By now you have probably heard from a number of individuals on the topic of the 'Failure to Respond Ordinance' and the expansion of the 'Sitting and Lying Ordinance.' Without question, there are a lot of people who find the proposed ordinances troubling. I find myself among them.
I recognize that there is a small population of individuals in the downtown area that are creating a logistical and aesthetic problem for downtown businesses and overall city image. I understand that the convening of this workgroup is an attempt to give local law enforcement more tools with which to curb these behaviors.
I am extremely concerned about those individuals who could be caught in the crossfire with these ordinances. I am concerned about those individuals who do not or will not have the capacity because of extreme mental illness, extreme poverty, developmental delay or other reasoning, to navigate further into the court system than they already are.
I am concerned about debt, jail space, mental health facility beds, bench warrants, increased barriers to housing. I am concerned about increased cost to taxpayers as individuals sit in jail and wait for a rare bed in crisis triage to become available even if they have the wherewithal to choose a diversion program. I am concerned about individuals who have been banned from the Lighthouse Mission (which can happen arbitrarily) and who are sleeping out unsheltered. Shelter is a basic human right. I find it bad enough that tickets may be issued for this, let alone misdemeanor charges.
I am concerned that coercive treatment is ineffectual. I am concerned that we don’t appear to have any data on the efficacy of this program in other cities. I am concerned it pushes a problem further to the margins of town and out of sight of individuals who would like to continue pretending it doesn’t exist. It appears to me that we’ve flushed homeless individuals out of the dark corners of our city and now we’re surprised that they are visible.
In a city that finally seems to be taking progressive strides to address chronic homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse, these ordinances seem regressive. We are only now building our capacity to serve unhoused people in need. We don’t even have our fledgling ‘housing first’ facility off the ground yet, and our Homeless Street Outreach program has barely been in place for one month. These are models that are proving successful in other municipalities and I suggest we give them a chance to make an impact before we set the bar back a few decades. As for sleeping out, a lower-barrier shelter may be in order, or other innovative solutions.
How do we deal with this small percentage of people exhibiting undesirable behavior, particularly public drunkenness, right on Holly Street? I’m not entirely sure. I feel that there must be models available from other cities to address it. What you are proposing is too sweeping and general, and to the public appears to criminalize extreme poverty rather than address a tiny subset of the population and their behaviors. We can do better. The city is full of visionary thinkers. I hope you’ll take this back to the drawing board with a big red editing marker, or at the very least postpone it until we actually have the capacity to offer the diversion programs we want people to access.
Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
View the proposed ordinances below
Posted by Matteo Tamburini
It was a great and pleasant surprise to land in Italy and find out that President Obama was going to take executive action to lift the blockade against Cuba.
In these reflections, I will look at some of the context in which this decision was taken: my particular concern is to challenge the idea that President Obama’s actions occurred in a vacuum. Instead, popular, organized action plays a role, which means that we (as the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center) can also play our role in influencing otheraspects of US foreign policy.
First, however,, I think it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the following line from President Obama’s speech: “Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these
five decades.” This is an astounding statement. The fact that the President can utter such a transparent lie – and that no-one in the press thinks to challenge it – is a true testament to the amount of work that remains to be done before we can have a just foreign policy.
Let’s start from the assumption that the government of the United States is concerned with human rights anywhere in the world, now or in the past. If we were TRULY concerned with human rights, why would we have continuously fomented and supported right-wing military dictatorships throughout the Americas, like Pinochet in Chile, the Somozas in Nicaragua, or the genocidal policies of the military rulers in Guatemala? Why would we have stood in support of the apartheid regime in South Africa, or the Indonesian invasion of East Timor?
There is another example from the past that has recently come to light and is of particular interest to me. If the United States was genuinely concerned about ‘human rights’, why would US President Jimmy Carter have sent Steve Pieczenik to Italy, to ensure that the Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, who had been kidnapped by the Red Brigades, to make sure that Moro's murder was the only "necessary and inescapable" option left available to his abductors (in the words of Italian judges who are investigating his role)? In Pieczenik’s words, Moro was "sacrificed" for the stability of Italy, adding that up to the last day of Moro's captivity he was "afraid they would free him". In another interview with France 5 television channel he claimed that the decision to force the kidnappers' hand was made four weeks after the abduction, "when Moro's letters became desperate and he was about to reveal state secrets" – particularly the role played by the United States government in supporting right wing extremists who had conducted several bloody acts of terrorism in Italy. Coming back to the present: given Obama’s ongoing campaign of drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, his alignment with the despotic Saudi monarchy, and his ongoing support for Israel’s criminal actions in Gaza and the West Bank?
Let us turn now to our government’s support of ‘democracy and human rights’ in Cuba. On October 6th, 1976, Cubana Flight 455, a Cuban flight from Barbados to Jamaica, was blown up by a bomb attack. All 73
people on board were killed. Two CIA operatives, Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch have been widely implicated in the bombing, and have admitted to conducting several other acts of terrorism against Cuba. Both of them currently live in the United States, where they have lived free from criminal prosecution. Is this what President Obama means when he says that our government has been supporting ‘democracy and human rights’ in Cuba? Mind you, this is only a single example. There are many more. Setting the President’s transparently false claim aside, let’s now turn to the context in which this decision is being made.
First: since 1999, there has been a consistent and strong support among the public in the United States for normalizing relations with Cuba. Second: it is certain that there are many elements in the business community in the United States who also support ending the embargo – the pharmaceutical industry and agricultural conglomerates, two name just two. Third, and most importantly: it cannot be a coincidence that this move comes at a time in history in which many Central and Latin America countries are finally asserting themselves. For part of the last decade, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Nicaragua all have governments that are taking steps to reduce the grotesque income inequality that exists within them – itself an unprecedented historical situation. In the past, any move in this direction was met with a US-sponsored military coup, if not an outright US invasion.
It would be naïve to suppose that this is due to a fundamental change in the preferences of the people in power, specifically some specific difference between the Obama administration and all preceding US administrations. After all, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed at best to be dragging her feet in condemning the 2009 coup in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, and the United States took no real action to punish the illegitimate government that replaced him. Similarly, the Obama administration continued to exert pressure to keep former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide from returning to Haiti after he was ousted in a US-sponsored coup in 2004. Aristide only returned to Haiti in 2011, in defiance of all the pressures exerted by the United States.
The important conclusion is this: if the countries of Latin America are finally free to pursue an independent path, it must be at least in part because of the domestic resistance in the United States against US aggression. This resistance appears “invisible” – because the corporate media do not report on it. But is real, and the WPJC is a part of it In conclusion, we should be pleased to hear that step forward has been made in improving reations with Cuba – and we should remember that those of us who struggle for peace and justice have played a role in bringing it about.
(reposted from Veterans For Peace Chapter 111 Gene Marx)
In case you missed this report from Dahr Jamail on Truthout, Navy Plans Electromagnetic War Games Over National Park and Forest in Washington State:
According to Jamail, the US Navy plans to conduct its Northwest Electromagnetic Radiation Warfare training program, wherein "it will fly 36 of its EA-18G "Growler" supersonic jet warplanes down to 1,200 feet above the ground in some areas in order to conduct war games with 14 mobile towers. Enough electromagnetic radiation will be emitted so as to be capable of melting human eye tissue, and causing breast cancer, childhood leukemia and damage to human fetuses, let alone impacting wildlife in the area."
The area in question is the Olympic Peninsula, including the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest, as well as cities and communities, for 260 days per year, with exercises lasting up to 16 hours per day. The damage to flora and fauna in Washington State could be monumental and precedent setting.
I am not an alarmist, and I don't subscribe to fear mongering, but I was trained as an airborne electronic warfare officer in 1970 and was familiar then with the potential environmental damage these training routes could cause.
To document your concern, contact the Forest Service to protest this electronic warfare on US civilians and wildlife now planned to start in September 2015. The public comment period has been extended until November 28. Examples of letters already sent to the USFS website are available at
https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/ReadingRoom?List-size=25&project=42759&List-page=1. Of course, letters to the editors of local media would also be helpful to spark interest locally. Also don't hesitate to call your Congressional representatives. They should at least sound somewhat concerned.
(Dianne Foster, TPP Researcher)
As we approach the 15th anniversary of the Battle in Seattle against WTO expansion, the scariest zombie is yet to come: 20 years after Nafta, and with public polling overwhelmingly against ”free trade” agreements, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is raising its ugly head in the Congressional Lame Duck session. “Fast-Track Authority” will be introduced, possibly camouflaged as “Smart Track”. That gives the Executive sweeping powers to pass it without debate or amendment by our representatives. Both Congresspersons Larsen and DelBene are ambivalent, clinging to the hope that labor and environmental standards will mitigate the damage of otherwise unchecked power to international corporate giants.
Don’t kid yourself: this trade agreement is being negotiated in secret by 600 corporations, including Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, Phillip Morris, Wall-Mart, and Chevron, to name a few. As Wikileaks documents and previous “free trade” agreements demonstrate, this is not about trade; it is about global governance, and privatization of everything is the goal. Any participating business can sue any government through a WTO tribunal in Brussels to nullify our food and tobacco safety laws, banking regulation, Buy America programs. They can sue to protect their drug patents, defy local environmental and labor laws. (Hint: they always win). This is the race to the bottom for the cheapest labor in places like Brunei, where a citizen can be shot for their sexual orientation.
Historic income inequality is a result of decades of deregulation, deunionization, privatization and free trade agreements.
Attend a rally by Occupy Bellingham and friends, On Saturday November 8th, 2-6pm, corner of Holly and Railroad Ave.
Call your Congressperson to vote no on Fast Track in any form. Don’t put up with outsourcing jobs and displacing indigenous peoples, join us and find out more. “Free trade” is not fair trade.
Public Citizen http://www.citizen.org/trade/
Washington Fair Trade Coalition, Gillian Locascio director http://washingtonfairtrade.org/
Expose the TPP Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ExposeTheTPP
Sierra Club http://vault.sierraclub.org/trade/trans-pacific-partnership-agreement.aspx
Tobacco-Free Kids http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/press_releases/post/2013_08_19_trade
Doctors without Borders http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/support-us/campaigns/trans-pacific-partnership
Klein, Naomi: Shock Doctrine.
Posted by Janet
We had an impromptu after- meeting discussion with the volunteers of the Whatcom Civil Rights Project the other day about documentaries and movies about real events we simply have to watch this winter. Below is a list we generated in about 30 seconds. Click on the link to watch the trailers!
Thin Blue Line
Kill the Messenger
The Most Dangerous Man in America
Disturbing the Universe
"Border Children -- Why Are They Fleeing? Human Rights and U.S. Policy in Honduras and Central America”
Dana Frank, Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz
October 22, 7:00pm
Fireplace Room at Garden Steet United Methodist Church
ADA accessible on Magnolia Street.
Media reports of unaccompanied, undocumented children arriving at the U.S. border from Central America have depicted their flight from gangs and violence. But silence largely reigns regarding the underlying economic and political roots of the crisis, in dangerous governments supported by the United States. Professor Frank looks at human rights and U.S. policy in post-coup Honduras, in particular, as well as dynamics within Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. She will also discuss grassroots efforts across the U.S. and in Congress to affect U.S. policy in Central America.
Sponsored by the World Issues Forum and Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
Would you do me the favor of reading the letter below to our Senators and Congresspersons and emailing back to me with any questions, comments, or suggestions for improvement.
The goals of this letter are: 1) to educate the average reader about just how morally corrupt and incomprehensible our government's behavior in Afghanistan has been; and 2) to try to force our Congresspeople to do what they should be doing.
I especially want to know if this letter is understandable to the average reader or does it need more explanation or context.
If you think this letter is good as it is, I encourage you to print some copies, have your friends and others sign it, and mail it (yes, through the U.S. postal service) to our Congressional representatives and Senators.
Mailing addresses for our representatives in DC are at the bottom of this letter.
They need to be shamed or otherwise motivated into speaking out about the waste of lives and money in Afghanistan.
The Afghan people have suffered through more than 35 years of war. Our government supplied the arms and money that led to much of that suffering. We need to take responsibility for what we've done and attempt to make it right.
Letter to Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell,
and Representatives Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene
October 20, 2014
CONCERNING Misuse of Our Reconstruction Funds in AFGHANISTAN
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (known as SIGAR, a position created by Congress) is responsible for overseeing the use of U.S. tax money for reconstruction in Afghanistan. SIGAR issues quarterly reports to Congress. These reports raise very serious questions that I hope you can respond to.
In the introduction to the July 2013 report, SIGAR writes: "...I would also like to reiterate the concerns I raised in our last report about the Army's refusal to act on SIGAR's recommendations to prevent supporters of the insurgency, including supporters of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and al-Qaeda, from receiving government contracts. SIGAR referred 43 such cases to the Army recommending suspension and debarment...But the Army rejected all 43 cases."
In the introduction to the July 2014 report, SIGAR writes, "As I have pointed out in our last five quarterly reports, the Army's refusal to suspend or debar supporters of the insurgency from receiving government contracts because the information supporting these recommendations is classified is not only legally wrong , but contrary to sound policy and national-security goals."
The question is: Are you aware of this situation and what will you do to ensure that our aid reaches the people who need food and shelter for their families?
On page 73 of the July 2014 report, under "Status of Funds", SIGAR reports that $104.1 billion was spent on reconstruction from 2002 to the present. Of that, only $2.84 billion was spent on "humanitarian aid". That works out to about $8.50 per person, per year, over 12 years. According to SIGAR, most of the $104.1 billion was spent on building up the Afghan National Army and Police, supporting the government, and counternarcotics.
The question is: Can the Afghan people and security forces be expected to give their lives to defend an Afghan government that gives them nothing to fight for or believe in? If Congress does not insist on doing what's right for Afghans, isn't our policy there doomed to fail?
I am eagerly awaiting your reply,
Your humble employer,
P.S. While I'm waiting for your reply, I'm going to ask as many people as possible to sign and send this letter to you and ask for a reply.
To Signers: If you have questions about the information in the letter or about SIGAR, or if you want someone to talk to your group, please call Bill Distler, 224-3579. He will be glad to discuss it.
MAILING ADDRESSES FOR CONGRESS:
Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Phone (toll free): 1-866-481-9186
Senator Maria Cantwell
311 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Note: For Congresspeople, choose the one that represents your district.
Congressman Rick Larsen
2113 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene
318 Cannon House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Posted by Matteo
Last night I went to see the movie "Kill the Messenger". Aside from being a great movie, it tells some important historical facts. In fact, i'm surprised the movie even exists - and that it's so good!
A little historical background, which the movie begins to hint at:
throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, our government supported the brutal Somoza family as the dictators of Nicaragua, who happily created a welcoming business environment for US corporations. Then, in 1979, the
Sandinista National Liberation Movement successfully overthrew the Somozas and began a serious program along social democratic lines that was less friendly towards US business interests.
The US government began to fund former members of Somoza's military (called "the contras") to overthrow the sandinistas. Their military campaign targeted civilians and carried out brutal atrocities.
However, due to incredible public pressure, Congress eventually banned military aid to the contras. There's a lesson here, for those who would pay attention, about the effectiveness our popular organizing in changing government policies.
The congressional ban on aid to the contras led Reagan to resort to cover means to fund them. Those illegal means certainly included the (secret) sale of weapons to Iran. (This is known in US popular culture as the "Iran-Contra scandal").
This brings us to the movie: California Journalist Gary Webb (who is the main character in the movie) began a journalistic investigation into allegations that another (secret and illegal) mechanism that the
US government used to fund the contras was to aid them in the sale of cocaine - large amounts of with wound up in Los Angeles, creating the birth of the "crack epidemic". (if the allegations are true, a serious
"war on drugs" would begin by bombing Washington DC).
Gary Webb wrote a book about this called "Dark Alliance", of which a couple of copies are available in the WPJC library.
The movie is well worth the price of admission, and is worthy of support - we need more movies like it! I always wonder why people read fiction, when the real world is filled with heroes like Gary Webb and villains like Ronald Reagan.
We invite the WPJC community to contribute fact-checked submissions on local, national and global current events. Linking to original sources and articles is required. Submissions may be sent to email@example.com for review.