August 2006
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Month August 2006

Wow, the Canadians have a navy!

In the not-something-you-see-everyday category, a Canadian Naval patrol boat just sailed past my house, coming out of the Strait and down San Juan Channel, headed south.  I found this somewhat odd since I live in American territorial waters, and would have expect the Coast Guard to be patrolling, if anything.  Dsc_0038
The ship in question, the HMCS Edmonton (#703 marked clearly on the starboard side) is a patrol boat, which I’ve seen elsewhere in the Gulf Islands of Canada.  But why this far south?

Possibility #1:  The Canadian Navy is invading the U.S. 

Possibility #2:  We take "turns" with Canada patrolling island waters

Possibility #3:  The Canadians ran out of beer, and Friday Harbor was the closest store with a good selection.

Invasion seems unlikely – they’d probably have brought a couple more ships, even to take over Bellingham or Anacortes.  I’m guessing they ran out of beer, and are on their way to King’s to pick up some Labatts.

The fallacy of a “McGovernization” of the Democrats

I’m getting pretty tired of reading op-ed pieces about the impending McGovernization of the Democratic Party, after Sen. Lieberman’s defeat by Ned Lamont in the CT primary last week. The historical analogy simply doesn’t work, in my opinion.

1. Presidential electoral politics are different than state Congressional races: even if it were the case (and it’s not — see below) that Ned Lamont represents the “far left” of the party, doesn’t mean he’s not electable depending upon the state or district he’s running in. Local majorities can, and often do, elect folks to Congressional seats (House and Senate) that are more extreme (to the right or left) than are electable in a 50-state Presidential race. Jim McDermott keeps getting elected to the House by his Seattle-based district, and although he’s clearly not electable state-wide in a Senate race, he seems pretty safe in his district. Similarly, Lamont may not represent a viable Presidential candidate, but he seems electable at the state level for a Senate seat. So this is clearly not a doomed-in-advance “protest” effort by Democrats. Lamont’s candidacy is real and has a fair chance of being electorally competitive if he doesn’t screw up on the campaign trail.

2. Lamont is not exactly on the “far left”: leaving aside for the moment of what, precisely, it means to be on the “far left” wing of the party these days, Lamont isn’t even close. His positions on major issues appear to be fairly standard DLC centrism. His health care “plan” doesn’t push a single-payer system, or any form of radical change. Instead it recommits us to employer-provided health care, with tweaks to ensure that small businesses can buy into cost-effective insurance pools and slightly improved subsidies for under- or un-insured Americans. This is much closer to the Republican leadership’s response to the 2000 State of the Union address than a radical reform. His education policy is mainline Democratic politics — support for public education rather than vouchers or privatization. There’s nothing in his issue statements that remotely resembles the social democracy of the McGovern left; indeed, Lamont appears to be a straightforward “90’s Democrat” — a business-savvy supporter of moderate reforms and regulation of an underlying free-enterprise system, combined with progressive stances on social issues. Little about Lamont is reminiscent of the gulf that existed within the Democrats between, say, Scoop Jackson and George McGovern in 1972.

3. Even if Lamont were as radically leftist as many have claimed, his victory in the CT primary doesn’t represent a trend. Democratic senatorial nominations are not falling to the radical left of the party. As Michael Tomasky argued last week in Slate, of eight Democratic senators seeking reelection who voted for the Iraq resolution, only Lieberman faces a serious primary challenge. Feinstein (D-CA) won her primary with 87 percent of the vote, Ben Nelson didn’t even have a challenger in the primary, and Hong Tran is nowhere near a real threat for Maria Cantwell in my home state of Washington. Lieberman’s defeat is not part of a national trend which threatens to move the Democrats to the far left.

If the Democrats lose big this November in Congressional races, it’s not going to be because they’ve moved to the “far left,” because they haven’t. There are precious few “leftists” in national politics today, as that term has been classically defined. No party which supports capitalism and free enterprise, helped dismantle true entitlement programs like classical “welfare” (during the Clinton years), and won’t touch full-scale reform of health care provisioning can properly be called “leftist”, let alone on the “far left.” A traditional “left” simply does not exist in American politics today. We have a party of the center, and a party of the right, and it’s damaging to honest discourse to pretend otherwise. Mainstream Democratic politics is still the Democratic politics of the centrist DLC, and will remain so unless popular support for a “true left” appears among mainstream voters in this country.

Unpacking at the new place…

I’m getting unpacked at the new house and have almost finished the kitchen and other essentials.  Putting up bookshelves and attacking the massive stacks of book boxes will have to wait just a bit,Dsc_0062
because the electrical & network wiring guys haven’t finished their work yet.  After a brief flurry of activity while I was doing the move in Seattle, they’re nowhere to be seen (again). 

Much of the rest of my "home improvement" project list is done at this point — "creative" paint jobs are gone, in favor of a Linen White with bright white trim (accent walls to be chosen later after I get a sense of how furniture and the rug collection fits); the deck is complete, roof replaced with a nice forest green metal roof, crawl space and undercarriage of the house has been cleaned out, insect sprayed, and re-insulated in spots, and a nice bamboo hardwood floor installed in the guest bedroom.  Pretty much all that’s left is minor touch-up painting, some cabinet touch-up in the kitchen, replacement of the chimney for the wood stove, and of course the darned electrical and network wiring.

Because of the latter, I’m currently without TV and haven’t really set up my other computers yet.  I expect that happen in a week or so.  Then I can set up a working environment and unpack some office stuff.  Office furniture doesn’t arrive until the end of the month or so, because like much furniture, they don’t really build it until you order it.  The upshot is that I figure mid-September will be about when I’ll be fully unpacked and have access to whatever I’m trying to find.   

I need to find a dining room light fixture — there’s a spot for installation and the wiring’s all there but the previous owner took her antique chandelier (which she told me about, it’s not a problem), but I haven’t had time to find a new one yet.  Next time I’m in Seattle I’ll find something, before it starts getting dark early. 


Went to the farmer’s market again today, and picked up a wide assortment of produce, including some terrific "torpedo" red onions, ultra-fresh cabbages, shallots, heirloom tomatoes in five varieties, potatoes, heirloom carrots, fresh salad greens, green beans, and basil, all from Waldron Island except for the potatoes and tomatoes, which were grown here on San Juan.  I also picked up fresh sockeye salmon fillet, and tomorrow night I’ll likely do a shallot preparation on the grill with roasted potatoes and a salad. 

I also pre-ordered pickling cucumbers from Nootka Rose Farm on Waldron, along with fresh dill heads.  They’ll be picking ’em for next Saturday’s market, and I’ll have 10 pounds to pickle shortly thereafter.  I’ll probably also do a big batch of pickled green beans at the same time.   

After a couple of days of drizzly, slightly rainy weather, clear skies and beautiful sunsets arrivedDsc_0058
again yesterday, and I spent much of last evening sitting on the deck with a glass of Chablis (2002 Servin Les Pargues), a dish of olives, and two books:  Nigel Slater’s "The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen" (not published in the USA yet but available now from Amazon UK), and a book of essays on Richard Rorty’s work:  "Rorty and His Critics (Philosophy and Their Critics)" Both are fascinating, and I ended up reading until the last light of sunset disappeared (outdoor lighting on the deck is another project, but my electrician claims it’s a tough one because of the solid walls on the north face of the house). 

Now that I’ve got the kitchen unpacked, dinner was a brown rice stir fry of fresh vegetables and chicken marinated in chili sauce, soy, and a hint of star anise.  I’d set up the wok stand burner on the new deck, and the whole thing was a pleasure — prep work in the new kitchen to stir frying on the deck.  I wish there was an easy way to put a partial roof on part of the deck so I can keep doing this all year, but maybe next year.  At the moment I’m ready for projects and contractors to be finished so I can begin to build a "routine" here on the island. 

Taking a break…

I’m taking a couple of days break from trying to write anything serious…it’s just not possible while there are still cupboards to empty and shelves to pack.  The moving truck comes on Tuesday morning to load for the island, and I’m excited.  It’ll be really terrific to have furniture again.  Up on the island I’ve been living on patio furniture for a couple of weeks, and in Seattle the house feels like a hotel room with all the staging.  Or actually not like a hotel room, because for that kind of money I’m going to mess up the room, y’know?  My house actually feels more like going to your grandmother’s house when you were a small kid, and you weren’t supposed to touch anything or sit on the fancy chairs. 

So it’ll be good to get somewhat back to normal.  I heard from the guys up north that the carpeting got installed on Thursday as planned, and it sounded like both electrical and network cabling were underway early last week.  The bamboo floor in the guest room ought to be done as well, so when we arrive with the trucks I ought to be able to put the major bits at least in the right rooms.  I stillDontbelieveeverything_1
haven’t figured out where everything goes yet, but that’ll come with time.

Well, it’s back to the basement and packing for me.  I’ll leave you with one last thought, seen today on a bumper sticker driving home.  Probably no more posts until Wednesday or Thursday.