Friday, April 21, 2017

Fully Fund Washington's schools, invest more (not less) and branch out for long-term revenue

My daughter, Sidney, 2nd grade
Our message to Senator Braun on 3/26
Dear Members of the WA State Education Task Force:
(Sen. Andy Billig, Sen. Dino Rossi, Rep. Pat Sullivan, Sen. Ann Rivers, Rep. Kristine Lytton, Sen. Christine Rolfes, Rep. David Taylor & Rep. Paul Harris)

Do you know what I see when I volunteer in my daughter’s elementary school each week? The incredible amount of effort and resources it takes--even in an affluent school--to teach and make progress with each individual child. Many educators do this without having the services, personnel and resources they need and many compensate for it out of their own pockets or with overtime, when they’d normally be with their own families.

So in a state that is home to some of the wealthiest people and the biggest companies in the world, how is it that our public schools are still so under-resourced? Why do we shortchange our children this way?

I'm at a loss as to how Senate Republican lawmakers can propose to only really fund HALF the state’s schools with their plan while at the same time pressing significant taxes upon the property-owning middle class. The Seattle Times reported on 2/22 that this plan weighs even heavier on Seattle-area property owners than previously thought and Seattle families will receive less per-student-funding for their contributions than other parts of the state. It seemed hasty that 5607 was shoved through. It didn't allow time for the public, the Committees or Senate Democrats to really dig into the details. As a result, the true financial impact and it’s inadequacy was only discovered after it passed the Senate.

But Senator Ann Rivers said to me in an email exchange on 1/31/2017, “Please don't misunderstand me – I don't think 5607 is perfect. It is however, at this time, the singular bill that has 25 votes in the entire legislature.” This sounds like Republicans knew the plan wasn’t so much about best serving our students but rather slamming through a solution that would appease the lawsuit. The bottom line is: it still doesn’t solve the problem.

It's time to start looking at stable revenue sources without gutting every other social service because this is a long-term investment in our children and our state's economy via our competitiveness for jobs & innovation. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal agreed that more resources are needed in this Crosscut article (2/22/17). "A straight swap of state for local dollars such as the one proposed by Republicans isn’t enough. “If you’re seriously going to change outcomes for every student … I think every school district should have more resources,” Reykdal said. “The bottom line is they need to invest more.

Therefore, I am asking you to support the House Democrats’ budget. I urge you to embrace the capital gains tax which will ensure that the wealthiest Washingtonians pay their fair share. And by the way, I’m not just asking here for ‘others’ to fund education. My husband and I will get to participate since we exercise stock and pay capital gains taxes every year too.

Also close tax break loop holes to large companies, like Boeing, who--let’s face it--have no loyalty to Washington when the bottom line is concerned. But our schools educate the next generation of workers. Why should big business reap the rewards of this workforce that they don’t help build? Washington is a great place to live and draws a deep and diverse talent pool. Companies are lucky to set up here and the state should start acting like it.

I’m a parent and constituent in the 36th District. But my family has and does live all over the state of Washington--and we are all products of the public school system.

  • Rep. David Taylor: My grandfather was born and raised in Toppinish. He went to school there and worked on the family farm until the family was relocated to a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming.
  • Sen. Andy Billig: My dad grew up on South Hill and attended the original Grant Elementary and went on to graduate from Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane.
  • Rep. Paul Harris: My father and stepmother now reside in the 17th district and my stepmom teaches 1st grade at Harmony Elementary, also located in your district.
  • And as I previously shared with Sen. Ann Rivers: I grew up in her district of Ridgefield and attended Union Ridge Elementary, View Ridge Middle School and ultimately graduated from Ridgefield High School.

As my kids look ahead to 3rd grade (Sidney) and Kindergarten (Calvin) in the Fall, I ask you now that you’re in special session to set aside the lesser angels of our nature and work together to finally fulfill Washington’s Paramount Duty of fully funding education. Use the House Democrats plan. Create a sustainable revenue stream that simultaneously fixes our lopsided tax system and keeps social services intact. Shore up taxes lost to big businesses who aren’t paying nearly enough and tax capital gains 5-7% more. This legislation will define our core values as a state but it really shows voters if our lawmakers can overcome ideology and special-interest influence to do right by our most precious and beloved resource: our children.

Thank you,
Kali Sakai
Seattle, WA

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Henry Shiro Sakai, 1926-2017

Last Wednesday April 12th while we were in Portland, my great-uncle Henry Shiro Sakai passed away. He was 91 and the youngest (and last) of my grandfather’s siblings. According to my Dad, he was an electrical engineer who worked in avionics for North American Aviation, which among other things had supplied modules for the space shuttle program. 
I had written to Uncle Hank this past February telling him of our plans to visit Portland during Spring Break and wanted to interview him. My thought was to get an account of our family’s experience in the World War II Japanese Internment Camps for posterity. He even made a joke in a subsequent voice mail that he hoped he’d still be around when we were scheduled to visit on Saturday April 15th. I had no idea that I should have taken his comment more seriously. I guess you can never know these things but I am heartbroken that I didn't take the initiative even 6 months sooner to talk to him about it. 

There isn’t going to be an official obituary or service—he and my aunt who survives him decided that wasn’t necessarybut I wanted to pay a humble homage to him anyway. RIP Uncle.

Photos by Cindy Hovind, 2013

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Internet Search Information and Customer Privacy Concern

UPDATE 3/31: Comcast responded and it doesn't suck. Sounds like they aren't going to share out customer info and allow for opt-in participation with advertising. My view: cautiously impressed. Read on.


This is an email I wrote today to the Comcast Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications: Government & Regulatory Communications & the larger Corporate Communications Team...

Dear Ms. Fitzmaurice & the Comcast Comm Team:
Today, as you know, our Congress passed a bill that allows ISP's to access and commoditize the search habits of their customers. 

Having been a Comcast customer for 20 years, I wanted to reach out to you personally and let you know that even though you CAN do something, I'd like to ask you not to. In a world where the government is recklessly pulling protection away from every single aspect of our lives, wouldn't it be great if large influential companies like Comcast did right by their customers just because it's the proper thing to do? 

I know the main argument for this legislation is opening up 'competition' for you and getting a 'piece of the action.' Destination sites like Google, Yahoo & Facebook get to collect and track users all day long and monetize it. But Comcast has merely been the 'dumb pipes' that people use to access these sites where endless personal data collection and monetization happen. The problem though is that users actually choose those destinations and willingly submit their personal information. But as an ISP, we look to you to create safe avenues to and from our Internet wanderings, not sell our comings and goings to others. 

So what if Comcast decided not to sell out customer information and took a strong stand on being THE conscientious ISP that takes privacy seriously? Or maybe allowing people to OPT-IN/OPT-OUT of such data collection/monetization--many would see that as a sensible compromise. I'm sure many customers who don't care would be happy to let you have their info. But as customers who do care, having no choice in the matter doesn't make us feel valued or safe. In fact, it makes us want to look for other options.

I ask you to consider what you could do that would set you apart and make Comcast an ISP people would clamor to support. If not just for your service but for your principles.

Kali Sakai & Ken Moore
Seattle, WA


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Announcing WSU's Murrow College 'Ethics in Communication' Project

'The Press' isn’t just some obscure, independent entity. It’s us--you and me--the American people. The press is our proxy: our ears, eyes and mouths—asking questions and making sense of what our government is doing. 

Dear fellow WSU Murrow alums & fans of the Free Press,
Do you think...
  • defending ethics in journalism is vital?
  • encouraging the next generation of journalists to be fair, tenacious and thorough is important?
  • learning lessons from experienced leaders in the news & information industry is valuable?

Please check out this new project called Ethics in Communications from WSU's Murrow College of Communication and join me in supporting it!

Click HERE for the detailed 7-page slide deck about this project. 

What's the Project?
The main goal is to help educate WSU students and the public on ethics and responsibility of the Press. With the namesake of one of the most accomplished broadcast journalists in the industry, this presents a unique and important responsibility for the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. This will be accomplished by:
  • Creating a series of videos and digital content in a PSA style format featuring top faculty and industry leaders. 
  • Hosting a series of lectures with VIP Murrow Award winners, faculty and industry leaders at WSU Everett (opening later in 2017) for students & the public. 

What's the ask?
This project needs your help to get off the ground! The ultimate goal is $10,000 and they've already secured $2,500 of that. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to get this project fully-funded and going by March 30th. Here’s the secure donation link. Also feel free to pass this on to other WSU alumni or friends would would want to help! 


A little more background if you want it...

Over a month ago, I found myself frustrated, just wanting to do something--anything--to help defend, articulate and emphasize the great responsibility of the Press. Reflecting on how I viewed the world as a college student and new grad 20 years ago (ahem), I wondered if current students and newly minted Comm grads understood the vital role they play in our Democracy--not just in platitudes, but for real.

I spoke to Marvin (Marcelo), now General Manager of NW Public Radio & TV and Associate Professor, and then met with Camille Perezselsky, the Assistant Director of Development about this desire to do something for/with the school. It just so happened, they too were thinking of kicking off a project up this alley. I immediately wanted to be a part of it so I'm asking alums and friends of the college to join me in supporting this new project.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Depeche Mode is coming! Link for ticket presale

Just got exclusive presale access to see Depeche Mode! 
Join through my link by Saturday, March 4th and we'll both get better access.

Depeche Mode Global Spirit Tour - Fall 2017 North American Tour

August 23    Salt Lake City, UT    USANA Amphitheatre
August 25    Denver, CO            Pepsi Center
August 27    Detroit, MI            DTE Energy Music Theatre
August 30    Chicago, IL            Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

September 1        Uncasville, CT        Mohegan Sun Arena
September 3        Toronto, ON            Air Canada Centre
September 5        Montreal, QC        Centre Bell
September 7        Washington, DC        Verizon Center
September 9         New York, NY        Madison Square Garden
September 11    New York, NY        Madison Square Garden
September 13    Tampa, FL            MIDFLORIDA CU Amphitheatre
September 15     Miami, FL            AmericanAirlines Arena
September 18     Nashville, TN        Ascend Amphitheater
September 20    Austin, TX            Austin360 Amphitheatre
September 22    Dallas, TX            Starplex Pavilion
September 24    Houston, TX        Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion 
September 27    Phoenix, AZ            AK-Chin Pavilion
September 30    Las Vegas, NV        T-Mobile Arena

October 2        Santa Barbara, CA    Santa Barbara County Bowl
October 6        San Diego, CA        Mattress Firm Amphitheatre
October 8        San Jose, CA        SAP Center
October 10        Oakland, CA            Oracle Arena
October 12        Los Angeles, CA        Hollywood Bowl
October 14        Los Angeles, CA        Hollywood Bowl
October 21        Seattle, WA            KeyArena
October 23        Portland, OR        Moda Center

October 25        Vancouver, BC        Rogers Arena
October 27        Edmonton, AB        Rogers Place

Monday, February 13, 2017

Under the Republican banner and with R's compliance: the unraveling of the Constitution and our Republic

Conservative Talkshow host & former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough is alarmed and calling for immediate denouncement by all Republicans in Congress and the White House of stunning comments by WH advisor, Stephen Miller. Watch this clip, it's jaw-dropping.

"The President has substantial power and it will not be questioned.”—Stephen Miller

Scarborough points out that Miller has no law degree or law education and seems not to understand the Federalist Papers, The Constitution or how separation of powers works. Miller's comments are a combative challenge to the Judiciary, to the US Republic, to the US Constitution and to the essence of our country’s balance of power. This is "doing violence to the US Constitution,” Scarborough noted.
The pillars of our country and the sacrifices made to create this nation are being sh*t on. Republicans especially should be concerned that this is being done under their banner. Call your Senators & Reps and ask them to speak up.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Two Atheists take their kids to visit a Mosque...

and it was lovely. 

Our guide, Chema, on the Outreach Committee

So how did we get there?

In late January, after the Seattle Womxn's March, I was listening to KUOW and I heard Aneelah Afzali of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) in Redmond speak about how the march was a good first step but if non-Muslims are serious about combatting Islamophobia and the division that goes with it, they have to do more. Reaching out and getting to know our Muslim neighbors plus dispelling some of the false assumptions and "otherness" of American Muslims was the second step. She mentioned that MAPS would be doing Open Houses for the public to come and see a Mosque and learn basic information about Islam.

Ken and I thought this was important to expand our knowledge about Islam and Muslim people and to make personal connections since we didn't personally know any Muslims as it was. I reached out to MAPS on the day the Executive Order banning refugees, green card & visa holders from 7 predominantly Muslim countries was released and expressed our empathy and support for their community--I also inquired if we could attend their next open house. To my surprise, they were kind enough to just invite us over within the next weekend. 

Which leads me to today and our enlightening visit to MAPS in Redmond.

Muslim Association of Puget Sound
Our guide Chema met us in the entry, clad in a turquoise blue headscarf and holding a tall cup of Peet's coffee. She instantly made us feel welcome and even tried to make small talk with the kids. As she took us through the mosque (they call it a masjid which is the Arabic word for 'mosque'), we were offered food and people came up to us to say hello. I was struck by how warmly the women greeted each other and even women who didn't know Chema said goodbye to her as if she were a longtime friend. A wedding celebration had just cleared out and one of the men gave the children cookies from the festivities. Men and women setting up chairs wasted no time changing over the great hall for a benefit later that evening to raise funds for the Bellevue Mosque that had burned to the ground (by a mentally ill homeless man) last month.

Chema described the tenents of Islam and explained how it is a peaceful and humble religion. The humbleness and helpfulness were aspects I haven't heard much about. From what I gathered, a Muslim is taught to always help his/her neighbors (no matter who they are) and to be humble in dress and manner. Some of the ways that is visible is in the head coverings for women and the separation of the sexes on each side of the room.

I asked about why some of the women I saw wore headscarves while others had veils over their nose and mouths. With 1.5 Billion Muslims on the planet coming from areas as diverse as North Africa, SE Asia and the Middle East, their regions and environments play a part. Chema pointed out that a woman I saw with a veil is from the Middle East, where the topography and sandstorms necessitated nose and mouth protection, and was incorporated into the traditional garb. But Chema herself only wore a headscarf as she was from Tunisia in North Africa.

As for men and women sitting on opposite sides of the room with dividers between the sections, Chema explained that the observance of this practice was honoring the tradition that women are to be protected as they are highly revered. But the reality was that men and women worked side by side inside MAPS and out in the world. (This was evident in how everyone was scrambling to set up the room.) She mentioned that the women actually preferred to sit and talk with their female friends (or "sisters" as they call each other). The feminist in me couldn't help but cringe at the formality of this arrangement as I watched actual dividers going up between the men's and women's sections, but I also thought about how this male-female grouping does organically happen even at our parties and gatherings. But still...

She explained how they pray facing Mecca 5-6 times a day and showed us a library where they keep a vast number of texts of the Quran itself plus multiple volume interpretations by various scholars. There are a lot of books a student and follower of Islam has to read and it's mostly in Arabic. They also consider the ancient scrolls, Torah and Bible holy texts as they are part of the Abrahamic religions. They consider Moses, Jesus and Mary to be honored disciples of their God, Allah. Whenever Chema mentioned Allah's name or any of the disciples, she would add "peace be upon him/her." All this is to say that Islam seems to make room for the other religions & their texts but I'm not so sure that's reciprocated by the others.

We were fortunate enough to be there when people were called in for prayer. The man who manages the mosque sang out a traditional call to prayer that floated out over the entire building's sound system. Chema translated the words as he sang. The melody and the sound of his voice were both tranquil and reverent. It was very beautiful. We also got to observe from the back as the men, all heads pointed in the same direction, knelt on lush red carpet and did their prayers.

The kids did very well considering they were required to stand with us as we were touring and listen for a lot of the time. But it didn't hurt that they got cookies. We saw a number of children running about with their parents. The center has many programs for kids as well as preschool and youth activity programs. It's hub of a community that also has a cafe, boutique, meeting rooms and offices.

The people at MAPS are devoted to helping people outside the Muslim community. They regularly provide food, clothing and supplies for the homeless, Tent Cities & Refugees. Looking on their website, it's easy to find the numerous events/drives they have. It's quite inspiring to hear how they do so much for their surrounding communities that may not be as welcoming or mutual.

This was an eye-opening experience. Chema is a fantastic ambassador for MAPS with her relatable demeanor and her clear devotion to her faith and community. Even though we only spent a little more than an hour with her, it was clear the a basis of Islam (as imparted to us) is living a life in service to being a good person and helping those around you--which sounds like the tenets of some other belief systems.

Unfortunately in Islam, as in Christianity and Judaism, there are a few bad eggs who do terrible things in the name of God. But in Islam's case, the actions of a relative few out of 1.5 Billion followers have stoked fear and intolerance enough to inspire our own government to retaliate with things like the Muslim ban.

It's also horrifying to learn that because of that, a threat was called into the MAPS recently which requires them to take extra security precautions. Their sign has also been defaced twice in the last 4 months.

Therefore, Humanizing Islam and Muslims is a crucial step in dissipating fear.

I would encourage anyone to take an opportunity to attend an open house at a nearby mosque or initiate a dialog with a Muslim friend/colleague.

[To get in touch with MAPS in Redmond, email them HERE.]