Self Service Gas Stations

Oregon is one of two states in the U.S. that does not permit self service gasoline (although exceptions have been made in rural areas). Most Oregonians, especially in urban/suburban areas prefer that and there are safety, access, and financial reasons why staff gasoline pumps are beneficial.

Close-up of worker standing on gas station and fueling car from, the Oregon House passed and sent to the Senate — on an emergency basis despite it not being an emergency — House Bill 2426 which eliminates Oregon’s ban on self service gas stations. This bill should be opposed for three primary reasons.

  • Access and equity: For those with disabilities, seniors, parents transporting small children, etc. pumping one’s own gas is problematic at best and impossible at worst. As someone who has lived in states that allow self service gasoline purchases, I can attest that any requirements about half the pumps being staffed will be ignored. Filling stations always had myriad excuses, but finding one with staff to pump gas was usually impossible, forcing anyone unable to pump their own gas to drive around until they could do so or forgo driving entirely.
  • Safety: Among their other responsibilities, gas station attendants enforce safety requirements that prevent fires including requiring motorists to turn off their engines and extinguish smoking materials. With no attendants, I can guarantee we will see people filling their tanks with their engines running and a cigarette hanging from their lips. In addition, the possibility of fires started by static electricity is higher in parts of Oregon where even when it’s raining the air can be dry enough to generate static electricity. Telling people not to get in and out of their cars (the biggest cause gas station fires started by static electricity) in the rain while they’re filling their tanks will be just as effective as telling them to turn off their engines and extinguish their smoking materials (especially since 90 percent of them won’t read the instructions that they shouldn’t).
  • Loss of jobs: The bill’s statement that there is “No Revenue Impact” is false. If passed, this bill will result in hundreds of people being laid off at gas stations throughout the state lowering income tax collections and increasing unemployment payments. The claim that gas station owners can’t find staff for their pumps is also not truthful. They just can’t find people to work for substandard (i.e. minimum wage) pay and no benefits. Rather than be forced by market conditions to pay reasonable wages and offer minimal benefits, they’re bribing state legislators to eliminate the jobs entirely.

With fewer than half the state’s residents in favor of changing Oregon’s ban on self service pumps, especially in urban areas, the only reason for doing so is to further enrich those who own gasoline pumps by allowing them to lay off large percentages of their staff. I question why this bill was rushed through the House as an emergency when the downsides far outweigh any possible positive impact. How many of those large chain gasoline pump owners paid for their privilege of eliminating minimum-wage jobs that will negatively impact marginalized folks the most?

𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝑪𝒐𝒍𝒐𝒓 𝒊𝒔 Your 𝑷𝒓𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒍𝒆𝒈𝒆? Now Available!

A collection of 72 political statements in poetic form, What Color is Your Privilege? examines the wide spectrum of ways our society marginalizes people. Although many people on society’s fringes still have some privilege, society maligns, excludes, and abuses them because of their skin color, religion, disabilities, neurodivergence, sex, sexual orientation, gender, immigration status, age, financial position, housing arrangements, etc.

What Color is Your Privilege? opens a window on the suffering many are privileged to ignore.

“Serving a truth serum for hate and hypocrisy, F.I. Goldhaber is writing with a hammer and speaking with a tongue of fire. In What Color is Your Privilege?, they sing a book-length blues song decrying racial, gender, religious, and sexual intolerance in America. With courage and a rejection of conventionality rarely found in contemporary verse, this book shines a bright, beaming light on the ‘hostile world’ we live in and the revolution being fought for the soul of America.” — John Warner Smith, Louisiana State Poet Laureate 2019-2021.

Now available from Left Fork books and your local bookstore as well as from You can also order from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Left Fork is a small “unashamedly progressive press” based in Southwest Oregon, overlooking the West (left) Fork of Oregon’s Illinois River.

Primary Ballot Review: Washington County Commission

Commission Chair

First published on PDX.Vote.
May 3, 2022

PDX.Vote logo with thick grey and black letters on a light green background
Incumbent Washington County Board of Commissioners Chair Kathryn Harrington, who is running for reelection to the at-large position, claims she was elected in 2018 “with a focus on increasing government transparency and accountability, advancing equity and diversity, addressing affordable housing and homelessness.”

She stated on her 2018 campaign website that “We need to be more focused on serving community members throughout Washington County and making sure we are not leaving people behind.” But since she took office, the total number of houseless individuals in the county, which had gone down the year before, has increased by almost 40 percent.

Harrington declined to answer questions regarding the plight of houseless individuals in the county and the ongoing pandemic. But, during her State of the County address on April 12, Harrington discussed how the county is using federal American Rescue Plan and Metro supportive housing services funds to expand the availability of affordable housing and the delivery of wrap-around social services to help people with mental health, addiction, and disability issues stay housed, as well as increasing the number of shelter beds available.

Most of Harrington’s comments about the pandemic were related to economic recovery. She mentioned the county’s high vaccination rate, despite the reality that vaccines only prevent vaccinated individuals from becoming seriously ill in most, but not all, cases.

Harrington also has been slow to keep her promise to advance equity and diversity. After a three-year process which started with the approval of an “equity charter,” the county commissioners, voted in April 2022 to establish an advisory council on racial equity (ACRE). All of the Washington County commissioners except one are white. During the State of the County, she applauded the process of creating a racial equity advisory council, despite the snail’s pace.

In addition, Harrington has hardly been a proponent of government transparency and accountability. Her opponent entered the race after local elected officials expressed concerns with the county’s lack of transparency under Harrington. One of the accusations regarding Harrington’s violations of county human resources policies involved her displeasure “about County staff appearing in front of city councils and interacting with the cities without” her knowledge.

The county paid Michael V. Tom of Northwest Workplace Investigations $25,000 to scrutinize this and other allegations by current and former employees about Harrington’s “unprofessional” conduct while in office. Citing attorney-client privilege, the county originally suppressed Tom’s full report, which he based on interviews with 20 county employees and one non-employee. “[Washington] county staff retained a second independent attorney, at an additional cost of $1,440, to draft a condensation of the significant facts from the report that are not otherwise exempt from disclosure”, according to Philip Bransford, county communications officer.

Witnesses told the investigator that Harrington “indicates disinterest, becomes ‘short,’ or makes statements expressing frustrations with presenters and/or moves onto other agenda items; is sometimes ‘thrown off’ or flustered if a meeting does not go as planned by the agenda; and has been observed using expressive faces, rolling her eyes, heavy sighing, putting her hand on her head or shutting down with crossed arms and sitting back when unhappy in meetings.”

Harrington responded that “she tries to ‘catch’ herself from using the alleged body language.” During her State of the County presentation, Harrington’s delivery was almost wooden. She smiled frequently, but not always appropriately, and there was often a disconnect between her words and her body language.

The condensed report states that Harrington’s “behavior can be hostile and abusive and beyond unprofessional; she can be condescending and speaks down and cuts off people in public settings … she is not a team player or a people person; her communication style is abrupt, blunt and direct; she uses intimidating and a demeaning tone” but also “that it was difficult to determine whether Chair Harrington’s communication and conduct rose to disrespectful or unprofessional behaviors”. One witness said they had “not seen Chair Harrington engage in any unfair, undignified and/or disrespectful, humiliating, or shaming behaviors”, stating “she is not self-aware and has an unkind delivery style; she cannot see herself; she is not reflective and lacks emotional intelligence”.

“Witnesses reported confronting Chair Harrington about her behavior”, the investigator reported, and “the Chair did not engage in the behavior again; that Chair Harrington’s conduct has improved … that in the past 3-4 months, Chair Harrington became more supportive and ‘over-the-top intentional’ to show kindness towards others”. In the condensed report, one witness is quoted saying “that Chair Harrington is brilliant, has great ideas and is good for the County”.

The two male members of the Board of Commissioners insisted to media that they want the full report released. Commissioner Roy Rogers, who is not up for reelection this year, has stated that since taxpayer money paid for the report, it should be available to the public. Commissioner Jerry Willey, who is running for reelection unopposed after two candidates withdrew, claims the investigator concluded Harrington violated county policies and has been quoted as saying, “We can’t cover up violations of our human resources policies under the secrecy of attorney-client privilege.”

Willey told KOIN 6, “She engaged in workplace harassment that was abusive, disruptive, unprofessional, and created a work environment that was not civil or respectful of county employees.” So the investigator is recommending, Willey said, allegedly reading from the report, “emotional intelligence training, benefit from counseling and training regarding her substantiated disrespectful conduct.”

Rogers told KOIN, “In the full report, you’ll see, they resign. There are people leaving. It’s in there and that’s a shame.”

By hiring an attorney to conduct the investigation, the board created the attorney-client privilege it used to prevent the full report’s release. Pamplin Media Group appealed the county’s refusal to release the full report and on April 11 Deputy District Attorney David Pitcher determined “The condensed report fails to adequately describe significant facts contained within the full report.” On April 13, Pamplin’s Troy Shinn reported that Pitcher said, “the condensed report omits significant observations and statements made by witnesses about the behavior of Chair Harrington and its impact on county employees.”

Pitcher’s decision didn’t find the county’s claim of attorney-client privilege persuasive: “For the internal advisory exemption to apply, the county must make a strong showing that its interest in frank internal communications clearly outweighs the public interest. We do not believe the county has met its burden to sustain this exemption. The voters and citizens of Washington County have a significant interest in learning of potential misconduct or policy violations by a public official, particularly one who is up for election next month.”

Pitcher’s boss, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton, is also on the May ballot. Harrington has endorsed Barton’s opponent, public defender Brian Decker.

The county had the option of appealing the DA’s decision in court After an executive session on Tuesday, April 12, the Board released the full report with recommended redactions to protect identities of employees the investigator interviewed.

One of the footnotes in the redacted document states: “Many witnesses reported concern for potential repercussions and/or retaliation from Chair Harrington. To aid in protecting their identities, each is referred to as ‘a witness’ or ‘reporting party.'”

That document, about twice as long (with black blocks marking redacted information) as the condensed report, also quotes the employee who reported overhearing Harrington’s use of profanity stating “Harrington is ‘unpredictably volatile’ and you ‘never know which Kathryn you are going to get.’ The employee described the Chair as ‘Jekyll and Hyde,’ and reported that the Chair can be straight-forward and happy one moment and then in the next moment will raise her voice and appear unhappy.” This “employee reported that the Chair is the reason the employee is leaving their employment with the County,” according to the redacted report. A former employee reported “they left County employment because of the incident and ongoing concerns with” Harrington. The word “volatile” and references to “Jekyll and Hyde” never appear in the condensed report.

In the full, redacted report the witness who said Harrington is “brilliant” also reported that Harrington “doesn’t have to destroy careers,” that “people are leaving or don’t want to work with her,” and “her behavior needs to change.”

The employee who said it was difficult to determine if Harrington’s conduct “rose to disrespectful or unprofessional behavior” also told the investigator that “other Commissioners,” in addition to Harrington, use “an abrupt, blunt and direct communication style,” according in the full report.

According to Bransford, the county response to the report included clarification by the county administrator of roles and responsibilities of staff who work with the commissioners. Although the work of the employees interviewed by the investigator support the commissioners, they report to the county administrator.  In addition, the county administrator has commissioned a workplace assessment to set a baseline for future evaluation of working conditions in the County Administrative Office. Harrington’s use of profanity in talking about staff, another of the complaints in the condensed report, was addressed by soundproofing the “thin” walls of her office. This was done as part of “soundproofing improvements to the existing walls and HVAC ducts” for the entire Board of County Commissioners/County Administrative Office suite (work space for about 20 people in both enclosed offices and cubicles) at a total cost of $11,452, according to Bransford.

When Harrington was elected to the Board, she and District 2 Commissioner Pam Treece, replaced two members of what was then an all male and rural/conservative board. With Nafisa Fai’s election in 2020, the Board shifted to majority female and majority liberal/progressive.

Although the commissioners standing up for full disclosure are men, some of the people who have identified themselves as targets of her harassment have been women, including Harrington’s former Chief Of Staff Elizabeth Mazzara Myers who received a settlement of more than $80,000 for lost wages and benefits.

It’s also been pointed out that the majority of those who have switched their endorsements from Harrington to her opponent, including Forest Grove Mayor Peter Truax, Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays, Tualatin Mayor Frank Bubenik, Tigard Mayor Jason Snider, former State Senator Mark Hass, and Former Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten, also are men. But some female elected officials who endorsed Harrington in 2018 have switched their recommendations for 2022 including State Senator Janeen Sollman (District 15), North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan, Banks Mayor Stephanie Jones, Hillsboro School District Board Members Lisa Allen and Erika Lopez. Harrington’s 2022 list of endorsements is shorter than in 2018. However, she is still endorsed by U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, former Governor Barbara Roberts, Treece, Fai, Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty, King City Mayor Jaimie Fender, Metro Council President Lynn Peterson, State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, State Senator Kate Lieber, and others.

Another notable difference in Harrington’s 2022 campaign materials is apparently in reaction to her current opponent’s military service. In 2018, when she ran against someone accused of lying about whether and when he served in the U.S. Navy, Harrington’s website made no mention of the armed forces. Now, the opening sentence of her bio on the site states she grew up in a military household.

Harrington’s opponent in the upcoming election is Hillsboro City Councilor Beach Pace. Pace served in the U.S. Army for seven years, including as Bomb Squad Executive Officer and Commander, and led her unit in security operations for the United States president, vice president, secretary of state, and other high-ranking officials. She earned a Bachelor of Science from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Master of Public Administration from Northern Michigan University. Her website emphasizes her skills in collaboration, understanding, and listening to all points of view.

Pace has stated she had no intention of running for the county commission until approached, starting in August, by several people who expressed concerns regarding access to information about and involvement in county decisions.

In addition to her experience on the Hillsboro City Council, which she represents on the League of Oregon Cities board of directors and Washington County Coordinating Committee, Pace has held leadership positions with non-profit organizations including Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Columbia Northwest, Vice President and Executive Director of City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, Vice President of Roadtrip Nation, and board member of the Westside Queer Resource Center. She also has nine years private sector experience as a team leader.

Pace is the only commission candidate acknowledging on her website that “we are not yet out of the pandemic” and states she will “collaborate with the local and State governments to ensure resources are available to meet the needs of our communities.”

Unfortunately, federal and state governments have abandoned most efforts to control the pandemic — which is still killing 1,000 to 2,500 people every single day in the U.S. — by eliminating mask mandates, no longer paying for testing and vaccinations for the uninsured and manipulating data to make numbers look better. Washington County, where the virus made its first Oregon appearance in 2020, still offers free vaccinations. However, in addition to not preventing COVID-19’s spread, none of the vaccines appear to reduce the risk of long-term, possibly permanent disability from Long COVID.

When asked how she would work to contain the pandemic in the face of a government attitude which ignores the harm caused to people who are disabled, elderly, immunocompromised, medically unable to get vaccinated, poor, living in congregate situations, etc. (as well as the repercussions of Long COVID), Pace responded with hopium misinformation. “The COVID-19 virus is becoming endemic, meaning it has more predictable behavior. This also aligns with people learning to live with the virus, much like influenza, and regulatory restrictions lifting. However, new variants are preventing us from moving entirely into this endemic phase.”

In stating “I believe local governments now have the opportunity to make recommendations based on case counts on a community-by-community basis”, Pace ignores the fact that we don’t have accurate case counts, because case counts are no longer being reported.

Despite high vaccination rates compared to the rest of the state, Washington County is still at high risk, as are all counties in the metro area, even according to the U.S. COVID Risk & Vaccine Tracker. But even that data is misleading as it uses manipulated CDC metrics. In reality, the only COVID measurement that hasn’t been politically compromised is wastewater data and those numbers are frankly terrifying.

Chart showing percentage of change in COVID detected in wastewater samples in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties
COVID changes detected in wastewater samples in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington counties

The change in the percentage of the COVID virus found in Washington County wastewater has increased an average of more than 536 million percent just for the beginning of April. The average increase for the entire metro area (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties) was more than 178 million percent across all reporting wastewater treatment facilities. For the 15 days ending April 21, Washington County was up another 532 percent.

Currently, the Washington County website refers to the politically compromised Center for Disease Control’s deadly “guidelines” which, for example, advise those who test positive to isolate for five days even though most people remain contagious for seven to 10 days. The website also claims people “do not need to stay home (quarantine) unless” they have symptoms, ignoring asymptomatic transmission. Pace said “I will partner with Washington County’s Public Health Officer to ensure accurate information and appropriate recommendations are made available in a timely manner.” Hopefully, if she is elected, she’ll “partner” with epidemiologists and virologists who are not politically compromised to do so.

Pace’s website is the only one of the four commission candidates that doesn’t mention unhoused individuals in the county. When asked how she would address that issue, Pace decried the “housing first” method which emphasizes putting unhoused people in permanent housing rather than temporary shelters, although she does agree with Harrington that “wrap-around services are key to long-term solutions for housing insecure and homeless neighbors”. She specifically lists both Sheriff’s Deputies and operators of the referral-only Bybee Lakes Hope Center, formerly the Wapato Correctional Facility, which requires frequent drug and alcohol screenings, mandatory community service hours, etc., as two “resources” she has consulted to develop “a model of services that provides dignity and respect to our neighbors facing housing insecurity or homelessness.” (In contrast, Harrington mentions the Laurelwood Center, a low-barrier shelter for women and couples that does not require sobriety or abstinence, as a resource she investigated.)

In addition to numerous elected officials and community leaders, Pace is also endorsed by the Portland Business Alliance, Washington County Chamber PAC, Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce, and Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland. From those, her responses to my questions, and her fond memories of her military service, I would peg her significantly to the right of Harrington.

District 2 Commissioner

First published on PDX.Vote.
May 3, 2022

Two of Washington County’s four commissioners, selected by district, are up for election in 2022. Both incumbents are running for reelection, but only one has an opponent.

Incumbent Pam Treece currently represents District 2, the northeast section of County which includes Bethany, Cedar Hills, Cedar Mill, Helvetia, Raleigh Hills, and Rock Creek, as well as portions of Beaverton and Hillsboro.

Treece ran in 2018 on the promise of “Making sure housing is attainable, and that residents can afford to live where they work” and “Ensuring a regional approach to homelessness”. She declined to answer questions regarding the increase in and plight of houseless individuals in the county or the ongoing pandemic.

During the State of the County address on April 12, Treece spoke of ensuring enough affordable housing choices and the shortage of affordable housing options, as well as a dearth of middle housing, an issue addressed by the legislature. House Bill 2001 allows for duplex, triplexes, fourplexes, cottage clusters, and townhouses in areas previously zoned exclusively for single-family housing, expanding affordable housing options, Treece said. Both she and Chair Kathryn Harrington made a point of mentioning River Terrace 2.0, which is actually a city of Tigard project, as an example of Washington County’s progress in creating additional “affordable” housing. She also mentioned touring the Laurelwood Center, a low-barrier shelter for women and couples that does not require sobriety or abstinence, as a model for Washington County.

In addition, Treece praised the glacially slow process of creating a racial equity advisory council, expressing her “appreciation to the work that’s gone into this. This is definitely the next step to address the purpose of the ordinance we adopted.”

A graduate of Portland State University and Lewis & Clark College, Treece has been a public school teacher, a small business owner, and a PacifiCorp executive. She also served as Executive Director of Westside Economic Alliance, ODOT Transportation Commissioner, and on a number of Washington County, Metro, Beaverton School District, and non-profit boards and committees. Her list of endorsements by elected officials and organizations is longer in 2022 than it was in 2018.

Treece’s opponent, Don Frazier, repeatedly mentions “clean public spaces” and keeping “our public spaces usable and enjoyable” on his website. When contacted, he admitted those were coded complaints about houseless encampments and stated: “I do not want Washington County to become like Multnomah County and the City of Portland … not taking care of the homeless situation, the camps that just move from one area to another and the heavy use of drugs on the streets.”

Although his website states: “We need to collaborate on creative solutions to help houseless individuals without sacrificing the utility and beauty of our county’s public spaces, keeping tents off the streets while providing food, shelter, and services for those in need”, when contacted he declined to elaborate.

Frazier, a self-employed business owner, former teacher, and union carpenter for Portland Public Schools and Portland Community College, also displays a thin blue line flag on his website and makes references to “unnecessary taxes and burdensome mandates and ordinances.” He declined to answer any questions about what taxes he believes are superfluous, what programs he would eliminate in order to reduce taxes, and what mandates and ordinances he believes are superfluous. Although he promised to respond to these questions in writing, Frazier never did.

The endorsements section of his website is blank.

District 4 Commissioner Jerry Willey, who represents the largest district stretching west, north, and south from Hillsboro to the Tillamook, Columbia, and Yamhill County lines and encompassing Banks, North Plains, Forest Grove, Cornelius, and Gaston, is running for reelection with no opponent. Two candidates filed to run against Willey, but have since withdrawn.

The state’s second most populous county, Washington County is one and a half times the size of Multnomah County with three quarters the population, but the same number/structure of elected officials. In contrast, the open Multnomah County Chair position attracted seven candidates (one has withdrawn) and three candidates filed to run against the District 2 Commissioner incumbent (one has withdrawn).

Washington County Commission Chair Primary Recommendation

As is the case for most elections, there is no good choice for Washington County Commission Chair.
Washington County, Oregon blue, white, and tanlogo
I have met both Kathryn Harrington and Beach Pace in person. The latter is warm, charming, and engaging. The former is none of those.

Yesterday, PDX.Vote published my deep dive into the candidates and some of the problems with both. (Notably, PDX.Vote chose not to endorse a candidate for Chair in the Voters’ Guide for the May 2022 election.)

Harrington has been accused of behavior that is “hostile and abusive”. And, although an independent attorney hired by the county found that Harrington’s conduct “rose to disrespectful or unprofessional behavior” the investigator’s full report noted that other Commissioners also use “an abrupt, blunt and direct communication style”. Would Harrington’s behavior have been investigated if she were male and/or identified as conservative and/or moderate?

In fact, Harrington has stated that her progressive policies and organizational changes have resulted in backlash. “I understand that there are people who are opposed to that progress … but I oppose their efforts to stop that progress.”

Pace emphasizes her skills in collaboration, understanding, and listening to all points of view. But she has both said that people approached her asking her to run for Chair and that she was drawn to run because of what she heard from people about Harrington. Not the same thing.

In addition, Pace’s endorsements include numerous business organizations such as the Portland Business Alliance; the Washington County, Beaverton, and Tigard Chamber of Commerce; the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland; and Commercial Real Estate Development Association as well as the Washington County Police Officers Association. None of these are endorsements that someone who claims to be progressive should accept or earn.

Harrington’s endorsements, on the other hand, include people who identify as progressive — Washington County Commissioner Nafisa Fai, Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty, and State Senator Kate Lieber among them — as well as organizations such as Pro-Choice Oregon, Tualatin Valley Firefighters Union, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and Basic Rights Equality. Pace only has five union endorsements compared to Harrington’s nine.

For me, the final tipping point was Pace’s statement to the League of Women Voters – Washington County Candidate Forum about addressing transportation issues by investing in “some really bold moves, for example, the Westside bypass which was abandoned years ago.”

The Westside Bypass was abandoned because it was a poorly-conceived, vague, Republican-supported initiative to build a new freeway (pushed by the then Washington County Planning Commission chair, Richard Vial, a one-term state representative who after losing his reelection campaign has since unsuccessfully run for Secretary of State). The proposed privately-owned, toll-funded highway was to have taken an unspecified route through what is now farmland, diverting traffic from Interstate 5 from south of Portland to Highway 30 in Columbia County, and used eminent domain for private profiteering. (Even Pamplin Media, which couldn’t praise Vail’s first only term enough, admitted the project should “get shelved“.)

Claiming to be concerned about climate change while advocating building new freeways, which do not actually reduce traffic, is the equivalent of pretending not to be racist while voting for Republican candidates.

I will vote for, and recommend anyone who understands that the need to address the Climate Emergency must be the highest priority for any politician, do the same.

Oregon Legislature Proposes Rolling Back Police Restraints

First published on The Big Smoke.
February 23, 2022

In 2020, I watched hours and hours of live stream video showing the protests in Portland from various points of view. Every single time, the protesters (most of them very young people) were at the worst mischievous (moving fences around, painting court and police buildings with graffiti, throwing dildos, pig food, and water bottles at cops). Most of the time, they listened to speeches and music, marched, chanted, ate, and danced.

Photograph of the Oregon State Capitol building with gold man on top and cherry trees in front of the building's wingsBut regardless of how peaceful the protests against police brutality were, they were almost always met with police violence. Police would charge out of their precinct buildings and attack: shooting so-called “less than lethal” weapons directly at protesters (including at their heads), pulling their masks down and spraying pepper in their eyes and mouths, beating them with batons and fists, throwing them onto concrete curbs, including people following their specific orders to disperse, with enough force to break bones including spines and skulls; sending many to the hospital.

The cops filled the streets of Portland with tear gas (a weapon banned for use against civilians of other countries) and other chemical weapons, making people cough (during a pandemic of a virus spread by respiratory emissions), cry, vomit, etc. Many of the victims of tear gas exposure, including nearby residents in their own homes, people who happened to be driving by, children, and babies in their cribs, are still experiencing long-term major physical and mental health problems to this day. The trees in downtown Portland have yet to recover from the environmental damage caused by caustic chemicals filling the air.

The Portland Police used tear gas even when ordered not to do so by the mayor/police commissioner, the U.S. Department of Justice, courts of law, and the state legislature. When told they could only use tear gas to control rioting, they simply declared a riot and/or “unlawful assembly” every single night.

Police refused to say who declared those assemblies unlawful and for what reason. Often during those “declarations” there was no illegal activity of any kind in progress and it was only too obvious to objective observers that “unlawful assembly” was being used as an excuse to attack protesters.

Oregon House Bill 4131 includes an egregious rollback of the little protection offered by previous legislation, sponsored, at the urging of Portland Police, by Republican legislators representing rural areas that have no experience with the harm that these chemicals and weapons cause and a Republican gubernatorial candidate looking to score political points.

There is no excuse, ever, to use these weapons of war against citizens of the U.S., Oregon, and Portland. Police have other resources, including just staying inside and avoiding confrontations. (It’s important to note that on those few nights the police stayed inside there was no violence, because the only rioting that’s been done in Portland has been police and federal agents brutally attacking protesters who were practicing their First Amendment right “to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” and white supremacists from out of state assaulting local citizens standing up against fascism.)

The state legislature, to quote Martin Luther King Jr., “…must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. And in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.”

Giving police more weapons, funding, and the ability to kill, hospitalize, and arrest more people will not quell any riots. Those actions just ensure authoritarian rule and eliminate any pretense that we live in a free society. If the legislature wants to stop people who live in Portland from rioting, listen to what they are saying. Take action to address their very real concerns about police brutality, housing inequality, wage theft, food insecurity, etc.

Cozcacuauhtli: Protester Facing Prison for Dancing

First published on The Big Smoke.
January 19, 2022

An Aztec Jaguar Warrior running a traditional dance; photo by Jonata Oregón (CC BY-SA 4.0). The photo shows the head and shoulders of an Indigenous person wearing an Aztec headdress with many black feathers emerging from a jaguar head and a dozen longer black and white feathers coming from the center.

Born in California, Cozcacuauhtli moved to very rural Oregon with her family when she was five and grew up among the Native communities of Warm Springs, Yakama, and Siletz.

Both of Cozcacuauhtli’s grandfathers served in World War II and her father in Vietnam. She joined the U.S. Navy in 1990, serving two years active duty, including during Operation Desert Storm, and six years in the naval reserves. Her service left her disabled with a partially paralyzed right leg and a fractured L-4. Since leaving the Navy, Cozcacuauhtli obtained a bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University and a master’s degree in social work from Eastern Washington University.

A Mestiza (a woman of mixed European and Native American ancestry), her paternal grandparents were born in California of Mexican heritage. Through them, she has ties to Nahuatl peoples which included the Aztecs. In the mid ’90s while at OSU, Cozcacuauhtli learned Danza Azteca and was a member of an OSU MEChA, the first Aztec Dance group in Oregon.

The group, “Mexica Tiahui” danced on Mexican holidays and at protests. In addition, they brought supplies to farm workers, advocated for them, and backed them on marches for justice.

Mexica Tiahui shared their knowledge of Danza Azteca and taught hundreds of dancers all over Oregon. For more than 10 years, Cozcacuauhtli volunteered in schools in the Yakima Valley teaching Danza Azteca to students. She also continued attending farm worker rallies and marches.

In addition, Cozcacuauhtli stood up to Canadian Mounties in defense of water protectors; supported successful protests against the Jordan Cove pipeline that threatened waterways and wildlife habitat in the Oregon Coast Range and on the Southern Oregon Coast; and supported the Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu defending Thacker Pass/Peehee mu’huh in Nevada from lithium mining that will destroy sacred sites and burial grounds of Paiute and Shoshone tribes and threatens water, air, and endangered wildlife in that area.

In Portland for the last two years, Cozcacuauhtli has filmed and supported those protesting ICE atrocities against Indigenous peoples including those who died in Oregon and Washington jails and prisons, the more than 1,000 Indigenous children dragged from their parents’ arms at the border who still haven’t been returned to their families, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIW).

For this, she has been beaten, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, tackled, punched, and repeatedly arrested. She has sustained multiple traumatic brain injuries, additional nerve damage to her injured leg, contusions, abrasions, and other serious injuries. City, county, and federal law enforcement caged her in a filthy Multnomah County jail (walls and floors covered in feces) and ICE holding cells where she was deprived of medical care, food, water, clothing, and sanitary facilities. She witnessed sexual assaults on minors.

On May 31, 2021, Cozcacuauhtli and other Native American protesters hung piñatas and said prayers for Indigenous people murdered and disappeared by ICE. When the federal officers destroyed the sacred prayer altar, Cozcacuauhtli spontaneously began Danza Azteca. In protest. In prayer.

In retribution, after pepper spraying the protesters, ICE officials “tackled me very hard.” One “injured my knee and slammed my head into the road. I was still gagging and coughing from the pepper spray. It made the fed angry so he elbowed the back of my head and then he punched me in the temple and my head hit the asphalt again. He was angry because when I coughed it made it difficult to lock the cuffs.”

Cozcacuauhtli was carried past the gate onto ICE property. Although ICE called an ambulance, her injuries made it difficult for her to communicate with the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). An ICE supervisor dismissed the EMTs, claiming Cozcacuauhtli had been drinking and smoking, neither of which was true. “After spending two days in jail with no medical treatment or evaluation I went to the hospital from jail. A CT scan showed a hematoma under my cheekbone. I had a black eye and injuries all over. My knee hurt so bad I thought it was broken but an X-ray showed the screw in the knee from a previous surgery was aggravated by the federal officer’s tackle.”

A federal officer claimed that Cozcacuauhtli “grabbed my baton and took me to the ground.”

She laughs. “I’m 5’4”, 145-pound, 50-year-old, disabled grandma who doesn’t work out. There is no way I took a strong, young, tall dude down! It’s all on video camera, but I’m sure the judge will excuse this Fed’s lie as a mistake and not fraud.”

On February 8, 2022, Cozcacuauhtli is scheduled to appear in federal court on charges of having eyebrows similar to someone, wearing a mask, who was captured on video spray-painting a security camera. All other charges stemming from the May 31, 2021, protest have been dropped because the video evidence didn’t support them.

U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Scott Erik Asphaug, dropped charges of assaulting a federal officer against Cozcacuauhtli “after he saw the fed attacking me for nothing.” Those charges were the sole reason for her arrest and the two days she spent in federal custody. “He dropped the charges, but in order to keep their hooks in me they needed something to replace it with. They went back six months to find video of someone who looks similar to me masked up except eyes and eyebrows spray painting a security camera. It is not me. I have evidence and witnesses it’s not me. I was elsewhere.”

CozcacuauhtliEven though Cozcacuauhtli is a fourth-generation U.S. Citizen, she has been accused by numerous white supremacists and fascists of being an illegal immigrant. “You can’t be any shade of Brown while protesting ICE without your citizenship status publicly questioned,” she stated.

Every time Cozcacuauhtli is charged with a crime, the false accusations are repeatedly broadcast by right-wing media and Mayor Edward Tevis “Ted” Wheeler who objects to the fact that she has never been convicted in the city of Portland. So far, almost all of the charges have been dropped. Many were based on false statements by police officers who are known liars including Ken Le, one of three Portland Police Bureau officers accused of spreading lies about City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in retaliation for her attempts to hold the PPB accountable for racial injustice and out-of-control use of force. Le has been accused by numerous protesters, and other victims of his lies, of falsifying police reports. In Cozcacuauhtli’s case, she had multiple cameras angles proving Le was lying in order to arrest her. Despite that, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt persecuted her for more than a year over Le’s false charges.

One week after the president [at the time] retweeted Cozcacuauhtli’s full legal name with her video covering the protests stating “lock these animals up” she was arrested by federal law enforcement for the first time. They have arrested her five times since. She doubts this is a coincidence.

“Hundreds of J6-ers are facing no charges while I sit here going on trial next month for piñatas, candles, balloons, and (MMIW) red dresses. No charges for Shane Kohfield, who stood outside Wheeler’s house with an AR-15 threatening to slaughter us all. And Louis Garrick Fernbaugh was filmed leaving the pipe bomb scene by the protesters he threw bombs at.

“How many right wingers did an armed takeover of [Malheur National Wildlife Refuge] federal property for weeks and they never got charged or successfully prosecuted?” Cozcacuauhtli asks. “The FBI knows who every Indigenous water protector and their cousin is, but they are still searching for hundreds of white males on film assaulting capitol police.”

Searching for Identity: Finding Words

First published in the Winter issue of Resource Center for
Women and Ministry in the South‘s South of the Garden.
December 2021

The right wing blames leftist indoctrination for an apparent exponential increase in the number of people who identify as transgender in recent years. The left prefers to attribute acceptance and reduced stigma.

Flag from the Winter 2021 issue of South of the GardenWhile the latter offers some truth, additional factors influence how people identify along the gender spectrum, including words.

Words have always been my stock in trade. But, I never found any for my own identity until very recently. I doubt if I’m unique in that for those my age (and even younger).

I was never interested exclusively in girl things or boy things. I didn’t enjoy watching team sports or excel in any solo athletic endeavors that appealed to me. So, I read a lot, wrote fiction and poetry, and put in many, many hours in the high school theater program. Those activities offer the opportunity to live inside other worlds/times and the heads of different people.

The summer before my freshman year of high school I’d moved with my family from Virginia to Texas, the sixth and final move I’d make with my parents. Although moving every few years I became somewhat of a chameleon, I never really fit in anywhere, especially in the Deep South. I attended high school in what was then a small Texas town where principals patrolled the hallways with rulers to enforce gender conformity by measuring the length of girls’ skirts and boys’ hair.

By the time I made it to college, I was so sick of what passed for education in the United States I only wanted out of the system. I took a ridiculous course load that allowed no time for extra-curricular activities and escaped with a sheepskin after less than three years. If there were resources then on the University of Washington campus for people who were not cis and/or didn’t fit within the gender binary, I never knew about them.

I started my writing career as a reporter in eastern Washington and I used initials in my byline to avoid gender bias. When I moved to a newspaper in West Virginia, a woman calling about a piece I’d written, exclaimed that I wrote like a man, intending that as a compliment. At my last newspaper reporting/editing gig in Indiana, I got calls for Mr. Goldhaber and mail addressed to Frank or Fred. Since I wouldn’t tell anyone what the F. stood for (I’d used my middle name since college) folks in the newsroom just started calling me F.I.

In Illinois, where I first went into business for myself, the initials became a good way of separating personal from professional identities. They also proved a useful tool for dodging sales calls. The staff knew that anyone asking for Mr. Goldhaber didn’t get put through. I once got a taste of what the team put up with when I was the only person in the office during a lunch hour. The caller for “Mr. Goldhaber” insisted he knew me personally and would get me fired for not putting him through. I had to mute my end so he didn’t hear me laughing.

When I moved to Oregon a quarter century ago, I discovered I’d landed in the first state that would allow me to put just my initials on my driver’s license. That and my Social Security card allowed me to get a passport with those initials. (At the time, the U.S. government did not issue passports with any initials at all–full names or nothing.) I stopped telling people what the letters stood for.

My first exposure to the concept of transgender identity was discovering Christine Jorgensen‘s biography in one of my parents’ large, crowded bookshelves. But, her story never resonated. I wasn’t AMAB and I’d no desire to embrace femininity. I never felt a need to transition. I just had no definition for myself.

Once I stopped working for other people at the beginning of this century, I ceased wearing skirts and dresses most of the time. I donated the bulk of my working wardrobe to Dress for Success in the early aughts and only donned skirted apparel for weddings, funerals, and author reading/appearances.

With clothing manufacturers moving production offshore, I avoided giving them money by buying exclusively at thrift stores. I shopped for convenience (pockets!), comfort, and durability. Clothing made for male bodies ranked better in all three. Soon the only clothing I owned that was specifically female were items needed to support my tits. In 2019, for the very first time, I attended a formal wedding wearing slacks which I topped with a silky shirt and a brocade vest, all purchased in the men’s section of the thrift store. It was liberating.

But, my body shape and voice–which fluctuates with weather, pollen count, and mood–register as female. So, most people read me as female. I did not believe I “qualified” as transgender.

I have friends who have medically transitioned from FtM and MtF. While I understand, applaud, and support their decisions, I’ve no desire to modify my body or even to take hormones.

But, having adopted they/them pronouns, as awareness has grown and corporations recognize the need, when people assume I’m female I use that as an opportunity to educate them on why they shouldn’t do so. As I explained to one customer phone service representative, you could have just ruined somebody’s day by misgendering them the way you misgendered me.

Recently, several external influences helped me finally, in my early sixties, choose words to describe my identity.

In 2017, the state of Oregon became the first in the U.S. to offer a third-gender option on identity documents. I changed my drivers’ license gender to X the next time it came up for renewal, two years later.

Meanwhile over the past two years, the number of trans and non-binary individuals in my social media feeds grew because of their strong presence in racial justice protests. Many of them are very young and secure in their identities and for the first time I saw various memes that say “Non-binary people do not owe you androgyny”. I wouldn’t call that life changing, but it did give me words to embrace who I am, how my brain works, and how I maneuver through society, separately from how my body looks and my voice sounds.

So finally now, after more than six decades on the planet, I have words for my identity: gender non-conforming and xgender. There is a peace in finding that piece of myself I didn’t really know was missing.

Of course, children born in this century arrived in the world with terms such as genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary, etc. already available to them. As they establish their individuality, and discover their own identity/personhood, they have words to describe how they fit along the gender spectrum. So too do young adults who grew up in repressive environments and who, even if they are not allowed to express their identity at home, have those words available for them to use once they move out on their own.

Those words convince the right wing that they’ve been indoctrinated. But, in reality, they are words that allow them to embrace their own identities with pride.

National Day of Mourning

First published on The Big Smoke.
November 24, 2021

This week in the U.S., those who can afford it are traveling, shopping, and cooking in preparation for a manufactured holiday that (in reality) celebrates the damage done to the lives and society of the Wampanoag Tribes after the English arrived in Plymouth. Incorporating recipes developed during the U.S. occupation of Mexico City, it was proclaimed into existence by a president who only “freed” the slaves to “save the union” not, as many believe, because he was an abolitionist.

Those who don’t have the resources will, if they have homes and kitchens, line up for boxes of food they can cook. If they’re houseless they might queue up at whatever charities are handing out paper plates filled with slices of turkey, or a vegetarian equivalent, stuffing/dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie for which they’ll be expected to pray to a god they may not believe in or show their gratitude in some other demeaning way.

Painting of Trail of Tears for the Creek People showing Indigenous people on foot, horseback, and in wagons being forced to travel thousands of miles from their homeBut, for many Indigenous peoples and their allies in the U.S., Thursday is the National Day of Mourning, a reminder of genocide, theft of Native lands, and erasure of Native cultures–a protest against the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience.

The United States was built on the backs of enslaved Africans and the blood of Indigenous peoples. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights all were written to impose and maintain white supremacy. Congress was designed to favor states allowing slavery. The Electoral College exists to give slave-owning southern and rural red states a greater voice in electing the president. And the police forces throughout the country were developed from slave patrols to protect the property of white men.

Every acre of land occupied by settlers was stolen from those who lived here for millennia before Europeans arrived. Colonialists perpetrated the World’s Longest Holocaust, the slaughter of more than 100 million Native people. Intentional and unintentional methods of murder included blankets deliberately tainted with small pox; bounties paid on scalps sliced from the heads of Native men, women, and children; wars and massacres; thousands-miles-long forced relocations during which thousands died from disease, starvation, and hypothermia; and exposure to yellow fever, measles, typhoid, and influenza. Many of those who survived were enslaved, raped, imprisoned on often desolate reservations, and/or had their children stolen.

This genocide, theft, and erasure continue to this day.

  • Thousands of Native women and girls are reported missing or murdered each year.
  • Four out of every five Indigenous people experience violence in their lifetimes.
  • The Navajo Nation suffered more COVID-19 deaths per capita than any U.S. state.
  • Chemawa Indian School just east of Keizer, Oregon, one of the last four off-reservation boarding schools run by the federal government, is still killing Indigenous students.
  • Artificial “national borders” separated families and cut off trade routes in existence since long before Europeans invaded. “Prehispanic inhabitants of North America lived in a world that stretched from Canada to Panama,” anthropologist Mikael Fauvelle notes. “Goods traded included food (fish, pine nuts, meat), tobacco, beads, shell products, furs, basketry, minerals (obsidian), and textiles, as well as feathers and birds.” Lee Edward Littler, Public Educator at Elden Pueblo Public Educational Project, writes: “Exotic items clearly imported from Central America have been repeatedly uncovered in the archaeological records within the traditional territory of the northerners collectively known aptly as the ‘Pueblo’, or town peoples.” Yet Indigenous peoples attempting to cross the U.S. southern border–fleeing violence, natural disaster, economic destitution, and/or a pandemic–are routinely assaulted, arrested, raped, sterilized without consent, imprisoned in inhumane conditions, and have their children torn from their arms, caged and, because no one is keeping accurate records, handed over to white people for fostering and adoption while they’re “deported” south.
  • The U.S. government continues to violate Native treaty rights by allowing multi-national companies to build pipelines and mines through and on Native lands and burial grounds, destroying sacred sites and endangering access to clean water while police, military, and private security forces arrest, assault, injure, and kill those trying to protect their land and water.

While the Indigenous Americans lost their lives and their territory to the rapacious plundering of Europeans, Africans were ripped from their homes and those who survived the horrendous conditions during the months-long Atlantic crossing were tortured, raped, and forced to labor under wretched circumstances to mine coal, plant and harvest crops, and build plantations, railroads, wealth for white people, and even the White House.

Many white people in the U.S. would like to believe, and teach their children, that slavery ended in 1865 with passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. But that amendment is carefully worded to allow the continuation of slavery.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. [emphasis added]

That same year saw the enactment of Black Codes which replaced the Slave Codes and became the basis for the criminal legal system in the U.S. These “laws” trapped Black people in slavery-in-all-but-name conditions. Their former “owners” conspired to keep wages artificially and punitively low while the Codes made not having a job a crime. Punishment for such “crimes,” many of which only applied to Black people, was a fine. The inability to pay those fines meant the county court hired out the “criminals” until they worked off their balances. So both the vast disparity in how Black and white “offenders” are treated by the U.S. criminal legal system and the criminalization of poverty began during Reconstruction.

In the week preceding the 2021 National Day of Mourning, we witnessed even more very specific examples to pile on top of myriad others of the inequity on which this country was built and that the “Thanksgiving” celebration perpetuates.

Rittenhouse caricature by DonkeyHoteyThe most blatant example is the acquittal on all charges of the white supremacist teenager who was driven across state lines by his mother to play vigilante and who murdered two BLM supporters–36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and 26-year-old Anthony Huber–while allegedly protecting a car dealership. The same right-wing talking heads who called Adam Toledo a 13-year-old man referred to then-17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, armed with an AK-47 a little boy. His acquittal came after:

  • All but one person of color was eliminated from his jury.
  • Judge Bruce Schroeder, whose cell phone interrupted proceedings playing the theme song from Trump rallies, ruled against almost every prosecutorial motion and in favor of every motion the defense made, including that the murdered men could not be described by prosecutors as victims but that they could be called rioters, looters or arsonists by the defense; called for a round of applause on both Veterans’ Day and the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps for a defense witness, the only self-identified veteran in the courtroom; refused to let the jury see videos of Rittenhouse hitting a girl who was arguing with his sister in June 2020 and stating he wished he had his rifle so he could shoot people he believed were looters from August 2020 as well as still photos of him posing with members of the Proud Boys in a bar, and flashing a white supremacist hand signal, after he was released on bail; and believed the defense claim that increasing the size of a video image manipulated the footage using artificial intelligence.
  • Rittenhouse made a show of sobbing, dry eyed on the witness stand, side eyeing the jury (at 30 seconds) to make sure they appreciated his performance.

Of course the jury’s decision wasn’t surprising to anyone familiar with the white supremacist realities of the U.S. criminal legal system. A 2013 study of U.S. homicides by the Urban Institute found that killings involving “a white perpetrator and a black victim are 281 percent more likely to be ruled justified than cases with a white perpetrator and white victim.” And, although Rittenhouse’s victims were not Black, they were protesting in support of Black lives. “While this trial was not about white men shooting targeting Black people, it was about a radicalized white youth taking arms against those willing to stand in support & defense of Black lives,” said Mac Smiff, owner and editor of We Out Here and chair of Black Liberation & Racial Justice Committee of the NAACP Portland branch among other projects. “The case reminds that defending Black people’s rights is punishable by white violence.”

“The victims were white.” Kendra Pierre-Louis posted on Twitter. “The message is if you align with Black people, however nominally, your whiteness will not protect you. The consequence of that verdict seems designed to erode solidarity.”

As Michael Harriot, journalist, historian, and author of Black AF History: the Un-Whitewashed Story of America, notes: in “the entire criminal justice system…Only white people’s perceptions are made into a reality that everyone else must abide by.”

After the verdict was announced, President Joe Biden, architect of civil asset forfeiture and sponsor/co-author of the 1994 crime bill that resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Black Americans, told reporters “I stand by what the jury has to say. The jury system works.”

Rittenhouse’s acquittal has further empowered far-right domestic terrorists. They are celebrating and making plans, under the hashtag #WhiteBoyWinter, to hunt Black, Latiné, and Indigenous people as well as Jews and Muslims. They do so with the expectation that, like Rittenhouse, they will be hailed as heroes for such slaughter.

The day after the verdict, Harriot posted one of his famous threads contextualizing history: “A brief history of white vigilantes at Black protests” because of “speculation about what could happen if people like Kyle Rittenhouse are allowed to get away with murder. But, as usual, it’s never ‘if’ but ‘when,'” he wrote.

On the day that Rittenhouse was acquitted, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt tweeted in response to the verdict: “The work to reform our criminal justice system is evident, it is urgent and I am here for it” for which he was thoroughly ratioed by people pointing out he is “part of the problem“. He did so while his staff was demanding Multnomah County Judge Melvin Oden-Orr send Alexander Dial to prison for preventing a Nazi from injuring participants at a 2019 Portland anti-fascist counter-protest with a hammer. Dial was charged with assault, riot, unlawful use of a weapon, and criminal mischief, despite video proving he prevented an American Guard white nationalist from hitting protesters with the hammer and the fact that “the prosecution was unable to identify anyone as a victim.”

Dial, who acted to defend members of his own community from out-of-state white supremacist invaders, spent more than three months in jail, was required to wear an ankle monitor for more than two years, and incurred tens of thousands of dollars in debt to pay bail and pretrial fees. In addition, he was prohibited from attending protests, drinking alcohol, and leaving his house after dark.

As often happens across the U.S., Dial was coerced into pleading “no contest” to a misdemeanor riot charge and two felony assault charges by Schmidt’s predecessor who threatened Dial with Measure 11 crimes and the mandatory minimum sentencing that could have put him in prison for almost six years. Schmidt, who ran on the promise to “make the system fair” including getting rid of cash bail, ignored numerous and repeated pleas from the community and did nothing to mitigate Dial’s ordeal.

Despite acting in self-defense and the absence of any victim, Dial was sentenced to 80 hours of community service, in lieu of a $1,000 fine, and almost three years of probation. Although the terms of the probation only prevent Dial from attending “unlawful assemblies,” in reality he still is essentially prohibited from exercising his First Amendment rights. Portland Police regularly and capriciously declare peaceful protests “unlawful assemblies” and are likely to do so if that would give them an opportunity to arrest Dial for probation violation in support of their white supremacist friends and neighbors from outside Portland who are angered by Dial’s release.

This is just one instance of the vast and outrageous disparity in the U.S. criminal legal system.

  • Two days before the Rittenhouse verdict, an Indigenous woman was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison for killing her rapist when he came after her the next day. She is just the most recent example. As Brie Loskota tweeted upon learning of the verdict: “Women rotting in prison who killed their abusers in self-defense would like a word”. The “only correct battered woman when talking about self-defense is a dead one,” according to Sue Osthoff, co-founder of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women. “By engaging in violence in order to live, a woman cannot be a victim. Her survival itself becomes reason to condemn her.” Women’s prisons are filled with those who killed in self defense, “at least 30 percent of those serving time on murder or manslaughter charges were protecting themselves or a loved one from physical or sexual violence.”
  • Throughout 2020, thousands of protesters (AP put the tally at 10,000 at the beginning of June and protests/arrests continued through the Fall) were arrested for marching in the streets. They carried no weapons. They murdered no one. Thousands were beaten, shot with impact munitions, drenched in chemical weapons, and arrested on unsubstantiated charges such as interfering with a peace officer, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Of those arrested, the vast majority were released but only after they were exposed to COVID-19 by law enforcement officers who refused to wear masks and often ripped the ones worn by the protestors off their faces. But, many of the protesters were forced to pay out money for cash bail and/or spend time in fetid, filthy jail cells where some, including at least one minor, were sexually assaulted.
  • On August 29, 2020, 48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehl believed he and a friend, a “person of color”, were about to be stabbed by Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a member of the right-wing Patriot Prayer group and a participant in a violent rally in downtown Portland. In self defense, Reinoehl shot and killed Danielson. Reinoehl never had the opportunity to explain how he feared for his life to a jury. He was executed by law enforcement from several jurisdictions less than a week later. And although those cops couldn’t get their stories straight, they still were absolved of all responsibility for Reinoehl’s death.

“White violence is not just slavery, it’s also abolishing slavery without administering justice and then creating a police force to ensure we don’t come looking for it.” Smiff tweeted last week. “White violence is not just genociding the indiginous, it’s celebrating it with an Autumn harvest holiday.”

Police ≠ Public Safety

First published on The Big Smoke.
November 16, 2021

For more than 100 days over the summer of 2020, thousands of Portlanders took to the streets to protest racial injustice, especially police brutality against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. Those protests were met by the Portland Police with horrific violence which included:

  • filling the streets with chemical weapons (poisoning from which many have yet to fully recover);
  • beating people (including random residents who were not protest participants) with batons, fists, and weighted gloves;
  • firing impact munitions at close range into people’s chests, backs, heads, faces; and
  •  arresting them on spurious charges.

The results were minuscule, mostly superficial, changes to the outrageously out-of-proportion percentage of the city budget flowing into Portland Police Bureau (PPB) coffers. The city even refused to increase funding for the Portland Street Response, the one public safety initiative that actually was helping people, because the Portland Police Association (PPA), which represents Portland Police officers and protects their jobs even when they murder unarmed civilians, objected.

Photo of the back of a person with Portland Police emblazoned on their jacket, a helmet on their head, standing between partial views of Portland Police vehicles by Tito Texidor IIIYet, last month when the City Budget Office announced a $62 million general fund surplus ahead of the Fall Budget Monitoring Process, Mayor Edward Tevis “Ted” Wheeler quickly maneuvered to give a significant amount of that money to the police.

Wheeler, who is also the Portland Police Commissioner, immediately came up with erroneously named “public safety programs” to add almost $8 million, more than a quarter of the $31 million of the surplus allocated for city programs, to the PPB’s already bloated budget. His proposal includes:

  • hiring additional white supremacist bullies police officers, with no evidence more cops reduce crime;
  • allowing recently retired officers, who timed their departure to maximize their retirement benefits, to double dip return to work;
  • paying a $25,000 (more than many Portland residents earn in a year) signing bonus to “qualified” applicants;
  • wasting almost $3 million on body-worn cameras1 (BWCs)–which have no proven impact on police misconduct–despite the fact that only data showing BWCs increase police accountability were gathered in flawed studies created by manufacturers to sell cameras; and
  • dropping $225,000 on the Gang Enforcement Team (GET) Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) Focused Intervention Team (FIT) Office of Violence Prevention to “assist gun violence reduction work”.

Wheeler, also wants to further persecute insecure, already-suffering, often-despondent, and scared unhoused residents by carving a significant amount of money from funds allocated to help them and instead use that money “increase homeless camp cleanups, or sweeps, ‘fivefold.'”

Last Wednesday, almost 300 Portlanders spent seven hours (mostly) telling the City Commissioners not to spend any of the surplus on more cops. Those who testified in favor of expanding the police department, including business owners who erroneously believe that police prevent burglaries and robberies, spoke without evidence that more cops would solve the problems they presented. They repeated copaganda and used talking points promulgated by the dark-money lobbying group People for Portland that pushes a pro-cop narrative and falsely accuses unhoused Portlanders of perpetuating crime.

Those who spoke against expanding the police department more often cited actual facts. “‘The mayor peddles law enforcement as a deterrent to crime,’ said Seemab Hussaini, an organizer with Unite Oregon. ‘These solutions aren’t based on sound data.'”

In fact, only two days before this meeting, a data analyst, a community organizer, and a public health researcher released a report which uses the Portland Police Bureau’s own statistics to prove that there is absolutely “no correlation between crime levels in Portland and officer staffing levels.” Analyzing almost six years of data points, they found that increasing PPB staffing results in no decrease in crime. This directly contradicts the PPA contention that “The connection between the diminished police presence in Portland, the lack of and availability of resources, and the rise in crime is glaringly obvious.”

Families of homicide victims were among those speaking out in favor of more police. But again, there is no data showing increasing police presence reduces homicides. “Police do not create safety,” Dr. Amara Enyia, policy and research coordinator for the Movement for Black Lives, stated. “Policing is largely reactionary. They come onto the scene after the fact.”

“While police and allies have attempted to use data to tie ‘bail reform’ and racial justice protests to this past year’s rise in murders,” Scott Hechinger, a civil rights attorney, wrote in The Nation, “those claims are contradicted by the geography of the rise in homicides, which occurred across the country: in red and blue states, in jurisdictions that have seen some measured wins for criminal and civil justice and those that haven’t, in jurisdictions that saw protests against police violence, and those that haven’t–and all despite massive police budgets.”

The report repeatedly cited by media sensationalizing the increase in murders–which might be a result of COVID confinement, mass unemployment, or a statistical fluke in historically low and decreasing violent-crime rates–also showed a decline in all other major crimes. If that information gets mentioned by the media, it’s buried.

In reality, additional police presence, which routinely results in oppressive surveillance of and violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, “makes communities less safe and less healthy,” Takenya Nixon Brail, a public defender in Cook County, Illinois, wrote in teenVogue. “Not only does policing fail to prevent violent crime, it creates conditions that allow for even more violence.”

We’ve known for decades what works and what doesn’t to reduce violence and crime. And nothing involving police makes any positive difference including increased police presence, drug resistance education, copaganda police newsletters, scared straight schemes, and home detention or any other carceral programs.

If Portland, or any other city, really wanted to reduce crime and violence, they would redirect the funds sucked up by the police department and put it toward housing support (both for those already unhoused and those in danger of losing their housing), medical (including mental health) care, education (including early childhood education, and childcare programs for working parents, and job training), and food security. Reducing the number of cops would also remove some of the most violent, murderous, repeat offenders who consistently act as if the law does not apply to them from the streets of Portland.

Restorative justice approaches to addressing the root causes of violence and crime have been proven to result in actual improvements in public safety. But, these aren’t as easy to condense to one-sentence hyperbole plastered on billboards across the city and don’t generate generous political donations from businesses and pro-police lobbyists. So Wednesday the Portland City Council is expected to ignore data, the testimony of hundreds,  the demands of organizations representing Black Portlanders such as the NAACP, and the protest of thousands. At least three of the five will vote to throw more millions of dollars at violent criminals with an erroneous expectation that will result in any public safety improvements.

1 BWCs have been suggested by U.S. Department of Justice monitors of the city’s non-compliance with the DOJ Amended Settlement Agreement in its lawsuit against the city for abuse of people with mental health issues as one option for bringing the city into compliance. However, the policies required by the monitors are in direct opposition to those demanded by PPA.

West by God Virginia

First published on The Big Smoke.
November 08, 2021

People on social media producing proof of Senator Joe Manchin’s perfidy only demonstrate their own naïvité and ignorance of West Virginia, its culture, and its people. (Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to understand those, either. But I know enough based on my experience there to guess these approaches will make no difference.)

When the state of Virginia seceded from the United States in 1861, twenty-five counties in the northwestern corner of the state broke away and were admitted to the Union as a new state a year later. Yet, if you drive through West Virginia today, you will see the battle flag of Robert E. Lee’s Northern Army of Virginia, commonly misidentified as the confederate flag, flying from houses, decorating pick-up trucks, and emblazoning clothing.

Caricature of Sen. Joe Manchin by Donkey HoteyLast month, author Don Winslow posted a video, which is still circulating and has been viewed millions of times, describing the “vile and provable corruption in Manchin’s life” under the hashtag #JoeManchinSenatorForSale. It breathlessly describes how the Manchin family acquired millions of dollars from coal and pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile, West Virginia remains the second poorest state in the nation; the video ranking its economy 48 out of 50, healthcare 47 out of 50, education 45 out of 50, and infrastructure 50 out of 50.

But, who are these videos for? No one in the senate will step up to take action against Manchin. Those pots know better than to call this particular kettle black.

Manchin won’t change. You can’t shame someone who has no shame. Last week when confronted by climate change protesters, Manchin just drove his Maserati through the crowd. And history won’t “remember” if there’s no one left with enough resources to record it.

Coal baron Manchin owns $5 million in coal company stock and rakes in half a million annually just in dividends in addition to fossil fuel company campaign contributions. He is the designated scapegoat roadblock to prevent Democrats from fulfilling any of the climate change promises they campaigned on in 2020. Although this position has increased Manchin’s power and prestige, the reality is that the Democrats’ corporate owners have no interest in reducing their profits to extend the ability of humans to survive on this planet.

Likewise, while residents of Manchin’s state would benefit from lower drug costs, reducing pharmaceutical company profits might negatively impact stock options for his daughter Heather Bresch, former president and CEO of Mylan, the company that increased the price of EpiPen 500 percent while she was in charge. Since pharmaceutical companies hedge their bets by contributing heavily to candidates from both parties, Manchin’s obstruction of drug price reforms is objectionable to the rest of the senate Democrats only when they’re in front of cameras.

And expecting outrage from West Virginians—the only folks who could actually remove Manchin from office—is a lost cause. Despite the popularity there of the legislation he is blocking, they’ve been voting for him for forty years and before that they repeatedly elected other swindlers.

I was a reporter in West Virginia just more than four decades ago (I left the year before Manchin first ran for public office). As part of the campaign press corps, I followed Democrat Jay Rockefeller around in 1980 when he stood for re-election as governor against Arch Alfred Moore Jr. former chief crook1 governor, who had been prevented by term limits from running in 1976. The joke was that folks should vote for Jay because he wouldn’t steal while in office since he could just buy the entire state. (Not that this reality prevented West Virginia from choosing Moore over Rockefeller in 1972 or from again electing Moore to the governor’s seat in 1984.)

While, unlike his predecessor/successor, he probably helped the state more than he harmed it, New York-born Rockefeller had stayed in West Virginia after completing his VISTA service there specifically to give himself a launching point for a national political career. His 1980 re-election campaign was only too obviously geared to put him in the national spotlight. (A colleague who had returned to his Ohio home to vote reported people coming into the polls and asking why Rockefeller’s name wasn’t on the ballot there since his ads were bleeding over into Ohio and Virginia and Maryland and Kentucky. In fairness, the only media reaching much of the state was based outside of West Virginia.)

Rockefeller outspent Moore 20 to 1 (I made a point of getting the clerks to weigh Rockefeller’s campaign expenditure reports rather than, like everyone else, reciting the absurd number of pages and/or foot-plus thickness), but only received 8 percent more of the total votes. And although Rockefeller served 30 years in the United States Senate (spending more than $12 million, almost $31 million in today’s dollars, to win the seat his first time), his long-planned run for president in 1992 ended after consultations with friends and advisers. (Scuttlebutt pinned his decision on skeletons in his stepfather’s, Senator Charles Harting Percy, closet. Others blamed fears of resurrecting interest in the never-solved 1966 murder of his wife’s twin sister. In either case, the general belief was his decision was made to protect his wife, Sharon Percy Rockefeller.)

Although West Virginians allowed an “outsider” to repeatedly buy a senate seat, they prefer home-grown crooks. Any attempt to “expose” Manchin without examining why West Virginians consistently vote grifters into office will not result in any change.

West Virginia is a gorgeous, interesting, conflicted state (a lovely place to visit, I don’t recommend living there). Advertisements for census workers in 1980 included the requirement, for some areas, that the applicant have the ability to ride and access to use of a horse. The newsroom routinely got wedding announcements for 14-year-olds, so staff only took note when someone in the announcement was 12 or younger. When my parents visited, we were driving back from The Greenbrier to Raleigh County when my mother noted that all the homes we passed were dark. It was Wednesday night, I explained, everyone was in church. At the time, if you wanted to go out to a bar for a drink, your only option was a “private” club (which generally meant forking over $1 for “membership” the first time you visited).

West Virginians resent being stereotyped as ignorant hillbillies. But, on January 20, 1982 I drew the short straw and was sent to accost people on the streets to ask what they thought of the release of the Iranian hostages. More than one person replied, “What hostages?” and even when I provided them additional information had no idea what I was talking about. That inspired me to pull the old journalism-school petition trick a few weeks later. (Without changing a single word except to replace “Bill of Rights” with “Petition” at the top, try to get random people to sign it.) Not only did the vast majority of the dozens of people I asked refuse to sign it, only two recognized it. The coup de grâce was an attorney who, on the courthouse steps and without recognizing the document’s language, objected to the “petition” because he specifically disagreed with number two.

The year I worked at the Post-Herald in Beckley, West Virginia, I initiated and completed three major investigations. As a reporter, I exposed:

  • conflict of interest, prescription misuse, and inappropriate use of federal funds at the county health department and regional health center forcing county officials to terminate their contracts;
  • questionable financial dealings by a local coal baron that resulted in payment of $68,000 ($231,000 in today’s dollars) in back taxes;
  • a local agency’s conflict of interest in use of Comprehensive Employment and Training Act Funds, which resulted in a state investigation.

In all three cases, the original tip came from someone who, like me, was an out-of-state (and more than likely temporary) transplant.

Because, for West Virginians, corrupt politicians, public officials, and other prominent personages are par for the course. Just as they accept coal mines and glass factories exploiting their children, grinding poverty, and crumbling infrastructure worse than elsewhere in the country, West Virginians seem unwilling to rid themselves of the politicians who regularly enrich themselves at the public trough.

1 Moore pleaded guilty to five felonies—including mail fraud, tax fraud, extortion, and obstruction of justice—in 1990 after federal investigators taped him conspiring with his former campaign manager to obstruct their investigation. Although he was fined $3.2 million, he paid only $750,000, and served only two years and eight months in federal prison (in Alabama and Kentucky) and four months of home confinement of a five-year and ten-month sentence. Just the illegal payments and extortion income he pled guilty to neglecting to include on his income tax amounted to more than a million 1980 dollars ($3.4 million today).