Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Employment: According to the Washington State Employment Security Department we lost 50,540 jobs in this state in January. The Evergreen State’s unemployment rate went up to 9.7% (the U3 number, or those who are collecting unemployment benefits). That means that 338,910 folks are on the U3 roles and that includes 15,910 new claims that have been filed, SO FAR! In addition the U6 number or the TOTAL number of folks who are unemployed or marginally employed increased to 642,880 as Washington’s U6 percentage rose to a record 18.4% in January. Particularly disturbing with these numbers is the fact the 64,930 folks dropped out of the work force around the state, because most of them have given up trying to find a job. Snohomish County was hit particularly hard with a new U3 number of 10.1% or 38,090 collecting benefits and a U6 number of 69,392!

For those of you who follow my blogs you know that I have said that the indications are that Washington is in a double dip recession. This is very bad news for the State Legislature awaiting news from the Department of Revenue about to issue its revenue forecast for the remainder of the year. With this many job losses, the news is not expected to be good. That means that the 6.8 Billion dollar deficit “can” the Democrats seek to “kick down the road” over into the next fiscal year on 7/1 may end up being a lot more than that figure.

In the all important housing market here in Washington, things are bleak to say the least. The latest RealtyTrac numbers are stark. 4,981 new home foreclosures and a total of 37,207 since this recession began. That depresses not just the sale of housing but also the value or homes on the market. With a large number or ARM’s about to be re-set over the next 60 days and with even more mortgages about to go “under water”, that will impact future foreclosures amongst many who are currently in default.

In conclusion, we are lagging the rest of the country, still struggling with what is being referred to as a “modest recovery”. Many analysts conclude that the three states on the West Coast are all suffering a double dip recession to include Oregon and California. Alan Greenspan has commented on the problems with the nation’s economy and his candid assessment is not very positive.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sign Holders

I saw a festively plump (as Cartman would say) female holding a sign at the end of the SR520 ramp that connects to 148th Ave in Bellevue. The sign was brand new and written on a large piece of poster board. It had big bubble letters filling in with a rainbow of colors. It was asking for handouts. Anything will help the sign concluded.

After turning on to 148th I came to the 24th Street intersection. There were two more people holding signs. They were advertisements for local businesses. Whenever I am in this part of the state I regularly see people standing on the corners holding signs for local businesses.

I know some look down upon such activities, but I think it is great. They are attempting to make their own way -- willing to take a job rather than begging for a handout.

On a side note many areas around Seattle and Spokane have lots of people who beg for money. It seems harder and harder to find an off ramp where people are not begging for money. The only reason why people keep coming back is because they are making money.

Look at their sign. It is folded up and reused day after day. One of the biggest scams is begging for money because they need gas money or are stranded. It is pretty lucky for them they happened to have a sign they could hold up at a freeway off ramp. Those who give money are suckers who do nothing to help the situation.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Watching our Liberties Exit Stage Left


I am concerned over video justice whether it is red-light cameras, speed enforcement cameras, or video taping public areas for viewing by law enforcement. The idea of using technology to keep an ever watchful eye on American citizens wrong. Don't misunderstand my intentions, I am not against using technology to help a law enforcement officer do his duty, I am against technology in place of law enforcement officers. I am all for getting a warrant to legally do surveillance of a criminal suspect. I am all for police officers having video camera's in their police cars. I am against the continuous recording of public places on the off-chance it might catch a citizen doing something illegal.

I wrote two columns for the Daily News. Both columns are limited in the number of words allowed. I am posting both columns here in their original unabridged format. As it turns out both columns were written in March. The first in 2009 and the second in 2011.

In my second column I included several quotations from the OPC Guidelines for the Use of Video Surveillance of Public Places by Police and Law Enforcement Authorities. I like a lot of what it says.
Other links:
Washington State Constitution
Protests Against Surveillance Cameras
Ineffectiveness of Surveillance Cameras
Photo Radar Scam

Column #1: Daily News, March 2009.

In October of 2008 the Daily News reported about placing video surveillance cameras in several locations around Pullman. If the cameras are installed we will watch our civil liberties exit stage left.

The proposal seems benign; however, it is anything but. We are told the video would only be recorded and saved for three to four days. The cameras, we are told, would not be monitored. This proposal brings to mind a quotation from Fakediploma.com in an article titled “Washington State Citizens Against National ID”.
Under the guise of safety and security you are asked to give up your most personal information to the government’s safekeeping. Using the governments favorite phrase ‘…the need to know’, we don’t feel the government has - the need to know - such personal information. The fundamental right to privacy is asked to give way in order to achieve the illusion of security.

Don’t mistake this proposal to be on the same level as video cameras in banks, convenience stores, and various other private businesses. The difference between the cameras the city wants to install and those in the above locations are great. The cameras would be on public streets. They would be controlled by the government.

I should be able to drive down the road, in a free country, without being monitored by my government. Our government was set up with the consent of those governed not the other way around.

Many people I have talked to believe that there is nothing wrong with putting surveillance cameras on Greek Row. But that is just the start. Mayor Johnson was even quoted as saying “this would just be the start”. As more funds are available more cameras can be installed. Soon they will be put into my neighborhood and your neighborhood.

Can we really believe that once the cameras are installed that they will never be monitored? According to an article in the Daily Evergreen, Mayor Johnson said the cameras would not be monitored, but only reviewed when a crime happened to try to identify those who committed the crime. But in the Daily News article it was pointed out the cameras could be viewed live the police in their patrol cars.

How long before the city decided that on major weekends the cameras should have someone watching them and dispatching police to suspicious activities? It probably would not be very long after that point of time that we have someone to monitor the cameras on all weekends. At some point, no doubt, there would be a call to expand the coverage of live monitoring of the cameras to include the whole week. We would need to hire some people to watch the cameras to report suspicious activities to the police. Your privacy would soon be in question.

The big issue with the government monitoring the cameras and possessing the cameras and recordings is that, unlike a convenience store, the government has the ability to impose sanctions on people. Those sanctions can be anything ranging from fines to jail time.

What happens when someone uses the freedom of information act to request copies of recordings? What if those recordings show something that you did, which was not criminal in nature, but one that was personal and embarrassing in nature? Could that cause damage to ones reputation?

During the arson fire it was pointed out we might have seen a car pass through the cameras and we could have had a possible suspect. What if you were the suspect? You will have to prove yourself innocent or risk being arrested. No alibi? That’s a problem. The police grill you as to why you were driving at three o’clock in the morning? This is a free country and you should be able to move around as you wish, no suspicion raised and no alibi’s needed.

The loss of personal liberties in the name of safety is not a fair trade off.

Scott McDonald, in the article “Uncle Sam Has All your Numbers“ poses a great point. The focus of the debate must be on liberty and freedom. The question must be: Does the government have any right, whatsoever, to maintain cameras focused on free citizens? The answer is “NO!”

Column #2: Daily News, March 2011.
Imagine, if you will, this utopia. It is a place where there are no guns. Everyone has free food, health care, and a place to live. No one is forced to hold down a job. Everyone is safe from crime and there are cameras to watch every move that someone makes. Those cameras are monitored 24/7. Want to live there? We have such a place right here in Whitman County. It is called jail. Sure you are secure, but you surely don’t have any personal liberties.

Unfortunately, the idea of placing government-run video cameras around the city of Pullman has resurfaced. Mayor Glenn Johnson and Police Chief Jenkins both support this issue. I disagree with the government running broad reaching video surveillance against its free citizens.

A number of people who don't see a problem with video cameras bring up two points over and over. One point being that stores and banks use video how is this any different. I argue the difference between the bank and the government is the government has a direct ability to abridge freedom. Point number two revolves around the idea that if you are not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to hide.

Government monitoring its citizens via video cameras is not about hiding things; it is about our rights explicitly spelled out in the state Constitution. Article 1 Section 7 says in part "No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs... without authority of law". Just because someone enters a public space doesn't mean he forfeits his expectation of privacy. One cannot be searched just because he is in public.

An article discussing guidelines for the use of video surveillance by law enforcement in public places exists on the Website for the Office of Privacy Commissioner (OPC) of Canada.
"Video surveillance of public places subjects everyone to scrutiny, regardless of whether they have done anything to arouse suspicion. At the very least it circumscribes, if it does not eradicate outright, the expectation of privacy and anonymity that we have as we go about our daily business.

The medium’s very nature allows law enforcement to observe and monitor the movements of a large number of persons, the vast number of whom are law-abiding citizens, where there are no reasonable grounds to be capturing a record of their activities."

Human's change their behavior when they are being watched. Whether it is seeing a police car and letting off the accelerator when driving down the street or stifling one's own speech when someone approaches. These changes, as noted by the Website, started a business where people can buy faux cameras to make people change their behavior. The OPC's Website continues "For these reasons, there is good reason to believe that video surveillance of public places by the police or other law enforcement authorities has a chilling effect on behaviour—and by extension on rights and freedoms."

My last column came out in March of 2009. In those two years Pullman has neither become more dangerous nor crime ridden. Pullman still has issues with crime, as does every city, but we are not anywhere to the point where the movements of the citizens should be captured on video. "The problem to be addressed by video surveillance must be pressing and substantial, of sufficient importance to warrant overriding the right of innocent individuals to be free from surveillance in a public place." (OPA Website)

One person posed a question to me asking how it is different when a police officer is in public watching people and a video camera is in a public place watching people. The police officer is looking for a criminal activity taking place when he sees none he moves along. At some point in the future he will check back upon the area. A video camera on the other hand is constantly recording all citizens no matter what they are doing.

I would like to close with a final concept as written by the OPC. "Video surveillance of public places nonetheless presents a challenge to privacy, to freedom of movement and freedom of association, all rights we take for granted in Canada [and America]. This is especially true when the surveillance is conducted by police or other law enforcement authorities."

Please stop by http://palousitics.blogspot.com/ where you can read my previous column and this column both unabridged due to the limitation of space.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

How Dare a teacher Punish My Child?!

I was in school when the teacher was able to spank students if there was parents' permission. When the paddle came out you know someone deserved it. There were always some issues with kids, but they never got very bad when the kid knew a paddle was waiting.

If I got in trouble at school the last thing I wanted is for my parents to find out because I would get in even more trouble for acting out at school.

It seems like there might have been a change in how parents react to their children getting in trouble at school.

"A Washington mother who says a teacher taped her 7-year-old son to a classroom chair is angry and calls the incident 'child endangerment.'" -- SeattlePI.com website

The kid described it as a "tape seat belt".

I think the solution is as soon as a kid acts up, he is taken out of the classroom and a parent is called to take the child home for the rest of the day. How much do you want to bet that parents would quickly start changing their tune about discipline in school after getting called to school and having to leave work more than once?

Fearing for his Life?

There is a video of D'Vontaveous Hoston, a 17-year-old male, who is in a small convienence store in Seattle. As he is there a drug bust is going bad and a cop is getting beat. An undercover cop goes chasing after a suspect. That is when Hoston goes outside to see what is going on. He goes back into the store. The officer sees Hoston and thought he was the suspect. The officer goes into the store.

Hoston explains what happened saying, "I'm like hey man I had nothing to do with that and he looked at me and said get the "F" on the ground and I'm like what?" (From q13fox.com)

So he clearly heard the officer order him to the ground. After not going to the ground, but just simply raising his arms up, the officer kicks Hoston on the side of the leg then goes hands on taking him to the ground.

Q13fox.com continues, "He intends to file a lawsuit against the City of Seattle and SPD for what happened to him. Hoston says, 'Since this happened I feel like I got to be looking over my shoulder in case police officers do something, you feel me? I feel like my life is threatened.'"

So Hoston feels like he is in fear for his life because a cop kicked him. Makes no sense to me. In fact, when ordered to the ground, that is the time to do what was ordered.

Too often people try to argue with the police at the moment of initial contact. Until the officer has the scene under control there is no time for debate. Simply complying with the orders will get the scene under control and then you can have your discussion with the officer.