Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Reasonable Debate

I don’t want to pre-suppose the precise power the state should have to force changes. The bill we filed,” the governor said, “is to provoke a debate, not to conclude it.”

Massachussetts Governor Patrick Deval, on proposed changes in his state's health insurance program.

Perhaps Deval's debate will be a true debate, unlike much of the so-called "debate" in this country, where the conservatives and reactionaries do indeed want to conclude the matter. On their own terms. What passes for debate in America is primarily arguing about which how far to the right policy will move. Whether the matter be finance, war or personal liberty, the debate is always on the Right. Alternative ideas need not apply.

More disturbing is that after 30 years of Conservative-Republican-Unrestrained Free Market economic, social and military policies that polarized wealth, exported jobs and wasted $1 trillion dollars on just the last two wars (not to mention the military expenditures beginning with Reagan), the nation still buys that shit. Americans still believe in "job creators", trickle down economics, no taxes and permanent war.

Maybe a real debate about real facts will wake people up. That's why I am active in the Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation "Bring Our Billions Home" campaign.

It's worth a try.


Friday, April 15, 2011


Adam Goodheart's 1861: The Civil War Awakening showed up this week on the media I frequent. Not surprising given that this week is the sesquicentennial year of the Civil War's opening salvo. I heard parts of a radio interview with Goodheart the other day and today I read an interview at Slate. I am an eager reader of history; the details about issues, ideas and events fascinate me. Even the Civil War. So I am sure to read 1861. Right now I am just starting The Lost Peace by Robert Dallek about the years and leaders in the immediate years after WWII. Three chapters in, things don't look good.

But I digress. Goodheart makes a statement in the Slate interview that resonated with me. Discussing why a book about one year in a conflict whose tale is much-told aleady:
I came to the Civil War very much informed by my experience with 9/11: being here in Washington and seeing mobs of people fleeing from the area of the White House, and people standing on the street corners looking at the column of smoke rising from the burning Pentagon. That moment when just everything changed, when things that had been certainties the day before suddenly evaporated into thin air, was something I think we have a new appreciation of in our times. (emphasis added)

Reading that statement, I fully understood why the 9-11 attacks did not seem to be a big deal to me. My certainties had evaporated in Vietnam. After Vietnam nothing in my life has ever been certain. I don't mean that I am constantly on guard or feeling threatened. It's just that I have taken nothing for granted since Vietnam. And even though I had never thought of planes as guided missiles, when it did come to pass the event seemed to be what a clever, determined adversary would do, especially an adversary with suicide bombers. It was an ambush, pure and simple. Well planned and well executed. Terrible in its destruction but an ambush nonetheless.

Any certainty I ever had about being not being ambushed ended two decades before September 11, 2001.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Velo News

Spring has definitely arrived here in Olympia. About two weeks ago, I started noticing all sorts of budding plants and new leaves sprouting on trees. It seemed pretty sudden, especially since the weather has been cold and wet. Two weeks later, it's still cool and wet but that does not seem to be a hindrance to the many plants that are ready to get on with spring. I'm all for it.

Friday was one of the nicest days yet this year and with rain forecast for the weekend, it was a perfect day to take off work to ride. And ride I did. I did my west side loop out to The Evergreen State College where I signed up and paid fees to use the darkroom for another quarter. From Evergreen I swung through southwest Olympia, north Tumwater and southeast Olympia to pick up the Chehalis Western Train and return home. A nice 29 mile loop.

The ride started out chilly and a bit overcast but by the halfway point the sun was out and I was getting pretty hot in my black tights. I found a secluded spot to change out of them and rode the remainder of the route in shorts. That's only the second time this year I've been able to do that.

Yesterday's weather turned out better than expected--cloudy but dry. By the time I was done with a meeting and errands, there was still plenty of light left on a decent afternoon so I took off for a short loop before dinner. About halfway through my planned miles, I took a different route and stretched out the mileage just for the hell of it. So I ended up with 15 miles on the day and 44 for the weekend.

This is the first time I've been out twice in a single week since I don't know when. It sure was nice.

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Adventures in Electronic Bureaucracy (Reprise)

My attempts to find VA claims information paid off. Around mid-week I received an email telling me all about the various forms I would need to complete depending on my relationship to the the veterans about whose claim I wished to inquire. Since I had already done that, I followed up with a direct question and got a direct answer. Long story short: I was able to obtain information about the current status of two claims I am pursuing. All I had to do was dial the 800 number and sit on hold for about 15 minutes after which a very helpful representative answered all of my questions.

The success was mixed, though. Both claims are being processed which, given the backlog of claims does not auger well for a quick resolution. But at least I know now that the claims were received.