Recent local blog posts

Industrie Clothiers: Let Owner Amy Peters Save You a Trip to the Big City

Thurston Talk - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 6:15am



By Kelli Samson

Capitol City Honda sponsorLadies, meet Amy Peters. I want you to get to know this woman, because she is going to get us out of our yoga pants (especially those of us who don’t even do yoga) and into something more put together.

She knows just where we’re coming from. Peters is coming off of a break from the professional world of retail fashion since starting her family nearly four years ago.

olympia clothing store

Amy Peters brings her years of experience as a Corporate Buyer for Nordstrom Rack to her own business, Industrie Clothiers.

Metaphorically speaking, she, too, is just getting out of the yoga pants.

“I’m a jeans, t-shirt, and sweater gal. That’s my uniform,” Peters assures me.

And we are oh-so-glad this is the case. The opening of Industrie Clothiers is a total win for all of us ladies who want to look nice right now. Not after a trip northward and a big shopping spree, but after a trip down the road and with a receipt in hand that we don’t have to hide from our other halves.

With January’s opening of Industrie, Peters has become the fourth female business owner in the complex also housing Spruce Skin and Wax Shoppe (owner Annie Johns), Bon Lemon (owner Amy Evans), and Kneaded Relief (owner Alison Heard). Her arrival has fully rounded out the front of the building and made it a true destination for women in the area.

Originally from Oregon, Peters worked in the fashion industry as a Corporate Buyer for Nordstrom Rack in Seattle during most of her twenties and thirties after earning a degree in business from Oregon State University. “If you want to work in retail, working for Nordstrom is the best experience,” says Peters.

Industrie is her first foray into the world of business ownership. Luckily, she is in the right location for lots of valuable advice.

“What the girls at Bon Lemon and Spruce have done with their space, along with their taste level, was just an inspiration and an impetus for me to turn my idea into a reality,” says Peters. “Their philanthropy work is especially inspiring. They’re so involved in the community. They’ve been really good mentors.”

The decision to open the shop this winter was quick, and it had a lot to do with the location.

olympia clothing store

Industrie is the perfect blend of Anthropologie and Nordstrom, and it’s right here in Olympia.

“I walked by this space last fall and saw all the windows. It was still gutted, but I could just imagine what I would do with it,” recalls Peters. “It was kind of the perfect storm. My kids are getting older, this space was available, and the landlords are fantastic. When you’re going into business, good partnerships are key.”

From start to finish, there were about three months between Peters noticing the space in October and opening the shop in late January. “I haven’t even had a chance to do a grand opening yet,” she laughs.

The choice to name her store Industrie Clothiers, on the other hand, took a bit of time. The name holds multiple layers of meaning for Peters.

It’s is a nod to the fashion industry, yes, but one made more effeminate by using the French spelling. The fact that France is often considered the epicenter of high fashion in the world of women’s clothing is just icing on the cake.

olympia clothing store

Amy Peters brings value to her customers with every purchase.

The name also refers to being in the fashion industry and getting the industry prices and deals. “A lot of my posts on Facebook share the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and then the price that I am selling the item for,” explains Peters.

The moniker additionally connects to the idea of the Industrial Revolution, a period in history of which Peters is an astute student.

“During the Industrial Revolution, the textile industry was booming, It was great for the economy and the consumer. What wasn’t great was that it took people away from their farms. They went to go live in not-so-great-conditions, they worked long hours in factories, and it struck a chord with me,” explains Peters.

She continues, “I grew up in a small town and went from the farm to the city to work in fashion. I like turning the idea of ‘industry’ on its head because now I am back in a small town, this works for me, this works for my family, and I get to work part-time. My kids are still my full-time job.”

olympia clothing store

Along with clothing, Industrie carries shoes, Voluspa candles, and things made on a smaller scale by artisans, such as wallets and art.

The shop’s atmosphere brings in a decidedly French flair with luxe, vintage velvet settees and chairs, along with an antique cabinet that houses a line of fancy Tocca perfume products.

On the flip side, Peters mixes in a lot of industrial touches to bring out a minimalist, factory vibe. The clothing is displayed on rolling racks made out of pipes, there is a lot of metal work for sale, and the shop is truly uncluttered.

The clothing is contemporary-casual. Peters works with her contacts from her time in the fashion industry to bring highly coveted brands to Olympia at an amazing, nearly unbelievable value to her customers. We’re talking jeans by Hudson, 7 for All Mankind, Lucky Brand, and Joe’s for nearly half of what we’re used to paying in the more urban areas.

“I do a lot of Google searches to make sure we’re never undersold,” says Peters.

She currently stocks sizes 00 to 14, and it’s likely she can get you something in your size if it’s not on the floor. “I have really amazing suppliers who have been contacts for years. They’re very supportive of me,” explains Peters.

If you need a gentle nudge in a fashionable direction after years of feeling unfashionable, Peters kindly shares her two favorite pieces in the shop currently.

olympia clothing store

Industrie Clothiers is located at 4419 Harrison Ave. NW, Suite 103, in Olympia.

“I’m really digging the hot pink pants by Hudson right now, and the polka dot ones,” shares Peters. “I’m hearing that bright, obnoxious neon is coming back, and I’m kind of excited about it.”

It so fortunate that Amy Peters is here to point us in the right direction and help us feel confident in our wardrobes. Even if we show up in yoga pants with a small child in tow, she’s got us covered. There’s a special corner just for the little ones to hang out while we shop. “I want people to come in and have a great experience,” says Peters.

We love you already, Amy. You’re speaking our language.

Industrie Clothiers is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. You can learn more about the shop on Facebook. And if all this sounds really magical to you, Peters is currently hiring.


Industrie Clothiers

­­­­­­4419 Harrison Ave. NW, Suite 103 in Olympia



Olympia Weekend Event Calendar

Thurston Talk - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 6:00am



It’s been a week of jammies until noon and riding bikes through the neighborhood for our family.  And, I’ve liked it just fine.  The change of pace from school and activities was welcome, even if we weren’t taking a special trip for Spring Break.  We’ve done some exploring of our community – poking through local antique shops, grabbing a bakery treat and visiting a local trail or two for a hike.  The fun continues this weekend with loads of things to do right here in Thurston County.  So whether you are on a “staycation” like us or this was just a regular week for you, check out all that going on around town with our weekend event calendar.

Submit an event for our calendar here.

ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia.  If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at  For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.


Pine Hill Haints “What Am I Gonna Do but Wait Right Here”

K Records - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 1:40am
Another Saturday night strumming on something cold and black. Bringing new light to an old conundrum, Pine Hill Haints-style.   K Song of the Day: Pine Hill Haints “What Am I Gonna Do but Wait Right Here” from their The Magik Sounds of Pine Hill Haints [KLP254] album. The Pine Hill Haints album The Magik […]
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Top Rung Brewing to Hold 1-year Anniversary Beerbalation April 10 -12

Thurston Talk - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 5:30pm



Submitted by Top Rung Brewing

top rung brewing

Top Rung’s outdoor patio is perfect for a sunny afternoon pint. Dogs and kids welcome.

Top Rung Brewing is excited to announce that we will be celebrating our 1-year anniversary by holding a Beerbalation event from April 10-12 at the brewery.  We will be pouring a special released beer, special randalized beer, have live music on Friday and Saturday, food provided by Red Rover Grill with special menu, games, and for $7.50 you will receive a special commemorative glass with beer of your choice (excluding special release or Imperials).

Come on out and join us at the brewery for a great time!  We will be open Friday and Saturday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.

Top Rung Brewing is a 10 barrel production brewery with tasting room at the brewery. Top Rung Brewing is a destination for craft beer drinkers to enjoy their beverage and view a production brewery facility.  Our tasting room is family friendly and while we will only offer snacks, we partner with local food vendors and food trucks as well as allow patrons to bring in their own food of their choice or have it delivered.  Top Rung Brewing: bringing quality craft beer to Lacey.

Normal hours are Thursdays 4-9, Fridays and Saturdays 2-9, and Sundays 12-5.

Yonatan Gat at Dub Narcotic Studio!

K Records - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 3:01pm
Stradling March and April Yonatan Gat spend several days at Dub Narcotic Studio recording with Calvin Johnson, in between playing shows in Olympia, Seattle and Portland. Crazy times back and forth instrumental, Hebrew text multiplied by improvisational bursts of enrapture. Goo Goo Muck times 10! Calvin Johnson plays melodica and then shouts the blues. Will […]
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Orca Books Author Reading: Olympia writer Mary Frances Carney presents her novel "A Parish Near Ebbets Fied"

OlyBlog Home Page - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 1:34pm
Event:  Sat, 04/18/2015 - 3:00pm

Olympia author Mary Frances Carney will read from her new novel, "A Parish Near Ebbets Field". This is a FREE event and all are welcome. Orca Books is at 509 4th Ave E. in downtown Olympia, one block west of City Hall.

About the book: Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was the heart of the city in the early '50s, and the parish formed a center of identity for the church faithful. The church clock tower tolled the rhythms of the day, uniting everyone in the intrigues and intricacies of human activity. Irish humor and folklore are woven into the fabric of this novel, which combines a love story and a tale of an old jealousy among friends.

Mary Frances Carney (also Eido Frances Carney) is a writer, painter, poet, and Zen Buddhist priest born in Brooklyn and now living in Olympia. She taught in higher education, founded a Zen center, and leads workshops in meditation, poetry, and creative process across the U.S. and Europe. She is the author of "Kakurenbo Or the Whereabouts of Zen Priest Ryokan", and editor of "Receiving the Marrow, Teachings on Dogen by Soto Zen Women Priests". logo Twitter logo Google Plus One Facebook Like

Orca Books Author Reading: "Where the Mountains End" tour, featuring award-winning queer authors Amber Dawn, Vivek Shraya, and Leah Horlick

OlyBlog Home Page - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 1:23pm
Event:  Sat, 04/11/2015 - 3:00pm

Join award-winning queer authors Amber Dawn, Vivek Shraya, and Leah Horlick on their "Where The Mountains End" tour. Exploring survival, myth, sex, and magic all the way down the West Coast, these three bring a literary cabaret of their newest work, from Amber Dawn’s long-awaited full-length collection of poetry, "Where The Words End and My Body Begins", to Vivek Shraya’s critically acclaimed visual epic,"She of the Mountains" to Leah Horlick’s silence-breaking sophomore book, "For Your Own Good". This is a FREE event and all are welcome!

Orca Books is at 509 4th Ave E in downtown Olympia, one block west of City Hall. logo Twitter logo Google Plus One Facebook Like

Steamboat Island Community 4-H Club Informational Meeting

Griffin Neighborhood - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 7:51am
Please join us for an informational meeting to learn about the new Steamboat Island Community 4-H Club forming now! Kids currently in K-12 are welcome along with their parents.
4-H provides lots of opportunity for positive youth development. Come to explore projects such as: backyard nature, sewing, horseless horse, and social skills through Legos.
When: April 15, 2015 - 4:45 PM - 5:45 PM
Where: Griffin Fire Department Station 13-28113 Steamboat Island RD NWOlympia, WA 98505
For more information please email:

Something Old, Something New: Vinyl Records Make a Modern Comeback Locally

Thurston Talk - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 6:16am



olympia vinyl

DescoAV Owner, Jeffrey Scott, is excited to share his passion for premium vinyl with his customers.

Long before the convenience of iPods and MP3 players and the transportability of cassette tapes and CDs existed, vinyl records were king. People displayed their record collections proudly in their living rooms, taking care between plays to methodically clean the grooves of the vinyl before slipping each record back into its protective sleeve.

It was during the 1970s and ‘80s, however, when people started deserting their records in dusty attics, replacing their heavy vinyl collections with compact and lightweight cassette tapes and CDs, audio formats that would more recently be replaced with iPods and the MP3.

While most people traded in their record collections for the latest and greatest, some continued to appreciate the warm, rich sound that was so unique to vinyl. These collectors helped keep the record industry somewhat alive during its dormant phase, which it is only now just starting to come out of. Recently the record industry has garnered a new generation of young listeners, bringing this primitive form of audio back into the mainstream. In the past 12 months alone vinyl sales have increased 49 percent. That translates to about 8 million records purchased over the course of just one year.

Jeffrey Scott, owner of DescoAV, couldn’t be more excited about the recent vinyl revival, as it’s an opportunity for Desco to branch out and offer its customers something that Scott and the rest of the Desco staff are passionate about: high quality vinyl. “I’ve always wanted to have a record store,” says Scott. “It’s one of those things that you say, ‘If I won the lottery and could do whatever I want, I would own a hi-fi and record shop.’” However, up until recently, the idea of owning a record store didn’t seem all that lucrative. As an outfitter of high quality audio/video equipment, for many years Desco has offered a range of turntables and record playing equipment as part of their inventory, but they weren’t sure that records were something that their customers wanted — until now.

olympia vinyl store

DescoAV offers a wide range of audio video equipment for every budget.

“It’s become popular,” says Scott. “The culture now is to appreciate better quality.” As such, the “iTunes generation,” as Scott call them, wants more from their music. “MP3s have no soul or depth,” explains Scott. “If you expose a young person to a record, they say, ‘Woah! That sounds amazing.’ That’s because they’re hearing notes they hadn’t heard before. They’re hearing musicians playing off each other. They’re hearing all these sounds that were lost with the [MP3].”

Featuring a curated selection of premium records, Desco customers can now retire their soon-to-be-outdated MP3 players and instead stock up from a selection of timeless, high quality, 180-gram virgin vinyl re-pressings of their favorite classic records and more recent hits.

Desco’s Director of Marketing, Beth Garson, says she’s excited that Desco is offering vinyl as it’s an opportunity to connect with customers who enjoy music that is not only good, but also of high quality. “We’re an audio video store that loves music and wants to surface great music to our clients,” says Garson. “We also want to introduce ourselves to people who enjoy good quality music, especially younger people.”

But, in addition to connecting with their customers on an even more musical level, Desco also wants to connect with local musicians by featuring their records in-store. “There are people locally who are making records and don’t have a place to sell them,” says Scott. “We want to sell their records and help them find their local audience.” Local musicians are encouraged to contact Desco about opportunities for selling their vinyl in-store.

olympia vinyl

Offering a curated collection of premium records, DescoAV’s record selection features titles from Frank Sinatra to Wolfmother and everything in between.

In celebration of Desco’s new in-store record shop, Desco is excited to announce its upcoming Record Store Day festivities on April 18. In addition to offering 10 percent off all vinyl, Desco also invites customers to bring in their records and take advantage of the free record cleaning service Desco will be providing using their hi-tech vacuum record cleaning equipment. Desco will clean up to five records for free. Scott says he’ll also be calibrating and fine-tuning turntables, free of charge. But, in addition to these great promotions, Desco is most looking forward to a fun afternoon of listening to music.

As part of Record Store Day, Desco’s high end room, which features top of the line equipment for the ultimate stereo sound music experience, will be open during the event. Bring some records, find some new ones, and get ready for a great afternoon. Record Store Day activities take place from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 18.

For more information, visit DescoAV’s website here. More information about Record Store Day and Desco’s new collection of vinyl can be found by visiting DescoAV’s blog.



2306 Harrison Ave NW

olympia vinyl

From turntables to speakers, DescoAV also offers all the equipment you need to play your favorite records.

Olympia, WA 98502




Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Weekends: By appointment

Record Store Day is Saturday, April 18, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


Thrifty Thurston Baits a Lure to Fish in Thurston County

Thurston Talk - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 6:00am



By Douglas Scott

sunset airA white and red orb floats on a lake, bobbing up and down with every ripple from the breeze. Methodically, it rocks, unaware that it will soon be the cause of shock, excitement and a moment which will be remembered and cherished forever. Connected to a line leading back to shore, the float quickly sinks, and a yell goes up from land.

Underwater, a rainbow trout, bites onto a hook, marking the end of its journey, but living on for generations through stories. Above water, a child fishing for the first time is on their way to reel in their very first fish. It will be a moment forever remembered. The tale will be passed down to their children and grandchildren, reliving it with each telling. The memory of catching your first fish is an event you remember for your life, and is something that can happen right here in Thurston County.

lacey family fishing

The Lacey Family Fish-In is scheduled for April 18, 2015. Photo credit: City of Lacey

Each spring for the past 16 years, the City of Lacey has been hosting the Lacey Family Fish-in. Located at Woodland Creek Community Park, the event is responsible for teaching 600 kids a year how to fish. With fish remaining close to the shore, thanks to nets, children in attendance have a very good chance at catching a fish here. The event is ran and supported by local fishing groups like the Puget Sound Anglers, Capitol City Bass Club and Trout Unlimited.

This year, the event will be held on Saturday, April 18 at Woodland Creek Community Park. Costing just $5, and open to children ages 5-14, each participant will get a rod and reel to keep. The event requires preregistration and is expected to fill up. Call the Lacey Parks and Rec Department at 360-451-0857.

During the Family Fish-in, volunteers will be available to help both young anglers of all levels fish, and also clean the rainbow trout that they catch. The volunteers are members of the local fishing groups of the region, and make the event an incredible experience for all who attend.

“The true heroes of Lacey’s Family Fish-in are the volunteers. They are there rain or shine, happily sharing their passion,” Jenny Wilson, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Lacey explained. “Fishing is a great family activity.  At this event, with the help of the amazing volunteers, attendees will gain a lifelong enthusiasm for the sport.”

fishing thurston county

Help your child catch their first fish in Thurston County. Photo credit: City of Lacey

Jenny Wilson also went on to remind those interested that the pond at Woodland Creek Community Park is stocked year round, and any kid 14 and under can go fishing without a license, no matter the season. Also good to know is that Saint Martin’s University Alumni Association comes out every year to provide free hot cocoa and coffee.

Other Fishing Events

Over in Tumwater, Trout Unlimited brings those looking for a kids fishing event the Free Kids Fishing Day and Community Fun Fair! at Columbus Park. Sitting along Black Lake, this event give kids 14 and under a chance to fish for free in Columbus Park Pond on May 23. Stocked with 750 fish, there is a good likelihood your child’s first fish may be caught here. Like the Lacey Family Fish-in, this event requires that you register for time-slots in advance. The Free Kids Fishing Day and Community Fun Fair will also have kids activities and vendors selling food, making this a fun way to meet the community.

While Trouts Unlimited does have a number of poles available for kids to use, they encourage children who have fishing poles to bring them. The event is scheduled for Saturday May 23 between 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. To register for time slots, call (360)786-9460 or email

Elsewhere in Thurston County, fishing opportunities await at the regions lakes. Nearly a quarter of a million fish have been stocked in 16 regional lakes, according to a stocking schedule by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Based on the surface area of the lake and the amount of fish stocked this spring, your best chances to catch a fish will be in Deep Lake, Offutt Lake and Summit Lake, with the best being Offutt Lake near Tenino.

lacey fishing

There are many Thurston County lakes that are stocked with trout. Photo credit: City of Lacey

Make 2015 the year your child catches their first fish. Whether you choose to go the Lacey Family Fish-In, the event at Columbus Park or in any of the area lakes, this is the year to go fishing.

For more information on fishing experiences, explore the Puget Sound Angers website or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. Either place can provide information about events, fishing rules and regulations and answer any question you may have to get your child, or yourself out fishing.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.

Someone got a fake letter published in the Olympian yesterday under the name of a t.v. character. But, that's not even the worst thing

Olympia Time - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 5:56am

Yesterday, the Olympian published a letter to the editor written under the name of Ronald Swanson (google cache version is still up). On reflection, it was a pretty blatant joke that I should've gotten at first blush. I watched Parks and Recreation, but the entire Chuck E Cheese token joke I forgot.

When I read it first thing in the morning yesterday, I didn't pause. Dumb letter, I thought, then moved on. It wasn't until later in the day when I saw other people reacting to joke that it dawned on me.

So, that it got past the few people left at the Olympian doesn't surprise me. People complaining about parks is pretty common chatter here, as I assume it is in most cities like us.

Meta took a tour of the empty newsroom at the Olympian recently:
The bad news becomes apparent as one walks past the front desk and down the main hallway to reach the newsroom. First, there is a large nook with two desks, facing into the hallway as if to welcome visitors into a major customer service hub, but now abandoned. Then behind those desks is another room with row after row of cubicles, about 30 or more, containing nothing but some cleaning supplies, folding tables, recycle bins, and other bric-a-brac in need of a storage space.

That’s the top floor. The bottom floor was once the print shop, but it sits empty too, as all the printing is now done in Tacoma.

At the end of that main hallway, a sign on the wall offers directions to passersby. Three of the arrows on the sign point toward the empty room on the top floor (“advertising,” “production,” and “online”), two point to the empty bottom floor (“circulation” and “production center”), and only one to an occupied space (“newsroom”).

Clearly, while The Olympian has more local staff than some outsiders might realize, they have many fewer than they had in their heyday.So, what I'm saying is that its understandable. But, not the worst part.

The worst part is that the joke letter (harmless) ran alongside a letter to the editor from a former Secretary of State. He was writing in to counter a previous letter to the editor that had run in previous weeks.

Sam Reed's letter didn't just argue against the opinion of the previous letter, it had to clean up at least one factual error. That error was an election result in a nearby county just last November. I admit it wasn't regional news that Clark County passed a charter last November along the lines of a sensational murder.

But, it was a result that most civically inclined people I know noted. And, it was also a fact that would've taken less than five minutes to check.

We need to debate our own important issues here. A letter to the editor column is a bit of a ham-handed forum anymore, but it is still a vital one. And, the value of that public forum is lessened when we can't believe what is written there.

I'm rooting for the staff at the Olympian, but mostly I'm rooting for Olympia.

State Republicans out of step with reality, voters on climate change

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:44pm

The cap and trade system bill unlikely to make it out of the state senate

A bill that would institute a cap and trade system to put a price on carbon in WA State was held hostage this month. SB 5283 never left the committee that Senator Doug Ericksen (R) of Bellingham, who receives more money from fossil fuel industries than other elected officials, chairs—the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.

In the house, with Democratic leadership, the proposal fared better. HB 1314 passed out of the House Environment Committee chaired by Joe Fitzgibbon, who, along with vice-chair Strom Peterson, is a sponsor of the bill. On February 12, HB 1314 was referred to the House Appropriations Committee, where chair Ross Hunter and vice-chair Timm Ormsby are also bill sponsors. Maybe this version of Governor Inslee’s cap and trade proposal will get traction, but probably not.

The influence of external pressure on climate science–$$$

One big block to making progress on climate change is the WA State Republican Party. According to the current state platform, short-term economic gains are more important than providing environmental protection, even as Puget Sound acidifies, salmon streams heat up, and asthma rates soar. WA State Republicans don’t accept that climate change is real, contrary to the preponderance of scientific evidence.

Here’s their language of denial. In section 12 of their party platform, WA State Republicans claim that “Climate change occurs naturally and warming from human generated greenhouse gases has yet to be proven. Well-researched peer reviewed papers are being presented proposing other mechanisms that influence the earth’s climate. The ongoing debate should take place without external pressure where scientists are free to present various theses without fear of retribution. At present climate change science does not provide sufficient basis to formulate public policy” (

The concerns expressed by the WA State Republican party seem ill placed. According to a February 21, 2015 article in the New York Times, not only did scientist Wei-Hock Soon, a leading proponent of the theory that human behavior plays a relatively small role in climate change, feels free to present his thesis, but he also felt free to accept more than $1.2 million from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade. In other words, he freely accepted over a million dollars to present his thesis and apparently, Washington State’s Republican Party has freely accepted his wares. Is this the kind of “debate without external pressure” the party was thinking of when they wrote their platform?

Majority of moderate Republicans think global warming is real

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication reported findings in January of this year, based on a synthesis of six nationally representative surveys completed in the last three years, showing most Republicans think climate change is real. According to their research, a solid majority of moderate and liberal Republicans think global warming is happening: 62% of moderates and 68% of liberals. 38% of conservative Republicans think global warming is happening. Even 29% of Tea Party Republicans, representing about 17% of the Republican party overall, think global warming is happening. The majority of Republicans (56%) support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant compared with 70% of all registered voters. Over a third of Tea Party Republicans (36%) support regulating carbon. The WA State Republican party is out of touch in their climate change-denial position and in their unwillingness to try to regulate carbon. They remain in close contact with funders from the fossil fuel industry.

Fessing up to distorted views: Who’s a skeptic now?

In the context of the debates over the Keystone pipeline project, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a simple, radical idea: own your position. Is climate change real? Sanders proposed the introduction of a “sense of Congress” resolution affirming that climate change is real, caused by burning fossil fuel, and must be addressed. Sheldon Whitehorse (D, Rhode Island) proposed the first of a series of amendments, stating that “climate change is real, and is not a hoax” –98 senators voted yes, with only one no vote. When the wording was amended to say that climate change is real and human activity contributes to it, 15 Republican senators voted yes along with Democrats. A third amendment changed the wording to state that human activity significantly contributes to climate change—and 5 Republican senators voted yes, along with Democrats. From Sanders’ point of view, as well as others, the big breakthrough is that climate change is now on the floor for debate. It’s no longer a given that it’s “cool” to ignore the climate.

Senator Cyrus Habib, a Democrat from Kirkland, made a similar move in our statehouse. After Doug Ericksen killed Governor Inslee’s cap and trade bill on the senate side, he then proposed a bill of his own, SB 5735, to gut the 2006 voter initiative that requires WA utilities to generate 15% of their energy from non-hydro renewable sources. Habib proposed an amendment to Ericksen’s bill, stating that climate change is real, and that the human activity significantly contributes to climate change. The Republicans balked, changed the wording to “human activity may contribute to climate change” and the bill (and the watered down amendment) passed 29-20.

If Cap and Trade fails? Enter Carbon Washington

In spite of the evidence that Republican positions are shifting at a national level, Washington Republicans are not likely to support this year’s cap and trade proposal. So what’s next?

Carbon Washington ( describes itself as the relief pitcher for Governor Inslee and the Democrats’ cap and trade proposal. Should that proposal fail, Carbon Washington is aiming to get a proposal for “an environmental tax reform” on the ballot in November 2016. They are gearing up to collect 300,000 signatures between March and December of this year.

While the proposal put forth by Carbon Washington may change, at the moment it is solidly based on what are described as four pillars:

  • Reduce the state sales tax by one full percentage point
  • Fund the Working Families Rebate to provide up to $1500 a year for 400,000 low-income working households
  • Eliminate the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax for manufacturers
  • Institute a carbon tax of $25 per metric ton of CO2 on fossil fuels consumed in the state of Washington

A local Carbon Washington group is forming to develop a county-wide strategy for raising awareness and gathering signatures. Expect to hear more about these efforts, including opportunities to get involved, next month. Republicans welcome!

Emily Lardner lives in Olympia, where she teaches and writes.


Costco dragging its feet on GE salmon

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:42pm

The FDA is in the final stages of approving the “AquaAdvantage” GE salmon

Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ) is a member led, Seattle-based organization that challenges unjust food and trade policies through community education and direct action. In partnership with Friends of the Earth, CAGJ is demanding that Costco, headquartered in Issaquah, WA, commit to keeping genetically engineered (GE) salmon off their shelves. CAGJ hosted a rally on March 7th at the Seattle Costco to deliver over 50,000 signatures urging the retail chain to reject modified fish.

The Costco rally was part of Friends of the Earth’s nationwide Campaign for GE Free Seafood. Launched in March 2013, the campaign’s goal is to persuade grocers and restaurants around the country to agree not to sell modified seafood, even if its approved by the FDA. To date over 9,000 grocery stores, including Safeway and Kroger, have made this commitment by signing Friends of the Earth’s Pledge for GE Free Seafood. As the nation’s second largest retailer, Costco is one of the most notable holdouts. The goals of this rally were to persuade Costco management to sign Friends of the Earth’s Pledge for GE Free Seafood, and raise public awareness around Costco’s stance on modified fish and the risks associated with genetically engineered salmon.

The rally included included street theater with paper mache fish and a performance from the Movitas marching band, whose vibrant energy drew the attention of onlookers. CAGJ’s banner, reading “Tell Costco: Say NO to GE Salmon,” was seen by hundreds of Costco customers and passing motorists. One of the highlights of the event was a mini-rally where local speakers discussed the detrimental impacts FDA approved modified fish would have in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Pete Knutson, a local salmon fisherman who runs the Loki Fish Co. with his family, spoke passionately about the effects GE salmon are likely to have on our ecosystem, culture and economy.

The FDA is in the final stages of negotiating the approval of the “AquaAdvantage” GE salmon, created by biotech company AquaBounty Technologies. The AquaAdvantage salmon combines DNA from two types of Atlantic salmon with a growth hormone taken from an ocean pout [an eel-like fish of the northwest Atlantic]. The result is a species of salmon that grows twice as fast as their natural counterparts and can breed year round. If approved, it would be the first commercially available modified meat in the United States and would likely open a floodgate of engineered fish into the marketplace. At least 35 species of GE fish are in development, with plans to engineer pigs, cows and chickens.

Independent researchers have concluded that GE salmon appear to be prone to disease and deformities, raising serious animal welfare issues and possible human health concerns from eating sick fish. They also pose numerous environmental risks. If GE salmon escape fish farms (which they are likely to), they could harm wild salmon populations by interbreeding, competing them for food and spreading disease. Researchers have concluded that sixty GE salmon could displace a population of 60,000 non-modified salmon in a span of 40 generations. This could have devastating impact on the global food supply.

Costco did not allow demonstrators onto their property and refused to accept petition signatures. In response, CAGJ plans to deliver the signatures directly to Costco headquarters in Issaquah. If you are interested in being involved with this campaign, please contact CAGJ’s Food Justice Project at

Jordan Beaudry, a CAGJ intern, has a pen in his pocket and a passion for social justice.


Who are the leaders for Black millennials?

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:39pm

My thirty-fifth birthday is right around the corner. At this point in my life, I consider myself to be a very aware individual about the systems that have controlled and oppressed myself and those like me, in ways that have guided us into many undesired pathways of life.

I escaped. Hard work, determination, making sensible choices and creating relationships with people who think along the same lines as I allowed me to be where I am today, living a comfortable life with privilege.   There are times when I get frustrated about why it took me this long to get here when I could have been here ten years ago.

That frustration boils over into rage because I know the answer.

Sadly, it is a very predictable narrative that many people of color can be plugged into a nearly universal puzzle of depression; single parent household, no father, no reliable adult mentor, no resources, no outlets for stressors, and forced to become an adult too soon.

Who are the leaders of my generation? There are plenty people I can name such as Dr. Cornel West, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Al Sharpton, and Reverend Jesse Jackson. I did not have the luxury to grow up where these men were; I only saw them on television speaking on atrocities and using words that I could not understand growing up.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson was the most visible figure on television because of his accolades in international activism, as well as his runs for president in the late 80s. He was born during the Jim Crow era and became a disciple of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., continuing that legacy even today with many notable organizations such as Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition.

Everyone has at least heard of the name Al Sharpton. Reverend Sharpton, for most people today, has been seen as an activist of convenience.   He has become more of a controversial television personality over time and many people, including myself, feel he has lost the connection with the people he represents. He is known to be the first at the scene of any major injustice that the media is focusing on but never one to put himself on the battlefield itself. He has become a mouthpiece that my generation rarely listens to.

Often misunderstood is the work of the Minister Louis Farrakhan. The leader of the religious group the Nation of Islam–an American created denomination of Islam–has worked hard to restore the relationship between the Nation of Islam and America. Despite his alleged controversial political tactics he has constantly been a voice against the systematic oppression that plagues this nation.

Dr. Cornel West may be the least known of these men, but in my opinion, he is the only one that actually has his ear to the street. Dr. West is a philosopher, academic, activist, and author who speaks about the intersectionality of race, gender and class in America. You can often find him leading a rally against any form of oppression, as well as traveling the country presenting at schools and on television laying out truth for all to hear.

All of these men were born thirty to forty years before me. They have seen change come and are watching the young black men of my generation backpedal like the walking dead into the New Jim Crow. Can you name any black leaders around the age of thirty-five that are nationally known?

Me neither.

It is easy to say, the modern day athlete. Most athletes are not socially aware, many of them are victims of getting money too fast and other than the small circle they bring with them, they lose touch with the community. They are also under the contract of the 1% who specify how they should act. You can throw out a few celebrities such as Denzel Washington, Common, Mos Def or, if you are really reaching, perhaps Kanye West. Can you name someone who does not make millions of dollars?

Digging deep into the Internet and accepting the shame I felt for not having a clue about who these people are, I found a few. Dr. John J. Jackson, an education advocate, Harvard Law alum and former national education director for the NAACP; Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, NC and potential gubnertorial candidate for the state of North Carolina; and Kamala Harris, Attorney General California, who is the first female, African-American and Asian-American California attorney general.

It is obvious that we need to place more spotlight on young black leaders who are actually making change right now, young black leaders who can show us how to pull our peers up out of the quicksand that makes us stagnant and slowly suffocates our youth.

I will be thirty-five soon and I am barely out of the muck. Maybe it is time for men and women like me to shoulder some of the load by becoming the leaders that I cannot find.

Talib DiNero Williams is a graduate of The Evergreen State College and currently works for Gateways for Incarcerated Youth. He lives in Olympia, WA and when not advocating for equality in access to education for all youth, he spends his free time playing softball.


A good Christian doesn’t ask

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:35pm

Pastel colors, bunny-logoed candy, baskets filled with messy, plastic grass, and Cadbury eggs are everywhere. Easter, a supposed celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has become another “Hallmark holiday,” an enterprise capitalizing on Christian sentiment, influencing secular society.

The Christian religion is a ubiquitous structure of American culture. Recently, I read an article about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, who was asked if he thought Obama was Christian or not. “I don’t know,” he said. His response brought him attention in the press, and it underscores America’s attention to religion in public matters.

Much of American culture is informed and influenced by a Christian model of thinking, a bias that is often used to define our culture’s spending, politics, actions, and morality.

Every decision about how you live is influenced by biases. You choose through preferences. You may choose to be a vegan or eat meat, to ride a bike or drive a car, to attend church or not. As we continually enact preferences, they become personal and cultural truths. Thus we entrench ourselves in biases, defining the world from biased perspectives.

Often these conceptions can be positive; they help us navigate life and inform our decisions.

Christianity is engrained in our culture. A 2014 study by Pew research showed that 78% percent of American adults identify as being Christian. The religion is present in so much of culture that it has become part of the language we speak and, too often becomes the way actions, injustice, and tragedies are justified.

Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas until 2015, said that “from time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented.” At first glance, this innocuous statement would seem true to our Christian dominated society. But it’s not innocent. He said this while speaking about the 2010 BP spill that dumped over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Let’s get something straight: Men, not God, drill for oil. That’s like saying that God intended for Man to destroy Earth, God’s creation, or that the holocaust was a construction of God. In fact, someone did say God wanted the holocaust to occur. Reverend John Hagee, also of Texas, said “How did [the Holocaust] happen? Because God allowed it to happen… because God said, ‘My top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.’”

This type of self-appointed “knowledge” of God’s will must be refuted and denied. Many Christian leaders (particularly southern Baptist) would argue that society should not challenge their authority. Jerry Falwell once said that, “Good Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.” But I won’t blindly accept the misuse of Christian sentiment attempting to persuade my ideals or my morals.

In many cases, the current American model of Christianity has become what Jesus struggled to eradicate: a self-indulgent ideology, undermining the democratic, independent, and progressive ideologies that society deserves.

I am not asserting that the Christian faith itself should be condemned; provided it is enacted in benevolence, a moral model is useful to cultural progress. However, just as Jesus assailed the Pharisees for hypocrisy and lawlessness, the self-righteousness of those exploiting the Christian faith as justification for immoral behavior must be challenged.

A new, compassionate, accepting, and expansive model must be encouraged. We should not remain silent; those who use a belief structure to persuade must be questioned. Unlike the reporter who asked about Obama’s Christianity, the questions shouldn’t be about espoused religious beliefs; they should challenge assumptions, promote empathy, and renew moral convictions.

Keith works for an Olympia based organization developing adult learning solutions, and he is currently completing his B.A. at the Evergreen State College.



Héroes en blanco y negro: Las vidas de celuloide de Selma y American Sniper

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:32pm

A la memoria de Malcom X, asesinado a tiros hace cincuenta años cuando comenzaba a delinear un programa radical para desafiar la opresión en todas sus formas.

Toma # 1: Las películas son productos sociales manufacturados (incluso las de Woody Allen)

A veces tendemos a olvidar que las películas son productos manufacturados en circunstancias sociales y relaciones de producción específicas. Estas relaciones determinan la fabricación, distribución y comercialización de las películas. Ni Selma, ni American Sniper pueden escapar a esta realidad. Ambas películas son “productos visuales” del capitalismo Americano en el año 2014. Selma y American Sniper fueron hechas para ser vistas por un público que vive en nuestro tiempo histórico actual. Ambas películas fueron fabricadas, distribuidas y vendidas con fines de lucro, pero una de ellas (American Sniper) es un éxito de taquilla, mientras que la otra (Selma) tiene una respuesta mucho menos efusiva. Woody Allen reconoce este principio y sugiere algunas de las razones detrás de este tipo de eventos cuando afirma: “Si mis películas no muestran un beneficio, ya sé que estoy haciendo algo bien”.

Toma # 2: Interrupción o perpetuación

Las películas son productos manufacturados dentro de sistemas económicos específicos, pero al mismo tiempo las películas son un tipo especial de producto – son productos ideológicos con gran impacto en el público. Es decir, si bien las películas generalmente expresan la ideología del sistema en el que se realizan, simultáneamente películas pueden reforzar esa misma ideología. El criterio fundamental para juzgar una película desde una perspectiva progresista o revolucionaria es determinar si la película interrumpe o perpetúa la relación entre el cine como industria y la ideología prevaleciente. En este sentido todas las películas son políticas, ya que o bien cuestionan la ideología dominante o la endorsan (con diferentes grados de intensidad, de total a parcial para cada posición). Esta es la demarcación principal entre Selma y American Sniper. No es la naturaleza de la trama, ni los actores, ni los directores. Técnicamente, ambas son películas de gran alcance. Mientras ‘Selma’ nos presenta imágenes con claros mensajes de discontinuidad con la ideología oficial y una crítica a la posición del Estado de Alabama y su política racista en contra de los derechos al voto de la población negra en los años 60; ‘American Sniper’ camina una línea recta en acuerdo y en complicidad con la política exterior de Estados Unidos y la ideología hegemónica de guerra y de la ocupación.

Toma # 3: La Mente Guerrerista de los U.S.A.

La verificación de la diferente respuesta cultural en la taquilla obtenida por American Sniper comparada con Selma no presenta ninguna sorpresa. Al 16 de febrero, la película de Clint Eastwood había generado $ 306,478.136 millones de dólares en ingresos, aproximadamente seis veces más que Selma dirigida por Ava DuVernay, que alcanzo $48,514.386 millones de dólares. Esta disimilitud de los ingresos no se puede explicar únicamente por factores cinematográficas formales o las cualidades técnicas de cada película. Aunque de hecho existen las diferencias mencionadas anteriormente – después de todo, se trata de películas diferentes – la taquilla favorece a ‘American Sniper’, una película que surge de una sociedad con una larga tradición en la que la guerra contra ‘el otro’ es un elemento importante de su identidad nacional.

Según el Comité de Relaciones Internacionales (US Comité de la Cámara de Asuntos Exteriores), desde el año 1900 hasta la actualidad, los EE.UU. han estado involucrados en 206 operaciones militares en territorios extranjeros. Este número incluye a los conflictos a gran escala, como las dos guerras mundiales, y las operaciones de menor escala tales como la asistencia militar directa en El Salvador contra las guerrillas de izquierda. Esta cifra no incluye las operaciones clandestinas llevadas a cabo por la CIA u otras agencias de inteligencia o contrainteligencia. Esta cifra representa un promedio de 16 intervenciones militares por década, o 1,8 intervenciones por año desde el inicio del siglo XX. Igualmente importante a considerar es el número de bases militares e instalaciones de Estados Unidos en países extranjeros. La siguiente lista muestra la rama militar y el nombre del país donde se localizan las bases, y entre paréntesis el número de bases existentes.

Ejército: Australia (2), Bulgaria (2), Alemania (58), Israel (113), Japón (84), Kosovo (1), Kuwait (1).

Marines: Afganistán (9), Alemania (1), Japón (11)

Armada: Bahrein (1), Océano Índico (Diego Garcia) (1), Brasil (1), Cuba (1), Guam (1), Djibouti (1), Grecia (1), Israel (1), Italia (4), Japón (4), España (1), Kuwait (1), Emiratos Árabes Unidos (1)

Fuerza Aérea: Afganistán (7), Bahrein (2), Bulgaria (2), Alemania (5), Guam (1), Honduras (1), Italia (3), Japón (3), Kuwait (2), Holanda (1), Portugal (1), Qatar (1), Arabia del Sur (1), Singapur (1), Corea del Sur (2), España (1), Turquía (1), Emiratos Árabes Unidos (1), Reino Unido (5)

Esto arroja un total de 344 bases militares en países extranjeros, que, irónicamente, es casi el mismo número de bases e instalaciones que tenemos dentro del país – 320 (incluidos a de Puerto Rico): Ejército (171), Marines (18), la Marina ( 60), y la Fuerza Aérea (71).

Ninguna otra nación moderna llega ni siquiera cerca de la magnitud de este record militarista de dudosa reputación!

Una infraestructura de guerra de esta magnitud no es posible sin una estructura económica basada en un “complejo militar industrial” a gran escala en condiciones de garantizar y apoyar la continua expansión de los intereses estadounidenses en el extranjero; mientras que internamente, a través de múltiples mecanismos ideológicos y mediáticos (la industria del cine es uno de ellos), se asegura la difusión y ampliación en el inconsciente norteamericano de una ideología favorable hacia la guerra y la ocupación. Es en este contexto que el éxito de taquilla de American Sniper y la proliferación de las películas de guerra se pueden entender mejor (ya sean desde vaqueros matando indios y mexicanos, a las películas de guerra en el oriente medio como ‘American Sniper’, y las películas de guerras intergalácticas). Lamentablemente, vivimos en una situación cultural en el que, para usar las palabras de los críticos de cine francés Jean-Luc Comolli y Jean Paul NARBONI, “Lo que el público quiere es lo que quiere la ideología”.

Toma # 4: Héroes en blanco y negro

Como se sugiere en los párrafos anteriores, las películas son productos fabricados socialmente, pero no obstante, los cineastas pueden tomar una postura respecto a la función de la película, ya sea como agentes a favor, o contrarios a la ideología dominante. La zona en la que ‘Selma’ ofrece más claramente una negación de los valores culturales hegemónicos estadounidenses es la visión que la película tiene respecto del héroe. A pesar del importante papel de Martin Luther King Jr. (interpretado por David Oyelowo) Selma no se trata de MLK. No se trata de un solo hombre o mujer; se trata de la valentía de un héroe colectivo. De un grupo de hombres y mujeres de raza negra, (y más tarde, a medida que crecen la intensidad y niveles de lucha de las marchas) de hombres y mujeres blancos que al unísono con los negros, de una manera no violenta, expresan su descontento contra la discriminación social existente. No es un héroe aislado el que cruza el ‘Puente Selma’ para exigir los derechos de voto de los negros en Alabama, sino un colectivo de seres humanos. Selma no es una marcha de uno, sino una marcha de muchos, que entienden que las acciones a favor de otros a tienen valor por su carácter social y no como riesgo individual. La denuncia de la injusta situación de los negros en Alabama en los años 60 es una acusación social del mejor tipo posible, es decir que asume la forma de participación activa en la política nacional, lo cual demuestra una comprensión del funcionamiento de la sociedad y de las instituciones del Estado.

American Sniper, por otro lado, es la última versión del éxito comercial del ‘Adán Americano’ popular en la mitología cultural de los Estados unidos. El cual fue definido en 1955 por R.W.B. Lewis como “el héroe de la nueva aventura … un individuo solo, autosuficiente y auto motivado, listo para enfrentar lo que le espera contando solo con la ayuda de sus propios recursos únicos e inherentes”. Este tipo de héroe es por definición masculino (al menos en apariencia) y solo. La película rastrea vagamente la vida y la carrera militar en Irak de Chris Kyle (interpretado por Bradley Cooper), un notable y problematizado francotirador responsable por más de 160 muertes. La narración cinematográfica, como lo hacen todas las narrativas narcisistas, hace caso omiso de las implicaciones sociales y morales de la ocupación norteamericana de Irak, y está marcada por la indiferencia del personaje principal (o incapacidad) para relacionarse con los demás. Al mismo tiempo, la narrativa cubre su indiferencia con capas de patriotismo simplista y el vilipendio vulgar de iraquíes civiles como “salvajes”. Irónicamente, el director Clint Eastwood argumenta que la película es “la mayor declaración en contra de la guerra que pueda hacer cualquier película” dada las dificultades experimentadas por personal militar al regresar a la vida civil. Pero, de hecho, la película está lejos de ser una crítica a la negligencia experimentada por los veteranos, y es más una idealización de la guerra y el papel del individuo. En cierto modo, American Sniper es el equivalente de nuestra arma militar más nueva, el drone: solitario, letal e impersonal.

Ambas películas valen la pena ser vistas, por lo menos para saber que pasa con los héroes arquetípicos de nuestra imaginación en estos momentos bélicos donde las regulaciones del voto siguen siendo restringidas a los pobres.

Enrique Quintero, un activista político en América Latina durante la década de los 70, enseñó ESL y adquisición de segundas lenguas en el Distrito Escolar de Anchorage, y español en la Universidad de Alaska Anchorage. Actualmente vive y escribe en Olympia.


American heroes in black and white: The celluloid lives of Selma and American Sniper

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:03pm

To the memory of Malcom X, gunned down fifty years ago as he was beginning to delineate a radical program to challenge oppression in all its forms.

Take #1: Films are socially manufactured products (even those by Woody Allen)

Sometimes we tend to forget that films are products manufactured under specific social circumstances and specific economic relations. These relations determine the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of films. Neither Selma nor American Sniper can escape this reality. Both films are ‘visual products’ of capitalist America in the year 2014. Selma and American Sniper were both made to be watched by an audience living in our current historical time. Both movies were manufactured, distributed and sold for profit, but one of them (American Sniper) is a box office success while the other (Selma) got a much less effusive response. Woody Allen acknowledges this principle and suggests some of the reasons behind events like this when he states: ” If my films do not show a profit, I know I am doing something right”.

Take #2: Disrupting or perpetuating

Movies are commodities manufactured within specific economic systems, but at the same time, movies are a special type of commodity–they are ideological products with a huge impact on audiences. That is to say, although in general movies express the ideology of the system in which they are made, simultaneously movies can reinforce that very same ideology. The key criteria for judging a movie from a progressive or revolutionary perspective is to determine whether the film disrupts or perpetuates the connection between cinema and the prevalent ideology. In this sense all films are political since they either question the dominant ideology or endorse it (with different degrees of intensity for each position, from total to partial). This is the main demarcation between Selma and American Sniper. It is not the nature of the plot, nor the actors, nor the directors. Technically, both are powerful movies. While Selma presents us with clear images and messages of discontinuity and a critique of the official State of Alabama position on race and voting rights for black people in the 60’s, American Sniper walks a straight line of agreement and entanglement with American foreign policy and its hegemonic ideology of war and occupation.

Take # 3: The bellicose mind of America

Verifying the different cultural response at the box office obtained by American Sniper versus Selma presents no surprise. As of February 16, Clint Eastwood’s film had generated $306,478.136 million dollars in revenue, roughly six times more than Ava DuVernay’s Selma, which brought in $48,514.386 million dollars. This dissimilarity in revenue cannot be explained solely by formal cinematographic factors or the technical qualities of each film. Although the differences mentioned above do exist – they are separate movies after all – the box office rewards American Sniper, the film that emerges out of a society with a long tradition in which war against the other is an important element of its national identity.

According to the Committee of International Relations (U.S. House Committee of Foreign Affairs), from the year 1900 until the present, the U.S. has been involved in 206 military operations in foreign territories. This number includes full-scale conflicts such as the two World Wars, and minor scale operations such as direct military assistance in El Salvador against leftist guerrillas. This figure does not include clandestine operations carried on by the C.I.A. and other intelligence or counter-intelligence agencies. This figure represents an average of 16 military interventions per decade, or 1.8 interventions per year since the beginning of the XX Century. Equally important to consider is the number of U.S. military bases and installations in nations overseas. The following list shows the branch of the military and the name of the country were the bases are located, and in parenthesis the number of existing bases.

Army: Australia (2), Bulgaria (2), Germany (58), Israel (113), Japan (84), Kosovo (1), Kuwait (1).

Marines: Afghanistan (9), Germany (1), Japan (11)

Navy: Bahrain (1), Indian Ocean (Diego Garcia) (1), Brazil (1), Cuba (1), Guam (1), Djibouti (1), Greece (1), Israel (1), Italy (4), Japan (4), Spain (1), Kuwait (1), United Arab Emirates (1)

Air Force: Afghanistan (7), Bahrain (2), Bulgaria (2), Germany (5), Guam (1), Honduras (1), Italy (3), Japan (3), Kuwait (2), Netherlands (1), Portugal (1), Qatar (1), South Arabia (1), Singapore (1), South Korea (2), Spain (1), Turkey (1), United Arab Emirates (1), United Kingdom (5)

That is a total of 344 military bases on foreign countries, which ironically is almost the same number of bases and installations we keep at home–320 (including those in Puerto Rico): Army (171), Marines (18), Navy (60), and Air Force (71).

No other modern nation comes even close to the magnitude of this dubious militaristic record!

A war infrastructure of this enormity is not possible without an economic structure based on a similar large scale “military industrial complex” able to guarantee and support the continuous expansion of American interests abroad, while internally, through multiple ideological and media mechanisms (the cinema industry being one of them), molding and expanding in the American unconscious a favorable ideology towards war and occupation. It is against this backdrop that the box office success of American Sniper and the proliferation of war movies can be better understood (from cowboys killing Indians and Mexicans, to current middle-east war films such as American Sniper, and intergalactic fantasy war movies). Sadly, we live in a cultural situation in which, to use the words of French film critics Jean- Luc Comolli and Jean Paul Narboni, “What the public wants is what ideology wants”.

Take # 4: Heroes in black and white

As suggested in previous paragraphs, films are socially manufactured products, but nonetheless, filmmakers can take a stance regarding the film’s function either as enforcers or contrarians to the dominant ideology. The area in which Selma most clearly offers a negation of hegemonic cultural American values is the film’s vision of the hero. In spite of the prominent role of Martin Luther King Jr. (played by David Oyelowo) Selma is not about MLK. It is not about any single man or woman; it is about the courage of a collective hero, a group of black men and women, and later as the tension of the marches intensify and the struggle grows, about white men and women who in unison with blacks in a non-violent fashion, expressed discontent against social discrimination. There is not one isolated hero crossing the Selma Bridge demanding voting rights for black people in Alabama, but a collective of human beings. Selma is not a march of one but a march of many, in which the actions on behalf of others are understood to have value for their social character and not as an individual risk. The indictment of the unjust situation for blacks in Alabama in the 60’s is a social indictment of the best possible kind, one that assumes the form of active participation in national politics that demonstrates an understanding of the functioning of society and of State institutions.

American Sniper on the other hand, is the last commercially successful version of the ‘American Adam” so popular in U.S. cultural mythology. It was defined in 1955 by R.W.B. Lewis as “the hero of new adventure … an individual standing alone, self reliant and self propelling, ready to confront whatever awaited him with the aid of his own unique and inherent resources”. This type of hero is by definition masculine (at least in appearance) and alone. The movie tracks loosely the life and military career in Iraq of Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper), a troubled but remarkable marksman responsible for over 160 deaths. The film narrative, as all narcissistic narratives do, ignores the social and moral implications of the Iraq occupation, and is marked by the main character’s indifference (or inability) to relate to others. At the same time, the narrative coats his indifference with simplistic patriotism and crude vilification of civilian Iraqis as “savages”. Ironically, director Clint Eastwood argues that the film is “the biggest anti war statement any film can make” given the duress experienced by military personal returning to civilian life; but in fact the film is far from being a critique of the neglect experienced by veterans, and more an idealization of war and the role of the individual. In a way, American Sniper is the equivalent of our newest military weapon, the drone: detached, lethal, and impersonal.

Both movies are worth watching. One depicts a mass movement overcoming a social injustice while the other reinforces a drama-like indifference to an international tragedy.

Enrique Quintero, a political activist in Latin America during the 70’s, taught ESL and Second Language Acquisition in the Anchorage School District, and Spanish at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He currently lives and writes in Olympia.


Local activist will be remembered

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 8:58pm

On Saturday, February 21, Patricia Pyle died unexpectedly. The cause of death was acute leukemia, which until just hours before her passing, neither she nor anyone else knew she had. The last couple of years a degenerative neck condition had caused increasing pain. Very sadly in retrospect, it seems the condition had probably clouded the symptoms of the aggressive, acute leukemia. The diagnosis was shocking to her and her family; however it now shines a light on why Patricia’s pain had increased and her fatigue had become immense those last couple weeks.

While living in Olympia, since the spring of 2002, Patricia was a City of Olympia senior program specialist with the Storm and Surface Water Utility section and helped edit the StreamTeam newsletter.

A few of the ways she served this community voluntarily: she was a founding member of the South Sound Estuary Association and the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystem Preservation, a member of the Native Plant Salvage Foundation, Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team, and the South Puget Environmental Education Clearinghouse (SPEECH). Recently, she joined the Port of Olympia Citizen’s Advisory Committee.

Patricia moved here from Baltimore, Maryland with her husband Dennis and their daughter Raven and son Liam. Her constant, intensive efforts and dedication to bettering especially the ecological factors surrounding this community is quite remarkable. Clearly, it was her life work.

Patricia will be terribly missed by her family both here and in Baltimore where her sisters and mother live, and by many in the Pacific Northwest community.

May you rest peacefully, Patricia.

Sandia Slaby met Patricia the day Patricia arrived in Olympia.


Patricia flies with the herons

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 8:56pm

The following is Daniel Einstein’s statement at Patricia Pyle’s memorial service on March 1. Daniel and Patricia are both co-founders of the Olympia Coalition of Ecosystem Preservation, a non-profit group that formed last fall protect the only blue heron nesting site in Olympia’s city limits.

February 8

No herons yet. :-( but there are lots of frogs – they just started about four days ago. Our rabbit has a problem with his legs and he is the patient in the house now. Meanwhile, I feel like the patient taking care of the patient! I will be getting surgery very soon…   Patricia

Patricia was referring to her scheduled neck surgery. She never got to it.

The herons returned to their nest trees on Valentine’s Day—a day I will never forget. I never heard from Patricia again. I don’t know if she ever knew.

What I do know is that there would be no westside heronry if it were not for her. Few people knew the depth of her involvement in saving the heronry on Olympia’s westside, but she was our guide. She knew what to do, she knew whom to talk to and she knew how to talk to them. Her range swept in the whole City and a good part of the State. Every week she gave us a set of tasks. Soon a problem that seemed intractable became possible and then inevitable. She was our guide. I would not do Patricia justice if I did not tell you that in her mind she did so at some risk.

The first thing that anyone will tell you is that Patricia was smart, that she cared deeply for people and that she had a brilliant energy. She was alight with her love for nature, whether it was picking apples on the Columbia as a young woman or wading in the streams of our City. She was a scientist. She not only loved how the natural world worked, she understood how it worked, and politics was bred in her bone. Because of that it drove her crazy when what should be done, and what could be done, was not being done. From an early age, she was engaged in public speaking on behalf of the environment and always began her message with the words “listen world”.

Those who knew her will not be surprised that she left us a list of things yet to do. It is a long list and a seemingly impossible list, but we will get it done. May she continue to be our guide.

This is a poem titled “Garden Flight” by Paul Boeth:

In my garden,

My eyes are downcast,

Whether tilling the soil

Or admiring the beauty

That my effort has produced,

My eyes are earthbound.

But, like a scene from some mythology book,

A great shadow of a bird

Glides past me towards the west,

And I find myself forced to look skyward.

A nest-bound great blue heron floats

Effortlessly by;

My thoughts fly with it.

After Man has driven this great bird away,

Will I be complacent about its absence?

Will I chalk it up to progress?

When development has

Homogenized its nesting area,

What great shadow will lift my eyes to heaven?

How will I send my thoughts flying,

With no great birds to use as a guide?

The herons returned on Valentine’s Day. But the next weekend they were gone—nowhere to be found in the trees or on the shore. It was as though they were guiding her away from us. They have now come home again and our eyes turn to heaven.

Raven and Liam, may you always be able to look to the sky or see their shadows, and know that your mother has left us with a guide. Dennis, Rita and Cynthia (husband, mother and sister), may your grandchildren and great grandchildren see these birds and everything they stand for and always know that Patricia flies with them and guides us.

As for the rest of us, find something you are willing to do and do more. Find something that you think you can do and do more. Take risks. Listen World. Change our community and change the world.


Anti-Vax and the cult of American individualism

Works in Progress - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 8:55pm

The present is a fragile thing. Without constant vigilance, it can be easily devoured by the past. For decades, advancements in modern medicine have been slowly chipping away at some of humanity’s most brutal diseases. On October 26, 1977, the last naturally occurring case of smallpox was diagnosed. Today, the disease is dead. Polio is on the way out. In 1988, when the World Health Organization launched its Polio Eradication Initiative, over 350,000 people were paralyzed by polio each year. By 2013, that number had dropped to 416 cases. The destruction of both these diseases would not have been possible without vaccines. Smallpox had plagued humanity for over 10,000 years. After the first vaccine against it was developed by Dr. Edward Jenner, it took less than 200 years to eradicate it. Without a doubt, vaccines have been the most effective form of preventable medicine in history.

Despite these remarkable breakthroughs, vaccines have always been controversial. Competing medical modalities, whether faith-based or ideological, have always sought to overthrow the achievements of science-based medicine, and, for some reason, vaccinations have been viewed with suspicion. The recent measles outbreak in Disneyland caused by unvaccinated children is tragic and foolish, but not new. Anti-vaccination fears have a long and complex history in the United States, and this history reveals a lot about America’s cultural fetish for extreme individualism.

Today, he is relegated to a historical footnote, but in his own day English social reformer and spiritualist William Tebb was a minor celebrity. As a tireless campaigner for many progressive causes, Tebb’s influence was felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Much of his activism is admirable, but what he is best known for—his tirades against modern medicine, vaccines specifically—is not. Armed with a mountain of anti-vaccination literature and a radical liberal philosophy, Webb led the struggle against “vaccinal tyranny” throughout the nineteenth century. In focused, but melodramatic language, Tebb compared mandatory vaccination laws to the Fugitive Slave Act, and, in a manner that both diminished black suffering and exaggerated white problems, would insinuate that the “tyranny” of modern medicine was just as oppressive as the Antebellum South.

Tebb’s influence on the anti-vaccination movement in the United States and Europe cannot be understated. His efforts came to real political fruition in the United States in 1902, when Henning Jacobson, a Swedish minister, refused to vaccinate himself and his family during a smallpox epidemic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While Jacobson would often invoke religious and medical reasons for refusing to get vaccinated, the crux of his argument rested on notions of individual liberty. According to Jacobson, the US government did not possess the power to mandate vaccinations. Individual rights should take priority over community concerns.

Jacobson took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Finally, the anti-vaccination movement would get the chance it always wanted to expose the horrors of “vaccinal tyranny.” The only problem was the Supreme Court would have none of it. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution did grant governments the right to require citizens to get vaccinated. Writing for the majority, Justice John Marshall Harlan concluded that “the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good.”

Justice Harlan’s focus on the “common good” exposed two forms of self-centeredness inherent within the anti-vaccination movement. The first is a medical self-centeredness. It does not matter how many works of Ayn Rand you throw at communicable diseases; they will always be communist by nature. Diseases don’t infect individuals, they infect whole populations, and those who suffer most from those infections are usually the weakest within the group. In this way, refusing to get vaccinated is qualitatively different from other forms of medical intervention. If I ignore my doctor’s advice regarding cancer treatment, it does not mean everyone around me is more likely to get cancer, but when it comes to measles, mumps, and rubella, that is exactly what it means.

The second is an intellectual self-centeredness. Justice Harlan was willing to concede that certain individuals should be exempted from mandatory vaccinations based on medical reasons, but he denied that this applied to Jacobson; all the evidence that he put forward on the dangers of the smallpox vaccine suffered from “incompetency or immateriality.” In other words, the Supreme Court believed Jacobson was using junk science. Since that time, vaccines have become even safer and more effective, and the science of the anti-vaccination movement has become even junkier. There is wide a scientific consensus on the necessity for mandatory vaccination. A recent poll of the America Academy for the Advancement of Science members found that a triumphant 86% favored mandatory vaccinations. In order to discount this broad scientific consensus, the anti-vaccination movement has been forced to engage in desperate forms of gainsaying. Rather than let their view be challenged by the evidence, they have attempted to turn the tables on scientists by depicting the dismissing of their bogus ideas as an elaborate conspiracy.

The self-centeredness at the core of the anti-vaccination movement explains much of its rapid expansion in recent years. For the past 30 years, the American zeitgeist has been held hostage to a cult of extreme individualism. Nearly everywhere we look—culture, politics, and especially economics—sole individuals are assumed to take priority over group welfare. Health care has not escaped this phenomenon. The drive to deregulate health care markets in the United States has not only created monopolistic hospitals and exorbitant drug prices, but has also generated an entire industry of “alternative” medicine practitioners and products that seeks the imprimatur of science without the pesky public oversight or professional ethics. In just a few decades, “alternative” medicine has grown from a few fringe quacks into a $34 billion industry. Nearly all of the major anti-vaccination doctors who stoke the fears of “big pharma” turn around and sell people ineffective supplements and herbal remedies. This includes such celebrities as Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Joe Mercola, and the much adored Dr. William Sears. When health care markets are deregulated, snake oil salesmen come back with a vengeance, and they have become quite sophisticated at selling people’s own anti-corporate attitudes right back to them for a considerable margin.

In addition, the political wing of “alternative” medicine, the Health Freedom Movement, has sought to transform American health care into a wellness bazaar. Informed consent, transparent advertising, and reasonable regulations are thrown out the window. Patients are no longer thought of as patients, but as consumers. Whatever they want to do regarding their health, no matter how absurd or dangerous, providers should offer. The only real requirement is if something can be marketed as being sufficiently “natural.” If so, its benefits are considered self-evident, no rigorous scientific testing required. Despite the criticisms of scientific “materialism” so often heard in “alternative” medicine circles, it turns out that medical mysticism and free market capitalism make very comfortable bedfellows.

Not surprisingly, this movement has its greatest appeal among people of privilege. Statistics from the United States’ own Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine show that interest in “alternative” medicine actually increases with wealth and education. Only people of relative privilege can afford to dabble in medical absurdities without having to fear any serious consequences. There is a reason why the recent measles outbreak happened to people vacationing in Disneyland, as opposed to traditionally under vaccinated populations located in poor and immigrant communities. Communities of real poverty do not have time to be flippant about lifesaving medical advice. When a malaria outbreak struck America, the great anti-vaccination agitator William Tebb, being a successful middle class entrepreneur, escaped infection by moving his family back to England. Others were not so lucky.

The great vaccine debates, like global warming and evolution, do represent a type of culture war in the United States. However, the issues go a lot deeper than the role of science in the public sphere. It speaks to what set of ethics that Americans want to live by. On one hand, we can choose an irrational conspiracy filled world. In this case, we can’t trust anyone. Being intellectually myopic and emotionally distant are forms of protection, if not ways of life. We are so powerless and isolated that personal consumption issues are the only thing we can control. On the other hand, we can live in a world where we face harsh realities as a community. We understand that scientific literacy and social solidarity are vital to creating a good life for all, and that the most privileged among us must be willing to accept certain limitations on their freedom if it means that the weakest among us will be lifted up. When the decision is presented in such naked terms, the answer of what we should do should be fairly obvious, but then again, so is the decision to go get vaccinated.

Marco Rosaire Rossi, a graduate of the University for Peace in Costa Rica, is a resident of Olympia.



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