Happy New Year. The new year always brings hope. Tis the nature of humans to wake up in the morning and feel that the new day will offer opportunities for us. We hope that our personal efforts in our lives will benefit ourselves and our loved ones. We hope that as a society we can learn from the past and make better decisions for the future. We can hope that our finance leaders will make wise decisions for a sustained economy - and hope is needed here as our economic situation slides and falters.
Regards this website and our local politics, I hope we can all grow up as a community and accept criticism of events that is relevant to our decision making and stop being a small town that takes criticism as civic treason. That is for a small town that is not confident of itself. We are growing rapidly and this will continue in 2008. We all worried for years about Californiacation but the model for our future is closer to home. The Bellevueization of Bellingham is underway but we can direct its impacts if we bring our intelligence and a healthy civic process to the task. I hope we do.
Mayor Dan Pike has his work cut out for him. He ran on a campaign promise of more open government in city hall. Hopefully he will check to see if a video was initially taken of this special session and - if it exists - will instruct that it be posted. The city information department might be instructed on the difference between information and censorship. Now lets see if the audio makes it in one piece - or if it gets edited or even inadvertantly erased.
My conservative friends will say she took too many risks and her killing could not be prevented. Their thinking always has blank spots where they simply ignore strong evidence. In this case, her foes were allowed to plot and try and retry to kill her - with Musharraf and the Pakistan security services enabling the killing. And with Bush and his military knowing what was happening but continuing to fully support the dictator with money, security and safety.
Benazir and her father died trying to bring democracy to their country. Bush and his administration stooges have done their best to prevent democracy from developing in Pakistan. Like other assassinations of Middle East leaders since World War II, we will learn decades from now that we were involved in her killing. Bush and his advisors have blood on their hands. Shame on the United States. Again. All true patriots should be embarrassed for our country.
She was so good. She was the real thing - a leader who wanted to bring prosperity and democracy to the people of her country. Her father, when he was the leader, defied the US and was executed by the US supported dictator Zia for that. He also sought to bring democracy to a country when the US wanted a friendly dictator during the Cold War confrontation with Russia. Now, Musharraf simple is a two bit dictator who would fall in a day without the support of the US. Those who think this killing could not be prevented are pollyannas wearing blinders.
Merry Christmas to all. May this solstice celebration - this most popular holiday of the year - bring you joy and cheer. Going back past ancient history and back into thousands of years of human existence, this has been the time of year for renewed hope for the coming new year. Our human soul needs hope and we seek it where we can find it. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and season's greetings.
Thoughts on Public Discourse
Blog sites are popping up everywhere. They can be on all sorts of subjects and our local political blogs seem especially popular. Just look at the large number of new blogs the Bellingham Herald, our newspaper of record, has created this year as part of its on-line edition. One prevalent characteristic of many blogs is the anonymous comment - and these have a sad and dark side.
Anonymous commenting on blogs, whether the Herald's or any other website, is a real disservice to public discourse. The "anons" may claim 1st amendment rights to use hateful statements, character smearing and inane remarks and I personally support that right of free speech. But as a practical matter, why waste time reading something that adds no value to the public discussion of real community issues and concerns. Each blog and media outlet has its own set of policies and rules, of course. For those outlets that subscribe to anonymity, and that are no cost to visit and read, one can just ignore them. Or you may find them entertaining in some way. So be it.
However, when it comes to our paper of record, to which I subscribe by the way, I am baffled by the inconsistency in its policy on anonymity and failure to check the authenticity of the writer. To submit a letter to the editor for the print edition, you must provide your name, where you live and phone number. The Herald will call you to verify that the letter was submitted by you. The Herald also reserves the right to edit your letter, and your name and town are printed along with your letter.
So what is with their on-line blogs and comments on articles? You can submit an anonymous comment the authenticity of which is not questioned. You can even put another person's name as the writer if you are that dishonest. The point being we know that the blogosphere at its worst can present false and profane information from unverifiable sources. At its worst it is merely entertainment of questionable value. It is a shame to see the Herald succumb to that standard. Come on Herald... you can be of great service to the community by maintaining the highest standards of accuracy and public discourse in all aspects of your publications.
So if someone tells me that there are scads of comments on the Herald's political blog on a particular topic or article, frankly I say "so what?" People who wish to submit serious comments should bemoan the dilution of the value of their contribution by this lack of authenticity. Very sad indeed.
And I'm delighted. We need online forums where we can exercise our freedom of speech in effective ways. In the early 1990s I saw the Internet as having this potential. It is the most liberal and populist of tools in that it does not require money or power to use and to be accessible by all citizens. We are still learning how to use it - and making mistakes along the way. The horrible anon comments on the Herald site is a good example of a mistake.
The link to Bellingham Bloggers is posted at the top of the right side column. I'll still complete my plans - hopefully in January. But a little competition is good for public dialog and this bodes well for 2008. Hope you get content posted soon, Chris.
The story of John Carter being confirmed of Thursday, Dec 20, has disappeared from the online past stories list. Yes, you can search the archives and find it. There was no lack of room and the story is a major one. But it has embarrassing elements attached to it - and that is explained below.
Note how the article on soldiers at Ft. Lewis is kept. Well, today's printed newspaper has a correction about that story. Seems 5,000 civilians will not be added by 2013. But the online version does not have the correction. So the Herald leaves up a story with a major error and deletes a story of high local interest. Why? Maybe one story was causing a problem. The Herald routinely deletes stories it has problems with. Poof. Gone. No more problem. But the real point is they knowingly leave up a story with major errors.
The deleted Carter story had over 20 comments posted to it - most critical of the appointment of Carter. That comment page is supposedly a resource the Herald provides online to its readers. Well, gentle reader, those comments exist no more from any link on the Herald. Poof. While you can find the original article by a search of their online archives, the comments are not saved.
This website gets criticized for not taking comments. Well at least I don't pull a dirty trick of allowing comments and then making them disappear on you. Keeping website material online for years is dirt cheap. I do it and this site is only a personal effort. The Herald could keep stuff accessible but apparently feels little responsibility to its readers to do so. Articles are available through the archives - and you pay dearly for older articles.
So the comments with false names that were the subject of yesterday's posts below are gone. Or are they? Well, they are still on the Herald's web servers - but you cannot get there from the Herald's own pages. But you can from here. Isn't the Internet wonderful? Check out Sam's article and you will see comments are up to 26. I guess you could even add a new one. And, of course, you can read my comments on Sam's article in permanent posts below on Dec 20. Who knows when my link will lead you to nada at the Herald. Maybe when the Herald editors see it.
Sam Taylor has an article in today's Herald on the Bellingham City Council special session yesterday when they approved John Carter as the new city Finance Director. Sam includes some quotes from Carter and Dan Pike. However, neither John nor Dan said those things at yesterday's council meeting. But then, Sam would not know that because he was not at the meeting. So, apparently, Carter and Dan told him those things before or after the meeting - but Sam quotes them without explaining any of this. This is not reporting. This is fabrication of a report of a meeting. I was there and there was no Sam. There was no reporter at all there.
Professional journalism standards require a reporter to indicate if his sources for a story are not his own. And the Herald publisher has assured us at the City Club meeting that his reporters follow these standards but that 'blog' websites, such as this, do not and cannot be trusted. So what was said at the meeting yesterday? When the city finally posts the video of the meeting then you can see for yourself. It was only a 15 minute meeting. Of course, some things were said at the meeting that perhaps the powers that be in city hall do not want the public to know - and so we shall see if a video is even posted.
On his blog, Sam acknowledges he was not there. And we know Sam confuses his blog with the newspaper. Sam says - on his blog - that he intended to "... call in later today to make sure the vote went smoothly." And, according to his printed story, lo it went smoothly - whatever that means. Of course the Mayor and Carter were not going to tell him of anything that was not smooth. Like some obnoxious citizen busting the party with facts on Carter's background that caused the council members to discuss how they can learn more about these appointees in the future before they have to vote on them without enough knowledge. Nope, Sam would not be told that.
I had praise here for Sam's reporting during the political campaigns. And he got praise from many others. And he did do a good job. But that praise seems to have gone to his young head and he now considers himself the embodiment of local political reporting. Sorry, Sam, but to keep your reputation you have to actually keep reporting. If you were not at an event then your printed story in the Herald has to tell us that and what your sources were for your story. Professional standards and all that, you know.
Council members all sort of mumbled their support for Carter. John Watts explained how, gee, we needed to have "continuity" with our finance department and so this meeting. As John always does, he did not address the obvious impediment to his reasoning. This time the impediment is why this appointment was not brought up at the last November meeting - since council has known for a year that this position would be vacant now.
Comment was allowed - even though it was not on the agenda. I was the only speaker - but Bob Ryan had no problem cutting me off at exactly 3 minutes. They did not like my comments. I did my best to put on the record why Carter is a very poor choice for finance director and why this process is contrary to open government practices. And as the meeting ended, I again had that weird experience of being among people who do not see me - where I don't exist. Am a ghost passing through. No one looked at me and they all obviously felt I had spoiled their little approval party. And I had. And their rubber stamp approval without any public discussion has given us a very second rate finance director.
It pains me to write this stuff. I only hope Dan Pike realizes he is off to a very bad start and these processes are only beginners mistakes. Again, I think he is being betrayed by inside city hall advice - probably from the city attorney's office. They did not want him as mayor in the first place. Dan needs to slow down everything and say 'later' to the urging of city staff that is probably overloading him with 'urgent' decisions. And Dan needs to realize that his job is not working with bureaucrats in city hall but rather administering our city government for us citizens. All we want - all I want - is good government. This finance director appointment process is an example of all we rejected when we voted Dan Pike in as our new mayor. I am only one voice - one citizen. Alone I will make no difference. But I can try. I will be at today's city council meeting and will try to speak. We shall see what happens.
Why the rush? Is the creek flooding? Some emergency that just cannot wait till January? No. Tis to have the council confirm a new city finance director. A job we knew a year ago would be open now. Gentle reader, did you know of any of the candidates being considered? I did not. This appointment is for one of the very most important positions in city government. A post we elected the person to until last year. Yet I bet that you reading this did not know yesterday who will be your finance director today. This is not open government. This is government by ambush.
Bad advice is being given to our new mayor by someone in city hall. And he should figure it out soon and get rid of them. Dan should remember that city hall did not want him as mayor. They are not his friends. He is the outsider who was elected because he was going to end over 20 years of quiet behind closed doors decision making. Well, this is not a good start.
And then there is the candidate to be anointed today by a lame duck city council - a council that will not work a single day with this new finance director. John Carter does not have a very good track record of financial management at the Port of Bellingham. This is the guy who oversaw the losing of over four million dollars on the KAP fiasco in the early 1990s. He lied to the Port Commissioners and to the public for five months as he covered up the unraveling of the KAP shell game. Each month he had a chance to tell the truth and he chose to consciously lie by claiming that KAP had paid their monthly rent. He later admitted lying each month for five months at public Port meetings. He said KAP kept telling him they would make it all good. They never did and never intended to. The Port was taken by fast talking scam artists while John Carter was in charge of Port finances.
There is also the incredible financial debacle the Port got us into with the GP properties. Where was Carter's financial advice on this? He told the Port Commissioners what they wanted to hear - that all was well. Tilt. We can only fear how he will give his stamp of approval to any politically sensitive financial adventure the city bureaucrats may come up with.
The deal is done. The city council will trip all over their tongues later today to praise this supposedly wonderful appointment. I doubt there will be a single critical brain or voice in the council chamber today. Good ol boy John Carter, with close personal ties to all the good ol boys in the city and county, is now in the inner meetings with our mayor - the guy we elected because we wanted change and we wanted the good ol crowd out.
What happened to those KAP scan artists? Why the Port bought them out to avoid the public embarrasement of court or legal proceedings. The scamers made a huge profit. John Carter participated in the decisions to buy them out. This is not good judgement by a financial manger.
Poof. Gone. The Bellingham Herald has deleted yesterday's front page headline story from its list of local news stories online. Yep - the other front page stories are still on the local news - but not this one. It can only be found buried 66 stories deep in their archives online - and the photo is gone. Gee, could they be realizing that the story was racist after all? And so our newspaper of record just makes the record disappear as best they can. Since the photo did not print in yesterday's paper, the clip below is the only remaining evidence that the Herald ever posted the photo and caption. Ah, but the Herald publisher proudly says that his outfit has journalistic integrity and citizen websites like this site are unreliable. The Herald publisher, of course, climbed his way up the newspaper ladder by running operations, not by reporting or being an editor. Check that out for reliability.
A racist headline in today's Herald - but they don't have a clue. The news is the Northwood Casino finally got their liquor permit - which they should have had long ago. But the Herald hypes the issue to the max as booze is flowing. And a photo that almost suggests these folks can't wait to get drunk.
This whole issue with the Northwood Casino and the Nooksack Indians trying to develop their business has had racial overtones. Our county officials have been the best of good old boys in lending their help to stop the Indians. So far, the Indians have prevailed.
No one tried to stop the Homestead from getting built or prospering - and the Herald did not decide that was a story. Yet the Homestead certainly went in on prime farmland and is a big business on the northern outskirts of Lynden. But no nearby farmers objected to the increased traffic, the sheriff did not get the jitters that he could not enforce the laws way out there. The neighbors did not ask for lower property valuations. And the prosecutor did not think he needed to personally stop them from getting a liquor permit.
The Homestead is a fine development - and this is not criticism of them. But then the Northwood Casino is also a fine development and they should be allowed to do business without our county officials using our tax money to try and stop them. Yes, gentle reader, racism is alive and healthy in Bellingham and Whatcom County. And like most racism, they do not have a clue and do not think themselves racist. They just think the Indians made a mistake.
Is a New Solar Cycle Beginning? This is on NASA's site and has strong credibility. You won't find this article on a google news search. I'll continue to watch this and post on it. We will be reading a lot about this once the cycle starts.
Some items that I think are neat or news and which will perhaps impact us a lot in the near future.
Do you know that today Russia withdrew from a major military arms treaty that was reached in 1990 at the end of the Cold War. Why? Because of our US work to violate the anti-missile treaty and place missiles in Europe next to Russia. Another sad result from the Bush foreign policy mess. Our US corporate media tends to not tell us of these sad events that continue.
In high tech, there is a new video camera called the ComVu which we can expect to see before long at some public meeting. It is a phone with the power of a TV camera for direct relay to live TV. These will change how many events are covered. Why? Because as meetings get better coverage, the politicians change how they act at the meetings. It is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in action. By observing something you change how it behaves. A politician scanning a room for TV cameras can very easily miss this baby. Ergo, they will assume there is one somewhere and be cautious.
And - the nugget of news you will probably get only here today is last but perhaps most important. Today we think the sun started into its solar cycle 24. To translate, we think the next 11 year cycle of sunspots may be beginning today. For the past two years, the sun has been in the minimum of the 11 year cycle 23 - with few sunspots. Whether the next cycle would even start was not certain. The prediction is for a very strong cycle 24 with a peak in 2012. And - gentle reader here is the point - the sunspots strongly impact our weather on earth. In the late 1600s there were few sunspots for about 70 years and we had what is called the 'little ice age' with very cold weather. Sunspots are good. And over the next 6 or 7 years you will see more about them in the news media.
That's it for today, friends.
Western Washington University administrators - starting with President Karen Morse - have been abusing their power for years. Below is an example. This article first appeared in slightly different form in the November 29 issue of the Whatcom Independent. It is written by Paul de Armond who has followed this particular case closely from the beginning. Paul is the respected political investigator who ran the website Public Good for years.
Court papers and university documents obtained through public disclosure requests are available online at www.perrymills.blogspot.com – a website maintained by Mills' supporters.
Judge finds WWU acted illegally but upholds professor's suspension
A little lightness for the weekend may be nice. While most 'blogs' include a lot of personal introspection and personal involvement in the posts, this web site has not indulged in that. I've not even thought of this as a blog - as a continuous reflection of my personal mental journey on some subject or the world. Rather this started and continues to be an effort to prod the Herald for their omissions and errors and distortions and to bring out information the Herald ignores. The info needs to be of value to our community in our effort to self govern.
Well, maybe a bit more of myself and more about how I have come to learn some political information is needed. Perhaps weekend posts are a time for more lighthearted posts. Anyway, without too much more introspection in this paragraph, here is what I feel like writing today. Hope it doesn't drive you away from this site. Regardless, it is me.
Oh - and before that - a note on voting. Yes, I will be responding to John Watts fine posts on district or county wide voting. And, yes, I do have what I think are strong counter arguments. And, yes, I do try and read his entire posts except for his quotations of others. And, unlike the commentators on Sam Taylor's blog, there will be no personal insults of Watts here. Now to trivia.
While we all know that the shortest day of the year is Dec 21, it is not well known that the latest sunrise and earliest sunset are not on that day. Instead they are about three weeks apart. Trivia that I find fun.
Tomorrow, Dec 10 we will have the earliest sunset of the year at 4:14 pm. It will go down over Lummi Island about 4, and officially set for Bellingham at 4:14. The sunrise tomorrow is at 7:52 am and we will have 8 hours and 22 minutes of daylight. I'd like to say sunlight but...
Dec 21, we will have only 8 hours and 16 minutes of daylight - the shortest day of the year. But the sunset will already be 2 minutes later at 4:16 pm than it will be tomorrow. The sunrise will be 8:00 am - 8 minutes later than tomorrow as we continue to see darker mornings. But - we can celebrate longer evening light starting after tomorrow.
On Dec 28, the sunrise will be 8:03 am - the latest it rises all year. But the day will have 8 hours and 18 minutes of daylight and the sunset will be at 4:19 - much later than on either Dec 21 or Dec 10. Well, much later if you love it when the day lasts any longer into the evening.
So, we can look forward to the sun setting later each day after tomorrow. While I again do not provide proof, evidence and documentation of my outlandish statements, I also again invite anyone who disagrees with my information to post their own counter information and I will link to their website and their post for public dialog. As I have been doing for over 10 years.
Perhaps all voters in all thirteen western states should vote for our two Washington State Senators to the US Congress. That way, they will represent all of the West and not just our rainy area. And all Washington State voters should be allowed to vote on who we send to our State Legislature from our 40th and 42nd districts here in Whatcom and Skagit counties. That would be in line with the thinking of our county council.
They are called 'representatives' and district only voting ensures that we get representative government. We all elect our Executive, Mayor, President or Governor. But we - the we who live in a ward, district, county or state - should be able to elect our representative without voters from other areas having a say. I want someone who knows my area, listens to we who live here and represents our interests - which ever voting area that is. When all the city or county or state or national interests are the same then we get good legislation. Otherwise those elected really represent the party hacks and the big money - not the people. This is true at a national level and at a county level.
Two groups love county wide voting; The organized factions and those with money to put into candidates. They love it because they have more say on who gets elected. They fear ward or district only elections because the people become closer to their representatives than the party hacks, the paid political organizers and the big donors. Well the people and their representatives should be close.
We voters spoke on this issue - and that should be it for several years at least. The county council is acting in a narrow, self serving manner to put forth this issue again for our vote. The liberals are looking to ensure their reelection. And the county council as a whole is acting irresponsibly. This was not a priority issue.
The county council threw this bone out of the courthouse to the citizens this week and it is a great big non-issue. The political hacks who are behind this now hope we will argue about this non-issue for the next 11 months and maybe not notice the real issues that need our attention. Our vote counting is a mess. No matter how you schedule voting, if you don't count the votes accurately then it does not matter what arrangements you have for who votes for whom. And if you have public disclosure laws that invite gaming then you have no idea who is honest or deceptive. And if you have an election system that protects incumbents and prevents real choices by the voters then you will not get good candidates. And if you have a legislature that is captive to the two political parties then you end up with ballots that are confusing and use color codes in an effort to be less confusing. If we want true representatives then we have a lot of work to do that is not related to district or county wide voting.
Supposedly if you want liberal council members then you are supposed to be for county wide voting. If you want conservative, then district only. I thought the idea was a council person who represented the people of a district. Somehow that has gotten lost. Interestingly, a larger percentage of city voters actually vote than rural voters. That is why the city seems to control who is elected. Confused yet? There are more rural voters than Bellingham voters. If they would vote then our rural friends could control the elections whether county wide or district only.
My solution? Redistrict the county with five meaningful districts - with three being largely from outside Bellingham. Then have two at-large seats - one every two years. Have district only voting for the five district seats. Have instant runoff voting so there is no primary. Have free mailing of ballots in envelopes that are automatically priority mail. Now we would elect people who would represent us and prevent incumbents from staying around too long.
Maybe an initiative for a vote next November to change how we redistrict our county would be a nice poison pill for our council. You, gentle reader, perhaps do not know that the two political parties completely control how our districts are drawn. Completely. The Republican and Democratic Party hacks. Section 4.41 of our county charter. Is it beginning to make sense?
Do we Americans believe in human rights? Do we believe that "all" are equal and have rights as our Declaration of Independence says we believe - or only citizens of the United States? Wednesday this was argued before the Supreme Court - and you can read the Seattle Times article here. Below is an article by Ryan Servais on this issue. He is a nephew of mine.
Another round of Guantanamo cases comes before the Supreme Court on Wednesday as I near the end of a semester representing a prisoner held there for six years. I am a Green Bay native attending law school in New York City. After earning my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I opted to go to Fordham Law because of its first-rate international program. Currently, I am participating in Fordham's International Justice Clinic, which represents several Guantanamo prisoners.
The proposed Chuckanut Mountains Park District issue is alive and perking. I'm adding a link - in the right column - to their website. And also listed is the North Sound Conservancy, the organization that is opposed to this park district. Check them out. As one friend said, this one may go to the 10th inning.
It is so nice to have several websites covering local issues. The past few days I've just not even thought of posting and have enjoyed checking other sites. As new local voices have gone online, I've linked to them from the right column for years now. Some early ones are gone - such as the Town Crier. And the Herald got frantic and started 13 blogs in six months. But in general the links to the right try to cover the local independent writers who are posting online.
The fad now is commenting. I've been asked a lot in the last few months why there is no commenting here. Of course the ones asking are either anon themselves or are ones who don't post themselves. Yes, they are the ones who know what others should do. I started this website back when the Herald totally controlled what was news in this town. It was an effort to bring out information the Herald ignored. I've always thought others should start sites and I would link to them and we would have many people contributing information for general public use. But over the past 12 years very few have had the time, inclination and energy to start websites. Until Google and a couple other outfits made it easy.
I continue to hand post this website. Sort of like the old guy who could not give up his typewriter for a computer. This post and page and site are all just pieced together with no automatic formatting or auto dating or anything. About two years ago I felt it was time to move towards commenting and I've been figuring out since how to do it so it would not just be trash talk. I was ahead of the curve in 1995 with the idea of posting in reverse chronology my political opinions on a website where all could read - if they wanted to. For the past two years I've been thinking of how to hopefully make a site that provides the next step for online political information.
Then there is young Sam Taylor. He is a bit too full of himself lately. He seems to be just trying to pick a fight with me or John Watts. And he is being reckless with the facts in the process. Take his shot at Watts today. On Friday the news was the city would reduce the B&O tax. On Saturday Watts posted that the Herald missed a good article by not having anything in Saturday's paper. On Sunday the Herald ran a story by Sam on the B&O. On Monday Sam complains that Watts missed his article and was mistaken in posting that the Herald had no B&O coverage. Sam ignores the chronology. Why? I don't know. He did the same with a post of mine a week ago where he ignored what I wrote and invented what he imagined I wrote. Maybe he is just trying to challenge the two old guys on the local 'blogs' in order to assert himself as the new expert. Maybe he is just trying to assert his independence, like a teenager fighting with his elders. Who knows. It is all very unnecessary and takes away from the general respect we all feel for Sam.
Gentle reader, there is a lot of room for lots of different types of political websites. We are just citizens exercising our right to free speech as per the First Amendment. We are generally responsible and factual - contrary to what some might say. And we are still inventing new formats for comment, news and information. The current blogs - like Sam's - are probably going to evolve also in the near future. Newspapers are throwing mud at the wall by trying all sorts of things online trying to guess what will work. They haven't a clue - as several newspaper experts admitted last week at the City Club - including the Herald's publisher.
Well, some of us do have some ideas of what is the next step and how things may evolve. I am trying to move this website into the next stage. It is not easy. The goal is to make something that will serve the community and provide the information people need in order to be informed citizens. I may fall far short of that goal, but that is the goal. And with that attitude, I welcome new websites and will link to them. We are all equal online and with more sites we then improve the service to our community.