Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blog paused...

This blog is on pause until the New Year...Sorry...other responsibilities call.  THX -RMF

Friday, November 18, 2011

2011 Whatcom County General Election Charts

Do you believe in what you see?...Wastin my timein the waitin lineDo you believe in what you see?
(from "Do You Believe" by Zero7)

Preliminary Election Charts.Standard disclaimer applies: Accuracy of this data and these charts cannot be guaranteed. You should crunch your own numbers and not present my work as your own. Send me any corrections or comments you may have.  Data  is here. I am missing 11/10 count such that 11/10 and 11/12 roll up into one large sample.  I have not bothered with the last counts of a few hundred voters. Clicking on my screenshot open office charts enlarges them in blogger.

Some concepts appropriate for the 'science' for "[registered] voter participation": "Fall off" describes the decreasing voter participation rate. The theory, as statistically demonstrated below, is that early voters complete greater percentages of their ballot than later voters. "Ballot fatigue" describes the tendency of voters to complete less and less of their individual ballot. "Ballot fatigue" is such an important issue that states, like WA, mandate the ballot order in such a fashion so that state based initiatives and offices receive 'priority' or an earlier position on the ballot.  Both phenomena also help us here in this election to [possibly] infer that the ballots received and counted later were actually mailed or 'drop boxed' later.

Participation Rates: Left hand are cumulative. Right side are per count.
Below we see that voter participation (per count) for Larson/Kremen was statistically similar for Ericksen/Louws.  Despite the fact that Crawford/Maginnis was arguably Whatcom County's the most defined left/right county race (HE a land use consultant for developers/SHE a regulatory scientist with ECY), the race suffered a collapse in voter participation rate. It is true that port commissioner, auditor, and Brenner vs. Black races had  lower participation rates. But these races started out at lower participation rates as well.

Vote counts come in different sized samples in a 'Vote By Mail' election. After the sample that counted 57,044 (11/12) ballots, the vote swung decidedly against the Democratic backed candidates. Maginnis lost her race on the 11/14 count. She went in up 601 and came out down 623. A 1222 vote swing in a count of less than 5396 votes for that race! She never recovered.  As I see it, Crawford increased his percentage of the vote in over 100 of 120 precincts in that count. And yet, the participation rate in the vote steadily declined with every count, suggesting that these were truly 'late, conservative' voters.

This is the existing precinct vote totals for '(Crawford -Maginnis on 11/12)/(Crawford-Maginnis on 11/12). (e.g. a ratio   of increase/decrease per precinct).  For the 11/14 count (5396 total votes for the Maginnis/Crawford race), Crawford appears to have increased his percentage of the vote in 100 out of 120 precincts for that vote count. This statistic is fairly contrived. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Participation Rates...

This chart is updated after yesterday's misleading post.  I had totaled the County Executive votes incorrectly.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

$322K raised for the top two races ...and counting....

These are the funding stats for the Mayor's Race and County Executive Race as of tonight (11/06/2011). Last minute spending yet to come? Looks like Dan Pike is pulling away in money raised and spent. Debt as well....

As of yesterday at 11:30 AM, 34,122 ballots have been returned. Remember to Vote.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Barbara Brenner Interview

The amount of money raised for local elections in Bellingham and Whatcom County (pop ~200,00) as of November 3, 2011 looks like this:

Contributions Expenditures Debt Ind Sup Ind Opp
Whatcom $452,569.07 $381,527.07 $42,351.11 $22,721.31 $16,328.23
Bellingham $214,980.95 $198,116.36 $21,445.44 $5,815.76 $0.00
Totals $667,550.02 $579,643.43 $63,796.55 $28,537.07 $16,328.23

All told, well over three quarters of a million dollars will probably be spent before next Tuesday (from contributions,debt,indedependent support and oppostion)  in some of the most dramatic, well-debated, well-funded and (clearly) well-advised local races seen here in some time. Clearly the consequences of such levels of spending will not be trivial for the politics of Bellingham and Whatcom County. Not now, nor in the future.

Although I will not recommend any candidates for this election, I decided to interview Barbara Brenner after listening to a number of the debates. I was fascinated with a number of facets of Barbara Brenner: her self-imposed financial restrictions, her enthusiasm, her call to personal responsibility, and her apparent intelligence and charisma. After emailing her a request for an interview, she called me immediately and left a number. I found Ms. Brenner exceptionally approachable in our phone conversation. I was very interested in talking with her because among all this year's local candidates, Barbara Brenner stands out for her dogged refusal to accept political donations of any type. "I just sent a $50 and a $250 donation back last week. I told them I couldn't accept it."

Renowned for her ability to represent the community, she likes to stay focused on digging through the details of most legislation and proposals for their impact on the community. "Part of the reason I run as an independent is centered around my belief that if we lose the local level to big money, we've lost local politics." The candidate to date has spent less than $4000 of her money on her campaign despite receiving only a $20,000 salary as a council member. "Donations", Ms. Brenner believes, "make it a lot harder to remain independent as a local resource." "It is really important to me that I don't get labeled as beholden to anyone." Recently, Ms. Brenner designed her own campaign flyers and had them printed at a local business. Her husband built her website which they rent for $15/month.

Such fiscal conservatism is part of the Brenner campaign rhetoric with regards to perks, salaries and administrative expenditures in the County Council budget. However, she believes
strongly in supporting social services like the Food Bank and WIC. "Not only have I always supported the Food Bank, I have always pushed for more dollars for them... I did not accept any donations to my campaign and told people to please send that money to the food bank."  Ms. Brenner makes the point that "she understands how hard it can be for most citizens in need to access government and get services: "It's about the local level. Who can those in need in Whatcom County depend upon if it is not politicians at the local level? That's who we should be here for."

Since the state and local budgetary cutbacks, Council member Brenner has been somewhat disappointed by a lack of cooperation at the state and federal level. This she attributes to declining budgets: "When the economy was stronger, we saw a greater flow of income from the state. It's easier for state and local officials to work together when there is more funding for local services." Ms. Brenner intuits that her reputation as an independent may have lost her some support from the Democratic party. "I like all the local officials, but sometimes because of my frankness I am not sure they are able to appreciate me." She rejects as hypocritical some of the personal attacks against her person in the recent election:

"I'm a person who cares and I won't turn on anyone. People have to be able to trust politicians at the local level. Trust is really important...Whether I am re-elected or not, all you have to do is ask because I don't ever turn my back on those about whom I care about. I don't even turn my back on those I don't."

As a personal note, Councilmember Brenner has been accused of having 'outbursts'. To vet such accusations, I watched a small number of hours (2 sessions) of County Council on DVD from the Bellingham Public Library which you can do by loading a media viewer like VLC Media player on your PC. I didn't see anything that looked like 'outbursts' in the August and September 2011 meetings. What I saw instead was an extraordinarily intelligent council person attempting to get public officials to answer important questions. I thought Ms. Brenner looked like the brightest tool in the shed in these meetings. Her ability to dig through documentation and create meaningful comment about the issues was impressive. So was her patient but persistent method in querying public officials.

This election may see Bellingham and Whatcom County candidates spending over $750,000 in campaign expenditures. Has politics in Whatcom County really become so well-monied that we can no longer appreciate the honesty, gifts, and integrity of a long term community stalwart like Barbara Brenner?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Expenditures and Contributions

Pulled down and summed up from the PDC tonight:

Contributions Expenditures Debt Ind Sup Ind Opp
Whatcom $451,128.28 $362,891.36 $42,351.11 $22,521.31 $16,328.23
Bellingham $213,822.90 $168,459.80 $9,087.44 $4,221.58 $0.00
Totals $664,951.18 $531,351.16 $51,438.55 $26,742.89 $16,328.23

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Whatcom County "Turn Out" 2005 - 2010 Part I

This post is probably designed for serious politicos...The rest of you may want to spare yourself the brain drain of my numbers and less than snazy Open Office charts. -RMF

[Note: The data and graphs below are the work of one [unpaid] blogger with the help of  SQL Server Express, SQL Management Studio, Open Office, and Powershell. My work comes with no promises or guarantees. Please verify the data for your purposes. For my purposes, "registered voters" includes only those voters whose ballot had a disposition of some type (e.g. not a blank 'VotingMethodDesc' field) and "turn out" is defined only by a successful  disposition (e.g. 'Provisional voter' or 'Voted By Mail Ballot'). See the Methodology worksheet of my data for more information. ]

"Registered Voters" and election "Turn Out" numbers in Whatcom County appear to have averaged growth more than twice as fast per year from 2005 - 2010 as the population increase (20.6%)  for the last decade (2000 - 2010). Some precincts have seen over 500 new registered voters since the 2005 General Election. Whether this is more attributable to

(A)"Vote By Mail" efficiencies or
(B) the hyper-charged political climate of Bellingham and Whatcom County or
(C) urban and rural growth and annexations  or
(D) all of the above,

I do not know.  However, a few hours spent in SQL Server Management Studio [see spreadsheet here] demonstrates the current impressive responsiveness of the Whatcom County electorate to their civic obligation to vote:

Many precints in Whatcom County "turned out" over 70% in the 2010 General Election.

These are the valid registration numbers that I came up with at the point of each General Election from 2005 - 2010. There are now reputedly  117,000 registrants for the upcoming 2011 election. (The auditor's office may have recently pruned this from over 118,000...) Below, note the turnout spike from the 2008 General Election (of Barack Obama):

Where have all the new registrants come from and are they voting?  Yes, many of them are voting and the increases in registrants appear to be county wide. Some precincts have seen increases  of 500 of more registered voters from 2005 - 2010.  Many of these precincts are recent urban annexations or rural county areas. (See 1,2,3)

Looking below at the "Top 20 Precincts Increase in Turnout between 2005 - 2010"  we see:

Precincts from Whatcom County: 109,102,149,128,103,141,130,150
Precincts from Bellingham: 209,201,208,204
Precncts from Ferndale: 604,602,605,501,504,502

Venturing into even more granular analysis of voting trends, if we compare five year increases in registration and turnout of  the 48 Bellingham Precincts with the 73 ROC ("Rest of County") precincts, we see strong registration and turn out increases in Bellingham and "ROC", with exceptionally strong increases in "turn out" in "ROC" precincts:

[Registration Increases for 2005-2010 (REGINC5Y) and Turnout increases for 2005-2010 (TOINC5Y)]

totals 12,556 11,290
per prec ave 261.58 235.2

totals 16,788 18,564
per prec ave 229.97 254.3

There are now reputedly  117,000 registrants for the upcoming 2011 election next November 8th. The local election includes a tight mayor's race, a 'conservatives only' County Executive race, a Sheriff's race, county and city council races, an initiative to stop Red Light Cameras, and lots of discussion about Gateway Pacific Terminal. Be interesting to see what the turnout numbers will be!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Way Forward....

Daniel Alpert, Robert Hackett, Noriel Roubini : "The Way Forward Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness":

Reuters video here:

"We use infrastructure as convenient way to create demand...The only was to create demand in a capitalistic society is to create employment...Our monetary policy has not successful because excess supply is so plentiful...What it does it relies on is the government as the employer of last resort. ...We are effectively at that point."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Candidate Forums...

I've now attended three forums, but before I discuss them and some conclusions, here are links to interviews with the candidates and  local forum video from  BTV10:


The Human Services, Transition Whatcom, and Whatcom Progressive Solidarity Forums were vastly different structured forums: different formats, time limits, content. But all three offered excellent information on the issues and the candidates.  With the exception of the Human Services forum, these debates were not well attended. And that is the single biggest observation I have taken from my participation.  There will some number of forums yet to come, with the WWU forum and another League of Women Voters forum happening this Thursday evening, October 2oth.

I won't make any comments on the forum material or the candidates at this point, only to say that the print and especially media above is well worth watching.  Seeing the candidates answer questions in person is really, really important.  It gives the viewer not only a feel for the candidates but a feel for the issues and problems of local government.  Important facts are disbursed that are not easily available elsewhere.  It bothers me that local government is not given more attention by many of the professionals, students, and activists that inhabit this county and city. I know it is hard to make the debates. We all have families and jobs.  But you are missing out if you do not make a point to go.  We will not make any changes in our country, local or otherwise, if we don't start occupying our government. Now is a really good chance to hear the uncensored grist of those who work for you at a local level.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bank Transfer Day

In the spirit of the fifth of November, a woman named Kristen Christian has organized a facebook page called "Bank Transfer Day":
"Together we can ensure that these banking institutions will ALWAYS remember the 5th of November!! If the 99% removes our funds from the major banking institutions to non-profit credit unions on or by this date, we will send a clear message to the 1% that conscious consumers won't support companies with unethical business practices.
• Research your local credit union options
• Open an account with the one that best suits your needs
• Cancel all automatic withdrawals & deposits
• Transfer your funds to the new account
• Follow your bank's procedures to close your account on or before 11/05"
It is an engaging idea at first  glance: pump money into your local credit union and away from multi-national banks. After all, who wouldn't consider doing this after reading the information that resulted from Bloomberg's long sought FOIA on the activities of the Federal Reserve's discount window during 2008 and 2009:

Or maybe you are just tired of getting stuck with debit card fees and high overdrawn fees?  Or maybe you just finished Phil Angelides and crew excellent report on The Financial Crisis: Inquiry Report and haven't been able to stop vomiting? Or maybe you are just really upset that high rolling corporate men like the Koch brothers can "flout the law" and unduly influence grass roots political movements?

Or maybe you are one of tens of millions in the ranks of the permanently unemployed, your family has been through bankruptcy and you have lost your home due to foreclosure. Oh yeah brothers and sisters, you just might be one of those...In any event, "Bank Transfer Day" might be for you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Robert Reich and Paul Krugman

Robert Reich destroys the fallacious economic arguments of the right wing in less than three minutes:

Paul Krugman outlines the "Panic of the Plutocrats"

"And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Upcoming political forums!!

Bellingham Herald reporter Jared Paben has posted at length on upcoming political forums in the Whatcom County.  I've pulled off four and attached links. These four are:

  • Bellingham located
  • Evening Time slots
  • Hosted by local political organizations and (wait for it...)
  • Free to the general public!

    Host Location Date/Time Who
    Opportunity Council and others Bellingham Muni Court 2014 C ST. 10/12 5:30 – 8:30 PM All candidates invited...
    Transition Whatcom Whatcom County Court House 311 Grand Ave. 10/14 7:30 – 9:30 PM County Exec and Bellingham Mayor
    League of Women Voters Bellingham Muni Court 2014 C ST. 10/20 6 – 8 PM County Exec and Council
    WWU Student Government WWU Performing Arts Center 10/20 5-7  PM Bellingham Mayoral

    Obviously, you will have choose between the last two as they are in similar time slots, although a pair of strong legs could help you get between the the first half of one and second half of the other!  I strongly recommend "The Candidate Forum on Human Services"  on October 12th which is being broadcast live on BTV10. I have attended  and blogged about this forum for each of the last two years (2009, 2010) and I find the content and presentation revealing.  "The Candidate Forum on Human Services"  asks questions of the candidates about poverty, hunger, and homelessness which are very serious problems in Whatcom County.  I find candidate responses to these questions reveal much about the candidates as people and administrators.  I'm going to try to cover all these events.  I hope you make it there as well. Come early to get a seat!

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    A peaceful and productive first rally...

    Several hundred (or more) protesters ("the 99%") marched peacefully through the streets of downtown Bellingham tonight to protest the inequality of wealth in our country. These protests are taking place literally in hundreds of cities across the United States and tonight's march in Bellingham showed just how deep the understanding and intuition of the malfeasance that corporate capitalism has foisted upon our country's socio-economic fabric.   Unlike the "Tea Party", there is no apparent big money behind these "occupations" or "rallies".  People across the nation seem to understand almost as one body that corporate capitalism and greed has sucked the wealth and prosperity out of our schools, governments, and families. The long standing imperialist wars our country has fought overseas,  the lack of appropriate taxation of the wealthy, and the unregulated, undisciplined excess of the leaders of our financialized economy has created grass roots discontent across a wide fabric. These were hardly just the young or students in this rally.  These protests will not stop or fade as long as joblessness, poverty, and inequality of wealth continue to maintain prominent profiles across small town America.

    Here in Bellingham tonight there was no use of 'kettling', 'pepper spray', or any other evidence of 'police brutality'.  Our police department appeared to concentrate on creating a safe space for the protesters downtown to march despite the interruption of traffic.    Other municipalities could use some notes from the BPD on how to protect a democratic populace and allow for freedom of assembly simultaneously. These protesters are going to come back every Friday. I suggest we all join them. Too much financial collapse has gone on for too long, too many have lost their jobs, too many have lost their homes. At some point, if we wish our country to survive, we will have to work together to build an economic system not based upon "market forces" but upon deep and well-regarded principles of humanitarianism.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Why the next five days are a critical part of the election period...

    The next five days are a critical part of the election period.  Until October 10, you can register online and submit a change of address form in Washington State. After that you can walk into the Whatcom County Courthouse and do so in person until October 31st.  You must submit a change of address if you expect to receive by mail your printed ballot materials in  a timely manner.  I recommend that everyone check to make sure their registration is up to date, especially so if you are a returning student (with a new address). My site RMFMedia will be doing its best to help!!  Please register to vote!!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    The Mayoral and County Executive Funding Races Through 09.30. 2011 : Part I

    Last night I downloaded the Bellingham Mayoral and Whatcom County Executive funding data from the PDC (through September 30,2011?). I sorted the "cash contributions" of funding of each candidate by amount, count, and "populist ratio" (a synthetic statistic). You will have to click on the image below to enlarge. The spreadsheet data for this blog post can be found here.

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Register to Vote for the 2011 General Election!!!

    "OMG!! Did I remember to register to vote?!"

    October 10th is the standard deadline for voter registration for the 2011 final election in the state of Washington.

    Here are some important links:

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Visualizing Cherry Point...

    The first few cars of a coal train make their way through Boulevard Park in Bellingham, WA.

    Imagine the sheer audacity and arrogance of a capitalist society from the perspective of the local level.  For at least the last ten years, the residents of the city of Bellingham have been recovering from its industrial past, removing industrial plants from its waterfront, pursuing redevelopment plans, strengthening its downtown core, and developing a first rate economy based on education, health, and a progressive government.  While doing so, this city has attracted numerous ex-urbans, retirees, and wealthy immigrants, all who want to share in the growth of this small city with such mesmerizing beauty. Hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars have flooded into Whatcom County banking system on the basis of development and speculation. Now, on the near whim of a broken and bankrupt carbon-based national economy, a few wealthy corporations (with the backing of local, state, federal leaders)  think it is a good idea to run 48 million metric tons of coal through our recently revitalized downtown and merchant districts. And there really doesn't appear any good way to stop them.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Urban Farming and Democracy: Part III

    The promise of the backyard
    The New York Times has an excellent article on rural vegetable gardening for sustenance in West Virginia.  It represents national coverage for an important phenomena : the nation's families are worried about feeding themselves. Urban gardening contains rich possibilities for local policy and subsidization.  Why finance road building when you could be paying people for feeding themselves and their communities? At the very least, cities and counties could team up with university agricultural extensions to offer advice, subsidized equipment rentals, informal neighborhood markets, etc.   There is a good chance this will happen on it's own without help. But subsidizing and encouraging urban farming might just be a worthwhile public mission in times of economic contraction and increasing food prices.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Why Economic Planning and Economic Growth Matters

    Crime Statistics for a small part of Oakland Ca (centered from our previous home) for the last month (July 22nd - August 22nd) from Oakland Crime Spotting:

    There is a dangerous statistical analysis being propagated around the press based on some obviously fallacious presumptuous numbers which claims to show that crime rates (violent or otherwise) are headed down across the country for some number of years in spite of an unrelenting economic downturn.  Nominally, it could be the case that crime statistics can be shown to be falling. But no matter what those numbers say, the hard truth is they may not be very useful to understand our county or our country's economic future. I will explain.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Whither the anti Coal Terminal voters?

    Most of the Whatcom County Executive votes are in. It appears Bellingham voters will have a choice only between two men who favor the development  of the GPT Coal Port at Cherry Point. Just for kicks I analyzed how many precincts had votes whose sum total for David Stallheim plus Tom Anderson exceeded Doug Erickson's total. That number is 54 precincts. Here are the top ten precincts where the combined votes of Stallheim and Anderson exceeded Ericksen for each precinct:

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    On Tuesday, we vote...(Primary Election)

    On Tuesday, we vote.  Here are some still valid links to Voter Registration information from last year's election.  Here are the websites of the Bellingham Mayoral Candidates:
    Here are the websites of the Whatcom County Executive candidates:

    All I can say about this primary and the upcoming general election  is that the "make or break" issue will obviously be whether or not we want up to 25 miles of coal trains running through our city and county for the rest of  our lives. Strangely, almost no candidate features this issue on the front page of their websites. The second most important issue ought to be whether or not we want red light cameras strung up all over our town. Again, not well featured on any candidate website. 

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Building Roads without Permits?

    This is the King 5 video (from Monday) on the controversy created by Carl Weimer's discovery of extensive road building efforts at the Gateway Pacific Terminal site by SSA Marine:

    This issue is getting lots of local discussion (1,2,3,4,5,6).  Is building roads without permits a classic expression of the lawlessness and arrogance of "The Carbon Club"?  Something akin, perhaps, to shipping coal without covered train cars? Or maybe creating global climate change while simultaneously denying it? Or maybe funding reactionary political movements in the United States? Or lobbying for genocidal, imperialist wars in the Middle East? Tonight, I registered More coming soon...

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    The Violent Manifesto of a 'Cultural Conservative'

    "Regardless of the above cultural Marxist propaganda; I will always know that I am perhaps
    the biggest champion of cultural conservatism, Europe has ever witnessed since 1950. I am
    one of many destroyers of cultural Marxism and as such; a hero of Europe, a savior of our
    people and of European Christendom – by default. A perfect example which should be
    copied, applauded and celebrated. The Perfect Knight I have always strived to be. A
    Justiciar Knight is a destroyer of multiculturalism, and as such; a destroyer of evil and a
    bringer of light. I will know that I did everything I could to stop and reverse the European
    cultural and demographical genocide and end and reverse the Islamisation of Europe."

    The diary and Manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik is an extraordinary pathological, chilling and disturbed 1500 plus pages.  Largely the product of the absorption of reactionary and white supremacist dogma, Mr. Breivik hopes to become a martyr to his Anti-Jihad cause.  His manifesto is an explicit attack on secular liberalism, Marxism, and universalist ideology of all types.  It includes detailed instructions on bomb construction, arms purchase and training, and drug use for enhanced performance. I am surprised that (a) it has been published by the Washington Post and that (b) Mr. Breivik is so lucid and detailed in his writing. The specificity of his content and the details of his (apparently solitary) preparation are shocking.  Mr. Breivik's document is being compared to "The Unabomber Manifesto".  However, given the white nationalist message of Mr. Breivik's document, a more relevant comparison might be "The Turner Diaries". Mr. Breivik appears to be a Scandinavian version of Robert Jay Matthews, a Washington state based white-nationalist who founded The Order.  Unfortunately, we know quite a bit about the dangers of  white nationalism in Whatcom County and Washington State.  Perhaps, we should offer the Norwegians some help.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Urban Farming Part II

    From Our Garden....
    So this is not a terrible lot of food, but every two or three days I pull about this much vegetable/fruit mass out of my small garden. The tomatoes are way behind this year, the carrots will need another 30 days to  be useful, the onions probably needed more fertilizer and the squash (although) showing promise, is also late.

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    Bellingham Festival of Music: Free Performances and Master Classes

    Stefan Jackiw helps bring out the passion in  a Bellingham Violinist as part of the free master classes offered at the Bellingham Festival of Music
     07/10/2011 : As an update to this post, Isabel and I have made it to two exciting and well played free performances and one exceptionally brilliant master class with Stefan Jackiw.  I am not sure what Mr. Jackiw thought of my fidgety daughter and my friend Jeff's snoring service dog, but we all thought he was brilliant. Seeing him work with the young musicians was revelatory. All of  the musicians were technically competent, but Mr. Jackiw worked to bring the depth and meaning out of their music, also adding important (and interesting) historical comments about the inspiration for each piece.  As a "Violin Dad", I was very impressed and I learned a considerable amount about the importance of playing the instrument with passion. What Stefan voiced was the implementation of what most of us feel when we hear a great performance, but for novice audience members like myself it was gratifying to receive some insight into how musicians convey the passion of  such music to the audience. Thanks again, Stefan and the Bellingham Festival of Music!

    The Bellingham Festival of Music will be offering free performances and master classes during The Bellingham Festival of Music which kicked off last night at the WWU Performing Arts Center.  The rest of the schedule is impressive. As usual, fine art performances are now priced above working middle class family budgets.  But so is everything else anyway.  Someone should be seriously thanked for this effort to connect classical music to the wider community.  So today, after you are done shopping at the Bellingham Farmer's Market  (the best farmer's market on the West Coast according to Sunset Magazine), drop by Mallard's Ice Cream with your budding musical protege and enjoy the good life!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011


    Mike Markham lights his tap water on fire in "Gasland".

    "Gasland", a movie by Josh Fox about "fracking" is now renting at Film is Truth in Bellingham, WA.  This film is worth your time, especially if you are one of the American cities lined up to export coal across the world.  "Gasland" has it all: disillusioned middle Americans sickened by living in a "fracked" landscape, water supplies than can be light on fire at the faucet, pristine creeks that bubble with "fracked gas".   What a truly terrifying and toxic process "fracking" is.  And yet these wells have spread by the thousands across America. Rent this film, and you will never trust the "carbon industry" again. The movie has moved many. Josh Fox is apparently working on a sequel. The bonus features on the DVD fill out the film significantly.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    The "Left/Right Coalition" against the War in Afghanistan

    This is a long discussion between liberal Massachusetts representative Jim McGovern and conservative North Carolina representative Walter Jones. The two of them sponsored a bill  that failed but showed strong bipartisan support. In this video, both congressman agree that the costs of war are impoverishing our economy and country.  Congressman Jones has a district heavily populated by military bases and retired military. He visits frequently, as did former Congressman John Murtha, Walter Reed hospital. Their discussion is about 20 minutes and worth listening to:

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Nationalization, Secession, and Revolt

    Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate 2001 - 2011 from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics

    There is now much talk about the impending "U.S. Crisis" : an endlessly sinking economy, high unemployment, collapsed housing economy, bloated national budget, disconcerted and disconnected populace; a populace that grows increasingly disillusioned (and angry) with almost every objective of the federal government and its empire. Yet, amidst this crisis, Rome fiddles with discussions of debt limits, health insurance, energy policy, 'terrorism', energy policy, and birth certificates. Everything is considered but the will of the people and the health of their communities. How much longer can such an alienated populace live in pain under a seemingly disconnected and uncaring authority?

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Coal Trains in Bellingham (and Coal Mines in the Comox Valley) Part IV

    Update to this post (05/31/2011): I saw Bill McKibben speak tonight on the Fairhaven Green. Very inspiring. There were about three or four hundred people I would imagine. Bill stressed how global warming effects the poor disproportionately. He wants the "carbon bomb" of the Powder River Basin left "in the ground."

    Activist and author Bill McKibben speaks at the Fairhaven Green tomorrow in Bellingham, WA. The title of his speech is:"They Want to Build North America's Biggest Coal Terminal in Whatcom County? Really?".  Here is Mr. McKibben speaking at Powershift 2011 on April 17 of this year:

    The band starts at 5:00 PM. Bill will speak at 7:00 PM. I've blogged about Coal Trains in Whatcom County (1,2,3) and a number of groups have been fervently engaged in community and environmental organization(1,2). In researching this topic today, I have discovered that the beautiful 'Comox Valley' and Port Alberni  is also going to be subject to the Coal Industry (1,2,3).  So they are going to mine coal from Victoria Island, ship it out of Port Alberni to....Of course the demand in Asia is driving all of this. The economics of coal export are hard to beat for profit. Canadians are having meetings this week:
    • Monday May 30, 2011 - Florence Filberg Centre, Courtenay
    • Thursday June 2, 2011 - Port Alberni Athletic Hall, Port Alberni
    • Friday June 3, 2011 – Union Bay Community Club, Union Bay

    The Sightline Daily has a series of excellent articles on "The Dirt on Coal" including an excellent April 28 article "What a Coal Export Terminal Looks Like"  which comes replete with exellent photographs by Bellinghammer Paul K. Anderson.  In honor of Mr. McKibben's visit, I am posting some archived material on Whatcom County coal mines I have accumulated from various sources. (More on this later...) I have to admit, I'm a little pissed off by this point. I moved to Bellingham to find a safe, clean, place to raise a family.  My wife and I both really liked the Comox Valley when we have visited it. We thought it might be a good place to own a retirement/vacation home. Wow...

    But as Craig Cole said at the recent Bellingham City Club at the Gateway Pacific Terminal meeting, "we are a debtor nation, we owe the Chinese $3 Trillion dollars...we just can't go on being a buyer of things." And we do need jobs and tax monies. So I guess we will live with dirt and grime (and toxicity?) of coal dust here in Whatcom County...
    map from "Coal Fields of Western Whatcom County, Washington", Olaf P. Jenkins 1923

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Waiting for the Revolution...

    Just some of the business space for rent, sale, or lease in and around downtown Bellingham.

     "Though national economists have declared a technical end to the deep recession that has plagued our country since at least 2008, we would be hard-pressed to find many in the local economy who feel that is true, based on the continuing financial pressures in their lives and businesses. "  Mayor Dan Pike from 2011 Budget Message

    They say we have hit another "soft patch" (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) - too many disasters, too little GDP, too much unemployment and under-employment, abysmal housing stats.  Productivity is up, Corporate profits, savings and earnings (in some cases) are sky high but...small businesses and families are collapsing in city after city across middle America. Residential construction activity levels are some slight level above rigor mortis.

    It can't go on like this forever. At some point we will either have to:

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    The 'value' of walking...

    The City of Bellingham Public Works department is requesting feedback on the Bellingham Pedestrian Master Plan. They have created a very comprehensive pedestrian survey.  Kim Brown is the public point of contact. If you are a pedestrian, I urge you to think seriously about the value of pedestrian walkways and pedestrian safety in your neighborhood. Then submit your ideas and talk about the problem pedestrian areas in your neighborhood.  To imagine the value of pedestrian access, imagine $8/gallon. Imagine a world where only the rich and high paid professionals drive. Or better yet, imagine $12/gallon in a world where the only downtown neighborhood residents are the rich or highly paid professionals and you (middle class family at that) are forced to bus to work and walk to shopping, school, entertainment. For some of you , that world is already here. Here are some of the comments I submitted:

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    An anomalous event?

    Three fascinating studies measuring the diplacement of land and energy of the recent earthquake in Japan have been published by Science Magazine.  The research suggests an earthquake unusual if not anomalous in intensity, energy, and displacement. Science Magazine is making the news and research coverage of the quake free for all visitors.
    "With such a limited perspective on the past release and the current buildup of strain, a magnitude-9 quake caught researchers by surprise. Learning that most of the March megaquake’s slip was concentrated on two segments makes scientists more worried about other faults around the Pacific. “If you can get a 9 that is this compact,” Wald says, “it increases the number of places you can [fit in] a 9 where you may not have expected one." "  from New Work Reinforces Megaquake’s Harsh Lessons in Geoscience 
    "That the 2011 event produced approximately 50 m of slip up-dip of the historical Miyagi M7+ events is roughly consistent with a 500 to 1,000 year potential slip accumulation period. However, there is no basis on which to assume that the aforementioned interval of 1,100 years is representative of the recurrence interval of great earthquakes in this segment—it could be shorter by a factor of two and still be consistent with the surface displacement budget and the peak slip inferred in this recent earthquake."  from The 2011 Magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake: Mosaicking the Megathrust from Seconds to Centuries
    "We find a mainshock radiated energy ES = 9.1 × 10^18 J, averaged over all stations and all choices of eGf....Nevertheless,  our estimate is about twice as large as the 5.1 × 10^17 J determined by the USGS."  from "Shallow Dynamic Overshoot and Energetic Deep Rupture in the 2011 Mw 9.0 TohokuOki Earthquake"
    "The focal region inferred from the distribution of aftershocks stretches about 500 km long and 200 km wide offshore (1)... In particular, at MYGI near the epicenter, we detected a huge  co-seismic displacement of about 24 m toward ESE and about 3 m upward."  from Displacement Above the Hypocenter of the 2011 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake