Saturday, May 31, 2008

I demand a better future

Please don't tear this world asunder
Please take back
This fear were under
I demand a better future
Or I might just stop wanting you
I might just stop wanting you
Please make sure we get tomorrow
All this pain and all the sorrow
I demand a better future
Or I might just stop needing you
I might just stop needing you
Give my children sunny smile
Give them moon and cloudless sky
I demand a better future
Or I might just stop loving you,
Loving you, loving you
When we talk, we talk to you
When we walk, we walk to you
From factory to field
How many tears must fall
Down there below
Nothing is moving
I might just stop wanting you
I might just stop needing you
I might just stop loving you
I demand a better future
I demand a better future
I demand a better future
For I might just stop loving you,
Loving you, loving you
I demand a better future
I demand a better future
I demand a better future
For I might just stop loving you, loving you, loving you
I demand a better future

Thanks, David. I agree.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We need to respect work in this country

Last night, I attended a meeting at the Northgate Community Center. The city is considering changing the zoning in the Northgate area to allow taller buildings along 5th avenue and other areas. Northgate has been going through a lot of changes lately, with the major development south of the Mall, and the new building going up at the corner of 5th and Northgate Way. It's great to see.

I'm trying to find the information I saw last night online. On, the link to the Northgate plan from the main Neighborhood Planning page,, is a broken link. It currently goes to it is supposed to be going to

There is no mention of the meeting last night on the Northgate page. In fact, there is no calendar at all. I had to go to the Northgate Activist website to find out that the original comment period ended on May 16th, was extended to this meeting. At the meeting, they extended the comment period again to June 17th. Northgate Activist had a link to the EIS proposal. Finally!

Dang, I wish they would include the size of the PDF file with the link so we could decide whether to download it through a slow connection... This thing is 112 pages! 7.355 MB.

Page 19 in the PDF shows what this is all about. There are four options. We can do nothing, do a broad rezone with a focus on residential, do a broad rezone with a focus on commercial, or a focused rezone. The decision will likely be made based on how many jobs opportunities will be opened in the Northgate area by these options. The highest number is 12,000 jobs.

I'm not going to go into the details of the plan. It goes into Parks, Traffic, and a bunch of other details on growth projections and blah, blah. No, what I want to talk about are those 12,000 jobs.

If you walk through a store in the Northgate Mall, you see lots of things. Mostly clothing, made all over the world. Toys made in China. Jewlery made who knows where.

I think there might be a "Made in Washington" shop in the Mall, but I'm not sure. What I do believe is that 99% of the merchandise sold at the Northgate Mall are items made somewhere else. Elsewhere in the country, elsewhere in the world. It's too easy to say that everything is made in China, but who knows. What do you think the percentage is?

Those 12,000 jobs mentioned in the Draft EIS are commercial jobs. Retail, banking, investment, buying and selling over the Internet. They might even be decent paying jobs. But when I spoke to one of the representatives from the city, I asked where the industrial land is. Where are places where people can walk from home to work, and actually build something. Something beautiful. Something they can be proud of. He told me that most new industrial space now is being pushed all the way to Monroe. With probably a few exceptions that I don't know about, the only work done within the Seattle city limits is at the Port of Seattle bringing the crates to shore from the ships. Why can't we have jobs in the city that make things?

I also spoke with the developer of the property at 5th and Northgate Way, and asked him who the main leasers were going to be for at that building. Circuit City and Office Depot. More retail, and competition for the shops that are already in the area like Best Buy and Kinkos. At one point last year, we had a Public Relations retailer rent some space in one of the strip malls. It was either a franchise or a mom and pop. It didn't even last long enough for me to walk in and see what they had to offer.

Where am I going with this? This is turning too much into a rage against the machine. So let me spread this out beyond Seattle and rant about something different but related. I got an email from my father in Centralia for my birthday. He told me that he had cancelled his contractors license because the state government had changed the law so that anyone who did more than one thing in remodeling or construction required a general contractors license instead of a speciality license. More expensive bonding, more expensive insurance, more and higher fees. He's out of business. Out of a job. In an area where the people are still digging themselves out from underneath tons of mud from the storms last September.

Why can't we respect work in this country? Or even in this state? Why can't we make things that are beautiful and that we can be proud of? Why can't we hire people and pay them a living wage to do remodeling work on our homes without driving them out of business because their business is too small?!

This is painful. This is personal. This is not the future that I want to live in. We have to change this.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The real tipping point

Chalk this up to cynicism.

Saw two articles today with a few minutes of each other.

$130 Oil: Is That a Tipping Point?


Corn price is factor in rising movie ticket prices

So my question is this; Which of these two milestones on our way back down from Peak Oil are going to really catch the attention of the American public?

You can probably guess which I'm voting for...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Comparisons between 2000 and 2004

I just put together a comparison of how Washington Counties did in the last two Presidential elections.

County2000 President2004 President2004-2000
Grays Harbor51.22%52.17%0.95%
Pend Oreille36.28%37.27%0.99%
Walla Walla33.64%36.02%2.38%
San Juan52.65%65.32%12.67%

We need to focus on building the party by encouraging PCO's everywhere, but I'm going to focus on the 5 counties where we lost ground.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I'm running for 7th CD Elector

I'm tossing my hat in the ring for the Elector position for the 7th Congressional District.

Five years ago, I walked into my first Democratic Party meeting. Actually, it was exactly 5 years ago, because it was May of 2003. When I ran for an at-large position on the 46th district eboard during the 2005 reorganization, I was focused on three things.

"Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure."

I understood then that change only happens when a strong message is combined with a strong infrastructure. One cannot be effective without the other. The Howard Dean campaign gave a glimpse of what strong grassroots infrastructure could be, and what it could do. So I sat down at my computer in the fall of 2003, and self taught myself everything I could about campaigns from Paul Wellstone, Joe Trippi, Markos Moulitsas, and many others. I read books about the original Progressive Movement in the 1800's, and the one before that (c. 1776). I focused on learning what I could about website design and implementation, using PHP for basic sites, and Drupal whenever I needed a content management system. I'm always learning, and always curious.

I've built the website for the 46th LD into one of the most highly rated party websites in the state. We were the first to post the DNC Charter and Bylaws, something that the national party doesn't even have posted. I found and integrated web services made available by others with precinct maps and election history down to the precinct level for the 46th, then for all of King County, with development underway to expand that to all 39 counties and all 49 legislative districts around the state. This won an national award from BlogPac in 2006.

After the 2004 election, I watched the 2008 presidential candidates and campaigns grow and evolve. I worked on the John Edwards campaign because he was the first to come out with a comprehensive Health Care package. (Health Care is one of my top concerns, since I fought and beat cancer in 2003.) When he dropped out in January, I focused on the upcoming caucuses. On February 9th, I signed in for John, then switched to uncommitted. I was the area coordinator, in charge of 6 precincts, and we had nearly 500 people in way too small of a space. (I actually helped a Republican find their caucus location at Nathan Hale.) The Obama supporters in my precinct approached me, saying that they had saved a slot and asking if I wanted it. That act of openness and engagement still brings tears to my eyes, just as it did then. The Obama campaign is made up of some of the best people that I have ever run across. I know from watching and working with people over the last 4 months that the Clinton campaign supporters here in Seattle are equal to that as well. We can, and will, work together after the convention to give Washington's electoral votes to our nominee in November. And then things really get started in January.

I am involved in progressive politics "local to global". I am on the eboard of the 46th LD and King County Democrats. I'm the webmaster for the State Democratic Chairs. I'm the chair of the Washington State Progressive Caucus. I'm one of the state leaders of Democracy for America, and I'm the lead volunteer coordinator of, a mediawiki website that Jimmy Wales launched on July 4th, 2006 to help track and promote issues and candidates around the world in any language.

I have two sons in California. They keep me motivated to make the future something that I can pass to them with pride. I build and manage infrastructure for the progressive movement and Democratic Party. That has been and will be my focus for years to come. In 2008, that translates in sending Washington's electoral votes to the Democrat on the ballot, and I want to be the person who casts that electoral vote for the 7th Congressional District in Olympia in December.

I'm asking for your vote on Saturday.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Geek frustrations

A long time ago, I bought Adobe Acrobat 5.0. Worked great for converting Microsoft Office files to PDF. Then my system crashed, and I didn't reinstall MS Office because OpenOffice had native PDF export capability. I upgraded Adobe Reader to 8.X, and have been keeping up with the updates like any good citizen. Up until a few weeks ago, I could open files in Acrobat 5.0 if I needed to make some changes to a PDF file that I got from someone else.

This morning, I tried to do that. I needed to delete a blank page out of a PDF file report. So I tried "open with Acrobat 5.0" from Windows Explorer. It opened in Reader 8.0. Then I tried going into my Program Files and opening Acrobat 5.0 manually. It opened Acrobat 8.0. What the hell!

OpenOffice 3.0, which is currently in beta, is supposed to have the ability to import PDF files into Draw, edit capabilities, and then export ability in a hybrid file that should work. That seems like a temporary solution. What we need is an open source program that can manipulate PDF formatted files natively.

Help is on the way. GNUpdf is under development. Let's hope it doesn't take that long.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The path to sustainability

We are going to have to balance two important priorities within the Democratic Party platform. Those priorities are Localization and Unionization.

Localization means what you are describing, and is the best way to foster businesses that we can actually influence into following a sustainable model. I had not heard of the NBIS before now, and I'm really impressed. The story of what is happening in Hoquiam and the surrounding area is a great story that needs to be repeated all across the country. It's what BALLE has been trying to push, and what David Korten describes as an answer and solution to the current problems that are showing up due to inherent flaws in the design of capitalist economies around the world.

Unionization is getting the workers involved in the operation and high level decisions of the company. Traditionally, this is done through a union, thus the name. But unions can and have become exclusive to their membership and separate from their real goal, in my opinion. The goal of a union should not simply be to advance the rights and wages of workers. If that is the only focus, the organization has lost its way. The real goal should be to advance the needs of the community within which a company operates. This includes, but is not limited to, the rights and wages of workers. It also includes sustainability, local business networks, the community service industries, and the health and well being of the environment as well as the people. The conservative frame for unions is "all they care about is higher costs for employers". We must change that frame into "they care about our entire community, not just the bottom line". We have to challenge our business leaders and financial investors to meet goals of a triple bottom line, where profits are balanced with community and environmental gains.

I've seen these two core concepts at odds with each other both within the party and in the outside world. The unions are a great source for fundraising and electioneering. But because we have been subject to the conservative frames for the last 30 years in the media, it's difficult to help them find a bigger goal than just the next contract negotiation or the next election cycle. We need a movement that breaks out of those boxes into the overall mesh of how our communities operate and communicate. The leadership of the party, the union and the businesses are elected or self selected to focus on their specific responsibilities, like contract negotiations, elections and running organizations and businesses. What I would love to see is for the grassroots members of all of these types of structures openly collaborating outside of those boxes. We don't want to, and don't need to, threaten the people in leadership positions when we do that. We just need to be the ones to lead the way, building the foundation for the progressive movement, pulling our society towards a future that we want to live in.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Day in the Life of a True Conservative


Joe Conservative wakes up in the morning and goes to the bathroom. He flushes his toilet and brushes his teeth, mindful that each flush & brush costs him about 43 cents to his privatized water provider. His wacky, liberal neighbor keeps badgering the company to disclose how clean and safe their water is, but no one ever finds out. Just to be safe, Joe Conservative boils his drinking water.

Joe steps outside and coughs–the pollution is especially bad today, but the smokiest cars are the cheapest ones, so everyone buys ‘em. Joe Conservative checks to make sure he has enough toll money for the 3 different private roads he must drive to work. There is no public transportation, so traffic is backed up and his 10 mile commute takes an hour.

On the way, he drops his 12 year old daughter off at the clothing factory she works at. Paying for kids to go to private school until they’re 18 is a luxury, and Joe needs the extra income coming in. Times are hard and there’re no social safety nets.

He gets to work 5 minutes late and misses the call for Christian prayer, and is immediately docked by his employer. He is not feeling well today, but has no health insurance, since neither his employer nor his government provide it, and paying for it himself is really expensive, since he has a precondition. He just hopes for the best.

Joe’s workday is 12 hours long, because there is no regulation over working hours, and Joe will lose his job if he complains or unionizes. Today is an especially bad day. Joe’s manager demands that he work until midnight, a 16 hour day. Joe does, knowing that he’ll lose his job if he does not.

Finally, after midnight, Joe gets to pick up his daughter and go home. His daughter shows him the deep cut she got on the industrial sewing machine today. Joe is outraged and asks why she doesn’t have metal mesh gloves or other protection. She says the company will not provide it and she’ll have to pay for it out of her own pocket. Joe looks at the wound and decides they’ll use an over the counter disinfectant and bandages until it heals. She’ll have a scar, but getting stitches at the emergency room is expensive.

His daughter also complains that the manager made suggestive overtures towards her. Joe counsels her to be a “good girl” and not rock the boat, or she’ll get fired and they’ll be out the income.

His daughter says she can’t wait until she’s 18 so she can vote for change or go to the Iraq War.

They get home and there’s a message from his elderly father who can’t afford to pay his medical or heating bills. Joe can hear him coughing and shivering.

Joe turns on the radio and the top story is a proposal in Congress to raise the voting age to 25. A rare liberal opinionator states that it’s an attempt to keep power out of the hands of working class Americans. The conservative host immediately quashes him, calling him “a utopian idealist,” and agreeing that people aren’t mature enough to make good choices until they’re at least 25.

Joe chuckles at the wine-swilling, cheese eating liberal egghead and thinks, “Thank God I live in America where I have freedom!”

The missing pieces in our Educational system

This is from an email I sent on this day in 2005.

I would like to ask our educators about the lack of Critical Thinking, Ethics and Civics in primary, secondary and post-secondary education. While I understand the importance to the bottom line of industry to have students come out of the public school system with the science based knowledge that can help them make money, I think our society has deeply suffered due to the lack of instruction to give people the ability to think critically, establish relationships in an ethical manner and participate fully in our society beyond the simple fact of their economic status.

The basics of Ethics includes Logic, which leads to an understanding of the mechanism behind Math before the students get into memorization of formulas. The basics of Critical Thinking leads to an understanding of the mechanism behind Science, before the students get into memorization of the various scientific facts. And the basics of Civics leads to an understanding of how our society works, which is much more meaningful than the memorization of dates, places and names.

Is it the lack of testing apparatus that prevents these subjects from being taught in our schools?

This got some good responses:

I'm a Math teacher and have a doctorate in engineering and teach critical thinking and ethics.

Critical thinking, ethics, etc. are not solely part of one discipline and not another - they are integral and interweaved in the study of Math and Science. Math and Science teachers teach how to analyze, then how to interpret and form good conclusions, that is, critical thinking is integral to Math and Science disciplines. Philosophy, Political Science, History and other humanities disciplines also teach this and our teaching should complement each other.

Let's engage in a little critical thinking here. It is said "give a person a fish, feed them for a day, teach them to fish, feed them for life." The problem with this is a scientific fact called Maslow's theory of hierarchy. In a nutshell, Maslow said that people are going to focus on physical survival needs and have great difficulty thinking of needs higher on the hierarchy until needs lower on the hierarchy are met. In other words, hungry people can't learn. This saying should be revised to "give a person a fish, feed them for a day, then teach them to fish to feed them for life."

Moving on in this argument: Economic needs come first, then human beings can deal with relationships including civics and ethics. We must teach in order for people to work, then working people can deal with civics and ethics and relationships. I deplore the absence of humanities teaching as this impedes our ability to created civilized societies, however Math and Science must assume a higher priority since it is necessary in order for Americans to have jobs.

On a more personal note: I am constantly amazed by my students. Their struggles are amazing. They work full-time jobs and then come to school to improve their lot in life without much assistance. Human beings really do have an amazing capacity to delay gratification for loftier goals. Humans can, for a time, suffer economically to do the right thing. We are very ethical and civic minded creatures.

While business interests are whining about the low quality of American workers, these amazing Americans are improving themselves in the face of huge obstacles. Ask yourself, how does Toyota, Nissan, Honda and, soon, Hyundai produce cars in America using American labor of better quality and higher profitability than our American car companies. Is it American workers? No. Is it poor American work ethic? No. Is it American businesses? YES! Is it conservative policies that promote corporate welfare thus removing the pecuniary motivation for businesses to change to new economic realities? YES!

Jim Sizemore

This is really impressive thinking, by both of you, about the things we need to see in our classrooms. Especially, your thoughts on the importance of logic and critical thinking.

But let me add one more very big "missing piece;" History. One unintended effect of our scrupulous care to make sure that no particular religion is taught in public schools has been that teachers, in their commendable zeal to avoid teaching dogma and doctrine, have often produced a product that is effectively free of values - values shared by the vast majority of people in our culture.

This omission has had a direct impact on the way history is taught. A study of history teaches us why we so highly value freedom of conscience - so highly that uncounted thousands have died for it. I submit that one reason for the success of the neo-cons in gaining the acceptance of the American people for the nefarious intrusions of the "Patriot Act," and the indefinite detentions of "terrorists" without charges or access to courts or counsel, is that the products of our public education system simply don't know how important the liberties are on which this Administration is trampling. Too many don't understand that a denial of your rights puts my rights in peril.

When George W. Bush said, after the mass murders of 9/11, that "everyone agrees that security is our first priority," he was unfortunately nearly right - almost everyone did agree. Only a few were perceptive enough to see where he was leading us, and remembered that our first priority is not our physical safety, but the preservation of our liberties. I suggest that we take a fresh look at how we teach history, and its lessons in how a democratic society comes into being, and how it can be preserved - or destroyed. More critical thinking, buttressed by a better knowledge of history, in which too few students have adequate training, might have produced a different result, both in the congressional elections of 2002, and the presidential contest in 2004.

We've all heard the quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. I suggest the time is long overdue for us to give it greater attention, and greater care, in educating our children.

Norman K. Marsh

Bravo! I'm going to have to work hard to keep up with you, Jim. But I'll certainly try.

First, I'd like to pass on something a study group I was involved in at the University of Phoenix came up with regarding Critical Thinking. You're welcome to use it if you wish. And everyone else on the list is welcome to use it as well.

I'm going to maintain my thesis that Math and Science must be at least an equal priority to Civics, Ethics, History (thanks Norman, you're right) and Critical Thinking. I will accept the fact that there are many people in the world, and indeed in the United States, that are hungry, and thus need a fish before they can learn to fish. But I have not yet achieved the state in my perception of the human condition within our country to make me believe that this is the prevaling situation for the majority of our citizens. The fallacy that I see in your argument is the difference between an individual who needs to learn how to fish, and a society that needs to learn how to use our resources, whether they be physical, educational, social or political, to lead us into a sustainable future. There will always statistically be those that are on either end of the economic bell curve. I believe that a Progressive stance is to acknowledge that this bell curve exists and that it is the responsibility of the society to reach back with the extra resources that exist at one end to help the people who find themselves on the other end.

We can teach the humanities in school alongside the core subjects of Math and Science, and we must. The question I ask quite often is 'to what end'. What are we trying to accomplish, and why? Are we trying to teach Math and Science to provide a better workforce for the companies that need them? Why? I think the right answer is to give those workers the ability to make a good living and provide well for their future families. The Republican/Conservative answer is to give the companies good employees so they can make more of a profit for the shareholders. Of course, when 90% of the capital in our country is controlled by 5-10% of the population, we're moving toward disaster. Can we teach Math and Science to the exclusion of the other subjects? I don't think so, and if you're teaching Critical Thinking and Ethics, you don't seem to think so either. They are both imiportant. I think the society that we have now is the result of focusing the teaching on one side of that equation, and I don't like it. I never learned Latin in school. I never read the 'real' classics like Plato or Homer. I read some of the 20th century classics like Mark Twain, but until I entered college, I wasn't exposed to anything older than 200 years except in music. I should have. Here's something I wrote in November of 2000:

"Everyone reading this raise your hand if you think the schools are good enough and don’t need more money. I don’t see very many hands. Both sides think that the schools need improvement. Both sides think they need testing from the 3rd grade all the way up to the 8th grade. Makes you wonder how the school administration knows which students to pass on to the next grade. I mean if they don’t have testing now to see how the kids are doing in class, how do they know who passed? The point is that tests happen every day all over the country. I don’t think we need another test. I think we need to go somewhere with the knowledge we have. There should be a standard test required for everyone to get a high school diploma. The subjects should be reading, writing, math, science, sociology, economics, world history, US history, social skills, job skills, resume writing, physical readiness, health, nutrition, sexuality, philosophy, logic, music, art, speech, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, ... Get the point yet? Where exactly do we think our children will get taught all the skills that they will need to be in the work force? At home? How many parents out there would be comfortable teaching their children how to solve a geometry problem? Or how to solve that logic equation? Or how to protect themselves from AIDS? When someone reaches the age of 18, we expect them to be ready to fight and defend our country in the armed forces if they get called. How much more important is that than being able to support themselves if they don’t get called? Not very. "

You can read the rest here:

So, how do we fix the American Business? The distribution of capital must be balanced. FDR started on the right path with Social Security and the SEC, but nobody caught on to what really needed to happen. Question: what is the most powerful statement that you can give an elected representative in a letter or interview? "I am a voter in your district, and whether I support you or not depends on how you deal with my issues." So, we need to make another statement just as powerful. "I am a shareholder in your company, and whether I support your bid for reelection to the Board of Directors depends on how you deal with my issues."

Howard Dean started Democracy for America. We need Democracy for Wall Street.

Chad Lupkes