Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Contradictions with-in Republican Party philosophy

The political fiasco around Terri Schiavo's feeding tube points out a contradiction in thinking among Republicans.

On the one hand there are the "right to lifer's" who always want to err on the side of life even if it means maintaining expensive medical care beyond any reasonable prospect of recovery.

On the other hand there are the "limit spending libertarians." These are folks who would say, "if you are sick and don't have private resources (insurance / savings) too bad. It is not government's job to help you. The world doesn't owe you a living or life.

With the cost of health care rising so fast that it is the main thing driving growth in government spending, this contradiction becomes more glaring.

When Republicans call for curbs in government spending, do they really mean pulling the plug on people?

Of course there are some ways to deliver medical care in more efficient ways, like reigning in liability costs. Still, things like tort reform can only solve part of spiraling health care costs.

The cost of health care bankrupts Republican thinking in more ways than one.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Painting the pool. After small pool was drained and repainted at our local YMCA, I snapped this picture before water returned. Image sideways.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

If eastern Washington were to secede?

If eastern Washington were to secede would WSU and Bryan Clock be left high and dry?

Splitting Washington State in half?

Written March 2005

What would happen to the higher education system?

Some West side "Blue Stators" will smugly point out that the state spends more, per capita, for roads in "tax cut" eastern Washington country than it does west of the Cascades.

More road miles to maintain per person in the wide open spaces of the east side.

It's true, if one ponders the duties of state government, the west side, with the economic engine of its urban areas, has a point.

This can certainly be seen in higher education; a major function of state government.

Splitting Washington would devastate both sides of the divide. More universities are on the east side while most of the students come from the west side.

Heavily populated Western Washington only has two universities while the east side enjoys three. Of course, University Of Washington, in Seattle (west side), has the largest enrollment, but the only other university is Western Washington University, here in Bellingham.

Evergreen State College, in Olympia (west side), is much smaller and not called a University.

With less population, eastern Washington has Eastern Washington University, in Cheney, Central Washington University, in Ellensburg and Washington State University, in Pullman. The latter often reports that King County, where Seattle is located, is the top "county of origin" for WSU Students.

Would those students come to WSU if they had to pay out of state tuition?

This situation could devastate the economy of Pullman, Washington which can be seen as an island of "blue state" in "red state" eastern Washington.

That college town, where I happen to be from (born and raised), is sometimes referred to as the "Athens of the Palouse."

If the west and the east were to divide, both sides would suffer higher education blues. College town economies of the east would be hurt by lack of students and the accompaniment of state funding. The west side would suffer from too many students with lack of classroom space. Enrollment ceilings, on the west side, are bad enough already.

Outside the business of state government, west side folks might have to swallow some of their smugness also. Much of the power that runs west side cities comes from dams on the Columbia River, in eastern Washington.

Some of western Washington's garbage goes east for disposal. Much of it goes all the way to eastern Oregon, to waste repositories around Arlington, Oregon.

Western Washington "blue state" people often boast about buying local, rather than supporting Walmart style corporate monsters.

Farmer's markets with local produce and musicians flourish on the west side, but where would the dairy farmers be with out hay from east of the mountains?

I once had a conversation with a truck driver who described what goes into milk, supposedly produced by Whatcom County (west side) dairy farms. Some grass is grown locally, but lots of hay is trucked in from eastern Washington. Feed corn comes from far afield. It is grown in places like southern Idaho and even the Dakotas. Dairy feed is even sweetened, sometimes, with cotton seed from places as far as Australia.

Yes, "local feel gooders," we live in a global economy. Global at least as long as people insist on living the way we do.

If eastern Washingtonians really wanted to play hardball and cut off some of the private commerce, this entire state would be devastated. However, that could not happen as long as both sides remain in USA where commerce crosses state lines easier than do local tax dollars or college students.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Terri Schiavo feeding tube culture of life?

Weren't the Republicans the ones trying to remove the feeding tube? My latest cartoon idea.

Democrats should use this controversy to point out Republican hypocrisy and advocate access to health care for all Americans.

Republicans have gotten themselves into a trap, but Democrats may not be smart enough to take advantage of this.

President Bush, and other Republican leaders, such as Representative Tom Delay, say things like;

"Always err on the side of life."

Democrats should use this to advocate better funding for health care access to low income and uninsured people. Democrats should use this to oppose cuts in the nation's "safety net."

Access to health care for all citizens should be advocated as a "right to life" issue.

My fear is that Democrats will miss this great opportunity.

As for weather the feeding tube should be replaced, or not, it should not be up to the politicians (unless they can't trust the doctors working on that case). Maybe an independent team of doctors could be put onto the case so Terri Schiavo, her parents and husband could have a second opinion.

If the doctors say she is (basically) dead, it is up to the doctors, and the families involved, to make the decisions. As long as the doctors are acting responsibly, including allowing for "second opinion," Congress and the President have no role; in my opinion.

Since Congress and the President have taken on this role to make pronouncements about erring on the side of life, Democrats should use this to advocate access to health care for all Americans.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Senate Approves Oil Drilling In Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

I am not surprised. More Republicans than Democrats in Senate.

Also, there was a recent survey, done here in Bellingham, about how people transport themselves. The survey concluded that people "talk green," but still rely on the automobile for a very high percentage of trips.

The "green means" of transportation, such as walking, bicycling or public transit, only account for a small percentage of trips.

In other words, talk is green, but not action.

The study also has funding to sit down with people and discuss transportation choices. It reported an increase in the use of "green travel," after people were counselled, one to one, on their options.

This second part of the study was encouraging.

Basically, many green talkers are hypocrites, before the study, but after the one on one counselling part of that study, people improved.

Buffer lands around Whatcom County refineries. Power lines seen here are going into Alcoa Intalco Aluminum Works. Two oil refineries are also located in this area.

Ironically, it's one of the best parts of the county to bike in. Not that many people live around the refineries so traffic sparse.

One might view this as an argument that drilling for oil in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge may not be the end of the world. Pollution control and buffers around large oil facilities make them appear green.

On the other hand, where people live and shop. That can appear totally hectic, paved over and polluted.

Speaking of oil, the bicycle trip I took, last weekend to Skagit County, brought me to a Crispy Cream Doughnut factory.

Had one doughnut for 89 cents.

Peddling 60 miles, round trip, relieved the guilt, but the flavor of the doughnuts is over hyped.

I guess it is doughnut "oil I can live with out."

Now chocolate milk, that is a different story. I must be addicted to that, but I drink the low fat variety.

That's the news from my personal "oil," or lack there of, economy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

With friends like Arafat, who would have needed enemies

Some encouraging news seems to be coming out of Lebanon, also the Palestinian Territories. Of course, President Bush will try to claim credit for much of this. He is a politician.

There may be some truth in what he says.

I have always considered myself a "fence sitter" on the question of whether the Iraq War could be justified. I'm still sitting on that fence.

I am sure there is more to these issues than just a simplistic "the war is fixing problems" analysis.

It is still possible that the war has been more of a hindrance than a solution.

Rather than relive some of those tired debates, I wish to contemplate another factor besides American politics.

This factor is the "passing of the guard."

People die.

New ideas evolve.

I am thinking, more particularly, about Yasser Arafat.

Things might improve now that Arafat is gone. He was somewhat of a belligerent stumbling block.

Hopefully, new leadership will be more committed to non violent change. They can get more concessions from Israel.

I have an interesting memory relating to news about Arafat back in the 1970s when I was attending Western Washington University. One of my classes was about the great non violent leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi was able to free India from the clutches of a powerful British Empire using nonviolent means.

Our class had a segment about some diplomatic trip that Gandhi took to London. The British government was just beginning to take him seriously and planned to put him up in elaborate diplomatic quarters.

Gandhi would have none of it.

He insisted on staying with a working class family in a poor part of London.

I remember how inspiring that story was.

Leaving the classroom on a cloud of inspiration, I next went to my dorm lobby where there was a television.

The cloud of inspiration vanished quickly.

News all over the TV was about Arafat coming to New York City for negotiating before the United Nations. The city, and UN officials, wanted to put him up on a military base where his safety could be protected. It would be comfortable, but easier to protect than a hotel.

Arafat would have none of it.

He insisted on staying at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He insisted on about the fanciest place in town. No working class quarters for him.

This created a major headache for those trying to protect his safety.

I remember thinking, "With friends like that, who needs enemies."

Monday, March 14, 2005

Washington State Auto Emission Standards

How about just getting people to drive less?

Interesting discussion about proposed clean air standards for the state on KUOW's show called "The Conversation." It aired today.

Several bills have been proposed trying to get vehicles to put out less carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

One such bill, SB5916, sponsored by Republican Dave Smitt, seems to have a major flaw in it. Smitt, who was one of KUOW's guests, proposed tax incentives for people to buy more fuel efficient cars; such as hybrids.

Isn't the state short of money? Can the state afford to cut sales taxes on new car purchases?

Smith feels the state would recoup the loss. If people drive more efficient cars, says Smitt, they would be spending less on gasoline. They would have more disposable income to spend on other items that have a sales tax; such as home furnishings for instance.

Sales tax is not collected on gas, but Smitt forgets about gas taxes.

Gas tax revenue is a big source of state funding. A big source of funding for highway construction.

Hybrid cars are great, but less money spent on gas means less "gas tax" money for road and transportation costs.

Rather than tax incentives for buying new cars, maybe we should just discourage people from driving as much. Then we would need less road construction money even though we would still need money for public transit.

I have nothing against hybrids. My brother owns a Prius.

Reducing pollution and consumption is a good thing, but the state also faces traffic gridlock. As wonderful as hybrids are, they still don't solve the gridlock in traffic and parking. Loss of gas tax revenue could hurt as road space is still needed by all the cars; even the fuel efficient ones.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Picture of Highway 99 bridge being torn down; Mount Vernon

Old Highway 99 bridge across Skagit River is being dismantled. New span bypasses it. Plans call for recycling the steel beams. Bringing them 25 miles north to Bellingham for our new Farmer's Market shelter. That will be an interesting building to see when finished.

Saturday, I bicycled to Mt. Vernon and back. About 60 miles round trip.

One of the regular followers of my web site lives in Arlington and was planning to come up to Mount Vernon for the day. We arranged to meet on a sunny bench outside Outlet Cafe. Cafe is in Burlington Factory Outlet Mall where she was doing some shopping.

I rode back to Bellingham and then went dancing, for a short while, at the Bellingham Leathermen Kickoff Social. It's a new organization starting in town.

A lot of motorcyclists, but I am still the only "peddle bicyclist" at the party.

A good energetic day.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Power lines under construction near Bellingham

New power lines under construction north of Bellingham, WA. around 1996.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Raising Retirement Age?

This proposal sets better with me than Bush's idea of carving private investment accounts out of Social Security.

I have already done some of my retirement.

Done much contemplation, spent time with friends, enjoyed bicycle travel.

For many years, I worked part time and dabbled in creativity the rest of the time. Much of my retirement is "already under my belt," so to speak.

I have already done some things that people look forward to retirement for.

If I must work past 65, and I am still healthy, it wouldn't be so bad.

Much of my life, right out of college, I only worked part time. Not easy to find full time work in this area. It was a nice balance between work and play, anyway.

If I must work, especially part time, after 65, the balance remains.

This is a better idea than personal savings accounts which require one to have money. I don't have much money, but have had a good time and can continue to have a good time.

The line between retirement, work, play, school and all those things should be fuzzy anyway.

Some folks might be mad if they slaved away all their lives, especially for low wages, and now feel that even their retirement years are being taken away.

They might be pissed.

I am in a better situation than that. I don't have lots of money, but I have had a good time, even before my retirement. A whole life in the slow lane.

Monday, March 07, 2005

12 Reasons not to live in Bellingham or Whatcom County

There are some individuals and organizations such as Pro Whatcom that are worried about rapid growth in this area.

I am not necessarily against growth, but here are some marketing suggestions that people who are against growth might consider. A list of bad things about this area that might discourage folks from moving here. Negative marketing suggestions.

Feel free to use items from this list, even though I am not normally this pessimistic about things. It's just something to think about.

1. The source of drinking water for Bellingham and some of Whatcom County, (Lake Whatcom) has been declared a polluted body of water.

2. Housing is among the most expensive in Washington State.

3. People with masters degrees are often found waiting tables. Competition for jobs beyond low level service / retail sector jobs is fierce.

4. Northern latitude means long dark winters (don't mention long light period in summer).

5. Cloudy climate, and some other factors, lead to high suicide rates in western Washington.

6. I-5 corridor and proximity to Canadian border, creates lots of drug traffic and law enforcement needs.

7. Many desperate folks trying to get into Canada, or headed to Alaska, end up homeless in Bellingham.

8. Emergency medical services levy failed in 2004. The only public facility levy to pass in Bellingham (2004 election) was a much needed new jailhouse.

9. Rapid population growth is causing traffic snarls, growing pains and some resentment of newcomers by local residents.

10. Un like California with it's miles of "public access" beaches, much of our local shoreline is "private property."

11. Bellingham is occasionally called "Boringham."

12. A popular hangout is a bar that is sometimes nicknamed "Tumor's." (If Washington State passes a smoking ban, in pubs, that nickname may cease to apply.)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Is the radio audience shrinking?

I recently read an article about broadcast radio suffering from the competition of Ipod's, Internet and Satellite Radio.

Not surprising.

Many local broadcasters are just relays for some regurgitated national talk show that's carried on hundreds of "look alike" stations.

Might as well get the network feed directly off a satellite. Why bother having local transmitters to repeat the same thing?

Stations who originate programs in their local studios may not be as seriously hurt by these changes as the network clones. The local station can still have a niche when it is based on the local community that surrounds the station.

If there are too many redundant outlets for a national network, in one area, maybe some of them should go off the air. Clear the crowded AM and FM dials for more interesting things.

Picture, above, is looking up at one of the Queen Ann Hill Radio TV towers in Seattle. I am not sure which stations are on which towers. I walked near those towers when I was last in the city.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Winds of democratic change across Middle East?

I recently had a conversation, in the sauna, with one of my deep thinking friends. He tends to be a follower of the blog Andrew Sullivan.

There is some encouraging news coming out of the new Palestinian leadership. Hopefully putting aside violence and opting for better tools to change society.

I remember an old quote that goes, "the pen is mightier than the sword."

There is also encouraging news from Lebanon, even though I don't always follow international events that closely.

Elections have taken place in a few spots around the Middle East. I hear that even Saudi Arabia has recently had local elections, but only men were allowed to vote. A tiny step at least.

Of course there has been quite a bit of fanfare made about the elections in Iraq. Some encouraging news, but it's still a bumpy road.

There is an "elephant in the room question." That is, "does the good news vindicate foreign policy of George Bush?"

Elephant has several meanings. It can mean large as well as being the Republican Party's mascot symbol.

Of course some would say the good news is a creation of "bias American media."

I would like to think that there can be, at least, some "good news" coming from the Middle East. There certainly has been a lot of "bad news" coming from that region over the decades.

I am not really a fan of George Bush, but I have never thought of him as being "the devil incarnate" either.

I do feel that stern policies and use of military force is often vindicated by environments where there is lots of anger and violence.

A harsh environment can be seen as "fertile ground" for the "George Bush" style thinking.

I remember another phrase that says, "he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword."

One can also say, "if the sword rules, the one with the biggest sword wins."

On the other hand, a less violent world could render someone like George Bush less effective. In another realm, he could be seen as a "fish out of water."

What seems vindicated, in a violent world, might become a burden in a more peaceful environment.

Will the large military bankrupt us in peace time?

Here in the USA, where battles are more apt to be fought by pen, rather than sword, Bush, and the Republican Party can still go down to defeat. Another election is usually around the corner. Bush is having a hard time convincing Americans of his scheme to privatize part of Social Security.

Future political landscapes may not be as "fertile ground" for the Bush agenda as the harsh world of past Middle Eastern news has been.

Hopefully the vicious cycle of violence and force will eventually subside and we can go beyond what some would call the "George Bush era."