Sunday, December 10, 2017

On the State of the Resistance, 2017-12-09, 19:04:30

By Carl Baker

It's been a year or so now that we've been engaged in this project that I still see as "the Resistance.” An attempt to protect ourselves and our allies from what we see as a federal-level government who's malevolence is tempered only by incompetence (hat tip to Martin O'Malley). And I thought I might offer some thoughts about where we are and how things are going.

Now, I'm a plenty peaceable guy by nature. I avoided the ROTC route through college because I'm not a big fan of violence. Most combat sports hold no particular interest for me, and I'm not even up to first-person shooter video games. Which I love but find myself unable to play. But we are currently engaged in a project with undeniable connections with warfare. And my day job is likewise connected to the execution of combat operations. So I'm finding the analogy with combat irresistible. So if you'll indulge me, I'll run with the analogy for a bit.

In this piece, I frame the folks we're  grappling with as "enemies". And in some sense they are. But they are also fellow citizens who simply (for various reasons) see the world completely differently to how we do. And they're just trying to do the same thing that we are - get their good ideas implemented. In our view, of course, their ideas are bad. But most of the people probably don't actually intend harm. I hope.

When we first began this project, there was near-universal concern (including from me) that we had no central coordinating body. No one was in charge. There was (and is) no way to ensure that each action by our opponents was met by exactly one, well planned, accurately targeted counter action. There was (and is) no way to ensure that each opportunity our opponents create will be exploited by a single, well planned, accurately targeted action.

When they do a thing we might respond with no action. Or we might execute two actions. One well planned and poorly executed and another poorly planned and well executed. Or maybe two independent and uncoordinated actions will spring forth, each successful for different reasons, creating two advantages for us. We don't have the tools in place to coordinate the efforts and ensure that we don't duplicate efforts or miss opportunities.

I'm overstating the case a bit here. Because we do communicate with each other. And we know each other. And when we plan a thing, we know who to talk to. And when we blunder into friendly forces who we didn't expect would be joining us in a particular engagement, we know that they are allies. And we can usually improvise a way to avoid causing problems for one another. There's a bit of a strained analogy here with a military concept called "full-spectrum operations". Which can be seen as simply deploying all of your classes of capability against your opponent to achieve maximum effect. And I think that we are doing this despite (or possibly because of) our lack of central control. We seem to be in a situation where there is no plan, no one is in charge, and no one knows what's going to happen next.  And I'm going to argue that that's a good thing.

Picture the situation from the perspective of our opponents. Who have no idea what kind of resistance to expect. Every time they venture onto the battlefield, they're met by a different opponent with a different set of strengths, weaknesses and tactics. Maybe they're met by several opponents. And there's no central point of coordination to mislead, isolate or otherwise neutralize. They put forward an idea, and it's resisted by folks they've been friends with for years. Angry people they've never met whose existence is threatened yell at them on the Internet. They get floods of phone calls and emails from folks who have been complaining at them for years complaining yet again. And their friends and family ask them at church "Dude, what's up with this thing?"  People protest, write letters to the editor, have friendly meetings with them and their staff, run against them in elections, contribute to their opponents’ campaigns, canvass for their opponents, send flowers, take them to court, and engage in all manner of resistance.  No action is safe. Including no action.

One of our core tenets - a fundamental element of our project - is that diversity is strength. Our society is better and stronger when the full spectrum of people participate. Everyone is helping. Everyone brings their best talents to the part of the project that they're most passionate about. To the part where they are best able to contribute.  So each independent line of effort could possibly benefit from better coordination with partner efforts. But they also benefit from the talent and passion of the workers being free to do their jobs as they see fit. Everyone is passionately bringing their "A" game to the part of the project they care most about.

And that's exactly how this project looks to me. We don't have a plan, no one is in charge, and no one knows what's going to happen next.  Including our opponents. Who have no idea what will happen when they try to do something. This is fantastic for us.  This decentralized control, which seems to be a weakness is actually a strength.   We have our best people doing their best work opposing them. We are all essential and no one is irreplaceable. Everyone is contributing according to their talent and inclination.  This has been going on for a year. And people are still showing up at meetings. They're excited to do things.
Things aren't perfect.  We've had some missteps.  Some people have been excluded who shouldn't have been.  Some people have had to take a break.  When that's happened, others have joined in. Many of whom will be here for the duration.  And when the opportunity arises, some of those who had to step aside will return. Democracy is messy. And we're going to goof up from time to time. But we have to try. And we are.

So I think that the current state of the resistance is that we are in fine shape. We don't have a plan, no one is in charge, and no one knows what's going to happen next. And that's exactly how it should be.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Say Goodbye to the Internet As We Know It

Ajit Pai was chosen by President Donald trump to be the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in January 2017. Pai almost immediately made his intentions clear, “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation,” Pai said. It turns out that in Pai’s opinion, the net neutrality rules put in place under the Obama Administration are some of the weeds that need wacking.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia fully upheld the prior FCC’s net neutrality rules on June 14, 2016.

These weedy rules prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing web traffic or creating so-called paid internet fast lanes. Without network neutrality, ISPs can legally create a tiered internet where some sites will load faster than others.

Right now, for example, ISPs are banned from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. Remove this rule, and Comcast would be able to provide its NBCUniversal affiliate faster movie streaming than, say Netflix. It’s hard to know who owns what in today’s fast-changing media empire wars. For example, one of the websites I visited for information on this story contained a footnote, saying, “Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.”

Pai’s rollback also scraps the legal foundation that the FCC’s old Democratic majority adopted in 2015 to tighten federal oversight of internet service providers, and it would get rid of the so-called general conduct standard, which gives the FCC authority to police behavior by ISPs it deems unreasonable. According to Ars Technica, Comcast is already the most hated company in America, so apparently the way they're screwing consumers is considered reasonable.

The only people who seem to want Ajit Pai's revisionist policy are the people at companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. Incidentally, these companies routinely give immense amounts of money to members of Congress. Here in Eastern Washington, Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-WA5) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA4) are grateful recipients.

Americans can contact their elected representatives and ask them to urge the FCC take action to protect network neutrality with strong legislation. Unless, that is, you live in the 4th or 5th Congressional Districts, where Representatives Newhouse and McMorris-Rogers have made their intentions known. They’re going with the big money players.

You’ll be better served by going directly to the FCC and commenting on the proceeding, which is known (I kid you not) as “Restoring Internet Freedom,” Proceeding 17-108, https://tinyurl.com/m99426b.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tax Policy: A Reponse to Rep Dan Newhouse

by Bob Scherpelz
Congressman, Dan Newhouse (R-WA4), sent out emails asking what we thought should be in the new tax policy. Here's what I sent him:

Congressman Newhouse:

Last week you sent a letter to us asking what we think tax reform should look like. Thank you for offering the opportunity to tell you my vision.

I would like to propose a radical idea: that the tax system should raise sufficient revenue to adequately fund all the essential functions of our government. We need a strong military, and a capable foreign presence. We need to provide a sound safety net to all of our citizens who need it. We should provide an infrastructure that looks like a world-class country rather than a shabby one. We must maintain our leadership in education and scientific research. I have probably forgotten a few areas, but I think that the USA should be the world's superpower; it should be the leader of the free world; and it should be a just nation, a model to all others. This sounds like an expensive proposition, but our country has tremendous wealth and resources, and if we had the will we could produce the nation I describe.

The nation's tax system should share the burden equitably, which means an aggressively progressive structure. This is based on standard Christian ethics, as President Kennedy stated, drawing from the gospel of Luke: "For of those to whom much is given, much is required". A progressive tax structure will produce better equity, both in income and wealth, working towards a just society.

I know that the Republican party is unlikely to follow my suggestion, since they are discussing large tax cuts, especially for the wealthy. Their justification is that the resulting stimulation of the nation's economy will more than make up for a decrease in tax revenue. A number of economists disagree with this principle and point out that recent tax cuts did not produce the promised economic stimulus. I propose that legislation providing a large tax cut should include an accountability clause. It should have numerical targets, as a function of time, for the growth of GDP, the growth of employment and worker wages, and the decrease of the national debt. If these targets are not met, the tax structure would automatically revert to one that raises enough income to bring the deficit and debt down to appropriate levels.

Eliminating the estate tax would be a terrible mistake. This tax affects only the wealthiest members of our society (I don't know anyone likely to leave $11 million to their heirs), so eliminating the tax would be a gift to the super wealthy. The argument of being "taxed twice" is phony: the recipients of the inheritance will be taxed for the first time. I don't see anything special about a given packet of money, tracking how many times it's been taxed: how many times will a $20 bill have sales tax applied to it.
 Simplifying the tax code would be a good thing, but of course every deduction has a defender. But if popular middle class deductions are eliminated, I hope that there will be a vigorous effort to eliminate the many provisions that benefit the wealthy. I would particularly like to see the "carried interest" loophole eliminated.

Congressman Newhouse, I know that you have a difficult job ahead of you. But there is an approach to taxation that has not been tried in a while: instead of treating taxes as an unjust burden that people should be freed from, I think that you should appeal to Americans' basic generosity and patriotism. Remind them that they are living in the greatest country in the world, that we could and should be the world's leader, but that this is not cheap, and there is no magic pot of money to tap - it is the responsibility of all of us citizens to share our treasure to make this country great. That argument would work with me.

Sincerely, etc.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tri-Citians Demonstrate Support for DREAMers

On a hot, smokey Tuesday afternoon, dozens of people lined George Washington Way in Richland to demonstrate against President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Many wore protective masks to avoid breathing in the throat-searing smoke. Most held signs expressing their views on the issue. All were supportive, and most of the traffic along GW Way, blew their horns and raised their thumbs in solidarity with the demonstrators, including a couple of semi-truck drivers, who blasted out their accord on their big rig's air horn.

According to Johanna Walters, writing in the Guardian, “The DACA program was a compromise devised by the Obama administration after Congress failed to pass the so-called Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act (thus the term “DREAMers), which would have offered those who had arrived illegally as children the chance of permanent legal residency. The bipartisan act was first introduced in 2001 and has repeatedly failed to pass,” due to Republican opposition.

The Northwest Immigrants' Rights Project provides basic information on DACA including President Trump’s decision to end the program as of March 5, 2018. The website also provides specific information on what you can expect if you’re a DACA recipient, and what to do under a variety of circumstances.

If you want to show your support for DACA, a good place to find ways to do that is the Faith Action Network page. To express concern and to demand legislative action to restore DACA and create a pathway to citizenship for its recipients, contact Rep Dan Newhouse, who has  already spoken out against this decision.

Washington AG Bob Ferguson has labeled the decision “cruel and unlawful,” and is threatening “to take Trump to court to protect the thousands of Dreamers in Washington state.” Go to his Twitter page and tell him thanks @AGOWA.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Day at the Benton-Franklin Fair

Richard Badalamente (L) and Mickey Beary (R) manning the Democratic Booth on the 9:30 am to 3:30 pm shift

Buck Sisson joining us at the booth. Buck manned the first shift with Barbara O'Brien and son, John

Hollis Morris, who served aboard the heavy cruiser, USS Baltimore from 1951 to 1955 stopped by to chat. Hollis said the Baltimore docked in England in 1953, he received liberty and was ashore for Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

Cristine Brown, Democratic Candidate for the 4th CD, stopped by the booth to chat.
We'd like to see some of our candidates for local elections come by the booth. Bring along your campaign literature. I brought extra copies of the WA Indivisible Voters' Pamphlet. Although the council seats are non-partisan, the opportunity to talk to voters is important, and you're welcome at the booth.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Democrats at the Benton-Franklin Fair & Rodeo 2017

Democrats of the 8th Legislative District and Benton County will be represented at this year's Benton-Franklin Fair & Rodeo again this year. Becky Voll, who managed the fair committee for us last year, rode in from Portland on her white steed to rescue the project.

When we looked at sign-ups for the fair last Friday, we had only about 10% coverage. By the end of the day Sunday, we had 90% of the shifts covered -- thanks to all of you who stepped up! -- and we had the booth up at the fair grounds. We're looking forward to meeting with all of you democrats at the fair. By the way, the "El Fat Cat Grill" is right next to the back entrance to the building.
As you enter the fair from the ticket windows, you'll see the Mattress Firm Expo Building Straight Ahead
Mattress Firm Expo Building
 Our booth location has changed from last year. We are still in the building labeled "Mattress Firm Expo Center," but the booth is along the side, rather at the entrance. The booth will be manned from 9:30 am to 11:00 pm, from Tuesday, August 22nd to Saturday, August 26th.

We still need some help on shifts. I need a partner for my 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm shift Tuesday, August 22nd. Ginger Wireman needs someone to help with her 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm shift Wednesday Aug 23rd. We need someone to take 11:30 to 12:30 Thursday, Aug 24th, and we'd like to get another person Friday, Aug 25th, 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Please let me (Richard 509-546-1420) or Becky (971-222-8862) know directly if you can help.
Becky enlisted the aid of her husband, Jim, to help construct the booth. John and Mimi Latta came over from the West Side to help.
Backdrop is up
Mimi Latta putting up the banner.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

8th LDDCC Bylaws -- In Case You Wondered

The 8th LD Democratic Central Committee (LDDCC) Bylaws are amended as part of the reorganization process undertaken in December or January following each state General Election held in even numbered years. The 8th LDDCC Bylaws were amended after the 2016 General Election, and approved by the Body on April 15, 2017.

As part of the process, the 8th Legislative District Democratic Organization (LDDO) was renamed the 8th Legislative District Democratic Central Committee (LDDCC).

The new Bylaws are awaiting the LDDCC Chair's sign-off and decision on their distribution and disposition. You can read the unofficial version here. Refer to the April 15th Meeting Minutes to see the discussion on the Bylaws.