Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NASA reports graphic details of Columbia deaths

NASA reports graphic details of Columbia deaths

I'm glad they released this report. The knowledge about what happened to the Columbia astronauts during reentry may help save lives in the future. I was particularly interested in this:

And in the case of the helmets and other gear, three crew members weren't wearing gloves, which provide crucial protection from depressurization. One wasn't in the seat, one wasn't wearing a helmet and several were not fully strapped in. The gloves were off because they are too bulky to do certain tasks and there is too little time to prepare for re-entry, the report notes.

The fact that the shuttle is designed so poorly that tasks necessary to landing (I assume that's what they mean) can't be performed while the astronauts are wearing their gloves is amazing to me. This is an inexcusable design flaw and it boggles the mind how it happened. However, this is just the kind of thing that future engineers need to keep in mind when designing new vehicles. Hopefully, the release of this report will help stimulate conversation and ideas to make the next generation of space vehicles, both government and private, safer.

I remember the day the Columbia burned up on reentry: February 1, 2003 It was my 33rd birthday. Two days later David Horsey the political cartoonist for the Seattle PI published this cartoon:

It not only explains why we go to space it sums up the reasons why we will always push to explore new frontiers and strive to learn all there is to learn. It is part of what makes us human. If we ever lose that impulse because we are afraid or because its too expensive to we have other priorities then we will have started down the road to our own decline as a people.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nickels' gun ban assailed

Nickels' gun ban assailed

Nickels called for banning guns on city property after a shooting at the Northwest Folklife Festival on May 24 that injured several people. The 22-year-old suspect had a concealed-weapons permit, despite a history of drug abuse and mental health problems.

Although Nickels' proposal is an administrative one, anyone caught bringing a gun to a city park or building could be ticketed or arrested for criminal trespassing.

State Attorney General Rob McKenna issued a decision in October stating that cities cannot pre-empt state gun laws. McKenna said the mayor's proposed restrictions would violate state law blocking cities from enacting gun rules.

I think that this kind of arbitrary gun ban is a bad idea not to mention that it is illegal under state law. Don't get me wrong, I do believe in gun control but this sort of knee-jerk reaction to an isolated incident is wrong. The system failed when it issued the permit to the shooter not when it allows people with legitimate permits to carry weapons.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mental health system ailing

Mental health system ailing

I've long believed that a lot of problems with homelessness and murders like this one can be traced back to the Reagan administration cutting funding for mental health back in the 80s. With less funding many mental health institutions were closed and people with mental health issues went untreated and many who needed to be institutionalized were put out on the streets. These people wouldn't be a threat and indeed many could probably lead fairly normal lives if they had the help they needed but instead they were cut loose and in some cases are a danger to themselves and others.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Voter's Intent and the Hand Recount in MN

I ran across this blog post about the recount in Minnesota a little while back and I thought it was interesting especially since I have a little experience in the area of judging voter intent due to my stint working as a duplicator at King County Elections.

Aside from clerical errors, most if not all of the changes to the ballot total in the MN Senate race will be caused by ballots that weren't counted by the optical scan machines during the first counting process. Optical scan machines will reject ballot or not count votes for a variety of reasons including using pencil to mark the ballot, not filling in the line or bubble enough, circling a candidates name or some other marking method and damage to the ballot that will not allow it to pass through the machine. If a ballot is rejected by the scan machine it it examined to determine the problem and (at least in King County) if the voter's intent can be determined the ballot is duplicated by a team of two people and then run through the scan machine in place of the original.

In my experience the most common problem is using pencil or a light colored ink to fill in the vote. In this case the intent of the voter will be easily determined and the ballot will be duplicated or hand counted with no debate. The next most common problems are damage to the ballot itself and stray marks in the timing lines that run around the edge of the ballot. Again the intent of the voter in these ballots is not generally hard to determine and the votes can be counted with little debate. Where the real trouble begins is when the voter fails to follow directions and doesn't mark the ballot the way the instructions indicate or fail to correct a vote in the correct manner.

The sample challenged ballots in the article on the Minnesota Public Radio blog are mostly of the incorrect marking/correction type. Most of the other challenged ballots seem to be based on the "no identifying marks" rule in the Minnesota Statute governing voter's intent. Like the Washington guide to determining voter's intent a wide latitude is provided. The idea is that if there is ANY reasonable way to determine who the voter wanted to choose that vote should count.

If you haven't done so yet, go to the MPR page and go through the samples. Pay attention to who challenged the vote and on what grounds.

OK, now it seems to my admittedly unbiased eye that the Coleman campaign challenged too many votes where the intent was fairly obvious - mostly cases where the Franken vote wasn't in the bubble but was obviously on the same line or next to Franken's name. The Franken campaign had some dumb challenges as well (#9 on the first page where the mark next to Franken was clearly erased) but they have fewer. Regardless, based on the provided samples I think BOTH campaigns are challenging too many votes and are at least somewhat intentionally disenfranchising Minnesota voters. Again, the Franken people seem to be doing so less than the Coleman folks, but I expected better from them than I do the Republicans who have a history of screwing with elections. If the voter intent is obvious the ballot MUST be counted these ridiculous challenges only serve to delay the outcome and put a shadow over the eventual winner.

The purpose of any election is to determine the will of the people. No matter how you or I feel about a particular candidate or issue a fair election should determine the winner. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that every vote cast is counted if the voter's intent can be reasonably determined. The representatives of both campaigns need to get their heads out of their rear ends and remember this as they go about this tedious but necessary task. Their job as a member of the campaign may be to get their man elected but their first duty as an American is to make sure the election is first and foremost FAIR and ACCURATE.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Joe Lieberman to Dems - You don't have the balls...

How Joe Lieberman Kept His Post

I know I don't understand all of the nuances of the Senate and the Democratic party; but how does this guy keep his chairmanship of one of the most powerful committees?!? Not only did he endorse the REPUBLICAN candidate for President AND go on the road stumping for him simultaneously heavily criticizing Obama, but he was shortlisted for the Republican Veep spot!

Is it just Harry Reid or does the entire Democratic Party have no freakin' cojones? I realize that the Dems need to have as many votes as possible in the Senate to avoid constant "fillibustering" (yes there is a reason it's in quotes) and get Obama's agenda accomplished, but doesn't letting Lieberman get away with doing basically anything he wants kind of erode party discipline? Obviously I am missing something.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Salvation Army Rescinds Benefits to Gay Partners

Salvation Army Rescinds Benefits to Gay Partners

SAN FRANCISCO –– Less than two weeks after Western officials of the Salvation Army decided to extend health benefits to domestic partners in 13 states, the group's national leaders have rescinded the order.

Until this month, the evangelical Christian group offered benefits only to married couples and their dependent children. But leaders of the group's Western Territory said Nov. 1 they would also begin offering benefits to all adult members of an employee's household, including straight and gay partners.

Under the national leaders' decision Monday, the Western Territory will follow the same policy as the rest of the group.

You might want to think about finding an alternative charity to give money to this holiday season. If you are in the Seattle area the Union Gospel Mission provides housing and meals for homeless men and Partners in Hope that helps women. Both of these organizations are religious but neither have given and then taken away benefits to gay employees.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Council approves boost in Metro bus fares

Council approves boost in Metro bus fares

I realize that costs are rising and that Metro's operating expenses are going up due to fuel costs, but at some point the people who NEED to ride the bus to work are going to get priced out of being able to ride it.

When the fare goes up to $2.00 one way or a $4.00 a day commute that will be $20.00 a week for the average commuter. At $8.55/hr (the new minimum wage) or $342 a week that is a cost of 6% or gross pay for transportation. Of course a lot of people working minimum wage jobs don't work the full 40 hour week. Also everyone has social security and medicare taxes are taken out of their paycheck so in reality this is an even larger hit to the working poor than people might think.

Feds consider wild horse euthanasia

Feds consider wild horse euthanasia

This is horrifying. The ranchers keep pushing the horses into a smaller size area so they can expand their cattle herds. Even though the horses aren't really native, they have been here for hundreds of years and have managed to find a place in the ecosystem. They don't deserve to be euthanized.


It looks like the wife of T. Boone Pickens, Madeleine Pickens may be saving the wild mustangs. She wants to buy a million acre ranch and create a place for them to live and for the public to be able to see them. Awesome!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day - Garden of Remembrance

A while back I was walking down 2nd Ave here in Seattle and I happened to notice a little park out in front of Benaroya Hall. I don't know how many times I had walked past it before thinking it was just a part of Benaroya Hall, but this time something caught my eye and I decided to take a look around. Turns out this little park is a memorial to fallen Washington State servicemembers. I spent quite some time at this understated yet powerful memorial humbled by thoughts of people who had sacrificed their lives for our country.

The Garden of Remembrance is crafted from large stones with a fountain running through the center in front of a wall engraved with the names of the fallen separated by war. Trees run through the garden and a small grove stands at one end with two flag poles, one flying the American flag and one the Washington state flag. The most striking part of the memorial is on the north end of the park where they have added a section for the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan. The names carved in the wall are fresh still even though these wars are over 4 years old.

Since today is Veteran's Day I thought it would be a good day to stop by and take a moment to respect the fallen. There weren't many people there when I arrived but at least one person had come today to pay their respects.

From Garden of Remembrance Veteran's Day '08

Here are some photographs I took on this chilly, rainy Seattle afternoon. (more coming)

When you are in Seattle, please take a few minutes to stop by and give a thought or two to some of the people who died to allow our country to be what it is today. Then think if we are doing them justice with how we are taking care of what they have given us.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Howard Dean Stepping Down as Chair of DNC

Dean Prepares To Step Down As DNC Chair

This was expected, Gov. Dean had previously said that he would only serve one term as chair of the Democratic National Committee. And by tradition, President-elect Obama (I love writing that) will choose who he wants to be head of the DNC.

Howard Dean deserves all our our thanks for the bang up job he did. He leaves behind an empowered DNC that has set fund raising records and a Democratic party that has increased in size by hundreds of thousands of people. His 50-State Strategy allowed the Democratic Party to take the majority in the House by capitalizing on the unpopularity of the Iraq War in 2006 and take the majority in the Senate in 2008 by capitalizing on the economic crisis. The 50-State Strategy wasn't the only reason for these gains of course. The underlying unrest in the country was the ultimate cause. However, by implementing the 50-State Strategy Dean and the DNC had people on the ground in the Red States that were already building organizations that could immediately go to work when the opportunity appeared. (Of course Democracy for America helped by training thousands of people to be candidates, managers and staff to give the Dems a pool to pull from.)

If we go back to 2004, Dean was not the pick of Democratic insiders to be the DNC chair. The net roots and the everyday Democrats forced his appointment and gave him the chance to try out his strategy. So, in reality we have the Deaniacs, the net roots, and the grass roots Democrats to thank for winning the majority in both houses of Congress. Suck on that James Carville, Terry McCauliffe and your ilk!

I'm looking forward to seeing where Gov. Dean goes now. Will he get offered a position with Obama? Will he jump into Democracy for America? Or will he take some time off? I'm hoping he dives in somewhere, because even with the gains of the last four years we still need strong, smart and capable people of integrity like Howard Dean to help us get the country back on its feet.

No matter what your do Gov. Dean, thank you. Thanks from a grateful nation and personal thanks from me for kicking me in the ass back in 2004 and inspiring me to get involved.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Wins!

Soon I'm going to try to wrap my brain around what this means for the country but for now I think that President-Elect Obama's acceptance speech kind of sums things up:

Part 1

Part 2

It's funny. When I look at the length of the videos they run for a total of 20 minutes. When I watched it last night it seemed like his speech lasted for only five. It was an amazing speech that hit all of the right notes. This was the eloquence that he showed back in 2004 when he really launched this presidential campaign at the DNC.

And more for me then anything else... the transcript.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled -- Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics -- you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to -- it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington -- it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek -- it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers -- in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House -- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world -- our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down -- we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security -- we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright --tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America -- that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing -- Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time -- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth -- that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

YES! on I-1000 - WIN!

Thanks to everyone that helped out on the Yes on I-1000! campaign. We WON!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Age Check - The Preamble of the Constitution

When you read this do you start to sing?

We the people of the United States, in Order to for a more perfect Union, establish Justice and promote domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those of you who do know why. If you don't, watch this:

School House Rock was awesome! The America Rock series should be shown in all American History and Social Science classes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ATF: Plot to kill Obama is foiled

ATF: Plot to kill Obama is foiled - Decision '08- msnbc.com

I'm surprised that these kind of plots aren't being discovered more with all the hate the right wing is whipping up on Obama. At least this time it is getting more press then the plot discovered this August in Denver which got a single paragraph in ONE of the Seattle newspapers.(You have to page down a bit.) David Niewert's blog Orcinus has a good round up of this incident.

I realize that the vast majority of McCain supporters are just normal people, but vilifying Obama is encouraging the violent nut jobs to come out of the woodwork and is irresponsible on the part of McCain's campaign.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama Tax Calculator

Obama Tax Calculator

Check out this tax calculator. It's pretty cool. This page also has a link to Obama's tax plan, and a comparison of Obama's plan to McCain's. This information is from Obama's official website so take it with whatever size grain of salt you feel necessary.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan Feb 12, 1987 - Aug 6, 2007 - ...he was an American.

He was an American.

I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

Thank you Gen. Powell for so eloquently saying what all true Americans believe.

(h/t Making Light for the link to the photo.)

Colin Powell Coulda Been a Contender but Failed. Can He be a Voice of Reason?

Watch this, or read the transcript here. I suggest you watch it though.

Colin Powell is obviously a highly intelligent, knowledgeable person with an incredible amount of experience. This is the reason I was incredibly disappointed in him when he testified before the U.N. with the infamous "vial of anthrax." I had hoped, at the time, that he was going to be the voice of reason in the Bush Administration. The voice of experience that would temper the rush to war. Unfortunately for the world I was wrong. Up until the U.N. testimony I would have voted for Gen. Powell for president over many Democrats, even given some disturbing incidents in his background. However, after that incident I lost most of my respect and all faith in him.

After watching what he had to say on Meet the Press, he has gained back some of his respect in my eyes. He summed up the current state of politics in this country better than anyone else I have read or watched. If conservatives and Republicans LISTEN to him and try to comprehend what he was saying then maybe there is hope for some kind of ideological compromise to help reunite the country in the not too distant future.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Voter Suppression Fails in Ohio - This Time

High court rejects GOP bid in Ohio voting dispute

This is a good sign. It looks like the Republicans won't be able to kick 200,000 people off the voting rolls in Ohio because they used slightly different forms of their names while registering to vote and say...getting their driver's license or getting their Social Security number. This form of suppression using the Help America Vote Act and other measures is happening all over the country.

Check out this Think Progress article for more information about voter suppression.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

King County Budget Cuts to Hit Heath and Social Services Hard

The Seattle PI reports Health programs take a bitter hit.

While I realize we are facing a potential budget shortfall due to the down turn in the economy, human services funding is exactly the wrong area to make cuts. When times are tough the people who rely on services like food programs, in-home care for the elderly or disabled and county funded charities need help even more. Not only is it altruistic to aid these vulnerable people; on a purely financial basis it is cheaper to keep them comfortable in their own homes instead of ending up in demoralizing group homes or even on the street where more expensive emergency programs will have to take care of them.

If you agree with me please contact Ron Sims, the King County Executive and the King County Council and tell them you want them to preserve the Health and Social Services funding.

Update: My letter to the editor published in the Seattle PI. Look towards the bottom.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Check Your Voter Registration Before Election Day and Other Helpful Tips

The King County Absentee Ballots are being mailed starting on 10/17/08. If you don't get yours within a week or so you might want to check and make sure you are really registered and you have an active registration. ATTENTION: If you aren't currently registered to vote in Washington you CAN still register until 10/20/08. You just have to do it in person at the King County Elections Office in Renton.

Remember you have to have your ballot POSTMARKED by election day, 11/4/08, to have it counted. You also have the option of dropping it off at a ballot collection site; in King County you can go here to find the drop off locations.

If you want to check on your voter registration status you can go to King County Elections Voter Lookup and enter your name and birth date or address and not only will it tell you if you are registered it will give you an online voter's guide with all of the races that will be on your ballot. Alternately (and this is what I prefer) you can go to the Washington State Secretary of State - Personalized Voter Information site and enter your name and birth date. This site will not only give you your registration status but will also give you your voter history for the last 3 years and a much nicer personalized voter guide. Either way, be sure you check one of these sites out before election day whether you are voting absentee or at the polls.

For those of you who are voting at the polls in King County you might want to check out the ID requirements and make sure you know where your polling place is located. You can find your polling place by using the KC Voter Lookup tool I linked to above.

No matter who you are voting please go out and vote; it's the only way our democracy will work the way it was designed. Let's see if we can beat the 83% turnout that the Secretary of State is predicting.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

John Walcott: Truth is not subjective

John Walcott, Washington Bureau Chief of McClatchy, won the first I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. He gave a great acceptance speech that every journalist and future journalist should read.

The current crop of journalists seems to be so obsessed with remaining "unbiased" that they don't do any real journalism; they just parrot what they are told. A true journalist needs to be objective, skeptical and thorough. They should report what is said, but investigate the veracity and call out anyone who is lying. I guess what I'm saying is that we need more old fashioned journalists and less new fangled newscasters and reporters.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Brian Wood & Local

Comic books have changed over the last decade or so bringing a new breed of writer with new ideas to the forefront. Brian Wood is among the best of these new comic book writers out there. His books have ranged from Northlanders an ongoing about Vikings, DMZ another ongoing about a second U.S. Civil War and his recently complete series, Localpublished by Oni Press.

Local is a coming of age book that follows the life of a teen-age girl, Megan, over several years. Each issue of Local featured a different city or part of the country as she travels around briefly settling down before she is forced to move due to the vagaries of her trouble life. The great stories are accented by the incredible detailed art of Ryan Kelly who captures the flavor of each stop in Megan's life and brings a life to the character beyond Wood's scripting. Local is a great read for teens especially girls who might never wander in the medium feeling it is only full of geeky superheroes and nothing else. If you have read Blankets by Craig Thompson and liked it, I guarantee you will love Local.

Local has been published in a great hardbound collection of all 12 issues and includes extra unpublished art. It make a great gift for yourself or for that person in your life that refuses to give the medium a try.

For a video review of Local as well as Gotham Central check out this edition of Fresh Ink from the Attack of the Show website

BTW you should always buy your comics at your Local Comic Book Store. If you live in Seattle it should be Arcane Comics & More in Ballard.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman: A Good Man R.I.P

Paul Newman died yesterday of cancer.

The first Paul Newman movie I saw was Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. My mom is a big Paul Newman and Robert Redford fan and she would always watch it when it came on TV. (This was before VCRs.) As a kid I never liked the ending, but as an adult I could see that, of course, there was no other way for that movie to end. I went on to watch other great Paul Newman movies like Cool Hand Luke, The Color of Money and The Sting but I've always love BC & TSK the best. Paul Newman was a really good actor, but I think where he made his best contribution to the world was in his charity work.

Way back in 1982 Newman and A.E. Hotchner started up a company to sell salad dressing that they had come up with. Newman's Own was set up to sell the salad dressing and pledged to donate all of their profits to charity. Their motto is "Shameless exploitation for the Common Good." I may be wrong but I think this was the first time a company was created with the sole purpose of making money to do good. I find that incredibly inspirational and one of a few things that restores my faith in humanity.

Over the next 25 years Newman's Own expanded to over a hundred different products (mostly organic/free trade and made in America) and gave over $250 million to charities including the Hole in the Wall Camps which he founded for children with life threatening illnesses. I'm a big fan of the Newman's Own food (especially the salsa and pasta sauce) and a bigger fan following the fun Newman seemed to have coming up with products and stories for the labels (in the first few years anyway). Its pretty incredible to think that a couple of people could put so much effort into creating something that would only profit them by giving them the satisfaction of helping others.

I know this is a kind of rambling post but I'm pretty sad today. A good man died but he does leave a legacy that will go on to help people for years to come. Good bye Mr. Newman, you were a good man.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What do Treasury Sec. Paulson and Klinger have in common?

You absolutely MUST go look at this bailout proposal and call your representatives.

All other points aside, the fact that they are trying to push Section 8 (below) boggles the mind.

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Those of us who are old enough to have watched MASH will probably remember that Klinger was crossdressing to try to get out of the Army on a Section 8 which is a psychological discharge.

Well you'd have to be insane to allow the Sec.8 above to be passed into law. Basically it says that the Treasury Secretary can do anything he wants and be subject to ABSOLUTELY NO review. None! So we hand over $700 Billion and say go for it dude! The Democrats won't let this pass into law. They cannot and have any shred of intelligence left in their brains.

Progressive Conditions for a Bailout

Here are some good ideas from Dean Baker over at TPM Cafe'.

Progressive Conditions for a Bailout

If we are going to bail out Wall Street, and I think we have to, we need to make sure the people who got us into trouble in the first place don't profit. We also need to make sure we put conditions on the money that makes sure that we have some control over the companies we are bailing out so we can at some point put some of this money back into the treasury; or at least pay back China for buying the T-bills or bonds or whatever they will be buying to give us the money for the bailout. Finally, the bailout must include legislation to put back the regulations like the Glass Steagall Act that were created as a result of the crash that caused the Great Depression. Personally I think that most of the problems this country has can be traced back to allowing mega-corporations to be created starting back in the '80s when the Reagan Administration stopped enforcing the anti - trust laws for the most part.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What Digby Said...

Ok, I'm stealing a tag line from Atrios over at Eschaton, but this post from Hullabaloo:

It's one thing to tell 23 years-olds that they get to have fun with their social security taxes. They are young and dumb and don't have clue about saving. But once people get into their 30s and have kids and old parents they start to think about the future.

is pretty much said what I thought when the shit started hitting the fan in Wall Street and Mr. McPrivatization started talking about our economy be fundamentally strong. Well, the first thing was, "See...see you dumb asses! THAT'S why we shouldn't invest our Social Security in the stock market."

The thing that really kills is one of my friends looked at me when I said this and replied, "Yeah but I still think we need to invest the SS money in something like mutual funds." This friend is really a fairly normal, intelligent guy but somehow he had some kind of disconnect in his brain that mutual funds were actually a collection of various investments including stocks and that they would almost assuredly would get hit by the same economic problems that would crash the stock market.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Hooray for grass roots activists the American Chemical Council

Well it looks like the American Chemistry Council/Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax got enough signatures to get a question on the ballot for next August.

The 20-cent bag fee for paper and plastic bags in Seattle will not take effect on Jan. 1. A referendum campaign to hold a citywide election on the fee has collected enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot next year.

In response, the city has decided to delay implementing the law until the vote can take place. Well I agree with the delay, it would be a waste of time and money to start up a program to support the law when it will most likely be overturned 8 months later. Bully for the plasti-holics.


I found this bit interesting (bolding mine):

The King County elections division on Monday verified the anti-fee coalition had collected 15,099 valid signatures out of 22,292 submitted. A referendum required 14,374, or 8 percent of the ballots cast in the last mayoral election. According to election records, the coalition spent $180,625 collecting signatures.

I have no idea what the normal percentage of invalid signatures is, but 23% seems awfully high. In fact, they only made the number they needed by 725 signatures. That's a pretty close margin.

As a comparison a statistical sample of the signatures gathered by I-1000 had about 10% disqualified although that is admittedly for a statewide initiative which may affect the percentage of invalid signatures. I don't know if I have a point here, just musing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

$180,625 to Fight 20-cent Bag Fee

The American Chemistry Council is apparently very committed to getting the Seattle bag tax/fee repealed. They have invested about $180,000 or about $8.00 a signature to get a repeal on the ballot in the next election. It looks like they are fighting it as well as fighting a similar fee proposal in the California State Legislature.

I've addressed this issue twice before and it's getting on my nerves more and more. This devastating fee or tax (I'm not sure when it changed to a fee from a tax) is entirely avoidable by investing in a set of reusable cloth or canvas bags. Seriously. All you have to do is go out and buy yourself some reusable bags. A $5.00 investment or less will do you for almost all of your shopping need and will have a positive environmental impact. In fact as a part of this new law Seattle is planning on giving out at least one free reusable bag to everyone in Seattle (the exact details of this plan haven't been forthcoming though and that is a bit worry some.)

It is true that even $5.00 is a trial to people who are only just making it or even not making it well. What I'd like to see is one of the local environmental groups get some money together and bulk buy bags to distribute in the lower income areas of the city. Something like this would eliminate what I see as the only legitimate objection to this fee/tax.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rachel Maddow Gets A Show on MSNBC... YAY!

Rachel Maddow: MSNBC's New Voice - TIME - Check it out and best of all she brought back Kent Jones!

Rachel Maddow is probably the smartest of the progressive radio hosts on the air today and that includes Thom Hartmann who is truly a genius in many ways.

I've been listening to Rachael Maddow since her show Unfiltered with Lizz Winstead and Chuck D. What I think sets her apart from Thom and all the other radio hosts is the way she seems to take seemingly disparate facts and come up with logical conclusions that I, and probably most people, never would have. I also like the way she seems to stay really grounded in reality, likes to talk about making cocktails, she reads comic books and she has never failed to make us keep the crap going on in Iraq in the front of our minds.

Congratulations Rachel. Go forth and make people smarter.

edit - Looks like her ratings are kicking ass too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Much Ado About a 20 cent Fee You Can Easily Avoid

I addressed the proposed 20 cent bag tax that Seattle finally ended up passing in July here. Since then apparently a petition drive has been organized by the Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax. To this end they have gathered over 20,000 signatures to get an initiative on the ballot. They need 14,374 valid signature to get on the ballot so with the 20K they probably have the buffer they need to get into the next election after the November 4, 2008 election. There has been a minor controversy about the use of paid signature gatherers that may be lying about the petition being PRO bag tax and not ANTI to collect signatures. The CtStSBT is apparently mainly a front for the American Chemistry Council which is the lobbying arm of the plastics industry. The ACC picked up most of the costs of the paid signature gatherers and the web site linked to above.

Personally I am kind of amuse by the hysteria of the CtStSBT and their frantic attempt to stop the bag tax from going into effect. It seems to me the arguments against the bag tax can be boiled down into:

1) Its an unfair burden on the poor. It will cost them $300 a year that they can't afford.
While its true that poor people can ill afford to lose $300 to a bag tax all they really have to do is invest $5.00 in some reusable bags that will last them for years. I'm pretty sure that Seattle is going to be sending out free reusable bags in the near future anyway.

2)The City's own research shows that 91% of Seattle's citizens reuse or recycle their bags.

Hey that's great. We Seattlites always have been good recyclers, it's good to know that we are really kicking ass on reusing/recycling our plastic bags. I don't know what percentage reuse as opposed to recycle but it would be better for the environment and more energy efficient for the recycled bags to never have been made in the first place. I reuse my plastic grocery bags as garbage bags and to scoop kitty litter but I'm not going to freak out if I have to start buying garbage bags or some other small plastic bags to use instead.

This next one I've seen in the PI Sound Off section a couple of times (go down a few comments) but not on any anti-bag tax web sites:

3) The bag tax is a health hazard.
Seattle bag tax is health hazard especially for low income families. When meat is carried home in a reusable bag one day (and it leaks) and then vegetables are carried home the next day you get cross contamination. With reusable bags, you create a breeding ground for bacteria which will quickly build up to extremely dangerous levels (especially if the bags are kept in warm areas between uses) which can also contaminate other customers food items. Since the poor are less likely to pay the 20 cent bag tax, they are the ones most at risk - as well as those who are buying groceries behind them.

Ok, I'm no expert on bacteria, or leaking meat containers but this argument just seems silly to me. If meat leaking on vegetables was a huge health hazard I think we would have heard about massive outbreaks of death by now. I have been reusing both paper bags and cloth bags for a while now and I haven't noticed any meat leakage or any bacterial growth so far. I also figure if I my cloth bags got messy I'd just, well... clean them.

Look, I'm not a huge proponent of the bag tax but it seems to be a step in the right direction. I mean how many more people recycle now that it is mandatory then when it was a voluntary program. Even when it was voluntary the city "encouraged" people to recycle by making the recycle pick-up fees cheaper than regular garbage. Sometimes people have to be guided into doing the right thing. The plastic bag tax is not incredible burdensome and all you have to do to avoid it is to bring your own bag when you go grocery shopping. I think its a small price to pay to take a small step towards reducing waste and encouraging people to step out of the "disposable mindset" we find ourselves in these days.

Oh yeah and I'm also pretty cynical about the involvement of the American Chemical Council who's motives seem to by quite transparent.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A State Income Tax

I think it is about time for Washington State to adopt a state income tax. I know the thought of paying "more taxes" always makes people hit the panic button and freak out. I think that if people would sit down and really think about it they would see that it could be a good thing for both them and the state if handled properly.

First lets consider a few things:

1) Right now most of the state income comes from the 6.5% sales tax (plus most cities have their own sales tax).
2) Sales tax is an inherently regressive tax.
3) Although food is exempt from sales tax other necesseties like clothing are not.
4) The gas tax weighs heavily on the less wealthy because they cannot afford to live close to their jobs as rents push them away from city centers. I'm not saying that we should reduce the gas tax but reducing other tax burdens would help the poor deal with this.

Now I'm not for doing away with the sales tax and replacing it with a state income tax but I think we should be able to reduce the sales tax and replace the lost revenue with an income tax that is more progressive. The state income tax should probably have the first say $20,000 for a single adult $28,000 for a couple and x% more for each kid would be tax exempt and then a small income tax would kick in above that level. I'm just pulling those numbers out with a SWAG but they could be adjusted based on the state poverty level somehow to make sure the poor aren't burdened more then they are now.

King County Executive Ron Sims had a plan to introduce a state income tax back in 2004 when he was running in the primary for Governor but his plan would have abolished the state sales tax all together and replaced it with a graduated income tax that would have been the highest in the country.

I thinks a combined approach of the sales tax and a small income tax focussed mainly on the upper middle and upper class would be the best way to go.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What the Hell?

I got a full color glossy 9"x20" (roughly) folded advertisement in the mail today from the Washington State Democratic Central Committee. The front page is a heart rending photo of a little girl in a field of boots, rifles and helmet representing soldiers killed in Iraq and the text, "Five Years, 4,000 lives lost." Open to the middle and it says in a bold headline" Can we end the endless war?" over a two page photo of two people dressed in fatigues holding their children (again a heart rending photo.) So far so good, I'm thinking this is some kind of ad for Obama or some national group that is against the occupation. Inside the photo, however, is "Vote Democratic in the August 19th Primary" and under the photo is "Don't wait until November. Send a powerful message right now from Washington State that can be heard loud and clear in the other Washington." the back of the ad list the candidates for Governor, AG, State Treasurer and Lands Commissioner that are supported by the Democratic party.

What the hell? They are playing the "War Card" to push people in Washington State to vote for Democrats? Look, I think the Iraq Occupation has been a debacle, but I want to know what the hell that has to do with voting Democratic in the Washington State Primary. With the possible exception of the Governor how the hell does voting Democratic in the Washington State Primary:
(1) send ANY kind of message to the "Other Washington" and (2) have anything to do with the Iraq Occupation - at all.

The candidates that the Washington State Democratic Central Committee is pushing in the mailer are important in the state. They set policy and have a lot to do with keeping the state one of the most progressive in the country. But, if the WSDCC had the money to send out a four page glossy full color advertisement why did they waste it on Iraq Occupation Mongering instead of tackling important STATE issues like Transportation, the projected Budget Deficit, Forest Conservation, problems with our Voting System, or expanding the use of Alternative Energy in the state. You know issues that these elected officials can do something about. What the Hell?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Intellectual Dishonesty or Just Dumb

I've seen a lot of conservative blog posts about how stupid Obama is because he said that keeping our tires inflated would save us "all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling?" Most of them seem to be based on this Powerlineblog post.

This post says:

Just for fun, I did the math. Properly inflating your tires can improve gas mileage by 3%. Of course, many people already keep their tires properly inflated, and many more are at least close to being properly inflated. Let's be generous and assume that one-half of the total possible savings would be realized if we all inflated our tires properly; that's a net gain of 1.5% fuel efficiency.

Americans drive approximately 2,880 billion miles per year. If we average 24 mpg, we use around 120 billion gallons of gasoline in our vehicles. If, through perfect tire inflation, we improved our collective fuel efficiency by 1.5%, that would be 1.8 billion gallons. A barrel of oil produces around 20 gallons of gasoline, so the total savings available through tire inflation is approximately 90,000,000 barrels of oil annually.

How does this stack up against "all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling?"

ANWR: 10 billion barrels
Outer Continental Shelf: 18 billion barrels (estimated; the actual total is undoubtedly much higher, since exploration has been banned)
Oil shale: 1 trillion barrels

So, on the above assumptions, it would take only 11,308 years of proper tire inflation to equal "all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling."

Here is a list of inaccuracies and problems I found with the post:

(1) The largest problem I see is that the author threw Oil Shale into his calculations. You don't DRILL for oil shale, you MINE it. Am I being nit-picky? I don't think so, Obama clearly states that he is talking about drilling for oil NOT all possible oil reserves. It seems to me that the author is just adding the oil shale numbers in to exaggerate his number for the years that it would take for proper tire inflation to equal "all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling?"

(2) The second problem I see is in his assumptions. He says blithely that half of all people probably keep their tires inflated properly. Well, in 10 seconds worth of Googling I found this story on MSNBC which says:
A RMA survey found that each month three out of four drivers wash their car, but only about one in five correctly checks tire pressure, while more than 80 percent of drivers do not know how to properly check tire pressure.

With the amount of research the author did on other numbers maybe he could have spent 10 seconds researching a number which would significantly change his results. (80% vs 50%)

(3) If you listen to Obama you will actually hear him say:
Making sure your tires are properly inflated – simple thing. But we could save all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling – if everybody was just inflating their tires? And getting regular tune-ups? You’d actually save just as much!

Note that he said "regular tune-ups." If we go to the Federal government's Fuel Economy website we find that regular tune-ups improve gas mileage an average of 4%. We also find that regular car maintenance items like using the correct oil could improve mileage up to 2% and keeping your air filter clean could help up to 10%.

Lets do a little math now that we have cleared up some...lets call them overlooked items or mistakes. Pulling the numbers from the blog to keep things consistent we have:

Annual miles driven by Americans 2,880 billion
Average fuel efficiency 24 mpg
Give us a usage of 120 billion gallons of gas a year.
One barrel of oil = 20 gallons of gas
120 billion gallons of gas = 6 billion barrels of oil a year
Fuel savings for tire inflation 3% x .8 = 2.4% added to savings for keeping your engine tuned 4% x .8 = 3.2% for a total savings of 5.7%

6 billion x 5.7% = 342,000,000 barrels of oil a year.

That's quite a bit more than the 90 million the author of the post came up with. Now if we add the oil we can DRILL out of ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf we have a total of 28 billion barrels of oil.

28 billion / 342 million = about 82 years NOT 11,308

To put this into further perspective we should look at how fast we can access ANWR and Outer Continental Shelf oil.

According to this article on MSNBC if we gave the oil companies the go ahead to drill in ANWR now oil would start pumping by 2013 and peak at 876,000 barrels of oil a day in 2025. Let me guess that if we will average pumping 500,000 barrels a day over the life of the ANWR oil reserves to that means we will be pumping oil for about 55 years until it is tapped out. If we assume a similar time line for the Outer Continental Shelf oil then the 82 year I calculated above doesn't seem like a crazy number especially since I didn't include any savings for using the right oil and clean air filters.


Look, I'm no energy expert or petroleum engineer but I do have a mechanical engineering background and a pretty decent BS detector. You can take numbers, make grand assumptions and get any result you want especially if you selectively quote your source and then throw in "facts" that don't apply. I laid out my case and I think you will come to the same conclusion that I did. The Blogline poster is either intellectually dishonest or just plain dumb.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Critical Mass - Cool Idea But Lousy Execution

Critical Mass is a group that organizes a large bicycle rides to assert bicycle riders rights to use the roads. In theory this is a great idea but in practice I think it does little but inspire irritation and hatred for bicycle riders in general. Today in Seattle, it even sparked an avoidable incident.
For years, bicyclists involved with Critical Mass have gathered monthly to ride through Seattle streets in a show of support for the rights of bicyclists. For the most part, Seattle police have taken a hands-off approach to the riders, although the protest tactics include filling the streets with bikes, putting a stop to vehicular traffic.

The riders were employing such a tactic just as the motorist and his companion were about to drive off, Jamieson said.

"The bicyclists were using both sides of the roadway, effectively blocking traffic," he said.

An altercation with the driver ensued and some of those on bikes began sitting on his car and hitting the vehicle, Jamieson said.

The driver tried to back up, he said, and struck a bike.

Bicyclists began attacking the vehicle.

"They broke his windshield and they broke the rear window and did some additional body damage," Jamieson said.

The article doesn't say the bicycle rider that was backed into was seriously hurt so I imagine it was just scrapes and bruises. The surrounding bicyclists could have done the responsible thing and written down the license plate number of the car, help their fellow bicyclist and maybe even block the car in so he couldn't leave until they could get Seattle PD to come. Instead, they decided to become a mob and assault the driver and damage his car.

The driver needs to be held accountable for his actions but the militant bike riders should also be held accountable for theirs. This is the kind of incident that damages the reputation of Critical Mass and the cause they are fighting for. It's similar to the eco-terrorists (I do hate that term) that do more harm than good for environmentalist causes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

$750,000 Buys a LOT of Arugula, Even at Whole Foods

CNN's Hardball, without Chris Matthews had a fascinating segment last Friday on whether Barak Obama is too cool. The segment was basically a rehash of whether Obama is too "elitist" to understand what its like to be an average American. I suppose this may be a legitimate question. Everybody wants a president that is in touch with the day to day problems that we encounter: the price of food, increasing gas prices and the like. However, instead of having a real discussion of the topic the one of the Hardball panel members, Margaret Carlson, tries to make the point that both candidates wives are out of touch citing Cindy McCain's one month $750,000 credit card bill and the fact that Michelle Obama mentioned shopping at Whole Foods for arugula and how hard it is to get fresh fruit. (h/t Crooks & Liars) She says this seemingly very seriously and without irony. Her fellow panel members don't protest her comparison they just kind of snicker in the background when she says "arugula."

Now let me get this straight. Michelle Obama worries about high food prices when she shops at Whole Foods for arugula and fresh fruit and this makes her as elitist and out of touch as Cindy McCain who runs up a $750,000 credit card bill in a month? You have got to be kidding me!

Look, I don't buy arugula, but I do shop at Whole Foods for organic fruits and vegetables when I can afford it. Whole Foods is expensive but spending $5.00 a pound for lettuce or whatever doesn't make you an elitist it makes you someone who likes a kick ass fresh salad. Practically everyone goes food shopping and worries about prices but when was the last time you had a $750,000 credit card bill?

I hate the word 'elitist" but if you are going to apply it to one person in this scenario it sure as hell isn't going to be Michelle Obama. This is one of many examples of the media trying to make a controversy or create a story where one doesn't exist. It's really sad that they spend their time on this type of thing instead of comparing what the candidates are saying or doing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Prison Ships and Prison Hulks the Irony Isn't Lost

According to the Guardian the U.S. military has apparently been holding terror suspects on prison ships to keep the suspects away from prying eyes:

The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

This is more than a bit ironic since the historic basis of our country treating prisoner of war decently started with George Washington who was appalled at the treatment of American POWs including being held in prison hulks

The Bush Administration has this uncanny ability to tear apart the very foundations that has made the United States an example of democracy and a force for good to much of the world. It almost seems like they are doing in on purpose.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


An article/opinion piece in the latest Eat the State reminded me of a fairly recent (March 4) incident where a housing development of large (4200 sqf.) homes in Woodinville, WA was burned down. A banner with an environmental slogan against the homes signed with the letters ELF was found at the arson site. Authorities assume that this indicated that the Earth Liberation Front was responsible for setting the fires. As far as I know ELF has never taken responsibility for this arson nor has any other proof been found to link them but that is a story for another day.

I don't agree with eco-terrorism or so called anarchists that think by damaging, destroying or threatening they can "fix" the world (for whatever values of fixed they use.) Although this kind of action can bring attention to their cause I think in the end it turns public opinion against their cause. Now, either the people who commit these acts don't agree with me or they just don't care. They are selfishly making their point to the detriment of those that are trying to work within the system to solve the same problems like Global Climate Change, the unfair practices of the WTO or suburban sprawl like in the Woodinville arson.

The article in Eat the State accused all of us "Mommies and Daddies" of not giving a fuck because we are all evil baddies that worship materialism and don't care about ruining the planet. The author, Jason Miller, goes on to praise ELF for burning down the homes in Woodinville because they represented a "rape" of the planet. Now, I'm not a big fan of huge mansions or housing developments built on land that may be ecologically sensitive, but I think in this case the bigger "rape" of the planet was the damage to the environment done by the fire, the effort to put out the fire and the fact that the builder could just take their insurance money and rebuild the homes thus using twice the materials originally needed. Even worse, in some ways, this incident gives the conservatives a chance to paint all environmentalists as eco-terrorists. 

I'm not so naive as to think that protests and civil disobedience aren't necessary tools of chance but I think the positive impact that they generate are based on the willingness of people to PEACEFULLY disagree en mass and be willing to pay the price; by which I mean jail time or fines not police violence. The average American respects someone willing to stand up for what they believe in even if they disagree with their cause. They don't respect violence or property damage because they will empathize with those who have been victimized rather than the perpetrators.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Neville Chamberlain

What did you think of when you saw the post title: Neville Chamberlain? What if I through in the word "appeasement?"

Why am I asking? Well first some background. Apparently President Bush is attempting to slap Barack Obama (not explicitly mentioning his name mind you) with the label of appeaser based on Obama's desire to talk with Hamas to help make some settlement to bring peace between the Palestinians and Israel. He even made a comparison between Obama and Neville Chamberlain appeasing Hitler. You can check out the video here (via Crooks and Liars) along with some commentary from MSNBC talking heads.

So back to the question. I asked it because a GOP operative trotted out the Republican talking points of calling Obama an appeaser like Chamberlain on Hardball with Chris Matthews. Now, I'm not a Chris Matthews fan but I was impressed when he asked the guy what Chamberlain did that made him an appeaser. The GOP operative was of course clueless because they didn't include that information in his talking points for the day.

I was enjoying the roasting of the GOPer when I thought to myself what DID Chamberlain do exactly to get the label of appeaser. I wracked my brain for a second and then I thought "I think it was let Hitler get away with invading Czechoslovakia with out any consequences." Well I was at least very close. Then I wondered how many Americans could really come up with the guess I did and would just say "Yeah appeaser." with no thought to what it really meant.

Chamberlain was an appeaser because he allowed Hitler to take and take with no repercussions. Negotiating with an opponent is obviously NOT appeasement. It is a way to solve problems as Bush well knows (cough) North Korea (cough) Axis of Evil (cough). Sometimes the hypocrisy of the Bush administration drives me crazy.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Actually Republicans DO Have Horns Growing Out Of Their Heads They Just File Them Down

or Overheard At The Coffee Shop

I like to write at coffee shops. Getting out of the house or the office helps me focus on my writing instead of the television, chores that need to be done or other distractions.

Coffee shops can also provide a good source of material for rants, blog posts, fiction and articles. Today, for example I was sitting at Zeitgeist in Pioneer Square just drinking my latte (no I don't wear Birkenstocks) and doing a little bit of writing when three guys sat down at the next table and started talking a bit too loudly. I was doing a pretty good job of ignoring them until one of them said...

"...a Republican and you don't have horns growing out of your head."

That got me thinking, and you know what... Republicans DO have horns growing out of their head most of them just file them down. For example:

FOX News: Files their horns down with "Fair and Balanced"
Bill O'Reilly: "No Spin Zone"
John McCain: "Straight Talk Express"
George W. Bush: Good ol' boy, man of the pepple, werkin' at his ranch
Dick Cheney: ...wait you can actually SEE his horns if you squint just right.

My point is that Republicans get upset when people see them as evil bastards but they don't do anything to disavow themselves of the elements of their party that are either pretty damn evil or are evil enablers; you know "the guy who runs in to the convenience store to get Satan a pack of cigarettes."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Paper, Plastic or Neither

The mayor of Seattle and the city council president recently announced a plan to impose a 20-cent-per-bag "green fee" tax on paper and plastic bags distributed at grocery, convenience and drug stores. This tax is supposed to be an effort reduce garbage and encourage people to use reusable cloth bags when they do their shopping. The revenue from the tax is supposed to go to "to administer and enforce the rules, to buy and promote reusable bags, and to expand recycling, environmental education and waste prevention programs."

I am very much in favor of people using cloth bags to do their shopping. I also feel a tax or fee is a good way to encourage the uses of cloth or other reusable bags as long as the revenue is REALLY used for environmental programs. I am concerned that the revenue will just get siphoned off into the general fund and the program will just turn into a revenue generator like 2 MPH over the speed limit speeding tickets and picking one guy out of a crowd jay walking tickets. Just call me paranoid I guess.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Aftermarket LEGO parts- Gun, Grenades and "Bandits"

Aftermarket LEGOs Accessories - Guns, Grenades and "Bandits"

I'll admit that I own a lot of LEGOs. I used to be a LEGO addict until, like many addicts, price made me go cold turkey. I love the castle sets, the Star Wars sets (you'll never see me with a LEGO Jar Jar though), and best of the the big old box of miscellaneous bricks in every shape, size and color.

When I was a kid my brother and I used to spend hours making demolition derby cars and smashing them against each other. LEGO bricks would fly, and be reassembled into new designs to see what would be best to withstand the impact. I also used to make fleets of space ships to save the galaxy from evil invaders and LEGO blasters to shoot Storm Troopers and other bad guys.

The most fun I had with LEGOs was making forts and terrain to use with my army men. You know the old green and gray plastic guys with the not-to-scale tanks and cannons. Hours passed while I fought and re-fought battles where the good guys always won and the bad guys got their just deserts.

Of course thinking about those days long past makes me feel old and out of touch. Now you can buy aftermarket LEGO WW II Marines, US Army Soldiers, German Army Soldiers, Space Marines, and more from Brick Arms. They come with a dizzying array of fairly accurately modeled machine guns, hand grenades, blaster rifles and even an Uzi concealed in a briefcase for "Bond Spy." If you want to outfit your regular LEGO guys with guns well you can buy those individually or in sets. The Black Knight doesn't stand a chance if you outfit the good guys with a case of hand grenades.

The little kid in me thinks this stuff is amazing and pretty damn cool. The adult in me thinks they are just a little bit disturbing especially the middle eastern terrorist looking "Bandit." I guess that it hits a little too close to reality for my LEGO enjoyment.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Why Tuesday?

Why Tuesday?

I listen to Air America quite a bit. I mostly listen to Thom Hartmann and Rachael Maddow, but I will have it on the in background just to break the silence. I tend to absorb interesting information and trivia through osmosis even when I'm not really LISTENING per se.

Lately a couple of different shows have had on people from Why Tuesday? on to discuss their organization. Why Tuesday? is and organization dedicated to improving our democracy by increasing voter participation. (The United States is ranked in the bottom third of all industrialized countries in voter participation.) One of the avenues they are pursuing to increase voter turnout is to get a discussion going on why we still have elections on Tuesdays.

Apparently the reason we started having elections on the first Tuesday in November was it was the end of harvest season and people would be free to travel to the polling locations. This obviously isn't a relevant reason in modern America because not only are we an increasingly urban society, modern farmers have the ability to jump in their truck and drive to their poling location without too much bother.

So Why Tuesday? The most benign reason I can think of is simply tradition. We have had our elections on Tuesday for so long people don't even think about it. If this is the case then it should be fairly simple to change the day to a weekend to help increase voter participation. A less benign reason is that there is a conscious effort to suppress voter participation by making it inconvenient to vote. Surpressing voter participation would not only benefit the more conservative elements of government (check out this video) but also would probably to favor ANY incumbent. This would be a reason why more liberal lawmakers might be against moving Election Day.

One objection to moving Election Day to the weekend is that people might blow off voting for their regular weekend leisure activities. I think this argument may have some merit. I know I tend to sleep in and relax on weekends, so it might be worthwhile exploring another alternative. Making Election Day a National Holiday.

Making Election Day a national holiday would cut many people free from work and giving them more time to make it to the polls. I suppose an argument could be made that having a holiday would have a similar effect to moving Election Day to a weekend, but I think it wouldn't because people wouldn't be used to slacking off on a weekday even if it was a holiday (as long as they didn't move it to a Monday to get the 3-day weekend.) There would of course be the same conservative/incumbant push against the holiday. But, the advantage of making Election Day a holiday is that it would probably be an easier sell to people than moving it in the face of the inertia of tradition and heck who doesn't want another holiday.

Why Tuesday? is leading an effort to improve voter turnout by challenging what really amounts to government tradition. I think we really need to be doing more of this kind of thing. The government shouldn't do thing because its the way we have always done it. That is a good way to keep our country hidebound, and at only 230 years old we are way to young for that.