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Trade pacts should be about economics, not politics - Frmr Congressman Bonker

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Donald Bonker, one of this state's most respected experts on international trade across the past half dozen presidential administrations, suggests that when trade agreements become more about politics than economics, the stability of economies comes to be at risk.

In focusing on the current trade crisis with China, Bonker, a former seven-term Democratic congressman from Washington's Third District, suggests that "China has a historical and long-term perspective that is lacking in America. 

Donald BonkerDonald Bonker"They have a five-year economic plan that enjoys strong support while America has presidential elections every four years, with incoming presidents often reversing the course of their predecessors," he said.

Bonker's trade credentials, both those he earned during his 14 years in Congress from 1974 to 1988 and from his involvements thereafter, have gained him broad respect in this country and abroad for his trade and foreign investment knowledge.

He was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade. Bonker served on the president's Export Council and headed former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's Trade Task Force, which led to the passage of the 1988 Omnibus Trade Act.  

I knew Bonker well when we were both in our early 30s, he as innovative auditor of Clark County, laying the groundwork for an intended but unsuccessful run for secretary of state, and I as a UPI political writer in Olympia. And later, after his first unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, I had him write a regular trade-issues column for Puget Sound Business Journal.

In fact, I have had fun telling friends occasionally that after he left Congress, at one of our meetings, he gave me a photo of us that had been taken at a 1968 political fundraiser for Sen.Martin Durkan and that had hung on his wall during his years in Congress. After sharing the story, I then add that the reason it had hung on his wall was because of the other person in the photo, then-Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana, one of his heroes.

Bonker, 82, travels back and forth regularly from his Bainbridge Island home to Washington, D.C., where he is an executive director and on the international advisory council of APCO Worldwide, global public affairs & strategic communications consultancy.

We hadn't visited for years when I suggested recently that we have lunch so I could learn about his newly published autobiography called Dancing to the Capitol, which begins with what the foreword describes as "a wry take on his brief stint as a dance instructor, which gives the book its title and its spirit."

The foreword, by former Los Angeles Times editor Shelby Coffey who is now vice chairman of the Nuseum, describes Bonker as "a man of faith--often struggling with being both a Democrat and a Christian," and noting that Bonker helped bring the National prayer breakfast to international prominence.

"He has been a key, if quiet, force for others of faith who contend in public life," Coffey wrote.

In fact, our luncheon discussion quickly turned from his autobiography to the issue of trade and politics. Bonker would like to see Democrats turn trade discussions away from the punitive to the progressive, meaning they should focus on building the opportunity for exports that could create jobs rather than be focused on trade barriers in the hope that approach can retain jobs.

During his tenure in Congress, Bonker authored and was a principal sponsor of significant trade legislation, the Export Trading Company Act and the Export Administration Act.

"The trade issues are very difficult for Democrats," Bonker said. "In their hearts they are global but labor has become so against trade that Democrats are left in a difficult political position."

"We should match what our competitors -- Japan, China, Germany - have been doing for years. They have ambitious government programs that give their exporters an advantage in this increasingly competitive global economy," Bonker suggested. "The U S., by comparison, is so preoccupied with limiting imports that there is little or no attention given to boosting exports. That is the real problem."
My alternative would be to export more, not import less," Bonker said.

"One example is the Export-Import Bank, which provides essential financial guarantees that allow U.S. corporations to compete with their competitors (Boeing versus Airbus)," he added.  

"This respected financial entity remains idle now, even though it does not require Federal funding," Bonker said. "Meanwhile, across America, there are about 50,000 domestic companies that are competitive but have difficulty pursuing foreign markets because the help that should be there isn't."

Bonker offered a bit of history on the political back and forth that has characterized this country's trade positions, starting with the passage in 1928 of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that hiked tariffs, often up 100 percent, on 20,000 foreign imports.

"That prompted our allies and dozens of other countries to retaliate, causing the collapse of the world trading system that led to the Great Depression," Bonker said.

"Hoover was booted out, replaced by FDR, who championed pro-trade policies to repair the damage to international trade," he added. "Again, the political dynamic changed around the 1960s-70s, where Democrats, driven by labor unions, started to embrace protectionist policies, and Ronald Reagan arrived to champion free trade.  

"Trump's campaign rhetoric and subsequent actions are more in sync with Democrats and Bernie Sanders," Bonker added, with a jab at both. "Republicans are puzzled and frustrated.  It is contrary to their fundamental beliefs, alignment with their business support base."

As to the China trade concern, Bonker said: "whether China will retaliate to the latest round of tariff threats remains to be seen, but in long term, you don't mess with China, even if your name is Donald Trump."

Bonker, who specializes in Chinese investment in the United States, offers a criticism of both houses of Congress for their reactions to the Administration's tariff initiatives, saying"Senate Republicans remain muted and House Democrats discretely like what the President is doing, adding, "if we continue down this path of protectionism, it will be a repeat of Smoot Hawley."

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The reason that WA is unlikely to have a state capital gains tax - this session

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Disagreement between Washington's Democratic House of Representatives and the Democratic Senate over a proposed capital gains tax will likely keep the tax from being included in the state's operating budget for next biennium.

And that could be well for both those for whom the lawmakers should be seeking to provide opportunity and for the wealthy that many legislators would merely like to squeeze.

With Sunday's sine die adjournment of the 2019 Legislature's regular session looming, there appears virtually no likelihood that the two houses can resolve their differences over the most controversial piece of the tax increases they seek to impose.

There is obvious business pushback over any new taxes the lawmakers might pass in an economic environment in which state forecasts of surging new revenue already provide the lawmakers with $5.6 billion more to spend in the coming biennium without new taxes.

And the protests over a possible capital gains tax provision is the most logical for business to oppose, particularly now because of the impact an ill-thought-out version of such a tax could have on the opportunity for future job creation.

The "opportunity" I'm referring to is the Qualified Opportunity Zones created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 with those zones basically being census tracts designated by the governors of each state where development could occur and where those putting up the funds to seize those opportunities would get capital gains reduction or deferral.

Gov. Jay Inslee, with the help of Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, was an early and enthusiastic advocate for picking census tracts that could best serve the goal of supporting the economic opportunities and creating jobs in less well to do parts of the state. Each opportunity zone is selected from the state's census tracts.

So it would seem that if Inslee thought through what's at stake in imposing a capital gains tax now, he would be saying "don't pass that now." But some would suggest urging Inslee to "think it through" might be an issue in itself.

Over the past year, professional firms and wealth management companies have been promoting their OZ expertise to clients and prospects while states have begun to compete to lure investors to projects coming about or envisioned on their lands where the benefits of the new federal tax law could come into existence.

A key issue, beyond the fact that all states that impose a capital gains tax acknowledge that it is a tax on income and an income tax is unconstitutional in this state, is that states with a capital gains tax have moved or are moving to bring their state capital gains tax provisions into harmony with the new federal one.

Meanwhile, the IRS has been tinkering with the rules, issuing proposed changes several times in the past year and leaving uncertainty for those seeking to be early users of the tax advantage for projects ranging from hotels to manufacturing facilities.

The tax rates on capital gains range from California's 12.3 percent to North Dakota's 2.9 percent. Oregon's rate is 9.9 percent, above but similar to the 8.9 percent proposed for the Washington capital gains tax.

Most all of the states understand that failing to give a capital-gains break similar to what the federal tax law will provide is likely to put them behind the eight-ball in appealing to those seeking projects that will maximize their benefits.

And since the federal law will permit anyone anywhere owing tax on capital gains to invest those dollars in a project in any Opportunity Zone in the country, the example I share with people is the guy in Keokuk, IA, who needs to find an Opportunity Zone somewhere in which to invest his gains. He will go looking for a project he likes in Montana or Oregon or Washington, make his investment watch the tax-break dollars pile up.

If he's going to give up 10 percent of tax savings on his gain by investing a Washington zone rather than an equally interesting project in Montana, why would he do that?

Thus the importance of a state staying in the herd of states that are adding state tax breaks to the federal ones. But that takes planning and such planning isn't possible during what's left of this legislative session.

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Port of Seattle plan, Department of Commerce Spain agreement key step toward Land of OZ

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Lisa BrownLisa Brown

As states begin to compete to create the most attractive Land of OZ to lure investors and create new businesses and jobs, the state of Washington and the Port of Seattle have taken key steps in the past few weeks that could put them at the front of the pack employing the benefits of new federal tax law.
 
OZ refers to what is officially called Qualified Opportunity Zones that come about under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The QOZ provision in the legislation approved by Congress will permit those owing capital gains tax to delay, reduce or even totally avoid those taxes by investing in special funds designed to start businesses and provide other steps to help economically distressed communities.
 
Virtually every major accounting or law firm or wealth management company in the country has been inviting clients and prospects to learn all about the details of what have become known simply as Opportunity Zones, or OZ.
 
And while the message in many of those explanatory sessions by professional firms has been the prospect to create funds for investment in real estate projects, funds could be particularly appropriate for energizing the prosperity of small and diverse firms that have not had access to equity capital to grow and expand.
 
And that's where the recent separate initiatives by the State Department of Commerce and the Port of Seattle come into play in a manner that gives this region a leg up in that competition among states for attracting new investment to job creation.
 
Ralph Ibarra 
The development for the state was Spain's first-ever Memorandum of Understanding with a state to promote economic cooperation to benefit trade relations and boost business opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in both Spain and Washington State.  
 
The agreement was signed in Madrid March 1 between Lisa Brown, the new director of the state Department of Commerce, and Maria Pena Matcos, chief executive officer of the public agency attached to Spain's Ministry of Industry.
 
The Port of Seattle's initiative was issuing a "Request for Qualifications" for a $200 million renovation of 29 acres near Pioneer Square in Seattle to provide for the port's fourth cruise ship berth that would accommodate super-size cruise ships.  
 
That parcel, for which the Port is seeking a partner, is located within an Opportunity Zone that extends across the property on which T-Mobile Stadium and CenturyLink Field are located and extends into the International District.
 
The Port's Request for Qualifications intriguingly contains the sentence: "It should be noted that Terminal 46 is located within a Qualified Opportunity Zone," suggesting it intends to use the tax-break incentive in seeking to attract a wide array of businesses to develop on the site, or nearby.
 
So what kind of developments are being created in other regions with Opportunity Zone funds? A potentially appropriate example was the announcement by a Scottsdale, AZ, based wealth development company called Caliber of plans for a new hotel development at Tucson Convention Center, which is in a designated OZ.
 
For Ralph Ibarra, president of DiverseAmerica Network, the agreement with Spain and the Port's announcement represent important steps to dramatically benefit small and diverse businesses.    

Ralph IbarraTo Ibarra, a consultant to the public and private-sector corporations and institutions who has brought long-standing support of small and diverse business to his consulting activities,
the agreement with Spain and the Port's announcement represent important steps to benefit small and diverse businesses.  

He sees both developments as important steps"particularly appropriate for energizing the prosperity of small and diverse firms that have not had access to equity capital to grow and expand."

In fact, Commerce Director Brown said her immediate priorities include helping address the sustainability of infrastructure financing programs and enhancing the agency's outreach activities - especially with rural and underserved areas - to ensure communities in need can access Commerce programs and services.
 
The statement put out following the signing of the agreement noted that it 'builds on a foundation of approximately $9 billion in trade activities currently taking place between Spain and the State of Washington. It acknowledges common strengths in aerospace, information and communication technology, cybersecurity, clean energy technology, life sciences, maritime, agriculture, and other sectors, and formalizes plans to explore opportunities for Washington companies in the Spanish market and establish future opportunities for Spanish companies to create jobs in Washington."

Ibarra, who chairs the Washington District Export Council, suggests Opportunity Zones "hold great promise to accentuate and expedite beneficial outcomes" from the Agreement with opportunities for Washington companies in the Spanish market and for Spanish companies to create jobs in Washington.

Ibarra brings some awareness of the extent of potential represented by the state's agreement with Spain since some years ago he prepared and escorted an aerospace manufacturing firm from this state to various meetings with Spanish aerospace companies at a U.S.-Spain Aerospace Industry Summit.

"And now, whether its Spain or Washington State, any individual relationship that comes about is going to need some sort of facility, whether distribution or manufacturing, in place and that's where Opportunity Zones can come into play to facilitate those relationships," Ibarra said.
 
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Cuomo blasts critics who doomed Amazon deal - "...stupid or liars..."

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New York Gov Andrew Cuomo has laid to rest any doubt that the political fallout from Amazon's decision, in the face of loud but relatively small opposition, to abandon its plan to bring its HQ2 to New York will drift across the national Democratic party landscape heading toward the 2020 elections.'
 
An open letter released last Sunday on Cuomo's web page was written by New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica who basically derided those whose opposition led to Amazon's decision as either stupid or liars.
 
As Mujica ungently said of opponents of the project who claimed Amazon was getting $3 billion in government subsidies that could have been better spent on housing or transportation: "This is either a blatant untruth or fundamental ignorance of basic math by a group of elected officials."
 
Mujica, whose letter has become fodder for blog comments across the political and economic spectrums, said there were three reasons the Amazon deal fell apart.
 
"First, some labor unions attempted to exploit Amazon's New York entry. Second, some Queens politicians catered to minor but vocal local political forces in opposition to the Amazon government incentives as 'corporate welfare.' Third, in retrospect, the State and the City could have done more to communicate the facts of the project and more aggressively correct the distortions."
 
On the third point is where Mujica took opponents of the project to task for his charge of "blatant untruth or fundamental ignorance."  
 
He explained that "The city, through existing as-of-right tax credits, and the state through Excelsior Tax credits -- a program approved by the same legislators railing against it -- would provide up to $3 billion in tax relief IF Amazon created the 25,000-40,000 jobs and thus generated $27 billion in revenue."
 
The fallout from Coumo's withering criticism of Amazon critics, through Mujica's superbly crafted narrative, coupled with the emerging influence of newly elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, could make New York ground zero for a major rift among Democrats, and not just those in New York.
 
Those elected officials scorned by Cuomo through Mojika's commentary, included Ocasio-Cortez, who has gathered growing support from elected Democrats on the left as well as left-leaning groups around the country, particularly after she promised that candidates like her will be on the ballot in an array of locations next election.
 
I looked through a variety of political and economic blogs about the Amazon debacle and found several that made compelling reading.

But the one that I found most compelling, though politically partisan, was from an economics blog called Marginal Revolution done by a couple of economics professors at Gorge Mason University in Virginia.
 
"I can only think that this is some sort of cognitive dissonance that prevents people of a certain politics slant from mentally processing words that go against a deeply held stereotype," wrote the prof, Alex Tabarrok. "Amazon is big. Bezos is rich. Obviously then the state gave them unique benefits. That's the only message that the left wing brain is neurologically capable of hearing, even though, in this case, it is the opposite of what happened."
 
His comment made me think his "certain political slant" likely fits both political fringes and it was then I realized it's been exactly a decade since the modern-day Tea Party came into existence, in either February or April of 2009, depending on which event its fans took to be the launch.
 
There obviously isn't going to be a liberal Tea Party, even if "neurological incapacity" can be found far out on either fringe. But what's happening in New York in the Amazon aftermath makes it clear there could be a mirror image of the Tea Party with the mirror folks shouting "yes, taxes!" in reply to the "no on taxes!" Or "more government" to"no government."
 
That's the "balance" of equally potent fringes which, even if each appeals to about 15 percent of their parties, will be reflected in pressures on the middle as the next election nears.
 
And because the liberal "Tea Party" mirror is coming about a decade on from the original, it will be affecting political positions more than in the past for Democrats. And thus it will be interesting to see how the positions of Washington State's two presidential wanna be's, Gov. Jay Inslee among the Democrat hopefuls and Starbucks' Howard Schultz as an independent, might change.

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Amazon/New York - Are the days of corporate incentives or breaks coming to an end?

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Watching the free-for-all of analysis and commentary over Amazon's misadventure romance with New York City, we're talking about the company now, now its CEO, over a second headquarters made me think of my senior-sprinter friend and author Steve Robbins. Although he is acknowledged as the most prolific author of management textbooks, he may now have an outline for one he's never written.
 
I'm referring to Amazon's unprecedented suddenly announced decision that it was no longer planning to build a second headquarters in a section of New York City's Queens neighborhood of Long Island City.  
 
I say suddenly announced because no one can be certain that Amazon's decision to turn away from New York was as quickly made as the announcement might suggest. Like the world third's richest company may have begun to have a change of heart soon after its early November announcement that unexpectedly there would another "second headquarters", adding Northern Virginia in the announcement that New York was the pick.
 
Is it possible Amazon execs hadn't thought things through about New York until Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blassio pointed out, as they welcomed the company, that New York is a union town? That fact had assumedly already been digested by a company that doesn't go for union organizing.
 
The business fallout from this may simmer for a time but will likely disappear. Bu the political fallout will likely continue for New Yorkers into the next general election and maybe beyond.

Meaning from a business sense, Amazon will likely be able to go on as if nothing happened. As a former top Amazon executive told me, "the world is a very big place. If one doesn't want us, others will."
 
But politically, the rift between the New York Democratic party power structure and the newly emerging powerhouse of left-wing forces, some elected and some not elected, will echo down the coming months.
 
I called my roommate from college days at Marquette, who retired after fashioning a prominent New York legal career, to ask him his thoughts.
 
"A lot of the politicians who were against the Amazon deal didn't represent the district so they had no skin in the game and Governor Cuomo is outraged at the politicians who had no constituent reason to get involved but screwed it up," he said.
 
"Regarding the idea that unions opposed Amazon, a non-union giant, coming to New York: that doesn't make sense," he said. "The municipal employees union was very opposed because they feared the multi-billion dollar package the city had put together for Amazon would come out of their salaries and future raises.
 
"But a majority of the unions are upset that Amazon walked away. Do you think any of the construction-related unions weren't excited about what the future held for them?"
 
The Amazon-New York situation represents the conundrum that areas seeking to attract new business face. If a city or state don't offer the incentives, they are often out of consideration.  If they do play the game, they are open to public pressure to back off.
 
A longtime business leader in this state, when I asked about that conundrum, told me he thinks the days of corporate incentives or breaks are coming to an end.
 
"This movement among millennials to the left is going to reset the political system, including things like corporate incentives," he said.
"The selection process was, in my judgment the height of corporate arrogance in a time when the tide is going the other way," added my business-leader friend.
 
"The variables which help strengthen public support for a company's actions are the goodwill a company builds in the community and the public support they build," he added. "Boeing has been a master at that, something they learned after the 1972 cutbacks from the demise of the SST."
 
So back to Steve Robbins and his management textbooks. I haven't seen Robbins, who moved from Seattle to Cleveland a few years ago and turned 76 last month, for a decade but was caused to recall his leaving me far behind in various 100-meter races in masters and senior games events. But fortunately, I got to talk with him after or over coffee about both writing and running.
 
I'd love to get hold of him now to get his view of the management aspects or lack thereof, that might have been in evidence in the non-dramatic drama of Amazon's decision.
 
I flipped through his nearly three dozen titles, of which he has sold 10 million copies and that have been translated into 20 languages, to see if any of the titles, all available on Amazon, might suggest he's already been there in the discussions and lessons in his management textbooks.
 
Robbins' books focus on conflict, power, organizational politics and interpersonal skills. Which of those were in evidence or absent, and to what extent, would make interesting cocktail lounge or boardroom, discussion.
 
I was intrigued at the title of one of Robbins' books: "Divide and Conquer: The ultimate guide for improving your decision making."
 
It occurred to me that the way Amazon left the New York political scene in taters definitely demonstrated an ability to divide, as was also evidenced in the embarrassing snafu of the Seattle City Council and its aborted head tax.
 
I'll leave the "conquer" to those cocktail lounge conversations.

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WA legislature and Congress in crosshairs over consumer privacy

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Lawmakers in both Washingtons are in the consumer-privacy crosshairs amid a growing awareness, and thus anger, of how little people are able to keep private about themselves.  
 
While both the Washington Legislature and Congress are deliberating bills the lawmakers hope can be crafted to satisfy both tech giants and consumers, there is an increasingly uncomfortable sense among legislators at both the state and federal levels that they had better not rile consumers further on the privacy issue.
 
And interestingly, part of the script for how this struggle between the tech industry and individuals over privacy plays out may be written in Washington state, either with the legislative tax hammer that is almost uniquely available in this state or by an emerging Bellevue company that hopes to take the privacy issue out of the hands of the tech giants.  
 
The tax tool is the state's business and occupation tax, a use tax on gross receipts rather than profits, which can and has been imposed in a punitive manner. The business start-up company is Helm, which has created a relatively inexpensive device, about the size of a router, that lets consumers send and receive emails from their own domain. More on both the b&o and Helm later.
 
At the federal level, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is proposing sweeping new legislation that would empower consumers to control their personal information, create radical transparency into how corporations use and share their data, and impose harsh fines, even prison terms for executives at corporations that misuse Americans' data.
 
As Wyden has put it: "Today's economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information - Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation's database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it's used and how it's shared,"  
 
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he expects the state legislature to address privacy in the upcoming session, saying he has begun discussions with tech leaders in the state "about a privacy policy that is consistent with innovation and also consistent with fundamental rights of privacy." And Inslee expressed confidence about getting a policy, probably in this session, that will be pleasing to innovators and consumers."
 
"Pleasing" to the big tech companies like Facebook, Google and hometown Amazon is an almost amusing word for a governor to use when "acceptable" to the tech giants is the best that is likely to happen with any state legislation that constrains the manner in which personal information is being collected and used.
 
That's particularly true with citizen pressure on lawmakers here and in other states after California's Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly passed a far-reaching piece of legislation called the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). The measure largely mirrors protections offered to European citizens under the recently implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is likely to drastically change the ways that American companies store and trade in consumer information for Californians.
 
The law allows Californians to ask firms collecting and selling data: what do you collect, why and with whom do you share it? And it allows California residents to opt out of the sale of their data and to request deletion of their data.
 
And in addition to Wyden's zeal on behalf of privacy, the passage of CCPA is spurring the tech industry to seek Congressional action on something they could at least reluctantly accept to avoid what they are protesting as a possible "patchwork approach to privacy policy" if each state enacts its own version.
 
So in the event Washington lawmakers approve legislation that makes its citizens happy about new state protections for privacy, and then Congress approves a law that offers dramatically less protection that supersedes what states like California, and Washington, have put in place, how can this state preserve the protections it will have given its citizens.?
 
A suggestion, borne or my political-writing background: The state, led by its Democrat Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, could put in place a privacy policy that companies would be told they must comply with or a special B&O tax rate of some compelling amount, maybe even 25 percent, will apply to those firms not honoring our privacy policy.  
 
Would Ferguson have the courage to confront major tech companies either located here, like Amazon or having a significant presence here like Google and Facebook? Given the fact that he'd like to be Inslee successor as governor and that his key role is first and foremost "preserving the rights of the individual," he could fatally impact his political hopes if he failed to follow the public demands on this issue. And in fact, if he failed to take a protective step demanded by citizens, they could use the initiative process to create a special b&o tax rate themselves.
 
This wouldn't be a law, since the federal government if Congress passes a privacy act, would likely have pre-empted states passing laws governing privacy. But legislation imposing a different b&o tax and the significantly higher rate has a long tradition protected by decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court.
 
Would what I am talking about be legal blackmail? Consider that there are almost three dozen B&O classifications with rates often unexplainable, like parimutuel wagering having a rate of .0013 and gambling contests of chance, .015. The latter, incidentally, is the rate for "service and other activities," which includes professional firms like attorneys as well as consultants-the rate I pay.
 
And how law firms came to be taxed at the highest rate is instructive for how lawmakers in Washington can use the b&o. In the 1993 session, lawmakers sought to extend the sales tax to the legal profession but the attorneys brought their lobbyists to the fray and successfully defeated the effort. Presto, came the highest b&o tax suddenly applying to attorneys, just about tripling their tax.
 
I once asked the late Gov, Mike Lowry if that came about as punishment by a Democratic governor (him) and Democratic legislature and he let out one of his classic shoulder bouncing laughs.
 
When I discussed the privacy issue with Bellevue-based research analyst Jim Hebert, he noted that Congress has been through a major privacy-invasion crisis and solution before. He was referring to the reforms in consumer credit law to combat excesses of the credit agencies.  
 
"The agencies collected information on you, kept it and sold it to banks and others, with statistics disclosing that 40 percent of the information was wrong and no one knew it," Hebert said.  
 
The outcome was legislation enacted requiring that all such data the credit agencies collect is now turned over to a third-party organization that polices the data's accuracy and makes it available to consumers.
 
"Credit bureaus weren't put out of business or even really damaged by the corrective legislation," Hebert noted.
 
So back to Helm, the Bellevue company that was the idea of  Giri Sreenivas and Dirk Sigurdson, two entrepreneurs who had sold a security startup and raised a $4 million seed round from top venture capital firms last year.
 
"Right now, nearly all of the data that comprises your online life is stored in a massive data center," Sreenivas wrote in a blog he posted. "You don't own it. You can't see it, you can't touch it - and you don't know who can. That dream of a device that would make data 'ownable' to the individual - not a stranger - is what led to Helm."
 
Their device connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm supports standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting the connection between the device and the apps.
 
A key challenge for privacy champions is the apparent uncertainty about the extent to which younger generations will care enough to get into the fray as opponents of the big tech data collectors, although a recent survey I saw said there's growing disillusionment among people in their twenties and thirties surrounding social media.
 
But in a comment that leaders of the privacy battle would find disappointing, one of the millennials in the survey was quoted as saying "I feel like our generation has been raised to not be so worried about online privacy because it just feels like there is no alternative. Ultimately I do value privacy in theory, but it feels like it's a cost of participating in society. Not just online."

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An amusing post-script to last week's column
 
An email from a Russian friend provides a post-script to last week's column in which I suggested the formation of a business that, for a fee, could crowd the fringe in congressional or legislative races, helping ensure the re-election of moderates of either party.
 
Natalia Blokhina, who helps guide a Moscow-based fund management company that invests in U.S. companies, as well as companies elsewhere, sent me an email saying it was an interesting column.
 
Because I sought to help introduce Natalia to companies in which her fund might invest, I emailed her back asking if her fund might be interested in being an investor if the idea of a Save Our Middle LLC took hold.
 
"It would be interesting to tell people we have Russian investors in our company," I joked to her.
 
"We wouldn't want to be involved in a political company," she replied quite seriously.
 
You can search the column I did about Natalia at Flynn's Harp: Natalia Blokhina.

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WA legislature and Congress in crosshairs over consumer privacy

privacy_banner

Lawmakers in both Washingtons are in the consumer-privacy crosshairs amid a growing awareness, and thus anger, of how little people are able to keep private about themselves.  
 
While both the Washington Legislature and Congress are deliberating bills the lawmakers hope can be crafted to satisfy both tech giants and consumers, there is an increasingly uncomfortable sense among legislators at both the state and federal levels that they had better not rile consumers further on the privacy issue.
 
And interestingly, part of the script for how this struggle between the tech industry and individuals over privacy plays out may be written in Washington state, either with the legislative tax hammer that is almost uniquely available in this state or by an emerging Bellevue company that hopes to take the privacy issue out of the hands of the tech giants.  
 
The tax tool is the state's business and occupation tax, a use tax on gross receipts rather than profits, which can and has been imposed in a punitive manner. The business start-up company is Helm, which has created a relatively inexpensive device, about the size of a router, that lets consumers send and receive emails from their own domain. More on both the b&o and Helm later.
 
At the federal level, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is proposing sweeping new legislation that would empower consumers to control their personal information, create radical transparency into how corporations use and share their data, and impose harsh fines, even prison terms for executives at corporations that misuse Americans' data.
 
As Wyden has put it: "Today's economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information - Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation's database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it's used and how it's shared,"  
 
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he expects the state legislature to address privacy in the upcoming session, saying he has begun discussions with tech leaders in the state "about a privacy policy that is consistent with innovation and also consistent with fundamental rights of privacy." And Inslee expressed confidence about getting a policy, probably in this session, that will be pleasing to innovators and consumers."
 
"Pleasing" to the big tech companies like Facebook, Google and hometown Amazon is an almost amusing word for a governor to use when "acceptable" to the tech giants is the best that is likely to happen with any state legislation that constrains the manner in which personal information is being collected and used.
 
That's particularly true with citizen pressure on lawmakers here and in other states after California's Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly passed a far-reaching piece of legislation called the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). The measure largely mirrors protections offered to European citizens under the recently implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is likely to drastically change the ways that American companies store and trade in consumer information for Californians.
 
The law allows Californians to ask firms collecting and selling data: what do you collect, why and with whom do you share it? And it allows California residents to opt out of the sale of their data and to request deletion of their data.
 
And in addition to Wyden's zeal on behalf of privacy, the passage of CCPA is spurring the tech industry to seek Congressional action on something they could at least reluctantly accept to avoid what they are protesting as a possible "patchwork approach to privacy policy" if each state enacts its own version.
 
So in the event Washington lawmakers approve legislation that makes its citizens happy about new state protections for privacy, and then Congress approves a law that offers dramatically less protection that supersedes what states like California, and Washington, have put in place, how can this state preserve the protections it will have given its citizens.?
 
A suggestion, borne or my political-writing background: The state, led by its Democrat Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, could put in place a privacy policy that companies would be told they must comply with or a special B&O tax rate of some compelling amount, maybe even 25 percent, will apply to those firms not honoring our privacy policy.  
 
Would Ferguson have the courage to confront major tech companies either located here, like Amazon or having a significant presence here like Google and Facebook? Given the fact that he'd like to be Inslee successor as governor and that his key role is first and foremost "preserving the rights of the individual," he could fatally impact his political hopes if he failed to follow the public demands on this issue. And in fact, if he failed to take a protective step demanded by citizens, they could use the initiative process to create a special b&o tax rate themselves.
 
This wouldn't be a law, since the federal government if Congress passes a privacy act, would likely have pre-empted states passing laws governing privacy. But legislation imposing a different b&o tax and the significantly higher rate has a long tradition protected by decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court.
 
Would what I am talking about be legal blackmail? Consider that there are almost three dozen B&O classifications with rates often unexplainable, like parimutuel wagering having a rate of .0013 and gambling contests of chance, .015. The latter, incidentally, is the rate for "service and other activities," which includes professional firms like attorneys as well as consultants-the rate I pay.
 
And how law firms came to be taxed at the highest rate is instructive for how lawmakers in Washington can use the b&o. In the 1993 session, lawmakers sought to extend the sales tax to the legal profession but the attorneys brought their lobbyists to the fray and successfully defeated the effort. Presto, came the highest b&o tax suddenly applying to attorneys, just about tripling their tax.
 
I once asked the late Gov, Mike Lowry if that came about as punishment by a Democratic governor (him) and Democratic legislature and he let out one of his classic shoulder bouncing laughs.
 
When I discussed the privacy issue with Bellevue-based research analyst Jim Hebert, he noted that Congress has been through a major privacy-invasion crisis and solution before. He was referring to the reforms in consumer credit law to combat excesses of the credit agencies.  
 
"The agencies collected information on you, kept it and sold it to banks and others, with statistics disclosing that 40 percent of the information was wrong and no one knew it," Hebert said.  
 
The outcome was legislation enacted requiring that all such data the credit agencies collect is now turned over to a third-party organization that polices the data's accuracy and makes it available to consumers.
 
"Credit bureaus weren't put out of business or even really damaged by the corrective legislation," Hebert noted.
 
So back to Helm, the Bellevue company that was the idea of  Giri Sreenivas and Dirk Sigurdson, two entrepreneurs who had sold a security startup and raised a $4 million seed round from top venture capital firms last year.
 
"Right now, nearly all of the data that comprises your online life is stored in a massive data center," Sreenivas wrote in a blog he posted. "You don't own it. You can't see it, you can't touch it - and you don't know who can. That dream of a device that would make data 'ownable' to the individual - not a stranger - is what led to Helm."
 
Their device connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm supports standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting the connection between the device and the apps.
 
A key challenge for privacy champions is the apparent uncertainty about the extent to which younger generations will care enough to get into the fray as opponents of the big tech data collectors, although a recent survey I saw said there's growing disillusionment among people in their twenties and thirties surrounding social media.
 
But in a comment that leaders of the privacy battle would find disappointing, one of the millennials in the survey was quoted as saying "I feel like our generation has been raised to not be so worried about online privacy because it just feels like there is no alternative. Ultimately I do value privacy in theory, but it feels like it's a cost of participating in society. Not just online."

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An amusing post-script to last week's column
 
An email from a Russian friend provides a post-script to last week's column in which I suggested the formation of a business that, for a fee, could crowd the fringe in congressional or legislative races, helping ensure the re-election of moderates of either party.
 
Natalia Blokhina, who helps guide a Moscow-based fund management company that invests in U.S. companies, as well as companies elsewhere, sent me an email saying it was an interesting column.
 
Because I sought to help introduce Natalia to companies in which her fund might invest, I emailed her back asking if her fund might be interested in being an investor if the idea of a Save Our Middle LLC took hold.
 
"It would be interesting to tell people we have Russian investors in our company," I joked to her.
 
"We wouldn't want to be involved in a political company," she replied quite seriously.
 
You can search the column I did about Natalia at Flynn's Harp: Natalia Blokhina.
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One-time phone company exec recalls two memorable political campaigns

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It was 50 years ago that James Elias, then a local Portland area telephone company manager, suddenly became a political giant killer when he agreed to run the U.S. Senate campaign of a popular Republican legislator and proceeded to guide the defeat of an Oregon icon known as "the tiger of the Senate."

Elias was a 33-year-old Portland district manager for the old Pacific Northwest Bell (PNB) when Robert Packwood, who had been a force in the Oregon legislature since his election in 1962, asked Elias to manage his 1968 campaign, an unlikely quest to topple one of the most respected men in the Senate, Wayne Morse.

Before continuing with the Packwood story, It's important to note the second chapter of this column is the gubernatorial campaign in Washington State four years later when Elias guided the precedent-setting re-election of Republican Dan Evans to a third term.

Ironically, both Evans' opponent in the third-term bid, former Gov. Albert D. Rosellini, and Packwood as a prominent Oregon legislator had served as consultants for Elias in speaking to PNB managers and doing some training about political issues in the two states.

But back to Packwood, whom Elias recalls wasn't even mentioned by name at first in the state's major newspaper, The Oregonian, which merely referred to him as "Morse foe."

After all, Morse was one of only two Senators who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that basically gave President Lyndon Johnson carte blanche to pursue the Vietnam War any way he wished, without again having to ask Congress. And Morse had remained one of the Senate's most vocal critics of the war.

But he had made enemies over time because of his switch of parties from Democrat, as which he was originally elected, to Independent, for which he proudly claimed for himself the role of the Senate's one-man Independent Party, and eventually to Democrat.

And in facing Packwood, he had an opponent of broad appeal. As Elias recalled: "We had thousands of young people all across the state working for what they viewed as a different sort of candidate, liberal on social and women's issues, although fiscally conservative."

"We put out position papers on any issues anyone could care about, dozens of them," Elias said. "After a while, people couldn't believe anyone was on top of so many issues."

"In the end, The Oregonian did an editorial page column saying, basically, that Packwood seemed to be 'more knowledgeable on more issues than we've ever seen,'" and they began calling him by name. Packwood kept climbing in the polls and eventually won.

Elias recalls that after Packwood's election, the new Senator wanted him to come to Washington as his administrative assistant and when he learned Elias had no interest in going to Washington, D.C., "Packwood wouldn't talk to me for six months."

Taking on the Evans third term campaign brought about one of the all-time strangest political stories when Elias hired a young Ted Bundy, who would later be found to be a serial rapist and killer of young women but was then an intelligent and personable political science student.

"I always hired 'spooks' to hang out with the competing campaign," Elias explained. "They'd pick up things the candidate said more candidly with those close to him, then I could use that information to frame questions comparing private comments with what they were saying in public."

"So Bundy was our 'spook' in the '72 campaign. He was a smart kid and I sent him to hang out in Rosellini's campaign and Al got accustomed to talking with Ted and eventually had Bundy ride along with him and talk," Elias said with a chuckle.

Elias' wife, Ann, a partner in any campaign he was involved with, did the polling research and determined that Rosellini was ahead in the polls and continued so until the two candidates debated.

"As the debate ended, the floor was opened for questions and answers and I had our people, with their prepared questions, hurry to the mike and they were the first dozen people to ask questions," Elias said. "One of them was Bundy and when Rosellini realized the kid he had trusted was actually in the Evans camp, he could only stammer and his jaw clicked in the classic 'Rosellini is upset' reaction."

It was then that Rosellini mouthed his "Danny Boy" reaction to Evans that observers said turned the campaign. Ann's polling showed that Evans climbed from that time on and he won a third term.
 
Jim and Ann Elias were stunned, as were all those who knew Bundy, when he was jailed three years later in Utah as his string of murders of young women began to unfold. 

Elias shared that Ann, his wife of 52 years, played key roles in both the Packwood and Evans campaigns.

"For Packwood, Ann managed all of the county chairmen statewide as well as all who volunteered to work in the headquarters," he said. "After Packwood was elected, he got her appointed to manage the largest 1960 census district in the country."

 "For Evans' campaign, Ann was responsible for the polling. She drew the sample of voters to interview, constructed the questionnaires and supervised the people conducting the research," Elias said.
 
Packwood served four terms in the Senate and was always in the forefront of women's issues, including being an early and ardent advocate for abortion rights and a strong supporter of the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973.
 
 Thus it was a stunning fall from grace when the Washington Post, in 1992, published a series of articles chronicling accusations of sexual harassment against Packwood, who fought the charges. but more women came forward to make the same claims. After three years of controversy, the Senate Ethics Committee recommended his expulsion and Packwood resigned from the Senate on October 1, 1995.
 
Elias returned to his Northwest management role with the phone company, turning down opportunities to go to New York and Washington, D.C.,(again) but by the early '80s he became part of a new challenge, the breakup of AT&T and the spinoff of the local phone companies that became known as " Baby Bells."

He recalled skiing in Sun Valley when he was notified that "Mr. Smith (Andy Smith, PNB president) was sending a plane to pick him up to return to Seattle.

"Divestiture had been ordered by the Federal Court and Smith wanted Elias to handle the public relations challenge of convincing the public that "just because we were being spun out from AT&T didn't mean we were now adrift in relating to our customers."

But as AT&T sought ways to come back from the breakup, it apparently sought legislation in Congress that might have allowed it swallow its orphaned children.

Elias recalls going to Packwood to get him to kill the legislation, which he did, getting back to Elias with a comment he well remembers: "You just cut the heart out of AT&T."
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High Court ruling outlawing death penalty stirs memory of hanging

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The Washington Supreme Court's decision to strike down the death penalty as unconstitutional brought back memories of the 1963 hanging of Joseph Chester Self, which I covered for United Press International as a young reporter. It would be the last hanging in Washington State for nearly 30 years.

Last week's ruling in which the court held unanimously that the death penalty was "arbitrary and racially biased" was the fourth time that a high court has decreed that Washington's death penalty was unconstitutional, for a variety of reasons, but capital punishment was approved anew after each of the three previous occasions.

And while the court's ruling last week included the comment "death as a penalty for crime is not in itself unconstitutional," and "We leave open the possibility that the Legislature may enact a 'carefully drafted statute," the decision noted that it would be very difficult to do that in a constitutional manner.

At the time of Self's execution 55 years ago, the state didn't have a gallows in the Old West style, but rather a large room at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, a "death chamber" as it was referred to, a short walk from Death Row where those sentenced to die awaited the outcome of their appeals process. It was later, to rectify a court decision throwing out the death penalty, that a legislature made fatal injection an option for the condemned prisoners.

Only men have been executed in Washington and, interesting in light of the court's statement about the death sentence being "racially disproportionate," of the 14 who went to their deaths between and 1947 and 1993, 13 were Caucasian, including Joe Self, and one was Hispanic.

Washington's governors have routinely passed on the opportunities over the years to interfere with the death penalty being carried out, until current governor Jay Inslee imposed a moratorium on the death penalty and has now announced he would veto any effort to restore it.

Mike Lowry, who was then in his first year as Washington governor, was the last to weigh whether to permit a condemned man to hang, although two men were subsequently executed by lethal injection during Gary Locke's time as governor.

I once asked Lowry to recall that hanging and his thoughts about it. In the process of answering, he disclosed that a personal visit with the condemned man at the state penitentiary had been part of what he referred to as "the considerable time" he spent reviewing the case of Charles Rodman Campbell.

"I received delegations from opponents of capital punishment and, of course, from family and friends of the people he murdered," Lowry recalled. "In the end, I could not justify in my own mind reversing the 13-year legal process that included all the appeals that were made by his defense lawyers exercising his constitutional rights."

"One of the reasons I did not commute Mr. Campbell's sentence to life without the possibility of parole is that there was a very legitimate fear that he might try to kill a prison employee or other inmate," Lowry added.

I chuckled at the thought that Inslee might have taken Lowry's example and met with either one of the death row prisoners or members of the family of one of the victims before rendering his far-reaching decision

Lowry, who died 18 months ago, conceded during our conversation that is was possible there would be other executions in Washington State, noting: "I feel for whoever is governor at that time and I hope he or she will explore every opportunity to find a solid justification to commute the sentence to life without possibility of parole."

In fact, Campbell, who was executed for the murders of two women and the eight-year-old daughter of one of the women, all of whom had their throats slit, perfectly fitted the profile of a killer who deserved to die, for those who believe there may be a societal issue, not merely a legal issue in capital punishment discussion.

The late true-crime author Ann Rule wrote a chapter about Campbell in one of her books and described him as "a killer straight out of a nightmare." And then-Atty. Gen Christine Gregoire observed after Campbell's execution: "The death penalty is not something to be taken lightly and should be reserved for only the most heinous crimes. If anyone deserved the death penalty, it was Charles Campbell."

Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote that "no penological goal" was served by capital punishment. But some would argue that capital punishment could also have a societal aspect, since academic discussions of the purposes of punishment always refer to five purposes, including retribution.

And as a friend who spent years in the prosecutor's office observed to me, "closure for the families of murder victims should be a very important consideration."

But the case of Joe Self perhaps fitted the Supreme Court's comment about the arbitrary aspect of the death penalty's imposition.
 
Self was convicted and sentenced to die for shooting a cab driver to death in a $15 robbery, the final criminal chapter in a life of otherwise petty crimes, none of which qualified as "heinous."
 
When he made the short walk from his death-row holding cell to the door of the chamber, he had long-since converted to Catholicism and he had willed his eyes to an eye bank.
 
Two other young journalists and I were among the group of about 35 people on hand for Self's hanging, by tradition just past midnight, "the first minute of the new day."
 
Self, Warden Bobbie Rhay, a Catholic priest who had become Self's regular death-row visitor, and a couple of guards entered a door to the cement balcony against the back wall of the chamber, with the witnesses looking up from below. They walked to the center of the platform and stopped as Self stood above the steel door through which he would fall to his death when the door was sprung open.
 
Rhay asked Self if he had any final words and the condemned man replied: "Ask me if I've said my prayers, warden."
 
With that, a hood was pulled over Self's head. A straightjacket pinned his arms to his body. Rhay flipped a wall switch, signaling three men in a room below the death chamber that they should each flip the switches in front of them. Only one of the switches activated the trap door, through which Self fell in a moment, his neck snapping before onlookers could even grasp what they had witnessed.
 
That only three reporters, all print journalists in their early '20s, were on hand (no radio or television news people and no seasoned reporters) to cover the execution was a commentary on the relative importance of a hanging then, though there was certainly media coverage in the weeks prior. After all, hangings occurred on average about once a year. But Self's would be the last for decades.
 
By the time 30 years after Self that another death row inmate was to be hanged, the attention was widespread and went on for weeks, and all three of us who had been at Self's execution found ourselves being interviewed by various media on "what it was like."
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An appropriate time for 'We The People' student focus on U.S. Constitution

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At a time when the U.S. Constitution has become the focal point of conversation and discussion across the nation, with an alarming amount of the discussion heatedly political, it's heartening to learn about the little-known competition among high school students across the country to create a deeper knowledge of the nation's founding document.

The program is called "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" with programs in all 50 states involving thousands of students in a national competition that culminates in the spring with national finals sponsored by the Center for Civic Education and conducted at the national conference center in Leesburg, VA.

The finals are designed to simulate a congressional hearing, presumably without the rancor that characterized the convention that adopted the constitution and that has been passed down through legislative bodies since then to the Congress of today.

I learned about the program from my granddaughter, Emma, then a senior at Portland's Franklin High School, a year before her mother, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Meagan Flynn, became part of an unusual lineup of coaches at Franklin. 

That team of coaches this year includes, in addition to Meagan, fellow Supreme Court Justice Rives Kistler, as well as a retired Oregon appellate court judge.

Grant and Lincoln high schools in Portland have carved out roles as perennially among the top three high schools in the nation with Grant finishing first in the national competition last year and Lincoln third.

There's little likelihood that when Grant or Lincoln teams return with their national recognition there are celebrations to congratulate the winners, or that the parents at those schools even know much about the event. Anyone aware of the importance of informed citizens in creating forms of governance would find that disappointing.

But apparently among the students at Grant and Lincoln, the old story of "success breeds success" is at work.

"They are very selective in who they pick and they have developed a strong draw to students,' Meagan said.

Washington State high schools lag far behind the performance of their Oregon counterparts. Six Washington high schools are involved in the constitution competition.

They are: Eastlake Evergreen, Heritage, Orting, Overlake, Tahoma (Tahoma frequently winds high on the list of national honorable mentions)

Students from the six Washington State High Schools participate in the We the People State Competition on the Capitol Campus in Olympia each spring.

About 40 Franklin students gather each Monday evening with 15 to 20 coaches and the high school's advanced placement teacher to go over questions and discuss aspects of the constitution.

The questions they deal with would make interesting fodder at adult gatherings if the idea of discussing the constitution in other than the occasional irrelevant conversations about getting a new one occurred to them.

As Meagan explained to me when I asked her how the evenings go, "We usually split into six individual units during the evening and help the kids work on their answers to the prepared questions or have them practice answering random questions about their topics.  In the competition rounds, they give their prepared answer and then spend six minutes fielding any questions about the topic that the judging panel wants to ask. The questions are mostly along the lines of taking a position and defend your answer with specific examples, rather than closed-ended questions."

The questions the students deal with are compelling and hopefully could prompt some of their parents to gather and say "hey, let's have a discussion about this."

Three questions gleaned from a multi-page list that the students deal with attracted my attention:

  - "How does the Constitution limit government power to protect individual rights while promoting the common good?"

  - "what arguments can you make for and against giving each state the right to send the same number of members to the Senate?

  - "If a law has been properly passed by the law-making branches of a democratic government, why should judges have the power to declare it unconstitutional? Do you agree or disagree with the position implied by this question? Why or why not?"

During the national finals, more than 1,200 students testify before a total of 72 judges, in panels of three. The judges are history, political science, law, and education professors, members of the legal community, and others with knowledge of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

According to the Center for Civic Education, "Since the inception of the We the People program in 1987, more than 28 million students and 90,000 educators have participated in the program and more than 30,000 students have participated in the national finals."

I asked Meagan what she views as the value of the program.

"It makes good citizens," she said. "Students learn about the Constitution and how it relates to current events and they learn to take information and form an opinion, based on facts."

I think we should form an adult version of "We the people."

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Tracy Wood recalls witnessing McCain's release from North Vietnam

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When Tracy Wood heard that John McCain had died, the woman who was the only reporter on hand when McCain and 102 other POWs were released from the Hanoi Hilton in March of 1973, she was "really sad. That guy went through so damned much and the remarkable thing is he seemed to learn from each setback and become better for it."

Tracy Wood 1Tracy Wood on arriving for first POW release
(From the private collection of Tracy Wood)
Wood was a 25-year-old reporter for United Press International who had been in Viet Nam for only a year when word came that McCain, who had been imprisoned under constant torture for five years, and the others would be released two months after the agreement between the U.S. and North Vietnamese to end the war.

  
Wood made up her mind that she would be in Hanoi for the release of the POWs at a time when every reporter was trying to find a way to get to Hanoi. She first tried to set up a press pool (meaning a group of reporters sharing resources) flying into Hanoi from the Philippines.  

But, she recalled in a phone interviewSunday, "Nixon himself vetoed any press pool plan, apparently because he didn't want any of the   prisoners photographed and have the photos sent back to this country."

"So that meant that I had to try a different way," she said.

Thus with a mix of pluck and luck, Wood decided to just ask the North Vietnamese directly for permission to be in Hanoi for the release. And they gave her permission.

Then how to get there, since there was no way for her to merely hop a flight from Saigon? She decided to take commercial flights from Saigon to Bangkok, Thailand, then to Vientiane, Laos, where she caught the Aeroflot flight that was the only commercial connection to Hanoi.
 
There she learned that AP photographer Horst Faas and an NBC cameraman named Chris Callery were on the same flight, but she proudly notes she was not only the lone reporter but also the only American journalist since Faas was German and Callery from England.
 
She explained with a laugh that the photo she sent me of her arrival in Hanoi dressed in a miniskirt was because she had dressed for commercial travel rather than for the usual military lift into battle zones in jungle fatigues.
 
She said the three journalists "got to stand very close" as the POWs were walked through the iron gates at Ly Nam Prison to the plane for their flight to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, but they weren't able to talk to McCain or any of the others. She noticed that McCain, 36, his hair graying, limped noticeably as he and the other prisoners walked along a wall from the prison to their waiting flight.
 
Wood's arrival in Vietnam a year earlier was also a mix of pluck and luck since it was as a reporter in UPI's Sacramento Bureau, at the same time I was a reporter in UPI's Olympia bureau, that she decided she wanted to go to Vietnam. We didn't know each other then, except for bylines we'd occasionally see on UPI's wires.
 
"Of the more than 2,200 journalists who were accredited by the U.S. military to cover Vietnam between 1965 and 1975, only 70 of them were women and most of those went in only for a short time to cover specific stories, such as someone from their town," she once told me to explain how hard the challenge of getting there would be.
 
Wood didn't get to Vietnam until 1972 when she was 24 and it took careful planning to get to the New York bureau where her lobbying would be closer to the decisionmakers.

Tracy Wood with Walter CronkiteTracy Wood arriving for final POW release (Cronkite in the background) Her immediate boss on the UPI cables desk didn't think a woman should cover wars. But Wood had the good fortune to work for UPI, whose top editors Roger Tatarian and  H. L. Stevenson believed in the ability of women to report just as well as men, and dispatched several high-visibility female correspondents to the war zone. Then it was Wood's turn.
 
Wood made two other trips to Hanoi after the one in which McCain was freed, as the POW's were released in stages in 1973.
 
"On the final trip, we had to rent a plane," she recalled. "CBS was so sure the North Vietnamese would give Walter Cronkite a visa that they tied up every available plane from Hong Kong south, but in the end, Cronkite and the CBS crew had to go on my visa, along with the others in the pool and we all used Cronkite's plane.
 
"I was afraid he would be furious, but he was incredibly nice and told me I was just doing my job," she added. "Remember, he was a war correspondent for United Press in World War II. Really classy guy."
 
Wood, who spent years as an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles times after leaving UPI in 1975, is now the editor for the Voice of OC, which bills itself as "Orange County's non-profit, non-partisan newsroom."
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Could insider trading issue stir conflict of interest in congressional races?

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The insider-trading quagmire in which New York Congressman Chris Collins finds himself may be occurring at the perfect time, in the midst of an election season, to inject an issue of substance rather than merely another political issue into congressional races around the country. The question is the need for closer scrutiny of personal financial involvements of members of Congress.

BrianBairdBrian BairdCollins' troubles stem from charges by Federal prosecutors that he used his seat on the board of a small Australian drug company to tip off his son and others that the company had failed a critical human trial and that the thousands of dollars of stock they all held would be taking a disastrous hit.

That was the first time I knew, the naïve soul that I must be, that members of Congress could sit on boards of publicly traded companies, thinking it beyond question that someone assumedly serving the best interest of constituents who elected them couldn't also fulfill the fiduciary duties to shareholders that a board member has.

Brian Baird, the former Democratic Congressman from Washington's third district whose major impact was his leadership in achieving legislation that now requires members or Congress to abide by the same investor rules that govern the rest of us, thinks it doesn't even deserve to be elevated to the legitimacy of a question.

"Being a member of Congress is a full-time job," said Baird. "I put in 70 hours a week during my time in Congress and the idea that I could also fulfill a fiduciary obligation to shareholders is preposterous."

Thus the issue that Collins' apparent insider-trading transgressions opens up for injection into congressional races is a close scrutiny of all financial activity by incumbents, not just involvement on boards.

One problem is that while members of the Senate are prohibited from serving on corporate boards, members of the House are not, though they can't be compensated for serving in such roles. But while a member of Congress files a financial disclosure report each year, there's no central database where that information is available.

But Baird thinks there should be, and that it would be well if some government-watchdog organization could digest and disseminate it and thus provide the opportunity to evaluate the financial conflicts of those running for re-election. That could be a welcome factual issue to inject into those campaigns rather than merely political rhetoric. And perhaps it would impact some election outcomes, thus frightening others in Congress to shed inappropriate financial dealings.

It might be uncomfortable for some incumbent Republicans to come down too hard on questionable financial activity, given the track record of many members of the cabinet of President Trump who may have made it appear that unseemly financial activity was a requirement for selection.

But lest that come across as a political comment rather than a journalistic observation, I'll add that Democrats could also have a bit of discomfort if they are too critical of the current environment given that the "Queen of the Questionable" may be House Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  

No one who saw her mishandling a question in the now famous 60 Minutes segment relating to questionable investment activities by members of Congress would possibly argue with that characterization of her relating to at least past financial involvements.

Baird spent half of his 12 years in Congress in a frustrated, and futile, effort to gather support for his legislation to make it illegal for lawmakers to engage in the kind of financial transactions that those in the real world know as Insider Trading and for which ordinary people can be sent to jail. Baird and one or two supporters offered it each session but couldn't even get a committee hearing.

Then came the 60 Minutes piece by CBS reporter Steve Croft, which amounted to merely highlighting the replies of then-House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Pelosi to his unexpected questions about their stock transactions. Boehner merely like someone hiding from the truth but Pelosi looked, like someone simply incompetent, stuttering ..."I don't understand your question. Um, You aren't suggesting I'd ever do anything that wasn't in the best interest of my constituents...?"

Croft's reporting exposed how members of Congress and their staff traded stocks based on nonpublic information to which they had exclusive access, the very issue Baird's ignored legislation was designed to address.

The news program sparked a public outcry and lawmakers by the dozens scurried like frightened rats to get aboard as supporters of the bill amid the public outcry, and so in April of 2012, the measure titled the STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) was passed.

Despite the passage of the legislation he pushed, Baird said in an interview last weekend: "The whole issue of conflict of interest in Congress is something they have never addressed."

"I'd love to see a study about how often members or Congress excuse themselves from voting on something because of conflict of interest," he added.

And wouldn't it be heartening if the media focus on Collins' legal challenges over his financial activities led to the kind of public outcry, particularly during an election campaign, that could stir a congressional rush to get on board a reform effort as happened with the rush to pass the STOCK Act.

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The 4th brings thoughts on the American Dream - and who dreams it

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As we celebrate the nation's birthday, honoring the date in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed, it seems like the appropriate time to celebrate the American dream framed by that declaration, as well as give thought to who gets to dream it.

Two things made me think of that. The first was a feature today on Geekwire, the Seattle-based technology news site, focusing on the American Dream that guided immigrant entrepreneurs and tech leaders to this country and success. The second was a poem written by an immigrant fifth grader in San Diego about a conversation between "The Wall and Lady Liberty."

The Geekwire interviews had the tech execs explaining why they chose the U.S. as a place to build their lives, families, and dreams and thus were able to fulfill their American dream and became highly successful. It's worth going to the Geekwire site to take a look.

Guadalupe ChavezGuadalupe ChavezI had a chance to read the poem by Guadalupe Chavez after a prominent immigration-attorney friend of mine in San Diego who is a judge in an essay event for immigrant fifth graders from around the nation told me about the contest and the San Diego youngster who took second in the nation.

Kimberley Robidoux, a San Diego partner in the Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Maggio-Kattar, is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association's San Diego Chapter and a judge in the Celebrate America Creative Writing Contest. The contest challenges fifth graders across the country to reflect on and write about the theme "Why I Am Glad America Is a Nation of Immigrants."

"We use an honor system that the parents did not write the essays or participate," Robidoux told me. "But also most of the 5th-grade teachers have the students write the entries at school so we are very confident that a parent did not write the entry."

So here is Guadalupe's Essay:

"Lady Liberty: Come in! Come in! Welcome to the United States of America! Pleasure to meet you! The Wall: Wait... No! No! Stop! Leave! You're trespassing! Lady Liberty: What's wrong with you? Why are you so close-minded? We've always welcomed people here. People have traveled from all sorts of places like China, Mexico, Philippines, Japan, Canada, Australia, and so many more. The Wall: No. No. No! I'll block their path. They're different, maybe dangerous. They shouldn't come in, they are not welcome. Lady Liberty: What's wrong with you? Many of the people that live here in America are immigrants. So if we push them away, that will mean fewer workers, less money earned, no variety of food, and no more diversity. Basically, there would barely be anything for the citizens. The Wall: No, no, we don't need them. We have our American citizens. We get nothing from them. Lady Liberty: Unless you are a Native American... Wait, no, not even them! Even they migrated here from Asia through the land bridge that existed in the Bering Strait. Every person that lives here nowadays has ancestors who brought something to America. The Wall: Yeah, right! They only bring problems. Lady Liberty: That's not true! They bring so many different things we enjoy day-to-day. Just think. Look around you. What do you eat? The Wall: Well, my favorite food is tacos with spicy sauce and soft tortillas.Lady Liberty: Guess what? That's not from America! What do you do in your free time? The Wall: I text, and use Twitter most of the time.Lady Liberty: Well, guess what? The iPhone you are texting with was invented by Steve Jobs whose father was a Syrian immigrant. What's your favorite song? The Wall: Oh I love Bob Marley songs! (begins singing) "One love, let's get together and feel alright." Lady Liberty: Yeah, definitely Bob Marley, who came from Jamaica, getting us all together and making us feel alright. Well, singer-songwriter Bob Marley grew up in Jamaica. I'm surprised that even when you're just sitting there without moving you don't notice the beauty that immigrants bring to the country. Just look around! The Wall: I only see fields and factories from here. Lady Liberty: Well, most of these fields that grow beautiful crops of oranges and avocados are worked by people from Mexico.The Wall: I guess you have a point. I'll try to be more open to new ideas. I guess you are right, we've always been a country of immigrants and whether I like it or not, they've had a huge impact on the country we are today. Lady Liberty: Thank goodness, you were making me so angry I was turning green."

I asked Kimberley to keep an eye on the young fifth grader to watch what comes of Guadalupe Chavez.

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Mayor Jenny Durkan's police-chief selection process stirs some controversy

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With three key decisions she has faced since becoming Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan has left some of those affected wondering "What was she thinking?" But in none of those decisions has she raised that chorus from so many groups, some in anger and some from among her own supporters who are dramatically disappointed about the decision not to include interim police chief Carmen Best in the group of finalists for the permanent chief 's job.

Mayor DurkanMayor DurkanAs a fan and friend of Jenny Durkan's late father, a liberal Democrat who was a political power in the legislature whom I got to know while I was a young political writer, I was pleased to see her elected mayor and had high expectations that she would show leadership and guide Seattle back toward normalcy.

It was a belief shared by many business leaders in Seattle and beyond who felt that if Durkan wasn't the best mayoral candidate they could hope for, she was for sure far ahead of the other candidates who aspired to succeed disgraced former mayor Ed Murray. And many felt she might actually come to be a throwback to when Seattle's mayors had a more broadly appealing definition of "liberal" than that on display with most of the current City Council members.

Then came the three key decisions she has had to make as the city's chief executive.

First was her decision to appeal the King County superior court ruling that the City Council had broken state law by enacting a city income tax. She had debunked the then-planned tax at the time she filed last spring as "probably not constitutional," and added it's "not the solution we need now." Then admitting, in dramatic understatement, that it was a "longshot," she filed an appeal to the State Supreme Court in December, leaving many legal minds aware of how the state's highest court follows its own rules to muse "what was she thinking?"

Second was the City Council plan to impose a head tax on the city's largest employers. She pushed back on the council's original plan to levy a $500 tax on each employee at those large companies to raise $75 million a year to address the city's homeless crisis and in the end negotiated a compromise that seemed to appease Amazon and others.

Now the head tax, which Durkan signed into law, faces the prospect of a November vote on an issue that has caused businesses and elected officials in other cities to jeer at Seattle's willingness to tax jobs. And the fact Amazon is among prominent firms raising money for the ballot test indicates the city's largest employer actually wasn't okay with the head tax idea.

But most compelling for Durkan's future is the decision not to include acting chief Carmen Best, an African-American woman, and a native of the Seattle area who came up through the ranks in a 26-year career whose involvements have brought her vocal support from community groups and within the police-force community she guides.

Members of the Police Guild, the police union, were "extremely disappointed and angered" by what's happening with Best, according to Guild President Kevin Stuckey.

The Seattle Police Foundation, the non-profit entity that helps the police department enhance relationships with the community, improve employee development, and assist in providing the latest in equipment and technology, avoids taking political positions because of its 501c3 status. But it's known that its leadership was surprised there was even a search for a permanent chief launched since there was a broad sense that Best was the chief they wanted.

The question "what was she thinking" implies a lack of transparency, not a good image for Durkan to allow to develop. And her decision to intentionally bypass Best totally lacks transparency.

Best, a native of Tacoma who grew up locally, whose husband works for Boeing and whose college-graduating daughter is getting married this fall, was one of five finalists forwarded by a review committee but the mayor's own staff trimmed two, including Best, from the list.

Durkan will be choosing a new chief from a trio of male hopefuls, including one African-American. And in fairness to the mayor, the selection committee and its chairs, including former King County Executive Ron Sims and a respected interim mayor and former City Council member Tim Burgess said there was a sense among them that the next chief should come from elsewhere.

That was a reference to the reforms in the Seattle police department that have taken place the past half dozen years after a federal civil rights investigation led Durkan, then U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, and the Justice Department to guide Seattle to an overhaul of all aspects of the department. The reforms were in the wake of findings of excessive use of force by the department.

Durkan launched the search for a new chief earlier this year after Kathleen O'Toole stepped down as chief at the end of last year. Best, an assistant chief, was named interim chief, although she announced she would seek the job of permanent chief.

Listening to Durkan seek to explain Best's exclusion keeps the "what was she thinking" sense in the forefront and is likely to echo down the coming months.

Carmen BestCarmen Best"I completely understand that people are disappointed, for various reasons; that perhaps their candidate didn't make it through," Durkan said at a news conference. "And I love Carmen Best. But I also love the fact that she is a team player and has said to me that her focus is moving forward. I am going to respect that."

Best obviously can't respond to whether or not she said that to Durkan. Nor could she explain to those who were on an interview committee that the reason police are sometimes bring criticized for not being responsive enough to calls from citizens is that the city council has removed the tools that allow police to respond.

Can you imagine Best giving an honest answer like: "well, the City Council has tied our hands with decisions like eliminating the ordinance against loitering?"

So "what was she thinking" in removing from the list of candidates for permanent Seattle police chief the acting chief whose choice would have been supported by community groups, women's groups, minority groups and, maybe most importantly, the police officers who will work under her?

That question will haunt Durkan, particularly whenever a police and community issue comes up in the future.

The greatest clue to leadership is the ability to respond positively to constituent push back. In this case that could mean figuring a way to reverse course and get Best back on track to being permanent police chief.

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There are still some things left to be said about Seattle's planned head tax

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As reactions to the head tax the Seattle City Council imposed on the city's largest businesses reverberate across the community, there are some realities that both supporters and opponents of the tax either missed or avoided but that may still be considered, particularly with a likely public vote in November looming.

Despite the extensive media and community groups' comments and response to the tax, which is aimed at raising almost $240 million over five years toward dealing with the cost of housing and services for the city's homeless, there were some issues and ideas possibly overlooked amid the heated exchanges between the two sides.

So as friends and associates and readers of the Harp pressed, mostly good-naturedly, with "don't you have any thoughts to share on this issue?" I decided I did.  

One was the ongoing realization during the back-and-forth rhetoric and eventual compromise negotiated by Mayor Jenny Durkan that brought the per-employee tax down to a little over half the $500 per head the City Council wanted to impose, there was no mention of the city income tax now awaiting Supreme Court decision.

So Durkan, who in laughable understatement, said it was "a longshot" as she announced last December that she was going ahead with the appeal of Superior Court Judge John Rule's decision that the tax was illegal, committed the city to pay attorney fees when we now know there are more pressing needs for that money.

Under the tax passed by the City Council last year then ruled illegal by Judge Rule. Seattle residents would pay a 2 percent tax on annual income above $250,000, while married residents who file their taxes jointly would pay it on income above $500,000.

I expected as I listened to the debate, that some business leaders might suggest "we'll accept the head tax if you agree not to pursue the income tax idea." Obviously, many of those business leaders would pay in the tens of thousands of dollars if the income tax were actually imposed. That is if they didn't decide to move from Seattle.  

And as remote as the city's chances of a favorable Supreme Court ruling are in this case, the fact is that at some point a Democratic governor and a legislature that has a sufficient Democrat majority is likely to enact a state income tax. That would likely remove the current legal prohibition against a city imposing an income tax.  

Negotiating an agreement in which the city would agree never to impose both an income tax and a head tax might be a protection against an even more business-challenging future.

But at this point, it's pretty obvious that business and other opponents of the head tax intend to put an initiative on the November ballot to have the electorate decide on the head tax.  

Dozens of businesses, including Amazon, Vulcan, and Starbucks, have already pledged more than $350,000 to a No Tax On Jobs campaign. Intriguingly, those putting up money include prominent Bellevue business leader Robert Wallace, although he has always played a leadership role in the Seattle business community as well.

Meanwhile, Pierce County elected officials have stepped up to announce a sort of reverse head tax. The group, representing a number of cities in the county, said the will be devising a plan to give businesses a $275 tax credit for each family wage job created in the county.

Since the City Council and others are making it clear that the city's ability to find the money to cope with the homeless crisis is a growing challenge, that realization should be accompanied by a commitment not to waste money on other things.

What immediately comes to mind in that money-wasting category is the $250,000-plus the city is paying in legal fees to defend City Council member Kshama Sawant in lawsuits resulting from her intemperate and insulting comments towards those she happens to disagree with.

It's "only" a quarter million dollars. But statistics on costs of providing homeless services would suggest that those attorney fees for Sawant would provide for maybe 25 or 30 homeless peoples' needs, including housing.

How about another initiative that would prohibit the city, which already pays for its own legal department, from hiring outside attorneys when a member of the City Council is sued, particularly when it's within the council members' power to avoid a suit by merely being careful about what comes out of their mouths?  

And when the city wastes millions of dollars on bike-lane overruns and transportation-cost foul-ups, the reaction to the City Council needs to become: "Your ineptitude just left dozens (hundreds) of people on the streets for another year."

When I called a friend of mine this week, he told me as he answered his cell phone that he had been listening to a CD on American history that at that moment was discussing the Stamp Act, which was the final straw for Colonists in their increasingly contentious relations with the King and Great Britain. It led to the revolution.

"Wouldn't it be interesting if the head tax somehow became the today equivalent of the Stamp Act tax in stirring some game-changing response to the city as the equivalent of "the king," he chuckled.

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Arizona fatality pushes discussion on autonomous vehicles

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The unfortunate accident in Tempe, AZ, March 18 when an Uber autonomous Volvo SUV struck and killed a woman who was walking a bicycle across a darkened street has stirred a strong reaction, in this state and elsewhere, from both sides in the discussion about the national push toward a likely autonomous-vehicle future.

One the one hand, supporters who have fed the vision of that possible autonomous future point to what some see as Uber's effort to produce an autonomous fleet "on the cheap," employing too few lasers and radar sensors. They argue that the careful use of sensor-device clusters to detect objects in front of and around the autonomous vehicle is a key to the safety of the driverless cars.

On the other side are those who, for a variety of reasons, would love to slow the pace of progress of the autonomous-vehicle movement. Some are obviously concerned about safety, a group more likely to be from the older generation. But others don't want the disruption of existing transportation plans, i.e. progress on rail commute.

More than a few in the Puget Sound area, for example, are fearful that the move to autonomous vehicles could have a negative effect on their "train," the network of commuter rail lines that are part of the $54 billion ST3 transit package approved by the voters in November of 2016 as an environment-protecting alternative to increasing traffic congestion. To many of its apostles, the ST3 project is like the "Holy Rail," not merely a device to slow traffic congestion.

And thus one of the concerns among autonomous vehicle (AV) advocates is that ST3 and the Sound Transit board that oversees it will come to view autonomous vehicles as a threat to completion of the rail-based plan for the region and use its power and influence to delay or stall progress. After all, most predictions about AV's are that they could come to dominate commute-hours traffic even before ST3's projected 2041 completion date.

And in fact, national transportation officials have made it clear that if autonomous vehicles move as rapidly as anticipated toward a ubiquitous presence on streets and highways, there will be an impact on planned and existing rail-transit programs.

But at this point, Gov. Jay Inslee has put the full weight of his office behind an AV future. Inslee not only moved forcefully last summer to seek to put Washington State at the forefront of states welcoming an autonomous future and issued an executive order to allow and support testing of autonomous vehicles but reiterated that commitment last week.

Inslee told leaders of technology and business at the 20th anniversary of the Alliance of Angels investment group that "The future of transportation will be in Seattle," and he elaborated by saying the region is going to be "the autonomous vehicle center of the U.S."

Inslee seemed to be pushing back not only on those seeing the challenge for the future of autonomous travel in the Tempe fatal accident but also on an op-ed piece in that morning's Seattle Times by a think-tank "fellow" named Daniel Malarkey for an organization called Sightline Institute.


In the article, Malarkey referred to the governor's support as "ill-advised" and added, "the state gains little by allowing tech companies to test on public roads and put motorists and pedestrians at risk." He said: "The governor and state legislators should focus on developing policies to enable the rapid scaling of autonomous electric fleets as soon as we know they work."
It's frankly head-scratching to figure how Malarkey's thought process led him to his conclusions about "ill-advised."

And while I'm not a fan of putting down people you disagree with, I think the Times, in providing op-ed space for an individual to share thoughts over multiple newspaper inches, should share the background of the writer to provide reader perspective.

The Times either avoided sharing or lacked the institutional memory, to include that Malarkey's initial claim to fame in Seattle was as finance director of the ill-fated Seattle Monorail Project, from which he resigned in December of 2003 after revenues fell dramatically short of his projections and costs were underestimated. He resigned and the voters in November of 2005 said by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent that they didn't want the project to continue.

It's from among the investment community that some of the most thoughtful support for an autonomous future for this state comes.

Madrona Venture Group, Seattle's best-recognized venture firm, issued a report last September sharing the prediction that autonomous vehicles won't merely play a major role in the region's transportation future but that AVs would come to dominate travel on I-5 between Seattle and Vancouver.

The report, issued by Madrona's founder and managing director Tom Alberg and Daniel Li, predicts that AV's will first share an HOV lane, then progress to having dedicated lanes and eventually be the sole mode of transportation on I-5 during major commute hours.

It's likely that the first formal program in the state will be in the City of SeaTac, the municipality that includes Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where the city council will be asked next month to approve a plan that would launch autonomous mini-vans on city streets.
 
The man who conceived the SeaTac program, John Niles is executive director of an organization called Center for Advanced Transportation and Energy Solutions (CATES). He is well known in the region as an opponent of Sound Transit, which he views as spending "vast sums of taxpayer money to make mobility worse," but now he wants to help SeaTac residents gain easy access to nearby light rail stations after 8 AM when the park-and-ride lots have no more spaces.
 
Niles, who helped produce the plan that he hopes the Sea-Tac City Council will endorse, as well as seek federal funding for, may be the most believable autonomous-vehicle proponent when he insists on safety first.
 
As a seven-year-old, he was run down in a crosswalk and almost killed. Thus when he says "slow speed is the way to go right now" with autonomous vehicle projects, he is totally credible.
 
"I'm not interested in testing but in deploying something," says Niles of the Sea-Tac project, which will involve vehicles already tested elsewhere and whose travels around the city will be at relatively slow speeds and constantly monitored in what he says will be "the most cautious first step possible."
 
In fact, Niles shared the conviction that Waymo, the Google autonomous-car development company, also has remote workers watching the on-street operation of its cars.
 
Waymo was spun out of Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., and claims to have tested its autonomous vehicles in Kirkland, but more prominently in California and most recently in metro Phoenix, Arizona where more than 600 Chrysler Pacifica vans are planned to be operating by year-end in commercial robo-cab service.

One group that might be expected to be in push-back mode over the emergence of AV technology is the insurance industry as possibly expecting to lose business, but PEMCO Insurance President Stan McNaughton says he's hopeful accidents will be reduced by the AV technology.

Meanwhile, McNaughton said the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, on whose board he sits, "is putting a pile of money into the various systems, with the insurance industry building its own test centers, since at some point we will be rating these systems and we have to have a good understanding of them."

Autonomous-vehicle development has some powerful support in addition to the auto industry and tech companies who would benefit. One is Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, which points to another Arizona accident, this one involving a Google autonomous vehicle, as particularly relevant.

It was an accident in Chandler, AZ, in which a 25-year-old driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after he ran into the rear of the Google car, whose driver was treated for a concussion.

The national advocacy group said the Chandler accident shows why the group supports the development of autonomous vehicles.
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'Shock and Awe' shows Bush admin prep for Iraq War as 'fake news'

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There is an increasing sense that this country's population has come to be divided between those who think the term "fake news" describes the offerings of conventional media and those who are convinced the phrase best describes certain well-publicized tweets and texts.

So it's perhaps appropriate that a gradually increasing attention is being focused on a movie about four professional journalists who were certain, in the face of all the forces arrayed against them, that the then-president and his administration had concocted a "fake news" tale to justify a war in Iraq.

Joe GallowayJoe GallowayThe movie is Shock and Awe, the title drawn from the campaign of that name created by the leaders of the administration of George W. Bush in preparation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a preparation built on the premise that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Of course, the term "fake news" wasn't part our culture then, especially being applied to a president.

The movie, conceived and directed by Rob Reiner, has been described as "the politically charged story" about the four reporters from the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain who first looked into the Bush Administration's attempts to tie Saddam Hussein to the 9-11 terror attack. Thereafter their stories followed a theme that the allegations of WMD's were intentionally inaccurate.

One of the four was iconic Vietnam correspondent Joseph L. Galloway, then more than 35 years into his career covering wars and those who fight them and thus the voice of experience that the two youngest reporters turned to for help in finding their way through the fabrications formed to keep the nation focused on the need for war with Iraq.

It is because of my friendship with Galloway, both of us alums of the news service UPI, and because many in the Seattle area came to know him during his two visits to do Vietnam veterans interviews and several interviews he and I did, including the Seattle Rotary, that I decided to do a Harp about the movie. 

Regular readers of the Harp will recall that Joe Galloway has been the subject of a half-dozen Harps in recent years (Google Flynn's Harp: Joe Galloway).

Eventually, the four including Knight-Ridder bureau chief John Walcott, played by Reiner himself, came to be described as "the only ones who got it right," but before that, they had to weather immense pressure and scorn, not only from the White House but also from some editors of their own newspapers.

For example, there is the story of the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer saying bluntly that the tone of their stories doesn't "fit in." And Galloway recalled "There is a scene in the movie where Walcott confronts the Philadelphia editor for choosing to run New York Times b.s. over our story. He tells the editor 'will you be running the Times correction and apology when that comes out?'"

There is a perhaps ironic juxtaposition of the timing of the release of the critically acclaimed The Post, whose storyline about the Washington Post's publisher, Kathrine Graham deciding to confront the Nixon White House by publishing the Pentagon Papers, and Shock and Awe detailing a confrontation with a different president and more recent time.

In fact, Reiner, who says he wanted to make this film for a long time, suggests that the struggle he had to secure U.S. distribution for the movie might relate to his belief that "American audiences might not be ready to confront the subject."

I didn't think anybody in America could stomach it," Reiner said. "I don't think they can stomach it now, to be honest with you."


The start of the Iraq War in March of 2003, and how its continuation has unfolded in the years since then, may be viewed as too near to current political realities for a close scrutiny of the legitimacy the Bush Administration's campaign to go to war. In fact, the allegation that the WMD case built by key members of the Bush team was fabricated still draws outrage from some conservatives.

It's obviously much easier to take a critical look at Richard Nixon, or with Reiner's LBJ, released last year bringing a critical look at another former president, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

In fact, Reiner's LBJ screenwriter, Joey Hartstone, also wrote Shock and Awe, and actor Woody Harrelson, who played LBJ. Plays one of the reporters in Shock and Awe.

The fact Reiner was greeted with two separate standing ovations last September at the Zurich International Film Festival for the world premiere of Shock and Awe may have contributed to the firming up of presentation in this country.

It will premiere June 14 in Los Angeles, followed by an exclusive 30-day DIRECT TV deal, then on July 17, it will begin showing in theaters nationwide for two or three weeks.

It will be the second time that Galloway will have the opportunity to watch an actor on the screen playing him, Tommy Lee Jones in this case.

The movie We Were Soldiers, which was released ironically in the year prior to the Iraq invasion, was the film version of Galloway's We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, which detailed the battle of Ia Drang, in which Galloway swapped his camera for a machine gun and was immersed in the first battle between U.S. forces and North Vietnam regulars. He also was decorated for heroism for rescuing two wounded soldiers while under intense enemy fire.

Galloway was played by Barry Pepper in the movie in which Mel Gibson played Lt. Col. Hal Moore, who commanded the U. S. units at the battle and became Galloway's co-author of two books on that fateful battle and closest friend.
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Kitty Kelley rode '68-campaign role to a controversy-stirring literary career

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(Editor's Note: This is the last of four articles on Washington residents for whom roles in the 1968 presidential campaign brought national prominence. The original articles, written on the 40th anniversary of that memorable campaign, were also the launch for this column and are reprised here on the 10thanniversary of Flynn's Harp and 50thanniversary of the '68 campaign.)
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Kitty Kelley was a spunky young woman from Spokane for whom the 1968 presidential campaign was the launch pad for a highly successful but controversy-punctuated career as a biographer of the rich and famous.
 
In a very real sense, the then-26-year-old who had, by accident, become a highly visible figure in Sen. Eugene McCarthy's quixotic quest for the presidency, may have been one of the biggest winners of that campaign.
 
Kitty KelleyKitty KelleyOne of my favorite memories of covering parts of that campaign of 50 years ago as a young political writer for United Press International was a chance encounter with her at the 1968 Democratic state convention in Tacoma, a decade on since we had become friends as high school students in Spokane.
 
I glanced across the crowded hall and, seeing her for the first time in 10 years, I made my way through the crowd, said hello and asked her what she was doing there.
 
"I'm Gene McCarthy's press secretary," she said with a laugh. McCarthy, of course, was the out-of-nowhere senator whose run for the presidency had energized the anti-war forces, particularly the young, who became a change-the-world political force that year.
 
"What the heck do you know about being a press secretary?" I asked.
 
"I decided I wanted to be one and did some research and found that two of the senators didn't have one," she responded. "So I picked McCarthy, made an appointment with him and told him I wanted to be his press secretary. He asked me 'what does a press secretary do?' and I told him we'd figure that out together. So I got the job."
 
That was more than a year before McCarthy's growing outrage at the Vietnam war caused him to emerge from anonymity as the political leader of the anti-war movement
 
Thus that campaign brought Kitty contact with political leaders as the campaign moved across the country and the contacts she made that spring and summer of '68 helped provide the exposure and experience that would allow her to launch her literary career.
 
I watched with interest and amusement in the years since then as her ability to uncover long-hidden secrets and get the "ungettable" story on those about whom she produced a string of unauthorized biographies stirred the ire and criticism of the rich and famous and their friends.
 
She described her reporting style as "moving an icon out of the moonlight and into the sunlight." But those she wrote about often didn't care for the sunlight on their privacy.
 
And because she was an attractive blond woman with the nickname "Kitty," those stung by her tell-all biographies of Jackie Onassis Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, the British Royal Family and Oprah Winfrey, as well as other journalists, found it easy to dismiss the quality of her work.
 
What may have been the high point of her controversial career came just prior to the 2004 presidential election when her look at the personal and business lives of a sitting president and his family was published.
 
"The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," was the target of a full-court press from the Republican Party, including a GOP memorandum to radio talk show hosts that denounced the book as "New Kelley Book, Same Old Slime." The fact that she was a Liberal made the denunciation from the talk-show hosts even easier. The book was ranked Number 1 on Amazon.com as it was released.
 
Over the years, when controversy swirled around her work, I've smiled to myself to think back on that encounter in Tacoma with a young woman I'd known as a Spokane teenager who had used brains and guts as substitutes for experience and privilege to carve out a high-visibility career for herself.
 
She thus exemplified a fast-growing group of young women who did likewise in the late '60s and early '70s, creating important roles for themselves in what had been, prior to that, a "man's world," and opening the way for others of their gender to do the same.
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Egil Krogh's lessons from the fall of a President have echoed down the years

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(Editor's note: In this third of four Flynn'sHarp articles reprising stories written a decade ago on the four Washington residents who gained national prominence during the 1968 presidential campaign, Watergate figure Egil (Bud) Krogh discussed the fall of a president and the lessons learned that he sought to convey for subsequent administrations. The validity of his message has echoed down the years, even into today's political scene. The original articles from a decade ago are offered now because it's the 10th anniversary of this weekly column, but also the 50th anniversary of that fateful '68 campaign.)
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The disgraced presidency of Richard Nixon is the stuff of history books. But for Egil (Bud) Krogh, the memories that remain vivid are of condemnation and redemption for the role he played and the belief that the events that led to the fall of the president need be kept ever in mind by both presidents and those who work for them.

Krogh, who had just passed the bar in 1968 after graduating from law school at the University of Washington, actually didn't have a part in Nixon's campaign, instead of being left to run the Seattle law practice of John Ehrlichman, the prominent Seattle attorney who helped engineer Nixon's eventual general-election victory in 1968.

egilKroghEgil (Bud) KroghBut after the election, Krogh was asked to join the White House team as personal attorney to the president and staff assistant to Ehrlichman, one of the handful of men who basically ran the White House and thus the country until Watergate brought them all down.

The many books on Nixon and Watergate detail how Krogh was caught up in the scandal, named by Ehrlichman to guide the "Special Investigations Unit" that came to be known as "the plumbers," whose charge was to stop the leaks to the media after the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers.

What followed was the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times had helped create a siege mentality in the Nixon White House. Krogh's role eventually led to a prison sentence after he pled guilty to criminal conspiracy for engineering the break-in.

Krogh had been an unlikely choice to head such a unit. He had a reputation as someone who scrupulously obeyed the law, with Theodore White writing later that "to put Egil Krogh in charge of a secret police operation was equivalent to making Frank Merriwellchief executive of a KGB squad."

But what the history books don't detail is "the why", which Krogh subsequently sought to explain in articles, interviews, and in his 2007 book, "Integrity. Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons from the White House." The book detailed the lessons of Krogh's lifelong effort to make amends for what he describes as a "meltdown of personal integrity" in the face of issues of loyalty to the president and to the power of the office.

The dedication is a telling reflection of that lifelong campaign: "To those who deserved better, this book is offered as an apology, an explanation, and a way to keep integrity in the forefront of decision-making."

In fact, the quality of the man is evidenced by his belief that, ultimately, it was the break-in at Fielding's office that set the stage for the eventual Watergate break-in because it created the sense that people could break the law in the name of the president, and that thus he was personally responsible for all that followed.

After he served his prison sentence, Krogh returned to Seattle and, with the help of a prominent attorney and eventual federal judge William Dwyer, regained his right to practice law.

It was in 2007 that we got to know each other and I did several interviews with him before various audiences and wrote the 2008 column.

Krogh recalled in our conversations and interviews how after Nixon's resignation, his personal path of reconciliation involved a visit with Fielding to apologize to him for Krogh's unacceptable violation of the rights of "a genuinely decent human being."

And Krogh and Ellsberg became friends, with Ellsburg writing the forward comments for Krogh's book.

Then followed a visit with Nixon in California in which Krogh recalls basically saying: "Mr. President. I apologize to you because everything that's happened was really my fault."

I asked Krogh over lunch in 2008 if he and Ehrlichman, who also went to prison for his part in the events, had ever had the opportunity to talk through what had gone wrong. "John and I had several opportunities to visit after we were in prison, about what happened and why" he said. "We concluded that so many of the mistakes were due to our not really grasping how off-base Nixon was in his demand for results that used illegal means.

Loyalty to 'the man' was the over-arching requirement for service on that staff." And it is the flaw of misguided loyalty that Krogh has remained ever convinced that presidents and their staff members must be vigilant to avoid, including his caution about "reliance on hazy, loose notions about 'national security' and 'commander in chief' and what such notions can be tortured into meaning."

Krogh left Seattle and his law practice in 2011 to join the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress as a Senior Fellow on Leadership, Ethics, and Integrity.

We last talked In 2012 as I caught up with him by phone as he was en route to a Pennsylvania speaking engagement. The time was near the anniversary of Watergate and I asked him if the book was still successful. "It's selling better now than at the beginning," he replied. "The issue of government integrity seems more relevant to people today."

By then his personal focus had become zeroing in on the School for Ethics and Global Leadership, which attracts high school students, and it was in that environment of sharing his philosophy with young people that he honed his Integrity Zone concept.

The concept of the Integrity Zone was based on a couple of fundamental considerations. The first challenges the process of thinking that precedes decisions, basically: "have I thought through all the implications?" while the second part is ethical considerations: "Is it right? Is this decision in alignment with basic values like fairness and respect?"

"We never asked any of those questions in the Nixon White House," Krogh told me. "And most of what we see in Congress today fails those tests. Instead, we see a focus on loyalty and fealty to party. You simply can't check your personal integrity at the door."

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For Jim Whittaker, memories of '68 campaign are of the 'might have been'

WhitakerandKennedy_2

(Editor's note: This is the second of four profile article that I first published a decade ago on the 40th anniversary of the chaotic, impactful and tragic 1968 presidential campaign, relating the stories of four Washingtonians who were launched into national prominence with roles borne of that campaign. The articles are reprised now in Flynn's Harp both because it's the 10thanniversary of this column and the 50th of that fateful '68 campaign.)
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For Jim Whittaker, memories of '68 campaign are of "might have been"

For Everest-conqueror Jim Whittaker, memories of the 1968 campaign are caught up in the might-have-been of Sen. Robert Kennedy's bright but brief campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It was in an interview in 2008, as I prepared to do a series of articles 40 years on from that tumultuous 1968 campaign, that Whittaker recalled how he first met the man whose presidential aspirations would involve Whittaker dramatically in a memorable political campaign.

"After President Kennedy was assassinated, Canada named its highest unclimbed mountain Mt. Kennedy," recalled Whittaker, who in 1963 was the first American to reach the top of Mount Everest. "So inevitably, I was asked if I'd climb it and I contacted National Geographic about supporting the climb and we began planning it."

"Then I get a call asking if I'd be willing to take Senator Kennedy up," Whittaker said. "I called him and asked if he'd ever climbed, and he said he hadn't. I told him 'this is going to be tough. When I called him again a few weeks later, he said he was practicing by running up and down the stairs at his house crying 'help.'

"I thought, 'my god, what have I gotten into," he added.

"But it turned out he was in excellent condition and on the way down, he ran a couple of the climbers on our team into the ground," Whittaker remembered. "That was the beginning of a strong friendship."

"I was at his home when he decided to run for president," Whittaker recalled. "He irritated a lot of people by announcing."

In fact, what happened is that Sen. Eugene McCarthy, a quixotic lawmaker who decided to run against a sitting president from his party because of his opposition to the Vietnam war, had attracted a mass of young people energized at the prospect of a candidate of change.

McCarthy's campaign basically drove President Lyndon Johnson to announce he would not seek re-election, and that announcement opened the door for Kennedy, who never viewed McCarthy as an electable candidate.

As Washington State political editor in Olympia for United Press International, I was assigned to help cover the 1968 Oregon primary, which was the first real face-to-face battle between McCarthy and Kennedy, I had the opportunity to meet Whittaker in a way he wouldn't remember.

Whitaker and KennedyWhitaker and KennedyHere's that story: It turned out Kennedy lost the Oregon primary, the first ever loss by a Kennedy. I waited with Bob Clark of ABC news at the curb in front of the Benson Hotel in Portland for Kennedy's limousine to arrive. Behind us was a press of young Kennedy fans jockeying and shoving for the opportunity to see him, touch him, be near him when he arrived.

The limousine pulled up, the doors opened and Whittaker led Kennedy from the car. The young Kennedyites shoved forward. The last I saw of Bob Clark, he basically disappeared under the feet of an out-of-control mob of Kennedy fans.

I saw Whittaker and, as he passed, I grabbed hold of his belt and knew, since he was leading Kennedy into the hotel and was too big and athletic to go down, I was secure with his belt firmly in my hand.

The lead on the UPI story that night was headlined: "Kennedy bushwhacked on the Oregon Trail." It turned out to be a prophetic headline.

A week later, Kennedy won the California primary. Whittaker had a suite in the Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle, to which he had invited Washington state's delegation to a wine and hors-d'oeuvres political romancing on Kennedy's behalf to watch the results of the California primary.

Whittaker recalled that he had four speakers set up in the suite and that Kennedy's wife, Ethyl, called to say Kennedy wanted to talk to the Washington delegates.

"He thanked them for their participation and pitched for their votes, then he went down to give his acceptance speech," Whittaker recalled. "A little while later, as I was driving home and listening to the radio, I heard he had been shot. I turned around and went to the airport and when I got to the hospital, Ethyl and Teddy Kennedy asked me to go into the room with them and we said our goodbyes. Then he died.

"We flew back to Washington on Air Force One, which president Johnson extended to us," Whittaker remembered. "The funeral at St. Patrick's in New York was followed by the train ride back to Washington. The crowds along the tracks were incredible. Ethyl asked me to be one of the pallbearers, along with John Glenn, Robert McNamara and others I don't recall right now.

"I can't believe how long ago it's been," he said in that 2008 interview. "But it's as difficult to think about as if it were yesterday," Whittaker said.

I asked Whittaker in that 2008 interview if he and Kennedy had every discussed a role Whittaker might play in a Kennedy administration and he said they hadn't.

"But in thinking about it later, there were times I thought I'd have made a hell of an interior secretary," he said with a chuckle.

Whittaker's memories of that campaign, and of an incredible life of challenge and adventure, are chronicled in his book, "A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond."

It was 22 years after Kennedy's assassination that Whittaker, in what he characterizes as one of his proudest moments, guided the 1990 International Peace Climb in which he helped put a Russian, a Chinese and an American together on the summit of the Everest.

Whittaker, who turned 89 this month, lives in Port Townsend with his wife, Dianne Roberts, who is described with him in their website as "partners in marriage, life, business and adventure for more than 40 years."

I asked Whittaker for this reprise column if he had any current reflections on that campaign and he emailed me: "If the President and Bobby had lived, this Planet would be more safe and clean for all living things."

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