December 18, 2008

Commissioner Tarleton Blogs at NPI

Current Affairs,Policy,The Politics of Business,Washington Culture

Andrew at NPI has featured a blog post by Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton. The subject of the post is port reform, the bugaboo ever since former CEO Mic Dinsmore started treating the agency's intake of public tax dollars like his very own piggy bank. Tarleton outlines what is being done now to institute reforms -- unfortunately, the commenters seem rather non-plussed and Tarleton responds in the comment thread. But as Strother Martin would say, "What we have here is a failure to communicate." The problem is a difference in focus: Tarleton is touting the reform agenda (and there is a fairly good one being put in place) while the commenters are are expressing supreme displeasure with the "slaps on the wrist" given to port managers and staff who were found to be engaging in corrupt activities under Dinsmore. In other words, it's not just future transparency that the public craves, it's accountability for past transgressions as well.


Just to simplify matters, I think the hard feelings being expressed at NPI hinge on last week's quote by Tarleton to Kristin Millares Young: 

 

Tarleton said that, when she pushed for "zero tolerance" for fraud during public meetings and news interviews after the state audit, she "wasn't aware of civil fraud."

Like Yoshitani, who has likened violations of state law to "jaywalking," Tarleton compared civil fraud to parking violations.

"If I had been aware of the fact that there was civil fraud related to willful, deliberate misrepresentation in the oversight of leadership responsibilities, I would have been more cautious about using 'zero tolerance,' " Tarleton said. "There is a difference between civil and criminal -- a difference between getting a parking ticket and breaking into a bank."

 

Yep. I'm pretty sure that's the sticking point. Equating civil fraud worth $30 million to... a street parking infraction. Policy is one thing, politics is quite another. Public relations lies somewhere in between. 

Posted by shoephone on December 18, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (0)

December 17, 2008

Understanding the Financial Meltdown

Current Affairs,National and International Politics,The Politics of Business

This economic "downturn" did not need to happen.  I haven't followed the markets and financial news all that carefully, unlike political news.  I don't have the background to read the entrails of this current mess quickly.  But I know it did not need to happen.  It's been nagging at me and I've laid aside some time to dig into recent articles about how "this came to be" by the people I've begun to trust on the economy and "what can we do now". 

So, I'm going to integrate what I've learned from two renowned progressive economists and one exceptional historian.  Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist and professor at Columbia University has an article in Vanity Fair this month, entitled "Capitalist Fools".  James K. Galbraith, is professor in two different departments at the University of Austin and the Chair of Economists for Peace and Security.  His piece is from his remarks entitled "The Johnson Legacy and the Obama Challenge" which Galbraith recently gave at  the LBJ Centennial Conference, filling in for his famous father.  Andrew Bacevich is a Professor of History and International Relations at Boston University and author of, among many other books, "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism"

As Stiglitz says, in his article,

There will come a moment when the most urgent threats posed by the credit crisis have eased and the larger task before us will be to chart a direction for the economic steps ahead. This will be a dangerous moment. Behind the debates over future policy is a debate over history—a debate over the causes of our current situation. The battle for the past will determine the battle for the present. So it’s crucial to get the history straight.

How We Got in This Mess

Joseph Stiglitz believes there were five key decisions made since the Reagan administration took office (this will be a theme) that cascaded into this tragic result:

1. Firing the Chairman:  Ronald Reagan fired Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in 1987 and replaced him with Alan Greenspan because Greenspan, a devoted follower of Ayn Rand, did not believe in regulation of the financial markets.  Volcker, whom of course is coming back to work in the Obama Administration, had brought inflation down from 11% to 4%.  Volcker worked to maintain the stability of the financial system at every turn and knew that regulation was a part of that stability.  Greenspan allowed complicated instruments such as derivatives, credit-default swaps, and so forth to develop with little or no regulation.  Greenspan's policies were responsible for two financial bubbles: the high-tech bubble of 2000–2001 and the housing bubble.  

2. Tearing down the walls:  Straight from Stiglitz - "In November 1999, Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act—the culmination of a $300 million lobbying effort by the banking and financial-services industries, and spearheaded in Congress by Senator Phil Gramm. Glass-Steagall had long separated commercial banks (which lend money) and investment banks (which organize the sale of bonds and equities); it had been enacted in the aftermath of the Great Depression and was meant to curb the excesses of that era, including grave conflicts of interest."  There were more foolish moves - the decision in April 2004 by the SEC to allow big investment banks "to increase their debt-to-capital ratio so that they could buy more mortgage-backed securities, inflating the housing bubble in the process".

3.  Applying the Leeches:  The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2001 for upper-income Americans and corporations shaped the conditions of the current taxes; they did very little to stimulate the economy.  The Fed tried to help - establishing exceptionally low interest rates and increasing liquidity.  Then along came the war which led to soaring oil prices.  By then, Americans were so dependent on foreign oil (another recurring theme) we spent hundreds of billions to purchase oil, money that would have been spent on American goods and services otherwise.  To prevent an economic slowdown, the Fed flooded the market with ready money for the mortgage market and American's household savings rates plummeted. 

4.  Faking the Numbers:  As a result of the Enron and WorldCom collapses, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act but neglected to deal with stock options.  This was sort of like the Constitution choosing not to deal with the difficult issue of slavery; it just kicked the problem down the road and it got more and more beat up as it went along.  Stock options became a huge amount of the compensation for executives and that provided incentives for bad accounting to pump up share prices.  Then, added to that, the rating agencies, like Moody's or Standard & Poor's are paid by the people they grade, providing them incentives to give unrealistically high ratings. 

5.  Letting it Bleed:  Stiglitz argues that the October bailout package was just the worst in a set of jagging paths that the Bush Administration tried, each worse than the last.   None of which addressed the looming weaknesses in the economy. "The economy had been sustained by excessive borrowing. That game was up. As consumption contracted, exports kept the economy going, but with the dollar strengthening and Europe and the rest of the world declining, it was hard to see how that could continue. Meanwhile, states faced massive drop-offs in revenues—they would have to cut back on expenditures. Without quick action by government, the economy faced a downturn. And even if banks had lent wisely—which they hadn’t—the downturn was sure to mean an increase in bad debts, further weakening the struggling financial sector."  In sum, Stiglitz says,

The administration talked about confidence building, but what it delivered was actually a confidence trick. If the administration had really wanted to restore confidence in the financial system, it would have begun by addressing the underlying problems—the flawed incentive structures and the inadequate regulatory system.


Back to the Future

James K. Galbraith talks about a recommitment to a legislative agenda that builds on the foundation laid down by the New Deal and the Great Society.  "We have spent a generation trying to repeal the New Deal and the Great Society, and the fact that the results are disastrous is now clear to all. "

Galbraith notes that the scope of the economic stimulus package is so much more ambitious than what was being discussed back in the summer because of the financial collapse.  When he talks about why the collapse occurred, it seems eerily similar to what happened in the Great Crash, which his father wrote about.  "Amazingly, it took just nine years from the repeal of Glass-Steagall to reproduce the central pathology of that earlier time: the rampant peddling of toxic securities confected from worthless assets to an investing public that never quite gets the word."

Galbraith lays the blame squarely on deregulation:

The trouble arose primarily in unsupervised mortgage originators like Countrywide Financial and IndyMac, those who underwrote the resulting securities, like Citigroup and Lehman Brothers, and those who rated them, like Moody's and Standard and Poor's. At the bottom of the pile were borrowers, some fraudulent but most just naive victims of the hard sell, who accepted loans based on incomes and credit histories they didn't have, on houses that were systematically over-appraised, on terms timed to explode within two years or three. At the top were the Credit Default Swap speculators, whose bets on the chance of non-payment metastasized risk through the system. Overlooking all was a complaisant state - a Predator State - which combined commercial and investment banking, relaxed the underwriting rules, legalized and deregulated the default swaps, desupervised the mortgage originators and resolutely ignored warnings of massive fraud from the FBI and other sources.

Worse still, we have no decent economic models to work with.  The men and the ideas of the New Deal and the Great Society have been set aside in favor of the macroeconomics of Ronald Reagan.  It's not only the conservatives; it's the mainstream economic establishment.


He reminds us of what Roosevelt's and Johnson's economists came up with and about how well it worked.  Galbraith quotes from a new paper Marshall Auerback wrote summarizing the actual accomplishments of those years and debunking the debunkers (no link provided or found). 

The key to evaluating Roosevelt's performance in combating the Depression is the statistical treatment of many millions of unemployed engaged in his massive workfare programs. The government hired about 60 per cent of the unemployed in public works and conservation projects... It also built or renovated 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 schools, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 7,800 bridges, 700,000 miles of roads, and a thousand airfields. And it employed 50,000 teachers, rebuilt the country's entire rural school system, and hired 3,000 writers, musicians, sculptors and painters... If these workfare Americans are considered to be unemployed, the Roosevelt administration reduced unemployment ... to 13 per cent in 1936, to less than 10 per cent at the end of 1940, to less than 1 per cent a year later when the U.S. was plunged into the Second World War. If the federal workfare employees are accepted as employed, the corresponding numbers are ... 7 per cent, 3 per cent and 0.5 per cent. Virtually all the genuinely unemployed received basic social benefit payments from 1935 on.


Galbraith adds that the unemployment rate under Johnson feel to under 4% for three years in a row.   Galbraith also says that most of the institutions put in place to deal with the Great Crash are still intact.  "The Roosevelt- Johnson legacy makes our lives vastly easier now, because we can retrace what they did, and because we can build on the institutions they built."

So, what to do?  Galbraith lays out his suggestions in order of sequence rather than urgency.

1. Stabilize the Financial System. This includes (a) expanded deposit insurance, (b) support for commercial paper and money market funds, (c) nationalization of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, and (d) partial nationalization and recapitalization of the banks.  This has mostly been done after wasting time and money on buying back toxic assets.  Then cement the stabilization of the system with financial sector reform.

2.  Revive the Economy.  Galbraith supports a wide range of stimulus including revenue-sharing with the states, building and rebuilding infrastructure, reinvention of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation which lends to businesses while they develop new ways to use manufacturing and technology, and lowering the age of eligibility for Medicaid to 55. 

3.  Foreclosure Moratorium and Mortgage Renegotiation.  This will require a huge number of people to monitor and manage but is critical to stabilization.

4.  Raise the Level Social Security Benefits.   Seniors have lost 40% of the value of their equities in the last year.  An across the board raise of 30% in basic Social Security benefits would help seniors regain some purchasing power.

5.  Should More be Needed. . . Galbraith suggests that the government pay the payroll tax contributions of both employee and employer for three to five years.

6.  Help Design a Functional World Economic System.  The New Deal and Great Society economists understood the importance of stable world economy to the U.S and every other country.   Stable economic development is critical to the reduction of poverty and to the protection of a fragile and endangered planet.

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

I have been recommending this book to everyone I know who reads political books and I intend to write a longer summary of the book at another time.  Bacevich is a historian and his time perspective on our economic crisis is longer term that our economist friends above, although he pinpoints the same timeframe - the Reagan years - as they do for the start of the current crisis. 

Bacevich says that America has always been about making money and about acquiring "more".  He talks about how our ideas of freedom and abundance have been intertwined.  The blessings of our abundance have given us the liberty to expand our freedoms.  Our ability to tell ourselves that we are exceptional allows us to feel okay about taking way more than our fair share of the resources on this earth.   Over many years, we did it almost blithely, without paying attention to the impact that taking has on other people and on the planet.  Bacevich quotes Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian, activist and writer, who was quite prophetic when he wrote, "Our dreams of managing history - born of a peculiar combination of arrogance and narcissism - posed a potentially mortal threat the the United States".

As we all know, the U.S. came out of WWII with an unprecedented economic boom, which meant more power abroad and more abundance at home.  That unique prominence stumbled over the Vietnam War, both the cost and the misuse of power, and over the increased need for foreign oil.  Bacevich argues, though, that we can pinpoint the precise tipping point. 

It came in the time period between two presidential speeches four years apart.

The first was President Jimmy Carter talking to the nation in July of 1979.  He spoke of the turning point that the nation was at.  In that earlier time of high oil prices and an uncertain economic future, he said " the true problems of our Nation are much deeper" and went on to add, "too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption".  Carter went on to talk about the choice between two paths.  "One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest.  Down that path lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others.  That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility."  Carter went on to outline out a 6-point plan to end our dependence on foreign oil but that it would require sacrifice. 

Talk about a downer!  That speech marked the end of Carter's chances to win the election of 1980.

Reagan, while portraying himself as a conservative, was "the modern prophet of profligacy, the politician who gave moral sanction to the empire of consumption".  No wonder so many loved and continue to love Reagan!  He asked for no self-awareness and indulged our self-indulgence.  He simply asked his fellow citizens to carry on.  Use all the oil you want, he implied; just make sure you can get access to it.

The bookend speech to Carter's call for sacrifice was given in March, 1983, when Reagan announced his Strategic Defense Initiative.  In that speech, Reagan "introduced the proposition that Americans could be truly safe only if they United States enjoyed something like permanent military supremacy".  Under his leadership, the national security consensus emerged that suggested the U.S. could dominate the planet as well as outer space.  Never mind that all the economic indicators turned negative, personal savings shrank and consumer debt increased. 

American profligacy during the 1980's had a powerful effect on foreign policy.  The impact manifested itself in two ways.  On the one hand, Reagan's willingness to spend without limit helped bring the cold war to a peaceful conclusion.  On the other hand, American habits of conspicuous consumption, encouraged by Reagan, drew the United States ever more deeply into the vortex of the Islamic world, saddling an increasingly debt-ridden and energy-dependent nation with commitments that it could neither shed nor sustain.


From there, the path to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, and Iraq was fairly straight.  As was the path to the current economic meltdown.  It's time we understand our history, economic and otherwise.  

Posted by Lynn Allen on December 17, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (0)

December 14, 2008

Gratitude to the American People

Watching McCain on "This Week" this morning, I'm reminded of what we might be dealing with had McCain or Clinton been elected.  I doubt that any other President-elect would be getting such high marks for the transition preparation.  As the Wall Street Journal says, "the nation is rooting for him".

I certainly prefer the more sane version of McCain that we are seeing now but he would have been a disaster as President, not to mention the Republicans damage that would have been part and parcel of any McCain presidency.  Imagine the horrific Cabinet appointments.  Imagine the heightened Union-bashing.  Imagine the odds of getting decent healthcare.  Imagine how the rest of the world would be reacting. 

I've always thought that the American people do pretty well when they are paying attention.  The trick now is to keep that up.  Obama is going to need us paying attention to support the action plan we will need to pull us out of this Republican-created disaster we are in as a county,

Posted by Lynn Allen on December 14, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (0)

December 13, 2008

The Logo Roads Not Taken

Candidate Races,Media

Here are the other logos that the designer, Sol Sender, considered before the wonderful winning logo we know so well.   Logos.

Posted by Lynn Allen on December 13, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (0)

December 11, 2008

Fraud at the Port -- Definitions and Penalties

Policy,The Politics of Business

The latest P.I. article on fraud at the Port of Seattle focuses on what the CEO and the commissioners think the word "fraud" means and what punishments should be meted out. It is stunning that, when faced with the results of their own investigation, port leadership implies that their past usage of the phrase "zero tolerance" may actually be open to interpretation:


When Yoshitani took the helm of the port from Mic Dinsmore in March 2007, he promised a different leadership style -- the reverse of Dinsmore's top-down, heavy-fisted approach.

In dealing with scandals since then, Yoshitani has revealed a pattern with his response to each controversy: support an expensive investigation that revealed widespread dysfunction, strengthen a host of port policies and procedures that had been ignored, and implement reforms while delivering slaps on the wrist to most of the employees in question.


 

But it's not just the Port CEO who vacillates over appropriate punishments for the offenders. For some, it comes down to what the definition of the word "is" "fraud" is:

 

Tarleton said that, when she pushed for "zero tolerance" for fraud during public meetings and news interviews after the state audit, she "wasn't aware of civil fraud."

Like Yoshitani, who has likened violations of state law to "jaywalking," Tarleton compared civil fraud to parking violations.

"If I had been aware of the fact that there was civil fraud related to willful, deliberate misrepresentation in the oversight of leadership responsibilities, I would have been more cautious about using 'zero tolerance,' " Tarleton said. "There is a difference between civil and criminal -- a difference between getting a parking ticket and breaking into a bank."

 

If civil fraud is like getting a parking ticket then those who committed fraud with millions in taxpayer dollars at the Port of Seattle can breathe easy -- they'll only be expected to pay a fine of $38 to the Municipal Court of Seattle. (That's what my parking ticket last January cost me.)

 

But maybe, just maybe, there's more to the legal concept of what constitutes civil fraud:

 

Fraud, in addition to being a criminal act, is also a type of civil law violation known as a tort. A tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy. A civil fraud typically involves the act of intentionally making a false representation of a material fact, with the intent to deceive, which is reasonably relied upon by another person to that person's detriment. A "false representation" can take many forms, such as:

  • A false statement of fact, known to be false at the time it was made;
  • A statement of fact with no reasonable basis to make that statement;
  • A promise of future performance made with an intent, at the time the promise was made, not to perform as promised;
  • A statement of opinion based on a false statement of fact;
  • A statement of opinion that the maker knows to be false; or
  • An expression of opinion that is false, made by one claiming or implying to have special knowledge of the subject matter of the opinion. "Special knowledge" in this case means knowledge or information superior to that possessed by the other party, and to which the other party did not have equal access.

If you or I had committed any of the above actions at our jobs we might have been given a reprimand. But more than likely, we would have had our asses kicked out the door. And there may well have been legal action taken against us. It's Reality Check Time. Mike McKay, a former U.S attorney, understands quite well the seriousness of civil fraud. In referencing a brief that port managers presented to the commissioners about TTI Constructors' bid on the third-runway embankment, McKay had this to say:


That memo became "less specific, more vague, and more misleading with each iteration" as it passed through the e-mail boxes of at least eight managers until it became "a material misstatement of fact" that used "overtly misleading language intended to lull the commission into taking no action," according to McKay's investigation.

 

The situation at the Port looks more and more dire with each piece of information that becomes public. And the feds still have their investigation coming up. Kristin Millares Young's reporting has been, in my view, exemplary. Her latest article is a searing series of observations about the confusion and incompetence at the Port -- then and now.

 

Posted by shoephone on December 11, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (1)

December 10, 2008

Nuttiest Letter to the Editor

Current Affairs,Media,Policy

Letter writer to the New York Times forgets to put brain in head before typing:


To the Editor:

For some people, abortion is a nonnegotiable issue. A nation that runs out of people cannot perform the activities of a sophisticated society.

We have a shortage of primary care doctors. There are other skilled-worker shortages. You cannot kill the future population of a nation and then wonder why that nation does not have the people it needs to do the jobs it requires to function.

Our nation needs to face up to the 48 million lives lost through abortion since 1973. I think at least some of that number would have become the skilled people we need now and will need even more as our population ages.

Abortion is at the very center of a host of our troubles.

Elinor Hite
Carrollton, Tex., Dec. 7, 2008


 

Boy howdy, that's some logic Elinor's using. I wonder how she explains the 1.9 million jobs lost in the past year (jobs = people, dear Elinor), right here in the ol' U.S. of A! and all the outsourcing of good jobs to Asia by the Captains of Corporate America. Hmm... They must have been phantom workers...

 

Seriously -- doesn't her letter belong in The Onion instead of the NYT?

Posted by shoephone on December 10, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (2)

December 04, 2008

An Anger to Emulate

National and International Politics,Taking Action

Folks in Mumbai are righteously angry.  People are protesting the failures of the Indian government.   (See here and here.)  They are mourning the 173 dead in what some are calling India's 9/11, but they are also asking why the government wasn't able to stop it. 

“We’ve come to show our solidarity against the apathy of the government and we want the government to change and be proactive and not lazy,” said Abiti Phoksey, a 64-year-old woman who runs an upholstery business. “They have a duty towards the nation,” she added.


Their anger is focused on the government's ineptitude and it is having consequences.  India's Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, resigned early on.  Both the Deputy Chief Minister and the Chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the main city, were forced to step down in the last day. 

Some politicians get it.  The mayor of the city asked the people to voice their concerns. 

The anger is fueled by a series of revelations that India was warned about a possible terror strike on Mumbai by sea several months ago.  The anger highlights the split between the new, highly educated and technically savvy folks, concentrated in Mumbai as it happens, and the old lumbering, bureaucratic institutions of government.  The obvious governmental failures in this critical national security area is likely to have significant repercussions in how India functions.

So, I'm jealous.  I think we have something to learn.   Why didn't New Yorkers force Rudy Giuliani to quit when it became clear that he was responsible for the death of hundreds of firefighters and police who didn't have up-to-date communications equipment?  Why didn't we rise up (in larger numbers) when President Bush turned his attention to Iraq when he should have been concentrating on Tora Bora and on assisting the moderates in the Arab world to bring their radicals back into the fold?

Partly, it's the timing.  The rallies in Mumbai were organized by text message.  The workers of Mumbai have now had a few years of living with streamlined ways of working.  I'm basically convinced that the Internet would now prevent a war like Iraq from happening here.  And, of course, we managed to elect Barack Obama, a clear win for the more democratic and tech savvy amongst us.

Nevertheless, I think there is a lot to be learned from watching that raw righteous anger, unprotected by the institutional forces of savvy politicians and complicit media.    

Posted by Lynn Allen on December 4, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (0)

December 03, 2008

It's Official: Port of Seattle Committed Fraud

Kristin Millares Bolt reports that the Port of Seattle's investigation of itself (overseen by commissioners Bryant and Tarleton) shows the Port committed fraud while under the leadership of former CEO Mic Dinsmore. Not much of a surprise.

Among other things, port employees steer[ed] contracts to favored contractors for work that was already done, lied to the Port Commission and broke up large contracts into smaller ones to avoid state bidding laws.

(snip)

The McKay report also found that Dinsmore, who led the port during the period in question, also violated the port ethics policy "when he used the services of a port consultant, McBee Strategic Consulting, to obtain a paid internship for his daughter."


 

A few of the greatest hits:

  • That a port employee, prior to the bid submission date, shared "a detailed internal port estimate" with primary third runway contractor TTI Construction on a third runway contract and didn't tell senior port leadership.

    That port employees "falsely represented a $2 million cost reduction as a $9.4 million reduction in an attempt to avoid commission scrutiny" of a third runway embankment contract. Former Port Chief Executive Mic Dinsmore and current Aviation Director Mark Reis negotiated the contract at a steak house with TTI Construction.

    That a commission memo written about that TTI Construction contract by the port staff used "overtly misleading language intended to lull the commission into taking no action."

  • That port staff steered work to their favorite contractors, "often awarding contracts for work that had already been performed".

  • That port staff broke up large contracts into smaller contracts to avoid state and port bidding requirements.

  • That port staff "amended a $25,000 no-competition "emergency" professional services agreement to more than $1 million and added work that was outside the scope of the original agreement, after the "emergency" window had passed.

  • I've been reading a lot of fiction lately, mostly from The Best American Short Stories of 2008, and it's a very good collection. But it turns out that sometimes the old saying, "truth is stranger than fiction" still holds. And the port story would be purely entertaining if it didn't include the sad fact that taxpayer dollars were used to commit the aforementioned frauds.

    Well, we don't have Mic Dinsmore to kick around anymore. The question is, will current Port CEO Tay Yoshitani make good on his promise to hold the offenders accountable?

    Last December, Yoshitani said he would have "zero tolerance" for fraud. In a statement released Wednesday, Yoshitani said, "I stand by my word. Any staff member who has committed fraud will be appropriately disciplined and potentially terminated."

    "Potentially terminated"? Please. Those people should probably be in jail. At the very least, we await news of their pink slips.

    Ironic Side Note: McBee Strategic Consulting is the same firm that Glynda Becker (Karl Rove's liaison to the WA state GOP, during the firing of former US attorney John McKay) joined after leaving political life. Mike McKay, John's brother and also a former US attorney for Washington, conducted the investigation of the Port of Seattle.

    Posted by shoephone on December 3, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (3)

    Doug Sutherland's Last Act as Lands Commissioner: A Middle Finger to the Puget Sound

    Candidate Races,Environment,Policy,The Politics of Business

    Before toddling off into the sunset as a sexually harassing, corporate lackey has-been, Doug Sutherland signed off on the deal to transform the waters off Maury Island into a huge, polluting gravel mine. Environmental groups promise to file a lawsuit to stop the action. Hopefully, a judge will approve their claims against Sutherland's work order.

    Right now I'm feeling pretty thankful that Washington's voters saw the light, dumped Sutherland by the side of the road and elected Peter Goldmark to lead the state lands commision. The next four years are going to be very different. 

    Posted by shoephone on December 3, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (3)

    November 27, 2008

    President-Elect Obama's Thanksgiving Day Address

    I almost wrote President Obama.  It seems like we have a split presidency right now.  Obama is doing the real leading - like dealing with the economic collapse and bolstering our confidence; Bush is attending to the ceremonial functions like talking to the APEC leaders in Peru and pardoning the national turkey. 

    So, here is our real president's Thanksgiving Day Address.  Lovely

    Arianna Huffington talks about why she is thankful to the Obamas.  She clarifies what makes me tear up the most about having Barack and Michelle preparing to move into the White House.  Their total decency.

    I'm particularly thankful for all the non-political teachable moments we are getting from the Obamas: It's not worth holding a grudge (see asking Hillary to be Secretary of State). There is no one better to help you raise your kids than grandma (see asking "First Granny" Marion Robinson to move into the White House to help Malia and Sasha adjust to life in DC). No matter what they throw at you, stay calm, centered, and collected (see "Muslim," "Socialist," "palling around with terrorists"). All great lessons to bring home with us this Thanksgiving holiday.

    Posted by Lynn Allen on November 27, 2008 | Read comments & add your own (2)