by Goldy, 03/31/2005, 2:13 PM

Marsha Richards of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) was whining over on (un)Sound Politics recently about the Legislature failing to honor the will of the people.

It seems Senate budget-writers didn’t even attempt to follow the state’s voter-approved spending limit (I-601) this year. (Um. Surprise?)

This is a line of argument that the EFF has trod out relentlessly over the past few weeks, and to back up her point, Marsha cites the EFF (of course,) “here, here, here and here.”

I have often ridiculed Tim Eyman for honoring the will of the voters only when they agree with him, and apparently the EFF has the same cynical view of the initiative process. Indeed, their primary recommendation for balancing the budget while following the intent of “voter-approved I-601″ is to repeal voter approved I-728:

Rather than ignore the intent of the voter-approved I-601 spending limit, Democrats should instead balance the budget by:

1) Repealing Initiative 728. This “free” class-size reduction initiative passed by the voters in 2000 is currently diverting $809 million from the general fund to the student achievement account. This means, if repealed, an additional $809 million would be available for the 2005-07 budget.

The EFF has similar disdain for I-732, the initiative that automatically gives cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to teacher salaries… at least, that is what it would have done if, like I-728, it hadn’t been suspended to balance the last biennial budget.

Clearly, the EFF believes some voter-approved initiatives should be more inviolate than others. But their criteria for measuring the will of the people appears a bit backwards; examining the margins by which these initiatives passed, a pattern quickly emerges:

    Year   #       Yes Votes
    1993   I-601     774,342 (51%)
    2000   I-728   1,714,485 (72%)
    2000   I-732   1,501,261 (63%)

Hmmm… so let me get this straight… according to the EFF, I-728, which passed by a landslide margin of 72% as recently as 2000, should be sacrificed in the name of I-601, which received nearly a million less votes, barely squeaking by with a 51% margin all the way back in 1993? So logically, I can only assume that the EFF believes that the older the initiative, and the fewer votes it received, the more it represents the true will of the people.

By that measure, I fully expect the EFF to join me in demanding that the Legislature honor the clear and indisputable will of the people, by fully implementing voter-approved Initiative 69… which enacted an income tax way back in 1932.

Or is the EFF’s indefatigable support of I-601 based more on “the will of the EFF” than it is the will of the people?

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the initiative process, and nothing illustrates my skepticism better than the 2000 election, a year when voters approved huge tax cuts and huge spending increases… simultaneously. If voters expressed any “will” in that election, it was that a majority of us want something for nothing. But for the EFF to argue that a 12-year-old squeaker has greater claim to legitimacy than newer, far more popular initiatives, is a laughable exercise in political bullying.

The EFF makes great sport out of criticizing the Democrats’ budget and attacking them for “ignoring the intent of voter-approved spending limits,” but what they never bother to do is defend the initiative itself. In truth, I-601 was an ill-conceived, toothless bill, that tied budget growth to an unsustainable economic metric, while relying on a non-constitutional super-majority provision that could always be abrogated on a simple majority vote. The fact that nearly a decade and a half later, facing a whole new set of economic challenges, the Legislature is doing exactly that, should come as no surprise to anybody.

The EFF doesn’t defend the rationale for a spending limit that doesn’t keep pace with the demands of our growing economy, because it can’t. Instead it falls back on a bogus “will of the people” screed, rhetoric that is all the more unconvincing considering the fact that initiative profiteer Tim Eyman attempted to strengthen I-601′s provisions two-years ago, and couldn’t even drum up enough support to qualify his initiative for the ballot.

Will of the people, my ass.

by Goldy, 03/31/2005, 10:49 AM

Terri Schiavo passed away today, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed. An autopsy will be performed.

I think this New York Times editorial expresses my feelings on her death well enough that I have little to add.

Some people hold religious convictions so heartfelt that they could not bow to public opinion or the courts and accept the fact that Ms. Schiavo should be allowed to die. They deserve respect, just as her husband and her family members deserve sympathy. The frightening thing about the case was that other people, far more powerful and far less emotionally involved, looked at the world we live in today, in which politics is about maximizing hysteria at the margins, and concluded that the fight was one that would pay off in worldly terms as well.

But today, finally, there is a moment of consensus. Rest in peace, Theresa Marie.

But please, read the whole thing before commenting.

by Goldy, 03/31/2005, 12:23 AM

Thank you Columbia Watch for um, watching the Columbian, and pointing me towards yesterday’s excellent editorial on “Illegal Voters.” It turns out that 31 convicted felons illegally voted in Clark County.

That might sound shocking, but it’s only 0.0001799 percent of the 172,277 votes cast in this county, or one illegal felon in every 5,556 voters overall. If those 31 illegal ballots were voted in the same proportion as the whole of Clark County [...] 16 of them favored Republican Dino Rossi and 14 went for Democrat Christine Gregoire.

Okay, so their math sucks (they need to slide that decimal point over a couple notches,) but the rest of the piece is still on target. The editors point out that with all the talk about better procedures to purge felons from the rolls, there is a simpler and more societally beneficial solution.

What this state really should do is what 36 others have done: Allow felons the automatic right to vote after serving their time. But, unfortunately, one or more members of the state House Rules Committee didn’t cotton to a bill that would have done just that, so it died quietly without a floor vote earlier this month.

As Kimsey said, allowing felons who have served their time the automatic right to vote would make things administratively easier, obviating the need for much of the paperwork that’s now required to keep them from voting.

But more important, Kimsey’s right when he says, “If part of the rehabilitation process is getting people reconnected with society, and someone is released from incarceration and wants to take the time and effort to register and cast a ballot, is there a more positive engagement than that?”

Before we devote any more time, money or resources towards preventing felons from voting, we need to sit back and ask ourselves: “what exactly is the problem that we’re trying solve?” Clearly we should do whatever is reasonable to prevent people from voting illegally… but does society actually gain anything from making it illegal for felons to vote?

No less than the American Correctional Association has called for ending the practice of withholding voting rights from parolees and those who have finished serving their terms. Studies show that these laws serve no correctional purpose, and may contribute to recidivism.

Unfortunately, the continuing partisan rancor over November’s extraordinarily close gubernatorial election makes it impossible for legislators to address this issue during the current session. Perhaps next year we can have a reasoned debate over a policy that disenfranchises 25 percent of WA’s black males, dangerously disengaging a large segment of our population from the civic mainstream.

by Goldy, 03/30/2005, 1:09 PM

No surprise… the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has once again rejected a petition for a new hearing on the Terri Schiavo case, just 15 hours after agreeing to consider it.

“Any further action by our court or the district court would be improper,” Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. wrote. “While the members of her family and the members of Congress have acted in a way that is both fervent and sincere, the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty.”

Birch went on to scold President Bush and Congress for their attempts to intervene in the judicial process, by saying: “In resolving the Schiavo controversy, it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution.”

Personally, I’m not so sure how sincere President Bush and the Republican leadership was, but I agree with the court’s public scolding. The court — all the courts — ruled based on the law.

UPDATE:
While the 11th Circuit’s decision today was a single sentence long, The New York Times reports that a concurring opinion by Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., a conservative judge appointed in 1990 by Bush the Elder, was absolutely scathing, arguing that the federal courts had no jurisdiction, and that the law enacted by Congress and President Bush seeking federal judicial review was unconstitutional.

“When the fervor of political passions moves the executive and legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene,” wrote Judge Birch, who has a reputation as consistently conservative. “If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow.”

In particular, Judge Birch wrote, a provision of the new law requiring a fresh federal review of all the evidence presented in the case, litigated for seven years in state court, made it unconstitutional. Because that provision constitutes “legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions,” he wrote, it “invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle.”

David J. Garrow, a legal historian at Emory University who closely follows the 11th Circuit, said Judge Birch’s opinion was striking because the judge was a conservative Republican, especially regarding social issues. [...] “This is a Republican judge going out of his way to directly criticize the Congress and President Bush for what they’ve done,” Mr. Garrow said.

When it comes to nominating judges who strictly interpret the Constitution, right-wingers are learning they should be careful what they wish for.

UPDATE:
Justice Anthony Kennedy has denied the Schindler’s request for a hearing, marking the sixth time the U.S. Supreme Court has chosen not to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case.

by Goldy, 03/30/2005, 10:35 AM

As the Rev. Jerry Falwell lies in critical condition, hooked up to a ventilator in a Lynchburg, VA hospital, let me be the first to urge doctors to take all extraordinary measures to keep him alive, in accordance with the wishes of Falwell, his family, and his God.

Feeding tubes, IVs, ventilators, repeated and prolonged defibrillation… anything to keep Falwell from shuffling off this mortal coil. And if his body ultimately fails, I hope they keep his brain alive in a jar of nutrient-rich fluid. It is God’s will.

by Goldy, 03/30/2005, 12:20 AM

Okay, if a devout communist like me (or so I’ve been described by some of my readers,) dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States government (so I’ve been told,) were to argue for restoring Washington’s estate tax, some of you would probably just dismiss me as a devout communist, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States government. But what would you say if the most vocal proponent of the estate tax were the father of the world’s richest man?

Taxing the estates of wealthy Washingtonians to provide essential services to the state “is a very sensible, very socially responsible thing to do,” Bill Gates Sr. said Tuesday.

“This is not a tax on wealthy people, it’s a tax on the grateful heirs of wealthy people,” he said. “It’s a tax on what’s left after having lived … a comfortable life.”

Gates was down in Olympia to support Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposal to restore the state estate tax, which was overturned last month by the state Supreme Court. Gov. Gregoire would tax estates worth at least $2 million, but Gates says there is “a legitimate argument” for a lower exemption. Under the old tax, the exemption would have been $950,000 this year.

Gates points out that due to its heavy reliance on the sales tax, Washington has the most regressive tax structure in the nation. The estate tax was our only progressive tax, and restoring it would help shift some of the tax burden off middle- and low-income households.

Now before you get all foamy at the mouth defending the rights of rich people, I suggest you first read a two-page Estate Tax Fact Sheet produced by the Economic Opportunity Institute, so that we can all at least be informed enough to know why we are calling each other names.

The EOI has also produced a more in depth White Paper on the subject, that I highly recommend. Again, it is mostly just facts — a more detailed historical and technical discussion — but I suppose some of you might get a little apoplectic at some of its policy assumptions… you know, like that concentration of wealth is a bad thing.

If after pointing you towards these two, very informative documents you still insist on backing up your arguments with bad data and faulty assumptions, I will make fun of you. For example, if you make the claim that the estate tax forces heirs off the family farm, while ignoring the fact that there is a “family farm exemption” and that between 2002 and 2004 only 13 of the 5000 estates that paid taxes in Washington actually took the exemption, and that the American Farm Bureau Federation grudgingly admits that they cannot find a single example of a farm being sold to pay estate taxes… well then, your comments really don’t deserve to be taken seriously, do they?

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. I welcome those of you who vehemently oppose the estate tax to passionately and, um, colorfully argue your opinions. But if you take issue with the facts presented in the EOI documents, I must insist that you cite your sources as thoroughly as they did theirs. Either that, or shut the fuck up.

As to my opinion, well I agree with Comrade Gates’ testimony before the US Senate:

It is appropriate that a special tax be imposed on those who have so fully enjoyed the benefit of the things this country provides: schooling, order, freedom and encouragement to succeed and models of success. In a very practical sense, the wealth that one accumulates derives as much from the environment which this grand nation makes available and it is perfectly appropriate that the cost of its maintenance be paid back in proportion to what is extracted.

by Goldy, 03/29/2005, 10:40 PM

I have no idea why, and I’m not sure what this means, all I know is what the AP is telling us… the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to consider a petition for a new hearing on whether to re-insert Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.

The ruling probably comes too late to save Terri’s life, but it is sure to keep the media fat and happy for another day or so.

by Goldy, 03/29/2005, 3:13 PM

By now, everybody is familiar with the fake “town hall meetings” President Bush is conducting around the nation to support his proposal to dismantle Social Security through privatization. So afraid of being knocked off message by even the slightest display of independent thought, the audiences are all carefully screened to assure friendliness, and the questioners are not only pre-approved, but actually rehearsed beforehand.

But you’ve got to give all the president’s men credit for how meticulously faked these events are; apparently, even the invited guests of a Republican congressman aren’t welcome if their car sports the wrong bumper sticker.

The Secret Service is investigating the claims of three people who say they were removed from President Bush’s town hall meeting on Social Security last week because of a bumper sticker on their car that read: “No More Blood for Oil.”

The three said they had obtained tickets to the event through the office of Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., had passed through security and were preparing to take their seats when they were approached by what they thought was a Secret Service agent who asked them to leave.

Northwest Progressive Institute’s official blog has the details (via DailyKos.) The Secret Service has revealed that the three were ID’ed by local Republican staffers who saw the bumper sticker when the car drove into the parking lot. One can only assume that they were actively screening cars for infidels. Gotta give ‘em credit for their hard work at combatting free speech.

Speaking of NPI’s official blog, today marks its one year anniversary. Happy birthday. Andrew at NPI is a busy guy, as he’s also launched some changes today to his fast-growing Pacific Northwest Portal, including the much deserved addition of TJ’s Also Also to the portal’s front page.

by Goldy, 03/29/2005, 12:02 AM

Looking for a cost-effective way of marketing your product to passionately pro-life consumers? Check out this great new mailing list from conservative direct-mailing firm Response Unlimited:

TERRI SCHINDLER-SCHIAVO FOUNDATION ACTIVE DONORS

6,198 2005 Donors..............$150/M 
4,439 Opt-In Email Addresses...$500/M

New List! First time available!

Each of these donors responded to an email during February, 2005, from Terri Schindler-Schiavo’s father on behalf of his daughter. These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler’s legal battle to keep Terri’s estranged husband from removing the feeding tube from Terri.

These individuals are passionate about the way they value human life, adamantly oppose euthanasia, and are pro-life in every sense of the word!

Response Unlimited seems to have removed the page from their website since the story broke, but you can still read it cached on Google here.

The New York Times confirmed that the Schindlers sold the rights to the list as part of a deal for the firm to send out an “e-mail solicitation” (i.e. spam) raising money on the family’s behalf. Pamela Hennessy, an unpaid spokeswoman for the Schindlers, was appalled to learn of the list.

“It is possibly the most distasteful thing I have ever seen,” Ms. Hennessy said. “Everybody is making a buck off of her.”

You don’t say?

by Goldy, 03/28/2005, 2:32 PM

I apologize for frequently calling the BIAW a bunch of “bastards.” Such a reference unfairly impugns the reputations of other, more respectable bastards. So as a point of fairness, I’m going to try to be more precise.

Anyway… it looks like those fucking bastards at the BIAW are up to exactly what I’ve been saying they are up to: destroying organized Labor in Washington state.

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), one of the state’s most powerful conservative voices, is considering sponsoring a so-called “right-to-work” initiative that would prohibit mandatory union dues.

Gee… I wonder if the Seattle Times could have been any more understated?

The fucking bastards at the BIAW virtually own Dino Rossi, spending $750,000 on his behalf before the election, and God knows how much since. They are the financiers of the failed orange revolution, an effort to overthrow our elected governor through lies, deceit, and bullying. They have printed propagandistic newspaper ads, bumper stickers and fliers, mailed out postcards promoting the right-wing blogs, and launched an unprecedented post-election paid-media campaign.

These are the fucking bastards who fraudulently obtained the signatures of hundreds of voters by sending them sham surveys with $10 “thank you” checks… who devoted their entire staff towards producing a felon list that carelessly defamed the names of hundreds of innocent voters… and who sources tell me have hired private investigators to dig up dirt on public officials and other “enemies.” (I’ve noticed a suspicious inquiry on my own credit report.)

A “powerful conservative voice”…? The BIAW has the loudest, most partisan and mean-spirited conservative voice in the state… and millions of dollars to back it up. Funded by a loophole in our workers compensation system, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying themselves Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson… and just to be on the safe side, bankrolled Attorney General Rob McKenna to boot.

And now these bastards… these fucking, fascist bastards… angered by their impotent failure to shove Rossi into office by any means possible, are preparing to spend their millions on their long threatened “right-to-work” initiative… a Goebbels-esque phrase that offends the sensibilities of anybody with an ounce of love for the English language.

“Right-to-work” is union-busting short and simple… the organized labor equivalent of the tragedy of the commons. When individual workers can enjoy the benefits of a union contract, yet are given the “right” to choose whether to pay union dues, individual self-interest guides many to opt out, eventually defunding and decertifying the union as membership declines. It is like a bridge whose maintenance is paid for by an optional toll; does anybody believe it would not eventually collapse out of disrepair?

This is not only exactly what has happened in states that have enacted so-called “right-to-work” legislation, it is also the exact purpose of the legislation… long a part of a Republican strategy to defund the Democratic Party by destroying one of its most powerful political allies. It is also integral to a corporate strategy that seeks to compete with low-cost manufacturers abroad, by creating a low-wage, no-benefit workforce at home.

The BIAW’s Tom McCabe claims a right-to-work initiative would be retaliation for Democratic efforts to fix workers compensation, preventing the BIAW from using premiums as a cash cow for funding conservative politicians and causes:

“They’ve thrown down the gantlet, and we have to respond.”

That’s not only childish, but a complete and utter load of crap. The BIAW has been threatening this initiative for years, and if anything, Labor’s unsuccessful effort to undercut BIAW funding was a preemptive strike. McCabe and the BIAW will stop at nothing to achieve their political goals, and it would be suicidal for Labor if they failed to provide an equally strident opposition.

Just as much a load of bullshit are protestations from business leaders that mandatory union dues “violate individual workers’ rights and give unions unfair advantages in the workplace and in politics.” That’s right… they say they’re doing this for the workers. And unions have an unfair political advantage? Gimme a break! As the Times also reports today, business is doing just fine for itself in the political arena, thank you very much.

Fortune 500 companies that invested millions of dollars in electing Republicans are emerging as the earliest beneficiaries of a government controlled by President Bush and the largest GOP House and Senate majority in a half-century.

What the fucking bastards at the BIAW really want is to eliminate Labor’s counter-balance on business’s otherwise unchecked power in the workplace, and in politics. To pretend for a nanosecond that right-to-work is about workers’ rights to anything, is a cruel, underhanded joke. Business leaders have a fiduciary responsibility to serve the interests of their shareholders… not their customers, not their communities, and certainly not their workers… and without organized labor around to create some sort of balance of power, we’ll all soon be obediently working for Wal-Mart wages… or else.

What does the BIAW want in return for the millions of workers comp dollars it spends on behalf of right-wing politicians and causes? Cheap unregulated workers to build cheap unregulated houses… and then tort reform to prevent homeowners from suing them for the resulting shoddy workmanship. These are greedy, selfish, self-righteous, fucking bastards. And while I’ve never been a member of a union myself, I promise you that if the BIAW ever runs their union-busting initiative, I’ll be out there on the streets, side by side with Labor, shadowing the BIAW’s paid signature gatherers, and picketing the businesses who contribute to their sham campaign.

[Editor's Note: for those of you offended by my foul language, please address your complaints to the BIAW's potty-mouthed spokesperson, Erin "fuck you" Shannon.]

by Goldy, 03/28/2005, 12:36 AM

As the nation remains transfixed on the moral, ethical and legal controversies surrounding the Terri Schiavo case, I’d like to mention three words that are sure to have many of my righty readers cartoonishly blowing steam from their ears: “universal health care.”

Mention of universal health care, single-payer or otherwise, is guaranteed to illicit cries of “socialized medicine,” and all the attendant fear-mongering and name-calling that generally goes with it. I fully expect to be regaled with apocryphal tales of hapless Canadians forced to wait months for an emergency appendectomy, or some other such frightening anecdote. Labels like “socialist” and “communist” will be flung like frisbees, with the comment thread eventually and inevitably devolving into personal attacks on Teddy Kennedy, as if the blame for our nation’s ballooning health care costs and millions of uninsured can be pinned on his actions that fateful night in Chappaquiddick.

Much of the opposition to universal health care stems from an irrational fear of rationing… irrational, not because it won’t lead to rationing — it will — but because rationing is already an integral part of our current health care system (assuming you can call what we have now a “system.”) The difference is, under a health care system that guarantees universal access, rationing will be based on reasoned criteria that prioritizes resources towards where they provide the best return, whereas under our current non-system, the reverse is often true. For example, while millions of the uninsured, many of them children, go without basic preventative health care, more than half of Medicare dollars are spent on patients who die within two months.

Not to mention patients like Terri Schiavo, whose hospice care taxpayers are largely paying for through Medicaid.

I am in no way suggesting that Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die because her life isn’t worth the expense. I am merely pointing out the hypocrisy of people who uncompromisingly support an absolute right to life, yet who are just as uncompromising in their refusal to pay for it. Reasonable people may disagree as to whether a blastocyst or a brain-dead woman are living, human beings the same as you or me, but nobody would deny the humanity of a sick or injured child who shows up, uninsured, at a hospital emergency room. We care for the sick, even the indigent, because there is no question that morally it is the right thing to do. The costs of their unpaid medical bills are ultimately absorbed by the rest of us.

And yet millions of uninsured Americans are denied routine medical care, and face financial ruin should a major illness strike… circumstances that are not only cruel, but create gross, economic inefficiencies throughout our health care system, raising the costs for all.

And so I ask those who support keeping Terri Schiavo’s body alive at any expense: should taxpayer money be used to pay for her care? And if so, why shouldn’t it also be used to pay for a mammogram for the gal flipping your burger at McDonalds, or a dental exam for a farm laborer’s child? How are we respecting the “sanctity of life” when we lavish taxpayer dollars on the dying, yet ignore the basic health care needs of so many of the living? And if prayer vigils are to be held, why not also hold them for the uninsured who lose their jobs and their homes and their life savings to a family illness?

Yes, universal health care will result in rationing to some degree, but we are already rationing now… and not just our tax money and medical resources, but also our compassion and our prayers. Isn’t it time for the most vocal proponents of life, to put their money where their mouth is?

by Goldy, 03/27/2005, 12:18 PM

A quick link to David Postman’s update on the GOP felon-voter list in the Seattle Times. As has been reported previously, the list includes hundreds of names of people convicted as juveniles, who did not have their voting rights revoked. Now as the various counties attempt to slog through the list, more and more errors are being uncovered.

“It’s really inconsistent information. But 1,100 felons voting makes a great headline,” said Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly.

She said that earlier this year, the county reviewed a list of 15 alleged felon voters compiled by Rossi backers but not submitted to the court. She said four of those 15 appeared to have voted improperly.

Republicans now say 31 felons voted illegally in Yakima County. Mattingly said she’s seen the list of names, but there are no birth dates or criminal case numbers, which makes the list difficult to research.

A 73 percent error rate? Is that an anomaly? Apparently not:

Whatcom appears to be one of the few counties that has completed a thorough review of the list.

According to the Republicans, the county had 13 illegal votes cast by felons. But county Auditor Shirley Forslof said a review by the court clerk found many errors:

Four of the voters in question were convicted of felonies but had their voting rights restored. One was entitled to vote because the conviction was for a gross misdemeanor, not a felony. One was free to vote because the felony case had been dismissed. Three on the list didn’t vote in the November election, contrary to what the Republicans had said.

The remaining four voters, Forslof said, appear to have voted illegally, and their names have been forwarded to the county prosecutor.

I know, I know… whether the final number is 1,100 or 400 or something in between, hundreds more felons voted illegally than Christine Gregoire’s margin of victory, and that, say Rossi supporters, should be enough to set aside the election. Yeah, well, perhaps in their minds, but not in a court of law, where Rossi will actually have to prove that these illegal votes and other errors changed the outcome. As GOP allegations consistently prove to be less reliable than the election itself, even their proportional analysis strategy looks unlikely to provide the desired result.

The Rossi camp went into the contest expecting to find thousands of illegal votes and irregularities, if not evidence of actual organized fraud and corruption. Whether their optimism (or was it pessimism?) was due to faulty initial analysis or a genuine faith in the incompetence and immorality of Democrats — or just plain blind hope — their investigations simply haven’t panned out. The normally scandal hungry MSM, that was so eager to jump on earlier allegations, has become rightfully skeptical of charges of a “stolen” election… and even right-wing talk radio seems to be growing tired of the twice daily spreadsheets from that guy on the other blog.

The truth is, we had a run-of-the-mill imperfect election, with the normal assortment of randomly distributed errors. Under those circumstances it simply was not possible to confidently determine the winner of such an extraordinarily close election. Some people understandably find such uncertainty reason enough to call for a new election. But unfortunately for them — and Dino Rossi — our election statutes do not.

by Goldy, 03/26/2005, 4:37 PM

A couple weeks back I blogged about a Frank Rich column on the dirtiest joke ever told, and how Gilbert Gottfried’s telling of it was such a welcome relief just two and half weeks after 9/11. Every comedian tells the joke differently — it’s more of concept than a script — but for those interested in hearing a version for themselves, I’ve found a clip of a rendition from South Park.

Be forewarned, if you are easily offended, do not view the clip.

Really. You’ve been warned, so I’ll have absolutely no sympathy for people who find this offensive. (Personally, I found the sheer outrageousness to be fall-down-funny.)

by Goldy, 03/26/2005, 4:05 AM

So here’s a question: are right-wing “news” hosts like Fox’s Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough stupid, lazy or just plain liars? Both hosts repeatedly touted Dr. William Hammesfahr as a “Nobel Prize nominee,” Hannity eight times during a single hour-long program, and Scarborough four times. But according to Media Matters:

Hammesfahr, a Florida neurologist disciplined in 2003 by the Florida Board of Medicine who claims he can help Terri Schiavo, testified during an October 2002 court hearing on the Schiavo case that his claim to be a Nobel nominee is based on a letter written by Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) recommending him for the prize. But Bilirakis is not qualified to make a valid nomination under the Nobel rules.

Reading the so-called “nominating letter,” I’m not sure Rep. Bilirakis is even qualified to be a congressman:

It is my distinct privilege to present to the Committee, Dr. William M. Hammesfahr, for the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine.

“The Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine”…? What a ditz.

Anyway, seeing as all you need these days to get a nomination is a letter from a slightly confused Floridian, my mother has written a letter nominating me for the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine too. She always did want me to be a doctor.

by Goldy, 03/25/2005, 5:44 PM

Wow. Last week’s open thread collected over 450 comments. I guess I’m pretty much superfluous.

by Goldy, 03/25/2005, 12:52 PM

Okay, I’ve heard enough bellyaching already from editorialists whining about legislation to amend Initiative 601′s spending limits. Passed in 1993, I-601 uses population growth plus inflation to calculate increases in the state spending cap; any spending above the limit requires a two-thirds vote in both houses.

In practice, it only takes a simple majority to amend or suspend I-601 (as has been done in the past,) and thus the super majority provision is utterly toothless — not to mention, undemocratic. And it has probably always been unconstitutional to boot, as only the state Constitution can dictate the majorities required to pass legislation. Complain all you want about removing this provision, but if you really want to require a super majority vote, you need to do it by constitutional amendment.

Yesterday the Tacoma News Tribune chimed in, criticizing SB 6078 for seeking to change the way the cap is calculated (the new formula would link growth in spending to growth in personal income): “Gutting I-601 spending limits a bad idea.”

Gutting? Gimme a break.

As has been explained by the Gates Commission, and nearly every reputable expert on these issues, the economic metric that most close tracks growth in demand for public services is aggregate growth in personal income. This is because most government services are commodities, and like most commodities, consumption increases with income. (Hey… that’s free market economics for you.) As the TNT points out, a growth in personal income calculation would indeed result in a higher spending cap than the current formula.

But to continue to impose a spending limit calculated on population plus inflation, is to ensure that over the long run, government services simply cannot keep pace with demand. And that is exactly what has happened since I-601 passed in 1993: expenditures as a percentage of personal income have declined steadily. And with non-discretionary spending like health care rising much faster than inflation — and thus eating up a larger portion of the budget — the impact of the spending limit is exaggerated on essential services like K-12 education.

K-12 Expenditures per $1,000 Personal Income
(State & Local Government)
K-12 Expenditures per $1000

In fiscal year 2002, Washington ranked 41st among states in state and local government K-12 spending as a percentage of personal income, down from 36th in 2000. As long as we continue to rely on a structurally inadequate tax system, and tie our spending limits to unrealistic economic metrics, we can expect the level of essential services to continue to decline.

I’m a big proponent of balanced budgets, and I’m not necessarily opposed to spending limits as a guideline for writing them. Indeed, I’m a helluva lot more fiscally conservative than most of my righty critics would imagine (or my liberal cohorts might like.) But my main complaint with I-601′s spending limits calculation, is that like our current tax structure, when projected out into the future, it guarantees that we will have a smaller and smaller government providing fewer and fewer services… without ever asking voters if this is what they truly want!

I welcome a knock-down, drag ‘em out, no holds barred public debate on the proper size and scope of government, because I believe that most voters want safer streets, better schools, and all the other essential services that government provides. But the Republican leadership refuses to talk about the real issues, because they understand that the status quo will eventually produce their libertarian dystopia, without debate, if only they show a little patience.

Attacking SB 6078 as “gutting” I-601, ignores the whole purpose of imposing spending limits in the first place. I-601 was not intended to shrink the government, it was intended to keep government growth in line with our economy… and to this end the limit factor should reflect an accurate economic metric. It’s simple math.

To support the current formula is to support the Republican effort to dramatically shrink government by “starving the beast,” a disingenuous strategy to impose a radical vision of government they couldn’t possibly win at the polls. It is a stunningly clever act of political legerdemain, that distracts the eye by focusing exclusively on taxes, while ignoring the services they finance. Then, while voters aren’t looking, tada… government services disappear.

But there’s nothing magical about I-601′s population plus inflation calculation; it simply does not allow our government to keep pace with the growing demands of our growing economy, and thus necessarily results in diminished services over time.

Math may not be as entertaining as magic… but it’s a damn more reliable way to predict the future.

by Goldy, 03/25/2005, 12:09 AM

The Seattle P-I reports that King County prosecutors have identified 93 more felons from a batch of 100 names on the GOP’s felons list. Hmmm, 93 percent… not bad, I guess… not as good as KC Elections, but not bad.

Not that it matters as far as Rossi’s contest is concerned:

In pretrial rulings, Bridges has said it won’t be enough for the Republicans to establish that the number of illegal votes exceeded the margin of victory; they would have to show that Gregoire owed her win to illegal votes.

Um… which I suppose is why GOPolitburo Chair Chris Vance is so confident:

“We have a slam-dunk case.”

Yeah… right Chris.

FYI, the P-I also has an article on the new statewide voter registration database, that should go a long way towards enabling election officials to properly purge the rolls of felons in the future.

by Goldy, 03/24/2005, 4:10 PM

The Olympian has managed to wrangle up US Rep. Adam Smith for an online chat, Friday morning at 9:30 am. It’s unlikely they’ll get too many questions in the pipeline on such short notice, so if you have a query for the congressman, go to their pre-chat and submit it now.

by Goldy, 03/24/2005, 8:29 AM

In a terse, one-page decision, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Terri Schiavo’s parents to order her feeding tube reinserted.

The appeal went first to Reagan appointee, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has responsibility for cases emanating from the 11th Circuit. He then referred the case to the full nine-member court. This marks at least the fifth time the SCOTUS has declined to get involved in the case. According to the AP, the court’s decision was not surprising:

Not only had justices repeatedly declined to intervene in the Schiavo case on prior occasions, but they routinely defer to state courts on family law issues. Judges in various Florida courts have sided with Schiavo’s husband in the 15 years since she suffered brain damage.

Meanwhile the New York Times has an interesting profile on Dr. William Cheschire, the man at the center of Jeb Bush’s last ditch attempt to seize control of Terri Schiavo’s fate: “A Diagnosis With a Dose of Religion.”

by Goldy, 03/24/2005, 12:05 AM

There are an awful lot of lies being told by the Bush administration and its allies in their battle to dismantle Social Security through privatization, but perhaps the biggest lie of all is “$11 trillion dollars.” That’s the “unfunded obligation” President Bush tells us Social Security will supposedly accrue if nothing is done to fix it:

You realize that this system of ours is going to be short the difference between obligations and money coming in, by about $11 trillion, unless we act. And that’s an issue. That’s trillion with a “T.”

It’s nice to know the president is keeping up on his spelling, but he needs to do a little more work on his math. For according to the ever useful FactCheck.org, that mind-boggling number is calculated using the Social Security Administration’s new “infinite-horizon model,” which attempts to project revenue and obligations not 75 years into the future (as has been the standard model,) or even 100 years, but… well… forever.

Sound a little silly? Well the American Academy of Actuaries, a nonpartisan group with the really boring job of setting the standards of practice for US actuaries, points out that even 75-year projections are filled with uncertainty, but an infinite projection… well that’s basically worthless. In a letter sent to the Social Security Advisory Board, the Academy is unequivocal:

The new measures of the unfunded obligations included in the 2003 report provide little if any useful information about the program’s long-range finances and indeed are likely to mislead anyone lacking technical expertise in the demographic, economic, and actuarial aspects of the program’s finances into believing that the program is in far worse financial condition than is actually indicated.

But then, that’s the whole point of the infinite-horizon projection isn’t it… to mislead Americans by conjuring up a really humongous number in order to scare us into supporting a bogus “reform” package? But how many Americans would take this number seriously if they understood, as NPR reported today, that the projection is based on the truly laughable assumption that the retirement age will stay at 67, while average life expectancy peaks at 150 by the year 2200!

150? Forget about Social Security’s unfunded obligations… how are we going to pay for all the court-ordered feeding tubes we’ll presumably need to sustain a nation of sesquicentenarians?