Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In Brief - January 26th, 2008

If I had to sum up this week in two words, they would probably be cold and colder. There's an ice-chest out on my balcony that has been out there since mid October (please don't ask). Today, I happened look and found it full to the very top with water. Given that it has been closed all this time, it's quite a testament to how much rain we've had that enough could seep in around the lid to fill the danged thing up. But what surprised me was that the water was also frozen.

Now, an ice-chest is basically just an insulated plastic box whose job is to keep heat from flowing from one side to the other. It "keeps the hot side hot and the cold side cold" as it were. For the water inside the insulated box to have frozen, well, that tells me it's been pretty darned cold these past few days.

Anyway, on to today's news roundup. For all I know, vastly interesting things may have happened in the world yesterday, of which I remain clueless.

I was newsless all day Friday from having spent the whole day with my son at Children's Hospital. So if I missed linking to something really astonishing, like, say, Mitt Romney pulling a rich guy white-knight move to keep the Sonics in Seattle as a play for votes in Washington's upcoming caucuses - then you'll forgive me.

In the Pacific Northwest

First, a look at what's been happening under the dome in Olympia this week.

State Senator Karen Keiser has introduced a universal healthcare proposal to the Legislature. David Sirota has an excellent article about it. I love his opening line so much I'm going to steal it: "There is a simple fix for our ailing healthcare system, and it has the right-wing in a panic".

Meanwhile, State Senator Ken Jacobsen, having spent too much time on the tarmac, has introduced a Passenger Bill of Rights. The Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee held hearings on the bill Tuesday, and were by all accounts not disposed to look kindly on airline representatives' assurances that no such measure is necessary.

When my mom was a kid in upstate New York in the 1950s, she participated in the 4-H program. Back then, 4-H was mostly oriented at agricultural science and other matters of interest to rural farming communities like my Mom's. These days, 4-H is a bit different. Now they do cool stuff like teach Snohomish kids about environmentalism.

Washington's Clark County GOP is taking national heat for spreading lies about Barack Obama. A big congratulations to Northwest Progressive Institute alumnus Jon DeVore for breaking this story. Personally, I fail to see how there is anything the least bit smear-worthy about being a Muslim or an athiest, although in the interests of full disclosure I should be the first to admit that I may be just a tad biased on that point. As my private life is my own, however, I'll leave it to you to figure out which of those two perfectly honorable categories I happen to belong to.

Water is still in the news. Idaho farmers are watching winter weather to decide what to plant. Snowpack in watersheds that serve southern Idaho's vast farm areas are at normal levels for the moment, but need to double in the next couple of months in order to provide normal irrigation levels for the coming growing season.

What crops farmers plant depend on forecasts for available irrigation water. With global warming likely to create long-term drier conditions here in the Northwest, we can probably expect to see slow trends away from water-intensive cash-crop human chow like sweet corn and towards towards less lucrative, but less thirsty crops.

I called Idaho farmer Don Taber, who runs a 4,000 acre spread in the Shoshone area of Idaho, to ask about it. He says that he'd prefer to plant corn, but as water forecasts become increasingly bad, he'll have to switch to spring wheat, malt barley, "silage corn" (read: you chop it up and feed it to cows), or at worst, oats. But I'm not worried; personally, I like a nice bowl of oats.

Washington districts don't flip parties often. No, I suppose they don't, as this Seattle POst-Intelligencer story claims. What the story fails to mention, however, is that they wouldn't have had any story at all except for a) an unprecedented amount of last-minute GOP spending on Lazy Dave's behalf, and b) freakishly torrential rains and flooding on election day 2006 that disproportionally affected voters in some of Darcy Burner's key areas.

I don't argue with the premise that unseating a sitting member of Congress is an enormous undertaking, but I think to look purely at the results of the 2006 election without also considering the backstory of those races is an invitation to learn the wrong lesson from recent history.

Across the Nation

  • The ACLU has posted a concise summary of the current FISA situation on DailyKos. Worth a read, and then, a follow-up call to your Senators. Ok, I lied. I did go look at a little bit of news yesterday. But hey, look at this next item. I'm in good company!
  • Liar in Chief. Keith mentioned this yesterday, but it's important, so I'm going to repeat it. The Center for Public Integrity has released a comprehensive analysis of the 935 lies promulgated upon the American public leading up to the Iraq war. I'll give you, well, no guesses (you shouldn't need any) as to who told the greatest number of those. Huge props to the CPI for doing this, and my condolences to the people who had to do the research to put this database together. It must have been frightfully depressing work.
  • Dennis Kucinich will introduce Articles of Impeachment on Monday. If only the Speaker of the House were as interested in protecting the Constitution as this former presidential candidate. Although Kucinich wasn't the horse I was backing, his stance on holding the Bush administration accountable for its crimes does make me regret that he's backing out to go protect his House seat. I hope he keeps it. We need congressmen and women with the spine to, you know, actually do what they pledged in their oaths of office.
  • Now that the Fed is cutting interest rates, the markets (and everybody else, for that matter) is freaking out about the looming recession, proposals are surfacing for how to fix it. On the Repulican side, we have Bush and presidential hopefuls like McCain calling for making permanent the ludicrous tax cuts that helped get us in this mess. On the progressive side, we have insightful folks like Dean Baker arguing that this is a great opportunity to jump-start a new green economy. AlterNet, once again, has a nice follow-on analysis with some further facts and figures. Warning: you might not want to read AlterNet's piece, on the grounds that it could make you really mad. But then, if you're not already really mad at Bush and his entire administration, this probably won't do it either, so read on. What have you got to lose?
  • Remember last week I linked to a story about making it easier for schools to use local produce? I said I thought that was cool because eating stuff that's from closer to where you are is good for the environment. But, changing where you eat isn't the only way. Here's a story on how changing what you eat can also make a big difference.
  • But in an interesting editorial juxtaposition, AlterNet also reports on why we shouldn't fear cloned meat. I'm sure cloned meat is just fine. Why wouldn't it be? But I say, talk to me when we can have our cake and eat it too: vat grown, low-carbon-footprint nicely marbled thick juicy steaks. Don't laugh - NASA is working on it...
Around the World

  • The United Kingdom has green-lighted controversial stem-cell research. England's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has granted permission for researchers to attempt to fuse human DNA into animal egg cells, in an attempt to extract stem cells from the resulting embryos. Why? Because human eggs are in understandably short supply.
  • I can't think of anything sufficiently snarky to say about this one, so I'll just let the phrase origami spaceplane stand on its own. And yes, this appears to be legit.
  • In other quite literally screwy space news (hey, this is the "around the world" section), some clever Canadians have hit upon a novel solution for the problem of dealing with liquids in micro-gravity. If space tourism ever hits the mass market--which, personally, I'm really hoping it will, someday you may be drinking coffee out of a-- um, off of a--, well, from a gizmo like this.
On the Lighter Side

  • Sublimely funny, geeky web-comic XKCD neatly sums up debates about the paranormal.
  • Sure, people talk about hooking up generators to their hampsters' wheels, but nobody ever actually does it. Do they?
Finally, if you think the Puget Sound's traffic problems are bad, thank your lucky stars they're nothing like this. Of course if we don't stop trying to "build our way out of congestion" with more and wider highways, as Eyman and his ilk keep insisting we should, sights like this might not be so unthinkable around here. Here's a hint: Phoenix tried it. Now they have highways all over the place, and traffic is as bad as ever. L.A. tried it too. Now they practically set the worldwide standard for bad traffic.

As I like to say, a smart person learns from their mistakes, while a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. It's time we wised up around here.

This Day in History
  • 1564: The Council of Trent officially splits Roman Catholicism from Protestantism.
  • 1700: The Cascadia Earthquake, measuring approximately 9 on the Richter scale, strikes off the coast of what is now Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver Island. The Juan de Fuca plate, along a roughly 1000 mile stretch of fault line, slipped 20 meters or so in one shot, sending tsunamis across the Pacific to inundate parts of Japan. The most recent, similar quake to compare it to was the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which killed nearly a quarter-million people in Southeast Asia.
  • 1861: Civil War -- Louisiana secedes from the Union. Given that just this past Monday, Louisiana saw white separatist groups protesting on Martin Luther King day, one has to wonder, did they ever really come back? So, to the thankfully small minority of folks who continue to engage in such outright foolishness: Come on, fellas, that fight has been over for almost 150 years now. You want to come join the rest of us here in the 21st century?
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