Friday, August 5, 2011

A Rant: Who Broke It & Who Owns It?

“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.” - Lord Acton
Secretary of State General Colin Powell is famous for making the statement “if you break it, you own it” in regards to the idea of invading Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Here's what he actually said: 'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' he told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.'
Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.

Of course, President George W Bush ignored this sage advice, since his mind was already made up, with false propaganda to convince the silly politicos that make up Congress, and gullible US citizens it was a good plan -because of 'WMD' [Weapons of Mass Destruction]. That there were no WMD didn't stop us then, which should be a cause for our continued concern.

Was it -the invasion- a good idea? Despite the current changed status of Iraq, was it really worth the costs?
Time will probably tell, but only if we assess this chapter of history truthfully.

Colin Powell was right; we did break Iraq and have had to own it for several years, with no final end in sight.
But, maybe rather than relying on sage advice and learning from history, we'd rather just do our thing, anyway?
Then, find out for ourselves what the 'unintended consequences' are?

That seems unnecessarily wasteful and risky to me, but hey, this is America! We can do whatever we want, and don't forget it!

Our founders would turn in their graves, if they haven't already.

A similar perspective can be applied to our struggling economy. If we break it, we own the results.

The expensive wars in Iraq & Afghanistan might have seemed necessary after 9/11, but how has that worked out?
The answer is it hasn't worked out very well, except to saddle the US with enormous debt, casualties and diminished international respect.
Remember, the cost of both wars in the Mid-East were not actually shown in our national budget; they were financed off the books, and contributed enormously to our 'debt ceiling'.
Talk about kicking issues & costs 'down the road'!
That's what the past administration has done to this one, isn't it?

And, of course, its happened before - both ways

All the recent talk about limiting 'spending' in Washington conveniently ignores the egregious excesses of the Republican ideologues who controlled our government for the first 8 years of this century, as well as the legitimate commitments made that need to be honored.
Now, again, the current administration is faced with cleaning up the mess left by others.

I hate that when its done to me, don't you feel the same way?

The major political fights we've seen all too frequently amount to mostly name-calling and finger pointing, without much regard for citizens in general.
The bail-out plans initiated by the Obama crowd have actually worked pretty well, despite the bad-mouthing by those who had no plan of their own.
But, what about TARP? That was Bush's giveaway, without any provision for repayment!
And, the tax cuts that have seriously reduced our ability to pay for other essential services.

It always amazes me how political spin remains so successful at fooling people, even despite the facts and common sense.

While we're at it, where does the so-called 'Tea Party' get to share in blame for the fine state of affairs we're faced with?
Why, they are just so proud of being difficult, even within their own party!
But, being very good at saying 'no' doesn't really help solve anything, does it?

Now that health-care reform has been initiated and the 'debt ceiling' debate is semi-settled for the present, they also relish kicking those cans down the road.
The sad thing is, it's not really about anything but partisan political preferences -and that goes both ways.
Some insist on wishing to impose their will upon the rest of us - the majority for god's sake!

That ain't gonna work out very well for any of these two-bit ideologues, as the polls are beginning to show.
Aren't they accountable, too?

The level of dysfunction that has developed recently will also have repercussions that we won't like down the road.
Just look at what has happened as a result of the 'debt ceiling' posturing and brinksmanship.
Confidence in America has dropped like a rock, by international entities and the financial sector.
Largely because Congress can't be trusted, the stock market experienced its 9th largest daily decline in history -513 points.
Is that an unintended consequence?; I think so!
Who's accountable for that?

And how about the prolonged recession; think that might be partly caused by lack of confidence too?
The jobs situation is genuinely troubling and at the root of many other ills our society faces.
But, we can't get Congress or the Administration to create a jobs program that puts people back to work doing things -like infrastructure construction and repair - that everyone agrees need doing!

Add to that the ridiculous FAA funding debacle, that succeeded in idling almost 80,000 workers and threatened untold impacts on air travel, tourism, and our business economy in general.
What's up with that? Another ideological chasm, that's what.

'I'm sick and tired of this ongoing BS, and I ain't gonna take it anymore!' Who said that? Howard Jarvis of California's Proposition 13 fame?
I wish more people would get so fed up with our dysfunctional system that they demand some meaningful changes in the way our representatives behave.
After all, that is probably the only thing that will get their attention.

And, I'm not talking about another hot-headed Tea-Party clone, either.
That just allows passions to cloud good sense.

I'm talking about good old fashioned righteous indignation, regardless of stupid party affiliations!
Where does the Constitution say anything that authorizes political parties to usurp the power of citizens?

While we're at it, what about all the silly rules and procedures Congress decides to use to do its business?
Some rules are necessary, so use Robert's or Sturgis, but not caucuses, filibusters, riders and clotures and all that baloney.

And do the work out in the open, with up or down votes that everybody can see and understand!

And find a way to get money and influence peddling under control, too.

I hope those games aren't included in any measure of our Gross National Product!

So who broke our system? We did, by degrees of neglect, un-involvement and private agendas.

Who owns it? We do, warts and all.

How does it get fixed? We fix it, by demanding changes and getting engaged and involved ourselves.

As much as I disagree with Tim Eyman on many of his public initiatives, he's got some things right; like the concept of a permanent offense that never lets up.
If he can be successful using that approach with some of his BS beefs, just imagine how successful we, the people, can be with effecting systematic change in our governments at all levels!

But, it ain't automatic, folks, so unless you really mean it, just sit back and quaff whatever you're drinking and hope that helps you stomach this mess we're in.

At least until next rant, have a nice day!
Political atheism: End justifies the means. This is still the most widespread of all the opinions inimical to liberty.” - Lord Acton

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Coal Terminal:Whatcom Watch Remembers Cherry Point Agreement

If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development. - Aristotle
One of our local treasures, the monthly publication known as Whatcom Watch, has archives that serve as a valuable institutional memory for folks who can't remember, or never knew anyway, about key environmental issues. A recent blog contains links to Whatcom Watch articles by Preston Schiller and Marie Hitchman. The Hitchman article, in turn references earlier articles as described following.

For example, the contentious Cherry Point issue that has recently demanded our attention, isn't really that new. It's roots go back before many current citizens even lived here. The December 1998 issue of Whatcom Watch contained two or three articles that captured the flavor of that time around the issue of how to utilize Cherry Point while preserving its surrounding environs.

Another salient archive is the first article here, also authored by Dave Schmalz in the August/September 1999 issue. It has to do with chronicling a settlement between multiple parties and SSA, which require 18 months to reach. The object was to focus on the one additional marine loading pier that might be permitted at Cherry Point, with special emphasis on safeguarding the shoreline and connected ecologies.

The parties did come agreement on several points, but that is now moot because SSA has decided to unilaterally terminate its part of this good faith effort. Why did they do this? Because they felt -knew- it would interfere with their current plans to build a much larger loading wharf to handle coal -48 million tons of it every year.
Is that OK with you?
Do you even have a voice in the matter?
Those are the questions that SSA would rather not be asked.

Maybe their latest unauthorized clearing and grading of access roads through known wetlands illustrate their preferred method of just doing things because they want to, then accepting a minimal slap on the wrist for it?
This Get Whatcom Planning blog wonders what mitigation might be required to retroactively repair the damage done.

Reading the Whatcom Watch article written by Dave Schmalz in the August/September 1999 issue summarizes what was agreed to back then, and who the parties to the agreement were.
Strange how all the parties, with the sole exception of SSA, want the essence of that agreement to remain in effect.
Maybe it also needs strengthening, too, especially in light of the current, much different SSA proposal.
Also, more stringent regulations have subsequently been adopted to more certainly protect our shorelines and critical areas.

Or, maybe you are one of those who think SSA's original scheme is somehow magically vested, and therefore exempt from further review?
That notion is a pipe dream that could easily turn into a nightmare, and probably ought to.

This article and embedded link was posted today by John Stark on the Herald's Politics blog.
History, to be above evasion or dispute, must stand on documents, not on opinions. - Lord Acton

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coal Terminal: Playing Defense

Don't count your bowling balls before they're hatched, Fred - Barney Rubble

Boy, these last few days have seen quite a spate of published articles related to the Proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.
The former trickle is turning into a torrent, as citizens' interest has definitely been aroused!

Its good that the public has finally gotten pretty engaged in this discussion, which is now also bringing into question what our State and National policies should reflect in matters involving energy and environment, and not just 'jobs'.
Jobs certainly matter a great deal, but every job is not necessarily very desirable or sustainable for everyone, is it?

Think about migrant workers, menial laborers and service workers of all sorts, and all manner of below minimum wage employment. These do fill some needs and help people survive, and of course they also save us from paying the real costs on many goods and services, but they are not anywhere close to 'livable wage' jobs - which are in great demand and scarce.
So, we have to be careful about what is meant by 'jobs'.
Not all are created equal.

But, back to the real GPT issue; several more articles have appeared today, some covering similar aspects of this issue that have been previously reported. The main difference with these more recent reports is that they further expand our understanding as an integral part of a much larger picture, plus a little corporate graffiti thrown in, meant to distract us from honest discourse.

For example, today's Herald story fits our local issue into the arena of National policy and its global implications. Do we get to claim concern over increased use of non-renewable resources, while allowing -and actually facilitating their export elsewhere?
That's called double-speak at best and other epithets at worst.

Rather than dumbing down the conversation to for & against jobs, the emphasis ought to be on what kind of jobs, how many, and how much value-added content can be incorporated into our exports.

The Herald's Political Blog carried this tardy AFTER THE FACT admission from SSA Marine that it 'had made a mistake'. That's not very comforting is it? If it doesn't enhance my confidence in SSA Marine's ability to get small, preliminary work done, what does it say about their ability -or commitment - to responsibly manage the impacts of a huge export terminal?

At some point, 'mea culpas' aren't nearly enough! That point is now past.

Today's Cascadia Weekly Gristle echoes the Herald Blog, averring SSA Marine has some 'splainin' to do.

But, The Weekly's Lead article is even more troubling since it indicates a persistent attitude of non-cooperation seems to pervade SSA, leading to the undoing of a negotiated agreement with several public interest groups, including Whatcom County, the Washington State Dept of Natural Resources and about a dozen other groups.

You know, if SSA Marine has thumbed its nose at an agreement designed to protect our own natural resources, why should we believe they will act as good corporate citizens once trainloads of coal descend on our community to load mega ships from somewhere else?

Seems to me that trust and good will must be earned and not just arbitrarily dismissed! Maybe SSA just thinks they have the power to impose their will on us, the public? That strategy doesn't work very well around here!

SSA is acting like a bunch of neanderthals who not only want to throw rocks at people, but sell them to other neanderthals as well. And all this time, I had hoped humans had evolved beyond that mentality!

Guess I watched too many cartoon figures like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, while I should have been reading more Sun Tzu: 'Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack'. and maybe Von Clausewitz.

This afternoon again produced several more articles, including these:

• The Bellingham Herald reports on a curious telephone 'survey', that I also received on Monday.

• Another Herald report tells us that Whatcom County has fined SSA $2400 for the costs of investigating previous wetlands clearing misdeeds on their Cherry Point property.

• Yet a third Herald article reports that Skagit County has also decided to get involved with the GPT issue.

• From Bob Simmons at Crosscut is this corroboration of SSA's admission? of 'mistakes'.

So, from a late-blooming summer, the temperature has now risen considerably, both literally and figuratively.
'Bout time!

I'll hold off on more updates at least until morning.
Have a good read or two.
Offense sells tickets, Defense wins championships

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Coal Terminal: Another Update

'When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber' - Winston Churchill
As the ongoing debate continues, more views are being expressed, most of them by folks with names they are willing to reveal.
But, there are still some cowards out there who prefer using 'anonymous' or some other pseudonym as their nom de plume, cloak or shield.

While I can't blame folks for not wanting to paint targets on their backs, I can fault those media which continue to encourage those who seek to disrupt honest exchanges of facts and views.
Why some media promote poor behavior by allowing excessive anonymity and blatantly bad comments, I'll leave for them to explain - if they even care.

I felt strongly enough about this to have posted this blog about it. Embedded in that blog was this more humorous approach for promoting good netizenship.

But, enough on this sub-topic for now.

Several more postings have occurred regarding the Gateway Pacific Terminal proposal:

• Bob Simmons offers this article in Crosscut. This reaches quite an audience in the Seattle area and beyond.

• Jean Melious has posted this piece in the blog Get Whatcom Planning. The area of discussion is the SSA Property
between Kickervile, Lonseth, Gulf, Henry Roads.

• John Stark published this writing in the Bellingham Herald. This attracted many 'public' responses, quite a few ugly and off-topic, as has become standard of the Herald. [They really do need to review their policy about 'public' responses, don't you think?]

It is apparent that this issue has attracted considerable attention, both locally and elsewhere, and that is good.

That's all for now folks, but stay tuned.....

OOOPS, Another article by Stark in the Herald.

Two more late additions from the August 2011 edition of Whatcom Watch:

• From Preston Schiller this article

• From Marie Hitchman this piece

And a new posting from Jean Melious on Get Whatcom Planning that shows clearly the areas on SSA property in question
“My experience in government is that when things are non-controversial and beautifully coordinated, there is not much going on” - John F Kennedy

Monday, August 1, 2011

Coal Terminal: Update on Developments

Joel Connelly has weighed in on the Coal Terminal issue in the Seattle P-I.

John Stark just posted 2 articles on this subject in the Bellingham Herald.
The first relates to SSA's response to its unauthorized clearing on its property at Cherry Point.

The second announces the breakdown of discussions between SSA and a coalition of public interest groups over modifying an agreement initially completed 12 years ago regarding an earlier terminal proposed for Cherry Point.

Both these developments are troubling, since they seem to reflect a consistent arrogance and disdainful attitude on the part of SSA.

Now, a third posting by Stark reveals Whatcom County communications to SSA's contractor regarding clearing at Cherry Point.

And now, Carl Weimer's request for info from County Planning.

Also, I just got a phone survey call from a number in area code 253.
Two questions; Was I aware of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, and was I in favor of it or against.
That's it, short and sweet.

Think this thing is heating up?