Old Pent Red 8-12

- #TwitterFail: Twitter’s Refusal to Handle Online Stalkers, Abusers, and Haters

- This litigation, admittedly, does seem to be based on a principle that has been around for nearly two decades; namely, Judge Costanza’s dictum that it’s not a lie if you believe it.

- I wonder how much of Seattle’s pretty good but could be improved pedestrian safety is on drivers and how much is on the pedestrians (and other factors). I mean it’s the only big city I’ve lived in where people don’t expect to jay walk. On the other hand, the people who do jay walk are really, really bad at it by and large.

- It’s embarrassing for everyone saying that this is all about humanitarianism to pretend that oil isn’t in the equation.

- Torture was torture, and it’s a shame the New York Times wasn’t more on top of that.

- I could use a Universal Converter Box.

You Can’t Distort a Labor Market that Doesn’t Exist

Socialists like Kshama Sawant like to argue that market capitalism isn’t working for the rest of us. But I’m beginning to wonder if it is actually working at all:

The American Trucking Associations has estimated that there was a shortage of 30,000 qualified drivers earlier this year, a number on track to rise to 200,000 over the next decade. Trucking companies are turning down business for want of workers.

Yet the idea that there is a huge shortage of truck drivers flies in the face of a jobless rate of more than 6 percent, not to mention Economics 101. The most basic of economic theories would suggest that when supply isn’t enough to meet demand, it’s because the price — in this case, truckers’ wages — is too low. Raise wages, and an ample supply of workers should follow.

But corporate America has become so parsimonious about paying workers outside the executive suite that meaningful wage increases may seem an unacceptable affront. In this environment, it may be easier to say “There is a shortage of skilled workers” than “We aren’t paying our workers enough,” even if, in economic terms, those come down to the same thing.

Adjusted for inflation, truckers are now earning 6 percent less, on average, than they did a decade ago. And yet trucking executives would rather leave business on the table than raise pay to attract more truckers. “It takes a peculiar form of logic to cut pay steadily and then be shocked that fewer people want to do the job,” observes the New York Times’ Neil Irwin.

So much for supply and demand.

And its not just the trucking industry. As the housing market recovers, the construction industry is facing a looming worker shortage, even against the backdrop of persistent six-plus percent unemployment. Here in Washington State, produce is left rotting in the fields for want of enough farmworkers at harvest time. Pay them and they will come, Econ 101 teaches. But in industry after industry, the masters of capital simply refuse.

Whether through collusion, or habit, or sheer ill will, a labor market that effectively suspends the rule of supply and demand isn’t really a market at all. And if there is no functional labor market, then capitalism really isn’t working for the rest of us. Really. In fact, it is fair to question whether market capitalism is working at all. For surely there must be more to the promise of capitalism than the mere accumulation of capital.

Minimum wage opponents like to argue that wage floors distort the natural efficiencies of the market. But you can’t distort something that doesn’t exist.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottlePlease join us tonight for an evening of politics over a pint at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally. While our primary election is over, there are some interesting primary elections going on in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Minnesota tonight.

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? Check out another Washington state chapter of Drinking Liberally over the next week. The Tri-Cities, Vancouver, WA, and Redmond chapters also meet on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Bellingham chapter meets. The Spokane chapter meets on Thursday. And next Monday, the Aberdeen, Yakima and Olympia chapters meet.

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.

Beast Mode!

I love football. And ice hockey. Two fairly brutal sports. But can we please stop presenting professional athletes as role models?

The Bellevue Police Department is investigating an allegation of assault and personal property damage involving Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch alleged to have occurred early Sunday morning.

Yes, it’s just an “allegation,” but would it be a surprise if an athlete celebrated (and fabulously rewarded) for violence on the field, has trouble switching off “beast mode” in his private life?

Is the Freedom Foundation Plotting to Transform Washington into a “Right to Work” State, One City at a Time?

After years of congressional and legislative gridlock, the most exciting development in politics has been the shift toward implementing progressive policy at the local level. Of course, the City of SeaTac’s historic $15 minimum wage initiative comes to mind. But here in Seattle, recent moves toward mandatory paid sick leave, a $15 minimum wage, and universal preschool provide a replicable roadmap for achieving a progressive agenda one city at a time.

But I guess, what’s good for the goose is good for the far-right-wing corporatist union-busting asshole.

The execrable Freedom Foundation has been kvelling in recent weeks about a pair of anti-labor initiatives that have been filed in Sequim, Shelton, and Chelan, that would severely curtail the rights of public employees to organize. One initiative would require that all contract negotiations with public employee unions be open, a Freedom Foundation fetish that has no discernible function other than to disrupt the negotiating process. The other initiative would permit public employees to enjoy all the benefits of a negotiated contract while opting out of paying any union dues—essentially transforming these cities into so-called “right to work” cities for public employee unions, with the goal of destroying the public employee unions entirely.

Both initiatives are boilerplate ALEC proposals, the same good people who brought you “Stand Your Ground,” “Voter ID,” and other reactionary legislation.

It’s a strategy that has so far slipped by under the radar, because honestly, who in their right mind would read the Freedom Foundation’s blog (and you thought my Seattle Times editorial page reading habit was weird)? But it’s a strategy that organized labor and its allies would be advised to push back against before it gains any traction.

[HAtip: Randy]

Public Health’s Funding Crisis Is the Latest Symptom of Our Ailing Tax Structure

I certainly agree with the Seattle Times editorial board in lauding the work of Public Health – Seattle & King County director David Fleming, who is stepping down today after seven years on the job. Under Fleming’s leadership, Public Health has been one of the most proactive and effective agencies in the region.

But what I do take issue with is the editors’ envisioned role for Fleming’s successor.

There is much work to be done.

The department faces an estimated $15 million budget hole this fall caused by federal budget constraints. The next director will have to balance fewer resources with the demands of a fast-growing, diverse population.

Fleming’s successor should pick up where he left off by advocating for policies and funding in areas where data show the highest need and investment can have the highest impact:

That’s right: the editors want Fleming’s successor to “pick up where he left off,” but with “fewer resources,” despite the increased costs of serving our “fast-growing” population. It’s no secret that his department’s budget squeeze contributed to Fleming’s decision to step-down—the Seattle Times reported as much. And yet in the same breath in which they acknowledge the important work that Public Health does, the editors simply state as fact that the new director will have to serve a growing population with shrinking resources.

More sound public policy advice from the something-for-nothing crowd.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Whatever the loss of federal funds, the city and county could backfill this money with local revenue—assuming I-747′s stupid fucking 101 percent limit wasn’t gradually drowning local government in a bathtub. About 45 percent of the county’s general fund revenue comes from the property tax, yet as I have previously explained, thanks to the 101 percent limit on growth in regular levy revenue, the property tax can’t even keep pace with inflation, let alone population-plus-inflation (not to mention economic growth, with is the most accurate measure of growth in demand for public services). To further complicate matters, another 14 percent of county general fund revenue comes from the sales tax, a tax base (the sale of goods) that has been steadily shrinking as a portion of the overall economy for more than 60 years.

What we have here should be familiar to anybody who is willing to honestly discuss Washington’s state and local tax system: a structural revenue deficit.

The editors’ advice—always—is that government must recognize this new fiscal reality and reduce the size and cost of its operations to match its reduced revenues. But it can’t work. For even if you believe that this new fiscal reality is more appropriate than the significantly higher relative revenue levels state and local governments enjoyed just a decade and a half ago, our ability to fund government services will continue to fall. That is the nature of a structural deficit.

If the Seattle Times really cared about maintaining public health, rather than simply urging the new director to magically do more with less (year after year in perpetuity!), the editors would take the lead in urging the repeal of the 101 percent limit, and replacing it with something more rational. The original purpose of the limit back when it was first imposed at 106 percent (or inflation, whichever was higher), was to prevent shocking annual increases in property taxes. But it was not meant to limit property taxes over the long run—that is the role of the statutory cap that limits the total amount of state and local regular levies to $10 per $1,000 of accessed value.

Tim Eyman’s arbitrary 101 percent limit is a perversion of this policy.

If Washington were a high-tax state this push for lower taxes might be understandable. But we’re not. As a percentage of personal income, Washington’s state and local taxes are now some of the lowest in the nation. And dropping. In this context, there is simply no rational argument for maintaining a 101 percent limit on local property tax revenue growth that is gradually starving local governments of the ability to meet their citizens’ most basic needs.

Everybody knows that Washington’s tax structure is immensely unfair. It is the most regressive in the nation. And by far. But it is also unsustainable. And we could really use some editorial leadership to help move us toward a solution before it is too late.

Open Thread 8-11

- If restaurant owners in Seattle are upset about our new minimum wage, they have the example of one Minnesota job creator.

- I had no idea who Brian Dunning was before this, but yikes.

- Put simply, there are two sets of rules: one for liberals and Democrats, the other for conservatives and Republicans. The former are supposed to be fair-minded and rule-abiding, as befits a tradition that harkens back to the likes of Jefferson, Madison, Montesquieu and Locke. The latter are expected to be Nixonian streetfighters—whatever they do is “just politics,” and “everybody does it,” so there’s “nothing to see here.”

- There is no Obama Doctrine, and that’s probably a good thing.

- I am excited about Romeo and Juliet at SAM Sculpture Park, but we as a society need to stop calling it “the greatest love story ever told.” You know what’s a greater love story? Literally any story that doesn’t end with a 13 year old girl killing herself.*

- I’m not much of a drinker or in particular a beer drinker, but even I noticed this at Mariners games.

[Read more...]

HA Bible Study: Revelation 13:1-2

Revelation 13:1-2

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

Discuss.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

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

Jon: Virginia is for lovers…of money.

Obama: Statement on actions in Iraq.

Ann Telnaes: Israel’s Mission Accomplished.

The U.S. Tortured People:

Thom: The “sovereign citizen” movement threat.

Gil Fulbright: Fancy Farm Speech:

Farron Cousins: Diagnosing Ann Coulter’s mental illness.

Mental Floss: 33 amazing toy facts.

Thom: The Siberian crater mystery solved…and it isn’t good news.

Crazy Congress Critters:

Sharpton: The G.O.P. wishes Obama a happy birthday:

White House: West Wing Week.

Farrons Cousins: Rick Scott’s environmental flip-flop flap.

Late Night Laughs: Obama’s Birthday Edition.

Thom: When the ocean’s carbon cycle goes out of balance.

Sam Seder: Reality check on Obama’s immigration authority.

Pap: It is time for Democrats to fight back.

Donald Trump is a Fucking Moron:

Steve Kornacki: Is Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) in big trouble.

Young Turks: Meghan McCain destroys Glenn Beck.

Pap: The Republican Party has betrayed Lincoln.

Jimmy Dore: Worst piece of journalism.

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

NRA Rep Doubles Down on Background Checks Equals Hitler Rhetoric

It’s been almost two weeks since the audio of National Rifle Association lobbyist Brian Judy went viral, drawing broad condemnation of his comments equating universal background checks to Nazi Germany, and calling Jews “stupid” for supporting Initiative 594. “These people,” exclaims Judy, “you come to this country and you support gun control? … Hello! Is anybody home here?”

So far, neither Judy nor the NRA have had the balls to give an official response. But on her Facebook page, Judy’s co-speaker at the July 23 event, NRA campaign field representative Adina Hicks, has come to his defense, lauding Judy for “speaking the truth and giving a history lesson.”

My friend and colleague, Brian Judy, has been getting hammered by the media, for speaking the truth and giving a history lesson to those that have obviously forgotten what government intrusion into the lives of innocent and law abiding citizens can mean.

Hicks herself has a prior history of buying into the NRA’s bullshit “background checks equals Hitler” meme. Introducing herself in a forum on WaGuns.org, Hicks wrote: “When I found out about [I-594] and read the initiative, my first thought was Nazi Germany, Hitler’s gun registration and eventual confiscation.” Because, of course, having to fill out a form to purchase a gun is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust.

But then, that’s the sort of sharp legal reading of I-594 that you’d expect from a disbarred attorney. Adina Hicks is actually registered to vote as Adina Atwood, who was disbarred in 2004 for “multiple acts of misconduct” including abandoning clients and failing to return their fees. Not sure what the circumstances are surrounding her name change, but it seems to be recent, as both names appear on NRA websites, but with the same phone number.

Whatever.

The point the “I-594 equals Hitler” crowd is making is that the Nazis used gun registration records to disarm the Jews, leaving them unable to defend themselves from the state. Which is both a perversion of history, and downright offensive.

First of all, it was the Weimar government that instituted tight gun registration laws after World War I, not the Nazis; Hitler actually loosened gun control laws for everybody but the Jews. The eventual confiscation of the few guns held by German Jews wasn’t an act of gun control as much as it was an act of anti-Semitism. Big difference. And to characterize it as anything but anti-Semitism is insulting.

Second, the very suggestion that disarming the Jews was a significant event on the timeline to the Holocaust is blame-the-victim historical revisionism of the worst kind. Forty-two million well-armed Frenchmen just rolled over in the face of the German blitzkrieg, as did 35 million Poles and much of the rest of Europe. The very idea that Germany’s 500,000 Jews—about 0.75 percent of the population—armed with handguns and hunting rifles, could have defended themselves against the Nazi regime is downright crazy!

Besides, German Jews represented only a fraction of the estimated 6 million European Jews the Nazis exterminated. So to argue that Nazi gun control laws led to the Holocaust is tantamount to arguing that all the horrors of World War II could have been avoided if only German Jewry had the guns and the balls to defend themselves. It is an argument that if taken to its logical conclusion essentially blames World War II on the Jews!

And finally, whatever their logic or their twisted view of history, what the likes of Hicks and Judy refuse to acknowledge is that the “I-594 is Hitler” equation is transitive. I-594 merely requires filling out some paperwork before purchasing a gun. So if I-594 equals the Holocaust, then the Holocaust must equal paperwork. Thus to rhetorically equate I-594 with the Holocaust is to equate the genocide of European Jewry with a mere inconvenience.

I don’t know if Hicks and Judy just lack the empathy to understand why Jews might find this over-the-top rhetoric offensive, or if they just don’t care?

International Franchise Association Acknowledges that Franchisees Are Not “Local Small Businesses”

I’m not sure what they’re suing about if even the International Franchise Association acknowledges that franchises are different from “local small businesses”:

“Who in their right mind wants to become a franchisee in Seattle now? They are immediately placed at a competitive disadvantage to local small businesses,” said Matt Haller, a spokesman for the International Franchise Association, based in Washington, D.C.

As I understand the English language, to assert that franchisees are at “a competitive disadvantage to local small businesses” inherently implies that franchisees are not local small businesses. Which of course runs counter to the IFA’s entire legal argument. Haller didn’t say “other” local small businesses, because franchisees are clearly different. If it was a slip, it was a Freudian one.

Regardless, this motion for a preliminary injunction is just grandstanding. A) Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law doesn’t go into effect until April. The lower court will almost certainly decide the underlying suit before then, so there’s no chance for “irreparable harm.” And B), to grant an injunction the court would have to determine that the IFA has a decent chance of prevailing on its hilarious claims, and that just doesn’t seem likely given the past 80 years of legal precedent.

In responding to a recent National Labor Relations Board recommendation that franchisors and franchisees be designated as “joint-employers,” the IFA responded by claiming that this would “threaten the sanctity of hundreds of thousands of contracts between franchisees and franchisors.” It is a similar legal argument to what the IFA has been making against Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance.

Indeed, the IFA is banking on nothing less than returning to the pre-New Deal legal framework of the Lochner era, in which the right of parties to enter into private contracts trumps the right of government to regulate business. Under this framework, not only would Seattle’s minimum wage be unconstitutional, but all minimum wages would. As well as most other federal, state, and local business regulations.

I wouldn’t put anything beyond the schemes of the right-of-right Roberts court, but until that happens, it’s hard to imagine a US District court judge viewing the IFA’s radical claims as being credible enough to warrant an injunction.

Should’ve Just Called It Election Night, but Yeah, Prop 1 Wins

Normally, I eagerly await King County’s 4:30 pm day-after-Election-Day ballot drop in order to spot election-changing trends in late ballots, but in a nod to the total lack of drama in Tuesday’s results, I instead chose to go hiking yesterday afternoon. And as expected, in the one race that was truly being decided in this election, Seattle Proposition 1 (Metropolitan Park District) slightly expanded its comfortable election night lead from 52.4%-47.6% to an even more comfortable 52.7%-47.3%.

That shift may not sound like much, but it pretty much plunges a stake through heart of any chance that the No side might prevail through a surge of late ballots. Of the 14,107 Seattle ballots tallied yesterday, greater than 54.9% of them voted Yes on Prop 1. And while two data points isn’t generally enough to plot a trend, given the fact that ballots are generally counted chronologically, first in/first out, these late-ish ballots (mostly arriving Monday and Tuesday) safely indicate that late voters were at least modestly more supportive of Prop 1 than those who mailed in their ballots over the prior three weeks.

In any case, there just aren’t that many ballots remaining. King County Elections reported 138,929 Seattle ballots had arrived by 8pm yesterday. That number won’t dramatically increase. Yet 113,928 have already been counted. That means the No camp would have to win better than 62 percent of the remaining ballots in order to overcome their current 6,158 vote deficit. Not gonna happen.

So, yeah, Prop 1 wins. And probably by about an eight-point margin.

No wonder the Seattle Times editorial board is almost aphasic in its apoplexy.

Seattle Times Editorial Board So Bitter Over Failing to Defeat Prop 1, That They’ve Forgotten How to Form a Paragraph

If the Seattle Times editorial board is going to put so little time and effort into writing this editorial, then I’m not going to bother to put much time and effort into fisking it.

SEATTLE Proposition 1 appears headed for passage. No surprise, since the campaign to form a Seattle Park District was heavy on the “everyone loves parks” rhetoric and light on the governance details about the creation of an entirely new taxing authority.

As opposed to the No campaign, which was heavy on the lies and light on the… wait… what’s so wrong about a Park District campaign being heavy on the “everyone loves parks”…?

Taxpayers must remain vigilant.

Against dishonest editorials.

This new taxing authority is permanent. Voters will no longer be asked every few years whether they approve of how their money is being spent on parks through levy renewal measures.

Like they had been since Seattle was founded back in 2000.

Prop. 1 hands oversight of the district and about $48 million in its first year — twice the amount of the expiring parks levy — to the Seattle City Council, which will serve as the Park District’s board.

Oh no! We’ll be handing oversight of the parks over to the same people who already have oversight of the parks!

If City Council members want to raise property taxes from the initial rate of 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to 75 cents per $1,000 for parks, they may do so without asking voters. The current levy rate is about 20 cents per $1,000.

It’s called representative democracy. Look it up in the Constitution.

An agreement preserves at least in annual general-fund dollars for parks, but the city’s obligation can be reduced or diverted in an emergency.

For the life of me, I can’t parse this sentence.

Voters should demand that the mayor and council keep their $89 million general-fund promise to parks.

I’m guessing this sentence was supposed to be set up by the previous incomprehensible one?

The transparency, specific asks and expiration dates contained in previous park levies are why 59 percent of voters passed the last parks levy in 2008 and 55 percent supported a similar levy in 2000.

That’s three one-sentence paragraphs in a row.

Wednesday’s ballot count showed about 53 percent in favor of the Park District.

And another one! Jesus, I know print loves short paragraphs, but try stringing a couple coherent thoughts together for a change.

Voters, take a look at your neighborhood parks. Are those dirty bathrooms and leaky pipes getting fixed? Or is the money going to public-private ventures such as the Woodland Park Zoo, the Seattle Aquarium or the planned waterfront park?

The fear-mongering didn’t work before the election, so I don’t see how it’s going to work after. But at least they’re done with the one-sentence paragraph thing.

The council gets to decide.

Spoke too soon.

“Woodland Park Zoo has paid lobbyists. How do you as a citizen or a community organization compete against that?” warns Don Harper, a parks advocate who opposed Proposition 1 and supports a levy.

Don Harper also warned that Prop 1 would build an airstrip atop Cal Anderson Park. Because he’s a lying liar.

A citizens committee is supposed to provide nonbinding recommendations to the district. It must act independently and serve as a vocal counterbalance to the council.

A council composed predominantly of members the Seattle Times endorsed.

The only other tool left for citizens to voice their displeasure is City Council elections. Beginning in 2015, most members will be elected by district instead of at-large. Incumbents will be vulnerable to challengers.

Um, the Park District doesn’t even begin to start collecting taxes until 2016, but the editors threaten to hold council members accountable for their misuse of funds in 2015. Because they’re from the future!

Remember that if the Park District fails to live up to its many promises.

That closing sentence might have been stronger if it didn’t read like it was left unfinished. But in their defense, after such a bitter campaign, I can understand it if they just ran out of.