Open Thread 12/17/2014

- On top of everything else, the idea of a 2/3 vote for raising taxes is such an arbitrary number. Why not pi/5? Why not 8/11? Why not 100%?

– Don’t be a seat hog.

– Something something our trolls are always saying Obama is sooooo weak on Russia.

– Looks like Governor Inslee’s budget might be surprisingly not terrible.

– Looks like Dick Cheney is still not surprisingly terrible.

– But Ron Wyden is a good counter to Dick Cheney being terrible.

When is torture torture? A thought experiment

Nominees for the Equine Posterior award

As most of you know, the Horsesass in the title of this blog was inspired by Tim “Biggest Lie of My Life” Eyman. Specifically, Goldy purchased this domain name as part of his initiative that, if passed, would have declared Mr. Eyman a horse’s ass.

The fate of the initiative in qualifying for the ballot and, ultimately, succeeding at the ballot cannot be known, as the meddling state Attorney General sued Goldy to keep the initiative off the ballot. And, no, it wasn’t Rob McKenna—who certainly was an irrational Goldy-phobe. No…it was actually AG Christine Gregoire.

Goldy stuck with the Horsesass brand name, if only to give former FEMA Director Michael “Heck-of-a-Job-Brownie” Brown a little bit of irony in his life.

Goldy’s little local lefty blog has, apparently, inspired more than just McKenna and Brownie. People for the American Way who, among other things, have a project called Right Wing Watch, have an annual award that seems related to this blog:

The Equine Posterior Achievement Award has been created to honor that leader whose abilities to misrepresent an issue, manipulate his/her followers, brazenly disregard reality or pander to our baser instincts reach such ridiculous levels that we don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In other words, a genuine “horse’s patootie.”

Huh…it sounds like something Tim Eyman could qualify for…I mean, if he was actually a leader and had something approaching a national profile.

In any case, since you are reading a blog called Horsesass, might I interest you in voting for the most worthy recipient of the Equine Posterior Achievement Award?

This year’s nominees are Ted Cruz, the Benham Brothers, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Jody Hice, Texas State Board of Education, Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, Ben Carson, Bryan Fischer, and Kevin Swanson. Them are some good nominees…but you can, instead, write-in your own favorite horse’s ass.

But don’t bother writing in Eyman. He’s no longer relevant.

Somebody Please Introduce the Seattle City Council to the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Oy…

“The tunnel project is 70 percent completed, according to WSDOT, so there’s no turning back at this point,” [Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess] added. “It is city government policy that this project be completed. The governor agrees. The mayor agrees. We must move forward.”

Look, I’m not suggesting that now is necessarily the time to pull the plug on the deep bore tunnel (or more accurately, put a plug in it). I’m not privy to enough information to make that decision one way or the other. But we should at least be open to that possibility, regardless of how much money we’ve already spent on the project.

No doubt Burgess understands this. If the engineers were to estimate that it would cost an additional, say, $20 billion to “move forward” and complete the tunnel, I’m guessing Burgess would be more than willing to turn back at this point. But would he turn back if the cost of completion was another $1 to $2 billion? How about $4 billion? Or how about $10 billion?

The money we’ve already spent on the tunnel is a sunk cost (in more ways than one), and as such should have no impact on our future spending decisions. What matters from here on out, given the known cost overruns and risks, is whether we’re likely to get more for our taxpayer money completing the remaining 30 percent of the project, or whether it makes more sense to to turn back and pursue a different option. Our prior expenditure of both financial and political capital should in no way influence our decision.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottle

Join us tonight for some politics under the influence at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

We meet tonight and every Tuesday evening for friendly conversation (sometimes it gets a little harsh, but we stop short of torture) at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. The starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks show up before that for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities and Shelton chapters also meet. The Lakewood chapter meets on Wednesday. And on Thursday, the Tacoma chapter meets.

There are 177 chapters of Living Liberally, including fifteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

Geov Parrish Needs Our Help!

HA blogger emeritus Geov Parrish recently sent out one of the most depressing holiday letters ever, describing the many health and financial woes that have struck over the past year, leaving him virtually penniless and homeless. And so I’m asking HA readers to join me in showing Geov a little emotional and financial support.

Wednesday will mark the 20th anniversary of Geov’s double organ transplant—pancreas and kidney—and while his two decades of survival on immunosuppressive drugs makes him a bit of a medical miracle, it has also taken a physical and financial toll. As has his poorly-paid career as a journalist and social justice activist—Geov founded Eat the State, and has written for The Stranger, the Seattle Weekly, Mother Jones, In These Times, and of course, HA, and has worked for little money on numerous political campaigns, including most recently the surprising election of socialist city council member Kshama Sawant. He also gets no income from his eternal stint on KEXP’s “Mind Over Matters.”

Geov has given a ton to the community over the years—not to mention nearly a hundred posts here on HA—and now he needs the community to give a little back.

You can read a pdf of Geov’s letter here—”2014 – It Was Not A Very Good Year“—but the gist of it is that their dual medical conditions (Geov’s fiancée Revel suffers from MS and multiple chemical sensitivity) have left them broke and homeless. They need both financial help over the holidays, and a place to stay for a few weeks in a home that does not trigger Revel’s sensitivities (older construction with bare floors or natural fibers, not painted recently). Also, if you have a lead on an affordable apartment in Seattle that would fit this description, they would be grateful.

But in the meanwhile, they really need some cash. Geov has a PayPal page where he is accepting donations: please join me in giving what you can (click on the Donate button in the right column). You can also send a check to Geov at PO Box 85541, Seattle WA 98145.

The HA community has proven awfully generous to me over the years when I needed your support to keep me writing. I hope you can be equally generous to Geov.

Open Thread 12/15

- Merry Christmas Jose Padilla

– How did your gun assholes rally go?*

Top 10 Other No-longer-existing Groups House GOP Should Vote to Deny Federal Funding

– Poor Ark Encounter

- I think my feelings about The Santa Clause can best be summed by this (100% true) sentence: It took me literally an entire day to get through this 90-minute movie because I kept getting pleasantly distracted by YouTube videos of farmers lancing cow abscesses. Happy holidays.

* Also, putting those two stories next to each other really puts the lie to the gun asshole’s claims that their guns are for freedom. Because stockpiling guns sure as fuck didn’t prevent us from using torture. Seriously, where the fuck were these defenders of freedom when they could have made the tiniest bit of difference?

HA Bible Study: 1 Kings 11:1-3

1 Kings 11:1-3
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.

Discuss.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Mental Floss: 90 facts about the 1990s.

Thom: Is the Koch brothers’ curriculum coming to your kid’s school?

Congressional staff walk out to protest police killing black men.

Mike Pesca: Please say something nice about your opponent:

Jimmy Dore: Racism is dead…just like all the black people police killed.

Thom: More Good, Bad and Very, Very Ugly.

Alyona: Nutburger Michele Bachmann want to bomb Iran for Christmas.

Jon knows how to beat ISIS: Send more Millennials.

Torture in Our Names:

David Pakman: Republican plan to cancel Obama State of the Union gains traction.

Stephen interviews Smaug Burns…a very serious conservative.

Pap: Will wage theft derail minimum wage movement?.

Chris Hayes: Was Darren Wilson’s STAR witness #40 even there???.

Sam Seder: Scott Walker wishes his Jewish friends a “molotov” Hanukkah!.

White House: West Wing Week.

Maddow: Bad predictions about protests from Bill-O-the-Clown and Megyn Kelly.

David Pakman: Idiot Rick Perry thinks inequality is not a prob. because the Bible predicts poor people.

Puppet Nation: News of the week.

Just Pain Ugly:

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about your house.

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

Slate: $0.00 is the Cost of Making Public Colleges Tuition Free.

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

Open Thread 12/12

- I’m not the biggest Dianne Feinstein fan, but this is pretty great. Also, Ron Wyden continues to be good on torture, and Patty Murray hasn’t answered my question from the last open thread.

– I have no idea what to make of the Pioneer Squarecrack.

Yet Another Study Shows HPV Vaccine Does Not Cause Promiscuity

– Someone with more knowledge of high-THC vs. high-CBD please weigh in, but Senator Kohl-Welles’s proposal for getting medical marijuana out of the grey area legal seems good to me.

TNR billed itself as the magazine for iconoclasts. But its iconoclasm ended exactly where everyone else’s does—at 110th Street.

– President Obama and Jamie Dimon are besties again.

– The roots under the Burke-Gilman Trail at the UW are going to get cleaned up. Also, “root heave” is now my favorite phrase ever.

WA’s First Charter School Risks Closure

The magic of the market at work:

Just months after it opened, First Place Scholars, the first charter school in Washington state, is in turmoil.

Its first principal resigned in November, more than half of its original board of directors have left, too, and the state’s charter-school commission has identified more than a dozen potential problems that need to be fixed soon if the school wants to keep its doors open.

[…] First Place was the first charter to open in part because it wasn’t starting from scratch. It had long been a private elementary school, founded to serve homeless students, in partnership with Seattle Public Schools.

To be clear, First Place Scholars had been successfully serving homeless students for years as a privately funded not-for-profit. As a charter school it got to replace its private charitable funding with state and local tax dollars, allowing it to more than double its capacity to up to 100 students. But the transition has not gone smoothly.

I sincerely doubt the state’s charter school commission—packed with charter school advocates—would allow First Place to close. They have too much at stake here. But First Place’s journey from successful private school to flailing charter certainly belies the notion that charter schools are somehow magically efficient.

Open Thread 12/10

- Former Rep. Brian Sullivan has been killed in Alaska.

Senator Murray’s statement on torture. It’s in the right direction, but it only talks vaguely about oversight instead of anything specific about Congress preventing it or holding anyone responsible. I’ve asked if she has any specific recommendations about holding people who did it accountable, and if her office responds, I’ll post something.

Yes, police reform matters in Seattle

– Jim McDermott’s editorial: Time is now for a new force authorization

– I don’t know. If Don Benton wanted his picture on those inserts you just throw in the trash so badly, you’d think he’d pick a better picture.

A Holiday in Volunteer Park

If Martin Luther King were alive today, he’d be a white conservative.

Today’s Limerick

There was once a young ginger named Chuck
Who could not tell journalism from muck
But a mysterious poop
Was a hilarious scoop
And a perfect metaphor for this schmuck

Hell Digging Out from Record Snowfall after Seattle Times Editorial Columnist Calls for State Capital Gains Tax

The other day I challenged our state’s editorial boards to take the lead in urging state legislators to raise new revenue. And while I’ve no idea if he actually saw my post, yesterday Seattle Times editorial columnist Jonathan Martin did exactly that:

To level the tax burden, the Legislature should give a hard look at a 5 percent state tax on capital gains, the profit reaped on the sale of an investment such as stocks. The idea needs a full airing, because a capital-gains tax would affect the angel investor network that fuels Seattle’s startup engine. Revenue from capital gains taxes are also volatile, swinging with the market.

But nearly all competing tech-centric states have capital gains taxes. California has a 13.3 percent capital gains tax for millionaires, plus a big income tax, and that has not slowed Silicon Valley.

Washington voters have gone all in on the progressive policy agenda, with marriage equality, legalized marijuana, gun control.

It’s time for a bit more progressivism in tax policy.

Sure, it’s just the opinion of a single editorialist instead of the editorial board board as a whole, but it’s an encouraging start. Here’s hoping Martin can persuade his colleagues and his publisher that Washington’s future economic prosperity requires a fair and sustainable tax structure.

We Need to Be Engineering the Viaduct’s Surface Replacement Now

If you think some folks have been too alarmist over the news that the Alaskan Way Viaduct has “settled” a mere 1.2 inches in the vicinity of the Bertha rescue pit, then you’re probably not familiar with the Viaduct’s prior history of settling. Several segments of the aging freeway have long been settling unevenly—specifically, the structure is slowly toppling over onto the waterfront. The more the freeway leans, the more its high center of gravity accelerates the process—and the more vulnerable it becomes to even a modest quake.

Which is why SDOT and WSDOT need to focus now on engineering the Viaduct’s surface street replacement. Really.

The main selling point of a deep bore tunnel was that it would allow the Viaduct to remain open to traffic while its replacement was built, but the long delay, future uncertainty, and recent ground settling leaves that objective in doubt. The Viaduct could be deemed unsafe at any moment. So since we’re going to tear down the Viaduct and replace it with surface streets eventually, it would be prudent to finalize the design, engineering, and logistics as quickly as possible. That way, whatever becomes of Bertha, we would be prepared to tear down the Viaduct and replace it with surface streets with the least disruption we can manage.

Seriously. Whatever the odds, the sudden and permanent closure of the Viaduct is not a far-fetched scenario. And we would be crazy not to prepare for it.

Perhaps they’ll manage to get Bertha moving again, and perhaps the Viaduct will survive the tunnel’s construction. That would be great. But the prudent course of action would be to assume that it won’t, and move forward with its surface replacement with all due speed.