KEXP “Eat the Airwaves” Program Notes, March 16, 2013
Kitchen Notes: Previous ETA program notes are archived below, under “Columns.” Also, due to the new paywall, we are no longer linking to Seattle Times stories in our notes.
Miss the show? It’s now archived at http://www.hotpotatomedia.com/eta/031613et.mp3. Each week, you can listen to Eat the Airwaves live, from 8:30-9:00 AM Saturdays on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle, or at http://kexp.org
This week, the Seattle Police Departnent’s two unions sued to block the Monitoring Plan. The Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (which represents sergeants and rank and file officers) and the Seattle Police Management Association (which represents lieutenants and captains) filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief in King County Superior Court.
The two unions want to block the Monitoring Plan from taking effect, since it contains wording that says no aspect of the plan or of the Settlement Agreement can be nullified by any contract negotiated between the city and the police unions. They want the court to rule that any changes in the department will be subject to collective bargaining. In other words, they want veto right over anything the monitor, the DOJ, and court tells them they have to do.
But US District Court Judge James Robart accepted the Monitoring Plan on Tuesday. And he had some strong words for both the police unions and the city.
Regarding the unions and their lawsuit, Robart said that the Monitor, Merrick Bobb, is an “agent of the court” and that he was “not aware of any jurisprudence which allows a state court to tell me what to do in my settlement agreement.”
As for the city, Robart scolded Mayor McGinn and SPD Chief Diaz for engaging in political infighting that led to a breakdown in progress on the negotiations. Robart said it was a good thing that McGinn eventually accepted the plan, because if he hadn’t then Robart would have found the city out of compliance with the settlement agreement, and then the court would take over and impose its own monitoring plan.
He also slapped down McGinn’s personal attorney, Karl Marquardt, who’s been arguing that the implementation of the settlement agreement is not litigation (so that City Attorney Pete Holmes, who supports SPD oversight, shouldn’t be involved). Robart called that idea just plain wrong, and said that his court would retain control of the case until the SPD was in full compliance with the settlement. And while McGinn and Marquardt are arguing that the Monitoring Plan is a “living document” that can change and grow, Robart made it clear that any changes had to be approved by his court.
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The Seattle City Council has been holding hearings on changes to the city’s comprehensive plan, which provides guidelines for development in the City of Seattle.
One of the new proposals is to ditch the “station area overlay” zones, which call for increased density in areas where light rail stations are located. To replace it,the Planning Commission has called for new “transit communities” with (of course) denser development. The new transit communities are defined as areas with transit service at least every 15 minutes from early in the morning until late at night, seven days per week.
We’re having a hard time figuring out where those areas might be. Even the densely populated University District doesn’t have bus service that frequent on the weekends. In addition, many neighborhoods that have bus service every 15 minutes are already running buses filled to maximum capacity during rush hour.
Phinney Ridge, for example, has #5 buses that regularly leave people standing at the bus stops in Belltown and along Aurora Ave. N. during the afternoon rush hour. And the U-District routes are always full, regardless of the time of day or day of the week.
If the city wants to designate “transit communities,” it needs to find more money for more and better transit service inside the city, and not out to the suburbs.
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This week, new Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson appointed an “expert” to review the state’s biggest transportation construction projects: The new SR-520 bridge, the SR 99 downtown tunnel, and the I-5 Columbia River Crossing.
Peterson chose Ron Paananen, who was the former director for both the 520 bridge project and the SR-99 tunnel, before he quit his state job to work for CH2M Hill.
Remember, this review came about because state engineers screwed up the design for the 520 bridge pontoons…while Paananen was in charge. In other words, the state’s idea of “accountability” for these troubled projects is to bring in their former supervisor as a supposedly “objective” assessor of his former employees’ work. The results will likely be similar to if you, say, brought Dick Cheney in to review allegations of abuse at Guantanamo Bay.
This review, which is really a cover-up, will cost state taxpayers $305,000.
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Several good bills died this week in the state legislature. Among them:
* A bill to regulate the purchase and deployment of unmanned surveillance drones by state and local governments. This bill would have required agencies to get the okay from state or local governments before purchase drones. And would have required agencies to get a warrant before they could be used or show that an emergency exists.
The bill had strong bipartisan support, but it was killed when Boeing lobbyists showed up to wine and dine legislators, filling their ears with talk of this bill “killing jobs.” (Future jobs, maybe?)
In reality, Boeing recently purchased Insitu, a major drone manufacturer, so they want to reap the profits of expanding domestic use by marketing to state and local law enforcement agencies – exactly the sorts of unregulated sales the bill would have regulated. Boeing, ever the good corporate citizen, wants the sales, of course.. Never mind privacy concerns.
* Jamie Pederson’s gun-control bill would have required background checks for all gun sales in the state, including private sales. It didn’t even come up for a floor vote. Instead, it was just three or four votes shy in the Democrat-controlled House.
* And, again this year, the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill which forces insurance companies to cover a full spectrum of women’s reproductive health care procedures, and a bill which pro-choice activists have tried to get passed for several years, won’t make it. Why? Senate Majority Leader and ostensible Democrat Rodney Tom, who switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2006 specifically because he said he disagreed with reacttionary Republican culture war stances, is he person who controls which committees Senate bills get assigned to.
The RPA should have gone (as it has in past years to the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee, chaired by a pro-choice Democrat who promised it a fair hearing. Instead, Tom sent it to the Senate’s Healthcare Committee, chaired by anti-choice Eatonville Republican Randi Becker. There, the bill is now set for a cursory hearing and burial on April 3. Good thing Tom is distancing himself from those culture war zealots. He has the undying – well, maybe only a few dying – gratitude of our state’s women.
We talked last week about Arkansas’s new law, trumping several states that have now passed patently unconstitutional laws banning abortion at 20 weeks, by instead banning the procedure after 12 weeks (less than three months of pregnancy). The “Race to Conception” has a new leader, however: this week the North Dakota legislaure passed a law, now on its way to the Republican governor for signature, that bans abortion at six weeks.
You read that correctly: North Dakota – with only one remaining health provider willing to undertake abortion procedures and with its legislature also poised to pass a fetal personhood bill – has now banned any abortions later than a window of time in which many women may not even normally have a period, and so cannot even realize they’re pregnant. The next logical step is to ban the procedure at any point after a man and a woman meet. Which is, of course, the goal.
Why now? Anti-abortion activists have had high hopes that a President Romney would be able to provide a fifth Supreme Court justice to overturn Roe v. Wade. With Obama’s election foreclosing that possibility until at least 2016, the fallback plan is for a state to pass a bill that forces the current court to revisit Roe, with the hope that they’ll get lucky and thousands of sinful women each year will die from botched illegal abortions.
Can a ridiculous law inspire the Supreme Court of the United States to completely reverse 40 years of established precedent? Ordinarily, no. But with the Roberts court, such reversals have been happening a lot. The Race to Conception is part of a much, much larger Race to the 14th Century, all of it promoted by the same theocrats and their oligarch patrons.
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On the bright side this week, the Maryland legislature Friday approved a bill that, once signed by the governor, will make Maryland the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. Why is Washington State not on that list?
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More good news, sort of: Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio announced this week that he was reversing himself and supporting marriage equality. In Ohio, as in most other states and at the federal level, gay marriage is still illegal.
Did did Portman, a notably reactionary Republican, change his mind? Because his 19-year-old son came out as gay.
It’s commendable that Portman, unlike so many conservative parents, didn’t simply disown him (or worse, have him committed or kidnapped and “cured”). But this raises another question: why is it the only time most Republican politicians can reverse themselves on an issue – whether gay rights (as with Dick Cheney) or health care access or unemployment benefits or funding decent schools or anything else – is when a member of their nuclear family is personally affected. Did it never occur before to Portman that millions of loving couples were being denied the basic rights he now wants for his son? Millions of Iraqis and Afghans would like to know.
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Might Senate Democrats, mid-session and having had the need for it yet again beaten into their insensate skulls by the Chuck Hagel and Rand Paul fiascos, finally do something to amend the filibuster rules that continue to allow the minority Republican caucus to block pretty much anything?
Senior Democratic senators are now reportedly in discussions to, finally, work up the nerve to do exactly. But, notes the Talking Points Memo article on the talks, “The source said conversations are still too preliminary for Democrats to lay out publicly potential avenues of recourse just yet. And the last thing leaders want is to create the expectation that they will change the filibuster rules in the middle of the current Senate session…”
Oh, don’t worry. You’re safe. We’ve got no expectations at all. None.
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In Installment #847,209 (so far this year) of “What’s Wrong With Washington,” three recently retired senators landed cushy jobs this week. Chicken Hawk Joe Lieberman, once of Connecticut, will join Nuke-em-All Jon Kyl, once of Arizona, in their new cushy jobs plotting creative new ways to justify illegal wars at the American Enterprise Institute. (“War. What is it good for? It’s good for business!” – Billy Bragg.) Their new joint project will be called – I wish I were making this up – the “American Internationalism Project,” presumably because “Project for the New American Century” was already taken. Remember the name.
Meanwhile, former Massachusetts pin-up guy Scott Brown will take his red pickup truck and working class credentials back to the small-town charms of Wall Street. Technically, he’ll be in Boston, joining the international law and lobbying firm Nixon Peabody, and he’s legally barred from directly lobbying his former colleagues for two years. Instead, reports the Boston Globe, “he will be leaning heavily on his Washington contacts to drum up business for the firm,” and “the position will also allow him “to begin cashing in on his contacts with the financial services industry, which he helped oversee in the Senate.”
Brown, as a pivotal Republican at the time, was key in watering down the always financial services industry reforms that resulted in, among other thing, the grossly inadequate Dodd-Frank Bill. This job is his reward. Once again, for all the children reading, the moral of the story: crime pays.
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How does this play out in Congress? The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted along party lines Friday, 184-233, to reject a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2015. Six Democrats and every single Republican voted against the measure.
The question is: why did they vote against it? There could be a lot of reasons. Most of those no votes come from people who represent quite conservative districts. They could think poor working people deserve to starve; they could genuinely (if wrongly) believe minimum wage laws prevent poor people from getting jobs. Most likely they rejected the proposal primarily because the business interests that support them didn’t like it – but we don’t really know.
What we do know is what their reason wasn’t: it wasn’t because they were representing their constituents, even in extremely conservative districts. Because there isn’t a single Congressional district, anywhere in the country, where the public does not support increasing the minimum wage. Fifty percent of self-identified Republicans support it, along with almost all Democrats. Seventy-one percent of Southerners support it. Yet every single Republican – and six Democrats – voted against it, and it failed. That’s how Washington works these days. In many ways, it’s how DC has always worked, but in a post-Citizens United world, the effect is magnified thousand-fold, so that lawmaking is completely skewed to the desires of the very wealthy. And nobody else.
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On the identical topic, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that its analysis of 60 leading US companies led it to conclude that in 2012 they collectively parked about $166 billion in profits in offshore tax havens, thus avoiding any tax liability on over 40 percent of their profits. That’s only sixty companies – just think of what the overall total is, given the literally thousands of companies who use foreign subsidiaries to hide US profits. This is why buying a cheap suit like Scott Brown is a minimal, and immensely lucrative, investment for such companies.
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A new study by the American Public Transportation Association showed that transit has ridership increased 1.49 percent nationwide. But here in Seattle, ridership was up a staggering 11.8 percent.
Voter initiatives to raise money for transit passed at a record rate, too: 49 out of 62 measures (a 79 percent success rate). Get the hint, King County.
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Meanwhile, the rate of gun ownership is down in the US.According the General Social Survey, which asks this and other questions every two years. In the early 1970s gun ownership was an average of 50% of households. Now it’s 34 percent.
And it’s fallen all across the board: in cities and rural areas, in the Northeast and the Deep South, in the Midwest and the West Coast.
The main definer is one’s age group: elderly Americans own roughly the same number of guns they did in the early 1970s, but only 23 percent of people younger than 30 own guns.
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Google has settled the lawsuit over its Street View Project. Cars that collected images of homes and streets for Google’s Street View project also scooped up date from unencrypted home wireless networks, including private emails, passwords, medical and financial data, and other personal information.
Thirty-seven states sued Google. This week Google settled for a meager fine of $7 million and a promise to better police its own employees on privacy issues. For context, Google rakes in about $32 million a day, so this is not a deterrent. There’s not even a red mark on its wrist.
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Congress this week held its annual Threat Hearing, wherein all the chiefs of the various intelligence agencies address Congress and give a summary of what they think the main threats are to US security and what they’re doing about them.
This year, for the first time since Sept. 11,, 2001, they didn’t make a big deal out of threats from Al Qaeda or their “affiliates.” Instead, they listed the number one threat as a cyber attack against US infrastructure. But when pressed, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, admitted that there was only a “remote chance” of a major cyber attack within the next two years.
Nevertheless, the Pentagon is setting up its new Cyber Command with 40 cyber teams: Thirteen of them focused on offense and 27 to support the other military commands in planning offensive cyber attacks. Some of these teams are already in place (no doubt – think about Stuxnet). The first third of these teams—several thousand personnel—will be in place by September.
And, that’s not the scary part. Cyber Command wants to coordinate with private Internet service providers to get access to all email coming into the US so they can head off any potential attacks. One big goal of Cyber Command is to get legislation passed that would protect these private companies from lawsuits if they turn over private data to the US military.
Remember, this is all just to protect US companies from Chinese companies that want to steal their secrets and profit from them. In the meantime, we lose our right to privacy. And, oh, yes: no mention at all in the “Threat” Hearing of the two biggest real threats to US national security: climate change and severe economic downturn.
The US Central Command decided this week to remove data on air strikes carried out by unmanned planes in Afghanistan from its monthly air power summaries. Apparently, the Obama administration, which continues to deny in court that its drone program even exists (while bragging about how many wedding par-er, terrorists they kill with it) has concluded that publishing data on its nonexistent drone strikes might lead some people, including the grieving family members of Afghan civilians killed in the strikes, to conclude that they exist.
Mon. Mar. 18, 11 AM-12:30: Rally to oppose approval of the XL Pipeline. Michels Corporation is the company currently building the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline through Texas and Oklahoma, and they are likely to get the contract for building the northern leg of the pipeline if Obama approves it. They have a subsidiary named Pilchuck Contractors with offices in Kirkland, and that’s where the protest will be: 6725 116th St. NE, Kirkland.
Thu. Mar. 21, 3-6:30: Idle No More Seattle Day of Global Action: Meet at Westlake Park (4th & Pine, downtown) for speakers and long march south to the SSA Marine Terminal, in support of Lummi Nation. Dress warmly and bring marching shoes!
Fri.-Sat., Mar 22-23 “Fukushima, Not in the Northwest.” Friday 7 PM: Talk by Beverly Findlay-Kaneko of Families for Safe Energy. Saturday 9 AM-3 PM: Speakers, panels, and video presentations. Presented by Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. University Temple United Methodist Church, 43 & 15th NE, Univ. District.