Open Thread 8-19

- This is What Climate Leadership Looks Like

- 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.

- Yakama Nation to Coal: And Stay Out.

- Congrats to Scarecrow Video. Here’s hoping the transition to nonprofit works out well.

A Simple, Surefire Solution for Calming the Unrest in Ferguson

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.

Are You a Dues-Paying Member of HA Local 1?

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:

Freedom Foundation is scared of HorsesAss.org

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 Retraction on Seattle Times’ Bogus “Death Tax” Editorial

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.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottle

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.

We meet tonight, and every Tuesday evening 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? 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.

Dear Seattle Times: Retract Your Misleading “Death Tax” Editorial

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
Seattle Times
kriley@seattletimes.com
cc: fblethen@seattletimes.com

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.

Thank you,

David Goldstein
Seattle, WA

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.

Open Thread 8-18

- Y’all are listening to the #FERGUSON Dispatch on TWIB, I hope.

- Meanwhile, in Missouri…

- Last Words: A Visual Tribute to Men Killed By Police

- At that point, the only way you would believe that it happened is if you had some unusual faith in my honesty…or you really wanted to believe it.

- Bearded Gits Are The Real Heroes

- Here’s hoping the State Supreme Court does the right thing in the I-1240 case.

- I also enjoyed Your Feast Has Ended

Quite Possibly the Most Dishonest Seattle Times Editorial 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:

  1. 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.
  2. The McBride property is actually not a working farm, and apparently has not been for quite some time.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Sound familiar?

How can anybody ever trust anything this editorial board writes?

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Oops. Rick Perry is Indicted on two Felony Counts:

Mental Floss: 30 Weird Sports Injuries.

Puppet Nation: Obama calls Shrub:

The Wingnut Border Meme:

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:

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.

David Pakman: Congressman against minimum wage hike complains he hasn’t received a raise.

G.I. Cop:

Jimmy Dore speaks with Ron Paul about his son.

Tweety: ObamaCare is thriving despite Republican attempts to smear, defund, weaken, destroy and repeal it (54 times!).

ACLU sues Fife over pot ban.

Imps for Impeachment:

Alex Wagner: Paul bearers—has the Libertarian movement finally arrived?

Puppet Nation: Ebola media coverage formula.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) “There are certain shows on Fox I can’t watch, because they’re totally not fair and totally not balanced.”.

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: GOP Governor hilariously battles satanists.

Alex Wagner: Romney’s favorite “Jimmy Johns” sub shop accused of wage theft.

David Pakman: White students are no longer the majority in public schools.

The Quitter Babbles:

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

Sometimes These Get Meta, Sorry

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.

Dear Senators Cantwell and Murray and Rep. McDermott;

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.

Thank You,

Carl Ballard

[Read more...]

Fuck you Frank Blethen, Fuck You Up the Fucking Fuckhole

Out of the blue, because this is clearly the most important public policy issue facing 99 percent of Washingtonians, the Seattle Times editorial board has for the zillionth time editorialized in favor of repealing the estate tax. I think my headline pretty much says it all. But there’s always this:

Frank Blethen shoots dogs

Not sure why the Blethens are still jonesing on eliminating the estate tax now that their paper is virtually worthless, but Jesus Christ, let it go already.

UPDATE: More on this in the morning, maybe, but I just have to point out what an incredibly dishonest editorial this is, implying that the estate tax forced the McBride family to sell the last farm in Issaquah, when in fact if this was a working farm, it would have been exempt from the estate tax entirely. (The sale price of the land was less than the federal estate tax exemption, and all working farmland is exempt from the WA estate tax.) It once again shows incredible disrespect for their readers.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: State Senator Andy Hill’s Dismal Record on Reproductive Rights

In endorsing incumbent state Senator Andy Hill (R-45), the Seattle Times attempts to smooth over how poorly the Republican fits his otherwise Democratic district by stressing his alleged support for, amongst other things, “abortion rights”:

Hill represents his socially liberal district, supporting abortion rights, gay marriage and the state allowing students without legal residency status access to financial aid. In contrast to his data-driven approach, he shows a lack of curiosity about climate change and the overwhelming scientific consensus of its threats: “You can find scientists on either side.” He believes carbon should be tackled, however, to diminish U.S. dependency on foreign oil.*

And how do the editors know that Hill supports abortion rights? He told them so. And that apparently is good enough for them.

But actions speak louder than words, and in the only major abortion rights bill before the state senate, Hill has repeatedly voted to block the Reproductive Parity Act from going to the floor for a vote. So exactly what does Hill mean when he says he supports abortion rights, if he’s proven to be a reliable vote against it?

We’ve got no idea. Most candidates who truly support reproductive rights—possibly all candidates who support it—seek the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and NARAL. But not Hill, who has refused to fill out questionnaires from either. “If he is ‘pro-choice’ or supportive of ‘abortion rights’ like the Times claims,” asks Erik Houser of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, “then why didn’t he seek our endorsement?”

Um, because he’s not as pro-choice or supportive of abortion rights as the Seattle Times claims? Had Hill bothered to fill out Planned Parenthood’s questionnaire, voters would have a better idea of how nuanced Hill’s position might be. But he didn’t. Houser says they sent the questionnaire to him twice, but Hill ignored it both times.

Again, actions speak louder than words.

So voters will just have to go on Hill’s legislative record and his snubbing of Planned Parenthood and NARAL. He can talk all he wants about supporting abortion rights, but when it comes to the only relevant bill before the senate, Hill has already repeatedly voted no on reproductive rights, whereas his Democratic opponent, Matt Isenhower, is endorsed by both Planned Parenthood and NARAL. And for socially liberal voters in Hill’s socially liberal district, that’s all they really need to know.*

* Though that not believing in climate change thing is pretty off-putting too.