GOP Candidate for Senate Blows Bad Breath at Senator Cantwell

Susan Hutchison’s absurd bashing of Maria Cantwell shows how Trumplike she’s become

Nine years ago, when Susan Hutchison was running for King County Executive, she did her best to portray herself as a reasonable Republican capable of governing Washington’s largest jurisdiction. Notably, the former KIRO 7 anchor took positions opposing Tim Eyman’s job-killing I-1033 and supporting an “Approve” vote on the state’s everything-but-marriage law, which expanded civil unions.

She didn’t win, but she certainly made an effort to pitch herself to Democratic-leaning and biconceptual voters during that campaign, even securing the endorsements of Democratic officeholders Brad Owen and Brian Sonntag.

Since being routed by current King County Executive Dow Constantine (who won a third term last autumn with token opposition), Hutchison has dropped any pretense of being a reasonable, respectable, likable Republican in the mold of Dan Evans or John Spellman. As the Chair of the Washington State Republican Party, she fully embraced Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic candidacy, even lashing out at Ted Cruz when he balked at falling in line during the RNC in 2016.

Now, three months after turning over the chairmanship to her deputy Caleb Heimlich, Hutchison has stepped back into the spotlight as a candidate for the United States Senate against Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell. With less than two hours to go before the close of filing, Hutchison jumped into the race, easily becoming the most recognizable Republican in the thirty candidate field.

Although she did not bother to put up a website or even a tweet announcing her candidacy, she promptly granted interviews to The Seattle Times and KING 5 News, in which she harshly bashed Senator Maria Cantwell while neglecting to lay out any policy positions or priorities for the country. As reported by Jim Brunner:

“I have just been watching the situation and I think that a sitting senator who is known for doing nothing for us does not deserve a fourth term,” Hutchison said in an interview. “She is a fake senator. She is a ghost in the state and in the Senate.”

Hutchison called Cantwell “a leader of the left-wing elite that are destroying our state,” tying her to liberal Seattle politics, such as the city’s recently passed “head tax” on larger businesses.

Asked about what federal issues she disagreed with Cantwell on, Hutchison returned again to Seattle politics, saying, “Seattle is a symbol of the left-wing elite” and that she would put out issue papers on “a lot of different subjects.”

It’s pretty evident from this interview and the KING5 interview that Hutchison intends to be a candidate in the mold of Donald Trump, her idol. That means we can expect a campaign consisting of outrageous lies and derogatory insults.

That is not the kind of campaign that Washingtonians expect or deserve.

Hutchison’s opening attacks on Cantwell are not only demonstrably false, but laughably inconsistent. How can Cantwell be “destroying our state” if she is a “fake” and a “ghost” who is “doing nothing for us” — as Hutchison also says?

It appears that Hutchison now aspires to do what Trump did — get elected to high office despite never previously having held office using bluster, bravado, and innuendo. But Donald Trump did not win in Washington in 2016, nor did the Republican Party’s candidates for governor or U.S. Senator, despite Hutchison’s claims that Republicans would be competitive in the state.

And last year, under Hutchison, the Washington State Republican Party lost big again when Democratic rising star Manka Dhingra handily defeated Jinyoung Lee Englund in the 45th Legislative District, destroying a five-year Republican majority in the Washington State Senate. Within weeks of that loss, Hutchison had resigned her post. Now she’s signing up for another fight she seems destined to lose.

If Hutchison truly believes that Maria Cantwell is a fake and a ghost who hasn’t done anything for Washington State, then she is an ignoramus. I know of few elected leaders who work harder for their constituents than Maria Cantwell. She is committed to providing excellent representation for every community in Washington, and she proves it every day through her actions.

It is Senator Cantwell that we have to thank for the construction of a new coastal radar on Langley Hill near Westport in Grays Harbor County, which has been a massive boon to weather forecasting in Washington State.

It is Senator Cantwell we have to thank for getting more bomb-sniffing dog teams in place at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s busiest airports, to cut down on security checkpoint wait times.

It is Senator Cantwell we have to thank for the introduction of the Comprehensive Addiction Reform, Education, and Safety (CARES) Act, which her office says would hold opioid manufacturers accountable for aggressive and misleading advertising, negligent distribution practices. The bill has been endorsed by thirty-nine Attorneys General, including Republicans as well as Democrats.

It is Senator Cantwell we have to thank for the passage of S. 346, the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act, which she cosponsored. Cantwell says the bill — prime sponsored by Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and cosponsored by Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — will improve the nation’s volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities and strengthen existing monitoring systems, including the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Washington and Oregon.

It is Senator Cantwell that we have to thank for the downfall of SOPA and PIPA, two horrible anti-Internet bills that the MPAA was trying to jam through Congress several years ago. Along with Ron Wyden of Oregon, Cantwell was among the first to declare her opposition to the infamous aforementioned bills that led to an unprecedented blackout by major websites in January of 2012.

It is Senator Cantwell that we have to thank for the Senate’s recent vote in favor of Net Neutrality. Cantwell, a recognized expert and leader on technology issues, worked with colleagues like Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley to secure the necessary votes to pass the resolution repudiating Ajit Pai’s FCC for abolishing the landmark Open Internet Order of 2015. Cantwell delivered one of the most substantive speeches in favor of Internet freedom during the debate over the resolution.

It is Senator Cantwell we have to thank for watchdogging the problems caused by unchecked media consolidation and anticompetitive mergers — a set of issues that very few elected leaders choose to educate themselves about or work on. Except for New Mexico’s Tom Udall, no U.S. Senator keeps a closer eye on the shenanigans currently going on at Ajit Pai’s FCC than Maria Cantwell.

She doesn’t let up, as we can see from these news releases:

It is Senator Cantwell we have to thank for protecting the Arctic Refuge from being destroyed by greedy oil profiteers. When the Bush administration tried to open the Refuge to drilling in 2005, Cantwell successfully led a filibuster that kept the oil rigs out. Sadly, the Republicans got a provision in the Trump tax scam bill that opens the Refuge to drilling, but the battle to protect the Refuge isn’t over.

It is Senator Cantwell we have to thank for going to bat for Snohomish County ratepayers before, during, and after the Enron scandal. Senator Cantwell exposed how Enron traders schemed to make money at Washingtonians’ expense.

It is Senator Cantwell we have to thank for organizing elected leaders in our region in opposition to plots by the Bush administration and the Trump regime to privatize the Bonneville Power Administration — a disastrous idea that would jack up electricity rates for people and businesses all over the Northwest.

And it is Senator Cantwell we have to thank for an incredibly long list of investments in essential public services like mass transit, affordable housing, and firefighting in the omnibus appropriations bill adopted by Congress earlier this spring, along with the expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).

Thanks to Senator Cantwell, we got an appropriations bill that:

  • Provides major increase in wildfire fighting funding
  • Provides major increase in opioid and mental health funding
  • Provides two years of funding for Secure Rural Schools
  • Bolsters federal cybersecurity efforts to block Russian hacking
  • Increases funding for airport improvement program
  • Increases funding for freight and transportation infrastructure
  • Boosts rural broadband development
  • Saves Land and Water Conservation Fund and increased funding
  • Protects the EPA from a 30% cut
  • Prioritizes Hanford Funding
  • Accelerates new icebreaker
  • Increases medical research funding
  • Closes loopholes in federal firearms background checks
  • Remedies retirement pay gap for Coast Guard members

Affordable housing advocates know that Senator Cantwell is a champion that we can count on. Cantwell has worked tirelessly to find money to house our nation’s people and our state’s people. She is incredibly persistent. (One of the projects she got funded will be built right here in Redmond, NPI’s headquarters and hometown.)

This list could go on, and on, and on.

Point is, Senator Cantwell has represented Washington for nearly eighteen years with distinction. She cares about every community in the Evergreen State, which is why she visits all thirty-nine counties when she campaigns for reelection.

Even Republicans should be able to appreciate how hard she has worked for Washingtonians. And I have no doubt that many Republican mayors, city councilmembers, and county commissioners quietly do.

But Susan Hutchison? If you ask me, she has no honor. She is not qualified for this important position. She is not a worthy opponent for Maria Cantwell.

She has chosen to launch her campaign — if it can be even be called that — by trying to project herself onto her opponent using Trumpian style attacks.

So much for civility. Susan Hutchison makes Mike McGavick look like a saint.

Fakeghost, and do-nothing wannabe officeholder are all phrases that could describe Hutchison quite well. As a former party chair, she knows how to serve red meat to her base. The Trump-loving Republican faithful will be happy to support Hutchison’s Senate bid — but they are not a majority in Washington State.

Book Review: Read “Inventing Ourselves” to learn about the latest brain science research

Getting older is a bizarre experience.

When we’re young, we are, understandably, not very good at anticipating the sort of person we’ll one day become; only in hindsight do we realize that.

More surprising, or at least challenging to our sense of continuity, is that once through the veil of maturity, we’re just as poor at retrospection. It’s as if we’re reincarnated with mostly vague recollections of our previous life — we retain something of before, but we’re no longer the same person.

Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s book Inventing Ourselves is a fascinating examination of what recent decades of technological progress and investigation have shown us about the teenage brain.

In a slender 202 pages, Blakemore’s brisk but never insubstantial-seeming summary of her own work and that of many other researchers demonstrates the way in which adolescence is not just a useful marketing term or otherwise peculiar Western European sociological invention: it’s a profoundly distinct biological — and specifically neurological —period that humans and related mammals experience.

Inventing Ourselves by Sarah Jayne Blakemore

Inventing Ourselves by Sarah Jayne Blakemore (Hardcover, PublicAffairs)

Technology has increased such that we can see the equivalent of high definition photos of how the brain looks while resting, as well as capture what it is doing performing specific tasks, and now has been going on long enough to compare the same individuals as they age.

Blakemore, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, did her doctorate at its Functional Imaging Lab and writes with the expectation that you know nothing about the way the brain functions, or at least with the presumption that it’s been a few years since last you learned of amygdalas, grey matter, and action potential.

It wasn’t necessarily a mistake to assume that readers curious about the way the teenage brain works picked up the book with no prior knowledge, but some of the particulars she includes, like London cab drivers or Phineas Gage and his skull-splitting tamping rod, are already staples so might be tedious.

Therefore, before getting into any of this, Blakemore wisely hooks you with some stories about her own life and adolescence.

Her brief, unassuming account of what it was like to grow up the child of a neurobiologist targeted by animal rights activists — whatever the scientific value, sewing shut the eyelids of newborn kittens was, in terms of public relations, perhaps the worst choice possible by her father — is immediately engaging in its own right but also illustrative of many of the themes she develops later.

Blakemore was actually not so afraid of the physical danger of mobs shouting outside her house or vandalizing their property as she was worried of police trailing her walk to school in their squad car.

Eventually, someone did indeed mail a pipe-bomb to their house that she nearly opened by mistake and may have killed her; however, she had only been mortified that her peers would think less of her because of all the attention.

She wasn’t exceptional.

Blakemore relates how researchers have been able to demonstrate in quantifiable ways how peer-opinion matters to adolescents and changes their behavior.

For example, teens (13-16) are not any more prone to risky speeding through stoplights than young adults (17-24) or adults (25+) so long as they’re driving alone. But put friends in the vehicle, too, and teens start getting into crashes much more frequently than young adults and older adults, who show no change.

While that particular example was a simulation, I was more surprised than I should have been that laws limiting young drivers and the types of passengers they can have a demonstrable justification.

If you’re like me, of course, you may have reacted with the equivalent of crossing your arms and skeptically hmphing, “Well how do we know this isn’t all just a result of the way we’re socializing children and teens?”

Blakemore did, of course, anticipate that, and includes examples of research such as how during their thirty-day period of adolescence, young mice will drink no more alcohol than adult mice if on their own but will tend to imbibe more generously when surrounded by others of their same cohort.

So we know that young mice, too, can be worryingly social drinkers under peer pressure! Which, by the way, is a much easier sell to the public when it comes to animal testing than something out of a lesser Saw series film.

She also talks about how brains aren’t this or that so much as they’re constantly becoming, especially in childhood and adolescence but even as adults.

Blakemore compares young minds to a startup company that hires tens of thousands of people before ultimately laying off the workers that show least activity.

This does, perhaps, fit too neatly into my expectations of why progressive policies are practically useful as well as ethically beneficial, but it’s nice to know evidence is there instead of wishful thinking. The target audience of this book is surely parents of children about to enter or amid their teenage years, but it’s a useful primer for all those who have to interact with that age.

To adults, a sensible anti-drinking campaign might be based on the life-or-death consequences of drunk driving or on chronic liver damage.

Thirteen year olds, though, may not believe that or care if they’re going to live that long anyway, so a message focusing on how being out-of-control intoxicated can make you subject to ridicule or do things you regret that ruin your relationships might actually be more impactful.

When your brain is wired for in-group approval, someone’s sage advice like, “Don’t give in to peer pressure” is a bit like hearing, “Just don’t breathe so much.”

This is the time that we are willing to try more risks because we’re discovering what sort of person we want to be, what we enjoy doing, and who we want to do those things with. You have to remember that you’re not talking to a child or to a little adult but something distinct, temporary, and wonderful.

It’s a tiny book, one you can get through it in an afternoon. But if you’re on the fence, watch her TED Talk to get an outline first. If you’re at all interested in learning more, I highly recommend picking this up.

Jan Angel drops reelection bid; Democrats ready to pick up 26th LD with Emily Randall

Yesterday, incumbent Republican Senator Jan Angel (R-26th District: Gig Harbor, Kitsap Peninsula) rocked the Washington State political landscape when she unexpectedly dropped her state Senate reelection bid, handing Democrats a prime pickup opportunity in a cycle that is expected to be difficult for Republicans.

Angel has represented the 26th District for almost five years, since defeating her predecessor Nathan Schlicher in a November 2013 special election.

Now Democrats feel they stand an even better chance of recapturing the seat once held by Schlicher and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer.

The Democratic Party’s candidate is Emily Randall, a community organizer and healthcare advocate with deep roots in the district.

“I believe that more unites us than divides us and am frustrated by partisan politicians who lack the courage to do what’s right for our community. I’m running for State Senate because I know we have the resources and tools to address our most pressing issues – we just need to elect a leader with the conviction to put people first,” said Randall in a news release earlier this week.

The Senate hopeful was raised on the Kitsap Peninsula in Port Orchard where both her parents were union workers; her father was a longtime shipyard worker and her mother a paraeducator at South Kitsap High School. She was the first of her family to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree. After graduating, she dedicated herself to serving others and advancing the cause of healthcare for women.

Most recently, she served as the Western Region’s Philanthropy Officer for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

As a state legislator, Randall says her priorities would be strengthening our schools, promoting affordable college, making apprenticeship and job training opportunities available to more people, and expanding access to healthcare.

The 26th District spans the southeastern part of the Kitsap Peninsula, stretching from Bremerton and Port Orchard in the north to Gig Harbor in the south.

Since Jan Angel has opted not to seek reelection, Randall is now a contender for an open seat. Angel has thrown her support to Marty McClendon, the Pierce County Republican chairman and perennial candidate.

McClendon previously sought this very seat eight years ago, but was easily defeated by Derek Kilmer. In 2014, McClendon challenged Kilmer again, but this time for U.S. Representative in the 6th Congressional District. As before, Kilmer prevailed easily.

In 2016, McClendon vied with Democratic State Senator Cyrus Habib to become Washington State’s Lieutenant Governor. Habib won, 54.39% to 45.61%.

McClendon and Randall will be competing with independent Bill Scheidler this summer to advance to the November general election.

Former Republican State Party Chair Susan Hutchison files to run against Maria Cantwell

With less than an hour and a half to go until the close of Filing Week 2018, former Republican State Party Chair Susan Hutchison has filed to run against incumbent Democratic United States Senator Maria Cantwell — we presume with the backing of the state party organization she was previously in charge of.

Hutchison joins an extremely crowded field that includes a whopping twenty-eight other challengers to Cantwell… more than a dozen of whom identify as Republicans.

Cantwell is seeking a fourth term in the United States Senate this autumn. She was first elected to that position in 2000, when she narrowly defeated entrenched Republican incumbent Slade Gorton. She easily won reelection in 2006 and 2012 over Republican challengers Mike McGavick and Michael Baumgartner.

Republicans have had plenty of time to find a credible candidate to challenge Cantwell and carry their standard in 2018, but they’ve squandered it.

That could explain why more than a dozen different people had filed to take on Cantwell as Republicans prior to Hutchison’s filing a few minutes ago.

It does not look like Hutchison has been undertaking any preparations to enter the race, which promises to be extremely daunting. (Washington State hasn’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1994, and 2018 looks like it’ll be a Democratic year). Her website is not operational, and she hasn’t even tweeted about her candidacy yet. Her Twitter biography still refers to her as the “Chairman” of the Washington State Republicans, a position she gave up months ago.

Hutchison became notorious last cycle for her deep embrace of Donald Trump. When it became apparent that Trump was on his way to the nomination, Hutchison enthusiastically hitched her wagon up to his, and became a highly loyal, fawning surrogate. In fact, she became so devoted to Trump that she clashed with Ted Cruz over his failure to fall into line and endorse the nominee at the 2016 RNC.

Prior to becoming Republican State Party Chair, Hutchison ran for King County Executive in 2009 against Dow Constantine. She was trounced, soundly.

(Constantine has since been reelected twice and remains at the helm of the county.)

Hutchison, a former television news anchor, likely has enough name recognition and will probably have enough money by August to beat the other twenty-eight people (so far) who have an ambition to take on Maria Cantwell.

But even if she manages that, Hutchison will head into the November general election at a serious disadvantage. As mentioned, Republicans have not won a U.S. Senate race in Washington State in twenty-four years.

(And that’s not all. They haven’t won a gubernatorial race or secured Washington’s Electoral College votes in almost forty years.)

Are there any Republicans who could take on Cantwell and win in 2018?

Our research suggests not.

Last year, we surveyed over eight hundred likely 2018 Washington voters and asked them whether they would prefer Maria Cantwell or former Attorney General Rob McKenna in a hypothetical matchup. 53% said they would back Cantwell, while only 40% said they would vote for McKenna. McKenna, in our view, would make a much stronger challenger to Cantwell; he would be a top tier recruit.

But even he trails Cantwell by double digits according to our polling. And he doesn’t have the baggage that Susan Hutchison has.

Hutchison’s association with Trump ought to help her push those other Republicans aside — especially if Trump tweets on her behalf from the other coast. But that same association also makes her unelectable in Washington State. It’s hard to imagine an easier mark for the Democrats than the former Republican state party chair.

Torturer Gina Haspel will be installed as new CIA head thanks to renegade Democrats

Despite the opposition of Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, the United States Senate today voted to confirm torturer Gina Haspel to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, further harming the United States’ international standing and handing Donald Trump another victory.

The vote was 54-44, with several renegade Democrats shamefully voting aye: Mark Warner of Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Four represent states that voted for Trump, while two (Warner and Shaheen) represent states that voted for Hillary Clinton.

Shame on each and every of them. With their vote, they have made themselves enablers of the Trump regime and its immoral, irresponsible policies and activities.

One Republican, Rand Paul, refused to support Haspel’s nomination and voted no. Senator John McCain and Senator Todd Young of Indiana were absent. McCain, as mentioned, was also opposed and would not have voted aye had he been there. Democrats thus had the power to stop this nomination in its tracks. Had all the Democratic senators stuck together, Haspel would not have been confirmed today.

But they splintered and the result is that Trump has gotten his pick through.

No Democratic senators from the Pacific Northwest supported Haspel.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon deserves our thanks for helping to lead the charge against Haspel’s confirmation. In a powerful, blistering floor speech, he laid out the case against voting for Haspel, which is worth reading in its entirety.

“In our democracy, confirmations are not supposed to take place in secret,” Wyden noted. “Nominees do not get to decide what is and isn’t known about them. But these principles have been thrown out the window.”

“Instead of standing up for the Constitution and for the American people, the Senate is rewarding Gina Haspel and the CIA for this abuse of power.”

“Gina Haspel has openly acknowledged that, as the Acting CIA Director, she is making the decisions about what gets declassified about herself and what does not. It is hard to imagine a more obvious conflict of interest.”

“The CIA, under Ms. Haspel, has also conducted an unprecedented influence campaign to promote her confirmation. This is inappropriate. It is wrong.”

Wyden was joined in his opposition to Haspel by his regional colleagues Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Jeff Merkley, and Jon Tester.

“There is no greater or more difficult task than protecting the safety and security of families of our great nation, and for that I am extremely grateful to every member of our intelligence community, including Ms. Haspel, who has spent decades in public service,” said Senator Patty Murray in a statement following the vote.

“However, given her troubling record and a concerning lack of commitment to transparency, I could not support her nomination to lead the CIA.”

“At the start of her nomination process I was deeply troubled by her connection to now-banned torture practices and the subsequent destruction of evidence. Unfortunately, Ms. Haspel failed to convince me during her hearing that she would always choose the path that best reflects our country’s morals and values.”

“Though I was in the minority today, I wish Ms. Haspel the best as she takes on this critically important role. It is essential she leads based on our values, stands up to those who would politicize intelligence or give illegal or immoral orders, and commits to total transparency with Congressional oversight.”

The roll call vote from the Pacific Northwest was along party lines:

VOTING AYE: Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID), Steve Daines (MT), Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (AK)

VOTING NAY: Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester (MT)

It must be noted that several Democrats from Republican-controlled states did NOT vote for Haspel, notably Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Doug Jones of Alabama. We thank them for their nay votes. History will remember that they voted responsibly against one of the worst nominees for this post this country has ever seen.

Read Patty Murray + Maria Cantwell’s Senate floor speeches in support of Net Neutrality

Editor’s Note: In an important victory for our digital liberties, the United States Senate today voted 52-47 in favor of restoring net neutrality as the law of the land in this country. The action now shifts to the House of Representatives, which would also need to vote in favor of net neutrality to overturn the action taken by Ajit Pai’s FCC. The following are the speeches given by United States Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell in support of a free and open Internet prior to the vote.

Patty Murray’s prepared remarks in support of net neutrality:

Thank you, M. President.

I’m here to lift up the voices of the families I represent in Washington state…

…who, like so many other Americans, agree that the internet should be free and open…

…who agree that our country should support small business owners, entrepreneurs, students and middle class families—NOT big corporations and special interests…

…who agree that consumers — not broadband providers—should get to pick the websites they visit or applications they use…

…who agree the internet should be a level playing field that benefits end users, and not slanted by broadband providers blocking content or charging for prioritized access.

That is why so many of us are on the floor today: to give a voice to the vast majority of Americans who want the internet to remain a place that fosters innovation, economic opportunity, robust consumer choice, and the free flow of knowledge.

M. President, these things aren’t a luxury.

They are what makes American ingenuity possible…

…and as a former preschool teacher, I support net neutrality because it helps the next generation of innovators — our students, especially those in rural and low-income areas.

Schools have worked hard to improve access to high-speed connectivity for all students because they know—from early education, through higher education, and workforce training—students need high-speed internet in order to learn and get the skills they need.

Their teachers need the internet to collaborate with colleagues, access educational materials, help students learn valuable research and internet safety skills, and expand access to a high quality education for students with disabilities and English learners.

Rolling back net neutrality threatens that educational equity and worsens the digital divide.

So let’s protect the free and open internet. Not just for today’s consumers, but for students—the next generation of American innovators.

The choice couldn’t be easier.

Either stand with everyday Americans — or with the massive corporations that have found a new way to make more money off of them.

Thank you, I yield the floor.

Watch this speech on demand.

Transcript of Maria Cantwell’s speech in support of net neutrality:

Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Hawaii and our empathies are with the state of Hawaii as they respond to this volcano eruption. I noticed this morning on the news, they’re referencing it could be as bad as Mount St. Helens, and trust me, that was a devastating impact to our state. So I hope that all federal agencies are helping in any ways we can for Hawaii’s natural disaster.

And thank her for also talking about the importance of net neutrality. I, too, come to the floor to defend the open internet because it is a pro-consumer, pro-innovation rule that we have to build on because it’s worth the 7% of our GDP and 6.9 million jobs. That is what the internet economy is.

Net neutrality that we are fighting for today has four bright lines, four lines that help businesses, helps consumers, and helps our internet economy grow.

They are, don’t block content, don’t throttle content—that is, don’t slow it downs—don’t create paid prioritization.

That’s like saying, in the Burger King ad, if you want the next whopper available, pay $15. I think they did a pretty good job of showing what would happen if you had every business operating that way. And the fourth rule is transparency. Make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting charged for.

The Obama-era federal communications system adopted rules that basically protected consumers and businesses on those four things.

Why did they do that?

Because there were some that were trying to eek their way into making more money off of consumers and businesses on what is basic service. Title 2 was the regulatory framework that the Obama-era FCC used to make sure that consumers were protected, and they were the strongest tools available and helped in making sure there was non-monopolistic behavior that would harm businesses.

So together, the rule that was established by the then-Federal Communications Commission system was an open internet with the FCC being the cop on the beat. That is to say, if you have these rules, you also have to have someone who is going to enforce them. Someone who is going to look at the monopolistic behaviors of cable companies or providers and say, that is unfair to consumers and businesses.

But under the Trump-era FCC, all of those things were thrown out.

And so that is why we’re here today.

Our colleagues are trying to say we want to go back to the protections of the internet that are called net neutrality to make sure that the FCC becomes, instead of a passive entity that just okays every charge that cable companies want to do, instead says, these rules about not slowing down content, not doing monopolistic behavior, these things are wrong and we are going to be the policemen on the beat.

The FCC can protect consumers and innovators and they can make sure that internet traffic does not violate an open internet.

But as I said, the Trump-era FCC is trying to throw out these strong rules and cable companies are already—already—starting to raise prices for higher speed.

In Vancouver, Washington, Comcast recently announced that higher-speed tiers will be available but only to consumers who purchase expensive paid TV bundles.

That’s why we’re here. Because while it sounds like, why do we want to give cable companies the opportunity to throttle or block or create paid prioritization, we also have to realize that today the internet economy is so much bigger than it has ever been, that it is a job creator and an innovator.

In my state, it’s 13% of our economy and thousands of jobs that continue to grow every day as new applications for the internet are created.

It’s so important that businesses who are even using these apps to help run their businesses more efficiently continue to get access to those tools.

But what about an internet that a cable provider decided to artificially slow down that website and thereby creating a disincentive for the very things that are helping to make our businesses more efficient?

So we want to make sure that the FCC does its original job.

What is that?

Well, they are there to promote development and adaptation of communication networks in the public interest. That is, they are serving consumers.

And that is the center of their mission.

The center of their mission should not be serving cable companies, and that is why courts have said to the FCC, if you want to have authority to protect an open internet, you have to do that under Title 2.

Basically, the court explained that enforcing the open internet principles and being a watchdog against abuse is important to the FCC’s mission of promoting and developing and an adoption of communications that’s in the public interest. But that those powers have to flow from Title 2 of the Communications Act.

So that is why the Obama-era FCC adopted those rules.

So today we know that internet is a basic necessity.

It’s the access that helps our health care delivery system work, our education system work, our banking system work, shopping, all sorts of things that make it just a necessary tool in life today. When a service is that essential and critical to individuals and a community and critical to their economic success, we need to make sure that consumers have protections, to make sure that it is not abused.

In the United States, we have just three — well, in the United States, just three providers of internet access have about 70% of the consumers.

In any market with only a few players, it is essential that we protect businesses and consumers, and that is exactly what Title 2 does. It helps protect us from cable company gouging and its close cousin, paid prioritization.

It makes sure that the barriers to entry are not erected so that entrepreneurs or start-ups who want to bring new products to market aren’t artificially slowed down and a larger competitor who can pay more for it can continue the access.

Just recently we had an event with Redfin, someone who is changing the real estate market, a company in the Pacific Northwest, and helping drive down the cost to consumers for real estate purchases. They made it very clear that Redfin was able to develop today because it had an open internet, and its consumers and business partners could connect to it. But under a world where they were just starting over and starting out new and they had to pay for a kind of prioritization to get good broadband service, they may not have been as successful.

So these rules, Title 2, gives expert agencies the tools to look behind the curtain and make sure that cable companies are providing the services that do not violate an open internet. And there is a reason that cable companies don’t want to follow these rules, because they want to make more money.

I get it. They want to make more money.

But I would say that, with 40% of Americans having no choice in who they buy internet services from, we have to be much more vigilant.

These companies have several vertically integrated companies at the top, and they are seeking to amass more and more content. And that could give them the tools again to block content, to slow it down, or to “X” out a competitor if they so choose.

I don’t want to see the FCC sitting on the sidelines and not policing this kind of environment. I know that AT&T now is trying to merge with Time Warner, and these large companies, they want to continue to amass content and to drive the marketplace. But the American consumer’s satisfaction with these big companies is at an all-time low. Do they think that they’re going to do the right thing on their own? Do they think cable companies will do that?

Well, the cable industry ranks at the very bottom of 43 industries in consumer satisfaction. In fact, it has been in the dead-last position for five years. So does the public think that they’re doing the right things when it comes to them or their businesses? I think that that survey says it all. They have great concern.

And what are the reasons that cable companies give for why they don’t want to follow net neutrality rules? [T]hey say, it will hurt their investment in networks.

Well, I guess I’d ask a question — did the Obama-era FCC rules slow down investment? No, it didn’t. Big cable companies continued to make investment in their networks. And the year following the rule that went into place, the entire industry shows that the total capital expenditures increased by more than $550 million above the previous year’s investment.

For example, in the 2017 earnings report, Comcast, the nation’s largest broadband provider, noted that it’s capital expenditures increased 7.5%, $9 billion, and that it continued to make deployment in platforms like the X1 and wireless gateways. Likewise, AT&T spent $22 billion in capital investments, up $20 billion from the previous year. In fact, 2016 represents the industry’s highest single year jump in broadband network investment since 1999.

So the notion that they are somehow going to slow down on investment is just not true. The historic growth came after companies had a full year to digest the impacts of Title 2 and net neutrality rules being put in place by the Obama-era FCC.

So where are we today? Well, these companies continue to make money and they want a free pass on continuing to make more.

That is why our goal is not the profits of big cable companies.

Our goal to make sure that the internet economy continues to grow and the juggernaut of job creation and innovation continues to expand.

We want the internet ecosystem that has doubled as a percentage of GDP from 2007 to 2017 to continue to grow. As I said, in my state it’s about 13% of our state’s economy and I spend practically every day in the United States Senate hearing about another innovation from someone in my state.

It may be the farm economy and more efficient ways to produce product or get product to market or manage their livestock. It might be in telemedicine, in helping someone from one side of the state to the other to get access to care.

It may be as basic as connecting people to their families and loved ones. But it is the internet that we know today and it is so integral to our lives.

Well, I hope that the common sense legislation in front of us, the CRA, which would restore those Obama-era FCC net neutrality rules, passes. I hope that our colleagues will understand that getting exorbitant internet fees from cable providers is not the direction the American people want to go. American entrepreneurs, innovators, and consumers cannot afford to take that hit. What they want to see is an open internet, one that continues to allow so much more of the internet economy to flourish.

Let’s make sure that we say to the FCC, we don’t want you folding or sitting on your hands. We want you to police the internet and we want you to have the rules to do it. That is why we must pass the CRA today and I hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join us because there is just too much at stake in our innovation economy. I thank the President, and I yield the floor.

Watch the speech on demand.

Oregon primary election results: Val Hoyle elected to lead Bureau of Labor and Industries

In a victory for the Democratic Party of Oregon, voters in the Beaver State have decided to keep the office of Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries (which is a nonpartisan position) in progressive hands by electing Val Hoyle.

“I am honored that the voters of Oregon had faith in my message to show up for working people, families and jobs,” Hoyle said following her victory.

“Oregonians have chosen a true champion for workers in Val Hoyle as Labor Commissioner,” said Democratic Chair Jeanne Atkins. “She has a history of standing up for Oregonians and fighting for justice. Despite her opponents’ attempt to smear her character and distort her positions, voters saw through it and chose the best candidate for the seat. I am glad, but not surprised, to see her win outright and look forward to working with her on the campaign trail in the coming months.”

Hoyle had been locked in an unexpectedly close race with Republican Lou Ogden, the mayor of Tulatin, which is a suburb of Portland. But she was able to prevail.

Had Hoyle not garnered more than fifty percent of the vote, the contest would have headed to a runoff. But with a majority secured, the campaign can come to an end.

Incumbent Commissioner Brad Aviakin opted not to seek reelection this year, which meant the position was an open seat. Democrats in Oregon made electing Hoyle a top priority in this month’s primary election, vowing to hold on to the office.

Hoyle, the former Democratic Majority Leader in the Oregon State House of Representatives, left the Legislature last cycle when she ran for Secretary of State. Her campaign was unsuccessful, however, and Lane County Commissioners passed her over when a State Senate vacancy came open in the Eugene area.

But now she is set to represent Oregonians as their Commissioner of Labor and Industries, after having fended off a challenge from Ogden.

Election Night Results for Bureau of Labor & Industries Commissioner

  • Lou Ogden (Supported by the Republican Party: 35.34% (193,615 votes)
  • Val Hoyle (Supported by the Democratic Party): 51.62% (282,802 votes)
  • Jack Howard: 12.66% (69,341 votes)
  • Write-in candidates: 0.39% (2,130 votes)

Total votes: 547,888

All Washington voters to get prepaid postage on their ballot return envelopes in 2018

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman have cobbled together enough emergency funding to ensure that all counties in Washington State can offer prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes this year, Inslee’s office announced in a press release today.

About $600,000 in funding allocated to the governor’s office by legislators will be paired with another $600,000 from Wyman’s office to cover the costs of waiving the cost of postage for all voters outside of King County.

“In this year’s election cycle, five hundred and ninety-six offices are up for election, including U.S. Senator, all ten of Washington’s congressional representatives, more than one hundred and twenty seats in the Legislature, three state Supreme Court justiceships, more than twenty superior and appeals court judgeships, and four hundred and thirty-eight county and local offices,” noted the press release.

“More voter participation makes for a stronger democracy. Because Washington is a vote-by-mail state, pre-paid postage is one important way we can reduce barriers to casting ballots,” said Inslee. “We’ll be working with legislators to secure ongoing funding, establish a permanent statewide program, and ensure King County is reimbursed for their proactive work on this effort.”

“This is about leveling the playing field and making elections equal for all citizens of Washington State,” said Wyman, who supported the King County measure and has supported statewide ballot postage proposals for a number of legislative sessions.

“I want to thank the governor for his collaboration, and I look forward to working with him to get a bill passed in 2019 to make Washington the first state in America with permanent universal postage-paid voting by mail.”

King County leaders promptly expressed annoyance that the state’s largest jurisdiction will have to ask for reimbursement in 2019 rather than receiving money from the state upfront like the other counties.

“We are proud that our leadership spurred statewide action to increase voting access across Washington,” said Executive Dow Constantine, Councilmember Joe McDermott, and Elections Director Julie Wise in a joint statement.

“However, the decision to exclude King County – and only King County – from the state reimbursement plan for prepaid ballot postage is grossly unfair. We urge state leaders to reconsider. If the state cannot afford to fully reimburse all counties for ballot postage, it should provide the same partial, per voter subsidy statewide.”

“Our 2.2 million residents already fund a disproportionate share of the state’s budget,” the three elected leaders noted. “King County will continue to make voting easier and more accessible, and if needed we will go to the Legislature next year to again seek fair treatment for our residents.”

We understand why King County leaders are annoyed, but to them, we say: This is the price of leadership. King County’s people and elected representatives can be very proud that we forced the state executive department into action by implementing a plan to provide prepaid ballot return envelopes this year.

King County can always go back to the Legislature in 2019 and request reimbursement. A substantial number of Washington’s state legislators are from King County, including the current Speaker of the House, House Majority Leader, House Majority Floor Leader, and Senate Majority Leader.

If Democrats remain in control of both houses, as expected, the chances are excellent such a request would be granted.

What’s important right now is not where the money comes from, but that the money has been found to make this happen. It’s a big deal… it means a major barrier to voting has been finally removed, and on a statewide basis.

Coupled with the Access to Democracy package (which includes the Voting Rights Act, same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration, and preregistration), 2018 will go down in our history books as a watershed year for fairer elections.

Democratic State Party Chair Tina Podlodowski is justifiably thrilled that the voting reforms she campaigned on when she ran for Secretary of State two years ago are being implemented at last. The arrival of Democratic State Senator Manka Dhingra in Olympia was the key to the Access to Democracy package, while King County’s bold leadership was the key to securing prepaid postage for all.

The Trump regime may be producing disastrous policies at the federal level, but progressive ideas are advancing here at the state level.

That’s something to celebrate.

We thank Governor Inslee for saying yes to Wyman’s request for emergency funding, as we asked him to do, and we look forward to helping educate voters that there is no longer a cost associated with returning a ballot through the United States Postal Service. We’ll need legislation in 2019 to make the change permanent. We stand ready to work with Senators Patty Kuderer and Sam Hunt to get it done, along with Representatives Zack Hudgins and Laurie Dolan in the House.

Avalanche of corporate money begins flowing into Washington State initiative campaigns

Serious money is beginning to flow into campaign committees organized in support of — and in opposition to — initiatives that could be destined for the November 2018 general election ballot, reports recently filed with the PDC show.

Last year, for the first time in decades, no statewide initiatives appeared on Washington’s November general election ballot, and 2017 ended up being dominated by local and special elections, particularly the contentious state Senate race in Washington’s 45th Legislative District, won by Manka Dhingra.

But this year, there could be as many as six initiatives on the ballot, depending on what happens in the next few weeks. And that means there could be as many as twelve campaigns (six for, six against) active across the state by summer’s end.

Big money is already flowing into two of them: Initiative 1634 and Initiative 1631.

Initiative 1634, spearheaded by the soft drink industry (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and Red Bull) would bar local jurisdictions in Washington State from levying taxes on soda. Curiously, Seattle’s existing tax on sugary beverages would be allowed to stand, though the city would not be able to raise it further.

The four aforementioned companies have already dumped $1.8 million into the campaign’s coffers to get it started, with Coke responsible for approximately half of that sum and Pepsi responsible for a majority of the other half.

Here’s a summary of Big Soda’s financial activity in support of the campaign:

Name City State Type Amount
PEPSICO, INC. PURCHASE NY Cash $675,960.00

As you can see, it’s all corporate money. And this is only the beginning. Eight years ago, Big Soda bankrolled Initiative 1107, plowing millions into a campaign to overturn tax increases on soda, bottled water, and chewing gum. They won.

Now they’re back for a second round.

Like in 2010, Big Soda will likely be spending millions upon millions more to peddle this initiative once they’ve purchased a spot on the November ballot for it.

The campaign’s expenditures show that a large number of firms and vendors have already been retained to work on the signature drive, market the initiative to voters during and after the signature drive, or provide legal assistance:

  • Dewey Square Group;
  • AAP Holding Company;
  • MCMI, LLC;
  • The Hicks Group;
  • David Binder Research;
  • Terra Strategies, LLC;
  • Northwest Communications, Inc.;
  • Bluefront Strategies (a division of DDC Advocacy);
  • Desler Communications;
  • TargetPoint Consulting;
  • Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP.

The campaign is disingenuously called “Yes! to Affordable Groceries (See Email For Rest of Name)”. And no — I’m not joking — that’s actually what the committee shows up as on the PDC website, as you can see here.

An opposition campaign to Initiative 1634 has yet to form, but one will be needed, because this measure is almost certainly going to qualify.

Meanwhile, Big Oil is getting ready to spend megabucks against Initiative 1631, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy-backed measure that aims to put a price on pollution, something that is very necessary and long overdue.

The “NO on 1631 (Sponsored by Western States Petroleum Association)” committee on Thursday collectively reported a quarter of a million dollars in pledges from the companies with major refinery operations in Washington State: Andeavor, BP, Shell, U.S. Oil, and Philips 66. Some of these companies also helped underwrite Tim Eyman’s unconstitutional I-1053 and I-1185 several years ago.

Aside from those pledges, the committee also has $3,794.82 in in-kind contributions from the Western States Petroleum Association.

Contributor name Receipt date Election Amount
ANDEAVOR 04/25/2018 Full election cycle $35,137.25
BP 04/25/2018 Full election cycle $85,461.5
CHEVRON CORPORATION 04/25/2018 Full election cycle $16,529.25
PHILLIPS 66 04/25/2018 Full election cycle $4,3415
SHELL OIL PRODUCTS, USA 04/25/2018 Full election cycle $56,826.5
U.S. OIL & REFINING COMPANY 04/25/2018 Full election cycle $12,630.75

These pledges are merely a harbinger of what is to come. In the end, upwards of $20 million could be spent by the oil companies in an attempt to defeat I-1631.

The campaign in favor of I-1631, which NPI is a part of, has raised $661,951.47 to date, and spent $389,555.77, with about half of its donations coming from The Nature Conservancy. The Washington State Labor Council, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Conservation Voters, and Peter Goldman and Martha Kongsgaard are also major contributors to the campaign.

To be certified for the November 2018 ballot, initiative petitions must contain valid signatures from at least 259,622 registered voters and be submitted no later than 5:00 PM on July 6th, 2018. That’s less than seven weeks from now.

But a signature drive can easily take place within the span of seven weeks when there is plenty of money available to pay workers to circulate petitions.

Coming soon: Coverage of the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival!

The forty-fourth Seattle International Film Festival, the largest and best-attended film festival in the United States, starts next Thursday, May 17th, and runs through June 10th. We’re delighted to announce that the Northwest Progressive Institute has been accredited to cover the 2018 Festival, which means we’ll be able to bring you reviews of new films from around the world.

Press screenings have already started, so we invite you to come back to the Cascadia Advocate regularly to read our reviews of films participating in SIFF 2018.

There are over four hundred films at the festival this year. I’ll be trying to see as many documentaries as possible. Among the films I’ll be screening are:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? a heartfelt and nostalgia-inducing documentary about Fred Rogers. Creator, writer, and star of long-running children’s show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, Rogers (a beloved figure in his hometown of Pittsburgh) was committed to giving “an expression of care each day to each child.”

This film makes it clear that the Mister Rogers on the TV show wasn’t a character, as Rogers in his real life was as caring and committed to the message of love and the unique value of each person as he was for children on the show.

Crime + Punishment is about a group of New York City police officers who speak out, risking their careers and lives by exposing the discriminatory quota-based system used across the department.

Local documentary The Most Dangerous Year is one of thirty-five films making its world premiere at SIFF this year. Directed by Vlada Knowlton, this film profiles families with transgender children as they fought discriminatory legislation proposed in Washington State in 2016 (which, thankfully, did not become law).

The Oslo Diaries, which recounts the 1992 Oslo Accords, in which a small group of Palestinians and Israelis met in secret to negotiate a solution for peace, using the personal diaries of the negotiators to give insight into the hidden process.

Silas, which highlights the activism of Silas Kpanan ‘Ayoung Siakor of Liberia as he fights corporations seeking to take over his land and strip it of all the valuable natural resources, devastating African villages.

I am also hoping to screen and review all seven of the films by indigenous filmmakers that SIFF is featuring this year. These films are:

Bee Nation, directed by Lana Šlezic. This documentary profiles participants in Canada’s Inaugural First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee who, with the support of their community, hope to make it to the national competition in Toronto.

Dawnland, directed by Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip. Through a focus on the Wabanaki people as they go through a historic truth and reconciliation commission, this documentary examines some of the horrible government-sanctioned activities that have ravaged Native peoples in North America.

Luk’Luk’I, directed by Wayne Wapeemukwa.

This narrative-documentary hybrid gives us a look into the lives of five struggling Vancouver residents during the 2010 Olympic Games.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, directed by Desiree Akhavan. This drama was winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival. It tells the story of three resilient gay teens who meet at a conversion-therapy camp in the 1990’s.

Sweet Country, directed by Warwick Thornton.

This film is set in the Australian outback and follows an Aboriginal ranch hand facing challenges in divided frontier society.

Waru, directed by Briar Grace-Smith, Awanui Simich-Pene, Katie Wolfe, Renae Maihi, Casey Kaa, Chelsea Winstanley, Paula Whetu Jones, Ainsley Gardiner. This film from New Zealand is made of eight vignettes, each directed by a Maori woman, with each segment focusing on a different woman as she struggles with issues like poverty, child abuse, and hopelessness.

Warrior Women, directed by Elizabeth A. Castle, Christina D. King.

Indigenous and women’s rights activist Madonna Thunder Hawk and her daughter are the subject of this documentary film.

SIFF has an amazing line-up of diverse films this year and we are excited to have the opportunity to provide reviews of many of them!

WA-08 hopeful Jason Rittereiser: How I got to single payer healthcare

Editor’s Note: Jason Rittereiser is a Democratic candidate for Congress in Washington’s 8th Congressional District, vying to succeed retiring Republican Dave Reichert as a member of Washington’s delegation to the United States House of Representatives. In this guest post, he explains why he believes that our country must have universal, single-payer health coverage.

I believe that access to healthcare in America is a basic human right.

In politics, this is still a matter of debate. But to many Americans, this isn’t an abstract question: it’s a question of life or death for millions of families without access to affordable health insurance. Watching a close friend face this very question was what convinced me we must enact a single-payer system.

A few months before my college roommate was to marry the love of his life, I got a call from Sam expecting to talk about wedding plans.

When I answered, I knew something was wrong.

“I need to tell you something,” he said, and then because there is no good way to break this news, he just said it: “I have a brain tumor, and they think it’s cancer.”

I was at work as a deputy prosecutor for King County. A thousand things raced through my head. I told Sam that everything was going to be fine, even though I didn’t know that, and that I would take care of whatever he needed.

I knew he would need help handling many of his personal affairs going forward, so when I hung up the phone, I began to make a list.

The first thing I wrote down was health insurance — with a big question mark.

Luckily, Sam had health insurance through his job. If Sam didn’t have health insurance or access to quality healthcare, his outcome would have been tragically different. We were able to make some calls and add additional health coverage to mitigate costs, found a neurosurgeon who specializes in Sam’s condition, and after an incredible and determined recovery, Sam is as healthy as ever.

Not everyone is as lucky. Our healthcare system has failed in providing this most basic human right to all. Too often access to care depends on your ability to pay. Even after passing the Patient Protection Act, our fractured health insurance system still puts access to care out of reach, often for those who need it most.

My wife Michelle has seen the failures of our healthcare system play out firsthand as a healthcare provider. With a Masters in Clinical Nutrition and a Certified Diabetes Educator, she started her career in community health, treating many patients who can’t afford health insurance. Her patients often required costly treatment because they did not have access to preventative care.

Consequently, they had minor conditions snowball into major health problems. These people had a far worse experience navigating our healthcare system than Sam did, for the sole reason that they just didn’t make enough money.

I believe that’s wrong.

We need a healthcare system that unites us in our core belief that no one should go broke because they get sick, and no one should die because they can’t afford care.

Every day, we make a choice in America to provide healthcare in the least efficient and most costly way possible simply because our elected representatives have politicized healthcare. We’re already paying for everyone to receive care by mandating that hospitals treat every patient regardless of their ability to pay.

This floods our ERs, inflates the cost of care for everyone who can pay, and ruins the credit of anyone who can’t. To fix healthcare, we must address access and costs and the most efficient and effective way to do that is a single-payer system.

Contrary to the political narrative I hear from my right wing friends, providing healthcare for everybody is not something to fear.

Getting sick and not having the care you need is, and so is having to decide between paying a medical bill or your rent.

Today, our neighbors rely on crowdfunding rather than health insurance to make ends meet if they get sick.

GoFundMe even advertises its platform as “#1 for Health Insurance Fundraising.” On that site alone, there are 1.3 million people in America raising money from friends to pay for cancer treatments, 54,000 people waiting on donations in order to pay for transplant surgery, and 32,000 asking for money so they can treat their diabetes. It doesn’t have to be this way.

In the wealthiest nation in the world, we have more than enough resources to guarantee quality and affordable healthcare for every person in America.

It’s time we invest on the front end of our healthcare system. No one should be denied access to quality and affordable healthcare because of how much money you make, where you work, or where you live.

In America we have a rich history of solving the world’s most complex problems, but we have fallen behind on healthcare. I refuse to accept a system that does not provide everyone the same life-saving care that my friend Sam received.

It’s time we finish the job, enact a single-payer system, and guarantee healthcare to everybody in this country, and it’s time for a new generation to lead the way.

Immigration, healthcare, economic security discussed at Pramila Jayapal’s latest town hall

Two evenings ago, on Wednesday, May 2nd, Representative Pramila Jayapal held her sixteenth town hall event at the Seattle Central Public Library.

The discussion served as a stark reminder of how much work needs to be done in Congress to address people’s grievances and society’s shortcomings.

It was also a reminder of how fortunate the 7th District is to have such an engaged and progressive constituency, ably represented by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Jayapal opened the event by praising the people of the 7th District for being among the most involved in the country. She says her office receives more emails and phone calls than any other district in the country.

In her opening remarks, Jayapal expressed her disdain for the current regime: “There is deep trauma being done to people across our country. People who are facing deportation, people who are barely scraping by. The swamp has grown larger, and the swamp monsters bigger,” Jayapal said.

She then laid out what she called her “proposition agenda”, hitting especially hard on the issues of immigration, healthcare, Social Security, and higher education.

On immigration, Jayapal expressed her frustration that Congress is doing nothing productive. Jayapal stated she would continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform, “including a path to citizenship for eleven million, including family reunification, including a permanent solution for the 1.8 million DREAMers that have only known the United States as their country.”

Healthcare was another major focus of the town hall event.

Attendees voiced concern that for too many people, healthcare is still not affordable, let alone available. Throughout the evening, Jayapal reiterated her support for single payer, universal healthcare. Part of her agenda for healthcare is legislation that would allow states to move to a single payer system.

She said she will introduce the bill in the next couple of weeks.

“If you can show that your plan is going to cover 95% of your state’s residents, then you would be able to expand on the public option waiver that’s currently in law [in the Patient Protection Act] and actually use the federal streams that are available to move towards that single payer system in the state”.

Rep. Jayapal also spoke at length about the College for All bill she introduced along with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont last month.

That legislation aims to make four year public college degrees tuition-free for families making up to $125,000. In addition, the bill would cut student loan interest rates for new borrowers in half and reduce the current student loan debt currently estimated at 1.3 trillion. The Representative noted that student loan debt now exceeds Americans’ credit card debt, and argued that canceling the student loan debt would drastically boost the country’s economic productivity.

One of the final questions Jayapal addressed was simply phrased: “What can we do?” She asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they had relatives or friends who had voted with the Republican Party.

She then asked people to keep their hands raised if they had talked to these relatives or friends about their political views and concerns.

Several dropped their hands.

Jayapal emphasized the need to be an engaged citizen, to have difficult conversations with people of opposing viewpoints, to write or call local leaders, and to attend town hall meetings like the one organized by her office.

Were you at Wednesday night’s town hall with Representative Jayapal? Feel free to share your reflections on the event in the comment thread below.

Paul Ryan backs down; Patrick Conroy will remain in his post as U.S. House chaplain

Turns out Patrick Conroy isn’t going anywhere after all.

The veteran United States House chaplain, a beloved Jesuit priest, will continue with his ministry to the chamber’s four hundred and thirty five voting membersafter Speaker Paul Ryan backed down and assented to Conroy’s wish to rescind the resignation he had unhappily offered last month at Ryan’s behest.

“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House,” said Ryan, not bothering to acknowledge that he lacked the power to unilaterally force out Conroy in the first place.

“My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves. It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post. I intend to sit down with Father Conroy early next week so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House.”

“Father Conroy’s service as House Chaplain has been a blessing to Members on both sides of the aisle,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in response.

“Speaker Ryan’s decision to accept Father Conroy’s decision to rescind his resignation and finish his term is welcome news.”

“However, many distressing questions must still be answered about the motivations behind Father Conroy’s unwarranted and unjust dismissal.”

“Father Pat has served the House honorably for more than seven years, and I’m glad that he will remain the House Chaplain. Still, because there are conflicting reports and questions left unanswered, we need a full understanding of what happened,” Democratic Caucus Chair Joseph Crowley of New York said.

“This is why I’ve called for a select committee to lead an inquiry into the events leading up to his abrupt dismissal. I hope Republicans will join Democrats to help us get the facts and ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.”

The retraction (and acceptance) of Conroy’s forced resignation ends an embarrassing multi-week saga that has served as a fresh reminder of Paul Ryan’s ineptitude.

Conroy did his country and the House a great service by deciding to challenge his forced ouster. His boldness and resilient spirit have carried the day. Below is a copy of the scathing letter Conroy sent to Ryan today.

Dear Speaker Ryan:

As you know, by letter of April 15, 2018, tendered my resignation of the position of Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives (hereinafter “House Chaplain”) to you, effective May 24, 2018. At this time, and upon advice of counsel. I hereby retract and rescind said resignation for the reasons that follow.

I was elected as House Chaplain on May 25, 2011, and I have honorably served in that role since that time. was re-elected House Chaplain in every succeeding Congress. have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House Chaplain. It is my desire to continue to serve as House Chaplain in this 115th United States Congress to the end of my current two-year term, and beyond, unless my services are officially terminated (however that is properly done) or I am not re-elected to the position by the membership of the House.

While you never spoke with me in person, nor did you send me any
correspondence, on Friday, April 2018, your Chief of Staff, Jonathan
Burks, came to me and informed me that you were asking for my letter of resignation. inquired as to whether or not it was “for cause.” and Mr. Burks mentioned dismissively something like “maybe it’s time that we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.” He also mentioned my November prayer and an interview with the National Journal Daily.

At that point, I thought that I had little choice but to resign, as my assumption was that you had the absolute prerogative and authority to end my term as House Chaplain.

Recently, on April 27, you publicly indicated that my “pastoral services” to some Members were lacking and that I did not offer adequate “spiritual counseling” to others. This is not the reason that Mr. Burks gave me when asking for my “resignation.” In fact, no such criticism has ever been leveled against me during my tenure as House Chaplain. At the very least, if it were. I could have attempted to correct such “faults.” In retracting my resignation I wish to do just that.

I also write this letter because I do not wish to have my “resignation” be construed as a “constructive termination.”

You may wish to outright “fire” me, if you have the authority to do so, but should you wish to terminate my services, it will be without my offer of resignation, as you requested.

Since soon after i submitted my letter of April 15 I chose to remain silent about this matter despite numerous requests from the media. There has been much said in conjecture about my leaving the Chaplain’s Office, much of it damaging to the reputation of the House and the integrity of the Office of the Chaplain.

Had I known of any failure in providing my ministry to the House, I would have attempted to make the appropriate adjustments, but in no case would I have agreed to submit a letter of resignation without being given that opportunity. Therefore, I wish to serve the remainder of my term as House Chaplain, unless terminated “for cause.”

Please be guided accordingly and kindly provide confirmation of your recognition of this letter and my retraction of resignation no later than May 12, 2018. Thank you.

“Lord, Ryan is so inept he can’t even fire somebody right,” wryly noted one Washington Post commenter. “Not that Father Conroy should have been fired,
but Ryan with all his self-proclaimed power couldn’t even make it stick.”

“Ryan, the invertebrate, again fails to meet a challenge with courage,” agreed another commenter. “Now don’t get me wrong, the challenge was a stupid one, but when will this guy ever stand for HIS beliefs even when they are dead wrong?”

“Father Conroy isn’t Speaker Ryan’s priest,” pointed out yet another commenter. “When you go against the Society of Jesus, you better bring your A game. Must have been an interesting confession on Ryan’s part.”


Documentary Review: “A Plastic Ocean” is a sobering film that everyone should see

A Plastic Ocean” is not the film its director, writer, and executive producer Craig Leeson started out making.

Off the coast of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean in 2011, journalist and filmmaker Leeson was on a boat with a cameraman and crew trying to get footage for a documentary on the blue whale. While they got some blue whale footage, including what is believed to be the first underwater footage of a juvenile pygmy blue whale, they were also surprised to catch on film a stream of garbage and debris.

A Plastic Ocean

A Plastic Ocean
Release Year: 2016
Director: Craig Leeson
Running time: 1h 42min
Watch trailer

Underwater cameraman Doug Allen describes it fairly well at first: “Floating on the surface and a meter below was just this horrible, crappy, emulsified mess of oil and bits of, you know…”

He trails off, struggling to find the words to capture the assortment of items they fished out of the water (collecting them in a plastic shopping basket one should only find in a grocery or drug store, not the middle of the ocean).

Approximately eight million tons of plastic is dumped in our oceans every year, with most of it coming not from boats and ocean vessels, but from land-based sources then making it’s way to the sea from rivers and streams.

Plastic wreaks havoc on the ocean environment and the plants, animals, and fish that live in and around. Whales, which feed by opening their large jaws and taking in large amounts of water, along with whatever is in it, then expel the water, end up with stomachs full of plastic instead of krill.

Microplastics, or the tiny little pellets of plastic that larger plastic debris often crumbles into, are ingested by fish, and the toxic chemicals that ride on the plastic end up in the tissue of the fish, which larger animals (including humans) then eat.

In an area of the North Pacific Ocean with no visible garbage on the surface of the water, Dr. Andrea Neal puts a trawl with a very fine net that catches anything larger than a pinhead into the water. A handful of microplastics comes up in the net.

Dr. Neal says this “plastic smog” is more insidious than the infamous large floating island of plastics and other garbage.

It is not just marine species that are endangered by plastic in the ocean. Seabirds like the albatross and shearwater are also struggling because of it.

Many birds die because they inadvertently eat small pieces of plastic or microplastics when they feed on fish from the ocean. Eventually their stomachs are totally full of plastic, as we see when a couple of birds are cut open.

You can see their stomachs are large and hard before the stomach itself is cut, revealing nothing but a variety of plastic. It is estimated that ninety percent of all seabirds have ingested some plastic.

While some people are working on ways to remove plastic that is already in the ocean, the bigger and perhaps more important task is stopping the massive flow of plastic that is currently going into the ocean.

Plastic is nearly everywhere in modern society. Plastic is so versatile that it has thousands of uses. The problem is that it never totally degrades.

Says Leeson: “Plastic is wonderful because it is durable. And plastic is terrible because it is durable.”

World-record free diver Tanya Streeter notes in a TEDx talk we see a clip of in the film, that lots of plastic items are considered “disposable,” and asks “how can a disposable product be made of a material that is indestructible? Where does it go?”

She also notes that more plastic has been made in the last ten years than in the century before that. We use massive amounts of plastic, and are not reusing or recycling nearly enough of it.

In one year, every person on the planet will use about three-hundred pounds of single use plastic. Just in the United States, over thirty-eight billion plastic water bottles will be thrown away in one year. It takes over sixty-three billion gallons of oil to make all the plastic water bottles used in the US every year, and over ninety percent of those bottles are only used once.

While the amount of plastic produced each year is already massive, production is expected to triple by 2050 as the world population increases.

We need to start taking action to address this problem now.

First of all, we can try to use less plastic to begin with.

One of the big culprits is plastic packaging on food. Ask your grocer and restaurants you frequent not to package food in plastic.

If you have to buy food in plastic, buy it in larger quantities. With yogurt, for example, you should buy the large container rather than the individual servings. When getting produce at the grocery store, avoid using the plastic produce bags except for smaller items, or rinse and re-use bags for multiple grocery trips.

At home, use aluminum foil (and then recycle it!) instead of plastic wrap or plastic bags. Wash and reuse plastic bags for items that you can’t put in foil, or use reusable containers instead of bags and foil. Use glass food containers instead of plastic whenever possible. Reducing the plastics we use to store and serve food is important not just for the environment, but also our health, since we often ingest toxic chemicals such as BPA when we eat and drink from plastic containers.

Many people already take reusable cloth bags to carry their groceries in, and this is great. Why not also use those reusable bags when you do other shopping, like at the mall, department stores, drug stores, etc.? Use the big pile of plastic shopping bags you’ve already gotten from your shopping as garbage bags instead of buying plastic garbage bags, or recycle them; most grocery stores have a collection bin.

The City of Seattle’s plastic bag ban went into effect in 2012, and an increasing number of cities around the country are following suit with their own bans.

Rawanda has a country-wide ban on plastic bags, and in “A Plastic Ocean”, we see workers making paper bags. Push your city, county, and state to ban plastic bags, plastic water bottles, and plastic straws and utensils at restaurants.

Along with using less plastic, we should recycle what we do use. It is said in the film that the technology now exists to recycle most plastics, so the issue now is getting the infrastructure, systems, and collection methods to do it on a large scale. For example, there is a company in Ireland that created a process to turn “end of life” plastics like candy bar wrappers and plastic bags into diesel.

In Germany, a 1991 law makes manufacturers responsible for the recycling or disposal of any packaging material they sell.

This has led to extensive recycling programs, including vending-machine-type devices at almost every grocery store where consumers can deposit plastic bottles and get a few cents back for each one. Everyone recycles because they get money back for doing so, and recycling is a lucrative industry.

We ought to develop a similar law in the United States.

Some people are lobbying to classify plastic as hazardous, and then existing laws about disposal of hazardous material would then cover plastics.

The film also highlights and interesting social enterprise called The Plastic Bank. In Haiti, people can turn in recyclable plastic and get money or necessary goods in exchange. The plastic is recycled and then sold to be used in manufacturing.

Near the end of “A Plastic Ocean”, Leeson offers this thought: “Every species on the planet works towards the benefit of the ecology and environment that it lives in, but us humans, we just seem like passengers on this earth.”

This observation really struck a chord with me. It is amazing how every species serves a unique and necessary biological function on this planet. Except humans, as far as I can tell. We just seem to endlessly consume and destroy. Or is our function to destroy the planet, until most current species die off and an entirely new world is created from the drastically altered environments we’ve left behind?

I honestly don’t believe that is our purpose (nor do I want to go any further down that existential black hole) so let’s all just agree to try to preserve the planet we’ve got, since it really is an amazing and beautiful place. If we stop covering it in plastic.

If you have more ideas for reducing plastic usage in everyday life, whether through using materials other than plastic or reusing plastic items as much as possible, please leave a comment in the thread below.

You can stream “A Plastic Ocean” on Netflix, or rent or buy it on YouTubeGoogle Play, or iTunes. You can also request to host a screening, check out the schedule of screenings, or rent or buy the film directly from Plastic Oceans Foundation.

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