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October 31, 2004

What's Wrong With This Flyer?

DemsdoorflyerYesterday, I stopped by the Seattle Democratic Party "Combined Campaign" Headquarters to pick up a packet of canvass materials so I could knock on a few doors and get out the vote.

The main "lit piece" in my packet was the 6X9 Post-It note pictured at right. It listed four of the "top of the ticket" races, none of which except for Chris Gregiore are particularly close. Notably missing, however, are two of the Democrats' most-in-need-of-a-boost statewide candidates, Mike Cooper for Lands Commissioner and Deborah Senn for Attorney General.

What's up with that?

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 31, 2004 at 09:49 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Waiting For Kerry


The waiting is almost excruciating.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 31, 2004 at 11:42 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 30, 2004

Report negative campaign literature to 1-888-610-8170

Just got a robo-call message from Dino Rossi, asking me to report negative campaign ads or literature to a Bush/Cheney campaign hotline number: 1-888-610-8170. I suggest calling the hotline immediately to report on negative ads like:

  • Bush fliers juxtaposing Kerry with images of the burning World Trade Center.
  • Bush's "Wolves" ad
  • Republican ads smearing Attorney General candidate Deborah Senn.

Or, perhaps even complaining about the ad smearing Chris Gregiore that the Republican Governors Association has illegally funded on Rossi's behalf.

Remember, every call is at the Bush campaign's expense.

[Hypocrites. -Ed.]

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 30, 2004 at 02:20 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Untangling Transportation Tax Options

Voters in King County will find a rather odd and confusing item on their ballots -- an advisory mesaure on transportation funding. It's a rather bizarre, non-binding question that asks us whether we want to see a comprehensive county transportation funding package, and if so, how we'd like to fund it. Voting for a regional transportation package is a no-brainer, but the funding mechanism question is a real head-scratcher if you're not a serious policy wonk.

Here's what the voters' pamphlet says.

This advisory measure asks which tax source the voters in King County would prefer be used to support a transportation plan designed to relieve traffic congestion and increase safety through a mix of road and transit projects in King County. This plan would require voter approval at a future date. Which one of the following tax sources would you prefer be included in a plan to locally fund road and transit projects in King County?


* a general sales tax
* an excise tax on the value of motor vehicles
* a flat tax on motor vehicles
* an increase in the local gas tax
* a tax on total annual vehicle miles traveled

Fortunately, Alan Durning of Northwest Environment Watch
steps in to sort it out with his usual common sense thinking:

I recommend pulling for the tax on the total annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT).... A VMT does the best job of getting prices to tell the truth: all driving, even in fuel-efficient vehicles, creates costs for nondrivers and society, such as road wear, noise, a nuisance to pedestrians and communities, and the risk of accident. A vehicle mile tax is the closest thing to a straight user fee for driving. (The idea is similar to pay-as-you-drive car insurance.)

Gas taxes are my second choice--a close second--because they also vary with the amount of driving you do. Gas taxes also modestly encourage the use of more efficient vehicles. But they tend to reinforce the notion that gasoline consumption is the only problem created by cars. That's why I mildly prefer the VMT option.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 30, 2004 at 07:00 AM in Ballot Initiatives, Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 29, 2004

Four State Senate Races to Watch

As Tip O'Neill famously remarked, "All politics is local." And this year, some of the most important local politics that will shape the future of Washington are local races for the State Senate. These races that will determine whether the Democrats take back control over the closely divided Senate, and thus affect how easily progressive bills can make it to Chris Gregiore's desk.

So, in that spirit, we present brief rundowns on four of the most closely contested State Senate races, courtesy of Benjamin Lawver of the State Democratic Campaign Committee and the brand-new Washington Bus Project. [Hey, isn't the Washington Bus Project modeled on the Oregon Bus Project, just like Evegreen Politics is modeled on BlueOregon? -- Ed.] These are some of the "below the radar" results we'll be anxiously watching for on "the crawl" beneath the big map showing state after state turning beautiful blue for John Kerry next Tuesday night.

Laurie DolanLaurie Dolan - Spokane - District 6
Two years ago, Laurie Dolan made her first run for political office, and almost won against the most powerful person in the Senate at the time, Majority leader Jim West. Since then, West has been elected Mayor of Spokane and the seat opened up for a special election. West's longtime Legislative Aide, Brian Murray, was appointed to fill the vacant seat and lost in the primary to Republican House member Brad Benson. Benson's politics are so far to the right that several prominent Republicans have come out in support of Laurie including former State Senator Jerry Sailing. A win in this district would be the first for Democrats since 1932.

Brian WeinsteinBrian Weinstein - Mercer Island/Bellevue/Newcastle - LD 41
Brian is mouting the first real challenege to incumbent Jim Horn in this rapidly changing suburban district. [This is the kind of district where we'll find out if Kerry has any coattails - Ed.] Senator Horn has chaired the Senate Transportation Committee and been stedfast in his refusal to consider alternative transportation choices. In a district that includes bridge-dependent Mercer Island, this is a big issue. Brain's out-fundraised Horn, giving him the ability to wage an effective media campaign in addition to grassroots work.

Dave SeabrookDave Seabrook - Parts of Clark and Cowlitz County - LD 18
In this heavily Republican district, Dave almost won a House race two years ago. Coming just over 1,000 votes shy of victory is a testament to the hard work he put in going door-to-door and visiting with voters. In the "off-year" Dave continued this work, registering new voters as he considered a run for the State Senate. After he kicked off his Senate campaign in January, Dave contiued his shoe-leather campaign, visiting over 15,000 homes personally, while his volunteers knocked on another 10,000-plus doors.

Craig PridemoreCraig Pridemore - Vancouver - LD 49
This legislative district is the most heavily Democratic area in the state that has a Republican State Senator (Don Carlson). This, and its rapidly suburbanizing character place it near the top of progressives' "take back" lists. His bland style of horse-trading politics combined with his willingness to vote in lock-step with his party have drawn a formidable opponent in Craig Pridemore.

Craig has been elected County Commissioner twice and has earned endorsements from groups that supported his opponent four years ago, including Washignton Conservation Voters, Vancouver Education Assocition, and the Sierra Club. [Hey, Sierra Club organizer Alison Mielke is taking some time off to run Craig's campaign! -Ed.]

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 29, 2004 at 03:22 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Did you get spam from the National Right to Life PAC?

As I posted here, if you received a message today telling you to vote against John Kerry from the National Right to Life PAC - it was spam - and they may have to pay a $500 per message penalty.

There's been a lot of pre-election spam the last couple of days. Let's make this group pay.

Email me if you received this message.

Posted by Jeff on October 29, 2004 at 12:53 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2004

Trick or Vote is a group founded on Increasing Voter Turnout with“The Best Way on the Best Day”

Trick or Vote: very clever.

The tagline: "The Best Way on the Best Day." Inspired. (Door to door is proven to be the best way to increase voter turnout. The best day for going around to folks' doors is obviously Halloween.)

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 28, 2004 at 10:01 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Local Chambers of Commerce Close Up Shop

I got a message today from the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, in Seattle. That eighty year old neighborhood institution is closing its doors. The message said:

    Attendance at Chamber activities plummeted to such an extent that we stopped holding regular meetings. Today, nearly half of the board positions are vacant. We don't have enough volunteers to maintain our activities. Most importantly, we have lost over half of our members, and with them, the budget we need to keep operating.
And apparently this is part of a trend:
    We aren't alone -- neighborhood business groups throughout the city and elsewhere are not doing well. None of us want to see eighty years of history disappear. But as we have talked to our colleagues in recent weeks, there seems to be agreement that, regretfully, the Capitol Hill Chamber may no longer be relevant to our community's needs.
I find myself with mixed feelings about this. During my years of work as a neighborhood activist, local chambers of commerce were often adversaries. I found that they were often dominated by property owners, rather than by local merchants. And of course, as actual neighborhood businesses vanish, to be replaced by chains, the local accountability of a neighborhood business association erodes. Finally, on a national level, small business associations are notorious for their reactionary policy positions.

It's also sad to see local chambers go under. On those occasions when they came together, coalitions of neighbors and businesses could get a lot done. And it's an indication of how the balance of power has shifted in the business community. It's the big businesses that count. Period.

But there are some good things that could come out of this trend. Local, progressive merchants could begin to form more successful associations and alliances with their neighbors, drawing the political lines in the sand in more sensible places than before. And perhaps it will now become just a little bit clearer who our adversaries really are.

Posted by Michael Gilbert on October 28, 2004 at 01:51 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (1)

What are you doing on November 2? (Other than calling in sick.)

Here are some of the best ways you can get involved in the most important election of our lifetimes.

Washington State Democrats are Ground Zero for the Kerry campaign. You can contact your local field office directly or register to volunteer online.

UPDATE: The John Kerry website ( seems to have the best searchable listing of local GOTV opportunities -- just punch in your zipcode and away you go.

The folks at are running TechWatch, recruiting technology-skilled volunteers to monitor the technical aspects of election day and make sure that nobody pulls any funny business with electronic voting machines.

Election Protection is a national effort to ensure that your voting rights are upheld. If you have a problem voting, you can call 1-866-OURVOTE (1-866-687-8683) to speak to trained lawyers and law students. They have a great handout summarizing Washington State's voters' rights.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 28, 2004 at 08:00 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2004

Smart Growth's Misunderstood Message (

Washington State has long been among our leader on promoting smart growth policies, thanks in no small part to the work of 1000 Friends of Washington and many others. (Although our friends over at Northwest Environment Watch have pointed out that regionally, both Portland and Vancouver BC are doing even better than Seattle.)

An op-ed in last weekend's Washington Post by Roger K. Lewis caught my eye. In Smart Growth's Misunderstood Message, Lewis nicely summarizes the fundmanetal arguments for and against "smart growth" policies:

[Arguments against smart growth] all rest on the belief that smart growth is utopian and unrealistic. Moreover, they imply that there is a hidden agenda: Limit use of cars; stop building roads; force commuters onto buses or trains; raze suburbs; demolish shopping centers; make families live in apartments or rowhouses; put home builders out of business.

In reality, smart growth is a broad term encompassing a broad public policy goal: to wisely plan, distribute and manage physical growth to achieve objectives on which most citizens agree.

These objectives include: easing traffic congestion and increasing mobility; conserving energy; reducing pollution; providing adequate infrastructure and optimizing its use; expanding housing choices as well as affordable housing opportunities; improving regulatory effectiveness; matching public service expenses with public sector revenues; and, not incidentally, protecting and enhancing the cultural, aesthetic and natural assets of communities.

Locally, we just got some good news on the smart growth front. The King County passed a strong Critical Areas Ordinance that protects vital wildlife habitat and groundwater recharge zones.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 27, 2004 at 08:50 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2004

Words I never thought you'd hear me say

Eminem has created a defining political statement with his new track "Mosh."

Words here, video here. Watch the vid. It's a big file, but don't let that stop you: I'd put this up there with Jon Stewart's Crossfire Smackdown, Michael Moore's F911 and MoveOn's Child's Pay video as one of the best political visual rants of the year.

I just wish it'd come out a couple months ago:

Imagine it pouring, it's raining down on us
Mosh pits outside the oval office
Someone's tryina tell us something,
Maybe this is god just sayin' we're responsible
For this monster, this coward,
That we have empowered
This is Bin Laden, look at his head noddin'
How could we allow something like this without pumping our fists
Now this is our final hour...
No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil
No more psychological warfare, to trick us to thinking that we ain't loyal
If we don't serve our own country, we're patronizing a hero
Look in his eyes its all lies
The stars and stripes, they've been swiped, washed out and wiped
And replaced with his own face, Mosh now or die
If I get sniped tonight you know why,
Cause I told you to fight.

Which brings me around to the point about which I originally meant to post today: creative actions on the days leading up to election day (and beyond, if necessary). What are folks doing here locally to turn up the volume? Kos has got his truck stunt; Dr. Natalie J. advocates full contact art in the streets; the Extreme Democracy crowd is passing out the tools; Txtmob is adding "smart" to the political mob; the World Party hosts are calling for a global day of getting down or fighting back as the case may be.

What are you doing?

Posted by Alex Steffen on October 26, 2004 at 11:48 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

As Easy as 1,2,3

Yeah, I know. We've got ourselves a little election coming up. But I thought I'd take a few moments to talk about someone else's elections for a change...

This past weekend, British Columbia's 153-member Citizens Assembly for Electoral Reform voted to send the voters a proposal to change BC's electoral system from first-past-the-post single member districts [that's how we elect our state & federal reps. - Ed.] to a Single Transferable Vote system where each district is represented by 2-7 legislators.

This means that in May 2005, when British Columbians go to the polls to elect a new provincial legislature, they'll also get to decide whether to adopt an entirely new way of choosing legislators.

I'm not gonna go all election-geeky on the merits of Single Transferable Vote systems, but if you're curious, you can read more at Wikipedia. STV is used in Australia, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand and the People's Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Two things I like about this:

1) It shows that serious election reform can be seriously proposed (and hopefully adopted) here in the Northwest. [It's not just for wingnuts anymore. -Ed.]

2) The proposal was developed by a citizens' panel comprised of randomly-selected ordinary folks, not by the legislature (fox, meet henhouse), and sent directly to the voters. A relatively de-politicized process. Contrast with our "adored" initiative/referendum system here in Washington.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 26, 2004 at 08:18 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2004

Jeff's Voting Guide

Other than voting a straight Democratic ticket, here are some key races I'd like to encourage people to take seriously:

No on I872

This initiative will make it very difficult for viable third party candidates to successfully run for statewide office.

No on I884

This initiative gives a pass to the state legislature from their constitutional duty to fund education. By funding education by raising Seattle’s sales tax to 9.875%, the Legislature will be able to continue its ongoing policies of corporate tax giveaways (currently > $64 billion per biennium). Washington already has the most regressive sales tax in the country – meaning that low income residents already pay too much of their income in taxes. This would make things worse.

No on I892

Tim Eyman was paid off by the national casinos to run this initiative. It would expand gambling in our region and again, take the pressure off the Legislature to repeal corporate tax breaks.

No on I83

Seattle needs more public transit. The monorail goes where light rail can’t or won’t.

No on R55

Charter schools would take money away from the public schools and defocus efforts to fix important problems. Our state’s school system is increasingly inequitable and divided (public/private). Let’s fix our public schools, not create a third tier system.

Yes on I297

Let’s prioritize clean up at Hanford. This is a pro-environment, sensible initiative.

Mike Cooper for Commissioner of Public Lands

Mike is an experienced state legislator who won’t sell out our natural resources to corporations. His opponent wants to continue the policy of handing out timber and other resources to corporate benefactors.

Deborah Senn for Attorney General

Senn will fight for consumer rights against big corporations.

Laura Ruderman for Secretary of State

Laura will do a better job than Sam Reed who has been slow to handle the problems faced by electronic voting machines.

Posted by Jeff on October 25, 2004 at 11:37 PM in Ballot Initiatives, Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Air America Radio Launches in Seattle

Good news for progressive radio listeners in Seattle: Air America Radio launches today in Seattle aon KPTK 1090 AM. Finally, KVI (and NPR!) will have some aggressive progressive competition.

Here's the lineup:

3 a.m. – 6 a.m.Morning Sedition with Mark Riley and Marc Maron
6 a.m. – 9 a.m.Unfiltered with Chuck D, Mark Riley, Liz Winstead & Rachel Maddow
9 a.m – 12 p.m.The Al Franken Show
12 p.m. – 3 p.m.The Ed Schultz Show
3 p.m – 7 p.m.The Randi Rhodes Show
7 p.m. – 10 p.m.The Majority Report with Janeane Garofalo
10 p.m. – 1 a.m.The Best of Al Franken

You can also listen online.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 25, 2004 at 12:50 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 23, 2004

If I Get Mine, Why Should I Care About Yours?

As many Washingtonians know, last week not-gonna-be-President-for-much-longer Bush signed a $136 billion corporate tax break into law. Although the bill was signed with little fanfare, it's been getting coverage here in Washington, because the bill has a provision that allows Washington State taxpayers to deduct sales tax from their federal income taxes (only if you itemize, but that's another story.)

Lisa Hymas over at Gristmill nicely summarizes the larger picture that our local media has been loudly ignoring. Lisa quotes Connie Rice of NPR's Tavis Smiley Show:

Unlike the Leave No Child Behind bill, this corporate boondoggle is fully funded. ExxonMobil, Home Depot, cruise ships, corn farmers, coffee roasters, and makers of fishing tackle boxes, bows and arrows and ceiling fans all have special tax breaks specially tailored for their needs. And unlike the nation's children, who will be paying down our trillion-dollar deficit their whole lives, 60 percent of these corporations will likely continue to pay zero federal taxes, because their armies of lawyers will figure out how re-open newly closed loopholes that allegedly will pay for this bill. ... And get this: [Congress] also cut the charitable car donation deduction that middle-class people take, cut the child tax credit for the poor, blocked restoration of overtime for millions of workers, cut unemployment benefits, cut and then restored war veterans hospital benefits, and made it harder for regular folk to apply for bankruptcy.

The corporate tax break bill has earned condemnation from independent thinkers on both sides of the aisle, as reported by the Washington Post:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) dismissed [the corporate tax bill] as "a lobbyist's dream and a middle-class nightmare." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it "the worst example of the influence of special interests that I've ever seen."

But hey, so long as we homeowners here in Washington State get a tax break, who's to ask too many questions about the costs to our nation?

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 23, 2004 at 08:32 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

2,216 Homeless counted in Seattle/Eastside

Volunteers walked the streets last night counted 2,216 homeless.

If only Washington were more competitive, these folks would have a place to stay. Not.

Perhaps if Washington and its business community were more compassionate...

Posted by Jeff on October 23, 2004 at 05:31 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 22, 2004

Mike Cooper Ads on the Air

One of the most important below-the-radar races in Washington State this year is the race for State Lands Commisioner, where Democrat Mike Cooper is challenging incumbent Republican Doug Sutherland.

Long story short, Mike's got great environmental credentials -- he's for wind farms, forest certification and protecting ancient forests. Doug... well, Doug don't.

So, I was naturally excited when I saw that Mike had finally gotten some a TV ad on the air.

But why not check it out online?

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 22, 2004 at 10:01 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

No on I872!

I872 will make it harder to run legitimate third party candidates by eliminating them in the primary. This from Lance Scott of Eat The State:

The 2004 election is a textbook illustration of the failure of the two-party system and the need to build a real multiparty democracy in America that represents *all* of us. We need to reform our system to permit more voices, more choices, and less corporate control, and we need to build a political party that represents our highest values and aspirations.

That's what's truly at stake in this year's election, and that's why I urge you to vote to build the Green Party in 2004. Here are three ways to do that:

1) First and foremost, voting to build the Green Party in 2004 means voting not to destroy it. Washington state Initiative 872 would destroy the chances of most Greens and other minor party candidates to ever get on the November ballot. It would establish a "Louisiana Primary" in our state, sending only the top two vote getters on to the general election. Many people will be deceived into voting for this as part of a backlash against the primary system instituted this year that requires voters to vote party-line in the primary (and incidentally, removes the Greens and other minor parties from the primary, meaning that minor parties get less exposure). This system may be bad, but I-872 is the cure that is worse than the disease, in that it would eliminate Greens and other minor parties from the *general* election ballot in most races. (See for more information.)

We all know that our political system is rigged against the success of any emerging new parties. Don't allow this rigged system to become even worse: Vote No on I-872! And if you haven't already done so, sign I-318, which would establish a much better solution--instant runoff voting! (See for more information.)

2) Under state election law, a party needs to get 5% of the vote in a statewide race in order to achieve major party status. (This would, among other things, give Greens an automatic ballot line for partisan races, and get Greens on the primary ballot with our message in the primary voters guide.)

Posted by Jeff on October 21, 2004 at 11:42 PM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Hundredth Phone Call

Seattle-based writer Paul Rogat Loeb has a fantastic email list where he publishes original articles about citizen activism.

He recently published "The Hundredth Phone Call." It's a passionate affirmation of the importance of every individual's grassroots action, and a great kick in the pants as we head into the closing days of the most important election... probably ever.

The entire article is well worth a read, but here are a few of the best bits:

We never quite know when that last bit of effort will make the difference.

On the eve of the 2000 election, I distributed door-hangers for a closely fought US Senate race in Washington State. I walked four precincts, and by the four hundredth house, was cold, tired, and thought of quitting. Climbing stair after stair on block after block, I kept hearing the classic Nirvana line, "Grandma take me home." But there were more houses to visit, more materials to give out, more people to talk with, when they were in. So I continued till the end, though my voice was already raw from spending every night the previous week calling endless phone lists to recruit more volunteers.

As a result of everything we did, and all our previous efforts, not only did Al Gore carry the state by an ample margin, but after a recount, Democrat Maria Cantwell defeated hard-right Republican Senator Slade Gorton by 2,229 votes out of more than 2.5 million cast. If each volunteer accounted for just a fraction of a vote, our actions changed the outcome.

It's easy to think of our individual efforts as so insignificant and inconsequential that they're hardly worth the effort. But when enough of us act in small ways, our combined impact can change history. That's true even when our actions seem mundane and prosaic, yielding minuscule fruits for the labor we put in.

We can never predict the precise impact of these actions. A few years ago, a young environmental activist registered 300 voters at her Connecticut college, then saw her congressman win by 27 votes. Before she began, she so doubted her efforts would make a difference that she almost didn't try.

My model for an engaged volunteer effort comes from 1992, the last time we ended the reign of a Bush. On that Election Day, I joined five other volunteers helping get out the vote in a precinct 25 miles south of my Seattle home, in a suburban swing district that also affected a key congressional race. Thanks to roughly 50,000 volunteers, we had a similar presence in nearly every remotely Democratic area of the state. Our efforts turned out enough supporters that we not only helped carry Washington for Clinton and Gore, but also elected our first woman senator, captured eight out of nine House seats for the Democrats, and elected a strong populist governor.

Yet two years later, 1994, Washington state's volunteers stayed home, as did their counterparts nationwide. There weren't enough to canvass even the most liberal precincts in the heart of Seattle. Dismal voter turnout allowed Republicans to recapture all but two of nine Congressional seats, elect a regressive Republican to the Senate, and make Newt Gingrich Speaker of the House.

For the moment, enough of us are united enough against Bush's destructive arrogance that we'll have decent numbers of volunteers. And most of us will recognize that just as when French voters united behind conservative Jacques Chirac to reject the threat of the ulra-rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen, this is no time for above-it-all purism, like voting for Ralph Nader. But do we recognize how much our individual electoral actions can matter when they're sufficiently multiplied?

Particularly when reaching out to those poorer and more transient constituencies that traditionally vote half as often or less than the wealthier ones, getting people to polls isn't something that can't be done by just running more ads. We have to make the phone calls, knock on the doors, and keep track of who has voted so we can remind people as many times as necessary that their vote could make the key difference. This election will be won with presence and persistence.

Though we know this abstractly, what would happen if we recognized that our actions matter precisely because we're joined by so many others? Our efforts could make that recognition a reality. We've anguished for four years over this administration's destructive actions. Now it's time to act.

If you're interested in getting Paul's occasional articles directly, please email with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 21, 2004 at 12:39 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

Progressive endorsements

While it's usually pretty easy for progressives to figure out who to vote for in the marquee races, it's also really important to vote "down-ballot." I often find it helpful to know who's supporting some of these minor candidates.

So, with that in mind, here are quick links to some of the endorsements of major progressive groups.

While their points of agreement are all pretty obvious (Chris Gregiore, Patty Murray, Mike Cooper, all the Dems running for Congress), some points of disagreement are worth highlighting:

I-297 (Hanford Clean-up): The Labor Council came out against I-297, which would place additional restrictions on the Hanford clean-up. This initiative is the first initiative the environmental community has run in years, and it speaks volumes to me that labor and the environment still can't seem to get it together. When will they figure out that a truly healthy economy and a healthy environment are the same thing? (The teachers' union DID endorse I-297, perhaps showing that they understand what "responsibility to future generations" really means.) [At least they all came out against I-83 (the downtown developer-funded Monorail Recall). -- ed.]

Secretary of State: What with all the attention on the integrity of our election system, the office of Secretary of State takes on a new importance. I'm surprised that WCV broke ranks with pretty much everyone to endorse Republican Sam Reed over Democrat Laura Ruderman. Especially when you consider how hard WCV worked on Laura's behalf when she ran for State Representative, and what a great environmental record she compiled in the House. Now, Sam's no partisan hack like, say, Dino Rossi, but... ouch.

So, what do you think about the endorsements the progresive community made this year? Any progressive voter guides I missed?

(Hat tip to Joseph Bogaard for compiling the initial list that this email was based on.)

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 19, 2004 at 07:31 PM in Ballot Initiatives, Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No on I884!

There's a most excellent letter to the editor in today's Seattle Times about how the lower 78% of salary earners don't itemize (they take the standard deduction) - and so aren't eligible for the federal deduction of Washington state sales tax.

When did it become fair, appropriate, or the "American way" to improve the lot of some of us (22 percent) by law and continue the burden for the rest (in this case, that 78 percent who file federal taxes and will receive no benefit for sales taxes paid in Washington state).

This will not trickle down to improve this state's economic life, but rather it will more deeply line the pockets of many whose tax dilemmas are about how to protect "excess" income, while food-bank lines lengthen, more are homeless, and health care is a carrot politicians only wave.

This is yet another reason to vote no on I884 - an initiative that gives a pass to the Legislator to continue corporate tax breaks by raising our sales tax another percent to cover the Constitutional requirements to properly fund education.

Vote no on I884!

UPDATE: I called into KUOW's Weekday to sound off on this today as well...

Weekday home page| Real Audio Link

I jump in about 44:25 into it.

Posted by Jeff on October 19, 2004 at 10:43 AM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tax Foundation: Washington the 9th friendliest state for businesses

As I posted here, the Tax Foundation reports that Washington state is the 9th most business-friendly states. Yet, corporate executives like those at Microsoft and Boeing want to make us more competitive. How much more competitive do we need to be?

What's really funny is that you can expect to see Governor Locke trot out this report as a sign that he's doing everything right!

Posted by Jeff on October 19, 2004 at 12:12 AM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2004

Choosing the Party

I just got an email from the former chair of the Washington State Democrats (I admit it, I'm a Democrat and proud of it -- but this was irritating) asking me to vote against I-872. Trouble is, I'm a permanent absentee and I've already voted. And I voted for it.

Now I don't mind the parties getting to pick their candidates. They're correct, its their right as part of the Constitution. But why are they asking me to pay for their right. They certainly aren't picking up the tab for any of mine. I don't mind paying taxes, but I like to get asked. These guys just take it out of that bottomless pit, the general fund.

So, I'll make a trade. You pay for one of my rights, or at least protect me from John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act, and I'll gladly pay for yours. Until then, I'd just like to have some choices in the primaries, even though I'm going to vote a straight Democratic ticket.

Posted by Harolynne Bobis on October 18, 2004 at 01:08 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 17, 2004

Seattle Times Steps in Sh*t Again

The Seattle Times blows it again with their endorsement of hard right, anti-choice conservative Dino Rossi.

Their endorsement is more embarassing than their 2000 endorsement of Bush which we assumed was more about their billionaire owner (the Blethens) desire to have the estate tax abolished.

And, it's sad because they seemed headed in the right direction with an extremely well written endorsement of John Kerry earlier this year.

I point the Seattle Times folks to Far-Righteous Rossi: Even some Republicans say the pro-life, anti–gay-marriage, creationist, pro-development GOP gubernatorial candidate is too extreme for Washington in this week's Seattle Weekly.

Posted by Jeff on October 17, 2004 at 08:12 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2004

On the role of blogs in a political community

The perceptive Matt Yglesias has some interesting things to say about the role of blogs as political community organizing tools:

Looked at demographically, though, what keeps the Democrats in play is the fact that while union families have declined as a proportion of the electorate, what you might call "postmodern" white people -- Judis and Teixeira's professionals, Zogby's unmarrieds, Brooks' seculars -- have increased their share and come to be a larger and larger slice of the base of progressive politics. The problem with these people -- people like me -- is that we tend to be radically unconnected from large, formal, social networks. And not in a coincidental way, this characteristic is pretty fundamental to the essence of the sort of person we're talking about. We're younger, more transient, start families later, don't go to church and are generally without strong roots in anything more substantive than an "urban tribe".

This is all fine, as far as it goes, but it doesn't work very well for the purposes of politics. Political life in all its manifestations -- voting, volunteering, donating, boycotting, letter-writing, petition-signing, calling up advertisers and hassling them, etc. -- is beset with collective action problems. There's almost nothing anyone who's not super-rich can do to influence the political process that, on its own, will make a whit of difference. All of these activities depend on the notion that if lots of people followed your lead, then something important would happen. But in order to get any of this to happen you need to get a large number of people to behave in a not-especially-rational way, hence the collective action problem. Such problems normally get solved through appeals to group solidarity, but that presupposes the existence of a group. Hence the value of a union hall, a church, or VFW outpost, a Rotary Club, or what have you. The knowledge that there's a group of people out there you identify with and who identify with you can be a powerful force above and beyond the ways in which such groups simply aid communications.

This, I think, is one of the more important contributions blogs -- particularly the amateur blogs -- may make to American society in the years to come. They create a sense of virtual community. You feel that you know the people you read regularly, and the people who participate in comments threads on blogs you read. You're aware of a wider network of people you may read occassionally, or only see on the blogrolls of others. You exchange emails with readers, writers, and commenters. And because the network is merely virtual, it's remarkably robust and stable, staying in place as you move.

Perhaps this is all bullshit and will come to nothing, but I don't think so. Rather, the Dean campaign, despite it's very real limitations, was the start of something important. It showed a bunch of people that there are other people out there who are basically like them and that if they work together they can make a difference. And more important that if they want to work together with other people to make a difference, it's easy enough to find the people to work with. The number of people involved (as the Dean campaign also showed) isn't a majority, isn't big enough to dominate the country, but it is enough people to combine with other progressive constituencies to form a majority. And it should get bigger over time.

The ensuing discussion on Matt's blog is a good read, too.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 16, 2004 at 12:29 PM in About Evergreen Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

If our borders are so secure, then how did 1,000 gallons of an unknown substance leak into Puget Sound?

On, I ask how 1,000 gallons of an unknown toxic substance leaked into Puget Sound without detection after President Bush's statement that our borders are more secure.

Surely the President doesn't expect Al Qaida to leak toxics in broad daylight?

Posted by Jeff on October 16, 2004 at 01:27 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 15, 2004

The virginity theory of voting (part two)

Last time I mentioned what I think is an undeniable fact about voting: every vote may count, but it isn't often that any vote matters.

The virginity theory of voting (which I have developed independently but which owes inspirational credit to this t-shirt is my attempt to make sense of this and related issues. It's really quite simple:

Voting is like losing your virginity: it might matter a whole lot to you, and perhaps to a few people around you, but nobody else is likely to notice or care.


  1. Voting is an intensely personal experience. Sadly, this implication follows mostly by default.
  2. People who don't vote are not being irrational. Some people don't vote or don't take voting seriously; some people do. Some people don't put all that much importance on who they sleep with; some people do. These are expressions of personal preference, not signs of irrationality. C'est la vie.
  3. The only thing that's borderline irrational is voting strategically. Voting for someone who is not your favorite candidate is like sleeping with someone just to piss off your ex who has moved across the country and won't ever find out. What's the point? As long as it makes sense to you it's not quite fair to call it irrational, but I have yet to hear a defensible logical argument for strategic voting.

Posted by Yoram Bauman on October 15, 2004 at 08:40 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 12, 2004

Why is the KUOW pledge drive so condescending?

Why is it that the radio station with the most intelligent listeners in Seattle so condescending every time the pledge drive comes around? Surely if they used web technologies more effectively to remind members to keep giving - this torture fest wouldn't be necessary. Do they actually think that people don't change the station the minute the pledge folks come on? I continue to tell them that I simply won't give until they STOP THIS KIND OF PANDERING.

Posted by Jeff on October 12, 2004 at 11:41 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The virginity theory of voting (part one)

Ah, October: when a young economist's thoughts turn behavior. (If you were thinking of something else, you might appreciate the "Lose Your Voting Virginity" t-shirt being sold by the Young Democrats at UW.)

One of the great things about practicing the dismal science comes from expectations management: economists have such low expectations for human behavior that we're almost always pleasantly surprised by real-world outcomes. Voter turnout may be much lower than many people would like, but it's much higher than zero, which is what naive economic theory might suggest.

This naive view was mostly recently advanced by (economist) Steven Landsburg in a recent Slate column titled "Don't Vote". His point: any one vote is extremely unlikely to change the outcome of the election, so why bother?

It is of course possible to quibble with the math (which is what Jordan Ellenburg does in his Slate column). But the underlying point remains: every vote may count--knock on wood--but it isn't often that any vote matters. (At the bottom of this pathetic FEC FAQ is the news that the last time a single vote mattered in a federal election was in 1882.)

Next time, implication #1: strategic voting is stupid. [Ed: Ellen! Ellen!]

Posted by Yoram Bauman on October 12, 2004 at 08:41 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

What's a Primary For, Anyway?

All of the discussion about I-872, the Initiative to replace Washington's new "party" primary system with a "top two" primary system (the Farm Bureau provides a helpful backgrounder) misses an important point: namely the reason to have a primary election at all.

Proponents of I-872 claim that moving to a "modified blanket" system, where the top two primary vote getters advance to the general, "preserves independence" and "defends the people's right to choose their candidates" and is somehow "more democratic" because it "lets people vote for who they want to."

However, these arguments fail to acknowledge the difference between a primary election and a general election. The purpose of a general election is to allow voters to choose the best candidate for the job. That's why you can vote for whomever you want in the general election.

But the main purpose of a primary election is to allow the major political parties to select their strongest candidates to put forward in the upcoming general election. [Ed.: Primaries are also good times to try to sneak by ballot measures that nobody wants, counting on low turnout to carry the day, but that's another story.] It only makes sense to limit the selection of a party's candidate to the people who are willing to identify themselves with that party.

I liked our old blanket primary just fine, and I was disappointed when the Supreme Court invalidated it. It accomplished the "primary" purpose of a primary -- selecting the best candidate for each party -- in a very open way. (Ed.: Don't forget the fun of "strategic" primary voting! How much I loved voting for Ellen Craswell in the primary!)

But, I have to respect the courts. The blanket primary is unconstitutional. We need a new primary system. But I just don't get the level of hostility towards the party-centric Montana-style primary. It's not like you actually have to join a party, sign a loyalty oath or anything. Can Washington citizens really be that hung up on not identifying themselves with a political party? Or are we all completely addicted to the guilty pleasures of strategic primary voting? [Ed.: Ellen! Ellen!]

Washington, sometimes I just don't understand you.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 12, 2004 at 08:32 PM in Ballot Initiatives, Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

A slate of poor choices for Washington state voters

Sorry to double up on the Weekly with my first posts - but Knute Berger has an excellent column this week about a raft of state initiatives on the November ballot that should really be tossed...

The upcoming election offers voters many chances to make things worse.

Initiative 892 would allow slot-machine gambling off Indian reservations and use some gambling revenue to reduce property taxes. This is the kind of proposal that, some folks have warned, awaits us on the slippery slope of paying for basic services, like education, with gambling revenues from sources like the state-run lottery. It also has the appeal of a "free money" solution: The average voter gets a tax cut paid for by the suckers.

Initiative 884 creates a special "trust fund" to pay for more preschools and smaller class sizes. It also raises teacher pay, creates more room for college enrollments, and funnels money to higher ed for research and financial aid. But do we really need a separate trust—and a new layer of bureaucracy—to accomplish this? Plus, it's funded by a 1 percent increase in the regressive state sales tax, placing much of the burden on the little guy, as opposed to larger businesses like Microsoft, which can use out-of-state entities to dodge state sales taxes. The cause is worthy, but will the solution further alienate taxpayers?

In King County, there are Charter Amendments 1A and 1B, which ask whether and when to reduce the size of the County Council. The argument in favor is that county elected officials should take their fair share of budget cuts—to feel the pain a bit themselves. The argument against is that the savings aren't significant, and that fewer council members will have to serve a growing population. Nevertheless, it has a "serves them right" appeal.

You get the picture.

Posted by Jeff on October 11, 2004 at 09:52 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Citizen Microsoft

In my recent article, Citizen Microsoft, I expose Microsoft for the hypocritical tax dodging corporation it has proven itself to be.

Competitiveness is a farce that corporate executives and high paid lobbyists push in the media and with the Legislature to convince us that subsidizing the wealthy makes more sense than funding our critical state needs.

The only question remaining from my article is: Will the Legislature act any differently with regards to corporate tax exemptions and competitiveness next session?

I posted a follow up to Citizen Microsoft here.

Posted by Jeff on October 11, 2004 at 09:48 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2004

Scandalous Women

Living in Europe you get a choice of two newspapers, the International Herald Tribune and USA Today.

The IHT also comes with a local newspaper and since Greek is a very difficult language, I read the International Herald Tribune (which used to be the New York Times and the Washington Post, now its just the Times, unfortunately) so I can get the Kathimerini (Every Day) in English. So on I was reading the IHT this week and came across an article titled "The Scandal of the Penatgon's Dragon Lady."

Turns out that Darlene Druyun, the most powerful woman at the Pentagon, "...tilted in Boeing's favor out of gratitude for its hiring of her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend." She also "met in secret with Boeing executives to talk about a job and to protect her daughter, a Boeing employee who had received a poor performance reivew". What a mom!

Her "downfall..., and its political ramifications lead all the way to the White House, where three top administration officials are under investigation in the case." Her guilty plea led to a nine-month jail sentence. This for a woman who was in charge of buying multi-million dollar weapons programs to defend the citizenry of this country. Thus ended a 30-year career.

Then we have Martha Stewart. What was Martha's crime? Mostly not being smart enough to work a deal with the government and admit that she sold some stock based on some light weight insider trading. As a Democrat she should have known better. She got a five-month sentence.

So, tell me how this goes again? Nine months for putting the country at risk, five months for your career and corporation. Somewhere this makes sense.

But mostly, I'm glad that Boeing moved to Chicago. Seattle does process, endlessly. But Chicago has a long history in the process of crime and now so does Boeing.

Posted by Harolynne Bobis on October 10, 2004 at 12:27 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Republicans abandoning Nethercutt

Poor George Nethercutt.

First, the House Republican leadership and Richard "Tricky Dick" Pombo (R-CA) deny him a campaign-boosting victory as bipartisan dealmaker on the Wild Sky Wilderness bill. Now, the RNC is pulling $1 million worth of advertising from his race. [Ed: Probably not that a big a loss; his dreadful "Patty Loves Osama" ads were probably doing more harm than good.] And Tom DeLay is in Washington to raise money, but only for House candidate Dave Reichert. [Ed: With a friend like that, who needs opponents?]

Looks to me like the Republican powers-that-be are giving up on their Patty-slayer.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 10, 2004 at 11:46 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 08, 2004

Making the Grade

For those of you who know me, I'm having a great time in Amaliada. For those of you who don't, Amaliada is the small town in Greece my husband and I retired to last year. So I use the Internet in general and weblogs specifically to stay in touch with my beloved Washington state.

So it was great to see a Seattle icon, PI columnist, Joel Connelly, make the blogsphere in a big way. What did Joel do? The same thing that it seems only bloggers have been able to do. Fact check and compare the writings and speeches of this current administration and highlight their lying.

"The words of our future vice president -- defending the decision to end Gulf War I without occupying Iraq -- eerily foretell today's morass. Here is what Cheney said in '92" I'll let you go to the source and read it in full:

Several sites I regularly read in the first two days after Joel's column read, linked to him or just quoted him. Needless to say, the Democratic campaign blogs were all over this as well. The Left Coaster,
CJR Campaign Desk (the Columbia Journalism Review),
I mean, Google has six pages of hits on this. Joel definitely made the grade!

Posted by Harolynne Bobis on October 8, 2004 at 10:15 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack