Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Trending Stories

Our Members

Many thanks to Tom Alberg and Ron Bemis some of our many supporters.


Most Commented


    You call that courage?!

    Separating the hyperbole from the real risk.
    Undaunted courage

    Undaunted courage

    Editor's Note: This essay is part of an occasional series on courage that will run in advance of Crosscut's first annual "Courage Awards" ceremony on October 31st.

    Just after I landed at Crosscut last summer, one of my board members suggested that we commence an annual award based on a brand attribute of our news site: courage. As an online news site in the brave new world of nonprofit journalism, we need opportunities to bring together our readers, donors and the subjects of our reporting – political, cultural and business leaders.

    The idea came from Rita Brogan, a Municipal League director and founder of PRR, a marketing communications firm in Seattle.

    I wrote in my announcement of the Courage Awards that too often we bemoan the lack of courage today, casting our eyes back a few generations to when Dan Evans, Scoop Jackson and others led our region. Northwest business and cultural leaders of the past became international icons. Yet I have always had a sneaking suspicion that there are acts of courage, large and small, seen and unseen, throughout the Northwest. As journalists, we have to sniff out those courageous acts just as we sniff out those of cowardice or — all too often — those politically correct acts of “Seattle Nice.”

    The announcement of the Crosscut Courage Awards has been met with a mix of enthusiasm, cynicism and puzzled bemusement. Enthusiastic nominations have arrived at editors’ desks, and publishing a list of nominees has generated even more names. Along with the many nominations we've received, have come questions about our definition of courage. This has led to some soul-searching. What is courage?

    Webster defines courage as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. Personally, I believe a person displays courage when he or she faces personal risk, but pursues a principle for the greater good anyway.

    Courage seems, at times in the Northwest, to be in the eyes of the beholder.

    For example, was state Senator Rodney Tom courageous to broker a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in this past legislative session? He was nominated, yet neither Republican nor Democratic hard-liners seem to accept him.

    Was state Rep. Maureen Walsh, a Republican from a conservative area of southeastern Washington state, courageous to speak out in support of marriage equality? Liberals loved the act, but many conservatives didn’t and both question her true political stripes.

    Is Tim Eyman courageous to absorb the downright hatred of Seattle liberals as he pursues a core value that is important to many but not all? (Lower taxes and less government.) Or is he merely a political operative with a job to do?

    John F. Kennedy, a young Senator when he wrote "Profiles in Courage," said, “Perhaps if the American people more fully comprehended the terrible pressures which discourage acts of political courage, which drive a Senator to abandon or subdue his conscience, then they might be less critical of those who take the easier road — and more appreciative of those still able to follow the path of courage.”

    I cringe when I hear people use the word courage loosely. How often have you heard a colleague or a competitor called courageous, and wondered, 'Really?' 

    Just this week I heard a car commercial boast about its engineers “courageous thinking.” Nah, I don’t think so.

    Very often courageous means willing to take a stand. This YouTube video has become popular among management consultants who want to make the point that courageous leadership is more about being the first follower.

    I agree, with everything except the word courageous. Following and supporting a great idea, even when it’s unpopular or uncomfortable, is important. It shows confidence and could be called brave or even bold. But I am not sure it qualifies as courageous.

    Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 10:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    1 of 2

    is [Tim Eyman] merely a political operative with a job to do?

    Of course – that’s exactly what he is.

    Eyman is a political operative who flies a false flag. He pretends to be anti-tax and for less government, but his undertakings all are designed to advance the interests of entities that get richer off regressive general taxes and certain spending programs that revenue source funds.

    One way Eyman acts that advances the agenda of pro-tax entities is that the initiatives he fronts are Trojan Horses. Key provisions are written by taxing-entity lawyers, and those provisions are intentionally defective. They are intended to spawn litigation that is controlled and then won by taxing entities. Those lawsuits always result in appellate court opinions that grant new, expanded rights to taxing entities. It is not a coincidence that Eyman’s initiatives routinely are struck down by courts, and the appellate judiciary takes those opportunities to hand taxing districts case law they want.

    Here’s an essay describing four majority opinions Barbara Madsen, Charles Johnson, Mary Fairhurst, and Susan Owens signed that demonstrate the pattern of corrupt behavior our state judiciary thrives on:


    The third lawsuit referenced in that essay is known as “Pierce County v. State”, and it arose out of Eyman’s second defective “$30 tabs” initiative. That initiative was I-776, and it is a classic example of how this false flag scam works.

    That 2002 initiative was marketed as an “Eyman” initiative to reduce car tab taxes. What it really was meant to do was spawn litigation. The lawsuit brought after it passed is so full of corrupt behavior by the justices the legislature actually added it by name in an amendment to the Sound Transit tax-grant enabling legislation:


    That’s right -- the legislature was so dumbfounded by what the justices did in terms of creating new taxing law it added that opinion by name to a municipality’s tax grant statute.

    Eyman’s entity Permanent Offense prosecuted the claims in the second appeal relating to I-776. Here are four examples of corrupt behavior by the justices in that “Pierce County v. State” appellate proceeding:

    - the justices flat-out lie in it when they assert that Permanent Offense raised a “taxation-without-representation” claim (here’s the brief, there’s no such claim http://www.soundpolitics.com/I-776_Opening_Appeal_Brief.pdf );

    - the justices invent weak legal arguments for their fictitious claim, and attribute them to Eyman’s entity Permanent Offense;

    - the justices fail to identify the correct legal standard for ascertaining whether excessive governmental powers (not just taxing powers) were delegated to a municipality; it’s not some secret, the US Supreme Court set out the correct standard in a 1967 opinion; and

    - the majority employed in that opinion for the first time a new legal standard Barbara Madsen invented that does not protect people from local governments to the extent the US Constitution requires.

    The justices acted dishonestly and harmed millions of people financially via that 2006 opinion. Eyman acts as a shill for the entities behind that lawsuit, and he still keeps his mouth shut about how the justices abused their powers to suck up to that powerful special interest group.


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 10:20 a.m. Inappropriate

    2 of 2

    We saw this same false flag BS two years ago with Eyman’s initiative I-1125, discussed in this essay:


    That measure clearly violated the constitution’s single-subject limit. It dealt with toll revenues and also supposedly would have prevented WSDOT from transferring “lanes” in which state highway trust fund assets had been invented. That second subject clearly was inserted because Sound Transit’s lawyers wanted a lawsuit that couldn’t harm that municipality’s interests and would let the justices effectively sanction the proposed WSDOT-to-Sound Transit fixtures transfer. That initiative failed at the ballot, so the lawsuit it would have spawned never happened.

    The problem the pro-tax entities around here are starting to have is they’ve been using Eyman for too long in this way. The novelty’s worn off, and when you repeat dishonest tactics they are less effective because people have seen them before.

    Here’s an interesting essay describing techniques the pro-tax interests around here use, to frame debates about taxing to their benefit and ensure legitimate criticisms are buried:


    Eyman is put up by the obedient media outlets around here as the face of tax protests. His “results” speak for themselves. What he actually does is frame issues as the taxing entities want, and make lots of noise about side issue. That’s why he’s in the news wearing a gorilla suit and holding himself out as a fraternity watch salesmen. Of course he’s never effective; he’s used to distract. His behavior is exactly what that essay describes of an agent bent on misleading and misdirecting people opposed to the local taxing entities’ goals:


    A good agent will want to meet as often as possible. He or she will talk a lot and say little. One can expect an onslaught of long, unresolved discussions.

    Some agents take on a pushy, arrogant, or defensive manner:

    1) To disrupt the agenda
    2) To side-track the discussion
    3) To interrupt repeatedly
    4) To feign ignorance
    5) To make an unfounded accusation against a person.


    Central to the success of these false flag tactics is an obedient press feigning ignorance to cover up how the covert agent’s sideshow tactics are nothing but a smokescreen. The public is fed a steady diet of “Eyman” as the only critic of tax and spend schemes. What he won’t criticize is the regime’s abuses: a judiciary that acts corruptly on a regular basis, the most regressive tax regime in the country, abusive megaproject financing plans, etc.

    Crosscut plays an obnoxious part in this. It feigns objective reporting on Eyman by pretending the guy truly is anti-tax and motivated by “small government” beliefs. That is endorsing the false flag he flies. It is meant to deceive the public, and that is what Crosscut’s law firm sponsors want it to do.


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 12:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    "neither Republican nor Democratic hard-liners seem to accept [Rodney Tom]" -- one needn't be a "hard-liner" to think Tom is an example of selfish values on display, not courage for the public good. Your definition of courage ("pursues a principle for the greater good") omits being courageous for stupid, banal, or evil ends. Megalomaniacs are often courageous. Don't forget the value choices your definition requires.


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 2:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    "For example, was state Senator Rodney Tom courageous to broker a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in this past legislative session? He was nominated, yet neither Republican nor Democratic hard-liners seem to accept him."

    Doesn't this go with the territory? If he'd been accepted with open arms by both sides no courage would be required.


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 2:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    It takes more than courage to think up something as bizarre as the Crosscut Courage Awards.


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 2:58 p.m. Inappropriate

    dbreneman says it exactly and I think Mr. Shaw's point is that the sort of "brave, truth to power" campaigning we've seen is largely for things already in the dominant culture of this part of the world. What courage does it take to defend gay marriage? it just won a statewide election for God's sake. Solicitousness for the homeless? interracial marriage? respecting atheism? these things require as much courage as praising motherhood in the 50s. Mr. Tom and his Democratic colleague (name escapes me) made a visible and noisy alteration of power in the Legislature; they nailed a figurative message on the door. They had to back down some but we are better off for what they did. They tried to put some limits on DSHS. Well, it may never happen but it least they showed it could be tried. They have courage and we need them.


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 4:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    "we are better off for what they did" -- OK, I'll bite: name a couple specifics that makes us "better off."


    Posted Tue, Aug 6, 4:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Where should you go with all this BS?"

    SEATTLE HAS 1000' to live. At Jackson, the bore shell can lead to any sensible Cut/Cover, total depth 100'. DBT depth is 80' deeper, doubling volume flood potential. Once Bertha drills below 100', inadvertant subsurface soil condition & pressurized water re-channelling can't be repaired or effectively redirected, EVER. Where should you go?
    Answer: THE LAW


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 5:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    One, I love the juxposition of these two paragraphs:

    "For example, was state Senator Rodney Tom courageous to broker a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in this past legislative session? He was nominated, yet neither Republican nor Democratic hard-liners seem to accept him.

    Was state Rep. Maureen Walsh, a Republican from a conservative area of southeastern Washington state, courageous to speak out in support of marriage equality? Liberals loved the act, but many conservatives didn’t and both question her true political stripes."

    So you Say Rep. Walsh is being questioned for her true political stripes yet Senator Tom is having trouble being "accepted?" No, I think it's having trouble believing what party he is in and just when he will turn on any given party. That's the problem because his performance in "brokering a coalition" was NOT successful, in the least.

    As for the issue of Tacoma's Mayor and KIPP charter schools, I am puzzled. First, I'm puzzled at what seems like open support of charter at Crosscut (which is fine but it doesn't seem to fit the theme of this piece). Second you said this:

    "Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland showed political courage, in my view, by speaking up about the need for public charter schools in this state. Some will lash out against her stance, but Mayor Strickland believes that high-performing charter schools like KIPP, YES and many other charter management organizations help poor students graduate and succeed beyond high school. They have proven this in states nationwide – where some traditional public schools have failed for generations."

    The Mayor is entirely entitled to her stance. It would be better if she and Mr. Shaw better knew the facts about KIPP and their atrocious attrition rate. Why do they do better would be the question? Getting rid of kids that don't toe their line? Fining parents for behavior problems? Having fewer Special Ed and ELL students?

    Most public schools would do better as well if they got to set up rules as to who gets to stay or not.


    Posted Mon, Aug 5, 5:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    I think you might add another defining quality of courage which is to do the right thing even when no one knows who you are. Case in point the Tienanmen square incident you referenced. The man standing in front of the tanks is performing a courageous act but what about the driver of that first tank? He stopped and a photo was taken and an icon of freedom was born. The only people who know the drivers name are a bunch of soldiers who carried out orders that killed many protesters. I have often wondered what happened to him in the years that followed, it is hard to imagine he is being congratulated for his moral act by his superiors in the Chinese military.


    Posted Tue, Aug 6, 2:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    Courage is a cost the cowardly pass on to others, as have many Seattlers over the years; Gold Rush timber barons, salmon cannery wooden wards of stink, Denny Hill dirt clam bed fillers; railroad monopolies, fares set accordingly; air fares to leave chaotic traffic behind too far away to drive.
    Courage is an act of sacrifice of self for others, the innocent, the sorely misled, the unsuspecting victim of foul intent. The reckless belief that "individualism can do no wrong" is heralded unfortunately by powerful industrial interests who refuse to mature beyond Drill Baby Drill. And the worst drill imaginable raises barely a scent of dread among the environmentally conscientious cuddled in their dark huts, wishing veggie dinner soup was a bit more animal cruelty free. Salmon smolts die on the beach. The pier party goes on til it gets old or out of control. Nobody comes back but to watch Seattle fail again.


    Posted Tue, Aug 6, 6:15 a.m. Inappropriate

    This whole idea is easily one of the stupidest things I have read all year.


    Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

    Join Crosscut now!
    Subscribe to our Newsletter

    Follow Us »