Washington Uprising – A Community Response to Budget Cuts

I think for the next ten days, my thoughts, time, money are on the Washington Uprising.

A bunch of groups are coordinating activities around the State and carrying the message to the Governor and the Legislators in Olympia. Washington State is jumping on the austerity bandwagon. We have a Democratic Governor, Christine Gregoire, who is a reasonable person. Governor Gregoire is no Scott Walker, but she is not fighting for us. She is not fighting for her own values. The War on the Poor has to stop. The Class War is in full gear. The top 2% of wealth and income scale have to be forced to start paying their fair share. Once that happens, we have no need for the cuts. You cannot balance the budget on the backs of the poor and disabled, you have to balance the budget by fixing the revenue streams that fund critical public endeavors like education, health care, parks, transportation, housing, services to the disabled, and so much more.

If trickle down economics worked for the benefit of all of us, if deregulation of private industry created responsible wealth and employment, if the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few created stable communities, we would all be eating rainbow pie by now.

Government serves functions that private, for-profit industries will never address. If there is no money, no profit in it, the globalization capitalists have declared war on it. Prisons are fine because they can be operated at a profit by corporations. We can keep schools are if we can get rid of qualified teachers and privatize education and put control in the hands of private entrepreneurs to create cash flow and train a work force to flip burgers and fry potatoes. Health care is great if we can manage cost and ration care to create stock dividends and CEO bonuses and not get too concerned about the actual health of the population sitting in the waiting room or standing in line at a free clinic.

Have to stop and work on a media project in support of the activities being planned for next week. Hope you can take a day off next week. I am taking the week off to be involved in the activities. If you want to know more about the Washington Uprising, try

We are Washington. It’s one website that organizers are using to get the word out.   Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget is another website that is getting the word out and organizing activities.

Top Ten Reasons Rob McKenna Should Not Be Governor

#10) Indifference to racism in our criminal justice system
Last year, during a KZOK radio interview regarding Farrakhan v. Gregoire, Attorney General Rob McKenna appeared to dismiss the problem of racial discrimination in our criminal justice system when, in response to a direct question about prison race disparity, he answered:

“unfortunately, our prison population is disproportionate based on race, but disproportionality isn’t in and of itself an indication of racial discrimination.”

That was all he had to say on the matter, even though the court found, without dispute, systemic racial bias in our criminal justice system.

Armed with the facts that racial discrimination plagues our criminal justice system at all levels, and asked a specific question about racial disparity in prison, McKenna not only failed to acknowledge the problem, he implied it does not exist.

#9) An enemy of gay rights
In 2004, King County Superior Court ruled that gay couples could marry. County Councilman Rob McKenna responded by warning of the slippery slope to incest and polygamy. From The Seattle TImes:

“[McKenna] criticized the ruling’s wording as too broad and said its argument that there is no compelling state interest to deny marriage to two people in a committed relationship could leave marriage open to blood relatives or those practicing polygamy. “It threatens to destroy all standards we apply to the right of marriage,” he said.”

McKenna has a habit of endorsing rabidly anti-gay candidates, like Hans Zeiger, who has famously called the NEA a terrorist organization and warned that the Girl Scouts are “allied with the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood”, and that their convention “will be a gathering of radical feminists, lesbians, and cookie peddlers”.

#8) We can’t trust what he says
From the start, AG McKenna has maintained that his suit to overturn the Affordable Care Act is intended to reverse only the unconstitutional parts, not the entire bill.

“In a nutshell, this case addresses two aspects of the federal healthcare law: the individual insurance mandate and some of the changes to Medicaid in terms of their impacts on the state. The case does not challenge any of the benefits or expanded programs in terms of what people will receive. All of those benefits — all of those new insurance regulations affecting, you know, preexisting conditions and 26-year-olds being able to stay on their parents’ policies — all of that takes effect. We’re not challenging any of it because I don’t think any of it’s unconstitutional (emphasis added).”

Yet a motion, which McKenna signed off on, asked for, and actually received in Florida, a summary judgement to throw the entire Bill out.

#7) Pro-choice, except when he isn’t
While maintaining he is pro choice, McKenna has supported parental consent and apposed late-term abortions. He was also listed on a Christian Coalition voters guide as a an opponent of “abortion on demand”. We can anticipate that a Governor McKenna will acknowledge a woman’s right to choose, while otherwise supporting every measure to restrict reproductive rights.

#6) Refused to represent the Commissioner of Public Lands
In a power overreach, AG McKenna left Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark twisting in the wind, refusing to represent Goldmark and the State Department of Natural Resources on appeal in a case involving condemnation of DNR property by the Okanogan PUD. From the DNR website:

“It is essential that the Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands has the ability to carry out its fiduciary responsibility to the trusts, and not having counsel leaves the Common School Trust defenseless,” said Goldmark. “The Supreme Court will be answering a very important question around the role of the Attorney General to set policy for the entire state.”

Goldmark was forced to sue AG McKenna to essentially force him to do his job. (The State Supreme court has heard the case, but not yet ruled.)

#5) Anti-union
On the County Council, McKenna fought collective bargaining agreements and efforts to do business with unionized companies. As Attorney General, he characterized collective bargaining by public employees as “dangerous”, and appealed a State Supreme court ruling which authorized teachers unions to use dues for political purposes.

#4) Fighting health care reform
McKenna has gone rogue in his efforts to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – a pursuit of questionable authority, inexplicable in terms other than political, and contrary to the wishes and interests of the citizens he ostensibly serves.

#3) A power monger
McKenna’s policy setting overreach vis-à-vis the DNR and Okanogan PUD dispute, and participation in the suit to overturn the Affordable Care act, are indications that as Governor, he would take the most expansive view of his powers, and use them, as Republican governors do, to further the interests and policy objectives of the far right.

#2) Ich bin ein Teapartier
The following comment by McKenna says it all.

“The grassroots movement reflected in the Tea Party is exactly what this country is about. [snip] “Fewer regulations, fewer burdens upon our employers is what the Tea Party’s about. It’s an economic movement, a fiscal movement. We get that. The lefties don’t get that.”

If that isn’t convincing, I offer this Gingrich-esque opinion of President Obama:

“We have a man who, as president, is far to the left of center, farther to the left of center, I should say, than any American president we have ever seen. Farther to the left than FDR.”

#1) He’s a Republican
We’ve seen what Republican governors have done in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and Florida, to name just a few. Never underestimate the damage a conservative can do at the helm of a state. Christy is destroying jobs in New Jersey while privatizing the government. Unions in Ohio, Wisconson, and other states are under siege, and Rick Scott is systematically enriching himself while undermining the poor and middle class in Florida. Almost everywhere, reproductive rights are under fire and education is being gutted.

There isn’t any bill imaginable that could pass the legislature restricting unions or reproductive rights that McKenna wouldn’t sign. He’s a Tea Party shill that thinks unions are dangerous and President Obama is left of FDR.

Rob McKenna is no moderate Republican. There aren’t any of them left.

The go-slow approach to fixing Washington State's tax system

A letter to a Democratic activist who called for a go-slow approach to eliminating tax preferences. (For background, see Failed KCDCC Resolution a Good Idea and Fair School Funding Coalition.)

Thank you for your well-written and thoughtful analysis.  I admire your commitment to the cause of justness and fairness.  The real “enemy” is conservatives, not fellow progressive Democrats.

You may even be correct that the best approach, legislatively, is a slow, incremental one —  chipping away at tax preferences one by one.   Trying immediately to legislate away the exemptions of Boeing and Microsoft may be inviting disaster or ridicule.

But the important point I want to make is this. Fine, maybe the legislators shouldn’t start by taking on Boeing and Microsoft.  But we grassroots Democrats need to push our political leaders, and the public dialog, to the Left.

After all, it’s just a resolution, and we, as members of the resolutions committee, have no legislative power.  Our legislators and governor largely ignore our platform and resolutions already.   Our job, as grassroots Dems, is to push the envelope — to extend what’s possible.

You see, the problem is that there are very few audible voices calling for the elimination of tax exemptions. The governor and legislators are waiting for others (advocacy groups, the grassroots) to lead. Our leaders don’t lead.

Perhaps the role of groups like the King County P&R Committee should be to start stating the truth: the emperor has no clothes. It’s outrageous that the super-rich get bailouts, subsidies, and tax breaks; they ship jobs and profits overseas.  Meanwhile, the middle class and the poor are getting layoffs, service cuts, and foreclosures.

Republicans always justify tax cuts by calling taxation a “job killer.”  If we let them win that argument, we’ll lose the war.  The political dialog has moved so far to the right in recent years, that Democrats can’t state their truths without being shouted down.  The Right controls the terms of debate and we can barely be heard.

Moreover, as you and others have pointed out, taxes don’t in fact kill jobs. (Anyone have any good documentation of this factoid?)

Boeing prospers off government funding, as a weapons manufacturer. Won’t they support education? Microsoft and Amazon should be even more eager to fund education. Actually, they hire thousands of Asian software engineers on H1-B visas. Entire teams are often foreigners. Could Microsoft have gotten where it is without government services and protections? Government is like the operating system of a nation.

Democrats and progressives need to stop being meek about their values.

Yet I agree that the resolution could and should be amended.  Explicit mention of Boeing and Microsoft should be removed.  (In fact David Spring has done so in a recent revision.)  Already it, reasonably, calls for just a temporary, one-year suspension of the tax breaks.  It could be weakened further to call for, say, a partial elimination of the tax exemptions.  The factual claims can be checked out and corrected, if necessary.  They’re not too far off.   With such changes, it would be a reminder that tax breaks for rich corporations and people are unfair given the inequality of wealth and the cuts we’re facing.

In an ideal world, David’s resolution would be acceptable.  It is, in fact, reasonable.

So, in short, yes, I agree, the legislators may need to go slow with regard to attacking Boeing and Microsoft’s tax preferences; on the issues of taxation in general and the unconstitutionality of I-1053, they should go fast.  But we aren’t legislators. We’re the grassroots. We need to push the envelope to the Left.

The go-slow approach is likely to take too long to succeed.  The Left needs to raise the public’s awareness about the injustice of unfair taxation. Wisconsin and Republican over-reach can help.  Apparently, our legislators and governor won’t.

Science to the Rescue: MIT Creates Synthetic Leaf Power Station?

Dr. Daniel Nocera and his team at MIT have created an artificial leaf that might be able to power a home. Here’s a bit from the story I found at Mail Online with help from Slatest:

About the shape of a poker card but thinner, the device is fashioned from silicon, electronics and catalysts, substances that accelerate chemical reactions that otherwise would not occur, or would run slowly.

Placed in a single gallon of water in a bright sunlight, the device could produce enough electricity to supply a house in a developing country with electricity for a day, Nocera said.

It does so by splitting water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen and oxygen gases would be stored in a fuel cell, which uses those two materials to produce electricity, located either on top of the house or beside it.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1370839/Scientists-Holy-Grail-science-mastermind-worlds-artificial-leaf.html#ixzz1I0NMTV5y

Can Libya Turn Out Well?

I think from the start of the intervention, the military attack, the outcome in Libya has depended on removing Qaddafi from power. If he stays, he will crush his Libyan opponents at a future time and place. If he stays after the intervention, he will sponsor or cooperate with folks who will launch bombings and attacks against Western civilian targets. He’s a murderous, vindictive thug.

Courtesy Wiki CommonsJustice would be nice for a guy like this, but if that means a public hanging like Saddam Hussein got, I would rather see Qaddafi retire to a villa somewhere like Idi Amin did when he was forced out of Uganda (I think Amin’s obit at the Guardian is comprehensive and accurate).

The Guardian is also reporting today that Italy is working to arrange a villa somewhere in Africa where Qaddafi can retire. Frankly, I would rather see the guy moved into Amin’s villa in Saudi Arabia, but I don’t think that is likely to happen.

Obama comes out of this looking pretty good if Italy can persuade Qaddafi to leave Tripoli and Libya. Maybe he should be promoted to General as part of the retirement process?

Libya and the prospects for a “democratic” uprising remain wildly uncertain even if Qaddafi declares victory, accepts a promotion and retires to an Unlibyan villa. Like the other Middle East uprising in Tunisia and Egypt, the prospects for a Libyan democratic awakening are fragile. A military strongman or a Iranian style theocracy are possible to arise from the chaos and struggle, and then these countries are likely to follow the Animal Farm model and we will all see again that the flaw in revolution is corrupt leadership. The instances where an incorruptible leader like Nelson Mandela or Lech Walesa arises to help a revolution in a country develop a democracy with structure and electoral accountability are rare. The long term or episodic outcomes even in these instances do not rule out regression. Look at the election of Hamas in Gaza. How the US and its allies and proxies did not understand that a free election in Gaza would elevate Hamas is a marvel.

Democracies can elect the wrong people. The US might even have some history of that sort. But what is going on in the Middle East is a popular uprising. The masses are tired of living on almost nothing while the rulers of the countries feed steaks to their pet tigers. Real Politiks – the politics of cronyism and temporal security, economic stability create some unfortunate alliances where industrial nations forge bonds with despotic rulers and fail to comprehend the fundamental instability of the countries under despotic rule. Idi Amin is not a good trade partner. Some animals are more equal than others.

On a parallel track, I noticed this morning on the wires that Egypt’s military has decided that Mubarak may not travel out of Egypt. I don’t think this is good news for Mubarak. He should have taken my advice and gone to check on his real estate in London when he had the opportunity.

Joe Bageant has Gone Deer Hunting with Jesus

Joe Bageant died yesterday. He fought a good fight against cancer the past 4 months and kept writing and posting.

Here is part of a piece he wrote not too long ago:

AMERICA: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM?

Ignorance and courage in the age of Lady Gaga

By Joe Bageant
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

Teabags One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.

As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes the savviest among us — those elites who run the institutions — very rich, or safe from the vicissitudes that buffet the rest of us.

I will miss the guy.

We Are One, Put People first: Week of Action, April 5-8

Washington Community Action Network
is holding a Week of Action to demand that our legislators and the governor do the right thing.  Close corporate tax giveaways and stop balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class.

APRIL 5-8 we will take back our dignity and our State.

On April 5-8th, we will take Olympia, our state capitol, as a force to be recognized. The current economic crisis has led to massive job loss, home foreclosures, and cuts to education, health care, child care, and other basic services. People of color, immigrants, low-income people, and public workers are being attacked for this crisis, while big banks and corporations who are the ones responsible enjoy millions in free tax giveaways and profits at our expense.

We know right from wrong and we cannot stand by any longer in silence.

We’ve rallied, marched, lobbied, and testified and they have not moved – now is the time to TURN UP THE HEAT!

United, the community demands that the Governor and State Legislature:

  1. Close corporate tax loopholes
  2. Stop scapegoating our communities, people of color, immigrants, and public workers
  3. Stop the cuts to critical social services
  4. Create jobs

Help us spread the word about the week of action in Olympia!

Take a stand for racial and economic equity!

Transportation, translation, child care, and special needs will be taken care of.

For information or to join our action efforts, contact Jill Mangaliman ~ 206-805-6678 jill@washingtoncan.org

Should WA Dems be helping the Seattle Times?

The Washington State Democrats have sent out a fund-raising appeal so that it can place an ad critical of Rob McKenna in the Seattle Times.  (See http://www.wa-democrats.org/content/our-newspaper-ad.)

This ad calling out Rob McKenna for his attacks on public employee unions is running in today’s issue of The Olympian.

GOAL: We need to raise $6,935 to place this ad in The Seattle Times and keep up the pressure on anti-union forces in our state.

Rob McKenna sure is dangerous, the ad is good, and Dems need to get the message out.  But the Seattle Times was a major opponent of I-1098 (the high-earrners’ income tax initiative), a major supporter of Tim Eyman’s I-1053 (see this editorial),  and a backer of other regressive fiscal policies and candidate.

How sad that Democrats have to give support to their enemy the Seattle Times.     Some Democratic leaders have encouraged Democrats to boycott the Seattle Times.

This situation exemplifies the great need the Left has in Washington State to build a progressive media infrastructure that we control so that we can get our message out.  Of course, that’s no easy task.

Since Democrats control both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, you’d think they’d be able to use their positions to educate the public about issues such as regressive taxation. But at the recent Town Hall meeting on Mercer Island, I heard barely a word from our Democratic representatives about the regressiveness of the tax system.   The Governor sure isn’t leading. Democrats should at least be organizing their messaging.  Or do the state legislators not coordinate with Pelz’ Democratic Party establishment?

Or maybe there are too many “centrist” (Blue Doggish) Democrats-in-name-only legislators.

Sadly, on the issue of revenue and taxation, our leaders are afraid to lead, lest the voters think they’re tax-and-spend liberals.  The result is that the Right controls the messaging in Washington State, as they do nationally.

The PCOs and grassroots activists are mostly progressive, in my experience. Somehow that progressivism doesn’t trickle up to our leaders.

More on the Libyan Question

Juan Cole has an interesting post up at Informed Comment on the current state of affairs in Libya: Top Ten Accomplishments of the UN No Fly Zone.

I find Juan’s analysis of the current state of affairs to be a little encouraging. I understand the break that exists between the folks who do not believe military force should have been used and those of us who were clamoring for protection of the people who were being targeted by the Libyan armed forces. This seems to be posed as an either or situation: either we stand by and let the Libyans settle things themselves or we attack Gaddafi and set up for an Iraq-style invasion. But maybe this is not an either or situation, but a “both and” situation. Maybe there are more options than the either or analysis suggests?

Gaddafi is like Mugabe is like Mubarak is like Papa Doc, he is a guy who has seized and wielded power over a country for decades. People in charge become principles unto themselves, they transcend principles like autonomy or economic justice or populist ambition for a better life. People in charge for decades become institutions and it’s hard to change institutions and yet change will occur. The arc of history bends toward justice because human beings want justice and will work and sometimes fight for it. In any given moment, the arc of history may suggest retrograde movement, but I believe it is two steps forward and one step back. It would be great to never see a step back, but the forces that support and benefit from the status quo fight the human beings who work for expansion of justice, for expansion and protection of human rights because the impact often occurs in a zero sum game where human progress comes at the expense, a pinch on the lifestyle of the ruling class.

It has been a mistake to embrace Gaddafi over the past decades. Even though democracies may embrace retrograde politics at times (Michelle Bachmann anyone?) they do allow for changes in the political direction of a country when enough voters/activists decide a new direction is needed. Leadership that does not answer to the will of the people on a regular basis is a tyranny even when it is popular.

In terms of the “both and” option mentioned above, I am hoping that the international community can identify and commit to means other than military attacks to convince Gaddafi that his time has passed.