Hopefully overall a start.
Archives for June 2009
Wow. The Seattle Times editorial board really sticks it to Jan Drago this morning. I wonder what this telegraphs?
Few Seattleites doubt Nickels deserves a stiff challenge for a third term. Fewer dispute the idea that politicians take credit for a variety of things they didn’t do.
But Drago’s pitch that she will improve relations with state government is diminished when she hypes her own impact.
Good communication relies on offering accurate descriptions. Take credit for what you really accomplished and don’t pretend your role was larger than it was.
Huh. I guess Drago shouldn’t count on getting the Times’ endorsement.
Kinda funny though to see candidates fighting over who deserves more credit for pushing through an unpopular and expensive tunnel.
Over on Publicola, Josh bashes his head against a poll:
A new survey USA poll has some surprising results: The bag fee isn’t a lost cause. In fact, it’s slightly ahead.
Asked: “Would you vote ‘Yes’ to add a .20 fee on disposable shopping bags?” 47 percent said they would. It’s almost a dead heat. 46 percent said ‘No.’
Um, hate to dis Josh on this one (well, actually it’s fun to dis Josh), but those are terrible numbers for the Yes camp. Measures like this tend to break toward the No side. Indeed, if I were running the Yes campaign I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anything less than a fifteen point margin at this point in the process… you know, before the chemical industry floods the airwaves and stuffs our mailboxes with their propaganda.
So actually, if these numbers can be trusted, the bag fee is starting to look like a lost cause.
To his credit, in his most recent column Ted Van Dyk doesn’t mention Lyndon Johnson once. You gotta appreciate such self-restraint. But dissing Sound Transit’s light rail by pointing to Phoenix’s problems in financing their own… I mean… WTF?
I thought the reason light rail would never work here is because Seattle is different than everywhere else. And now Van Dyk is insisting that it can’t work here because we’re too much like Phoenix? Really?
It is hard to question the environmental credentials of Mike McGinn and Mike O’Brien, both having served as strong, vocal leaders in the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club. So why are these two passionately green candidates having so much trouble picking up sole endorsements from the broader environmental community in their respective races for mayor and city council?
Well it could have something to do with the Sierra Club’s well-earned reputation under the two Mikes’ leadership, for not working and playing well with others.
Talk to folks active with other environmental organizations and you’ll find that there’s still a lot of residual bitterness left over from the way the Sierra Club broke rank (and promises) during 2007’s failed Roads & Transit ballot measure campaign. And Sierra Club only rubbed salt in these festering wounds with their early endorsement of Dow Constantine in the King County Executive race, just a week before next Tuesday’s heavily promoted Green Choice Debate at Town Hall, sparking a flood of angry emails within the coalition of environmental organizations sponsoring the event.
“This was supposed to be an impartial forum,” one environmental leader complained to me. “Now, thanks to Sierra Club, Dow gets to come in there with the upper hand.”
Apparently, Sierra Club never promised to hold off on their endorsement until after the forum, which is why they’re not listed as part of the sponsoring coalition, but still… they couldn’t wait one week? No, that’s just not their style.
Now, after years of snubbing their noses at the broader environmental coalition, McGinn and O’Brien are asking these same organizations to hold their noses and endorse their respective candidacies. Yeah, well, good luck with that.
The fairly extensive racist graffiti attack last weekend in Vancouver has prompted Aneurin to put up the PayPal button for donations to the account originally set up last year when the car of two Obama supporters was similarly defaced. The account is intended to help victims defray some of the costs of repairs and cleanup, although equally important is that the community send a message that this sort of stuff will not be met with silence.
It was heartening last year that several generous donations came from the Seattle area, that was greatly appreciated.
The Obama supporters’ car was repainted with some help from a very kind local body shop. It’s kind of hard to say how much can be done financially with the current incident, as it was far more widespread, involving multiple vehicles, homes and other property. Maybe some folks insurance deductibles could be met or something. Like it’s not hard enough in the economy right now, having some racist idiots spray painting stuff is maddening.
A 16 year old high school student who seemed to be one of the main targets of last weekend’s incident turns out to be a highly regarded basketball star at Fort Vancouver High School. She spoke to a Portland television station about the graffiti.
I’m optimistic that community leaders here in Clark County are concerned about this kind of stuff and are going to speak out about it. Placing plastic pelicans in someone’s lawn is a prank, spraying swastikas and hate messages, not so much.
It’s one of those refrains we hear from candidates all the time, especially candidates coming from the private sector with little or no government experience, that they want to make government operate more like a business.
Really? You mean businesses like GM? Like Chrysler? Like Countrywide Financial, Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual? Like Bernie Madoff? You mean even profitable, industry dominant businesses like Boeing?
The words “much delayed” are beginning to attach themselves to the Boeing 787 as if they are part of the brand name. On Tuesday came perhaps the most stunning delay of all: postponement of a first flight intended to show the world that the much-delayed Dreamliner was finally ready for prime time.
Yet it’s not.
The latest bungle has badly damaged Boeing’s already-dented credibility. It raises questions about its reliability compared with Airbus. And it sets the company up for a much tougher financial climb.
I can accept the argument that some aspects of government might work better if their operations were modeled more on some aspects of some businesses, but it is silly to assert that a candidate whose professional experience comes entirely from the private sector is more qualified to run a government than a candidate whose experience is mostly in the public. A) We don’t necessarily want to replicate in government, say, the project management prowess of a Boeing or the customer service practices of a Comcast, and B) private sector experience is not always relevant to the unique demands of public office.
For example, T-Mobile exec and Seattle mayoral wannabe Joe Mallahan likes to tout his business experience, but he won’t be able wring efficiency out of city government by outsourcing jobs to the Philippines or by attempting to bust powerful public employee unions. I’m not saying his business experience isn’t valuable, it’s just not automatically applicable on its own.
So enough of this “running government like a business” meme; it’s a crappy metaphor. Government is not a business (for example, it has no profit motive), and there are plenty of businesses, even profitable ones, just riddled with waste, fraud and abuse. What I want in a mayor or executive is somebody capable of efficiently running government as a government, as opposed to somebody intent on trying to turn government into something it is not.
Once again, Josh Marshall and his cohorts at Talking Points Memo have proven themselves the kings of the conceptual scoop. Something didn’t smell right about the bizarre disappearance of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, and they stuck with the story until the rotting corpse was uncovered.
But the same can’t be said for many in the legacy press, who if they didn’t entirely swallow the “hiking the Appalachian Trail” story hook, line and sinker, seemed lazily happy to take the bait. TPM joyously outlines some of the most credulous coverage in respectable outlets such as Politico, NBC and the Wall Street Journal, but perhaps the most embarrassing “reporting” came from the pages of our nation’s political paper of record:
The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza — in a Tuesday morning post hilariously headlined “Sanford Returns!” — reported that Sanford “will return to the state tomorrow after spending the last five days hiking the Appalachian Trail, according to a statement released by his office this morning.”
In fact, the Post fell so hard for the Appalachian Trail line that they even ran a story — “For the Gov, A Little Me Time,” by reporter Will Haygood, highlighting the quirkiness of Sanford’s decision to “trek off into the woods,” without ever stopping to ask whether tale was true. For good measure, the story reported: “The governor, it should be noted, is quite happily married” — something it had no way of knowing.
But as TPM’s Zachary Roth explains, there’s a larger point here than just taunting the legacy press. “It’s fair to say you didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to think there might be something fishy going on here,” Roth wrote, yet the general lack of skepticism displayed by many in the mainstream press reveals a flaw in the medium itself.
None of these are the biggest crimes in the world, but still: It feels absurd to have to point this out, but politicians and their staffers frequently have reason to dissemble, about issues far more important than an extra-marital affair. Too often, though, the press treats public statements from elected officials’ offices — especially those purporting simply to provide information, like the Appalachian Trail line — as self-evidently accurate. It’s as if, despite everything, some in the press can’t quite bring themselves to believe that politicians might try to mislead people.
Part of this is structural. There’s almost no acceptable way for a mainstream reporter to explicitly tell readers that the information being put out by a powerful office-holder may be false or misleading. But the only way that this structural flaw will change is if individual reporters are willing to stick out their neck to change it.
Until then, people will read blog for stories like these.
HA is no TPM, and I’m no Josh Marshall (though both are certainly worthy of aspiration), but I do believe that some of my biggest contributions as a blogger, recognized or not, have come in a similar vein.
Yeah, I’ve broken my share of important stories, but I’m not a reporter in the traditional sense, in that I don’t get up every morning and pound a beat. Nor do I want to. Instead, like many bloggers, I mostly consume the reporting of others, looking for patterns they’ve missed or concepts they’ve misunderstood, attempting to fit the raw data of the daily news into a broader and, I hope, a more informative and engaging context. I’m not so much interested in reporting facts, as I am in uncovering the truth about the facts.
Some call this lazy. Whatever. Lazy or not, it still consumes the bulk of my waking day. And besides, it’s what bloggers like me do.
And it is this contribution to the public debate that is exactly what keeps readers coming back to blogs like mine.
From an article at The Oregonian about how California may shutter its poison control center. Sounds like we’re not much better.
In Washington state, lawmakers have pulled 35 percent of the poison control program’s budget, forcing the layoff of its medical director. Without that position filled, the program risks losing its accreditation, which is needed to qualify for federal money.
For now, outgoing director William Hurley plans to volunteer to help keep it afloat while officials scramble for funding and consider filling the position on a part-time basis.
“We’re hoping this is a temporary problem,” Hurley said. “These cuts don’t leave us in a long-term sustainable position.”
We can’t even do basic shit like have a decent poison control center? That’s beyond pathetic. I suppose all the wee kiddies should just teach themselves to read warning labels in their overcrowded classrooms. Better yet, we can send the center out to an overseas shop but make sure the “free market” works by giving some well-connected, heavy-on-the-lobbyists firm a big old contract to farm it out for us.
This is the price we all pay when politicians make stupid, irresponsible pledges in order to get elected rather than stand up to the know-nothings.
But how good a person is Hurley for helping out gratis? Maybe he should be governor.
Well, no, the Seattle Times hasn’t officially endorsed Fred Jarrett for King County Executive yet, but this morning’s editorial lauding him pretty much telegraphs that they will.
No surprise there, and no real complaint from me. I like Jarrett, and think he would make a fine executive. I don’t know that I’m voting for him in August, but I won’t be upset if he ultimately wins.
The only question remaining is whether the Times endorses one or two candidates in the August primary, and if the latter, whether they’re crazy enough to endorse Susan Hutchison?
From Chicago Tribune:
Promising to continue to make the investigation of mortgage fraud a priority, federal authorities in Chicago announced charges in five schemes on Tuesday that involved properties ranging from dilapidated houses on the South Side to pricey condominiums in a River North high-rise.
The cases included charges against 37 people and four companies, and some $48 million in mortgages that allegedly were fraudulently obtained.
I’m reminded of a case from my home town back in Kansas that finally saw some measure of justice late last year. From Kansas City Business Journal in Dec. of 2008:
Kansas City builder F. Jeffrey Miller and two business associates were convicted on federal charges of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering in a $5 million mortgage fraud scheme, acting U.S. Attorney Marietta Parker said Friday.
In May 2006 , the U.S. Department of Justice charged Miller, 47, of Stanley, with organizing a $25 million scheme to boost his business through conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering.
One of the last times I visited my childhood home, before my folks moved further south in search of better fishing, I saw that Miller had built a huge mansion across the street, where there used to be a field and a pond. My guess is his current quarters are considerably smaller, say on the order of 80 square feet.
Obviously, it’s not true that all real estate agents, title companies and builders are crooks. Our real estate agent and loan broker have both been stand up folks here in Washington state. They’re quality folks who live in the community and don’t rip people off. The guy who built our house here did a pretty good job overall. And while some folks may lean Republican, the sensible ones are a little more sanguine about their ideology and are willing to grant that maybe sometimes rules have to be enforced for the greater good.
The criminality in the industry has affected the entire economy, and while it’s fashionable in some right wing quarters to throw hissy fits about a Democratic administration, the bitter truth is that this economic calamity was caused by a lack of sensible regulation and the unbridled greed of people who are no better than street criminals. Frankly they have done an amount of harm greater than all the street criminals ever could, at least in dollar amounts.
What remains to be seen is how many more of these white collar lawbreakers are brought to justice, and if the building and banking industries will ever come to their senses and realize that tolerating criminality works against the long term interests of legitimate business people.
The podcast makes a brief return from its summer vacation for a special interview with Darcy Burner. Goldy and Darcy discuss her new position as the Executive Director of ProgressiveCongress.org. The conversation turns to health insurance reform, and Darcy explains why the House will pass a plan with a “robust” public option, and why the public option will not go away during the reconciliation process. The final topic of discussion is the energy bill and the cap and trade provisions now before the House.
The show is 25:09, and is available here as an MP3[audio:http://www.podcastingliberally.com/podcasts/podcasting_liberally_jun_23_2009.mp3]
A second tunnel-boring machine for the Brightwater sewage-treatment plant has broken down, causing the layoff of 67 workers, King County officials said Tuesday.
King County wastewater officials said the westbound machine, nicknamed Rainier, has a problem with a part known as the cutterhead rim.
It’s not as badly damaged as the eastbound boring machine, known as Helene, which broke down last month and caused the layoff of 60 people. Nonetheless, repairs to Rainier, also known as BT-3, are expected to take months, according to Brightwater Project Manager Gunars Sreibers.
But don’t you worry about Seattle taxpayers being forced to pick up cost overruns on the Viaduct replacement, because thanks to “new technological advances” such mishaps could never happen when the state attempts to dig the largest diameter deep bore tunnel ever. I know that is so because the Discovery Institute says it is so, and there is no greater or more reliable source on issues of science and technology than those progressive folks at Discovery.
A lot of people cheat on their partners. A recent University of Washington study found a lifetime infidelity rate of 28 percent for men, 15 percent for women. If anything, I’m surprised the rate is so low.
So while I personally believe that fidelity is an integral part of a committed relationship, have never been unfaithful myself, and would have been inconsolably heartbroken to have been the victim of such, it’s not really any of my business what goes on within (or without) someone else’s marriage. Unless, they make it my business, by being an arrogant, holier than thou, family-values hypocrite.
You know, like Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC). Or US Sen. John Ensign (R-NV). Or US Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). Or any number of other pro-family, conservative politicians who have recently fallen victim to scandals of a sexual nature.
That Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) is “packing fudge,” as one of my vile trolls puts it, is not a scandal, because he is openly gay, but would have been had Rep. Frank earned a reputation as a hateful, anti-gay bigot like the recently disgraced and deceased Spokane Mayor Jim West. Even former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat who never ran on a family values platform, ultimately fell victim more to his own hypocrisy than his sexual proclivities, when the former state Attorney General who had aggressively prosecuted prostitution rings, got caught frequenting one himself.
It’s the hypocrisy, stupid.
And that is what has always been so infuriating and offensive about righteously indignant Republicans attempting to brand themselves as the family values party—not their human frailty; we all suffer from that—but rather the sheer arrogance of their claim to be morally superior over others.
The scorn and ridicule now being heaped upon Sanford and Ensign is well deserved, for those who choose to wield their Christian faith as a political sword would do well to read their own Bible: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”