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2006 - October thru December

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Sunday, Dec 31, 2006

As the 3,000th US service person is killed in Iraq today or tomorrow, the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center will hold a candlelight vigil at the Maritime Heritage Park this evening starting at 4:30 pm to honor and remembe those who have died. They request you wear black and bring a candle with a holder that will prevent wax from dripping on the ground.

Why don't they post this information on their website? - John Servais

Friday, Dec 29

The US - the Bush administration - had Saddam Hussein executed this evening. How sad - how stupid on several levels - and how oh so immoral. There are tyrants of several countries who murder their people on a routine basis and with whom the Bush administration does business every day. Saddam was the buddy of the Reagan administration and they poured hundreds of millions of our tax dollars into Iraq for him. The US government helped create the tyrant Saddam. And now we have arranged for him to be hung.

Ours is a criminal country. President Gerald Ford tape recorded his disgust for the Bush process of war and repression. This execution is to create a distraction to our "losing the war". It was revenge and not justice. And, yes, we will all live to regret it. We have made Saddam into a martyr for all Sunni Arabs.

Read Juan Cole as posted on Salon.com. - John Servais

Mon, Dec 11, 2006

Moving Target

On of the more momentous public hearings in Bellingham's history appears to be ready to pass with more than the ordinary confusion. We wrote about some of the mis/disinformation earlier.

On the eve of one of the most important decisions for Bellingham's future, it is now unclear just where the hearing on Whatcom Waterway cleanup will be held. It is scheduled for this evening, Mon, Dec 11, but there is confusion as to whether it will occur at the Cruise Terminal or at the Municipal Court.

Shannon Sullivan of Ecology is telling the press to ignore the websites and that the hearing is at the court site. City and the DOE websites say the Cruise terminal.



Wendy Steffensen, of ReSources, has sent out a notice to her mailing list today saying the Muni Court and says Shannon told her so.

The Whatcom Independent says Muni Court - and that means they probably got a fax. On Nov 29 the City had no idea where it would be held - less than 2 weeks before the hearing. The Indy on Nov 30 said the site would be announced later.

How much later? Hopefully the City and DOE will update their sites to include the correct info. But as of this moment, there are conflicting stories and it is anybody's guess.

All this is so familiar to any citizen activist. Bureaucrats will whine that it was an honest mistake. And citizens don't show up because they don't know when or where or why. It happens again and again.

So - where should you go at 5:30 pm this evening - as the two sites are several miles apart? Nobody knows. And what do people do who go to one of these places and it is simply closed and dark? Is it just too bad for folks who take transit or walk or bike? It's a long way to the other venue. That's public participation! Again and again and again! - Tip Johnson

Wed, Dec 6, 2006 - noon

A good historic moment is upon us today. The Iraq Study Group Report was presented this morning to our nation's leaders and to us citizens. I think this report and its 79 recommendations provide a superb plan for what to do about Iraq. It has attributes of being moral, fair, practical, honest. It is brief and candid to a surprising degree. Unlike previous national blue ribbon commissions - such as the Warren Commission on JFK's assassination and the Challenger space shuttle commission - this report is honest and shows the group seriously wanted to solve a problem, not cover one up. It is an amazing read if you have tried to read the previous reports. I predict it will stand the test of time and be a model for future reports and will go down in history as a turning point in our history as a country.

I am usually very critical of official studies as being cosmetic tools for promoting what was desired by the powers-that-be in the first place. This one is different. Under the most modest of titles - study group - this group of "has beens" as James Baker jokingly described them has attempted to solve a problem that was taking our country down the road to perdition. The story of how this group came to be and to gain the awkward OK from Bush to just study the issue is an amazing one. The recommendations are from as distinguished a group of bipartisan individuals as can be imagined in this country. The report will probably gain the weight of all power groups in our country - including the oil industry - as they realize the war is a disaster and this plan holds out hope for a practical solution.

The report recommends reversing several horrible practices of our government that have gone on for 10, 20 and even 50 years.

For instance - Recommendation 9 - along with 10, 11 & 12 - states that we should talk with Iran and Syria and that we should discuss and negotiate with them now - starting this month - without conditions. The Bush administration has refused to talk with these two countries for years - and Bush restated his firm determination just a week ago that he would not talk with them - until they fulfill conditions that he knows neither country will fulfill. The report says you talk to your enemies and seek solutions. If followed, this concept would reverse decades of the US deciding it would not talk with many groups and nations it has ulterior reasons for intimidating. Cuba is an example. Hezbollah is another. North Korea a third. There are many more. Bush's escalating aggression towards the democracy of Venezuela would have to be translated into discussions.

The posts on NwCitizen on the morning of 9/11 and again in the week leading up to the war in Iraq - March 2003 - have stood the test of time. This morning I feel very good being able to post a positive comment on what I think will become an historic document. James Baker, Lee Hamilton and Frank Wolf deserve the thanks of the American people. - John Servais

PS - You can download and read the pdf of the report. I also urge you to buy the book as a portion of the proceeds will go towards helping our military families in all branches of our national services. A quick check with Village Books reveals it may be on their shelves later today. Tomorrow for sure. We citizens can vote for the implementation of this report by buying it. - John Servais

Thurs, Nov 30


Relative to the last post:

Ecology has rescheduled the public meeting for:
December 7th, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Avenue, Bellingham, WA

Ecology has rescheduled the public hearing for:
December 11th, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C Street, Bellingham, WA

Global Warming, Record Lows - Fiddling while Rome burns

"When do you wreck it as a system? It's like going up to the edge of a cliff, not really knowing where it is. Common sense says you shouldn't discover where the edge is by passing over it, but that's what we're doing with deforestation and climate change."

Thomas E. Lovejoy, Director of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and co-editor of the seminal "Global Warming and Biological Diversity".

We are breaking a lot of weather records all over the world. Record cold, record heat, record wet, record drought, record wind and storms. Even a record number of media interview requests at the National Weather Service. This kind of noticable change in global weather patterns is not a good sign. Complex multi-variate, non-linear systems have remarkable abilities to moderate influences, but only up to a point. They can also can exhibit cascading failures that can catastrophically accelerate change.

Imagine a ball in a bowl. Let's say the ball is the "system" and the bowl is the "environment". The ball, or system, can handle all manner of poking, prodding and rocking perturbations, always settling back into its stable environmental basin.

Now imagine that a combination of influences exert pressure on the bowl to gradually invert its shape. As the bowl becomes a dome, increasingly small perturbations can send the ball rolling, possible right off the edge of the table - right over the cliff Lovejoy thinks we should avoid.

Global warming is not just about warming. It's about greater temperature differentials and meteorological variability. Besides a rising sea-level, that means more storms, higher winds, more weather records of all kinds. In fact, the folks at Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute remind us that it's a very complex system with much more going on than just greenhouse gasses. They've published this article on the potential for a new ice age.

While there may be disagreement on the extent, no one disputes that climate change will bring serious economic disruption. And if our recent meteorologic variability is any measure, it's true. We just witnessed our economy get seriously attenuated by a few inches of snow - and the lack of a couple snow plows.

Meanwhile, a dozen states and several cities whose economies are seriously threatened by rising sea-levels, have sued our government to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide - a significant greenhouse gas, but not a priority pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Today, fiddling like Nero, Justice Scalia cracked a joke that got the court giggling and then explained, ""I told you before I'm not a scientist. That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming." There's a good strategy! Where's that cliff? Hang-gliding anyone?

Speaking of broken records, have a little sympathy for environmentalists. Since Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring", I can't think of a single time they've been wrong. They keep telling us over and over and over again. It must be frustrating to be so right and so continually marginalized by government, industry and the media.

That's where we need to see change, not in our climate. - Tip Johnson

Mon, Nov 27

Public Process - Lots of it (kind of), or
I lied (sort of!)

In the previous post I complained that the biggest rip-off in Whatcom County history was happening without even being discussed or making it into the news. Well, I lied. Today it is in the news, sort of. (This last link will expire at the Herald, so I am posting the info here:

The state Department of Ecology has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday on the draft cleanup study and environment impact reports for the Whatcom Waterway site. At the hearing, people can provide oral and written comments. The hearing is scheduled for 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C St. The public is encouraged to review the documents and comment to the department by Dec. 9.

We emphatically thank the Herald! Why? Because you probably wouldn't otherwise know about the hearing or the December 9th deadline for written comment.

We went to the website for "New Whatcom". The following information can be found there:

Two Department of Ecology public meetings to hear public comment on the plan to clean up the Whatcom Waterway: 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Thursday, November 30th at Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C Street

They curiously mention two meetings, but list only one. Also, it is well known to denizens of the political cesspool that "meetings" do not a "public hearing" make. Public hearings are designed to accept testimony and create a public record. Meetings are merely a chance for citizens to vent while officials pretend to listen. They do not create a legal record for a public proceeding as does a public hearing.

We looked into the link on the New Whatcom site for "Public Involvement", but found only a recitation of all the meetings they have already had. Regardless of whether the public has the information they need to actually participate in the process, officials will at least be able to say they had a lot of meetings.

Incredibly, we found another link to "calendar" lower down in the body of the text. With amazement, we found one of two public meetings listed, but no information on the public hearing or the December 9th deadline. Hmmm.

Undaunted, considering ourselves resourceful as all get-out, we followed links from that page to the Port's website. After all, it's really their project. On the homepage, we found a link to "Latest Development News". Here there was, once again, nothing on the public hearing, nothing on the public meeting and nothing on the December 9th deadline. However, there is a tremendous volume of materials regarding the successful lawsuit against the citizen-sponsored "Healthy Bay Initiative". Port officials seem pround of their ability to thwart the public's will by preventing them from voting on it. Oh boy, that's democratic!

Even more remarkably, there was a link to a Department of Ecology document with information on one of the public meetings mentioned at the New Whatcom website, a sidebar with the December 9th deadline, but nothing on the public hearing.

WIthout discouragement, we found another link, under "Waterfront Redevelopment" that pointed to "Whatcom Waterway". Since that is the subject of the hearing, we must have struck paydirt by now!

Nope! Here there is even more about suing citizens, including copies of the legal complaints, the summons, responses from the Port and declarations by their Environmental Director. The public hearing and meetings would be long over by the time you finished reading it all!

Now, feeling as if we must be doing something wrong, we looked very closely. Aha! Once again, lower down in the bottom of the text, it says, "To learn more about master planning efforts for this area, click here." In typical government run-around style, this merely takes us back to the New Whatcom site whence we came.

Now we are feeling a little put out. We've spent quite a bit of time without even starting to read the relevant documents (plus this post is getting longer than I like). We've run out of options - except the Department of Ecology (sometimes referred to as the Department of Apology for their habit of issuing permits to pollute - like G.P.'s mercury cell facility - and their usual failure to require compliance with regulations - like G.P. taking a hike at the public's expense).

Finally, paydirt!

The following information is posted there:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006; 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM (Public Hearing), Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C Street, Bellingham, WA

The draft Supplemental RI/FS and draft Supplemental EIS are available for review at the following locations:
• Bellingham Public Library, Main Branch, 210 Central Ave., (360) 676-6860, Bellingham
• WA Department of Ecology, Bellingham Field Office, 1204 Railroad Ave. #200, (360) 738- 6250, Bellingham
• WA Department of Ecology, Northwest Regional Office, 3190 160th Ave. SE, (425) 649-7000, Bellevue, WA 98008
• Ecology’s web site: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites/whatcom/ww.htm

Taking the above link to Ecology's website, we finally found reference to both public meetings mentioned on the New Whatcom site. One of them passed on October 26th. The other is scheduled for:

November 30th, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C Street, Bellingham, WA

It's a bit remarkable that none of it is available on either local project website. Almost like they really don't want folks to come. But, finally, here is where you can find all the information you need to make a sensible comment! But you better get busy, because - look - there's quite a bit to consider!

If it is starting to look like a snow job, or aptly for our weather, a veritable blizzard, remember, this is how our government employees legitimize their fine salaries and benefits. What's missing is how we assure that the taxes we spend are working for us - ask the thousands of citizens that wanted to vote on whether to clean it up vs covering it up. Oh well, here comes the snowstorm:

Pleasant reading! - Tip Johnson

Sun, Nov 26

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The good? We are no longer spewing forty+ pounds of mercury vapor every day into the local atmosphere. We are no longer dumping 20 to 40 tons of polluted solid waste into our bay, ravines and gravel pits every day.

The bad? Georgia Pacific is never going to clean up the toxic legacy their profits externalized, leaving them all over our home to wreck the neural networks of our children (9MB .mov). Public officials gave G.P. a "get-out-of-jail-free" card, saddling the public with the costs. Now clean-up is too expensive, so a cover-up, or capping, has become our cost-effective alternative. Everybody agrees, or at least all the government agencies that colluded to allow it to happen in the first place.

The ugly? The public has already incurred the health risk of G.P. operating for three decades after environmental officials with any pretense of professional credibility had to know that the mercury-cell chlor-alkali facility was a threat to food and water supplies, human health and the environment. Remember Minimata? That was 1957. By the early sixties, when this plant was being permitted, everyone knew it would be a mess, and did it anyway.

Uglier? Public waterfront land, built at public expense to support water-dependent commerce and industry, will be lost forever as it is sold off for private residences - private residences that have been administratively assumed from the beginning to eventually constitute about 60% of the "New Whatcom" "mixed-use" master plan. Administratively assumed? That means that nobody's opinion has really meant one whit otherwise. That's public process! That steals hundreds of millions fom the public.

Ugliest? Stealing further untold hundreds of millions from the public - also without the slightest discussion. Huh? That's right! The New Whatcom fiasco is likely the biggest rip-off of Whatcom County ever. You'd think it would make the news. hah!

The biggest rip-off has also been assumed from the beginning. It is the conversion of G.P.'s treatment lagoon into a marina. Marinas are not the most environmentally benign facilities. Boat's are actually real stinkers, sloughing copper, tin and zinc into the water and leaking oily wastes, detergents, waxes and other products. Don't get me wrong. I like boats and I like marinas. So what's the problem?

The problem is that we will need to replace that treatment capacity. Our growing community will require more treatment capacity in several different categories. We can expect to need additional sanitary treatment. That's just a matter of so many more dwelling units, and nobody seems willing to regulate growth.

Then there are the mandates. We already expect to be required to provide treatment for our urban run-off. Governor Gregoire just announced ambitious plans to restore the Puget Sound nearshore habitat. It's a billions of dollars, never-ending initiative that will never get off square one without treating polluted stormwater. Besides, do we want to restore our bay just to repollute it? No. We will want to protect our public expenditures for shoreline and bay restoration by preventing future pollution. That requires treatment.

Finally, G.P. is gone, but does that mean we will never want jobs again? Probably not. The public already owns a large industrial water supply to the central waterfront. Without treatment capacity, it cannot be used. If the lagoon is converted to a marina, we will need to provide additional treatment capacity before we can deliver water to any new industrial process on the waterfront. How valuable is water supply and treatment capacity for recruiting business? Whether semi-conductor production or anything else, it will never happen once these resources are gone. Well, they are almost gone.

It is possible that we could keep the treatment capacity AND have three times the marina (150kb .pdf), while completing the Bay Trail from Boulevard to the foot of Cornwall. The basic premise was already approved by our state legislature at this very site. But that has never since been discussed, either. That's public process!

Buyers (taxpayers) beware. Your government is ripping you off, making their short-term revenues look really good while knowing - but not telling - that it will cost you hundreds and hundreds of millions later. That's ugly! - Tip Johnson

Sun, Nov 19

Let them vote on it?

Zetta Bracher, President of the local Democratic Women's Club, has an idea for getting consensus on our "new direction" in Iraq.

When it became apparent that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, our ostensible purpose there became the importation of democracy. Never mind that these are the folks that invented civilization and government, we yankees always have a thing or two to teach 'em!

Well, Zetta reasons, if democracy is such a great thing, why don't we ask them to vote on whether we should stay or, go home. Or maybe we really don't want democracy??? Hmmm.

Read Zetta's Resolution to the Whatcom County Democratic Central Committee.

Read Zetta's letter to Senator Murray

Thanks, Zetta! - Tip Johnson

Welcome to America!

Protesting and dissent is no longer supervised by the police. It is actively escalated to violence, punished and prosecuted. This snippet is about a fellow rotting in jail as the result of his journalism and the state's enthusiasm for punishing dissent.

The video says it better than I can. Look here , here and here. I can say we've seen similar robo-cop action right here in Bellingham.

Bellingham's finest suit up to ambush peaceniks marching past the Herald Building. They were successful in escalating the situation and making arrests. If that doesn't discourage protests, they have even better toys to press into service.

Torturous topics

While we're being proud to be Americans, don't forget that George Bush just pushed through legislation that makes it legal for our boys at Abu Ghraib to have tortured and makes it legal for them to keep going at Gitmo. I'm sure the distinction will serve our boys well when they get captured.


Long Run

Milton Friedman died at 94 years of age last week. Friedman was the maverick economist who implemented monetarist policies beginning with the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. As a fervent free market thinker, he showed how we can make our economy less vulnerable to catastophic collapse by making each component sector more vulnerable. This involves deregulation, supposedly unfettered competition, floating the currency and constraints on government spending. The jury is still out on how effective it will be in the long run.

One of Friedman's famous quotes was, "In the long run, we're all dead." Well, he's dead, but you've gotta admit that 94 years is a pretty long run! - Tip Johnson

Thurs, Nov 16

Hot Button

The war in Iraq is widely regarded to have been the "hot button" issue of the last election. I don't buy it. Americans seem to like a good fight. After all, we get into a lot of them. The problem with the war in Iraq is that it has become apparent that it is not a "good" fight and symbolic of several things we really don't like. Hopefully we will learn from this lesson.

The Democrats are referring to the election as a "referendum on Iraq". They have boldly, if unwisely, stepped up to the plate to add bones to their empty campaign slogan of "A new direction in Iraq". On the surface, it will be easy. How many directions are left? We already went in. Getting out is about all that's left, and if there is one thing that unifies Iraqis it is a willingness to show us the door. There's a chance they can pull it off, but it could backfire, too. At the least, Iraqis will be likely inclined toward adding a swift kick in the rear to our departure. A wise observer once noted that it is easy to start a war, but you don't always get to say when it is over. Even if we left today, the quagmire will likely deepen for the foreseeable future. It's not like we can walk away from the damage we've done. We'll be on the hook for quite some time, cleaning up our mess. Democrats can look forward to getting blamed for anything that goes wrong.

In a striking reversal of their bullying, oppositional political tactics, Republican Neo-Cons have shrewdly engaged their opponents to come up with solutions. What have they got to lose? If the solutions work, they appear collaborative and cooperative. If they fail, their opponents look bad. They'd probably rather the solutions didn't work, but they can't really care that much. Remember, the upshot of their strategy - detailed in their Project for a New American Century - is to destabilize the Middle East, ostensibly to promote democracy, or at least corporate capitalism. They've largely accomplished the destabilization, even if democracy seems a long ways off. Dragging out the occupation has simply been good business, that is, if you are in the business of bullets, bombs, their conveyances and logistic support. The legacy of the Neo-Con's adventure in Iraq might closely parallel the old quip about the missionaries in Hawaii - They said they came to do good, and they did very well, indeed.

That's where we get into what I believe the election was all about: Abuse. It became far too transparent what Haliburton and Blackwater and all Cheney's business buddies were up to. Republicans don't like corruption any better than anyone else. And that's the swing that gave Democrats their victory. Even if you were only barely paying attention, the abuse became impossible to ignore. It was rife throughout the organization. From Abramoff to Foley, from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib by way of "extraordinary renditions" and indefinite detention at secret torture prisons, it became obvious that they don't play fair, aren't honest and often steal, or wink and nod while it happens. The provisional government of Iraq, under Bremer, lost track of $9 billion, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The bill from Iraq, already estimated at over $6,000 per citizen, will continue to haunt the U.S. economy for a long time. Nobody gives voters much credit for being smart, but when they figure out they are being robbed, they seem to know what to do. To my way of thinking, that's the real reason we saw the election results we did. It would be nice if Americans suddenly became a nation of peaceniks. But it's not as likely as them looking out for their own self-interests. Well, good for us. It's good to do the right things, even if it's not for the very best reasons. Whatever the instinct, it very well may have saved our economy.

Now it's about how to recover and what we can learn. In Iraq, I don't think there's much we can do besides set up a bank account, make the commitment and get out. Domestically, things are quite a bit trickier. The Bush administration's domestic policy has been much more complex. Best characterized by a shift toward an official, uniformed middle class, these include trade policies that disadvantage workers, staggering debts that will drag the economy for years, information control through media agglomeration, compromised civil liberties and the imposition of draconian security measures. Liberty and security are inversely related. That's why Benjamin Franklin taunted Tories with his famous, "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither". Americans will eventually need to decide which is more important.

Hopefully the election indicates that we are waking up to the creep of fascism. Hopefully we will recognize that the freedom of the internet provided better information on the run up to the war than corporate media control. Hopefully we will see that America desperately needs electoral reform - from the integrity of voter rolls to the integrity of voting machines to how campaigns are financed. Hopefully we will learn that taking a public health approach to social and economic inequities or ideological differences will achieve more and cost less than diplomacy out of the barrels of guns.

Hey! We can always hope! - Tip Johnson

Sun, Nov 12

Plenty more to flush

Bellingham's new, old mayor, Tim Douglas, got off to a great running start at his new job by dealing quickly and firmly with an important issue that threatened to embarrass the City forever - the former mayor's ridiculous, swirling logo.

As previously suggested, Mr. Douglas could now show he is serious about good government by assigning someone to look into how the contract for that logo came to be. Several local, lower-bid applicants were overlooked in favor of a Seattle firm with little ostensible reputation that made an exceedingly amaturish botch of it. The process was strictly administrative and the administration's attitude was unacceptably arrogant.

That usually indicates dirt, and the key to good government is making sure all that dirt sees daylight. If the honorable Mr. Douglas is serious about good government, there is plenty of the former mayor's legacy that can be similarly treated.

First and foremost, let's undo the planning travesty orchestrated by the former mayor through the ministrations of former Planning Director, Jorge Vega. Even though the Bellingham Municipal Code (20.04.030 - C) states that planning will be neighborhood-based, the City abandoned neighborhoods in the planning process when it became apparent that they would never meet compliance deadlines - or their administrative planning objectives - if neighbors were included in the process. Mayor Douglas could make a lasting difference in Bellingham's future by making it clear that the basis of planning henceforth will prioritize those living and building community in neighborhoods over those simply trying to make a buck.

The City's legal empire is another area that could use wholesale reconsideration. Just after the former mayor's first election, he appointed a Police Chief that lacked the minimum academic qualifications for the job. He was appointed without a search and over the seniority of several well-qualified individuals. That seemed a little too cozy.

Immediately following, the former mayor initiated a plan that would spend untold millions establishing a Municipal Court system. It was even run illegally for a year while the judges and commissioners of his choice were installed. Organizing your own cops, court and judges is way too cozy. Since the establishment of this system, over fifty people have been arrested, many of them violently, and vigorously prosecuted for expressing their political opinions in ways that had formerly been merely supervised - not punished.

Let's take a serious look at the cost and function of this bloated system. Discussions with county personnel suggest that all of the Municipal Court's business could be accomplished for about half the price if the City were willing to cooperate in the Whatcom County District Court.

And it doesn't end there. The City might also review the inequitable Public Facilities District which saps sales tax revenues for twenty years but benefits the county only slightly and does nothing to integrate with the Central Business District - long in need of revitalization.

The City's passive posture in the lopsided deal with the Port of Bellingham on the Central Waterfront redevelopment should also be reexamined. Other waterfront deals that have been managed in this fashion have ended up suffering years of delays while indictments were prosecuted. Besides, does anyone really believe that selling the waterfront off to benefit the private housing developments of their buddies makes sense?

A new mayor is a fresh opportunity for citizens to have a say in the shape of their community's future. But it won't happen by wishing. Citizens at least now have a chance to be heard.

But they will first need to speak their minds.

Oh yeah, one other thing...

One of the best ways we can assure that the City gets back on track is to facilitate a much needed Charter Review. Only elected freeholders can warrant that all those little changes the last administration squeaked through on a piecemeal basis - those changes to how we initiate and challenge legislation, and the change to an appointed Finance Director... only freeholders can warrant that those changes fit within a comprehensive framework for governance the citizens themselves affirm and embrace. - Tip Johnson

Thurs, Nov 9

KIllers or Healers?

Congratulations Americans. That was certainly worth voting for! Voters thoroughly routing the entrenched Neo-Con administration will help restore our world image, so badly damaged since re-electing them in 2004 and passively accepting their fraudulent election.

Assuming that Neo-Cons continued their effort to jimmy every voter roll and rig every voting machine they could, one has to wonder to what extent the vote may have gone in an honest election. Well, it went well enough! We shall certainly see a bit of reform on behalf of Republicans while they reassess their priorities and seek to prevent even larger losses in coming elections.

It's now a good idea for Democrats to reassess their priorities, too. Folks with a democratic bent might consider writing their new majority representives to remind them what a Democratic agenda ought to look like.

We have amply demonstrated our arrogant willingness and ability to "kill or capture" anything or anyone of our choosing. We have rewritten the rules for what to do with the captured. But has it really worked? Maybe war is simply obsolete. Perhaps we should practice peace and healing instead.

When I was growing up, I was always encouraged to stand up against bullies, to stand up for my rights and to stand against injustice. Well, I have to ask myself, "What did Iraq ever do to us?" Try as I might, I keep drawing a blank. They didn't fly planes into the twin towers. They didn't coddle violent fundamentalists. If Democrats are serious about a new direction in Iraq, I have a sneaking suspicion that an apology might be a great place to start. After that, prosecuting a few war crimes might even make it look sincere.

Let's compare notes. The government of Iraq recently investigated allegations of improprieties in several prisons and detention centers. They found that detainees had been tortured and subsequently indicted hundreds of people, from rank and file workers right on up to the top administrators.

Remember Abu Ghraib, where leaked photos showed U.S. personnel enjoying the torture and humiliation of Iraqi detainees? A handfull of lower echelon scapegoats were prosecuted while decision-makers skated. That's not right. Let's borrow a page from our Iraqi partners and show the people that we will stand up to injustice with equal justice.

To my thinking, painful as it may be for our nation, George Bush needs to be the first to explain, under oath, the formulation of his inexorable run-up to the war, the fudged "intelligence" behind it and the astonishing consistency of the results with policy documents prepared years earlier by all his most important advisors under the aegis of The Project for a New American Century.

Then he and his boys should explain where all the money went.

After this bit of apology and truth-telling, we can get on with a responsive Democratic agenda. After all, we need the same things they do. Let's get back to basics. We're all human, after all. So contact your newly elected and newly empowered representatives. Admonish and encourage them to adopt an agenda that is democratic at home as well as abroad.

Instead of building armaments for killing, lets get back to things that help, not hurt people. Let's renew our focus on a clean environment and energy self-sufficiency. Let's quit trying and actually accomplish access to health care, education and employment. Getting busy on these issues could make the world a better place.

As we are hopefully learning in Iraq, bombs and guns can only make things worse. - Tip Johnson

Mon, Nov 6

Electile Dysfunction

Nope. I didn't make it up. It's from the subtitle of a book by Steve Bhaerman, under the pen name Swami Beyondananda. I have to admire the guy. At least he can laugh about it. But Americans should do more than laugh or cry. We need to vote the rascals out.

Now I'm no big fan of the current Democratic agenda, so I'm going to parrot the earlier advice of the usual editor of this website and encourage folks to hold their nose and vote for a change of majority in the House and Senate. It's our only hope at this point. That means voting for Democrats - even those with vacuous campaign slogans like "I support change in Iraq", or those that won't suffer their constituents the courtesy of a visit, or worse, have them threatened with arrest for visiting their office. Yep, they're a snivelling bunch of nincompoops, but at least they are not criminally insane.

I am also not categorically against Republicans. I loved Dan Evans! But it is clear to me that the Bush Agenda aims at a strategic restructuring of the U.S. Economy. Remember all the fuss about WTO and "Free Trade"? Have you noticed nobody is demonstrating anymore? It's not because the issue was satisfactorily resolved. It's because nobody dares to demonstrate anymore. They get beaten up and arrested by cops in military style riot gear.

The Bush Agenda is designed to cram down our uniquely diverse middle class and replace it with a uniformed and armed middle class beholden to the establishment for their benefits and authority. Think about it: Ship all the jobs overseas and saddle the taxpayers with never-ending debt and a declining value for their dollars. If those pesky progressives demand a level playing field by clamoring for "fair trade", then let them have it - in spades. Let them compete with workers in China and Korea. Those who want decent wages and access to health care and education will sign up for the war without end and will support the administration's irrational and aggressive foreign policies. This assures continued war profiteering for Cheney's buddies at Haliburton, the Carlyle Group and beyond. That's criminally insane!

Don't believe me? On October 27, Bush adopted shocking changes to the Insurrection Act of 1878 (10 U.S.C.331 -335). Public Law 109-364 allows the president to declare a state of emergency anywhere at any time and to move United States troops to suppress any public disorder. It also allows the president to take control of any state troops, forces, or national guard - even without the consent of the ostensibly presiding Governor. This completely subverts the posse comitatus restrictions that prevent the military’s involvement in domestic law enforcement. Wake up, Americans! Why do you think this did not make the news? O.K., you can go back to sleep now.

Unfortunately, voting may not be enough to quell this trend. Do you really think these guys will let a few votes stand betwen them and all those dollars? It has now been fairly well demonstrated that Bush stole the 2004 Election. In Ohio alone, more than enough votes were subverted to hand Kerry the election - if they had been counted. This year expect to see all manner of election fraud in the most tactically succinct places. Cheney's friend Diebold, the guy making the voting machines, has made sure that the machines can be rigged. Several recent reports have shown how easily this can be accomplished. Another tactic is to disenfranchise the opposition by making sure they can't vote. Remember Florida? This is why the administration works so hard to get their ducks, I mean judges, lined up. Again in Ohio, a draconian new voter identification requirement that threatened to disqualify thousands of voters was just overturned, but has been urgently appealed by prominent Republicans. Make no mistake, these "out-of-the-box, win-at-any-cost" political operatives will target key districts to either jimmy the vote or rig the results. It's all about winning, not about American democracy.

Gentle citizen, it has long been your civic duty to vote. It has now become your duty to see that your vote is counted, and to further assure that all votes are counted fairly and accurately. Then, should you remain unconvinced, it will be your (our) duty to raise holy hell until it is sorted out and done properly.

A word to the wise: Despite the revolutionary heritage of this great land, It may now be inadvisable to attempt anything that might be characterized as "insurrection". - Tip Johnson

Sun, Nov 5

Swirling Logo

Hopefully the City's new swirling logo will flush itself before it ends up glued on vehicles and emblazoned on letterhead. It's horrible, but that's only half the story. And we will probably never get the rest.

Herald reporter Sam Taylor's initial article on the subject included the City's Communication Coordinator saying, ""Draft concepts from the past are not now on public display. The selection is made and it would be counterproductive to look at things we did not choose."

I disagree. Public documents should be freely available, not hidden behind administrative embargoes. The reporter should know that. That's exactly why we have public disclosure laws. Why not compare the selected firm's designs with proposals presented by the other respondents, many of whom were local and had lower bids?

Why not read the correspondence and memoranda leading to the adoption of this design debacle? The Herald reports the former mayor as saying that even though it was "paid for with tax dollars", "It's just not subject to a voting process", the City Council "played no part" in the decision, and that he's "not going to change (his) mind". What kind of an attitude is that?

The public is better served when reporters dig in to challenge this type of arrogance. Often, it is the rest of the story that is truly telling.

The 16% Solution

Results from the 17th year of a poll routinely taken by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News show that only 16 percent approve of the job Congress is doing. 52 percent of those polled said they'd prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress, while 37 percent prefer Republicans.

Remarkably, most representives usually win re-election and this is not likely to change. Why? Follow the money!

Incumbents can radically outspend challengers. Advertising definitely pays, but it also costs. Senate incumbents raise more than challengers by a factor of nine or ten to one. House incumbents enjoy only half that advantage - about five to one.

Political Action Committees, or PACs, have become a major force in campaign finance, providing crucial early advantage to chosen races by infusing them with cash well before challengers can solicit contributions from individual donors. In return, PACs enjoy open access to legislators throughout the session. That's quite a bit more than average citizens enjoy at our local congressional offices - ask Ellen Murphy! House Democrats tend to benefit the most from early PAC contributions, though Republicans attract more overall.

Sadly, It could be that the public's approval rating of Congress doesn't really matter. The public doesn't buy campaigns, PACs do. If legislators' approval ratings with their PAC contributors were to drop, it should be reflected in diminished contributions - and that hardly ever happens!

Government of, by and for the people? Campaign finance reform? It's like what Ghandi said when asked what he thought about western civilization: "That would be a very good idea!" - Tip Johnson

Sat, Nov 4

The Truth Fairy
Heading into the last days of this election season, George Bush and his Neo-Con Republicans have been strumming a familiar tune to promote their candidates. Republicans, they say, will

1) Preserve traditional values,
2) Lower taxes and
3) Protect our "homeland" from "terrorists"

For Republican "traditional values" we see the strangest news. An Evangelical leader admitting to drug abuse and sexual behavior he routinely decries. A prominent congressman resigning in disgrace after revelations that he was inclined toward homosexual pedophilia with juvenile congressional staffers. What's more, the Republican leadership knew about it for years and did nothing - except attempt to cover it up!

Not even those weirdo, liberal Democrats can top that for perversity.

On the score of lower taxes, our top "executive", George Bush was very clear at a rally in Springfield, Missouri yesterday,

"We have a clear philosophy. We believe you can spend your money better than the federal government can."

That's interesting! According to Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-Prize-winning economist, and Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the "true cost" of the Iraq war is more than $2 trillion (New York Times OpEd, March 23).

Remember the good ol' days of "tax and spend" Democratic control? Now, according to our erstwhile Commander in Chief, we can tax less and spend more - at record levels. Republicans have turned a federal budget surplus into a record deficit and fettered our economy with the obligation to finance an already failed policy of war without end.

Those amused by occult symbology may appreciate that the two trillion dollar cost of the Iraq war, divided by three hundred million Americans, yields a cost per American of $6,666.66. That's a doubly beastly sum even if you are only concerned about who's going to pay for it!

Finally, there's that plank about good old homeland security. The refrain borders on the absurd. Terrorists, supposedly, hate our freedoms. Therefore, Americans will never be safe while we still enjoy them. Again from Springfield, George asserts that we are at war against a brutal enemy that wants to impose an ideology of hate on the world and doesn't believe in basic freedoms, including the freedom to worship, the freedom of dissent and freedom of speech. Funny, those are precisely the freedoms George's policies are eroding here at home. It's starting to sound a little like the pot calling the kettle black. I mean, if imposing ideology is wrong, then what are we doing in Iraq?

Remember the saying, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me?" I was raised to believe that our government was founded on the principle that ideologies could compete in open dialogue without the need for recourse to sticks and stones or broken bones. What are we doing in Iraq?

Besides, take a look around. Who's been doing all the domestic terrorism since 9-11? It has notably not been turban toting Al Qaeda operatives blowing up refineries or government buildings. It's been disturbed white guys, with guns, at schools, often with sexually aberrant aims. These guys, as if trying to act out the basic tenets of global economic success, covertly arrive to suddenly seize power, dominate and exploit. Sound familiar? What are we doing in Iraq?

Oh, I know, it's all about keeping the world safe, and maybe a lttle about oil, too. It certainly seems geared to keeping the world safe for corporate capitalism. I'm not so sure about keeping citizens safe. George says the best way to keep Americans safe is to "stay on the offensive" and to "defeat (terrorists) overseas so we do not have to face them here at home". War without end. Amen.

Only time will tell whether this will work. Meanwhile, voters will decide if it will be continued. - Tip Johnson

Fri, Nov 3

Gentle readers,

My name is Tip Johnson. The usual editor of this publication has asked me to fill in for a bit while he is busy with other matters. Some of you have already written, following his last posting, to inquire as to whether he is O.K.

Yep, he's O.K., cantankerous as ever, just busy with some other things. I've heard him talk over the last year or so about expanding nwcitizen.us to include a few other contributors. I guess he is starting with me. That's dangerous!

In case you don't know me, I am a long-time public interest advocate with an extensive history in community and environmental affairs. For instance, the proposal that led to the creation of the Connelly Creek Nature Area was my senior project at Fairhaven College. Later, I founded Fairhaven Boatworks on the Fairhaven waterfront to pioneer small boat access to Bellingham Bay and the Chuckanut Coast. I've served on numerous community boards and committees, including eight years for the Whatcom County Opportunity Council while also serving on the Bellingham City Council from 1985 to 1993. Last year I unsuccessfully ran for the Port Commission on a platform of keeping the watefront in public ownership with a priority for water-related and public uses.

Now I consider myself a recovering politician, but retain an abiding interest in public policy. Since I like to follow local issues and tend to form policy-based opinions, this editorial format could be a good outlet for my concerns about government and community. If you want to share your opinions with me, you may write me at (spelled out to prevent spamlist spidering) - tip"at"nwcitizen"dot"us. Get it?

I will attempt to reply to each message, but I am not going to waste time defending my opinion to all comers. Also, I will not guarantee that rebuttals are printed. Bona fide corrections will always be published.

So, welcome to this epoch of nwcitizen.us and please check back soon to "enjoy" my first substantive post! Cheers. - Tip Johnson

Thur, Nov 2

After today, a friend will take over writing to this space for a few weeks. I'll let him introduce himself to you. I've some personal things that need my full attention for the next month or two. Even more importantly, I've decided to restructure this site to incorporate the writings of several local citizen activists on a regular basis and this friend is the first. I've spoken to some others and am encouraged by their responses. No timetable is set, but I hope that by early 2007 the revised site is in play. And I plan to be one of the contributors, of course.

In closing for now, I urge my fellow citizens to please reflect on what our country stands for and to vote and act accordingly. We have strayed these past few years towards the traditional safety of state control and the ancient mindset that we always have an enemy who needs smiting. We should strive towards tolerance of each other's values and respect for the decent opinions of others. We should abhor torture and deceit and the use of military force except in extremes of self defense. We should never wage a war of aggression. We should set an example for the world, not cram our expectations down their throats with guns.

On a local level, we should insist on full openness of government - and believe me, we are far far from that in our local area. There is no national security involved in libraries, planning, public TV, budgets, marinas, etc. We have no democracy if our voting process is convoluted and open to corruption as it is now. And finally, democracy and freedom of life in a republic requires a free press that will report the truth to citizens - and we do not have that as any citizen activist can tell you. It is those few of us who get deeply involved in civic process who discover the huge gap between what the press tell you and what the government bureaucrats and politicians are actually doing. This website will evolve to hopefully better inform you of this in 2007.

So, for the next few weeks, you will have the benefit of a different perspective in this space. And in the near future, I hope to attract several good citizen activists to share their insights with you. Take care. - John Servais

Wed, Nov 1, 2006 - National

Now Karl Rove starts his directing of emotional outrage comments on most any news item that is handy - in his effort to get people to vote with their emotions of the moment and not with their mind. Rove and Bush appeal to the lizard part of our brains. They love the New Jersey court ruling on gay marriage and are just screaming about how the Democratic candidates are a danger to basic American values. And they are attacking people not running for office.

I like to check the Drudge report as he usually leads Bush by about a day on who is next to be bashed. It is fun to see them ask who Michael J. Fox thinks he is to be speaking out for political concerns. And that John Kerry - who is not running for anything - is an outrage for suggesting that being sent to Iraq is not a pleasant prospect for 18 year olds. Issues? Naw. Bush would rather scream about Democrats being traitors.

The issue? Iraq. All other issues pale in comparison. We are destroying a country. We have no right to decide we will spread democracy by war. In fact, that is absurd on its face. We tried to conquer a country and milk it for its oil wealth. We failed and now Bush doesn't know what to do. We voters must put a check on his idiotic actions - and that check is a Congress with a majority of Democratic Party members. That is the issue. Many right wingers are still blindly supportive of this war - but now many true conservatives are realizing that Bush has led us into a quagmire in Iraq and will probably lead us further if a Republican Congress is retained.

Again - to my anti-war readers - - please vote for Rick Larsen and Maria Cantwell as we need the Democratic Party control of Congress. That is our only chance of slowing or stopping the madness.

Mon, Oct 30 - National for my conservative friends.

George Will is a respected conservative columnist - and I invite you to read his current column in Newsweek. It is two pages - not long - and please read to the last two word sentence. You know George is an uncompromising conservative and has one of the finest minds of any journalist in America. He does not yell or insult people like Rush or O'Reilly or the other pseudo conservatives on FoxNews. George is the real thing - conservative Republican. Read what he has to say about Iraq.

Sun, Oct 29 - National

Free Rick Larsen is a new website by anti-war activists in Bellingham. These are serious citizens whom Rick has dissed and ignored. One has even been banned from his office for the rest of her life. They have questions for Rick and they want answers. He is their representative - but he seems afraid of them. They are probably voting for Rick for re-election. I know one is. Why? Because we need him in Congress to give the Democratic Party control of the House of Representatives and slow down if not stop the aggression of the US. Free Rick refers to trying to learn who he is beholden to with his supportive votes for the Bush program. And his reluctance to explain his votes.

Sat, Oct 28 - Local

Did Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad shoot and wound Margot in Bellingham back in 2002? NwCitizen raised this question in October 2002 and Bellingham Police Chief Randy Carroll laughed at the suggestion. Now Malvo has confessed to shooting a golfer in Arizona as practice. Margo was shot the night those two left Bellingham - and her home was right on a natural route they could have taken out of town from where they were staying. Her shooting has never been solved. And the cat mutilations in that same area stopped when they left town.

Just posting this to keep the question open. Someday we may learn. Malvo may tell us and give more information to provide convincing evidence. Of course this is also a criticism of our police chief who puts more effort into jailing kids for innocent protests than investigating attempted murder.

Fri, Oct 27 - National

The Pentagon is blocking liberal websites, such as Wonkette, from our military in Iraq. Blatant censorship and violation of free speech and press - don't let the soldiers know there are questions about the war back in the land of the round doorknob. They are "fighting for freedom and democracy" but are denied it to themselves. How criminal of the Bush administration - and how expected. How low our country has sunk these last six years. NwCitizen? If you have a relative or friend over there, ask them to check the Internet for this site. I'd like to know. From news reports, the military says it sometimes blocks some sites to free up internet bandwidth for operations. I'll bet FoxNews is never blocked. Bureaucrats routinely do anything and rationalize it.

Thur, Oct 26 - National

We will have sent over 100 young Americans to their deaths in Iraq in October. The highest in almost two years. And the 4th month of increasing deaths. And perhaps up to 1,000 to a life with injuries and mental problems. Wounded and injured.

We don't hear much about the wounded. We "save" more wounded soldiers from dying than in previous wars - so the ratio of wounded to deaths is higher. What this means is more young people facing their lives with no eyes, no limbs, brains missing sections, guts torn out, faces disfigured and/or serious mental challenges. We have over 40,000 wounded and injured from this war - so far. "Stay the Course" and twiddle with the "tactics" is a losing game. Like Hitler tweaked the tactics but stayed the course at Stalingrad in the face of his generals recommending "cut and run".

Oh - and somewhere between 40,000 and 600,000 (pdf link) killed and permanently injured Iraqis. We have no idea. And we avoid counting. We in America are responsible. They should be as treasured as human beings as our kids. But we don't even keep track. We are destroying a country in order to save it - again.

So - let us elect a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. It is our best - and only - chance to reverse this perverse and criminal regime in power. It is how a democracy overthrows a government without killing people. And that is the real and only advance that democracy has made on traditional forms of governance. Vote for Rick Larsen and Maria Cantwell if you are against the war. They may be fence sitters, but the majority of Democrats will work to stop this war.

Wed, Oct 25 - National

Why we need to vote for Rick Larsen and win a Democratic Party majority in the House of Representatives is illustrated in this new TV ad for Democrats. The ad highlights the absurdity of Bush now saying he is not "staying the course" in Iraq.

Mon, Oct 23

Want to do something to end the war in Iraq? Then vote for Rick Larsen. And Maria Cantwell. Rick's seat is not secure. If even a small percent - say 5% - of liberals who are strongly anti-war refuse to vote for Rick then he could lose. And we need a Democratic party majority in the House of Representatives to stop the madness in Iraq. Even now, with opinion polls showing the Democrats may regain control of the House, Bush is starting to act like a scared rabbit. He is changing how he talks about the war and is setting a timeline for Iraq takeover of security. With a Republican House, that will evaporate and full war will resume. Rick Larsen needs to be returned to the House. Do it for America.

Sun, Oct 22

Gentle reader - if you are liberal and against the war, then please please vote for Rick Larsen. Hold your nose, but vote for him. And, a bit easier, vote for Maria Cantwell. I am meeting friends who are strongly anti-war - and they are leaving the ballot empty next to the choice for US Representative. It is only with a Democratic party control of the US Congress that we have any hope of ending our national nightmare. If you think we have a loss of rights and a confused national policy now then you might think about how worse it can get if Bush gets a Republican Congress for the next two years. Rick is ineffectual in Congress and not a leader. We can toss him out in two years. But right now we need his breathing body in the House of Representatives as a Democrat. Don't kid yourself that Roulstone cannot win and your vote does not matter. That is the most common cause of political disaster. The two things you can personally do to help end the nightmare in Iraq are to vote for Rick and Maria.

Sat, Oct 21 - National - 4 pm

We started to see it yesterday and by next weekend it will be well known. Bush is setting a timetable for pullout from Iraq - and the "october" surprise may well be a plan for getting out of Iraq - "with victory". Of course it is all fantasy with no reality, but that is normal for this guy. After the election? We will probably bomb some new country - sort of like a bully kicking in your car door before running when the police are called. Anyway, military deserter Bush is going to cut and run in order to win the election. You can bet Karl Rove has already run the focus groups on this process. And you can bet that after the election it will change again. These guys are after permanent power. Thats all.

Sat, Oct 21 - continuing - suggestions on voting - Nov 7, 2006

State Supreme Court Justice - vote for Susan Owens. Keep her on the court. She has done a good job, respecting our rights and writing opinions supported by the other judges. Her opponent, Stephen Johnson, is a special interests candidate backed by big property and developer big money.

Bellingham charter amendment to appoint the Finance Director - vote NO. We elect this finance watchdog now and we should continue. The mayor and council need watching. The city council put this on the ballot - and I guess they don't trust democracy. We people can best judge who is qualified - and motivated - to watch our city finances.

State Initiative 920 - vote NO. Another proposed gift to the very very wealthy - - the multi millionaires. This initiative would end estate taxes - inheritance taxes - - on the very wealthy. We already have exemptions to protect family farms and small businesses. If this passes, we will lose $ millions of our school funds.

State Initiative 937 - vote YES. The big power companies have been very slow to develop green power - and this law will motivate them to develop wind and solar. It is funny how government protected monopolies always claim free market rights when it comes to customer service. Lets face it - they are profit motivated and will only develop green power if we mandate it to them. They asked for the monopoly and they have to take the regulations with it.

State constitutional amendment - vote yes. This will pass easily. No one objects to it. It adjusts 'head of household' tax exemption for inflation over the past many years.

OK, now to Whatcom County elections for our representatives to our state legislature. We all live in either the 40th district - south Bellingham and Skagit County - or in the 42nd district - the rest of Whatcom County. We have six reps - but only five are up for election this year. Harriet Spanel serves for another two years of her four year term.

40th district reps - Dave Quall and Jeff Morris are shoo-ins for re-election. Morris is unopposed and Yoshe Revelle has not been a serious candidate against Quall.

42nd district rep - position #2 - Kelli Linville is a shoo-in for re-election. Craig Mayberry screwed up his campaign royally by running for office while owing over $200,000 in payroll taxes for some failed businesses. Yes, vote for Kelli just to make sure she is elected. Craig may be a viable candidate in the future.

42nd district rep - position #1 - vote for Jasper MacSlarrow. Jasper grew up in Ferndale, knows the legislative process, has a good work ethic and a good head on his shoulders. This is his first run for office and he should give us real representation in Olympia. Lets give him a try. Incumbent Doug Ericksen is too smart for his own good. Those who know him - and I do - know he is an arrogant and smug jerk. In Olympia he has the reputation of being the laziest representative in the legislature. It is time to release Doug into the private sector and let him earn a living by working. He may learn a few things.

42nd district senator - vote for Jesse Salomon. I was ready to think Jesse was just another liberal do gooder who had vague ideas about how fairness should rule the world. Instead I have watched a very savvy fellow with a good grasp of reality and the mental skills to hold his own and work for solutions for all of us. This guy is the real thing and we are fortunate to have the chance to put him to work for us. Dale Brandland after one term in Olympia has shown us what he showed us as sheriff - a very nice guy who is not very effective. Dale works with everyone but is not a rain maker. Jesse - as a challenger - has the odds against him. If you are not sure on this then trust me - give Jesse a chance.

That is it. Candidates not metioned are probably unopposed. I cannot add value to your thinking on Fire Districts and local issues. I am delighted that Mary Kay Becker is returning to the State Appeals Court as she is an outstanding person with a superb mind. I end by again urging my fellow opponents to the Iraq war to please vote for Larsen and Cantwell. If you don't and their Republican opponents are elected, then you become personally responsible for the continuation of the war.

You can access a single page - easily printed - of these voting suggestions.

Thursday, Oct 19 - suggestions on voting - November 7, 2006 election

These are listed in general order of the importance I think they deserve. As a senior citizen now, and with a lifetime of deep involvement in politics (not deep, but I even shook hands with JFK) I have had one lesson drilled into my mind. Choosing who to vote for is always relative. We have two choices and we may not like either - but we need to make an intelligent choice that gives us the best possible future. Often it is the lessor of two lousy choices. Voting is not a time to make a protest or show how angry we are. It is a moment to make a sane and intelligent decision for the future. So - here is my advice to those who ascribe any value to it.

US Senate - vote for Maria Cantwell. Return her to the Senate. To my liberal and anti-Iraq war friends, especially - vote for Maria. While she has fence sat on the war and we may want to show our anger to her, we would be doing the dumbest thing we could if we allowed the Republicans to keep control of the Senate. If we dislike the war then we must do all we can to return Congress - House and Senate - to a Democratic majority control. Anything short of that and our loved America will sink further into a morass of war, terror, fear, loss of civil rights and all the other evils that the corrupt and criminal Bush administration is oppressing us with. Vote for Maria. Urge your anti-war friends to vote for her. On all other issues, she has represented us well - and even conservatives value her service.

State Initiative 933 - vote NO. Gawd - the developers permanent wealth machine. How to steal America. Dupe the citizens into voting away their rights, their money and their land. Poof - just like that. Oregon passed this a few years ago and are reaping a nightmare of absurd lawsuites and horrible projects. The backers of this say that while there is some problem wording in the initiative, it is a good law. Problem wording?? Bull. The wording was carefully crafted to screw the common citizens out of their money and land. The Seattle Times millionaire family is backing this and their newspaper is not to be trusted on what it says about this. Liberal or conservative in your politics, this is a very bad bill.

US House Representative from the 2nd District. Vote for Rick Larsen. Same reasoning here as for Maria. He has fence sat the Iraq war issue, but we need the Democratic majority in the House. Rick is an empty suit who drives around the district with multiple sets of suits and casual clothes so he can change at each stop and look like he belongs there. He pays more attention to polls than to the needs of his district. Roulstone is a viable candidate who - in another time - might make a good representative. He is intelligent and experienced in life. BUT - we as a country must get a Democratic party majority into the House of Representatives - and so we must vote for Rick Larsen if we want sanity to return to our country. I urge my liberal readers to please - swallow hard and vote for Rick. Hold your nose, but vote for him.

Mon, Oct 16 - National

Actually, International - but not local and that is the point. AlJazeera reports on a scholarly Islamic letter to the Pope - pointing out the factual errors in that inflammatory speech of his last month in Germany. The Pope accused Islam of spreading its religion by the sword - and the scholars point out how this is not true now nor in the past. Now - this is a response that is not violent and so we shall see how little attention our corporate media give to it. No headlines, of course. But this response could be very important as a step towards reconciliation between the two major religions in the world. We in the West have a history of avoiding solutions. We prefer to conquer. By the sword. With the support of the Christian sects. Today the US is trying to spread Democracy by the sword - or by the bomb, rifle and cannon to be exact. With the full support of many Christian churches in this country. And "Christians".

The full letter is posted by Islamica Magazine - at the bottom of the article - and I have posted their PDF of the letter here. I've not yet read the whole letter.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bellingham Grassroots &
Independent Media

Was held Oct 14, 2006 at Fairhaven College Auditorium
on the campus of
Western Washington University

Blogs at the conference
Reload - Lee Rosenberg
Pacific Views - Natasha Chart
Horses Ass - David Goldstein
Better Donkey - Amy & Grant
Should have been there:
Orcinus - Dave Neiwert

This is an important event for all who support independent news media.

Sat, Oct 14 - Local

Nice little slanted piece in today's Bellingham Herald by Sam Taylor. He says "Some in the community have clamored for (library) branches...". Clamor. Apparently we are not requesting or petitioning or even asking. We are making a lot of noise and yelling. Sam's additional comments - er, reporting? - makes it clear that he is referring to my statements at the last library board meeting. But in following a several years old rule at the Herald, my name is not mentioned. And I was not asked to comment on the BOLA document - although Sam quoted several board members in statements that were critical of my statements.

And so we start another fun project - bring a little light and public knowledge to another government boondoggle. I have written the Library Director, Pam Kiesner, asking for the BOLA study - which I was denied a copy of at the October 5 board meeting. Seems the Herald can have it to write a hit piece, but a citizen cannot.

I am choosing this project for two reasons - waste of money and my love of a good library system. One, the city expects us to approve a bond issue next year for 20 to 60 million dollars for a new Taj Mahal of a central library and parking facilities - and I think that is a complete waste of money and will not solve our library needs. The second reason is I think branch libraries will take pressure off the main library, provide much better service to people and cost less - both in capital expenditures and in yearly operating costs.

I've done this before.
- In 1969 I started the Outdoor Learning Center at WWU - and it took a two year effort to get it going. The program is still strong 37 years later.
- In 1978, I worked with the Freeholders to help pass the Home Rule Charter - against some strong odds. It passed and we have enjoyed a much better government in our county since.
- In 1990, I took on the Port of Bellingham over the KAP project which was a $4 million boondoggle that resulted in firings of staff, the replacement of the executive director and a completely new set of three Port Commissioners - two of whom I helped get elected. (the Herald has cooperated with the Port in never again mentioning this costly scandal)
- In 1992, the city tried to close our Fairhaven library - much loved and used. I worked with neighbors to keep the library open and then worked to stop four more attempts by the city over the next several years to close it.
- In 2000, Tip Johnson and I led the effort by residents of Happy Valley to stop Western Washington University's effort to wipe out 17 city blocks of our neighborhood for parking and unneeded expansion. The mayor and planning commission pulled every dirty trick in the book to defeat us - but in the end we threw WWU out of our neighborhood. Lo, they found great expansion space behind Sehome Village for administrative offices and they are now looking at the waterfront area - exactly where Tip Johnson told them to look.

So, now in 2006, I will see what I can do to help my fellow citizens learn the facts of what is best for our future library system. And since the Herald is going to play dirty with poor reporting and slanting "news" articles and since the library is now showing they are more than ready to withhold vital information from the public, this is just shaping into the kind of game I enjoy. Let the game begin.

The BOLA study? Apparently something that says $1.9 million is needed to renovate the Fairhaven Library - or so the Herald story suggests. I doubt even a million is needed. But first I need to get a copy of the report.

Thur, Oct 12 - National

This is too rich to pass up. Karl Rove is being exposed as pressuring Rep. Foley - the Republican who pursued teenage Congressional pages - to run for Congress one more time. Indeed, Karl apparently told Foley that if he did not run again that his future career as a lobbyist would be hampered. Lets see how long it takes our big Corporate media to touch that one.

The Associated Press did a hit piece on Sen. Reid - very unusual for the AP but perhaps something that should cause us to be more skeptical of their reporting on political matters. The Bellingham Herald ran the story this morning. The story twists the facts and spins them to imply that Reid gained a financial benefit from shady land deals. This same AP reporter, John Solomon, has written two previous articles about Reid that were shown to be inaccurate. Here are two posts that explain the situation - TPM Muckraker and The Daily KOS.

Tue, Oct 10 - Local

The Auditor's Election webpage has posted the General Election schedule. Indeed, ballots will be mailed to all of us starting a week from tomorrow on Oct 18. While the corporate media like to say it is four weeks to the election, in truth it is less than two weeks away. A sizeable percentage of ballots are returned to the Auditor within the first few days of mailings. As candidates campaign for the last two weeks before November 7, they have no chance at all with a growing percentage of voters who have already mailed in their ballots.

I will try to post my suggestions and the why for on the candidates over the next week. Along with links to sites with more information on the candidates and issues.

Mon, Oct 9 - Local

Next week the Auditor will mail out our ballots to us. Catch that? Next week, we start voting. Yet - our Whatcom County Auditor webpage has no information at all about the general election. No dates - nada. This has been the sad norm for the past few years of the Internet age with our Auditor, Shirley Forslof. Lack of information, links to needed info buried 3 and 4 pages down, voting results taken offline for months, and generally confused layout of the election pages. By the time you read this her office staff may have the fix in place as they do check this site.

Now - Shirley has staff that is supposed to manage her website for her - and she tries her best to get them to do a good job. She is genuinely concerned and trying to do a good job. But the fact is she is in over her head with our new electronic age. She lacks the expertise to supervise her staff because she depends on them to tell her what is appropriate.

The point? I am posting this to nudge the Auditor's office to again pay attention to their web pages and to bring some expertise to the information posted. The current head of the election division has shown no ability at this and someone else should be put in charge of the web pages. But that won't happen. We will bungle along through yet another election.

Next year we have a chance to elect a new Auditor. I hope Shirley takes her deserved retirement. She has served us to her best ability for many years. But we citizens need to be thinking now about tech savvy persons we can back for Auditor. We need someone of very high integrity, intelligence and with courage to buck the local political groups in seeking to create the independent office we need the Auditor's office to be. And we need to be thinking now. It does not have to be an experienced politician.

To end on an Internet story. For the primary election in Sep 1995, Barry Bowen and I setup a computer connected to the Internet in the lobby of the court house on election night. We keyed in the results each time the printed pages were handed out by the Auditor and they were available at this website. We repeated this for a couple more elections as we tried to promote Internet usage by the Auditor and other government agencies. What was interesting was how much they all thought we were goofy and the Internet was a fad. We could not get any cooperation at all from the Auditor. A year later the Auditor helped another guy to get results before us so he could post before us and we quit the effort. By that time everyone realized the Internet was the coming thing. And later still, the Auditor started posting the results on their website.

Check the Voting Reform links at the top right of this page for more info - and especially Marian Beddill's website No Leaky Buckets.

Sat, Oct 7 - National

As Republicans try to prove the Democrats sprung the Foley scandal as an 'October Surprise', it is fun to actually learn how it all started. Check out the website for CREW - Citizens for responsibility and ethics in Washington. Talk about swimming upstream. Anyway, they apparently got some Foley emails in July and promptly turned them over to the FBI - the same day. And the FBI has sat on them for over two months. They now want to know why.

We liberals are cheered by Hastert's determination to stay on as Speaker of the House of Representatives. As such, he can answer questions each day as new revelations come out on his involvement. Or - we liberals hope - he will refuse to answer questions. It really is not a question of if but when before the election that he will go. He seems to be the last to know.

Thur, Oct 5 - National

Right wingnuts - Drudge, Gingrich and others - are saying the Democrats want Republican House leader Hastert to resign so as to enhance Democratic House candidates in the November election. You know, this liberal ( I'm not a Democrat) thinks the best way Hastert can help Democratic candidates is to not resign - but to tough it out all through October and continue to keep this issue hot. He has shown such poor judgement and has contradicted himself nicely with just five days of this scandal that I think 30 days could guarantee a huge Democratic win in November. What I think will happen is Hastert will continue to apply bandaids to this scandal and be forced by Republicans to resign in a week or two as the issue gets worse. We shall see.

Wed, Oct 4 - National

Yep - if the facts don't fit, then lie. Oh, I'm sorry, that is unfair. If the facts don't fit then make a mistake. (This post is labeled National so no conservative has to read this far and become upset - as I don't want to hurt their reliance on the "fair and balanced" claim of FoxNews.) This on O'Reilly last night.

Foley is a Republican. When FoxNews did correct the error later in the day, they left off any (R-FL) for the political party Foley is - was - a high ranking member of. Republicans put him in charge of fighting internet exploitation of children. Drudge and other right wing nuts are now concocting a conspiracy theory that will blame Democrats for "delaying" the exposing of Foley's soliciting of teenagers for booze and sex. Maybe they are trying to learn if some of the young pages' parents are Democrats. Read more here.

Tue, Oct 3 - National

Now the right wing media theme is Rep. Foley is a homosexual - as if that explains pedophilia. So, would they say a rapist is just a heterosexual person? The Wall Street Journal and other right wingnuts seem to argue such. Folks, if you don't know it, being gay has nothing to do with being a pedophile. I mean, would you want a heterosexual woman to be a school teacher? Are those young boys safe?

Come on - sexual orientation is not the concern here. It is preying on kids. The real issue is not even some guy who has a problem. The issue is the Congressional leaders who systematically enabled him to pursue his perversion and protected him and thus allowed young boys to be preyed upon. We will always have guys who go wrong. It is the responsibility of those in power to take corrective action when this happens to prevent innocents from being hurt. A similar situation is the Catholic priests who are pedophiles and are protected by the bishops. The bishops are the real criminals. The priests need help.

My conservative friends like that word "accountable" and here is where Denny Hastert is falling flat. As are the other Republican leaders around him. And now Hastert is lying to cover up. It is not too soon to say that with certainty.

Late addition: Jon Steward of the Daily Show got to the hard straight facts of this issue. ;) View the video clip from last night at youtube.com

Mon, Oct 2, 2006 - National

"... naughty e-mails..." is all they are according to the White House. (Tony Snow on CNN) Yep - from the same folks who say torture is "procedures". And this explains why the top leadership of the Republican Congress ignored this predator for almost a year. We want these guys governing and making laws? These are the guys who went ballistic over Clinton's lying about an extramartial affair with a grown woman. I'm proud to be a liberal.

The National thing is new - so my conservative friends who like reading my posts about local Whatcom County issues can avoid reading my analysis of national issues, which they really do not want to read. They get mad and their blood pressure bothers them.

To Jan thru Sep 2006 archive