The Avenging Finn

Don't make me ski over there and shoot you

Bike commute test
I finally got a chance to test out the bike ride from home to my current workplace.

Map here.

It's a bit long for an everyday commute, though it took me about the same time as my bus commute on the way there--an hour and a half. Coming back took longer because of hills, confusion on the best route, and a bit of fatigue. That's not counting the extra 15 minutes to fix a chain that jumped into my small chain ring when I tried to ride up Broad from Western, or the 10 minutes I took to stop at the taco truck near the new location for Bothell Ski & Bike.

Aside: the taco truck near Bothell Ski & Bike just west of 80th is worth the stop. They were out of asada but I had two chicken tacos and HFCS-free Mexican Coca-Cola (because my bike bottle was empty.)

I need to do more work to figure out the best way from Eastlake to Western and vice-versa. The Thomas/9th/Bell route heading out worked OK but there were some lights that did not respond to my bike even though I had my tire and a shoe on the sensor. But Bell and Western are one-way the wrong way coming back and my attempts to find a similar route back were marked by adventure. I'm also a bit worried about the parked cars on Eastlake but as long as I pay attention I should be able to avoid getting doored.

I think I'll look into workplace locker rental for the next month and try occasional one-way bike commutes every other day or so. 

New miles (through November 27, 2010)38.6
Previous miles 24848.9
Total miles24887.5
2010 miles2629.8
Miles on the current set of tires (replace at 5K)3026.6
Miles on the current rings and cassette--next service 3850 miles)2952.2

Total miles on the new chain so far: 459.8

Note. the circumference of the Earth at the equator is about 24901.55 miles. I am currently 14 miles short of that distance. 


Approve Referendum R-71

Except for a long-shot last-minute lawsuit, Referendum 71 is going to be on the ballot in November in Washington state.

This is a referendum to APPROVE the domestic partnership bill that the state legislature passed earlier this year, which grants all state rights associated with marriage except the word marriage to same-sex domestic partners and to a narrow class of opposite-sex domestic partners who can't get married without losing their federal Social Security benefits.

Supporters of marriage equality spent all summer trying to get people to decline to sign the petitions in favor of this referendum, as the law would have been retained without a vote. It is a travesty that basic civil rights can even come up for a public vote in this state or anywhere in this country. People put a lot of energy into opposing R-71 as a petition. But now that Referendum 71 is on the ballot we must vote to APPROVE it in order to support equal rights for all Washington citizens.

I don't post much to LiveJournal but I do occasionally comment, and the default picture on my account has now been changed to emphasize this message. Please feel free to borrow the image if you want; it comes from the official campaign sign on the site for Washington Families Coming Together. I know it's hard to read the small print but the important thing is the main message. Hopefully this image will be repeated enough over the next two months that everyone's sick of seeing it by the time they vote to APPROVE R-71.

For more information, please visit the Washington Families Coming Together site. They've got stickers (PDF), t-shirts and other swag, and sites on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

I (heart) Barney Frank

"Trying to have a conversation with [people who compare Barack Obama's health care policies to Adolf Hitler's] would be like trying to argue with a dining room table":

This is exactly the response that this nonsense deserves.

Caption contest!

At kathrynt's request:

Obama-Baby caption contest

Libertarianism the new conservative opposition?
Over here feste_sylvain wonders if the conservative movement is finally shifting toward a principled libertarianism that opposes socially conservative policies but instead focuses on limiting the size and scope of government.

I think it's clear that while the self-identified libertarians in the conservative movement have been more successful than other elements of the Republican coalition at seizing the public imagination post-Bush/Cheney/McCain and building a new opposition, that a broader shift is not under way. In fact, it is impossible.

This is because the number of sufficiently consistent and principled libertarians is statistically insignificant and the broader public mostly opposes their economic ideology and agenda.

Let's take the inconsistency problem first. It is true that Americans are suspicious of government in principle and strongly dislike taxes in particular. However, Americans also support government projects that help them individually, and this support is strong enough to support a robust government. This is true even of people motivated by small government or anti-tax sentiment. Take, for example, the anti-tax movement in Washington state, particularly as it coalesces around initiative-junkie Tim Eyman. The typical conservative of this type including Eyman himself opposes taxes while simultaneously supporting massive road-building projects. In one specific case, the widespread conservative position on Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct is to build a massive deep-bore tunnel that will cost billions of dollars. This project is a priority even as state government is being slashed across the board. The "left" solution is to tear down the existing viaduct and reconfigure surface streets to reroute the traffic. That option is the cheapest available by hundreds of millions of dollars. It also prioritizes local priorities over state priorities. It is the libertarian solution. Yet conservatives (and a plurality of the general public) oppose it. Conservatives also oppose lifting regulations that require minimum parking in city neighborhoods; the progressive left favors lifting the minimum though some also favor instituting maximum parking regulations to take their place. As for government services and tax dollars, they flow disproportionately to conservative areas and conservative voters. Conservatives support building more prisons and keeping more people in them. They support putting more cops on the street. They favor government support of surveillance and torture policies. Some of these policies are or can be good government policy, but what they are not is libertarian policies. Aside from an allergy to taxes and an excessive paranoia about losing their guns, conservatives in a supposedly libertarian region and state have almost no support for libertarian policies. Liberals, even on economic issues, have at least an equal claim to libertarianism. 

The same trends exist nationally, with strong support even among many self-identified libertarians for a massive military, law enforcement, and intelligence apparatus. It's not government they oppose, but the wrong kind of government, and in that they're no different from any other American. The clear majority of voters continue to favor a large government that spends lots of money, balancing the interests of different factions but providing something for almost everybody. So principled libertarianism is a political dead end.

What conservatives really need is to ditch the religious conservatives and the fringe wackos (including most libertarians) and embrace an efficient government that supports traditions that have stood the test of time. This would include support of marriage equality and reproductive freedom, opposition to corporate subsidies and trade policies that favor businesses over individuals and families, and a mix of sensible and effective economic regulations and taxes that encourage stable and productive behaviors that strengthen our national institutions. On climate change, for example, this would mean supporting cap-and-trade and use taxes over either the current climate denialism or a more centralized approach that imposes strict mandates and limits. On immigration it would mean allowing immigrants to work under the same rules as citizens, with incentives for citizenship. It would mean directing law enforcement dollars for the drug war to more effective medical treatment policies while legalizing drugs with sensible regulations. It might be libertarian in spirit, but it would be pragmatic in practice. And it would stand a chance of attracting majority support by appealing to independents, which is not true of social conservatism, anti-tax libertarian absolutism, right-wing extremism, or the confused muddle of all of this that makes up the current conservative movement and the Republican Party in particular.

None a hint of this kind of conservatism can be found anywhere in the US; it mostly describes elements that can be found in the more successful parties of the European (and Canadian) right. Until conservatism can learn to embrace new ideas from unlikely places, they'll continue to be a marginalized political force in this country. And libertarianism is a big part of why that isn't happening.


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