Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fair Game!

"Fair Game", now playing at The Pickford Cinema in Bellingham, WA is a surprisingly engaging anti-war movie.  I learned quite a bit that was new to me, if the movie can be believed.  What do Daniel Ellsberg, Valerie Plame, and Julian Assange  have in common (besides high IQs, access to confidential information, and anti-war sentiment)? They have all been hunted and exposed by the White House. "Fair Game" is essentially the back story of a war-mongering Presidential administration hostile efforts to control CIA analysis. At times, the emphasis on this fact seems almost unbelievable and syrupy. The movie is peppered, as are Valerie Plame's and Joe Wilson available press interviews on youtube, with calls for citizens to have a commitment to creating a republic free of imperiousness and corruption. The premises of the movie have generated controversy (1,2,3,4) although Ms. Plame and Mr. Wilson have called the film an accurate depiction of events.  Sean Penn and Naomi Watts are dynamic as an embattled pair. Sam Shepard has a cameo role as Valerie Plame's father. Ms. Plame resigned from the CIA in 2006. She has worked lately on creating a movie "Countdown to Zero"  (available at Film is Truth in Bellingham, WA) that calls for disarming nuclear missiles and securing fissile material  across the world.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Some alternative views on the "Wikileaks Crisis"

Two respected geo-political commentators have come up with separate, but interesting conclusions on the "Wiki-leaks Crisis" that point to further censure of the internet.  F. William  Engdahl warns us:

"The process of policing the Web was well underway before the current leaks scandal. In 2009 Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller and Republican Olympia Snowe introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773). It would give the President unlimited power to disconnect private-sector computers from the internet. The bill "would allow the president to 'declare a cyber-security emergency' relating to 'non-governmental' computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat." We can expect that now this controversial piece of legislation will get top priority when a new Republican House and the Senate convene in January."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Wikileaks Crisis...

You can no longer donate to Wikileaks by PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, or Swiss Bank Accounts,  leaving bank transfers and postal transfers as your only option.   Neither would be very secure or anonymous in the USA, I would think.  In response to these Wikileaks accounts being shut down, "Anonymous" hackers are successfully launching DDOS attacks against these organizations (and others who have criticized Wikileaks) just in time to help shut down the the Christmas shopping season. The world has been slipping into a permanent state of electronic informational warfare for some time now.  The decision to prosecute ex-hacker Julian Asange is now directly responsible for putting the bodies of the electronic masses against virtual street barriers. And they've come armed with DDOS weapons.
As Asange languishes without bail in a notorious British prison for "'consensual sex' sex crimes" he claims he did not commit, world leaders fall out on one side or the other in support or condemnation of Wikileaks (Lula for, H.Clinton against). Meanwhile Wikileaks keeps publishing intercepted American diplomatic cables daily and gaining hundreds of supporting mirrors daily across the world. In response, the right wing attacks corporal Bradley Manning for his sexuality while most of us who are network security professionals wonder just how it was possible that an E-1 was able to copy 250,000 or so diplomatic cables wholesale.  This gets weirder and weirder by the minute....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Student Protests in Europe

In case you are not following it, the UK is in crisis. These explosive videos shows what happens to the social fabric of a Europe teetering on an economic crisis. In the second video, mounted police charge the protesters in an obvious attempt to physically intimidate them. In the third video, police entrap (kettle) the protesters, not allowing them to leave the protest. The protests and occupations are aimed at overturning or preventing the recent student fee increases.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is this the spoilage? And thanks for your efforts in Whatcom County!

Having looked at these the latest  (certified) general election statistics this morning, now I have to ask:
(87,431 Ballots Returned) - (86,993 Total Ballots Cast)  = 438 spoiled ballots? That would be a pretty low percentage of spoiled ballots if so:  438/87431 = 0.005 or .5% (1/2 of 1%).  It would be interesting to know what the causes of this election's spoiled ballots are in any event.  Missing signatures, deceased voters, food spilled over the ballot?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Larsen Analysis in Whatcom County

The Washington Post is running a fascinating article on the election results, with a chart that maps the endorsements of candidates from "Freedom Works", "Tea Party Express", Sarah Palin and the confluence between these groups.  The 2nd Congressional was one of the six races where all three of these groups were apparently endorsing the same candidate (John Koster).  Despite this, Larsen narrowly won his seat, after winning his three previous elections by over 60%
Why were San Juan and Whatcom County so resistant to the combined right wing push against Larsen? Below is what the final total will probably look like, excluding the 260 total votes from the small corner of King County that is part of second congressional. Essentially, Larsen drew even in Island and Skagit counties, San Juan (the most progressive vote in WA State), nullified his narrow loss in Snohomish (the most populous county in the 2nd Congressional), and Whatcom County assured most of his margin of victory. Since the vote drifted left as the counting continued (at least it did so in Whatcom County), we can assume Larsen benefited from high turn out.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Whatcom County at 86,949 Votes Counted

Certification Date:11/23/2010
Number of Precincts:120
Number of Registered Voters:116576
Total Ballots Cast:86949
Ballots Left to Count:0
Next Ballot Count On:Nov 23 2010 5:30PM
Last Tabulated:Nov 17 2010 5:07PM
Voter Turnout:74.59%

Vincent Buys (Prefers Republican Party)
Kelli Linville (Prefers Democratic Party)

30594 - 30436 =158 difference between them now.
30594 + 30436 = 61030 total votes
158/61030 = 0.0025888907094871374733737506144519 percentage difference

So does Linville qualify for a manual recount now or not?

"A machine recount will occur if the election results for the top two candidates are separated by more than 150 votes and less than 2,000 votes."
"A manual recount will occur if the difference between the top two candidates is less than one-quarter of one percent and the two are separated by 150 votes or fewer."

Looks like she is eight votes short (!!)

So here's my pitch:

The November 12th print edition of La Raza Del Noroeste

Editor's Note -  12/24/2015 RMF : I  updated link addresses for La Raza Del Noroeste to I also updated demographic stats to 2014 from Census for WA and Whatcom County. For some reason, this 11/17/2010 post became very popular this week. 

Above is a photo of the political cartoons in the November 12 print edition of La Raza Del Noroeste, available this week at Taco Lobo in downtown Bellingham.. Beneath the cartoon is an editorial by Maria Elena Salinas entitled, "Impacto Latino legislative elections" [Google Chrome will translate this into English if you like, with some accurate results...].

Ms. Salinas comments:
"the first published data on voter turnout among Latinos continues to reflect 2 votes Democrats for a Republican. Latinos voted between 62 percent and 64 percent for Democrats and between 30 percent and 33 percent for Republican candidates, except Florida and New Mexico."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Whatcom County at 86,758 votes counted: Spoiled Ballots, Recounts, and Precinct Analysis

Not quite the end yet...

Certification Date:
Number of Precincts:
Number of Registered Voters:
Total Ballots Cast:
Ballots Left to Count:
Next Ballot Count On:
Nov 17 2010 5:00PM
Last Tabulated:
Nov 12 2010 6:13PM
Voter Turnout:

Here is a rough summary of the election week to come:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Whatcom County at 86,379 Votes Counted

Certification Date:11/23/2010
Number of Precincts:120
Number of Registered Voters:116576
Total Ballots Cast:86379
Ballots Left to Count:400
Next Ballot Count On:Nov 12 2010 5:00PM
Last Tabulated:Nov 10 2010 6:38PM
Voter Turnout:74.10%

Except for the short Saturday count, Linville has been narrowing Buy’s tenuous lead at every ballot count. To be frank, I was surprised (given the drift toward the Democrats), that she didn’t catch Buys earlier. I chocked it up to the poor showing for the Democrats in the 42nd (Jensen and Jerns were never really within striking distance…). However, Linville is a long time incumbent. She would have many established relationships among 42nd precincts. In addition, even the 42nd was drifting toward the Democrats in the Jensen and Jerns races, although the ‘drift’ was no where near the Democrat stampede in the 40th in Whatcom County: Morris and Lytton each have over 61% of the Whatcom County Vote for their seats. Whether Linville can pick up enough votes in a manual (hand) recount...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whatcom County at 84,835 Votes Counted

One more (very small) count! Strange that they didn't finish all the votes tonight.  Linville and Buys are separated by 311 votes with 1900 to count. Here's the law  on recounts (I think):

"In races where the top two candidates receive a combined total of more than 60,000 votes, a manual (hand) recount is required when the difference between the two is less than 150 votes. In races with fewer than 60,000 votes, a manual recount is triggered by a difference of less than one-quarter of one percent."

Buys/Linville are at 59561 total votes tonight with 1900 noted as left to count. This means if Linville narrows the lead by 161 votes in this next count there will be a manual (hand) recount. I'm trying to understand the electoral dynamics that lets Charlie Wiggins almost catch Richard Sanders in Whatcom (actually Wiggins will apparently win statewide now), but has kept Jean Melious consistently 10 percentage points or more behind in a race where all the liberals/progressives/Democrats have consistently narrowed the gap or taken the lead almost immediately after the initial count in "all county" votes.

Certification Date:11/23/2010
Number of Precincts:120
Number of Registered Voters:116576
Total Ballots Cast:84835
Ballots Left to Count:1900
Next Ballot Count On:Nov 10 2010 6:00PM
Last Tabulated:Nov 9 2010 5:43PM
Voter Turnout:72.77%

Whatcom County at 83,070 Votes

Almost done!  Do you think Kelli Linville is jealous of fellow Democrat Kristine Lytton's 5259 vote lead in Whatcom County ? The participation rates for Murray and R. Larsen's election are running very high: currently 97.94% for Rick Larsen's inevitable victory. He leads now by 5484 for all of the 2nd Congressional. In Whatcom County, he leads by 5035!  Most probably, he will lose Snohomish, Island, and Skagit to Koster , even in spite of all those Boeing jobs he tries so hard to save in his birth county of Snohomish.  Essentially, he will owe his victory to the 'fighting progressives' of San Juan and Whatcom County!  Where are our jobs, Congressman Larsen? With Linville's impending loss, can there be any doubt that R. Larsen's lead comes from the same 5K thousand vote difference that Lytton has from the 40th state district?

Number of Registered Voters:116576
Total Ballots Cast:83070
Ballots Left to Count:3800
Next Ballot Count On:Nov 9 2010 6:30PM
Last Tabulated:Nov 8 2010 7:24PM
Voter Turnout:71.26%

Monday, November 8, 2010

Whatcom County at 74,322 Votes Counted

A meager four thousand plus  ballots were counted over the weekend on Saturday. Linville's comeback attempt slipped a bit. Melious continued to slip further behind T. Larson. Essentially, all the other Dems who had extended their leads in recent counts, continued to do so. (Murray, Larsen, Lytton, Morris). The losing Democrats (Jerns, Jensen, Wiggins) held about even. It is unlikely that the last 12,000 votes will change any of this, with the longshot exception of Linville.  An increase in her voting might at least force a recount.  The ballot counting will probably conclude Tuesday, barring unforeseen consequences.

I find it important that the total votes for the federal county wide races (Murray, R. Larsen) are roughly nine thousand more than Melious/T. Larson county seat race.  (This phenomena is known as "fall off".) The initial ballot count on 'opening night' had the total participation between the races with about 5K difference.  The last two ballot counts have really opened up that gap to 9K.  I would suggest that is indicative that recent ballots counted had less interest in the county seat. Participation in the  40th state district in Whatcom County is remarkably equal (>10 votes) for both seats. This suggests  a very committed and  liberal block in the 40th that has given over 60% of the vote to both Morris and Lytton. The 40th state district plus the 42nd state district  total participation are nearly equal to Murray/Rossi turnouts. Clearly, were all of Whatcom County one district, it is unlikely that any Republicans would serve here in elected capacity. Interestingly enough, Morris and Lytton are not winning either Island or Skagit (where they both reside).  If Skagit/Island were one state district and Whatcom/San Juan another, the representation would clearly be Republican for Skagit/Island and Democratic for Whatcom/San Juan.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Whatcom County at 70,712 Votes Counted

This is the fourth round of ballot counting. 70,712  ballots have been counted with 17,000 ballots noted as left to count. Kelli Linville has drawn within 545 votes of Vincent Buys.  The remaining 17,000 ballots (if no more arrive) should be representative of the increasingly  liberal turnout here, a pattern revealed in the general election of 2008, which broke a record for turnout in Whatcom County. Support for  Murray, Larsen, Morris, Lytton continues to strengthen in Whatcom County. In contradistinction, Tony Larson increased his large lead over Jean Melious. Go figure.

Why should the 'later' turnouts be more 'liberal' or 'progressive'? Actually, it is not a "late" turnout since the ballots are all collected or postmarked on time. And it may not explicitly be 'liberal' or 'progressive'. I believe this is a question of participation. There are a number of natural constituencies for the Democratic or a progressive party in Whatcom County that have only recently begun to be tapped. I imagine, based on current census data, that some of these groups would/could include names/numbers like these:
  • Students 16,000 - 18,000 95% registered?
  • Hispanic Origin 12,000 - 13,000 60% registered?
  • Native Americans 5,000 - 6,000 60% registered?
  • African Americans  2,000 60% registered?

These groups may represent as many as twenty-five thousand registered votes in Whatcom County and they will continue to increase in volume over time.  These groups may also represent some of the least resourced and/or most transient populations in Whatcom County, making it more difficult for them to consistently complete the fundamentals of citizenship.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Whatcom at 62,132 votes counted

This is the third night of counting ballots in Whatcom County. There have been 62,132 ballots counted. There are 24,000 ballots left to count as of tonight. The combined totals of counted + uncounted ballots for the last three nights are: 65378, 75869, 86132.  Each round of voting has seen an acceleration in the combined total. This is where we stand now:

Number of Registered Voters:116576
Total Ballots Cast:62132
Ballots Left to Count:24000

There has been a substantial shift to more progressive/liberal/Democratic votes over the last two rounds of ballot counting. It is entirely possible that Whatcom County votes are saving Patty Murray and Rick Larsen their seats. (And that says something remarkable and flexible about Whatcom County progressives, particularly after some progressives were  thrown in jail  for their anti-war efforts at Larsen's office. )  Lytton and Morris totals are approaching 60% of the vote, the modern landslide margins of victory. Linville and Wiggins continue to close the gap on their opponents in Whatcom County. Jean Melious has not seen any benefit from from this tendency, which surprises me because the other countywide races and the 40th state district races have.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whatcom County at 55,869 counted

(Your going to have to look at this post in something besides IE.  My open office pastes do something weird in IE.)

Okay.  55,869 total ballots counted tonight with 20,000 noted as now left to count. Murray  and Larsen are starting to pull away in Whatcom County and Linville made up some serious ground as well. My math shows she still has a chance to pull this out. Melious can't catch a break though, still behind by roughly that same amount despite an extra 5K votes counted for that race.
So I find this interesting. This round of voting reflects a more liberal bias with increased turnout, but not for Melious.  This confuses me. Melious should be benefiting similarly, especially since her connections in the progressive 40th district should translate into more votes. Well, there are still 20,000 left to count. Maybe they contain lots of WWU ballots!  A look at the dense Bellingham precincts confirm that she is doing well there.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Whatcom County had 49,378 votes counted by 8:10 PM.!

(I'm sorry this post displays so badly in Internet Explorer....Try Firefox till I figure out IE. 8.0 column display...)
Well, I must have missed something. Whatcom County had 49,378 votes counted by 8:10 PM.! 
In Whatcom County, with 49,378 counted and 16,000 to count tomorrow, Patty Murray holds an 164 
point lead over Dino Rossi. If she wins, and it looks like she might, Whatcom County will have played
a part.  She's only ahead in nine counties tonight. We are one of them.  Rick Larsen  is doing just a 
little better than Patty with a mere with a 600 point lead (in Whatcom) over John Koster. Rick is 1429
votes ahead behind Koster on the strength of  Whatcom and San Juan Counties with 50% of the vote counted.
He is losing Island, Skagit, and Snohomish.  If these two Dems win their races, they will owe it to progressives
here in Whatcom County. Let us make sure they know this.

Both these races collected over 48,500 votes tonight, significantly more than state legislative races of 
Ericksen/Jerns, Overstreet/Jensen, Buys/Linville, each of which gathered nearly 35,000 votes per each

Because Whatcom County state legislative districts are divided  between the 40th and 42nd districts,
most of that 13,500 vote participation difference between the state  and federal races can thus be understood.
Nonetheless, it looks like the federal Democrats will ride to victory (just barely!) in this county, while the state
Democrats candidates here in the 42nd (Jerns,Jensen,Linville) apparently will go down to defeat so that Lytton 
and Morris can win in the 40th. What a difference Lytton's 2307 strong lead tonight would have made
for long-time incumbent Kelli Linville, who is losing to Vincent Buys by 1519 votes. That may be too much
for Kelli to make up in tomorrow's count, but it is hard to know. I find it surprising that Murray and 
(Rick) Larsen are squeaking out a lead tonight while (Tony) Larson is thumping Jean Melious by 
6020 votes. For all the heat he took for it, Tony's strategy of skipping debates to meet county folks paid off.
Who knew? Somebody did....

Remember to Vote!!

Today is the big day! As of last night (5:00 PM November 1) 55,583 ballots (48%) have been returned. The new drive-in ballot box for Whatcom County is in the (south Courthouse Parking Lot next to the LightCatcher Cafe/Whatcom Museum. The new drop box has a Grand Ave entrance. There will be ballot drop boxes all around the county. "Your ballot needs to be postmarked no later than Election Day or deposited at a drop site below." All  these locations can be dropped into  except for the WWU site:
  • Blaine City Hall 344 H St., Blaine, WA
  • Deming Library 5044 Mt. Baker Hwy., Deming, WA
  • Everson Library 104 Kirsch Dr., Everson, WA
  • Ferndale Library 2222 Main St., Ferndale, WA
  • Laurel Fire Station 6028 Guide Meridian, Bellingham, WA
  • Lynden Library 216 4th St., Lynden, WA
  • Western Washington University 515 High Street, Rm 714 Viking Union, Bellingham, WA
This election will be big news all over the country.  The San Francisco Giants did us a big favor by taking the World Series in five games. World Series Party Tonight? Election Tomorrow?  S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom should give the entire city the day off...The morning to recover from their hangovers and the evening to vote... But back to Bellingham...Here in Whatcom County, rain should mostly pass by leaving us not too cold and somewhat clear for Election Day. I would imagine turnout will be substantial and that the vote counting will go on for at least seven days or longer. Don't be a goat, VOTE!!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Progressive Voter Guide...

Ran across this excellent site for Progressive Voters in Whatcom County:

The only  issue I disagreed with them on is their "straddle the fence" stand on HJR 4220. I am consistently against laws that would weaken fundamental rights guaranteed us either by the Bill of Rights or longstanding legal decisions.  Usually these attempts are motivated by fear; fear of crime, fear of communism, fear of terrorism, fear of skin color, fear of the opinions of others, fear of guns, etc.

But every step  we take to limit our rights puts us one step closer to Sparta rather than Athens. The death to a country's liberty and rights always comes in a series of small steps. It is always easy for our species to short-sightedly limit the rights of others we detest.  Justice William O. Douglass pointed out the flaw in such reasoning succinctly: "The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected."

The same law that denies a true murderer bail might be used to deny a political activist falsely accused (or framed) tomorrow.  This conflict is the freedom and burden we suffer with under our constitutional protections. It is why Thomas Jefferson once remarked,  "Postpone to the great object of Liberty every smaller motive and passion."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Your Whatcom County Ballot

Some years ago, I wrote an interesting article published by an excellent (but now defunct) local weekly on the problems with Whatcom County's ballot and the tabulation of votes. The editor and publisher of that weekly was John Servais, who has published for years the longest running and most well-read all-electronic news outlet in Whatcom County.  I had at that time decided to organize my own PAC and attempted to co-ordinate four candidates whom I considered progressives to run together.  These candidates were all serious "grass roots' types who had been active in the community; some of them for years. I really wasn't sure exactly what I was doing, but I had come to seriously believe that there was deep corruption in the city and county governments of Whatcom County after fighting what seemed like a long and torturous battle to remove narcotics trafficking from my neighborhood. (But that is a another story...)

To continue....The ballot counts for vote by mail elections come in batches over a period of days. The auditors were not then (and probably are still not) allowed to count ballots before election day after the closing of the election. So I dutifully pulled up a spreadsheet and began to segregate 'per reported batch' the percentage of votes for the candidates I had supported. What I saw shocked me. My candidates were all underdogs. They trailed in early voting, but as the batches came in, at least two showed promise of either winning of making it to the second round of voting. And then, just when some promise was being shown, their percentages of votes in subsequent rounds all tailed off in seemingly neat, parallel curves leaving their opponents to win.

This provoked me to carefully examine my ballot, the Sequoia voting machines, the Whatcom County Auditor, and the integrity of "Voting by Mail."  Everything that I found scared and shocked me.  I went so far as to visit the County Auditor and review the lists of disputed ballots, requested and received technical specifications for the Sequoia voting machines, and talked with the head of elections in Whatcom County. He was a very nice man, but of course, my article had caused some backlash and he cautioned and complained to me about creating "lack of faith in government".  Actually, I understood his complaint. This is a small county, voting regulations and practices are largely state determined, HAVA was just being implemented,  and as the electioneering head pointed out, they hadn't even given him enough funds to put a card-key lock on the voting machine room door!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Please Vote

Beyond all beliefs that your vote may not be counted, or counted correctly, or that there are no good options in the initiatives or in the party members whom you will elect, there are still good reasons for you to vote:
  1. Voting tells the people in power that you count; that your voice cannot be ignored.
  2. Voting tells everyone in your community that you count; that you will vote again. It establishes your historical track record as someone who participates in the electoral process.
  3. Voting helps you discipline your mind to understand the complicated world of politics and economics and helps you solidify your relationships to the political world around you.
Most of us alone can do very little about the problems of the world around us. But together, we are thousands of of voices, thousands of people talking, thousands of people caring, thousands of people willing to exercise their will; all of us reaffirming, in the elegant and timeless (here slightly edited) words of Thomas Jefferson :

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men [all peoples], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Week To Go: The WA State Initiatives...

Where your ballots go in Whatcom County...

Have you looked at your crazy WA state ballot yet? Better start early...Oh yeah, that quietude you hear is the sound of the all those erudite Bellinghammers actually reading the text of those initiatives this weekend!(not).  In case you were under the the illusion that your ballot measures are brought to you by "grass roots" movements, the official PDC statistics to date show that over $60M has been contributed by initiative committees with $18M left to be spent.  Do yourself a favor for the next week (or maybe forever), turn off your television and read your ballot.

This is mostly a ballot of the fascist right attempting to impoverish the socialist left with the exception of 1098.  For an interesting visual analysis of contributors to the state initiatives see here. In 1098, the ultra-rich have finally realized that if they don't pass an income tax in Washington state, their fortunes and their state will collapse into a heap of chaos and poverty. Here's where the Democrats and Republicans line up on with the WA State Initiatives.  Below are the official contributors to this mess. At least the two sides make this easy: They don't agree on anything!:

Initiative Democrats Republicans
1053 No Yes
1082 No Yes
1098 Yes No
1100 No Yes
1105 No Yes
1107 No Yes
Referendum 52 Yes Rejected
Senate Joint Resolution 8225
Engrossed SHJR 4220
Bellingham Transportation Yes
Bellingham School District 501 Yes

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Candidate Forum for Basic Needs

Tonight, I watched the last hour of the "Candidate Forum for Basic Needs" which was last year's Human Services Forum. It may have just been the last hour, but all the candidates appear have been justly humbled by the recession - You could see it in their faces.  They now know inside themselves what most of us have just begun to guess at: That the anarchic future of wealth destruction and massive poverty in Whatcom County is just beginning.

None of the candidates I saw tonight, whether they were arguing liberal or conservative viewpoints really have a handle on the intensity of the economic storm to come. How could they? All of them are just a bunch of neighborhood locals like ourselves, watching our world tear apart at the seams.  Some of them had heartfelt tragic stories about community members living in campers and people buying gas with change. All of them were using the political rhetoric "of the last war"; arguing for solutions whose possibilities don't exist anymore. The conservatives wants jobs for which there is no demand. The liberals want funding for social services for which there is no revenue. What will actually happen once democracy, capitalism, and the "rule of law" start to fail in small counties such as ours will present challenges considerably more chaotic than we should expect local politicians to be able to imagine.  No one talked about how we should restructure the social contract if government funding accelerates its current pace of revenue loss. No one addressed: "What happens if a recovery never comes?"

Christine O'Donnell, Constitutional Scholar

 Usually, I don't like to highlight gaffes of politicians. They are human like the rest of us, but six minutes into this video, Christine O'Donnell proves:
  • she has never read or studied the constitution or history of these United States with any depth
  • she is not being briefed or handled by anyone competent enough to prevent her from appearing to be a political novice.
We all make mistakes. But not knowing the content of the first amendment and running for the United States Senate are not phrases that should ever exist in the same sentence. In reality, Senate candidates when discussing religion should be intelligent enough, and historically grounded enough to understand the skepticism with which the Founding Fathers viewed organized (especially state based) religion, their embrace of Deism, and their defense of secular reason as the sine qua non of government.  Someone should ask Christine O'Donnell if she has read "The Age of Reason", the consummate Deist commentary subscribed to by many if not most of the Founding Fathers. So terrible was the fear of state based religion and persecution by a theocratic state, that the founding fathers attempted to excise the possibility of state based religion from our constitution:
[text of the First Amendment]:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Thomas Paine's exceptionally popular treatise (The Age of Reason)  made clear the fear that most American's had of state based religion during the colonial period:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Disappearances, Political Violence and Tea Parties....

Not often in the history of our small city have two bodies been pulled out of the waterfront a scant month before an important general election; a general election that could radically alter Washington State's tax structure. Should you wish to read about the "Smiley Murders" that Mr. Clark's case could possibly resemble, I found these sites useful:

Should you wish to read about a history of reactionary intimidation and political violence in the Pacific Northwest and Whatcom County, I would recommend this bibliography:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Poverty in the United Sates

Poverty Rates in the United States from the Census September 2010 Report

The Census released a devastating report this month on poverty in the United States. The article was discussed nationally in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  According to summary findings that I have reformatted below:
  • "The poverty rate in 2009 was the highest since 1994, but was 8.1 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. 
  • The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available.
  • In 2009, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.1 percent and 8.8 million, respectively, up from 10.3 percent and 8.1 million in 2008.
  • The poverty rate and the number in poverty increased across all types of families:
    • married-couple families (5.8 percent and 3.4 million in 2009 from 5.5 percent and 3.3 million in 2008)
    • female-householder-with-no-husband-present families (29.9 percent and 4.4 million in 2009 from 28.7 percent and 4.2 million in 2008) and 
    • for male-householder-no-wife-present families (16.9 percent and 942,000 in 2009 from 13.8 percent and 723,000 in 2008)."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time to "Buck Up"

"One closing remark that I want to make: It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we've got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.... 
We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard — that's what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we've got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place.

If you're serious, now's exactly the time that people have to step up."
The October 15 issue of Rolling Stone is out: "Obama in Command" is worth the read. The man is presidential and intelligent: you have to give him that.  To be quite frank, I don't agree with President Obama on everything, but I find him inspirational nonetheless. 

Damn. I love it when my progressive President tells me to "buck up".  Yes sir, Mr. President. I will not waste my October sitting on my hands! Go, Obama, Go!! And I get the e-mails from Joe Biden. There has got to be $40.00 somewhere in my broke-ass budget for your team somewhere. Go, Joe, Go!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cancer Rates in Whatcom County: Part II

In my original post Cancer Rates in Whatcom County, I suggested some environmental sources that might be contributing to Whatcom County's high cancer rates and talked about how those cancer rates have touched our neighborhood quite personally in the last five years.  The more I examined the graphic below, however, the more concerned I became that the problem of high cancer rates in Western Washington extends beyond Whatcom County.

This chart, from the NCI's excellent state cancer profiles site, shows an arc of cancer in Western Washington starting in Skagit County (looping over San Juan county) and ending in Gray's Harbor County. All of these counties have incidence rates for all sites of over 517.4 per 100K (e.g. more than 1 in 200) . The only one of these counties that does not border either Puget Sound or the Pacific Ocean is Mason County. Most of these counties are "timber counties" of some historical import.  All of them receive substantial rainfall, especially Clallam and Jefferson counties, which may well be among the wettest, darkest counties in the contiguous 48 states.

However this "arc of cancer" may well have something more in common than hard, cold rain.  Most observers of the United States military know that the state of Washington is a heavily militarized state.  Military facilities of all all branches exist up and down the I-5 corridor, in eastern Washington, and in the south eastern corner of the state we have the Hanford complex - still polluted, still requiring millions of dollars to suppress the leakage of any more radioactive isotopes.

There are two nuclear submarine bases in the United States: King's Bay, Georgia and Bangor-Kitsap, WA.  Nuclear submarines are powerful, dangerous creatures armed with a substantial percentage of our nation's nuclear strike force. They are powered by nuclear reactors that use  HEU (highly enriched uranium) at a percentage much higher than territorial nuclear power plants.  The Navy claims that there has never been a serious nuclear submarine reactor accident in its history. In reality these claims would be difficult to independently verify. (1)  No publicly available information exists that monitors the level of anthropogenic or natural radionuclide levels in Puget sound.  My local Department of Ecology had no references or information for me when I asked them about such monitoring.  Still a look at these recent graphics is enough to generate concern in my mind. (I have added the approximate location of Bangor-Kitsap naval submarine base.):

The right hand graphic is  from the NorthWest Training Range Environmental Impact Statement (final) that was released on September 10.  This large and comprehensive document details the impact of Naval training and testing particularly in the Olympic National Park MOAs (Military Operation Areas) where the Navy has apparently been firing depleted uranium (DU) shells into the Ocean for some number of years, among the other explosives and hazardous waste their testing may have contributed to the Olympic MOAs.  I cannot find any discussion in the Impact Statement that attempts a correlation between  NorthWest Washington's high cancer rates and the NorthWest Training Range use of toxic materials. One would think the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense might be engaged in joint monitoring of health statistics in regional areas, but I see no evidence of such joint monitoring.

If we are to continue to face high cancer rates in the NorthWest, we need to have frank discussions about the impact that continual or intermittent releases of anthropogenic radionuclides would have on the water cycle, locally grown produce, soil, citizen health etc.  This would require a public monitoring program of radiation levels and cancer profiles in the areas most likely affected by such releases.