Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Jesus is all about the money and the deals at Walmart

Bill O'Reilly, theologian:
Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable...
Or they could, if they were of that persuasion, thank Jesus for being born because he died to redeem us. But, forget that, because Christmas is all about the head door buster deals at Walmart.

Beaumont, Texas:
Beaumont Police spent much of Monday answering questions about the incident Friday that sent Walmart shoppers scurrying for open air. Black Friday became big trouble at the Beaumont Walmart after scores of bargain seekers say they were pepper sprayed by an off duty Beaumont Police officer working security.

Officer Aive Ownby says he warned the crowds several times to get back and stop pushing. Ownby said after his warnings were ignored he was forced to use his pepper spray, an action police say was justifiable.
Grand Rapids:
Police think five people were involved in an assault at a West Michigan WalMart. The same place where several people were trampled when the store opened.

It happened at the WalMart in Cascade Township Friday morning.
Orlando:
In Orlando, a man cutting the line in a Walmart was attacked by a group of angry shoppers. Walmart staff had to be called in to quell the situation.
Thanks Jesus.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Garbage funny

For someone who wakes up early enough to watch the garbage guys, this is funny:
We have these cool new trucks in Olympia where there's an articulated arm like on the Space Shuttle and it grabs the cans and hoists it overhead and dumps the contents into the truck. So, the first can gets emptied, the arm goes halfway down, then back up and waits at the top, and I'm thinking some of the linoleum is stuck in the can.

The guy gets out of the truck, climbs up on top of the truck and starts putting stuff back into the can and I'm thinking, "Oh no, what did I do now? No debris allowed? Is it filled with lead or asbestos? Did the metal strips jam the compactor?" -- not likely, I know.

I run upstairs and get on some pants (I've already had a cup of coffee, so I'm thinking ahead) and go out and ask the guy as sweet as I can, "Is there a problem?"

The guy smiles at me and says, "No. No problem, unless you count me forgetting to open the top of the truck as a problem."
I wish Olympia Report had comments, I would comment there.

John G. Bell blogs

And I didn't notice it. Before he quit his race for city council, there was tons of writing from John G. and even a resume. Oh well. From what I can tell, he only blogged about the Olympia City Council once, and not even directly.

I like caucuses

Over at Western Democrat I implied that I didn't agree with David Sirota's post about the shifting schedule of the Democratic primaries. Shifting primaries good, caucuses not so good he said:
...we need to be on the lookout for those who are trying to use the current primary process negotiations and the desire to shift the primary process to actually make the process more insular, and less conducive to insurgent forces. What am I talking about? Well, just look at the states the DNC is considering moving up ahead of New Hampshire – they are Nevada and Colorado.

Those are great states that would offer a lot if they became more important in the nominating process. However, they are caucus states, not direct election primary states. And most who have worked on campaigns will tell you, the caucus process is far more under the thumb of the party establishment than direct election primaries. In other words, frontloading the Democratic Party primary process exclusively with caucus states (regardless of the virtues of any of those particular states) could actually make the primary process even more impossible for candidates outside the establishment to compete.

Look, I'm not saying having Iowa and New Hampshire as the two major primary states is perfect. But I am saying that if we are going to shift around the map, mess with how presidential nominations are awarded, and further frontload the process, we should be looking to states with direct election primaries. At the very least, we should make sure there is an even split at the beginning of the process between caucus and direct election primary states.

The Democratic Party establishment is insulated enough as it is. We need reforms that aren't going to further empower the party big wigs to anoint a nominee – we need reforms that are going to open up the process to populist insurgents that will kick the establishment into gear and finally start winning elections again.

Last year, the caucuses in Washington state were a real, grassroots events. There was some advertising (I think), but most of the politicing was personal. I went to Dean meetups for months leading up to the caucuses, but at the last minute I was convinced to stand undecided. I was actually part of a group that got one vote out of our precinct for uncommitted. It was a real, political civic experience that went way beyond the typical air war type of campaigning with an impersonal (mail in sometimes) vote at the end.

I don't have a problem with voting in general elections, but in terms of party primaries, I'm convinced that local, grassroots caucuses are better than direct primaries. They may result in some strong armed candidates by entrenched powers, but they also reward engagement. The winners show up and fight.

(very) limited wi-fi proposal for the city

I'm reading and learning about muni wi-fi lately. Been talking over email, considering impact... all that fun stuff. If you're really all that interested, here are my posts so far on it:

Two ways to look at muni wi-fi
Oly Muni Wi-fi update
Muni Wi-fi (in Oly)?

If a city-wide system (with its dual streamlined gov't plus free wifi) just isn't in the cards, and a downtown central network would be too hard, too costly or people just wouldn't like it, what why not establish wi-fi networks at the Olympia Library and the Olympia Center?

Damn, crap, poop... MLB PDX is back

The Florida Marlins get permission to move and now Portland is all aflutter with the possibility that major league baseball might move to the Rose City. This is a bad idea, for several reasons, but mostly because it would be bad for the Mariners, and for the Portland team as well.

Here are my two main reasons, which I'll expand on when I have the time:

1. Television market. Right now, Seattle has a decent chance at being succesful over the long term because they have a monopoly over a mid to larger sized television market. If you split that market with Portland, the Mariners would be left with a much smaller tv market, lessening their revenues drastically, and putting both the Mariners and the Portland MLB team in Milwaukee land.

2. No one seems to want to argue for a Mexican based MLB team. There have been two teams founded in Canada, and there have been some MLB road games played in Latin America. From a strickly economic point of view, putting a team in say Monterrey, Mexico makes sense. Three million people, highest quality of life of any major Mexican City, and close to other MLB markets.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christmas Culture War that nobody actually wants

I'll get to Jerry Falwell's "With us or against Us" Christmas farther down, but first I want to explain something:

Christmas is two distinct holidays. One is secular, commercial and begins the day after tomorrow with Black Friday and ends Christmas morning. It is the center of our consumer culture, the reason for our season and such. If you don't go overboard, I guess, there isn't really anything wrong with secular Christmas, I just don't like getting it confused with the other Christmas.

Religious sacred Christmas, some would argue, starts on St. Lucy's Day. Others, myself included, say it starts on Christmas Day and ends on St. Stephen's Day (ah the St. Stephen's Day Murders). This Christmas is very different that the other secular one in that its a religious holiday. And, in an officially secular, not sectarian country, I understand some people don't like to celebrate this one. Far be it for me to force anyone to celebrate this one instead of the other. I like to celebrate it, its the second most important day on the Catholic calendar.

What does piss me off are people (like Falwell) that bemoan the secularism of Christmas, and those that are trying to put Christ back into something that has become a secular, consumer season. They don't bemoan the crassness of the season, the craziness of Black Friday, people running over each other at 5 in the morning running for DVD players. No, they sue Target who (this isn't actually true) ban "Merry Christmas" from their stores.

So says David Batstone at Sjourners:
The American Family Association... announced a boycott on all Target stores, because, according to the group, the retailer has chosen not to use "Merry Christmas" on advertising and in-store promotions. Disputing that charge, Target spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I don't know where they're coming from. We have no such policy on Christmas. You can see it in our stores."

Her denial is unnecessary anyway, in my mind. If a store chooses to honor the holiday traditions of all its diverse shoppers, why should I punish their embrace?

I know that I am not the only American - Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other - who can't be troubled to join these cultural wars. Share the joy of Christmas and Hanukkah - which begin on the same day this year - with each other. And express it in the way that delivers your best wishes. Those who are looking for offense will find their cause. Look instead for ways to celebrate the gifts of the season together.

I want to celebrate a religious holiday, and I don't want to get it confused with a secular one. By pushing for more religious behavior in the secular Christmas (shopping malls, Target Stores, government in general) it ruins the sacred nature of Christmas. It cheapens it.

If they want to attack the crass, commercial Christmas, then do that. Go after the nature of our retail economy that literally depends on our spending habits during December to stay in business. Attack the consumer nature of our culture, that somehow if we don't have the newest or shiniest things, we are lesser. Their point isn't to attack consumerism, just to throw a Jesus blanket over a consumer holiday and call it good.

By setting up false choices like a "secular consumer Christmas" vs. "secular consumer Christmas (+Jesus)," the right announces a culture war that doesn't really exist. People should be able to participate in an American consumer tradition (no matter how shallow), while still being able to follow their own particular religious tradition. Mine, for example, doesn't include "He's the reason for the season" buttons in Wal-mart.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Two down, five to go

A couple of days ago TJ Johnson became the second Olympia City Councilmember to register and participate at Olyblog. Good on TJ for making the effort. TJ is the second city councilmember (well, kind of) to get in on the action at Olyblog. Sorry, Jeff you're only a city councilmember "elect" right now.

And, it was a hell of an effort. He really hung in there in a discussion on the downtown Business Improvement District that covered online anonymity, the political make-up of the council, the Nuclear Free Ordinance, among other things.

Hopefully, other city councilmembers will feel empowered by Jeff and TJ.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Just got back from the Walmart Movie

There are four more screenings of Walmart: The High Price of Low Cost this week. Worth seeing.

A couple things stuck me about the movie. There's a story in the end of the movie about Inglewood, CA and how they kept Walmart out of town. I remember the story of how Walmart paid for an voter's initiative to except them from local zoning, and that it failed. This part of the movie reminded me of the difference between professional politics and amateur politics.

There's also subtle points in the movie, a picture of George W. Bush on an Arizona anti-Walmart activist's wall and a former hardware store owner in Ohio saying that he's "a conservative," where you realize that this isn't a partisan issue. Or at least, we haven't made it a partisan issue. It's not like the Democratic Party is beholden to the Waltons:

Republican candidates are the big winners in this year's election. They received about 85% of the company's (Walmart's) contributions, including those of its political action committee, employees and children of founder Sam Walton.

Wal-Mart's rise is significant because of the impact it might have on congressional debates about health care, labor and other hot-button regulatory issues, says Larry Noble, the center's executive director. "They're clearly making a move," he says.

The company has more than $250 billion in annual revenue. (No. 2 is General Motors, with $187 billion in annual revenue.) Wal-Mart is also the USA's biggest private employer, with 1.2 million workers.

We always say that Democrats win on home-front issues, economics, healthcare and the environment. Using Walmart as a wedge and forcing Republicans to defend them... I don't know, why wouldn't it work?

Sign of success: Olyblog's first open thread

You know you have a good blog going on when folks get so carried away on the comment threads that you have let some steam off with an open thread. You'll notice I've never done that here (sniff, sniff). Anway, let some stream off yourself.

What I really hope this means is that the "blog-oh-sphere" in Olympia is turning a corner, that the online discussion actually means something here other than just people like me yelling into the wind. One city council member elect has gotten into the mix on Olyblog. I hope this grows.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Two ways to look at muni wi-fi

Ok, from my reading so far, there are two ways to look at municipal wireless systems: "good for Emmett" and "good for Olympia."

Good for Emmett would include being able to go downtown and not worry about being able to find an access point, it would just be there. That example is just on the surfaces, so sit and think for awhile about the various personal use applications that you would have if you could carry around an internet device and always have access. Buy tickets on the way to the movies, carry on a real time conversation on Olyblog.

Good for Olympia would be the sort of applications that a city government would get out of a wireless network. This would include applications that would aid the day-to-day operation of government, such as checking parking meters, emergency response, etc...

Or, as the Dayton, OH IT director puts it:
You go back, I give you the work ticket, you go out and do it. Well, if I can do that while you were rolling and while you're fixing that pothole, I can send you via the system -- via the Web -- "Oh, by the way, your next job is right around the corner."

From the city standpoint, ... we could do things like automated meter reading for all of our water meters so that eventually, we don't have a whole fleet of people just running out reading meters every day, 20 working days a month, just to get all those 77,000 meters read every month to bill somebody. Well, if you take 30 people off the city's payroll, think of how much money that saves in taxes.
The way these could tie together financially in a muni wi-fi system would be that while most residents would get the benefit of a free system (well, not really free the city would pay for it), big users (the city, county, the port and private companies) that would really see a benefit would pay subscriptions for broader access.

Holy crap Steve Klein, what happened?

Most of the folks I supported won, all except Phyllis. Which I feel bad about, I think I'll always look back at her campaign as being something I could have worked harder on.

So, no big surprises, except (holy cow) Steve Klein getting destroyed in Yelm. Even though he spent apparently $50,000 on the race, he was beaten 4-1 by Ron Harding (I should note that us TCYD's endorsed Harding Klein, mostly because he showed up to our forum).

Anyway, I didn't assume that Klein would win, but I thought that his spending so much, even going to the point of burning campaign movie DVDs as handouts, would get him above 45 percent. I really assumed it would be a tight race. As far as I can tell, maybe spending $50,000 in Yelm isn't the best idea. Maybe that was the thing that really hurt him, that he thought he could buy the seat.

Although even in Olympia being out-spent by your opponent isn't the kiss of death, especially if you have some sort of incumbency (Harding was already on city council). Two years ago, Laura Ware was outspent 3-1 by Sandra Miller and still won a decisive victory. Ware won because she had the big issue of the day on her side (she opposed the convention center) and she raised enough to get her message out there.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Oly Muni Wi-fi update

Just about a year ago, there was a seemingly short discussion within the City of Olympia on wi-fi, with the conclusion to sit by and wait for the technology to come to them.

In Tumwater, there apparently been a larger discussion on setting up a few city owned wi-fi hotspots, with the cost at around $8,000 (scroll down to page 26).

I went down to the Olympia Library and the Community Center yesterday with my PDA, assuming that it would have been pretty easy for the city to set up small, private, wireless networks in either place. Nope, no signal as far as I could tell.

Also, apperantly, someone is setting up a cooperative wireless system (Cirgo):
Objectives of the wireless group are to create and maintain a low cost citywide wireless network for providing access to Internet services. Currently, no citywide network exists. Initially, the project will be piloted in downtown Olympia and if successful, will be expanded to the greater Olympia area and to other rural towns and counties in Western Washington.

Friday, November 04, 2005

My Oly Film Festival Plans

For all the folks that were bashing downtown during the campaign season (Will someone please do something about DOWNTOWN?!?!??), I want to point out that among other things, downtown Oly has a world class film festival starting tonight.

My film plans for this coming week include, but are not necessarily limited to:
Interstate 5, 107 Miles South and
Fishermen's Terminal

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Muni Wi-fi (in Oly)?

I've been interested in Municipal wi-fi for awhile, but it wasn't until just recently when Keri and I stayed in downtown Spokane and enjoyed their free wireless access, that I really began thinking about it. Thinking about it in a "We in Olympia should do something like this."

I'm going to be reading more about this. Here's my first reading list:
Wired: Wi-Fi Cloud Covers Rural Oregon
Joho the Blog: Is free municipal wifi good?
Muniwireless (I know it's not an article... I'm going to peruse their offerings)

City of Tumwater polls and calendar

Speaking of getting engaged online to foster civic engagement (see below), the City of Tumwater currently has two online polls running. One asks how everyone likes the new website, another asks for input on John Dodge's idea from a few weeks ago about moving the old brewery whistle to the FishBowl brewery (the community's last working brewery).

In addition to the polls, the city's website also has a calendar with an RSS feed. Sweet.

Jeff Kingsbury Speaks! uhmm... I mean posts

Awhile back I posted on the benefits of elected officials and candidates engaging in conversations that are happening online. If there are conversations going on anywhere in our community that regards why your running or the business of the city, it pays to be engaged.

One mayor from back East actually considered such conversations as a normal part of being a mayor:
"“On the street, it's just like "‘Oh, I saw you on the cable station."’ Now I get "‘Oh, I saw you on the blog."” Ed points out that an appearance on a blog'’s comment threads can humanize an elected offical, and that a note directly from the mayor can temper the conversation, too. "“If I go on directly and respond, if I personify the discussion" he says, "“people are more careful about what they say."”
A few days ago, I started a thread over at Olyblog about Ira Knight's interview on KGY. Like most posts on olyblog.net, it started a vibrant discussion, and now, Ira's opponent, Jeff Kingsbury is getting into the mix. He's not bashing Ira by any means, but simply discussing the merits of a downtown parking garage.

Good on ya, Jeff. I hope this encourages more council candidates and future and current city council members to embrace the growing blog community in Olympia.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ira Knight Speaks!

Pulling out of the garage this morning, I heard Dick Pust on KGY preview his morning interview, saying something like "It's a man who's running for local office, but I'm not going to tell you who yet." And, I thought sarcastically, "Yeah, I bet its Ira Knight."

It was! Ira Knight Speaks! (this deserves exclamation points because up until this point, Mr. Knight hasn't been to any public forums).

Dick went right into the source of the recent controversy regarding Knight's candidacy, whether he supports same sex partner benefits for city employees. Obviously Knight doesn't, but he wanted to stay on the mantra that "everyone has the right to pursue happiness in their own way," but he also pointed out that gay marriage, for now, is not legal and that he would stick to the law. He went on to say that if the law pertaining to the nature of marriage changed, he would respect that.

Dick also repeatedly said that Knight "opened his mouth" on the topic of gay rights/marriage/benefits, which Knight never refuted.

Other topics that Dick and Ira covered included solving the downtown "problem," sidewalks and traffic.

On downtown, Ira suggested the creation of a space where local residents could come by and hire for a day someone who was out of work. His central theme on downtown being that the problem was a lack of responsibility, and that giving handouts would not solve the problem. The problem being homeless people I guess.

On sidewalks, Ira said that he would be his number one issue when he was elected to the city council. If you're wondering why Ira wasn't involved in the Walk Olympia campaign last year (that brought in the first significant sidewalks investment in years), it was because he hadn't walked around Olympia that much before. Ira discovered the deplorable state of our sidewalks while doorbelling for city council. I guess when you live out on Lilly Road, you don't notice a lack of sidewalks driving downtown.

It was nice that Ira mentioned that when he was doorbelling a lot of people said they didn't get to see elected officials all that much.

Ira said on traffic problems that the city government should plan ahead. I wonder why they didn't think of that before, it sounds so easy.

At the end of in the interview, Dick asked him if there was anything that he wished he had been asked, and Ira told him about his time serving in the 89th Air Wing, the unit that maintained and flew Air Force One. I think this is a direct quote, but Ira said, "If you aren't doing your job, they'll get rid of you in a heartbeat." That he served in that unit for 11 years speaks to his makeup as a person.