2007 - January thru March
Sat, Mar 31
by John Servais
Thur, Mar 29
by John Servais
"I volunteered for Rick Larsen from March 4, 2004 to nearly the end of November, 2004. I was in contact with Mr. Larsen, his staff, including his chief of staff Jeff Bjornstad, during that time. I was present for many strategy sessions in his main campaign office in Everett during this time. I can say without question that Rick Larsen and his staff shared a common prejudice and bias towards folks who were adamant about stopping US military action in Iraq, and other things related to that position. He frankly exhibited complete disdain for people who felt that way. Anyone who felt that they were supporting our troops by trying to get them home and stop the killing was seen as naive and uneducated. At that time, "those folks", as well as supporters of Howard Dean, and Mr. Dean himself were considered "out in left field", "lefties", "Deaniacs", uneducated and misinformed. Mr. Larsen held the very strong attitude that "those people" should have their heads examined."
This statement is part of the public record in this case. Her affadavit was taken March 13 - a couple weeks ago. The city of Bellingham continues to spend considerable money after 5 months of prosecution of this case to convict Ellen of a serious crime for sitting in Rick Larsen's office before closing time.
Wed, Mar 28
by John Servais
On a personal note, this blog and myself are featured as the subject of comment by Bellingham Herald editor Scott Ayers on the first day of his new blog today. The Herald is reformatting their entire web site for easier reading and the Opinion page is the first page to get the treatment. Scott has been looking forward to having his own blog and I will provide a direct link to it in the right side column. I am flattered and appreciative of Scott recognizing the years of effort I've put in here.
Tue, Mar 27
by Sharon Crozier - updated Mar 28, 7 pm
Mon, Mar 26
by John Servais
By the way, this last week in March is, in the political calendar, the same as the mid week in May in previous years. The filing week is June 4 to 8, seven weeks earlier than previous years. Potential candidates still calculating their odds the middle of May in previous years were considered to be declaring very to too late in the game. This week is now the same as that mid May week. All is accelerated this year. This should make for a very fun campaign season as each seeks a campaign that is adjusted to the new reality. No month of August to squander this year as primary ballots are mailed on August 3. The Bill Mize forum is set for Wednesday, July 25. I will endeavor to keep the right side column list of candidates and web sites current through the election season. Please let me know if you are a candidate.
Sat, Mar 24
by John Servais
Fri, Mar 23
by John Servais
I've talked to some in the Court House and to some of the activists. Seems Rita Foley, an environmentalist who has lived next to a creek for over 30 years, has complained repeatedly to the county about her new neighbor trashing the wathershed as he 'improves' his property. Now the two are in court with him accusing her of harassment - and, get this - with a county employee as a witness.
Back in the '90s, a guy named Philip Marble was being defrauded of his land by some good old boys with a little help from inside the court house. Philip was told that if he went to the news media that then they would really trash him in court - and they had the money to do it. Phil was scared and about to sign away part of his land to keep the rest. Well, we got Phil's side of the story printed in the Whatcom Watch and his fortunes turned. He won a lawsuit and a county employee was fired. And he kept all his land. A little light on an issue is always a good thing.
I have been warned about looking into this case - by county courthouse people who tell me that Rita is a pest and that I "don't know what I'm talking about". Well, I agree that I don't know. But I also know a rancid smell. I am going to try and look into this. By reading the documents and doing some public disclosure requests of county records. As I try and do this, I will take you along on the process. We will let the chips fall where they may.
Take a look at the lakewhatcom.org page and get a first feel for this.
Meanwhile, I trust Sharon Crozier will keep us briefed on the Ellen Murphy court process. This is a case of the city legal department and the municipal judge, Debra Lev, working closely together to railroad Ellen. This is a repeating scenario of our Bellingham Municipal Court.
Tue, Mar 20
by John Servais
In early April of 2003, virtually all the media pundits had fun mocking those who were against the war. Fair has compiled a fun list of quotes by these still prominent talking heads. Lou Dobbs and Chris Mathews are shown to be very closed minded for supposedly being intellectuals. At NwCitizen on April 9, 2003, I also thought the war won - but did caution that we could blow our victory, which we promptly did. I prefer the March 19, 2003, post - and those earlier in March - for reference on how NwCitizen's credibility fares with the passage of time.
Mon, Mar 19
by John Servais
The Herald editors have trouble with numbers on a frequent basis. Last week, during their pseudo celebration of 'sunshine week' they stated our Public Disclosure Act is 24 years old, when it is actually 34 years old. I informed them of that and other factual errors they printed about our meetings and records laws but no corrections were printed. I wonder if they as individuals really know very much about our state laws on open government. From what they printed, they do not.
The Herald is also ignoring the Ellen Murphy trial since their one piece on March 3. One article on a Saturday - the least read issue of the week - and nada since. Their normal practice on news that is embarrassing to local public officials is to not follow the news but rather run one or a very few wrap up articles and then never mention it again. I shall continue to prod them here. This news is very embarrassing to Judge Lev, the city attorney, and Rick Larsen and his staff. I thank Sharon Crozier for covering this and posting her articles here.
Sat, Mar 17
Most of the discussion on changing the charges against Murphy was between Lev and Joseph Pemberton, Murphy's attorney. Lev's arguments for the reasonableness of allowing charges to be changed four days before the jury trial was that circumstances may have changed. She pointed out that several prosecution witnesses were apparently willing to modify their earlier statements.
Lev pointed out that Pemberton had known about the request to change charges and that Pemberton should have been prepared to argue the matter. "You knew it was coming," she said. Pemberton said he had thought about it but it was not noted on the day's agenda and he had not thought it necessary to brief it.
Pemberton insisted that the late-breaking change to the original charges should be backed up with affidavits, witnesses or some other clear evidence before the charges were changed to fit the direction that the prosecution prefers. Lev argued for the change, however, and only Pemberton's repeated insistence that the Prosecution should be required to present some sort of evidence in support slowed the momentum. In the end, the charges were not changed, but may be addressed in a later Motions hearing.
Meanwhile, a 29-page Motion to Quash the subpoena for Rep. Rick Larsen to appear at the jury trial will also be addressed at that hearing, with the House of Representatives legal counsel possibly participating via teleconference.
Lev was reluctant to allow any mention of Murphy's subsequent re-arrest as being relevant. Pemberton explained that the two incidents were related in that they, together, may show bias. If Lev later grants prosecution's Motion ruling out a Constitutional defense, that point may be disallowed.
Lev was also disinclined to extend the jury trial, saying that it had been delayed for two months already. Pemberton said that during that entire period he had been preparing for trial, nothing had been noted, but he has received 60 pages of Motions in the last week.
Future court dates include a March 26 hearing on all Motions, an April 2 Readiness hearing, a status hearing on April 16, and the jury trial on April 17.
Ed note: The jury trial of Ellen Murphy scheduled for Tuesday, March 20, was rescheduled to April 17.
Thur, Mar 15
by Sharon Crozier
Meanwhile, the hearing scheduled for today for hearing a prior Motion, filed by a Bellingham Prosecutor, that would rule out references to the US Constitution as a part of Murphy's defense. That hearing was postponed until tomorrow at 2pm as Commissioner Smiley--who is sitting in for the absent Judge Deborah Lev--recused himself from the case.
It is not known what judge will hear the Motion. It is unknown as yet (but likely) that the new judge will consider both motions tomorrow.
One of the defense's arguments is that Ellen's rights may have been violated. Disallowing the Constitution would throw out any issues stemming from the Bill of Rights.
Be proud, citizens. Be very proud. Bellingham courts have an opportunity to do with Ellen Murphy what they failed to do to in Birmingham, Berkeley or just about anywhere else during the civil rights movement. Today, 2:30, Bellingham Municipal Court. Plenty of parking.
Maybe Alberto Gonzales and his friends are right: the Constitution is no longer the supreme law of the land, but just quaint and outdated. These are, indeed, special times.
Ellen's jury trial follows on March 20 in the same courtroom.
by John Servais
Sun, Mar 11
Congressman Rick Larsen has (so far) successfully avoided the process server who is waiting to hand him a subpoena to appear in the trial of war protester Ellen Murphy of Bellingham. Whether or not Larsen is intentionally avoiding service is not known at this time as he is not returning phone calls.
Bellingham attorney Joe Pemberton made the unusual move of subpoenaing a member of Congress in an effort to determine who was responsible for the arrest and banning of Murphy from the building where Larsen's office is located. Pemberton suggests that Larsen, the Bellingham Police Department and, possibly, the City of Bellingham - have all violated Murphy's civil rights.
Last October, Murphy and several of Larsen's constituents went to Larsen's Bellingham office, seeking answers regarding his stand on the Iraqi War. No answers were offered, and Larsen refused to make an appointment to talk with the group either in person or by telephone. To emphasize their demand for dialogue, a few activists remained after 5pm; and each day they did that, those who remained were arrested. But Ellen Murphy was not among them.
Murphy always accompanied the other activists, but always left when people got arrested. However, on October 13, Murphy remained - as usual - to support those activists who stayed and was swept up in the arrests. She and two others were given a written "Notice of Trespass," which banned them from entering Larsen's office through the end of 2006. A Notice of Tresspass is extrajudicial and doesn't require any process. Such orders can be appealed through the courts.
On the afternoon of Oct. 20, several citizens (including Murphy and parents of soldiers serving in Iraq) again returned to Larsen's office, bringing their questions with them. Upon finding the office door locked, the group held a vigil in the hallway, reading aloud the names of American soldiers who had died in Iraq. While they were reading the names, Larsen aide Luke Loeffler entered the hallway through a rear door, spotted Murphy and said, "Well, hello Ellen." He called the police and told them that Murphy had violated the restraining order by returning to the building.
"I had no desire to be arrested again; I had already been arrested once without intending to and I was very careful to stay absolutely away from Larsen's office door," Murphy said.
The police were informed by Murphy that the ban only applied to entering Larsen's office, not the entire Federal Building. Loeffler insisted she had broken the law and, after the officers called someone for instructions, they arrested Murphy. At that time, the police gave her a second Notice of Trespass that banned her from the building for the rest of her life.
Prosecutors have since dropped the second charge and, after some public pressure, someone has lifted Murphy's "banned for life" order. Now all parties involved are waiting for Larsen to show himself so he can be subpoenaed.
At a hearing on March 19, the parties involved will learn whether or not the prosecution's effort to disallow Murphy - through a Motion in Limine - the Constitutional arguments of free speech and the right to redress grievances. Murphy's jury trial begins on March 20.
Historically, purposeful acts of civil disobedience are intended to draw official and public attention to a problem after all other channels have failed. Concerned people exhaust their options and - in considered desperation - take the only step that is left to them: they trade their safety and freedom for hope and, sometimes, are triumphant in righting a wrong. Civil disobedience actions have a proud history that predates Gandhi and M.L. King. Common people the world over have many times reached a point where only their very body could make a powerful enough impact on those with power.
These days they call it, "Speaking truth to power." It is honorable, necessary and difficult. Yet, for some people there is no choice but to stand up to power - even if all they can do is stand in its way. Most of us haven't and never will, reach a point of commitment where such a sacrifice seems viable.
For some "reason," it doesn't seem "reasonable."
So Ellen Murphy did it for us - even though we didn't ask her to, and many insist she was wrong. I believe that many more believe she's a hero - a true patriot - along with others who were arrested that week: Margie White, Brad Grower, Al and Dotty Dale, Stephanie Kountouros and Lisa Marcus.
...and Mr. Larsen...
- Joe Pemberton wants to know who initiated the order to issue the two Notices of Trespass?
- Whom did the police officers call that decided that "banned from the office" meant banned from the building?
- What City lawyer saw the discrepancy on Ellen's first Notice of Trespass and decided to prosecute it anyway?
- To whom are all of these people accountable?
- And Ellen Murphy still wants to know why Rick Larsen has vociferously defended this war for four years; a war that he had originally said was wrong.
- Why, if he thinks the war is wrong, he refuses to support legislative efforts to improve the situation?
- People are amazed that a prosecution motion can ask that the Constitution be ruled inapplicable to court proceedings.
- Many of us want to know how a congressman can now say this war isn't working, yet continue to press charges against someone who has been trying to tell him that for years.
Most of us knew going into Iraq was wrong - even illegal - long before Larsen had his big post-election "awakening." And we weren't privy to any inside scoop that he had in DC. We're just 'hamsters, but we knew.
So, Mr. Larsen, you were brave enough (or smart enough) to change your position on the Iraqi War. Now integrate that thinking into the rest of your life; recognize those arrested for their effort to move you in that direction...and free Ellen Murphy. - Sharon Crozier
Fri, Mar 9
Other candidates are Dan Pike and Dan McShane. Another possible candidate is Bill Gorman. We are moving the web links for candidates to the top of the right column. The primary election ballots will be mailed on Friday, August 3, with counting on Tuesday, August 21.
Well, here is a new link for all of us to explore and use - access to US Congress Hearings. Congress really does not want us watching them. C-Span shows them strutting around in the chamber but this is useless stuff. The hearings are where the action is and C-Span covers only a small fraction of the hearings.
A private group in San Francisco has managed to start posting archives of Congressional hearings. Check out:
http://www.archive.org/ - and type in the search word "hooptedoodle". Yes, that is right. hooptedoodle This is a new effort to make the archived C-Span video coverage of Congressional Hearings accessible to all of us. C-Span resisted this but caved in a few days ago. Only a fraction of the hearings are covered by C-Span, but this is a start.
What is needed - hello Rick Larsen and staff - is for Congress to make all hearings available on video on the Internet so that we can access them. This is not expensive and is technically very easy. Congress will only do this if we citizens demand it. We can ask politely, but in the end it will require considerable effort. We can start with Rick Larsen. After all, he could sponsor this legislation. Any Representative can. We learned that in Civics 101.
In our Bellingham City Council, the action is in the Monday committee meetings in the mayor's board room - attended by virtually no one and not reported by the media. The evening sessions in the council chamber are, for the most part, a charade to make official the decisions reached in the quiet back room of the mayor's office a few hours earlier. These days, no smoking is allowed. But don't expect BTV10 to cover this. Unless we demand it.
2 pm correction
Sun, Mar 4
Ellen Murphy is now allowed to enter the Federal Building in Bellingham. With the court dismissal of the Oct. 20 trespass charge, the lifetime ban on entering the building was also dropped. (This took days to happen and I still do not know who had it dropped) And since the earlier ban only extended for 2006, she is now free to enter the building and even - gasp - enter Rick Larsen's office. Of course doing so could restart Larsen's vendetta against her.
Ellen still goes to trial on March 20 for the first trespassing charge - as noted in the Feb 23 post below. What is strange is the office was still open and doing business when Ellen was arrested. This is not secret information - although the Herald article ignored this. Contrary to the presumption of most people I've talked with, Ellen was not in the office after hours. Larsen simply did not want her in the office - period. She was arrested during normal hours.
Rick Larsen is doing a slow motion version of calling Ellen "Macaca" - a public insult and harassment of her. He is belittling her and running her through a gauntlet of legal processes in order to intimidate her and stop her from questioning his stance on the Iraq war. He is trying to criminalize her - and this continues with his attempt to have her convicted of trespass - when all she did was sit in his office during office hours. Count on Larsen or his staff to come up with some weird testimony in court to explain his actions. He is a slippery operator.
Rick and his staff continue to not respond to questions about what and why. At the City Club - from reports I have - he ducked the question, saying only that anyone staying past 5 pm will be arrested. Rick, for all his soft smile and casual manner, is a cold political operator. I have it on first hand account from inside his office that he spends much of his time studying polls and acting accordingly. He must feel threatened by Ellen's actions and is taking steps to stop her and scare other anti-war protestors into silence.
The Bellingham Herald finally reported information about the trespass on Saturday. After ignoring the issue for weeks, the Herald followed their many years habit of writing one story about a controversial and important local issue. Now the Herald will try and ignore this again and hope the public forgets it. Today the Herald praised Rick for his position on Iraq - while ignoring how he is silencing those who dare question him. And the Herald found it convenient to insult those who ask Rick to answer their questions.
The point of all this is that Rick Larsen - with the help of the Bellingham Herald - is discrediting and intimidating local war protestors. Part of this process is to criminalize an innocent person so as to cause other more cautious persons to not protest. It works. - John Servais
Fri, Feb 23
Ellen Murphy's court date has been changed. Her jury trial will be on Tuesday, March 20 ( not Feb 27 as posted below last week). It was changed - after being set by the Muni Court at the earlier hearings. It is sometimes a game to keep track of the changes to times, dates and even the court rooms for Muni Court and sometimes seems as though the court does not want the public to show up at all. So - I will do my best to check on possible changes to the times and post them here for you. You can let others know of the changes.
Here is the schedule for Ellen Murphy's trespassing case:
All are at Bellingham Municipal Court - not the County Court House. For more details, read the posts below. I hope many citizens show up and witness the efforts of US Rep. Rick Larsen to criminalize Ellen for daring to sit in his office during his normal office hours waiting for answers from him to her direct questions about his fence sitting the Iraq war issue.
And it seems the Western Washington University campus police are only too eager to arrest students for exercising their rights to speech against the war. Of course it seems they prefer to arrest an ethnic Asian student rather than any nice white ones. And threaten him with several days in jail just waiting for his arraignment.
Karim Ahmath was passing out flyers in the Viking Union on Thursday, Feb. 15, where the Army and other military recruiters were soliciting. It seems that an Army recruiter started chastising Karim - who spoke back. The argument got a bit heated but less so than some of the other arguments between white students and recruiters. Campus police arrested and handcuffed Karim. He was booked and released - but only after being threatened with jail over a long weekend. Seems the county jail told campus police that they did not have room for Karim.
Today Karim was arraigned - and will have a jury trial on May 15 in Whatcom County District Court. He could face jail if convicted. I am told that many students showed up for his arraignment today. He supposedly disturbed the peace of the Viking Union.
Having witnessed recruiters in action in the past it would probably be more fair to charge the Army recruiter with harassment and disturbing the peace. He apparently started the arguing with Karim who was quietly passing out flyers the recruiter did not like. Karim stood up to him. I remember April 1968 when Western came down heavy on Vietnam veterans protesting the recruiters on campus. A kangaroo court was setup by Western and they tried to expel several students. It ended up discrediting Western's administration.
I will try and post the other preliminary dates for Karim's court case as I learn about them. And lets hope the other local media - Weekly and Herald - follow this website yet again and cover this case. They will both be very careful though as Western advertises a lot with each of them. Sadly, the Western Front has nothing in today's issue and nothing in previous issues. Not even the Cops Box. Hmmm. - John Servais
Thur, Feb 15
City of Bellingham prosecutor was forced to dismiss the October 20, 2006 trespassing charge against Ellen Murphy in Municipal Court today. Ellen will still stand trial on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 9 am before a jury for an Oct 13 charge of trespassing - of sitting is Rick Larsen's office during normal office hours.
Today's dismissal resulted from the city attorney, Ryan Anderson, admitting that Ellen had not violated the no trespassing order she was issued on Oct 13, which stated she was not to enter Rick Larsen's office till 2007. Ellen sat in the hallway on Oct 20 - which was not a violation of the order. However, city police arrested her at the request of Rick Larsen and the city charged her with a gross misdemeanor and intended to bring her to trial with a conviction that could result in jail time.
What happened? It seems the city never looked at their own copy of Ellen's no trespass order but rather only looked at what a clerk had copied into another record - a copy that had a clerical error. As such, the city spent several months preparing to prosecute Ellen - until her attorney, Joe Pemberton, brought the actual no trespass order to their attention.
When asked after the hearing today how this had happened, Anderson said they had not looked at their copy of the no trespass order until Joe brought it to their attention. When asked why this had gone unchecked for so long, he replied it was "a mistake".
Judge Debra Lev chose to not preside and sent a court commissioner to accept the dismissal. The hearing was scheduled by Lev for a time when no other cases were being heard - and so the courtroom was virtually empty. The process took all of 5 minutes. I saw no other reporters present. The court clerks let us wait in one courtroom for 15 minutes and then had us go upstairs to another empty room for the dismissal. The city appears to be a bad loser. Ellen was accompanied by several supportive friends.
Want to know what is really Kafka like about this? For supposedly violating the Oct 13 order, Ellen was issued a lifetime ban from even entering the Federal Building. Now, even though the city has admitted Ellen did not violate the Oct 13 order, the lifetime ban remains. Seventy year old Ellen cannot go into the Social Security office, the IRS office or the Post Office for the rest of her life. All because she did not commit a crime.
Rick Larsen is the quiet wizard of oz behind the curtain as he works to strip Ellen Murphy of some of her civil rights for embarrassing him. Did you know he now has his office door locked to prevent any anti-war citizens from entering? Yep - you knock and a staffer pokes their head out of a door down the hallway. If they know you then you are allowed through the other door. He may be only locking the door on Fridays now - the day the anti-war vigil is held outside the Federal Building.
This website will fully cover the proceedings of Ellen's trial on the other charge. The city attorney might want to actually check the documents before bringing her to trial. - John Servais
Wed, Feb 14
What a bunch of hooey!
This is supposed to prove something? How many so-called Iraqi insurgents would need to be fleeced for their weapons to produce two tables full of American armaments? Would that prove that we were supporting insurgents? Come on.
By every accepted measure, America is the world's wholesale arms warehouse. We supply just under half the worlds arms exports, more than twice that of the second and third place suppliers. In 1999, we supplied arms to more than 92% of the world's conflicts.
See for yourself. There is a really nice summary of the CRS (or "Grimmett") Report to Congress here. May I please direct your attention to the bar graph part way down the page? Don't trust websites? Read the entire report itself, here.
Now, in related news, UNICEF released a report entitled, "An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries". The US ranked at or near the bottom is several different categories. You might wonder whether those massive billions toward arms have anything to do with that assessment or the general population's access to health care in this country. Of course, it is no better in poor countries, where we are so busy financing and arming all those conflicts. I imagine those Iraqi children are far worse off than ours! Hmmm. (Tip Johnson)
Sun, Feb 11
On Sat, Feb 24, there is a forum on voting integrity at the Bellingham Library downstairs lecture room from 10 am to noon. From their press release it looks good. James Johan sent the release, Marian Beddill is the MC, and it is sponsored by the Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and the League of Women Voters. It has an expert panel.
It concerns who gets to vote - the integrity of voter registration. It will probably contest those who want to purge and rebuild our voter rolls against the government authorities who maintain the voter rolls. Some extreme right folks want to purge and start over and demand birth certificates for registering again - a process to strip many folks of their right to vote. Auditors say the system is in good shape now and only needs to be improved. This might be a good forum. - John Servais
Sat, Feb 10
Today we have three corrections that apply to the Feb 6 post below. The corrections are important but do not change the thrust of the article - and indeed put even more of an accusation against Congressman Rick Larsen for abuse of his position of public trust.
In the last paragraph of the post, the word 'criminal' should have been inserted before each instance of 'trial lawyer'. My post confused trial lawyers with criminal trial lawyers.
First, Ellen's attorney Joe Pemberton is a trial lawyer, but not a criminal trial lawyer. I've known and respected Joe for many years. Joe practices in court on a constant basis. He handles cases involving real estate, personal injury, employment and other issues in court cases where no one is threatened with jail or becoming a felon or criminal. He is a very experienced and successful trial lawyer - but does not seek and handle criminal cases such as Ellen's.
Second, it seems that a couple local criminal trial lawyers are willing to give Joe advice on criminal proceedings and that one apparently offered to help represent Ellen. My statement that none would help was not accurate. As a group, the local criminal defense attorneys have for many years abandoned those in need of civil rights defense in this county but there are a very few who have quietly helped.
The third correction has to do with who is responsible for the no trespassing orders issued to Ellen. While the order itself was issued by the Bellingham Police, I was in error by stating that Judge Debra Lev was behind the no trespassing orders. She was not. Rather it is a mystery who exactly is behind the orders but it is certain that Rick Larsen wants the no trespassing order enforced. Why? Because if he did not then it would be dropped. Who could have asked the police to issue the order? It could have been the building owner, the City of Bellingham - thus the city attorney - or it could have been the building management firm or it could have been the tenant - Rick Larsen. But without Rick Larsen wanting her barred from even entering the building the others would have no interest.
Rick Larsen's actions in all this need to be known by his colleagues back in Washinton DC. When anti-war protestors sat in Senator Maria Cantwell's office, she met with them. Other Democratic senators and representatives have shown the same consideration. Rick has refused to speak with them, refused to answer their questions and has instead quietly sought to have them convicted of criminal activity. Rick Larsen's actions are those of a scared and cowardly person. I repeat my challenge below for any local liberal to question him on this at his City Club appearance later this month. If Rick asked the city to drop the charges then they would be dropped. And it would be very easy for him to meet with anti-war protestors.
One last point. Last summer, when it was possible that Rick would have a real challenge being re-elected, his office staff was suddenly communicating with me on issues posted here. They were so nice and tried to explain Rick's position. By October when it became clear that Rick would win, the communications stopped. We are now back to where we have been for years - Rick's office does not communicate with me. They check this site every day but hope that not too many others do. If you think Rick should change his tactics regarding Ellen and local anti-war protestors then let Rick's office know that you are following this and think he should change. You can help Ellen to not go through the trauma of a criminal trial and possible conviction for sitting in the office of her Congressional Representative during normal office hours. - John Servais
Tue, Feb 6
Ellen Murphy has the courage to practice classic civil protest - to publically bring her questions about the Iraq war to Rick Larsen, our US Congress Representative. And for daring to do that, it appears that Larsen is quietly working with the Bellingham police, city prosecutor, and the Municipal court judge, Debra Lev, to persecute, possibly jail and even deny her the use of some of her civil rights for the rest of her life.
Last October 13, before the election, she sat in Larsen's Bellingham office with several other people for hours, waiting for some answers to questions. Larsen refused to talk with them and has refused for months. The police arrived and arrested her and two other women - before the office even closed. It seems very safe to say that Larsen's office did not want her there - and decided to have her arrested. More telling is in court she was told to not go into Larsen's office again.
On Oct 20, she and 5 other women, sat in the hallway outside Larsen's office, reading the names of service members killed in Iraq - which can take hours.
Several police showed up, went into Larsen's office, closed the door and were in there for some time - obviously talking to Larsen's staff - who are under the direct control of Larsen. The police came out, asked who was Ellen Murphy, she identified herself, and they arrested her - leaving the other women alone. Ellen was targeted - probably to make an example of her. (must say, the police don't look proud of their job at the moment, following orders from Larsen)
She is now being charged a second time for trespassing - and our municipal judge, Debra Lev, has barred her from going into the Federal Building for the rest of her life.
Yesterday were hearings and scheduling on her two charges. On Thursday, Feb 15, at 2:30 pm in Municipal Court, there will be a hearing on whether the city will continue with its prosecution of Ellen for sitting in the hallway. On Feb 27 at 9 am she will go on trial for sitting in Larsen's office.
Gentle reader, this is all being done for Larsen and at his request. If he did not want her barred for life from going near his office or if he did not want her prosecuted, then the city would drop this. It seems he has no problem trying to strip a person of their rights and have them convicted of a crime in order to deter others from daring to question him. Or even want to question him. Ellen was not even practicing civil disobedience - she was obeying the law. She was not blocking a doorway or impeding others.
Of course I saw no reporters at the hearings yesterday from any newspaper or media. This website will continue to try and follow this. It will be interesting to see if any of our stalwart and liberal citizens will question Larsen about this at the City Club luncheon later this month. Probably not. Local wealthy liberals are more into sipping white wine than asking any hard questions of their guy Larsen. And, while Larsen's staff checks this website daily, they have chosen to not communicate with me regarding Larsen's stance on the war.
One last note. Joe Pemberton, a local attorney who does civil work, is defending Ellen. Joe is not a trial lawyer but no local trial lawyer would help Ellen. I heard several trial lawyers joke to Joe in court yesterday about whether he was in the wrong place and about his trying to defend a client in court. The liberal wealthy trial lawyers of this town want nothing to do with an anti-war protestor. Shame on them. - John Servais
Thur, Jan 25
Today's Bellingham Herald editorial invites an answer. The editorial is good in that it reflects on past bad practices, like allowing GP to dump mercury into Bellingham Bay, and the editorial goes on to wonder what we might be doing today that will cause problems in the future. (Editorial online will disappear about Feb 1)
For starters, ruining our water supply by not caring for the Lake Whatcom watershed is a current practice that will cause problems for our kids in the future. And the Herald is the leader in distorting the facts of this issue and not reporting of the activists trying to save it.
Another current stupid practice is ruining our neighborhoods by our city planning and permit process with a double speak definition of "infilling", twisting the definition to mean building big, ugly and anywhere. The Herald applauds these efforts and quotes city officials forked tongue justifications while ignoring the pleas and concerns of neighborhood activists.
The absolute chaos being created by our city and county road building programs will cause much expense to correct in the future. Road planning is on almost an ad hoc basis - building what serves some commercial interest or friend of some high government official. Along with city parking confusion, we are creating a horrible patchwork of dead ends and unusable routes between different parts of our city and county that our kids will have to undo in 20 years - and they will wonder what motivated us.
We practice what is called "wetlands mitigation" which means if you destroy - fill in and build on - one wetland, you can mitigate it by "building" a wetland somewhere else. How absurd. The future will wonder about these muddy places that do not serve the ecosystem and lament we knowingly destroyed functioning wet areas. Where have all the birds gone? They died for lack of homes. Our city planners encourage this and the Herald does not fully report on all aspects of this.
Another is what I call the Taj Mahal syndrome - the obsession of local leaders to built expensive buildings to fill non-existent needs. Twenty years later we struggle to use these buildings or keep them up. The Ice Arena was one that is almost forgotten now. The Port's International Free Trade building - the KAP building is another that never had a full commercial tenant in 15 years. This year it is the monolithic central library that will be put before us in the coming months. If built, expect it to hat the word 'Douglas' somewhere in its name as a legacy for one of those obsessed with its creation.
I won't even go near the confused waterfront planning. Several agencies are tripping all over each other while behind the scenes several local big developers are quietly greasing the gears to allow themselves big slices of our community waterfront. The whole process - from the Port accepting a $200 million liability to the city council blindly signing on to indebt future citizens to its cleanup - has been cheered on by the Herald. Thirty years from now, the Herald will wonder why no one in the community asked for answers to hard questions before we blindly spend tens of millions of public monies on wasted projects. For now, the Herald merely cheer leads the process.
The editorial dealt with mercury in our Bellingham Bay. I remind the Herald that mercury was well known as a killer back in the 1950s when Minamata exposed for the world to see just how terrible it was. The GP chlorine plant came on line in 1964 - 65? - and in 1969 was exposed in Bellingham's Northwest Passage underground newspaper as deadly and environmentally disastrous. The Herald refused to report a single word that was negative. Local leaders in government and business tried to squash the Passage. The police literally bopped the kids selling the papers and confiscated the papers. GP refused to answer any questions. This writer was chased off the public street by the police when I was trying to photograph some GP pollution - after GP called the police. The Herald did not discover mercury to be bad for 30 years - until after the chlorine plant closed.
Our county should conduct a comprehensive health survey. Our state and local health agencies have avoided this - because they know we have a serious cancer problem and possibly some serious problems with children's health. The Herald has been very silent on this issue. GP toxins have been quietly allowed to be dumped in small pockets all over our county and we are paying the price in our health - but we don't even know of it. I am posting this on the basis of anecdotal bits of information - which is all we have to go on when public records are kept secret. The Herald could use the pages of its newspaper to pry this information from state and local health agencies.
The above are some of the reasons I worked for years to help create a new weekly newspaper - culminating the Whatcom Independent. Before that, I worked with the old Every Other Weekly to develop a business plan for it to go weekly - and Tim used a modified version of my plan to do just that with the Bellingham Weekly - now morphed into the Cascadia Weekly. I also worked on the Northwest Passage back in 1970-71. I encouraged and helped the three women who started the Whatcom Watch in 1992 and later put that paper on the Internet in an effort to help reporting of local environmental disasters in the making. All three papers - Indy, Watch and Weekly - are worth your reading in order to learn what we should be paying attention to today so as to avoid having more disasters to fix in the future. I am no longer actively involved with any of the papers, (and never was with the Bham Weekly) but do own some shares of the Indy.
The Herald could look to its own editorial room for where the problem of current ignoring of serious problems is centered. The Herald is loathe to report on any issue that is too critical of its advertisers - industrial, commercial and government. The Herald is also driven to keep reporting costs low by putting inexpensive fluff stories in the paper to satisfy advertisers. I will be the first to applaud better Herald reporting when it happens. An informed citizenry is the needed keystone to allow a community to stop current bad practices. - John Servais
Fri, Jan 19
If you have arrived at this website for the first time as a result of the link posted in today's Bellingham Herald article about branch libraries, then I welcome you and hope you return occasionally. We will be posting more on the library issue during this year. Actually, the Herald did not make a hot link from their website but only included 'nwcitizen.us' as plain text. And the Herald online article will disappear in a few days as they routinely purge stories from their website - a practice that works against more people visiting their website.
The article referred to my post "Branches are better" - which is linked in the right side column of this page.
Sam Taylor, the reporter, quoted me accurately and got the story right, in my opinion. He had one factual error: he wrote that I have been a "staple" at library board meetings, whereas in truth, I have made few of them these past few years. Sam is new to the area and in his experience I have been there often. I have closely followed the library board's actions via discussions with the board members and reading the minutes of their meetings when I did not attend. The point is I'm probably current on the issues.
Our city hall - mayor, council and library - plan to ask us citizens to vote approval of a $20 million to $60 million bond issue later this year - supposedly for a needed new central library. This will be an almost complete waste of money as much will be for a parking garage for city and county employees and a new central library that will not serve the changing needs of adults and school kids. We need to spend $100 thousand to $200 thousand on a study - a comprehensive and objective study - to determine our best course for the future. So far, a group of complete amateurs - our well meaning library board members - have simply been told repeatedly for years by library staff that a main library is the only solution. That is not intelligent planning. - John Servais
Tue, Jan 16
Welcome to Rick Larsen - welcome to the correct side of the Iraq war issue. Rick spoke yesterday at Bellingham city hall and, according to the Bellingham Herald, he switched his stand and now favors a partial pullout of US forces from Iraq. He is against Bush's troops surge. (the Herald article will disappear in a few days from their site)
Whew. I appreciate Rick's ending his fence sitting and the beginning of what I hope will be his working with the Democratic majority in Congress to bring this war to the most decent end possible. Any end will be messy but still less messy than continuing and escalating. While his website has no post on this issue, his site is hopelessly out of date on most everything. He needs to prod his staff on this.
I read - but have not heard from directly - that our local anti-war protestors basically gave Rick no credit for his coming over to the anti-war side. But then Sam Taylor, the Herald reporter, is establishing a reputation for writing the story the way he wants it to be, not the way it is. I've been to meetings that Sam reported on and he is very selective to one side of issues. I hope our leading anti-war protestors welcome Rick and encourage more anti-war action from him.
This website encouraged all local anti-war citizens to vote for Rick last fall - as we needed every Democrat in order to get a majority in Congress. Now Rick has come through for us. We should not care if Rick switched because the polls are 80% against the war or that the Democrats now control Congress and he wants to just side with those in power. The most important issue for us Americans is to get out of this war - and we now have Rick to help us. One step at a time, folks.
Rick, thank you for adjusting your position and favoring a backing off from this terrible tragedy of our own making. A suggestion, if I may. Now is the time to direct your staff to ask local authorities to drop trespass charges and restrictions on the courageous and patriotic women who sat down in your office and hallway in protest to your past support for the war. You can only benefit from having their names cleared and their rights restored. They did the right thing and they acted in one of our oldest and honored American traditions - to petition the government. - John Servais
Sat, Jan 13
OK, my Democratic Party friends. Deal with this - like Barney Frank would not. He shouted down a Senator who dared to reveal this on the Senate floor. The hypocrisy stinks. If this is the lily pure 100 days, then what else will the Democrats in Congress try and slip by us over the next two years? We threw the Republicans out for blindly supporting a losing war and for being the most corrupt bunch since the late 1800s.
Nancy Pelosi. In the minimum wage increase legislation of the House of Representatives, she had a hard to find exemption for one company in her district - Star Kist tuna and their canning plant in American Samoa - an island in the Pacific. It reportedly employs 75% of the workers there but the company headquarters are - imagine - in her district in San Francisco. Blatant corruption. They give her campaign donations and she slips them a favor. Well - she backed off when caught and exposed. You can thank those irresponsible web blogs for that - not the upright and responsible American daily newspapers.
Then Harry Reid in the Senate tried to slip a watered down earmarks disclosure legislation through - and cheated by extending the vote when it did not pass. He also had to reverse himself and made high school excuses like he was too busy that one day to have noticed what he was doing.
To my Democratic Party friends who say this hardly compares with what the Republicans did - well it is how they started. I usually catch more harsh personal insults from my liberal friends when I point out Democratic and liberal shenanigans than I do from my conservative friends for jamming Republicans and Bush. Interesting isn't it. They expect me to be loyal to the "group" - and it shows what they value - loyalty over truth. At least conservatives respect a different perspective.
Paul Roley. I want to pay tribute to Paul who died Wednesday. He was a strong voice for conservative political values since the early 1970s in Whatcom politics. He believed strongly in what he wrote and spoke about and was not afraid to be out in front of others with his views. He ran for office at least once, but his real love was political analysis and commentary. He loved it and all of us who knew him know how his eyes would light up when he warmed to his chosen subject. I can hear him ... "Well John ... sniff ... let me tell you something you might not know about that."
I first met Paul when taking a lecture from him in Russian history at Western back about 1968. He was a spell binding speaker. One of the two or three best I ever had in college. He knew his subject and was eager to fully answer student questions on the fly. His classes were exciting and educational in the best way. Over the years, I told him many times how much I loved his classes.
Our best to his wife Joan who took care of him as his health declined these past few years. A service for him will be on Friday, January 26. For more, go to www.paulroley.blogspot.com - John Servais
Fri, Jan 12 - 9 am
War with Iran - the news analysts are finally realizing that Bush's speech was a declaration of war on Iran. I posted that minutes after the speech and revisited it yesterday. We are dragging out the detention of the Iranian diplomats captured in the armed raid on their consulate in Iraq - an act of war in itself. Older ones of us remember the bombing of Cambodia in the Vietnam war and the horrible consequences of that - stronger demonstrations against the war in the US and the destabilizing of Cambodia and all that followed in that country with the genocide.
Gentle reader - during the Cold War, the Soviets and the USA competed with each other for influence and military bases in powerless countries. The US spent billions in countries like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia to put in power tyrants who would work with us and against the Soviets. We gave military training to their personal armies and provided them with destructive toys - armaments. We helped them put down democratic movements - brutally put them down. Our national interests were served by preventing democracies in these countries. (Yes, the story has variations in each country.)
When the Cold War ended about 1989, we had no more use for nor interest in these countries. We stopped the money flow, pulled our military advisors, and left. Chaos ensued - as we have watched since. The point is we created these dysfunctional countries and now we are reaping the whirl wind.
So - for us to now bomb Iran and start a war there is to create further chaos and problems for the future. There is no quick fix to the Iraq quagmire by just bombing some supply lines in Iran. As we should know by now, the country that starts a war cannot decide when or how to end it. - John Servais
Late Thur, Jan 11
Unity08 - a new way to select and elect our next president. Worth our effort to check out and consider. For conservatives and liberals. For those of us who do not like the dominance of money in our politics. - John Servais
Thur, Jan 11
Juan Cole provides an excellent if longish read on Bush's new plan for the Iraq war. In particular he points out how many of the infiltrators and weapons are coming not from Syria or Iran but from Jordan. But Bush will not say that because that country is our friend. I note how Bush refers to countries he does not like as "regimes" and not countries or nations. He uses proven propaganda words to try and engender hate or fear in Americans for others.
It didn't take long after Bush's speech for us to make a first move against Iran. The US Forces stormed the Iranian consulate in the Kurdish sector. I watched again and read again the part of W's speech where he virtually declared war on Iran and Syria. The mainstream media are largely ignoring that. I think it of the upmost importance in that Bush is saying he will go down swinging - by escalating the war to include Iran at least.
One thing we have is invulnerable bombers and smart bombs that extend into the nuclear range. We can destroy anything we want anywhere in the world any day we want. So long as we don't provoke the Russians, we are safe. And note - we just sent another aircraft carrier squadron to the sea next to Iran. War - war and more war.
NwCitizen has a decent track record on being right on this war. If you are interested, start with my Feb 6, 2003 post and peruse that and posts into the start of the war in March. This time there is a chance our politicians - Republicans and Democrats - will stop Bush from taking us further down the road to perdition. - John Servais
Wed, Jan 10
In his speech tonight, Bush gave no specific time lines for expected results. The first words from news commentators referred to six months for results. But Bush can avoid any accountability in six months or even a year from now in that he said the goal of the increased violence that he is embarking on is to make progress in time - a goal he can say was achieved in 3, 6 or 12 months from now when he announces the next escalation in violence and aggression. Expect the next one to be against Iran and being necessary to keep the "gains" made by the escalation announced tonight.
I fear that we citizens are on a runaway train and cannot get off. I fear that a "victory" by my country - the destruction of Bagdad - will be used to terrorize other countries that do not do our bidding. That we will seek regime change in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea and then look for more countries to force our will upon. I fear that Bush intends to wage such destruction on Bagdad as to achieve a false calm - a calm because all decent citizens have fled. Already millions have fled the violence but you have to search hard to learn this from our news media.
We need - more than anything and more than ever - to have honest news reporting from Iraq. We need to know what the results of Bush's escalation actually are. Do we now destroy entire blocks of homes in our effort to deny safe refuge to the "enemy"? Who is the enemy? Bush suggested it was terrorists from outside Iraq - but we know that is not the truth. The Sunnis and Shiites are fighting each other and they are all Iraqis. Our news media never showed us how much we destroyed the city of Fallujah and I fear we will not be shown how much we will now destroy Bagdad. Bush spoke of changing the rules so our troops can kill more. I fear that means random killing to terrorize everyone.
I fear we are now really set up for defeat and that Bush is ready to destroy Iraq in order to avoid defeat. Towards the end of his speech, Bush challenged those who had a differing opinion to present their solution to the problem. The solution is to never get bogged down in a land war in Asia. We are now bogged down. There is no good solution. Iraq will be further destroyed an we will become feared even more around the world. Bush will call that "respected". We are embarking on war without end.
Here is a test you can use to judge whether we are securing the city of Bagdad or destroying it. If you see increased reports of aerial bombing "in support" of troops on the ground then you know we are destroying the city. If you see TV reports of our troops busting down doors to homes and shops - like we did in Fallujah - then you know we are destroying the city. I invite you to read more of the foreign press to learn what is happening - like this report from the Netherlands - Holland - in Europe. Our terrified troops are terrifying the Iraqis. Our poor kids are coming back by the thousands with troubled minds and bodies and leaving behind a gradually destroyed country.
I fear we are just like the decent Germans in the 1930s - helpless to stop the madness. They were in the majority then but it did them no good. We voted to end the war but the result is an increase. And we are expected to passively sit quietly for - - - - he did not say for how long - and believe his next speech when he tells us things have gotten better even if they have gotten worse and that we need to increase the violence even more to ensure victory. But there is never victory in a process like this. Only another enemy. Only more war.
Wonder where Rick Larsen is on all this? On the fence? And seeking to destroy those who dare to try and make him accountable. I tip my hat to those who risk their civil rights in demanding that Rick Larsen be accountable to us citizens. If we want to stop this war then fence sitters like Larsen need to be pushed into opposing this war. If you want to know what you can do to stop this madness of war - I will tell you to confront Rick Larsen - in writing, by protesting at his office or by phoning his office. Do it once - do it often. That is how our democracy is supposed to work. A check of Rick's website shows he has not answered our question of Jan 1. Please join me in pushing him.
Oh - one last little thing. Bush declared war on Iran this evening. Expect a new bombing offensive. And expanded war. And, yes, those Israeli air strikes on Iran - maybe with nuclear weapons. Hell, the planes may be in the air on their way as I write this. Just another war with another country. - John Servais
Late Mon, Jan 8
Freaky. There are reports - rumors? - that Israeli Air Force pilots are training for a bombing run into Iran. If Israel drops nuclear bombs on Iran then you know W asked them to do it - for they have been our surrogates for many years. While Bush may not dare do it, the Israelis will - for us - for the right price. Am I citing some irresponsible radical left blog? No. Try the Times of London. Yesterday. Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran Leads me to wonder what all Bush will say Wed eve. I bet Iran is in there.
My thanks to Sharon for first alerting me to this. - John Servais
Mon, Jan 8
The new discussion site about airport issues - blinet.org/airbb/ - is being run by Matt Paskus. While his name is not on the site, he is very open to be identified. He lives out by the airport and - surprise - has had trouble getting answers from the Port of Bellingham about what they are doing. So he started the discussion list. He also ran an ad in the Bellingham Herald with 17 questions for the Port that he says they will not answer. We welcome this new political site and will keep the link posted in the right column.
My thanks to Tip and Marian for help on learning more about this new local website. - John Servais
Sunday, Jan 7
Why should the execution of Saddam be a concern to all of us? Because it was a lynching - and Bush and company participated. Personally I think Bush wanted Saddam dead quick out of fear that we may be driven out of Iraq and Saddam might have come back to partial power. This was like the police turning a person over to a mob and then claiming it had nothing to do with the lynching.
It is double speak when the unauthorized video of the hanging is referred to as "inflammatory". The video is merely reporting. The way the hanging was conducted was inflammatory. These days we spend more legal efforts trying to find and kill the messenger than addressing the original issues.
To change the subject slightly - I think these first days of January feel like the opening days of WWII. We know all hell is going to break lose but we are not sure where and how. Bush is totally dysfunctional now and we all know it. He is concocting another losing effort. Sending in more troops will cause an outcry from Americans and will encourage more violence in Iraq. Bush is doing just the right things to encourage terrorism against the US. And divide our country. The citizens of this democracy spoke strongly - stop the war. Bush is telling us he does not respect our vote. Expect the unexpected in the next couple months from Bush. Including repression.
And our Rep - Rick Larsen - has not spoken out nor answered any questions. He has bragged about taking action against cough medicine in this new year.
In closing, my two favorite political news sites are the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo. If you have not been to them then here are the links so you can check them out. The Huffington Post and Talking Points They lead with news and opinions that are days to weeks ahead of the corporate media.
And locally, check out this new one. http://www.blinet.org/airbb/ - All very anonymous - and may be an astroturf site. We do not know who is running this and their email does not work. Careful registering and posting as it may simply be collecting email addresses for spams. Getting you to register your name and email at some new site is a common tactic of spammers. Since free speech is an American right, why are these people so secretive? They know how to contact me and I will tell you more if they write. - John Servais
3,000 service persons killed in Iraq? Oh we are beyond that - up to 3,002 this morning - and could climb past 4,000 this year if we 'stay the course'. More telling for me is we are approaching 50,000 casualties of all sorts - and if we include the deaths then we will reach 50,000 in a week or so. However a young American service kid is injured - by mental breakdown, suicide, self inflicted wound, helicopter crash, half the brains blown out, loss of eyes, loss of limbs by any cause - it is a tragedy. The dead are blessed.
The wounded face coming home to a government of GW that has systematically stripped them of their benefits and is tossing them into the arms of their families without sufficient support. From big things to little things, the Republican Congress and the Bush administration have shit upon our returning veterans - both the wounded and their families.
Minor example; housing allowances for military families at the Everett Naval Base have been reduced for 2007. The Pentagon says their 'calculations' show the costs have gone down. These poor enlisted families are struggling. Gentle reader, to you think the housing rental costs are going down?
Regardless of your position on the war - we should support the young people who are in the service and we should care for the wounded. Instead our corporate news media ignore this real news and do not make us painfully aware of how tragic are the lives of our returning injured service veterans.
In this new year, I will try to put our local US Representative, Rick Larsen, on the spot regarding his positions, his statements, his lack of statements and his votes on issues from Veteran care to increased troops in Iraq. We will keep a scorecard on him and hold him accountable in two years. Rick has his staff read this website regularly and he will know this week of my intention.
Rick - first question: What is your view on the idea of increasing the number of troops in Iraq? Post your answer on your website and I will link. - John Servais