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.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottle

Join us tonight for another adventure in politics over a pint at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

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 tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings this week. The Tri-Cities, Redmond, and Vancouver, WA chapters also meet on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Bellingham and Spokane chapters meet. The Bremerton chapter meets on Thursday. And next Monday, the Aberdeen and Yakima chapters meet.

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

Open Thread 12/8

- Even-the-liberal New Republic

Happy Bertha-Day!

– There’s a Viaduct joke with multiple meanings of settling but I didn’t have it last night or this morning.

– Over a long enough time horizon the universe will loose all of its energy, but Ross Douthat will still be making ridiculous columns.

The Obama Recovery Has Been Miles Better Than the Bush Recovery

– Hot fruit is disgusting. Case closed. (PS, I generally agree with Mike Schur but I make a great baked apple)

A Day That Should Live in Infamy

According to Crosscut, it was a year ago today that we first learned that the giant tunneling machine “Bertha” had become stuck in the muck beneath Seattle. One year later, Bertha remains stuck, and construction of a deep bore tunnel replacement to the teetering Alaskan Way Viaduct remains no closer to completion.

On this anniversary of ineptitude it is useful to remember whose brainchild this boondoggle was in the first place: none other than Seattle’s infamously faith-based “think” tank, the Discovery Institute! Yes, that Discovery Institute—the equally proud progenitors of the science-denying theory of so-called Intelligent Design! As I scoffed nearly 7 years ago today:

I once proposed building a gigantic rollercoaster along the West Seattle to downtown portion of the Monorail’s abandoned Green Line, and you didn’t see my joke of a transportation proposal picked up by the MSM, let alone labeled “visionary”. And yet the Seattle Rollercoaster Project is no less technically challenging nor politically, well, utterly fucking ridiculous than Discovery’s deep bore, crosstown tunnel. Engineering and economic feasibility aside, God himself could descend from the heavens with a blueprint in one hand and an infinite supply of cash in the other, only to be greeted by polar bear clad environmentalists and angry Eastside developers complaining that He isn’t doing enough to ease congestion on I-405. In a city where completion of a 1.3 mile vanity trolley line is feted like some transportation miracle, the very notion that local voters might commit more than a half billion dollars a mile to an untested technology is a dramatic tribute to Discovery’s primary mission of promoting the exercise of faith over reason.

Of course, with hindsight, I was wrong about the political feasibility. A cabal of elected officials ultimately shoved Bertha down our throats. Where it remains lodged to this day.

Bird’s Eye View/Street View Contests Final Tally

As I mentioned each of the last two weeks, this weekly contest has come to a close. Thanks again for playing and making this a fun weekly tradition here at HA. The winner of the final contest was GCM. It was in Boston.

The very first contest was posted at HA a few weeks before Obama’s election. Back then, I was still posting the pictures at reload.ws, which no longer exists. Since then, there have been over 300 contests with many winners. Here are the top winners over the years (everyone who won at least 5 contests):

milwhcky – 76
wes.in.wa – 58
Liberal Scientist – 21
Geoduck – 13
Mlc1us – 10
Sewventy2002 – 9
WaGuy – 8
Brian – 8
Poster Child – 6
Don Joe – 5
2cents – 5
zzippy – 5

I have two main reasons for moving on here, one of which is that since July, I’ve been working for HERE, Nokia’s mapping and location services group. I joined HERE via an acquisition, an incredibly fortuitous turn of events for a complete map geek like myself, but as I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve become more conscientious about keeping work and the blogging I do separate.

Second, I’m hoping that after the new year that I can begin putting together a weekly feature related to politics and current events once again. Being a parent with two small children hasn’t given me much time to do this, but my oldest has started kindergarten and I’m optimistic that I’ll once again have the bandwidth for it. I’m still formulating exactly what it will look like, but the basic premise will be about tracking anti-authoritarian movements across the globe. I know that there hasn’t been a lot of content in general here, but I’m hoping that things will pick up again at HA in the new year.

Again, thanks so much for making these contests fun. Hope to see you all in 2015.

HA Bible Study

Deuteronomy 22:23-24
If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

Discuss.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

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

Puppet Nation: News of the week:

Ever notice how America is like a bad boyfriend.

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about Sleep.

David Pakman: More guns = more crime, no matter what NRA feels.

Thom: The secret ALEC conference.

Black and White and Red All Over:

Mike Pesca: A tribute to Nancy Grace.

Sam Seder and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: The Republican mission to destroy climate action.

David Pakman: Nutburger Republicans consider banning Obama from delivering State of the Union Address.

Mental Floss: 26 little things that changed history forever.

Richard Fowler: The GOP plan to rig the 2016 election.

White House: West Wing Week.

Immigration Action Reaction:

Sam Seder: What the fuck is up with Uber?

Guess who’s coming to The Colbert Report.

Maddow: AZ, KS, and Florida GOP are trying to kill solar power.

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

University of Virginia Rape Story:

Young Turks: Glenn Beck sued for defamation by Saudi he constantly defamed.

Thom: Some more Good, Bad, and Very, Very Ugly.

Stephen thanks Nazis for getting Congress to agree on something.

David Pakman: Nutjob Christan pastor calls for killing gay people.

TurkeyGate!

Obama speaks on the economy.

Richard Fowler: Voter proved he wasn’t quite dead yet.

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

It’s Time for Our Editorial Boards to Step Up and Urge WA’s Legislature to Raise Revenue

As much as I love to hate the Seattle Times editorial board, the truth is I actually agree with much of what they write. Sure, sometimes they’re just plain awful, like their shameful “death tax” lies. And sometimes they’re just hamfistedly insensitive and stupid, like Wednesday’s editorial that came off as placing more value on Black Friday than on black lives. But much of the time, and on many issues, I more or less agree with their general sentiment, however incoherently stated.

Take for example yesterday’s editorial urging legislators to protect funding for early and higher education:

MORE money will flow into Washington’s kindergarten through high-school programs in the next two years, but state lawmakers must ensure that doesn’t come at a cost to early and higher education.

The state’s education system should foster student success from ages 3 to 23…

Well, of course. Who could disagree with that? It’s great to see such commonsense advocacy coming from the editorial board of our state’s paper of record. And 3-to-23 education isn’t the only worthwhile program on which the editors have advocated spending more money. The problem is they’re missing in action when it comes to advocating for raising the revenue necessary to pay for it. In fact they’re worse than missing in action—they’re goddamn obstructionists!

The editors assert that it will cost the state an additional $10 billion over the next two biennial budgets to fund both McCleary and Initiative 1351. Whether you trust their numbers or not (and you usually can’t) it’s a lot of money. And the editors’ only revenue suggestion? “Raising the sales tax another percentage point would be unpopular, but effective.”

Unpopular, maybe, but effective, not so much. A percentage point increase in the sales tax would raise about $1 billion a year. So even in that unlikely scenario in which we pass a sales tax increase through the Republican-controlled state senate, where’s the other $1.5 billion a year coming from, let alone any additional money to fund early and higher education? On this the editorial board is silent.

What’s so frustrating about this editorial is that they’re almost there! They recognize the need to spend billions more on 3-to-23 education, and they even appear to understand that it will require significant sources of new revenue. But they just can’t bring themselves to take the lead in moving our state closer toward an actual solution. Which is what we need—especially after their years of knee-jerk obstructionism on revenue issues.

Washington is a very affluent state. We can easily afford to invest in education. But more importantly, our future prosperity depends upon it. It is past time to stop arguing about whether to raise taxes, and to start arguing about which taxes we’re going to raise. And if our editorial boards really want to live up to the civic role they claim for themselves, they might want to start leading this debate.

WaPo’s Harold Meyerson, Seattle Times’ Jerry Large, and Me! Talking Income Inequality, December 11 at Town Hall Seattle

Reclaiming Prosperity, Dec 11, Town Hall Seattle

Apparently, all the other real journalists were busy, so I’ll be joining the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson and Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large in a discussion of local and national income inequality trends (and from my perspective, the role of the media in covering them)—”Reclaiming Prosperity: Economic Prosperity Through Equality,” December 11, 7:30PM at Town Hall Seattle. That’s next Thursday, so buy your tickets now!