Author: Bryan Myrick (Page 1 of 32)

This Vice News Documentary on Racism Looks Chilling

And it’s time for media to put the same spotlight on all forms of hate.

HBO’s Vice News program will begin airing a documentary tonight (8/16) that promises to take an unflinching look at the white supremacist terror movement. The program will include interviews with white supremacists and footage recorded during the explosive and fateful events of the previous several days in Charlottesville, Va.

HBO has put an extended preview of tonight’s episode on YouTube.  I urge you to watch it, but be warned that it is shocking material that could be considered NSFW and unsuitable for younger children.

This is important and timely journalism from HBO.  It’s very likely that a large number of Americans are unaware that the views espoused by the subject of this piece are anything more than throwaway dialogue for historical fiction.  Those who say that the best way to banish these idea is to apply the Voldemort defense — “don’t speak their name because it gives them more power” — are wrong.  More light.  More shame.  More perspective on how small they are compared to the largeness of those who disagree with them.

Vice should also assign a team to compile a similar unvarnished, unfiltered perspective of groups that the left is now holding up as heroes who are in fact not heroes at all.

A primary role of the press in a free society is to raise an alarm when threat to the greater society surface.  The mainstream national media is doing an excellent job running the siren about the boldness of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. They are, so far, doing a fairly awful job when it comes to sounding the alarm about any hate rising in the left.

In fact, the same righteous charge leveled by nearly every mouth talking on CNN Tuesday at Pres. Donald Trump, that his remarks to the press on that day drew inaccurate and immoral equivalencies between white supremacists and antifa thugs that were warring on the ground in Charlottesville, could also apply to their chorus of outrage.  The president’s equivalency wasn’t just immoral, they cried, it was invalid and false to its core because white supremacists are stand for hate, and antifa is about standing up to hate.  Compounding their flawed logic was a wave of social media posts welcoming antifa into the club of heroes that includes U.S. soldiers who fought and died to defeat fascism in World War II.

(Local coverage in cities like Seattle, Portland, and even Berkeley, where the have been face-to-face with left-wing anarchists and antifa thugs tends to be much less afraid to call a spade a spade, or a nail-studded two-by-four a weapon, as is often the case. Direct experience is a potent ingredient in producing honest journalism.)

The problem is that if we’re going to be a society that really does seek to guard itself against hate, it won’t work for the media to be so exclusionary about what it will allow to be labeled hateful.

Whether hatred coalesces like an oily choking smoke cloud around race-based hate or class-based hate, white supremacy or Marxism, really matters less than the hard truth that each of these hate groups targets for demolition the same common set of core values: freedom, equality and tolerance of different opinions.  These hate groups descend from lines of virulent thought that have stacked up staggering body counts.  The fact that they and other opposing groups on the extreme wings are at war with each other shouldn’t trick us, and especially the wise sages in the media, into being stuck with only one white hat and one black hat to use in talking about them.

For Extremism to Fall, Civility Must Rise

It’s time to revoke the moratorium that intellectuals and political thinkers have imposed on a certain mode of argument. From here on out, we should talk openly about the dangers that extreme political groups pose to democratic societies, even if that means we need to talk about (gulp) the lessons that include the history of Nazi Germany.

I want to say at the outset that, although this should be obvious, the United States is not now Nazi Germany. Despite all attempts by the left to portray the U.S. as a teeming majority racist country, there is no evidence that is true, even with the surge in growth among hate groups in recent years. Similarly, conspiracists on the right who project Nazi-esque totalitarian motives onto liberals and Democrats are unhinged and misguided.

Nor does it seem likely that even in the unlikely event that America descends into extremism it would ever feature horrors on the magnitude inflicted by the 20th century’s ethno-fascist powers; our demographic diversity is a bulwark and a deterrent.

Nevertheless, is should be clear that something is not right in the U.S. body politic. It’s time for a sobering check and to consider the true condition of our political health, even if doing so requires denying ourselves to daydream about what we wish it to be.

Not only because of Charlottesville do we need this examination, but also because of Oak Creek, and Dallas, and Baltimore, and so many other recent moments in which hate boiled over and erupted into uncivil violent rage. Charlottesville was a focal point of white supremacist hate; there will be others. Now is the time to condemn that particular brand of evil, but we can do more than one thing at once. We are, after all, Americans. We fought fascism in two hemispheres; we can identify and defeat it on two poles of the political continuum here at home, too. We only need to be brave enough to face it directly. It’s time to face the reality that the dark forces are conducting their war on the fringes but through the middle of the political landscape. There are real potential concerns if the middle doesn’t take steps to confine corrosive insanity to the edges.

The real danger posed by these extreme groups is not their direct impact—their raw influence is overstated, partly due to tactical shrewdness on their part and partly due to media amplification. Under normal circumstances, the clear majority of people intuitively recognize extremists for who they are and insert proper distance from them and their views. But today’s circumstances are far from normal. The real danger posed by extreme groups is different today than in the past 20 years because it manifests at a time when extremists warring in the streets occurs against the backdrop of hyper-polarized politics in the middle (relatively speaking) of the spectrum.

Political machines making maps to nowhere

There are entire machines inside of mainstream politics working to ensure that people see Democrats or Republicans as sympathetic to one extreme or the other. They are good at what they do.

The political maps generated by millions of social media posts, emails, and other forms of messaging is, to be fair, useful—the groups on the fringes are bad folks—but each side isn’t handing out the same map.

Republicans look across the line to see a movement that runs through Black Lives Matter, Linda Sansour’s Women’s March, and culminates in groups such as Antifa, the Muslim Brotherhood and the BDS movement.

Democrats stare over the barbed wire and see the Tea Party, President Trump hardcore base and the NRA coalescing into the alt-right, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

When there is blood in the streets between the extremists (as there was in Charlottesville and has increasingly been in clashes around the nation), the political maps come out. Enemies are identified and history tells us that far too often we use the oft-misleading rationale that an enemy of our enemy is our friend to enter uneasy and unhealthy alliances. We recognize how that method of calculation can backfire by reviewing the checkered realpolitik track record in foreign affairs. It is also the domestic political trapdoor through which the German establishment fell in 1933 and all of the world fell through it with them as the Nazis rose to full power.

German politics in the interwar period—the years between World Wars I and II—were chaotic. Here’s a speed course through the history. Conservatives and progressives tugged back and forth over bitter divisions for control of the parliament; Communists and the fledgling National Democratic Socialists (Nazis) fought violently in the streets for control of towns to gain footholds. Communists and Nazis each accreted a small base of power, and in the end, the balance of the German establishment’s concern went to its fear of communism. The more conservative elements reluctantly hopped into bed with the Nazis who promptly fulfilled their end of the bargain. This bit of Joseph Goebbels speaking in 1933 conveys the story well.

(Hat tip to Ben Shapiro for including this clip from a 2005 British-made documentary “Hitler in Colour” on his very fiery podcast today and prompting me to use it here.)

What do we take from this? Only that democracies aren’t invulnerable and a small or divided political center (in terms of dialogue, not beliefs of agenda) can be manipulated to follow its own interests straight to destruction.

It might be comforting to soothe oneself into blissful ignorance by picking up the flag of American exceptionalism and hugging it like a security blanket, believing that the mere existence of the values the nation was founded upon really do have magical prophylactic characteristics to repel viral forces as they emerge. (Constitution! Kills pesky extremism on contact!)

Because we’re immersed in an automated, push-button, retail on-demand world, it may have become very easy to also think of our way of life as self-cleaning. At times pundits promoting confidence in the durability of our system even speak of self-correction to quell fears about how far instability can really take us.

In reality, our system is not self-correcting at all. Our system requires real moral leadership and real will within the public to utilize the tools the system has provided to cause a correction to happen.

In order for that moral leadership to coalesce, it might be best to set aside Pollyannaish talk about how checks and balances and the oh-so-parchmenty substance of the Constitution form an impenetrable defense against threats to real freedom coming from several directions.  In short, it’s time for us to heed Sinclair Lewis’ warning and stop telling ourselves that it can’t happen here.  It—fascism, whether on the right or the left—can gain a foothold anywhere and when even a nation’s “mainstream” political dialogue becomes nothing more than artillery-grade name-calling across a deep and polarized policy divide, the ground becomes a little too fertile for extremism to grow.

We can do things in an effort to ensure that it won’t happen, but waiting for our leaders to adjust their behavior is not one of them. The hard, cold fact is that politicians are more responsive than they are proactive; they react to stimuli. Pat them on the head for a good deed and they do more good deeds. Smack them on the nose… you get the gist. It is necessary for all people, on both sides, to draw the same tough line for themselves and their political friends as they draw for their foes.

We have everything to gain and potentially so much to lose. Other generations have done their part to preserve the nation. If this is the most ours must do—to let each other know that extremism doesn’t have a home in any legitimate political movement—we’ll have drawn the short straw.

‘Recruit Bill Bryant for Seattle Mayor’ is Launched Online

It has been more than 50 years since Seattle voters elected a Republican mayor, but that’s not stopping some residents from trying to pull former port commissioner and 2016 Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant into this year’s mayoral race.

The effort to recruit Bryant to join what is shaping up to be at least an 11-way contest took shape late Wednesday evening in the form of a website – www.recruitbillbryantformayor.com – asking for visitors to sign a petition.

The pitch to recruit Bryant into the race is an appeal to face reality. From the website:

Seattle is in disarray. Local elected officials are unwilling to address the homeless crisis, unable to keep our cost of living from skyrocketing, and refuse to work with businesses to create good, middle class jobs. Scandals and partisan politics have crippled our city. Enough is enough.

As a former Port Commissioner of Seattle, Bill Bryant has a proven record of protecting our environment, helping the homeless get back on their feet, and creating local jobs here in Seattle.

If you’re tired of the say-one-thing-do-another politicians then sign the petition to recruit Bill Bryant to run for Mayor of Seattle. It’s time we had a mayor who is fighting for all of us – the residents and taxpayers – and not the special interests.

It is the issue of the city’s growing population of permanent homeless, the problems it brings, and the failure of the Democrat-controlled city government to affect any positive change that may make the most compelling case for voters in indigo blue Seattle to consider Bryant.

Some may remember last year when Bryant, during a hotly contested partisan campaign for governor, showed up at a city hearing on homeless policy. According to The Seattle Times, the reaction of the crowd to what Bryant had to say was enough to overcome the inertia of Seattle’s extreme partisanship.

Here’s how angry the overflow crowd was at a Seattle City Hall hearing on homeless camping policies: Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant received an ovation for declaring there should be zero tolerance for camping on public property.

That’s akin to Tom Brady getting a rousing cheer at CenturyLink Field.

The boisterous meeting Friday featured tearful testimony, audience members shouting over City Council members, and a cry for “recall” when Councilmember Mike O’Brien said homeless people have a right to sleep somewhere. The tone was unusual for archliberal Seattle.

Like some others, Bryant, a Seattle resident, said enabling people to live in tents was not compassionate but cruel.

Bryant isn’t alone in his assessment that city policies on homelessness and a host of other plaguing issues are exacerbating problems.

Patti Bishop, a former software entrepreneur and Seattleite since the 1990s, says she will work to get Bryant elected should he step in the race because the need for a change of leadership has reached a tipping point. She cites false compassion in the approaches city hall is taking on critical issues including drug addiction as accelerators of municipal decay.

“We have a beautiful city,” said Bishop. “It’s very sad for many of us to see the direction the city has taken.”

She also believes Bryant would be the only candidate in the race who has identified reasonable solutions. “He’s the only one who’s said, ‘I’m going to address homelessness,’ and had a real step-by-step plan.”

For what it’s worth, if Bryant would consider a run, he played it cool in his statements to the press Thursday most of which followed similar lines to this response he gave to KING-5 political reporter Natalie Brand:

Even to get through the primary, the hill Bryant would need to climb would be steep. In the 2016 gubernatorial race, he grabbed less than 20% of Seattle’s vote. For those who want to retain hope, creative electoral math may yield scenarios to maintain enthusiasm.

If the field of Democrats, socialists and other left-wing competitors for the office continues to expand (there are currently 10 declared candidates), and Bryant occupied the moderate ground on his own, that piece of the pie begins to look slightly more viable in a top two primary. Some will see the prospect of a chaotic scrum as a way of leveling the odds, but the likelihood of narrow margins between candidates increases with every name on the ballot.

Regardless of whether Bryant jumps in and finds enough votes to get through a crowded primary, or jumps in at all, there will still be a void to fill in Seattle politics.

This city that aspires to promote diversity above all else is not just homogeneous in terms of political thought, but the need to conform to canon is policed. When the dominant ideology bears rotten fruit, the policing becomes more severe.

But forced cognitive dissonance is a condition that people do not enjoy living with. They find ways to realign their beliefs with reality. The tool for that realignment may not be Bill Bryant, but it will be someone or something someday.

The petition to recruit Bill Bryant for Seattle mayor can be found at www.recruitbillbryantformayor.com.

Here’s What Happens When a Woman Runs for State Senate… as a Republican

Seattlepi.com blogger Joel Connelly must not have been listening when former First Lady Michelle Obama called for political fighters to “go high.”

The veteran columnist’s first strike following the announcement that a new Republican has entered the pivotal race for state Senate in the 45th legislative district ran under the following headline:

“One of D.C.’s ’50 Most Beautiful’ shooting for Wash. senate”

Hat tip to The Stranger’s Heidi Groover for catching the original headline and posting it to Twitter with a tip from one journo to another:

The offense seems obvious. Instead of inserting any of Englund’s legitimate accomplishments into the headline, Seattlepi.com – and Connelly by association – chose to place a metaphoric tiara onto her head. Only the author of the headline knows for sure if the intent was to inaugurate a gross misconception that Englund is just a pretty face. *

We all know, however, what would happen if a female Democratic candidate received this treatment. A judgment of malice would come swiftly and the Republican candidate in the race would be asked to defend or repudiate obvious misogyny emanating from ‘their side.’

Nevertheless, within a few hours, the headline morphed into something less offensive, though still somewhat inaccurate and obvious in its intent. The scrubbing of the headline heads off a conversation in which uncomfortable questions about double standards practiced by the left would be asked. Have no fear, though. Based on water cooler chatter about how Englund’s candidacy and ethnicity have already been discussed in at least one liberal klatsch, there will be other opportunities.

 

* Ed. On the matter of whether Connelly authored the original headline, normally journalists are able to say honestly that they don’t write their own headlines. There’s no reason, however, to suspect this is the case with Connelly’s pieces, which is why we chose to preserve ambiguity.

To say that Seattlepi.com operates a streamlined editorial process would be a gross overstatement. Stories still run under the banner of a former print newspaper enterprise for which longtime locals have a fond memory, but now the masthead flies like a flag over a derelict ghost ship.

So, based on operational realities of a gutted newsroom (we believe this is sad, regardless of whether we agree with the general slant of Connelly’s writing), and other tell-tale clues that indicate a second set of eyes doesn’t often grace his work, we’re going suspect that Connelly was doing what has become commonplace in most threadbare news organizations – self-editing and self-publishing. There’s nothing wrong with that – we do that here at NW Daily Marker, too, out of necessity since we have literally NO operating budget outside of what the publisher (a.k.a, Me) spends from his own pocket.

Still, the authorship of the headline is relevant in assigning responsibility for what was an obvious and cheap attempt to diminish a woman’s more substantive accomplishments and instead push forward a narrative that her primary achievement is having a pretty face.

Jinyoung Lee Englund Announces in Key Washington State Senate Race

The wait is over. A Republican has stepped into what is likely to be this year’s spotlight race in Washington state.

Jinyoung Lee Englund announced Tuesday that she will run in the special election to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by the untimely death of Sen. Andy Hill.

Jinyoung Lee Englund, candidate for Washington state Senate. [Official campaign photo.]

Englund enters the race almost two months after Democrat and Deputy King County Prosecutor Manka Dhingra tossed her hat into the ring.

Time is money and Dhingra’s head start can be measured in dollars. As of the end of March, Dhingra had raised nearly $200,000, according to reports made to the State Public Disclosure Commission. Don’t expect the imbalance to be anything but temporary, however. Seasoned operatives expect the race to draw in record or near-record dollars from both sides.

The stakes are high. A Democratic win returns to them full control of the Legislature and brings Gov. Jay Inslee’s pen back into the picture as a tool to enact their agenda. A victory by Republicans retains the only solid foothold to stand on when moving forward fresh approaches and putting the brakes on bad ideas.

A Democratic proposal to enact a tax on income earned from capital gains is just one agenda piece that could swing with the 45th. Transportation angst is another and there are many more. So, although voters in the 45th will ultimately determine control of the Legislature, voter anxiety over those questions that will feature in the race is shared by voters statewide.

The full release that accompanied Englund’s announcement can be found on her campaign website.

The Lyrics Have Changed, But the Song Remains the Same: Dems’ New Spin on Income Tax Should be Cast Aside

A broken clock will be correct twice a day, but a broken record will be flawed every time you play it.

House Democrats in Olympia have dropped the needle once more on a tired old loser of a song, a ballad of yearning for a tax on income. They’re banking that this time around they’ll have a hit, but it seems the vinyl is more warped than ever.

One obstacle that proponents of an income tax face is the prohibition in Washington state law against taxes on income. Another is white-hot voter antipathy for the whole idea.

Democrats have orchestrated a cynical workaround that bends language and cudgels logic into submission. House Bill 2186 is the first pressing of that mix, in which – through the magic of word substitution – a tax on capital gains income becomes an excise tax.

Sorry, Democrats. The lyrics may have changed, but the song remains the same. In taxes, just as in biology, there are objective truths that no amount of creative renaming can avoid. I may desire to fly, but I can’t expect to get airborne just by calling my arms wings. Neither can an income tax be called an excise tax just because politicians want a soaring spending plan fueled from a newly tapped well of revenue.

Nevertheless, as the current legislative session winds down, the Democrats are moving forward with a disciplined effort to blur definitions and disorient voters.

On Tuesday, Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) spoke with radio talk show host and veteran political analyst John Carlson on KVI 570 AM. (The entire podcast is also embedded at the bottom of this post. It’s well worth listening to the whole interview.)

Jinkins, now serving a fourth term representing the 27th legislative district, tried to walk Carlson and his listeners through her reasoning about why capital gains aren’t income. Not surprising, her logic was discordant and nonfunctioning.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins: Something qualifies to be an excise tax when you sell something voluntarily and you get revenue from the sale of that. So, the primary example is actually stocks and bonds.

You might buy a stock for $100 and sell it for $1,000. The capital gain is the $900 that you make as income just for selling something. …

It’s a transactional… An excise tax is a transactional tax.

So far, Jinkins isn’t wrong about what a capital gain or an excise tax are, but excise taxes are assessed on gross revenue, not net. It’s a meaningful distinction. Nonetheless, Jinkins strains to lay down a bridge between these disjointed ideas and justify how a tax on capital gains income can be defined as an excise.

Carlson: However, when you sell property or when you sell equity – stocks, bond, etc. – precious metals, whatever – the money that you gain from that that is taxed, that’s income. So, why isn’t this an income tax? You’re taxing me on what I’ve gained in income from selling that investment.

Jinkins: Well that’s, I mean, really this is kind of technical-legal, a technical/legal issue…

Carlson: (interjecting) It shouldn’t be.

Jinkins: If folks are going to argue that the capital gains tax is an income tax, then they’re going to argue that all sorts of things like the real estate excise tax, which the courts have long held is an excise tax and not an income tax under the Washington State…

If you’re still not feeling Jinkins’ groove here, you’re not alone. In fact, using the example of a real estate transaction makes it even clearer that an excise tax is assessed on a transaction, but not on any gain the seller receives. Real estate excise tax is calculated, generally, on the selling price, not the seller’s net proceeds. There’s a reason for that. If it were assessed on net proceeds, it would be a capital gains tax and capital gains are, legally and in common understanding, income.

A key feature of excise taxes is that they apply to the gross amount of a transaction. With capital gains, there can be no tax without gain, but with an excise tax a seller of a good or service would pay the tax even if they lose money. This is simply not true of an income tax.

This creature the Democrats are conjuring – the capital gains excise tax – is an impossibility. Once you realize a gain on the sale of property, you have more than you started with and everyone understands that intuitively as income. Yes, there was technically a transaction that occurred, but a capital gains tax isn’t triggered until a gain is received as income.

Carlson digs into that point further and prompts a backlash from the representative.

Jinkins: The issue of whether or not something is an income tax or an excise tax is really based on long-standing Washington state court decision that define the difference between what’s an income tax and an excise tax. And so this is an excise tax which is based again on the sale of something and the money that you earn on the sale of something and the money that you earn as the result of a sale of something…

Carlson: Or is an excise tax a consumption tax?

Jinkins: That’s what you want to call it because you think that people who hate an income tax will therefore hate a capital gains tax.

Jinkins swipe is ironic. It is obvious that the entire purpose for the Democrats’s word-swapping strategy is to ditch politically radioactive labels while also create confusion with voters. (The idea of an income tax is almost universally understood. Excise, not so much, as is further evidence by Jinkins’ struggle.) The notion of a capital gains excise tax is a chimera born of liberal desperation, but that won’t stop Democrats from attempting to bend reality to suit their needs.

Opponents of an income tax on capital gains are would be wise to aggressively smother this effort now, not only in Olympia, but among the voters at large who are not paying close attention. Once this hungry camel gets its nose under the tent, the odds of getting a favorable interpretation from the state Supreme Court are miniscule and it becomes a matter of tweaking the percentages, caps and exemptions to squeeze more tax out of more Washingtonians.

Many Washingtonians might think to themselves, “This isn’t something I have to deal with anyway.” That could be initially true, but time has a way of turning the tables when it comes to creeping taxation. Even in the initial implementation of such a plan, Washington residents should be consider that in order for state government to know that you did or did not receive any capital gains subject to the tax, a return filing would likely be necessary. Welcome to your newly christened state income tax mechanism.

Voters may yet have a chance to reject (again) an income tax in this newly repackaged form. There’s a good chance that Democrats will queue it up onto the playlist for the spotlight dance later this year in the 45th legislative district special election to decide who will permanently replace the late Sen. Andy Hill.

[Featured image credit: Adobe Stock]

The Seattle Way: Tax Soda, Subsidize Heroin All in the Cause of Public Health

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s proposal to slap a new tax on sugary drinks to promote good public health has irked at least one of the city’s restaurant owners. It should be angering even more Seattle business owners and residents, though not for the obvious reasons.

The mayor’s crusade exposes real inconsistencies and skewed priorities in the city’s approach to critical public health issues. Spoiler alert: Seattle is moving toward subsidizing and enable the use of destructive, addictive, and life-threatening illegal drugs such as heroin with so-called safe injection sites. I’ll get to that a little further down the page, but first…

The city’s lack of response to one White Center restaurant owner’s concerns about Murray’s proposed tax on soda pop prompted a protest of sorts.

Ryan Hopkins, owner of Burger Boss Drive-In, is using his roadside sign to let people know how the proposed tax would affect his customers, and how he feels about it. According to KING-TV:

It’s been pretty quiet around Seattle since Mayor Ed Murray proposed a tax on soda and other sugary drinks, but one small business owner is firing back.

Ryan Hopkins owns Burger Boss Drive-in and said he recently learned that the mayor’s idea could force him to raise prices on his large soda to more than $5.

He called City Hall, and when he didn’t get a response, he posted an eye-catching message outside his restaurant to get some attention.

The sign says “HEY MR MAYOR $5 SODAS? UR POP TAX SUCKS!”

Hopkins says he’s contacted the mayor in hopes of having a conversation but has yet to receive a response.

The initial outline for Murray’s soda tax proposed adding 2 cents per ounce for sugary beverages, though the details will not be disclosed until legislation is presented to the City Council. Why does Murray believe the new social engineering tax is necessary? Why, public health, of course. From The Seattle Times:

Murray has given two reasons for the tax on sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, sweetened teas and more: improve health by reducing consumption of sugary drinks, and fund education programs aimed at improving the graduation rate of minority youth.

The mayor even compared sugary drinks to tobacco, saying “sugar is as bad as cigarettes in how we consume it,” on The Seattle Times’ politics podcast.

Let’s assume that Murray is right about the dire risk from drinking soda pop. Wouldn’t a safe soda consumption center be more consistent with the current dogma that pervades Seattle’s public health infrastructure? Those seeking the fizzy giddy rush of a cola would enter a community facility, guzzle their syrupy beverages in a supervised and non-judgmental environment, and then be sent on their merry way.

Of course, this is an absurd idea and not only because if a safe soda site was as “effective” in affecting health outcomes as Vancouver, B.C.’s safe injection site, Seattle would need to brace for a diabetes explosion.

No, the irony here is obvious: If drinking soda is bad enough that the city has to impose negative incentives to curb its use, is heroin – an illegal substance to begin with – less bad? Obviously, it is not less bad; it is much, much worse.

Nevertheless, Seattle’s leaders, elected by Seattle’s citizens, may this year choose to subsidize one activity that 100% of health experts agree poses lethal risk while punishing another behavior that is relatively benign by comparison. I feel safe in assuming that the risk of death by overdose after drinking a 64-ounce cola is as close to zero as actuaries can ever be comfortable stating.

Maybe this ideologically pure but logically backward way of thinking is one reason why Snohomish and Pierce Counties are leading the nation in net migration while Seattle-dominated King County lags.

[Featured image credit: Adobe Stock]

What’s in a Promise Anyway?

There’s more to replacement than one word can define

Before this week, you had to watch a drag race to witness anything accelerate as fast, careen as recklessly, and burst into flame as catastrophically as did the first Republican effort to replace the Affordable Care Act during Pres. Trump’s term in office.

Clearly, Republican leadership was not ready. Clearly, they felt pressure to fulfill the one promise that had been pounded in ad infinitum to voters in hundreds of congressional districts over four consecutive election cycles.

Promises are funny things, though. The promisor – in this case, the politicians – and the promisee – voters – should have a common understanding of the terms. The absence of mutual understanding often leads to promisees reacting to the promisor’s actions as a breach.

“Behold, promisees! We are repealing! And replacing!” proclaims the promisor, beaming with pride.

“Umm, not so much repealing by our account,” say the promisees. “And that’s not even close to how we envisioned the replacing. I think we’d call that revising, but replacing… not so much.”

“Oh,” says the promisor. “Oops.”

I don’t mean to suggest that agreeing on a complex idea such as health care reform is easy. It’s an unavoidable limitation that in a representative democracy we’re not going to get the fine print on the social contract we’re asked to extend, modify and renew at each election.

Campaign slogans are useful tools for harvesting votes, but worthless when it comes to understanding what specific policies those votes may have supported. Governing, it seems, requires more communication to get it right. It’s critical for elected representatives to check back in with the public prior to diving into the creation of a broad, sweeping policy like the AHCA.

The late Mario Cuomo’s dictum (“You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”) comes to mind. Republicans have campaigned successfully in poetry since 2009. Last year’s devolution into a kind of right-wing beat poetry – MAGA rally chants and random thoughts of no more than 140 characters – resulted in even greater success. Transitioning to a mode of communication that embraced their new role as the governing party was never going to be easy. Decisions by many Republicans not to hold town halls during their mid-winter recess, though understandable, foreclosed opportunities to broaden understanding with constituents about the ACHA and other issues that lay ahead. The chaos generated by liberal action groups shut down the best chance for Republican members and their constituents to sync up on what the repeal and replace promise really did mean.

Not having the public forums was a rational decision where and when those choices were made, but it’s hard not to recognize that it was a choice that may have kept Republicans out of touch.

The same choice will present itself again and Republicans will need to find a way to push through. The use of technology, more meetings with smaller groups of constituents, or partnering with local media to host (and manage) town halls could be crucial ways of keeping communication active and open.

So, with all of that non-communication happening against the helpful backdrop of a daily White House circus show, it was unsurprising that the Quinnipiac poll released Thursday read like a stern note from estranged constituents: “We’re getting the feeling that we’re not on the same page anymore. Is there something you’d like to tell us?”

The poll found Republicans were predictably the most supportive of the now-decommissioned AHCA, though registering less than majority (41%) approval for the proposal. That’s an anemic lack of support from your own base on a keystone issue. Even more concerning, independent voters registered 14% approve/58% disapprove. That’s not anemic; that’s a femoral artery gashed and bleeding out if you’re a Republican in a purplish district. These are the shifting electoral shoals on which an otherwise great campaign can find itself wrecked in suburban districts across the country.

Now, there remains a promise on the table. A non-vote on an unpopular bill does not nullify that fact. Even if Trump does elect to blame Democrats and move on, that isn’t the deal the rest of the Republicans made with their voters.

Nothing should stop Republicans from discussing proposals and slowly building support through prosaic dialogue — not poetic soundbites – with constituents. Persuasion takes time, but I have a feeling that voters are ready to spend the time to get this right.

[Featured image credit: Adobe Stock]

Sen. Andy Hill announces recurrence of lung cancer

Washington state Sen. Andy Hill, (R-Redmond)

Washington state Sen. Andy Hill, (R-Redmond)

In a message posted to his campaign website Monday afternoon, state Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) announced that he is battling lung cancer for the second time.

Hill had been cancer-free since 2010 when he overcame a serious bout with the disease including participating in clinical trials of experimental treatments.  His doctors found new evidence of cancer during a recent screening.

Hill, now serving the second year of his second term as a state senator, has been a driving force within the Olympia Senate Republican caucus leadership, most notably being the lead budget writer during several concurrent sessions of tense budget negotiations.

Although Monday’s message to supporters didn’t specifically address how the news would impact his term in office, he may have alluded to it when saying, “…[T]here are tens of thousands of Washingtonians and millions of Americans who are fighting and living their lives with some form of this illness right now as well. They don’t let it slow them down and I don’t intend to let it either.”

The entire text of Hill’s message to supporters is as follows:

 

Dear Friends,

During my time as both a candidate and as a state senator I have worked to maintain close communication with all of you as a part of my commitment to honest and accountable representation.

And while I thrive on the input I receive from across this district and the region, I consider honesty and accountability a two-way street. And that’s why I wanted to give you a personal update.

As most of you know, seven years ago I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thanks to our great health care system and terrific doctors, I was able to be part of an experimental trial drug and quickly became cancer free. That drug soon became available to all and it and its successors have protected me for many years.

But the body can build up an immunity to specific treatments and last week my doctors discovered a small recurrence.

Those of you familiar with my story know I take a tough approach to this chronic condition and, as a result, I will be undergoing aggressive treatment including traditional chemotherapy followed by new cutting-edge medications.

I appreciate the concern so many of you show regularly for my well-being and I want to remind you that there are tens of thousands of Washingtonians and millions of Americans who are fighting and living their lives with some form of this illness right now as well. They don’t let it slow them down and I don’t intend to let it either.

We live in a tremendous community with great advances in the medical field and outstanding doctors. I am confident that, working with them, I’ll have a clean bill of health again soon.

I draw strength from the support and the prayers on my behalf from so many of you and I am asking you to keep those coming—particularly on behalf of Molly and the kids.

Thanks for everything and warmest regards,

Andy

 

 

Public campaign financing could be headed for the ballot in Washington state

 

By now, Washington state voters are familiar with the Seattle Process:

  1. A policy proposal is sketched out on the whiteboard at Democratic HQ.
  2. A beta test commences on the hustings — the Seattle electorate is a test group for determining how to get the public to approve the experimental idea.
  3. Having used Seattle as a proving ground, the idea is pushed in Olympia, then a statewide initiative (if legislative efforts are not successful), and even exported to other states.

Now, another Seattle-hatched idea — socialized financing of political campaigns — is being uploaded into the statewide mainframe.  The current piece of political malware is Initiative 1464, a sleeper measure headed for the November 2016 ballot that may pose a real threat to balanced elections and informed policy in Washington state.

Also known as the Washington Government Accountability Act, I-1464 is a near-clone of the Honest Elections Act passed in Seattle last year and is being promoted as a necessary measure to curb the influence of mysterious ‘dark money’ in state politics.

“It’s going to transform how we do elections in Washington state in a way that brings more focus back on the little guy.” That’s what political consultant and I-1464 co-sponsor Alex Hays told KING 5 political reporter Natalie Brand in a recent interview.

In reality, I-1464 appears to be little more than a new way for Democrats to game political campaign financing rules to their favor, neutralize the input of the business community and activist groups in the formation of public policy, and possibly even lay the tracks for taxpayer subsidization of non-citizen non-voter political contributions.

What would I-1464 do?

The surface appeal of I-1464 is obvious.  In the words of its sponsors is that it would “restore public trust and confidence by requiring greater transparency and increasing political accountability, limiting the influence of lobbyists, strengthening enforcement of campaign-finance and ethics laws, and empowering small donors to ensure everyone in Washington has a voice.”

The real implications of I-1464 are something quite different than those progressive platitudes.  On closer inspection, the measure seems to be little more than a Trojan horse designed to capture the interest of disaffected voters across the political spectrum to enact rules that would provide an almost permanent advantage to interests with a stake in procuring Democratic control over state politics.

No lobbying for you

Many of I-1464’s provisions lay a minefield of “gotcha” rules between informed lobbyists and public officials.  The proponents don’t shy away from disclosing their intent; they want to make it harder for to lobbyists to operate.  In reality, some of the teeth in I-1464 would come as close to criminalizing lobbying — a constitutionally protected right — as any law has tried to do in recent memory.

Although the lobbying profession is a favorite scapegoat and rare stories of abuse are highly public, the positive role that the lobbying community plays in providing informed testimony and insight on proposed legislation is woefully underreported.  Sometimes when an association representing small grocers sits down with the governor, it’s part of an effort to save jobs and keep consumer prices low.  In fact, it’s not popular to say it, but much of the time that’s the outcome, if not the objective, of lobbying efforts.

The bad news in I-1464’s anti-lobbyist provisions is compounded because of evidence that the measure also appears to carve out exemptions for unions.  It’s hard to see how the public will be more confident in government when the laws and regulations are developed from only the half of the facts that prejudice to he union’s benefit.

Maybe some reform of how lobbying is done would be helpful, but I-1464 is too extreme and would have the unintended consequence of making our public officials less informed.

Spreading the political wealth around

The feature of I-1464 that is likely to get the most attention though is its provision to set up a system for public financing of some political campaigns.

Under the proposal, qualified register voters would be eligible to receive $150 per election cycle in “democracy credits” to be spent on qualified election campaigns.  It would require mandatory mailings from the state to registered voters to notify them of available credits.  The entire process would be administered by the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

Although the proposal for using one person’s money to pay for another person’s political speech would initially be restricted to legislative races in even-numbered years, I-1464 explicitly makes provisions to expand the program as early as 2021.  The Legislature would have the ability to amend the initiative even sooner than that, as we know from experience.

But most alarming is a portion of the law that appears to require the PDC to develop a program for distributing democracy credits to permanent resident aliens living in Washington state as early as 2019.  Read carefully from the text of the Act:

By December 1, 2019, the commission shall develop and adopt regulations to allow any adult natural person who is a bona fide resident of the state, not eligible to register to vote under state law, but eligible under state and federal law to donate to a candidate campaign, to request to be verified by the commission as an eligible individual for participation in the program in the year 2020 and thereafter.

That section appears to be crafted to require the state government to give foreign nationals with permanent residency status (read that as possessing a green card) publicly funded vouchers to make contributions to political campaigns.

Who’s backing I-1464?

Integrity Washington is the campaign committee formed to get I-1464 on the Washington ballot.  Who is Integrity Washington?  As with most things, that’s a matter of who’s paying the bills.

As of the end of March, Integrity Washington has received $337,402 in cash contributions, according to filings made to the PDC.  More than two-thirds of the campaign cash — $225,000 — has come from Every Voice, a next-generation progressive political org born out of a 2014 merger that absorbed a super PAC funded by Jonathan Soros.  (Yes, that Soros family.)  The next largest contributor to I-1464 so far is Represent Us, at $100,300.

Modeled on ballot-proven Seattle-grade socialism

Every Voice and Represent Us also played big in the passage of Seattle Initiative Measure I-122, the Honest Elections Act passed by voters of Washington’s most populous city in 2015.  Represent Us lists I-122 as one of the group’s “wins” on their website.

What did the measure do?  In part it required some property owners in Seattle to pay higher taxes to finance “democracy vouchers” for public financing of political campaign contributions.

It will surprise no one that the same city that elected a self-described socialist to its city council also passed I-122 by a 27-point margin.

A total of more than $1.4 million was spent by the proponents of I-122, $390,860.23 of which came from Every Voice.

(Some might suspect that the overkill funding of I-122, a slam dunk measure, was really an early investment in the statewide effort to be named later, now known as I-1464.)

Although the evolution from I-122 to I-1464 has shuffled the cast of characters — I-1464 co-sponsor Alex Hays is a political consultant with a large number of Republican legislators on his past and current client list — Every Voice and its funders are calling the tune.ScreenCap ntegritywashington_org_who-we-ar

(As of this posting, Hays’ picture and bio are still featured on the Integrity Washington website.  Click image to right to view a screen capture.)

In order for Washington voters to weigh in on the proposal, Integrity Washington will need to collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot — just a few thousand less than 250,000.  In mid-February, only weeks before a half dozen Bernie Sanders rallies occurred in Washington, a $100,000 deposit was paid to a California-based signature gathering firm.  Petitions have already been sighted in Seattle.

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