Friday, August 07, 2020

Life in the Time Of Virus: The New Normal

Rooms  by the Sea  -  Hopper
Rooms by the Sea - Edward Hopper

We conclude the fifth month of relative isolation. At what point does the new normal become just ... normal?

We are in August, now, and the grass is going dormant, which is to say, brown. Ours is less brown then most, both because of the shade of trees on the property lines and because we have a variety of hardier grasses, moss, clover, weeds, and dandelions filling it.

We have had a few hot days (as in hotter than ninety). Yes, America, we in the Puget Sound region are weather wimps. You look at the national weather map and it is a blotchy cascade of yellows, oranges, and reds, with a little splash of green in the upper left showing human-tolerable temperatures. That splash of green is us. The bad news is that most of us don't have air conditioning in our homes, so various lash-ups are needed to keep cool. My current work station is in the basement library, so I'm doing OK.

Still working from home, of course, and it looks like this will be the case until the new year. We have been revamping the game I've been working on, so I have been busy. The Lovely Bride, shorn of the surly shackles of the tax deadline extension, has been working hard in the ever-increasing gardens of our lawns. I am actually kinda dreading the oncoming fall with its cooler temperatures and shorter days. And then rains will come again.

A routine has set in. I get up with the sun, make myself a duck egg omelette for breakfast with some toast, then work and video meetings, usually ramen and a sandwich for lunch, more work and video meetings, a drink on the back patio, dinner, general collapse/reading/games, and then to bed. We gather with friends once a week on their back patio. I play D&D online one night a week, and have been running a Call of Cthulhu campaign every so often. My local comic store has reopened, so I get out there once a week. And every two weeks I head for the U-District on a Saturday to get more duck eggs. Occasional grocery shopping and prescriptions. And that is about it.

The new deck. With flumphs.
Meanwhile, the household's COVID-19 project, the new back deck, is wrapping up. The old deck off our bedroom was rotting away, and when replacing it we expanded it out by about four feet, creating both a larger upper porch and a covered patio beneath. Re-hung the temple bell. We have hanging chairs suspended from the rafters and the Lovely B has wrapped them with mosquito netting, which has made evening relaxation much easier but look like flumphs are nesting beneath the deck.

With the warm summer days, no commute and a comfortable porch twenty feet from where I write this, I been drinking more, usually wine or a cuba libre on that back patio. So that's been a downside to all this.
The beard has reached its climax growth, and may need a brushfire to clear out the understory.

And I find I've been doomscrolling. That's the term when you get on Facebook or Reddit and just keep on going. Why, yes, show me pictures of your cats. And remind me of meals that people actually had in resturants. It used to be called channel surfing, but it is the screens that have gotten small.

I'm also having sudden flashes of memories of being elsewhere. I normally travel under duress - business trips, family responsibilities, conventions where I am a guest. When I am a tourist, it is because the LB makes the plans and I just show up. But suddenly, I am struck with vivid memories of places I have visited - An evening on the rooftop patio of a Neapolitan hotel, Vesuvius on the horizon, drinking wine. Wandering the hushed and darkened halls of the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. A sushi restaurant in Ashland, Oregon, perched overlooking a creek on a warm day. Pressed duck in France. The Outer Banks after a near-miss hurricane. A cool breeze coming in over the Southern Ocean in Australia. The memories are sudden and vivid and generally positive. Perhaps this is my version of cabin fever - I still have no desire to go anywhere, but the memories of having gone remain. 

The outside world continues. The grocery store is heavily masked, which is very good, and people have gotten used to one-way aisles, for the most part. The local paper is slowly recovering now that it has sports to talk about, in a limited fashion. I see a lot of wide margins and "creative use of white space" in its reporting, though. We did venture out one Sunday with a friend to Verrazano's an Italian place down in Federal Way, which has a deck overlooking the Sound. Good food, great food, socially distanced.

That's about it. Stay safe, folks. More later,

Thursday, August 06, 2020

The Political Desk: Primary Results

I usually wait a couple days before posting the results, because of the nature of our mail-in system. Late ballots can turn the tide in close races. With the first vote count Tuesday evening, about 32% of registered voters have weighed in. Probably we will get to 40%, but that's still low for such an easy process. Yes, I'm going to nag.

Speaking of nagging have you done your census form yet? You can do it over the net. You can do it over the phone. You can do it with a friendly census person who comes to your door. Yes, it is even easier than voting.

Anyway, here's where we stand for the November Election. Candidate with the most votes first. Stuff recommended from this blog in bold. Percentages are provided, but do not add up to 100% because of other candidates. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited by laws which may have changed since I started this paragraph.

Spoilers: Incumbents and those who prefer the Democratic Party did well. Here are the numbers as of Tuesday Night:

US Representative District 9: Adam Smith (73%!) vs. Doug Basler (16%)

Governor: Jay Inslee (51%) versus Sheriff Loren Culp (17%). Note: One of the "Sensible Conservative" commentators declared that if Inslee got under 45%, he was vulnerable. Does not look like it at the moment.

Lt.Governor: Denny Heck (27%) vs. Marko Liias (17%)

Attorney General: Bob Ferguson (54%) vs. Matt Larkin (41%)

Secretary of State: Kim Wyman (51%) vs. Gael Tarleton (44%)

State Treasurer: Mike Pellicciotti (54%) vs. Duane A. Davidson (46%)

State Auditor: Pat (Patrice) McCarthy (48%) vs. Chris Leyba (41%)

Commissioner of Public Lands: Hilary Franz (51%) vs. Sue Kuehl Pederson (23%)

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Chris Reykdal (40%) vs. Maia Espinoza (24%)

Insurance Commissioner: Mike Kreider (60%) vs. Chirayu Avinash Patel (28%)

State Legislative District Number 11 Senator: Bob Hasegawa (94%)

State Legislative District Number 11 Representative District 1: David Hackney (42%) vs. Zack Hudgins (36%

State Legislative District Number 11 Representative District 2:  Steve Bergquist (70%) vs, Sean Atchison (29%)

And that is it for the Primary Round of the 2020 Elections, Washington State. We go into slumber now until October.

In the mean time, have you responded to the Census? 'Cause they got a late start and got a month chopped off their deadline.

More later,

Meanwhile, 75 years ago ...

More later,

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Political Desk: The Jeff Recommends

You got the ballots. You got the links to other recommendations. You aren't doing anything else around the house except re-orging the spice cabinet. Time to vote. Deadline to get them post-marked (or drop them off) is 4 August, next Tuesday.

It is a little odd when the Seattle Times and the Stranger both agree on a lot of recommendations. The Times tends towards the corporate, more centrist candidates, while the Stranger has a love of the more progressive agitators. Yet they agree here on a lot of candidates here, with the Times even endorsing Jay Inslee! (Go read it. They wrap him on the knuckles for stuff they don't like, then do a take-down on his competition).

Here's my summary:

US Representative District 9: Adam Smith

Governor: Jay Inslee. Can't bring yourself to do that? The sanest Republican of the lot is Raul Garcia. You're welcome.
Lt.Governor: Marko Liias
Attorney General: Bob Ferguson
Secretary of State: Gael Tarleton
State Treasurer: Dealer's Choice. Both are going through to November (OK, OK, I'd go with Mike Pellicciotti. Force me into a corner, why don't you).
State Auditor: Pat (Patrice) McCarthy
Commissioner of Public Lands: Hilary Franz
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Chris Reykdal
Insurance Commissioner: Mike Kreider

State Legislative District Number 11 Senator: Bob Hasegawa (only candidate, but a good one)
State Legislative District Number 11 Representative District 1: David Hackney (But yeah, Zack Hudgins has done a good job, too).
State Legislative District Number 11 Representative District 2: Pick 'em.  Both are going through to November. (Fine. Steve Berquist. Go ahead, spoil the surprise).

That's if for my ballot. Now go vote because our Impeached President doesn't want you to!

More later,

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Political Desk: The Fighting 11th

Last one, then we sum up.

The State Legislative District 11 is an oddly-shaped beast. It is kinda dragonish, its upturned head in SoDo, its neck stretching down I-5 past Boeing Field, his forequarters in Tukwilla, its body primarily in Renton, with a wing reaching up 405 to the Renton Highlands and its tale stretching along Maple Valley. My neighborhood, Panther Lake, is somewhere along the back leg.

The legislative districts have three elected officials to Olympia - one senator and two representatives.

For State Senator, 11th district, there is only one candidate. Bob Hasegawa will be re-elected.

For State Representative, Position 2, there are only two candidates, so both are going through. The Democratic incumbent is Steve Berquist.

For State Representative, Position 1, there are three candidates. One has no party preference, is a student of "Austrian Economics", and may or may not be misspelling "intentions" ironically. There are two "Prefers Democratic Party" dudes, and on paper they both look good. Zack Hudgins is the incumbent, has done a good job, and has a lot of endorsements . David Hackney is a strong challenger with great background (former Assistant US Attorney, UN war crimes prosecutor, Harvard Law School) and wants Olympia to do more. This one is a hard call, but I will push David Hackney for primary, at least.

That concludes the (seemingly interminable) slog through the primary ballot. One more, where I sum up, and then you need to go out and vote!

More later,

The Political Desk: Everyone Else

As I mentioned earlier, in Washington State the entire upper tier of the executive branch comes up for re-election every four years. Most of these are positions that do a lot of the executive-level grunt work in the state government, and we have a lot of them. Rather than devote an entire post to each one, I am doing them in one swell foop.

For all of these, I have an incumbent versus a challenger. That makes things pretty easy. Has the incumbent done their job? In doing that job, have they done things I agree with? Have they been swept up in some personal failing, Internet faux pas, or general scandal?.\ If so, let's look at the challenger, and see if they have enough to tip the scales in their favor. That's my system, and it has served me well. 

Let me hit the high points, here:

State Treasurer has two candidates for the office. They will both go onto the November ballot, and we'll talk about them then. In the meantime, vote your heart.

State Auditor has three candidates - two Dems and Rep. The incumbent is Pat (Patrice) McCarthy, and has most recently overseen two major independent audits regarding Unemployment Benefits in the wake of the COVID-19 - one regarding getting payments to those unemployed by shutdowns, and another investigating a fraud scheme that looted the unemployment benefits. She does not oversee unemployment benefits, so I can't go after her for that, but in the later case, fought to get the money back from the fraudsters.. So, OK, she does the job. Her opponents are a Republican who is a "real" CPA (as opposed to just running the state department), and a Democrat who want more "lean business practices," one of those phrases that raise eyebrows from me. Go with Pat (Patrice) McCarthy.

Commissioner of Public Lands  has eight varied candidates, but I really like what incumbent Hilary Franz has done, balancing both the protection of the environment with smart forest development. Her opponents include a guy who wants to rake the forests (and who lists as his community service; "I've never been to jail"), one who wants an investigation of 5G Cell towers, and one recommending organic hemp farming. So, yeah let's go with Hilary Franz.

Superintendent of Public Instruction has its hands full right now with the whole question of whether we open the schools this fall (Spoiler: Not unless things get a LOT better right now). The candidates do not have to declare even a preference of party, so we get a spectrum from a guy who tells you right off he is a conservative to one that thinks we need to reopen the schools because not enough death, to one who wants to scrap everything and  re-institute the Pythagorean academy. Again, let's let the incumbent with experience deal with this particular mess, in particular since Chris Reykdal has an agenda of what he's done and an agenda of what he wants to do. 

Insurance Commissioner :Incumbent Mike Kreider. Has he done the job? Yeah. Well, OK then.

That it? Well, there is ONE more category - the State Legislative District #11. We'll do that next, then wrap up. 

More later,

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Political Desk: Ship of State

Washington Secretary of State primarily oversees the voting, and in the present environment that's a pretty major task. As I mentioned, Washington State is vote-by-mail, so a lot of reponsibility comes down on these shoulders. It is also probably one of the wonkiest offices in the state.

Incumbent Kim Wyman has done a pretty good job, to be honest. There was a major screwup with online voter registration earlier in the year, but they got on top of it and resolved it. And, she has taken a stand by NOT voting in the primary, since to do so would be support the current occupant of the White House, who, by the way, HATES voting-by-mail. In a normal situation, I would expect her to make it through to November. But these are not normal situations. I am saying no Republicans this time out, so I, with the heaviest of hearts, I will pass on her.

Gentry Lange (Progressive) and Ed Minger (Independent) get down into the details in their candidate stations. Lange wants Open Source Software to count the votes, which is interesting. Minger is pushing the idea of approval voting, where you can vote for multiple candidates for the same office, and all those votes count. I think ranked voting is a better idea if you're going to monkey with the system, but that's even more wild than what Minger is proposing. 

The Democrat candidate is Gael Tarleton, who has shown up in various offices over the years. She's big on cyber-security, which is a really good thing in our cyberpunky world. She's actually written the law on some of these things. Moreover, one of her gigs was at the Port of Seattle, which has always been by go-to-spot for reporting on shenanigans. The fact she emerged from that operation relatively unbesmirched is pretty impressive. 

So, yeah, Gael Tarleton.

More later,

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Political Desk: Attorney At Law

Attorney General, the state's law firm. I'm surprised it isn't a mini-series on NetFlix. Let's get Aaron Sorkin on it, pronto!

The AG has been hopping for the past four years, as it (and those of other states) have been dealing the relentless malice and stupidity coming down from the federal level, and the malfeasance of local conmen and corporations (The current AG's office took on Comcast. Won). The current guy in charge, Bob Ferguson, has been active and advocative in his pursuit of the best interests of the people of the state. So, yeah, I'm going to go with him.

He is running against three Republicans (sorry, two "prefers Republican Party" and one "prefers GOP party, which reads as Grand Old Party Party, but nevermind). They are pretty much unified in the opinion that the AG should NOT be doing the AG's job, and that protecting Washingtonians is not as important as creating a climate friendlier to business. Because we don't have enough large, successful corporations in this state.

I'm going with Bob Ferguson, here. 

More later, 

The Political Desk: Second Louie!

Lieutenant Governor in the state of Washington is akin to that on a national level - Runs the State Senate. Steps in when the Governor is out of town. Often just do good works. For many years we had the same guy. He stepped down last election and what replaced with Cyrus Habib, who at the time conservatives declared would be a bomb-throwing lib who would bring the entire system down. Of course that didn't happen, and Mr. Habib proved to be a extremely diligent, detail-oriented, by-the-book parliamentarian . Sadly, he has decided to become a Jesuit priest and is stepping down. Yes, this is the sort of thing that happens in Olympia, our capital.

So the job is open, and there are 11 people running for position. There is a serious wink-wink-nudge-nudge going on here about the idea that, should Biden win, Inslee would go take a position in his administration and his second banana would step into the role. That is not only putting the cart before the horse, that's setting the cart out while the horse is still in the barn having his morning oats. 

On the Democrat side, the two candidates worth taking about are Denny Heck and Markos Liias. Heck has the resume - US Representative, State Legislator, founder of the state's public access channel, and has the money and the endorsements of the mainstream Dems. Lias is more progressive, the senate Democratic floor leader, and a millennial. He also has the endorsement of the guy who currently has the job, Cyrus Habib. 

On the Republican side, the two majors are Ann Davison Sattler and Marty McClendon. McClendon ran against Habib last time and lost, and is a radio talk-show host (his co-host is Doug Basler, who is running against Adam Smith for US Rep in District 9). Stattler is from the real-estate division of the GOP and wants to represent people not parties (which is good, since her party doesn't get the traction it needs).

But I have to say this, looking through the listings in the Voter's Guide - these candidates are at least taking the situation seriously. They are saying the right things, and their candidate statements do not read like fever dreams or reefer night at the Poet's Corner Coffee Shoppe. So good work everyone, even the Libertarians. 

For me, I like Habib's work, and expect the same thing from Markos Liias. And I am not voting for Governor with this vote. At least, not yet.

More later.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Political Desk: Yes, Guv'nor

There are 36 candidates on the ballot for Governor. Blame COVID-19.

I am serious. In usual times, you have to get so many signatures to get on the ballot. These are not usual times, and since there would be difficulties getting signatures when no one want to come to the door, the governor waved that requirement. As a result, anyone with the desire to run is in.

So, we have the incumbent Democrat, five relatively viable Republicans, and a host of fringe candidates, well-meaning souls and utter nutters. And while I like all of you, I am not going to go into ALL the details, even for comedic purposes - just go to the online Voters' Guide and browse until your eyes water.

And despite this plethora of candidates, it probably going to boil down to Jay Inslee versus one these Five Guys (not to be confused with burger chain of the same name).

Jay Inslee is the current governor, shocking his opposition not only by temporarily running for president, but by running for a third term. How dare he! He's done a very good in an extremely difficult situation with COVID-19, and has helped turn the state from an epicenter for the disease to merely struggling against it. Lot of tough decisions here, particularly, since it is in the state government's advantage to re-open faster, since the state gets its money through things like sales taxes. No stores, no sales tax, no revenue for the state. Still, he has deferred to experts and made the hard choices. So yeah, I am recommending Jay Inslee. What else we got?

"Gadfly" is a good word for Tim Eyman. Other good words include bankrupt, chair thief and under investigation by the state's Attorney General. Eyman has been milking the state's initiative process for decades, skimming off the top the donations he gets from the gullible. His initiatives are of the "magic pony" variety - reduce your car tabs! We don't need road repairs anyway! This is the first time he is actually running for something, and stands an good chance of getting onto the November ballot, because people know who he is. He doesn't stand a good chance of becoming governor because people know who he is.

So if Eyman is the gadfly, Joshua Freeman is the money. He's got the dollar lead on the others, but a good chunk of it comes out of his pocket. Former Mayor of Bothell, he represents the real estate development wing of the party, and has had some ethics investigations (cleared, by the way, but that's one reason he's not running for re-election in Bothell).

Phil Fortunato is the blast from the past, because he's the reason I got into this political blogging in the first place. Way back when I  moved to Washington in the 90's, he had this HUGE signs along the road paid for by the "Friends of Phil".  I seem to remember that he didn't have much of a good opinion of his job at the time, but now can claim to be the only major candidate with actual experience in the state legislature. He's got the best sound bites of the GOP side. So, golden oldie? Smart kid in the room? Snark-master? I dunno. He's Phil. I assume he still has friends.

Loren Culp is a small-town sheriff who got national attention by standing up to the Man and refusing to enforce laws he doesn't agree with. Things like gun safety and not spreading coronavirus. He's standing up to the Man! He's the cause celebre who has been on Fox News talking about freedom and getting a book published with a forward by Ted Nugent, He's also being sued for botching a sexual abuse investigation and intimidating the victim.  Just call him the Fox Candidate. 

And finally we have Raul Garcia, the hope of what is left of the moderate wing of the party. He's actually not insane, which means you can vote against him based on his political stands as opposed to the miasma of sideshow weirdness that surrounds his rivals. He supports masks! He's pro-choice! Says good things about marriage equality! Won't commit to supporting Trump! He has the support of the remaining chunks of "moderate Republicans"like former Secretary of State Sam Reed and former state Attorney General Robert McKenna. So in the present GOP, he's toast. (I really hope I'm wrong on this).

Those are the biggies. Feel free to wander through the Voter's Guide for the candidate who's statement consists of the same chant written twenty-five times and similar gems and the one that think abolishing the minimum wage is the solution to America's problems.. (Note, the state does not edit the candidates' statements, which both is revealing and also shows the need of an editor.)

More later. 

The Political Desk: Repping the Rep

Let's start at the Federal Level: in our case, United States Representative Congressional District Number 9.  My home district.

District 9 runs from Tacoma up to Lake Washington, splitting with one spur heading up I-405 to Bellevue on the eastern side of Lake Washington, the other stretching up I-5 almost to Lake Union. It is small, compared to the other federal districts, but consists of a densely packed corridor.  It has four candidates running for US Representative - a democratic incumbent with two republicans and a libertarian challengers.

Incumbent Adam Smith in a mostly moderate Democrat who is the chair of the House Armed Services committee, and has done a good job over the years. He is usually primaried from the left from someone pushing for more radical activity, but in the present environment has done a lot, including getting parental leave for all government employees. Doesn't move fast ENOUGH for my desires, but I have to be honest, he does move, and for the benefit of all.

His chief opponent is Doug Basler,conservative talk-show host who lost to him last time. A strong supporter of the president regardless of how stupid that sounds right now. More power to him for standing his ground. His hope is that people are so tired of the government trying to do something about Coronavirus that they will put people in charge that won't do anything. Because freedom.

Also on the ticket is Joshua Campbell, who has the single weirdest combination of sentences in his  candidate statement ; "It's time for everyone to pick a side. The quicker we unite under one party, the quicker we can overcome the suffering and rebuild.". So, we pick as side, then all abandon those positions? I am still working my way through this one, and I've been drinking heavily in the hopes of enlightenment.

Liberatarian candidate Jorge Besada tuses his space to try to teach us a bit, with mixed results. He quotes extensively "the great intellecutal slayer of socialism" Ludwig Von Mises, which is a pity because people keep casting Raise Dead Fully on Socialism so it isn't going away. Also, he wants to transform "billions of free people into a global super-computer". So, the Borg, pretty much. Believes that freed of governmental shackles, corporations will inadvertently (his word) work for the common good. Good luck with that.

So, yeah, Adam Smith this time out. Because he sounds like the grown-up.

More later,