August 2009 Archives

More Threats from Plastic Bags

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Plastic Bag at the Beach.jpgWas that lousy timing or what?  Two days after Seattle voters voted down the bag tax, we hear that scientists have determined that plastic bags can be toxic to humans and animals as they decompose, reports the British newspaper, the Independent.   "A study has found that as plastics break down in the sea they release potentially toxic substances not found in nature and which could affect the growth and development of marine organisms."

We have known from passing sailboats that there are huge plastic garbage bag patches, said to be larger than the state of Texas, between California and Hawaii.  Now, researchers at Nihon University in Japan have found that that plastic is not stable but decomposes as it is exposed to rain and sun, releasing potentially toxic chemicals.


Simple Explanation of Need for Healthcare Reform

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Two More Town Halls

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Another Town Hall for Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01)

Jay Inslee will also be doing a Town Hall sponsored by the Shoreline Healthy Washington Coalition in Shoreline.  If you are planning on attending, please let his staff know at either inslee.rsvp@mail.house.gov or by phone at 206-361-0233.

Shoreline Healthy WA Coalition

3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday, Aug. 31

Shoreline Center

18560 1st Ave NE

Shoreline, WA 98155

Time to show up: 2pm


Congressman Jim McDermott (WA-07)

 

Seattle

7-8:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Sept. 1

Meany Hall at the University of Washington

Doors open at 6:15, the hall holds 1,200



Upcoming Town Halls

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The more I think about it, the more important it seems to me that we each get to a healthcare-themed Town Hall - both to encourage our Congressfolk to robustly support the public option and to begin to understand this phenomenon that has struck our public discourse.  And, as Howard Dean said, turned it into a shouting match.  My observation of Republicans is that they don't turn away from tactics that they deem successful no matter what.  So, I'm afraid we are in for a few years of nastiness.  I think we'd better begin to learn how to address the real needs of the people willing to shout out their fears and concerns in this way.  And learn to understand the difference between people with real issues, no matter how misguided and ignorant we think they are, and those who are faking it.

Here are the next set of Town Halls.  I'm going to try to make one or two, even though they aren't in my district.

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09)

First is tomorrow evening (Tuesday, Aug. 25) with Adam Smith (WA-09) in Lakewood. If you plan to attend, please call Smith's office (253) 593-6600.  Organizing for America would also like to know if you are planning on attending.

Harry Lang Stadium
6615 111th St. SW
Lakewood, WA 98499

When: Tuesday, August 25th
Arrival Time: 5:00 p.m.
Start Time: 7:00 p.m.

Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01)
Jay Inslee.jpg
Next up is a couple in Jay Inslee's district (WA-01) on this coming Saturday, Aug. 29, in Poulsbo and Sunday, Aug. 30, in Edmonds.  If you are planning on attending, please let his staff know at either inslee.rsvp@mail.house.gov or by phone at 206-361-0233.

Poulsbo town-hall meeting
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009
North Kitsap High School
The Gymnasium
1780 NE Hostmark St
Poulsbo

Edmonds town-hall meeting
1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2009
Edmonds-Woodway High School
The Gymnasium
7600 212th St SW
Edmonds

P.S. I'd put up a photo of Adam Smith if he made it in any way easy to find one.

The Political Reasons that Healthcare Reform Matters

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Photo of Darcy Burner at Netroots Nation by niq77174 under Creative Commons

Jane Hamsher.jpgOne of the most interesting panels at Netroots Nation came toward the end.  It was a group of some of my favorite national bloggers talking about the political impact we as blogger-activists are having and about how our tactics need to change given that we are no longer the opposition.  And, because the national conversation at the moment is about healthcare reform, that was the focus of the discussion.   The consensus was that if the Democrats are unable to win on healthcare reform, which means getting a robust public option, we will be unable to win on any other major issue.  That means no serious climate change bill for starters.  Bills on credit card reform and public transportation are due up in September.  We have to learn how to make use of our majorities.  We have to wrest control of this nation away from the lobbyists and this is the place to begin that fight.

Darcy Burner, now Director of the new organization, American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation, moderated the panel.  Joan McCarter of DailyKos, David Waldman of Congress Matters and DailyKos, Chris Bowers of Open Left and Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake participated. 
Darcy at Netroots Nation.jpg
Joan said that we now have allies in Congress who are being very helpful in letting us know scheduling issues.   We are trying to figure out how to get the same from the White House.  She said that progressives are exploring what can be learned from the FISA fight of two years ago.  David elaborated, saying that FISA taught us that it was possible to get the lesser bill even when it should have been possible to get the better one because more legislators actually wanted it.  He has been explaining how that happened to progressives.  He said understanding the complex procedural possibilties has made it easier for them to believe that it is possible to avoid the same fate this time.  

Historically, Chris Bowers said, the Blue Dogs have been able to water down legislation.  This time progressive bloggers and progressive Congressional members have been working together.  Previously the progressive bloggers were brought in to hear the strategy and report on it.  This time they've been brought in to participate.

Jane Hamsher has been working on a strategy to get 40 progressives to commit to refusing to vote for a plan that doesn't have a public option.   Democrats who make that commitment are being supported by a large community who have, as of last Thursday, raised $300,000 for their reelection, as of 8/20, five days after the panel, $400,000 as of today.  

Darcy said that the working model for making the Progressives more critical to any legislative process included three steps:  1) Find a piece of legislation that is important enough that it must be passed.  2) Find the line that Progressives need to hold.  In this case it is the public option.  3) Encourage the members to vote the right way.  She added that the key is to find a sufficient number of carrots and sticks to make this work.  Darcy said that in the case of healthcare, we would already have lost had we not done it.  

Everyone on the panel reiterated that the next couple of weeks are critical with the Town Halls coming up.  Darcy asked each of the panelists to talk about what we should be doing.

Joan said we need to be showing up to the Town Halls and emailing our Senators and Members of Congress.  She reminded us not to get upset at the anger and not to get discouraged.  Jane said that the Members of Congress have been traumatized.  They will not likely be as resilient as they would have been a month ago before the Town Halls got so nasty.  Firedoglake has built a database of upcoming TownHalls.  Our members of Congress need to see us there supporting the public option and supporting our members who are being staunch supporters. 

Chris said that it is essential that people push back.  If the Progressive Bloc doesn't hold, the bill will only get weaker and weaker and give more and more to corporate interests.  Joan added that this will happen to bill after bill if we don't stop it.  Darcy said that the Progressives will be tested.  She said that the Blue Dogs and Senator Baucus are being backstopped but that the Progressives aren't (well, now thanks to that money being raised for them through the Internet, they are).  Chris noted that there are 22,000 lobbyists who are essentially free staff members for those in Congress supporting health insurance interests whereas we have next to no lobbyists.

On the other hand, David said that we are doing a very good job getting information out and that the House staffers are getting very good at getting us information about what is going on.  

Jane summed up what we are working on here - are the lobbyists going to have control of this nation or are the people?


The Truman Project Stumps for Climate Change

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What's the Truman Project?

The Truman National Security Project, an organization of retired military leaders, has made it very clear that they believe that climate change is a critical national security issue.  I was invited to lunch with several Truman Project staffers and a few of their new media consultants one day at Netroots Nation, along with about a dozen other bloggers who write about climate change. 

While we were waiting for our hamburgers and salads to arrive, Jonathan Powers, the Executive Director, and Michael Moschella, the Political Director, talked about the Truman Project and about why they view climate change as a military issue and a political/policy issue as well as an environmental issue.  They also talked about why and how they want to shift the national discussion to tilt more towards the Democrats.  

John Kerry.jpgThe Truman Project grew out of the 2004 campaign when John Kerry, a highly respected and decorated military leader from the Vietnam War, was "swift-boated".   Kerry, of course, is why the term was invented, having been hit by a vicious smear campaign from which his candidacy was unable to recover.  Having been on the receiving end of that, along with Senator Kerry, the group of veterans who came together during that campaign to support Kerry have stayed together and they have turned their attention to preventing other Democratic candidates from being identified as soft on defense.  They are working to recruit, train and position a new generation of progressives across America to lead on national security.

I remember hearing retired Army General Paul Eaton talk when I was working for Darcy's campaign and at Democratic functions.  It was awesome to hear a decorated military leader talk about having become a Democrat.  There were many more military leaders stepping into the Democratic races in many roles during the last election.   I have no idea if any of them were members of the Truman Project but it's a great idea - inoculate Democrats from that raging divide that the public has had about which party the voters would trust on national security issues.  The one-two punch of that historical gap plus 9/11 did the Democrats in for a couple of cycles.

Rebranding the Democrats on National Security

So this group of retired military folks with the Truman Project along with help from some of our Congresscritters, is working pretty successfully to change the perception that Republicans can take care of us better than Democrats.  

Almost all the candidates who had military backgrounds in 2008 ran as Democrats.  Some outspoken Democrats, like General Eaton and Senator James Webb had been Republicans but changed parties.  A solid 57% of Americans approve of the way that Obama is handling foreign policy. Independents are closer to Democrats on National Security issues than they are to Republicans.  Wow!  There is a shift and that's been a long time coming.  Some muscle on the part of the Democrats, good policy, and visibility of the part of prominent military supporters who stand with the Democrats have made the difference.    

Climate Change

Next step.  The Truman Project ties together two of the key issues of our age - 1) how America works with the rest of the world and 2) what we do to decrease pollution and lead on climate change around the world.  I love it.  How we deal with climate change as a nation and as a world people is probably the most critical issue of our century.  The Truman Project is now helping focus the national conversation in that direction.  Several members of the Truman Project will be testifying at the hearings for the Waxman-Markham bill when they start up again, perhaps including some of the Board Members which include Madeleine Albright, Leslie Gelb, William Perry and John Podesta among others.  Prominent, credible people, all.  

A couple of the key points that the Truman Project noted:

  • Our military understands the importance of the U.S. acting quickly and effectively to prevent additional climate change.  
  • The world needs someone to set the example of addressing climate change head on.  Other countries will not feel like there is much reason for them to focus on preventing climate change if the US is not doing it.
  • Every $5 increase in a barrel of oil that comes from Iran or Venezuela puts $30/barrel into the hands of one of those governments.
  • As Sub-Saharan Africa becomes less habitable, for example, the fighting for the remaining resources will escalate and the US will have to intervene to prevent wars in the region.
Right on!  I so appreciate it when Democrats can act strategically as well as do the right thing.

Fighting for Healthcare Reform

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Fix it Now.jpg

Once the Democrats were unable to get a full vote on Healthcare Reform before the August recess, it was a given that August was going to be a fight to see whether the pro-public option people, i.e the majority of the people and most of the Democrats in Congress, were going to be able to out-maneuver the Republicans.  Or, I suppose a few people have thought we could bring some Republicans along, although I think that Senator Grassley has squelched that idea.  His words from the NYT.

 

He told MSNBC on Monday that he could not vote for a health care bill that did not have significant Republican support - even if he thought it was a good piece of legislation.

The odds for the inclusion of a public option in the Healthcare Reform bill looked pretty iffy there for a while.  We had a shadow of the same deer-in-the-headlights reaction we had for the decade from the mid-90's to the mid-00's.  But it now looks like President Obama and most of the Democrats are going to stand up and fight for a real reform package.  Whew!  The tide appears to have turned and the pro-healthcare reform people are redoubling their efforts.

 

Thanks to all who have made it out to the Town Halls or called our Congresscritters.  Thanks to our members of Congress for holding Town Halls despite the threats of intimidation.  Thanks to Richard Trumka, the secretary-treasurer and likely next president of the AFL-CIO, who said that Labor won't support anybody who votes against the public option.

 

So, what's up here in our Washington?  What's our job in this now? 

 

First, if you can, listen into an Organizing for America National Health Care Forum with the President tomorrow, Thursday, at 11:30 PDT.

 

Before or after that, call a few of our Washington State Democratic Congresscritters and thank them for supporting the public option or check in to make sure they are supporting it.  If you live in the 8th CD and have some optimism about Reichert, call him.  I don't.  


Attend any Town Halls that your Congressional Member holds.  We'll get those up as quickly as possible.

 

Checking Howard Dean's website, we determine that Senator Murray and 4 Congressional Members, Inslee, McDermott, Adams, and Dicks have been staunch supporters of the public option from the beginning.  Cantwell said last Sunday morning on Bill Press's radio show that she supported it.  The latest on Brian Baird suggests that he supports it.  That leaves Rick Larsen and I'd guess he's going to come around as well.  But it would be good to let him know that is what you want him to do.

 

We have listed all the phone numbers for our Washington State Congresscritters on our Both Washingtons page.  Go to it!  It's very useful to reinforce their good votes and let them know we stand with them. 

 

 

Dr. Dean on Healthcare Reform

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Dean at NN.jpgWhen Howard Dean spoke to us at Netroots Nation on Friday morning, he started by talking about the difference between Healthcare Reform and Healthcare Insurance Reform.  He said that there are a number of insurance reforms available to us in this bill but only one healthcare reform provision left - the public option. Everything else, including single payer, has already been compromised.  Dean would much prefer a single payer plan and wishes that it had been our starting point.  He said that we would not have been able to pass it but that it would have been a far better place to begin the compromises.

If we are unable to get a public option through, then we might as well call it a Healthcare Insurance Reform bill and be done with it.  The co-ops are a political compromise to get the bill out of committee and they will not work.

Why a Public Option is So Important

Dean's take on the public option is insightful.  He says that if we give the American people the choice, i.e. the public option, they will reform the healthcare system.  I take this to mean that the people who first opt for the public option will begin raving about it, and slowly others will shift over and then those folks and companies that are prevented from joining initially will make a big hubbub and the laws will be changed to allow more and more people to be covered under the public option.  Dean added later that the reason the public option is such a good path for this country is that it allows the public to move at its own speed.  The American public is conservative, he says, and it takes a while to decide to change.  This plan allows for that transition.  He also reiterates what Obama has said over and over - that a public option will provide needed competition for the private plans.

Sympathy for the Screamers and Appreciation for the Blue Dogs

He also had an interesting take on both the the screamers at the Town Halls and the Blue Dog Democrats.  He had more sympathy for the screamers than anyone else I've read or heard or talked with.  And certainly more than I had.  He basically said that these people are desperate.  The culture is turning away from their values and they are being more and more marginalized.  (We do know from other sources that the same folks who turn out to scream about taxes or where Obama was born turn out for Healthcare Town Halls; there are just more of them for this topic).  However, the impact has been to turn what should have been a national discussion into a shouting match.  

As for the Blue Dogs, Dean thinks they have actually been helpful.  Since the Republicans won't work with Obama and the Democrats at all, the Blue Dogs are representing the moderate Republicans and the Independents in this national discussion.  He says that there is lots in the bill as it stands now that has been improved because of the Blue Dogs, most particularly the changes that allow small businesses to buy into the public option.  From my point-of-view, the jury is still out on the Blue Dogs being helpful.

Dean at NN 08.jpgNuts and Bolts

It's when Dean talks about the facts regarding actual healthcare policy that I especially appreciate his point-of-view.  After all, he is a genuine doctor and hasn't forgotten that.  He says that the best part of the public option, or, even better a single payer plan, is that it costs so much less than anything that involves insurance companies.  He says that the overhead on single payer would be 4%, while the overhead on public sector programs, i.e. Medicare, is 12% and on private sector programs is over 20%.   It's the ROI that private sector companies require that drives the costs up so high.

And a grab-bag of other facts and observations:

  • A qualified nurse-practitioner can do 60% of what a physician can do.  They should be allowed to hang out their own shingles and practice on their own with the obvious caveats.
  • The federal government should help pay off physicians medical school debt if they go into primary care; part of why so many doctors go into specialties is to make the money to pay their medical school debt and the number of specialists if part of the overall problem.
  • Invest in prevention.  Currently companies that provide health insurance for their employees do the best job on preventative care, i.e. paying for health club memberships, holding on-site yoga classes, etc., because its the best way to manage costs.
  • If he had his way, we'd give everyone under 30 access to Medicare.  As the father of kids in their twenties, he says it is impossible to keep them in health insurance.  They move; they don't leave addresses for their mail.  Number-wise, this is the largest group of uninsured.  And they need the least care.  He said that in Vermont, they managed to insure everyone under 30 for $480/year.  

For the 435 People Making This Decision

Dean says that this debate is about two things:

  1. Are we going to allow the American people a full range of choice?
  2. Whose side are you on?  The American people have spoken.
Lastly, Dean said that we, meaning his organization, Stand with Dr. Dean, and others are going to track every one of those 435 votes.  Those who stand in the way of a public option will hear about it.  The Democrats in the Democratic Party need to support this bill.  

Woodstock Memories

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Woodstock Poster.jpgMy friend, who goes by N in Seattle on the blogs, has a post up at his blog, Peace Tree Farm, about his experiences at Woodstock, 40 years ago.  Another great time of hope in our country.  This time, with luck, we have the experience and skills and sense of inclusion to make our vision hold.

Brings back memories for me.  While I wasn't at Woodstock, I was at a NW version up at a farm in Sultan, with some of the same performers, rain and a similar sense of peace and hope.

Drinking from a Fire Hose

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Pittsburgh Convention Center.jpgThere is so much going on here and it is hard to get writing done when the next panel or dinner or discussion is so compelling that I can't find the time to get the next post done.  Every slot during the day has 6-8 panels, of which I'd like to go to 2-3.  Plus there have been incredible speakers 2-3 times per day.  Add to that that I organized a panel yesterday for my work, entitled "The Challenges of Organizing in Rural Areas".  

So, this morning I was taking notes on what Valerie Jarrett, Obama's ambassador to Netroots Nation, was saying while I'm finishing up my piece on President Clinton.  I'm so behind but I expect to put up pieces on Healthcare, Howard Dean, Valerie Jarrett, The Impact of the Netroots, Darcy Burner Keeps Going, and How Progressives Can Make a Difference.

In the meantime, a few stray observations on my 4th trip to this incredible conference of progressive political blog-writers, Democratic elected, and progressive organizations:

  • Labor had a great presence here, not just because we are in Pittsburgh; Labor really gets the need for the link between the two overlapping constituencies.  They fed us at times; talked to us as partners; helped sponsor us and talked pretty to us.  They know that we are far more reliable on Labor issues than the mainstream press.  I'm sitting here listening to the new President of the AFL-CIO, Richard L. Trumka.  He's great and I think his presence here speaks volumes about his understanding of where Labor needs to go.
  • We've become more mainstream; a lot of progressive organizations have paid for one or more of their staffers to attend.  As I talk to these young people, it's clear that they are having an impact on the Obama Administration.  Many say that they are filling the slots of people who have gone into the Administration.  It's also clear that they are a part of the same community.
  • Much to my amazement, Arlen Specter came across quite well and Joe Sestak was not as good as I expected.  Not sure if that would impact my vote if I were voting in the Pennsylvania primary next year but it was a surprise.  
  • We were being courted to influence the Health Care debate right now!  Clinton, Dean, Darcy and many more all asked us to work to get our side out to Town Halls and rallies to counteract the crazy teabaggers.
  • It's so fun to make fast friends with people from around the country because we know immediately that we all care deeply about the same things.
Much more to come.

The Big Dog Speaks

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Presidrent Clinton.jpgPresident Clinton spoke to us on Friday night.  It was so worth getting up at 4:30 in the morning in Seattle and taking a cab to the airport to make it to his talk at 8:00 at night in Pittsburgh.  The man is brilliant at articulating issues and speaking directly to his audience.   Simon Rosenberg, who worked for President Clinton starting in 1992 and is now founder and head of the New Democrats Network, introduced President Clinton by reminding us that Clinton did not have a netroots to back him up and challenge him.  It was a shock to realize the truth in that, that our participation in the national conversation has made a huge difference.  And we weren't there then.  In his talk with us, he spoke directly to us as bloggers, talking about how important the work we do is and about how critical it is that we help the country understand the issues of our time.

Clinton remains brilliant and articulate.  He is off doing some amazing things through his foundation, rather quietly.  What he mostly talked to us about was his picture of politics.  He said we have entered a new era of politics that could last 30-40 years.  The Republicans began their era with the mid-term elections of 1966.  Republicans developed a messages that exploited the resentment of the times.  The "silent majority" was a code word for racism.  With Reagan, the corporate side of the Republican party got brought together with the cultural side.  
He went on to say that all politics is based on three things:

  • The underlying political equation
  • The conditions of the times
  • The quality of the candidates

The culture is now with us.  The country is now self-consciously communitarian.  (Don't you just love that term to define this sense we have that we are now focused on doing what is best for us as a whole?)  And, of course, we have great candidates.  He reminded us that California is now a no-majority state and that the entire country will likely be a no-majority country by 2050.

He talked about the how the Republicans are sitting around rooting for this President to fail.  (And, we heard the next morning from Senator Specter - post yet to come - that the Republicans circulated around themselves that they were going to "break Obama".  It was general - not around the stimulus package or healthcare or any single issue.)  

Healthcare

Clinton said that the Republicans know they have no chance to best Obama's healthcare unless they can terrorize people.  That's what the screamers are all about.  He talked about the the difficulties with discussing healthcare.  

  1. Healthcare is complex, which makes it easy to honestly misunderstand it and dishonestly manipulate around it.
  2. Healthcare savings are hard to cost.  The cost numbers are easier to account for and the savings numbers are harder to estimate.
  3. Nothing is so difficult to change as the established order, as Machiavelli once said.  Rephrasing for our times, Clinton said that those who have it, know what they will lose and those who will benefit don't understand what the gains will be.
Clinton reiterated what Obama has said.  The worst thing would be sticking with the status quo.  We have to figure out the 3-4 things that everyone wants and include those and not include the 3-4 things that no one wants.  Clinton also added that it is politically imperative to pass a healthcare bill now.  He said the minute that Obama signs a healthcare bill, his approval ratings will go up and after a year, once the bad things don't happen and the good things start to happen, the Democrats approval ratings will explode.  

Climate Change

The Clinton Foundation has worked extensively on climate issues.  He talked about the importance of changing the options for financing the retrofitting of houses to improve efficiency.  Outside of California, there is almost no way to finance retrofitting.  California allows utilities to finance retrofitting of houses and a large number of people have taken advantage of that.  He mentioned that the banks are sitting on a very, very large amount of cash that they could be lending and if they were to lend for retrofitting purposes, it would be a pretty easy win for all.  

Last Thoughts

One of the joys of listening to Clinton was realizing how he (as is true with Hillary in her role as SoS) is not allowing any daylight between him and Obama.  So welcome.  He left us two things.  

  • A plea for the need to focus on poverty.  He said that they moved 100 times more people out of poverty in the 8 years of his administration than the Republicans had in the previous 12 years.
  • It is an honor for all of us to be alive now.  We can't ask the President to do this work alone.  Nor Congress.  We have good people in government but it is up to us to help them.

Great News on Maury Island Gravel Mine

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Looking Toward Maury Island.jpgLate yesterday a federal court judge in Seattle halted the expansion of a gravel mine on Maury Island and ordered federal studies to consider the consequences of the expansion on salmon and orcas.  Yeah!  Environmentalists had sued the U.S. Army  Corps of Engineers over its lack of consultation with federal fisheries biologists on the project's impact to our endangered species.

This is a huge win for the environmentalists and local inhabitants who had been working for years to prevent the expansion.  According to the AP, "The judge said the federal agencies didn't take the requisite "hard look" at the environmental consequences of the proposed project. He ordered a halt to construction of the dock until those federal studies were completed."  State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark then issued a statement yesterday saying the company's lease was no longer in compliance with the terms of the lease.  Goldmark has asked the company who owns the gravel pit, Glacier Northwest, to halt operation until it shows that it is complying with those terms.  

The terms of the discussion are clearly changing.  And having a Democratic Lands Commissioner makes a big difference as well.

On my Way to Netroots Nation

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Plane.jpgI am once again attending the great progressive bloggers conference, Netroots Nation, formerly called YearlyKos.  This year it is being held in Pittsburgh.  Before I talk about the great sessions here this year and the tone of the conference, I want to talk about a great set of conversations I had on the plane ride here yesterday.

I started out talking with the woman on my left, Donna, who hailed from Homer, Alaska.  It was fascinating to hear her talk about life in the 4000 person (winter population) town that, as she said, had about an equal mix of saloons and churches and an equal mix of liberals and conservatives.  She works as a domestic violence counselor, which meant, as a I expected, that we would wind up talking politics and talking about the huge amount of attention that Sarah Palin has drawn to the state.

All the while, the man on my right was silent.  When I began talking with him, he made it fairly clear that he doesn't talk about religion or politics.  So we talked about his military experience and his daughter, whose graduation from Navy Boot Camp was the reason for his trip.  We talked about how he liked living in Bremerton and about his intention to retire in Texas.  I felt comfortable by then to make passing reference to Bush.  That started the political discussion.  He was contemptuous of Bush - and we were off.  

We talked the entire gamut of issues, starting with healthcare and ranging through the difficulties that military folks have with decreased benefits and Bush's legacy.  When we got around to climate change, I was very interested in what he said.  He was still waiting to see what the impacts were before he really saw this as being important.  I mentioned the crumbling glaciers in the Arctic and the Antarctic which he'd heard of.  I ran through what I think is the best, simple explanation about how far we are through the 6 degrees of atmospheric warming that we have before the climatic changes are likely irreversible, which I'll run through here soon.  It made sense to Cliff and reinforced for me how desperately little we collectively understand about the dangers of climate change and the reasons that we need to be focusing on that issue like a laser.   Over at my work website, I wrote about a poll that the University of Maryland had done to determine how important the citizens of 19 prominent countries thought climate change is.  It's rather instructive about why we at a nation are putting so little attention on this topic.  Take a look.

Hi, Cliff and Donna.  I really hope you do make it over here to read this blog.  If you do, feel free to jump in.

A Wise Latina on the Supreme Court

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SotomayorlooksuptoObama.jpgIn the midst of the absolute right-wing craziness of the last few months, it was nice today to realize that something historic has happened.  A hard-working, working class woman with brown skin is now sitting on the Supreme Court of these United States.  I think this crazy sideshow about birthers and town hall mobsters is to distract us all from realizing what Obama set in place with this brilliant nomination as well as his many other stunning nominations and reasonably well thought out policies.  What a celebration this day should be for all of us.  

Those sad old white men fighting so hard during her confirmation hearings to run over her story, her story that is so uplifting and such a guiding light for all of us who are of color, for all of us who are women, for all of us who are working class.  Boy this explains so much.  They don't want us to talk about it, to appreciate the depth of change that Obama and his administration are both doing and highlighting that others are doing.  They don't want us to have a conversation about how we might live more integrated, more sustainable, healthier, lighter on the land, and more outward- and forward- thinking.  They don't want HOPE.  Remember when, both before and after the election, we had hope.  I experienced watching this country as watching a friend who was recently out of a bad marriage.   There was a sense of coming out from being under a squashed thumb.  We talked about things we hadn't talked about in a while.  The national conversation was livelier, more hopeful even while it was focused on real things like the crumbling of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica this last April or Michelle Obama's organic garden and the way she used it to talk to young people and their parents about the food they eat.

The Republicans are trying to prevent a modern-day version of the New Deal.  They don't want the Democrats to get the boost of goodwill that we should be earning and receiving.  So they've been distracting us all.  Man, maybe that's why they paid Sarah Palin to get out there - to distract us, to create one ruckus after another.  To deal with Obama's fake birth certificates or some washed-up Bush appointee talk about why Bill Clinton shouldn't have gone to North Korea, on behalf of this government, and freed two young women.

They don't want us to have that conversation, to celebrate and talk about what we are doing - in energy improvements, in local food, in running for office and working in government, in creating community. 

So, heh, let's just do it anyway - do what we do to make our world a better place, talk about that, and talk to people about how very cool it is that we have Obama in the White House, Hilary Clinton at Secretary of State, and Sonia Sotomayer as a Supreme Court Justice, among many others.  This all came up for me, reading this lovely story in USA Today that Markos at Dailykos pointed us to about how Latinos in this country are celebrating wildly, now that we have a "wise Latina" on the court. 

First, what Kos said that nailed it:  "And while we Latinos celebrate Associate Justice Sotomayor's accomplishments, we have also take note of who tried to stand in her way."

The USA Today article is a look at the impact that this confirmation of this women's status has on other Latinos.  Here was one of several great stories from around the country: 

Oxnard, Calif.
"Hang in there and work hard"
In this city where United Farm Workers organizer Cesar Chavez once lived, migrant workers from Mexico have toiled for decades, and Hispanics make up 66% of the nearly 200,000 population. Here, Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court is more than just a call to celebrate Hispanic pride. It's a call to action.
Oxnard, the largest city in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, is an agricultural center also known within the relatively affluent county as a place struggling with poverty, gangs and school dropouts.
"If there was ever a time to tell our kids to hang in there and work hard, this is it," said Carmen Ramirez, 60, a longtime community activist and attorney in Oxnard of Mexican descent. "Any person of color could look at her and say, 'I do have a future.' "
Oxnard attorney Barbara Macri-Ortiz, who is of Italian descent, married a man of Mexican descent and has two partly Mexican-American children. An education lawyer, she represents families whose children face expulsion. Now, she said, "we have an African-American president. We have a Latina on the Supreme Court. We can say to our kids, 'No excuses. You can do great things, too.' "
• By David Leon Moore
It's a great article.  Include it in your conversations about how this country is changing under the Obama administration and what we can all do to be a part of that change.

Frank Rich on the Brewhaha

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3767456151_7b1b745a85.jpgI've been thinking about what the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the subsequent press coverage says about it, about Obama's brief but apparently incendiary statement about the stupidity of the police for arresting Gates in his own home and about this policeman who got offended when called racist by a tired, frustrated and perhaps pompous black professor.  This is, BTW, a policeman who volunteered to give training sessions on racial profiling.  He obviously cares about justice at the abstract level.  Perhaps he just couldn't bear to have his own remnants of racism revealed.  What does this all says about where we are as a nation with the issue of race?   

Then I read Frank Rich's opinion piece in the NYT today.  Rich sees it as a power struggle that makes use of the still unresolved issues about race.  Here's the money sentence:

If there was a teachable moment in this incident, it could be found in how some powerful white people well beyond Cambridge responded to it. That reaction is merely the latest example of how the inexorable transformation of America into a white-minority country in some 30 years -- by 2042 in the latest Census Bureau estimate -- is causing serious jitters, if not panic, in some white establishments.
Rich talks about how even Texas is trending blue now that people of color are voting in larger numbers and how both the growing Hispanic voting population and the (obviously) growing younger voters are abandoning the R's.  That's the story that the powerful conservatives are panicked about.   

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