Recent Local Blog Posts

Downtown Olympia in context

Olympia Time - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 6:19am
One of the things that strikes me about the dialogue about downtown is how the people with different perspectives about it seem to talk past each other. One side seems to discount anyone's fears about being downtown. The other side discounts the other's want of a vibrant, real and therefore not necessarily clean and refined downtown.

I think one of the reasons for this is how each frames downtown. What context they put the oldest part of Olympia into.

1. For people who fear downtown, their context is literally other places they could go to buy things. The newish commercial westside. Lacey. Commercial area of Tumwater or Hawks Prairie. These areas also have bookstores, movie theaters and restaurants. They're convenient because there is ample free parking and people know what they're getting.

Downtown on the other hand is inconvenient and vibrant to the point of unknowing. You can't know what to expect, so you choose a more convenient option. There are plenty of places to go that aren't downtown, so they just go there.

And, when it comes time to think about downtown at all, the easiest thing to go to are the reasons not to go there at all.

2. For people who love downtown, they also think about it in context of the extreme local options. But, they also think about it in terms of the regional. Seattle and Portland are two remarkably great cities. And, are a lot of which Olympia strives to be, but on a more local scale. Downtown Olympia (and its nearby west and east side institutions) define Olympia for folks who like downtown. Olympia is the quirky little artsy city because we have what we have downtown. This is true even though the combined acreage of downtown and nearby neighborhoods is a small fraction of the North Thurston urban area.

These people are literally seeing different places.

Olympia needs a lot of things in regards to history and knowing itself

Olympia Time - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 5:20am
If I was invited to the historic meeting of historians, I think I would've had something to say.

And, this is it: we do need a lot of things in terms of communicating and preserving our history here. And, a museum would do a lot of things. But, I'm not sure it's the biggest problem we have. Or, rather, the idea with the most potential.

There are at least two other things that I think should enter the discussion at the same level. 1) A new library in Olympia and 2) much more dedication and funds towards bringing public what historic resources are available.

Mostly my concern for a new library is sharpened by my experience on the Timberland Library board (which operates the current Olympia library as part of a five county system). Our library was out-dated as soon as it was built in the late 1970s. And, since then we've only had one serious try at replacing it.

I love the idea of museums, but there is no reason at all a museum (and archive for that matter) couldn't be part of a new, larger Olympia library.

That said, buildings are buildings and knowledge is knowledge. If I had $1 million to spend on Olympia history today, my first stop would be expanding electronic resources available to people who write about history.

Most notably, I'd spend whatever I'd have to of that $1 million to cracking open the Olympian archives (and whatever other newspapers have been digitized) for public use. Most publicly available newspaper archives drop dead after 1922 (after which copyrights can be enforced). But, it is possible for libraries to open up newspaper archives to their patrons.

The Seattle Public Library was able to do this with the Seattle Times archive a few years back. And, at least to me, that one resource has been invaluable. Applying what are usually hard to access newspaper to word searchable archives in incredibly useful. The bias of an individual newspaper notwithstanding, a daily ticktock of the activities of a community, searchable via computer? Now, that would open history to a community.

Then build me a new library. Then build me a museum (if you couldn't fold it into the library).

A US Open Cup blowout and a dream of one big league around here

Olympia Time - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 5:36am

I was on hand for about 65 minutes of the 5-2 blowout of FC Tacoma 253 by the much better organized Kitsap Pumas. Enough about the US Open Cup being the real US Open.

What I want to talk about is the one big league.

I sat in the back of the stands at Mt. Tahoma High School. To the far right, at the other end of the stands, most of the Kitsap Pumas fans gathered. I was surrounded by a dozen or so folks obviously connected to the FC Tacoma organization. Then, way down the other end of my row sat a lonely fellow with yet a third team, standing out in his South Sound FC Shock track suit.

None of these three teams, though representing roughly the same level of American soccer, play in the same regional league. The Pumas play in the Premier Development League, where youngish and collegians play during the summer. And, both SSFC and Tacoma 253 play in different leagues that represent the high level end of things, the Evergreen Premier League and the National Premiere Soccer Leagues. The EPL(WA) has a more independent and homegrown flavor.

This is a lot of complexity in what should be a pretty simple thing. Back in the day, like in the 1960s and 70s, there was only one big high level amatuer/semipro soccer league in Western Washington.

Just like the formation of an independent indoor soccer league and the machinations of various soccer teams indoors, the existence of three outdoor leagues covering the same geography speaks to something. It points to internal league politics that were settled by simply breaking up into different leagues. Because we aren't forced to live in a unified league system here, we can create whatever leagues we want.

This obviously serves the politics of each owners, they can align themselves with whichever other owners they like or get along with. But, it doesn't serve the fans. Nineteen or so clubs across three leagues should be able to get together and hammer out some sort of unified league system.

Whether by promotion or relegation or splitting into north/south or east/west divisions, it would be very possible to create some sort of local April to August league around here.

I happen to prefer the home cooked flavor of the ELP(WA), mostly because I don't honestly know why we need national non US Soccer organizations running low-level leagues.

Maybe that's what needs to happen. Maybe these national groups, the NPSL and the PDL need to step away, or US Soccer needs to provide an alternative structure that leagues like the ELPWA could roll into. Something that allows for automatic births into the US Open Cup and the National Amatuer Cup.

But, something that brings these teams together and serves the interest of fans is much needed. Even though Kitsap thrashed Tacoma, there is simply not enough difference between the teams to justify totally different league systems between them.

State initiative campaign to reverse Citizens United begins

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:31pm

I-735 calls for a constitutional amendment limiting money in election campaigns

April 25, 2015 was the official launch date for WAMEND’s I-735. This Initiative would make Washington State the 17th state to call for overturning the recent Supreme Court decisions that allow corporations, billionaires and other “artificial legal entities” to spend unlimited sums of money on political campaigns.

WAMEND is an organization of Washingtonians working, as volunteers, to bring back “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

On Thursday January 21, 2010, the United States Supreme court announced a 5 to 4 decision in a landmark case, Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, that corporations and other “legal entities” had a first amendment right to spend virtually limitless amounts of money from their treasuries on political campaigns and in contributing to political Super PACs, so long as they do not “coordinate” spending with a candidate. The decision threw out, or rendered ineffective, most of the existing campaign finance reform laws, and because of the dizzying array of exceptions that exist for funneling political money through Super PACs, the 501c and 527 political organizations would allow big corporations and unions to circumvent much of the remaining legislation.

The next nail in the coffin of political finance reform was the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission. The decision lifted the cap on the number of political candidates to whom a donor could contribute. After McCutcheon, any one super-wealthy individual could theoretically write a campaign check to each and every member of the U.S. House of Representatives and each and every member of the United States Senate and all the candidates running for office against them!   It remains true that there are individual limits of $2,600 and $5,000, respectively, to how much may be contributed directlyto any one candidate, or PAC. However, there is no limit on the amount of money that may be contributed to a Super PAC!   And an infinite number of these political organizations can be created to funnel money to candidates and other political organizations. An individual can give the base amount of money to each and every political organization. Thus, in the aggregate, there is no legal limit to political spending by those who can afford it.

Our government is for sale to the highest bidder. We are no longer a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” We have become a nation owned by and governed for the benefit of about 1,000 of the wealthiest families in America. We are governed by an oligarchy that holds political power, without regard to which party or candidate is in power because, with few exceptions, the oligarchy owns them all.

The only way to trump the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court decisions that helped create this mess is through a constitutional amendment.   Sadly, about half the state legislators we elect—supposedly to serve the people—are supported by the deep pockets of the super-wealthy and serve the interests of billionaires first. Nearly half of state legislators refuse to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court decisions that favor the invented “rights” of multi-national corporations and Billionaires over the rights of the individual person.

So it is left to the people of the state of Washington to use our constitutional right of the Initiative process, to impress upon our state legislature the will of the people. We need 250,000 valid signatures of registered Washington state voters on I-735 petitions to begin this process.

Initiative 735 is “an initiative to the legislature”, and as such gives our elected representatives one chance to “get on board” and approve the initiative next session. But if the legislature fails to approve the initiative, then I-735 automatically becomes “an initiative to the people” and will appear on the ballot next November. (2016)

Initiative-735 tells the Washington state congressional delegation, including our two U.S. Senators, that we want them to propose a constitutional amendment that says constitutional rights belong to individuals not corporations. Furthermore, Initiative 735 declares that the proposed constitutional amendment should make clear that spending unlimited, unregulated campaign money is not a first amendment free speech right and thus our elected representatives, can, once again, legislate meaningful campaign finance reform laws that prevent influence peddling and require public disclosure.

The initiative makes it known that when such a constitutional amendment is proposed by Congress to the states, it is the will of the people of the state of Washington that our State legislature vote to ratify this amendment.

This is not a quick, simple nor easy process. The Constitution has only been amended 15 times since the Civil War. Amending the Constitution made slavery illegal, (1865) granted black men the right to vote (1870), allowed for the direct popular election of United States senators by the people of each State (1913), recognized a woman’s right to vote (1920)…and made it illegal to charge a poll tax as a condition of a citizen to vote (1961) and extended voting rights to citizens at least 18 years old (1971).

None of these advances in remedies to our constitution were easy…women fought for nearly 75 years to gain their right to vote. But our great U.S. Constitution allows, under article V, provisions for ensuring the viability of our republic and the great democratic principles it envisions by making available to the people the ultimate sovereign power to exercise “the consent of the governed”.

We can do this. Our heritage and our forebears have set forth an orderly, time-tested and patriotic process of amending our constitution when injustices demand remedy. This process requires hard work…diligence.   We in our generation are called to a duty that others before us have answered and we shall not shrink from the challenge. We owe this duty not only to those who came before us, but, more importantly, we owe this duty to those who will follow, the children of succeeding generations.

In the November 2014 elections, citizens across the nation voted in margins of 70% and greater for their legislators to pass a constitutional amendment to clarify that limiting money in election campaigns does not limit ‘free speech’. There is a growing tide across the country to get big, anonymous money out of politics and to clarify the rights listed in the Constitution are the rights of individual people only. So far, 16 states have urged Congress to pass an amendment to clarify that only people are entitled to free speech rights, and these rights do not include unlimited, unregulated campaign contributions.  Washington State could be the 17th.  When public outrage reaches a critical pitch, Congress will have to listen to our voices.

Julie Rodwell was born in the UK and immigrated to North America in her 20s. She has a degree in economics and politics from Oxford University and in planning from Glasgow University. She’s been a U.S. citizen since 1978. Julie retired in 2011 from a 40+ year career in transportation project- and policy-planning and is currently writing a book Tiny Footprints about tiny carbon footprint communities and why we need to build them.

Michael Savoca and his wife, moved to Washington state from the east coast the day after they got married almost 40 years ago. They built a log cabin on the high prairie near Rainier and raised three children. Michael last worked as a mental health residential treatment counselor with teenagers and young adults at Maple Lane, and before that as a race car mechanic.

WAMEND.org is a not-for-profit organization. Signature gathers, steering committee officers, and our executive board all serve for free. We have expenses related to printing initiative petitions and we employ, at modest salaries, three staff in our campaign office to coordinate and communicate with our members and affiliates across the state on a full-time basis. To make a donation please visit our website at www.wamend.org.

 

 

 

The fight for the $15 minimum wage

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:30pm

What it would mean for millions of children living in poverty in the United States

It is tough for adults to get by in America these days, but it is nearly impossible for kids. According to the National Center for Children and Poverty, approximately 16 million children in the United States live below the federal poverty line. That is roughly 22% of the population. Even more astonishing is how misleading that figure is. What the federal government considers to be the “poverty line” is obscenely low: $11,490 a year for a single person, $4,020 for each additional person. That means a single mother with one kid who works full time and makes $9.45 an hour is not considered “poor” by the federal government’s standards. Most single adults could not make it on that income, much less entire families. For this reason, the National Center for Children and Poverty considers the actual childhood poverty rate to be around a disgraceful 45%. The truth of the matter is that nearly half of all children in the United States are growing up poor.

With such high numbers it is not surprising that childhood poverty is everywhere, including here in Washington. Plagued by the nation’s most regressive taxation system, Washington State has failed to collect the needed revenue to eliminate childhood poverty, and it is not likely to do so anytime soon. State revenue collection is expected to grow between $2.5 billion and $2.8 billion above the 2013 – 2015 biennium totals. That is good news. The bad news is that the projected spending on current needs, including I-1351’s mandated class size reduction, is expected to total over $5 billion. That means we are still facing huge budgetary shortfalls.

It is for this reason that poor and working people have started to advocate for a variety of economic justice measure to improve their condition: stronger labor unions, enforced benefits, and of course raising the minimum wage. If the state is not going to make the type of investments needed to end poverty—and considering how it has tied its own hands when raising taxes, it is questionable if it is even able to—then working people are going to have to do it themselves. When it comes to ensuring that all children in Washington State are free from poverty, they have a long way to go.

The figures speak for themselves. In 2013, the Alliance for a Just Society released a report that calculated a livable wage for a single person living in Washington at $16.04 an hour at 40 hours a week. It is important to note that Seattle, which has the most progressive minimum wage law in the country, does not reach a guaranteed minimum wage for all workers until 2021. In that same year, the state minimum wage, barring some legislative action, would only be at $11.00 an hour. For families with children, the climb is even harder. The Alliance for a Just Society calculates a livable wage for a single parent with one child in 2013 at $22.12 an hour for 40 hours a week. Seattle’s livable wage ordinance will not reach that amount until 2034. In the same year, the state’s minimum wage will have just crept up to $14.97. The people who think a $15.00 minimum wage is too much have not looked at the math. If anything it is a huge compromise that still falls short of the need.

Naysayers against raising the minimum wage will point out that the overwhelming majority of people who make the minimum wage are not single parents, and they would be correct. Approximately 8% of the people earning a minimum wage in Washington are single parents, but that not the point. No just society would tolerate a child living in poverty, whether it is 8%, .08%, or .008%. One child, especially in a society as rich as ours, is too many. For this reason, the “Fight for $15!” is a good start for ending childhood poverty, but it is only a beginning. And, unfortunately, we have a long way to go.

Marco Rosaire Rossi, a graduate of the University for Peace in Costa Rica, is a resident of Olympia.

 

Initiative-732–revenue neutral carbon tax ballot measure

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:29pm

 Signature campaign is launched 

As citizens concerned about climate change, we are disappointed to see the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act fail to be included in either the Washington State House or Senate versions of the 2015-2017 budget.

Unfortunately, the impacts from climate change will not be delayed because of legislative inertia. Now is the time to act. That is why citizens are launching a nonpartisan campaign, Carbon Washington, to place Initiative 732 before the legislature in early 2016, which, unless passed, will go to the voters in November of 2016.

The Carbon Washington proposal uses the revenue from a $25 per ton tax on fossil fuels to reduce existing taxes. There will be a full percentage point reduction in the sales tax, a fully funded Working Families Tax Rebate, and an effective elimination of the B&O tax for manufacturers. If passed, this policy would be the strongest carbon price in the nation and would be the most significant progressive shift in Washington’s tax code since the 1977 sales tax exemption on groceries. For policy details, visit www.carbonwa.org .

Carbon Washington has a newly hired staff, volunteer chapters across the state and endorsements including Citizens Climate Lobby and the Seattle Business Magazine. We are preparing to collect 315,000 signatures from April-December of 2015.

We invite you to join the Carbon Washington leadership, staff, and volunteers in supporting Initiative 732. To help with this campaign in Thurston County, or to get more information about it contact:

Michelle Morris, CarbonWA Thurston County Representative: P. 360-867-1033 E. michelle@carbonwa.org or   Thad Curtz, CarbonWA Thurston County Steering Committee Co-Chair: P. 360-352-2209 E. info@carbonwa.org.

“We want to tax pollution, not people.”

Carbon Washington

 

Remembering 1975

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:25pm

April 30, 2015, was the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese victory and the United States defeat. This was a victory not only for Vietnam but also for people all over the world who believe in self-determination and opposition to U.S. economic and political domination. To me, April 30, 1975 was a day of celebration. On that day, the Vietnamese people under the leadership of what was then North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (NLF) liberated Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh city, as the U.S. fled. It was the culmination by the Vietnamese people of a heroic struggle against a murderous and immoral U.S. war that caused 2-3 million Vietnamese deaths and a larger number with severe injuries and horrific environmental destruction. The U.S. has never paid the reparations it agreed to nor has it apologized for its murderous aggression and destruction.

There were movements all over the world including the United States who opposed this U.S. war and supported the just struggle of the Vietnamese. They deserve a lot of credit for ending the war and have a lot to be proud of. It is very positive that so many people in the United States were willing to oppose their own government. My own active opposition for many years to the U.S. war in Vietnam is probably what I am proudest of in my life. There was also growing opposition to the war within the U.S. military although this has been hidden in the “official” versions of this war.   They demonstrated courage and took serious risks for their just actions as did those who refused to fight in this horrific war. Our government lied and lied and lied about the war. The cost of the Vietnam war was huge not only to the Vietnamese but also to the 58,000 U.S. soldiers who died and the many more who suffered.   The U.S. also extended the war into Laos and Cambodia whose population also paid and are still paying a horrible price.

The so-called Vietnam syndrome meant the growing opposition by people in the U.S. to follow our government into war and to be suspicious of our government beating the drums of war. Our militaristic, imperialist leaders have tried to overcome this “healthy disease” by relying on bombs and drones and less on troops on the ground to reduce U.S. casualties and by their ridiculous claim that we should support the troops by supporting the many wars the U.S. continues to wage. The lives of Vietnamese, Iraqis, and Afghanis are equally as important as people from the U.S. So it is important in our opposition to U.S. wars of aggression that we focus on all lives not just U.S. lives.

Vietnam today is not as economically and socially just as I thought it would be in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, if the U.S. was defeated. Many U.S. corporations are today profiting directly by their investments in Vietnam or indirectly through the low wages paid to the Vietnamese workers producing goods the Walmarts and other U.S. corporations are selling. Nevertheless, Vietnam today is an independent country, it is not a colony or neocolony of the U.S.. Their struggle also inspired many other oppressed people around the world.

Let us reflect on the meaning of the U.S. War against Vietnam including the significance of the Vietnamese victory, the end of the Vietnam War and the necessary defeat of the U.S.

In solidarity,

Peter Bohmer

 

Letters: Just one thing

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:23pm

The Vax article was well written and insightful. However, there is one nuance that I had difficulty in separating from the “cult”. I have an issue with the fact that some injectables are preserved with compounds of mercury. When I last had my tetanus shot, the doctor belittled me for asking whether the vaccine contained mercury. Fortunately, the nurse discretely inquired. She found that because my injection was from a vial for my use only, it was not preserved with mercury compounds. Vials intended for multiple recipients might have been.

Surely, the mercury compounds used to preserve injectables are tested safe? Maybe they are only deemed safe in comparison to the alternative of not taking the vaccine. Surely there is no other preservative available. Why not?

It is true that some compounds of mercury are more toxic than others. It is not always clear what happens to these compounds when they pass through biological pathways in the open environment, or more pointedly, through our human physiological pathways.

Voluntarily placing mercury into the human body is a throwback to a past era. (Have you heard of Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills?) When I get my vaccinations, I  choose to abstain from mercury.

 

Living Ectoplasm

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:22pm

April 25, 2015

Last night I was a luminous being

marching for the extinct like me, once

deemed a terminated “race.” We danced, humans,

joyous for life itself. Lit from within,

our exotic talking protoplasm swayed to ancient

drumbeats. We forgot our divisions, embracing

the fragile. All of existence stood still so

that all would exist. The living procession

under paper and sticks, waving itself back

into tribe. I felt alive. Under stars and starfish

and the Great Blue Heron like the one I friended

who was my size, who sat beside me, mourning,

on the bank, close enough for an arm around.

Four eyes gazing into a mucky river at salmon still

determined to spawn. Still we breed. We love and

grow. I, the almost extinct of our species, lay down

my arms. The sheep and cattle replaced by white

rhinos and pandas. I bear the loss in this rebirth,

this living global consciousness, and weep

for us all. I wept for joy, for us — for All!

 

For the Procession of the Species going on now and the Luminarias pre-procession event last night.

 

LOVE WILL LEAD ME OVER (song lyrics)

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:22pm

(For Sister Jackie Hudson)

Love will lead me over

As I step across the line,

Peace will be my cover,

As I step across the line,

As I step across the line

Justice is the reason,

I’ve made that reason mine,

And love is all around me

As I step across the line,

As I step across the line.

They are all our children,

Whether near or far,

I take these steps for them

No matter who they are.

This planet is our only home,

It’s time we learned to share.

Take a step for peace on Earth,

And all life, everywhere.

Love will lead me over

As I step across the line,

Peace will be my cover,

As I step across the line,

As I step across the line

 

2002

 

Everything, everywhere–the framework of it all

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:21pm

Nature doesn’t care if we understand all the intricacies of things. Nature appears complete, and dynamic, and alive in its own way. If we look closely at a butterfly’s wing, we see these lovely colorful scales. To see finer details we need technology such as a microsocope. That is hard to do without destroying the butterfly. It is up to us as thinkers to put all the details together and and keep the best overall view in mind for ourselves.

There is no need to be dismayed if you only understand some parts and pieces of the world. All the experts know only bits of their own specialty and misunderstand other things. It is true for everyone, including myself. Scientists frequently believe things which later prove to be untrue. The test of a scientist comes when admitting their favorite idea was wrong.

Climate change deniers are paid well for defending their false claims. It takes rare courage to surrender a sweet gig for benevolent reasons. Young Earth creationists as well, deny the observations and thrive on useless controversy. As evidence builds upon itself over time it is available for anyone to check for themselves and as best they can.

Communicating science is a delicate business since we don’t wish to discourage learning. But researchers are focused on the fringes of knowledge where the general audience has little experience. Patience with ourselves and others and tolerance is vital. Mistakes are gradually uncovered and discarded, scientists are sensitive to their reputations. We are all human.

Scientists struggle to get a better picture of how the world really is. The Standard Model of Particle Physics helps us understand the world better. It is completely understood by no one, but the ongoing research is making the picture more clear.

Material objects in our world are made of atoms. The atoms come in many varieties which are listed in the periodic table of chemical elements. Atoms consist of a swarm of electrons surrounding a dense nucleus of protons and neutrons. These atoms are so tiny that they were not generally accepted as real until the time of Einstein. Objects this small are directly subject to the rules of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is so unfamiliar and strange that it can’t be completely understood and scientists continue to debate its validity.

Both protons and neutrons are made of quarks and gluons. Electrons are partnered up with mysterious neutrinos. These particles are interconnected by exchange particles of which the gluon is one.

A simplified table can list these particles. They are considered fundamental objects:

The 36 particles grouped in families, rows, and columns seem to make up everything (except dark matter and dark energy). The standard model quickly becomes more complicated the closer you look at the details. For the sake of sanity, scientists look for a way to keep things simple. The world rarely cooperates.

These particles of the standard model obey the laws of modern physics. The laws are complex and only partly understood. They are written in three overlapping areas of study. These areas are: Relativity, Thermodynamics, and Quantum Mechanics. Experts know them far better than I, but everyone can investigate these things and get a clearer picture of nature.

All these particles are interconnected by many types of force fields. Magnetic fields can be observed by sprinkling some iron shavings around a magnet. Gravitational fields connect our feet to the ground and hold planets in their orbits. Electric fields repel like charges and attract opposite charges to one another. The Higgs field is not a force field but rather a scalar field.

The Higgs field maintains the universe by keeping mass constant, each particle to its specific size. The July, 2012 announcement at CERN of the discovery of the Higgs boson has to many scientists minds, confirmed this standard model. There are still many unanswered questions about it all but the basic framework should suffice to manage the study of physics for a long time to come.

As we look deeper, the details can become intractable. There is so much going on in the world that “best estimates” of events will have to do in many cases. People who want to know everything become overwhelmed by the minute features. I recommend working at your own pace and get the best grip on science you can.

The string theory community is full of people who seek to know it all. The theory of everything is what they are after. But the quantum world of tiny things is so bizarre that it is hard to believe the results. A similar problem arises with the very largest scale of things we see. Can we be sure there really was a big bang?

The mysteries surrounding the forces of nature are here for us to wonder about. Sure, it would be neat to know everything. The ability to wonder is a wonderful consolation though. The standard models—particle physics and the big bang—give us the framework to keep all our ideas together.

There really is so much going on in science that no one can keep track of it all. Anyone who is interested should continue communicating the ideas and asking the questions. Communication of scientific ideas is still lacking momentum in this country. People err by holding onto incorrect ideas and superstitions. The scientists themselves are too busy to explain it all in plain language for the lay person to grasp. That is, if they even have correct results.

With all that is going on in research the world is changing too fast for us all to keep up. Quantum computers in the future might easily out think us and this may be good or not. Quantum entanglement says that the particles are connected together in ways we do not understand. Superposition says particles can be in more than one state at the same time. We know there is built in uncertainty and the experiments continue to baffle us.

Surveys of the Universe show that we understand little of what is out there. 69 percent of what the Universe is made of what we call dark energy because we understand nothing about it. The dark energy just keeps the expansion of space going faster. Twenty-six percent is called dark matter because we can not see it at all, but galaxies are five times heavier than they look like they should be. The remaining five percent of the matter we tinker with and figure out inventions to show how clever we are.

The brilliance of the natural world outshines all the achievements of we humans. The panoramas of galaxies photographed by the Hubble Space telescope make us look tiny indeed. NASA is building the Webb space telescope which should be far more powerful than the Hubble. But Congress is afraid to fully fund the project. They dropped the ball on the superconducting super collider and they feel okay about that.

The majority will probably continue to ignore science because it is hard. I find that the thrill of discovery is well worth the effort. To wonder about the world and all its beauty is the finest endeavor anyone can embark on. The mysteries of nature are ever fascinating and I would never cheat myself by ignoring them. You are doing yourself a favor by exploring the science from whatever starting place you are at. The magnificence in nature is ever unfolding, ever wondrous, and beautiful beyond belief.

Russ Frizzell, an activist in Olympia since 2010, is a graduate of Evergreen where he studied Physics and Cosmology.

 

If gardening helps repair normal psychological wear and tear, what’s normal?

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:19pm

Can gardening help repair the “normal psychological wear and tear” of ordinary living? In the book, Green Nature, Human Nature, Charles Lewis, horticulturalist and resident scholar at the Morton Arboretum, a botanical garden outside Chicago, argues that it can. Lewis writes about plants the way a lover writes about a beloved early in the relationship—before any wear and tear takes place: “Whether in majestic or miniature representation, plants signal the presence of an unremitting life energy that pulses throughout the universe.” Lewis goes on to describe how we develop the eyes to see this life pulse—we learn to look at plants as more than material objects; we learn to see them as aspects of the universal life force.

I’ve been thinking about this as I plant radish seeds, and process the news—inevitable as it was—that Hillary Clinton is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

I’d rather watch radish seeds germinate than vote for Hillary Clinton. Like many people I know, the election of 2008 roused me out of a culturally induced political stupor. I began to believe that another kind of politics was possible—one that represented the views of ordinary people. I campaigned for Barak Obama. I participated in my first caucus meeting. I got excited, in a nerdy way, about “civic activism.”

But now, nearly eight years later, I find myself using phrases like “oligarchs” without blinking. Perhaps a better word is plutocracy—government by the wealthy.

I’ve never missed a presidential election; I’ve always voted Democratic but I won’t vote for Clinton.

Not because of what Republican staff members of “America Rising” may dig up—the “facts and factoids which can be turned into deadly ammo” against Clinton, as David Drucker of the Washington Examiner writes.

Not because she’s a woman either, but because her feminism falls far short of the critical analysis and related empathy for women, children and men necessary to steer a different course, one that isn’t headed straight towards rising sea levels, increased droughts, massive starvation and wars—to say nothing of warlike foreign policies that wreak havoc on communities on every continent, including our own, and feeble domestic policies that sell environmental regulations to the highest bidders.

Hillary Clinton, like Jeb Bush, is part of the plutocracy. As Lenin put it, here’s a case where we get to choose which oligarch will run our country.

I am counting on these radishes to ease my aching heart.

Hillary Clinton will campaign on improving the lives of ordinary people—she “slammed income inequality” in speech last month, reported MSNBC. The question Hillary hasn’t tackled is how we got to this point.

Writing for Inequality.org, Sam Pizzagoti argues that the “Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity”—the 171 page report published by the Center for American Progress that serves as the foundation for Clinton’s campaign–fails to ask about the actual economic rule changes that allowed the wealthy to “snatch up so much of America’s treasure.” It doesn’t explore banking deregulation, or the effect of NAFTA and other free trade agreements. It doesn’t analyze, in other words, how this incredibly wealthy class came into being in the past decades, including under the presidency of Clinton #1.

Back to gardening and the possibility that fascination with plants will soothe normal psychological wear and tear. Lewis writes, “Nature itself can entrap us involuntarily, occupy our minds, shut out daily cares, and allow us to become refreshed.” I agree. For a few minutes this afternoon, I stared into the trees behind our house, listening to a crow call. Something big flew into my field of vision. I didn’t move. As I kept staring, I glimpsed movement on a high branch, and noticed tiny yellow-green buds. For a moment, I stopped worrying.

Just because I stopped worrying doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about. My radish seeds can’t help me on that count, nor can the columbines that are about to pop.

A call from my daughter in Seattle made the difference. “Hey, Mom” she said, in the message I’m saving, “do you and Enrique want to come kayaking in Seattle on May 16? It will be pretty safe, there won’t be lots of arrests, and you won’t be the only, well, there will be other people your age.” Rising Tide Seattle, Green Peace, and a host of other organizations are organizing a kayak-flotilla to block Shell Oil drilling rigs from leaving the Elliott Bay terminal.

I don’t know how to challenge plutocrats. I do know that May 16 is the day to go kayaking in Seattle.

Emily Lardner lives in Olympia, where she teaches and writes.

 

An interview Greenpeace activists board Shell oil rig—the Polar Pioneer (reprinted from the Socialist Alternative)

Works in Progress - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:15pm

On Monday, April 6th, six Greenpeace activists boarded the “Polar Pioneer,” a Shell Oil drilling rig on its way to Seattle. Shell plans to use Terminal 5 of Seattle’s port to repair the rig and send it back to the Arctic.

Seattle’s socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant spoke with the six activists to support their heroic effort to expose this environmental disaster and to help build toward a mass movement in Seattle that can stop Shell from using the city as a base for Arctic drilling

http://www.socialistalternative.org/2015/04/10/arctic-drilling-rigs-seattle-shell-no/

 

Local Treasures (Olyblogosphere for May 11, 2015)

Olympia Time - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 7:39am
1. Man, you want to talk about local treasures? Your Daily Hour With Me is a local treasure.



2. David Raffin is pretty awesome. For a local treasure. I really like his books. But, I didn't notice recently he's been upping the post count on his blog. And, this is a recent one.

3. Common theme going on here. Local Treasures, David Scher Water is one as well. He's also raising money (and knowledge) for a new book.

4. Lastly. Olymega. Man, what a treasure. These folks are also coincidently raising money.

When was the last gray wolf shot in Thurston County?

Olympia Time - Thu, 05/07/2015 - 5:05am
Wolves are on their way back in Western Washington.

At one point in our past, wolves roamed the place we now call home. Certainly Thurston County was on the edge of where these big dogs roamed, but obviously there were some that roamed down the Black Hills from the Olympics.

The last wolf pair was shot in the Olympics in 1938. That was the absolute end of wolfs in Washington until very recently.

But, as far as I can tell, wolfs came to an end in Thurston County maybe a few decades before. The last record I can find of a wolf being shot here was in 1909:

Joe Easterday came back home from a hunting trip that year, ranging from the Black Hills down to Oyster Bay. Among the dozens of animals he and his friends shot was a "timber wolf." He pointed out that he likely would have stayed out longer, but the number of animals he had bagged was just too many to lug around.

Plus, Joe's body had literally given out:

He says he would have been still in the woods if it was not for the fact that has shot so much that his arm is swollen and his fingers have increased to such a size that he can no longer pull the trigger. He visited a doctor to have his arm and hand attended to and while here will have his clothes padded so that his shoulder and side will not get black and blue in the future from the recoil of the weapon.The expanding human footprint, plus "varmint hunts" and other likewise less than nice ways to say predator extermination programs, did the wolves in.

A notice for a varmint hunt in the 1911 Olympian listed the points given out by the Thurston County Association for the Protection and Propagation of Game and Game Fish. Two teams worked from May 1911 to February of the next year. The top hunter of either group would get $20, with lesser prizes for second and third. The losing team would throw a party for the winning side.

If you shot a cougar, your team would get 1,000 points. A wolf, 750 and likewise for a coyote. A fisher would get 500 points. And, last on the list of a dozen animals and their corresponding points, was the blue jay. That would get you 75 points for your team.

From the Morning Olympian, October 1909:


Just in case you're wondering, I'm very pro-hunting. Very pro-killing animals for food. And, sport for that matter. Food is a higher moral calling though.
That said, I'm also pro-eating chocolate cake. But, no one should eat so much cake, or hunt so many animals, they literally have to go see a doctor about it.

Quick survey of a possible book: Cascadia Rising, how the far corner of the United States is actually taking over America (in response to Dixie Rising)

Olympia Time - Mon, 05/04/2015 - 5:11am
I should probably buckle down and read Dixie Rising, which seems to be a pretty interesting book. If only because it struck me as a political artifact of the pre-9/11 political writing in America. That stuff that wanted to drag the new Republicanism against the New Leftism, Clinton vs. Gingrich, that kind of stuff that crescendoed with Bush v. Gore, but seems so out of place today.

Anyway, the book (from what I can tell from skimming it a half dozen times) picks apart Southernism and looks at how it was infecting the U.S. back in the mid-90s. To get what I'm getting at, this survey of the book seems like a decent enough look.

Of course, in Dixie Rising, the author uses locations to illustrate his larger regional and national points, so I'll try to do the same thing here.

1. South Lake Union and the Big Sort

This is the cutting edge of the technological wave that has crested and crashed along the west coast for years. New cancer research, new tech centers deep in urban Seattle bring yet again another wave of tech immigrants to Cascadia. This isn't just a new decade, new well-educated immigrant rush to our region, this is the next wave of the Big Sort. The Big Sort has been the defining political and demographic trend in the last 50 years and its razors edge right now is South Lake Union in Seattle.

2. Crescent City and the Nones

Crescent City isn't the least religious community in the United States. That award goes to Seneca Falls, NY (According to the 2010 US Religion Census. But, this small city on the far southern edge of Cascadia, isolated against the Pacific is the least religious community in the least religious part of the country. The Cascadians have never had much need for religion, and this trend is starting to creep across America.

3. Grants Pass and Scientific Denialism

Ugh. This is literally a dumb trend that I wish would go away. But, anti-vaccination activists are at a high tide in Grants Pass. But, it is more than anti-vaccine. It is an anti-science thing, anti-authority is more like it. From this one place, we can look at how science, government and authority is challenged in Cascadia.

4. Portland and the Sport of the Internet

As a passionate Sounders fan, I hate to highlight the Portscum Timbers in any way. But, for this narrative, I'll have you know I am nothing but fair. But, the Sport of the Internet must be highlighted. From what is literally the third level of hell, we can see how American soccer fans found each other before old style media even took the sport seriously. That nowadays it isn't about the media letting you know something is good, its about you knowing something is good and finding other people who think the same way.

5. Olympia and the DIY Platinum Record

DIY culture is a massive part of what makes Olympia itself to most people who don't live here. Ben Haggerty is from Seattle, but he went to school at Evergreen. Likewise, for Kurt Cobain, I'd argue Olympia was much more important than Seattle. So, much like soccer making itself big and religion making itself small. Culture in Olympia and Cascadia finds itself, and sometimes doesn't do shit. Other times it spawns The Heist.

I can't tell if May Day is going to be anything at all in Olympia this year. But, look at what is used to be

Olympia Time - Thu, 04/30/2015 - 5:15am
May Day will be tomorrow, and usually something happens around here. And, I can't believe that nothing will happen in town.

But, take a look back at what it used to be around here:


Beer, a day off, and a new wage scale. Revolution!!

Its all about procession, one way or another (Olyblogosphere for April 27, 2015)

Olympia Time - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 5:47am
1. Procession of the Species isn't just the procession. Its almost everyone holding up their recording devices. Like everyone. This is an Andy Rooney thing for me folks. Let your brain record it, you know?

I'm not against recording, but does everyone need to do it?

2. Procession is slow! And this year is was chilly. No one was going to overheat, corset or not.

3. I remarked to someone during Procession that this particular image could become a logo for Olympia.

Really, and what I said under the first entry was really stupid. Don't listen to me. Record what you want. Upload it, share it, keep it to yourself. I'm dumb.

4. In non-Arts Walk/Procession news, Olympia's best blog covers local to statewide public transportation funding.

5. I kept on forgetting to mention this particular episode of Olympia Pop Rocks. I may eventually write an entire blog post about it (very likely now that I type that sentence). The episode is a thing of beauty. It flows between the art Olympia and the progressive politics in a lovely smooth way through the life of work of Meg Martin.

Excellent stuff.

Here's a reddit thread on the episode, just for kicks.

When Cascadia lost to Washington in a poll in the Post-Intelligencer. And, are we named after Martha Washington?

Olympia Time - Thu, 04/23/2015 - 6:14am
As the long history of the Washington Territory was being rolled up, and statehood was on the horizon, a few people wondered whether it was a good time to change the name of the political organization. As long as we're changing the nature of the organization itself, right?

So in May 1888, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a poll, asking readers to suggest a new name. We've already read about how a few years earlier, our territorial representative suggested the name Cascadia for the possible new state.

From the PI:
The main cause of the desire for a change seems to arise from the fact that giving of the name Washington to the new state would lead to confusion, and that endless trouble and annoyance would arise from the confounding of the national capital and the political division on the northwest Pacific coast.Washington not only won, but dominated:
Out to of 695 replies, 564 were in favor or Washington and these were scattered evenly over all parts of the territory. Interesting fact:Another fact worthy of note is that there was an entire absence of any local prejudice. Yakima was favored by more non-residents of the valley of that name. Tacoma was the choice of more people in King county than the people in Pierce county, while nearly all of the expressions favorable of Rainier  were outside of Seattle.

Columbia finished second with 21, Tacoma 19 and Olympia 14. Cascadia was seventh overall, beating out variations of Washington and Idaho.
Towards the end of the story, the names relating to the Grays expedition was cited as a reason that Washington is so important and vital to our region. Just weeks after the constitutional convention was wrapped up in Philadelphia, Robert Gray left for the Northwest with his ships the Columbia and Washington.
Of course, now we have Grays Harbor, the Columbia River and obviously Washington State. Except the ship Washington's full name was Lady Washington. Martha Washington.

Smith Troy and his long leave of absence that is so unlike Troy Kelley's, but it still interesting

Olympia Time - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 5:25am
This is so unlike Troy Kelley's leave of absence, that I almost can't mention it.

But, Auditor Kelley's leave put me on the trail, so we'll start in 1941, when apparently war looked so likely that the legislature passed a law allowing elected officials to take long military leaves. The crux was that the governor was also the given permission to appoint a temporary stand-in.

I wrote a bit about Smith Troy's leave earlier here. And, I'm not proud to report, I'm apparently wrong about a few details.

For Democrat Smith Troy, as he left Olympia for Fort Lewis, and then North Carolina, this meant Republican Arthur Langlie would be able to appoint his stand-in. But, that never happened. Troy stayed away, serving as a military lawyer in the 30th Infantry Division, advancing from captain to lieutenant colonel.

For most of that time, Fred E. Lewis, a deputy appointed by Smith in 1940, led the office. And, during those war years, "the office" of attorney general meant a great deal more than it had in the past.

Soon after being appointed (and then quickly elected) attorney general in 1940, Smith went to work consolidating his power. During the 1941 session, he pressed for a law bringing in all of the state's legal work under his office. This move more than doubled the budget of his office, and obviously expanded the power of the state attorney general.

Lewis fought off attempts in 1943 to pull back that law, leaving the office in tact until Smith came back.

Langlie didn't last through the 1944 election, and that's when things changed for Lewis. Walgreen either caught on that Smith in absentia didn't actually support him for the Democratic nomination. Or he just thought that governors, not absent attorneys general should appoint temporary office fillers.

Either way, by early spring 1945, Lewis resigned and Walgreen's man Gerald Hile took control of the office. Hile had been as assistant US Attorney when he was called down to Olympia to serve as Walgreen's in-office lawyer. It didn't take long for the governor to place Hile as at least a temporary attorney general.

This is the scene that Troy returned to in the summer of 1945, literally sneaking back into town to take the oath of office. He'd been returned to the office months earlier, winning re-election while overseas in 1945. By September, he was officially released from the army, and Hile was released from his service too.
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