Friday, May 29, 2009

State Party Caucuses

I'm reading the minutes of the WSDCC Executive Board, and this caught my attention:

Page 5, Line 20:

20 O. Dwight Pelz disagrees with the resolution’s statement that caucuses

21 are a good way to get individuals involved. Outreach should take

22 place through the local parties. State Party organizations should be

23 helping with the governance of the Democratic Party in Washington

24 State.

I can see what he is saying, but in my experience it just doesn't work that way. People can get engaged by the party in several ways, including both candidates and issues. In my case, I walked in to see what it was like, and then spent 6 months fighting cancer. I came back with a vengeance, and the intention of pushing health care reform as hard and as far as I could. The 46th already had the right platform plank. Heck, the state party has the right platform plank, not that anyone with real power in Olympia or Washington DC cares.

And that's the problem. I read the platform, and I watch the news. Our elected officials don't seem to care about our platform, at least not after election day. We don't see most of them working specifically to enact our platform planks. And that means they either don't understand our positions on the issues when they are not in front of a microphone, or it doesn't matter to them and they just want to push their ideas. If any individual candidate comes out with the perfect solution to any problem, that's great! Let's get that solution into the platform.

So the only thing that issues-based activists can do is to organize. Which means building coalitions between legislative districts, and between counties. The ONLY place to do that is at the state party level. That's why I worked to put (and keep) the Progressive Caucus together, fighting as hard as I could over the last few years to make it mean something to people beyond the state committee members. There are plenty of health care advocacy organizations out there, and they're not all doing what they need to do which is to work within the party to help identify and elect candidates that will actually fix the problem. If they are invited to work within the party, they'll be so much more successful. But if all of their outreach efforts are limited to the local party organizations, they're sunk.

Just like our platform planks.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Edith Evangeline {Putnam} Brandon (1913-2009)

Edith Brandon crossed the veil at 7:05pm on Thursday, May 28th, 2009. I had gotten an email from my mother earlier in the day saying that she was taking a turn for the worse, and then another from my uncle saying that she was not expected to last the night.

Debi, Shea and I had just finished dinner, and we raised a toast to Grandma asking that her passage be peaceful. We also played one of my favorite songs for the toast:

i'm over on the other side
where life and death softly divide.
left my skin and bones behind
now i'm over on the other side.

can you feel me there with you?
my breath is gone but i'm not through.
loved you then and i still do
from over on the other side.

i can fly. really fly.
below the earth ... all through the sky.
tell em all i did not die.
i'm just over on the other side.

it's good here on the other side.
the sweetest songs...the bluest skies.
thank you for the tears you cried
but it's good here on the other side.

i can fly. really fly.
below the earth...all through the sky.
tell em all i did not die.
i'm just over on the other side

the world is smaller than a needle's eye.
where life and death softly divide.
when you leave your skin and bones behind
i'll be waiting on the other side.

i can fly. really fly.
below the earth ... all through the sky.
go tell em all i did not die.
i'm just over on the other side.

Don Conoscenti

If you've read all the way down to this, thank you. Please do listen to the song if you get a chance. The live version is not quite as good as the recorded version on his album Paradox of Grace, but it's a wonderful song in whatever form.

By the way, the song ended and we left the condo to head down to Kent at 7:05pm.

Touch magic, pass it on.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bankers in the Palace

"In days of yore, when investors were brave,

And journeyed from their bonds and savings,

Trusty men were called upon,

To speak of opportunities worth raving.

They helped themselves to fees and charges,

And drank from crystal chalice.

Oh, it was a stirring sight,

Those bankers in the palace.

And some things still haven't changed.  Hit us, boys!"

So, Chase sweeps to the rescue, under orders from the FDIC or whomever.  And over the last year they have slowly been digesting what they ate.  This morning, after being shut down all (holiday) weekend, they went live with all accounts on  So I went in to see how it was.  There are some changes, most of which I could get used to.  But then I went to my financial management software.

WAMU had opened up the protocol allowing people to access their accounts through Money or Quicken without any charges.  Chase, it seems, wants to charge me $9.95 per month for that.

They had a link to their full list of fees and charges.  Here it is.  Anyone else outraged?

Ok, I'll admit it.  I was spoiled by Washington Mutual.  But fundamentally, at least the way that I understand the way a bank works, the profits for a bank are the difference between the interest rates that they charge on loans and the interest that they pay on savings.  That's what a bank is supposed to do.  If they are charging fees, it's to discourage bad behavior and teach people how to handle their money responsibly.

What Chase, and I'm sure a lot of the other monopoly level banks, seem to want to do instead is charge fees instead of being smart about who they give their loans to.  If people can't pay back their loans, DON'T GIVE THEM THE LOANS.  Why is that difficult to understand?  Oh, but they're allowed to charge all these fees, and they can sell the loans on the open market...

I'm going to call them and try to make sense of whether they are going to charge me for accessing my accounts online through a third party.  If they do, I'm taking my banking elsewhere.  Anyone know of a good bank that isn't out to screw with their account holders?  Anyone?  Bueler?...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Trying again with a question from Thursday night

Thursday night was the candidate forum hosted by the 46th District Democrats. We worked hard on the questions that were asked, but this being my first time I hadn't thought of one question long enough or hard enough to really put it into the right words. I'm going to try again here.

Here is the original question, posed to the Seattle City Council candidates:

Tacoma has a free broadband network and Seattle has a large amount of unused fiber capacity belonging to private corporations. What are the pros and cons of sponsoring a similar free broadband network and would you support it?

First, Tacoma doesn't really have a "free broadband network". They have a high speed backbone running through the downtown that businesses can tap into and use. They did put $100 Million into a fiber-optic network that connects businesses and residential neighborhoods. Here's an article from August of 2000 about it and what people thought it might do to the economy in Tacoma at the time. So that was badly phrased.

What was most distubing to me was the answers that were given by the candidates for Position 6, including the incumbent, Nick Licata. Both Martin Kaplan and Jessie Israel talked about how it just wasn't feasible right now to do anything with high speed internet at the expense of the city, when our top priority should be economic growth.

... Excuse me?!

Ok, (I thought) maybe I'm missing something. I went to college to learn about technology and how it can spur economic growth. It's a no-brainer to me. Nick Licata mentioned that the council had looked at the issue, is looking at the issue, and might again look at the issue in the future. But it's not something that we can do right now, what with all the work it would take to place the lines and set everything up.

... Excuse me?!!!

In a discussion with Rusty Williams later, who had done a little bit of reading on the subject, he sent me this note:

As an IT major and a veteran of the dot com era, nobody knows better than I do the economic energy that it produced. One technological idea I have is to install a fiber optic network throughout the city. This network would be the uber-high speed conduit for deploying the City's digital media services. But the beauty would be in licensing this network to entrepreneurs who in turn would compete for our communications dollars resulting in better service, lower prices and better features. Imagine getting only the television channels you want. Or changing vendors when you are dissatisfied. We could see an end to the current oligopoly.

This is closer to the kind of answer I was looking for, but there was still something in the back of my mind bugging me. Tonight, I found it.

Dark Fiber: The region's fiber-optic networks remain largely unused

Seattle doesn't need to install anything. During the 1990's, like the Barenaked Ladies sing, "It's All Been Done". And it's still mostly dark. Meaning unused. Sleeping, like our economy right now.

So, what to do... How about a rephrasing of the question?:

When I was in college in 2002, I saw a report in the Puget Sound Business Journal on the tremendous amount of fiber optic cable under the streets of Seattle that had been installed in the 1990's but had since gone 'dark', meaning super high speed broadband capacity that was not being used. What can the city do to ignite the economic engines of our city by making use of this under-utilized resource?

Candidates, it's your move.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Single Payer talking points

The United States has the best medical technology in the world. That has never been in question. We're not talking about the technology.

The US has some of the best doctors in the world, who know the human body and mind better than anyone, and can do incredible things to repair from damage and disease. That has never been in question. We're not talking about the doctors, the nurses, or any of the other personnel associated with actually keeping us healthy.

The US has some of the most powerful corporations in the world. They have accumulated so much financial and political power that they, not the doctors or the patients, are the ones who make the choice whether the medical technology can be used by our doctors to help us recover from disaster. Whether we're talking about the insurance companies who would prefer not to pay or the pharma companies who would prefer to charge us more, these corporations are the enemy that we are trying to identify and eliminate.

We could cure almost any disease, if we could put all of our resources behind that goal. Right now, the corporations are putting all of their resources towards a different goal. Making more money.

Canada sends their people down here for the technology and the doctors. They don't send people down here to find the financing to pay for them. They take care of their citizens.

We should take care of ours.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Cap and Dividend

Dear Congressman McDermott,

I have been following the carbon tax debate, and I have been reading Peter Barnes from On the Commons. Rep. Peter Holt has introduced H.R. 1862, the Cap and Dividend Act of 2009. I would like to ask you to co-sponsor this bill, which I believe is moving in the right direction.

The purpose of the act is "to cap the emissions of greenhouse gases through a requirement to purchase carbon permits, to distribute the proceeds of such purchases to eligible individuals, and for other purposes."

The model used is already in place in Alaska, where profits from the sale of the oil fields are provided to the citizens of Alaska as an annual dividend. The system provides a higher state of living for the people of Alaska. I think we can use this model to provide a better quality of life to everyone in the US. You can learn more about the concept at the Cap and Dividend website.

I would like to know your thoughts on this bill, and whether you would be willing to sign on as a co-sponsor.

Chad Lupkes
Seattle, Washington

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Senator Baucus decides not to invite anyone who advocates for Single Payer to a committee hearing, and kicks out the members of PNHP who protest his decision.

Senator Schumer decides to introduce a public option that must follow all the same rules as any private plan.

One of my senators, Maria Cantwell, is a co-sponsor of a bill that sets a goal of having "affordable, guaranteed private health coverage that will make Americans healthier and can never be taken away."

Nice words. What do they mean? It means that people make money off the suffering of others.

National Health Care was first introduced in Congress in 1948 by Harry Truman. The Republican congress refused to allow it. So he pushed it into Europe and Japan. The EU is now a stronger economy than we are.

If a predator was living in our neighborhood, the community would be up in arms wanting the police to do something to protect our children. If a wild animal was on the loose we would be up in arms calling the police to do something to protect our children. But when a wild financial predator appears in our sights that has been feeding off our wallets and our children for 61 years, we turn our backs and say that it's just the way things are.

We don't need US Senators who try to calm the people by trimming the nails of the dragon.

We need someone to stand up and become a dragonslayer.