Open thread

Bill Maher on Birfers:


(And there are almost 70 other clips from the past week in politics at Hominid Views.)

Two for Two on Times Endorsements

Way back in June I predicted the Seattle Times would endorse State Sen. Fred Jarrett for King County Executive, and a month later they did, along with State Rep. Ross Hunter. So flush with victory and armed with the knowledge that they would be doing dual endorsements, at least in crowded, high profile primary races, I stuck my neck out and made another prediction: Joe Mallahan and Mayor Greg Nickels in the mayor’s race.

Lo and behold:

For the primary, voters should back Greg Nickels — yes, even with legitimate concerns about his handling of the transportation department — and Joe Mallahan, a T-mobile executive yet to demonstrate why he should hold the city’s top job.

See Bruce, it’s just like I told you… you guys are predictable even when you think you’re being unpredictable.

Anyway, enough of the celebrating and back to the prognosticating, which gets increasingly difficult the lower the profile of the race. But here goes: Conlin, Bagshaw, Licata and Royer in the City Council races, and a big, fat, libertarian “No” on the Seattle Plastic Bag Fee measure. If they do dual endorsements in Council Districts 4, 6 and 8, throw in Bloom, Israel, and here’s the reach… Forch. As for City Attorney, I’m guessing some on the board are tempted to go with Holmes, if only to show they’re willingness to toss out an incumbent (there’s that predictable unpredictability) but I’m betting they stick with Carr.

Those are my predictions, and I’m sticking with ‘em.

The unbearable lightness of being Emily Heffter’s source

She seemed nice enough, so at first I felt kinda sorry for Emily Heffter when the Seattle Times overtasked her with covering local politics. Then I got angry as her sloppy, irresponsible reporting in the race for WA-08 potentially cost Darcy Burner the election. (Yes, Darcy did indeed graduate from Harvard with a degree in Computer Science and Economics, Heffter’s refusal to understand how Harvard grants degrees notwithstanding.)

Now I’m just wondering why Heffter still has a job at all?

The information in this article, originally published June 24, 2009, was corrected July 31, 2009. The person Heffter interviewed by telephone, and who initiated the contact, was in fact Edward Seeto of Seattle. A previous version of the story referred to the source as Carl Hoeflick, owner of a Duwamish-area manufacturing company called Katskill Engineering. After an inquiry from a reporter from The Stranger newspaper who was trying to reach Hoeflick, Times editors determined that neither that person nor his business exists.

I suppose there could be extenuating circumstances, but for a journalist, isn’t this a fireable offense? I mean, either she didn’t check out her source, or she just made stuff up. Or a little of both. But regardless of motive or intent, either way she once again allowed a complete fabrication to influence public opinion in the midst of a contentious policy debate and election campaign.

And just so you know I’m not taking this out of context, Publicola’s got a link to the text of Heffter’s piece as originally published, and the non-existent person and business were quoted in the lede:

Jun. 24, 2009 — Seattle’s “head tax” costs Carl Hoeflick less than $1,000 a year — $25 annually for each of the employees at his Duwamish manufacturing company.

That’s not a lot of money, but still the tax infuriates him. He sees it as a sign the city doesn’t show small-business owners enough support.

“The amount is not significant, OK,” said Hoeflick, whose company, Katskill Engineering, makes gaskets for vehicles. “But it is the idea of the city sticking it to us, having no clue and having no concern. … It is an unnecessary burden on us.”

Yeah, but then again, any tax comes off as an unnecessary burden… when you don’t exist.

The Seattle Times credibility largely comes from the fact that it is the Seattle Times, and it doesn’t take too many incidents like this one to tarnish the reputation of all of its reporters. And Heffter, whether she’s making up sources or misrepresenting Darcy’s education or plagiarizing city websites or lying about being “physically dragged” out of a closed-door city council meeting… well… she’s certainly racking up more than her fair share of embarrassing incidents.

You’d think, with all those unemployed journalists out there, the Times could hire a better political reporter than Heffter. And possibly even one willing to work as cheap. That is, if the Times really cared about getting this stuff right.

Civil disobedience

Over on Post Globe, Philip Dawdy writes about Cal Anderson Park, “the park you can’t play in,” whose attractive water features, extensively used during the recent heat wave by overheated dogs and humans alike, are officially off-limits to bathers and waders.

“You’re not supposed to be in it at all anywhere,” said Joelle Ligon, a Parks spokeswoman. “It wasn’t designed as a water feature to play in. It was designed for visual enjoyment.”

Yes, the City of Seattle has literally created a park you can’t play in.

Yeah, kinda. But as Dawdy noted, the signs and occasional patrols haven’t stopped park goers from enjoying the cooling stream and pond, even during less severe weather. Nor should it. “Keep people and pets out of the water and don’t climb on the fountain. Thank you!” the tiny plaques say, and while this oh-so-politely phrased prohibition doesn’t include a parenthetical “wink-wink,” it’s pretty much understood.

These are the way things work in real cities, where we humans often find ourselves packed uncomfortably on top of each other, and rules are imperfectly created in an effort to strike the proper balance between private liberty and the public good. I suppose the police could ticket violators for wading in a public fountain on a 103 degree day, but really, unless there was some imminent threat to public safety or the public peace, why bother?

The rule is there in case it needs to be enforced (and I’m guessing, to protect the city from liability), but it doesn’t need to be enforced just because it can. And most grownups—including the police and park officials—understand that.

In fact, I’d argue that you can’t really avoid being a scofflaw from time to time in civilized society, and there’s nothing ethically questionable or social destructive about it. Almost all of us drive at least a few miles over the limit from time to time, and indeed, at times (such as passing a slower moving vehicle on a two-lane road), safety can demand it. Even in uptight Seattle, most of us have jaywalked (a way of life in other cities).

As for me, I routinely violate the city’s off-leash laws at a small park where dozens of local dog owners routinely take their four-legged companions for an illicit swim in the lake. We all know that we risk a hefty fine, and occasionally, Animal Control shows up to hand them out. But you know what? It’s worth the risk, with only one legal dog beach in the city, and that one being a half-hour drive away, and the park being virtually abandoned but for us for nine months of the year. As long as we do no harm (and in keeping the beaches clear of goose poop and the park clear of drug dealers, I’d argue we do some good), there is no public harm in tolerating us.

Yeah, I know, it sounds like I’m arguing for selective enforcement of the law, which is generally a bad thing in concept, but what I’m really talking about is context, which is the prism through which many rules and laws are viewed in places where folks tend to crowd together. The rule against swimming in the water feature at Cal Anderson Park is there to be enforced when and if it needs to be enforced, but if folks continue to violate it wisely and discretely and without conflict, well then… wink-wink.

And that’s just how big cities work.

Judging from some comments and email, perhaps I was being obtuse, so, shorter Goldy: people play in the park you can’t play in. So what’s the problem?

The only thing weirder than the birthers…

The only thing weirder than the Birthers are the quasi-Birthers who suggest that “anti-Birthers” are the real conspiracy theorists by refusing to call for President Obama to release his birth certificate. Those are the double-nutburgers, soaring in the outer reaches of the solar system.

What’s next…calling the moon-landing “believers” conspiracy theorists for not calling on Obama to investigate the “faked” moon landings. You know…just to put the whole faked moon landing thing to rest. (As if any such investigation could do any such thing.)

“But, but, but, but ALL Obama has to do is release the long-form birth certificate,” I hear Mr. Joseph and Lou Dobbs protest. The statement simply dismisses the fact that Obama has released a birth certificate that is fully valid for all legal purposes.

The “long form” birth certificate offers more information about the medical circumstances of the birth, but adds nothing relevant to any legal question of whether or not Obama is a natural born citizen. I mean, seriously, Obama’s citizenship is neither strengthened nor falsified by the physican’s name or the start date of his mother’s last menstrual period prior to the birth. The constitution does not specify a minimum birth weight or crown-heel length to hold the office of the President. All the information required to establish citizenship is on the “short form” birth certificate that was released by Obama.

Let me say it again: eligibility to be President is a legal issue. All legal questions about Obama’s eligibility are fully addressed by the birth certificate that Obama has provided. Nothing is left to “faith” or “belief”. People calling for the long-form certificate are either (1) unaware of the legal issues or are (2) basing their calls on irrational, emotional needs, not legal ones.

But, according to Mr. Joseph, I’m the conspiracy theorist because I don’t buy into the (1) ignorance or (2) emotional angst. Whatever, dude!

And now I want to take this post in another direction. Joseph and many birfers suffer from fundamentally misunderstanding birth certificates. I find the misunderstanding both ignorant and annoying. For example, Joseph states:

Release the original [birth certificate] and let’s be done with this madness.

During the last campaign, John McCain faced similar questions and promptly responded by releasing his original birth certificate.

Both of these statements are incorrect. Obama cannot release his “original birth certificate” and McCain did not release his “original birth certificate”. Both Obama and McCain released certified copies of their birth records. The “original birth certificate” is a document that is possessed by the legal entity responsible for maintaining vital records (typically a Registrar of Vital Statistics). All “birth certificates” that we possess aren’t birth certificates. Rather, they are certified reproductions of the birth certificate or certified copies of the information contained in the original birth certificate.

For example, I was born in Santa Maria, CA, just a month and a few days before Obama’s birth. My parents were originally given a Notification of Birth Registration. This only showed that the “Certificate of Birth” had been legally filed. It states, “a certified copy of the birth certificate may be obtained from your Local Registrar of Vital Statistics”

I have what is probably the first certified copy of my birth certificate. It cost my father $2.00–he paid by check about two months after my birth. The document has white print on black background, and is a photographic reproduction of the original (possibly duplicated from microfilm). There is a piece of paper attached to the reproduction that says, “This is to certify that the attached is a true and correct copy of the vital record which is on file in this office and of which I am the legal custodian.” It is signed and sealed by the Santa Barbara county health officer.

Let’s call this the “long form” certified copy of my birth certificate.

I also have a later certified copy of my birth certificate that was issued in 1992. This one is printed on fancy certificate paper with a blue engraved border and a red serial number. The document is titled, “Certification of Vital Record, Santa Barbara County.” In the middle of this very beautiful form is an ugly photographic copy of some of the birth certificate, this time black printing on a white background. The 1992 certified copy is missing a bunch of information that was found in the 1961 version, like my mother’s birth history, length of gestation, my mother’s last menstrual period, my birth weight, my length at birth, when prenatal care began, check-boxes to denote any congenital anomalies, injuries, complications of deliveries, “operation for delivery,” etc.

Huh…so that makes the 1992 certificate a “medium form” certified copy of my birth certificate. I wonder if birfers would accept a similarly abbreviated image for Obama? (I can only imagine: “Only God and Obama have no known weights or lengths at birth.”)

While I haven’t ordered a recent certified copy of my birth certificate, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to receive something without the image, but with the relevant legal information printed out. This is because some jurisdictions computerized their vital records, and did so in an era were computer data storage was expensive. Rather than scanning all original birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc. certificates as images (leading to big storage issues), they entered the relevant legal information into the computer as text. From there a certified vital record could simply be printed, which is is much easier than pulling out the microfilm, slogging through it to find the proper record, and then printing the record onto the certification form. Whence the modern “short form.”

But legally, all three forms—short, medium or long—provide the information necessary to establish citizenship.

Times Disses Labor in Port Endorsements

It was a split decision today in the Seattle Times endorsements for Port of Seattle commissioner, with the editorial board coming out for the best qualified candidate in one race, and in total union-bashing mode in another.

On the bright side, the Times endorsed Rob Holland, an all around stand up guy and former 37 LD Dems chair, who deals with port issues for a living, over David Doud, a Bellevue real estate broker… despite the obvious drawback of Holland’s labor connections.

For Position 3, our choice is Holland, who is labor-backed but not representing exclusively a labor interest. Holland lives in Seattle and is a great-nephew of former Seattle City Councilman Sam Smith. He works at Seaport Energy in the fleet-fuel business, and knows the Port as a customer. Holland stresses that the Port’s mission is “to support trade, and maritime and industrial jobs” and says he would work to keep Seattle competitive.

Yeah, Holland is “labor-backed” but as the Times painstakingly points out, not “exclusively,” which I guess is their way of justifying going for the guy with the knowledge and credentials over the one who just views the Port as a taxpayer financed real estate development firm.

“Holland’s view is more suited to a public enterprise,” the Times grudgingly admits. How civic-minded of them.

But in endorsing Tom Albro for Position 4, the Times editors just simply couldn’t hold back their anti-union bias:

For Position 4, our choice is the business-backed candidate, Albro. He is an entrepreneur who runs the company that operates the Seattle Monorail. He has also been a civic volunteer, serving as chairman of the Municipal League from 2000 to 2002. Like Holland, he is for preserving industrial and maritime land uses.

So is his opponent, Max Vekich, who was once a Democratic representative in Olympia. Vekich was a solid labor vote, and is now a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Vekich knows the waterfront, but his close identification with organized labor makes him a risk for this post.

Hear that? Like Holland, Albro is for preserving industrial and maritime land uses… though unlike Holland, he has no actual professional experience as to what these industrial and maritime land uses might be. I mean, he runs the Seattle Monorail, which, whatever its potential might have been, is little more than a glorified amusement park ride.

Vekich on the other hand, he not only shares Holland’s passion for preserving the Port as, you know, a port, he also shares Holland’s firsthand experience of the daily grind along a working waterfront. The Times even admits this, but dismisses his superior qualifications because “his close identification with organized labor makes him a risk for this post.”

Huh? Vekich’s close identification with organized labor makes him a risk of what…? On the Waterfront style mob violence and corruption? If not for Vekich and his union connections, Terry Malloy coulda been a contender?

I mean seriously, if the Times is worried about corruption and mismanagement at the Port, they should be more concerned with Albro, a self-financed candidate whose political base was apparently inherited from the disgraced Pat Davis/Mic Dinsmore regime. Meanwhile, Vekich is running as part of a well publicized reformist slate with Holland and respected incumbent John Creighton, while Albro is essentially running as part of a secret slate with the similarly unqualified and business-as-usual-backed Doud.

So I guess my question for the Times is, if not for his membership in the ILWU, would the clearly more qualified Vekich have been a less “risky” choice? And if Holland had been in the employ of a dreaded union, would your endorsement have gone to the less qualified Doud? Are you really making the argument that a “close identification with organized labor” should disqualify one from public office, while a close identification with the developers and shippers who have profited most from the Port of Seattle’s documented mismanagement and corruption (and who have largely financed the Albro/Doud campaign) is a feather in a candidate’s cap?

Huh. Considering the Times’ longstanding and unwavering support for the disgraced Davis, perhaps it is Holland, not Vekich, who has the most to lose from today’s endorsements?

A wing and a prayer

The structural flaw in the Boeing 787 wing design turns out to be worse than first reported:

The wing damage that grounded Boeing’s new composite 787 Dreamliner occurred under less stress than previously reported — and is more extensive.

An engineer familiar with the details said the damage happened when the stress on the wings was well below the load the wings must bear to be federally certified to carry passengers.

In addition, information obtained independently and confirmed by a second engineer familiar with the problem shows the damage occurred on both sides of the wing-body join — that is, on the outer wing as well as inside the fuselage.

And you know who I blame? The unions!

I mean, honestly… how can Boeing engineers possibly design a wing that won’t snap off mid-flight, distracted by the knowledge that assembly workers have the right to strike when their contract is up? If Boeing can’t secure major concessions from the unions, they’ll simply have no choice but to move 787 final assembly to South Carolina, if only for the safety of passengers.

No Good Business-Climate News Goes Unchallenged!™

The state labor council has the second in its series “Outside the Echo Chamber” posted here. It’s part of labor’s new and vigorous effort to combat the endless wankery in this state about how we supposedly suck so bad in terms of business climate (thus the sardonic “trademark” bit.)

This second article deals with Washington’s worker’s compensation system and argues it actually is pretty low cost for employers while still providing good benefits for injured workers, by some estimates having the 5th lowest costs in the entire country.

But, surprise, the bidness guys and gals only want to focus on benefits, as if providing decent compensation automatically means costs are too high. But hey, since we didn’t farm things out to (generally conservative) contractors to rip us off, we can keep costs down! Go figure.

(As an aside, you know how it is. Conservatives always want to define worthy and unworthy recipients of help, even if the recipients play a significant part in paying for it.)

The first article in the series dealt with Washington’s overall rankings as a good state in which to do business, if you look at a wider range of rankings than those provided by Boeing-hired consultants.

Independent expert determines Sound Transit has right to I-90 center lanes

The Washington Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee is meeting this morning to hear testimony from an independent expert hired to determine what, if anything, Sound Transit might owe the state for the right to cross the I-90 bridge, and I’m guessing some legislators aren’t gonna like what they hear.

Over at Seattle Transit Blog, Ben Schiendelman has a great recap of the issue and the consultant’s preliminary report, but the takeaway is this: Sound Transit owes the state squat. Under the terms of agreements signed by federal, state and local authorities, “the I-90 center lanes have been permanently committed to transit use since 1978,” and would only be used for cars until a transit agency needed them. Furthermore, the consultant determined that WSDOT only contributed to 2.5% of the cost of the relevant, impacted portion of the I-90 corridor, and thus any claims for compensation would be limited to that.

But as Ben points out, even that 2.5% figure may be a stretch:

Whenever Sound Transit builds an improvement, such as an HOV lane, on WSDOT property, some portion of the value of that improvement is ‘land banked’ — such that if Sound Transit needs highway right-of-way, it can draw from this land bank rather than have to actually pay. Sound Transit has quite a bit in this land bank, and that as well as the Sound Transit contribution to R8A could both be considered credits if WSDOT were able to charge for use of I-90.

The Land Bank Agreement considers full payment as the value of 20 years of use. While the land bank agreement may not apply to this particular transaction, it’s still interesting here: as the center lanes have been used by “highway vehicle , including single occupancy vehicle, travel” (pg. 26) for over 20 years, it’s also arguable that the state investment for the center lanes may have already been fully returned.

The report doesn’t bode well for legislators hoping to slow or kill construction of the voter-approved East Link light rail line, or for, say, House Speaker Frank Chopp, who reportedly hoped to extort a billion dollars or more out of Sound Transit to help offset the outsized costs of his Mountlake Tunnel. It’ll be interesting to see how legislators react.

Mayor Nickels Faces the Perfect Storm

That’s it, I’m fed up with Mayor Nickels!

First the December snow storm, and now this record breaking heat wave… I mean, I don’t ever remember the mercury topping a hundred degrees when Paul Schell was in charge. And while throughout the campaign Nickels’ challengers have talked an awful lot about the weather, isn’t it time Seattle finally elected a mayor who could do something about it?

That’s why HA is officially endorsing Halle Berry for mayor.


Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Mayor Nickels’ impressive record on the environment, but after watching X-Men, it just doesn’t compare to Berry’s psionic ability to control the weather with her mind. I mean, think back to last December’s nearly unprecedented snow storm—sure, rock salt and snow plows would’ve been nice… or Berry could’ve just cleared our streets with a thawing wave of her hand. And ask yourself, unlike Nickels, would a Mayor Berry have allowed her beloved (and un-air conditioned) city to suffer through yesterday’s 103 degree heat? I don’t think so.

Yeah, Mayor Nickels sure looks sexy in that hot, skin-tight, black leather body suit of his, but Berry ain’t too shabby in that department either. And, she can control the weather. With. Her. Mind.

Vote for Halle Berry for mayor.

SoCal commercial real estate fun

Personally, I love realistic capitalists who say what is what, and over time I’ve become a fan of “Jim the Realtor,” aka northern San Diego County realtor Jim Klinge, whose blog Bubble Info has been linked to by Calculated Risk with some frequency.

It’s possible Klinge and I may not not have similar political views, although I have no way of knowing, but if I was looking for a property in northern San Diego County I would definitely beat a path to his office. He steadfastly offers analysis of his market, mostly residential properties, based on facts, local conditions and historical trends. Plus he’s often hilarious.

Wall Street could use guys like this. Our family had the benefit of a real estate agent who worked like this, and it’s a huge advantage IMHO. It may be your home, but it’s also a business deal, and having someone who knows stuff can be pretty helpful.

Here Jim the Realtor takes a look at a couple of strip malls in his area. I bet the local developers are so glad he puts these things on YouTube.


I miss Seattle

Around this time every year my daughter and I fly East to visit family in hot and humid Philadelphia, and spend a week or so baking in the sun at the Jersey shore… which is really kinda stupid, because this time of year is typically the most beautiful time to be in Seattle. Warm, sunny days, low humidity, cool nights. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect weather.

So 102 in the shade? I mean… WTF?!

Yup, welcome to not just the hottest day of the year, or the hottest day for this date, but the hottest day in Seattle ever… both the highest high and the highest low (71 degrees) recorded for any day of the year since records started being kept back in 1891. And also, one of the most humid days I’ve experienced in my 17 years in Seattle.

This. Really. Sucks.

I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait until we head East next week to get a break from Seattle’s oppressive heat and humidity.

The National Weather Service just reported that it hit 104 degrees at Boeing Field at 5:53 PM.

Did Blue Dogs roll over on health care reform?

As you’ve probably already heard by now, House Blue Dogs and the Democratic leadership have hammered out a compromise on healthcare reform that includes a public option, and according to McJoan and others, very few major concessions to the conservative wing of the party:

In addition to postponing the vote on the full bill until after recess, Waxman and the Blue Dogs negotiated a basic outline including raising the small business exemption raised to payrolls of $500,000 or over. It keeps the public option intact, and allows for HHS to negotiate rates for the public option. It keeps consumer protections currently in the bill intact.

Like everyone else I’ve been nagging my contacts trying to get details and reactions, but apparently, non-Blue Dogs haven’t been told what’s exactly in the compromise yet, so there hasn’t been much detail or reaction to share. That said, Rep. Jay Inslee is holding a telephone town hall tonight at 7:10 PM PT, and perhaps he’ll have more information by then. The public is invited to call in at 877-229-8493 or 877-269-7289; conference code is 13634.

It seems apparent that reimbursement rates are at the heart of negotiations on the public option, a fact that Rep. Inslee emphasized throughout his press conference Sunday on last week’s compromise agreement on Medicare reimbursements:


I specifically asked Inslee if we’d get a real public option out of the House, and he emphatically said that we would, while noting that the Blue Dogs have “balked” at tying the reimbursement system to Medicare. This new compromise apparently takes care of this objection by allowing HHS to negotiate rates. (And, in so doing, options the opportunity to move away from fee for service.)

So while Inslee and other non-Blue Dogs apparently haven’t seen the compromise yet, he sure did have some insight into what was coming.