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April 30, 2005

Who's lobbying who on what? You'll never really know.

Good article from Kathy George in the P-I today about how little state lobbyists' disclousre reports actually disclose.

The American Insurance Association was concerned with "insurance," the National Football League cheered for "professional sports," and Verizon plugged into "telecommunications," to name a few examples from Carney Badley Spellman, the largest lobbying firm of all.

Reporting a vague agenda "technically" may satisfy the rules, said Phil Stutzman, the Public Disclosure Commission's compliance director. But it doesn't tell what specific bills or issues were subject to paid lobbying, and that's the whole point of the reporting law, Stutzman said.

Kathy drops the tantalizing hint that at least one [unnamed] state legislator is "interested in changing Washington to a Wisconsin-style system, which requires lobbyists to report each specific bill supported or opposed and how much time was spent on each bill."

Seems like a pretty good idea to me: daylight is a powerful disinfectant.

And while we're at it, I don't see why we shouldn't use modern information technology to enable lobbyists to report their time weekly -- so that the public can see who's spending time and money lobbying our legislators in near-real-time.  But of course, if there's one thing we can expect lobbyists to lobby against, it's accountability. 

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 30, 2005 at 10:57 AM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 29, 2005

The Modern Mark of Effectiveness

You know we progressive bloggers are getting under someone's skin when Goldy over at Horsesass.org gets anonymously and falsely accused of molesting children.  It's just the kind of thing Karl Rove and his folks did with Scott Ritter two years ago when Ritter, as the former head of the international team searching for biological and chemical weapons in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, said there was no evidence of such weapons and came out against the upcoming war.  It neutralized Ritter pretty good at a critical time. 

Goldy writes about it on his blog today

(nwpt42)

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 29, 2005 at 05:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

"Two Washingtons, Two Agendas"

Dean Nielsen of Progressive Majority has an editorial in today's PI laying out the differences between what we're doing here in blue Washington with what's being done in the other Washington. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 28, 2005 at 07:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

Eastern Washington Progressive Scorecard

The gang at Blue Washington offer a nice Legislative Report Card for Eastside legislators.

Positive numbers = progressive
Negative numbers = not so much

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 27, 2005 at 08:36 PM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

In Good Hands

Joel Connelly at the PI has a nice article about how lucky we are to have the women leaders we have in Olympia.  In the piece, "In the Northwest: Women leaders in Olympia took a risk - and won", he says that Governor Gregoire, along with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Democratic Senators Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island and Harriet Spanel of Bellingham, pushed through an agenda reminiscent of the excellent leadership this state has had in the past.  He says, "They have revived a do-what's needed, tough-it-out spirit" and then:

More has been accomplished in little more than 100 days of Gov. Chris Gregoire's administration - which courts may still bring to an abrupt end - than in the first six years of Gary Locke's tenure.

For a good summary of what did and what didn't happen in this session, KOMO has a good post from a few days ago.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 27, 2005 at 03:01 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Microsoft's Influence Purchasing

Two good stories in the PI today on Microsoft's extensive use of right wing lobbies to buy access to this President and this Congress.

Microsoft defends ties to Ralph Reed

Payments to Reed Sully Microsoft

I had researched Microsoft's support for Nordquist and Reed for Citizen Microsoft - but there was no room for it in the story.

Posted by Jeff on April 27, 2005 at 12:25 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2005

Microsoft's Temporal Strategies Paying Off

This week, it didn't seem to matter to the mainstream media that Microsoft's next operating system, code-named Longhorn, won't arrive in stores until December 2006 (should be read as first half 2007) while Apple's next generation operating system (Tiger) arrives this Friday! Bill Gates has been featured in numerous media outlets talking about Longhorn as if it were available as an Apple OS X Tiger alternative. It's not. In fact, Microsoft hasn't released a major new desktop operating system since Windows XP in 2001.

It also didn't seem to matter to Gates that the vote on that gay rights' legislation you heard so much about was last week.

"Next time this one comes around, we'll see," he said. "We certainly have a lot of employees who sent us mail. Next time it comes around that'll be a major factor for us to take into consideration."

Essentially, now that Gates and Microsoft have pandered to the Evangelicals - they are pandering to the liberals and gay rights activists. He expects us to be won over by the fact that just possibly, next year, we'll have his support. Longhorn won't yet be out - but just perhaps Microsoft Gay Pandering 2.0 will be available. No response yet from the Evangelicals.

You've got to almost feel sorry for Gates and Microsoft's CEO Ballmer who wrote in a memo to its employees this week:

On this particular matter, both Bill and I actually both personally support this legislation that would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

I hope that one day Gates and Ballmer are successful enough to feel secure taking a stand for something they believe in, for example, tax relief for corporations.

Gates, Ballmer and Microsoft's Corporate Counsel Brad Smith stated last year their plans to get more involved lobbying in Olympia. Despite Gates' claims that he's just not any good at politics:

"After all, Microsoft's position on a political bill — has that ever caused something to pass or not pass? Is it good, is it bad? I don't know. "Is my being behind it good? Look at the referendums I've been behind. I've lost gun control — I'm looking really good on that one," he quipped.

Well, Gates and Smith were able to successfully lobby for $160 million in Research and Development tax credits which come out of the state's general fund, subsidizing one of the world's wealthiest corporations at the expense of Washington's most at-risk lower income people - and its public schools.

Apparently neither timeliness nor hypocrisy seem to matter to Gates, Microsoft and company any more. With both Longhorn and Microsoft's support for gay rights - Gates doesn't seem to care that it's too late to matter.

Posted by Jeff on April 26, 2005 at 10:34 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Drinking without stinking: I-901 needs your help!

My friend Katherine Bragdon is running the volunteer signature gathering effort for Inititiave 901, the Healthy Indoor Air Campaign, or as I am hereby tagging it, the Drinking Without Stinking Initiative.  (Here's the full text for you legal beagles.)

Seriously, consider these facts:

  •        Waitresses are more likely to die from lung cancer or heart disease than any other female occupation group.

  • Bartenders are twice as likely to die of lung cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related causes as workers in other industries.

  •        The most heavily exposed non-smoking workers in smoking restaurants and taverns inhale the equivalent of 1 1/2 to 2 packs of cigarettes everyday and are 75% more likely to get cancer than the general public.

[Think that's bad, just picture your bartender's lungs!  Eeek!  --Ed.]

Short story long, it will eliminate smoking in all workplaces, which conveniently includes bars, restaurants and nightclubs -- which are workplaces that I personally would like to visit more often, but like lots of folks, I can't stand the smoke.

Now the punchline is: if you want to be able to go out Drinking Without Stinking, you need to do your part and gather a few signatures.  You [and your lungs -- Ed.] will feel great.  All you have to do is call up the campaign team at 206-522-2233 and tell 'em you want to gather some signatures.  Or you can sign up online. They'll set you up with everything you need.

Katherine reports that over 400 people are already signed up to gather signatures -- most folks only spend a few hours gathering -- and every single signature you get brings us one more name closer to nights of smoke-free carousing. 

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 26, 2005 at 09:39 PM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 24, 2005

Loving the haters

Michael Hood over at blatherWatch has got a nice, impressionistic profile of our new favorite local gay-hater, the Rev. Ken Hutcherson.  Worth a read.

We spent hours, he, the Lord, and I, in his office and on the phone and I found him to be one of the most compelling, charismatic individuals I’d ever been close up to. Hutcherson would hate the comparison, but the psychic space he takes up in a room is reminiscent of Bill Clinton....

His trump card is the race card. He plays it well when he needs to, which is often. In the progressive Puget Sound region, when a black man starts using the language of civil rights and the historic black struggle, white liberals shut up, put on their tip-toe slippers, assume the requisite submissive “active listening” stance (with the little head-jerks and the annoying “OK’s”) and couch their words in politically correct conditionals. Then Hutcherson takes over the proceedings.

There are many examples of his race demagoguery such as Antioch's logo: an open Bible with a black page, a white page and the words, "Black and white in a gray world." It sounds like racial integration and all-you-need-is-love, etc. but what it really is, is the hardpan, Manichean good/evil, no nuance, Biblical dogma he preaches.

Mike's also got some priceless quotes from the Rev., too.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 24, 2005 at 07:47 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Taking Action to the Next Level

Want to run for office? Help someone run for office? Be a more effective activist?  Progressive Majority is sponsoring a weekend training program conducted by Camp Wellstone on June 10-12 to help folks learn to do all three.

Last year we learned that enthusiasm was not enough to take back this country.  On November 4th, we watched the red tide sweep the country and wondered how all the energy and money and commitment we'd put in could buy us so little. 

As time has gone by, we've gathered ourself together and are doing what we can do to keep the forces of darkness at bay.  In our corner of the country, with the significant accomplishments of this legislative session, we've seen just how important our somewhat tenuous piece of blue has been.  And for many of us, we've realized that the job ahead will take a deeper level of commitment than most of us had foreseen.  There is a lot of work to be done to get more progressives into office at all levels and to raise the level of awareness about critical causes.

Enter Progressive Majority and Camp Wellstone.  Separately and together, along with MoveOn.org and Jim McDermott and all sorts of other folks, they are providing the tools to help us all learn to be more strategic and tactical and effective. 

So, if you are looking at a way to go to the next level, get this training.  Participants can choose from one of three tracks:

  • Being a Candidate: How to Run and Win the Wellstone Way
  • Working on a Campaign: Tools and Tactics for Success
  • Citizen Activism, Advocacy and Organizing

Sign up at Camp Wellstone or via the Progressive Majority site.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 24, 2005 at 08:56 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

Takings? What about givings?

I don't know if this is a contentless rant or actually something worth discussing, but....


Can someone please explain to me how the right has managed to frame the issue of government regulation as being a matter of "taking"? I understand the legal principle involved, which extends the concept of property seizure to any government action that reduces the current market value of private property. Without for the moment exploring the absurd and scary direction that could take if applied to intellectual property (and you know that would be the next step, right), what I don't understand is why it only works in one direction. In other words, what about all those government actions that have created or enhanced the value of private property?


If the government is liable for the diminished value of some real estate as a result of wetlands regulation, for example, why can't the government first be compensated for the fact that the land is worth anything in the first place? What about when a road is put in? What about when the zoning is changed from farmland in the first place? Or better yet, what about government land grants, homesteading, and the military support of the appropriation from the native population?


I say fine, let's accept the terms of this debate. Let's accept the full terms and agree to pay for any decreased property value, as soon as the full value of any increased caused by government action are put by the owners into a suitable trust fund. otherwise all we're talking about is another way to privatize benefits and socialize costs.

Posted by Michael Gilbert on April 22, 2005 at 01:47 PM in Ballot Initiatives, Miscellany, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 21, 2005

Welcome, Blue Washington

Please welcome another voice to the progressive Washington blogosphere: Blue Washington, offering a forward-thinking point of view from east of the mountains. 

I had considered naming this blog "Blue Washington," so I'm especially pleased to see someone else breathe life into the name.  Good hunting.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 21, 2005 at 08:43 PM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Microsoft Screws Gays, Caves to Religious Extremists

The Stranger's Sandeep Kaushik breaks a story that is already exploding in Microsoft's face:

...last month the $37-billion Redmond-based software behemoth quietly withdrew its support for House Bill 1515, the anti-gay-discrimination bill currently under consideration by the Washington State legislature, after being pressured by the Evangelical Christian pastor of a suburban megachurch.

What's shocking here is that Microsoft, which has a fantastic record on supporting civil rights for its gay and lesbian employees, appears to have caved to empty threats from a loudmouthed bigot.  Major screwup.

It's already starting to get play on national blogs, including Slashdot and AMERICAblog, where John Aravoisis has some suggestions for action:

1. Call Microsoft's director of Government Relations, Jack Krumholtz, at tel. 202-263-5900 and tell him:

- You know about Microsoft secretly pulling its support for the Washington state gay rights bill, and you're not happy about Microsoft kissing up to anti-gay bigots.

- You demand that Microsoft IMMEDIATELY and PUBLICLY endorse the gay rights bill in Washington state, and demand that Microsoft publicly repudiate its new policy of backing-off of support for the civil rights of gays and lesbians and other Americans.

- Tell him that if the Washington state gay rights bill dies on Friday, Microsoft's reputation goes down with it.

2. Contact these other contacts for Microsoft and its public relations reps and tell them the same thing:

- Jim Desler,
Microsoft US
425-703-6061
jdesler@microsoft.com

- Dirk Delmartino,
Microsoft Europe
+32 (0)2 550 06 21
dirkdelm@microsoft.com

- The firm handling public policy for Microsoft in DC:
The Glover Park Group
Washington, DC
202-337-0808

- The firm handling Microsoft's "rapid response" to questions:
Waggener Edstrom Rapid Response Team
rrt@wagged.com
503-443-7070

- Media Relations for Microsoft
Global Communications & Television
(212) 339-9920
mediarelations@gctv.com
 
- Microsoft Investor Relations
Curt Anderson
(425) 706-3703

- Walt McGraw, Edelman, (206) 223-1606, walt.mcgraw@edelman.com

- Shon Damron, Edelman, (323) 857-9100, shon.damron@edelman.com

Carlos de Leon,tel. 425-703-3824, or carlosde@microsoft.com

Katie Goldberg, tel. 206-268-2244, or katie.goldberg@edelman.com

2. Demand that Microsoft return the award it received from the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. We don't give corporate bigots awards, and we don't expect them to keep such awards under false pretenses. If Microsoft has now rethunk its position on defending civil rights, then give back the damn award:

 

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 21, 2005 at 03:55 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

The Crucial Political/Cultural Divide

Chris Bowers of myDD blog, has consistently done great post-election analysis.  As he’s been grappling with what really happened in November and what it means for the future, he’s written some excellent posts – on the permanent loss of the South for the Democrats, on the potential importance of the West, or the preeminence of marital status over gender in predicting voting patterns and more.  With this article on Friday, I think he’s gotten to the analytical nub of what divides us as a nation and, as importantly, what the implications are for the future. 

The quickest way to summarize the developing demographic trends of the two coalitions is a white Christian coalition versus a non-white and / or non-Christian coalition. The voting habits of non-whites and white non-Christians are rapidly approaching parity, just as the voting of white Protestants and white Catholics are doing the same. Further, race and religion are now far better at determining how someone will vote than region, income, union membership, or pretty much anything else you could name.

The white Christian-identified folks are in defensive mode, focused on the “us” vs. “them” aspects of their world-view and the long list of their enemies – liberals, gays, Muslims, academics, Hollywood-types, and now judges.  The non-Whites and non-Christians (or non-Christian-identified folks) are becoming a common but diverse voting bloc of people with a keen awareness of how much we’re all in this together.  “No wonder we love Obama so damn much: he is almost the physical embodiment of the new liberal coalition.  His political viewpoints are almost a natural extension of having lived within the world.”

Then, Chris goes on to talk about the changing demographics of these two coalitions and what it means for our liberal role over the next 40 years:

While less than 40% of the national population under the age of 40 is both white and Christian, roughly 70% of the national population over the age of forty is both white and Christian. At some point over the next few decades, the white and Christian population of this country will no longer be a majority, or even close to a majority. It will take forty years for that to thoroughly happen, but when it does the two coalitions as we know them will cease to exist. In the interim, which will form the majority of the rest of our lives, the role of progressives and of the Democratic coalition will be to bring about an end to the current order of identity as visualized by large segments of the country and the world. We will win where identity ends, and our children will thank us for it. Maybe there is a clash of civilizations, a clash we need to end. Maybe that is our role in the world.

So, what I make out of this is that our job over the next 40 years or so, is to do the best we can possible to to shield our wings over our constitutional democracy to give the next generation the best possible chance to rebuild this world in the way we would want if we were still around.     

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 18, 2005 at 11:55 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2005

Doonesbury Rocks!

Check today's strip out.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 17, 2005 at 10:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why is Waste Management, Inc. trolling this blog?

We appear to have picked up our first troll here at Evergreen Politics, who writes under the handle "AnalogKid."  You can see his (?) comments on one of our Clean Cars posts if you have a high tolerance for discursive and illogical rants.

Now, I got a little curious who might be interested in trolling us, and so I looked up his IP address and found that it traced back to Waste Management, Inc.  (They're one of the country's leading environmental criminals, in case you didn't know, and operate a highly polluting waste incinerator in Spokane.)

Now, why on earth would Waste Management be paying an employee to troll on a progressive politics websites?  Or, is AnalogKid just a goldbricker who's blogging at work on company time?  Either way, a troll's a troll.  And either way, it's pathetic.  And I'm not going to indulge it..

Obvious trolls will just be summarily deleted.  If you don't like that, tough. It's my blog, not yours.  Or try trolling over at Goldy's -- that guy has the patience of a saint, I swear.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 17, 2005 at 01:11 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 16, 2005

Ick

Interesting (and pretty disgusting) article in the Seattle Times today about a Skagit Valley rancher who apparently left over 170 dead cattle rotting on his property:

Armed with a search warrant, health and law enforcement officials found the remains of at least 172 cattle in fields, in a shed and in a run-down truck on the property northwest of Mount Vernon.

Matt Kaufman, an environmental health specialist with the health department, said it was among the most severe cases of disregard for public health and animal husbandry he had ever seen.

This kind of "slob ranching" makes me sick.  But wait, there's more.  The perp is apparently a well-known local conservative activist:

Pederson is known in the Bay View community as a man with firmly held political views. He ran, unsuccessfully, as a Republican for a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2002. He was a vocal opponent of the Port of Anacortes redistricting from three commissioners to five.

Pederson is also well known for his unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the Skagit Public Utility District from extending municipal water service to Bay View. He has also opposed efforts by the health department to investigate failing septic systems in the Bay View area.

Why is this somehow not surprising?  This seems like the natural result of the "me first, screw you" conservative worldview that rejetcts traditional American values of stewardship, responsiblity and basic human empathy for other beings.

On a lighter note, maybe this gives new meaning to the idea of a Republican "farm team."

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 16, 2005 at 01:48 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

Locke: Baby-killer or anti-homeless?

I don't know what to make of this story in the Seattle Times.

A conservative Catholic watchdog group has lashed out at Seattle University for picking former Gov. Gary Locke to deliver this year's commencement speech, saying his support for abortion rights, same-sex partner benefits and other causes clashes with church doctrine.

Apparently, the fact that Locke's budget cuts have hurt low income people in our state seems lost on the religious right - according to them, he's a baby-killer!

Yet, Seattle University who recently hosted Tent City 3 in an exemplary display of citizen leadership seems just as confused between the symptom of homelessness and one of its prime causes e.g. Locke's budget cuts to social services.

In a statement posted on the Jesuit university's Web site earlier this week, the school's president, Rev. Stephen J. Sundborg, praised Locke for his work to improve education, welfare reform and trade. "The integrity and compassion that underlie (his) accomplishments exemplify the values of Seattle University," Sundborg said.

I think it's an outrage to the folks at Seattle University who hosted Tent City to now have to endure a speech by ex-governor Locke, or that his policies would ever be described as compassionate by their school President.

Or, perhaps I'm just confused by the other story in the Times about the Wholphin - a part whale, part dolphin hybrid. I wonder if this is an example of a case for abortion we can all agree on.

Posted by Jeff on April 15, 2005 at 11:32 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Time to Clean House?

Jon DeVore over at Columbian Watch thinks it might be time for progressives (hell, moderates!) to knock Tim Sheldon and Jim Hargrove out of office over their efforts to sabotage a gas-tax increase to fund transportation projects:

...it’s okay to be a moderate Democrat, or even a conservative Democrat, as long as you are not a disloyal Democrat.

Much as I disagree with them, I can understand how these two would not want to vote for gay civil rights. It’s infuriating, but that’s politics.

But if Hargrove and Sheldon sabotage something as comparatively non-controversial as transportation, then, to quote another big left blogger, screw them.

If it hasn’t been clear all along, it is now: we have to take back the whole Democratic Party. Hargrove and Sheldon need to become major targets for progressives, labor and environmentalists.

Well put, Jon.  Just having a D next to your name isn't good enough in this state.  Even if you represent a "culturally conservative" district, you have to vote with the mainstream of your party on the non-cultural issues unless you want to face a primary challenge.

Are there any viable challengers waiting in the wings?

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 15, 2005 at 04:40 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Future of Environmental Activism?

Our very own Jeff Reifman has a wonderful post up at the ONEList blog, part of the website for ONE/Northwest.  In the article, Is "Rights-Based" Organizing a Future Strategy for Environmental Activism?, he discusses the work that Richard Grossman and Thomas Linzey have been doing on challenging the legitimacy of corporate power and talks about how effective this may be for community and environmental organizers across the country.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 15, 2005 at 03:00 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2005

Give Peace a Chance

A proposal for a Department of Peace, floated by Dennis Kucinich well before he began running for President, may well be his lasting contribution to government.  The Peace Alliance, a group of people committed to the long process of creating such a new national department, are hosting an all-day organizing session on Saturday in Kirkland. 

It will be held from 9-5 at the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church at 10021 NE 124th Street in Kirkland.  It's too late to order a lunch, so bring your own.  Here's the deal, including how to register. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 14, 2005 at 09:17 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dean Drops By

Yesterday, Howard Dean stopped in Seattle for a DNC fundraiser.  In the elevator, after the brief breakfast talk by Dean, several of us agreed: Dean gets it.  Dean is the right person to be Chair of the DNC at this time. 

He said it was time to reclaim the word "liberal" and reclaim our Democratic and Labor goals.  And not only is it time to brand the Democratic Party, it is time to brand the Republican Party as well - as the party of deficits and deceit. 

We will be hearing a lot more from the DNC under Dean.  He said that the DNC will be paying a minimum of four staffers in each state to do grassroots organizing, a welcome move that is likely to establish the preeminence of the national party over the local party. 

With Dean at the front of the room was Governor Gregoire, who talked about the importance of what we are doing as one of the only primarily Democratic state governments and how much other Democratic governors look to Washington State for leadership.

Dean will be back in Seattle on June 5th for a much more public event.  We'll share that information about it once we know the specifics.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 14, 2005 at 09:09 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clean Cars Bill Passes the Senate, Heads for Gregoire's Desk!

Washington State catapulted itself into the vanguard of the fight against global warming when the Seante passed the Clean Cars bill yesterday.  It will

This is a huge victory for the environmental movement , and the second of their four 2005 environmental priorities to make it through the legislature.   Not only has this been the winningest session for enviros in.... well, ever -- I think it really demonstrates the power that positive environmental ideas will generate strong political support.

Way to go to everyone who worked hard on the Clean Cars for Washington campaign, and especially to the folks at Climate Solutions who were a key driving force.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 14, 2005 at 08:24 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 11, 2005

Adam Ruben from MoveOn Now in Seattle

Paul Andrews' column this week talks about MoveOn and organizer Adam Ruben's recent move to Seattle:

For the judicial nominee call-in, MoveOn held house parties throughout the country featuring Howard Dean, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on a conference call. Attendees signed up for small teams that will keep in touch via e-mail and MoveOn activities.

Called "Operation Democracy," the project to date has drawn 2,100 teams and 10,000 individuals. Ruben can't quantify how many are in Seattle but said the city has a higher-than-average concentration of MoveOn participants.

Operation Democracy is focused "primarily on national races," Ruben said. The aim isn't yet to have MoveOn involved at the city council or even state legislative level. But it seems inevitable that the MoveOn model will filter down to local politics.

Read the full column here.

Posted by Jeff on April 11, 2005 at 12:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2005

SEIU - The Return of Bold Labor

The Labor Movement, like the Democratic Party, is struggling with how to be effective in a world framed by Republicans and big business.  The AFL-CIO has been around in its present form since 1955 and has historically been an important balance to business interests.  In the mid-fifties, 36% of private-sector workers were union members.  Today, labor’s share of the workforce is about 8%.

National labor leaders are split as to how to respond to that declining strength and regain clout.  John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, and his allies contend that the only way to fight the decline is to win back Democratic control of the Congress and the White House and beat back the hostile Republican-backed labor-busting businesses.  Andy Stern, the dynamic and confrontational national President of SEIU, insists that the Labor Movement needs both new leadership and structural reform.  He wants the AFL-CIO to use its resources to build up its membership through organizing drives in order to have real political muscle.

SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, whose members work as health care providers, janitors, and public service employees, is one of the few unions that is growing.  With dynamic leadership and 1.8 million members, SEIU has created political muscle through its aggressive organizing efforts and its leaders’ willingness to boldly confront both Democratic politicians and other labor leaders whom it believes are stuck in the past. Stern wants to build a grassroots, democratic Labor Movement that will unite a pro-worker majority in this country, take on large employers and unite with workers internationally to build a Global Labor Movement.  Along with a couple of other union leaders, Stern has put out a 10-point program called “Unite to Win”.

There are 4 major SEIU locals in Washington State.  David Rolf is President of Local 775, which counts among its members almost 30,000 home care and nursing home workers.  Rolf was raised in a union family and fits the Andy Stern mold.  He is bright, aggressive and bold and gets up every day planning how to help workers win more power and more control over their lives.  He is ferocious about helping workers lead the way toward a more just society.

Rolf, like Stern, is thinking in creative ways about the politics of our time.  We need to listen and get how important this is for everyone in the progressive movement.  Here’s an interview with David Rolf. 

Interview with David Rolf, President of SEIU Local 775

Q:  How do you see your job?

DR: We are here to help workers unite for more power in their lives.  We help them organize to get the changes they need to lead the way toward a more just and humane society.

Q:  SEIU is seen as being a very aggressive labor organization, both by other Labor Unions and by the press.  How do you respond to that?

DR: Working people deserve to have organizations that are effective and operate in a manner that makes sense in the 21st century.  The press talks about SEIU being demanding.  We believe that too much of Labor is not innovative.  Too many of the Labor Unions do things in the same way they did it in 1955.  A company that hadn’t changed the way they functioned since the mid-fifties, would have gone bankrupt a long time ago.

The Labor movement has to decide – “Are we on the side of relevance and effectiveness or on the side of irrelevance?”  In terms of its membership strength, Labor has been headed downhill for the last thirty years.  There is a lower percentage of workers who belong to Labor Unions that any time since the beginning of the Great Depression.  SEIU is growing.  Our #1 goal is to grow unions to include more of those workers who currently have no voice at work through a strong, united organization of workers. 

Local 775 has close to 30,000 members who are long-term care workers, up from about 2000 three years ago.  SEIU has more than 1.8 Million members, up from 1 Million just 12 years ago.  So clearly, unions can still grow, and workers still have a hunger for unity and strength.  So the question is: how can the labor movement reinvigorate itself to grow to meet that demand?

Q:  How do you work in the political realm in this state?

DR:  We hold politicians accountable for supporting the values that honor workers – like living wages and affordable health care for all.  We work to help our members build power and hold politicians accountable 24 by 7, 365 days a year, not just prior to elections.   

There is a benchmarking problem in politics.  We assume that organizations are being effective if the organization’s leaders have good relationships with politicians.  But I see our first job as being effective.  It sometimes means we are ruthless.  But we are effective.  Our members won $120 million from the state and federal governments in new funding for improved wages and benefits.  And home care workers have moved from making $7.18/hr with no benefits to almost $9/hr with health benefits and L&I coverage – and within a couple years with the new contract it will be over $10/hr for some workers with dental and vision coverage and paid vacations for the first time.

Q:  What is your current focus politically?

DR:  Our primary focus is bringing healthcare insurance to uninsured workers.  The failure of this Legislature to act on that is their biggest failure.  Wal-Mart shouldn’t be counting on the taxpayers to cover healthcare for their workers.

This is the problem with Democrats being too beholden to big business.  Some Democrats can’t decide who they are for.

In traditional terms, we want to move politics to the left.  But that doesn’t mean to go back to 1935.  The Democrats will fail if they don’t make it their job to be effective. 

Q:  What’s your analysis of what’s been going on politically?

DR:  People my age, I’m in my mid-30’s, can’t remember a time when government did something major and good.  Things like putting a man on the moon or Civil Rights legislation or Social Security all happened before the living memory of all young people.  For the anti-government people that’s a victory.  The less that people see a reason for government, the less they will support it.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy and it has happened because the Democrats have been running the wrong way. 

At this point it is not clear who wants to lead the Democratic Party forward and who doesn’t.  We can’t let our assumptions about who are allies are go unexamined.

Fifty years ago, workers knew who stood up for them.  Spiritually, the church was on their side and met their spiritual needs.  Their families were on their side and met their emotional and personal needs.  The Democrats and the Labor Movement were on their side and met their economic needs. 

There is no data to suggest that anything has gotten better for workers in 30 years and they’ve given up hope that anything can change.  People are working harder.  Productivity is rising for corporations but workers’ wages are no longer rising and their defined benefit programs are nearly gone.  CEO’s earn 500 times the average wage of workers.  Some say that corporations have to do that kind of thing to be economically competitive in the new world economy

Q:  I am guessing you have another point of view.

DR:  What if we decided to lift everyone up in the world, in Indonesia and Taiwan and Mexico.  We are all interconnected.  What if we decided to lift up working wages and benefits for everyone? 

SEIU is leading a very public conversation about all this.  People need to be able to pick up the paper and read about this.  On his blog, Andy Stern talks about the time when another labor leader came up to him and asked, “When are you going to quit talking about all this labor shit?”   If you get confused about who and what you are fighting for, you don’t belong in this business.

Every Democratic politician should wake up every morning asking how to create more labor voters.  Our power and theirs are intertwined.  But there is very little understanding of that in this state.  It is a difficult education process.

Too many labor leaders and Democratic politicians think of labor as a group to be appeased.  They sell workers short and don’t help unions develop a strong presence.  There has been a wholesale disloyalty on the part of too many Democratic politicians to workers and the values of labor. 

That’s one reason that SEIU no longer pursues a strategy of endorsing only Democrats.

Q: How did this come about?

DR: There was a thirty year economic expansion between World War II and the late sixties when it worked.  We had strong healthy growing companies and a strong labor movement.  Workers were paid good wages and received good benefits.  But the rich folks and large corporations didn’t like the way things were going and they decided to actively change things.  As a result, government is no longer effective and the babble from the far right is now mainstream.

The change is bigger than politics.  I don’t think that peoples’ values are wrong.  I think that people don’t connect their values to what goes on in the economy because we’ve been convinced that we can’t impact things.  Fewer Americans are trying to apply their values to the economy.  So, good people who are executives of companies focus on their bottom line and don’t look at the situation from the viewpoint of the worker.

Q:  How is Labor responding?

DR: Some parts of the Labor Movement seem to have a complete commitment to being irrelevant.  However, finally, there is a national conversation about changing the AFL-CIO. 

And Labor is educating their members.  We vote in disproportionate numbers and tend to vote for Democrats.  SEIU was the biggest contributor nationally and locally to ACT (America Coming Together) and to America Votes, two of the new organizations to get involved in the political process.  Labor has also run a number of smart programs like “Labor to Neighbor” which focus on talking with neighbors and other non-unionized votes about the importance of political issues and voting for the best candidates.

Q:  And what about what is going on here in Washington State?

DR:  Fewer than half the politicians in this state get the importance of standing up for workers.  Let’s look at the state budget.  It is the Mission Statement for us as a state.  It’s how you decide to spend resources.  Not solving the structural problems of state revenue is unsound.  We need to change the way we spend our dollars and too many politicians are cowards when it comes to revenue. 

This is one reason we don’t have a single party strategy.  For example, we have supported a handful of Republicans who have helped SEIU do the right thing for workers.

Labor can’t simply depend on Democrats. We need to start looking at other institutions, other structures, other ways to mobilize workers and the community to elect pro-worker candidates, hold politicians accountable and win progressive social change.

Thank you. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 5, 2005 at 10:25 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 03, 2005

Can Deliberative Democracy Fix the Viaduct?

I've been thinking about the Viaduct today.  It's a tough, complicated problem, and whatever answer we come up with, we'll have to live with it -- and pay for it -- for a long time.  I'm starting to think that this is one of those problems that is simply too important to leave to the "experts," the "advocates" or the "politicians."  And the only worse thing than that would be to put in on the balllot.

So what should we do?  I'm thinking that this might be the type of issue that could really benefit from "deliberative democracy."  As the aptly-named Deliberative Democracy Consortium defines it:

Deliberative democracy strengthens citizen voices in governance by including people of all races, classes, ages and geographies in deliberations that directly affect public decisions. As a result, citizens influence--and can see the result of their influence on--the policy and resource decisions that impact their daily lives and their future.

Deliberation is an approach to decision-making in which citizens consider relevant facts from multiple points of view, converse with one another to think critically about options before them and enlarge their perspectives, opinions, and understandings.

As I was browsing DDC's matrix of approaches to deliberative democracy in the U.S., two formats jumped out at me:

1) The "21st Century Town Meeting"

Large-scale forums (100 – 5,000) engage citizens in public decision making processes at the local, regional and national levels of governance. Dialogue is supported by trained facilitators, keypad polling, networked-laptop computers and (at times) interactive television.

Demographically representative groups of citizens are recruited through a variety of means, including grassroots organizing and the media. Major stakeholders are engaged in the process and a clear link to decision making is established from the start.

2) The "Deliberative Poll"

Dialogues (2-3 days) between a random sample of citizens, issue experts and public officials are televised to reframe an issue in terms that reflect the views of a representative, informed public.

Surveys before and after the dialogue measure the change in opinion that results from the deliberation. The resulting changes in opinion represent the conclusions the public would reach, if people had a good opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues.

Participants spend a significant amount of time in small group conversations that “frame” their interactions with “experts” e.g. that’s where the questions emerge and much in the way of dialogue emerges, if not opinion change.

Whaddya think?  Is it so crazy that it just might work?  Or just a fat paycheck for hand-waving consultants?

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 3, 2005 at 10:06 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ask your Senators to support Clean Cars for Washington

One of the most important environmental bills in this year's legislature is the Clean Cars Bill (ESHB1397), which will require all new cars sold in Washington after 2008 to emit less toxic air pollution, thus saving money on fuel costs [adds up pretty fast at $2.50 a gallon --Ed.] and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  Not to mention the health benefits of breathing cleaner air.

The bill passed the House on March 17, and is about to go on the Senate floor for a vote.  Now is the time when your Senators need to hear from you -- and the helpful folks at Climate Solutions have made it easy by putting up a quick online contact form that will match you up to your State Senators.  [Don't worry, sometimes I forget who mine are, too! -- Ed.]

http://cleancars.actionstudio.org/?go=1002

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 3, 2005 at 04:39 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wanted: local, left-leaning talk radio talent

Michael over at blatherWatch is beating the drums, calling for AM-1090, Seattle's progressive talk radio station (and home of Air America), to hire a locally-based left-leaning host to compete with home-grown right-wing weridos John Carlson and Kiby Wilbur. 

Michael's also brainstorming names -- everyone from Eddie Vedder to Judy Nicastro. 

One larger question this campaign raises is: where's the infrastructure that's training progressive pundits in the media skills it takes to be an effective talk radio host?  You think the Discovery Institute doesn't offer its "fellows" media training?

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 3, 2005 at 02:18 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Crunching the numbers on the viaduct

Over at Cascadia Scorecard, the ever-mathematical Clark Williams-Derry crunches some numbers on the $4 billion cost of replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel.  Setting aside for a moment the question of whether a tunnel is a good idea (hello, Boston?), Clark considers whether it's even possible imagine how we might raise four billion clams.

Clark adds up all the out-of-city money such a project might possibly garner, and finds that there's still $2.7 billion unaccounted for.  Financing that over 30 years would require about $150 million per year in debt payments.

To put this in perspective:  $150 million is about three-quarters of all property taxes (pdf link, see page 31 for exact figures) Seattle expects to collect for its general revenue fund in 2005.  And it's about $25 million more than local taxpayers' contribution to the city's public schools.

On a per capita basis, the story is just as grim.  An annual payout of $150 million amounts to about $270 per person -- or nearly $1,100 for a family of four.  And that's just the first year -- payments would continue for 30 years, though the per-capita share would likely decline with inflation and population growth. 

Yow.  Assuming Clark's math is even close to correct, this suggests that a tunnel is just simply not going to happen financially.  The sooner we accept this as reality, the sooner we can start having a sensible discussion about how to meet our region's transportation needs with solutions we can actually afford.  Maybe thinking about whether we really need the viaduct at all is a good place to start. It's time to question all of our assumptions, people.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 3, 2005 at 10:47 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 01, 2005

Timebucks: A skill-trading and time-trading community Web site

Earlier this year, I became an advisor to a start up company called Timebucks, a time-trading and skill-trading Web site started right here in Seattle, Washington.

Timebucks is a directory of people seeking to exchange their hobbies and skills with each other to meet new people, reach out to their community and support a more egalitarian economic model.

Essentially, you offer a skill - in my case, I've offered to help advise people starting non-profits (check out my Timebucks profile), then others request your help. Once you've shared your time, they deposit Timebucks in your account e.g. usually $15 Timebucks per hour. Then, you can use your new Timebucks to trade for time from someone with a skill you need e.g. guitar lessons or pet sitting.

There are a number of things that excite me about Timebucks. Primarily, we are a country full of amazingly talented individuals - but the automobile and urban life have artificially divided us - Timebucks leverages the power of the Internet to help us find people with skills we can learn from. It essentially allows us to tap into our vast store of cultural wealth. Yet, everyone's time is worth the same $15 per hour - there's no incentive to hoard Timebucks. As economic times get tougher for people, Timebucks - and its barter - may become a lifeline for many people.

Culturally, Americans are raised to buy what they need with dollars - but I think Timebucks may change this.

You can listen to an interview I conducted with Steve Van Dyke, Timebucks' founder, from my audio blog Tales for Change.

Steve is always looking for feedback too. You can write him here.

Posted by Jeff on April 1, 2005 at 11:17 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack