When I first glanced at the headline of today’s Seattle Times editorial opposing pre-ballot review of Tim Eyman’s stunningly unconstitutional Initiative 960 (“Careful, initiative tampering is dangerous“), I was initially pleased. I had predicted this unselfconscious fit of hypocrisy. And there’s nothing I like better than being right, especially at the Times’ expense.
Indeed, the only surprise in this entirely predictable piece of sanctimonious sophistry, was how genuinely angry I got reading it. I was personally offended. And you should be too.
The editorial was sparked by a lawsuit filed by Futurewise and SEIU 775, seeking to keep I-960 off the ballot because it is outside the scope of the initiative process. The Times argues such pre-ballot review is dangerous:
We believe their lawsuit should fail because it would undermine the rights of the people to petition their government.
The courts have an obligation to rule on the law, not policy or public opinion, and the fact that the Times once again attempts to influence a judicial decision tells you everything you need to know about how deeply flawed our system of electing judges really is. But that’s a subject for another post.
What I find most offensive about this editorial is not the arrogant judicial bullying or the inherent hypocrisy, but the fact that the Times chooses to shamelessly lie to its readers in order to score a cheap rhetorical point.
A few initiatives have been tossed off the ballot. […] The only statewide example was an initiative years ago that tried to change the U.S. Constitution.
That is simply untrue. There was another, more recent example of a statewide initiative tossed off the ballot on a scope challenge, and the Times knows it. In fact, four years ago they editorialized in support of using pre-ballot review to deny the people the right to petition their government.
Of course, I’m referring to I-831, my initiative to officially proclaim Tim Eyman a horse’s ass. The Times wrote:
David Goldstein has accomplished something. The Seattle computer programmer has successfully placed the phrase “horse’s ass” into dozens of family newspapers.
As if I held a fucking gun to their heads. But I digress.
Goldstein calls I-831 an attempt to reform the initiative process by highlighting Eyman’s abuse of it. Goldstein abuses it himself. The sort of law that names a citizen and condemns him by proclamation is called a bill of attainder. It has been forbidden for 200 years. Calling someone an animal part may not strictly be called a bill of attainder, but it leans that way. Taken seriously, a court would have to throw out I-831.
The Times knew that I-831 was tossed out on a scope challenge. It was cited as precedent in the Futurewise/SEIU complaint. The Times editorialized in favor of the scope challenge, and reported on the court’s decision. Just last month I even challenged the Times:
I dare you to prove me wrong. Four years ago you editorialized against a joke initiative, urging the court to bar I-831 from the ballot simply because it offended your delicate sensibilities. Do you have the balls to stand by your defense of pre-ballot scope challenges as a legitimate legal exercise?
They knew that I knew that they knew all about Goldstein v. Gregoire — and they surely must have known that I would publicly excoriate them if they pretended it never happened. And yet, they simply didn’t give a flying fuck.
I have in the past attacked Times editorials for lies of omission, but this was an out and out, deliberate lie of fact. They wrote that the “only statewide example” was the Philadelphia case, when they knew that it was not, and they did so because it was more convenient than acknowledging the truth. It was a rather trivial lie, but a lie nonetheless, and in telling it they disrespected me, and they disrespected their readers.
Not that the rest of the editorial is a paragon of virtue, consistency or logic.
There is a contrary idea that initiatives are junk that somebody wrote on the back of a napkin. They may start that way, but all of them go to the Code Reviser’s office, where they are put into legal language. The ballot title comes from the Attorney General’s office, and is subject to challenge in court.
I-831 went through the Code Reviser’s office, without a single change suggested, and its ridiculously non-descriptive ballot title came out of the Attorney General’s office and a court challenge. Yet according to both the Times and the court, my initiative was perfectly ripe for pre-ballot review.
The Times ridiculed me by name for attempting “to reform the initiative process by highlighting Eyman’s abuse of it,” while the AG spent pages warning against the dangers of using the initiative process merely to send messages. Yet that is exactly what the Times now lauds Eyman for with his wildly unconstitutional I-692:
That is how car tabs were lowered: the people voted to lower them, the court threw the measure out, and the Legislature lowered them anyway. The political message got through.
Surely the Times couldn’t be arguing that some people should get to use the initiative process to send political messages, and some should not?
And while the Times now frets that the lawsuit seeks to expand scope challenges “from a narrow set of voter initiatives” to those that “violate the Constitution in other ways,” that was exactly what they urged the court to do in regards to I-831:
The sort of law that names a citizen and condemns him by proclamation is called a bill of attainder. It has been forbidden for 200 years. Calling someone an animal part may not strictly be called a bill of attainder, but it leans that way. Taken seriously, a court would have to throw out I-831.
Hell, the Times didn’t even argue that I-831 should be tossed out because it was unconstitutional, but simply because “it leans that way.”
(And FYI, I never called Eyman “an animal part,” I called him a fool. Anybody who doesn’t know the difference between metaphor and analogy doesn’t deserve to be writing op-eds for a major American newspaper. And anybody who intentionally blurs the difference doesn’t deserve to be either.)
The Times claims to “defend the right of initiative,” arguing that the lawsuit “would expand the power of political groups to shrink the people’s choices before an election.”
Yeah, right. Because apparently, the only people who should have the right to “shrink the people’s choices before an election” are stick-up-their-ass assistant AGs and the sanctimonious serial liars at the Seattle Times.