Recent Local Blog Posts

It matters that Gary Edwards cost Thurston County $500,000 in lawsuits

Olympia Time - Sun, 09/18/2016 - 9:36am

After his last run for sheriff 14 years ago, Gary Edwards faced a couple of lawsuits from his former opponents. Both now former sheriff deputies, they claimed that Edwards used the power of his office to discredit them during the campaign.

Edwards ended up beating both of them, in the primary and then eventually in the general election. But one of those lawsuits was settled for half a million dollars, and in the other, a jury sided against Edwards.

The lawsuits include an assortment of allegations, including harassment and retaliation against Ed Thompson and Glen Quantz. In the case filed by Quantz (in which the jury decided against Edwards), the former deputy claimed that Edwards delayed an internal investigation to make sure it was still open until after the election. The internal investigation ended up clearing Quantz.

I pulled together most of the news coverage of Edwards' time as sheriff in this file.

A judge eventually threw out the jury decision against Edwards in the Quantz case. He didn't decide the allegations weren't true, he only said that as a sheriff, Edwards had the "qualified immunity" to do as he wished.

These incidents and costly lawsuits are only the most interesting aspects of Edwards' service as sheriff. Another is a episode where he joined a fast speed pursuit into Pierce County on Interstate 5. Without telling anyone else involved in the pursuit, Edwards performed a "rolling slow down" during which the suspect (who escaped) his his unmarked car.

What gives me the creeps is that the lawsuits, the questionable tactics, all happened relatively recently. Up until now, I don't think anyone has brought up these issues.  Edwards has brought up issues of county commission actions that predate the current commission and obviously don't involve his opponent or anyone else running for county commission. But, his time as sheriff shows at the very least a management style and decision making that everyone should be able to question.

The value of an Evergreen education

Works in Progress - Thu, 09/01/2016 - 12:01pm

The responsibility of higher education to work toward alleviating wealth inequality

Setting the stage

We live in a time of unprecedented economic inequality in this country—unprecedented in severity, not in its existence.

Policy changes, like increasing the minimum wage, revising tax codes to make them more equitable, making health care more affordable, and funding child trust accounts (baby bonds) to promote asset building and reduce the racial wealth differences, hold promise for reducing economic inequality. But all those policy changes face stiff opposition—and if the income tax efforts in Washington State are any indication, too many won’t happen without a radical revision in our political organizing. The entrenched systems of power and privilege resist change. The most organized opposition in recent history, Bernie Sander’s bid to run as the Democratic presidential candidate, failed—at least in the short term. Without significant strategic organizing by those on the left, the dominant two party system that maintains the structures of inequality will continue apace.

Within this context, earning a college degree has taken on near mythical status as the most available means by which individuals can improve their own and their family’s economic status. Researchers and policy makers agree: people with more education have higher earnings.  On average, high school grads earn more than those without high school diplomas; college grads earn more than high school grads; and those with graduate degrees earn more than those with undergraduate degrees. The overall trend is clear: earning a college degree is a key to earning a higher income.

False dichotomy between learning and earning

Two factors—the uneven distribution of costs across race, ethnicity and family income that  are associated with going to college, and the uneven distribution of income across race, ethnicity and family income post-college—raises a third question for all students, but particularly for low-income students, Black students, and Latinx students: what exactly do you get in exchange for your tuition?

Some object to this line of questioning, arguing that focusing on student learning outcomes, one of the strategies used to assess and improve the quality of a college education, is part of a larger Neoliberal project aiming to “corporatize” universities. This position is short-sighted, even reactionary, and all too often expressed by those earning more than a living wage, sometimes with a lifetime guarantee awarded through the tenure process.

Indeed, higher education institutions find themselves existing in the context of corporatized public life where the distinction between the interests of corporations and those of individuals is still being sought through efforts to repeal Citizens United. For-profit colleges and universities too often make a profit at the expense of middle-class and working-class people who bought into the myth that a college degree would provide a rung on the proverbial ladder of opportunity. Too many administrators in higher education avoid questions about the quality of student learning, focusing instead on time to degree and rates of completion, as if the time-motion principles devised by Frederick Taylor in his early 20th century efforts to increase workers’ productivity could be applied to education. These dynamics effect all of education, not just higher education, and they merit resistance.

Resisting the call to focus on the quality of the education offered by colleges and universities to students, however, is antithetical to efforts to promote social justice, including reducing the wealth gap between Blacks and Latinxs and whites, and the employment opportunity gaps that exist between low-income families and families with higher incomes. Efforts to segregate conversations about learning from conversations about earning require educators to turn their backs on the material circumstances of students’ lives.

Costs of college

The Higher Education Act (HEA) signed by Lyndon Johnson in 1965 made college accessible to a generation of Americans. As Mark Huelsman argues in a paper written for in 2015, the HEA created a system of need-based grants, work opportunities for students, and interest-free loans to cover unmet financial needs. Interest-bearing student loans were used primarily by middle-class families. Nixon extended those policies, arguing to Congress that “no qualified student who wants to go to college should be barred by lack of money.”

More students entered college, but then, Huelsman writes, “our public officials began to renege on their promise to invest in the higher education system. States started cutting per-student funding at public institutions and modest increases in grant aid were dwarfed by rising tuition.” Simultaneously, middle-class and working-class incomes began to stagnate. Gaps in wealth between white and Black, and white and Latinx households increased. Post-recession, Huelsman writes, White households have a median net worth 13 times higher than the wealth of Black households, ten times higher than the wealth of Latinx households. Two decades ago, median net worth of white households was six times higher than Latinx households, and seven times higher than Black households.

The combination of increased costs, decreased grant support, stagnant wages, and pre-existing and growing gaps in wealth across race and ethnicity effects college students differently. In an article that appeared in a January 2016 issue of Children and Youth Services Review, researchers from the School of Social Work at Washington University use data from a national sample of low- and moderate-income households to examine racial and ethnic variation in education debt. They found that the odds of student loan indebtedness are twice as high for low- to moderate-income Black students as compared with their white counterparts. These disparities persist after graduation.

In another study, written for in 2016, Mark Huelsman describes the racial and class bias behind today’s levels of student borrowing like this: “The need to borrow for a four-year degree differs substantially by race and income. In fact, at public institutions, 81 percent of black students must borrow for a bachelor’s degree compared to 63 percent of white students. Low-income students—those who receive Pell Grants—are overwhelmingly more likely to borrow for a degree as well: 84 percent of Pell recipients who graduate must borrow compared to less than half (46 percent) of non-Pell recipients.”

Income after college

The racial and class bias present in student borrowing to go to college persists in income earned after college. In a memo on social mobility written for the Brookings Foundation in February 2016, Brad Hershbein presents data showing that the wages are lower for BA holders raised on low incomes than for those who were not. Hershbein writes: “college graduates from families with an income below 185 percent of the federal poverty level (the eligibility threshold for the federal assisted lunch program) earn 91 percent more over their careers than high school graduates from the same income group. By comparison, college graduates from families with incomes above 185 percent of the FPL earned 162 percent more over their careers (between the ages of 25 and 62) than those with just a high school diploma.”

Darrick Hamilton and William Darity (2016) make a related argument about the racial bias in income earned in a paper posted on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis website: “Black college graduates are about as likely as white high school graduates to be unemployed, and have the average household wealth of white high school dropouts. So even after potentially earning a degree, those who came to college with fewer savings are less likely to see an earnings and wealth boost associated with a bachelor’s degree.”

In another Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis publication, William Emmons and Bryan North show that between 1992 and 2013, the median income of college-grad white families grew 13 percentage points more than their non-college counterparts, and the median income of college-grad Asian families grew 31 percentage points more than their non-college educated counterparts. In that same period, the median incomes of Hispanic and Black college-grads fell 10 percent and 12 percent respectively, while the median incomes of their non-college counterparts rose by 16 and 17 percent. Clearly, Emmons and North argue, higher education alone doesn’t level the economic playing field.

Esoteric radicalism or genuine alternative: Evergreen State College at a crossroads

The Evergreen State College was founded nearly fifty years ago as an alternative public liberal arts college. At that time, it was considered a radical revision to traditional universities because of the way it organized its courses and evaluated student learning.

According to the College Scorecard, a website established by the federal government because of concerns that too many students were attending schools that didn’t serve them well, and leaving them saddled with debt, fewer than half of students who attend Evergreen earn more than high school graduates of a comparable age. That’s the case at 53% of institutions nationwide—a group that includes two-year, four-year, public, independent, and for-profit colleges and universities. Washington State colleges and universities do better, on average.  At 66 of 80 colleges and universities included on the College Scorecard site, at least half the students who have attended earn more than similarly aged high-school graduates. That’s not the case with Evergreen.

Table 1: Percent of students meeting “threshold earning” six years after enrolling in selected WA institutions*

U of Washington -Tacoma75%U of Washington – Bothell75%Saint Martin’s University70%Central Washington69%Western Washington64%Eastern Washington63%South Puget Sound49%The Evergreen State College46%

* % of students earning more than similarly-aged HS graduates, 6 years after enrolling

The percentages reported here represent the share of former students who, six years after enrolling (four years for SPSCC), are earning more than similarly aged high school graduates. It’s based on the assumption that high school graduates between the ages of 25-34 earn an average of $25,000 per year. This calculation excludes students enrolled in graduate school.

The College Scorecard also reports average earnings of students who attended college ten years after they first enrolled. On this measure, Evergreen also falls short. According to MIT’s living wage calculator, in Thurston County, a living wage for one adult requires an hourly wage of $11.29. Annually, that’s $23,483. For an adult with one child, a living wage requires an annual income of $49,005. The median earnings for students who received federal financial aid ten years after entering Evergreen is $31,800.

Table 2: Median earnings of students who received federal financial aid, ten years after entering college

Avg annual salary after graduatingU of Washington -Tacoma$52,100U of Washington – Bothell$52,100Saint Martin’s University$47,400Central Washington$44,900Western Washington$43,200Eastern Washington$40,500South Puget Sound$31,600The Evergreen State College$31,800

Evergreen students accrue levels of debt similar to students at other Washington State universities, and their average monthly payments are similar. But with lower average earnings, the burden of that debt payment is bigger. Where U-Bothell and UW-Tacoma students pay, on average, less than 5% of their monthly income towards federal loans, Evergreen students pay, on average, closer to 7% per month.

Table 3: Median federal debt for graduates; repayment of 10-year loan with 6% interest

Avg debt – graduationAvg loan paymentU of Washington- Tacoma$16,326$181U of Washington – Bothell$16,326$181Saint Martin’s University$25,000$278Central Washington$21,267$236Western Washington$19,500$216Eastern Washington$20,500$228South Puget Sound CC$9,331$104The Evergreen State College$17,594$195

Given the racial and class biases in both borrowing and income earned after graduation, the demographics might help explain the relatively low wages of students who’ve attended Evergreen, but they don’t. As table 4 shows, Evergreen has a relatively high number of low-income students compared with comparable institutions, but it also has a relatively high proportion of white students.

Table 4: Students from families with incomes less than $40,000; percentage of white students

family incomes < 40K*white studentsU of Washington -Tacoma46%47%U of Washington – Bothell35%46%Saint Martin’s University37%54%Central Washington35%65%Western Washington26%75%Eastern Washington39%66%South Puget Sound31%64%The Evergreen State College44%66%

* receiving income-based PELL

What’s a college to do?

The earnings outcomes described here aren’t inevitable. Anthony Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl, researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce, provide suggestions for educators interested in their students’ futures. By 2020, the team writes, 65% of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school, and there will be 55 million job openings. Health care, community services, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) are the fastest growing fields. The four most in-demand competencies in the labor market will be these:

  • Judgment/decision making
  • Communications
  • Analysis
  • Administration

All four of these competencies are compatible with a liberal arts education. All are learnable—people get better at them with practice over time and skilled coaching.

The question facing Evergreen today is whether, as a collective body, it can commit to providing students with sequenced learning opportunities designed to help all students develop skills and abilities necessary to make a living. In that way, not only would Evergreen be helping to alleviate economic inequality one student at a time, but those very same students would become an even more potent force for changing the very structures that hold inequality in place.

Emily Lardner lives and works in Olympia, Washington.


The post The value of an Evergreen education appeared first on Works in Progress.

This is our revolution. Si, se puede!

Works in Progress - Thu, 09/01/2016 - 11:57am

The present political reality and the choices for Bernicrats in November and beyond

Currently, we arguably live in an  oligarchy. It is described by Wikipedia as a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control.” Examples: The Russian Federation, the United States of America.

“A 2014 Study by Martin Gilens, Professor of Politics at Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page, Gordon S. Fulcher Professor of Decision Making at Northwestern University, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”, analyzed nearly 1,800 policies enacted by the United States government between 1981 and 2002, and compared them to the expressed preferences of the American public as opposed to wealthy Americans and large special interest groups. It found that wealthy individuals and organizations representing business interests have substantial political influence, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little to none… Gilens and Page apply the concept of “civil oligarchy” as used by Jeffrey Winters with respect to the US. Winters has posited a comparative theory of “oligarchy” in which the wealthiest citizens—even in a “civil oligarchy” like the United States—dominate policy concerning crucial issues of wealth- and income-protection.” (Wikipedia)

Political power must be wrestled from the American oligarchy as it will use every bit of its immense power, including control of corporate media, to maintain its domination. The oligarchy will not leave meekly and gently in the night. Anyone who thinks this will be easy, or quickly done, is seriously misguided, naïve, or delusional. This a war, not a battle, albeit a just cause for those taking the oligarchy on.

There are 244 million Americans of voting age. Some 81 percent of us, about 198 million, are women, millennials, or persons of color. Of the remaining 46 million of us who are white males over the age of 35, a decent number are progressive to moderate in their political leanings. Absent a military coup, the eventual demise of the oligarchy is spelled out in these demographics, if the American People open their eyes and exercise their power in a concerted, sustained, effective manner.

Every political candidate should earn the votes of Progressives through ethical behavior, demonstrated consistency, policy positions that are the closest approximation of voter values and views, demonstrated good judgement, and by running a campaign in a manner that demonstrates respect for voters, an ability to listen, and a recognition that maintaining the status quo in terms of those with extraordinary wealth and/or corporate influence over all levels of government has all but destroyed our Democracy and turned it into an Oligarchy is unacceptable.

There is absolutely no moral, social, or political equivalency between voting for Donald Trump or voting for Hillary Clinton. Nada. Zilch. None.

The Republican/Democratic nominees

I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. Far from it. She is a product of and the embodiment of the Oligarchy. Let me be blunt: She and her Husband have received over $200 million of influence and access payments masquerading as speaking fees and control a massive self-promotion vehicle supported by $Billions that represents itself as a charitable foundation but spends the vast percentage of its budget on administrative overhead and promoting the Clintons.

Clinton is functionally a pro-choice moderate Republican who will extend the control of the oligarchy over economic policies for four years and will have to be constantly thwarted by an engaged electorate to prevent us from entering into further needless wars. Progressives will have to push, cajole, embarrass, and hem in Clinton – a hard but manageable task – to minimize negative impacts on the working class and our shrinking middle class. It will be a difficult four years with many suffering but the nation and the planet will survive.

Trump is a textbook case of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, a sociopath, bat shit crazy, suffering from the onset of dementia, or some combination thereof. It is clear his decision-making in matters of virtually any policy topic is irrational, ego driven, and inconsistent. If he ran our economy like he ran his businesses, he would start a trade war, a second Great Depression, and quite possibly a third World War. His instability, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia would be a cataclysmically divisive force likely not seen in our nation since our Civil War 150 years ago and potentially result in America becoming a pariah nation. His Climate Change Denial will push us to the edge of environmental extinction.

The best we can hope for if Donald Trump is elected is a quick impeachment and removal. Unfortunately, if Trump were removed from office, he’d be replaced by one of the most rightwing politicians in America – Mike Pence

At the worse, we could see an attempted or successful Military Coup or the Start of World War Three. There is no way Donald Trump should have access to nuclear launch codes. Seriously.

Hillary Clinton is a temporary barrier to Progressives defeating the American Oligarchy. Donald Trump is an immediate existential threat to the survival of our nation and planet. They are not equivalent. It is not a close call. Trump must never be elected President.

This is our Revolution. Yes, we can! Si se puede!

The Bernie revolution

We would have been even worse off if it were not for Bernie Sanders and what I would call “The Great Awakening.” A little known, Independent Socialist Senator from the state ranking 49th in population started a national movement that engaged America’s largest generation (Millennials), generated 13 million votes, made income inequality a widely recognized issue, propelled public awareness of the existential threat of climate change, and shook the oligarchy and political establishment to its core. Bernie and the Progressive Movement have at least temporarily pushed Clinton towards the left on important economic, social, trade, and environmental issues. Bernie achieved far more success than he or most of those of who are his supporters could have thought truly possible at the onset of his campaign. To his great credit, and to the equally great discredit of virtually every other nationally prominent progressive politician in the country, he did what they were too cowardly to do: took on the Clinton Political Machine, Democratic Party power structure, corporate media, and the American oligarchy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Amazingly, Bernie almost won – earning 46 percent of pledged delegates. Arguably, in a straight-up and fair nominating process, Sanders would have won.

Of course, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating process was not straight-up and fair. The 2016 Democratic presidential nominating process was the most overtly manipulative, unethical, corrupt process in modern American political history. The integrity of the nominating process of two-thirds of Democratic state parties was shattered by fundraising arrangements with the Clinton campaign. The Democratic National Committee was essentially a completely controlled and biased appendage of the Clinton campaign.

Corporate media essentially parroted Clinton campaign speaking points from start to finish. Future historians will write that 2016 was the year corporate media completely forsook responsible journalism and engaged in wholesale and totally slanted propaganda to maximize profits and help determine a presidential race’s outcome. Murrow, Cronkite, Chancellor, Huntley, Brinkley, and Jennings are, no doubt, spinning in their respective graves.

Millions were prevented from exercising their franchise in a purposeful, underhanded, systematic manner. Ongoing investigations and law suits may very well prove actual vote rigging and miscounts in any number of states. Multiple academic researchers have reviewed primary election data and concluded that the results could only been achieved thru widespread vote fraud. Cal-Berkley and Stanford Studies placed the odds that Hillary Clinton won without widespread fraud at only 1 chance in 77 Billion (…/).

This is our Revolution. Yes, we can! Si se puede!!

So, what are our options in 2016?

We have four candidates who possess the theoretical possibility of being elected President of the United States this November in that they will each be on enough States’ ballots to win 270 Electoral College Votes and the Presidency.

The “Democratic Party Nominee”, Hillary Clinton, is functionally a Pro-Choice Moderate Republican with militaristic tendencies, who is the clear choice of the Oligarchy.

The “Republican Party nominee”, Donald Trump, as previously stated, is a textbook case of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, a sociopath, bat shit crazy, suffering from the onset of dementia, or some combination thereof. If elected, he has the serious potential to involve us in a constitutional crisis, internal strife not seen since the Civil War, a major economic depression, or even a third World War or a military coup to prevent such a war. A recent poll found one fifth of Republican voters want Trump to drop out.

The Libertarian Party nominee, Gary Johnson, is a former Republican governor of New Mexico and was also the 2012 Libertarian Presidential nominee. Johnson received about one million votes for President in 2012. Johnson’s average support in recent polls in a four-way race is 8.3%. (Real Clear Politics, conducted 8/1-10/16 )

The Green Party nominee, Jill Stein, is a medical doctor and was also the 2012 Green Party Presidential nominee. Stein received about 470,00 votes for President in 2012. Stein’s average support in recent polls in a four-way race is 3% (Real Clear Politics, conducted 8/1-10/16).

This is our Revolution. Yes, we can! Si se puede!

What are Libertarians?

They frequently describe themselves as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” I think that is half right—they are fiscally conservative but they are not consistently liberals on social issues. Critics label Libertarians as “Republicans who smoke pot.” Author Christopher Hitchens acerbically described Libertarians this way: “I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement in the U.S. that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.” Libertarians are secularized Republicans without the far right “Christian” moralistic bullshit, in my humble opinion.

David Koch, yes, one of those Koch brothers, net worth $44.2 Billion, was the 1980 Libertarian vice presidential nominee. Koch is hardly a progressive on any issue.

The 2016 Libertarian platform calls “for the repeal of the income tax” and the abolishment of “all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution.” Their platform also indicates “an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union…” and supports “restoring and reviving a free market health care system…” and “phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.” Libertarians “oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production…” and “favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”

Libertarians maintain “free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems.” Rather Darwinian and survival of the fittest, these Libertarians, but they’ll let folks smoke pot.

Green Party

The Green Party really isn’t a national political party at all yet – it’s more of a shell of a presidential candidate nominating process with fragmentary cells of supporters lightly scattered about the country and wrapped around a progressive and enlightened political platform reminiscent of a 21st Century version of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Think of what the Democratic Party platform would look like to a progressive without any corporate warping and distortion and you’d probably have something that would look very much like the Green Party platform. The Green Party is basically a philosophical pure version of the Democratic Party in terms of ideology, if the Democratic Party didn’t have any meaningful infrastructure and was free of all the corporate bullshit, bad influences, tremendous policy warping resulting from said bullshit and influences.

The “Ten Key Va2lues” of the Green Party Are Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Equal Opportunity, Ecological Wisdom, Non-Violence, Decentralization, Community Based Economics, Feminism and Gender Equity, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, and Future Focus and Sustainability. The Green Party Platform includes “A Call to Action”, a Preamble, the “Ten Key Values” and detailed sections on “Democracy”, “Social Justice”, “Ecological Sustainability”, and “Economic Justice and Sustainability.” Most members of the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party” and certainly “Berniecrats” would be very comfortable with the 2016 Green Party Platform.

The times, they are a changing, and the Green Party may quickly start to transition from a noble concept to a functional political party with an influx of Sanders supporters abandoning the Democratic Party. Some observers frequently opine that most Sanders supporters will vote for Clinton. Others say Berniecrats are flocking to Jill Stein and the Green Party. Who is right? Well, maybe, in a way, both.

The nuance that most observers seem to miss is that tens of thousands of Sanders activists, the folks who did the grassroots organizing for Bernie, are indeed moving to support Stein and the Green Party. The movement of hardcore activists from the Sanders Campaign to the Green Party isn’t uniform or evenly distributed, but it is significant.

This isn’t to say that Berniecrats are leaving the Democratic Party in masse – they aren’t. Here in Washington State, the majority of incoming Precinct Committee Officers (PCO’s) could accurately be labelled Berniecrats. In my home county, home to the State Capital of Olympia, two thirds of incoming PCO’s are Berniecrats.

Nationally, Senator Sanders and his supporters are creating multiple organizations, including “Our Revolution”, a national network of Sanders activists who likely will heavily influence and frequently run Democratic Party organizations for years to come. Bernie may have been denied the nomination in 2016 but the Movement he catalyzed and changing demographics are converging in a manner that likely will mean Progressives will regain control of much of the Democratic Party in the near future.

But the Democrats likely won’t be the only progressive political party of consequence in America in the near future. The rise of the Green Party, powered by the influx of former Sanders supporters, is imminent.

Will the “Berning of the Greens” be enough to turn the Green Party into a full-fledged, functional Third Party in less than three months? No. Could the Green Party be a full-fledged, functional Third Party in 2020? Yes, but only if they do some serious organizing and get their collective shit together about building slates of candidates for local, state, and federal offices across the country.

The Green Party’s biggest weakness is that it has been almost exclusively focused the presidential elections, only recruiting and running candidates for lower tier races in a very limited number of jurisdictions in a small number of states. This has got change if the Greens want to be taken seriously. People want their pot holes fixed, safe neighborhoods, good schools, and dependable public services. The old saying that “all politics are local” is mostly true and the Green Party and its membership needs to show it can get voters’ garbage picked up and run cities and states before it will be trusted by most folks with leading the Free World and controlling the nuclear launch codes, regardless of how wonderfully progressive they are. For an American political party to be viewed as credible in a nation with 321 million citizens and a $19 trillion economy, it must not only think globally, it must act locally and be able to govern effectively in all the myriad and mundane ways citizens expect. I’m being real here.

I see a certain irony, and a whole lot of karma, in that if Bernie had won the Democratic nomination, it would have revitalized and democratized the Democratic Party, likely locked in Millennials, the largest generation in history, into strongly voting Democratic for decades, diminished the significance of the Green Party, and hastened the demise of the Republican Party as a relevant factor in presidential contests. Control and domination, unfair play and party building, were more important to the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Consequently, the Democratic Party has alienated, in some cases permanently, large numbers of Millennial activists and other Bernie supporters. The Green Party has an opportunity to achieve a level of national political relevance that has so far eluded it.

This is our Revolution. Yes, we can! Si, se puede!

Who to vote for…

If you’ve read this far, you are probably wondering if this is where Joe says which candidate for president everyone should vote for. God knows damn near every person on Facebook with an opinion on the subject has been telling everyone else who they should support. I’m not going to do that. The reality is if you’re old enough to vote, you’re old enough to make up your own mind and 99 percent of voters are going to go through whatever decision processes they use and do just that. My circle of friends and family is large enough that some will vote for each of the four main presidential candidates and I’m not going to like or love any of them any more or any less based on who they vote for. If the Creator, evolution, or the quantum chance of our being in this portion of the multiverse made free will possible for our species, the rest of us ought to do the same for each other.

I will share who I’m voting for and my reasoning: readers may agree, disagree, or ignore as they wish.

To place my decision in context, in 38 years of voting, I’ve only knowingly voted for a Republican for any public office once in my entire life and I’ve regretted that vote for almost four decades and tried to make amends for that vote. I have voted in nine presidential elections in my life and nine times, I voted for the Democratic Candidate. In the language of politics, I am referred to as a “Strong Democrat” and a “Perfect Voter” (vote every election).

Unless there appears to be chance that Donald Trump might actually carry Washington State and it’s 12 Electoral College votes, something highly unlikely, given all available political information, Washington’s voting history, and current polling data, I am planning on voting for Democratic candidates for all other elective offices and for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for President of the United States of America.

Donald Trump would be an existential threat to the nation and planet. To avoid that risk, I would force myself to vote for the oligarchy’s candidate and a functionally pro-choice moderate Republican with militaristic tendencies, Hillary Clinton, if Trump were leading or within striking distance of Clinton in Washington when it was time to cast my ballot.

Absent the possibility of a Trump win in Washington State, I will vote for the candidate who, imperfect as she may be, presents both the opportunity to vote for my progressive values and beliefs and the opportunity to send a message to the oligarchy. I will vote for Jill Stein.

Let me be blunt, the oligarchy will win this round in the battle for our future and Hillary Clinton will become the next President of the United States. No objective review of the available evidence and polling data would suggest otherwise. Even the Republican-oriented Rasmussen Reports is projecting Hillary Clinton at 348 Electoral College votes, well above the 270 needed to win the Presidency.

For Jill Stein to have had a chance to win in 2016, she would have had to have most or all of Sanders Supporters pivot their support to her and that clearly didn’t happen. If she had surged above 10 percent in the polls after the Democratic Convention, and progressed to rise to force her inclusion in the Presidential Debates, stellar debate performances on her part would have changed the political equation and she would have had a chance to be truly competitive. That didn’t happen and Stein won’t win in 2016.

However, short of a dramatic change in the polls that indicate Trump could take Washington State, I won’t validate the blatant, systematic manipulation and corruption of the presidential nomination process by the Democratic power structure, corporations, and corporate media with a vote for Hillary Clinton. Absent the existential threat of a Trump victory, I won’t go there.

I will cast a vote for Stein to support the germinating seed that is the Green Party in 2016 and I will work within the local Democratic Party, where Berniecrats have a clear majority, to progressively shape local and state Democratic politics, candidates, and campaigns. Call this an inside/outside strategy.

The second American Revolution continues. We Progressives need to play the long game to defeat the oligarchy and generate a rebirth of true democracy. Success will not occur in one election cycle – neither did getting to the point we are at as a nation. With persistence, hard work, and sustained effort, we will get to a point where we defeat the oligarchy and have two national progressive political parties, a revitalized Democratic Party and a vibrant, fulling formed Green Party. This is our revolution. Stand up, speak out, fight on.

This is our revolution. Yes, we can! Si, se puede!

Joe Nilsson has long been active as a Democrat, holding positions in the Washington State Democratic Party both at the local and state levels.


The post This is our revolution. Si, se puede! appeared first on Works in Progress.

Our jobs are disappearing

Works in Progress - Thu, 09/01/2016 - 11:47am

“We need a new paradigm. We need guaranteed jobs. We need a guaranteed income to ensure that the benefits of 60 years of U.S. prosperity go to all Americans.” — Paul Buchheit

Americans are feeling the impoverishing effects of the shift from middle-income to low-income jobs. The disappearance—or, more accurately, downsizing—of living-wage jobs is documented by numerous reports that reveal the suddenness and the extent of this affront to middle America.

First, the neoliberal explanation: It’s not really happening

Business writer Robert Samuelson calls the post-recession low-wage recovery a “myth.” To support his claim he cites a study from the Economic Policy Institute which, according to Samuelson, proves that “the economy’s employment profile—the split between high- and low-paying jobs—hasn’t changed much since the recession or, indeed, the turn of the century.”

But the EPI analysis is based on average wages within industries, rather than on the median, which reflects unequal growth. If the median had kept up with the average over the past 15 years, the current median wage would be $1/hour higher, or about $2,000 per year. The employment profile has actually changed a great deal since the year 2000.

There’s more. The EPI analyst claims that “jobs are being added relatively in proportion to their share.” But she only considers one year’s data, after much of the damage had already been done. Even so, the EPI figures show that the percentage of middle-wage jobs added in 2014 was 6.3 percent less than the overall percentage of middle-wage jobs (42.7% to 40%)—a rather dramatic change for a single year.

The painful evidence: Middle class jobs are disappearing

The Wall Street Journal, reporting on a Georgetown University study, concludes that “many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed.” Collapsed. High-wage occupations in technology, medicine, and finance are booming, and so are low-wage occupations in food service, retail, and personal care. But middle-income positions are fading away. The only one of the eight fastest-growing occupations that pays over $32,000 per year is nursing.

Manufacturing, once the backbone of mid-level employment, continued to decline in 2015. The Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that 18 percent of all displaced workers in 2011-13 were in manufacturing.

The evidence keeps accumulating. A US Mayors study found that ‘recovery’ jobs pay 23 percent less than the jobs they replaced. The National Employment Law Project estimates that low-wage jobs accounted for 22 percent of job losses but 44 percent of subsequent job gains. Business Insider, Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal all concur: the unemployment rate is remaining low because of low-paying jobs.

About that unemployment rate

The true unemployment rate, if discouraged and part-time workers are included, is double that of the official rate. It’s probably much worse. Alliance for a Just Society estimates that there are 7 job seekers for every $15/hour job opening.

No, this is not your 19th Century textile economy

Some analysts use simplistic comparisons with ages-old economies to assure us that everyone will eventually get a good job. The Atlantic spouts: “The job market defied doomsayers in those earlier times, and according to the most frequently reported jobs numbers, it has so far done the same in our own time.” Economist Dean Baker rants about robots: “Large numbers of elite thinkers are running around terrified that we will have millions of people who have no work because the robots have eliminated the need for their labor…We have been seeing workers displaced by technology for centuries, this is what productivity growth is.”

But there are two differences now: (1) In the past technology created middle-class jobs, manufacturing jobs, white-collar jobs, HIGHER-PAYING jobs. Now the jobs are at the extremes, either high-level or low-level, with tech-related jobs on the higher end and service-related jobs on the lower end. And (2) Globalization has outsourced middle-income jobs, not only from rich to poor countries, but also from one developing nation to another, as, for example, from China to Vietnam.

The World Economic Forum suggests we’re “on the cusp of a Fourth Industrial Revolution” in which “smart systems” in our homes, factories, farms, and entire cities will help get our work done.

We can’t wait around for a 19th-century recovery. We need a new paradigm. We need guaranteed jobs. We need a guaranteed income to ensure that the benefits of 60 years of U.S. prosperity go to all Americans, not just to the few who know how to redistribute the nation’s wealth.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of American Wars: Illusions and Realities (Clarity Press).   

This article is reprinted with permission from the author.

The post Our jobs are disappearing appeared first on Works in Progress.

How to host a sonnet party

Works in Progress - Thu, 09/01/2016 - 11:46am

In the August issue of Works in Progress, the editorial collective was gracious. Instead of haranguing me about missing a deadline, they published my poem “Occupy Sonnet” that they had tucked away in their reserves, perhaps in anticipation of my precise indiscretion. With all of the violence in the world this summer, I’ve opted for a little poetry levity this month, sharing some of what I’ve learned about a timeless poetry classic: the sonnet.

Most associated with expressing the 16th century’s concept of courtly love, the sonnet continues to embody this century’s aspirations for humanity’s elusive quest for peace and love. Two of the most famous sonnet writers, William Shakespeare and Petrarch perfected what we’ve come to understand as the gold standard for sonnets. Shakespeare employed his fourteen lines in a set rhyme scheme of four quartets ending with a rhyming couplet (abab//cdcd//efef//gg), and a metrical requirement, iambic pentameter or ten syllables to a line.  Petrarch’s sonnets utilized an octave with the rhyme scheme abbaabba and a sestet with one of two rhyme schemes, cdecde or cdcdcd. Others over the centuries who demonstrated a compelling knack for the sonnet include Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Donne, Edmund Spenser, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Late 20th century American poets Marilyn Hacker, Adrienne Rich, and David Wojohn crafted their sonnets to reflect the world they experienced, often choosing to exercise more than their share of freedom in relaxing the strict standards of the English and Italian sonnets of centuries past. In today’s freer world of verse, sometimes the only thing that distinguishes the sonnet is its fourteen lines.  Still other poets even ignore this rule to make an anti-sonnet statement. This was the case with my “Occupy Sonnet” which inhabited thirteen lines as a metaphorical way to draw attention to the broken state of current American affairs. Inadvertently, the editors of WIP also rebroke a few of my line breaks, hence burying part of the rhyme scheme and obfuscating the form further.  As I write this, I consider whether pushing the sonnet to its almost unrecognizable limits all together like Bill Knott’s “Sonnet” adds to a deeper understanding of the poem’s power.

So how can the sonnet support our understanding of the economy of words? The sonnet requires the writer to lock oneself in a box and partner with the form to assure escape. Every word must resonate because there is no real estate to waste. Working in such tight quarters often will create the happiest of accidents. The rhyme often forces the writer to travel to linguistic places never considered.

For years, I’ve experimented with the form in community, holding sonnet parties with large groups of writers.  This summer produced a serendipitous moment during one such party.  A guest lecturer in Evergreen’s Writer’s Paradise program, I was leading the class through an exercise to choosing the fourteen end-line words that we would each use to write a sonnet.  About halfway through the laboriously fun task of contemplating the nuances of these words, my cell phone rang.  Usually I wouldn’t even consider answering the phone, but it was my Formica table broker calling with a lead on a rare 1950s table with chairs.  My broker also happens to be an Evergreen faculty librarian and a frequent contributor to Works in Progress, so I answered, put Liza Rognas on speaker phone, and explained what we were doing in class.  Liza, never one to miss a beat, played along with us, even daring us to include the word “librarian” in the scheme.

Armed with our fourteen words, the class and I spent the next week grappling with our individual sonnets, and I even cajoled Liza to try her hand at writing one.  The fourteen words couldn’t have produced more diverse poems.  Liza chose to use her words in what she calls “upside down” order — exhale appears in the first line — while in my sonnet exhale is the final word of the poem and anchors the rhyming couplet. Liza’s sonnet “Beyond Reproach” appears with her permission with my “In Praise of Librarians.” I’ve italicized the shared words to demonstrate a little of what you can expect if you choose to throw your own sonnet party:


Beyond Reproach

It’s not enough to exhale and then hold a breath,

as if we feared every face behind a veil could bring death

at any hour of any day, like a librarian

closing a book on our collective power to change.


So don’t use poached rhetoric to sway obtuse and hate-filled hearts

running with chartreuse and vitriolic passion.

Let those forces wither and starve, lacking good words

for patriotism’s empty, war-filled rage.


Peace, a word above reproach, requires hearts to find it.

Compassionate words liberate fault, by guilt

and ignorance bound, removing that which we salt away

to fight for Fear’s best-known cause.


All kind words drown that which hate inspires,

leaving love to tend our wounded.

—Liza Rognas


In Praise of Librarians

I love delicious books because I like to drown

in words. I like the feel of them as savory as salt

water on my tongue. I like that I am bound

to quench my thirst more than I want. Why fault


the inside of these mysteries beyond reproach?

Never-ending questions blossom in chartreuse

bouquets of wonder, similar to the poached

magic of eggs on a July morning or the many uses


of encyclopedias that hold all their power

in their tight fists. And I have longed for that librarian

who lurks in all of us to reinvent me in the restless hours

spent writing poetry. Who wouldn’t want a brain


addled like that? Who wouldn’t want to unveil

that kind of devotion with each raptured exhale?

— Sandra Yannone


What might your sonnet party generate?  Why not gather a group of willing troubadours for a late summer evening and try your minds at coming up with the fourteen words, then writing your individual sonnets, reconvening later to share what you’ve created.  Who knows?  Maybe even a few of your sonnets could end up in Works In Progress and begin the next sonnet Renaissance.

Sandra Yannone is a poet, educator, and antique dealer in Olympia.  She is a Member of the Faculty and Director of the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College. 


The post How to host a sonnet party appeared first on Works in Progress.

Call to oppose military shipments, again

Works in Progress - Thu, 09/01/2016 - 11:39am

The reasoning behind PMR’s opposition

For two weeks in November 2007, anti-war activists organizing as Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) literally laid their bodies in the street, on the ground, and against the gate in opposition to continued U.S. war and occupation when local government attempted to militarize their port and city streets. PMR is a movement with many affinity groups and individuals who joined in 2007 to resist the militarization of our community in our names.

Now, nearly a decade later, the cash-strapped Port of Olympia is again considering military shipments through the Port and city streets. And once again, PMR is organizing in opposition to complicity in the illegal and immoral war represented by these shipments. Some activists opposing port militarization are focusing on transforming the port’s economy to avoid any future such military shipments.

Regardless of affinity, activists emphasize their resistance is not toward service members, but in opposition to the wars that began in Iraq and Afghanistan and that have evolved under the Obama administration to interventionism across the world. PMR strongly disagrees with any suggestions that the wars are “over.”

As the Port of Olympia again seeks to introduce military shipments through this community with a large population opposed to U.S. global aggression, it would seem to behoove the port commissioners to consider the costs incurred in 2007. News reports noted hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on police actions that abused citizens exercising their free speech and assembly rights. The City of Olympia reported police costs amounting to $112,168 with a $42,000 shortfall to be billed to Department of Defense. The city also incurred significant legal costs associated with civil complaints brought by citizens for civil rights violations.

It is notable that prior to com-mencement of the Iraq War in 2001 and continuing through the Bush Administration, social justice and anti-war activists testified in opposition to U.S. war and occupation, marched in protests and held rallies and vigils. They petitioned their representatives, made calls, and held sit-ins. Yet nearly a decade later, the U.S. has expanded its intervention and occupation while thousands of U.S. military lives and millions of innocent Middle Eastern lives continue to be lost. And absent their consent, citizens and taxpayers are in debt for wars costing untold numbers of lives and trillions of dollars.

In 2007, when activists learned the USNS Brittin would dock in Olympia to unload its cargo, activists rallied as PMR with the goal of ending local complicity in illegal and immoral war. The USNS Brittin arrived at the Port of Olympia on November 5, 2007 carrying military equipment from the Iraq War. The equipment belonged to the 3rd Brigade 2nd Infantry Division and PMR learned it was the same equipment that had been shipped out from the Port of Olympia in May 2006 when the initial resistance occurred. Though PMR had earlier decided not to obstruct the “return” of equipment, upon learning it would be repaired at Fort Lewis and returned to Iraq in a revolving door of war support, activists reconsidered. In November 2007 PMR adopted an equipment “containment” policy to block the revolving-door refurbishment process and based on health concerns related to depleted uranium (DU).

Sadly, the troops from the 3rd Brigade returned to Ft. Lewis in October, 2007 minus 48 soldiers who were killed in Iraq. PMR’s goal was to “end our community’s participation in the illegal occupation of Iraq by stopping the military’s use of the Port of Olympia.” From the outset, PMR sought to educate, through rallies, marches, die-ins, and through acts of peaceful civil disobedience, about the war and how the military’s use of the Port supports the military occupation. In November, 2007, after thirteen days of resistance by more than 500 activists, and despite unprovoked police violence, there was a sense that direct action and civil resistance by committed citizens can make a difference.

Then, when Barack Obama was elected there were high expectations that war would end and U.S. imperialist policy would change, but the devastating reality is that along with many other policy disappointments, war did not end. If anything, we’ve seen expanded U.S. interventionism in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Honduras.

The Obama administration drew-down troop levels, but expanded private security with public funding, and adopted the use of kill lists and drones. The drone program created by the George W. Bush administration carried out ten times more drone assassination attacks under the Obama administration.  The Centre for Research on Globalization reported a year ago that, “According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the George W. Bush administration ordered 50 drone attacks while the government of current US President Barack Obama has already launched around 500 such strikes. Obama primarily ordered assassination strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.” While the U.S. claims the CIA-led and non-U.N.-sanctioned drone strikes are to kill militants, casualty figures show innocent women and children are often the targets.

The intersectionality of U.S. military imperialism with the social, human rights, and planetary costs of war must be understood to identify the widespread and multiple forms of opposition to it in Olympia and beyond.

First and foremost, the U.S. military is the primary coercive institution utilized to ensure U.S. political and economic dominance throughout the world. This dominance is thoroughly racialized as the non-white victims of U.S. imperialism are dehumanized in some way or another.

Over the last decade and a half, the U.S. military has wreaked havoc on the Middle East as it killed hundreds of thousands of people, annihilated civilian infrastructures, and bred political extremism in response in the region.

Climate justice and anti-militarism resistance is also crucial to addressing climate change as the Department of Defense is the largest institutional carbon emitter in the world.

Another intersection in U.S. militarism and imperialism is integral for expressing solidarity with Palestinian liberation and exposing the cozy relationship between the U.S. and the Israel Defense Forces.

Participating in the anti-war movement is to challenge the internally violent nature of the military, where rates of gendered violence and assault are astronomically high.

Finally, and especially egregious, the inverse of high and ever-increasing military expenditure for death and destruction abroad is austerity and draconian reductions in social spending at home. Funding for bombing homes in Iraq or providing Israel with resources to shell UN schools in Gaza, comes at the direct expense of funding for affordable housing, universal healthcare, education and schools, transportation and utilities infrastructure, alternative energy, and caring for social safety-net programs in the U.S.

According to National Priorities, U.S. taxpayers are paying $8.36 million every hour for Total Cost of Wars since 2001.  And for the Department of Defense, Thurston County taxpayers are paying $320.12 million annually, not including the cost of war.

Here’s what those tax dollars could have paid for instead:

  • 3,802 Elementary School Teachers for 1 Year, or
  • 4,321 Clean Energy Jobs Created for 1 Year, or
  • 5,762 Infrastructure Jobs Created for 1 Year, or
  • 3,201 Jobs with Supports Created in High Poverty Communities for 1 Year, or
  • 31,736 Head Start Slots for Children for 1 Year, or
  • 32,560 Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for 1 Year, or
  • 8,782 Scholarships for University Students for 4 Years, or
  • 13,762 Students Receiving Pell Grants of $5,815 for 4 Years, or
  • 166,211 Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for 1 Year, or
  • 314,820 Households with Wind Power for 1 Year, or
  • 91,032 Adults Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for 1 Year, or
  • 194,462 Households with Solar Electricity for 1 Year

Today’s U.S. military aggression with its secret kill-list targeted drone assassinations eclipses the illegal and immoral Iraq and Afghanistan wars PMR resisted in 2006 and 2007. Therefore, consistent with the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles that prohibits acts of military aggression and requires citizens of a democracy to hold their government accountable, PMR will again resist militarizing our port and streets. PMR refuses to be complicit in illegal and immoral war, and activists are prepared to protest, disrupt, and engage in non-violent direct action if the Port of Olympia renews military shipments.

As activists again take to the streets, people of conscience are asked to join the resistance to U.S. imperialism and interventionism. People of conscience are asked to stand up to prevent military and economic power structures to divide and deter us from resisting illegal and immoral occupation in our names.

Some ways to get involved in PMR include attending organizing meetings and forums, testify to the port commission and city council about your opposition to military shipments, contact the Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and Department of Defense, write or call your congressional representative, write a letter to the editor, report on social media, and join PMR marches and rallies. A newly created Facebook page—Port Militarization Resistance-Olympia—will share information about opportunities to testify to local governmental bodies, and when and where to march, rally, and protest, among other organizing activities. One thing is certain—any attempt to militarize the local community for war profiteers will again be met with non-violent civil resistance.

Again, PMR is not an organization, it is a resistance movement, so there are not formal organizational structures. However, those interested can feel free to reach out to the authors of this article via email.

Kyle Taylor Lucas is an American Indian freelance writer and Indigenous, social, economic, environmental, and human rights activist based in Olympia.

Robert Gorrill is a political activist based in Olympia.

The post Call to oppose military shipments, again appeared first on Works in Progress.

Update on Bryson and André  Chaplin-Thompson case

Works in Progress - Thu, 09/01/2016 - 11:33am

Westside police shooting victims

On May 21, 2015, Bryson (21) and André Chaplin-Thompson (23) were shot by an Olympia police officer after a failed attempt to steal beer from a Safeway grocery store on the Westside of Olympia, Washington. The young Black men are brothers, were unarmed, and while the officer shot at body mass, striking several times (as police are trained to do, in the science of force and Use of Force), Bryson and André thankfully survived the shooting. One of the bullets fired that hit Bryson is still lodged in his spinal column, and has caused paralysis from the waist down. The white police officer, 35-year-old Ryan Donald, was not injured, but did report by radio that he had been “assaulted with a skateboard.” The shooter, Officer Donald, like every single Washington State law enforcement officer (ever) that has used excessive force, was not indicted and was cleared of any wrongdoing. Bryson and André, however, are being accused of trumped-up and very serious charges of assault. Rather than dropping the charges, which was the rallying plea of the Olympia activist community supporting this family, the county prosecutor brought criminal charges against the two young men.

On January 21, 2016 at 10:30am, the Thurston County Courthouse is buzzing with activity. Inside a heavily-monitored, large crowded courtroom, a steady stream of people accused of crimes (and victims of The System), await the next name to be called, taking turns to meet their fate or find out the date of their next appearance. Some people are no-shows. The back of the courtroom is lined with tables as makeshift desks over which check-ins are happening. There is a nearly distracting hum of voices as folks are last-minute prepping to stand before the judge, with mostly white men in suits talking with clients. At the helm of the proceedings is Thurston County “Superior” Court Judge Carol Murphy, a woman, and the most powerful white person in the room, seated higher than everyone else, displaying her power very clearly. Most of the rotating lawyers on both sides are white, while the “defendants” are Black, Brown, Poor and People with Disabilities. On the left wall above the empty jury seats are huge photos of four (presumably very important) white judges who are men. Above the “superior” court judge’s high perch is an embossed gold portrait of George Washington himself, the emblem of the state of Washington, a glaring symbol of colonization.

Front and center of the courtroom, waiting to be called before the judge, are the tight-knit Chaplin-Thompson family. In the aisle in his wheelchair is Bryson, holding a Chicago Bulls hat on his lap. To his right is his sister Jasmine, and next to Jasmine is André, and to his right is their mom, Crystal Chaplin. You can feel the love between this family, they are a unit. There are members of community in support of André and Bryson sprinkled throughout the courtroom. André and Bryson wait patiently for two hours, then find out from one of their lawyers, George Trejo, that they can actually leave without being seen by the judge. Hurry up and wait, and now go home. Papers have been signed and the next court appearance is in April 2016, and failures to appear will lead to warrants.

In the United States there is a nationwide crisis of profiling, police terror and violence against Black people. It is a low estimate that somewhere in the U.S. every 28 hours a Black Loved One is killed by law enforcement, and that does not consider those who “disappear” or who die in custody. In the state of Washington the Black population is 3.6 percent and in Olympia it is 2 percent (2010 Census report). The percentage of Black folks incarcerated statewide in Washington is 18.1 percent (Dec 2015 Department of Corrections). Not unlike other cities, such as San Francisco, where the Black population is 3 percent and more than half the jail’s population is Black, anti-Black racism is alive and well in Olympia, Washington and plays out loudly in the actions of police (Ryan Donald) and the white people who call them (employees of Safeway).

It’s 8 am on July 7, 2016 and Bryson bounces down three steps to the sidewalk in his wheelchair (which has a flat tire); he’s gotten extremely good at navigating using his chair. “I didn’t get much sleep,” he says. André joins him; “me neither,” he says. They both look very tired, and for good reason, as they are about to make yet another early morning, mandatory pre-trial court appearance and they have been mourning the loss of many Black extended-community members recently killed by police. “My mom should be right out,” André tells his friend who has come to help with a ride. Crystal’s car broke down the night before. Bryson lifts himself into the car while André breaks down the  wheelchair and finds room for it in the back of the car.

“Did you hear about the shooting, the one in the car?” Bryson asks his friend. “Philando Castile!” they exclaim. The conversation is solemn as the three talk about the violent lynchings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile—the videos of their executions by police had just been all over social media.

Rest in power Philando Castile.

Rest in power Alton Sterling.

Crystal emerges from the house: “Alright let’s go,” she says.

Today the courtroom is very empty; on the left are four People of Color, attorney (and Woman) Sunny Ko, then André. Next to him is George Trejo, then Bryson. On the right side of the courtroom are the two white prosecutors, Scott Jackson and Wayne Graham. There’s a different judge presiding, white Judge Tabor, who is flanked by a white stenographer and white bailiff. Judge Tabor is very close to retiring, he announces this from his throne.

“This is a status conference,” Tabor announces. He talks about a “3.5 hearing” that happened recently where yet another Judge—Judge Dixon—made a ruling of some sort in this case. What he says doesn’t make a lot of sense to an outsider, and he’s very jokey about it. It does seem strange that this is the third judge involved presiding over the fate of two men, but this guy makes it clear he’s the judge presiding now, and will be seeing this trial through.

“Mr. Rogers, who is not a party to this case, and represents Donald, [the lawyer of Ryan Donald] is not present,” the Judge points out. It isn’t mentioned but Ryan Donald is also not present.

“August 15th is not gonna work,” Judge Tabor says. The prosecutors are concurring (fancy lawyer talk) that maybe August 15th is “too soon.” This is the date André and Bryson’s family and their community thought that the criminal trial was finally set to start. It becomes clear that this court appearance is about scheduling, not dropping charges as what seems an obvious solution. Judge Tabor then addresses the defense, and infers that it is taking the defense a long time; he tells Trejo “this date was set long ago.”

Bryson’s lawyer Trejo tells the judge that this hold-up has everything to do with a defiant and inaccessible officer Ryan Donald. Interviews so far with Donald were unsuccessful. Trejo finds it problematic that when interviewed, Officer Ryan Donald had this “inability to recall disciplinary action” that has happened to him as a police officer.

Donald refused to respond to any questions about racism, having referred to André and Bryson as “thugs.”

Also, on March 1, 2016, a date set for Officer Ryan Donald to be questioned by Ko and Trejo, Donald was a no-show. At that time Donald refused to attend.  He was on paid “administrative leave,”  as he was one of five Olympia Police Department officers present during the  in-custody death of Loved One Jeffrey McGaugh on February 29, 2016.

Rest in power Jeffrey McGaugh.

If André or Bryson hadn’t shown up for a court date, they would be in jail.

Trejo also talked about a “motion to sever counts” under the 8.3 motion, because “the state provided Donald with all the discovery on the case.” This sounds like Donald is being given all kinds of background information and history about André and Bryson, yet Donald won’t even answer direct questions, questions being asked by two People of Color, the defense lawyers Ko and Trejo. It is likely that Donald the kkkop is still writing his narrative of what happened.

Trejo agrees that August 15 is too soon. The reason for this is the lack of officer Donald’s version of what happened the night he shot-to-kill André and Bryson. When Donald finally complies with that requirement, Ko (Andre’s lawyer) explains that expert witnesses will then need time to review his assessment. Ko pushes for Donald’s narrative, and some time to review it before trial. There’s a deadline for the defense team to interview Donald and it is July 29.

Judge Tabor then said something that sounded a lot like someone who thought fairness and justness and truth are irrelevant. From his seat above everyone else, to a mostly empty courtroom, Judge Tabor said “I know this case has high visibility, and people have strong feelings. They have a right to their feelings and opinions about what’s right and wrong. But that doesn’t matter here,” he said. “Legal issues need to be assessed here.”

Then the Judge told the court his scheduling conflicts the coming months, and he excused himself from the courtroom so the prosecutors and the defenders could come to a decision about scheduling.

The scheduling conversation comes off like a strange insider’s theatric performance. It takes place in a bubble of laughter and talk of vacations and other pending cases (so much going on) and talk of more vacations… Even the stenographer gets in on the scheduling back and forth, describing this judge’s jury selection process to be predictable (and hilarious apparently). She described Tabor’s jury selection process as “half hour, half hour, half hour, 20 minutes, 20 minutes, half hour, hopefully done by noon.” And all the lawyers with the stenographer and the bailiff laugh together, because that’s so funny. “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” they laugh, like no one else is in the room.

All the while André and Bryson sit there. They are not laughing. They are not in on the joke. They face hard time in prison for failing to steal beer (no beer actually left the store) and for getting almost killed by a racist police officer. Crystal and a few friends, the only other people in the courtroom, also just sit there. They exchange looks, also not laughing. One of them is a child. Even he knows this process is unjust, this Black family’s fate in the hands of these people in this system.

The defense and prosecution, never ever involving André nor Bryson in the conversation, come to the conclusion that October 3 is the date the trial will start. It will begin with jury selection. The Judge returns. It is agreed the trial will likely run 3-4 weeks. After all, these folks are the ones with the power, they know how it works, they are experienced and knowledgeable, they make the decisions. The judge says someone must coordinate with Mr. Rogers (Officer Donald’s lawyer, who is not “party to this court”) to confirm. The judge and Trejo also decide that July 20 at 8:30am is when Bryson must appear one more time, about those motions Trejo had filed.

The community is requested to please attend the estimated 3-4 week criminal trial for André and Bryson that begins October 3, 2016.

[Please read a related article, A Mother’s Cry for Justice by Crystal Chaplin online in the BayView National Black Press at]

Lisa Ganser is a white, Disabled, genderqueer artist living in Olympia, WA, on colonized Squaxin land. They are a copwatcher, a sidewalk chalker, and the daughter of a momma named Sam.

This article was originally published in POOR Magazine, based in Oakland, California. The organization is a poor people led/indigenous people led, non-profit, grassroots, arts organization dedicated to providing revolutionary media access, arts, education and solutions from youth, adults and elders in poverty across Pachamama (Mother Earth).


Editorial note: According to nomy lamm, who attended a packed pre-trial hearing Wednesday, July 20, the judge seemed “annoyed with both lawyers as he used the word ‘puffery.’ ” Officer Donald had not yet given an official statement and Mr. Rogers, Donald’s lawyer, said a statement  would not be given unless one was ordered. Nomy described a back and forth “as to whether it would be an ‘interview’ with Bryson’s lawyer, Trejo, or if it would be a formal deposition, which would be ‘under oath.’ It was a little strange that this would be a sticking point.” The judge put an end to it by ordering a deposition of up to five hours. A “not so cool part” was that they would not be allowed to ask questions “about whether or not Officer Donald was racist, because racism is ‘subjective.’ ”

Also reported was a discussion of whether or not Mr. Trejo needed to issue a formal apology though nomy was not sure for what. “I heard Trejo say that he couldn’t find any precedent of a lawyer ever having to issue an apology and the judge said no, he didn’t need to do that. In addition, Trejo kept saying at this point, with no statement from Donald as to what injuries he sustained, he is not the victim in the case, he is merely a ‘complaining witness.’ ” nomy thought that was “kind of awesome.”

Jury selection will be held September 28 at 9 am and is open to the public. The trial is scheduled to begin October 3.


The post Update on Bryson and André  Chaplin-Thompson case appeared first on Works in Progress.

If you're a Republican in Thurston County, shouldn't all these Independents bother you?

Olympia Time - Tue, 08/30/2016 - 5:38pm

If things go a certain way, it is possible that come January Thurston County will have three commissioners that are not Democrats for the first time in my memory.

But, none of them would be Republicans either.

Admittedly Bud Blake (elected two years ago), Gary Edwards (who was a Republican in the past and might be elected this year) and John Hutchings (also might be elected this year) could easily be Republicans. But, this year they're all Independents. And I don't think I've heard a good explanation as to why.

As much as I'd like to ask Edwards why he ditched the Republican Party, I think I know the cynical answer. Blake showed that a conservative could be elected countywide if they ran without the Republican name.

But, mostly I want to hear from Republicans. And, I know how hard it will be for me in particular to get answers from Republicans given my point of view, but I'm honestly interested. I've spent the last few weeks poking around various online forums and communities for local Republicans and have come up short.

Shouldn't conservative candidates run as Republicans? Even if they disagree with 20 percent of the Republican platform, there is enough "big tent" in the party to contain them right?

If you are a Republican, and feel so inclined, fill out this short survey (LINK).

Where does Bill Bryant's 100,000 come from?

Olympia Time - Wed, 08/24/2016 - 5:04pm
Not since 2004 when Dino Rossi got within a hair of non-incumbent Christine Gregoire has a Republican gotten close the governor's mansion.
This year Bill Bryant is making his run and he's staking his election on the turnout of 100,000 extra conservatives:
His path to victory, Bryant explained, hinges on turning out some 100,000 Washingtonians — mostly likely-Republicans or conservative-leaning independents — who failed to vote in the 2012 election but probably would have backed Rob McKenna, Washington’s last GOP candidate for governor.This 100,000 is pretty core I suppose to Bryant's math, because seems to talk about them a lot.
“Who do you think elected Jay Inslee?” Bryant asked volunteers at the Clark County Republican Party headquarters Sunday evening. It wasn’t just Democrats, he said. There were more than 100,000 voters in the 2012 election who would have picked Inslee’s Republican opponent Rob McKenna but who didn’t vote, Bryant said. McKenna lost to Inslee, a Democrat, by about 94,000 votes.So, as I understand his argument, his goal is the turn up turnout among conservatives (who identify as Republicans or not) while hoping Democratic turnout stays flat.

I tried to simulate a couple of ways he could do that. Here is my math. Feel free to check my work, I've been wrong before. 

First, among the counties that fell below the average turnout in the gubernatorial election in 2012, I turned the turnout among Republican voters up to the average of all the counties. The above average counties I let stay the same.

This results in Bryant just barely losing to Inslee 1,506,000 votes to 1,582,000 votes.

Second, I took Republican turnout and pumped it up to the highest turnout of 87 percent in the gubernatorial election. This is incredibly pie in the sky since a lot of counties have turnout much lower than that. But, in this case, the Republican wins with 1,652,166 votes. Way more than enough.

The third one was trying to find the Goldylocks solution, how far you'd need to pump average voter turnout to just the right level to get Bryant over the finish line. This turns out to be 84 percent across the board, assuming Democratic turnout stays the same. This still sounds like a lot of turnout.

But, none of these are the reasons why I think the 100,000 voters are bunk.

The chart below illustrates the second option, 87 percent turnout across the board. It shows you the actual votes (in blue) and the new votes (red).

King County is still very much king.

There are more new votes (via math) to be had in King County then there are in the most Republican of Republican counties. But, I don't think these votes actually exist. Churning up new voters in King County (and other large Puget Sound counties) would only churn up new Democratic voters.

So, I'm not sure I think the 100,000 voters Bryant and the Republicans are looking for exist.

Lastly, I hope everyone appreciates the irony of Republicans talking about the benefits of higher voter turnout.

Lacey is less of a place than it would take to be useful to tourists

Olympia Time - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 6:58am
Lacey is taking a lot of umbridge with the position of some folks in Olympia that Lacey serves very little purpose to possible visitors (Ken Balsley):The Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB) is about to embark on a major promotion campaign to promote Thurston County as a destination for visitors and tourists. It’s entitled “Experience Olympia.” A majority of the Lacey City Council – – as well as myself – – think this is the wrong way to promote the entire region, and that concentrating on “Olympia” demeans and denigrates the other two cities which kick in money for the VCB.Just a quick note, please read to the bottom. This is not a Lacey sucks post.

Ken later makes a great point about the use of the Regional Athletic Center (funded by most of us, led by Lacey and located outside of Lacey), but I'll take on his position more directly that Lacey is owed any respect as a "place" that people would visit.

For starters, consider this piece in Strong Towns about the irony of taking engagement photos in a suburban development. Which is most of what Lacey is really.
Engagement photos are either urban or rural. They are either a former factory or a leafy meadow, the brick wall of a forgotten factory or an empty beach. Never the subdivision. Never the cul-de-sac.  … There is a reason no one takes engagement photos in the subdivision; they can be places not worth caring about. We wouldn't have been criticized if it was.And, just to apply this premise to here, this is a map of geotagged photos with the term "engagement" in our area.

Most of the photos are in the most placey place in all of Thurston County, downtown Olympia, the Capitol campus and Budd Inlet. Lacey does have churches, is has St. Martins and the Worthington Center, so I know people getting married in Lacey. But, when people are looking for a place to take photos in preparation for their wedding, they go to a place.

Similarly, when people travel, they also need a place to be. A series of only drivable neighborhoods connected by parking lots and big box stores similar to either the ones they came from or the ones in Lakewood 20 minute away is not place enough for tourists. The Regional Athletic Center, notwithstanding of course.

But, for Lacey, this isn't some mistake of history. It didn't come upon this state by accident. It has planned not to be a place.

These two maps in particular makes me think of Lacey less of a place and more of a convenient municipal organization.

This is a map of where the people are east of Olympia:

And, this is a map of where Lacey is, almost straining to get out of the way of a lot of the people who live east of Olympia:

This is not a natural community or a natural border around a place. This is a city that bends itself to become successful, but not serve people.

I remember being in a forum for candidates for county sheriff and asking if it would be easier to be sheriff if Lacey annexed the urban neighborhoods like Tanglewild and the Meadows. I don't remember the candidates taking the question very seriously, but most assumed Lacey would never annex those older, dense almost urban areas.

Here is a short visual history of how Lacey grew north of those neighborhoods since the 1980s. It was more convenient for Lacey to annex places that didn't have people (at the time of annexation) and stretch itself around places where there were people.

And, I know full well why Lacey hop-skipped over these older, in decline neighborhoods along Martin Way. Back to the engagement photos post:
These places were not cherry-picked. They are everywhere. The drive-in snout house is more common than all the brownstones in America by a factor of 20. We know the story of these places. We know what is next: decline. And, to use a happy couple as the backdrop probably does feel like a slap in the face. While I never intended to make a moral statement (certainly not about individuals living here), the photos do make a judgement on our culture. We build places that cost us lots of money, don't work very well, and people ignore them when they're looking for nice place to take a photo.By the 1980s and 90s, the older neighborhoods that didn't become part of Lacey when it first came to being in the late 60s were too far gone, too below standards, too expensive to maintain for Lacey to want to bring them in. In the pessimist's view, they were what the rest of Lacey was possibly going to become.

I'll acknowledge one more point from the pro-Lacey name folks. There are a lot of hotels not in Olympia that carry most of the freight for the visitor and convention bureau that want to go Olympia only. It would make sense to acknowledge their places and their contributions because. at least the hotels outside Olympia use their own cities as label right?

Not really. It's a mixed bag overall, but the Olympia name carries pretty far. In the Hawks Prairie section of Lacey:

This is a little bit misleading, some of these hotels are actually in Olympia, but the other ones in Lacey still use Olympia:

And, also the Tumwater hotels also use the Olympia name:

I hope everyone reading this gets down this far, because I'd like to say this as well: this is not a 1997-esque Lacey Sucks sort of post. Because I don't think Lacey sucks. I'm not a huge fan of unwalkable, unbikeable, retail sales tax centered city development. But if I wanted to spill word tilting against that wildmill I'd be pretty unoriginal. To that end, I think Lacey has been doing some good work to correct the sins of the past.

And, since I've lived in the most Lacey-like part of Olympia (SE side) for the past 14 years, it would be supremely ironic for me to take too hard a swipe at Lacey.

So, let me sum up this way. I can see why people live in Lacey. Tens of thousands of people live there. Lovely neighborhoods, convenient to drive to the store. Drive anywhere really. Other than youth sports tournaments, I don't see why anyone would visit there. I wouldn't suggest anyone visit my neighborhood as a tourist either.

Crazy Idea: City of Thurston

Olympia Time - Sat, 08/20/2016 - 8:43am

One of the frequent criticisms of the Thurston County Commission is that usually the people who serve on commission come from where most people in the county live, one of the three major cities.

The criticism goes, being city residents, though, they aren't necessarily impacted by the policy decisions they make for residents in unincorporated areas. We'll just ignore the fact that unincorporated rural landowner and incorporated landowners pay the exact same rate to the county in taxes for the the rest of this post.

So, here's a crazy idea: why doesn't the entire unincorporated part of Thurston County become its own city? And, I'm not just talking about the parts of rural Thurston County that really should have their own local government (looking right at you Rochester and Grand Mound), but I mean the entire unincorporated swath of it.

That way, the rural Thurston City government would take over nearly every local government function like planning, policing, and garbage pickup.

Thurston County would still exist, but would be stripped down to the things that really only counties can provide, like courts, elections, that sort of thing.

Their is a history of large rural area of a county declaring themselves free from the tyranny of local county government by becoming a city. In 1990 Bainbridge Island became its own city when the pre-existing city of Winslow swallowed up the rest of the island.

The article I linked to shows some of the issues that the islanders had to face to with being their own bosses (increased population growth, growing pains of ramping up services and just paying for government), but it would be interesting to see rural residents stand on their own.

Because, as you might know, landowners in Olympia pay the same rate to the county as the ones living off Fir Tree Road.

Where Jim Cooper, Allen Miller and John Hutchings got their support

Olympia Time - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 3:45pm

Glen wrote about how Allen Miller's candidacy for county commissioner was some sort of shield against fellow non-partisan John Hutchings, benefiting Jim Cooper. His point was that Miller would take votes from Hutchings and possibly force a Cooper Miller run-off in November.

At least on the top line results, that is sort of what happened. Cooper took over 35 percent of the votes in the five way primary while Hutchings and Miller fought it out for second at just under 20 percent. After all the voters were counted, Hutchings survived Miller and came out on top.

This map shows each candidate's strongest dozen or so precincts, where I could assume each candidate had their strongest support.

On the surface, you see something really interesting, Cooper did well in the inner northern Thurston precincts, Miller did well further out in the less walkable neighborhoods while Hutchings had his strongest support either much further out or right up next to Miller.

This suburban band around the edge of the northern Thurston urban areas that Miller won is also lit up against Sue Gunn in her election.

And, I suppose whether you believe Miller was a Cooper patsy is whether you believe Miller had more of an impact on Hutchings or Cooper.

For me, election returns not-withstanding, I doubt Miller jumped into the race to support Cooper. Knowing Miller, his number one priority in public life is somehow preserving Capitol Lake. This isn't a massive secret.

Cooper made a brave move recently on the city council to build in a position of pro-Deschutes estuary restoration on the city's primary planning document. If Miller enter the arena as some sort of pro-Cooper tank, he would have ignored his primary civic goal.

Legislative committee examining police use of deadly force law

Works in Progress - Mon, 08/08/2016 - 6:33pm

Tuesday, July 12– “I do believe that this issue is not an either-or…you can be a complete advocate and supporter of law enforcement as I am, and you can also be an advocate for community safety. I think the common ground we all share is to have a safe community. Everyone wants to go home to their families at the end of the day and I think if we keep that in mind as we go through this process, it would be very helpful,” said Gloria Ochoa-Bruck, Washington Commission on Hispanic Affairs.

Ochoa-Bruck’s words at the first meeting of a joint legislative task force on the use of deadly force in community policing on June 28 takes on new meaning as feelings of insecurity, tension, grief and outrage increased and challenged Americans this week.
Later in the meeting, Ochoa-Bruck said, “If you take away the badges, what does that look like? There are apparently two very different standards….”

In response to the five police officers killed in Dallas and for the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, the work of the joint legislative task force should be made all that much more urgent.

To continue reading…



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Death by cop count

Works in Progress - Mon, 08/08/2016 - 6:32pm

The US government has no comprehensive record of the number of people killed by law enforcement.

The Counted is a project by The Guardian, counting the number of people killed by police and other law enforcement agencies in the United States throughout 2015 and 2016, to monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died.

The Guardian counts police fatalities through traditional reporting on police reports and witness statements, by monitoring regional news outlets, research groups and open-source reporting projects such as the websites Fatal Encounters and Killed by Police.

The database combines Guardian reporting with verified crowdsourced information and is the most thorough public accounting for deadly use of force in the US and is frequently updated by Guardian reporters and interactive journalists.

In an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police by The Guardian, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15 percent of all deaths logged this year, despite making up only 2 percent of the total U.S. population. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age.

Also according to The Guardian, paired with official government mortality data, this new finding indicates that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the U.S. is a killing by police.

How does the US government count killings by police now?

The FBI runs a voluntary program through which law enforcement agencies may or may not choose to submit their annual count of “justifiable homicides,” which it defines as “the killing of a felon in the line of duty.”

Lacking a baseline in reporting systems, there are wide fluctuations in the number of agencies choosing to report figures. Faulty reporting by agencies that do report has resulted in partially informed news coverage pointing misleadingly to trends that may or may not exist.

Between 2005 and 2012, 1,100 of the 18,000 police departments in the country reported a “justifiable homicide” to the FBI.

The FBI system counted 461 justifiable homicides by law enforcement in 2013, the latest year for which data is available. Crowdsourced counts found almost 300 additional fatalities during that year.

The Counted, upon its launch on June 1, 2015, had already found close to that number of killings in just the first five months of 2015.


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Orlando was more than an incident–it exposed a landscape of violence

Works in Progress - Mon, 08/08/2016 - 6:29pm

Editorial note: This article is a collaborative statement from Southern Movement Assembly leaders. While it is dated because of printing deadlines and addresses a Southern audience, we felt that its contents are useful beyond Orlando and all the other acts of violence of the past month. WIP recommends this article as an important read.

Our hearts break in two directions

One heartbreak is the violent deaths and injuries of so many young, Latinx, Puerto Rican, and Black gay, queer, trans, lesbian, and bisexual people who were massacred at the Pulse nightclub’s Latin Night in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. That heartbreak is bound up in the horror that a place of sanctuary and culture was marred and twisted into a place of fear and death. We mourn as part of the queer community and as part of movements that organize for racial and immigrant justice, movements that organize with Muslim families, movements contending with displacement and colonialism in Puerto Rico, and movements inspired by young people fighting for their lives.

The other heartbreak is because we know, from every crisis we have weathered thus far, that this crisis, this disaster of hate and violence will be manipulated to expand agendas for profit, political power, and deeper oppression during a moment of collective grief and outrage. Rather than making swift moves toward real public safety, healing, or access to care, the political landscape shifts to reinforce violence, economies of scarcity, and global warfare.

This massacre is more than an incident that can be compared or contrasted with other horrific massacres. This massacre is not an aberration, and these are not isolated incidents or random tragedies. Part of our heartbreak is realizing that this massacre is an obvious extension of the historic roots of this country and the relentless reality of the current landscape in which we live.

The heartbreak of this moment exists because we know Orlando is not an isolated tragedy. In order to rise in strength from this pain, we have to understand the political and social terrain.  The terrible reality and aftermath of this massacre was a direct result of a combination of an economy based on surveillance, security, and militarized violence; a heightened social hostility and aggression; and a fifteen-year War on Terror that ushered in a permanent state of racist militarization and preemptive prosecution.

When the only employment is violence

More telling than any ambiguous ties the Orlando shooter had to ISIS, he was employed by G4S, one of the largest private security firms and largest employers in the world. With 600,000 employees worldwide, G4S runs youth detention facilities, border patrols and deportation operations, and armed security for corporations, governments, and gated communities.  The shooter was trained by this privatized global security conglomerate that represents two of the few growing edges of the global economy: social control and risk management.

George Wackenhut invested in mass incarceration early and founded a privatized security firm in 1954 in South Florida with several FBI agents. He bought them out a few years later and changed the name to Wackenhut Corporation. Wackenhut provided armed security services to nuclear power plants, weapons manufacturers, and prisons. By 1984, Wackenhut became the second largest for-profit prison operation in the U.S.

Wackenhut prisons were exposed in 2000 for rampant abuse, when the national media highlighted the sexual abuse of young inmates in Jena, Louisiana. After 62 federal court appearances for human rights abuses and diversion of public money intended for drug treatment, Wackenhut was sold in 2002 to a transnational company that eventually became G4S Securities. G4S has faced similar abuse scandals as recently as January 2016 in a juvenile facility in the UK.

In 2007, G4S hired the man who killed 49 people and injured 50 more in a few terrifying minutes in a gay nightclub in Orlando. That same year, G4S signed a contract to operate Israeli prisons, checkpoints, and interrogation centers. Also in 2007, Jena, Louisiana, a town of 3,000 people, made national news again when six Black students were charged and convicted with attempted murder and faced 100 years in prison for protesting racist attacks at their high school where nooses were hung from a tree and Black students were intimidated and provoked into a fist fight.

A desperate economy cultivates a culture of violence when it trains people to either produce and reinforce mass incarceration of Black and Brown bodies or protect rich bodies behind gated walls or borders. In the immediate wake of the Orlando attack, U.S. political leadership called for increased surveillance, security, and even increased air strikes in other parts of the world. It is quite probable that G4S will be contracted to provide parts of that increased militarized security in our neighborhoods, cities, public gathering spaces, gay Pride events, and across the world. When a violent culture is legitimized by lawmakers, hateful and racist backlash is inevitable.

The backlash is armed to the teeth

Florida represents a specific cauldron of Southern Republican supermajorities, District Attorneys gone wild, and the highest number of civilians carrying concealed weapons in the country. Sanford FL, 27 miles north of Orlando, was where another armed civilian murdered a young, unarmed Black teenager, Trayvon Martin. District Attorney Angela Corey, who has a record of harsh prosecution targeting Black and Latino youth and women, somehow did not secure a conviction of that murderer. The acquittal of George Zimmerman sent a signal of legitimized racist aggression that catalyzed social movements into action in 2013.

Florida leads the nation in gun permits with 1.3 million Floridians registered to carry concealed weapons. Labeled the “Gunshine State” in 1987, the NRA made sure that legislation was loose and easy to secure a gun. The legislation became a national model for concealed-weapon laws[6] not unlike the now famous Stand Your Ground Laws that passed first in Florida in 2005 and subsequently passed in over 23, mostly Southern states.

Social aggression combined with security culture, economic downturns, and reactive political leadership sets the stage for violent backlash against rising movements. As the LGBTQ community celebrated a victory of expanded rights in 2015, Angela Corey’s colleague, State District Attorney Pam Bondi opposed adoption for gay couples and recently argued in a Florida court that gay marriage would impose “significant public harm.” As a visible LGBTQ movement gains ground, queer and trans bodies are being policed in bathrooms, schools, and public spaces in heinous ways that are legitimized by legislation like North Carolina’s HB2 and the sweep of Southern governors refusing to comply with protections for LGBTQ people. Adding fuel to the fire, the current highly covered presidential campaign offers greater permission and encouragement to publicly express vitriol, racism, and inaccuracies that then get repeated ad nauseum.

The economy trained the shooter, and the political climate of Florida and the country, authorized him.

The War on Terror deepens

Throwing responsibility for violent attacks within the U.S. towards a distant, unsubstantiated connection to a band of extremists in another part of the world obscures the truth. The mechanisms of the U.S. manufactured War on Terror were employed on Orlando before bodies had been identified or families had been notified. The post 9-11 media frenzy defines an event before the information is clear, and becomes particularly biased and inflammatory if the shooter is not white. The Orlando shooter’s actual connection to particular groups is so farfetched that even the FBI did not find substantive reason to follow-up on him after three interviews. The Orlando shooter’s allegiance to the U.S. culture of militarization, aggressive hate, and professionalized violence was more at play than any other ideology.

The laser focus on ISIS and Islam as the primary motive fuels the War on Terror machine. After Orlando and other incidents that focus on the religion of non-white shooters rather than the larger context, Muslims, Arabs, refugees, and immigrants once again feel at risk and isolated in their own communities. The backlash of a public assumption that this situation was caused by Muslim immigrants threatens and marginalizes refugee and immigrant communities, like the refugee community in Clarkston, Georgia. Even potential victories on gun control have been limited to expanding government watch lists rather than revising the whole system. The focus on ISIS stokes Islamophobia and white supremacy and lays the foundation to justify militarization and preemptive prosecution.

Anti-terror legislation, Homeland Security Departments, and increased public surveillance leads us closer to an ever-expanding police state. If a young Black woman can be tried, convicted, and jailed using a lynching law in California when she tried to free a friend from a police attack, movement actors that challenge the state, police, or the U.S. government, regardless of who takes office in November, are likely to be defined as “terrorists” or tried in courts using those laws.

Every day the media releases new information about the shooter’s motives and the question revolves around hypothetical prevention. What could have stopped this horrific act? The answer leaps to finding ways to legally profile, monitor, prosecute, and incarcerate individuals who have not committed any crimes. Preemptive prosecution and the spectre of “homegrown” terrorists focuses on individuals, radicalization myths, and broad scale targeting of Muslim communities and does not increase public safety. If we focus on the individual rather than the systemic context, we cannot address the root of violence.

But the illusion is broken 

By investigating the layers and making important connections during this difficult time, we contend with reality as we simultaneously contend with our grief. The illusion is broken that we can possibly respond to this overwhelming, pervasive crisis one policy at a time, one shooter at a time, one police murder at a time, or one deportation at a time.

We can barely recover from one crisis when another, just as real, just as heartbreaking, comes to bear. We face the truth of this landscape, once again. We faced the truth of racist violence a year ago on June 17, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina when nine Black community members were massacred in Mother Emmanuel Church. We face the truth every time a young Black person is killed by police, another young Muslim is targeted by the FBI, or another young Mexican is deported in ICE raids hitting Georgia for the second time this year.

We recognize that we cannot transform this landscape by focusing on a type of gun, a type of person, or a perfect policy fix. To transform this landscape, we build from our shared strength. We reimagine our public spaces and how to protect them; we produce a functional economy based on common good; we generate a vision for global migration and universal citizenship; and we deepen our commitment to building organized movements that can and will respond to crisis and disaster with stronger infrastructure, stronger relationships, and community control.

Our only recourse are our social movements

As organizations that are part of the Southern Movement Assembly, we recognize that our communities are the source of our strength in times of crisis. Our resistance relies on our ability to see who we are to ourselves, not in a momentary false sense of unity but in an understanding of how our realities are all deeply connected. We are proud to be part of movements that refuse to be divided, movements that are lifting up the voices of LGBTQ Muslims, movements that refuse to scapegoat Muslim immigrants and refuse to ignore that the people who were killed were predominantly Latinx, part of a larger Puerto Rican diaspora, Black people, and people of color. We are proud to be part of movements that recognize the strength and resistance of LGBTQ communities. Our hearts begin to heal from the outpouring of love and solidarity in a time of grief.

One week before this shooting, 90 people gathered from all over the South to train together, generate visions for our plans, and kick off the Summer Organizing Drive towards the sixth Southern Movement Assembly. Queer people, trans people, young people, elders, organizers on every Southern frontline gathered in Atlanta. SpiritHouse led a session on safety as part of their Harm Free Zone work in Durham NC. People considered moments where we felt safe. We spoke about trauma, and how it affects us in ways that are not always easy to see.

The trauma of the people inside Pulse, their friends, families, and loved ones cannot be imagined. The trauma of fear, shock, and anger is also a shared experience that is generational, deeply embedded in survivors of oppression, displacement, warfare, and violence. The experience of collective grief, expressed in the recent rallies, vigils, dialogues, art, and social media is overwhelming. We applaud the efforts of Equality Florida and local leadership in Orlando creating incredible response and processes to support, heal, and distribute resources.

We all have unique roles to play, and we offer an assessment of the landscape in order to understand how to protect and defend our communities in times of great crisis. One effect of trauma is hyper-vigilance. When we experience trauma, we become super aware of our surroundings as a defense mechanism. In this time of collective trauma, the SMA calls on movement actors to harness a strategic hyper-vigilance to move from this moment into our collective movement power.

Let us be hyper-vigilant when we come together, not to police one another but to listen. Let us investigate this landscape, thoroughly. Let us take the time for careful reflection and foster a clear understanding of the terrain, forecast how state violence will be reinforced and expanded, and name what is at stake for all of our communities.

Let us also build from our strengths. Investigate and support the existing sanctuary spaces in your own location and community. Create spaces for engagement and dialogue that allow people opportunities to be in alignment, beyond allyship. Let us queer our political work in honor of the ones we have lost. We celebrate queer resistance to state violence and over-policing of our public spaces, Pride events, and nightclubs. Let us participate in organized work to initiate the development of a new landscape.

The long slow build

Southern communities began building together long before this attack, and we will continue to build a social justice movement powerful enough to contend with this current landscape and fundamentally transform our world. There are thousands of people who are part of the work of the Southern Movement Assembly and have worked to initiate visionary agendas through the Southern Peoples Initiatives that address the root causes of violence, poverty, racism, homophobia, and transphobia. We cannot move forward from this massacre without understanding our position, and we believe that we are stronger together.

We honor and carry with us the many we lost on that Saturday night in Florida. We carry with us the movements that walked out of high schools all over the South for the Jena 6 in 2007, the movements that rallied in the hundreds of thousands for Trayvon in 2013, the movements for the decolonization  of Puerto Rico, and the movements of Muslim and Arab families that have refused to be silenced and intimidated every day since 2001. We remember the many we have lost around the world as we begin to craft a better one.

Southern Movement Assembly is an alliance of Southern organizations to develop shared analysis and implement strategic action plans across the United States South.


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If you are a Sanders or Stein voter, don’t let anyone bully you into voting differently

Works in Progress - Mon, 08/08/2016 - 6:25pm

Every generation needs a new revolution.

—Thomas Jefferson

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

—Howard Zinn

There are 244 million Americans of voting age. Some 81 percent of us, about 198 million, are women, millennials, or persons of color. Of the remaining 46 million of us who are white males over the age of 35, a decent chunk are progressive to moderate in their political leanings. With a potential electorate characterized by these demographics, if Hillary Clinton is unable to defeat a racist, sexist, serial liar and provocateur who speaks at a fifth grade level, and has been ensconced on the lowest level of Maslow’s scale of human development for his entire 70 years, Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings as a candidate and individual, and only those shortcomings, would be responsible for a loss.

Every political candidate must earn my vote through ethical behavior, demonstrated consistency, policy positions that are the closest approximation of my values and views, demonstrated good judgement, and by running a campaign in a manner that demonstrates respect for voters, an ability to listen, and a recognition that maintaining the status quo in terms of those with extraordinary wealth and/or corporate influence over all levels of government has all but destroyed our Democracy and turned it into an Oligarchy. By every one of these criteria, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have failed to meet my standards. Conversely, Bernie Sanders has met every one of my criteria. From what I’ve seen of her, so does Jill Stein.
I would have voted for Senator Sanders if he were either the Democratic Party or Green Party nominee. That no longer appears to be a choice.

I will vote for Jill Stein, the presumptive Green Party Candidate. I will not be voting for Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump under any circumstances.

I do not say this lightly. I have voted for the Democratic candidate for President every election since my first vote in 1980. I have always considered myself a Democrat and I still do.

I was the youngest County Democratic Party Chair in Washington State upon my election. I’ve campaigned for scores of Democratic candidates over a 35 year period and contributed thousands of dollars to their campaigns. I was a Washington State Democratic Party Official for eight years. I was a Party Leader Elected Official Delegate to the 1992 Democratic National Convention for Bill Clinton and I cast one of 379 Votes for Clinton in the Electoral College in 1996. But as I’ve become more progressive, informed, and thoughtful in my later years, the Democratic Party at the national level has become almost entirely dominated and controlled by an oligarchy of the uber wealthy, corporate interests, and major media outlets that see their news divisions as profit and entertainment centers rather than to inform and report in an unbiased fashion.

The National Democratic Party of 2016, like it’s evil, hideous National Republican Party twin, is influenced and shaped far less by working men and women and their hopes and aspirations and needs than it is by corporations, billionaires, the financial sector, and lobbyists with eight figure retainers and compensation packages.

This must change and it will change, but Hillary Clinton is not the means to change it. She is a product of and the embodiment of the oligarchy. Let me be blunt: She and her husband have received over $200 million of influence and access payments masquerading as speaking fees and control a massive self-promotion vehicle supported by $Billions that represents itself as a charitable foundation but spends the vast percentage of its budget on administrative overhead and promoting the Clintons. The truth of the matter is the Democratic Party is about to nominate a presidential candidate who is functionally a pro-fracking, Wall Street Republican with strong hawkish tendencies on military and foreign policy matters. Clinton’s pending nomination is a testament to the warped priorities and evolution of the National Democratic Party apparatus from a protector and advocate for working families and the middle class to a pliant tool of Wall Street and Billionaires.

I don’t want my nieces and nephews or their peers dying in any more ill-conceived, unnecessary wars to prop up despots, enrich oil companies, or the serve the military-industrial complex’s need for ongoing warfare.

I don’t want the chasm that is economic inequality in this nation to grow any wider.

I don’t want a president who tells us to think small and that we can’t do big things.

I don’t want a president who takes the side of the insurance industry and opposes single payer health care.

I don’t want a President who is politically in bed with the fossil fuel industry.

I don’t want a president who has a history of supporting horrible trade deals.

I don’t want a president who has a habit of repeatedly changing his or her political positions on major issues, apparently for purely political self-interest or political gain.

I don’t want a president whose campaign is primarily based on self-aggrandizement, ego, “inevitability” or because it is “his or her turn.”

I don’t want a president who 60 to 70 percent of the American public don’t trust and don’t like.

No, for these and many, many other reasons, I won’t be voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I would have proudly voted for Bernie Sanders. Now, I will gladly vote for Jill Stein. The revolution continues. Not me, US.

If Not Bernie, than Jill.


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A secular humanist response to the Orlando shooting

Works in Progress - Mon, 08/08/2016 - 6:20pm

In the weeks since the shooting in Orlando we have felt anger, sadness, and heartbreak for the victims whose lives were violently ended and for the families who were forever changed. With Orlando, the epidemic of gun violence in the United States seems to have reached new heights. Each mass shooting has made the ones before it all the more horrific as we wonder, where next? Who next? This recent attack is so intermingled with issues of race, sexuality, and religion that it has been impossible not to feel that the United States is inching toward a social cataclysm.

The accounts of survivors huddling in the bathroom stalls of the Pulse nightclub were terrifying. Not only did Omar Mateen unleash a barrage of bullets onto nightclub patrons, but he also followed survivors into cornered areas – presumably hoping to kill as many people as possible; to make the world a “better place.” These actions are almost unspeakable, but can we write them off as the work of a devil? Mateen himself was not without his humanity. It important to remember that he was someone who was told, before he could probably understand, that members of the homosexual and transgender community were sinners who should not be allowed to live and that they could make his children gay with a ‘homosexual agenda.’ That if he were gay, he should hate himself. That if his children were gay, they would be punished for eternity.

Whatever mental health issues Mateen had, his brushes with fanatical Islam did nothing to ameliorate them. This hatred was equally encouraged by Christian counterparts who frequented the Florida radio waves with pontifications against gay marriage and fears of transgendered individuals using bathrooms. After the tragedy at Pulse nightclub, some pastors and imams—and even a Hasidic Jew—responded with sermons condoning the massacre. Mateen pulled the trigger, and insanely loose gun laws provided him with the weapon, but a culture of homophobia and transphobia spewed forth from hidebound theologies gave him his hate. Like too many of the horrific acts of terrorism we have witnessed, the shooting in Orlando is a symptom of a culture of divisiveness and hatred, which may be turned on oneself, on other people, or both.

We can no longer accept and tolerate that culture. Let’s first challenge our own beliefs and then challenge the belief systems around us that cage, accuse, and denigrate. We can no longer let people share ignorant messages on social media, or memes that generalize populations of individuals. We must no longer permit  institutionalized intolerance.

We must all remind ourselves that human beings are more important than dogmas and ideologies. We must become the change we wish to see by telling people who you are. Religion, especially its most fanatical elements, must be criticized; public policy, especially concerning gun control, must be based on science and common sense; the dignity of each person must be affirmed and celebrated throughout our culture. That starts with each of us. Now, it is time mourn, but after that, it is time speak out.

Dani Burger is the administrator on the Olympia Atheist Community Facebook page and Marco Rosaire Rossi is a member of the American Humanist Association.


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Of Slaves

Works in Progress - Mon, 08/08/2016 - 6:16pm

Dealt with a rough hand by the way society is structured

Because you are black you are at a disadvantage

Is what they told me

I mean I am black in White America, but hardly paid the color green


I have a problem with a lot of what you said

I am not a product, I am done being someone else’s second option

My body is not a product

It’s so easy to respect sex workers, I like women and I’m surrounded by loneliness constantly

To take the blame off of them and put it on me is ridiculous

Fuck them, and that way of thinking

Me showing my body doesn’t deem me less deserving of respect than a woman or a person who doesn’t. period

It’s great that you respect what I do, but your view of me is shit

Comparing me to junk food doesn’t seem like respect at all, and people aren’t products that others can just consume


Of exploitation comes the confines of Abraham’s proclamation

Towards the wilderness’s deforestation

To the fields of slavery deportation

James Earl Ray will attempt to assassinate my declaration

Byron De La Beckwith will attempt to lynch my message from American’s legislation


Do you remember Hariette Moore and Harry?

Because you are black you are at a disadvantage, does that sentence seem scary?


The FBI used COINTLPRO agents

And now that Malcolm’s dead we wonder why from the White Man’s station


Society, and men especially should encourage women to advocate for themselves

It’s important to let women know that they have a voice and that they have a right to tell men that they are not comfortable with being treated inappropriately

Therefore, women must begin to feel more confident, not only with expressing consent, but for voicing their own opinions too

— Darrell Herbert


Darrell Herbert is a recipient of a National Silver Medal and Gold Key, presented by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards of 2014. His poetry has been featured in numerous publication such as Writers- Black Artists Connected Blog, Yellow Chair Review, and Media Blast Press.


The post Of Slaves appeared first on Works in Progress.

Fridays from A Woman in the Crossfire

Works in Progress - Mon, 08/08/2016 - 5:30pm

In her book, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, Samar Yazbek describes how in Syria the mosque became an instrument and embodiment of the power needed by opponents of the Assad Regime — somewhat similar to the role played by the church in our Civil Rights movement.  As the Syrian people’s revolution against the regime evolved from March – July 2011, the people found ways to communicate important stages by naming Fridays.

Some of the names…

Friday of Dignity

Friday of Steadfastness

Friday of Perseverance

Friday of Rags

Friday of Defiance

Friday of the Children of Freedom

Friday of the Tribes

Say No to Dialogue Friday

Get Out Friday

The Fall of the Regime Friday


Maybe this strategy would serve us well as our resistance evolves.


The post Fridays from A Woman in the Crossfire appeared first on Works in Progress.

An open letter to the Port of Olympia and the City of Olympia

Works in Progress - Mon, 08/08/2016 - 5:21pm

It has been brought to the attention of the residents of Olympia and other locations that the Port of Olympia is planning to allow the use of the Port again for military shipments.  As you will recall, the last time this occurred in 2007, there were many protests and disruptions that were very costly to the Port, the City of Olympia, and many other people in the region.  [Please see the article “10 Days That Shook Olympia,” Counterpunch, November 15, 2007]

These protests were not against service members or military personnel per se.  These protests were against the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001-to the present.

The public relations ploy that these wars are “over” hardly needs to be refuted.  Wars that were illegal and unnecessary in 2007, have not been justified to be “legal” in 2016.  The policies that the US has followed under the Bush and now Obama administrations have proven to be illegal disasters that only increase insecurity for the American people and the globe.

I remember quite distinctly in 2007, when I had a meeting with the Port commissioners to discuss the illegality of the wars, that one of the commissioners stated that he did not know if the war was legal or not, but that this was a business deal that the Port needed.  This is unacceptable and sounds like the excuse that one is “only following orders” from those who outrank him.  If you have questions as to the illegality of your actions, as elected officials you have an obligation to be sure of your actions and act with integrity.

If you recall, during 2007, the 10 days of protest were quite costly to the Cities of Olympia, Tacoma, and Aberdeen.  News reports at the time discussed that hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to police (and abuse) the citizens of Olympia, Tacoma and the region who were exercising their first amendment rights to “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I recall that the military stated that it was not going to pay extra for the police.  If I remember correctly, at that time the extra cost of the police was borne by the local citizens.  The cost to the city of Olympia was reported at $112, 168.  One news report that stated the Port was going to compensate the city of Olympia about $70,000 for the use of the police. [The Olympian article from August 15, 2010, “Plea for protest policy”]

While I believe that the main issues are the illegality and immorality of the wars, there are several questions that I have.  I am requesting that these be answered in a reasonable time and certainly at least a month before any military shipments are scheduled to be shipped through the Port of Olympia.

This is a formal request to the Port of Olympia and the City of Olympia.  It is made under the State of Washington’s Open Records Laws.

1. Please submit itemized records of the costs and amounts for police activities that were incurred concerning the Olympia Port Protests in October and November of 2007.

2. Which government entities paid and what amounts to and/or from the City of Olympia, including the cities of Tumwater, Lacey, other cities assisting Olympia?), by the State of Washington, and the Port of Olympia (or other Ports)?

3. Did any branch of the United States Military (JBLM or other federal agency, such as Homeland Security) compensate the city of Olympia and/or the Port of Olympia for the cost of security, and if so, what amounts?

4. Please provide the contracts between the Port of Olympia and branches of the US military in 2007.

5. What are the current plans and provide contracts between the Port of Olympia and branches of the U.S. military for 2016 and 2017?

6. What are the current plans between the Port of Olympia and the City of Olympia and other local governments for compensation or re-imbursements for costs associated with any planned military shipments in 2016 or 2017?

7. What are the current plans (2016-2017) for the military use of the Port for shipments out of the Port and/or for shipments into the port?  If out of the Port, what is the final destination?  If shipments are into the port what was/is the point of departure?

8. If the shipments are coming into the Port from a war zone, what are the guarantees that the shipments are free from Depleted Uranium (DU) dust or otherwise?  This is important not just for the workers at the Port but also the citizens of Olympia and the region if contaminated hardware and equipment is shipped through the city.

All of the above are important issues and concerns, but the main issues I want to emphasize are the reasons for past and possible future protests—i.e. the illegality and immorality of the current wars.  To make this point in more detail, I refer you to a letter I wrote to the Port and the Olympia City officials on March 25, 2010 when there were reports that the Port was again to be used for military shipments.  I will copy that letter here since there have been many personnel changes on the Port and the City.  The arguments here have stood the test of time and I stand by the information provided.  This 2010 letter, unfortunately, is still very relevant.  I have Bolded portions of the letter that I want to emphasis for 2016 (parts II, III, and V).  There are many references and links within this letter and I would be pleased to provide you with more data upon request.

Lawrence Mosqueda is a professor emeritus at The Evergreen State College.

A copy of his 2010 letter to the Port and City of Olympia is online at


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