Recent local blog posts

Helena Rice – Rob Rice Homes’ Biggest Fan

Thurston Talk - Mon, 01/18/2016 - 6:57am


The first thing you see when you walk into a Rob Rice Home is the Rice family photo, a clear indication that the home is built by a family business. The wife and mother in the photo is Helena Rice, a convincing cheerleader for the lovely homes they build, taking on many roles to promote Rob Rice Homes.

Wife, mother, marketer, social media generator, designer, generous community supporter and dog lover—she is good at them all.

Helena is beautiful with an outgoing and encouraging personality, a true asset for the area’s largest builder, its employees and the people that buy their homes. When you first meet Helena you feel like you have met a best friend.

rob rice homesHelena and Rob Rice pose on their wedding day with their ring bearer and dog at the time, Bellamae.

“In a word, Helena cares,” says Ken Anderson owner and president of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty who has known Helena for 15 years.  Anderson’s company markets and sells Rob Rice Homes. “She cares deeply about delivering exceptional value to their homebuyers. She is, and always has been, completely focused on quality and doing the right thing.”

Helena’s Background

Helena spent most of her childhood growing up on the Long Beach peninsula.

“My father was an architect so I grew up in the business,” she explains. “He designed civic buildings but also did custom buildings on the side.”

Helena went to college for fashion design and business in Southern California but during that time was hired by a large corporation, where she excelled at sales. The company transferred her all over Oregon, Washington and California and though she enjoyed her success, she eventually got tired of moving.

“I got my first dog, which was a life changing moment,” Helena explains. “The last place I landed was Olympia so I decided to settle here and went to work for The Olympian where I worked up to managing the advertising department.”

Meeting Rob

“When The Olympian first rolled out their website, the online sales manager and I launched the new sales program,” reflects Helena. “Rob Rice and Brian Fluetsch at Sunset Air were our first two targets. They were leading community members, so getting both of them to sign a contract would convince other businesses to do the same. That was our whole sales strategy. And, it worked.”

Serving on the board of the Olympia Master Builders (OMB) was where she got to know Rob better.

“At an OMB charity auction in 2001, I asked Rob about Daimon Doyle who had donated a sailing trip I was thinking about bidding on. He told me that he was a good guy and I would be in good hands. I took his advice, but when the bidding went too high for me, I stopped. The following Monday, Rob’s sales rep walked into my office with an envelope and it was the sailing trip. He had bought it for me. We eventually enjoyed that sailing trip as a couple.”

rob rice homesHelena Rice is a wife, mom, marketer, sales expert and Rob Rice Homes’ biggest fan. She is pictured here with her son, Carson.

And the rest, they say, is history.

Marketing Expertise and Enthusiasm

Helena has proven to be the marketing genius behind the branding of Rob Rice Homes. Prior to the company’s name change, it was marketed as Gemini Homes and Epic Realty.

Rob was reluctant to promote his own name but Helena convinced him that buyers were not only buying his homes, but they were also buying the reputation of his name as a builder. It was important to brand the company with his name and people are proud they own a home with his name on it.

“I shy away from self-promotion, so it was difficult for me in the beginning,” says Rob. “Now that I have seen the success of the re-branding of our company name and what it means to our buyers, I’m so glad we did it.”

Real Estate Experts

For more than 20 years, Epic Realty has specialized in marketing new home construction and represents Rob Rice Homes in four of the nine communities where Rob is currently building.

Originally, Rob had co-owned Epic Realty with Kim Showalter and Helena began filling in with her expertise, helping them promote Rob Rice Homes.

It eventually made sense for Helena to buy Rob’s portion of the company.

“I gave him $10 in front of the attorneys and we signed the paperwork,” explains Helena. “Rob put that money in the visor of his truck to commemorate the sale.”

rob rice homesHelena consults with Lisa Poundstone of Design Smart Home Staging at the model home in the Rob Rice community of Campus Peak.

Helena explains the impact of her involvement in Epic.

“We have changed our philosophy of selling. We recognize that our most important advocates are the brokers in the outside real estate community so we make it as easy as possible to sell our homes.”

She credits that change to taking the advice of Ken Anderson, whose company Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, markets and sells Rob Rice Homes in a number of their communities.

“Most home builders think a successful sales strategy is measured by how many in-house sales the builder’s own few agents make,” says Anderson. “In representing Rob Rice Homes, we know the sales force is the hundreds of licensed brokers selling real estate in our market. By being easier to sell, we mean that all brokers can easily learn about the homes, independently show them to clients, and have confidence writing purchase and sale agreements.”

Ken describes those agreements as an example of how the local builder eases the home purchase for brokers and buyers.

“Rob Rice Homes uses the NWMLS purchase and sale agreements, which are drafted by top attorneys in the state to balance both the interests of buyer and seller. These are forms that real estate brokers can fill out and provide the practical advice on their operation. This is a much more comfortable position for buyers and their agents to approach the purchase of a new home.”


Helena also oversees the exterior and interior design choices in Rob Rice Homes including their many upgrades like hardwood flooring, granite or quartz countertops and designer backsplash tile, all included in the price of the home.

rob rice homesRob and Helena and their two sons Alex Michael (right) and Carson (left) make Rob Rice Homes a family business.

“I am fortunate to work with Deanna Collins of Signature Interior and Design. I don’t ever have to decide what bath tiles I want for a bathroom or kitchen backsplash because Deanna provides exceptional design expertise that adds the wow factor to the stunning upgrades in our homes,” Helena says.

Small Town Giving

“Both Rob and I were raised in tiny, tiny towns,” notes Helena. “I graduated from high school with 32 people and Rob graduated with 12.”

“When you grow up in a small town where everyone knows everybody, your parents teach you to be aware of what you say and to be fair and do the right thing. We were both raised with a tremendous amount of integrity,” she adds.

That upbringing is reflected in the quality of the homes they build and Rob and Helena’s commitment to give back to the place they call home, where they are raising their two sons, Alex Michael and Carson.

Helena serves on the PTO of her son’s school, East Olympia Elementary, and is involved in youth sports organizations. Because of their love for animals, both Rob and Helena support Concern with Animals and honor their commitment to children and education through support of the Hands On Children’s Museum and Saint Martin’s University as well as numerous other charitable organizations.

Doing it All

When asked how she does it all, Helena first credits their partners.

“We have unbelievable partners that share our values and have worked for us for so long–some as many as 30 years,” she notes. “We sold 138 homes in 2015, a record-breaking year. At any given time, we have 75 homes under construction. We couldn’t do it all without a solid team in Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty and Epic Realty and all of our valued building partners.”

She enjoys the work too because she is convinced of the integrity of the builder she is married to.

“Rob volunteers on three boards and coaches his son’s basketball. Yet, he will drop everything to go help a homeowner,” says Helena.  “He truly cares and has a big heart. We have such a good story to tell.”

Learn more about Rob Rice Homes on their website.

Rob Rice is Thurston County’s largest local home builder and was voted the Best of South Sound for 2013 and 2014. He has built more than 3,000 homes over the last 30 years. He and his wife Helena live in Olympia with their two sons, Alex Michael and Carson. Rob is a graduate of Washington State University with degrees in construction management and architecture.


Help Restore the Westside Heronry

OlyBlog Home Page - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 9:58am
Event:  Mon, 01/18/2016 - 10:00am - 2:00pm logo Twitter logo Google Plus One Facebook Like

Gio Woods – Living a Dream Playing Professional Basketball around the World

Thurston Talk - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 8:06am


If anyone had reasons to doubt, it was Gio Woods. But Woods, a 2004 River Ridge High School graduate, couldn’t quiet his ambition to play professional basketball. Apparently, “can’t” isn’t in this big dreamer’s vocabulary.

oly ortho logoComing out of a small college, Woods’ ambition to play pro basketball was, well, farfetched. It wasn’t like he was an All-American guard in college, starting for UCLA. He never even played Division I basketball and didn’t even start for some major, big-time college. He wasn’t even a full-time starter his senior year at Central Washington University, a Division II school. Instead, he was a sixth-man-to-the rescue, emergency points off the bench kind of guy. He averaged nearly 10 points.

Yet somehow, Woods, with this determined resilience, has proven that all that major-college resume stuff didn’t really matter. For the past six years, Woods has played professional basketball internationally in Europe, the Middle East and now Africa.

gio woods basketballGio Woods has played professional basketball for six years around the world. Photo courtesy: Gio Woods.

He’s played in Spain, Austria, Venezuela, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and now in Africa. Woods flew to Tanesia, Africa, on Thursday, leaving his wife and three kids at home in Lacey.

“I just wanted to see the world,” Woods said about his die-hard ambition. “Where the opportunity calls, that’s where I’ll go.”

Woods says his life on the basketball court, traveling around the world, is simply an answer to no-quit determination, hard work and, most importantly he’ll tell you, prayer.

“God has taken me everywhere,” Woods said. “I asked to travel in my career. He’s definitely given that to me. I’m flying to different countries a lot. I’ve probably stepped foot into 20 different countries in six years.”

The roots for his big-dream ambition is part genetic. Both his mom and dad played professional basketball in Germany in the 1980s. However, before Woods would ever get a pro offer, he had to audition. Since no one was knocking on his door, he went to Las Vegas for tryouts with both the NBA’s Development League and for European teams. That first year after graduating from Central, Woods didn’t get a contract offer. So, he coached high school basketball with his dad, George Woods, in Michigan for six months.

gio woods basketballA 2004 graduate of River Ridge High School, Gio Woods married his high school sweetheart, Destiney. Photo courtesy: Gio Woods.

Woods’ dream then took him to tryouts in North Carolina and back to Las Vegas. He played in three or four different European camps and then it started to happen.

“I was getting like five offers between two camps,” Woods said. “And I signed my first deal to go to Spain.”

He signed his first professional contract to play in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain.

“It was a good experience. I played there for a year,” Woods said. “The next year I went back to Vegas again for more tryouts.”

That led to his second deal, a contract to play in Kapfenberg, Austria. The next year he went to Venezuela for four months to play basketball. That was a short league and Woods received a Player of the Year award.

“We lost in the semifinals that year,” Woods said.

After that, Woods left Europe and headed for the Middle East and ended up signing with Iraq last year. In January 2015, he left Iraq and signed a deal to go to Saudi Arabia for five months and ended up playing well and led the league in scoring. He averaged 32 points a game.

gio woods basketballGio Woods holds trophies that he has received while playing professional basketball. Photo courtesy: Gio Woods.

“As an American import, they want you to come over and basically lead the team,” Woods said. “Whether it’s in scoring or a leader on the floor, they want you to lead the team. Europe is more team oriented.”

When you play pro basketball in the Middle East, you get a paycheck to score points.

“If you can’t score 30, they’ll send you home and get someone else,” Woods said. “They definitely want you to come out and show the fans why America is pretty much the best for basketball and that we have the best players.”

This past summer, he signed and played in Qatar. He came home for Christmas and ended up cutting his contract with the team.

“And I signed the deal to go with Tanesia,” Woods said.

That is the life of someone earning a paycheck. Players often make $60,000-plus a season to play professional basketball in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Woods’ family includes his wife, Destiney, who was his high school sweetheart and three children – two girls and a boy ranging in age from 5-years-old to just four months.  This time, Woods left his family at home. The season ends in April and he’ll be back home. But he’ll survive. He’ll be staying in a hotel and getting three meals a day as part of his contract.

gio woods basketballGio Woods headed out on January 14, 2016 to play professional basketball in Africa.

All along, as Woods has bounced from country to country, team to team, his goal has remained the same.

“My goal is just to make sure that my family is financially set,” Woods said. “That’s why I play – to make sure they’re well taken care of financially. If I stopped today, I could say that I played professional basketball for six years. A lot of people I grew up with can’t say the same thing. It’s very hard to get into this profession. I will be comfortable with myself knowing that I got an opportunity to do this.”

It’s been a dream come true.

Court fees pose undue burden on poor

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 8:02pm

Reform needed for our state’s system of Legal Financial Obligations

Debtors’ prisons were abolished in 1842, yet people in Washington and around the country continue to be jailed for failing to keep up on payments for court-imposed fees. Others remain trapped for life in spiraling debt. Washington’s system of Legal Financial Obligations is destructive, advocates say, and the Legislature has an opportunity to change it.

Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) are charged to defendants in addition to jail time to compensate victims and finance legal or administrative services. A 2014 report by the ACLU of Washington and Columbia Legal Services (CLS) found that Superior Courts in Washington can impose up to 20 different types of fees. Some LFOs—such as victim restitution and a DNA database fee—are required by state law. Others are discretionary, and include fees for requesting a jury trial, using a public defender, or even an annual $100 “collection fee.”

LFOs accrue interest at a rate of 12 percent. The high interest rates and the annual collection fees have the effect of exacting a harsher penalty on people living in poverty, who pay more over a longer period of time than people with the means to pay off their fees at once. In some cases, a person can make steady payments for life without ever paying down their debt.

The Blazina decision

State law requires judges to look at a defendant’s individual circumstances and ability to pay before imposing discretionary LFOs, but this determination has not been consistently applied. The 2014 ACLU/CLS report cited that discretionary LFOs were “routinely” imposed on poverty-stricken defendants in the four counties they investigated, including Thurston County.

The State Supreme Court brought this issue to the forefront last March when it announced its decision in State of Washington v. Blazina. The case involved two Pierce County defendants that were given LFOs far exceeding their capacity to pay. The decision called out the trial court’s responsibility to conduct an individualized assessment to verify ability to pay before imposing discretionary fees.

Efforts have been underway to inform clients and attorneys about defendants’ rights and the standard for determining ability to pay. Nick Allen, a staff attorney in the Institutions Project at Columbia Legal Services, points to a workgroup held by the Washington State Office of Public Defense and the CLE courses it has led throughout the state as signs of progress.

Judge Carol Murphy, Presiding Judge for Thurston County Superior Court, said in an email that she estimates that discretionary fees have been ordered less frequently in recent years in Thurston County as a result of “increased awareness by the parties, attorneys, and judges.”

Still, Allen notes discrepancies in the way the law is enforced throughout the state. “It’s not necessarily being followed everywhere,” he said.

Debtors’ prisons

Preventing courts from imposing LFOs on indigent defendants is only half the battle. The other challenge is ensuring people are not jailed for inability to pay.

Federal law states that a person can only be incarcerated for “willfully” refusing to pay, but there is no standard on how “willfully” is defined. Allen has seen people arrested over perceived signs of financial means that do not take into account an objective measure of a person’s economic status, citing cigarettes or a nice wristwatch as justification for incarceration. Others have been jailed for failing to contact a clerk.

Statistics on imprisonment over nonpayment vary from county to county, but nowhere in Washington locks up more indebted prisoners than Benton County, where one in five inmates is behind bars because of legal debts.

The ACLU filed suit against the county in October alleging that it “jails, threatens to jail, or forces manual labor” on people who are unable to pay. While the situation in Benton County is particularly severe, it is emblematic of a larger problem across the state.

Trapped for life

Incarceration for indebtedness is only the most visible way that LFOs imprison offenders after they’ve done their time. The more insidious damage comes from mounting debt that can follow an offender for life.

LFOs begin accruing interest at a rate of 12 percent on the date of the order, so debts can balloon substantially by the time the inmate is released from jail. Re-entry is challenging, and economic hardship can linger. The ACLU/CLS report noted that as many as three in five newly-released offenders are unable to find work one year out of prison. In this situation, even the basics can be out of reach.

“It might not sound like much to the average person out there,” Allen said. “But $25 a month, for a lot of these folks, is unpayable.”

The debt keeps growing, and the threat of incarceration for nonpayment looms.

People relying on public assistance are almost categorically indigent, but the 2014 ACLU/CLS report found that many people in Thurston County are routinely required to apply these benefits toward paying down their debt.

Offenders are not the only ones to pay the price. The report also found that in many counties, annual collection fees are often skimmed off the top rather than paid down after restitution, delaying compensation for victims.

The way out

Washington has a ready-made roadmap to end this cycle. House Bill 1390, which was introduced last year, would eliminate interest for non-discretionary LFOs, prioritize payment to victims over court and legal fees, and establish clear guidelines for what constitutes willful nonpayment and ability to pay.

This bipartisan legislation passed out of the House with a vote of 94-4, but it was amended in the Senate to weaken many of the House provisions and remove the courts’ responsibility to make an individual assessment of the defendant’s ability to pay before imposing LFOs.

The amendment, which was explicitly retroactive, would have nullified the Supreme Court’s Blazina decision. This scenario was unacceptable to advocates, who say an individualized examination of ability to pay is the underpinning of any semblance of fairness in our system of LFOs.

“The principle of the Blazina case…should be strengthened, not reversed,” Sam Merrill, former Clerk of the Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy (FCWPP), said in an email.

Merrill has been active in advocating on this issue with the Olympia-based Justice Not Jails, a group of Friends (Quakers), Unitarian-Universalists, and other concerned individuals aiming to reform our justice system. People interested in supporting this effort can work with Justice Not Jails to take part.

Like Merrill, Allen was frustrated by the changes the Senate made to the bill last year. Despite the challenges, he is optimistic about the prospects for the coming session:

“The 94-4 passage on the House side shows that this is not a partisan issue—there’s bipartisan support. We’re seeing that what the Supreme Court said in Blazina is true, and that is that we have a broken LFO system…Legislators want to fix that broken LFO system, and there’s no better time than now to do this.”

Michaela Williams is a former legislative staffer. She lives in Olympia, WA.

Editor’s note: According to the Tri-City Herald, on December 1, Benton County Commissioners voted to eliminate credit for jail or work crews to pay off debt. ACLU’s lawsuit continues though because there are people still in jail and warrants are still being written for “outstanding obligations.”

The post Court fees pose undue burden on poor appeared first on Works in Progress.

Let’s welcome Syrians to the U.S.

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:58pm

A look back at this nation’s rejection of Jewish refugees during WW II

(The following is an edited version of a talk at a forum held at The Evergreen State College—After Paris: Responding to Islamophobia and the Refugee Crisis—given by Peter Bohmer on December 2, 2015)

First, a little about my parents and grandparents

My family is from central Europe; my mother and father were born and grew up in Vienna, Austria as assimilated Jews. In March 1938, the Austrian government welcomed the invasion of Nazi Germany although there was some popular resistance. Germany immediately annexed Austria. My dad who was 22-years-old was arrested and imprisoned in late March 1938 for activity in the Jewish community. He was beaten by the guards but was released in August 1938. My parents immediately fled Austria for France which let in many Jews though they also limited entry; e.g., from Poland which had the largest Jewish population in Europe.

An imminent invasion of France by German was expected so my parents knew they needed to leave France as soon as possible.  They wanted to immigrate to Australia or the United States, but, at first, couldn’t get a visa to either.  They were able to find a U.S. sponsor and with the assistance of an official in the U.S. embassy in France they came to the U.S. a year later in June, 1939, shortly before German occupied France.

The St. Louis, a ship with 900 Jews fleeing Germany was refused entry to the United States in the same year and was sent back—one-third of whom were later killed in concentration camps. The majority of Jews who applied for entry into the United States between 1938 and 1940 were refused permission.

In 1939, my grandmother managed to escape from Vienna to Sweden where we had relatives. She was unable to get a visa to the United States even though my parents were sponsoring her. She finally received one from Cuba where she lived until 1946 when she got a United States visa permitting her to come to Queens, NY where we grew up.

Her ex-husband, my grandfather, also left Vienna returning to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia where he was born and had grown up.  He was hidden on a farm by a Catholic family for the entire war. He died of cancer in 1945, shortly before the war ended. He was a holocaust victim because he was prevented from going to a hospital for fear of being discovered. The family who hid him for five years committed a courageous act of solidarity. They risked their own lives to help my grandfather.  I hope people here today have the same courage.


I have recounted this family history because of the many analogies between the situation and treatment of Jewish and Roma (sometimes called Gypsies) at the beginning of World War II with Syrians today.  If the United States and England and other countries outside of Europe had opened their borders more widely, hundreds of thousands or more Jews and others fleeing fascist persecution would have survived.

During the period of the late 1930’s and 1940-1941when emigration from Europe was more possible than later in the war though was severely restricted (by whom?), the primary reasons given for limiting Jewish entry into the United States in this period included the following:

  • The United States is a Christian nation—Jews are not Christian but an alien religion.

Consider the analogy to Islamophobia.  To Islamophobes, Islam is an alien religion that threatens “our” values and therefore Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis should not be permitted to enter. It is Jeb Bush and the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, saying the U.S. should only accept Syrian Christians.

  • Many politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, and many in the mass media, radio and newspaper, claimed Jews were communists or anarchists and/or Soviet agents who were coming to revolutionize the United States and overthrow the government and should not be let in.

This is analogous to the argument today and especially since 9/11/2001 in the U.S., Canada and many European countries that Muslims are taking over, want to take over and therefore should be excluded.

  • In a 1939 Gallup poll, 61 percent of those interviewed said they were against 10,000 Jewish children from Germany being allowed to come and live in the United States. Only 30 percent were in support. This two-to-one margin is a ratio similar to many other polls, e.g., among college students against admitting Jews into the United States.

This two to one ratio against Jewish entry, 75 years ago, is similar to many polls today on whether to admit Syrian refugees to the United States. In a recent Washington Post poll, 54% responded they were against any Syrians being admitted.  Thirty-one governors support stopping all Syrians refugees from living in their states, either permanently or temporarily, until there is careful checking one by one of each person applying to live there.  Fortunately governors do not have that power, only the federal government does. These pronouncements by these governors both reflect and contribute to the anti-refugee and anti-Arab and Anti-Islamic climate that we must challenge in words and practice.

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill in which 47 Democrats joined 242 Republicans that calls for temporarily banning all Syrian and Iraqi applicants from gaining refugee status.

  •  Nazis would enter the U.S. with false papers claiming they were Jews  fleeing Germany or  that Jews would be blackmailed to be spies to save relatives back home. President Franklin Roosevelt and the State Dept used this argument of potential spies among those wanting to enter the U.S. as a reason for severely limiting entry.

In my research on this claim, I found only one person was charged as a Nazi spy even though the FBI conducted thorough investigations of those seeking entry, which continued long after their entry to the United States.  My own parents were again interrogated by the FBI after a few years to determine whether they were Nazi agents; they were not.

A similar claim is being made today in the U.S. although not one person convicted in the U.S. of a terrorist attack here is a Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan refugee. There are already thorough security background checks of those who want to come here. Moreover, the price of trying to obtain absolute security means closing and further militarizing our borders with increased surveillance and police powers at home.  Meanwhile, the cost in human lives caused by exclusion is immoral and, therefore, not acceptable.

  •  The United States should be doing more for its own population and can not afford to spend money on refugees.

A sign at a recent anti-refugee demonstration at the State Capitol on November 20, 2015 read “Vets Before Refugees.”

This was also the argument in the late 1930’s, in a period of even higher unemployment and poverty than now.   There are 40 million poor people in the United States, using government definitions, and in reality twice that, continuing racial and women’s oppression, growing economic inequality, police violence and mass incarceration disproportionately against Black, Latino and Native Americans, and many other issues.  However, the people who oppose Syrian refugees and immigrants are also the same people who oppose policies such as full employment, raising the minimum wage, reproductive rights, veteran’s benefits, and taxing the wealthy and corporations, all of which would help both refugees and the oppressed here. These right-wing fear based politics go far beyond Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

The cost

The estimated cost of Obama’s proposed resettlement plan of Syrians in the U.S. in 2016 is $1.2 billion. A 20% additional tax on the income of top 1% would yield over $600 billion dollars a year, which could end homelessness and make housing more affordable, fund free college for all, provide affordable and universal high quality health care and make childcare more accessible. It could end poverty.  In addition, the government could raise the minimum wage, and at little cost could increase employment. So it will not either help refugees or help people already living here, but will help both.

We need to strengthen social movements demanding immigrant, economic and social justice and/or supporting candidates such as Bernie Sanders who wants to both support refugees and U.S. residents.  This is not meant as an endorsement of Sanders as he does have limitations, but he does address many of these urgent issues.  If we cut the military budget and release many prisoners there is even more money available for ending poverty and accepting refugees.

In addition, I was in Greece last summer, a country whose population is equivalent to that of Washington and Oregon, but where more than 700,000 refugees have entered during the last year— the majority Syrian.  For the most part, those entering Greece do not stay for extended periods. They enter primarily on small boats from Turkey and hope to go further west. Many die during their passage to Greece in overcrowded boats not built for rough waters. There is an intense exploitation by those profiting from organizing these dangerous voyages similar to those profiting from the immigration to the United State of those fleeing economic and political violence from Mexico and Central America who are also refugees.  I am impressed by the solidarity exhibited by thousands of Greek people, many whom are poor and unemployed, sharing their food, clothing, medicines, and even their houses with refugees. We can do that here, too.

Obama has proposed resettling 10,000 Syrians in the United States in 2016 and has challenged the extreme fortress America, close our borders rhetoric. This is positive move, but admitting only 10,000 is insufficient. It is analogous to the limited entry that was granted to Jews, Roma and others fleeing the Nazis.  According to the United Nations there are four million Syrian refugees outside of Syria, mainly in Turkey, Lebanon  and Jordan, and seven million internally displaced refugees—together almost half of the Syrian population. They are victims of ISIS, the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, and the murderous Syrian State of Bashar al-Assad. According to the UN, more than 250,000 Syrians have been murdered since 2011, mainly by the Assad government. The numbers are growing daily. This is equivalent in relation to population of three million people being killed in the United States.   We should be accepting and welcoming far more than 10,000 Syrians a year.

France, even after the horrific November 13 mass murder in Paris said they would still accept 30,000 Syrians over the next two years.

There are many parallels to past U.S. fears and restricted permission of  Jews and others fleeing Nazi persecution  in the 1930’s and early 1940’s to the  almost total exclusion of  Syrians today including the restrictions on entry for those from Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, and Central America, thousands of which are Central American children.

I make this comparison because it is far easier to criticize the past and its accepted ideology of anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathy than the Islamophobia of the present. In general, we are not as conscious of how inhuman and reactionary is the current ideology that espouses anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rationalizations because we hear these ideas daily. I ask you to be as critical of our current anti-refugee and discriminatory policies as we now are now of the policies in the late 1930’s.

Steps forward

We should talk to our friends, acquaintances, family, fellow students and workers, in our places of worship and in our communities about fighting fear-based racist politics and welcome to the United States those whose lives are in danger. Syrian refugees are victims and not the cause of the extreme violence and growing poverty in Syria.

One concrete step at the Evergreen State College that we can do is to invite Syrians outside the United States to apply as students and make it affordable for them to attend.  Other institutions should figure out concrete ways to aid Syrians and other refugees such as providing sanctuary. We should all be educating the public and changing policy.

Let us learn from our mistake so we do not repeat the harm that was caused so long ago.

Peter Bohmer is a professor of economics at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

The post Let’s welcome Syrians to the U.S. appeared first on Works in Progress.

The difference between what was signed in Paris and what we need in Washington—now!

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:50pm

Regarding fossil fuels

Everyone wants to believe the agreement reached in Paris is definitely “better than nothing.” For all countries, big and small, this “self-prescribed” neutrality climate pledge of 2 degrees-with 1.5 Celsius appears to be a good idea. However, voluntary compliance seems a rudimentary flaw in the plan–a serious misstep in creating the setting for this somewhat lofty, more likely unachievable goal. According to, “this agreement finalized by politicians” is unmonitored (for all practical purposes) and voluntary, leaving many skeptical as it should us all. While it may look beneficial on paper, as a practical application it makes little sense. Another flaw is its intent to begin leaving fossil fuels in the ground at mid-century—another serious misstep for its failure to address the current crisis, a crisis fully exposed by the scientific community, yet underplayed by the greed of others.

Who are responsible for creating this nonbinding, voluntary, self-monitored deal? Huh? (Answer me that!)

As broadcast on Democracy Now!, the treatment of “Rising Tide” activists and others in Paris was unsettling. Rising Tide was the brains behind “Shell No” and the resistance to Shell’s oil drilling rigs seeking shelter at the Port of Seattle. They, along with a coalition of organizations and individuals, also resisted Shell’s plan to drill in the Arctic. Peaceful kayak demonstrations were staged to draw attention to the proposed Arctic oil drilling—a proposal with potentially immeasurable threats to waters and people. Known as peaceful and informative group in Paris, Rising Tide and other individuals were forcibly removed from the “Paris Petroleum Fair” for nothing more than a gathering to expose the plan of the corporation-Engie to frack across Europe. The company is also known in Australia for its effects on health and the environment by its coal industry. For this peaceful appearance, they were forcibly removed from the Paris affair, many carried out in the arms of police wearing riot gear and away from the booths set up for fossil fuels corporations to exhibit their wares. Journalists were blocked from filming.

So what does this say for the rest of us and our voice in the climate summit in Paris? Not much.

It leads one to wonder whether this supposed quantum leap for climate control gives us any leverage for our own grassroots posturing for the health and safety of our citizens here in Washington or Grays Harbor or Vancouver or Anacortes or Cherry Point. We are a citizenry that is in opposition to an unbelievable 20-some proposals to place billions of gallons of oil and coal in our own backyards and in and on our coastal waters. Must we wait and see if the Paris “voluntary” agreement plays out? Must we wait until all the crude oil has been fracked in North Dakota and hauled through our state? Must we wait until all the crude oil has been barged out and tankered away to China? Must we wait in the anticipation of these billions of gallons of coal and oil to be burned and the carbon emissions blow back to Washington contributing to our carbon emissions here and elsewhere? Wait and see as the agreement states, until 80% fossil fuel is still left in the ground-checking every five years to see if everyone is following the Paris playing rules?


Time is of the essence…we need leverage here and now. Excuse me if the Paris “Agreement” seems so far away, so nebulous, too big or badly organized to function efficiently: unwieldy. That it requires too much watchdogging. And there remain several, more legitimate questions: How does this “agreement” trickle down? Better, yet, does it trickle down to the people at the bottom of the power heap? Were the people equitably, or even remotely, represented at COP21? Probably not, if Rising Tide was shown the door at this Paris Exhibit. Probably not, if most were in the streets carrying signs and not at the table talking. Were the people by the railroad tracks in the blast zone or living on the edge of toxic coal mines and terminals here in the U.S.A represented? The Indigenous peoples in North Dakota, the Bakken Shale, whose homeland is being toxified and fracked to death-now-today! Talk about a government ignoring the plight of a suffering group! You will find it right here in this country. In the blast zone!

It is difficult to grasp the idea that progress was made in Paris and to be reassured that the effects of climate change effects will be lessened. An agreement that will “begin leaving fossil fuel in the ground at midcentury” is especially hard to grasp when you are sitting in your house near the railroad tracks in Aberdeen, Washington, waiting for those explosive, polluting crude oil trains to come rolling by on a more than daily basis. The threat of losing your home is very real. The threat of losing the value of your home by 30% is more real.

And what about the millions of gallons of oil placed beside a wildlife refuge that hosts thousands of globally migrating shoreline birds; the monopolization of the Port of Grays Harbor by 2.7 billion gallons of crude oil, yearly. The oil barges and tanks that are coming will be here at the expense of the Quinault Indians’ treaty rights of 1856.  Each crude oil train carries far more than was spilled by The Exxon Valdez in 1989 on waters not yet restored and financial obligations not yet paid to those who lost everything. It could happen to us.

In spite of public outcry and 122,000 public comments against coal and crude oil shipments by rail, and against Imperium & Westway’s storage and shipping in Grays Harbor, the beat goes on.  Those living in Vancouver await the verdict of Tesoro—the largest proposed crude oil terminal in America poised for operation. While Paris talked, Tesoro readies to fire up their business of oil, toxicity, and the probable ruination of a coastline and marine life. Big Oil Tesoro needs only a wink and a nod from our governors. But he could say, “No, now; we’re not waiting for mid-century.” He could volunteer to implement climate change here in his home state. Now.

As for me, this Paris voluntary climate change stuff rings less of progress and more of placebo—the logic of it escapes me. Perhaps there is little logic to it, huh, Governor?  Undoubtedly, Washington State’s governor took notes on ways to implement the Paris Climate Agreement in order to decrease carbons and save our lives, health, water and environment-beginning with efforts here in Washington State. Right now, before mid-century when the Paris Agreement fires up. Right now is the chance for the “green” governor to help us continue our status as the Evergreen State! We cannot wait for the Paris agreement to kick in. No to fossil fuel infrastructure in Washington State…now.

Paris is too little, too late. It may be better than nothing. We’ll see come midcentury or beyond.

Carol Seaman lives on the Chehalis River in Grays Harbor.


The post The difference between what was signed in Paris and what we need in Washington—now! appeared first on Works in Progress.

Strategies 360—oil and coal lobbyists who wield great influence in state government

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:45pm

Northwest firm is behind Longview refinery, Arctic drilling, and more

The fossil fuel divestment movement has scored a string of successes across the country, convincing universities, cities, and philanthropies to dump their investments in coal and oil. Now, as the Northwest stares down the barrel of five Keystone XLs’ worth of pipelines and export terminals, it’s time to turn the same sort of scrutiny on the lobbying and PR firms who do Big Oil’s dirty work locally.

Over the last few years, Sightline has shined a light on a range of firms surreptitiously pocketing dirty coal and oil money—and perhaps no group deserves a more gimlet eye than Strategies 360.

Senior staff at the firm make liberal use of a revolving door between big business and government: they rotate from top flight positions in Washington’s state capitol…

To read more, go to


The post Strategies 360—oil and coal lobbyists who wield great influence in state government appeared first on Works in Progress.

Every Breath You Take, I Can’t Breathe

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:43pm

What kind of world do we live in?

Will the violence never cease?

Sting was to appear at a Black Lives Matter rally

‘til he saw a sign that read “Fuck the police”


Don’t stand so close to me

I’ll be watching you

Now we treat Muslims

The way we once did Jews


I know he’ll probably win

And we’re in for a rocky journey

But I’d advise to duck Donald

And give your vote to Bernie


So I’m sending out an S.O.S.

Hoping that ultimately

Democracy and logic

Will trump all this B.S.


by broKEN

Kenneth continues to struggle through poverty, bringing home the bacon only when it’s free. The starving artist is what he has been branded; though he writes from the left, he is definitely right-handed.


The post Every Breath You Take, I Can’t Breathe appeared first on Works in Progress.

Community Sustaining Fund of Thurston County announces recipients

Works in Progress - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 7:36pm

This grant cycles’ grantees and their funded projects:

Stonewall Youth:  Sponsorships for four youths to participate in two anti-oppression/social justice workshops ($600)

The South Sound Estuarium:  Purchase of a cooler system for an aquarium. ($600)

Fertile Ground: Acquisition of a street sign, community bulletin board, and seasonal garden interpretive signs. ($475)

Lacey Loves to Read: Honorarium for guest speaker, Kwami Alexander, Newberry Award poet. ($500)

Nisqually Land Trust: Funding for workshops to train advocates. ($100)

Art Forces/Rafah Mural Project:  Funds for the ongoing Olympia-Rafah Mural project. ($425)


The Sustaining Fund also plans to sponsor internships this coming year and will attend the TESC intern fair January 27.


The post Community Sustaining Fund of Thurston County announces recipients appeared first on Works in Progress.

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.


The post How dangerous is Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric? appeared first on Works in Progress.

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

read more

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).

Syndicate content