Category Archives: Random Stuff

A life-restoring, 22-second break from politics

Mad at your friends because of the balderdash they’re posting on the Facebook?

Tired of an unending campaign of gaffes and statements that regard truth as priority number 37?

You find yourself wondering if this country can survive when dunderheads, fabulists, prevaricators, rapscallions, scalawags, scapegraces and mountebanks are in charge?

Then watch this video and restore your faith in humanity and this country.

Should you need more, go to the page where I found this video.

Now, try not to be such a sourpuss today, m’kay?

Debate over state symbol is for the birds

A bill that would change Washington State’s official bird from the willow goldfinch to the great blue heron is clearly a debate that pits the bark-eaters, like me, against the farm boys, like reporter Ed Friedrich.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The goldfinch’s main natural habitats are weedy fields and floodplains, where plants such as thistles and asters are common. They’re also found in cultivated areas, roadsides, orchards, and backyards.”

Friedrich, who grew up in South Kitsap back in the old days when it was still largely rural, said he used to see them all the time in the fields of his youth.

I live in the woods of South Kitsap and spend a lot of time walking outdoors. I can’t say I’d know a goldfinch if it flew smack into me. They don’t come to our feeders. The heck with them.

The term “bark-eaters,” by the way, originated with former Arts & Entertainment editor Deborah Woolston, who once referred to South Kitsap as “land of the bark-eaters.”

Back on topic, I’d like to know how the heck the goldfinch was chosen as our state bird in the first place.

There’s nothing about the bird that says, “Washington State.” Its range is widespread, again from the Cornell Lab: pretty much all of North America. The map actually shows the gold finch is more often sighted in the Midwest and on the East Coast, than in the west.

The goldfinch is so common, in fact, that it’s also the state bird of Iowa and New Jersey … New Jersey! And, yes, Jim Dunwiddie, I know there’s more to your former home state than the New Jersey Turnpike.

Another thing that’s just wrong about having the goldfinch as our state bird is that, according to the Cornell Lab map (first linked page), the bird pretty much vacates Washington in the summer (I may be misinterpreting the map, and am sure to hear from nitpicking birdwatchers on this).

Now, about the heron. It’s a beautiful bird, plentiful around Puget Sound beaches. It’s graceful in flight and great at stabbing things with its beak, which is, like, a ninja skill of the bird world.

By the way, have you ever noticed how they always name developments after the critters that used to be there before the houses went in? I used to live near Heron Ridge, before it was Heron Ridge. Herons used to roost in the woods, scores of them. It was quite a sight. I’m sure they’ve found other places to roost. I wonder if they still pack together like that. Maybe you birdwatchers out there can help me out.

Now I’m starting to sound like Ed Friedrich talking about road kill.

It seems like the great blue heron better represents the Puget Sound region than any other area of the state. So probably the best thing about this bill is that it’ll give the folks in Western Washington and Eastern Washington something to argue about besides ferries.

Next I think we ought to mess with the state fossil, which is currently the Columbian Mammoth. Any nominations for a replacement?

In fact, lets just redo the entire list. Have at it:
State flower:
State tree:
State bird:
State song:
State gem:
State dance:
State folk song:
State fruit:
State grass:
State tartan:
State insect:
State fossil:
State marine mammal:
State vegetable:
State amphibian:
State ship:
State endemic mammal:

Gregoire’s Chief of Staff Jay Manning on Tucson Shootings

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Chief of Staff Jay Manning, Kitsap-grown, spoke to the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

Manning didn’t try to sugar coat the upcoming round of budget cuts, but he ended by predicting Washington State is positioned to pull out of the recession faster than most states.

Manning also mentioned a topic that must weigh heavily on the minds of public officials at all levels of government, the shootings in Tucson and incendiary packages in Maryland.

Manning said the atmosphere in Olympia “is really intense right now, and it’s really scary to be in government and to think there’s that level of anger out there.”

Manning said being in government is seen as a disgrace, yet government workers perform essential functions, child protective services for example. The biggest shame, Manning said, is if government became the last place people would go to get a job.

“There’s not a lot of hope or optimism about government right now,” Manning said.

He’s all for free speech, but, “Let’s ease back on the rhetoric a little bit,” he urged. “It should be about issues and ideas.”

Question: If you have ever thought about running for public office, have recent events of violence against politicians discouraged you? (take the poll on the Kitsap Caucus home page).

A newstip that piqued our interest — and our appetites

Some of the candy we purchased in researching this post

About a month ago, a reader called in to deliver a news tip that piqued our interest – and our appetites.

He claimed that a day after the state-mandated sales tax on candy, soda and bottled water was repealed by voters, major grocery store chains upped their prices by the same margin as the tax.

Consumers would fork over the same amount for their M&Ms both before and after the tax was repealed, he said.

In other words, retailers would pocket an extra 9 cents for each package of Reese’s Pieces they sold while the state would simply go without. That was the caller’s hunch.

Had we just stumbled onto Candygate 2010?

We decided to test his theory by looking into whether retailers would charge more for the snacks and water immediately after that sales tax went away.

On Wednesday night, we made trips to Safeway, QFC, Walgreens and a convenience store on Kitsap Way.

At each stop, we picked up a candy, gum and water. We took note of how much the stores charged for soda.

We returned a day later — when stores were told to stop collecting the sales tax —  to buy those same items and compare the receipts.

The caller’s theory didn’t hold up. At three of the four stores, we spent less on our purchases the second day.

But the convenience store charged us $3.90 both times for a package of Wrigley’s 5 Gum, a Three Musketeers candy bar and a 20-ounce bottle of Aquafina. A 23-cent sales tax was tacked on to both purchases.

Despite what we encountered there, state Department of Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow wrote in an e-mail that the Dec. 2 transition “has gone smoothly as far as we know” for most retailers.

He said that consumers should demand a refund if stores charge them for a sales tax on candy, gum or water.

If that doesn’t work, they can seek a refund from the DOR, he said.

The bigger problem for the agency is retailers who stopped collecting the tax before Dec. 2. “But we really can’t do anything about that,” he said.

Unfortunately for us, there was no corporate grocery store conspiracy to unravel — but at least we got to eat a bunch of candy.

Embargo This, White House

We’ve freaking got icy roads and power out here, so as much as I want to honor your embargo of the following press release, I’m not sure if I will be in a place where I can post this as soon as the clock strikes 3 a.m. our time. Chances are I’ll be sound asleep under a pile of blankets so tall I won’t feel the cat walking on me. I know this is a critical issue here that I’ll be busting out early, and that I risk never again receiving a press release on critical issues such as this, but I have a feeling if I’m up at 3 a.m. (I am a West Coaster), this won’t be the first thing on my mind.

The press release from the White House follows:
Continue reading

Public Art to Make Your Ears Bleed

We’ve seen plenty here about the fish and fisherman and the two ladies in Bremerton. Public art has its supporters and its detractors and the latter group has fun in the comments section of our stories. (“What’s the deal with the Flying Nun doing squat thrusts statue?” writes RB3. Personally, I thought she looked like Rosie from the Jetsons.)

Others are having fun with it. I do see people taking pictures, and Rosie gets dressed up from time to time. Look for a Gonzaga jersey this next basketball season, I’m told.

In Everett they’ve got a new wrinkle on the concept of public art. The city paid $350 for eight old pianos and commissioned artists to paint them. For a few weeks they’ll be out on the street for anyone to play. From the story:

Street Tunes was modeled after another art project, “Play Me — I’m Yours” by artist Luke Jerram. That project has featured pianos in public places in cities including New York and London. The pianos in Everett are planned to be on the streets through Aug. 25.

At the end of the event, Aug. 25, the pianos will either be auctioned, with the money going to the city’s general fund, or they’ll be put on ice until next year, when the event would happen again.

Is this something we should do? Should we encourage our artsy types to splatter some paint on some old uprights and put them in downtown Bremerton for a while, or Poulsbo? (Bainbridge Island would probably not stand for such clutter, though it might add to the city’s reserves.) Port Orchard might prefer calliopes.

Vote in the poll on the right.

Is Gore a Poodle?

As I write this I’m listening to Dori Monson talk to Anne Bremner, a Seattle attorney who finds herself on television and radio a lot, about the accusation that Al Gore tried to get frisky with a massage therapist.

I’ll admit I’ve read the reports. I’m no expert and it’s probably in my best interest to keep my opinions to myself. Those opinions are not very conclusive anyway.

So I go to you experts and ask, do you think there is anything to this accusation?

Bremner, by the way, is being very measured about this. There are reasons to doubt her story and reasons to believe it.

“I would have those pants tested,” she said.

What Does This Mean?

At Costco’s gas station today I saw a vehicle with a bumper sticker reading, “I’m not Republican.”

The only other context I have for you is it was on a minivan. The two people in the van looked to be in their 50s or so. A woman behind them called out that she liked their sign.

Why? What is this bumper sticker saying? Is this a left-leaning couple needing to make one point, or is it a Tea Party couple needing to make another?

For a little more context, I didn’t see the sticker until we were all in our vehicles and leaving. I would have loved to ask what the sticker meant, but that might have involved serious traffic violations.

Memorial Day 2010

James M. Olsen of Bainbridge Island, shared this photo and a letter he sent to the editor thanking Kitsap Mall for its Memorial Day display. He describes it as “above and beyond the usual merchandised treatment of Memorial Day.” I agree.

Even as we question whether winter has officially overstayed its welcome, I am certain that especially in this area we generally don’t forget why we have the day off, or get paid more for working it. Here’s Olsen’s letter.

The Kitsap Mall showcase of Service Men & Women Past and Present (on display at the Center Court) is a moving and dignified tribute to our nation’s veterans on this special weekend.  Laid out on long decorated tables are acrylic display frames with hundreds of photographs and identifying information.  As I examined each photograph, vividly alive were the images of veterans from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, First Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  These veterans are the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles of all of us  Particular heart-wrenching are the photographs of those killed in action.  The photos represent the military services of USMC, US Army, US Navy, US Coast Guard, and US Air Force. 

My sincere thanks to the management of Kitsap Mall for this very special commemoration that is clearly above and beyond the usual merchandised treatment of Memorial Day.  And kudos to Angie Pomeroy who coordinated this display with the public. 

James M. Olsen, Captain, US Coast Guard (retired)

Bainbridge Island

Courthouse Critters

Things are getting hairy at the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s office.

Today I went there to interview a dog, specifically a two-year-old yellow lab who is the county’s new canine courthouse companion (my story will run Friday, barring unforeseen circumstances).

Such animals have been found useful in diffusing tension in courtrooms and other settings of the criminal justice system, especially when children must testify about crimes they have witnessed or experienced.

Courthouse Dogs

Courthouse dogs are already at work in King, Snohomish and Skagit counties. According to the the website Courthouse dogs, “Since 2003 courthouse dogs have provided comfort to children who have been sexually abused while they undergo forensic interviews and testify in court. The dogs also assist drug court participants in their recovery, visit juveniles in detention facilities, greet jurors and in general lift the spirits of courthouse staff who often conduct their business in an adversarial setting.”

Now before you go getting all upset about frivolous county expenditures, know that Kerris (that’s her name) was presented to the county courtesy of Canine Companions for Independence. And it’s no small gift, because these highly trained dogs cost CCI $20,000 to $30,000.

Let me just say this. If Kerris ever runs for office, she has my vote.

Speaking of animals at the courthouse, have you notice the assorted bunnies roaming around the parking lot behind the jail? They are always there, but hardly ever the same ones. Feral rabbits no doubt. But, I mean, why the courthouse?

Which leads to another question … if elephants are Republican and donkeys are Democrat, to what party do the rabbits belong? I’m thinking they’re Socialists.

And while we’re at it, what is with the donkey and the elephant anyway?

According to the Democratic Party website, “when Andrew Jackson ran for president in 1828, his opponents tried to label him a “jackass” for his populist views and his slogan, “Let the people rule.” Jackson, however, picked up on their name calling and turned it to his own advantage by using the donkey on his campaign posters. During his presidency, the donkey was used to represent Jackson’s stubbornness when he vetoed re-chartering the National Bank.”

According to this website, cartoonist Thomas Nast later used the Democratic donkey in newspaper cartoons and made the symbol famous. “Nast invented another famous symbol—the Republican elephant. In a cartoon that appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1874, Nast drew a donkey clothed in lion’s skin, scaring away all the animals at the zoo. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled ‘The Republican Vote.’ That’s all it took for the elephant to become associated with the Republican Party.”

Now, I wonder what party the chickens belong to?

Presidential Gifts: What to Get the Guy Who Can Get Anything in the World

Today I was assigned to do a story about Manette artist Marnie Holt Swenson, whose gift of an oil portrait of the first family was recently acknowledged by President Barack Obama.

As it turns out giving gifts to the president is a complicated process, and in the case of gifts from foreign dignitaries, it involves a lot of protocol. In fact there’s a whole department dedicated to screening, accepting, acknowledging and reciprocating gifts to the president and other employees of the executive branch from foreign officials.

The State Department’s Protocol Gift Unit must document every gift, no matter how small. Data from 2009, Obama’s first year in the White House, has not yet been compiled. Records show some of the more offbeat items received by his predecessor, George W. Bush, include a black Mercedes mountain bike from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a shoe shine kit and CD, “Spirit of the Bush,” from the Governor General of Australia, and the book “1,001 Reasons to Love America” from the Sultan of Brunei.

Other gifts to Bush that caught my eye: Official Dallas Cowboys gear from the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, a bull moose antler sculpture from the Canadian Prime Minister and 12 bottles of Georgian dry red wine from His Excellency Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, “handled pursuant to Secret Service policy.”

I understand a Maine microbrewer called “Bill the Beer Guy” has donated a basket of his wares to Obama. Wonder what the secret service will do with that.

State Department gift officials must log the date of the gift, who it came from and the protocol under which it was accepted. The standard response is, “Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government.”

As it turns out, in some cases, they really shouldn’t have.

If you visit the State Department website, you’ll find a link to archives, presumably the source of information for a post on the Mental Floss blog, ‘Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix.”

According to the blog, the President of Indonesia, thoughtfully, donated to President George H.W. Bush a Komodo dragon. “Perhaps worried that the venomous, flesh-eating lizard wouldn’t play nice with First Dog Millie, Bush donated the dragon, named Naga, to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden,” the blog says.

Representing a gift to President George H.W. Bush

And talk about gifts that may have missed the mark by a hair, the president of Azerbaijan gave Clinton a carpet that was a portrait of the president and first lady Hillary Clinton. The carpet shows the first couple inside a heart-shaped medallion. “I wanted to convey their lives as one beating heart,” the artist said.

Clinton Carpet

An Appetizer on Accountability

As a send off for the weekend I thought I’d give you something to think about other than where you’re going to be taxiing your youth, avoiding those weeds, ingesting beverages or clearing ground for that chicken coop you might one day be legally allowed to put in your backyard in Bremerton.

It’s not that I want you to think about me, because Heaven knows you’re not on my mind all that much when the little guy asks me three times where the puzzle piece goes, never satisfied with my answer. But allow the Kitsap Caucus to offer some appetizers on accountability.

What first got me thinking about this was a news piece I read from the San Francisco Chronicle, detailing how the budget deficit is growing nearer to crisis proportions. The following, for me, were the money paragraphs:

Polls show rising public alarm – and public refusal of specific spending cuts or tax increases required to change course. A Field Poll last month showed most Californians do not want to cut the largest parts of the state budget, such as education or transportation.

The polling firm Democracy Corps recently warned Democrats that the deficit now tops unemployment as a voter concern. But it also found voters “unenthusiastic” about the options to close the deficit. Voters overwhelmingly prefer spending cuts to tax hikes but reject cutting specific programs.

P.J. O’Rourke, in the book I just finished reading, “Parliament of Whores,” writes about 200 pages to explain the reality that appears in the final sentence of these next two paragraphs, which comes after he writes about his experience in a very local town hall meeting in which actual decisions were being made.

Citizens may have hardcore beliefs in the right to do whatever they want on their property or smoke whatever they want in their home, until it touches them. That inner granite that was once bedrock to principled living starts to crack, and pretty soon they’re using legal means to stop others from doing something that will introduce a change in their lives that they don’t like, or will let them change others’ lives in a way that profits them. Principles get tossed pretty quickly when convenient, or possible.

“Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass is in the meadow about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores.

The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.”

His first line is about authority attracting scum, but there is a quote about absolute power that suggests that authority doesn’t just attract scum, it creates it. We can point accusing fingers at the electeds all we want, but often they’re doing what they know we want, not what we say we want. Sure, they sometimes try to pull fast ones they hope you won’t notice, but for the most part they want your approval.

Your (cheap) Ad Here

The talk today is all health care reform, which based on the 120 comments I saw last time I saw our story posted everyone knows about. In the midst of that I thought I’d share the latest negative ad from California in the governor’s campaign.

There’s a story on it here in the New York Times, which makes the case that because of YouTube and other sites can be made pretty cheaply, if you consider $30,000 cheap. If you can make an ad and get it to go viral, you can score. I think I’m going to make a stick figure cartoon and try to get it to go viral. Any ideas what I should promote?

Flag Etiquette at Rocky Point

Today we had a story about Joe Azevedo’s flag atop the Fir tree. I suspected some might quibble with the proper etiquette being displayed, because the flag does not come down until Joe goes up and puts up a new one. According to the VFW’s primer on flag protocol, it should have a light.

This is really important to some of our readers, including a man who called me this morning to say that he appreciates what Azevedo is doing, but there are many like him who break protocol without knowing it.

My question is if Jack Hamilton can get away with wearing this shirt, shouldn’t we cut Joe a little slack?

Whatever It Is, I’m Against It

If this blog has seemed inconsistent in delivering political material as of late, it’s largely because I have been immersed in a project story that will be out within a couple of weeks. When it comes out I’ll share how and why the project came about. For now I’ll tell you that it has to do with how people make major transformations or conversions in their lives.

Oddly enough there’s little, if any, political material in the piece, though when I started I thought there might be. There are pundits and politicians who migrate from one party or philosophy to another. Though I don’t really address it in the story, I think I might understand a little more how it happens. The conversions I’m dealing with are mostly the sudden kind, which I don’t think often happens in politics.

That said, 25 years ago when I worked as an intern in Washington, D.C. I became convinced that many of the unelected people on Capitol Hill working for elected people were mercenary. I also believed that few people in Washington cared about solving problems, it was more about winning. From my perspective, it’s way worse today.

You see above in the Kitsap Reader a Washington Post piece by Joel Achenbach called “The audacity of nope.” The piece opens with this:

“The state of the union is obstreperous. Dyspepsia is the new equilibrium. All the passion in American politics is oppositional. The American people know what they don’t like, which is: everything.

That sounds like nihilism, but they’re against that, too.”

My heavens, the piece is depressing, more so because it’s accurate, much more than it was when I was an observant intern in Senator Wilson’s office.

For me it makes sense now that there is an absence of political transformation in my story about conversion. When you get to thinking that Americans will be disapproving of whoever gets elected; and disapproving of the talking heads that discuss the politicians; and you recognize that your e-mail Inbox was once filled with calls for regime change in Washington instead of Iraq, but that now your Facebook page is filled with messages of calls to hand our leaders over to Haiti; you kind of wonder if changes in the political world really matter. The same people are yelling. They’ve just exchanged arguments. Well, the tone of them anyway.

I might feel differently tomorrow if I sleep better tonight.

Molly Hightower’s December Video from Haiti

Sure, there is a lot going on in government, and this space is normally reserved for that. But I wanted to share this. Molly Hightower of Port Orchard was in Haiti at the time of the quake and as of this writing her status is unknown. I found this video, though, that she made a little over a month ago. You can read about the context at the NPH Saint Damien Hospital Haiti blog site. I suggest you go there. This video is sweet. Very, very sweet.

Start the New Year Right by Reading this Story

This New York Times story is already up on the Kitsap Reader Axis of Education, but I thought I’d point it out again. It seems appropriate as we approach a new year and decade. Here’s a glimpse:

“The wounds of our children, their pain, our pain, have connected us,” noted Angela Elizarov, Orel’s mother, one recent day as she sat on a bed in the room she shares with her son. Next door is Marya, her 6-year-old brother, Momen, and their father, Hamdi Aman. “Does it matter that he is from Gaza and I am from Beersheba, that he is an Arab and I am a Jew? It has no meaning to me. He sees my child and I see his child.”

Happy New Year everyone
Steven Gardner
Kitsap Caucus Squadron Leader