Police accountability for last year’s West Olympia shooting
By Crystal Chaplin
It was a nice day in May 2015. It was dry outside and both André and Bryson decided they were going to the local skate park on Cooper Point Road. It wasn’t far from where we lived; they left late that afternoon.
That night, or should I say early that morning on May 21, my daughter came home saying someone had just been shot down on Cooper Point Road not far from our home. She was frantic asking if her brothers were home. “They hadn’t come home yet,” I said to her. We stayed up the rest of the night waiting for them to come home, but they didn’t.
Later that morning there was a knock on the door. It was detectives/police saying that both my sons, André and Bryson, were both shot in the chest by a police officer and were in critical condition. I froze; I can remember dropping to the floor. My heart felt like it was just ripped out of my chest.
I cried and I felt sick to my stomach. I said, “God please don’t take them from me. Please.” What went through my mind then was why a police officer would shoot them? What the hell is going on?
We were told which hospital they were taken to. When we arrived at the hospital I was not allowed to go in to see my sons. An officer was there in the lobby outside the ICU wanting to ask my daughter more questions. After informing my family on what happened they advised me to stop talking to the police or media until we have legal representation. I immediately said, “no more questions. I want to see my sons right now.” They finally let me in after a few minutes.
Walking into that room seeing my youngest son unconscious and having all these machines around him—wires all over him and on a respirator to help him breath—was something I wasn’t prepared for. It was frightening and very overwhelming and then seeing a police officer sitting there all calm made me so upset. I wondered why he was there with his little pad writing things down. I still didn’t know exactly what had happened or if my son would make it. Doctors then said to me that he was stable but still critical.
I asked where was my other son. At first they didn’t seem to know where he was but finally we were told where he was, he was about 30-45 minutes away from St Peter’s. Before leaving to get on the freeway for the drive to Tacoma General Hospital, we made sure Bryson was stable.
I felt numb and so worried because now I’m going to see André and I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see, I was scared and I just prayed “Please, God, please let him be still with us, please.” Finally making it to André’s room I was so happy to see him awake and I could see the pain and worry in his eyes. He asked how his brother, Bryson, was. I told him and he began to cry. My heart was breaking.
He said, “Go back to Bryson, Mom, I’m okay.” He was so worried for his brother. He said, “Mom, Bryson needs you.”
I kissed him, told him I loved him very much and said, “I will be back soon baby.”
“Love you, Mom,” he said.
Arriving back at St. Peters Hospital Bryson was still unconscious and being readied to be airlifted to Seattle Harborview Hospital. I stayed overnight with Bryson not leaving his side, talking to him saying to him I love you and saying, “Bry-Bry, open your eyes. Baby, fight. Baby, you’re strong. I’m here; Mommy’s not going anywhere.”
I believe it was the next day when he opened his eyes. Family had flown in from Rhode Island, Florida and California to be with us because this was just unbelievable. Nothing like this happens in our family. We would drive back and forth between hospitals until André was released a couple days later. My brother, my oldest son, my son’s father, my daughter and I would take turns staying with Bryson in the hospital because we didn’t want him to be alone; someone had to be with him at all times. The drive back and forth from Seattle was so stressful and overwhelming.
I was so afraid for André and Bryson. I still am ‘til this day.
Bryson is now paralyzed. He has a bullet in his back from the White police officer who opened fire on him and his brother. When I learned that he couldn’t walk and saw the x-ray that showed the bullet in his spine, I was angry that the police lied. They told me both he and his brother were shot in the chest.
And while in the hospital, after Bryson was airlifted to Seattle, I got a call from the Olympia police chief asking me how I was doing and saying he was sorry for what happened. He spoke some more, but I wasn’t really paying too much attention to what he was saying because I really didn’t want to hear what he had to say. I remember him saying to call him when I could because he would like to talk with me.
“Hmm, for what,” I asked in my mind.
After about a month Bryson was released from the hospital. We tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him because he had to use a wheelchair. This has changed their lives, my life and our entire family’s lives. The media and ignorant people making nasty comments, saying my sons must be thugs or gang members, it’s just ignorance.
My sons are just sweet caring guys with big hearts.
After a couple months go by, the investigation is still going on. Then in August the investigation is completed with both my sons, André and Bryson, being charged with assault on this White police officer. He tried to kill them both and I truly believe the officer not only shot Bryson multiple times but he also wanted to kill André.
So there was no witness to his brutal and reckless act on two young Black men. This killer cop said my sons tried to attack him with a skateboard.
“Bull,” I say.
They are also being charged for assault on the store clerk who has claimed they had attempted to steal beer from the store.
This so-called police officer saw two suspects fitting the description from what this store clerk had given them, and from that my youngest son was hit with bullets multiple times and my other son was shot at three times and hit once.
All my life I have never heard of a police officer going after anybody that had attempted to steal beer or even a store clerk or owner who called 911. Usually it’s the store manager saying to a person or persons never to come back in their store. Wouldn’t you think that would be more logical? But instead two young black men, my sons, get gunned down with bullets flying everywhere.
When I heard the charges I was livid and saying “Is this for real; are they really serious? This can’t be happening.”
First court date was nerve racking. The media was outside and inside the courtroom. It felt like we were all going to a hanging. Then there was silence because I don’t think the media and people in the community didn’t really believe my son Bryson was paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but they see now.
I feel we are trapped here in Olympia and all I can see, when I go places or into that court room, is racist people. I have so much anxiety when I see a police car or an officer and every time we drive down that road. I picture my sons running through the woods trying not to get hit by bullets as this White cop fires into the darkness, into the dark woods.
Every day since Bryson and André came home from the hospital I see the pain in their eyes and I see the physical pain Bryson goes through. Every day I wish I could take it all away; I feel helpless.
Where is the justice? So many men, women and children have been killed by police officers all over the United States. When is this going to stop? When is change going to come? I thank God every day for my sons being alive and I pray every day for the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who have lost a loved one because of police brutality.
Looking back through history it seems like it’s happening all over again and everyone is just blind to what’s really going on. The police take care of their own “White privilege.” That’s how I see it and I’m sure other people see it, too.
As I write these words, with tears in my eyes, my chest is so heavy and it aches like I’m living that day again when I was told my boys were shot. I live this every day. A mother should never have to hear those words or even be told that their child has died. My heart goes out to the families that have lost a loved one to this madness. My family will never be the same again; my sons will never be the same again. I want justice for my sons, Bryson and André. The police officer should be held accountable for using excessive force, for attempted murder, and never be able to work in law enforcement or carry a firearm again.
I truly think that all police officers who have killed should be stripped of their badges and guns never to get them back again, ever!
Many people have asked me how I’m doing or how I’m feeling. Looking at my sons I cry inside every day. They didn’t deserve what happened to them. I cry in private because I don’t want them to see my tears, I was protective of them before and now I am overly protective. I trust no one around my family, especially my boys. Before all this happened, we were trusting people.
Our lives have changed forever since that White officer tried his hardest to kill my sons, but God had other plans for my boys. He sent down his Army of Angels to protect them as they ran through those woods in the darkness for their lives; I am so grateful for the Angels. My experience as a mother with two black young men, my sons that survived and lived through this traumatic incident, I can truly say I am blessed to have them still with me. If it wasn’t for the work of God and his Angels I would be mourning both my sons. I can only imagine what they went through that horrible night on May 21, 2015. That day will forever be etched in our brains and hearts.
Justice for André and Bryson.
Crystal Chaplin is a single mother of 4—3 sons and a daughter—and grandmother of 11. She grew up in New England in a Rhode Island town called Woonsocket and her family moved to Olympia in 2012. Crystal is a dedicated mother and gives her all for her children and grandchildren. “They are my life.”
Theocratic thinking on the 2016 presidential campaign trail
By Enrique Quintero
Connected with the divine
Claiming to have God on your side can be philosophically problematic, mainly because without logical evidence, you are invoking an imaginary force with extra powers and unexplained superior morality as an ally and justifier of your actions, without risking much social scrutiny. As a politician running for office in a nation that, according to the 2010 results of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, has over three-hundred-fifty-thousand religious congregations, with an estimated total of over one- hundred-and-fifty-million adherents, asserting that God is on your side may constitute more an act of political calculation than an act of faith. This type of political scheming is not new in human history; rather, it’s probably as old as human political opportunism.
In search for political power, rulers from ancient civilizations as well as contemporary political leaders have, on innumerable occasions, created a connection with God merely by claiming that such a connection exists. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz belong to this category of evangelical politicians, or so they both tell us. To the surprise of many, it turns out that God in the United States happens to be Republican.
Early crucifixion: The Marco Rubio case
The principle of the separation between church and state constitutes one of the guiding principles of western political democracy. This separation between faith and politics is also required by the First Amendment to the American Constitution, which allows all citizens the freedom to practice any religion of their choice, but also stops government from favoring any particular religion. The violation of this principle constitutes the main mistake of theocratic politicians.
Rubio’s use of faith for political advantage is not new to his political career; his passion for ‘country and God’ is only eclipsed by his religious contortionism: first born as Catholic, later converted to Mormonism while living in Nevada for three years, then, after returning to Florida, he was confirmed and married in the Catholic church, but also attended a Baptist church for years, and currently splits his time among these last two. He has also been quite diligent about inserting his religious beliefs into the campaign. After Time Magazine’s cover presented him as ‘the Republican savior’ he stated: “Let me be clear about one thing: there is only one savior and it is not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to Earth and died for our sins”. The implicit Christian arrogance of the statement is clear and offensive for those of different religious faith. Also it is completely contrarian to the principles of the First Amendment, not to mention the questionable logic of finding commendable that someone—Jesus in this case—would die (sent by his Father nonetheless) for undetermined sins committed by previous and future generations and people of all ages, including innocent children.
During his speech announcing his dropping out of the presidential campaign as result of his early electoral crucifixion in the Florida primary, Rubio once again managed to insert God’s will in political events by saying: “ it is not God’s plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever”. The introduction of religion into the realm of politics not only brings anti-democratic exclusionary practices into society, but also brings up unsolvable contradictions and faulty thinking. Is the social construction named God really busy planning who will win the American elections? Do human actions have nothing to do with political results? Is all social life really planned in advance by a creature that historically seems to have used very little time for planning how to eliminate social injustices or economic inequalities, unless these of course, are part of his plan? Most telling, through history, who have been the main beneficiaries of this particular God’s social planning?
Cruz and karaoke evangelism
Ted Cruz is perhaps the candidate with the more vociferous evangelic message in the electoral trail. It was not coincidental that the launching of his presidential campaign was announced at Liberty University in Virginia, an academic institution founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell that, according to the Guardian (March 23,2015), advertises itself as a “training ground for the Champions of Christ “ and the “Largest Christian College in the World”. Cruz peppered his announcement speech with constant repetitions in his notorious karaoke sermon-like style: “our rights do not come from man; they come from God almighty”. In the same event Cruz also openly courted the Christian right by saying: “Today, roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting. They are staying home […] Imagine instead millions of people of faith going out to the polls and voting our values”.
For Cruz, ‘voting our values’ means clearly the unification of conservative Christian faith with governance and public policies, as exemplified by his message to Pastors in America titled “Stand with God and Be on the Right Side of History”. Again, as we saw with his colleague Rubio, with Cruz, we witness the clear intention of Christian conservatism to eliminate the separation of church and state, effectively erasing the First Amendment charge to separate politics and faith of religion and culture, and the poorly concealed desire to impose the values of Christian conservative evangelism upon the rest of civil society.
But while political evangelism has been busy conducting its theocratic proselytism hoping to agglutinate most of the American population around its values, their campaign shows mediocre results and a wretched misreading of contemporary American culture, which in spite all of its structural and social inequalities is a pluralistic religious society with a population that does not want to automatically echo right wing conservative Christian values. Indeed, not all the three hundred and fifty thousand congregations mentioned above are evangelical, monotheistic and conservative. Among them we find not only non-conservative, non evangelical Christian centered congregations, but also congregations based on the Muslim faith, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and other American Native and Afro-Caribbean congregations just to mention a few.
Equally important, in terms of the pluralism that characterizes the U.S., is the doubling of atheists in America in the last several years, according to the Pew Research Center, and they tend to distance themselves from the Republican Party. In a 2014 report, the same center states that 22.8 percent of the U.S. population is religiously unaffiliated, atheists made up 3.1 percent of the population, and agnostics make up 4 percent of the U.S. population. The 2014 General Social Survey reported that 21 percent of American had no religion with 3 percent being atheist and 5 percent being agnostic.
Again, if we claim, as Cruz does, to have God on our side or that standing on God’s side means being on the right side of history, the statement becomes antidemocratic, exclusionary, and contradictory. Which God is he talking about? Just the Christian God? How come this God carries more value than other Gods? Who determines what the right side of history is? How can we measure the political performance of this God and his self-assigned divine candidates without looking at the social conditions where humans live? What is the evidence of Ted Cruz’s connection with this entity call God? Or is he bringing into existence this connection simply by saying that such a connection exists?
Let’s distance ourselves from the anti-democratic karaoke machine of theocratic evangelism and get ourselves closer to reason and social justice.
Enrique Quintero was a political activist in Latin America during the 70’s, then 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.
By Jean Eberhardt
The Thurston-Santo Tomás Sister County Association (TSTSCA) has hosted numerous community exchanges as part of our sister city relationship with Santo Tomás, Chontales, Nicaragua. Since 1988, over 150 people from Thurston County have visited Santo Tomás, and 31 tomasin@s have visited Olympia. Sometimes always they include learning about reality on the ground, be it here or there. Throughout the typical three-week long delegation visits to the states, TSTSCA members accompany our guests to local schools, the public colleges, libraries, museums, and other relevant organizations in the greater Olympia area. Some context:
TSTSCA began as a part of the decentralized sister city movement that sought to “sister” with communities in countries with which the US was at war, overtly or covertly. During the 70s and 80s in Nicaragua, a brutal dictator was toppled, followed by an impressive social and economic revolution that was attacked by the US funded contra war. All of this drew the attention of many people in the US who demanded an end to funding the war that caused incalculable amounts of suffering, while demanding respect for a sovereign nation. After the war ended and Nicaragua shifted into a long period of disastrous neoliberal economics, TSTSCA maintained its relationship with Santo Tomás by supporting projects including a children’s free lunch program, small public library, and the construction of different education and health care facilities. Nicaragua entered yet another economic era seven years ago with the re-election of the Sandinista Party, access to cheap Venezuelan oil making possible the financing of poverty reduction projects, signing on to the CAFTA-DR Free Trade Agreement and a further opening of export markets (coffee, textiles, gold, beef, sugar, seafood). A controversial inter-oceanic canal has been given the green light to proceed, displacing farmers, with volatile opinions being sounded across the country. A new law is now in effect to squelch protests and demonstrations.
In the midst of many challenges in both of our countries, we are honored to host the 11th community delegation from Santo Tomás, which will arrive in Olympia on April 19th and depart for home on May 12th, 2016. This delegation will be largely focused on education, with a good dose of cultural pride.
Please join us and connect with the delegation from Santo Tomas.
The post Nicaraguan visitors from our sister community will be here April 19 to May 12 appeared first on Works in Progress.
By Erika Takeo
During April 22-24, 2016, Marlen Sánchez and Nils McCune of the Nicaraguan Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC, or Rural Workers Association), will visit Olympia as part of a West Coast speaking tour. Agroecology, a form of low-input, politicized, sustainable agriculture, is seen as a key pillar to constructing food sovereignty, or the right of all peoples to define their own local, culturally appropriate food systems. The ATC is a founding member of La Via Campesina, an international social movement made up of peasants, agricultural workers, women farmers, fishermen and women, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, and migrants around the world that coined the term food sovereignty.
Sánchez and McCune will highlight the ATC and Via Campesina’s work to construct the Instituto Agroecológico Latinoamericano (IALA) Mesoamérica, or the Latin American Institute of Agroecology of Mesoamerica in Santo Tomás, Nicaragua. While IALAs exist in other parts of Latin America, this would be the first regional, agroecology peasant university of its kind for Central America. Another group from Santo Tomás will be in Olympia at the same time as the ATC representatives for the speaking tour, organized through the Thurston-Santo Tomás Sister County Association. These two groups look forward to meeting one another in the States! Sánchez and McCune also look forward to meeting with Evergreen State organic agriculture students and local farmers through the South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust.
Bios of the two Via Campesina delegates:
Marlen Sánchez is the National Coordinator of Agroecology for the ATC. She was one of the first graduates of IALA Paulo Freire, located in Venezuela, and is currently the director for implementation of IALA Mesoamerica.
Nils McCune is a student and researcher in agroecology, as well as a technical team staff member with the ATC. He represented the ATC at the International Forum for Agroecology in Mali in 2015. He is a regular translator at Via Campesina international meetings (and can serve as translator during this proposed project). He is also the liaison to Friends of the ATC, the sister solidarity organization of the ATC.
The post The Peasant Agroecology for Food Sovereignty and Mother Earth tour appeared first on Works in Progress.
I was born in Kentucky on a dark and stormy night
My daddy bit the cord in half and I commenced to fight
And when I learned to understand, my Mama, she would say
Just you be a good boy, son, and life will be o.k.
Then I passed twelve grades at the consolidated school
Which is where I met ol’ Joanie, my Barren County jewel
I served in the Air Force, then came directly back
And we took accommodations in a yellow shotgun shack
I swung a framing hammer for well nigh thirty years
Each day we’d roll the cords up, then we’d drink us several beers
When I walked in the kitchen, Joan would fry me up a steak
And Joanie, when the lights went out, was icing on my cake
On weekends I would hunt or fish, I’d take along ol’ Dan
Seems I’d get back to discover June had added to the clan
And with each new arrival I’d tack on some extra space
You never lack for doin’ with six kids around the place
One frosty mornin’ I slipped off a second story deck
I landed ‘cross a footin’, it like to broke my neck
And some #7 rebar sorta grazed my brain
I got hooked on Oxycontin and it weren’t just for the pain
So now we’re on the county / mortal short of cash
Some nice folks show us charity and others call us trash
There’s nothin’ much that I can do but sit and watch the kids
And every single one of them does just what we did
Now some say life’s a blessing and some say life’s a load
And some think our redemption is broke down on some back road
‘Though I got no college learning I can point you out the way
Y’all just mind your mamas good and life will be o.k.
Life will be o.k.
By Liza Rognas
Remember when you were a teenager in a life-sciences class where genetics was first explained to you using Mendel’s experiments with peas? We all learned about dominant and recessive genes and their manipulation, producing hybrids. Genetic manipulation explained why Mendel could produce different colors of peas and pea blossoms; and why wolves don’t look like golden retrievers even though they’re all canines; and how brown-eyed parents could produce blue-eyed or green-eyed babies but not the reverse. If you want a refresher course on basic Medelian genetics, check-out this video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWqgZUnJdAY
On February 19, 2016, Washington State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, sued the Grocery Manufacturers Association, whose members contributed $11+ million to defeat Initiative 522, a 2013 state ballot measure that required foods sold in the State of Washington to carry a GM/GE label if those fresh foods, or the ingredients of processed foods, were genetically modified or genetically engineered. (Read more about this later in this article.)
The great concern is about the unintended consequences of GM foods upon human health and ecosystems. There’s a huge difference between selective breeding—that which produces hybrids within a specific varietal, like peas, carrots, cabbage or grains using controlled parent plants and controlled pollenation techniques –and GMOs, where genetically modified organisms become something other than what their genetic make-up produced. For example, a hybrid plant like wheat, hybridized from Triticum grass stock and domesticated by humans about 10,000 years ago—becomes a GM plant when genes or parts of genes from other organisms or chemicals are inserted into its cells using a technique called gene-splicing.
Soy beans, corn, rice and wheat are among the most genetically-modified, human/animal “food/feed” products in the world. For example, studies now show that genetically modified (GM) wheat, engineered to be high in protein (high gluten) and resistant to disease and to pesticides/herbicides, contain non-wheat amino acids that can penetrate cell walls. Emerging research shows that the GM wheat used throughout the US food industry may be contributing to Celiac Disease. Industrial agriculture has countered the debilitating effects of high gluten, GM wheat, by producing and marketing gluten-free products, at a much higher price, to the general public.
Another example can be found in beef. The average feed-lot beef steer slaughtered between age two and three ingests almost 100 liquid pounds of petrochemicals through his diet every year. Where does he get this food? From high protein, GM food-like, feed pellets (corn and soy) grown specifically for feed-lot animals, laced with petroleum-rich insecticides/herbicides, and fertilized with petroleum-based “nutrients.” The bovine species, Bos Taurus, cannot well digest corn or soy. Cattle evolved eating grass, not legumes (soy) and not GM corn —which moved from a grass, to a grain, to a starch under human manipulation as hybrids, but which is now almost totally GM, except for heritage corn plants found in Central and South America.
Cattle in feedlots eat GM corn and soy food pellets to fatten them up so they can be slaughtered at about 1500 pounds at two years, rather than the 3-5 years a grass-fed steer takes to gain that weight. Feedlot cattle get sick from this fast-fattening feed diet. They are then inoculated with antibiotics, followed by doses of bGH (bovine growth hormone) to boost their weight to maximum before the final moment of slaughter.
What happens when cattle are force-fed corn and soy, which make them sick, and are then injected with antibiotics? They get diarrhea. The most common infection they harbor from being fed food they cannot eat is E.coli. The ethal strain of E.coli known as 0157:H7 evolved in the gut of feedlot cattle. Poisoned beef poisons humans who eat it—witness the decades of E.coli reports/recalls for grocery store beef, fast-food restaurants and frozen “food-like” meat products.
In the larger, human-only, industrial “food” world: GM “food” producers create plant seeds infused with genetically spliced, high-protein nut, various bacteria and chemical genes. These GM plants are designed, not mated in a Mendelian fashion. Genetic engineering is now used by major food corporations to manufacture food-like substances for industrial food production. Biotechnology now makes it possible to insert genes, or parts of them, folded into proteins from one plant family to another (Brazil nut proteins into a wheat clone); and from plant genes into animal genes, creating an assorted mix of common GM “foods” as whole ingredients or as additives to processed human food products. One worst-case result? Latex-intolerant allergic reactions by people ingesting genetically modified corn and soybean products.
As consumers, we can escape the spiral of GM food -produced or -enhanced diseases by refusing to buy and eat them. Of course the question is, how do we know what is genetically modified and what isn’t? That was the question fueling informed citizens of this state to successfully qualify I-522—the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure—which appeared on the Washington ballot in November 2013.
Back to the politics of the I-522 campaign and the current case before the Washington Supreme Court.
In 2012, support for I-522 was coordinated by YES on 522, a group that included individual citizens, food activists, small-scale producers and several food co-operatives such as PCC Natural Markets, Olympia Food Co-op, and retail grocers like Whole Foods Market. It was also promoted by the Organic Consumers Association, and by Washington and Oregon Tilth. Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps issued a special label in support of I-522.
Labor groups supported the initiative, including the Washington State Labor Council, over 350 businesses, 25 seafood groups, 150 farms, more than 100 other groups, 45 elected officials and many individuals. Reported state campaign donations for YES on I-522 totaled more than 13,000 donors, giving $6.2 million with a median donation of approximately $25.
Full disclosure by author: I gave $50 to the I-522 initiative.
The largest donation in opposition to I-522 was $7.2 million from the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The top five contributors in opposition to I-522 were the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences LLC, and Bayer CropScience.
Currently, the State of Washington is suing the Grocery Manufacturers Association for concealing major contributions from international companies: PepsiCo, Nestlé USA and Coca-Cola each gave hidden donations of more than $1 million to the NO on I-522 campaign. The opposition to I-522 raised nearly $17.2 million, with most of the money coming from “food” companies Pepsi, Nestlé and Coca-Cola, and the rest from “food” chemical/biotech companies: Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, and Bayer.
Do you want to eat “manufactured food?” Or do you want to eat real food? Let’s imagine a world we can take food for granted. A real food world where peas are peas, carrots are carrots, lettuce is lettuce, beets are beets, right? Is that a good assumption?
So, here’s the take-away, in popular media parlance:
Eat real food, fresh and organic, locally and seasonally grown.
Don’t buy mass-produced wheat, soy or corn products.
Reduce or eliminate highly processed foods.
Buy organic, sprouted grain breads and bread products.
Give your money to the farmer at the market, or to local vendors.
Keep in mind that every dollar you spend in locally-owned businesses circulates in your community 12 times before it leaves. Every dollar spent at a big-box corporate store leaves about 10-15 cents in the local economy when it’s spent. The rest, let’s say, 85 cents, immediately translates into corporate profits and dividends to shareholders within about 48 hours.
If we want to have safe local food, we must support our local organic growers. These farmers—small-scale (less than 20 acres)—are all around us. Most of them are organic or nearly so. In Thurston, Lewis and Mason counties, buying local and organic means no GMOs in the plant world; many opportunities to buy plants or seeds from heritage growers—very tasty and often higher in nutrients; no GM feed, antibiotics or hormones in the meat world; no weird, genetically modified cells making crazy diseases in our human bodies or being flushed into the rivers, aquifers and oceans from which we draw water and life.
Readers, I’ll wager that my words confirm what you already know. I’m excited that our state’s Attorney General is calling the question and proving the point related to campaign financing and corruption. I must say that I’m dancing with glee that in this instance, local organic food may win the day against the behemoth corporations on the GMO issue.
Full disclosure: I did drink a cola at a locally-owned restaurant the other day. While drinking the soda, I never once confused it with food.
Liza Rognas is an academic librarian and a research professional, and has been a community food security activist and researcher for 20 years in Washington State.
The post Food, food-like substances, and the GMO vs. real food legal debates in Washington appeared first on Works in Progress.
GMA’s PAC made $222,245 in political contributions at the federal level in 2014—63 percent to Republicans and 37 percent to Democrats—according to the Center for Responsive Politics. According to the Sunlight Foundation, the top recipient of GMA political contributions from 1989 through the second quarter of 2014 was Democratic Senator Ron Kind of Wisconsin. GMA made $11,073,608 in political contributions at the state level in 2014, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. It has spent $41,052,904 in lobbying at the federal level from 1989 through the second quarter of 2014, according to the Sunlight Foundation. It spent $4,620,347 lobbying at the federal level and had eight lobbyists active in three states in 2014.
Liza Rognas is an academic librarian and a research professional, and has been a community food security activist and researcher for 20 years in Washington State.
The post What the Grocery Manufacturers Association spent lobbying nationwide appeared first on Works in Progress.
The erasing of Bernie Sanders
By Emily Lardner
Language matters. How we name things, how we describe things, the things we choose talk and write about—all of those choices shape the shared world of meaning in which we live. It’s not that language creates our material reality, as I argued with a student last quarter. The socio-economic status of the family one is born or adopted into, the physiological features upon which race is constructed—these are not created by language. How we understand, interpret, make meaning of class and race—these are functions of language and power.
We are witnessing this phenomenon of meaning making in the current primary races. Ted Cruz, a Republican contender with approximately 18% of the total number of available Republican delegates, is considered by many in his party to be a viable alternative to Donald Trump, who currently has approximately 30% of the total number. Simultaneously, Bernie Sanders, with 24% of total number of elected delegates (975 as March 28) as compared with Hillary Clinton, with 31% of the total elected delegates (1243 as of March 28), is being asked by leaders in the Democratic party to step aside. “Viable” is not a function of mathematical percentages, but rather of the preferences of those in power—the political and financial establishment.
Hayakawa’s semantic parable—A story for our times
In 1991, Republican Senator S. I. Hayakawa published Language in Thought and Action, a treatise on the nature of language and its effects on perception. In it, he offered a “semantic parable”—the story of two communities hit by a recession, each with about one hundred heads of families unemployed. In A-town, leaders believed that giving people something for nothing would undermine their character. On the other hand, their families were starving. What to do? The town leaders opted to give unemployed families “welfare payments” but made sure getting those payments was difficult and demoralizing.
In B-ville, leaders faced a similar situation—a recession, and a hundred heads of families unemployed. Rather than opting for welfare, the leaders in this town determined that these families had contributed to—had helped insure–the overall wellbeing of the community. Instead of welfare investigators, B-ville appointed claims adjusters, to ensure people were paid.
As the parable goes, A-town relations festered. B-ville thrived. The point of the parable, Hayakawa suggested, was not that people can give different names to the same thing, but rather, that the different names we give make the things we are naming different. Social insurance in B-ville is not the same as welfare in A-town.
Where is Bernie Sanders?
I should have known better. On March 21, while I was working on a draft of this article, I got a ping on my smartphone informing me that CNN was airing its town hall, featuring all five current presidential candidates. In spite of my skepticism (why would they all agree to a debate/discussion now?), I turned on the television, only to find that what CNN calls a “town hall” was actually a series of one-on-one interviews with candidates.
I should have turned the TV off. When an ad for the town hall aired several minutes later, encouraging viewers to stay tuned, it featured four of the five candidates. Kasich, Cruz, Trump, and Clinton—no mention of Senator Sanders. I kept watching. Hours later, I can report that the organization of this serial set of interviews perplexed me, going neither by alphabetical order nor by frontrunner status. CNN started with the three Republicans, and aired the interviews in order from least delegates to most—Kasich, Cruz, then Trump. That put Trump in prime time. When they switched to the Democrats, they reversed order, and began with Clinton, and then finally, hours later, ended with Sanders. From all appearances, he was the least wanted guest at the party. What’s up?
Provoking the establishment
All Senator Sanders has done is wage a successful campaign that is, in its very essence, a call for significant change. As he puts it on his campaign website,
“The American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, or do we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all? Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy? These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.”
Those who wield the economic and political power of the billionaire class are part of the “establishment”— a term that’s being used with increasing frequency to describe those who wield power in our society. As Robert Reich put it in a recent article, “there’s no official definition of the ‘establishment’ but it presumably includes all of the people and institutions that have wielded significant power over the American political economy, and are therefore deemed complicit. At its core are the major corporations, their top executives, and Washington lobbyists and trade associations; the biggest Wall Street banks, their top officers, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers, and their lackeys in Washington; the billionaires who invest directly in politics; and the political leaders of both parties, their political operatives, and fundraisers. Arrayed around this core are the deniers and apologists – those who attribute what’s happened to ‘neutral market forces,’ or say the system can’t be changed, or who urge that any reform be small and incremental.”
Senator Sanders’ campaign is grounded squarely in challenging the people and the institutions, including the media, that have exercised power over the American political economy. In response, major media companies are trying to erase the Sanders’ campaign. CNN’s pseudo-town hall is but one example.
Democratic Senators are in on this erasure too. According to Burgess Everett, writing for Politico on March 21, 2016, a group of Democratic senators, backers of Hillary Clinton, are calling on Sanders to stop pointing out differences between his positions and Clinton’s, and instead focus on the inadequacies of Donald Trump’s policies. The issues where differences can and should be ignored, claim these senators, for the sake of party victory, include trade, financial regulation, and foreign policy.
I’m not a party activist, and I’ll never be chosen to be a super-delegate, but in my role as an ordinary person trying to make sense of our political system, I found myself wondering what the vaunted delegate counts mean, in terms of actual voter turn-out.
I did some digging, and found two useful sources. Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida, keeps a website entitled “United States Election Project” (http://www.electproject.org/2016P). There, he keeps track of voter turn out for all the primaries and caucuses, noting the total number of the voting age population in a state, the voting eligible population, and the number that turned out for the primary or caucus, Democrats and Republicans. He includes notes about where he gets his data, and even a quick look at his table confirms that the number of people making decisions about the delegates awarded to these candidates is much smaller than the number of eligible voters. The highest voter turn-out so far has been in New Hampshire—52.4%. The lowest turnouts, under 10% of eligible voters, occurred in Nevada, Minnesota, Kansas and Maine.
I used the Real Clear Politics website to get a current delegate count (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/democratic_delegate_count.html). One thing about this site, in comparison with the New York Times site, is that super delegates aren’t lumped into the delegate totals. (If you are trying to track elected delegates to get a sense of what people want, the New York Times site is maddening.) After doing some simple math, I realized my concerns about biased reporting and the irresponsible use of language are well placed. For example, in Massachusetts, Sanders won 45 delegates and Clinton won 46. The Washington Examiner wrote, “Hillary Clinton has won Massachusetts, dealing a major blow to her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.” In the Illinois primary, Sanders won 67 delegates and Clinton won 68. The Washington Post headline the following day read “Super Tuesday II: Clinton sweeps Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina.” In fact, in terms of delegates awarded in all four states, Clinton won 339 while Sanders won 239—in other terms, Clinton won 58.7% of the combined delegate totals, and Sanders won 41.3%. In terms of actual numbers of people who participated in those four Democratic caucuses, 3,525,243 voted supported Clinton, but 2,449,745 supported Sanders. Clinton won, but the nearly 2.5 million people who voted for Sanders have been swept under a rug of easy rhetoric.
It’s not over—nearly half the delegates are still to be delegated
As I write this article, about half the Democratic delegates have been elected. Half remain to be chosen, by people in the states whose primaries and caucuses fall after March 28. As strong as the establishment resistance is to Bernie Sanders’ candidacy (to say nothing of Trump’s, that that’s another story), so too are the millions of people who disagree with the Democratic party establishment that “trade, financial regulation, and foreign policy” are minor matters. In fact, we are living in—and actively shaping—a moment in U.S. history where the political and financial elite are being challenged through the democratic process in a new way. Even if the mainstream media won’t carry the story, this moment of political foment is real.
Emily Lardner lives and works in Olympia, Washington.
The lonely road of a local contract worker
By Michael Wilson
When I retired a few years ago my wife and I moved to Olympia so that I could finish my college degree. I had hoped to find some sort of employment after college. Unfortunately that didn’t work as planned so I took a job as a contractor delivering newspapers to help make ends meet. That proved to be an interesting experience.
The Uber or Gig Economy, as contracting is being called, has been with us for some time and in the news recently. Many different fields are represented. Some workers are doctors or software designers. Others are janitors and landscape workers.
I signed a contract when I went to work for this company that spelled out my responsibilities. If I had had some legal advice of my own I might have had second thoughts about taking the job but at the time that was not really an issue since I had no plans on being there more than about eighteen months. I had delivered newspapers when I was a kid and I had spent considerable time in retail so I knew how to treat a customer. I wanted to pay off a couple of bills, put a few dollars away and this job would have done that. For the most part I was on my own. I had no one looking over my shoulder. If I made a mistake I fixed it. In some instances I was charged three dollars for an error but for the most part I took care of my business without many problems.
To some two-hundred customers I delivered six papers, a local one and two others from in the state as well as the USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, and the New York Times. It was a fairly simple job one where I showed up at 1 a.m., picked up the papers as they came off the truck, inserted the comics and ads which was done daily except on Mondays. For some reason Mondays were the only days the comics were inserted as the papers were printed. The plastic bags the papers come in are purchased by the carriers and many of us inserted the papers in the bags before we left the warehouse. I was told that the company once paid for the bags and rubber bands but shifted the costs to the carriers a few years ago.
If there was a sports event on Sunday we could plan on spending more time waiting for the Monday papers to arrive. Add to that three hours a week at home updating my route list. For this I earned about a thousand dollars a month or about six to seven dollars an hour. From that I then took out my gas and other expenses which dropped my income. The time spent on the job varied but the work was about 30 to 35 hours a week.
On my first route I was given a monthly gas allowance. On the second one with just a few less miles I didn’t receive gas allowance. I was fortunate in that the routes I ran during the time I was working there generally were about 45 miles. Some people had routes that were eighty or more miles and one man told me he drove over 120 miles a night.
The first day or two on the job I rode with the carrier I was going to replace at my own expense. The third day I drove and she received no pay. From then on the route was my responsibility and it then took me a couple of weeks to get it down so that I could drive it without wondering if I had delivered to all of my customers. This was my first route with the company and I didn’t know what really to expect from them in terms of assistance but the job was not complicated. Even though the pay was low I would be able to pay off some of our bills and there was no one leaning over my shoulder criticizing my work.
Other carriers told me that according to state law the route supervisors are not allowed to tell you what to do and they also are not allowed to provide much in the way of advice or explain any best practices. In my case the first route I ran was easy. The woman I took it over from handed me a well maintained route map of customers that showed me the best way to run the route. On the second route the map I was given to work from was three years old. Fortunately I did get an alphabetical customer list. I was then left with the task of matching the names up with the list that showed which order the streets were in and then place the customers in order of their address.
The weather complicated things. I dealt with downed trees blocking the road on a couple of nights. I also had to contend with elk, deer, lots of raccoons a few dogs and even one bear. All made life interesting. Then there were the drivers whom I will assume were drunk. Two nights in a row I dodged cars that ran stops signs. There was the night I had to pull into a driveway to avoid a pickup truck. I heard him before I saw him come around the curve and I was lucky that I did hear him. He was in my lane coming at me at about 60 mph.
There were the occasional accidents, ambulances and damage done by those who decided that running over mail boxes late at night and knocking over every trash can they could see was a fun time.
My wife who doesn’t drive because of a disability rode with me sometimes. That was mainly to give her something to do but I also felt safer with her in the car. I didn’t like of the idea of her being left overnight in the apartment by herself. Shortly after I started she had a relapse and had to stay home instead of riding along with me. A few months after I started the opportunity for a route closer to where we lived became available. I asked for a transfer since I felt it might be better for me to be closer to home in the event that she might need me in an emergency. The route supervisor that I was working for at the time agreed but also asked me to take on another route as well. I had my doubts because of the time involved but agreed to give the two routes a try.
It didn’t take me two weeks to realize that combining the two routes wasn’t going to work. Being new to both routes ended up putting me late getting done on the second one and I ended up with too many complaints. I was the one running the routes and had agreed to give it a try but somewhere along the line management should have had a better idea as to how long it took to do both especially when I was new to both of them. In the previous months I had been told by another carrier that it generally took three to four weeks to get a route down so that you could get done in time. As a result of being late I was charged three dollars for each complaint which came out of my paycheck. The fact that I was new to both routes didn’t seem to register with management and my effort to appeal the penalty fell on deaf ears. Part of the reason I had no luck in reducing the charges might have had something to do with the fact that the route supervisor who had started me on the two routes was dismissed a few days after I started on the second route.
I walked into the office one morning and asked to be relieved of the second route. In response another of the supervisors commented that he didn’t think it was going to work out in the first place. Common sense had gone out the door but I still had to pay the financial penalty for the late papers on the second route.
A few days after I had turned the second route over to someone else I received a call from a woman saying that she had not received her television guide and needed one that day. I explained that I was no longer the carrier but she insisted. I called the supervisor who told me he was well out of the area and he then asked if I could deliver the copy. I agreed to do so and drove it over to her but received no compensation from management. Maybe I should have complained but at least I didn’t have that problem to deal with so I shut up and let it go.
Theft was not much of a problem but on one section of my route someone was helping themselves to the papers but the problem was easily fixed. This section was the first part of the route and I just changed it and made it the last section I delivered. My wife was now riding with me again so I gave her a copy of the route list and asked her to check off the customers as we delivered them and when that was done I was fairly certain we had delivered to everyone especially when the inventory came out at the end of the day right on the money. I sent an email and notified the office of the theft problem but was still charged for it as if it was my fault. Once again I was ignored.
The theft problem happened in the fall but with the Thanksgiving season coming on and the amount of extra time it would take some days to get done as the weather changed I put the theft issue behind me.
Most of the carriers that I worked with gave out Christmas cards and they suggested I do the same. I was real happy with the response from my customers and the extra money that I received went towards paying down one of our bills. This meant I could reach my goal ahead of time.
I was getting close to finishing my first year with the job when I stepped out of the car at 4:15 one morning to toss a paper over a gate and I slipped or mistepped and went down like a brick and broke my hip. I was just about at the end of the route and if my wife hadn’t been there to go for help I would have been on the ground for some time until sunrise and someone noticed me. One of the residents came out at the early hour to help thanks to my wife’s efforts and called 911 who sent an emergency team. I just remember thinking that if I could get back in the car I would finish the route and then go to the hospital. Instead I went to the hospital in an ambulance where I went into surgery and spent the next two days somewhat sedated. I found out later that my wife finished the route with one of the supervisors. A few days after the accident one of my fellow workers came by to see me and informed me that the company had found someone to take my place which I understood since I had my doubts that I would be up and about any time soon.
This experience confirmed a few things for me and it also showed me society will have some problems as this business model grows.
I went into the hospital on February 9th and on the 23rd I experienced some complications. On April the 3rd I was released. A couple of days later I called the distribution office and asked for my check from February. Since I had worked about a third of the month I thought I might have $200 to $300 coming. Instead I was informed I was owed nothing because mistakes made by my replacement had eaten up my income. Unfortunately I didn’t have my thinking cap on straight when I was in the hospital since I was sedated for the first couple of days and hadn’t made any arrangements for a replacement. I was also told that since I had not given a thirty day notice or found a replacement I violated the contract and was lucky the company wasn’t taking me to court to recover damages. I wonder what they would have done if I had died out there while delivering papers. Or what they would have done if a woman carrier had been sexually assaulted?
When I was offered this job I was handed a contract to sign that had been written by a lawyer. One would think for my own protection I should have hired a lawyer to read it for me. To do so would have cost a good deal which I could not easily afford. I can assure you that a number of the carriers were in financial difficulties and for them to afford a lawyer would have been nearly impossible. Because of this the company was in a much better position legally than any of them.
Pay was a big issue with the carriers. Some months into my first year, there was an increase in the price of the paper. As I recall none of that increase was passed down to the carriers and many spoke about this slight. For many carriers this was important because they were barely scraping by. Some carriers were making less than minimum wage and holding their cars together with duct tape and wire it seemed. One question led to another and some of the carriers were wondering out loud if they were getting all of their tips since the customers paid the office and the carriers had no idea what the tips actually were.
Then there were some simple things that were annoying such as the lack of regularly cleaned restrooms or a drinking fountain. Bottled water was brought in for the supervisors but nothing for the carriers as far as I know. There was a soft drink machine but many of us brought our own bottled water. When a new carrier took over a route they were expected to handout a flier with their contact information on it. I saw a couple of carriers who had no idea how they were to make the flier or where to make them. One young man didn’t have the tools to make the copies or the money to afford to have a shop run them off for him so the customers had no idea that a new person was on the route. Apparently that is still a problem because after being gone a year I get calls from customers who have not received a paper. My last call from a customer who did not receive a paper came on the morning of March 13th of this year which was over a year after I had been terminated by the company.
Fortunately family and friends helped us get through the medical problems.
Michael Wilson is a resident of Thurston County.
By Lennée Reid
revolution of consciousness circle of life wheel of dharma karma center of the universe we threads of web intertwined I black widow my thoughts energy expressed sound your ears receive here now we share one memory I find my mind wanders I lose my ego by soul go fly download peace of mind manifest this inside outside up down revolution round and round confusion state of shock genocide murder cops stop the flood of blood in the street flow of traffic stop the madness shut down the racist classist prison industry no more drug war stop break it down build new revolution round town small business down hit by outsourced offshore downfall resolution go green team buy organic local weed legalize the cure we need sacred pieces of mother earth gives birth to spirit I heed air I breathe earth I be water my blood pumps goddess Im on fire resolution spirit freedom rider awareness riser higher I’m up in the sky on cloud 9 where poetry bombs ignite blow minds point expands circumpunct gaia cup filled with sun I stare at light to see truth this fights blindness so when mindless guidance leads through the night rise in the dark to see brightly reflect like the moon nightly ponder round revolution dominance submission patent masters profit off slave wages your asses and taxes buy war machines fuck politicians that trickle down poverty goes round revolution idle no more get moving rise up lead yourself past this go forward to revolution baltimore ferguson slavery justice and freedom need revolution within you and me I see bondage migrant farm workers come on now please resolution be free show solidarity palestine Syria unistoten nican tlaca revolution refugees follow me to the sea level global warming rise up fukushima meltdown california dry up goes flames down fall ashes to ashes dust to dust revolution serves carcasses children starfish porpoises grolar bears know where glaciers splash iceberg crash titanic sinking down fall revolution around pollution rappelling off bridges kayaktivists stop drilling oil rig explodes coal train rolls cargo dark clouds go up chemtrails sprayed downfall pain and strife resolution revolution web of life sees all feels all holds all heals all watch now fuck me I am black widow
Lennée Reid, a geeky vegan-ish Universalist witch doctor slam poet activist survivor goddess on the spectrum, doesn’t like labels.
On Saturday evening, February 21, Works In Progress was contacted via Facebook by Steffany Brown. Her message, regarding a graphic comparing this nation’s use of animals to the enslavement of Blacks in the January 2016 issue, is as follows:
“As a black vegan and resident of Olympia, I would really like an explanation as to why you all felt it appropriate to publish this image by a white woman comparing black people to nonhuman animals, as if we still have not been compared to animals enough.
“Usually my people are compared to animals when police justify shooting us, imprisoning us, when the media compares our athletes to animals, when our impoverished communities revolt, etc., so I’m curious why a “progressive” media outlet found this in any way acceptable.”
Upon reflection, we agree. It was inappropriate.
This is what we have come to understand:
Though not all of us are vegan, or even vegetarian, we all believe that animals must be treated in an ethical and humane manner; however, in advocating for the rights of animals, we now realize that the methods used must not include co-opting the experiences of another oppressed group as an analogy. Those advocating for animal rights, including Works In Progress, must take into consideration how their words, images, or comparisons affect others, in this case, the African-American community. How can we possibly be effective in combating injustice, any injustice, when we trample on the sensitivities and emotions of others, especially those who still deal with oppression on a daily basis?
We, in Works In Progress, deeply regret the harm and insult our actions have caused, and we are grateful to Ms. Brown for her decision to challenge us.
The effect of an eight-justice court on decisions from the 9th Circuit
On January 4, 2016, an appeal to the Supreme Court was submitted in the matter of Stormans v. Wiesman. Stormans v. Wiesman is the lawsuit filed by the owners of Ralph’s Thriftway over the state’s regulations that effectively require stocking and dispensing emergency contraception like Plan B and ella. Since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) refuses to review the vast majority of cases that request appeal, there was no certainty at that time that Stormans’ petition for a review would be granted. Yet there was reason for Stormans to hope: SCOTUS overturns almost all of the cases it hears from the 9th Circuit appellate court (see “SCOTUS by the numbers”), so Stormans and their anti-choice, anti-gay legal advocacy group, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) were highly likely to prevail if the court agreed to hear the case. All that changed on February 13 when Scalia died.
Why does Scalia’s death matter?
On reproductive justice issues, four of the justices belonging to the court of January 4, 2016, tended to vote conservatively on most issues, including matters of reproductive justice: Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas. Four justices can be expected to protect women’s rights on choice issues: Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, although Sotomayor and Kagan haven’t voted on many cases yet. Justice Anthony Kennedy has a mixed record on many ideological issues, including reproductive healthcare, sometimes voting with the conservatives (as in Hobby Lobby) and sometimes voting with the liberals (as in Planned Parenthood v. Casey). With Scalia’s death, the prospect of winning a majority to sympathize with the Stormans’ claim that their first amendment rights are being infringed has been severely diminished; it is almost impossible to imagine any of the liberal justices siding with Stormans. In addition, there is a possibility that SCOTUS will be reluctant to grant review to controversial cases that are likely to deadlock while only eight justices are seated, reducing the chance that the case will even be taken up. May Scalia rest in peace.
What’s happening now?
Four justices must agree to take on a case when a petition for writ of certiorari is submitted. (A petition for a writ of certiorari, or “cert petition” are legal terms for the request for SCOTUS to hear a case on appeal.) After the state’s and the intervenors’ responses to Stormans’ cert petition are submitted in early March, the justices and their law clerks will review the petition, the responses, and a slew of amici curiae submitted by a host of “friends,” who have an interest in the outcome of the case, although they are not directly involved. At least one justice has to recommend discussing the case, and four justices must agree it’s worth reviewing in order for the cert petition to be granted. Another option is for the court to “GVR” (grant, vacate, remand) the case, which invalidates the 9th circuit’s ruling and requires the appellate court to rule again on the case—five votes are required for this action. The Court also has an infrequently exercised option, which also requires five votes, to issue a summary judgment which would simply reverse the lower court’s decision without it being argued before SCOTUS. Without Scalia, the Stormans case likely has one fewer vote for any of these options. A decision on whether to hear the case, deny it, or dispose of it in some other manner will most likely be announced in early to mid-April.
Because the Supreme Court receives thousands of cert petitions and can only rule on eighty or so, it has to reject most of the appeals requested. Therefore, the Court tends to take on cases where its rulings will have an impact. It often select cases that it considers to address questions of exceptional importance, as well as cases where appellate or state supreme courts have ruled differently on the same issue (called a “circuit split”); rulings when there’s been a circuit split provide clear legal guidance to the lower courts. It is possible that the current Court will shy away from granting cert to controversial cases which are likely to deadlock before a ninth justice is confirmed, which may spotlight the Court’s weakness in the face of an inability to muster majority opinions, as well as waste its time.
What happens if SCOTUS denies review to Stormans v. Wiesman?
Since the state won on appeal at the 9th Circuit, SCOTUS refusing to hear the case would constitute victory for the state, and the regulations would be affirmed and, presumably, enforced by the Board of Pharmacy. The regulations , created by the Washington Board of Pharmacy in 2007, require pharmacies to stock and dispense drugs needed by the community it serves, which would typically include emergency contraception products like Plan B and ella for most pharmacies. However, the regulations preserve the right of individual pharmacists to step aside if they have religious or conscientious objections to dispensing a drug, as long as the medication can be provided by the pharmacy in a timely manner. The distinction between the obligations of a pharmacy (must dispense) versus a pharmacist (may step aside) is a crucial one, and one that has been glossed over or misunderstood by the plaintiff’s attorneys, the 14 advocacy organizations that have filed amici curiae (see “With Friends Like These…” sidebar), and all of the media coverage of the appeal. Media outlets that have covered Stormans’ appeal have usually reprinted the ADF’s press release nearly verbatim, and are accompanied by headlines such as “Planned Parenthood is forcing pharmacists to dispense abortion pills.”
Although over 20 complaints were filed against Ralph’s Pharmacy in 2006 and 2007, most of the complaints were discharged without enforcement taken against Ralph’s. The remaining two complaints have languished because Ralph’s and the other plaintiffs have been protected from enforcement while their lawsuit was proceeding. Likewise, while the plaintiffs pursue an appeal, enforcement has been stayed by the 9th circuit until the final disposition of the case by SCOTUS. If the cert petition is denied, the stay will no longer be in force, and Ralph’s Pharmacy can be disciplined for refusing to comply with state regulations. Ralph’s could potentially lose their pharmacy license.
Is the case worth SCOTUS taking?
To avoid the fate of most writ petitions, which are denied, petitioners typically try to frame their case as especially significant, either because it addresses a question of exceptional importance, or because a ruling by the Supreme Court is necessary to resolve a circuit split. (The Stormans cert petition claims all this and more.) Resolving circuit splits is important, so that U.S. citizens have uniformly similar rights–at least in theory–regardless of which court’s jurisdiction they reside in. Unsurprisingly, Ralph’s lawyers have tried to spin their appeal as necessary to resolve a circuit split, arguing that circuit courts have ruled differently on when exemptions to state regulations may be granted. The lawyers claim that the state regulations unfairly target religious rights, because the pharmacy regulations being challenged allow certain non-secular exemptions to the requirement for pharmacies to dispense medication. The text of the regulations actually allows for very few exemptions, such as fraud, refusal to pay, and state and national emergencies which preclude maintaining stock of a medication. Does allowing any business to refuse to serve customers who won’t pay (a secular exemption) mean that all religious exemptions must be allowed, as well? This would seem to be the ridiculous endpoint of the plaintiff’s claim. The state’s response, due March 7, will presumably try to minimize the importance of the significance of the questions raised by Stormans v. Wiesman, and argue that the claim of a circuit split is deceptive.
Is the case worth pursuing for the petitioners?
If the Supreme Court were to grant review and the case deadlocked, two things could happen: the ruling of the lower court would be affirmed, and the regulations would be upheld without any precedent being set; or the case could be ordered for reargument at a later date.
Pursuing a Supreme Court case is expensive; preparing a cert petition has been estimated to cost at least $250,000. If review is granted and the case moves forward, costs to the petitioner can run into millions of dollars. Although it has not been disclosed how much the Stormans are paying out of pocket for their suit, it is very likely that they are paying nothing for attorneys’ fees, since litigation support is being provided by the ADF and the Becket Fund. Both organizations have been known to shop around for plaintiffs who can make a claim that allows them to pursue their aims of limiting choice, criminalizing homosexuality, and turning the U.S. into a theocracy. Thus the real question is, is it worth it for these advocacy groups to continue pursuing the case? Or would their money be better spent trying to oppress people in other ways? Andrew Hamm of SCOTUSblog confirmed in a private email that it is permissible for petitioners to withdraw a cert petition before the Court has decided whether to grant a review or not, but once the petition has been granted, it can only be withdrawn by consent of all parties to the case. Inquiries to the Becket Fund and ADF regarding their intentions of continuing the suit were not answered. However, it is possible they will not find it worthwhile to allocate their resources to a case that is likely to fail. The advocates want win cases that allow for the expansion of religious influence in American life; protecting Kevin Stormans from the moral taint of stocking Plan B in his pharmacy is not the primary issue for them. For ADF and the Becket Fund, a win would mean a Supreme Court ruling that set precedents that would have wide-ranging impact. (One example: the Hobby Lobby decision has been used to protect fundamentalist Mormons who violate federal child labor statutes. Praise the lord.) The only likely pathway to success for Stormans’ case post-Scalia would be to be granted a review, to have a deadlocked Court (catching Kennedy in a conservative mood), to be ordered for reargument after the composition of the Court changes, for a Republican to win the presidency, and for an anti-choice Justice to be nominated and confirmed prior to a successful reargument.
Speculation in the media regarding cases pending before SCOTUS has most often stated that when an eight-justice Court deadlocks, the decision of the lower court is affirmed, with the Supreme Court’s decision having no precedential value. However, Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog discusses another option for the Court: Reargument. Many important cases have been reargued before a ruling was issued: Citizens United, Roe v. Wade, and Brown v. the Board of Education. Reargument can be ordered to examine new questions regarding a case, or when cases are deadlocked: this appears to have happened twice since Roberts has been chief justice, while Samuel Alito’s appointment was pending. In cases where the lower courts have ruled differently on an issue, such as the upcoming group of cases challenging the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reargument offers a great prospect of a ultimately reaching a “single, clear” Supreme Court decision to guide the lower courts.
If Stormans v. Wiesman were to be heard and ordered for reargument, allowing a possibility of future victory, an additional benefit would be provided to Stormans: The continuation of the 9th Circuit’s stay that protects Ralph’s pharmacy and the two pharmacists joining in the case from enforcement of the regulations until SCOTUS resolves the case. Given the unlikelihood of a ninth justice being appointed quickly, due to obstructionists in the Republican Congress, this would protect them from the soul-crushing chore of providing birth control to women while the case languishes.
Is emergency contraception really that bad, anyway?
At the time the Ralph’s boycott began, in early summer of 2006, the mistaken belief that Plan B could prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum was widely held, and served as the basis for claims that emergency contraception (EC) was “abortifacient.” Since pregnancy is medically defined as beginning after implantation occurs and a female’s body starts producing pregnancy hormones, even contraception methods that prevent implantation cannot be accurately described as abortifacient. And it’s doubtful that implantation is prevented by any emergency contraception method other than an IUD, anyway. Back in 2006, it was hard to find information stating that the inhibition of implantation hadn’t been proven to occur due to EC pills; it was necessary to root around in medical journals. In the intervening decade, however, more scientific evidence has emerged, and it is now widely believed that EC works primarily by suppressing ovulation, so that no ovum is released post-coitally to be at risk for unwelcome fertilization. Currently, the labels for the European versions of Plan B and ella do not reference a possible inhibition of implantation at all. Both levonorgestrel (marketed in the U.S. as Plan B) and uristatl (ella) are manufactured in Europe by HRA Pharmaceuticals. HRA’s labelling for levonorgestrel (brand name: Norlevo), states that “Norlevo prevents ovulation and fertilisation.” Its labelling for ulipristal or “ellaOne” states that “ellaOne works by postponing ovulation.”
Since the lawsuit began in 2007, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Mayo Clinic have changed the information on their websites regarding the mode of action of EC, saying that “Emergency contraception most likely prevents pregnancy in the same way as regular birth control pills: By preventing or delaying the release of an egg from a woman’s ovaries [or] by preventing the sperm from fertilizing the egg” (NIH) and “Recent evidence strongly suggests that levonorgestrel doesn’t keep a fertilized egg from implanting” (Mayo Clinic). The FDA and Teva pharmaceuticals have not yet changed their labelling.
Anti-choicers have really taken the possibility of EC interfering with implantation and run with it: it was the basis for Hobby Lobby’s objections to complying with the ACA’s contraception mandate, and is claimed by a number of organizations that are currently challenging the ACA in the judicial system. Just think, if the FDA and Teva Pharmaceuticals had provided up-to-date information in their labelling of EC a few years ago, like everyone else does, the Supreme Court wouldn’t have had the occasion to rule that corporations have religious rights in the Hobby Lobby case. Insurance would cover birth control and the children could go to school! It is unclear why the FDA and Teva are so reluctant to change their labelling, but both affirmed recently that they have no plans to join the scientific consensus any time soon. Michelle Larkin of Teva stated “Teva cannot comment on the potential for future regulatory actions but continues to monitor the effectiveness and safety profile of drugs we produce. “Andrea Fischer of the FDA stated that “The FDA continues to monitor and review available scientific data information on levonorgestral emergency contraception as it becomes available and will communicate to the public as needed.” The time is now, Andrea; the public needs accurate information quickly before more rights are disproportionately afforded on the basis of “religious freedom” claims that really just amount to avoiding state and federal statutes and trying to control other people’s behavior.
Should you shop at Ralph’s and Bayview?
Ralph’s and Bayview’s owners care so much about denying woman birth control, they are willing to take it to the Supreme Court. When the Ralph’s boycott began, one of our aims was to put consumer pressure on Ralph’s, to encourage the pharmacy to change its policy regarding emergency contraception. It quickly became obvious that regardless of how strongly the will of the community was expressed, the owners of Ralph’s didn’t care. They are more concerned with the potential loss of a fertilized ovum, which happens regularly due to natural causes but has likely never happened due to EC, than they are with their pharmacy customers.
Women seeking EC may be in desperate straits; emergency contraception is often used by women who have been raped, who are victims of domestic violence, or who are in difficult financial circumstances which would make pregnancy a severe hardship. The Stormans are so cocooned by their bourgeois privilege, that they can blithely state (as their attorneys did in numerous legal documents), that there are 30 pharmacies within five miles of Ralph’s where women can buy contraception. Clearly, they assume that everyone can jump in their car and drive to Haggen, and if Haggen is out of stock to Walgreen’s in Lacey or Safeway in Tumwater. As far as they know, no one in Olympia ever has to walk, or lacks for bus fare, or has to hurry up and get to their job, or get to their second job. Of course, the barriers which confront pharmacy customers often affect grocery customers, as well, making it logistically challenging for some downtown and Eastside residents to shop elsewhere. But if you have a choice, don’t forget: Ralph’s doesn’t want you to.
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.
“Should the Ninth Circuit’s decision be allowed to stand, government will be emboldened to politicize every issue and compel obedience to its political views, leading to the development of a totalitarian state.” Public Advocate of the United States, et al
“This Court2 should ignore any invocation of a free-range federalism that escapes its constitutional fences.“ 13 states
“Just as a newly born human infant left alone in an environment without human milk or formula is no less human, neither is a human being at the embryonic stage of development any less human when a drug prevents the embryo’s nourishment that can only be received in the environment of uterine implantation..” Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists et al.
“Planned Parenthood maneuvered, with its allies inside state government, to capture a state regulatory agency in order to drive out of business those pharmacies which disagree with the group’s abortion rights ideology.” Public Advocate
“Until Washington’s adoption of the regulations at issue here, the nation had consistently refrained from compelling religious objectors to participate in abortions.” Bruderhof and Amish
“The logical extension of such efforts will be that Bible-believing Christians who do not yield to every aspect of the unfolding dictates of Secular Humanism will be unable to make a living except, perhaps, as common laborers.” Public Advocate
“Since 2013 it [Plan B] has been available on grocery and drugstore shelves without a prescription.” Christian Legal Society
“Their sincerely held religious belief in the inherent dignity of every human life thus leads them to ascribe moral value to pre-implantation human beings.” Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists et al
“No one was harmed by the tolerant and accommodating practice of facilitated referrals, which directed patients to nearby pharmacies.” National Association of Evangelicals et al
“Planned Parenthood organized a boycott of Stormans and its affiliated grocery stores.” Public Advocate
“The Obama Administration has demonstrated no reluctance to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to become complicit in abortion.” Public Advocate
“Their belief that it is gravely immoral to participate in the taking of human life is informed by the objective medical science establishing that a new, distinct, human being comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion.” Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists et al
“In this case, the Pharmacy Commission operates on an unstated religious axiom which elevates the right to kill one’s baby over the baby’s right to life.” Public Advocate
“Washington’s regulations threaten patient well-being in addition to threatening the religious liberty of individual healthcare professionals.” 4609 Individual Healthcare Providers
“If permitted to stand, the [9th circuit’s] decision threatens to consign religion and religious objectors to second-class status by prohibiting adherents from upholding their religious commitments while participating fully and equally in economic life.”
“The Rules thus operate to penalize religious referrals, not to ensure the broad availability of prescription drugs: it is business as usual under the Rules for most pharmacies, but it is open season for religious objectors.” Agudath Israel
“The district court noted that even while the State was pursuing enforcement action against Ralph’s, no Catholic-affiliated pharmacy in the state has ever been investigated for substantially the same conduct. The Ninth Circuit blithely dismissed this concern, stating that the ‘Commission did not investigate alleged non-compliance among Catholic pharmacies for the simple reason that the Commission received no complaints against those pharmacies.’” Agudath Israel
“Plan B and ella, have the capacity to end the life of a new human being.” Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists et al
“In fact, ella’s deadliness is confirmed by its high rate of “effectiveness.” Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists et al
“Much of the American elite could envision nothing worse than living in a nation where Christians enjoyed any degree of political power, for fear it would impinge their lifestyle choices.” Public Advocate
The post Highlights from the amici curiae briefs supporting Stormans’ appeal appeared first on Works in Progress.
.01%4.Percentage of paid petitions granted review5.46%5.Circuit court whose decisions were overturned most frequently on review during the 2014-2015 term
9th6.Percentages of cases from the 9th circuit that were overturned
100%7.Percentage of justices who were Catholic men on January 4, 2016, the day the appeal of Stormans v. Wiesman was filed
56%8.Percentage of justices who are Catholic men today50%9.Percentage of justices who attended Harvard or Yale Law School
100%10.Percentage of justices nominated by a Republican50%11.By a Bush50%12.Estimated cost of submitting a petition for a writ of certiorari (appeal to the Supreme Court)$100,000-$250,00013.Estimated cost of pursuing a case when SCOTUS grants review1$250,000 to millions14.Number of cases decided 5 to 4 in 2014-20151915.Percentage of those cases where Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote
1316.Number of amici curiae (friend of the court) briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in the matter of Stormans v. Wiesman, supporting the Storman petition for review
1417Number of amici curaie that mistakenly assert Washington pharmacy regulations apply to pharmacists, rather than pharmacies
1218Number of days from first picket at Ralph’s to the day Stormans filed an appeal to the Supreme Court
348819.Wordcount in Stormans’ petition for writ of certiorari902220.Number of words the Supreme Court guidelines allow9000
Sources: Supremecourt.gov; Cockle Bur Blog; Scotusblog.com; Factmonster.com; National Public Radio, Marketplace, March 25, 2013; SCOTUSblog Stat Pack, June 30, 2015; Amici curiae posted on becketfund.org; National and State Pharmacists’ Associations
The United Way’s ALICE report reveals the real situation of struggling workers
We are getting towards the end of the quarter at Evergreen, where I teach in the Evening and Weekend Studies Program, and I’ve been meeting with students to talk about their writing. These conversations are interesting, providing windows into the issues my students care about: better schools for all kids, and better working conditions for teachers; sensible, cost-effective strategies for dealing with issues of addiction; accessible gender neutral bathrooms as a step towards equity for transgender people; the dangerous ignorance about fire hazards, especially in urban areas edged with forest land; the lulling effects of the cult of celebrity, and the unethical behaviors it excuses, or, conversely, the racism that skews white fans’ perceptions of an outstanding professional athlete who is black.
In these fifteen to thirty minute sessions, as we talk about their assignments, “op-ed” columns intended not only to showcase students’ good thinking but also to highlight their rhetorical adeptness—a few students have used the word “political” to mean “we can’t really talk about this; it’s too controversial.” Structural inequality, systemic racism, and climate change have all fallen into that “too political” category—too political to talk about, too political to think about, too political for someone like me (an ordinary person, still in college) to tackle, particularly in a conversation with others. And so a discussion of fire safety circumspectly omits reference to climate change, the driving force behind the causes leading to increases in fire-conditions in our state. A discussion of the importance of designating Martin Luther King’s home as a National Historic Site elides a discussion of contemporary racism and inequality. Too political…
In a course where our focus is on the crafting of artful sentences in the context of pieces that matter to writers, we haven’t talked explicitly about what’s political. Until now, I’ve felt confident that my students and I share an understanding, at least a general one, about the world we live in: climate change is happening, fueled by human actions; income inequality is more pronounced now than it’s ever been in the U.S., the result of policy choices made over time; and racism is woven into the history and structure of our country.
Hearing students opt out of certain conversations, albeit written conversations with potentially distant readers, because those conversations are political, challenges me to rethink what the term political means. Wikipedia tells me that political means “of or pertaining to government or the public affairs of a country.” What my students need is a bridge to engaging in conversations about public affairs. The best coach I can think of for this is sociologist C. Wright Mills. In 1959, Mills explained the connection between public issues and personal troubles like this:
“When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are unemployed, that is an issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual.”
Making an argument for what he called the “sociological imagination,” Mills went on:
“Know that many personal troubles cannot be solved merely as troubles, but must be understood in terms of public issues—and in terms of the problems of history making. Know that the human meaning of public issues must be revealed by relating them to personal troubles—and to the problems of the individual life.”
The key to bridging the gap between the connotations of “political” as ideological, controversial, to be avoided, lies, I think, in helping people see the wisdom of Wright’s observations. Personal troubles must be understood as public issues, and public issues must be related to personal troubles. That’s the power of the recently released ALICE report by United Way.
Addressing public affairs: United Way’s ALICE report
United Way, a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose roots date back to 1887 and the early “community chest” organizations, released its ALICE Report on the Pacific Northwest in January 2016. The acronym ALICE stands for “asset-limited, income-constrained, employed”, and the ALICE reports represent United Way’s effort to quantify, as the report puts it, “the size of the workforce in each state that is struggling financially, and the reasons why.” The crux of the issue, the report shows, is that the cost of living is higher than the salaries that most jobs pay. Consequently, in 2013, 1.6 million households in the Pacific Northwest struggled to afford basic household necessities.
United Way is making the case that the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) underreports the financial hardships individuals face—the formula for calculating the FPL is outmoded, and it fails to adequately account for the cost of living in any given area. Moreover, not only are they advocating for a different measure, but they are also describing how any one family’s “personal troubles” affect the wider community. In a one-page table, the ALICE report categorizes major expenses for household daily functioning, and describes the consequences of being asset-limited, income-constrained, and employed on the family and the community (see table).
Not only does the ALICE report attempt to show the relationship between private troubles and public affairs, the report also provides a clear analysis about why the situation exists:
Low-wage jobs dominate the local economy. More than half of all jobs in the Pacific Northwest pay less than $20 per hour, with most paying between $10 and $15 per hour ($15 per hour, full time = $30,000/year). These jobs—especially service jobs that pay below $20 per hour and require only a high school education or less—will grow far faster than higher-wage jobs over the next decade.
The basic cost of living is high. The cost of basic household expenses in the Pacific Northwest is more than what most of the region’s jobs can support. The average annual Household Survival Budget for a Pacific Northwest family of four (two adults with one infant and one preschooler) ranges from $46,176 in Idaho to $52,152 in Washington—double the U.S. family poverty rate of $23,550.
Jobs are not located near housing that is affordable. During and after the Great Recession, both housing affordability and job opportunities dropped steeply. Housing continued to decline slightly from 2010 to 2013 and job opportunities on average stayed flat, so it remains difficult for ALICE households in the Pacific Northwest to find both housing affordability and job opportunities in the same county.
Public and private assistance helps but doesn’t help a person or family achieve financial stability. Assistance provides essential support for households below the ALICE Threshold but cannot lift all households to economic stability. Government, nonprofit, and health care organizations spend $21 billion on services for ALICE and poverty-level households in the region to supplement their income, but even that total is still 25 percent short of lifting all households in the Pacific Northwest above the ALICE threshold.
Political backlash to public affairs—making personal troubles more widespread
One month after the PNW ALICE report came out, Pam Eaton, head of the Idaho Retailers Association, presented a bill to the Idaho House Business Committee that would establish a state preemption when it comes to setting the minimum wage. Several towns in Idaho have tried, as yet unsuccessfully, to increase the minimum wage in their jurisdictions. The minimum wage in Idaho currently is $7.25 per hour—the same as the federal rate. In her effort to prevent the minimum wage from being raised in local jurisdictions, Eaton persuaded the House Business Committee to hold a public hearing on her bill.
Reducing personal troubles, addressing public affairs
“An improvement in job oppor-tunities, in the form of either an increase in the wages of
current low-wage jobs or an increase in the number of higher-paying jobs, would enable ALICE households to afford to live near their work, build assets, and become financially independent.”
Under our current conditions, about a third of all households in Washington State and across the Pacific Northwest cannot become financially stable, no matter how hard they work. The only thing that will change the financial situation of the ALICE families described in this report is a combination of better-paying jobs and affordable housing. As the United Way report puts it, “Ultimately, improvements in job opportunities and a decrease in the cost of household essentials would enable ALICE households to afford to live near their work, build assets, and become financially independent.” Ultimately, the personal troubles of so many people must become the focus of our public affairs. The only way the issues raised in this report will be addressed is if we reclaim the term “political” and use it to describe what we mean when we vigorously participate in political affairs with the aim of addressing widespread personal troubles—our pressing public affairs.
Emily Lardner lives and works in Olympia, Washington.