What can we bank on?

Not long ago, banks and banking were yawn-inducing synonyms for grey flannel boring. Then came the orgy of reckless greed that precipitated the global financial meltdown. Now banking is back in the news in surprising ways: Continue reading What can we bank on?

What I’ve Learned about Single Payer Heath Care

We’re probably going to be hearing a lot about Single Payer Health Care, since ours is one of the world’s most expensive system — providing results that rank up there with Slovenia.

I’ll never forget describing our so-called system with a Canadian. “But America likes to think of itself as a caring country. How can it treat its citizens so cruelly?” I’m still stumped for an answer to her question.

But instead of revisiting that terrain, let me share some of my experiences the year I lived in Australia.

One morning while I was staying at my brother’s house, he woke up in pain. When his aching back didn’t respond to his usual routine of stretches, he needed to choose: Did he want to go to the doctor? The hospital? Or see a chiropractor?

He decided on the chiropractor, called his office and made an appointment for later that day and I went along for the ride. He felt better after his treatment, wrote the doctor a check, and got a receipt. On the way back home, he stopped at a small office in a little strip mall, presented his receipt and was instantly reimbursed.

I was in shock.

How simple! He decided on the treatment that felt right to him, chose his provider, made the appointment and kept it, all in a morning’s time. No getting an okay from anyone else – no primary care provider. No insurance company. No paperwork hassle. No rigmarole..

“Do you always get reimbursed that fast?” I asked.

“Sure, if I stop by the office. Or I could wait until the end of the month and send in my receipts.”

All his medical care is covered by the income tax he pays.

“Does national health care pay for everything?” I asked my English friend Ronnie. Like my brother, she had also immigrated to Australia, lived in Denmark, both countries with national healthcare.

“Yes, Most everything is covered, but there are limits. They’ll pay for my glasses, if I’m happy choosing one of the dozen or so frames they offer, but if I wanted fancier frames, I’d have to pay for those.” She smiled and tilted her head for me to admire her glasses.

“Wow, eye care and glasses are covered?”

“But not dentists. Don’t know exactly why, since it seems to me that both your eyes and your teeth  tend to wear out as you age.”

When Ronnie and I went on a trip to the outback together, I had a chance to experience their healthcare system firsthand when I was suddenly hit with a nausea-inducing migraine and couldn’t stop vomiting—a real impediment to a motor trip. I was quickly taken to the emergency room in a small local hospital and instantly swept into a treatment room. After an injection ond an ice pack for my pounding head, I was good to go. I asked about paying.

“Oh, you’re not covered by national health?” said the startled nurse.  “Well, that happens so seldom that I’m not sure what to charge.” I asked if they could send me a bill to where I was staying once they figured it out – and I was on my way.

More than a month later, I received the hospital’s bill along with an apology. They were so sorry, but since I wasn’t covered by national health, they had to charge me the full rate. My Emergency Room visit, treatment and all, cost $50.

No need for national teeth-gnashing or partisan stand-offs about health care. A single payer system works beautifully. Maybe we could adopt one like all the members of Congress enjoyed?


Say What??

“Post-truth” has been named the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 international word of the year, says the New York Times. Its report that the use of “post-truth” surged after the Brexit vote and again after Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination sent a chill down my spine. Noting it was first used in a 1992 Nation essay citing the Iran-contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War didn’t much help me feel better, either.

Maybe there’s some comfort in knowing Continue reading Say What??

Learning from my own history

It was 1962 when I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, never having lived south of the Mason-Dixon line, and unaware that I’d inadvertently enrolled in a total immersion course in white privilege and Continue reading Learning from my own history

Eeek! Eeek!

I was driving along 8th Street, beginning weekend errands, when suddenly a mouse popped out of the air vent, scrambled frantically up the windshield and reached the roof of the car, only to be swept away by the movement of the air and the car.animal-1238229_1280

It all happened so fast that a glance in the rear view mirror didn’t reveal whether the poor thing was smashed to death on the pavement or if it miraculously managed to bounce free from the path of the cars behind me.

It took a minute to get over being startled and no time at all to realize that my efforts to discourage mice from taking refuge under the hood or creating an unwelcoming environment in my garage had failed. Again. On the passenger seat, the blinking red light of an ultrasound device showed it had been continuously beaming its ineffectual signals. Back to researching other mouse-discouraging methods, I sighed.

But the look of stark terror on the mouse’s tiny face haunted me.

Then I recognized that blind terror as a reflection of just what I’d been seeing, hearing and feeling from people across the country who were freaked out by the election results: Some were in tears, some fleeing, others flailing about, asking questions, hoping that understanding what happened would provide a clear guide to what to expect, to what the future may hold. For themselves. For our country and the world.

Blind terror doesn’t yield good results, the hapless mouse reminded me.

Staying sane and centered in such a huge swirl of uncertainty is a huge challenge. But let me offer a few knowns in the vast sea of unknowns that may help.

We know that less than half of the population voted. Which means election results do not reflect a bigoted, hate-filled nation.

We have never had a president-elect facing serious legal charges between election day and inauguration – and have no idea how this will play out.

We have never had a president-elect whose statements give us no idea of how he will act. Take just one example: appointing his children in his transition team raises questions about whether he can sever ties between his administration and his family business. . . especially since he had previously said his children would run the Trump Organization – and not follow him into the White House.

We have no clue about the relationship between what he says and the actions he takes.

You can imagine an endless number of scenarios, citing reasons to support them – but we have no more clue than the mouse scrambling up my windshield what the final results will be.

Might as well relax, breathe deeply and calm your fear reflex, and think positive thoughts that will lower your stress level and strengthen your immune system. Reach out to people you care about — our social connections strengthen our sense of wellbeing. Then begin (or resume)  working for issues, causes and ideas that speak to your heart.

We can still trust our hearts.


Young people demand action to halt climate change.

Climate scientist Jim Hanson and his granddaughter Sophie join in delivering an urgent message: Acting now is essential to insuring a future for the next generation. The Children’s Trust is turning to U.S. courts to defend their right to a liveable future.

Take a few minutes to learn more about the climate issue– and the groundbreaking legal approach:

Carbon. Futurethink. And the Courage of our Young People’s Convictions.

How about a proven innovative measure to address climate change? In November’s election madness is a breath of sanity — Washington’s ballot measure to make the state move toward fairer taxes and clean energy.

Based on the simple idea of using taxes to discourage behaviors we want to discourage, the measure called I-732 asks voters to support a revenue-neutral plan to achieve several important goals Continue reading Carbon. Futurethink. And the Courage of our Young People’s Convictions.


Port Angeles, Washington — The Navy’s environmental assessment for what it wants to do in the deep harbor of Ediz Hook has scads of maps, charts diagrams and variations on proposed structures. Almost 300 pages. [Read “Transit Protection System Pier and Support Facilities at Coast Guard Station Port Angeles” on line.]

But there’s a lot it doesn’t say. For instance, the stated reason for an estimated $16.7 million in taxpayer funded new construction is to provide a place where Coast Guard folks can rest between trips. But how has this need suddenly arisen? There’s been no change in the distance between Port Angeles and Bangor. No reduction in amenities in the vessels shuttling along the Strait o Juan de Fuca. No rearrangement of the number of hours in the day or, presumably, in the military’s ability to compile schedules and duty rosters.


According to the Navy’s fourth proposal, facilities on Ediz Hook should include:
■   A trestle 355 feet long and 24 feet wide.
■   A fixed pier at the end of the trestle, 160 feet long and 42 feet wide, where 250-foot “blocking vessels” would tie up.
■   Two floats 80 feet long and 17 feet wide on the west side of the pier, one float 120 feet long and 12 feet wide on the east side of the pier, where an 87-foot “reaction vessel” and several 64- and 33-foot “screening vessels” would be moored.

■   An 8,200-square-foot “Alert Forces Facility” — offices and quarters for 20-30 personnel.
■   A 200-square-foot “Ready Service Armory” to store small arms and ammunition.
■   A double-walled, 10,000-gallon fuel tank.=[][
■   A 2,864-square-foot parking area for fuel trucks.
■   An additional 5,500 square feet covered with impermeable paving.

That’s one heck of a nap room.

Forward planning, they say – without specifying what future is being planned for. Increased security – because of the 2000 attack on the USS COLE — they say. But what of the security of the civilian communities nearby?

The risks to Port Angeles are monumental. Impossible to predict and/or quantify. And the Navy has already proven it’s willing to run roughshod over tribal and civilian concerns in numerous ways. [See: WestCoastActionAlliance.org]


Deliberately splitting projects into multiple processes hides the big picture in squid-like clouds of ink, confusing the public, overloading federal and state agencies that should be consulted, and making legal remedies ineffective.

The facilities at Port Angeles and Bangor are actually interconnected parts of a larger Transit Protection System — but when it comes to evaluating them and the impacts of their construction, each is evaluated separately. Why?

The screening and escort vessels originate at Bangor, escort submarines to the dive-point at the western end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca; then, according to future plans, they will stop at Port Angeles, where crews can rest before the return to Bangor.

Clearly, this fits the legal criterion as a connected action. Yet the Navy has intentionally segmented this construction and its pile-driving into separate NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) processes. Dividing up the full scope of interconnected environmental impacts into many pieces helps to hide their full magnitude from public scrutiny.


Why include a whole armory and a fuel storage tank on a sea-level spit — a location that could not possibly be more vulnerable to damage by a tsunami? Or even El Nino-enhanced waves and high tides? A site where any serious weather disturbances could unleash the potential to wipe out the entire downtown and/or the regional hospital?

Constructing this armored, militarized break area would require drilling and pile driving in the seabed. A seabed covered with a who-knows-how-deep layer of toxic industrial contamination from nearly a century of paper mill operations and the city’s historic stormwater and sewage overflows. The state of Washington rates the waters of Port Angeles Harbor “impaired” due to low dissolved oxygen levels under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) (EPA 2004).

Pollutants in the harbor pose a threat to human health and the environment, to fisheries, shellfish beds, and the people that depend on them. These toxins include PCBs, dioxins and furans — chemicals and potential carcinogens that are endocrine disruptors that may cause reproductive and development effects. They are stored in fatty tissues and accumulate as they move up the marine food chain. They come from both natural and man-made sources, such as forest fires and burning seawater-soaked wood, garbage burning, and industrial incinerators, chlorine bleaching, and other industrial processes.  Most of the dioxin contamination in the harbor appears to be a chemical legacy from past industrial practices.


Pile driving is hugely disruptive to marine life, creating serious noise-induced impacts on marine mammals, endangered fish and sea birds such as the Steller sea lion, bull trout, and marbled murrelet. The sound, carried and amplified by water, may affect Chinook, steelhead, chum, and sturgeon.

According to a study published by the Acoustical Society of America, “The intense sound impulses of the impact piling are likely to disrupt the behavior of marine mammals at ranges of many kilometers.” The sound can drive away seals and crabs, whales and orcas — which may or may not return — and could create untold damage to sea creatures that can’t leave the area.


Pile driving is a dicey proposition in geologically active areas like the Hook, which is daily being reshaped by the Elwha River, which created the spit in the first place. We’ve been warned about the Cascadia Subduction Zone. And what of the Juan de Fuca Ridge — an underwater volcanic mountain range off Washington’s coast that’s continually growing as the Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Plate separate?

The Earth really is alive, and rarely are places more geologically active than where we’re located. One lesson the environment teaches us, over and over, is that everything is connected.


The Navy admits its proposed piers, trestles and walkways will destroy acres of eelgrass – which is not seaweed but a flowering perennial plant. Healthy eelgrass beds create dense underwater meadows that provide habitat for invertebrate like crab, food and cover for myriad species and a substrate for diatoms and algae to grow. These systems rival the world’s richest farmlands in terms of their ecological and economic value.

“All action alternatives would include compensatory mitigation for the loss of aquatic resources and mitigation for impacts on treaty reserved rights and resources” the Navy’s document proclaims. But they admit there’s no way to mitigate the loss of eelgrass.


As for treaty rights and cultural resources, the Lower Elwha Klallam have lived on and used Ediz Hook from the tribe’s earliest origins. The Navy has already demonstrated its disregard for these resources when it blew off the State Historic Preservation Office and Dr. Allyson Brooks, head of the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. In a December 10 piece, ”Kafka would have been pleased to write this story,” the West Coast Action Alliance outlines this months-long sequence of Navy actions.


At a public meeting set for January 12, the Navy will present information, answer questions and accept written comments from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Elks Naval Lodge, 131 E. First St. No oral comments will be accepted.

We should be asking the Navy: why can’t you tell it to us straight? What is the full scope of the multiple impacts from all of the projects you should be evaluating together?

Could the future include some sort of antimagnetic “garage” be built to temporarily dock nuclear subs in the Port Angeles harbor?

Deliberately splitting projects into multiple NEPA processes means that if you manage to halt, slow, modify or mitigate one project, the others still move forward.

Written comments may be emailed to NWNEPA@navy.mil or sent to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest; Attention: NEPA Project Manager/TPS Facilities; 1101 Tautog Circle, Room 203; Silverdale, WA 98315-1101.


Port Angeles, Washington – A dazzling variety of salad greens thrive year round in the cool and cloudy Pacific Northwest, nurtured by urban farmer, sculptor and teacher Maureen Wall. Her creative experiments in aquaponics — Continue reading AN URBAN FARM MAKES HISTORY, MOVES TOWARD A BETTER TOMORROW

No Get Out of Jail Free Card for You

Until I had to bail someone out of jail, my foggy notions of the hows and whys of this system were based on TV cop shows, noir films and Raymond Chandler detective stories. I’d assumed (wrongly, it turns out) that the bail set was an indicator of the seriousness of the crime, Continue reading No Get Out of Jail Free Card for You