Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Racist on Monroe Avenue...And His Guns

It's been a busy day today, and the day isn't over yet. The big whirlwind was the last minute announcement of an arraignment this afternoon for Andrew Oswalt, the racist from Monroe Avenue. I'd already seen that he was back in jail this morning (thanks to the online Benton County jail roster), but it wasn't until after 9:00 AM when I was at work that I got the word that he was being charged at a public arraignment today.

Long story short, SURJ sent out an e-mail, Indivisible posted a notice on their Facebook page, and all sorts of us individuals sent the word out however we could: Be at the courthouse at 1:00 PM. And it all paid off - the courtroom was packed, and I do mean packed with people. It was standing room only, and a couple of people who showed up late couldn't even get in. The courtroom was very small, but I'd say that we managed to get close to 50 people in it. Young and old, students and locals, black, brown and white, people showed up.

The key component of this arraignment was that Oswalt is now charged with intimidation, which is a felony. He faces years in prison, and/or a sizable fine. His bail was set at $250,000. Though he only appeared via a video monitor, it was impossible to miss that the smarmy smirk he wore in his mug shot was gone, gone, gone. As he took in the size of the crowd, and heard the seriousness of the charges against him, he looked depressed, overwhelmed, and scared. I think that it's safe to say that, at this point, the enormity of how he has managed to screw up his own life and future has dawned on him.

We also learned some new details about Andrew Oswalt today, including the fact that he owns guns.* Several guns, in fact, including at least one semi-automatic rifle, and a couple of handguns. Given his racist beliefs, and the many ways he has been documented acting out hatefully in the past, I know I'm not alone in saying I feel a real sense of relief that this guy is off the streets (for now, anyway) and in the system (probably for the rest of his life). Should he make bail, he will have to give up his guns, stay away from those people and groups he victimized, as well as stay away from Oregon State University. Yes, he will be barred from any and all OSU property. If he makes bail.

After much vacillating on his part, Oswalt finally asked for a court appointed attorney. There will be a hearing on that matter tomorrow. (So, if anyone is available for that, it would be important to show up tomorrow, February 1st, at 1:15 PM for that hearing as well.) After that, it sounds like his next court appearance will likely be in a couple of weeks.**

As the arraignment came to an end, Oswalt got up and walked away from the chair where he'd been sitting facing the video camera. Then the screen went dark, and all the beautiful people in attendance left the courtroom, filed down the hall, and out the front door of their courthouse. Justice might not have been served (yet), but it is clearly underway.

My heartfelt thanks to absolutely everyone who came out today. You made a difference, and did our community proud.

(Oh, and on a related note...As I was headed to the courthouse, the bus I was on went right past The Pillar house on Monroe where Oswalt lives. They had some sort of table out front with a sign that said something about welcoming foreign students. Which, given who lives there...)

* Oswalt was also arrested last year in Lane County, on July 30th, for carrying a concealed weapon.

** Corvallis should also be aware that there is a budding defense effort for Oswalt percolating on 4chan and other online (and right-wing-leaning) forums.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Face of Racism, Corvallis Chapter

Here's a mugshot of Andrew Joseph Oswalt, racist and Corvallis resident. You may have read about him in the local press. He is the (soon-to-be-former) OSU student who believes whites are superior to other races, and that it's alright to deface and vandalize property of people who think differently than he does. In his dark mind, harassment is a legitimate form of "political expression."

I trust that the world of trouble headed his way over his racist acting out and vandalism will wipe that smug little grin off of his face. He's awfully full of himself for a tiny little bigot who only weighs 138 pounds. In any case, if you should see Andrew Joseph Oswalt out and about, be sure to tell him how sad and pathetic his bigotry is. And, yes, Corvallis, it can happen here. Even at OSU.

Again, that's Andrew Joseph Oswalt. Not a candidate for success in the 21st century. Read more about him here:

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Process - Chapter One

Elections are, in theory, all about representative democracy. One person, one vote! Every vote counts! The people have spoken! All of which is absolutely true.


The actual process of "assembling" an election is probably not as clear, clean or inclusive as most people imagine. There are barriers for some built into the system, which means there are also built in advantages for others.

Case in point: I am going to be running for County Commissioner as an independent. That is to say, as an unaffiliated candidate, not as a candidate for the Independent Party. That is something else entirely. I really have to run as an independent, because it's true to who I am as a person. I also very much believe that, at this point in our history, political parties are more part of the problem than they are part of the solution.

Human beings are so good at finding ways for there to always be "others," to build barriers between groups and individuals, no matter how unproductive that may be. I have had enough of the "us" and the "them," thank you very much. I think we'd be a healthier society with more choices, not fewer, and if we focused more on the person and their policies rather than their political party.

In my case, had I decided to run as a Democrat or a Republican, I would just have had to pay a $50 filing fee, and I'd be off and running. That's it. I'd be allowed to participate in the primary campaign, raise and spend funds, appear at debates, etc. That's because, as things currently stand, only Democrats and Republicans can participate in the primary.

I think you can see how that winnows things down from the start. And gives those candidates a head start, to say the least. Mind you, the defense of this set-up is that it allows members of those parties to decide who their candidate in the general election will be. Of course, it's very common to have a primary with only one candidate from each party on the ballot, which, gee, kind of calls the whole "deciding" thing into question, doesn't it? Still, that's their story, and the Dems and Reps are sticking to it - freedom of choice (and association) be damned.

What about the Greens, and the Libertarians, and all those "third party" parties? Well, they are "allowed" to have their "conventions" after the primary, and nominate candidates. Notice though, that they have to wait until after the primary to do so. Never mind that third parties might have multiple candidates for one office. They're supposed to hash that out themselves, at their "convention." This set-up, of course, also excludes the general public from the process, and limits people's choices and ability to choose their elected representatives. This late-in-the-game process also helps keep minor parties minor, by diminishing them in the eyes of many voters.

Then we come to the true independent...As such, I am also excluded from the primary campaign, and am required to gather nearly 500 signatures of registered voters in Benton County just to get on the ballot. Needless to say, it would be a lot easier and faster to just be able to pay fifty bucks, eh? (Especially since, realistically, you need to collect a lot more than the minimum number required, since some percentage will get invalidated for any number of reasons.)

But the process of gathering signatures is going very well. Most people I have approached have been very nice, and supportive of broadening the choices put before voters. Today we attended the MLK events at OSU, and gathered a bunch of signatures, and had some nice interactions with people. Earlier this weekend, we went out to dinner with the local vegan dining group, and got some more signatures there. While some of the vegan folks were signing up, a couple at a neighboring table interjected, and asked what we were doing. When they found out what it was all about, they just had one question: "You're not a Republican, are you?" When I told them no, they were happy to sign up.

It was an unexpected, completely random, and very nice exchange. So thanks to everyone who has signed my candidate signature sheet so far, with a special shout out to Lindsey and Tom. As for everyone else out there, that next knock on your door may be me, clipboard in hand.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


New York City is a BIG place.

There's billions of dollars in commerce there, and millions of people living there. The city government is enormous, with hundreds of thousands of employees and a mind-boggling number of moving parts. It's a HUGE place, a hub of business and culture. The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. Wall Street! Broadway! Ramones!

So, if big ol' busy New York City, with its hundreds of thousands of workers, who knows how many retirees, and all of this and that...If New York City can divest from fossil fuel companies...Why can't little ol' Benton County, Oregon?

I mean, really, isn't that the least we should do?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Taking a Pass on the Past

It's been a week of recurrent themes here.

This week, as the Stupid Timber Lawsuit lumbers forward, the state of Oregon has requested that Benton County be removed from that very lawsuit. Just Benton County. Why, you may ask?

Well, as it turns out, the state has tumbled to the fact that, not so long ago, Benton County's Commissioners endorsed and signed off on the timber management practices and related finances that they are now, foolishly, suing to overturn. To repeat: Benton County Commissioners officially endorsed the very thing they are now suing to protest.

Doesn't make much sense, does it? It's like sending a meal back at a restaurant because it is exactly what you ordered.

And this change of heart isn't due to any major changes in Benton County. We had three Democratic County Commissioners when they endorsed the deal that our current three Democratic County Commissioners (or two of them, anyway) are now objecting to. I'd chalk it up to a stagnant political monoculture, poor institutional memory, and a few servings of bad advice. In any case, the Stupid Timber Lawsuit remains, well, really stupid overall. This latest development just goes to show why it's extra-stupid for Benton County to be involved with it at all.

Good luck to the state of Oregon in all this. Benton County getting kicked out the Stupid Timber Lawsuit would be a good thing. The only thing better would be for our County Commissioners (or one more of them, anyway) to simply admit they were wrong and withdraw.

Or a related note...I am a member of Benton County's Environmental Issues Advisory Committee (EIAC). We had our monthly meeting this last week. One of the agenda items we discussed was the ongoing efforts at the state level to put some sort of price on carbon emissions, as one part of the state's efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.

Again, there are ongoing efforts at the state level to get this done. It is a matter of when the state of Oregon puts a price on carbon emissions, not if. This will happen, and likely sooner than later.

And once again, this is a concept that our Benton County Commissioners have already officially endorsed, back in 2014. Which is to say, they are already with that program.

Without going into an excruciating amount of background details about the discussion, let me just say that at the end of it all, I made a motion to simply send a copy of their own 2014 resolution endorsing these efforts to the County Commissioners to remind them that they have already signaled their support for these efforts, and to urge them to continue to support such efforts at the state level.

In other words, the motion was pretty much just to remind the Commissioners of their already expressed position. That would hardly seem to be a controversial or provocative thing to do. And yet...The motion failed.

It was pretty disheartening. Those who refuse to acknowledge the past are doomed to deplete it - with "it" being the future. It's been bizarre to see these Benton County institutions being so out of touch with themselves. Clearly, clearly, we can do better. We must do better.