Riffing on Reichert

I’ve already thoroughly deconstructed Rep. Dave Reichert’s childish “joke” about Hillary Clinton falling to her death from an airplane, but I’ve got a couple more observations that I think are worth discussing, the first of which was first raised in a press release from Darcy Burner spokesman Sandeep Kaushik:

“When Congressman Reichert goes before non-partisan audiences he likes to bemoan the loss of civility and lack of bipartisanship in Washington, D.C. Apparently he does not really mean it, because when he gets before his fellow Republicans he takes a very different tone — this is just the latest unfortunate example of that.”

Of course Reichert’s civility campaign is total bullshit, and if editorialists and other opinion makers don’t see this, it is because they choose not to. Remember, this is the same guy who compared Democrats to the Green River Killer:

“And in America how hard is it to put my arm around a Democrat if I can put my arm around Gary Ridgeway.”

That’s civility? That’s bipartisanship? That’s conscience-driven independence?

Like Mike McGavick before him, Reichert’s emphasis on civility and bipartisanship is little more than a strategy to avoid talking about actual issues, an honest debate of which would overwhelmingly favor Burner. It is also implicitly (and hypocritically) a negative attack on his opponent, as one cannot accept Reichert’s civility meme without inferring that Burner is not sufficiently civil herself.

The other observation I’d like to make refers back to my original post, and my assertion that at least part of the humorous impact of the the “joke” comes from playing off of a popular perception of the object of ridicule as stupid:

Deserved or not, this works well with President Bush in the lead role (as it would for Dave Reichert himself), but whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, she certainly doesn’t have a reputation for being dumb, and as such, the joke comes off more mean spirited than funny. It’s just a poor vehicle for ridiculing her.

What is curious is that Reichert should apparently believe that Clinton in any way fits the stereotype on which the punchline is at least partially predicated. It is ironic that a man with a two-year degree from an obscure Christian college, and an undistinguished career in Congress, would impugn the intelligence of an accomplished woman who graduated from one of the top colleges and top law schools in the nation. But it is not without precedent.

This has always been the Reichert camp’s most consistent critique of Darcy Burner—that she is “ditzy” and a “lightweight”—a critique that comprised the main theme of what was perhaps Reichert’s most offensive (and effective) ad of the 2006 season. And as with his characterization of Clinton, it is equally ironic when applied to a woman like Burner, who graduated Harvard University with a B.A. in computer science and economics, and who went on to become a high-level manager at Microsoft. Apparently, Reichert and his most vocal supporters need little more evidence to snidely dismiss the intelligence of a woman than her gender.

I won’t hazard a guess as to how else Reichert objectifies women (though his staunch opposition to reproductive rights is highly suggestive), but clearly, when it comes to the political arena, he views them as objects of ridicule.

Florida and Michigan to be seated with half-votes

After a very long, drawn out, and occasionally emotional Rules Committee meeting today, the DNC has determined to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations, but to give each delegate a half-vote.  In addition, the Rules Committee accepted a Michigan Democratic Party reallocation proposal giving Hillary Clinton 69 delegates to Barack Obama’s 59.  

The net result?  A combined 24 delegate-vote pickup on the day for Clinton, not nearly enough to eat into Obama’s margin.

Near the end of the proceedings Harold Ickes, a committee member and longtime Clintonista, announced that Clinton reserved her right to appeal to the Credentials Committee, but once the remaining superdelegates have declared, and a small deluge should declare shortly, not even a full seating of the Michigan and Florida delegations would be enough for her to catch Obama.


DNC Rules Committee Meeting in progress

UPDATE (7:15 AM):
I just emailed rules committee member David McDonald for a comment, and got a quick response: “Very complicated combination of issues. Looks like a long day.” That’s probably an understatement.

UPDATE (7:32 AM):
Florida is presenting its appeal, and I believe they just asked for 50% representation for their pledged delegates, but 100% representation for their “charter” delegates, which I think he is using to refer to superdelegates who are DNC members and members of Congress.

UPDATE (9:01 AM):
US Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), representing the Obama campaign as an intervenor, has also asked that Florida’s delegation be reinstated at 50% representation, acknowledging that it would mean a net gain of as many as 19 delegates for Clinton. He wants the same for the superdelegates (including himself) as the pledged delegates, asking that they be reinstated with a half-vote each.

UPDATE (9:37 AM):
Despite the fact that Barack Obama was not even on the ballot (because, you know, he followed the rules), the Michigan Democratic Party is asking for their entire delegation to be seated, but to split the delegates 69 for Clinton, 59 for Obama.

UPDATE (9:44 AM):
The rationale for the 69-59 Michigan split (10 delegate net pickup for Clinton) is based on exit polls, write-in votes, results of congressional district conventions, and the fact that there was an official and aggressive effort to have voters cast “uncommitted” ballots.

UPDATE (9:53 AM):
Let me just say, that while Michigan’s proposed allocation sounds fair, and likely representative of the will of the voters, it sets an awfully bad precedent.  I just don’t see how one can argue for the validity of an election, but not the validity of the results.  Michigan is a total muddle.

UPDATE (10:39 AM):
Harold Ickes, a member of the rules committee, in questioning Sen. Carl Levin, makes it clear that he thinks the Michigan delegation should be seated exactly as the results of the election dictated:  73 for Clinton, 55 uncommitted, and zero for Obama.

UPDATE (10:54 AM):
Former Democratic Rep. David Bonior, speaking on behalf the Obama campaign, is asking for the Michigan delegation to be seated in full, but split 50-50 between Clinton and Obama.

UPDATE (11:17 AM):
According to the Huffington Post, an agreement may already have been reached prior to today’s public meeting.  Florida’s delegation would be seated as was argued for above, 100% of the delegates as allocated by the primary results, but with only a half-vote each.  Michigan delegates would likewise be seated along the same lines, but with Edwards, Biden and Richardson agreeing that all 55 uncommitted delegates would go to Obama.  The result?  A net pickup on the day of 28 delegates for Hillary Clinton… not enough to seriously challenge Obama’s lead.

UPDATE (11:30 AM):
Gotta move on with my day… watch it for yourself. 

UPDATE (3:38 PM):
The motion to restore Florida’s delegates to 100% has failed by a 15-12 margin. Disappointed Clinton supporters immediately started chanting “Denver,” apparently calling for the decision to be passed off to the credentials committee at the DNCC.

UPDATE (3:48 PM):
The motion to restore Florida’s delegates to 50% has passed 27-0.

UPDATE (4:10 PM):
The motion to restore Michigan’s delegates to 50%, apportioned along the lines of that proposed above by the Michigan Democratic Party has passed 19-8. 

All charges dropped against Rep. Simpson

As reported by Postman, all charges have been dropped against state Rep. Geoff Simpson, stemming from his arrest after an incident with his ex-wife. From the court order dismissing the charges:

Based on all of the information obtained in the present matter, the City no longer believes it has a sufficient evidence to go forward with the charges herein.  In regards to Count one, Assault in the Fourth Degree — DV, the City does not believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove that the conduct of the defendant was not legally justifiable.  Without the predicate domestic violence offense, the City is likewise unable to go forward with Count Two, Interfering with the Reporting of Domestic Violence.  In addition, based on the alleged victim’s stated intentions for calling 911 at the time of the incident, there is no evidence that the alleged victim was calling 911 to specifically report a domestic violence incident or that the defendant would have reason to believe that she was calling to report domestic violence.

Interestingly, Simpson tells Postman that despite his arrest and night in jail, he still supports the domestic violence laws that left police with little discretion but to detain and charge him:

“I’ve thought a lot about this the past several weeks. I don’t like what happened to me and I didn’t like going to jail with all the unpleasantness associated with that. But I think that’s better than the alternative.”

The alternative might be a victim denying abuse out of fear, only to be seriously injured or murdered after the police leave the scene. It is a complicated issue that certainly deserves more thought, but the current law is certainly better than the more hands-off approach to domestic disputes that used to prevail.

As for the political fallout, Simpson wrote in an email to supporters:

I am certain the Republican machine is gearing up with negative attacks, but the voters have rejected personal attack campaigns against me before and will see through them again.

No doubt. And I do think that in the absence of charges, such attacks might have been more effective had the GOP not used them in the previous campaign. Without a court case to keep this issue fresh, most voters will likely view the attack ads and mailers as old news. And that’s good news for Simpson.

Until the last dog dies

Former Washington State Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn is appearing on stage this weekend at the Capitol Hill Arts Center, performing her new one-woman play “Until the Last Dog Dies.”  The play chronicles her 2004 run for state Attorney General, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s secret, $1.5 million ad campaign to kill it.

This is the second play Senn has written since leaving office, and while it may seem odd to most folk for a former politician to suddenly pursue a career in theater, it doesn’t to me.  Senn was a theater major in college, only to be sidetracked by the political activism of the time.  I myself come from a theater background, and have always considered my own foray into politics as at least part performance art.

Tickets are $20 and a can be purchased here, but act fast because it only runs through June 1.

Republicans: laughable, but not funny

The TNT’s Niki Sullivan, live blogging from the state GOP convention in Spokane, reports on the latest attempts at Republican humor. First Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers entertained the crowd with the “Top 10 reasons it’s good to be a Republican in 2008,” including such comic gems as:

3. We believe Al Gore deserves an ‘F’ in science and an ‘A’ in creative writing.

That’s a hard act to follow. But Dave Reichert tried, trotting out his now familiar Borscht Belt routine:

Right now, U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert is up. He repeated a joke I first heard him tell at the Pierce County Republicans’ Lincoln Day breakfast earlier this year. It involves an airplane that’s going to crash, one fewer parachute than passengers and, ultimately, Hillary Clinton dying.

Hillary Clinton dying… oh man, that’s a knee-slapper, isn’t it?

I’m actually well familiar with this joke. My 11-year-old daughter used to tell a variation of it, but involving President Bush instead of Hillary Clinton. And she found it absolutely hilarious… when she was nine.

In fact, the inappropriateness of a sitting congressman joking about the death of a sitting senator aside, this is a joke specifically designed to appeal to nine-year-olds. It goes something like this:

A grandfather, a grandson, a wealthy man and [Despised Public Figure] are flying on a plane, when the pilot comes out and announces that the plane is about to crash, but that there are only four parachutes for the five of them.

“I’ve trained for too many years to die like this,” the pilot says, so he straps on the first parachute and jumps out of the plane. Next the wealthy man says, “I’m much too rich to die this young,” so he grabs the second parachute and jumps out of the plane. Then [Despised Public Figure] stands up and says “I’m [Despised Public Figure], and I’m much too important to die,” so he grabs the third parachute and jumps out of the plane.

Finally, the grandfather turns to his grandson and says, “I’m old; I’ve lived a long life. Here, you take the last parachute.” To which the grandson replies, “That’s okay grandpa, there’s a parachute for both of us… [Despised Public Figure] took my backpack!”

There are two things to note in deconstructing this joke. The first is that the punchline partially owes its humorous impact to playing off a popular stereotype of the Despised Public Figure as stupid. Deserved or not, this works well with President Bush in the lead role (as it would for Dave Reichert himself), but whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, she certainly doesn’t have a reputation for being dumb, and as such, the joke comes off more mean spirited than funny. It’s just a poor vehicle for ridiculing her.

The second thing to note about this joke is that the humorous twist is primarily derived from the unexpected contrast between the cool intellect of the child versus the panicked stupidity of a powerful adult. The punchline is not dependent on the identity of the object of ridicule because the humor comes less from the act of stupidity than it does from the act of a mere child being both observant enough to recognize the error as it was happening, and calculating enough to allow it to play out uninterrupted.

Think about it. You could swap “President Bush” with “Dave Reichert,” and the humorous effect is virtually unchanged, as long as the audience is familiar with Reichert. But if you put the observation in the mouth of the grandfather instead of the grandson, the joke just doesn’t work.

This is, at its core, a joke about empowering children. Which is why it is a joke that primarily appeals to children.

That Reichert finds this kiddie joke so humorous that he repeats it to Republican audiences statewide… well… I’d say that’s funnier than the joke itself.

The greenwashing of Dino Rossi

Jesus Christ… when will our local media stop bending over backwards to accommodate Republicans in their efforts to greenwash themselves?

The sub-headline on Chris McGann’s article in Tuesday’s Seattle P-I, “Gregoire, Rossi battle for eco-credentials,” is a prime illustration of how journalistic “objectivity” goes awry, implying that there is some sort of “battle” between the two candidates when it comes to credibility on environmental issues, when in fact there has never been any contest at all. Gov. Gregoire has an impeccable environmental record that spans her entire career, whereas Rossi is a Dino-come-lately to the issue, spouting half-measures and platitudes in an effort paint himself as a moderate. (Whatever that means.)

And the text of McGann’s article isn’t any better than the headline.

Campaigning out of a hybrid SUV that gets about 27 miles per gallon, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi says that when it comes to the environment, he’s more progressive than many voters might think.

I’ve long struggled to come up with a cogent definition of what it means to be a “progressive,” but apparently it merely requires driving a hybrid… even a hybrid SUV that gets only half the mileage of a fuel efficient Prius. By that measure, I guess Rossi is more progressive than I am. Who knew?

Rossi’s agenda calls for converting the state motor pool to hybrid and plug-in vehicles by 2015, providing a sales tax exemption on hybrid vehicles, replacing fish-killing road culverts and implementing massive congestion relief projects that he says will eliminate millions of tons of carbon emissions produced by cars stuck in traffic.

Uh-huh. Let’s take the main points of “Rossi’s agenda” one by one.

1) Converting the state motor pool to hybrid and plug-in vehicles by 2015.
Good idea. In fact it’s such a good idea, that it was one of the main points in Gov. Gregoire’s “Washington Climate Change Challenge,” Executive Order 07-02, signed and sealed by the governor on February 7, 2007. And how’s it going? 690 of the state motor pool’s 1,800 vehicles are now hybrids, a percentage that ranks WA number three in the nation. When you add in flex-fuel vehicles, WA ranks number one.

2) Providing a sales tax exemption on hybrid vehicles.
Because the last thing a Republican like Rossi would ever argue for doing is allowing market forces to work their magic… you know, the way $4/gallon gasoline is already driving consumers to more fuel efficient cars. But I’m willing to meet Dino halfway, and suggest a more targeted sales tax exemption for passenger cars that get better than 40 miles to the gallon, because hell if taxpayers should subsidize some $50,000 Lexus hybrid that gets only 25 mpg, just so Dino and his rich buddies can feel good about themselves while getting yet another a tax break to boot.

3) Replacing fish-killing road culverts.
Again, the state is already in the process of replacing salmon culverts as part of its Barrier Removal Program, 69 since 1992, at a cost of $27 million. Rossi’s much-ridiculed fantasy transportation “plan” would set aside $200 million toward replacing culverts at an estimated average cost of $100,000 each (about a quarter the price of already completed projects)… a random number he clearly pulled out of his ass.

4) Implementing massive congestion relief projects that he says will eliminate millions of tons of carbon emissions produced by cars stuck in traffic.
Too bad the science doesn’t bear this out. According to Sightline, “every extra one-mile stretch of lane added to a congested highway will increase climate-warming CO2 emissions more than 100,000 tons over 50 years.” It’s convenient rhetoric to argue that building new roads reduces carbon emissions, but it doesn’t pass the laugh test, let alone empirical inquiry.

And neither does this ridiculous piece of editorializing:

Rossi, who like GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain says global warming is a problem that must be addressed, is running toward an issue many Republicans dismiss or ignore — the environment.

Uh-huh. Really…?

McCain: “The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention.”

Rossi: “We’ll see how this debate goes, but I don’t think anybody should panic at this point.”

So Rossi is in a “battle” to hybridize a state fleet that is already hybridizing, provide incentives that are already being provided by the market, replace salmon culverts that are already being replaced, and address global warming by building roads that will only increase carbon emissions. That’s some green agenda.

Sure, McGann eventually gets to the Democrats’ rebuttal but not until 200 words into the 275 that grace A1, after the headline and the lede have already done their damage. The impression left on most readers (many of whom don’t read much past the headline, let alone the front page) is that both candidates are fighting to claim the mantle of environmental stewardship, when in fact Rossi’s war is merely one of words, whereas Gregoire’s is one of actual accomplishments—according to Washington Conservation Voters, an “extensive record of environmental leadership.” And that’s only what she’s accomplished since becoming governor.

“So what are you doing about it?” Rossi asked. “Well, I’ve actually made a proposal that is the only serious proposal that would remove carbon from the air. She has made no serious proposal.”

Yeah, sure, that’s what Rossi said, I guess, but you didn’t have to repeat it, Chris. You’re a reporter, not a fucking stenographer, and it’s simply irresponsible to leave that claim dangling out there without making any effort to validate or fisk it. Rossi’s plan is arguably not serious, would not remove carbon from the air, and is most definitely not the only one out there. Gov. Gregoire hasn’t just been making carbon-cutting proposals (the Climate Action, Green Jobs, Renewable Fuel, Clean Cars bills, etc.) as governor she’s been implementing them. And as the P-I’s Capitol Reporter, Chris, you know that.

In fact, the whole premise of this article, that Dino Rossi could possibly have any credible claim to being pro-environment, let alone “progressive” for chissakes, is patently absurd! This is the BIAW candidate—the only major political organization in Washington state politics to oppose the Puget Sound Partnership—and you’re going to allow him to greenwash himself on the front page of the Seattle P-I?


It’s in the P-I

Breaking news…

Seattle police are trying to negotiate with a man who has holed up in a Crown Hill home after pouring gasoline over himself.

“He’s very upset and agitated,” police spokesman Mark Jamieson said.

I would be agitated too, what with gas topping $4.15 a gallon throughout much of the city.  At that price, why not just douse oneself with Dom Perignon?

Selective Enforcement in the Battle to Protect Life

As Goldy mentioned below, things got pretty heated in the podcast last night over I-1000, the Death With Dignity initiative in Washington State. This initiative would bring Oregon’s assisted suicide law to this state. While Oregon remains the only state with such a law, the predictions of innocent old people being preyed on by doctors and alarmingly high levels of suicides never materialized. In fact, less than 300 people have taken advantage of the law to end their lives on their own terms in the decade it’s been on the books. More data here from Oregon shows that the law has been effective and has served the function that it was meant to serve.

On my way over to Drinking Liberally yesterday, I found an I-1000 petition to sign along Pike St downtown, and a few hours (and vodka tonics) later, I was berating Joel Connelly over his opposition to the measure, which I find to be extremely hypocritical for someone who is pro-choice when it comes to abortion. I want to elaborate on why that’s the case here.

Here’s what he wrote in today’s edition of the PI:

The view here: I oppose allowing the state to sanction a decision by people to kill themselves.

It’s part personal, a father who wanted to “go quietly” after a cancer diagnosis, but who lived and was loved for 2 1/2 more years. And we’re not Sparta. The state exists to protect its most vulnerable citizens, the very young and the very old.

While I agree that the state has a duty to protect its most vulnerable citizens, I do not automatically equate the very young with the very old. Not all individuals at the end of their lives are incapable of making informed adult decisions. Many people, when faced with the prospect of imminent death, are extremely clear in their thinking and their choices.

And beyond that, I strongly reject the idea that the state exists to protect citizens from their own moral decisions. This is the foundation that leads to my pro-choice beliefs and my overall libertarian outlook. One could easily argue that a woman with an unwanted pregnancy is “vulnerable,” and could in turn use the same logic that Joel uses here to demand that the state make the decision for her.

During the podcast, I had to point out to Joel several times that he was using arguments that were identical to arguments I’ve heard and read from anti-choice activists. There’s little distinction between the value judgement that a person makes towards their own life and the value judgement that a pregnant mother makes towards the life that is growing inside of her (even though the latter is technically not a human life yet). Both value judgements are for the individual to make, and the state should not be involved. Believing that one judgement is sacred to the individual, while the other is not, is a hypocritical stance. Either human beings have domain over their own bodies or they don’t.

There’s a lot that Joel and I agree on in the political realm and I still enjoy talking to him, but I’m profoundly disappointed that he’s allowing emotion to get in the way of reason here and working against establishing a right in this state that should be as fundamental as the right to an abortion.

Will broadcast for food

Mr. Mark Ginther
Executive News Director
KING 5 Television
333 Dexter Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98109

Dear Mr. Ginther,

As I’m sure you agree, Robert Mak leaving KING5 News is a great loss to both the station and its audience, but every crisis presents an opportunity, and in this case it is an opportunity for KING5 to continue its proud tradition of public-affairs programming, while producing a show that you and others might actually “get.” Specifically, I humbly propose that you replace Mr. Mak… with me.

Think about it. As a freeloader on the public airwaves, you have a moral obligation (if not a legally enforceable one anymore) to serve the interests of the local community, and yet you also have a fiduciary obligation to maximize profits for your Texas-based corporate overlords. So what better way to meet both these responsibilities than by putting your 24 minutes a week of public-affairs programming in the hands of our region’s most outrageous and influential blogger?

Imagine angry shouting matches over arcane details of Washington state’s tax structure, or Democratic consultant Cathy Allen spewing an endless stream of profanity as former state GOP chair Chris Vance assaults her with a folding chair. And trust me; they’ll do it. They’re both self-promoters trolling for clients, and they’ll do just about anything to get themselves on TV.

With a nod to Mak’s legacy and a wink toward my own, I call my show Up Yours with David Goldstein, signaling KING5′s ongoing commitment to thoughtful political coverage and analysis while adopting the snarky and somewhat irreverent attitude of the Daily Show, the blogosphere and the other new media outlets that have been steadily stealing audience (and advertisers) away from traditional news organizations such as your own.

But perhaps best of all, Up Yours would provide KING5 with an affordable and stable means of fulfilling its public service requirement. Having been out of a job since losing my talk show at 710-KIRO back in January, I’m willing to work for cheap. And, you can rest assured that with me behind the desk nobody, but nobody, is going to offer $160,000 a year to lure away your host. I even have an idea for my first segment that I bet you’re going to love: a tantalizing expose on wasteful government spending. For example, did you know that Seattle bizarrely pays the mayor’s communications director a higher salary than the mayor himself?! Shocking, I know. And after we hear what Mak has to say for himself, I plan to hit him with a chair.

Now that’s showbiz.

I look forward to meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss this opportunity further.


David Goldstein

What he said

Dan Savage um… savages the Seattle Times for today’s editorial on the shooting at Folklife.  It’s worth the read.

(As for me, I blame the victims.)

Grover and Me

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation just sent me my invite via email:

Please join us
for a debate with special guest
Political blogger and former KIRO radio talk show host

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 7:30 pm
Outback Steakhouse
701 Westlake Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

Please RSVP to Denise Brandt, 360.956.3482

That’s right, I get to debate neo-con, arch-villain Grover Norquist, courtesy of my good friends at the EFF. The man behind the Bush tax cuts debating a lowly, local blogger like me, at an Outback Steakhouse…? My how the mighty have fallen.

I’m expecting to have a lot of fun… especially if a few of my own supporters show up to cheer me on. So RSVP today and join me at the Outback Steakhouse for an evening of red meat, literal and otherwise.