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January 31, 2007

Day Six of the Libby Trial: Miller and Cooper

More Judy Miller but nothing substantially new.  Libby Defense lawyer Bill Jeffress was not as successful in undermining Miller's credibility today as he was yesterday.  Jeralyn and Marcy, talking about it on camera at the end of the day, believe that Miller's testimony alone would not convict Libby since Miller's memory had been questioned effectively.

Matt Cooper was not a particularly effective witness for the prosecution.  Not much to say about it.

Then there was a lawyerly discussion while the jury was out that uncovered a conversation that Libby had had with Mary Matalin, who had formerly worked for the VP.  Libby had called Matalin for advice on the Wilson situation and Matalin had said that 1) "Wilson's a snake" and 2) "Call Tim", meaning Tim Russert, reinforcing the point that Cathie Martin had made that Russert was the guy to go to when you need to get the VP's message out there.   

The public is getting to see under the rocks we traditionally never hear about.  Fascinating.  We knew that Matalin is pathologically partisan.  But we also hear that Tim Russert hates Chris Matthews, according to Matalin.  We are never going to look at Russert in the same way.  Whether it makes a difference in this trial is a different story. 

Jeralyn and Marcy have another video-clip up where they discuss the value of the various testimonies to the prosecution.  They see a weakness in each of the testimonies individually but seem to think that collectively it may work in nailing Libby.  They also discuss an upcoming "mystery witness".  Hm.  This trial gets ever more interesting. 

In addition to the now regular live-blogging from Marcy Wheeler and the summary by Jeralyn, we also have a bonus: Jon Stewart weighs in on the trial

MW - Judy Miller, 4

MW - Judy Miller, 5

MW - Matt Cooper, 1

MW - Matt Cooper, 2

MW - Matt Cooper, 3

JM - Who Will Deliver for Fitz?

Comedy Central on the Libby Trial - Jon Stewart

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 31, 2007 at 10:43 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Feingold Discusses Constitutional Rights Re: War

It is our job to fix the mess and if we don't do so, it is our fault, says Senator Russ Feingold in this speech in the Senate today, which was captured by this video-clip.  He is submitting a bill to stop U.S. involvement in armed conflict tomorrow which would bring our troops home six months after passed.

Feingold provides a nice overview of the constitutional powers of Congress and a history of Congressional oversight of presidential adventures.  Here's the last sentence:

If Congress doesn't stop this war, it's not because it doesn't have the power.  It's because it doesn't want to. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 31, 2007 at 05:12 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Molly Ivins - A Heroine For Our Times

Molly Ivins died today. Much more than a columnist and a book author, Molly was a brave soul who did what others were afraid to do, which is to take on the powers-that-be. She did it unrelentingly, with style, humor and above all, with integrity. She was -- like her great friend and fellow Texan, Ann Richards -- a real dame.

Exposing corruption at the highest levels and the lowliest, Molly stuck to her guns and came out shooting. She supplied the comedic touches while homing in on her prey. It was for our enjoyment and our education. The toughest battle she fought was her years-long battle against breast cancer, and that battle she finally succumbed to today. Her friend and editor, Anthony Zurcher, reminds us of how strong and special she really was:

Even as Molly fought her last battle with cancer, she continued to make public appearances. When she was too weak to write, she dictated her final two columns. Although her body was failing, she still had so much to say. Last fall, before an audience at the University of Texas, her voice began as barely a whisper. But as she went on, she drew strength from the standing-room-only crowd until, at the end of the hour, she was forcefully imploring the students to get involved and make a difference. As Molly once wrote, "Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don't much care for."

She had a way of nudging us into activism by being the living example of a true political activist. A great dame, indeed.

Rest in peace, Molly.

Posted by shoephone on January 31, 2007 at 04:51 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 30, 2007

MomsRising to Meet with Speaker Chopp

Washington State is considering a family leave act that would enable employees to take up to five weeks off with partial pay when they have a baby or adopt or need time to nurse a close relative.  The exciting new organization, MomsRising, is supporting the bill, HB 1658, Family and Medical Leave Insurance, and will be meeting with Speaker Frank Chopp this Saturday to thank him for previous family-friendly bills he has supported and to talk with him about the need for family leave in Washington.

They are inviting other supporters of this family leave bill to join them at the Fremont Baptist Church from 10:00 - 11:00 (717 North 36th Street) this Saturday, Feb. 3rd, for a short film and the discussion with Chopp.

This bill is very important.  The United States is one of only 4 countries in the world that doesn't offer some form of paid leave to new mothers.  If it passes, Washington State would be the 2nd state in the U.S. to offer family and medical leave insurance.   The cost of the insurance would be paid by employees, charged $40 a year, less than a dollar a week. 

MomsRising, in a notification of the meeting, say:

Paid family leave has been shown to reduce infant mortality by as much as 20% (and the U.S. ranks a low 37th of all countries in infant mortality), as well as to help keep families out of poverty.  Right now, having a baby is a leading cause of "poverty spells" in this country (poverty spells are a time when income dips below what's needed for basic living expenses like food and rent).  And a full quarter of families with children under six years old live in poverty here.

It's time for this bill, folks.  And this meeting is a good time to show your support and listen to mothers talk about the importance of the passage of this bill to families across the state.

If you decide to attend, please RSVP to Katie@momsrising.org with "Family Leave or Bust!" in the Subject section so they have an idea of how many will be attending.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 30, 2007 at 11:42 PM in Policy, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

Day Five - It's Getting Interesting in LibbyLand

This was Judy Miller day.  Libby's Defense Team lawyer, Bill Jeffress appeared intent on disqualifying Miller's rather damning testimony earlier to Fitzgerald.  Miller had talked about the June 23rd meeting when she met with a very agitated Scooter Libby who told her about Wilson and his article and told her that Wilson's wife worked at the "Bureau".  In the initial questioning by Fitzgerald, which had been crisp and clear, Miller appeared very confident.  Under Jeffress' questioning, she became agitated herself, according to our observers in the courtroom.  Her memory of this conversation on June 23rd was one she did not tell the Grand Jury about the first time she testified.  Then she went back and found notes of the conversation.  Judy said she had a "note triggered" memory.   

There were some "sidebars" between the lawyers that remained unresolved, concerning the extent of the questioning that Jeffress would be allowed with Miller.  Judge Walton will make a judgment in the morning prior to the last of the questioning of Miller.  Then comes Mike Cooper of Time Magazine. 

Prior to Miller's time in the courtroom, David Addington had been on the stand for quite a while as the defense introduced two hours worth of evidence, probably in the hopes that introducing them through Addington will be better for Libby than waiting to introduce them when Libby in testifying later.  Initially it did not look like there was much happening but later in the video-clip, Jeralyn and Marcy talked about the possibility that Addington had introduced the possibility that Bush was the one that had requested that Cheney have Libby go after Wilson.  On the things we may be on the verge of learning through this trial!

Another Video-Clip from Jeralyn and Marcy

David Addington, 2

David Addington, 3

David Addington, 4

MW - Judy Miller, 1

MW - Judy Miller, 2

MW - Judy Miller, 3

CHS - The Public's Dilemna

CHS - Lights, Camera (Judy Enters the Building)

JM - Judy Miller's Note Triggered Memories

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 30, 2007 at 11:06 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 29, 2007

Day Four - Lots Going On in LibbyLand

This was an interesting day at the Scooter Libby trial. Cathie Martin made it through another testimony, likely her last, without doing any more damage to the OVP's reputation. Enough done last week, when she laid out the way the Bush administration blatantly used the media as a propaganda arm.

This was Ari Fleischer's day in court, Ari, who so far is the only witness to have been given immunity for his testimony. And he did not disappoint. Here's the money quote, from Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft, blogging this week for Firedoglake:

He also was unshakable in his assertion that Scooter Libby told him at lunch on July 7th, the day he left for Africa, that Wilson's wife suggested him for the Africa trip and that she worked in the CIA's counterproliferation division. He said Libby told him this was "hush-hush" and on the QT.

That same day, 3 days before Libby claimed that Tim Russert told him about Plame, Libby told Ari that she worked in the CDP. Fleischer missed the meaning of what the CDP was at the time; it's the Counterproliferation Division, a unit in the agency's clandestine operations directorate. Oops! It was probably when he realized what he'd heard and probably then passed along, he went to Fitzgerald to plead for immunity. This is key testimony - on at least two counts - the earlier date and the information that Libby knew that Plame was undercover.

Then David Addington, the former legal counsel to the VP and then Chief of Staff after Libby left, spoke.

Let's get this all from as close to the source as we can get:

A Wrap-up of the Day on Video by Marcy Wheeler and Jeralyn Merritt

MW - Cathie Martin, 4

MW - Ari Fleischer, 1

MW - Ari Fleischer, 2

MW - Ari Fleischer, 3

MW - David Addington

Jeralyn Merritt (TalkLeft) - Never in His Wildest Dreams

CHS - BINGO - (Libby Gets Busted on Shoddy Treatment of Classified Info)

CHS - Inside the Media Circus

AND TOMORROW IS JUDY MILLER DAY!

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 29, 2007 at 11:39 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Videos for Your Enjoyment

As I've been writing and talking and reading about protest marches (after participating a couple days ago again), I am leaning more and more toward influencing the culture as the new version of protest marches.  Think about the impact that "Brokeback Mountain" likely had on the thinking about gays and relationships and rights.  Think about the impact that Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have on our political thinking, especially for younger folks.  Think about the impact that James Webb's public response to Bush has had.  Think about the impact of all these progressive blogs. 

That is all just to introduce two cool video-clips I ran across today: The first is a brief comparison of John McCain's words with John McCain's words at some other time, called The Real McCain.   It's brilliant, as one would expect from the talented Robert Greenwald.

The second is the first post-election ad from Wesley Clark and the amazing Vote Vets group, those folks who brought us the powerful ads about the good armor and the bad armor that they ran in the states with Senators (all Republican) who voted against sending the good armor to our soldiers and marines in Iraq. 

It is an anti-escalation ad that is playing in a few states back east, likely states who have a Senator (Republican, natch) who is on the fence about escalation.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 29, 2007 at 10:34 PM in Iraq, Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2007

A First Look at Tester in the Senate

Like many of us, I had the strongest sense that it would be the last two of our newly elected Senators, Jon Tester and James Webb, whom we'd be most thrilled to have representing us and taking leadership in the Senate.  They were both, after all, ours.  They were netroots candidates through and through.  And, to top it off, they were both elected by the smallest margins.  Luck fell our way, not just because, with their election, we took the Senate but also because we knew these two would be special.

And they are.

We've seen a bit more of Webb as Senator and he has not disappointed. He has had clarity and boldness and has a great ability to articulate our position vis a vis both Iraq and economic fairness.  He has been readying himself for this role his entire life. 

But Tester has taken the lead in another direction.  Tester is honoring a pledge he made early in his campaign, a pledge to be serve in a manner that allowed transparency about what he does for the people he serves.   Tester's staff posts his entire schedule online each day the Senate is in session.  He is the first Senator to do so.

According to a Tester office spokesperson, on CNN:

The Senator's schedule reflects meetings with visiting Montanans, committee colleagues, as well as the occasional lobbyist. The information "gives people an opportunity to see with whom [Tester] is meeting, and if they represent the opposite point of view, they can also request a meeting."

Did we get lucky or what? 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 28, 2007 at 10:15 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

The State of War Protesting

As I mentioned yesterday, I was headed off to the protest march in Seattle.  I bumped into Goldy and then later Geov Parrish (of Eat the State, Working for Change and formerly The Seattle Weekly) and we wound up talking about the event on Goldy's radio show on KIRO 710 last night.  A lot goes on in an AM radio show in the few minutes between ads - getting callers on, Goldy talking, responding to the callers (and he's good - if you haven't listened to him yet, he's on from 7-10 on Saturday and Sunday evening, 710 on the dial), Geov and I getting a few words in occasionally, Goldy calling his sister in Philadelphia who'd gone down to the march in D.C. . . .

The first words out of my mouth on air were that I was disappointed in the turnout and the demographics.  There were maybe 3000 people marching and although the age range was pretty broad, the bump was definitely the baby-boomers, the folks who'd done this in the late sixties during the Vietnam War as well.  And it looked to me like there were few people of color, although we were in the Central District,  There were few traditional suburbanites, few labor folks  few kids.  There were also very few people that any of us knew which made it harder to gauge who the heck was there.

Geov softened it when he talked right after me.  He said, "Building the movement is a work in process."  And he is right of course. 

Nevertheless, it sparked a lot of conversation between the three of us, both on and off the radio.  Because, as Goldy pointed out on the air, both the breadth and the depth of opposition to this war are larger than anything we had against the war in Vietnam.  Ever.  We saw that this last week, when the nation was totally unwilling to be swayed by anything this President said.  And it's been done this time with great grace.  There has been no opposition to the military itself or the people over there fighting the war.  Indeed, there has been nothing but a sense of agony that these folks have been dragged into this war by a blindingly oblivious and unrepentant civilian leadership.

We agreed that first off it has to be more fun for people when they are part of this.  That means better staging areas.  We met at a house in the Central District and the folks speaking were on a small front porch.  Aaron Dixon?  What was that all about?  How about some live music as well as reasonably prominent speakers to start off, not just at the end? 

And the organizing has to be better.  I had expected to walk with the 36th Democrats to start but didn't ever make it over to that group.  As far as I could tell from a distance, there were only a few folks there - and that is one of the most active Democratic groups in the state.  The Seattle Peace Chorus was there, a welcome source of singing as we started off.  But again, only a few folks.  No Buddhist Peace Fellowship that I could tell.  No organized Labor.  These are the types of groups I've walked with in the past - well, before the war in the Bay Area (sorry, as Geov says it's not fair to compare the Bay Area to any other place).  But the point was that it was fun walking with people I knew, wandering off to another group as it passed by for a while. 

We did run into Congressman Jim McDermott and his wife, Therese, and walked and talked with them for awhile.  That and the dogs were the highlights.  We also peeled off to talk with Geov before getting to hear Lt. Watada so we missed what was probably the best part. 

Goldy's sister, Lisa, whom Goldy called from the station, spoke on air about her experience in the D.C. march yesterday.  She loved it.  She went down from Philadelphia for the day with her two young daughters, 11 and 14.  From her perspective, there seemed to be half a million folks on the mall; the speakers, especially Jane Fonda, were great; and the tone was very soft and almost reverent.  She said most of the folks she saw were women and kids, sort of old NOW types, similar in fact to the people she'd marched with at the Million Mom March in 2000.  That seemed to work, although again, it's possible that the breadth of groups like Labor and people of color didn't see it as "theirs". 

Here were some of the things we mulled over about why there weren't so many folks out:

  • We came to the conclusion that not having a draft makes this war less personal for people, less compelling.  Drat!  Who wants a draft back just to make people sit up and recognize that this matters?
  • We wondered if the time for marching is past.  Chris Bowers over at mydd.com is pretty convinced that this is so and he's quit going to protest marches.
  • But then, if that's true, why did the immigrant rights march last year work so well?  It was very effective, very well-attended, and seemed to make quite an impression on elected officials.  However, there weren't a lot of white, middle-class folks at that march and there weren't a lot of immigrants at this march.  Despite having come together last year beautifully to elect Democrats, are the Progressive groups back to their silos?
  • People worked really hard last year to get Democrats elected and then the Bush administration thumbed it's collective nose at the results.  So what if we now have a Democratic majority Congress and if the election was clearly about pulling our troops out of Iraq?  This administration could care what any of us think.

So what do you think?  If you came to the Seattle event yesterday or others around the state, how did you find it?  If you didn't come, why not? 

UPDATE:  It looks like Olympia was the local place to be yesterday.  Noemie has photos and a description up about a 2000 person march in Oly yesterday.  I even saw the Buddhist Peace Fellowship sign in one of the photos. :)

 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 28, 2007 at 11:07 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (10)

January 27, 2007

Supporting Bloggers, Starting with Goldy

David Goldstein over at Horsesass.org is holding an online fundraiser for himself.  He's hoping to get $3500 to pay off some bills.  Please help out if you can.  It's very important that bloggers are able to keep going.  We make a difference in raising awareness and getting stories out that otherwise wouldn't get past the conservative, traditional media screens. 

In our area, Goldy is the biggest, baddest blogger.  He has an extensive network of people who give him tips and ideas and he does a lot of research on top of that.  I'm often on panel discussions about blogging and I always say that Goldy is the best investigative reporter we have in the state.  Hands down.  Plus he's entertaining.

It makes no sense for him or anyone of us to be going deeper into debt when what we do is so important to our long-term ability to take our country back.  There has been a lot of discussion on the blogosphere about the lack of a progressive infrastructure.  There's also been an awareness that large funders on the left seem to have that people don't need to be paid decently.  They will work for peanuts or nothing.  The trouble is we don't get an infrastructure that way.  We get a lurching, one-off response to one issue or one campaign. 

In contrast, the Right pays writers, researchers and public spokespeople quite well.  It brings young people to Washington D.C. and puts them up in a dorm-like environment for free and pays them as they get trained in "the business".  It makes sure they get tucked into a think tank when they lose elections.  And so on . . .

Just imagine how well they'd take care of Goldy if he, heaven forbid, were one of theirs.  Then go give him a "thank you" for all he does for us.    

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 27, 2007 at 07:12 PM in Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marching in the Streets - DC and Here

Well, here we go again.  There appears to be a huge number of protesters in Washington D.C., marching to protest the war and the escalation, as I write.  The AP has a story up already and a few slides up as well.   (The PI is carrying the AP news as well.)  The blog, Booman Tribune, will be writing and posting photos during the course of the day.  They already have a couple of posts up, including photos.  A couple of DKos diarists are on the job as well.

It's not too late to join in the march in Seattle or in an impressive number of other locations around the state.   That's it.  I'm getting ready to put on my marching shoes and join the march in Seattle.  Here's the information:

March begins at 1pm at 2111 E Union St. We will be marching to the military recruiting center, led by Iraq Vets Against the War (IVAW), then on to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center.

Final Panel at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center will begin at 3pm. Featuring Lt. Ehren Watada and IVAW Seattle Chapter President, Chanan Suarez-Diaz.


Posted by Lynn Allen on January 27, 2007 at 10:51 AM in National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 26, 2007

Day Three of the Libby Trial

It was a very interesting day yesterday at the Libby Trial and most of it was not directly obvious.  That's why having Marcy and Christy of Firedoglake (and The Next Hurrah) there blogging for us gives us a much broader understanding of what is happening and what it might mean.

Cathie Martin's testimony has been highly anticipated and the reality of it did not disappoint.  Cathie is the former assistant to the Vice President for Public Affairs and she was a witness to several key conversations between Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney.  Marcy, live-blogging the testimony as usual, provides a picture of constant tension between Martin and the Libby Defense Team.  Members of the Libby team change seats so they can be directly in Martin's line of sight when she is testifying.  She stares at her lawyers; she nods. 

Martin is sharing - or being forced to share - a lot of information about how the OVP works with friendly reporters, dumps bad news on Friday afternoons, gets people to write op-eds supporting their position, etc.  These are all things that bloggers have figured out but now it is out there for everyone to see.  For example, she talked about going onto Tim Russert's Meet the Press and how they pretty much had a free pass about who and when to get on that show.  Martin will be testifying some more next week and then it's on to Ari Fleisher, another much anticipated witness.

Christy also talks about the discussions between the lawyers and the judge that the on-lookers are privy to but the jury is not.  In her view, as a former prosecutor, the Libby team has been pushing the envelop with the judge who had been giving them the benefit of the doubt routinely but may not in the future.  The Libby team has been pushing hard to introduce a ton of unrelated material into the case to buttress their "memory defense", also referred to as the "my difficult job made me lie and forget" defense.  They have been trying to do this through questioning the memories of the other witnesses in the trial thus far.  They have also been making a lot of extra work for Fitzgerald's team with their requests for this and that and their complaints about mounds of paperwork from the Fitzgerald team at the last minute, paperwork that turns out to be a total of six pages. 

The judge appears to be getting impatient with them.  Judge Walton pointedly praised Fitzgerald's integrity at one point and at another said very clearly that the memory defense could only be used in the closing arguments if Scooter Libby himself testifies.  That last ruling may put the defense team in a bind but just as importantly, the defense team appears to be getting on the judge's bad side pretty early in the trial. 

MW - Craig Schmall, 2 (CIA briefer)

MW - Cathie Martin, 1 (OVP, assistant to VP for Public Affairs, then removed in early 2004 and Libby took over)

MW - Cathie Martin, 2

MW - Cathie Martin, 3

CHS - Oncoming Train

BONUS:  Profile of Marcy Wheeler from the Ann Arbor News


Posted by Lynn Allen on January 26, 2007 at 09:52 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2007

Responses to Webb's Talk

Webb rocks!  We heard that over and over again these last two days.  He was a brilliant choice to provide the Democratic "rebuttal" to the SOTU.  And he did us all proud. 

From my point of view, he's a writer and that says a lot about his ability to convey information.  Crikey, he's a best-selling writer of both fiction and non-fiction, articles and PBS specials.  Much of his writing focuses on war and its consequences, according to Kristian Denny Todd, Webb's spokesperson during the campaign.   To me as a fellow writer, this means he thinks deeply about these issues over time, and then crafts what he says to communicate the message he wants to get across.  We haven't had someone able to do this for quite a while. 

Webb evidently saw this talk as an opportunity to deliver an op-ed to the country.  Todd again, as quoted in the WAPO on the day after Webb's post-SOTU speech:

"This is the opportunity he's wanted for four years," Todd said. "Like one of his Op-Eds, but broadcast to millions of Americans in his own voice."

Speaker Pelosi has both a video-clip and a transcript of the 8-minute talk that Webb wrote himself. 

He talked a lot about the war of course.  Who better?  With a family history of military service, including a son serving in Iraq now, Webb had the authority to say, "The [Iraq] war's costs to our nation have been staggering."  He talked about the years of mismanagement and said that he, among others, predicted that "it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world".

Because of that history of serving, he could say:

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues – those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death – we trusted the judgment of our national leaders.  We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it.  But they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly.  He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq,  the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs.  We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable – and predicted – disarray that has followed.

And:

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military.  We need a new direction.  Not one step back from the war against international terrorism.  Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos.  But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

But Webb talked about more than the war.  He talked about another of his key issues: the economic divide in this country:

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries.  Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared.  When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times.  In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world.  Medical costs have skyrocketed.  College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas.  Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table.  Our workers know this, through painful experience.  Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

Webb threw in some history, reminding us that real leaders deal with the issues that matter and deal with them as President of all the people.  He talked about two Republicans of the last century, Teddy Roosevelt who took a stand against the robber barons of his time and Dwight Eisenhower, who got us out of Korea. 

He ended brilliantly, building on what he'd said about these previous presidents:

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world.  Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas.  If he does, we will join him.  If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

A diaryist over at DailyKos, writing about Webb's speech and the commentary on it over at PBS, said:

With a quick cut away from Senator Jim Webb, it was immediately apparent that Jim Lehrer was starstruck.  His doe eyes appeared somewhat misty.  His expression was one of true admiration.  As the consummate professional, he turned to the inimitable Mark Shields and asked, "Your thoughts?"  Shields, shocked himself, uttered, "A star is born."

Indeed.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 25, 2007 at 12:12 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 24, 2007

Day Two of The Libby Trial

No video-clip from Christy and Marcy at Firedoglake today.  Shucks!  I was hoping they would have one every day.  So, I'll do my best to provide the really brief version and pass you along to the more detailed posts.

Today was the testimony of three people:

1) Marc Grossman, former #3 at the State Department. 

2) Robert Grenier, Deputy Director at the CIA

3) Craig Schmall, CIA briefer for both Libby and Cheney during parts of the time in question

With all three, the defense aimed to question their ability to remember facts clearly and to intimate that the CIA was trying to undermine the White House.  The trial is beginning to verify some of the underside of life spent working in the Bush/Cheney administration.  Christy thinks this is an odd defense: 

Because if that truly is their intent — to bring up the Niger document forgeries, as they did with the Government's witnesses Marc Grossman and Robert Grenier this morning; to bring up the war of words between the CIA and the White House/Vice President's office on who would take the blame for the mess that is Iraq; to bring up an endless string of innuendos that the CIA was out to make Scooter Libby into their fall guy?  I'm sorry, but I do not see this jury buying that failure to accept responsibility.  It's just a feeling from watching the jurors and the reactions of the folks in the gallery watching the trial…among which, there was a sense of confusion as to what, exactly, defense counsel was trying to get at today, other than to point out that people do, inherently, have memory questions over time.

Christy points out that the Libby Team is trying to push two conflicting arguments.  1) Libby was so busy with very important national security issues that he didn't pay much attention to Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson and 2) Libby was forced to do damage control on Joe Wilson's questions about the Bush Administration's lying about the reasons for going into the Iraq War, and particularly about Cheney's role in squelching information contrary to the favored story.

Such timing for this trial.  This has to be impacting the upwelling of resistance to the President and the administration's escalation.  Marcy live-blogged all day again and Christy summarized.  This is an extraordinary experience - getting to "see" directly into the courtroom.    

MW - Wells Cross-Examines Marc Grossman (State Dept.)

MW - Robert Grenier Testimony, 1 (CIA)

MW - Robert Grenier Testimony, 2 (CIA)

MW - Craig Schmall (CIA Briefer to OVP)

CHS - Summary of the Day

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 24, 2007 at 11:33 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blogging From D.C. -- Bush Speaking Into the Void

Last night I had the opportunity to do something few Americans do: I attended the State of the Union speech. From my vantage point inside the gallery -- balcony, front row, seat 19 -- I got a view and a sense of the president that just doesn't come through the T.V. screen. And, unfortunately, for him, it's not looking very good. As Dan Baltz phrased it, in this morning's Washington Post, "Bush may have been speaking into the void". That's putting it charitably.

Despite facing a newly emboldened Democratic Congress and an approval rating somewhere between toilet and sewer, Bush rattled through all his same old talking points about unending war, terror, evil, enemies everywhere, 9-11, 9-11, 9-11, conflating Al Qaeda with Hamas and Hezbollah, pushing for tax cuts and tax credits, cutting our demand for oil by re-upping nuclear power, insisting upon up-or-down votes on his extremist judges, and oh yeah... he really wants bipartisanship but, as usual, the onus is on Democrats, not the White House. It's worse than Balz implies. Bush is a man who is lost in a self-created world of delusion and denial, and that was clear to the assembled crowd from the moment he started to speak.

For some reason, the volume on Bush's mike was really low. Combine that with the continuously tepid responses he got throughout most of the speech (Democrats sat in their seats and sat on their hands through 90% of it) and it all had the effect of making his presence seem... small. Weak. Ineffective. He's not just a "lame duck". He's practically invisible and inaudable, wandering alone in unknown territory, finding no outstretched arms to help guide him to safety. Of course, there's Joe Lieberman, who I'm forever compelled to refer to as Lonely Lieberman, owing to his solitary support for Bush from among the Democratic ranks. Each time Bush spouted another neo-con talking point (increasing troops in Iraq, fighting extremists all over the Middle East and around the world) Lonely Lieberman jumped up from his seat like a jack-in-the-box on crack, applauding wildly. But he was the only Democrat to do so. At one point he tried to get Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY), next to him, to stand up and applaud with him. She complied for about half a second and then sat back down. Before the speech began, the Democrats, looking ecstatic to be the majority, shook hands, slapped backs, shared hugs and kisses, and kibbitzed with each other in little circles of four and five. There stood Lonely Lieberman, at the very center of all this buzzing social activity, anxiously waiting for someone -- anyone -- to approach him, or call him over to their group. But no one did. It was a pathetic sight, reminiscent of lunchtime in high school, where one universally disliked kid spends the entire lunch hour standing alone, shunned from every clique. Not even his old friends from junior high want anything to do with him.

The biggest standing ovation, with the most sustained applause, came at the very beginning, when Bush said those two magic words: "Madam Speaker". I actually found myself standing and "woo-hooing" at the top of my voice. It was a pretty damned exciting moment. I sat next to a staffer from Rep. Tanner's (D-TN) office. He'd been to SOTUs before and clued me in to who some of the people were, "yes, that's the press pool up above and behind the podium looking extremely bored", pointing out where the First Lady would be sitting, telling me about how the new D.C. mayor, Adrian Fenty, had refused to sit next to her (he ended up in the section to our left), etc. Since I was on an aisle I also had the pleasure of being surrounded by a gaggle of press photographers, who were like an old boys club, endlessly joking and vying for the best shots. After the speech was over they were trying to get a photo of two people who weren't physically close enough to each other to be in the same frame. "C'mon, c'mon, sidle over. Oh, look at that, they're avoiding each other like the plague!" I leaned over and asked "Who are you guys trying to photograph?" They replied, "Hillary and Barak! But they're ten feet from each other and won't play along." These guys definitely know what makes for the winning shots.

It was pretty affecting to look up at the domed ceiling, the stained-glass window with the eagle emblem right at the top, look down and see Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin, Keith Ellison, Jon Tester, Patty Murray and all the other electeds and realize they are just people, not royalty. They're people we invest so much power in, so much hope. They have an awesome responsibility -- to us -- and at times I don't think they realize what the priorities are. But last night it seemed like they finally "get it". What will the next two years be like? WIll I be disappointed once again, or will they start to right the sinking ship of Bush's policies?

My lasting impression: while Bush was at the podium, energetically glorifying war, I was glancing over at the army sergeant directly across the aisle from me. He still had a new bandage over the spot where his right eye used to be. I didn't want to stare, but it was hard not to. There were fresh red scars and some sort of healing lubricant rubbed on the eye socket, now permanently sealed closed. As I saw this young (maybe early 20's?) sergeant politely stand and applaud as the president entered and later left the House chamber, I knew what I was thinking. But I wondered what he was thinking. And I wondered, as he looked at George Bush through his one remaining eye, whether he felt it all had been worth it to go and fight in a war that 70% of America now says was a terrible mistake. And as I looked down the long hallway on my way out of the building, I spotted two other uniformed young men, one missing both legs, one missing an arm and a leg, and I thought about who it is that is making the sacrifices in this war. But the only thing I know for sure is that, while Bush's presidency is in a spiraling descent, he and Cheney and their cohorts at Halliburton will still find a way to pull out a win, in the form of dollars. And the young sergeant will go home to find that he will, indeed, see life very differently from here on out.

Posted by shoephone on January 24, 2007 at 10:43 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

January 23, 2007

Environmentalists step up fight to save Seattle waterfront

After 50 years as the ugly duckling of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has the opportunity to become the beautiful city it is destined to be.  Yet, politically we still have a long way to go, with some of my favorite politicians (Frank Chopp, Chris Gregoire & Nick Licata) acting as the obstructionists to this possibility and creating a smoke screen to the real issues involved.

Mayor Nickels has been given the credit for proposing a 4-lane tunnel for the waterfront, popularly titled “tunnel-lite.” This proposal, which has been known as the Urban Environmental Stakeholders Proposal, has been on the table for 5 years, as part of a center city strategy focused on improving mobility and transit in the downtown area.  Why no elected official has pushed for this proposal in the past is because the state has refused to consider what they call "reduced capacity."

The governor, legislative leaders and WSDOT can be blamed for their refusal to consider any option that would reduce the current number of lanes on the viaduct.  As some have pointed out the battery street tunnel is four lanes already.  It’s clear that the modeling being used by WSDOT to determine where traffic will go in the absence of the viaduct needs to be rethought.  Seattle officials have had their hands tied from the beginning on being able to consider different options.  “The new four-lane tunnel, a surface option – these are very encouraging conversations,” said Jessyn Farrell, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition.  “The State has given us a false choice – we haven’t been using the right framework.”

Fast forward to 2007, and the governor keeps reshuffling the deck in the middle of the game.  First asking for a vote between the “gold-plated” tunnel and the new elevated highway, then essentially owning up to the fact that the tunnel was DOA to begin with.   The bottom line is the state has never allowed Seattle to create a public process, harping about the so called “Seattle Process.”  Lets quit blowing smoke and acknowledge that every piece of important public policy has a public process.   For something as significant as the future of the center of our city we need to build a vision with input from all parties and move forward in an action oriented way.  “After implementing mitigation measures to deal with lost capacity, let’s start taking it down now and have a true discussion of what should replace the Viaduct,” said Farrell.  “Only then will we see a reasonable consensus.”

Where do we go from here?

1) The elevated highway needs to be opposed at all costs.  The anti-elevated group needs to organize swiftly and effectively, with the simple goal to get this option off the table for good.

2) The full amount of state funding needs to remain in place for the viaduct replacement.

3) Major funding for transit needs to be included in the 2007 RTID package, to create an infusion of funding for alternative transportation during the demolition and replacement of the viaduct.

4) The viaduct needs to be removed as quickly as possible. The elevated freeway is a major safety hazard and major death and injury could occur in the event of an earthquake.

5) The public needs to be engaged to consider the future of downtown Seattle.  We need to look at other cities around the world and what they have done to create vibrant urban livable spaces for their central cities.  Anyone who cares about the future of Seattle should be part of this process which should take place outside the current political constraints that are being imposed by the state.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on January 23, 2007 at 10:35 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (7)

Day One of the Libby Trial

The folks over at Firedoglake are blogging and vlogging the Libby Trial.  Getting to hear Chrisy Hardin Smith and Marcy Wheeler live-blog and then analyze the trial real-time is sensational.   I recommend this YouTube done by and for PoliticsTV for the short, sweet recap of the day's events - which I'm guessing we'll get every day.  Wow!  Highlights from today - the Vice President himself directed the campaign against Wilson.  The big news - It looks like Libby's team is throwing Karl Rove under the bus.  Evidently from their point of view, Rove was trying to set Libby up to take the fall and they aren't going to allow that.

For those who want more, Marcy has three live-blogging sessions, including one really interesting one devoted to Fitzgerald's opening statement, and Christy has one longer, written summary of the day. 

MW - Fitzgerald's Opening Statement

MW - Ted Wells' Opening Statement, Part I (Libby's Lawyer)

MW - Ted Wells' Opening Statement, Part II

CHS - Summary of the Day's Events

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 23, 2007 at 09:57 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Support Clean Elections Bill in Washington State?

The first Clean Elections Bill hearing is being held in Olympia this Thursday at 3:30 in Hearing Rm. 2 of the Cherberg Building.  SB 5226 is the bill that provides for public funding of judicial campaigns. 

Washington Public Campaign, the organization that is doing an incredible job of raising awareness on the larger issue of public financing of statewide elections, is asking supporters to attend the hearings to show the members of the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee that the public is strongly supporting this bill. 

If you can join them, let Sarajane Siegfriedt, the WPC Lobbyist, know.  They would like folks to arrive early for the hearing or, if possible, attend a pre-hearing briefing which begins at 1:00.  Check the website for details.

If you can't attend but would still like to help, the members of the Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee are:

Darlene Fairley, Chair (D) - 32nd LD - fairley.darlene@leg.wa.gov
Eric Oemig, Vice Chair (D) - 45th LD - oemig.eric@leg.wa.gov
Pam Roach, Ranking Minority Mbr (R) 31st LD - roach.pam@leg.wa.gov
Don Benton (R) 17th LD - benton.don@leg.wa.gov
Adam Kline (D) 37th LD - kline.adam@leg.wa.gov
Craig Pridemore (D) 49th LD - pridemore.craig@leg.wa.gov
Dan Swecker (R) 20th LD - swecker.dan@leg.wa.gov

Contact these legislators, especially if they represent you, and let them know you support this bill. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 23, 2007 at 05:22 PM in Policy, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (1)

Buying and Selling the Presidency

Today The New York Times is writing the obituary of the federal public financing system,  and we can thank politicians on both sides of the aisle for it's creeping death.  In other words: thank you John Connally, George W. Bush, John Kerry and -- the new grande dame of fundraising -- Hillary Clinton.

The current system was created as an answer to campaign corruption exposed in the Watergate scandal.  Its basic element is familiar to all of us who fill out a tax return -- checking off that little box to set aside $3 for the public financing system. For many American taxpayers there's always been confusion about where that $3 comes from. Mistakenly, it's often believed that the almost infinitesimal amount (the cost of one latte) comes straight out of our pockets. Wrong. We don't fork over any extra to buy into the system, because the $3 is taken directly from the tax we owe in the first place. But myths take on a life of their own, and, coupled with the reality that many Americans have a knee-jerk reaction to anything with the words "publicly funded" in the title and still believe the conventional wisdom that the moneymen deserve more speech, only a paltry 10% of taxpayers are participating in the federal system. WIthout going into how pathetic I think that is... it means there aren't enough funds generated to adequately finance all the major campaigns in a presidential election cycle, and that's due to the fact that candidates opting out of the system make it virtually impossible for their challengers to compete with the big bucks they'll rake in from their most effective fundraising machines.

That's where people like George W. Bush, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, in particular, factor in to the scenario. Bush and Kerry, in 2004, both opted out of public financing for the primary election (Connally had opted out of the public funding more than 20 years earlier, but ended up a distant runner). In addition, Bush took advantage of the loopholes in campaign finance reform legislation, which put strict limits on individual donors, but made it possible for lobbyists to "bundle" numerous contributions into a huge lump sum for the candidate. Remember Bush's favorite "bundlers", his Pioneers ($100,000) and Rangers ($200,000)?

Clinton has bolted out of the gate with the announcement that she will forego public money for both the primary and the general election. She is the first presidential candidate to do so, and you can bet that her DLC fixers are dancing a drunken jig over the news. She can tap into individual donors twice in the same election year, up to $2100 each for the primary and general, totalling $4200 per individual donor. Furthermore, when she files her quarterly disclosure of campaign finances in April, it will show a nice big sack of cash -- big enough, she hopes, to intimidate and discourage any competitors.

Is this what the electorate really wants? An unlimited plowing for contributions that seem to grow exponentially with each election cycle? How much money is enough? How much is too much? Public financing advocate David Sirota believes that after a certain amount it's just overkill, because there are only just so many hours in a day to run those obnoxious ads. And what about the issues voters want the candidates to focus on? When special interest money is the goal, the public interest goes right out the window.

As previously noted here, candidates in Maine and Arizona have already proven how well public financing works. Continuing to push for these systems at the state level is paramount to making it happen nationally, because once voters see for themselves how much cleaner -- and more effective -- these political campaigns are, they'll be clamoring for the same system at the national level.

$3 taken from what you already owe. It's not much to ask, and the results could be phenomenal. Don't let them finish that obituary. The patient may be on life support, but it's the backward politicians, not the forward-thinking citizens, who keep trying to pull the plug.

Posted by shoephone on January 23, 2007 at 03:25 AM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2007

Washington Joins the "No Escalation" Surge

Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, along with several other Washington State lawmakers, has joined with state legislators across the country to call on Congress and President push to NOT escalate involvement in Iraq or increase troop levels.  The press release sent out by her office about the proposed bill, Senate Joint Memorial 8003, also requires the President to "seek Congressional approval before spending taxpayer money on any escalation of the war".

Senator Kohl-Welles adds:

At a time when the overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to the President’s policy in Iraq, it is unconscionable to commit additional funds to this foreign policy debacle, nor to put any additional soldiers in harm’s way, without appropriate oversight by the Congress.

The press release goes on:

According to iCasualties (http://icasualties.org/oif/ByState.aspx), 59 Washington soldiers have lost their lives during the course of hostilities in Iraq. The National Priorities Project estimates that as of September 2006, the cost of the war in Iraq to Washington taxpayers is $8.6 billion.

Way to go!

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 22, 2007 at 11:15 AM in National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 21, 2007

Just for Lightness

And sometimes we just need to enjoy life.  I ran across this YouTube clip of a guy named Matt dancing  his way around the world and noticed that over 4 million people had looked at it.  You'll particularly like the last few moments.

Hat tip to AmericaBlog.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 21, 2007 at 09:53 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Following the Citizen's Hearing Online

Noemie wrote about the amazing Citizen's War Tribunal which took place yesterday and today at The Evergreen State College's Tacoma campus at both Washblog and DailyKos.  It's riveting reading.

The hearing for Lt. Ehren Watada forbade his attorneys from arguing that the war on Iraq is illegal under both international treaties and Article Six of the U.S. Constitution.  His defense, had they been allowed to argue it, was that Watada would have been party to war crimes if he had deployed to Iraq as an officer. 

Knowing they would not be allowed to present this defense, a Citizen's Hearing was set up to allow a range of distinguished speakers to argue that case on his behalf.  According to the website set up in advance of this weekend's hearings, they were designed to resemble a congressional committee, gathering information from testimony offered by Iraq War veterans, experts in international law and war crimes, and human rights advocates, including the following:

*Daniel Ellsberg, military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War
*Denis Halliday, Former UN Assistant Secretary General, coordinated Iraq humanitarian aid
*Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University
*Stacy Bannerman Military Families Speak Out; author of "When the War Came Home"
*Harvey Tharp, former U.S. Navy Lieutenant and JAG stationed in Iraq
*Antonia Juhasz, policy-analyst and author on U.S. economic policies in Iraq
*John Burroughs, Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy executive director
*Benjamin G. Davis, Assoc. Law Prof., Univ. of Toledo; expert on law of war
*Eman Khammas, Iraqi human rights advocate (via video).
*Geoffrey Millard, 8 years in NY Army National Guard; stationed in Ground Zero, Kuwait, Iraq
*Ann Wright, Retired Army Colonel and State Department official
*Darrell Anderson, Army 1st Armored Division in Baghdad & Najaf; awarded Purple Heart
*Dennis Kyne, 15 years as Army medic & drill sergeant; trained in NBC warfare; Gulf War I
*Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at University of Illinois (video testimony)
*Chanan Suarez-Diaz, Former Navy hospital corpsman; awarded Purple Heart & Commendation with Valor

A panel of citizens heard the testimony, examined the witnesses and will issue a report on their findings.   They focused on "the legality of the war and whether or not the invasion of Iraq in 2003 constituted a 'crime against the peace,' whether the military occupation and economic constriction of Iraq constitutes a 'crime against humanity,' and whether individual soldiers have an obligation or duty to refuse unlawful orders".  The panel included veterans, members of military families, high school students, union members, and representatives of local governments, academia, and religious organizations.  David Krieger, Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Former Army 2nd Lieutenant stationed in Hawaii during the Vietnam War, and a member of the Jury of Conscience at the 2005 World Tribunal on Iraq (in Istanbul) served as panel chair.

From Noemie's comments at DailyKos, we get the main points made by the speakers:

   1. That there is a pattern in society at large to place the burden of the war on the soldiers

   2. That there is a pattern in the military to move the burden/punishments down the chain of command.  Generals get to retire, but lieutenants and soldiers are court martialed. 

   3. That there is a pattern in the Bush administration  of exculpating itself -- hiding behind soldiers as cover for its crimes, letting the military take the fall.

   4.  And that there is a pattern in the courts of avoiding judicial review of the real issues, so that  the soldiers, not the war itself, are put on trial.

So what we have is an entire society mobilized on all levels to pass off the blame and punish the soldiers.  It is indeed, a violation of the humanity of these people as well as a grave failure to face up to our crimes as a society, a profound harm to our national honor, and a weakening of our military strength and ability to counter terrorism.

Noemie also notes that this citizen's tribunal is a first of its kind.  Part of its power is that it includes a strong military presence, people who have "the professional and first-hand knowledge on matters of war that must be considered by any who want peace -- and that they and their families are, especially in this war, carrying a grossly unjust share of the burden."

She also repeated a critical statement made by Daniel Ellsberg about this being "the most incompetent aggression in the history of empire".   Go read it.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 21, 2007 at 09:43 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Serious Conservation: The Direction to Go

Japan is racing ahead with energy restrictions, renewable fuel production, and creating a nation-wide conservation ethos.  Families make use of advanced technologies like home fuel cells, room heaters that have a sensor that aims the heat only at people and shuts off when no one is around. 

And, the government is behind it - thinking ahead about the future.  What a concept!  According to an article in the New York Times two weeks ago:

Japan’s obsession with conservation stems from an acute sense of insecurity in a resource-poor nation that imports most its energy from the volatile Middle East, a fact driven home here by the 1970s shocks. The guiding hand of government has also played a role, forcing households and companies to conserve by raising the cost of gasoline and electricity far above global levels. Taxes and price controls make a gallon of gasoline in Japan currently cost about $5.20, twice America’s more market-based prices.

The government in turn has used these tax revenues to help Japan seize the lead in renewable energies like solar power, and more recently home fuel cells. One way has been a subsidy of about $51,000 for each home fuel cell. This allowed Mr. Kimura to buy his cell last year for about $9,000, far below production cost. His cell, which generates one kilowatt per hour, provides just under half of his household’s electricity, and has cut his electricity bill by the same amount, he said.

Who got the first fuel cell?  The Prime Minister.

The increase in domestic demand for energy-saving devices, like low-energy washing machines, high-mileage cars and hybrid vehicles, has put Japanese industry ahead of other countries.  Factories are improving their energy efficiency and are now selling highly efficient electric turbines, steel blast furnaces and other industrial equipment to other countries, particularly the U.S.  Mitsubishi Heavy expects "to see a $7.9 billion industry in Japan by 2020, about 10 times its 2000 size. 

I want a smart government like that here.  We seem to have a great start at it, both with the new Democratic-led Congress and with our super-majority Democratic Washington State legislature.   Can we get started now so that in 2009, when we have a Democrat in the White House, we can give him or her the first fuel cell produced in the U.S.? 

Can we, here in Seattle, use the current Viaduct decision debacle, to put Seattle at the forefront of a public transit-based economy?  We still have time, but just barely.  A couple days ago, Jeff Reifman, cross-posting at Evergreen Politics from his site at Newscloud, suggested that we "tear down the Viaduct and use those billions to manage the change in traffic patterns and rapid transit solutions that move people without creating more greenhouse emissions". 

I agree.  It has taken a while for me to work my way through the differing possible alternatives for replacing our dangerous Viaduct.  I've come to agree with the People's Waterfront Coalition who have been arguing for a "no-highway" solution.

Building either the tunnel or the viaduct replacement is so-1990s.  That time is past.  By the time either is built, we will be in another era, the era of diminishing oil, high prices and a desperate need for far better public transit and less dependence on oil.   Let's seriously consider the already well-thought-out alternatives.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 21, 2007 at 09:50 AM in Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 20, 2007

OpEd: Thoughts on the Gates Foundation's Investment Practices

From an OpEd piece I wrote this week:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is transforming global health care by using its financial heft to alter the economics of fighting disease. Yet having taken on malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, the foundation says it has met its match in the challenge of investing its assets responsibly.

The Los Angeles Times last week reported that 41 percent of the foundation's assets are invested in corporations operating counter to its mission. Having declined to comment as the Times prepared its articles, after their publication the foundation pledged to perform a comprehensive review of investing practices.

Then the foundation changed its mind. In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, Gates Foundation CEO Patty Stonesifer wrote, "Changes in our investment practices would have little or no impact on these issues." This response is not credible.

Read more of Thoughts on the Gates Foundation's Investment Practices

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Posted by Jeff on January 20, 2007 at 10:18 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 19, 2007

Speaker Pelosi, Take a Bow

And "This is only the beginning", says Ms. Pelosi, after passing the promised first 6 bills (in addition to their impressive new internal ethics rules) in way less than the the first 100 hours.  They began with moving to restore the public trust by passing  HR 1,  implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations;  HR 2, raising the minimum wage; HR 3, expanding stem cell research; HR 4, requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices; HR 5, cutting interest rates on student loans; and HR 6, eliminating subsidies for big oil and investing the savings in renewable energy.   

The house accomplished this with record Democratic support and impressive Republican support.  These are not done deals but I'm guessing that 5 of the 6 make it all the way past the Senate and Bush into law, along with the ethics changes.  The Senate, moving at a different pace than the House, with different rules, will get to these more slowly and there are bound to be compromises needed to prevent filibusters. 

But, the big point is, we are moving forward, folks.  This, along with the hearings that the Senate is already conducting, are what we worked so hard for last fall.  We now are in a position to contribute to the governing process, and we will kick ass.

Lastly, Pelosi knows to include the netroots in her messaging - she is writing on Huffington Post herself - and to make information on what they are doing readily available in easy form for us to use.  For example, I have a paragraph from Speaker Pelosi's website on each of the six new bills, with links to even more information, over the fold:

H.R. 1 - Implementing 9/11 Commission's Recommendations

This legislation provides for the implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations remaining after the enactment of the Intelligence Reform bill in 2004. The bill’s provisions include requiring major improvements in aviation security, border security, and infrastructure security; providing first responders the equipment and training they need; beefing up efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction; and significantly expanding diplomatic, economic, educational, and other strategies designed to counter Islamic terrorism.

H.R. 2 - Raising the Minimum Wage

This bill increases the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years. Increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour would bring a pay raise for up to 13 million Americans.

H.R. 3 - Promoting Life-Saving Stem Cell Research

The DeGette-Castle stem cell research bill increases the number of lines of stem cells that are eligible to be used in federally-funded research. The bill authorizes Health and Human Services (HHS) to support research involving embryonic stem cells meeting certain criteria, regardless of the date on which the stem cells were derived from an embryo. Current policy allows federal funds to be used for research only on those stem cell lines that existed when President Bush issued an executive order on August 9, 2001. The bill only authorizes the use of stem cell lines generated from embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. The bill includes stronger ethical guidelines than the President’s current policy.

H.R. 4 - Requiring Medicare to Negotiate Lower Prescription Drug Prices

This bill repeals the current provision that prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices for those enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans and instead requires the Secretary to conduct such negotiations. The bill also requires the HHS Secretary to submit to the relevant congressional committees a report on the negotiations conducted by the Secretary, not later than June 1, 2007, and every six months thereafter. Under the bill, the Secretary has discretion on how to best implement the negotiating authority and achieve the greatest discounts.

H.R. 5 - Cutting Interest Rates on Student Loans

This bill makes college more accessible and affordable by cutting the interest rates on subsidized student loans in half – from the current 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. This significantly cuts the student debt burden of about 5 million students.

H.R. 6 - Repealing Big Oil Subsidies/Investing in Renewable Fuels

This bill invests in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency by repealing billions in subsidies given to big oil companies that are raking in record profits. Specifically, the measure ensures oil companies that were awarded the 1998 and 1999 leases for drilling paid their fair share in royalties. It also closes loopholes and ends giveaways in the tax code for Big Oil. Finally, the bill creates a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to invest in clean, renewable energy resources, promoting new emerging technologies, developing greater efficiency and improving energy conservation.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 19, 2007 at 11:04 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Governor Gregoire, Mayor Nickels and the Seattle City Council are living in the past

From Governor, Mayor and City Council Living in the Past on Viaduct Issue:

The real issue is that Governor Gregoire, Mayor Nickels and the City Council are living in the past. Look around - and I don't just mean here, look at Iraq. Spending billions to build roads and tunnels for cars has led to gridlock in Seattle and war in the middle east. Auto-based investments in urban environments are the past.

I'm just asking our elected officials to be true visionaries - tear down the Viaduct and use those billions to manage the change in traffic patterns and rapid transit solutions that move people without creating more greenhouse emissions.

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Posted by Jeff on January 19, 2007 at 10:48 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 18, 2007

Should The Sonics Get A Cut Of The Surplus?

The Shameless Sonics, having already had their outstretched hand slapped back (hard!) by the voters of Seattle, are now waving their (gold-plated) begging cup at the State Legislature, asking for $300 million from Olympia for a new arena.

It's true we've got a surplus.  But I should hope we'd be spending that money on things that actually matter, like education, transportation, health care, etc. 

If the Sonics can't be a sustainable business enterprise without hundreds of millions in state subsidies, perhaps they should just go out of business.  They wouldn't be missed much.

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 18, 2007 at 07:47 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)

Powerful Anti-McCain Ad

MoveOn is putting up powerful anti-McCain ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Wow!  Not incidently, McCain's numbers are tanking in New Hampshire. 

2008 looks to be even more interesting than 2006.  First off, being seen as an ally of GWB is turning off the voters, big time, even more so than last fall.

Hat tip to Americablog.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 18, 2007 at 09:19 AM in Candidate Races, Media | Permalink | Comments (1)

The First Billion-Dollar Election

Public financing of campaigns is an idea who's time has come. It's now the norm in states like Maine and Arizona, and a  comprehensive bill for public financing passed in Connecticut a year ago. Washington State is just beginning to seriously approach the issue by promoting "clean campaigns" for supreme court and appellate court judges. But what about our national elections? Is there any hope for cleaning up the elections process at the highest levels of government?

Devilstower has a post up at DailyKos that asks that question head-on. And he asks us all to contact Speaker Pelosi and let her know we think it's imperative that this Congress do the right thing for the integrity of future elections. The new speaker has come up with an ambitious agenda for Congress' first 100 hours, and good legislation has already been passed (stem cell research, raise in the minimum wage). A bill devoted to ethics in goverment was the first order of business and it, too, passed. Unfortunately it didn't go far enough. While it scraps the allowances of gifts, meals, and corporate plane rides paid for by lobbyists, it keeps intact the ability of those same lobbyists to contribute exhorbitant amounts of money to campaigns. The federal elections process is drowning in cash and the effects are realized in the legislation that is prioritized and passed. It used to be that a presidential candidate could get away with raising a cool $100 million. But that's past history -- say, oh, around year 2000. This next presidential election cycle is expected to produce a jerry-rigged system of pay-for-play that has yet to be witnessed. Here's what campaign finance experts are anxious about:

"I think we're gonna see multiple candidates raising $100 million this year alone," says Federal Election Commissioner Michael Toner. He points out that in the 2004 primaries, President Bush and Democrat John Kerry raised more than $250 million each.

"I continue to believe that the nominees of the two major parties will end up raising $500 million apiece in this 2008 race, so it's going to be the first billion-dollar election," Toner predicts.

Citizens can contribute only so much of their paychecks to these campaigns. The rest all comes out of the deep pockets of special interests. The power of that influence is completely out of balance, and it should be out of bounds. We have got to make our representatives understand that this corrupt -- and corrupting -- system cannot continue. Please contact Speaker Pelosi. Besides emailing, phoning works well (202-225-4965). And don't hesitate to contact your own Congressional representative. Our voices need to be heard in the next few days, because the First 100 Hours agenda will be coming to a close -- and public financing of campaigns needs to be at the very top of that agenda.

Posted by shoephone on January 18, 2007 at 12:36 AM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 17, 2007

Inconvenient brouhaha, redux again

Posted by switzerblog on January 17, 2007 at 03:04 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Government Goes on Trial

In the midst of all the other news, there is an amazing trial going on in DC.  This is of course the trial in which Scooter Libby, former Chief-of-Staff to Vice President Cheney, is accused of lying to federal investigators, perjury and obstruction of justice.  To remind you, Libby is accused of lying about his leaking of the Valerie Plame's CIA identity to journalists.  It is presumed that he did so to hide his role and his boss, Dick Cheney's, role in attempting to discredit Plame's husband, Joe Wilson.   Wilson was on to the Bush Administration and wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying that he had gone to Niger at the request of the CIA and found no evidence that Saddam had attempted to purchase uranium.  Wilson alleged that "the Bush administration had manipulated and distorted intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq". 

There are a group of bloggers and a journalist who have taken the lead unearthing information on this case.  They have done a phenomenal job in the past and are gearing up to cover the trial.  I wrote about most of them when they were all on a panel at YearlyKos.  At the time, I said that that panel was the best panel I've ever seen anywhere on any topic.  I stand by that. 

So, they are back on the case.  With the help of Arianna Huffington, they have coveted press passes to the trial and today they began covering the trial.  Here are the places to go if you are interested in staying on top of this case:

Murray Waas, writing at the National Journal, who for most of this time has been the only journalist in American being paid regularly to write about this story.  He has a recent article summarizing the entire attempt to go after Wilson on the part of the Bush administration. 

Marcy Wheeler, researcher and writer, who blogs as emptywheel at The Next Hurrah.  Marcy has written the definitive book on the case.  With financial support of the blogosphere, the book,  Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy, was published just in the last few weeks.   

Marcy will join Christy Hardin Smith, aka Reddhead, who has been covering the case on Firedoglake from the beginning.  She is a former prosecutor, has studied special investigator Patrick Fitzgerald pretty carefully, and has a pretty good idea about the way that prosecutors handle their cases. 

Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake, orchestrated the Firedoglake coverage just as she orchestrated the extraordinary panel at YearlyKos.  With her and Christy and Marcy will be Pach and a few other regular hands. 

As Digby says:

This is the first time since 2000 that anyone has officially taken the Bush administration to task. Patrick Fitzgerald has run the tightest lipped investigation in Department of Justice history and the only things we really know about his case are from official filings and informed speculation. Anything could happen. Dick Cheney is probably going to testify. Maybe Rover.

So keep your bookmarks poised and some popcorn handy. The Bush administration is finally going on trial.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 17, 2007 at 12:29 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 16, 2007

An Inconvenient Brouhaha in Federal Way: Followup

Cara Solmon of the Seattle Times offers some followup on the Federal Way school board's much-lambasted decision to impose a "moratorium" on classroom screenings of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

The school board, apparently attempting to wiggle out of what is rapidly becoming a PR disaster, claims to be misunderstood.

At its meeting last week, the board suspended all classroom viewings
until district Superintendent Tom Murphy could confirm that the
district's existing policies on materials that contain "bias" were
being followed.

"It's a very reasonable request," said Murphy, who will report to the board at its Jan. 23 meeting.

Two district policies apply in this case. The first requires that teachers get approval from their principals before they show any movie in class.








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The second states that, "when it is necessary to use historical or
literary works, periodicals, and technical journals which show bias,
staff members have a responsibility to point out the biases, and
present additional information and perspectives to balance those
biases."

But in his defense, Murphy repeats the offense that gave rise to the whole kerfuffle: buying into the extremist framing that Gore's film is "biased" when it is based on rock-solid scientific research.  That the facts it presents need to "balanced" by flat-earth religious fundamentalism. 

Despite fundamentalists' assertions, the fact remians: there is no legitimate scientific contention that the global warming we've observed is NOT caused by anything other than human activity.

The school board's apparent cave-in to extremist, anti-science nutjobs is what the hundreds of letters and phone calls are objecting to, Superintendent Murphy.  Not a "misunderstanding" about whether you "banned" the film. Wake up and smell the fire, you're getting burned.

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 16, 2007 at 09:12 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

Marriage equality coming to Washington?

It's a day too late to share the Martin Luther King connection, but still worthy of discussion.  Today, Jamie Pederson and Ed Murray introduced two landmark pieces of legislation that will move the discussion of marriage equality forward for years to come in Washington state.

[Before I go further, please register now to attend Equality Day in Olympia on February 26, to join clergy, people of faith and people like me to lobby legislators on behalf of this legislation and against discrimination!  And please consider sharing your testimony on behalf of these bills...opposition will be hot, so your participation is so important!]

HB 1350 (adobe required - non adobe link here) is least likely to pass, and would amend existing law primarily by removing all references to "a male and a female" or "wife or husband" and replacing them with "two persons" or "spouse".  In other words, it would expand marriage equality to all Washington citizens. 

Something I didn't know about same-sex couples, from the bill itself:

According to the 2000 census, Washington state is home to at least sixteen thousand same sex couples, ranking ninth among the fifty states in the number of same sex couples. Same sex couples live in all thirty-nine counties in Washington, and nearly one in four of these couples is raising children.

More from the same bill, and of utmost importance when discussing this bill in a religious setting:

No official of any religious denomination or nonprofit institution authorized to solemnize marriages shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by the Washington state Constitution.

HB 1351 (non adobe link here) and its sister bill SB 5336 takes quite a different tack:  It addresses specific aspects of the 423+ rights and responsibilities that married couples enjoy - specifically those pertaining to health care, disposition of remains upon death and inheritance of an estate without a written will.  This will be significantly more difficult for opponents to dispatch it, in part because of the language which expands beyond same sex couples to include heterosexual couples past age 62.

This is similar in many ways to legislation on the books in California, which specifically addressed the rights and responsibilities of same sex couples and unmarried couples over age 62.  It's important to note that the bill under consideration here may have the same future as California's legislation, which has an amendment bill in consideration, SB 11, which would eliminate the age requirement for heterosexual couples and would become gender- and age-neutral, as long as the couple met all other requirements for domestic partnership (essentially, the same as those needed to become married minus gender language and plus the requirement of cohabitation).

There are roughly 5.5 million unmarried-partner households in the country (as of 2000; this is undoubtedly higher) - roughly 8.2%, and one of the lower rates of cohabitation among industrialized countries.  There is little available data on the percentage of these households which involve partners over the age of 62, and most data is based on opinion and conjecture rather than data.  However, it is difficult to argue against the logic of providing such couples the rights of hospital visitation, estate executorship, etc., without enduring the financial hardship many retired folks would suffer upon giving up pensions and Social Security. 

I'll get back to the same-sex issues here and address the incrementalism, but it's important to consider the implications of this bill, and the realities which it addresses.  As of 2002, nearly 6 million seniors were near or below the poverty level, and the Census Bureau indicates there are somewhere north of 200,000 (data is mixed in their report - age groups are lumped by 55-64 {347,000} and 65+ {148,000}) households with cohabiting seniors.  The Olympian reported in 2000 that:

...households made up of opposite-sex senior couples rose 46 percent between 1996 and 2000, a bigger jump than that of their middle-aged counterparts. Other reports fold in same-sex couples, showing the number of senior cohabitants rising 73 percent between 1990 and 1999, from 127,000 to 220,000.

In any case, this is a healthy population of folks (one wonders how many in Washington) that have the same right as anyone else to not live in poverty, to not give up the Social Security they've earned over a long life, and to live with someone they love without worrying what will happen to them should they get sick or pass away.  Nor should they have to spend the little money they have drafting legal documents to protect themselves from the state should the worst happen.  This is a basic, common-sense thing that provides some basic fairness to a group we can all agree is in many ways very disadvantaged in our society.  I look forward to Republican arguments that our seniors should have to either give up their rights or their Social Security...

And that brings me back to the issue of same-sex rights and incrementalism.  I'm not going to touch on the marriage equality legislation because A) it's a no-brainer, in my book, and progressive don't need me preaching about it, and B) it's destined for a 30-year quest through the legislature, mirroring the path of our recent civil rights legislation.  But I will talk about HB 1351.

Some naysayers have, in echoing the sentiments of MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail, decried the approach of HB 1351 as a half-measure, as asking same-sex couples to 'wait just a little while longer'.  It's a valid point to some degree, and certainly a valid argument in the overall social context - indeed, why should anyone have to wait for social justice?  But to decry this bill in particular when seen as a companion with HB 1350 misses the overarching point and strategy, and that is that Ed Murray, Jamie Pederson and their 55 (so far!) co-sponsors are simultaneously forcing marriage equality opponents to discuss, openly and one by one, the rights and responsibilities they would like to keep from same sex couples while simultaneously holding up HB 1350 as the solution to the conversation:  Just pass this, and you don't have to go through the embarrassment of defending these one by one for the next decade.  (During which time, cohabiting seniors and same-sex couples will see their rights gradually expanded, rather than the reverse) 

Is it fast?  Of course not.  Is it as fast a strategy as social justice would seem to require?  Definitely not.  But it's light-years better than simply offering a marriage equality bill by itself and trying to argue the lump of 423 rights at once, which would result in one of two outcomes: 

1)  Most likely, a sound defeat.  As much as Josh Feit at the Stranger likes to complain that Democrats in Olympia aren't reaching far enough given their large majorities, the fact remains that "Democrat" and "progressive" are still two different words, and as long as people like Tim Sheldon win primaries, you'll have trouble pushing something like this through.  Not all Democrats embrace marriage equality; it's well known that any gathering of Democrats is a gathering of wildly varying agendas and opinions, and this is a particularly difficult issue to get agreement on, unfortunately. 

2)  A pyrrhic victory.  There is the chance our majority is large enough to actually pass, and Governor Gregoire's willingness to sign the bill is unknown at the moment.  If HB 1350 passes this session (a huge victory, to be sure!), does anyone think our initiative process, grown so tiresome to most Washingtonians by now, wouldn't instantly regain its popularity with the unfortunate majority who still oppose marriage equality?  Mind you, this isn't the same as a majority who kind of don't like 9 cent gas taxes...there is real passion behind the opposition to marriage equality, even in blue Washington.  Fighting off such an initiative with the background of gays actually getting married would be more difficult than many progressives want to believe.  An initiative to constitutionally ban marriage equality could in a heartbeat undo everything LGBT advocates have worked for over the years.

This is admittedly a pessimistic view of things, but we must take the reality of our situation into account.  We've got a chance to make serious headway on marriage equality - maybe even pass the bill (and I hope I can eat my words on the pyrrhic victory) - and at a minimum, provide same sex couples and cohabiting seniors with the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make medical decisions, dispose of their loved ones' remains, and maintain their estate if they don't have a written will...basic rights I take for granted as a straight married man. 

The long and short here is that Jamie Pederson and Ed Murray have decided to play two bets at once:  one bet with house money, that they're pretty sure they can win, and one that they could win that may or may not have permanent payoff.  If nothing else, they don't walk away with nothing...and maybe they walk away with the whole ball of wax.  Because despite my pessimism, there is still always the possibility, always, that they could pull this off - pass marriage equality and protect it when the inevitable initiative is voted on. 

In the short run though, with regard to HB 1351, is no progress at all preferable to at least some basic progress?  Can we not agree that even a small amount of dignity and freedom is worth working for?  If this bill was entered in a vacuum, with no other move to seek full marriage equality, I would share the outrage of those who call it a half-measure.  As it is, though, progressives need to play smart and see this for the shrewd (to use a lame sports metaphor) ball-control offense this really is.

I believe we can work for HB 1351 with all the fervor and passion the cause of equal rights deserves without for a moment sacrificing our fight for full marriage equality.  I believe we must do so.  I think this bill deserves no less than an all-out press on our part, and while we're at it let's work for full marriage equality sooner rather than later.

Posted by switzerblog on January 16, 2007 at 06:02 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King is Reborn for Our Times

It is sometimes said that every generation has it's own "George Washington"  or "Abraham Lincoln" or "Thomas Jefferson".  It's particularly clear with Thomas Jefferson, what with absorbing the reality of his liaison with Sally Hemmings (on top of his owning slaves, period, and not freeing them at his death despite his clear angst at his own actions and his awareness of the terrible legacy his generation had left for others to solve).

Anyway, I'm hearing way different MLK speeches this year.  I am not hearing the "I Have a Dream" speeches.  I am hearing hard-hitting speeches from the last year of his life, speeches like, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" or "A Time to Break Silence". 

These were speeches from 1967 when King was stepping out to build a coalition to bring all poor people together, white, black and other.  And for King, other meant Vietnamese and Guatemalan and Nigerian people, among others.  From that very deeply-felt place of resonance with his God, he moved increasingly against the Vietnam War.  He truly believed in the shared person-hood of all people everywhere.  He listened to the young black men who were in the war or had been in the war;  he saw them being killed.  He couldn't fathom why we were spending so much money to kill people across the world rather than building schools and paying people a decent wage to work here.   "It is estimated that we spend $300,000 to kill each enemy soldier.  We only spend $53 dollars per year on each person in poverty." 

Here are some more of his words I jotted down as I listened to MLK's incredibly inspiring speeches while I was doing some paperwork.  The following quotes all came from one or another of these speeches:

Silence is betrayal, not only of one's personal convictions, or even of one's country alone, but also of our deeper obligations to one another and to the brotherhood of man.

America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.

I oppose this war because I love America.

Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it.

We are reaching back this last weekend to an earlier time and playing the speeches of King's that make one's heart break because we so wish he were here with us right now.  It's as if King was speaking right to us today, we who are in the exact situation we were when he first spoke them forty years ago. 

Take a listen or read just one of these:   

Video of "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" 

Audio of King's Speech - "A Time to Break Silence"

Transcript of "A Time to Break Silence" 

What I love is that he was ministering to all of us, speaking to the terrible disappointment in America we felt then, as now.  He was calling out the best in each of us and asking us to do what was right.  Just like now.  Except this time, we are calling it out of each other.  There are many voices - John Edwards, Wes Clark, John Murtha, James Webb, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Hagel, Markos, Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy, Arianna Huffington, Jane Hamsher, Christy Hardin Smith, .Cindy Sheehan, Lt. Ehren Latada, Arthur and Lietta Ruger, Dan Kirkdorffer, Jim McDermott, Adam  Smith, Jay Inslee, Norm Dicks, Brad Newsham (the man who organized the Impeach on the Beach event in SF) Goldy, you, me and many, many, many more.

Martin Luther King's voice is so remarkably powerful because, in addition to the truth of the words he spoke, his voice carried all manner of emotions in it - disappointment, love, compassion, devotion, hope, sadness, and so much more.

Between us, perhaps we can fill up the voice he had and do what needs to be done right now.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 15, 2007 at 11:02 PM in National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pro-transit legislative agenda right on target

The Transportation Choices Coalition 2007 Legislative Agenda is a great blend of pushing for alternative transportation funding within the framework of the current political climate at the state level and the long-term vision needed to create these reforms. The Legislative Agenda outlines several policy and funding goals, which if fully implemented in the 2007 legislative session would make a huge difference in supporting our heath, environment and the quality of life in our state.

A top priority in the 2007 agenda is creating a well-balanced regional transit-and-roads measure that is expected to be on the ballot in 2007.  This combined Sound Transit and RTID measure will create funding for numerous transit and highway projects in the Puget Sound RTA/RTID districts.  The agenda outlines a goal to fully fund Sound Transit phase 2, prioritize safety and maintenance of our existing roads before new highway construction, maximize transit funding during construction, and implement congestion pricing and carbon assessments.  These goals will create a pro-environment and pro-transit focus as we move forward with regional transportation funding this year.

There are those in the environmental community who oppose the coupling of Sound Transit 2 and RTID into a single ballot measure.  Opposing this marriage is a fight not worth fighting.  The Legislature took the action to put the former adversaries of highways and transit in bed together just last year.  What makes sense is a strategic focus of maximizing transit and environmental mitigation funding.  A strategy that I think is a winning strategy.  Additionally, the goal of congestion pricing and carbon assessments takes us one step closer to implementing a regulated transportation system where the true costs are paid for by the users, and where demand is driven by the price.  As a public, when we talk about transportation, it is so uncommon for there to be an acknowledgement that the economics of driving determines individual choices, with drivers paying for the true cost of congestion and environmental degradation.  With “regulation,” the economic appeal of transit becomes that much more real.

Commute trip reduction is on the agenda as a priority for this session, and it should be.  This program is popular with legislators and makes a huge difference in reducing congestion by offering incentives to create vanpools and other trip reduction strategies.  Another part of the program is state reimbursement of transit for school trips.  During the recent Seattle Public Schools financial crisis, I was appalled to see how much we spend on transportation in the district.  I see no reason why teenagers shouldn’t be taking Metro to school.  The early start time at high schools, purely designed to stagger school bus routes has been shown as detrimental to teenagers.  Money should go into classrooms and do something for our kids not pay for unneeded school buses.

The efficient movement of people and goods as opposed to the movement of cars and trucks is another focus of the agenda.  State transportation planners still have Robert Moses on the brain when it comes to designing transportation projects and the impact on our communities.  It's time WSDOT stop thinking in a 1950’s mentality and create a priority for the movement of people and goods in the most efficient and community oriented way possible.  Changing our statewide transportation audits to focus on the movement of people and goods in corridors versus the number of cars is also important.  HOT lanes and dynamic pricing opportunities are another part of the equation to start efficiently moving people.  HOT lanes earn revenue while creating mobility in the transportation system.

Creating healthy and vibrant communities by looking for opportunities with legislation to make policy changes and for funding opportunities in the state budget in this next session of the legislature rounds out the agenda for 2007.  Just imagine how our cities and suburbs would be improved with additional funding for local transit, bike lanes and sidewalks.  Have you driven lately in the suburbs at night and almost ran over some poor hapless soul walking along the shoulder?  Creative financing for an investment in alternative transportation could include a sales tax on gas (the current gas tax can only fund highways because of the state constitution) and parking fees.  Additionally, preserving the Transportation Partnership Act of 2005 and all the gains made with this act is important.

Finally, mobility education is one more part of the agenda.  Mobility education is an important idea whose time is long overdue.  Unlike The Stranger’s Josh Feit who after learning of this priority, decided to focus his column about the 2007 agenda on ridiculing this important education for our kids, I think mobility education is a good idea because kids, especially in areas underserved by transit, grow up with misperceptions about public transit.  Kids often think public transit is dirty, unsafe and only for “poor people.”  Current drivers often have a very derogatory view of bicycles and pedestrians which creates safety issues.  Creating a well-rounded approach to learning about how to drive safely and get around town independently is a modern and sensible approach.

I hope you’ll join me on February 6th for Transportation Lobby Day in Olympia.  This lobby day for alternative transportation is sponsored by Transportation Choices Coalition, Cascade Bicycle Club, Sierra Club, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Feet First, Futurewise and WashPIRG.  This well attended annual event is an opportunity for everyone who cares about alternative transportation and the environment to show off our citizen muscle in the state capitol.  Meetings will be held with all legislators to talk about what the priorities are for our communities.

Cross Posted on Urban Transit

Posted by EzraBasom on January 15, 2007 at 07:50 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (5)

January 14, 2007

A Few More Thoughts On Climate Change

Yesterday, I ranted about the Federal Way school district's pathetic cave-in to flat-earth fundamentalist climate change deniers.  (There you go again. -Ed.

What particularly galled me was the insistence on presenting "opposing views" -- those who feel that climate change is not happening and that human activity isn't the cause.

That's totally, absolute bullsh*t, and the school board should know better. 

There's lots of room for healthy civic debate about what we should do about climate change.  I would love to see public school students exposed to everything from carbon taxes to cap-and-trade emissions standards to what-have-you.  I'd even be OK with someone presenting the opinion that we shouldn't do anything because
the Lord God Almighty is going to bring down his divine wrath upon us
all, hallelujah.

But there is no "other side" to the fact that the earth's climate is changing, and that greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere by human beings are the cause.

Why, even President Bush admitted as much, saying "Listen, I recognize that the surface of the Earth is warmer and that
an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the
problem."

Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" may be the most important documentary film ever made -- and it absolutely, positively does belong in every classroom in the country.



Posted by Jon Stahl on January 14, 2007 at 08:52 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

Disciplining Stray Republicans

Republican leadership from the state to the national level are working to maintain discipline.  It's a hard job in the face of an appealing Democratic agenda, the lack of any substantial Republican ideas and the invitations of Democrats to join in with the winning side.    

But they got to Washington State House Representative Maureen Walsh this week and reined her back in.  Walsh had accepted the Democratic offer to be vice chairman of the House Committee on Early Learning and Children's Services after the Republicans replaced her on the Children and Family Services Committee where she had been ranking member.  The Olympian has a quote from Walsh:

"Maybe it was naive of me to not think it would cause any problems," said Walsh, who also cited family concerns as part of her decision. Her husband died in April, and she has a 14-year-old son attending school in Olympia during session.

"When it boiled right down to it, the fact that I had some folks in my caucus who would view me a little different or not see me as a team player ... I don't need that. I don't need that at all," she told The Associated Press.

Clearly the discipline isn't holding across the board.  The Washington Post gives us the rather substantial numbers of Republicans who voted with Democrats this last week in the U.S. House as part of the "First 100 Hours" legislation: 

Freed from the pressures of being the majority and from the heavy hand of former leaders including retired representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), many back-bench Republicans are showing themselves to be more moderate than their conservative leadership and increasingly mindful of shifting voter sentiment. The closest vote last week -- Friday's push to require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare -- pulled 24 Republicans. The Democrats' homeland security bill attracted 68 Republicans, the minimum wage increase 82.

For example:

Last year, Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio) was a powerful member of the Republican leadership, responsible for uniting her fractious colleagues behind a single message. After narrowly escaping defeat in November, the swing-district Republican bolted from her party's leadership last year. Last week, she virtually bolted from the party.

There are still prices to be paid, especially in regard to opposing the Bush Administration on Iraq.  Representative Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), who was behind the House dining hall name change from "french fries" to "freedom fries" in early 2003 changed his mind in the course of a few months about the occupation in Iraq.  In May 2003, Jones publicly criticized the war; he posted the "faces of the fallen" on the hallway outside his door; and he is now as active in opposing the war as any Democrat. 

The Republican leadership has hit back. House Armed Services ranking member Duncan Hunter (R-CA) denied Jones a minority leadership position on the powerful defense committee.

Hunter, a loyal supporter of President Bush and an outspoken hawk on the Iraq war, recently told Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., that he would be passed over for the Readiness Subcommittee ranking member slot because of his stance on the war, Jones said in an interview Thursday.

(Hat tip to The Carpetbagger for that pointer.)

Of course, these moderate Republicans could always come all the way over and become Democrats.  They seem to be doing that a lot in Kansas these days. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 14, 2007 at 10:27 AM in Inside Baseball, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2007

Results Similar to 1954

A troubling 8-minute documentary made by a 17-year old, Kiri Davis, for a high school project, is likely to shake up the country.  Davis filmed about a dozen black children of diverse economic backgrounds in a preschool in New York City as she conducted a doll test with them.  This doll test was similar to one that Dr. Kenneth Clark conducted prior to the 1954 Brown v. The Board of Education. 

In both cases, young African-American children were shown two dolls, one white, one black and asked a series of questions.  Can you show me the doll you like?  Can you show me the doll that is the nice doll?  Can you show me the doll that looks bad?  And can you give me the doll that looks like you?  The children preferred the white dolls; the white dolls were the nice dolls.  The black dolls looked bad.  And reluctantly, they picked the black dolls as being like them. 

The tests conducted prior to 1954 helped convince the Supreme Court justices that black children were being harmed by the way they saw themselves and, by extension, by the different school systems they found themselves in.  But the results are very similar now, over five decades and some major changes in society later. 

The video-clip is on the KOMO website and was likely shown on TV screens across the country.  They are disturbing to watch.  In the most recent doll test that Kiri conducted, 15 of the 21 children preferred the white doll.

I have been close to young African-American children, whose parents were successful and confident.  Out of the blue, no test involved, I have heard the same things from young African-American friends.   "She's cute.  I wish I were white," I remember a child, maybe five, saying, while we were at a restaurant once when I was babysitting her while her parents got a much needed date night out. 

It nearly broke my heart.  I've remembered it and a couple of similar incidents from youngsters I spent time with.   

At the end of the clip, the reporter asks Kiri what she sees.  Kiri, who did the interviewing herself, says "Hopefully, one day, there won't be such a problem.  They won't prefer one doll over the other one."

Indeed.  And with the country regaining a measure of sanity after a dozen years somewhere else, perhaps we'll get a chance to talk thoughtfully about racism and its impact on our beautiful young people, white, black and every other color. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 13, 2007 at 09:31 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Federal Way? More Like Ostrich Way.

"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."
Yes, that's the kind of brilliant, reality-denying thinking that the Federal Way school board just endorsed as it put in place a moratorium on the showing of "An Inconvenient Truth" in classrooms.

School Board members adopted a three-point policy that says teachers who want to show the movie must ensure that a "credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented," that they must get the OK of the principal and the superintendent, and that any teachers who have shown the film must now present an "opposing view."
Umm... there is no "opposing view."  The facts are clear and consistent. The "opposing view" is that of the ostriches in the oil industry, with their heads in the sand. 

Whacko fundamentalists have no business making public policy. Period.

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 13, 2007 at 07:09 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

Fred Says...

I'm really excited to welcome Fred Felleman to the Washington state environmental policy blogosphere.  Fred's a long-time marine policy activist and policy wonk, and a noted marine photographer to boot.

Over the years Fred's been involved in everything from protecting orcas to fighting cruise ship pollution to advocating for sensible precautions against oil spills -- pretty much anything to help make Puget Sound healthy.

I'm looking forward to reading about his future adventures -- and to seeing more of his fantastic photographs as he gets them online!

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 13, 2007 at 05:02 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Senator For All of Us

Senator Jim Webb, speaking at the first hearing of the year on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which he now sits on, said:

There's really nothing that's occurred since the invasion and occupation that was not predictable and in fact, most of it was predicted.  It was predicted in many cases by people with long backgrounds in national security...and in many cases there were people who saw their military careers destroyed and who were personally demeaned by people who opposed them on the issues, including members of this administration.  And they are people in my judgement, who will be remembered in history as having had a moral conscience.

He was speaking in reference to Senator John McCain's comments about the consequences of pulling out of Iraq and leaving a strengthened Iran and a strong jihadist network.  DailyKos front-pager BarbinMD transcribed the conversation off C-Span.  Prior to that, he had also taken Senator Lindsey Graham to task for a series of questions he asked of General Peter Pace that implied 1) that anyone disagreeing with the President's position was traitorous and 2) that people were serving in the military to provide for the security of their children and grandchildren. 

And this was in the first minute of his first hearing on that Committee, I'm guessing the first time he spoke officially in the Senate.  Webb's presence in the Senate is likely to change how that body functions.  His absolute integrity and fearlessness is likely to impact both the Republican and the Democrats.  This will be very interesting to follow.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 13, 2007 at 09:05 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 12, 2007

The Lies of Joe Lieberman

What a difference a year makes.

In January of 2006, former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, worked himself into a lather over the White House's refusal to turn over documents related to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins were heading an investigation into the breaching of the levees and how much advance notice the administration had of the likelihood of breaching. At the time, Lieberman said he thought the Department of Homeland Security was trying to kill the investigtion:

I have been told by my staff that almost every question our staff has asked federal agency witnesses regarding conversations with, or involvement of, the White House has been met with a response that they could not answer on direction of the White House.

(snip)

They have opposed efforts to interview their personnel, and they have hindered our ability to obtain information from other federal agencies regarding the White House actions in response to Katrina.

That sounds very much like a man doing the necessary work of oversight. Lieberman promised to force the White House to give up the documents and that he would get to the bottom of it.

If only.

Now that Lieberman has quit the Democratic Party, and won re-election as the candidate from the coyly termed "Connecticut For Lieberman Party" (aka "Soreloser Party", "Turncoat Party", "Republican in Disguise Party", "Bush's Kissing Partner Party") he's changed his tune. He's no longer moanin' the blues at the criminality and corruption of the White House, he's singing the Halleluja Chorus on behalf of that White House. "Halleluja" because Pal Joey announced yesterday that he will NOT be demanding accountability from the White House over the Katrina disaster. He's going to let the criminals escape the clutches of his oversight committee - the one that he now chairs, since his former Democratic colleagues wimped out and let him keep his seniority, even after he maligned and abandoned the party.

There hasn't been much of a response from those other Democrats, but Josh Marshall at TPM has been sending out queries. So far, only Charlie Melancon, representative from Louisiana, has come forward, and he's not too happy:

I'm just disappointed that he's not going to pursue it, particularly in  terms of -- I can understand that there's a whole lot of things we haven't had oversight on in six years -- but Katrina is a major national occurence.

So I'd like the members of the new Democratic majority, especially Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to answer the following question:

Exactly what dirty deals did you have to make with Lieberman to ensure he wouldn't caucus with Republicans?

Because the odor emanating from the Senate Chamber is starting to smell a lot like the odor from the past 12 years, when Republicans ran the place into the ground with their penchant for keeping secrets, keeping votes open until all hours, keeping Democrats from reading bills before votes, ultimately keeping Democrats from being able to participate in doing The People's business. And The People, particularly The People from the Gulf Coast, deserve to know what the White House knew about the state of the levees and when they knew it. Residents of Louisiana are perservering mightily to put their lives back together and achieve some semblance of normalcy amid continuing political corruption, gross inaction on reconstruction and the incompetence of city leaders to curtail a harrowing crime wave.

Do Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer -- all of whom threw Ned Lamont under the bus after the Connecticut primary -- have anything to say now that their Pal Joey has exposed himself as the narcissistic, lying renegade that he is? Or are they only too happy to tell Katrina survivors to "Go To Hell", in an effort to satisfy the neediness of Joey in his quest for ultimate power? It looks like Katrina will be taking a seat at the end of the line, while the triangulating Democratic power brokers focus their attentions on 2008.

The Lies of Joe Lieberman. It's an ugly story, epitomizing the old adage that "absolute power corrupts absolutely".

Posted by shoephone on January 12, 2007 at 04:41 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

Gates Foundation Revokes Pledge to Review Investments

After the LA Times reported that the Gates Foundation often invests in companies hurting the very communities Bill and Melinda want to help, the Seattle Times reported the foundation planned "a systematic review of its investments to determine whether it should pull its money out of companies that are doing harm to society".

Shortly after that interview, the Gates Foundation took down their public statement on this and replaced it with an apparently altered version which seems to say that investing responsibly would just be too complex for them and that they need to focus on their core mission:

There are dozens of factors that could be considered, almost all of which are outside the foundation’s areas of expertise. The issues involved are quite complex...Which social and political issues should be on the list? ... Many of the companies mentioned in the Los Angeles Times articles, such as Ford, Kraft, Fannie Mae, Nestle, and General Electric, do a lot of work that some people like, as well as work that some people do not like. Some activities might even be viewed positively by some people and negatively by others.

Way to take a stand.

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Posted by Jeff on January 12, 2007 at 12:24 AM in The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 11, 2007

Bush Creates Hell For America and the Rest of the World

It's only been about 24 hours since Deciderer Bush's speech, and it looks like his quest for more blitzkreig in Iraq is sparking fires around the world. His threat to take on Syria and Iran was already in motion when U.S. forces raided the Iranian Consulate in Northern Iraq. The soldiers promised death to any and all who didn't surrender immediately. Five Iranian diplomats and consulate employees were arrested and documents and computers were confiscated. Pretext for war with Iran? I think the writing's on the wall. The Iranian government (no favorite of mine) has responded with justified disgust, calling the raid illegal.

About thirty minutes ago, the U.S. Embassy compound in Athens was bombed. I guess Bush has friends everywhere. And the Brits -- our partners in the scrappy "coalition of the willing" -- have announced they are actively engaged in quitting Iraq.

Meanwhile, back at the fort, a teary-eyed Bush honored those he got killed but -- big surprise -- the troops present were prohibited from speaking to reporters afterwards. As for the National Guard and Reserve troops who have been serving continuous tours in Iraq, they got word today that the Pentagon has abandoned its active-duty time limit. That means the troops will keep on serving and they will get less 'down time' in between tours -- about 6 months less. This military, that is stretched so thin, is going to make up the entire escalation from its current number by recommitting soldiers who have already served two, three and four tours, because we don't have any troops to spare. With that reality staring us in the face, Bush assures us his new-old-way-forward will bring victory in a war he's already lost.

Of course, Ye Olde Global War On Terra cannot be forgotten. Hundreds of men and boys who were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan after 9-11 are still, five years later, withering in the living Hell of Guantanamo. They haven't been charged with anything, they haven't been allowed contact with family, and as we know, many have been tortured. This letter written from Guantanamo, by one of those long-time forgotten human beings that George Bush decided to treat worse than a diseased rat, has been living in my psyche all day. It makes me wonder just what the hell has become of America.

I AM WRITING from the darkness of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo in the hope that I can make our voices heard by the world. My hand quivers as I hold the pen.

In January 2002, I was picked up in Pakistan, blindfolded, shackled, drugged and loaded onto a plane flown to Cuba. When we got off the plane in Guantanamo, we did not know where we were. They took us to Camp X-Ray and locked us in cages with two buckets — one empty and one filled with water. We were to urinate in one and wash in the other.

At Guantanamo, soldiers have assaulted me, placed me in solitary confinement, threatened to kill me, threatened to kill my daughter and told me I will stay in Cuba for the rest of my life. They have deprived me of sleep, forced me to listen to extremely loud music and shined intense lights in my face. They have placed me in cold rooms for hours without food, drink or the ability to go to the bathroom or wash for prayers. They have wrapped me in the Israeli flag and told me there is a holy war between the Cross and the Star of David on one hand and the Crescent on the other. They have beaten me unconscious.

What I write here is not what my imagination fancies or my insanity dictates. These are verifiable facts witnessed by other detainees, representatives of the Red Cross, interrogators and translators.

During the first few years at Guantanamo, I was interrogated many times. My interrogators told me that they wanted me to admit that I am from Al Qaeda and that I was involved in the terrorist attacks on the United States. I told them that I have no connection to what they described. I am not a member of Al Qaeda. I did not encourage anyone to go fight for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have done nothing but kill and denigrate a religion. I never fought, and I never carried a weapon. I like the United States, and I am not an enemy. I have lived in the United States, and I wanted to become a citizen.

I know that the soldiers who did bad things to me represent themselves, not the United States. And I have to say that not all American soldiers stationed in Cuba tortured us or mistreated us. There were soldiers who treated us very humanely. Some even cried when they witnessed our dire conditions. Once, in Camp Delta, a soldier apologized to me and offered me hot chocolate and cookies. When I thanked him, he said, "I do not need you to thank me." I include this because I do not want readers to think that I fault all Americans.

But, why, after five years, is there no conclusion to the situation at Guantanamo? For how long will fathers, mothers, wives, siblings and children cry for their imprisoned loved ones? For how long will my daughter have to ask about my return? The answers can only be found with the fair-minded people of America.

I would rather die than stay here forever, and I have tried to commit suicide many times. The purpose of Guantanamo is to destroy people, and I have been destroyed. I am hopeless because our voices are not heard from the depths of the detention center.

If I die, please remember that there was a human being named Jumah at Guantanamo whose beliefs, dignity and humanity were abused. Please remember that there are hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo suffering the same misfortune. They have not been charged with any crimes. They have not been accused of taking any action against the United States.

Show the world the letters I gave you. Let the world read them. Let the world know the agony of the detainees in Cuba.

(Letter from Jumah al-Dossari, 33-year-old citizen of Bahrain.)

Posted by shoephone on January 11, 2007 at 10:50 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

And Denver It Is

DailyKos and Western Democrat are both reporting that Howard Dean has selected Denver (over NYC) for the 2008 Democratic Convention.  This is great news. 

The netroots has been pushing for Denver to be selected so the Party can highlight the new kind of western, libertarian Democrats already in office in the Mountain West - Democrats like Jon Tester, Brian Schweitzer, Bill Ritter (new governor of Colorado), Ken Salazar and more.

This choice makes it clear that we as a Party are moving in a new direction, away from the money centers, back to the people.  It is likely to give a boost to those wonderful Mountain Western candidates who came very close to winning in November, candidates like Larry Grant, Peter Goldmark, and Gary Trauner (Wyoming).

Yeah, Dean.  Yeah, unions - for being flexible enough to allow this to work.  Yeah NYC money people -  for giving in to the better selection for our Party and our country. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 11, 2007 at 10:02 AM in Inside Baseball, National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 10, 2007

Actions Have Consequences

I was very sad listening to President Bush and the commentary afterwards.  The general sense I had from watching and listening to Bush and then hearing the Generals, the Senators and the commentators on PBS's NewsHour express their opinions of what they heard, was that it wasn't going to work.  Nothing would work.  We are into it up to our eyeballs and there is nothing that will save us from failure.  The folks who support this operation, like David Brooks and Senator John Thune, who say we have to look at the horrendous consequences if we were to exit, are looking for cover.  As Mark Shields said, they are looking to say they did everything they could but the Iraqis wouldn't step up to take over.  The folks who don't support it simply think it will be horrific either way and we might as well have as few troops as possible in the way.

Senator Dick Durbin gave the Democrats' reasoned response. He called for the "orderly" redeployment of troops, saying, "Escalation of this war is not the direction the American people called for in the last election. . . . Twenty-thousand American soldiers are too few to end this civil war in Iraq."

PBS then had retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor and retired General William Odom, director of national security studies at the Hudson Institute, on.  There was none of the usual "balance" that the NewsHour seems to feel it has to have, which I suspect was unintended and unexpected.  Both expressed skepticism that the Iraqis are capable of taking control of the situation. 

Then Senator Jim Webb said that he thought that what was missing was any diplomatic efforts to pull other countries into helping with the situation.  Senator John Thune respectfully supported the "but we have to try" solution that the President presented.

Not that I was surprised.  Really, we've known for awhile that there is no saving the situation.  But, listening to a few of the grown-ups, and their muted responses, brought home for me the gravity of the situation.  This is the best this poor, panicked man could come up with and it does not begin to be enough.

PBS has audiofiles of the speech, Durbin's rebuttal and all the commentary, including regulars Mark Shields and David Brooks.

I want to share my impressions because I think this speech will be seen as a turning point for the nation, but not likely in the way that Bush intended. 

  1. Bush did a masterful job of appearing contrite and "realistic".  This thing must have been focus-grouped to death.  I didn't see a single smirk.  He gave homage to the Iraq Study Group, as if he had accepted a single one of their recommendations; he talked about all the Congressfolk he had talked with and how much he had considered their opinions.  He talked about what a good job we'd done in Afghanistan and how we wanted to do the same in Iraq.  Gag!
  2. Underneath, he looked panicked to me, like he knows finally that there is no out but he is going to try to hold off the inevitable for as long as possible, hoping for some miracle to occur to keep him from having to accept some measure of responsibility for this disaster.
  3. Senator Jim Webb was confident and articulate; John Thune way less so.  The tables are turning; what a difference an election makes.  Not to mention how very cool Webb is. 
  4. I don't think most people were paying much attention; it is too late for more than a fraction of people to have their minds changed on this.  I doubt this will move Bush's numbers except perhaps lower. 
  5. The President said that failure would bring a chaos beyond anything we can imagine.  I actually felt a bit of compassion for President Bush for one of the first times.  Here he is, coming to recognize the absolute failure of what is going on over there, with little chance of pulling it out.  He must be in the position of beginning to recognize for the first time in his life, that actions actually do have consequences.

Please, add your thoughts. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 10, 2007 at 11:27 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Jay Inslee Weighs In on Iraq

Congressman Inslee spoke on the floor of the House today against the escalation.  Inslee said that it is the constitutional obligation of the U.S. Congress to do what makes sense for the American people even if it means cutting off funding for the escalation.   Here's the link for an audio-clip, since I can't seem to get TypePad to embed it:

www.house.gov/inslee/multimedia/audio/Inslee_1_10_07.mp3

And here is the brief speech itself:

Mr. Speaker: We need a surge of congressional action to stop George Bush's disastrous policy in Iraq.  You know, the country needs and is desperate for a change in policy in Iraq and tonight President George Bush will continue his policy of failure of giving us just more of the same.  It is clear that we need to insist on a political solution in Iraq rather than to insist on Americans continuing to pour billions of dollars and thousands of lives in to this political chaos in Iraq.  The president has refused to listen to the bipartisan panel calling for a change in Iraq; he has refused to listen to the American people.  But he cannot refuse to listen to a Congress that fulfills its obligation under the Constitution to exercise the power of the purse to stop this misguided escalation.  The U.S. House should vote in clear and no uncertain terms to fund the troops that are there and to cut off funding for any escalation.  It is our constitutional obligation; it is a commonsense policy to insist on Iraqis standing up.  That's the direction and the change we need in this country.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 10, 2007 at 04:10 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why the Increase in Minimum Wage Matters

Until you are making $10-12 per hour, you are going to have a really tough time making ends meet.  So says, David Blatt, a poverty expert in Tulsa County, Oklahoma.  The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article on the importance of raising the minimum wage, entitled "Life at America's Bottom Wage", written by Mark Trumbull. 

In the article, they profile John Hosier, employed full time at the Salvation Army in Muskogee, Oklahoma, earning $6 per hour or $200 per week.  His wife, Tina, stays home taking care of their two young children.  Hosier's life story has not been easy.  He recounts physical abuse from his father as a child, experimentation with drugs of many kinds, and a stint in prison.  He struggles with illiteracy. 

An increase in minimum wages is being debated and will likely be voted on today in the House.  It is today's bill.  The House is voting on one major bill each day.  Here's what the CSM says in the article:

By one estimate, the expected hike would directly affect the paychecks of 6.6 million low-wage workers like John Hosier. Another 8 million workers have wages that, while a bit too high to be forced upward by the law, stand to gain from an upward ripple effect when the wage floor is adjusted.

<snip>

Of the workers who stand to reap higher pay if Congress raises the wage floor, the vast majority are adults, most work full-time, and about 1 in 4 have dependent children, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Moreover, they are often the sole breadwinner in the household. Of families with children, nearly half of those who would be affected by a minimum-wage hike get all their earned income from one low-wage worker.

It has been 10 years since the minimum wage was increased, the longest time between raises ever.   The current level is $5.15.  The purchasing power of minimum-wage pay is at its lowest point in half a century.  It takes three full-time jobs at that wage to hit the minimum income level that is out of poverty. 

Thanks to the voters for making this vote today possible.

Hat tip to Jordan Barab, writing at Firedoglake.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 10, 2007 at 10:08 AM in National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Congress Has the Constitutional Authority to Withhold Funding For Troop Escalation

Despite what paper tigers like Joe Biden are saying, the U.S. Congress does, in fact, have the constitutional power and authority to refuse funding the troop escalation Bush has planned for Iraq. Moreover, previous congresses have not been shy about enacting funding restrictions. The Center For American Progress spells out the details in a report it's circulating, in an effort to educate some of the more ill-informed representatives in D.C.

According to the report, Congress may limit or shape troop deployments, cap the size of deployments, or prohibit funding for existing or prospective deployments.

Leaving aside the authority over shaping deployments themselves, let's take a look at the basic act of funding authority, because it's the "power of the purse" that Rep. Jack Murtha and Sen. Ted Kennedy are planning on exercising.

A few examples of funding restrictions enacted by past congresses:

December 1970. P.L. 91-652 – Supplemental Foreign Assistance Law. The Church-Cooper amendment prohibited the use of any funds for the introduction of U.S. troops to Cambodia or provide military advisors to Cambodian forces.

June 1973.  P.L. 93-50 – Supplemental Foreign Assistance, “None of the Funds herein appropriated under this act may be expended to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam by United States forces, and after August 15, 1974, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other act may be expended for such purposes.”

December 1982. P.L. 98-215 – Defense Appropriations Act. In what became known as the Boland Amendment, Congress prohibited covert military assistance for Nicaragua.

November 1993. P.L. 103-139. The Congress limited the use of funding in Somalia for operations of U.S. military personnel only until March 31, 1994, permitting expenditure of funds for the mission thereafter only if the president sought and Congress provided specific authorization.

September 1994. P.L. 103-335. The Congress declared “no funds provided in this Act are available for United States military participation to continue Operations Restore Hope in or around Rwanda after October 7, 1994, except for any action that is necessary to protect the lives of United States citizens.”

June 1998. P.L. 105-85 – Defense Authorization Bill. The Congress prohibited funding for Bosnia “after June 30, 1998, unless the President, not later than May 15, 1998, and after consultation with the bipartisan leadership of the two Houses of Congress, transmits to Congress a certification— (1) that the continued presence of United States ground combat forces, after June 30, 1998, in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina is required in order to meet the national security interests of the United States; and (2) that after June 30, 1998, it will remain United States policy that United States ground forces will not serve as, or be used as, civil police in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

The Bush administration and its bouncers are, once again, playing the treason card to frighten skeptics into acquiescing on escalation,  but even some of their own - Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith - are expressing trepidation at the prospect of throwing more fuel onto the fire of a wide-spread civil war that none can plausibly deny is enveloping Iraq. The so-called "coalition of the willing" is a shell of its former self, with only the Brits left behind to clean up after us in the south of the country. And even the Brits are making noises that they want no more of Bush's Folly.

Most of our Washington State delegation has come out in opposition to the craziness of the Cowboy's "surge" (so far, Reichert, McMorris and Hastings are sticking with the cowboy on this one.) But the Dems are not exactly united in opposition. Adam Smith, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are trying to skate a very fine line -- claiming they oppose a troop increase but have no power to stop the funding for one. In other words, "Mommy, I don't want to, but he's making me do it!" Maybe they need to get a friendly tutorial from the historically hawkish Norm Dicks, who clearly got the message the voters sent on November 7th. Dicks is not buying into anymore of the president's "when the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down" nonsense, and he's highly skeptical that any benefits will be gained by an escalation. Hopefully, that healthy dose of skepticism will rub off on some of our more wobbly electeds.

Update: Congressmen McDermott and Smith were on KUOW's Weekday this morning, discussing the strength of the Dems opposition to the escalation. Smith sounded more convinced about the wrongness of the troop buildup than in either of today's P.I. or Times articles. Unfortunately, he's still pressing the message that there isn't a way to restrict the "surge" funding without threatening to withhold equiptment and armor for the troops already there. To that I say: show some resolve, Congressman. And does anybody still believe that the troops on the ground have been getting the armor they need, so far? $358 billion later...

McDermott, on the other hand, seemed to know the history of funding restrictions quite well, referring explicitly to the Boland Amendment, and cautioning that, if Dems want to make this work, they've got to show real courage and write the language of legislation very tightly. Otherwise, Bush will do whatever he can to wriggle out of it. I think most people remember that the way the Reagan Administration got around the Boland Amendment was by thoroughly illegal means.

Posted by shoephone on January 10, 2007 at 01:35 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 08, 2007

Internet Influence Continues to Expand

Having shared my musings on last year's political doings, I'm ready to step out and share some thoughts on what I think this coming year will bring politically. However, the piece was getting a little long so I decided I'd break it up into several posts.  This is the first.  For my musings on last year, check out my post on January 1st.

This past August, the Pew Internet Project reported that 26 million adults, about 19% of adult Internet users, used the Internet to obtain news or information about politics and the mid-term elections.  When you consider that about 85 million people voted, a pretty significant number of them checked out the Internet as part of educating themselves and making their decisions. 

With the continued creativity of political videos and new ways to get information over to the public, that number will only grow and it is likely to be the more creative progressive side that will benefit.  Here are four examples of new uses by progressives that I just pulled off in the last couple weeks. 

A blog in New Jersey has produced a set of ads, reminiscent of the cool MAC guy and PC guy ads, that argue quite persuasively for upgrading civil unions to gay marriage.  New Jersey has passed bill after bill that improve conditions for the LGBT community, making use of a campaign to push marriage equality.  These ads are the latest in the campaign and they are lovely and funny.  We are likely to see a lot more videos that help the public understand complex and emotional issues and develop a deeper level of public support for progressive issues.

Another example came just this week when Politics TV has a set of interviews with a few of our progressive Congresscritters, including this one of Congressman Barney Frank, discussing his plans for leading the House Committee on Financial Services and using it to make economic conditions more equitable and to build more affordable housing.

The third is something I wrote about on Friday and then again yesterday.  A friend of mine used the Internet to organize a Flashmob of 1100 plus people at a beach in San Francisco to lie down and spell out the word IMPEACH.   

My last example is quite different but strikes me as being very important as well.  In the article in Time Magazine about the Internet (the Person of the Year article), they described an online newspaper in Korea, Oh My News, that relies on 47,000 citizen reporters.  They have an English-language International edition that has pretty interesting articles.  Here's an example, an article about poverty in Taos, New Mexico.

In the article in Time about Oh My News, they say:

There is nothing quite like OhMyNews in the U.S., or not yet. Imagine if the Washington Post were produced entirely by bloggers. OhMyNews is written mostly by a floating staff of 47,000 amateur journalists all over the country. The site gets 1 million to 1.5 million page views a day.

We are only at the beginning of the changes the Internet will bring to enhancing democracy in this and other countries.  Bring it on!

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 8, 2007 at 11:17 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Build a Golden Bridge

The Democrats in Olympia are supporting at least one Republican moderate who, otherwise, would be out of luck with Richard DeBolt and his wingnut friends leading the Republican caucuses in the House.  Maureen Walsh, a Representative in the 16th LD, which covers Walla Walla, Columbia and part of Benton counties, is a moderate.  She is pals with her Democratic seat-mate in the 16th, the irrepressible Bill Grant, and criticized the offensive "sex offender postcards" that constituents of the 16th and six other LD's around the state received from DeBolt's buddy Republican organization, the Speaker’s Roundtable.   (I wrote about this last February.

McCranium points us to an article in the Tri-City Herald by Chris Mullick today about the punishment the Republican leadership evidently doled out to her for her moderate stands.  She lost her seat on the Children and Family Services Committee where she had been ranking member.  Mullick reports that the Democrats, in a rare move, named her vice-chairman of the Early Learning and Children's Services Committee. 

Way to go, Dems.  By the way, the title of this post refers to a quote I heard once but couldn't verify: "Build your enemy a golden bridge that he can walk across".  I always liked that.  It made so much sense as a means of pulling our opponents closer; make it as easy for them as possible to move toward your positions.   I thought I remembered it was a quote by Sun Yat-sen, Chinese leader of the early 1900's.  However, I couldn't find it any reference to it so if someone out there has information on it or a correction, please let me know.  Thanks. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 8, 2007 at 11:01 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wes Clark Challenges Bush on Iraq

Clark calls diplomacy the "smart surge" in a very timely opinion piece in the WAPO this morning.  Oh, what we would give to have the grown-ups, like Clark, in charge of foreign policy again!   Here's the nub of what Clark says about Bush's plan for a "surge":   

What the surge would do is put more American troops in harm's way, further undercut the morale of U.S. forces and risk further alienating elements of the Iraqi populace. American casualties would probably rise, at least temporarily, as more troops appeared on the streets -- as happened in the summer when a brigade from Alaska was extended and sent into Baghdad. And even if the increased troop presence initially frustrated the militias, it wouldn't be long before they found ways to work around the neighborhood searches and other obstacles, if they chose to continue the conflict.

Clark rightly blames Bush and his administration for feeding the regional instability and says the war will only spread unless we focus on diplomacy:

Well before the 2003 invasion, the Bush administration was sending signals that its intentions weren't limited to Iraq; "regime change" in Syria and Iran was often discussed in Washington. Small wonder then that both countries have worked continuously to feed the fighting in Iraq.

Dealing with meddling neighbors is an essential element of resolving the conflict in Iraq. But this requires more than border posts and threatening statements. The administration needs a new strategy for the region, before Iran gains nuclear capabilities. While the military option must remain on the table, America should take the lead with direct diplomacy to resolve the interrelated problems of Iran's push for regional hegemony and nuclear power, the struggle for control of Lebanon, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Isolating our adversaries hasn't worked.

Clark published a similar editorial in the UK newspaper, The Independent, yesterday.  Just as Pelosi, Reid, Waxman, Leahy and other Democratic leaders are signaling their willingness to take Bush on through Congressional actions, Clark is signaling his willingness to take Bush on around foreign policy and to do so publicly.  Yeah!

Hat tip to Tom Rinaldo, diarist at DailyKos

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 8, 2007 at 10:36 AM in National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

Olympia Watch: The Long Tentacles of Lobbyists

An article in today's Seattle P.I. explains just how hard it is for elected officials to escape the tentacles of lobbyists who practically camp out in Olympia during the 3-month legislative session. The unrelenting arm-twisting that representatives endure from lobbyists prevents the voices of constituents from being heard. Millions of dollars are spent by special interest groups each year in a full-scale effort to control legislation. The proof of those efforts can usually be found in the amount of tax breaks industries receive. Citizens, on the other hand, can only try to influence their representatives the old-fashioned way -- with letters, emails, phone calls and the rare, but much-coveted, 30-minute meeting with a legislative aide.

Are you able to take a 3-month leave of absence from your job so that you can stalk your legislative representative? Can you afford to take your legislative reps out to dinner? To a Sonics game? Do you have the means to host a $250 per person fundraiser for that rep? Did your fifth grade civics teacher not clue you in that bribing or blackmailing your reps is part of the political process? Don't take it from me - here's what Washington State Representative Hans Dunshee has to say about it:

Dunshee agrees that the meals are not in themselves enough to change a lawmaker's mind, and even though he seldom eats out on some special interest's tab, he says there are many other ways lobbyists make sure he knows what their clients want.

"A good lobbyist will just camp outside my office when they've got a project (they want the state to build)," he said. "They'll check back every day, 'How are we doing? Are we in? Are we out?'"

It can take Dunshee a half-hour to walk up to his office from a committee hearing, which is in the same building, he said.

"I have to beat them off," he said.

This corruption of the political process is exactly why we need to institute public financing of campaigns. Dunshee's story perfectly illustrates what Representative Mark Miloscia acknowledged at the clean campaigns Town Hall event last Friday night, when he said "I feel my integrity is tested everyday".

Keep your eyes peeled for the ides of March. That's when we get the tally on which bills passed and which didn't. Savvy Capitol watchers will probably be able to predict the outcomes, just by paying attention to who gets their tentacles in the door.

Posted by shoephone on January 8, 2007 at 12:21 AM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 07, 2007

SF Impeachment Flashmob Action Yesterday

Well, they did it.  Over a thousand people put their bodies down on the beach in San Francisco yesterday to show how they felt about impeaching Bush.  Take a look at the photos and the video-clip of the event. 

For a group of people who so adamantly opposed the 60's and everything they stood for, the right-wing has done a masterful job of bringing a new version of that time back. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 7, 2007 at 04:50 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Orleans on the Brink - the Death of Helen Hill

The tragedies in New Orleans are piling up. This week the city saw six killings in 24 hours, and residents are starting to talk openly of a mass exodus. Hurricane Katrina exposed the decades-long neglect of wetlands and levees, and a nonchalant acceptance of widespread poverty. But the city is also facing a new crime wave, and despite the "spin" being put on it by the mayor and the police chief, people have simply had enough.

Helen Hill was an energetic, generous friend, wife and mom, and a talented filmaker dedicated to making her home of New Orleans a real community. She and her husband, Paul Gailuinas, had lost practically everything in Katrina and relocated to South Carolina. But Helen was homesick and so they returned this past August. She continued her filmwork and her project to introduce the whole city to art by convincing people to periodically open up their homes as galleries. Paul, a doctor, dedicated himself to serving the community by running the Little Doctors Neighborhood Clinic, which operated on a sliding-scale.

Earlier this week, an intruder broke into their home and everything changed. Helen was killed and Paul was found bleeding on the doorstep with their two-year old child in his arms. Five other people, including a cabbie, were killed that same day. New Orleans is so far away from being back to pre-Katrina "normal", it's no wonder people haven't seen Mayor Nagin in public. He must have one of those undisclosed, secured locations like Dick Cheney's to hide away in. It's common knowledge that after the hurricane hit he moved his own wife and children to a house in Dallas.

I've been reading a great New Orleans blog called b.rox for awhile now. Bart, the blogger, gives an up close and personal view of what he and his wife and his city are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. His grief over the loss of his friend Helen Hill, and his consternation about the slow pace of progress in New Orleans further fuels my interest in going down there in February. I'm not sure I can justify sitting on my butt in Seattle while a great American city suffers another loss, and another, and another.

Posted by shoephone on January 7, 2007 at 12:42 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 06, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Goldy does a nice job of deconstructing Republican spin about the "growing" state budget, drawing on a study from the Washington State Budget and Policy Center.  As the study shows, if you look at spending as a percentage of total personal income (which is what real economists do), then it becomes clear that Governor Gregoire's proposed budget is actually smaller than any of the budgets that preceded it.



Goldy's punchline, with which I agree wholeheartedly:
There is a legitimate debate to be had over the proper size and scope
of government, and the priority in which we make public investments.
But it is fundamentally dishonest to enter this debate by reinforcing
the common misconception that our state government is growing, when by
the most meaningful measure — the government’s total share of our
state’s economic resources — even Gov. Gregoire’s proposed 12.2 percent
increase represents a decline from historic trends.

Thanks, Goldy, for keeping the facts in view.  And shame on the Seattle Times editorial board for dishonestly trying to frame the Governor's budget as "unsustainable."

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 6, 2007 at 01:08 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clean Campaigns: Can it happen Here?

Last July I wrote a post about David Sirota's latest book tour, and how special interest money and politics have become inseparable bedfellows. In Sirota's view, everything that happens in D.C. can be boiled down to how the moneymen dictate the content of - and directly benefit from - all the legislation that passes in Congress. That's a disaster for citizens. But the tide may slowly be turning, as states like Maine and Arizona put the reins of power back in the hands of the people, by instituting "clean elections". The results, so far, are very impressive.

Sirota and a panel of legislators were on hand for a Town Hall forum last night (sponsored by Washington Public Campaigns) to promote the idea of public financing of elections for Washington State. Maine State Representative Linda Valentino and Arizona State Senator Ed Ableser made their case: It currently costs less than $3.00 per person per year to set up a fund (it could go into a general fund or a dedicated fund) that contributes enough money to run a primary and a general election campaign. The fund pays for everything, including advertising, though most candidates using clean campaign money choose to spend less on ads, and devote their time and energy knocking on as many as 10,000 doors in taking their case directly to the voters. It's a purely volunteer system, so if you campaign using public funding while your opponent chooses to continue down the path of begging for money from corporations, no matter - you get matching funds for the amount received by your groveling opponent, you can use it as you see fit and he's still free to grovel as he likes. Of course, the best result of the clean campaign method is that its winners no longer feel beholden to special interests, have no qualms about kicking lobbyists out of their offices, and can then go sponsor and pass the legislation they really believe is best for their constituencies.

Representative democracy - what a concept.

Four of our Washington State reps were also on the panel. They all spoke of the temptations of special interest money, and how hard it is to resist. Rep. Mark Miloscia (30th leg. district) admitted, "I feel my integrity is tested everyday". The first challenge to the status quo will come next week when Representative Shay Schual-Berke (33rd leg. district) sponsors legislation calling for public financing of all Supreme Court and Appellate Court judicial races. After the BIAW's disgusting million dollar attempts to destroy Gerry Alexander's career last November (and don't forget the corruption of contributions in two other judicial races) the governor has already signaled her support for the legislation. It's a step in the right direction. Now let's see Washingtonians show the same guts that Mainers and Arizonans have, by supporting public funding of gubenatorial and state legislative races as well.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano was elected twice in a row with public financing.

For those naysayers who will still protest that it can't work, dry your eyes and consider this: when Maine's public financing began in the year 2000, 33% of all candidates campaigned using the new system. By 2006 - just six years later - 83% of all candidates ran using "clean campaigns". That goes for Democrats, Republicans and Green Party candidates. According to Rep. Valentino, the politicians like it, the political parties like it, businesses like it, and the people like it. Sounds like a winner all the way around.

So, what are Washingtonians waiting for?

Posted by shoephone on January 6, 2007 at 03:05 AM in Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saddam: From Monster to Martyr?

"It takes real genius to create a martyr out of Saddam Hussein."  Patrick Cockburn, writing at the British newspaper, The Independent, ponders how Bush and Blair could have been so stupid. 

Here is a man dyed deep with the blood of his own people who refused to fight for him during the United States-led invasion three-and-a-half years ago. His tomb in his home village of Awja is already becoming a place of pilgrimage for the five million Sunni Arabs of Iraq who are at the core of the uprising.

As soon as I heard that Saddam was going to be hung on a Sunni holy day, the start of Eid al-Adha, I knew we were in trouble.  Two weeks earlier, I had posted an article about the historical schism between the Sunnis and Shias and noted that 85% of the Muslims in the world are Sunni.  Thus for the Shia leaderships in Iraq to hang Saddam on a Sunni holy day was a horrible mistake.

Then came the terrible video of his actual hanging, which I never watched.  Just hearing about it was bad enough.  You have to know that Sunnis, the world over, watched that video over and over and got more and more steamed.  The implications are likely to be horrendous and with us for years to come.

Cockburn considers the hanging a continuation of a set of decisions that have made the situation worse with each passing month.  He continues:

Saddam should not have been a hard act to follow. It was not inevitable that the country should revert to Hobbesian anarchy. At first the US and Britain did not care what Iraqis thought. Their victory over the Iraqi army - and earlier over the Taliban in Afghanistan - had been too easy. They installed a semi-colonial regime. By the time they realised that the guerrilla war was serious it was too late.

Hat tip to Wolcott

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 6, 2007 at 01:34 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2007

Impeachment Flashmob in SF

Tomorrow morning, 1000 plus people are going to lie in the sand at Ocean Beach in San Francisco within lettering that spells out the word IMPEACH.  If all goes according to plan, at 11:00 a helicopter will fly overhead and take photos and videos and put them on the Internet.  Local News crews are lined up to record the event.  Odds are it will make the national news.   

A month ago, when I was in San Franciso at a party in honor of a friend's book being published, I ran into an acquaintance, Brad Newsham, who is organizing the event.  He put up a website, got a permit from the Park Service, hired a helicopter and notified the press.  After one false start when the weather didn't cooperate, it looks like it is a go.  I just checked the website and it looks like the weather will be fine tomorrow morning.  He has 1048 people signed up.  He's already put up a video-clip taken when they did a run-through on Nov. 11. 

My brother is going to join in so he will send up a report after the event and let us know how it goes.  Just another great use of the Internet in conjunction with good, old-fashioned organizing.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 5, 2007 at 11:38 PM in Media, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

Our Leadership Team Takes the Field

What a day we were witness to yesterday.  I puddled up several times as I followed the news of Nancy Pelosi's swearing in on radio and TV over the course of the day.  Such a joy to watch her take the gavel with such grace.  I think we've got a rock star here.  For anyone who hasn't had the chance to read or hear enough about her, her home-town paper, the SF Chronicle has run a couple good articles on her this week.  Here and here.    

And we have an early video-clip of the scene on the House floor yesterday as she was elected and another as she made her way through the crowds and began to speak.  Here is the speech itself, a wonderful, warm speech that promises a lot.   As a note, she wore purple, the color of the suffragists.  Nice, subtle touch.

Harry Reid at the Senate was a bit overshadowed yesterday but seemed happy to let Nancy have the spotlight for her historic new role.  Here is his first speech from yesterday, including a list of the first 10 bills the Senate Democrats will introduce.  The Guardian of the UK has a nice article on what we can expect from the Democrats, including a list of the bill we will see introduced over the next few days:

· Ethics reform, with a ban on gifts from lobbyists to congressmen and other controls

· A rise in the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour

· An end to the Bush administration's restrictions on stem cell research

· Implementation of the recommendations of the commission on the 9/11 terror attacks

· A plan for the federal government to negotiate cheaper prices for prescription drugs

· And the halving of interest rates on student loans

Lastly, two bloggers over at AmericaBlog, Rob in Baltimore and Joe in DC, interviewed a number of Congresscritters and got videoclips of them on Politics TV and then also spoke themselves about what it was like being in the midst of this historic changeover.  A nice piece.

Great to see our team in control and to feel pretty good about how they are going to conduct themselves on our behalf. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 5, 2007 at 11:53 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Boehner's belated wisdom

"If there is one lesson that stands out from our party's time in the majority, it is this: A congressional majority is simply a means to an end. The value of a majority lies not in the chance to wield great power, but in the chance to do great things."

That's John Boehner, former Speaker of the House Majority Leader, speaking shortly before handing over the gavel to Nancy Pelosi (which he did in a gracious manner, and to bipartisan applause in recognition of the historic import of the event). 

Notwithstanding my continued lack of interest in any advice a Republican might choose to share with my fellow Democrats, I find it funny that he realized the "value of a majority" only after having it beaten into his head by the electorate.

Would that the GOP had understood that sage bit of wisdom when they took power in '94, we might really be facing that permanent majority they promised us all.

Unfortunately for America, they didn't understand it, and we've suffered through six years of rubberstamp governance, illogical and at times harmful legislation, an historic and unprecedented stifling of the minority, and now we're saddled with a war, financial and constitutional crisis of the GOP's making, which could take years if not decades to unravel. 

Boehner's observation about the value of a majority is worthy of notice, however, because (in a GOP rarity) he's exactly right.  Being in the majority is a chance to do great things, but not only a chance - it's an obligation.  The Dems got off to a good start yesterday by passing a beefed up ethics measure shortly after formally electing the first femal Speaker and highest-ranking woman in our government's history.  Here's hoping they get their 100-hour agenda accomplished and then get down to business in a bipartisan manner (within limits, given the GOP's stated plan to disrupt Congressional business).

And lastly, a toast to my former boss, Senator Patty Murray.  Congratulations, Senator, on becoming the highest-ranking woman in the Senate, fourth-ranking Dem, and hiring a strong new chief of staff!

Posted by switzerblog on January 5, 2007 at 10:46 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Clean Elections Forum at Seattle Town Hall

Reminder: David Sirota will be talking this evening at Town Hall, along with a panel of Washington State Senators and Representatives.  The event, along with others the last few days in other locations, is sponsored by Washington Campaign Finance. 

This is a very exciting opportunity to learn about the details of how public financing has worked in Maine and Arizona, the states where it has been tried and is working very successfully and about how we might get it passed in Washington State.  This could be the year, folks!  Learn about how to help make it so.

Seattle Town Hall 
8th & Seneca - 7:30 pm

Panelists:
    David Sirota
    Rep. Linda Valentino
    Sen. Ed Ableser
    Rep. Mark Miloscia
    Sen. Jim Kastama
    Sen. Eric Oemig
    Rep. Shay Schual-Berke

Emcee'd by:  Ken Alhadeff

Cost: $5.

There are still two forums to come at other locations, both on the 6th.  One is in Tacoma, the other in Olympia.  Go over the fold for details.

TACOMA Clean Elections Forum
Saturday, January 6th - 11 a.m
Tacoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation,
1115 S. 56th Street, Tacoma
Info: Susan Eidenschink, susaneiden@juno.com, 253-572-9305

OLYMPIA Clean Elections Forum
Saturday, January 6th - 3 p.m. Reception:  3:30 p.m. Program.
The Olympia Center
222 Columbia Street N., Olympia
Info: Chris Stegman, chris.stegman@comcast.net, 360-705-3528

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 5, 2007 at 09:30 AM in Policy, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 03, 2007

Open Letter to Parents

"Blood on the lockers".  That's the quote from Foss High School students today that will be used to turn this tragedy into nothing more than a headline and book title.  And that's what we'll focus on while parents ask why the school didn't do more and all Washington state begins the inevitable debate: more gun control?  better security?  stricter guidelines in the school?

Gun control is not the issue here - people are still upset that Dylan Klebold could buy his weapons at a gunshow and want that loophole closed, but this assumes that Dylan Klebold was incapable of coming up with another idea.  Close the loophole by all means, but let's face reality:  smart kids will think of ways to get what they want.  In our society, it really isn't difficult to get a gun without anyone knowing you've done so.  So gun control, in this context, misses the mark.  Better security?  We should spend millions upgrading schools and hassling kids, creating more fear and tension, on the off-chance that your kid's school might have one of the 15 or 20 (out of millions of students) kids that bring in a gun every year?  Does anyone believe there aren't multiple ways to get around this?  Even in schools with metal detectors, the only way guns are detected is by another student finding out about it and telling someone. And as for stricter guidelines, well...that really brings us to my point.

You see, this whole debate really misses the larger problem with our schools today, and it isn't the students - it's you, it's us - it's the parents.  Parents have failed their children in our society.

I should explain, before going further, that I am of course speaking generally, but I do mean to offend most parents specifically, because frankly, someone needs to say something.  We spend too much time and energy deferring to parents, granting them elevated status as paragons of virtue, wisdom and strong stewards of values for their children, doubting parents only when given strong reason to do so.

We have to stop this.  I am not suggesting that you should be assumed to be a bad parent; far from it.  What I am suggesting is that as a society, we need to relearn that the only things borne in the womb are babies - not wisdom, not virtue, and not values.  When your child is born, your work is only beginning.

This guest post was written by Switzer, who writes at Switzerblog (and previously at Washblog.)   Switzer was involved in the Dean campaign in 2003 and was then instrumental in getting both Democracy for Washington and the Seattle Kossack group going here.  We thank him for writing and encourage him to do so more often.  This post is also up at Switzerblog.  Go with us over the fold for the rest. . . .

The culture of babies

The culture of babies and value-laden parents has created a situation where the concept of babies has become more worthwhile than the babies themselves.  Having babies, not a family, becomes a goal for too many young girls, and in fact becomes the end, rather than a means.  Every time I hear someone, after seeing a baby, exclaim "they're so cute - I want one!", I shudder.  Our children have become puppies, or dolls to dress up, and not what they really are:  young people learning to become members of our society.  I'm not suggesting we should stop enjoying our children, far from it - but we can't stop with enjoying our children.  We have to take responsibility for their safety as well as their physical, mental and emotional growth.  This simply isn't happening.

Why are we having children in the first place?  I tend to mock the parents who will tell you they've received a "little blessing" or refer to their child as "our little miracle".  I mock this because children aren't miracles or blessings - they're independent people that we've created, and by elevating them to this artificial status as a miracle or blessing, we remove ourselves from the responsibility that we have to them.  They're not abstract; they're real, they're our responsibility, and furthermore, it's our responsibility to society to ensure that they are functional adults when they leave our care.  It is not society's responsibility to make them functional children, nor train them for adulthood - it is ours.
Values

While the right-leaning among us apply their "values" to all parents (save liberals), they disregard the responsibilities parents have for creating and instilling those values not just in their children, but in themselves.  Too often, talk of "values" brings the conservative viewpoint, which has become dominant in the world of parenting and child-rearing, to issues of homosexuality, sexual behavior, and media (radio/movies/television shows).  The conservative viewpoint is that homosexuality must be stamped out so "our" children won't be "corrupted" and become gay themselves.  Sexual behavior must be stigmatized in all its ways and manners - save that between a married man and a woman, which should never be discussed prior to the wedding night.  And the media must stamp out all messages of, well, things "I" disapprove of.  (fair warning - a contradiction is coming on this point)

This viewpoint is weak-minded, corrupt, and in my opinion, is the most significant cause of the failure of modern parenting.

Society, my fellow parents, is not your babysitter.  There certainly is a responsibility, at the societal level, to determine what is reasonable to have in the public square.  But the eradication of images and speech deemed "wrong" by parents and others bent on judgment does nothing to ensure children are raised well.

When I hear people ask "what about the children?", when I hear "what do I tell my children about marriage when two men can marry?", I always think "why is that my problem?".  You are responsible for your children.  You teach them right from wrong.  You teach them values and morals.  You show them how to behave - through discipline and object lessons.  Live how you want your children to live, and teach them right from wrong.  You cannot expect government, nor society, to do it for you.

My child is special

This is endemic today.  Your child, while undoubtedly in possession of some variety of talents and surely interesting and unique in their own right, is not special.  Your child is one among millions who is learning how to interact with others, learning boundaries and learning limits, and the concept of being "special" is damaging to this important development.

Surely, as a society, we are advanced enough to love and embrace our children, teach them confidence and self-esteem, without falsely inflating their sense of importance in the world.  We are not special - we are important parts of a community.  Whether that community is the family, classroom, coworkers, or society as a whole, we should understand our place within it, and if we aren't appropriately grounded as children, when will we learn it?  How many future George Bushes are we raising if we aren't teaching our children not to place themselves above other people?

I strongly believe that the idea of all children being special, again referring back to the idea of babies as miracles or blessings, has created an abstraction and accomplished two things, both bad and complementary:  It has allowed us as parents to forgo our responsibilities to our children to teach them, and it has created a space for children in which others are not seen as equals or fellow members of a community, but as other abstract beings with little relevance or importance.  This is incredibly dangerous, and I believe we're beginning to reap what we've sown.
Media

This is where the aforementioned contradiction is coming in.  While parents as a whole seek to force the media to prevent any images or ideas from reaching their children via FCC complaints and moralistic legislation, we simultaneously (and bizarrely) embrace the products of that media and allow our children in massive numbers to take in and absorb those images and big-screen lessons, unquestioned by us.  How many parents seriously have conversations with their children about the mind-boggling problems with the Fast and the Furious?  Apparently, not many, judging by the number of children racing around in Acuras with giant ridiculous spoilers.  In my mind, this type of film is much more dangerous than trainspotting, which showed the realistic problems of drug addiction.  The moralists would love to allow the former movie to be shown, and the latter to be banned, despite seeing the evidence that our kids aren't suddenly doing blow because they have the good sense to see that's no good, but they don't yet have the good sense to recognize that dangerous driving habits are, well...dangerous.  This isn't a difficult concept to grasp: offer your 14 year old a choice between a heroin needle and your car keys sometime and see which one they'll go for.  Kids aren't that hard to figure out.

The contradiction of wanting to ban one but not the other honestly baffles me.  But before you jump down to leave your scathing comment, understand I'm not saying either should be banned, or even limited.  I'm saying it is the parent's responsibility to decide what their children watch, and to make an effort to impact the lessons they take away from it.  When you decide to have children, you're agreeing to have difficult conversations and sometimes make difficult rules.

TV  - same thing applies.  Is it really that hard, if a homophobe's son or daughter watches Will & Grace and has a question about it, to sit down and have a conversation about why you believe what you believe?  If it is, perhaps you need to examine your beliefs, rather than trying to force society to protect your child for you.

Parents, children and school

And this brings me to the more specific point today.  Our focus on banning media (or sex ed, or take your pick) rather than teaching our children how to think about the information they take in, our focus on our children as hyper-important beings, our wrong-minded acceptance that parents are right because they're parents has put our kids in a no-win situation.

Too often, we hear of kids expelled for behavior that warrants, well, expulsion, and parents suing the school district.  Too often, kids disciplined in classroom find shelter and protection from parents who extend the oddball "You can't tell me how to raise my kids" mindset into the classroom and morph it into "you can't tell my kid how to act".  Too many kids have been raised by parents assuring them they're special and no one can tell them what to do.  We've created a climate where children are running the schools - respect for teachers is unnecessary when they know mom and dad will back them up.

Right and wrong - we talk about it, but who's responsible?  More and more, I hear conservatives complain that we spend too much on schools, and they should only be concentrating on the three "R's", yet when children act out, when they have sex, when they break laws or commit acts of violence, the same parents want to know why the school isn't teaching these kids right from wrong.  Well...the better question is, why aren't you?

At the same time, the constant bombardment of violent images in song and video, which goes largely unchallenged and unquestioned by parents (except when they ask government to do something about it FOR them), has bred a Jerry Springer mindset - conflict resolution necessarily involves physical altercations.  You have to stand up for yourself, and physical domination is the only way to do so.  Mind you, I don't blame the imagery for this problem - I blame the parents who have not directly challenged that imagery with their children.

The schools, hamstrung by a system that punishes teachers who stand up for their classroom (sorry, school districts can't afford the legal fees associated with litigious parents), have become places where teachers have little to no ability to mandate behavior.  When they're forced to discipline students, schools rarely get the backing of the people they need most - the parents.

And we're back to you, the parents.  We have the responsibility to send well-adjusted children to school to be students - schools are not responsible for taking your neglected clay and molding it from 8:15 to 2:45 into model citizens.  Schools have enough on their hands with hormone-addled children, with soccer practice looming and WASL over their shoulder, just keeping kids focused on the task at hand without also being responsible for personal morals.  You have to set that standard, so when kids don't meet those standards at school, you're prepared to deal with it.

The Christian movement has embraced homeschooling over the last few years - notwithstanding the failures in basic science and history that this movement has fostered, I think it's wonderful in two ways:  One, these kids are wonderfully shielded from these rare, tragic outbreaks of violence, and two, they are getting parental attention, guidance and support that is woefully lacking in too many homes of public-school kids.

We, as parents, need to embrace the ideals of attention, guidance and support of our children that teaches them right from wrong, that holds them accountable for their actions, that teaches them their responsibilities to society and their community.  We have failed at this, and it's past time to get ourselves right again.

The goal

What is the solution, here?  I think, first, we must decide to take responsibility for ourselves.  It is long past time for us, as a society, to stop worshipping the cult of parents, and rather begin demanding certain things of parents - responsibility, guidance, accountability.  How your child behaves in the store isn't just "kids being kids", it's your responsibility to teach your child how to behave in the store.  How your child interacts with other children isn't a matter of them growing as people, it's your responsibility to teach them how to interact with other children (and adults, for that matter!).

It's time for us to realize that others most certainly can, and should, tell us how to raise our children - not because one person is good and another bad, or one right and another wrong, but because we are a community, we are all in this together, and our ability to coexist depends on our ability to work together to raise children.

And finally, it's time for you to take responsibility.  Your child's behavior really is a reflection of you.  I don't want to create a culture where our children's actions cause us shame when they do the wrong thing, but where we respond by teaching them, rather than finding an outside influence to blame for not stopping them.

Tragedies will always happen - there really are bad people, and there will always be someone who snaps, but it doesn't have to be a common part of our landscape.  The decline in the quality of life in our schools can be stopped, but it will take effort on our part to do it.  Until society, and parents, take responsibility again, the blood on those lockers belongs to us.


Posted by Lynn Allen on January 3, 2007 at 02:58 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (6)

Spidey Pulls an Olbermann

Talk about losing the culture!  The Washington DC Examiner (I'd never heard of it but it appears to be a real newspaper) reports that the latest edition of "The Amazing Spider-Man" comic book (#536) has an-on-going story entitled "Civil War".  Here's what the Examiner says has happened in previous issues:

In Marvel Comics’ — ahem — “Civil War” story arc, the U.S. government passes the “Superhuman Registration Act” after hundreds of innocent American men, women and children become collateral damage in a superhero-related tragedy (the president of the United States even swings by the disaster site to assess the damage). The act mandates registration of all superheroes with the government. Spider-Man initially supports the act but then grows suspicious after discovering that unregistered captives are being held without civil rights at an off-shore prison called “the Negative Zone” (oh, and the prison was built with a no-bid contract). Detainees will remain there for life if they don’t register.

In this issue, Spider-Man publicly denounces the act on the NYC airwaves:

“I’ve seen the very concept of justice destroyed,” Spidey begins (as written by J. Michael Straczynski). “I’ve seen heroes and bad guys alike — dangerous guys, no mistake, but still born in this country for the most part, denied due process, and imprisoned, potentially for the rest of their lives. … But there’s a point where the ends don’t justify the means, if the means require us to give up not just our identities, but who and what we are as a country.”

If this continues, the Democrats can probably count on solid support from Generation Z as well as the likely on-going Democratic loyalty of the current new voters of Generation Y.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 3, 2007 at 09:52 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Keith Olbermann on the Bush Surge

Sacrifice? - No, letting our servicemen be killed for no good reason.  In his most recent Special Comment, Keith Olbermann calls Bush delusional for his latest push to send more troops to Iraq.   He rightly says Bush has ignored all of us.  Olbermann also takes a punch or two at McCain for his support of the troop escalation, saying he's selling himself off to the right, parcel by parcel. 

Olbermann says to Bush, "Last November should have told you this."  The American people don't want you to send more troops.   This country has already lost in Iraq.  You've already sacrificed our nation. 

We are now sending men to their death for your ego. 

No wonder the Right Wing News listed Keith Olbermann as their #1 annoying liberal on their recent list of "The 20 Most Annoying Liberals".  Such an honor for a real hero. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 3, 2007 at 09:00 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 02, 2007

Highways Tab Rises Again

The Seattle Times reports that highways are going to be even more expensive than projected.  Again.

Highway projects in the Puget Sound region will cost at least 31 percent more than earlier estimates.

Even if voters pass a huge ballot measure in November, new state figures show that the plan will deliver fewer road lanes to ease congestion in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Suburbs south of Seattle could face the most dramatic cuts.

Thirteen regional projects now require $16 billion to build as originally hoped, up from $12.2 billion as of last January, a Seattle Times review found. So far, only $10.2 billion is earmarked from the ballot proposal plus existing gas taxes — leaving a $6 billion gap.

The total will be higher if Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct is replaced with a tunnel instead of a less-expensive elevated structure.

Couple thoughts on this:  This just shows the folly of trying to road-build our way out of gridlock.  Tying together roads and transit at the polls in a both-must-win-or-everyone-loses scenario is increasingly clearly ridiculous. And, isn't the streets-and-transit Viaduct option sounding better and better by the minute?

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 2, 2007 at 09:59 PM in Ballot Initiatives, Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

Transportation Choices Legislative Preview - This Friday

Calling all transportation policy wonks!  Pack your brown bag lunches this Friday and take your favorite thing-that-isn't-a-car to Transportation Choices Coalition's annual Legislative Preview!

Join our State Policy Director Genesee Adkins to get all the inside scoop on what's happening in Olympia this year. In what direction will new House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn take the conversation on regional transportation issues? How we will work for better transportation choices throughout the state? What kind of funding and policy changes will we fight for to increase options for local jurisdictions?

Friday, January 5, 12:00 - 1:30 p.m.
YMCA in Downtown Seattle,
909 4th Avenue

For more information, contact Rachel at
206.329.2336 or rachel@transportationchoices.org.

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 2, 2007 at 03:44 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Credit Where Credit is Due

Wal-mart goes green?  That takes a while to grasp ahold of.   The New York Times is reporting that Wal-Mart Stores is encouraging their shoppers to save energy by buying those odd-looking compact fluorescent bulbs rather than the conventional incandescent bulbs.  While available for 25 years or so, only 6% of American households currently use the new bulbs.  Wal-Mart's goal is to sell 100 million of them by 2008 using all the sales savvy they have to make this campaign work.  They have placed the new bulbs at eye level.  More sales.  They have installed them in their floor lamps for sales.  More folks buying the bulbs.  They have educational information taking up shelf space.  More sales.  They are serious.  If they are able to achieve their goal, it will increase use of the bulbs in the US by 50%, saving $3 billion in electricity costs and diminishing the need to build additional power plants equal to the amount of power used in 450,000 new houses.   

What gives?  According to the NYT article by Michael Barbaro:   

More than a year ago, Mr. Scott, the company’s chief executive, began reaching out to some of environmental groups, telling them that Wal-Mart, long regarded as an environmental offender, wanted to become a leader on issues like fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

Well, I'd heard that but like most, gave it little credence.  But, believe it.  Something is happening and it appears to be more than an attempt to appeal to those of us who typically don't shop at Wal-Mart.  Late last year, H. Lee Scott, Jr., Wal-Mart's CEO, went looking to use Wal-Mart's influence to improve the environment.  In talks with Steve Hamburg, environmental studies professor at Brown University, Scott heard about climate change, global warming, acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer and . . . compact fluorescent bulbs.  Here's why:

A compact fluorescent has clear advantages over the widely used incandescent light — it uses 75 percent less electricity, lasts 10 times longer, produces 450 pounds fewer greenhouse gases from power plants and saves consumers $30 over the life of each bulb.

The downside?

But it is eight times as expensive as a traditional bulb, gives off a harsher light and has a peculiar appearance.

Needless to say, Wal-Mart is meeting some resistance from traditional suppliers particularly General Electric, Wal-Mart's largest bulb supplier.  Wal-Mart let them know they could come or not, their decision.  They decided to come along.

The results?  Well, it's taking a while.  In August, Wal-Mart sold nearly twice as many as it had sold the previous August but it wasn't nearly enough.  So, they began reaching out to Internet companies, filmmakers and even to competing retailers, deciding they would need to turn their sales campaign into a "broader cultural movement".  They will be partnering with Google and Yahoo and probably a filmmaker or two.  But both Home Depot and Lowe's declined to participate. 

The entire campaign has put "Wal-Mart in the strange position of racing ahead of its customers and coaxing them, bulb by bulb, toward energy conservation".

Something is happening in the world.  Now if they would just talk to the folks in the White House. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 2, 2007 at 12:14 AM in Best Practices | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 01, 2007

Year-End Musings

This time of year tends to bring out the sense of assessing where we are.  All those lists of things, like the top 10 news stories of the year or the most over-hyped and under-reported stories.  All of us, but especially those of us who are drawn to read and write on the political blogs, try to make sense of the world.  We take the data from the year and try to weave it into a tapestry of understanding that gives us some sense of what to expect for this next year, this next period of time.   

So, here's my list of important stories/issues from this last year.  The predictions will come later. 

The rise of the Internet and people-powered politics

Time Magazine got this one right.  In their introduction to the Time "Person of the Year" story they said, "You control the media now and the world will never be the same."  They were talking about many different uses for the Internet, but I'm going to focus on its impact on politics, natch.  Six hundred thousand people read DailyKos, the most-read political blog in the country, on average every day.  That's more people than read the New York Times daily.  And DailyKos, along with the incredible YearlyKos convention were just the beginning.  There are robust specialty blogs and more general blogs, national and regional or local.  There are wikipedias that provide information on most issues and public figures.   And YouTube.   

In April, Stephen Colbert performed at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner and took both Bush and the media apart, essentially putting them on notice that the free ride was over.  That was the beginning of the fateful synergy between YouTube and the progressive blogs that spread overtly political video-clips across the country.  How can we say enough about the impact of getting to see Keith Olbermann's special comments or Jon Stewart's comedy or Colbert's satire?  Then we got that video-clip of George Allen calling S.R. Sidarth "macaca", the videos of Conrad Burns sleeping during public hearings or talking about his little Guatemalan house painter, Howie Klein's fabulous "Had Enough" ads, Michael J. Fox talking about stem-cell research, and many more.  All these things working together to educate us, motivate us and get us to take action. 

We Notice How Corrupt and Hypocritical the Republicans Are

Norman Ornstein, an insightful observer of American politics for a generation (and a fellow at the conservation American Enterprise Institute) summed it up best when he said,  "I don't think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes".   From Abramoff to Foley, with a lot of Republican Congresscritters in between, the history of this time will be clear.  The Republican culture of corruption ran deep and wide, a probably offshoot of their incredible arrogance in thinking they could get away with anything.  Here and here are a couple more sources of information on the stink if you haven't seen enough over the year.

The War in Iraq Spirals Out of Control

What to say?  The sadness involved in reading about the war is enough to sink any of us.  Bad decisions, combined with stupidity, yet more corruption and a seeming lack of understanding about the implications of our actions are so astounding as to defy summation.  Yet, the need for really understanding what we have wrought in the Middle East means we have to try to digest and analyze it so we don't miss the learnings and bungle into another one in another generation.  Or next week, for that matter.

Democrats Hitting on all Cylinders

All of the above pointed toward a Democratic win in Novmeber but Democrats have not always been in a position to take advantage of Republican failures, no matter how egregious.  This year we were, thankfully.

As we get the details of the extraordinary wins by Democrats this November, it's clear we needed every group we got to provide the edge that got us a nice lead in the House and allowed us to squeak by in the Senate.  Nationally, youth went for Democrats at 60%, Latinos nearly 70%, Blacks a whopping 89%, Asians 79%, Jews 89%, labor 74% and women 55 %.  We even got an additional 3% of the white Evangelical vote.  We needed all of them.

Progressive organizations - Labor, environmental groups, and Emily's List, for example - were all more determined, more organized and more effective in getting their voters out.  Dean's 50-state strategy was a winner.  Local Democratic LD and County organizations hit their districts hard and then went out to help less robust Democratic LDs across the state.  There's a lot more to do.  Odds are we could have taken Reichert and McMorris' seats had we been even more organized but we can't expect miracles. 

Global Warming Gets a Hearing

Spurred by the amazing Al Gore, awareness of global warming hit some kind of tipping point.  His book, An Inconvenient Truth, made the New York Times bestseller list; the movie was the third highest grossing documentary in history. 

The news has not been good but at least it has been noticed - finally.  Just in the last few weeks, we've heard that brown bears in northern Spain are no longer hibernating, that the mighty Amazon tropical forest is likely to be a savanna by the end of the century; that the polar bear population is declining rapidly and may be subject to extinction in a few decades; that an inhabited island off the coast of India has disappeared under the rising seas, and that huge, 3000 year-old glaciers are breaking off at the North Pole and tumbling into the sea.

The San Jose Mercury wrote a hard-hitting editorial.  The lead sentence was "Global warming is the greatest environmental threat that humanity has ever faced."  It went on from there.  The U.S. Supreme Court has finally agreed to hear arguments on how the Bush administration deals with the threat of global warming. 

What did I miss?  Add your thoughts in the comments.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 1, 2007 at 10:35 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)