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February 27, 2006

Rising Income Inequality

Paul Krugman has a great editorial behind the NYT wall exploring statistics that root out the only people who are benefiting from the economy of the last five years.  He says that the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, is spot on in describing monetary and fiscal policy but willfully wrong in how he characterizes the rising inequality in this society.  Like most everyone else, Bernanke, like many others, says that there is a growing split between knowledge workers and those who don't have the skills to take advantage of new technology and the global economy. 

Krugman says that what actually happened between 2000 and 2004 was that the real earnings of college grads on average fell more than 5 percent.  The average over the longer time of 1975 until 2004 was a gain of only 1 percent per year.

So who is benefiting?

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?," gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains.

But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint.

Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.

This puts numbers beside what some of us has come to think.  I think most of us just assume that far more people are getting the benefits than really are.

Krugman then talks for a moment about why people like Mr. Bernanke might not acknowledge the true nature of the inequality  - because to do so would be very disturbing.  As long as we think it's about education, we can focus or at least pretend to focus on improving education and educational opportunities.  But if the nature of our inequality is oligarchic, then we are shifting everything we believe about this country and we are also forced to really look at the massive corruption involved. Krugman again:

Both history and modern experience tell us that highly unequal societies also tend to be highly corrupt. There's an arrow of causation that runs from diverging income trends to Jack Abramoff and the K Street project.

And I'm with Alan Greenspan, who — surprisingly, given his libertarian roots — has repeatedly warned that growing inequality poses a threat to "democratic society." . . . It's time to face up to the fact that rising inequality is driven by the giant income gains of a tiny elite, not the modest gains of college graduates.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 27, 2006 at 09:31 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Perspective on Gay Civil Rights

The Seattle Times' Lornet Turnbull [Wow, is that a pen name? -Ed.] offers a nice historical perspective on efforts to both grant and restrict the civil rights of gay and lesbian people.  Turnbull covers the failed 1997 "Hands Off Washington" initiative effort, and gay civil rights fights in other states, and asks an important question: "Is it OK to put people's basic rights and protections on the ballot?  Or are rights more fundamental than that?"

It's nice to see some 10,000-foot level coverage of a hot-button issue.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 27, 2006 at 08:48 PM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Focus on the Future: Interview with Jay Inslee

Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington’s 1st CD, sees the future and it is all about the need for energy independence.  This one large and critical issue impacts our ability to compete in the world, retain jobs for the middle-class, maintain a credible foreign policy and manage not to destroy the planet.  It is that important and Inslee has been aware of it for a long time.  Only now is it coming into vogue in the political world.

Jay and 14 other Members of Congress introduced a bill in Congress in June of last year.  I didn’t even bother to ask if it had gone anywhere.  How could it with the Republican dinosaurs in charge?  Here’s a summary of the bill, called the New Apollo Initiative, from his website:

Inslee’s legislation will use new and innovative tax incentives and market-based assistance, along with energy performance standards to address three challenges to America: creating clean energy manufacturing jobs, decreasing dependence on foreign oil, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill’s key features are: 1) loan guarantees for construction of clean-energy generation facilities, 2) significant reductions in daily domestic oil consumption, 3) incentives for driving fuel-efficient vehicles and developing fuel efficient cars and planes, 4) capping emissions of greenhouse gases, 5) investing in federal research into advanced clean technologies, 6) requiring utilities to produce 10% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021, 7) creating national standards that allow homeowners to feed surplus electricity back into the energy grid and reinstitute regulatory oversight of energy trading markets, and 8) closing abusive corporate tax shelters and loopholes. 

Naturally nothing of substance can get done on freeing America from the grip of the oil companies until Democrats gain some dominance in Congress.  Knowing that everything he knows needs to happen in this country is stymied until we can take over both houses of Congress, Inslee has been a generous and firm supporter of Darcy Burner in the 8th CD and untiring, although thus far unsuccessful, in his attempts to get good, viable Democratic challengers to run in Washington’s 4th and 5th Congressional Districts in eastern Washington. 

I enjoyed sitting down to talk with Jay and hearing his thoughts on the subject he is most passionate about.  I think you'll enjoy it too.  The interview is after the fold.

Interview with Jay Inslee, Congressman

Q: What prompted your interest in energy independence?

JI: Energy and the environment have both been long-time interests of mine.  I went to Stockholm for an international gabfest on the environment in 1972, which in some ways was the birth of the environmental movement.  What was most amazing to me, though, was the way the Swedes were already recycling, using recycled materials, focusing on public transportation – all the things that we are doing just recently.  It was already built into the society. 

Now of course they are again way ahead of us.

In the last three years, I’ve taken that commitment and focused it on legislation.  A constellation of things have made the need obvious – such as the decline in our economy, the loss of jobs to overseas companies, and incontrovertible and dangerous global warming. 

The focus on energy independence is also a no-brainer for Washington State.  We are the place where caring for quality of life, such as clear air and clean water, meets up with being a hotbed of innovation.  We have Boeing, high-tech, a history of innovation.  It is a perfect focus for this area and a slew of small start-ups here are again rising to take on this challenge.  Also, with the passage of the excellent environmental legislation here, we are ahead of the nation on this issue and what we do here will go nationwide whenever the political conditions allow.

Q: How closely have you been involved at the state level with these issues?

JI: I’ve been involved with the Washington Energy Security initiative that we expect to get on the ballot here this fall.  The initiative will guarantee that by 2020, 15% of the electricity from Washington’s largest utilities comes from plentiful and home-grown renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and will help homeowners and businesses save on energy bills by assuring that we get all the cost-saving energy efficiency available in this state.

Q: How much support do you have in Congress?

JI: The Bush Administration lives in a big castle with a moat around it.  Good ideas get thrown up but bounce back off those high walls.  There is no response.  Just recently Bush is mouthing support for getting off oil and there is some good news in that.  It may allow us to get some bills through in 2006 if control of Congress switches – bills about flex fuel, the use of biodiesel and increased research & development. 

The UAW also came out a few weeks ago to say that looking at alternative fuel sources for automobiles is a good idea.  They’ve seen that some manufacturers have moved forward.  They’ve seen success in Brazil where 40% of what’s in the tanks of cars is now biofuels.

Manufacturers have been about to get huge efficiencies by going to less wasteful practices.  BP committed itself to meeting the Kyoto targets themselves and they’ve done it with 2-3 years to spare and saved tons of money in the process.  GE has made a commitment.  Venture capitalists are dreaming of the technological companies they can back that will do well in the new businesses of fuel efficiency and alternative energy development.

The Democrats are united behind this.  Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are committed and if we get a Democratic majority in the House and Senate this year, we can probably move some of the agenda, not the whole new Apollo package because we’ll have to drag the White House along, but some of it.

Q: What’s the low-hanging fruit, the things we can do as a nation without a lot of difficulty?

JI:  We can get half way to where we need to get with existing technology.  Then means passing the Washington Energy Security initiative and then implementing it and spreading it to other states is a start; using a higher percentage of biofuels in our automobiles; implementing flex fuels in our cars, which costs only $100 and allows our cars to use different fuels depending on what is available; improving the CAFÉ fuel economy standards, which we certainly have the technology to do but which are hard to do politically; making tax credits for wind technology permanent; and improving building codes and standards for appliances. 

Q: Where are the long-term gains, the policies we need to implement for the future?

JI:  The large-scale gains will come from huge increases in the budget for research and development, which we did for the original Apollo project to reach the moon.  This is critical.  The fate of our entire planet is at stake. 

The possibilities include using algae to produce biofuels, improving the efficiency of solar cells and advances in materials engineering such as using carbon fiber to make automobiles much lighter than they are today.

Wave power has some potential by capturing the energy of waves either through buoys or wave collective walls.

The thing is, there are no silver bullets.  It makes no sense to look for one thing.  It will be 1000 different ideas working together that resolves this issue. 

Thank you.
 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 27, 2006 at 10:18 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 26, 2006

Why Remodeling Key Arena is Bad for Queen Anne Businesses

Josh Feit of The Stranger hits the nail on the head with his analysis of NBA Comissioner David Stern's testimony in support of a $240 million public subsidy for the Sonics, which is not about increasing seating, or even adding luxury boxes, but expanding the amount of on-site retail & restaurant space.

Stern’s answer (unwittingly) showed why the Key Arena remodel is unfair. Stern began: “There wouldn’t be more luxury boxes. I didn’t say that. I said there will be more amenities.” He concluded: “We would be enhancing the size in the luxury suite areas. More restaurants and other amenities that people attending the game tend to enjoy.”

Stern was acknowledging that increasing the size of KeyArena from 350K square feet to 700K square feet isn’t about adding more seating capacity—it’s about Yupdating KeyArena for high-end customers. (They’re doubling the square footage and only adding about 425 seats for basketball games.)

And more important: It’s about keeping them in KeyArena rather than having them venture out into Queen Anne and patronizing the bars and restaurants there. This is the NBA’s model. A one-stop shop.

Someone should have asked Stern why local bars and restaurants (particularly those in Queen Anne) should have to pay a .5 percent tax to support their direct competition.

If you, like my state Senator, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, are supporting the remodel in the mistaken belief that this is somehow good for Seattle's bars & restaurants, think again.  This is about greedy, incompetent NBA owners like Howard Schultz asking the taxpayers and businesses of Seattle to subsidize his failing business venture.

And I guess now would be a good time to point out the recent study that shows that Seattle Center is economically viable even without the Sonics, and also to highlight Nick Licata's outstanding point-by-point refutation of the shoddy economic arguments advanced by Schultz and the Sonics.

Given the hard numbers that are emerging, I fail to see how any responsible state legislator could be in favor of this boondoggle. 

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 26, 2006 at 01:24 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 25, 2006

Fixing the Initiative Process

Goldy is just talking plain good sense as he propose common sense reforms to the Washington State initiative process:

  1. Ban paying per signature
  2. Restrict editorial content on petitions
  3. Allow legal challenges prior to the ballot to prevent blatantly unconstitutional or illegal inititiaves from making it to the ballot
  4. Create incentives for filing initiatives to the legislature to encourage democratic deliberation
  5. Charge a reasonable filing fee to prevent frivolous filings

The initiative process is broken.  Let's try to fix it.  These reforms would be a good place to start.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 25, 2006 at 11:57 AM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

Nick Licata Says: "State Legislators Need to Hear From You About Sonics Subsidies"

One of the reasons I've always admired Seattle City Council President Nick Licata is his willingness to challenge the powers-that-be, even has he's become a power broker himself.  Today he wrote to his email list of the need to challenge the Sonics' attempt to bilk taxpayers of over $240 million in additional subsidies for their failing business.

It's a levelheaded summary of the reality-based arguments against the Sonic's distortions.  Unfortunately, as Licata concludes, State Legislators seem to be falling for, mainly because they're not hearing from their constituents that they're outraged.  That's where you come in.

If you take a moment to send a quick letter to your legislators, then your voice will be heard.

http://actionstudio.org/?go=2047

Here's what Licata has to say.  I've taken the liberty of bolding the key bits.  I'm proud to be represented by this man.

The State Legislature is currently considering two bills, House Bill 3233 and Senate Bill 6849, which will open the door for the Sonics to receive over $240 million in public subsidies.

These bills do not mention the Sonics in their titles, although their attorneys helped craft them. The titles simply state that local taxes will be extended to fund arts and cultural institutions and programs, tourism promotion and publicly owned sports and entertainment facilities. They also do not require a public vote to extend and divert taxes currently being collected for the baseball and football stadiums.

Public votes were taken regarding the public funding of the baseball and football stadiums. 

Many legislators are under the belief that these bills will help the City by allowing these funds to pay off the current debt on the Key Arena facility if the Sonics remain there. Seattle does need to determine how to operate the Key Arena in the black.  When the
Sonic's lease expires in 2010, the city will have a remaining debt of $24 million left over from the 1995 remodel of the Key Arena for the Sonics.

If the Sonics chose not to return to the Arena, according to our best projections, we will have a net loss of $16 million for 4 years, after which that facility should be operating in the black. The Sonic's proposal is to solve this remaining city debt by taking on a general public debt of $240 million or more.

If House Bill 3233, or its companion Senate Bill 6849,  do not pass, legislators should consider using the same revenue streams identified in those bills to promote tourism in this region through the support of multiple cultural, entertainment and heritage facilities. And in that process the remaining city debt on the Key Arena could be folded in at a far lower cost to the general public than issuing bonds for over $240 million.

An Economic Impact Study of Arts and Cultural Organizations in King County:2003, conducted by GMA Research said: "In 2003 $835 million in business activity was generated in King County by the spending of these patrons and cultural organizations.  In addition some 23,600 jobs and $383 million in labor income was generated due to these activities." If either of the above bills pass, one organization, the Sonics, will be in a position to receive over $240 million in tax dollars, which will consume over 80% of the tax revenue stream. If the bills do not pass, then new legislation could distribute this revenue stream in a manner that would fund many more organizations in King County at a fraction of the cost.

Sonics owner Howard Shultz has said that these bills must pass this session, which ends March 9th; his lobbyists have been meeting with legislators one on one. If the Sonics owners do not receive this subsidy, Mr. Shultz has said that the team may be sold or moved out of Seattle.

The general public has not been swayed by this apparent threat.

Three polls have shown that the citizens do not want to subsidize another professional sports team.

1) A poll of King County voters identifying themselves as "independents" the first week of February showed that only 7% of them support the Sonics receiving a public subsidy in order to keep them here.

2) A KING TV poll taken the last week in January showed that 65% of Seattle residents do not support using tax dollars to keep professional basketball in town.

3) An October 2005 poll of Seattle voters by Hebert Research Company showed that  79% were opposed to using tax dollars to keep the Sonics in Seattle.

State Legislators have heard little from their constituents or Legislative District Organizations on this issue. If you want to influence this decision making process, you can contact your state legislator and the sponsors of the Sonic's legislation.

To instantly send an email to your state legislators, even if you don't know who they are, just click at:
http://actionstudio.org/?go=2047.

It's time to get pro sports off the public teat.  Time for them to act like responsible businesses and either make an honest profit or just be hobby businesses for local billionaires.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 23, 2006 at 04:48 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Help Develop Citizen Health Care Action Plan

Washington for Health Care, the organization behind the recent health care bills proposed and in one case passed, in this session, is hosting a meeting in Seattle this Saturday for people to discuss and help shape a "citizens' action plan" on national health policy. 

Date: Feb. 25, 2006

Time: 9:00am - 1:00pm

Location: Seattle Center

You must register ahead of time to attend.  Register online or call Aliya Caler at 206.349.6718 to register or get more information.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 23, 2006 at 10:36 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 22, 2006

Shameless Self-Promotion

I'm not much of a Letter-to-the-Editor writer, but I am a bit proud that Seattle Weekly just published a letter I sent to my state legislators and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis about the Key Arena boondoggle:

Money Better Spent


If the city and state are going to give the Sonics $400 million for a new arena [Mossback, "SW Needs a New Arena," Feb. 15], I'd like to ask for $100 million to buy ponies for every 6-year-old girl in Washington state.

Because every 6-year-old deserves to have the state fulfill all her fantasies, not just the billionaires with the fantasies of 6-year-olds.

In all seriousness, please stop these ridiculous giveaways to line the pockets of billionaires. We've had enough. We can't afford it anymore.

Jon Stahl
Seattle

What's funny is that I didn't even send it to them -- they picked it up off of Jeff's online petition, which he started in sympathy with Knute Berger's column.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 22, 2006 at 09:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Educational Campaign Against Signing Initiatives?

Carla at Loaded Orygun has started writing about the sneaky operating procedures of signature gatherers in Oregon. She has a couple of stories about paid signature collectors misrepresenting the nature of the initiative in a blatant attempt to get signatures for crummy initiatives.  And then she says:

When a person asks you to sign their petition--if it sounds like they're selling you a bill of goods--they probably are. And while you've got them, find out how they're being paid. Is it hourly? Is it minimum wage ($7.50 per hour)? Are they docked pay if they don't meet a minimum signature amount?

The initiative signature gathering frenzy for the November elections will be getting underway shortly. Affixing your signature to an initiative just to get the guy out of your face is what makes these guys effective. And its also what gets these bullshit measures on the Oregon ballot.

It makes me wonder if we couldn't start a widespread, two-state "Be Careful What You Sign" campaign to educate voters about these stupid and costly initiatives.  Washington State voters defeated 912 handily but in the process we spent a lot of unnecessary money and energy.  In addition, the costs of the delayed transportation projects was pretty high, $66 million as I recall.  We also defeated the two very costly competing medical malpractice initiatives, 330 and 336, and now have a compromise bill sailing through to passage and signature. 

Folks might be ready for this - if we can set out some clear guidelines for what is signature-worthy and what is not.  I can see a tee-shirt on it right now: "Don't Waste Our Money" on one side and "Be Careful What You Sign" on the back. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 22, 2006 at 10:58 AM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Book of Ralph

Comic book author pokes fun at Ralph Reed by telling the truth.  You know things are turning around when Dick Cheney is the butt of the late night comics and Ralph Reed's very real, very creepy story is told in comic books.

It's pretty good

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 22, 2006 at 09:35 AM in Media, National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 21, 2006

Let's Get The Sh*t Out

Like the idea of raw sewage flowing out of broken sewer systems into Puget Sound?  Me neither.

That's why I'm emailing my State Senators asking them to support HB 1458 which requires that local governments identify and clean up failing septic systems in areas of Puget Sound that are not meeting water quality standards. 

The bill passed out of the House this weekend with a bipartisan 70-26 vote.  Now it's working its way through the Senate.  It failed by two votes in the Senate last year, so a little extra pressure now makes a big difference.

Seattle PI coverage here.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 21, 2006 at 10:12 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

League of Conservation Voters Releases 2005 National Environmental Scorecard

The League of Conservation Voters released their annual environmental scorecard today, in which they rate the environmental voting records of our federal legislators.  Drumroll please...

Cantwell (S)  -  90%
Murray (S)  -  95%

Inslee (01)  -  100%
Larsen, R. (02)  -  89%
Baird (03)  -  94%
Hastings, D. (04)  -  0%
McMorris (05)  -  0%
Dicks (06)  -  83%
McDermott (07)  -  94%
Reichert (08)  -  28%
Smith (09)  -  100%

It's of course not surprising to see Jay Inslee racking up a 100%.  Big kudos to Adam Smith, who keeps a lower profile on these issues but puts his votes where his mouth is.

We also see that Dave Reichert, who represents a blue district, is only marginally distinguishable from his ultra-right-wing colleagues Hastings and McMorris.  I reckon this is ground on which Darcy Burner can draw a clear distinction with Sheriff Dave.

Washington has much to be proud of here.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 21, 2006 at 07:39 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Negotiator-in-Chief

Chris Gregoire is putting her ace negotiation skills to work as governor, just recently resolving two critical issues that have been stuck for decades - 1) the Columbia River Water Resource Management Legislation and 2) the medical malpractice agreement forged as part of the passage of HB2292. 

The water management bill passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the Legislature last week breaks a 30-year impasse.  Governor Gregoire asked House and Senate leaders from both parties to appoint members to a Columbia River Task Force to study the long-standing water management stalemate on the Columbia River a year ago.   

The resulting bill commits to developing new storage and water conservation projects on the Columbia River, provides a formula for allocating newly stored water, and creates mechanisms for jumpstarting conservation measures and improving current management operations on the Columbia River.  One-third of all newly stored water will be allocated to support stream flows for fish.  Two-thirds of newly stored water will be available for new out-of stream water uses, such as farming, industry and municipal growth.

"The gridlock is broken," Governor Gregoire said. "For 30 years, people have been wrangling over the best way to support the water needs of eastern Washington, and protect and restore our native salmon runs on the Columbia River.  Now we have a road map towards achieving those goals.  We broke through the stalemate because of the respectful consensus we built among our partners, who include the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, our tribal neighbors, farmers, environmental groups and communities up and down the Columbia River."

The Ecology Department's website has additional information.

Gregoire was also pretty obviously responsible for breaking the impasse between lawyers and doctors in regard to medical malpractice which became a big issue with the costly competing initiatives on the ballot last year, neither of which passed.  This year both house of the legislature are preparing to pass HB2292 which addresses health care liability reform. Gregoire herself praised the other players - the Washington State Hospital Association, Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, Physicians Insurance, Washington State Bar Association and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.  The Olympian reports:

"They have been committed.  They have been professional. . . . They have exercised absolute good faith in every aspect of our negotiations from the very beginning." the governor said.  "This in my opinion is a very good example of what can be accomplished when we work together.  Compromise can be achieved on very difficult issues.  And while we come together today, I am mindful that much of this is being attempted in many states around the country and is not succeeding."

The Olympian goes on:

Most everyone else gave credit to the Democratic governor, whose history of negotiating big settlements includes the $206 billion national tobacco lawsuit settlement in 1998 and a clean-up agreement with the federal government dealing with nuclear waste at Hanford — both of which she engineered while serving as state attorney general. Last year as governor, she brokered a gasoline tax package in the Legislature’s final days, and last week she won passage of a major water-use agreement for the Columbia River.

“I think what happened was the governor basically took those interests and brought them into the room and got the politics out of this. That is how this thing came about,” Sen. Dale Brandland, R-Bellingham, said.

So, how did she do it?  Well, one thing, she worked very hard at it. From the same article:

The negotiations, which began roughly 45 days ago, involved 10 separate meetings between the parties, and in five of them, Gregoire herself presided. All told, close to 25 or 30 hours of talks took place, half led by Gregoire and half by her special aide, Lucy Isaki.

A few more enormous wins like this and we'll find that Republican legislators will join with Democrats and business and labor to stump for her in 2008. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 21, 2006 at 06:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why Blog? Why Get Involved?

Tristero over at Hullabaloo has a wonderful couple of paragraphs in a post on why he blogs.  He's a world-class musician it turns out and it was his travels all over the world during the run up to the Iraq war that prompted him to blog.  He says,

What the present crisis teaches us, a crisis in which the country is being led by clowns posing as experts, is that the opinions of ordinary citizens are vital to the running of a major democratic power. It's not that expertise isn't essential. Of course it is. But political expertise in a democracy must always confront the full range of public opinion in a meaningful manner. Otherwise, there lie monsters.

Today, the public discourse is so clotted and constrained, so limited to the right and far right, that it really is imperative for those of us who object to the direction the country is going to speak out, strongly and often. Not because we all deserve a prominent media role but rather in the hopes that eventually the media will be forced to broaden its coverage of political opinion to acknowledge voices like ours. Voices expert and persuasive enough to articulate alternatives to Bushism. Heaven knows we need them, and fast.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 21, 2006 at 11:23 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 20, 2006

Blogger Scoops Mainstream Media. Again.

Noemie Maxwell over at Washblog delivers an in-depth debunking of the Washington Farm Bureua's "developer's initiative" launch press conference:

Washington Farm Bureau's President, Steve Appel, recently made public comments on the occasion of the kickoff for the land use initiative that organization has just filed.

In that kickoff speech, which is published on the website promoting the initiative, Mr. Appel tells about Bruce Ritter who owns a small amount of non-agricultural land (10 acres) and presents his case as an example of a property owner whose plight resembles that of thousands of others across the state who would be helped by the initiative.

This choice is a matter of some public interest.  Why not a farmer?   And why only one family?

Odder than this choice of a representative landowner, and more troubling, is the inaccuracy in Mr. Appels' statement about the Ritter property.  Half of the assertions made by Mr. Appel are easily debunked.  The other half are not substantiated and are, in fact, shown by the public record to almost certainly be untrue.

Yes, you really do need to go read the whole darn thing.  But before you do, and especially if you are a so-called "mainstream journalist," you need to ask yourself:

Why the heck aren't you doing this kind of reporting?   You are being lied to, day in and day out, by well funded special interests who are trying to run roughshod over our democracy. 

It's pathetic that we bloggers have to blow the whistle on such obvious lies and half-truths.  Wake up!  Please. We need you to do your jobs.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 20, 2006 at 10:29 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2006

What if Hunters Were to Turn on Cheney?

How ironic it would be if a key portion of the Republican base turned on Cheney and by extension on the President and the Party as a result of Cheney's shooting of Whittington. Cheney's arrogance and Bush's passivity and the elitism of this gang don't seem to be sitting well with the nation as a whole.  But what the hunters in particular don't like is the bad light this seems to shine on the sport of hunting.  Hunters don't want the country to associate the sport of hunting with the antics of Dick Cheney.

A column by Fred LeBrun, columnist for the Albany, N.Y., Times Union, was reprinted in the San Jose  Mercury and noted by firedoglake.  It is very interesting for providing insight into the view that hunters are taking about Cheney's hunting accident.  Some exerpts from his article:

Getting shot while out hunting isn't even remotely funny.

<snip>

A review of the accident and incident report of the shooting filed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department indicates just how close this came to being a grave incident. Had Whittington taken the full brunt of the load a little more to the left and down, at his neck and upper torso -- a matter of just a few inches -- he could have been a goner.

<snip>

But I must say, as a supposed ardent hunter and role model for hunting and a stellar light of the National Rifle Association, he has barely saved himself from being a major embarrassment and dismal failure.

<snip>

Many of us here in the vineyards are trying to promote hunting as an obsessively safe sport -- which it is -- and these clowns dismiss safety to promote a protect-your-butt partisan agenda. Boy, it gets my goat. Never mind whether the offender is Al Gore or Dick Cheney. Take responsibility, for goodness' sake.

<snip>

As a postscript to the gravity of the Cheney shooting incident, consider this: I don't know of a single gentleman's hunting club up here in the effete Northeast, no matter how Republican, that would let Cheney in to shoot after this incident. He'd be confined to the bar and pool tables.
What we have here is the original zero-tolerance event as far as the hunting community is concerned. That's how seriously we take it.

I just don't think this bodes well for Cheney, particularly since hunters and farmers and old-fashioned conservative-conservationists are a key part of the Western base that Democrats are most interested in swinging over this year.  These are Republicans who can get behind someone like Democratic Governor and rancher Brian Schweitzer of Montana.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 19, 2006 at 10:39 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Best Practices Idea #1: We Write the Platform

At least one LD and one county Party organization are offering interesting discussion items in meetings leading up to the March caucuses "to lay the groundwork for a more informed, more reasoned, more efficient, and more participatory platform-building process" as N in Seattle said of the meeting to be held in the 43rd LD on March 4th. He says, in a post over at Washblog:

An important expression of the party's grassroots, of what it means to be a Democrat, is the party platform.  We'll take our first big step toward writing amendments to the state platform -- bringing it up to date for the 2006 political season -- in just a few weeks, at the precinct caucuses on March 4. 

Yeah! There will be three sessions that anyone can come to between now and then to discuss real issues that matter to us as a country, issues like "Iraq and the Middle East", "Terrorism, Homeland Security and Civil Rights" or "Electoral Reform." During each session, people can attend and select which discussion group they want to participate in.  Four different topics to choose from each time.  Out of those discussions come possible platform planks.  Congressman McDermott will kick off the first one.  This is so cool - make meetings interesting and involving people in making policy.  N goes on:

I have high hopes for this approach to precinct caucuses.  An informed populace, I believe, will lead to an informed and relevant grassroots platform.  In addition, I believe that a lot of LDs, party officials, and other interested people are looking to learn whether this method will encourage participation in the platform process by the District's residents.  Based on suggestions originally presented by 43rd LD chair Dick Kelley, the organization's Executive Board is enthusiastic that we'll continue to lead the state's Democrats in party participation, political engagement, and, well, just being the most Democratic Legislative District in the state of Washington.

Then Emmett adds information about the Thurston County Democrats who are trying a different approach to inviting participation in the state platform-building.  They have scheduled five forums on different days with a single topic for each of the first four: 1) Economy, 2) Environment, 3) Health care and 4) Education.  The topic for the last one is still open and ideas for the topic of that session are being solicited both online and at the first forums.  Ideas get passed on to the precinct caucuses and then proposed planks will be voted on at the county convention in April.    

Can you see me jumping up and down?  This is so cool to have different groups trying different things and then, I assume, sharing how it goes with other LD's and counties.  Let us know how it goes.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 19, 2006 at 09:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Progressive Majority/Wellstone Training

Excellent campaign training being offered by Progressive Majority and Camp Wellstone in Washington state.  From a note from Dean Nielsen at Progressive Majority:

April 1-2 we will host a regional training in Yakima. Joining Progressive Majority's state staff for the training will be Rudy Lopez from Wellstone Action! and Kris Garcia, who runs Progressive Majority's Arizona program.

June 16-17-18 we will co-sponsor our large-scale, annual training with Wellstone Action! in Seattle. This training will feature three tracks and can accommodate up to 150 participants.

There will be additional information as it becomes available. For budding activists and others who want to become involved in this giant take-back-our-democracy project, this is a wonderful, energizing opportunity to learn from the best and to meet others passionate about what we are doing.  Last year, at the June training, several of us bloggers met each other for the first time there and began to get more linked and organized.  It was very cool.  And both Randy Gordon and Darcy Burner were there as well as well as many other local budding elected officials.  There are three tracs - candidate, campaign staff, and activist, and all were great.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 19, 2006 at 10:28 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2006

Start Thinking about the Elbow Dance

Odds are, the bird flu is coming our way, folks.  Despite all our best attempts to deny the occasional news clips or think it’s only bad for the birds or even say that this is all a government scare ploy, the reality is that we are likely to see a full-fledged bird flu break-out amongst humans in the next several years, possibly as early as this next year. 

So, in the midst of everything else we do in our lives, it might be time to start preparing on a personal level.  God knows, we can’t count on the national government to help.  The local governments might be more useful but we will be left to our own devices a lot even so.   

Bloomberg News has a summary of where we are with the spread of the bird flu to humans:

A total of 91 of the 169 people known to have been infected with the H5N1 strain since late 2003 have died, mainly in Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization Web site, last updated on Feb. 13. . . . Most of the people who have contracted the virus handled infected poultry or came in contact with their excrement.

It’s spreading quickly and widely amongst birds around the world and the more birds have it, the more risk there is that it will jump to humans who are not in close contact with poultry.  Again, from the Bloomberg article:

New outbreaks in birds are being reported daily across Europe, the Middle East and western Asia, creating more opportunity for human infection and increasing the risk of the virus changing into a pandemic form. The latest death in Iraq brings to 10 the number of fatalities confirmed this month, the highest since February 2004, when 14 deaths were reported.

``We don't know, but it might only take a very limited number of mutations for it to eventually be transmissible efficiently from human to human,'' potentially triggering a pandemic, Professor Albert Osterhaus, head of the department of virology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, said in a phone interview yesterday.

Here’s one forecast about the potential damage:

A worst-case scenario bird flu pandemic could wipe US$4.4 trillion off global economic output and kill more than 140 million people, according to an Australian report on the macroeconomic fall-out of an influenza pandemic.

The Guardian has an updated country-by-country scan of what’s happening and links to several additional resources.

So, how do we think about preparing for this awful possibility for ourselves and our families and communities? 

It’s been suggested that once we get into a serious pandemic, much will change about the way we live and manage our daily lives and the distance we put between ourselves and others.  For the length of a serious pandemic, which might be as short as 6 weeks or as long as 18 months, we will likely be observing what is called “social distancing”: no regular schools; working from home if working at all; avoiding public places, including grocery stores and pharmacies; and entertaining ourselves at home.  There may also be severe shortages of foods and other goods or they may only be available intermittently.

I am going to do some research on this locally but I am trusting that we will have water, electricity and law enforcement most of the time.  Some people are not ready to count on even that.  I don’t know how we will know until it occurs.

I started stocking up on water and food last year, not a lot but a little just to get my mind wrapped around the idea.  And I ordered masks and gloves on-line in bulk and passed them out to all my relatives.  Note: last fall it took a month or two for them to arrive, the sellers were so backed up, so it might be a good idea to start on that now.  Easy to find with google.

Next, I’m, going for batteries, industrial strength flashlights, some serious food storage and stashing some cash away.

The folks who are way ahead of me have created something called the FluWiki, which has information about everything you could ever want to know about the avian bird flu: statistics, charts, articles, survival information, info on community planning, everything.   

Oh, and that elbow dance?

I was fighting off a cold/flu this last week after a weekend with the delightful 2-year old niece.  Mostly I hunkered down at home but I had a few meetings I didn’t want to miss so I went anyway and just told folks I couldn’t hug or shake hands.  I’d heard people talk about tapping elbows as an alternate way of greeting each other whenever the bird flu gets closer so I tried it out with people I was meeting with either as I met them or left them and people were fine with it.  It became almost a game and one friend, Ben, made a little dance out of it.  It was fun.  It makes it easier to casually insert talk about the bird flu, something I’d been trying to figure out how to do for awhile.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 18, 2006 at 11:34 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2006

Horsey Outdoes Himself

The PI cartoonist David Horsey often has incredible political cartoons.  This morning's is one of the best. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 16, 2006 at 10:21 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 15, 2006

Ask Washington State for Your Own Tax Kick Backs

Jeff over at Idealog asks:

You're a taxpayer. You work. Why should Paul Allen and Howard Schulz get all of our money? How much do you want? What would you spend it on?

I've set up a petition for folks that automatically emails your wish for taxpayer subsidies to your state representatives and the Mayor's deputy Tim Ceis.

Tell them what you want now

Responses will be publicly displayed here.

Spread the word if you're tired of billionaires raiding your pocketbook to fund their infantile fantasies and ill-considered business ventures.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 15, 2006 at 08:52 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2006

Taking Back the House in 2006

Our job is to get Darcy Burner the money she needs to win her race in the 8th CD this year.  Chris Bowers of mydd, who does the research on these things, says that there are 12 Congressional seats that Democrats ought to be able to pick up nationally this year and the Democratic candidates running in those races already have the money to do it. 

Then there are eight seats that Democrats ought to be able to pick up this year if they get the money to make the race competitive.  Darcy’s race is on that list.

Here’s what Bowers says of those eight races:

This is where I believe Democrats have everything in place for a pickup but where we are getting shredded in the money race. For that reason, I also think that these are the eight districts where the netroots should seriously consider offering their financial support. Add eight to twelve, and suddenly you have enough seats to take the House.

We need a net gain of 15 seats. 

The progressive blogging community has shown that we can have an impact on a race.  Goldy’s research and writing at Horse’s Ass made a significant difference in the Sims/Irons race.  Brian at Washblog contributed to Dave Somers’ win on the Snohomish County Council.  Andrew at Northwest Progressive Institute and Dan at On the Road to 2008 made a difference in the defeat of Initiative 912 and many of the rest of us contributed with our writing and interviews. 

But money is a different animal.  We may not have a lot of money at our disposal in the blogging community locally, although it would be awfully nice to see if we did.  But we can help the national bloggers understand about the importance of this race and the reasons to support Darcy, of which there are many, even aside from the sheer importance of the numbers.  Those of us who read blogs and consider ourselves part of this community also have influence amongst our peers simply because we pay attention to what is happening and we tend to be more active politically.  We are more willing to get out and work for candidates than other folks are because it matters.  So, set some time aside to help Darcy.  Set money aside.  Tell your friends to do the same.

Oh, and contribute to her campaign early.  It helps get the national money in faster.

In case you want to know more about Darcy and what she stands for, I have a write-up of a talk she gave at the luncheon that Paul Berendt threw for her at the Democratic Convention a few weeks ago after the fold. 

Darcy Burner Speaks at Democratic Conference Luncheon

Paul’s Introduction

Paul Berendt hosted the luncheon for Darcy.  Paul talked about Darcy’s working class background, and about the hard work she’s done all her life – to get into Harvard, to play by the rules, to be an Executive at Microsoft.  He then said that Darcy reminds him of Patty Murray whom he admires, respects and loves. 

Paul said that Darcy told him at their first meeting that she was the person who could beat Dave Reichert.  He said that several Democrats have put their oar in the water in this race, referring to Randy Gordon, Paul Abrams and Menno van Wyk, all of whom have deferred to Darcy and opted out of that race.  Paul then said that Darcy has that attitude that says, “I can do this, I can do it right.  I’m not going to run anybody over but I can beat Reichert.”  He went on to say that this confidence and determination is what you need to be a winner and Darcy has both.

The Task in Front of Us

Darcy started by saying that we have a really difficult task in front of us.  We have to take back Congress and we have to do it one Republican at a time.

Darcy’s Story

Darcy talked about coming from a military family.  The family moved around a lot but her father had grown up in Rochester, south of Olympia, and that was the place she considered home.  She spent every summer with cousins in Thurston and Lewis counties. 

Darcy was a good student and a National Merit Scholar which was what allowed her to attend Harvard.  She married a classmate, Mike Burner, and they have a three-year old boy, Henry.

She said her family is still working class – with a brother who is a janitor, another in the military, another who delivers beer for a living and a sister who has just become a licensed nurse.  She is close to her family and she understands the issues that working class families face.

The Challenges We Face

Darcy spoke to the four areas that she says set up apart from the Republicans: Ethics, Energy Policy, Family and Security. 

On ethics she said, “We have a Republican leadership that has decided to sell off our country.”  In talking about the corruption, she said, “These are Republican scandals and no Democrat took any money from Jack Abramoff.  Democrats think that elected officials are in Washington to work for us.”

On energy policy, she looks to the two members of our Washington State Congressional delegation – Maria Cantwell and Jay Inslee – who are very involved in developing plans for clean energy and energy independence and vows to help in that area herself.  She says we can do it.

On the issue of families, she said, “Congress should be focused on what is right for American families.  The current Congress has not only ignored this but passed laws related to health care, education and jobs that are detrimental to the American family.  We are making choices that will decide whether our children have good jobs or are waiting tables to repay our debt to China.”

Darcy says we can beat the Republicans on national security issues.  She suggested that when Republicans ask if Democrats are tough enough, we say, “That’s not the right question.  The question is, are we safer?”  She went on to say that our government has been irresponsible in how it has waged this war.  She said that she has already been deeply touched by this war: one of her childhood friends was one of the first folks killed in this war.

The Government committee on 9/11 put out a follow-up report, at their own expense, that gave Congress an “F” for their efforts to fix the items that had been uncovered in their first report.  One key finding was the lack of progress on fixing the problems with communications devices that first responders use in times of crisis, something that would have made a great difference during the Katrina hurricane fiasco.  Darcy then pointed out that the subcommittee responsible for funding communications systems is the Homeland Security subcommittee, chaired by Dave Reichert.

“Republicans are making us less safe at every level.  The Democratic Party will do what we need done to really be safer.”

Supporting Darcy’s Campaign

Darcy said she needs our help to win.  She needs us out doorbelling in the 8th CD.  Dave Reichert has already raised $1.1 million, 70% of which comes directly or indirectly through Tom DeLay.  It’s going to be a $2 million race and she needs our help in getting people excited and motivated.

She talked about specific tactics she has in mind and then said she sees herself as a “practical progressive”.  She is a progressive but she wants to make certain that the things we do actually result in what we are hoping to accomplish.

Defeating Dave Reichert

Darcy said that Dave Reichert votes 97% of the time with the Republican leadership.  He is a right-wing Republican.

She ended with saying that we need a Congress that asks questions about the future.  How do we build a society that works for our people?  Then  she said, “We’ve seen what Democrats can do in this state.  Let’s do it nationally as well.” 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 14, 2006 at 12:37 PM in Interviews, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 13, 2006

The Levees are Breaking

Republican underlings all over Washington DC are taking their thumbs out of the dikes protecting this Administration.  And about time!  The first defections are more politically motivated than motivated by principle but it is a start.  Here are a few examples of the Republicans running from their positions at that rabidly partisan, protective dike.

Last week, Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM), who chairs the House subcommittee overseeing the NSA called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration warrant-less wiretapping program.  Four Senate Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee had voiced concerns but none were in a position to cause the administration damage.  Wilson, who is more conservative than her moderate district and is in a potentially tough fight this year, is a retired Air Force officer and she is in a position to do some damage.  The NYT says, “The congresswoman's discomfort with the operation appears to reflect deepening fissures among Republicans over the program's legal basis and political liabilities.”

Then Senator George Allen of Virginia, the conservatives’ early favorite for Republican nominee for President in 2008, chimes in.  He said yesterday morning on Fox News, “I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch or some underling in some bureaucracy."

A few days ago, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reported that Paul Pillar, the CIA’s retired national intelligence officer for the Near East and Asia, “is writing an expose in an upcoming issue of the journal of Foreign Affairs that intelligence was 'Misused' to justify war.”  Pillar says in that article that “The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made.”

And, remember Katrina and New Orleans, the place where the real levees broke and well over a thousand people died?  Former FEMA Director, Michael Brown, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, “dismissed as ‘just baloney’ and ‘a little disingenuous’ claims by agency officials that they didn't know about the severity of the damage until the next day”.

Then the political levees break wide open with the disclosure yesterday of a summary review of a lengthy report by 11 Republican Congressmen.  A Washington Post article says:

The 600-plus-page report lays primary fault with the passive reaction and misjudgments of top Bush aides, singling out Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Operations Center and the White House Homeland Security Council, according to a 60-page summary of the document obtained by The Washington Post. Regarding Bush, the report found that "earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response" because he alone could have cut through all bureaucratic resistance.

Once these few have started to run from this administration and its unprincipled and corrupt ways, more will follow.  Watch and see.  This part of our national disaster may actually be fun to watch.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 13, 2006 at 11:33 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 12, 2006

Religion, Science and Sanity

It was Darwin's birthday today and hundreds of ministers around the country of all Christian denominations told their parishioners that there was no argument between science and religion.  The New York Times, in an article in tomorrow's edition by Neela Banerjee and Anne Berryman, says that the event, called Evolution Sunday, grew out of the Clergy Letter Project, begun a year ago as a response to the Intelligent Design attempts to discredit the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools, heating up at the time in the Dover, Pa, school district.

"There was a growing need to demonstrate that the loud, shrill voices of fundamentalists claiming that Christians had to choose between modern science and religion were presenting a false dichotomy," said Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the major organizer of the letter project.

Mr. Zimmerman said more than 10,000 ministers had signed the letter, which states, in part, that the theory of evolution is "a foundational scientific truth." To reject it, the letter continues, "is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children."

"We believe that among God's good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator," the letter says.

Yeah for sanity and standing up for what is right! These were mostly mainline churches, who have been losing their membership.  But 10,000 ministers taking stands makes a difference, and according to the article, their members liked what they heard.  There is something happening here. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 12, 2006 at 11:07 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

Energy Security Initiative Campaign Kickoff Meetings

As Yoram reported back in January, our friends Washingtonians for Energy Security are working to put the Energy Security Initiative on this November's ballot.  They're planning to gather most of their signatures with a massive volunteer effort, run by my friend Katherine Bragdon.

That's where you come in.

If you want to help build a more prosperous, secure future for Washington by building our renewable energy portfolio, why not volunteer to gather a few signatures for the campaign? 

Washingtonians for Energy Security is holding a series of campaign kickoff meetings all over the state.  You can find out more at http://www.energysecuritynow.org.  The full list of meetings is below the fold. 

Snohomish County Kick-Off Meeting
Wednesday, February 15th at 7:00 p.m.
South Everett Library - Evergreen Branch
9512 Evergreen Way, Everett, Directions

King County Kick-Off Meeting
Thursday, February 16th at 7:00 p.m.
University Heights Center
5031 University Way NE, Seattle, Directions

Thurston County Kick-Off Meeting
Tuesday, February 21st at 7:00 p.m.
Plenty Restaurant (in the meeting room in back)
200 4th Ave W, Olympia, Directions

Pierce County Kick-Off Meeting
Tuesday, February 21st at 7:00 p.m.
U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee will be joining us at this meeting!
Tacoma Nature Center
1919 S. Tyler Street, Tacoma, Directions

Clark County Kick-Off Meeting
Wednesday, February 22nd at 7:00 p.m.
Vancouver Housing Authority (Community Room)
2500 Main St #100, Vancouver, Directions

Whatcom County Kick-Off Meeting
Thursday, February 23rd at 7:00 p.m.
Whatcom Educational Credit Union
600 E Holly St, Bellingham, Directions

Spokane County Kick-Off Meeting
Tuesday, February 28th at 7:00 p.m.
At the Community Building
35 W Main, Spokane, Directions

Tri-Cities Kick-Off Meeting
Wednesday, March 1st at 7:00 p.m.
Pasco Library Meeting Room
1320 W Hopkins, Pasco, Directions

Walla Walla Kick-Off Meeting
Wednesday, March 1st at 1:00 p.m.
Reid Campus Center Café on the Whitman Campus
345 Boyer Ave, Walla Walla, Directions

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 10, 2006 at 07:34 PM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 09, 2006

Making it Appealing to Rebuild our Democracy

The task of our times is to take back our democracy and to make it more vibrant and meaningful than it is has been in a long time.  And, once we have righted this nation, and I have no doubt we will do that, we set it back on its feet with a renewed diligence and strengthened safeguards.  And we don’t let up. 

But first, the job is catching the attention of folks who aren’t quite so political.  We can only do that by engaging as many people as we can reach with a message that resonates with them and then organizing the needed action in such a way to make it appealing to take part in that rebuilding. 

Folks, this has to be fun.  Because, damn it, it’s going to be a lot of work and people don’t hang around for work unless it’s fun.  Just the way it is. 

So, I was caught by something that a new poster put up on Washblog a couple of days ago.  His name is rappini.  Although pretty new to being political, he was pretty persistent, going to meetings, taking his girlfriend, trying to figure out what to do.  It wasn’t easy.  The meetings were badly run.  He didn’t know how to “break in”. 

I remember this.  I’ve lived in about 5 districts, both here and in California over the last 15 years of trying to get involved and actually being on a district board once.  Every meeting was badly run or uninteresting and there was little openness to changing things.  I don’t know about you but meetings run by Robert’s Rules that may seem to move along are still no good if there is no substance to the topics and no discussion between folks.  There is often not a lot of discussion time so it’s hard to get to know other people.  And then there’s that inner group, outer group thing where some people have hung out together before and they talk to each other but not to the new people. A lot of people don't come back after a time or two.

So I was quite interested in rappini’s post.  And thrilled when he talked about a meeting he enjoyed going to and will go back to.  (And pleased, when I went back to the post later that there were a lot of people who had commented on what he said, some saying pretty much what I’m saying here – it needs to feel like community, be fun, have an overriding purpose, like church does.)  Here’s the part that pleased me:

So imagine my surprise and utter delight attending my first 46th Legislative District Democratic meeting.  It was a revelation.  These people are switched on.  People greeted us as we entered.  Everyone was respectful while others talked.  People actually listened to each other.  The meeting was very well run.  The meeting space felt good.  Everyone was upbeat.  There's lots of activity and plenty of opportunities to help out.

When they passed around collection baskets, it hit me: This was just like church.  My church growing up was very active.  It was like a virtuous cycle.  The better it got, the better it got.

Other than the people I've met through Washington Citizens for Fair Elections, I don't know anyone with the 46th LD Dems.  I don't know, or care, about their internal politics.  I don't know their history.

What I do know is that I look forward to going back.

Whatever the 46th LD Dems has should be bottled and distributed.  Seriously.  Whatever it is they're doing is what everyone else should be doing.  They've definitely energized me.  I'm hoping to learn from them so that we can improve our own grassroots organization.

So, I’m going to one of their next meetings to see just what it is that will make zappini want to go back.  If it holds up, we do need to bottle that.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 9, 2006 at 11:19 PM in Inside Baseball, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Karl Rove Got Your Name?

Government Data-mining has the data-collection and analysis capacity to troll blogs and emails, among other sources as part of its fight against terrorism.  Even if we had a government we could trust, many of us doubt this intrusion into our private lives is warranted.  The exception might be if we had decent Congressional oversight which we currently don't have.

The Christian Science Monitor has an article up today on the program.  Turns out the program, called ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement) has been going for three years, tucked into the Dept. of Homeland Security at a budget of $50 million this year.  Like the grocery store programs that analyze our buying habits, only on a breathakingly larger scale, ADVISE connects the dots on all those little pieces of online information we leave behind.  Think about that the next time you provide just enough information to be able to read an article on the Seattle Times online or send your Congresscritter a letter online.   Those of us who blog and leave comments on other blogs are subject to a program called "starlight" which identifies clusters of talk online.

All of this is designed to foil terrorist plots and the government claims it has but . . . but . . but. . . I just find I feel less safe, not more.  There are others who are concerned as well.

"One element of the NSA's domestic spying program that has gotten too little attention is the government's reportedly widespread use of data-mining technology to analyze the communications of ordinary Americans," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D) of Wisconsin in a Jan. 23 statement.

Senator Feingold is among a handful of congressmen who have in the past sponsored legislation - unsuccessfully - to require federal agencies to report on data-mining programs and how they maintain privacy.

Without oversight and accountability, critics say, even well-intentioned counterterrorism programs could experience mission creep, having their purview expanded to include non- terrorists - or even political opponents or groups. "The development of this type of data-mining technology has serious implications for the future of personal privacy," says Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.

Those implications?

While privacy laws do place some restriction on government use of private data - such as medical records - they don't prevent intelligence agencies from buying information from commercial data collectors. Congress has done little so far to regulate the practice or even require basic notification from agencies, privacy experts say.

Indeed, even data that look anonymous aren't necessarily so. For example: With name and Social Security number stripped from their files, 87 percent of Americans can be identified simply by knowing their date of birth, gender, and five-digit Zip code, according to research by Latanya Sweeney, a data-privacy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.

In a separate 2004 report to Congress, the GAO cited eight issues that need to be addressed to provide adequate privacy barriers amid federal data-mining. Top among them was establishing oversight boards for such programs.

Much of the flare-up of concern over the unwarranted wiretapping is related to this issue.  Congress is supposed to be providing oversight.  If the administration had had its way, we wouldn't even have known about the program; even 95% of Congress wouldn't have known.  Can't provide oversight if we don't know about the program.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 9, 2006 at 11:28 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 08, 2006

The Message: Republicans Control Congress

That message, if communicated clearly, is all we need to win in 2006.  Chris Bowers, of mydd, has been sifting through long-term National Election Survey data, which he is so good at doing.  What he found was simple.  During years of discontent, the party that gets the message out that the other party controls Congress wins.  Period.  He says,

Since 1970, there have been eight congressional elections where 64% or more of the voting public held the same opinion on which party controlled the House of Representatives.

Here were the results in three of those elections:

In 1980, 71% of the electorate believed that Democrats controlled the House of Representatives. That year, Democrats lost 25 seats in the House of Representatives.

In 1994, 70% of the electorate believed that Democrats controlled the House of Representatives. That year, Democrats lost 54 seats in the House of Representatives.

In 1996, 73% of the electorate believed that Republicans controlled the House of Representatives. That year, Republicans lost 5 seats in the House of Representatives.

Bowers sums it up:

It would appear that if roughly two-thirds or more of the electorate is convinced Party X controls the House, then Party X loses seats in the House. In fact, in every election since 1970 where there was a large swing in seats--1980, 1982, and 1994--there was unusually broad agreement among voters over who controlled the House of Representatives.

So this year,

. . . don't be fooled/worried about polls that show Democratic leaders in congress with approval ratings equally as low as Republican approval ratings. That is a phenomenon caused by massive Democratic disapproval of Democratic leaders. Independents actually rate Democrats in congress much higher than they rate Republicans. Republicans even rate Democrats in congress higher than Democrats rate Republicans in congress. And those same Democrats who disapprove of their congressional leaders are all indicating that they will vote Democrat in 2006 anyway. That is why Democrats hold large leads in generic congressional ballots despite equally low job approval ratings.

Chris' proposal is then, as he says, "almost disturbingly simple."

Rather than getting too much into the weeds over message, slogans, and policy proposals, in 2006 we need something far more basic--something that the established news media cannot filter out and something that even Republicans are forced to agree with. Maybe one of our biggest messages in 2006, if not our primary message, needs to simply be to point out to the American public the simple fact that Republicans control congress. Run a voter education campaign with a very simple lesson: Republicans control congress.

He suggests a possible script for a 30-second spot for this year: 

Do you disapprove of the way the congress is doing its job?

Republicans control congress.

In Washington, DC, Republicans have a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Tom DeLay was the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives for three years. Last year, he was forced to resign because he is under indictment for money laundering charges.

Do you disapprove of the way congress is doing its job?

Republicans control congress.

Then he talks directly to the Democratic Party and the campaign types:

These ads, or something similar to them, would work. Please, at least try them in a focus group. I swear, if you put five million behind these ads, national IQ on who controls Congress would soar. When that happens, we will win. Further, these ads are almost so dumb that they would be guaranteed to get some free press. And how would anyone filter out the message of these ads? There is simply no way to argue with them. How do you Swift Boat a message like that? This is an Occum's Razor type campaign--the most effective solution is the easiest one.

Furthermore:

I am doubtful that any Democratic policy message / proposal has any chance of getting through the established news media right now. I mean, we have seen it time and time again: the established news media just filters out our messages and our narratives, and replaces them with Republican narratives, talking points, and memes.

Why are we talking about what message to bring to the American public when the primary mechanism for delivering our message is so utterly hellbent on not delivering that message? Even if we did develop an incredibly strong message and excellent policy proposals, and even if the established news media for some reason did not filter them out, would the nine weeks from Labor Day until Election Day be long enough for it to sink in to the American electorate? I am doubtful.

Let's get more basic than all of that. When voters agree on who controls the House, whoever they think controls the House takes a beating at the polls. Let's run with that fact and make it a prominent aspect of our 2006 campaign.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 8, 2006 at 10:17 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Electronics Waste Recycling Passes the Senate; Now It's On To The House

Late today, a bipartisan majority (41-8) in the Senate passed SB6428, the E-Waste Recycling Bill, which is one of the environmental community's four Priorities for a Healthy Washington.  (And, no I'm not talking about the "e-waste" that comes from Goldy's comment threads.)

Next, it's on to the House, where the bill is HB2662, and  we'll have to push back a full-court lobbying press from the electronics industry.  If you'd like to send your legislators a message in support of e-waste recycling, you can do it at:

http://actionstudio.org/?go=2025

For more information on the bill, see:
http://www.environmentalpriorities.org/e-waste/

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 8, 2006 at 08:28 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 07, 2006

Don Barbieri Asks for Help in Passing Health Care Bills

The Washington Fair Share Health Care Coalition,is a group of business, labor, religious and health providers working together to expand access to health coverage in Washington State.  Don Barbieri, 2004 Democratic candidate for Congress from the 5th Congressional District (unsuccessful - he ran in the wrong year), is a member of that group and heartily endorses efforts to pass two new health care bills this year and asks for all of our help to do this. 

He's written a letter (Download Barbieriletteronhealthcare020106.pdf) asking all of us progressives to help pass the Fair Share Coalition bills. In that letter he says these bills are steps to "reverse the destructive erosion of our families' health and our medical support system."

There are two bills, the first of which is more well-known:

SB6356 and HB2517 are the bills that require employers of more than 5,000 to put a reasonable percentage of their payroll toward covering their employees' health care costs or to pay the state for public state coverage of the uninsured.

HB 2572 provides access to the Basic Health Program for low-wage employees and provides small businesses the opportunity to pool insurance and thereby offer less expensive health care coverage to their employees.

An organization called Washington for Health Care has one of those sites that makes it easy to contact your representatives and let them know why you want them to vote for these bills.  Do it.

In an email sent accompanying his letter, Barbieri says he believes that health care is a "core quality of life issue" that must be addressed now.  It is particularly important for the Spokane area, where businesses have been re-locating to Idaho.  He says these bills give small businesses a way to "take care of" their employees and rewards those large businesses who already fund their fair share.  He also says that the issue polls "off the charts" throughout the state.  People know this is critical and don't like what they hear about what WalMart and other large businesses are doing by transfering health care costs to the state.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 7, 2006 at 01:25 PM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Book that Explains the NSA Wiretapping . . .

and the reasons to for impeachment and what's going on in these Senate Hearings.  James Risen's book “The State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” is one of the early “historical” looks at what demons this administration has let loose.   The NYT has a veview that is itself long.  But it’s critical to understanding the nature of this presidency and our times.

Here’s the first paragraph in Thomas Powers’ NYT review:

The challenges posed to American democracy by secrecy and by unchecked presidential power are the two great themes running through the history of the Iraq war. How long the war will last, who will "win," and what it will do to the political landscape of the Middle East will not be obvious for years to come, but the answers to those questions cannot alter the character of what happened at the outset. Put plainly, the President decided to attack Iraq, he brushed caution and objection aside, and Congress, the press, and the people, with very few exceptions, stepped back out of the way and let him do it.

And this is the reason the Administration is so concerned about these current Senate hearings on the wiretaping:

If the Constitution forbids a president anything it forbids war on his say-so, and if it insists on anything it insists that presidents are not above the law. In plain terms this means that presidents cannot enact laws on their own, or ignore laws that have been enacted by Congress. . . . The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 is such a law; it was enacted to end years of routine wiretapping of American citizens who had attracted official attention by opposing the war in Vietnam. The express purpose of the act was to limit what presidents could ask intelligence organizations to do.

The author goes on:

We are living with the consequences of the inability to say no to the President's war of choice with Iraq, and we shall soon see how the Congress and the courts will respond to the latest challenge from the White House—the claim by President Bush that he has the right to ignore FISA's prohibition of government intrusion on the private communications of Americans without a court order, and his repeated statements that he intends to go right on doing it.

And Powers says that the biggest thing in Risen’s book is this NSA eavesdropping program now being investigated in these Hearings.  Risen claims:

that the President authorized the NSA not only to eavesdrop on Americans without seeking court orders, but to listen in a new way, by intercepting a large volume of communications among categories of people, and then analyzing or "mining" the data in those calls for suspicious patterns that might offer "potential evidence of terrorist activity."

Powers himself is willing to go farther than Risen did in his book.  After discussing the very broad and apparently nearly useless wiretapping effort, Powers says,

So why did the administration continue this lumbering effort for three years? Outsiders sometimes find it tempting to dismiss such wheel-spinning as bureaucratic silliness, but I believe that the Judiciary Committee will find, if it is willing to persist, that within the large pointless program there exists a small, sharply focused program that delivers something the White House really wants. This it will never confess willingly.

This then is what all that “ducking and bobbing”, as Senator Charles Schumer called what Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was doing, is all about.  This is why Rove is resorting to arm-twisting measures to keep the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee in line.  This is clearly an impeachable offense, potentially easier to understand than any of the other possible impeachable offenses of this presidency.  Whether it becomes an impeachment is clearly up to the Republicans.  Just one Republican asking for an independent prosecutor would tip it I think.  Any takers?

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 7, 2006 at 11:57 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 06, 2006

Blogs Catching On

Gallup has a new poll out which says that 20% of Americans who use the web (73% of the population) say they consult blogs frequently or occasionally.  That's only a bit behind the 28% who use instant messaging, the 24% who make use of on-line auctions or the 22% who download music. 

Of course "reading blogs" is still at the bottom of the list of 13 choices.  Aw well. Email still tops the list at 87%, followed by checking news and weather at 72% (these folks will figure out they can get better news off of blogs soon enough), and both shopping and travel planning at 52% each.

More men (24%) read blogs than women (17%) and more younger folks, 18-29, (28%) than older folks, over 50, (17%).  And 60% still say they never look at blogs. 

Still, it's coming along.  Here's an article at Editor and Publisher that discusses it.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 6, 2006 at 02:36 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Contact Legislators Re: Clean Fuels

Take a moment to let your state representatives know that you want them to require the use of cleaner fuels in our cars.  The folks from Priorities for a Healthy Washington, the coalition of Washington State environmental groups that have figured out how to successfully move a program of environmental bills through our legislature - and have the Democrats in Olympia to help - are asking us to ask our legislators to support the Governor's Request legislation for a Renewable Fuels Standard, HB 2738 and SB 6508. This bill calls for replacing 2% of our diesel with biodiesel and 2% of our gasoline with ethanol, with increases for both as in-state production capacity expands over time. 

They make it easy for you to do this.  It only takes a moment and they will get your request out to your Senator and Reps.  Please do so even if you have all Democratic legislators as I do.  They still need to know what we want them to do.  Even though there is big support from eastern Washington (duh!) and some support from the moderate Republicans, there is strong opposition from  the oil companies. 

The vote will be this week.  Do it now!

More information on what the Renewable Fuel Standard bill will do:

  • Reduce global warming pollution from cars, the number one cause of global warming pollution in Washington State.
  • Put Washington on the road to energy independence by reducing our dependence on imported petroleum.
  • Create new, reliable markets for Washington farmers' crops.
  • Spur rural economic development by providing hundreds of new jobs in biofuels production.
  • Reduce the vulnerability of our fuel supply to petroleum's price swings and supply disruptions.

Let your representative know you want this.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 6, 2006 at 12:08 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2006

Another 18-minute Gap?

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald casually mentioned this last week that email from a critical time period in 2003 is missing.  Now, the White House has an extraordinary archive preservation system that is essentially foolproof.  A copy of every single email that a White House staffer sends goes to records management.  So, what Fitzgerald is saying, evidently, is that somebody was knowingly tampering with a number of emails that might be relevant to the investigation of the outing of CIA covert agent, Valerie Plame.  In his words:

"In an abundance of caution," he writes, "we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system."

And what was the relevance of the time period of the missing emails, you ask?  Hint: Even at the time, those of us following the story, as well as key Democratic leaders, were upset - knowing the door was open wide for concealment.  From Georgia10 at DailyKos:

We all know about the 12 hour gap, that twilight zone between the evening of September 23, 2003 (when Gonzales was informed of the order to preserve evidence) and September 24, 2003 (when Gonzales actually gave the order to retain evidence).  But it's not just a 12 hour gap that provided a chance to tamper with the evidence.  It's a two week gap.  Recall that Gonzales and the rest of the White House lawyers screened every communication before handing it over to Fitzgerald.

There are two intriguing points here: 1) Fitzgerald knows about the missing emails so someone must have talked or he has copies of the missing emails and 2) Attorney General Gonzales is scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow in regard to the legal authority for secret NSA wiretaping, a controversial enough topic itself, and may have to answer questions about these missing emails under oath while he is there.  And Gonzales has already testified about this time period and the screening of the email to the Grand Jury so he is in danger of perjuring himself one way or another.

And as a postscript, Digby reminds us that the Republicans went completely nuts trying to unearth a few emails that had not been properly archived during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  They held hearings, got an Independent Counsel involved, the whole nine yards.  So, as Digby says, they couldn't possibly object to something similar now, could they?

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 5, 2006 at 06:00 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 04, 2006

Go Steelers!

Seattle and Washington state have a lot to be genuinely proud of.  We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  We produce important and innovative products that have brought us great public and private wealth.  Our air is pretty clean, our water is drinkable.  We are tolerant, open-minded, and fair.  We have a vibrant cultural community.  We have created an amazing quality of life for ourselves here in this upper left corner of the nation.  Sure we have our faults -- who doesn't -- but there is much we should take pride in.

We shouldn't invest our civic pride -- or our public treasure -- in a football team, or the eccentric, klepotocratic billionaire who owns it. 

Like Jeff, I just can't bring myself to root for the Seahawks.  Or at least, I wouldn't be able to if I gave a crap about professional sports or thought they had any relevance to anything whatsoever.  I might watch the game tomorrow, but I doubt I'll be rooting.

This isn't curmudgeonliness, it's common sense.

Posted by Jon Stahl on February 4, 2006 at 02:10 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2006

The Guys Stand Behind Darcy

All our Democratic Congressmen from Washington are holding a reception on Feb. 18th for Darcy Burner to help her become our 7th Democratic Congresscritter from this state.  I envision a musical number with all of them dancing in unison, show-casing their newest member-to-be.  If they wanted to try it, I bet we could find a good dance coach to help out.  More likely they'll talk about how important it is to our nation that we take this seat in the 8th and then ask the attendees to contribute to Darcy's campaign.  The drum roll of Congressmen who will be speaking for Darcy:

Congressman Brian Baird
Congressman Norm Dicks
Congressman Jay Inslee
Congressman Rick Larsen
Congressman Jim McDermott
Congressman Adam Smith

She's going to do it, folks.  She's really good. If you're interesting in supporting Darcy and want to see all our Democratic Congresscritters in one place, sign up to attend.  Or just check out her website.

Another hat tip to Howie at Seattle for Dean.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 3, 2006 at 09:37 AM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Letter from Dwight Pelz

New Democratic Party Chair Pelz has a letter up on the Party site:

Dear Washington State Democrat,

I am writing to thank you for the tremendous honor of being chosen Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party. It was a hard-fought campaign, but also one in which we had a constructive discussion on the future of our Party.

Over the past six weeks I have had the opportunity to travel to over 20 communities, meet personally with hundreds of Democrats, and speak on the phone with many more Party activists.

I heard stories of what divides us as Democrats, but learned far more about what unites us. We are all concerned about the future of our country – a country which appears to be turning its back on the middle class.

Democrats in Washington support health insurance for our families, pensions for those who were promised them, college loans for our children, and Social Security and Medicare for all retirees. We know that these investments are critical to 90 percent of the families in America – that to cut them is to cut our middle class. We know that America is wealthy enough to afford good roads, good bridges and good schools. We challenge a war with no strategy and no end in sight.

We are committed to re-electing Sen. Maria Cantwell and confident that our grassroots troops will defeat their millions of dollars of advertising funded by out-of-state interests. We are determined to expand the Democratic majorities in the State House and Senate this year. We will challenge Bush cheerleaders McMorris, Hastings and Reichert with excellent candidates and excellent campaigns.

Thank you again. I will be traveling the state deliberately and frequently in the months ahead so that we can meet once more.

Sincerely,
Dwight Pelz

We all wish Dwight the best and, more importantly, stand behind and with him and all our Democratic Party folk and electeds. 

Hat tip to Howie Martin.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 3, 2006 at 09:34 AM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 02, 2006

Jack Murtha's Letter to the President

There are courageous people in positions that matter and Pennsylvania Representive Jack Murtha is one of those people.  Earlier today he released a letter he wrote to the President about the war.  It's a very educational and yet compassionate letter.  It reminds me of something the early twentieth century Chinese revoluionary leader, Sun Yat-sen, talked about - about building a golden bridge for our enemy to retreat over. 

Murtha is trying to build that golden bridge that will lure Bush back to the land of the sane.  It is a retreat for him and for all of us.  We need this.  We need something to make us not lose too much face while we change the direction of our national policy in Iraq.  Bush, in particular, who has no history of ever considering retreat, nor much history of trying to understand the real facts on the ground, needs some tutoring and Murtha does it with a lot of grace

Here is the big picture: 

Iraq is not the center for the global war on terrorism. I believe Iraq has diverted our attention away from the fight against global terrorism and has depleted the required resources needed to wage an effective war. It is estimated that there are only about 750 to 1,000 al-Qaeda in Iraq. I believe the Iraqis will force them out or kill them after U.S. troops are gone. In fact, there is now evidence that Iraqi insurgent groups are increasingly turning against al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists.

Our country needs a vigorous and comprehensive strategy for victory against global terrorism. The architect of 9/11 is still out there but now has an international microphone. We must get back to the real issue at hand - we have to root out and destroy al-Qaeda's worldwide network.

In arguing that the U.S.needs to redeploy our troups out of Iraq, he starts to build that golden bridge.  He says:

The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it. Our continued military presence feeds the strong anti-foreigner fervor that has existed in this part of the world for centuries. A vast majority of the Iraqi people now view American troops as occupiers, not liberators. Over 80% of Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave Iraq and 47% think it is justified to attack Americans.

Then he says something that I hadn't really believed before - that the Iraqi people will be better off without us.  I've been assuming that we'd be leaving behind a disaster in the making. But perhaps not.  Perhaps the American occupiers leave and the Iraqi people really can pick up the pieces. I was desperately against the war before it began and marched and marched and marched.  I watched with horror as any possible quick victory was drowned in a lack of knowledge, poor judgment and bad decisions on the part of our civilian leaders.  I've actually been very impressed with the military men and women over there and with their courage.   And I've known we had to bring our soldiers home for so many reasons but I have just been awash in guilt for what we've done to these people and this land. 

The steadfast and valiant efforts of the United States military and coalition partners have provided the Iraqi people with the framework needed to self govern. The Iraqis held elections that have been touted as highly successful, based primarily on the accounts of Iraqis who went to the polls. But our continued military presence in Iraq, regardless of the motives behind it, is seen by Iraqis as interfering in Iraq's democratic process and undercuts the chances for the newly elected government to be successful.

Brick by brick, he builds the road leading up to the bridge.  Come on, President Bush.  There is a way out of this muck:

The longer our military stays in Iraq, the more unwelcome we will be. We will be increasingly entangled in an open-ended nation building mission, one that our military can not accomplish amidst a civil war. Our troops will continue to be the targets of Iraqis who see them as interfering occupiers.

Redeploying our forces from Iraq and stationing a mobile force outside of the country removes a major antagonizing factor. I believe we will see a swift demise of foreign terrorist groups in Iraq if we redeploy outside of the country. Further, our troops will no longer be the targets of bloody attacks.

Please, President Bush, please see that there is a path out that you can take, that you must take.  The future of this country is more important than you being "right". 

The ever-changing justifications of the war in Iraq, combined with tragic missteps, have resulted in a worldwide collapse of support for U.S. policies in Iraq.

The credibility of the United States of America will not be restored if we continue down the path of saying one thing and doing another. We must not lower our standards and tactics to those of the terrorists. In order to keep our homeland secure, we must hold true to the values that molded our American democracy, even in the face of adversity. Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, said it best during a speech in March 2004 to the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies: "America knows we cannot seek a double standard. And, America knows we get what we give. And so we must and will always be careful to respect people's privacy, civil liberties and reputations. To suggest that there is a tradeoff between security and individual freedoms -- that we must discard one protection for the other -- is a false choice. You do not defend liberty to forsake it."

Restoring the world's confidence in America as a competent and morally superior world leader is essential to winning the war on global terrorism.

A recent public opinion poll, conducted jointly with Zogby International and taken in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, found that 81% said the war in Iraq had brought less peace to the Middle East. A majority of the respondents said they view the United States as the biggest threat to their nations.

And then he suggests that Bush reallocate funds and focus on the real security threat:

Despite the urgent homeland security needs of our country, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission issued a dismal report card on the efforts to improve our counter-terrorist defenses. Even the most basic of recommendations, such as the coordination of fire and police communication lines, still have not been accomplished.

In the face of threats from international terrorists, we need to reallocate funds from the war in Iraq to protecting the United States against attack. A safe and swift redeployment from Iraq will allow us to do just that.

We also need to rebalance and reconstitute our military says Murtha:

Since 9/11, Congress has appropriated about $334 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the insurgents have spent hundreds of thousands. We have seen reports estimating that the total cost of the wars may reach as high as $1 trillion. These estimates are said to include such costs as providing long-term disability benefits and care for injured service members. It is estimated today that over 16,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq, 10,481 of whom have been wounded by "weaponry explosive devices."

Murtha is a man who has clearly been dedicated to getting what the military does right for a long time.  He's laying out what he sees.  He's trying to paint a picture for Bush of what has to be done.  The question will be whether or not George Bush and those around him can open their blinders just far enough to see some of this:

I am concerned that costly program cuts will lead to costly mistakes and we will be unable to sustain another deployment even if there is a real threat. The future of our military and the future of our country could very well be at stake. The high dollar forecasts of our future military weapons systems and military health care add pressure to cut costs on the backs of these programs. As our weapons systems age, the concern becomes even greater.

During a time of war, we are cutting our combat force, we have not mobilized industry, and have never fully mobilized our military. On our current path, I believe that we are not only in danger of breaking our military, but that we are increasing the chances of a major miscalculation by our future enemies, who may perceive us as vulnerable.

Thank you, Congressman Murtha

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 2, 2006 at 09:47 PM in National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Meanwhile, in the Other Washington

Congressional Republicans are cutting programs that help poor and middle class families.  The U.S. House passed spending cuts yesterday as part of their so-called "deficit reduction package" - which, once you count in the continued tax cuts for the wealthy coming in the next part of bill, actually raises the deficit. 

The Carpetbagger has the facts:

The House yesterday narrowly approved a contentious budget-cutting package that would save nearly $40 billion over five years by imposing substantial changes on programs including Medicaid, welfare, child support and student lending.

The final vote was 216-214, with every Dem and 13 Republicans voting against it.

It's hard to pick out which part of the bill was the worst. Take your pick; you can choose from a) the harsh cuts that will hurt low-income families and students relying on loans to go to college; b) the fact that the Republicans cut taxes far more than they cut spending, leading to yet another increase in the deficit; or c) the spending cuts will hurt real people, but will have a negligible affect on the budget itself, removing less than one-half of 1% from the estimated $14.3 trillion in federal spending over the next five years.

Just in case anyone needed a reminder as to why it's so important to take back the House. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 2, 2006 at 10:21 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bi-partisan, Unanimous Passage of Laws

Several bills to further strengthen Washington State's already strong sex-offender laws passed unanimously in the House yesterday and will now be considered before the Senate.  This package of laws, designed to protect victims and catch and convict more sex-offenders, was already set for deliberation prior to those slimy Republican sex offender cards going out to several LDs in the state.

“The protection of our children has always been my top priority in Olympia,” said Rep. Tami Green (D—Lakewood). “This legislation was crafted with the input of police, prosecutors, advocates and victims to put more sex offenders behind bars and to make sure we get a conviction of those who hurt our children.”

Representative Green's district in Pierce County was one of the districts targeted by House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt's nasty little campaign.  Oh, and DeBolt - he voted for this as well.  So, as we all knew, this stupid trick was pure politics. 

The package of legislation includes:

House Bill 3277 – creates mandatory 25-years to life sentences for:

  • For child rape or molestation in the first degree committed by strangers or teachers, coaches and other trusted authority figures.
  • Offenders convicted of rape in the first or second degree, forced sexual acts or first degree kidnapping with sexual motivation. The law applies when the victim is under fifteen, developmentally disabled, mentally ill or an elderly adult.

House Bill 2576 – Establishes protection orders for victims of sexual assault.

House Bill 3252 – When a conviction is the result of a guilty plea, in order to receive sentencing alternatives the offender must admit that they committed all elements of the crime.

House Bill 3238 – Makes it a felony to distribute false sex-offender notices.

The only new law is the last one, designed to prevent such slimy scare tactics in the future.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 2, 2006 at 09:53 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 01, 2006

Winning Idea from Seattle

The 'Since Sliced Bread' contest sponsored by SEIU has a winner - Peter Skidmore from Seattle - and two runners up.  Peter's idea, which won him $100,000 in the national ideas contest, is titled 'Sustainable Resource Industries'.  Here's the gist of it in his own words:

Globalization of labor, production, and ideas and an industrial economy based on subsidized fossil fuels have set the stage for economic and social instability, continued outsourcing of jobs, and marginalized quality of life. We can create a new economy based on environmentally benign industries and energy.

Impose a resource tax on pollution, development, and fossil fuel to pay for development of renewable energy and environmental restoration. Promoting sustainable localized energy industries (solar, wind, hydro, tidal, biofuels) will provide reliable, clean homegrown energy, exportable technologies, and bring energy jobs home.

Most of the 21 ideas that were finalists in the SEIU contest were winners.  And Washington, idea incubator that we are, had two other finalists as well - Bridget Ragan of Seattle with 'Do Not Tie Healthcare to Employment' and Diana Nolan of Lakewood with 'Personal Money Management'.  My personal favorite was 'Blanket the US with Wireless Network'. SEIU is suggesting you pick your favorite and email a letter to your state leaders to tell them about it.  That's the one I will email about.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 1, 2006 at 11:17 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Discuss the State of the State

The Sierra Club is hosting two workshops about the state of Washington's environment to discuss how you can help shape our future.  The Sierra Club notes that Washington State citizens and elected leaders have shown visionary leadership on such issues as clean car standards and use of renewable energy.  Come to discuss what's next in protecting our air, water and communities.

The first one is this Saturday, Feb. 4th, 9:30-11:30 at the Bellevue Community Center and the second is the following Sunday, Feb. 12th, 2:00-4:00 at the University of Puget Sound in Seattle.  Details below.

Discussion on:

  • Key environmental bills in the state legislature
  • Renewable energy and the energy security initiative, and
  • How you can make your voice heard with elected decision makers

Dates and locations:

  • February 4, 9:30-11:30, Bellevue Community Center at Eastgate Park, 14509 SE Newport Way
  • February 12, 2-4pm, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner, Tacoma, Wheellock Student Center, Room 101

This workshop is free and open to the public. Refreshments are  provided. To sign up, call Peter Orth at 425-562-8740 or email Angela Silva

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 1, 2006 at 09:56 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack