by Jon DeVore, 04/30/2009, 9:00 PM

Joe Turner at Political Buzz posted an email from state Rep. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver, stating her concerns that Washington will be cutting 40,000 people from the state health care rolls just as the H1N1 flu hits. Wallace seems to be asking fellow Legislators to think about doing something (like further cutting state worker hours) about it in the upcoming special session. You can read it here.

Yeah, I don’t know. Obviously waiting to see how this outbreak actually goes is problematic, because by then it’s too late. I don’t suppose anyone would support a high-earners swine flu tax?

by Goldy, 04/30/2009, 3:19 PM

Parents and their employers better be prepared for an indefinite shutdown of the Seattle Public Schools, because that’s what the district is preparing for, one district insider warned me.  And if Seattle shuts its schools, the surrounding districts won’t be far behind.

The quick and sudden closure of Madrona K-8 in response to a single probable case of swine flu should be viewed as a sign that school officials are taking this potential pandemic very seriously.  While officials initially plan to evaluate closures on a school by school basis, preparations are in place to shut the entire district if cases become more widespread, following the lead of Fort Worth TX, which today became the nation’s first major school district to shutter its doors in response to the flu outbreak.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily gonna happen, just that there might not be a lot of warning if it does.

UPDATE:
Seattle Public Schools announced this afternoon that Aki Kurose Middle School and Stevens Elementary will be closed through May 7, due to reported cases of swine flu.

by Goldy, 04/30/2009, 1:46 PM

When 5,000 teabaggers rallied in Olympia, the Seattle Times editorial board warned legislators against even thinking about talking about thinking about raising taxes in the face of such a populist uprising.  But with 5,000 marchers expected to hit downtown streets this Friday in support of immigration reform, what is the Times’ editors’ biggest concern?

May Day march set for rush hour.”

Oh no… the protesters might disrupt the afternoon commute!

(Hat-tip WSLC Reports.)

by Jon DeVore, 04/30/2009, 12:46 PM

Portland, always the little brother to Seattle.

Oregon’s first probable case of swine flu has been detected in a Multnomah county woman and another three specimens under review by the state public health lab could be counted as swine flu cases by the end of the day, officials said this morning.

The woman identified as a probable case was not hospitalized and is now recovering, public health officials said.

My only observation is that public health officials are now (correctly) looking intensely for the H1N1 influenza virus, meaning in theory there could have been some cases earlier that we didn’t know about.

It’s very anecdotal, but our family knows an otherwise healthy teenager who became mysteriously ill with flu-like symptoms and was hospitalized after traveling to the desert southwest over spring break, which ended April 5 or so. Happily, the teen recovered after spending a few days being re-hydrated, but it makes you wonder if this thing was already out there and we didn’t know it quite yet. As I said, it proves nothing, but as reporting increases we might want to keep in mind increases in cases will be partly because people are now looking for H1N1. Or so it seems.

Otherwise, feel free to panic if that’s your thing. Bad flu sucks, of course. Our family had it one Christmas about ten years ago, and it’s the only Christmas of which we have no photos, because we fell ill Christmas morning. We lived on a honey-baked ham until New Years Eve, it was sad. The real nasty flu makes you feel like you are constantly having a severe asthma attack. But we all lived.

by Jon DeVore, 04/30/2009, 11:11 AM

While it’s interesting that state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, missed 157 of 847 votes, including some crucial to Clark County, what’s truly heady and delicious, in a smelly-cheese sort of way, is the comment thread below the Columbian article.

Don Benton’s missed votes are all part of a nefarious liberal media plot to make him look bad!

by Jon DeVore, 04/30/2009, 9:49 AM

Sigh.

Summary: On April 29, 2009, in a speech on the House floor, Rep. Virginia Foxx claimed that Matthew Shepard’s death was merely the result of a robbery gone bad. While his killers Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson did rob him, they also admitted that they were well aware of his sexual orientation and pretended they were gay to lure him away from the bar he was in at the time. The most striking feature of the case, of course, is that during the course of a normal, simple robbery, the victim is not generally beaten, tied to a post, and left for dead.

This may not be the way to re-build brand Republican. Yeah, it’s great to cater to the ever-shrinking GOP base, but everyone else finds such comments repulsive.

Movement conservatism, which was never conservative anyhow but rather a radical, theocratic malignancy allied with corporate interests, has now become the almost exclusive province of crazy and ignorant people.

I know there are still some fine, upstanding, “keep your hands off my stack jack” types out there at the grass roots level, but you’d think it would be clear to old-school Republicans by now that if they don’t manage to do something about the lunatics in their party, the American people are going to continue to reject the GOP.

The marginal tax rate we can all have a nice debate about, unless the debate is blown up ahead of time by crazy people. You can’t debate crazy, you can only hope to keep the crazy people from getting the keys to the car. Seriously, how much further off the rails can the GOP go? I guess we’re finding out, as this sort of thing seems to be happening with increasing frequency.

by Goldy, 04/29/2009, 9:57 PM

Public health officials announced tonight that they have identified six probable cases of swine flu in Washington state: three in Seattle, two in Snohomish County and one in Spokane County. Confirmation is expected over the next couple days.

The Seattle cases include an 11-year-old boy who attends Madrona K-8. No doubt attendance will be a tad sparse at the school tomorrow.

King County Executive Ron Sims released the following statement this evening:

We are now in the type of worldwide health situation that King County has spent years planning and preparing for. The probable cases of swine flu here in Washington serve as a reminder to all of us that we are a community of connected individuals, each with a role to play in keeping each other safe.

Our excellent public health doctors and staff, along with regional hospitals and health care providers are using the comprehensive pandemic flu plans we’ve created to respond and limit impacts and spread as much as possible.

The years of planning are just part of the solution though. We must each help limit potential flu impacts by washing our hands, covering our coughs, staying home when we’re sick, and making sure our families have the supplies they need if the situation gets worse.

King County is better prepared than many regions to deal with these flu cases and we will get through this medical challenge, together.

Here that folks?  Wash your hands and cover your damn coughs.

by Goldy, 04/29/2009, 2:30 PM

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiWaAdnRJ1o&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

That’s right, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is actually suggesting that Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party is evidence of a coming Republican sweep in 2010.

At first I wondered if Inhofe simply didn’t understand the way primaries work in Pennsylvania, but it turns out that Oklahoma has a closed primary system too, in which voters register and primary by party.  The ultra-conservative Pat Toomey’s 20-point lead over Specter in recent polls isn’t due to the rejection of Specter’s relatively moderate stance by a majority of Pennsylvania voters, or even by a majority of Pennsylvania’s traditionally Republican voters.  Rather, like a vast inland sea, Pennsylvania’s Republican Party has been steadily evaporating away, leaving behind the denser, brackish waters in which only political creatures like Toomey can survive.  Recently, over 200,000 Pennsylvanians have changed their registration from R to D, and that is the main reason why Specter has followed suit.

So if Inhofe’s optimism isn’t due to a misunderstanding over Pennsylvania’s primary system, I can only assume it a symptom of ideological myopia bordering on solipsism. Inhofe’s “first visible evidence” of a GOP comeback is, of course, evidence of the exact opposite, and his party’s utter inability to recognize their collapse for what it is, suggests that it will be some time before such a comeback is even remotely possible.

I suppose that would be more reassuring to Democrats like me if we actually felt reassured that our party’s leaders were prepared to exploit the opportunities presented by the Republicans pathological and precipitous decline.

by Goldy, 04/29/2009, 11:07 AM

Via Dan Savage, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Neil Steinberg has a modest proposal of his own, suggesting that if traditionalists object to the use of the word “marriage” to describe same-sex civil unions, shouldn’t the same rigid defense of language be applied to the children of same-sex couples?

How much longer will they allow gays to press their agenda by claiming their children are “born” when of course, by entering the world as part of these lesser civil unions, they could easily be relegated to a similarly lesser state?

Perhaps mainstream America would be happier if couples that can form unions but not marry would have children that are “birthed,” or “whelped” or “emerge.” Instead of a “birth certificate” the couples could be issued a “document of existence.”

Sure, we naysayers might point out that doing so would cause discomfort for the affected children, who, when asked where they were born, would have to answer, “Well, I wasn’t technically ‘born,’ but I ‘came into existence’ in Evanston.” But since opposition to gay marriage considers neither the feelings of children nor the concerns of their gay parents, it’s a little late to start caring about them now.

Of course, there already is a common English word to describe children born of unmarried parents; we call them bastards, with all the negative connotation that word intentionally implies.

If—while arguing that the institution is the “gold standard” for raising children—opponents of gay “marriage” insist on defending the traditional use of the word, they should at least acknowledge the traditional meaning associated with its absence.  Steinberg only satirically suggests that the product of “these lesser civil unions” could easily be relegated to a lesser status themselves, but by the inner semantic logic of the traditionalists, that is indeed the inevitable and intentional outcome of codifying this semantic distinction in law. For once the political battle over same-sex marriage is reduced to an argument over the definition of a single word, a linguistically consistent defense of traditional marriage would inherently imply that Dan’s son is a bastard, while my traditionally legitimate daughter is not.

Yes, I know… there are some who might argue that as mores and circumstances have changed over the past half-century or so, the literal meaning of the word “bastard” has become archaic.  English is a vibrant, living language that constantly evolves.

And that is exactly my point.

by Jon DeVore, 04/29/2009, 9:16 AM

Here in Clark County, Aneurin notes that creating relentlessly pro-development policies hasn’t worked out all that well over time. From Politics is a Blood Sport:

Every election cycle, commissioners run on a “good jobs” platform promising to reduce the number of commuters heading over to Oregon and then proceed to go out and approve more growth management changes favorable to the residential construction industry. When the hang over comes, as it is now with a vengeance, the county then has nothing to fall back on other than increased retail sales taxes.

It’s really kind of sad to watch how the Republican majority on the Clark County Board of Commissioners doesn’t seem to understand how fundamentally things have changed. Not only would re-inflating the bubble be a bad thing, it’s also unlikely to happen any time soon. The easy credit rip-off days are gone, and the banks aren’t going to fuel the speculation again.

So the question is: does it matter that much to the regular workers if they’re pouring foundations for an endless, sprawling bedroom community versus bridge footings, new schools and light rail projects? Residential construction, after all, requires a huge public investment for roads, sewers and other public services, so since it’s taxpayer money maybe taxpayers deserve a better value for their dollar.

We can still have a vibrant construction sector that creates a better community, it’s just that the people who made fortunes building subdivisions will have to adapt to changed circumstances. You know, like in capitalism!

Clearly the BIAW-types think everyone else in the county owes them a time machine, and the way to make the time machine work is to give them tax breaks. Luckily the citizenry of Clark County kind of let the BOCC have it and the BIAW isn’t getting every last thing it wants. Now that’s progress!

by Lee, 04/29/2009, 7:39 AM

The annual Global Marijuana March takes place the first Saturday each May in over 200 cities across the globe to protest the prohibition of marijuana. If you want to participate in the Seattle march, here are the details:

Where: Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill

When: Saturday, May 2 – 12:00 noon

People will then march down to Westlake Center between 1-2pm for a rally with guest speakers and live music.

by Darryl, 04/29/2009, 12:06 AM

Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48) announces that he is running for King County Executive, and gives his first post-announcement interview on the Podcast. Ross explains why he is the best person for the position, what is right and wrong about the King County government, and what he will do to fix what’s wrong.

Changing into his Rep. hat, Hunter and the panel pick over the carcass of the freshly-ended legislative session—you know…the one that didn’t produce any tax reform, and cut to the bone. Following the nitty-gritty, the panel members give letter grades to the session.

Finally, the panel examines the remarkable transition of Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter from a Republican to a Democrat. The Philly contingent of the panel (i.e. Goldy and Ross) spins yarns about the corruption of that city’s political machine that would make a Chicago politician blush and actually drove Sen. Specter to become a Republican in the first place….

Goldy was joined by King County Executive candidate & state Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48), the Seattlepi.com’s Joel Connelly, and Effin’ Unsound’s & Horsesass’s Carl Ballard.

The show is 53:54, and is available here as an MP3:

[Recorded live at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. Special thanks to Confab creators Gavin and Richard for hosting the Podcasting Liberally site.]

by Jon DeVore, 04/28/2009, 9:42 PM

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdjRFJQuoiI[/youtube]

It would be one thing if there were just a few nutjobs on the conservative-Republican side, but Democrats can just keep pointing out the crazy all the way through 2010 and beyond. Good for us anyhow.

Long term, this is bad for the country, because crazy people rarely have useful ideas about how to solve complicated problems. Short term, the Rumpublican Party is getting rumpier by the hour.

As lame as Democrats can be sometimes, mostly they’re lame in a serious, “I sell-out because I’m an unprincipled whore” kind of way, rather than in a “I’m your crazy Aunt Michelle and the Tri-Lateral Commission poisoned the bean dip” kind of way.

The two party system is so awesome.

by Darryl, 04/28/2009, 6:13 PM

DLBottlePlease join us at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally for an evening of politics under the influence. The festivities take place at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. beginning at 8:00 pm. Or stop by earlier for dinner. Well…right after you’re done switching parties.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4ajZ-5kTXk[/youtube]

Not in Seattle? The Drinking Liberally web site has dates and times for 332 chapters of Drinking Liberally spread across the earth.

by Goldy, 04/28/2009, 3:06 PM

Back in the fall of 2003, after my horse’s ass initiative but before I started blogging, I shopped a satirical guest column around to the various daily papers.  The Seattle Times and Seattle P-I promptly took a pass, but David Seago at the News Tribune was “sorely tempted … to stir the pot.”

Tim Eyman had been threatening to run an initiative that would have slashed the state school levy by 25%, cutting $800 million from K-12 spending per biennium during an economic downturn in which the state was already struggling to balance the budget.  Inspired by Jonathan Swift’s satirical masterpiece, A Modest Proposal, I proposed that we could indeed cut taxes and while improving academic performance… if only we would harvest our schools’ lowest performers, and feed them to their fellow schoolmates.

I was pretty damn proud of my dry, Swiftian tribute, believing I’d found a way to clearly present some rather wonky data in an entertaining manner.  But alas, after mulling it over for a couple weeks, the TNT declined as well, fearing that too many of their readers lacked the satire gene.

“Sometimes you just have to put a big red sign reading ‘SATIRE’ out there for those people who inevitably won’t get it,” Seago emailed me, a sentiment I found to be incredibly over-cautious considering I was suggesting cannibalism, for chrisakes. Needless to say, the essay went unpublished, and while I ultimately had less entertaining, more solemn guest columns printed in the Times, P-I and TNT, this particular rejection certainly played a role in motivating me to start my own blog.

But… as it turns out, Seago probably knew his audience a helluva lot better than I did, for as a new study from The Ohio State University once again proves, there are a lot of folks out there who just don’t get satire… and most of them are conservatives.

This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism.

That’s right… Colbert actually resonates with conservatives in his audience because they think he’s really one of them. They just don’t get the joke.

Not that, after nearly five years of blogging, I should be the least bit surprised. Here on HA we’ve always dabbled in satire, much to the confusion and dismay of some of our more concrete, righty trolls, who just can’t wrap their rigid little minds around the difference between being serious and being solemn.  Indeed, intentional ambiguity has almost become a hobby of mine, if only for the amusement of watching my trolls get hopelessly mired within the lines while futilely attempting to read between them.

Many conservatives just don’t get satire.  And that explains a lot.

by Jon DeVore, 04/28/2009, 9:45 AM

U.S. Senate Democrats get the coveted 60th seat from…a defection. So Norm Coleman’s odious delaying tactics against Al Franken don’t amount to squat could continue forever and ever and ever.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. The Rumpublican Party continues its shrinkage.

UPDATE [Goldy]:
As a native Pennsylvanian, who proudly voted against Specter way back in 1986, all I can say is “wow.”  Wow. I’m as speechless as the Club for Growth.

UPDATE, UPDATE [Goldy]:
As N in Seattle points out in the comment thread, you have to understand Philadelphia politics to understand Specter’s politics.  Specter was a registered Democrat when he first ran for District Attorney as a Republican, and he built his reputation fighting the corrupt Democratic machine of Mayors Jim Tate and Frank Rizzo.  Specter was a bit of a reformer, more in line with the socially liberal, economically conservative “Rockefeller Republicans” who dominated suburban politics at the time.  Thus as the GOP moved further and further to the right, it was always disappointing to see him toe the party line again and again, out of political expediency.

No doubt this final party switch was driven by political expediency too.  But while he may be the newest member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, he is certainly far from the most conservative.

UPDATE THREE [Jon]: Updated the original post to reflect that some are pointing out Specter’s switch may actually increase the pressure on Republicans to not allow Al Franken to be seated. Whatever. It’s still funny as hell.

UPDATE 4 [Darryl]: Shrinkage, indeed. But Sen. Specter is destroying my narrative of being an independent-turned-Republican. As I explained in my statement of support for Mike Huckabee, in 1998 I voted for Republican Sen. Specter over his “pro-life” Democratic opponent Bill Lloyd.

by Goldy, 04/28/2009, 9:23 AM

It’s been regionally popular for some time, across the entire political spectrum, to generally dis outgoing King County Executive Ron Sims, but as the nation faces a potential flu pandemic, it would be a nice going away present from our media-political complex to give him a little credit where credit is due for the county’s extraordinary preparation and foresight.

Under Sims’ watch Seattle-King County has run one of the best public health agencies in the nation, putting its pandemic flu preparations in the capable hands of the widely respected Dr. Jeff Duchin.  And while the rest of the nation is nervously awaiting its allotment of anti-viral drugs from federal warehouses, King County is already sitting on a stockpile of 190,000 courses of Tamiflu, making us one of the few local governments to have invested tax dollars in such precautions.

Chances are still that the Mexican swine flu outbreak will fizzle out before becoming a worldwide health crisis, and if we’re lucky, the county’s supply of Tamiflu will expire long before the next flu pandemic strikes.  But it shouldn’t require a worst case scenario for the citizens of our region to thank Ron Sims for his leadership.

by Goldy, 04/28/2009, 8:19 AM

The US Supreme Court has sided with the FCC, upholding its incredibly unreasonable “fleeting expletive” rule.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the government could threaten broadcasters with fines over the use of even a single curse word on live television, yet stopped short of ruling whether the policy violates the Constitution.

The court, in a 5-4 decision, refused to pass judgment on whether the Federal Communications Commission’s ”fleeting expletives” policy is in line with First Amendment guarantees of free speech.

Well, fuck that.

[QUICK! How many of you instantly had a sexual image flash through your heads when I used the word "fuck" in a clearly nonsexual manner?  I'm guessing none, yet that notion—that some words are so offensive because they always evoke sexual or execretory images—is at the heart of the Supreme Court's logic.  Utterly fucking ridiculous.]

I’m not saying the FCC should have no power at all to regulate the public airwaves, but these regulations should not be arbitrary or unreasonable, and the fleeting expletive rule is both, especially in light of how easy it is to cleverly—and legally—subvert the rule’s intent.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NDPT0Ph5rA[/youtube]

UPDATE:
From Justice Stevens’ dissent:

There is a critical distinction between the use of an expletive to describe a sexual or excretory function and the use of such a word for an entirely different purpose, such as to express an emotion. One rests at the core of indecency; the other stands miles apart. As any golfer who has watched his partner shank a short approach knows, it would be absurd to accept the suggestion that the resultant four-letter word uttered on the golf course describes sex or excrement and is therefore indecent. But that is the absurdity the FCC has embraced in its new approach to indecency.

Exactly.

by Jon DeVore, 04/28/2009, 5:38 AM

The biggest impact of the Andromeda strain swine flu on Americans so far is to render television “news” shows even more unwatchable than they already were. Swine flu swine flu swine flu swine flu, good morning, swine flu swine flu swine flu, back to you!

Fifty degrees and swine flu, rained out and swine flu.

Maybe the octomom will marry a Somali pirate who got a DUI in So Cal while auditioning for American Idol, it would be a comparative blessing.

Probably the best preparedness for individuals would be a stack of DVD’s and books, and tons of canned soup. Or you could panic and try to hoard things like prescription medicines intended for people who actually get the flu, that would really add to the overall merriment.

by Goldy, 04/27/2009, 4:37 PM

I’m pretty sure that this is what leadership looks like:

Eight activists protesting the expulsion of aid groups in Darfur have been arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington.

Humanitarian leaders and U.S. lawmakers, including Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards, were led away from the embassy in handcuffs Monday after crossing a police line.

Civil disobedience from a couple of U.S. Representatives.  What a refreshing contrast to the type of meek politicians we tend to elect here in Washington state, who generally couldn’t get arrested if they tried.