I retweeted this out yesterday—that Microsoft has severed ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—but was surprised to see that the story wasn’t picked up by our local media:
Microsoft announced Tuesday that it’s cutting ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative public-policy lobbying group. It appears this decision was made due to ALEC’s lobbing efforts to block the development of renewable energy.
Microsoft had previously been a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. In a statement, the company said it has halted all participation in this group.
“In 2014 Microsoft decided to no longer participate in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Communications and Technology Task Force, which had been our only previous involvement with ALEC,” the company said. “With this decision, we no longer contribute any dues to ALEC…we are no longer members of ALEC and do not provide the organization with financial support of any kind.”
Microsoft’s decision comes on the heels of other major corporations dropping membership with ALEC, including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Bank of America, and Proctor & Gamble. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates stopped financially supporting ALEC in 2012.
Weird. Microsoft farts, and it tends to garner front page headlines around here, but local media crickets. Yet this is actually pretty big news.
ALEC is the corporate-backed lobbying group behind such far-right-wing public policy gems as Stand Your Ground, Voter ID, and the ironically-named Freedom Foundation’s recent round of union-busting local initiatives. So it should’ve been a bit of a scandal here in progressive Microsoft country that the company was ever involved in ALEC at all. Amazon quit ALEC two years ago in the midst of shareholder protests. So you’d think Microsoft quitting ALEC would be a local news story too. Huh.
In any case, good on Microsoft for finally leaving the Koch-suckers at ALEC behind. And boo on our local media for largely ignoring the story.
- With its own credibility on the line, the British Columbia government on Monday ordered an independent investigation of the tailings dam breach on Aug. 4 that sent huge quantities of water and metal-contaminated sand into important-salmon spawning waters.
- Yay for low income fare Metro trips.
- In case you’re interested in the proposed bike corridors in Olympia (and I can’t imagine you aren’t) here you go.
- Congrats to Scarecrow Video. Here’s hoping the transition to nonprofit works out well.
— Boing Boing (@BoingBoing) August 19, 2014
Arrest Officer Darren Wilson. Book him, fingerprint him, and charge him with murder or something. Invite the media so that they can broadcast the image of Officer Wilson being marched, handcuffed, into police headquarters. Then call a press conference and urge the public to go home and allow justice to take its course.
To be clear, this wouldn’t be a “rush to judgment” as some have warned. There is ample suspicion. And once charged (and most likely released on his own recognizance), prosecutors would have plenty of time to build their case—or perhaps even drop the charges if that’s what the evidence ultimately bears out. An arrest is not a conviction. And it’s not an overreaction. After all, if you’re willing to arrest journalists for walking too slowly, it certainly shouldn’t be hard to justify arresting a man for shooting an unarmed kid in the face.
And if Officer Wilson truly cares about the city he serves and the citizens he’s sworn to protect, he should be willing to make this sacrifice—to suffer the humiliation and inconvenience—for the sake of keeping the peace. If he’s innocent—if, once the facts are known, this turns out to be a clean shooting—then Officer Wilson should have nothing to fear from the local justice system. (I mean, it’s not like he’s black or anything.)
So arrest Officer Wilson, charge him with the murder (manslaughter, negligent homicide, whatever) of Michael Brown, and end the unrest. It’s simple. Certainly simpler than the current apparent strategy of arresting the entire city of Ferguson.
Always punch up, that’s what I like to say, which I suppose is what the odious Freedom Foundation is doing in featuring an HA post in a recent fundraising email:
So, two things to note from this email. First, McCabe is absolutely blunt that their primary objective is to “defund” organized labor. There’s zero talk about freedom or liberty here. These initiatives have nothing to do with workers’ rights, or transparency, or good government. And there’s certainly nothing grassroots about them. This is a purely partisan fight by a corporatist-backed corporate shill seeking to defund the political opposition. Because if money is speech, then only the 1 percent deserve to be heard, or something.
Second, hear that, labor bosses? According to McCabe, I’m now one of you! So if I speak for “the labor unions,” I demand to be treated like a labor boss, invited to all your steak and whiskey dinners, and given equal time on the luxurious big labor yacht, the Jolly Teamster.
So thanks, Tom, for transforming this shitty little local blogger into the second coming of Samuel Fucking Gompers! I appreciate the promotion.
Still no word back yet from Seattle Times editorial page editor Kate Riley regarding my request that the paper retract and correct its blatantly erroneous “Death Tax” editorial. But several HA readers have reported that they’ve received from Riley the following cut-and-paste response:
Thank you for your note. We are looking into this and trying to get back in touch with the McBride family.
We want to be accurate and appreciate when our readers bring such questions to our attention.
Or, so she says.
Huh. Not sure why I wasn’t given the courtesy of a reply. Must be some sort of inadvertent clerical error or something. Otherwise, I’d have to assume that they don’t appreciate when I bring such questions to their attention.
But regardless, you would think that the editorial board of a major American newspaper would bother fact-checking before publication rather than after, especially considering that anybody who knows anything about the estate tax would know that a $4.5 million working farm is not be subject to any state or federal estate tax at all. I mean, that’s the law.
What’s on your mind these days? Are you thinking about the upcoming fall elections? Do you have an opinion on Ferguson or the militarization of local police forces? Perhaps you are still pondering the Seattle Times’ bizarre estate tax op-ed, or have an urge to do something about it? Or maybe you are curious about the Perry indictment.
Whatever it is that has you thinking politics, consider the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally as your weekly sounding board for all things political.
Can’t make it to Seattle? Perhaps you can check out another Washington State chapter of Drinking Liberally over the next week. The Tri-Cities and Shelton chapters also meet this Tuesday. The Lakewood and South Seattle chapters meet this Wednesday. And on Thursday, the Tacoma chapter meets.
With 205 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, three in Oregon and three in Idaho, chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.
Thanks to the social media magic of Facebook and Twitter, over 12,000 people read my post on the Seattle Times’ lyingest editorial ever—not bad for a shitty little local blog over a weekend in August. Meanwhile, the editorial’s own comment thread was dominated by readers calling bullshit on the bullshit, even before I chimed in with my thorough takedown.
But make no mistake: despite all the criticism, the Blethens have achieved their objective. From here on out when partisan bloggers and right-wing “think” tanks go looking for concrete examples of heirs losing the family farm to a punitive estate tax, this editorial will find its way toward the top of Google (notice they break from tradition and refer to it as both a “death tax” and an “estate tax” in order to up its search ranking). It’s from the editorial board of a major US newspaper, so surely the facts had to be checked and the thesis vetted, right? For years to come, this editorial will be cited as documented anecdotal evidence of the estate tax forcing the liquidation of a 131-year-old family farm. Whereas my refutation—however devastating—will drift away into obscurity.
And that is how myths are made!
Which is why it is not enough to merely ridicule the demonstrably false assertions in this editorial. For the sake of preserving the integrity of the first draft of history, we must also demand a retraction:
Ms. Kate Riley
Editorial Page Editor
August 18, 2014
Dear Ms. Riley,
I am writing to request that you print a retraction of your August 14, 2014 editorial “Death tax imposes cost on family business stability,” and update the online archive of this editorial to reflect that 1) working farms are entirely exempt from Washington’s estate tax, 2) the McBride property is not a working farm, and 3) regardless of his property’s classification, Ralph McBride’s estate is far too small to be subject to either the state or federal estate taxes.
The thesis of this editorial—that the estate tax cost the McBride’s their family farm—is clearly refuted by the public record. For the sake of promoting an informed and honest public debate on this issue, as well as maintaining the credibility of the Seattle Times, I respectfully request that you correct these errors.
I have sent the email above to Seattle Times editorial page editor Kate Riley and publisher Frank Blethen. I encourage you to do the same (in your own words or mine), appending your full name and contact information, and use the power of social media to spread this as widely as possible.
- Here’s hoping the State Supreme Court does the right thing in the I-1240 case.
- I also enjoyed Your Feast Has Ended
The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.
I know, I know, some people just won’t link to a post with too many f-bombs in it, so for you faint of heart, here’s a non-foul-mouthed take down of what has got to be one of the most dishonest Seattle Times editorials ever. Which is saying a lot. Because the Seattle Times has an impressive track record of dishonest editorials.
NEWS that the last family farm in Issaquah is being sold for residential development is a reminder of one of the subtle ills of our tax system: a death tax that forces many farm families and business owners either to liquidate their assets, or go through enormous and costly gyrations to avoid it.
The story of the McBride family, recounted by Seattle Times reporter Erin Heffernan, shows us what we lose as a result of the estate tax — in this case, the last working farm in a fast-growing suburb. Twelve acres of open space farmed by a single family since 1883 will soon become a subdivision. The family had to sell, explained Jim McBride. “There wasn’t any other thing for us to do. All my parents’ wealth was in that land, and we couldn’t afford to pay the taxes that come with inheriting it at the current property value.”
Credulously read this Seattle Times editorial, and you would think the McBride family was forced off the land of “the last working farm” in Issaquah thanks to the death of their patriarch and a stupidly punitive estate tax. Except, everything about this editorial is wrong:
- Working family farms are entirely exempt from the Washington’s estate tax, while 99.4 percent of family farms pay no federal estate tax at all; the number of family farms liquidated to pay the federal estate tax is estimated near zero.
- The McBride property is actually not a working farm, and apparently has not been for quite some time.
- Regardless of whether or not it is a farm, family patriarch Ralph McBride’s estate is too small to be subject to either the state or federal estate tax.
- Ralph McBride is not dead, so there is no estate yet to tax.
You wouldn’t know any of this from reading the editorial. Because the editors don’t want you to know it. But let’s be clear, the McBrides did not sell the family farm to pay off an estate tax.
First of all, the federal estate tax exempts the first $5.25 million. So if, as Jim McBride is quoted, all his parent’s wealth “was in that land,” and they sold the property for $4.5 million (as the Seattle Times reports), then there would be no federal estate tax to pay. The US Department of Agriculture reports that only 0.6 percent of family farms end up paying any estate tax. And thanks to other provisions benefiting farms, such as a special use valuation and a 15-year payment plan, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates the number of family-owned farms forced to liquidate to pay the federal estate tax at “virtually none.”
But what about that pernicious Washington estate tax? Here’s what the Seattle Times has the audacity to tell its readers:
Washington state’s tax is especially punitive. The rate of up to 20 percent is the highest in the country — on top of a federal rate of 40 percent. The typical state exemption for the first $2 million of estate value is hardly enough for a farm or prosperous business, despite reforms by the 2013 Legislature.
Except, Washington state law exempts the value of working farms entirely. All of it. If this had been a working farm for five out of the past eight years, then the McBrides would inherit it Washington-estate-tax-free, whatever its value. No exceptions. Hard to see what is “especially punitive” about that.
Of course, as I’ll explain in a moment, the McBride property is likely not a working farm. Not that it matters, because 97-year-old Ralph McBride’s land holdings comprised only a portion of the $4.5 million deal, far below the $2 million threshold for non-farm assets subject to Washington’s estate tax.
It didn’t take more than a few seconds on Zillow to locate the four properties the extended McBride family sold to developer Wescott Holdings—here, here, here, and here—and according to the King County Assessor’s Office only one property was still owned by Ralph McBride, a 7.55 acre parcel with an assessed taxable value of only $666,000. The other lots were already owned by Ralph’s heirs.
“All my parents’ wealth was in that land,” Jim McBride told the Seattle Times. So a tiny bit of fact-checking would have demonstrated that Ralph McBride’s estate couldn’t possibly be subject to either the state or federal estate tax, regardless of its classification. If anything, the family increased their chance of paying the Washington estate tax by selling his property at a premium before his death (though I’m guessing the deal is structured in a way to avoid this).
So why did the McBride’s sell the farm? Here’s what they told the Issaquah Press:
Age, skyrocketing property taxes and nearby development caused the family to vacate the 660-acre [sic] section of land at the end of June, bringing an end to one of the final remnants of Issaquah’s rural past. … “The farm just kind of petered out as the development began,” [Celia] McBride said, referring to the build out of the Klahanie area in 1985.
Of course, the construction didn’t stop there. Residential neighborhoods sprang up to surround the farm, leading to complaints about noise from the animals and financial concerns.
“The property taxes became outrageous,” she said. “My dad got older, my mom got tired and now the land is going to be a development.”
The property tax on James McBride’s parcel was $7,575.38 for 2014. The McBride family’s combined tax bill was over $26,000 across the four properties. So, yeah, maybe they were just tired of paying it. Though looking at the parcels on Zillow, I’m guessing that the family got offered a premium to sell the four parcels together, rather than the per acre price they could have demanded for Ralph’s 7.5 acres alone. That’s the way these development deals often work.
Regardless, you can’t liquidate the family farm to pay the estate tax if you don’t have a family farm.
Look at the aerial map on Zillow. Two of the lots are heavily wooded, with maybe five or six acres of potential cropland between the four. According to the Agriculture Council of America, the average US farm is 441 acres, so it would be hardly viable to farm a plot this small in the midst of fast appreciating suburban developments. Indeed, King County characterizes all four parcels as “urban residential,” not “rural” or “agricultural,” and assigns “single family” as the properties’ “highest and best use.” The narrative in both the Seattle Times and Issaquah Press describes a 660-acre farm that was gradually divided and sold off over generations. Yes, Ralph McBride continued to raise chickens and tend a garden. But so do lots of people, and it doesn’t make them farmers.
The McBride property may in fact have been the last working farm in Issaquah—that’s hard to know for sure—but it clearly ceased to be a working farm years ago. So all Issaquah is really losing with the development of the McBride properties is some open space and a tiny fragment of its history. If you find this loss upsetting, blame the land use policies.
Still, “farm” or not, the Seattle Times thesis is demonstrably wrong. If it is a working farm, then it is exempt from the estate tax. If it’s not exempt from the estate tax, then it is clearly not a farm. There is simply no way the estate tax cost the McBrides the family farm.
But what else can the estate-tax-hating Blethens do but lie to their readers? “The McBride case ought to show us conventional thinking is wrong — the death tax really isn’t a whack on the wealthy,” the editors blather. Yet according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, 99.86 percent of estates owe no federal estate tax at all. So lacking an actual example of a family farm or small business being liquidated to pay off the estate tax, the Seattle Times had to cook one up.
How can anybody ever trust anything this editorial board writes?
Oops. Rick Perry is Indicted on two Felony Counts:
- CNN: Gov. Rick Perry indicted by Texas Grand Jury.
- AP: Texas’ Rick Perry indicted for abuse of power
- Steve Kornacki with James Moore: Rick Perry’s indictment and Perry’s response.
- Young Turks: Texas Governor Rick Perry (R-Oops) is indicted by Grand Jury on two felony counts.
- Rick Perry charged with abuse of power.
- Maddow: Texas Gov. Rick Perry indicted on 2 felony counts
- James Rustad: “The Rick Perry Song”
Mental Floss: 30 Weird Sports Injuries.
Puppet Nation: Obama calls Shrub:
The Wingnut Border Meme:
- Matt Binder: James “Pimp” O’Keefe pretends to be Osama bin Laden.
- Young Turks: FAUX entertainer claims personal knowledge that ISIS has crossed U.S. border
John Oliver (with Sarah Silverman) on payday loans.
Farron Cousins: Ted Nugent, the draft dodging dixieland dumbass, says something.
The Flaccid Neocons Twitch A Bit:
- Young Turks: War Mongering Wingnuts attack Obama for showing constraint.
- Mark Fiore: John McCain’s “Bomb It”!
- José Díaz-Balart: G.O.P. Nutjobbers fearmonger over Obama’s Iraq actions
- Sharpton w/ Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-7): John “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran” wants more bombing.
Pap and David Pakman: Which state has the worst voter suppression?.
White House: West Wing Week.
RJ Eskow with Nancy Altman: WTF?!? Social Security Trustees report a growing surplus.
- Ferguson SWAT shoot tear gas at Al Jazeera news crew
- WaPo’s Wesley Lowery’s pre-arrest video
- Chris Hayes: The militarization of local police
- David Pakman: Unarmed black teen gunned down by police.
- Michael Eric Dyson: 18 Yr Old Michael Brown murdered by St. Louis, MO Police.
- CNN: Ferguson police harass journalists.
- David Pakman: New eyewitness to unarmed teen Michael Brown killing emerges
- Chris Hayes: Reporter describes setting up for broadcast then being shot at by Ferguson police
- Young Turks: Rage is the right response to police killings
- Maddow reminds Ferguson protesters what it took in Bunkerville to make cops “back off”
- Young Turks: Smear campaign follows release of name of unarmed-black-kid-shooting cop.
- Jonathan Mann: The Ferguson Army Song:
- Matt Binder: Police kill unarmed teen in Missouri
- James Rustad: “A song for Michael Brown”
- Young Turks: Unarmed black teen killed by police in St. Louis
- David Pakman: Anonymous takes down Ferguson’s police web site
- Young Turks: LAPD kills unarmed mentally disabled man and racially insults him
- Thom: Another unarmed black teen killed by the police
- David Pakman: Police kill a black man in walmart for carrying BB gun sold in store
- Matt Binder: Police shoot and kill black man in Walmart.
- Sharpton: The summer of police killing unarmed blacks
- Young Turks: In 2009, Ferguson police beat an innocent man and then charged him for bleeding on them.
Jimmy Dore speaks with Ron Paul about his son.
ACLU sues Fife over pot ban.
Imps for Impeachment:
- Sharpton: Despite denials, G.O.P. candidates run on impeachment.
- Jimmy Dore gets a call from John Boehner about impeachment.
- Ed: Mike Huckabee talks impeachment
Puppet Nation: Ebola media coverage formula.
Young Turks: Reality check—why almost no scientists are Republicans:
FAUX & FIENDS are totally befuddled by Obama’s vacation plans.
Corporations are Peoples, Too:
- Young Turks: How people become superPACS to buy politicians.
- Pap: The corporate death grip on America.
- David Pakman: Comcast spends $110K on dinner to honor sitting FCC Commissioner?!?
- Young Turks: If corporations are people, why not become a corporation for the corporate privileges?
- Farron Cousins: Charles Koch’s plan to destroy the economy.
Young Turks: GOP Governor hilariously battles satanists.
David Pakman: White students are no longer the majority in public schools.
The Quitter Babbles:
- Farron Cousins: Sarah Palin is is just as stupid as you would think.
- Michael Brooks: This IDIOT was John McCain’s CHOICE for a running mate.
- David Pakman: Sarah Palin attempts to use words. Fails.
- Young Turks: The embarassing Sarah.
- Sarah Palin explains fast food wages from another viewpoint
- Epic Rap Battles: Sarah Palin VS Lady Gaga
- Hitler finds out about The Sarah Palin Channel
- Puppet Nation: Botched prison executions…THANKS OBAMA!
Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.
Reading the Seattle Times editorial that Goldy linked to yesterday, it seems like The Seattle Times can link anything to wanting to repeal the estate tax. I mean if you want more family farms in Issaquah the idea that you’d look to estate tax policy over, say, land use and the related urban sprawl issues is clearly a sign of an unhealthy obsession. So I thought it would be funny to shoehorn random complaints into whatever the top article was on The Seattle Times’ site. Then I thought I shouldn’t link to The Seattle Times if I can help it, so here’s that same joke with the top story on The Spokesman-Review.
A recent article, “Quality, quantity at QB for Eagles” shows the need to end THE ESTATE TAX OF DEATH!
Eastern Washington’s quarterback coach says he’s “having fun,” but how much fun can you truly have when you know that if you make a lot of money and then you die, only a very large portion of your estate will go to your children after taxes? This tax that in a way is a TAX THAT STRANGLES CHILDREN must be holding back his livelihood. Just think of how much happier he, and in fact all of us, would be if we repealed it.
And what of the quarterbacks themselves? They are probably the most affected by the IN NO WAY HYPERBOLIC WHEN I SAY IT IS LITERALLY POSSESSED BY A DEMON TAX. Washington simply won’t be able recruit college athletes to a Division I school unless we repel this GOES ON A MURDER SPREE AND THEN PISSES ON YOUR GRAVE TAX for everyone.
The VENOMOUS SNAKE THAT’S ABOUT TO POUNCE TAX will hurt these quarterbacks but it will also hurt the rest of the team. As the article goes on to note “The Eagles announced team captains Thursday morning, and all are seniors.” Eastern Washington University is forced to field at least 5 senior citizens on their college football team because of the SAPS THE VERY LIFE OUT OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND TURNS THEM TO SENIORS PREMATURELY, EVENTUALLY KILLING THEM TAX. These senior citizens are very brave to play football against teams without a OH NO, IT’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU RUN AWAY IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE TAX but they shouldn’t have to.
I’m writing to urge you to support Rep. Hank Johnson’s bill to limit and track military surplus* local police departments can receive. We’ve seen in recent days, and sadly plenty before that, that departments with this sort of military equipment treat their citizens as enemies in a war zone instead of people they have pledged to protect and serve. It has to end and Representative Johnson’s bill is a step in the right direction.
While this is important all across the country, as people who represent Seattle citizens, it should be especially important to you. After all, Seattle’s police in recent years have been found by the Department of Justice to have (pdf) a “pattern or practice of constitutional violations regarding the use of force that result from structural problems, as well as serious concerns about biased policing.” Those very same structural problems and bias will be worse when the Police Department uses surplus military weapons and equipment instead of standard, civilian policing.
Again, I hope you will do everything in your power to help move this bill. I realize that the legislative branch isn’t exactly moving forward very quickly on controversial bills these days, but it is still important to pursue.