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How dangerous is Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric?

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:34pm

Last month, I spent a weekend in New York City visiting family, and as I rode the subway in Manhattan from Columbus Circle to 34st, and from Grand Central to 40st in Queens, and from Herald Square to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, I thought about the attacks that happened in Paris. I was still thinking about them again when I sat with my husband and step-daughter and granddaughter in a French café near Bryant Park—about how meaningless our lives would be to killers like those in San Bernadino or Paris, and how much our lives mean to us. I found myself trying to wrap my mind around ISIS not with the intention of becoming an expert, but because the kinds of killings that happened Paris and San Bernadino and Beirut are likely to occur again—and I need a way to think about them.

In “The Farce Awakens,” a November op-ed piece in the New York Times, Paul Krugman compared the Republicans’ response to the attacks in Paris to their response to the Ebola virus last year, arguing that “these days, panic attacks after something bad happens are the rule rather than the exception, at least on one side of the political divide.” I think he’s only partly right. Whipping up a frenzy about threats that don’t and won’t materialize has become a current rhetorical practice in our national political discourse: at the same time, it’s not reasonable to assume that similar attacks won’t happen in any of the places where people I know and love may be. What’s issue is what we do in response to those threats—and that depends on trying to understand them.

Dangerous concepts

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could avoid the widely reported (and widely watched) comments from the Republicans seeking to be president—and fail to notice the dangerous ideas they are promoting. With one exception (Rand Paul), all the Republican candidates argue that the best response to ISIS is through an increase in violence—increasing the intensity of the ongoing air war and ramping up the U.S. presence in Syria by thousands of troops. Gabrielle Levy, writing for US News in December, further characterized their positions like this: “Front-runner Donald Trump leads the pack with his plan to block all non-American Muslims from entering the country and to shut down Internet access in parts of the world where the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, is active. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, climbing in the polls, advocates a plan to ‘carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion’.”

Intensifying the war in the Middle East is a bad move for many reasons, but it’s being sold as a “straightforward” strategy to keep us safe. Donald Trump’s rhetoric is the most dangerous, because he’s an expert at appealing to his audience with his seeming off-the-cuff remarks, and the most extreme in his views. Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman just published an article in The New York Times based on an analysis of 95,000 words spoken by Trump on the campaign trail. One rhetorical move he makes is the frequent use of “us” and “them”—where “them” connotes a wildly oversimplified and falsely characterized group of others who become villians in Trump’s discourse. Another Trump tactic is to personalize arguments, dismissing and insulting the speaker rather than addressing the content of the issue. Most dangerous, perhaps, is Trump’s tendency to dismiss reasonable evidence:

Mr. Trump uses rhetoric to erode people’s trust in facts, numbers, nuance, government and the news media, according to specialists in political rhetoric. “Nobody knows,” he likes to declare, where illegal immigrants are coming from or the rate of increase of health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act, even though government agencies collect and publish this information. He insists that Mr. Obama wants to accept 250,000 Syrian migrants, even though no such plan exists, and repeats discredited rumors that thousands of Muslims were cheering in New Jersey during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He promises to “bomb the hell” out of enemies—invoking Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and he says he would attack his political opponents “10 times as hard” as they criticize him.

Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric is dangerous. On December 22, the Guardian reported that a British Muslim family of eleven was preventing from boarding their plane from London to LA by U.S. officials who refused to explain why. The family, two brothers and nine of their children, were on their way to visit cousins in southern California and make a trip to Disneyland. They had shopped in the duty-free shop, and were ready to board when they were turned away.

According to the Guardian, one of the brothers, Mohammad Tariq Mahmood, said that no one explained why their entry was barred, the airlines refused to refund the $13,340 they had spent on the eleven round-trip tickets, and they were forced to return everything they had purchased in the duty-free shops before they were escorted out of the airport: “I have never been more embarrassed in my life. I work here, I have a business here. But we were alienated,” Mahmood said.

Writing about the incident for the Guardian, British Labour MP Stella Creasy urged the British government to take action, given that a week after the incident occurred, the U.S. has yet to explain why they targeted this British family. Taking a strong position against what she calls the “trumping” of British citizens, Creasy wrote this:

Just a week ago, parliamentarians were united in agreement that Trump’s views were abhorrent. Now we should do more than shrug our shoulders at secretive American security policies that leave our constituents in such limbo. If the embassy won’t answer to the family’s MP, it should answer to their prime minister and he to us about what he is doing to ensure that no British citizen is being discriminated against for their faith on our shores.

Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the U.S. silence on this issue, provides fuel for the very cause ISIS champions. Mr. Mahmood reasonably pointed out that the whole experience of being lead out of the airport, with no reasons given at that time or in the weeks that followed,  instead of leaving for the planned-in-advance, ticketed and packed for vacation with family, was “alienating.” No kidding. And it’s not that feeling alienated inevitably leads someone to engage in violence, like shooting people at a concert. But acting in ways that might reasonably be predicted to lead to alienated feelings among Muslim is wrong, on every level. And that’s what the application of Trump’s rhetoric seems to be doing.

What ISIS wants

Writing for the blog Lawfare, Jessica Stern reports that in the latest issue of Dabiq, ISIS’s on-line magazine, the organization sets forth two “options”. The first is to spread a “totalitarian caliphate” throughout the region, and then the world. The second is “to polarize Muslims against one another, to incite internal divisions within the West, and to turn the West against Islam, with the ultimate goal of “goad[ing] the West into launching an all-out ground attack, thereby setting the scene for the final battle between Muslims and the crusaders prophesized to be held at Dabiq in Syria”

On this second point, the goal of turning the West against Islam, inciting internal divisions within the West, and polarizing Muslims against each other, Adam Shatz, writing for the London Review of Books, argues that we can no longer make the assumption Bush once did—that we could fight terrorism “there” so we won’t have to fight it “here.” As Shatz writes, the distinction between here and there doesn’t hold up anymore; the borders are porous:

(ISIS) is as keen to conquer virtual as actual territory. It draws on a growing pool of recruits who discovered not only IS but Islam itself online, in chatrooms and through messaging services where distance vanishes at the tap of a keyboard. Indeed, the genius of IS has been to overcome the distance between two very different crises of citizenship, and weave them into a single narrative of Sunni Muslim disempowerment: the exclusion of young Muslims in Europe, and the exclusion of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq.”

While Trump is peddling his anti-Muslim rhetoric, and finding success, what we actually need to focus on are the core issues that always need tending: assuring basic human rights for everyone, including a living wage, a place to live, a chance to be happy.

In contrast, where we are far from that place. In her analysis about why ISIS has had success turning European Muslims against their homelands, Jessica Stern points out that the pool of disenfranchised Muslim youth in Europe is large. She writes:

In the most recent European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey, one in three Muslim respondents reported experiencing discrimination, with the effect greatest among Muslims aged sixteen to twenty-four (overall discrimination rates decline with age). Muslims in Europe are far more likely to be unemployed and to receive lower pay for the same work than “native” Europeans. Consequently, Muslim immigrants in Europe are disproportionately impoverished. While ten percent of native Belgians live below the poverty line, that number is 59 percent for Turks and 56 percent for Moroccans in Belgium. There are 4.7 million Muslims living in France, many of them in poverty.

Adam Shatz points out that 70 percent of the prisoners in French jails are Muslims. He argues that “a long-term project to end discrimination against Muslims, and ensure their participation in the workplace, civic life and politics, would help to reduce the temptations of radical Islamism”—but no such project is in the works in France, nor has such a strategy been suggested by any of the Republican presidential contenders, particularly Donald Trump. Investing more money in the U.S. military at the expense of funding social services, raising the minimum wage for everyone, and insuring everyone has access to health care and good educations will only get us deeper into this swirling mess. Couple that with hate speech directed at Muslims, and it only gets worse.

Resisting the Seduction of Simplistic Rhetoric

As Miriam Padilla pointed out in last month’s Works in Progress, any of us could lose a loved one. The key, she wrote, is this: “it is up to us as workers, students, immigrants, and feminists—of every color, religion, and nationality—to come together and unite to end all the violence against us everywhere, by ending the wars and oppression and exploitation that are its root causes.”

Miriam is right, I think, and where we need to start—where we seem to have the most agency—is working on ending exploitation and oppression through specific policy changes at the local, state, and federal level. It matters who we elect—it matters whether you vote. I used to think that ISIS—what it is, why it exists, and how to respond to it—was important to understand, but way outside my expertise. That position is dangerous. We are living in a time where bad thinking cloaked in simplistic rhetoric trumps the good thinking required from all of us if we are going to help steer the course of our future.

Emily Lardner lives and works in Olympia, Washington.


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Reaffirmation of our shared commitment to a free and open society

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:30pm

Statement Concerning the Climate of Political Intolerance:  A voice vote was taken on the statement below at the December 9, 2015 Faculty meeting  and passed by overwhelming yes vote with one abstention. 

We, members of the faculty at The Evergreen State College, are deeply troubled by the extreme intolerance of the present political scene in the United States. Particularly worrisome are some of the demagogic, hateful and openly racist statements emerging from the field of Presidential candidates, echoed by members of Congress, governors, and other officials. In recent months we have seen rhetorical slanders against Mexican immigrants, Muslims, refugees, Black Lives Matter activists, women, and even people with disabilities. The Paris attacks of November 13 prompted discussion of closing mosques, mass surveillance, and the creation of databases of refugees—and perhaps all Muslims. Many governors demanded a ban on all immigration of Syrian refugees to the United States. One presidential candidate compared them to “rabid dogs.” Another has proposed that we kill the families of terrorists. Such inflammatory comments, appealing to deep-seated prejudice and fear, can only serve to degrade public discourse, weaken the defense of cherished civil liberties, and prepare the ground for authoritarianism and violence.

To combat these troubling developments, as part of our stated mission to further social justice, we at The Evergreen State College:

  1. Applaud the statement by Governor Jay Inslee welcoming Syrian refugees to the State of Washington. We further encourage an increase in the proposed number of those refugees allowed into the United States during this period of humanitarian crisis.
  2. Encourage, to the extent possible, our own Evergreen State College to be a part of the process of resettlement of these immigrants. We also endorse tuition support and an expedited admissions process to allow Syrian students to attend Evergreen.
  3. Condemn the wholesale scapegoating of members of the Islamic faith, and those of Middle Eastern ethnicity, because of the reprehensible acts of a few. We denounce the exploitation of public fears by political figures seeking to build support at the expense of whole groups of innocent people.
  4. Condemn the abusive political rhetoric against African Americans, Black Lives Matter activists, undocumented Mexican and other immigrants, people with disabilities, women, and others. We deplore this uncivil and intolerant discourse, and encourage our community members to publicly defend the rights and liberties of those under attack.
  5. Promote an ethics of welcome towards all refugees, recognizing their right to human dignity. We are also mindful that climate change, war, and economic crises will continue to produce migrations for a long time to come.
  6. We welcome and echo this November 21 statement issued by the American Academy of Religion, the world’s largest scholarly society devoted to the critical study of religion:

The American Academy of Religion is deeply troubled by the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States and around the world. Hate speech and intemperate political discourse aimed at Muslims and other religious groups are opposed to the values of our learned society and to the most cherished commitments of American civic culture. We call on our members, other scholars of religion, and all Americans, to reject that divisive and dangerous speech and to reaffirm our shared commitment to a free and open society where all residents’ rights are recognized and protected.


The post Reaffirmation of our shared commitment to a free and open society appeared first on Works in Progress.

Police brutality and its discontents  

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:24pm

The destruction of the Black body in America

Here is what I would like for you to know: In America it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.

                 Ta- Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (a letter to his son)

I. The deceased

It seems fair to say—at least for rhetorical purposes—that the first group of those discontented with police brutality are those unable to express discontent, or any other form of human expression for that matter, due precisely to the brutal actions of police that have cost them their lives.  At the moment of this writing (Dec 10), according to data compiled by “The Counted”, an interactive program designed by The Guardian (US), there have been 1063 people killed by the police this year, which amounts to an average of three people per day before the end of December 2015. More than half of them have been male (745), and in terms of Race and Ethnicity, the majority of them have been Black, killed at a rate of 6.34 per million; followed by Native Americans, at  rate of 3.4 per million; Hispanic Latino at a rate of 3.05 per million; White, at a rate of 2.67 per million; and Asian Pacific/Islander, at a rate of 1.01 per million.

No other advanced capitalist society in the world comes even close to this level of killing of its own people on a daily basis. Within this context, it is hardy coincidental that no official U.S. government organization keeps close track of this social event. It appears to be a clear case of an intentional statistical deficit, particularly for a country that takes pride in the quality of its quantitative record keeping about a myriad of information and exercises high levels of surveillance over its citizens. It’s impossible not to conclude that we live in a society that is both selective in its killings, and even more selective about what it wants to keep in its official recorded memory.

However, as demonstrated by the incidents beginning in Ferguson and continuing in numerous other American cities, communities of color know and remember. Large numbers of Black Americans are not willing to ingest the saccharine pill of social amnesia, i.e. at the moment of this writing there are huge protests against the police in the streets of Chicago challenging police brutality. The widely reported events of police brutality just this year—coupled with the record of the historical past—demonstrate that there is a pernicious form of violence directed against black people in America. Black Americans are being killed at a rate disproportionate to their total percentage of the population as suggested by the statistics presented by The Guardian. The point here of course, is not to suggest an ‘equitable’ distribution of killings among different American ethnic groups, but to point out the systemic racist profiling of African Americans, or what in the words of Ta-Nehishi Coates constitutes a heritage of violence against black bodies, whose latest most visible expression is the killing of black citizens as an accepted “modus operandi” of some police departments throughout the nation.

Two main groups have taken prominence in opposing current police brutality. The first is loosely integrated by different variants of American liberalism searching for ideological solace under the umbrella of reformism. This group essentially seeks to pass policy reforms to affect police departments throughout the nation, hoping to create a more  ‘restrained’ image of the institution even as it continues to exercise the  ‘legitimized’ use of force granted by the state to the police and its members.  The second group is more radical and broad in the scope.  It understands police brutality not as an isolated event to be addressed within the quiet quarters of police departments and the thick municipal regulations of our cities, but as embedded in the structural racism of American society, which in turn is rooted in historical relations of power and oppression that can not be separated from broader social, economic, and political considerations. This second group is constituted by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, and each of these two forms of discontent offers a unique perspective about the role of the state in a capitalist society, its ideological and political apparatuses, and the role played by its institutions of control and repression such as police departments. Each proposes a different set of strategies worth considering in our struggle against the abuses of power and in favor of the rights of all citizens.  The first group imagines how American capitalism should be. The second, knowing through historical experience how American capitalism works, explores ways to transcend it.

II. The discontent of the liberal mind

There are numerous ways to distinguish between liberal and radical thinking, or, in other words, reformist versus revolutionary thinking. Sparing the reader an unnecessary historical journey into the origin of liberalism, suffice here to say that liberalism understands the rights of the individual as if they were constituted autonomously, that is to say, independently of social, cultural, and economic constraints existing in a given society.  Within this ideological frame, the liberal mind understand issues such as equal rights, the respect of individual freedoms, and the conduct of social institutions such as the police as if they were merely the result of procedural principles of abstract justice to be solved within city halls by local politicians. By doing so, the liberal mind ignores the history and social context in which those rights, freedoms, institutions, and legal systems were put in place. The liberal mind, occupied as it is with the procedures of justice, fails to identify not only the main beneficiaries of existing capitalism in America, but also ignores at the same time the role played by popular struggles in the acquisition and defense of existing rights.

To point out the limitations of liberal reformers of capitalism in general, or of the police force in particular, does not mean to deny the value of reforms per se, but when it comes to reforms we must keep in mind two important factors: first, we must not restrict our political actions to reforms understood solely as taking place within the already complicated (on purpose of course) legal apparatus of the system; and second, reforms must be used to intensify—not to placate—the fight against all forms of capitalist exploitation.   No effective political response to police brutality will be possible if we continue to ignore among others, the following factors: (these factors were included in a previous article of mine on Ferguson)

  • The black unemployment rate has consistently been twice as high as the white unemployment rate for 50 years.
  • During the second quarter of 2015, the national African American unemployment rate dipped below 10 percent for the first time in seven years. By way of comparison, although 6.9 percent is the lowest black unemployment rate in any state, it is essentially the same as the highest white unemployment rate (West Virginia’s).
  • The black poverty rate is no longer declining. In 2011, almost 28 percent of black households were in poverty, nearly three times higher than the poverty rate for whites.
  • Black children are more likely than whites to live in areas of concentrated poverty: 32% of black children, 30% of American Indian children, 24% of Hispanic children, 8% of Asian and Pacific Islander children and 5% of white children live in census tracts with poverty rates of 30% or more.
  • School segregation has increased since 1980, which means that “the more nonwhite students a school has, the fewer resources it has. A 10 percentage-point increase in the share of nonwhite students is associated with a $75 decrease in per student spending” (EPI).
  • The racial disparity in incarceration rates is bigger than it was in the 1960’s. While in 1960, the rates were 262 whites and 678 blacks incarcerated per 100,000 U.S. residents, by 2010, the rates were up to 1,313 whites and 4,374 blacks incarcerated per 100,000 residents.
  • A separate study on social mobility conducted by Richard Reeves showed that “Black children are more likely to be born into poverty than white children; but they are also less likely to scape poverty” (2013, Social Mobility Memos).

Black youth in America—a group frequently the object of police brutality—has been called Generation Zero, described by social scientist Henry Giroux as “a generation with zero opportunities, zero futures, and zero expectations […]  forced to accept a life of unstable labor and unstable living.  Too many young people and other vulnerable groups now inhabit what might be called a geography of terminal exclusion—a space of disposability.” Giroux continues: “As the war on terror comes home, public spaces have been transformed into war zones as local police forces have taken on the role of an occupying army, especially in poor minority neighborhoods, accentuated by the fact that the police have now access to armored troop carriers, night vision rifles, Humvees, M16 automatic rifles, grenade launchers, and other weapons designed for military tactics. Acting as a paramilitary force, many local police have become a new symbol of domestic terrorism”.

It is within the context of economic, racial, social, cultural, and military oppression that the latest expressions of police brutality and authoritarianism above the law can be better explained. Police actions are not the exclusive and direct result of the circumstantial bias of isolated individuals, or overworked cops in need of better working hours, or poorly trained police officers lacking multicultural proficiency or conflict resolution skills. Police brutality in America is the result of the long history of systemic racism and inequality, with the police force being one of the many repressive apparatuses of the nation state.  Liberal reformers can dream all they want about reforms, but those pipe dreams will be the repositories of things that very seldom come true, dreams not enduring enough, not far-reaching enough, unable to explain or transform reality.

III. The discontent of the “Black Lives Matter” movement

The well publicized killings of black men by the police have encountered the standard perfunctory liberal solidarity of many Democrats—principally mayors and other elected officials of big cities—threatening to obscure the true nature and significance of police brutality and monopolize popular discontent among black Americans. It is against this scenario—to which we must add the ‘team player silence’ of the Republican Party—that the “Black Lives Matter” movement has put back on the American political agenda racism and discrimination. Their political platform (Campaign Zero) poses a series of reforms and solutions that seek to intensify in more radical ways the fight against police brutality.

At the same time, according to Aziz Rana, author of “Race and the American Creed: Recovering Black Radicalism”, while recent narratives “like Campaign Zero, have put forward valuable concrete ideas for police reform…these demands must be combined with a more expansive and prefigurative politics. Activists must do no less than imagine and present their policy prescriptions, as did earlier generations, as competing ideals for liberation, solidarity and renewal.” In other words, we need a platform not from or for those who have lost faith in the possibilities of democracy, but a platform for and from those who have experienced its absence and want to make it real in the present.

While Campaign Zero doesn’t go as far as Rana advocates, what “Black Lives Matters” proposes is not a platform of lamentation but a platform of people in struggle. According to “Black Lives Matter”, their proposed reforms “constitute a comprehensive package of urgent policy solutions—informed by data, research and human rights principles—that can change the ways police serve our communities”. In the following paragraphs I have included almost verbatim the most significant points advocated by “Black a given a given platform—as a way to promote this first step towards necessary, more sweeping changes.a given for more detail.

End Broken Windows Policing: A decades-long focus on policing minor crimes and activities – a practice called Broken Windows Policing – has led to the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color and excessive force in otherwise harmless situations. Police killed at least 287 people last year who were involved in minor offenses and harmless activities like sleeping in parks, possessing drugs, looking “suspicious” or having a mental health crisis. These activities are often symptoms of underlying issues of drug addiction, homelessness, and mental illness, which should be treated by healthcare professionals and social workers rather than the police.

Community Oversight: Police usually investigate and decide what, if any, consequences their fellow officers should face in cases of police misconduct. Under this system, less than 1 in every 12 complaints of police misconduct nationwide results in some kind of disciplinary action against the officer(s) responsible. Communities need an urgent way to ensure police officers are held accountable for police violence. As a solution “Black Lives Matter” proposes to establish an all civilian oversight structure with discipline power to work in collaboration with a Police Commission and a Civilian Complaints Office charged with removing barriers to reporting police misconduct.

Limit Use of Force: Police should have the skills and cultural competence to protect and serve our communities without killing people – just as police do in England, Germany, Japan and other developed countries. Last year alone, police killed at least 268 unarmed people and 91 people who were stopped for mere traffic violations. The following policy solutions can restrict the police from using excessive force in everyday interactions with civilians: Establish standards for reporting police use of deadly force. Revise local police department use of force policies. End traffic-related police killings. Monitor how police use force and proactively hold officers accountable for excessive force.

Independent Investigations and Prosecutions: Local prosecutors rely on local police departments to gather the evidence and testimony they need to successfully prosecute criminals. This makes it hard for them to investigate and prosecute the same police officers in cases of police violence. These cases should not rely on the police to investigate themselves and should not be prosecuted by someone who has an incentive to protect the police officers involved.

Community Representation: While white men represent less than one third of the U.S. population, they comprise about two thirds of U.S. police officers. The police should reflect and be responsive to the cultural, racial and gender diversity of the communities they are supposed to serve.

Body Cams / Film the Police: While they are not a cure-all, body cameras and cell phone video have illuminated cases of police violence and have shown to be important tools for holding officers accountable. Nearly every case where a police officer has been charged with a crime for killing a civilian this year has relied on video evidence showing the officer’s actions.

Training: The current training regime for police officers fails to effectively teach them how to interact with our communities in a way that protects and preserves life. For example, police recruits spend 58 hours learning how to shoot firearms and only 8 hours learning how to de-escalate situations. An intensive training regime is needed to help police officers learn the behaviors and skills to interact appropriately with communities.

End For Profit Policing: Police should be working to keep people safe, not contributing to a system that profits from stopping, searching, ticketing, arresting and incarcerating people.

Demilitarization: The events in Ferguson have introduced the nation to the ways that local police departments can misuse military weaponry to intimidate and repress communities. Last year alone, militarized SWAT teams killed at least 38 people. We need policies that prevent police departments from obtaining or using these weapons on our streets.

Fair Police Contracts: Police unions have used their influence to establish unfair protections for police officers in their contracts with local, state and federal government and in statewide Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights. These provisions create one set of rules for police and another for civilians, and make it difficult for Police Chiefs or civilian oversight structures to punish police officers who are unfit to serve.

IV. Choosing our form of discontent

It is up to us to decide which kind of political reform we support–the kind that restricts popular political action or the kind that strengthens it. It is up to us to define and create the type of country we want to live in. For now, the campaign proposals put forward by Black Lives Matter provide a good place to start.

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




The post Police brutality and its discontents   appeared first on Works in Progress.

Brutalidad policial y sus descontentos

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:18pm

La destrucción del cuerpo Negro en América

Esto es lo que me gustaría que usted sepa: En América es tradicional destruir el cuerpo negro – es patrimonio

Ta Nehisi Coates, “Entre el Mundo y Yo (una carta a su hijo)

I. Los fallecidos

Parece justo decir—por lo menos por propósitos retóricos—que el primer grupo de  descontentos con la brutalidad policial son aquellos que no pueden expresar descontento alguno, o cualquier otra forma de expresión humana, debido precisamente a la violencia  policial que les costara sus vidas. En el momento de escribir estas líneas (10 de diciembre), según datos compilados por “The Counted”, un programa interactivo diseñado por The Guardian (EEUU), en lo que va del año1063 personas han sido asesinadas por la policía, lo que equivale a un promedio de tres personas por día antes de finales de diciembre de 2015. Más de la mitad de ellos han sido hombres (745), y en términos de raza y grupo étnico, la mayoría de ellos han sido Negros, asesinados a un promedio de 6. 34 por millón; seguido por los nativos americanos, a una tasa de 3,4 por millón; Latinos a razón de 3,05 por millón; Blancos, a una tasa de 2,67 por millón; y Asiáticos  a una tasa promedio de 1,01 por millón.

Ninguna otra sociedad capitalista avanzada en el mundo se aproxima ni si quiera remotamente a  estos niveles de matar diariamente a su propio pueblo.  Dentro de este contexto, no es coincidencia que ninguna organización oficial del gobierno de Estados Unidos mantiene un estrecho seguimiento de este evento social. Parece ser un caso claro de déficit estadístico intencional, sobre todo para un país que se enorgullece de la calidad de su mantenimiento de registros cuantitativos sobre una gran variedad de información y al mismo tiempo ejerce un alto nivel de vigilancia sobre sus ciudadanos. Es imposible no concluir que vivimos en una sociedad que es a la vez selectiva en sus asesinatos, pero incluso más selectiva  en los modos de mantener en su memoria oficial.

Sin embargo, como lo demuestran los incidentes de Ferguson los cuales continúan en muchas otras ciudades de Estados Unidos, las comunidades de color conocen y recuerdan. Un gran número de negros estadounidenses no están dispuestos a ingerir la pastilla de sacarina para amnesia social, en efecto, al momento de escribir este artículo hay enormes protestas contra la policía en las calles de Chicago en desafío a la brutalidad policial. Los acontecimientos ampliamente denunciados sobre brutalidad policial en el presente año—sumado al registro del pasado histórico—demuestran la existencia  de una forma perniciosa de violencia dirigida contra los negros en América. Negros estadounidenses están siendo asesinados a una tasa desproporcionada en relación con su porcentaje total de la población como lo sugieren las estadísticas presentadas por el Guardian. El punto aquí, por supuesto, no es sugerir una distribución “equitativa” de los asesinatos entre los diferentes grupos étnicos de América, sino señalar el sistemático  perfile racista de que son objeto los afroamericanos, o lo que en palabras de Ta-Nehishi Coates constituye un patrimonio histórico de violencia contra cuerpos negros, cuya última expresión es el asesinato de ciudadanos negros como el aceptado “modus operandi” de algunos departamentos de policía en el país.

Dos grupos principales han tomado posiciones protagónicas en oposición a la brutalidad policial actual. El primero está integrado por diferentes variantes del liberalismo americano en busca de consuelo ideológico bajo el paraguas del reformismo. Este grupo busca esencialmente  aprobar reformas en los departamentos de policía en el país, con la esperanza de crear una imagen más “restringida” de la institución, al tiempo que la misma sigue ejerciendo el uso “legitimado” de la fuerza que el Estado otorga a la policía y su miembros. El segundo grupo es más radical y mas amplio en sus objetivos. Entiende la brutalidad policial no como un hecho aislado que debe ser abordado en el silencio interior  de los departamentos policiales, o resuelto a través de los espesos reglamentos municipales de nuestras ciudades; pero como algo incrustado en el racismo estructural de la sociedad estadounidense, y que a su vez tiene sus raíces en las relaciones históricas de poder y  opresión que no pueden ser separadas de consideraciones sociales,  y políticas mas amplias. Este segundo grupo está constituido por el movimiento ‘Black Lives Matter’.  Cada una de estas dos formas de descontento ofrece una perspectiva única sobre el papel del Estado en una sociedad capitalista, sus aparatos ideológicos y políticos, y el papel desempeñado por sus instituciones de control y represión, como los departamentos de policía. Cada uno propone un conjunto diferente de estrategias que vale la pena considerar en nuestra lucha contra los abusos de poder y en favor de los derechos de todos los ciudadanos. El primer grupo se imagina cómo debe ser el capitalismo estadounidense. El segundo, sabiendo por experiencia histórica de cómo funciona el capitalismo estadounidense, explora maneras de trascenderlo.

II. El descontento de la mente liberal

Hay numerosas maneras de distinguir entre el pensamiento liberal y el pensamiento radical, o, en otras palabras, entre pensamiento reformista y pensamiento revolucionario. Evitando al lector un viaje histórico innecesario sobre el origen del liberalismo, baste aquí con decir que el liberalismo entiende los derechos de la persona como si estuvieran constituidos de forma autónoma, es decir, independientemente de las limitaciones sociales, culturales y económicas existentes en un determinado momento social. Dentro de este marco ideológico, la mente liberal entiende temas como la igualdad de derechos, el respeto de las libertades individuales y la conducta de las instituciones sociales como la policía, como si fueran simplemente el resultado de  principios procesales de justicia abstracta que se pueden resolver dentro de los ayuntamientos municipales por los políticos locales. Al hacerlo, la mente liberal ignora la historia y el contexto social en el que los derechos, las libertades, instituciones y sistemas jurídicos fueron puestos  en marcha. La mente liberal, ocupada como está con los procedimientos de la justicia, no logra identificar los principales beneficiarios del capitalismo existente en Estados Unidos, sino que también hace caso omiso del papel de las luchas populares en la adquisición y la defensa de los derechos existentes.

Señalar las limitaciones de los reformadores liberales del capitalismo en general, o de la policía, en particular, no significa negar el valor de las reformas per se, pero cuando se trata de reformas lo que debemos tener en cuenta son dos factores importantes: primero, no debemos limitar nuestras acciones políticas a las reformas entendidas únicamente como si estas tienen lugar únicamente dentro de la ya complicado (a propósito, por supuesto) aparato legal del sistema; y en segundo lugar, las reformas deben ser utilizados para intensificar—no para aplacar—la lucha contra todas las formas de explotación capitalista. Ninguna respuesta política eficaz a la brutalidad policial será posible si seguimos ignorando entre otros, los siguientes factores: (estos factores se incluyen en un artículo anterior mío sobre Ferguson)

  • La tasa de desempleo negro ha sido siempre el doble que la tasa de desempleo blanco durante 50 años.
  • Durante el segundo trimestre de 2015, la tasa de desempleo afroamericano nacional cayó por debajo de 10 por ciento por primera vez en siete años. A modo de comparación, aunque un 6,9 por ciento es la tasa más baja de desempleo negro en cualquier estado, es esencialmente la misma que la tasa de desempleo más alta blanca (West Virginia).
  • La tasa de pobreza negra ya no está disminuyendo. En 2011, casi el 28 por ciento de los hogares negros estaban en la pobreza, casi tres veces más alta que la tasa de pobreza para los blancos.
  • Los niños negros tienen más probabilidades que los blancos de vivir en áreas de pobreza concentrada: 32% de los niños negros, 30% de los niños indios americanos, el 24% de los niños hispanos, 8% de los niños de Asia y las islas del Pacífico y el 5% de los niños blancos vivir en secciones censales con tasas de pobreza de 30% o más.
  • n  La segregación escolar ha aumentado desde 1980, lo que significa que “a una mayor cantidad de estudiantes no blancos, corresponde una menor cantidad de recursos asignados a la escuela”. Un aumento de 10 puntos porcentuales en la proporción de estudiantes no blancos se asocia con una disminución de $ 75 en el gasto por estudiante “(PAI).
  • La disparidad racial en las tasas de encarcelamiento es más grande de lo que era en la década de 1960. Mientras que en 1960, las tasas fueron del 262 blancos y 678 negros encarcelados por cada 100.000 residentes en Estados Unidos, para el año 2010, las tasas fueron de hasta 1.313 blancos y 4.374 negros encarcelados por cada 100.000 habitantes.
  • Un estudio separado sobre la movilidad social llevada a cabo por Richard Reeves demostró que “Los niños negros tienen más probabilidades de nacer en la pobreza que los niños blancos; pero también son menos propensos a escapar de la pobreza “(2013, Movilidad Social Memos).

Los jóvenes negros  en América – un grupo con alta frecuencia como objeto de  brutalidad policial—ha llamado la Generación Cero, y descrito por el científico social, Henry Giroux como “una generación con cero oportunidades, cero futuros, y cero expectativas […] obligado a aceptar una vida de inestabilidad en el trabajo y en la vida. Muchos de estos jóvenes y otros grupos vulnerables ahora habitan en lo que podría llamarse una geografía de exclusión y exterminación—un espacio de desechabilidad” Giroux continúa:” A medida que la guerra contra el terror llega a casa, los espacios públicos se han convertido en zonas de guerra al haber las policías locales asumido el papel de un ejército de ocupación, sobre todo en los barrios de minorías pobres, acentuada por el hecho de que la policía ahora tienen acceso a vehículos blindados de tropas, rifles de visión nocturna, Humvees, M16 rifles automáticos, lanzagranadas y otras armas diseñadas para aplicaciones militares tácticas. Actuando como una fuerza paramilitar, muchos policías locales se han convertido en un nuevo símbolo de terrorismo doméstico “.

Es en el contexto de la opresión económica, racial, social, cultural y militar que las últimas expresiones de brutalidad policial y este  autoritarismo por encima de la ley puede ser mejor explicado. Las acciones policiales no son el resultado exclusivo y directo del prejuicios circunstanciales de individuos aislados o policías con exceso de trabajo que necesitan mejores horas de trabajo, o policías mal entrenados que carecen de competencia en métodos  de resolución de conflictos o habilidades multiculturales. La brutalidad policial en Estados Unidos es el resultado de la larga historia de racismo sistémico y  desigualdad, dentro de la cual la fuerza policial es uno de los muchos aparatos represivos del Estado. Los reformadores liberales pueden soñar todo lo que quieran acercaq de las reformas, pero no seran mas que depositarios de quimeras que rara vez se hacen realidad, sw sueños sin duracion o alcance suficiente, incapaces de explicar o transformar la realidad.

III. El descontento del movimiento “Black Lives Matter”

Los muy publicitados asesinatos de hombres negros por la policía  han encontrado la estándar solidaridad liberal superficial  de muchos demócratas—principalmente alcaldes y otros funcionarios electos de las grandes ciudades—los cuales amenazan con oscurecer la verdadera naturaleza y el significado de la brutalidad policial e intentan monopolizar el descontento popular entre los estadounidenses negros. Es en este escenario—a los que hay que añadir el “silencio cómplice’ del Partido Republicano—el movimiento “Black Lives Matter” ha puesto de nuevo el racismo y discriminación en la agenda política estadounidense. Su plataforma política (Campaña Cero) plantea una serie de reformas y soluciones que buscan intensificar de manera más radical la lucha contra la brutalidad policial.

Al mismo tiempo, según Aziz Rana, autor de “La Raza y el Credo Estadounidense: Recuperación del Radicalismo Negro”, señala que “mientras que las narrativas recientes como Campaña Cero, han presentado valiosas ideas concretas para la reforma de la policía … estas demandas deben combinarse con una mayor política expansiva y pre-figurativa. Los nuevos activistas deben hacer no menos que imaginar y presentar sus recomendaciones de política, como lo hicieron las generaciones anteriores, como ideales que compiten por la liberación, la solidaridad y la renovación”. En otras palabras, necesitamos una plataforma que represente no a  aquellos que han perdido la fe en las posibilidades de la democracia, sino una plataforma de quienes han experimentado su ausencia y quieren hacerla realidad en el presente.

Si bien es cierto que Campaña Cero no va tan lejos como quisiera Rana, “Black Lives Matters”  no es una plataforma de lamentaciones sino una plataforma de personas en  lucha. Según  “Black Lives Matter”, sus propuestas “constituyen un paquete completo de soluciones políticas urgentes—respaldada por datos estadísticos, investigación, y basada en principios de derechos humanos—que puede cambiar la forma que la policía sirve a nuestras comunidades”. En los siguientes párrafos he incluido casi textualmente los puntos más importantes promovidos por “Black Lives Matter” en su plataforma como una forma de promover este primer paso hacia los cambios más radicales. Ver para obtener más detalles.

Fin de la Policía de Ventanas Rotas: Una práctica policial de décadas, centrada en la vigilancia de  delitos y actividades menores que ha llevado a la criminalización y el exceso de vigilancia de las comunidades de color y el uso de fuerza excesiva en situaciones de otro modo inofensivas. La policía mató al menos 287 personas el año pasado que estuvieron involucradas en delitos menores y actividades inocuas como dormir en los parques, posesión de drogas, lucir “sospechoso”, o tener una crisis de salud mental. Estas actividades son a menudo los síntomas de los problemas subyacentes de la adicción a las drogas, la falta de vivienda, y la enfermedad mental, que deben ser tratados por profesionales de la salud y trabajadores sociales en lugar de la policía.

Supervisión de la Comunidad: La policía suele investigar y decidir lo que en su opinión, serian las consecuencias que sus compañeros oficiales deben enfrentar en casos de mala conducta policial. Bajo este sistema, menos de 1 de cada 12 denuncias de mala conducta policial a nivel nacional resultan en algún tipo de acción disciplinaria contra el agente (s) responsable. Las comunidades necesitan de manera urgente el garantizar que los agentes de policía asuman responsabilidad y puedan ser juzgados  por violencia policial. Como solución “Black Lives Matter” propone establecer una estructura de  supervisión civil con el poder de disciplinar  y  trabajar en colaboración con una Comisión de Policía y un departamento de Quejas Civiles  encargado de la eliminación de barreras para denunciar faltas de conducta de la policía.

Límite del uso de fuerza: La policía debe tener las habilidades y competencia cultural para proteger y servir a nuestras comunidades sin matar a la gente – al igual que lo hacen la policía en Inglaterra, Alemania, Japón y otros países desarrollados. Sólo el año pasado, la policía mató al menos 268 personas desarmadas y 91 personas que fueron detenidas por simples violaciones de tráfico. Las siguientes soluciones pueden restringir a la policía en su uso de fuerza excesiva en las interacciones cotidianas con civiles: Establecer normas para reportar el uso policial de fuerza letal. Revisar los lineamientos del uso de violencia en los departamento de policía local. Poner fin a homicidios policiales relacionadas con infracciones de trafico tráfico. Seguimiento proactivo  de cómo la policía usa la fuerza y ​​enjuiciamiento  a  oficiales responsables de uso excesivo de fuerza.

Investigaciones independientes y  Fiscalía: Los fiscales locales dependen de los departamentos de policía locales para reunir las pruebas y testimonios que necesitan para procesar con éxito a criminales. Esto hace que sea difícil para ellos investigar y procesar los mismos agentes de policía en casos de violencia policial. Estos casos no deben confiar en la policía para investigarse  a sí mismos y no deben ser procesados ​​por alguien que tiene un incentivo para proteger a los agentes de policía implicados.

Representación Comunitaria: Mientras que los hombres blancos representan menos de un tercio de la población de la nación, ellos ocupan alrededor de dos tercios de los oficiales de policía de Estados Unidos. La policía debe reflejar y ser sensible a la diversidad cultural, racial y de género de las comunidades a las que se supone deben servir.

Cámaras de Cuerpo / Film la Policía: Si bien no son una panacea, las cámaras del cuerpo y videos de teléfono celular han iluminado los casos de violencia policial y han demostrado ser herramientas importantes para determinar funcionarios responsables. En casi todos los casos en que un agente de policía ha sido acusado del un delito por haber matado a un civil de este año se han basado en pruebas de vídeo que muestran las acciones del oficial.

Formación: El régimen de entrenamiento actual para los agentes de policía no los capacita efectivamente sobre la forma de interactuar con nuestras comunidades y proteger y preservar vidas. Por ejemplo, los reclutas de la policía usan 58 horas para aprender a disparar armas de fuego y sólo 8 horas para aprender a des-escalar situaciones. Se necesita un régimen de entrenamiento intensivo para ayudar a los agentes de policía a aprender los comportamientos y habilidades para interactuar adecuadamente con las comunidades.

Poner fin a la Practica Policial por Lucro: La policía debería estar trabajando para proteger a la gente, y  no para contribuir a un sistema que se beneficia de detención, búsqueda, detención, arresto y encarcelamiento de la gente.

Desmilitarización: Los acontecimientos de Ferguson han introducido a la nación  las formas en que los departamentos de policía locales pueden abusar de armamento militar para intimidar y reprimir a las comunidades. Sólo el año pasado, los equipos SWAT militarizados mataron al menos a 38 personas. Necesitamos políticas que impiden a los departamentos de policía la obtención o el uso de estas armas en nuestras calles.

Contratos Policiales Justos:  Los sindicatos policiales han utilizado su influencia para establecer protecciones injustas para agentes de policía en sus contratos con los gobiernos locales, estatales y el gobierno federal  en la llamada Ley de Derechos de Oficiales. Estas disposiciones crean un conjunto de reglas para la policía y otro para la población civil, y hacen que sea difícil para los jefes de policía o las estructuras de supervisión civil el castigar a los agentes de policía que no son aptos para servir.

IV. Elegir nuestra forma de Descontento

Depende de nosotros decidir qué tipo de reformas políticas apoyamos – el tipo que restringe la acción política popular o el tipo que la fortalece. Depende de nosotros el definir y crear el tipo de país que queremos para vivir. Por ahora, las propuestas de campaña presentadas por Black Lives Matter proporciona un buen lugar para empezar.

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



The post Brutalidad policial y sus descontentos appeared first on Works in Progress.

Steamboat Tennis & Athletic Club Debuts Outside West Olympia

Thurston Talk - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 6:00am


For the past year and half, motorists exiting Highway 101 off Steamboat Island Road outside West Olympia have watched a massive steel structure rise from a sodden field. Until recently, no signs offered any clues to the future intent of the green 25,000-foot structure, whose ceiling peaks at about 70 feet.

Providence logo (2015)“People would walk in and say, ‘we see a lot of work going on and we don’t know what you are,’” said Ali Hollandsworth, manager of the new Steamboat Island Tennis & Athletic Club.

The mystery was solved when the facility opened its doors on November 1, 2015. Since then, tennis players ages 4 to 73 have ventured in to exchange lobs on the four indoor courts.

steamboat tennisThe 25,500-square-foot Steamboat Island Tennis & Athletic Club opened in November, and features four indoor tennis courts, a pro shop and lockers and showers; a second building for racquetball, aerobics and a swimming pool is in the planning stage.

Owner Drake Nicholson, a Tumwater resident who also owns Nicholson & Associates Insurance, first picked up a tennis racket at age 12. Nicholson said he loves the exercise, competition and camaraderie of the sport.

“With tennis, you play people at your own skill level,” Nicolson said. “Whatever level it is, it’s a ton of fun.”

He added, “I have a lot of laughs, even more laughs, with people who haven’t perfected their game.”

Nicholson and his family were living on nearby Madrona Beach Road when he first envisioned a tennis and athletic club at the site in 2003. His children were in fourth and eighth grade at Griffin School, a couple blocks away. Nicholson said he also liked the site’s proximity to Highway 101, the Griffin neighborhood grange and a putting green.

But a downturn in the economy and other obstacles ultimately led to 12 years passing. In the meantime, the Nicholson family moved to Tumwater; both children are in college.

steamboat tennisAli Hollandsworth worked at Capitol City Tennis & Athletic Club in Tumwater before signing on as the manager at the new Steamboat Tennis & Athletic Club.

So far, about 70 members have signed up. The new members live in various parts of Thurston and Mason Counties. The Griffin School students are also using the courts during PE classes.

The facility features a mezzanine, where patrons can enjoy coffee and see the action on all the four courts. Underneath the mezzanine is a pro shop that offers tennis equipment.

The facility also offers a snack bar, and showers with lockers. The lockers each bear the names of fabled tennis pros.

Hollandsworth worked at Capitol City Tennis & Athletic Club in Tumwater before signing on as the manager at the Steamboat Tennis & Athletic Club. Hollandsworth, a resident of Tumwater Hill, started playing tennis four years ago at age 39 so she could compete on the court with her daughters, Alexa and Mickayla.

Hollandsworth agreed with Nicholson that the sport is fun for players at all skill levels. Lessons are available to all at the facility.

steamboat tennisCody Leimback, a tennis pro at Steamboat Tennis & Racquet Club, gives a lesson to a beginning player at the facility on a recent Saturday morning. Leimback played college tennis at the Division II level at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re good or excellent at (tennis),” she said. “It’s good for everyone … No one says, ‘You don’t belong there.’”

A bulletin board that bears the message “Do You Want to Play?” allows patrons who don’t have partners to find someone to play with.

Future plans include pickelball courts, a hitting wall, and eventually a swimming pool in a second building that will include racquetball courts and exercise equipment, Hollandsworth said.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

steamboat tennisThe facility features a mezzanine, where spectators can watch the action, and a pro ship underneath.

For membership information, click here.  Details on tennis lessons and classes can be found here.

Steamboat Tennis & Athletic Club
3505 Steamboat Island Road NW
Olympia, WA 98502
Follow the Steamboat Tennis & Athletic Club on Facebook.

Berthold Brecht's "The Exception and the Rule"

OlyBlog Home Page - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 8:42pm
Event:  Wed, 01/27/2016 - 7:30pm - 9:00pm

From today's inbox:

Five women will read "The Exception and the Rule" by Bertolt Brecht (45 min) at The Olympia Timberland Library on Wednesday, January 27 at 7:30 pm. The play was performed at the Null Set coffee house in Olympia in 1967 as a puppet play, and this will be a remembrance of that event. The readers will be Llyn De Danaan, Susan Tuzzolino, Sarah Stockholm, Pat Holm and Laura Schleyer. Holm will also read briefly (3 min) from her new book, "The Null Set Remembered, a memoir of a coffee house 1964-67." The puppets will be on display at the library.

Susan Tuzzolino will sing "Mac the Knife" with John Shepard accompanying her on his saxophone at 7:30 pm as we seat ourselves. This popular Brecht/Weill song (from The Three Penny Opera) should add to the historical context of the play.

Written between 1929-30, "The Exception and the Rule" was designed as a short learning play to educate workers in schools and union halls about socialism and the necessity to change the economic system to something more just and humane. The situation Brecht places his characters in clearly shows the underbelly of unregulated capitalism. With Bernie Sanders, a known socialist, running for President, this play should add to our understanding of our current capitalist system. logo Twitter logo Google Plus One Facebook Like

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Laughter Really is the Best Medicine: 5 Health Benefits of Humor

Thurston Talk - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 4:24pm


Submitted by Harlequin Productions 

You probably already know that laughing has a positive impact on the mind and body. But I doubt you’re aware just how powerful that impact is. Recent research has shed new light on the benefits of cracking up. Here are five important ways humor impacts well-being.

  1. Laughter is a stress-buster. Among the biggest benefits of laughter are its stress-relieving effects. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins,the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. Meanwhile, studies show a good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, and relaxes muscles. It’s like giving yourself a massage.
  1. Laughing boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  1. Laughter protects the heart.Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
  1. Laughter dissolves distressing emotions.It’s hard to feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
  1. Laughing shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

For those of us who could use a pick-me-up during these dark winter months, Harlequin Productions is offering a slew of comedic outlets. First, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play, is running January 21 through February 13. The New York Times described it as “deliriously funny.” Sounds healthy!

Meanwhile, on February 3, Harlequin’s celebrated improv troupe, Something Wicked, presents Blood Moon, an improv comedy show inspired by the Twilight movies.

For anyone looking to take advantage of the many health benefits of humor, I prescribe a night out at Harlequin Productions.

Melanie Miller Named First SPSCC Volleyball Coach

Thurston Talk - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 3:30pm


Submitted by South Puget Sound Community College 

New South Puget Sound Community College Admissions Specialist and Volleyball Coach Melanie Miller is ready to start living her “dream come true.” Miller begins at SPSCC on January 11 where she will serve in both an admissions role and as the college’s first volleyball coach, building up a new program that will see its first season in fall 2016.

“I am looking forward to being the first volleyball coach here at SPSCC,” Miller said. “It is not often that you get the opportunity to build a program from the ground up; now how exciting is that?! It is a dream come true! I am so passionate about volleyball and I am so excited to give back to the sport because it has given me so much.”

With more than 17 years experience as a volleyball player and more than 6 years coaching experience, Miller is eager get the program off to a strong start quickly.

South Puget Sound Community College is one of three local institutions.South Puget Sound Community College will expand their athletics department to include volleyball for the Fall 2016 season.

“My goals are to have a competitive program from the start,” Miller said. “I want to surpass any low expectations anyone may have due to the program just starting. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of a brand new team and I want to build a team that is proud to represent the Clippers nation.”

A native of Long Beach, California, Miller moved to Hillsboro, Oregon, at a young age. There, she attended Liberty High School before spending a year at Western Oregon University. She then transferred to Concordia University in Portland where she earned her bacherlor’s degree in social work. Miller spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, helping lead the team to a second-place finish at last year’s Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball championships. She also coached club teams and numerous summer camps, skills camps and conditioning camps.

SPSCC Director of Athletics Nick Schmidt said there are many reasons Miller was the right choice to lead SPSCC’s first volleyball team.

“She’s a Pacific Northwest local and knows first-hand that this area produces high quality volleyball talent,” Schmidt said. “She knows what it takes to compete, recruit and be successful in the NWAC. And she comes from one of the more successful athletic programs in the league and knows what it’s like to be part of a winning culture. As we look to build Clipper Athletics for long-term success, she will play a key role.”

SPSCC Director of Student Recruitment and Outreach Meg Woolf said Dunn is a perfect fit for the admission specialist position too.

South Puget Sound Community College Director of Athletics Nick Schmidt is excited to bring a women's volleyball program to the college.South Puget Sound Community College Director of Athletics Nick Schmidt is excited to bring a women’s volleyball program to the college.

“Melanie brings a nice balance between passion for the sport of volleyball and passion for the importance of all students finding a great ‘fit’ in a college on the path to a great career,” Woolf said. “Melanie’s extensive experience at various levels of volleyball—whether that be club or college level, and as a player and student who has overcome challenges herself, will inform her approach to outreach efforts that work for the benefit of all students—on and off the court.”

Miller said she is also eager to begin working with students.

“I am looking forward to getting to wake up every day and work with people; to help future students explore avenues and options to continue their education,” she said. “The impact this position can make both for the school and individually is huge, I cannot wait to be a part of that.”

Mark Dunn, head volleyball coach at Clark, said there’s lots he’ll miss in Miller.

“I will miss the way she interacted with our student athletes,” Dunn said. “Mel found a way to get the most out of our players. Mel’s enthusiasm for the game of volleyball and her competitive spirit will make her successful in coaching.”

Miller also added she’s excited to begin recruiting come the January 15 start. Practices begin on August 1, and the new Clipper squad makes its debut August 27 and 28 at the NWAC Volleyball Showcase, co-hosted by Lane Community College and Eugene (Ore.) Cascades and Coast Sports Commission. The team makes its home debut on September 7 against Miller’s previous employer, Clark College.

Physicians of Southwest Washington Appoints Melanie Matthews as New CEO

Thurston Talk - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 3:27pm


Submitted by Physicians of Southwest Washington (PSW)

The leadership at Physicians of Southwest Washington (PSW) is about to change hands. Upon the announcement by 16-year CEO veteran Mariella Cummings last fall that she would be retiring March 1, the independent physicians association’s managing board launched a national search to find her replacement in September.

Following a vigorous recruitment and interviewing process aided by a national health care executive search firm, Melanie Matthews, BS, MS, of Olympia has been chosen as the unanimous choice to lead the organization. Matthews, 41, will assume her new post Feb. 1, allowing for a one-month overlap transition period with Cummings.

“We at PSW feel very fortunate to have Melanie Matthews lead our organization into the future,” said PSW Managing Board President Dr. Gary Goin.

“Melanie brings her personal capacity for energy, clear focus and performance excellence to our already successful management team. In addition, her nationally recognized visionary leadership will assure that PSW continues its work to help integrate the ideas of health care reform into the lives of our patients and the practices of our physicians,” Goin added.

Matthews brings with her a successful 20-year career as a leader and innovator in various aspects of health care, including financial management, operations, human resources, system development and product marketing in health care services. Most recently she served for three years as vice president of operations for Prestige Care, Inc., where she was responsible for regulatory and financial operations and outcomes for 38 skilled nursing facilities and two Medicare home health agencies in a four-state northwest region.

Among Matthew’s other accomplishments, she serves as the chair of the Washington Health Care Association, and was selected by the American Health Care Association as a “National Political Ambassador” in 2013, as well as being named a national “Future Leader” in 2012.

Matthews holds a master of science, social gerontology, degree from Central Missouri State University and a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies from Pennsylvania State University. She is married with two children and has lived in Olympia since 2008.

Physicians of Southwest Washington, LLC (PSW) is an independent physician association (IPA) established in 1995. PSW represents a network of more than 400 primary care and consulting specialists as well as local hospitals and ancillary service providers in Thurston and Lewis counties. With a commitment to quality improvement, clinical integration and meaningful measures of value, PSW’s mission is to support the physician-patient relationship in the independent practice of medicine through fair contracting, responsible resource utilization, and prudently adopted innovations in health care delivery.


Port Director Ed Galligan Appoints Barb Tope Acting Environmental Director

Thurston Talk - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 3:03pm


Submitted by The Port of Olympia

Barb Tope assumed the role of Acting Director of Environmental Programs for Port of Olympia on January 8, according to Ed Galligan, Executive Director. She will serve throughout the recruitment process.

Since Tope came to the Port in June 2012, she has managed an extensive variety of environmental cleanups, contracts, projects, programs and budgets. Among the most notable, Tope manages and operates the one-of-a-kind stormwater treatment facility, set up a successful hazardous waste program at Boatworks, and earned her Sustainability Professional Certification. She is currently overseeing the Port’s first Sustainability Audit.

Previously, Tope held environmental positions at Washington Dept. of Ecology and Washington Military Dept. She received a BS in Environmental Science from University of Washington in 2004.

The recruitment process for the permanent position is underway. The recruitment process for Port of Olympia Environmental Programs Director began January 13 and runs through February 7. The position is posted to NEOGOV and appears on the Port website under “Jobs”.

Elizabeth Hirotaka Wins Thurston County Auditor Good Citizenship Day Essay Contest

Thurston Talk - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 1:51pm


Submitted by Thurston County Auditor’s Office

good citizenship dayAuditor Mary Hall presented the award to the 15-year-old Black Hills High School sophomore during her world history class this morning at Black Hills High School.

Elizabeth Hirotaka, a 15-year-old sophomore at Black Hills High School in Tumwater, has won the Thurston County Auditor’s Good Citizenship Day essay contest. Her award-winning essay will be published in the November General Election Local Voters’ Pamphlet and sent to more than 100,000 homes throughout the county.

“The easiest way to exercise good citizenship is through the democratic process,” wrote Hirotaka. “Democracy is not something you sit back and let happen to you, but rather you are the one to take action… Voting gives us the opportunity to make a difference in the world and to influence change beyond our community.”

Additionally, Hirotaka addressed the influence of teachers on good citizenship. “What they teach without even knowing is how to be responsible, respectful, honest and hard working. Essentially they are creating the next generation of good citizens.”

“So many students across the county took the time to consider and write about what they believe makes a good citizen,” said Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall. “From being law-abiding citizens to caring for the environment to voting, there was a variety of thoughts on what young people believe being a good citizen means. Elizabeth Hirotaka’s essay was well-researched, well-written and especially insightful on good citizens who use their voice and vote to improve a community.”

Washington State public schools recognize Good Citizenship Day on every January 16 (or the preceding Friday, if January 16 falls on a weekend).

Capitol Lake Estuary Bill Introduced

Janine's Little Hollywood - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 12:21pm

Above: Washington State Representative Brian Blake’s legislative office overlooks Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia. Blake just introduced legislation, HB 2568, that calls for Capitol Lake to transition back to an estuary. The bill has been referred to the State Government Committee.
By Janine
Washington State Representative Brian Blake, D-19, has introduced a bill, HB 2568, that calls for the transition, management, protection, preservation, and coordination of Capitol Lake to an estuarine environment.
The bill states that Capitol Lake and its transition to an estuary must be co-managed with the tribes with histories or traditions or customary uses relating to the Deschutes River watershed.
The bill has been referred to the House State Government Committee chaired by Representative Sam Hunt, D-22.
Blake represents Pacific and Wahkiakum counties, parts of Cowlitz, Lewis, and Grays Harbor and is chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. His Olympia office in the Legislative Building overlooks Capitol Lake.
In an interview Friday morning with Little Hollywood, Blake said he was excited about the legislation.
“This is a discussion I’ve been following for years and I’m frustrated by the lack of decision-making. Looking at the analyses and barriers to salmon recovery in Puget Sound, I see this as a real opportunity to restore some habitat. Now is the time to introduce a bill and discuss this,” said Blake.
Asked about those who think opening up the dam will create an excessive amount of silt to pour into Budd Inlet, Blake said that the lake is currently periodically drained.
“Just opening up the dam will go a long ways to allow a channel to form. I don’t think much silt will travel out of the lake at all. The majority of silt will remain in place, stabilize salt marshes and soils, and the healing process will begin,” said Blake.
Estuary advocates are thrilled with the legislation. Sue Patnude of the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team, an Olympia-based nonprofit, has worked for several years to raise awareness of the benefits of restoring the lake to an estuary.
“HB 2568 is long overdue and a major milestone in our estuary restoration efforts. The attempt to maintain a river that flows beside the State Capitol as a lake is a failed project. Water quality is getting worse as circulation in Budd Inlet is diminished.  Capitol Lake, due to the mud snail infestation, has been a "do not use" place for too long. Salmon using these waters are on the decline. The community wants to enjoy these estuarine waters, as recreation, as a place for the web of life to flourish. This cannot happen as long as it is a dammed estuary. Removing the dam will make Washington State and Olympia a model place in our Puget Sound clean-up efforts. Thanks to Representative Blake and the others for introducing this bill,” said Patnude.
Representative Sam Hunt, D-22, who has an office next door to Blake's, showed more optimism Friday morning for the Seahawks than the legislation. Wearing full Seahawks regalia, Hunt was asked what the chances were for HB 2568 to get a hearing before the State Government Committee.
“We’ll see what kind of time we have. People are waiting to the last minute to drop their bills,” said Hunt, who also noted the bill’s uncertain fiscal impacts.
The Deschutes River in Thurston County runs 57 miles from its headwaters in Lewis County, past Rainier and through Tumwater, until it reaches Budd Inlet in South Puget Sound. Historically, the mouth of the lower Deschutes River flowed to the Puget Sound. The lake was created as a reflecting pool for the State Capitol Building and the estuary was dammed in 1951 at what is now 5th Avenue in downtown Olympia.
The 2016 Washington State Legislative Session started on Monday. Its website is and provides extensive, easy to use information on House and Senate membership, committee information, agendas, and specific legislation. To comment on a bill or ask questions, the Legislative Hotline is 1-800-562-6000. 
Above: Washington State Representative Brian Blake, D-19, points to Capitol Lake from his legislative office balcony in Olympia. Blake was a logger with the Weyerhaeuser Company for ten years before he became an environmental specialist for the state Department of Corrections.  A graduate of The Evergreen State College, Blake is a resident of Aberdeen and has served in the House since 2002.

Disgraced at the Seattle Repertory Theatre

South Sound Arts - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 10:49am

 Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily), Zakiya Young (Jory) and J. Anthony Crane (Isaac) in Disgraced. Photo courtesy Seattle Repertory TheatreDisgraced at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, written by Ayad Akhtar and directed by Kimberly Senior, is one of the more difficult plays I’ve watched in a long time. I say ONE OF because Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, which I recently reviewed for The News Tribune, is just as difficult if not more so. But Arcadia does not elicit the kinds of impassioned reactions Disgraceddoes. As a case in point, during a particularly violent confrontation in the play a man in the audience jumped to his feet, shouted “Stop that!” (and something else I could not hear), and stormed out of the theater. I’ve seen people walk out on plays before, but quietly, usually during intermission, I’ve never seen anyone storm out with such vehemence.As another case in point, the producers know this play is controversial, and they therefore have a discussion with the audience at the end of every performance. They call it the second act to a one-act play. The discussion during the second act on opening night was heated. The majority of comments I heard were highly critical of the play, saying it was cliché-ridden, that it was a disgrace to the Seattle Rep, and that it painted Muslims in an unfair and dangerous manner. One commentator dismissed it as a half-baked version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with a bunch of sophisticates ripping each other to shreds. (The similarities to Virginia Woolf were obvious, but I think that commentator missed the point, and I think it was a much better play than he thought it was.) Another man in the audience, who identified himself as a scientist, criticized it based on a 9/11 conspiracy theory. Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily) and Behzad Dabu (Abe) in Disgraced.
Photo courtesy Seattle Repertory TheatreOne of the actors, Behzad Dabu, said the clichés were intentional and were used to expose the fallacies of the clichés. And finally, the man who had walked out so dramatically came back for the talk-back and attempted to explain himself and, in the process, got so mad that he threw the wireless microphone to the floor and stormed out again.That’s how incendiary this play is.Emily (Nisi Sturgis) is an artist. She usually paints geometric abstractions with intricate patterns based on Islamic art. However, as the play opens she is painting a portrait of her Muslim husband, Amir (Bernard White), a successful lawyer who has renounced his religion, calls himself an apostate, has changed his name and claims Indian heritage when in fact his heritage is Pakistani. They are having guests over for dinner. Isaac (J. Anthony Crane) is a Jew and an art dealer who has arranged to give Emily her first one-person show. He is married to Jory (Zakiya Young), a black attorney who works in the law office with Amir. When these four characters come together in Amir and Nisi’s apartment, the fireworks explode. At first their sniping and sarcasm is sophisticated, intelligent, and funny, bordering on glib; but when the topic of 9/11 and Islamic terrorists comes up, the thoughtful repartee turns to emotional attacks. I will not give away any more of the plot.A fifth character is Amir’s nephew Abe (Behzad Dabu), who is intent on protesting the arrest of his Imam, whom he believes was arrested on trumped up charges. Emily has asked Amir to help defend the Imam. The ensemble cast is excellent. White stands out as a conflicted character who is the most complex and in some ways the most despicable of the lot. None of the other characters, with the exception of Abe, are likeable. None of them are one-dimensional either—a tribute to Akhtar’s skill as a writer, as well as to the actors and the director, Kimberly Senior. These characters offer tremendous challenges to actors, and this ensemble cast handles them well. As indicated, Abe may well be the most sincere and the most likeable character in the play, and Dabu, the only actor who was in the original Chicago cast in 2012, is excellent. The set by John Lee Beatty is outstanding, and the use of revolves in the only set change is mind-boggling and seemingly magical. The lighting by Christine A. Binder is also outstanding, especially in the lovely way lighting changes lull the audience through scene changes.Disgraced won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony for Best Play. It received mostly rave reviews. When Googling it I found only one negative review. Chicago Sun-Times critic Hedy Weiss called the play a "minefield... that feels all too deliberately booby-trapped by the playwright." That sentiment seemed to me to be the majority opinion of the people who spoke up during the after-play discussion. In part, I understand, but with the exception of one dark twist at the end, which was disturbing to me, I tend to agree more with the critics who praised it.Disgraced runs about 85 minutes with no intermission. The post-play discussion adds less than a half hour.
7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., through Jan. 31Seattle Repertory TheatreSeattle Center, 155 Mercer St.206-443-2222
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Review: Arcadia at Lakewood Playhouse

South Sound Arts - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 7:18am

Published in The News Tribune, Jan. 15, 2016

Hannah (Deya Ozburn) and Valentine (Jacob Tice). Photo by Tim JohnsonSteve Tarry, director of Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” at Lakewood Playhouse writes in a program note that Stoppard’s plays are challenging, “and this one is doubly so” and presents “even greater challenges for the audience by assuming as common knowledge that which is unfamiliar to many.” Lakewood Playhouse Artist Director John Munn said in his curtain speech that it might be wise to come back for a second viewing because to see what you missed the first time around. I have to agree. The dialogue is dense, the story complex, and issues as challenging and diverse as fractals, philosophy, chaos theory and romantic love are argued by the characters who exist in two time frames, the 19th century and the present. Making it even more complicated and provocative, the two time periods converge in the final scene.It is brilliantly written, funny, and thought provoking. Close attention must be paid. And I must warn the reader that you may not understand all of it. The scenes that take place in the past revolve around Thomasina (Kait Mahoney), a precocious 13-year-old in the first act and 16 in later scenes (to be more precise, she says she is 13 years and 11 months in the early scene and 16 years and 11 months later) and her tutor, Septimus Hodge (Mason Quinn). Both actors make their characters likable –downright loveable in the case of Thomasina, who as a child shows marked signs of genius, understanding chaos theory and the second law of thermodynamics before either is established theory. A good example of her genius is her explanation of how time works both backwards and forwards with an analogy of pudding that can’t be "unstirred."
From left: Septimus (Mason Quinn),Ezra (Ben Stahl) and Capt. Brice (Michael Christopher). Photo by Tim Johnson.Thomasina and Septimus argue good-naturedly about philosophy and physics and “carnal embraces.” From the beginning there are hints of erotic attraction between them. Erotic attraction, in fact, is a major subtext throughout the play, and the subject of many of the funniest one-liners.Scenes that take place in present time flow around similar arguments – but much more acrimonious and sarcastic – between the writer Hannah Jarvis (Deya Ozburn) and the self-important English professor Bernard Nightingale (Jed Slaughter), who argue endlessly over Nightingale’s theory that the romantic poet Lord Byron killed the lesser poet Ezra Chater (Ben Stahl) in a duel. Ozburn and Slaughter shine white hot in their scenes together, as does Jacob Tice as Valentine Coverly, a modern-day mathematician who is studying old documents that point to the genius of Thomasina. (He is the main lynchpin connecting the past and present, which become indistinguishable in the final scene.)The supporting cast is also terrific, particularly Michael Christopher as Captain Brice, Jenifer Rifenbery as Lady Croom, and Charlie Stevens as Augustus Coverly and his present-day counterpart, Gus Coverly. Stevens does more with less than any actor I’ve seen in a long time. I can’t imagine any other actor turning and walking off stage so hilariously.“Arcadia” is not an easy play to watch. It is long, and the interconnected story lines are hard to follow; but in the end they come together making order out of chaos, another major theme of this play. I recommend reading the script or researching it as best you can before seeing it.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Jan. 3WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., LakewoodTICKETS: $25.00, $22.00 military, $21.00 seniors and $19.00 students/educators, pay what you can INFORMATION: 253-588-0042,
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Transitions and Reflections

South Sound Arts - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 7:06am

Barbara Lee Smith’s “Textile Paintings” at TCC Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 14, 2016“Salt Edge/Fog,” mixed media by Barbara Lee Smith, courtesy Tacoma Community CollegeThe term “Textile Paintings” is my term, not the artists and not the gallery’s. It’s what I see as the best possible descriptor of Barbara Lee Smith’s art at The Gallery at Tacoma Community College. It’s neither fabric art nor painting, and yet it combines some of the best elements of each.   TCC President Emeritus Pamela Transue states it beautifully: “One of the great pleasures for the viewer is the evolving perspective of contemplating Barbara’s work from different distances. …At a distance, we may see what we first assume to be a watercolor painting.  Closer up we see elements of a tapestry, a quilt, a collage. At the closest proximity, we become aware of the structuring of the elements that combine to make her work so complex and unique.”Installation shot of the gallery with reviewer taking notes. Photo by Gabi ClaytonAs a critic, I choose to see her work as painting because her works are arrangements of shapes, colors and textures on a flat surface with the subject matter (landscape in most but not all) secondary to the visual elements — in other words, classical modernist painting as it should be done.But we must take note of Smith’s use of materials, which may not be as important as the formal elements mentioned above but which, nevertheless, give her works a unique appearance that I find quite stunning. Smith paints non-woven synthetic fabric, rips and cuts it into strips and chunks, mounts them collage-like on a flat surface and stitches them. The end result is what Transue described: work that looks like painting at a distance but like a combination of collage and quilting up close.Most are impressionistic landscapes that veer toward expressionistic abstractions, while some are purely abstract with many degrees along the realistic-abstract scale among the many works. In some, the colors are shockingly bright, as if infused with blinding sunlight, while others are as soft as Northwest mist and fog. All are knockouts. “Salt Edge/Fog” is one of the most realistic landscapes in the show. It is a picture of the edge of a body of water seen through fog, with the sharp images of reeds in the foreground and shrouded mountains at the horizon. It is a restful and contemplative image in soft tones of blue, brown and gray.“Nica Walls/Light and Shadow” is almost its exact opposite. It is a set of six small horizontal “paintings” stacked vertically, each a collage of rock-like shapes in earthy orange and brown with accents in blue and purple. It is purely abstract, but with the feel of craggy rock walls or stacks of old planks.“Warm Welcome” and “Here and There” are both abstractions that evoke cave openings or doors with burning light coming from within with brilliant yellow (“Warm Welcome”) and hot chartreuse (“Here and There”). There is a feeling of great depth, but instead of going into the dark of a cave there is a coming-out of light.Along the back wall is a mural-sized seascape called “Oyster Light.” It covers almost the entire wall at an more than 15 feet wide (187½ inches by 84½ inches). Similar to “Salt Edge/Fog,” it is a scene at water’s edge in fog, but much more amorphous. It brings to mind Monet’s late wall-size paintings of lily pads.Smith will soon be leaving the Pacific Northwest for the East Coast, and this may be our last opportunity to see her work. I highly recommend that you do.
Transitions and Reflections, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, through Feb. 5, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G. 

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Pizza Klatch – Changing Lives, One Slice of Pizza at a Time

Thurston Talk - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 6:00am


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and others are often susceptible to hardship – in their jobs, communities, and families. Suicide, harassment, and violence are just a few issues. LGBTQ+ youth and teens are especially vulnerable, with additional barriers simply because of their age.

capital medical centerAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the health of LGBTQ+ youth relies heavily on “going to a school that creates a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and having caring and accepting parents…”

While some youth are lucky to have accepting parents, many are turned away, compounding existing problems with homelessness.

pizza klatchEleven schools participate in Pizza Klatch – serving hundreds of youth each week. For many, these lunchtime sessions mean trusted and trained facilitators, and a convenient, safe forum for discussion and education. And, of course, free pizza. Photo credit: Pizza Klatch.

One community in Thurston County is finding progress by focusing on the first part of the CDC’s message – a positive school environment.

Enter Pizza Klatch, a county-wide program that offers weekly lunchtime support groups for LGBTQ+ and their allies. Eleven schools participate – from urban to rural – serving hundreds of youth each week. For many, these lunchtime sessions mean trusted and trained facilitators, and a convenient, safe forum for discussion and education, and free pizza.

“LGBTQ+ youth are dealing with higher levels of bullying, harassment, and family rejection for being out at home and at school. Pizza Klatch is a place where they quickly learn they are not alone, where they build a chosen family that lasts a lifetime,” said Jessica McKimmie, executive director of Pizza Klatch.

A 2014-2015 survey of high school students who participated in Pizza Klatch revealed 91% of students hear LQBTQ+ slurs used sometimes or often in a derogatory way in their school hallways. In middle school, 67% had questions about their sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression. About 70% of youth attendees had attempted to harm themselves in the past. These are just a few of the discussion points the groups tackle, hoping to change those statistics.

pizza klatchLGBTQ+ and their allies share fun, friendship, and tackle big topics in their weekly Pizza Klatch meetings. Photo credit: Pizza Klatch.

And it’s working. Other statistics from the survey state 64% feel less isolated at school, 71% feel more supported and listened to, and 63% think less frequently about suicide since attending Pizza Klatch.

One student, in a video on Pizza Klatch’s website, states, “The first year of my high school career I didn’t really know who I was …When I started going to Pizza Klatch ,I was more informed – it helped me discover who I was and what I want to be in life, or even just temporary.”

Another says: “A lot of my friends just didn’t know what pronouns to use, or didn’t have a place where they could feel safe even experimenting with that type of thing, so I think Pizza Klatch is really important…”

Since the program’s incarnation in 2007, the group continues to grow, support, and change lives – even on a national level. In June 2015, national voters earned Pizza Klatch a $25,000 grant to continue programming efforts.

pizza klatchPizza Klatch participants rally at the Capitol. The program strengthens community ties and action. Photo credit: Pizza Klatch.

As a nonprofit organization, Pizza Klatch relies on this type of support to enact their important mission. Every year, the organization hosts A Slice of the Good Life, its annual ‘gay’la and fundraiser.

This year’s event takes place Saturday, January 23, 2016 at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Olympia and features performance by Chely Wright, a singer/songwriter who understands all-too-clearly the issues she’s supporting. Ousted by mainstream country music for coming out as a lesbian, she has persevered as a talented, truthful musician. Chely now does advocacy work as well as performances.

The other headliner is renowned poet and activist Richard Blanco, who is the first Latino, openly gay United States inaugural poet, having read for Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

For more information, please visit For Gayla sponsorship opportunities, please contact Lee Doyle, coordinator, at

Olympia MLK Weekend Event Calendar

Thurston Talk - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 5:00am


We are two full weeks into the new year and I’m still writing 2015 on my checks.  However, time does march on and 2016 is presenting itself chock full of exciting things to do around Thurston County. Celebrate the 3-day weekend in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King by engaging with your neighbors through volunteer work, community learning, or simply playing and enjoying our area. How will you spend your weekend?  I’ll spend mine trying to remember it is 2016.

Submit an event for our calendar here.

ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, visit our events calendar.

*Photo credit: Darcy Kauffman

Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen – A Taste of Mexico in Thurston County

Thurston Talk - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 11:34am


If I could only use one word to describe Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen, it would be “fresh.” Luckily I’m not limited to one word, because there is so much to say about the family-run authentic Mexican restaurant in Tenino.

evergreen direct credit union“We always talked about opening a restaurant, because my mom is such a great cook. Everybody used to say, you need to open a restaurant! When I came back from culinary school we said, let’s go for it! And we’ve had a great response,” says Juan Martinez, who studied culinary arts in Mexico and returned to launch Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen with his family. “It’s all family. My mom is the head honcho in the kitchen. She is the executive chef. My dad is the PR, and my sister and I do everything else. It’s all family working here. Running a restaurant is a new adventure.” The restaurant opened in Tenino three years ago and will soon open a second location in West Olympia.

As soon as you take your seat at Don Juan’s, they of course bring the requisite and super fresh, chips and salsa. But do yourself a favor, and order the guacamole too. It’s chunky, zesty, and super fresh. If you’re a new customer your server will bring you samples of Don Juan’s specialty sauces.

don juans mexicanDon Juan’s Mexican Kitchen is open for lunch and dinner 6 days a week in Tenino and is coming to Olympia soon.

The cuisine at Don Juan’s originates in Guanajuato, a central Mexican state north of Mexico City, where Juan’s father is from. I ask Juan what the signature dishes of the region, and therefore, the restaurant are. He answers without hesitation: “The sauces – all of the salsa and sauces. The sauces that go into the dishes, and the guacamole, is very different from most other regions.”

Two of Don Juan’s specialty dishes that highlight these exquisite sauces are the tinga and the mole. Tinga is a delicious roasted tomato and chipotle sauce served over shredded chicken and onion. And the mole is top notch. “The mole is 32 ingredients. We make it every day. Our mole is the traditional mole poblano, and the process of making it is tedious, it takes two hours (everyday) to make.”

The chile negro and chile verde also highlight the fantastic sauces and high quality spices of Central Mexico. These dishes are available only on the dinner menu, after 5:00 p.m.

Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen is committed to freshness. “Everything is made fresh daily, nothing comes pre-made, and nothing comes in a can. It’s home cooking – it’s how we cook at home, to a larger scale,” explains Juan.

Don Juan’s sources many of their ingredients locally. “All of our meat is from Stewart’s Meat Market. When we can get grass-fed, we get grass-fed. Everything is natural, our chicken isn’t pumped with antibiotics. Our produce, when we can, we get locally. All our spices come from Mexico. We try to do as much local as possible.”

don juans mexicanSteak tacos are delicious at Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen.

The restaurant uses peanut oil in their fryer, a healthier alternative to vegetable oil and all of the sauces are made with olive oil. “We don’t use vegetable oil, or canola oil, or shortening,” describes Juan. “We have gluten-free and vegetarian options.

“My mom is a great cook so if someone comes in with a dietary restriction, she’ll come up with something to make for them,” adds Juan.

This approach to quality ingredients extends to Don Juan’s fantastic margaritas. They use organic margarita mix, organic agave for sweetening, and fresh fruit, as well as 100% blue agave tequila. “My bartender is really picky, if I bring in something, by accident, that has corn syrup in it, he throws it in the trash,” explains Juan.

Don Juan’s has quite a following, with customers making the trip to Tenino from across Thurston County. Dinner reservations, especially on weekends, are a must. “A lot of people say ‘Why Tenino?’ and we say ‘why not?’ We choose Tenino because it’s such a quaint little town, the community here is awesome. We’ve become a destination.”

But it’s a small location, and not everyone wants to wait for a table, Juan explains. So in late March, Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen will open a second location on Harrison Avenue in West Olympia. “We’re excited to come to Olympia, we’ve had a huge response,” says Juan.

“We’re very excited to start the next chapter in our lives and business, and provide Olympia with good Mexican food.” The new location will have all of Don Juan’s classic dishes and more. “We’re expanding our menu on the Westside, because Mexican seafood is huge. There’s a huge variety of different seafood dishes, so we want to introduce that. And we’re adding more gluten-free, more vegetarian options and more salads.”

don juans mexicanDon Juan’s uses organic ingredients and high quality tequila in all of their margaritas.

The new location will be carefully decorated with handcrafted furniture and indigenous crafts. “We went to a lot of towns where the indigenous people make crafts, and picked up a lot of stuff from there. We had all of our tables, chairs, and booths made by a craftsman. All of the furniture for the new location was handcrafted in Mexico,” says Juan. “We pay attention to detail really well. That’s what makes it – the authenticity of everything.”

“We keep it traditional, and stick to our roots. When we started, the Mexican food that most places sell here is very Americanized, and it took people some time to get used to our cooking,” describes Juan.  “That’s kind of our philosophy – stick to traditional, authentic Mexican food, don’t veer from that. And offering good customer service, making everybody feel at home.”

“This is real Mexican food,” shares Juan. “This is the closest you’re going to get to Mexican food other than going to Mexico. It’s our baby. We put all our heart and efforts into this and providing good food for people and good atmosphere and customer service. We’re here to serve.”

Don Juan’s is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday in Tenino, and will open in late March in West Olympia. Entrees range from $8-17 dollars and reservations are strongly recommended.

To keep in touch with the latest news, follow Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen’s Facebook page.

Thrifty Thurston Lists the 2016 Major Festivals and Events around Olympia and Thurston County

Thurston Talk - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 6:00am


One of my favorite things about living in Thurston County is the endless opportunities to gather together with friends and neighbors, celebrating our region, history and diversity. It’s inevitable that I bump into people I know, no matter what event I attend. It’s that small town feel in a bigger city that makes living here so unique.

VCB logoAt ThurstonTalk, we love to help you plan ahead to attend all those fun, community gatherings with our annual events calendar. Bookmark this one to use all year long. As each date draws close, check our home page for in depth articles and information about each special event.  The links below connect to past articles or the event websites to give you an idea of what to expect from the 2016 event, but all the dates are current for 2016.

ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia.  If you have a suggestion for a story, send us a note at  To view our complete event calendar and learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.  Add your event to our calendar here.

February 11-14 Olympia Old-Time Festival February 13 Lacey Ethnic Celebration March 19 Capital Food and Wine Festival March 28 Olympia Acoustic Fest April 16-17 Olympia Master Builder’s Home and Garden Show April 22-23 Spring Arts Walk April 23 Procession of the Species April 30 Dragon Boat Festival May 7-8 Wooden Boat Fair May 9 Prairie Appreciation Day May 21-22 Lacey Spring Fun Fair, Car Show and Grand Parade May 15 Capital City Marathon, Half Marathon and 5 Mile June 4 Lacey Rotary Duck Dash June 4-5 Roy Pioneer Rodeo June 18 Olympia Strawberry Festival June 18-19 Capital City Pride Festival June 18-19 Olympic Air Show June 23-25 Yelm Prairie Days June 23-26 America’s Dixieland Jazz Festival June 25 Olympia Boatswap and Chowder Challenge Summer 2016 Sand in the City July 3 Lacey Fireworks and Freedom Concert July 4 Tumwater Artesian Family Fest and Fireworks July 9 South Sound BBQ Festival July 9-10 Black Lake Regatta July 13-17 Capital Lakefair July 23-25 Tenino Oregon Trail Days July 30-31 Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival August 3-7 Thurston County Fair August 6 Olympia Brewfest August 13 The Pet Parade August 21 Love Our Local Fest August 26-28 Rainier Round-Up Days September 2-4 Olympia Harbor Days September 10 Brats, Brews, and Bands September 17 Summer’s End Car Show September 24 Nisqually Watershed Festival October 7-8 Fall Arts Walk October 7-8 Oysterfest November 27 Downtown for the Holidays



Elastography — A Non-Invasive Way of Looking at the Liver

Thurston Talk - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 6:00am


Advancements in technology — especially in the field of medicine — can be life changing. For someone suffering from a severe medical condition, even the slightest advancement can provide a world of difference.

Recently, a new type of imaging technology called elastography is helping hepatitis patients in ways that previous technology could not.

Hepatitis C, a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus, affects approximately 3 million people living in the United States. For some people affected by the virus, Hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for the majority — 70–85 percent — it’s a chronic condition that can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma, or even death.

South Sound Radiology Dr. ParrinoCommitted to providing local access to cutting edge technologies, Dr. Tremont V. Parrino, MD, is proud to offer Thurston County-area residents access to elastography imaging. Photo courtesy: South Sound Radiology.

In recent years, new drugs have been introduced that are effective in treating Hepatitis C, but the treatment can cost as much as $90,000. Because it is so expensive, hepatitis patients must meet a specific criteria in order to be eligible for the treatment.

In the past, qualifying for this expensive treatment required Hepatitis C patients to endure painful and costly liver biopsies, but thanks to elastography, these painful procedures may be a thing of the past.

Elastography is a non-invasive ultrasound application that can detect fibrosis — or scarring— of liver tissue. During the ultrasound, a pulse is sent through the tissue. The stiffer the tissue the faster the pulse will move, indicating scar and the necessity for treatment.

Less expensive, less time consuming and less painful than traditional liver biopsies, elastography offers many benefits to hepatitis patients. However, up until recently, hepatitis patients had to travel to Seattle for elastography imaging. Not anymore.

Earlier this year, South Sound Radiology in Olympia became the first imaging center in the region to introduce this state of the art technology to the community.

“We like bringing new technologies into the community,” says South Sound Radiology Co-President and Radiologist Dr. Tremont V. Parrino, MD. “We have some world class facilities in Seattle, but many of the things done there can be done here.”

Committed to providing local access to cutting edge technologies, South Sound Radiology prides itself in providing Thurston County-area residents with quality care, right here in the South Sound. “This organization is on the forefront of bringing new technologies to the community,” says Dr. Parrino.

Elastography is an example of this.

South Sound Radiology elastographyDuring elastography, a pulse is sent through the liver tissue generating later shear waves. Photo courtesy: South Sound Radiology.

Dr. Parrino says it was just one year ago that South Sound Radiology got wind of the new technology. “We were contacted by two different Gastroenterologists who learned about elastography while attending a seminar in Boston,” he explains. “They said, ‘We think we need this in the community.’”

South Sound Radiology agreed.

Since introducing elastography to its patients just four months ago, South Sound Radiology has already performed more than 100 ultrasounds using the new technology. Elastography is a fast non-invasive procedure. The technology allows fast accurate diagnosis of liver fibrosis.

“This ultrasound technology relies on how waves move through the tissue, giving us a different form of information,” explains Dr. Parrino. “When we first started doing this, we thought, ‘This looks like a normal liver,’ but the numbers told us something else. Elastography provides us with a new way of looking at the liver.”

Aside from being a non-invasive, affordable procedure, elastography provides radiologists with a detailed new type of information. With elastography, radiologists are able to identify problems in livers that would have previously been classified normal in appearance.

Still a new technology, Dr. Parrino assumes that other uses for elastography will be discovered as research continues, but for now, South Sound Radiology is happy that it can at least make a big difference in the lives of hepatitis patients. “This technology is important because Hepatitis C is such a big killer in the United States,” says Dr. Parrino.

“The most rewarding part of the day is talking with patients,” says Dr. Parrino. And while Dr. Parrino and the entire South Sound Radiology staff would always prefer to provide their patients with good news, Dr. Parrino and his team are at least grateful that when they have to report bad news, they at least have the experience, knowledge and technology available to give their patients professional, quality care.

You can learn more about elastography and the other imaging services available at South Sound Radiology by visiting South Sound Radiology’s website or by calling South Sound Radiology at 360-493-4600.

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