Thursday, March 19, 2009

Get excited and make things

Final goodbye from the Seattle P-I

Thank you for making us who we were


Goodbye, Seattle.

Thanks for everything.

We probably didn't tell you enough how proud we were to be part of you.

We love your saw-toothed Klondiked Boeing-proud past. It's our past, too.

We even love your nervous overcaffeinated undercapitalized Sonics-free present.

And we're sure you'll still be pretty fetching in the future as a bored-tunnel light-railed one-paper joint (or paper-free zone, as the regrettable case may be).

We love your Koolhaas library and your defiant little Edith Macefield house. We love your ratty Pike Place Market and rattier Pioneer Square, complete with the ersatz totem pole standing in for the real one the P-I-backed drunken expedition stole from the Tlingits in 1899 (not our finest move).

Down here on Elliott, we love it when Rainier rolls into view on mystical ball bearings, and we love the way our old globe looks when the winter sun sets behind it about 4 p.m. and lights up the bay with more fire than Hempfest.

We love the Blue Angels and the hydros and the Duwamish and Northwest Harvest and Dave Niehaus and Elliott Bay Books and Tom Douglas' coconut cream pie. We love guys named Warren (Moon and Magnuson), and Jimi Hendrix, and walking around Green Lake and along Alki and Golden Gardens and through the arboretum. We love the Suzzallo and Salumi and the Burke-Gilman and the Fremont Troll and the best women's crew in the world. We love Benaroya Hall, and also the Croc and the Showbox and the Tractor. We love Norwegians, but most of us fear lutefisk. We love taking ferries, and not using umbrellas, and eating lunch at Bakeman's and the Pecos Pit and the Shanty.

All of which is to say, we love you.

We're overwhelmingly grateful to you for supporting us for 146 years -- for buying us on the street, for inviting us into your homes, for placing ads with us, for telling us what you think and helping us be better. And, over the last two months, for telling us how much you'll miss us.

And we're damned sorry we won't be here in print to cover you. When our kids and your kids make this place even better than it is now. When the Mariners win the World Series. When the city and the county and the state step up to their responsibilities to give our youths better schools and alternatives to shooting each other in the streets, to clean up both traffic and Puget Sound, to actually plow snow, to hold cops accountable, to make this a better place to do business and buy a home.

We won't be here to nudge you along in that old traditional newspaper way, so you're going to have to figure all that out, and more, without us.

It's been a hell of a ride, from Skid Road to the SLUT, from the Great Fire to the Kindle, the first edition to the last deadline in a gut-punched newsroom, and we never wanted to see it end.

Remember: We'll continue the P-I bloodline online with

Come see us in the pixels.

Obama's Critical Early Test: Corporate Arrogance

In 1981, not long after taking office, President Reagan faced a strike by the nation's air-traffic controllers. He fired them, broke the union and set in motion a generation of anti-labor policies that were a tenet of Republican orthodoxy. Whether those policies were ultimately more positive or negative is still a topic of political and economic debate, (I think the aggregate outcome was damaging) but Reagan's decisive action made a huge difference that reverberated through his presidency and several more.

Today, we face corporate arrogance that is almost transcendent and vastly more damaging than any of organized labor's excesses. Wall Street's barons, and the people who have been running and allegedly governing many of the nation's biggest companies, have raised a collective middle finger to America even as they've forced us to bail out the enterprises they've run into the ground. When commentators fret about corporate leaders' tone-deafness, they are implying that the executives simply don't get it. Oh yes they do.

In coming to Washington for bailouts, they said: "This is a stick-up. Give us the money or we'll kill the economy."

In creating their disgusting compensation schemes, they said: "Pay us as usual, not for performance but because this is our just due as masters of the universe. And because we deserve anything we can loot from whoever has the money, whether it's shareholders, customers, taxpayers or anyone else."

The puzzle of the past week is not that Americans are furious. Only an idiot (or a Wall Street banker) wouldn't be angry upon learning of the unconscionable "bonuses" renegade ward-of-the-taxpayers AIG wants to pay to its employees -- including well over $100 million to people in the same unit that completely screwed the company and then threatened to take down the entire global economy if we refused to subsidize (so far) to the tune of $170 billiion.

No, the mystery is why this outrage hasn't come to the surface sooner. And why it's not more dangerous.

Why, for example, didn't Americans take to the streets earlier this year when we found out that Merrill Lynch and its conniving buyer, Bank of America, had paid almost $5 billion in bonuses -- a number that makes the AIG bonus money seem small -- after taking tens of billions from taxpayers? Why didn't we scream bloody murder when the Bush administration flatly refused to disclose where the hundreds of billions in bailout money was going in any kind of detail?

One reason, perhaps, is that we are a soft and lazy and uncurious people. We are quick to being pissed off at relatively small things -- typically minor but sensationalized stuff that tabloid TV news programs (i.e. CNN, MSNBC and Fox and local stations) decide to make into issues -- but slow to grasp the significance of the really big and crucial stuff until it's so powerfully in our faces that we can't avoid it any longer.

U.S. Government celebrates one millionth member of terrorist watch list

Posted by Sisyphus

WASHINGTON – The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center celebrated a major milestone last week when the nation's terrorist watch list reached one million members.

To mark the event, the FBI and the ODNI are planning celebrations and media events throughout the remainder of the year, including commemorative memorabilia, such as stationery, coffee cups and apparel, and highly visible signage at airports and border crossings that will center around the program's new tagline: The U.S. Terrorist Watch List: One Million Strong … and Growing.

Featured heavily in the promotion will be Saif Abu Abd al-Shibh al-Masry bin al-Ouda, who has been honored by the agencies with official recognition as the watch list's one millionth member.

The nation's terrorist watch list boasts a healthy CAGR of 38.4% since May 2005
The nation's terrorist watch list boasts a healthy CAGR of 38.4% since May 2005

"Some of the best and brightest brands in the world have recently commemorated their millionth customer – from Singapore Airlines to Verizon," noted Throaty Midge, a non-managing director of information for ODNI's civil liberties and customer retention unit. "We thought, 'Why not us?' It's a great way to personalize the government's anti-terrorist efforts – to put a warmer, human face on them."

Abu Abd al-Shibh al-Masry bin al-Ouda, a tuk tuk cabbie in Peshawar, Pakistan, said through an interpreter that he was unaware of how he gained admission to the list, but was happy to accept the agencies' invitation to participate in the marketing blitz. As part of the agreement, he will undergo cosmetic beautification and a photo shoot and receive a transferrable "Get out of Gitmo Free" card, which he says he plans to auction on EBay.

Gay Marriage Ban Introduced in Minnesota to Prevent 'End of the World'

The Minnesota Family Council said on Tuesday that it would introduce a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships in Minnesota within the next few days. The group made the announcement at a press conference, accompanied by religious leaders from all major faiths who said that gay marriage would trigger the end of the world.

"If everyone is a gay, this world will cease to exist in 10 years," said Ikram ul-Huq, the imam and religious director of the Muslim Community Center of Bloomington, according to the The Minnesota Independent.

SuperNews: Twouble with Twitters

As Jurors Turn to Web, Mistrials Are Popping Up


Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge's instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.

Vincent J. Fumo and his girlfriend, Carolyn Zinni, leaving the Philadelphia courthouse Monday.

Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, a waste of eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.

"We were stunned," said a defense lawyer, Peter Raben, who was told by the jury that he had been on the verge of winning the case. "It's the first time modern technology struck us in that fashion, and it hit us right over the head."

It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.

Last week, a building products company asked an Arkansas court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment, claiming that a juror used Twitter to send updates during the civil trial.

And on Monday, defense lawyers in the federal corruption trial of a former Pennsylvania state senator, Vincent J. Fumo, demanded before the verdict that the judge declare a mistrial because a juror posted updates on the case on Twitter and Facebook. The juror had even told his readers that a "big announcement" was coming on Monday. But the judge decided to let the deliberations continue, and the jury found Mr. Fumo guilty. His lawyers plan to use the Internet postings as grounds for appeal.

Jurors are not supposed to seek information outside of the courtroom. They are required to reach a verdict based on only the facts the judge has decided are admissible, and they are not supposed to see evidence that has been excluded as prejudicial. But now, using their cellphones, they can look up the name of a defendant on the Web or examine an intersection using Google Maps, violating the legal system's complex rules of evidence. They can also tell their friends what is happening in the jury room, though they are supposed to keep their opinions and deliberations secret.

A juror on a lunch or bathroom break can find out many details about a case. Wikipedia can help explain the technology underlying a patent claim or medical condition, Google Maps can show how long it might take to drive from Point A to Point B, and news sites can write about a criminal defendant, his lawyers or expert witnesses.

"It's really impossible to control it," said Douglas L. Keene, president of the American Society of Trial Consultants.

Google submission hammers section 92A

Google has made a detailed submission to the Telecommunications Carriers Forum that heavily criticises the draft code of practice for ISPs in relation to section 92A of the Copyright Act.
Google has made a detailed submission to the Telecommunications Carriers Forum that heavily criticises the draft code of practice for ISPs in relation to section 92A of the Copyright Act.

In its submission, Google notes that more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.

As such, Google says "Section 92A puts users' procedural and fundamental rights at risk, by threatening to terminate users' internet access based on mere allegations and reverse the burden of proof onto a user to establish there was no infringement."

It goes on to say, "Section 92A undermines the incredible social and economic benefits of the open and universally accessible internet, by providing for a remedy of account termination or disconnection that is disproportionate to the harm of copyright infringement online."

Scenes from the recession

The state of our global economy: foreclosures, evictions, bankruptcies, layoffs, abandoned projects, and the people and industries caught in the middle. It can be difficult to capture financial pressures in photographs, but here a few recent glimpses into some of the places and lives affected by what some are calling the "Great Recession". (35 photos total)
Unused newspaper racks clutter a storage yard in San Francisco, California on Friday, March 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Thousands of job-seekers flock to a job fair in Hefei, Anhui province, China on March 1, 2009. At least 20 million of China's 130 million migrant workers have become jobless after tens of thousands of labor-intensive export-oriented factories closed due to the global financial crisis, and job training schemes for migrant workers are springing up around China, Xinhua News Agency reported. (REUTERS/Jianan Yu)
The Magen Abraham Synagogue sits at center of this photograph taken on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008, surrounded by the gleaming new skyscrapers in Wadi Abou Jmil, Lebanon - formerly Beirut's main Jewish neighborhood. One of Lebanon's sole remaining synagogues, this building was set for a restoration that has the rare blessing of all the factions in this divided country - but the global financial crisis has scuttled the effort for now, leaving the Magen Abraham chained, padlocked, badly damaged and overgrown with weeds. (AP Photo/Grace Kassab)
A home construction site stands idle where construction has been halted, on February 24, 2009 near Riverside, California. U.S. single family homes prices continued to plummet for the second year, falling 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to the year before. It was the biggest decline in the 21-year history of the Standard & Poors/Case-Shiller US national home price index. (David McNew/Getty Images)
A homeless resident of a tent city in Sacramento, California wears an American flag jacket on March 10, 2009. This tent city of the homeless is seeing an increase in population as the economy worsens, as more people join the ranks of the unemployed and as homes slip into foreclosure. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Conservatives argue Obama's victory shows legal safeguards for minorities not needed

Conservative legal foundations and the Republican governor of Georgia, in challenging key parts of the Voting Rights Act, filed briefs in the Supreme Court this month pointing to racial progress and a high black turnout in last fall's election. They said Obama's election heralds the emergence of a colorblind society in which special legal safeguards for minorities are no longer required.

WASHINGTON — The election of Barack Obama as president has been hailed as a crowning achievement of America's civil-rights movement, the triumph of a black candidate in a nation with a history of slavery and segregation.

But in a twist, Obama's success has now emerged as a central argument from conservatives who say his victory proves that some of the most protective civil-rights laws can be erased.

Conservative legal foundations and the Republican governor of Georgia, in challenging key parts of the Voting Rights Act, filed briefs in the Supreme Court this month pointing to racial progress and a high black turnout in last fall's election. They said Obama's election heralds the emergence of a colorblind society in which special legal safeguards for minorities are no longer required.

"The America that has elected Barack Obama as its first African-American president is far different than when (the Voting Rights Act) was first enacted in 1965," argued Texas lawyer Gregory Coleman, whose client, a local utility board in Austin, is challenging parts of the law.

"The question now is, at what point do we as a society wipe the slate clean and accept that we are equals with equal rights, equal treatment, and equal expectations, and special treatment shouldn't be provided to anyone?" asked Shannon Goessling, director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation in Atlanta, which has fought affirmative action and similar programs.

The Supreme Court sounded a similar note last week in limiting the reach of the Voting Rights Act. The law's goal is "to hasten the waning of racism in American politics ... (not) to entrench racial differences," Justice Anthony Kennedy said.

That decision, in a North Carolina case, said states and municipalities need not consider race when drawing voting districts, except in areas where blacks or Latinos form a majority.

The Texas case to be heard next month will decide whether certain states and localities, mostly in the South, must continue to obtain Justice Department approval before changing voting districts, polling locations or other election procedures.

By invoking Obama, conservatives, in effect, are asking the Supreme Court to issue more than a mere legal decree about the fate of one law, but also to weigh in on emotionally charged questions about American society: Does the election of a black president mean racism is no longer a factor in American politics? And are civil-rights laws outdated in the age of Obama?

Conservatives said they plan to apply the Obama argument in the court of public opinion, as well.

"We will say, 'How do you account for the election of Barack Obama?' " said Ward Connerly, a leading anti-affirmative-action activist, foreshadowing his response to supporters of race-preference laws. "If we can't get rid of these laws now with Obama, I don't know what yardstick we're going to use."

Civil-rights advocates bristle at the idea that Obama's victory signals it is time to dismantle the Voting Rights Act and other laws. Obama and his administration reject the conservatives' arguments.

Legalize Which Drugs?

by ex-Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper

Who do you want "regulating" the drug market? The druglords of Afghanistan? The Taliban and Al Qaeda who reap and turn opium profits into weapons of terror?

The cartels of Latin America who've rendered Mexico a violent and failing state, and whose drug gangs have made deep incursions into U.S. cities?

The traffickers who ply their trade on street corners across the U.S., including for years our beloved Pike Place Market?

You see, there's only one choice. We either allow the $500 billion illicit global drug industry to monopolize the commerce--and to decide who gets what drugs at what levels of potency and purity and at what price--or we end prohibition. And turn the regulation of currently illegal drugs over to an admittedly imperfect government.

So, in answer to the question, Legalize which drugs? All of them, every last one. In fact, the more dangerous, the more sinister and frightening the drug (and sensational its media coverage), the greater the justification for our government to step in and regulate the entire enterprise. It's a far from perfect solution but an infinitely better approach than the current "War on Drugs."

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition takes no stand on a particular regulatory model, but here's mine: The government would issue hard-to-get, easy-to-lose licenses to a new breed of pharmacist. It would control all aspects of growing and manufacturing, quality assurance, packaging, pricing, and sales. Personally, I would ban all forms of marketing (something we probably should have done with alcohol and tobacco; no one will convince me that those two industries have not spent billions targeting our young people, grooming them as future consumers).

That hard-to-get license? A prospective licensee would have to undergo a rigorous background investigation, successfully complete an intensive education and training program, and be made to understand that selling to a kid or otherwise violating any provision of the new drug laws would result in revocation of the license. The possible end to one's livelihood has helped keep liquor distributors in line for years.

By the way, not to seem too defensive, I've been arguing along these lines for decades, in both San Diego and Seattle. It's true I didn't stand atop the old Public Safety Building with a bullhorn and call for an end to prohibition. Politics clearly plays a role in how much we're willing to say about what we really believe. I wish that weren't true, but it is. Still, as a cop, I took this (essential) position in classes I taught at San Diego State and at the University of Washington. I advocated an end to the drug war, and for drug legalization at the Cascadia Mayor's Conference in the late nineties. And I was asked by the respected leader of a national drug reform organization to "tone down" my public arguments for fear of frightening prospective converts.

I say all this not to pat myself on the back but in recognition of the value of police and other leaders speaking out on the issue. When one does so, it grants permission for others to speak what they know to be the truth, namely that prohibition is an unmitigated failure. And that there are sensible alternatives.

Including one that seems at first blush, radical.

United Nations drug policy


Who owns Colorado's rainwater?

Environmentalists and others like to gather it in containers for use in drier times. But state law says it belongs to those who bought the rights to waterways.
By Nicholas Riccardi
Reporting from Denver -- Every time it rains here, Kris Holstrom knowingly breaks the law.

Holstrom's violation is the fancifully painted 55-gallon buckets underneath the gutters of her farmhouse on a mesa 15 miles from the resort town of Telluride. The barrels catch rain and snowmelt, which Holstrom uses to irrigate the small vegetable garden she and her husband maintain.
But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on Holstrom's property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.

What Holstrom does is called rainwater harvesting. It's a practice that dates back to the dawn of civilization, and is increasingly in vogue among environmentalists and others who pursue sustainable lifestyles. They collect varying amounts of water, depending on the rainfall and the vessels they collect it in. The only risk involved is losing it to evaporation. Or running afoul of Western states' water laws.

Those laws, some of them more than a century old, have governed the development of the region since pioneer days.,0,5585599.story?track=rss

If America had $100 and 100 people...

by Afferent Input

Here's an easy way to look at income distribution and how it has changed over the years. Let's pretend America has 100 people in it and that the total income for all of America is $100. If everyone made the same per year, everyone would get $1.00 each.

Obviously no free market society operates that way. Instead, there is variability in talent and capability, and some people are able to perform some very important jobs better than others. Those talented people are hired at a premium, and thus they make more than others. That gives us an income distribution, with some people making more money than others. In our example, some people are going to get more than a dollar and some will get less. That's reality.

So how has the income distribution changed in our society since 1979? I've been going through the latest data from the CBO and have come up with a couple of figs to describe this.

First a little about "binning". A data set is best illustrated when you put them into categories, or bins. The CBO has made five bins, called quintiles. Thus, the bottom 20% is the lowest quintile, the people who accrue on average between 20% and 40% the total share of income per year are in the second quintile, and so on. The problem with binning is that you lose resolution. The CBO only chose 5 bins, and therefore it is impossible to say what is happening within a given bin (except for the highest quintile; more on that later).

Below is a figure that illustrates how income would be distributed to the various quintiles if our economy were $100 large and the US had a population of 100 households. The value at any given point is the average amount of $100 dollars each person receives per bin.
Thus, in 1979 each of the twenty people in the lowest quintile received $0.26, and each of the twenty people in the highest quintile received $2.21. As you can see, though, that the amount of the pie each group gets per year has changed over time. The top 20% has expanded it slice of the pie, while the bottom 80% has gotten a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. For example, in 2005 the twenty people in the lowest quintile received only $0.19 each, and each of the twenty people in the highest quintile received $2.73. In other words, the top twenty people get $54 of the $100 and leave $46 for the rest of the 80 people. The change over time can be illustrated as a % change distribution of the $100.

This figure shows that the piece of the pie given to the wealthiest people in the US has grown by 23% over the last 26 years. The piece of the pie given to the bottom 80% has decreased since then, as much as 28% for the bottom 20 people. The percentages don't add up because this is how each piece of the pie has changed over time. The bottom has a small piece to begin with; thus, a small decrease for them is actually quite big, relatively speaking.

True value