Archive for News and Politics

Caucus Photos

Jodi took some photos of the caucus proceedings, and had some photos taken of her and Gabriel — I’ve posted them to the Flickr:

Here’s Little G at his first caucus!! 🙂


Here’s me leading the start of the caucus:


Also, thanks to Adam Perry who took a bunch of photos and sent me the link to the tagged photos (also at Flickr):

None in that batch with Gabriel, but they give a number of views of the process — especially the delegate selection process toward the end! Here’s one that shows some of the 173 people we crammed into the room and out into the hallway.

 37-1833 Caucus

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Washington State Democratic Caucuses

Wow. Just wow. Today we did the Washington State Democratic Caucuses. As my precinct’s PCO (Precinct Committee Officer), it was my responsibility to run the caucus for my precinct. I’d gone through some training on this a few weeks ago — and it largely consists of being able to follow directions and read from a script — so I wasn’t too worried about it.

At Washington Middle School, where we caucused, there were a total of 15 precincts doing their caucus, spread around the school. Since our area coordinator had been out of town until just a few days ago, I had been the one to do a site survey with the chair of the 37th democrats, standing in for her about a week ago. Rob and I had walked around the school, getting a feel for which parts we’d have available for our use.

We had decided to start in the cafeteria — which could comfortably hold about 300-500 people. If we needed to overflow after the area-caucus greeting, we were going to spill into the library and possibly a couple of classrooms across from the library.

Now, I wasn’t at the caucus in 2004 (if for no other reason than I still lived in North Carolina at the time!), so I didn’t know what to expect. The rumor was that 2004 was “pretty big turnout” and we even expected to double it this time. But a room that could hold 300-400 people for the 15 precincts onsite was probably going to be fine.

Wow. Just wow. We were so wrong!

The turnout was… absolutely… spectacular. By the time the doors opened for “early setup” at 11:45am there were already about 30 people lingering outside. By 12:30, we’d already long-since passed 300-400 people collecting in the cafeteria. By the time our 1:00pm start time passed, the cafeteria was packed like sardines and spilled out in the hallway.

Our final count (and I’m doing this from memory, so perhaps I mix up some of the numbers) for the full site with 15 precincts: 1378. Yes. Thirteen hundred and seventy eight people.

37-1833 was the largest precinct in attendance, providing >12% of the total attendees at the site: 173 voters.

Thinking ahead, I had even staked claim to one of the “large” classrooms, expecting my 30 to maybe 50 people to show up. We (again, 173 people) ended up packed like sardines in the classroom, with people spilling out into the hallway. So — quick digression — if you ended up listening to me talk from out in the hallway, I apologize! I can confidently say as one of the planners of the caucus, the turnout was significantly bigger than even my wildest imagination!

In any event, even given the naturally chaotic nature of a caucus and the overwhelming crush of people, things still went off pretty effectively. We got through all the business, counted the votes, elected the delegates, etc. Good stuff.

As a quick datapoint, 37-1833 ended up splitting our 9 total delegates to 8 delegates for Obama and 1 delegate for Hillary. A pretty decisive victory for Obama!

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Another coincidence

I found this quite an interesting coincidence: On my drive home Monday night, I finished up “reading” (yes, listening to) “American Fascists“, a fairly interesting book.

But in particular, near the end of this book were quotes from “The Danger of American Fascism” — a article written by (then Vice President) Henry Wallace in the NYTimes in 1944. This caught my attention because the article was very prescient (sadly, both for the 1940s-50s, and perhaps even more so for today). I had actually intended to post some comment/link about this article as part of my (eventual) write-up of the book review.

So what’s the coincidence? Well, the VERY NEXT MORNING, Thom Hartmann opened up his show reading some of this very same article. I immediately recognized it. And I got quite a good chuckle at the coincidence of hearing this same text from two, completely separate sources within 24 hours.

Of course, the cynic in me might argue that this is just proof that I operate in an inbred intellectual space — where all (or at least many) of my sources have the same reaction to events of the day. The cynic in me is partially right, I suppose… we all generally surround ourselves with things we like and agree with. But, even with that acknowledgement, it’s still amazing that “the book I had just finished” happened to overlap so specifically in topic with “the lead-in to a specific guest Thom had on his show the following morning“.

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The Defining Moment

This book covered the first 100 days of FDRs government, as well as the period leading up to and through his election. Like seemingly everyone, I’ve always considered FDR something of a folk hero for his success in turning the depression and leading us up to and through the challenges of the 2nd World War. After reading this book, I have renewed appreciation for this great man, but I’m also a little alarmed at some of the mechanisms he had to use to get it done!

In many ways FDR was terrifyingly like George W Bush in his approaches! Yes, GWB. How so? Well, FDR spent a great deal of his time misleading those he was “working with” into a position where he would get his way — a good example is the way he handled the transition to power and the bank crisis with Hoover: he pretended to have not received letters, pretended to have sent a reply that “got lost”, etc… all to ensure the clock would run out on Hoover and FDR would be able to sweep in and “fix” the problem on his own. No direct parallel in GWB world, but the “feigning ignorance” while the clock runs and sending conflicting/misleading messages suited to the purposes of obfuscation is a Bush tactic we’ve seen time and time again in the past few years. And there’s no doubt it works, it’s just a bit underhanded.

Also, the more obvious example was the way FDR essentially set himself up as a dictator during his presidency — adding more power to the executive, removing power from others, trying to stack the supreme court, stripping/violating citizen civil liberties, etc. A whole honeybucket of unpleasant and inappropriate actions that are not looked on very favorably by history. Not too far off from many of the things the GWB administration has done (no oversight from congress, wiretapping, torture/habeas corpus, classified leaks, etc… I could go on and on)

Now, the good news is that FDR was also quite a bit like Bill Clinton (or Ronald Reagan if you prefer) in that he was able to get the public to back just about any good (or bad) thing he could come up with. He was a real salesman, and an effective spokesman for our country for many years. And he was effective both internationally, and — perhaps more importantly given the depression — domestically. He was able to get people “back to work” (and more importantly, the American public BELIEVED they were getting back to work, even if it was not as broad as it seemed in advertising.

Plus, one could argue, even with the questionable things he did — FDR did more good than harm. That alone puts him closer to the Clinton legacy than the GW Bush legacy.

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Newsweek: God Debate

A recent newsweek article covered a discussion/debate between Atheist author Sam Harris and Christian author/evangelist Rick Warren. The topic was interesting, as was the article. A reasonable discussion about God, religion, society’s perceptions. etc.

But what I found particularly funny was the way Rick Warren ended the discussion (link to the last page):

Rick, last thoughts?
I believe in both faith and reason. The more we learn about God, the more we understand how magnificent this universe is. There is no contradiction to it. When I look at history, I would disagree with Sam: Christianity has done far more good than bad. Altruism comes out of knowing there is more than this life, that there is a sovereign God, that I am not God. We’re both betting. He’s betting his life that he’s right. I’m betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he’s right, I’ve lost nothing. If I’m right, he’s lost everything. I’m not willing to make that gamble.

I’ve highlighted the interesting part. Yes, you’re reading that right. Rick Warren just used Pascal’s Wager to summarily justify his Christian faith.

The problems with Pascal’s Wager as a logical approach to faith is that it encapsulates Pascal’s Flaw (in its various forms). Here are a couple simple and obvious reasons why Pascal’s Wager is flawed (thanks Wikipedia!):

  • Assumes God rewards belief – maybe God actually rewards skepticism instead
  • Assumes Christianity is the only religion that makes such a claim – if they’re mutually exclusive, they can’t all be right!
  • Does not constitute a true belief – if you’re only believing because you think it’s the “safest” option, do you really believe? (and do you think God would fall for it?)
  • Assumes one can choose belief – If you believe Scott Adams, there’s no free will anyway!
  • Assumes divine rewards and punishments are infinite – The Calvinists beg to differ.

Things are rarely binary-simple, unfortunately. Sorry Rick.

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Jesus Camp

Jodi and I watched Jesus Camp (documentary) the other day, and found it to be quite an interesting movie. Even more interesting were the comments I read online afterward which pointed out that, as a documentary with no narration (ie – it’s the fundamentalists in their own words), this documentary is appreciated by both fundamentalist types and those who find it to be a scary development. I suspect it’s pretty rare that both sides of an issue see the documentary and think it “proves their side”, so it’s a sign of a good documentary.

The documentary covers a number of young people at their homes, at their local church, around their neighborhood, and when they go off to a North Dakota fundamentalist/evangelical summer camp (where they do things like praying to “bless” a cardboard cut-out of George W Bush and cry/speak-in-tongues passing around plastic representations of a 7-week-old aborted fetus). It also covers a couple of the primary “preachers” (most present in the documentary was a children’s minister named Becky).

Proving my point that “both sides” find value in this documentary, I found the perspective of the fundamentalists in the movie to be terrifying. The children seem brainwashed (comments about “wanting something more from life” when one participant was only 5 years old and the vacant-looks of the one girl who was constantly searching for opportunities to “preach” to people in order to please her parents). The scene in the bowling alley where the vacant-eyed girl put another bowler (not with their party) on the spot about God’s plan was just over the top, and her parents were so proud of this socially unacceptable behavior. While, the other perspective on this, of course, is how wonderful it is that these young people have found their way so early and so absolutely.

Funniest point in the movie: While they were going around the lunch table talking about how terrible Harry “the Warlock/Satanist” Potter was and how they wouldn’t want to watch these movies or read the books EVEN IF their parents would let them, when we came to one young man (clearly a disappointment to his parents) who furtively pointed out that his mom didn’t let him see the movie but his dad took him (implying that he liked the movie). Oh, the humanity! The looks of horror from his fellow tablemates were absolutely precious… they clearly didn’t understand what to do when someone went “off script” from what the adults were prompting the kids to do.

Scariest part of the movie: When Pastor Becky commented that the radical fundamentalist Muslims have it right — they get to the kids when they’re young and impressionable and brainwash them (of course she didn’t use this word) into becoming part of “Gods Army”. She implied that we have a lot to learn from them and should emulate this sort of training to create our own ultra-nationalist “Christian army”. Wow.

Most ironic moment(s) in the movie: When some of the young, impressionable kids make a trip to the mega-church where Ted Haggard was preaching (this was before his “downfall”). Ted says some incredibly ironic things in the context of God knowing about sin (“I KNOW what you were doing last night”, etc). The simple fact that these young people were “idolizing” this preacher and his ultra-conservative message while he was secretly living a double-life adds an interesting — and quite likely initially unintended — angle to an already great documentary.

If you’re worried about the direction our country is going (whether you think it’s going “straight to hell ever since we took prayer out of school” or whether your opinion is that “the necessary and constitutional separation of church and state is crumbling”), this is a movie that’ll speak to you. Recommended.

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The Mighty and the Almighty

I recently finished Madeleine Albright’s book “The Mighty and the Almighty” (from Audible, of course). I wasn’t all that thrilled with the first part (where it seemed to me like she was justifying government working in combination with religion), but after finishing the whole book I think I’ve come around to better understand her point.

Now, disclaimer — I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Ms. Albright. She’s always struck me as very intelligent and rational, while still being a real person. I wish she was US-born and wanted to be president. I would vote for her in a second. (which was all the more reason I was a little distressed by the first part of the book).

So, where did I go wrong? What was she really saying? Well, after listening to the whole book, it seems to me like she was saying not that government should comingle more with religion, but rather that government should be more AWARE of religion and the influence of religion throughout the world. A good example of this would be that as “religious” as our current government is, it’s hopelessly tied to Christianity — not really a benefit when trying to understand cultural differences and do diplomacy with many nations around the world which as not majority Christian.

Overall, a very interesting book from a very interesting author! Highly recommended.

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Who’s cuter?

The whole world has been watching Knut the Polar Bear at the Berlin Zoo since his plight came the world’s attention a few weeks ago when his mother rejected him. And yes, without a doubt this godless, killing machine (per Stephen Colbert) is hella cute.

But is he as cute (or even cuter?) than Seattle’s own abandoned animal? That’s right… Seattle’s zoo has a tiger cub around the same time back in December who was ALSO rejected by his mother. And they’re having a naming contest right now!

The key difference is not how cute each respective fuzzy, baby animal is, I think. The reason Knut, over in Germany, is so widely known is most likely because “Animal Activists” initially suggested that the Berlin zoo should just let the polar bear cub die like it would have in the wild.

Now, although I’m a big fan of animals and love the zoo, I don’t pretend for a second to fully understand the mind of the average person who self-identifies as an “Animal Activist”. And, as might be expected, once the world opinion came down firmly on the side of NOT letting the polar bear just die, the quoted animal activist clarified that he didn’t STILL want the zoo to kill the polar bear now that the bear is a little more capable of taking care of itself.

Jodi and I were talking about this the other day, and I pointed out that if you take the “it’s a polar bear, not a human” argument from the picture, this animal activist’s argument is a bit like suggesting that if you find an abandoned crack baby in a trashbin somewhere (ok, admittedly, an extreme example)… you should just let it be. I don’t buy this argument. Not for a second. And I suspect nobody else does either.

An animal in a zoo is under the protection (and responsibility) of the zoo. I’m glad to read that both the Berlin zoo and the Seattle zoo never for a second seriously considered letting the abandoned cubs die. Whew!

Strange, strange, strange. Note that Polar Bears were recently proposed for inclusion as an Endangered Species.

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Viaducts, Viaducts Everywhere

Thanks to MetroBlogging Seattle for posting this link to “what a bunch of other cities would look like on their waterfronts if they were crazy enough to build a waterfront freeway viaduct like ours“.

Example photo – Paris:

It’d be funny if it wasn’t so serious… we’re actually voting for this stupid thing. And there’s a non-zero chance the rebuild option might “win” (at which point, Seattle loses)!

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Oh please please please go public!

Imperium Renewables, the Bio-diesel producer who is currenly finishing up a refinery at Port of Gray’s Harbor has just received $214 Million in additional venture capital to get moving on their next batch of refineries.

The key part that caught my attention was this bit from the PI coverage:

“Obviously, (the latest funding) is not enough to do all four or five projects that we have identified,” said Plaza, adding that it could target the public markets for more capital.

Now, I’ve been watching this company develop for months… hoping that they’d do some sort of public offering (it’s currently 100% privately held). I’m crossing my fingers.

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