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April 30, 2006

Immigration: Standing Together to Fight a Wedge Issue

Marching and attending immigration rallies are the best way to support immigrant rights and stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who've come here from other countries, many of whom will be participating in a work stoppages at possible peril to their livelihood.  The more diverse the crowd of people who stand together tomorrow, the better it will be for those who could lose the most by standing up for their rights.  Tomorrow there will be a silent march from the park behind St. Mary's church in the central region (just south of Jackson and 20th) at 3:30 moving to the Federal Building in downtown Seattle for a rally starting at about 5:00.  Organizers ask that participants wear black.   

Standing together is also important as a means of thwarting the right-wing Republicans major wedge issue of the year.  Gwen Ifill ended Friday evening's "Washington Week in Review" with a report of a poll of Congresscritters about what issue they thought was currently most critical for their constituents.  The transcript is not yet up so I won't be able to be precise but the results showed something quite fascinating.  Republican Congressfolks said that their constituents felt that immigration, energy and the Iraq War were the three most important issues with immigration way out front.  Democrats said that their constituents said that energy, the war and immigration were the most critical in that order with immigration way down there.

Immigration is a callous wedge issue dreamed up by Karl Rove or one of his proteges that has damaging consequences for the lives of millions in this country, both illegal immigrants who are increasingly fearful of being deported and people of Hispanic descent who are increasingly being targeted by right-wing hate-mongers.    

This is an issue that is important for all of us, we just don't all recognize it yet. There are so many issues that can seem more important to us - the War, the fear of turmoil in Iran, global warming, economic calamity brought on by this administration, name it.  But standing in solidarity with our sisters and brothers targeted by the rise of this issue is something we can genuinely do something about.  The more people who turn out for the march and/or rally, the more protection we give the people whose livelihood and ability to live in this country are on the line.  The more we all remember that we are all in this together the more we can shift the national understanding of immigration rights.   

A few weeks ago Kathy Kelly and Jack Smith wrote a lovely guest column in the PI on the terrible tribulations the Irish faced in this country when starvation and economic necessity (and, I might add, British policies) forced them to flee Ireland. Since I know them both and Jack has been urging me to make use of what they wrote, I'll quote liberally from the section on the wedge aspects of the immigration bill pending in Congress.   

Now Congress may make things worse. With a stated aim of increasing national security, proposed legislation would create great difficulties for immigrants, and those who aid them, without increasing security.

House Bill 4437, which the House passed in December, creates a legal status of "unlawful presence" that would make felons of 11 million undocumented immigrants, legal visitors with temporary status problems and applicants-in-process. Until now, undocumented status has been a violation of immigration law, a civil penalty, but under this legislation it is an aggravated felony, which would subject immigrants to prosecution and immediate deportation.

If registering undocumented visitors and workers is desirable for national security reasons, HB4437 is counterproductive. It would permanently ban those registering from obtaining citizenship.

Remembering how Irish ancestors relied on the benevolence of others, it is distressing that HB4437 also makes a felon of anyone helping an undocumented person. Under an expanded definition of "smuggling," this legislation would make a criminal of any relative, neighbor, employer or friend who offers food, housing, job referrals or any type of assistance. A counselor who assists victims of domestic violence, a doctor who responds to a traffic accident, a volunteer working in a soup kitchen would all become felons under the proposed legislation.

HB4437 exploits the fears of Americans who worry about losing their jobs or being attacked by terrorists, but it betrays the very promise of America without increasing national security. Millions of people who entered the United States with no intention of causing harm will be subjected to harsh and biased treatment.

The entire article is great.  Jack adds in a personal email sent out to his many friends,

We need that R-E-S-P-E-C-T for everyone at the table. It is the grease that keeps the wheels from squeaking. Right now we are squeaking and loud. The people who are upset, including many of the politicians, are the very people who know in their hearts that they are uncomfortable because they know how unfair conditions are and that they can do something about it. They know that they kept people in poverty, hidden behind closed doors, so that only a few people know how people at the other end of the scale are forced to live. Now, they must face their indifference when they actually see people in the street. It is a two edged sword. First they must view real people's faces, if only on their 60" TV Set. Second, when they see the people in the streets, when they see the masses in other cities, they realize the Power, both economic and political, that our marchers represent. Behind the marchers are many times thaose people who only n eed gain only a little more courage to join us. The strength of our numbers will grow.

I've also been hearing about a wonderful civil dialogue that occurred last Thursday evening in Bellingham.  Rosalinda Guillen, a former farm worker organizer who now directs a local group called Community to Community Development, facilitated the event and representatives from the Whatcom County Democratic Party joined in as well.  More than 20 members of the vigilante group, the Washington Minutemen Detachment, were in attendance, out of a crowd of about 200.  Guillen welcomed the Minutemen members for coming to participate, saying that was the American way of dealing with problems.  Most, if not all, of both the designated speakers and speakers from the audience were in favor of immigration rights.

The Bellingham Herald wrote about the meeting beginning with Guillen's approach:

She said advocates of humane immigration reform are not calling for blanket amnesty or open borders.

But those who would take a simplistic approach involving tougher laws and mass deportation should consider the complexity of the issue and the interconnections between immigrants, legal and illegal, and U.S. economies and communities, she said.

The Minuteman approach, focusing on border enforcement, is “a distraction from some of the bigger ills in this country,” Guillen said.

Also present at the meeting were Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo who reassured the community that they were keeping tabs on the Minutemen but had not found that the group had broken any laws.  He also pledged that his officers would not be checking the immigration status of people who report crimes.  The Bellingham Police Department made a similar pledge, saying their officers would not make it their job to enforce federal immigration law and said they wanted to make it clear that they would not allow immigration issues to get in the way of more important law enforcement tasks.

All in all, makes me appreciative to be living in this area.  Hope to see you at the march or rally.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 30, 2006 at 11:08 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 29, 2006

Watching Neil Young...

...talk about his new record "Living With War" reminds me why artists are a vital part of the civic life our nation.  The bravest of them, like Neil, are willing to use power of their gifts and the reach of their bully pulpits to speak from their hearts about what's going on in the world.

You can listen to the album online if you like.  CDs coming soon.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 29, 2006 at 02:20 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sonics going-away party

Offended that the Sonics owners are demanding we prioritize their arena over other needs in our city.  And that they think kicking in 8% is a fair deal for the rest of us?  Then...

1) Sign the petition:  www.finethenleave.com

2) Come to the going-away party: Thursday, May 11, noon, City Hall

3) Help plan the party: Tuesday May 2, 7PM, the Elysian Brewery, 1221 E. Pike, capitol hill

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 29, 2006 at 11:57 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sensible Internet Strategy Recommendations For State Democrats Appear to Fall on Deaf Ears at Party Central

Ken Camp, who I'm proud to say works as a staffer for my State Rep. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) -- and has been known to do a bit of blogging, recently wrote a memo entitled "Keep Washington Blue" to State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz and other party leaders, in which he laid out a sensible, rather modest vision for a more comprehensive Internet presence for the state Dems.

Ken's key recommendations include:

  • Setting up an online database of public meeting places, and basic tools for listing and organzing local meetings.
  • Starting an email newsletter in order to gather names and keep folks informed.
  • Consider starting a state party blog (21 of 50 state parties already have them!) and podcasts
  • Encourage candidates to establish their own blogs.
  • Encourage electeds and other leaders to make themselves available to progressive bloggers on a regular basis via meetings and teleconferences.
  • Explore leading edge technologies such as text messaging to reach young voters
  • Allow website visitors to create and print out campaign materials

Ken gets it.  This is all sensible if not obvious stuff.  It's frankly kind of pathetic that a lot of it wasn't there five years ago.  But it's great to see an insider like Ken picking up the call for a more technology-savvy approach to state-level politics. 

Unfortunately, it looks like his advice is falling on deaf ears

One point that concerns me is to have an official Party blog. 
Invariably some comment will be posted there, and then attributed by someone as being from “an official State Party publication”.  A scandal is then born. 

There is currently a very good network of liberal/progressive/Democratic blogs. 

Thanks again.

Dwight

 

In other words, Pelz doesn't think that that party needs a blog, because of the risk of people saying mean things in the comment threads and creating messaging blowback.

Not so brilliant there, Dwight.  The local political media is already more than online-savvy enough to know not to attribute comments to the blog author.  And the right-wing bloggers don't need an excuse to just make stuff up.

Worse, it seems like he's pretty much blowing off the rest of Ken's common sense suggestions.

It's long seemed to me that the Washington State Dems are either unwilling to embrace true two-way Internet communication or simply unable to bring to bear the talent and resources necessary to do so.  Dwight's response only reinforces that perception.

It's really a shame to see that Dwight doesn't seem to be bringing much of a fresh perspective on online communications.  I had hoped for more when Paul Berendt stepped aside.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 29, 2006 at 12:18 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (10)

April 28, 2006

No So... Brilliant

As the Seattle Times reports:

Morton Brilliant, Gov. Christine Gregoire's former campaign spokesman, resigned this week from his latest campaign job amid allegations that he changed an online Wikipedia biography of an opponent in Georgia's gubernatorial race.

Moral of the story: don't let your campaign staffers edit your opponents' Wikipedia bios -- leave that to the netroots. ;-)

Tempest in a teapot, if you ask me.  But really, really childish.  More pathetic, though is Rossi spokesperson Mary Lane's attempt to smear Gregoire as a "cloak and dagger" campaigner.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 28, 2006 at 03:50 PM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 27, 2006

Darcy on DCCC List of Red-to-Blue Candidates

Goldy has a nice piece on the meaning of Darcy's position on the DCCC's List of candidates they are supporting to turn red districts to blue districts.  Check it out.

Chris Bowers had a nice piece a few weeks ago on the importance of focusing on the races where the turnover from Republican to Democratic would be most likely to hold over many years.  He identified about a dozen districts, mostly in the Northeast, where a flip would be most beneficial for the Democrats long-term.  WA-08 was also one.  Another reason why supporting Darcy is so important.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 27, 2006 at 08:54 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 26, 2006

Wading into the Issue of Network Neutrality with Jay Inslee

One of the things about taking our democracy seriously is forcing ourselves to understand arcane issues we really don't want to deal with.  "Network neutrality" is such an issue for me and I expect for many of you.  I've been avoiding it for a couple months.  "Somebody else take care of this one, please," I say to myself.  Well, someone else is - the big telecoms, aided and abetted by a bunch of Republicans and a few Democrats. 

You can only imagine how that will work out.  Rather like deregulating cable television or eliminating the estate tax.  Those paid someones who put the time and energy into addressing this issue will be the hirelings of a few companies or individuals who will make a lot of money and then the rest of us who will be paying more for our rather inflexible cable and wireless connections or paying more taxes so that a few very rich families won't have to pay inheritance taxes. 

So, let's wade into this thing.

Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee convened to consider a bill called the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006 (COPE). The seeming focus of COPE is national video franchising for IPTV providers such as Verizon and AT&T.  It is intended to increase competition in the pay television market and has wide support on both sides of the aisle.  However, the bill would also make it possible for phone and cable companies to charge senders outside their network tolls to transmit emails and slow transmission of those emails for those who won't pay.  AT&T and Verizon have already said they will do just that.

Here's how Pachacutec, over at firedoglake, defines the issue:

The Internet began with regulations that blocked providers from favoring access to one site over another.  That’s Internet Freedom, a.k.a., "Net Neutrality."  That means you can access what you want when you want, and anyone can create a web based destination.  Phone companies were set up along similar lines:  they are not allowed to block you from calling any number you choose.  Cable companies are different.  They steer you where they want and charge you what they like for the privilege.

Four Democrats on the House Commerce panel, led by Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey and our own Jay Inslee, are fighting for stronger Internet freedom protections, called network (or net) neutrality. Rep. Markey introduced an amendment to COPE which would have enshrined the FCC's network neutrality principles, which have no force in law, into statutory law.

Pelosi has come out strongly in support of Net Neutrality.  A few Democrats, seemingly highly compensated by the telecom companies, have voted against net neutrality in the past but the netroots, newly awakened to this issue, is persuasive. The amendment was defeated today in committee but by a lot less - a 22-34 vote.  A similar amendment was rejected on April 5 by an 8-23 margin in subcommittee. 

McJoan, over at DailyKos, began a campaign just in the last day or two against four Democrats on the Committee who had previously voted against the amendment.  Today they voted for it.  This is big progress.  And power to us, when we use it. 

There is still hope that the full House will vote the bill down (after some additional voter outcry) or that the Senate will defeat it. 

Here's what Jay Inslee had to say today in committee:

As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I wanted to give an update on legislation being considered today that misses a golden opportunity to protect the principle of a free and democratic Internet.

The commerce panel currently is considering telecommunications-reform legislation that - as currently written - leaves open the possibility that phone companies and cable operators could charge their competitors' Internet tolls and send more slowly the content of those who don't pay.

I'm working with three colleagues on the committee, U.S. Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.), to protect Net neutrality by offering an amendment that would ban - in no uncertain terms - phone and cable companies from charging Web sites for faster data transmission or even blocking their online competitors' content and services.

After all, the basic structure and brilliance of the Internet is its open architecture, and its free and unfettered access to sights of our choosing.  The right to choose what sites to visit, without financial penalty, should remain protected.  Some argue that the toll would be placed on the Web site, rather than the consumer, but we all know those costs ultimately would be passed on to the consumer.

We cannot allow a private tax to be imposed on Internet users who wish to go to certain sites.  We don't allow a toll to be placed on drivers who want to get on the interstate because they haven't reached some deal with the state.  Neither should we allow the imposition of a toll on Internet users based on whether their online destination has paid a fee to the carrier.

We cannot allow telecommunications companies to hijack the Internet.  Rest assured, I'll work to preserve of freedom of choice on the Internet by fighting for a Net-neutrality provision today in committee, and as telecommunications-reform legislation advances in Congress.

There's a lot at stake here and I truly feel safer with Inslee on this committee fighting for what is right.  I will work hard to make certain that Darcy Burner gets to join him and his fellow right-on Democrats next January so that we have allies in the majority to attend to the interests of the majority. 

More importantly, I know that we all need to step up to the plate and learn about the seemingly arcane bills that go through Congress and the state legislature (although I trust our Democratic legislators a lot more than I trust the folks currently in the other Washington).  Because when we don't, our right-on Democrats aren't able to fight as hard for us, and others go weak and figure no one will catch them taking money from the big companies and wealthy individuals and voting the wrong way, as do so many of the Republicans already. 

For an amusing analogy of how the new bill may impact us, see "The Story of Don Telco" over at a diary on DailyKos:   

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 26, 2006 at 10:00 PM in Policy, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (3)

Looking at Mark Warner for 2008

Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner was in town a couple of days ago and I attended a fund-raiser for him for Washington Women for Choice.  I was glad to get to see him up close and came away very appreciative that he is a Democrat candidate for president in 2008 and that he has been asked to actively stump for Democrats running in the red states this year.   

Warner brings a freshness to the Party.  He is less an idealogue and more a pragmatist than many of our Democratic dinosaurs.  He clearly believes in good government.  In fact, in many ways, what he did in Virginia during his tenure as governor would make him right at home in Washington State where we have a governor and legislators who are just moving forward to get the right things done, not making a big deal out of good governing. 

The two ideas of his that jumped out at me were 1) his take on addressing the difficult budgetary issues that all states have to face and 2) his focus on assisting small towns to catch up and thrive and provide the jobs that will enable them to remain where they grew up if they'd like.

Warner talked about the red-ink financial situation he'd had to deal with in his four years in Virginia.  (Virginia allows for only one term for governor so Warner could not run again but instead paved the way for Tim Kaine, also a Democrat, to win last fall.)  Warner said that he had to make hard choices in the budget and had to make choices he did not wish to make.  He raised tobacco taxes in Virginia, a place where the old downtown of Richmond still smells like tobacco from decades worth of tobacco storage long ago. 

The situation forced him and the Republican Assembly in Virginia, which he was able to work with, to think dramatically differently about what should be funded and how they could streamline the services they provided.  Warner had come from the private sector, having co-founded a telecom company that became part of Nextel.  He knew how to work with agency heads and knew how to ask the questions that forced them to think differently about the role of government.  By the time he left office, Virginia was considered the best managed state in the country by Governing magazine.

For me, getting Democrats to do this is like Nixon going to China.  It's critical and, if we could do it, would be near-revolutionary for our Party and for the nation. And clearly, the Republicans aren't doing it. 

The governor talked a lot about the importance of education and his willingness to put money into education before everything else.  Again, he talked about rethinking the way we do education, for example, paying teachers who work in the more difficult schools more money to get the best teachers into the schools that need them the most.  He talked about a special program he inititated to train principles in business techniques.  He talked about making a contract with High School students who are not going on to college: "You graduate and we will make sure that you get an industry-level certificate at a community college so you can raise your annual salary by $6,000 - 10,000 immediately."  The focus and the innovation worked in Virginia.  Numbers of High School graduates climbed significantly during his time in office as did test scores for students.

Warner focused on education both because it is the right thing to do but also because of his passion for making rural Virginia and rural America a place where people can earn good money.  He brought wireless technology to 700,000 Virginians, largely in rural areas, in his four years.  He spent a great deal of energy working with high-tech companies to bring new jobs to the state and as a result, in 2004, Virginia led the nation in tech job creation.  He goes to India and China to find out how to get U.S. companies to outsource to rural America.  He's sharp and he's right.  Without that focus on rebuilding our rural areas, we will wind up like China with an enormous urban/rural economic divide.

It's also good politics.  He believes that the Democratic Party can bring rural Americans back into the fold and provide a new home for moderate Republicans, starting in the rural areas.  So he goes to small towns and listens to what people need. 

Warner's tag line, something he both said and has on his website is: "The real issues we face are no longer right vs. left or conservative vs. liberal. They're about past vs. future. Our challenge, as Democrats, is to reclaim our role as the party of the future."

Much as I liked Warner's stump speech and what I read of his positions and accomplishments on his  PAC website, Forward Together, he has some work to do to connect with his audience.  He doesn't have the less formal time down well.  He was not particularly good during Q&A time, wandering around on answers to the two sets of questions that were on people's minds: the Iraq War and his stance on abortion. Oddly enough, his stances seemed fine, given the red state/blue state territory he has staked out but he wasn't particularly articulate or sharp in how he communicated that.  But it's early and this was the third of five events for the day and every day is about that busy.  So, all and all, I was very glad to get to know where he is and hear his truly great record of accomplishment and innovative focus.

Joel Connelly interviewed Warner for 45 minutes that same day and has a nice piece up today in the PI.      

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 26, 2006 at 12:51 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 25, 2006

We'll Miss You, Jane

Some sad news today: Jane Jacobs died.  With her 1961 book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," laid the foundation for much that is right and good in sensible urban planning.   

As we consider the future of the Viaduct, perhaps we should ask, "WWJD -- What would Jane do?"

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 25, 2006 at 09:32 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 23, 2006

On Karl Rove's shift in focus

Billmon has a unique take on Rove's move away from policy in the White House to working on the midterm elections.  He says:

This is like reading that Jack the Ripper has given up his medical practice to concentrate on his night job.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 23, 2006 at 10:12 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Walking and Talking to Rebuild the Party

Volunteers across the nation will go door-to-door to talk with their neighbors about the Democratic Party’s bold vision for America based on honest leadership and real security next Saturday, April 29th.  The 50-State Strategy will bring the Democratic message to doorsteps across America. 

The DNC says this is a new undertaking for the Party, unprecedented in its scope.  Sign up now to take part.  In Seattle you can specify where you would like to canvass.  I asked for my own precinct and since I’m due up to be PCO in a few months when the current PCO moves from the area, it seems a good way to get started.   

The issues we will be asking about are:

Honest Leadership & Open Government
Real Security
Energy Independence
Economic Prosperity & Educational Excellence
A Healthcare System that Works for Everyone
Retirement Security

A good place to start.  Sign on up. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 23, 2006 at 10:07 AM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 21, 2006

Coming Out of Silence

I recently got back from a 5-day silent retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains and it is taking a bit of time to get back to the daily or near-daily political writing habit again.  I had a lot going on as I came back – next steps in two different political projects, and then also the death of my beloved friend and the eminent birth of my lovely niece, Charity’s, first child.  But I also have a pull to hold onto some of that spaciousness from that retreat and to retain quiet time for myself. 

Do you remember, in your body and in the calm of your mind, how much more people-centered our lives were those first weeks after 9/11?  Everybody just wanted to talk about where they were and what it was like on that fateful morning.  So we sent around emails and wrote them and took time to really talk to those we loved and to perfect strangers as well. 

This week is like that for me – even in the midst of great pressures on my time.  And because my dear friend Sally died, and died in a manner somewhat unexpected to those of us who’ve been with her through it, we have all taken the time to talk and listen deeply.  It is a raw time, in the best sense, like that time after 9/11 was for all of us. 

I met a young woman on the plane, a student at the UW, coming back from San Jose and she and I and her Dad got to talking about politics.  At some point Callie asked me if I ever blogged about Buddhism and politics and I said I hadn’t figured out how to do that yet. 

However, as I return this time, I find myself not choosing to write about politics yet and not reading as intently as I customarily do in my runs around the Internet world.  I find that I don’t automatically turn on NPR in the car or the NewsHour at 6:00 if I’m home.  So, somehow, I think it is time to share a bit about how my sense of what I call Buddhism influences my politics. 

So come along with me, if you’d like, as I explore further.

Having these two great and very personal passions – politics and Buddhism – has been a challenge and yet has required me to find a bigger picture that can hold them both.  I try to balance the passion I have for taking back this country with my Buddhist sense of both non-attachment to the outcome and awareness of not wanting to think I know what the right thing is or to contribute to the violence of separation from those who believe other than I do. 

I can’t say I do a good job of balancing these interests.  I still care so much about getting our country back and I do care about sharing how much better off we are in this state run more by Democrats, and by a lot of women.  I still ache to be rid of the Republicans who are in positions of leadership in DC.  I still have such a hard time understanding points of view that seem idiotic to me. 

Now does that sound Buddhist to you?  Even if you really know nothing about Buddhism, you have to know that there is a lot of attachment in what I care about.

But I know I have moved into a calmer place about politics over the last half dozen or so years I’ve been sitting, and calmer about the times when it doesn’t come out the way I want it to.  I am more able to stay focused on my goals even in adversity.  It is my goal to do as much as I possibly can to alter the political landscape in our country and rebuild our democracy.  My sitting practice helps me remain open to the suffering, even when we cause it, and remain open to the pain of seeing things happen in this country and in the world that we really didn’t want to have happen.  It allows me to feel it more and yet have the feelings go through me.  It doesn’t remain so much as anger or guilt.  It also allows me to remain buoyant about life itself and to see the lovely human beings who are a part of making these changes that we are all seeking.   

When I was at the retreat, I had the luxury of sitting for long stretches of time looking at the hills on one side of the center and the Pajaro Valley on the other with the ocean in the distance – when they were visible through the fog and the driving rain.  It was all well organized and the staff at the retreat center was doing the cooking and the volunteers of the retreat group I was with let us know when to meditate, when our teacher was talking and we could talk with him, when to go to meals, when we had break time.  Sometimes I played hooky but always there was this spacious silence.  It was lovely to just sit, either on my chair in the meditation hall or at a window in the dorm area, and sink down into the vastness of the Universe.  Or to consider how I’ve come to build up a new identity for myself after managing to shed much of what I’d built up over previous years.  I know I am freer when identity is lighter and yet . . . it is so easy to solidify those expectations and seek the approval and recognition that go with them.  It was a humbling time in the best possible way.  And I had lots of mundane ideas or thoughts about the future or the past.  Ideas about what I need on some project or another float to the surface.  Thoughts about friends, thoughts about Sally and her family.  Complaints about my room-mates, complaints from my knees when I sat on the floor too long. 

I listened to my teacher, a very funny, quite unpretentious man who seems to be closer to the Truth than anyone I’ve personally encountered.  He talks about turning our attention to that which is awake within us, to recognizing the difference between the larger “me” that is connected to the entire fabric of consciousness and the smaller “me” of personality and patterns that each of us has developed.  He talks about truly finding the freshness of each moment and not being bound by the beliefs or ideas of last week or last year.

So it is very interesting to come back.  I attend a retreat like this every six – nine months.  And it is always a fascinating re-entry.  There is nothing like being away from the daily news to feel the tedious nature of the compulsion to know everything – to think about who will replace Scotty McClellan, to try to ascertain what Karl Rove’s change in position means for the November elections, or even to cheer the news that Al Gore is preparing for a larger campaign on global climate change that might lead to his candidacy in 2008. 

I know that in a few days I will want to know more of these events and will want to put them in perspective.   In the meantime I want to take that bit of silence that I’ve managed to hang onto and consider what’s valuable about my political passion from that place. 

What I love about the blog writing I do is that I get to hear about and share what individual people are doing toward building community and making the world a better place while they enjoy themselves doing it.  It might be my friend, LueRachelle, who talks with such joy about the African-American Kenyan “cultural reconnection project” or my friend Noemie’s wonderful IWF-sponsored “Back to the Roots” project that she and I and several others are working on.  Yoram, an occasional contributor here, bills himself as “the world’s only stand-up comedian” and consistently does comedy fundraising for worthy organizations.  My old friend, Craig, sings with the Seattle Peace Chorus, which I’ll be writing about shortly.  It is my way of helping to knit together this fabric of caring for each other that underpins our progressive values.

I also enjoy interviewing our great Democratic leaders in this state so people can know more about who they are and what a really good job they do for us.  If we had good Republican leaders I would consider interviewing them as well but I don’t hear about that rare breed.  If you go to our Interview section you will find interviews with Chris Gregoire, Lisa Brown, Jay Inslee, Ron Sims, Deb Wallace, Mike Sells and others.  During the election season I interview candidates and I also interview the people who head up the non-Party progressive organizations, people like Dean Nielsen of Progressive Majority, David Roth of SEIU 775, and others.  I like meeting these people and finding out what they do and I hope others enjoy finding out about them as well. 

I also like to keep track of what is happening larger picture-wise at the national level, especially with the rebuilding of the Democratic and progressive movements.  For me this includes becoming more effective in articulating the value of progressive policies and in getting creative in presenting the reality-based world, as well as the details that let us know if that is working.  For me this is focusing on the bigger Democratic Party needs, the needs we have to make the Democratic Party most effective, more articulate, more powerfully able to stand for what we truly believe about how people ought to be cared for in our society and in our country’s interactions with the rest of the world. 

So I nudge people to take part in the parts of the rebuilding of our democracy that interest them.  I nudge them to join us Democrats in listening to our neighbors about their needs and interests and talking to them about Democratic values.

All these things are important to me and fit both my passion about politics and my pull to touch the vastness of our Universe that is larger than any of the political world that I write about or work towards.

Now, we resume our normal programming with allowances for additional Buddhist-like rambling occasionally.  And now that I have written about how I think about politics and Buddhism together, I get to challenge Callie to write about her political passions for us as well.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 21, 2006 at 10:57 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 18, 2006

Ron Sims Offers Some Practical Leadership on Transit

There must be some kind of weird convergence in the air.  Today oil prices hit a record high, and King County Executive Ron Sims released his plan to ask us to fund a massive expansion of Metro bus service.  For a measly $25 per household per year, we'll get 20% more bus service, including Bus Rapid Transit along five major corridors including Aurora and 15th Ave NW in Ballard.  That's every ten minutes, every day, and more often during rush hour.   Other major routes will have their service boosted to every 15 minutes.

This is exactly the kind of investment we need to be making if we're going to build communities that can survive and thrive in a world of increasingly expensive oil.   In fact, it's long overdue.  And at a total of $50 million per year, it's a bargain.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 18, 2006 at 11:02 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

Opening salvos in the 43rd

As Lynn mentioned when introducing me as an Evergreen Politics author, I serve as the Vice Chair for Programs in the 43rd District Democrats.  Thus, it is with more than passing interest that I note the commencement of a series of reports on Slog, the blog created by The Stranger, in which the competitors for what has been Ed Murray's seat in the State House of Representatives will describe their policy emphases and discuss the LD's issues with readers, bloggers, et al.

Today, Eli Sanders opens the proceedings with a posting and comment thread on former District Democrats chair Dick Kelley.  Kelley's campaign website can be found by clicking here.  Additional Democratic candidates in the 43rd will present themselves to the Slog community every day this week:

The sixth Democratic candidate for the seat, Jamie Pedersen, was the subject of an article written by Sanders in the April 6-12 dead-trees version of The Stranger, but has not participated in an interactive medium such as a blog.  I hope he'll do so at some point, just as I hope there will be articles/profiles on paper about the rest of these estimable candidates.

I strongly encourage EP readers to pop over to Slog to participate in the discussions with and about the 43rd LD candidates this week.  We're still a long way from the September primary, and there will undoubtedly be many words spilled around the Seattle blogosphere on this race (as well as the State Senate race here in the 43rd), but it's not too early to start educating ourselves about who's in the running.

Before wrapping up, I'd also like to note that the 43rd District Democrats are already starting to plan Candidate Forums on the House and Senate races.  We're looking to do something big -- too big for our usual LD meeting place, with media invited to cover it -- most likely in July.  And our August LD meeting, when primary endorsements are voted on, promised to be a rollicking affair as well.

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Cross-posted to my own blog and to WashBlog.

Disclaimer:  I have endorsed Dick Kelley and participate as a volunteer in his campaign.  That said, I will enthusiastically and unabashedly support whichever Democrat wins the nomination in our primary.

Posted by Neal Traven on April 17, 2006 at 05:09 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

Who dat?

Many thanks to Lynn for inviting me to post here on Evergreen Politics while she's away.  I would have written something earlier, but I too was out of town over the weekend.  Nothing as cool as a meditation retreat, though I did have the opportunity to celebrate the start of a new season (even if I did have to go to Cleveland to do it).

Lynn gave you a bit of my background, but I'd like to expand upon it just a little bit.  Yes, it's true that my blog is perhaps the Pacific Northwest's longest-lived liberal political blog, but that's not really all that much of an accomplishment ... I've only been blogging for a tad more than three years.  If that, and my low-three-digits DailyKos userid, makes me a blogging oldtimer, sobeit. 

In terms of Washington State, however, I'm really a newbie.  I moved here from New Hampshire in early 2001 -- in fact, I closed on my condo the very same day that the viaduct nearly collapsed -- and had never lived anywhere except the Eastern time zone until then.  Some of my family members have lived here for a couple of decades, though, so I wasn't completely unknowledgeable about Seattle when I arrived.

I've been interested in politics my whole life, though my activity level has varied greatly.  I didn't quite need to get Clean for Gene, because I hadn't yet grown my beard in 1968.  Still, I volunteered for McCarthy, and thought seriously about going to Chicago for the convention that year.  I missed out on tear gas at that point, but got a few whiffs over the next few years at antiwar marches, moratoria, and rallies.  In terms of presidential politics, my first vote was cast for George McGovern in 1972.  Sad to say, the only times I've voted for the winner were 1992 and 1996 (well, 2000 as well, but let's not go there).

As I said, I've always been interested in politics.  But I didn't do anything about it between Vietnam and Dubya.  Even while living in New Hampshire in 2000, I never met -- in fact, never even saw -- a single presidential candidate (Democrat or Republican); I'd decided that I was going to vote for Bill Bradley in the primary, and that was the extent of my political commitment. 

That all changed as Dubya's perfidious cabal began to drive our nation and our world ever farther into peril.  I looked very carefully at the Democratic presidential candidates as they began to emerge in 2002.  One quickly began to differentiate himself from the rest, and I soon found myself contributing, meeting, volunteering, and deeply involved in the Dean campaign.  Like so many others, I was politically reawakened by the grassroots energy that the good doctor inspired.  Unlike many others, I had gone 28 years between inspiring presidential candidate (it was Mo Udall back in 1976).  The Dean campaign led me to participate in the 43rd District Democrats as a PCO, which led to my election in 2005 to serve as the organization's Vice Chair for Programs.

By now, I'm hot-and-heavy in the upcoming battle for the state legislative seat being vacated by Ed Murray ... I'll have more to say about that one in the next few months.  And I get calls from Ed and Pat Thibaudeau, asking for my support in their Senate contest.  I'm excited by the prospects in our LD races, highly interested in our US Senate race and the House race across the lake in the 8th CD.  And, of course, already watching the potential presidential candidates as they jockey for position for 2008.

As the saying (not a Chinese curse, it turns out) goes, we are living in interesting times.  Whatever small contribution I can make to moving that interesting-ness in a positive direction, here or on my blog or on dKos, and in person as well, I'm looking forward to the activities and opportunities.

Posted by Neal Traven on April 12, 2006 at 04:06 PM in About Evergreen Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 09, 2006

Carl on Kyle

Carl's got a point: unseating Democrat-In-Name-Only Tim Sheldon in the 35th really should be a progressive priority this year.  I don't know much about his primary challenger, Kyle Taylor Lucas, who announced her candidacy yesterday, but I'd love to hear more.  Heck, I'm not sure I need to.  With friends like Tim we really don't even need Republicans.

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 9, 2006 at 12:38 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 08, 2006

Viaduct Madness

Vision3The Stranger's Erica Barnett took note of new Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark's announcement that she intends to vote for putting a "no-build" Viaduct replacement option before the voters later this year. Clark's is now the majority-making fifth member to support Peter Steinbruck's plan, and no doubt comes as a great relief to our friends down at the People's Waterfront Coalition, who have been tireless in their enthusiasm for the common-sense option of replacing the viaduct with a surface boulevard and green space.

It's no surprise that WSDOT (our road-building friends from Olympia) and the Port of Seattle are unshakably [is that some kind of pun? think about it. -Ed.] opposed to the no-build option.  But what I can't for the life of me understand is why Mayor Greg Nickels has put all of his political capital on the idea of replacing the Viaduct with a tunnel.  It just doesn't make any sense.

Nickels clearly likes the whole visionary-urban-sustainability thing, as his extremely successful climate change initiative shows.  So why is he so committed to spending over $4 billion dollars that we don't have (not including Big Dig-style cost overruns) on a megaproject we don't need?  Is he listening too closely to his friends at the Port?  Is he afraid to back down after lobbying so hard for federal and state dollars? 

And while we're on the topic, can someone answer me this: if we can live without the viaduct for the 5-10 years it will take to build any replacement, can't we live without it forever?

Posted by Jon Stahl on April 8, 2006 at 05:58 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

And In My Place . . .

I'm going to be away to a meditation retreat for a week.  This is a very welcome journey I make once or twice a year to declutter my mind.  In addition to Jon, who will be posting again after a run of busyness in other directions, I have asked Rob Holland and Neal Traven to post during my absence. 

Neal is an old-timer, one of the first of our NW progressive bloggers over at Peace Tree Farm.  He is also active in Democratic Party politics, serving as Program Chair of the 43rd LD and is likely to be writing from that perspective.

Rob is a new-comer to our blogging world. Rob is also active in local Democratic politics, serving as Outreach Chair for the King County Democrats.  But his passion, and what he is likely to write about most, is agricultural policy.  He has recently been asked to join the King County Agricultural Committee, a policy group that provides advice to the Council and the Executive on land use issues and farm preservation.    

My thanks to them both for stepping in. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 8, 2006 at 08:30 AM in About Evergreen Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lessons from the Monorail Debacle: The Grassroots Loses

Governing Magazine's Alex Marshall has a great column on the death of Seattle's monorail.  His contention is that it failed because it was a grassroots project and never had the backing of Nickels and other politicians.  Here are the key paragraphs:

The plan got underway about 10 years ago when a hippie taxicab driver dreamed up a simple X-shaped set of monorail lines that would provide access to downtown and hit many of the city’s population centers. He and a newly formed group of residents went straight to the voters and won approval of the plan in a 1997 referendum. Then in three more referendums, voters gave a nod to a specific design and a financing plan for the $2 billion project. They even approved a new tax on their cars to pay for it.

All the referendums were necessary because the politicians and business interests kept sending the project back to the voters in hopes that they would kill it. The record suggests they regarded this as an upstart project — an alien entity — that came up outside the usual channels.

Take a read.  There are lessons in here for future grassroots organizing and also for thinking about who we want in office.

Hat tip to David Sucher at CityComforts.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 8, 2006 at 08:05 AM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Town Hall Meeting in the 36th LD

Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Representative Helen Sommers and Representative Mary Lou Dickerson of the 36th District are hosting a town hall meeting on April 29 at Antioch University. The meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 100. Antioch University is located at 2326 6th Ave. in Seattle. For more information, please call Sen. Kohl-Welles’ office at (360) 786-7670 or (206) 281-6854, Rep. Sommers’ office at (360) 786-7814 or Rep. Dickerson’s office at (360) 786-7860 or (206) 545-6513.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 8, 2006 at 08:00 AM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 07, 2006

Saying Good-by to Sally, my Political Parent

My very good friend, Sally Giovine-Kerr is dying.  She has had a scarring on her lungs for at least a year and has been in decline.  That decline turned rapid in just the last couple of weeks.  She is 82 and has led a good life and there have been a fair share of sorrows as well. 

She is one of those folks whose life touched many in the communities of which she was a part.  She had few stated roles, outside of being a Democratic precinct committeeperson for many years.  But she knew people all over the age and economic spectrums.  She made friends with people from the mayor’s wife to a guy she met who’d just come out of prison.  In the modern day organization, they would say her power and influence came in the white spaces, the spaces between the boxes on the organization chart.   

Sally is my political parent, the person from whom I most learned about politics and the importance of the political world on our individual lives.  I feel like I have made so much use of her knowledge and skills and have been able to build on what I learned from her.  Part of why I pay so much attention to politics and have for so long comes from knowing her.  Part of my ability to organize and my  awareness of the value of organizing comes from listening to her talk about walking the precincts. 

A few of our older readers may know Sally.  There have been times when she was a political presence in this city and before that in Olympia.  Much of it was before my time of knowing her and I’ve known her for thirty-four years, since I was in my early twenties.  It’s quite clear to me that had she been a man, she would have run for office.  As it was, she hobnobbed with many a politician and paid ferocious attention to what happened nationally and locally.

Sally’s understanding and analysis of the political world influenced me more than any other person in my life.  She had been paying attention to politics all her life.  I’d never met another grown-up, except for teachers, for whom that was true.  Most of the people I knew, of any age, came to their political awareness during the Vietnam War. 

For Sally, the connection between a person’s daily life and the politics of the day was intricately interwoven and she knew how to help people find that connection in their own lives.  She could ask them about their job and their family and they would just tell her about themselves.  At some point as they were talking, she might make some comment about how something they were troubled about was a result of a particular political action that had either been or not been taken and you would see the light go on for that person.  Oh, it wasn’t just them; it wasn’t their fault there were so few jobs available or that their child was having trouble getting the healthcare they needed.

Follow me over the jump.

Sally came into my life when I was twenty-three and she was forty-eight.  Her youngest son, Luke, was a student of mine at an alternative school I taught at.  We each had fairly similar thoughts about what schools should be in young people’s lives.  And she influenced me a lot, in big ways and small. 

I was already fairly political, had helped shut down the University while in student government at the U.W. in that tumultuous spring of 1970, had marched against the Vietnam War, co-organized the first environmental day at the University, and was now teaching in an alternative public school.  Those were heady times, times when we truly thought we really could and would change the world.  (Looking back I think we had many wonderful ideas and an awful lot of needless righteousness and no understanding of how slowly people changed.)

Sally was the first grown-up I’d met in my life who had been political when she was young.  It was a different era; grown-ups didn’t talk politics much in the suburbs where I came from, except for the teachers, and they were, of necessity, fairly careful.  Sally had come from a family of politicians and had always lived in a city – either Olympia or Seattle.  Her father, Carlton, had been a State Senator, a Republican I imagine, but one of those upstanding Republicans we used to have.  She grew up in Olympia and knew folks in government.  Her sister, Zan, married a big labor leader, Joe Davis.  Her first husband, Peter Giovine, had been Director of the Employment Development Division and they had been friends with then governor Al Rossellini and his wife and ran with a very political crowd, primarily Democrats. 

Yet I had heard her say many times that during the McCarthy Era, she and her husband had almost no one they could talk with about what was going on politically.  They had only one set of friends, a couple who lived in Oregon and whom they visited with a couple times a year that they could speak freely with.

The McCarthy Era had essentially gone over the heads of my parents and pretty much all other grown-ups I’d known, outside of some of the professors at the U.  So it was quite enlightening to hear the stories of that time and the fear that people carried around with them. 

Sally still carried a lot of what I thought of as paranoia about how easy it would be for our society to go back to that time and voiced that fear regularly during the years I knew her.  It simply made no sense to me with what I saw as pretty good politicians and a robust media.  Ha!  How right she wound up being. 

She hated war, having known so many young men who were killed in WWII, having a husband who died young from illnesses contracted in the Pacific.  She marched with us, she and her second husband, Bob Kerr, in the late sixties, two of the whiter heads in that time.  I appreciated the historical perspective she provided all those years for me and so many others around her.  It has made me ever so aware of how valuable it is to stay political through ones life, of how useful to have political connections across the ages.    

I will miss Sally in my life for many reasons.  Foremost amongst them is her keen sense of how personal the political is.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 7, 2006 at 09:02 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 06, 2006

Politics and Religion

I ran across a great quote from local writer, Frank Herbert, in "Dune", on Billmon's site.  He was comparing it with the focus of an article that Kevin Phillips wrote in the WAPO, based on his new book, "American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" (Viking). 

When politics and religion travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. The movement becomes headlong -- faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thought of obstacles and forget that a precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it's too late.

Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 6, 2006 at 10:35 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kerry and Cantwell Ask Bush for Energy Summit

The AP is saying that 51 Democratic lawmakers, led by Senators John Kerry and Maria Cantwell, have urged President Bush to hold and energy summit with representatives from industry, labor, environmentalists, academics, everyone who is interested.  The Bushies showed little interest.

The letter was signed by 27 Democratic Senators and 24 House members.  Here's a couple key sentences from the article:

''Developing a serious long-term strategy to curb our nation's dangerous dependence on oil is long overdue,'' the Democrats wrote Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said by e-mail that the president ''has focused on addressing the root causes of high energy prices and our dependence on foreign sources of energy.'' She said the administration is working with Congress to expand the availability of alternative fuels.

Hah! It's a good idea.  Wouldn't it be a lovely thing if we had an administration who might be able to see that?

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 6, 2006 at 10:14 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2006

Seattle 8th Most Prepared U.S. City

If the price of gas goes up to $5 or $8 a gallon, living in Seattle or Portland will be a whole lot easier than living in many other U.S. cities.  SustainLane has rated Seattle #8 on their list and Portland #6 on their list of easiest cities to live and work in if there is a major world political or climatic disruption.  The criteria they looked at were public transportation, sprawl, traffic congestion, access to local food and access to wireless networks.

Every aspect of our economy would be hit.  Here's what they say about what would be needed in oil price-related difficulty:

The top ten cities also combine strong public transportation with access to locally grown fresh food, and most (with the exception of Honolulu) have significant access to local wireless networks for telecommuting. Philadelphia leads the largest 50 cities in the U.S. with the highest combined per capita rate of farmers markets and community gardens. A homegrown system of local farmers and gardeners could prove to be a better alternative than the current system, where food is transported an average of 1500 miles to your dinner plate.

Here's more:

Seattle is the national leader in wireless connectivity, followed closely by San Francisco, Oakland, New York and Portland. Telecommuting could be an important way for large numbers of people to work from home if gas becomes completely unavailable, as it was sometimes during the 1973-74 Oil Embargo.

Finally, the most prepared cities and their metropolitan areas are relatively dense (except Portland) and had low sprawl, with the exception of Seattle. City services, jobs, shopping centers and entertainment are centrally located in all of these top ten cities. That is not the case with many other mid- to-large sized American cities that ranked lower in our analysis.

One commonality each of these ten cities has--though this was not used to determine the ranking--is that each is a major port. Port cities have the natural advantage of receiving imported goods without the added fuel needed to send truck fleets across the nation to landlocked areas. Just as it was for hundreds of years before the twentieth century, a city's geographical location may once again become the most important factor keeping its economy thriving.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 5, 2006 at 08:59 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Best Perspective on Immigration I've Read

Fareed Zakaria had a column in the WAPO yesterday that says more about the immigration issue and how it defines us as Americans than anything else I've read.  Here is the opening paragraph of the WAPO piece:

Seven years ago, when I was visiting Germany, I met with an official who explained to me that the country had a foolproof solution to its economic woes. Watching the U.S. economy soar during the 1990s, the Germans had decided that they, too, needed to go the high-technology route. But how? In the late '90s, the answer seemed obvious: Indians. After all, Indian entrepreneurs accounted for one of every three Silicon Valley start-ups. So the German government decided that it would lure Indians to Germany just as America does: by offering green cards. Officials created something called the German Green Card and announced that they would issue 20,000 in the first year. Naturally, they expected that tens of thousands more Indians would soon be begging to come, and perhaps the quotas would have to be increased. But the program was a flop. A year later barely half of the 20,000 cards had been issued. After a few extensions, the program was abolished.

Zakaria goes on to puzzle about the lack of a follow-up to the 9/11 attacks and surmises that America's immigrant population is not very radicalized, unlike the populations in other nations.  He says, "Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?"

He then acknowledges that the U.S. certainly has a problem with the flow of illegal immigrants, particularly from Mexico and passes along a finding by Stanford historian David Kennedy. "The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world."  Zakaria contends that the huge disparity in income is at the bottom of the huge inflow of workers.  The basic law of supply and demand is too big for law enforcement to overcome. 

His conclusion:

Beyond the purely economic issue, however, there is the much deeper one that defines America -- to itself, to its immigrants and to the world. How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us? How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcome and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 5, 2006 at 02:11 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Story of Kos

The SF Chronicle has a front-page article on Markos today that talks about his childhood and life and how DailyKos went from 50 readers to millions.  Pretty interesting

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 5, 2006 at 01:25 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2006

DeLay Quits to Spend More Time with His Lawyers

Yes, the polls indicated he might lose but really, Josh Marshall calls this one:

I think the story here is clear. Prosecutors knocking down one pin at a time. Paul Kiel and I were talking about this before I left the office early this evening: Rudy, to Buckham, to DeLay. They're each going to down. And the road map was clear -- though largely implicit -- in the Rudy plea documents.

DeLay's lawyers must have sat him down over the last 72 hours and explained to him that he needs to focus on not spending most of the rest of his life in prison.

See the previous post for additional information on those falling pins and how they are pointing straight toward DeLay. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 3, 2006 at 10:05 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abramoff/DeLay Corruption Update

A few days ago, we left the escalating Republican corruption scandal with DeLay press secretary, Emily Miller, turning on her former fiance, Mark Scanlon, and talking to federal prosecutors about what he'd done to build up an enormous pile of money while helping Abramoff clients get legislation through Congress favorable to their interests. 

In today's installment we find out a little about their other buddy, Tony Rudy, and Ed Buckham, whom we haven't heard much about yet but probably will soon. Rudy was deputy chief of staff for Tom DeLay and then a close associate of Jack Abramoff's at Greenberg Traurig, the consulting firm that Abramoff operated out of most recently.  Ed Buckham is head of another major lobbying firm, the Alexander Strategy Group, and also the person who ran DeLay's U.S. Family Network, the non-profit that collected money from Abramoff's clients but didn't disperse the money they raised to charity.

Tony Rudy pled guilty a week ago to conspiracy and is likely to implicate Abramoff and also Mr. Buckham. Here is how Rudy's role in the K-Street Project has been described by the folks over at the TPM Muckraker, a great new site dedicated to unearthing Republican corruption:

One Republican close to DeLay's operation who asked not to be identified called Rudy "the implementer," a practical, no-nonsense aide who made sure the Texas Republican's political vision became reality.

Buckham was also knee-deep in the corruption of the K Street Project, along with Mark Scanlon and Tony Rudy.  He was the lobbyist for Brent Wilkes, one of the two contractors identified in the Duke Cunningham scandal. He also seems to have perfected a new technique of routing money to Republican Congressionmen and their aides through paying off their wives.  But the issue that is most likely to take both he and Tom DeLay down is related to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and this is what federal prosecutors seem most interested in.   

The Northern Mariana Islands are best known for sweatshops that produce clothing with "Made in USA" label.  Never mind that the owners are wealthy Chinese and the sweatshops have no worker protection.  During the mid-90's the CNMI government was paying Jack Abramoff, when he was working at Preston Gates & Ellis, to make sure that Tom DeLay kept Congress from imposing minimum-wage increases for the workers. 

But the glitch occurred in late 1998 when a new governor was elected in the  CNMI.  Abramoff and Preston Gates lost their lucrative lobbying contract. 

And at the same time, Frank Murkowski, who was then Senator from Alaska and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which had jurisdiction, somehow got angry at the sweatshop conditions.  Here was his position as stated by CNN:

Moved by the sworn testimony of U.S. officials and human-rights advocates that the 91 percent of the workforce who were immigrants -- from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- were being paid barely half the U.S. minimum hourly wage and were forced to live behind barbed wire in squalid shacks minus plumbing, work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, without any of the legal protections U.S. workers are guaranteed, Murkowski wrote a bill to extend the protection of U.S. labor and minimum-wage laws to the workers in the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas.

So compelling was the case for change the Alaska Republican marshaled that in early 2000, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Murkowski worker reform bill.

The Abramoff/DeLay team swung into action to protect their interests. According to law firm records, lobbyist Jack Abramoff met personally with Tom DeLay at least two dozen times on this subject.  DeLay stopped the U.S. House from even considering the Murkowski's worker-reform bill.  Mike Scanlon and Ed Buckham traveled to the CNMI in late 1999 to persuade two legislators to switch their votes for speaker of the CNMI House of Representatives.  The new speaker, Ben Fitial, immediately pressed the island's governmor to reinstate the lobbying contract with Abramoff. 

Within months, Preston Gates had a contract paying $100,000 a month from the CNMI and the House Appropriations Committee, on which DeLay served, approved large contracts for Marianas construction projects.  Mr. Fitial also met shortly afterwards with officials in the new Bush Administation and key Republican leaders in Congress, Tom DeLay and Conrad Burns to discuss appropriations for key infrastructure projects and issues about labor reforms.   

Fast forward to today.  From a diary at DailyKos by dengre, who has done some excellent research on the subject, we have this:

Ben Fitial is now Governor of CNMI. Back in December it was reported that Ben is cooperating with the Feds. In March he cancelled a trip to DC for the US Governor's conference to avoid testifying before a Senate panel. If Ben is truly cooperating, DeLay is toast. If not, Ben is toast. Either way things are very bad for DeLay.

From the day Fitial became Speaker of the CNMI House to today, CNMI has been lavished with attentions and appropriations. The islands of Rota and Tinian have new airports. The Tan Family is using those airports to shift their business on CNMI from sweatshops to tourism for the new rich of Chine (they can travel to CNMI without a visa, ya know). And the US Marines are leaving Okinawa, Japan and coming to Tinian. (I guess the displace sweatshop workers can find new work in the booming CNMI sex trade).

The bribes are hidden in the Bills and appropriations DeLay and his team pushed through Congress. The bribes are hidden in the work of the Bush White House to look the other way and wink at certain payoffs. The testimony and filings related to the trial of David Safavian will be very interesting.

And that, folks, is how the K-Street Project works and why it is so important to begin dismantling it, whether through the federal prosecutors or at the election box or both.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 3, 2006 at 11:54 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Follow the Money

So, who has done well financially in these last 5 years?  We've heard some of this but it's always good, if depressing, to be reminded of actual figures.  Hale Stewart over at Blogging of the President, dug into the latest Commerce Department numbers and reports that total corporate profits increased 30.89% between 2001 and 2005, adjusted for inflation, a compound annual growth of 6.9%.  Meanwhile during the same period, non-supervisory wages increased 2.04%, adjusted for inflation, a compound annual growth rate of 0.5%.  He says:

When an economy grows over 3% for a few years, someone is doing well.  The current problem is corporations are making money, but instead of passing these gains onto employees in the form of higher wages, they are instead passing on gains that are barely higher than inflation and socking away the rest.

Backed up by these figures:

U.S. corporate profits have increased 21.3% in the past year and now account for the largest share of national income in 40 years, the Commerce Department said Thursday.  Strong productivity gains and subdued wage growth boosted before-tax profits to 11.6% of national income in the fourth quarter of 2005, the biggest share since the summer of 1966. For all of 2005, before-tax profits totaled $1.35 trillion, up from $1.16 trillion in 2004 and just $767 billion in 2001.

Meanwhile, the share of national income going to wage and salary workers has fallen to 56.9%. Except for a brief period in 1997, that's the lowest share for labor income since 1966.

This shift in who gets what portions of the money pie is not an accident.  According to David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter for the New York Times and author of the book, Perfectly Legal, the tax strategists for corporations and the wealthy have been patiently and consistently inserting changes into the tax laws to favor their clients for twenty-five years and have been able to do that quite easily since the Republicans took over Congress in 1994.

Yet another reason . . . 

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 3, 2006 at 11:41 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2006

Another Female Democratic Star on the Horizon

Deb Wallace, second term state representative from the 17th LD in Clark County, has become one of my favorite Democratic electeds.  She is accessible; she feels like an old friend whom I always enjoy talking with (and I’ve only met her two or three times); and she has a blog (but doesn’t post enough for my taste; it's cool nonetheless).  She came in person to our blogger-legislature forum last January and at the last minute was gracious enough to be on a panel of legislators talking about how they are building websites to communicate their issues and interact with the community. 

And that’s all before we get to the actual work of legislating in Olympia.  Deb came to the legislature from being a transportation planning professional, which means it was her job to work with people to solve problems and to plan to prevent problems in the future.  That’s what good planners do.  And she was good enough that she oversaw transportation planning in seven counties.  That means she has good people skills.  And it means she knows how to find the project stakeholders and determine how to weave their different agendas together.  It also means she has good organization skills and makes good use of her time to manage the various parts of her job.  She’s competent and she pays attention to what her customers want and need. 

Oh, and she also is there to serve her constituents.  They care about transportation (and probably elected her partly because of her expertise in that area), so she is Vice-Chair of the Transportation Committee.  They care about education so she takes on a rather unusual fourth committee assignment on the Education Committee.  They care about having people they love exposed to methamphetamine.  So she wrote a bill that further imposed limitations on obtaining ingredients on meth-producers.  They care about building their economy up so she sponsored a bill to help a local industry, the semi-conductor industry, stay competitive in the world.  They are somewhat distrustful of government, so she sponsors bills to make state government more accountable and more transparent.

Deb is the type of person that people thought of when they liked the idea of a business-person becoming a politician.  They were thinking of a professional like her who is personable and thoughtful and folds her agenda into the overall agenda of the organization, someone trying to get results and asking others to get results.

The bloggers liked Deb when we met her in early January at our forum.  Not only is she a good Democrat, she is one of the new breed, the kind we in the blogosphere really want to support.  When the time comes we will want to really make that support known - because she is top of the list on the Speaker's Roundtable ( a big-time Washington State Republican political committee) hit list.  I guess that's what you get for being a formidable force from a moderate district.      

The interview with Deb is after the fold.

Interview with Deb Wallace

Q: What is your background? How did you come to be in government?

DW: I have a business degree and worked for many years as a transportation planning professional.  The last several years of that career, I was the regional planning manager for the Department of Transportation for a seven county area which included Vancouver.

After I’d been there a couple of years, I realized we needed more investment in transportation.  We had done nothing for the previous thirteen years.  We also needed accountability measures. 

So the first bill I sponsored was to require that the Department of Transportation utilize performance measures and audits.  I wanted people in the state to know how their money was being spent.  I also wanted to see increasing spending for transportation. I became Vice Chair of the Transportation committee in my first year.  I was interested in making improvements to highway 520, to the Alaska Viaduct and to the Columbia River crossing.  I also wanted to see more spending on public transit.

Normally the tradition is that first termers don’t take risks.  I couldn’t see staying quiet when there were important things I wanted to see happen.  I took a $55,000 pay cut to be in the legislature.  It made no sense to me to be in that role if I didn’t do what I came to do.  So I helped change that pattern and others followed.

Q: What’s your general picture of this last session?

DW: This was an amazing session.  Of the four sessions I’ve served in, it was the most productive.  We were able to accomplish some historic things – including bills that dealt with medical malpractice, water rights, environmental preservation, and biofuels development and usage.

We knew we had a short time frame and we were very focused on what we wanted to accomplish.  Also, Chris Gregoire provided a lot of leadership.  There were a number of difficult issues that she took on and helped negotiate solutions.

I had only known of Chris’s work with the tobacco issues.  I got an opportunity to see her in action and she is impressive.  She wants to see results and she works in a collaborative manner with all the parties involved.

There are a number of legislators like me who choose to serve in order to make government better.  I came here to see that we increase accountability in government and also to improve transportation in the state.  When I came in, there was a large deficit.  I, like many others, wanted to make changes. 

We passed a bill calling for performance audits called the Joint Legislative Audit and Review.  We also set up a joint task force with legislators from the House and the Senate.  It gives us an opportunity to review incentives that we provide to businesses.  My take is that incentives make sense if they do what they say they will do. 

For example, one of the bills I sponsored was an incentive for the semi-conductor industry, which has companies in several locations around state but tend to cluster in Clark County.  For example, there is a new technology for producing a 12inch silicon wafer; currently most wafers are 6 inches.  There are only a few plants in the country making 12 inch wafers, some of which are in Clark County.  We want to encourage the expansion of facilities and create more jobs.

The way it works is that if a company invests $350 million to build facilities, they get a reduced B&O tax and sales taxes on the chemicals they use are decreased.  People think it will create $3 billion over time and about 800 well-paying jobs. 

So incentives can be good but we need to know if they are working as expected.  Also, sometimes we still have incentives for industries that no longer need to be supported.  So why use taxpayer dollars for it?  Our joint task force will take a look at this. 

Q: What were you most pleased with that occurred?

DW: Personally, I was happy that bills that I personally worked on passed.  These included important public safety issues, such as a bill regulating driving schools.  In the state of Washington, there has been little oversight of driving schools.  This bill requires background checks for instructors, something that’s pretty important in these times.  There also has not been a good standardized curriculum.  For example, when my daughter was taking driving classes, the instructor had her go through a Krispy Kreme store and they sat and ate donuts.  That shouldn’t be happening.

I also sponsored a bill that should cut methamphetamine use.  I had been working for a number of months with the Clark County Drug Task Force and had learned a lot about what was important.  So, among other things, we made it illegal to buy pure iodine without a reason.  From that standpoint, I felt like my time was valuable.

From the larger standpoint, I was pleased that we investing in healthcare for children.  We added 6500 children to the rolls of the insured.  Our goal is to cover all children in the state of Washington by 2010.  That is important.

I was pleased that we were able to make gains in public education.  We were actually able to get important results to make this wonderful state even better.

Q: What were the particularly difficult issues you had to deal with during the session?

DW:  There was the entire sex offender postcard issue (which I wrote about in late January).  It then became tricky to deal with the entire sexual predators issue because it was so politicized.  It is already an emotional issue.  And complex.  It entails courts, penalties, and the jail system.  We wanted a good policy solution that would protect kids.  So the Republicans’ tactics were unfortunate.  Yet we got something important accomplished and did so in a bipartisan way.

The other difficult issues were the ones that Chris wound up negotiating well.  (I wrote about these as well.)

Q: Tell us a bit about the bills encouraging biofuels.

DW:  This is hugely important, particularly so here in our state.  The federal government is talking about this but taking little action.  We felt we needed to act.  Washington State is one of the leaders in the nation on this issue.  We wanted to support the economy, particularly our agriculture industry and to move us toward energy independence.  We are going to see this country move toward biofuels.  This bill (SB6508) mandates the use of 2% biofuels, growing to 5%.  We are going to blow those figures out of the water.  We will see the demand grow quickly as the needs become more apparent.  Why not do it here and benefit economically?

Q: And education? I know this was your first year on the Education Committee.

Yes, this was my first year on the Education Committee.  I added it as my fourth committee, which is unusual.  I felt it was Important enough that I needed to be right there.  I was most pleased that we backed up some of the WASL requirements and invested money in making those programs more rigorous.  It was most significant to provide alternatives to WASL.  What we come back and do next year because of the Washington Learns program will be key.  We will come back and report what we find in the next session.  We have not continued to make changes to prepare our kids for the 20th century.  So we are doing that now.  Next year will be most important for education.  That’s why I wanted to get involved this year – so I would get ramped up.

Thank you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 2, 2006 at 10:17 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 01, 2006

Not an April Fool's Story: The Accidental Revolutionary

George Bush and his policies have inspired a left-ward surge that is uniting Latin America.   James Wolcott points us to an article by Nick Miroff on Tomdispatch.

Has Latin America ever had such a unifying figure?

At political rallies, his visage is held aloft as a beacon to regional independence and self-determination. He's helped forge new trade partnerships to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty. And his leadership has fanned a gale-force electoral trend that's sweeping the hemisphere to topple one pro-Washington government after the next.

Who is this grand inductor of Latin American leftism? Venezuelan fireball Hugo Chavez? Blue-collar Brazilian Lula Ignacio da Silva? Bolivia's coca-farmer-cum-president, Evo Morales?

¡Epa! It's George W. Bush, the accidental revolutionary.

In the past five years, the swaggering Texan has inspired a leftward surge that is uniting Latin America and threatening to knock Che Guevara right off all those natty t-shirts.

He then talks about the attempts of these Latin American countries to try democracy and market-oriented economic policies - with little positive impact. 

"The macroeconomic proposals of the Washington consensus have not been working," says Guillermo Delgado, professor of Latin American Studies at UC Santa Cruz. "That model was supposed to create prosperity and, after so many years, such prosperity has not been seen and class polarization has grown deeper."

Sensing an opportunity, new social and political movements in the region began marshalling their forces. Then George W. Bush came along, combining Yankee hubris with a Che-worthy radicalizing touch.

And with the election of George Bush and the Republican trifecta?

Bush has since presided over one of the most significant political re-alignments in the history of the Western Hemisphere. By this summer, every major Latin American nation but Colombia is likely to be run by elected leaders with stronger backgrounds in Marx than free markets. If Cold War-era "domino theory" has been a bust in the Middle East, it's working with textbook precision in Latin America.

<snip>

In a recent Zogby poll, fewer than 20% of Latin American elites (typically the most politically conservative voters in the region) gave Bush a favorable approval rating. Only 6% said Bush's policies were better than those of his predecessors.

Some analysts have attributed Latin America's political shift to U.S. foreign policy negligence, arguing that, because the Bush administration is so consumed with Iraq, American officials are now incapable of wielding effective diplomatic influence in the region.

<snip>

But Latin America's leftward shift stems from more than White House distraction. It's not that the United States is acting aloof with its neighbors; rather, we're the worst-behaved homeowner on the block. We fly the biggest flag, make the loudest demands, and on top of it all, we don't even like having guests over. Sure, the United States has treated Latin America as its "backyard" for two hundred years -- but now, Bush's own party wants to fence it off.

House Republicans recently approved a plan to erect a 2,000-mile, Israeli-style barrier that would wall off Mexico and the rest of Latin America. The plan isn't expected to survive a Senate vote, but it sums up the current state of north-south relations quite well.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 1, 2006 at 10:01 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April Fool's Story

Pentagon investigation clears Cheney of wrongdoing in seal-clubbing incident.  Just in from Sojourner's weekly email:

Cheney, wearing his custom-tailored seal-clubbing suit, prepares to club a baby seal. (Photo)
 
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Dentist Michael MacKenzie is in serious but stable condition following an accident while on an Alaskan baby seal-clubbing expedition with Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney was in the process of clubbing a 1-week-old baby harp seal when MacKenzie somehow got in the way, sustaining a concussion, broken jaw, and several missing teeth.

Asked to comment, MacKenzie stated, "Umph schmph fluh shuh buh fuh," as his jaw is wired shut and his mouth stuffed with gauze. In comments scrawled on hospital stationery, he said that he harbors no ill will towards the vice president: "I realize that it's all just part of the sporting risk and giddy thrill of baby seal clubbing. More morphine, please."

A Pentagon investigation into the matter has determined that Cheney did nothing wrong, as his executive office affords him the privilege of ignoring international conventions regarding the clubbing of both seals and dentists. A Pentagon spokesperson also indicated that the vice president overpaid $7 for his baby seal clubbing license, and should seek reimbursement from the state game warden.

Animal rights leaders have expressed outrage; they're very good at it. Seal-clubbing safety experts have also expressed concern.

In response to waves of criticism, Cheney plans to go on FOX "News" in four days and say he's sorry for clubbing his friend but that the Iraq war is an unparalleled success.

Reports have also noted that Cheney has restricted his outdoor sporting companions to members of unpopular professions in order to mute public outcry in the event of an accident. MacKenzie, 65, is a dentist, 78-year-old Harry Whittington, whom Cheney shot in the face with a shotgun earlier this year, is a lawyer, and Ronald DuPre, a campaign donor who was accidentally harpooned while on a dolphin hunting tour earlier this year, is a DMV attendant. Reports indicate that Geoffrey Payton, a parking enforcement officer with whom Cheney had scheduled an outing to go dynamite fishing this June, has since cancelled the trip and moved to an undisclosed location.

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

Darcy Blows the Numbers Out

We got word from the Darcy Burner campaign last night that the money was pouring in.  With contributions of all sizes from around the state, the campaign expects to beat the $320,000 goal set by the DCCC for Darcy to receive additional national support.  People have understood how important this race is and how important it is to get a good Democratic candidate into this seat. 

They brought in $130,000 in 10 days.  The campaign expects that they have exceeded the goal and made it clear to the national groups that Darcy is an incredibly viable candidate. 

She will make a statement about the numbers and her performance on Monday.

They also greatly appreciate what the blogs have done for her.  Thanks to all of you who contributed.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 1, 2006 at 08:44 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack