Though really… you’d think most people would have something better to do this weekend than post here.
Archives for December 2005
Seattle Muslims surveilled without warrant!
According to U.S. News & World Report, the Bush administration’s fear that brown people might have the bomb apparently trumps its respect of the 4th Amendment.
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.
The article names Seattle as one of the other cities in which mosques, offices and private residences have been monitored without warrants or court orders. How extensive is the President’s secret, domestic surveillance program? One gets the feeling that recent revelations are only the tip of the iceberg… and it’s an awfully chilly feeling.
Now, I’m not dissing the federal government for being vigilant about nuclear terrorism; many security experts agree that there is more than an outside chance that terrorists might eventually try to set off some kind of nuclear device in a major American city. My concern is our government’s growing habit of ignoring our constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
If the federal authorities had probable cause, surely warrants could have been obtained (though I’m not so sure that being Muslim is probable cause in itself.) But this administration no longer even bothers to ask the courts for permission before invading an American citizen’s privacy. And just as disturbing as this lack of respect for our basic constitutional rights, is the reported threat of retaliation against Justice Department officials who questioned the operation’s legality.
In defending warrantless domestic surveillance, President Bush claims that his powers as a “wartime” Commander in Chief trump those of Congress, or even the Bill of Rights… a legal philosophy that smacks of dictatorship. In Bush’s post 9/11 America, U.S. citizens can now be spied on without warrant, held indefinitely without charge, tortured in custody, and tried without being given access to the “top secret” evidence against them.
Bush once accused the terrorists of “hating our freedom.” Well, a major tactic in his “War on Terror” seems to be to take away this motivation.
FEMA destroyed by Brown’s turf war
Thanks to Horse Whisperer for pointing me towards an article in today’s Washington Post, chronicling the disintegration of FEMA under Michael Brown’s watch: “Brown’s Turf Wars Sapped FEMA’s Strength.”
Katrina exposed FEMA as a dysfunctional organization, paralyzed in a crisis four years after the supposedly galvanizing attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And it turned Brown — a former executive of the International Arabian Horse Association who had no emergency management experience before joining the Bush administration — into a symbol of government ineptitude. But Brown’s well-chronicled gaffes in Louisiana had less impact on FEMA than his little-known power struggles in Washington. Brown lost almost all of them — partly because he was widely despised at DHS for his relentless infighting — and FEMA paid a price in money, manpower, missions and prestige.
And of course, a big thanks to Horse Whisperer for tipping me off to Brown’s tumultuous tenure at the IAHA — a story that first broke here on HA — that came to symbolize the cronyism endemic in the Bush administration, and hastened Brown’s removal from office. (I say that with all modesty, as Brown blamed HA himself.)
While the article makes it clear that Brown is not the only incompetent Bush appointee to blame for FEMA’s decline, it certainly shows what inevitably happens when you put a man who fell victim to the inside politics of a horse association in charge of a major federal agency.
Thank you Sen. Stevens
Joel Connelly’s got a list of nominations for 2005’s greatest exercises of political folly… and he saved the best for last:
The “Tantrum of the Year” Prize goes to Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, after losing his backdoor bid to open the arctic wildlife refuge to oil drilling.
Stevens took out after colleagues, claimed that he has been “pilloried by almost every newspaper in this country” and claimed he is “drawing a line now with a lot of people I’ve worked with before.”
“I’m going to every one of your states, and I’m going to tell them what you’ve done!” he vowed. “And I’m sure the senator from Washington will enjoy my visits to Washington, because I’m going to visit there often.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., should pay his airfare.
Absolutely. In fact, Cantwell should make Stevens honorary co-chair of her reelection campaign, as nobody has done a better job illustrating her value to WA voters.
The League of Conservation Voters has called Cantwell “one of our nation’s strongest environmental leaders in Congress” and made her reelection their number one priority during the 2006 season. As she proved once again this week, Cantwell is not only consistent in her support of the environment… she delivers.
Reichert flip-flops on ANWR drilling
Freshman Republican Rep. Dave Reichert (WA-8) has tried to carve a reputation for himself as a strong and independent leader by strategically casting a handful of well placed votes in opposition to the GOP leadership… mostly when it doesn’t count. But his role in the recent controversy over oil drilling in the pristine Alaska National Wildlife Refuge shows exactly how calculated and unprincipled these votes have been.
After making a big show earlier this year of opposing drilling in ANWR, Reichert rolled over when it really mattered, voting for the Defense Spending bill and its cynical provision without a peep of opposition. Meanwhile, Sen. Maria Cantwell staked her reputation — and perhaps her career — on threatening a filibuster… and successfully following through.
Cantwell deserves all the credit she’s getting for staring down Alaska’s powerful and vindictive Sen. Ted Stevens.
“This vote today is a tribute to her tenacity and skill,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “She stood up to a powerful member of the Senate. Today was a big win.”
Reid made Cantwell the Senate Democrats’ energy point-person in September, setting into motion Wednesday’s confrontation.
But as much credit as Cantwell deserves for her bold leadership in orchestrating this dramatic filibuster, Reichert deserves at least as much blame for weakly caving in to his party’s cynical parliamentary procedure. He cannot argue that nothing could be done to block the provision — something could be done, and Cantwell did it. The difference is, Cantwell really is a defender of the environment, whereas Reichert only gives it lip service.
In defending his previous stance, Reichert explained that phone calls and emails from constituents were overwhelmingly opposed to drilling in ANWR:
“They were running about 95 percent in favor of not drilling. You have to listen to the people you represent.”
But when push came to shove, it wasn’t “the people” he listened to.
Reichert’s district has been steadily trending Democrat, putting him on everybody’s short list of vulnerable Republicans… and I can’t wait for this issue to pop up during the 2006 campaign. What’s he going to tell the overwhelming majority of constituents who oppose drilling in ANWR? “I voted against drilling before I voted for it”…?
Reichert flip-flopped on ANWR, and he’s going to pay for it.
[Cross-posted to Daily Kos.]
Pelz to be new Dem chair? Hope he listens
The campaign for state Democratic Party chairman is really too inside politics for me… I’ve never fully understood what the party does, let alone it’s chair. But in case you’re curious, a party insider tells me “the fix is in” and the powers that be have already settled on Dwight Pelz.
I wasn’t about to endorse a candidate because a) I don’t feel particularly qualified to weigh in on the matter, b) I don’t want to back the wrong horse, miffing the eventual winner, and c) my endorsements aren’t worth shit.
However, I do want something from the new chair: innovation and access. Paul Berendt and the Dems did a great job fighting the legal battle in last year’s election contest, but they and the Gregoire campaign/administration did an absolutely disastrous job fighting the PR war. This time last year I was often beside myself with frustration at the lack of cooperation (and effort) coming from the party and the campaign, as they got their asses kicked by the relentless media war launched by the BIAW and the Republicans through paid media, talk radio, the right-wing blogs, and the rest of their media infrastructure. To this day, I’d bet a majority of WA voters still wrongly believe that Dino Rossi really won the election.
Why is Gov. Gregoire’s approval rating still languishing in the mid-forty’s instead of pushing toward sixty where it belongs? You need only read the headlines from last December to learn the answer. That Gov. Gregoire’s first year in office has been remarkably successful means little to those voters who still question her legitimacy.
Last January, after snagging a free ticket to the inauguration, I finally got a chance to confront a top Dem communications staffer, and used the opportunity to plead with them to find some money to spend on radio ads and direct mail to combat the GOP misinformation campaign. The response? The staffer turned towards the surrounding throng and incredulously asked, “Is he telling me how to do my job?”
Yes I was. I’m a blogger. That’s what we do.
Things have gotten a helluva lot better since then. Last year I couldn’t even get on the party’s press list; this year, I not only get press releases, but prompt responses when I follow up with a question or comment. Staffers are now even asking us bloggers for advice on how to exploit this new media to their advantage. But I’m not sure any of this new found respect is coming from the top.
What I want from the new chair is the understanding that the party’s success depends at least as much on communications as it does on money and lawyers, and that the media doesn’t quite work the same way it used to. I want a chair who embraces innovation, and who is able to see beyond the next election towards the media and political landscape of a decade from now. I want a chair who will support the efforts by the current communications staff as they explore new media ventures.
But mostly, I want a party chair who is willing to at least listen to bloggers like me tell him how to do his job, without incredulously dismissing us out of hand.
MSNBC poll: 88% want to impeach Bush
Okay, everybody here should know by now the way I feel about those stupid, lame-ass, online polls. But I must say that I do find it amusing — if not actually meaningful — that a stupid, lame-ass, MSNBC poll now shows 88% of 48997 respondents saying that President Bush should be impeached.
Chris Vance lied
State GOPolitburo Chairman Chris Vance is either a liar or a fool… or both. Of course, this isn’t really news to anybody who has followed WA state politics over the past year or so, but it’s worth repeating, especially when he sends out one of those blatantly false press releases like yesterday’s doozy.
In response to the state Dems’ Santa stunt, in which they called attention to the $14.3 million parting gift Safeco is giving outgoing CEO Mike McGavick to kick off his Senate campaign, Vance accused the Dems of hypocrisy:
Maria Cantwell never resigned from Real Networks in 2000, she simply took a “leave of absence.” During 2000, the company paid her $10.5 million in salary and stock options. Cantwell then funded her campaign with this money.
That is a complete and utter load of crap.
The money Cantwell cashed out in 2000 came from the stock options she had vested during her four years working as a Vice President at Real Networks. Early Real Networks employees were granted generous, five-year option schedules with the first fifth vesting after one year, and the rest vesting in six-month increments. Because Real Networks was a tiny, risky startup at the time she joined — whose shares might have eventually been worthless — the strike price on her original option grant was only pennies a share.
Unlike McGavick, Cantwell’s vesting schedule was not accelerated when she left Real Networks, and she wasn’t granted any additional options. Vance’s claim relies on a single line in a 2001 article in The Olympian that clearly misunderstands the nature of these transactions. Option grants are not declared as income until they are exercised and the shares sold. The fact that Cantwell exercised these options in 2000 does not represent compensation for that calendar year, but rather the realization of the capital gains from the options she had previously vested throughout her tenure.
Quite simply, Vance lied. Real Networks most definitely did not pay Cantwell $10.5 million in 2000. She bet four years of her life on a risky startup, and while handsomely rewarded, anybody who has ever worked for Rob Glaser will tell you that she earned her money the hard way.
Clearly, Vance was just trying to deflect attention from the fact that Safeco is giving McGavick $14.3 million during an election year… money that he is then free to spend on his own campaign in unlimited quantities. McGavick, who has represented the insurance industry for years, is essentially being paid to run for office, and if elected would surely represent the industry’s interests over that of ordinary Washington citizens.
But I also want to point out to my friends in the media, that this is yet another instance where Vance has boldly and shamelessly lied to your face. He dishonestly fed you information that was factually wrong and easily disproved. He dissed you.
Any reporter who takes anything coming from the Vance-led state GOP at face value, is a chump.
BREAKING: Cantwell filibuster stands!
The Senate just failed to close debate on the Defense Spending Bill, after the Democrats, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell, filibustered the cynical inclusion of a provision that would open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The motion failed 56 to 44; 60 votes were needed for cloture. Four Democrats voted yea, and three Republicans voted nay.
The AP has a quote from the victorious Sen. Cantwell:
“This is nothing more than legislative blackmail,” fumed Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., an ardent opponent to opening the Alaska refuge to oil companies.
I hope Congress enjoys their holiday in session, courtesy of Alaska’s blackmailing Sen. Ted Stevens.
The League of Conservation Voters has just issued a press release praising Cantwell’s leadership:
“We applaud Sen. Maria Cantwell for successfully leading the fight to reject this shameful political attempt to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.Today’s vote to protect the Arctic represents the triumph of democracy over greed. Cynical attempts to hold hostage funds to support our troops, offer relief to hurricane ravaged states and warm the cold, old and poor in order to benefit a select few failed before our eyes.
“In addition, Sen. Cantwell’s ongoing efforts to prevent unneeded and dirty drilling in our pristine wilderness areas is another example of her commitment to fighting for Washington families and standing up to the big oil companies
Prosecutors to flip Abramoff?
It could be a very
Merry Christmas Happy Holidays indeed for federal prosecutors, who are now negotiating a plea bargain with Republican uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for his cooperation.
Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a “unique resource.”
Other people involved in the case or who have been officially briefed on it said the talks had reached a tense phase, with each side mindful of the date Jan. 9, when Mr. Abramoff is scheduled to stand trial in Miami in a separate prosecution.
What began as a limited inquiry into $82 million of Indian casino lobbying by Mr. Abramoff and his closest partner, Michael Scanlon, has broadened into a far-reaching corruption investigation of mainly Republican lawmakers and aides suspected of accepting favors in exchange for legislative work.
Prosecutors are also looking at how some former Congressional staff members landed their lucrative lobbying positions and at the role the wives of several lobbyists and lawmakers may have had in any influence scheme, a piece of the puzzle that investigators have begun referring to privately as the “wives’ club.”
There are a lot of very nervous people in nation’s Capitol this morning… and most of them have an “R” next to their name.
Judge rules “Intelligent Design” creationism in disguise
Hmm. It looks like the Discovery Institute’s efforts to overthrow the scientific method and “replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions” took a couple of steps backwards yesterday, when a federal judge ruled that it is unconstitutional to teach so-called “Intelligent Design” in public schools as science, calling it “creationism in disguise.”
“U.S. District Judge John E. Jones delivered a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board, saying its first-in-the-nation decision in October 2004 to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
The ruling was a major setback to the intelligent design movement, which is also waging battles in Georgia and Kansas. Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher force.
Jones decried the “breathtaking inanity” of the Dover policy and accused several board members of lying to conceal their true motive, which he said was to promote religion.
“We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom,” he wrote in his 139-page opinion. […] “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”
Here’s a copy of the judge’s 139-page ruling (PDF) for all those interested, but at first glance it looks to be an overwhelming defeat for ID. The following passage is getting particular play in the media, and for good reason:
The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from “creation” to “intelligent design” occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court’s important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports Plaintiffs’ assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled.
The Discovery Institute has issued a scathing press release attacking Jones as an “activist federal judge,” but then, isn’t that the right’s usual response to losing a court case… attacking the judge? (Especially Republican, church-going judges like Jones?) The fact is, religious activists are getting ahead of Discovery’s marketing plan, and that’s beginning to hurt their cause.
Christmas comes early for McGavick
Santa Claus and a cute little elf visted Mike McGavick’s campaign headquarters today to deliver an early Christmas present from the insurance industry to their favorite little boy: $14. 3 million in stock options. (FYI, I heard from an eavesdropping reindeer that the McGavick staffer in the photo yelled at Santa. Talk about a war on Christmas….)
I’d already reported the $4.5 million in accelerated vesting that Safeco is giving McGavick as a parting gift, but while he claimed he was leaving the company at the end of the year, now it turns out he plans to stay on the payroll through January 26… just in time to vest another $9.8 million in options.
And McGavick must have been a very good boy indeed, as he’s also still eligible for an undisclosed 2005 bonus.
All this makes me wonder… if the insurance industry wanted to skirt the campaign finance laws and make huge contributions directly to the McGavick campaign… wouldn’t this be exactly how they’d do it?
“Tin Foil Hat Night” at Drinking Liberally
The Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally meets tonight (and every Tuesday), 8PM at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E.
In honor of tonight’s one-year anniversary of the Seattle chapter, and as a tribute to the NSA’s monitoring of our phone calls, emails and blogs, our fearless leader Nick has declared this “Tin Foil Hat Night.” The first beer is free for anyone who shows up wearing a tinfoil hat. That’s great news for me, considering I rarely leave the lead-lined safe room in my basement without one.
King County to go to all mail-in voting
King County Executive Ron Sims announced this morning his intention to move the county to all mail-in elections, as early as 2006. With over 1 million registered voters, KC would become the largest county in the nation to conduct elections entirely by mail.
Council members Bob Ferguson and Julia Patterson joined Sims at a morning press conference endorsing the plan. Sims is instructing elections director Dean Logan to study the proposal and recommend a plan for implementing the change.
Over 70 percent of voters in the 2005 general election cast their ballot by mail, with the number expected to substantially increase over the coming years. Several independent reviews of the county’s election processes have recommended moving to an all mail-in system to eliminate the cost and inefficiencies inherent in operating to two completely different election systems, however the final proposal may include a handful of regional voting centers where voters could drop off ballots or receive assistance on election day.
I wanted to quickly get the breaking story out there, but now I’ll take a few moments for some commentary, and I thought I’d start by quoting myself from a post back in March:
I have voted in three cities
Sims to make major elections announcement
King County Executive Ron Sims will be joined by council members Bob Ferguson and Julia Patterson at 10 AM to make a “major announcement about King County elections.”
Our friend Stefan over at (un)Sound Politics is so atwitter with anticipation — like a little kid on
Christmas Holiday morning — that he’s already speculating as to what the announcement might be. Stefan’s first guess is a reasonable one: that KC will move to all mail-in voting. But his second guess strikes me as wishful thinking; pointing out the absence of Dean Logan from the press conference, he’s guessing that maybe Logan has resigned. Maybe. Though I called elections on an unrelated issue yesterday and was told Logan was out of town due to a death in the family.
Here’s my guess. Considering it was Ferguson and Patterson who pushed for hiring the Elections Center to conduct an independent audit… and considering that the primary and overwhelming recommendation of the post election report was to consolidate elections operations into a single building… perhaps they are announcing their support for Sims’ previously rejected proposal to spend $22.8 million to build a centralized elections headquarters on Rainier Ave. South?
Just a guess.