Oregon’s Chance to Fix the Electoral College

Oregon can join Washington in a clever Constitutional hack.

Thomas Jefferson believed that “[e]very constitution . . . naturally expires at the end of 19 years.” As “new discoveries are made,new truths disclosed . . . institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.” But Jefferson did not manage to insert a 20 year re-set button into the US Constitution; instead, the nation ended up with the most difficult to amend or update Constitution in the entire world. The United States is number one!

The US Electoral College is a poster-child for Jefferson’s fear that a constitution may linger beyond its natural life. When the Founding Fathers conceived of the Electoral College as “a small number” of “men most capable of analyzing” the “complicated” question of who should be president, there were fewer eligible voters in the whole country than there are now in just the city of Portland (there were only 2.5 million people in the whole country and only a tiny fraction of those—white, wealthy, Protestant men—were allowed to vote). The Electoral College has always been a rubber stamp rather than the deliberative body the Founding Fathers imagined. Read more »

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Weekend Reading 4/24/15

A pesky division problem, how phones fight homelessness, and "bomb trains" at the Mariners game.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.


Joe Cortright asks exactly the right question: why can’t The Atlantic and Bloomberg do long division? The same goes for the Boston Globe and a host of other outlets that I won’t bother to link to. They all repeated a claim made by J.D. Power, a marketing firm, that “Gen Y” is buying more cars than “Gen X”—writing stories suggesting that the allegedly car-averse Millennials are actually surpassing the 40-somethings in their love of the auto. But there’s that  …  read more »

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More Headwinds for Coal Exports

Coal markets are looking less hospitable to US exports.

It’s been a fast and furious few months on the Northwest coal export front—and almost all of the news has been bad for the coal industry’s hopes to ship coal from the Northwest to Asia:

  • International coal prices remain near multi-year lows. After a slight uptick earlier in the year, benchmark thermal coal prices have fallen back to where they were in the depths of the global recession. Adjusted for inflation, they’re the lowest they’ve been since early 2007. And the future market holds out little hope for a rebound: prices for the Pacific Rim key coal market benchmark remain below $60 per ton through 2021.
  • Chinese coal demand continues to shrink. Five years ago, market analysts believed that China’s boundless coal demand would buoy coal prices for decades. But Chinese policymakers, increasingly concerned about air pollution and industrial overproduction, have enacted a variety of policies to curb coal consumption–from coal import tariffs to provincial coal reduction targets to a nascent cap-and-trade system. Those Read more »
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Seattle Candidates, Meet Democracy Vouchers

How Seattle’s new public campaign funding system helps you run for office.

Would you run for office, if you didn’t have to raise big money from one percenters to do it? The Honest Elections Seattle Initiative is a pioneering local initiative that would provide a whole new path to office, a path through dozens of house parties and grassroots outreach, not posh downtown offices and hours of dialing for dollars. If it works in Seattle, it may spread to other places.

Last time, I described how the law’s innovative Democracy Vouchers work for you if you’re a voter. This time, I take a candidate’s eye view.

If you’re a Democracy Voucher candidate, here is what you do: Read more »


Weekend Reading 4/17/15

Rewilding our language of landscape, the cost of gun violence, a podcast for the foodie, and more.

Three Things to Know About CarbonWA’s Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax

Washington’s relief pitcher is ready to put a revenue-neutral carbon tax on the 2016 ballot.

Listen In: Oregon’s Proposed Polluters-Pay Bills

Two radio interviews on Oregon’s proposed carbon pricing bills sum up the facts.

Seattle Voters, Meet Democracy Vouchers

How Seattle’s public campaign funding program will work.

Coal, Oil, and Gas Spent $2 Million on Oregon Politics in 2014

A look at the fossil fuel industry's methods of buying influence.

Myths and Facts about Capping Climate Change Pollution

You’ve heard some unsubstantiated rumors. Here are the facts.