more jobs and I would like to see some companies come here to develop alternative sources of energy such as wind power," said the Democratic candidate.

"If we don’t do something soon, that aluminum plant is going to be torn down and used for parts."

The Tri-Cities-area attorney, who cited listening as one of his political strengths, likened the legislative process to practicing law.

"A congressman is like a lawyer," he said. "You represent people and you put aside your own interests."
Fearing wants to ensure that new jobs come with a living wage and protect the common wealth in Central Washington, including the preservation of public lands that should be available to future generations.

In the first quarter of the year, Fearing outraised Hastings, though he still trails in cash on hand. The second quarter is almost over, but it's not too late to help George out. By making a donation, you can help Democrats compete in Eastern Washington. After all, what could be more fun than forcing Doc Hastings to actually campaign and debate the issues?

My home is Oregon. Gordon Smith's home is nowhere near mine.

Last week, Gordon Smith's campaign released a new television ad (yeah, again--Smith is swimming in loot and running through it like water) attempting to tout his "Eastern Oregon roots".

Here's the script:

I See Oregon's natural beauty and more...

Its people, jobs and way of life.

I'm Gordon Smith and I believe no part of our state should ever be left behind.

Some say lock the land up and the people out. No way.

Because no one loves the land more than the farmers, loggers and ranchers who care for it.

I approve this message because what some call 'the rest of Oregon,' we simply call 'home.'

Besides attempting to pander to farmers, loggers and ranchers (most all of whom do love our state and its land dearly--but I daresay not more than the rest of us who call Oregon "home") the ad attempts to lasso Smith as a man of Oregon who lives here and embraces the rural life.

The ad has little to do with the biography of Senator Gordon Smith.

Smith was indeed born in Pendleton, Oregon. But the family moved to Maryland when Gordon was a child as his father accepted the job as assistant secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower (this blog post claims that the Smith's moved in 1954, but I have no cooberating evidence). In any case, Smith left Oregon and didn't return until sometime in the 80s.

Smith was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. For the last twenty years, he's again gone missing from Oregon.

While Smith's Senate counterpart Ron Wyden has kept his promise to hold a public town hall meeting in each county in Oregon every year, no such promise was made by Smith. Nor to my knowledge has he even come close to anything similar. And while Smith has held some joint public town hall meetings with Wyden, a call to Smith's office this afternoon didn't yield an answer as to how many Smith himself has held in the last year.

A Google search didn't show much in terms of Smith town halls, either. I'm waiting for a call back from Smith's office to find out when and where they've taken place in the last year, if at all..

Unlike Smith, I wasn't born in Oregon. I was born in Idaho. But my family moved to a small town in eastern Oregon when I was a toddler. I lived in that small community until I graduated from high school. I attended college in Oregon, too. In fact, the only time I've moved from the state is from 1987-1995 to live in Washington state. I'm an Oregonian not just in name but in spirit. And unlike Gordon Smith, this is truly my home.

Smith owns a brick mansion in Pendleton and a frozen food plant about 20 miles out of town. How often he visits his house, I'm not sure. But he hasn't run the business since 1996, when he was elected to the Senate.

On my travels to eastern and central Oregon, I've asked people about their visits with Smith. The vast majority of the time I hear that they never see Smith (but they see Wyden and his people a few times a year). For a man trying to claim the mantle of "Oregon is home", Smith sure isn't in contact with his neighbors (or his constituents) very much.

Doug MacDonald's criticism of light rail and rapid transit is flawed - here's why

Last week, Crosscut began publishing an in-depth, three part series by former state transportation secretary Doug MacDonald which brazenly asserts that rail "has no place in a big new transit plan". MacDonald, who oversaw the state's highway and ferry system for over six years before he resigned in 2007, can't drive because of poor eyesight, and recently became a regular bus rider.

While MacDonald does appreciate the value of public transportation, he is regretfully only a proponent of one type: buses.

MacDonald seems to despise Sound Transit with a passion. It's clearly evident in his writing. He doesn't like the agency's focus on rail, doesn't like its proposed projects, and amazingly, doesn't even like its process for gathering public input. He gives Sound Transit almost no credit for its work.

(Maybe jealously is partly to blame...surveys show that Sound Transit has a better relationship with the public than WSDOT).

MacDonald's long data-filled diatribe against rail and Sound Transit makes a number of conclusions that are problematic and deserving of a response. In this post, I'm going to challenge MacDonald's premise that rail shouldn't be part of the mix of transit solutions we build to alleviate congestion and give commuter choices.

The first mistake MacDonald makes is that he forgets the old maxim one size doesn't fit all. Just as the human body has different types of blood vessels (arteries, veins, arterioles, venule, capillaries), an effective, usable transit system must be multimodal. Buses simply cannot adequately substitute for rail, just as capillaries can't do the job of arteries. The most usable transit systems typically have these components.

Commuter Rail. Also known as heavy rail. Typically runs on diesel. Efficiently moves large numbers of people between destinations or hubs, such as Tacoma and Seattle (Sounder), without ever getting stuck in traffic. Typically operates around rush hour or for special events only. Amtrak operates long distance commuter trains in some regions of the United States.

Light Rail. Usually runs in its own right of way, powered by electricity, along key corridors, connecting communities together and offering guaranteed travel times. Light rail operates at high speeds with fast station stops. Light rail also makes more frequent stops (unlike heavy rail) and runs continuously throughout the day.

Streetcars. Also referred to as trolleys or trams. Most modern streetcars are powered by electricity, although San Francisco's system continues to use cables. Streetcars, as the name suggests, are built into the street, and they run for short distances with a high number of stops. They are designed to carry less people than light or heavy rail. The South Lake Union Trolley and Tacoma Link (which Sound Transit has confusingly branded "light rail") are streetcars.

Buses. Buses are large road vehicles that transport passengers along designated routes. Because buses do not operate along trackway, routes can be changed. This provides flexibility but may also create confusion for riders. Buses are especially ubiquitous and dominant in Puget Sound because most communities are not served by rail. Because buses are road vehicles, they are prone to getting stuck in traffic congestion. "Bus rapid transit" routes attempt to solve this problem by providing a dedicated, restricted lane for buses to travel in. Note that the term does not actually refer to the speed of the buses.

Shuttle service. Shuttle services like King County Metro's Dial A Ride Transit bring public transit to homes and businesses not well served by buses. Shuttles operate on variable routes, meaning they generally go to where the riders are instead of the other way around. DART does not go door to door, however. Instead, it goes to the nearest predetermined access point (which passengers must walk, bike, or drive to) when it leaves the route.

Vanpools. The most cost effective mode of public transportation available, vanpools allow a small group of people (usually between five and fifteen) to share the ride from home to the workplace. Vanpools take advantage of high occupancy vehicle lanes to dodge traffic jams. A derivative concept, the vanshare, allows a small group of people to share the ride from home to a major transit hub where the passengers and driver may then board a ferry, commuter rail, light rail, or bus.

We already have great "rubber tire" transit services in Puget Sound. Metro's vanpool program is perhaps the most successful in the United States, for example, and together Metro, Community Transit, and Pierce Transit have a huge bus fleet. What we're missing is a rail network.

We have capillaries moonlighting as arteries and veins.

Rail is extremely effective at carrying large numbers of people through corridors, which is where our worst congestion is. Think about it: when was the last time you sat in a traffic jam on any of the streets around your house? Our highways, like Interstate 5, Interstate 405, Interstate 90, and State Route 520 are the big bottlenecks in our transportation system.

Except for Sounder, rail does not currently serve any of these corridors, and there is no light rail (there will be in 2009 when Central Link opens).

Sounder's popularity alone is evidence we need more rail, not less.

The second mistake MacDonald makes is that he attacks Sound Transit for not doing what it is, in fact, doing. In MacDonald's words:
Sound Transit's expensive tax increase would be spent almost entirely on the limited routes and services it sponsors, so here's the big question: When could we ever expect more funding for the 90 percent of the system virtually exploding with double-digit ridership increases today that is not part of Sound Transit?

Struggling to digest the big Sound Transit swallow, would public appetite in the era of unaffordable gas prices recover in time to take up the much larger needs of the system as a whole?

The single-vision Sound Transit directors and staff haven't raised this question in their own discussions or in their ongoing "public outreach" publicity blitz.

Riders, potential riders, all elected officials, and taxpayers should care about the big picture, even if Sound Transit apparently doesn't.
Doug unfortunately has it all backward.

Sound Transit was not created to funnel money into a bigger and badder bus fleet. It was created to design and build a regional transit network that improves mobility in Puget Sound. Or, in other words... look at the big picture, something that our existing transit providers cannot do a good job of because their primary objective is to operate buses that serve neighborhoods in one county only.

What would be the point of having an organization that simply duplicates what Metro, Community Transit, and Pierce Transit already do?

Sound Transit's dollars are supposed to be spent on worthy capital projects that connect the region together. Since rail lines cannot be built overnight, Sound Transit has started by providing much needed express bus service, which is operated by its partner agencies.

It's strange, but MacDonald is condemning Sound Transit for not spending its money the way it's required to (and the way the public expects it to).

MacDonald goes on to claim that creating a rail network isn't worth it because it takes time to build. Let's debunk this third erroneous conclusion.
Sound Transit knows exactly what new projects it would build. And when it would hope to complete them.

Don't hold your breath to see new transportation services from these projects anytime soon. Most of the new projects would not go into service until 2020, when today's four-county regional population is expected to have grown by an additional half million people, from today's 3.6 million.

Nevertheless, some of those eventual projects certainly will be big – in dollar cost, anyway!
The old adage, Rome wasn't built in a day comes to mind here. Just because we can't get rail overnight doesn't mean we shouldn't get started building it. The longer we wait, the more it will cost.

By making the decision to expand Link now, we can save money and reap the benefits sooner. If we dither, we are simply postponing an inevitable decision. Sooner or later, we'll be so sick of traffic congestion that we will move ahead and invest in rail because we need a reliable way to get around.

Rail is a long-term investment. It has to be thought of in that way. It doesn't make sense to decide against a project simply because it won't be finished and available tomorrow. The necessity of immediate action should not preclude wise and thoughtful planning for the future.

MacDonald used to head WSDOT - he of all people should know that it takes time to develop infrastructure. Many of the projects funded by the 2003 nickel gas tax increase are still under construction. Others have just opened, like State Route 520's new westbound flyover ramp at Redmond Way.

Clearly, MacDonald had no problem approving highway projects that he knew would take years to be completed during his tenure.

On to Number Four. MacDonald claims the impact of Link expansion would be negligible and argues that many of the new riders would come from buses:
Altogether, for spending about $4.1 billion in today's dollars (more because of inflation to the time the projects are actually built), bright ribbons of light rail would serve two corridors in King County only and would eventually accommodate by 2030 a total of perhaps 100,000 daily boardings more than would be the case if none of the proposed light rail extensions in the new plan were made at all.

Reaching that gain in ridership 22 years from now represents the equivalent of growing today's regional transit boardings of almost 540,000 by less than a fifth. That's the equal of growing today's ridership at an annual compound rate of growth of just under 0.8 percent. Of course, if you think about it, even that is a big overstatement, because lots of those so-called new riders are already on the buses to be replaced by the light rail lines, so they really aren't new riders to transit at all!
Emphasis is mine.

The two corridors that Link expansion would serve are two of the most heavily traveled routes in Puget Sound. Deploying Link south towards Tacoma, north towards Everett, and east towards Redmond will provide commuters with dependable transport to work no matter what the weather or traffic conditions are like. Rail is a crucial foundation for a usable mass transit system.

Expansion of Link also ultimately gives the bus fleet further reach into surrounding communities because huge numbers of buses are no longer needed to do rail's job.

MacDonald's canard that rail will siphon riders from buses is a particularly egregious statement. I'll let conservatives Paul Weyrich and Bill Lind (who, like ourselves, understand the value of rail transit) tackle this one (PDF):
Buses and rail transit are at least as different as apples and oranges. With a few exceptions, they serve different purposes and different people - so different that it may be more of a hindrance than a help to lump them together as "public transit."

In general, buses serve the purpose of providing mobility to people who have no car or cannot drive - the transit dependent [i.e. Doug MacDonald]. Rail transit serves the purpose of reducing traffic by drawing to transit riders from choice, people who have cars and can drive if they choose to do so.
Consider the evidence:
The differences between bus riders and rail transit riders were dramatically demonstrated in a comparative survey of both done in St. Louis in 1993, shortly after Light Rail opened in that city.
  • Among bus riders, 70% said they used the bus because they did not drive or had no car available.
  • For train riders, the figure was 17%.
  • 11% of train riders took the train because it was faster than driving, and 13% because it was more relaxing; for bus riders, the figures were 3% and 2%.
  • 84% of train riders rated service as excellent or good, compared to 57% of bus riders.
  • 40% of bus riders owned no car, and 28% had two or more cars. Only 8% of train riders had no car. 68% had two or more cars.
  • 48% of bus riders live in the inner city, compared to 14% of train riders [who are more likely to live in the suburbs].
  • 57% of bus riders have annual household incomes of less than $20,000, compared to 21% of train riders. Only 6% of bus riders have incomes of over $45,000, compared to 38% of train riders.
For the 40% of bus passengers who have no car, the bus is their only way to get around. That is true of only 8% of train riders.

But the 68% of train riders who have two or more cars would presumably drive if there were no train, so for them, the social purpose of rail transit is to reduce traffic. In fact, 68% may be too low; the same survey found that before the Light Rail line opened, 79% of rail riders did not use transit at all.
Research in other major American cities has produced remarkably consistent results. Trains get commuters out of their cars in large numbers; buses do not. What does this mean?

It means if we expand Link north, east, and south, we can take far greater number of single occupant vehicles off the road than we can with buses, even buses traveling in their own dedicated lanes. Buses simply do not appeal to people who have the option of driving like trains do. Unlike the bus, rail is:
  • reliable: runs in its own right of way and doesn't get stuck in traffic
  • convenient: runs so frequently you don't need a schedule to ride it
  • clean: powered by electricity, so it doesn't produce emissions
  • quick: operates at high speeds with fast station stops
  • flexible: can be built at grade, above ground on aerial trackway, or below ground in tunnels
Rail also offers a smoother ride. Anyone who has driven or ridden in a vehicle traversing Interstate 5 in the Central Sound knows how bumpy the road can be - and lumbering buses don't handle bumpy roads well.

Rail's ability to get commuters out of their cars could drastically improve our transportation mess. Yes, growth will continue and the highways will still be somewhat crowded, but quality of life will improve if we build rail. Hundreds of thousands of commuters would finally have a choice.

The whole basis of MacDonald's critique is flawed because he pits rail and buses against each other without considering that each is complimentary, and does something that the other cannot.

Weyrich and Lind use fruit as a metaphor:
Imagine a fruit wholesalers convention where a speaker, three sheets to the wind on hard cider, holds up an apple and an orange and exclaims, "Everybody should buy oranges, not apples. Why, this orange produces twenty times as much juice as this apple!"

To which a sober farmer replies, "It makes no sense to compare completely different fruits. Comparing apples and oranges is as dumb as comparing buses and rail transit."
MacDonald is like that speaker obsessing over the wonder of the orange, standing next to charts that show how much juice the average Florida fruit produces compared to a Washington apple.

In this case, MacDonald's "juice" is boardings, which prop up his argument that buses are superior. The proper measurement to evaluate transit, however, is revenue passenger miles, which he doesn't use.

In Part 2 of his series, MacDonald has the audacity to derisively attack Sounder as "sprawl rail" for encouraging long distance commuting.

That claim is breathtaking in its stupidity.

Once again, MacDonald has it backwards. Rail encourages density. It is highway building that encourages sprawl - the kind of highway building that MacDonald's WSDOT was and is still obsessed with. Our car-dependent communities sprung up around the highways we constructed decades ago.

Sounder isn't causing problems, it's solving them. Sounder is taking cars off the highways and making everyone's commute more manageable.

If MacDonald truly cares about halting sprawl and encouraging people to live closer to where they work, he'll start a public campaign to get the Legislature and his successor Paula Hammond to cancel the widening of I-405, a project that will ultimately cost a terrific amount of money and yield zero benefit to commuters.

Let's put that money into expanded bus service. How about it, Doug?

MacDonald also tries to argue that the phenomenon of induced traffic will cancel out the cars taken off the road by light rail. That is, people will assume other people are riding the train, and so will make the choice to drive, causing "recongestion".

But McDonald doesn't produce a shred of evidence to back up this claim.

There is an incredibly stark difference between building light rail and adding new lanes. Adding lanes does nothing to solve congestion because it encourages people to take more trips. Adding light rail, on the other hand, does improve congestion because it gets commuters out of their cars. It gives hundreds of thousands of people a reliable way to get to work.

Making high quality transit available does not encourage people to take more trips in their cars, it encourages them to try the train.

Incidentally, if MacDonald understands induced traffic, why is WSDOT so stuck in its mindset of enlarging highways? MacDonald ran the agency for over half a decade. Why didn't he urge the Legislature to fund local bus service? (Part of the state motor vehicle excise tax used to do this, until it was eliminated by Gary Locke and the Legislature in 2000).

In Part 3 of his series, MacDonald laughably claims that "social engineering is a bad idea for pushing change." Memo to Doug: ALL change is "social engineering"! Building highways was and is "social engineering".

Our city ordinances that mandate wide streets and unwalkable neighborhoods are "social engineering". WSDOT's dogged determination to make I-405 and I-5 ever wider is "social engineering" at its worst.

It's time for this pointless old phrase to be retired.

MacDonald also criticizes Sound Transit's public relations and marketing operation:
Now, Sound Transit recognizes only one brand in the region: Sound Transit. Its corporate strategy and its big advertising budget — who has ever seen its tax-funded equal? — focus overwhelmingly on a single product: rail transit. That won't do for a truly regional-minded transit agency.
Don't get me started on WSDOT's marketing, Doug, especially those stupid signs next to Interstate 5 that proclaim: FREEWAY EXPANSION - IMPROVES TRAFFIC.

Sound Transit's objective is to build a regional transit system. Naturally, its advertising reflects that goal, although it does promote its Express bus service too. The reason Sound Transit has a marketing budget is that people can't simply be forced aboard mass transit. They have to be persuaded to try it. Sound Transit's public relations budget allows it to make the public aware of what it offers.

Again, in Part 3, MacDonald dismissively knocks rail as a nonstarter:
Successful organizations build their strategies around meeting customer-driven needs. The customer-driven mission here is to help move ordinary people where they need to go. It's not to lay a few ribbons of expensive rail lines where it seems suitable and convenient to engineering firms, public relations consultants, contractors, and rail buffs.
This is getting really old.

"Successful organizations build their strategies around meeting customer-driven needs?" You're getting into corporate mumbo jumbo territory here, Doug.

It's callous and ridiculous to suggest that Sound Transit exists to line the pockets of contractors and satisfy rail buffs who gleefully want expensive new toys.

That's akin to saying WSDOT just serves asphalt pavers and shipbuilders, not the public. (Even we wouldn't argue that, although there's no disputing that widening highways is good business for asphalt pavers.)

The "few ribbons" of rail that Sound Transit hopes to lay will, when built, be the bedrock of a regional rail network that will provide a reliable lifeline between our communities. Cities that have already built rail networks enjoy huge societal benefits compared to metro areas that only have buses.

In 2004, Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute authored a report (PDF) which highlighted some of the differences between "bus only" cities and cities with a well developed rail network. Unlike "bus only" cities, "large rail" cities have:
  • 400% higher per capita transit ridership (589 versus 118 annual passenger-miles).
  • 887% higher the transit commute mode split (13.4% versus 2.7%).
  • 36% lower per capita traffic fatalities (7.5 versus 11.7 deaths per 100,000 residents).
  • 14% lower per capita consumer transportation expenditures ($448 average annual savings), despite residents’ higher incomes.
  • 19% smaller portion of household budgets devoted to transport (12.0% versus 14.9%).
  • 21% lower per capita motor vehicle mileage (1,958 fewer annual miles).
  • 33% lower transit operating costs per passenger-mile (42¢ versus 63¢).
  • 58% higher transit service cost recovery (38% versus 24%).
Rail, again, is a long term investment. It pays off over time. As Litman notes, all too often, people like Doug MacDonald err in their conclusions:
When critics conclude that rail transit is ineffective and wasteful, the failure is often in their analysis. Either from ignorance or intention, critics fail to use best practices for transit evaluation. Their statistical analysis tends to be flawed and biased. They ignore many benefits of rail transit, and understate the full costs of travel by other modes under the same conditions. They use inaccurate information. These errors and omissions violate basic evaluation principles and significantly distort results. Critics claim that rail transit support is limited to "Pork Lovers, Auto Haters, and Nostalgia Buffs." This is untrue.
MacDonald's analysis is faulty and his conclusions mistaken. His entire series is really a vendetta against rail and Sound Transit, not a useful and unbiased evaluation of our existing mass transit system.

We welcome MacDonald's newfound interest in strengthening bus routes and increasing service. But we already have enough John Niles and Mark Baerwaldts out there harmfully bashing rail and deceiving the public. At the very least, we expect former public servants like Doug MacDonald to present a more credible argument if they're going to participate in a public debate about investing in rail.

It's telling that MacDonald became a passionate fan of buses after he started riding them. We hope that when Link service begins, he'll be open to trying it, and he'll change his mind about rail.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

At least two initiatives likely to be on Washington State's November ballot

Washington State Secretary of Sam Reed's office announced in a media advisory on Friday that it is expecting sponsors of two progressive initiative campaigns to submit a substantial number of signatures this week - enough to ensure that both initiatives have a high probability of qualifying for the November 2008 ballot.

Proponents of Initiative 1000, the Death with Dignity initiative championed by Booth Gardner, will turn in their final batch of signatures this Wednesday, July 2nd, shortly after midday, and SEIU Healthcare 775 NW, which is sponsoring Initiative 1029 (to require increased training requirements for long term care workers), will turn in an estimated 300,000 signatures on Thursday, July 3rd, in the afternoon.

Reed's office says Tim Eyman has not made an appointment to turn in more signatures for Initiative 985, which would open carpool lanes at almost all hours of the day and divert state money to duplicate services the state already offers (like roadside assistance crews and synchronized traffic lights).

July 3rd is the last day Eyman may submit signatures.

In addition to I-1029 and I-1000, voters in urban Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties may be considering a transportation package from Sound Transit, which has until mid-August to decide to present a proposal.

Recent research conducted by Sound Transit suggests the public is heavily in favor of a 2008 vote on expanding mass transit and Link light rail. The 6,077 individuals who responded to Sound Transit's questionnaires over the last few months were mostly in agreement about how the agency should proceed:
  • 91% say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to expand mass transit
  • 81% say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more light rail
  • 81% say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more commuter rail
  • 81% say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more express bus
  • 76% favor a 2008 vote
  • 10% favor a 2010 vote
  • 3% favor a post-2010 vote
The seventy six percent figure in favor of a 2008 vote is remarkably consistent with a scientific telephone poll conducted of eight hundred and nineteen registered voters in February earlier this year, which asked the following question:
The Sound Transit Board of Directors will soon decide whether or not to put a transit expansion measure on the ballot in November of this year. In general, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose putting a transit expansion measure on the ballot in November of two thousand eight?
Results were as follows:
Favor: 75% (47% strongly favor + 28% somewhat in favor)
Oppose: 22% (9% somewhat opposed + 13% strongly opposed)
Undecided: 3%
An earlier poll conducted by Sound Transit last November following the defeat of Proposition 1 found that over seventy percent of respondents wanted a separate vote on transit expansion. The more recent responses suggest the electorate is enthusiastic and ready to vote on a proposal this year, rather than waiting until 2010, when construction costs will have increased.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

FISA vote delayed until July 8

McJoan is reporting that thanks to Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), the Senate has delayed voting on the telecom-amnesty laden FISA bill until July 8, so that Senators can go home for the Independence Day recess.

This is where you come in. Now that our Senators have to come home and face us, please let them know that giving telecom companies a free pass to spy on you and your neighbors, without a federal warrant compelling them to do so, is not acceptable.

So here are the numbers to call (in alphabetical order by state):

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) - (208) 342-7985
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) - (208) 334-1776
Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) - (503) 326-3386
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) - (503) 326-7525 [please call and thank Senator Wyden for his opposition to the bill]
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) - (206) 220-6400
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) - (206) 553-5545

Many Senators also have town hall meetings during the recess, so if you're aware of one please attend and speak out on this issue.

And if you get a commitment from one of our Northwest Senators, please drop us a note in the comments so we can cross them off the list and recognize them appropriately.

UPDATE: On the motion for cloture on the FISA bill, here is how our Senators voted (Yea vote being the wrong vote).

Craig - Yea
Crapo - Yea
Smith - Yea
Wyden - Nay
Cantwell - Nay [Thanks Senator Cantwell!]
Murray - Yea

While it's really no surprise that the Idaho Senators want this bill passed, Gordon Smith apparently hasn't figured out what way he needs to vote on this bill to try and save his job. But with Senator Murray also voting the wrong way, it's clear we have our work cut out for us.

And neither presidential candidate voted when the motion was on the floor. So while you're at it, call Senator Obama and demand some leadership from him on this issue. It's simply unacceptable for the Democratic nominee not to weigh in on this important issue, regardless of scheduling conflicts or fundraisers.

Obama's Senate office - (312) 886-3506
Obama's Campaign office - (866) 675-2008