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February 28, 2007

Swift Boat financier says John Kerry is a hero

Posted by David Postman at 1:56 PM

Sen. John Kerry got a chance yesterday to face one of his accusers. Sam Fox, a Missouri businessman and big-time GOP donor, was at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a hearing on his confirmation as ambassador to Belgium.

Fox gave $50,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a 527 group that in the 2004 presidential campaign attacked Kerry's Vietnam service record. (The group later paid nearly $300,000 in fines to the FEC for failing to register as a PAC and other violations. )

The Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers says Kerry asked Fox what he thought about the level of "personal destruction in politics":

Fox replied that he was "very concerned" that politics have become too "mean and destructive," especially with the participation of independent 527 groups. He subtly alluded to the Swift Boat campaign against Kerry and not-so-subtly tried to redirect Kerry's line of questioning by saying (with a straight face) to Kerry, "Senator, you're a hero," adding that no 527 group "can take that away from you."

A hero? That couldn't be more different than the image that the Swift Boat campaign Fox helped fund wanted Americans to see. How did Fox come to be involved in the campaign? He couldn't remember. Someone asked him to give money, but doesn't know who. From the Post:

KERRY: And you don't know who asked you.

FOX: No, sir, I really don't. I do not know who asked me.
If you were to take our 1,000 contributions and go right down the list, I
bet you I couldn't give you five percent of them, of who asked me.

KERRY: Do you recall whether it was somebody in Missouri or
was it in person? Was it is by telephone?

FOX: I have no recollection.

KERRY: No recollection of how that came about.

FOX: No, sir.

KERRY: Do you recall thinking about it at all?

FOX: No more than that somebody must have asked and I gave.

KERRY: Boy, no wonder so many people are here to embrace your
-- what about now?
How do you feel about it now, knowing what you know today?

FOX: Mr. Senator, let me say this. Be it 527 or anything
else, if I thought what they were printing was not true, I would not
contribute to it.

But I personally have no way if knowing generally when I give.

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Impeaching Bush and the Clinton factor

Posted by David Postman at 11:35 AM

Danny Westneat talked to Congressman Jay Inslee for a column this morning about the state Senate Democrats' hearing tomorrow on impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Inslee has made his opposition clear before, but he told Westneat that one reason impeachment is not a good idea is because it would tick off Congressional Republicans.

"These are my friends," he says, "so this is difficult to say. But all impeachment would do is rally support for George Bush. Among Republicans, it would make him a hero. And it would make it that much harder to end this war."

...

But he also acknowledged what anti-war activists won't: Republicans are key to getting American troops out of Iraq.

"We're trying to get them to vote against the war," Inslee said from Capitol Hill Tuesday. "They're coming around. You don't hear them singing the virtues of George Bush like they used to. But nothing will turn this into a partisan lockdown faster than impeachment."

Westneat was covering D.C. for The Times when Bill Clinton faced impeachment. What he saw then has him siding with Inslee and others who say impeaching Bush would do more harm than good.

I saw the atmosphere become so hostile that Republicans and Democrats wouldn't even get on elevators together, let alone cooperate to do anything important.

Regardless of whether Clinton deserved to be impeached for lying under oath about an affair, there's no question the proceedings turned Congress into a dysfunctional mess.

Chad Shue has heard that before. He writes at The Left Shue about attending Congressman Rick Larsen's town hall meeting last weekend:

During the Q&A he was asked if he would support impeachment hearings against George W. Bush. The short answer was "No" but in his explanation it became clear why this, as with all things in government over the past six years, it is Bill Clinton's fault. Larsen said that he felt that the bar for impeachment should be set extremely high and that, while he felt the Republicans had lowered the bar significantly for the Clinton impeachment, he believed that impeaching Bush would only make the Democrats (paraphrasing) 'appear to be seeking revenge and not justice and, therefore, simply returning the favor.'

...

So there you are. Damn you Bill Clinton! Because you were impeached for sex, Bush walks free for lying to Congress, illegal wiretapping of American citizens, violations of international laws against torture and kidnapping — all of this while ordering thousands to their deaths in a "war of choice."

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Gregoire opposes legislative impeachment talk

Posted by David Postman at 9:00 AM

Gov. Christine Gregoire said in Washington, D.C., Tuesday that she thinks the state Senate's Bush impeachment efforts are a waste of time, according to the AP (via The Columbian):

Gregoire called the Iraq protests a distraction, adding she was "not going to bring up Iraq at all" in her talks with Washington state's congressional delegation. Instead, she said she would talk about federal budget cuts, health care and a bill to reauthorize the federal No Child Left Behind education law.

...

Asked about a move by some Democrats in the state Legislature to call on Congress to investigate and consider impeaching Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, Gregoire said she agrees with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. Both federal lawmakers have told their state colleagues that such efforts are a distraction and a waste of time.

"I don't disagree with that," Gregoire said.

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Critics, fans, look for something new in gov's viaduct comments

Posted by David Postman at 8:14 AM

I frequently read Lynn Allen's Evergeen Politics(it should be on the new blogroll) and I often learn things there.

She has an interview with Gov. Christine Gregoire which is worth a read. But for some reason the interview is stirring reactions from the left as if the governor signaled something new about her thinking on the viaduct. Here's an excerpt:

As a resident of Seattle, I will have to ask if there is any way the surface and transit option would be entertained by the state.

Gregoire: Absolutely. We did entertain it earlier but couldn't make it work. We have a set of criteria we have to meet. We have to maintain safety. We have to meet capacity for both moving freight and people in that corridor.

We're not accommodating increases in capacity if we either rebuild the viaduct or build a new tunnel. There won't be an increase in today's capacity. It's now somewhere in the neighborhood of 110,000 per day.

So, no matter what we do, we still have to maximize transit and surface. No matter what happens, there has to be a comprehensive transit component. We will need to be able to increase the capacity for moving the increase in population we are expecting.

Then, too, what we decide to do has to be fiscally responsible and friendly to urban design.

That's why we're working with Ron Sims.

This prompted Andrew at the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog to write:

Here's a bit of welcome, refreshing news: Governor Christine Gregoire told Evergreen Politics' Lynn Allen in a just published interview that the state hasn't completely shut the door on a surface plus transit option, despite whatever her communications staff might have said recently.

...

Since this is directly from Gregoire herself, this must be the Governor's position. It's a much more reasonable and sensible approach than what has been conveyed in recent traditional media stories, and we strongly applaud it.

Josh Feit at The Stranger says it shows "Gregoire puts surface/transit in a secondary role to the rebuild or the tunnel" but that "she strikes a more politically conciliatory tone about the idea than I've heard before." He writes:

As you know, it's hard to pin down Gregoire on a viaduct position, and she seems to be telling anybody and everybody whatever they want to hear. So, with surface/transit gaining some momentum ... I'm not surprised Gregoire told Seattle's Allen she's "working with Ron Sims" (a staunch and popular advocate of surface/transit.)

Huh? This is exactly what Gregoire said last week to a roomful of reporters. There's no more conciliatory tone, she's not just now saying she's working with Sims and this is certainly not an example of Gregoire "telling anybody and everybody what they want to hear."

I realize that some may have gotten a different message from Gregoire's media availability last week and thought the governor had absolutely ruled out a surface option. But that's not what she said. As we reported last week:

Gov. Christine Gregoire hasn't completely ruled out a surface-street replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct but said Monday that "I have yet to see any surface option that works."

I just listened to the recording of the availability again. Here's more:

Q: Governor, there is some talk in the Senate, Seattle senators say it's time to look at the surface option. The mayor has said this could be a fall-back position. Ron Sims advocates the surface option. Speaker Frank Chopp says it could be a fall-back position. Are you willing to be the only leader in the state to say 'No way'?"

Gregoire: I didn't say that. What I said was, show me; show me. The only viable option on the table right now that meets my criteria — safety, fiscally responsible and capacity and will be done in a timely way — is the elevated structure. I have yet to see any surface option that works.

...

Ron and I have had really good conversations and he hasn't said to me 'This is the option.' He has just said, 'Let's just work as hard as we can and see if there's anything there at the end of day.' That is what Ron is saying and I agree with him. Let's go forth and see. But the fact of the matter is today there is no viable option other than an elevated structure.

To see both supporters and critics latch on to Gregoire's comments as something new I think shows the frustration over what has been a less than crystal clear message from the governor. But in this case it's not right to bash her for flipping or flopping or to give her credit for saying anything new.

The more important news related to the viaduct is likely Peter Steinbrueck's decision not to run for re-election. The Stranger's Erica C. Barnett was there last night when the city councilman made the announcement:

"I feel like this era's come to an end," a visibly emotional Steinbrueck said, turning away briefly as he battled tears. "A new era is beginning, and it's going to be focused on defeating the rebuild of the viaduct, first of all. ... I want to put all my time and effort toward an environmentally responsible, sustainable solution for the waterfront that is not auto-dependent. ... that godawful thing has simply got to come down." (Later in his comments, Steinbrueck quoted an article about the viaduct in the latest Economist, which alluded to a "mudwrestling match" between the 'bulky' Nickels and the 'honey-haired' Gregoire.)

UPDATE: It's been pointed out to me that Gregoire's spokeswoman said last week that the governor isn't open to the surface. And that I guess is supposed to be why the governor's new comments are big news. But to be clear, Gregoire told Lynn Allen almost exactly what she told the Capitol press corps last week. There may be different spin from staff and others. You may be able to read in whatever you want. But I'm willing to bet if anyone follows up they'll find that the governor's position as reported in Evergreen Politics is the same — whatever you want to call it — as it was one week ago.

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February 27, 2007

NASCAR says yes to a public vote, Sonics still not sure

Posted by David Postman at 12:08 PM

The Sonics still aren't sure if they'd agree to a public vote on their subsidy package. It'd be problematic, Clay Bennett told lawmakers Monday. But as The Times reported, he does seem to be softening on his objections, saying he was open to "whatever leadership recommends and whatever is right for this region and however that decision needs to be made."

Meanwhile, NASCAR thinks they know what needs to be done. This morning Great Western Sports said it had agreed to put the racetrack financing plan to a local vote. The vote would be within a Public Speedway Authority district that could include up to three contiguous counties. The authority would own the track and lease it to Great Western Sports. Grant Lynch, president of the company, said in a release:

"We are prepared to listen to the will of the people on this important project and we strongly believe that it stands on its own merits."

The bill hasn't been rewritten yet to include the public authority language. But when it is, I'll be interested to see how it reads to The News Tribune's Peter Callaghan, who says the legislation that gave the Seahawks its stadium hasn't been enforced as should have been. Callaghan wrote last year:

When the Seahawks and nearly every other NFL team take hundreds of millions of tax dollars, how do we know where public money stops and private money begins?

Well, we might have known had state Attorney General Rob McKenna not given Seahawks owner Paul Allen a pass on disclosing the team's financial statement. That was one of the requirements in the 1997 law that turned over $300 million in public money for Questionable Accounting Practices Field.

But McKenna bought the pitch from Allen's lawyers that the Legislature didn't really mean what the Legislature meant.


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The new basketball arena

Posted by David Postman at 10:26 AM

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Draft Gore effort prepares for big push

Posted by David Postman at 7:44 AM

A major effort to draft Al Gore into the 2008 presidential race will soon launch from Everett. It's an all-volunteer effort, but close Gore advisors are involved as well as a leading Democratic PR firm. Dylan Malone, chairman of "The People, Not The Powerful '08," which runs the draft Gore Web site told me:

"Until now we've been almost completely flying below the media radar. We wanted to get our organization in place first to take full advantage of the interest press coverage generates. We're turning that corner now, and when the new site goes live we've an ambitious earned media campaign planned for the spring."

Malone met Gore during the 2000 campaign. Malone and his wife, Christine, then had a 6-month old son, Ian, who had been born with brain damage. He couldn't swallow and needed constant medical attention. But the family's insurance company refused to pay for a nurse to help, saying the family could take care of Ian.

Gore took on the family's cause and the insurance company relented and agreed to pay for the care. The Malones credited Gore with saving Ian's life. They spoke at the Democratic National Convention that year and were featured in a Gore campaign commercial.

Ian died in 2004 when he was 4 ½ years old. Dylan Malone said Gore was the first person to call him that day. And they have continued to stay in touch.

"He and Tipper have always been there for us, and it's been an honor to call them friends."

The Politico reported yesterday on Gore's Academy Award win, which raised questions about whether a presidential campaign could follow for Gore:

No draft movement is being authorized or encouraged, and there are no internal discussions of a campaign, the friends insist. But they say he has deliberately not closed the door. It just doesn't feel right to him and he's only 58.

Malone hasn't talked to Gore about the draft effort, and says it has to be independent from the would-be candidate. But the Draft Gore movement is not just a thankful Everett couple. Malone's involvement in the 2000 campaign connected him with Gore aides and supporters around the country. (Malone was one of the people Gore called in 2002 when he announced he would not run for president in 2004.) Malone said by e-mail:

"I often telephone the Gore 'inner circle' people from his days at the White House or the 2000 campaign when I'm stumped on a tough decision, or just want to brainstorm on a topic. Overwhelmingly these folks are of the opinion that he's sincere in his public sentiments about '08, but a thriving draft effort coupled with these flawed front-runner candidates could potentially bring him into the race in late summer or early fall."

The campaign is also working with CivicActions.com, a prominent Berkeley-based firm, that is working on a new Web site. When that launches this spring, Malone says it'll be clear that this is a serious effort to get Gore into the race.

"We're deploying a completely new Web site to enable true distributed campaigning — beyond anything that has been done before on the Web by a grassroots organization. Because a draft campaign does not have the resources to open physical offices in the early primary states, we're incorporating most of the functions of a traditional campaign directly into the site. Gore supporters in key states will soon be able to phone bank, print walking lists, etc. directly from the Web site."

To test whether Democrats were interested in creating Gore committees, the draft Gore campaign went to MeetUp.com, which had proved to be a successful organizing tool for Howard Dean in 2004. As of today there are 100 Gore groups, 48 for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and 31 for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Malone says:

"The next generation AlGore.org site includes sophisticated social networking tools that go beyond Meetup.com and will allow us to coordinate thousands of local groups nationwide."

The campaign's "near term projects exploit Al Gore's schedule throughout the spring," Malone said. The first part of that was Sunday night's Academy Awards. Next month Gore will be the sole witness before House and Senate committees holding climate change hearings. In May he releases his new book, "The Assault on Reason," and launches a nationwide book tour. In July, Gore has helped organize Live Earth, 24 hours of concerts on seven continents designed to highlight the dangers of global warming.

Said Malone:

"I suspect you'll be seeing more of Al Gore, and the Draft Gore movement, than many of the official candidates this summer."

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February 26, 2007

In other news

Posted by David Postman at 5:43 PM

  • Chris Mulick of the Tri-City Herald writes:
    Longtime Richland state Rep. Shirley Hankins has repeatedly used the power of her office in the past five years to muscle state and local officials into directing business to her two daughters' struggling tire baling company.

    A Herald investigation shows the Republican lawmaker's efforts to promote Northwest Tire Recycling have ranged from carefully indirect to downright blunt, and the tactics raise questions about abuse of power.

    Hankins denies any wrongdoing or applying excessive pressure. Her hometown paper says that the work on behalf of the company included lobbying the state Department of Ecology.

    Her overtures have been heavy-handed enough that agency Director Jay Manning, in a December letter to her "implied that she is pursuing tire interests on behalf of her kid's recycling business," according to an e-mail he later sent fellow staffers.

    Hankins has been even more direct at home. She's told city regulators the company's licensing hurdles would be overturned by legislation in Olympia, and she has told volunteer members of two Richland advisory boards that she could secure grant funding for the city if they used tire bales in their projects.

    There is a sidebar here with links to a long list of documents.

  • Steven Gardner follows NASCAR developments at the Kitsap Sun's Tracking the Speedway blog. It's topped today with a post about a letter House Finance Committee Chairman Ross Hunter sent outlining what would have to happen for him to move the NASCAR bill from his committee. The requirements include that the "proposal makes financial sense for the state and local governments. This should not require believing more than one or two impossible things, or drinking copious quantities of Kool-Aid."

    Local legislators must also want the project, Hunter wrote, and "I must believe that the plan has enough support to pass the legislature and be signed by the governor."

  • At Eye on Olympia, Rich Roesler says Spokane is looking for a bit of glory in the fine print of legislation this session. Now if you could just fit "Spokane, biggest city in the Yukon-to-Yellowstone conservation initiative (except for Calgary)" on a bumper sticker.

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Lisa Brown says Congress on task with Bush and Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 2:59 PM

Senate Majority Lisa Brown says she personally disagrees with her colleagues' push to impeach the president. Brown talked to Sen. Patty Murray and Congressman Jay Inslee last week about a hearing scheduled Thursday on Sen. Eric Oemig's call for Congress to investigate and consider impeaching Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"They think impeachment is the wrong focus," Brown said. The two Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation wanted to talk about what Democrats in D.C. are doing to hold the Bush administration accountable. And Brown says she agrees:

"Personally I feel that they're doing a pretty good job in ... Congress, of investigating the Bush administration and really focusing on the problems in the Bush case for the war. I think they're on task in Congress right now on those issues."

Brown has said that the impeachment resolution, and a second one opposing the Bush troop increase, would get a hearing. But a vote will only come on the floor if there is strong Democratic support for it. So far it's unclear whether there is enough support among Senate Democrats.

Before Thursday, Brown said she will talk to the bills' sponsors to let them know that she hopes the hearing doesn't become any sort of platform for national voices for and against Bush and the war in Iraq.

"I would prefer that the focus be on hearing from people from Washington state, on both sides of the issue. That's the main reason to have a hearing in the Washington State Legislature."

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Sonics/Storm owners bankrolled anti-gay marriage group

Posted by David Postman at 9:44 AM

At the Slog Josh Feit is following up a tip he got that some of the new owners of the Sonics and Storm are major backers of an anti-gay marriage group.

It turns out that in 2004 and 2005 Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward — principals in the ownership team — were the top two donors to Americans United to Preserve Marriage, according to records at PoliticalMoneyLine. The group is led by conservative Christian activist and former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer.

McClendon gave $625,000 in 2004. Ward gave $475,000 in 2004 and 2005, with the most recent donation coming in a $100,000 chunk in December 2005.

Feit focuses on what the reaction will likely be from Storm, not Sonics, fans. And (if you didn't know) for good reason, as The Times wrote last year:

Anyone who's been to a Storm game knows the crowd is decidedly female. Women hold hands; some hands wear matching wedding bands and are, on occasion, tethered to some Storm-attired tot.

...

They're as much a fixture of the city's lesbian community as they are a destination for straight people.

But the Oklahoma group's decidedly conservative political bent is likely to be of concern to many more in liberal Seattle than just Storm fans. And that could matter at a time when the team is looking to the Legislature to approve a taxpayer subsidy for a new arena. That's the same Legislature that is expected to approve benefits for domestic partnerships this year. And the NBA is the same league that recently banished a former player from All Star weekend because of his anti-gay comments.

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The search for green-leaning Republicans

Posted by David Postman at 9:06 AM

At Sound Politics Eric Earling issues this challenge:

Off the top of your head, name a prominent Republican in Washington State who talks a good game on the environment. You know, someone who has stood on the proverbial stage with Democrats and offered a compelling case for Republican positions on related issues

I can't think of one.

I can think of a few that could if they wanted to, but none that currently fit the bill. This can hardly be considered a good thing.

Commenters there, including Stefan Sharkansky, have suggestions of some who Earling has overlooked. (Meanwhile, just one post down Stefan continues his campaign to show that cold weather in winter disproves global warming.) But in comments on Earling's post you can see one reason why the Republican Party has not embraced the environment: Some on the right see it as a danger. As Doug Parris wrote:

Like Primordial Islam, "Environmentalism" cannot be assimilated; it cannot be accomodated; it must be crushed.

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D.C. Dems want to stop legislative impeachment talk

Posted by David Postman at 6:55 AM

Sen. Patty Murray and Congressman Jay Inslee are lobbying legislators to cancel this week's hearing on a resolution calling on Congress to investigate and consider impeaching President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Inslee and Murray, both Democrats who voted against the war, think state lawmakers holding hearings and voting on impeachment is a distraction from what Democrats are doing in Congress, including their efforts to end the war.

Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass confirmed that Murray told Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown last week that the impeachment resolution was a bad idea:

"Senator Murray's message was, 'I have two words for anyone who wants to impeach the President: Dick Cheney.'"

"Jay called and he said, 'Darlene, don't do this,'" said Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park. She is chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on two measures Thursday. One is Sen. Eric Oemig's joint memorial calling for Congress to investigate and consider impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The other is Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' measure opposing Bush's troop increase in Iraq.

"I said, 'Jay it's all over YouTube. I can't un-ring that bell,'" Fairley said. There are a number of videos posted to the site featuring Oemig and the impeachment measure.

Inslee has been busy with a family matter and unavailable. But he earlier told The Stranger's Josh Feit why he opposes impeachment.

As much as I despise what this president has done to the country, my job is to find a way to end the war in Iraq, which I voted against. We should do nothing whatsoever to hinder our effort to end the war. Grandstanding that prevents us from growing a coalition against the war is a luxury we cannot afford. We don't have the votes to remove Bush from office. Bush is leaving office. We need to make sure our troops are leaving Iraq.

The hearing at 3:30 p.m. Thursday is looking to be a major spectacle. The Washington Legislature's anti-Bush moves have become, at least temporarily, a center of attention of anti-war forces around the country. At an impeachment forum in Olympia last week where Oemig spoke, according to reports, the audience included Rachel Corrie's parents, Lt. Ehren Watada and James Yee.

Coming to Olympia to testify in favor of Oemig's impeachment resolution are Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, a growing voice in the anti-war movement, and Mary Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel who resigned from the U.S. State Department in 2003 to protest the invasion of Iraq. She has since worked closely with Cindy Sheehan and others in the peace movement.


AP


Rocky Anderson at D.C. anti-war rally.

Kohl-Welles told me she invited retired Chairman of the Joint Chief Gen. John Shalikashvili, who lives near Gig Harbor, and actor and activist Sean Penn. She said she was waiting to hear back from Penn's publicist.

The hearing is turning into just what Democrats in Congress worry about. Fairley said that in a Feb. 14 telephone call with Inslee:

He said it sent the wrong message and 'detracted from the good things we are doing with education and health care.' I agree with him, as I said, but there is a large group of people who want to have a say on these two things and this gives them a venue.

Truly, I think both he and Patty feel that people would compare what the state of Washington was doing with what D.C. was doing — to their detriment.


STEVE RINGMAN/THE SEATTLE TIMES


Sean Penn outside Ft. Lewis

Oemig said by e-mail that he has heard that some members of Congress want the impeachment memorial, Senate Joint Memorial 8016, to "go away." His reponse?
Best answer I can give, I'm on their side. They should help me help them. As soon as Congress starts issuing subpoenas or indictments 8016 will go away.

A very large crowd is expected Thursday. There will be a rally at 1 p.m. that day on the Capitol steps. The Eastside Fellowship of Reconciliation is also raising money to "keep this valuable campaign alive."

Writer Dave Lindorff, who spoke at the Olympia impeachment forum last week with Oemig, wrote:

It seems likely that if Washington passed Oemig's bill (it currently has eight co-sponsors), or if one of the ones moving through the legislatures of Vermont or New Mexico were to pass, the other states might follow suit. As well, representatives in Congress could feel emboldened to submit their own bills of impeachment.

In other words, the dam will burst, and impeachment will be underway.

Lindorff is co-author of "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office." Writing about this week's hearing, Lindorff said the plan is to "have hundreds — perhaps thousands — of backers on hand to make sure it gains committee approval."

Fairley is expecting a huge crowd for the two measures. And she plans to keep tight control. There will be a little more than two hours to take testimony on both bills. Each bill will get a pro-panel designated by the sponsor and a con panel chosen by Senate Republicans.

The panelists will each get three minutes to talk. The rest of the time Fairley wants reserved for citizen testimony — not questions or speeches from senators. And she's willing to have legislators, or anyone else, removed if they don't follow the rules.

I'm restricting questions from the members to one question per panel speaker without follow-up. Hopefully, we won't have a lot of questions because this is the time to listen to the public's testimony. Some of the committee members want to make floor speeches instead of asking questions. Normally, I don't believe in gaveling people quiet, but I will if I have to. And, if I have to, I'll resort to using the sergeant-at-arms to escort people from the room.

Everyone has a right to their opinion and everyone will be treated with
respect. Period.

SIDEBAR: Murray's vote against the Iraq war doesn't seem to mean much today to anti-war activists. Last week, while Murray was meeting with a group of local police chiefs in Bellevue, protesters asked the chiefs to arrest the senator for war crimes.

They didn't do it, but in a just world they would have.

There's a low quality video of it here.
The demonstrators were from Stand Up Seattle and the Green Party of Washington State, which are part of the local Occupation Project.

TO BE CLEAR: The above line about a just world, is a quote from the Occupation Project folks, not my thoughts. That's why it is indented, as quotes and excerpts are on the blog. That statement was not from me.

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February 24, 2007

New anti-viaduct TV commercial

Posted by David Postman at 4:08 PM

The campaign against a new elevated viaduct has a TV commercial ready to air against Measure 2.

The 30 second spot is called "Bigger, Uglier, Noisier," which is the campaign's theme. It's up on YouTube. I've asked the campaign when it will begin airing.


UPDATE: Campaign spokeswoman Lee Keller says the ad will begin airing Tuesday on cable.

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February 23, 2007

How bad are conditions for injured soldiers at Walter Reed?

Posted by David Postman at 3:27 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Army's top medical official seem divided on the question of conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Gates today, according to the Washington Post, announced the formation of an independent panel to look into what he called an "unacceptable situation" with outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and he vowed that those responsible will be held accountable.

He said he briefed President Bush this morning on the situation and described him as "understandably concerned and emphatic in wanting the best possible care for our wounded soldiers and for their families."

Gates also said some people "directly involved" with the outpatient facilities have been relieved of their duties.

Noting that the recovering soldiers have paid a high price for defending the nation, Gates said, "They should not have to recuperate in substandard housing, nor should they be expected to tackle mountains of paperwork and bureaucratic processes. ... They battled our foreign enemies; they should not have to battle an American bureaucracy."

But as Gates expresses the president's concerns, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, chief of the Army Medical Command, said today he wants to "reset the thinking" about Walter Reed after a Washington Post investigation this week found disturbing conditions in outpatient facilities. Kiley said at a press conference at the hospital today:

"While we have some issues here, this is not a horrific, catastrophic failure at Walter Reed.

He criticized the Post's coverage, though it's not exactly sure what his concerns are. At one point he said of the stories, "I'm not sure it was an accurate representation." But after the press conference he told the Post, "It's not the accuracy I question, it's the characterization."

Sen. Patty Murray this week called for an investigation of Walter Reed and other military outpatient facilities. She said today she was glad to hear Gates' response to the Post series.

"He understands the tremendous responsibility that they have. And it's not just the fact that it happened, but that no one reported it, no one said anything, no one came to Congress and said 'We need additional resources' and that is really wrong."

Murray, who was visiting Olympia today, was also hoping the Walter Reed stories would help reset thinking some.

"This has helped us really raise this issue in a much larger picture," she said. And it's not just about treatment of injured soldiers. "I hope to use it to really highlight a lot of other issues," she said.

Some of that will be evident Monday when the Senate debates a bill implementing recommendations from the 9/11 commission. Murray said it will also be evident Tuesday when the Senate Appropriations Committee hears from Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Murray said they will face hard questions about the administration's request for a $100 billion appropriation for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She said the administration has so far gotten its military funding "with no strings attached" because "they say they need the flexibility and that is going to change."

But Murray said there aren't the votes in the Senate to cut off funding for Iraq operations. Democrats continue to work on a "caucus-wide strategy to change the mission of this war."

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More on sock puppetry

Posted by David Postman at 1:02 PM

The Boston Globe has a story today about bloggers' fears that political operatives will "infiltrate" their blogs to promote presidential candidates.

For now, bloggers must be their own police. Participating in online political discussions without disclosing financial ties to a candidate would violate the unwritten rules of the blogosphere, Web site operators said.

"Campaigns and organizations promote their candidates and efforts, obviously," Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos.com, a prominent liberal blog, said in an e-mailed response. "If they do it openly, it's well accepted. If they use sock puppets ( create aliases to hide their identities), then it's a big deal."

My question in the post below about commenters' expectations of anonymity set off worries that I'm on a witch hunt. I'm not. Just asking and hoping that some reasoned responses could help my thinking on this.

But this issue is obviously a serious one and will become more so as the 2008 campaigns are launched. There is a distinction between a politician using an alias to post a comment, even if it calls someone "stupid," and a politician or someone on his or her behalf posting comments under phony names as either an attempt to show wide support or to discredit an opponent. I would hope that doesn't happen here, and so far I have not seen any obvious attempt to do that. But it happens.

From the Globe:

In 2006, a staff member for former representative Charles Bass , a Republican from New Hampshire, was caught posing as a Democrat and writing negative comments about Bass's Democratic opponent. Bass lost to Democrat Paul Hodes. In Canada last fall, online attacks against a candidate for leader of the Liberal Party were linked to a political consulting firm employed by one of his rivals.

Bloggers and campaign consultants said the fear of getting caught should be a major disincentive for campaigns considering the use of underhanded tactics. Many blogs check IP, or Internet protocol, addresses to catch people opening multiple accounts, one of the ploys used by public relations firms to give the appearance of widespread support for a candidate or position. In addition, blog commenters are quick to accuse others of deception and led the effort to expose the deceptive posts in the Hodes-Bass race.

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McCain in Seattle today

Posted by David Postman at 11:05 AM

Arizona Sen. John McCain speaks in Seattle at noon in what's being billed as a major foreign policy speech. He's appearing at a joint meeting of the Seattle City Club and the World Affairs Council.

He's not yet an official candidate for president, but it must be getting close.

Certainly the opposition is treating him as a candidate. State Democrats put out a release today saying "JOHN MCCAIN WORSE THAN GEORGE W. BUSH ON IRAQ."

And a liberal D.C. group, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, has been promoting an on-line petition asking McCain to boycott the luncheon today because one of the co-sponsors is Seattle's Discovery Institute.

The Discovery Institute has been instrumental in promoting intelligent design and it has become the group's most prominent and controversial cause. Discovery is one of 10 groups listed as "co-presenting organizations" for today's meeting. Others include the Municipal League of King County and the University of Washington's Jackson School of International Studies.

DefCon, as the group calls itself, says Discovery is "responsible for spearheading the religious right's war on science education."

None of our elected officials should lend credence to this organization, especially a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Last week, Think Progress described the event as McCain being "the keynote speaker for the most prominent creationism advocacy group in the country." Certainly Discovery would object to the use of "creationism" to describe intelligent design.

And that clearly overstates Discovery's role in today's event. I don't think the lunch has anything to with intelligent design. But no one should be surprised that McCain will be unconcerned about a connection to the Discovery Institute. He supports teaching ID in schools, something even the Discovery Institute claims it's not interested in. He appears to also support teaching creationism in schools along with evolution.

In 2005 McCain was asked about intelligent design during an editorial board interview with the Arizona Daily Star. You can find a video of this here at the paper's site. I watched it and made this transcript.

Q: Should intelligent design be taught in schools?

McCain: I think there have to be all points of view presented. But they've got to be thoroughly presented. And to say you can only teach one line of thinking ... or one belief, on how people and the world were created, I think, there's nothing wrong with teaching others schools of thought.

Q: Does it belong in science?

McCain: Well, there are enough scientists who believe that it does. I'm not a scientist. This is something that I think all points of view should be presented. We have never been exclusive in that.

Think Progress says that in 2006 McCain reversed himself and said it doesn't belong in science class. But that's a misreading of what McCain was reported to have said. The Aspen Times story cited shows the question McCain was asked was about creationism, not intelligent design.

In the final question of the evening, an audience member asked McCain to outline his stance on teaching evolution and creationism in schools.

"I think Americans should be exposed to every point of view," he said. "I happen to believe in evolution. ... I respect those who think the world was created in seven days. Should it be taught as a science class? Probably not."

More on McCain's visit:

The AP's Dave Ammons has the scoop today on Attorney General Rob McKenna's planned endorsement of McCain.

"John McCain is an impressive leader with a record of public service that's beyond reproach," McKenna said. "He understands the difficult challenges our country faces. He has the experience and fortitude to bring people together for solutions we need."

McKenna is the first statewide elected official in Washington to make an endorsement in the 2008 presidential campaign. It's interesting that he is getting so far out ahead, though if there is a frontrunner on the GOP side it'd have to be McCain. I think being an early adopter can bring McKenna some national attention.

In 2004 Congressman Adam Smith did well by being the first member of Congress to endorse John Kerry. Even though Kerry lost, and his reputation has not recovered, I don't see that Smith has been hurt, and at the time he looked smart for having early on picked his party's nominee.

Any Washington politicians signed up with any presidential candidates yet that I've missed? Let me know.

UPDATE: Adam Smith is an Obama backer. Smith spokesman Derrick Crowe
said the congressman met recently at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with other House Democrats who have signed up with Obama's campaign and "he is on the team."

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Careful who you call stupid

Posted by David Postman at 8:53 AM

Stefan Sharkansky wondered who it was who identified himself as "PDC expert" on Sound Politics earlier this month and left comments saying, among other things, "your ignorance is stunning" and "I love it when you demonstrate your stupidity."

It looks like it was state Rep. Geoff Simspon, D-Kent.

The comments came in response to a Sharkansky post Feb. 3 about Tim Eyman's battle with Secretary of State Sam Reed over moves to regulate paid signature gathering.

For example, the Secretary of State's spreadsheet claims that the WEA's "Protect our Public Schools" referendum campaign used only volunteer signature gatherers. But as Eyman notes, the campaign self-reported to the PDC that the WEA made a $211,000 in-kind contribution to the campaign for signature gathering.

Among other comments, PDC expert wrote:

Reporting in-kind contributions is a way that campaigns have of making it look like they've raised more money than they actually have because they report the fair market value of the service as if it were a contribution. Keep talking though because I love it when you demonstrate your stupidity.

And:

Eyman is a liar and the sheep on this blog will believe any lie he tells them. Show us the form that shows the payment of $211,000 by the WEA Tim. Show us the money. Oh, that's right. You can't because there never was any money. An in-kind contribution of volunteer time was all they contributed. Idiots.

How does Sharkansky know that Simpson is PDC expert? Because he tracked the IP address used to post the comment. It was part of the King County network and he made public records request that led to the City of Kent, and this response from Arthur "Pat" Fitzparick, deputy city attorney:

Please be advised that the city's network is designed to randomly assign IP address that change from user to user throughout the city's system. The city system does not record who is assigned particular IP addresses from day to day. As such, we were unable to locate the records that you requested in the manner that you requested them. However, based on other records maintained by the city, it has been determined that a shared computer at Fire Station No. 74 was used to access the blog in question, and although the exact computer is not identifiable, the user who posted the blog is identified as Kent Firefighter Geoffrey Simpson.

Simpson responded on Sound Politics yesterday:

Interesting that when Stefan doesn't like something someone says (even when they are correct as I was in each of my posts) he investigates them and violates the personal privacy afforded to all the posters on this blog by the ability to post anonymously. Poor baby. Make sure you don't disagree with Stefan or he'll open an investigation on you too... Posted by: Geoff Simpson

Simpson told me that he doesn't often post comments on blogs. But he does have a running e-mail debate with Eyman, and that's what pushed him to post his "PDC expert" comments.

A question for commenters. When you post here or elsewhere using a pseudonym, do you have an expectation of privacy? Should that standard be the same for a public official? I've had occasion to wonder about these things myself, but so far have not yet outed any commenter.

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February 22, 2007

NASCAR drivers make case for state raceway

Posted by David Postman at 1:22 PM

NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip and current powerhouse driver, and Washington state native, Greg Biffle made the rounds in Olympia today trying to help the International Speedway Corporation lobbying for a racetrack financing plan.

They made their way around the Legislative Building and lawmakers' offices with a throng of press, security, PR people and NASCAR fans. They visited supporters, opponents and the undecideds. At the Ways and Means Committee office, they sang "Happy Birthday" to Chairwoman Margarita Prentice.

"I told them, 'Boy, you guys were well briefed,'" said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, a NASCAR fan who had photos autographed for his sons.

The drivers said Prentice opposes the Kitsap site for the track, but said if Lewis County or another site was used she may be able to support it.

"She may disagree with us, but at least she knows we're charming," joked Waltrip.

That really was the point of the visit. These guys were here for a charm offensive. They weren't expected to do any heavy lobbying, but just to be Petty, Waltrip and Biffle.

Waltrip, now a racing analyst for Fox Sports among his other NASCAR activities, said told reporters that the track was a no-risk deal for taxpayers.

"This is a great opportunity to not just build a track and maybe we'll come, this is to build a track and we'll definitely come. And that's like money in the bank, folks. Trust me. I've been involved in a lot of racetracks, a lot of deals. If y'all are not going to build a track I think I'll just build it myself. I think me and Greg and Richard will go in together and we'll build it and well have the race out here for you."

That's precisely what some lawmakers have suggested. NASCAR, they say, should build the track without a public subsidy as it was able to do elsewhere. I asked Waltrip why they don't do it with their own money.

"You know what, it's math. My two and your two makes five. ... With your help and with our help, everybody works together, this is a win-win. And it is a win-win in a much faster pace and a win-win with everyone involved."

Waltrip and Biffle could have blended into the Capitol surroundings. But not Petty, with his giant black cowboy hat, wrap-around shades and a hubcap-sized belt buckle.

That's how he met the press in the morning. I asked what he thought about being called by the House Speaker, "the guy who got picked up for DUI," though there's no evidence that ever happened.

"No, not DUI. That's driving, drunk, right? I don't drink, ok? Now I'm not saying I don't run over people when I'm sober, OK. That's one thing. If you'll go back and look at NASCAR history, the drivers' history and then you look at baseball, football or basketball, the cleanest sport period, as far as drunk driving or drugs and stuff like that, is NASCAR drivers, because our life is on the line every time we get in a race track, so our folks can't afford to do things like that, because we're responsible not only for ourselves but 42 other race car drivers on the race track. So if you look at role models, then, the role models would be NASCAR drivers."

Petty sounded like the Southern politician he once was when he said skeptical state residents need to take a far-reaching view of the money NASCAR is asking for.

"None of us like change and that's what this would be. And as I get older and I look around and stuff, what I like is not necessarily what the next generation's going to need. So we need to look beyond our nose. We got to go a little further out than one year or five years, 10 years. We got to look at the next crowd coming through, what can our crowd do to make it better for them.

"Because from past experiences, , a lot of things we do, our grandkids are going to have to pay for. So now we're trying to say, 'Let's do something for those people that can generate interest for their state and also bring in money for them."

Walking through the Capitol, Waltrip told me that the reception NASCAR's gotten here is different from what he's seen elsewhere in the country.

"If you tell someone NASCAR wants to build a track, they'll be out there with a parade, saying, 'Where do you want to put it?'"

Biffle, who grew up in Clark County and still has a home in Camas, felt the culture shift when he went left the Northwest to race. And he knows people here don't get NASCAR like fans elsewhere.

"They have this picture in their head that there are these Southern people just burning up all this gas. I recognized the difference right away. I have been unable to say 'y'all.' I just can't put it in a sentence."

Grant Lynch, vice president of International Speedway Corporation, said he will travel to Lewis County next week to look at a possible site for a track there. Gov. Chris Gregoire suggested the other day that might be something that could get enough political support to secure a financing plan.

But Lewis County will be a tough sell for ISC.

"It is a little far away from what we said we needed to be here, and the fact that we wanted to be within 50 miles of Seattle, have 25,000 hotel rooms. And also if you get too far south down I-5, and people start staying in Oregon, our model kind of breaks down a little bit because we want them staying in Washington and spending their dollars in the state of Washington."

UPDATE: Chopp issued this apology today for his comments about Petty:

"This morning I personally apologized to Richard Petty for a comment I made yesterday. It was inappropriate and wrong.

"I appreciate his willingness to meet with me."

UPDATE: At the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog, stilwell writes about Petty, too. And he seems to make a case that there is a legitimate political, not just cultural, argument against NASCAR.

However, if we are going to talk about Richard Petty in a political context, let's briefly examine his history. Petty was a Republican candidate for state-wide office in North Carolina, his home state.

...

So Petty isn't just a rank and file Republican, he ran for state-wide office. Which is his right as an American, but clearly he is more than a race car driver.

Stillwell also says that "Chopp was most likely remembering a reckless driving charge rather than a DUI involving Petty."

Postman says he searched hard for anything involving Petty and a DUI and came up empty. Fair enough, maybe Postman didn't think to search for other traffic offenses. It happens. Postman is still one of our favorite reporters.

No my friend, and one of my favorite commenters and bloggers, I did think to search. And I found that. Or rather one of our researchers did. As well as a speeding ticket, too, from 1982. Both were sent to me last night while I was at the movies. I thought about putting them in, too, later. But neither were what Chopp alleged. Neither had anything to do with alcohol, and Chopp's apology doesn't seem to try to say he was thinking about that reckless driving charge, which I'm sure you know was pled down to a tailgating citation.

We don't want any of them tailgaters here, that's for sure.

This is from a USA Today story on the incident:

Asked by The Associated Press to explain what happened, Petty said, "I run up behind this cat. He slowed up beside a car to block me at about 60 miles an hour. I blinked my lights and he put on his brakes and slowed down to about 50. And I didn't slow down.

"This was a situation that would have come up with anybody at
any time. Instead of shooting each other or throwing rocks at
each other, he retaliated by putting on brakes."

Later, Petty told a TV station, "Now, if it had been a NASCAR
showdown, he would have been over in the ditch somewhere."



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February 21, 2007

Has NASCAR become a class issue?

Posted by David Postman at 5:15 PM

NASCAR greats Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip are in Olympia today and tomorrow pushing for state help in building a new track in Kitsap County.

House Speaker Frank Chopp is unimpressed. When Chopp was asked about Petty's presence today, he told reporters:

"I was going to make a bad joke about, 'Who's he.' But then I decided, You mean the guy who got picked up for DUI, that guy?"

He added a few seconds later:

"By the way, on that last point? I was told that, so I'm not sure. You better check to make sure it's accurate. But he's not a member of the House last time I checked."

I find no record of Petty being "picked up" for driving drunk, or anything else related to a DUI. I searched everywhere I could. Chopp said he heard it from someone else, and maybe they know something that I don't. A Chopp staffer said they didn't have any more information. The only reference to alcohol I can find is a bit of NASCAR lore that Petty won't allow alcohol advertising on his cars because of a promise he made his mother. He's reportedly passed up racing awards named after beer companies to keep that promise. Oh yes, he's also involved in a campaign to combat drunken driving.

Grant Lynch, vice president of International Speedway Corporation, told me he had never heard anything about Petty and a DUI.

"I know Richard has been a great ambassador for our sport for many, many years and he's a solid citizen in South Carolina and he has received numerous awards from across the country. He's a class guy in a class family."

The Petty family has started a camp for disabled children in memory of one of Richard's grandsons.

Chopp's comments were clearly an attempt to discredit Petty, and the NASCAR lobbying effort. This is not about me being a Petty fan. I'd think the same if someone in Chopp's position had said the same thing about a professional baseball, football or basketball player.

But it wasn't any of those. In fact I never heard anything like that when the Mariners, Seahawks and Sonics were looking for public money for their facilities. Instead the critics talked of "millionaire players and billionaire owners." Some make similar charges against NASCAR. But others talk about the fans and now the character of its stars; it has become something of a class issue. (To be clear: There are many people, citizens in Kitsap County included, who oppose the NASCAR track for traffic reasons, public financing issues and many other very legitimate concerns. But it is the tone of comments by lawmakers that I'm writing about here.)

Chopp has said repeatedly that no House Democrats have pushed him to support the NASCAR track. He says he doesn't hear from anyone about it. At a press availability earlier this month, when asked about NASCAR — as the Longview Daily News reported

he pulled out a Wall Street Journal article sent to him by a legislator describing the rowdy crowds at the Talledega Speedway in Alabama.

The article reported that "hard-drinking" fans "whoop it up for days."

"This is an example of the kind of contact I've had from (House members) about NASCAR," he said.

In the Times today, freshman Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, was quoted calling the corporation pushing for the track a "terrible corporate citizen." But the words he used to elaborate didn't sound like he was talking about a corporation:

"These people are not the kind of people you would want living next door to you," Seaquist said. "They'd be the ones with the junky cars in the front yard and would try to slip around the law."

To give a lot of credit to Seaquist, he called reporter Ralph Thomas today to say he misspoke, but was not misquoted. "It wasn't my finest moment," he said, and only meant to criticize the way the corporation has handled its lobbying efforts.

Lynch said he has noticed a tinge of what I'd call elitism in some of the opposition to the track.

"I think when you're building a stadium of this magnitude anywhere you're going to have people in the local community who are against it.

"But I have felt that for some folks, and I'm not saying it's everybody, there is a little bit of thinking that this is an old southern sport where they ride around in gas-burning cars and it doesn't fit in the Northwest. And I really would beg to differ."

Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, the sponsor of the Senate NASCAR bill, said he's seen the same thing:

"I've heard a lot of that. Apparently, we have a new class of people that we can discriminate against."

NASCAR fans elsewhere are paying attention. A man from Atlanta e-mailed Thomas today and said:

The libs are afraid it might bring in too many conservative, beer drinking, Bush loving, true Americans who care about this country and all it stands for. Hope they build it!

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McMorris Rodgers says she's trying to be more bipartisan

Posted by David Postman at 3:25 PM

When I was in D.C. last month Democratic Rep. Adam Smith and Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers were starting off the session with a bit of bipartisanship cooperation on a medical technology bill.

When Republicans were in control, McMorris was the prime sponsor, Smith the co-sponsor. Now, under Democratic rule, she still will have the top spot, the two decided last week.

"It's her bill," Smith said. "We need to be inclusive."

It's his bill now.

This isn't a case of Democratic bullying. It is strategy, and McMorris Rodgers thinks it's a good idea, and still sees it as a bipartisan effort:

"I think it's best for Adam to be the prime. It will have a better chance. D.C. in my opinion is much more partisan than Olympia, and I thought Olympia was pretty partisan."

McMorris Rodgers is in Olympia today meeting with her former legislative colleagues. She stopped by the office on her way to talk to the House Republican Caucus. She had one term from the 5th District in the majority. Now in the minority, she is thinking a lot about the surprising amount of partisanship in D.C. And she's not saying that's just something Democrats do. "It happens both ways," she said.

McMorris Rodgers said she wants to be less partisan herself. She has met with her staff and told them to look carefully at the substance of the bills, not just the sponsors. Her goal is at the end of the year to be able to look at vote tallies and see that she increased the number of times she voted in what could be described as a bipartisan fashion.

Which raises a good question: What is a bipartisan vote?

McMorris Rodgers said she voted for two bills on the Democrats' "Six for '06" agenda, the pieces of legislation at the heart of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plans for the first 100 hours of Democratic control.

The first of those was a bill implementing recommendations from the 9/11 commission. McMorris Rodgers was one of 68 Republicans who voted for the bill. Voting against a majority of the people in your party is a rare thing in Congress. It's the sort of vote I think does show independence from party labels.

The other was a student loan bill. On that, though, just 71 Republicans voted against it, so McMorris Rodgers' vote for it was not a vote against leadership. Bills that get most everyone to vote yes are less of an indicator of a willingness to "reach across the aisle," as they love to say in D.C. and Olympia.

Looking at the Washington Post's excellent vote tracker, I see one more vote this year where McMorris Rodgers voted with a majority of Democrats, not Republicans. That was a continuing appropriations resolution that got just 57 yes votes from Republicans.

She was joined on that with the other two Republicans in the state delegation.

Most things that get overwhelming bipartisan votes in the House are pretty lightweight fare. This year they have ranged from House Resolution 39, "Commending the University of Florida Gators for Their Victory in the 2006 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and for Winning the National College Football Championship" that got one Republican no vote, to the more substantive vote for an "additional temporary extension" of some small business programs, with two GOP no votes.

I asked McMorris Rodgers how much pressure she gets to vote with leadership.

"It varies. There are times when caucus leaders will say, 'We want to take a stand — this is a defining moment."

But, she said, House Minority Leader John Boehner tells Republicans to be independent and has told the caucus, "The American people couldn't care less which party is in control."

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, has the same voting record so far as McMorris Rodgers.

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, looks like the most bipartisan member so far this session. I counted seven votes where he voted against Republican leadership. He was one of nine Republicans voting against a GOP move to stop a student loan bill and one of 18 on a stem cell vote.

I know Democrats don't like to hear it, but those sorts of votes are why people in D.C. look at Reichert as a moderate. It is true that may be faint praise. Congratulating him on those votes may say as much about the culture of D.C. as it does about his independence. But there's no argument that Reichert is taking votes that most other Republicans don't.

On the Democratic side, Reps. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, and Brian Baird, D-Vancouver,
took the most votes against leadership, though all were on the same issue — three votes on amendments to an alternative energy bill. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, voted against one of those amendments, as did Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton.

Smith and Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, did not vote on that bill so are maintaining 100 percent records of voting with a majority of their Democratic colleagues.

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Breaking: City Council goes to Olympia, survives

Posted by David Postman at 10:21 AM

This post at the Seattle Weekly about a recent 'Seattle City Council trip to Olympia makes it sound like a congressional trip to a war zone.

Forget about the Cascadia Subduction Zone. There's a more volatile north-south fault — and it slices direct from city hall to the state capital. The growing Seattle/Oly rift was evident during today's city council briefing where members discussed their statehouse field trip last week, the specter of the "V" word hanging like a thick Seattle fog over the show-and-tell session.

...

Kip Tokuda from the city's intergovernmental relations office tried to assure the council that the viaduct battle hasn't poisoned all of the city's efforts in Olympia.

"We're actually doing quite well on most of our issues," he said. "Our tack is to keep below the line of fire and keep on task."

Thank God a few council members were brave enough to make the trip.

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Waterfront Wiki dreams

Posted by David Postman at 8:46 AM

Amidst all the talk about what would happen to the Seattle waterfront if the viaduct were torn down, someone pointed me to the Wikipedia entry for San Francisco's Embarcadero.

Automobile transit efforts led to the Embarcadero Freeway being built in the 1960s. This improved automobile access to the Bay Bridge, but detracted aesthetically from the city. For 30 years, the highway divided the waterfront and the Ferry Building from downtown. It was torn down in 1991, after being severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

After the freeway had been cleared, massive redevelopment begun as grand palm-lined boulevard was created, squares and plazas were created and/or restored, and the Muni N and F lines were extended to run along it.

Sounds grand, doesn't it? The entry was modified Feb. 7, though I'm not suggesting that was done by those pushing for a surface replacement for the viaduct, you know the ones who say it would create a grand boulevard and spur massive redevelopment.

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February 20, 2007

Deplorable conditions at vet hospital spur call for investigation

Posted by David Postman at 3:40 PM

Reports by the Washington Post have led Sen. Patty Murray and Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski to call today for an investigation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The Post stories paint a disturbing picture of the outpatient facilities at Walter Reed.

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

...

While the hospital is a place of scrubbed-down order and daily miracles, with medical advances saving more soldiers than ever, the outpatients in the Other Walter Reed encounter a messy bureaucratic battlefield nearly as chaotic as the real battlefields they faced overseas.

On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of "Catch-22." The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.

Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.

It is well worth reading the entire story. Reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull answered questions about the series in an on-line chat today.

Murray and Mikulski wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

While we understand from subsequent stories that work has begun on Building 18, these revelations raise a larger and even more concerning issue:

If conditions at Walter Reed, the crown jewel of military health care facilities, have degraded to the point where mouse traps are handed out to patients, how can we feel confident that our troops and veterans truly have the care and transition assistance they have been promised at any facility across the country?

We are well aware of plans by the Pentagon to close Walter Reed by 2011, but that is no excuse for atrocious conditions in 2007. As long as we have troops coming home, we demand that they be treated with the dignity and respect they have earned from a grateful nation.

They want the investigation to include outpatient facilities at Reed as well as at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.

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Deconstructing the self-licking ice cream cone

Posted by David Postman at 12:47 PM

Times D.C. reporter Alicia Mundy has a story this morning -- the banner story in the printed paper -- about former Congressman George Nethercutt's lobbying work for with a Spokane firm that he had helped while in office.

The story says:

Nethercutt's relationship with Isothermal is a classic case of what is known in D.C. as the "self-licking ice-cream cone": A lawmaker helps a company win a contract, that company helps the lawmaker stay in office, and on and on it goes.

I had never heard of a "self-licking ice-cream cone." With some Googling and Lexis-Nexising, I find it is a term used in D.C. It doesn't seem to be used widely, and I don't find examples of it as a description of the congressional/lobbying revolving door. It's a clear pejorative, used in some cases to describe the more unsavory elements of the military-industrial complex. It seems to be something with no real purpose, something completely self-serving. I don't read the story to say that about Nethercutt's job, so I'm not sure his is a classic case.

Here are a few definitions:

  • self-licking ice cream cone n. a process, department, institution, or other thing that offers few benefits and exists primarily to justify or perpetuate its own existence. Also in the form self-licking lollipop.
  • A phrase not widely used (Google finds a mere 927 references), a "self-licking ice cream cone" is something that is very clever but entirely self serving and essentially useless.
  • A metaphor to describe an entity that exists only for its own benefit. A quick web search seems to show this phrase is commonly used by policy wonks and pundits to describe government institutions. In his article "The Intelligence Gap: How the digital age left our spies out in the cold"1, Seymour M. Hersh wrote this about the NSA: "One former official described the civilian leadership as 'a self-licking ice-cream cone', with little tolerance for dissent or information it did not wish to hear."

    The New Yorker, December 6, 1999, pp. 58-76.

  • "Self-licking ice cream cone" is the descriptor for a self-fulfilling prophecy as described by the 20th century sociologist Robert K. Merton: "The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true."
  • The military-industrial complex is a political economy with a big P and a little E. It's very political in nature. Economic decisions, which should prevail in a normal market system, don't prevail in the Pentagon, or in the military-industrial complex.

    So what we have is a system that essentially rewards its senior players. It's a self ... what we call it, we have a term for it, it's a self-licking ice cream cone. We basically take care of ourselves. And that's why we have the metaphor that it's Versailles on the Potomac. It is basically self-referencing.

  • Apologies to Mr. Robert Kaplan, as I am borrowing the above term from an article he wrote a few years ago following a visit to Afghanistan. When Mr. Kaplan referred to the "self-licking ice cream cone", he was specifically referring to Bagram Air Field, which by that time had become swollen with various Army and Air Force support personnel who seemed to have no real impact on the war effort. They basically existed to justify their own existence.

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Luke Esser says he was late in filing leave

Posted by David Postman at 11:45 AM

Prompted by Noemie Maxwell's reporting at washblog today, I've tried to answer some questions about details of Luke Esser's transition from top aide to Attorney General Rob McKenna to chairman of the state Republican Party. Maxwell writes:

According to the copy of the leave request I received last Friday, Mr. Esser's application for unpaid leave from the AG office to do partisan work on 1/29 was first applied for two weeks after he took those hours, on 2/16.

This stems from a post I did on the 29th about an interview with Esser where he said he had stopped at party headquarters and met with Republican lawmakers as the newly elected party chair that day.

This brought charges that Esser was double-dipping and violating state ethics laws by doing party politics while on the AG's payroll. The short version is Esser says he should have filed a leave slip sooner.

Here's what he says happened.

Esser was elected party chair on the 27th, a Saturday. On Monday he decided to stop by party headquarters in Tukwila and meet with Republican House and Senate members in Olympia. On his way back from the meeting with lawmakers he stopped in my office to chat. In all, he said there were three and a half hours spent on party business.

By AG office policy, Esser says he should have submitted a leave slip by the end of that pay period, Jan. 31. He did submit his letter of resignation that day. But he didn't file for the leave, though he says he noted it in his electronic calendar. (Certainly questions about whether he took leave had been asked in comments here and elsewhere by then, so Esser was on notice that people were watching.)

His last day working for McKenna was Feb. 12. On that day he says he could not find a record of the leave slip, asked his assistant to check, and was told none had been submitted. He asked his assistant to prepare one that day, but he did not get into the AG's office again until four days later to actually sign the document.

Esser says that at no time while working for the AG did he take money from the state party, so there could not have been any double-dipping. His GOP salary began Feb. 13.

Esser said the one thing he did wrong is he failed to submit the leave slip. It certainly would have made it cleaner to have done it on time. And since he didn't want to walk out on his job with McKenna with no notice, he could have announced he would do no party business until the 13th.

UPDATE: I just talked to Mike Bigelow, McKenna's chief of staff. He confirms that the leave slip should have been in by the 31st, but that it was not necessary to do it in advance. Bigelow said:

"I was a little dismayed that he forgot to get his leave slip in until the 16th. But he says he forgot and I'll have to accept that."

Bigelow said that Esser was asked to make clear in his letter of resignation which day he would start to earn money from the GOP because AG officials wanted to make sure he was on only one payroll at a time.

ALSO: Esser wants to make clear that his visit to the party offices that morning were before the work day. He had done a radio interview from the office, but was on the road to Olympia before 8 a.m.

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The King coming to Olympia

Posted by David Postman at 8:22 AM

NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Darrel Waltrip and driver Greg Biffle will be in Olympia tomorrow to push for a Kitsap County racetrack.

They will do meet-and-greets around the Capitol and attend a reception for the sponsors of the NASCAR track bill. In a move to get union support for a track, the drivers will also stop by a Washington State Labor Council reception.


AP


Petty in his glory days.

Comments from Gov. Christine Gregoire and House Speaker Frank Chopp make it seem pretty unlikely the bill will pass. But man, Richard freakin' Petty! If he drove up in this, lawmakers would be powerless to stop the track. Chopp would paint his face Petty Blue. Adam Kline would slap "43" on the side of his Prius. STP would be served in the Capitol cafeteria. That Superbird is the stuff of 1970s, teenage, gearhead, fantasy. I've got to calm myself.

UPDATE: Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Silverdale, a track opponent, e-mailed after reading this post alarmed that I had joined the pro-track forces:

Hope you can get a grip, David....why should State and local taxpayers be obliged to assume the risk of paying for construction bonds and the costs of off-site impacts for a NASCAR project? The biggest winners in this are the Florida-based family and private corporation that stands to benefit if the State were to allow the use of state and local tax dollars to help finance their venture. It's not like they cannot afford to do it themselves. Public funds should be used for clear public purposes, like building and sustaining the general public infrastructure we all depend on...public schools, colleges, highways, and the ferry system. On top of this are the various negatives which include adverse environmental and transportation impacts for Kitsap residents, which make Kitsap County a poor choice of site.

OK, I have gotten a grip. And let's be clear, I am not advocating that the Legislature approve the track plan. I don't give my opinion on such things. But I have ripped away the veneer of objectivity today to say I am four-square behind the 1970 Plymouth Superbird and do not expect me to write objectively about the car.


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February 19, 2007

New group says vote no and no again to stop tunnel and rebuild

Posted by David Postman at 8:25 PM

A new green-leaning group has formed to campaign against both viaduct options on the March ballot. NoAndHellNo.org is a grassroots effort that is running a do-it-yourself campaign with printable signs on its site. Organizers aren't asking for any money.

On March 13, vote NO and NO. Seattle citizens have been offered two unacceptable options for replacing the Viaduct: a hideous elevated structure that will be taller than the existing one and 50% -- 200% wider, or a late-breaking, financially questionable "tunnel lite" option. Seattle can do better, and telling leaders neither on this non-binding advisory ballot makes that point clear. Vote NO and NO.

The Sierra Club, Friends of Seattle, and People's Waterfront Coalition have endorsed the campaign. Lawrence Winnerman, one of the organizers who says he got involved through 36th District Democratic politics, told me:

We're trying to run a scrappy, grassroots campaign on the premise that we know of so many people dissatisfied with both options, who all needed a unifying campaign. Our most basic message is: it's OK to vote no on Measures 1 & 2.

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Secrets of electronic voting, for less than $100

Posted by David Postman at 3:27 PM

From Wired:

For a mere $82 a computer scientist and electronic voting critic managed to purchase five $5,000 Sequoia electronic voting machines over the internet last month from a government auction site. And now he's taking them apart.

Princeton computer science professor Andrew Appel and his students have begun reverse-engineering the software embedded in the machines' ROM chips to determine if it has any security holes. But Appel says the ease with which he and his students opened the machines and removed the chips already demonstrates that the voting machines are vulnerable to unauthorized modification.

Their analysis appears to mark the first time that someone who hasn't signed a non-disclosure agreement with Sequoia Voting Systems has examined one of its machine's internals.

(Thanks for the head's up Boingboing, you're the greatest.)

Sequoia what looks like a response up on its website.

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What a park would look like on top of the viaduct

Posted by David Postman at 2:44 PM

I see that DOT's Option 9 for the viaduct is seen in some quarters -- like here and here -- as Frank Chopp's vision of a park-topped elevated freeway.

I thought so, too, since it looks similar to what Chopp has talked about, with a park on top with access from adjoining buildings. But Andrew Garber and I showed the drawings to Chopp on Jan. 30 and he told us:

This is clearly not what I was talking about.

He clearly didn't like the way Option 9 looked. He wouldn't say what would be different, except to say the structure would be slimmer. He said someone from the engineering firm of CH2M HILL volunteered to work on drawings for him.


Garber talked to Chopp again about it this morning. Chopp said that after he saw Option 9, "I pointedly stopped working with DOT and city engineers." He said he talked to Gregoire about it recently:

"I turned to her and said, 'I've got people who are eager to help us. Do you want me to have them formally doing a design, even this coming weekend?' And she said, 'No, don't do it now.' I think she wants to make sure they get organized on a design process."

As I mentioned in a post below, Gregoire, too, thinks the viaduct can be prettied-up. She said it needed to go from the engineers to architects. That makes sense. But I'm less clear on why the Speaker of the House is designing multi-billion dollar road projects. I think the answer is: Because he can.

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Gregoire still opposed to surface option for viaduct

Posted by David Postman at 11:35 AM

Gov. Chris Gregoire reiterated her opposition to a surface replacement for the viaduct. At her press conference this morning Gregoire had David Dye from the Department of Transportation give a brief summary of why the state rejected the street-level option. And that comes down largely to what happens to the traffic.

Dye said it would get squeezed on to I-5 and into downtown city streets. Gregoire said state officials are working with King County Executive Ron Sims to see if transit can be boosted enough to make it work. But the governor is doubtful.

"I can't see just tearing it down and letting it go and creating a parking lot on I-5.. I think the citizens would be appalled. What they want, yes, is safety. But they want congestion relief and if what were going to do is cause them just the opposite, I thin they will be very, and rightfully so, unhappy."

Gregoire wouldn't completely rule out the surface option. But she said she'd have to be convinced and so far she has "yet to see any surface option that works."

"The fact of the matter is today there is no feasible option other than an elevated structure. And I know people don't necessary like the elevated structure. I appreciate and respect that. But the fact of the matter is we cannot do nothing. That is simply unacceptable. Ten seconds more in that earthquake and that viaduct would have pancaked. If we're going to do that, then my friends, we will all be sitting in remorse that we just argued and discussed and studied and thought and sent e-mails and memos and hired more people and did more delays and ... we didn't get something done."

She did say the elevated structure could, and will, look better than in the engineering reports.

"We need to get it out of the hands of the engineers and into he hands of the architects, so that it is friendly to the waterfront."

MORE:
Gregoire met Friday with elected officials from Kitsap County and says "they were a resounding no'' on a proposal to put a NASCAR track in the county.

Gregoire said she's tried to get NASCAR officials to look at Lewis County. But, he said, "They've said it doesn't meet their criteria."

House Speaker Frank Chopp has already said there seems to be little interest in the House for the race track. And, as Gregoire said this morning:

"At this point in time I can't see the political support to make NASCAR happen at the location that is currently being proposed in Kitsap County."

She was much more positive about the Sonics deal. She said she doesn't want to lose any professional sports teams "because it is so hard to get them back."

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Democratic crab and gab fest tonight

Posted by David Postman at 9:44 AM

State Democrats have one of their big events of the year tonight. The annual crab feed at St. Martins College will be headlined by Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

Democrats usually pack the place for crab and speeches. It'll be a good opportunity to see by a show of stickers and buttons which Democratic presidential candidates are getting support from local Dems.

I'm a little late on this, but earlier this month state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz attended the mid-winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee. He got a chance to listen to speeches from all the Democratic candidates. He gave his impressions in an e-mail designed for the party's big donors in the Democratic Victory Circle. Among Pelz's comments:

Obama seemed a mix of Jesse Jackson, Paul Tsongas, and Eminem. (Yes, there is a subtle cadence there.) He will be very popular with young voters raised in the past 10 years on rap and hip-hop.

Pelz seemed particularly taken with Bill Richardson:

With that easy sense of humor Richardson captured the crowd and launched the weekend's most successful speech. The goal of the weekend was to elevate your status in the field, which is what Dean did in 2003 and Richardson did in 2007.

...

Richardson made the strongest statements on Gay Rights, referring to anti-hate crime and domestic partner legislation that he signed. ... He referred to Congress as "THEY," a clever trick for a 14- year member of the US House of Representatives.

And he summed up with this:

Best Music: Chris Dodd

Best Song for the Crowd: "Put Me in Coach," Joe Biden

Best Classical Political Stump Speech: John Edwards

Most Successful Speeches in Elevating Status in the Race: Bill Richardson

Best Speech in Navigating Tricky Waters: Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama (tie)

Best Crowd Turnout: Hillary Clinton

Most Radical Posture on Iraq, Left to Right: Kucinich, Gravel, Obama, Edwards,
Richardson, Clark, Vilsack, Dodd, Biden, Clinton

Candidate You'd Most Like to Have a Beer With: Bill Richardson

I was directed to Pelz's report by OlyWa blogger Emmett O'Connell. He says the sort of insider info promised for members of the Democratic Victory Circle is one of the things he dislikes about politics.

The Democratic Victory Circle is a boneheaded idea. The last thing you should try to do, especially when you're leading a political party, is ever try to be "exclusive" with your communication. Instead of taking a page from Colorado vice-chair Dan Slater who blogs out in the open, Washington State Democratic Chairman Pelz is sending emails seeking donations in exchange for "insider" gossip.

...

I understand the attraction of the recognition stuff and the reduced rates, photo opportunities and other stuff that don't particularly attract me. I don't participate in politics so people will like me, but rather to make the world a better place (I know how stupid that sounds). Writing special emails to a special group of folks who have paid for the privilege is a quick way to making politics unbearable.


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While I was away

Posted by David Postman at 8:54 AM

  • Oregon Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer took a DailyKos shot at Congressman Dave Reichert's speech on the House Iraq resolution:
    My mouth agape, he noted Lincoln was against the Mexican-American War but claimed he never voted to deny troops the support they needed. He ignored, of course, the fact that the Bush administration and the Republicans allowed us to send our young men and women to battle without proper equipment, in spite of Congress giving all the money that was requested.
  • Slog comments on this post gave a good idea of what the viaduct campaign will sound like. Do we have to go through this?
  • At the Seattle Weekly, Mike Seely scolded Maria Cantwell and Hillary Clinton for how they treat the press:
    Want to know why reporters don't like you, ladies? Because of your Gestapo media relations tactics, which really fly in the face of the left's supposedly unbridled support of the First Amendment. Knock it off.

    Seeley says he backs Obama for president, but will switch to Clinton if she gets the nomination, as, he said, "just as I've been behind Cantwell (sorta)." That's a heck of a sorta. Seeley worked on Cantwell's 2000 campaign and last year wrote that was a "paranoid hellcat of a boss who rolls through staff like toilet paper," berated employees, gave uninspiring speeches, and said "her grace with would-be donors (was) flaccid at best."

    I'm sure Obama and Clinton are excited at the prospect of Seeley's support.

  • The bill to name the onion the state vegetable passed the House.

    Note: Number of sponsors on House bill to make the Walla Walla sweet onion the state's official vegetable: 16

    Number of sponsors on House bill to pay for Sonics arena: 2

  • Republican Sen. Jerome Delvin had so many nice things to say about Gov. Chris Gregoire when called on unexpectedly to introduce her that Chris Mulick couldn't get them all in this blog post:
    She's always been there for us," Delvin said.

    "She's done a really good job, and I say that, my Republican colleagues here might say different, they might chide me a little bit," he continued. "She's doing a really good job with this session. She's shown a lot of leadership with different issues."

    It's enough to make the president of the Forward Washington Foundation groan.

  • And Olympia blogger and teacher Jim Anderson bemoaned the fact that the reporter shield law doesn't cover bloggers. But he hasn't given up hope:
    Someday, blogging friends. Someday.

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February 16, 2007

Rep. Inslee on the Iraq resolution

Posted by Richard Wagoner at 1:30 PM

Congressman Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, voted in support of the House resolution opposing President Bush's Iraq war plan. The text of his speech can be found here.

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February 15, 2007

Update: Reichert to vote no on anti-surge resolution

Posted by Richard Wagoner at 4:40 PM

The full text of Congressman Dave Reichert's speech on the Iraq war resolution can be found here.

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Rep. Adam Smith supports Iraq resolution

Posted by Richard Wagoner at 1:10 PM

Congressman Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, has thrown his support behind the Iraq war resolution opposing President Bush's troop increase. The text of his speech can be found here.

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Blogging lite

Posted by David Postman at 10:49 AM

I am off for a long weekend. I don't plan to do any blogging, but I hope that at least I'll be able to continue posting what our congressional delegation is saying this week about the Iraq surge resolution.

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Creating an ethical culture -- a view from Alaska

Posted by David Postman at 8:28 AM

In Olympia, a proposal to prohibit legislators from accepting free meals or gifts from lobbyists is going no where. Most legislators who I've heard talk about it say something along the lines of this: "If I could be bought for the price of a meal I don't deserve to be in office."

Ethics reform usually follows ethics scandals. We haven't had one here for a while. Scandal is what brought ethics to the forefront in D.C. certainly. Sometimes there can be an over-reaction, as laws are passed that may be unenforceable but a useful signal to voters.

In Alaska, lawmakers are just starting to deal with the fall out from a corruption scandal that exploded in to public last year with FBI raids of lawmakers' offices.

A friend of mine there is having to deal with some of this from a new viewpoint. Mike Doogan was an editor of mine at the Anchorage Daily News. Now he's a Democratic state representative from Anchorage. As an editor he was a tough guy, skeptical as any and often distrustful of politicians. He's the one who told me, "The truth doesn't necessarily sit half-way between two lies." That was his admonition that I needed to do reporting, not just report what Democrats and Republicans said on an issue and consider my story fair and complete.

Doogan wrote a column recently for our old paper where he argues against trying legislate against every freebie — and he lists a lot — that are suddenly available to a newly elected lawmaker.

Look, we need laws against taking bribes and self-dealing and other big ethical failings. But for the little things — and to ensure that little things don't become big things — we need an ethical culture.

But Doogan goes further than what I hear most lawmakers in Olympia saying. It may not be possible to legislate good behavior, he says, but lawmakers have a long ways to go to create that ethical culture. And even little things matter:

Little gifts lead to free meals lead to junkets and so on. And even if a few say no, most say yes. And those that say yes exert social pressure — sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle — on those who say no.

The point is that lawmakers need to enforce standards on each other. I'm sure Doogan isn't making any friends in Juneau when he writes:

But they don't. Many legislators pay attention to their own ethics, but they turn a blind eye to the antics of others. And even those who are concerned about their own ethics draw the line in different places. That's because ethics aren't always about what's right and wrong. A lot of ethical choices are about what's more right.

The current legislative culture provides no guidance on these "more right" questions. Its standard is a legal one: If you ain't breaking the law, it's OK. That's a problem for a couple of reasons.

First, an ethical culture should look like an ethical culture, and legislators eating free meals and taking free trips doesn't look ethical to most people.

I asked Doogan this morning what he thinks of the response we hear that any lawmaker who can be bought for the price of a meal shouldn't be in office in the first place. He gave an answer that'll give you a hint about why he's a successful writer.

It's hard to convince people you are unbiased when you are talking around a mouthful of dinner a lobbyist just bought you.

And part of the problem is the press. Reporters have to pay better attention to ethics, Doogan writes. And 20 years later I can still hear his lectures to me when I read it. We should be writing more about the culture that exists in the Capitol, and thinking about our role in that culture, too. Doogan always got the last word in our newsroom shouting matches, so I'll give him the honor here, too:

We need people who are involved in the process of governing — public officials, staffers, lobbyists — who see ethical behavior — their own and others' — as their responsibility, not as a set of laws and rules to either suffer under or find a way around.

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February 14, 2007

Goldstein's wrong-headed and just plain wrong journalism critique

Posted by David Postman at 10:00 PM

David Goldstein crows about how he has no pretense toward objectivity. That's the only way to explain his fatuous bit of journalism criticism today. Goldstein read stories about the Sonics in the Times and the P-I, and as he often does, decides that the Times is showing bias.

As I've said before, I think alleging bias in a newspaper reporter is a serious matter. I know it happens. But not in this case, not with these reporters, and Goldstein should have been able to figure it out before he offered this:

I'm not implying any intentional bias on the part of the various reporters, just that bias inevitably exists, and inevitably seeps through every journalist's work, no matter how hard they try to suppress it. (And sometimes, because they try to suppress it.)

I can only assume then that Goldstein would accept that his baseless attack was motivated by his own — never suppressed — bias.

Here's the nut of Goldstein's beef with the Times story:

According to the Times, the big story was the stunning, plot-twisting conclusion to the Bellevue vs. Renton "mystery." According to the P-I, the big story was the Sonics intention to fleece $400 million out of taxpayers to build them the most expensive basketball arena in the nation.

This is pretty simple to explain. The money piece of this story was not news.

The Seattle Times reported Feb. 9:

After weeks of waiting, state lawmakers on Thursday finally got to see the details of a $300 million tax package that the Sonics are proposing for a new arena in King County.

The legislation, which probably won't be formally introduced until Monday, is similar to what the team's previous owners failed to sell to the Legislature the past two years. It would allow King County to extend several existing taxes that are currently being used to pay off the debt on Safeco Field, Qwest Field and the Kingdome, which was demolished in 2000.

There was a graphic spelling out in detail how the Sonics wanted taxpayers to fund the new arena. (It was also on my blog the day before.)

The P-I had a similar story a few days earlier, on Feb. 6, though it lacked the level of detail in the Times story, or a graphic. The headline on that story was:

$300 million in public funds for Sonics

I have no beef with today's P-I story. It was clear, well-written, and had a lot of snap in the lede. I think it's a good day for journalism when the Times and the P-I take different angles or dig up different facts. That's what makes having two papers important. But Goldstein just isn't paying attention if he thinks the financing plan was the news of the day.

As for the Renton vs. Bellevue angle, that was, in fact, news. It wasn't known before yesterday. It was new.

Goldstein does no better in his more detailed critique. He says:

Both articles report that the proposed arena would cost about $500 million, and that the Sonics are requesting $300 million in "state-authorized" taxes — but only the P-I spells out that the tax money would come from King County residents, not the state.

I'm not sure what he's talking about. But let's look at the stories. The P-I said:

Bennett told the Senate Ways and Means Committee that he expects the public to provide most of the financing — $300 million from the state, about $100 million from the city of Renton — and that most of the money from the facility should go to the team.

(I added the emphasis to make this easier for all concerned.)

The Times said:

With a request for $300 million in state-authorized taxes, Bennett said the remaining $200 million or so would be split among private investors and the city of Renton. He said team owners have talked informally about a private contribution of $100 million.

And both papers had graphics that detailed the financing plan. And the details were the same.

I see from the comments on his post that one of his readers called the analysis "brilliant." The reader said he was particularly surprised by that because "you wrote your post at mid-morning, after having pounded them big-time the evening before."

I think he should have slept it off a little more.

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Impeachment measure introduced

Posted by David Postman at 5:02 PM

Freshmen Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, introduced his resolution today calling for congressional investigation and possible impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. That makes Washington the fourth state with some sort of legislative impeachment measure.

When Oemig began his afternoon press conference I was the only reporter there. Two more showed up before he was done. But the room was packed with anti-war activists — about 50 people who cheered him with a standing ovation and thanked him for his "bravery."

There were no other legislators on hand. But Oemig has eight Democratic co-sponsors, Debbie Regala, Jeannie Kohl-Welles, Adam Kline, Harriet Spanel, Darlene Fairley, Claudia Kauffman, Karen Fraser and Margarita Prentice.

Oemig spent some time in his press conference telling the activists that while some may not support the measure "they're not our enemies, they're not chickens."

"Let's be careful in our criticism that we don't make enemies of the very people we are depending on to make this move. ... Let's be careful how we talk so we can keep people together on this issue and keep advancing all of the agenda."

He said that some of his colleagues who did not co-sponsor the measure probably agree it's the right thing to do. Maybe. But at least one who did sign on is a less than an enthusiastic backer. I ran into Kline as I left the press conference and he said he had been very reluctant to be a co-sponsor. He thinks there are grounds for impeachment, and doesn't disagree that it could be the right fate for Bush, but he says it may not be realistic to push for it now. And in any case, it will be a distraction, he says, for Senate Democrats.

"I don't want that to be taken as the main event when there are much more substantive reasons we were elected. We were given a large majority and with that a huge responsibility."

Oemig knows that some think impeachment is off the topic for the state Legislature:

"Some folks have submitted that maybe working on this investigation would sidetrack us, derail us and prevent us from doing other important work. But that's not how things work. We multi-task. We are advancing on all these areas and this is one very, very, important one."

UPDATE: I just listened to a recording of House Speaker Frank Chopp's media availability. It's unlikely the impeachment resolution would get a vote in the House, no matter what Oemig is able to get the Senate to do. Chopp said:

"We have 105 days to get done on time and we have a lot to get done before 105 days is up. We are going to focus on that. Now I have a lot of strong opinion as you can imagine about what a disaster the Iraq war has been. But I just said it. Do I need to say it by passing something on the floor and taking up a lot o people's times on that? ... It's unlikely that we'll do that."

But that's not to say he thinks it's a silly endeavor.

"I don't think it's frivolous. In fact, it would be a very legitimate discussion, a very important discussion. But I have to manage our time well to get the job done we have to do as a state legislature dealing with state issues."
:

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Reichert to vote no on anti-surge resolution

Posted by David Postman at 4:36 PM

Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, is about to speak in the House. I'll get a link to his full comments as soon as possible. But he opposes the resolution. His prepared statement concludes this way:

Is this new plan going to work? I don't know. No one in this body voting today knows. What I do know is that we must find a way to achieve victory and simply saying no to a new plan without offering an alternative won't work and sends a terrible message to our enemies and our soldiers.

This is an historic war. America is engaged in a war for our freedoms on a scale that we've never experienced before. I understand the dissension, the questions and the uncertainty. I understand that the cost is high and the way is often unclear. I served as a law enforcement officer and lost partners and colleagues who were close to me. I understand the cost of freedom and the sacrifices that must be made. The sacrifices are hard. But we must remain focused and not let those sacrifices be in vain.

Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote no on this resolution; Lincoln warned us against tying a criticism of the war to support of the troops. Let's send a message to our enemies and our troops alike: We will always support our young men and women who put their lives on the line for freedom.

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Cantwell says Coast Guard program is "fleecing the fleet"

Posted by David Postman at 4:12 PM

In D.C. today, Sen. Maria Cantwell convened her first meeting as chairwoman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard with tough words and a promise of increased Congressional oversight for a troubled Coast Guard plan to modernize its fleet.

The program is called Deepwater and was sold as an innovative way for the military to work with defense contractors to get modernized helicopters, ships and planes for the Coast Guard. The contractors have unprecedented control over the projects they are building. But costs are up by billions, some projects have been stopped for safety concerns and delays are widespread. Cantwell told Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen and defense contractors at the hearing:

If someone thought this was a creative experiment — it has failed. And that failure has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is the fleecing of the fleet.

This is the Deepwater record I'm looking at:

  • The 123-foot patrol boat conversion has failed, 8 Coast Guard patrol boats are now out of service, and $100 million has been wasted;
  • after spending $25 million, the Coast Guard suspended the Fast Response Cutter project because the contractors' design failed to meet testing requirements;
  • the National Security Cutter is over-budget and the current design and construction fails to meet the Coast Guard's performance goals; and
  • Deepwater's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, "Eagle Eye," has huge delays, and the prototype crashed.

The New York Times published an in-depth two-part series on Deepwater in December. Among findings by the Times:

The initial venture — converting rusting 110-foot patrol boats, the workhorses of the Coast Guard, into more versatile 123-foot cutters — has been canceled after hull cracks and engine failures made the first eight boats unseaworthy.

Plans to build a new class of 147-foot ships with an innovative hull have been halted after the design was found to be flawed.

And the first completed new ship — a $564 million behemoth christened last month — has structural weaknesses that some Coast Guard engineers believe may threaten its safety and limit its life span, unless costly repairs are made.

Part of what bothers Cantwell is the amount of independence given the contractors, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

I'm concerned that this contract gives industry too much authority, offers little incentive to control costs, and sidelines the Coast Guard when it comes to oversight.

...

I want to put all parties on notice that there will be increased congressional oversight of this program and we will do what it takes to fix this. There will be hearings and there will be continued investigations.

There already have been investigations from the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Coast Guard. In testimony prepared for today's hearing, Inspector General Richard Skinner explained the relationship between the contractors and the Coast Guard. It's a little bit of government-speak, but worth understanding.

The Deepwater acquisition strategy is a non-traditional approach by which private industry was asked to not only develop and propose an optimal system-of-systems mix of assets, infrastructure, information systems, and people solution designed to accomplish all of the Coast Guard's Deepwater missions, but also to provide the assets, the systems integration, integrated logistics support, and the program management. Under a more traditional acquisition strategy, the government would have separately contracted for each major activity or asset involved, such as cutters, aircraft, their logistics support, communications equipment, systems integration, and program management support.

Some have suggested the contractors, not the Coast Guard, are essentially in charge. Deepwater audits paint a troubled picture. Skinner said:

Common themes and risks emerged from these audits, primarily the dominant influence of expediency, flawed contract terms and conditions, poorly defined performance requirements, and inadequate management and technical oversight. These deficiencies contributed to schedule delays, cost increases, and asset designs that failed to meet minimum Deepwater performance requirements.

Allen acknowledged problems with Deepwater, but said it remains the best way to equip the Coast Guard. (His prepared testimony can be read here.)

Our ability to save lives, interdict drug and alien smugglers, and protect ports, waterways and natural resources depends on our having the best-trained people operating a modern, state-of-the-art fleet. The Deepwater Program has and will continue to provide America with more capable, interoperable assets that will close today's operational gaps and enable the Coast Guard to perform its demanding missions more effectively, efficiently and safely.

Allen said a plan to convert old patrol boats has been a failure. There have been hull problems that stopped the project and, he said, "Technical problems continued in spite of multiple attempts at repair."

Removing these boats from service was a difficult decision and has added to our critical gap in patrol boat hours. I know that this is of great concern to each of you. I assure you that I, too, am concerned — my highest priority is to mitigate and fill this gap as quickly as possible with the most capable assets.

Allen said he has created a group of legal, contracting and engineering experts "to examine the process at all stages, from beginning design work until we tied up the boats." He conceded that the Coast guard "could have been more proactive in informing Congress — and this Subcommittee" about the problems. Allen also said he is personally working with the CEOs of Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman concerns of increasing costs.

But he defended the foundation of Deepwater.

I've also read that the Coast Guard is not in control of the Deepwater Program; that we've somehow abrogated our oversight responsibilities and handed industry the "keys to the vault." That is not true. The Coast Guard has been and remains fully involved in the management of this program and has made all final and critical decisions.

The contractors also defended Deepwater. Philip Teel, president of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, said there has been "an extraordinary level of transparency" in the program.

The Coast Guard has been involved in every aspect of the program throughout its history.

He said a majority of cost increases in a program to replace aging high endurance cutters was due to post 9/11 requirements for the ships and from delays caused by Hurricane Katrina. Leo Mackay, vice president and general manager, Coast Guard Systems, Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors, said it is the "customer's view" and "not that of industry" that prevails.

The way forward will be difficult, but given the capabilities of the participants and the strategic imperative to better outfit our Coast Guard so the safety and security of our nation is improved, the Deepwater program is eminently achievable.

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Rep. Larsen on House Iraq resolution

Posted by David Postman at 4:08 PM

Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, spoke today on the House resolution opposing President Bush's Iraq troop increase. Here's the text of his comments.

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McDermott on anti-surge resolution

Posted by David Postman at 7:44 AM

Here's what Congressman Jim McDermott said on the House floor Tuesday as part of the week-long debate over President Bush's Iraq plans. I hope to be able to get copies of what all members of Washington's delegation say about the resolution and will post them as soon as I do.

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February 13, 2007

Impeachment measure cites intel failures, state casualties

Posted by David Postman at 8:50 PM

Tomorrow Sen. Eric Oemig will introduce a joint memorial laying out his case for why the U.S. Congress should investigate to see if there is sufficient evidence to impeach President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Oemig will unveil the measure at an afternoon press conference. It includes accusations of wrongdoing in the run-up to the war and in the administration's electronic surveillance program. It is localized, by saying state residents likely were subject to warrantless eavesdropping and:

The war with Iraq has cost the lives of many Washington State residents and squandered taxpayer money from the State of Washington;

The focus is on pre-war intelligence, though. Oemig's measure cites comments from last year by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who said of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:

The Committee's investigation into prewar intelligence on Iraq has revealed that the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq was fundamentally misleading.


Oemig is relying on U.S. House rules that say petitions "from the country at large" can be presented to the House as well as a parliamentary manual that says impeachment can be instigated by a state legislature. The joint memorial will be sent to Congress, if passed by the Legislature, and says:

Your Memorialists respectfully request, in order to preserve confidence in the office of the Presidency and the Executive branch, that our senators and representatives in the United States Congress determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney with the above offenses, and if so, to follow the Constitutional process of impeachment.

It's unclear how enthusiastic Democratic lawmakers will be about Oemig's move. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said last week that if it were to get a vote it would have to come after the deadline for other bill action. I talked to her this evening and she repeated that, saying there are too many other issues that have to be dealt with first. She said:

"It doesn't fit directly with our priorities."

She said it would be debated within the Senate Democratic caucus. Only if there is strong support there will it move to the floor, she said.

Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, told my colleague Ralph Thomas today that she has scheduled a March 1 hearing on the measure for her Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee.

Also that day Fairley will hold a public hearing on Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' Senate Joint Memorial opposing the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

Over at The Slog, Josh Feit calls Oemig's proposal a "high profile, dramatic anti-Bush statement." He says Brown has her own, "low-profile, but arguably more pragmatic piece of legislation to defy Bush and his war machine."

But if you look at the joint memorial, it calls on President Bush and Congress not to federalize the Washington Air and Army National Guard. I'm pretty sure at least a couple of the Republican co-sponsors would be surprised to hear the bill described as part of an effort to "defy Bush and his war machine."

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FEC dismisses Democrats' complaint against McGavick

Posted by David Postman at 4:27 PM

The Federal Election Commission today dismissed a complaint the Democratic Party had filed against 2006 Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick. During McGavick's campaign against Sen. Maria Cantwell, state Democrats had said that McGavick's compensation package when he left Safeco insurance was, in fact, an illegal contribution to his campaign.
.
But the FEC says there was no evidence of that. .

The Commission concluded that these payments were ordinary employment-related compensation made irrespective of Mr. McGavick's candidacy and found no reason to believe that any of the respondents violated the Act.

An executive compensation expert told the Times when the complaint was filed that there was nothing unusual about the size of McGavick's severance package.
McGavick was never worried about the complaint, and said in
April:

"This is standard political junk that people are so sick of."

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DOT chief declines viaduct honor

Posted by David Postman at 10:32 AM

State Department of Transportation secretary Doug MacDonald got this e-mail last night from a concerned citizen:

________________________________________
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2007 5:50 PM
To: MacDonald, Doug
Subject: Viaduct

I was wondering if you would like your new namesake to be the Viaduct? I think it needs to be renamed if it is rebuilt. The new name should reflect those who have been instrumental in rebuilding Seattle's largest eyesore and I (we) think you, Chopp and the Governor are prime candidates. That way all the generations that follow know who it was that imposed such a horror on them. I spoke with several people who like my idea and your name has been recommended several times.

How dare you not look at this as a quality of life issue?

MacDonald's e-mail in response said:

Since I don't have a driver's license and commute by bicycle and bus, I think the honor would be rather wasted, don't you? However, thanks for thinking of me.

MacDonald has vision problems that stopped him last year from getting his license renewed.

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Alaskans oppose Washington port tax proposal

Posted by David Postman at 8:21 AM

There's an Alaska/Washington state battle brewing. And it has nothing to do with. Maria Cantwell or Ted Stevens. At least not yet.

Alaska lawmakers are unhappy about a Washington proposal to begin taxing sea-going cargo containers when they come in and out of state ports. Alaskans say that since 97 percent of everything shipped to their state -- by weight -- comes by water, this would greatly increase the cost of already spendy goods. And little goes the other way, meaning empty containers coming back from Alaska would be charged the same rate as the full ones that went north.

Senate Bill 5207, sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, would create a new container processing fee and a new "freight congestion relief account."

Expenditures from the account could be used only for projects that reduce congestion on freight routes by rail or highway. A fiscal note for the bill says it would raise about $287 million over the next two-year budget cycle, about $433 million in 2009-2011 and about $467 million in 2011-2113.

The fee would be $50 per 20-feet of container. Many of the Alaska containers are twice that long. It now costs about $200 to move a container through the Port of Tacoma, the News Tribune reported in January.

In Juneau Thursday, Alaska lawmakers will hold a hearing on House Joint Resolution 8, which tells Washington lawmakers to look elsewhere for new transportation dollars. The resolution says Haugen's bill would be "detrimental to the trading relationship between Washington state and this state" and "would damage this state's economy and cripple many isolated communities in this state by raising the cost of living by several percent."

The Alaska resolution has bipartisan sponsors, including Republican House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels.

The bill is also opposed by local port operators who say it will drive business to ports in California and British Columbia. California passed a bill similar to what Haugen is proposing. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. In part, he said in his veto message, because it included "only two ports and applies only to goods shipped in containers, ignoring all other forms of shipping and ports of entry."

UPDATE: The Anchorage Daily News has a story on the bill today. And it looks like the bill isn't likely to go anywhere very soon.

To allay concerns that the tax would drive cargo business away, Haugen said she is reaching out to California lawmakers, urging them to pass a similar measure in their state, and won't pursue her legislation unless they do. She also said she'd likely move to lower the proposed rate from $100 to $60 per 40-foot container.


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February 12, 2007

Anti-war activists "salivate" at thought of impeachment

Posted by David Postman at 7:02 PM

DailyKos has a post up by dinazina on Sen. Eric Oemig's call for Congress to consider impeachment against President Bush. Oemig's announcement is big news among the anti-war left. The Kos headline reads:

Impeach? WA Sen Oemig: Hell yes! Photos!

The Kos diarist says history is in the making:

As the U.S. House members dutifully recite that "Impeachment is off the table" -- We the People insist it is ON THE TABLE -- and we are salivating for a serving of justice!

Oemig said last week that he decided to push for an investigation of Bush's handling of the war because money spent in Iraq -- particularly on questionable occupation expenses -- could be better used for education and health care. Those were his priorities in running, he said, and this was a way to accomplish those goals.

The DailyKos report from the scene of Saturday's announcement says it was more of an epiphany that will lead Oemig to introduce a measure Wednesday.

Eric told us he hadn't run for the State Senate with the intention of leading a charge for impeachment. He had many priorities in mind, and commitment to many progressive causes, such as alternative energy development.

Soon after taking office, he decided that nothing was more important that righting the power abuses at the very top. He wants to be able to tell his one-year-old son, when he's old enough to ask questions, what he did to make things right.

The man Oemig beat in November to win the open Senate seat, former Rep. Toby Nixon, wrote to his supporters today questioning whether Oemig was honest with voters:

Oemig's campaign web site said (and still says) "the Eastside needs a State Senator who solves problems and gets things done. We cannot afford more of the same old thing. I'm not a politician, and I reject the extremism and partisan bickering of Olympia". It also says "Elected officials must live up to the highest standards of honesty". Well, Mr. Oemig, was it honest of you to run a campaign saying you're going to "solve problems and get things done" and that you "reject partisan bickering", and to turn around "soon after taking office" and take the lead on impeaching the President? How is that living "up to the highest standards of honesty". It certainly looks like "extremism and partisan bickering" to me.

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New tool to fight drunken driving

Posted by David Postman at 2:12 PM

From AP:

SANTA FE -- New Mexico is taking its fight against drunken driving to men's restrooms around the state.

The state has ordered 500 talking urinal cakes that will deliver a recorded anti-DWI message to bar and restaurant patrons who make one last pit stop before getting behind the wheel.

"Hey there, big guy. Having a few drinks?" a female voice says a few seconds after an approaching male sets off a motion sensor in the device. "It's time to call a cab or ask a sober friend for a ride home."

If you talk back to the cake, you're too drunk to drive. And if you don't set off the motion sensor, well, that's another problem all together.

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Personnel news

Posted by David Postman at 1:40 PM

Elliott Bundy started work today on Rudy Giuliani's exploratory presidential campaign. Bundy was the oft-quoted spokesman for Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick. Before that he did the same for Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski. He is a regional communications director in the Giuliani campaign's New York headquarters. And it's a little bit of a homecoming. Bundy graduated from Columbia University.

Giuliani campaigned here for McGavick in October.

UPDATE: Bruce Gryniewski has left his job as executive director of Washington Conservation Voters to join The Gallatin Group, a public affairs consulting firm. Previously Gryniewski was executive director of Washington CeaseFire.

Taking his place at WCV is Kurt Fritts, a veteran Democratic staffer who is well known in Olympia. Fritts had been the group's political director. He's also worked as Gov. Chris Gregoire's director of external affairs and for Senate Democrats, both as a policy analyst and as director of the campaign committee.

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State legislator wants Bush impeachment "on the table"

Posted by David Postman at 11:40 AM

Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, will introduce a measure to push Congress to debate impeachment of President George Bush. Oemig said last week that he was working on a joint memorial to call for investigation of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, but that it would probably not mention impeachment.

But that is his goal. The freshmen Democrat just issued a press release saying:

Sen. Oemig to Congress: 'Put impeachment back on the table'

He plans to introduce the measure and hold a press conference Wednesday where he'll call for an "investigation into the activities of the president and the vice president in justifying the invasion and occupation of Iraq." The press releases says Washington will join California, New Mexico and Vermont in "considering petitions to the U.S. Congress to put impeachment back on the Congressional agenda."

Those states have taken different approaches. In New Mexico, Senate Democrats have introduced Senate Joint Resolution 5 that says Bush and Cheney's activities related to the Iraq war:

warrant impeachment and trial and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the New Mexico congressional
delegation be requested to cause to be instituted in the
congress of the United States proper proceedings for the
investigation of the activities of George W. Bush and Richard
B. Cheney, to the end that they may be impeached and removed
from their offices;

In Vermont, nearly 70 state lawmakers signed a letter calling on Congress to investigate the President. The Rutland Herald reported:

The letter written by Rep. Richard Marek, D-Newfane, asks that hearings be held on issues such as Bush's domestic surveillance program and the Iraq war to determine if censure or "setting in motion the constitutional process for possible removal from office" are necessary.

Some towns have called directly for Bush's impeachment, while Marek's letter alludes to that outcome, the exact word is never used. He said he tempered the language because he believed the constitutional process, which begins with hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives, should be followed to ensure "due process."

Oemig talked about his measure at an anti-war gathering Saturday. According to a report at the Portland Independent Media Center, Oemig said he would model his joint memorial on the New Mexico measure.

Speaking at a packed house in Bellevue, Washington on Feburary 10th at an event sponsored by the Eastside Fellowship of Reconciliation, Senator Oemig stated that restoring the Constitution and the balance of powers in the federal government is "a moral imperative." As he a new Senator, he has been advised not to take this on. However, he stated that he does not want to ever have to tell his son that he did nothing to stop democracy from being dismantled. It is not about partisan politics, he said. It is about stopping the abuses at the federal level. At it is most basic, it is simple a case of right and wrong.

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Two views of Murray's anti-war credentials

Posted by David Postman at 9:26 AM

Chad (The Left) Shue see two wildly divergent views surfacing about Sen. Patty Murray's anti-war efforts. Locally, Shue points to this post by Noemie Maxwell at WashBlog. Maxwell says of recent tough talk by Murray, about President Bush's Iraq plan, "it looks to me like political cover for your failure to take meaningful action."

There'll be a demonstration outside Murray's Seattle office Wednesday by anti-war activists, who Maxwell said have been "trying to get her to pledge a vote against Bush's supplemental to the budget." Murray voted against the initial war authorization resolution but that has lost some currency with anti-war forces.

For another view, Shue turns to D.C. Times reporter Alicia Mundy's piece saying Murray has become a leading anti-war voice in Congress:

There was a time when the fiercest anti-war voice in the delegation belonged to Rep. Jim McDermott, Seattle's favorite liberal Democrat. But these days, Sen. Patty Murray is center stage.

Shue says it's Murray as seen through "bi-coastal lenses." And where does he fall on the question?

I completely agree that Murray has been totally ineffective in helping to stop the occupation in Iraq. Since her vote against the IWR she has done a pretty good job of playing duck and cover over the entire Iraq issue except where she can shield herself behind the veterans.

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Finding bipartisanship in D.C.

Posted by David Postman at 7:52 AM

On Meet the Press yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Leader John Boehner butted heads in a debate about what Congress would do about President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq. It was a sort of classic talk-show exchange, and NBC highlights it on its website with a video excerpt headlined, "House leaders quibble over Iraq."

REP. BOEHNER: Steny, if you're not going to cut off troops -- cut off the funding for the troops in harm's way then why not allow Republicans to bring a resolution to the floor and let the House vote up or down on that resolution?

REP. HOYER: That's a good question, and you're going to have that opportunity. But initially...

REP. BOEHNER: When? When? When?

REP. HOYER: ...initially, the first thing we're going to do...

REP. BOEHNER: When? When?

REP. HOYER: Within the next 30, 45 days...

REP. BOEHNER: Well, see, that's the point--that's the point, Steny.

REP. HOYER: ...John. You got to have--well, John, you asked me a question.

REP. BOEHNER: You told your members...

REP. HOYER: Let me answer it. Let me answer it.

REP. BOEHNER: You told your members the other day...

REP. HOYER: John, let me answer the question.

REP. BOEHNER: ...this is the first step--this is the first step.

REP. HOYER: OK. I'm saying...

And so on. So how to bring some feel-good bipartisanship to the show? Ask Hoyer and Boehner about lobbyists, fundraising and ethics. Tim Russert read to them from a story in yesterday's New York Times, "Congress Finds Ways to Avoid Lobbyist Limits."

The 110th Congress opened with the passage of new rules intended to curb the influence of lobbyists by prohibiting them from treating lawmakers to meals, trips, stadium box seats or the discounted use of private jets.

...

The lobbyists and their employers typically end up paying for the events, but within the new rules.
Instead of picking up the lawmaker's tab, lobbyists pay a political fund-raising committee set up by the lawmaker. In turn, the committee pays the legislator's way.

Lobbyists and fund-raisers say such trips are becoming increasingly popular, partly as a quirky consequence of the new ethics rules.

Russert wanted to know what lawmakers would do about the loophole, saying:

It's just a way to circumvent a law you just passed.

The short answer is no, they will not move to close the loophole. It's just the way business is done, they said.

REP. BOEHNER: Tim, we, we raise political money to run campaigns. Democrats do it, and Republicans do it. When, when we put in the campaign finance laws, the Shays-Meehan bill a number of years ago, I voted against it because I thought it was nonsense. I think what we ought to do is we ought to have full disclosure, full disclosure of all of the money that we raise and how it is spent. And I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant. But there, there are a number of different ways that we go about raising those funds. Some of these are golf events, some of them are, are receptions, some of them are dinners.

REP. HOYER: Tim, let...

MR. RUSSERT: Will you -- will you try to close this loophole?

REP. HOYER: Tim, let me say that, in terms of this loophole, what we did when we came to the Congress, we adopted some ethics rules which are going to make sure that, first of all, you can't get meals, you can't live off lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Some members did that; some members are now out of Congress and in jail. You cannot have lobbyists or organizations pay for your travel on their private jets. We said that's not going to happen. You can't do it even with your own money. Now, as John pointed out, there is fund-raising. Fund-raisings usually have a reception, a dinner or an event of some type. That was not dealt with in those rules, and that'll be dealt with in the campaign finance rules. But, very frankly, the answer ultimately is if you're going to stop that, it's public financing. Neither the public nor the Congress is going to support public financing, so you're going to have fund-raising. So whatever way you do that is going to be subject to scrutiny. And I agree with John, public disclosure so the public knows what's going on is -- until you get the public financing -- the only way the public can check that.

REP. BOEHNER: There aren't any of my taxpayers who'll want their hard-earned tax money that they're paying to the government to be given to politicians so they can throw mud at each other.

REP. HOYER: I tend to agree with John that the public doesn't support that...

MR. RUSSERT: So this, this will...

REP. HOYER: ...for just those reasons.

MR. RUSSERT: This will go on?

REP. HOYER: Fund-raising's going to go on.

And so will the trips to Disneyland. The Times reported:

In just the last two months, lawmakers invited lobbyists to help pay for a catalog of outings: lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker's honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents' Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like "Mary Poppins" and "The Drowsy Chaperone" (also $2,500 for two).

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February 9, 2007

In other news

Posted by David Postman at 8:55 AM

  • Peter Callaghan says in The News Tribune that there will be no action on bills that would delay reading and writing WASls.
    Both Gov. Chris Gregoire and House Speaker Frank Chopp said this week that bills to kill the reading and writing WASLs by delaying them until 2018 will not become law.

    End of discussion.

  • At his Olympian blog Adam Wilson has two posts here and here about a fight over how much lawmakers feel they need to know about the cost of bills.
  • Chris Mulick takes a break at the Tri-City Herald from chronicling the Best of Frank Chopp to fact-check the Speaker's boasting. Chopp told reporters the other day that the House had passed two-and-a-half times more bills so far than ever before in the first four weeks of session.
    According to floor activity reports, the House had passed a grand total of 25 bills through last Friday. If Chopp's story is true, that would make the prior record 10 bills.

    So perhaps the record isn't so impressive.

    And if you're thinking those extra 15 bills had a lot of meat to them, think again. Of the 25 bills that passed in this session's first four weeks, 21 were approved unanimously in the 98-member chamber. The other four bills produced a combined total of 30 "no" votes.

  • The state Gambling Commission votes today on a compact that would allow the Spokanes to get thousands more electronic slot machines, reports Rich Roesler in the Spokesman Review.
    Even if the Gambling Commission votes against the compact, it's unclear whether that would stop the deal. Gov. Chris Gregoire, who, under federal law, is ultimately whom the tribe is really negotiating with, said recently that although she hadn't read all the details, she's likely to sign the agreement.
  • And Roesler has this on a fight over the new chairman of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.
  • On the editorial side, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin makes a push for Rep. Chris Hurst's bill to prohibit lawmakers from taking free food or drink.
    Lawmakers have become so accustomed to the free lunch that they don't even notice. It's like breathing in Olympia.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us - those who actually pay for our meals - think that having someone pick up the tab is pretty special.

    In politics, perception is reality. The people do believe that the $550,000 spent last year entertaining lawmakers did buy influence.

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February 8, 2007

What does this mean for the Material Girl?

Posted by David Postman at 6:21 PM

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Lisa Brown says domestic partnership law likely

Posted by David Postman at 5:36 PM

Domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples has a better chance of becoming law this year than tougher regulation of gun shows or lowering the threshold for voter-approval of school levies. That's what I came away with from Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown's meeting with reporters this afternoon.

Brown said she is confident that the domestic partnership bill will pass the Senate this session. She hasn't counted the votes yet. But, she said, "I believe we will have enough votes to pass it."

The vote count is in question for a proposed constitutional amendment that would lower the vote threshold for school levies to a simple majority. That bill has cleared its Senate committees, but is "not quite there on the votes," Brown said. She needs 33 votes to pass the measure that would put the amendment on the ballot.

On guns, Brown said she doesn't know how many votes there are in the Senate for the bill to require background checks for sales at gun shows. Yesterday House Speaker Frank Chopp said there aren't nearly enough votes to pass the House version. And that fact alone could stop the bill in the Senate. Brown said she does take into consideration whether a bill — and I bet particularly when it's a controversial bill — has a chance in the House. Why put senators through a tough vote if the bill is destined to die in the House? As Brown said, there's only so much time available for floor debate and the gun debate could be a lengthy one.

Brown also said she doesn't expect the Senate to pass any bills that would change the way people are paid for collecting signatures on initiatives. She said the Senate's work on the issue is likely to be limited to a bill that would require signature gatherers to sign petitions they are circulating and one that increases the fee for filing initiatives from $5 — the level set in 1912 — to $100. The fee is refunded if the initiative qualifies for the ballot.

I thought Chopp also was lukewarm on initiative regulation bills. But not everyone saw it that way. At the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog, Stilwell wrote of, "One Frank Chopp, two reporters*"

David Postman:

House Speaker Frank Chopp told reporters this afternoon that he doesn't support the full-scale move to regulate the initiative business. He says he's worried about fraud, but said he isn't sure the bills aimed at solving that problem would really work.

Josh Feit: Chopp said he strongly believed in the public's right to petition the government (citing his own history running progressive initiatives). He said, however, fraud occurs, and his caucus was right to want to "stop that fraud." He kind of contradicted himself, though, by using Eyman's recent failure to get on the ballot because of ineligible signatures as an example of the problem.

Um... if the secretary of state caught Eyman's false signatures, then the system's working, no?

Well, I'll report, you decide. Here's what Chopp said on the subject. He was asked about the long list of initiative-related bills and whether he supports them. He said:

Generally, no. Probably more than any legislator in this place I've done more initiatives and referendums than anybody, not to say me personally, but I have been part of groups that have done that. ... So, I strongly believe in the right of the people to petition their government and have the initiative or referendum. So I don't want to impinge on that right. At the same time, when there is gross fraud going on in the collection of some of these signatures I think it's in the public interest to try to stop that fraud.

So there's a couple of bills we're looking at. Not the long list of those bills — most of those are all dead. But there are a couple that we're looking at that will deal with the fraud issue. I mean, it's just gross. It's happening not only in this state but other states, where people are just literally going to the phone book and writing names down consecutively. And that's part of the reasons why Eyman's last one didn't pass. I think ... he said there were all these signatures but a lot of them were not valid.

...

There are some problems there. But I've got to be very careful about how I approach this because I want to keep that fundamental right there real solid. And I'm not sure if these proposals actually will do much in terms of stopping that fraud.

On Eyman's most recent initiative attempt he turned in 266,006 signatures but only about 220,000 were found to be valid by the Secretary of State's office.

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Extending temporary taxes to pay for Sonics' arena

Posted by David Postman at 2:56 PM

I just saw the details from a spreadsheet the Sonics are circulating in Olympia on a proposed financing for a new arena. I haven't seen the actual bill. The financing plan seems very similar to what was proposed in 2005, and uses taxes created or increased to build a new ballpark for the Mariners and a stadium for the Seahawks.

It's a $423 million plan that extends or diverts a series of existing King County taxes.

The biggest piece would be $150 million from a 17-year extension on the sales tax credit the Legislature created to pay for Safeco Field. There's also $77 million that would come from extending the credit that was approved for Qwest Field an extra eight years.

The tax credits allow the county to keep a percentage of sales tax that otherwise would have been sent to the state.

The bill would also take some of a King County restaurant tax that is reportedly coming in faster than expected — it was passed to pay off Safeco bonds — as well as portions of the car rental and hotel/motel taxes increased for the baseball and football facilities.

UPDATE: We now have copies of the documents with details of the proposal. You can see the spreadsheet here and the summary of the bill here.

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Legislature to debate Iraq war?

Posted by David Postman at 1:50 PM

State Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, wants the Legislature to have a say on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Oemig told me he is working on a joint memorial that would, at least, call for an investigation of the financial aspects of the war and occupation.

"Right now the occupation in Iraq is costing us a lot of money and there's even some concern about where that money is going — maybe it's being misappropriated."

That, Oemig said, fits into his main priority in Olympia, which he said is to find more funding for education and health care. If money is being misspent on Iraq, he figures that could be re-directed to health care and education. I called Oemig to ask him about the war because of a press release we got today from the Eastside Fellowship For Reconciliation. It went a bit further than what Oemig told me, with the headline saying:

STATE SENATOR ERIC OEMIG WILL PUBLICLY ANNOUNCE HIS INTENTION TO INTRODUCTION A RESOLUTION FOR THE IMPEACHMENT OF PRESIDENT BUSH AND VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY TO THE WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE.

Oemig said he'll be at an event organized by the group Saturday in Bellevue. He said he is still working on the wording of the joint memorial, but said it probably would not include talk of impeachment, "but certainly would request an investigation." He said a lot of his constituents have talked to him about impeachment, though. He said that while attorneys can't agree on what is an impeachable offense:

"From what I can tell from polls, most Americans and many of my constituents could tell you what is an impeachable offense."

He said he's been working with "quite a few" other senators on the measure.

The left is already excited about the prospect of an impeachment resolution, and Oemig may have to try to put the smoke back in the chimney. A post at the Democracy for Vancouver Web site says:

This is a wonderful milestone is our campaign to impeach through the Washington State Legislature.

And the press release from the Eastside fellowship quotes director Linda Boyd saying:

"Let's hope Washington State legislators will vote IMPEACHMENT. Concerned citizens of conscience have had it with war crimes and torture. A stand against impeachment would mean a legislator approves spying on Americans, destroying our treasured, hard-won freedoms, and an imperial President."

Stefan Sharkansky says he doesn't see how impeachment has anything to do with what Oemig campaigned on.

UPDATE: I'm a bit confused whether Oemig wants to back away from the press release that announced he will call for impeachment of Bush. It certainly seemed that way when I talked to him, and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said this afternoon her understanding is the measure would call for an investigation.

But at The Slog, Josh Feit is writing about Oemig and was sent information from the senator's office explaining how parlimentary procedure in the U.S. House sets out "various methods of setting an impeachment in motion," including, "by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State."

Brown said the Bush measure will definitely be discussed in the Democratic caucus. But if it gets a hearing or a vote, her preference would be to wait until after the Legislature's cut off for action on bills.

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What the SEIU/Wal-Mart alliance means in Olympia

Posted by David Postman at 8:55 AM

Strange bedfellows comes up a lot this morning in coverage of the new alliance between Wal-Mart and the Service Employees International Union. SEIU may not have been the leading critics of the retail giant — that'd be their brothers and sisters in the UFCW — but the union has funded Wal-Mart Watch and in many places in the country, including here, is one of the most powerful and politically active unions.

The Washington Post led it's story this way:

Two once-implacable foes in the business world found common ground yesterday, at least for a few minutes, as they publicly pledged to work together for the first time to fix what they called the nation's health-care crisis by 2012.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Wal-Mart chief executive H. Lee Scott sat at one end of a table and vowed to put aside differences to "drive this debate forward." On the other end was Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and frequent Wal-Mart critic, declaring he had made a "tough choice" in the goal to improve coverage.

How this unlikely alliance came about illustrates the deepening concern that businesses, labor groups and lawmakers have over skyrocketing health-care costs.

It's important to note that the group of union, business and political leaders that appeared together in D.C. yesterday — I watched on a Web cast -- offered no specifics on how they would go about creating universal health-care coverage. All parties have agreed to these organizing principles.

But when you get Wal-Mart and SEIU, AT&T and the Communications Workers of America, and Democratic operative John Podesta and Republican wise man Howard Baker, all together it's bound to attract attention and maybe even shake the status quo a little.

One thing it did in Olympia was shed a little light on why House Speaker Frank Chopp was so adamant last year about stopping the so-called Wal-Mart bill that would have required large companies to spend a certain percentage of payroll on health care. The way it was drafted, it likely would have applied only to Wal-Mart.

At the time, Chopp was said to be protecting Democrats from appearing anti-business, and responding to the fact that the bill didn't have the votes to pass and even it if did, it wouldn't reduce the number of uninsured people in the state.

Chopp's chokehold on the bill angered union leaders.

Robby Stern, lobbyist for the Washington State Labor Council, called Chopp's stated reasons for stopping the bill "nonsensical" and speculated that the real reason was some sort of backroom deal with business.

"His arguments never hung together," Stern said. "Some commitment was made that we don't know about."

I asked Chopp yesterday if last year if he had any inkling that the SEIU — which he is close to — was going to team up with Wal-Mart on health care. He said he didn't.

"I just didn't feel the Wal-Mart bill simply did anything, thought it was not worth it to me to pass a message bill, particularly when the message was really confused and ineffective."

Instead, Chopp agrees with what SEIU and Wal-Mart seemed to be saying yesterday: The employer-based health-care system doesn't work and needs to be dismantled, rather than tweaked with more employer mandates.

I think Frank Bruno, of "and the professor," explained this well when he said Stern of the SEIU "was working toward a health-care plan that would de-emphasize the role of employers, rather than try to extract more benefits from them."

Here's what Stern said:

It is time to admit that the employer-based health -are system is dead, a relic of the industrial economy. America cannot compete in the new global economy when we are the only industrialized nation on earth that puts the price of health care on the cost of our products.

That's Chopp's approach. And he'll meet with Stern next week to talk about it.

"That's part of the reason I said no to the Wal-Mart bill because, in fact, we had the same people come to me and say, 'Frank, we need a non-employer-based system,' and then said, 'By the way, make this an employer-based requirement.' It didn't seem to add up.

"We think by simplifying the system and making it more rationale, we'll actually end up saving money."

Here's Wal-Mart's press release on the alliance with the unions.
Stern posted a statement on Huffington Post and TPM Cafe.

Stern begins with this:

Some people were surprised to learn today that I participated in a news conference with the CEOs of several major corporations — including Wal-Mart, with whom our union has major differences.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union President Joseph Hansen issued a statement saying:

We do need to reform and restructure the current employer-based health system to achieve universal coverage, but until we have such reform, Wal-Mart needs to take responsibility for providing affordable health care to employees.

Also at TPM Cafe, Nathan Newman pays his respects to Stern, but disagrees with the SEIU chief's approach.

What does make the U.S. unique is not that employers play a large role in funding health care, but that we allow so many employers NOT to contribute to help pay for our health-care system.

That General Motors pays to fund health care out of its revenues is not unique; so does Toyota in Japan. What is unique is that most big retailers in Europe have mandatory requirements to help fund health care for their employees, while Wal-Mart faced no such requirements in the United States.

This inconsistent system does mean that Wal-Mart and other bad employers dump health-care costs on the rest of the system, which inevitably does drive up costs for General Motors, but the problem then is not the employer role in health care, but the free-riding by the Wal-Marts of the world.

If you haven't had enough, The Writing on the Wal has a roundup of what others are saying.

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February 7, 2007

Eyman's patron comes through again

Posted by David Postman at 3:33 PM

Michael Dunmire, Tim Eyman's $1 million-plus donor, says legislative arrogance has pushed him to bankroll Eyman yet again. Eyman circulated a message from Dunmire today saying he would donate $250,000 to Eyman's Taxpayer's Protection Initiative even though he had earlier, and repeatedly, said he would not fund political campaigns this year.

But he says the Legislature's moves to regulate the initiative business pushed him to give:

I am offended by their arrogance, their ignorance, their mistreatment of citizens, and their disrespect for the Constitution. Their shameless actions have moved me to do something meaningful to fight back. I cannot and will not ignore their assault on the citizens' initiative process without a constructive response.

Dunmire said he'd give $120,000 immediately and urged Eyman supporters to also donate to the campaign. He also said that there will be an effort to "educate the public about Olympia's all-out effort to destroy the initiative process" but he didn't offer any specifics.

Last year was a tough one for Eyman Inc. He failed to get enough signatures for a referendum on the gay rights bill, an effort where he was criticized by religious conservatives for being secretive and falling through on commitments. And he had an embarrassing episode with a tax-cutting initiative where he said, with no good evidence, that petitions were pilfered.

Many thought it would be the end of Eyman. I figured it wouldn't since Dunmire made clear at the time that those failures wouldn't dissuade him from giving Eyman more money. And sure enough, after the election, he gave $100,000 to the "compensation fund" that pays Eyman and his partners.

But Eyman was clearly weakened, and many on the left were celebrating what they said would be his demise. They left nasty comments here saying that the media alone was propping up Eyman and he didn't deserve the attention. But if he's such a low-watt player these days, why would Democrats need so many bills clearly designed to weaken his efforts?

I don't know if Dunmire really would have resisted Eyman's entreaties and not given him any money this year. But I think Democrats have done more to restore Eyman to prominence than anything he could have done himself.

And they may not get their bills. House Speaker Frank Chopp told reporters this afternoon that he doesn't support the full-scale move to regulate the initiative business. He says he's worried about fraud, but said he isn't sure the bills aimed at solving that problem would really work.

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Blog editor: Viaduct mess vindicates Rossi vote

Posted by David Postman at 10:29 AM

Voting for Dino Rossi didn't make Seattlest editor Seth Kolloen Kollen popular with his "hard-left politics dork" of a girlfriend. But today he feels vindicated. Kolloen Kollen says Democrats have messed up the viaduct so bad he's more convinced than ever that single-party government doesn't work.

Here, we've got a governor who's too tied up in her relationships with fellow Democrats to make the executive decision she was elected to do. She can't go against House leader Frank Chopp, she needs him to forward her agenda in the Legislature. And she can't alienate the Seattle establishment — many of whom are her main backers, many of whom want the tunnel.

The Democrats are like a dysfunctional family — content to blame each other for their problems when the alternative of a glance in the mirror would be too painful.

That sort of vindication isn't good news for Gregoire or Chopp. But the next step would be more worrisome, and that comes when people who voted for Gregoire two years ago or Democratic House members three months ago, say they wish they hadn't.

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Selig backs campaign to stop waterfront tunnel

Posted by David Postman at 9:58 AM

The political group against replacing the viaduct with a tunnel has picked up a generous financial backer. New reports filed with the city show that developer Martin Selig has become, by far, the biggest donor to the No Tunnel Alliance. He gave $10,000 on Jan. 31.

Selig also was the prime funder of the opposition to the monorail. Last year he was in the news for being the most generous contributor to the unsuccessful campaign to repeal the state estate tax, giving more than $900,000.

On Feb. 1 the committee also got $6,000 from Ballard Oil Company and has received $1,000 from Garneau Properties and $150 from House Appropriations Chairwoman Helen Sommers, D-Seattle.

When I spoke with Nick Licata last week, he said the no-tunnel forces would be lucky to raise $50,000 to combat the better-funded campaign against replacing the viaduct with another elevated highway. But with Selig stepping up it could become a much closer fight.

The No Tunnel Alliance will officially kick off its campaign Friday morning at the Seneca Street exit from the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Licata will be there, as well as City Councilman David Della.

UPDATE: The kickoff has been postponed until Monday.

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February 6, 2007

Murray and McDermott on the war

Posted by David Postman at 6:24 PM

Sen. Patty Murray today gave her longest speech on the Iraq war since 2002, when she was one of 23 senators to vote against invading the country. And she reminded her colleagues that she called the war then an "ill-defined, solo mission with so many critical questions unanswered."

Republicans were able to stop debate in the Senate on Monday on a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's troop increase.

In the Washington Post Dan Froomkin says that the White House is "trying to maneuver the Democrats into taking action they can depict as cutting off funds to the troops."

The new strategy was neatly executed by Senate Republicans yesterday, after much consultation with the White House. They prevented the Democratic leadership from bringing to the floor a nonbinding resolution that would have put a solid majority of the Senate — not just Democrats, but several Republicans as well — on the record as opposing Bush's escalation plan.

With "support the president" now a losing proposition, the White House is turning to "support the troops" as their political failsafe.

Murray spoke with a hard edge today and worked to take away the argument that Democratic opposition to a troop increase shows a lack of support for the troops.

"I'm not going to let anyone silence me, the troops I speak for or the constituents I represent."

There are Democrats who support cutting off funding for the war. In fact, today Congressman Jim McDermott said he would introduce legislation that would set a deadline for U.S. withdrawal and say that after that date there would only be funding to pay for the "safe and orderly withdrawal" of troops.

McDermott said his legislation will be based on the 1970 McGovern-Hatfield Amendment that was used as an attempt to end American involvement in the Vietnam War. Historian Rick Perlstein wrote about McGovern-Hatfield for Salon last month:

It was four sentences long, and said: Without a declaration of war, Congress would appropriate no money for Vietnam other than "to pay costs relating to the withdrawal of all U.S. forces, to the termination of United States military operations ... to the arrangement for exchanges of prisoners of war," and to "food and other non-military supplies and services" for the Vietnamese.

It failed. But Perlstein said it was still important.

There is, here, another crucial lesson for today: Grass-roots activism works. The Democratic presidential front-runner back then, Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, afraid of being branded a radical, had originally proposed instead a nonbinding sense-of-the-Senate resolution recommending "effort" toward the withdrawal of American forces within 18 months. He found himself caught up in a swarm: the greatest popular lobbying campaign ever. Haverford College, which was not atypical, saw 90 percent of its student body and 57 percent of its faculty come to Washington to demonstrate for McGovern-Hatfield. A half-hour TV special in which congressmen argued for the bill was underwritten by 60,000 separate 50-cent contributions. The proposal received the largest volume of mail in Senate history. Muskie withdrew his own bill, and became the 19th cosponsor of McGovern-Hatfield.

McDermott today quoted George McGovern from the day the amendment was introduced in 1972:

"It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes.

"And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us."

Murray has not supported cutting off funding for the war. But in her comments today, she made clear she is willing to look at all options until Bush's troop increase can be stopped.

"If he still won't change course, we'll look at other tools before us. Senators have discussed a whole series of steps we could take, and I'm going to review all of them. We're also holding hearings to find out what options we can take. So this is the first step, and if the president doesn't hear us, we'll take the next step, and the next step, and the one after that."

At the same time Murray seem to be trying to reassure those on the anti-war left who are impatient with Democrats for not doing more, and doing it sooner.

Now I understand that many Americans are frustrated that our troops are in the middle of a civil war. I'm frustrated too, and I wish we'd been allowed to start this process — these hearings, debates, and votes — a long time ago. But we are moving aggressively now. Democrats have been in charge for five weeks — and already we're having more debates, more hearings, and more progress than we've had in the past three years. And I can promise you — this is only the beginning.

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A voice that should be amplified, not quieted

Posted by David Postman at 5:50 PM

If you read the Inslee post below you'll find a link to HistoryLink.org, an amazing online source for Washington state history. It is often a first stop for me in trying to learn the history of the area. (I've spent lots of time — not on the clock of course — reading the great minor league baseball history there.)

In one of those strange coincidences, soon after posting that I received an e-mail from a colleague with a post from Michael Hood at blatherwatch saying that Walt Crowley, the site's president and executive director, is about to lose his voice due to cancer.

Walt's voice has been a little scratchy lately — he's been battling cancer of the larynx with what doctors believed was a winning regimen of chemicals and radiation. Last week, a year after his last treatment, doctors found more cancer. His voice will be removed at Virginia Mason Medical Center. ...

(Walt will have an electro-larynx installed, the vibrating voice thingie that makes its owner's voice sound robotic — a fate that may be more acceptable to Walt than to us: admirer of robots that he is).

The prognosis is good for him after this surgery, but speechlessness is not an easy prospect when thinking of Walt who's a conversationalist, public speaker, and a former broadcaster.

Walt's voice has been an important one in Seattle for many years. I can't claim to know him well, but he has been a huge influence on journalists around the city. His friend Hood describes Walt as a "growly old lefty, activist historian and Seattle bon piquante."





Here's hoping that Walt recovers quickly and finds new ways to share what he's thinking.

Crowley was on KUOW's Weekday Monday for what was billed as his swan song. Listen to it here. And here is HistoryLink's entry on Crowley.

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U.S. House OKs National Park for internment memorial

Posted by David Postman at 12:23 PM

A Bainbridge Island memorial to the Japanese Internment of World War II would be granted National Park status under a bill passed unanimously by the U.S. House today. This has been a major effort by Congressman Jay Inslee for at least three years. This morning he said on the House floor that passing the bill would be a "strong American statement":

"That statement is that the power of fear will never again be allowed to overcome the promise of liberty."

Standing before photos of internees, Inslee said, "These are images we should never see again in America."

The site of the former Eagledale Ferry Dock is known as the Nidoto Nai Yoni Memorial, the Japanese phrase meaning, "Let it not happen again." Officially the site will be part of the Minidoka Internment National Monument in Jerome County, Idaho. Inslee's co-sponsor was Idaho Republican Mike Simpson.

The dock is where the first 227 Japanese-Americans were rounded up by U.S. soldiers and taken to an internment camp. During 3 ½ years of World War II nearly 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent were imprisoned.

Inslee today specifically thanked former internees for pushing for the memorial, as well as the 62 of the original 227 who later joined the U.S. military and fought in World War II who he said were the "ultimate patriots." He said the memorial is for the internees as well as neighbors left behind. He singled out Walt Woodard, the late editor of the Bainbridge Island Review. His was a nearly lone editorial voice on the west coast in opposing the internment. You can see at this History Link essay that Woodward and his wife went further than just editorializing. The paper had "Camp Correspondents" who reported on life inside the camps.

Inslee said on the House floor:

"This will be a statement to ourselves, to our children, to our grandchildren, that when we are in fear in this country we should never lose that anchor of American civil rights and civil liberties and respect for what we are as Americans..

"We have gone though these days in the last several years. We've experienced fear that sometimes has infected the discussion here in the chambers. And when we go through and deal with our fears today, I think its well that we take a lesson from history in 1942 to hew to the power of liberty rather than the power of fear."

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Capitol Hill Seattle's test vote on the viaduct

Posted by David Postman at 10:39 AM

You have until 9 p.m. today to vote in Capitol Hill Seattle's viaduct survey. As they say at CHS,
"The advisory vote seems meaningless anyhow ..."

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On Watada

Posted by David Postman at 10:28 AM

At Fort Lewis, the judge presiding over the court martial of Lt. Ehren Watada is doing what he can to keep politics out of the trial and the courtroom. Hal Bernton writes in The Times that Lt. Col. John Head "ruled that most of the proposed defense witnesses were irrelevant to the issues at hand."

Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, said the judge "also issued an order restricting buttons or other shows of support for Watada from being worn inside the courtroom."

And at one point during the morning session, he called for defense counsel Seitz to "leave the dramatics at the door."

I'm trying to find the list of witnesses that Seitz had wanted to call at trial. I know that earlier, when he was still hoping to present a Nuremberg defense, Seitz would have called constitutional law scholars, a CIA analyst and a former United Nations official. The News Tribune reported during the summer that Seitz wanted to call Denis Halliday, the Irishman who ran the U.N.'s oil for food program and University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle. "Boyle has advised Palestinian negotiators in Middle East peace talks and assisted the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the war-crimes prosecution of the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic," according to the TNT.

The Stranger has intern Sage Van Wing covering the trial, who reported at the Slog:

I was one of the seven reporters who were actually allowed to be in the courtroom this morning. We had to draw marbles out of a bag to determine who would be allowed inside. Everyone else watched the proceedings on a TV screen in the overflow room. There were roughly 30 reporters and camerafolk there, about half of whom seemed to be foreign press. There were probably as many people from Japan as there were from the local Seattle area.

I noticed the heavy international coverage when I searched Technorati this morning. I found headlines like:

Portrait d'un dissident, héros et déserteur

US-Offizier wegen Einsatzverweigerung vor Gericht

Guerra immorale

Al Jazeera is also covering the trial, though it's not clear if they have their own reporter at Fort Lewis.

The ideological blogs are giving heavy play to the trial. From the left, Truthout has expansive coverage, DailyKos is following the trial with help of Daniel Kirkdorffer and others
and OlyBlog is on the rally scene.

From the right, Jules Crittenden writes at Pajamas Media of the "deeper meaning" of the trial:

The Watada Doctrine allows lieutenants not only to decide whether an order to kill in some terrible set of combat circumstances is legal or not, but allows them to decide whether an order to set foot in country A or B is legal, it allows them to rule on the foreign policy of their nation.

This is a major expansion of the powers normally granted lieutenants, so let's follow it through.

And Gateway Pundit has the famous supporters for Watada in this disapproving round up.

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February 5, 2007

Speaking of Seattle v. Olympia

Posted by David Postman at 4:26 PM

Public Radio's Austin Jenkins had a smart story this morning about Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske's recent lobbying trip to Olympia where he found House Democrats less than enthusiastic about passing any new gun control measures. You can hear the piece here.

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City objects to latest tunnel design review

Posted by David Postman at 11:17 AM

The City of Seattle says it is being excluded from newly re-started review of the tunnel-lite proposed by Mayor Greg Nickels. Last week, Gov. Christine Gregoire asked the state Department of Transportation to do a quick review of what's called the hybrid surface/tunnel option. An expert review panel was asked to review only cost estimates based on work DOT would do.

Today the city learned its experts who have been working on the viaduct for more than five years will not be allowed to participate in the review, according to a letter sent to the state DOT today by Grace Crunican, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation. She wrote:

I can only conclude from this action, and reports in today's Seattle Times, that you are closing the process to anyone outside the employment of WDOT with the intention of biasing the outcome of the analysis against the tunnel.

We're waiting for a response from state transportation officials.

Gregoire's letter last week said she and legislative leaders wanted Seattle voters to get "reliable and objective information" on the viaduct options. Crunican wrote:

But how can those voters have any confidence in the answers to these and other questions if the City of Seattle is excluded from this review?

The Seattle Department of Transportation will not accept the product of this review of there is not full participation by City of Seattle staff and the Expert Review Panel.

UPDATE The state says that if Seattle transportation officials are involved in the review people will think it is biased. State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald said if Seattle is "sitting elbow to elbow" with the state engineers "others will see the possibility of influence in the answers which will throw into question the objectivity of WSDOT." He said if the city is there the review will devolve into political debate rather than engineering analysis.

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Gregoire, Chopp, Nickels and the viaduct

Posted by David Postman at 5:59 AM

In this morning's paper, Andrew Garber and I have a story about the viaduct. We focused on Gov. Christine Gregoire's attempts to broker a deal between House Speaker Frank Chopp and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

One of the interesting things that emerges is the administration's unhappiness with how Chopp has operated over the past few months. He didn't say much in public, and not even a lot in some of the big meetings that have occurred, but he was relentless behind the scenes. As Department of Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald told Garber:

"Chopp has used the back channel to convey his position and the mayor has been on the front channel."

Gregoire Chief of Staff Tom Fitzsimmons told me a similar thing. Chopp talks about a new elevated freeway as a real attraction for Seattle. But MacDonald believes Chopp's priority is to stop the tunnel, not build a new roadway.

"My understanding has been that Frank has taken the position that he would see to it that there would not be funding for a tunnel. It doesn't have anything to do with the elevated. It has to do with the adamant Chopp position, which is clear, that there would not be funding for a tunnel."

A memo prepared for Chopp by his staff in the midst of the negotiations outlines what is described a the worst-case scenario:

› City/State propose tunnel option within $800 million of rebuild option.

› City agrees to cover all costs for tunnel above budgeted replacement amount.

› All Stakeholders like the proposal: It meets criteria of: 1) Cost; 2) Capacity; 3) Design; and 4) City financial responsibility.

› Advisory ballot includes "tunnel light" option, which is more likely to pass; state has no control over ballot language.

› Rep. Clibborn approves, Senate agrees.

› Legislature must pass limiting legislation, but can't due to dynamics above.

› Governor approves tunnel option after session ends.

That would be considered by many to be the best-case scenario. A cheaper tunnel, the city agreeing to cover overruns, and it meets capacity, design and financial requirements.

MacDonald and Fitzsimmons both said they were unhappy with the perception that the governor could not make up her mind or tried to find a compromise. They say she did the only thing she could in calling for a public vote. MacDonald said:

"What has been going on through this entire period behind the scenes is that while the perception seems to be that the governor has had a hard time making up her mind, the governor's dilemma is that she and all of the rest of us are caught between Scylla and Charybdis."

You know you have a problem when you have to reach into Greek mythology to describe the situation.

Chopp doesn't like the story line of Gregoire in some untenable middle ground between him and Nickels.

"It's not a question of being stuck between two elected officials. The issue is whether we can afford to build a very risky, very expensive tunnel. She's not stuck between anybody."

There's clearly pressure. And what makes it tougher for the politicians to deal with is it can't be explained away as a partisan, ideological or even regional battle. Positions are not easily defined by looking to political party or interest groups.

But I don't think there is likely to be heavy political or electoral fallout no matter what happens. I know the P-I had a headline last week saying, "Some believe issue imperils re-election in '08" for Gregoire. And at The Stranger, Josh Feit took quite a different view, saying "If the Elevated Wins, Chopp Loses."

Neither scenario is even remotely likely. I remember people saying that legislators who voted for a baseball park after voters turned it down were sure to be defeated. And Nickels' re-election certainly didn't seem hurt by his support for the monorail or Sound Transit. Yes, if whatever gets built turns into the Big Dig situation Chopp fears, voters could turn on someone. But that's a ways off, and doesn't have anything to do with the machinations we're watching today. A bungled process like this tells us something about the politicians involved. But I don't think it can singularly imperil Gregoire's re-election or threaten Chopp's hold on his House seat.

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February 4, 2007

Gay marriage proponents push "absurd" initiative

Posted by David Postman at 1:10 PM

At The Slog Josh Feit points to an initiative that would require married couples in Washington to reproduce.

The sponsors are gay marriage advocates who say they want to put in law what they think is the state Supreme Court's absurd argument in the Defense of Marriage Act decision — Anderson v. King County — that said it's a legitimate state interest to restrict marriage to couples who can procreate. As Feit wrote in his headline, it is "Taking Anderson Literally."

The ballot summary says:

This measure would restrict marriage to a male and a female who are capable of having children together. Couples would be required to declare their ability to procreate children together in order to obtain marriage licenses. If a couple failed to procreate children within three years of marriage, their marriage would be subject to annulment. All other marriages would be defined as "unrecognized." Persons in unrecognized marriages would be ineligible to receive any marriage benefits.

You can read the whole initiative here.

The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance — which opposes the Defense of Marriage Act — says it will have two more initiatives to follow, one to prohibit divorce or separation when there are children and one that would make the act of having a child the legal equivalent of marriage.

The group says on its Web site:

Absurd? Very. But there is a rational basis for this absurdity. By floating the initiatives, we hope to prompt discussion about the many misguided assumptions which make up the Andersen ruling. By getting the initiatives passed, we hope the Supreme Court will strike them down as unconstitutional and thus weaken Andersen itself. And at the very least, it should be good fun to see the social conservatives who have long screamed that marriage exists for the sole purpose of procreation be forced to choke on their own rhetoric.

Of course in order to have the full-blown absurdist argument the sponsors of I-957 will need to get signatures from 224,800 registered voters by July 6.

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February 3, 2007

Fuiten group ups lobbying pressure on Legislature

Posted by David Postman at 3:51 PM

Conservative Christian Pastor Joe Fuiten's group Positive Christian Agenda is paying for thousands of robo-calls aimed at stopping sex education and domestic partnership bills in the Legislature.

Fuiten e-mailed a "!!PCA ACTION ALERT!!" Friday night urging people to call their legislators and urge them to oppose HB 1855 and SB 5297.

Fuiten is president of Positive Christian Agenda as well as pastor of Bothell's Cedar Park Assembly of God church. He left the Faith & Freedom Network last year to focus on more political work through PCA. Fuiten told me today:

What we are doing is trying to target particular people in a given week. Last week we focused on nine of the eleven members of the House judiciary committee. I made about 10,000 robo calls to their districts plus we worked the church network.

Those calls focused on the House domestic partnership bill. The bill, HB 1351, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. Fuiten's recorded calls said that the bill would "ultimately lead to gay marriage" and urge people to leave a "respectful message" for their legislator saying "no extra benefits for homosexual."

Here's a recording Fuiten forwarded me of the call that went out in the district of Rep. Pat Lantz, D-Gig Harbor, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee

The robo calls are supplemented with live calls from volunteers in each targeted district. Fuiten said:

When we focus on particular people we try to get people from their own district to contact them. It's a quaint old concept that representatives represent the people of their district.
This week Fuiten is asking people to focus lobbying efforts on three Democratic senators, Brian Hatfield, Paull Shin, and Derek Kilmer.

The House sex-ed bill is scheduled for a vote in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee Monday at 1:30 p.m. The Senate bill is in the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

The bills would require any district that teaches sex education to
"provide medically accurate, age-appropriate and thorough information. That means teaching both abstinence and contraception or nothing at all."

Fuiten said the scientifically accurate "designation is a pseudo-intellectual cover for getting rid of abstinence, which presumably isn't scientifically accurate." He also objects to the bill because it covers private schools, too, including church schools like the six Cedar Park operates:

So the Legislature is going to require me to teach their version of sex education. We have a top of the line sex education program but that's not good enough for the state. Not the greatest separation of church and state when the state mandates what the church must teach. The arrogance of that is astounding.

Fuiten's message to supporters included a "prayer alert" asking people to share a special prayer with "your pastor and church and/or organization prayer chains or prayer groups." It says in part:

Please pray that God will give the righteous legislators patience and wisdom and that those who claim to be Christians yet vote against Biblical principles will have their eyes opened.

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February 2, 2007

Students say Times "betrayed" them on school press bill

Posted by David Postman at 11:14 AM

The Student Press Law Center says a Seattle Times editorial opposing a bill to protect the independence of student publications is "mind-bogglingly naïve." The editorial in yesterday's paper said the bill that

would strip high-school and college educators of the ability to make editorial decisions in school newspapers goes too far to correct a problem that could be solved collaboratively.

The student press center issued a statement — and posted it at the well-read Romenesko media news site — from executive director Mark Goodman. It said in part:

The Times solution: make the adviser the censor, the one who has the final say over the content of the publication. It's a system reminiscent of the old Soviet Union; let the government appoint the censors (who of course are paid by the government and whose jobs depend on keeping their government employers happy) and suddenly the censorship isn't a problem any more, it's "editing."

...

Once again, the commercial news media has betrayed us. They are desperate for us as readers to stop the precipitous decline in circulation of their publications, but they can't be bothered to consider our perspective on the issues that matter to us most and that are directly related to the future of their profession.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, Wednesday. Here's a high school journalist's report on the committee action from the Web site of J-Ideas, a student press program. J-Ideas is giving the bill in-depth coverage.

Also, there will be a forum Saturday on student press rights at The News Tribune in Tacoma.

UPDATE: Josh Feit points out that Attorney General Rob McKenna supports the bill, though his fellow Republicans on the committee opposed it. He uses that fact to jab at new GOP Chairman, and longtime McKenna aide, Luke Esser, as well, of course, as getting in a poke at The Times.

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McCain to visit Seattle

Posted by David Postman at 8:53 AM

In case you haven't noticed, the 2008 presidential campaign is underway. There's even been a sighting of the first official, MSM-sanctioned campaign gaffe.*

Seattle will get its first visit by an (almost) presidential candidate when Sen. John McCain drops in Feb. 23. The Arizona Republican will deliver a lunch speech to a joint lunch meeting of the Seattle City Club and the World Affairs Council. The speech is billed as "His vision for the United States' role in the world."

McCain's campaign is still officially in the exploratory phase and he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to formally declare. He was popular in Washington state when he ran for president in 2000. He finished second to George W. Bush in the Republican presidential primary, but a clear first among voters who chose the "unaffiliated," or independent, presidential primary ballot.

Local McCain boosters had the only visible presence at last week's meeting of the Republican Party State Committee. Chris Fidler, who co-chaired McCain's 2000 campaign in the state, is again signed on. He was manning a table with literature aimed at the Republican faithful, including McCain's "talking points on immigration" and background on his "continuing commitment to life."

*I think it's fair to call Biden's comments a gaffe. But I remember talking to Howard Dean backstage of Town Hall in early 2004 when he was repeatedly being tagged with a series of gaffes, missteps, or whatever the parlance of the day was. Dean didn't think his comments deserved that, and he was particularly ticked off that what he said about the capture of Saddam Hussein was being called a gaffe.

Dean had said the U.S. military's capture of Saddam hadn't made the United States safer. I don't have my notes of that interview, but Dean's point was that the media and the political class are too quick to label something a gaffe. John Kerry had attacked him for the comments, saying it showed Dean didn't have, among other things, the "diplomatic temperament necessary to lead this country through dangerous times."

The urge to label gaffes is strong. We in the media crave them as much as a good flip-flop. Campaign coverage at times can seem like little more than a chronicling of missteps. Even Dean's own staff got into the act, according to a New York Times story from January 2004 about the candidate's problems in Iowa:

Yet the concerns voiced in interviews come during a rough month for Dr. Dean: what his own aides have described as political missteps — such as saying that the capture of Saddam Hussein had not made the United States safer — have coincided with a stretch of time when many voters in Iowa are making decisions.

Is it a gaffe when your staff calls your comments a misstep? (I'm sure that story was written somewhere.)

At the time, Dean had taken to paraphrasing Michael Kinsley's definition of a gaffe. As he told Newsweek in '04:

There's a lot of stuff that gets totally jerked around. All this stuff about Dean says things that are gaffes — the definition of a gaffe in Washington is somebody who tells that truth but shouldn't have.

Worth keeping in mind.

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February 1, 2007

Frank Chopp's "yeasty" play-by-play

Posted by David Postman at 8:18 AM

At the Tri-City Herald, Chris Mulick writes on his blog about something I've been thinking about: Frank Chopp's postmodern press chats:

He has a knack for critiquing his performance with the media almost on a play-by-play basis.

I've thought of it as more like simultaneous translation, where Chopp tells reporters something, and at the same time explains it, clarifies it, takes it back, or revels in its cleverness. It can be sort of endearing. Chopp didn't used to be so comfortable with reporters. He can still lapse into sarcasm when asked a question he deems not worthy of his time and is among the best at sticking to a talking point.

Mulick says he's going to start collecting Choppisms. His list from the speaker's press availability yesterday includes this:

Chopp said talk in the caucus about education has been "yeasty" and then immediately wondered where he got that from. "Yeasty? Is that the right word?" He decided on "vigorous."

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