by Darryl, 04/08/2014, 6:20 AM

DLBottle Please join us tonight for an evening of politics under the influence at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

We meet every Tuesday in our new home at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. The starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks show up even earlier for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle? Check out another Washington state DL over the next week.

The Tri-Cities, Vancouver, WA, and Redmond chapters also meet on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Bellingham chapter meets. On Thursday the Bremerton and Spokane chapters meet. The Centralia chapter meets on Friday.

With 215 chapters of Living Liberally, including nineteen in Washington state, four in Oregon, and three more in Idaho, chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

by Goldy, 04/07/2014, 10:02 AM

I’m trying to generate the appropriate outrage at the Seattle Times editorial board for endorsing a “No” vote on King County’s Metro-saving Proposition 1, but then it’s kinda like raging at my dog for killing squirrels. It’s what she does. It’s her nature. And reading this editorial is like watching the editors chase a squirrel.

VOTERS should weigh the regressive tax request embedded in King County Proposition 1 against history.

Oh no! It’s a “regressive” tax! This from an editorial board that has opposed every single progressive tax (like, you know, on income or estates) that has come before it. What a bunch of fucking concern trolls.

The pattern is clear. As in previous rounds of asking taxpayers for more money, Metro sees its shortfall as a revenue problem, rather than thoroughly confronting its well-documented unsustainably high operating costs.

And since the pattern is so “clear” and these unsustainably high operating costs are so “well-documented,” we can presume the editors are about to clearly document them.

Um… no:

Voters also should consider the near future when they face many other ballot requests, from parks to city transportation. Tax fatigue could jeopardize crucial investments such as public prekindergarten.

Yes, please consider the other future tax measures the Seattle Times will endorse “No” on. For the children!

When Washington voters in 1999 approved Initiative 695, it wiped away a vehicle excise tax that gave the King County Metro system about one-third of its revenues.

In response, King County leaders asked voters for a 0.2 percent increase in the county sales tax “to preserve and improve our bus system,” promising 575,000 more hours of bus service, as the 2000 voter pamphlet read. Voters said yes. Over the next six years, they got only 203,000 hours of new bus service.

Yes, voters did approve I-695. But not Seattle and King County voters. We rejected it. Also, the MVET that I-695 wiped away was the most progressive tax in the most regressive tax system in the nation. But I don’t remember the fucking concern trolls at the Seattle Times shedding any tears over that.

In 2006, King County leaders again asked for a 0.1 percent sales tax increase, to fund Rapid Ride expansion. Voters said yes. The promised expansion is behind schedule, and in spots is not the superfast service promised.

And in 2008 the nation plunged into the Great Recession, taking Metro’s sales tax revenue with it.

During this period, driver wages rose significantly, to the point that Metro had the third-highest-paid drivers in the country. In 2008, Metro attracted the scrutiny of the Municipal League of King County, which issued a damning report on the agency’s cost structure. In 2013, it issued a grumpy follow-up report, noting modest improvements but reiterating cost structure concerns.

A) That was six years ago. B) Don’t trust this editorial board’s numbers. Ever. And C) Unionized bus drivers! It burns!

In 2012, after sales-tax revenues crashed because of the Great Recession, Metro got a boost with a temporary $20 car-tab tax.

A temporary fee that only made up a portion of Metro’s shortfall. The rest was met through cost cuts, fare hikes, and using up the last of its cash reserves. Also, this temporary fee was intended to tide us over until the legislature approved a more stable funding source. It never did. So King County is using the only taxing authority it has.

This year, King County leaders are back again. Metro faces a $75 million deficit when that car tab expires. This time, the request is breathtaking, for its size and for the regressive nature of the proposal. A $40 hike in car tabs and another 0.1 percent sales tax increase would yield an estimated $1.6 billion over 10 years. Three-fifths of it goes to Metro, the remainder to roads, bike lanes and road diet programs.

Of course they’re back again. The temporary $20 car tab fee expired, and the reserve funds are all used up. Everybody understood it was only a stopgap measure at the time the car tab fee was passed. And the size of the package is no more “breathtaking” than the MVET authority Olympia promised, but refuses to deliver. The two tax packages raise exactly the same amount of revenue, and for exactly the same purposes.

As for the regressive nature of the tax, yes, car tabs and sales tax are more regressive than an MVET, which taxes the value of your car, and thus hits owners of more expensive vehicles harder. But what the fucking concern trolls at the Seattle Times don’t tell you is that is that the package includes a $20 rebate for low-income households, as well as a new low-income fare. And of course, nothing could be more regressive than slashing bus service!

Metro’s defenders cite recent cost-saving reforms in the 2010-2013 contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, including a wage freeze the first year and an overall 2.3 percent increase the second year.

In the private sector, that would be called a rational response to an economic crisis. In the public sector, those concessions are deemed justification for a breathtaking new revenue increase.

Though the Municipal League is supporting Proposition 1, it does so “reluctantly,” citing ongoing concerns with cost controls and efficiencies. It urges Metro to do better, including measuring itself against peers.

But: If voters approve Proposition 1, King County would have no incentive to do the hard work of bringing down labor costs that still saddle Metro with the fifth-highest driver costs in the country, behind only Boston, Santa Cruz, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Let’s be clear, the Seattle Times opposition to Proposition 1 is based solely on its opposition to anything that remotely smells of organized labor. The drivers union is the editors’ squirrel. It doesn’t matter how regressive the taxes in Prop 1 are—if the measure balanced the tax hike by busting the union, the paper would happily wag its tail in approval.

Also, don’t trust the editors’ numbers. They’re almost always wrong.

If voters turn down Proposition 1, King County threatens a round of devastating bus-service cuts, many on popular routes including those carrying students to college. County and Metro leadership should not let that happen.

County leaders are trying not to let this happen. By raising revenue. Because, you know, shit costs money.

The threat ignores other options, including further fare increases and ever tighter control of administrative costs and capital expenses.

And the editors ignore the fact that Metro has been pursuing these options for years. Metro is about to raise fares for the fifth time since 2008—and it already has some of the highest farebox returns in the nation.

Cutting services is not a threat. If Prop 1 fails, service will be cut, just like it was in Pierce and Snohomish counties when they failed to raise new tax revenue.

King County has been negotiating with the drivers union for nine months. Talks are now in mediation. Both sides could earn voters’ trust with quick resolution of a contract that further drops costs.

Jesus. Again with drivers union. Squirrel!

Saying no to Proposition 1 is not a message that transit does not matter. It does. The region, particularly job-dense downtown Seattle, needs reliable bus service. Nor should a no vote be read in Olympia as a sign the state Legislature does not need to pass a transportation package that includes less regressive transit tax options. It does.

No, it’s a message that low taxes matter more than transit. At least to the editors of the Seattle Times.

Vote no on Proposition 1, and send King County government a message that Metro has more work to do on righting its cost structure before asking voters for more revenue.

Actually, all the Seattle Times is doing is sending a message that it is either too stupid to understand that time has run out, or too dishonest honest to admit it. The legislature was supposed to grant Metro MVET authority two sessions ago, but senate Republicans have persistently blocked the bill, you know, just because.

The $20 tab fee expires in June. The reserve funds are empty. Whatever other options may exist cannot be exercised in time to avoid devastating service cuts. Reject Prop 1 and Metro will slash service. That’s not a threat. That’s reality.

But look: squirrel!

by Carl, 04/07/2014, 7:52 AM
by Goldy, 04/06/2014, 8:53 PM

Took me all day, and I’m not sure the DNS is fully propagated, but it looks like HA is up and running on its new server, and omigod is it faster! If you think the website was slow, you should’ve tried using the Admin. Can’t tell you how stupid I feel for making everybody suffer through the total shit show that our old server became.

Anyway, check things out and let me know if anything is broken.

by Goldy, 04/06/2014, 2:55 PM

Say goodbye to slow page loads and all-too-frequent 508 errors. I’m taking a hammer to HA this afternoon and moving it to a spiffy new server. Hopefully. Lots of stuff could wrong. And probably will. So wish me luck.

But don’t wish me luck in the comment threads, because I’ve temporarily disabled commenting in order to download a current copy of the database.

I’ll post again when the move is complete and the DNS records have propagated. (You know, assuming I complete the move.)

by Lee, 04/06/2014, 12:00 PM

Last week’s contest was won by milwhcky. It was Bucharest, Romania.

This week’s is another random location somewhere on Earth, good luck!

by Goldy, 04/06/2014, 6:00 AM

Proverbs 11:25
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.


by Darryl, 04/05/2014, 1:09 AM

How border patrol stops should go.

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

David Pakman: Glenn Beck is sued over Boston Marathon conspiracy theory.

Sam Seder and Janeane Garofalo: The survivalist scam.

Ana Kasparian: Will you have to work until you die?

Lawrence O’Donnell: Jeb Bush is the new darling of the G.O.P.

Joni Ernst Responds to Critics: .

Pap: The G.O.P. Autopsy—one year later.

Thom: Charles Keating & the lessons of the S&L crisis.

Money and Politics:

Fallon: Vladimir Putin calls Sarah Palin.

ONN: Michelle Obama introduces exercise program to combat obesity in professional baseball players.

Young Turks: Firefox CEO learns bigotry is bad for business…and employment.

Understanding PTSD.

David Pakman: Nutjob Louie Gohmert bizarre theory on ‘Separation of Church & State’.

Sharpton: Dick Cheney caught talking about bombing Iran.

Ed and Friends: The “new” Republican Party.

Thom: Cesar Chavez’s legacy & immigration.

Abby Martin: Are war criminals great painters?.

Kimmel on Putin’s divorce finalization announcement.

Mental Floss: 27 fun facts about fun.

Hank Green: Mass incarceration in the U.S.

A conversation with Jimmy Carter (long).

White House: West Wing Week.

The Tragedy of 7.04 Million People Signing Up For Affordable Insurance:

Thom: NJ’s (and 3 other state’s) war on Tesla.

Stephen: Bill O’Reilly’s “anti-equality theory”.

David Pakman: Nutburger MA Gov. candidate thinks Obama loves ‘sexual anarchy’ and might be gay!!!

Sharpton: Obama blasts the Ryan budget.

Sam Seder: Bill O’Reilly’s loses it to his inner racist.

ONN: The Onion Week in Review.

Jon does the math on the GM recall.

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

by Goldy, 04/04/2014, 10:47 AM

First of all, if Christopher wants to interview people who are truly struggling to scrape by on their meager income, he might want to start by interviewing his own staff. Second, I’m not sure I get the whole point of featuring failing businesses as the poster children of the anti-$15/hour side of the debate? I  mean, what’s the argument? If we raise the minimum wage, the unprofitable bookstores and coffee shops Christopher loves will fail even sooner? That’s hardly a sound premise on which to base economic policy.

Don’t get me wrong, I have great empathy for small business owners. I come from a family of small retailers, and I owned and operated a small business myself. My then-wife and I founded Eccentric Software in 1993, initially to publish what I loving describe as “the world’s most widely pirated rhyming dictionary software,” capitalizing our business on credit cards and some small loans from family members. Over the next five years we sold tens of thousands of copies of four different titles in shrink-wrapped retail packaging through major outlets like Computer City, CompUSA, Egghead, and in all the major mail-order software catalogs. Our software (much of which I developed myself) garnered great reviews and developed a loyal following, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. To this day I’m proud to say that I am one of the few Americans who can boast a trade surplus with Japan.

A Zillion Kajillion Rhymes

The original retail packaging for A Zillion Kajillion Rhymes.

But while the business never lost money, it never really made much money either. It was an awful industry, one in which the people who create the most value reap the least rewards, and in which longtime vendors would sometimes just decide to refuse to pay you, simply because they could. We lived comfortably, but we eventually walked away with a six figure debt.

Still, nobody shed tears for us, because such are the risks of entrepreneurialism. We knew that going in. But we took that risk anyway, partly because of the prospect of reward, and partly because we just passionately believed in our product. I can point you to dozens of Broadway musicals and Disney movies and hit songs that I know were written using our software. That’s gratifying in itself. And the money thing worked itself out too, with my then wife’s entrepreneurial experience helping her land a job that ultimately paid off our remaining debt. (I also landed good-paying work, but my options never paid off.)

So yeah, I know what it’s like to run a struggling small business. I know what it’s like to pour all my passion and time and financial resources into a business, for little monetary return. Hell, even HA was an entrepreneurial endeavor into which I sunk immense human capital, often for non-monetary return. So I feel for small business owners, and do agree that the system, alas, is stacked against them.

That said, most businesses fail. They just do. I’m sorry that Rafael Sanchez might have to go back to an unsatisfying job at Microsoft or some other bland corporation now that his lovely little business didn’t work out (I’ve been to Cintli, and it truly was a lovely little place). I feel your pain, Rafael. Been there, done that.

But life isn’t fair. So while no doubt a $15 minimum wage might push some struggling small businesses over the edge, others will take their place. Broadway won’t become an empty landscape of boarded up storefronts, bereft of coffee shops, restaurants, and retailers. The business community will adapt to Seattle’s living wage economy. That’s the way capitalism works. And there’s no rule that says the forces of creative destruction may only be unleashed by the private sector.

by Carl, 04/04/2014, 8:01 AM

Another election, another Pam Roach primary — and possibly general election — challenge.

State Sen. Pam Roach, a guardian of the Republican Party’s right flank in Olympia, is getting a challenge from a fellow Republican.

State Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, announced this week that she will run against Roach. Under Washington’s “top two” primary system, the challenge creates the distinct possibility of a November battle between two Republicans in the 31st District of eastern King County and rural-exurban Pierce County.

And at the link, Dahlquist makes good noises about education, including mentioning teacher pay that the GOP often don’t when talking about education. Still, on many issues she’s a pretty standard Republican. She voted against the Reproductive Parity Act and marriage equality. And I couldn’t find any tax increases she supports, so wanting to pay for education is nice, but presumably it means by destroying the rest of the state’s social services. So sure, she’d almost certainly be better than Roach. But that’s a pretty low bar to clear.

by Goldy, 04/03/2014, 12:32 PM

Because the law is the law. (Though geographic diversity could be one of several reasonable tie-breakers.)

Also, contrary to the mischaracterization in today’s Seattle Times, Justice Jim Johnson is not “an unabashed populist.” He is a government-hating ideologically rigid Libertarian.

Just setting the record straight.

by Goldy, 04/03/2014, 9:13 AM
Auto insurance ride-share exclusion

“Ride-share” drivers may want to check their insurance policies for updated exclusions like this.

One of the big debates in the battle over how to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Lyft, Sidecar, and uberX is over how to ensure adequate insurance. The Seattle City Council seemed pretty adamant about requiring insurance comparable to the commercial insurance required of taxi drivers, while the TNCs basically argued: “Don’t worry, we’re handling it, trust us.” Particularly offensive to the TNCs is a provision that requires that their blanket insurance cover drivers whenever they are logged into the system, not just when they are engaged with a passenger.

Good thing too, because insurance companies are busy updating their personal auto insurance policies to explicitly exclude coverage when the vehicle is used in connection with TNC services, for example, in the revision above that Amica has sent to customers:

We have excluded Medical Payments Coverage for bodily injury sustained by anyone other than you or any family member while occupying, or when struck by, your covered auto while it is enrolled in a personal vehicle sharing program under the terms of a written agreement and being used in connection with such program.

What exactly does this language mean? I’m not sure. But I wouldn’t count on my insurance company paying a claim on an incident that occurred while I was logged into a TNC. Or, perhaps, ever.

TNC boosters seem to think that because there’s an app, it changes everything! It doesn’t. Your personal auto insurance does not cover commercial for-hire use. So I’d make damn sure the TNC’s insurance does before assuming the liability that comes with being a for-hire driver.

by Carl, 04/03/2014, 8:12 AM

- Fort Hood can’t catch a break. Video loads automatically.

- City Hall Starts to Give a Shit About Women’s Pay Equity Again

- I love that Sound Transit has pictures for specific stations, but some of them don’t make a lot of sense (to me). Answer some questions to help them design the pictures for new light rail stations. [h/t]

- Supply and demand is a thing in housing.

- STOPPPPPP YOU’RE HURTING MY FEEEEEELINGS is apparently the new clarion call of the conservative movement. I’m still a little shocked by it.

by Carl, 04/02/2014, 5:24 PM

One of the questions with the Oso disaster that people are asking now is why did we let it happen? We knew that the hill was in danger, and yet people were allowed to live below it. Emmitt tries to tackle that with a bit of a historical perspective. And as is often times the case when he does a historical overview, the early settlers to the area from New England and from the Appalachian region play a large part.

But, the ability to do anything about it stopped where it became obvious that no one wanted to listen to them. The deep sense of individualism that came west with the Appalachians in Cascadia still rules the point of view, especially along the Stillaguamish River.

Sadly, one of the former political leaders on the Appalachian end of the spectrum likely died in the Oso mudslide.

Sure, it is possible to offer enough money to make anyone want to move. But, it isn’t like Snohomish County had magic public funds growing fairy dust. And, when it came to spending that limited public money on someone that really didn’t want to move in the first place. Well, you see where the attention of Snohomish civic leaders can be distracted.

Its easy to point to the available evidence and blame well intentioned people for not doing more. But, it is worth looking back at our origins here and seeing that it isn’t simple.

I don’t know how much we can to do to prevent these sorts of things as long as we’ve decided that the government is going to enforce property rights (something I’m generally for), and it has limited funds. Maybe there isn’t a way. I mean if the state took money out of education, or whatever, to pay to move some people who chose to live in dangerous places (and there must be thousands of dangerous places across the state), or if the county took money away from fire or police protection, people would rightly scream bloody murder.

None of this is to take anything away from the rescue efforts or to say that this was what they had coming, of course. As a liberal, I think we’re all in this together; as a human, I have nothing but sympathy. And as someone who lives in the city of Seattle where the next big one is overdue, I know it’s only a matter of time before I or my neighbors need the same sort of help. And nowhere is perfectly safe. Still, the tough decisions about how we minimize the damage from future events haven’t suddenly become as clear as we might like.

by Goldy, 04/02/2014, 11:50 AM
Refrigerator-sized utility cabinets

Refrigerator-sized utility cabinets like these may be coming to a planting strip near you if CenturyLink has its way.

As I wrote about a few months back on Slog, CenturyLink has long argued that its efforts to upgrade broadband speeds throughout the city have been hampered by regulations requiring neighboring homeowners to give their approval before installing refrigerator-sized utility boxes on city-owned sidewalks, planting strips, and alleys. These utility boxes—like the ones pictured above, just a couple blocks from my house—are unquestionably both an eyesore and a graffiti target. But CenturyLink says that 21,000 households would have access to faster broadband speeds today, had they the freedom to to liberally plop these down throughout the city.

And that’s a freedom that Mayor Ed Murray now says he’s ready to bestow. Um… hooray?

Look at the utility cabinets above. Now picture them installed on the planting strip in front of your house. Now honestly ask yourself whether you and your neighbors should have zero say in how and where they are installed?

Some residents of Beacon Hill and other underserved neighborhoods had been asking for a pilot program that would have suspended these regulations in certain neighborhoods, just to see how things worked. But the mayor’s proposal would apparently eliminate these regulations altogether. And CenturyLink says it will take that as an opportunity install 349 cabinets in the first year alone.

That could provide welcome broadband upgrades to thousands of Seattleites. Which is good. But it would also create hundreds of new eyesores. (Of course, CenturyLink could alternatively install these cabinets underground or on utility poles, or pay homeowners to install them on private property, but that would cost more money, so no go.)

Personally, I support the notion of a pilot program. But completely eliminating the current restrictions without getting any binding promises back from CenturyLink just strikes me as regulatory giveaway and recipe for some very disgruntled homeowners.

by Goldy, 04/02/2014, 7:23 AM

Great news for billionaires, as the US Supreme Court further unravelled campaign finance and disclosure regulations by striking down the overall limit that individuals may donate to candidates and political parties.

Under one of the last remaining useful provisions of the McCain-Feingold (a provision that dates back to the post-Watergate election reforms), individual donors had been limited to $48,600 in overall contributions every two years to all federal candidates, and $74,600 to political parties. (The $2,600 cap per candidate remains in place.) Now, really, really rich people like the Koch brothers can dump even more money into politics, assuring that their voice can finally be heard.

The conservative majority on this court won’t do squat to stop the GOP’s campaign of voter disenfranchisement, but they are absolutely outraged at the notion that wealthy people shouldn’t be allowed to spend as much money as they want influencing the few proles who are actually allowed to vote.

Hooray for democracy!

by Carl, 04/01/2014, 5:22 PM
by Goldy, 04/01/2014, 11:22 AM

I was thinking of doing an April Fools post in which I announced that I had been hired by the Seattle Times as a political blogger and columnist. But every time I sat down to write it, it never came out funny.

The fact is, and as immodest as it may sound, there is no media outlet in Seattle that could profit more from my services than the Seattle Times. I would deliver the kind of edgy, funny, and provocative commentary younger audiences demand, while helping to combat the common perception of the Seattle Times as a paper hostile to our city’s urbanist and progressive values. I’d create a little havoc, sure—I mean, what kind of paper hires a columnist who is guaranteed to debunk their own editorials?—but those sort of intramurals make for a helluva good read. And given my tireless blogging and my decade of cultivating political sources, my blog would quickly become the most politically relevant feature in the paper since “Postman on Politics.”

And relevance is something the Seattle Times could use more of.

True story. The very last event I covered as an employee at The Stranger was a minimum wage forum held down the street at Seattle Central Community College. At one point, King County Council Member Larry Gossett quotes something from a Danny Westneat column, only to be met with blank stares from the couple hundred community college students in the room. “Danny Westneat… the Seattle Times?” Gossett prompts the crowd, raising his hand by example. “How many of you read Danny Westneat?”

Nobody raises their hand.

About ten minutes earlier, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant had cited something in The Stranger, and mentioned that “Goldy” was in the room. A lot of heads turned around looking to see which person was Goldy.

This isn’t meant as a knock against Danny. I like Danny. He’s a smart, coherent, and thoughtful writer (if a bit too conventional for my tastes). And had that forum been held in front of the Municipal League instead of a bunch of grungy kids, nearly every hand in the room would have been raised at the mention of Danny’s name. But most of them would’ve been familiar with my work too, if less sympathetic. Love me or hate me, that’s the sort of broad relevance I could bring to Seattle’s last remaining daily.

Look, I know I haven’t always been kind to publisher Frank Blethen. But this is business. And I’m convinced that bringing somebody like me on board as a brash counterweight to his paper’s staid status quoist zeitgeist would be good for business. Then again, if the Blethen family was motivated purely by business interests, they probably would’ve unloaded the paper more than a decade ago.

So here I am howling into the wind on my lonely blog, as Blethen watches his aging readership gradually die off. Not sure which one of us is the bigger April fool.

by Darryl, 04/01/2014, 6:20 AM

DLBottleDon’t be a fool…join us tonight for an evening of political punditry over a pint at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

We meet every Tuesday at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. The starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks may show up even earlier for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle? Check out another Washington state DL over the next week. They’re everywhere! The Tri-Cities chapter also meets this and every Tuesday night. The Lakewood chapter meets this Wednesday. For Thursday, the Spokane and Tacoma chapters meet. On Friday, the Enumclaw chapter meets. And next Monday, the Yakima, South Bellevue and Olympia chapters meet.

With 215 chapters of Living Liberally, including nineteen in Washington state, four in Oregon, and three more in Idaho, chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

by Goldy, 03/31/2014, 10:14 PM