The good, the bad, and the ugly v.2018

It's the 2018 version of Jabe's voters' guide!   If you find this useful, please forward/post it far and wide, especially if you have some undecided friends willing to think about the recommendations.  (Even better are undecided friends willing to blindly follow the recommendations.)  The fine print:

  • The views expressed here are mine and mine alone, etc., etc..
  • I focus on ballot measures (though there are few this year), but include a few important/interesting candidate races.
  • If you want my half-informed opinions on other races (or just want off this list) send me an email.
  • For details and generally good summaries, check out the State and King County Voters' Pamphlets.
  • For generally good candidate and issue summaries and links, check out Fuse's Progressive Voters Guide.
  • The following will make a lot more sense if you have your ballot in front of you.


Only have 60 seconds?  The Reader's Digest version:

  • Initiative 1631: It's do or die time on climate. Vote YES!
  • Initiative 1634: Big Oil's evil twin, Big Sugar. Vote NO!
  • Initiative 1639: Really want to protect your family? Vote YES!
  • Initiative 940: Don't blame the legislature for this one. Vote Yes!
  • Advisory Vote #19: Can we build a wall against Eyman? Vote Maintain.
  • US Congress: You know people in these districts – talk to them! Vote Carolyn Long (District 3), Lisa Brown (District 5), Kim Schrier (District 8)!

For a few other candidate recommendations, scroll to the bottom.

Have 20 minutes?  Here's some more detail.

Initiative 1631: It's do or die time on climate. Vote YES!

The reasoning on this is simple.  

  • As the latest IPCC report makes clear – and note that their past dire reports have generally underestimated the pace of global warming and its consequences – time is almost out on reducing emissions and the required massive investment in clean energy.
  • Almost all economists, across the ideological spectrum, who study the subject – in particular 2018 Nobel economics prize-winner William Nordhaus – agree that a carbon tax is the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions.
  • There is no one flavor of carbon tax – especially when it comes to who to initially "go easy on" and how to spend the revenue – favored by even a third of the public, let alone a majority.  So any successful policy, whether via an initiative or the legislature, will be a compromise.
  • 1631 is, by far, the biggest and broadest coalition of environmentalists, businesses, labor, healthcare professionals, native tribes and communities of color to come together and get serious about what we need to do.  It isn't perfect because there is no perfect.  It is instead the best compromise to have ever been put to a vote.
  • 1631 isn't all we need to do in WA to reduce our emissions by the necessary amount, so there will be work for the legislature to do, win or lose.  But setting a price and investing the revenue in reducing emissions is a critical first step.
  • Finally, while I don't generally engage in corporation bashing as it's too often too broad and unfair, sometimes it's appropriate.  The money behind the opposition to 1631 – $20M and growing – is entirely from oil companies, the same companies who have funded disinformation campaigns about climate change using the same PR firms that designed disinformation campaigns about tobacco.

In short, if we can't support 1631, we might as well acknowledge that we aren't serious about climate change.

If time permits I'll add some more debunking of the arguments against 1631. But I'll touch upon a few right now.

  • The Seattle Times – and let's be clear that means the Blethens – argue "State projections say emissions will decrease substantially without Initiative 1631. Over 10 years, emissions from energy consumption will decline 9.6 percent with no carbon charge".  Well that's just peachy. Problem solved. No need to do anything. Thing is that we need to reduce our emissions by more like 50% by 2050.  (It should be more like 80% but we're blessed with  "good geography" – the mountain snow pack that drives our hydro system, which, it must be noted, will decline as the Northwest warms.)  So let's do some math. Let's decrease our emissions by 9.6% per decade and see when we get to 50% net reduction.  Answer? 2087, 69 years from now.  The IPCC is quite clear that we'll be toast if we take even half that long. So, yes, we've made some progress, but, as the Times is well aware, it ain't anywhere near the pace of what we have to do. As for the suggestion that the backers of 1631 should "seek a national carbon tax"?  What a great idea! Why didn't we think of that?!? We'll get right on it!  Sigh. Have they been following the news? That ain't happening. Or, more accurately, the only thing that will eventually make that happen – probably too late but hopefully not – is for enough other states, like OR and WA and MA, say, to follow CA's lead and start getting at least slightly serious about carbon pricing, bring some pressure for DC to do the same. (And all this explains my comments elsewhere expressing shock when the Seattle Times occasionally gets something right.)
  • The oil industry funded opposition complains about all the "exemptions" in 1631, especially the fact that the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the state, the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia, would be exempt from the fees. And why is that? Because in 2011, in a massive victory for climate action, environmental groups and the Gregoire administration negotiated the complete shut down of the plant by 2025.  So let's do the math on that one.  That would be, let me see, oh, a 100% reduction in emissions in 7 years from now and 14 years from when the deal was struck.  Bring me more exemptions like that, please!  The oil ads not mentioning this is what one might call, um, lying? For a more complete rebuttal, check out this great video from Roel Hammerschlag.
  • A well-known local meteorologist who supported, and apparently failed to learn anything from, a 2016 carbon pricing measure 732 – which got absolutely destroyed at the ballot – came out against 1631. Let me pause here and note that he is one of 21 active members of the UW Atmospheric Science Department; the other 20, all signed this letter in support of 1631. Let's play "spot the outlier" shall we?  Among the outlier's many uninformed assertions was that there are lots of R's ready to support a 732-like tax & dividend approach.  This is simply fantasy.  There are a very few reasonable R's like James Baker and George Schulz – who last held (non-elected) office 25+ years ago – who are trying to encourage currently elected R's to support a carbon tax.  Prior to Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL), who is watching his state sink into the sea, the last elected R in DC to call for a meaningful carbon tax was Rep. Bob Inglis (SC).  He was immediately unelected by a Tea Party climate denier. The efforts of Baker, Schulz, and Inglis  are commendable.  I spent an hour recently with Rep. Inglis, a truly courageous person doing all he can to bring his fellow R's around, and even he would admit that there is little traction among elected R's. Indeed, Trump and his enablers seem to be doubling down on climate denial. It is delusional to mistake this for us being on the cusp of bipartisan support for any form of carbon pricing.   The IPCC report makes it pretty clear that delusional thinking won't save us.  Finally, here's a thorough shredding of the aforementioned meteorologist's specious arguments.  

Some other links of possible interest:

Initiative 1634: Big Oil's evil twin, Big Sugar. Vote NO!

Back in 2010 the WA state legislature passed very moderate taxes on candy, bottled water and soda pop.  In the fall of that year, the American Beverage Association spent over $16M on an initiative, 1107, to repeal the legislation, making it the most expensive initiative in WA history at the time.  Here's the rather humorous if depressing list of top 5 donors to 1107:

American Beverage Association – $16,501,000
Willams Inland Distributors – $100
Francis Jennigs – $50
Jack Karsten – $50
Daniel Kraft – $50

Democracy at work.  Now the ABA is back trying to make it illegal for any local jurisdiction to pass such taxes.  The 1634 campaign, again funded 99+% by the ABA and "Big Sugar" – Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Red Bull, et al. – makes all sorts of ludicrous NRA-like claims: "Sure it's only sugar today, but tomorrow it'll be meat and eggs!" Yes, and after that our women and children. The Seattle Times did a nice job (and I don't say that phrase often) calling BS on this.  But perhaps the most hypocritical argument is Big Sugar's faux concern that such taxes are "regressive".  

You know what's regressive?  Diabetes.  Add to that the total economic and racial inequity of our healthcare system and we're talking really regressive.  Haven't seen any of these companies taking any positions on that.  Nor are they up in arms about our "regressive" cigarette taxes and alcohol taxes.  I came across a paper that put this all well:

"It is staggering to observe the new normal in America: 37.9 percent of adults are obese, and 70.7 percent are either obese or overweight. One out of every five minors is obese. The real tragedy, of course, is the disability, suffering, and early death that devastates families and communities. But all of society pays, with the annual medical cost estimated at $147 billion. The causal pathways are complex, but if we drill down, sugar is a deeply consequential pathway to obesity, and the single greatest dietary source is sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). The copious amount of sugar in the American diet is no accident. Industry practices and regulatory failures have fueled this explosion. Yet there are sensible, effective interventions that would create the conditions for healthier behaviors. What are the key interventions, and how can we overcome the social, political, and constitutional roadblocks? Tobacco control offers a powerful model, suggesting that success requires a suite of interventions working in concert: labeling, warnings, taxation, portion sizes, product formulation, marketing restrictions, and bans in high-risk settings such as schools and hospitals."

Most economists agree that you should tax the root causes of the things you want less of – diabetes, drug addiction, climate change – and subsidize the things you want more of – education, public transportation, clean energy. By that metric, sugar taxes are good policy.

And of course should we let Big Sugar dictate what our cities can do on health and tax policy?  Let our elected officials govern.  If the public doesn't like what they do, they can vote them out.  But let's not be owned by Big Sugar.  Vote NO on 1634!

PS – While I was looking into this, Sightline's Alan Durning pointed me to a quite interesting site on the intersection of food and health in America, for those interested.

PPS – And if you are serious about WA's "most regressive state tax system in the country", then it ain't about sugar taxes, it's about being one of the small minority of states that have neither an income tax nor a capital gains tax.  Which we should do something about. Maybe Big Sugar would help with that since they're so concerned about tax fairness, economic equity, and our well being.

Initiative 1639: Really want to protect your family? Vote YES!

The issue of responsible gun ownership is of course complex.  But this initiative isn't though opponents would have you believe otherwise.  Often I'll follow the Seattle Times's coverage of an issue and be pleasantly surprised only to have my hopes dashed by the final endorsement that has the Blethen's "conservative in progressive's clothing" finger prints all over it. So when I agree with the Times's recommendation I take note of it. And when that recommendation is actually backed up by solid quantitative arguments?  Well, that's pretty special!  So check this out, it's worth a read.

My reasons for strongly supporting 1639 are not based on how many net lives it will save.  How many does it need to save to be a good thing?  It's just that the measures in it are so, so common sense.  And the arguments against it so obviously without factual basis. The idea that there are any significant number of individuals who prevent violence to their families by virtue of their access to assault rifles, unencumbered by any training, or that such "self-defense" would be thwarted by proper training, proper storage, background checks, or a waiting period just has no supporting data at all.  And that it's 18-year-olds with assault rifles who will protect families and save lives is downright laughable.

I came across this summary of recent brain development research suggesting that the waiting period for 21-year-old males should be more like, oh, 1000 days:

"Neuroscientists are confirming what car rental places already figured out — the brain doesn't fully mature until age 25.  Up until this age, the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that helps curb impulsive behavior — is not yet fully developed.  Some scientists say this could illuminate a potential factor behind a recent spate of acts of mass violence, almost all of which have been perpetrated by men between the ages of 20 and 30."

In the interest of fairness, check out this opposition site and the proponent's summary of the measure and judge for yourself who best represents your values and hopes and fears.

(And just for fun, those in the 50+ age range might remember this classic from when Doonesbury's Duke represented the NRA before the Senate.  Be patient, it takes a while to load.)

Bottom line is that if we really want to protect our families, we might want to move to a European country where no one owns assault rifles, where gun deaths are extremely rare, and where a higher percentage of the population actually hunts.  Or we could just stay here and learn from them.

Initiative 940: Don't blame the legislature for this one, Vote Yes!

If you want to know how this initiative got on the ballot, the short version, courtesy of the most excellent Ballotpedia, is this:

"De-Escalate Washington, the campaign in support of the initiative, filed more than 350,000 signatures on December 28, 2017. On January 23, 2018, the office of the secretary of state certified that enough valid signatures had been submitted. The initiative was sent to the legislature, which approved the initiative and, in a non-standard move, passed a bill (HB 3003) to immediately amend the initiative, precluding an election on it. The bill resulted from discussion with and input from certain law enforcement agencies and De-Escalate Washington. On April 20, 2018, the Thurston County Superior Court ruled that the legislature acted in violation of the Washington Constitution by approving the proposed amendment and passing House Bill 3003 to immediately amend it, and ruled that Initiative 940 must be placed on the ballot. That decision was appealed by attorneys for the Legislature."

So, in a sense, the legislature already passed this, albeit entirely along partisan lines.  But the real issue is whether it is a good bill. My opinion?  Yes, very, for the public and, in the long run, for law enforcement as well.  

Per the Secretary of State Voters' Pamphlet, the measure does three things: "First, it addresses when law enforcement officers may use deadly force. Second, it requires de-escalation and mental health training for officers. Third, it requires officers to provide first aid in certain circumstances."

The second and third ones should be non-contentious.  Indeed, you might think that the law as it currently stands already requires de-escalation training but that is not so. Instead it requires "eight hours of crisis intervention training during their six months at the basic training academy, but there is no requirement that ... officers take any training specifically dealing with violence prevention."  Crisis intervention is not the same thing as de-escalation and you might think that being able to reduce violence – a benefit to the public and officers alike – might merit more than 1 day in 6 months of training.  There is also no required training in mental illness though at least 1/4 of people killed by police suffer from it.

But the crux of the issue seems to be the measure "would change the standard for when a law enforcement officer may justifiably use deadly force", to include a so-called "good faith" requirement, and "would require an independent investigation any time an officer's use of deadly force results in death or substantial or great bodily harm. The investigation would be done by someone other than the agency whose officer was involved in the use of deadly force."

The "good faith" requirements, or something equivalent, are now found in most states.  But police seem to draw the line at letting anyone review their actions other than themselves.  The bar for prosecuting a police officer in a case of deadly force is high, and should be. We rely upon them to do one of the hardest and most dangerous jobs in the world.  But the bar shouldn't be ridiculously high, as it is in the US in general and in WA in particular.  It shouldn't be based on laws from the 1800's.  And it is simply impossible to have accountability if investigations are only internal, conducted by colleagues from the same agency.

The vast majority of officers already do all they know how to do to de-escalate situations (though they could benefit from specific training, as is standard practice in many other countries).  But we just can't ignore the reality of rare but blatantly unnecessary excessive use of deadly force, and, worse, the fact that, even with overwhelming evidence, prosecutions are rare, and convictions even rarer.  And the evidence for those rare uses of excessive deadly force involving high levels of racial bias is overwhelming.

This issue is obviously subjective (though the stats on the US versus European countries aren't so subjective), but my own belief is this:  When police receive ten times the training in use of deadly force than in avoiding its use and are resistant to all efforts to be held accountable to anyone but themselves, societal distrust of police is understandably higher and police are in greater danger, not less.  I find 940 an entirely reasonable set of measures, far weaker than what is found in other countries with dramatically lower rates of violence both by and against police.

Advisory Vote #19: Can we build a wall against Eyman? Vote Maintain.

As our reader's will recall from every single past edition...  As a result of Eyman's 2007 initiative 960, the legislature can't even perform its constitutionally mandated job, and eliminate an unjustifiable tax exemption or extend an existing fee, without also asking the public for their non-binding, purely-symbolic, time-wasting, money-wasting opinion. It even requires misleading "black is white and night is day" language referring to increases in state revenues as "costs".

This time the legislature took an existing tax on oil, to cover the cost of oil spills, and extended it to oil entering WA via pipeline (since, news flash, pipelines spill oil too).  The margins were as follows:

Senate Bill 6269: Senate: Yeas 42, Nays 7; House: Yeas 62, Nays 35.

Even climate change denying Senator Doug Erickson voted for it, because his district has tankers and pipelines.You should vote "Maintain", though it won't make a damn bit of difference whether you do or don't.

US Congress: You know people in these districts – talk to them! Vote Carolyn Long (District 3), Lisa Brown (District 5), Kim Schrier (District 8)!

The single most important thing we can do to restore some semblance of sanity to our country's politics and policies is to put some check on Trump, McConnell, and the Tea Party by giving control of the House to the Democrats.  In the past I've said "I don't care so much about R versus D.  I'd be happy to have life-long R Bill Ruckleshaus appointed master of the universe. It's progressive versus regressive that I care about." But now it's really just moderately informed and rational candidates versus ignorant, racist, sexist, bat-shit crazy candidates that I care about.

There are three close US House races in WA.  District #3 includes Vancouver and the whole southwest corner of WA, District #5 includes Spokane and the entire eastern border of WA, and #8 includes eastern King and Pierce counties, and, to the east of the Cascades, Kittitas and Chelan counties.  You know people who live in these districts.  Call them and get them to vote for the not merely acceptable, but outstanding women running for these offices:

Carolyn Long (District 3), Lisa Brown (District 5), Kim Schrier (District 8)

Other races where I have strong recommendations.

Coming soon.