Saturday, October 31, 2015

Political Desk: The Jeff Recommends

For those of you who bulled your way through the past couple weeks of this blog, huzzah for you! For everyone else in the "Too Long: Didn't Read" mob, below is a summary of my old-man opinions that I'm recommending for the upcoming election here in Washington State. But first, let me direct you to OTHER people who are telling you how to vote, including on matters that we don't cover here:

The Seattle Times is pretty much our pro-establishment, pro-business, mostly conservative paper. Oddly enough they put telling you how to vote behind a pay wall if you look too often. Yeah, that's just good business sense, and the way to get your message out.

The Stranger is becoming a shadow of its former self, its top-flight talent leaving for paying gigs, but it still musters the strength (and whatever reefer it can scrounge) to put together a list that looks surprisingly like the Times. Plus, they are totally enamored of pangolins (Note that "The Pangolin" is the name of a super-villain from my early MSH campaign, so hands off, Marvel!)

Seatllish combines its political commentary with gif pictures (hard "g", please), and uses language that makes the Stranger seem somewhat quaint and demure.

Crosscut summarizes and provides links for to their articles discussing the issues. Ballotopedia has turned into an interesting resource as well.

The Muni League, a non-partisan non-profit, rates people here and propositions here.

If you're an unabashed Progressive who is still steamed that Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party got the shaft, here's the Progressive Voter's Guide. Sierra Club is here. Washington Conservation Voters here. Seattle Bike blog talks about city council elections here, and Seattle Chamber of Commerce here. And Publicola (which came in after I made initial posting) here.

And with all that linkage out of the way, here's what we said at Grubb Street.

I-1366 (Tim Eyman's change the constitution to make make his revenue-bashing schemes legal scheme): NO

I-1401 (Paul Allen's let's stop using elephant tusks as currency proposal): YES

Referendums 10,11,12,13: YES, (But it doesn't matter. Really. Just watch. Hey everybody! Non-binding state referendums over here! See? Nobody cares.)

King County Charter Amendment No.1 Law Enforcement Oversight: YES

King County Proposition No. 1 Regular Property Tax Levy for Children, Youth, Families, and Communities: APPROVED

King County Assessor: John Wilson

King County Director of Elections: Julie Wise

Port Commissioner Position 2: Courtney Gregroire. 

Port Commissioner Position 5: Marion Yoshino.

City of Kent Council Position No. 1: Tina Budell

City of Kent Council Position No. 3: Gwen Allen (as a write-in vote - I actually saw yard signs for her the other day!)

City of Kent Council Position No. 6: Brenda Fincher

Advisory Proposition No. 1: Sale, Possession, and Discharge of Consumer Fireworks in the City of Kent: Yes

Kent School District No. 415 Director District No 1: Russell Hanscom (Note - his opponent, Trisha Sanders, chose not to actively run back in July, as noted here.)

Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 2: M. Chris Monson

Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 4: Savannah Clifford-Visker

Got all that? Good. Now go vote.

More later,

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Political Desk: Picking up the Spares

Now we are down at the bottom of the ballot School Districts, Water and Sewer, Public Hospital. The bulk of these are unopposed, and one of them might as well be.

Kent School District No. 415 Director District No 1 pits Russell L. Hanscom versus Trisha Sanders. I think. To be honest, I've got nothing on this one. Ms. Sanders did not respond for the Voter's Guide, and the sole article in the Kent Reporter contains a lot of information on and quotes by the incument Mr. Hanscom and note that Ms. Sanders did not respond. I don't think a JD Salinger approach works in local political office, so let's just say Russell L. Hanscom.

The only other racers in this category with identifiable opponents are for the Public Hospital District No. 1 (which we call Valley Medical), Commissioner Districts Nos. 2 and 4. Valley has a very good medical staff and serves the community well. The board of trustees, however, ranks up there with the Port as fall as questionable shenanigans, up to and including a sudden merger with UW Med that reduces the effectiveness of the elected commissioners in the fact of appointed trustees (such appointees include guys that lost in the face of an indignant voter populace),

So it is ins versus outs. In District 2, the In is incumbent Carolyn V. Parnell and the Out is M. Chris Monson. And their Voter's Profiles are interesting in that they are BOTH saying the same thing. Mr. Monson says that the UW Med has taken over Valley and this is an outrage, while Ms. Parnell says that UW Med has taken over Valley and that this is good thing. I raise an eyebrow at a lot of the things that Mr. Monson lays at Ms. Parnell's door and what Ms. Parnell's defines as success, so I'm going with M. Chris Monson.

It is not so easy in District 4, where the UWMed Candidate got nailed in the primary, and the two condidates are Savannah Clifford-Wisker and Lawton Montgomery, Both are running on a platform that the execs are getting paid too much, the nurses need to be paid more (and have more say in staffing decisions), and the current CEO who has been running things needs to go. Both are newcomers, but I'll go with Savannah Clifford-Wisker on this one.

And that's my ballot. Yeah, I will summarize one more time before the final voting, but I recommend all reading this to do your own homework as well - there may be something I skimmed over that is vital to your decision making progress. Good Night, and Good Voting,

More later

Political Desk: Kent Advisory Proposal

So this is an advisory vote that I can get behind, if nothing else because it is asking the voters' advise BEFORE making the decision (as opposed to all those state advisory referendums this year). In this cast, the mouth-filling Advisory Proposition No. 1: Sale, Possession, and Discharge of Consumer Fireworks in the City of Kent is asking what the people think before taking action.

And I favor this proposition, which will remove the bulk of skyrockets and boomers, confining them to local shows and licensed affairs. I find it interesting that the bulk of the candidates not only support the concept of a ban, but have horror stories about pets, family, and neighborhoods freaked out by the noise and trash from such private operations.

When we first moved into Panther Lake, it was part of unorganized King County, one of the many bits and pieces of territory that didn't belong to nearby municipalities. As a result, the Fourth (and New Years. And Flag Day. And anything else) was an excuse for an excess of fireworks. Not just setting a few off in the school parking lot - I'm talking navigating the street like you were on patrol in the Mideast to avoid running over any caltrop-like bases while cordite-scented fumes drifted through the vehicle. This dropped off severely when the neighborhood became part of a community that was not as overtaxed with responding vehicles, though it is still loud, proud, and potentially dangerous. With a solid ban, I expect it to drop off even more.

So yeah, I'm going to vote YES on this one, and recommend others do as well.

More later,

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Political Desk: Kent

And now back to the show:

Let's get local. Very, very local. I write this up knowing that fives if not tens of people will be reading it. We're talking about the Kent City Council.

The Kent City Council is a body of seven people who govern Kent with the mayor. And I will be honest, they've done well in the past - measures like establishing the Kent Commons downtown, dealing with having to sandbag the Green River when the Hanson Dam was in trouble, and absorbing our Panther Lake neighborhood into the larger community. Downsides? I worry that they are more concerned with the valley than the surrounding neighborhoods on the hills, and tend to be a bit pro-business, but that just comes with the territory.

So, we have two positions currently up, plus an incumbent challenged by a write-in. The match-ups are: Toni Troutner versus appointed incumbent Brenda Fincher, Tina Budell versus Hira Singh Bhullar for an open seat, and incumbent Les Thomas, who is challenged by a write-in candidate Gwen Allen.

And for most of us, what we know about the candidates is a bunch of red, white, and blue lawn signs and (if we read them), the write-ups in the voter's guides, which tend to be a bit innocuous. Missing major scandal, there are no "throw the dastards out" movements, and finding some light between them is kinda challenging, though not through lack of trying. The Kent Reporter put out a questionnaire on major local issues, and has covered questions about the fireworks ordinance (more on that later), so here goes.

Tina Budell vs. Hira Singh Bhullar was pretty much dead even in my mind the last time I looked, and the additional information hasn't moved either one of them down in my estimation. I will go for Tina Budell due to previous experience, but shan't be offended if Hira Singh Bhullar gets the votes.

My opinion on Toni Troutner vs. Brenda Fincher was very influenced by the questionaire, in which Ms. Fincher went into detail on his positions, even if her position and that of Ms. Troutner were similar. Also, Ms. Fincher is both pro-marijuana store in Kent (Indeed, the fact that localities can block such legal outlets results in things like illegal growhouse operations still being effective in South King County), and anti-fireworks, while Ms. Troutner wishes to bargain on the first issue, and equivocated on the latter. Let's go for Brenda Fincher.

Les Thomas has been in the council for as long as anyone, and if one is going to run a write-in campaign, it will be an uphill fight, if for no other reason because Mr. Thomas is the only name is on the ballot. Still, I like what Gwen Allen has to say on the issues, again coming down on positive for marijuana use and negatives for private fireworks. Take the extra five seconds and write in  Gwen Allen.

More later,

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Commercial Break

We break now from our thrilling (yawn) political coverage for this commercial message:

The first expansion for Guild Wars 2, Heart of Thorns, goes live this week. It you play Guild Wars 2 (also known around here as the Day Job), you know that it is an exciting, rewarding, fun (and well-written and inspired) MMO, and should be looking forward to the next expansion*. If you don't play Guild Wars already, I will note that we've gone Play For Free for the core game, and this is an excellent time to see what all the huggamugga is about.

Buckle up, folks, it is going to be a heckuva ride.

More later,

* Did I mention that MMORPG.Com declared GW2 to be the second-greatest MMO of all time? Well, I just did.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Political Desk: The Port

The Port of Seattle has been in the news recently mostly for the wrong reasons. Stuff like moving through the permission to have a Shell arctic drill rig park here without telling the public, or fighting against the $15 dollar wage at the airport or talking about oil and coal trains running through downtown. So yeah, this is one of those moments when a good stiff shock to the system will bring them back into line.

Two positions are currently in play. Position 2 pits Courtney Gregroire (incumbent and daughter of the former governor, so that's where you heard the name before) against perennial candidate Goodspaceguy. Now everyone expects this to be a blowout against Goodspaceguy, but let's put the jokes aside and let's hear from perennial candidate himself in the Voter's Guide:
There are several people (some brilliant) who have been writing and producing under Goodspaceguy’s name (perhaps to cause him vote loss?) This is entirely unnecessary because Goodspaceguy can lose votes all by himself just by saying that the anti-free-market, minimum wage should be abolished so that less-productive, disadvantaged people can easily get work at their low market value.
Sigh. OK, bring back the jokes. His argument is that we can have full employment if only we don't have to deal with actually paying people for their work.  Let me be honest, Goodspaceguy has for years run on the idea that our answers lie in space. Now it is apparent that, having surveyed all of space, the model we should emulate is the Spice Mines of Kessel. So. Courtney Gregoire it is!

Over at Position 5, we have a real race between Marion Yoshino and Fred Felleman. Both are good, and Fellemen is stronger on the environment from his background. But Ms. Yoshino comes from the airport side of the equation, and makes a valid point that our airport is part of the port system, but doesn't get a lot of attention or representation on the board. Let's change that - Marion Yoshino.

More later,

Monday, October 19, 2015

Political Desk: A County Amendment and a Proposition

Two items are on my ballot as far as county measures are concerned One is an amendment, changing the county charter, and the other is a proposition to raise the property tax levy.

King County Charter Amendment No.1 Law Enforcement Oversight takes an existing process, the civilian-run Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO), and formalizes it, giving it some real teeth to deal with misconduct in county law-enforcement (this is for the county - local municipalities have their own process, as does the City of Seattle). OLEO was founded back in 2006 after some significant probs in dealing with bad cops, but was soon reduced in effectiveness through collective bargaining with the police guild.

This measure has the support of just about everyone EXCEPT the guild, including the State Attorney General, the Stranger, the Muni League, The Seattle Times, and kinda sorta the county sheriff himself (Chief Urquhart, who has made no bones about cleaning up the department and actually bouncing seven officers for various offences, supports the idea, but notes that any changes will have to be worked out with the guild, which pulled the fangs of the original OLEO). I'm going with YES on this one.

King County Proposition No. 1 Regular Property Tax Levy for Children, Youth, Families, and Communities (Yep, that's a mouthful - it is known as "Best Start" in shorthand) provides funding for a slew of youth-oriented services including healthy pregnancy, crisis prevention, homelessness, as well as renovating juvie hall. This is a nine-year plan that again, mostly everyone supports (if you want a tone-deaf, teeth-grating argument against, the idea, look no further than the voter's guide, where the opposition forces make the case that the money is more needed for more cops to deal with the results of not funding such youth initiatives.).

I'm going with APPROVED on this one, but again with a caveat. This one-at-a-time form of levy building, whether for education, fire halls, EMT protection, parks and the like drills down deep to targets specific needs, but by the same token we (the people, through their representatives) must make sure that we get our money's worth. This is point on which conservative thought should thrive - Not about whether we spend the money (I think we should), but to serve as a sentinel to make sure the money spent has value for the community. A good very recent example are fire stations which were to be renovated as a result of a 2003 levy, and now, twelve years on, are still unfinished and over-budget. That's pretty serious stuff, and will make votes think twice before their wallets again. The standard argument against such increases is always that a cold-hearted declaration that this is a blank check, while the better argument consists of how we're going to hold the costs down and live within the commitment that we are willing to make.

As I said, APPROVED, but I am moving towards a "Trust, but Verify" position. Now if you don't mind I'm going to go chase some darned kids off the lawn.

More later,

Political Desk: County Offices

Hey, kids, Let's get back to actual things that appear on the ballot. While the state level is as barren as new ideas from Congress, we do have a couple really hard choices at the county level.

County Assessor pits Lloyd Hara, who currently holds the position against John Wilson, who was his assistant. Both men have experience. Both men have a mixed bag of strong endorsements from across the political spectrum. Both on paper and from experience, these guys can do the job, and indeed, until the parted company over using an iPad app versus a PC solution to the job, they were working together well.

Fully aware of the dangers of giving a big shrug at the position, I was split on this one. But the Seattle Times, of all people, actually makes a good case for John Wilson. Take a look. And go with John Wilson.

Similarly, the power of incumbency looms large over the County Director of Elections position as well, and it too troubles me. We went to the trouble of making this an elected position (a decision which, if I remember correctly, I declared a "bone-headed"), and then have voted in the incumbent each time, anointing the decision of the bureaucracy. Which is what we had in the first place. The current incumbent, Julie Wise, was not elected to the position, but graduated when her predecessor stepped down. Sort of subverts the whole election thing. Yet, Ms. Wise has done a good, balanced job, which is something that I like in Elections, regardless of who is running them. So, despite my reservations on the system, I am going with Julie Wise.

Finally, we have half of the King County Council running for re-election. Grubb Street is in the other half, so you the rest of you guys are on your own.

More later,

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Political Desk: Executive Branch

Like the state legislature and the courts, nothing is going on over in the executive branch for the election. Washington State elects all its major positions for the executive, and does so on a four-year cycle, which coincides with the presidential elections. Which is why we haven't seen a Republican Governor since 1980, and our executive has been overwhelmingly Democrat (interesting exception -Secretary of State. which tends GOP)

And that's cool. The legislature, as a body, has more collective power than the governor, and the various executive positions are expected to obey the basic laws of politics - Do a good job, and for god's sake, don't embarrass us. But, for the first time in many years, we have an honest-to-goodness scandal on the executive side. Which you have may missed, because we are just so darn polite about it.

Meet Troy Kelley. He's our state auditor, though he is on a leave of absence at the moment. This is an elected position which oversees government spending, handles financial information, and you know, audits. He was elected back in 2012, and at the time, this blog gave him a shrug and a whatever, as both candidates presented themselves as strong, sober, pro-business types.

Which I suppose should always be a warning sign. If someone pitches himself as a good businessman, and therefore should be good in government, you should start counting the spoons in the executive cafeteria.

Anyway, Troy Kelley is currently under ten counts of indictment on a variety of charges involving financial shenanigans in his previous job, up to and including hiding over 2 mill from the IRS. This stems of an investigation of a co-worker who Mr. Kelley had later hired when he was in state government. Now, the case has not been resolved, but having multiple indictments against you for your financial dealings makes it difficult to maintain a position where you are responsible for overseeing the state's financial dealings. Practically everyone in Olympia, regardless of party, has demanded his resignation. Mr. Kelley, as I have mentioned, has taken an unpaid leave.

Unpaid leave? Can't you just get rid of him? Well, no. He's an elected official, and his service is not contingent on pleasing the governor, the legislature, or anyone else. There is also the chance that he is innocent of the charges, but maybe I'm just whistling past the graveyard now. If he is convicted of a felony, he can be impeached. He can also impeached for malfeasance, but only for actions taken in his state job. And he may resign and be replaced by the governor. But he hasn't resigned, so we don't really have a state auditor (his second in command, an appointed position, is running things).

Yet this is all so polite, in part because it feels so bloodless and white-collar. There are no suspicious deaths, no tawdry assignations, no hostile twitter feeds. He's been pretty much described as not hard-core political, but just a guy who showed up interested in the job. With the exception of the Seattle Times wanting to remind folk that this is a DEMOCRAT in hot water, things are fairly leisurely, and I don't even know if it will be an issue by this time next year. We shall see.

More later,

Political Desk: State Legislature, State Judiciary

There's nothing much for the Washington State Legislature and our State Judiciary this year. There's a seat in District 30, which does not include Grubb Street, and a Court of Appeals judge running unopposed, so that's about it for the State Reps and the Judges.

Except it HAS been a very interesting year for them. Our state Senate has been in the hands of the Republicans, which as, unlike those in other states, has shown an interest in actually governing. I know, my lefty heart demands I treat the GOP as opponents and the Dems as inconstant allies, but the legislature has actually worked on making progress. As noted under the referendum section, they have raised taxes (gasp!) to fund transportation, and helped close a loophole on Microsoft in order to help education. PLUS have reduced tuition at state-run colleges. This is not small change. The press likes to evoke the name of former governor Dan Evans as a descriptor for reasonable Republicans which is a pity, since it reminds everyone that the last time anyone in the state really trusted the GOP was during the Carter Administration. This is new, and this is good.

But, by the same token, Olympia has come up short on a biggie, which demonstrates a lot of the forces in play in our state. The people, through the initiative process.passed a law demanding that the legislature fund K-12 education in full. Education is a big thing out here - it is in our constitution. The legislature did not act immediately (like, over a couple years), and was found in contempt by the State Supreme Court (who takes the constitution pretty seriously). They made a stab at it this year, but still have come up short, such that the Supreme Court is now fining the legislature $100,000 a day for non-compliance. So far this has not been enough to drive the legislators back to Olympia (being a legislator IS a part-time job out here), but it has prompted a show-down between two of our branches.

Add to that the fact the the Supremes have also pulled state funding of Charter Schools because they are not overseen by local communities. Which makes sense, as charters have had a mixed success out here, ranging from OK to sudden and mysterious disappearances in the dead of night without anybody watching them. So our court system has waded in on our educational system, which, as far as I can tell, is part of their job.

Now, as noted at the top of this entry, neither the legislature nor the judiciary is up for major elections. This will not be true, so look forward to a year of fireworks building up to NEXT year's elections.

This should be interesting. More later,

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Political Desk: Referendums

Remember when I said that the perennial Eyeman Initiatives are mostly unconstitutional? Here's where we deal with the wreckage of one of them. Referendums are bill passed by the Legislature which are then presented to the people for a double-check. This is usually used for more controversial bills to make sure that the reps are doing their job, or more pedestrian ones where they are mucking with the language of the state constitution.

BUT, there was an Eyeman Initiative a few years ago that was found only partially unconstitutional. The bit about requiring super-majorities to get things done? That was unconstitutional. But the bit about demanding to present these to the people, that was allowed to stand. Except it in a non-binding vote, so these referendums cannot really change things, but can express one's displeasure at the entire process. It is sort of a big opinion poll, and doesn't mean anything.

And as an opinion poll, its pretty crappy as well. The language is of the type "The legislature imposed ..." which is to say "The legislature did its JOB," but imposed is a scarier word. The amount of revenue that measures will raise are presented as a "Cost". This isn't a cost to the state, using your money. This is a cost to the people who are going to be affected by this particular tax or loophole closing. Sometimes, this group is relatively small, sometimes it is large enough to include the vast bulk of voters. But there is no way of knowing without digging deeper into the bills. And this amount is what the bill is expected to raise over TEN YEARS, so that huge price tag is amortized over a decade, but is something else left out of the summary.

In addition, while Initiatives have arguments presented for and against, referendums are not so required, so no one knows a whole lot about them. Thanks, guys.

So what we need is a referendum about referendums. Good luck with that. Let's see what's on the plate this year:

Advisory Vote 10 raises taxes on oil products transported by rail in the state. This is because we're transporting a lot more oil through the state from until-recently-bountiful oil shales of the Dakotas, and the oil companies and rail operations are woefully if not criminally inept in keeping their trains from not blowing up. Puts 17 million in the state's pocket from those transporters over ten years.

Advisory Vote 11 raises taxes on medical marijuana sales, as part of a larger measure to get med mary jane in line with other marijuana sales. They don't know how much this is going to bring in, because the legislators kept getting distracted at the free samples station. Actually, Washington State, so good in so many things, is a textbook case of how to bobble the ball on marijuana legislation, such that Oregon is already ahead of us. Oregon. Yeah, we should be embarrassed by that.

Advisory Vote 12 - This is a biggie - 3.7 billion (over ten years, but still, that's a lot of cash) raised from the bulk of consumers in the form of a increase to the gasoline tax. This one IS coming out of your pocket, and it is aimed at getting more funds for roads and mass transit. And before you start yelling about how the Dems are all tax and spend, this one was put together by our Republican-controlled upper house of the legislature, who, unlike some is other states (I'm looking at YOU, Kansas), is pretty good at facing realities.

Advisory Vote 13 - Raises 1.4 Billion over ten years by closing loopholes on the Business & Operating (B&O) and Sales Tax, with the intent of funding education. No, that's not quite it. It basically closes a loophole for taxes from software that is delivered online as opposed to through physical stores, and is aimed at manufacturers of a particular size. Which is currently defined as Microsoft. Microsoft is picking up the tab on this, and is apparently cool with the deal. Given that I usually haul out corporations for the largess laid upon them by the local government, I find this development .... interesting.

So, MAINTAINED on all on them (though I am wobbly on #11), but its not as if anyone is going to pay attention to it. Draw a cat on the ballot. See if I care.

More later,

Friday, October 16, 2015

Political Desk: Initiatives

Initiatives in Washington State are citizen-proposed laws. An individual comes up with a law, makes sure it is in a legal format (for example, initiatives are supposed to do only one thing, so "Outlaw tax increases AND give me a pony" is right out, but "Outlaw tax increases SO they give me a pony" is OK. Then get enough signatures (Eight per cent of the vote total for Governor in the most recent election) to put it on the ballot, and the people vote on it. Naturally, as with anything that has rules, the rules may be gamed, and we see a huge influx over the past few years of corporate moneys, big donors, and paid initiative gatherers.

And we have people in the Initiative Business, such as political character Tim Eyman, who pops up with awful regularity alongside backers with deep pockets and populist "give me a pony" initiatives. One of his favorite attacks is to make it harder for the government to raise money, and these initiatives are usually unconstitutional but still effective enough to pour about six feet of sand into the mechanisms of government.

And for this service Mr. Eyman is rewarded, such that his financial dealings have already been brought up on irregularities, as previous donors want to know what he's done with the money they gave him. And now there is a massive case brewing against him. The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has popped up irregularities to the tune of $380,000 being kicked back from donor funds into Mr. Eyman's account in the 2012 election. This skimming is so odious that the PDC has asked the State Attorney General's office to step in, since the PDC cannot assign penalties big enough to be more than a rounding error on the theft. (appropos of nothing, the State AG makes $151,718 salary, so I'm sure there's not going to be any problem clearing a citizen initiative-maker who makes big bucks by profiteering our elected process).

Which gets us to the latest Eyman Initiative, I-1366, which will once again force the government to get 2/3rds approval before raising taxes (and by raising taxes, this means closing loopholes or doing anything else that will actually, you know, raises revenue). Previous attempts have been found these plots to be mostly unconstitutional, so this time, the wrinkle is that the state is mandated to CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION to allow this, OR there will be a mandatory revenue reduction. Now, whether this form of extortion is constitutional in itself is up for debate. Early signs is that its not, but they still allowed it on the ballot because we have a high bar to deny initiatives, though a lower bar to cut them down once they become law. Of course, legality is completely beside the point as far as the Initiative usiness is concerned - they want to get a win, then cash the paycheck. Actually, they just want to cash the paycheck, and getting a win sets them up for the NEXT election.

Judged on its merits, I-1366 is one more sledgehammer initiative to show that government is bad and cannot function by making it impossible for it to function. I am going to go with a big fat NO on this one.

Now, there is ANOTHER Initiative the year which is much saner, and as a result has not gotten any attention at all. I-1401. It makes trafficking in certain endangered animal species (and their component parts) a class C felony. To which I have to say, you mean it ISN'T ALREADY?. It is an attempt, bankrolled by Paul Allen (his motto "Big Money in the cause of Good") to reduce poaching and smuggling by empowering the local levels and reducing the market for that material. So I'm good with it. Vote YES.

More later.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Political Desk: The Deep Election

This is a quiet year in elections around here, at least it is if you're not living in Seattle proper, which is electing its entire City Council. For the rest of us, we're looking at two initiatives, four referendums which don't meet squat, a couple Port positions, and nothing in the way of state legislature, judges, state executive offices, Congress, or the Presidency.

There is is a lot going on, politically, but most of it is going on behind the ballot. There has been a lot of activity in the state legislature, the judiciary, and the state executive branch, as well as news within the nature of initiatives themselves. Plus the run-up to the national elections.

So I'm going to be talking politics beyond the borders of the ballot box for a while. But when I am talking about the elections themselves, I tend to do the following:
 - I don't talk much about positions that have only one candidate. I always prefer a healthy choice, but I am denied that sometimes, and I can live with it.
 - I don't talk much about elections I am not voting in. I don't live in Seattle, so the entire City Council thing, which will have a deep effect on my life, is outside my portfolio, and will be pretty much ignored. Which is a pity, since a helluva scandal just broke loose where a developer tried to shake down a candidate.
- I am by no means a final word on these things. I will provide you folks to links to make up your own mind. Hey, I tend to be lefty in my outlook, but that doesn't make me right. I will point you (when they get their recommendations up) to the generally reliably conservative Seattle Times, which has slowly been making its way through the list, as well as The Stranger, which still weighs in, though it seems to think the world ends at the southern border of Georgetown, the Municipal League, and other blogs.

So let us take a leisurely stroll through matters this year, because next year we cry havoc and let slip the dogs of woah!

More later,

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Play: Bridgework

A View From The Bridge: By Arthur Miller, Directed by Braden Abraham, Seattle Rep, though October 18th.

The Rep leads off its season with a straightforward tale well-told, a bit of classic theatre that dusts itself off and knocks one out of the park. There are no surprises, no twists, no musicians, no special effects, no supernatural undercurrents, no puppets. Just good actors and good words.

It even starts out with the statement that you've seen this before - Leonard Kelly-Young is Alfieri the lawyer, who is our narrator and declares at the outset the relentlessness and eternity of the tragedy along with his own feeling of helplessness is preventing. That feeling of helplessness spreads to the audience as well as the tale unfolds.

Eddie Carbone -. (Mark Zeisler) is a longshoreman in Red Hook who controls his household - his wife, Bea (Kirsten Potter) whose life is confined to the role of wife and his niece Catherine (Amy Danneker), who has been overprotected with an uncle's affection that borders fully on the creepy and runs through the play. That personal fiefdom is threatened by the introduction of two cousin from the old country who are  illegal immigrants - "submarine men"; stolid, strong Marko (Brandon O'Neill)  and good-natured, flamboyant Rodolpho (Frank Boyd). Rodolpho and Catherine hit is off, and everything just runs to a natural and bloody conclusion.

And that's the thing about the writing - not a word is wasted, not a bit of fat I could have done without. The characters are straightforward but not one-note, and the actors bring nuance to the roles. I'd give highest marks to the women, Danneker and Potter, who capture the flavor fully, while Boyd verges towards that Balki from Perfect Strangers stranger-in-a-stranger land humorous immigrant. The fact that the world, and Eddie in particular, pushes back hard on Rodolpho, recognizing him as being "not right" for their universe, and therefore an invader, grounds the character fully.

One thought did occur to me after leaving the play: The entire family dynamic echoes the later All in the Family sitcom, particularly with Zeisler as blue collar Eddie. And while the TV show is based on the earlier britcom Till Death Us Part, Miller's shadow looms large over other productions that came along later, in this tragedy of a man trying to enforce his will against the changing universe. The line that Alfieri the Lawyer comes back to is "Take half and like it", and the tragedy is that this is an option that is never taken.

Solid theatre, well-performed. Go see it.

More later,

Friday, October 09, 2015

DOW breaks 17000!

Well, that was fast.

Martin Luther King, Jr, paraphrasing Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, said "The arc of the Moral Universe is long, but it bends towards Justice."* The arc of Modern Wall Street is much, much shorter, but it too bends upwards towards a higher rate of return.

I mean, why the recovery, and so quickly? Greece is still as much a mess as it was back when we dipped into the 15000s a few weeks back. China's stock market is just a wobbly. Saudi Arabian investments are being reduced as they keep their oil prices low enough to close down the Dakota Oil Shale operations (successfully, as there are fleets of mobile homes now available on the cheap out there). Austerity hawks still circle despite the proven failure of that approach. Congress is just as dysfunctional, and all these lefty operations on the West Coast are raising wages and reaping low unemployment rates. Yet now we're back.

I believe, inherently, that we have trained certain markets to move inevitability, but not smoothly, upwards. The market is overheated because we are willing it to be, and the rise of various tech or housing or stock bubbles are a feature, not a bug, in the system. We talk about corrections, but until that point where we pitch ourselves into a full-bore, we-cannot-ignore-it, mile-wide-steamroller of a recession, the trend line is inevitably upwards.

My own gut check for economic health, by the way, is my commute. The worse it is, the better things are in general. And for the past week, traffic has really, really sucked, for reasons I cannot fully fathom. I think it may be tied with the shortening days, such that people who are used to rising with the first light suddenly are confronted with the fact that this first light is much later in the day. I may be tied to the return of school, which regiments when children have to get out the door, and as such puts an addition timer on the adults. But I do think that it is because we have crossed a threshold where the infrastructure itself is taxed by the increased load of the employed, who all, apparently want to get on the road at the same time I do.

But that's a just a theory. In the meantime, the DOW has restored itself, until the next correction.

More later,

* What Theodore Parker did say, nesting his semicolons neatly, was: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sigh; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure its bends towards justice." which is a darn sight better than the current attitude of "Past behavior does not guarantee future performance"