Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Legalize It" and public space

Y'know, I have nothing against people smoking pot if that's their thing, but I don't want to be randomly confronted with clouds of pot smoke as I make my way through downtown as a pedestrian. I'm very sensitive to that shit, and I don't appreciate the secondary 'high'.

Pot should not be treated like cigarettes in terms of open public use. It's bad enough on my nose and lungs since smoking was forced to become a 100% outdoor phenomenon by our enlightened lawmakers, but pot is a drug. I don't wish to be involuntarily drugged because someone else needs to exercise their rights at the expense of mine.

If it's going to be legalized, do it the Dutch way and make it illegal in public, but legal in your home and in 'coffee shops'. That way, everyone's freedom is served as much as possible.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A response to Mitch Stewart's most recent 'scare-mail' from Organizing For America

(in which I address his claim that the Republicans are going to steal the upcoming election via "...the Chamber of Commerce, a right-wing group spending $75 million to beat Democrats this fall, and reportedly taking money from foreign corporations -- some even owned by foreign governments.

These groups are trying to buy our elections, backing candidates who want to tear down everything that makes the middle class strong in this country: things like Medicare, Social Security, even the minimum wage.")

Dear Mitch,

These scare-mails are getting pretty tiresome. I am one of the apparent minority of Democratic-supporting voters who still believe in Obama, and certainly that he has not had enough time to reverse the damage caused by three decades of corporate collusion under Democratic 'oversight', and outright destruction of the country under Republican 'leadership'.

I believe in Obama (though not particularly in his economic advisers), to be quite frank, but I am not buying into the fear-mongering from either political party. Why can't Obama seem to get the Dems to line up behind him, and present the kind of united front for which the Republicans have become famous? Why can't he get together the votes and legislation to reverse the power-grab represented by the recent lawmaking that created exactly what the e-mail to which I'm responding deplores?

It's high time the Dems took off the kid gloves and started playing some good ol' Chicago-style politics. I'm sick to death of watching the Republicans, all too glad to use the Tea Party human-shield-style, take over the discussion and the airwaves, in another brazen attempt to financially finish off the bottom 80% of the population. The Dems are IN POWER for God's sake, and they appear perfectly content to just sit by and let this shit happen! My $25 or $50 donation is not going to stop it if the political will of the RULING PARTY is missing. All the citizen bravery in the nation isn't going to help it if our cowardly representatives are more interested in job security and corporate-fueled warchests than their so-called constituents and the future of our country.

sincerely,

Mike Carlson
Seattle

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hate Obama? Listen up, peeps.

There are many Americans who believe Obama is doin' it wrong, but I ask them: how would the alternative be any better for the bottom 80% of the population? Great - put the Republicans back in office. The opposition is always all holier-than-thou because apparently all they're required to do is oppose everything, not help.

What does our present opposition have to say about the economic crisis? Sit on the money. Dont' borrow. Don't spend. Well folks, I got a little wake-up call for you: spending money is how you and I stay alive. Spending money is how our economy works.

And what does that opposition always want to do first? Tear away the 1% of the budget devoted to actually helping the helpless - yeah, tell that 85 year old granny to pull herself up by her bootstraps! - cut the top income tax rates, and abolish all the rich-folk-specific taxes. After all, those successful people didn't rely on our system or anyone else to get where they are, so fuck anyone who isn't them, right?

It seems to me like no one in this society EXCEPT Obama is saying we need a can-do attitude and we all need to pull together to get through this. Did you all forget this mess took 30 years to make? Did you all forget that recovering from the Great Depression took 10 years and tooling up for the biggest war in history to get us out of it? Kicking the current government to the curb because it didn't have a magic wand to fix everything in 2 years is deranged reasoning.

What does the opposition stand for? Division. Fragmentation. Me against you. Fear and paranoia. I'm no less sick of that tune than I was in 2000. I'll be voting for progressives and tax-and-spend liberals this year, thanks. At least they've got a few ideas other than just saying 'no' to everything, which about sums up the recently unveiled reboot of the Contract on America.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

(One of my occasional replies to Nick Licata's Urban Politics mailer) - boom cars

Hi Nick,

As I occasionally do, I'm replying to thank you for your continued work at making Seattle a more livable and just environment for all its varied citizens. However, as I also do, I want to counter this marginal success (the midnight to 5am wedge of time won by the 'meathead ordinance' is not enough sleep for most people), by asking what you and the council are doing to make the city generally, and south-end specifically, more livable in light of the extremely bass-oriented car sound systems we contend with every day from as early as 6am to as late as 2am, 7 days per week. This is especially problematic and pronounced during the summer months.

Though we have only lived in Columbia City for a year, I have been aware of this problem for far longer. So-called 'boom cars' are a symbol of aggressive and sociopathic behavior. As far as I'm concerned, as I sit in my apartment about half a block from the intersection of S. Alaska and Rainier Ave. S., these drivers are committing assault and battery with their stereo systems. Perhaps that might sound exaggerated, but if someone came up to me and physically shook me as these sub-bass frequencies cause the entire apartment building to resonate, it would definitely count as assault. For those who think this is simply a matter of ear plugs, and that I should be more tolerant, there is no fending off or neutralizing the low frequencies these systems put out.

It's high time the city figured out a way to police these vehicles and their owners; it certainly isn't for lack of police in this area. I know there is already an ordinance stating that sound from a car audio system is in violation if it is 'clearly audible' 75 feet from the source. 'Clearly audible' - being a subjective determination dependent on who is listening and how sensitive they are to such emanations - is an unenforceable standard. The city needs to define this in actual decibels at specific frequencies (with a lower threshold established for frequencies below 200hz), and then extrapolate from there what the actual decibels would be when an officer in a police cruiser is 10-20 feet from that car. Based on that calculation, and measured with an appropriate standardized device, you would have an enforceable standard. This could then lead to an audio analog to traffic cameras and speed monitoring devices, which could then trigger issuing a citation or fine to the offending party. This is not difficult to do.

Needless to say, I have given this a lot of thought. I find it offensive in the extreme that people can drive up and down Rainier, and slowly cruise the quieter neighborhood streets as well, with their thousands of dollars of mobile audio amplification, and inflict this audio assault on the hundreds of people within range of their bass frequencies at any given time. It is antisocial and uncivil at best, a form of physical abuse at worst.

cordially,

Mike Carlson
Columbia City

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

beware of soy

I decided to consciously lay off soy last week, and I feel strangely better. On an average day, I was drinking a couple of 12 oz. soy lattes, had soy milk on cereal one or two days per week, and was getting the constant dosage of soy oils and flour common to way too much refined food.

It got to a point where a soy latte in the morning would leave me with this weird 'full' feeling for 3-4 hours after drinking it. Okay, so a soy latte has about 8 grams of protein, but it shouldn't affect one like that.

So I was doing a little research tonight. Terra recently had to start avoiding soy in any form due to allergic reactions in the respiratory direction. Mix that with my physical reactions, and I thought it wise to look into it. I did a Google search for 'too much soy' and came up with a very interesting Utne article [http://www.utne.com/2007-07-01/Science-Technology/The-Dark-Side-of-Soy.aspx] which confirmed some of what I already knew, and added more.

Basically, excessive soy consumption (which is unavoidable for those eating a highly refined diet these days, along with corn and wheat) contains a high level of plant estrogens, which mess with your hormone levels and screw up your thyroid (and thus metabolism). Research in Japan shows just one glass of soy milk per day is enough to seriously mess up metabolic processes.

Soy and corn are endemic in most food products because they are CHEAP. Soy derivatives and corn syrup have replaced a diverse range of foodstuffs because we overproduce it, or grow it for one purpose and then have to find something to do with all the 'waste' byproducts. A load of inexpensive 'wheat' bread isn't just wheat anymore, folks. Try buying a chocolate bar with an emulsifier that ISN'T soy lecithin; the local Theo brand and a couple of Trader Joe's bars are about all we've been able to find. Hell, even a proper cake donut may contain soy flour - a couple of years ago I was reading the ingredients label on the cake donut flour used by Countryside Donut House in Northgate and learned this.

Feeling blah and lethargic? It might be what you're eating. While my focus at the moment is soy, the bigger problem is a lack of food diversity. I'm going to be working on that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A meditation on love and healthcare reform.

I know that the group of people I am inviting to read this are nothing if not politically diverse. As far as I can tell, there are about equal portions tech-head Libertarians, tree-hugging liberals, and a significant group of social conservatives. So, I know that many of you will have problems with what I'm about to say, but I hope you will read on...

I love a woman who is broken. She is strong, courageous, funny, irreverent, generous, creative, and many other wonderful qualities, but her brain - and by relation, her body - is broken. When I first met her over 6 and a half years ago, she struggled as a mother of two high-needs boys. About halfway through that time, she was diagnosed Type 2 Bi-Polar. Prior to that time she was sure her condition was due to stress-related thyroid/adrenal failure, and was using TCM and thyroid compounds to treat it.

Due to her formerly mis-diagnosed thyroid issue and now-known neurochemical imbalance, she has never been able to work according to the expectations of American culture. Above and beyond the fact that the boys really need a full-time mom and advocate for their needs, no employer would accept what they saw as 'erratic' or 'undependable' attendance, an employee who takes too many sick days. So, since separating from the boys' father 8 years ago, she has squeaked by on wisely-spent child support combined with the small income she could generate from work-at-home self-employment, and modest material support I've contributed for several years. She has never had more than about $10,000 gross income per year.

For the last 18 months I have worked at a solid job with good benefits. This means I have about the same insurance coverage as most working adults my age. The boys are covered under their Dad's insurance.

She has none. She has had none for the last 8 years.

She cannot benefit from mine because we are not legally bound to one another through marriage. It's a long story, but suffice it to say divorce is a long and complicated journey nowhere near its conclusion. She is lost in a legal and financial shuffle all too many women have known at some point in their lives.

Soon after her diagnosis, she began a cocktail of 2-3 expensive drugs, which at standard pharmacy rates would total around $4000 per year. That is a THIRD to HALF of the money she receives each year. The only way she gets what she needs is by being so close to the edge that she qualifies for a free medicine program through Country Doctor, supported by several large pharmaceutical companies. Country Doctor is always hanging by a financial thread, and the pharmaceutical company could pull the plug at any time through profit-driven motives. In other words, it's not a program that creates any peace of mind.

Her biggest and most constant fear for the boys is that something will happen to her. She'll get hit by a car while bicycling. She'll fall and break a leg. Complications of an old, but serious, back injury will worsen over time. In short, something might happen that would make her unable to parent them. These are the improbable but unforeseeable events we all face, and yet for her they are a source of almost overwhelming anxiety because any accident would mean immediate financial ruin.

I'm telling you this because tonight, after all the misinformation, fear-mongering, lies, accusations, and political idiocy, the decision made by just over half of the United States House of Representative means she will no longer live with this gnawing fear. She will be able to get health insurance. She will not be turned away for her pre-existing condition. Her coverage will not be cancelled if she gets sick or her present challenges increase. She will be able to go to the doctor when she needs to and not stay away - exacerbating her condition - for fear of the cost. She will not feel the guilt of being a possible burden to those who love her.

This is what I have won tonight. This is what the boys have won tonight. This is what thousands and possibly millions of other people in similar circumstances have won tonight. We have won a loving woman and mother who will know the medical security and peace of mind most of us take for granted.