Temper Tantrum Taints City Council
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 3:13 am // Dick Conoboy[Note: This article was written by NWCitizen regular contributor, Dick Conoboy and by Anne Mackie, a community activist for 50 years. Her first encounter with authoritarianism was in…
Fri, Aug 26, 2016, 4:59 am // Ralph Schwartz
Apparently, Bellingham police are unhappy with criticism stemming from the ongoing wave of cops killing black people.
One Bellingham officer, Michael de Ruiter, penned an op-ed for The Bellingham Herald last month that expressed his displeasure. He said he spoke for himself, not the department, but added that his colleagues shared his thoughts.
After 24 years in a job he took in order to make a difference, Officer de Ruiter wrote, "I sometimes wonder if I would make the choice again. It seems easier not to care when we’re understaffed, overworked, vilified by many media sources, and targeted."
(The piece appeared in the newspaper on July 24 but was newer than that to me. I first saw it last week, when the police posted it on the Nextdoor social media site for my neighborhood. Police use Nextdoor to expand their presence in neighborhoods.)
De Ruiter's op-ed appeared in the Herald less than three weeks after five Dallas police officers were slain by a man many observers connected with the Black Lives Matter movement, so it's easy to see why de Ruiter said he has felt "targeted" lately.
It's important to emphasize that the cop killer, Micah Johnson, did not share the Black Lives Matter movement's values. The picture emerging of Johnson is not of an activist turned violent but an Iraq War veteran who suffered symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder but didn't get the diagnosis or the help he needed.
“Black Lives Matter has never, ever called for the murder of police officers,” Alicia Garza told MSNBC the day after the Dallas police slayings. “We are not anti-police. We are anti our people being murdered in the streets. What happened to Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge, July 5, 2016), what happened to Philando [Castile] (Minnesota, July 6, 2016), what happens to so many black people in our communities is absolutely unacceptable, and I think that’s something that we can all agree on.”
It was disappointing to glean from de Ruiter's piece that police feel victimized in this epidemic of black people dying at their hands. The victim tag doesn't sit well on the police, who always have the upper hand in interactions with the public. There is ample evidence that police can and do abuse that advantage, often with fatal results. De Ruiter would have painted a more sympathetic picture if he would have admitted the Bellingham Police Department and other departments around the U.S. need to look at themselves with a cold, rational eye and fix the systemic problems that cause the pointless deaths of so many black people.
“What we have said over and over again is that it is time in this country for policing to be accountable, transparent and responsible," Garza told MSNBC. "That’s not rhetoric. That is what communities in the United States want to see from the people who protect and serve them. And so quite frankly, we can, at the same time as we grieve the loss of life of several officers who were killed last night, we can also push to demand that there be accountable, responsive, transparent policing that has oversight from communities and that is accountable to the communities they are supposed to protect and serve.”
Thu, Aug 25, 2016, 5:00 am // Tip Johnson
In the theory of market economics, government involvement should be limited to providing services the private sector can’t profitably or reliably provide. Obamacare may be inexorably proving the need for a national health plan, despite ardent denials from both presidential candidates.
Truth-out.org (among others) reports that “2,000 Doctors Agree With Bernie Sanders on Universal Health Care”.
“Last week, the American Journal of Public Health carried a proposal by a working group of more than 2,000 physicians nationwide titled: "Moving Forward from the Affordable Care Act to a Single-Payer system”
“In 2014…more than half of all overdue debts on credit reports were medical.” Far from the goal of encouraging providers to “improve coordination and efficiency”, Obamacare has actually led to “…the consolidation of hospitals and physicians’ practices into giant systems with the market leverage to demand higher prices…”
A National Health Plan “would shrink administrative costs…freeing up nearly $500 billion annually for expanded and improved coverage.” “Significant sums would also be saved by allowing the NHP to negotiate with drug companies over prices, as do universal health programs in other advanced nations.” Only the “greater efficiency and simplicity” of a national health plan can “curb inflation in health costs, so that cost savings would grow with time.”
And this doesn't even address the long-term savings from a system that includes incentives for preventative care - something starkly absent from a system built around rollicking enrollment changes and fluctuating plans.
The authors suggest that payments to health care facilities should be handled more like cities fund fire departments, eliminating per-patient billing and diverting operating funds away from profit and advertising toward modernization and expansions targeted to community needs. As for health care choices, the authors say that Obamacare has created more narrow networks in a system that increasingly limits choice and disrupts therapeutic relationships as consumers shop each enrollment cycle for more affordable care. A national health plan would eliminate such disruption and provide consumers better choices for care.
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 5:01 am // Dick Conoboy
A short while ago I wrote about (here) the Guardian newspaper reaching out to Uber drivers to obtain information on their experiences with the parent company. Now it appears that treatment of drivers by Uber will eventually be moot as the company intends to move to autonomous vehicles beginning in Pittsburgh. Goodbye to the Uber version of the gig economy...unless you are a robot. Guardian reporter Julia Carrie wong writes (here), "Uber has not specified how many autonomous vehicles it plans to roll out in Pittsburgh, but state law requires a licensed driver to be seated behind the wheel of any vehicle, autonomous or not. So the cars will still have a human driver in the front seat – for now." Nevertheless, this is a great demonstration of the company's "f*ck the worker" attitude. Granted this rollout may take well over a decade but the message of the company is clear, the only good worker is one that does not have to be paid.
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 5:00 am // David Camp
The federal government through the FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) sets standards for financial reporting by corporate, non-profit, and governmental entities. This includes the requirement for independent audit by licensed Certified Public Accountants. It’s a serious business and the penalties for producing financial statements without a clean opinion (“in our opinion these financial statements present fairly…”) is harsh – a public company is delisted by the SEC if its financials are not blessed by the auditors; a 501(c)iii will have its license to accept tax-deductible donations yanked by the IRS. A bad audit is bad for business – and for a career!
Except for federal government entities, it appears. The financial statements for the entire federal government have not had a clean audit opinion since 1996. Why? Because the financial statements produced by the federal government do not follow the rules they insist everybody else follow. I learned of this at a tax conference in 1998 from David Walker, Comptroller-General from 1998 to 2008. The Comptroller General of the United States is the bi-partisan, appointed director of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). They are a legislative branch agency established by Congress in 1921 to ensure the fiscal and managerial accountability of the federal government.
According to the Comptroller-General’s audit report of 2007, the specific unclean items are:
1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense
2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and
3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements
I’ll be writing more about item 3) in a later article, but in the meantime consider this article about the DOD which, in 2015 alone, made wrongful accounting adjustments of $6.5 trillion in their “materially misstated” financial statements. In any other organization, heads would roll, lawsuits would multiply, and so on – but this situation has been allowed to continue for years with no accountability or correction. This is bad, very bad.
Mon, Aug 22, 2016, 5:00 am // Deb Gaber
IFLScience reports, "A long-standing theory about the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles has been confirmed. These great rocks were carefully positioned to indicate astronomical events, including some that only happen once every 19 years.
"Centuries before Stonehenge was built, smaller but still astonishing circles were created on Lewis and Orkney, islands off the northern and western coasts of Scotland respectively. The position of the stones within these circles appear to have been chosen so that they line up with astronomical events, such as the place where the Sun rises on the shortest day of the year.
"However, the alignment can be off by a degree or two, leading to questions as to whether some or all cases were random rather than planned. “Nobody before this has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind – it was all supposition,” said Dr Gail Higginbottom of the University of Adelaide in a statement
"In the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Higginbottom and her co-authors have resolved the question. They took the number of stones at the great Scottish circles of Callanish and Stenness and had a computer program place the same number randomly 720 times, to see how often astronomical alignments would occur. Fits as good as those observed in the real world appeared so rarely, Higginbottom is convinced they did not happen by chance.
"“This research is finally proof that the ancient Britons connected the Earth to the sky with their earliest standing stones, and that this practice continued in the same way for 2,000 years,” Higginbottom said. The analysis was extended to smaller circles dotted across Scotland, most of which appear to have been built around the same time as Stonehenge, 500 years after Callanish and Stenness.
... "Since (some of these events) only occur once every 18.6 years, recognizing the significance when these came around would have taken considerable astronomical knowledge. “It would take at least three generations of constant observations, even if you were already watching for it, to notice that when the Moon is as far south as it gets it rises in the same place,” Higginbottom told IFLScience."
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 8:00 am // Ralph Schwartz
"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
But they find out quickly enough.
New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner captured something true about our virtual reality with this 1993 caption. But 23 years later, we don't call online yappers and growlers "dogs." The word "troll" has come to fit the bill.
NPR took a stand against trolls this week, telling its online audience it was going to stop allowing readers to write comments underneath stories, effective next week. The comments under this particular announcement were predictably disapproving of the move -- at least for a short while. Within a few steps, the conversation devolved into which group is more hateful -- Clinton supporters or Trump supporters.
Which only proves NPR's point. The comments underneath stories aren't worth the headaches and the money it costs to hire people to monitor them. Readers' comments stray from the topic at hand, and they are hijacked by a small number of opinionated aggressors. If you still think a utopia of community commentary can still exist under news articles online, then I suggest you read this piece by Chris Cillizza, political blogger for The Washington Post, who has tried unsuccessfully for the past decade to create a fruitful exchange of ideas in his blog, called the Fix:
"It was the opposite of the community I was trying to build. Instead of providing a place where political junkies could trade thoughts, ideas and jokes about the political scene, the Fix comments section turned into a town in which the loudest and most obnoxious guy appoints himself mayor."
Some media outlets still allow anonymous commenting -- a real throwback to an optimistic era when people thought they could create the ideal community online. All anonymity ever accomplished in my experience was to show how many racists are actually out there. Read the Skagit Valley Herald comments circa 2009, and you will no longer wonder how Donald Trump could ever be nominated for president of the United States. (The running joke in the SVH newsroom was, "How many comments will it take until someone hates Hispanics?" -- regardless of the topic of the story.)
You can't comment here either. So, if you have an opinion you'd like to share about this post, grab a pen and paper, take a deep breath, and write us a letter. Don't forget to sign your name.
Fri, Aug 19, 2016, 7:14 pm // Tip Johnson
Plan on getting up early and busting out your kayak, rowboat, SUP or other small (or large) vessel to greet the famous SV Golden Rule. Kayaktivists are gathering at the Community Boating Center to launch a joint departure from the Fairhaven boat launch at 8:30 am. Other small craft can plan to meet the vessel tomorrow morning around 9 at Post/Point/Fairhaven to escort her to P dock, Gate 6, Squalicum Harbor. Read Ellen's excellent article above for the significance of this vessel if you don't already know. Also check out the Veterans for Peace Golden Rule Project website.
The Herald had a nice article, too.
Fri, Aug 19, 2016, 9:44 am // John Servais
While there is a lot of chest pounding by a local enviro group, the truth is the Whatcom County Council has not passed a ban on export of oil or energy products from Cherry Point. The council has imposed a temporary stoppage - legally entitled 'emergency' stoppage - on accepting applications for export facilities. This is not intended to halt exports in any way, but only intended to give the council enough time to consider what restrictions and allowances to place on land out by Cherry Point.
The Cascadia Weekly has an excellent explanation of this in Tim Johnson's Gristle. It carefully explains the actual legislation and why it was passed. There may be in the future - this coming winter - a council approved ban on exports, but that is not what passed this month. For now, the county is not accepting applications so that a corporation cannot file and later claim they are vested, and thus future county law does not apply to their application. This is a temporary measure to prevent confusion and side-stepping of future planning codes.
Of course, if applications are not accepted then permits cannot be issued. But the important take away is: this is not a ban on oil exports. It is a temporary legal pause on any activity, giving the council enough time to carefully consider what it wants to do for future import, export and processing of energy fuels out at Cherry Point. The issue of whether to ban oil exports - or not - from Cherry Point will be debated over the next several months by the council and legislation permitting exports - or not - will only be passed after that.
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 12:01 am // Tip Johnson
Took a trip down to Oregon last weekend, about 225 miles. Google said about 3 hours, 42 minutes. Slowdowns encountered in every metropolitan area added 3 hours to the total each way, much of that time moving at stop and go speeds under 5 mph. You can drive faster in most parking lots.
It suggests cities are relying on the Interstate Highways for their arterial transportation. That’s not good for interstate commerce, especially mine. Better driving habits could alleviate some but not all of the problem. Some suggestions:
1) Keep all city exits open and close all but a minimum of entrances. Force cities to better manage their traffic.
2) Adopt a speed, say 30 or 45 mph, below which lane changes are illegal except for entering and exiting the system. Dodgy lane changers exacerbate the problem.
3) Adopt a minimum distance, say 3 or 4 car lengths, that if not maintained are subject to infraction. If total stops can be avoided, the time to get going again is also eliminated. (You can't do this without #2)
4) Use existing overpasses to install automatic slowdown detection and traffic metering signals in congestion areas. These are used on entrances and the same principle should apply to grid lock on the highway, and finally,
5) Support public transit, especially dedicated bus lanes and light rail.
Even drivers should support bus and rail because getting anyone’s car off the road makes more space for theirs. Plus, there are important ecological benefits. It’s not a new problem but one ever more deserving of attention and funds.
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