Thunder and Lightning

As I sit here North of Seattle, I am in the midst of the second thunderstorm in the area within a week. It is certainly not as impressive as the storm that passed through the region last Sunday night that went on for hours and caused a lot of property damage. The thing is, it seems to me that thunderstorms aren’t that frequent an occurrence in Cascadia.

Maybe we are just lucky. Or unlucky, depending upon how you think about Friday the 13th. But Cascadia is the one region of the country that has the fewest thunderstorms per year. It’s like — I remember one happening last year, but when was the one before, anyway. It’s certainly not like Florida, where they get on on average every four days, all year round.

Not that we can do anything about it. It is interesting to listen to the thunder roll around overhead during the day and watch the light show when it happens at night. And, we got to do both here in the same week.

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Ferry Salish Leaving Keystone

This is another test. It seems that the last one didn’t work for people using XP.

Just trying this out. And the ferry starts to leave about a minute into the video.
Video: Taken by me on Whidbey Island on 10 July 2011.

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Pop Goes the Weasel

Today’s bit of fun:

So, just for fun, we are going to see which version of the tune “Pop Goes the Weasel” that everyone prefers. Two You Tube videos to choose from:

The second one is the one I prefer:

But I’ll let you tell me.

Also, my ulterior motive is to see whether the You Tube links make it to the e-mail system or only appear on the actual blog. Let me know!

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The Death Panel that Would Not Go Away

A recent Wall Street Journal article has brought up the fact that the same provision in last year’s Medical Coverage Law that would have allowed people to discuss their end-of-life wishes with their doctors has been added to the list of procedures covered by Medicare. Listed in the preventative care category, a person covered under Medicare would be allowed to visit their doctor to discuss their end-of-life options, and to have the visit covered by insurance. Republicans, who were comparing this to the institution of “death panels” are of course upset about this.

Oregon’s US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR3), the author of the original rider who then lobbied Medicare to cover the service, claimed a victory with the publishing of the regulation. Republicans accuse him of trying to slip one past them. Again, we have a case of where the Republican Party wants to politicize the minutiae of every health care provision out there.

In face, I am still confused as to how allowing patients to discuss their end-of-life wishes with their doctors (and having the visit covered by insurance) constitutes a “death panel.”

Is the problem that it is uncomfortable to discuss our eventual demise? We will all die someday. I certainly want to live as long as possible, but I have no desire to be hooked up to machines for the sole purpose of keeping the fluids running through my body a little while longer. Is it not reasonable to discuss this with (and ask questions of) my doctor so that I can make a reasonable medical choice?

Or is the problem simply an objection to having the insurance plan pay for such a visit? Is that what this is all about?

In either case, where does “Obama Care” talk about a panel of people deciding our fate? Where does it talk about people making decisions as to whether we live or die? If we are talking about a question as to whether or not the insurer will pay for the procedure, then the insurance system we have now already has “death panels.” Frankly, if we object to this, we should be doing something about that situation now.

It is disingenuous to complain that the insurance plan does not cover every possible medical procedure, then to complain that a plan with such complete coverage would cost too much. And then to complain about “death panels” being formed when the reply is that we will cut costs.

Sarah Palin and her ilk are great at coming up with catchy marketing phrases to communicate their displeasure with a proposal, but are completely and thoroughly unable to formulate a reasonable proposal that would satisfy them.

Each time an issue like this comes up, it just reinforces how ill-equipped the Republican Party is to actually govern. I have to compliment them on their ability to market themselves well to the masses of people who do not follow politics closely. They send a message to those who are not paying attention, yet deserve to be treated better. Too bad their message does not accurately reflect their agenda.

Perhaps are government is not doing as well as it should. There is certainly room for improvement. Yet it would seem to be the height of foolishness to put the people in charge who are openly trying to destroy us. Why can’t the Republicans discuss the issues rationally?

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New Kingston-to-Seattle Ferry Service

Starting this Monday, there will be another attempt to start a passenger ferry service across Puget Sound from Kingston in Northern Kitsap County directly into Downtown Seattle.  This is a public endeavor by the Port of Kingston.  A similar, popular service was operated by a private company in the past, but did not on it’s own make a profit.  Now that it will be run as a public service, it should be a great compliment to the current public transportation system.

Many people see this and similar proposed services as a necessary solution to the issue of the growth of a metropolitan area across an inland sea.  Others, those who seem to look only at their immediate needs, cannot see the necessity of planning for the future of our region.  The same people who delayed the Seattle Area’s long-needed light rail program by 30 or more years would not like to see similar delays in planning for Westward growth from the center of Seattle.

Ignoring the problem will not delay growth, it will only delay the solution.

In reading the article in the Seattle PI, there were many misguided comments below the article.  I took the time to address some of the questions asked there.  Unfortunately, witty barbs addressed to no-one-in-particular are not going to solve any problems, either.

Here are some examples of the kinds of questions that are brought up.  Really, it’s quite easy to make unrelated comments to a non-problem:

Q: Why not spend $4 million on job creation in Kitsap County? A: Why not! Do what they did for the ferry — present the idea to local government, find funding through grants or other means, and go for it! Good for you for getting this started.  In fact, that would truly be a good project for someone.

Q: Smaller boats, smaller crews, bad weather, transiting and crossing shipping lanes, not self-sustaining, no weekend service. A:You support larger boats that require larger crews and weekend service? Not very practical. This service should be a fine supplement to other overloaded services, and will get it’s share of traffic. But, why does this need to be self-supporting out of the farebox when the ferry, train and bus that you (and others) mention do not?

Q: One of the crew members told me that it took 350 gallons of fuel to make for the trip (from Port Townsend to Seattle) —- one way. What was “green” about that? A:Yes, the M/V Snohomish did use a lot of fuel. That is the reason it is not still around. (It was sold soon thereafter for use in San Francisco Bay.)   That is why there is a more appropriately-sized vessel on this run.

Q: Will the $15 fare include seasick pills for rough passages to Seattle in the fall, winter and spring? A: I would presume so. Just like they distribute free Dramamine on the Sounder train. What, they don’t?  Seriously, the former Victoria Express boat has been used in all sorts of weather crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca, without major incident.  Likewise, the Spirit of Kingston is a sturdy craft that has seen all kinds of conditions.  That shouldn’t be an issue in Puget Sound.

Q: There’s nothing green about stimulating sprawl. A: No, there isn’t. But we do have sprawl and population growth in our region. Having a variety of mass transit options is still better than subsidizing more highways and auto ferries for single-occupancy cars into the Seattle area. Ignoring the solutions will not stop the problem.

Somehow, I crave a good intellectual debate on the pros and cons of different transit options across the Sound. Somehow, all of this sniping doesn’t satisfy that need at all. Nor does it answer any questions.

I am looking forward to the success of this new ferry option for commuters.

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Vote YES on Oregon Ballot Measure 74

In 1998, Oregon became one of a growing number of states to permit medical patients who could benefit from using marijuana to relieve their symptoms to do so.  Some people agree that these patients should be able to use the substance if it is beneficial to them.  Others still think that marijuana should not be used under any circumstances, even if it is beneficial.  However, currently, the law does allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients and allows qualified patients to use it.

One problem that has arose is that the patients themselves are required to cultivate their own crop of marijuana, or more likely, acquire it from an unapproved source.  Over time, it has become apparent that a system would be needed to grow the needed crop, without at the same time giving illicit drug providers an excuse to ply their trade.  Thus, we have a plan, with Oregon Ballot Measure 74, to establish a medical marijuana supply system to provide marijuana of a suitable quality and sufficient, consistent strength to safely do its job. The measure would allow limited selling of marijuana to these patients, if it is grown within the parameters of the law.

This seems to be a winning proposition, no matter which side of the original law you stand on.  If you support the use of medical marijuana, you will appreciate the effort to provide a safe supply of the drug to all who need it, without having to turn to a “black market” to get their supply.  If you were against the concept of legal medical marijuana, a no vote on this measure will not change anything about the current situation.  However, the measure will provide a system to contain the distribution of the marijuana.  This would help to keep the people not entitled to receive the drug from doing so, and would curb the increase in places that offer the drug to those needing it.

If you don’t like the idea of medical marijuana, passing this measure will help to control the supply of the drug.  Passing this measure will stop a problem that currently happens in California, where there are few restrictions on who can provide marijuana.

If you do use medical marijuana, or know someone who does, passing this measure will allow the patients to get a proper supply of the drug they need.  It will keep them from having to grow their own, a process that leads to unsure results.

In all, this measure is a winner for everyone.  Please join me in voting YES on Oregon Ballot Measure 74.

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Vote NO on Oregon Ballot Measure 73

It has been popular for politicians who want to show that they are tough on crime to file petitions which raise the minimum sentences that a judge would be able to prescribe to a given felon for a particular crime.  Historically, some of these have passed and some have not.  Oregon Ballot Measure 73 is the latest attempt to try to set “one-size-fits-all” sentence for all criminals who commit the same crime.

In general, I am opposed to blanket laws that set a particular sentence for a crime, taking the authority away from a judge to choose the sentence that fits the needs of the particular criminal.  While it is easy to step back as a citizen and say that we should be harsher on the criminals, only the judge and those persons who worked on the case have the insight in a particular situation to make a correct decision.  Were there extenuating circumstances that make this particular case different than others?  Does the punishment fit the severity of the crime?  Would a different punishment help the offender reform and become a contributing member of society?  We do not live in a one-size-fits-all world.  The punishment must be the proper one.

In the case of Ballot Measure 73, we are taking two very different crimes and deciding what the proper punishments should be.  The measure sets a minimum sentence of 25 years for multiple sex crimes, and 90 days for third-time offenders of driving under the influence of intoxicants.  At a very basic level, I am not quite sure how a person would vote if they thought one of those two things were a good idea and the other was not.  I’m sure the drafters of this flawed measure thought the same thing, and are hoping we will just vote yes to “put the bad guys away in jail.”

Don’t get me wrong here. I believe that most sex criminals should be dealt with harshly.  Rapists should go to prison for a long time.  I also believe that DUI offenders should be dealt with harshly.  But I see no evidence presented that the  sentences prescribed in this measure are the best for each case.  Why wouldn’t a sex offender be best punished with a 20-year sentence?  Or a 40-year sentence?  Wouldn’t the age of the suspect and the particular crime committed have something to do with the appropriate sentence?

In the matter of sex crimes,  I worry about the things that may happen where this sentence does not fit the crime.  We can agree that child pornography is a bad thing.  So, if a teenager sends a naked picture of themselves to friends as a prank, and does it on multiple occasions, do they deserve to go to prison for a minimum of 25 years?  Hardly.  Does a family picture of Daddy giving baby a bath constitute child pornography?  No, however some have been accused of this crime when sending the photos to a developer.  I think we are at a loss if we do not allow the judge to insert come common sense into these situations.  If we feel the need to prescribe a sentence for these crimes, let’s do so after a public discussion of what those sentences should be, and under what circumstances.

Finally, if we are going to institute penalties that put people in prison for longer periods of time, we need to decide how we are going to tax ourselves to raise the money to do this.  We need to commit to paying for this if we pass it, without taking away from schools or police or other necessary programs.

If we want to change our sentencing structure, fine, let’s do just that.  However, this changing things one crime at a time, without appropriate debate on the matter, is simply ridiculous.  So is trying to pass off two very different measures in one ballot measure, without the option to consider one or the other separately.

For these reasons, please join me in voting NO on Oregon Ballot Measure 73.

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Vote YES on Oregon Ballot Measure 72

Oregon Ballot Measure 72 is the third of three Oregon constitutional amendments that were referred from the legislature for approval by the voters.  More than any of the others, this measure is merely a housekeeping measure that legalizes a practice that is common now but was not prevalent when the Oregon Constitution was enacted.

This measure proposes authorizing lowest-cost borrowing for the state’s real and personal property projects. Currently, the state constitution forbids lending the state’s credit or borrowing in excess of $50,000. The measure would amend the state constitution to add a new exception to allow the state to issue general obligation bonds to finance the acquisition, construction, remodeling, repair, equipping, or furnishing of state owned property.

General obligation bonds are the cheapest method of borrowing that the state may use.  This would cost less than the financing arrangements that the state currently uses.

The bonds would save about $5 million on interest costs for every $100 million worth of bonds that are issued. The measure does not actually authorize any bonds, but authorizes the Legislature to enact implementing legislation. The measure prohibits the levy of property taxes to repay the bonds and limits the amount of outstanding bonds to 1% of the real market value of property in the state.

In effect, all this measure is doing is letting the state borrow money for schools and other buildings and major projects at the lowest possible rates.  There is no added risk to the public.  There is no known organized opposition to the measure.

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Vote YES on Oregon Ballot Measure 71

In the simpler times of the 19th century, when Oregon was becoming a state, the State of Oregon was a simpler place.  Travel was not easy, and the government of the time decided that the legislature would meet every other year to conduct the state’s business and to discuss and pas new laws as necessary.  In 1859, this was likely all that was necessary.  Citizen legislators, many in the farming business, would make the multi-day trek into Salem to conduct business, then go back to work when they were finished.  At the time, this was a common scenario on many rural states.Oregon Capitol

Fast forward now to the 21st Century.  Our business is not now measured in annual growing seasons, it runs at the speed of light as the businesses of today are expected to be running continuously to be competitive.  In our state capitol, the governor and the courts are always operating in an effort to keep the state running.  It would only make sense that the legislative branch of the government meet on at least an annual basis.  Currently, Oregon is one of only six states where the legislature does not meet annually.

That brings us to Oregon Ballot Measure 71.  Measure 71 would allow the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives to meet every year to consider the state’s business at hand.  It would allow the legislature to discuss the needs of the state, both in terms of the budget and general law, on a timely basis.  It is about time that we allow this change to occur.

The main fear of opponents to this measure is that a full-time legislature would be on hand to actively change laws all the time.  In fact, the new measure would actually limit sessions to 160 days in the currently authorized odd-numbered years, and to only 35 days in the new even-numbered-year sessions.  That is not exactly a “full-time” legislature by any stretch.  However, it does allow our leaders to get their work done as they should.  There are provisions to extend the sessions in 5-day increments in extenuating circumstances, or to meet, if necessary, in emergency situations.

In fact, there is a subset of the legislature, the Legislative Emergency Board, that considers periodic budget adjustments and allocates needed funds to things that come up between sessions.  This measure would allow the entire legislature to consider some of these matters, rather than only a smaller number of them.  This could have the effect of promoting more accountability within the system.

I would encourage you to consider this constitutional amendment that brings Oregon’s government into the 21st Century.  Please vote YES on Oregon Ballot Measure 71.

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Vote YES on Oregon Ballot Measure 70

Oregon Ballot Measure 70 is one of three amendments to the Oregon Constitution that were referred from the legislature for approval by the voters.  While I am somewhat careful in how I look at any attempt to amend the constitution, these amendments are all small changes that will modernize the constitution without making drastic changes.  That is a good thing.

Ballot Measure 70 would expand the availability of home ownership loans for Oregon veterans through the Oregon War Veterans’ Fund.  A yes vote would extend the home loan program for Oregon veterans  and increases eligibility for non-combat veterans, National Guard veterans, and the veterans who served after September 11th.

The Oregon Constitution currently provides that Oregon combat veterans may receive low-interest home loans from the Oregon War Veterans’ Fund. These veterans must have received an honorable discharge and must have served for more than 210 consecutive days or been released because of injury or disability.  This measure amends the Oregon Constitution to make loans available to more
veterans, including National Guard veterans, others who have honorably served overseas and veterans who have not seen actual combat.  Many of these veterans have served our country, putting their own lives at risk for us.

However, in today’s military, we are using more of the services of national guard and reservists, who may serve over time, but not necessarily for 210 consecutive days.  This measure reflects this reality and would make the low interest home loans a lifetime benefit and would increase the number of honorably discharged veterans and surviving spouses who are eligible for the low-interest loan program.

The number of veterans who would be affected by this is likely small, but it would be an important gesture to make for them.  There is no real opposition to this measure.  It simply updates the constitution to reflect the realities of those serving in today’s military.

Please join me in voting YES on Oregon Ballot Measure 70 in the upcoming November election.

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