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March 31, 2006

Sweet Justice

When Delay/Abramoff crony Mark Scanlon dumped his fiance, Emily Miller, for a younger woman, he set off a domino motion that enabled federal prosecutors to begin to take down the entire mafia-like group.  The Wall Street Journal has the full story up today as reported by Brody Mullins.

The short story: Scanlon, the first of the bunch to be indicted, along with Tony Rudy, who pled guilty to conspiracy last Friday, were at the center of the K Street Project corruption racket that DeLay and Abramoff began running in the late 90's.  In 1998, Scanlon was DeLay's press secretary and Rudy his deputy chief of staff. Both have been described as pit-bulls; both pushed hard for DeLay to lead the impeachment charges against President Clinton. The also had many interactions with Jack Abramoff, both accepting free trips to casinos and golf courses and, in return, helping influence legislation on behalf of Abramoff's business clients.

For his efforts, Scanlon was promoted to communications director and Emily Miller was brought in as press secretary.  Scanlon was married at the time but the two became friends.  In late 1999, after Scanlon's marriage fell apart and he moved over to work for Abramoff at Preston Gates Ellis and then followed him to Greenberg Traurig, Scanlon began dating Ms. Miller. He was also knee deep in taking tribal money to get legislation favorable to those tribes.

Mark Scanlon and Emily Miller became engaged in September 2001 and were planning to be married in August 2002.  They were both 35 years old. Here's a description of Scanlon's lifestyle at the time:

Mr. Scanlon reveled in his newfound wealth. In September 2001, he bought two houses in Washington for a total of $1.2 million, according to court papers. In November 2001, he bought a $1.6 million beach house in Rehoboth Beach and completely renovated it. A few months later, in March, he paid $4.7 million in cash for a place for him and Ms. Miller to live. The beachfront mansion had a weight room, sauna and a three-bedroom guest house. Mr. Scanlon mounted lights on the deck so he could hold parties on the beach at night, according to his surfing friends. He also bought vacation homes on the Caribbean island of St. Barts, including one villa he rented out for $50,000 a week.

That spring Scanlon broke off the engagement and started dating a 24-year old waitress, whom he later married.  Ms. Miller, who had quit work to plan her wedding was not happy.  She also began (only then?) to question where all that money of Scanlon's was coming from.  She was apparently receptive when federal prosecutors approached her in 2003 with the request to share what she knew about Scanlon's dealings with both DeLay and Abramoff.

The results?  Last November, Mr. Scanlon pled guilty to bribery charges. He is likely to be in jail for five years and has paid back nearly $20 million to the tribes. Mr. Scanlon then implicated Mr. Abramoff who pled guilty to corruption and bribery charges six weeks later.  Abramoff agreed to pay the tribes back $26 million. Abramoff may spend as long as a decade in jail on these charges on top of the jail term he got this last week on other charges.  Mr. DeLay was forced to step down from his leadership post in the House and now faces not only a tough re-election campaign but will likely be indicted on corruption and bribery charges himself. 

Sweet justice indeed.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 31, 2006 at 01:17 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bill Clinton On Board with Dean's Strategy

The blogs are reporting that the Big Dog, Bill Clinton, is now a believer in Dean's 50-state strategy and is likely to serve as a conduit to the big money donors who have previously been wary of Dean and his state capacity-building efforts.  The DNC has hired Carl Chidlow as Finance Director to bridge the two Democratic cultures - the small donor base and the big donors.  One of his primary jobs will be to evangelize Dean's state based efforts to the traditional money base.

Assuming this is true, this is big news.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 31, 2006 at 01:11 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2006

It's time to give to Darcy

The entire gang is asking for money for Darcy.  With good reason.  There is no better time to donate than today.  The DCCC has set a high bar, $320,000, for her to raise by the end of the quarter (today), in order for them to jump in and help her campaign.  Go, donate.

This is the most likely Congressional seat we can flip in the entire Northwest.  Darcy Burner is a great candidate.  Our part in taking back the House, and limiting the damage that the Bush Administration can do in the next two years, is to make sure that Darcy gets elected.

She needs this.  Darcy is close but she needs your donation, whatever you can give, even if it's a small amount. Today.  I just did it.  It's the right thing to do.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 30, 2006 at 10:57 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

City of Seattle's Climate Report

The mayor's office has released a series of recommendations by a Green Ribbon Commission to help Seattle meet or beat the Kyoto Pledge that Mayor Nickels made and challenged other cities to make.  These folks have been working on the recommendations for a year.  It is meant to serve as the basis for action for a plan for Seattle to be released in the fall.  The report is titled, "Seattle, A Climate of Change: Meeting the Kyoto Challenge"; it is a manageable 30 pages and there is a nice concise executive summary that is four pages.

Alan Durning at Cascadia Scorecard Weblog reviewed the report and he loves it.  He provides an analysis of the key recommendations:

Lead a regional partnership to develop and implement a road pricing system. Road pricing is the only way to solve congestion, and it’s a potent stimulant for alternatives to driving.

Implement a commercial parking tax Taxing parking is a great way to pay for alternatives.

Expand efforts to create compact, green, urban neighborhoods. Ultimately, compact neighborhoods are the real alternative to driving.

Durning has one regret about the report:

In a report that’s courageous enough to suggest parking taxes and regionwide tolls, it’s disappointing to see the veil of politeness descend in one case that’s critically important—the case of highways reconstruction.

The report's walking-on-eggshells mention of alternatives to more construction:

For example, decisions on major transportation infrastructure improvements, such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the two Lake Washington bridges, must closely consider the climate impacts of investment alternatives.

What Durning wishes they had said:

The mere fact that city leaders are seriously considering rebuilding multibillion dollar freeways through our city—while the ice sheets are melting, our snowpack is dwindling, our transit system is starved, our bike lanes are few and glass-strewn, and a quarter of our streets lack even sidewalks—is proof that we still have terribly far to go. Freeways are giant emissions generators. They’re the antithesis of climate leadership. We should never build another one in this or any other city. We should begin to tear them down.

The report is still a good beginning to a conversation that we will need to have, and quickly.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 30, 2006 at 09:25 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

U.S. Going Blue

The President's Approval Ratings from Survey USA polls have been mapped by state with color codes.  There's a cool slide show that takes us month by month through the poll results over the last year.  The map has gone increasingly blue and the March 2006 map is a pleasure to behold.

For you real wonks, DKos diarist dreaminonempty has sliced and diced the Survey USA poll information by region; by political affiliation (Republicans, Democrats and Independents); by ethnicity;  and in many more ways. 

The truly interesting data is that declining Republicans support for Bush is what is now driving his poll numbers down.  I don't suppose that Democratic support could go much lower.  And, as has been reported elsewhere, the number of people identifying as Democrats is going up and the number identifying as Republicans is going down.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 30, 2006 at 09:04 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Behind Jill Carroll's Release

The Christian Science Monitor, Carroll's employer, deserves a great deal of credit for their campaign to get Jill Carroll released.  I know there is no other media organization I'd rather be working for if I were captured.

On March 10th, the CSM had an article that described the media campaign they ran in the Iraqi media.  CNN helped with the production of the ads and Iraqi television stations agreed to run the messages free of charge for a captive colleague.  From that article,

Television stations with national and local reach in Iraq are broadcasting public-service announcements in Arabic that carry the message: "Kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll loves Iraq, and now she needs your help. It is time for Jill Carroll to come home safely."

The videos have run on Iraq's largest private station, Al Sharqiya, and the state-run Al Iraqiya channel. Kuwait's Al Rai satellite TV channel, which received and aired the third hostage videotape of Ms. Carroll on Feb. 9, is also running the announcements.

The 60- and 90-second spots include quotations from Iraqis speaking of how they consider Carroll to be an innocent sister or daughter, and asking for her captors to see her in the same way and release her. They also include a quotation from an earlier public statement by Jill's mother, Mary Beth Carroll.

The longer spot includes an emotional segment from a press conference of Sunni leader Adnan al-Dulaimi, whom Carroll was supposed to interview on Jan. 7, calling for her release. She was kidnapped near his office.

Welcome home, Jill.  We applaud your courage in doing the real, human reporting you did that put you in harm's way and are thrilled you lived to tell the tale of your time in captivity. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 30, 2006 at 09:00 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush Sits on Release of Democrats Security Plan

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, working with security specialists from across the Democratic spectrum, including Wes Clark and Madelaine Albright, yesterday released "Real Security: Protecting America and Restoring our Leadership in the World, their strategy for protecting Americans both in the U.S and abroad.  Senate Minority Leader Reid says of the plan:

We are uniting behind a national security agenda that is tough and smart, an agenda that will provide the real security President Bush has promised, but failed to deliver.

Nancy Pelosi called the plan "strong and smart" and demonstrates that Democrats are the party of real national security in this post 9/11 world.   

Didn't hear about the plan?  No national TV stations covered it and it only showed up buried inside the national papers.  Dan Froomkin, excellent Internet columnist over at the Washington Post, has some ideas about why.  He talks about a press conference that Bush suddenly called yesterday where he rambled on and on. 

So what's the point of taking questions, if not to answer them? Could it be to simply appear to be answering questions? Or just to repeat, repeat, repeat?

Yesterday, you almost got the feeling that he was just talking to run down the clock.

But why would he do that? One possible reason yesterday was: To preempt any television coverage of a press conference at which leading Democrats were unveiling their Bush-bashing security agenda.

Indeed, Bush's event had originally been scheduled for 1:20 p.m. yesterday. But Tuesday afternoon, the White House suddenly moved it up to 12:50. The Democratic press conference was scheduled to start at 1. Bush finally wrapped up his talk at 2:22. Anyone know when the Democrats stopped talking? Anybody see anyone in the audience giving him hand signals?

Not to worry.  Word will get out but nevertheless, it's pretty funny.  Pathetic but funny.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 30, 2006 at 08:55 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006

A Man with a Big Progressive Agenda: Ron Sims

Ron Sims, in his third term as King County Executive after 11 years on the County Council, has a hefty agenda for his third term.  His primary focus is global warming which dictates cleaning up Puget Sound, improving the transportation system, supporting environmental initiatives, preserving another 100,000 acres of King County land, and developing 100’s of miles of additional trails.  In addition, he works on combating poverty, reinvigorating the older suburbs, protecting civil rights and improving health care both for county workers and the general population.  Oh, and by the way, preparing the county in the case of pandemic bird flu in the next few years. 

He’s clearly a man in a hurry and he’s willing to take risks and to support those on this staff who take risks.  It’s that kind of time in history, he says. 

The innovative, forward-looking work that has been done in this county has won Sims kudos from the rest of the country but not a lot of recognition here.  I came away from the interview with Ron, my research and discussions with a number of folks who work closely with him puzzled as to why the last election was even close, especially given the sad-sack quality of his opponent.  I would guess that someone who has been leading in a somewhat non-traditional way for so long would piss some folks off and I know that is true with Sims. 

It’s also possible he’s grown in the job and that growth has not registered with his opponents.  Or the county as an entity may just not be something that people can get their minds around.  Whatever, it’s a puzzle.  I didn’t hear a lot in either the 2004 gubernatorial campaign or the 2005 campaign for his third term as KC executive about the tremendous amount that Sims has actually accomplished.

The people I talked to love working with and for Ron Sims.  People from the floor receptionist to his immediate staff talk about his creativity, his caring, his energy, his focus on paying attention to the facts and working off them, his desire to foster and implement ideas that make people’s lives better. 

Makes sense to me.  Plus it’s hard to argue with his successes.  Also, more than any other elected official, Sims understands and appreciates the progressive blogs and the bloggers willingness to take risks.  He comes to Drinking Liberally occasionally and keeps in touch with us which is quite refreshing.

The interview, along with a lot of research on what goes on in the county, is after the fold.

Global Warming

When Sims shared his list of top goals for this term, addressing global warming was on top.  I asked him why. He said:

Global warming will define everything we do in the future.  We are way ahead of the curve on that.  No one in the world is doing what we are doing here in King County.  We have the largest fleet of hydrogen fuel buses.  We have the largest fleet of diesel buses.  We use electric cars here in the county.  We are focused on forest retention practices; so far we have retained 135,000 acres of forests, which is very important to particulate reduction.  We have built green buildings and are into water reclamation in a big way.  And we are focused on saving our wetlands.

The PI’s Lisa Stiffler wrote about Sims and what the county is doing to cut greenhouse gas emissions last week after Sims signed four executive orders aimed at further minimizing global warming gas production in the day-to-day operations of county government.  In that article, Sims said he hopes  “the county can serve as a ‘national lab,’ testing ideas for reducing planet-warming pollution -- such as carbon dioxide and methane gases -- and preparing for the effects of a warmer world. The gases are created primarily when oil, gas and coal are burned.”  The article lists the plans that will be developed as a result of the executive orders:

  • Using 50 percent renewable energy -- such as plant-derived biodiesel -- for vehicles by 2020 and by 2012 for non-transit uses.
  • Reclaiming all of the wastewater produced at the county's sewage treatment plants for reuse, potentially returning some of the water back to pools trapped underground that are used for drinking water.
  • Capturing all of the greenhouse gases produced by rotting garbage at King County's Cedar Hills Regional Landfill and turning that gas into energy.
  • Protecting 100,000 acres of undeveloped land in the county, which can reduce the amount of warming gases when plants consume carbon dioxide in photosynthesis, and promoting land-use policies that reduce sprawl and create communities where amenities are in walking distance.

The Climate Change Conference

In October of 2005 King County hosted a Climate Change Conference at Quest Field that was attended by close to 700 folks.  Attendees included scientists, writers and county personnel.  The conference focused on how the shifts in global climate might impact the Northwest and how we might plan for those changes. 

From the King County website, here’s what Sims said as he welcomed the participants to that Climate Change Conference:

We expect water levels in the Sound to rise significantly. That means greater flooding risk for our low-lying areas. We expect the snow caps and glaciers in our mountains to shrink and retreat. That means drought conditions in our summers, and potential shortages of drinkable water.

What about irrigation and drinking water needs on both sides of the Cascades? What happens to our forests, our fishing and agriculture industries and what is the resulting impact on the rest of the state's economy.

That is why we have to act – before it is too late. Today, we seek to open another front on the fight against global warming. Our prevention efforts have been in full swing for some time, but unfortunately that is not enough. Given the reality of climate change, we know there will be serious impacts on our way of life. Simply stated: some climate impacts are inevitable. But we also know that we can head off much of the potentially disastrous impacts by being prepared.

He shared what King County has been working on for decades in trying to take cars off the roads:

  •   Operating the largest bus system in the Pacific Northwest
  •   Leading on growth management
  •   Buying development rights to preserve greenspace and our rural areas

And in cleaning up its tailpipe emissions:

  • Purchasing more hybrid buses and cars than any other government of its size.—235 hybrid    buses and 140 hybrid cars
  • By incorporating biodiesel into our Metro bus and Solid Waste fleets—we are the largest user of biodiesel in the state
  • And by fighting for tough tailpipe standards in Olympia

Pushing cleaner, more efficient, and alternative sources of energy, including:

  • The largest landfill gas-to-energy project in our region.
  • One of the largest wastewater fuel cell projects in the world
  • Upgrades to our wastewater treatment systems to capture more energy and use it on-site
  • Establishing Green Building standard for our buildings
  • Implementing efficiency upgrades for our facilities, and
  • Exploring manure digesters on the Enumclaw Plateau

Preservation of Open Space

In that same talk, he shared what the county has done toward preserving green space for the same reasons.  “Preserving green space has been a priority of mine since I became Executive nine years ago. Back then, King County had only 25,000 acres of such land under permanent protection. Now that figure is more than 125,000 acres, and I have made a commitment to conserve in perpetuity 100,000 more acres by 2010.”

Areas set aside include Hancock Forest and Cougar Mountain and some parts of Black Diamond.  The county has also been proactive in developing walking trails and just recently opened the East Lake Sammamish Trail, an 11-mile stretch of trail that links the Sammamish River and the Burke-Gilman trails.  Completion of the East Lake Sammamish Trail provides users with 40 miles of continuous non-motorized trail, stretching from Ballard to Issaquah. King County has invested more than $20 million to acquire, develop and restore a system of 157 miles of trails -- a model for the nation. The long-term plan calls to bring that total up to more than 300 miles of trails linking communities throughout King County.

Innovative Healthcare for Workers

In our talk, Sims mentioned other areas where King County is tackling issues that no one else is touching.  He mentioned the innovative healthcare plan for employees that is garnering attention from around the country.

He created a Health Care Task Force in Dec. 2003 and tasked that group with developing innovative strategies to provide quality healthcare for county employees at a cost that the county could afford.  As is typical with Sims, he read up on the issue and provided guidelines as to what he expected to see.  From his kick-off talk, on the King County website, we get the details.  He said that the big drivers of healthcare costs are chronic conditions, which can be managed, and catastrophic events, which cannot.  He went on to say that 20-30% of healthcare spending does not improve quality of life or extend life.  Then he suggested a three-part strategy to reduce costs and improve quality of life for county employees:

  • Engage and enable employees to become informed health care consumers – provide employees with information and tools they need to invest their health care dollars wisely based on quality, cost, proven effectiveness and value.
  • Reinforce and reward provider and patient focus on wellness, disease management and active participation in health care decisions.
  • Establish consensus-based standards of health care cost and quality measurements designed to provide meaningful information about whether care is safe, timely, beneficial, patient-centered, equitable and efficient.

That initial effort has since been expanded to cover five counties in the Puget Sound area and is now called the Puget Sound Health Alliance.  The Alliance, chaired by Sims, is the only organization of its kind in the nation that is working to control costs through collective market forces and agreement to use evidence-based medicine as a way to control costs by improving the quality of care. More than 700,000 people are represented by the 80 businesses, health care providers, insurers and governments who are Alliance members.

In January of this year, Sims went on the road with the plan to share its successes with other organizations around the country.  He and Annette King of Starbucks made a presentation to the World Health Congress.  King County's innovative Health Reform Initiative is being presented by the Progressive Policy Institute as a national solution to the problem of high health care costs that are crippling the nation's economy. The institute is recommending the King County approach should be replicated regionally throughout the country and supported at the federal level through legislation.

Tackling Poverty by Creating Wealth

In a recent profile of Sims in the Washington Post by E.J. Dionne, Sims said that he “believes government's job is to help create wealth more efficiently."  The article says:

Sims notes that after World War II, the federal government helped unleash an era of exceptional growth through investments in schools, interstate highways and higher education. Both India and China are "making intelligent moves for economic growth" and the United States cannot stand by and watch. "You need people and brains to create an economy," he says. "You need transportation to move an economy. And you need an environmental policy to create clean air and clean water."

Sims's idea reminds Democrats that a commitment to active government is not simply about redistributing wealth. It is also rooted in the historically sound insight that effective government has always been essential to robust economic growth. Government, in the Sims formulation, should be a dynamic player in our nation's economic life.

When we talked, Sims talked about focusing on the poverty in White Center in southern, unincorporated King County, where 15% of families live in poverty vs. the King County average of 8%.

Bird Flu Preparation

The New York Times recently identified only two places in the country where bird flu pandemic preparation was coming along well: Seattle/King County and New York City.  Much of the good work done in this area is due to Sims’ ferocious awareness of the potential damage that this looming pandemic could cause and his support of key local specialists, like Jeff Duchan, chief of infection control for the Seattle-King County Public Health Department.

Recent research from Emory University and the Los Alamos National Laboratory indicates that eighty thousand people would be sick in the Seattle area within two months of an outbreak and 1-in-10 of them might need to be hospitalized.

In January, NPR had a program discussing what the Seattle/King County area has been doing in terms of preparation.  From a transcript of that show:

For some time now officials there have been making the rounds of health care facilities, businesses and schools, warning about the scope of a potential flu pandemic. They've also been talking about and what might be done to minimize illness, death and social disruption. Their master plan, just released, is based roughly on the deadly flu pandemic of 1918.

Sims assumes the region will be on its own, partly because every city and town in America would be dealing with its own flu problems.

So back to the preparation that Sims is famous for. In November, the Seattle & King County Public Health Department put up a local response plan on the Internet.  The plan, which will be updated regularly, involves health care providers, emergency service providers, businesses, schools and local governments.

Note: I will be putting up some additional information about both King County’s preparation for bird flu and recommendations for us as families.

In the Tradition of Good Government

Sims sees himself as part of a line of politician-activists who have been a big difference in the life of this area.  Sims lives with his family in the Mt. Baker area and appreciates that Lake Washington is in the wonderful condition it is today.
He talked about the battles that Jim Ellis, the chair of Forward Thrust, had in cleaning up pollution-choked Lake Washington, creating Metro Transit and putting a “lid” on top of Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle.  Sims says those are similar to battles he has waged to make sure that when people look back, they are pleased with what they see.
I suspect that Sims’ legacy will be seen as being equally critical to the long-range livability of the King County region. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 28, 2006 at 02:54 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Focus on the Long View

In a stop on his book tour, Markos talked about the need to take the "long view", the 10-15 year out view.  RenaRF reports back on a DKos diary after attending a book signing in DC yesterday and took good notes on what Markos and Jerome talked about. In her words:

One questioner made an interesting comment in the context of setting Democratic priorities.  She said (paraphrased):

"We always seem to be running around putting out fires that are set by Republicans."

I can't escape the fundamental and blanket truth of that statement.  It has been echoed in many, many diaries and front-page stories on Daily Kos.  We are reactive - not proactive.  We always seem back-on-our-heels.  The frustration that breeds is palpable.  The only answer to that flaw is to take a long view.  I find that inherently depressing even while recognizing that it's absolutely necessary and accurate.

Well said.  Note: Markos and Jerome are scheduled to be in the Seattle area next week.  There is likely to be an event on Friday, April 7th, in Seattle, although it hasn't been confirmed yet to my knowledge.  But there will definitely be an event at noon on Saturday, April 8th.  It is from 12:00-2:00 at Marymoor Park in Redmond. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 28, 2006 at 12:13 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Obscure but Critical Election Today

Got a moment to vote in the King County Conservation District election today?  If you've got the time and can make it to one of the four voting locations in the county, this is an election where a few dozen votes will make a huge difference in whether our region stands for strong environmental protections or an anything-goes approach to rural development. And it's a good opportunity to piss off Stefan, who is asking his readers to vote for the property rights guy. 

This public - but obviously largely unknown election - is to fill position No.3 on a 5-member Board of Supervisors.  Any registered King County voter is eligible to vote.  The four places to vote are in Renton, Enumclaw, Carnation and Seattle (City Hall).  Times: 11:30 - 7:00. Info on locations below.   

The environmentalist running is Kevin Raymond, a former Democratic Party member of the 46th district E-Board and also a former chief of staff to Gary Locke.  He has been endorsed by Ron Sims, Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine. 

His opponent has been endorsed by property rights advocates and of course Stefan.

Polling locations are open from 11:30 am to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday March 28, 2006

  • King Conservation District. 935 Powell Ave Ste D SW Renton, WA
  • King County Fairgrounds. 45224 - 284th Ave SE Enumclaw, WA
  • Snoqualmie Valley Senior Center. 4610 Stephens Ave Carnation, WA
  • City of Seattle City Hall. 601 - Fifth Ave Seattle, WA

King Conservation District board positions are unpaid. Board members are responsible for over-seeing District operations, staff, financial administration, and for guiding the direction of District programs and policies.  The King Conservation District total annual revenue is approximately $6.3 million dollars, of which with approximately $1.6 million of this is used to fund district operations and 13 full time staff. Regular board meetings are held once a month on the second Monday of every month from 6:00 p.m. to approximately 9:00 p.m.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 28, 2006 at 12:03 PM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2006

A Coming Issue: Local Control of Agricultural Resources

Noemie Maxwell at Washblog has an amazing article entitled "WA's Emerging Land Resource Industries and The Commons".  It is the opening salvo in what should be a statewide discussion about the benefits of retaining control over our agricultural and ag-energy resources.  In her usual fashion, Noemie has pulled together a tremendous amount of information and thinking and connected a lot of dots.

She and Brian at Washblog and Natasha at Pacific Views and I are all part of a Steering Committee for a series of forums that the Institute for Washington's Future will be bringing to the Seattle area in late summer and early fall.  In the meantime, we will be hoping to generate a large-scale discussion on the topics involved which include sustainable agriculture and the security that local produce can provide in times of national stress, retaining the profits from agricultural, and now ag-energy, in the Northwest instead of shipping them off to international agricultural corporations, and retaining a sense of control over our commons.

One of the fascinating aspects of this emerging movement is the possibility of shared interests with a group of folks we don't often think we have much in common with - the property rights folks.  Wouldn't it be interesting if we had an issue that brought together environmentalists and property rights activists?  Might be able to get at the common interests under what is otherwise likely to be a contentious issue this fall.  Here's what Noemie says:

The property rights movement that is so prominent in Washington - and that is seen by many as a key feature of this divisive political environment -  is largely driven by a response to the loss of ownership and autonomy resulting from our ever-consolidating global economic system.   This movement's focus on property and individual rights is relevant.  However, we need as a society to take this discussion deeper and broader.  We need  to frame it in the context of the commons: that universe of goods that sustains us and that cannot be sold or divided.  Wind and solar energy,  the regenerative capabilities of our natural environment, genetic diversity, and civic relationships are all part of the commons.    Within this larger context,  individual and property rights become positive rather than negative topics of discussion.

She concludes with this:

If there is any one issue that should underlie a progressive vision for Washington State, this would be it -- securing fair use of the resources that sustain all of us and attending to where the true welfare of people resides - in functional relationships with the physical world, within communities and in civic and political relationships. If there is one economic issue that should get our attention it is the question of how we will ensure that Washingtonians get a fair share of the benefits of Ag-Energy and our other land resources.

Go, read.  There will be a second part up later today or tomorrow.

UPDATE: Here's Part II.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 27, 2006 at 12:52 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on the Immigration Issue

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets today to tackle the issue of illegal immigration.  The massive rallies around the country over the last week may have changed the equation for them. Complicating the issue for Republicans: one of the prime sponsors is the Catholic Church.  Nina Bernstein at the NYT has an article up this morning that says:

One of the most powerful institutions behind the wave of public protests has been the Roman Catholic Church, lending organizational muscle to a spreading network of grass-roots coalitions. In recent weeks, the church has unleashed an army of priests and parishioners to push for the legalization of the nation's illegal immigrants, sending thousands of postcards to members of Congress and thousands of parishioners into the streets.

The proposed legislation, sponsored by Congressman James Sennenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and already passed by the House, would make it a felony to be in the U.S. without proper papers, and would make it a federal crime to aid illegal immigrants. That's a lot of people impacted given there are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living here now.  If this law were to pass, all of these folks would be considered felons as would anyone in their family or community who tried to assist them.

Demonstrators, backed by the Catholic Church (heh, glad to have them back in the fray supporting social justice issues), are demanding that illegal immigrants instead be given a path to citizenship. 

It is being pressed as never before by immigrants who were long thought too fearful of deportation to risk so public a display.

"It's unbelievable," said Partha Banerjee, director of the New Jersey Immigration Policy Network, who was in Washington yesterday to help plan more nationwide protests on April 10. "People are joining in so spontaneously, it's almost like the immigrants have risen. I would call it a civil rights movement reborn in this country."


"It's an entirely predictable example of the law of unintended consequences," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, who helped organize the Chicago rally and who said he was shocked by the size of the turnout. "The Republican party made a decision to use illegal immigration as the wedge issue of 2006, and the Mexican community was profoundly offended."

An enormous offended Hispanic community can't help the Republicans.

Paul Krugman, in an opinion piece behind the NYT wall, says this is a very real issue that we need to look at.  It is not an easy one on either side.  However, he also says that the Sensenbrenner bill is immoral.  And says this about Bush's competing proposal for guest workers:

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's plan for a "guest worker" program is clearly designed by and for corporate interests, who'd love to have a low-wage work force that couldn't vote. Not only is it deeply un-American; it does nothing to reduce the adverse effect of immigration on wages. And because guest workers would face the prospect of deportation after a few years, they would have no incentive to become integrated into our society.

Sometimes it's amazing how much is going on at once.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 27, 2006 at 09:25 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 26, 2006

Fighting Republicans on Immigration Pulls Protesters Out

Half a million protesters on the streets in L.A.  The Republicans have been saying this was going to be a big issue this year.  I don't think they understood just how big or in what way.  Digby has the photo and the analysis.  The bottom line:

In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have staged demonstrations in more than a dozen cities. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious communities have launched immigrant rights campaigns, with Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony taking a leading role in speaking out against the House bill and calling on his priests to defy its provisions that would make felons of anyone who aided undocumented immigrants. In addition, several cities, including Los Angeles, have passed resolutions against the House legislation and some, such as Maywood, have declared itself a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.

This issue is huge. It's splitting the GOP right up the middle. So what are Democrats going to do about it?

Digby then points us to Ruy Texeira over at Emerging Democratic Majority who talks about the huge population gains that Hispanics are making all over the country, particularly in "red states" and particularly in the South.  He then goes on to address the Hispanic vote in 2004: "[Hispanic] voters were disappointed and dislodged; they did not defect."

He references an article he had written previously about a Democracy Corps June 2005 poll:

In this survey just completed, Hispanics had swung back to the Democrats with a vengeance, giving them a 32-point margin in a generic race for Congress (61 to 29 percent). The Republican vote today is 10 points below what Bush achieved just six months earlier. These voters are deeply dissatisfied with the Bush economy and Iraq war; they are socially tolerant and internationalist; they align with a Democratic Party that respects Hispanics and diversity, that uses government to help families, reduce poverty and create opportunity, and that will bring major change in education and health care. This is even truer for the growing younger population under 30, including Gen Y voters, who support the Democrats by a remarkable 46 points (70 to 24 percent). All together, this paints a portrait of a group that respects Bill Clinton, indeed giving him higher marks than the Catholic Church, and that embraces his vision of the Democratic Party. . . .

[Hispanics'] views on values, family, the economy, the poor, working people and the middle class, community and government, and how best to expand opportunity and realize the American dream put these voters in the center of a Democratic world-if the Democrats would remember what it means to be a Democrat in these times.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 26, 2006 at 08:38 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

No More Right-Wing Blogosphere

Chris Bowers has a great post on the demise of the right-wing blogosphere over at mydd.  He says:

In short, there is almost nothing in the way of an independent right-wing blogosphere operating outside of existing, established news media outlets. The days of the rise of Free Republic have long passed. The right-wing is not building new institutions online anymore.

Earlier, Bowers and Matt Stoller had contrasted the two sides of the blogosphere and he discusses why half of that has gone away:

The single most important difference between the blogospheres is this: the progressive blogosphere is introducing new actors into the political scene. The right-wing blogosphere is facilitating further organization of what was already a fairly coherent political world.
"The blogs," as they are known in many media outlets and circles and DC, are now almost exclusively the realm of progressives. The entire term "the blogs" implies a new institution operating independently of established centers of news distribution and political power. That no longer exists on the right. The right-wing blogosphere, as it is now constituted, is simply an extension of a larger message machine that developed long before the blogosphere ever existed. The right-wing blogosphere no longer holds any promise to produce new leaders within the conservative movement, or to alter the balance of power within the conservative movement in any way, shape or form.

As it stands now:

They are working with other emerging progressive institutions: MoveOn, Air America, Media Matters, etc. While conservative bloggers are looking to be absorbed within established institutions, progressive bloggers continue to build new ones.

The right-wing blogosphere is dead. Long live the progressive blogosphere.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 23, 2006 at 01:09 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 21, 2006

Analysis of a Blog Victory

Darryl over at Hominid Views got racist columnist Adele Ferguson fired from the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.  In case you've missed it, Darryl with help from other bloggers, in particular the satirical Patriotboy at Jesus' General, publized a hateful column that Ferguson wrote a couple of weeks ago.  After receiving 1500 emails and many phone calls from all over the country, the editor decided not to renew the columnist's contract when it comes up, which is soon.

Darryl discusses what he did and the impact it had and reaches the conclusion that even the smaller blogs have a critical role to play in influencing public opinion and effecting change.  It's a great read.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 21, 2006 at 08:31 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Piling on What Goldy Said

David, aka Goldy, says "Progressives need to get real".  Right on.  I tried to write a response about 55 comments down and either my response was too long or my browser is interferring but anyway, it didn't work.  So I'll take some of his great post and then add to it.

David said:

Many of us inhabitants of the liberal blogosphere like to say that we are part of the “reality-based community,” the implication being that our counterparts on the right are not. And yet, the right’s growing dominance over the past couple decades suggests that at least when it comes to electoral politics it is they who are more grounded in reality than us.

Conservatives now hold the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and a majority of governorships and state houses. And while 2006 is shaping up to be a year of political sea change, it has more to do with Republican arrogance, incompetence and corruption than with well planned and executed Democratic strategy.

David talks about the "chatter from WA's angry left" and how our in-fighting about being ideologically pure, especially in relationship to Cantwell, is draining our spirits and damaging our effectiveness. 

I remember hearing people in the 90's say that there was no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.  Nonsense.  That's how we got the last wave election in 1994 when the Republicans swept into Congress and swept out a bunch of Democrats and then started the K-Street Project.  The K-Street Project is what brought us to where we are today; it's that unholy triangle where Republicans require the lobbying companies to hire primarily right-wing young Republican types or retread "vetted" Congressional staffers.  These folks then get paid large amounts of money to write laws that benefit corporations and wealthy individuals and get Congress to pass those laws.  In gratitude, the corporations and wealthy individuals put massive amounts of money into the coffers of the Republicans who behave. 

It's a simple strategy, highly effective and, btw, it's destroying our democracy.

I said then and it's only more true now: the real differences between Republicans and Democrats are down a layer or so, under the radar.  For example, Republican Administrations don't fund international organizations that provide any money for family planning that includes contraceptives.  Democrats do.  Pulling that money away from the Planned Parenthood-type organizations wrecks havoc on population planning in poor countries.  The Republicans have gotten so brazen that we're starting to see more of what they do down a layer or two - or don't do, as Katrina showed.

We have the opportunity to ride a wave this fall.  Let's do it.  Let's figure out how to effectively get Democrats elected at every level.  Let's get behind Cantwell for the Senate and behind Burner and Wright and Goldmark for the House and behind every Democrat who is running for office at every level. 

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing Gloria Steinem speak at Townhall.  The thing she said that most caught my attention was this:

Only 30% of the country is ultra right-wing – but, here is the thing – they turn out 90% of their membership.  Meanwhile the remaining 70% only turns out at about 50%.

We have to turn out our voters.  We don't do that when we aren't happy with our own candidates.  We don't do that unless we can be effective in building our Party, supporting our current candidates and then pulling in new progressive candidates to run at every level, except when it damages our existing electeds.  Then we have a dialogue about our variations and work together to figure out the range of things we will have to figure out once we get ourselves together and vote in Democrats in a landslide.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 20, 2006 at 09:50 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Patty Urges Us to Support Darcy

Senator Patty Murray has sent out an urgent letter to her supporters asking them to support Darcy Burner and send money for her election in the 8th Congressional District.  She puts it in the context of TAKING BACK CONTROL OF CONGRESS.  (Her caps.)

It is time that we had a representative in the 8th Congressional District who will fight for the issues and the values we care about.  I am confident that Darcy Burner is such a person. In 2004 we came within a few percentage points of winning the 8th District.  We learned some very important lessons from that election – we must start earlier, spend more time in the parts of the district we lost, and WORK HARDER THAN WE EVER HAVE.

Darcy Burner is a thoughtful, hard working candidate who will represent the people living and working in East King County. Growing up in a military family and rising as a leader at Microsoft, Darcy understands the issues facing the people of the district – from the high tech centers in the north to the working families in the south.

DARCY LEFT HER JOB AT MICROSOFT TO HELP CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF THIS COUNTRY.  I commend her for her willingness to make that sacrifice to fight for the people of the 8th Congressional District and Washington State.  Now she needs your commitment to support her.  A contribution of $50 - $100 - $200 - $500 or whatever you and your family can afford, will help us change the direction of this country and put it back on the right track– but we cannot do it without your generous help! 

Please visit her campaign website and make a donation TODAY!   Donors can contribute up to $2,100 per election.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 20, 2006 at 09:28 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cantwell and Obama: A Round-Up

There has been a lot of great coverage of the Cantwell/Obama rally at Garfield High on Saturday that was attended by about 2000 people.  Here's a round-up of what people have reported:

Andrew at the NPI blog had a straight-forward and thorough report of the proceedings.

Cara Solomon at the Seattle Times has a piece that focuses primarily on Obama, no surprise given his star power, and the strong appreciation for Obama's advice to parents, one of his most memorable lines:

"That money's not going to make a dime's worth of difference if, when your child comes home from school, you don't turn off that television," he said, to applause.

Solomon also points out Cantwell's commitment to education and her own story as the first in her family to go to college.

Will at Pike Place Politics has a sweet piece.  He really likes Cantwell and liked the event.  Here's a key paragraph from his piece:

The Rev. Sam McKinney, a legendary Seattle preacher, made clear that Maria Cantwell is, and has been, good to the Central District. McKinney is from the old days. He remembers the race battles of the sixties and seventies. He stood with Gov. Dan Evans against racial violence.

Rev. McKinney pointedly smacked down the earlier PI article by Robert Jamieson on the irony of Cantwell's being in the Central District at all.  Jamieson has a good point about the opportunity costs of the use of the public tax dollars for the war in Iraq, which is still supported by Cantwell.  Those dollars would be much better used on education.  Nevertheless, he got it wrong about Cantwell not caring about the Central District and McKinney made sure everyone knew that.

In addition to more details on McKinney's support of Cantwell, Goldy had a great observation regarding Joel Connelly's off-line assessment of the event.  Goldy says Joel thought the event had the energy of the last days of a New Hampshire campaign. That says a lot about Cantwell being able to maintain a sizable lead over What's-his-name in this race.  He had a couple other nice pieces to add:

Garfield High was not only the perfect place for the Senators to talk about education… as the symbolic center of Seattle’s black community it was also the perfect place to showcase Cantwell’s support from our nation’s highest profile black elected official, as well as local community leaders themselves.

All in all, it was a great program. From the teen rapper who warmed up the crowd, to the presenters introducing educational programs that have had an impact on the community, to the featured speakers themselves… it was an entertaining and informative afternoon.

There's more.

Carl at Washington State Political Report added a piece about the earlier part of the program, the part that was a community gathering and celebration of the people and education programs that have been developed in the Seattle area, and particularly the Central District to help youngsters, who might not otherwise have a chance, make it through school and get to college. 

The people from the various programs were actually pretty interesting. I think we've all sat through introductory remarks that have made us want to chop our ears off just so we could enjoy sweet, sweet silence. Not so this one.

Joel Connelly had an interview he conducted with Senator Obama up this morning. Of Obama on Saturday, Connelly said, "He connected to the crowd at Garfield on Saturday, with a talk that ranged from personal roots to parental responsibility to America's 20th century march to civil rights."  Connelly talked about the impressive figure that Obama cuts on the national political scene and his commitment to winning back Congress for the Democrats.  Some highlights:

Obama argues that the Democrats CAN get it together on a program that will make life better for ordinary Americans.

He predicts the party will offer a program that includes a drive toward energy independence, greater control over costs and access to health care, and expanded educational opportunities.

"The Democrats made a mistake (in 2004) in shying away from a debate over values," Obama argued. "The American people do have a lot of values that are religion based. They extend far beyond abortion or gay marriage.

"We have a history of empathy toward people going through hard times. We have a history of working cooperatively for the common good. We, as a people, want wise stewardship of the planet.

On the oversight a Democratic Congress would bring to the country:

What should be investigated? Wiretapping without warrants, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and insufficient attention to security at U.S. ports, Obama suggested for starters.

"We will see change when the White House recognizes that Congress is not a rubber stamp, but an independent entity," said Obama, "when checks and balances are restored."

On the war:

A place to start the needed turnaround is a war in Iraq that has become a quagmire.

"We've reached a point where there are no military solutions to the problems of Iraq. They're all political," Obama said in an interview.

Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders of the fractured country need to get together and "decide if they're for a united Iraq," Obama added. "If they're not, we can't hold that country together. We need to move forward toward the beginning of a phased withdrawal."

If Iraqi leaders want to hold a united country, in Obama's opinion, they will have to shoulder the burden "with technical assistance and some military help" coming from the United States.

Obama predicted that the administration, for all its saber rattling on Sunday talk shows, will start pulling some of America's 140,000 troops out of Iraq by the beginning of 2007.

Which brings me to the last piece I found on Saturday's Cantwell/Obama rally at Garfield. Eli Sanders at the Slog came away with the feeling that Cantwell could land in serious trouble with her Seattle constituency if she doesn’t find a way to address the war.  Good point.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 20, 2006 at 09:16 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Are The Crazy Ones?

The Bush Administration is waging war on scientific facts particularly the science related to climate change. Darksyde has an excellent post over at DailyKos chronicling some of it. The key paragraph:

This is consistent with what scientists at many government organizations have been saying quietly for years now: The White House is second guessing and/or censoring every facet of public science policy based on what is 1) the most convenient for the corporate funding base, or 2) pleasing to the radical, religious right.


Posted by Lynn Allen on March 20, 2006 at 08:58 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2006

Citizenry Trusts Democrats More on National Security

NPR's first 2006 national survey finds that Republicans no longer inspire trust on issues ranging from the Iraq war to ownership of ports and homeland security.  The Democrats have an opportunity to move to be seen as the party that keeps America safe.

From the summary of the results released last week on the NPR website:   

These results are a reflection of Bush’s collapse and the growing determination of Americans to vote for change. There has been a tectonic shift in the electorate with two thirds of the country now wanting to move in a new direction. Bush’s approval stands at 39 percent. 58 percent disapprove of his performance, and 45 percent of America disapproves strongly. Democrats have an historic 15 point advantage (52 to 37 percent) in the generic congressional vote, the result of an emerging trend over the last 7 months and serious conclusions drawn about President Bush, the war in Iraq, and the economy.

These results are brought about by independents including mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Baby-Boom college voters moving away from the Republicans and by a crash in key parts of the Republican base. The parties are now running even in the white rural counties and in the counties carried by Bush in 2004. Older blue collar voters - most impacted by the changing economy, and least interested in foreign spending and foreign ownership of American ports - have pulled away from the Republicans.

Although the turnaround on trust received the most play, the issues that most concerned Americans, globalization and outsourcing, gave Democrats an even greater advantage in voters' minds: Democrats are trusted by the public by 23 points over the Republicans (57 to 34 percent).

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 19, 2006 at 09:48 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Visiting Portland? Check Out this Play

Questions of war and how we make societal choices about going to war are at the heart of a smart new play currently running in Portland at the Sojourn Theatre. The play is called "The War Project: 9 Acts of Determination".  The play is fragmented, dreamy and non-political.  It comes together as we identify with and care for the characters the actors bring to life and explore the hard questions with them.

I have mulled over the question of how we as a society are going to deal with our part in this dreadful war.  It seems that our national angst about the Vietnam War was never dealt with and had to get played out again with what, I suspect, will be far worse consequences for us, the world, and certainly the Iraqi people.  So somehow we must deal with this sense of entitlement that brings us to interfer in the national lives of others for access to resources under the pretenses of "bringing democracy" or "preventing the communist dominos from falling". 

South Africa had a long running "Truth and Reconciliation" commission where people all over the country had the opportunity to talk about crimes they had committed during the era of apartheid and ask for forgiveness, or not.  It seems clear that our national DNA doesn't allow for a similar therapy.  With luck, art will help us have that discussion and work out our feelings and possibly our differences.  This play is a wonderful beginning.

Check out the play and how to order tickets if you get the opportunity to see this play.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 19, 2006 at 09:22 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2006

City playing hardball with Sonics?

It looks like common sense may be starting to beat its way into the collective skulls of Seattle Mayor Greg NIckels and Councilmember David Della, reports the Seattle P-I:

"[Mayor Nickels has] been pretty clear all along that what he's primarily concerned about is the future of KeyArena and its impact on Seattle Center," [Nickels spokesperson] McOmber said. "And he's always said that he'd prefer the Sonics stay in Seattle ... but he doesn't feel that it's his concern whether or not the Sonics make money."

I, too, would prefer the Sonics to stay in Seattle.  But not if we have to spend $200 million dollars to keep them here.  We have higher priorities.  It's nice to imagine that the blinding obviousness of this fact is starting to impress itself on some our elected leaders.  It's a little disappointing that it's taken this long.


Posted by Jon Stahl on March 18, 2006 at 05:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Larger Picture: Global Well-Being

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Green Belt Network, an organization that pays women to plant trees in Africa to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life.  She was speaking as part of the Foolproof series at Benaroya Hall.  Dr. Maathai is articulate, persistent in the face of overwhelming resistance from her own Kenyan government, and generous of heart. 

It was her focus on the large picture that brought tears to my eyes.  She said, “You can’t have peace if you don’t take care of the environment.”  She talked about the importance of managing resources more equitably in order to preempt conflict.  When the environment is degraded, as it has been terribly in her country over a very short period of time, the competition for resources leads to conflict.  She said that she thinks of the three pillars that make for a good life for people: 1) managing resources well, 2) doing what is right for the people – making certain that everyone has the basics of clean water, sufficient food and proper healthcare, and 3) maintaining peace. 

I love that we have been making some gains in Washington State as a result of a well-organized environmental organization and a Democratic legislature and governor.  Read this latest missive from the coalition group, Priorities for a Healthy Washington to see what was accomplished this last session.   We made progress in moving toward cleaning up Puget Sound, developing a biofuel industry here in the state and requiring some use of biofuels instead of oil, recycling electronic waste, and continued to defend land use protections.

But I sometimes feel that as a nation we are forced to focus on the short-term in place of the longer-term, possisbly even the longer-term survival of the planet.  In the end, it’s this that I detest the Republicans for the most.

I often feel as if the political world has been churned with a large egg beater, it is so different from anything anytime prior to 2000.  I knew after the 1994 election, that we were in for some less civil and less caring times but with Clinton in the White House, we were largely protected.  Or so I thought at the time.

I remember reading somewhere about a conversation someone had with Robert Rubin, then Secretary of the Treasury, and arguably the most important person in the Clinton administration outside the President, on the evening of August 17th, 1998.  That was the night when the entire country was glued to the television set watching President Clinton acknowledge his marital indiscretion and the lies he’d concocted to cover his tracks.  Rubin turned to a companion and said something to the effect of, “The real issue of lasting impact that occurred today is the devaluation of the ruble by a Russian government in collapse”. 

The world survived the impact of Russia’s financial near-collapse (although it threw Russia into a time far worse than our Great Depression that they have not yet fully recovered from) but there was a lot else that fell away as Clinton’s presidency was sidelined by Republican concern about Clinton’s sex life.  Among other things, the Clinton administration was unable to put the attention on tracking Al Queda and Bin Laden that they might have been able to otherwise deal with.  They were also unable to prevent the development of the Republican corruption machine that we’ve seen flower in the Bush years and the implementation of environmental safeguards and proactive global resource management.

Five years after the election of George Bush, there is so much bad stuff happening it becomes mind-numbing and I get concerned that once again the Republicans are forcing us to focus on the wrong things. 

This time it’s not a distraction.  We really do have to figure out how to take control and address issues of massive voter fraud in several states, of corruption that boggles the imagination, of a mid-East that is on fire, of national debt that is larger than that of every other President combined, and of a political class that is unable to provide a counter-balance to this administration and a media that looks the other way. 

In the meantime we have little attention for something of importance to the possible survival of the planet: both ice-caps are melting (see photos here) and the ice in the arctic is not re-forming after the summer melt-offs.  We are facing the possibility of massive climate changes unlike anything we have seen in recorded history.  And it may not be gradual.  The changes of the last few years have been incredibly quick in geologic terms.

Joel Connelly wrote recently in the PI about the drought that is has settled into the Southwest and having horrendous consequences for the environment.  In the article he says, that “the World Meteorological Organization reported Tuesday that greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming, have reached their highest-ever levels in the atmosphere.”

Dr. Matthai said last night that Dr. Eileen Collins, leader of the last trip into space, reported seeing a layer of dust over Africa and brown, silt-filled rivers throughout the continent.

We have become so accustomed to being beat back by the Republican Noise Machine about important issues that we have learned to take refuge in the smaller, more possible fights.  I applaud that we are still doing something, us in this state, Dr. Maathai in Kenya and many others.  But I fear for our planet.  I fear for our ability to maintain any measure of peace in a time of resource depletion and competition for the very basics of survival.  I fear for our ability to focus on the measures that might beat back a global catastrophe of unimaginable proportions that we are causing by our complacence.

I guess that's one big reason I spend so much time working toward electing Democrats.  It's a start.

Nicole Brodeur of the Seattle Times has a nice article about Dr. Maathai's talk as well.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 18, 2006 at 09:52 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006

Cool Map

Check out this George W. Bush approval map.  It rocks

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 16, 2006 at 04:54 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrats Running in Every Washington Congressional Race

Great news! We just got word that Peter Goldmark will be running against Cathy McMorris in the 5th CD which encompasses a large swath of eastern Washington from the Okanogan in the north through Spokane and Pulllman to Walla Walla in the south.  Josh Feit broke the news at the Slog. That means we have good candidates running against Tom DeLay's pal, Dave Reichert, in the 8th, the ethically-challenged Doc Hastings in the 4th, and now Bush-follower Cathy McMorris in the 5th.

Peter Goldmark, a rancher from the Okanogan, considered running against McMorris late last fall and then decided against it.  If he's running now, it probably means that the Democrats are feeling pretty confident about the possibility of a "wave" year, one of those years when everything changes. As Jay Inslee says in an article I reference below on Darcy Burner, "Once a tide like that begins to run," he says, "it doesn't matter what kind of swimmer you are, you can be swept out." He should know.  He was swept out in 1994, the last "wave" political year, when it was the Republicans riding the wave. 

To learn more about Goldmark, I checked Wikipedia and found that in addition to being the owner of a 7,000-acre farm, Goldmark is the founder and chief scientist of a biotech company as well and has published papers on plant molecular genetics.  Pretty amazing guy. This race will be very interesting. 

Most of us know more about Darcy Burner and she has gotten a lot of well-deserved support from the bloggers.  Eli Sanders has a great interview with her over at the Stranger and Goldy has a nice riff on that interview up today.  Darcy's candidacy has also received a lot of buzz from the party folks who've met her or heard her talk.  She presents well; she's funny and willing to take risks; and she has a compelling life story.  Here's what Sanders said about her affect on the 1,200 Democrats who attended the annual crab feed in Olympia in February, including keynote speaker Howard Dean:

Most of the people at the crab feed weren't residents of the district Burner wants to represent, but they cheered whenever she was mentioned. Their enthusiasm for a race they likely won't be voting in felt familiar: During the 2004 presidential election, many Washington Democrats, propelled by this same type of enthusiasm, flew on their own dime from safely blue Washington to volunteer in contested swing states like Ohio and Iowa. Their "Will Travel for a Win" attitude sprung from a recognition that national elections, be they for control of Congress or the presidency, turn on outcomes in relatively few locales. This year, however, Democrats in the deep blue cities of Western Washington don't have to go all the way to Iowa or Ohio. To be a part of halting the Bush agenda, they simply have to drive 15 minutes across Lake Washington.

Richard Wright is far and away the least well known of the three Democrats running to take seats from the Republicans.  But he is running against one of the most despised Republicans in Congress, Doc Hastings, theoretical chair of the House Ethics Committee, the committee that won't even bother meeting let alone dealing with the massive Republican corruption going on in the House as well as every other body in DC. Jim over at McCranium has a photo of a great billboard that some ethics-related group has put up outside Pasco that speaks volumns about Doc Hastings.

Wright, who appears to be very mild mannered and graduated from Brigham Young University, packs a wallop. McCranium has several posts on Wright up on his blog.  Here's a couple of examples of what Wright has said:

Businessman Richard Wright launched the Yakima leg of his campaign for the 4th Congressional District on Tuesday by calling the Medicare drug program a “rip-off” and assailing the integrity of his likely opponent, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco.


“This is going to be a campaign based on contrast,” Wright said at a sparsely attended news conference at the Red Lion Hotel Yakima Center. “We have a congressman who is a national joke that the people of the Fourth District do not deserve.”

Jim quotes the Yakima Herald quoting Dwight Pelz on Wright:

“He’s definitely a moderate Democrat with a message that appeals to Eastern Washington. He went to Brigham Young, he’s a family man, a businessman and president of a company with 60 employees in three states,” Pelz said, referring to Wright’s business, Columbia Physical Therapy.”

And from Jim again:

What does Richard Wright have going for him? Integrity, honesty and a true desire to serve a constituancy that is desperately in need of new leadership in congress. It might not be the front row seat to a steel cage match that we will see between Darcy Burner and Dave Reichart in the 8th CD, but it is a contest that has serious consequence for the nation, and the people of the Washington’s 4th Congressional District.

Although for many of us, the primary focus will remain on helping Darcy win, it's great to know that we will have three Congressional races that might all be viable in this year.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 16, 2006 at 04:36 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Best Practices #2: Snohomish County Democrats

Democrats in Snohomish County get really excited about what they are doing as a Party.  The desire to share their successes and the enthusiasm that arises from those successes is much of what propelled the State Chair candidacy of Mark Hintz, Chair of the Snohomish County Democrats.  In covering the State Chair race, I encountered this unusual excitement about the way the party works there and made a note to find out what they are doing right that the rest of us could learn from. 

I recently talked with Mark and then checked in with a few other folks who have been part of the renewal of the party in Snohomish County, including Dave Somers, newly reelected to the Snohomish County Council.  If I had to sum up what I learned, I’d say they run like a team-oriented business, the model that in my many years of organizational development work, I found generates the most participation and fosters the most bottom up innovation and successful results. 

The different people and teams who focus on the various aspects of building the party in Snohomish County hum along with encouragement from Mark and each other.  Each person I talked with used the word “empowered”.  They are systematic in how they raise money and intend to use that money strategically.  They are building a great website that they believe will encourage community and provide each of their different committee chairs with a place to do their own organizing.  They involve the elected officials and expect them to participate fully in the life of the county party.  They take principled stands and have a Democratic message that resonates both with their members and with the community they are serving.

Mark did not get traction as a candidate for State Chair in January, partly because of his insistence that this development of the party was a team effort and partly because it just seems so normal to him, the way all organizations should work. 

If only.  There are few other Democratic organizations anywhere that do work that smoothly, that generate that much excitement, that are inclusive and welcoming, that are innovative and focused on being effective and, perhaps most importantly, that make people enjoy the nuts and bolts of building the party. 

Actually, as someone who worked as an organizational development consultant and trainer, I think there are few organizations anywhere that generate that buzz of excitement.  It’s just that generally the Democratic organizations are so much worse than most that those of us who’ve worked in the average organization wind up wanting to tear our hair out in frustration when we try to work with the Democratic Party, no matter how much we want to elect Democrats to office and see progressive policies governing this country.

So it’s worth understanding what it is that makes this organization work so well.

Leadership and Empowering People

Bill Phillips, former Chair of the 21st LD and candidate for State Chair in 2005, is a big fan of Mark Hintz’s.  He says that Hintz is raising more money in Snohomish County than anyone thought possible.  He is very clear about what he wants and works with people to help them learn to do the grassroots work.  He gets people to work together and commands trust and respect.

Mark says that the most important thing is to have an open, transparent process rather than operating with just a few people in what we used to call a smoke-filled back room.  He wants to include as many people and groups as possible to accomplish common goals. 

He says he tries to empower the people who want to make the change and lists the many people on the party Executive Board and what they are doing.  He talks with them to find out what’s important to them and then tries to guide where he can.  He does pretty much what he does in the mortgage banking business he runs.  “I try to be a teacher,” he says.  “I taught high school for five years. Talking, educating people is just how I go about doing these things.” 

One of his great challenges has been incorporating the Dean folks who came in during the 2004 campaign, just as it is across the state and across the country.  He says they came in with a great deal of energy but were pretty convinced that all the old establishment party people didn’t know how to run a race or a party.  Mark has put a great deal of time and thought into pulling these folks in and making use of that energy.  He says some of these people dropped by the wayside because it didn’t change in the way they wanted.  Those who stayed are very solid and have been incorporated into the team. 

Mark says he looks for people to be involved, people from all over the county and all different groups of people.  It takes all these different people to make this work.  He sees his job as coordinating, not doing the hard work.  Of course, if doesn’t hurt that he shows up for meetings all over the county and that he obviously cares about what people are doing.   

Money-Raising Process

Mark says that he felt that one of the things that would be important would be to have funds to contribute to the candidates.  In the past the state party has done that but not the LD’s or the counties.  Candidates ask for endorsements from the party.  Mark decided it was important to be able to contribute financially to candidates as well.  He knew that Dave Somers’ had been using a professional fundraiser in his campaign for Snohomish County Council last fall and thought that Snohomish County could use similar help as well. 

Paying a pro to help raise money is not part of Democratic Party DNA and it took a while to bring his Board around.  Now the county has a systematic plan to raise money this year.  Mark makes regular direct solicitations.  The Board and county elected Democrats are also part of the plan, as are folks in the party down to the PCO level and online donations. There are tools for tracking that will be online.  As a result the county has more and more money coming in on a consistent, on-going basis. 

Mark has not been hesitant to break the mold in other ways to raise money and the county party’s profile.  Under his influence, the Snohomish County added a gala as a fundraiser, in addition to the more traditional summer picnic.  He also paid to upgrade the booth used at the Evergreen State Fair.  The county had had an old wooden monstrosity of a booth that took 6-7 people to put together.  Mark’s experience in business told him that there were more modern, lighter booths that would be easier to use, more flexible and more impressive.


Michelle Pin, corresponding secretary for the county party and one of the people who came in as part of the Dean campaign, is passionate about communications.  She has been instrumental in developing the county party website.  She likes that the website makes the party “flatter” and more accessible to newcomers and provides a space for the committee chairs to have their own sections and address party people directly.   

She appreciates the way Mark enables her and others to make things happen without being domineering.  Michelle joined the party 2 years ago and wound up being the volunteer coordinator.  She found a party woefully unprepared for the 2004 campaign.  In the January 2005 party reorganization, Mark asked her to run as corresponding secretary on his ticket as he ran for party chair. 


Michelle is much happier with the county party these days.  She says Mark focuses on the finances and the campaigns.  She says her hero, Rebecca Wolfe, from the 32nd LD, is county platform chair and has chosen to focus on supporting three key issues:

  • Vote by mail
  • The gas tax
  • The Growth Management Act

The party has been successful on the first two issues and is still working on the third.

Mark’s Philosophy

Mark says that he regularly asks himself the same five questions that former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill used to say that there were 5 things that he asked about the laws he was asked to consider.  Does it 1) provide for a living wage?  2) provide a roof over people’s heads? 3) enable people to eat properly (such as breakfast programs for school children)? 4) allow people to have appropriate medical care? or 5) provide for the education of our children and/or help people to attend college?

Mark says those are the things that he sees as being core beliefs for us as Democrats.  It’s hard to argue with his values and harder still to argue with his successes. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 16, 2006 at 01:22 PM in Best Practices | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2006

Eating Locally

If I wasn't already booked, this is what I'd be doing on Thursday, March 30th.

BALLE Seattle and Sustainable Ballard Present:

Eat Local Now! A Ballard Foodfest
Thursday, March 30th, 6 pm at Ballard’s Oddfellows Hall

Enjoy a night of artful cuisine and intelligent discussion about Local Food. Top Seattle chefs prepare fabulous food using the best of our local farm harvests. Join us as we meet local family farmers and CSAs, talk with local chefs about fresh ingredients and hear about local programs helping the community find and enjoy our local bounty.

For details, please visit http://www.sustainableballard.org/eatlocalnow.html
For tickets, go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3317

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 15, 2006 at 10:02 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Transportation Highlights from the Legislative Session

The crew at Transportation Choices Coalition offer their wrap-up of a very successful legislative session.   The highlights: 

  • A big win on commute trip reduction
  • Another big win on biofuels
  • More good news on regional transit solutions for Puget Sound

Details below the fold.

        We couldn't have asked for a bigger win on this issue. We got everything - that's right - everything we wanted! This very successful program, which removes about 20,000 cars from our roads each day using employee and employer incentives, received some innovative changes to improve even  further its efficiency and effectiveness with our lobbyist Genesee Adkins leading the charge. Now we can focus CTR resources in the areas that need them most. Final bonus: we got nearly all of the funding  we wanted for these improvements - $3.9 million for new vanpool vans and $750,000 for local government assistance! We would like to thank…everyone!  All 147 senators and representatives voted yes on this important bill!
        BIOFUELS - WIN!
        A broad coalition of agricultural, environmental, and labor voices came together in support of a Renewable Fuel Standard and it passed with bi-partisan support. The State of Washington will now sell 2% of our diesel as biodiesel and 2% of our gas as ethanol. This also creates jobs for  Eastern Washington farmers and reduces air pollution. Thank you to Governor  Gregoire - who showed strong leadership on this issue, and to all the legislators who supported this bill. In particular, Representative Jenea         Holmquist, prime sponsor in the House; Senator Marilyn Rasmussen, prime  sponsor in the Senate; and Senator Eric Poulsen, chair of the Senate Water, Energy and Environment Committee.
        This was the biggest, most complicated bill we wrestled with all session! After all the dust settled, we got some great pieces out of a regional transportation reform bill.
        1. What's the biggest need we're going to have when all our roads and bridges are getting repaired? MORE TRANSIT! And that's exactly what we're going to get! The previously road-heavy Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) will now have to fund transit and the region will have the opportunity to continue that service after our 10 years of construction are complete.
        2. We'll also see a regional governance commission developed this summer         and fall to evaluate the coordination of our transportation agencies  and provide recommendations for the 2007 session (yep - we're already thinking about it).
        3. We've also secured a reduction in the amount of sales tax the region can collect for big road projects. Sales tax shouldn't be paying for new highways!
        There is one issue we didn't win on in ESHB 2871, namely the timing and         manner of a vote for Sound Transit. We are on record as OPPOSING the         conditional ballot measure, which means that while both ST2 & RTID are on the ballot separately, both must pass in order for either to pass; however, that was indeed the outcome. We are also disappointed that Sound Transit will not be able to bring voters their ST2 package in 2006, but we will continue to work closely with ST on a package that voters can support in 2007. We may have lost on this issue in the short term, but in the long term we'll have MORE transit service coming through both ST2 AND the RTID.

Our biggest thank-you of all, for his relentless dedication to transportation reform, goes to Representative Ed Murray. We applaud his leadership and tremendous support of transit. We also thank Senators Mary Margaret Haugen, Brian Weinstein, and Eric Poulsen, as well as Representatives Dave Upthegrove, Fred Jarrett, Mary Lou Dickerson, and Geoff Simpson for all their great work. Finally, we thank Governor Gregoire for having the courage to break the political gridlock that has plagued transportation issues for many years and setting us on a path towards regional transportation solutions. For more details on the specifics of ESHB 2871, please email rachel@transportationchoices.org.

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 15, 2006 at 07:11 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2006

13 Words that Sum Up Bush Administration

"No leadership, no strategy, no coordination, no structure and inaccessible to ordinary Iraqis".  That assessment by British envoy John Sawyers of the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq in May 2003 was one of a series of documents leaked recently to The Guardian. 

SusanG over at DailyKos has the details of the report but really those 13 words sum it up. Then she goes on:

The most striking thing about this list is ... how generic the areas of failures are for the Bush administration. This is modus operandi for this bunch. Switch out the proper names of the people and entities involved, and you've got yourself Katrina. Tweak it a bit for the bureaucratic stage and you've got Medicare D. And these are the people who want us to trust them to reform Social Security. Ha! Not on your life. Or rather, not on mine.

The one thread that runs through everything this administration and its favored minions undertake is ... they simply don't give a shit. They can't be bothered. They don't care enough to plan, to organize, to anticipate anything, not an insurgency, not a forewarned hurricane, not the effects of a crippling budget deficit. More and more, I'm coming to believe people - real Iraqis, real New Orleans residents, real senior citizens - just don't register on the Bush radar at all; it's not that these officials despise them. It's as if they - we - do not exist. We're in their blind spot in the rearview mirror and they're doing 95 on the I-5, headed straight to Vegas, come hell or high water. We're just ballast - and payment - for the ride.

On the other hand we have Democrats who focus on the interests of the people.  The quote at the top of the post could easily be made into a set of ads that run against the Republicans.  Contrast it with Democratic leaders who, at least at the state and local level, focus on the interests of the people.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 14, 2006 at 12:59 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean Getting Credit from the States

Howard Dean is winning over the folks at the state level with his strategy of strengthening the party in every state.  The Boston Globe's Rick Klein has an article that says that while the East Coast insiders are still grumbling at Dean's focus, former skeptics from the state partie have been won over by Dean's willingness to spend millions of dollars rebuilding Democratic organizations across the county. 

It's a high-risk strategy: Democrats have historically done this kind of grass-roots organizing only in the voter-rich big cities, and right before Election Day. Building the party in rural areas involves spending precious resources long before voters go to the polls.

But as Dean's mini-army of more than 150 DNC-paid operatives have fanned out across the country, many rural and conservative-leaning Democrats are nodding with approval.

''I've never really been a Dean guy," said John Wertheim, chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party. ''But I've really bought into his program. Is it risky? Sure. But I think it's a darn good investment."

In Albuquerque, four energetic young staff members -- trained by and drawing paychecks from the DNC -- have divvied up the map of New Mexico, a state that was more closely divided than Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004.

From a cluttered warren of offices tucked into a strip mall, the DNC's new employees are building voter lists, organizing county-level Democratic caucuses, and installing precinct chairmen in rural portions of the state that have voted overwhelmingly Republican in national campaigns.

Go Dean go! 

Dean's strategy has its risks and that is what has provoted grumbling from some Democratic leaders.  The DNC raised 20% more in 2005 than it had in 2003, $61 million, but has just $6.9 million in the coffers while the RNC has $38.9 million.

Dean's goal is to catch up with the Republicans and the astounding grass-roots organizing that Karl Rove was able to bring out 1.2 million volunteers for Bush in 2004, which contributed to Bush's win. 

''We weren't everywhere, and we weren't in the rural areas," Dean said in an interview. ''You can't win the presidency unless you pay attention to the school board and the city council and the mayor's race."

So how about supporting him?  The DNC has a nice "democracy bonds" program that is like supporting public radio or TV - just some small amount a month, $20 or so, and it makes a big difference in the aggregate, allowing Dean to do what we've needed for quite a while. 

More from the Globe article on the flip.

Dean promised just such a program last year, helping him win the votes of state party officials who otherwise had their doubts. Now, the money that's flowing to the states has erased those doubts, virtually ensuring that he'll stay in his job no matter how much some in Washington tire of him.

''When we first met Howard Dean, we thought he'd be a nut," said Nick Casey, West Virginia's party chairman. ''But that's not the guy who's been delivering the goods, and he has been delivering to us."

Party chairmen across the nation tell similar stories. In Ohio, the five people being paid by the DNC have helped set up ''Victory Squads" -- teams of about 10 Democrats who are eager to knock on doors or set up lawn signs -- in 65 rural counties where Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry fared poorly in 2004.

Mississippi's Democratic Party has established an infrastructure in 10 counties where the organization had atrophied. The DNC has sent resources to hire five full-time workers -- up from just a single part-timer previously -- helping Democrats secure victories in five special legislative elections over the past year, party chairman Wayne Dowdy said.

State parties are generally used to this kind of attention from the DNC only in the six months or so before a presidential election, and then only if they're among the small group of states that are considered in play.

In 2004, as in other recent presidential years, the DNC under then-chairman Terry McAuliffe saved most of its cash to help the nominee with television ads and paid operatives.

But by the time teams from the national Democratic party showed up in swing states like New Mexico and Ohio in the summer, they found state parties that were too cash-strapped to have reliable voter lists. And many of the new arrivals had no clue about the states they were sent to.

In New Mexico, the Kerry campaign sent thousands of volunteers into urban areas. Kerry won big in the cities, as expected. But Democrats watched in vain as thousands of Bush volunteers streamed over the Texas border into eastern New Mexico. Bush won the state by nearly 6,000 votes. The pattern was repeated in other closely divided states, such as Ohio and Nevada.

Dean's efforts are aimed at making sure that doesn't happen again. Though he insists that the party will be able to raise plenty of money for the presidential race as 2008 draws closer, Dean said building the infrastructure is the party's top objective.

Support this strategy!

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 14, 2006 at 12:54 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gloria Steinem: The Playful Revolutionary

I had the pleasure of listening to Gloria Steinem talk last Wednesday evening.  I’d heard her before, but I hadn’t remembered her being so funny.  We laughed and talked together, or so it seemed, she and each of us.  There was such a quality of intimacy, of connection and lightness that came along with the details of the news and her thinking about what was going on. 

The playfulness and sense of connection made it so much easier to hear the truth of the awfulness that is going on. If our Democratic leaders were similarly light and funny and matter-of-fact about what is going on in the world as a result of the right-wing Republican hold on our government, we'd have no trouble getting the country to listen to us.

Our sense of urgency was heightened by the news from just a few days earlier of the signing of the dreadful South Dakota anti-abortion bill signed into law by governor Mike Rounds. 

So there was a lot of reason to enjoy being together.  Gloria said, early on, that we need to remind ourselves that “our hopes and dreams are indeed majority hopes and dreams.”  In these times, it is so helpful to have places where we don’t feel alone and crazy.   She urged us to make sure that we had groups to belong to where we could talk about what matters. 

Then she headed into the news of the day; she said that the danger of the South Dakota legislature is even worse than the media is reporting.  She said that the law, if upheld, would threaten doctors with five years imprisonment for performing an abortion and also provide no money for birth control.  She reiterated that in South Dakota, as in the rest of the country, about 73% of the people, including a high percentage of Republicans, are pro-choice and 85% of all Americans want their kids to have access to accurate birth control information.

We are the only modern democracy trying to impose controls on women’s bodies, she said.  Indeed, the Bush Administration so opposes birth control everywhere that it has put 1/3 of its AIDS education monies overseas into abstinence-only AIDS education courses.  Just recently that figure went up to 2/3 of all such funds everywhere – Uganda, South Africa, everywhere.

So what is happening here?  Only 30% of the country is ultra right-wing – but, here is the thing – they turn out 90% of their membership.  Meanwhile the remaining 70% only turns out at about 50%.

Seventy percent of the people in India vote.  The government makes it easy; voting lasts a week.  We in the U.S. make it harder to vote than any other democracy.  Gloria said that Tom DeLay had just said the previous week, the week of his primary race, “We need a lower turnout.”  This is voter suppression.

She said we can change these numbers.  Between sixty and eighty percent of the folks who voted for Bush thought his policies were the opposite of what they actually were.  They need to hear the truth.

Gloria went on to ask and then answer the question, “How did we get into this jam?”  She said that back in time, between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago, women’s freedom was taken away as a means of controlling reproduction.  Our drive to take back that power and have control over our own lives is what is at stake here.  She talked about how much the women’s movement and gay marriage issues have risen and fallen together.  Both have to do with having control over our reproductive lives.  Women are trying to take their lives back and gays are trying to separate sex from producing children.  It is important that we remember that these movements are the same.

Gloria says that trying to deny people sex or punish them for having sex is taking away part of their humanity.  Sexuality is a mark of our humanity and is equally important whether or not it ends with procreation. 

Racism is connected as well.  The most punished race-related “crime” was that of a man of color having children with a white woman.  It is called miscegenation. 

She said that this is no way to be a feminist without being an anti-racist and without being for gay rights.  Hopefully we will see that we need to support each other.

We’ve had this foolish notion that this fight is over when in fact we’ve just begun.

Later she characterized the evening as being one of asking ourselves, “Do women matter?”  If we as a society really thought women mattered, much of the way we operate as a society would be different.  Here’s what Gloria says would change:

  1. Kids are raised better in an environment where there are a higher percentage of adults than children.  Kids just get more attention and learn better
  2. The qualities that woman have, nurturing and organizing and thinking about the family, would be human traits, not primarily female traits.  Likewise the qualities that men have, being out in the world, adventuring, would be human traits, not primarily male traits.
  3. Jobs wouldn’t be valued by who did them but by what the nature of the job was, i.e. teachers and day care providers would be paid well.
  4. Sex wouldn’t be so connected with violence.

She riffed off on the last topic, saying because domination has become sexualized, men who have become hooked on domination and can’t get it over adult women, will get it from younger women.

There have been societies in which women mattered.  Indigenous cultures that existed prior to about 5,000 years ago treated women differently.  Most of those cultures were eliminated by war and genocide and that history is not taught.  In those cultures, it was assumed that women controlled their own bodies, and had input into the big decisions that impacted the tribe or society. 

“Maybe the last 5,000-8,000 years is just a big failure in the larger history of the world, she said.

Gloria then read from a prophecy reputed to be from the Elders of the Hopi Nation (although there is some question about whether it is directly from them).  It ended with a line that she said was vital for us to take in: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

Gloria ended her talk with a couple of surprises for the audience.  She said that on some level she feels sorry for George Bush.  “He must get up every morning feeling like he’s not up for the job.”

Then she told a cute story about Reese Witherspoon, who had sat near her at some function.  She said that Reese told her that she had done the movie, “Legally Blonde” because of Steinem.  (Appropriate alarm on Gloria’s face and in the audience.)  Reese then said, “You said once that women should be able to do and wear whatever they want.”

It was a lovely ending to the speech and pointed us to a time and a way of thinking - when we aren’t under siege.   

Gloria’s talk in Seattle was hosted by the UW Graduate School with money provided by the John and Jessie Danz Foundation.

Angelo Bruscas of the The Seattle PI also wrote a story on her talk that was quite different but also wonderful, focusing particularly on what she said about the South Dakota anti-abortion law. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 14, 2006 at 10:59 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2006

This is what (printer) Democracy looks like

Emmett O'Connell has got a burr under his saddle, and it's about 11" x 17". 

No, seriously, Emmett is pursuing the not-so-radical idea that Washington State ought to allow ballot initiative petitions to be 8.5" x 11" so that average citizens could print them out at home.  The thinking is that this would make the initiative process more accessible to ordinary citizens and to campaigns with genuine grassroots support.

It's a damn good idea.  One that a number of other states have already implemented.

The initiative process is about making government accountable to the people.  The least we can do is put that power in the hands of people -- and their printers.

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 12, 2006 at 09:57 PM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2006

A Genuine Peacemaker Caught in the Slaughter

American Tom Fox, one of four Christian Peacemakers, was found dead in Baghdad last Thursday. Fox, 54, was the only American member of a four person team taken hostage several months ago.  It did not look good for him earlier in the week when the other three appeared in a video. It wasn't.  Three days later his body was found near the railroad tracks outside Baghdad with gunshot wounds in the head and chest.   

The Peacemakers were Christians in a sense we don't hear about so often these days. Paul Slattery, a member of Fox's Friends Meeting support group back in the Shenandoah Valley, talks about Fox's work in Iraq in an AP article:

Fox worked with incarcerated Iraqis, often serving as the only link between them and their families on the outside.  Fox also escorted shipments of medicine to clinics and hospitals and worked to form an Islamic Peacemaker Team.

Anne Bacon, Clerk of the Quaker meeting that Fox attended, had this to add:

"Tom's work was very important, and the way that we will honor him is to try to continue that work, maybe not for each of us going to Iraq, but we all have the opportunity to create peace in our own community."

The other three Peacemaker Team hostages are James Loney, 41, of Toronto; Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a Canadian electrical engineer; and Norman Kember, a 74-year-old retired British professor.  Our hearts go out to these three and to Jill Carroll, Christian Science Monitor reporter, who was taken hostage in an unrelated attack and who is still unaccounted for.  And to all of the American soldiers and the Iraqi soldiers and civilians caught up in the slaughter caused by this war. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 11, 2006 at 10:35 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2006

Local Solutions to Global Warming

The Sierra Club has another of their cool community workshops on global warming on Saturday, March 18th in Bellevue.  This one is called "Cool Cities: Solving Global Warming One City at a Time".  The schedule for the day:

8:45-Noon: Community leaders and experts talk about local energy solutions we can implement.

Noon-1pm: Lunch (meal provided) and Keynote speaker

1pm-5pm:   How to move your city towards safe and clean energy solutions.  Hands on training!

Please RSVP by March 10th.  Contact Jessica Eagle at jessica.eagle@sierraclub.org or call her at 206.378.0114 x308.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 9, 2006 at 10:04 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2006

Abramoff Sings

Did you really think that Jack Abramoff was going down alone?  Kos has a post up on an article to be published in Vanity Fair that names names, a lot of them. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 8, 2006 at 09:40 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Folly of this War

Digby looks at willful governmental stupidity "borne of hubris, mental laziness and bad judgment", just what we have seen and continue to see in the Iraq War.  His post, from a few days ago, referred to Arthur Silber talking about Barbara Tuchman's book, "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam".   Tuchman defined folly in this way:

To qualify as folly for this inquiry, the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. This is important, because all policy is determined by the mores of its age. "Nothing is more unfair," as an English historian has well said, "than to judge men of the past by the ideas of the present. Whatever may be said of morality, political wisdom is certainly ambulatory." To avoid judging by present-day values, we must take the opinion of the time and investigate only those episodes whose injury to self-interest was recognized even by contemporaries.

Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. To remove the problem from personality, a third criterion must be that the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime.

This paragraph from Tuchman's book about the events surrounding the Vietnam War sounds pretty familiar doesn't it?

Wooden-headedness, the "Don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts" habit, is a universal folly never more conspicuous than at upper levels of Washington with respect to Vietnam. Its grossest fault was underestimation of North Vietnam's commitment to its goal. Enemy motivation was a missing element in American calculations, and Washington could therefore ignore all the evidence of nationalist fervor and of the passion for independence which as early as 1945 Hanoi had declared "no human force can any longer restrain." Washington could ignore General Leclerc's prediction that conquest would take half a million men and "Even then it could not be done." It could ignore the demonstration of elan and capacity that won victory over a French army with modern weapons at Dien Bien Phu, and all the continuing evidence thereafter.

And Digby's take on the run-up to this war is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.  But no one says it like Digby:

I think that many of us over these last few years have felt as if we were living under water. Everything has seemed vaguely distorted. Communication and movement had an odd quality of density and resistance. We spoke out. We marched. We called our representatives. But it seemed as if our words sounded garbled and muffled in some way.

And there has also been a strong sense of inevitability. Certainly, since the impeachment the country has been steamrollered into a bizarre and aberrant political reality, never more than after 9/11 when the administration began agitating for this absurd, incomprehensible war. Despite its utter madness, I think most of us knew it was unstoppable. And it wasn't just us moonbats who knew it; it was the CIA and the state department. It was all of Europe and even Saddam himself. I suspect this is yet another feature of folly --- the sense among those who know better that there is no way to change the course of the event, that you are speaking a language nobody can understand.

Then he asks the question about how we dig ourselves out of this grim chapter of our history, something I fear will be dealing with for at least a generation.

Now, after we are dug in deeply with so much blood and money wasted, salvation requires repudiation of the Iraq war, the Bush doctrine and the cruel, undemocratic policies of the "war" on terrorism. I don't know if anyone has the strength to do that. It must be said that Lyndon Johnson was correct in that he would be mercilessly attacked for being weak if he withdrew from Vietnam. That's a political fact and it is what will happen if a Democratic administration tries to draw down the GWOT. (Not that we shouldn't do it, I'm just saying that the price will be high.) It's one of the main reasons why we should never start these things unless absolutely forced to. They are very difficult to end.

What or who will successfully put a coda to this ongoing folly? I don't see it in either party, to tell you the truth. But it's what I'm going to be looking for. This is the central challenge of millenial America: how can the most powerful nation on earth survive such monumental folly?

I have been thinking we need something the equivalent of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation forums.  I just don't see that we have the capability of doing that in this nation.  So what might allow us to have this discussion in a real way so we don't do this again?  Impeachment?  Would that do the trick?  It doesn't seem like enough to me but it may be the best we can get.  And we only get that if we win Congress. 

What do you think?

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 8, 2006 at 09:26 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 07, 2006

Laugh for the Earth

The Northwest Environment Watch is hosting a benefit comedy night at The Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square on Tuesday, March 14th, 8:30-10:00.  Headlined by Ty Barnett.  Cover cost is $12, tickets at the door or online at TicketWeb with the normal additional fees. 

Evergreen Politics' own occasional blog writer, Yoram Bauman, who bills himself as "the world's first and only stand-up economist", is organizing the benefit. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 7, 2006 at 09:58 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Contribution Limits for Judicial Races

Lots of good news coming out of the final days of this legislative season.  The Legislature has passsed a bill that sets campaign donation limits for judges.  They'll be limited to the same $2800 per election cycle as state legislative candidates.

Proving that campaign finance reform can be a bipartisan issue, the PI reports that the Legislature included an amendment by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, that requires out-of-state PACs that support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure in Washington to report the names and addresses of donors giving $2,500 or more. 

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 7, 2006 at 08:43 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 06, 2006

Training for Running for Office in Eastern Washington

Think!  Do you know any Democrats in Central or Eastern Washington who might be good candidates and officeholders at any level of government.  Progressive Majority is co-sponsoring a training for people who want to run for office in Central or Eastern Washington.  It's a great opportunity and has some of the best trainers from Progressive Majority, Emily's List and Wellstone Action putting it on.  The training, scheduled for April 1-2 in Yakima, covers:

  • Making the decision to run for political office (at any level: School Board, City Council, County Commission & beyond!)
  • Effectively mobilizing communities of color
  • Campaign Fundamentals: Fundraising, Voter Contact, Message Development, & Field Organizing

Progressive Majority, along with their co-sponsors (United Farm Workers, SEIU Local 775, the Washington State Democrats, the Washington State Hispanic/Latino Democratic Caucus, and Teamster Union Local 760) is working hard to contest elections in all parts of Washington State and build a bench of progressive Democrats in all parts of the state.

This event is free.  However you must REGISTER for this training by "ordering a ticket" either online at or by calling (206) 443-5566.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 6, 2006 at 11:42 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Blogs Leading the Democratic Reformation

"We're going to be the establishment", says Matt Stoller of mydd in an article at "In These Times" by Lakshmi Chaudhry.  The netroots, the word that describes the online grassroots constituency of the progressive blogging community, aims to allow and encourage ordinary citizens to participate in politics.

Stoller predicts that as an organizing tool, "blogs are going to play the role that talk radio did in 1994, and that church networks did in 2002."

The article focuses on the rise of the blogsphere and on the possible new elitism that could arise from the idea that the best known bloggers are already primarily young, white guys.  (As an older white woman, I'm not too worried about this yet and think that as long as those of us in more "established" websites stay open to linking with and hunting out new voices as they discover the Internet, we'll be okay.)

So back to the impact of the blogosphere on the Party and the nation.

The galvanizing cause for the rapid proliferation of political blogs and their mushrooming audience was a deep disillusionment across the political spectrum with traditional media--a disillusionment accentuated by a polarized political landscape.


Both 9/11 and the Iraq war reminded people that "politics was vitally important," and marked the "moment people were looking for some kind of expression outside the bounds of network television," or, for that matter, cable news or the nation's leading newspapers.

Progressives took to the blogs as an way to channel our rage at the lack of opposition to the Iraq War by either the media or the Democratic establishment.  The article references a study by the New Politics Institute which says that progressives have quickly overtaken conservatives in readership.

The article in In These Times describes the dream of the progressive bloggers:

Internet salvation: harnessing an inherently democratic, interactive and communal medium, with the potential to instantaneously tap into the collective intellectual, political and financial resources of tens of millions of fellow Americans to create a juggernaut for social change.

They go on to emphasize the role that bloggers have played in challenging the traditional media and holding them accountable for discussing stories that are initially incorrect or have not yet seen the light of day.  Bloggers are most effective at amplifying pressure from the netroots that puts pressure on politicians and journalists (as we saw several times in last fall's election here in Washington State).

The biggest question is "Can the netroots grow the grassroots?"  Can the support of bloggers and their constituencies influence platforms, encourage volunteers to provide time and money, and make a difference in elections? 

The test will be this year and it will be at the state level.  Can the blogs coordinate with Democratic Party activists to do the needed field organization?  The article says the challenge is to create a virtual "community center" to compensate for the the network of physical meeting places the Republicans have - churches, gun clubs and chambers of commerce.

The article quotes Jerome Armstrong, founder of mydd and co-author with Markos Moulitsas of "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics" coming out this month.  He says:

"We are at the beginning of a comprehensive reformation of the Democratic Party--driven by committed progressive outsiders. Online activism on a nationwide level, coupled with offline activists at the local level ... can provide the formula for a quiet, bloodless coup that can take control of the party. Money and mobilization are the two key elements of all political activity, and if the netroots have their way, the financial backbone of the Democratic Party will be regular people."

Increasingly the top bloggers are becoming campaign consultants and unofficial advisors. 

Armstrong sees the rise of the blogger-guru--or "strategic adviser," as he puts it--as a positive development. Better to hire a blogger who is personally committed to the Democratic cause than a D.C.-based mercenary who makes money irrespective of who wins.

The focus of the blogosphere so far has been to engage the base - and mostly the urban professional base.  One big challenge is to extend the on-line conversation to a larger and more diverse group of people.  There are models.  GrowOhio is one.  It is an online effort to mobilize rural voters and create a progressive grassroots movement.  Our own Washblog is another blog that is attempting to reach folks across the state. How we as bloggers figure out how to reach and motivate people, either online or offline, who don't have "citizen skills" will determine in the end how effective we will be.

Hat tip to Samantha Moscheck for the pointer to "In These Times".

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 6, 2006 at 10:25 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 04, 2006

Doonsbury on Situational Science

Gary Trudeau portrays a reversal of 150 years of scientific progress in today's cartoon

While I'm at it, were you aware that Gary Trudeau was two years behind George Bush at Yale and was on a social committee with him?  Trudeau's take on Bush from a Rolling Stones article many years later:

Even then he had clearly awesome social skills. Legend has it that he knew the names of all forty-five of his fellow pledges when he rushed Deke. He later became rush chairman of Deke -- I do believe he has the soul of a rush chairman. He has that ability to connect with people. Not in the empathetic way that Clinton was so good at, but in the way of making people feel comfortable.

He could also make you feel extremely uncomfortable. He was very good at all the tools for survival that people developed in prep school -- sarcasm, and the giving of nicknames. He was extremely skilled at controlling people and outcomes in that way. Little bits of perfectly placed humiliation.

Trudeau also pointed out, during one of the media's brief times of concern about our current torture policy, that Bush's first mention in the New York Times occurred in 1967 when George Bush, as the former president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale, defended the practice of branding pledges with a red-hot coat hanger. 

Rumor has it that one of Trudeau's first cartoons ever, in the Yale Daily News, was about George Bush and that controversy. 

Note: I was only able to provide a link to whatever is the current Doonesbury cartoon.  To find the one on "situational science", click the "previous" button back to the Sunday, March 5th, cartoon.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 4, 2006 at 11:40 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dirty Tricks at the Port

The Port of Seattle is rarely in our political sites and I'm sure they are very glad that is the case.  Steve Zemke over at a relatively new and quite thoughtful blog, Majority Rules, has a post about the way the Port is using taxpayer money to lobby against a legislative bill, 3SHB 1226, that would impose campaign contributions limits on the race for the Port as well as for the State Supreme Court and the larger county races. 

1226 is simply an extension of the Fair Campaign Practices Act that was enacted following the passage of Initiative 134 in 1992 which imposed campaign contribution limits on elections for state-wide office and state legislative office.  The bill has passed in the House and is currently under consideration in the Senate. 

This is a critical extension. Here's an example from Steve of the results of not having the Supreme Court races covered:

In the last two elections the Building Industry Association of Washington has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into two State Supreme Court races that they won. In fact, in the most recent race, the BIAW candidate received more money from the BIAW than the other candidate received from all her contributions. According to Washington State Public Disclosure Records , Jim Johnson, the winner, raised some $538,418 to Mary Kay Becker's $158,119.

There are still holes in both the existing and the proposed legislation:    

Even if this bill passes it will still have a giant loophole. It does nothing to regulate so called independent contributions by PAC's. Individual contributions need to be limited to a set amount per individual regardless of whether it is given directly to the candidate's election committee or to some independent PAC that spends the money supporting the candidate. The influence of large contributions spent by entities like the BIAW circumvent the whole idea of linmiting large contributors from buying the election because they are still spent on behalf of electing that candidate even if not given to the candidate's campaign committee.

Maybe if we can pass this critical bill this year, we can jump on the PAC contributions next year.  With any kind of luck we will be riding a wave of cleaning up government next year, one that we can make use of to move us even closer to a system that provides for more integrity. 

There's more.  Take a look.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 4, 2006 at 11:01 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 03, 2006

Sims vs. Hutcherson

Michael Hood over at blatherWatch offers a nice, in-depth first-person account of last night's "Battle in Seattle" debate over gay civil rights between the Right Rev. Ken Hutcherson and King Count Executive Ron Sims.  Lotsa heat, not much light.  But apparently good entertainment, which is more than we can say for most political events these days.

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 3, 2006 at 05:47 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clean Energy Initiative Petitions Are In! Time to Start Gathering

I-937, the Clean Energy Initiative, is receiving its petitions today.  That means it's time for us all to get cracking and start gathering signatures to get positive solutions to our energy needs moving forward.

Details from their announcement below the fold.

Petitions are arriving tonight, so we need hundreds of volunteers to take to the streets to gather signatures and to volunteer in the office (tonight, tomorrow morning, and all next week).  To succeed at bringing the Clean Energy Initiative to the ballot, we need to ramp up our efforts immediately -- there's no time to waste!

To help or for more information, please call: 206-283-3335!

1) Volunteers to gather signatures at public locations this weekend and beyond! 
We need over 100 people out gathering signatures this weekend.  We have already established shifts at excellent locations.  If you can help, please call us immediately at 206-283-3335!  We'll schedule you for a shift or we'll direct you to your local coordinator. 

2) Office volunteers needed immediately!
We need office volunteers to make the petition packets.  If you can spare a couple of hours, please call to sign up for an office shift.

Friday - TONIGHT!: 6:00pm to 9:00pm petition packaging PARTY!

Saturday - tomorrow morning: 9:00am - 12:00pm

Monday: 10:00am - 8:00pm

Tuesday: 10:00am - 8:00pm

Then office volunteers will be needed on all weekdays and Wednesday evenings throughout the campaign.



If you're signed up to be a "public signature gatherer" which is someone who will be gathering at events and other public locations, please stop by the office to pick up your signature gathering materials this Saturday morning between 9:00 and 12:00 (if you plan to gather this weekend) or next week.   This Tuesday and Wednesday, the campaign headquarters is guaranteed to be open from 10:00AM to 8:00PM.  If you want to stop by at another time, chances are that we'll be here but please call to confirm that the office is open at 206-283-3335.  The directions to the office are listed below.


If you are signed up to gather signatures from friends and family only, then we will be sending you a starter packet next week.  [You can request a starter packet on the campaign website.]

If you are attending your local caucus meeting or any other event this weekend, please pick up petitions Saturday morning!



150 Nickerson Street #109, Seattle, WA

The office is located across the canal from Fremont on Nickerson Street.  When driving west on Nickerson from Fremont, Westlake, or Dexter, turn right just after the first crosswalk sign the hangs over the street.  Our office building is the first building on the right. There is ample parking.  Directions

We look forward to working with you to bring more renewable energy to Washington State!

Thanks so much from the Clean Energy Initiative staff!

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 3, 2006 at 10:50 AM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2006

House Passes Biofuels Bill

Patrick Mazza of Climate Solutions reports that the House has passed the Biofuels Bill, and emphasizes the unfortunately-too-rare cross-aisle and cross-state coalition that's backing it.

Last night at 6 pm, the House passed energy independence legislation poising Washington to add ethanol and biodiesel renewable fuels to the statewide fuel supply. With Senate concurrence, the bill will make Washington only the second state in the nation with a biodiesel standard.

The legislation (SB6508) was supported by an unusual coalition, uniting east and west, both sides of the aisle and interests who do not often work in unison. The bill was supported by the Washington Farm Bureau, and was one of the four legislative priorities of the environmental community, Governor Gregoire submitted executive request legislation, while Republican Janea Holmquist of Moses Lake sponsored it. Passage was carried by a bipartisan majority of 68-30. Organized labor and industry also found common cause in support of biofuels.

How often do you see enviros and the Farm Bureau getting behind the same great legislation? 

Now, on to the Senate!

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 2, 2006 at 07:09 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

McGavick and the Porky Alaskan Delegation

At a morning press conference today, Mike McGavick talked a lot about Alaska and how important it is to have good relationships with Alaskan legislators.  He said he’d been asked by people in the Seattle business community to go back to Washington DC and meet with the Alaskan congressfolk because our Washington delegation had been so unkind to Alaska recently.  What with standing them down on the ANWR drilling and standing up to them on the proposed increase in tanker traffic, Senator Ted Stevens in particular has been having a hard time lately with Senator Maria Cantwell.

That must have been the bond that made for the “gift” that Stevens gave McGavick today with his announcement that he would not pursue the legislation he’d introduced to expand the facilities at the Cherry Point refinery in Anacortes and thus increase tanker traffic in Puget Sound. 

I doubt McGavick will get any credit for something that never would have passed anyway.

And McGavick’s difficulties with Cantwell? As Goldy has pointed out in his analysis of the latest Elway poll, McGavick is getting no traction with voters in this state in his run against Cantwell in the Senate – in any demographic or on any issue, even those issues that McGavick is running on – being a businessman or being able to mind-meld with the Republicans in Congress.  She remains as much as 30% ahead of McGavick and actually does better against him than she did against a generic Republican. 

The entire press conference this morning was focused on Mike McGavick’s one and only campaign theme of bringing “civility and common-sense” back to Washington DC.  As far as I could tell, that meant playing nice with the guys who get the Gold Metal for looting the federal treasury.

As the head of the BBC once said, “There are people you’d just as soon not like you,” and in my book that Alaska delegation is right up there on that list.

Not only has Senator Ted Stevens been a big baby about getting beat up by Cantwell, but he has also been a baby about letting go of any of the millions of dollars of pork that he has managed to hoard – even when he is asked to do so to provide more money for the victims of Katrina by a Republican Senator. 

I’ve been getting ready to write a post I was going to entitle “Alaska on the Take” so I’ve been acquiring information about our porky friends to the North.  The state of Alaska, under the leadership of Senator Stevens and Congressman Don Young, with a big assist from former Senator and current Governor Frank Murkowski, takes the cake for corruption and nepotism.  Alaska received $1.89 in federal spending for every $1 the state paid in taxes to Washington, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization.

Here are just the highlights for Senator Ted Stevens who has spent 37 years in Congress raiding the federal Treasury on behalf of his state; he is no friend of fiscal restraint and no friend of the Northwest:

  • Senator Ted Stevens became chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations committee in 1997.  Since then federal spending in Alaska has nearly doubled in the past eight years. On a per capita basis, Alaska now leads the nation in the receipt of federal money, at nearly $12,000 for each resident and twice the national average.
  • Alaska also receives more in earmarked appropriations than any other state; Alaska now gets more than $611 in federal funds per capita for special earmarks. (The national average for earmarked pork projects is $19 per capita.)
  • Stevens has become a millionaire by using his position as chair of the committee that dispenses $800 billion in annual federal spending to steer government contracts and subsidies to businesses owned by friends, family members and business associates.
  • And as for being a friend of the Northwest, Stevens “has redirected millions in federal funding away from the study of salmon stocks in Oregon, Washington and northern California, where the fish are endangered, up to salmon projects in Alaska, where fish populations are relatively stable.”
  • Stevens is against the Endangered Species Act, for drilling in ANWR, for the logging of the Tongass National forest and a big supporter of the useless Star Wars defense system being built mostly in Alaska.
  • Senator Stevens’ son, Ben Stevens, has become rich serving as a lobbyist in DC for many organizations and companies that benefit from the Senator’s largess, including the Alaskan fisheries industry, oil pipeline representatives and the Alaska Special Olympics. 

Representative Don Young, has been in Congress for 32 years and is now chairman of the largest House committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure committee and Vice Chair of the Resources committee.  Here’s just a portion of what the man known as the Huey Long of Alaska has pulled in and some indication of what he’s done in conjunction with Jack Abramoff:

  • In one bill this last year that went through Representative Don Young’s Transportation and Infrastructure committee, Alaska received $722 million in earmarks, meaning $1,151 for every man, woman, and child in the state – just from that one bill.
  • In addition, Rep. Young secured nearly $375 million for two bridge projects, Gravina Access project in Ketchikan (the famous bridge to nowhere, the island of Gravina has only 50 people and probably doesn’t need a bridge the size of the Golden Gate bridge) and the Knik Arm Crossing in Anchorage.  Note: when the funds for the bridge to nowhere were withdrawn due to outrage from the citizens down below, the money was replace with $422 million that the state of Alaska can do anything it wants with.  Governor Frank Murkowski, whose wife Nancy owns 33 acres on Gravina Island, says they are likely to still build that bridge.
  • Don Young led a Congressional delegation to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) for 2 days in 1999 on a trip organized by Jack Abramoff, representing RMI as a lobbyist for Preston Gates
  • Young wrote letters on behalf of Abramoff’s Indian clients and received financial contributions from those same tribes in return 
  • Both Young and Stevens had staffers who went to work for Abramoff
  • Young was chairman of the Resources committee at the time that committee blocked legislation, at Abramoff’s behest, that would have put garment workers in the Mariana Islands under federal labor laws
  • Young used Abramoff's MCI Center skybox in Washington, D.C., for fund-raisers and lower 48 Indian tribes represented by the super-lobbyist gave about $20,000 to Young's campaign committee 

So, back to McGavick.  The question for us Washingtonians is – Why on earth would we want to send someone to Congress who would help our porky Alaskan friends to loot even more from the federal treasury?

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 2, 2006 at 04:30 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

First Priority for a Healthy Washington Clears the Legislature

Our environmental friends, marine critters, and everyone who doesn't like the idea of sewage flowing into Puget Sound got some good news today.  HB1458, which will help fix failing septic systems that are causing "dead zones" in Puget Sound, clared the Senate last night.  This is the first of the environmental community's four Priorities for a Healthy Washington to head to Governor Gregoire's desk.

People For Puget Sound brings us the news:

The bill to require repair of failing septic systems (HB 1458) passed the Washington State Senate last night with strong bipartisan support and now moves to the governor for signature into law.

The bill is part of the Governor's legislative package to implement early actions under her Puget Sound Initiative and is the first of the environmental community's four legislative priorities to make it to her desk.

HB 1458 requires local health authorities in areas like Hood Canal to identify and correct failing septic systems by 2012. It passed the House with bipartisan support and moved to the Senate with the support of businesses, shellfish growers and environmentalists.

The bill is directed at failing systems dumping sewage into Puget Sound and provides funding and flexibility for local governments to design programs to require repair of failing systems.

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 1, 2006 at 09:26 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Simple Proposal

Here's a simple yet powerful proposal that some lovely Democratic Congresscritters might consider introducing as a bill in Congress. 

Require that there be a simple 1-2 hour ceremony on the first working day of each month in one of the Chambers of Congress.  On large TV screens the Congresscritters would see photographs of the men and women who've died in Afghanistan and Iraq during these wars - in total silence. Each time they would see all the photos, one after another, all of them, from the beginning of the wars. 

They aren't required to attend but nothing else gets scheduled at that time. I do bet the media would film them on their way in and out.

They can use a compendium of the clips that the PBS "NewsHour" runs a couple times a week. At the end of the show, maybe twice a week, they run 13 or 9 or 17 or 7 photos; next to each photo is the person's name, rank and arm of the military, town/city, and age.  That's it.  They go by slowly enough that you get a little sense of what their life was.  Then the next one comes up.  And the next. 

I have forced myself to watch these last few minutes of the show since the "NewsHour" first started running them in late 2001 or early 2002.  I probably have seen half of them.  I put down my laptop if I've been checking blogs while watching.  I stop exercising if that's what I was doing.  I resist the urge to go start dinner.  I watch. 

I feel it's the least I can do.  It's very powerful.

I don't think the Republicans would go for this bill but it's a no-lose proposition.  If it passes, people would actually have to watch and acknowledge what they are doing.  It might bring a needed solemnity to what they do in those halls.  If it doesn't pass, the Democrats look good and the Republicans look like idiots.

Cross-posted at mydd.


Posted by Lynn Allen on March 1, 2006 at 08:53 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Republican Reichert's Chances Dying with Bush's Numbers?

Survey USA tracks Bush's poll numbers monthly down to the county levels. A DailyKos diarist, dreaminonempty, corrolates those approval ratings to election results starting with the 2004 elections and tracking through the few special elections since then. With colored maps and everything.

Dreaminonempty finds that there is a good relationship between Bush's current approval in cities and states and his percent vote in Nov 2004.  His current approval rating, averaged across the last three months, is 78% of the percent vote he received in 2004. 

Taking that relationship between Bush's current approval and the 2004 election results, the diarist estimates (plus or minus about 5%) Bush's current approval ratings in every county and legislative district across the US.  This theory tested out in two special elections in OH-2 in August and CA-48 in December, both of which the Republican won but at just about the percentage that this theory would indicate.  The diarist says,

If I were running as a Rubber Stamp Republican, I might be a little worried that I'd have to work hard if Bush's approval ratings were estimated to be 55% or below in my district.  At 50% or less, I'd be nervous.  At 45% or less, I'd be sweating.  And 40% or below, I'd have ulcers.

Here's how it looks:

Of the districts currently in Republican hands (and I'm ignoring the issue of retirements here), we have 32 Republicans with ulcers, another 74 sweaty Republicans, 69 with nerves, and 39 more who might be a little worried.   Yes, that's right: 175 districts currently represented by Republicans have estimated Bush approval levels at or below 50%.

On the other side of the aisle, there are only four - yes, four - Democrats from districts with estimated Bush approval above 50%.

Here are the districts with ulcerous Republicans (from most to least ulcerous): CT-2, IA-2, CT-4, DE-AL, IA-1, IL-10, NH-2, PA-7, CO-7, FL-22, NM-1, NY-25, PA-6, WA-8, CT-5, KY-3, NV-3, NJ-2, OH-15, PA-15, VA-15, FL-10, IA-4, MI-9, MN-1, MN-3, NH-1, NJ-3, NY-23, OH-1, OH-12

Note the inclusion of Washington's 8th CD right up near the top of this list.  Bush's approval numbers in King and Pierce counties are way south of 40%.  Across Western Washington it is 36%.  With a lackluster personality, a 97% voting pattern with Republican leaders and a strong and disciplined opponent, Reichert is in trouble.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 1, 2006 at 12:24 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Moyers on Saving Democracy

National treasure Bill Moyers is giving talks across California on the challenges facing us.  He uses Dick Cheney's accident and the glimpse we took into the way the wealthy hunt as his starting point to talk about power and the salvaging of our democracy.  Common Dreams has the speech.  It's pure Bill Moyers:

Watching these people work is a study of the inner circle at the top of American politics. The journalist Sidney Blumenthal, writing on Salon.com, reminds us of the relationship between the Armstrong dynasty and the Bush family and its retainers. Armstrong’s father invested in Rove’s political consulting firm that managed George W. Bush’s election as governor of Texas and as president. Her mother, Anne Armstrong, is a longtime Republican activist and donor. Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board after her tenure as Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Ford, whose chief of staff was a young Dick Cheney. Anne Armstrong served on the board of directors of Halliburton that hired Cheney to run the company. Her daughter, Katherine Armstrong, host of the hunting party, was once a lobbyist for the powerful Houston law firm founded by the family of James A. Baker III, who was chief of staff to Reagan, Secretary of State under the first George Bush, and the man designated by the Bush family to make sure the younger Bush was named President in 2000 despite having lost the popular vote. According to Blumenthal, one of her more recent lobbying jobs was with a large construction firm with contracts in Iraq.

It is a Dick Cheney world out there – a world where politicians and lobbyists hunt together, dine together, drink together, play together, pray together and prey together, all the while carving up the world according to their own interests.

Moyers shifts to the issue of increasing income inequality, providing many examples of which the following is but one: 

Middle-ranking Americans are being squeezed, he says, because the top ten percent of earners have captured almost half the total income gains in the past four decades and the top one percent have gained the most of all – “more in fact, than all the bottom 50 percent.”

He takes us to the next step:

This is a profound transformation in a country whose DNA contains the inherent promise of an equal opportunity at “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and whose collective memory resonates with the hallowed idea – hallowed by blood – of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The great progressive struggles in our history have been waged to make sure ordinary citizens, and not just the rich, share in the benefits of a free society. Yet today the public may support such broad social goals as affordable medical coverage for all, decent wages for working people, safe working conditions, a secure retirement, and clean air and water, but there is no government “of, by, and for the people” to deliver on those aspirations. Instead, our elections are bought out from under us and our public officials do the bidding of mercenaries. Money is choking democracy to death. So powerfully has wealth shaped our political agenda that we cannot say America is working for all of America.

In the words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court justices: “You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both.”

Moyers goes on to talk about the sky-high costs of running for office and the horrendous price that we all, and candidates and public officials in particular, pay for this. 

The cost of running for public office is skyrocketing. In 1996, $1.6 billion was spent on the Congressional and Presidential elections. Eight years later, that total had more than doubled, to $3.9 billion.

Thanks to our system of privately financed campaigns, millions of regular Americans are being priced out of any meaningful participation in democracy. Less than one half of one percent of all Americans made a political contribution of $200 or more to a federal candidate in 2004. When the average cost of running and winning a seat in the House of Representatives has topped one million dollars, we can no longer refer to that August chamber as “The People’s House.”

Hm. So who do you suppose provides all that money? "At the same time that the cost of getting elected is exploding beyond the reach of ordinary people, the business of gaining access to and influence with our elected Representatives has become a growth industry."

There are now 65 lobbyists for every member of Congress, a total of 34,785 registered lobbyists last year. And what do those (highly-paid) lobbyists buy for the people paying their salaries?

With pro-corporate business officials running both the executive and legislative branches, lobbying that was once reactive has gone on the offense, seeking huge windfalls from public policy and public monies.

One example cited by The Washington Post: Hewlett-Packard, the California computer maker. The company nearly doubled its budget for contract lobbyists in 2004 and took on an elite lobbying firm as its Washington arm. Its goal was to pass Republican-backed legislation that would enable the company to bring back to the United States, at a dramatically lowered tax rate, as much as $14.5 billion in profit from foreign subsidiaries. The extra lobbying paid off. The legislation passed and Hewlett Packard can now reduce its share of the social contract. The company’s director of government affairs was quite candid: “We’re trying to take advantage of the fact that Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House.” Whatever the company paid for the lobbying, the investment returned enormous dividends.

Moyers takes a few swipes at Democrats in the corruption department, particularly Terry McAuliffe, "the former Democratic National Committee Chairman who gave Bill Clinton the idea of renting the Lincoln bedroom out to donors, and who did such a good job raising big money for the Democrats that by the end of his reign, Democrats had fewer small donors than the Republicans and more fat cats writing them million-dollar checks."

But let’s be realistic here. When the notorious Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he answered, “Because there is where the money is.” If I seem to be singling out the Republicans, it’s for one reason: that’s where the power is. They own the government lock, stock, and barrel. Once they gained control of the House of Representatives in 1994, their self-proclaimed revolution has gone into overdrive with their taking of the White House in 2000 and the Senate in 2002. Their revolution soon became a cash cow and Washington a one party state ruled by money.

Moyers provides an incredible history of the "K Street Project" and Tom DeLay's part in that.

Here’s how they ran it: On the day before the Republicans formally took control of Congress on January 3, 1995, DeLay met in his office with a coterie of lobbyists from some of the biggest companies in America. The journalists Michael Weisskopf and David Maraniss report that “the session inaugurated an unambiguous collaboration of political and commercial interests, certainly not uncommon in Washington but remarkable this time for the ease and eagerness with which these allies combined.”

DeLay virtually invited them to write the Republican agenda. . . . The rules were simple and blunt. Contribute to Republicans only. Hire Republicans only. When the electronics industry ignored the warning and chose a Democratic Member of Congress to run its trade association, DeLay played so rough – pulling from the calendar a bill that the industry had worked on two years, aimed at bringing most of the world in alignment with U.S. copyright law – that even the House Ethics Committee, the watchdog that seldom barks and rarely bites, stirred itself to rebuke him – privately, of course.

DeLay's own people took the best jobs:

At least 29 of his former employees landed major lobbying positions – the most of any Congressional office. The journalist John Judis found that together ex-DeLay people represent around 350 firms, including thirteen of the biggest trade associations, most of the energy companies, the giants in finance and technology, the airlines, auto makers, tobacco companies, and the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies. When tobacco companies wanted to block the FDA from regulating cigarettes, they hired DeLay’s man. When the pharmaceutical companies – Big Pharma – wanted to make sure companies wouldn’t be forced to negotiate cheaper prices for drugs, they hired six of Tom DeLay’s team, including his former chief of staff. The machine became a blitzkrieg, oiled by campaign contributions that poured in like a gusher.


They centralized in their own hands the power to write legislation. Drastic revisions to major bills were often written at night, with lobbyists hovering over them, then rushed through as “emergency’ measures,” giving members as little as half an hour to consider what they may be voting on.

The Democratic minority was locked out of conference committees where the House and Senate are supposed to iron out their differences with both parties in the loop. The Republican bosses even took upon themselves the power to rewrite a bill in secrecy and move it directly to a vote without any other hearings or public review.

The impact of this corruption?  Talking about the Medicare bill, he says:

There are no victimless crimes in politics. The price of corruption is passed on to you. What came of all these shenanigans was a bill that gave industry what it wanted and gave taxpayers the shaft. The bill covers only a small share of drug expenses. It has a major gap in coverage – the so-called ‘donut hole.’ It explicitly forbids beneficiaries from purchasing private coverage to fill in the gap and explicitly forbids the federal government from bargaining for lower drug prices. More than one consumer organization has estimated that most seniors could end up paying even more for prescription drugs than before the bill passed.

Furthermore, despite these large flaws the cost of the bill is horrendous – between five hundred billion and one trillion dollars in its first ten years. The chief actuary for Medicare calculated a realistic estimate of what the bill would cost, but he later testified before Congress that he was forbidden from releasing the information by his boss, Thomas Scully, the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who was then negotiating for a lucrative job with the health care industry. Sure enough, hardly had the prescription drug bill become law than Scully went to work for the largest private equity investor in health care and at a powerful law firm focusing on health care and regulatory matters.

One is reminded of Senator Boies Penrose. Back in the first Gilded Age Penrose was a United States senator from Pennsylvania who had been put and kept in office by the railroad tycoons and oil barons. He assured the moguls: “I believe in the division of labor. You send us to Congress; we pass laws under which you make money…and out of your profits you further contribute to our campaign funds to send us back again to pass more laws to enable you to make more money.”

That's just what DeLay has managed to do in Congress with help from Jack Abramoff, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed.  Moyers has example after example, enough to make you sick.  He then points out the obvious:

Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were now in sync. George W. Bush had created his own version of the K Street Project. Remember how he emerged from the crowded field of Republican candidates in early 1999 and literally blew several of them out of the water? He did so by drowning his opponents with money. In just his first six months of fundraising, Bush collected some $36 million – nine times more than his nearest opponent, John McCain. The money came from the titans of America business and lobbying who understood their contributions would be rewarded. You’ve heard of the Pioneers and Rangers – people who raised at least $100,000 and $200,000 for Bush. Among them were people like Tom DeLay’s brother, also a lobbyist; the CEO of Enron, Kenneth (“Kenny Boy”) Lay; and hundreds of executives from the country’s banks, investment houses, oil and gas companies, electric utilities, and other companies.

While Tom DeLay kept a ledger on K Street, ranking lobbyists as friendly and unfriendly, the Bush campaign gave every one of his Pioneers and Rangers a tracking number, making sure to know who was bringing in the bucks and where they were coming from. In May of 1999 the trade association for the electric utility industry sent a letter to potential contributors on Bush campaign stationery. He told his colleagues that Bush’s campaign managers “have stressed the importance of having our industry incorporate the tracking number in your fundraising efforts…it does ensure that our industry is credited and that your progress is listed…”

The bounty was waiting. A score of Pioneers and Rangers were paid off with ambassadorships. At least 37 were named to post-election transition teams, where they had a major say in selecting political appointees at key regulatory positions across the government. Remember the California energy crisis, when Enron traders boasted of gouging grandmothers to drive up the prices for energy? Well, Enron’s Kenneth Lay had been Bush’s biggest campaign funder over the years and what he asked now as a pay-off was appointment to the Energy Department transition team. This is how Enron’s boss got to name two of the five members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who looked the other way while Enron rigged California’s energy prices and looted billions right out from the pockets and pocketbooks of California’s citizens.

There are, as I said, no victimless crimes in politics. The cost of corruption is passed on to you. When the government of the United States falls under the thumb of the powerful and privileged, regular folks get squashed.

This is an old story and a continuing struggle. . . . It is time to fight again. These people in Washington have no right to be doing what they are doing. It’s not their government, it’s your government. They work for you. They’re public employees – and if they let us down and sell us out, they should be fired. That goes for the lowliest bureaucrat in town to the senior leaders of Congress on up to the President of the United States.

Although Moyers paints a bleak picture, he is also pretty certain we can combat it.  We can, to use Howard Dean's words "take back our country".  And it starts in the states.

But look at what has happened in Connecticut, one of the most corrupt states in the union. Rocked by multiple scandals that brought down a state treasurer, a state senator, and the governor himself with convictions of bribery, tax evasion, and worse, the people finally had enough. Although many of the parties had to be forced, kicking and screaming to do it, last December the legislature passed clean money reform and the new governor signed it into law. The bill bans campaign contributions from lobbyists and state contractors and makes Connecticut the very first state in the nation where the legislature and governor approved full public funding for their own races.


In places where clean elections are law, we see more competition for legislative seats and a more diverse group of people running for office. In David Sirota’s words, they “are encouraged to run on their ideas, their convictions and their integrity instead of on how effectively they can shake down the big money.” And there are policy results as well. In Arizona, one of the first acts of Governor Janet Napolitano, elected under the state’s public financing program, was to institute reforms establishing low-cost prescription drug subsidies for seniors. Compare that to the Medicare debacle going on at the national level. In Maine, where clean elections has been in place since 2000, there have also been advances in providing low cost pharmaceutical drugs for residents, and in making sure that every state resident has medical coverage.

Speaking in California where public financing of elecions is a possibility, he says,

Think about this: Californians could buy back their elected representatives at a cost of about $5 or $6 per California resident. Nationally we could buy back our Congress and the White House with full public financing for about $10 per taxpayer per year. You can check this out on the website Public Campaign. [www.publicampaign.org]

Public funding won’t solve all the problems. There’s no way to legislate truly immoral people from abusing our trust. But it would go a long way to breaking the link between big donors and public officials and to restoring democracy to the people. Until we offer qualified candidates a different source of funding for their campaigns – “clean,” disinterested, accountable public money – the selling of America will go on. From scandal to scandal.

The people out across the country on the front lines of this fight have brought the message down to earth, in plain language and clear metaphors. If a player sliding into home plate reached into his pocket and handed the umpire $1000 before he made the call, what would we call that? A bribe. And if a lawyer handed a judge $1000 before he issued a ruling, what do we call that? A bribe. But when a lobbyist or CEO sidles up to a member of Congress at a fundraiser or in a skybox and hands him a check for $1000, what do we call that? A campaign contribution.

Moyers then harkins back to Theodore Roosevelt who took on the political bosses and big money for committing “treason to the people.”

We are standing for the great fundamental rights upon which all successful free government must be based. We are standing for elementary decency in politics. We are fighting for honesty against naked robbery. It is not a partisan issue; it is more than a political issue; it is a great moral issue. If we condone political theft, if we do not resent the kinds of wrong and injustice that injuriously affect the whole nation, not merely our democratic form of government but our civilization itself cannot endure.

And Moyers concludes with:

We need that fighting spirit today - the tough, outraged and resilient spirit that knows we have been delivered a great and precious legacy, you and I - "government of, by and for the people" - and, by God we're going to pass it on.

Thank you, Bill Moyers, for staying involved and for bringing it all together for us.   


Posted by Lynn Allen on March 1, 2006 at 11:12 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack