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At Everett Library, crowd gathers to discuss Trump, fascism, and white supremacism

An over-capacity crowd filled the auditorium in Everett’s downtown public library Saturday afternoon to hear author David Neiwert and The Daily Herald‘s local news editor Scott North discuss some recent history of extremist groups in the Pacific Northwest and the nature of white supremacism more generally.

Library staff said one hundred and seven people packed into the library’s auditorium to listen to the two investigative journalists describe a local precursor to the populist authoritarian movement now in power in the White House and answer questions about how to make sense of Donald Trump’s “Alt America”.

David Neiwert's Alt-America

David Neiwert’s Alt-America

It was significantly more animated than the usual crowd for an author’s book reading.

“The last one I had was four people,” a University of Washington bookseller said as Neiwert signed copies of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump for more than half an hour after the event’s conclusion.

Neiwert and North began with a local story, that of convicted double-murderer, Arizona death-row occupant, and racist border-watch activist Shawna Forde.

Forde had unsuccessfully run for Everett City Council in 2007 on a platform demonizing undocumented expatriots.

However, local reporting by North and The Herald in 2008 revealed her to be a lifelong felon and grifter who’d falsely claimed to have been sexually assaulted by MS-13 gang members but had actually shot her then-husband in attempt to get money to buy a ranch in Arizona and start a militia training program.

Later, she turned to Plan B and started robbing drug traffickers and undocumented expats, which led to her murdering a man and his nine-year-old daughter, and failing to murder the wife-mother who identified Forde and her crew.

While Forde was a sociopath, Neiwert said the conservative, anti-immigrant movement she sought to exploit was as sociopathic as Forde was.

“It attracts people devoid of empathy,” Neiwert said, because, as an ideology, it is devoid of empathy.

A cohort radicalized through online video-game communities first courted through the misogynistic Gamergate movement to harass women and attack multiculturalism became a platform to radicalize an entire generation of young white males. That population is now ten times as active as those young men similarly targeted by the Islamic State group, Neiwert said, and their actions are not reflected in the overall media narrative.

“People aren’t paying attention to the fact that the Parkland shooter put Nazi swastikas on his magazines,” Neiwert said. While there isn’t evidence that he engaged with a particular group, he was radicalized online nonetheless.

Neiwert described how white supremacist viruses get into families and rip them apart. “The Internet has spread it into families even more,” as well as communities and friends. “We can’t seem to agree on what reality is — what a fact is.”

Even at this event, there was a middle-aged white man from Marysville who swore up and down that Democrats were the real racists, Nixon’s Southern Strategy was a myth, and that urban areas were the new plantations.

Unsurprisingly, “The Clintons” and “Robert Byrd” flowed freely from his lips with no room in his worldview for Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Lee Atwater, or the general drift of the GOP. Trying to get him to acknowledge otherwise agreed-upon historical events was not fruitful. Indeed, this was actually something Neiwert had pointed out earlier as a problem with the left.

“Liberals don’t argue to persuade but to win,” Neiwert cautioned, more concerned with scoring points than effecting change. The conversation consists of waiting till someone says something racist then ringing a victory bell. And that’s not enough when the point is to try convert the convertible people.

Andrea Holland-Bonneu, of Snohomish County, said she’s from North Dakota and knows many people from home who didn’t travel or expose themselves to other cultures and are susceptible to white supremacist influence because of it.

“Their lack of exposure to diversity has warped them,” she said.

Holland-Bonneu said it’s her responsibility to persuade family members and friends who let their guard down around people like her, because her friends who are people of color don’t have that same access.

However, not everyone is saveable.

Wendy Zieve, of Shoreline, came to the event and described her brother, millionaire aerospace businessman Peter Zieve of Mulkiteo, as an enthusiastic Trump supporter who had already been lost to the hatred of the extreme right wing, despite sharing Jewish grandparents on both sides that immigrated from Lithuania and Ukraine in the early twentieth century.

“His entire self is obsessed with who he hates,” she said, and it’s been a consistent drift since he was at least thirty.

Other than his wealth, Peter Zieve is not exceptional in white American society.

Neiwert described how authoritarianism is always propped up by a sizeable portion of the population who want authoritarianism, and he laid out their general characteristics in his talk.

  • They’re submissive: they see society as needing to submit to a strongman — albeit one they consider legitimate — in order for civil society to remain orderly and functional.
  • They’re conventionalists: they claim to represent the mainstream of society, in our case the Real America in contrast to illegitimate Americans, however numerous.
  • They’re aggressive: against those who don’t go along, even to rituals like someone not standing for the national anthem.

Neiwert said authoritarianism is always propped up by a sizeable portion of the population who wants authoritarianism, and that the Nazis in Adolf Hitler’s Germany based much of their worldview and specific polices on American models — from Manifest Destiny to Jim Crow laws to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

However, Neiwert made a point that he goes into more thoroughly in his book: although Trump attracts fascists, he’s not one himself.

He lacks the coherent, consistent worldview to be a fascist, Neiwert argues.

He’s an authoritarian, and has been for almost thirty years, considering his praise of the Chinese government’s violent response in the 1989 Tiananmenmen Square protests. Trump is currently admired by many white supremacist groups, who have been emboldened by his election.

Once Trump leaves the scene, where will the energy go?

“If (Trump) disappears tomorrow, we’re still going to have the problem of a horde of anti-democratic, authoritarian followers,” Neiwert said.

Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy files initiative to put a price on pollution in 2018

Following the Legislature’s failure to reach agreement on a plan to put a price on pollution in Washington State, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (of which NPI is a member) has announced that it is moving forward with plans to qualify an initiative to the November ballot that would impose a fee on emissions.

“Today, diverse constituencies across the state representing working families, communities of color, environmental and clean energy advocates, health professionals, businesses, and faith organizations have jointly filed an initiative to protect Washington’s land, air, and water and move us towards a strong, healthy clean energy economy,” said Alliance leaders in a statement.

“This initiative is Washington’s chance for all of us to have a share in a cleaner healthier future and build a better economy that works for everyone,” the statement went on to explain. “It would invest in clean energy infrastructure like wind and solar, healthy forests, and clean water, creating thousands of good paying jobs across the state while cutting pollution.”

“Today’s action is a first step towards putting an initiative on the ballot in November. Washington communities thrive when they have clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and an economy rooted in sustainable local jobs.”

“This is a state where diverse communities and businesses, large and small, take responsibility to care for our health and environment.”

“From the air we breathe to worsening fires and floods, we know pollution and climate change affect us every day. Dirty energy has hurt our health and our climate for years and it’s time to start cleaning up the mess. Washington voters, communities, and businesses are demanding strong and effective action on climate pollution and today’s filing starts the process for the people of Washington to act.”

NPI research suggests the people of Washington are ready to act.

Nearly three in five Washington voters agree it’s time for the state to put a price on pollution to fund a socially responsible transition to clean energy, according to a survey conducted last June by Public Policy Polling for NPI.

59% of likely 2018 voters surveyed agree that Washington State should reduce emissions of air pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane by levying a pollution tax and using the revenue raised to invest in electric transportation infrastructure and renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal.

40% disagreed, while 1% were not sure.

Respondents were asked:

Washington State has committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate accords as a participant of the recently-formed United States Climate Alliance. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: Washington State should levy a tax on pollution to fund projects that would reduce harmful emissions plus accelerate our transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal?

Answers were as follows:

  • Agree: 59%
    • Strongly agree: 43%
    • Somewhat agree: 16%
  • Disagree: 40%
    • Somewhat disagree: 12%
    • Strongly disagree: 28%
  • Not sure: 1%

The question we asked Washington voters to respond to last June is essentially the Alliance’s desired policy in a nutshell. All respondents participated by landline, so we think the result may understate the actual level of support for this idea.

(Many people no longer have landlines — this is especially true of millennials. We found that a majority of voters from ages eighteen through forty-five strongly agree with the idea of putting a price on pollution to raise money for a just transition to a clean energy future, compared to 43% overall.)

Technically speaking, the Alliance has opted to make its pollution price a fee as opposed to a tax. The objective is to ensure that the revenue it raises goes to projects and priorities that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This way, the revenue the initiative raises goes to its intended purpose.

NPI supports going to the ballot this year with the kind of policy the Alliance has been discussing and developing these past few years. We actually wanted to see the Alliance qualify a measure to the 2016 ballot that would have provided voters with an alternative to I-732. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Here is a summary of the initiative provided by the Alliance.

Summary of the Protect Washington Act


The intent of this act is to protect Washington for our children, our grandchildren, and future generations by quickly and effectively reducing pollution and addressing its negative impacts.

Investments to Clean Up Pollution

Investments will accelerate Washington State’s transition to clean energy, increase the resiliency of the state’s waters and forests to the impacts of climate change, and reduce the impacts of climate change on communities.

  • 70% to Clean Air and Clean Energy
    • Investments in job-creating projects and investments that yield verifiable reductions in carbon [dioxide] pollution, including solar, wind and other renewable energy; clean transportation options; energy efficiency; carbon sequestration in natural resources like forest, farm and marine landscapes.
    • A minimum of 15% of the account will assist low-income residents in the transition to a clean energy economy.
    • Income, benefit, retraining, and relocation support for fossil fuel workers that are affected by the transition to a clean energy economy.
  • 25% to Clean Water and Healthy Forests
    • Investments to increase the resiliency of the state’s waters and forests to the impacts of climate change, including:
    • Restore and protect estuaries, fisheries and marine shoreline habitats; prepare for sea level rise; address ocean acidification; reduce flood risk; increase sustainable supply of water; and improve infrastructure for treating stormwater, improve resilience to wildfires, improve forest health and reduce vulnerability to insect infestation.
  • 5% to Healthy Communities
    • Investments to prepare communities for challenges caused by climate change and to ensure that the impacts of climate change are not disproportionately borne by certain populations, including: enhancing community preparedness and awareness around wildfires; fire suppression for tribal communities; relocation of tribal communities impacted by sea level rise; education programs to expand awareness of the impacts of climate change; and community capacity grants.
  • Of the above, a minimum of ten percent of state expenditures must be used for projects endorsed by the governing body of a federally recognized tribe.

Fee on Pollution

A pollution reduction fee will be levied and collected on large emitters based on the carbon content of fossil fuels and electricity, including imported electricity, sold or used within this state.

Beginning January 1, 2020, the fee is equal to $15.00 per metric ton of carbon content. Beginning January 1, 2021, the fee increases by $2.00 per year until the state’s 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goal is met and the state’s emissions are on a trajectory that indicates that compliance with the state’s 2050 goal is likely.

In order to prevent emissions and jobs leakage out of state, fossil fuel and electricity sold to and used by energy-intensive and trade-exposed businesses will be exempt from the fee.

Pollution and Health Action Areas

In order to mitigate the effects of pollution and the health impacts of climate change on highly- impacted communities, the Department of Health shall designate pollution and health action areas.

A minimum of 35 percent of state expenditures must be used for investments that provide direct, meaningful, and assured benefits to pollution and health action areas with a minimum of ten percent of state expenditures being located in these communities.

Public Oversight and Government Accountability

A Public Oversight Board will oversee the implementation of this initiative, supported by investment panels that will recommend effective, efficient investments to meet the goals of the Act.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee and the Oversight board shall review and report on the timeliness, efficiency and effectiveness of implementation of the Act.

The initiative has not yet received a number or a ballot title, but will soon. After the ballot title is finalized, the Alliance intends to launch a signature drive to collect 350,000+ signatures and rebrand itself as the “Yes on Initiative XXXX” campaign.

Victory! Legislature sends Governor Inslee bill banning invasive fish farms from our waters

A bill that would phase out the farming of invasive, nonnative fish in Washington’s waters and entirely prohibit it in the future has left the Legislature tonight and is on its way to Governor Inslee following a successful vote in the Senate.

Engrossed House Bill 2957, prime sponsored by Representative Krys Lytton (D-40th District: Bellingham, San Juan Islands, Anacortes, Mount Vernon) will put an end to the destructive activities of Cooke Aquaculture, which currently has four fish farms in Washington’s waters. The Department of Natural Resources has ordered the company to shut down two of them (located at Port Angeles and Cypress Island respectively) and is looking at taking further action against the remaining two.

“Investigations into the August collapse have shown that the industry facilities are in disrepair and safe and secure facilities are not being maintained. The problems should have been addressed by the industry long ago. Our native salmon are an endangered species that the Legislature is working hard to recover and this legislation ensures that nonnative finfish will not be a threat,” said Lytton.

Under EHB 2957, current leases will be terminated when they expire (unless they are terminated sooner for lease violations), while future leases will be banned.

“Current facilities will be subject to a heightened inspection process and state agencies are directed to continue working on guidance for planning and permitting of commercial marine net pen aquaculture,” notes a news release from the House Democratic caucus, which celebrated the bill’s passage.

“It was great working with Kris as she maneuvered through a lot of difficult personalities to get a policy solution that’s going to be what’s best for the 40th District,” said Representative Jeff Morris, Lytton’s seatmate.

“The state ban is a strong stance to ensure the protection of our marine environment and native salmon populations in the Salish Sea,” said Senator Kevin Ranker, prime sponsor of the companion bill in the Senate.

(Ranker is Lytton and Morris’ counterpart in the Senate.)

“I want to thank Representative Kristine Lytton for her key support and leadership in the House to keep this issue going forward. Washingtonians will no longer accept this risky industry in our state waters,” Ranker added.

“We have invested far too much in the restoration of our Salish Sea. The economic, cultural, and recreational resources of these incredible waters will no longer be jeopardized by the negligent actions of this industry.”

The roll call in the Senate on final passage of EHB 2957 was as follows:

Roll Call
EHB 2957
Nonnative finfish escape
3rd Reading & Final Passage

Yeas: 31; Nays: 16; Absent: 1; Excused: 1

Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Billig, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Dhingra, Fain, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Miloscia, Mullet, Nelson, O’Ban, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Sheldon, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman, Zeiger

Voting Nay: Senators Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Braun, Brown, Ericksen, Honeyford, King, Padden, Rivers, Schoesler, Short, Wagoner, Walsh, Warnick, Wilson

Absent: Senator Carlyle

Excused: Senator Hobbs

The Senate’s Democratic members all voted for the bill with the exception of Senators Reuven Carlyle and Steve Hobbs, who were not present. They were joined by Republican Senators Jan Angel, Joe Fain, Phil Fortunato, Brad Hawkins, Mark Miloscia, Steve O’Ban, Tim Sheldon, and Hans Zeiger.

The Senate rejected dozens of attempts by the other Senate Republicans to amend the bill, defeating a plethora of amendments offered by Shelley Short and Jim Honeyford, who are both from Eastern Washington.

In the House, the roll call in favor of the bill last month was as follows:

Roll Call
EHB 2957
Nonnative finfish escape
Final Passage

Yeas: 67; Nays: 31

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Barkis, Bergquist, Blake, Caldier, Chapman, Clibborn, Cody, Doglio, Dolan, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Graves, Gregerson, Griffey, Hansen, Hayes, Hudgins, Irwin, Jinkins, Johnson, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Kloba, Lovick, Lytton, MacEwen, Macri, McBride, McCabe, McDonald, Morris, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reeves, Riccelli, Robinson, Rodne, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Slatter, Smith, Springer, Stambaugh, Stanford, Stokesbary, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Tharinger, Valdez, Vick, Wilcox, Wylie, Young, Chopp

Voting Nay: Representatives Buys, Chandler, Condotta, DeBolt, Dent, Dye, Eslick, Haler, Hargrove, Harmsworth, Harris, Holy, Jenkin, Klippert, Kraft, Kretz, Kristiansen, Manweller, Maycumber, McCaslin, Muri, Nealey, Orcutt, Pike, Schmick, Shea, Steele, Taylor, Van Werven, Volz, Walsh

As in the Senate, all nay votes came from Republicans, who were split on the bill.

NPI called for legislation to ban the farming of invasive fish last autumn, and we are delighted that the Legislature has followed up by passing this bill. We’d like to see other pressing problems receive this kind of prompt response in the future.

We look forward to the day when Cooke Aquaculture is out of Washington’s waters. The Salish Sea is a treasure that belongs to everyone. It’s worth protecting.

Governor Inslee vetoes ESB 6617; media and legislators agree to public records ceasefire

In a victory for sense and sensibility, Governor Jay Inslee tonight vetoed an extremely unpopular bill passed by the Legislature last week that would have permanently shielded lawmakers from having to comply with Washington State’s public records laws until after July 1st, 2018.

Engrossed Senate Bill 6617, sponsored by Senators Sharon Nelson and Mark Schoesler, sailed out of the Legislature last Friday with veto-proof supermajorities voting in favor. Regrettably, the bill was crafted behind closed doors without public input and was then rushed to the floor to be voted on without debate, totally circumventing the normal legislative process. The bill has been widely panned in the press, by grassroots activists, and by local government officials.

Inslee’s office subsequently received a torrent of emails, phone calls, and faxes from Washingtonians strongly urging a veto, while newspapers across the state ran a slew of front-page editorials calling for the same. NPI has stood in opposition to the legislation since the bill was filed, and we are glad to see that it has been vetoed.

Although the bill passed with veto-proof majorities, the veto will not be overridden. That’s because, prodded by Inslee, lawmakers have reached a deal with the media companies that have been suing them to seek a stay of Thurston County Superior Court Judge Lanese’s recent decision requiring legislators to follow the state’s public disclosure laws, which legislators had mistakenly thought they were exempt from.

Under the terms of the deal, lawmakers and media companies will work with interested citizens and organizations to figure out an alternative approach that will work better. Effectively, a ceasefire in the tug of war over public records has just been declared, which should allow for sounder policy to prevail over the long term.

“The public’s right to government information is one we hold dearly in Washington,” said Governor Inslee in a statement. “Transparency is a cornerstone of a democratic government, and I’m very proud of my administration’s record on public disclosure. I believe legislators will find they can fulfill their duties while being fully transparent, just like state and local governments all across Washington.”

Governor Inslee vetoes ESB 6617

Governor Jay Inslee vetoes ESB 6617 (Photo courtesy of Governor Inslee’s office)

“I want to thank the legislators who have reconsidered this bill and asked me for this veto tonight. Since this bill passed, my office and lawmakers have heard an unprecedented level of response from the public. Those messages were heard loudly and clearly. I now hope lawmakers, the media, and other stakeholders will work together to resolve differences through a process the public can have faith in.”

“I believe the Legislature’s overwhelming vote on the bill was a good faith attempt to increase disclosure and transparency. Though I expressed concerns about the outline of the bill, I did tell legislators I would let the bill become law if they delivered it with enough votes to override a veto,” added the Governor.

“However, that was before I saw the process which failed to meet public expectations for openness and delivered a bill that fell short. I appreciate that both sides have been open to discussions during the past few days and will work together to find the right approach to this important issue.”

In a set of identically worded letters to Inslee, the Democratic members of the Legislature who voted for ESB 6617 admitted they erred by supporting a bill that had not been subjected to regular order.

“We made a mistake by failing to go through a full public hearing process on this very important legislation,” they wrote. “The hurried process has overshadowed the positive reforms in the bill. We think the only way to make this right is for you to veto the bill and for us to start again.”

It’s not often that we see our elected representatives owning their mistakes like this. NPI’s staff and board are pleased and proud to read these words from our lawmakers tonight. They have chosen wisely, and we congratulate them.

NPI will happily participate in the process of finding a way forward, so that the Legislature becomes more accountable and transparent to the people of Washington State while safeguarding sensitive information that shouldn’t be publicly disclosed.


Republicans Jay Rodne, Michael Baumgartner will not seek reelection to state Legislature

Two Republican legislators in key districts announced separately yesterday that they will be leaving the Washington State Legislature at the end of this year as opposed to seeking reelection in what many observers believe could be a wave year for the Democratic Party not unlike the 2006 midterms twelve years ago.

State Representative Jay Rodne — the extremist, Islamophobic Republican who came under fire last cycle for making un-American comments about Muslims — was the first to announce that he would be stepping down.

“I am announcing my decision to not seek re-election to my House seat later this year,” Rodne said on Facebook. “Although I will not seek re-election, I will continue to serve the citizens of the 5th District until my term ends on December 31, 2018.”

“When I was first appointed to the Washington House of Representatives in January 2004, my kids were seven and five respectively,” Rodne added. “It’s amazing how fast the years have flown by and with my kids now in college, about to graduate and embark upon their own lives as adults, I too am looking forward to making this transition to new opportunities, new challenges and new ways to give back.”

Rodne was facing the prospect of a strong challenge from Issaquah City Councilmember Bill Ramos, who filed to run against Rodne a few weeks ago. The Democratic Party has quickly rallied around Ramos, with the 5th District Democrats giving Ramos their endorsement at a recent general meeting.

The Republican Party has already found a replacement candidate for 2018: Chad Magendanz, Rodne’s former seatmate. Magendanz ran unsuccessfully for State Senate in 2016 against incumbent Mark Mullet, losing narrowly.

Both Rodne and Magendanz benefited from a surge of Republican votes in the late ballots, with Rodne coming from behind to defeat his Democratic challenger Jason Ritchie (who is now a Sammamish City Councilmember). However, Magendanz was not able to overcome Mullet’s lead, and Mullet held onto his Senate seat.

Magendanz is now hoping to return to the House in what looks to be a very difficult climate for Republicans nationally as well as locally.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner has decided not to seek reelection in the 6th District. He will be running for county treasurer instead.

“Eight years ago when I returned from Iraq and Afghanistan you gave me the great privilege of serving as your State Senator. Today I’m writing to inform you that it’s time for a new challenge. I will not be returning to the Senate, but instead will be running for Spokane County Treasurer this fall,” Baumgartner wrote.

State Representative Jeff Holy will be leaving his House seat to pursue Baumgartner’s Senate seat, creating a new opening for a Democratic pickup on the House side in that district.

Baumgartner is one of the most extreme members of the Senate Republican caucus and one of the senators who is closest to disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman. Baumgartner, along with Doug Ericksen, enthusiastically supported and helped campaign for Eyman’s unconstitutional, hostage-taking I-1366 in 2015, which the Mainstream Republicans of Washington strongly opposed.

Activist and dedicated healthcare advocate Jessa Lewis has announced that she will be seeking Baumgartner’s Senate seat on behalf of the Democratic Party.

“The more time I spend talking to my neighbors and friends in the 6th LD, the more I see the need to empower our communities to take our issues  —  our wishes, and our aspirations, our very real problems  —  and turn them from complaints into commitments,” Lewis wrote in a Medium post laying out her priorities.

Documentary Review: “Happening” shows that freedom from fossil fuels is possible

Did you know that Robert Redford served as executive producer for an Academy Award winning short film about solar energy in 1980?

That’s probably the least useful thing I learned watching “Happening“, but it speaks to the passion that the Redford family has for clean energy, including producer, director, and star of this documentary, James, Robert’s son.

"Happening" (A Clean Energy Revolution)

“Happening” (A Clean Energy Revolution)
Release Year: 2017
Director: James Redford
Running time: 1 hour, 11 minutes
Watch trailer

Also, Robert is apparently much older in reality than in my mind, since at the beginning of the film I thought “oh, James must be his brother.” But I digress.

Early in the film, James puts before us the questions he seeks to answer.

First, can we make enough renewable energy to supply the world and replace fossil fuels?

Next, how would we do that?

Finally, and “most importantly,” will we?

From there the film moves along to generally answer these questions in order.

To prove the fact that we can make enough renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, he highlights some of the companies, cities, and other entities that have already done so.

For example Georgetown, Texas (also featured in “An Inconvenient Sequel” and mentioned in our review of that film), was the second city in the country to become 100% green. It’s Republican mayor led the charge because of the city’s responsibility to keep costs low for his citizens as rate-payers of the local utility, highlighting how renewable energy is not just good for the planet, but can also be more economical, especially over the long term.

Surprising to me was the fact that the United States armed forces, especially the Navy, are embracing renewable energy. Ray Mabus, U.S. Secretary of the Navy under President Barack Obama, says that renewable energy saves soldiers’ lives.

For instance, many soldiers die protecting the continual envoys needed to bring fuel, which is no longer necessary when using solar.

He also points out that having generators running on gas in camps makes a lot of noise, preventing soldiers from being able to hear if enemies could be sneaking up on them, and also drawing attention to their location.

At a solar convention in San Francisco, James is told by Emily Kirsch, a CEO who funds solar start-ups, that in forty-seven states, solar will soon as be as affordable as or more affordable than fossil fuels, although in some states solar is illegal or heavily restricted. She also notes that the solar industry is creating more jobs in the US than Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined, highlighting the variety of societal benefits from renewable energy sources.

Switching the focus from solar to hydropower, the film next explores Niagara Falls. There are dams on both the United States and Canadian sides which supply power to seven states and two provinces.

Hydro is powerful and renewable, but also has its downsides.

Large dams led to whole communities being wiped out by the water now held behind them. They also create problems for wildlife.

However, there have been some innovations in the hydro industry to minimize impacts such as these. For example near Medford, Oregon, Natel Energy has a small power station that uses the existing drop in elevation of a small canal to generate electricity without any further disturbance to the water flow.

The electricity generated there is purchased by Apple for their Oregon data center. In the US, every Apple facility runs on 100% renewable energy, contributing to their 87% renewable energy usage worldwide.

In places that do not have existing renewable energy sources on the grid, Apple builds their own, such as a large solar farm in North Carolina.

James then notes that one of the big challenges keeping us from going one hundred percent renewable is the issue of energy storage.

Since renewable energy cannot create electricity on demand the way burning fossil fuels can, there must be ways to store renewable energy when energy created exceeds the current need, to be used at times when there is more demand than energy creation. Many people across the globe are doing research on batteries and other strategies to store energy.

Good grid management is also key.

Angelina Galiteva, a board member of California ISO, the folks who manage the grid for most of California, notes the enormous potential of solar energy and the importance of efficient use and storage of solar.

“If we could capture the energy all over the world for two minutes every single day and store it, we could power the globe for a year, even the billion people who don’t currently have electricity,” she said.

So clearly, it is possible to power the world with renewable energy and people around the world are making strides in the technology needed to enable us to do so.

Which just leaves the third question: will we make the change and migrate to one hundred percent renewable energy? While the reasons to make the change seem obvious (better for the environment, less expensive), there are entrenched interests who are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.

James goes to Nevada to share the story of the fight of many of their residents to remove the disincentives for solar that were imposed by the state public utility board in favor of NV Energy, the energy utility company given a monopoly in the state’s constitution.

Eighteen months after the decisions of the utility board, which led to an over-night crash of the growing home solar industry in Nevada, three green energy bills passed the state legislature and were signed into law by the governor, putting solar and other renewable energy sources back on an even playing field with traditional fossil fuel utilities.

Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman was particularly quote-worthy in her interviews in “Happening.” “We have more sunshine in Nevada than they have heat in hell. And it is a sin if we don’t do something with that,” she said, noting that Nevada has “three hundred and twenty-some” days of sunshine a year.

“It is a moral imperative… Everyone, wherever you are, whatever your status or station in life is, we all have a responsibility to address this issue,” she continued. “And if Washington [D.C.] will not, we will.”

For the citizens of Nevada, the answer to James’s third question is clearly a “yes.”

As for the rest of us, James has this to say at the end of the film.

“The is the dawn of the clean energy era. It’s just better, cheaper, inevitable. ‘When is it gonna happen?’ you might wonder. Well, as American citizens, voters, consumers, that is entirely up to us. We have what we need to do this, in our own cities, in our own communities, in our own homes.”

What can each of us do to ensure that complete conversion to clean energy is inevitable, and that it happens before we run out of fossils fuels and our environment is completely destroyed? That’s a question worth pondering.

“Happening” is currently available to HBO subscribers on HBO GO. There are also public screenings but unfortunately none are in the Northwest at this point.

Darcy Burner to emcee NPI’s 2018 Spring Fundraising Gala on Saturday, April 7th

In just forty days, NPI will be holding its tenth Spring Fundraising Gala at the Renton Community Center. With the event quickly approaching, we’re very happy today to share more details about our speaking lineup.

Darcy Burner

Darcy Burner

We revealed a few weeks ago that Major General Paul Eaton (Retired) will be joining us on April 7th to accept a Lynn Allen Award for indispensable contributions to progressive causes. Today, we’re very pleased to announce our Master of Ceremonies for 2018: Buttonsmith CEO Darcy Burner.

Like Major General Eaton, Darcy Burner was a speaker at our very first Spring Fundrasing Gala in May of 2008, and she’s a major reason why that event was so incredibly successful and continues to be held today. We are delighted to welcome Darcy back to the gala stage to anchor this year’s speaking program.

As mentioned, Darcy serves as the CEO of Buttonsmith, Inc., a cutting-edge, Carnation-based union print shop founded by her son Henry Burner. Henry was recently named one of Forbes’ “Thirty Under Thirty” entrepreneurs, and he and Buttonsmith have been profiled by Fast Company and NowThis.

Darcy has a long history of involvement in progressive politics as both a candidate and a strategist. She has run for Congress and the state Legislature and played an instrumental role in getting progressive members of Congress more organized.

She has also contributed her expertise to many progressive nonprofits.

As she noted in her 2016 campaign biography: “I’ve been honored to be a board member of Council for a Livable World’s PeacePAC, the SNAP PAC (Students for a New American Politics) Advisory Board, the Progressive Ideas Network Advisory Board, the Center for International Policy board, the ActBlue board, the NARAL Pro-Choice America board, and to serve as the chair of the Netroots Foundation board.”

Working with Major General Eaton, Darcy helped put together A Responsible Plan To End The War In Iraq, which she and many candidates ran on in 2008.

Our tenth gala is shaping up to be a great event. We hope you’ll consider joining us. If you haven’t yet bought your ticket yet, we urge you to do so now.

A household ticket admits all the members of an immediate family and is a good value if you plan to attend with your spouse or children. (The gala is a family-friendly event, and young people of all ages are welcome!).

These are our ticket rates:

  • Individual ($70, admits one person)
  • Household ($100, admits an entire family)
  • Living Lightly ($25, for students and activists on limited incomes)

Here are the details for this year’s gala:

  • What: NPI’s 2018 Spring Fundraising Gala
  • Where: Renton Community Center
  • When: Saturday, April 7th, 2018 | Reception at 5:30 PM; program at 7 PM
  • Who: Join the NPI team, Master of Ceremonies Darcy Burner, and Lynn Allen Award recipient Major General Paul Eaton (Ret.)
  • Why: Because an effective resistance needs organizations testing progressive ideas and building permanent infrastructure

Be inspired to continue working for a progressive future for our region and country: join us on April 7th at the Renton Community Center! Follow this link to securely buy your individual, household, or living lightly ticket.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2018 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our biggest event of the year a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 7th!

Victory! Washington State House passes bill to ban bump fire stocks (trigger modifiers)

Legislation to ban bump stocks, also known as trigger modification devices, took another step towards landing on Governor Jay Inslee’s desk today when the Washington State House voted decisively to pass ESB 5992.

Originally sponsored by Senator Kevin Van De Wege, ESB 5992 would:

… establish criminal penalties and sentencing provisions relating to the manufacture, sale, purchase, possession, transfer, or transport of bump-fire stocks, or the use of a firearm containing a bump-fire stock in the commission of a felony.

The bill cleared the Senate on a twenty-nine to twenty vote weeks ago. Today, after being amended on the floor of the House, it received a vote there.

“The people of Washington are counting on us to take action and ensure our communities are safe from gun violence,” said Representative Tana Senn (D-41st District: Bellevue, Mercer Island, Newcastle) after the passage of the bill. “This may be a small step, but it is a step toward making our communities safer.”

The roll call was as follows:

ESB 5992
Bump-fire stocks
House vote on Final Passage as Amended by the House

Yeas: 56; Nays: 41; Excused: 1

Voting Yea: Representative Appleton, Bergquist, Caldier, Chapman, Clibborn, Cody, Doglio, Dolan, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Graves, Gregerson, Haler, Hansen, Harmsworth, Hudgins, Jinkins, Johnson, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Kloba, Lovick, Lytton, Macri, McBride, Morris, Nealey, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reeves, Riccelli, Robinson, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Slatter, Springer, Stambaugh, Stanford, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Tharinger, Valdez, Wylie, Mr. Speaker

Voting Nay: Representative Barkis, Blake, Buys, Chandler, Condotta, DeBolt, Dent, Dye, Eslick, Griffey, Hargrove, Harris, Hayes, Holy, Irwin, Jenkin, Klippert, Kraft, Kretz, Kristiansen, MacEwen, Manweller, Maycumber, McCabe, McCaslin, McDonald, Muri, Orcutt, Pike, Rodne, Schmick, Shea, Steele, Stokesbary, Taylor, Van Werven, Vick, Volz, Walsh, Wilcox, Young

Excused: Representative Smith

Seven Republicans voted in favor of passing the bill, including Michelle Caldier, Paul Graves, Larry Haler, Mark Harmsworth, Norm Johnson, Terri Nealey, and Melanie Stambaugh. Democratic State Representative Brian Blake (an outspoken gun enthusiast and supporter of the National Rifle Association) voted nay.

Representative Graves (R-5th District: Issaquah, Snoqualmie, Maple Valley, North Bend) offered a floor amendment requiring the Washington State Patrol to “establish and administer a bump-fire stock buy-back program to allow a person to relinquish a bump-fire stock to the WSP or participating local law enforcement agencies in exchange for a monetary payment of $150.” This was adopted.

Since the House has changed the bill, it will now have to go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote before it can be sent to Governor Inslee.

NPI sincerely thanks the fifty-six state representatives who voted in favor of ESB 5992 as amended. There is so much more we can do to prevent gun violence, but this bill gets us a little bit closer to a future where strong gun safety laws are in place to protect our people. The bipartisan support this bill received in both the Washington State House and Senate is welcome and encouraging.

Victory! House Judiciary Committee advances bill to abolish the death penalty (SB 6052)

Legislation to abolish the death penalty moved a step closer to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk today when the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance Senate Bill 6052, prime sponsored by Republican Senator Maureen Walsh.

[Watch the executive session on TVW.]

Having been reported out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation, SB 6052 now heads to House Rules, where a determination will be made regarding whether to put it on the floor calendar for consideration by the full state House of Representatives. The Senate voted last week to pass the bill by a vote of twenty-six to twenty-two, with five Republicans voting aye and four Democrats voting nay.

The vote in favor of giving the bill a “do pass” recommendation was as follows:


  • Representative Laurie Jinkins (Committee Chair)
  • Representative Tina Orwall
  • Representative Roger Goodman
  • Representative Steve Kirby
  • Representative Chris Kilduff
  • Representative Javier Valdez
  • Representative Drew Hansen


  • Representative Brad Klippert
  • Representative Jay Rodne
  • Representative Paul Graves
  • Representative Larry Haler
  • Representative Dick Muri
  • Representative Matt Shea

The bill left committee without being amended, although Representative Steve Kirby expressed a desire to attach a referendum clause to the bill (which would subject the legislation to a public vote this November) on the floor.

NPI strongly opposes placing a referendum clause on Senate Bill 6052. We elect our legislators to make informed, difficult decisions on our behalf, and this bill exemplifies the kind of legislation that is well suited for the legislative process as opposed to the initiative or referendum process.

Our Governor, our Attorney General, immediate past Attorney General, and lawmakers and prosecutors from both parties all agree the time has come to abolish the death penalty in Washington State.

The Senate has voted; now the House should take up this bill and hold a vote.

NPI urges members of the House Republican caucus to follow Representative Terry Nealey’s lead and consider voting in favor of passing Senate Bill 6052.

Nealey joined with Attorneys General Ferguson and McKenna to kick off Ferguson’s push for abolition last year, noting in a statement:

As a former prosecuting attorney for Columbia County, my heart remains with the families of the victims who suffered horrific acts that would justify the death penalty. Their feelings should never be minimalized. That is why it has taken so long for my thoughts to evolve against the death penalty in Washington state. However, the steps, the immense and extended time, and the incredible expense and resources it takes to impose and uphold this most severe form of punishment have made the death penalty nearly impossible to carry out. In recent years, even in the most heinous crimes, jurors have failed to impose the death penalty. In the meantime, families suffer for years with the angst of having to go through trials, court proceedings, appeals and more, not knowing if the death penalty will ever take place.

There are many good arguments against abolishing the death penalty. Perhaps the best argument of all is that human beings are fallible, which means there is always a possibility that an innocent person could be put to death for a crime they did not commit. This has unfortunately happened many times.

A few people wrongly given death sentences have been exonerated thanks to the incredible work of The Innocence Network, which has a local affiliate at the UW. But others have been killed despite maintaining their innocence.

By ending the death penalty, we can ensure that we as a society never again take the life of a person convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the American way. Life is one of our foremost values. Every person deserves to live. By getting rid of the death penalty, we reaffirm our commitment to the value of life and join the rest of the developed world in declaring that human rights are sacred to us as Americans.

Poll Watch: De-Escalate Washington’s I-940 enjoys overwhelming support among voters

An initiative that would require law enforcement to receive violence de-escalation and mental-health training in addition to changing the legal standard for use of deadly force enjoys overwhelming support among voters, a new poll has found.

De-Escalate Washington, the coalition spearheading the initiative, announced today that it had commissioned EMC Research to gauge public support for the measure. EMC’s survey of seven hundred and forty likely Washington voters was in the field from February 8th-15th. The firm read the ballot title to respondents and found that 68% of likely voters support the measure, while 21% are opposed.

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.

NPI is a coalition member and has taken a position supporting Initiative 940.

The coalition’s poll results are very similar to NPI’s findings from June of 2017, when we also read the ballot title to voters. This was the text of our question:

There may be an initiative on next year’s ballot concerning law enforcement. The description reads as follows: This measure would require law enforcement to receive violence de-escalation, mental health, and first-aid training, and provide first-aid; and change standards for use of deadly force, adding a “good faith” standard and independent investigation. If this measure were to appear on the 2018 statewide ballot, would you definitely vote in favor, probably vote in favor, probably vote against, or definitely vote against it?

Answers were as follows:

  • Yes: 69%
    • Definitely vote in favor: 45%
    • Probably vote in favor: 24%
  • No: 28%
    • Probably vote against: 14%
    • Definitely vote against: 14%
  • Undecided: 2%

NPI’s survey of 887 likely 2018 Washington State voters was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respondents participated via landline. Our poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.

Here is a chart showing how the two surveys compare.

Voter support for Initiative 940: Poll comparison
Secretary of State Kim Wyman announced last month that Initiative 940 had qualified as an initiative to the Legislature for 2018.

The Legislature has three options:

  • Adopt I-940, in which case it would become law;
  • Do nothing and let it go to the ballot for voters to consider;
  • Send it to the November 2018 ballot with an alternative.

The Senate Law & Justice Committee and House Public Safety Committee will hold a joint hearing on the measure tomorrow in Olympia at 7 PM.

Victory! Bill to levy capital gains tax gets “do pass” recommendation from House Finance

A bill that would make Washington State’s upside down tax code more just and equitable by levying a capital gains tax on the wealthy has just been reported out of the House Finance Committee with a “do pass” recommendation.

SHB 2967, prime sponsored by Committee Chair Representative Kris Lytton (D-40th District: Bellingham, San Juan Islands, Whatcom and Skagit counties) would impose a seven percent tax on long-term capital gains. Retirement accounts, residential dwellings, family farms, and timberland would be exempt from the tax. Consequently, only about 48,000 of the state’s wealthiest taxpayers would pay it.

A substantial chunk of the revenue from the proposed capital gains tax would be paid by just two individuals: Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, who are among the world’s richest men. Gates’ father William Gates, Sr. is an ardent proponent of progressive tax reform; he has long urged state legislators to make the tax code fairer.

Currently, low income families pay as much as 17% of their income in state and local taxes, while wealthy families pay less than 3% of their income in taxes.

Legislators have known about this disturbing disparity for years, but haven’t done anything about it. But this session, by introducing SHB 2967, House Democrats have signaled that they want to change that sad state of affairs.

Revenue from the capital gains tax would be used to reduce the property tax increase for K-12 public schools approved last year at the insistence of the Senate Republicans. The capital gains tax proposed in the bill thus represents a much-needed new funding source for public education that is based on ability to pay.

All six Democratic members of the Finance Committee (Kris Lytton, Noel Frame, Larry Springer, Laurie Dolan, Gerry Pollet, and Sharon Wylie) voted in favor of the bill. The committee’s five Republican members (Terry Nealey, Ed Orcutt, J.T. Wilcox, Cary Condotta, Drew Stokesbary) all voted nay.

NPI testified in favor of SHB 2967 last Friday, noting that 57% of Washingtonians surveyed last June support a capital gains tax. 44% of the total surveyed said they strongly supported a capital gains tax, while only 41% said they were opposed.

NPI has been asking Washingtonians about their support for a capital gains tax on the wealthy for three consecutive years and has found a majority of respondents in support each year, with strong support of 43% or 44% every year.

Victory! Washington State House sends Breakfast After The Bell to Governor Inslee

One of the bills long stymied by the Senate Republicans in their graveyard of progress has finally left the Legislature and is now on its way to Governor Inslee.

2ESHB 1508, known to many as Breakfast After The Bell, has been given one last stamp of approval by the Washington State House following changes to the bill by the Senate. Now it is on its way to Governor Inslee for his signature.

Sponsored by Representative Monica Jurado Stonier, 2ESHB 1508 would direct high-needs schools in Washington to provide meals to students who aren’t getting enough to eat at home after the school day has begun.

“Nearly 300,000 kids in Washington state live in food–insecure homes and almost half of Washington’s 1.1 million public school students qualify for free and reduced price meals at school,” the House Democratic caucus noted in its press release celebrating passage of the legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Breakfast After The Bell offers nutritious meals to students without interrupting instructional time,” the release explains.

“Breakfast programs for low-income children are reimbursed in part or full by the federal government, and currently have low utilization rates. Breakfast After The Bell is expected to increase participation in those existing programs. By moving breakfast after the bell, instead of before, students will receive a healthy meal without having to stand in line and miss instructional opportunities.”

The roll call on final passage of 2ESHB 1508 was as follows:

Roll Call
2ESHB 1508
Student meals & nutrition
Final Passage as Amended by the Senate

Yeas: 87; Nays: 8; Excused: 3

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Barkis, Bergquist, Blake, Buys, Caldier, Chandler, Chapman, Clibborn, Cody, Condotta, DeBolt, Doglio, Dolan, Eslick, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Graves, Gregerson, Griffey, Haler, Hansen, Hargrove, Harmsworth, Harris, Hayes, Holy, Hudgins, Irwin, Jenkin, Jinkins, Johnson, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Klippert, Kloba, Kretz, Kristiansen, Lovick, Lytton, MacEwen, Macri, Manweller, Maycumber, McBride, McCabe, Muri, Nealey, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reeves, Riccelli, Robinson, Rodne, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Schmick, Sells, Senn, Slatter, Smith, Springer, Stambaugh, Stanford, Steele, Stokesbary, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Tharinger, Valdez, Van Werven, Volz, Walsh, Wilcox, Wylie, Young, Chopp

Voting Nay: Representatives Dent, Dye, Kraft, McCaslin, Orcutt, Shea, Taylor, Vick

Excused: Representatives McDonald, Morris, Pike

Sadly, eight House Republicans voted against the bill. Were it not for their opposition, the bill could have passed unanimously. But at least most of the House Republican caucus joined all of the Democrats in voting yes.

NPI thanks every legislator who voted in favor of passing Breakfast After The Bell. No child should be coming to school hungry and unready to learn. This bill will improve the well-being of many children, and its passage deserves to be celebrated.

LANDMARK VICTORY: Washington State Senate votes to abolish the death penalty!

This may be the greatest triumph yet of the 2018 legislative session.

In a landmark victory for human rights and dignity, the Washington State Senate made history today by approving legislation that would abolish the death penalty, ending the barbaric practice of executing people as a punishment for crimes.

Senate Bill 6052, prime sponsored by Republican Maureen Walsh and requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, passed with the support of twenty-one Democratic senators and four Republican senators.

In a statement, Governor Jay Inslee praised the Senate for approving SB 6052.

“I would like to thank Sens. Maureen Walsh and Reuven Carlyle, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who have been great allies in the fight to end the death penalty in Washington state. There has been growing, bipartisan support for ending Washington’s death penalty, and the Senate today voted to do just that. I know this is an emotional issue and people are moved by deeply-held beliefs and values.

“When I put a moratorium on the use of capital punishment in 2014, I hoped it would create space for a discussion about the unequal application of this law, the enormous costs of seeking this punishment and the uncertainty of closure for victims’ families. I hope Washington joins the growing number of states that are choosing to end the death penalty.”

“Today the Washington State Senate took a historic, bipartisan vote, passing Attorney General-request legislation to eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “Thank you to legislative leaders and advocates who worked so hard to make this historic vote happen. There’s more work to do — Speaker Chopp and the state House now have the opportunity to abolish our broken death penalty.”

“In the past year, prominent Republican officials came forward to support abolishing the death penalty – former Attorney General Rob McKenna and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg,” Ferguson added. “I want to thank them for contributing their perspective to this debate.”

“For me, there are many compelling reason why Washington should join the nineteen other states that have eliminated the death penalty,” said Senator Jamie Pedersen (D-43rd District), the chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee.

Pedersen, who has championed abolition on both sides of the dome, went on to explain that the death penalty is indefensible. “It is unfairly administered; expensive; and unavailable in wide swaths of our state,” he said. “Those convicted of aggravated first-degree murder should die in prison with no hope of parole. The taxpayers do not need to spend millions of dollars to hasten that death.”

“This is a difficult and serious public issue, and a personal decision for each legislator,” said Senator Reuven Carlyle, D-36th District.

“And in this discussion, we offer no personal judgments, no moral criticism and no righteousness against those with whom we disagree.”

“But my personal religious conviction leaves me unable to support a policy that is clearly applied inequitably across our nation and that I believe does not represent our best values of grace. For nine years as a legislator I have led efforts to eliminate the death penalty in favor of life in prison.”

“Today’s vote represents an evolution in thinking about the death penalty and I am grateful that we are making meaningful progress toward that goal.”

The roll call on SB 6052 was as follows:

Roll Call
SB 6052
Death penalty elimination
3rd Reading & Final Passage

Yeas: 26; Nays: 22; Excused: 1

Voting Yea: Senators Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Darneille, Dhingra, Fain, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Miloscia, Mullet, Nelson, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Walsh, Warnick, Wellman

Voting Nay: Senators Angel, Bailey, Becker, Braun, Brown, Conway, Ericksen, Fortunato, Hobbs, Honeyford, King, O`Ban, Padden, Rivers, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Takko, Van De Wege, Wagoner, Wilson, Zeiger

Excused: Senator Baumgartner

The team at NPI is overjoyed by the passage of Senate Bill 6052.

With today’s vote, our Senate has loudly declared that human rights matter in Washington State. We thank each and every senator who voted for abolition. We are particularly grateful to Republican Senators Brad Hawkins, Joe Fain, Mark Miloscia, Maureen Walsh, and Judy Warnick for their aye votes.

Without them, this bill would not have passed.

Book Review: “Fifty Million Rising” explains how women are changing the Muslim world

Fifty Million Rising by Saadia Zahidi is that rare book that does everything it sets out to do, then goes beyond it.

Zahidi’s look at the cohort of “The Generation of Working Women Transforming the Muslim World” doesn’t contradict itself, but golly is it large and containing multitudes. It couldn’t be anything less and still true, spanning thirty Muslim-majority countries from North Africa all the way to Southeast Asia.

Fifty Million Rising by Saadia Zahidi

Fifty Million Rising by Saadia Zahidi (Hardcover, NationBooks/Hachette)

As a Pakistani woman from a Muslim family, Zahidi only briefly centers the narrative on herself, contrasting the sort of opportunities and education her grandmothers had, then the Ph.D. that her own mother earned and the goals her family encouraged her to follow, with broader culture.

By doing this, she imbues her subsequent stories about other people and the subject of women’s education and work — and the barriers to them that still exist in the Muslim world — with the perspective of a familial understanding rather than that of the typical, well-meaning but still foreign, writer wielding an anthropological gaze.

This pays off as she travels to sixteen countries, conducting more than two hundred interviews to understand the ways in which Muslim women have made gains, especially in education; have come into the workforce in the economies; and are changing and being changed by the modern world.

Never in my life would I have imagined that getting a job at McDonald’s could be fulfilling, affirming work for a person in their early twenties, but for a contemporary Pakistani woman, it often is, and the multinational corporation values female labor because women value the opportunity to demonstrate their worth beyond marriage material or child production and thus are punctual, hard workers.

This particular anecdote, including McDonald’s being a middle-class status symbol that strenuously protects women from customer and co-worker sexual harassment, lay far beyond my wildest fantasies before reading this book.

For an interested layperson, the primary utility of Fifty Million Rising is to complicate your view of 1.25 billion people who we tend to only find characterized as an alien, homogeneous bloc — hostile or downtrodden or unfairly slandered, but, regardless, so poorly understood that the diversity within and between Muslim societies gets flattened till all its humanity is wrung out.

On this level, Zahidi’s book is continually shocking when all you’re doing in consuming Western media about the Muslim world: terrorists, war, black-garbed head-to-toe women who are victims of monstrous patriarchy.

We’re well-aware Saudi Arabian women are prohibited from going out in public without meeting a dress code of modesty, not allowed walk unescorted, and, at least until later this year, drive at all.

Yet less well-publicized is that half of all university-age Saudi students get a tertiary education, and about half of those are women.

This complicates the picture we’re passively encouraged to have of an Islam synonymous with barbarism and misogyny.

Zahidi is no apologist, though; as in other places in the Muslim world, often those university degrees are used more to mark the women as eligible potential brides than ever translated into productive work.

But as a result, they also then have the autonomy to divorce their husband if he chooses to take another wife — something their mothers couldn’t have chosen — and to provide for their children if they’re widowed.

More typically, women with education and skills can contribute to the household income in order to achieve the standards of middle-class consumption that continue to pervade from culture, travel, living abroad.

William Gibson is famously attributed with the quote, “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”

That’s not necessarily a thing he said and doesn’t actually make sense, but it feels true, at least with technology. We think Luddites can’t turn back the clock while we understand social reactionaries can.

So let’s instead say the past isn’t even past.

When Zahidi describes how Muslim women are emerging into public spaces with the buying power and accompanying social earth-shaking that entails, that first seems retrograde rather than the present. But the parallels are undeniable when reading about late nineteenth century white women in the United Kingdom and America gaining access to the public through shopping for themselves at department stores.

Later, Zahidi examines the added burden women have when they take on winning bread for the family without being about to share the weight of household chores, and it’s imminently familiar to what American women have experienced since Second Wave Feminism in the 1970s.

The way the so-called “gig economy” is radically altering how people of uncertain finances can augment their incomes more flexibly, how women often arrive at being primary earners changing the power dynamic in their marriages, and how men resent “all of the money” the government spends on women at their expense is entirely contemporary and familiar.

Likewise, it’s easy to sneer when reading that the thirty Muslim-majority nations Zahidi looks at have managed only seventeen-percent female representation in their national-level legislatures until you compare that to the current U.S. Congress.

In scope, Zahidi manages to demonstrate how much diversity there is in each place she travels to and whose statistics she compares, but what I don’t think she intended and still achieved so successfully was providing stark examples of how misogyny exists around the world, with the subtle and obvious ways it impacts women’s lives everywhere.

None of it is a direct criticism of our own society in the United States, but I don’t know what else you can feel when Zahidi describes the experience of seeing Benazir Bhutto elected prime minister of Pakistan and what it meant for South Asian girls in the late eighties to know they could accomplish anything they wanted.

Or how work becomes low-paid when it becomes predominantly feminine, such as in their example, accounting.

Zahidi accomplished something really impressive with Fifty Million Rising, without succumbing to pollyannish assumptions of the future or avoiding the structural prescriptions nations need to include if they want to get the most out of half of their populations for the economic benefit of all.

She wrote a book that’s not only incredibly interesting in each detail and perspective but also engrossing on the largest scale, country to country, generation to generation. And again, this is all in less than three hundred pages.

if you’re at all interested in feminism, Islam, or the global economy, get yourself a copy of this book. There is a lot of awful stuff going on in the world, but as this book shows us, not everything that’s happening is bad.

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