Paul Constant Ascends to the Heavens

Paul and I enjoy the actual view from our actual corner office.

Paul and I enjoy the actual view from our actual corner office.

Most 1 percenters just don’t know what to do with all their filthy lucre. Some rich people collect art. Other rich people collect cars or even houses. But Nick Hanauer, America’s premier self-loathing plutocrat, seems intent on ostentatiously collecting ex-Stranger writers.

So welcome, Paul Constant, to Nicktopia—the land of milk and honey! (No, really: Both milk and honey are available in our office’s well-stocked kitchen, along with a variety of free snacks and beverages.)

If there’s anybody who knows what Paul is going through right now, it’s me, but I can honestly tell him that it gets better. The worst thing about leaving The Stranger is leaving our brilliant and talented co-workers behind. (And our awful/wonderful readers—God I miss Slog.) But as Paul will soon learn, the best thing about leaving The Stranger is just about everything else: more pay, more freedom, more influence, better working conditions, and potentially, a much larger audience.

At first, Paul will be doing pretty much what I was hired to do: read, think, talk, and write about public policy. Mostly income inequality, some guns. Our ambitious charge is nothing less than rewriting our nation’s economic narrative into one that recognizes the primacy of people over money. But over time, we intend to build out a little platform of our own where we can think out loud about a range of issues. So if, say, you lament the loss of Paul’s 2016 election coverage on Slog, don’t despair. You’re not alone. Nick didn’t hire Paul and me to silence us.

And finally, if the timing looks suspicious, I want to be clear that Paul did not leave The Stranger to come to work for Nick. We had no prior discussions. That Paul landed on his feet (and 28 floors up!) so quickly after his abrupt departure from The Stranger is a testament to Paul’s talent and work ethic.

So, yeah. Welcome, Paul. And don’t make me look bad by writing too much too quickly.

- The 2/3 rule in the Senate is stupid and undemocratic, but at least it’s probably going to be stupid and undemocratic against a bad idea.

– Fare increases at Metro are still ridiculous. But at least LIFT means it won’t be as bad for lower income people.

– The Reproductive Parity Act probably isn’t going to pass this session, but it’s still worth pushing for it.

Of pocket lint and ‘political correctness’

It is no small tribute to the man’s legacy that he made those ears work. And every ear as such that has ever worked is part of the Nimoy-ness.

http://horsesass.org/58488/

Andrew Friedman: World’s Worst Businessman, or Pathological Liar?

Remember when Andrew Friedman, the virulently anti-$15 owner of the Capitol Hill bar Liberty was given precious column inches in The Stranger to warn readers that a $15 minimum wage would surely destroy local small businesses?

Local independent businesses WILL close, many of your neighbors WILL be out of work,” the capslockian Friedman declared, arguing that his 5 percent margins were too small to absorb the cost of paying his employees a living wage.

Well, on Friday night, not quite nine months after Seattle’s $15 minimum wage was approved, and just one month before the first phased-in hike goes into effect, Friedman opened his second Capitol Hill bar, the ironically named “Good Citizen.” Which, if you take Friedman at his word, is kinda weird.

So I guess that makes Friedman either the world’s worst businessman, or a pathological liar.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

The week’s Politiclips.

Net Neutrality:

CPAC: Duck Dynasty kook Phil Robertson, rants about STDs.

Mental Floss: 43 words invented by authors.

Greenman: Simon Donner’s elevator pitch for global warming.

The 2016 Parade of Clowns

Chris Hayes: Amen, Sister Laura Ingraham.

Thom: Koch brothers caught funding climate change deniers.

The Republican War on Gynecology

Sam Seder: Ron Paul suggests that Black lawmakers are only against war because they want the money for food stamps.

Richard Fowler: What was American’s most successful industry in the past century?

The U.S. is turning Green:

Young Turks: Sean Hannity’s creepy CPAC joke.

Mental Floss: Why don’t humans have a mating season.

Thom: The Good, The Bad, and The Very Very Junkettaceously Ugly.

The Fog of War Zones:

Ann Telnaes: A test for loving America.

Vsauce: Would Headlights Work at Light Speed?

David Pakman: Billionaire Governor raises minimum age and raises taxes…economy booms.

White House: West Wing Week.

He Lived Long and Prospered:

Jon: Why does the Obama Administration keep prosecuting whistle blowers?

Ed: Obama vetos Keystone XL.

David Pakman: CPAC excludes gay Republicans, welcomes white nationalists.

Department of Homeland Insolvency:

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about makeup.

Thom: The Good, The Bad, and The Very Very Cuculinely Ugly.

Young Turks: The Obama-hate bubble is FULL of stunning beliefs.

Knuckle-dragging Climate Denier:

How you are accidentally helping the Koch brothers:

Jon: FAUX News’ 50 lies in 6 seconds.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

Open Thread 2/27

- Maybe a better lesson to draw from Mars Hill’s implosion than be more media savvy, would be to do better at the outset.

The Funny Thing About Privilege

– Don’t poison trees. So gross.

Conversion Therapy: Dangerous and in Need of Banning—Take It From Someone Who Learned the Hard Way

So, basically, the Republican chair of the environment committee just threw a snowball “to the president” to prove that global climate change is a hoax, because he has all the scientific sophistication of your conservative uncle who posts shit on Facebook like, “If global warming is real, then why is it so cold outside?!”

– I would like to invest in Speedy Heavy Falling Rocks, Inc.

Did Missouri Gubernatorial Candidate Kill Himself Because Opponents Were Accusing Him of Being Jewish?

Today’s suicide of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican frontrunner for governor, didn’t strike me as much of a political story apart from the usual cautionary tale of how guns don’t make you safer. But this column from St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Tony Messenger just made the story quite a bit weirder:

I have no idea why Schweich killed himself. But for the past several days he had been confiding in me that he planned to accuse the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, John Hancock, with leading a “whisper campaign” among donors that he, Schweich, was Jewish.

Unless he left a note, we’ll never know for sure why Schweich shot himself. But an anti-semitic smear campaign coming from the state GOP chair? That sounds totally believable. Missouri is one fucked up state.

Don’t Ride Alone

I really love that only 31% of people who work in downtown Seattle drive alone to work. Transit is still the largest category, and of course, there are plenty of jobs outside the urban core. None the less, the environmental impact of fewer cars, the health impact of fewer cars on the road, the congestion impact of fewer cars, the pedestrian safety impact of fewer cars is really great.

Still, there’s a lot more work to do. Public transit needs to better serve downtown, and the rest of the city and the region. There’s plenty of improvements to make walking and biking easier — even if you ignore my obviously correct idea of flattening some of the hills like they did in Belltown.

Former State GOP Chair Urges Lifting of Eyman’s Stoopid 1% Property Tax Cap

In a guest op-ed in the Seattle Times, former Washington State Republican Party Chair Chris Vance argues that the state needs to lift the absurd 1 percent cap on growth in revenue from property taxes:

Counties spend 70 to 80 percent of their general-fund revenues on law enforcement, and the growth of those funds are not keeping up with the rate of inflation and population increases. Part of the problem is due to the fact that so little sales-tax revenue is generated in unincorporated areas.

But the bigger issue is the 1 percent cap on property tax revenue. King County receives 43 percent of its general-fund revenue from the property tax. The math is obvious: Capping that revenue growth at 1 percent a year makes it virtually impossible for the county to even keep up with inflation.

It’s not Vance’s arguments that are so significant here; as he says, “the math is obvious,” and always has been. What’s new here is that these words are coming out of the mouth of a Republican. If Republicans are beginning to admit that strangling local government isn’t the solution to all our problems, then perhaps there is hope yet.

The rest of Vance’s column, I’m not so sure of. But you can be sure of two things: 1) He just pissed off a lot of people in his own party by voicing this heresy outloud, and 2) he wouldn’t be writing this if there weren’t already other people in his own party voicing these thoughts privately.

Autopay Error Hits 13,000 WA Health Exchange Customers (Including Me!)

I got an email this morning from Washington Healthplanfinder (Washington State’s Obamacare health insurance exchange) informing me that “an incorrect premium amount of $1229.61 was withdrawn from your bank account on Monday, Feb. 23.” And sure enough, it was. That’s exactly triple my actual monthly premium.

So I contacted the Exchange to find out how widespread this error was, and was quickly forwarded the following official statement from CEO, Richard Onizuka:

“On Monday, Feb. 23, the Exchange was made aware that a portion of Washington Healthplanfinder Qualified Health Plan customers had an incorrect amount withdrawn from their bank account during our standard monthly payment process. The issue affected 13,000 customer accounts that had previously set up automatic payment through their online account.

We are working closely with our system integrator, Deloitte, to reverse the incorrect withdrawals as quickly as possible, but no later than the next 48 hours. We have notified affected customers of this issue and will provide final confirmation when the payment issue has been resolved.

We apologize to our impacted customers and are working to correct the problem to minimize any further inconvenience they may have already experienced.”

Fortunately, I no longer work at The Stranger, and am no longer living month to month, so I had plenty of cushion in my checking account to cover this unexpected withdrawal. But I’m guessing a lot of the other 13,000 affected customers weren’t so lucky. I asked Exchange spokesperson Bethany Frey whether the Exchange would cover customers’ overdraft and bounced check charges, and she replied “Yes..”

… some of the banks may waive the fees automatically once the transactions are reversed. However, if the charges stand, customers can call our customer support center who will track the issue and send out a reimbursement.

It might be a hassle, sure. But it’s good to see the Exchange acting proactively.

Other than that, my experiences with the Exchange have overall been very positive. I initially signed up for Obamacare in the immediate wake of being fired, and received a generous federal subsidy and reduced deductible until I found full time work. The $409.87 unsubsidized premium I now pay for a silver plan with Group Health is a much better value than what I was previously able to buy on the individual market. (For various reasons I’m currently paid as a contractor, but in case you’re wondering, yes, my employer reimburses me for my monthly premium.) So I hate to see screw ups like this tarnish the reputation of a program that has benefited so many people.

Poll: 57 Percent of Republicans Hate America

Jesus Fucking Christ…

A majority of Republicans nationally support establishing Christianity as the national religion, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday.

The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 57 percent of Republicans “support establishing Christianity as the national religion” while 30 percent are opposed. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.

It almost goes without saying that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits establishing of a national religion.

Think about that for a moment: only 30 percent of Republicans are sure that they oppose establishing Christianity as the national religion, a notion about as fundamentally antithetical to the American tradition as one could get. Of course, I suppose they could always get around the first ten words of the Bill of the Rights via a constitutional amendment repealing it, but then the rest of us would have no choice but to wage a bloody civil war in which to win our nation back. So there’s that.

Also, this.

Ten Years of the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally

DLBottleThe Seattle Chapter of Drinking liberally turns 10 years old this Tuesday. Please join us in our celebration. There are rumors that founding hosts Nick and Lee will make an appearance. I’ll be handing out copies of “Drinking Liberally: 10 Years In Poetry.” There will be food. There will be drinks. There will be conversation. Will you be there?

We meet every Tuesday evening—birthday or not—at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. Our starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks stop by earlier for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities chapter also meets. On Wednesday, the Bellingham and Burien chapters meet. The Woodinville, Kent, and Spokane chapters meet on Thursday. And next Monday, the Yakima and South Bellevue chapters meet.

There are 189 chapters of Living Liberally, including seventeen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

Quick, Seattle Times: Hire Paul Constant!

I’ve no idea whether or not I agree with this Seattle Times editorial, because I just can’t get past this sentence:

After a hard-fought compromise that took months to broker, Mayor Ed Murray announced a compromise last summer.

Do you mean he announced a different compromise than the hard-fought one that took months to broker, or does somebody need to buy you a goddamn thesaurus? Jesus… doesn’t anybody edit the editors?

But you know who wouldn’t write a crappy sentence like this? Paul Constant! And great news for you, Seattle Times, he’s available, now that he’s the latest in a string of talented writers (and me!) to leave The Stranger over the past year.

So quick, hire Paul and give him a column before you print another sucky sentence like that again.

UPDATE: And by the way, Stranger, really? You couldn’t give Paul a goodbye post? I don’t know anybody who has written there who wasn’t grateful for the opportunity, but the way you just disappear us without comment is, well, childish. Paul deserved better than that.