Friday, February 26, 2010

Who loses....

On Thursday night, I visited this incredible science fair at Parkview Elementary school.  The Bellingham Public School system is known for its dedicated teachers and high quality of education and high parental involvement.  All of this was clearly evident at the Parkview elementary science fair.  There must have been 150 exhibits, all neatly positioned side to side, back to back in a room packed with obviously involved parents who I bet had contributed significantly to their children's projects.  It is amazing for a refugee from Oakland, Ca to see public schools systems with such involved parents, happy involved children EXCELLING IN SCIENCE.

For 34 years my father taught high school in east Oakland while he sent his three sons and one daughter to Catholic schools there.  In our school districts, most parents might have said we had little choice if we wanted  a a relevant education.  At one point the public high school a mile or so down the road from the private high school I attended had a 5 grade 8 month reading level amongst their high school seniors.  My embattled father (always a hero in my eyes for his work as a history teacher and coach) once handed me a study about the junior high feeder school to that high school. The study revealed that 50% of the students lived with NEITHER their biological mother or father.  "That fact," explained my father "is why the high school they matriculate too has a 5 grade 8 month reading level amongst their seniors." "THAT is what I deal with all day long."

It pains me to live in a state where there are no corporate income taxes. In this area (Whatcom and Skagit County) , there are four oil refineries, numerous oil support companies, lots of investment banking money, lots of banks. And yet so few good jobs.  It is a miracle that Bellingham's school system, so dependent as it is on property values and property taxes, has managed to deliver such committed parents and committed teachers.  Will this school system and their families survive the great recession (another $2 million is now proposed to be cut from their budget)?  They certainly would stand a better chance if the high dollar volume carbon industry and their support companies here paid corporate income taxes.  Or if Skagit and Whatcom County worked harder at building high tech positions outside of the carbon industry.  But neither has happened so it is probable that the quality of  public schools will collapse with the continued fall in property,excise, sales, B&O taxes in the Bellingham MSA.

When a community has the wealth of its families destroyed, when it is subject to economic terror, its children suffer. Don't talk me about how lucky we are to have oil wealth in our county. Talk to me about how you are going to save our children from the economic destruction their parents are being subjected to, as evidenced by the most recent BLS LAU chart for the Bellingham, MSA below:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Period of Liquidation

News in the Wall Street Journal this morning reminds us that our country is in an accelerating period of liquidation:
Through September 2009  approximately 1.4 M bankruptcies filings were received by United States Bankruptcy Courts.  Western Washington accounted for 22,450 of those filings.  Whatcom County continues to show increases in bankruptcy volume. 62 bankruptcies were filed in January 2010 vs. the 53 filed in January 2009.  Monthly bankruptcy filings generally increase toward Summer. (Last July, 79 bankruptcies were filed in WC.)  Many bankruptcies are "household bankruptcies" , which makes even relatively small numbers significant predictors for total sales in retail, housing, etc.  To understand this, you can imagine how a sustained rate of 1000 household bankruptcies per year would effect a county with less than 200,000 occupants (like Whatcom County). The effect of having 10% of your households in recovery from bankruptcy after a five year period would be disastrous. That being said, many experts recommend not waiting to file for bankruptcy if you are in trouble. Help on filing for bankruptcy can be found at:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oh Canada!

I'm going to skip all the negative economic and political news I could be reporting about this morning.  Instead, let's talk about something really positive.   If you live in Bellingham or anywhere within driving distance of Vancouver, British Columbia...please...please...please...get yourself there for the last week the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Don't worry about not having a ticket to any events. The show at Robeson Square alone is worth the crowds, the border, the drive. Here's how we did it:

(1) Pack some snacks and a camera and some water bottles in a backpack. Arrive at the border early with your passport or Nexxus pass or enhanced license.
(2) Drive to King George (or Scott) Skytrain station. Buy an all day ($9 CN Adult $7 CN Child) pass with your credit card or Canadian cash. (You have to run your bank card as a CC if you don't bring credit.)
(3) Take the Expo Line to the Waterfront or other downtown exits.
(4) Walk to the  Olympic Cauldron. Take lots of photos.
(5) Walk to Cathedral Square. Hang out. Take lots of photos.
(6) Walk to Robeson Square. Hang out. Eat. Skate. Watch wonderful concerts. Watch gymnastics. Watch comedy performers. For extra credit, zip-line across the square. Take lots of photos.
(7) For extra credit, get back on the Skytrain and take your children to Science World.
(8) For those with extra cash, take the ferry or the bus to Whistler or Squamish, stay the week and bask in the glow of victorious nation.

Canada is America's alter-ego.  It's who we should be when we are depressed, sad, angry or full of paranoia. And nowhere is the 'joie de vivre' of Canada in more prolific display than Vancouver, B.C. with or without the Olympics: multi-racial, multi-ethnic, alert, joyous, worldly, and (of course) polite.  My only concern about going there is that I might just throw my border pass in False Creek one day, so I make sure I never come back!

Olympics 2010.  Don't miss it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Four month mark

For the last four months Google Analytics reports 1388 Visits from 681 Visitors in 23 Countries from 154 Cities. The top ten by visit are:

1.Bellingham 813
2.Seattle 160
3.Bellingham 53
4.Ferndale 34
5.Portland 33
6.Burlington 30
7.(not set)  28
8.New York    8
9.Tacoma    7
10.Bellevue    6

I will report again at the eigth month mark.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Hallelujahs

It  is thrilling to watch fervent Canadians on CTV cheer their athletes. My daughter and I watched Canadian Maelle Ricker steal the X Cross snowboarding event. With a smile and grace and patience and joy.  As I watch a mostly northern and first world group of nations compete in these Olympics, I can't help but think about those who are not competing; those who are scared for their lives in Afghanistan. Without the slightest irony, our country launched a major new invasion in Afghanistan nearly to the day of the Olympic start, defying with malice the spirit of national cooperation that was born with the Olympics; a period when a truce in fighting was declared. While  the world mourned the tragic loss of Georgian luger during the opening week of the Olympics perhaps a dozen civilians died in Afghanistan because of an errant American rocket.:
"About a dozen civilians have been killed in three separate incidents in recent days as 15,000 U.S. and Afghan forces are in a heated battle around the Taliban stronghold of Marjah.

Hostage said the objective is to persuade the populace to side with the government and against the insurgent force.
"Civilians die every day at the hand of the Taliban," Hostage said. "We have to protect them from that. ... The people know who the bad guys are." "

And we are losing soldiers left and right as well (1, 2, 3,4) Is there no better way?  Did Afghanistan really and truly need to be invaded? What was the point?  The Cryptome has some great full color plates of  Wartime Architecture in Afghanistan. The only mention of the irony of simultaneous war in South amidst joyous Olympic competition in the North might have been in K.D. Laing's brilliant celebration opening interpretation of the words of Leonard Cohen:

I've seen your flag on the marble arch

Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Thursday, February 11, 2010

OIl in Haiti and "Induced Seismicity"

The big secret is now in the open:  Haiti's earthquake is just one more power play in the U.S. control of Haiti and the Caribbean's resources. Two authors are covering this in detail:
The Fateful Geological Prize Called Haiti
Oil Sites in Haiti 
Oil in Haiti, reasons for the US occupation

To understand "induced seismicity" and the probabilities that Western mining companies may have induced the Haitian earthquake through drilling operations, background information can be read at on "induced seismicity".  Ms. Laurent/Ezili Danto describes illegal drilling and mining operations in Haiti since Aristide's "departure" in her blog "Did mining and oil drilling trigger the Haiti earthquake?"  Ms. Laurent talked about these mining operations by Western forces earlier in an interview in May 2009.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rethinking Afghanistan

An excellent and topical film on war - "Rethink Afghanistan" - is available at Film is Truth in Bellingham, WA.  You can also order it from the website.   The film is a multi-faceted presentation of many different groups opposed to the continued war in Afghanistan. It documents the costs of the war on the Afghan population, our own country, and on the peoples of South Asia. I recommend it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Republican "Marxist Envy" Che! Part II

This is my second post that tries to explain the incredulous labeling of President Barack Obama as a "Marxist"  by reactionary forces in the United States.  As contrast, I provide a movie review of Che a Steven Soderbergh/Laura Bickford film now available (with extended commentary and historical interviews/film from the Criterion Collection ) at Film is Truth in Bellingham,Washington.  I highly recommend this film, but especially this Criterion Collection three DVD set  for the archival footage and film and also for the supporting historical commentary by Jon Lee Anderson. Mr. Anderson is publishing a second edition of his work Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life.

There are many reasons to reconsider the life and works of Che Guevara today in our country.  Like Batiste's Cuba, America has become a country ruled by  "strong men", its citizenry rotting financially in the compost pile of a corrupt state, ridden with bankruptcy, foreclosure, and unemployment; the official government serving only as a vehicle to hand or tax away the last of our state's riches to those who have plundered our national economy.  Would a Cuban style revolution be possible in these United States?  What would it take to effect such a revolution?

The film makes clear many of the timeless historical markers of revolution:

(1) broad public support including a "soft revolutionary" (ideological) component in urban areas
(2) an armed revolutionary group with outside financial support
(3) visionary guerilla leaders with practical technical and charismatic skillsets
(4) eventually, a unified front of citizens, military, intelligentsia
(5) ruthless strongmen to purge "reactionary' or "counter-revolutionary" forces.

In Cuba, the revolution succeeded, even to the surprise of some Soviet supporters, because the Batiste regime had terrorized its people.   But it also succeeded because bourgeois "Argentine intellectuals" like Che Guevara rallied and committed themselves to the cause of Marxist revolution; in part because their travels through Latin America made clear the devastation caused by American economic imperialism: our henchman, our support of local thugs, our devastation of local economies in the name of American economic affluence.

Jon Lee Anderson'sdisk one commentary strongly asks the question: What is it that made an intellectual, a doctor, a poet and philosopher like Guevara "cross the line"?  What would make a man of gentle intellect and medical training convince himself to murder for the cause of the greater wealth of his people?   Perhaps we should ask what would it take to see such personal conversions here:
  • A lack of nationalized health care? 
  • An unfettered/polarizing war on the third world in the name of  an endless "War on Terror"?
  • The impoverishing effects of  corporatist lobbying  forces in the name of oil, energy, pharma, insurance, banking?
  • The widening gap between the rich and the poor?
  • The impoverization of our communities and families?
From the ILWU to the Black Panthers , 20th century America has no shortage of well organized and well-armed revolutionary movements among it's working classes. They are usually paralleled with support from intellectual classes. But what events would make us "cross the line"?  What events would make us view the election of Barack Obama as our last failed hope for Democratic reform?  I will wager that these are the questions that are being asked in earnest now in large, bankrupt communities across the nation.  In reality, no one but repressed, paranoid Republican leadership and the denizens of small towns with narrow minds are worrying whether or not Barack Obama is a "Marxist". Whether our President is a "Marxist" or not (and he has does nothing to indicate that he is at this point), our country is rapidly reaching the point of economic degradation where many of us would cheer if he were to declare himself as such.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Republican "Marxist Envy"; Che!

"If you were to listen to the would think this was some Bolshevik Plot." 
 President Barack Obama speaking to Republicans about their resistance to health care.

Whenever the reactionary elements of American political society need to tar and feather some opponent, they pull out the "Marxist" or "Communist" label.  This is a long term  "straw man" and/or "bogeyman" for the paranoid right wing. The "red scare" is the their primary tactic that they slash against reform or proletarian movements across American 20th century history.  In truth, it used far less often than the label of 'fascist' which is an accurate label for many modern reactionary/conservative movements.

Considering how hawkish and bank-oriented Barack Obama's economic past year of policies have been,  the charges of Barack Obama as a "Marxist" or "Socialist" strike me as lacking credulity. In reality, we cannot realistically compare Obama's imperialist, corporatist, war-time economy to the  policies promulgated by 20th century New World Marxist leaders like Castro, Guevara, Allende, Ortega, or Chavez .  Indeed, I cannot imagine 20th century American Marxists Big Bill Heywood, Norman Thomas, Eugene V. Debs, Harry Bridges, or even Huey Newton or Angela Davis striking as centrist wartime and corporatist economic policies as President Obama.

As a simple example of this: Can any of you imagine any of these Marxists leader supporting anything but either 'single-payer' or (more accurately) true nationalized health care? Would any of these Marxist leaders send such a continued rush of troops to Afghanistan?  Would any of them have tolerated the subversive, reactionary lobbying influences of the lobbyists of pharma, insurance, private health markets to health care proposals?   Would any of them have "bailed out the banking system" with such ferocity instead of nationalizing the banking system? Would any of them have tolerated the widening gap between the rich and the poor in America without very direct 'redistribution efforts'?

I can't imagine such tolerance by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, or Hugo Chavez. I suspect that even Canada wouldn't tolerate our watered down, luke warm, health proposal as it now stands.  If we receive a health care bill, it will most likely not be the most efficient/economical delivery of health care for our citizens. For most part, it will migrate, with corporatist help, into a profit vehicle for the American private health,pharmaceutical, insurance industries.  Our President is most decidedly not Marxist in his policy suggestions.  He seems to truly believe in "Ho'oponopono" from his native Hawaii, a term that suggests a form of tribal or even familial conflict negotiation.

Indeed, the subconscious of the  Republican party in the United States seems to be driven by some form of "Marxist Envy"; their animus propelled by some deep and powerful search for "Communists" coupled to a paranoia more energized than many of the utopian socialist fantasies of the left wing in America. To get an accurate idea of what one of the most recent Marxist revolutions in this hemisphere actually looked like, Bellinghammers can now check out from "Film is Truth" a 2008 Film by Steven Soderberg and Laura Bickford : Che . I recommend especially the supplemental third disk which contains interviews with still living revolutionaries in Cuba who fought along side Che and Castro and interviews with Cuban historians that describe how deep the support for the revolution in Cuba was, how brutal the Batista regime appeared in their neighborhoods and how the armed forces supported Castro and Che. I recommend the film if only to help come to understanding of what it would take for a true Marxist revolution to effect itself here in North America.