Moving Forward

Now that the dust has settled from Governor Gregoire’s epic fail on the recent medical marijuana bill, the state’s community of growers and patients are starting to pore over the new law to figure out how they can still provide safe access. After tonight’s meeting at the Cannabis Resource Center (the main Cannabis Defense Coalition office in SoDo), I feel like there’s actually a light at the end of this tunnel.

Of course, dispensaries who openly sell medical marijuana to any authorized patient are not allowed. And there will be no production facilities regulated by the Department of Agriculture. But what the law does allow, however, are collective gardens. This evening, defense attorney Aaron Pelley outlined what appear to be the parameters of any new system for distributing medical marijuana within that framework. This discussion stems from meetings that Pelley has had with King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. The relevant language can be found in Section 403 of the passed bill.

That section allows:
- 10 people to participate in a collective garden, which can have 15 plants and 24 ounces per person (up to 45 plants and 72 ounces total)
- The collective members to share in the costs of maintaining the collective

Interestingly, the section does not disallow:
- Multiple gardens to occupy the same space
- A single person to belong to multiple collectives
- Central offices where multiple collectives can establish an “access point”

My takeaway from this meeting is that what we’ll end up with (probably first in Seattle, then across the state) are these “access points” (not dispensaries!) where people can join a collective. Once part of a collective, you’d only be able to obtain medicine grown in that collective’s designated garden – and would probably have to pay for the upkeep of the garden (rather than directly paying for the medicine). From my reading of the law, that would be fully compliant with the statute, but hey, I’m not lawyer. And even Pelley wasn’t terribly sure how all of this will be interpreted once it inevitably ends up in a courtroom.

The Line in the Sand

There are basically 2 ways to make Metro fiscally sound: (1) eliminate most service south of Renton and East of Lake Sammamish or (2) find another source of revenue (fares, taxes, taking the money away from something else the county does or some combination, but fares have already gone up and other services are hurting too). Or if you’re The Seattle Times, whine about driver pay and don’t offer any real solutions.

Two problems are special to Metro. One is bus-driver pay. It can be defended by pointing to the 2010 contract, which has minimal raises. But under the previous contracts, between 2000 and 2009, bus-driver pay rose 38.5 percent, to the third-highest figure of any big-city bus operation in the country.

Metro now feels the consequences of the contracts it has signed.

Like 90% of bus drivers are helpful and good natured. They put up with drunks, abrasive assholes, and all sorts of shit while navigating often narrow streets in and out of traffic. They are professionals. So, doy, don’t pay them anything. Also, I’m a little confused. Was bus driver pay the 3rd highest after 2009 or is it the third highest now, after concessions? The writing wasn’t clear, but I think they mean the first. The Seattle Times doesn’t say what we should pay bus drivers, nor do they calculate how many more routes we could save with cuts to bus drivers’ pay (assuming we don’t have more accidents, etc. with poorly paid drivers).

Another problem is that Metro tried to serve the whole county. The agency is going back to setting routes based more on demand, and that is good. Run buses where people want to ride them. But it is too late to avoid this deficit.

It is true that it is more costly (as I hint at in the opening), but I’m not sure it’s a “problem” as the editorial says. I think 40-40-20 is horrible policy, and am fine focusing on routes that serve the most people. Still, I don’t think we should abandon the whole areas of the county that aren’t dense enough to make back much at the fare box.

Anyway, then The Seattle Times goes from wrong to wroooooong.

The problem is that the five lattes are on top of all the other lattes, mochas and Frappuccinos people already buy for their government. Taxes go up in bad years because times are bad and good years because we can afford it.

Aah the implication that no taxes have ever gone down. Good work, people who hate facts.

There has to be a stopping point. Given the economic pain, the public opposition and the unbelievable claim that the $20 tax is for two years only, this is a good time to say no.

FYI, I skipped it but their only evidence for public opposition is that they get more letters opposing it than pro. No polling data. No focus groups. Letters to one newspaper is how you judge all public support. They aren’t calling for an election.

And it’s not like they’ve supported other tax hikes and are reluctantly opposing this. They’re opposed to any tax hike no matter how reasonable. Really, the line in the sand for The Seattle Times isn’t Metro funding. It’s public education, K-12 and higher ed. And it’s public safety. It’s all of the things the state, county, and cities do that have been reduced since the recession hit.

FOX is not a crook!

Today is the day Glenn Beck leaves FOX News (at least that’s what they say…I don’t have cable or a functioning teevee in my home). So it seems only fitting then that today Gawker examines the origins of FOX News:

Republican media strategist Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996, ostensibly as a “fair and balanced” counterpoint to what he regarded as the liberal establishment media. But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the “prejudices of network news” and deliver “pro-administration” stories to heartland television viewers.

The memo—called, simply enough, “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News”— is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes’ work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the seeds of FOX News were sewn in the Nixon White House.

It explains a lot!

Circuit Court upholds constitutionality of Affordable Health Care for America Act

Today the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

The court ruled on two of the most important substantive issues that have been raised in dozens of other lawsuits. The first is whether the law falls within the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution:

…the breadth of the substantial effects doctrine and the nature of modern health care favor the validity of this law. No matter how you slice the relevant market—as obtaining health care, as paying for health care, as insuring for health care—all of these activities affect interstate commerce, in a substantial way.

The second question is the constitutionality of the insurance mandate:

Does the Commerce Clause contain an action/inaction dichotomy that limits congressional power? No—for several reasons. First, the relevant text of the Constitution does not contain such a limitation. To the extent “regulate,” “commerce,” “necessary” and “proper” might be words of confinement, the Court has not treated them that way, as long as the objects of federal legislation are economic and substantially affect commerce.

And look who wrote the opinion:

Judge Jeffrey Sutton is a George W. Bush appointee and a former law clerk to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. He served as an officer in the conservative Federalist Society’s Federalism and Separation of Powers practice group, and was one of the nation’s leading crusaders for expanding the role of the states at the federal government’s expense.

This ruling is significant as it is the first of four pending decisions from Circuit Courts of Appeals on Obamacare. This case originated in the E. Michigan District court as Thomas More Law Center v. Obama in which Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed the lawsuit on the merits. The 6th Circuit Court has now upheld that decision.

There are so many pending lawsuits against the Affordable Healthcare Act that it is difficult to get the big picture. I spent part of this morning trying to get my head wrapped around them. Here is what I came away with.

Besides today’s ruling, there are four other lawsuits at the Circuit Court level.

One of the pending decisions is Florida v. HHS that includes 26 state Attorneys General, including our own Rob McKenna. The law was found to be unconstitutional by Florida District Court Judge Roger Vinson. The ruling was appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and arguments were heard earlier this month.

Additionally, there are two cases pending in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals: Virginia v. Sebelius and Liberty University v. Geithner. The former began in the E. Virginia District Court where Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled the law unconstitutional. The latter began in W. Virginia District Court where Judge Norman K. Moon ruled the law constitutional.

The only other ruling on the merits from a District Court comes from Seven-Sky v. Holder heard in the D.C. District court. Judge Gladys Kessler found the law constitutional. The appeal before the D.C. Court of Appeals awaits oral arguments that will take place no earlier than August.

Those are, so far, the only cases where a decision has been made on the merits. The score so far:

  • District Courts: constitutional 3; unconstitutional 2
  • Circuit Courts: constitutional 1; unconstitutional 0

There are several other cases before Courts of Appeals, New Jersey Physicians v. President just argued in the 3rd, Baldwin v. Sebelius in the 9th that will be argued in July, and Kinder v. Geithner in the 8th that will be heard no earlier than August. My understanding is that these cases were dismissed for lack of standing (not merit), so that a ruling in favor of the the plaintiff would simply send the case back to the District court for a ruling on the merits.

There are six or seven other cases at the District Court level at various stages of litigation. It seems like many of these will be dismissed for lack of standing, but rulings on the merits may well arise from some of them.

Today’s decision is a Big Fucking Deal in that a Judge with a very conservative record authored the majority opinion against the two main “theories” found in many of the other lawsuits. The decision will be binding on one of the current District Court cases, and will likely be be used as an advisory precedent in other cases.

Finally, here in Washington, this decision must be considered something of a blow to gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna (R), who went against the wishes of the Governor and a majority of the people (e.g. the March 2010 Washington Poll) by participating in the AG lawsuit (Florida v. HHS). Indeed, a recent SurveyUSA poll found that 40% of those polled were less likely to support McKenna compared to 36% more likely to support McKenna because of the lawsuit. A loss will make McKenna’s participation look like a quixotic waste of time and resources.

Hey Ladies

I just realized that with Gregoire’s retirement, Washington may have all men in the statewide elected offices. That would be a real shame.

And nothing against men; I am one. It’s just that top to bottom the elected executive branch could better reflect the state. We’re certainly willing to elect women statewide as evidenced by our current governor, US Senators and some State Supreme Court justices.

I’m not arguing for a quota system here, or saying you have to vote for the woman for any position. We should evaluate the candidates based on how well we think they’ll do in office. Certainly if Pam Roach jumps into any race for any executive position, you should vote against her. I’ve heard rumors that Lisa Brown is or was thinking about running, but I’d rather have Inslee than her.

So, I don’t know if the parties aren’t recruiting women, or if possible women candidates haven’t stepped up enough. But it would be a sad state of affairs if in 2012, we couldn’t elect a single woman to an executive position.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

The Seattle Chapter of Drinking liberally meets tonight. There is much to talk about: Jay Inslee is in for Governor, and is leading McKenna in a new poll. Roger Goodman will run for Inslee’s 1st congressional district seat. Secretary of State Sam Reed is out, leaving three open statewide contests for 2012. Oh…and Seattle police leave an assault rifle unattended on a patrol car!

Please join us tonight for drinks, conversation, dinner, and assault weapons tips at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. Starting time is 8:00 pm, but a few folks show up around 7:00 pm for dinner.

Actual Google News screencapture:

Brodeur

Can’t make it tonight? There will be a special fireworks edition of Drinking Liberally, Newport Hills on the 4th of July. The fun begins at the Mustard Seed, 7:00 PM. Then, at about 8:30 or 9:00, they’ll make a short trip over to Newcastle’s Lake Boren park for the fireworks.

Finally…Have you registered for NWroots on July 9th? First Congressional District candidate Roger Goodman will open up the conference, announce his candidacy, talk a bit about the disastrous war on drugs, then introduce the current 1st District Congressman and gubernatorial candidate, Jay Inslee. Other featured speakers are 4th Congressional Candidate Jay Clough, attorney Cyrus Habib, “dreamer” Also Chehade, Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson, Congressmen Jim McDermott and Dennis Kucinich, and, a special guest from Canada, former Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who will address single payer health care. There will be sessions and panels on the media, health care, immigration, labor, agricultural policy, the mortgage crisis, electronic voting issues, and an excellent 25 minute documentary on Afghanistan. There will be a candidates social, a special musical performance by the Total Experience Gospel Choir, and an after-party at Seattle’s oldest saloon. Find more information and register here.

Poll analysis in the Inslee—McKenna race

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, it is really early. And yeah, the polls don’t mean much now. Blah, blah, blah.

Ya know, the score in a basketball game doesn’t mean much after the first 5 minutes either, and yet there is that score in the corner of the screen. So if you don’t want to see the score, go away…now.

What’s the score, you ask, in the gubernatorial race between Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-01) and Attorney General McKenna (R-WA) race? Five minutes into the game, Inslee is up slightly. The score is based on a SurveyUSA poll of 515 registered Washington voters taken from 24 Jun to 26 Jun.

Out of the 515, Inslee got 242 “votes” (47%) and McKenna got 227 (44%) “votes”. If we look only at those who picked Inslee or McKenna, Inslee has a 51.6% to 48.4% advantage.

As I’ve done for years, the polling results are analyzed by Monte Carlo simulations of 1,000,000 elections of 515 voters who each have a 47% chance of voting for Inslee and a 44% chance of voting for McKenna. The point is to get an estimate of the probability that each candidate would win the election, if the election was held today.

The final tally gives Inslee 687,927 wins to McKenna’s 300,837 wins. This suggests that, in an election held now, Inslee would have a 69.6% chance to McKenna’s 30.4% chance of winning, simply based on the evidence from this one poll. Here’s the picture of all outcomes from the simulated elections:

SUSA28June2011

This is the second poll from Survey USA in this race. The early May poll had McKenna leading Inslee by +7 (48% to 41%) before either had declared their candidacy. If the election had been held back then, McKenna would have won with a 90% probability. Some difference a month and a half makes!

Another state-wide open seat

Via KING5:

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed is announcing this morning that he will not seek re-election when his term ends in 2012.

That makes three open statewide races (Governor, SOS, and AG) in a year for which turn-out will be high on account of the the presidential race. Conventional wisdom would give a boost to the Democratic candidates because of the higher turnout.

Will conventional wisdom hold for 2012? Or will a “throw the bums (i.e. Democrats) out” mentality shake things up in favor of Republicans? Unlikely. First off, the SOS and AG positions are currently held by Republicans. For the gubernatorial race Chris Grygiel argues that Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-01) doesn’t look like the insider:

Voters nationally – and to a certain extent locally – have expressed a strong “throw the bums out” mentality. They seem to be willing to give newcomers a chance. So how can Inslee, a longtime incumbent, beat the “bum” rap? He’ll be new to voters outside of the two Congressional Districts where he’s held office. Again, conventional wisdom says McKenna has the edge because he’s won statewide office twice – Inslee never has. But another way of looking at that is voters haven’t had a chance to get sick of Inslee yet.

And, of course, McKenna is an Olympia insider….

Finally, State Senator Jim Kastama (D-Puyallup) has announced on his blog that he is running for SOS:

Today, Kastama confirmed he would seek the office of Washington State Secretary of State. Kastama will make a formal public announcement at the Puyallup City Hall 25th district legislative reception on July 5th at 6:00 pm.

Fun stuff!

All The Players

This editorial in The Seattle Times is not horrible. And in fact, other than the presumption that we need cuts to Social Security benefits most of the ideas mentioned are good.

In politics, there is a tendency not to praise the player who makes the concession that is obvious to you and everyone else but wasn’t to him. That is a mistake. The federal budget deficit is so huge that all the players have to make concessions. All of them find it difficult.

When they make concessions, they need to be praised — and reminded to follow through.

Oh, I know! Tax increases for the wealthy. That’s a concession that the Republicans still aren’t willing to make. Also, The Seattle Times doesn’t mention that we could get more from a federal estate tax. I mean if the deficit is really the biggest most important thing ever and all of the players need to reevaluate their intransigent stance, then they’ll surely reconsider their position on that. So I look forward to their next editorial where they demand to be taxed at a higher rate. I’ll praise it.

Goodman Runs in the 1st

With Jay Inslee’s announcement that he’ll run for governor, another anticipated development took place. State Rep. Roger Goodman has amended his filing paperwork to officially run for Congress in the 1st CD – for the seat that Inslee will be vacating. Up until now, Goodman had filed to run in the 8th CD (he lives in the 1st CD, close to the boundary between the two districts).

As everyone here probably knows by now, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Goodman’s record both before and after he became an elected official. He’s been a pioneer in drug law reform – first at the King County Bar Association and later in the legislature – and has both solidly progressive sensibilities and a genuine talent for finding solutions to difficult problems that go beyond partisanship. I’m certain that whoever he ends up running against will try to use his background in drug law reform against him, and I expect that strategy to fail as spectacularly as it has for the two candidates who tried that strategy in the 45th LD races.

Jay Inslee is in

We’ve known this day would come for years. Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA-01) is now running for governor.

As a constituent of Rep. Inslee, I am pleased by the announcement. Jay is progressive. He has a strong record on the environment. He sees an important role of technological leadership in the economy of the future. Basically, he is strong on many of the issues that are important to me.

And he is one of the few politicians around who can beat Rob McKenna. That’s particularly to me, as I have watched this state embark upon a journey toward Alabamization—a journey that would be furthered with a Gov. McKenna. Don’t believe me? Look at what is happening in every state with a newly elected Republican Governor….

I am not claiming that Inslee will win, just that he can. It’s going to be a battle.

In 2004, Dino Rossi almost won the Governor’s mansion because the voters never really got to know him. Rossi was a known quantity by 2008, and the voters rejected him (and one more time after that).

In 2012 the problem will be that people think they know McKenna. McKenna has skillfully spun himself as a moderate while capitalizing on his AG position to pass himself off as a populist. But there is evidence to suggest McKenna is far more conservative than people’s perception of him. The one slip-up in this regard was McKenna’s surprising decision to join the lawsuit against the Affordable Health Care Act. What other surprises does Rob McKenna have for us?

Inslee, with his rich legislative record, is a known quantity, but not well known by Washingtonians. I suspect that the more people get to know Inslee, the better they will like him. For McKenna, the more people get to know him…the less they will like him. So let the learning begin!

Open Thread

As scary as this article is, I don’t think Michelle Bachmann will be the VP selection for the 2012 GOP ticket. I think she’ll be at the top of the ticket figuring out who her running mate will be at this time next year.

UPDATE: I realized after I posted this that I still haven’t read Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone piece on Bachmann. I should probably read through that to be absolutely sure I’m not talking out of my ass.

UPDATE: [Darryl]: Is Michelle Bachmann really a flake? Or is her problem being fuckin’ nuts? We link…you decide.

UPDATE: [Darryl]: Her first post-announcement blunder: Bachmann compares her spirit to a notorious serial killer. Still unresolved: Is she a flake, or is she fuckin’ nuts?

Sheltered Fools

I’m starting to wonder if anyone on the staff of the Tacoma News-Tribune has ever been outside the city of Tacoma. Here’s Brian O’Neill trying to figure out what happened at Tacoma Hempfest yesterday, where TPD busted several vendors for selling glass pipes:

The Trib article describing police arrests at Tacoma’s Hempfest also suggested that many of those given citations were also people deeply involved in the, pardon the pun, grassroots effort to legalize pot. The report also pointed out the general surprise regarding the police response, especially by those arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana. One vendor commented that “I was dumbfounded” after being cited for having drug pipes.

That may be due to the potential changes many jurisdictions were expecting out of Olympia.

Um, no, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that selling glass pipes has long been legal in the state of Washington (as it’s not hard to find stores in the city of Tacoma that sell these items). In addition, these vendors weren’t bothered last year, nor have they ever been bothered at Seattle Hempfest.

According to TPD, the contracts those vendors signed didn’t allow them to sell paraphernalia. It looks like this will end up being sorted out in a courtroom, once again showing how eager the Tacoma Police have been (and their loyal servants at the TNT) to waste taxpayer money in their obsession with pot.