Category Archives: National

One extraordinary hour on campaign finance.

Recently I was awarded a scholarship for a two-day conference in Washington, D.C. to attend classes on the ins and outs of what the Citizens United decision means for politics, and how I can find data about campaign spending in this new arena.

On Saturday, though, I got a great primer from the group at “This American Life.” As usual, the one hour provides so much information without making you feel like you were sitting in a class. It’s as entertaining as watching “Breaking Bad.” If you’re into politics at all, or you just care about your country and your government, take the hour you’ll need to listen to this.

Drew Hansen’s floor speech on Martin Luther King, Jr.

We had a story Monday on state Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, having written a book on the “I have a dream” speech and his assignment to introduce a House resolution honoring King. Here is the speech Hansen delivered, in which he states he makes the case that King’s losses offer moments as instructive as his victories.

Bainbridge could join Belfair in Congress

Congressional redistricting appears to be close to a real proposal within the state’s redistricting commission. Slade Gorton and Tim Ceis said they have a proposal ready and will provide drawings at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Don’t be surprised if there is a significant change in what was proposed earlier, but it’s worth noting that all four proposals had the entirety of Kitsap County in District Six, currently represented by Congressman Norm Dicks of Belfair.

Currently the county is pretty much cut in half between the Sixth and First districts, with the Firsties being represented by Congressman Jay Inslee, who wants to be governor. That candidacy was likely what opened the door to combining all of Kitsap into one district. Perhaps it shouldn’t have mattered, but these lines are not completely drawn without consideration for where the incumbent lives.

In California, it appears, efforts to depoliticize the process may have failed this time around, with Democrats figuring out how to game the system while Republicans sat on the sidelines. An extensive ProPublica report tells how.

Though all four proposals initially had the entirety of Kitsap in one district, moving parts in one place requires moving them elsewhere. So some of the county, particularly Bainbridge, could find itself aligned with a Seattle-area district again.

Legislative maps that earlier included a call for uniting Bainbridge with Port Townsend should be out later in the week. The deadline is Saturday, or else it goes to the state Supreme Court.

The GOP convention could actually matter

National political conventions haven’t mattered since 1980, when the Democrats fought over rules about whether delegates should be locked in. Even then, the outcome seemed pretty certain, as it has in every convention since then and for quite a while before.

That could change this year, according to a piece written by Michael Medved in The Daily Beast. In the column, Republicans, Dissatisfied with Their Presidential Field, Dream of Deadlock, Medved contends there is a slight chance the GOP nominee might not be picked until the actual convention. Among the reasons is the lack of a true “Super Tuesday” this year and fewer states operating with a winner-take-all formula.

Of all the things Medved says, this to me is the most true:

This outcome appeals to all media outlets (which would relish the high drama and corresponding high ratings) as well as party organizers who would welcome the engagement of the grass roots in a fiercely competitive race and a visibly open convention.

I salivate at the prospect of a convention that matters. I asked my company to send me to both conventions in 2008, even offering to take a bus and find homes to crash in. The response from my bosses was that conventions are scripted infomercials. They were right. I don’t plan on repeating the request this year, but I’ll enjoy the festivities much more.

Where I disagree with the headline is that this is happening because Republicans are dissatisfied. While true that there probably is a lack of enthusiasm for any candidate other than Ron Paul, if party members were generally excited about more than one candidate the same scenario could exist. The truth is no one has managed to pull away. (Again, like I’ve said before, that’s an interesting expectation to have when there hasn’t been even a single caucus or primary.) The point is that the race is even enough that this next year offers the most promise we’ve seen in years that a primary process might not deliver a clear winner.

Turkey Haze, running through my brain

Here are a few items of interest to a post-Thanksgiving America. Excuse me, while I kiss this guy.

The Seattle Times reports the U.S. Department of Justice believes the Seattle Police Department’s policy of letting officers refuse to incriminate themselves is too broad and is applied to too many situations.

The Washington Post reports on an effort to get a middle-ground candidate on the 2012 ballot. The biggest question for me is raised in the story. Who is out there now who would be willing to sign on to this as a candidate running against someone else in the same party. Only someone with nothing to lose, methinks. That means someone who either doesn’t have a prayer of ever winning anyway, or someone who doesn’t care whether the party members get mad. A national version of Tim Sheldon, perhaps.

Obama’s campaign operation is working somewhat quietly in Chicago. The Washington Post reports on some of the pros and cons of being in Chicago and details a few of the efforts the group is undertaking.

Two for Turkey

If you have time to sit by a computer and read news stories between now and dinner on Thursday, allow me to recommend just two. They have absolutely nothing to do with the Thanksgiving holiday and the one story I did read about the holiday was boring. I saved you from it. These two are interesting looking ahead to next year, all next year.

First off comes the Washington Post story on Newt Gingrich’s candidacy. He has two things Conservatives hate: an affair with Freddie Mac and a woman who became his wife; and yet he is in the lead. The reason? People see him winning in November.

In The Daily Beast Michael Tomasky lays out “How Obama Can Get to 270 Electoral Votes.”

A Super Committee of stories

Now that the Super Committee assembled to work out a deal on debt has officially fizzled, I thought I’d give you a list of stories worth reading. Only one deals with the Super Committee itself.

The New York Times has a blog item offering reasons why politicians on both sides may have been thinking the collapse of the Super Committee would be a good idea. Capitalizing on Collapse.

The New York Times also offers this story, Older, Suburban and Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle the Census, about the growing number of people who are not far from qualifying as impoverished. Many bristle at the term “near poor,” but the data is telling.

We’re fans of public records in our circles. So it’s an easy pick for me to deliver this story from The Seattle Times, Seattle police must pay $129K for records delay. According to the story the Seattle PD has a history of stalling or denying requests on records in large part because of agreements with the police union.

The Seattle Times also reports that the state paid out $500,000 in a year for 2,000 cell phones that were not being used. State wasting big money on idle cellphones

And yet another entry from the Seattle Times. This one shows how the Legislature makes cuts in the state budget, cuts that never happen because the courts overrule legislators. As state makes cuts, lawsuits are flying

The News Tribune offers a story about a man who cost taxpayers millions, but their effort eventually helped him get better. Cecil’s story: Man who cost Tacoma taxpayers millions for care, emergency services, is sober

Port Orchard local a Wall Street occupant

Shane Stoops, 23, is among those involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. He was profiled in an MSN photoblog and describes himself as a “nomad” and “renaissance man” from Port Orchard, Wash. He is also handing out resumes while in New York.

The movement is in broad terms a criticism of corporate America and its power. Jon Stewart compares the group with the Tea Party, and some of that comparison is apt. Those joined in the effort clearly have an ideological slant, but they are reluctant to be identified with one of the major parties.

Kilmer on government, the federal government

State Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, offers a counterpoint to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s assertion that he’d like to make the federal government as inconsequential as possible.

“I’m struggling to figure out how a person can be the Chief Executive of a government he doesn’t understand the value of.”

I’ll leave it to you to discern why Kilmer is answering a national politician on a federal issue.

Should taxes go up on the ‘super rich?’

We have a new poll question for you. Warren Buffett, a super-rich man himself, said people in his class should be taxed more. He points out that he pays a lower tax rate than people making, say, $200,000 a year. That claim is determined to be true by PolitiFact. If you really want to did into tax code issues, you should also read the PolitiFact’s treatment of John Cornyn’s statement that 51 percent of Americans paid no federal income taxes in 2009. That was also determined to be true. Cornyn is a Republican senator from Texas.

The PolitiFact pieces are great, because though each statement is true, there is context to each worth considering.

This is America. Please vote.

Gay marriage in Suquamish; What’s next and what’s in the past?

In covering the Suquamish same-sex marriage story, there were a few conversations that happened after deadline had passed. The story itself appears to be more of symbolic value than anything practical for now, because we haven’t heard of anyone banging down the doors of the tribe’s offices to actually get married.

Even Heather Purser said she just wants that option should she choose to get married later.

Where the story takes on some importance that could matter later is its place in the same-sex marriage movement generally and specifically among Indian tribes.

Brian Gilley, associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University, said the Suquamish Tribe is probably only the second federally recognized tribe to recognize same-sex marriage.

Some of the news that spread Tuesday was that most tribes don’t address it. That might be true, but a large number of tribes have actually passed measures similar to the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act. That act doesn’t outright ban same-sex marriage, but it defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Suquamish Tribe’s willingness to take a different path than tribes nationally is in line with what tribes in the Pacific Northwest do, Gilley said. “It’s just sort of been their history to be different than the rest of Indian country,” he said.

Part of that, he said, is because the stakes are different for them here than they are in other parts of the country. The culture that surrounds the tribe and the possible consequences are different in Washington than they are, say, in Oklahoma.

The issue was huge within the Cherokee nation when two women received an application for a marriage license and were actually married, but then the tribe denied them the opportunity to actually register their marriage certificate. During that time is when Indian Tribes across the country created their DOMA-like standards.

Gilley figures largely in a story published on the Indian Country Media Network website. The writer says gay couples were not uncommon within tribes until Indians began adopting religious principles taught (or demanded of) them by the white people.

Leonard Forsman, Suquamish tribal chairman, said the issue that reached finality Monday wasn’t that big a deal. He confirmed Purser’s recollection that there was no opposition. That the ordinance change proceeded slowly was more a fact that other issues took precedence, not that there were any real naysayers.

“We had an existing marriage ordinance under code. It had to be updated. We’ve got a lot of ordinances that need updating,” he said.

Forsman said he hasn’t seen much written and there isn’t much oral history about same-sex couples in Suquamish history. That seems to be the case in other tribes, that there isn’t much institutional memory of same-sex couples, but backers of a “two-spirit” movement contend they had their role within the community. That fact that there may not be much tradition or oral passed along could be because tribes didn’t see it as a big deal until their new religious beliefs cast negative light on them.

Forsman said that might be why there isn’t much said in Suquamish history. “I think that tells us that it was not anything that was extremely abnormal or judged in the past,” he said.

One question that remains is whether a marriage of a gay couple will, in fact, be recognized in Washington. The state doesn’t marry same-sex couples, but it recognizes those marriages performed elsewhere. The question then becomes whether Suquamish, in this case, is “elsewhere.” It will take someone actually getting the Suquamish marriage to test that out.

Should Pulitzer winner be sent to his place of birth because he is in the U.S. illegally?

Jose Antonio Vargas was part of the Washington Post reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting of the Virginia Tech shootings and the first thing his grandmother said to him was, “Anong mangyayari kung malaman ng mga tao?” (What will happen if people find out?)

Vargas has been in the U.S. since he was 12. His mother sent him here from the Philippines to have a better life. It was a few years before he learned he was here illegally. At that point he became complicit, but he kept it hidden for a long time.

Not anymore.

He also managed to get help. And no one who ever knew about his status, including a worker at the Social Security Administration, ever turned him in to immigration authorities.

During his time here in the United States he has demonstrated an amazing record as an achiever.

This is a very interesting story that challenges assumptions of those who would send everyone back and those who would let everyone stay.

I’ve launched a poll. You answer it. Leave your thoughts here, including whether you think there is an option I have missed.

An interesting side note: He was able to buy himself eight years by getting an Oregon driver’s license. He bought five more by getting a license from Washington.

Another interesting side note: The story is in the New York Times because the Washington Post passed on it.

Audio: Norm Dicks on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Stimulus, Anthony Weiner

I recorded the conversation with U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, for the Sunday story on his position on U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. He is among Democrats and a few Republicans calling for a quicker withdrawal of U.S. troops.

I also asked him about Libya, Iraq and whether Anthony Weiner should resign. I cut about a minute and a half from the recording, but it’s still a bit more than 19 minutes long.

Norm Dicks on Afghanistan

Is it proper to laugh at this?

Last week we asked if all that celebrating of bin Laden’s death was appropriate. If you want a little chuckle, guffaw or snort about it and the related crackpottery, you might enjoy Eric D Snider’s treatment of the subject. A taste:

There was no time for celebration in the country’s newsrooms, where the mood was intense and serious. After three years of being very careful not to write “Osama” when they meant “Obama” and vice versa, now journalists faced their worst nightmare: a news story that involved both men. TV anchors were required to say “Osama” and “Obama” in the same sentence. It was a situation fraught with peril. A few TV stations, newspapers, and websites made mistakes along the lines of “Obama says Obama is dead.” We assumed these flubs were the result of simple human error — except when they happened on Fox News, of course, and then we assumed they were deliberate.

A week after the celebrating, was that proper?

Let me apologize right away for giving U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, more play than he probably deserves on a blog that’s mostly local to Kitsap County. This is a question, though, that speaks more to a broader question about the celebrations following the death of Osama bin Laden.

When Kucinich was first scheduled to speak on Bainbridge, I mistakenly thought the event was Sunday night. Fortunately we discovered the error on time. During the speech Kucinich was critical of Obama and NATO for the strike on Muammar Gaddafi’s home, which killed his son and three grandchildren. Kucinich had earlier issued a statement about the strike.

“NATO’s leaders have blood on their hands. NATO’s airstrike seems to have been intended to carry out an illegal policy of assassination. This is a deep stain which can never fully wash. This grave matter cannot be addressed with empty words. Words will not bring back dead children. Actions must be taken to stop more innocents from getting slaughtered.

“Today’s attack underscores that the Obama Doctrine of so-called humanitarian intervention appears to be a cover for regime change through assassination and murder,” said Kucinich.

Had the Bainbridge even actually been on Sunday, I’m sure the first item of discussion would have been bin Laden’s death. I wonder how Kucinich and the audience would have responded to that news given an opportunity to be in the same place at the same time when the news broke.

I heard quite a few conversations following Sunday’s news in which people thought the celebrations were somewhat creepy. Some of the celebrators appeared more influenced by the presence of television cameras, but not all of them.

In 2001 I didn’t think all of the flag waving was the blood lust for revenge some deemed it to be.

Last Sunday night I didn’t read whatever celebration there was as that either. In both cases I’m sure that sentiment was present, but I don’t necessarily believe revenge it was the dominant motivator for most people in the world.

If you believe the world one moment is better than it was the moment before, what is an appropriate response? Maybe whooping it up out on the street is not a bad answer.

What do you think?

Dear Republicans, Democrats: I blow my nose at you.

Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time.
Don’t you politicians give me garbage about how unfriendly I am or how I’m hurting the public discourse. According to a Harvard professor I’m just talking in a language you understand.

The Washington Post reports more than a fourth of what comes out of a politican’s mouth (or press release) is a taunt.

The earlier trifecta of political speak was always determined to fall into three categories: 1. Taking credit, 2. Taking a position, and 3. Advertising.

This might not be too different from how we all run our lives anyway. Broadcasters always talk about having an “exclusive.” In the workplace a well-placed bit of credit can pay off in the wallet. Here is how the three, now four, categories could work at home:

  • 1. Thanks to my leadership, the garbage cans are empty. My son took out the garbage and did so at my direction.
  • 2. I am in favor of empty garbage cans.
  • 3. Look at me, standing next to empty garbage cans.
  • 4. My son hates his family, evidenced by his failure to empty the garbage cans, despite my repeated warnings.”

Just today, Washington State Democrats re-tweeted this:

RT @glossolaliac: Tea Party shutdown means military won’t get paid. http://ow.ly/4vx2z // Does the GOP hate freedom? #govshutdown #p2 #wadem

That can’t be true, that Republicans hate freedom. In November, new House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said this:

“And we can celebrate when we have a government that has earned back the trust of the people it serves. When we have a government that honors our Constitution and stands up for the values that have made America, America: economic freedom, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.”

Even without the quote, the comment that almost anyone in any American political party hates freedom is absurd. I think the Democrat who posted that tweet probably knew that and made the comment tongue in cheek.

I think.

Yesterday the Republicans took their shot:

#Democrat Rep. Norm Dicks admits in House floor speech that the #budget mess is the fault of the #Dems. http://youtu.be/3Ss5TDbdMn0

Here’s what Dicks said in the middle of a speech in which I’m pretty sure he faulted Republicans as well for the current budget stalemate:

“I will be the first to admit that it’s because we didn’t pass, the Democrats didn’t pass, our bills last year that we’re here working on this. So we have responsibility, too . . .”

So, “We have responsibility,” becomes “It’s our fault,” according to the tweet.

This doesn’t just permeate politics, it resonates everywhere. If you admit any accountability, those who have any interest in ducking blame will use that to say it’s all your fault.

I contacted Dicks’ office to see if I could get the transcript of the entire speech. Instead he called me back. He again admitted that Democrats bear a lot of responsibility for the current budget impasse, but pointed out that the same thing happened to Republicans when they lost power in 2006. And he emphasized, something he was getting into at the end of the video, that he and the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky, are working to make the appropriations process more transparent.

Dicks also offered that Boehner is in a tough spot because of the demands being made by some of the new Republicans in the House. You can read that to include both conciliation and an insult to Republicans.

Bear in mind this is only about politicians doing their day jobs. As we look forward to the 2012 election (And who isn’t!) the taunting or insulting language will jump from the 27 percent it is during session to substantially more on the stump.

Expect to hear that Rob McKenna’s father smells of elderberries, and Jay Inslee’s mother was a hamster.

Three perspectives on federal spending

For those of you with time to read I present you three pieces that deal with federal spending. One says the government should be spending on things that create income, like education and infrastructure, instead of spending so much on benefits. Another offers that saying the government is “broke” is not correct, that deficit spending is a problem, but the U.S. is still in good financial shape. The final piece says arguments that a $61 million federal budget cut would be catastrophic is ridiculous, that $61 million is peanuts in comparison to the entire budget.

America’s Grim Budget Outlook

Bond Market Shows Why Boehner Saying We’re Broke Is Only Figure of Speech

Dems not taking debt seriously

Talking about real money in Congress

Over in the righthand column we now have a widget that offers you the latest from PolitiFact.com’s Truth-O-Meter.

Some truth-o-metrics played a role in preparing the story for this weekend that discussed possible local impacts of federal budget cuts. One of the questions I ran across is how much cutting is really going on. That started with the Washington Post The Fact Checker blog piece titled
Democrats keep misleading on claimed budget ‘cuts.'”
The entry makes clear that Democrats are not meeting Republicans halfway on budget cuts by offering $52 billion in cuts compared to Republicans’ $100 billion.

For one thing, the $100 billion figure Republicans are using, such as in the quote I included from U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, is not correct either. For reasons I’m not sure I can adequately explain, the Republican cuts are actually about $61 billion and Democrats are closer to $10 billion.

If you’re into math, you know that 10 is not really close to half of 61 and that 61 is not 100. As a story in today’s Post explains, though, that’s less of an issue than the fact that Republicans and Democrats are about $50 billion apart.

In preparing the story I wrote I did my darndest to get a Republican voice in the story to respond to the comments by union guy Ivan Weich. I wanted a voice from Congress to match the comments from Norm Dicks’ spokesman. I first called Herrera Beutler and got no response. I talked to someone in Dave Reichert’s office who said he’d try to get someone, but that was the end of it. I then called the offices of Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and the Republican National Committee. No luck at any of those places.

I was disappointed, but in the end I wasn’t surprised. We are, after all, JUST the Kitsap Sun. None of those representatives have voters in our districts so it benefits them nothing to call us. They might have made an exception for the papers from Seattle, Tacoma or Spokane, but that’s probably it. I can’t say I blame them, and they are all probably just as happy that I pulled quotes from their press releases rather than getting a specific answer about potential closures at local Social Security Administration offices. There might be a philosophical upside to calling us back, but not one that translates into stronger re-election chances in 2012.

One lawmaker, one change, one entirely different result in the Boeing/EADS contest

Boeing’s rival for the Air Force contract announced it wouldn’t contest the decision Friday, prompting statements from nearly every Washington politician we ever deal with.

Excuse the tardiness of this post. I was off work much of last week.

For a glimpse of how one change can make such a major difference in a thing like a contract, read Rob Hotakainen’s story from the McClatchy DC bureau and you’ll get an education on politics in government and how U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, pushed for one change in the contract process that may have changed the entire outcome.

From the story:

Dicks pressed the issue at the 2008 congressional hearing after learning that the Pentagon was using a 25-year timeframe to examine costs. After the hearing, the defense subcommittee voted to require the Pentagon to consider the cost of operating the new tankers over the longer 40-year lifecycle.

And then later:

In a conference call with reporters, a top Boeing official said the lifecycle costs were key to winning the contract, which will produce 50,000 jobs nationwide, many of them in Washington state and Kansas.

Abortion could be topic one in 2012

Abortion, which generates marches every year but has not been a real campaign issue in ages, could very well find itself toward the top of the issues list in the 2012 election.

A couple of weeks ago a reader here sent me a link to this column in Salon, in which Sady Doyle is particularly critical of one element in a U.S. House Republican bill, H.R. 3, more commonly referred to as the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.”

That element was one that would essentially redefine rape. Instead of exemptions from the law provided for those who are raped, they would have to be victims of “an act of forcible rape.”

That, according to Doyle, meant those who were drugged or unconscious, coerced, statutorily raped or an adult incest survivor would not get federal funding to get an abortion. She said about 70 percent of those raped wouldn’t qualify.

That particular element was pulled from the bill, so I mistakenly thought the abortion issue was kind of likely to drop into the background again. I was wrong. For one thing, the overall bill is still an issue.

Then there are the states.

In Texas the state Senate approved a bill that would require women to have a sonogram and hear the baby’s heartbeat before having an abortion.

Indiana is mulling new restrictions.

In South Dakota legislators set aside a bill that proponents said was designed to protect people who kill in defense of an unborn child, because opponents said it could put abortion providers at risk. Proponents said the bill had more to do with “self-defense,” as in if someone was attacking a pregnant woman.

Even Justin Bieber is getting in trouble for his answer to a question about abortion.

More likely to have an impact to us locally, since I don’t think the Washington Legislature is likely to jump into the issue anytime soon, is what impact what has already happened will have in 2012.

In Slate, David Weigel writes:

Abortion rights activists, whose relevance had been waning during elections fought over the war in Iraq and the Great Recession, have found a toehold in politics again. The strategy has three parts.

1) Wait for the pro-life movement, now at an apex of political power, to do something stupid.

2) Pounce on the stupid thing that it just did.

3) Repeat.

I believe, in fact, that the “1,2,3” strategy is a pretty easy method to follow. If your party or faction is in the minority, just wait for your opponent to do something stupid, because it is an inevitable truth that it will happen.

The energy spawned by the Tea Party was fervent during the last two years, but over the long term I have seen little that generates more emotional reaction than abortion. On both sides of the issue the passion is intense. Should this issue continue to have legs, and if you read the Slate piece it looks like Democrats hope it will, you could be getting your first glimpse of what you will talking most about next year.