Seattle Press
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Civic Affairs
USPS vs the Competition
Here's a useful comparison between the US Postal Service and other carriers for various items. (Click image for larger views.) This is what anti-USPS politicians want to eliminate to create "space" for corporate interests.

The reason the Founders created the Post Office was to pull the nation together, North and South, urban and rural. It has succeeded for 250 years. It ain't broke; don't "fix" it.
Agreement among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote
February 13, 2020 — Republished from The National Popular Vote bill will guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Since 2006, the National Popular Vote bill has been enacted by 15 states and the District of Columbia (together possessing 196 electoral votes), including 4 small states (DE, HI, RI, VT), 8 medium-sized states (CO, CT, MD, MA, NJ, NM, OR, WA), and 3 big states (CA, IL, NY).

The bill will take effect when enacted by states with 74 more electoral votes (for a total of 270).

The bill has passed at least one legislative chamber in 9 additional states with 88 electoral votes (AR, AZ, ME, MI, MN, NC, NV, OK, VA), including the Republican-controlled Arizona House and Oklahoma Senate. 3,471 state legislators have endorsed it.

The U.S. Constitution (Article II) gives states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes:

“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a
Number of Electors....”

The shortcomings of the current system stem from state “winner-take-all” laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each state.

The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. It was not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was used by only three states in the first presidential election in 1789 (and all three repealed it by 1800).

Because of these state winner-take-all laws, presidential candidates ignore states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. In 2012, all of the general-election campaign events (and virtually all campaign expenditures) were concentrated in the 12 states where Romney’s support was between 45% and 51%. Two-thirds of the events were in four states (OH, FL, VA, IA). Thirty-eight states were ignored, including 12 of the 13 smallest states and almost all rural, agricultural, Southern, Western, and Northeastern states. Similarly, in 2016, virtually all campaign events (94%) were in the 12 states where Trump’s support was between 43% and 51%. Two-thirds of the events (273 of 399) were in just 6 states (OH, FL, VA, NC, PA, MI). A similar pattern prevailed in 2000, 2004, 2008, and is expected in 2020.

State winner-take-all laws have enabled 5 of our 45 Presidents to come into office without winning the most popular votes nationwide. The national popular vote winner also would have been defeated by a shift of 59,393 popular votes in Ohio in 2004 (despite President Bush’s nationwide lead of 3 million votes); 9,246 votes in 1976; 77,726 in 1968; 9,212 in 1960; 20,360 in 1948; and 1,711 votes in 1916.

The National Popular Vote interstate compact will go into effect when enacted by states with a majority of the presidential electors—that is, 270 of 538. After the compact comes into effect, every voter in all 50 states and DC will acquire a direct vote in the choice of all of the presidential electors from all of the states that enacted the compact. The presidential candidate supported by the most voters in all 50 states and DC will thereby win a majority of the presidential electors in the Electoral College (at least 270), and therefore become President.

Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system, the individual voter influences only the choice of the limited number of presidential electors from their own state. Under National Popular Vote, every voter in all 50 states and DC will have a direct vote in choosing 270 (or more) presidential electors.

The National Popular Vote compact would make every person’s vote equal throughout the U.S. It would ensure that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.

The National Popular Vote compact is a state-based approach that retains the power of the states to control how the President is elected, retains state control of elections, and retains the Electoral College. For additional information, see our book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote are downloadable for free here>. Answers to 131 myths are here.
Good-Bye Electoral College? Popular Vote Movement Gaining Steam
It’s not just Democrats that see the virtue in reforming presidential elections

by Steven Rosenfeld

The main attraction of a national popular vote system is that it would change the way that presidential campaigns are conducted—moving them onto more of a national stage—and emphasize that every vote counted, no matter where it was cast. (Photo: AP)
The main attraction of a national popular vote system is that it would change the way that presidential campaigns are conducted—moving them onto more of a national stage—and emphasize that every vote counted, no matter where it was cast. (Photo: AP)
There’s new momentum around the National Popular Vote movement, where states will award Electoral College votes to elect the president based on which candidate has won the most votes nationwide—instead of today’s state-by-state winner-take-all system.

“It does have new momentum, because there was a [recent] period starting with the second Obama election when Democrats bought into this blue-wall theory” that their political party had a lock on the White House, said John Koza, a former Stanford University scientist who co-founded the National Popular Vote project in 2006.

The reform is based on states joining an interstate compact, a legally binding vehicle where states make agreements among themselves despite a national federal government. In this case, states, which the U.S. Constitution empowers to oversee its Electoral College process, agree to award their presidential votes to the national popular vote winner. As of early 2019, the project was two-thirds of the way toward reaching the threshold needed for a 270-vote Electoral College majority, but more states are poised to join.


New Law Strengthens Paid Family and Medical Leave
OLYMPIA - A bill to provide updates to Washington’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave program was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday. House Bill 1399 makes several technical corrections to the new program, and clarifies a key provision related to supplementing wages while an employee is out on leave. The Employment Security Department operates the program.

Update: Website Gives Assistance with Policies and Procedures

“Our Paid Family and Medical Leave program is the best in the nation and was developed to work for both employers and employees – this bill only enhances that,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “By allowing employers the option to supplement an employee’s Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit with other paid leave, many workers won’t be faced with losing income while taking care of themselves or a family member in a critical or challenging time of their lives.”

When benefits become available in January 2020, Paid Family and Medical Leave will provide partial wage replacement to all eligible workers in Washington state for leave to bond with a new child coming into the home through birth, adoption or foster placement, to care for themselves or a family member during a serious illness or injury and for certain military related events. This statewide insurance program is funded by a small premium shared by both employees and employers. Employers began collecting premiums on Jan. 1, 2019.

Under the original law, employers would not be allowed to supplement the pay of an employee out on Paid Family and Medical Leave with other forms of paid leave, including vacation or sick leave. HB 1399 changes this, essentially allowing an employee the option to top-off their Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit with company provided paid leave. This is in alignment with other states’ policies and was supported by stakeholders representing the interests of both employers and employees.

The bill also makes some technical corrections to the law, including clarifications related to employer-run voluntary plans, appeal rights for employees covered by a voluntary plan, disclosure and privacy provisions, and some definitions within the law.

“We all need to give or receive care at some point in our lives, whether that is caring for an elderly parent or a new child, getting treatment for a serious illness like cancer or spending time with a family member on active duty military service,” LeVine added. “This program will allow Washingtonians to take paid leave during these crucial moments, and this bill will strengthen the program to make Paid Family and Medical Leave even better and more accessible for employers and employees in this state.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, passed with wide bipartisan support and with no opposition from stakeholders in Senate or House committees. More information about Paid Family and Medical Leave can be found at

OLYMPIA - The Office of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds recently launched its new website with information about services and resources for workers and employers who need help resolving issues with the Employment Security Department and the Paid Family and Medical Leave program.

The Office of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds identifies and eliminates service deficiencies and continuously seeks to improve the Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program.

The ombuds and her team advocates for the rights of Washington workers and employers who need help in their dealings with the Employment Security Department (the Department) and Paid Family and Medical Leave.

The office works to improve Paid Family and Medical Leave by making recommendations based upon the results of complaint investigations in an impartial, efficient and timely manner.

“We are committed to addressing concerns as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds Edsonya Charles. “We believe it is important for government to embody a culture of customer service and actively work with residents to solve problems.”

Although the Office of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds is physically located in the Employment Security Department, the Ombuds is appointed by the Governor, serves as a neutral independent third party and maintains full autonomy from the Department.

The Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds maintains confidentiality of all records, materials and information gathered in the course of providing services, unless disclosure is required by law.

Information about an inquiry or complaint will not be disclosed without authorization, unless required by law.

Advocates, not lawyers or legal representatives
The Ombuds office does not provide legal representation or legal advice. It helps people understand how to navigate the Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program and assists in solving problems.

Find more information about the Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds at the following link.

More Information

Mini-helicopters Could Easily Defeat Trump's 'Drug-busting' Wall
Imagine if you will the possible role of mini-helicopters in a hypothetical scenario.

Checking Alibaba superficially, one finds one available with the following characteristics: Motor: electric; Payload: 5kg; Range: (60 sec @ 18m/s = 1080m/min = 0.67mi/min) * 90 min = 60.4 miles, for about $5,000 to $7,000 depending on extras. Such minis can fly at under 100 feet over all terrain. Its silence, tiny cross section and low mass would make it invisible to most forms of detection, again especially at night.

The 1,000 miles of the US-Mexico border that is not regularly patrolled, especially at night, provides a landing zone of 60,000 square miles. Discounting for really remote places, that leaves smugglers with millions of random landing sites where recipients need be on site for only a few seconds to receive a delivery, and whose locations and arrival times are coordinated in real time on their GPS-enabled smart phones with accuracy to a few feet.

The wholesale value of 5 kg of heroin at $28/g (ten typical addict doses; means that the shipment is worth about $140,000. Subtract the cost of the heroin in Mexico ($25/gram) for a total of $25,000, and we have a gross profit of $115,000. The delivery cost amounts to a couple of "burner" cell phones @ $100 and the helicopter, which is abandoned after its one-time trip, with all components having been handled with rubber gloves all along the way; good luck NCIC!

After distribution and cost of sale, the street value rises to about $82/g (other estimates are up to $280) for a total of at least $400,000. (Heroin values from CBS News, 24 Jan 2019.) Assuming the lowest estimated number of addicts in a brief search (400,000 @ 50mg/day = ), that shipment represents about 1/20 of US demand. So about 20 guys with little helicopters and a huge incentive can overwhelm thousands of CBP (border patrol) officers.

Note the various sources use different rates of consumption per addict, making precise calculations difficult. What is not difficult is reaching the conclusion that anyone who thinks a wall will make any difference to smugglers es loco.
Latest Bad Health Care Idea Dies in Congress
The idea that abandoning our national affordable care system and turning over health systems policy to the states will resolve the fiscal crisis in our nation is absurd. Simple demographics make it a bad idea.

With the exception of age-related maladies such as senile dementia and a few others, illness strikes in ways that are best understood as random. Almost no state has a population whose age distribution, ethnic mix, income, education, etc., closely mirror the national equivalents. Thus it is entirely predictable that the distribution of illness in some states will overload specific forms of care while in states with younger, healthier populations, medical services will abound and may be surplus or squandered.

Consider two hypothetical states A and B. A is in the rust belt, and its population is relatively old due to the decline of traditional industry and economy and consequent out-migration of young people, who take their earning power and their children (AKA future earners) with them. B is experiencing rapid in-migration its modern economy is creating new wealth and infrastructure that will continue to expand for decades.

A will likely be unable to provide adequate services to its population based on some national average block grants; it will be unable to pay for home care or even common services. It will be forced to raise the share of costs that must be borne by the individual, leading to increasing poverty. Parents will be obliged to pause before seeking care for their children’s injuries or minor illnesses, leading to long-term health consequences that will further unbalance the system. Certain high-cost medical procedures and specialties will become unavailable. Although it is purported that “choice and options” will increase, the real choice will be between medical care and other essentials, with the only option being relocation. Yet because the majority of A’s citizens’ wealth is tied up in their homes and their income is tied to declining local industry for which they were trained long ago, relocation is not a viable option.

B’s citizens, in contrast, will never have had it so good, at least for a while. Their economic and demographic advantages will mean that no one will have to pause before seeking care. Cosmetic surgery and other non-essential specialties will be growth industries; noses and breasts will be reshaped and augmented in every village and town. Medical specialties and procedures now unavailable in A will be a net revenue producer for B, leading to further outflow of A’s wealth and thence to further decline it A’s ability to finance health care. Medical training will continue to migrate to large, rich states, while small, poor states struggle to buy aspirin and adhesive bandages.

These effects will also operate at the local level. Poor counties will get poorer; rich ones will get richer; this will be most apparent in large states like California, Texas and Florida at one end and in Michigan, Mississippi and the Great Plains at the other.

Today we’ve learned that the “(R)eject and (R)egress” effort in Congress has failed again. Good news, but have no doubt they’ll be baa-ack one day soon. Beware!

Latest Bad Health Care Idea Dies in Congress © 26 Sep 2017
Minnesota Reduces Income Inequality, Expands Economy
Huffington Post has summarized some striking successes by the recent state government in Minnesota (link). Abandoning the "trickle down" economics of former Gov. Pawlenty, the state raised income taxes on wealthy households and increased minimum wages to a level comparable to that in Washington. The result has been a reversal of the state's economic fortune from stagnant to expansive.

The reason for this success and for the failure of tinkle-down is a fairly well understood principle of complex systems called feedback. Newton's observation that a process once in motion tends to remain in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force has applications beyond physics.

In economic systems, if an outside force tends to accelerate distribution of funds to a majority that has a propensity to spend or to create new businesses, then any given amount of income will be re-used often, creating new wealth and reducing inequality.

Conversely, if an outside force tends to concentrate income among even a minority that tends to conserve (read "hoard") it (does the phrase "preservation of capital" ring a bell?), then income will be sequestered or spent on luxury goods and will not be available for development, leading to greater inequality.

In an oligarchical society, one in which a small number of powerful people make rules for others, there is a historically clear tendency to choose the latter course. This manifests itself as “cut taxes” campaigns, reduction of social services and an increase in funds directed to authoritarian control, such as more police and military expenditures that are not driven by external threat. More guns, less butter.

In a democratic society, one in which the maximum number of people participate in decision making, there is a countervailing tendency to choose a redistribution strategy. This results in higher taxes, but the increasing wealth and power of the common family generally causes increase in spending on education, infrastructure and social services like old-age assistance and medical care. Marginally fewer yachts, massively more teacher’s aides.

Note from the article that only modest changes in income distribution have a large effect in either direction. As they might say in Hollywood: No middle class or working people were harmed in the production of Minnesota’s movie.

It's pretty easy to see the effects of political intervention by government. The adjacent graph (Source) shows the redistribution of income to the wealthy that has progressed under some administrations and slowed under others. I leave it to you to assess which party is (R)esponsible for the (R)egressive trends.

(Thanks to Glenda S for calling my attention to this HP article.)
Debate Vocabulary
A reader sent some words you may need for the Sunday night debate between Hillary Clinton and the person described herein: absolutist, arriviste, assailant, barbarian, base, biased, bigoted, blowhard, blue, boaster, boor, braggart, brute, brutish, buffoon, cad, charlatan, chauvinistic, cheap, cheat, chuff, churl, common, con artist, conniver, contemptible, contemptuous, crass, crude, deceiver, dictatorial, dirty, discriminatory, disdainful, dissimulator, dogmatic, egoist, egomaniac, equivocator, fanatical, fibber, filthy, foul-mouthed, fractious, gross, gruff, hateful, hidebound, ill-bred, Immodest, impolite, improper, impure, indelicate, inelegant, inflexible, insular, intolerant, irritable, jaundiced, jerk, know-it-all, lout, loutish, low, mean, miser, mysogenist, narcissist, narrow, narrow-minded, nasty, niggard, oaf, obdurate, obscene, offensive, off-color, one-dimensional, one-sided, opinionated, parochial, partisan, parvenu, petty, philistine, phony, predisposed, presupposing, prejudiced, prevaricator, prideful, profiteer, provincial, racist, raffish, rapist, rapacious, raw, raunchy, reactionary, ribald, rough, rude, scoundrel, selfish, sexist, show-off, small-minded, smutty, snippy, stinker, swindler, tacky, tightwad, trickster, TRUMP, uncharitable, uncivil, uncouth, uncultivated, uncultured, unfair, unforgiving, unrefined, upstart, unsympathetic, vulgar, vulgarian, wild, xenophobe, xenophobic, yokel...
Governor’s Committee Honors Employers Hiring Disabled
OLYMPIA –As Washington celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month, nine public and private employers were honored today for their exemplary work recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting individuals with disabilities.

Washington’s Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues & Employment (GCDE) and Business Leadership Network organize this ceremony annually to recognize state employers. It was held this year at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond.

“Our award winners excel at tapping into the tremendous energy and talent pool in the disability community,” said Chris Carnell, Governor’s Committee chairman. “They’re role models for the entire state.”

Winners of the 2016 Governor’s Employer Awards Program are:
· Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland
· Excelsior Youth Center, Spokane
· InsideWorks, Seattle
· Little Anchor Childcare Center, Seattle
· Microsoft
· Snohomish County
· Sodexo - Walla Walla University Team
· Washington Access Fund, Seattle
· Washington State Department of Licensing

Washington businesses, agencies, organizations and individuals submitted the nominations and a panel of GCDE members, business representatives and previous award recipients selected this year’s honorees.

The committee also honored Emily Cooper for her commitment to people with disabilities. Cooper, an attorney with Disability Rights Washington, received the Governor’s Trophy in Memory of Carolyn Blair Brown — the highest honor given to someone with a disability who has significantly empowered people with disabilities in Washington.

A new award this year — the Employment Support Professional Award — went to Sue Anne Lemkin. As the Supported Employment coordinator for Snohomish County, Lemkin creates job opportunities for workers with developmental disabilities.

The Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues & Employment advises the governor, Legislature, state agencies and other policy makers on issues important to people with disabilities.

For interviews with the award winners and photos from the Oct. 7 ceremony, contact Melinda Johnson. For more information about the GCDE, contact Executive Secretary Toby Olson at 360-902-9489.
Governor’s Committee Seeks Advocates for Disabled
Persons interested in being an advocate for people with disabilities may consider applying for membership on the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment.

This state committee is recruiting new members to identify issues and concerns pertaining to the rights and needs of people with disabilities. The committee advises the Governor, Legislature, state agencies, the business community, organized labor, other public and private organizations and the general public. Members make policy recommendations with an emphasis on increasing opportunities for independence and employment.

“The committee has tremendous talent and contributes many volunteer hours working on projects that make a difference in the lives of Washington’s disability community,” said Chris Carnell, current chair of the committee.

Members must have a disability, have a family member with a disability or work as advocates for people with disabilities. The Governor appoints members to serve a three-year term with an opportunity to be reappointed for a second term. Members can live anywhere in the state.

The Governor’s Committee is administered by the Employment Security Department.

To be considered for an appointment to the board, apply by Aug. 31, 2016.

Find out more about becoming a member and read about the application process on Contact Debbie Himes at 360-902-9362 for more information.
Voters ignore continuing decline in joblessness
Initial unemployment claims fell last week, dropping the average over the previous month to its lowest level in 14 years, the Labor Department said Thursday, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

About 278,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits, down 10,000 from the previous week. The decline was larger than economists had forecast.

The figure remained above the post-Great Recession low of 266,000, reached in the week ended Oct. 11.

The four-week average for claims, which smooths out some of the volatility of the closely watched labor market barometer, has been falling steadily since the beginning of the year.
A modest proposal: License police officers
The current turmoil in Ferguson, MO, is sadly nothing new. The tragedy of an apparently promising young man lost is being compounded by anger among the population and compounding of racial tension by local police. The good news is that this can become a teachable moment.

Much of the problem we are witnessing stems from low expectations for our police, by the public and even by the police themselves. Police brutality is not a myth, and police officers who misbehave often move on down the road to misbehave elsewhere. Yet police must often engage in a dangerous balancing act few of us would care to adopt as our way of life.

One recurrent proposal over the years has been the creation of national standards for policing, licensing of officers and the removal of political influence from police procedure. The profound inadequacy and even total lack of training of local police creates a patchwork of policing in the US, ranging from superb to appalling. In this case, think Keystone Cops with bazookas.

Herewith a nudge in what I think could be the right direction. There are several interlocking components.

1. Preliminary Training

Professional police academies can produce professional police officers. No one without such training should be given a badge and gun and told to "be careful out there." The training should have a structure similar to other post-secondary education. Schoolteachers are required to pass through two or three levels of college to advance and are typically required to engage in continuing education throughout their careers. Similarly, police officers should be obliged to complete preparatory education and then pass through regular examinations in law and best practices. Supervisors should need the equivalent of bachelors and masters degrees at least comparable to teachers, laboratory workers, firefighters and others who are occasionally charged with life and death situations.

2. National Standards

The standards for policing need to be national. It cannot be acceptable for police in one state or city to exercise their power brutally against people they simply dislike, while in other jurisdictions police are weakened to the point of ineffectiveness.

3. National License

A license to serve as a police officer should be defined using the national standards, and dismissal in one jurisdiction should result in loss of that license, either with or without the potential for redemption after a period of time and re-education. The license could be administered by the states for efficiency, but the standards must be the same, and national funds should not be available to nonconforming states.

The "best practices" are surely well established in law and education in most states and could be amalgamated to a national standard with regional options (for example, rules on operating in mountainous terrain could be waived for Kansas and Florida, but gratuitously beating minority citizens would be equally illegal in Mississippi, Montana and Massachusetts). A system of standardized, national licensing would be relatively easy and could be in place in under five years at minimal expense (the cost of creating a national academy to produce the needed standards is probably no more than is being expended -- some would say wasted-- in Missouri this week). This would primarily benefit police officers, as their career options would dramatically increase. There are many aspects to designing a good system that would need planning and continuous refinement; for example, retention of quality officers by small, relatively poor jurisdictions.

Our police do indeed protect most of us from harm, and they do indeed confront danger often, for which we should thank them and help them to advance in their profession, to our mutual benefit.
U.S. Supreme Court reinstates Washington’s Top-Two Primary
SEATTLE-- Calling the decision an extraordinary victory for voters, Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna today applauded the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding Washington’s wide open Top-Two Primary.

The 7-2 decision handed down today follows years of court battles over the primary and the rights of voters to choose any candidate on the ballot. In a Top-Two Primary, voters do not have to declare any party affiliation, and can vote for any candidate, regardless of the candidate’s political party preference. In today’s decision, the Court rejected the political parties’ claims that this type of primary is unconstitutional.


Attorney General explains new credit freeze rules
SEATTLE – Following on the heels of Washington and other states that have approved credit freeze laws, the nation’s three leading credit bureaus recently announced they will provide all Americans with the opportunity to freeze unwanted access to their credit history. But before you rush to sign up, the Attorney General’s Office says there are some things you should know.


Anti-choking ordinance aims to deter domestic attacks
Attorney General Rob McKenna announced today that legislation to address assault by strangulation, one of the most serious domestic violence crimes, has been introduced by a bipartisan coalition in both the Senate and House of Representatives. The full story is in Civic Affairs.

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