Monday, November 2, 2015

Carbon, Snow and Ice: How I voted and why...

Three PDF based snapshots from the Whatcom County Sample Ballot are at the end fo this post.   Here's a rundown on how I voted:

  • NO on 1366
  • Maintained all the Legislative Taxes (Advisory 10 - 13)
  • NO on Jail Tax
  • NO on 1,2,3
  • YES on 4,5,6
  • NO on 7
  • YES on 8,9,10
  • Vote for Joy Gilfilen for County Executive
  • Vote for Paul Murphy (Write-In) for Sheriff
  • Vote Todd Donovan County Council 1B
  • Vote Satpal Sidhu County Council 2B
  • Voted Yes on everyone else, none of whom seemed to have an opponent
This year's ballot is a book. There are no hot button national candidate races. Just a lot of very important votes that will determine the future of this county. I can imagine how disinterested you might be if you are an 18 year old freshmen at WWU looking at all those charter amendments. Please help us anyway. I found FUSE helpful on the iinitiatives, advisories, charter amendments. I recommend reading the Facebook Pages of Joy Gilfilen and Paul Murphy.  Here are some helpful links:
For more (some of them dark) thoughts on what this election means....

This election, which contains no federal, state, or legislative candidates, may be the election that determines whether or not Whatcom County will continue to evolve as one the enlightened places of the Earth or face a future of carbon, snow, and ice.  Please let me explain...

Joy Gilfilen

Joy Gilfilen and her Restorative Community Coalition based candidacy come with a plan. The plan is to create community infrastructure which both prevents and discourages crime and jail re-entry for the entire community. Whether the plan works or not is not the selling point, because nobody else even has anything that's working: Not your sheriff, not your prosecutor, not your executive, not your local DV group, not the social worker class and certainly not most of your local politicians. Do you doubt me?  Then just stop for a minute, close your eyes and listen to the rhetoric. It's all about punishment. It's all about the victims. It's all about keeping you safe. Yeah...I've heard that somewhere before.  All of the above groups have a plan and their plan is to keep stripping young men of poverty and color from their families  and throwing them into jail until we are bursting at the seems with desperate souls. That, my friends is not a plan. That's a recipe for Violence, Chaos, Trauma and the death of our fine city and county. Nobody else is even thinking about how we structure community to prevent the 6500 bookings each year into Whatcom County Jail. This is how I see those numbers:

 Years Charges Booked Unique TotPop
1  2011  11333   6860   4989 203329
2  2012   9650   6523   4723 204827
3  2013   9577   6677   4890 206248
4  2014  10520   6348   4466 208351
5  2015  13304   6458   5190 210454

The table below divides Charge, Booked, Unique by Total Population:

     Years Charge/TotPop   Booked/TotPop Unique/TotPop
[1,]  2011    0.05573725    0.03373842    0.02453659
[2,]  2012    0.04711293    0.03184639    0.02305848
[3,]  2013    0.04643439    0.03237365    0.02370932
[4,]  2014    0.05049172    0.03046782    0.02143498
[5,]  2015    0.06321571    0.03068604    0.02466097

We are effectively booking the equivalent of 2.1% to 2.5% of the population every year in Whatcom. That's 1 in 50. 1 in 500 I could live with. Maybe. Without a reduction in these outrageous number of bookings, we will constantly need increases in law and justice infrastructure. At some point, all of tax dollars will spent there. To see more of my thoughts on this, please read this 5000 word post
I'm voting for Joy Gilfilen ( because this incredible woman, whom I scarcely met more than 6 months of so ago, changed my life. I understood a little about mass incarceration, but I had no idea that someone would point me in a direction that would help me make sense of the power and control structures underlying the inequality and tragedy that is our American community. I get it now. I get it that we need to elect leaders that care about people, all of the people that live in our country, leaders that care about fairness, social justice, equality with a breadth of vision that would involve all of our community. Whether she wins or loses, I am a better person because I met Joy Gilfilen. I hope you give her your vote. It could be the most important vote you cast for our future in Whatcom County.

Paul Murphy

I don't know Paul Murphy personally. I am voting for him  (Write-IN for Sheriff) because I think he is a man of integrity who has a plan to create a compact, efficient, appropriate law and justice infrastructure in Whatcom County. I am aware of fact that Marxists like myself don't generally vote for conservatives. But this is still a small county. I'm voting for the man and his vision anyway.

After reading more about Paul Murphy, I realized who he is and who he was forced to become and why he is running for Sheriff.  First, read his blog and this slideshare  (very important!)  to understand why he is running for office and who is he is as a man. Unfortunately, I know too much about the existential dilemmas Detective Murphy experienced. I'm going to summarize them for you  and expand of the struggle of whistleblowers on an abstract level in blue below.  But you make sure to read his slideshare to know his full story and details.

In all aspects of modern society, especially but not exclusively energy production, mining and resource extraction, technology control, *investment banking*, propaganda and knowledge dissemination, nation state relations, state based security services, local and regional economies, money supply, narcotics trafficking, failed state economies, law and justice, government budgeting and processes, regulatory agencies, all diplomatic corps, international aid agencies (in short)  in all *loci of power across the globe*, the systems of control and power that we live in are supported, organized and beholden to cesspools of corruption and abuse of power. This is how the world works now. All over.

Most of the time, this is hidden from all us for some very good reasons. If normal people knew how absolutely corrupt and fraudulent the world of power really was, they might do something about it. But most of us are just too careless, scared or clueless to go that route.  We all know what happens if we confront power! And none of it is good. If we do discover something truly disconcerting, most of behave just like good Germans during WWII: we bury our heads (deep) in the sand and simply move on. So we can keep our jobs. So we don't cause any trouble. So we can be 'bright, shiny, happy people making friends'.  

But every now and then, someone who does his job well, someone with integrity stares right down into the abyss of that cesspool and corruption and decides they need to do something about it. This is what Paul Murphy did. He didn't start out as some crusader. He just looked and saw something he couldn't believe. In some miracle of chutzpah, the kind that restores our faith in the heroes of this world, Paul couldn't let it go. So he stared into the abyss and abyss behaved as predicted: it reached up, grabbed him by the throat and tried to drag him down.  Paul wouldn't let it. In the end, he came out better than many other whistle blowers fare. His concerns about the lapses in EHM ("electronic home monitoring") uncovered what is probably a nationwide scandal that's not being investigated. After he was essentially fired for his efforts, he received a settlement and WA actually enacted legislation tightening up EHM loopholes (1,2) . I personally know others who have fared much worse than this for similar efforts.

Think about for a moment what it means to have private EHM throughout all the counties in this country that don't necessarily report EHM alarms to their respective governmental jurisdictions! Imagine a "pool of assets" with criminal backgrounds on EHM whose location can be manipulated to make it appear they are still at home when in fact they are not!  Can you think of select 'employers' who could use such a crowd of ghosts? I sure can. Paul Murphy is a national hero living right here in Whatcom County.  He is not going to get any awards for being such. I suggest you give him your Write-IN vote for Sheriff instead.

The Jail  Bond and Tax

I voted against the jail tax because I am terrified that Whatcom County is going to recreate the mistakes of the city I grew up in : militarized police, heavy racial conflict, mass incarceration. My 5000 word post is available. The piece is conflicted and was painful for me to write. As Whatcom County moves into a greater metropolitan fixture of the global economy, we need to make social and economic decisions with careful intelligence and planning to avoid becoming the next gritty port city riddled with crime. We can't spend the rest of our development deciding whether or not Bellingham/Whatcom County can be some kind of hybrid cross between Palo Alto and Richmond (CA) . Imagine, if you will that there are two West Coast models for urban growth that our city and county can adopt in the coming years: 
  • Model 1 : dense urban growth, plentiful high tech jobs, high real estate prices, high cost of living. Examples: San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver B.C.
  • Model 2 : Integrated high volume shipping ports, rail hubs, interstate highway. Lots of trade, poverty, gangs, and law and justice infrastructure.  Examples: (Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma)
To understand the significance of these models, let's think about Model 2 port cities first. In order for narcotics trafficking to flourish, it needs access to all the same infrastructure of the global economy to which the rest of the capitalist world has access. Two words here: Transport and Money. Or, if you prefer the colloquial:
  • "How do I get the shit across the border?"
  • "How do I launder all the piles of cash?"
Port cities solve these problems beautifully. Cities like Long Beach, Oakland, and Tacoma have interstate rail and highways integrated with containerized shipping. From their ports, they have access to and can trade snow from Columbia, Afghanistan, Mexico to the rest of the U.S. and Canada. The second problem is (Money) usually solved through the banking system. I won't spend a lot of time on this, but I will note that Long Beach, Oakland, and Tacoma all have oil refineries nearby and probably have banking systems that move carbon style flows of $$$ usually in the 'parallel' economic centers like L.A. , S.F. and Seattle. One gritty drug and gang ridden port city each paired with a city named after Angels, the most ascetic of Catholic saints and a martyred Native American chief.  You see? If you just look, you can find the irony in global world order.

Now imagine our fair city and county 10 years from now under the influence of 487 Panamax size freighters each year moving carbon, snow (coke and heroin), and small arms from Asia to our Pacific hub right here in Whatcom County. What kind of life do you think you will be enjoying? If you scaled my hometown's (Oakland, CA) murder rate down to the size of Whatcom County, there would 45 - 85 murders here each year. You would hear gunfire every night. You would have bars on your windows. You would live in fear of the outside.  Don't think it couldn't happen here.

Our first mistake in this direction we are already making: we are throwing young men of color and poverty into our jail at very high rates [1,2]. Young men go feral faster than cats once they are disattached from their families and  communities. The narco lords know this. Add racial conflict, poverty, the drug trade to the mix and gang recruitment becomes easier. Gang member storage and recruitment is facilitated by your jail and prison systems. I spend more time on urban development patterns and criminogenic effects in this 5000 word post.

What this moment in time is all about for us

This is our moment in time decide what table in the global casino on which we will be rolling dice. Because we don't get to say that we won't play.  We will be lucky if we manufacture a choice from the global economic forces pushing down upon us. 48 million metric tons of coal per year won't just mean tax dollars and a few jobs shoveling coal to China.  It means finance. It means international banking. It means streams of cash. It means dozens of the 'skeleton crews' on automated Panamax freighters will be cycling through our city... 487 time per year?  It probably means a daily shipping route between the coke coming from the south or the bud coming from the north and the heroin coming from the east.  In the city I grew up in (Oakland), it was always us and Miami. Because in both cities, you added up the total local economic activity and subtracted that figure from the total assets in your local banks and then WTF?. There was always a wash of too, too much money that just wasn't supposed to be there.

Snow (coke, heroin) follows carbon all over the world. And where you find carbon and snow you find the the small arms trade and the bankers, spooks, war lords, cartels and their soldiers (almost always young men) who mix it up with the money from the carbon, snow, and guns. That's what the real world looks like that we live in now.  That's what the world I came from looked like. Here's a prayer to the wind that all of that hasn't followed me here. Yeah, Dorothy. We aren't in Kansas anymore. But if still have those shoes, see what happens when you click your heels. Because I see the flying monkeys swirling round. They look quite rabid.

Some Data Sources

When it's time to crack open your ballot, most of your thinking should be done. Beforehand, you could have and probably should have:
Then just open your  ballot and vote. Seal it property, put it in the mail, drop box it, or take it downtown right then or the next morning. Thank you for your vote! Click the images below to enlarge and see how I voted!

1 comment:

Joy Gilfilen said...

What a powerful message, Ryan. This is outstanding in its comprehension and master view. Thank you.