Open Thread 10/2

- I’m not sure there’s all that much that the state can do about oil trains, but good on Governor Inslee for doing what he can.

The problem isn’t that people don’t have enough guns. The problem is that police are too often using the guns they have. That won’t be solved by a bunch of average suburban white people wandering around public spaces with their rifles slung over their backs. Those aren’t the people most likely to be shot by police –whether they’re armed or not. They’re missing the point entirely.

Washington state is dotted with landslide-prone slopes, and many counties and cities do less than Snohomish County to keep homes away from harm.

– What marijuana shops will open are slowly working themselves out.

– That’s cute and all, but maybe an income tax would be a better way to solve the budget hole than taxing political contributions?

Two Weeks Vacation Is Stupid and Inhumane

Richard Branson has made Virgin Management the latest of a handful of companies to offer employees “unlimited” paid vacation time. The idea is that these companies won’t track your hours as long as you get your work done. Which, as a binge worker, sounds pretty damn great me.

But “beware the implications of unlimited vacation,” warns Bloomberg Businessweek’s Vanessa Wong:

The glow of trust and togetherness that such policies provide could actually make employees less likely to take time off. Already, some 40 percent of American workers don’t use all their paid vacation days. Even away from the office, employees can still choose to be on their BlackBerrys (BBRY) for 168 hours a week (as the device’s marketing materials point out, to every worker’s distress). Abolishing official vacation days also means you can’t trade unused days for cash, or hoard them for 20 years and take a hard-won paid sabbatical before retiring.

Um… what century is Wong living in?

I’m 51 years old and have never stayed in one salaried job long enough to accrue more than two-weeks of paid vacation days a year, let alone hoard them for cash or sabbatical. Wait. I take that back. Last February, on my three-year anniversary at The Stranger, I qualified for a third week of paid vacation for the coming year. I was fired one month later.

And my penchant for job hopping isn’t so abnormal. The average worker today stays at one job for a median of 4.4 years—for Millennials, half that. So a national paid vacation standard that starts at two weeks and is tied to length of tenure ends up being cruel, counterproductive, and downright stupid. This is a policy that inevitably leads to burnout while distorting the labor market by punishing workers for switching jobs.

So I’m all for any policy that helps shake up America’s draconian attitude toward vacation days.

Today in I-Can’t-Believe-We-Don’t-Have-This-Already

Patty Murray is introducing legislation to provide increased access to and education about emergency contraception.

When women are not given full counseling about — and access to — emergency contraception, a major health decision is taken out of their hands. Every year, over three million pregnancies (one half of all pregnancies in the United States) are unintended. In the 1960s, researchers began testing the effectiveness of concentrated, high doses of oral estrogen to prevent unintended pregnancy. In 1973, putting science and medical evidence first, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this form of contraception only as an emergency measure. In the time since (and not without significant resistance from critics), the FDA has declared emergency contraception, a.k.a. the morning-after pill, to be safe and effective in preventing unintended pregnancy after unprotected sex, birth control failure, or sexual assault. In addition, the FDA has approved the sale of some forms of this pill to women of all ages — over the counter, without prescription.

However, despite this increased access — and the number of options now available to women — emergency contraceptive use in the United States remains low. In fact, only half of OB/GYNs offer emergency contraception to all of their patients, and one third of reproductive-age women don’t know it exists.

Well, that’s a problem. I mean fortunately this is such a no-brainer that I’m sure it will sail right through our responsive democratic process. Surely, right. Right?

Open Thread 9/30

- Not sure what Washington’s rules about selling the Confederate flag in gift shops is, but if we don’t have a rule like this, we should probably adopt one.

– The GOP trouble attracting women to their cause is sure tough to explain. Part infinity.

– Still not a big fan of Amazon, but if they’ll build a woonerf* I’ll be happy for a moment.

– Hey DC Comics: Do better.

– Goldy will probably have a longer post at some time, but Chris Hansen has submitted all the paperwork for the Seattle Arena.

[Read more...]

Seattle Times Editorial Board Disappears Erik Smith

Usually the Seattle Times is quick to tout the new additions to its editorial board, while lauding the contributions of its departing editorial columnists. But after only six months on the job, Erik Smith was suddenly disappeared from the editorial board over the weekend, entirely without comment or explanation.

What kind of a cowardly newspaper would do something like that?

Whatever our political differences (and they were profound), our personal interactions were always friendly and professional. As an editorial writer Smith may have been wrong about everything, but he worked hard at it, and was certainly the most prolific member of the editorial board during his brief tenure.

That said, Smith was also the author of the paper’s breathtakingly dishonest and inaccurate “death tax” editorial. So while as a fellow ex-newspaperman I can certainly empathize with Smith, as a media critic I won’t miss him.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottlePlease join us tonight for some 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? Perhaps you can visit another Washington State chapter of Drinking Liberally over the next week.

The Tri-Cities chapter also meets this Tuesday. The Lakewood chapter meets this Wednesday. On Thursday, the Tacoma chapter meets. The Enumclaw chapter meets on Friday. And next Monday, the Yakima, South Bellevue and Olympia chapters meet.

With 203 chapters of Living Liberally, including seventeen in Washington state, three in Oregon and three in Idaho, chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

Open Thread 9/29

- Sorry it’s so late. I think even though I knew it was coming I wasn’t prepared for this crappy new bus reality. Should be back to regular soon.

Whitewashing History

Hillsboro’s environmental record is really something to strive for.

Macefield Music Fest!

– It’s a little late for banned books week, but I’m linking to this now because it’s better than never.

– Speaking of books and a little bit late, hey, my friend wrote a book. I haven’t read it yet, so no recommendation one way or the other.

Seattle Times Advocates Against the Rule of Law

Exactly what is it that the Seattle Times editorial board doesn’t get about the Constitution?

Recent high-profile rulings should make Washington uneasy, as the court eases restrictions on state authority and gives itself unprecedented authority to dictate government actions.

In 2012, for example, the court threw out the two-thirds-for-taxes rule, wildly popular with voters, which made it harder for the Legislature to vote for tax hikes.

The two-thirds rule may very well have been wildly popular with voters, but it was also wildly unconstitutional. Are the editors seriously suggesting that the justices should have deferred to election results rather than the very clear and unambiguous letter and spirit of the law? Because that would have been malpractice.

Some states—like California—permit voters to amend the constitution via initiative. Washington’s constitution does not. I’d argue, wisely. Are the editors arguing that Washington should be more like the California? If so they should advocate for amending the state constitution as such instead of cowardly casting aspersions at our justices for doing their job.

But to suggest, as the editors do, that the justices basing their ruling on the constitution rather than popular opinion “should make Washington uneasy,” just makes the Seattle Times look stupid.

HA Bible Study: Revelation 12:1-6

Revelation 12:1-6
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.


Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

ONN: The Onion Week in Review.

Liberal Viewer: Republicans crush students with debt rather than invest in the future.

Thom: Stop conservatives before they kill AGAIN.

Obama addresses the U.N.

Michael Brooks: GOP ad tries to attempts to reach women, demeans them instead:

Puppet Nation: Obama’s new security advisor.

Mark Fiore: Climate blah, blah, blah, change.

NFL Woes:

Mental Floss: 29 early sports rules.

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

Puppet Nation: ISIS Needs Women.

Pap and Howard Nations: The Dixieland dilemma.

Jimmy Dore calls Luke Russert about “journalism” & false equivalencies.

The War President and Friends:

Late night political funnies.

Young Turks: Congress takes a stupid-long vacation.

White House: West Wing Week.

Rev. Sharpton on AG Eric Holder.

Jon: Schools Congress on climate change with a simple demonstration.

FAUX News Boob:

Pap: The Party of Voter Suppression.

Puppet Nation: Hot Air over New Jersey:

Thom with more Good, Bad, and Very, Very Ugly.

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

Our Taxes Are Too Low

State Senate Republicans are blaming Democrats for rising tuition at our state colleges and universities. Of course they are. And they’re right. Democrats are to blame. But more so the Republicans.

For while Republicans didn’t officially seize control of the Senate until Rodney Tom and Tom Sheldon betrayed their constituents in 2013, thanks to the disloyalty of “roadkill” Dems, Republicans more or less controlled the Senate budget-writing process for some time. In fact, back in 2011, former Republican Senator Joe Zarelli personally boasted to me that he wrote the Senate budget, not then Democratic Ways & Means chair Ed Murray.

But whatever. I’m less interested in apportioning the blame than I am in fixing the problem. And this sort of bullshit doesn’t help:

Bailey fingers a “lack of commitment by elected leaders” but also a lack of accountability on the part of universities as the causes of ballooning tuition that has “functioned like a tax on our middle-class families.”

“For years higher education funding has been used as a piggy bank to offset funding reductions in other areas of the budget,” she wrote. “As we work through the budget process and policy proposals, it is important to hold the line on higher education funding. We also expect higher education institutions to hold the line on tuition increases.”

Oy. How many times do I have to go through this? It’s not the cost of a college education that’s skyrocketing, it’s the price:

cost of WA state universities flat

It’s not the cost of college education that’s skyrocketing. It’s the price.

As you can see from the chart above, adjusted for inflation, the cost of educating a student has remained relatively flat over the past two decades. Tuition has been rising not in response to rising costs, but as a direct response to cuts in state funding.

No doubt there’s room for universities to try to be more accountable and efficient, but it’s not accountability that’s been the problem. It’s a lack of funding. And the only way for universities to hold the line on tuition increases is for legislators to hold the line on funding. (Or, I suppose, we could just offer a cheaper, lower quality college education. Is that what Senator Bailey is arguing for? I don’t think so.)

Yes, state lawmakers have used higher education as a piggy bank of sorts. But that’s not because Democrats hate higher education. It’s because there’s so little truly discretionary spending available to cut in the state budget. And Republicans have made it impossible to raise taxes.

That’s the problem. Collectively, our taxes are too low to sustain the government we want and need. In fact, as a percentage of income, our state and local taxes are now 20 percent lower than they were 20 years ago. If Republicans want to argue that we should be spending more money on higher ed, then they need to tell us which taxes they want to raise or which social service programs they want to cut. Because that’s the only other place to find the money.

So good on Senator Bailey for recognizing that tuition hikes function like a tax on middle-class families. We all agree. Now if only she and her fellow Republicans would permit a conversation replacing this virtual tax with a real tax on the wealthy households who can afford it.

Open Thread 9.25_2014-AD

- King County Metro: Prepare For Bus Cuts This Weekend

– Poor Clint Didier can’t even get the murder weapon fetishists on his side (second story).

– What the everloving fuck, Fox News?

Every 28 hours a black man is killed by the police. This time it’s Cameron Tillman, a 14 year-old freshman gunned down by a sheriff’s deputy in Houma, Louisiana.

– I’m not happy about people with all of the money jumping into campaigns, but at least when it’s environmentalists taking back the State Senate for Democrats, it’s better than if it was only Republicans doing it.

– More of Hillary Clinton’s dastardly childhood letters emerge.

Tim Eyman is Gross

Part I’ve-lost-count in an infinity part list.

This time he’s spamming out pictures of children with a gun pointed at their heads.

Constantine’s courageous call for the Legislature to repeal I-747 got Eyman’s attention, as did his proposal to send King County voters a levy to fund early childhood and youth services next year. Prompted by Constantine’s speech, Eyman decided to go fishing for media coverage by sending out an attack email with a false, derogatory subject line (“King County Exec Dow Constantine: “Pay higher property taxes or I’m throwing kids with diabetes under the bus”).

Along with his screed, Eyman enclosed a disgusting image of a woman holding a gun to a baby’s head, which he obtained from the Huffington Post.

As with so much of Tim Eyman’s bullshit, you don’t know if it makes more sense to address the substance or to point out the disgusting nature of the stunt. I think in this case, you have to go with the stunt. Holy shit! Kids with guns pointed at their head because you disagree with something the Exec said about you? That’s so awful, I can’t even comprehend it.

Even if the substance of Eyman’s argument somehow made sense — and it never does — that’s still no. Just no. Hell, I have a lower opinion of HuffPo and Tim Eyman because they both thought that picture was appropriate at various times, and I wouldn’t have thought that was possible.

And sure, people fuck up sometimes. If this was an isolated incident, I’d say give him the benefit of the doubt. But it’s long past that point with Eyman.

Now It Can Be Told: The Stunning Truth Behind The Stranger’s Brutal Newsroom Purge!

Goldy, Eli, and Dom

Me, Eli, and Dom, back during the golden age of Stranger journalism.

So, after six years on staff, Dom has left The Stranger to spend more time with his family or something. Good for him. Unlike me, at least he got to walk out on his own two feet instead of being carted off the premises in the trunk of a Cadillac DTS and unceremoniously dumped in the Meadowlands.

But Dom’s sudden departure has people asking questions. In a span of only nine months, first Cienna, then me, now Dom have all been scrubbed from the paper’s masthead. Of The Stranger’s four-person Pulitzer prize-winning news team, only Eli remains.

Cunning, devious, ruthless Eli.*

Eli, Dom, and Goldy

Eli (left) has finally purged The Stranger of his rivals.

Now that the Great Purge is complete, the truth can be told: The Stranger’s news department has been reshaped by a brutal internal power struggle, engineered by the Machiavellian mastermind that is Eli Sanders—or, “the Butcher of Barca” as he’s fearfully known in the office. Don’t let his mild-mannered demeanor fool you; it’s all an act. The man is vicious. You should see what he did to his boyfriend—nearly ripped the poor guy’s arms off!

Eli is a monster. And now he’s ruling The Stranger news department with an iron fist. Just like he long plotted.

So beware, Anna and Ansel: the warm embrace of Eli’s carefully crafted cult of personality can be intoxicating. But dare challenge his boundless ambition and you too could soon find yourself stumbling through the muck of a New Jersey swamp, desperately trying to pluck an ice pick from your back.

UPDATE: Honestly, folks, get a sense of humor. It was joke. Really. Eli Sanders is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.


* I double-checked my sources: Eli does not have a single ruth.