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Dying with the drill in our veins

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:24pm

It is time for the struggle for Life. It’s time to fight the murderers of the living Earth…

What is today’s media-assigned paranoia? Ebola? Measles? Lion Cecil? Trump versus Sanders? These are comfortable bubbles of convenient palm sized problems and—don’t we all prefer our worries wee-sized? However, the comfort derived from these media driven freak-out sessions lies in their irrelevancy to reality. Realities such as catastrophic climate change, the Holocene extinction and our cultural stories that allow so many humans to participate in ecological genocide. But now, finally, we are at the critical juncture where we can no longer maintain the oil fueled delusion of human independence from the Earth. The juncture where soil loss, fresh water depletion, the end of cheap oil, and climate change meet.

Countless times I’ve ranted to my husband: We have serious environmental problems, don’t people know? I hear my friends ask the same question, you may have too. Meanwhile the answer stares us in the face: Yes, people know. And the people who don’t know, don’t want to know. They’re choosing to die with the drill in their vein and don’t care who they pull into extinction with them. But the rest of us know, we cluster in coffee shops and courtyards. Churches and living rooms, leaning forward, asking in tense tones, “Why aren’t people worried?” But we’re asking the wrong question, an irrelevant question— people are worried. Parents, like me, are heartsick, gazing at our sleeping babes, wondering what their future holds. We put our babies to bed then sob in our partner’s arms, wondering if we should have brought them into this dying world. Young adults gaze into a bleak future and listen to their elders admit they’re glad they won’t live to see it. The messengers Worry and Fear sit at our kitchen tables, we tremble in their presence, but must stop asking: “Why aren’t people worried?” and ask: “What are we doing in response to worry?” Do we heed the message or drug ourselves with irrelevancy?

Most people (myself included) get sucked into fighting irrelevant battles. Just days ago a friend shared the article “Eastern Cougar Extinct on facebook and to my surprise many people simply denied the extinction. These are actual quotes: “I remember talking with a bus driver in New Hampshire in about 1982 who had seen one cross the road—long tail and all.” And, “maybe the scientist don’t leave their libraries enough. Part of their low statistics on a bunch of animal populations are because the people taking the data simply aren’t going to the right places.”

I spent fifteen minutes typing a scathing response to their illogic, pointing out (among other things) that, 1982 was a damn long time ago, and, I concluded, fuming in self-righteous indignation: even if there are a dozen cougars left, we still have a problem. I leaned back, prepared to hit enter and realized I’d fallen in the trap. I was wasting my time and energy on a completely irrelevant question: Is the cougar actually extinct? It doesn’t matter. Focusing on it is an irrelevant reaction to a real problem, a way to sedate our worry with the illusion of action instead of hashing out root problems and what effectively addresses them. Irrelevancy comes in many forms; the Purity Test (the kayaktivists use oil, so should not protest the Shell oil rig), bait and switch, avoidance of reality (deny climate change, extinctions), attempt to “educate” people who don’t want to be educated, etcetera—but they are all cousins, all function to protect the status quo. If we want a chance of effectively addressing our environmental crisis we must abandon the evil of irrelevancy. We must roar the Battle Cry for Life and demand relevancy.

Relevant: Extinction. Relevant: The cause of extinction. Relevant: Everyday two hundred species go extinct. Relevant: We’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, recently named the Holocene Extinction—and it’s caused by humans. “If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos” [my italics] We don’t have time for irrelevant bickering, for armchair quibbling. We must engage in relevant discussion, relevant questions, and relevant, effective strategy and action.

Relevant: what strategy will stop this mass extinction and climate change? Relevant (but not socially acceptable to say): The environmental movement is not effective. Thus far, it is an exercise in shoving our fingers in the dike without a plan to actually stop the storm waters of mass extinction and climate change. Stop gap measures that fail to confront our stories about reality that created destructive relationships between humans and between humans and the world. At best, it’s too few people laying their lives in front of the pipelines and oil rigs. At worst it’s the mass of self-identified environmentalists saying, “If we all drive a Prius, use cloth bags, and buy organic it will all be okay.” Or, “people just need to be educated.” The former is simply insane and the latter is based on that false assumption that those who don’t know, want to know. Which we’ve already addressed. They—like my father dying with the whiskey bottle clasped in his hands—will die before removing the drill of industrial civilization from their vein.

Relevant: The majority of environmental protests employ only one technique: announce their disagreement with the status quo through parades, petitions, and/or peaceful protests with cardboard signs. SHellNo, protesting drilling in the Arctic, has drawn a huge number of passionate and knowledgeable activists. SHellNo states “While Shell’s rigs are in Seattle we will shine a bright light on the injustice of Arctic drilling (as well as the rest of the climate crisis). We will make it politically and reputationally disastrous for Shell or any corporation which would use the beautiful Northwest as a staging ground for such projects. And most of all we will work to build the mass movement against extreme energy projects and for climate justice and a stable, sustainable planet for us all.” This is an admirable statement, but useless without explicit goals and a detailed strategy to achieve said goals. We’re facing extinction. We’re facing catastrophic, irreversible climate change. We must be effective, not just feel better about ourselves by “shining a light on the injustice of Arctic drilling.” We need to cut down the injustices. We need to tell a new story of how humans relate to the world. We must deny the false story of “economic realities” as it obviously doesn’t work for living beings. We need to draw a line in the sand and refuse to let corporations or government cross it. As MEND is doing in Nigeria. As the Wet’suwet’en People and their allies are doing at the Unis’tot’en Camp in British Columbia. The politicians and Shell know we don’t like drilling in the Arctic—they don’t care. Obama just cleared the legal path for the drilling to proceed. They don’t need more education, we do. We must study the history of resistances, though current world powers pray we don’t. There, teachers rise from the past to guide us, they are waiting for us to listen. Frederick Douglass (one among many) speaks: “The whole history of the progress of human [and non-human] liberty shows that all concessions… have been born of earnest struggle…If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them [extinction of our entire species?], and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

It is time for the struggle for Life. It’s time to fight the murderers of the living Earth and time to become effective fighters employing solid strategy with explicit goals. We are culturally habituated to hop on the irrelevancy train and our fighters need training to resist this easy mistake which effectively keeps activists occupied on ineffective tasks. Did all that energy we poured into Obama pay off? Is the systemic change we need even capable of coming from the top down? Or will it come by taking power back from the top and restoring it to localities?

Let’s abandon ineffective action and start crafting strategy. How will we force the City of Seattle to impound the Shell oil rig for illegal docking?11 Imagine the impound speed if we parked illegally in Seattle, though if you’re from Seattle, you may not need to imagine. If (when?) the city refuses to impound, when will we stop heralding the oil rigs with flags and paddles and start saluting it with dynamite? When will we throw rocks into the gears of the machine by studying and implementing effective strategies of current and past resistances? We learned about Gandhi, but he didn’t work alone: the Indian armed resistance had his back. Mandela didn’t fight oppression by waving peace flags. The suffragist movement, the civil rights, the Indian resistance, Mandela, MEND, and the Unis’tot’en Camp are all effective movements for change and they possess a common denominator—all set explicit goals and carefully craft strategy, intentionally including non-violent and violent techniques, while constantly assessing the effectiveness of their strategy. We can, and must, learn to become effective from these groups. We can make power tremble and crumble. David beats Goliath over and over again, but only when David uses strategy and the strength of his weakness. When he refuses to play by Goliath’s rules. It’s how the United States freed itself from Britain; the revolutionaries made their own rules. And fought to win.

What is our goal? Halt the Holocene Extinction? Stop climate change? Prevent the Shell Oil Rig from getting to Alaska? What steps must be taken to achieve our goal? What is our strategy, what will actually work?

We’ve watched the eastern cougar, the black rhino, and thousands of others slip quietly into the dark tunnel of extinction. We are shouting: No more! We’re roaring into the hurricane of irreversible, catastrophic climate change.   We won’t merely voice our disgust—for irrelevancy (and insanity) is standing in line at the doors of the gas chambers announcing “the Nazis are doing the wrong thing” and petitioning the guards to shut down the death camps—it doesn’t work. We demand. We fight. We strategize. We re-write the story of human relationship to the world. We use every tool at our disposal and the most important tool may be organized strategy: setting goals with step by step ways to achieve them. We implement the plan, constantly assessing the effectiveness and tweaking the strategy. We all have a death sentence, and it will only be repealed by effective resistance. Rise up against the evil empire. We have all of life to gain, and all of life to lose.

Rachelle Burt is a former naturalist, science teacher, and kayak guide in the San Juans. Currently she is a mother, farmer and writer.


The post Dying with the drill in our veins appeared first on Works in Progress.

More questions than answers

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:20pm

Olympia shooting: Andre Thompson’s sister sees officer shoot her brother

In a cruel twist of fate, Andre Thompson’s sister witnessed her brother getting shot by Officer Ryan Donald of the Olympia Police Department. Her account differs significantly from statements given by Officer Donald. Other witness statements raise further questions in the shooting of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin on May 21 of this year.

Works in Progress obtained copies of over 500 pages of documents that the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office made public on August 26th. They include the Investigator’s Report prepared by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, written and oral statements given by Officer Donald, statements from other law enforcement and civilian witnesses, crime lab reports, screen saves from social media, as well as detailed photographs of key evidence and computer illustrations of the crime scene.

Officer Donald says he feared for his life

An eighteen page statement was given by Officer Ryan Donald on May 26,th five days after the shooting, at the Law Office of Saxon Rodgers in Olympia. Rodgers has been retained by the Olympia Police Guild to represent Donald. The interview was conducted by Detectives Claridge and Kolb of the Tumwater Police Department. It is accompanied by a ten page written statement dated May 26 and signed by Donald.

Officer Donald first encounters the suspects on the 1200 block of Cooper Point Rd. He does not immediately identify himself but requests the men to “have a seat in in front of my patrol car,” which had a spotlight aimed perpendicular with the road, instead of facing the suspects and did not have any other lights flashing. The engine was left running.

[Ellipsis are used for editing but also occur as a frequent part of the original text. All indented material is sic. Statements have been condensed in parts for space but not alter meaning.]

Q: What was their response when you told then to sit down in front of your…patrol car?

A: One subject…immediately raised his skateboard over his head, kinda to the side. He was gripping it with both hands and he ran toward the front of my patrol car. I believed he was going to hit the car with the skateboard…So I drew my firearm. I kept it down at my side. I did not present it…I was in my driver’s side door…for a little bit of protection…And I said ‘hey guys, Olympia Police officer. You guys need to stop right there’…he lowered the board…But they…[were] starting to walk a whole lot faster.

Officer Donald says he then rounded the back of the police car and approached both suspects near the rear of it. He reports putting himself in a “field interview stance,” identifying himself again.

A: [Thompson] grabbed a hold of my uniform shirt by the right sleeve…and immediately pulled me down…both subjects were taller and I believe outweighed me as well…So he’s…got my right arm, and he’s holding onto it. And it’s…pinned…there’s nothing I can do with [it]…and I’m being pulled off balance. [Chaplin], who’s standing just to the left of the subject grabbing me, he comes around…And I see he’s got the skateboard up over his head. He’s gripping it with both hands, probably about midway on…the wooden deck of the skateboard…again my right arm’s pinned…I’m very limited on what I can grab…I drew my firearm…on my left hip. And I basically put it…up under my right elbow…pointed at the subject with the skateboard…And I fired unknown number of rounds…[until] my actions were enough to stop him from swinging the board and contacting me…[Thompson] let go…both subjects turned and began running northbound on Cooper Point.


  • If subjects were large, outnumbered Donald, and were suspected of assault, why didn’t he wait for backup? Was this situation dangerous enough to merit immediate engagement?
  • Why did Bryson and Thompson act so aggressively when it would have been in their best interest to just run or skate away?
  • Is it proper procedure to fire a weapon from under the arm in that manner? In addition to the Smith & Wesson .45 caliber firearm, Donald was equipped with a taser and pepper spray. Why didn’t he use any of his other equipment when attempting to subdue the men?
  • If Donald fired upward toward Chaplin’s torso, why were bullet deflections found in the middle of Cooper Point Rd.? Was he in control on his weapon?
  • Why does Donald not commit to a number for any of the three discharges of his weapon? Multiple witnesses agree that there were three sets of shots but disagreed on their distribution. A crime lab report dated July 7th says that three cartridge cases were found near the car and seven were found in the road at the northern perimeter of the scene.
  • Why wasn’t the men’s DNA found on Donald’s shirt? A Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory Report signed by Sarah Webber, Forensic Scientist, states that “The DNA typing profile obtained from the right shoulder of the shirt is a mixture consistent with originating from two individuals. Ryan Donald is included as a possible contributor to the mixture. Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson are both excluded from the mixture.” A second sample of the shirt taken from the right sleeve was “a complex mixture consistent with originating from at least five individuals to which no meaningful comparisons can be made.”

Donald continues describing how the suspects headed north on Cooper Point, past a house on the left. He says they were stumbling and knocked over a curbside recycling bin. He assumes that Chaplin had been shot in the scuffle. Donald stays with his car and watches them go into the wooded area on the corner of 14th and Cooper Point. He radios dispatch and lets them know shots were fired and the suspects are in the woods. He holsters his weapon and begins pursuit.

Why does Donald give pursuit? Knowing that officers are in the area and on the way, including a K9 officer? For his own safety, why didn’t he take a defensive position behind his car? The suspects had limited range, especially if one was wounded. Few residents were in danger from the suspects.

Donald “I vaguely remember looking in his eyes…”

Donald runs to the southeast corner of the wooded area to the place where he lost sight of the men. He states his intentions were to “absolutely” wait for other units. He stresses this, using that exact word several times. Donald describes what happens next:

A: I see [Chaplin]…roughly about twelve feet, um, in front of me…in the bushes…He was crouched down. I remember seeing his skateboard, I believe, in his right hand…I radioed, let them know that…I’ve got one of them here. And I immediately drew my firearm and backed up into the roadway. He was…a lot closer to comfort than I’d like…As I am backing up, it appears that he is making his way toward me now. He’s not low crawling, he’s not standing up…he’s moving forward toward me, still crouched down. I don’t know if he’s on his knees…I start giving him commands. Let me see your hands, lay on the ground…And he’s not complying…at the same time…I see [Thompson] out of the corner of my eye…kinda between me and my patrol car…it looks like [Thompson] hid behind the fence line and I ran past him…[Thompson’s] coming toward me in the roadway, running. At the same time, [Chaplin] stands up, starts coming toward me as fast as he can, skateboard up over his head…like he’s going to assault me. I gave him several commands. Stop, get on the ground, I’m gonna shoot. Several times…he’s refusing my commands, so I fire an unknown number of rounds, until he stops coming toward me. The skateboard drops, he stumbles back a few feet…and falls…[Thompson] runs over to his friend…he’s checking on, I believe he touches him…I’m giving [Thompson] commands, get on the ground, get on the ground, let me see your hands. And he’s, he’s not listening. He’s talking to his buddy for a second. And he becomes…really angry, starts yelling and screaming, pointing his finger at me…

Q: Do you remember what he was saying?

A: I don’t. Honestly. It was something referencing me shooting his friend. But, I don’t recall. There were a lot of curse words in there, there’s a lot of anger, a lot of aggression…[Thompson’s] coming back at me, walking really fast. He’s not running. But, he’s walking like he’s got a purpose…I’ve got my firearm close to me. It’s no longer out, arms extended. It’s up into me. I’ve got both hands on it…And I start backing up…he was walking at me faster than I could walk backwards…I was yelling stop, get on the ground. Over and over and over. I’m gonna shoot, get on the ground. He was, he was really close to me. And I vaguely remember looking in his eyes. And he was watching my handgun. My handgun was down probably…over my heart, left side of my chest. I had it down. And he was, he was target glancing, he was…watching my firearm…He takes one big step with his right foot, which I believe was the, the final step before he…could actually lift up his hands and reach me. Um, I let him get probably too close…I turned and I wasn’t able to fully extend out my arms with the firearm. He was, he was close enough that I felt if I extended out my arms with my firearm in the shooting position, he could’ve grabbed my gun. And then it would’ve been a fight over the gun. So I was able to extend my arms partially and I fired. Unknown number of rounds. And…he was hit. And I don’t…think he went down immediately. He, it may have taken a second or two. And, uh, then he, he fell to the ground…

Much of the rest of Donald’s statement has to do with the amount of anger that Donald alleged Chaplin and Thompson had exhibited toward him and how alone he felt. He emphasizes their aggression and his resulting fear. Donald makes clear that he felt his life was in “eminent [sic] danger”:

“So throughout this contact, from where I was, I could see several miles to the south and I could see probably one or two miles to the north on Cooper Point…because of the time of day, it was dark, I would’ve seen vehicles coming and going. And during this contact several times, I knew…subconsciously people were coming to help me. But, I did not see any vehicles…So I, I literally felt like people were very, very far away from me. And I was out there on my own, by myself, with these two subjects…I didn’t see Officer Evers, anybody else arrive on the scene. I just knew that I was there and there was no cars coming or in the area…”

In his written report he also directly states: “Several times through the incident and after the first assault near my patrol car, I looked both north and south for incoming patrol units, but I did not observe any approaching or passing vehicles.”

Jasmine Thompson saw it differently

Incredibly, Andre Thompson’s sister, Jasmine, watched her brother get shot without recognizing him. Jasmine was a passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend, Antonio Harry. They were returning home, heading northbound on Cooper Point from Capital Medical Center, where she had been treated for a concussion she had received at work that day.

From her statement, given the morning after the shooting to Detective Al Stanford of the Lacey Police Department, it appears that she arrived at the scene just as the second set of shots were fired, the ones aimed at Chaplin. Both her and Harry report seeing only the officer and a man in a white shirt [Thompson], presumably Chaplin was on the ground and not visible.

This is Jasmine Thompson’s account of what she saw as their car passed Donald and her brother:

“[I heard] three shots fired that…made me look…and I see one cop with his gun drawn and a flashlight and I see the boy further down which I didn’t know it was my brother at the time but I see the boy further down just standing there and I was like, whoever that is…I hope…they don’t continue to shoot them…maybe just tase him now…the cop is walking ’cause we got to drive by slow so the cop was walking the whole time we were driving by slow…and that’s when I see the cop shoot my brother three time…I see my, the boy drop to the ground…[he] didn’t have nothing in his hands…like why are they shooting at that guy…”

Jasmine Thompson says this was happening in the “middle of the street” and that Donald was 20 feet from Andre Thompson when she first heard shots fired. She is clear that Donald was walking torward the man, not backing away as he has claimed in his statement. Donald says he was afraid to extend his arms with his weapon due to the fast and aggressive approach by Thompson. Miss Thompson is sure that he has his weapon away from his body. She did not hear Donald give any verbal commands nor did she hear her brother say anything.

Thompson also states that it is Donald who was being aggressive toward the man and she wondered what the man had done to make the officer so upset. When questioned further, she says:

A: I was already watching the cop walk that way so by the time he got close enough he just shot ’em. Like he was…not…able to [shoot] him from far away once he got close enough…he shot ’em.

Q: Do you remember what your brother was doing when he was…

A: He was standing.

Q: When the officer was closer?

A: He was just standing there…and [he] dropped to the ground…

Thompson says her brother was standing with his hands in what she called the “bro” position – hands held outstretched mid-body as if to “explain himself.” She says Donald was five feet from Andre when the shots were fired. She says their instinct was to pull over when they heard the first gunfire, but afraid of being caught in crossfire, they left the scene after Andre was hit.

These conflicting accounts raise even more questions:

Why does Donald not mention Harry and Thompson’s vehicle in his statement? He also neglects to mention a police vehicle that had passed by momentarily before Harry and Thompson. That car turned onto 14th while making radio contact with Donald to confirm the suspects were in the woods. He said he was watching for cars and had the ability to see for “miles” up and down Cooper Point Road. Also, he was standing on the pavement when both cars passed.

What were Chaplin and Thompson thinking? Does it makes sense for the men to have split up? If Thompson was hiding, why did he come out? Why didn’t he continue hiding, or try to escape? Especially since he knew the officer waswilling to shoot him? Why did Thompson run aggressively toward Donald after Chaplin had been shot? He had to have realized it was suicide. It is hard to discern credible motives for these decisions, especially given that, per Antonio Harry, Chaplin was no stranger to the court system. It was certainly not in his interest to get in such serious trouble, especially assaulting an officer.

Was Chaplin exiting the woods because he was wounded and needed medical help? Donald thought he had shot him. Chaplin is currently paralyzed from the waist down. Was it even possible for him to stand at this point? Donald’s description makes it seem like Chaplin was struggling to stand.

Witnesses report man yelling “Come at me.”

Two nearby witnesses report hearing a man taunting the police in the midst of the gunfire. Mikki Brandell, 37, is a resident of Tabitha Court, a short dead end street off of Walnut that runs parallel to Cooper Point Rd. She states:

A: I heard…a single…man’s voice saying come at me bro, come at, what, bang, bang, bang, come at me and then everything went kind of quiet after that.

Q: If you had to describe…the tone or the way they were talking how would you describe it?

A: It was shouting…with the shouting was very intense…it was and intense situation…with the lone man saying…come at me he was you could tell he was kind of distraught…with the officer saying get down, get down, you could tell they meant business.

Q: Now when you say distraught is that more scared distraught or angry distraught or what do you mean?

A: I don’t know if it was a scared distraught but I think it was um maybe with…with guns pointing at him I think that I don’t…I don’t know I mean it…but it…he was um taunting the police or whoever it was pointing at him he was taunting them saying come at me.

Brandell’s account is seconded by James Ambrose, 43, who resides in the 1100 block of Cooper Point, and says, “one of them was saying something like come at me.”

What about the gunshot wounds?

The only evidence markers for blood stains were found close to where the suspects fell – there are none between the patrol car and the wooded area. No medical reports that would verify wound information have been released.

OPD Officer O’Brien was the first to arrive at the scene. He states that Chaplin was “kind of unresponsive” but that Thompson was still “verbal.”

As OPD Officer Frailey tends to a wound in Thompson’s abdomen, O’Brien turns his attention to Chaplin. He lifts his sweatshirt to assess his condition, “I saw one [gunshot] right above his right nipple and I thought that might be causing a sunken chest wound. I saw two in the back and – two holes in the back. I was looking for exit – exit wounds or entry. I couldn’t tell, you know which ones they were.” He later removes Chaplin’s handcuffs so aid could be rendered. He remarks that, “clearly this guy wasn’t going anywhere.”

A slightly different assessment was given by OPD Officer Smith who had examined Chaplin before letting O’Brien take over:

“I pulled up his shirt, and saw two – two distinct wounds on his back. About lower, mid-section and… they were circular shaped wounds. Then beyond his lower right side on his back, there was a – it wasn’t circular. It was almost like a slash almost or like a graze of some sort…they had blood, a little bit of blood around them but they weren’t like profusely bleeding…I could see flesh…so I rolled him back down and then checked his…stomach area and I could see a wound. It was on his right side. I believe it was just down below the nipple a little ways. And more to the edge of the side there.”

OPD Officer Seig was responsible for photographing Chaplin’s wounds. From the Incident Investigation Report prepared by the Tumwater Police Department on May 21st:

“[Officer Seig] stated she observed two holes in the suspect’s back and what she believed to be an exit wound on his chest. She did not see a lot of blood coming out of the wounds…Seig told the suspect to stay still and that the medics were coming and the suspect said ‘Yes, ma’am! Yes ma’am!’”

Questions about suspects’ behavior

It must be noted that the way Donald describes the men as if they were invincible and unstoppable except by use of force is strikingly similar to language used by Darren Wilson in descriptions of Michael Brown in an August 2015 New Yorker interview. The magazine quotes Melissa Harris-Perry, a MSNBC commentator, who says Wilson’s language was dehumanizing and conformed to the “myth of the black brute incapable of pain himself bent on inflicting pain on others…Americans long have had difficulty in understanding, acknowledging, and having empathy for the pain of black men.”

Donald’s conviction that the men were extremely dangerous is contradicted by statements about the suspects’ behavior given by other police witnesses.

Bryson Chaplin has had several run-ins with the law, including a current DUI that he was under Antonio Harry’s close supervision for. According to Harry, who lives with both men, “They’re definitely not innocent boys” and that Chaplin also had “a trespassing charge near Spokane.”

Harry would says the boys were never violent around the house, even when they were drinking. Harry reports both Chaplin and Thompson enjoyed alcohol, sometimes to extremes. Harry reports that the men probably used marijuana but “nothing heavy.”

It is possible that Chaplin and Thompson were intoxicated at the time of the shooting, although toxicology reports are not yet available. One responding officer reported alcohol on Chaplin’s breath, and social media collected by the police have witnesses placing them drunk at Yauger Park earlier that night. It also appears that the men had successfully stolen beer from Safeway previously that night according to Safeway workers, Jason Gray and Tammy Brown.

Reactions to being shot

Witness Mikki Brandell, who heard Andre Thomas taunting Donald, also heard Bryson Chaplin begging for his life, “I did hear one man say um something about dying…oh my God I’m going to die or I don’t want to die…I hear shouting and then I hear another set of four gunshots.”

Paul Evers, OPD Police Training Officer, says in his post-incident statement that Thompson was “complaining, uh, about being shot…”

OPD Officer Sola who rendered first aid to Thompson encouraged him to relax and breathe. Sola was tasked with accompanying Thompson to the hospital, along with Officer Frailey. On the way, Thompson expressed concern for his brother and is described by Sola as “willing to talk to us and he wasn’t resentful…I think at one point maybe he said that we had a job to do.”

Frailey concurs, describing Thompson as “cooperative…he seemed a little bit intoxicated…I could smell alcohol and [his] speech was slurred a little bit…but he was friendly and real cooperative and engaging.” Thompson talked about his work and hobbies during the ambulance trip.

Why did Thompson go from an alleged skateboard-wielding assailant to a friendly and cooperative drunk? Wouldn’t Thompson be even more angry because he and his brother had been shot?

Residents put in danger from stray bullet

Officer Smith, who earlier gave aid to Bryson Chaplin before Officer O’Brien took over, decided to check on the residence just south of where the men were shot. It was this house’s recycling bin that Donald alleges the suspects knocked over. Smith immediately noticed a hole in the upstairs window.

He was met at the door by an anxious resident. Inside the home, he found a total of six adults and two children, including a five-month-old, congregated on the second floor landing. When he examined the window from the inside he found a “softball” sized hole and was able to ascertain that the shot clearly had an upward angle. The WSP Crime Laboratory Report said the bullet was likely fired from “the proximity of the northernmost perimeter of the scene.”

Two of the female occupants had been in the room when they heard “yelling” and the first shots. Scared, they ran out of the room. A short time later they heard more shots and the window break.

Donald’s attorney confused, too?

At the end of the interview with Officer Donald, his attorney, Sax Rodgers, interjects:

“The only thing I’d like to emphasize, just listening to all this…there’s absolutely no justification, that I can see from looking at it, trying to look at it objectively, for these people to react this way whatsoever. The worse thing that could happen to them is…get a ticket for some misdemeanor, or maybe possibly taken downtown. But, I doubt it, that time of night. And everything they did was proactive aggressive to hurt, I mean, there’s, there’s not even any reason for them to do that.”

The community is wondering the same thing. Further evidence and expert analysis will certainly help, as will hearing the story from the point of view of the shooting victims.

WIP cautions the community to not make assumptions about the case without full information. Despite the flaws in our criminal justice system, it is an encouraging sign that the Prosecutor’s office has been transparent and made these critical and revealing documents available. We encourage citizens to read them and decide for themselves.

The documents on the shooting are available for the public to download from the Thurston County Government website’s Prosecuting Attorney page.


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Letter to WIP:

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:16pm

Turn the page on energy infrastructure

The wild fires in Washington States’ Okanogan region are horrifying and painful to witness. Similar to the mega fires that have burned uncontrollably in Australia the past few years, these fires and many other calamities around the world are merely manifestations of global climate change.

Who here in the Northwest can ever remember dry conditions like these, on either side of the Cascades? Our oceans are strained and no longer capable of absorbing heat generated by increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane. This is resulting in ever increasing drought conditions. The Pacific Northwest is fast becoming the new Central and Northern California.

The remedies we need to grasp and move on are, 1. Quit fossil fuels and 2. rethink feedlots and factory farming. The second two are going to take time to move on for cultural reasons. Growing CO2 neutral biofuels that don’t require arable farm land is a solution available today. We could phase out fossil based fuels and phase in renewable algae based biofuels within 3-5 years. It is high time to eliminate this 130 plus year fossil paradigm. Replace fossils with sustainable fuels. All that is required is the will and funding of renewables appropriately. In 2007 Exxon-Mobil spent billions on fossils while making token ‘Green” investing of a few scant million in renewables. Oil companies as we know of them today, either have to go out of business or genuinely invest billions with a B into renewables.

The technologies are here and developed. They just need proper funding and serious support. One example of many, I could offer is Algenol in Florida. Their algae technology utilizes waste CO2 from power plants to produce a blend of biofuels consisting of ethanol, gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel. Their technology has already been proven to convert one ton of CO2 into 144 gallons of biofuel while simultaneously desalinating salt water the algae is grown in and converting it into fresh water. Algenol is capable of producing over 9,000 gallons of biofuels on one acre of non-arable land per year. Where would we be today if billions had been invested in technologies such as this one, ten years ago?

We need to turn the page on energy infrastructure starting here at home. Elon Musk a software engineer set out and built an electric car, the Tesla, that was by far better than anything sold by any established automobile company in the world. This was a wake up call to the car companies similar to what the Big 3 received from Japan in the 1970s. We will be seeing this same development happen to the energy industry shortly with is own soon to be billionaire innovators.

The global financial markets are roller coasting. The first Presidential election after the Supreme Courts’ ‘Citizens United’ opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign contributions is coming, and take one look at the GOP presidential circus, it is easy to clearly see none of these candidates are qualified nor motivated about combating climate problems much less acknowledging they exists. My interest has been leaning towards Senator Bernie Sanders because he appears to be listening and is concerned about our future.

Until we do something concrete towards putting the brakes on our emissions of green house gasses, we are just playing Russian Roulette with the future of our planet and her inhabitants.

Mike Pelly, Olympia


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An interfaith perspective

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:14pm

“Beloved Community” is a product of Queer Rock Camp’s commitment to love and inclusion

On Saturday evening, August 15, at downtown Olympia’s Film Society, amid the din and jubilation of vibrant rock music, I experienced a profound sensing of spiritual magnificence.

World religions and spiritual traditions all profess love, diversity, inclusion—principles to be embraced and yet, too often, seem abstract and without substance.

Olympia Queer Rock Camp is the personification and amplification of “Beloved Community”. Please absorb the profundity of Queer Rock Camp Collective statement of truth:

“Queer Rock Camp empowers youth and builds community through music.

We support the fluidity of gender and sexuality, and see music as a way to amplify resilience and self-expression. Queer, trans, gender-variant & allied youth ages 12 – 21 learn new instruments, form bands and write original songs all in the course of one week. All this hard work culminates in a final performance…”

The “Beloved Community” is planned over the course of each year, this being its fifth in Olympia and first in Seattle. Approximately 50 volunteers carved out of their lives, a full week to participate in creating camp and guiding the 50 campers who came from across Washington and other states. Out-of -town campers enjoyed the hospitality of host “families”. All campers were transported to the “camp”—Lincoln School, where each day unfolded rich, organized experiences, complete with much good food and generous amounts of loving attention.

Again, the words of the Queer Rock Camp Collective:

“ At Queer Rock Camp we are committed to creating a safer space for everyone, particularly those who are affected by oppression and marginalized systems such as homophobia, transmisogyny, transphobia, adultism, sexism, racism, classism, fat phobia, ableism and many others.”

The organizers and participants all “seek to create a space that feels safer for us to bring the marginalized parts of ourselves into the center where they can shine. And, the volunteers “…all have the responsibility before, during, and after camp to look deeply at the places in our lives where we hold unearned privilege, examine our internalized biases and ‘isms’, build and practice allyship skills, and be thoughtful about how our access to privilege and resources impacts how we take up space at camp.”

I am awed with the incredible spiritual maturity embedded within the framework of this wonderfully, fun-loving, music-producing, and celebrating intentional community. Within the context of Queer Rock Camp, concrete, intentional effort is implemented in providing opportunity to disperse separations and expand individual and group transformation as genuinely deeper loving beings. May Olympia’s Queer Rock Camp continue to shine as a living, breathing example of how a “Beloved Community” can be grown, transcending ignorance and narrowness to become a non-linear, formless spiritual realm supporting the fluidity of gender and sexuality—ever adapting the language and its articulation, to encompass all.

Wisdom lyrics by one of Queer Rock Camp bands:

We are human

What the &*%^ is the problem with how we dress or act

I do as I feel is right because no matter what, I am me and

I deserve the best…

Even though you don’t agree with how I am,

I will always stay true to myself.

Rock on Princess Wombat and all the bands of Olympia Queer Rock Camp 2015 for leading our way into universal “Beloved Community”.

Selena Kilmoyer is a board member of Interfaith Works

More information on Queer Rock Camp can be found on their website




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Shady Bitch

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:12pm

 I’ve been called a nigger in the summer Then beaner until late fall But winter til mid spring No one guesses wtf I am at all!

Cause I’m a shady bitch Shapeshifting witch I am rainbow colored inside and out People always try to figure me out

They ask if I’m Hawaiian Middle Eastern Mexican part Korean or a quarter Jew (Nice hair)

I say no I’m not but thanks a lot I really enjoy their food

Only In the shade though, cause I’m a bitch (Bitch) A shade privileged bitch I am rainbow colored inside and out Don’t even try to figure me out

Cause I’m black I’m white I’m native I might just be a smidge or two of something else (Who knows) But one things for sure my heart is pure I’m just trying to be myself

But then I get called a nigger in the summer And beaner through late fall But I never get called a wetback Because I’m too light eloquent and tall

Oh Yes I said it! Winter through spring Don’t you forget it I could pass for half anything!

I’m so shady Shapeshifting and rainbow colored I could be anybody’s   Half sister cousin or mother

But I keep my ass out of the sun To minimize my exposure to racism

Ain’t that some shit?

I said ain’t that some shit?

I am such a shady

Yeah I’m such a shady bitch

Lennée Reid is a truth seeker, nature lover, poet and spoken word artist. She has one child and lives in Olympia. She can also be found on YouTube.


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Open Mic improv and stand up comedy every Wednesday at Le Voyeur

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:09pm

If you walk past Le Voyeur on a Wednesday night, there are a few different ways you might be compelled to come in. You could be drawn to the diverse crowd of people laughing outside, the free price, or by people outside urging you to check out some free stand up comedy.

Vomity is an Open Mic stand up comedy at Le Voyeur every Wednesday night. It is a place to hear all types of comic styles from all types of people without having to worry about sensitive discussed in a disrespectful manner. While no space can be totally safe, people that behave this way are usually banned. Vomity Audience members feel safe and comfortable to open a dialogue (or groan, or boo ) should anything too offensive be said on stage.

It is said this environment is rare. Vomity is not a room of comics waiting for a big break. They make no money at Le Voyeur (though donations are accepted for traveling comics and bigger featured guests) The prize, is to see your friends and get better at comedy. The wonderful audience provides an outlet for the comedians. The audience has fun because the comics have fun.

When people dream of “making it big” they talk of moving to New York or Los Angeles. Sam Miller, the host and creator of Vomity wants to make Olympia big. He promotes local comics and brings bigger names into Olympia and there is certainly a community forming. The comics at Vomity are mostly friends on and off the stage which provides support for the comics and their rapport gives the room a friendly feel. People are able to do comedy and hang out with friends. They made it.

The fun at Vomity is not exclusive to its current comedy friends. The more seasoned comics are usually welcoming and supportive to new comics going on stage for the first time. They can usually be found hanging out before or after shows getting some tips or advice after the show and exchanging ideas. They are encouraged to come back and try again. As one comic said “I treat everyone that comes in like they are the next big star, the friendships I make in this community are most important to me.”

Simply wanting everyone to have fun and do comedy seems to be a working formula. Vomity is growing every week. An average of thirty comics sign up weekly, more guests from other cities come in and the seats are always packed with people as is the back of Le Voyeur. It is growing so quickly, that it may need to expand to another night so everyone that wants can have a chance to go up.

“I like what I’m seeing, people are excited, and it’s growing. Comedy is hard but the people support each other and have a good time,” says Miller.

With all the extra events that Vomity has created more people will get their chance to experience it. Look forward to other special comedy shows featuring Vomity comedians in different spots around Olympia. The next event is The Bubblegum Garbage Party on September 4th at 10 pm. where live interviews for a San Francisco based podcast will take place as well as improv and stand up comedy.

See you there!

Erin Thomas is a contributer for Beat Route Calgary, lit fiction writer, comic maker and stand up comedy enthusiast.




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The Black Lives Matter movement and Bernie

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:03pm

Black Lives Matters Activist Marissa Janae Johnson, cofounder of the Seattle Chapter Black Lives Matter, over took the stage from Senator Bernie Sanders I-VT, a Presidential hopeful at a rally in Seattle on Saturday August 8th. This direct action by Seattle Black Lives Matter was strategically timed as other Black Lives Matter protests across the country, in response to police brutality that has taken a toll on the American people. Best noted; Ferguson, Missouri.

The rally was to specifically address the growing needs of the Baby Boomer generation. The topics covered Medicare and Social Security to a largely white elderly contingent present to hear Senator Bernie Sanders speak about what he would do if he were president.

The Seattle chapter Black Lives Matter is responsible for bringing to the national Presidential debate the need for social change. In a daring strong arm styled take over, the Seattle chapter of Black Lives Matter—with their coercive threat of a larger demonstration—over took nonviolently. They took the mic (and words) from Senator Bernie Sanders, giving America a larger introduction to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Lives Matter, at risk to their personal liberty, stormed the stage demanding that the message be made a part of the national conversation. They welcomed Senator Bernie Sanders to Seattle and the Pacific North West. They informed Senator Bernie Sanders of the social inequality and Racism that historically has plagued Seattle.

Black Lives Matter vocalized important issues not only of the Black people of Seattle but also the Social Injustices that have been dealt to the Duwamish—a Native people indigenous to the Pacific Northwest. A people not recognized by the Federal Government. A people whose land is now named after a Great Duwamish Chief, Chief Si’ahl.

The fact that the City of Seattle built a new jail that is going to house the children of the Black community.

The fact that the City of Seattle had segregation laws prior to desegregation, inequitable laws that laid the ground work for institutional Racism.

The fact that Black issues are the issues relevant to the impoverished in this country, as poor people are under represented by the elected government. This understanding of history is not usually given media attention by the major news networks.

The reality of social inequality belongs to the disenfranchised Black and Poor American people, not to the conservative White oligarchy responsible to govern or the media moguls who own mass public persuasion. A reality of those living at or below the poverty line is often dark-skinned, not Caucasian in appearance. A poverty usually overlooked by speeding presidential campaign buses that never stop in places with names and problems like Ferguson Missouri.

Marissa Janae Johnson’s message attacks the mind of White America. Saturating White America with words of frustration and anger, her voice a cry for compassion and change—“Black Lives Matter”. In frustration she cements the majority White crowd with a shotgun blast remark proclaiming the boo-ers and nay-sayers as racist, intentionally offending many. Marissa Janae Johnson’s strength is her struggle. She was visibly overcome with emotion. She asks for, “four minutes thirty seconds of silences” to mark the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. A representation of the time in hours and minutes spent by Michael Brown dead on Canfield Street, Ferguson, Missouri after he was lynched dead by former Police Officer Darren Wilson.

Michael Brown was shot six times while his hands were up in a position gesturing surrender. With disregard for human life the Police and other Emergency Responders failed to preform first aid on Michael Brown, attempt to resuscitate Michael Brown, or take Michael Brown to the hospital within the golden period, where saving Michael Brown’s life might have been possible. This moment in America History where Michael Brown was left to lie dead in the hot Missouri sun, burned into the memory of Ferguson residents.

A Grand jury later failed to indict Darren Wilson on any criminal wrong doing. This bigotry incited riots November 2014 to January 2015.

The Federal government failed also to bring charges against Darren Wilson further dividing America.

The after effect of Marissa Janae Johnson and Black Lives Matter Seattle chapter commandeering of the stage is that Senator Bernie Sanders within six hours had his new Press Secretary Symone D. Sanders, “of no relation to the Senator” introduce him at the University of Washington Alaska Airlines Arena. Symone D. Sanders who suspiciously just happened to be on the West Coast and available six hours after the interruption.

Symone D. Sanders—a Black Activist—is a volunteer at the DC based Coalition for Juvenile Justice and has roots in a Ralph Nader organization. While she is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, some may see this as damage control—a large band aid. Others may see this as a more strategic part of the bigger picture as Senator Bernie Sanders is running for President of all The United States of America, not just some of it.

At the University Of Washington Symone D. Sanders addressed Social inequality and Black concerns adding names to the roll call of people killed by police brutality over the years.

Stating that “Senator Bernie Sanders was the candidate most likely to address those issues,” Symone D. Sanders proclaimed “Senator Bernie Sanders to be the one who is most capable of bringing racial justice, social justice and economic justice to The United States of America.”

This is an important change in style and rhetoric as Senator Bernie Sanders heads into larger cities and further into the South where more people of color hold majority status. Senator Bernie Sanders has to appeal to the Hispanic barrios and the Black neighborhoods in order to gain their support.

Senator Bernie Sanders addressed the crowd at the University of Washington with promises of cheaper education yet said nothing about Black Lives himself.

The message of Black Lives Matter is completely against the cut of the main stream media’s grain of the issues that need to be addressed by Presidential candidates thereby forcing main stream America to address the problems that face The United States of America a country where Bigotry, Racism, and Social Inequality still exist. Not just tuning the TV into Black problems when disenfranchised people living in a system of repression feel it necessary to protest and riot.

The United States is a loosely allied country of fifty recognized states where the local municipalities act autonomous like independent city states. Cities able to quale those in dissent of unequitable policies and laws; municipalities that are able to deploy militarized police or, on a governor’s authority, a state’s Army National Guard against unarmed civilians.

A federal government that allows totalitarian municipalities to act in disregard to the first law of the land—The United States Constitution—to maintain dictatorial control over a free people.

A federal government that allows municipalities to use the Judicial system to collect revenue; in the name of “Fines” this Sheriff of Nottingham approach of taxation by the discriminatory practice or over criminalizing and harassment of a people with law enforcement.

Tyrannizing a segment of the populace until the populace is traumatized into action against the overbearing municipality.

In Ferguson, the same weekend as the Senator Bernie Sanders interruption, the police shot more young Black people and have arrested hundreds more for acts of civil disobedience against a racist Ferguson establishment. Police from Ferguson and surrounding cities converged in riot gear, met and clashed with protesters creating a national disturbance. While America watched on social media and the national news, they saw the people’s civil liberties infringed upon and murder by police committed in the street. The governor of Missouri deployed, surrounding Ferguson in a state of emergency with the Missouri National Guard.

Private militias most notable the New Black Panthers and The Oath Keepers decided it was a good idea to protect the populations First Amendment rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. With the open carry of military-style weapons the exercise of the Second Amendment right. This is a direct result of police brutalizing protesters for exercising their constitutional rights to the First Amendment under the Bill of Rights.

The Black Lives Matter’s message is at open conflict with the current government. Daily, the Black Lives Matter movement fights to keep the violence and injustice against Black People in a socially biased America on people’s minds. Substantial footing in the main stream psyche of America brings the issues of poverty and Racial Inequality further into the average Americans mind making it the number one issue this presidential election season.

Addressing Police Brutality is not high on the list of things to speak about for many of the Presidential hopefuls though people are in the street demanding it be addressed. If Senator Bernie Sanders was to take a leading roll it would set a great precedence as the current President of the United States is lacking in words and actions to address the long standing crises of institutional racism.

The City of Ferguson has voted against the Department of Justice’s proposed reforms showing its ability to disregard Federal intervention and authority. Why should Black America believe that any new President will bring change to the tyranny that is their America?

With Ferguson, Missouri being militarily occupied—freedom to address the government is suspended. More civil unrest are more than likely to happen unless all the people’s grievances are addressed by the current President of the United States, President Obama. It seems a long ways away to have one of the twenty or so presidential hopefuls will be sworn-in January 2017 address such a pressing social concern bringing so many into the streets

The issues of racial justice, social justice and economic justice need to be addressed today, not eighteen months from now.

John Chacon likes to call himself “a bum in Olympia who writes from a bum’s perspective.”


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Changing State Laws to Prevent Police Use of Excessive Force

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:01pm

Locally and nationally concerned citizens ask “What can we do?” in response to police impunity from the use of excessive force. Spurred by the momentum of the Black Lives Matter social justice movement and the shooting of two young unarmed Black males last spring by a White police officer in Olympia, many in our community are struggling to find solutions to this long history of a system of White supremacy and violence against people of color.

Many excellent recommendations exist on how to hold police accountable for their actions. Community oversight committees and police body cameras, for example, are among the more common recommendations. While important, such changes will not necessarily stop police from inflicting violence with impunity on unarmed people—especially when state laws exist that enable this violence to continue.

Use of force

In Washington the use of force is lawful “whenever necessarily used by a public officer in the performance of a legal duty.” Let’s look more closely at the language the state uses.

What does the state mean when an officer is “in the performance of a legal duty”? Was the pursuit and point-blank shooting of two Olympia men “armed” with skateboards part of this officer’s “legal duty”? Was the use of lethal force justified because these two individuals attempted to steal a case of beer? The way in which state law is written, a police officer—along with a county prosecutor—can claim that an officer was simply performing his or her duty to follow up on a suspected property crime.

Use of deadly force

Clearly, the Olympia police officer along with the too-many-to-count cases nationally of police who use deadly force on unarmed individuals understand that they are likely to be protected legally if questioned. In Washington, “the use of deadly force is justifiable… when necessarily used by a peace officer to overcome actual resistance to the execution of the legal process, mandate, or order of a court or officer, or in the discharge of a legal duty.” Open to wide interpretations, police officers and prosecutors often use “resistance” by an individual as justification for using lethal force on an unarmed person.

Use of deadly force is justifiable by state law “when a public officer is acting in obedience to the judgment of a competent court.”   As we’ve seen over and over—including the past few centuries—rarely does a case reach a “competent court,” and when it does, police officers are usually exonerated.

This is not so different from other states. Consider a case in Ohio. A few months ago Cleveland police officers used 137 shots to kill two unarmed African Americans sitting in their own car.   In court, they were acquitted for the fatal shootings. The prosecutor in that case who unsuccessfully tried the Cleveland cops compared the police defendants to an “organized crime syndicate” for their lack of cooperation in the case by engaging in the unwritten Blue-Wall-of-Silence.

Washington State law allows deadly use of force when a cop has “probable cause to believe that the suspect, if not apprehended, poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer.”   What defines “threat of serious physical harm” in the eyes of a police officer who has volunteered for a career in which this threat is part of the job? What degree of harm justifies killing an unarmed civilian?

Ultimately, police “shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable”. An officer’s defense of “a good faith belief that such act is justifiable” is nearly insurmountable to challenge. Here, an officer’s “belief” can be sufficient legal justification.

Coziness of police and prosecutors

Regardless as to whether or not the Olympia police officer is charged with any criminal misconduct, we can pressure our state legislators to change the vagueness of state law language for police use of force. As written, a police officer and a prosecutor can justify police inflicting harm on unarmed people. Police departments investigate themselves or one another and too often become the sole investigators who send their findings to a prosecuting attorney.

To break the cozy relationship between police departments and local prosecutors will be politically challenging. For example, in the Pasco, Washington, killing of an unarmed Latino man in February, the county coroner is not finding support from the local prosecuting attorney to open an inquest to determine if the killing was justifiable. The coroner now is having to seek a venue in another county that he hopes will cooperate with his investigation.

Change the laws

In Washington we can call for more clarity in state laws that, in effect, provide police and prosecutors the green light to use excessive force on unarmed people. New avenues need to be created that are democratic and transparent rather than opaque insider investigations led by the police. Here are three examples of what the legislature could do:

  • Revise state laws to set a high bar on when police would be ever justified in the use of excessive force on unarmed persons;
  • Create a permanent state-level special prosecutor’s office for cases that involve police violence;
  • Make a legal priority independent investigations into any cases where police injure or kill an unarmed person.

These recommendations to state law will not remove the bullet that has paralyzed one of the young Olympia men who was shot last spring nor others in our state who have suffered and died at the hands of police while unarmed. Changing state laws, however, would be an important step toward making police accountable to their communities.

Currently, police departments and prosecutors apply their interpretations of state law absent public involvement. Now is the time to prod our legislature to create use of force laws designed to both protect the public and to do the least harm to unarmed civilians.

Dr. Michael Vavrus lives in Olympia and is a professor at The Evergreen State College. He is the author of Transforming the Multicultural Education of Teachers: Theory, Research, and Practice. For more information about Michael, including his recent commentaries, go to


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A trio of articles

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 9:58pm

The privilege and racism of white people and why it’s not okay

I. Our inevitability problem

Ta-Nehisi Coates (TNC) was on Charlie Rose the other day—a really wonderful interview which I’ll likely have to watch a few more times to glean everything I possibly can from it. It’s a look inside the mind of a man who has been referred to by Toni Morrison as “…fill(ing) the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died.”

At one point, TNC took umbrage with MLK’s rhetoric about the arc of history being long but bending toward justice. To summarize his point: You can obviously look at the world the day MLK was murdered, then look at today and see clear and evident progress, but for Eric Garner—MLK himself and so many others—their arc abruptly stopped and there is no justice for them. No matter what “good” or progress or change comes from it, there is no justice for those individuals. Progress does not equal justice, and progress is not inevitable.

I do understand that sometimes you have to dream of the world you want until it is so. This is a huge part of the African-American tradition in the United States. In music and literature, since they were forced here by whites, black writers and musicians have used “storying”, and the idea of “Elsewhere” as referenced by Kevin Young in his book The Grey Album, to imagine themselves into a different reality. The riverside, the mountaintop – these were common metaphors used to keep the dream of freedom alive. MLK and his movement continued this tradition. I’d say Malcolm X, and the Panthers, would be the juxtaposition. The Dream vs. The Reality.

TNC seems to be bucking that age old tradition for the more stark, literal interpretation of the world he sees—The Reality. He speaks of himself and his actual experiences as opposed to weaving his story into fiction or relying on metaphor. His newest book, Between The World and Me, is structured like a letter to his son. He’s not hiding, he’s being as real as it gets, no sugarcoating for White America.

Justice is made of the blood and sweat of people. Of activists either borne of the struggle or those who take up the struggle. I believe that what we need today is a Social Realism movement that breaks through all barriers and into all realms—art, politics, music, the coffee shop, happy hour, the boardroom, you name it. This movement would have ZERO sympathy for apologist behavior from anybody when it relates to sexist, racist, homophobic—any offensive behavior. It would call out this behavior, no matter the setting—not abiding by that old propriety-based trope that there is a time and a place to talk about such things. Yes, there is. The time is always and the place is everywhere.

Progress has been made and laws have been changed and people are better off today than they were in 1957, but in the hearts of white people there is a void. A void that exists because they’ve never been really confronted. Never been told why they’re racist, and why inaction equals complicity. Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Matthew Shepard, Bill Clayton, India Clark—too many names and too many more being added too fast for us to live in a dream that it gets better. It doesn’t just get better. Either we make it better or it continues. It’s our choice.

II. White supremacy killed Cecil the Lion

Cecil the Lion was a beautiful creature. He didn’t deserve the suffering he endured over his last couple of days. You could call Walter Palmer a lot of things. He’s an asshole for sure—and his apologies have a ring of “I’m sorry I got caught” that I just can’t ignore. He hasn’t said a thing about the practice of sport hunting and how he’s learned a lesson about how depraved the practice is. He’s been doing this for years; Cecil isn’t even the first lion he’s killed—he’s also killed a rhinoceros, jaguars, bears. The man gets off on killing things that can’t defend themselves and he has the resources to support this habit without taking it out on people. He’s the Dexter of the wild kingdom.

As the story developed and white America took it up as their cause du jour, many folks who are involved in Black Lives Matter or other anti-racist work, started asking the obvious question: “One lion dies and you freak out, how about all the Black folks getting killed all the time?” It’s a valid question and one that I hope people think about long and hard.

What I see at play is a privileged white doctor who feels entitled to the life of another being. Palmer isn’t extraordinary and his actions aren’t even shocking to me. Rich white guy kills a bunch of exotic animals—in Africa? We’re supposed to be shocked?

The killing of Cecil and the killing of Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose, et al, share the same root cause, and will have the same result. The dominant white culture in America feels entitled to control whatever they want to control, to the point of taking lives. White people don’t even take the time to analyze what’s going on in these incidents. One key indication is the near silence I hear around the killing of Sam DuBose. Why are white people so quiet about it? Maybe it’s because there is footage, and the footage reinforces the fact that police operate under inherent bias and are predisposed to deadly force even though the situation was nowhere close to warranting it. The footage debunked the officer’s statement, which his fellow officer corroborated. They both lied to cover up Sam Dubose’s murder. It’s all right there on Youtube. If they act outraged for Sam, then they might have to talk about the causes, and they might have to take a look at themselves. And at the end of the day, that’s just not worth it to them if they can just continue on the present course with no consequences or repercussions.

Ultimately though, if history is any guide, whites in America likely won’t do jack squat about it. Cecil will be the last lion killed by an asshole just like Sam DuBose will be the last black person killed by a police officer. We have short attention spans and a real problem with looking inward and addressing our fears. I wish I knew how, as a white person, to break through to get my fellow white people to at least acknowledge their privilege and power and maybe even talk about it—talk about how that power manifests itself in our society in every nook and cranny. How each of us, every day, perpetuates it a hundred times over in a myriad of ways. It’d be a hell of a good start.

III. We’re all racist and it’s not okay

“Disabled people”

Most of my career as an advocate for people who are homeless, low-income, disabled, etc., I’ve been taught to do what I have done in this sentence when referring to people in conversation. Use “people first” language. It’s the idea that you recognize a person’s humanity first, and their condition second. Rhonda is not a “homeless person”—it’s not like having red hair, it’s not a naturally occurring part of the human condition—she is a person, who is without a home at the moment. So you would say “Rhonda is a person who is homeless” instead of “Rhonda is a homeless person.”

Through my studies in the realm of urban planning, I’ve looked at spacial relationships in neighborhoods and developed a subconscious way of looking at the built environment where I consider accessibility, and a myriad of other factors, when I’m walking down a sidewalk. Generally, my approach is to discern whether a space is inviting and welcoming for anybody that might want to use it, and to figure out how to upgrade that space to make it more open to the community.

I recently came upon an article titled, ‘I’m Not A “Person With a Disability”: I’m a Disabled Person’ and it immediately struck me because it challenged that People First philosophy I’d been indoctrinated in. The author, Lisa Egan, a disability rights activist, states, “I am disabled. More specifically, I am disabled by a society that places social, attitudinal and architectural barriers in my way.”

I find this fascinating not because it’s a semantic challenge to the way I’ve been taught to refer to people, in fact the article didn’t convince me at all to stop using people first language. The thing that got me thinking was the idea presented by Lisa that society has disabled her by not being considerate of people with mobility impairments.

In downtown Olympia we have some of the worst sidewalks I’ve seen in a downtown area. With the exception of sections around newer developments, you can’t continuously travel down any block without coming upon cracks or buckles in the sidewalk, not to mention street trees, parking meters, store signs, displays etc. All creating an obstacle course for an individual in a wheelchair. Try to imagine how that must feel to have to navigate through that or travel out of your way to get to your destination. It must feel like you’ve been forgotten by the local government that hasn’t made it a priority to ensure that you can travel conveniently and safely through your own city. Add to this the fact that our cities don’t really budget for sidewalk improvements, but just kind of passively wait for developments or scheduled maintenance of other utilities to trigger upgrades. Thus we have decades old streets and sidewalks, all patched together over the years. It looks like nobody cares, and to a person with a mobility impairment, it probably feels that way, too.

On Labels

Anytime I hear a label placed on someone, it gives me pause. I always wonder, “why is it important to apply that label?” What purpose does that label serve?

“I saw this black guy….”

If the end of that sentence is, “…juggling in the park.” Then I have to wonder, why is the fact that the man was black important or relevant to the fact that you saw someone juggling?

Lisa’s article got me thinking more and more about the labels we use and the impact they have on people. It got me thinking about the way labels have evolved over the years. We say “people of color” today, but that’s just an evolved way of referring to black people that started with the N-word. “People of color” itself is a direct derivative of “colored people” a term that is today considered offensive. Am I being overly idealistic if I express that I long for the day when we can eliminate casual references to skin color when we refer to one another? I understand the need to collect data and that collecting demographic information from people can lead to better and more efficient services being provided and money being allocated to the areas of greatest need. So I get the need to create categories for that purpose. But why do we keep doing it in everyday conversation?

When I started thinking about it in terms of race, knowing that race is a construct invented and used to divide people and especially to differentiate them from people of power a.k.a. rich whites, and knowing the way people of color are treated in our society, I started thinking about the point Egan made about society disabling her. We switched from colored person to person of color, but isn’t that the same as what Egan is saying about disability? Both of them switch the burden to the person and away from the system. Race is an arbitrary societal construct used to marginalize and oppress, created by people in positions of power. People aren’t “of color”—they were colored—by a society and a culture that wanted to separate and divide people. Just as society disables Lisa Egan by not providing her and others with mobility issues the means to live the same quality-of-life as anybody else, we stifle black folks too. We’ve prevented them from achieving the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that we hold so dear by assigning them an inferior designation. From the beginning, we called them savages and treated them like animals and created a mystique that prevails to this day—yesterday’s savage is today’s thug. This is why white America can watch black people being killed by police, or live in third world conditions in our inner cities and still sleep like babies at night. If as a society, we really did believe that we’re all equal, we would have ended this madness long ago.

We’ve got to stop it

In 1957, when we were all living in a white wonderland and everything was Leave It To Beaver-iffic, we used to physically prevent black people from using portions of the built environment. That became gauche—but only because enough people were beaten and/or killed on TV that blatant, overt manifestations of white supremacy couldn’t be ignored anymore by politicians, clergy, and by the moderate whites who joined the struggle out of sympathy. Some rights were eventually secured, and we’re better off for it, no doubt. But sympathy isn’t equality. Sympathy is a hierarchical device. While we as a nation rallied around the civil rights movement, we never broke the separation, both spiritual and physical, that the construct of race instilled in our culture. Today, we like to think we’ve progressed as a society and have started to transcend race. I think we’re deluded. How can we read the news everyday of police brutality, rampant drugs, poverty and violence in black neighborhoods, combined with little to no opportunity for upward mobility, aka The American Dream, and then turn around and talk about progress in a way that makes it seem like we’ve almost got this problem solved?

We have a lot of work to do as a society. Step one: admit there is a problem. I’m not talking about segregation, income inequality, police brutality, the new Jim Crow, or any one specific issue. The problem we have and need to fess up to is that every single white person, whether we like it or not, perpetuates racism and white supremacy through prejudice and implicit bias that has been transmitted over generations. Some of us are confederate flag waving racists who are proud of it and wear it like a badge of honor. Most of us see those people and write them off as relics, and proffer an ‘ignore them and they’ll go away’ approach of dealing with them. Well we can’t ignore it anymore. Every single white person who claims to be at all liberated should be there to shout them down. Yet we don’t show up. We don’t show up any time racism rears its head, and especially in its more surreptitious manifestations. The racist joke, the hate crime, the hiring panel—we remain silent, because it’s easy, because nobody expects otherwise.

I think people choose to ignore it out of fear. We’re terrified of what we might find inside of ourselves if we look too hard at racism and our society. There is a darkness there that we continue to swallow because it’s too painful to let it out. There is shame, guilt, and complicity, so we deny, deny, deny. We want to think of ourselves as above it, as better people than that, as somehow separate from the problem. We’re not above it. We are the problem. We allow it to happen—the deaths, the imprisonment, the poverty, all of it. It’s our responsibility as privileged white people to get over ourselves, admit our complicity, and start moving beyond it, together.

Rob Richards is a community organizer and cat lover who has called Olympia home for 15 years. He has been involved in founding various projects such as Camp Quixote, and the Downtown Ambassador Program. He has served on the Olympia Planning Commission, the board of the Olympia Food Co-op, and currently serves on the board of the Statewide Poverty Action Network.


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Voting for port commissioner matters!

Works in Progress - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 9:54pm

The Pacific Northwest has become a “choke point”, as activist Katie Rickman says, for the growth of the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. On their website, Audubon Washington provides a comprehensive account of where things stand now in terms of oil transport (, an issue that Works in Progress writers have also been covering regularly.

Sue Gunn’s revelatory tenure as port commissioner

In 2013, Sue Gunn campaigned for port commissioner on a platform that emphasized environmental sustainability and won. In her campaign and her time in office, Gunn made the port’s business relevant to everyone who believes we have to address climate change systemically, through changes in policy.

Meta Hogan, writing for Olympia Power and Light in November 2013, explained Gunn’s successful campaign like this:

“Gunn was encouraged by a group of port critics, unhappy at what they saw as tax subsidies for corporations shipping raw logs and hydraulic fracking materials, among other complaints. Unlike previous candidates who challenged the status quo at the port, Gunn hit on issues that seemed to resonate with the public. Port critics have been accused of wanting to shut down the marine terminal, and thus destroy jobs; Gunn reframed the debate as a choice of a few corporate jobs versus more jobs at local small businesses… Gunn said she would consider environmental and social concerns in port decisions, notably about shipping raw logs and fracking materials.”

Gunn had open-heart surgery in December 2014. In February, Commissioner Bill McGregor set a 60-day clock for Gunn to return or resign, and in March, Gunn, citing both her health and the pressure from her co-commissioner, resigned.

In April, Olympia Power and Light ran a guest editorial by Paul Pickett: “the port lacks a vision and loses its heart.” In it, Picket laments our collective loss:

“Gunn ran on a platform of disaffection and vision. She appealed to environmentalists who were tired of seeing raw logs and propants for fracking shipped through the Port. She appealed to fiscal conservatives who wanted to know what they got from the Port’s property tax. And she appealed to supporters of the Olympia Farmer’s Market, who were angry at Davis for threatening to undercut the Market.

“As a port commissioner, Gunn brought a new vision. She questioned the money the Port was investing in the fossil fuel industry. She questioned the viability of a deep-water Port in a land of contaminated mudflats. She called out the Port for end-running legal requirements, and was proven right. She was not popular with the supporters of status quo at the Port.”

In her campaign and her tenure as a commissioner, Sue Gunn questioned the role of the port and showed Thurston County residents how much we can expect from this public institution. She made the invisible but nonetheless material consequences of the Port’s policies visible.

Taking a stand against fracking

During Gunn’s campaign, she took a principled stand against fracking. As a commissioner, she had to figure out how to put her principles into practice.

In an interview with blogger Steve Klein in March 2014, Gunn explained her strategy for limiting the Port’s support for the fossil fuel industry. She pointed out that interstate commerce laws make it hard or even illegal for the Port to ban a particular kind of cargo. Given that, what the Port can do is work on increasing the volume of environmentally sustainable (carbon-neutral) cargo that goes through it. Gunn acknowledged that wasn’t easy, given the particular type of terminal we have (“breakbulk”), but she commended port staff for vigorously exploring new cargo possibilities tied to clean energy.

We need to elect port commissioners who will forward the work on finding carbon-neutral cargoes, so that port profitability doesn’t come at all of our expense. Fracking is only in the interests of the fossil fuel corporations—not in the public’s interest.

Clean water, Capitol Lake, and the Deschutes River

Port commissioners will be asked to weigh in on the future of Capitol Lake. In 2009, as part of the CLAMP (Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan) process, the port commissioners voted to keep Capitol Lake as a managed lake. Environmental evidence contradicts that position, arguing for a return to an estuary as other WIP writers have pointed out.

The candidates who applied to fill the remainder of Sue Gunn’s term were asked to respond to a supplemental question: what is your opinion on the future of Capitol Lake? Both people running for position #3, Gunn’s position, applied for the interim position, and both responded to the question.

In her response, Zita framed the issue as one of water quality. She pointed out the expense of maintaining the lake and the environmental benefits of returning the lake to an estuary. Acknowledging sharply divergent views about the future of the lake, she proposed that we address water quality first by reducing the pollution (i.e. fixing leaking septic systems) and improving habitat in the upper Deschutes and then turning our attention to the lake.

In his response, Jerry Farmer argued framed the issue as a question of silt. The question, he wrote, was who should pay for the dredging. His response is that the state should pay. Farmer also proposed a potential “compromise”—making the lake more shallow, by creating a berm, and then letting the river flow around it, which sounds like the “dual basin estuary option” (the most expensive option) proposed under CLAMP.

As wild fires rage throughout the Pacific Northwest, we need port commissioners who take the science of environmental restoration seriously.

Serious about the future? Vote!

In her open letter to the voters of Thurston County announcing her resignation, Sue Gunn pointed to her work uncovering faulty logic at work in port decisions—in economic terms and environmental terms. Gunn worked hard, in a principled way.

Voting is a lot easier than running for or serving as a port commissioner. We aren’t very good at it—not even at the city or county level, where our votes really matter.

According to the Office of the Secretary of State website, in the 2014 midterm elections, only 39.5% of the voting age population in WA state actually voted. In the 2012 presidential elections, just 60.7% of the voting age population in WA voted. In the recent primary elections, for port, city council, and school board races, a mere 22% of registered voters in Thurston County voted—and that percentage would be even lower if it were based on the voting age population in the county.

We’ve got to do better. Fracking poisons groundwater and releases methane gas. Hotter summers mean warmer water and lower stream flow volume, endangering salmon and people. We need our public institutions to be front-runners in promoting policies that build on the best information we have about how to avert leaving the next generations with a total catastrophe. Most of us won’t run for office, but most of us can and should vote. This next port election matters. Pay attention!

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


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Appeals court overturns Ralph’s ban on Plan B

Works in Progress - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:41pm

Where will the case go from here? Back to the 9th or to the Supreme Court?

Washington State’s regulations protecting patients from the judgmental whims of pharmacists and pharmacy owners, the first such regulations in the nation, have been upheld. On July 23, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the opinion of the lower court, which had found in favor of Ralph’s. This reversal is a great victory for women, the state of Washington, and all pharmacy customers, and may well pave the way for similar patient protection regulations in other states. But the fight isn’t over. The likelihood of an appeal is looming, and it is uncertain whether the Pharmacy Board will take steps to enforce the regulations.

The lawsuit began in 2007 as Stormans v. Selecky, then changed to Stormans v. Wiesman when a new Secretary of Health, John Wiesman, was appointed. The owners of Ralph’s joined two pharmacists in a lawsuit challenging new Washington State regulations which required pharmacies to deliver lawful medications without regard to “moral, philosophical or personal objections.” Significantly, the regulations allowed individual pharmacists to step aside and allow other pharmacy personnel to dispense drugs they found objectionable. This accommodation was written into the rules with the hope it would deflect legal challenges claiming an individual pharmacist’s “right to conscience.” However, the new regulations required good faith stocking of medications needed by the population served by the pharmacy. Kevin Stormans, the owner of Ralph’s pharmacy, is not a pharmacist himself, but the lawsuit claimed that requiring the pharmacy to stock emergency contraception infringed on Stormans, Inc.’s First Amendment right to the free exercise of its religion.

The extreme right wing legal advocacy groups who have been representing Ralph’s owners are not willing to accept defeat. The day the appellate court’s decision was published, the Stormans’ lead counsel, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, announced “We will appeal this ruling.”

The plaintiffs have two options for an appeal: They can request an en banc hearing at the 9th Circuit, or appeal for review by the Supreme Court. The state’s appeal was originally heard by a panel of three judges at the appellate court; an en banc review at the 9th circuit would be heard by a panel of 11 judges. En banc reviews are reserved for cases which involve a question of exceptional importance, or situations where the panel’s decision conflicts with Supreme Court decisions or prior decisions of the appellate court. Requests for en banc review must be filed within two weeks after the entry of judgment by the three court panel, so the Stormans’ deadline for this request is August 6. Although Washington Attorney General Robert Ferguson has asserted he believes the plaintiffs will request an en banc review, it seems unlikely that a full panel at the 9th circuit, which has a reputation as being the most liberal of the appellate courts, would reverse the three judge panel’s unanimous decision.

The Supreme Court of the United States has recently proven to be friendlier to claims of religious freedom for Christian business owners. The decision in the Hobby Lobby case is one example of this trend. However, SCOTUS denies the vast majority of requests for review it receives. According to the Supreme Court’s rules, review on a writ of certiorari is not a matter of right, but of judicial discretion. (A writ of certiorari is a request for a case review.) According to the SCOTUS website, the Supreme Court receives approximately 10,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each year. The Court grants and hears oral argument in about 75-80 cases. However, SCOTUS is more likely to review cases involving matters of constitutional law, and the Stormans case is based on a First Amendment claim. Although it would be exciting to see a case that began as a boycott of a local Olympia store make it to the Supreme Court, having the case fail to advance to the Supreme Court would be better for pharmacy patients in Washington (and elsewhere, if other states adopt rules similar to Washington’s). If an en banc review at the 9th circuit finds as the three judge panel did, and the Supreme Court refuses to review the case, the appellate court’s decision would prevail, and the regulations would remain in force.

The regulations will be meaningless, however, if they are not enforced by the state. Historically, the Board of Pharmacy has not been inclined to take punitive action against pharmacies that are out of compliance with its regulations for stocking medications. One reason for this is that their enforcement process is complaint-driven, meaning that unless the Department of Health receives complaints from consumers regarding a pharmacy’s unwillingness to stock and dispense the medications they need, no enforcement action is triggered. Another consideration is that the Board of Pharmacy has few punitive options for pharmacies that are out of compliance. It cannot fine a pharmacy for failing to stock medications needed by the patients it served; it can only pull the pharmacy’s license, a relatively drastic step the Board may be reluctant to take. Previous complaints against Ralph’s for violating state pharmacy stocking regulations have been dismissed although there was strong evidence that infractions of the policy had been repeatedly committed.

At the time Ralph’s filed their lawsuit in 2007, 21 complaints against them had been dismissed and three were still pending. Investigations into the three open complaints were suspended during the course of the trial. Reached four days after the Stormans’ decision was published, Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Chris Humberson acknowledged that he would be meeting with a state Assistant Attorney General to discuss how to proceed with complaints against Ralph’s, as well as other issues arising from the 9th circuit’s decision in the state’s favor. (At press time, no information regarding the resolution of pending and future complaints against pharmacies that violate the regulations was available from the Department of Health.)

It is entirely possible that in the absence of new complaints, despite the eight year long legal battle and the considerable expense by the state to defend its regulations, Ralph’s will continue to operate as a rogue pharmacy, refusing to deliver contraception to women, without suffering any consequences. The only path to ensuring patient’s needs are consistently met, at Ralph’s and in pharmacies throughout the nation that are watching to see what happens in this precedent case, lies in Olympia women or men walking into Ralph’s, requesting Plan B or ella, then filing a complaint with the Department of Health if they are refused. Any customer who is denied service at a pharmacy for “moral, philosophical or personal” reasons is free to file a complaint; complaint forms are available on the Department of Health website.

Janet Blanding has been writing about the Ralph’s boycott and subsequent lawsuit since 2006, when her Plan B prescription could not be filled there. After a year-long investigation, the Board of Pharmacy dismissed her complaint without action against Ralph’s.


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Will the third attempt be a charm?

Works in Progress - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:39pm

One more planning process will convene to improve water quality of Capitol Lake

Another Lakefair has come and gone, and this year a few more eyebrows have been raised over the condition of Capitol Lake. With the unusual weather we have experienced this summer, the blooms of algae and invasive plants have made an early arrival. Soon the salmon will be swimming through, and many people will gather at the dam to watch them arrive. At this point, we must ask ourselves: how can we best welcome the salmon home?

For those new to this issue, the mouth of the Deschutes River was dammed in 1951 to create a reflection pond and build a road. With no consideration of the environmental impacts or a long-term management strategy, we are now left with an untouchable body of water that is overtaken by invasive species. The dam severs the connection of the river to Puget Sound and is the source of a Clean Water Act violation. All legitimate science points to removing the dam. However, due to competing interests and the controversial nature of this issue, it remains.

The 2015 Ruckleshaus report, commissioned by Department of Enterprise Services, gave us a ‘to do’ list for moving forward: improve water quality and habitat, figure out a plan to manage sediment, abate the invasive species, create a beautiful place with recreational access, and figure out an equitable funding mechanism while improving the local economy. Sound like a tall order? Perhaps. But Olympia Councilmember Jim Cooper stated it beautifully while updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan. “Capitol Lake does not exist in a vacuum,” he said. “It is influenced by the Deschutes River upstream, and influences Budd Inlet downstream… We can think about it as one system that needs to work together.”

That statement serves as a metaphor for the many governments involved in this issue, including the state, the county, two cities, a port, and a tribe. We need all of these agencies to work together as one system. We now have an interesting opportunity for such collaboration. The capital budget includes $250,000 to move forward on defining the future of the lake. The goals are: summarize the best available science, explore hybrid options that restore habitat and retain the reflection pool, update cost estimates, assess the community, develop cost sharing scenarios and future management, and establish broad agreement.

This is the third planning process to convene around water quality issues in the lake. The first concluded in 1988, after Thurston County declared the water a public health hazard and banned swimming. The plan instructed the creation of long-term management strategies: the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan, better known as CLAMP (an unfortunate acronym). CLAMP was the second process around Capitol Lake, and concluded in 2009 when it lost funding during the recession. After two phases and 13 years of research and debate, the committee recommended estuary restoration. Unfortunately, they were not given the chance to figure out how.

Could this third planning process be the charm for the Deschutes estuary? We need all key players at the table, using asset-based planning in the design process. We need to assess the natural resources and economic opportunities, creating systems that work together. What recreation activities can be enhanced through invasive species abatement and improved water quality? How does a restored environment relate to the Tumwater Brewery and the isthmus in downtown Olympia? How can we support our food system by improving salmon habitat? What can be done to divert sediment to protect the marine industrial area?

Jennifer Garlesky, a recent graduate of the Masters of Environmental Studies program at Evergreen, has given us a head start on that last question. She focused her thesis on sediment deflection methods that could be incorporated into the design, including a phased in approach to restoration that includes monitoring how the sediment will disperse in the bay. She says she is “looking at the restoration effort from a habitat point of view. Most folks view sediment as a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s habitat. Once the river channel begins to equalize the sediment will become habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species.”

One thing we can expect with a restored estuary is an influx of tourism. Another recent graduate, a student from the Masters of GIS for Sustainability at the University of Washington, focused on putting a value on the recreational benefits of a restored estuary. Greg Schundler collected data for visitation at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and the Elwha District of Olympic National Park. Both areas experienced a huge boost of tourism after their large-scale restoration projects were complete. Nisqually even experienced a bump in visitation with the announcement of restoration. If we plan our economic endeavors around restoration and the draw for tourism, we can capitalize on this opportunity.

I no longer want to focus on the stagnancy of the lake, the process, or the issue. I want to think about the future. Can we imagine a healthy Puget Sound in downtown Olympia, historic Tumwater, and the Capitol campus? Perhaps this time we can work through the impasse between environmental and economic interests. All elected officials, candidates, and citizens should pay close attention to this issue. Let your government know that this is important to you. Show up for public comment, write letters to the editor, create artwork to show how beautiful this place can be, and talk with your friends and neighbors about the Deschutes estuary. The time is ripe to build solid, mutually supportive relationships on a path forward. It could be a defining moment for the heart of our community.

Dani is the former Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team. She will speak for the estuary until it can speak for itself. She has a dual degree from Evergreen in chemistry and sustainable communities, and is currently working on her Masters of Public Administration.

More information on the Deschutes estuary can be found at


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The shooting of two young African-American men is a plane crash

Works in Progress - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:35pm

Letter to the Olympia City Council

22 June 2015

Dear Honorable Mayor and Council Members

I read where one of the recent Safeway shoplifting suspects was likely shot in the back by a law enforcement officer employed by the City of Olympia. I’m writing to plead with you not to view this as a challenging exercise in damage control, or an opportunity for a community airing of feelings. This is a plane crash. It needs fearless investigation followed by courageous action based on discovered flaws. I am not blaming you all. I’m beseeching you to see this horrific incident not as a fluke, or actions of a bad apple, or as a tragic accident, but as a stark system failure.

Indulge me my metaphor—planes are meant to fly. When they crash it indicates collapse of safety designed into the system; planes are not designed to crash. Police are meant to keep the peace; policing is designed to keep people safe. When a law enforcement officer shoots an unarmed someone in the back, it indicates failure. We have miraculously safe air travel because after a crash, a third party steps in to investigate—the National Transportation Safety Board. They are not airlines and they do not regulate airlines. They are not friends of the parties involved, they do not know each other, and they review data and make recommendations without regard to who looks bad. We need a third party to investigate everything that created this near killing over attempted petty theft.

The investigation needs to be far-reaching. Questions include:

Is police training adequate?

  1. Does the training include de-escalation techniques?
  2. How can we help police feel safer?
  3. How can we encourage police to keep a cool head when compliance is not immediate or they are being provoked with harsh words?
  4. Were drugs involved?
  5. Is there any system of drug testing officers involved in a firearm discharge? Illegal use of anabolic steroids may cause short tempers (called ‘roid rage).
  6. Painkillers may impair judgment.
  7. Are we hiring the most suitable officers?
  8. The officer involved in the shooting has done two tours in wars that are hallmarked by urban warfare. In that environment, survival depends on split second decisions. Was this person triggered in some way when pursuing two suspects?
  9. Veterans are given preference in police hiring. Do we want most of our officers to be trained as warfighters or are we just following a national example more appropriate for high violent crime rates of large cities?
  10. Is the on-the-job culture of police serving the community?
  11. Does the police force perceive they are not supported by the community?
  12. Are community members viewed as citizens, civilians, or even enemies? This is the grit of the problem—does policing mean control of citizenry at all costs, or does it mean keeping the peace through means other than physical control.

There is a systemic problem. We have had other crashes in Olympia in the last few decades. Danny Spencer was killed by ‘positional asphyxia’ when he was cuffed for non-compliance, placed chest down in the back seat of a cruiser and ignored while pleading for air. Stephen Edwards, another shoplifting suspect, died of multiple taser shocks in front of Bayview, while being taken into custody. Witnesses to both deaths were not able to understand why these people died. I cannot.

The city council needs to create a system to investigate the failure of the police to keep the peace. This has to be done now. The city manager will not lead this. The chief of police will not ask for this. The police guild will fight this. A year-long investigation that concludes the officer was in fear of his life so it was appropriate to empty most of his clip into the back of unarmed shoplifting suspects will not help Olympia. It may avert lawsuit judgements, it could keep officers feeling safe, but it will not help us as a community.

I am not dismissing the challenges officers face in dealing with the public—they are called upon to render assistance one moment and be adversaries the next. But I know we can do better in Olympia. Perhaps we as a city can create a new national model of safe policing—safe for the officers and safe for the community. Somebody has to do this, why not us? We must start with data. Data gathered by a third party experienced with investigation, but not necessarily law enforcement investigation. We need to sift through this wreckage and find out what metal fatigued, what procedure failed, what checklist was not followed. This is Olympia; there is no justification for two deaths and at least one unarmed shoplifter to be shot in the back.

Thank you for reading this far and giving my plea consideration.

Respectfully, Jim Cubbage


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Pondering Whitman’s Spiritual Democracy and the contradiction in his attitudes toward race

Works in Progress - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:33pm

Toward being a more effective anti-racist ally

One afternoon in spring, I found myself transported on one of those delicious, if not addictive “cyber wends”—a Google search run wonderfully amok.

Spiritual Democracy is where I landed, captivated by one bold statement:

“Spiritual Democracy puts the idea of democracy back where it belongs, as a shining example of the human spirit at work in the evolution of human culture and social architecture.”

Our tumultuous times scream out for some kind of lifeline for sanity of society, its systems, we its people. Bring it on! Bring on Spiritual Democracy!

Among the early American visionaries who spoke of the need for a “spiritual synthesis”, harkening back to our nation’s forefathers idea of unity, e pluribus unum, ‘out of many, one’, was Walt Whitman. Most interesting, is that the supreme authority for the Constitution’s framers is not the Bible, or any other religious volume, but the God of Nature as the author of our individuality. James Madison, one of the chief architects of the Constitution fought courageously to prohibit the emergence of a “national religion” by insisting on the “full and legal rights of conscience,” which he believed should not be infringed upon by any judicial or governing body.

Spiritual Democracy is the simple recognition of God in each person’s nature—a truly democratic notion. As we all come from nature, we are all carriers of divinity. Whitman’s belief was that Spiritual Democracy is the science of a God that must by necessity begin and end with nature—and this means our inner nature as well as our outer nature. Whitman’s brilliantly inquisitive mind was able to treat the creeds or various schools of religion all as manifestations of God. It is said that in response to the question: What religion is the most universal? Whitman answered: all are equal. In his famous poem, “Song of Myself”, Whitman expressed this concept succinctly: In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass.

What Walt Whitman envisioned through Spiritual Democracy was nothing less than political, economic and religious equality for all, a raising of collective and individual unitary consciousness… “a thought that rises, independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shinning eternal. This is the thought of identity—yours for you, whoever you are, as mine for me.” Democratic Vistas, Whitman.

Walt Whitman’s edited and re-edited opus, Leaves of Grass brilliantly encompasses all the aspects of life, casting a wide net enfolding gender, sexuality, race. He choose a new style of poetry writing that few people had seen before, a poetry that doesn’t rhyme, isn’t comprised of short or fix metered lines. A bold open vehicle to expound on the nature of the spirituality of global democracy— to speak a truth beyond the times, the era in which Whitman wrote:

Poets to come! Orators, singers, musicians to come!

Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,

But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater that before known,

Arouse! For you must justify me.

I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,

I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look            

And then averts his face,

Leaving it to you to prove and define it,

Expecting the main things from you.

The liberal, visionary, Whitman was amazingly effective in conveying an egalitarian and antiracist sensibility in his poetry. While his poetry pointed towards his hopes for America’s democratic future, Whitman the journalist, was a most conservative public figure, bogged down by the racist stereotypes of his contemporary society. Whitman was a descendent of a slave-owning family, and had, since childhood, been conditioned to look upon blacks as an inferior and subordinate race… There is evidence to suggest his inherently bigoted perspective on race, would linger in his ideas until the end. Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is a mirror reflection of both the poet and the public persona amalgamated into one long verse, which declare:

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / I am large, I contain multitudes.

Interestingly, I found myself taken aback when confronted with this apparent duality, contradiction in Whitman. Pondering the paradox, led into a prayerful discernment about my authenticity regarding others of different color or creed. What really are my prejudices? Where are my ‘growing edges’?

Inserted into this personal introspection was news of a local tragic event, still unresolved: the violent maiming of two young men of color, shot by an Olympia police officer.

In response to this particular violent action, the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation invited “people of good will (especially white folk)” to participate in a workshop, facilitated by Sammy Harvell, the intention being that individuals can learn to become better anti-racist allies.

I listened deeply, and left the workshop with additional wisdom voices to learn from as well: Tim Wise, You Tube—“White Like Me” and “White Privilege”; and Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow.” Also, Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation’s August 2015 program is entitled “Racial Justice Insights for White Folks,” and is available on their website

I find a beautiful similarity in the poetic vision of Walt Whitman and the crisp, clarity of Lila Watson’s wisdom:

If you have come here to help me, then you’re wasting your time…. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

I am grateful for the willingness to open to new learning, deeper understanding of my historical ‘whiteness’, constructive ways to engage in being a more effective anti-racist ally, and a rich appreciation for the God of nature within each of us.

Selena Kilmoyer is a member of the Interfaith Works Board.


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Local acts of terrorism performed by Americans

Works in Progress - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:30pm

Police Brutality

Imagine an unarmed Caucasian male lying dead in the middle of the street for hours, just after being shot for unknown reasons by a police officer. After his body was left in the street uncovered (not showing any dignity), it was rushed away in a suspicious unmarked SUV instead of a coroner’s van. Of course this would never happen in the wonderful country we call America. The problem is that this did happen; it happens every week in America against Black and Brown people. These unthinkable killings are a part of well-known epidemic called “police brutality”. Police brutality has been around for at least a hundred years.

Police brutality has always been a problem within the Brown and Black communities. Growing up, children in the brown and black communities originally were taught to never be alone with police officers or if being pulled over always remain silent. If a crime is committed against a brown or black person by a police officer it is well known that the police officer will usually get away with the crime committed. Every year there are 1,100 deaths associated with police brutality. These killings happen within the intercity or urban areas. The Justice Department filed 26,556 file complaints dealing with police brutalities in 2002.

This epidemic hits a little closer to home with me. I am outraged by the killings and not as a Black woman, but as a veteran of the United States military. As a veteran, I fought for the freedoms that The United States of America holds so deeply. Every person who lives in the U.S.A. has certain rights as a human being and no police officer has the right to violate those human rights. Police officers have lost focus on what their real job is, which is to protect the local streets, not to become a menace to society, or a thug or gangster with guns. As a veteran, I feel that the police officers who are committing these crimes against regular civilians need to be tried in a court of law, and the punishment should be to become a service member to the community for free.

Recently in Los Angeles, California, police officers were caught on camera punching a “special needs woman” in the face. The horrible action was taped by Jermaine Green who is an Army veteran. The police officer tried to take Green’s phone away from him to get rid of the evidence. The police officers asked if Green had any warrants out for him.

Green replied, “No, I am a veteran who just came back from a tour overseas.”

In an interview, Green spoke about the military and how it had certain rules and procedures on how to handle situations. Green also spoke about how a military person would face a Uniform Code Military Justice (UCMJ) if any of these difficult and dangerous procedures were broken ( When I was in the United States Air Force, we were warned that if we accidently shot a regular civilian or violated any person’s rights while deployed, it would fall under the Geneva Conventions. Any violations under the Geneva Conventions are grounds for that service member to be tried in court through the UCMJ. Military members are held by strict rules and police officers should have the same set of rules to live and work by.

After reading this article, one might think all police officers are bad individuals. Along with the police brutality against regular civilians, there is also brutality against good police officers who report abuses of power.

Laura Schook was fired for exposing corruption, Shanna Lopez was fired for reporting a cop who was a sexual predator, Joe Crystal was fired for turning in fellow cops for brutality, and Cariol Horne was fired for stopping a fellow cop from beating a handcuffed suspect. These upstanding officers are great examples of what integrity and workmanship is.

On 23 January 2015, Domenico Lillo (a Beyonne, New Jersey police officer) was arrested by the FBI for violating Brandon Walsh’s civil rights in an unwarranted attack. This one example gives a glimmer of hope that the federal government is trying to stop police brutality in the United States. Police officers should have to know the constitution along with the state and local laws, so there will not be a question of whether the police have violated any person’s human rights.

On April 4, 2015 Walter Scott an unarmed black man was shot and killed by a white police officer , Michael Slager. In Charleston, South Carolina. Slager claimed Scott grabbed his Taser and tried to run with it, leaving Slager no choice but to shoot and kill Scott. A bystander caught the whole intent on video and proves that the officer was lying about what happened. On April 10, 2015 the police department placed officer Slager under arrest and charged him with murder .

Sadly, police brutality is a continuing epidemic within the United States of American. I believe a restructuring of the police forces and how they are run is needed to change this problem. Retraining and a more detailed knowledge of state and federal laws is a must at this point. Also, demilitarizing is key; the government needs to not teach police forces the same moves and tactics that the military uses in war situations.

Antoinee Benjamin an Evergreen grad, mom, and is interested in food science.


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A senator named Bernie: A primer

Works in Progress - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:28pm

Bernie Sanders is a self-avowed socialist and running to be the next president of the United States. Normally, this wouldn’t be worth the time to discuss but it’s notable because it looks as if he has a distinct chance of winning. To read the coverage of his campaign, the surprise may lead you to think he came out of nowhere but part of the reason he’s making such a splash is that for his whole political career he’s been saying what the American people finally seem willing to hear. Our electorate is waking up to the underhanded and insincere tactics that are so common in our political system, and they desperately want something different.

He’s been the junior Senator from Vermont for the past eight years and prior to that, he was the state’s sole delegate in the House of Representatives for sixteen. His entire tenure in politics has been as an independent and while he makes a habit of caucusing with Democrats, this is a reflection of his progressive ideals rather than any political allegiance. He doesn’t hesitate to speak up when he thinks a Democrat is in the wrong or a Republican is in the right—he’s far more interested in issues than personalities. Though he has been working with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren on legislation to help rein in the financial sector, Oklahoma’s Republican senator, James Inhofe, has called Sanders his “best friend in the Senate” and said “on a personal level, I like him”.

In a political landscape defined by complaining to the media rather than engaging the opposition with diplomacy, this dedication to bipartisanship is a breath of fresh air. Bernie demonstrates adeptly the difference between being populist and being popular.

For many, awareness of Bernie began in 2010 when he delivered an eight-and-a-half-hour speech from the Senate floor in protest of a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for an additional two years. He took the opportunity to express a litany of complaints, framing issues such as the price of home heating oil in terms that reflected the concerns of his constituents. While there are times when many of his colleagues would likely enjoy being able to dismiss his firebrand approach to issues as cranky New England recalcitrance, he gets away with his politically dangerous rhetoric for more than just his friendly, affable nature.

He insists on framing issues in terms of how people are affected by them and evaluating policy based on its practical consequences. And more than just being fiercely independent politically, he also manages to avoid the influence of lobbyists by simply refusing their money. Salon recently gushed that Bernie “is perhaps the only politician in world history who’s ever said, ‘I don’t want money from the billionaires'”. These aren’t hollow words. When he talks about the problems in our country, he doesn’t hesitate to link labor woes to the Walton family and environmental problems to the Koch brothers or to point out that they are the richest two families in the country and citing greed as their primary motivator.

Bernie has made getting big money out of politics a central issue in his presidential campaign and has been fighting against the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling since it was handed down. Rather than making the usual fund raising rounds of presidential hopefuls, he has been travelling the country making stump speeches to crowds which are already attracting audiences of 10,000 people. And rather than the typical platitudes people have come to expect, he’s talking about income inequality, a living wage for workers, tuition-free publicly-funded college education and the environment. People aren’t just listening, they are opening their wallets to fuel one of the most impressive fundraising efforts in American politics.

So far this election cycle Hillary Clinton has raised $47.5 million. Bernie Sanders has raised $13.7 million which may seem disappointing by comparison. But while Hillary left the Department of State two and a half years ago to promote her book and chat with donors, Bernie has only started campaigning this year with a significantly lower profile. He’s also out raised all of the Republicans currently collecting for a presidential bid, although this is a little more complicated. Many Republican donors are taking a wait-and-see approach to this election cycle. Some are even signaling the possibility that they could end up backing the Clinton campaign, particularly those linked to the financial industry who are concerned about Republican candidates taking up populist anti-banking rhetoric. Their possible support isn’t particularly surprising considering Clinton’s banking friendly positions reflective of her years as the junior senator from New York and her largest contributions coming from the finance sector.

While campaigns are just getting started and it’s still a long way from anyone receiving the billions of dollars in contributions that are expected for this coming election, what really sets Bernie’s approach to funding apart is in the volume of donors. He’s received money from hundreds of thousands of individuals and is demonstrating that politics can turn on more than just the bottom line. In addition to packing rallies and making $40 donations add up, the Sanders campaign has received more than 100,000 requests to volunteer. This is largely a matter of stated intention as the campaign hasn’t begun coordinating at that scale, but it is truly a remarkable accomplishment. The Clinton campaign has signaled that it will begin shifting focus to small dollar donors however, Bernie seems poised to make irrelevant the fundraising gap that comes from rejecting super-PAC style politics.

What Bernie has shown is that a campaign is far less expensive to run if you have a message people will promote without being paid. The Clinton campaign has already had to dig deep into its battle chest and is outspending the Sanders campaign almost two-to-one relative to their respective fundraising totals with Clinton having spent more than Sanders has raised to date. And that doesn’t count super-PAC spending, which is far harder to account for.

This election cycle is already reflecting a radical shift in how American politics is conducted. What Bernie has shown is that the true cost of accepting corporate cash is in what a candidate isn’t allowed to talk about. Part of what Clinton has been struggling with is that all of the issues that are resonating most strongly with voters are topics her financial ties and past political activities prevent her from addressing. She can’t talk about aggressive reform in either campaign finance or banking. She’s been on the wrong side of gay marriage. And her time at the State Department puts her in a precarious position with regards to issues of surveillance and open government.

Perhaps her biggest weakness is something that should be her greatest political triumph. Back in ’93, health care reform was central to the national agenda and as first lady, she was tapped to head the effort on behalf of the White House. Bernie Sanders was in the House of Representatives at the time and put together a proposal to expand Medicare to cover all Americans based on the recommendations of two Harvard Medical School doctors’ analysis of the Canadian health care system. Hillary expressed in no uncertain terms that this was simply not an option she was willing to consider because of the influence of the insurance industry. After twenty-two years and three major attempts at reform, health care costs are still a serious topic of discussion. It’s going to be rather hard for her to debate an issue she has already failed to address effectively with an opponent who has been championing a better plan all along.

Bernie Sanders has made a career of prioritizing being right over being popular while showing that, at least in politics, it’s better to be likeable than rich. It’s a strategy which may well win him the presidency.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I too have used the form on the Sanders campaign website to indicate a willingness to volunteer. However, I have heard nothing from them aside from the regular campaign emails. Unless it’s stuck in my spam filter.)

Gabriel Withington is an artist, factotum and applied mathematician who writes computer programs for consulting clients when he’s not prattling away about social justice issues on Facebook.



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Robert Reich’s You-Tube Economics

Works in Progress - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:24pm

Watching videos as a first step in changing our economy… A do-itself-yourself introvert’s house party

Reich’s new digital stool

In a tradition that reminds us of the speakers at Hyde Park in London, when the American economist and political commentator Robert Reich delivers public speeches, he carries around a wooden stool on which he stands while he speaks. Because his height is slightly below five feet high, there is a practical reason for Mr. Reich’s comportment; he wants to make sure he is able to reach the microphone, but more importantly, he wants to be heard and seen because he believes in the importance of his message. Reich’s new video series on economic issues accomplishes just that. Within the context of the upcoming presidential elections, the series bring to the American public the possibility of viewing and discussing at home the absurd thinking of American capitalism and its nefarious consequences of inequality and racial injustice.

Democracy as fiction or function

After taking a look at the long rosary of presidential candidates (the Republican Party itself has 16 at the moment of this writing), one cannot avoid noticing the ‘family resemblance’ among them. Practically all of them, with insignificant variations, seem to carry the political birthmark of defendants of corporations and American oligarchy. They all seem busy singing the same version of a political discourse that insures the perpetuation of the current levels of social inequality and discrimination within American society, as well as the current restrictions on democracy by a national state focused not on the wellbeing of its citizens but on their spying and ideological control. All the mainstream candidates seem to be busy constructing democracy as a political fiction.

In the opinion of the writers of this article, only one voice currently expresses a radical contrast with this type of discourse—the voice of socialist Bernie Sanders who’s political platform seeks not only a significant reform of the functioning of the political economy of capitalism, but a widening of the functioning of democracy to bring it close to its original purpose. We also believe that the economic critique elaborated by Robert Reich is close to the general political umbrella proposed by Sanders. It is in this spirit, a spirit of transformations that are not only possible but immediate and necessary for the elimination of inequality and racist injustice, that we bring to our readers the main concepts and the related points of struggle necessary to transform the economy and the nation.

Robert Reich and the—teach-ins

Many readers of this paper probably watched Robert Reich’s documentary film, “Inequality for All,” that came out in 2013. A series of short videos produced by, an organization founded in 1998 by Joan Blades and Wes Boyd to support a “censure and move on” campaign in response the revelations about President Bill Clinton’s affair with a staffer, builds on those arguments and extends them, featuring Reich as narrator and illustrator.   Over the July 18-19 weekend, according to Brian Stewart, director of media relations for, more than 300 people hosted house parties, with the agenda of watching and discussing these videos. In lieu of a house party, we summarize them briefly here for your consideration.

  1. Raise the minimum wage

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour is fair—no one working full time should find himself or herself living in poverty. If you work a full week, you ought to earn enough to support yourself and your dependents . Reich points out that half the minimum wage earners are women, and half are 35 or older.

  1. Help working families

Provide equal pay for equal work so that women and men who perform the same duties are paid equally. Give workers regular hours, reversing the trend toward on-call workers. Provide universal childcare, both preschool and after school care. Provide paid family medical leave. In short, “enable workers to be good parents”.

  1. Expand social security.

Fewer worker pensions plus lower wages plus increased prescription costs means a retirement crisis. Two-thirds of seniors get at least half their income from social security, and one-third rely on social security for 90% of their income. Currently, income over $118,500 is exempted from social security taxes. Change that—in other words, “scrap the cap.”

  1. Bust up the biggest Wall Street banks

Currently, 5 banks control 44% of US banking assets, which means they wield tremendous influence over policy making. Bust them up with anti-trust laws, as happened to oil companies in the early 20th century. Banks that are “too big to fail” are simply too big. And implement a tax on every trade—a transaction tax.

  1. Reinvent education

Reich’s analysis here has a broader brush: stop endless testing; focus on helping students become better problem-solvers and cultivate their curiosity; limit class size to the low 20’s; and provide early childhood education, including community schools that function as health care sites, counseling centers, and offer after-school programming.

  1. End corporate welfare

Public interest has to take precedence over moneyed interests, which requires ending subsidies and tax breaks for oil, coal and gas; agribusiness; big pharmaceuticals; big Wall Street banks; and hedge fund managers. Only 12% of the federal budget goes to individuals and families, and at least that much goes to corporations. The balance needs to tip—people are the government’s top priority, not corporate welfare.

  1. Strengthen unions

Unions improve working conditions for everyone. In the 1950’s, a third of public sector workers were union members; in 2010, the number had declined to about 7%. The decline of the middle class in the U.S. mirrors the decline in union membership. We need to make it easier to join unions, make it illegal for companies to punish union organizers, and, more important, pass a federal law that overturns state-based right-to-work laws. Workers in states with ill-named “right-to-work” provisions have lower wages overall and are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance or retirement plans.

  1. Prevent the growth of a privileged aristocracy—raise estate taxes

Currently, the first $10,860,000 that a person inherits is tax-free. If you happen to inherit an estate valued at $10,860,001, you would pay tax on $1. Rather than eliminating the estate tax, as advocated by Republicans, Reich argues that we need to re-establish the estate tax rates of 1998, when estates over $1,748,000 were taxed. Right now, the richest 1% of Americans own 44% of America’s wealth. Taxing estates help correct that schism.

  1. Make polluters in the carbon business pay

Currently, carbon producers don’t pay for the consequences of their pollution, not for asthma, nor for polluted groundwater, nor for changes in climate. We have to change that, by taxing carbon. And we need to pull public money (and our individual investments) out of carbon producing companies. We have to change the economics of pollution.

  1. End mass incarceration

Incarceration as practiced in the U.S. is, as Reich says, “wrong and racist,” and it’s bad for the economy. We have 5% of the world’s population, and 20% of the incarcerated population. We’ve bought into a “lock-up, lock-out” system, where people of color are disproportionately locked up, and then, because of felony-restrictions, locked out of society permanently, unable to borrow money for college, get a mortgage, find a job, or even vote. We need to “ban the box”—the checkbox on applications that asks whether the applicant has prior felony conviction. We need smarter sentencing policies, including an overhaul of mandatory minimum sentences. We need to stop militarized policing. We need to stop building jails (and invest that money in education.)

  1. Provide Medicare for all

Medicare is more efficient than private health insurance, and more people should have access to it. Two trends are inarguable: health care costs are increasing, and the post-war baby boom is aging. If everyone were allowed to sign up for Medicare on their health care exchanges, the system could use its increasing bargaining power to bring overall costs down and move us in the direction of a single-payer system.

  1. Get big money out of politics

All of these policy changes require politicians’ support, and so the first big battle is to reverse the Supreme Court ruling holding that money is equivalent to speech and cannot be regulated, by passing a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. In the last presidential election, 16,000 households contributed 40% of the money that went to campaigns. The predictions are that the upcoming election will be more expensive, and more vulnerable to tighter control by a smaller group of wealthy elites. We need—at a minimum—full disclosure of campaign contributions. We need a federal match for small donations to achieve an alternate stream for funding campaigns. Most of all, we need to overturn Citizens United.

These twelve ideas form the basic platform of the “teach-ins” organized by Reich and They outline the straightforward policy changes necessary to relieve inequality and systemic racism, and to transform our economy and our nation by questioning the absurd thinking of capitalism.

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

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.

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There’s plenty of action on Pluto

Works in Progress - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:19pm

In the not-too-far cosmic distance…

We had a lot of luck on Venus

We always had a ball on Mars

We danced around with borealis

We’re space truckin’ round the stars.

   —Deep Purple, “Space Truckin'”

Why do we see so much hoopla in the media about Pluto? Well there are a great many people who take science seriously. It’s a very good turn for anyone as weary as I, of the distorted stream of tragedies in the news. Could exploration again become prominent in the lives of people?

NASA has accomplished a long term project in the New Horizons mission that no one could have be certain about. The technology of space travel has passed a milestone of success which to many people’s minds proves that exploration is feasible and worthwhile. Upcoming missions will continue to thrill the millions who pay attention.

Pluto is so far away that the New Horizons spacecraft has taken nine and a half years to arrive. The time lag for radio signals from the New Horizons spacecraft is over four hours. After all, Pluto is nearly 40 times farther out from the Sun than Earth is.

My favorite source for solar system news is the Planetary Society website You don’t need to be a member to keep up with all the news that the Planetary Society presents. However, if you’d like to become one, the $37 membership fee goes for supporting public space science and exploration and you can receive the Planetary Society magazine.

The Kuiper Belt region where Pluto resides is home also to thousands of smaller icy comets and debris. Beyond the orbit of Neptune, the Kuiper Belt is a larger, colder version of the asteroid belt, which is between Mars and Jupiter. In the Kuiper belt there are more known dwarf planets. Pluto shares many similarities to planets, spherical shape and moons, however it is a common member of a large debris field and not the largest member.

The drama of NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft is quite astounding. In order to keep the budget in check, NASA constrained the instrumentation on New Horizons. But the sensational achievement of successfully launching a probe to such a precise fly by, so far away is exquisite. Because of the distance and limited instrumentation, it will take another sixteen months for New Horizons to radio back all the data it has recorded on its historic fly by.

When we have so many immediate concerns right here in our own neighborhood, how should we take all that time to chase around distant objects in the Kuiper Belt? Some of our resources need to be dedicated to long term thinking because our children and grandchildren will be there. As human encroachment overwhelms ecosystems around the globe, unlimited real-estate lays unutilized directly beyond low Earth orbit.

With technology like NASA possesses today, space colonies are entirely within reason. Mars has a surface area as great as the land surface area of Earth, not counting ocean surface area. The moon has an area comparable in size to North America. Humans can populate these areas without needing to wipe out indigenous people and ecosystems. Also, an essentially infinite volume of space for establishing orbital platforms exists.

Besides the need for comfort and security, humans need intrigue and adventure. Without these, people invent every sort of superstition and conspiracy to fill the need. We attack others, we complain about things we don’t understand, we live in fear of all kinds of absurd dangers. Our civilization will be far more healthy and wealthy when we focus more on building the interplanetary economy. Valuable resources are orbiting around all over, just waiting to be collected.

The moon and Mars both are immediately ready for habitation with the requirement for domed habitat and sophisticated gardening. The region of Pluto is more suited for long range space observing and comet patrol. We have the ability to safeguard Earth from devastating meteor collisions, if we can keep up the long term thinking. For that we have to keep improving on spaceflight technologies and cooperation with international neighbors and immediate neighbors.

The United States has all but lost its leadership position in space exploration. Going it alone was never a good strategy anyway. International cooperation builds relationships as it builds success. The science content of the New Horizons mission is valuable enough to have made it worth doing alone. Sharing the cost and sharing the profits would multiply the return in good relations.

During the planning stages of the New Horizons project, two additional moons around Pluto were discovered too late to be included in the mission. Another two of Pluto’s moons were discovered after the probe was already half way there. The number of mysteries about our solar system continues to astonish everyone who keeps watching. With or without our help, the world keeps expanding to include greater realms of space and planets.

The Planetary Society is preparing to send up a solar light sail as soon as next year. With this technology, spacecrafts will be able to roam around the solar system like the sailors of old—riding the wind. This time it will be the solar wind. There will be no end to adventure then.

The main obstacle is not really the will of the people. Around the world thousands of people tried to sign up for the one way ticket to Mars. Who is lagging are the bankers who have locked up our world’s financial resources in austerity packages. Likewise the paranoia of the homeland security industry which always needs to be spying on others and pointing weapons. These folks will also profit by expanding their vision of the world and participating in ventures of future space colonization activities. By walking on the moon, Neil Armstrong founded a legacy for all earthlings.

There are of course many more hurdles to overcome. The number of unknown factors in space pioneering is staggering. Accidents like we’ve witnessed with the space shuttle are liable to occur again. To reduce the chance of these tragedies will require dependable engineers, well educated scientists, and dedicated management. Our steps forward need to be taken carefully, but not timidly.

Leadership in space exploration should be shared between dependable technicians and adventurous young people. When the people support these courageous representatives with the same vigor we use to support our favorite sports team, then we will all win. These heros of the future are going to be making real contributions to our civilization. This is something we have been needing for a long time.

The New Horizons mission to Pluto is happening right now. The lightsail and the one way ticket to Mars are coming up next. And in the works there is the James Webb Space Telescope ready to vastly improve on the fantastic success of the Hubble Space Telescope. The excitement of our place in history is so electric that my hair is standing up. Yes, take care of your local estuary and watershed, but also keep an eye on the adventure ahead of us. It is going to be spectacular for real.

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


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