The US Senate today approved cloture on debate on the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), a bill that would finally allow states to collect sales tax from out-of-state resellers. The motion to end debate and proceed passed the Senate by a 70 to 20 margin, indicating that there is more than enough support to carry the bill through final passage, a vote that could come as soon as Thursday.
The bill would then move to the Republican-controlled US House, where its prospects are considerably bleaker. "The chair is not supportive yet, so we haven't got a hearing," Representative Suzan DelBene tells me. DelBene, the freshman Democrat from Washington's 1st Congressional District sits on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, the body that would initially hold hearings on the bill assuming the Republican leadership allows hearings to be held. DelBene says that there is bipartisan support for the bill, but that Judiciary chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is at best "lukewarm."
At stake is an estimated $11 billion a year in uncollected taxes, more than $1 billion in state and local taxes per biennium in Washington State alone. "It has such a huge impact on state an local revenues," says DelBene, a former Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) director.
DOR spokesperson Mike Gowrylow confirms that thanks to our participation in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, the state would be ready to begin collecting revenue in 2014. In February, DOR estimated that MFA would generate $284 million in additional state and local revenue for the 2013-15 biennium, rising to $1.1 billion by 2017-2019 as compliance improved.
That would sure would make writing future budgets a little easier compared to the current Olympia shitshow.
So why the Republican opposition in the House? The no-new-tax-under-any-circumstance Grover Norquist wing of the GOP has declared the MFA to be a tax increase. It is not. Technically, states already require residents to declare and pay a "use tax" on out-of-state purchases. Almost nobody does. The MFA would merely enable collection.
And many online merchants (me included) have long feared that interstate sales tax collection would impose a backbreaking burden on small businesses. But the MFA addresses those concerns, exempting remote sellers with less than $1 million a year in sales, and shifting much of the cost of collection onto the states. I've checked out some of the free online sales tax collection software that's already out there. It looks pretty good.
As the most sales tax dependent state in the nation, Washington's got the most to gain from the bill's passage. Yet none of our state's four Republican representatives have taken a public position on the bill. "Voters need to ask them where they stand on it," urges DelBene.
And while you're at it, you might want to ask Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, Dave Reichert, Doc Hastings, and Jaime Herrera Beutler to place the interests of Washington State above those of Grover Norquist.
...is back on Twitter. And it sure looks like he's running for mayor of New York City. I'm all for post-sex-scandal comebacks—I didn't think Weiner should've resigned from Congress in the first place—but I can't support Weiner for mayor.
Here is a thing that baffles me: On a road trip through Idaho last year, I saw a lot of anti-wind-energy billboards. Whoa. Who is actually against wind power? Up until then, it hadn't occurred to me that anyone could be. The basic argument seems to be that wind farms are unsightly or invasive. But there was another billboard argument I saw that was so weird I almost thought I'd dreamed it. One of the billboards compared wind farms to prostitution. It was insane, but I didn't get a picture because, you know, driving. This weekend, a friend who was driving through Idaho snapped one and sent it to me:
If you can't read it, that says: "CAUTION RED LIGHT DISTRICT AHEAD! Wind Development, not the oldest profession, but the result is the same."
Ummmmmm... what?!? The result of wind energy is the same as the result of prostitution? Because wind turbines have little red lights on them so planes don't fly into them? And wait, what's the "result" of prostitution? Sex? Money? The website the billboard's advertising is just this, a simple list of articles that paint wind power negatively. There is not an explanation of why wind farms are such whores.
On the same trip, I saw this totally different billboard about prostitution and meth, which broke my brain with its awfulness. Is she not your daughter anymore? Who's on meth here, anyway? And why is a sex worker such an effective bogey(wo)man on rural highways? It felt like an obsession.
On the other hand, the windstitute billboard has added another dimension to my vocabulary. "I have to wear this dress to see my folks later, do I look like a total wind farm?" It's highly entertaining.
I've never met Marilyn McKenna—like most of my coworkers, I've only had the pleasure of being forcefully ignored and shut out of press events by her husband—but like Dan, the more I hear about her, the more I like her. Take yesterday's profile in the Seattle Times, which covers her relationship with food, her dramatic weight loss, and her evolving stance on gay marriage, all delivered with a refreshing I-don't-give-a-fuck frankness:
McKenna has called Inslee “a legitimate moron”; said that she would eat dog food if it had peanut butter on it; and admitted to ogling the much-younger lifeguard at the local YMCA.
“What can I say? I’m married, not dead,” she told me the other week. “Twitter is fun. I enjoy talking to people. I use it like you would a diary.”
So what brought on the change from quiet, conservative political wife to someone who admits to sleeping in a Hooters T-shirt?
I'm lukewarm on dog food but I'd enthusiastically ogle lifeguards with Mrs. McKenna.
My brother Michael called me early on the morning of 9/11 with three messages: Turn on the television now; oh my god this is happening; and brace yourself for a war, violent racial profiling, and the disintegration of Constitutional standards for searches and trials. Here we are 12 years later, and his predictions were dead right: Afghanistan, Iraq, a spike in mortal hate crimes, the Patriot Act. I don't think those changes made our nation altogether safer, honestly. In many ways, they make this place more dangerous for lots of law-abiding people. But I don't disagree with everything we did, either. The US military should try to dismantle Al Qaeda. But all in all, I'm skeptical of our government's knee-jerk security.
It's as if the US had an allergic reaction to terrorism almost as bad, or in some cases worse, than the antigen that triggered it—a sort of anaphylaxis that suffocated civil liberties and rational discussion.
But ever since last Monday, since the Boston bombings, I've been doing something I don't usually do: hoping that cameras were videotaping every action along Boylston Street, along the entire marathon route, and, hell, every street in that city. I hoped that ocean of footage would be combed by law enforcement, who could crosscheck it with massive databases—databases that contain god knows what—that include every clue about the suspects' identities and every record the federal and local governments had on file, from cell phone calls to light bills.
I went to bed thinking about how, possibly, the FBI could sift through the files to catch those motherfuckers. But that's not normally how I want federal law enforcers to behave. And if I could feel that way—a civil-liberty crusading liberal who harbors a fairly deep distrust of federal law enforcement, particularly when it involves tracking the movements of innocent civilian in public—hundreds of millions of other people probably did, too.
That line of thinking has since spurred an outcry for politicians to engage in more video surveillance. Even though some US cities already have cameras, many of them private, the apparent usefulness of the video in Boston is compelling folks to say we need more of them to fight terrorism and even day-to-day crime.
"I do think we need more cameras," GOP Representative Peter King of New York said on Tuesday, responding to the bombings. He called cameras "a great law enforcement method and device" that "keeps us ahead of the terrorists, who are constantly trying to kill us."
"We Need More Cameras, and We Need Them Now," said a headline across Slate on Thursday. "Cities under the threat of terrorist attack should install networks of cameras to monitor everything that happens at vulnerable urban installations," says the piece by Farhad Manjoo, who also points out that "we should think about how cameras could help prevent crimes, not just solve them once they’ve already happened."
That's a romantic proposal: Affix these gadgets to every cornice in America and prevent crimes from happening in the first place.
President Obama's speech Thursday concluded with what almost sounded like a dare to terrorists and a challenge to America, a challenge to gird ourselves sufficiently to prevent another attack: "This time next year on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon," Obama thundered. He promised that America would be back along that 26.2-mile route—and I'm certain that we will. I'm also certain that every inch of it will go recorded. And don't plan on taking your backpack. But like Manjoo says, it's not just Boston that must arm itself with digital eyeballs. It's every city vulnerable to attack, which, of course, is every city.
“I will say, as I always have, because we have continued to put cameras throughout the city for security… purposes, they serve an important function for the city in providing the type of safety on a day-to-day basis—not just for big events like a marathon, but day-to-day purposes,” said Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday.
Cameras are relatively inexpensive, storing data gets easier and easier, and law enforcement has never met a camera it didn't like. England has four million cameras and London has an estimated half-million cameras. By comparison, US cities have very few. In response to 9/11, about 3,000 surveillance cameras were installed in Lower Manhattan for the "Ring of Steel." And it showed that after 9/11, America's traditional resistance to casual surveillance—a resistance to being videotaped because our culture defends privacy, believes in anonymity, and champions free association—got blown up by the terrorists, too.
"I think the public, because of how spectacular these kinds of events are in terms of the imagery, they have the capacity to really incite a lot of fear," says Adam Molnar, a PhD candidate who is conducting research on security for major sporting events at the University of Victoria, in a phone call. "Typically, there is a public response to try to throw everything we can at a problem like this so it doesn't happen again. After an event like this, you often see a dramatic push to increase surveillance, which usually includes the government, the public, and private-sector emergency management professionals."
Nobody I've spoken to says video surveillance isn't useful or doesn't have its place. But whether or not surveillance cameras make us significantly safer is a matter of debate:
The reader poll next to that article online, asking if the nondiscrimination ordinance should be passed, is currently at 53 percent "no." Meanwhile, yesterday, the paper reported on a "threat" to a city council member over the vote:
Councilman Jim Johnston said he received a call on his cellphone Saturday from local businessman Kevin Lish. Johnston says that Lish told him he would take his business to Idaho Falls if Johnston didn’t vote in favor of the nondiscrimination ordinance. The Pocatello City Council is set to discuss the ordinance on Thursday.
Johnston said he felt the call was a threat, and it frustrated him. He said it’s not fair to do something to hurt Pocatello’s economy over decisions made by city officials.
Here's hoping it passes.
In debating a bill that would repeal a 70-year-old ban on retailers selling loss-leaders, Oklahoma House of Representatives Co-Majority Leader Dennis Johnson (a Republican, of course) argued that service is more important than price at his appliance store, explaining of his customers: "They might try to Jew me down on a price."
About 20 seconds later, after being passed a note, Johnson makes all better. "I apologize to the Jews," a contrite Johnson says to a round of nervous laughter from his colleagues. Then he goes on to flatter us: "They're good small businessmen as well."
In Johnson's defense, at least he didn't use the phrase "nigger-rigging."
I took the Slog drone down to yesterday's anti-drone protest at Westlake Plaza, and to answer your first question: No, I didn't fly it. Just carried it around in a cloth shopping bag, showed it to a few people, took it out for a moment and let it see the stage.
The first speaker was Peter Lumsdaine of the Alliance to Resist Robotic Warfare and Society. (He asked that I link to the group's e-mail address as they don't have a web page yet.) "We need to look very, very carefully at this idea that there are good drones and bad drones," Lumsdaine warned.
Lumsdaine sees drones ushering in a "new era of planetary history," perhaps "a Terminator future" in which drones will "autonomously enforce their own agendas and their own programming."
He said this prospect, as well as the way the U.S. government is already using drones for overseas strikes, tell him that "we need to move from education to action, and we need to move from protest to resistance."
If people don't start to push back against drones, Lumsdaine was saying, it may soon become too late to do anything. For inspiration, he cited the Luddite Uprising.
Another speaker, Bill Ditsler, referenced a statement President Obama made about the bombings in Boston. "Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians," Obama said, "it is an act of terrorism."
Ditsler then said of Obama: "He must know he's talking about himself."
After that, a young woman read a list of names of children she said were killed by Obama's overseas drone strikes. Others mentioned last week's McClatchy expose. Lennon's "Imagine" was played. So was Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."
First, Mark Barden, the father of 7-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim Daniel, spoke: "What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere. In any instant, any dad in America could be in my shoes." He detailed the work of Sandy Hook parents who came to DC weeks ago to hammer out gun legislation with senators—legislation they watched fail today. "We'll return home now," he continued, "disappointed but not defeated... We don't have the luxury of turning back." (Any senators who helped block gun control and watched him say that without feeling enormous pangs of guilt and shame should go take the sociopath test and see if they have a problem.)
Then it was Obama's turn, and he ripped into the Senate and the gun lobby, repeating many times that 90 percent of Americans support background checks—in fact, he pointed out, "most Americans think that's already the law"—and talking of Sandy Hook parents and other gun-control advocates who have been imploring the Senate to act. "Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders, not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children," he said. "A few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn't worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even as these families looked on from the Senate gallery." (Or as they shouted "Shame on you!" from the gallery, as the case may be.)
He said gun-control opponents "willfully lied about the bill," that senators "caved to the pressure," that the legislation met the test of saving lives while not infringing on second amendment rights but "too many senators failed theirs," and then he called on the American people to lobby their elected officials themselves, to compete with the NRA. "They're better organized, they're better financed, they've been at it longer," he said of the gun lobby, "and they make sure to stay focused on this one issue during election time... To change Washington, you the American people are gonna have to sustain some passion about this."
"All in all," he said, "this was a pretty shameful day for Washington."
Full text of Obama's speech will hopefully show up here soon.
President Obama will speak in about 10 minutes on "common sense measures to reduce gun violence," as the Senate goes about blocking those measures one by one. From the New York Times:
A wrenching national search for solutions to the violence that left 20 children dead in Newtown, Conn., in December looked close to collapse on Wednesday after the Senate defeated a bipartisan amendment to gun safety legislation that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers, and it appeared poised to reject several measures to expand gun control.
Watch video here.
Remember Eden Foods' lawsuit trying to avoid covering contraception for its employees? The lawsuit that said contraception "almost always involve[s] immoral and unnatural practices contraception"?
Well, Slog tipper leek just passed on this statement from Eden Foods' president. Seriously, "lifestyle drugs"?!? I guess having sex and not wanting to get pregnant is just a lifestyle choice. The other lifestyle choice would be celibacy or the Duggars, I guess?
17 April 2013
Please be discerning consumers. Grotesque mischaracterizations about Eden Foods' action related to the Health & Human Services (HHS) mandate, Affordable Care Act, are most regrettable.
On March 21st, 2013 a press release announced our lawsuit against the unconstitutional government overreach in the HHS mandate. This announcement was made to the media and general public. We apologize for the unintended consternation given rise to by this action.
Eden Foods' health care provider is required by the HHS to comply with all details of the Affordable Care Act. Parts of the mandate violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. This overreach of the federal government infringes on religious freedoms.
It is discriminatory that not all employers have to comply with the HHS mandate. Millions of people and thousands of companies are exempt. The exemptions under the Act are illogical, inconsistent, and contributing factors to our lawsuit. For instance, McDonald's Inc. and 166 unions are exempt. Small employers are exempt. Individuals who practice certain faiths are exempt, while individuals who practice other faiths are not. Federal employees are exempt, and this is hypocritical. There is no exemption for the religious freedoms of employers.
Eden employee benefits include health, dental, vision, life, and a fifty percent 401k match. The benefits have not funded "lifestyle drugs," an insurance industry drug classification that includes contraceptives, Viagra, smoking cessation, weight-loss, infertility, impotency, etc. This entire plan is managed with a goal of long-term sustainability.
A memorial service for longtime Democratic political consultant Blair Butterworth will be held Sunday, April 21, 10:30 a.m., at Town Hall, Seattle. Butterworth died March 29 at age 74, after a long battle with cancer.
I really liked Butterworth. I get along just fine with nearly all the consultants (secretly, even some of the Republican ones!), but by the time I met Butterworth he had settled into a wise old uncle role that I found both welcoming and instructive. Butterworth had a knack for being brutally blunt without ever coming off as either unfriendly or dismissive. And he was almost always good for a quotable quip:
Butterworth is admirably succinct when asked what he thinks of Vance's contention that the Republicans have a new message and less abrasive tone that will put them back in the game. "It's bullshit. Vance is in denial," he says. Butterworth contends that since 1988, when Pat Robertson's Christian soldiers hijacked the Republican Party caucuses, the state's Republican base has been dominated by anti-government wackos: "It's awfully hard to recruit a great athlete to play on your team if you hate the game."
Politics is a nasty, adversarial game, and it's got to be played that way if you're playing to win. Beyond his skills as a political operative, Butterworth's gift was that he excelled at this profession without ever losing his humanity or his sense of humor. He will be missed.
There's a big ol' beer fight brewing in Olympia right now, and beer fans and brewers are throwing a rally at the Capitol this Friday at noon to "Defend Washington Beer" by fighting an extension and increase of beer taxes.
Some background: A couple of years ago, Washington State temporarily raised its beer excise tax in a big way, exempting our many small-scale brewers in the process. It was a 50-cent-per-gallon increase on beer sold in the state by large breweries (meaning those that produce more than 60,000 barrels a year), which works out to about $24 per barrel—a big increase from around $8 a barrel before. For breweries not hitting that 60,000-barrel mark, the tax was (and still is) just under $5 a barrel. The only local brewery large enough to even qualify for the increase was Redhook; the other companies whose beer got a tax increase were big out-of-state beer giants.
To be clear, this is a tax paid when beer is sold; it's passed on to you, the consumer. In 2010, when this beer tax was proposed, the big companies fought it some, but consumers seemed to largely brush it off—it was a few cents more per six-pack, and on corporate beer after all.
But this year, Governor Inslee has proposed making the surcharge permanent as well as eliminating the exemption for smaller breweries, all in service of education funding. And given that we have an incredibly vibrant microbrewery culture here, this time around, people are getting righteously pissed.
Extending this tax to all our small breweries will add up to about $20 per barrel of delicious, locally produced, local-job-supporting beer, effectively quadrupling the current tax rate. A separate house budget proposal put forth by Dems would basically double the tax rate for small brews while lowering the tax a bit on the big guys. (It'll still end up higher for large breweries, just not by as much as before.)
The beer nerds at Seattle Beer Blog have been covering this very well here. And your favorite brewers themselves have been raging, most recently Georgetown Brewing Company's cofounder and owner, Roger Bialous, who laid it out this morning:
To have some context for the house proposal, it is important to understand that in the old days, small brewers paid $4.78 per barrel and big brewers paid $8.08. Then, three years ago, big brewers got hit with an additional $15.50 per barrel, bringing their total to $23.58. That is really high. Small brewers were mercifully exempted from this. To our credit, over that time (and the whole time, frankly) our industry has done nothing but create jobs and pump money back into our state’s economy buying hops from the Yakima valley and malt from Vancouver, and of course our employees spend their checks in the towns where they live.
Bialous's full statement is below the jump, and a good read. Essentially, small brewers (and their customers) are arguing that the state's beer industry should be treated with a little more care and respect, since it's a point of pride for the state and a boon to the economy. The Dems argue that we need to fund education somehow, and it's incredibly tempting to pass sin taxes—it's hard to pick the "beer" side in the argument "beer vs. children."
But Olympia may have seriously underestimated the beer culture around here and how willing people may be to put up a fight.
Yup, that's Washington State Republican Party chair Kirby Wilbur auctioning off a Plinker Plus Flat Top AR-15 assault type rifle, a weapon similar to the one Adam Lanza used to murder 20 children and six adults. And Republicans wonder why they have trouble connecting with Seattle area voters.
I've been wondering how long it would take for US activists engaged in border sabotage to make it into print.
Some Israeli anarchists have practiced (mostly symbolic) border sabotage off and on for years. But the US-Mexico border, and its policing, has seemed like a ripe, highly visible, highly politicized target for a long time. One of the prime chants at last year's May Day protest in Seattle, for example, was: "Cops and borders, we don't need 'em, all we want is total freedom." (There's a strong dose of irony in that chant—"all we want" sounds like it's framing something minimal, but the subsequent demand for "total freedom" is so huge it seems impossible.)
But this article in Jacobin magazine—have you been reading this new, slickly designed, smart, funny, and unapologetically Marxist publication?—has a profile of and interview with "Immigrant X," a person or collective engaging in border sabotage. Here's a taste:
Enter Immigrant X: an alternative universe of fictionalized anti-border renegades, the brainchild of a group of pseudonymous bloggers who operate as an imagined community of grassroots anti-border activists located in an unnamed “Western democracy.” The team includes a saboteur who works for the immigration authorities, along with a network of clandestine border resisters with anarchist leanings. Together they operate an underground railroad that liberates migrants from detention.
Their stories describe sabotaged raids, a network of underground safehouses. In one post, “Raid Interrupted,” the rebels get tipped off in advance of raids and share the intelligence with migrants whom the immigration agents have targeted, and try to spirit them away to a hideout, a friendly squat. In another dispatch, they use their own remote controlled drones to disrupt an enforcement action:
@Immigrant_Z Keep it in position. I crowd is gathering. The border policewoman looks really flustered.
ImmigrantX Wed Mar 06 2013 at 3:52 PM
@Immigrant_Z Take it up. She wants to take a swing at it with a baton.
ImmigrantX Wed Mar 06 2013 at 3:53 PM
@Immigrant_Z The person she stopped has walked off, good one. Get it high, she is pretty close.
ImmigrantX Wed Mar 06 2013 at 3:54 PM
That is proposing a very dangerous game—we've seen how the federal government reacts to the smashed glass of a courthouse door. I can barely imagine the force and size of the hammer they would try to bring down on people actively and publicly sabotaging US border enforcement.
1. Your rights as a world citizen are not defined by your race, religion, place of birth, nationality or lack of. They are afforded to you by your existence.
2. Wherever you live on this earth you have the same rights as all those who live in your community not matter how or why you came to this place.
3. A law that is unjust should be disobeyed through ingenuity and creativity not by violence or hurt those we oppose or seek to help.
People have been saying "I am a citizen of the world" ever since that proto-anarchist patron saint Diogenes of Sinope. But Immigrant X wants to prove it.
President Obama is putting Republican-pleasing cuts of Social Security and Medicare in the budget abattoir—which means Republicans will take them and they will happen. Or maybe not, if Obama asks for too-meaningful tax hikes for businesses and the individual wealthy:
It had been building since mid-2011, when the president, in private negotiations with Speaker John A. Boehner, tentatively agreed to the new formula for calculating cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security; economists recommend the formula as more accurate, but it would mean smaller increases for Social Security beneficiaries. Even so, Democrats in Congress and the White House agree that the party would have supported Mr. Obama back then if a compromise deal had come to a vote.
But the 2011 talks, just like a second round of negotiations in December, collapsed after Mr. Boehner declined to agree to Mr. Obama’s counterdemands: new taxes on the wealthy and on some corporations, and job-creating investments in infrastructure projects, research and education.
Funny thing about that—I'm reading David Graeber's great new book, The Democracy Project, about the roots (recent and deep) of Occupy Wall Street. He points out almost breezily, in an aside about the auto industry and the golden age of US capitalism:
The regular corporate tax rate under President Dwight Eisenhower was 52 percent, and the top personal tax rate, that applied for instance to corporate executives, was 91 percent. At the time, the bulk of government revenue was derived from corporate taxes. High corporate taxes encouraged executives to pay higher wages (why not distribute the profits to one's workers, and at least gain the competitive advantage of grateful and loyal employees, if the government would otherwise take it anyway?); government used the tax revenue to build bridges, tunnels, and highways. These construction projects, in turn, not only benefited the auto industry, they created more jobs, and gave government contractors the opportunity to enrich the politicians who distributed the booty with hefty bribes and kickbacks. The results might have been ecologically catastrophic, especially in the long term, but at the time, the relationship between corporate success, taxes, and wages seemed like a surefire engine for permanent prosperity and growth.
Those were the days—when corruption and the public good had a symbiotic relationship. What was good for General Motors actually was good for America, in a perverse and bank-shot way. But what you can you do to help our dire situation now?
There's only one serious solution: Live fast, die young, and save Social Security! Your country—and future generations—will thank you.
Seattle Transit Blog has a great piece showing how Seattle City Council president Sally Clark is engaging in misleading anti-transit politics and trying to smear the pro-transit mayor. The council likes to pretend they're the "adults in the room." But it's the council's leader who is acting childish.
King County Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block construction of a new Sonics arena in Sodo. The lawsuit had claimed that the public financing component of the arena deal violates the terms of Initiative 91 by failing to return a "fair value" to taxpayers.
“We agree with Judge Middaugh’s ruling that the I-91 lawsuit brought against the City and the County is not ripe," Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement. "If the Councils do choose to go forward to issue bonds, we are confident that the proposed financial structure will result in a final deal for the Arena that provides a fair market return that is more than sufficient to meet the intent of I-91."
Not that it matters. All it would take to override I-91 would be a simple majority vote of the council. And barring some unexpectedly bad news from the environmental review, it's hard to see such a vote not passing if Hansen already has a team in hand.
C'mon, food companies. Do you never learn that consumers and journalists like to find out your awful corporate secrets and then post about them on the internet?
From Irin Carmon at Salon, on Eden Foods (maker of Edensoy soy milk, among many other things):
Eden Foods—an organic food company with no shortage of liberal customers—has quietly pursued a decidedly right-wing agenda, suing the Obama administration for exemption from the mandate to cover contraception for its employees under the Affordable Care Act. In court filings, Eden Foods, represented by the conservative Thomas More Law Center, alleges that its rights have been violated under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Eden Foods, which did not respond to a request for comment, says in its filing that the company believes of birth control that "these procedures almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices." The complaint also says that "Plaintiffs believe that Plan B and 'ella' can cause the death of the embryo, which is a person”... The filing also said that "Plaintiff Eden Foods' products, methods, and accomplishments are described by critics as: tasteful, nutritious, wholesome, principled, unrivaled, nurturing, pure."
When researching the genetically modified ingredients in all sorts of crunchy, hippie foods, I learned well how many people build lists of morally unacceptable food companies that they (and sometimes their co-ops) should boycott. Like after a bunch of larger food companies that own smaller, hippie-ish brands donated money to kill GMO labeling in California, activists took to the internet to make lists of all those small brands so people would know who to boycott.
This is even worse, though. Even people who don't scour ingredient lists (and political donation lists) for perfect morality really care when companies fuck with people's basic rights. See here, here, here—and there's more. Business owners: The humans buying your products often appreciate that other humans deserve things like health care, access to contraception, and sick leave. You would be wise, just for publicity's sake, to not fuck with that.
Thanks, Slog Tipper Mr. Herriman!
Jonathan Eig, one of the best sportswriters out there, did today what he does best: reframe the question.
The ongoing controversy over whether Manti Te'o is gay, homophobic comments by NFL players, and so on, along with the release of 42, the new movie about Jack Robinson and Branch Rickey integrating MLB, led Eig to ask a new question: not, When will some gay athlete come out while still playing professionally? No, he asks:
What if [some team owners] made it a mission to discover and sign the first openly gay player? What if an owner told his scouting department to find such an athlete, and made it clear to the athlete that he was committed to his success on and off the field, as Rickey did for Robinson?
Would it matter if the owner were motivated in part by the desire to make money? Would it matter if he were trying to broaden his team’s fan base? Would it matter if he were responding to political pressure?
The thought of government drones buzzing overhead monitoring the activities of law-abiding citizens runs contrary to the notion of what it means to live in a free society.
Also, here are some guys in Texas shooting down a drone of exactly the kind that spied on Paul Constant the other day. They say they were inspired by Charles Krauthammer, who has declared: "The first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that's been hovering over his house is going to be a folk hero in this country."
In last week's paper, we wrote about Matthew Duran and Katherine Olejnik, two of several grand-jury refusers who were subpoenaed, hauled before a grand jury and a federal prosecutor (without a defense attorney in the room), asked to testify about other people's political opinions and social affiliations, refused to answer on the grounds that the questions were McCarthyesque, then thrown into prison for an indefinite period of time. (That's a simplification. More about the details at the link above, plus here and here and here.)
The two spent about half a year in the joint (losing employment and housing arrangements in the process), including a good chunk of time in solitary confinement, then were released, leaving one behind.
That one, Maddie Pfeiffer, has been released today by Judge Richard A. Jones, according to a one-sentence email from Pfeiffer's attorney I received a few minutes ago.
At this point, we still don't know the whys and wherefores—and the office of US Attorney Jenny Durkan and Warden Jack Fox of the SeaTac Federal Detention Facility have still refused to answer the four pertinent questions:
1. Who decided these people should be hauled in front of a grand jury (since they weren't even in Seattle when the vandalism crimes were committed)?
2. What was the argument to do so?
3. Who decided the three (plus a fourth, Leah-Lynn Plante, who was released several months ago) should be placed in solitary confinement, the most punitive thing that our legal system can legally inflict on a person, short of execution?
4. What was the reason for placing them in solitary? (For example: Did they break a rule? Were they fighting with other inmates? Were they a demonstrable threat to themselves or others? Were they being punished for their political beliefs? Or were they subjected to a condition the UN has described as "torture" just for kicks?)
Despite repeated requests over a period of months from attorneys, journalists (or at least this one), and the prisoners themselves, nobody in charge of those institutions has seen fit to explain how and why those things happened to four people who were not even charged with, much less convicted of, a crime.
This morning, a group of solar power fans gathered in Ballard to talk about solar power in Washington. It may seem like our less-than-sunny side of the state is not a great candidate for a solar-power revolution, but actually, says Environment Washington in a newly released report, "the Puget Sound region gets as much sunshine as Germany, which is the world's leader in solar energy." And obviously, on the other side of the mountains, there's even more potential.
At this little presser in the offices of Sunergy Systems, a small solar-panel design/install company, activists and Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien crowed about the possibilities of solar power. Environment Washington is calling on Governor Inslee to set a goal: 150,000 solar roofs in Washington by 2020. They point out that solar power is a "triple play"—it produces energy, it cuts carbon emissions, and it's a boost to the local economy. The owner of Sunergy, Howard Lamb, spoke of the growth of the solar industry and said he's looking to hire a few new workers soon to keep up with demand. O'Brien pointed out that "natural gas and oil don't come out of Seattle; we don't build automobiles." Investing in sustainable power like wind and solar could give us a larger local energy economy, and it also "gives customers empowerment over their energy use," he said. They made a strong case.
But Olympia hasn't been cooperating. As with bills about nearly everything you could ever care about, bills relating to solar power and renewable energy haven't gotten anywhere this year. A sales-tax exemption for solar panels (and other renewable energy sources), which small business owner Lamb loves, is set to expire in June, and attempts to renew it didn't get out of the house or into the budget. (Representative Reuven Carlyle tells The Stranger the exemption didn't make it because their analysis showed that "a majority of the benefits are provided to big international energy firms," and they're desperately trying to close inefficient tax loopholes to save money.) A house bill on sustainable-energy incentives, HB 1301, got into the senate and died in committee (just like so many other important, progressive bills).
Environment Washington says that even though none of the solar-friendly legislation they followed and promoted this year passed, they're "hopeful" that Inslee setting a public goal will "propel solar legislation forward in the legislature."
Here in Seattle, we can make our own headway on renewable energy while the state sleeps: As the discussion moved toward how to get more houses to install solar panels, someone pointed out that it was relatively easy to make new buildings solar-ready, so that the basic framework for receiving energy from rooftop solar panels was built into the wiring, if the building owner wanted to install them later. All you'd have to do would be to amend building codes to make that mandatory in new construction.
Slog tipper Luke alerted me to this ridiculous post on Glenn Beck's The Blaze, in which Beck announces that he's better at basketball than President Obama.
The notable thing about this post, though, is the comments, which have gotten even worse than Blaze comment threads used to be. Many of them posit that President Obama is bad at sports because he is gay, and most of them use hateful language that you should avoid reading if you're already feeling bad about the world today. What has dragged out the homophobia on this Blaze story? Is it the fact that this post is about sports, a realm where institutional homophobia is still pretty much acceptable? Is it because President Obama endorsed gay marriage, and so now he must be gay himself? Or does it suggest something larger—the fact that homophobia is finally not accepted in the world at large, so it's forced homophobes from mainstream conservative sites into the political fringes, where Beck now sits?
If you have the moral strength to read terrible comments, or if you have a ghastly curiosity to see what Beck's fandom is like these days, you should join me after the jump. Otherwise, go have a nice day.
Lots of recent articles (including ones in this paper) have been writing around the edges of domestic surveillance drones, clumsily stumbling through the ethics and implications of this new technology. Why the clumsiness? Because this technology is so new, moving faster than the laws or philosophical underpinning that should govern it, that anyone who's trying to sort it all out is basically groping in the dark.
But this piece by Glenn Greenwald—"Domestic drones and their unique dangers," over at the Guardian last month—nails why drone technology is a difference of kind, not just of degree, in state surveillance. It's well-reported, clearly written, lucidly argued, and is required reading for anyone who cares about drones—supporter or critic—or civil liberties.
And the issue of domestic surveillance drones, it turns out, is also an opportunity for hope for those of us worried about state surveillance:
What is most often ignored by drone proponents, or those who scoff at anti-drone activism, are the unique features of drones: the way they enable more warfare, more aggression, and more surveillance. Drones make war more likely precisely because they entail so little risk to the war-making country. Similarly, while the propensity of drones to kill innocent people receives the bulk of media attention, the way in which drones psychologically terrorize the population - simply by constantly hovering over them: unseen but heard - is usually ignored, because it's not happening in the US, so few people care (see this AP report from yesterday on how the increasing use of drone attacks in Afghanistan is truly terrorizing local villagers). It remains to be seen how Americans will react to drones constantly hovering over their homes and their childrens' schools, though by that point, their presence will be so institutionalized that it will be likely be too late to stop.
Notably, this may be one area where an actual bipartisan/trans-partisan alliance can meaningfully emerge, as most advocates working on these issues with whom I've spoken say that libertarian-minded GOP state legislators have been as responsive as more left-wing Democratic ones in working to impose some limits. One bill now pending in Congress would prohibit the use of surveillance drones on US soil in the absence of a specific search warrant, and has bipartisan support.
And for those who wonder why state surveillance matters at all—and especially why it should matter to people who are rules-following non-criminals who think they've got nothing to hide—see this lecture by Mr. Greenwald on the society-wide harms of state surveillance. I'll post one early excerpt from the speech below the jump.
Politico reports on the political-themed speech you wish you had attended today:
Protesters repeatedly interrupted a speech by Karl Rove on Tuesday, calling the former White House adviser a “murderer” and “terrorist” for his role in the invasion of Iraq.
Rove stood his ground against the protesters, and gave a simple answer when one student asked if he would still invade Iraq knowing what he knew today.
“Yes,” Rove said.
Rove also complained of double-standards, saying that protesters would never give Hillary Clinton a hard time for voting in favor of the Iraq War. That's true. No liberals would ever protest Hillary for her vote on Iraq. That is something that has never happened.
As good an April as Mayor Mike McGinn is having, it should've been a spectacular one for challenger Ed Murray. Had Murray served as Senate Majority Leader this session—a post to which he was duly elected by the Democratic majority—he would have triumphantly shepherded a couple of landmark bills into law: The Reproductive Parity Act and the State Dream Act.
Wow. That would've been something. And a couple of additional feathers in Murray's cap. Instead, thanks to Rodney Tom's self-serving treachery, these worthy bills and others are now dead.
I'm not blaming Murray. I'm blaming Tom. He fucked Murray. And voters. This was his doing.
But the point remains: Had Murray been Senate Majority Leader instead of Tom, a lot of worthy legislation would have passed. As it stands, the only major bill to pass the legislature this session has been Governor Jay Inslee's climate change bill, and all that really does is create a commission to recommend proposals.
So, thanks for the gridlock, Rodney Tom!
1. Republican women:
In this month's Public Policy Polling survey of national GOP primary voters, Paul win 22% of men (tied for first place) but only 12% of women (fifth place).
The story was the same in last month's Quinnipiac University poll of national GOP primary voters. Paul nabbed 18% of men (2nd place) but only 11% of women.
In limited state polling, we're seeing the same thing. For example, in PPP's poll of Pennsylvania, Paul won, once again, 22% of men, but only 11% of women.
In PPP's survey of Wisconsin, he took 12% of men and only 5% of women.
Sen. Rand Paul's speech at Howard University this week — the first appearance by a Republican politician at the historically black college in over a decade — will focus on civil liberties issues, but it represents a far bigger test: can a conservative Republican reach a predominantly young, predominantly black audience?