Recent Local Blog Posts

When Cascadia lost to Washington in a poll in the Post-Intelligencer. And, are we named after Martha Washington?

Olympia Time - Thu, 04/23/2015 - 6:14am
As the long history of the Washington Territory was being rolled up, and statehood was on the horizon, a few people wondered whether it was a good time to change the name of the political organization. As long as we're changing the nature of the organization itself, right?

So in May 1888, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a poll, asking readers to suggest a new name. We've already read about how a few years earlier, our territorial representative suggested the name Cascadia for the possible new state.

From the PI:
The main cause of the desire for a change seems to arise from the fact that giving of the name Washington to the new state would lead to confusion, and that endless trouble and annoyance would arise from the confounding of the national capital and the political division on the northwest Pacific coast.Washington not only won, but dominated:
Out to of 695 replies, 564 were in favor or Washington and these were scattered evenly over all parts of the territory. Interesting fact:Another fact worthy of note is that there was an entire absence of any local prejudice. Yakima was favored by more non-residents of the valley of that name. Tacoma was the choice of more people in King county than the people in Pierce county, while nearly all of the expressions favorable of Rainier  were outside of Seattle.

Columbia finished second with 21, Tacoma 19 and Olympia 14. Cascadia was seventh overall, beating out variations of Washington and Idaho.
Towards the end of the story, the names relating to the Grays expedition was cited as a reason that Washington is so important and vital to our region. Just weeks after the constitutional convention was wrapped up in Philadelphia, Robert Gray left for the Northwest with his ships the Columbia and Washington.
Of course, now we have Grays Harbor, the Columbia River and obviously Washington State. Except the ship Washington's full name was Lady Washington. Martha Washington.

Smith Troy and his long leave of absence that is so unlike Troy Kelley's, but it still interesting

Olympia Time - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 5:25am
This is so unlike Troy Kelley's leave of absence, that I almost can't mention it.

But, Auditor Kelley's leave put me on the trail, so we'll start in 1941, when apparently war looked so likely that the legislature passed a law allowing elected officials to take long military leaves. The crux was that the governor was also the given permission to appoint a temporary stand-in.

I wrote a bit about Smith Troy's leave earlier here. And, I'm not proud to report, I'm apparently wrong about a few details.

For Democrat Smith Troy, as he left Olympia for Fort Lewis, and then North Carolina, this meant Republican Arthur Langlie would be able to appoint his stand-in. But, that never happened. Troy stayed away, serving as a military lawyer in the 30th Infantry Division, advancing from captain to lieutenant colonel.

For most of that time, Fred E. Lewis, a deputy appointed by Smith in 1940, led the office. And, during those war years, "the office" of attorney general meant a great deal more than it had in the past.

Soon after being appointed (and then quickly elected) attorney general in 1940, Smith went to work consolidating his power. During the 1941 session, he pressed for a law bringing in all of the state's legal work under his office. This move more than doubled the budget of his office, and obviously expanded the power of the state attorney general.

Lewis fought off attempts in 1943 to pull back that law, leaving the office in tact until Smith came back.

Langlie didn't last through the 1944 election, and that's when things changed for Lewis. Walgreen either caught on that Smith in absentia didn't actually support him for the Democratic nomination. Or he just thought that governors, not absent attorneys general should appoint temporary office fillers.

Either way, by early spring 1945, Lewis resigned and Walgreen's man Gerald Hile took control of the office. Hile had been as assistant US Attorney when he was called down to Olympia to serve as Walgreen's in-office lawyer. It didn't take long for the governor to place Hile as at least a temporary attorney general.

This is the scene that Troy returned to in the summer of 1945, literally sneaking back into town to take the oath of office. He'd been returned to the office months earlier, winning re-election while overseas in 1945. By September, he was officially released from the army, and Hile was released from his service too.

Here is that meta blog open thread you've been waiting for

Olympia Time - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 5:56am
Well, maybe I've been waiting for.

Either way, I think its about time to take a pause in the blog and let you tell me what you think about what's going on here.

It has been about five years since I changed the tone of this blog and just over two years since I've really been trying hard to blog twice a week.

And, to be honest the last few weeks, I've been very close to missing that twice a week deadline more than once. Mostly, I think, I've not been feeling inspired by what I what I've written about and I need to touch base.

So, please, tell me what you think. What do you think of the blog lately?

The best US Open to be held in Pierce County this year isn't even that US Open. And, it is because it isn't big and expensive.

Olympia Time - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 5:58am
People getting kicked out of their homes so landlords can make a windfall.

The county that spent millions of dollars on the venue is giving a tax windfall to their more metropolitan neighbors.

And, when it all comes down later this summer, Piece County will still be in debt over their new golf course.

The US Open Golf tournament, though the most laudable of golf's big tournaments because of its open format, is really just another television sporting event. The last time an amatuer won the US Open was 1933.

Sure, you may really like golf. This tournament in particular might excite you. I can't argue about that. And, I've argued in favor of government spending on sporting venues when I know in my brain that they don't make a return to taxpayers or the economy.

Mostly because I think team sports is important in setting a civic identity (so this golf stuff is something totally different for me).

But, people should know there is another US Open kicking off in Pierce County. The US Open Cup is a soccer tournament founded less than two decades after the first US Open golf tournament. And, like the US Open golf tournament (and dozens of other similar soccer tournaments worldwide) is open to any and all.

And, unlike the US Open golf thing, the US Open Cup operates in near obscurity.

On May 13, Tacoma 253 (a brand new team) will face off with the Kitsap Pumas at Mt. Tahoma High School in the first round of the Open Cup. The winner will face off against the Sounders 2 in Tukwila a week later.

I've made a habit of trying to get to as many US Open Cup matches as possible. I've been to Sumner, when Dox Italia lost to the Sounders U-23s. I was in Bremerton when the old USL Timbers beat the Kitsap Pumas. I've been up at the tiny Starfire Stadium in Tukwila to watch the Sounders beat everyone there. And, I've been to two finals in Seattle.

Every year during the first few rounds of the Open Cup, soccer pundits seems to fuss around about how we finally make the US Open Cup matter. While I think this is an important discussion, I think it isn't the fault of the tournament. Its more of a function of how adult club soccer works on the lower levels than the tournament.

Tacoma 253 is literally a brand new team in Pierce County and (as far as I can tell) won't even play more than two games near Tacoma this year. And, this doesn't seem to be a rare thing in lower level adult soccer. There's a lot of flux right now. What the tournament, and possible fans of lower level teams, is stability.

Once we've gotten attachments to these clubs, the tournament that involves so many of them, will grow.

And, grow the right way. Because I'm absolutely fine with it the way it is. And, what it is is something totally different than the US Open golf tournament. The games aren't televised (except for usually the final). I love jamming through and early round night, flipping from internet stream to internet stream, following the action across the country.

I remember one particular night, when I watched the Atlanta Silverbacks play Georgia Revolution being webcast by someone literally holding up a cell phone in the stands. That same night Cal FC (an amatuer team from southern California) blasted the professional (but minor league) Wilmington Hammerheads 4-0. The next round Cal FC upended Portland Timbers 1-0 for a legendary upset.

And, it was all watched by hardcore soccer fans via internet stream.

This is what is beautiful about the US Open Cup. Small high school stadiums, shaky internet streams, live tweeting games not on the internet, rockus upsets by amateurs. Let's not make this real US Open different, bigger, more televised. Let's keep it small and dirty. If it gets bigger, its because the teams are more connected, not because there is more sponsorship money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Majority of moderate Republicans think global warming is real

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

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

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

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

If Cap and Trade fails? Enter Carbon Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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


Costco dragging its feet on GE salmon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Who are the leaders for Black millennials?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me neither.

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

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

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

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

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


A good Christian doesn’t ask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Toma # 2: Interrupción o perpetuación

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toma # 4: Héroes en blanco y negro

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Take #2: Disrupting or perpetuating

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

Take # 3: The bellicose mind of America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take # 4: Heroes in black and white

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

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

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

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


Local activist will be remembered

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

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

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

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

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

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

May you rest peacefully, Patricia.

Sandia Slaby met Patricia the day Patricia arrived in Olympia.


Patricia flies with the herons

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

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

February 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my garden,

My eyes are downcast,

Whether tilling the soil

Or admiring the beauty

That my effort has produced,

My eyes are earthbound.

But, like a scene from some mythology book,

A great shadow of a bird

Glides past me towards the west,

And I find myself forced to look skyward.

A nest-bound great blue heron floats

Effortlessly by;

My thoughts fly with it.

After Man has driven this great bird away,

Will I be complacent about its absence?

Will I chalk it up to progress?

When development has

Homogenized its nesting area,

What great shadow will lift my eyes to heaven?

How will I send my thoughts flying,

With no great birds to use as a guide?

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

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

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


Anti-Vax and the cult of American individualism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



3 editors and an amazing photo. Just amazing. I'm not often amazed. (Olyblogosphere for April 6, 2015)

Olympia Time - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 5:58am
1. Did you know that Ken Balsley used to edit the Lacey Leader? Ken still covers Lacey and grades his mayor: B-.

2. Did you know the former publisher of the Olympian had a blog? Here you are.

3. This photo. Don't go your day without seeing this photo. Very much. I mean, the way he's laying there, still straddled. I also assume not awake. With his bag over his shoulder.

I'm just saying, photos don't take my breath away, almost as a rule. This one does.

4. Alec Clayton, editor at Mudflat Press, blogs about the latest exhibit at SPSCC. Which also features one of the above editors. Guess which one!

State Capitol Museum on the chopping block. How much should I care?

Olympia Time - Thu, 04/02/2015 - 5:57am
No one seems to have noticed, but the state house budget (this one written by Democrats) puts the State Capitol Museum on the chopping block. Neither the senate budget nor the governor's puts the museum to the ax.

This isn't what I'd consider to be our local museum, that would be the Bigelow House. But, it is the most prominent museum in our city. And, so at least one part of the state government wants to close it.

But, I'm wondering how much I should care about that.

Mostly because it is for one Olympia and not the other. The museum is for Olympia-as-state-capitol and not as Olympia-as-community.

Obviously there are overlaps. There are people who live here that have had a significant impact on state government simply because they lived here. But, that isn't what Olympia is, mostly.

And, so, this is whey I expect in Olympia, we're not going to complain very much if they end up closing the museum down. It simply speaks too narrowly to our history and culture here.

Yes, the Lord Mansion is very pretty. And, it would be a shame to cut off public access to it. I remember biking over there when I was a kid in the summer, just to walk around. But, the museum now doesn't speak to me much.

The best part of the museum is its small community room, the Carriage House. At least for me it is. Its the only part of the State Capitol Museum I've been to in the last 10 years, because it is where local historians hold talks.

But, those talks probably still might take place there. The house budget calls for the building to be passed over to another part of the state government, which leads me to believe it'll still be available for rent.

The last thing that amazes me is the incredibly low budget line item we're even talking about here. Apparently, the state provides only $242,000 a year to the state historical society to run the State Capitol Museum.

So really, is there a big reason that I'm missing that I would want to keep this incarnation of the museum open?

After the US Open this summer, Pierce County will still be $17 million in debt over the golf course

Olympia Time - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 5:57am
About a year ago, I took a crack at figuring out how much economic sense the US Open at Chambers Bay this summer made.

Overall, the academic research, finds little evidence that large tournaments (like the Olympics) make economic sense to local communities. They're a loss leader. You pay to have them to bolster your reputation, not because you're going to make money.

But, golf tournaments are different apparently. This is because golf tournaments don't usually mean a community had to build a brand new golf tournament to host a major tournament.

In the case of Pierce County, Chambers Bay and the US Open, this is not what happened.

In fact, the Chambers Bay course was built specifically for the US Open:
The golfing world was stunned in 2008, when the United States Golf Association (USGA) made Chambers Bay the host of the U.S. Open. It just didn’t make sense. Only the most prestigious and hallowed courses were picked to host the national championship.

No course built in the previous 45 years had hosted an Open, yet Chambers Bay was picked after being open for about eight months.  This was no fluke, though. It was years in the making...This makes the Chambers Bay course more like an Olympic Stadium, leaving the county saddled with debt for the foreseeable future. It was only in the last few years that the course started paying for itself.

But, despite running in the black, the course still built up a fairly massive debt that it is yet to pay off.

The chart on page 44 of this document shows the various ways Piece County has built up debt throughout its budget.

Even after paying off more than half a million in Chambers Bay Golf Course debt this year, the county will still be in the hole $17 million on the course.

And, even from the county's own (self proclaimed conservative) model, the county budget will only see a $600,000 bump in taxes this year because of the U.S. Open. The vast majority of the additional taxes paid here because of the U.S. Open will go to other counties and the state:

  • The State of Washington: nearly $6.5 million 
  • King County: $2 million
  • City of Tacoma: more than $440,000 
  • The cities of DuPont, Lakewood, Puyallup, Fife and Gig Harbor: a combined $153,000

Our man Joey DiJulio of Burien, the bachelor party and wedding in Philadelphia and the Cascadian Calm (among other regional personalities)

Olympia Time - Thu, 03/26/2015 - 5:00am
If you were paying attention last week, you saw this story:
For weeks, the man from the Seattle suburbs found himself getting emails from people he didn’t know about a bachelor party and a groom he’s never met. He saw names of Philadelphia landmarks like Reading Terminal Market thrown around in the emails but couldn’t put his finger on where they were located until he searched the names online. “I had no idea what any of these places are,” said DiJulio, 31, who’s never been to the Northeast. “After Googling them, everything was pointing to Philadelphia.” It turns out DiJulio, an information technology worker and a married father of one in Burien, Washington, had been mistaken for a friend of the groom with a similar last name. He sat as a “fly on the wall” for much of the email chain until Monday, when he broke the news after the groom’s brother wanted a headcount of people attending the party.But it didn’t end there. Groom Jeff Minetti, 34, figured: Why not still invite him? Well, why not indeed?

To me, the reason why not is obvious. You don't know this person. He could ruin your entire wedding. He's a stranger and you don't invite strangers to your wedding.

But, that's the Cascadian talking, and we're not talking about a Cascadian who invited DiJulio to the wedding. In fact, the Cascadian DiJulio was the one who quietly watched as strangers talked around him. He didn't chime in, he just waited.

This is the Cascadian Calm, the laid back, open and quiet regional personality that often gets described as the Seattle Freeze.

And, this is almost the polar opposite of the regional personality that DiJulio was dropped right in the middle of. In fact, Philadelphia is dead center inside a regional personality that has been described as "temperamental and uninhibited."

Here's another version of the same map, which shows the entire country in the same context.

Uninhibited makes sense here. It made total sense to the groom to invite the interloping and eavesdropping stranger.

Temperamental makes sense too. We usually think as temperamental as moody. As in "bad mood." But, in this case, it means almost unreasonably good mood. "Hey, you're a stranger that's just been listening in?? Yeah! You're invited too!"

But, it also means for that DiJulio, in contrast to the Cascadian Calm (which is very not temperamental), that there's another side of the coin. People get angry man. Just saying.

Solar, the clown and food are real. Cop humor and zombies are not (Olyblogosphere for March 23, 2015)

Olympia Time - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 5:52am
1.The Sky Like A Scallop Shell loves. I mean LOVES! Solarpunk. So, come as no surprise, Procession is Solarpunk.

2. Yeah sure, they were cute. But the who Zombie thing up at the campus was totally overblown. Style over substance and no, they did not take over "Olympia." Just the legislative building. And, they were lobbying for a tax cut. So boo.

3. Gale Hemmann writes up a neat post over at Thurston Talk. Seriously, the ethnic markets of Olympia and thereabouts.

4. I appreciate the effort. But, that's an embarrassing effort. I can imagine what you were going for, but not good.

5. And, this is worth linking to just because Jusby posted something. Our favorite clown!

Propane company propositions Longview port

Works in Progress - Sun, 03/22/2015 - 10:23pm

Longview citizens ask port commissioners to “decline to sign” agreement with Haven

It’s an all too familiar scene here in Washington State as yet another fracked product from North Dakota wants access to our public ports. This time it’s a special meeting at the Cowlitz County Expo Center in Longview, Washington on Thursday evening, February 19th.

The hall is filled with 250 to 300 people, the majority of whom are anxious to express opposition to a psychic, economic and physical threat to their community’s security and work life. In front are the seated and typically silent public officials, this time three Commissioners from the Port of Longview. The meeting’s chair, Commissioner Bob Bagaason, readies his gavel to discipline any public impertinence then gives the floor to yet another corporate front man who, without hearing any gavel, takes up more time that he is allotted.

Who is not in the hall?

George B. Kaiser is among the 100 richest people in the world and the richest person in Oklahoma. He took over his father’s Tulsa based Kaiser-Francis oil company in 1966. By 2010, it was the 23rd largest nonpublic energy exploration in the U.S. In 1990, he bought the Bank of Oklahoma which was in FDIC receivership. Now his bank holding company is in nine states and his ownership share is around $2.3 billion. Overall, Mr. Kaiser is worth about $10 billion.

Pierre F. Lapeyre, Jr. and David M. Leuschen are “graduates” of Goldman Sachs where they founded that investment firm’s Global Energy and Power Group in the 1980s. In 2000, they founded their own energy and power focused private investment firm, Riverstone Holdings, a joint venture with the Carlyle Group. Since that time they have created a series of multi-billion dollar energy funds including the 2006 acquisition of Kinder Morgan, one of the largest pipeline operations in the U.S. Their main focus has been taking advantage of the fracking/horizontal drilling revolution in domestic shale oil fields. Riverstone has $6.1 billion committed to investments in energy storage, transportation and processing.

Mr. Leuschen lives on a 160,000 acre Montana ranch, funds his own charitable foundation and through it supported Nature Conservancy’s successful effort to buy a million acres in the Lolo and Flathead National Forests. Mr. Lapeyre resides at his Redding, Connecticut 24 acre estate with 9,832 square feet of livable space currently assessed at around $5.6 million dollars.

Riverstone Holdings and Kaiser Midstream, which is owned by George Kaiser, partnered with Sage Midstream in 2012. Then in April, 2014, Sage Midstream created Haven Energy Terminals, LLC. Greg Bowles is the President of both Sage Midstream and Haven, which are based in Houston, Texas.

This brings us to the Expo Center and Mr. Bowles on a Thursday evening in February.

Mr. Bowles wants to transport the otherwise flared propane and butane from the North Dakota Bakken shale oil fields to the Port of Longview on 100 car unit trains using pressurized DOT 112 tanks that would arrive every day and a half, 20 or so a month. Then, unload the trains at Berth Four in the middle of the Port’s eight berths, store it in a state of the art tank designed for “middle east” security and later transfer the liquified gas via pipelines to 900 foot ships slightly bigger than Panamax tankers three times a month for export to those countries that don’t have a natural gas distribution system like the U.S. Finally, Mr. Bowles wants the Port of Longview Commissioners to sign a lease with Haven Energy Terminals on March 10 so the permitting process can begin.

As you can imagine, the question and answer period with Mr. Bowles was both frustrating, yet enlightening for audience members. Mr. Bowles, of course, was not about a profitable return on the half billion dollar investment by Kaiser, Leuschen and Lapayre. Rather he was about “jobs”, “safety” and “the environment.”

Here’s a few of the exchanges between audience members and Mr. Bowles.

Q. What is the blast zone on the tank car if the whole car went up?

A. It would depend on how the car went up.

Q. What is the safe speed at which this unit train can run?

A. 5 mph inside the facility. Don’t know speed on main line.

Q. Are pipes from tank to ship permanently fixed.

  1. (no answer)
  2. How thick are the tank cars?
  3. Don’t know. (He can find out later)
  4. Are private investors evading taxes? Is the money “clean?”

A. Riverstone is a registered investment adviser with the S.E.C

Q. 900,000 barrels in the storage tank. What is the evacuation distance?

A. The local fire officials will know.

Q. Why not place this in a less populated area like Barlow point?

A. We considered it, but not suitable.

Q. If a tank car is on fire, how much water would you need?

A. The fire department will determine this.

Q. We are due for a 9.0 earthquake. We are in a liquefaction zone. What would happen?

A. It would depend on the location of the quake.

Q. How will the tank ships effect the spring salmon run on the river?

A. A Coast Guard study waterway suitability assessment will determine that.

Q. Will there be another hearing after Coast Guard and Fire Department report is finished?

A. (Addressed to Commissioners): No answer.

After the question and answer period, comes another ritual familiar to those who participate in such “special meetings,” a tightly regulated two minute comment period in front of silent public officials. Though this effort is rarely effective, people continue to speak; it’s what’s available. Besides, despite the rush to Olympia during legislative session, the public ports are ground zero in this state for the political struggle over fossil fuel extraction, their bomb train transport and overseas export.

Terminal opposition

Spokespersons for ILWU Local 21, President Jason Lundquist, Vice President Michael Wilcox and Labor Relations Committee representative Darin Norton each state their Local’s opposition to the project. They have met with Haven for the past year, but find them misleading with no answers to their questions. They don’t think this project is a good fit for a break bulk port. [Break bulk is cargo that must be loaded individually and not in shipping containers or in bulk such as oil or grain.] The proposed facility has an inherent danger, doesn’t generate enough revenue, will cut the port property in half and turn the Port of Longview into a landlord.

Health professionals like Dr. Kelly O’Hanley, Regna Merritt from Physicians for Social Responsibility and Alona Steinke from Vancouver point out how trains delay emergency vehicles at crossing, spew cancer causing diesel particulates particularly susceptible to school children near the rail lines, pose a catastrophic risk far beyond any capacity to respond and create sacrifice zones for the twenty-five million Americans who live in the blast zone.

Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, an organizer for Columbia River Keepers, states that if all proposed fossil fuel terminals are built it would mean thirty-five more ships a month in the river, all of which, including the VLGC propane tankers, could shut down other river traffic with safety zones as they transit the 66 miles from Longview through the notoriously dangerous Columbia River bar to the Pacific Ocean. Jasmine’s point is reinforced by retired Captain Phil Massey who tells the Commissioners they must not sign any lease before the Coast Guard study is completed.

Diane Dick, a close observer of the Port and President of the Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community, points out that this project is not in the Port’s publicly developed Schedule of Harbor Improvements and therefore should not proceed. She also notes that the Commissioners are contemplating a decision that will effect communities all along the rail line from Spokane south to Pasco and down the Columbia River to Vancouver. Diana Gordon from the rail town of Washougal points out that both her city government and school district have passed resolutions of concern about these dangerous trains.

There are a few folks who speak in favor of the project. A spokesperson for JH Kelly, a union contractor in line to build the facility, wants SEPA and FERC process to vet the project so the community can live safely. A Trustee from Lower Columbia Community College thinks the vetting process will lead to a more educated and better paid work force. The head of the Economic Development Council believes the permitting process will be very thorough and that the Haven Energy Terminal project will mean local jobs.

The port decision

As the meeting winds down, Commissioner Bagaason states the Port will meet here again to vote on the proposed lease with Haven. Community leaders like Diane Dick have not seen the proposed lease and have no idea if the Port intends to make it public before the vote. Don Steinke, a community organizer from Vancouver, points out that if the Port signs such a lease they will, like the Port of Vancouver, be obligated to advocate for the project through the entire permitting process just like the Port of Vancouver advocates for the Tesoro/Savage Bakken oil marine terminal in spite of massive community and political opposition.

Even with their formal silence, it appears the Port Commissioners are preparing to sign the lease. They have negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cowlitz County as a co-lead in the process for a SEPA determination. The MOU identifies their respective point persons for this process, chooses the international engineering firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, as the third party environmental consultant for the SEPA analysis and enters into a “Staffing Agreement” with Haven covering the costs of SEPA compliance. Nevertheless, the Port is still accepting comments on this proposed project until March 10, 2015 when they say they will vote on the lease and at least one of the Commissioners is up for election in August.

Dan Leahy, a resident of Olympia’s Westside and proud member of the Decatur Raiders.



Syndicate content