With Zillionaires In It to Win It on Initiative 594, Should NRA Just Lay Down Its Arms and Go Home?

Local zillionaires Bill Gates and Nick Hanauer kicked in another $1 million each to Initiative 594′s coffers late last week, on top of the half million dollars each recently contributed by Paul Allen and the Ballmers. That’s $3 million in recent weeks, from four of the wealthiest households in the state, towards closing Washington State’s dangerous “gun show loophole.” And if past performance is any indication of future results, there’s a lot more money where that came from.

Hanauer’s total contributions to I-594 now stand at $1,470,000, the Gates at $1,050,000, the Ballmers at $600,000, and Allen at $500,000. Altogether, the I-594 campaign has now raised over $5.8 million from about 7,500 donors (an indication of strong grassroots support as well), compared to just $1.1 million for competing pro-guns Initiative 591 and a mere $25,000 for the National Rifle Association’s official “No on 594″ campaign.

It’s not like the NRA to bring a knife to a gun-control fight. But given the circumstances, it may be their only choice.

I-594′s universal background checks on all gun sales enjoys extraordinarily strong, broad, and steady support from Washington voters: 70 percent in a July Elway Poll, down only slightly from 72 percent in April. I-594 enjoys majority support from Republicans and Democrats alike, and surprisingly strong support in parts of Eastern Washington were you’d expect opposition to be fierce.

Given these numbers, it might not be impossible for the NRA to undermine I-594′s popularity, but with little more than two months to go before the election, it would take an awful lot of money. And I’m not talking dollar-to-dollar parity. The grocery industry spent over $22 million last year to defeat the far less popular GMO-labeling Initiative 522. But the No campaign’s nearly three-to-one spending advantage only bought it a narrow victory, with I-522 ultimately going down to a 49 percent to 51 percent defeat.

And the NRA can’t count on even that sort of spending advantage.

Many of the same local zillionaires behind I-594 were also principal backers of 2012′s odious charter schools Initiative 1240; and they gave both early and often. Bill and Melinda Gates gave a total of $3.15 million to I-1240, Allen $1.6 million, Hanauer $1.05 million, Connie Ballmer $500,000. The Yes on I-1240 campaign ultimate spent $11.4 million to pass charter schools, against a token opposition campaign of a little more than $700,000, a 16-to-1 advantage.

Did Gates and company need to spend that much money on I-1240? No. But they play to win.

And that’s the dilemma facing the NRA. If they want a shot at defeating I-594 they’re going to have to substantially outspend a handful of really motivated zillionaires who are willing and able to up the stakes dramatically. Twenty million dollars isn’t going to do it. Maybe not $30 million. Hell, $40 million may not even be enough, and that’s significantly more than the NRA typically spends on all of its political advertising and lobbying nationally in an given year!

Spend $30 to $40 million on defeating I-594, and the NRA won’t have a penny to defeat anything else. Spend $30-plus million and lose, and that would be political disaster, sending a clear message to legislators and congressmen that no amount of NRA money is enough to stem the popular tide of support in favor of stricter gun control. Better to spend nothing, and just write off this initiative as a wacky political outlier from the pot-smoking, gay-marrying, socialist-electing, $15-minimum-wage-paying Soviet of Washington.

No wonder NRA chief lobbyist and No on I-594 campaign manager Chris Cox has been refusing to return reporters’ phone calls. Indeed, it’s been almost a month since an NRA official publicly commented on I-594, and that didn’t go too well for the NRA, did it?

This is one confrontation where the NRA would be well advised not to stand their ground. And I’ve got an inkling that they won’t.

A Simple Guide to Fisking a Seattle Times Editorial

Over the years I have proven quite adept at “fisking” Seattle Times editorials, meticulously refuting their bullshit arguments line by line by poorly written line. I know: it can be soul-crushing work just skimming the paper’s op-ed pages, let alone reading them closely enough to pick apart their lies. But for the sake of maintaining honest and robust political discourse, somebody’s got to do it.

You’re welcome.

But thanks to the editorial board’s embarrassingly dishonest “Death Tax” editorial, and editorial page editor Kate Riley’s even more embarrassing refusal to fix her paper’s errors, fisking the Seattle Times just got a whole lot easier! Just follow my lead below on this recent education editorial, and you too can brutally pick apart nearly any Seattle Times editorial on any topic, while putting in almost as little time and effort as the editors put in to writing it:

Intransigence by some state lawmakers earlier this year means families across the state will soon receive letters declaring their schools are failing to meet federal standards.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

Collectively, local district leaders lost the ability to invest $40 million in Title I funds as they see fit into programs to help struggling and low-income students.

This was a political statement for many lawmakers with real and disappointing consequences, especially for districts that serve lower-income students.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

During the 2014 session, legislators refused to make a simple change in state law to require student test scores to play some role in teacher evaluations — a requirement voiced by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for the state to continue to receive its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Exactly how much would have been left up to individual districts to determine.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

Opposition from the left and the right sunk the bill and Washington became the first state in the nation to lose the waiver. Conservative lawmakers were opposed because they didn’t want the feds telling the state what to do; more liberal lawmakers defied Gov. Jay Inslee’s request for support and bent to the will of the Washington Education Association, which opposes connections between student performance and teacher evaluations.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

Now, some political candidates are recycling the union’s talking points and claiming in Seattle Times endorsement meetings that the money is still there and it’s no big deal if administrators lose flexibility in spending.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

Wrong.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

The inability to direct money where it is most needed affects each district differently, especially those with high numbers of students from low-income families such as the Seattle Public Schools, which receives about $2 million annually.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

The district last month asked Secretary Duncan for its own waiver so it can continue to use the funds to help its lowest-performing schools:

“A return to the NCLB system of public school choice and supplemental external services would be disruptive to the progress we have made,” the district said in its application, “and the loss of flexibility would introduce uncertainty, place at risk our planned investments for 2014-15, and undermine our strategies for supporting and improving our highest needs schools.”

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

In previous years, Highline Public Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield said about $1 million in Title I funds helped the district add full-day kindergarten classes. Now, that money must be set aside to transport children to schools of their choice or to pay third-party tutors such as Kumon Learning Centers. The district could apply to be a provider, but there is no certainty. Only if parents don’t seek private tutoring for their children might the district be able to get the money later. Administrators say it’s hard to plan ahead without steady funding.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

Other districts report they will have to cut existing programs.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

The No Child Left Behind law is unquestionably flawed. But states must work with it until Congress makes changes. Lawmakers should have been able to work out a compromise to retain funding. They failed.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

As voters consider their ballots this November, they should elect representatives who will fight for common sense and what’s best for their local district’s students — not buckle under pressure from anti-federal ideologues and a union that remains ideologically opposed to accountability standards.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

In this case, pragmatism, not politics, should have ruled the day on behalf of the state’s children most in need of academic help.

The Seattle Times editorial board lied to readers about the estate tax, and then refused to fix its errors. So you really can’t trust anything they write.

There you have it: an easy and effective refutation of nearly any Seattle Times editorial on any topic! So thank you, Seattle Times editorial board, for having so little self-respect and pride of work that you’ve transformed the arduous task of fisking your editorials into a simple cut-and-paste job.

Street View Contest Gallery

Last week’s contest was won by Theophrastus. It was Jeffersonville, Indiana.

About two weeks ago, I picked out the location in Ferguson, Missouri – where Michael Brown had just been killed – to use for the monthly news-related contest. But with the eyes of the world fixated on what’s happening there, it would’ve been an insultingly easy contest.

As the story has unfolded, I’ve found myself using the street views to look up the various locations in and around Ferguson where we’ve seen America’s over-militarized, unaccountable, and wildly racist policing come into clear focus. No contest this week, just a gallery of street views from what is becoming one of the most important news stories of the decade. I don’t plan to police the comment thread, so if you value your sanity, you should probably avoid this one.

The location where Brown was killed on August 9

The Quick Trip convenience store that was burned and looted on August 10

The McDonald’s restaurant where reporters Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly were arrested on August 13, next to the Ferguson Market. The Ferguson Market was the store where police allege Michael Brown stole some cigars shortly before the shooting (but whose employees never reported a robbery). In the late hours of August 15, community members stood guard outside the market and other businesses to discourage looting

The location in St. Louis where 25-year-old Kajieme Powell was shot and killed on August 19, in an incident where recorded cell phone footage showed that the original police account was inaccurate.

The Greater St. Mark’s Family Church, where community members have been taking care of wounded protestors, and was visited by police on August 20.

In Drunken Zoo Safari, Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen Shoots and Kills Watoto the Elephant

Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen standing over the freshly shot corpse the Woodland Park Zoo's beloved Watoto.

Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen triumphantly poses over the freshly shot corpse of the Woodland Park Zoo’s beloved Watoto the elephant.

Sad. But it wouldn’t be the first time Blethen shot a defenseless animal.

And yes, we doublechecked with our sources, and we stand by our work. We always correct mistakes, but there is no mistake here.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Young Turks: Will the NRA support this gun club?

Paul Ryan refuses to answer a question on his tax break for millionaires.

Ann Telnaes: Time for equality, SCOTUS.

Thom: Documented cases of deported refugee children being murdered.

Mental Floss: 26 amusing facts about amusement parks.

Liberal Viewer: FAUX News attacks atheists fighting tax-exempt churches acting like super PACs.

Brown and White and Blood-Red all over:

White House: West Wing Week.

Pap: McDonnell trial highlights GOP’s corrupt nature.

Bringing affordable health care to Alaska Natives.

Ed: The disconnect between Republican Christian ideals and helping the poor.

ONN: U.S. Forest Service kills off Smokey Bear to get people serious about fire safety.

Ann Telnaes: Down the Iraq rabbit hole.

Eric Schwartz: STFU Rush Limbaugh.

Setting the record strait on voter ID laws.

Oops…A Felony Indictment for the Guy with Smart Glasses:

Jimmy Dore: John Boehner’s legal team speaks out.

Honest Political Ads: An Unprovoked Attack:

Maddow: Former VA Gov. McDonnell corruption trial—Pat Robertson blames Obama?!?

Farron Cousins: Has Louie Gohmert completely lost his mind?

Mitt Romney ALS Ice bucket challenge.

Pap: The Tea Party charity swindle.

Thom corrects Karl Rove and the fact free zombies of FAUX News.

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

The Seattle Times Editorial Board: the City’s Most Widely Read Right-Wing Blog

So I have it on good authority that the Seattle Times’ demonstrably false unsigned “Death Tax” editorial was penned by editorial columnist Erik Smith. Figures. That’s exactly the sort of corporatist shilling for which he was clearly hired.

I know Smith from his several years blogging for the business-backed Washington Wire, where he covered Olympia with an undeniably pro-business/pro-Republican slant. That was his job and he was okay at it, I guess. But I never paid much attention to Washington Wire because it never had much audience or influence.

Still, let’s clear away the pretense: this is what the Seattle Times hired when they put Smith on their editorial board—a conservative blogger. And that is exactly what they got.

Indeed, if anything, Smith has behaved more like a righty blogger since being elevated to the editorial board than he ever did at Washington Wire, where he always seemed defensive about his business backing. At Washington Wire, Smith stuck to a more reportorial voice, and at least went through the journalistic motions. At the Seattle Times he’s lapsed into fact-free bloviating, relying on the credibility inherent in writing under a major newspaper banner to make up for the lack of effort he’s displayed to actually, you know, get stuff right. And his “Death Tax” editorial celebrates a new low.

The McBrides had long ceased to operate a “working farm,” and the value of Ralph McBride’s property was far too small to be subject to either the state or federal estate taxes. Perhaps you could just chalk those errors off to mere laziness. But the following is intentionally misleading:

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.

I mean, how do you write this statement without acknowledging that working farms are entirely exempt from Washington’s estate tax, and still take pride in your work? I know I couldn’t.

If I have a chip on my shoulder it comes from years of being lazily dismissed by “real” journalists like Smith and his editorial page editor Kate Riley as just a foul-mouthed liberal blogger who can’t be taken seriously. But the truth is, I do exactly what the Seattle Times editorial board does, except I do it from the left, I do it better, and I do it honestly. And, unlike the Seattle Times editors, I have the goddamn self-respect and pride of work to sign my name.

Why the Police Excesses in Ferguson Don’t Make SPD Look Good by Comparison

As the events unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri this week, one thought you can be sure that was repeated again and again in the minds of Seattle Police Department officers was: “And we’re under a consent decree?” Doesn’t seem fair, right? At least by comparison.

But unfortunately for the Seattle Police Guild and its recalcitrant members, this isn’t a competition to see which department is least worst. Seattle is a bigger city than Ferguson—and a better city. And we require a better police force.

The fact that Seattle police responded to Occupy Wall Street and the May Day marches with much more restraint and professionalism than the storm troopers in Ferguson, doesn’t excuse those incidents where Seattle police showed a lack of professionalism and restraint. And the fact that unarmed young black men apparently have less to fear from police in Seattle than they would from police in St. Louis County, doesn’t make up for the fact that unarmed young black men have more to fear from Seattle police than they should.

One of the things that always troubled me in covering the SPD’s various excesses is that compared to the Rizzo-era Philadelphia police of my youth, the SPD are Mormon missionaries. I never saw the Philadelphia police resort to tear gas, pepper spray, or rubber bullets. No, they’d just trample the crowd with their horses, or unleash the dogs, or firebomb an entire city block. God knows how many Philadelphia police shootings and beatings were criminal acts of excessive force, because honestly, who could keep track?

But what I came to understand in covering SPD is that the Philadelphia comparison was meaningless. This isn’t Philadelphia or Ferguson, and this sure isn’t the 1970s. The documented abuses of the SPD offend our sensibilities not because they are collectively worse than those of other police forces, but because here in Seattle we expect and demand so much better. In a truly civil society, armed officers of the peace must always strive to treat the entire public with dignity and respect, and to use force—lethal or otherwise—only as a last resort. The SPD has not lived up to this standard. The consent decree was necessary to help correct a long simmering cultural crisis within the department that was getting in the way of giving the people of Seattle the SPD we deserve.

So any Seattle police officer bemoaning the injustice that our department is under a consent decree, while Ferguson’s is not, is missing the point. It is only an injustice to the people of Ferguson.

 

Who Wants to Dump a Bucket of Ice Water Over My Head?

So, a “friend” of mine has called me out for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and I figured as long as it’s raising money for a good cause, I might as well make the most of it by auctioning off the honor of dumping a bucket of freezing cold ice water over my head. (I first offered the honor to Tim Eyman, but as usual, he hasn’t responded to my email. Something I’ve said?)

Here’s the deal: I’ll bring the camera to film it, and you bring the bucket of ice water—as big and as cold as you can manage with two hands. The bigger the bucket, the more I suffer. How’s that for an enticement, trolls?

The bidding starts now in the comment thread of this post, and goes on for the next 24 hours. All proceeds go to the ALS Foundation.

Seattle Times Editorial Board Doubles Down on Misleading “Death Tax” Editorial

Well, at least they’ve finally responded:

I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed. As I have painstakingly documented, there is simply no way that the estate tax could have forced the McBride family to sell “the last family farm in Issaquah.” It is simply impossible. And yet the Seattle Times editorial board insists on standing by their blatantly false claim. This can no longer be dismissed as a mere error. It is now confirmed to be a lie.

Shame on them. And let them know.

UPDATE: “Doublechecked with our sources,” my ass! My sources were the public record and the law. Even if the McBride’s say the estate tax forced them to sell, it wouldn’t make it so.

So just to be clear, whichever member of the editorial board wrote this editorial is a shameless lying liar, and if they’re offended by that assertion, I invite them to please, please sue me for defamation for saying so.

UPDATE, UPDATE: Just called Seattle Times to cancel my subscription, even though I don’t have one. Try it. Its funny. 1-800-542-0820.

Why Won’t @k8riley, @fblethen, @RyanBlethen, @jmartin206, @sharonpianchan, @ErikSmithWa, @TanInSeattle, and @RobertJVickers Take Pride in Their Work?

Had the Seattle Times editorial board written something so clearly false and defamatory about a living person, they would have surely printed a retraction by now, if only out of fear of the legal and financial consequences. But since all they did was libel an issue, I guess they feel that they are under no obligation to set the record straight.

Which is disappointing.

Contrary to the editors’ claims, the McBride family most certainly did not liquidate “the last working farm in a fast-growing suburb … as a result of the estate tax.” As I have painstakingly documented, working farms are entirely exempt from Washington’s estate tax, the McBride property is not a working farm, and 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.

On Monday, I asked you to politely write editorial page editor Kate Riley. In demanding a retraction, I had counted on publisher Frank Blethen and his editors having enough pride and self-respect to retract their false claims, even at the cost of undermining their relentless advocacy against the estate tax.

I regret my error. Clearly, this breach of journalistic ethics requires stronger actions.

If you are still a Seattle Times subscriber, I urge you to call customer service at 1-800-542-0820, and cancel your subscription. Be sure to tell them why: the dishonest “death tax” editorial. This is not an action I urge lightly. I’m not a big fan of boycotts, and I’m not sure I’ve ever urged my readers to cancel their newspaper subscriptions before. But this editorial is so profoundly disrespectful of journalism in general and its readers in particular, that drastic actions are warranted.

And if Riley won’t respond to a polite request via email, perhaps you need to reach out to her more directly. Call her at 206-464-2260, and ask her to personally defend this editorial. Again, I don’t hand out people’s phone numbers lightly. I’ve been harassed enough myself over the years. But the editorial page editor of a daily newspaper that claims to be delivering a public service to the community has a special obligation to listen to the concerns of citizens.

And finally, if the personal touch doesn’t work, try a little public humiliation. The Seattle Times editorial board can be found on Twitter: @k8riley, @fblethen, @RyanBlethen, @jmartin206, @sharonpianchan, @ErikSmithWa, @TanInSeattle, @RobertJVickers, @SeaTimesOpinion. Tweet at them. Don’t make it profane or personal, just question their journalistic ethics. Ask them how we can trust anything they write if they refuse to correct such obvious factual errors. Demand that they take pride in their work.

The most charitable view of this editorial is that it was the result of zealotry and laziness. They saw what they wanted to see in the original news article on the sale of the McBride property, and then didn’t bother to check their facts. Well, I fact-checked it for them. And they got it completely wrong.

To publicly acknowledge their error now, a week after publication, might be embarrassing. But to refuse to correct their error amounts to a blatant lie.

Open Thread 8/21

- Reparations for Ferguson

- Somebody should ask Dave Reichert if he agrees with Newt Gingrich that Obama is a food stamp president. Or many of the other horrible things he has said and done over the years.

- Spokane’s Downtown is for People – and their Buses

- Women in the Workplace: Marination

- Parody is killed again. Now, you might say that this is flagrantly unprincipled. But, to borrow Mark Tushnet’s line, it is simultaneously 0% and 100% principled.

- You should probably have a better organizing principle than annoy the left if you want to achieve anything.

Don’t Watch This Video Unless You Want to See a Man Shot Dead by St. Louis Police

Seriously. What the headline says. Don’t play this video and then complain to me about the disturbing images.

The cell-phone camera footage is far enough away that you can’t really see the knife that’s allegedly in the victim’s hands, but this sure doesn’t look like the scenario that the St. Louis Police described yesterday about the police shooting of a knife-wielding man just a few miles from Ferguson. None of the witnesses appear particularly threatened by the victim’s behavior, he’s not apparently lunging at the officers, he’s not holding the knife overhand in an aggressive manner, and he’s certainly not three to four feet away—”lethal range for a knife,” as Chief Dotson reported. 

The whole thing unfolds very quickly, not much more than 20 seconds from the time the police arrive to the time a clearly disturbed 25-year-old Kajieme Powell is shot dead. I’m not a law enforcement expert, but it does not appear that the officers made any effort to end the encounter nonlethally.

Indeed, this is the way that law enforcement officers shamefully and routinely dispatch dogs, without pause, apology, remorse, or legal recourse, the safety of the officer, we’re told, taking precedent over the life the animal, whatever the circumstances. Maybe the law allows that. But from this video, it sure does look like Kajieme Powell was shot like a dog.

[via Greg Mitchell]