Category: Washington (Page 2 of 57)

UPDATED: Dispute Over a Candidate’s Cornell University Pedigree Flares in Mercer Island City Council Race as Election Nears

[Developments occurring since this story was published can be found here.]

[Story note: Since our story was first published on Monday, the Cornell University media relations department has reasserted that the school has no record that Joy Langley either attended or graduated from the university. The official also stated that the registrar’s office has not been in contact with Langley. The story has been edited to include these details where appropriate.]

If there is a hierarchy in the universe of alumni – and there is – earning the right to call yourself a Cornell University graduate puts you in the higher tiers. The achievement is prestigious, coveted and can be a door-opener to coveted leadership opportunities in business, government, and politics.

It makes sense then why candidate for Mercer Island City Council Joy Langley chose to engrave membership in the Cornell alumni into her voter pamphlet statement and on her campaign website. Even a letter from key endorsers name-drops Cornell in the sweet spot of their pitch to island voters.

There’s just one question that continues to nag a group of Islanders – did Langley really earn a degree from Cornell?

A controversy about the veracity of her Cornell claim has roiled below the surface for weeks and broke into a very public boil Monday as the details of allegations that she did not earn a Cornell degree – and statements from the candidate – were reported in the Mercer Island Reporter.

The Northwest Daily Marker attempted to gather clear facts to defuse suspicions, but what we found failed to put the questions completely to rest.

Last week, the Marker submitted a request for records through National Student Clearinghouse, the website that Cornell University contracts with for degree ownership verification. The result of was that clearinghouse could not verify any degrees earned at Cornell by Langley.

On Monday, Langley told the Reporter that the lack of information available through the clearinghouse was because she had chosen to keep her student records private. (Note: The Reporter endorsed Langley.)

The Marker then reached out directly to the Cornell University Registrar, and our inquiry was forwarded to a senior media relations official.  On Monday, after checking with the registrar’s office, the official stated the university has “no record of anyone by that name attending or receiving a degree from Cornell University.” In a follow-up email, the same media relations official re-confirmed as follows:

Cornell University has no record of a person named Joy Langley or Joy Esther Langley attending or graduating from this institution.

Langley also told the Reporter that she plans to produce more information, but that her records were in a form of bureaucratic lockdown.

Langley said she would request her transcripts as proof of enrollment at Cornell, but was told that a freeze had been placed on the documents…

It’s unclear who at Cornell informed Langley of the “freeze” on her records.

“The Office of the University Registrar has likewise received no request from, nor engaged in any correspondence or conversation with, Ms. Langley on this matter,” the Cornell media relations official wrote.

The Marker asked a spokesperson for Langley’s campaign if the candidate would ask the university to make her records available. The campaign did not respond, and instead referred us to the Cornell Registrar’s website and a page on privacy laws.

In another email obtained by the Marker, the media relations official states that his staff has not received any inquiries from the Mercer Island Reporter. From the Reporter article:

The Reporter is still working to independently verify Langley’s credentials. Questions about Langley’s degree are being fielded through Cornell’s office of media relations.

As of now, the only documentation Langley has provided to the Marker has been a link to a photo posted to a back page on Langley’s website. Inset into the larger image is a small photo of a Cornell diploma that does bear Langley’s name and the date of May 30, 2004.

Langley also published to her campaign website a statement responding to the accusations, and suggesting that her opponent tacitly approved of “negative attacks” and “character assassination.”

According to Langley, her undergraduate credits were split between Ithaca College and Cornell University and earned her two separate degrees. From the Reporter:

“I entered Cornell as a sophomore due to AP credits (Sage School, Arts and Sciences) and concurrently enrolled at Ithaca College (Humanities and Sciences),” [Langley] responded. “I was able to graduate in four years with a degree from each institution.”

An exhaustive search was unable to find any online footprints corresponding to Langley and Cornell University, while a substantial amount of ephemera tying her to Ithaca College was easy to find.

As a student at Ithaca College, Langley was a college athlete and a participant in student government. Her name appears in contemporary blurbs about Ithaca’s women’s crew team. In another digital artifact – the April 11, 2002 edition of the Ithaca College student newspaper “The Ithacan” – Langley is mentioned as being an Ithaca sophomore and a member of Solidaridad, a student government party that “used titles of spokesperson rather than traditional titles of president and vice president” to refer to its leadership. The Ithacan reports that Solidaridad was disqualified from fielding candidates in the 2002-2003 student elections, though a reason for the disqualification is not given.

In real and political terms, Mercer Island occupies valuable ground. Interstate 90 connects Mercer Island by bridge to ultra-liberal and solidly Democratic Seattle to the west and a more moderate, Republican-ish Bellevue to the east. It is a home for many wealthier Seattle expats who have been drawn to its slower pace, neighborhood feel, and strong community support for excellent K-12 education.

Those who follow the Mercer City Council note that it has maintained a delicate political balance despite pressures within its changing voter base. The seat Langley is hoping to win is a part of that balance.

King County Elections Did a Good Thing With a New Video About Voting Rights

It’s easy for Washington state conservatives to tee off on King County Elections, but a good thing should be called out when a good thing is done.

Elections Director Julie Wise’s office did a good thing when they greenlit a new video intended to encourage more voter participation. In fact, their message is one that many conservatives should be able to get behind: universal suffrage is a reality because of the blood, sweat, and tears invested by many generations of Americans.

The video uses images and text to bring viewers forward from the time of the American Revolution through an expansion of voting rights that despite occurring far too slowly and in opposition to darker forces within the American public, were nevertheless fought for and should be acknowledged and used because they are valuable. Watch for yourself.

The video is surprising because the message is elegantly simple and undeniably patriotic. It implicitly reinforces the steps the country has taken on voting rights and affirms that history to voters in minority groups who are most likely the intended audience. The piece doesn’t lean into partisan sloganeering – scaremongering minority voters that we are just one election away from Jim Crow and systemic disenfranchisement – but affirms that achieving universal suffrage is a part of our common history.

Now, this isn’t to say that this one good deed lightens the great karmic burden on King County Elections. It was after all the machine that in 2004, under the management of Director Dean Logan, oversaw the magical transformation of a Dino Rossi victory on two vote counts into what was to be a two-term Christine Gregoire governorship. More recently, it was the agency in charge of a painful and predictably slow validation of more than 70,000 signatures on a petition to ban government-sponsored illegal heroin sites. There will undoubtedly be new outrages. Momentum is growing in Olympia on the proposal to make Sound Transit board members stand for election and be accountable for the tens of billions in taxes and fees they spend. The potential for professional wrestling-grade monkey business in such elections would be incredibly high.

For now, watch the video, judge for yourself, and please sound off in the comments below.

Gay Coffee Shop Owner in Seattle Ousts Customers Because Their Beliefs ‘Offend’ Him

A gay shop owner demanded that a group of anti-abortion activists leave his Seattle coffee shop last week because he was offended by their beliefs, as can be seen in a video of the incident posted online that has generated a large and growing number of views.

The Washington Times reported that members of the activist group Abolish Human Abortion entered Bedlam Coffee on Oct. 1 to order drinks after distributing anti-abortion materials in the vicinity. Within a short time they were confronted by the owner who had stumbled upon some of the group’s pamphlets and proceeded to launch into a loud tirade in which he demanded they leave his establishment. From the Washington Times:

“I’m gay. You have to leave,” owner Ben Borgman said in the video.

“Are you denying us service?” Mr. Davis [a member of Abolish Human Abortion] asked.

“I am. Yeah,” Mr. Borgman replied.

Borgman then held up what appears to be a piece of the group’s materials and went on to say, “This is offensive to me. I own the place. I have right to be offended.”

The shop owner is seen to ask loudly if the activists would tolerate him engaging in a sex act in front of them, suggested that he’d perform acts on Jesus Christ – “He’s hot.” – and repeatedly demanded that they exit. The group complied promptly.

The Washington Times article includes text of a response posted by Borgman to his shop’s Facebook page that now appears to have been deleted:

“In the end, it’s all about context,” the owner wrote. “Everything is context. Out of context a comment can serve any argument. Take for example the phrase ‘I will bring my boyfriend out here and f- him in the a—.’ out of context it could mean a slew of things. It’s delivery in this case was meant to shock and repulse the audience. Out of context it could be labeled a perversion, or a kink depending how you personally couch the subject. In context it was a response, a response to being shocked and repulsed. A revenge you could even call it, a weakness demonstrated in the typical, they hurt me, I will hurt them fashion.”

The 52-year-old owner said that his full exchange with the activists included one of the activists denying that graphic anti-abortion materials were their own.

Mr. Borgman also said that anti-abortion imagery was hidden within his shop.

“They were ready with that camera,” the owner wrote. “I was baptized Catholic, Roman Catholic actually, I’ve been to a few bible studies, read the entire book, more than once. To my understanding, and to speak in the religious vernacular; these people are working for Satan. The great trickster has deluded them into believing that hate is love, that rage is peace, and that lies are truth. The God I knew, the Jesus I was taught about would absolutely never ever print a poster with a hideous dead baby representation at ‘what was clearly meant to insinuate’ at the hands of gays … suffice to the say the poster was gross, and the text on the back? Holy cow, whoever wrote that is in a lot of pain. I spoke to them in their own language.”

Although conservatives have argued in support of the shop owner’s right to deny service, a principle that was front and center in the State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers case, the apparent hypocrisy here has ignited viral attention to the video.  It’s also probable that the actual manner of Borgman’s denial may not be the kind of civil refusal most had in mind. You can watch the very NSFW video of the confrontation below to judge for yourself.

 

 

Dear Seahawks, Isn’t it Time for That Apology?

It’s ironic that a sport like football that is all about taking things head-on in a physical sense can’t seem to translate that smash-mouth approach to how it approaches moral matters.

Whether in the NFL’s habit of tut-tutting past an endless string of stories about players in legal trouble, or failing to organize around the very basic idea that abusing women will result in swift and sobering punishment, or slipping meekly away from the nova-like moment of leaguewide anthem protests, the amassed megatons of brawn appear weak.

Specifically, directly addressing the understandable offense taken by reasonable people over the protests should be a relatively light lift in whatever units are used for measuring apologies. Nevertheless, the NFL seems content to move on without directly addressing any of it.

The team I’ve loved since the time we both were kids in the mid-1970s, the Seattle Seahawks, seems especially happy to pretend as though the whole thing was a bad dream. Pushing the whole episode down the memory hole is a mistake. True fans have an amazing capacity to carry grudges. There are Hawks fans who continued to despise one-time owner Ken Behring – the man who actually packed up the headquarters in preparation to take the team to Los Angeles – until the day he died.

And ask former Starbucks CEO and Seattle Supersonics owner Howard Schultz whether the city has fully forgiven him for what many feel was an act of betrayal in allowing the team to be sold out and moved to Oklahoma City.

To be sure, the Seahawks have responded in some ways based on the public’s reaction. In Week 5, Seattle Seahawks fans witnessed a pre-game ceremony that didn’t look much different than what was typical prior to Week 4. Players standing. Some locked arms. Some hands over hearts. And at yesterday’s Week 5 match-up against the Los Angeles Rams, even the team’s standout anthem protester, all-pro defensive end Michael Bennett, stood with the team for the first time this year. Hurrah.

There’s just one problem: the leaguewide protest action of three weeks ago was less peaceful speech and more political punch. That blow was felt a broad enough swath of Americans that it shouldn’t be dismissed as the overreaction of right-wing-variety snowflakes. The Seahawks organization was a leader in the effort and neither the team nor the league have stepped up to acknowledge the message they sent, perhaps inadvertently, to fans.

“Look, we put everything back the way it was before. Good! Right?” mewed the league hopefully.

Not so fast. Diehard Seahawks fans who took the slap may deserve something more than an unspoken agreement to not slap them again. If the team wants to win back any respect from those fans, it’s going to have to make some effort to address the slap. Own it, recognize the insult, and let’s move on. We can start by breaching the great divide of perception that persists between protesters and those who see the protests as inextricably aimed at the flag.

At last mention, Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll still contends that he doesn’t believe the protests were a “denigration” of the flag and in the aftermath has defined such acts as a way to “stand against hate and dehumanization and equality for all people.”

The hyper-compartmentalization by Carroll and others to separate the protest from the only other thing happening at that time is still quite stunning. Keeping those blinders strapped on also prevents a rapprochement with alienated Hawks fans. That fan resistance isn’t pouting or intolerance or snowflakery.

Consider that you are attending the wedding of a Catholic friend. At the penultimate moment of the ceremony, you stand, turn your back to the altar, and profess your disapproval of the Church’s position on same-sex marriage. Consider then that you explain to your friend that you weren’t actually being disrespectful of their beliefs, their church or the sanctity of their moment. Consider then that you just lost a friend, perhaps for life, save for one last-ditch act. You do the right thing, suck it up, and make an honest and contrite apology.

Of course, professional sports are not a religion; neither is national pride. The point is that scheduling matters when it comes to how context will be interpreted. Planning a protest to suggest inequality and racism are woven into the American DNA is one thing. Having it coincide with the presentation of said nation’s flag is bound to be seen as intentional. Making it a league statement pits fans who vehemently disagree against the league. It’s fitting that a protest over the freedom to protest has unleashed in some disaffected fans the freedom to choose pumpkin patches, long walks, or reading a book over watching sports, as the decline in ratings appears to show.

So, Seahawks, is it time yet to begin the healing? As one seriously committed lifelong Seahawks fan, I’d like to see something happen. There is only so much entertainment one can squeeze out of a pumpkin patch. I can take a long walk any other day of the week.

Speaking only for myself, I’m not asking for a guarantee that all players will stand for the anthem, because compulsory respect isn’t actually respect at all.

Furthermore, I certainly don’t want players who were initially involved in the anthem protests to be pressured into abandoning whichever cause they were supporting. In fact, the only silver lining to be found here would be an honest opportunity to listen and learn from each other, to challenge preconceptions, get to a common set of facts about the issues at hand, and find some common objectives based on things we can all agree need to change.

Individual actions were not ever really a breaking point issue for me or most other fans. I know that because we were doing okay as recently as four weeks ago. Sure, it was the kind of “doing fine” that involved some tolerance that American football had become ever more soaked in the liquor of liberal politics, but it was easy enough to grind your teeth, roll your eyes and ignore it. And then the individual kneeling metastasized into a leaguewide action.

For the entire NFL to unite in a protest action was markedly different from the isolated player protests. Everything changed the moment it happened. It became a “thing.” To defuse it requires recognizing what it was to many people and some clear, public commitment to make it clear that protests are fine, but not those that coincide with a moment we reserve for respecting the flag. Individual acts of disrespect will still be distasteful, but easy to ignore without the appearance of endorsement by the entire team or the league as a whole.

We’ve given a lot of time, money and emotion to support a team. A simple sign of respect in reciprocity for all of that seems like the least we can ask.

[Ed. This story was corrected to indicate that Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett stood during the singing of the national anthem before the Oct. 8 game against the L.A. Rams.]

[Photo credit: AP]

‘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 Many Lies of Susan Rice

A simple error or more of the same from the Liar of Benghazi?

First there was the Benghazi lie, in which she appeared on five Sunday morning news shows to tell the American people that the attack was motivated by a YouTube video.

The Bowe Bergdahl lie, in which she assured us that the U.S. Army deserter had served with honor and distinction.

The Turkish airbase lie, in which she stated that the Turkish government had agreed to allow their airbases to be used for operations against Syria and Iran.

The unmasking lie, in which she first claimed she didn’t know anything at all about it, and then, after it was revealed that she had, indeed, requested the unmasking, stated, in a stunning display of grammatical malfeasance, that she “leaked nothing to nobody.” We’re still waiting to see if that last bit is a lie or not.

And now, in the face of Syria’s recent gas attack on their own citizen’s, we have the chemical weapons lie, in which she said as recently as January that Assad had “voluntarily and verifiably” relinquished all the country’s chemical weapons.

What did I miss?

Why do people continue to believe anything this woman has to say? If she said the sky was blue, I’d go outside to make certain it wasn’t green. And for the love of God, who at the Washington Post thought this professional liar was qualified to write an op-ed on presidential truthfulness?

Charles Woods, whose son, Tyrone Woods, was killed in Benghazi, suggested recently that perhaps Rice should take a lie detector test. He might be onto something there. Although I’m not entirely certain she couldn’t fool the machine.

Susan Rice has no acquaintance with the truth and people who believe that she’ll ever tell the whole truth about the unmasking incident are – how can I say this nicely – delusional.

[This post first appeared here on the author's personal blog.]

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]

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