Sunday, December 26, 2010

What The 2010 Census Tell Us

The new census numbers not only tell us a lot about the direction of our country over the last decade, but say much more about America’s hopes and dreams over the long term. The thing that jumped out at me in analyzing the constitutionally mandated head count is that while it isn’t an election, the 2010 census shows Americans have no trouble voting with their feet.

For many, it reflects rising support of limited government, but more interestingly, determines what states gained and lost seats in Congress.

While our state gained a tenth congressional seat because of an increase in population between 10 and 15 percent, a group called Americans for Tax Reform found states gaining the most population — and seats in Congress — had several common threads, including significantly lower taxes, fewer government regulations, less government spending, and were more likely to be Right to Work states.

What that says is that for the past decade Americans have been fleeing the heavy hand of intrusive government in favor of places where the market encourages entrepreneurialism and has the ability to create jobs. And not coincidentally, all are states that tend to lean Republican.

States with more than 20 percent population growth include our immediate neighbor to the east, Idaho, which has been aggressively marketing itself to Washington State companies as an alternative to our high taxes, over-regulation, and out of control spending. A drive along I-90 between Spokane and Post Falls is a testament to their success. Many of the shuttered buildings in Spokane still have company names on them, but you’ll see many of those same names on new buildings just across the state line.  

Other states in the 20 percent club include Texas, which will gain four seats, as well as Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. In the 15 to 20 percent range are populous Florida, which will pick up two more seats, Georgia, Colorado, and South Carolina (can you say Boeing?). North Carolina, which also falls into that 15 to 20 percent range, fell just short of picking up another House seat by only 15,000 residents.

Meanwhile, traditional liberal strongholds like New York and Ohio will both lose two seats, while industrialized, and heavily unionized New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Iowa, will each lose one, as will Louisiana. In my view, Louisiana is an anomaly due to the twin knock out punches of Hurricane Katrina, which forced thousands to flee the state who never returned — many, ironically to Texas — and the Gulf Coast oil spill which has all but shut down its bread and butter industries — oil and fishing. 
However, what is most telling, is that our nation's most populous state — California — in spite of massive immigration, will fail to gain any seats for the first time since statehood. That means even more people are fleeing the Golden State then immigrating there — legally or otherwise.

Joining Washington in the 10 to 15 percent bracket are Oregon, Alaska, Tennessee, New Mexico and Wyoming. The increases in our state, Oregon, and to some degree Alaska and Arizona, are a result of California’s out-migration. Tennessee, Wyoming and Arizona are all Right-To-Work states.

Another telling statistic is that state and local taxes, coupled with per capita government spending, in states gaining enough population to pick up seats are nearly a third lower than in those states losing seats.

The bottom line is Republican-leaning states will increase their power as population shifts from the liberal Northeast Rust Belt to the conservative South and West — where the jobs are.

In spite of President Obama’s overwhelming victory a scant two years ago, this significant realignment is viewed by many as an undeniable indictment of liberalism. I don’t know that I’d agree completely, but there will be an unmistakable impact. 

With the Census results comes redistricting. What I’d like to see is common sense political boundaries — such as county lines, as opposed to absurdly shaped, politically gerrymandered districts, such as the 35th here in our state.

But don't expect anything that sensible. While this year's elections have increased Republicans' power in many states, look for the Obama administration not to hesitate trotting out the Democrat's battle-proven, but disgusting class warfare strategy, coupled with playing the race card against Republican state leaders as they re-shuffle Democrats' long-gerrymandered constituencies in a pathetic attempt to neutralize the bad news the Census has delivered.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taking exception to the Kitsap Sun's reporting of the Port Orchard Boat Ramp Issue

There are many more facts surrounding the issue of the repair of the Port Orchard Boat Ramp than meet the eye. However, the bottom line is that the City of Port Orchard and the Port of Bremerton are equally committed to solving this problem in a win-win manner.

That was made abundantly clear to all concerned in the joint meeting we had on Tuesday. For the Kitsap Sun to report this story in the irresponsible way it did, and then editorialize so biasedly against the City, was an uninformed, and undeserved cheap shot at the City for no apparent reason.

If I hadn't seen her there myself, I'd have to question if the reporter who wrote the story was actually at the same meeting as the rest of us. It's also very obvious that whoever wrote that editorial used that story as their sole source of information, and couldn't be bothered to check one single fact.

NO ONE from the Sun called anyone at the City for comment, or could be bothered to ask us one single question about this issue before publishing such an unfair and blistering attack.

A lengthy email to Sun Editor David Nelson explaining the actual FACTS of this matter has yet to elicit a response.

As someone who has spent most of my entire adult life in the news business, the reporting and editorializing of this story is simply unconscionable, and one of the worst examples of biased, and irresponsible journalism I've ever witnessed. In my view, the Sun owes the both City — and all of its readers and online commenters — an apology for abdicating its responsibility to fair, unbiased, quality journalism.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tom McCabe leaving BIAW at end of the year

       After 21 years, Tom McCabe will be leaving his post as Executive Director of the politically powerful Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) at the end of the year. His resignation came as a surprise to many, but not to most BIAW insiders.

       Under his leadership, BIAW became a major player in statewide politics, and synonymous with pro-business, conservative causes, as well as being perhaps the state’s staunchest supporter of the Republican Party. It also became a lightening rod for continual condescending, elitist criticism by liberals — something the group accepts as a compliment for its efforts on behalf of small business. 

However, it would be impossible not to acknowledge McCabe’s contribution in transforming the group from an ineffectual trade association into the state’s most aggressive advocate for small business and free enterprise, attracting national recognition from such prestigious publications as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Forbes Magazine.

During McCabe’s tenure, BIAW membership grew from roughly 2,000 member businesses in 1990 — the same year the Growth Management Act was passed —  to more than 11,000 currently. In fact, BIAW is one of, if not the largest, affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in the nation.

McCabe built a highly effective lobbying team that in spite of liberal Democratic majorities in the both houses of the legislature managed to prevent the passage of legislation that unfairly targeted the construction industry — most notably onerously mandated homeowner warranty legislation, as well as that requiring costly fire sprinklers in new, single family homes, elimination of exempt wells, and an expansion of impact fees, among other victories.

 McCabe also founded BIAW’s retrospective rating program, turning it into the largest in the state. The program provides worker’s compensation insurance to BIAW members, and over the past 20 years has returned $360 million from state government back to its membership. The program retains a small portion of each refund as an administration fee, and the millions that fee generates has been the funding source for BIAW’s political activities that support conservative, pro-business candidates and causes.

BIAW also used our state’s initiative process skillfully, and was able to reject restrictive, ergonomics regulations unilaterally imposed by the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), as well as getting Initiative 602 on the ballot, which would have restricted the growth of state government. It most recently sponsored I-1082, which would have opened Workman’s Compensation insurance to the private sector.

“We didn’t win every battle — nobody does. In my 20 years at BIAW, we never had a Republican governor and most of the time the legislature was controlled by liberal Democrats,” said McCabe. “So in every battle, we were the perpetual underdogs and I am so proud of the courage and determination of my staff and the small businesses that fought along side us.”

Over the years, liberal political opponents have tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation to eliminate the retro program and de-fund BIAW’s political machine, as well as filed numerous bogus lawsuits, but have been defeated at every turn. 
However, a very nasty, internal battle between BIAW and it’s largest and most powerful affiliate member, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBA), may have been McCabe’s undoing. The clash, which has gone on for more than three years, has caused an ever-widening fissure within the organization, pitting individual members and member associations against each other — much to glee of its political opponents.

The MBA began offering its own version of the retro program to both its own members as well as other BIAW affiliates earlier this year, and in what has been described as an orchestrated coup, elected one of their own as president of the association at the last general meeting.

McCabe is leaving BIAW with a severance package reportedly valued at $1.25 million, with his senior staff also being offered a generous severance package.
Who will replace McCabe is still up in the air, but it’s possible an interim director will be appointed while a search for a successor is conducted. McCabe will leave BIAW at the end of this year, but will provide future assistance to BIAW.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Finally... Gregoire Calls For Special Session

After jerking around for most of the past month, according to a report in the Everett Herald, Governor Christine Gregoire has finally said she will call the legislature into special session to deal with the budget crisis. Gregoire stated that if the legislature doesn't schedule a session by Friday, she'll do it for them, and it will happen before Christmas.

It seems it has taken her months to gather the courage to face down the state employee unions and force legislators to do what they were elected to. Obviously, the citizens of our state are getting the kind of stellar leadership they voted for.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why Won't Gregoire Force The Legislature To Deal With The Budget?

In spite of dire budget warnings for almost a year now from the Governor — and a crystal clear message from the voters — the State Legislature has adamantly refused to deal with what has become a major crisis, the looming $5.7 billion revenue shortfall. And while lawmakers will be in Olympia next week, the Democratic leadership remains uncommitted to a special session to solve the problem because the ultimate sustainable solution is going to anger their biggest supporters — state employee unions.

More than a year of warnings from business, think tanks, pundits, Republicans, political candidates from both parties, and average citizens, that the budget is unsustainable, have fallen on deaf donkey ears. The bottom line is that it appears the Democrats don't have the cojones necessary to make the hard decisions required to fix this problem.

The Senate Republican leadership responded to the Governor's call for budget recommendations and has been willing to help lay the groundwork for a special session, but the Democrats are unwilling to step up and deal with reality. However, since reality isn't enough to prompt the Legislature to take the action they were elected to, the Governor should take the bull by the horns — or in this case the ass by the ears — and force lawmakers to do their jobs.

The Governor should call a special session effective Wednesday, Dec. 8. that would be in effect for 30 days. If lawmakers refuse to quickly balance the budget, she should order large, across-the-board cuts that factor in chief budget forecaster Dr. Aram Raha's dismal take on the future of tax collections, and  have them take effect on Saturday, Dec. 11. If that doesn't get the Democrats off their butts, nothing is likely to.

If legislators don't want to get their hands dirty (and piss off the unions) by doing the job they were elected to, and still refuse to balance the budget, the least they should do in the special session is pass legislation that provides the Governor with the flexibility to make discretionary cuts (instead of across-the-board) to eliminate the projected deficit and leave a reserve.

All I can say is it's a good thing I'm not Governor. They would already be there and they would stay there as long as it took. Can you imagine a legislative session on Christmas day?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Some Post-Election Commentery

      I have to say, I wasn’t too surprised by the outcome of the recent election. In a previous posting, I predicted the outcome of every race correctly except for one. I believed Kathy Haigh would go down in defeat — and she almost did — winning by a very slim margin.
      However, it was the vitriolic nature of comments by some of the right-wing conservatives that I found to be the most disturbing — especially after an observation I made about 26th District Senate challenger Marty McClendon. The bottom line was, the predictions were my observations on the probable outcome, and the forces that would drive those outcomes — NOT endorsements. Even after making this point several times, some of these pinheads simply couldn't figure that out, vilifying me for daring to make predictions that disagreed with their ideology.
That said, the biggest disappointment was the defeat of I-1082. This should have been a no-brainer for any thinking voter with a single shred of common sense. All anyone needed to do was look at the money funding the “No” effort — state employee unions and trail lawyers. Opponents of I-1082 outspent the “Yes” campaign by over $2 million, circulating blatant lies designed to confuse and frighten voters. In fact, KING 5’s Ad Watch series specifically called out the “No” campaign’s ads as false.

And who stood to benefit from its defeat? How coincidental — elitist state employees who’ll get to keep their overpaid jobs, and trial lawyers who make their living suing the state — which for the morons out there who voted against I-1082 and never connected the dots — that’s you and me.

The positive outcome was the unprecedented team effort on the part of the business community, which along with its sponsor, the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), built a unique coalition of thousands of individual businesses, business and trade associations like the National Federal of Independent Business and the Association of Washington Business, and institutional giants like Boeing, which contributed $100,000 to the campaign. It was heartening to see them join with small businesses to publicly support an initiative.

I-1082 was endorsed by 11 newspapers, including liberal titans like the Seattle Times, and Tacoma News Tribune, along with the Spokesman Review, Wenatchee World, Yakima Herald, and the Everett Herald. The Wall Street Journal editorialized in support of I-1082, lionizing BIAW for getting the measure on the ballot. Even the usually liberal Kitsap Sun, supported it. 

However, its defeat underlines the raw power of blatant lies used in negative advertising paid for by big union money with an agenda.

The same held true of I-1100. While opponents — again the state employee unions — knew they would most likely lose this populist issue, they backed a competing initiative, I-1105. They knew when voters are confused, they generally vote "No" on both. And that was the simple intention here.  

I also find it highly offensive that state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler blatantly used the power of his office to help defeat I-1082, regularly issuing press releases trashing the initiative that coincided with other intentional disinformation being distributed to the media. I also think its patently wrong for him to be issuing official statements from his office to the press, like one recently praising the decision of four governors, including our own Christine Gregoire, to file a brief in federal court supporting Obamacare. 

If Mike Kriedler private citizen wants to do these things, that’s certainly his right. He can do them on his own time, and not use taxpayer resources to advance his personal political agenda. However, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler doing so, is nothing more than a violation of the public trust.

I strongly believe the PDC should fine Kriedler heavily and make him compensate the state treasury for the entire cost of his arrogant political transgressions.

Speaking of blatant political lies… the fact our state Supreme Court ruled about a decade or so ago that prohibiting outright lying in a political campaign would violate the First Amendment, has done a major disservice to the voters of this state. 

Imagine the outcome if Christine Gregoire and/or Patty Murray had to actually tell the truth about Dino Rossi and his business dealings, or if the I-1082 and I-1100 opponents couldn’t lie about what those issues were actually about.

 As it stands now, isn't it only a matter of time before some crackpot candidate publicly accuses a political opponent of infidelity, being a drug user, child molester, or something worse, and such a story grows legs because the morons posting anonymously in the local blogs with impunity, run with it?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Concerned About The Quality Of Education?

If you're not, you should be, and here's why...

This video was produced by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim — who is far from some wild-eyed, whacko, right-wing, anti-government crusader. In fact, he’s best known for his work with Al Gore in producing An Inconvenient Truth.

The inspiration for Guggenheim's latest film, which is described as "following a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth,” stems from his personal experience driving past three public schools as he transported his kids from his home in Venice Beach, Calif. to their private school every day.

Guggenheim takes viewers on a highly disturbing tour of “academic sinkholes” and “drop-out factories" — painful, albeit accurate — descriptions that fit all too many public schools in Washington State. Those terms are a direct reflection of our state’s 30+ percent drop-out rate, where in some districts, half are minority students. This film explores the purely political limitations placed on the number of charter schools allowed in states like ours, where  parents are forced to place their kid’s names in a lottery, so random drawings can determine their educational future. The most touching moments in the film are those depicting the heartfelt disappointment on the faces of the lottery losers.

And this should really scare you... While well over half of our entire state budget is devoted to education, Governor Gregoire’s education commission found for the first time our high-priced education system is producing a generation of students less educated than their parents.

The film acknowledges that high-quality teachers are essential to student learning — a conclusion firmly supported not only by educational research, but common sense. And while educational advocates continually push for increased funding — usually in the form of higher taxes — no amount of dollars will matter if teachers aren't held accountable for our kids actually learning.

Waiting for Superman is a very strong and clearly stated indictment of the role unions play in keeping  our kids shackled to substandard schools. Given the power of the teachers’ union in this state, making that point  takes some extraordinary courage.

It goes without saying teachers' union officials didn't take this harsh criticism too well. Mary Lindquist, head of the Washington Education Association (WEA), the state’s most powerful teachers union, was quick with a venomous response, issuing a dictate to parents, teachers and school board members on exactly how to view this film. She notes that Washington already allows innovation schools — but she fails to point out the "inconvenient truth" that out of 2,250 schools, there are only five statewide. According to Lindquist, those five schools prove there’s no need to end our state’s ban on charter schools.

Meanwhile, Washington’s more than 100,000 private and home-schooled children generally receive a higher quality education, yet receive no public money. Charter public schools, if or when they are allowed in Washington, would offer the rest of our kids the same opportunities.

Waiting For Superman is showing at the Historic Orchard Theater in downtown Port Orchard beginning on Friday, Nov. 12. If you have kids, you owe it to them to see it.

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Very Thought-Provoking Video

This clip has been sent to me by several people, and I thought it was worth sharing. It's quite thought provoking, about what it means to be an American and why.

It's about 9 minutes long, and well worth your time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Public records show L&I lied to legislators

L&I officials told lawmakers they did not know what 2011 workers' comp rate should be, documents prove otherwise
Judy Schurke, Director of L&IA public records request by Senator Janéa Holmquist (R-Moses Lake) and Representative Cary Condotta (R-Wenatchee) has revealed officials with the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) lied to lawmakers about the workers’ compensation rates employers will pay for 2011.

Senator Holmquist and Representative Condotta asked L&I Director Judy Schurke at a Joint House and Senate Commerce & Labor Committee Work Session what the “indicated rate” is for 2011 after L&I announced they would not release the indicated and proposed workers’ compensation tax increases until after the November 2 election. The indicated rate is the rate necessary to cause annual revenues to equal the annual expenses. The proposed rate is the rate L&I will actually charge employers. The two usually differ because L&I uses reserve funds to “buy down” the often astronomical indicated rate to one more acceptable to businesses.

The business community supporting Initiative 1082 cried foul, arguing L&I is playing politics on the public’s dime by breaking with the agency’s long-standing tradition of providing employers with the workers’ comp rates they will pay the upcoming year on the eve of an election in which voters will have the opportunity to end L&I’s monopoly on workers’ comp. Business owners rely on the information to plan their company’s budget.

Senator Holmquist and Representative Condotta agreed with frustrated businesses and demanded L&I tell them the rates businesses would pay in 2011. Representative Condotta said, “you [L&I] have the numbers. You’ve done the work. You know what the rates are…I’d like those numbers.” Testifying before the legislative Committee, L&I Director Schurke responded, “we don’t have those numbers.”

Yet documents obtained via the public records request prove otherwise. The documents L&I handed over include a chart with the 2011 indicated rate clearly redacted. Also, I attended a meeting of the state's Mayors early this year where the Governor's Chief of Staff Jay Manning told us L&I would need a minimum of a 30 percent increase to remain solvent in 2011.

“Obviously Labor & Industries has known for months what the indicated rate is for 2011,” said Patrick Connor, NFIB/Washington State Director. “These new documents prove it,” he added. “L&I has been caught red-handed lying to the Legislature, and the only explanation is they are desperate to hide the indicated rate because it shows what we’ve said all along — a massive tax hike is coming.”

The lack of transparency and corrupt actions of L&I officials — lying during legislative testimony — is precisely why the business community overwhelmingly supports I-1082. The agency is clearly run amok and considers itself accountable to no one; not elected legislators, and certainly not taxpayers.
For more information on I-1082, visit and

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Constitutional Convention? A BAD Idea

Today, I received the following in an email from several different people...

The Time Has Indeed Come!
Governors of 35 states have already filed suit against the Federal Government for imposing unlawful burdens upon them.  It only takes 38 (of the 50) States to convene a Constitutional Convention.

This will take less than thirty seconds to read. If you agree, please pass it on. 

An idea whose time has come!

For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress.  Many citizens had no idea that members of Congress could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for  sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. The latest was to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform .. in all of its forms. Somehow, that doesn't seem logical. We do not have an elite that is above the law.

I truly don't care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. The self-serving must stop.

A Constitutional Convention - this is a good way to do that. It is an idea whose time has come.  And, with the advent of modern communication, the process can be moved along with incredible speed.  There is talk out there that the "government" doesn't care what the people think.  That is irrelevant.  It is incumbent on the population to address elected officials to the wrongs afflicted against the and me. 
Think about this...

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified!  Why?  Simple!  The people demanded it.  That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

I'm asking each addressee to forward this Email to a minimum of twenty people on their Address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one proposal that  really should be passed around.

Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States "
You are one of my 20+.   Keep it going.

While I understand the frustration which has spawned such passion,  I believe this is a monumentally BAD idea — at least now...

The reason is simple — the socialists are in power. But more importantly, THEY are in control of the bureaucracy, NOT the politicians. And just in case you didn't know it, control of the bureaucracy is where the REAL power lies. To paraphrase Joseph Stalin, it isn't the people who vote that count, but the people who count the votes — as Dino Rossi found out firsthand in 2004. These unelected "public servants" are the day-to-day rulemakers, and its their decisions by which ALL our laws, from the most mundane things like traffic tickets, to land use — and everything in between — are interpreted and implemented.

A Constitutional Convention would open up the ENTIRE Constitution to being re-written, and would be the perfect opportunity for the socialists to DICTATE a new, ideologically-driven agenda for America. If you think Obama is bad, and disagree with what Congress has done, the opportunity for socialists to rewrite the constitution would be our worst nightmare. One election — even if the Republicans take power of both houses of Congress in November, isn't enough. They need to take control of the bureaucracy as well — and that isn't an election year change, but a total cultural shift, that will take YEARS — if not a generation or more — to accomplish. It won't happen in one election cycle, because politicians come and go with regularity. Look at the "Reagan Revolution," and look at where we are today

So while I wholeheartedly agree that Congress has vastly exceeded the boundaries our founding fathers intended, I think a more prudent course of action would be to continue to elect people who will change the system from within, because a Constitutional Convention anytime in the near future is a battle that America as we know it, will lose. It's one that will bring down the America we know, the America we want, and the America we want to become. It will change our nation beyond repair to where the entitlement mentality becomes embedded in our culture (much like France) even more so then it already has, and do away with all the things that have made this the greatest nation on earth.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Policy on Comments

I want all our readers to know that we now a new policy when it comes to commenting on posts here. You have the ability to register, or post anonymously. However, anonymous posters will have to sign their name to their comments — the same as you do to have a Letter to the Editor published. If you're going to comment, you're going to have to have the intestinal fortitude to sign your name to your opinions. It's just that simple.

What has made this necessary is the uncivilized, and purely vitriolic nature of some recent comments from people posting anonymously disagreeing with some the opinions expressed here. I believe that level of discourse is totally uncalled for, and the nature of any debate will be much more civilized if people have to actually sign their names to what they write. 

I have a pretty thick skin — something necessary in the line of work I've spent most of my adult life doing — and it's grown even thicker since entering politics. So I can handle disagreement, and I can certainly hold my own in a debate. What I have no patience with is people who result to name calling, personal insults and threats when they can't make a rational argument to defend their dissenting opinion.

The catalyst for this change was the post about 26th District Senate candidate Marty McClendon's references to his son in his campaign. A number of posters felt I was wrong to express the opinion that I didn't mind him mentioning his son's leukemia, as I believe it gives people a sense of who and what Mr. McClendon is, and the challenges his family has faced, but felt he overplays it during Q&A interludes. 

Disagreement is fine within the bounds of civility. And it wasn't even the vitriolic name calling, but threats against my family and our personal safety that got completely out of hand. Some of it was obviously driven by the fact I expressed the opinion that I believe McClendon isn't going to beat Senator Derek Kilmer. It seems most of the rudest name callers took more offense to that, then what I actually said about McClendon mentioning his son. 

These same posters seemed to have completely ignored the statement in the second sentence of that post that those were my personal OBSERVATIONS about the PROBABLE outcomes — and they were NOT endorsements for any candidates. The truth is, some of the folks I'd personally like to see win, and think we'd all be better off if they did, probably won't, while I don't believe some incumbents I'd like to see defeated, will be.

So the bottom line is, from this point forward, if you want to disagree with me, that's fine, and debate is still openly welcomed. But you're going to have to demonstrate you have the the courage of your convictions, by simply signing your name. Is that too much to ask? I don't think so. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Political Sign Wars vs. Southern Women

We just had an interesting new experience with a Democratic sign volunteer.

Those of you who know my wife Dee, know she is the model of decorum — the stereotypical Southern Belle. Besides being genteel and charming, she also possesses the same traits many Southern women are brought up with — the steel magnolia qualities of kindness, and good manners, coupled with confidence, and strength of character and spirit.

So a typical smug, self-righteous, Northwest liberal doesn't stand a chance against people like Dee — as one found out the hard way today.

For those of you unfamiliar with the location of the Wet Apple office, it's on one of the busiest corners in South Kitsap. Because of its visibility on a main thoroughfare and four corners with a stoplight, it's also a prime location for political signs. We have traditionally allowed candidates whom we support — and even some, but not all, we don't particularly like — to put up signs there, as long as they ASK. Ones who put them up without asking, quickly find out they are dispatched to our dumpster with some immediacy.

As Dee returned to the office from an appointment, she saw a volunteer for Sumner Schoenike — the Democratic candidate running for the 26th District House against Jan Angel — pounding a sign in on the corner. To be fair, Schoenike has asked a couple of times if he could put up a sign, and we have told him no.

Dee politely told this guy that he needed to remove it, which he initially refused to do. Dee told him again, in stronger terms, that he needed to not only remove the sign, but he needed to remove himself from our property as well. He started yelling at her, waving his hammer in a threatening way, and demanding to know why.

Dee stood firm, telling him we don't support Schoenike because he has made it very plain he strongly supports a state income tax, and like most small businesspeople, we don't. At that point, the guy started yelling even louder at her, saying he was a health care worker, and that if we didn't vote in an income tax, thousands of people were going to die. By now, people at the stoplight, were rolling down their windows to see why this guy was waving a hammer, and screaming at a woman who refused to be intimidated.

Long story short, by the time Dee finished with this guy — never raising her voice, and standing her ground — he had packed up his sign, his hammer, his attitude, and a Larry Seaquist sign, and was muttering to himself as he slinked away fuming, but with his tail tucked firmly between his legs. When Dee told me what happened, after I stopped laughing, I made it a point to call Larry and let him know who took his sign.

But I have to wonder if such an impolite moron actually learned a lesson about messing with Southern women, or if he was just glad to get away with his testicles still intact. And I hope Sumner Schoenike learns he needs to have more polite people volunteering for him, because this guy is doing him more harm than good.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Handicapping The Election

With the general election only days away, I'm going to gaze into my admittedly cloudy crystal ball and make a few predictions on the outcome. Please understand these are NOT endorsements — either by me personally, or the Business Journal — but rather unscientific assessments of the candidate's chances, their campaigns, and how they will fare based on pragmatic observations of the economic climate, established voting patterns, and a whole lot of other factors — including gut feeling.

I have also updated some of the comments as new information has come to light, and will continue to do so as we get closer to election day if it's necessary.

U.S. Senate: This is one that could go either way. However, poll numbers show that Republican Dino Rossi is aggressively on the rise, and if he can raise enough money to get his message across on enough TV stations statewide, he could pull it off. Murray's blatantly dishonest TV ads, as noted in both  Seattle Times and Tacoma New Tribune editorials, have worked against her as well. If Democratic incumbent Patty Murray does win, it will be by a slim margin.

U.S. Congress — 1st District: Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee will win in a district dominated by liberals. His challenger, James Watkins, is a fiscal conservative, but the bottom line is this is a heavily Democratic district, and unless there is a major philosophical revolt, the numbers are against him.

U.S. Congress — 6th District: Norm Dicks of course. Due to the state of the economy and the mood of the country, coupled with the president's policies and rapid shift to the left, perennial Republican candidate Doug Cloud probably has his best shot ever at Norm, but Dicks is still going to win , and win comfortably — although not by the usual huge margin he's used to. I'm sure Norm is paying attention to the message his constituents are sending him.

State House — 23rd District: Democratic incumbent Sherry Appleton has been AWOL from the campaign trail, but will still prevail. She has the benefit of incumbency, name familiarity, tons of state employee and other union and special interest money at her disposal, as well as her usual strong tribal support. Republican Pete DeBoer would make a terrific legislator — he's pragmatic, a successful businessman, and has government experience based on his years with the Port of Kingston. However, based on the sheer number of Democrats in that district, coupled with the traditional Democratic funding sources supporting Appleton, his chances of actually winning don't bode well for him. Too bad for Kitsap.

State House — 23rd District: Christine Rolfes will go back to Olympia for another term. If she had an  actually credible opponent, she might have a fight on her hands. However her opponent, James Olson — AKA BainbridgeClearCut in the local blogs — has probably pissed off more people he hasn't even met then he actually knows personally.

State Senate — 26th District:
Incumbent Senator Derek Kilmer will easily win. For the most part, he has voted the wishes of his constituents, including opposing the repeal of I-960 and the state budget. From a personal standpoint, let me say that Kilmer has been a terrific friend to the City of Port Orchard. His opponent, Republican Marty McClendon, has not shown a great grasp of the issues facing the 26th, the state, or much else. He speaks in non-specific sound bite platitudes, because when pressed for facts, he usually gets them wrong, and does it with an arrogant attitude besides. On another personal note, I've also found his blatant use of his young son's leukemia as a campaign sympathy grabber to be offensive. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, much less a child, and my heart goes out to the McClendon family for their strength of character in dealing with it. But this should remain a personal family issue.

State House — 26th District: Incumbent Jan Angel should return to Olympia in an easy victory. Based on what I've seen of her opponent, Democrat Sumner Schoenike, he appears to be an avid supporter of bigger state government and a state income tax to pay for it. That kind of thinking doesn't resonate too well in the 26th. Also, Schoenike hasn't shown a very good grasp of the issues facing the district because he hasn't lived there long enough to actually understand them.

State House — 26th District: This could go either way. Democratic incumbent Larry Seaquist has done a good job for the 26th, and like Kilmer, has voted the wishes of his district for the most part, opposing the budget and the repeal of I-960. And as a Democrat, he's also been a breath of fresh air about the ferry system and all that's wrong with it — including the stranglehold the unions have on it — a bold position for a Democrat. His opponent, Republican Doug Richards, is an engaging, likable, thoughtful, pragmatic challenger whose primary numbers are a rightful concern for Democrats. This race will be won or lost on the doorstep, depending on how many doors each candidate can knock on between now and election day.

State Senate — 35th District: Incumbent Tim Sheldon will win handily. Nothing more to say about it.

State House — 35th District: Democratic incumbent Fred Finn should win. He's done a good job, voting pragmatically and thoughtfully, usually doing what's right, as opposed to what the traditional Democratic constituencies that bankroll the party in a highly liberal district demand. His opponent, Linda Simpson, can work a crowd, and has lots of enthusiasm, but smacks of being way too close to the radical right for the voters in that district.

State House — 35th District: Republican challenger Dan Griffey will upset longtime incumbent Kathy Haigh in a fairly close matchup. Haigh has always voted with the liberal majority in the legislature and makes no apologies for it. She touts her support for education, and was bought and paid for by the teacher's union long ago. However, Griffey's message about fiscal responsibility and less regulation in a district decimated by environmental regulatory overkill relating to its main employer — the timber industry — and suffering some of the highest unemployment levels in the state, is resonating deeply.

Kitsap County Commissioner: Another one that could go either way. I personally work with incumbent Democrat Josh Brown on a number of local boards, and it's no secret that when he was elected, at 24 years old I didn't support him, and was in fact, very vocal in my non-support. That said, in working with him, while we don't always agree on things, I have found Josh to be a quick study, smart, pragmatic, and usually prepared for whatever is coming his way. His challenger, Abby Burlingame, who spent time on the staff of the Washington Policy Center, is also very smart, personable, quick on her feet, and not afraid to reach out when she needs help and/or information. At 31, she has both business experience and what seems like an extraordinary amount of common sense. Bottom line: Kitsap isn't going to get hurt no matter who wins this one.   

Kitsap County Prosecutor: Democratic incumbent Russ Hague will win re-election over challenger Bruce Danielson in a squeaker. The legal establishment has closed ranks behind Hague — in spite of his self-inflicted shotgun blast to the foot over the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club lawsuit. To many voters, that suit has all the appearances of a personal vendetta against a constitutionally-savvy non-lawyer who has kicked Hague's ass in court three times in the past decade. But in spite of the thousands of local gun owners who view this as nothing more than a personal vendetta, the shear number of local Democrats will pull it out for the incumbent.

Kitsap County Coroner: Republican Greg Sandstrom should win easily. There's no reason to make a change, and most voters are pretty apathetic about this anyway.

I will handicap the ballot initiatives in a separate post in the next couple of days

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ed cetera | Patty on Dino on Boeing | Seattle Times Newspaper

Ed cetera | Patty on Dino on Boeing | Seattle Times Newspaper

I think this is well worth reading. It is this kind of negative and disingenuous campaigning that has people rightfully turned off and pissed off at our election process. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Obama At The Bat

No matter what your political persuasion, if you're a baseball fan — or a fan of literature — you have to appreciate this.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting The Story Straight About The Housing Authority Mess

It's no big secret the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority — now known as HousingKitsap — was in a huge financial mess due to gross mismanagement, and its ill-advised foray into urban redevelopment with the Harborside condos in downtown Bremerton.

While the Kitsap Sun has followed this story for several years now, it seemingly intentionally leaves out one HUGE piece of information from each and every negative story it runs about the agency — feeding all the negative comments left on its blogs as a result of that abdication of journalistic responsibility. That is, that NO ONE on the current board — or even the previous board members who took office since the 2006 election — were involved in creating the problem the agency faced. Nor were any of the current management or staff. This was an inherited problem, newly elected officials had to solve.

The current board, made up of the County Commissioners, the Mayors of Port Orchard and Poulsbo, a representative of the Bainbridge Island City Council, and a tenant from one of the Housing Authority's properties, have all worked tirelessly, in concert with a new financial director (who came from the private sector) and the new executive director, to figure out exactly where the agency was at financially, and do the necessary work to turn it around.

The County Commissioners stepped up and guaranteed a loan (they didn't make one with taxpayer's money) to the agency to keep the doors open. The agency has steadily been retiring that debt through the sale of the Harborside condos, other properties, and actual return on investment. None of this mess has yet to cost the taxpayers one thin dime. The turnaround has been done through prudent financial management on the part of the board and staff, and wlll be complete with the sale of the agency's Norm Dicks Government Center holdings.

There are still future challenges to deal with, and more debt coming due. But there is a plan in place to retire that debt.

Meanwhile, uninformed commenters who don't have the intestinal fortitude to even sign their names to their vitriol, are allowed to repeatedly take cheap shots at people who have spent almost 2 years working hard to rescue an agency that is often the stopgap between a roof over their head or homelessness for many families. Yet the Sun refuses to tell THAT story and give credit where it is due. But if they did, it might reduce the amount of blog posters who feed off of each others negativity, which would reduce the paper's ability to generate website revenue.

Our community deserves better from our daily paper.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Steve Wynn On The Status Of America

Multi-billionaire Casino Owner, Hotelier and Real Estate Investor in Las Vegas, Asia, and Macau, Steve Wynn, explains in the most simplistic terms, the state of America. This originally aired on CNBC, and within two hours of its airing, Wynn received a invitation from the tenants at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, wanting him to explain in person why he said what he did.

Wynn has been a guest from time to time on all the network financial news shows. If you watch this short and to the point interview, and nothing else today, you will still be better informed than your neighbor about the state of our union. BTW, there is a short commercial at the beginning

Monday, September 06, 2010

Who REALLY represents Small Business?

Campaign finance reports on I-1082 tell the TRUE story

The No on I-1082 campaign has aggressively taken its intentionally deceitful “we represent small business” dog and pony show on the road with press conferences showcasing a local business owner opposing I-1082. It also has a systematic email disinformation campaign underway as well, using what I call the "Industry a Day" strategy. They have developed email lists of businesses in each industry and email them their propaganda, trotting out a supposed business owner who opposes ending the state’s monopoly on workers’ comp insurance.

We first became aware of this when we received a email from someone identified as Alex Fryer from the Vote No on 1082 campaign, telling me why the measure was bad for newspapers. Then, because we're a news media outlet, we continued receiving the same email, only where it previously said, "newspapers," it now said "nursing homes," and the next day, "restaurants and taverns," and then "retailers," and on and on. 

Then we began receiving more deliberate disinformation from the No campaign from someone identified as Kelly Evans, bashing the insurance industry, saying how, "I-1082 would allow workers' comp insurers to gain exorbitant profits at the expense of Washington state workers, small businesses, and taxpayers — by jacking up premiums and delaying or denying legitimate claims, with little or no public oversight."

It doesn't cite any specific proof of that — nor can it. It's little more than a scare tactic, and another version of the Democratic Party's tried and true, yet pathetic, old, "Us Against Them" class warfare strategy. They also fail to mention that insurance companies providing Worker's Comp insurance would be subject to direct oversight by the notoriously anti-business Mike Kriedler, the state's Insurance Commissioner.

It went on to say, "We've launched a grassroots campaign to stand up to the insurance industry and defeat I-1082 — alongside Washington teachers, firefighters, and nurses — but we need your support to prevail."

What a huge load of crap.

We are one of only four states that don't allow private sector insurance companies to compete for Worker's Comp business — and also have the dubious distinction of having nearly the highest Worker's Comp costs in the nation. A coincidence? I think not.

Meanwhile, the dozens of business groups that actually represent small business, have endorsed the measure that will allow private insurers to compete with the state to offer workers’ compensation. The fact of the matter is that not one business owner has contributed to the No on I-1082 campaign. In contrast, hundreds of business owners have sent checks supporting I-1082.

This is a simple case of following the money. The trail of dollars supporting the No on I-1082 campaign leads directly to labor unions — and especially those representing state employees — and trial lawyers. And who stands to benefit the most by preserving the status quo? You guessed it — state employees who will continue to keep their high-paying, taxpayer funded, jobs, and trail lawyers who make their living suing the state. 

“The No on I-1082 campaign’s attempt to paint itself as representing small businesses is laughable,” said Patrick Connor, the Washington State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), a key supporter of I-1082. “The campaign finance reports tell the real story — hundreds of small businesses have opened their wallets and contributed to the YES on I-1082 campaign, and not one has contributed to the opposition effort,” said Connor. “The only support for the No campaign is from labor and lawyers.”

The fact is I-1082 has been endorsed by virtually every business group in the state — the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Association of Washington Business, (AWB), Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Food Industry Association, Washington Roundtable, numerous Chambers of Commerce and many, many more. But misrepresenting itself as the voice of the state’s small businesses isn’t the No campaign’s only strategy to mislead voters.

The No campaign’s propaganda machine has generated a steady stream of lies to convince voters to reject I-1082. The Yes on I-1082 campaign’s Truth Squad has created a rapid response website devoted solely to debunking the opposition’s campaign of mistruths. Want the truth on I-1082? Visit and get the true facts.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Washington State Smear Campaign

(Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal)

A trial lawyer's familiar attempt to bring down Republican Senate candidate Dino Rossi. 

By Kimberley A. Strassel
Desperate political environments tend to inspire desperate political tactics. In Washington state, liberal activists are desperate.

Republican Dino Rossi is seeking to unseat Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. It's a high-stakes race. If this fall shapes up as a wave election, Mr. Rossi could find himself the 51st vote Republicans would need to take back the Senate. And now that he's leading in some polls, the left is unleashing the dirty tricks.

Meet activist trial lawyer Knoll Lowney The attorney is at the center of Washington's liberal circle—tight with green activists, labor outfits and Democrats. The self-acclaimed promoter of "social justice issues" can often be found filing environmental suits, and is one of the actors behind Washington's initiative 1098, which this fall will seek to impose an income tax on the state's most productive earners. But Mr. Lowney's real love is costing Mr. Rossi elections.

Republican senatorial candidate Dino Rossi shakes hands with a supporter during an evening gathering to await election returns from Washington state's primary election day, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, in Bellevue, Wash.

His main vehicle for attack is the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), a trade group. In a state largely characterized by a progressive (i.e., self-loathing) business community, BIAW has proved the main counterweight to Washington's labor and environmental groups. The trade group proudly supports free-market candidates for office, acts of free-speech that Washington's liberal community find highly offensive.

Most offensive was when, with BIAW support, Mr. Rossi, a successful businessman, nearly won the 2004 gubernatorial election against Christine Gregoire (losing only after a recount found he'd come up short by 129 votes). When a 2008 rematch became likely, Democrats set to work attacking Mr. Rossi's character. When even this didn't dim Mr. Rossi's prospects, Mr. Lowney sharpened his pencils.

He filed a lawsuit in 2007, arguing that BIAW was inappropriately using workers-comp money to fund political campaigns. Mr. Lowney's convenient demand? That the judge immediately bar the BIAW from accessing money it might use for Mr. Rossi's campaign. When the judge denied that request, in September 2008, Mr. Lowney immediately filed another suit against BIAW claiming Mr. Rossi and the trade group had improperly colluded on campaign activity.

On this basis, Mr. Lowney convinced a judge to allow him to depose Mr. Rossi—eight days before the 2008 election. Mr. Rossi arrived at the Lowney deposition to a swarm of cameras, and the spectacle was enough to sow doubt in voters' minds. True, 2008 was a bad year for Republicans—but the deposition certainly played a role in Mr. Rossi's defeat. The Lowney team, at the time, claimed it needed the deposition immediately so it could file for "emergency" injunctive relief. The lawyers never did, of course, and after Mr. Rossi lost, the lawsuit disappeared. Even the Seattle Times was moved to editorialize that the Lowney deposition was a "farce" and "baldly political."

Now, some 21 months later, and only after Mr. Rossi declared for the Senate, Mr. Lowney has rediscovered his case. The lawyer recently sent a process server with a subpoena, not to the proper representative of Mr. Rossi's former gubernatorial campaign but to Mr. Rossi's personal home—twice—the week before the August Senate primary. This subpoena, demanding yet more documents—from 2008 and 2004—comes despite the fact that the state campaign agency, the Public Disclosure Commission, conducted an exhaustive investigation into the Rossi allegations, and in March of this year fully exonerated the Senate candidate.

We're now about to discover whether Washington's judicial system will again be abused for politics. Washingtonians should watch this one. The judge overseeing Mr. Lowney's resurrected suit is Mike Heavey, a former Democratic state senator who was appointed to the court by former Gov. Gary Locke (now President Obama's secretary of commerce). Judge Heavey's brother-in-law was once the president of the state's largest labor organization.

In a telephone conversation yesterday, Mr. Lowney took issue with headlines declaring Mr. Rossi "exonerated" by the state commission, saying the body instead "didn't have the information to prosecute." As for the timing, he says he was waiting for the government to conclude its investigation. (The commission cleared Mr. Rossi in March.) Mr. Lowney said this is "not a campaign issue, it's a prosecution," and moreover that he didn't think it was "appropriate" to be "litigating it in the press." 

BIAW Executive Vice President Tom McCabe says, "This is all about using the legal process as a means to attack a political opponent." The Rossi campaign referred me to Mr. Rossi's lawyer's recent response to the court, which objects to the subpoena as an "improper, politically-motivated effort to employ the Court system for political purposes." 

To his credit, Judge Heavey has pushed the court date — which had originally been set for the first day of November — to after the election. There is no telling what Mr. Lowney will ask for in the meantime. But no one should be surprised when he asks for it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Republicans have biggest lead ever on question of which party voters would support for Congress, poll shows

Washington Post Staff Writer

Pollsters offered some more glum news for Democrats on Monday night: Republicans have their biggest lead ever on the question of which party voters would support for Congress. Gallup's "generic ballot" - a staple of election prognostication - shows Republicans with a double-digit advantage. 

In the latest Gallup polling, 51 percent of registered voters say they would vote for the GOP candidate in their district if the election were held today; 41 percent say they would support the Democrat. That represents the biggest such lead for the Republicans in Gallup polls back to 1942, and it marks the fourth straight week they have had the edge on the Democrats, who are seeking to retain control of the House and Senate. 

Before this year, the largest-ever GOP lead in Gallup polls was five points. That occurred in 1994 and 2002, both years in which Republicans picked up significant numbers of congressional seats. 
If history holds, this Republican advantage will increase once Gallup and other pollsters switch to measuring likely voters from registered to vote. Election analysts typically narrow their focus as Election Day nears to those most likely to vote, and registered Republicans are often more likely to vote than those who are signed up as Democrats. 

Democrats have led on the Gallup generic ballot this year, and might again as voters start to pay closer attention to the campaigns after Labor Day - the traditional start of the election homestretch.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Today You Finally Start Working For Yourself

The typical worker in Washington State must put in more than two-thirds of the year — 241 days — to pay his or her share of the expenses of all levels — local, state and federal — government. Those 241 work days include funding all the various regulatory burdens as well.

According to Americans for Tax Reform, August 29, is the day this year the average Washingtonian stopped working to fund the enormous cost government. Because of Washington’s excessive amount of taxation and regulation, Cost of Government Day (COGD) is actually 10 days later than the national date of August 19. That has also given the state the dubious distinction of dropping one spot from last year—  to 46th place — the fifth latest in the country.

Olympia has abandoned the Priorities of Government approach to budgeting in favor of the tax-and-spend method, so our state’s poor showing shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, being in perpetual crisis mode means taxpayers always end up paying the price, as we saw last year when the Legislature approved $552 million in new taxes and fees. The cost of state government has been far outpacing inflation and population growth, with the reason for the increase resting firmly on the shoulders of the Democratically-controlled state legislature, which even in this floundering economy, thought it was a great idea to increase total state spending again this year. Total state spending this biennium increased $4.2 billion, to is $72.7 billion — compared to $68.5 billion in the 2007-09 biennium. 

Has the tax and spend approach, coupled with the onerous explosion in taxes, fees, spending, and regulations worked for Washington? Not exactly. Next year’s state budget deficit is estimated at $3 billion — and growing —and is estimated to end up being closer to $4 or $5 billion.

So when will next year’s Cost of Government Day fall? It’s probably too soon to tell, but November’s vote on Initiative 1098 — the proposed state income tax on “high earners” — could be an interesting indicator. According to the Governor’s budget office, the proposed income tax would bring in more than $11 billion over five years, starting in 2012. However, not only would I-1098 raise taxes on “the rich,” but estimates by the Office of Financial Management indicate implementing an income tax would cost $50 million a year or more, and create a costly new bureaucracy — meaning more than 500 new state employees in addition to the 8,000+ new ones already hired under Governor Christine Gregoire.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Online Ranters Increasingly Pay a Price

(Editor's Note: I found this story in the Seattle Times, but I thought it was a good follow on piece to our poll on whether or not online posters on local newspaper sites should have to identify themselves. For awhile now, I’ve wondered why our local daily newspaper allows people to comment on online stories and blog posts using pseudonyms — nicknames and false identities (and I suspect some use more than one) — while absolutely requiring a verifiable name, address and phone number to have a Letter to the Editor published. Is there a difference between these, except for the immediacy of the media, that I’m missing? Many of those posters usually don’t allow actual facts to get in the way of their “informed” opinions, with conversation often quickly degenerating into vitriolic cheap shot insults between posters. In my view, if these gutless wonders had to actually identify themselves, the discourse would quickly be elevated to a much more civil and respectful level.

The Internet has allowed tens of millions of Americans to be published writers, but has also led to a surge in lawsuits

Tribune Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — The Internet has allowed tens of millions of Americans to be published writers. But it also has led to a surge in lawsuits from those who say they were hurt, defamed or threatened by what they read, according to groups that track media lawsuits.

"It was probably inevitable, but we have seen a steady growth in litigation over content on the Internet," said Sandra Baron, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center in New York.

While bloggers may have a free-speech right to say what they want online, courts have found they are not protected from lawsuits, even if comments are anonymous. Some postings have led to criminal charges.
Hal Turner, a right-wing blogger from New Jersey, faces up to 10 years in prison for posting a comment that three Chicago judges "deserve to be killed" for having rejected a Second Amendment challenge to the city's handgun ban in 2009.

Turner, who also ran a Web-based radio show, believed it "was political trash talk," his lawyer said. But a jury in Brooklyn, N.Y., this month convicted him of threatening the lives of the judges on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In western Pennsylvania, a judge recently ruled a community website must identify the Internet address of individuals who posted comments calling a township official a "jerk" who put money from the taxpayers in "his pocket." The official also owned a used-car dealership, and one commenter called his cars "junk." The official sued for defamation, saying the comments were false and damaged his reputation.

In April, a North Carolina county official won a similar ruling after anonymous bloggers on a local website called him a slumlord.

"Most people have no idea of the liability they face when they publish something online," said Eric Goldman, who teaches Internet law at Santa Clara University in California. "A whole new generation can publish now, but they don't understand the legal dangers they could face. People are shocked to learn they can be sued for posting something that says, 'My dentist stinks.' "

Under federal law, websites generally are not liable for outsiders' comments. However, they can be forced to reveal the poster's identity if the post includes false information presented as fact.

Calling someone a "jerk" and a "buffoon" may be safe from a lawsuit because it states an opinion. Saying he wrongly "pocketed" public money could lead to a defamation claim because it asserts something as a fact., like many news websites, promises to safeguard the privacy of users — including those submitting comments — by not releasing personally identifiable information to third parties. But The Seattle Times makes exceptions when public safety is at stake or when compelled to disclose user identities by law-enforcement authorities.

The Supreme Court has said the First Amendment's protection for freedom of speech includes the right to publish "anonymous" pamphlets. But judges have been saying that online speakers do not always have a right to remain anonymous.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month upheld a Nevada judge's order requiring disclosure of the identities of three people accused of conducting an "Internet smear campaign via anonymous postings" against Quixtar, successor to the well-known Amway.

"The right to speak, whether anonymously or otherwise, is not unlimited," Judge Margaret McKeown wrote.
Quixtar had sued, contending the postings were damaging to its business. The judge who first ordered the disclosure said the Internet had "great potential for irresponsible, malicious and harmful communication." Moreover, the "speed and power of Internet technology makes it difficult for the truth to 'catch up to the lie,' " he wrote.

Media-law experts say such lawsuits are hard to track because many arise from local disputes and rarely result in large verdicts or lengthy appeals.

Goldman, the Santa Clara professor, describes these cases as the "thin-skinned plaintiff versus the griper." They begin with someone who goes online to complain, perhaps about a restaurant, a contractor, a store, a former boss or a public official. One person's complaint sometimes prompts others to vent with even sharper, harsher complaints.

"There's a false sense of safety on the Internet," said Kimberley Isbell, a lawyer for the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard University. "If you think you can be anonymous, you may not exercise the same judgment" before posting a comment, she said.

Not surprisingly, the target of online complaints may believe he or she has no choice but to take legal action.

"These can be life-changing lawsuits," Goldman said. "They can go on for years and cost enormous amounts in legal fees."

He is particularly concerned about teenagers and what they post online. "Teenagers do what you might expect: They say things they shouldn't say. They do stupid things," he said. "We don't have a legal standard for defamation that excuses kids."

Media-law experts repeat the advice that bloggers and e-mailers need to think twice before sending a message. "Before you speak ill of anyone online," Baron said, "you should think hard before pressing the 'send' button."

Seattle Times staff contributed to this report