Five districts pass; GOP incites conservatives to fight map in court
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 8:40 pm // Ralph SchwartzDemocrats are confident and are celebrating victory after getting the five-district map they wanted at the final meeting of the Whatcom County Districting Committee on Wednesday, April 20.…
Wed, May 04, 2016, 12:57 pm // Dick Conoboy
Three years ago I wrote a piece here entitled Obamacare and the Coming (Not Again?) Wealth Transfer that provided a resume of the then current, reality based take on the obomination called Obamacare. What was obvious then about the future of the Unaffordable Care Act has played out in its realization. The cruel, repetitive, neoliberal joke has been played on the American public, leaving the fat cats laughing all the way to their offshore accounts. The excerpt below comes from a wonderfully comprehensive look at the Unaffordable Care Act written by Howard Waitzkin and Ida Hellander in a piece for the Monthly Review entitled The Neoliberal Model Comes Home to Roost in the United States—If We Let It
Excerpt: "Abundant data substantiate that the failure of Obamacare has become nearly inevitable. Even after the ACA is fully implemented, more than one-half of the previously uninsured population will remain uninsured—at least 27 million people, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office—and at least twice that number will remain underinsured. Due to high deductibles (about $10,000 for a family bronze plan and $6,000 for silver) and co-payments, coverage under Obamacare has become unusable for many individuals and families, and employer-sponsored coverage is headed in the same direction. Private insurance generally produces administrative expenses about eight times higher than public administration; administrative waste has increased even more under Obamacare, and remains much higher than in other capitalist countries with national health programs. These administrative expenditures pay for activities like marketing, billing, denials of claims, processing copayments and deductibles, exorbitant salaries and deferred income for executives (sometimes more than $30 million per year), profits, and dividends for corporate shareholders. The overall costs of the health system under Obamacare are projected to rise from 17.4 percent of GDP in 2013 to 19.6 percent in 2022. A conservative projection shows that premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures for the average family will equal half of the average family income by 2019 and the full average family income itself by 2029."
All talk of somehow "building" on this terrible legislation is so much bunkum. Put whipped cream and a cherry on a turd and you still have a turd.
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 2:20 pm // John Servais
Elisabeth Britt has just posted on her blog, Latte Republic, an article telling us there is a 10 inch gas pipeline running under the proposed site for the new Options High School on Franklin Street. The present temporary buildings for the school are set adjacent to the pipeline. She points out that in California this school would not be permitted. And in our county it is recommended against.
She does not mention the high tension power lines running directly over the school. With emmissions raining down, this is hardly the location for a school for kids with various hinderances to being in our conventional high schools.
The more we learn of this school - the weirder it seems. We are all in favor of matching facilities and curriculums to students in need. But the planning of this school by our Bellingham School District appears to be slip-shod and intended to hide the facts from taxpayers, nearby residents and our City Council. Thanks to Ms Britt for revealing yet another problem with this plan.
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 1:05 pm // John Servais
Last evening, our county changed from three voting districts to five. In a single vote of a few seconds, it became law. It is a change that now dramatically changes how we citizens of Whatcom County will be represented in our local government. And perhaps in the Port of Bellingham government also. After the Districting Committee decision and dissolution of their committee, I rushed home to write the article of this news and post it here. And then....nothing.
No other local blog or webite posted the info last night. The Whatcom Hawk, which had been aggressively commenting on this issue for months, had nothing. It had become a non-issue. No interest. The Bellingham Herald this morning, nothing, even though the vote was before their deadline. Today on the Herald website - nothing. Apparently it was not important for residents and citizens of Whatcom County to know this.
This morning Prince died. Within 30 minutes the Herald had three stories online about this - including graphics. Still nothing about important local political news.
For years, I bashed the Herald for not reporting important local issues. It is why I started Northwest Citizen in 1995, to post what the Herald covered up, what it ignored, often to the benefit of a local government agency that was screwing up. For the past couple years, I've eased off as the Herald staff was decimated and austerity caused those remaining to just hope to keep their jobs for a while longer. Last summer the Herald noticeably stopped covering local government and started covering car accidents, minor crimes and weather events as major and even headline stories. These may be interesting reads, but such stories do not provide us with the information we need to act intelligently as citizens. Our local newspaper has stopped being our source of important local news.
As the Herald continues to deteriorate, I find I am even more committed to providing a forum for citizen journalists and reader comments at NWCitizen. Through donations I hope to pay the expenses of managing this site. Through advertising, I hope to make a modest living so I can devote full-time to this endeavor.
We have several writers now who are knowledgeable in different public areas and are committed to informing their fellow citizens of important issues: planning that impacts how we live; politics that impact those who make our public and political decisions; corporate action that endangers us or compromises our environment; government processes that waste our money or lie about what they are doing with our tax dollars. And more.
If we residents - we citizens - are informed about what is happening around us, we can participate in decisions about our future and vote intelligently. We can actually act as citizens and not subjects or pawns. But first of all, we need to know what the hell is happening.
I am looking for a few more writers. If you are knowledgeable about some issue that impacts us locally and can write decently (we have an editor who can help smooth out your articles), and if you want to join us, please contact me. We can meet for coffee to see if we both feel it might work. We could start with some guest articles to see how it goes. If it works, then you can help your fellow citizens know more about important issues in our local communities. If you feel you are qualified and are interested, please write me: firstname.lastname@example.org - John Servais, owner and publisher
Sun, Apr 17, 2016, 10:41 pm // John Servais
Over at the Bellingham Latte Republic, Elisabeth Britt has posted up a fine idea. Petition BNSF to move their railroad tracks away from our coastline. For safety reasons.
Before you - or myself - think this idea is beyond the feasible or reasonable, you should read her article. Seems the city of White Rock in Canada, a mere 21 miles from Bellingham, is petitioning BNSF to reroute the railroad tracks away from their waterfront. The effort is several years along. And it is now getting support from the Canadian government. They are serious and determined.
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 10:48 am // John Servais
Soo - do they expect someone else to pick it up and take it to a trash can? We also find these along trail edges around Bellingham. But really - why put it on the seat? The edge of the trail is better - if they are going to do this.
Thu, Apr 14, 2016, 5:03 am // Dick Conoboy
A few years ago during a visit to Berkeley, CA I saw a man sleeping on the sidewalk. On his chest was a piece of cardboard on which he had written "We are all fucked." I said to myself that he must be the only man in Berkeley who knows what is going on. Speaking of knowing what is going on, Harvard researchers have found that with all our focus on lowering CO2 levels, we have ignored the increase in the even more dangerous gas, methane (CH4). "Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere." If those figures frighten you, and they should, you also now know what is going on and...we are indeed all fucked. The US is massively leaking methane from its gas infrastructure and there may be no way to stop or reverse the phenomenon. It may also be too late.
"The EPA insisted this wasn’t happening, that methane was on the decline just like CO2. But it turns out, as some scientists have been insisting for years, the EPA was wrong. Really wrong. This error is the rough equivalent of the New York Stock Exchange announcing tomorrow that the Dow Jones isn’t really at 17,000: Its computer program has been making a mistake, and your index fund actually stands at 11,000.
These leaks are big enough to wipe out a large share of the gains from the Obama administration’s work on climate change—all those closed coal mines and fuel-efficient cars. In fact, it’s even possible that America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years. The methane story is utterly at odds with what we’ve been telling ourselves, not to mention what we’ve been telling the rest of the planet. It undercuts the promises we made at the climate talks in Paris. It’s a disaster—and one that seems set to spread."
The article from which this quote came is entitled Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry by Bill McKibben. It appeared here in the March 2016 of the Nation.
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 7:38 am // John Servais
The bigger they come, the harder they fall. Who's next?
Peabody Energy, recently the world's largest private coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this morning. With the price of coal dropping and demand declining, Peabody got caught with excessive debt from their grand expansion plans of a couple years ago and no way to service the debt.
Reuters, among many news outlets, has the story and does a good job with business news.
Peabody was expected to be the big client for the Cherry Point coal port that SSA Marine and a changing cast of 49% partners have been planning since 2011 - or secretly even earlier. It was Peabody that expected to ship 48 million tons of coal a year from their mines in Wyoming to Cherry Point here in Whatcom County and on to China. Well, the Chinese market is not growing as expected, among other factors. Basically, the price of coal dropped and dropped and is not expected to rebound.
Of course, if you read the trade press, Obama is responsible due to laws that prevent coal companies from trashing huge sections of grasslands and/or woodlands and polluting vast areas with their mine tailings. In truth, these costs are not the reason for Peabody's financial difficulties. Cheap shale oil and gas are responsible - and they are causing their own environmental nightmares. The environment is probably not a net gainer in all this.
This bankruptcy is no surprise. Yesterday, their share price was one percent of what it had been just a year ago in April, 2015. And in 2011, when plans were announced, Peabody was a monster $18B - eighteen billion dollar - corporation. Yesterday, the value was $38M.
The Guardian - a great news site in England - also has a very informative article about the future of coal.
Arch Coal Company, another monster coal company, filed for bankruptcy in January. The business day before filing, they paid $8 million in bonuses to investors and laid off 400 workers. This information has only been revealed this week by WyoFile, a great news source located in Casper, Wyoming, the very center of the state. While Arch is not directly related to today's bankruptcy, its activities suggest we should stay tuned for further news even months from now on Peabody. These guys will not go quietly.
Tue, Apr 12, 2016, 10:53 am // John Servais
Joan Casey died this morning about 9 am. Her husband, John Watts, has posted a memoriam to Joan on his Hamstertalk blog.
Most folks in the Bellingham political community knew Joan and of her love of the northwest outdoors and socially responsible politics. She was a sweet person who loved knowing people and learning about them. She had the natural quality of making each of us seem special in some way to her. She loved the political scene and being the partner of a prominent local politician in her husband John.
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 1:15 pm // Dick Conoboy
This article entitled Wages of Sin by Chris Hedges that appears today at Truthdig contains an excellent summary description of what we are witnessing with this collosally bizarre, corrupt and predictable election this year at the national level. Note that it applies to both parties. Unfortunately, even the relatively sane voice of Bernie Sanders is blown away by the moronic, vicious and unconscionable news coverage that ensures that an ignorant electorate remains in place.
"The loss of civic virtue, Plato wrote, left a population hypnotized by the illusions flickering on the wall of a cave. Such distorted images of reality—our electronic hallucinations are beyond Plato’s imagination—fuel irrational beliefs and desires. They foster a visionless existence. Our images are skillfully manipulated by the elites to keep the population entertained and passive. Those who seek to question the illusions are, Socrates warned, usually attacked and killed by the mob, which does not want its comforting myths punctured. When reality is too painful to bear, a population does not seek freedom or truth; it becomes an accomplice to its own enslavement. Epicureanism, the reduction of life to the pursuit of fleeting individual pleasure, seduces the public. Cynicism rules. Distrust is everywhere. The community breaks down, and, as Plato writes, “all goes wrong when, starved for lack of anything good in their own lives, men turn to public affairs hoping to snatch from thence the happiness they hunger for. They set about fighting for power, and their internecine conflict ruins them and their country.” This collapse creates a dream world 'where men live fighting one another about elaborate shadows and quarreling for power, is if that were a great prize. …' "
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