Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama Makes Direct Hit On Al Queda In First Salvo Of War Of Ideas

Obama realizes that the war of ideas is the one we must win. It's like the Dark Ages are ending or stupidity has finally been eradicated as it relates to American policy towards the Middle East and the Muslim world at large. No longer the bully nation who knows best, who first actions in to create conflict. God it's great to have such a fucking brillant president finally.

Here are some highlights of the Obama interview today with the Arab television network Al Arabiya:

Listening to Muslims and setting aside preconceptions. Mutual respect and cooperation on mutual interests. Talk of "ordinary Palestinian child" and their future.

Speaking of al Qaeda "what this tells me is their ideas are bankrupt," he told host Hisham Melhem, when asked to respond to recent audio clips from al Qaeda leadership calling him various epithets. "They seem nervous. There's no actions that they've taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them."

And this gem. "In my inauguration speech, I spoke about: You will be judged on what you've built, not what you've destroyed. And what they've been doing is destroying things. And over time, I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place, except more death and destruction."

Right Wing Wrong When It Attacks Carter For Saying Hamas Must Be Included In Middle East Peace

Right wing and knee jerk pro Israeli pundits and websites bitterly attacked former President Jimmy Carter today after his interview on the Today show where he stated that Hamas must be a part of any comprehensive Middle East Peace Agreement. Carter appeared on the show to promote his new book, “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land.”

Carter makes the legitimate and reality based point that even though Hamas has at times used unacceptable terrorist tactics it is a duly elected political entity that represents the feelings of millions of Palestinians both in Gaza and the West Bank. He went on to say "I'm not here to defend Hamas", when the Today's Meredith Vieira regurgitated the old right wing red herring and pro Israeli claims that somehow Carter is anti-Jew and anti-Semitic because he willing to talk to and include Hamas in peace talks.

The truth is that Carter is one of the few politicians with enough courage to state the obvious instead of falling back on the same pro Israeli rhetoric that Hamas main goal is to destroy Israel therefore they have no standing in any Middle Eastern talks. I'm sure Hamas would say that Israel main goal is to destroy Hamas and the creation of a Palestinian state, and the recent war in Gaza certainly would bare that out.

Carter also says that the ceasefire he negotiated in June 2008 held without any rocket fire from Hamas into Israel until Israelis did not fulfill their part of the deal to provide access to Gaza for basic provisions. Ironically , and somewhat reluctantly, I have argued in previous posts that Israeli leaders were in effect turning Gaza into a Israeli version of the Nazi run Warrsaw Ghetto except this time Jews were the persecutors. Carter also makes the point that in the year leading up to the ceasfire in June 2008 one Israeli was killed by Hamas rocket fire from Gaza while Palestinians were suffering an average of 49 deaths per month.

Aside from Carter's position, anyone in their right mind must realize that all the parties to the conflict need to be included if there is any hope that an agreement can be reached and sustained. You will get no lasting peace until you are willing to allow all the parties to conflict participate in on the process of finding a solution.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Night With A Playboy Model

On my way home from Europe in 1980 I was unable to connect to a flight to Seattle from London because of a snowstorm. I had been traveling throughout Western Europe for nearly 8 months, at that point living like a bohemian and busking in the street with a troupe of street performers. It was winter, I was nearly broke and I was anxious to get home. Even though in reality at that time my home was more or less where I could hang my hat for a few days.

On the boat and train ride from Calais, France to London I had struck up a conversation with a attractive young Eastern European woman. Her English was great and she had a very sexy Eastern something accent. I think she told me she was from the Ukraine. I told her I had previously been married to a woman of Ukrainian decent and had learn little in the way of understanding Slavic women based on that experience.

We shared a compartment and some of our experiences and I’m sure my story of traveling and performing seemed quaint and amusing. Not to mention the rather odd way I must of looked because I was dressed with clothes I had found on the trash heaps of the well to do neighborhoods of Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam.

She was friendly and down to earth and seemed happy to have someone to talk with during the trip to help kill the time. When we reached Dover we stayed together and walked to board a waiting train for the last leg of the trip to London as we shuffled our bags we decided we share a compartment on the train as well. I was having fun talking to her and wanted to continue the conversation.

When the train arrived at Victoria Station in London I managed to get the woman’s phone number on the very real premise I may be unable to fly out when scheduled later that night because of the weather and I had confess to her I had little money for a hotel. In fact I had about $10 US and a return airline ticket to Seattle to my name.

Maybe I'd been a bit overbearing in asking her for her number and if there may be a possibility of stay at her flat, "just in case", since we had really just met. I also had grown somewhat fond of her and wanted to continue to learn more about her. There was something about her that seemed unique and special and I thought it be odd to have her walk away where I would never see her again.

We parted at the train station and I grabbed something to eat, spending carefully so as to have a few dollars left for later, Then I went to a phone box and I called the airline only to find that all flights out of Heathrow had been canceled. It was getting dark and it had been snowing on and off. I was cold and tired and had to find a place to stay or I'd have to go to the airport and sleep there. An idea I dreaded.

I gathered my courage dropped some coins in the slot and I called the woman I'd met thinking the number she'd given me probably was bogus and something she did to be rid of me. I had to admit she was strikingly attractive when I watch her walk off into the distance at the station. I figured she had probably little interest or concern about a ne'er-do-well like me trying to crash at her flat.

The phone rang and someone answered, I recognized her voice. I ask her if she’d mind if I came over and crashed at her place for the night like we talked about. She said fine and she commenced to give me directions on how to take the tube to her flat, which as it tuned out was in a very upscale London neighborhood near St James Park.

When I arrived the doorman was very suspicious of me because of my dress, shoulder length hair and 5 o’clock shadow, and I’m sure I looked rather out of place and probably smelled of cannabis but after he call the flat and spoke to the woman I was allowed entry. I then when up to the flat and the angelic young woman greeted me and showed me where she had made up the sofa for me to sleep for the night. The apartment was modern large and well appointed. I knew I had enter a world that appeared expensive and chic.

Before she when to bed we were making small talk and having a cup of tea. I ask her what she did for a living. She told me that she was model. I was single at the time and I began flirting with her a bit, wanting to know more about her. She asked me if I be interested in seeing her modeling portfolio. The portfolio was amazing and included photos from well know fashion magazines. I couldn’t believe I was sitting in the flat of an obviously well known fashion model wearing my 2nd hand mohair trench coat that looked like something you’d wear after being released from a prison camp.

As if that weren't enough she then handed me a recent issue of Playboy magazine and opened it to the page where she was featured in a set of nude photos, “and here my Playboy layout”. she said. I did a couple of double takes looking at her and then at the photos in the magazine. My god was I dreaming?

I tried to act sophisticated and worldly about seeing her naked in Playboy while at the same time she was there ten feet away from me on the same black leather chesterfield, but my Catholic school boy upbringing made me have a short term brain freeze and I awkwardly tried to think of something to change the subject in my mind to something besides her wonderful looking naked breasts. I think I ended up asking if the weather had been bad for very long, once I could get my synapses firing again.

After a few more minutes of conversation she matter-of-factly excused herself saying she needed to get up early for a job and she left the room and went to bed. I lay on the sofa rather stunned think of what could of been. The next day I left early in the morning before she awoke, I let myself out and I headed to Heathrow airport to catch my flight. I thought none of my pals are going to belief what just happened to me. She gave me a business card with a fashion picture of her on it that she used to promote herself. She sign it with her autograph. I soon misplaced the card and I never saw her or talked to her again, although I wished I had on several occasions as the years when by.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

J&M Cafe Closing McQue (John Wayne) Once Used Washroom To Beat Bejesus Out Of A Guy

Ah the old J&M Cafe is closing it's rumored. I tipped many a cocktail glass, most definitely one to many, there in the old days when Pioneer Square didn't have so many squares. When, if you had a dispute with someone you could take it outside and not worry about getting shot. Yes in the golden days of yesteryear when men fought with their fists.

Below starting at around 3:52 on the video you can see John Wayne (playing fictitious Seattle renegade police detective McQue) in the movie McQue beat the shit out of a guy in the old men's restroom at the J&M. Just like I remember it, the men's room I mean, looking just like it did in the old days. I think I ended up in that urinal once myself.

It's actually hard to believe the cafe is actually closing. It's not the first time the often mismanaged gin joint has had to temporary close it's doors so management could go to rehab only to miraculously reopen once new financing and direction surfaced.

What Wingnuts Don't Get Is Guantanamo And Torture Actually Create More Terrorists

There is more then ample evidence that the American practice of using torture and harsh interrogation tactics against enemy combatants and Al Queda suspects leads to increases in terrorism, not a reduction of it. In the video below former FBI interrogator Jack Cloonan says it has become a major recruiting tool for jihadists throughout the world.

Cloonan also debunked the popular right wing rhetoric extolling a ticking time bomb 24 TV show Jack Bauer character scenarios where torture somehow becomes necessary to stop a hypothetical dooms day attack. Cloonan says "it a myth".

Matthew Alexander, a former US Air Force interrogator, points out in his book that he believes American torture tactics used at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have lead directly to as many as 3000 American battlefield deaths.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in [Iraq] have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me—unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans".
Pointing to the example of why Qitmo must be kept open, right wing blowhards in the last few days have attempted to make hay over a report that a terrorist named Said Ali al-Shihri, release from Qitmo in 2007, has now become a leading Al Queda ringleader in Yemen.

No matter how dangerous this person may of seemed in the begining, in the end he was released because the US could not prosecute him because it lacked proper evidence to prove the charge or hold him. In any case he could not of been considered so dangerous that it stopped his release to Saudi Arabian officials who eventally freed him.

The big question remains did his mistreatment in American hands actually turn the man who may of been predisposed to anti-American beliefs into a terrorist? Maybe someone should ask him that question if given the opportunity. How would you feel about a foreign power that held you captive for 6 years and tortured you and then released you when it realized it really had no way to prove your alleged crimes. You should feel all warm and fuzzy and magnanimous toward your captors according to the likes of right wing mega-nitwits like Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly.

President Obama and most reasonable people know that the use of torture really creates terrorists and enemies and damages our image as a nation that protects basic human rights. Obama by closing Guantanamo is charged with the task of cleaning up the extensive and long lasting damage that has been done by the Bush administration for having created such a gulag hell to begin with.

The other hysteria on the right is the not in my backyard (NIMBY) argument which concerns where to put the prisoners should Qitmo close as planned in a year. The Federal Prison system in the end can handle anyone Guantanamo may now hold. It is another rightwing red herring to say that there is not a safe prison system in the US that can't safely hold these individuals should it be determined that they can't be release. That is if they are actually found guilty of something. God knows that America knows how to operate safe and secure prisons and detention centers probably better then anyone in the world.

But that's another issue.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Americans Believe About God And Evolution


click on image to enlarge

Two surveys done in 2008 show the approximate number of Americans who believe in God and evolution. Surprisingly nearly 44% of Americans think that God created human beings about "10,000 year or so" ago, give or take a century. Most of these people who believe that also probably think Rush Limbaugh knows what he's talking about.

Rome Burns MSM Fixates On Kennedy And Oath

Cable News is obsessed with what happens in the New York media market. Case in point the obsession with Caroline Kennedy's withdrawing from being consider for Hillary's vacant Senate seat. They also are fixating on whether the oath of office do over really means anything. Of course whether the oath was valid only has meaning to fringe wingnuts in end. Meanwhile most of the real news gets buried.

Vote On Who Should Host MSNBC New 10PM Show

MSNBC is apparently planning to introduce a new show in the 10pm time slot. Here's your chance to vote on who the new host should be. I like Air America's midday voice Ed Shultz myself.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fabulous Photos Of Inauguration

At The Boston Globes The Big Picture...

MSNBC's Chris Matthews Phycobabble Explained

This is a very concise and funny story from Slate's about Tweedy's propensity to sometimes not make any sense.

Here's a excerpt:
Nobody in TV news stir-fries his ideas and serves them to the audience faster than MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Drawing from a larder filled with old anecdotes, unreliable metaphors, wacky intuition, and superficial observations, the always-animated Matthews steers whatever's handy into the hot wok that is his brain. The sizzling free-associations skitter through his limbic system, leap out his mouth, and look for a resting spot in the national conversation, where they steam like fresh lava in untouchable heaps.

Anything can set Matthews to cooking, but nothing summons his inner chef like a National Event of Great Importance such as yesterday's inauguration. If you watched MSNBC's coverage, you understand why Keith Olbermann wears a body apron and totes a fire extinguisher whenever they co-host: to keep the flying grease from setting his suits aflame.

More Proof That Limbaugh Is Irrelevant Insensitive And Unpatriotic

We already knew Rush Limbaugh was an asshole but now we have proof he is also stupid and unpatriotic. Limbaugh and others were ask to write a 400 word piece on what their hopes were for the Obama presidency. Rush said he didn't think it was necessary to write 400 words because he could do it in four words.

"I hope he (Obama) fails".

Limbaugh who lives in an out of touch ivory tower hasn't processed what that would mean exactly to millions of Americans and their families struggling to survive the economic downturn and to the overall national security of this country.

In other words if it's necessary to have a devastating depression that will theaten our lives and freedoms in order to elect wingnuts it fine with Rush.

This is proof that this man doesn't really care about America or American ideals. He's a phony and a complete self-centered jerk, and any working class or other person who listens to this guy for political guidance is also an ignorant idiot by default.

Oh, sorry we knew that already.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

People Flip Bush The Bird As He Flys From Capitol McDermott Sells Soul For Photo With Sting

Apparently several people flipped Bush the bird as he left the capitol today by helicopter. I'm flabbergasted. Meanwhile 7th district Congressman Jim McDermott traded Sting inauguration tickets in exchange for a photo with the singer. Is that legal?

Video Obama's First Ride On Air Force One

He tells the pilot he looks like he's from central casting and orders a cheddar burger medium well, salad and fries from the galley. Part of the National Geographic series on air force one. I'm starting to wonder about his cholesterol levels as I find out more about his eating habits.

The Nightmare Is Finally Over

This maybe appropriate...

Gay Or Straight Should It Matter?

Most liberal’s spiritual beliefs, I would venture a guess, are a little portable when it comes to participating or worrying about matters involving organized religion. We tend to be more eclectic and open minded about spiritual matters, fallen away, atheist or just not tied to dogma and the old snake oil ideas.

Yet there is no end it seems at this moment in time to the continuing hair splitting and mouse-milking tantrum being thrown over Rick Warren giving the invocation prior to the inaugural ceremonies in Washington.

Instead of ignoring the bad behavior and his wrong doing the complainers have manage to turned Warren into a cause celebre who's participation threatens to overshadowing portions of the actual ceremony.

I see this bitching as being disingenuous since, in my experience, most people, not just the people in the gay community, really could care less who gave the invocation at this sort of political event. Okay Warren is an asshole, but why make him a hero to the right by throwing a fit. I think this was an opportunity for gays to show that even though people are not tolerant to them they are capable of taking the high road and tolerating people like the homophobic Warren. I think this was in part what Obama wanted to gesture to the right by inviting Warren.

Even though I felt this way I wasn't motivated to join the argument, but then the new uproar started over HBO not broadcasting the invocation by openly gay preacher Gene Robinson preceding the mega star-studded concert yesterday. Robinson apparently was tagged as sort of a bone being thrown to the GLBT community by Obama inauguration committee after the Warren dust up.

The decision not to carry Robinson on the national television feed live has been taken by some as evidence that gays are being slighted once again by Obama. There’s a blogosphere feeding frenzy going on about who is responsible for preempting Robinson exactly so that claims of discrimination against gays, real or imagined, can be dished out later on the culprits.

It’s becoming silly.

People who don’t care about religious matters usually, are suddenly obsessed with religious invocations at political events and the sexual preferences of the preachers giving the invocations? Frankly I’m glad they didn’t include Robinson because I see my spiritual beliefs as fine with or without people like religious folks like Robinson and Warren adding their outdated dogmatic two cents.

But there’s a deeper issue. There’s a real wacky PC correctness with straight people on the left when it comes to gay rights. Sensitivity to GLBT discrimination is important and everyone, both gay and straight, should be aware of it and expose it when it exists. But I think the growing tendency to submit to a form of affirmative action or equal time based on ones sexual preference alone is wrong and counterproductive.

I support all people’s civil rights including the right to same sex marriage or to have as much sex as they wish to have with whomever they care to have it with, it’s not my business. That is exactly my point: Robinson was only important because of his sexual preference. Had Robinson gay sexual preference not been a factor in him being there in the first place hardly anyone would of given a shit whether he was seen on TV or not.

It shouldn’t matter what your sexual preference is because the world shouldn’t revolve around what one’s sexual preference is when it comes to your right to fully participate in society as an individual or give a invocation at an inauguration.

So the Obama people can't win. They add Robinson mainly because he's gay to appease gays mad about the blowhard Warren and then they get ostracized when Robinson is not seen by gays who tuned in to see him only because he's gay and not really because of what he is preaching about.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Not A Big Reader Frat Boy President Goes Away Leaving Extensive Wreckage

Frat boy President's legacy in 8 minutes. You could not of screwed it up more even if you plan it that way.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Japanese Man Builds Electric Car To Atone For Racing Gas Powered Subaru

Get your electric car on....


We Must Stop Pam Roach And Others From Politicizing County Elections

Protect Your Vote Support Sherril Huff For County Director Of Elections February 3rd

In an ultimate indication of political ignorance the voters of King County chose to make the County Director of Elections and elective office. Now we see why it was so dumb by just thinking what it going to be like if we should get stuck with someone like halfwit Republican Pam “war of the roses” Roach running the election office at the county. Can you imagine what he 2004 Governor’s race would of looked like with an overly partisan bag like Roach deciding who gets to have their vote counted or not.

The election is the first in the county to be conducted entirely by mail. There is no primary so the candidate getting a plurality of the vote will win. There are six candidates so the one that pulls as little as 20% of the vote will probably become the new director. The fear is that election weary voters will overlook the election and pave the way for someone like Roach or David Irons to grab the position.

When do we start the petition to repeals this ridiculous need for election for this office? All this is just a Republican plot to gain legal standing to suppress your votes. Still smarting from the Dino Rossi loss in 2004 the wingnuts are now trying to more directly control your right to vote. Remember Republicans don't win where voting isn't being suppressed in one way or the other. We want someone who has little or no interest in politics and who's only real interested in competently and fairly counting the votes period.

The problems is that the one who is most qualified and endorsed by most Democratic Party officials and organizations, Sherril Huff, who is the current King County Director of Elections, probably has a low amount of name recognition. The field also includes political hack David “I’m really a Republican” Irons as well as the obnoxious reactionary Roach.

So we strongly urge you to mail you vote for Huff and tell a friend to do the same.


Majority Of Americans Blame Palestinians For War In Gaza

Palestinian loss of land 1947-2005

In a recent survey most Americans are quick to side with Israel and against the Palestinians when it comes to Gaza. Even though there is overwhelming evidence that Israel has used excessive force against many innocent Palestinians who are really just a desperate people who have been held captive in Gaza because of Israeli policy aimed at containing and eliminating them.

American understanding of the Palestinian question is limited to what they get via the mostly pro Israeli main stream media or compromised pro Israeli politicians. Cutoff from real news Americans can have little empathy for the plight of the Palestinians and more often then not reject as terrorist sympathizers anyone who speaks out in their defense.

Most Palestinians have been radicalized and turned to organizations like Hamas because of the long history of injustice imposed upon them by a succession of conservative Israeli governments backed by US power. Americans tunnel vision and pro Israel outlook no matter what the facts are has made the Middle East a difficult problem to remedy for a succession of US presidents. It's time that we begin to open our eyes and devise a policy that promotes fairness instead of just being the guarantor and backer of Israeli bad behavior.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Recomended The Tunnel Option Two Years Ago

I'm such a visionary. In a February 2007 post, just prior to the advisory vote motivated by a gutless city council, county and state government in fear of taking action, I said the real compromise was the tunnel option. Surprise, now all the pols agree in principle with me.

And can we please get Nick "chicken little" Licata and Dori "stupid prices" Monson to please shut their freaking pie holes and stop standing in the way of change we can drive through.

It's time Seattle politicians and citizens embrace the idea of a tunnel and a lets get it done attitude instead of the usual talk it to death bitching and fear. It will create some jobs folks and help the economy plus save the above ground waterfront by removing a monstrous viaduct that is virtually blocking the waterfront access to Seattle.

It time to wake up a smell the concrete mixing.

Friday, January 09, 2009

It’s In The The P-I

When I was a kid in the late fifties and early sixties I had a Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper route on lower Queen Anne for a number of years. So did my 2 brothers.

My brothers and I also operated a daily old school style PI paper stand at the Canadian Pacific dock at pier 64 on Seattle's waterfront for about 10 years, passing the operation down from one brother to the other. I was the youngest and last in the line of family lineage with the paper stand.

The CPR ran the steamships Princess Marguerite and Princess Patricia from pier 64. The ships took hundreds of passengers to Victoria on daily trips that left at 8am and returned that night at 9pm. Almost every passenger would want a morning paper to read before boarding the ship. It was a lucrative business for a precocious kid in those days.

I think that I made about $25 dollars a week on average. For years during cruise season I’d wake myself up at about 5am and jump on my bike to head for the waterfront where I’d sell papers from 6am to about 7:30am to passengers boarding the ships. It was like taking candy from a baby because in those days no adult in their right mind would not want to start the day out by reading the daily newspaper.

Boy how times have changed.

Anyone growing up at the time I did in America probably has a hard time psychologically imagining not having newspapers. Like most of us of the post WWII war era I took great comfort in the daily ritual of getting the paper each day and systematically reading each and every section. This was the way to get most of your real news even with broadcast and cable TV news becoming a big factor.

It affects me deeply when I hear reports of the sale and possible demise of the PI. It was definitely the better of the two daily newspapers in Seattle in my mind and experience. I rather it be the Seattle Times that was going under. Working class people read and trusted the PI more or less as their newspaper and conservatives, business type and squares read and revered the Seattle Times. Having worked for the PI as a new boy only added to my allegiance.

I had other reasons to hate the Seattle Times based on the fact that I was fired from a job at the Times as an adult. I got a job there as an advertising copy boy just after I returned from 3 years of military service in 1968. I had becoming more and more alienated with the establishment and society in general and demonstrated that by letting my hair grow out. I also had several disagreements with my supervisor about my liberal and pro union political positions. I was fired after working there for 6 months when I told my boss to get fucked when he gave me a ultimatum to cut my hair or be fired. So I said fuck the Seattle Times and made it a point of never buying that paper unless absolutely force to do so. All my childhood prejudices about the Times versus the PI were resoundingly reinforced for life then and there.

Of course, taking my involvement with this blog and the growth in the blogging community it's not hard to see what is happening to the print newspaper industry. It would have been completely impossible to imagine this day back in the hay day of the print news business when I was selling those papers on the waterfront. People would of thought you insane to suggest there would be a day when major cites like Seattle would not be able to support a newspaper like the PI.

Can’t we all get together and buy the PI perhaps, or is the Stranger now the de facto liberal newspaper in Seattle? One thing for sure I want that sign that’s on top of the PI building saved. Perhaps we can put it with the hat and boots in that park.

To me this is all very sad it's like losing a old friend.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Vashon Maury Island Glacier Gravel Pit Protesters Mostly Shooting Blanks

I live on Vashon Island where the popularity of supporting the on going protest against the expansion of Glacier Northwest’s mining project on neighboring Maury Island is up there with supporting motherhood, scorning Republicans, wearing wool socks with sandals, wearing tie-dye shit, bitching about the ferry service and being an hippie.

In other words it sacred stuff with the mostly left leaning liberally bent artsy-fartsy crowd of on island folks.

Although I moved here only 4 years ago from West Seattle one of the first things I became aware of was that people who SUPPORT the gravel pit project, if anyone had the nerve to actually openly proclaim it, are considered akin to child molesters, and/or Republicans.

Such was the passion of the “no gravel pit” liberal majority of people who live here. Everyone I met was against the gravel pit but, it seemed to me that many of them, when asked about it, really couldn't articulate why other than it seemed to them to be in line with the island thought police belief system and their personal, but rather vague general environmentally related concerns.

So by writing this article I expect to probably soon be impeached from my position as a Democratic Party PCO, emotionally tarred and feathered by my neighbors and band from participating in the social scene at the Café Luna and local Thriftway. But I will go to the store and for coffee with my head held high in defiance for I must live and eat after all and I must just get my opinion out there before I die from the peer pressure to conform with the majority and the island group think on the subject.

Lately the protest here have reach critical mass because the mining company’s ten year odyssey to expand the mining of aggregate and sand on it’s Maury Island site and build a dock to load the materials out has apparently reached the stage where it has jumped through all the Federal, State and County, hoops and obtained all the necessary permits to go ahead and begin construction of the proposed new loading dock.

Work has begun to remove the old crumbling remains of a previous company dock. In response the die hard locals have been rallying and protesting in mass to the extent of even attempting what appear to be symbolic blockade by sea or standing around singing cornball knock off Christmas carols about Glacier being the big bad modern corporate robber baron who is going to poison all the local children after it kills all the salmon while it contaminates your water.

The main opposition to the expansion of mining is based on a number of claims by protesters that the project will damage the sole remaining aquifer which supplies the island its water by exposing it to arsenic left over in the top soil on the Maury Island site from years of being up wind from the old ASARCO Tacoma Smelter, an environmental nightmare of bygone years brought to you by a company that was one of the worse polluters ever. Glacier had no direct association with the arsenic pollution on Maury Island, but like all islanders was a victim of ASARCO past irresponsible behavior.

I always find it ironic that so many tree hugging environmentally conscious people could end up living on a island where the top soil is some of the most arsenic contaminated you can find in the Western world.

Opponents also believe that the mining expansion would damage the marine habitat, including damage to ell grass, salmon, orca whales, and other species who occupy the waters around the site of the mining and proposed loading dock.

Trying to be open minded about whose right here is difficult. On one hand you have a foreign owed company in Glacier who seems to have met all the requirements needed to go ahead and mine the land it owns and build a dock to efficiently get it’s products to market.

It's hard to argue that Glacier has not gone through a politically and legally charged 10 yearlong permit process successfully. While on the other hand you have a large number of citizens who actually live here on Vashon and Maury Islands who have raised valid concerns about just what the expansion would mean to the environment here, their quality of life and of course some adjacent property values and the views from their sunken deck.

You would think that the permit process could be trusted and would assure that any valid environment impact claims are addressed. Remember, this is not a project where it can be argued that the project somehow slipped through the cracks of regulation. All three members of the 34th District State legislature delegation have openly opposed the project for years. In fact 34th District State Legislator Sharon Nelson actually lives on Maury Island and made her political bones based on organizing opposition to the project through her affiliation with Preserve Our Island, an organization who’s main goal has been aimed at stopping the Glacier mining expansion and dock from the beginning.

There was an attempt to change the rules of the game when a State Senate bill was introduced last year that would of turned Maury Island into a aquatic reserve. You got to give it to them for trying. The effect of which would of further hamper Glacier's attempt to get the necessary permits. It failed in the spring of 2008 when it couldn't get through the house. Other legal challenges to the permit to proceed with the project were recently struck down by the State Supreme Court when it upheld a appeals court decision based on provisions of the Shoreline Protection Act and Glacier’s right to build a dock apparently grandfathered into that same law some years ago.

I’m personally torn on whether the project should go forward. Many Democrats legislators who don't have a direct interest in the issue and tend to be more conservative when it comes to regulating valid business activities and ventures take no position on the issue. They believe that government can sometimes interfere with commerce and job creation by over regulation and burdensome bureaucratic requirements.

Democrats and liberals who are indifferent about the project. like the Governor herself it could be argued, don't speak out about it because it's political kryptonite with the left to do so and would be just plain dumb to lose votes over if it is not necessary to be openly for or against it. The opponents of the project tend to want to turn those who also see Glacier's side of the story into political footballs who they like to kick to the curb. Politicians from the 34th District pretty much tow the party line because they wouldn't get elected if they suddenly proclaimed they should try to be open minded about Glacier.

As a former small businessperson myself I tend to agree that government can be a hindrance to commerce when it interferes even when businesses are good neighbors and acting in good faith.

Certainly here it can be argued that Glacier did what was required by law to do to get the permits and that the opponents of the expansion had a level playing field on which to exercise their opposition and try and stop it from going forward. The opponents of the mine expansion and dock lost this one it appears even though they had considerable political support from within King County and in the State Legislature.

One of the observations I’ve made being here on island is that the opponents just plain don’t want any kind of expansion of the gravel pit or dock no matter what environmental permit requirements are met or not met period. It’s been a non-starter for 10 years with the opponents from the beginning. It’s this sort of closed minded approach that troubles me even though I would say my liberal credentials are as good as the next liberal hippie baby boomer out here.

But, they should be frank about it and actually say that they are against aggregate or gravel pit mining of any kind anywhere, and that they simply don’t believe that the mining of aggregate rock is an important local business resource or governmental or building industry consideration which effects thousands of workers or that could save taxpayers money given the state of the economy. Instead I think it can be argued that they have raised a number of red herrings in opposition to the expansion and tried to expanded the playing field when Glacier continued to meet every demand and requirement place upon it. Opponents arguments tend to be based on emotional issues rather then legal ones.

But it's intellectually dishonest I think for the opposition not to come right out and say, "we don't want your freaking gravel pit no matter how environmentally safe you make it"!

One thing is for sure, opponents of the gravel pit and dock have also kept the company honest and that part of it represents a good thing and something that was needed to insure that Glacier fully complied with the law. The opponents should keep Glacier's feet to the fire but I think they also have to admit that they are mostly shooting blanks here if they think that the project can be stopped at this stage short of someone buying the company out and closing the gravel pit.

What are Glacier’s rights here one should ask? It’s apparently true that Glacier is sitting on a gold mine of an rather rare and accessible aggregate deposit and has known for a long time that it would become more valued as time passed. Aggregate and sand is used for cement and building of course and is one of the basic needs for anyone building anything. Because of this the business value and profits from the expansion are sure to grow considerably.

Think about the massive highway construction that is planned in Washington State and the immediate region in the coming years and you can see its won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Glacier’s motivation in using extensive and costly lobbying tactics to get it’s way in the political arena on the approval of the project.

But was it above board and legal. I would say you have to answer that question, yes.

Glacier makes the argument that having to truck aggregate long distances, which is what is done now, would add millions of taxpayer dollars to state projects and that seems to make sense. Also if opponents were successful in stopping the loading dock part of the project Glacier would be running a significant number of large trailer dump trucks via the Vashon Highway route and on to Washington State Ferries in order to get it’s aggregate to market. One barge hauls 186 trailer truckload.

I’m sure most islanders wouldn’t want to see all those trucks rolling down a two lane potholed Vashon highway and on to the ferry on a daily basis for the next 35 years for various reasons. So the new loading dock makes sense from a safety as well as a wear and tear on the ferry system and highways system point of view.

Most local Democratic politicians are not going to dare to speak their minds candidly on this issue or be open-minded about Glacier’s side of the story. It would be political suicide for them to even hint that Glacier has done everything required of it to get the permits and so now we should perhaps try and build a working relationship with the company to make sure that it does what it has promised to do. Protect the environment and the aquifer while it mines and meets it obligations as a responsible company and good island neighbor as it expands mining on Maury and builds and uses its loading dock. Glacier owned land has been zoned for mining for more than 40 years and it seems that they have a history of trying to follow environmental laws and regulations.

Unfortunately, most island types are rather lefty knee jerk stereo-typically environmentally polarized and closed minded about business or corporations being allowed to do anything. Even when it’s pretty obvious that it has done everything required of it to meet community and government environment requirements. It creates a nearly impossible atmosphere to work or be reasonable.

Admitting that Glacier has made reasonable arguments to support it’s right to do business in a way that is lawful is needed here as a first step, and less pandering from politicians to the choir because they are more interested in being reelected then looking at both sides of the story or what may be best for the greater community.

I don't think you should be a predisposed liberal leaning anti business islander who thinks it fashionable to knee-jerkily jump on the nearest political feel good anti business pumpkin wagon that happens to come down the pike. Just because it's popular amongst a group of people who generally admire iconoclasts and those who question authority.


In the spirit of full disclosure my brother is 1st District’s State Representative Al O’Brien and the opinions expressed here are entirely mine alone. Daniel O'Brien

Friday, January 02, 2009

Oh Shit Think Global Warming Was Bad Mere Childs Play Compared To Yellowstone Super Volcano Eruption

The last week of so there has been a significant change in the number of earthquakes in Yellowstone Park. It could be a sign of a coming eruption. I remember seeing the special on the Yellowstone super volcano on NOVA and having it scare the shit out of me.

Well there goes half the known species on earth and talk about cloudy and gray. The last time they had one of these eruptions it killed off the dinosaurs I think. At least it will save you from having to worry about losing your job, refinancing or anything other then survival.

In case you haven't heard Yellowstone Park is really the caldera of an old super volcano that been dormant for 620,000 thousand years, and scientists say Yellowstone should “blow its top” every 600,000 years, so we're kind of due.