Recent local blog posts

Why did Olympia Planning Commissioners hold secret meetings with developers?

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
…And why do they think it’s no big deal?  Members of the Olympia Planning Commission and their critics exchanged sharp words in recent weeks, after the public learned that commissioners...

I Guess You Can Call it "Work"

Mojourner Truth - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:16pm
Call it Shooting Star, Dodecatheon, or Curlew's Beak, it's blooming this week
Monday, 5:15 AM.  The alarm on my phone buzzes, ending the fantasy that my wake-state could be followed by more shut-eye. There's but a single working clock in the house--definitely not in my room--but it seems like on the rare occasions when I set the alarm, my body gets a jump on the electronics. Maybe because it's usually prelude to fieldwork, and I love fieldwork.

6:26 finds me on the road, half a pot of coffee in my belly, and the other half in various travel vessels. I used to hate driving, but back then a trip of any length involved Interstate 95, too many lanes, and essentially no variation in the scenery: shrinking forest, burgeoning burbs, and Cracker Barrels. Today, I face a couple hundred miles of I-90, but it will rise into grand stands of conifers, pass through snowy crags, descend into elks among pines, wind through smaller hills, blow past windmills and orchards, shoot along fields, and finally let me exit into a forgotten town just in time for lunch. Then, from arterial to lateral to a gravelly capillary, not another vehicle in sight.

12:12 PM, and I am standing by the women who planned the project and will operate the machinery. My job is to watch and see if any archaeology turns up. Monitoring, as this work is called, is an exercise in bi-polarity, similar to descriptions I've read about being a soldier at war. Mostly nothing (or worse yet, senseless fulfilling of duties with no plausible reward), and then MAYHEM! No incoming artillery for the archaeological monitor, just the skull rolling off the excavator bucket, and the prospect of being universally reviled while trying to navigate a path that will satisfy interests deeply at odds.

2:02 PM rolls around, and it's clear that this project will only have the monotony pole. They're digging through what turns out to be silt dug out of roadside ditches and dumped here, and will never get down to the original soil. I decide to go walkabout and check out what I can of the 1 square mile of property.

4:24 in the afternoon, and by all rights I could knock off and head for the hotel, having turned in more than the 8 hours I'm supposed to. But I keep walking. I've already recorded one site--just a collection of 100-year-old trash, but something beats nothing--and feel like walking further. So I meander out toward where a 19th Century map said there was a wagon road. Plenty of daylight left, and this far from Olympia, I am loathe to stop. Who knows when I'll be here again?

6:36, in what even in the post-Equinox period must be considered evening. Besides flushing out a coyote (every outcrop in this place has the gnawed bones of some creature eaten by a coyote, along with a celebratory poop), I found a site that seems to have been a rest stop on the wagon road. Bottles of booze and medicine (i.e., booze with an excuse), cans capped with solder, tobacco tins, and so on. The older the glass in the Northwest, the prettier: aqua with bubbles of 19th Century breath and air, once-clear glass tinted purple by the marriage of sunbeams and manganese.

7:27 PM, and I'm nearly back to the truck, having noted an oddly elaborate fence post and a culvert passing beneath an old rail grade along the way. Normally, there is nothing less fascinating than a culvert, but in this case, it was made with a beautifully glazed terra cotta pipe, frags of which I'd seen before dumped at the depot. Wondering what the hell that fine pipe was doing out here had been bugging me for the past couple of weeks, and now I know. The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railway did not skimp, even out here near the end of a decidedly minor capillary. Plus, this culvert seems like a nice den for some critter, and I am a big fan of the reversion of civilization to wildness. [Oh, and I did have time to check out the monitoring site, confirming that it would have been a waste of time to stay put.]

8:38, and it's pretty much dark. I've driven to the hotel (40 more miles of driving this day), and am in search of food. The options in Moses Lake for late dining are limited, and I end up at Safeway. Besides dinner, I now have tomorrow's lunch and some beer, in case I am awake enough to drink it when I get back to the hotel.

9:36 PM. I should be asleep, but instead I stay conscious for a while longer. I call the kids and learn about their day, enumerate the animals I have seen. No writing, but I check out my sister's blog. I even watch some TV, an exotic experience, and luck out with an episode of South Park about Haoles and "Native" Hawaiians. Yes, it is late and I am loopy, but it's hilarious, even though I forgot to drink the beer.

11:11 PM (plus or minus). I close my eyes and drift off, meadowlark song echoes in my ears, visions of purple glass and lines of shorn wheat on my lids.
So, that's one day, much abridged. Lots of driving with sub-par radio choices. Lots of walking while being whipped by winds carrying grit. Easily more than 12 hours of "work," but nothing I would change. I saw a lot, got to know some new ground as you only can at walking pace, and didn't have to deal with any monitoring emerencies. From my employer's perspective, I managed risk and kept them legal. For me, though, it was mostly fun.

I'm still amazed that I ended up this way, doing what I do. It's tempting to take credit and claim it was all the plan, but there are any number of junctures at which random chance changed my career path. The most I did was recognize the right times to pounce on opportunities. And now, whatever time of day, I find myself pretty happy with what I do for a living.

April 2014 (Volume 24, No. 12)

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 10:03pm
Legislature goes nowhere with climate change: what must be done to motivate legislators to take action at the state level?

Maybe next year… 

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. In December 2013, Washington State’s Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW), created by the 2013 Washington State Legislature to develop “a state program of actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” presented their opposing sets of recommendations—and now that the session has ended, we can only hope that they will continue their agreement to keep talking. Maybe next session something will happen.

Author: Emily Lardner Making waves: our trip to Hanford, WA

That's right, friends, like all of our troubles, gravity comes in waves. For us earthlings they are so subtle that we don't feel them and so on Earth gravity seems comfortably stable. Far out in space though, black holes and neutron stars spiraling out of control produce waves in the gravitational field which astrophysicists believe we will soon be able to detect. In the fantastic realms of the universe, orbiting bodies and cataclysmic supernovae are causing the rubbery fabric of space-time to quivering.

Author: Russ Frizzell Water, water, everywhere

[Editorial note: Operation Uphold Democracy, lasting from September 1994 to March 1995, was a military mission authorized by the United Nations Security Council to return  elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Aristide had been overthrown by a military coup in 1991.]

Operation Uphold Democracy (part 2)

It had been three days of not being able to shower. This usually would not have bothered most of us, but because of high humidity and dust, it was causing some irritation.

Author: April Adams Ukraine: the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend

To progressives who have been celebrating the revolution in Ukraine: Be careful what you wish for. Ukraine now has the first European government in decades in which outright fascist parties have gained a significant role in the executive branch. In other European countries, far-right parties have won seats in the parliament, but not secured real power in the cabinet. Of course, not all Ukrainian revolutionaries are fascists or Nazis, as asserted in recent Russian propaganda.

Author: Zoltán Grossman Why the lawsuit against the OPD was settled out of court: the art of long distance running

“Awareness is two steps ahead. Paranoia is two steps behind.” —Kim Marks, forest activist; Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States by Jules Boykoff (2007)

Author: Paul French (aka Strife) Two years later… We are still Troy Davis

An interview with Kimberly Davis and Jen Marlowe

In 2011, the ACLU stood in solidarity with millions of people across the country in demanding clemency for Troy Davis. But despite our appeal, on September 21, 2011, Troy was executed.

Author: ACLU of Southern California Toilet paper and its discontents: class struggle and the Venezuelan Revolution

The power of symbols

A society without toilet paper is a society in trouble, we all agree with that. Not having access to such a basic commodity of modern life suggests an uncomfortable place where scarcity reigns, futile long lines at supermarkets with empty shelves, wide spread poverty, unhappiness on citizens’ faces, and that third world “je ne sais quoi” not recommended by Condé Nast Travel standards. But equally important, if we believe that a society doesn’t have toilet paper, the actual relationship between our beliefs and material reality becomes irrelevant.

Author: Enrique Quintero Rioting in the streets: what's going on in Venezuela?

Excerpts from a talk March 5th, 2014 at Forum on Venezuela and the Ukraine at the Evergreen State College. Olympia, Washington.

Author: Peter Bohmer Sink Hole

Sink hole.

The toothed smile of privilege - gleaning and glaring glances through restaurant

windows.

Glasses of clear liquid  -

at their table.

Hot tub myths.  Vacation gluttony.  Over another sea.

The beneficiaries carry mallets, axes, mauls tattooed at the back of the eye.

Sink hole.

 

Author: Patty Imani

Rioting in the streets: what's going on in Venezuela?

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 10:02pm

Excerpts from a talk March 5th, 2014 at Forum on Venezuela and the Ukraine at the Evergreen State College. Olympia, Washington.

One year ago today on March 5th, 2013, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died of cancer. It is wrong to attribute all of the changes in Venezuela since 1998 to Chavez, whether pro or con, but he played an important and positive role in what has happened there. Hugo Chávez’s death was a major loss for Venezuelans and all people around world who are concerned about economic justice and a world not dominated by global capitalism. I am sure many people in Venezuela will express their support for him today. Hugo Chávez presente!

Changes to Venezuelan society

The popular classes in Venezuela, 80% of the population, have gained not just economically but also by their inclusion in society. There has been a drop in poverty by over ½ and extreme poverty by 70% since the 1998 electoral victory of Chávez. The access to education and healthcare has been huge. This is also true in terms of access to food and food security. There has been a major increase in caloric intake, from 2000 to 3000 calories per capita per day, while both the quality and quantity of food has increased.

 

An Olympia, Washington resident who recently spent two years in a low-income barrio in Barquisimeto, Venezuela recently mentioned to me that he sees more hunger in a nearby Washington state community, Shelton, where he works, than he did in the Barquisimeto barrio where he lived.

There are 40,000 communal councils in Venezuela. These communities democratically decide how to spend and manage a significant amount of public revenues. The formerly excluded are now involved in controlling their community and public resources. There has also been major land distribution in the countryside via the availability of affordable credit and also access to education and health in rural areas as well as in the cities.

The Venezuelan economy is still dependent on oil, but unlike earlier periods of Venezuelan history the oil money is now being used to meet people’s needs; and to a limited extent to build infrastructure and increase new production—agriculture, clothing, communication, aluminum, transportation, oil, and farm equipment, etc. Venezuela has gone from being one of the most unequal countries in the world in the 1990s (in terms of wealth distribution) to the most equal country in the Americas. Its Gini coefficient, which measures social inequality, is around 40. This is the significantly better than the United States coefficient of 57. (see CEPR.net)

The next stage

Nicolás Maduro was elected President of Venezuela in October, 2013 in a very close election. Previously, he was a labor organizer, foreign minister and Vice President after the 2012 election. His politics, perspectives and vision for Venezuela seem similar to Chavez—“Socialism for the 21st Century”, the synthesis of socialism and democracy with a strong anti-imperialist politics. Maduro is taking crime seriously and for the most part, demonizes the opposition less than Chávez did. He has majority support but not the same love from the people that Chávez had.

There are some serious problems in Venezuela. The problems that the U.S. mainstream media focuses on are real but overstated. They are:

Inflation—this is a real problem; it is not new. Inflation was 56% last year yet poverty has still continued to decline in spite of high inflation. Poverty averaged about 25% since 1998 but was even higher in the 1990’s. Most, but not everyone’s wages increase at the same rate as inflation. This means that the real wage is maintained. This is certainly true of the minimum wage. Most people in the informal sector, still about 40% of the labor force although much less than the pre-1998 percentage of the labor force, can raise prices of goods they sell as prices rise, thus maintaining their real income.

Fundamentally, inflation in Venezuela is caused by an economy organized around oil; where oil generates significant income both for workers in oil and related sectors and also funds social programs. This general spending of oil revenues is inflationary because production in other sectors has not grown sufficiently to match increased demand so prices rise. This leads to a constant overvaluation of the Venezuelan currency which the government has tried to control.

The government just decided to make more dollars available at a close-to-market determined exchange rate. This action may break the speculation against the Bolívar and substantially lower the black market price. Someone recently back from Venezuela told me that if one uses the official rate of 6 Bolivars to 1, when buying local currency. Venezuela is the most expensive country in the world. However, when using the black market foreign exchange rate to change dollars for Bolivars, Venezuela is the cheapest country.

Shortages—there are some increases in shortages of goods, e.g. flour, cooking oil, toilet paper. People often have to wait in lines many hours to purchase needed consumer items. It is a real inconvenience but there is no hunger or generalized shortages of food as a whole.

Crime is a real and serious problem. There is a high murder and robbery rate. This is not new and it is not clear if it has risen significantly in the last few years. As I mentioned, Maduro is taking crime seriously. A new national police force has been formed, hopefully to replace a violent, inefficient and often brutal and criminal force. The new police universities are stressing respect for human rights and more effective policing of violent crime. In those barrios where there are a lot of cultural activities for youths, violent crime, which is mainly committed by young men, has decreased.

All three of these social and economic problems cannot be blamed solely on the destabilization caused by the Venezuelan elites and by U.S. intervention and encouragement. Certainly the United States has done this type of destabilization in the past. For example, Chile in the early 1970s and Nicaragua in the 1980s. A partial cause of the problem of shortages and inflation stems from holding back supplies of consumer goods by suppliers and retailers, either waiting for the price to rise further or to further dissatisfaction with a government they bitterly oppose. This is also likely true of some of the violent crime, including those crimes related to drug dealing.

Causes of the protests

The street protests in Venezuela began about a month ago, in early February, 2014. There are some legitimate grievances of many of the protesters (see above). There are also the continuing problems of nepotism, corruption, bureaucracy, and government inefficiency. The university students, who are protesting and are getting so much attention in US social and mainstream media, are not from the universities where the popular classes and their children attend, but from those that draw primarily from middle income and upper class Venezuelans and there are strong student movements there opposing the ongoing social changes in Venezuela. Their grievances are primarily about the society although most of the protesters also oppose opening their universities to the popular classes.

Students have been part of the anti-government protests including the more violent ones. The leadership is the right-wing of Venezuela; even to the right of Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, who was the 2012 and 2013 opposition candidate for President. They include Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo Lopez, both active in the failed April 2002 coup against Chávez. Machado and Lopez and the new party he leads, the Popular Will Party, have made it clear their intent is to overthrow the government and move Venezuela far to the right, to an authoritarian neoliberalism. A February 12, 2014 protest that Lopez spoke at turned violent. He was arrested a few days later and has been held in prison since. His arrest and detention are understandable, although charges should be filed against him and he should be released to face trial.

The protests and the barricades are in the better off, wealthier parts of Caracas and in other cities such as Mérida and San Cristóbal that is in the State of Táchira. They are in all the major cities of Venezuela but almost all are in the middle income and richer communities, not in the barrios.

U.S. role in unrest

The U.S. is definitely playing a role in supporting the anti-government protests. The National Endowment for Democracy (which does not promote democracy nor respect self-determination for other societies) contributes at least five million a year to student and other right-wing groups that called for the overthrow of Chávez and now call for the overthrow of Maduro and the PSUV. The NED supported the groups involved in the April, 2002 military coup against Chávez.

It is possible that the right-wing in Venezuela decided to organize militant street protests, including the use of Molotov cocktails against government buildings and public centers such as health clinics because of their weak showing in the December 2013 municipal and governor’s elections. They realized they were not going to win and retake power through the electoral path. From my reading of Chilean history, the decision to overthrow Salvador Allende was made after the Allende’s party Unidad Popular (UP), increased support in the 1972 municipal elections from their 1970 showing. The Chilean right-wing and Chilean military decided elections were not going to return them to power so they decided on a coup. Machado, Lopez and the right-wing may have reached a similar conclusion for Venezuela.

The class divide

The central issue in Venezuela is that there is a fundamental divide over the nature of Venezuelan society. For the most part, as has been clear since 2002, the large majority of middle income and wealthy Venezuelan do not accept a society where they no longer call the shots, culturally and politically; where they no longer are at the center of Venezuelan society. Racism is also connected. Those who do not accept this move towards a more socially and economically society are disproportionately “white” in a country where the large majority of people are of indigenous, African or mixed European, African and indigenous origin. The historically well-off have done well economically since the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez but have lost much of their political power and fear any direction towards a democratic socialist society—although Venezuela is still a capitalist society. Of course, many poor or near poor people oppose Chavismo, and there are people who were wealthy before 1998 or have become wealthy and powerful since 1998, who support the PSUV led government or are part of it. My point is that class and the class divide is the key; the issue of class is essential to understand Venezuela today and the current anti-government protests and barricades. Currently, there are few protests or even signs of mass protest against the Venezuelan government in the barrios, in low-income and working class communities, and rural areas of Venezuela.

Media

The U.S. and Venezuelan mainstream media have painted a picture of Venezuela as a place of massive popular protest with government suppression of the media and murderous repression.

The majority of the media in today’s Venezuela are private. Many of the TV stations were actively involved in 2002 coup attempt. Today, the majority of Venezuelans still watch TV stations owned by private corporations. The majority of these stations and most of the main newspapers, although a little bit more diverse politically than in 2002, are anti-government and anti-Chavista. They have not been taken off the air or prevented from printing, and the social media has not been shut down. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have been particularly active and inaccurate in portraying Venezuela as a repressive police state with total suppression of the media.

The mainstream U.S. media (e.g., CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, NBC, etc.) have a very strong anti-Chávez bias and a continued hostility to the building of 21st century socialism in Venezuela. For example, pictures that supposedly showed violent police brutality and repression in Venezuela were actually old photos from police repression in Bulgaria, Egypt and Chile. The New York Times, while generally hostile to the Venezuelan revolution with very biased reporting, has been slightly more balanced recently, even admitting that in the poorer areas of Caracas, there are no signs of protest,

Repression

As far as I have been able to research, 18 deaths over the last month have been linked to the protests. Of these, four anti-government protesters were killed by government security forces. Of the others killed, some have been pro-Chavista and a few have been accidents, not directly tied to protests.  There has been some over use of force by police and other government security forces. The government has arrested some police and National Guard for use of excessive force and violence, thereby indicating that murderous repression is not government policy.

 

President Nicolás Maduro called for a national day long dialogue on Feb 27, 2014. Community organizations, government officials, the main business associations, Fedecamaras attended. So did the owners of Polar, the largest food corporation in Venezuela and some opposition groups. The meeting was televised. It was also boycotted by the main opposition coalition, the MUD, Mesa de la Union Democratica and its Presidential candidate in 2012 and 2013, Henrique Capriles. He has supported the protests but not the violent ones. Not much came from this dialog but it may have been a start towards an ongoing discussion of important issues even the divide is huge. I think it would be a mistake to move the economics and politics in Venezuela in a more conservative direction to appease the right. The opposition is divided between those like Leopoldo Lopez and his Popular Will party who want to overthrow Maduro via escalating protests, and those such as Capriles, the 2013 opposition candidate for President, who is calling for a 2016 recall referendum that, if passed, would force Maduro to step down as President.

The future of Venezuela

A national dialogue about some serious problems in Venezuela is needed. However, the solution is not to bring the rightwing into the government in order to rule as a unity government. Rather, what is needed is the opposite of what the right-wing leadership of the protests wants. What is needed is a deepening of the revolution– the growth of the social economy and the growth and deepening of participatory democracy.

What Should We Do Here?

We should demand the end of U.S. funding of the opposition in Venezuela and an end to all forms of U.S. intervention in Venezuela. Imagine if China, Iran or Russia openly supported the overthrow of the U.S. government. Kerry and Obama have been open about their support for the opposition to Chávez and Maduro. The U.S. supported the attempted 2002 military coup in Venezuela. Demand that the United States government not intervene in any way; oppose U.S. government resolutions that condemn the Venezuelan government!

Learn more what is going on in Venezuela and write letters to the editor; post alternatives views to the mainstream portrayal of Venezuela on Facebook, social media, etc.

I suggest we, as people, activists, and concerned human beings critically support the Venezuelan government against the attacks on it. Alternatives to capitalism and current global capitalism are urgently needed; let us support and be in solidarity with radical social movements but also more than that. Venezuela is a positive example of a society where the lives of the majority are improving and of a government that is supporting with its resources and policy the building of power from below. These are the communal councils, the communes, community media, and (even though very slowly) self-managed workplaces. The growth in access to health care and education is inspiring. There is too much reliance on oil and oil money but more than any country in the world the revenues from oil are being used to reduce and end poverty. There is a growth of indigenous rights written into the Constitution, and growing economic and social rights, although insufficient, for women and for LGBT people. There are small steps forward towards food sovereignty and an anti-GMO policy. All of this is imperfect but what other country is doing more? We should practice critical support as opposed to condemnation, indifference or uncritical support.

We should learn about Venezuela and be humble and modest in our criticisms. Let us not idealize and romanticize Chávez and the Venezuelan government but don’t let cynicism dominate our understanding and actions.

Also very significant has been Venezuela’s role in Latin America and internationally. By playing a major role in the formation of group such as The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Venezuela has challenged and is challenging United States and transnational capital’s domination of Latin America and the world. That and “the threat of a good example” is Venezuela’s “crime “to the rulers of the United States and the global capitalist class in Venezuela. Don’t fall for the CNN perspective on what is going on in Venezuela.

 

Peter Bohmer is a longtime antiracist, antiwar and solidarity activist. He teaches political economy at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and has spent several months in Venezuela including taking Evergreen students with another faculty member, Anne Fischel, to study there for two months in  2009 and two months in 2012. 

 

Peter Bohmer

Ukraine: the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:59pm

To progressives who have been celebrating the revolution in Ukraine: Be careful what you wish for. Ukraine now has the first European government in decades in which outright fascist parties have gained a significant role in the executive branch. In other European countries, far-right parties have won seats in the parliament, but not secured real power in the cabinet. Of course, not all Ukrainian revolutionaries are fascists or Nazis, as asserted in recent Russian propaganda. But it is equally wrong and irresponsible to assert that the presence of fascists and Nazis in the new government is merely Russian propaganda.

When the far-right Freedom Party became part of Austria’s cabinet in 2000, the European Union issued sanctions against Vienna, and the New York Times was full of exposes of party leader Jörg Haider. But when the far-right Latvian National Alliance joined a conservative government in 2011, it was barely noticed in the Western media. And because the fascist party Svoboda (Freedom) and the Nazi shock troops of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) played a vanguard role in Ukraine’s anti-Russian revolution, their role in the new revolutionary government has been glossed over in the Western media, with no serious exposes so far.

So it may be controversial for far-right parties to join governments in the West, but it is permissible in the East if they are mainly opposing Russia. These same Western media commentators take any hint of criticisms of Israel as “anti-Semitic,” and then support a new government with parties that use World War II-era imagery, such as the Wolfsangel logo of Svoboda, and the White Power symbol of Odin’s Cross used by Pravy Sektor (ditto the Aryan Nations). The phrase “Never Again” takes on a hollow ring when the entry of real fascists into a government is minimized and excused.

Maidan Revolution

Certainly the majority of protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan, were motivated to join by the massive corruption and oligarchical rule of Viktor Yanukovych, and particularly his unleashing of the brutal Berkut riot police. The Maidan protesters included backers of European Union integration, leftists (who question both Russia and the EU), ecologists, LGBT activists, and ethnic and religious minorities (including Jews and ethnic Russians). But Anti-Fascist Action Ukraine estimated that 30 percent of the protesters in Kiev were far-right ultranationalists, and that was before the shooting began, when more of them joined the street battles.

Although the Maidan protests have been depicted as “Pro-EU,” Svoboda has joined forces with far-right parties that are actually Anti-EU. It holds Observer status in the Alliance of European National Movements, which vehemently opposes the EU (including Jobbik in Hungary and the British National Party). Pravy Sektor’s key slogan has been “Against the Regime and [EU] integration.” Perhaps they both want to join the EU so they can later oppose it?

Much like Al Assad and Al Qaeda in Syria, Yanukovych and Ukrainian ultraright nationalists fed off each other, and actually needed each other to buttress their own legitimacy. Yanukovych’s brutality polarized the country, and reinforced the farthest right-wing factions of the nationalist opposition. Also like in Syria, moderate democratic groups were caught in the middle of the polarization, and lost significant ground to the better-trained militants. So you’d think that the toppling of Yanukovych would reduce the power of the fascists who had gained support by fighting him. But even before Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea gave the ultranationalists new grist for the mill, their representatives were named to the new government in Kiev, led by the U.S.-backed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Svoboda

Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok is well known for his comments that Ukraine is victimized by a “Muscovite/Jewish mafia,” and references to Jews as “Zhydam” (Kikes).  One of his deputies established a “Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center” in 2005. The Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw commented in 2011 that “Svoboda’s success illustrates the growing demand of Ukrainian society for a new right-wing party with anti-democratic, xenophobic, pro-social and pro-family views.” http://www.osw.waw.pl/sites/default/files/commentary_56.pdf  Svoboda won only 10 percent in the October 2012 parliamentary election, and about 40 percent in parts of the heavily Ukrainian far-west. Yet last December, Tyahnybok was one of two opposition leaders visited and extolled by visiting Senator John McCain.

Since the revolution, Svoboda parliamentarian Oleksandr Sych has been named to the post of Vice Premier for Economic Affairs, and Svoboda has taken control of the ministries of education, agriculture, and the environment. Svoboda co-founder Andriy Parubiy was named Secretary of the Security and National Defense Committee, a significant post with control over police and military forces. Playing to a western audience, both Pravy Sektor and Svoboda have tried to reassure the Israeli ambassador that they are not anti-Semitic, and defenders of the Ukrainian Revolution have highlighted the very real anti-Semitism in Russian nationalist groups.

Two years ago, Svoboda led violent protests in Kiev against a new language law in Parliament, which allowed bilingualism in regions with more than a 10 percent non-Ukrainian population. Its first order of business in the new revolutionary parliament was to roll back the bilingualism law, which gave Putin one of his justifications to “defend” Crimea, where Russian-speakers make up a majority.  A similar 2003 “democratic” revolution in Georgia installed a strongly nationalist government, which five years later moved militarily against ethnic secessionist enclaves, provoking a successful Russian invasion. But few such aggressive signs were seen in Crimea before Putin moved in.

Putin’s invasion of Crimea has relegitimized the ultraright in the eyes of many Ukrainian nationalists, and (not insignificantly) prevents about a million Crimean Russians from voting against Ukrainian nationalist parties in the next election. A pro-Putin biker gang that has supported his Crimea invasion, and pro-Russian rioters in eastern Ukraine, play as Russian “young tough” counterparts to the Ukrainian nationalists. Just as Svoboda uses Putin’s actions to frighten Ukrainians, Putin needs Svoboda to frighten Russians, and the polarization intensifies.

Pravy Sektor

Pravy Sektor is even to the right of Svoboda, but that has not stopped its leader Dmytro Yarosh from being named as Paruby’s Deputy Secretary of National Security. Since the revolution, Pravy Sektor militants have begun tearing down statues of Soviet soldiers who liberated the republic from the Nazis. That’s because they are themselves Nazis, with a view of the world influenced not only by Ukrainian nationalism and German national-socialism, but by the global white supremacist movement.

Like Svoboda, Pravy Sektor looks back with fondness to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), led by Stepan Bandera, who backed the 1941 German invasion of Ukraine. It soon became clear that Germany did not back his vision of a pro-Nazi Ukrainian puppet state--because Hitler viewed Slavs as subhuman, and coveted their fertile land for German settlers-- so the UPA had to later defend itself from the Germans. But somehow you don’t really count as a resistance movement if you wanted to join the Nazis, but the other Nazis wouldn’t let you play.

In the meantime, the UPA was involved in massacres of Jews in parts of Nazi-occupied Poland now within western Ukraine. It also slaughtered at least 50,000 Catholic Poles who stood in the way of Bandera’s vision of a purely Ukrainian state. Far-right groups have recently backed the reburial (with honors) of members of the Galician Division of the Waffen SS, which also used the Wolfsangel symbol later adopted by Svoboda.

Last January, Svoboda led a huge Kiev rally marking Bandera’s birthday, and his portrait and uniforms were common sights in the Maidan protests. On one Nazi’s shield in Maidan could be seen the White Power symbol “14/88,” standing for the “14 Words” by David Lane of the U.S. terrorist group The Order (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”), and “88” for “HH” (“Heil Hitler”). Like other fascist groups in the region, the Ukrainian ultraright has also violently opposed LGBT rights, forcing the cancellation of the 2012 Kiev Gay Pride march.

In the Pravy Sektor video “The Great Ukrainian Reconquista,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Inu_-0dcSU) Yarosh highlights many common Nazi themes, “against corrupt marginal democracy, against degeneration and totalitarian liberalism, for traditional national morality and family values, for large Ukrainian family, physically and spiritually healthy young people, against the cult of illicit gain and debauch[ery].” The video counterposes images of masked street fighters (with “Vikings” shields), and beautiful heterosexual couples, with Berkut riot police, Russian civilians, EU bureaucrats, and multiracial dancers.  Another Pravy Sektor video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJmHIXVK95Y) shows different far-right factions marching, training, and fighting. These videos aren’t Russian propaganda about alleged fascists—they are the fascists’ own propaganda.

And by “fascist” I don’t loosely mean authoritarian conservatives, such as George W. Bush or the Koch Brothers. They may be right-wingers, but they uphold a global capitalist status quo with the U.S. at its center. Real fascists are extreme right-wing populist revolutionaries who want to overthrow the present system, and replace it with a dictatorship guaranteeing absolute rule by their own ethnic, racial, or religious group.

Fascists often sound like leftists in their opposition to corporate globalization and banks, NATO militarism, and environmental destruction, but have opposite motivations, usually revolving around racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. (Some elements of the Tea Party--such as Glenn Beck and Rand Paul--do seem to straddle conservative and fascist ideologies.) Having experienced World War II, Europeans understand better that fascism is a specific political movement, and not just another way to say “meanie.” They are less likely to ignore a growing fascist threat when they see one.

Good guys vs. bad guys?

U.S. media coverage of the Ukrainian Revolution tends to place it only in a West vs. East context, with the EU and NATO inherently good and Russia inherently evil. In this simplistic framing, the Ukrainian far-right is an inconvenient reminder that evil can emerge from the West as well, so it has to be minimized as Russian hyperbole.

Why is it that Americans of all political stripes--including progressives--can only see “good guys” and “bad guys” in a conflict, even in a situation that pits “bad guys” against “bad guys”? Maybe it’s our binary good vs. evil religious tradition, our “white hat” vs. “black hat” Hollywood films, or our two-party electoral system, which suppresses nuances and ignores other third-party alternatives. We want to view all protesters against oppressive regimes as “people power” heroes, without understand that today’s oppressed can (and do) become tomorrow’s oppressors.

As Yugoslavia broke up, all Western media attention was on ethnic cleansing by the Serbs, but almost never on the ethnic cleansing by the (U.S.-allied) Croatians or Kosovar Albanians. In Afghanistan, the Taliban oppressed Afghan women, but the U.S.-backed mujahedin warlords who had earlier ousted the pro-Soviet government were the first Afghan government to restrict women’s rights. In Libya and Syria, revolutions against secular Russian-backed dictators have likewise strengthened Islamist militias.  The West’s double standards eventually work against its own interests, by generating “blowback” from the very monsters it helped to create.

The revolutions in Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine should show us that the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. In a contest between Ukrainian and Russian ultranationalists, we do not need to pick sides. We can defend peace and the democratic rights of civilians, and all minorities on both sides of the divide, without contributing to the polarization and strengthening the rise of fascism. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The next time you’re influenced by a facebook meme or a heart-wrenching youtube video about human rights violations by an “enemy” of the West, think about the atrocities by the pro-Western side that we are not seeing. Study the history of country, to learn that parts of the so-called “democratic” opposition today might draw their lineage to militant   groups (such as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army or Venezuelan right-wing parties) that have massacred ethnic, religious, or political minorities in past decades. If the U.S. continues to back these crazies just because of they attack the West’s enemies, some kind of blowback is again going to be inevitable.

Dr. Zoltán Grossman is a political-cultural geographer who teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, focusing on topics of interethnic conflict and cooperation. He has taught courses on Central and Eastern Europe, and is a son of Hungarian immigrants. His faculty website is http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz and email is grossmaz@evergreen.edu.

Zoltán Grossman

Sink Hole

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:56pm

Sink hole.

The toothed smile of privilege - gleaning and glaring glances through restaurant

windows.

Glasses of clear liquid  -

at their table.

Hot tub myths.  Vacation gluttony.  Over another sea.

The beneficiaries carry mallets, axes, mauls tattooed at the back of the eye.

Sink hole.

 

Patty Imani

Water, water, everywhere

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:55pm

[Editorial note: Operation Uphold Democracy, lasting from September 1994 to March 1995, was a military mission authorized by the United Nations Security Council to return  elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Aristide had been overthrown by a military coup in 1991.]

Operation Uphold Democracy (part 2)

It had been three days of not being able to shower. This usually would not have bothered most of us, but because of high humidity and dust, it was causing some irritation.

Then the eve started to slowly come upon us and the rain began.

A sergeant and I started to discuss how to use the water to clean ourselves.

I noticed the water coming out of the corners of the bay across from us, and we decided to see this as an opportunity.

Keeping our PT (physical training) tops and shorts on, we went with our shower gear and started cleaning up under the falling water spouts. This caused others to do the same at various locations at the corners of the buildings.

The morale boost led to talk about creating make-shift showers in our “new” bay.

Another situation was the latrines. I found a sergeant from another company building a simple toilet. I asked if I could use it. He responsed, “I am making it for ‘our people’.” I nodded and turned to my buddy and said, “Well, it looks like you are standing guard while I take a sh*t by the wall down there,“ pointing to the bottom of the hill. Which, I unfortunately did.

The realization that being on the same team though does not, for some, mean we take care of each other caused sadness and anger within me. I set the feelings aside.

Shaking it off, we moved on to go check on our parked equipment at the front gates of Port-au-Prince.

Later on that day, a colonel came by to speak with us troops. We had just come back from chow and were chilling out in our bay playing scrabble.

He asked us how we were and I quipped up about the latrine incident.  He looked solemn. We talked more about good and bad issues and he left eager to get to work on fixing what he could.

That evening, an announcement was made: “No one will say no to another soldier for their basic needs--latrine, food, bed, shower or water.”

The sergeant who turned me away was dealt with.

The experience was good in a place of bare necessities, which we take for granted in a rich country like the United States.

By the end of the week, the make-shift showers were ready. Simple wood boards with 5 gallon drums up top of each stall and a shower head coming off of the drums.

We each grabbed a water jug and filled it up with treated water (the ocean area was full of human and animal feces). That wasdisheartening, no hope where that resides, frightening, the cause of the sickness and no one educating the masses how to keep themselves healthy.

We climbed to the top of the open wood planks, picked a stall, filled up a drum, climbed down and took a cold refreshing shower.

What was interesting to note, there was not a covered wall. No one cared. We just wanted to be clean and were thankful for the opportunity to have water, clean water.

April Adams, an Evergreen alumna, is a member of the Inter-Tribal Warrior Society, the secretary for Veterans For Peace Rachel Corrie Chapter 109 Olympia, journalist, photographer, artist, and political activist.

 

April Adams

Two years later… We are still Troy Davis

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:53pm

An interview with Kimberly Davis and Jen Marlowe

In 2011, the ACLU stood in solidarity with millions of people across the country in demanding clemency for Troy Davis. But despite our appeal, on September 21, 2011, Troy was executed.

Two years later, our collective efforts to challenge the death penalty in the name of Troy Davis and others like him have been anything but futile. Since Troy’s execution, nine states have taken steps to repeal the death penalty, including two in the Pacific Northwest. Here in Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee announced on February 11 that he was imposing a moratorium on executions as long as he was governor of the state of Washington.

“Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility,” Inslee said during his press conference. “And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served.”

On Wednesday, April 9 the ACLU of Washington will co-sponsor “I Am Troy Davis: The Human Face of the Death Penalty, ” two events hosted by The Evergreen State College (TESC) at 3pm and at Orca Books at 7pm.

The events, which are also co-sponsored by Fellowship of Reconciliation-Olympia, the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (as well as multiple academic programs and student organizations at TESC, and the President’s Diversity Fund) will feature a discussion with Troy’s younger sister, Kimberly Davis, as well as Jen Marlowe, author of the recently released book, I Am Troy Davis, which Marlowe wrote with Troy’s older sister Martina, with Troy’s direct participation.

The ACLU of Southern California recently interviewed Kimberly Davis and Jen Marlowe for its blog, about Troy’s case, how it helped galvanize the movement to abolish the death penalty, and what work lies ahead.

ACLU: Where are we two years after Troy’s execution?

Jen Marlowe: Troy’s case really sparked an awareness about why the death penalty is so problematic in this country, and I think in the two years since there’s been a lot of really concrete steps that have happened that have moved our country progressively away from use of the death penalty—and certainly, I can’t say that that’s only because of Troy, it’s obviously not, but I absolutely think it was one of the galvanizing events in the abolition movement. That was one of the things he called on his supporters to do in his final words—he asked us to continue to fight this fight, and I think that he would find that we have, and that we’ve been very successful in it.

Kimberly Davis: I feel really good knowing that my brother’s case is continuing to change the world today. Troy told the family if the State of Georgia did succeed in executing him they would only take his physical body because he gave his soul to God along time ago.

ACLU: How have people responded to your brother’s story?

KD: My brother’s story has opened the eyes of many people across the world and has brought people of all origins together to work for one cause: to end the death penalty. It doesn’t matter the color of someone’s skin—we all came together to stand for one cause and continue to stand for that cause. People all over the world had their eyes on Troy’s case and if they didn’t understand the importance on ending the death penalty then, their eyes are opened wide now.

ACLU: How does the death penalty affect minorities and people of color?

JM: The death penalty dispropor-tionately affects minorities and people of color. Every study that’s been done in every state has affirmed that. It has to do with both the race of the perpetrator and the victim, as people of color are far more likely to be prosecuted with a capital charge than people not of color.

The race of the victim particularly impacts whether a death penalty is sought for an offender. If the victim is white, it is far more likely than if the victim was non-white. These are some really troubling indicators in this day and age of whose lives are considered more valuable and whose lives are more dispensable. Race and the death penalty have very troubling overlays, as do economics and whether or not someone has the opportunity to hire decent defense or has a public defender, who might be very good but nevertheless overworked and underfunded.

The nature of the crime is rarely what determines whether the death sentence is sought. Race, geography, and poverty are much more indicative factors, and that’s really troubling in the country that is supposed to stand by the central edict ‘equal justice under the law.’ The death penalty seems to be the sharp edge of a much larger, broken system, and it certainly does not provide equal justice.

ACLU: So in terms of concrete policy, what are we building up to?

JM: I think we’re building up to a repeal of the death penalty in the United States. It’s been happening step-by-step and state-by-state—momentum is growing and I think we’ll reach a tipping point, where as we continue to move, there will be a point where the rest of the country will follow—whether that will ultimately come from the U.S. Supreme Court or another way, we’re trending very clearly in that direction. In terms of repeal on different state levels, I live in Seattle—of course, the governor of Washington just did the moratorium—and then also if you just look at trends about the death penalty: prosecutors are seeking the death penalty less often, there’s fewer death sentences being imposed, there’s fewer executions, public opinion of the death penalty is at an all-time low according to Gallup—every single indicator is moving towards repeal, which is not to underestimate the amount of work that we have ahead of us.

ACLU: Kimberly, what changes do you hope to see?

KD: I hope to see the death penalty end all around the world and that we can come together to make sure there is not another innocent man executed. Not in my name.

Additional question: What do you think of the moratorium on executions instituted by Gov. Jay Inslee here in Washington State?

JM: I’m proud of our governor for making the right decision, and standing on the right side of history. Now we have to make sure that the state legislature also stands on the right side of history, and repeals the death penalty altogether. We will need to make sure that we let our state representatives know—loudly, clearly and unequivocally—that this is what we expect them to do.

Interview adapted with permission from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California

Jen Marlowe’s website is www.donkeysaddle.org, she blogs at View from the donkey’s saddle, and you can follow her on Twitter at @donkeysaddleorg.

Continue the discussion with Kimberly Davis and Jen Marlowe at one of the two Olympia I Am Troy Davis talks and book signings on Wednesday, April 9! See announcement on page 2 for locations and times.

 

 

ACLU of Southern California

Making waves: our trip to Hanford, WA

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:51pm

That's right, friends, like all of our troubles, gravity comes in waves. For us earthlings they are so subtle that we don't feel them and so on Earth gravity seems comfortably stable. Far out in space though, black holes and neutron stars spiraling out of control produce waves in the gravitational field which astrophysicists believe we will soon be able to detect. In the fantastic realms of the universe, orbiting bodies and cataclysmic supernovae are causing the rubbery fabric of space-time to quivering.

My wife, Stephanie, and I traveled to the LIGO Hanford Observatory on the Hanford  Nuclear Reservation for the February 28 public drop-in tour and March 1 Family Science Day. These events to promote science education remind us that the scientists are reaching out in the spirit of learning. Our Plowshare friends hope to change nuclear weapons for peaceful use of resources. Notice! This is what has begun to happen at Hanford!

One of the world’s great scientific experiments is right here in Washington state. LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. Their website says, “[LIGO] is an instrument for sensing the presence of matter, whether shining or dark, in the distant reaches of the cosmos.” The project, funded by the National Science Foundation , is jointly operated  by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gravity is so familiar that we rarely think about it. "Down" means toward the center of the Earth, "up" is directly away from the center. The Moon and other satellites orbit Earth in the same way that Earth orbits the Sun. When I throw a baseball up, guess what it will end up doing? As the Earth makes its way around the orbit, the gravity field changes with the Earth's changing position. Scientists speculate that the changing gravity field sends waves outward from here at the blazing speed of light. However, LIGO won't measure waves from mild processes such as planetary orbits; only high mass, high acceleration events like black hole mergers. Only high frequency waves will register on LIGO machines.

High frequency waves are so delicate and subtle that no experiment has yet to measure them. We can infer the effect a gravitational wave will cause because of the tides on Earth, which is so familiar to us here in Olympia. The tide results from the Earth spinning under the alternating pull of gravity from the Moon and Sun. But other stars and planets are so far away that we would need a very sensitive detector. A great collaboration among scientists have built the device called LIGO at the Hanford site, and a twin facility at Livingston, Louisiana, which is on the brink of making this long sought measurement. If you have surplus computing power you may even participate in this adventure with the Einstein@home project where volunteers help analyze the collected data.

There are a few other detectors and teams around the world that form a (sort of) network. The European Space Agency is making a gravitational wave detector for outer space that will cover lower frequency wave events and is expected to be more sensitive and certain to get that measurement.

The best sources of gravitational waves are massive objects in rapid orbits. Astronomers are confident that neutron stars and perhaps black holes in close orbit create strong gravitational waves. In addition, supernova explosions, thought to emit a pulse may actually produce some type of gravitational wave. The Nobel Prize in physics in 1993 was awarded to Russell Hulse and Joe Tyler for finding a pair of neutron stars, one of which is a pulsar, in close orbit which are spiraling inward toward eventual collision. Using Albert Einstein's equations of Relativity, scientists have calculated the energy of these waves and they expect that LIGO is close to sensing them.

Dale Ingram was our tour guide of this wonderful facility and he is a great spokesperson for the project. With a small group (six other visitors) we were shown around the entire place. Because LIGO is nearing the end of a tremendous upgrade, some components left from the initial science run are displayed around the visitor center for guests to study. Magnificent isolation tables steady the apparatus from earthly vibration and some extraordinary mirrors are there to see. We toured the clean room where instruments are being prepared at a fantastic degree of cleanliness. And we spent time in the brilliant control headquarters (like being aboard the bridge of the Starship Enterprise) where myriad of scientists were busy at testing the upgrade status. Even the lunch room was full of science demos and the air of professionalism of the whole place was the best I've ever seen—the Washington LIGO is a hub of astronomy at its finest.

At my request a veteran LIGO scientist made time for an interview and he enthusiastically described the project to Stephanie and me. Micheal R. Landry, Ph.D., explained the project from a knowledgeable perspective. Though the science of gravitational wave astronomy is well explained on the LIGO website, to meet a lead scientist who has dedicated his career to making sense of the world was a great honor (he even helped edit this copy and drew on his chalk board for us!) I paraphrase some of his answers here:

What is the economic value of this experiment?

“The manufacture of the finest quality instruments in the world creates work for an engineering industry that is a worldwide collaboration. The Hanford site—once a production area for nuclear weapons--now serves as one of the production areas for LIGO's quest for new knowledge. This work is primarily driven by curiosity and physics so we may understand the universe better. This additional window into the cosmos makes for better astronomy.”

Isn't University of Washington involved?

“There is an excellent gravity group at University of Washington which is working on its own short range gravity measurement experiment. That device is testing the universal constant of gravity to refine its known value and for modifications to Newtonian gravity. Their work compliments ours but is a separate operation.”

Has India recently joined the LIGO group?

“Here at Washington LIGO we are building an additional set of devices for the nation of India which is planning to set up the detector and join the network. Having another detector at a distant location will help triangulate the signals so we can better pinpoint wave sources in the sky. The distance also helps us separate seismic and other local noise sources from actual gravitational waves.”

How certain are we of detecting waves soon?

“Our upgrade is nearing completion; the new device, called Advanced LIGO is ten times more sensitive and as we continue to refine the device our detection power continues to improve. Depending on the mass and distance to some in-spiraling neutron stars the theory predicts wave strength close to our ability. As they are about to collide the signal strength increases to a chirp. When we will detect these chirps we can inform optical astronomers where to look in the sky to observe exciting events. Later this year we expect to begin test operations of the Advanced LIGO. These experiments are valuable tests of our understanding of nature according to General Relativity.”

Thank you, Mike and Dale and all the staff at the LIGO Hanford, for the hospitality and time. Saturday, March 1, we returned to attend the special event, Family Science Day. Some twenty volunteers gave demonstrations around the facility of the scientific principles being tested. I was excited to see many of these volunteers were local high school students. The crowds of visitors (two to four hundred guests) were local families with children of all ages enjoying the hands-on exhibits and interaction with science enthusiasts. It was a festive learning experience of the highest order. The sincere researchers at LIGO are trying to make a difference in the lives of people.

The specter of nuclear history and background radiation did not deter these brave people. The LIGO Hanford holds accessible, free public tours one Friday and one Saturday each month, several special public events throughout the year, and additional group tours available by appointment. The scenic drive from Olympia is around 250 miles and the considerate professionalism of the staff made this tour a memorable learning experience. We wish the scientists the best of luck in their upcoming science run. Lee Smolin in his latest book Time Reborn claims “Unprecedented measurements [may] not be governed by any prior law.” The folks at LIGO have done their homework, I'd bet they are on the brink of finding out.

And, extra special thanks to Works in Progress for supporting science learning and citizen journalism in our community.

Russ Frizzell is an activist living in Olympia since 2010 and a graduate of The Evergreen State College where he studied Physics and Cosmology.

 

Russ Frizzell

Why the lawsuit against the OPD was settled out of court: the art of long distance running

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:47pm

“Awareness is two steps ahead. Paranoia is two steps behind.” —Kim Marks, forest activist; Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States by Jules Boykoff (2007)

In 2011, after years of activism led to a fabricated assault charge at a police brutality protest and relentless harassment, I filed a federal civil suit for false arrest against the Olympia Police Department. I wanted to set the record straight and expose a pattern of abuse that not only hindered my efforts, but which has haunted the Olympia community for over a decade. Days before the trial, Larry Hildes, my attorney who works with the National Lawyer’s Guild told me the City of Olympia agreed to settle my suit out of court. After careful deliberation I decided to accept the offer. Here is why.

We had witnesses lined up to testify that I was in no physical location to have struck anyone. We had enhanced frame-by-frame video evidence that proved that Officer Sean Lindros was not where he claimed to be when he was supposedly struck. I even had the black bandana I was wearing during the protest that Lindros claimed was blue. Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming evidence of my innocence, I was assigned a reactionary judge who issued pre-trial rulings that cut the legs out from under my case. Judge Settle refused to allow mention of Officer Sean Lindros’ history of deceit and excessive force, including an incident where he used a deadly sleeper hold on a man after punching and tasing him repeatedly, in addition to a wrongful arrest suit settled in 2012. Conversely, the judge empowered the defense to bring up irrelevant aspects of my past and politics to try to defame my character and avoid dealing with the facts of the case. 

As a student organizer during the Port Protests of 2006-2007, I saw first-hand the animosity that those in power held for people who dared to oppose the machinery of war and aggression. My friends and I put our lives on the line to block military stryker vehicles in the streets of Olympia to send a message that we refuse to allow Olympia’s public port to be used as a revolving door for war crimes committed in our name. In return, we got a street education in what being on the receiving end of repression was like. For some of us, from relatively privileged backgrounds, this was the first taste of tear-gas, truncheons, and rubber bullets in our brief sheltered lives. During this transformational process, our bodies became bloodied and bruised testaments to the lengths the state would go to eradicate dissent to preserve a bankrupt system of endless war and maximized profit.

When it was revealed that a military spy, John Towery, had infiltrated social movements and student groups from 2007-2009 there was massive fallout. Many chose to keep a low profile, some retreated from activist work entirely, while others were so traumatized they left Olympia altogether. Coming on the heels of protests that were as exhilarating as they were terrifying, this bombshell revelation was further compounded by the grim knowledge that the military was targeting our peaceful movement like it was an opposing enemy force, essentially converting the quiet downtown streets into a battlefield of brutality and repression. When further proof came to light that fusion centers were sharing the information that the Army had compiled on those engaged in first amendment activity at state, local, and federal levels, folks were justifiably concerned. Then when it was made clear that there was a pattern of fabricating violent charges against protesters in order to place certain individuals in a national domestic terrorist database, this wake up call lead to many a sleepless night.

For better or worse, I was one of the folks who kept organizing regardless of these unconstitutional attacks on our rights to speak out, associate and protest. Those who soldiered on in the face of overwhelming odds reasoned that if we gave in to fear and silenced ourselves, the establishment had already won. Initially, there was hope that exposing the system’s designs with smart detective work and press coverage could postpone the continuing retaliatory action by the state. Instead, in 2010 roughly a year after John Towery was exposed and warned of other spies still in our midst, the authorities gave me the “special treatment” they had meted out to countless others in the preceding years.

What began with my license plate being flagged and tagged by Washington State Patrol during a “routine traffic stop” coming back from the Tacoma Port Protests in 2007, escalated to my movements being traced, my facebook watched, and my residence infiltrated. In the proceeding years as multiple officers continued to call me out by name and gave me a flood of tickets on bogus pretexts that nearly bankrupted me, I knew something was awry. Then on April 6, 2010, Thomas Rudd, John Towery’s boss at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, sent an e-mail to then Police Chief Tor Bjornstad at the Olympia Police Department warning him of the protest where I was framed for assault on an officer. As my attorney noted, “It has now become clear that Rudd kept right on gathering information on activists in Olympia,” even after Towery was unmasked. Furthermore, Rudd was giving information about Olympia activists to the Olympia Police Department for the them to act on, either alone or in conjunction with the Army. This contradicted Rudd’s testimony three weeks prior to the protest at the Third Internal Review of the Force Protection Intelligence Group he had headed where Towery had played an integral role.

The frame-up by Olympia Police and an ensuing illegal eviction by my landlord under pressure from the city made me decide to hire a lawyer and turn the tables on a system that was purposefully destroying my chances of long-term survival.

In 2009, a handful of brave souls, tired of being caught in the cross-hairs of men who wanted to suppress their rights because they disagreed with the content of their speech, had taken the only course of action left: they filed suit to take John Towery and his accomplices to court. The thousands of pages of documents received in discovery in the Panagacos v. Towery case reveal a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency counter-intelligence program that make COINTELPRO look like a game of hop-scotch.

It was finding out that others had decided to fight back in the courts that encouraged me to file suit against OPD to stem the tide of repression aimed at me, which I hope in turn will inspire others to speak out and refuse to suffer silently. Nearly three years after filing mountains of paperwork and reliving the traumatic experiences from that night, I accepted the City of Olympia’s proposal to settle my case and now I can move on to bigger battles.  Although the settlement was not ideal compensation for the suffering I experienced, my intention was never to bankrupt the City of Olympia but merely to force the authorities to acknowledge the merits of my case, paving the way for expungement of the felony I was given under false pretenses. While winning a courtroom battle would have been satisfying, I am also thankful that I will no longer have to endure the ridiculous sight of Lindros perjuring himself on the stand about the supposed “assault” he experienced that night.

It is unfortunate that I didn’t get my day in court this time, but from the start my case involved questions that could only be resolved as more evidence came to light through public records research and further legal action. The larger questions that loom about my arrest were never simply whether Officer Lindros lied about being struck, but who Officer Lindros lied for and why. With enough dedicated action and persistent pressure we may finally get an answer to those questions.

When all is said and done, the settlement and the surrounding press has already helped put the upcoming Towery trial on June 2 on people’s radars and if nothing else, that historic trial will certainly make the authorities think twice before stripping other activists of their fundamental rights.

Paul French, aka Strife, is an Olympia resident, a musician, and a member of the area’s vibrant activist community.

Paul French (aka Strife)

Legislature goes nowhere with climate change: what must be done to motivate legislators to take action at the state level?

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:45pm

Maybe next year… 

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. In December 2013, Washington State’s Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW), created by the 2013 Washington State Legislature to develop “a state program of actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” presented their opposing sets of recommendations—and now that the session has ended, we can only hope that they will continue their agreement to keep talking. Maybe next session something will happen.

Meanwhile, The Olympian reports that gas-powered leaf blowers will be banned from the Capitol Campus because they are noisy and because of their emissions. That’s sensible—no one likes to be around leaf-blowers, and it’s never clear where the leaves that get blown go anyway—but we need more from our state government.  Climate change threatens everything and everyone. Action is required.

The tough question is—action by whom?

Fortunately, the Congressional Progressive Caucus just released its new budget, the Better Off Budget. Reading the Progressive Caucus budget proposal is like reading a primer on what effective government can do. Two of the environmental policy aims represented in the Progressive Caucus budget are putting a price on carbon pollution by instituting a carbon tax and repealing subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

Both ideas were discussed in the Washington State legislature. The expert’s report delivered to the CLEW workgroup last October examined both a carbon tax and a cap and trade option. The carbon tax option made more sense and resulted in a bigger impact in terms of reducing green house gases, particularly since the transportation sector is the largest GHG polluter in WA state. That idea went nowhere this session. Nor did a bill re-introduced from last year’s session (HB 2038) to close the “big oil loophole” our state’s own fossil fuel company subsidy program.

Better government responses elsewhere

Some counties have made significant progress. Take King County. In his State of the County Address in February 2014, King County Executive Dow Constantine reviewed the effects of climate change on the county—80% of surveyed streams and rivers in King County exceeded the state temperature standard to protect salmon habitat; snowpack in the Cascade Range has decreased by 25% since the 1950’s; all major rivers in King County have shown higher flow and increased flood risk during fall and significantly lower flow in summer; Puget Sound has risen over 8 inches in the last century and local waters are becoming more acidic.

“We can no longer wait,” Constantine said. The related policy brief, “Confronting Climate Change,” lists what King County is doing—greening commutes, promoting smart growth, saving energy and reducing climate pollution, collaborating with others and building resilient communities. How can Constantine be so outspoken, so clear in his leadership? He won the last election handily, 78% to 21% for his Republican contender. The county council is predominantly Democratic, too.

States other than Washington are acting. Hawaii, for instance. In January 2014, Democrats, who control the Hawaiian House and the Senate, introduced a joint package bill that included the creation of an interagency advisory board to help the state prepare for climate change. Talking about climate change is normal. In the March 2014 edition of For Kaua’i, a free newsmagazine, Ruby Pap, a Coastal Land Use Extension Agent from the University of Hawai’i, focused her science column on the consequences of climate change for Hawaiians: “in addition to flooding, we can expect to see beach erosion, and saltwater intrusion into wetlands and groundwater. Homes, critical infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and other facilities will be threatened in increasing numbers.” Besides preparing for these events, Pap suggests that readers become involves in Hawaii’s smart growth initiatives to reduce automobile use.

Shifting public perception, driving political change

Given the scope of climate change and the need for systemic action, how can we compel our governments to act? If we wait until the sea level rises enough to wet the feet of major decision makers, it will be too late. Somehow, a case has to be made that current evidence and current understanding of what the evidence means for the future is enough to act upon. It has to become normal to talk about climate change and what we can do with and about it.

In February 2014, political activist Jim Hightower addressed the Progressive Congress, an organization founded by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and told them to be bolder: “don’t forget that cultural shifts produce political change, not the other way around…The great progressive movements… have advanced not only by good organizing, but by a steady altering of the public’s perception.”

The world’s largest general science society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), came out this month with a new strategy to make talking about climate change normal. It launched its “What We Know” public information campaign. The campaign stresses three messages: climate change is real; climate can change abruptly; and we need to act swiftly to reduce both the cost and the risk of inaction. The AAAS’s move is important. More of us need to be clear about how climate change is going to affect us, and what we need to do to slow it. It can’t be a problem for experts only anymore.

The clearer we are about what climate change means, the more compelling our stories will be. The more of us who tell them, the more likely it is that we can compel the state legislature to act—next year.

Emily Lardner teaches at Evergreen State College and co-directs The Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education, a public service of the college. 

 

Emily Lardner

Toilet paper and its discontents: class struggle and the Venezuelan Revolution

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:42pm

The power of symbols

A society without toilet paper is a society in trouble, we all agree with that. Not having access to such a basic commodity of modern life suggests an uncomfortable place where scarcity reigns, futile long lines at supermarkets with empty shelves, wide spread poverty, unhappiness on citizens’ faces, and that third world “je ne sais quoi” not recommended by Condé Nast Travel standards. But equally important, if we believe that a society doesn’t have toilet paper, the actual relationship between our beliefs and material reality becomes irrelevant.

Iconic symbols, as we know, have the power to construct immediate meaning in our brain. But as Nietzsche noted long ago, symbolic constructions (and access to toilet paper is high in the chart of the contemporary mind) generate relations of things to one another, and to us, but not necessarily with the absolute truth. It is not accidental, as we’ll see below, the broad news coverage in mainstream media given to the shortage of toilet paper in Venezuela, and the supposed popular discontent against the government. For those without voluntary amnesia about moments of Latin American history, the current campaign—0first against Chavez and now against the new democratically elected Maduro--resembles in both tactics and content the campaigns against Allende in Chile prior to the establishment of the dictatorship of Pinochet.

The ubiquitous class struggle

Very few things in life can be placed outside the correlations of power and class interests in a given society. This is particularly true if we analyze the process of production, distribution, and consumption of commodities. Needless to say, TP is part of this economic cycle; tracking the “toilet paper blues” will help us unveil the real political content behind the current Venezuelan situation.

It is worth noticing that the nationalization effort initiated by Chavez has only affected a limited number of companies, mostly big companies such as the oil and other energy related industries. Most of Venezuela’s industry continues to be in the hands of private capitalist entrepreneurs.  The paper, and more specifically the TP industry is in hands of private capitalists; so are the means of transportation such as trucks, etc.; and most of the centers of distribution such as large supermarkets, are owned by private companies. 

Yes, there was a scarcity of TP in Caracas, but the shortage was artificially created with the political purpose of destabilizing a legitimate government. Similar tactics were used with other basic staples creating shortages of soap, flour, etc. The same political maneuvers were used in the early 70’s in Chile to project the image of a socialist government incapable of running the economy. It is not accidental that president Maduro responded by denouncing the shortage as right wing scheme, and proceeded to temporarily occupy the largest TP manufacturer in the nation, the Paper Manufacturing Company's plant in the state of Aragua.  Along with these measures the Venezuelan government ordered the purchase of 50 millions rolls to be distributed at no cost to the population. Maduro’s decision not only debunked the shortage argument but also the speculative plans of the TP companies. Yes, very few things, including TP shortages, can be understood if we detach them from a political/class struggle analysis.

Class struggle is not good or bad per se. The answer depends on which class interests we are struggling for. Are we for the interests of the few (the multinational companies, the traditional landlords, the industrial and financial bourgeoisie); or for the interests of most of the people (peasants, workers, and the dispossessed)?

The media, as the new battle field

It would be mistaken to believe that the main battlefront of the conservative and reactionary forces of Venezuela is through financing violence and agitation in the streets of Caracas. This tactic has been proved ineffective. As noted by Ciccariello-Maher in the March 24 issue of The Nation, “ Even the ferociously anti-Chavista blogger Francisco Toro of Caracas Chronicles has argued “middle class protests in middle class areas on middle class themes by middle class people are not a challenge to the Chavista power system.” Equally ineffective have been the recent attacks of extreme right groups against universities, libraries, and cultural centers trying to antagonize the student movement that favors Chavismo.

Nonetheless, the extreme-right and conservative forces have been successful in the orchestration of an international campaign of vilification and demonization of the Venezuelan leaders, first of Chavez and now of Maduro. Latin American and Miami based news and entertainment corporations such as ANDIARIOS, GDA, and PAL along with the conservative Spanish journal El Pais have launched a well-coordinated, vicious and continuous crusade of misinformation against the Venezuelan revolutionary project.  Their tactics include the mis-use and alteration of photographic and video material and unilateral and distorted news coverage about Venezuela.  Not to be left behind, the American media has been holding hands with the Venezuelan political right against Chavez since the beginnings of the Bolivarian revolution. Nothing new here, except that this amounts to a political aggression by conscious misrepresentation with the aim to destabilize Venezuela and prepare the ground for a violent military solution.

Arrogant hypocrisy the American way

There is something repugnant in Secretary of State John Kerry’s statements condemning the Russian occupation/annexation of Crimea. At a personal level he seems to have forgotten his role as invader in the military occupation of Viet Nam, and at a national level he also has forgotten the U.S. recent invasion of Iraq. Both countries located thousand of miles away from the U.S.

Equally offensive was his arrogant public declaration of March 12, 2014 when he practically threatened Venezuela and announced his support for the opposition and his willingness to make use of the “democratic clause” (i.e. military intervention) of the OAS (Organization of American States) against the democratically elected president of that country.  Kerry’s proposal was put to shame by 29 Latin American and Caribbean governments declaring their solidarity with Venezuela. Only the U.S., Canada, and Panama were against the declaration. When it comes to international politics Canada seems unable to think or act without the script prepared by its powerful neighbor, and Panama’s President Martinelli seems to wish for Latin America the same misfortune of being invaded by the U.S, as was his country in 1989.

Compliance no more

The American position against Venezuela is understandable, though unacceptable. U.S. power and influence in Latin America has become weaker due in large part to progressive-pro-socialist governments like Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. From a global perspective, these countries represent, with the exception of the Nordic countries, the only existing forms of government on the planet willing to challenge capitalism and globalization.

In the particular case of Venezuela, the progressive experience initiated by Chavez has meant among other things the following:

Intentional government policies designed to improve the well being of its people. Significant gains have been made in the areas of re-distribution of the national wealth, reduction of poverty, education, heath, and civil rights for minorities.

Expansion of democracy with the creation of more than 40,000 “Communal Councils” which according to the same article in The Nation by Ciccariello-Maher incorporate “Afro and indigenous movements, women’s, gender-diverse and students groups” —in other words, groups without previous political agency or representation.

Radical changes in the conceptualization of the role of the state, which is understood as an active instrument for the benefit of the majority of the population, and not as a tool to benefit a small group of wealthy people, which was the case prior Chavismo.

Radical changes in the conceptualization of the role of the armed forces of Venezuela (Chavez was in the military), which now play an integral part in the transformation of the country and defense of democracy via participation in economic development and social projects.

Active participation in creating a new type of solidarity among Latin American countries as a practice of resistance to U.S. economic and political control.

Class struggle, again

Ironically, Maduro has confronted the multiple acts of violence, provocation, and ideological warfare organized by internal and external reactionary forces against the government with a policy of dialogue and within the parameters of the democratic institutions in place. A survey conducted last week gives him a 57% approval rate, which added to his significant victory in the municipal elections (surpassing the previous margin by over a million votes) shows the real correlation of strength within the country.

There is a poster circulating in Caracas that shows thousands of housing projects in neighborhoods located in the foothills of the city. The poster creates the image of the latent power of the multitude that has been the main beneficiaries of Chavismo: the common people of Venezuela. At the bottom of the poster there is a legend addressed to the right wing opposition. It says: “If you keep bothering us, we may have to come down.”

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.

 

Enrique Quintero

Saint Martin’s Society of Fellows Welcomes Fulbright Scholar as Spring Colloquium Speaker

Thurston Talk - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:11pm

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by Saint Martin’s University

Jeff BerkensteinThe Saint Martin’s University Society of Fellows cordially invites the community to join its members for the Society’s Spring 2014 Colloquium on Wednesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. The event, free and open to the public, will be hosted in the Norman Worthington Conference Center on the Saint Martin’s Lacey campus.

The celebration will feature distinguished speaker Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., a Fulbright Teaching and Research Award recipient and chair of the University’s Department of English. Birkenstein will speak on, “Notes on a Fulbright Semester at Petrozavodsk State University, Republic of Karelia, Russia.”

Birkenstein’s 2013 Fulbright grant enabled him to spend the fall 2013 semester at Petrozavodsk State University’s Institute of Foreign Languages, where he led advanced courses in English and taught courses on Russian and American short story literature. He has also been conducting joint research with Igor Krasnov, a professor at Petrozavodsk State University, on best practices for teaching the history of the modern short story across cultures.

“I just returned from 3-plus months in Russia, months spent teaching, writing, thinking, traveling, napping, eating, exploring and trying my darndest to be a cultural and academic ambassador — whatever that means,” Birkenstein says. “Although you may have noticed that when I first returned from Russia, I was walking around in a very surreal space — I would go back and forth between feeling that I was gone for five minutes and, alternatively, five years — I would like to share some of these thoughts about this experience.”

Birkenstein strives to break down walls between the classroom and the world. For example, watching a plane crash into New York’s World Trade Center live on television led to a conference and then a class (co-taught with anthropologist David Price), followed by a book: Reframing 9/11: Film, Pop Culture and the “War on Terror” (Continuum 2010), co-edited with Anna Froula (East Carolina University) and Karen Randall (Southampton Solent University, UK). Another example: a successful eater for his entire life, he uses these diverse experiences when teaching a course called “Food & Fiction,” which has, in turn, led to more writing, more traveling, more team-teaching and, of course, more good eating. Along with co-authors Froula and Randall, Birkenstein recently published The Cinema of Terry Gilliam: It’s a Mad World (Columbia UP/Wallflower is P). Birkenstein earned his doctorate in English, as well as a master of arts degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, from the University of Kentucky. He received his first MA, in English, from California State University, Long Beach. Birkenstein earned an undergraduate degree in English from the University of California, Los Angeles.

During the colloquium celebration, newly inducted members of the Society of Fellows will receive medals. Graduating Fellows will wear their medals with their regalia at Saint Martin’s commencement on Saturday, May 10.

The Society of Fellows, an academic honors organization at Saint Martin’s University, was founded in May 1971 by Father Michael Feeney, O.S.B., the University President, to distinguish members of the faculty and student body who, with their outstanding work in teaching and learning, contribute to the intellectual life of the University. Since its inception, the society has existed to recognize and encourage academic excellence throughout the Saint Martin’s University community.

Among its activities, the Society of Fellows publicly honors student achievement and regularly sponsors academic colloquia and convocations. It traditionally advises the University President on recipients of such academic awards as honorary degrees and the Martin of Tours Medal and it suggests, when requested, each year’s commencement speaker.

 

Internationally Known Pianist, Stephan Moore, Ph. D. to Conduct Music Workshop at Saint Martin’s University

Thurston Talk - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:00pm

ThurstonTalk

 

Submitted by Saint Martin’s University

Stephan MooreThe Saint Martin’s University Music Program will be hosting internationally recognized pianist Stephen Moore, Ph. D., as he conducts a workshop on the Dalcroze approach to music education on Saturday, April 12, on the Lacey campus in Kreilsheimer Hall. Moore will also be a guest at the University’s final installment of the Music @ 11 series on Tuesday, April 15.

The “Putting It All Together” workshop will focus on beginner and intermediate levels of activities for teachers, students and  performers in movement, singing and improvisation.

Developed by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze in the early 1900s, the Dalcroze approach teaches an understanding of music through techniques that incorporate rhythmic movement, aural training and physical, vocal and instrumental improvisation.

The influence of Dalcroze has been felt worldwide within the field of music, as well as in dance, therapy, theatre and education. The comprehensive Dalcroze approach consists of three components: Eurhythmics, which teaches concepts of rhythm, structure, and musical expression through movement; Solfège, which develops an understanding of pitch, scale, and tonality through activities emphasizing aural comprehension and vocal improvisation; and Improvisation, which develops an understanding of form and meaning through spontaneous musical creation using movement, voice and instruments. It was Dalcroze’s intent that the three subjects be intertwined so the development of the inner ear, an inner muscular sense, and creative expression can work together to form the core of basic musicianship.

Registration for the workshop begins at 12:30 p.m., with the workshop to follow at 1 p.m. and concluding at 4 p.m. Pre-registration and ticket information is also available for the workshop, which is free for students at Saint Martin’s.

For the Music @ 11 event, Moore will perform a piano recital, “Carnival in Venice,” as well as conduct a master class on the Dalcroze approach with a focus on Eurhythmics. This event will be held in Kreilsheimer Hall at 11 a.m. and it is free and open to the public.

Moore is a piano performance specialist and associate professor of music at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is a former tenured associate professor of the Oberlin Conservatory. He has performed nationally and internationally in Tokyo, Taipei, Hsinchu, Graz and Salzburg. Moore is co-author with Julia Schnebly Black of two books published by Alfred Inc.: “The Rhythm Inside: Connecting Body, Mind and Spirit” and “Rhythm One-on-One.” He holds a Ph.D. in music theory from Indiana University. His latest CD, “The French Connection” (2012), is a collection of French solo piano music. Moore holds the Dalcroze Certificate from the Manhattan Dalcroze Institute and the License from Columbia University, Teacher’s College. Since 1997, he has taught at the Marta Sanchez Summer Training Center (Carnegie Mellon University) and at the Northwest Dalcroze Summer Training Center since 1993. Moore also offers a three-week, intensive summer course in Dalcroze Eurhythmics at California State University, Dominguez Hills, for public school teachers.

University Associate Professor of Music Darrell Born, chair of the University’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts and the Music Program director, created the “Music @ 11” recital series, now in its ninth year, to raise awareness of the musical arts and provide opportunities for students and the community to experience various kinds of music in a recital setting.

 

 

Westport Winery’s Rapture of the Deep Wins at Capital Food & Wine Festival

Thurston Talk - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 8:39pm

ThurstonTalk

 

Submitted by Westport Winery

Rapture of the Deep_Front_COLAWestport Winery’s sparkling cranberry wine Rapture of the Deep earned a gold medal and Best of Class at the Capital Food & Wine Festival in Lacey, Washington on Saturday, March 29. Rapture is made from 100% Ocean Spray cranberries and the wineries most award-winning creation. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this wine benefits Aberdeen’s Driftwood Theater.

The winery earned silver medals on Swimmer’s Petite Sirah with grapes from Jones Vineyard and Captain Gray’s Gewurztraminer from grapes from Red Willow Vineyard. A portion of the proceeds from these wines respectively benefit Grays Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center and the Grays Harbor Symphony.

The partnerships and collaborative relationships Westport Winery has built with their grape growers and local charities are integral to their remarkable growth and success in their six year history. Westport Winery was the first winery on the Washington Coast and remains the westernmost vineyard in the state.

Westport Winery and Vineyards By-the-Sea with its unique sculpture garden, lavender labyrinth, musical fence, 9-hole executive golf course, giant chess set, outdoor scrabble game, and grape maze, is located on the corner of Highway 105 and South Arbor Road halfway between Aberdeen and Westport. Their award-winning wines are exclusively available at this location. The tasting room, gift shop, produce market, plant nursery and bakery are open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The restaurant is open for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and for dinner on Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information contact Westport Winery at 360-648-2224 or visit the website at www.westportwinery.com.

Appeals Court Upholds Food Co-op's Boycott

OlyBlog Home Page - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 7:50pm

From today's inbox:

April 7, 2014, Seattle – Today, the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by five members of the Olympia Food Co-op against current and former members of the Co-op’s Board of Directors for their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The court held that the lawsuit was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, and that participation in the boycott is protected by the First Amendment. The court also affirmed $160,000 in statutory damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs for the board members, and awarded attorneys’ fees for the appeal.

The lawsuit is part of a broader pattern of targeting pro-Palestinian activists in the United States, particularly in legislatures and across college campuses. “Those who would try to intimidate concerned citizens speaking out on behalf of Palestinian human rights should take note,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Maria LaHood. “The law and history are on the side of peaceful boycotts for social change, and today’s ruling reaffirms that this time-honored tradition is protected by the First Amendment. Instead of trying to suppress speech calling for Palestinian human rights, opponents should address such speech on the merits.”   

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Tumwater Boys Soccer Matches Up Against Stadium in Relay for Life Fundraiser

Thurston Talk - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 6:29pm

ThurstonTalk

 

By Tom Rohrer

les schwabAlong with his desire to be a strong and loving father, husband and son, Chris Miller is driven by another belief.

“I strongly believe that in my lifetime, there will be a cure for cancer,” said Miller.  Along with his wife, Christy, he serves as the co-captain and creator of Lords of the Track Relay for Life Team. “That’s why I do this, why (Relay for Life participants) do this….We’re driven by this belief.”

relay for life thurston

During the 2013 Together We’re Kick’n Cancer Fundraiser between the girls soccer teams of Tumwater and Olympia High School, the two squads came together to make the shape of the cancer ribbon.

Miller, a board member for Relay for Life of Thurston County, helped organize the annual Together We’re Kick’n Cancer fundraiser hosted by the Tumwater High School boys soccer program.  This year’s fundraiser features a match between Tumwater and Stadium High School of Tacoma. The match will be held on Thursday, April 10, at Tumwater District Stadium beginning at 5:00 p.m.  Those in attendance can make a donation at the door or through an on-site bake sale.

Started by former T-Bird head coach Bryan Winkler, the fundraiser was taken over by Miller along with first year Tumwater head coach, Brett Bartlett, and Tumwater Athletic Director, Tim Graham.  Winkler is now in his first season as head coach of the boys team at Clover Park High School in Lakewood.

Miller and Lords of the Track also organized a similar same fundraiser by hosting a match between the Tumwater and Olympia High School girls soccer teams, last fall.

The husband of a leukemia survivor who lost his mother to kidney cancer seven years ago, Miller believes fundraisers involving athletics brings the community together and helps set a positive example of good health.

relay for life thurston

A moment of silence was held during the 2013 Together We’re Kick’n Cancer Fundraiser match between Tumwater and Olympia High School. Expect a similar scene during eh 2014 fundraiser, which will be held at the Tumwater vs. Stadium High boys soccer match on Thursday, April 10.

“A sport like soccer is all about the team.  It’s just like Relay for Life, where it’s essential you work as a team.  You have a team full of people striving towards a common, positive goal, so there are these parallels that make it very easy for the public to relate to,” said Miller, who continues to play in the Southwest Washington Soccer Association league. “It also promotes nutrition, exercise and healthy living.  We know that nutrition and exercise can have an effect on cancer, so again, you have these parallels,” adds  Miller.  ”People see these kids participating in a healthy activity and that can be very inspiring.”

Miller was drawn to Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society due to the organization’s stance on working towards a cure for all cancers, not just one particular type.  Miller appreciates the emotional power of Relay for Life and sees the same positive aspects in the soccer fundraiser.

“At (Relay for Life) everyone has a similar story or set of circumstances.  We are there for a common cause.  You can go hug, pat on the back or talk to anyone and people will share their emotions with you,” said Miller. “With this game, Tumwater and Stadium will be opponents, but they’re in this journey together.  They have a common cause and know that together, they are having a positive effect on their communities.”

Earlier this season, Miller worked with Olympia High School senior soccer captain, Bryce Winkler, to create a similar fundraiser for a match between Olympia and his father’s Clover Park team.

“I’m great friends with Bryan and Bryce and to see that event come to life, it was pretty special.  I’m very proud to have helped Bryce and even more of him,” Miller added referencing Bryce’s commitment to the sport and completing his senior project.

Traditions started by the Winkler’s, such as the two opposing teams gathering arm-in-arm at midfield for a moment of silence, will take place at the Stadium vs. Tumwater match.  During halftime, the two teams will listen to a speech from an individual involved in Relay for Life that has been affected by cancer.

relay for life fundraiser

Chris Miller is organizing a Relay for Life fundraiser during Thursday’s game between Tumwater and Stadium High School.

“It’s a way for the kids to get another perspective and to hear someone else’s story,” Miller said. “This is about informing the public about the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life and how special those organization are.”

The Thurston County area has a rich history of supporting such fundraisers and so far, Miller has noticed that tradition continued.  Nearby school districts have also posted information about the fundraiser.

When he took over the job, Bartlett reached out to Miller about continuing the fundraiser.  According to Miller, the support from Bartlett and Graham both has helped keep the fundraiser going.

“They have both done so much and it’s really amazing seeing them go out of their way to make sure this happens,” Miller said. “The work they’ve done, it’s almost indescribable for me to talk about.  They’ve been very special.”

As a child playing youth soccer, Miller remembers playing his best when his parents were in the stands supporting him.  Miller now gets to carry that tradition on as his son Ryan Dow-Murrey, a junior, is the T-Birds back-up goalie.

“I can’t make the away games normally, but I’m at every home game and will support him there,” said Miller, who has another son in sixth grade. “I know how important it is to have your parents there because I was once in that same position.”

Working to set a positive example for his children to follow has always been a main objective for Miller.  Miller is hoping to continue setting that example by working towards another goal that will have a positive impact on their future.

“My goal is for them to live in a world without cancer, a world with more hope,” said Miller.  “I think we can get there.”

For more information on the Together We’re Kick’n Cancer Fundraiser, please click here.

 

Tumwater’s Office Bar and Grill – A Perfect Pit Stop for Washington Beachgoers

Thurston Talk - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 6:17pm

ThurstonTalk

 

Submitted by the Office Bar and Grill

olympia bars

Located on Mottman Road, The Office Bar and Grill is a popular gathering spot.

What’s halfway between Seattle and the sandy beaches of Washington, with no swimming but a free Sunday pool? It’s Tumwater’s Office Bar and Grill. If you are looking forward to some summer fun, you can drive 65 miles (from Seattle), take a break at The Office for a delicious Burger and a quick game of pool, then travel another 65 miles to the vacation beach of your choice. In Olympia, take the Mottman Blvd exit off 101, cross the freeway and turn south on Mottman Blvd. The Office is located in the first block, across from South Puget Sound Community College.

Westport is one of the closest Pacific Ocean beaches to Seattle and a favorite of local surfers, with lots of great hotel rooms and vacation rentals available. The beach is a wide, long stretch of sand that’s perfect for strolling. On a cold day you can build a beach fire with the abundant drift wood and settle in with a bottle of local vintage and some fresh fish. This area is known for tasty crab, tuna, salmon, prawns, and oysters. Have fun and see you at the beach!

Appeals Court Upholds Olympia Food Co-op's Boycott of Israeli Goods

Olympia Food Coop - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 1:32pm
Hello friends,

We received notice yesterday that the Court of Appeals has upheld Judge McPhee's ruling in favor of the 16 co-defendants (Board, former Board, and Staff members) of the Co-op who are being sued over the decision to honor the Israeli products boycott. For more information about this latest ruling please click the link to the Center for Constitutional Rights. http://bit.ly/Otzk8P
Categories: Local Food Blogs

Nadine Narindrankura at Media Island, Olympia WA, 4-9-2014 AT 7PM

OlyBlog Home Page - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:51am

Nadine Narindrankura,  Dine’ Nation  will be talking about Peabody coal/Black Mesa/ Big Mountain. Nadine is a young Dine’ woman who is part of the fight against the horrors of Peabody coal’s relentless 30 plus year assault on Dine’ people and Mother Earth, and is interested in meeting with Native people here to talk about Peabody and in learning more about the struggles against Coal especially on tribal lands here .

 

Media Island ,816 Adams St SE, Olympia, WA 98501
(360) 352-8526

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