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Politics: Winners and losers of the week

Some unexpected outcomes in a stormy week in Seattle and South Carolina.

A traffic camera captured a city snow plow on the move. The Seattle Department of Transportation notes that you can check local traffic cameras at http://web5.seattle.gov/travelers

A traffic camera captured a city snow plow on the move. The Seattle Department of Transportation notes that you can check local traffic cameras at http://web5.seattle.gov/travelers Seattle Department of Transportation

While politicians in one of the most reliably liberal states in the union ponder gay marriage, the most conservative voters in the nation have done something even bolder. 

As Olympia inches towards same-sex approval, South Carolina Republicans voted Saturday to give thumbs up to "open" marriage. Non-conformists can let out a cheer because the slippery slope has been greased and blessed by white Southern evangelical voters who now have to shut up about taking stands on how other people live and love. Lord be praised.

The big win for Newt Gingrich over the weekend is also a blessing for political junkies because the reality show that is the GOP primary just got interesting. The Gong Show's gong has sounded, the contestants are down to a few, and it's just fun to watch the former House Speaker/Millionaire Historian slap Plastic Man around. The hyper-inflated ego of Newt is as riveting as the virtuoso performance of a super villan — Jack Nicholson's The Joker comes to mind. You know he'll self-destruct in the end, but what a great show.

The Republican race has all four of the main GOP archetypes still in it: Clueless Dad (Mitt Romney), Angry Dad (Gingrich), Funny Uncle (Ron Paul), and Extremely Uptight Sweater Guy (Rick Santorum). Florida promises to be a cage-match of looney.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama prepares his State of the Union address, which will be sane and sober by comparison, therefore unwatched except by his enemies and C-Span addicts. Still, he gains while his enemies do damage to each other. All he needs to do this week is give good Teleprompter.
So, the biggest winners of the week: Newt, Obama, and swingers.

In Seattle, the big question was: How did Mayor Mike McGinn do with the snow? I was asked multiple times (on KUOW, at a Greater Seattle Chamber panel) what grade I would give the mayor for the city's storm response. My answer: I went to Evergreen and we don't give grades.

What we Geoducks do do, however, is give a written evaluation, followed by numerous meetings and a group hug. I'll shorten that. Mayor Greg Nickels is not mayor today partly because he was a self-styled Chicago-style mayor who screwed the pooch when it came to snow plows the one time in a blue moon when they were needed (December, 2008). He was also an easy grader on himself, giving his performance a "B" when a solid "D+" was in order. A mayor who prided himself on competence was deemed incompetent at a key moment in time. The Seattle electorate might be snow wimps, but they were not wimpy in expressing their unhappiness at the nearest ballot box.

So Mike McGinn, an inexperienced outsider, found himself in the position of having not to screw up on an area of core mayoral competence. His poll numbers have been poor, his priorities questioned, everyone is looking to 2013 to see which city council members will not challenge him for re-election. Nevertheless, McGinn defied the odds and turned in a passing performance. As someone stranded in the snows of '08, I was personally thrilled to see giant yellow street machines scraping snow and ice off my streets.

So, to McGinn and all the city employees, credit is awarded. Hug. (I once had an Evergreen professor staple a feather to my evaluation to give it a kind of airy, New Age lift, but I will not do that.)

Winner of the week: McGinn and his snow shovel. If the electorate wants to throw him out in next year's primary, it will have to be for incompetence in other areas.

Another winner: Mother Nature, in all her glorious unpredictability.

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Jan 23, 10:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Your Republican archetypes are amusing, but I think more politically accurate are:

Corporations Are Persons and Entitled to Run Everything Shill (Mitt Romney), Right Wing Populist Hypocrite (Newt Gingrich), Libertarian to the Insane Max (Ron Paul), and Extremely Uptight Christian Fascist (Rick Santorum).

louploup

Posted Mon, Jan 23, 2:54 p.m. Inappropriate

I'd bet that 3/4 of the people who trot out the "corporations are people" trope are not even aware to what extent rights extend from the stock holders to the corporation, what rights are inherent in the corporation separate from the stock holders, nor the reason why a corporation requires certain human-style rights in order to provide more protection for the stockholders than is provided by simple partnerships. Corporations must be treated legally is individuals rather than as a collective group of stock holders or their whole reason for being (limiting liability in order to encourage risk taking) evaporates.

dbreneman

Posted Mon, Jan 23, 6:20 p.m. Inappropriate

dbreneman: I know the law and history of corporations better than most. It's not a cliché ("trope") to conclude that giving corporations the rights of personhood for purposes beyond enforcement of contracts (at least those that are not against the public interest), and maybe some torts, is neither moral nor just to us "people" who actually breath. Us humans, and corporate "beings," survived perfectly well for decades (centuries!) with significant constraints on corporations' ability to buy and influence the body politic.

A fundamental flaw of capitalism is that the primary driver of corporate behavior is the maximization of wealth, not any other social benefit. Corporations have become "persons" with huge global power but with little check on their ability to wreak havoc on our economy and environment (externalities), and on our democracy. You have misstated their "reason for being." In essence, corporations are psychopaths:
• http://siivola.org/monte/papers_grouped/uncopyrighted/Misc/corporate_psychopathy.htm
• http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0743247442/commondreams-20/ref=nosim/
• http://www.fisheadmovie.com/ (2011 documentary with the thesis that humans at the top of corporations are themselves prone to psychopathy...)

The medical literature says psychopaths are not "curable"; all we can do is jail them to prevent harm to society. For corporations, the only "cure" is dissolution. Most or all states' corporate governance laws provide for involuntary dissolution by court action when the corporation "exceed[s] or abuse[s] the authority conferred upon it by law." RCW 23B.14.300. That's the last shred of civil authority the government has maintained over corporations, which originated as entities chartered by the crown and subject to total control by the crown. Under Washington law (probably based on an ALI "model" statute) the action can only be initiated "by the attorney general." Like that's ever going to happen no matter how much harm a corporation causes.

There is also a criminal statute in Washington (RCW 9A.08.030)(and similar in other states): "Every corporation, whether foreign or domestic, which shall violate any provision of RCW 9A.28.040 [Criminal Conspiracy], shall forfeit every right and franchise to do business in this state. The attorney general shall begin and conduct all actions and proceedings necessary to enforce the provisions of this subsection." Good luck with that one too.

An aphorism doing the rounds summarizes the problem: I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

louploup

Posted Tue, Jan 24, 10:28 a.m. Inappropriate

"louploup" writes: "A fundamental flaw of capitalism is that the primary driver of corporate behavior is the maximization of wealth, not any other social benefit."

Funny, I always saw that as one of capitalism's great strengths. The pursuit of enlightened self interest is the engine of prosperity and progress. Everyone engages in it, and it's not the same thing as "greed" (an irrational obsession with acquisitiveness) as many liberals portray it. But burdening people with subjective "social benefits" has been a fascination of despots for countless millennia. In a free society, social benefits are realized through the taxes that pay for government programs which the market provides no incentive for. Nobody asks if the provision of those government services carry the additional benefit of producing a profit; the provision of the service is government's core function. Why should businesses be expected to achieve any benefit beyond their core function?

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Jan 24, 11:17 a.m. Inappropriate

"Why should businesses be expected to achieve any benefit beyond their core function?"

They shouldn't be so expected, and that's exactly why we need more effective controls over corporations' behavior. Because that behavior results in many of the problems we face, from increasing disparities of wealth and income (i.e., lack of social justice and economic opportunity), to global-scale environmental problems. You haven't addressed any of those issues except to say "The pursuit of enlightened self interest is the engine of prosperity and progress." That's a more unsupported "trope" than "corporations are not people."

louploup

Posted Tue, Jan 24, 9:39 p.m. Inappropriate

How about this...? We outsource the SEC, bank oversight and corporate behavior issues to the PRC? The Chinese certainly do know business...they are certainly committed to our financial health...and they certainly have more effective solutions for "do no harm" issues relating to bad corporate behavior than we do.

jmrolls

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