Carl, Shaun, Jon, Maria and me

One of the reasons I love Carl at Washington State Political Report so much (again… in a manly, heterosexual way) is that he has a great eye for pointing out great posts at great blogs I don’t read nearly often enough. Like this terrific piece from Shaun at Upper Left.

Shaun answers a question posed by Jon on Evergreen Politics in response to the League of Conservation Voters early endorsement of Sen. Maria Cantwell… a story I first broke here. (Man, this is getting self-referential.) Jon asked:

I’m curious what you think — is it hard for you to get over Maria’s war-mongering, too? Or am I just being a grump? Am I under-estimating LCV’s grassroots mobilization prowess?

To which Shaun replies, “yes, yes and yes.”

Shaun then goes on to tell a great story about how he and Maria first crossed paths, and why two decades later she’s a US senator, while he’s just a lowly blogger like me. Great story. Read the whole thing.

Dave Irons: budget buster

David Irons wants to run King County, a government that serves two million citizens… a population greater than that of 13 states. But before we hand him the checkbook to KC’s $3.3 billion budget, perhaps it might be interesting to see how he budgets the finances of a considerably smaller concern, like… I dunno… say, his own campaign for county executive?

So I checked out his latest Public Disclosure Commission filing, and discovered that things aren’t looking so rosy for the Irons campaign. Of the $263,247.01 he’s raised thus far, he’s already spent $217,755.80, leaving him only $45,491.21 in cash on hand two months before the general election. Ron Sims, on the other hand, has raised $535,151.82, but spent only $156,926.23, leaving $378,225.59 in cash on hand… a better than eight to one advantage over his rival.

Of course Sims’ fundraising advantage is to be expected: he’s the incumbent. (Plus, he actually has a chance of winning.) It’s the expenditure disparity that caught my attention. While Sims has been marshaling his resources for the November campaign, Irons has been… well… perhaps one of his consultants can explain what Irons has been spending his money on. In case you’re curious, here’s a sampling of some of his major expense categories.


Consulting$41,598.00
Payroll$39,107.96
Printing$31,845.45
Postage$15,280.49
Food$7955.64
Accounting$6774.00
Balloons$355.30

Hey Dave… here’s some consulting advice: next time, unless you have unlimited resources… don’t spend twenty percent of your budget on consultants. (My $4,200 invoice is in the mail.)

Break down the expenditures by percentage, and you get an idea of how an Irons administration might divvy up King County’s $3.3 billion budget: $640 million on consultants, $122 million on takeout, $9.6 million on his 20-year-old daughter Annette, and $5.5 million on balloons. Essential services might suffer, but the local consulting industry would boom, and the county offices would certainly take on a more festive atmosphere.

Of course we all know that at this point in the campaign, both candidates are still spending most of their time and money on fundraising… and Irons has seen a pretty crappy return on investment. With only 45K in the bank and two months to go, it’s really hard to consider Irons a serious challenger.

I suppose that explains why Irons has reportedly tried to shore up his support by quietly reassuring potential contributors and other party notables that he expects a $250,000 “independent” expenditure on his behalf prior to the general election. Which raises two important questions: 1) is Iron’s just blowing smoke out of his ass about this “independent” campaign, and 2) if he’s not blowing smoke, how “independent” could this campaign possibly be? If Irons is so privy to the details, it sounds to me like exactly the sort of coordinated activity our campaign finance laws expressly prohibit. This is not just a public disclosure technicality… it would be out and out fraud.

And that’s the type of headache that could lead Irons to spend another $1164.16 on wine from Hedges Cellars. (The equivalent of $17.9 million out of the county budget.)

UPDATE:
As a point of reference, Raymond Shaw Reagan Dunn has raised about $239K in his race for the county council, with about $45K cash on hand. Combined with opponent Steve “The Hammer” Hammond, the KCGOP is spending more on a primary in a safe, Republican council district, than they are in the county executive race against a “vulnerable” Ron Sims. So tell me how the Irons’ campaign isn’t a joke.

Up to 1000 dead in Baghdad stampede

As many as 1,000 Shia pilgrims were crushed, asphyxiated or drowned today, in a stampede on a bridge in Baghdad that started over rumors of suicide bombers. This is the single largest loss of life in Iraq since the US invasion, and yet another tragedy to add to the numerous others.

While it may sound unfair to blame the US for this calamity, many Moslems will, just as they blame the Saudi government when similar disasters occur during the pilgrimages in Mecca and Medina. As the occupying force in Iraq it is our responsibility to maintain order and ensure public safety, a responsibility we continually fail to live up to.

Had a similar tragedy occurred in the US, there would be inquiries and commissions and possibly, prosecutions. But I’m wondering if Americans can feel outrage over a tragic loss of life that occurs in a far off land, even when it occurs under our watch?

The stupidest thing I’ve ever heard

I’m just some loud-mouthed blogger with an opinion on just about everything, so I understand it if some people dismiss me as… um… just some loud-mouthed blogger with an opinion on just about everything. But Seattle Weekly editor Knute Berger, he’s a respectable journalist… a local institution whose Jerry Garcia looks belie his broad knowledge of all things Seattle, and measured punditry on WA state politics.

So if you choose to ignore my scathing criticism of Bill Gates funding of the Discovery Institute, perhaps you’ll listen to Knute’s:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a major contributor to the Discovery Institute. And while the money doesn’t go toward “intelligent design” work per se, it does support the institute’s own intelligent designer, Bruce Chapman, who runs the place. Bill Gates has also been a vocal advocate for improving public education in this country and has lamented loudly the low level of science education in particular. His foundation has poured at least $1 billion dollars into the effort of remaking schools, and he is reportedly prepared to spend at least $1 billion more. Gates is making a concerted effort to be education reform’s own intelligent designer, a worthy and noble cause.

But the Discovery Institute is a bit like a hole in his pocket: For every dollar he spends abetting the “intelligent design” agenda, he is setting back his own effort to promote good science and learning.

The challenge of education reform that Gates has taken on is big enough without this self-imposed burden. Turning around overcrowded schools that are held back by too many lousy teachers, bloated bureaucracies, and clueless parents who drop their kid off for 12 years of state-run, underfunded day care is no easy task, even for one of the world’s richest

Blog roundup

So much to blog on, so little time. Worthy subjects are flooding in like the rising water in the streets of New Orleans. So I thought I’d just quickly touch on a couple stories by pointing you towards what’s happening on some other, worthy blogs.

Major levee break inundates New Orleans
Much of my up to the minute meteorological and related disaster information on Hurricane Katrina has been coming from Steve Gregory’s amazingly informative blog on Weather Underground. And the latest reports are truly horrendous: 40,000 to 50,000 people have now sought refuge in the Superdome, where conditions are deteriorating as water rises around them.

80% of New Orleans is totally submerged now, and will likely become 100% submerged tonight. The depth of the water in the BIZ district is around 6-10 inches at this time.

This is a result of 2 MAJOR BREACHES OF THE LEVEE. The first one ,is about 400 feet long, and appears to have given way around 9PM last night. The Corp of Engineers have now said there is also a second breach as well. Within the hour the Pentagon will be taking over the coordination and manpower / machinery to assist in closing the 2 breaches.

Gregory describes the situation as “a ‘slow motion version’ of the worst case scenario.” Fires are burning throughout the city, looting is rampant, and the governor has ordered a total evacuation. Again, if you want to help, the American Red Cross is seeking cash donations.

Rebooting Creationism
On a lighter note, The General has posted a rather amusing letter to Bill and Melinda Gates, asking for the same kind of support in financing his unscientific research as they’ve given to the Discovery Institute’s “intelligent” design media campaign.

One of the biggest problems people have with Noah’s Ark is that even at 300 x 40 x 30 cubits in size, it would be too small to hold that many animals. That’s especially true when dinosaurs are included. My theory is that only a small portion of the animals were actually on the ark at any given time. The others swam, or in the case of non-buoyant animals like tortoises, they windsurfed until it was time for them to be rotated onto the boat.

In order to prove this theory, I’ll need an ark, every living species of animal, mockups of dinosaurs, and Cheetos. That’s going to take a lot of money, but I think you should be able to swing it.

I love The General. (In a manly, heterosexual way, of course.)

Conservative coffee cups
Darryl at Hominid Views has written a letter of his own, this one to Maureen Richardson of Concerned Women for America, a group that has complained to Starbucks of liberal bias in printing quotations on their coffee cups. Darryl suggests adding balance with a few quotes from God-fearing Christians, including these uplifting sentiments from the Rev. Jerry Falwell:

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say “you helped [9-11] happen.’”

Drinking Liberally

The Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally meets tonight (and every Tuesday), 8PM at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E.

I’ve promised friends I’d pick them up at the airport around 9 pm, so unless the flight comes in ahead of schedule (hah!) I’ll stop by early.

New Orleans looting echoes Baghdad

With the city largely emptied of people — and war-stressed National Guard units lacking the numbers to make a forceful presence — looting has started to hit the devastated streets of New Orleans.

At a Walgreen’s drug store in the French Quarter, people were running out with grocery baskets and coolers full of soft drinks, chips and diapers.

When police finally showed up, a young boy stood in the door screaming, ”86! 86!” — the radio code for police — and the crowd scattered.

Denise Bollinger, a tourist from Philadelphia, stood outside and snapped pictures in amazement.

”It’s downtown Baghdad,” the housewife said. ”It’s insane. I’ve wanted to come here for 10 years. I thought this was a sophisticated city. I guess not.”

Yes, the circumstances in New Orleans are somewhat similar to the looting that occurred in Baghdad in the wake of Bush’s poorly planned invasion. In both cases we failed to provide our military sufficient instructions to stop the looting… nor gave them the troop strength to do so.

Looters filled industrial-sized garbage cans with clothing and jewelry and floated them down the street on bits of plywood and insulation as National Guard lumbered by.

Mike Franklin stood on the trolley tracks and watched the spectacle unfold.

”To be honest with you, people who are oppressed all their lives, man, it’s an opportunity to get back at society,” he said.

Now before anyone berates this man for his anti-social statement, one should remember that he is merely echoing the sentiments of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in response to the “untidy” sacking of Baghdad. Rumsfeld explained that free people “make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”

“And while no one condones looting, on the other hand one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression…”

So I guess we should celebrate the looting as evidence that we have finally succeeded in bringing freedom to the streets of New Orleans.

Muni League: Sims gets an “A”, Irons a “C”

The Municipal League of King County has posted its 2005 Candidate Evaluations, a comprehensive citizen survey of county, port, city and school district races from throughout King County. Candidates are judged on four criteria — involvement, effectiveness, character and knowledge — and the evaluations have long been noted for being non-partisan and independent.

For example, in three of the five county council races, the Democrat received a lower rating than his or her opponent. However in the county executive race, Democrat Ron Sims was one of only a handful of candidates in the entire survey to receive an “outstanding”, the highest rating, while his Republican opponent David Irons was only rated “good”… the equivalent of a “C”.

It is curious to note that none of the candidates running for Seattle City Council was rated “outstanding”. And of particular interest to HA readers, our very own Richard Pope, running for Seattle Port Commission position #4, was rated “not qualified”, the lowest rating. Sorry Richard.

GOP pollster: Cantwell leads McGavick

Speaking of Maria Cantwell… I know why I missed this tidbit — I was busy traveling that day — but I’m wondering why nobody in the MSM picked up on this Aug. 10 survey from Republican pollster Strategic Vision:

If the election for United States Senate were held today and the candidates were Maria Cantwell, the Democrat or Mike McGavick, the Republican, whom would you vote for?

Maria Cantwell [D]46%
Mike McGavick [R]38%
Undecided16%

Yeah… yeah… I know, Cantwell is below the 50% mark, not exactly where an incumbent wants to be a year out from the election, but remember… this is a GOP pollster, and McGavick’s numbers barely rise above the hardcore Republican base that would blindly vote for anybody with an “R” next to their name on the ballot. (I call this the Will Baker Wing of the Republican Party.)

But perhaps the best indication that Republicans are more than a little uncomfortable about this poll is the fact that they’ve been so hush-hush about it. McGavick polls no higher than Jennifer Dunn, George Nethercutt or even Chris Vance did in a similar Strategic Vision matchup back in March. Hmmm. Perhaps the state GOP should take a closer look at Susan Hutchison?

League of Conservation Voters to support Cantwell with grassroots campaign

The League of Conservation Voters, one of the nation’s most influential environmental groups, has enthusiastically endorsed Sen. Maria Cantwell for reelection to the US Senate. That Cantwell is the LCV’s first endorsement of the 2006 season is no accident; they also plan to support her reelection with an independent, grassroots campaign.

“LCV is proud to make its first endorsement of the 2006 election cycle for Senator Maria Cantwell,” said LCV President Deb Callahan. “Senator Cantwell is one of our nation’s strongest environmental leaders in Congress, fighting every day for the health, quality of life and pocketbooks of Washington families, willing to stand up to big corporate interests, and working tirelessly to protect our wild places for future generations. In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to mounting an aggressive campaign to help reelect Senator Cantwell to the U.S. Senate.”

Ms. Callahan also commented that LCV’s particularly early endorsement of Sen. Cantwell is because of her exemplary environmental record and leadership on behalf of Washington families. Senator Cantwell earned a 100% rating on LCV’s 2004 National Environmental Scorecard

When it comes to elections, perfect is the enemy of good

I need to say something that no elected official or respectable journalist would dare utter (and that will surely prompt howls of derision from the Rossiphiles on the right.) The November 2004 election in King County…? It really wasn’t all that fucked up.

Oh sure… felons voted, provisionals were improperly scanned, and some ballots were misplaced, lost, and unreconciled… but relatively speaking, when compared to other jurisdictions in this and previous elections, the error rate was well within or below national averages. And unlike places like Florida or Ohio, there was no voter intimidation and no half-day long lines at urban polling places, purposely disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters.

I’m not dismissing some very real problems. Mistakes were made that can and should be fixed. But King County’s problems were duplicated in counties across the state, and compared to elsewhere in the nation, Washington elections are for the most part, clean, transparent and accurate. That’s the facts. I know it’s hard for Republicans to accept, but Democrats’ stranglehold on King County is due to the fact that voters prefer Democrats… not due to election day cheating.

And so when I read a headline in the Seattle Times like “Credibility on the line in Sept. vote“, it really pisses me off, because this is little more than a setup for failure.

All that should help restore confidence

Give to the American Red Cross

Hurricane Katrina has weakened slightly, but is still tracking straight for New Orleans, and is expected to hit landfall as a borderline Category 4/5 storm. I hope that when I awake in the morning, the news is not nearly as bad as it could be. In the meanwhile, if you want to help, probably the best you can do is give to the American Red Cross.

UPDATE: New Orleans dodges a bullet… sort of

I know it may sound odd considering the pictures of destruction coming from the Big Easy, but the city was spared the catastrophe of a “perfect storm.” Katrina weakened to a Category 4 hurricane before landfall, and most significantly, just skirted New Orleans to the East, with the most severe winds just E/NE of the eye wall.

The storm surge, once projected to be as high as 28 feet in spots, has reportedly maxed out at 15 to 17 feet. At least one levee was breached, causing six to eight feet of water in some parts of the city, but far from the devastating flooding that could have occurred. Gusts of up to 150 mph ripped a chunk off the roof of the Superdome, the “shelter of last resort” for about 10,000 residents, but it remains structurally sound.

Katrina continues to weaken as it moves over land, and has now been downgraded to a Cat 3 storm, but it is still quite powerful, and extremely large, so its danger has far from passed. There are now reports of storm-spawned tornadoes throughout the area. No reports yet of deaths or injuries, but they are sure to come, and the storm will certainly have caused hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars worth damage… a financial cost that will touch us all, as the price of crude oil has now surged over $70 a barrel.

The American Red Cross is the private group best equipped to deal with this crisis, and they are asking for cash donations. So if you want to help out, I urge you to click on the link above.

The emerging progressive blogosphere

I’m in self-referential mode, so I thought I’d point you towards a very interesting report on the progressive blogosphere from two of its most influential members, Chris Bowers of MyDD and Matt Stoller of Blogging of the President. The report is titled “Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere: A New Force in American Politics“, and it discusses the dramatic rise of the progressive blogosphere, the relative success of both progressive and conservative bloggers, and how elected officials can make much better use of this new medium.

If you don’t have time to read the full 24-page report, I strongly recommend the excellent summary posted by Lynn Allen over at Evergreen Politics. It’s a quick read, and well worth a few minutes of your time.

It is interesting to note that in overall national traffic, the progressive blogosphere has managed to quickly surpass the impressive lead conservatives had as recently as a year ago… 24 of the top 40 political blogs are now progressive. But on the local front, conservatives still hold an overwhelming advantage. Here in WA state, this is still true; while (un)Sound Politics has seen its traffic decline to less than a third of its January 2005 peak, it still holds the top spot by a decided margin over the number two blog covering state and local politics: HorsesAss.org.

Unlike (u)SP, HA continues to see its traffic rise, with August likely to establish a new monthly high. Because I had not published my Site Meter stats, HA was not included in the report’s rankings, but glancing at today’s stats, my 20,643 weekly page views would have ranked HA at #62 among the top 100 progressive blogs… making it one of the highest ranked regional progressive blogs in the nation. Not bad considering my ambitious one-year goal was to average 200 readers a day. (If you’re curious about my stats, click on the Site Meter icon. For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to make them public.)

Of course, more work remains to be done. Both the NW Topic Hotlist and the Pacific NW Portal are turning out to be great tools for promoting and expanding the region’s progressive blogosphere, and I’m planning some exciting changes here at HA over the coming months in my ongoing efforts to claw my way to the top of the local molehill. Still, it’s not the raw traffic that matters, but what we do with it. Like it or not, blogs are here to stay, and we have to make damn sure that we continue to wield at least as much influence as the other guys.

God to strike sinners in Big Easy?

New Orleans has ordered a mandatory evacuation of all 485,000 residents, as Katrina, now a Category 5 hurricane, heads towards the city for a possible dead-on strike, with the storm surge devastatingly timed to hit at high tide. The city, which sits in a soggy bowl an average 6 feet below sea-level, will likely see flood waters overwhelm levees even if it escapes a direct hit. The storm surge could reach 28 feet, topped by 30-foot waves in some locations.

This could be the dreaded “500-year storm” that meteorologists have long feared, and which no levee system could possibly handle. In addition to the storm surge, Katrina currently packs sustained winds of up to 175 mph, and could drop over 15 inches of rain on the city as it passes through.

As we sit and watch and hope that New Orleans once again dodges a bullet, a couple thoughts come to mind. The first is the practical concern of how Louisiana will effectively deal with the aftermath of the hurricane, what with so many of its National Guard units currently fighting and dying in the streets of Iraq?

My second thought is a cautionary one, and selfishly strikes much closer to home. I have been constantly amazed during the ongoing debate over replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct, by those who assert that the earthquake risk has been over-blown. While Seattle has never in its brief history experienced the type of catastrophic quakes seen elsewhere, the seismologic record makes it clear that it has in the past, and most definitely will again in the future. Perhaps both Seattle and New Orleans will be spared their disaster for another 150 years… or perhaps it will strike tomorrow. And if it does, the Viaduct might not just pancake, but rather topple over onto the waterfront as the soil beneath it liquifies and the aging seawall collapses.

A major earthquake will strike. We cannot avoid it, nor accurately predict its timing. But like New Orleans, we can attempt to be prepared.

UPDATE:
Katrina is still strengthening, and tracking towards landfall just east of New Orleans, with gusts up to 200 mph. This hurricane is not just powerful, but extremely large, and could end up being the most powerful storm in recorded history… so powerful, that it is pushing the limits of existing models. If you know anybody in and around N.O. planning to ride out the storm, urge them to get out NOW!

Anti-gay church protests GI funerals

One of the righties’ favorite ploys to pump up their own inflated sense of moral superiority, is to vilify the left — all of us — by pointing towards the individual actions of some reprehensible wacko. And so in the interest of turnabout is fair play, I bring you the fine folks of the Westboro Baptist Church:

Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in Iraq.

The church members carried signs and shouted things such as “God hates fags” and “God hates you.”

Hmm. Protesting at soldiers’ funerals. Well, I guess if anybody knows about the evils of sodomy, it’s gotta be this bunch of fucking assholes.