“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
On Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings kicker made field goals from 22, 43, and 47 yards. But with less than 30 seconds to play, Walsh yanked a 27-yard field goal wide left, a kick that likely would’ve given Minnesota a playoff victory over Seattle. Instead, the Seahawks came away 10-9 winners.
(3) God wanted Seattle to win. In a postgame interview with NBC’s Michele Tafoya, Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said, “I didn’t think he was going to make it. … It was in their hands, I knew they were going to blow it for us.” Chancellor then added, “God showed us tons of grace.”
Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area have a lot in common — coastal locations, high-tech economies, and relatively high wages. But as California’s Legislative Analysis Office wrote in a recent report, it’s much easier to get permission to build new houses in the Seattle area. Consequently, the Seattle area’s housing stock has grown twice as quickly as the Bay Area’s. The CLAO writes that in recent years, Seattle’s total number of housing units “grew at an average annual rate of 1.4 percent per year while San Francisco and San Jose’s housing stock grew by only 0.7 percent per year.” The main reason for this is that Washington state centralizing more planning functions at the state level, which gives hyperlocalized Not in My Backyard sentiments less when determining what people are going to be allowed to build.
So what happened? While prices in the Bay Area have been skyrocketing, some Seattle landlords have actually seen the rents they can charge start to fall. Mark Stiles of the Puget Sound Business Journal writes that landlords are finding the trend “alarming” — though if you’re a tenant in Seattle you probably feel differently:
A judge upheld Seattle’s so-called gun violence tax on Tuesday, rejecting a challenge from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights groups.
King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson dismissed arguments that Seattle’s tax, adopted last summer, exceeded the city’s authority under state law.
The measure —a rarity of its kind in the U.S. — adds $25 to the price of each firearm sold in the city, plus 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition, depending on the type. Officials expect it to raise up to $500,000 a year to help offset the costs of gun violence. The measure is set to take effect next month.
The NRA, along with the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, along with two gun owners and two gun shops, sued the city of Seattle in August, calling the ordinance “a piece of propaganda.”
“The NRA and its allies always oppose these commonsense steps to shine light on the gun violence epidemic,” said City Council President Tim Burgess, who sponsored the law. “Judge Robinson saw through the NRA’s distorted efforts to put gun industry profits ahead of public safety.”
Signs supporting a $15 minimum wage in Seattle CREDIT: AP
Weeks before the first gradual increase in Seattle’s minimum wage kicked in, conservative pundits decided that the city’s vibrant restaurant scene was shuddering to a halt. Numerous prominent outlets on the right touted a thin report in a local magazine that a handful of well-liked restaurants were closing down to avoid the wage law.
High-profile writers confidently proclaimed that Seattle’s once-proud restaurant scene was in retreat and that the wage hike was already chilling business activity and killing jobs, based on one anecdotal report. None of that was true. When the Seattle Times asked them about the story, the restaurant owners in question laughed off the claim that their decisions were motivated by the wage law. But even that direct testimony didn’t stop the media wave all the way. The conservative National Federation of Independent Business ran a post parroting the disproven restaurant closures claim days after the Times debunked the anecdote underlying the narrative.
Now, there’s even harder evidence that the right was wrong. The Big Picture pulled the numbers on how many restaurant permits have been issued by the city each month going back to the start of 2012. The chart shows plenty of ups and downs – what data scientists call “noise” – but the 12-month average for permits is almost perfectly steady:
CREDIT: The Big Picture
The city has been issuing about 25 restaurant permits a month on average, sometimes a little more or less, since late 2012. It continued to do so throughout the 2013 mayoral election when the $15 minimum wage became a near-certainty. The rate held over the subsequent months of negotiating between business, labor, and community leaders. And since the compromise bill to raise the city wage over the next several years became official, it’s hovered right around there. In short, the city restaurant scene “looks very much today (in terms of permits) as it did prior to any notion of a higher minimum wage,” the finance expert who ran the numbers wrote.
In a second post, the author looked at the quarterly figures for total restaurant businesses operating in Seattle, which reflects the net of restaurants closing and opening in the city. The city doesn’t have these figures for the first quarter of 2015 yet. But restaurant owners have known for about a year that gradual minimum wage increases would begin this month. In that time, the numbers show, the city’s restaurant scene has grown consistently, with more people opening up food and drink places than closing them:
CREDIT: The Big Picture
Ideological opponents of the minimum wage will doubtless find other avenues to argue against the notion that such laws enhance economic growth. But the Seattle restaurant scene simply isn’t the smoking crater they wanted it to be.
Of course, higher wages will bring changes to how Seattle businesses operate. There just isn’t evidence that their response will be to “go Galt,” in the language of free market fundamentalists who insist that minimum wage laws kill jobs. So far, at least one local restaurant has decided to handle the increase by raising wages to $15 an hour immediately – years ahead of when the law would require it – and do away with tips while raising menu pricessignificantly. Two other restaurants had started printing a 2 percent “Seattle Ordinance Wage Equity Surcharge,” but abruptly canceled that quiet protestdays later after customers said they disliked the notation.
As Seattle prepares for the April launch of the highest minimum wage law in America, conservatives are warning that businesses are already shuttering under the pressure of higher labor costs and pointing to a recent report of a rash of restaurant closures as evidence. The problem is, the actual owners of those restaurants say that they’re not closing because of wages, and the city seems to be enjoying robust growth in that industry.
The New York Post editorial board, American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry, Forbes contributor Tim Worstall, and Rush Limbaugh all cited a Seattle Magazine article from March 4 that claimed a “rash of shutterings” was afoot in the Seattle restaurant world. The magazine suggested that the minimum wage law might be a contributing factor in the closures of the Boat Street Cafe, Little Uncle, Grub, and Shanik.
“That’s weird,” Boat Street Cafe owner Renee Erickson told the Seattle Timeswhen fact-checkers emailed to confirm the Seattle Magazine story. “No, that’s not why I’m closing Boat Street.” Erickson’s three other restaurants remain open, and two brand new ones are in the works in Seattle. “Opening more businesses would not be smart if I felt it was going to hinder my success,” said Erickson, who described herself as “totally on board with the $15 min.”
Poncharee Koungpunchart and Wiley Frank of Little Uncle “were never interviewed for these articles,” they told the paper. They are closing one of their two locations, “but pre-emptively closing a restaurant seven years before the full effect of the law takes place seems preposterous to us.” Frank reportedly asked one conservative writer who had picked up the wage-menace red herring to “not make assumptions about our business to promote your political values.”
A lawsuit brought by the International Franchise Association could set precedent for how states regulate chains
A federal judge will rule early next week on whether to temporarily suspend a portion of Seattle, Washington’s $15 minimum-wage law, pending the outcome of a longer inquiry into whether the legislation is constitutional. The International Franchise Association (IFA), which requested the temporary injunction, is suing the city of Seattle on charges that the new law unfairly discriminates against franchisees. The outcome of that lawsuit could potentially influence wage laws and other labor regulations across the country.
Seattle’s minimum-wage law, which is scheduled to take effect on April 1, requires employers to raise wages at different rates depending on how many workers they employ nationwide. A business with 500 or fewer employees in the U.S. must pay its workers at least $10 per hour starting on April 1, and $15 per hour by the first day of 2021. Businesses with more than 500 employees must pay at least $11 starting on April 1, and are required to raise their wages to $15 an hour by 2019, two years ahead of schedule.
The IFA isn’t trying to block the entire law. It simply rejects the way its members are affected by the distinction drawn between small and large businesses. Seattle counts franchisees among the businesses that will have to raise wages at a faster rate.
In other words, the city is placing franchisees in a separate category from other small businesses due to their licensing agreements with large conglomerates such as McDonald’s Corporation, the world’s largest fast-food chain.
The IFA argues that this violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution because Seattle is attempting to regulate an interstate relationship between a franchisee and the licensing franchisor. Additionally, IFA lawyers charge that the law breaches the First and Fourteenth Amendments by discriminating against franchisees.
The IFA’s argument, if upheld, would not just affect Seattle. When officials in Chicago, Illinois were developing a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage last year, they initially floated a proposal similar to Seattle’s, under which franchisees would have been again regarded as large employers and required to raised their wages to at least $15 per hour at a faster rate than other small businesses. They eventually backed down under pressure from business groups, including the IFA.
Paul Clement, the lead attorney representing the IFA in its lawsuit against Seattle, referenced the defunct Chicago proposal when asked by a journalist for Fortune magazine whether the suit would “have ramifications beyond the city of Seattle.”
“For other jurisdictions looking to increase the minimum wage in a non-discriminatory way, this lawsuit won’t have any impact,” said Clement. “But for jurisdictions — and I think Chicago is one — that are using Seattle’s legislation as a model for their own, that want to borrow not only the $15 wage but the discriminatory provisions as well, then this lawsuit would have direct implications for them.”
Asked over email if the IFA viewed the Seattle lawsuit as a potentially precedent-setting test case, association spokesman Matt Haller told Al Jazeera: “Franchises provide opportunities for minorities, immigrants, veterans and first-time business owners to own their own businesses — and they do so at a greater rate than non-franchised businesses. If policymakers in other cities or states create barriers to economic growth and franchise ownership by adopting radical policies like Seattle, they do so at their own peril.”
A much larger fight
The IFA’s lawsuit isn’t just over whether franchisees can be compelled to raise wages at a faster rate than other small businesses; it’s part of a much larger fight over the legal status of franchises, and whether they can be regulated differently because of their licensing relationships with multinational corporations.
While the IFA maintains that a franchise is just a small business, experts like David Weil, head of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Labor Department, maintain that the franchising model is primarily a clever way for businesses like McDonald’s to shift operational costs and legal liability away from corporate headquarters. In his book, The Fissured Workplace, Weil argues that delegating the operation of fast-food restaurants and commercial outlets to smaller franchisees helps keep wages low and working conditions poor.
Franchisees operate on a thinner profit margin than multinational firms, putting them under greater pressure to control costs. Because they have less of a stake in their brand integrity, writes Weil, they “may be more willing to violate consumer, workplace, or environmental regulations in order to reduce labor costs than would be the case for company-controlled units.”
The fight over whether to treat McDonald’s as a joint employer with its franchisees is “thematically related” to the IFA’s lawsuit against Seattle, said Seattle University law professor Charlotte Garden.
“Although there are different legal principles at work in the two cases, they are both about the advantages that franchises get from the franchise relationship, especially relating to HR policies,” she said.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has justified his city’s treatment of franchisees under the new minimum wage law by saying that franchises “have resources that a small business in the Rainier Valley or a small sandwich shop on Capitol Hill do not have.”
“Franchise restaurants have menus that are developed by a corporate national entity, a food supply and products that are provided by a corporate national entity, training provided by a corporate national entity, and advertising provided by a corporate national entity,” said Murray in a June 2014 statement responding to the IFA’s lawsuit. “They are not the same as a local sandwich shop that opens up or a new local restaurant that opens up in the city. Our process for reaching $15 an hour in Seattle recognizes that difference.”
But Garden said the growing political momentum on behalf of minimum-wage hikes just gives franchisees and franchisors all the more reason to ensure that difference can’t be legally recognized.
“Given the types of legislative compromises that are often necessary to enact a minimum wage increase, I think some within the business community would very much like to advance a vision of the Fourteenth Amendment that subjects classifications of different types of businesses to heightened scrutiny,” she said.
Football pundits say could be one of the closest, most exciting championship games ever. Charlie Riedel/AP
Are you ready for 17 and a half minutes of football???!!!!
That, according to a study by the Media Education Foundation, is how much live football action there was in last year’s Super Bowl. And pretty much what we can expect Sunday when the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49.
But even if actual football is just a sliver of the four-hour NBC broadcast, it’s still a relief finally to be done with the pre-Super Bowl week of hype — which ran the gamut this year from frivolous to ominous.
There was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell trying to move on from the league’s “tough year,” and reporters saying not so fast — a lot of questions are still unanswered.
But today all the talk ends, as attention turns to what football pundits say could be one of the closest, most exciting championship games ever.
There’s been no shortage of statistics and scenarios explaining why the Patriots will win their fourth Super Bowl of the 2000s — the team’s first since 2005 — and confirm their dynasty status. There’s just as much fodder for why Seattle will become the ninth team to win back-to-back titles and secure its own dynasty label.
The teams have identical 14-4 records. In general, Seattle’s offense has leaned more on the running of Lynch, whose “Beast Mode” nickname captures his churning, relentless style. New England’s offense relies on the brilliant pocket passing of quarterback Brady.
Still, the Seahawks won a thrilling NFC Championship game thanks to quarterback Russell Wilson’s dazzling throws in overtime; and New England running back LeGarrette Blount was beastly himself in the AFC title game, running for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
The point is, both teams can win throwing and running the ball. Although for each offensive unit, a formidable defense stands in the way.
The Seattle City Council is poised to raise the municipal minimum wage Monday to $15 an hour, making it the highest in the country. That number grabbed the imagination of this progressive, affluent city and became central to the November elections, which swept the first Socialist into office here in a century.
Not surprisingly, Washington also has the highest state minimum wage in the country at $9.32, although several other states, California included, are considering giving their lowest paid workers a boost. The federal minimum of $7.25 is under heated discussion, although it won’t jump any time soon.
One of the architects of the $15 minimum is multimillionaire Nick Hanauer, who, along with author Eric Liu, coined the term “middle out” economics. That philosophy, which President Obama harnessed in his reelection campaign, posits that a healthy middle class means a healthy economy.
We talked to Hanauer just days before the Seattle vote.
To be clear, just because you believe raising the minimum wage will help the economy, it does not also mean the higher it goes the better it will be. Fifteen dollars is more or less between the $10.54 it would have been if it had tracked inflation nationally and the $21.70 it would be if it had tracked productivity gains nationally.
Fifteen dollars is a very conservative number that we know for certain the economy can support. And additionally, Seattle, Wash., is a very prosperous and very expensive city to live in. So $15 is a good solid number for a place like this, but probably is too much for a small town in Arkansas where living costs are much, much, much lower.
Given that analysis, what other cities should have this $15 minimum wage?
The top 20 or 30 big cities: Seattle and San Francisco, and Portland, [Ore.] and Los Angeles and San Diego and Chicago and Washington, D.C., and Boston. To be clear, it would be dishonest to say we are certain that $15 is the perfect number. Sixteen dollars could be better, or $20 or $14. But $15 is a good start.
Then why did you pick $15?
I picked the number because I knew that the city and national fight over raising the minimum wage is part of a broader effort to reframe how people explain where prosperity comes from in capitalist economies. That effort we call the “middle-out” framework.
Middle-out economics simply is an alternative explanation…. It’s a rejection of the trickle-down idea that the richer the rich get, the better off the economy will be. And equally, the richer the poor get, the worse it it will be for the economy. Trickle-down is both of those things.
Why doesn’t trickle-down work?
It’s not rooted in reality. Rich people don’t generate growth. It’s a fundamental law – when people have more money, businesses make more money and have need for employees.
The truth is that jobs are created by a feedback loop between mostly middle-class consumers and business, and that’s why a thriving middle class is the source of prosperity. It’s not the consequence of prosperity. That’s why a policy focus on the middle class, like raising minimum wages, is the thing that creates growth and prosperity in capitalist societies.
What do you say to those who argue that raising the minimum wage is a job killer?
For as long as there’s been capitalism, back 200 years, every time a community has attempted to do something to improve the condition or wages of workers, capitalists have said the same thing in exactly the same way: “We’ll go out of business. We’ll have to lay off people, it’ll be terrible for the economy.”
In every single one of those cases, not only didn’t the sky fall, but things got better. We capitalists love our customers to be rich, but our employees to be poor.… You show me a low-wage country, and I’ll show you a hell hole.
Give me an example of where a high minimum wage has not hurt the economy.
In Australia, the minimum wage is $17, and unemployment is half of ours…. And they have McDonald’s, too. Most people think that this $15 thing in Seattle is some insane, risky policy departure. That we’re putting our entire economy at risk. You have to remember what few people see – we’ere already paying wildly higher wages than other places — $9.32.
In most states there’s something called the tip credit. If you work in another state, and you’re a tipped worker, your base minimum is $2.13 plus tips. In Washington state you earn $9.32 plus tips, a 437% difference.
SEATTLE — A backhoe, an apprentice plumber and a 20,000-year-old piece of ivory (give or take a few millenniums) have brought out Puget Sound’s inner paleontologist.
Last week a Columbian mammoth tusk was discovered in the foundation of an apartment building under construction in the South Lake Union neighborhood. On Friday, three days after the discovery, scientists carefully crated the 81/2 -foot-long fossil and sent it to a museum for study.
In between, a steady stream of curious onlookers made their way to the giant hole across the street from an Amazon.com office building in hopes of getting a peek at the largest and most intact piece of prehistoric dentition ever discovered in Jet City.
That, of course, is the allure: ice age meets computer age.
Ryan Eyre, an unemployed English teacher, peeked through the chain-link fence baring “No trespassing” signs, hoping that the ancient ivory wasn’t entirely covered up by a tarp.
It was, for its own protection.
“I came out entirely to see it,” Eyre said. “I’m fascinated with this kind of stuff, and they found it within a mile of where I live.”
Where tech workers troll and apartment buildings rise, herds of giant prehistoric proboscideans once roamed, grazing on verdant grasslands studded with the occasional pine, pounding down hundreds of pounds of roughage daily to nourish their vast bulk.
Mammoths migrated to North America from Asia about 2 million years ago and became extinct about 10,000 years ago. There is little agreement about what killed off the ancient relatives of today’s elephants, but scientists point to a combination of climate change and hunting by humans.
Until last week, only 25 mammoth fossils had been found in the Seattle area, mostly skeleton fragments. So the discovery of a long, curving, intact tusk set paleontologists around the country abuzz.
“I checked the records and there are very few previously reported finds in the Seattle area, or even in western Washington, and I didn’t see any ones quite as nicely preserved as this one,” said Patricia Holroyd, senior museum scientist at the UC Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley.
“I’m excited to see what’s happened,” Holroyd said. “Everyone was posting articles about it.”
Christian Sidor, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, told reporters, “It’s really very rare to be able to get the tusk in relationship to the lake — in relationship to all the different sediments going on. So we really can paint a much better picture than just a single tusk.”
On Tuesday morning, Joe Wells was overseeing excavation for the underground plumbing of a five-story apartment building when a backhoe operator hit something hard in the soft dirt. Wells stopped the big machine and went to investigate.
“It was weird-shaped, and he knew it wasn’t a rock,” said Jeff Estep, owner of Transit Plumbing, a subcontractor on the project. “He started uncovering it by hand…. He didn’t know what to think at first. The more he uncovered it, the more he figured it was a tusk.”
Seattle team crushes the favored Denver Broncos 43-8; takes home Vince Lombardi Trophy
The Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl title Sunday, crushing the favored Denver Broncos 43-8.
Seahawks Linebacker Malcolm Smith returned an interception off Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning 69 yards for a touchdown late in the first half of the game, and wide receiver Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff of the second half 87 yards for another touchdown.
The Seahawks led 36-0 before Denver finally scored on the last play of the third quarter.
Manning was 34 of 49 for 280 yards, but most of that came after Seattle had all but put the game away. He was flustered by Seattle’s fierce defense for most of the first half, throwing two interceptions.
The second fluttered into Smith’s hands after teammate Cliff Avril struck the five-time NFL MVP’s arm as he was releasing the ball.
Second-year quarterback Russell Wilson was coolly efficient for the Seahawks, throwing for two touchdowns.
Euphoria in the Emerald City
In Seattle after the game, fans blared horns and launched fireworks in celebration of the city’s first major sports championship in more than 30 years.
Fire crews extinguished at least one bonfire as rowdy fans were out in force.
In some neighborhoods fans blocked traffic, and downtown a line of cars stretched for blocks as cheers rang out amid a cacophony of horns.
About 30 people watched the game at the Outlander Brewery in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. It was such a blowout that by the fourth quarter, employees had switched one of the three TVs to Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl.”
“We’re all in euphoria right now,” said Steve McVay, a 43-year-old Seattle IT worker. “It’s a huge deal for the city. Since the Sonics we haven’t won anything.” The Seattle SuperSonics beat the Washington Bullets to win the NBA title in 1979 – Seattle’s last major sports championship before Sunday night.
John Caro and his wife, Corina, both 59, whooped their way down Lake City Way in North Seattle, high-fiving passersby.
“I was born here, I was raised here! This is my ultimate dream!” Caro shouted. “We have waited so freakin’ long for this!”
With that, they stepped across the street, with Caro waving his gray Seahawks conference championship hat to stop the traffic.
The frenzy found some bizarre expressions.
A man jumped onto the podium during Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith’s postgame news conference, grabbed the microphone and said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were “perpetrated by people with your own government.”
Smith sat dumbfounded when the man suddenly appeared on his right side.
The man said: “Investigate 9/11 – 9/11 was perpetrated by people with your own government.” He quickly walked away, and security converged on him.
It wasn’t immediately clear if he was taken into custody. Smith then continued taking questions from the media.
‘Mass-transit Super Bowl’
Less exciting than Seattle’s long-awaited win were long delays leaving MetLife Stadium, the game’s venue in New Jersey.
Organizers had dubbed the game the first mass-transit Super Bowl, and spent considerable effort urging fans to take trains or buses to the stadium. The message apparently took hold, as nearly 28,000 rode the rails from nearby Secaucus Junction. That far surpassed New Jersey Transit’s previous record of 22,000 riders in 2009 for a U2 concert, and nearly doubled optimistic pre-game estimates of 15,000.
After Sunday’s game, fans converged on the rail station for the return trip, clogging the platform as trains loaded and left when full.
A spokesman for NJ Transit told The Associated Press early Monday that nearly 25,000 passengers had been moved to Secaucus by midnight, two hours after the game, and that overall it was a “tremendous success,” considering the volume of passengers transported without accident or incident.
When the last train cleared the platform at 12:45 a.m., 32,900 people had been transported by rail and more than 1,100 others taken by bus to Port Authority, a transit spokesman said.
New Jersey State Police urged fans via Twitter to “enjoy the stadium atmosphere until congestion dissipates.”
Seattle natives Jeff Chapman, 40, and his childhood friend Willie Whitmore, 39, were caught up in the delay and anxious to get home.
“This is a joke,” griped Chapman, an engineer. “We’re not even from here and we could’ve told you this would’ve happened.”
“What do you expect when you don’t give people any other option to get home,” said Whitmore, a project manager. “It’s ridiculous.”