Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Standing Up, Showing Up and Speaking Up

Once again, a good sized group of us showed up at the Benton County Courthouse for another hearing concerning the racist twerp Andrew Oswalt. As usual, Dale and I were on hand in the entryway, distributing stickers and directing people to the correct courtroom before the hearing began.

As we were standing there, a courthouse employee passed by us and said, "Not as a courthouse employee, but as a citizen, thank you for being here and doing what you're doing." It was great to receive that kind of supportive feedback - after all, that's the kind of feedback we're all trying to give to the DA for having filed these charges, and to the judge, to assure he understands the community takes these kinds of racist threats seriously.

And do you know what else happened in the exact same seconds that this employee was talking to us? That's when Andrew Oswalt himself quickly slipped by us and scurried swiftly up the stairs. Yes, the big, tough racist waited until we were distracted to slip by us so he wouldn't have to "risk" making eye contact with us. Of course, racists are inherently cowards, and the crimes he committed were also done in a cowardly fashion, so I guess he was just staying true to form.

Anyway, after the hearing a group of those attending reconvened at a nearby coffee shop, and we had a great meet-and-greet and discussion for over an hour. There are a lot of good ideas and connections that came out of that discussion, with the one question that speaks most to me being: Where are our local elected leaders on this? It's true that most of them haven't spoken out on Oswalt's crimes, or the racist activity that it represents, so, with that in mind, I plan on going to our next City Council meeting and inviting them to use their free speech rights to tell the community where they stand on racist activity and idiocy.

A logical follow-up question for those who state their opposition to such things would be: What do you intend to do to counter it?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

It's Nice To Be Asked

Last night we went to the town hall with Senator Jeff Merkley and...

Sidebar discussion: Many elected representatives at the federal level fall somewhere along the continuum between "disappointing" and "useless." But, as an Oregon resident, I am glad to say that Jeff Merkley is one of the good ones. He is smart and courageous, and a representative we can be proud of - even if we still have to push him occasionally on certain issues.

...and were greeted at the door by two tables staffed with four volunteers - volunteers that I assume came from the local Democratic Party. Without any prompting from either Dale or I, they asked if I was still gathering signatures to get on the ballot. I said that indeed I was, and we showed them the clipboards we had brought with us for that very purpose. All four of the ladies working the tables cheerfully signed. It was a nice gesture, and it was very nice that they asked.

So, thank you to them, and to everyone else who signed my petitions to get on the ballot in November. One woman said, with a smile, "You know, I may not vote for you in November," and I told her that was fine. It's all about just having an open, accessible and diverse ballot, giving voters more choices. She finished signing the petition, smiled, and wished me good luck. That's been the tone of most of the interactions I've had with people.

Another woman asked me who I would be running against in November. I told her that I didn't know yet, that that will have to be decided in the primary election. That's perhaps the biggest irony of running for office as an unaffiliated independent like I am. On one hand, the system is set up to make it difficult for potential candidates, what with having to collect hundreds and hundreds of signatures. But, on the other hand, I will absolutely get those signatures, and thus am absolutely the only person pretty much guaranteed to be on the ballot in November. Right now, as of this writing, there are five - yes, five - Democrats running in the primary, only one of whom will make it to the general election. So, to whichever one of those candidates that ends up being, I'll see you in November.

Meanwhile, for some context, let me say just a few words about what I've been up to. Like a lot of you, I go to a lot of public meetings. I also go to a lot of less visible (though open to the public) meetings like my regular EIAC meetings, or our twice a month Indivisible meetings. I've also had dozens and dozens of private individual meetings with people from all manner of organizations. Every week I have somewhere between five and seven of these meetings - with non-profits, farmers, business owners, government employees, education groups, etc. - to pick people's brains, and learn more about what their groups do, and/or what they are concerned about. I also take every opportunity available to get out there and collect signatures to "get out the ballot." I'm also fortunate to have several fine people out there who are also working on collecting signatures for me. (Thanks so much to them as well!)

All of which is to say, though I cannot yet campaign officially, I am staying extremely busy. It's a level of energy and activity that I will take with me into the County Commissioner's office.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Local Climate Action NOW

Sure, it's (finally) gotten cold and wintery this week, but let's not forget that we just had a January that was warm enough for shorts and t-shirts. In other words, climate change is real, it is here, and it is now. We are all beholden to do everything we can to keep the planet we live on habitable.

With that in mind...

Saturday, February 17, 2018

First, Busted; Now, Ousted

Just a quick note to note that budding young neo-Nazi Andrew Oswalt has been officially ousted from his position in the OSU student government.

If I had to bet, I'd say this makes a possible move back to his family in Issaquah that much more likely.

In any case, it's good news! Now, let's not forget to show up for his next court appearance at 8:30 AM on the 26th. See you there.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Where Cowardice Bleeds Into Insanity

Sigh...Here's the letter to the editor I just sent in. I wish that writing such a letter wasn't even possible, because we had leaders actually addressing these problems.

But, of course, we don't, and so here we are again...

Another day, another mass shooting.
Another mass shooting, and another day when Republicans in our country will say, “It’s too soon to discuss gun policies.”
Though tens of thousands – yes, tens of thousands – of people are killed and injured in this country year in, year out by guns, it’s never a “good day” for Republicans to discuss gun policy.
These cynical, fake patriots are content to watch the carnage. Their only “concern” is to not “disrespect” the dead by talking about the central issue “too soon.”
They never seem to get the fact that it’s disrespectful – not to mention cowardly and hypocritical – to avoid difficult discussions forever. Is it “disrespectful” if a doctor who discovers cancer in a patient wants to discuss it as soon as possible? Of course not. To do otherwise would be irresponsible, a dereliction of duty.
A dereliction of duty.
So, here’s a question for all those Republicans who fall back on “It’s too soon” to avoid facing the reality of American gun violence. If we take you at your word, and agree that it’s “too soon” to discuss gun policies in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida…Is it still “too soon” to discuss gun policies after the Las Vegas slaughter?
If it’s “too soon” to discuss them after Las Vegas, can we discuss them related to the Orlando nightclub shooting? How about the Sandy Hook school shooting?
When is it NOT “too soon”? How soon is NOW? Can you please clarify?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Upcoming Trial. Incoming Issaquah?

Another day, another court appearance for Andrew Oswalt.

I've just returned from the Benton County courthouse, where once again we had a great showing of people turning out to let Andrew Oswalt (and any other Nazis that might be paying attention) know that Corvallis is not a place they are welcome. Once again it was pretty much standing room only as local residents took a stand against racist hate.

I'm sure that the Gazette-Times will do a good job of cataloging what happened in the hearing today, and I'll get to that myself in a minute. But I want to both begin and end with things that I know the official reporter there didn't capture.

As already stated, there were easily thirty or more people who showed up today to show their opposition to racism and hate. And once again, I was in the entryway of the courthouse, handing out blank stickers and pens so people could make labels bearing their chosen anti-racist message. Which also meant I was there when Andrew Oswalt - small and slight of build and seemingly very tense and cautious - came into the courthouse. He was all alone; we were dozens. He didn't know where to go, and wandered down the wrong hall, and then came back, before being directed to the courtroom upstairs. Not that he took the stairs - he took the elevator. When the elevator doors opened to let him in, there was already a woman inside with a large NO HATE sticker prominently displayed.

Upstairs he found the courtroom already packed with people of all ages and skin tones who were there to refute his hateful ideology.

As for the hearing itself, here are the highlights:

Oswalt will be allowed to "visit or relocate" to his family's place in Washington state. (More on that later.) If I had to bet on one of those two, I'd say "relocate" seems like a real possibility. If he leaves the state, Oswalt will also have to sign a waiver of extradition.

One witness lives in the same building as Oswalt, so it was requested that the existing no contact order be amended to account for that.

It turns out that Oswalt also sent an e-mail, from his OSU account, to one of the witnesses in this case (who is an OSU student). Though the message itself was not overtly threatening, it seems clear that the intent was to intimidate this person in some manner.

Also, Oswalt claims to have come to a "written agreement" with OSU regarding his work and status there. This was stated, but then Oswalt said he didn't have a copy of the written agreement for the judge to read, which seems odd, to say the least. So the whole OSU issue will remain in limbo until the judge can read this agreement. The next hearing in this case was set for February 26th.

When it was over, all the good people who had showed up made their way out of the courthouse, and several small groups of us were still outside when Oswalt - slowly, deliberately, cautiously - came out of the courthouse and walked away. He crossed the street, and got into a large white four-door vehicle with Washington state plates. It was driven by a very old man, with pure white hair. There was a middle-aged woman in the passenger's seat. Oswalt got into the back seat.

After they talked for a moment, the car pulled out and drove away. Oswalt's family lives in Issaquah, Washington. I can't help but feel that someone should give the good people of Issaquah a heads up that they may have an incoming Nazi. Then again...If his family members were too embarrassed and ashamed to even come into the courthouse with him...Who knows what his standing with them may be?

All I know is that I continue to be proud that the members of this community have showed up to let him know how we feel about his racist hate.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Sleepers Awakening

This is somewhat of a continuation of the discussion from an earlier post, Steering Clear of the Dead End, which was centered around a great article in The Intercept. Well, here we are again, with another great, revealing article in The Intercept, this one called What It's Like To Be Rolodexed: One Candidate's Journey Into The Reality Of Political Fundraising. (You can find the full article here: https://theintercept.com/2018/01/31/democratic-party-political-fundraising-dccc/.)

This essay is by Paul Perry, who was recently a Democratic congressional candidate in Pennsylvania. As he explains near the beginning of the piece, "On paper, I was an ideal candidate for the Democrats. Born and raised in the district, a successful career in education and nonprofit work, Ivy League graduate, young, Black, with gay parents and therefore a compelling family story."

So, in terms of being competitive, what indeed could have gotten in the way of such a seemingly perfect Democratic candidate? Well, that would be the Democratic Party. Or rather, the Democratic Party's almost total focus on finding and supporting candidates who were willing to essentially devote their time and campaign to raising money to support the Democratic Party.

Oh, for the good old days, when political parties might actually support their candidates for office, rather than using those candidates to fundraise for the party itself, eh? But, as young Mr. Perry soon realized, he was less than nothing in the eyes of the Democratic Party unless he was willing to devote himself full-time to seeking ever-deeper pockets to plunder. Then, and only then, would he be a "legitimate" candidate worthy of being told by the Democratic Party which of their chosen advertisers, PR firms and other vendors he could then use to, you know, mount a campaign for office.

Local connections? Ideas? Ideals? Energy? Creativity? UNIMPORTANT. When it came to the Democratic Party supporting a Democratic candidate, it just came down to the corniest, hoariest and most tired of clich├ęs: "Show me the money!"

Now, let me bring it on home. As I am going about the business of following my plan for the 2018 election, and talking to people, and giving shape to my campaign to come, I've already attracted the attention of many individuals, and numerous (non-profit, union, political) groups. Mind you, I'm going to be running for Benton County Commissioner, not a state or federal level position. And Benton County is, let's be honest, not that big of a county. I mean, really, it's conceivable that a candidate could knock on pretty much every front door in Benton County in a year. Which is to say, to win a county-wide election here doesn't require spending huge amounts of money, if done creatively and correctly.

And yet...Here's the feedback I got, via my campaign manager, from a local rep from a local branch of a group representing workers: Max will do well to raise his profile; the kinds of money and support from Benton County folks and opinion leaders - that will make this a full conversation down the road.

Translation: We're used to working with Democrats who will raise money to spend on vendors we have a relationship with. Without spending money you are not legitimate. Without the support of our designated-but-unidentified "opinion leaders" we don't care about your ability to connect with actual citizens and voters. We don't care if you've got good ideas. And, finally, I would translate having a "full conversation" as my being worthy of them, again, telling me where I could spend all that money I raised, with vendors that this "workers group" has existing relationships with.

In other words, business as usual. The same old, same old. Uninspiring, and fairly blatantly undemocratic. Buy our product or go home. Who cares what the people want, or who will actually serve their interests the best? Don't raise awareness, raise funds. And, to remind you, this is the sort of mindset being demonstrated and embraced by the supposedly progressive political party and groups.

Is it any wonder people are cynical, and sick and tired of politics? Partisan politics are dysfunctional enough. Once you layer on the intraparty dysfunction...Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

So, in my case, I'm going to buck these sick trends and put everything I've got on hope. I think most people are hungry for hope, certainly more so than another generous helping of empty promises delivered by bland functionaries. Even the formerly most partisan of sleepers on this issue are starting to awaken to how corrupted and unresponsive the system is, how much money distorts good policies and intentions. In my case, I will absolutely chase votes, but I refuse to spend much time chasing money.

Oh, and even in the money chase, it seems like the go along to get along, business as usual crowd find themselves facing some challenges. The title of yet another recent article in The Intercept tells the tale:
Remember: Progress will only come from real progressives. Not from "opinion leaders," not from empty promises and boilerplate pronouncements. Progress comes from real progressives, supported by real people, at the ballot box. But if you still feel the urgent need to spend your money on something political, might I suggest sending a few dollars to the awesome folks at The Intercept?

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Racist on Monroe Avenue...Is Out On Bail

Just a quick update to let people know that Andrew Oswalt is now out on bail, so please be aware of that this weekend.

On a related note, DA John Haroldson has let us know that there will be another hearing for this...individual next Monday (the 5th) at 1:00 PM. Please turn out if you can. I know there have already been to a lot of these things, but it's really important that we continue to show the DA and the community at large that we are watching, and taking these charges very seriously.

With that in mind, thanks again to all the dozens of fabulous people who have turned out for the hearings this week. You were inspirational! Now, let's do it again.