Video Fridays: Democracy Waking Up: Black Lives Matter & Insurgent Candidates

schuffmanRemember this quote from Bernie Sanders, from my post back in May?

“One of the greatest tragedies that we face today politically is that most people have given up on the political process. They understand the political process is stacked against them. They think there is no particular reason for them to come out and vote — and they don’t.”

Well, there have been several signs lately that people haven’t fully given up, and I’d like to highlight two promising examples here.

Black Lives Matter
On August 8th, three Black Lives Matter activists disrupted a Bernie Sanders campaign event in Seattle.

It was courageous and brilliant.

Anyone who thinks the activists were rude or barking up the wrong tree — because Bernie has an excellent record on civil rights for people of color — simply doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand the depths of the problem, the ugly persistence of institutional racism, the daily struggles of Black Americans, the daily degradations, the enduring discrimination and the lack of opportunity.

The Black Lives Matter movement clearly has not given up, and we should celebrate that they were successful in getting Bernie to meet with and listen to them, to strengthen his support for their work, such that when he was initially asked if black lives matter he gave a qualified answer — “black lives matter, white lives matter, Hispanic lives matter” — and when he was asked in the first Democratic Presidential Debate this past Tuesday he included no such qualifier:

Black lives matter. And the reason those words matter is the African American community knows that on any given day some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail, or their kids are going to get shot. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system in which we have more people in jail than China. And, I intended to tackle that issue. To make sure that our people have education and jobs rather than jail cells.

THAT is getting it!

Insurgent Candidates
I don’t know the origin of the term “insurgent candidate”, it certainly predates its current use, but I absolutely love it. And yes, even when it’s referring to candidates I vehemently oppose, because a true Democracy should provide a real opportunity to anyone who wants to participate in government by running for office, and no one should be deterred by a lack of money, by a political party that favors establishment players, or by a rigid 2-party system that breeds polarization and gridlock.

Getting more specific, I see as a very good thing insurgent candidates who do not fit, and defiantly refuse to fit, the media-perpetuated definition of “presidential”. I and millions of other Americans are sick to death of highly polished, highly coached, highly focus-grouped, politicians. They are the reason why so many of us had given up.

If insurgency allows for a loudmouthed, racist poster boy for capitalist greed like Donald Trump to reach Republican front-runner status, it’s worth it if at the same time it allows plainspoken, SuperPac-less, unapologetically Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, to be a serious challenger to Wall Street darling Hillary Clinton.

Mark Hertsgaard nails this and calls it Bernie’s “secret weapon” in The Nation.

Anyway, I’m running out of time, it’s Friday, that means a Video Fridays installment is due, and so here’s the brief story of another insurgent candidate, Stuart Schuffman, who is running for Mayor of San Francisco, and whose campaign website is refreshingly called: Broke-Ass Mayor.

I LOVE this guy, I love his “I don’t give a shit. I don’t care if I don’t win, I’m doing this to make some fucking noise.” attitude. Being polite and asking the government nicely to help the homeless, to address income and wealthy inequality, to battle climate change, etc., will NOT cut it.

Go Stu! And, Happy Weekend, everyone!

Bicycle + Treadmill = Genius!

Lopifit-Electrical-Supported-Tredmill-1This, folks, is the Lopifit, and it is all kinds of brilliant.

I stumbled upon this treadmill-bike thanks to a Facebook friend’s post, and given my interest in bicycles AND the fact that I swear by the standing workstation I use at my job, given that I’ve blogged about bicycles numerous times in the past, given that “bicycles” is fully half of my blog’s name, I can’t not write a post about this!

The Lopifit is the brainchild of Bruin Bergmeester, from The Netherlands, and an article from a year ago at the Epoch Times describes the Lopifit origin story:

When asked how he came up with the idea, Bruin explains he works full time and sits all day, so he likes to exercise on a treadmill at home.

One day it was lovely outside and Bruin did not fancy spending time on a bicycle, which meant sitting again, so he thought to himself: “Why not bring the treadmill outdoors?” And so the Lopifit was born.

The article was accompanied by this very short video:

Well, what a difference a year makes!

When the Epoch Times piece appeared, Bergmeester had built five prototypes, and a shop in Utrecht could build them on demand, but now there’s a fancy Lopifit website, the Lopifit has crossed the Atlantic and there are now three dealers in the U.S., and the Lopifit can be yours, in one of five color options, for €1,899.00 or $2162.55 USD.

Commenters online naturally got around to asking the obvious question: Yeah, this seems like a great idea in notoriously flat places like The Netherlands, but how well can it handle hills?

While this may not be enough to convince someone in hilly San Francisco, Seattle, or even here in Bellingham, the Epoch Times article mentions hills directly, claiming that, thanks to the electric assist motor, the Lopifit “runs quite fast and is equally good going uphill”.

Me? I’ll take the orange one!


Video Fridays: Ayron Jones & The Way

AyronJones_02-ACOne of the joys of summers here in Bellingham, Washington is the abundance of live outdoor music. From concerts in the park to concerts in the street, from harborside venues to, of all places, the top, uncovered level of the downtown parking garage, when we finally get reliably sunny and dry weather people go absolutely nuts and flock to the music, all adding up to a very fun, festive vibe.

One of my favorite concert series is Downtown Sounds, which takes place on five consecutive Wednesdays from 5:30 to 9:30 pm on a block of Bay Street that is temporarily blocked from car traffic. It’s free, it’s all-ages (though there is a 21+ beer garden), there’s food and other vendors, and there’s a state of the art stage where bands from around the region and beyond put on consistently great shows to large, appreciative crowds.

The band that headlined this past Wednesday, Seattle’s Ayron Jones & The Way, was a timely gift. I’d been getting burned out on the proliferation of R&B/Soul/Funk bands, locally as well as bands passing through, and so it was incredibly refreshing to see a young, edgy, raw power trio, simply electric guitar, bass, drums.

I had more fun, by magnitudes, headbanging in the crowd of headbangers in front of the stage than I have had watching/listening/dancing to the latest in a seemingly endless stream of dance-oriented bands I’ve seen these past few years.

Ayron’s music is described on his website thusly:

[Infuses] the raw energy of punk with the inner-city attitude of Hip-Hop. The result is a soulful reincarnation of that iconic Seattle sound. Think, Stevie Ray Vaughan meets Nirvana.

Those seem like odd juxtapositions, but it works. The band is young and rough around the edges, mostly in a good way, but Ayron is a monster guitar player, loaded with confidence, and to my eyes and ears his future is very, very bright.

Oh, and he can also play his guitar with a drumstick.

Which is awesome.

So, without further ado, here’s this week’s Video Fridays installment, by Ayron Jones & The Way.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Tweet of the Day: @BillMcKibben

My new favorite made-up word: Kayaktivist

I don’t think many people thought, when the kayak-based protests over a Shell Oil arctic drilling platform in Seattle’s Elliot Bay started a month ago, that the protest would still be going on today.

Kayaks have such an iconic presence here in the Pacific Northwest, and though I’ve never owned one myself, I’ve had the pleasure of paddling quite a few times over my 20+ years living here. As a result, and given my radical treehugging tendencies, I can’t help feeling solidarity with the protesters.

Paddle on, brothers and sisters! Paddle on!

Stuff We Need: Affordable Electric Vehicles, Revisited

EVBack in July 2010, I wrote about electric vehicles (EV), making the claim that EVs will have to be much more affordable and charging stations more numerous and convenient in order for the desperately needed transition away from oil-burning cars to happen at any significant level.

A year later, I added that the other key factor for widespread adoption of EVs is range — how far an EV can be driven before the battery needs to be recharged — pointing out that the range offered by the vast majority of cars at that time was grossly insufficient in order to lure folks away from their gas guzzlers. (The range of the example I linked to offered a pathetic 62 miles, not even enough to get me to Seattle, 90-miles away, a place I drive to fairly regularly.)

This post today might have qualified for my Celebrating Eco-Progress series if I wasn’t such a cheapskate.

I’ll explain.

Introducing, via, the Chevy Bolt concept car, offering a decent range of 200 miles, and a projected sticker price of, gulp, $30,000:


Now, in 2014, the average price of a car sold in the U.S. was $31,252, so many would argue that $30,000 IS affordable, especially since it comes with a big federal tax credit. But I’m 50-years old, I’ve never purchased a new car in my life, and I will NEVER cough up $30,000, or more accurately go $30,000 in debt, for a new car…

Oh, alright!

I admit, a $30k EV with a range of 200 miles WILL get more people out of their fossil fuel mobiles, and that alone is cause to celebrate.


I just need to wait an buy a used one.

Tweet of the Day: @soulpancake

soul-pancakeI gotta say, the more I see of actor Rainn Wilson, the more impressed I am with him.

I first discovered Rainn, appearing as Arthur Martin, the quirky/slightly-creepy/yet-endearing intern at the Fisher Funeral Home, in the 2001-2005 HBO series Six Feet Under. And then, very soon after, he appeared in his most-known role, as Dwight Schrute in the U.S. version of The Office.

He has also appeared in a couple of movies, and has hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live, but the project I’m most impressed with is his website, Soul Pancake, and the the book of the same name. Soul Pancake is a kind of Web 2.0 platform, best described by this blurb from the site:

Our brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality and humor is designed to open your mind, challenge your friends, and feel damn good.

I particularly like Rainn’s video series, Metaphysical Milkshake, filmed in the back of a van, in which he has hosted a wide range of guests, from musicians to actors to entrepreneurs to Deepak Chopra. Now, plenty of fun has been poked at people who are inquisitive and think about life’s big questions, spiritual questions, but Rainn Wilson has achieved a wonderful balance between comedy and seriousness. He keeps things very funny, but the jokes don’t rob the discussions of their sincerity.

If you read up a little on Rainn, you find out that he’s from right here in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle), his mom was a yoga instructor, he’s very open about being a member of the Bahá’í Faith, and, while his humor can be as dark and risqué as it gets, he doesn’t allow it to be mutually exclusive with his spiritual side.

And so we arrive at the reason for today’s Tweet of the Day installment, something that, despite the typo in the tweet, I found very sweet and meaningful and representative of Rainn’s sincere big heart.


Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: An Open Letter To Bellingham Mayor, Kelli Linville

Coal_TrainIn this latest addition to my continuing series of posts on the battle, here in my beloved Bellingham, Washington, over a proposed coal shipping terminal just north of town, some great Earth Day news on the subject prompted me to write to Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, to implore her to take a stand.

Dear Mayor Linville,

It was with tremendous pride in our beloved Pacific Northwest that I learned of the Earth Day announcement yesterday by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn concerning the newly-formed Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

The time is now, Mayor Linville, for you to take a stand against coal and join this coalition.

I appreciate that, up until now, you’ve been taking a cautious approach to the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project, careful, as of course you would and should be, not to be too hasty in opposing a project that could bring some badly-needed family wage jobs and tax revenue to the county.

However, members of the Bellingham community, your constituents, through groups like ReSources for Sustainable Communities and CommunityWise Bellingham have done a fantastic job researching the possible local and regional impacts of the GPT, and there’s more than enough evidence out there already, even before the EIS scoping is determined, to see that the terminal would be a disaster, both environmentally and economically, for Whatcom County, Bellingham, and the region.

And now you see, from this new alliance of regional leaders and tribes, as well as from the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments received during the scoping process were in opposition to the GPT:

via (emphasis in bold added):

The report categorizes comments based on where and how they were received as well as by their issue of concern. Of the 124,889 comments, 108,995 were received as signatures on bulk form letters from various groups in support or opposed to the project, 1,207 were verbal comments submitted during scoping meetings and 14,687 were submitted individually in writing.

…and finally from recent reports that the demand for coal from China is on the decline, as they make massive investment in renewables, that there is a groundswell and momentum, a perfect time for you to announce that you’ve had time to consider all of the implications of the GPT and have decided to join the Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

Again, I appreciate your leadership and your initial decision to not rush into a stance on the coal terminal. But, Bellingham has become nationally-known for our community’s commitment to sustainability, and the GPT project is entirely antithetical to Bellingham’s hard-earned reputation and proud identity.

Thank you for your consideration.