by Goldy, 06/30/2005, 11:39 PM

[NWPT55]The process worked.

The Seattle P-I reports that the Seattle Monorail Project board has voted to reject the controversial financing plan, sending the project back to the drawing board, and likely requiring another public vote before any revised plan could be implemented.

An ad-hoc committee of the monorail board will try to determine how to salvage the project. Exactly what they would do is unclear, but officials said everything is on the table, including trying to come up with a new way to finance the monorail.

Mayor Greg Nickels said the board had “done the right thing.”

“Before the monorail can move forward, the board must ensure that the financial plan and technical design are sound and have the public’s full confidence. The committee’s decision to reject the most recent financing proposal takes us in that direction,” the mayor said in a statement.

You know what? The process worked.

The board should be commended for making a responsible, if painful decision, and the public should be encouraged that the SMP heard their concerns and reacted appropriately.

My guess is, however, that not all the commentary you read will be quite so magnanimous. There are essentially two kinds of Monorail critics: those of us who recognize the need for public transit systems like the Monorail, but demand that our tax dollars be spent more wisely… and those who are simply out for blood. As to the latter, on some other blog there is this guy who fancies himself a “shark”, and in his political feeding frenzy he’s calling for the state Legislature to take this as an opportunity to dissolve the Monorail agency.

If you’re a shark, then eat me.

There is a difference between liberals like me and the nattering naysayers on the other side. I believe that government by the people, for the people, of the people can make this world a better place. They don’t. Thus I see the the board’s decision as a bold example of good governance, while they see it merely as an opportunity for political gainsaying.

But there is no scandal, there is no outrage… there is merely a dedicated group of citizen activists who attempted to build a transit system from the ground up… and failed. To their credit, they recognized their failure, and have decided to step back and evaluate their options, despite the fact that common wisdom says such a move would be political suicide.

Four times the Monorail has been put before voters, and four times it has passed. Perhaps we will see a fifth vote, only this time with detailed plans in place and fixed-price contracts in hand. Or perhaps the board’s decision has killed the Monorail for good.

I voted against the Monorail because I simply did not think it was worth the money. But despite this latest setback, I’m kinda still hoping the SMP eventually proves me wrong.

by Goldy, 06/30/2005, 4:07 PM

[NWPT54]So where does Dino Rossi stand on the “No New Gas Tax” initiative?

I asked Kirby Wilbur that question this morning, because I believe it is at the heart of one of the more disturbing and dishonest rhetorical themes of the I-912 campaign. (You can listen to the clip here.) Long before Judge Bridges handed down his stinging rebuke of Rossi’s frivolous election contest law suit, both John and Kirby were busy harvesting anger over the disputed election in an effort to whip up public support for their initiative. Listen to the callers and comment threads on conservative talk radio and the right-wing blogs, and this theme is repeated again and again… that repealing the transportation package and the gas tax hike that pays for it is intended to “send a message” to Democrats in the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion.

Problem is, this wasn’t simply a Democratic bill… its details were extensively negotiated with the Republican leadership, a number of whom personally voted for the bill, along with many of their caucus colleagues. This was a bill that simply could not pass without GOP support and complicity. Indeed, no less a vicious, partisan hack than GOPolitburo Chair Chris Vance himself defended the bill in an email reply to an angry rank-and-file Republican:

In this state, the gas tax is 100% dedicated to state highways. Many Republicans, therefore, have supported increased gas taxes on the theory that they are user fees and are needed to make crucial transportation improvements vital to our economy.

  • The Transportation section of our platform does not include language opposing increased gas taxes.
  • The Senate bill includes a performance audit of the DOT, which we strongly support.
  • Roughly 1/3 of the Republican members of the Senate voted in favor of this bill.
  • In 2002, the delegates to the State Convention voted to keep the WSRP neutral on Referendum 51, the proposal to raise transportation taxes.

Why would the Republican leadership support an increase in the gas tax? Because this package is about safety, because it is about competitiveness, and because it is the consensus of our state’s business leaders that without it, our transportation woes will get a helluva lot worse before they start getting any better. Take a gander at the businesses, business groups and chambers of commerce supporting the No on I-912 campaign, and then answer me this: what do Boeing, Microsoft, Washington Mutual, and Weyerhaeuser know about our state’s transportation infrastructure that John and Kirby don’t?

The Republican leadership supported this bill not out of hypocrisy or political dealmaking, but because they are genuinely pro-business and pro-growth, and because their allies in the business community convinced them that it was in the best interest of the state’s economy. The Republican leadership supported this bill because our state’s “competitiveness” was at stake, a loaded word that candidate Rossi wore thin during stump speeches throughout his campaign. So at a time when the anti-tax true believers are parading the Martyrdom of Saint Dino as an icon of their gas tax repeal initiative, isn’t it time Rossi himself came down from the Sammamish Plateau and took a public stance on this issue?

I have been assured by those who know and admire Rossi, that he is a straight talker who can be taken at his word, and so I can only assume that his refusal to openly support I-912, means that he does not support it. We have $250 billion worth of critical transportation infrastructure that is slowly being frittered away due to deferred maintenance, and it is hard to imagine how a “Governor” Rossi could live up to his promise to make WA state more competitive without having signed some sort of gas tax increase into law. His silence on this issue seems to me to be a clear indicator that he has no alternative to offer.

Of course, I could be wrong.

There is no question that Rossi is a candidate for governor in 2008, so if he is indeed a straight talker, and if he in fact supports repealing the gas tax increase, then we should expect him to come straight with voters regarding his break with the Republican leadership, and explain how he would address these needs differently than Governor Gregoire. That is the least we should expect from a wannabe “agent of change.”

As for John, Kirby and the rest of the “No New Gas Tax” campaign, I would hope that they would actually ask Rossi for his support, before implying his endorsement.

by Goldy, 06/30/2005, 1:59 AM

[NWPT54]Since 1940, Washington state’s gas tax has risen more than fivefold, from 5 cents a gallon to 28 cents a gallon… and yet, adjusted for inflation, the per-gallon value of the tax has actually fallen almost in half. Indeed, even when the recently enacted 9.5 cent a gallon increase is fully implemented in 2009, the effective tax rate in real dollars will still be below historically average levels.

Gas Tax, 1940 - 2009

The chart above tracks the gas tax from 1940 though 2009. The orange line represents the nominal gas tax in actual dollars (well… cents.) The blue line represents the gas tax adjusted to 2005 dollars, using the Gross Domestic Product Deflator historical data included in the US budget. (The GDP Deflator is estimated for 2004 through 2009.)

Because the gas tax is levied as a fixed dollar-value per gallon, rather than as a percentage of the sale price, the value of the tax is gradually eaten away by inflation unless the tax is periodically increased… which is exactly what the Legislature has routinely done since the tax was first implemented in 1921. Indeed, one of the reasons the recent round of tax hikes seems so shocking, is that the Legislature failed to raise the tax from 1991 through 2002, allowing real revenues per gallon to fall near an all-time low. It is no wonder that during that time, maintainance was deferred, and our transportation infrastructure was allowed to slip into its current state of gradual decay.

If we want to have a real debate about the transportation bill and the initiative to repeal it, then we’re going to have to start with some real numbers.

by Goldy, 06/29/2005, 12:06 PM

I’ll be on the air with Kirby Wilbur, KVI-570, tomorrow morning (Thurs.) at 8 AM to discuss I-912, the “no new gas tax” initiative. Hope I don’t bore the audience, but I plan to come armed with some facts… you know, like the fact that this isn’t actually a “new” gas tax, but rather an increase intended to help match revenues to inflation.

by Goldy, 06/29/2005, 9:37 AM

Apparently I had only half the story when I wrote about the burglary at the I-901 campaign’s Green Lake offices, where petitions containing about 1000 signatures were stolen. As first reported yesterday in the Tacoma News Tribune, and again today in the Seattle Times, there was actually a second break-in over the weekend targeting the anti-smoking initiative, this one at the Lacey offices of Progressive Campaigns, the signature gathering firm that collected about half of I-901′s signatures.

At the Green Lake office the perpetrators scavenged through desk drawers and boxes, taking only petitions, while leaving cash and laptop computers behind. There were no petitions in the Lacey office, and nothing was stolen.

The burglary in Lacey was similar to the one in Green Lake, with a shattered window, said Lacey police detective Lt. Phil Comstock.

Comstock said that, although the crimes were being investigated independently, there appear to be links between the break-ins. Police said they have few leads.

[I-901 campaign spokesman] Peter McCollum said he was unsure why the theft occurred and didn’t want to speculate.

“Could be something as sinister as political motives or it could be something as silly as a prank,” McCollum said.

I have no problem speculating. It was the sinister political motives thing.

The Times article quotes I-901 opponent Gary Murrey, vice president of the Great American Gaming Corp. — a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. — which operates four of the state’s largest non-tribal casinos, in Lakewood, Tukwila, Everett and Kent. Forgive me for being a tad suspicious, but this is the same Canadian company that bankrolled last year’s slot machine initiative, I-892, and it is reasonable to expect that Great Canadian will bring the same shady ethical and legal standards to its WA operations that it allegedly brought to its loanshark-infested B.C. casinos, and its Hong Kong based floating brothel.

And dirty tricks are nothing new to this issue. Last year, when anti-smoking advocates attempted to push an I-901-like initiative, opponents helped scuttle the effort by filing a similarly titled initiative intended to confuse voters. So Murrey tried the same ruse again this year.

Murrey has filed a rival measure, Initiative 911, which would ban smoking indoors in places where children were present but would allow adults older than 21 to light up in businesses such as bars and minicasinos.

Hey, I have an idea Gary. Since you seem to care so much about children, why don’t we just raise the legal gambling age to 21, so we won’t have so many minors illegally smoking and drinking in your casinos, huh? Maybe I’ll file that initiative.

In any case, our Canadian neighbors have failed once again to jigger WA’s initiative process to their advantage; I-901 has collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, and I-911 hasn’t. That I-901 opponents would stoop to petty burglaries is a sign of desperation. But it should come as no surprise that an industry with a well-earned reputation as a cesspool of organized crime and addiction, might organize a crime in defense of an addictive and destructive habit like smoking.

by Goldy, 06/29/2005, 12:43 AM

I was listening to President Bush’s address to the nation last night, and was struck by the following passage:

Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!

So true, so true indeed.

by Goldy, 06/28/2005, 1:38 PM

Here’s an interesting tidbit from today’s Seattle P-I:

Organizers of an anti-smoking initiative said yesterday that about 1,000 signatures were stolen from the campaign’s Green Lake office over the weekend.

Someone apparently climbed onto an adjacent roof and smashed out a second-story window to get into the YES! On Initiative 901 offices, said campaign director Megan Sather.

Nothing else in the office, which had computers and a small amount of cash, was disturbed.

“I’m surprised that any break-in of our office would focus on signatures, and just plain disappointed that anything like this would happen to stop us from getting on the ballot,” Sather said.

While I share Megan’s disappointment, I don’t share her surprise. I-901′s main opponent is the Recreational Gaming Association, the same lying bastards whose members bankrolled last year’s I-892, Tim Eyman’s stupidly cynical slot machine initiative. In an effort to confuse voters, they filed their own “anti-smoking” initiative, I-911. The initiative’s sponsor is Gary Murrey, an RGA board member, and a Vice President at Great American Casinos, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian corporation that was I-892′s largest financial backer. So once again we have the incredibly crooked and corrupt Great Canadian Gaming Corporation meddling in Washington’s initiative process.

Now I’m not saying that it was Great Canadian or any other RGA member who broke into I-901 HQ to steal signatures… but it wouldn’t surprise me. When you have an industry whose profits are based on loansharking, prostitution and addiction, a little Watergate-style break-in seems almost innocent. I’m just saying.

In any case, it’s all moot because I-901 has already collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, and the campaign wasn’t stupid enough to leave the petitions lying around where Great Canadian could send one if its pals in the Chinese mob to come steal it. Not that this was the work of Great Canadian, the RGA or the Chinese mob.

I’m just saying….

by Goldy, 06/28/2005, 9:59 AM

Well, it’s only $15,000, but it’s the thought that counts. Dino Rossi’s election contest slap nuisance suit has finally come to an official close with a one sentence written order by Judge John Bridges, and Republicans delivering a $15,000 check to Democrats to pay for court costs. The Dems had asked for $48,000, but agreed to settle for less.

GOPolitburo Chair Chris Vance dismissed the settlement as “a business decision”… but then, the entire election contest was a business decision. The Republicans dragged this frivolous case through the courts, knowing they had little or no chance of prevailing, because they felt the legal and financial costs were well worth the potential PR victory. Unfortunately for the R’s, Christine Gregoire governed effectively and authoritatively throughout the ongoing controversy… and while Ron Sims’ political fortunes may have been tarnished by the relentless assault on his office, the Republicans have been unable to capitalize by putting up a viable alternative for King County Executive. (David Irons…? Gimme a break.)

The GOP faithful have also deluded themselves into thinking that this debacle will somehow help them capture Maria Cantwell’s US Senate seat in 2006; they’re going to have to find themselves a decent candidate first… and if he’s a man of his word, it won’t be Rossi. But whoever they run, the political dynamics of that race will focus less on local politics, and more on whether WA voters want to hand complete and total control of the Federal government to the right-wing of the Republican Party. This election will be about whether voters in a state that gave decisive victories to John Kerry and Patty Murray are willing to give an automatic cloture vote to Bill Frist, Tom DeLay and Karl Rove (and his talking dummy.)

As for the inevitable rematch in the 2008 governor’s race, that’s still a long ways away, and if Gov. Gregoire runs the same kind of timid, visionless campaign that allowed Rossi to turn this last one into a virtual tie, well then… she’ll deserve to lose. But she ain’t stoopid.

Plus, if Rossi attempts to capture the sympathy vote by running on the “stolen election” theme, there is a simple refutation… Judge Bridges final order:

“As set forth in the Court’s oral ruling of dismissal on June 6, 2005 … this election contest petition is dismissed with prejudice and the certification of Christine Gregoire as the duly elected Governor of the State of Washington is hereby confirmed.”

Judge Bridges rejected every single Republican claim. The case was “dismissed with prejudice” for a reason… there was no case. That’s why the R’s paid the D’s court costs. If Rossi tries to ride this issue into 2008, he’s going to come off looking like a poor loser. Plus, the role of victim simply doesn’t suit Rossi, and runs counter to the supposedly positive, forward-looking, agent-of-change theme that almost got him elected.

The recipe for a Gregoire victory in 2008 is simple. She needs to be an effective and popular governor, while her fellow Democrats in the Legislature and in King County need to largely address the legitimate concerns that were raised by the unprecedented scrutiny of the 2004 election. Force Rossi to run on real issues, and he loses, because really, there are very few issues that work to his advantage.

If Rossi insists on making the 2004 election the heart of his 2008 campaign, he’s destined to be a three-time loser… two elections and his stupid-ass law suit.

UPDATE:
Reader Mark pointed out that I incorrectly used the term “slap suit” in my opening sentence. It was in fact a “nuisance suit.” I stand corrected.

by Goldy, 06/27/2005, 11:40 PM

The odd thought occurred to me that if the Seattle Monorail gets bonded and built, and we end up paying the 1.4% Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) for the next five decades or so, one of the people we’ll most have to thank (or blame) is none other than… Tim Eyman.

Think about it. Timmy’s career-making initiative, I-695, eliminated the state’s 2.2% MVET… clearly an unpopular tax. The Monorail initiative barely passed as it was; if the state MVET had been left in place, it seems highly unlikely that enough voters would have approved such a large increase in their already spendy tabs.

My own car tabs are illustrative. The state apparently values my car at about $12,666 (though Edmunds.com tells me I’d get only $9,383 in a private sale.) If I-695 had never passed, my car tabs would be as follows:

$  0.75 Licensing Service and Technology Fee
$  3.00 County Filing Fee
$ 38.00 RTA/Sound Transit Fee
$ 23.75 State registration renewal fee
$279.00 State MVET
_______________
$344.50 Total

That’s a pretty steep car tab for what I’m guessing is a pretty average car. At my car’s current (supposed) value, the Monorail tax would add another $177.00 — a hefty 51% increase — for a grand total of $521.50. That would be like paying 5.6% of the value of my car… every year!

In that context, I just can’t imagine Seattle voters approving the Monorail’s 1.4% MVET. I’m not saying voters definitely wouldn’t have approved a Monorail proposal… just that the Monorail’s backers could not have relied so heavily on the MVET if Eyman had not first zeroed it out with I-695. If the old state MVET had still been in place, backers would have been forced to propose a more reliable tax base, and the Monorail’s budget shortfalls may never have occurred.

So whether your main concern is the Monorail’s shaky financing… or the Monorail itself… one thing we can agree on is that really, it’s all Tim’s fault.

by Goldy, 06/27/2005, 12:32 PM

Washington has earned some attention for being the only state with women serving in the governor’s mansion and both US Senate seats. But lost in the noise is the terrific job being done by the fourth highest ranking woman in Washington state politics… State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-Spokane).

As the new Majority Leader, Sen. Brown was instrumental in helping to orchestrate what was perhaps the most productive legislative session in recent history, despite the ongoing acrimony over the close gubernatorial election. I have talked with Sen. Brown on several occasions, and have always come away impressed with her detailed grasp of a number of complex issues. The past session has also proven her to be a deft politician as well.

Lynn Allen of Evergreen Politics recently had the opportunity to interview Sen. Brown, and she has posted a transcript online. I was pleased to see that Sen. Brown recognizes that one of the biggest hurdles facing her and fellow Democrats has been an inability to effectively communicate with voters.

We have to be able to do a better job of telling our story. We grapple with the issue of communication. For example, the state is now faced with the possibility of this anti-tax initiative. We worked very hard to get support from community leaders, business leaders and labor across all the cities and counties in Washington State for passage of the Transportation Bill. The whole story about the importance of that bill and its support by such a wide group of people is not getting out. It is being characterized as a ten cent tax increase when we were very careful to phase in the additional taxes, a few cents at a time over several years.

Read the whole thing.

by Goldy, 06/27/2005, 8:25 AM

From the AP:

In a narrowly drawn ruling, the Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in courthouses today, holding that two exhibits in Kentucky crossed the line between separation of church and state because they promoted a religious message.

O’Connor voted with the majority and Kennedy with the minority; the rest of the court split as one would expect. David Souter, writing for the majority:

“The touchstone for our analysis is the principle that the First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”

“When the government acts with the ostensible and predominant purpose of advancing religion, it violates that central Establishment clause value of official religious neutrality.”

Understand that cases at the heart of this decision were deliberate attempts by the religious right to provoke a reaction, by explicitly displaying Christian themes.

Two Kentucky counties originally hung the copies of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses. After the ACLU filed suit, the counties modified their displays to add other documents demonstrating “America’s Christian heritage,” including the national motto of “In God We Trust” and a version of the Congressional Record declaring 1983 the “Year of the Bible.”

When a federal court ruled those displays had the effect of endorsing religion, the counties erected a third Ten Commandments display with surrounding documents such as the Bill of Rights and Star-Spangled Banner to highlight their role in “our system of law and government.”

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal subsequently struck down the third display as a “sham” for the religious intent behind it.

As a non-Christian, I find this constant and continued attempt to impose Christianity on public life insulting and offensive. Attempts to reinterpret history, to claim that our founding fathers intended to create a Christian nation, are nothing but fiction. The US was always intended to be a haven for religious freedom, and government was always intended to be kept secular. The Supreme Court should be congratulated for viewing with suspicion any attempt by government to promote religion, however symbolic.

UPDATE:
While the court ruled that overtly religious Ten Commandment displays in Kentucky were impermissible, they have upheld a monument in a 22-acre park at the Texas State Capitol, where it was just one of 17 sculptures. Curiously, it was Justice Stephen Breyer who played the role of the swing vote.

If anything, the message sent to the court today is that such disputes should be decided by the courts on a case by case basis. Even Chief Justice Rehnquist acknowledged that there should be limits on religious displays on government property.

“While the Commandments are religious, they have an undeniable historical meaning,” Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote. “Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause.”

But he added pointedly, “There are, of course, limits to the government’s display of religious messages or symbols.”

So while the court was split on these particular cases, there seems to be broad consensus that the Establishment Clause does impose limits on the display of religious messages and symbols on public property.

UPDATE, UPDATE:
Interesting debate going on in the comment threads. I strongly recommend David’s comprehensive comment at #42, explaining that the founding fathers were for the most part, Deists, not Christians per se. This was never a Christian nation, and was never intended to be.

by Goldy, 06/26/2005, 10:33 PM

Frank Rich hits the nail on the head once again. In his Sunday column in the New York Times (“The Armstrong Williams NewsHour“), Rich points out that the current Republican assault on public broadcasting is different from those in the past. Nobody’s trying to do away with PBS or NPR, so Big Bird is far from an endangered species. But…

That doesn’t mean the right’s new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers’ expense. If you liked the fake government news videos that ended up on local stations – or thrilled to the “journalism” of Armstrong Williams and other columnists who were covertly paid to promote administration policies – you’ll love the brave new world this crowd envisions for public TV and radio.

Rich advises that if you want to understand the Bush administration’s intentions you must “follow the money”… not the $100 million the House threatens to cut from public broadcasting’s budget, but rather the $14,170 that Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman Kenneth Tomlinson secretly paid Fred Mann to monitor the political content of PBS and NPR shows.

Now, why would Mr. Tomlinson pay for information that any half-sentient viewer could track with TiVo? Why would he hire someone in Indiana? Why would he keep this contract a secret from his own board? Why, when a reporter exposed his secret, would he try to cover it up by falsely maintaining in a letter to an inquiring member of the Senate, Byron Dorgan, that another CPB executive had “approved and signed” the Mann contract when he had signed it himself? If there’s a news story that can be likened to the “third-rate burglary,” the canary in the coal mine that invited greater scrutiny of the Nixon administration’s darkest ambitions, this strange little sideshow could be it.

Mann’s report monitored the shows of Bill Moyers, Tavis Smiley and Diane Rehm.

Their guests were rated either L for liberal or C for conservative, and “anti-administration” was affixed to any segment raising questions about the Bush presidency. Thus was the conservative Republican Senator Chuck Hagel given the same L as Bill Clinton simply because he expressed doubts about Iraq in a discussion mainly devoted to praising Ronald Reagan. Three of The Washington Post’s star beat reporters (none of whom covers the White House or politics or writes opinion pieces) were similarly singled out simply for doing their job as journalists by asking questions about administration policies.

“It’s pretty scary stuff to judge media, particularly public media, by whether it’s pro or anti the president,” Senator Dorgan said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Not from this gang. Mr. Mann was hardly chosen by chance to assemble what smells like the rough draft of a blacklist. He long worked for a right-wing outfit called the National Journalism Center, whose director, M. Stanton Evans, is writing his own Ann Coulteresque book to ameliorate the reputation of Joe McCarthy. What we don’t know is whether the 50 pages handed over to Senator Dorgan is all there is to it, or how many other “monitors” may be out there compiling potential blacklists or Nixonian enemies lists on the taxpayers’ dime.

It turns out Mann is typical of CPB hires under Tomlinson. One of the two public ombudsmen Tomlinson recruited to monitor new broadcasts for PBS and NPR is William Schulz, “a former writer for the radio broadcaster Fulton Lewis Jr., a notorious Joe McCarthy loyalist.” Tomlinson also paid a $10,000 consulting fee to Brian Darling, the GOP operative who wrote the infamous Terri Schiavo memo instructing Republicans to milk the issue.

And now Patricia Harrison, a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee has been installed as CPB president. As an assistant secretary of state Harrison publicly praised the department’s fake news segments promoting America’s success in Afghanistan and Iraq… some of which have actually been broadcast by local TV stations as real news. Tomlinson’s hires represent a concerted effort to directly control the content of public broadcasting.

Mr. Tomlinson has maintained that his goal at CPB is to strengthen public broadcasting by restoring “balance” and stamping out “liberal bias.” But Mr. Moyers left “Now” six months ago. Mr. Tomlinson’s real, not-so-hidden agenda is to enforce a conservative bias or, more specifically, a Bush bias. To this end, he has not only turned CPB into a full-service employment program for apparatchiks but also helped initiate “The Journal Editorial Report,” the only public broadcasting show ever devoted to a single newspaper’s editorial page, that of the zealously pro-Bush Wall Street Journal. Unlike Mr. Moyers’s “Now” – which routinely balanced its host’s liberalism with conservative guests like Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, Paul Gigot and Cal Thomas – The Journal’s program does not include liberals of comparable stature.

THIS is all in keeping with Mr. Tomlinson’s long career as a professional propagandist. During the Reagan administration he ran Voice of America. Then he moved on to edit Reader’s Digest, where, according to Peter Canning’s 1996 history of the magazine, “American Dreamers,” he was rumored to be “a kind of ‘Manchurian Candidate’ ” because of the ensuing spike in pro-C.I.A. spin in Digest articles. Today Mr. Tomlinson is chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal body that supervises all nonmilitary international United States propaganda outlets, Voice of America included. That the administration’s foremost propagandist would also be chairman of the board of CPB, the very organization meant to shield public broadcasting from government interference, is astonishing. But perhaps no more so than a White House press secretary month after month turning for softball questions to “Jeff Gannon,” a fake reporter for a fake news organization ultimately unmasked as a G.O.P. activist’s propaganda site.

The Bush administration and the Republican leadership are intent on turning the US into a one-party state, and nothing is more crucial to their totalitarian vision than complete and utter control of the broadcast news media, either directly, or through their corporate patrons. It may or may not be possible to save PBS from becoming the domestic equivalent of Voice of America, but the very fact that Republicans are attempting to subvert its independence in such a calculated manner is evidence that we can no longer rely on public broadcasting alone to provide balance to the corporate media.

What can we do? We must all come to public broadcasting’s defense, but we also need to create an alternative that is not vulnerable to similar manipulation. So again, I urge you to go to the Independent World Television News website, watch the introductory video, and please make a tax-deductible contribution. We need an independent media that cannot be controlled by corporate interests and government propagandists. And we need it now.

by Goldy, 06/26/2005, 10:49 AM

I’m a pretty cynical guy, so it’s damn hard to get me excited about some pie-in-the-sky scheme to save the world. But Independent World Television News has got me excited. So excited, that I’ve actually put my money where my mouth is.

So if you believe that a free and democratic society cannot survive without a free and independent media, then I want you to go to the IWT News website, watch their introductory video, and make a tax deductible contribution. That’s what I did… and anybody who knows me, knows that I don’t part with my cash easily.

IWT News is a visionary effort to create the world’s first global independent news network, without funding from governments, corporations or commercial advertising. Taking advantage of a convergence of technological and social developments, this innovative, not-for-profit broadcast service is using the web to both organize, and raise the money needed to finance its programming, initially $25 million for its inaugural 2007 season. Distribution will be via satellite, cable and of course, the Internet, which over the coming decades will likely become a major television distribution medium, potentially breaking the content stranglehold of the broadcast monopolies.

Sound ambitious? Absolutely, but this is no fly-by-night fantasy of a handful of dewy-eyed progressive dreamers. IWT News is already raising its $7 million start-up budget from individual donors and foundations, including such heavyweights as the MacArthur, Ford and Phoebe Haas Trust foundations, as well as the Canadian Auto Workers Union. And it’s founding committee reads like a who’s who of luminaries, including Jeff Cohen, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, Lewis Lapham, Robert McChesney, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn and many others.

Now I know that some of my righty readers are going to whine: “liberal media, blah, blah, blah”… “you already control the press, blah, blah, blah.” And to that sort of commentary I would just like to to calmly and succinctly reply: “Fuck you.”

If IWT News gets off the ground and on the air, it will be because hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens from around the world — possibly millions — believe so passionately in the need for a truly independent television news service, that they are willing to put their hard-earned cash into the dream. So if you on the right really believe there’s a need for a biased, right-wing propaganda network to “balance” things out, then go and create one. Oh wait, you already did… Fox News… only rather than going through the hassle and expense of a grassroots fundraising campaign, you just dipped into Rupert Murdoch’s deep pockets.

The indisputable fact is that broadcast television is controlled by a handful of media giants, and its content is dictated by the needs and whims of its corporate owners. In the US, only PBS has any sort of independence, and now the Republican hegemonists are in the process of taking over that too. Now more than ever we need a news network unbeholden to the powers that be. Our democracy and freedom depend on it.

So please, check out IWT News, and if you can at all afford it, make your contribution today.

by Goldy, 06/25/2005, 9:01 AM

Well surprise, surprise. It looks like House Ethics Committee Chair Doc Hastings may have to investigate himself.

Rep. Doc Hastings, already under fire as chairman of the stalled House ethics committee, accepted a $7,800 trip to England in 2000 from a company he championed for a multibillion-dollar contract at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, records released by an advocacy group yesterday show.

In addition, other records released yesterday by a political Web site show that Hastings, a Republican from Pasco, did not file a required travel report for a 2004 trip to a resort on Stuart Island, B.C. That was paid for by another company also working at Hanford.

Hastings was cynically installed as ethics chair to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay from accumulating ethics charges. Now it appears that both are at the center of controversies regarding improper reporting of privately paid trips.

Word is that the normally low-profile Hastings is not enjoying his time in the spotlight. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him step down from the chairmanship, and back into the cool, comfortable shadows by the end of the summer.

by Goldy, 06/24/2005, 8:57 PM

Ramble on.

by Goldy, 06/24/2005, 4:22 PM

I’ll be on the Bryan Suits Show tonight at 6 pm, KVI-570, talking about the Monorail. I assume Bryan wants me on so he can show that yes, even flaming liberals like me oppose the Monorail.

Hmm… this will be a tough one. My position on the Monorail is actually rather nuanced, but as we all know, nuance doesn’t play well on talk radio.

by Goldy, 06/24/2005, 10:57 AM

[NWPT55]Even though I voted against it, it really bothers me to criticize the Seattle Monorail, because a) I sorta, really want it, and b) some of its most vocal opponents are vicious, lying bastards, who take great joy in scuttling any public project that doesn’t directly benefit their corporate overseers. But after seeing the SMP’s response to public criticism of the final plan’s financing and less than aesthetic design, I am underwhelmed.

The news today is about the long term interest costs to build the Monorail Green Line.

The newspaper is correct when it adds all of those future interest payments together and gets to around $11 billion. However, the value of these interest payments in 2005 dollars is closer to $1.9 billion, or roughly the same as the total cost of the Project which is just under $2 billion (in 2005 dollars). Keep in mind that most of the dollars added up and presented in the Seattle PI article will be paid 30 or 40 years into the future, when a dollar then is worth about 10 to 15 cents today.

It is similar to when someone buys a home with a 30-year mortgage and the interest payments over the 30 years end up being greater than the initial price of the home.

Well yeah, that’s kinda true… from the financial perspective of the SMP… but not for the individual taxpayers who are being asked to pay off the bonds. Presumably, the SMP will issue bonds with fixed regular payments, similar to a mortgage. So due to inflation, a fixed payment today of $100 might be worth only $0.10 in 2005 dollars, several decades hence. But individual taxpayers’ car tabs will rise with inflation along with the price of cars.

The SMP’s 1.4% car tab tax currently costs me $177.00 a year on my 4 year-old car. Due to wear and tear and changing circumstances, I expect I’ll buy several new cars over the coming decades… and each of those will be purchased in inflation-adjusted dollars. So assuming I buy a new car of similar value every 8 to 10 years, my average annual Monorail tax will remain about $177.00 in 2005 dollars. Thus, at the same time the SMP’s annual bond repayments are worth ten cents on the inflation-adjusted dollar, I’ll be paying $1770.00 a year, not $17.00.

In simple terms, if the car tab is levied for 50 years, not the originally projected 25, the Monorail will end up personally costing me about twice as much… roughly $8500 in 2005 dollars. (Though to be fair, I’ll likely be dead before the bonds are paid off, so my total bill will be somewhat less.)

And that has always been my primary complaint about the Monorail… its financing. We are asking taxpayers to ostensibly pay 1.4% of the value of their cars, every year for the rest of their lives. And I wonder… will taxpayers be willing to pony up additional revenues to fund anything else? Or, as I suspect, will the 14-mile Green Line be the only transportation project Seattle voters build over the next half-century?

The SMP’s response generated one more disappointment. They told us we have only two options:

1) We can move forward with this plan.

2) We can decide to not build the Monorail Green Line at all.

Yes I know… politically, those are likely the only two options. But there is a third, if the SMP board has the patience, fortitude and leadership to pursue it. They could pause from the rush to break ground, go back to the drawing board, and come up with a new proposal that simply makes more financial sense. Lob a few miles off one end or the other, propose a more reliable mix of financing, and give us back the sleek design that will make the Monorail an icon rather than an eyesore. Then come back to the polls for another vote if they have to, but this time with all their ducks in a row, and the fixed price contracts in hand. Sure, it could delay the project a couple more years, and they always risk losing a close vote rather than winning one. But it would be the responsible, creative thing to do given the circumstances.

As a progressive, I believe in the social benefits of public transit, and I’m willing to put my tax dollars where my mouth is. But we should only support those public projects that make sense.

It pains me to write this, because in doing so, I am not living up to my responsibility to parry the rhetorical blows of the right-wing critics who will surely paint any decision by the SMP as the ultimate in bureaucratic bungling and arrogance. The anti-transit crowd is in this battle on purely ideological grounds — they are unwilling to give an inch, and the temptation is to be just as inch-stingy in return. Indeed, if this were a national or even a state-wide issue, I would be much more reluctant to voice my reasoned opposition to a transit project I kinda, sorta want.

But this is Seattle, a bastion of progressivism, and quite frankly the political and rhetorical machinations of a handful of marginal, anti-transit blowhards shouldn’t even enter into the equation. We have the opportunity to build a 21st Century transit system, and the responsibility to build it right.

And I simply am not convinced that the current proposal is the right way to build the Monorail.

by Goldy, 06/24/2005, 1:10 AM

There is nothing more un-American than passing a constitutional amendment to outlaw burning of the American flag.

Our flag is a proud symbol to veterans and other patriotic Americans… but a symbol of what? A nation where freedom of speech is amongst our most cherished rights. To contradict this basic human right is both outrageous and absurd.

A few years back I spent $15.00 on an American flag (it was made in China,) and in addition to it being a symbol, it is also a piece of cloth that I own. The day my nation throws me in jail for lighting a match to my flag, while standing on my property, is the day America ceases to be, well… America.

by Goldy, 06/23/2005, 6:17 PM

Both the Washington Post and the Seattle P-I report today on the continuing saga of two of Tom DeLay’s croniest cronies with Northwest connections: former Preston Gates & Ellis uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and his good buddy, Mercer Island rabbi and vanity talk-radio host, Daniel Lapin. At a Senate hearing yesterday on allegations that Abramoff defrauded Indian Tribes of tens of millions of dollars — some of it funneled through groups connected to DeLay, Ralph Reed and other prominent right-wingers — an e-mail exchange was introduced in which Abramoff asked the good rabbi to phony up some fake awards to help him gain membership at a ritzy D.C. club.

“I hate to ask you for your help with something so silly but I’ve been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc.,” Abramoff wrote. “Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies?”

There were titters in the audience as Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) read aloud the e-mail, then outright laughter as he continued reading: “Indeed, it would be even better if it were possible that I received these in years past, if you know what I mean.”

The rabbi, conservative radio host Daniel Lapin, gave his blessing. “I just need to know what needs to be produced,” he wrote. “Letters? Plaques?”

“The point of all of this,” Dorgan said, “is there’s a lot of deception going on.”

No shit, Sherlock.

Rabbi Lapin’s history of deceit, self-aggrandizement and profiteering is so extensive, he’s even earned his own category over on blatherWatch. It was Lapin who first introduced Abramoff to DeLay, and it was Abramoff who helped Lapin establish his very profitable, theo-con not-for-profit organization, Toward Tradition. Their mutual back-scratching has helped make both men wealthy and politically connected, so really… what’s a fake award or two between friends?

Don’t be confused by the title “Rabbi” before Lapin’s name; it doesn’t automatically make a man moral or wise. Lapin is above all, a self-serving, well-connected, right-wing operative with his fingers in local politics as well as national. He even played a role in drumming up false outrage over last November’s gubernatorial election, using his radio show as a forum for promoting the NW blogosphere’s most famous conspiracy theorist, and even joining Stefan as a featured speaker at January’s ridiculous, Ukrainian-themed “Re-Vote” rally, where he inflamed a crowd already fired up on lies about disenfranchised military voters, by paraphrasing John Merrick: “We are not animals! We are humans touched by the finger of GOD!!”

Oh puh-lease.

Rabbi Lapin gives the finger of God
Rabbi Lapin shows off “the finger of God.” [photo courtesy (un)Sound Politics]

Our good friend Stefan’s man-crush on Lapin borders on sycophancy (a quick search of (u)SP finds a dozen posts since the beginning of the year mentioning the good Rabbi.) Indeed, not only does Lapin’s angry mix of angry zionism and angry free market determinism appear to drive Stefan’s angry worldview, Lapin has literally driven Stefan himself… chauffeuring “Aluminum Hat Boy” to the Re-Vote rally. (The Rabbi is not only a shrewd political operative who has made himself rich playing the role of the Jewish shill for the Christian far-right, but according to Stefan, he’s also an “excellent driver.”)

That Rabbi Lapin should be assumed to have any moral authority is a joke, given his record of lies, deceit and political machinations. If his career is not actually destroyed by the Abramoff scandal, whatever is left of his credibility should be.

by Goldy, 06/23/2005, 10:39 AM

One of the big political issues in Washington state for 2006 will surely be an Oregon style “takings” initiative, that requires state and local governments to compensate property owners for potential value lost due to land-use restrictions. On a somewhat related topic, today a divided US Supreme Court broadly reaffirmed the Fifth Amendment power of eminent domain.

In a closely watched decision the court ruled 5-4 that local governments have the right to seize private property for private development in the interest of the common good. The court said that local officials, not federal judges, are best capable of determining whether a development project benefits the community.

“The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including