Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Keep officers’ deaths in perspective

From the Lynnwood Enterprise, a subsidiary of the Washington Post, published 12-30-2009

Keep officers’ deaths in perspective
By Mark Mahnkey

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr shared with me a very moving “In Memory” note about the recently fallen Lakewood Police officers.

It caused me to reflect on how this tragedy was handled, and how it came to pass.

Now, let me be clear, I believe each man and woman, when they go out to work, deserves to come home in the same condition they left. Everyone has the right to choose their job, balancing personal interest, remuneration, safety and a host of other things.

There are many who “keep us safe” and die on the job, without fanfare or concern for their families. There is no balance, and no loss of life is worth more than another, no life should be celebrated more than for the least of us.

There are many who die daily “keeping us safe.” The devoted WSDOT folks, who are also public servants and keep us safe no less than the police, lost a fellow named Neal Richards clearing a landslide last month. There was barely a passing mention of his death, yet he too is a public servant survived by a wife and two kids. Isn’t Mr. Richards’ life and his family’s financial situation equally important?

And where is the judge’s name that let Clemmons out on bail? It is Thomas Felnagle of Pierce County. Just because judges wear robes, they are not saints. This same group, just a bunch of politicians, screams for keeping judicial discretion, yet fails to engage their brain in the bail discussion while serving up justice. Why is the media protecting his vapid decision to let this guy out, when he was facing life on a third strike? Then, the politician/judge hides when asked to justify his ruling. At least Gov. Mike Huckabee addressed his thinking on the issue of clemency…

There were so many issues to come together to form the perfect storm on this. Huckabee should have commuted Clemmons’ early sentence, rightly. A juvenile gets 106 years for a misdemeanor crime? But since then, where is the notice the cops broke a “Top 10 rule” to vary their routine? Where is the notice that Clemmons’ family had a chance in May to get him help and failed to do so? Where is the notice that his aunt called the police, rightly, and ratted him out, but who then got paid back by the city with having her house trashed when she was the responsible one doing the right thing?

If we are idolizing one public servant that keeps us safe, we should do so for all. And we should keep it dignified.

Sad, unacceptable things happened, for certain, but as a friend notes, “If my family were exterminated by a similar vermin, would the cops give the same attention to catching the bad guy?”

Sheriff Rahr is correct that we must ask “why.” What do these acts mean, and what must we do differently in the future? I plan on joining her in asking those questions.

Mark Mahnkey is public policy director at the Washington Civil Rights Council and was formerly on the faculty at Washington State University. He can be reached at 206-202-2272 or

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mark’s Christmas Musings, also known as Mark’s blather and spew

Mark’s Christmas Musings, also known as Mark’s blather and spew

I had a bit of a challenge getting into it today. Started wrapping presents, and it just wasn’t as much fun as it should be. Forgot to put on the Christmas music, yeah, that’s the ticket. So, I did, my own little collection I made, and then all was good.

I do get such a kick out of getting stuff that is just right for my family. But, the jolly fat guy (me) had to cut back a bit this year. Longer commute, more expenses, loss of overtime just makes it more of a challenge.

But, you do believe in Santa, dontcha? I do. In fact I just went to, where the Santa tracker is, and saw that Santa just left Brazil and is headed for North America, so I have to type fast. Do you know that the guy that got that phone call at the Air Force base in Colorado long ago, when Sears misprinted the “talk to Santa” number, and instead printed the “red phone” number and started the NORAD Santa tracker died this year? A shame. Story here:

So, I gave El Gato (click for picture) my faithful cat part one of his Christmas dinner. Steamed Wild Alaskan Salmon Appetizer (in a delicate broth, says the label.) I kid you not. Looks and smells like what you and I would eat. $1.29 per. Yup, nothing too good for my guard kitty, who keeps the house safe while I work. Tomorrow he gets the main course, Fancy Feast Elegant Medley, Tender Turkey Tuscany in a savory sauce, with long grain rice and garden greens. Also pricy, but he gets a big kitty attitude every day when I feed him his Purina One “Senior Formula” kibbles.

Such a great companion and joy he is to me, and I don’t even like cats.

Yes, Santa is still alive, and we see evidence all around. You ever have a “stretch present” you wanted—like a stretch goal at work, you probably won’t make it but just perhaps……..

I got mine this year courtesy of one of my wonderful kids. Got Dad a bunch of “boy gifts”. Wonderful!!!!

Cheech and Chong are right. Remember their bit, “Santa and his Old Lady”? It is about the question “is Santa still around”, with all the crap that goes on around us. Cheech doubted Santa still came around due to “too much recession, man”. “Too much repression, man” Tommy Chong replies. Yes, that is what we have, both recession and repression. My wish is that we have less of each, but each of us must work to make that happen. I believe, do you? Won’t you join me?

So, what is good? The Toys for Tots and other toy drives, including ours at the lazy “B” gave toys to foster kids this year. Good start, those kids didn’t choose to be where they are, and it is nice that everyone gets something.

How about that guy whose wife stole his kid, went to Brazil, then died, just got his kid back today that he hadn’t seen for 5 years. I call that a win.

I got to see the 787 make its first flight, a plane which I worked on the software for manufacture. Volunteered for duty that day, and was less than 75 yards from the runway just a few feet ahead of where the wheels left the ground. Now, that was tres kewel! Now, if I could just get on that team that does the evacuation test for certification, where they run everyone off the plane down those slides. I really want to do that, but not as the result of a crash. I think I finally found the lady that coordinates that, and she invited me to ping her end of January. That would be SAW-WEET to get to do that.

My boss-lady got a promotion, so I don’t know who I will be working for, and I am particular about my bosses. Perhaps I will apply for a position she will have in her new position. Back to Everett would be nice. Could go to South Carolina, I suppose for a couple of years. And I did apply for a position today in Grottaglie Italy with our partner. A two year gig, lotsa OT and no taxes on that income.

In the Mark the Media Whore department, I will have another op-ed published in the Enterprise next week (a subsidiary of the Washington Post, published weekly by the Everett Herald) And, I was interviewed by a chap for AOL,com-Finance, who was writing about the economic effects of false allegations of Domestic Violence.

In the keeping kids with access to both parents front, our bill is still alive this legislative session, but likely won’t see action. However, thanks to the Public Records Act, we showed Senator Hargrove (D) Hoquiam that the judges aren’t doing what he wanted when he changed the law, so we need a bit more data and a modification in a form, and he will have the evidence he needs to move our bill. Our meeting two weeks ago was warm, and he told us how much he appreciates our fact based presentation, instead of just whining. It is a long slog, but kids deserve both parents in their lives in a meaningful way even when the parents are no longer together. The social pathologies exhibited when that doesn’t happen are many, and the cost just to the state of Washington is $711 Million each year, according to a think tank study.

I am still movin’ and shakin’ instead of bobbin’ and weavin’. Still like to get outside, and up in the mountains, and have a list of places to go next summer. Of course, I have those irritating old folk’s things; wear a mucho sexy elastic sock on one calf due to circulation issues, but moving around solves that problem. Still go hard at projects for as long as it takes, I am energized by work, work with a great crew, and wake up 4 of 5 days without the alarm, ready to rock. That is a very nice thing!

Well, time to sign off. I just saw the Canadian NORAD CF-18s and the American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15 or the F-16 go by to meet Santa.

Best to all, I love all you guys and gals.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday thoughts from the Geezer

This won't be one of those "holiday" notes, where I tell you about the $100,000 wedding of our daughter, or the month we spent in the south of France. Nor will it be "all the stuff I am thankful for".

I actually had some time to reflect today, and here are the results of that reflection. Yes, this is random thoughts, so don't look for consistency.

I was walking into the house, past the garden hose hanging by the garage. Nice hose, got it for Christmas last year. Was there anything wrong with the old one? No, shorter, smaller diameter, kinked up sometimes, but it was faithful in delivering water to the end of the nozzle. The boys asked what I wanted so I told them 75 foot, anti-kink, 5/8 inch flexible hose, and it showed up.

I looked over my list for this year, and I feel so rich and blessed that there is absolutely nothing I couldn't do without on that list, or frankly, anything I need. Nice to have stuff, for certain, but nothing I” really" need.

We are all so fortunate here. Even those with only a little in our great country mostly have food and shelter, there are few if any $750 annual incomes in the USA.

I have great friends. I have a great bunch of folks I do volunteer work with. It is a labor of love, brought about by personal experience. We will not benefit by it, but our families and our kids certainly will. And other folk's kids, and in the end, society in general, with better outcomes for kids, and lower taxes chasing the social pathologies we hope to eliminate.

We give our time freely, and for that great bunch of men and women I am thankful.

I have memories of some opportunities I have been blessed with I would like to share. This list is not exhaustive. The heck with meeting Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Slick Willie Clinton and their ilk. I am more impressed with a little old lady in Mission BC that I had the fortune to visit with along with my friend, Sara on a few Christmas Days in years past, when our kids were with their other parents. It was her "extra" grandma. Nice old lady, told great stories, and she always referred to me as Sara's husband, so it was nice to get a promotion once a year.

She made blankets for the troops during the war, World War II for you younguns, had a sharp mind, could even remember her operator number that was sewn in each blanket. One time, we went up, without calling first (Sara used to roll like that, probably still does. She would have been comfortable being of age in the 60's) and the house was dark. I was fearful she may have died, but the neighbor confirmed that she fell, and was in a nursing home in Port Coquitlam.

Down the road we went.

She was there only a week, but could tell you how many minutes until the next bus came by, just from looking out the window during her week's stay. I want to be like her when I get old. Sharp as a tack. I really don't know why I am still impressed, but it was truly a blessing to be able to meet her, and to have a road trip with great company on a day that otherwise may have been a bit of a downer, without the kids.

When we had the grocery stores in Tacoma, all the big chains, and the small ones were closed, save for ours on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a "superette", which means a small supermarket, with meat and produce. It was such a delight to hear folks thank us for being open, with stories about relatives they didn't think would come, but did, and they, without proper holiday dinner food, but we provided for them, and contributed to their family enjoyment.

Yup, that is the sort of thing that I am thankful for, along with the fact I really have all I need.

My sincere wish is that you take a moment, and no matter what your station in life right now, find some simple things as I did, and reflect on their richness, and recall the joy that they brought you.

That is it; I said there was not a plot, or a start or end.

Best for the holidays, keep up the good fight, and be blessed with riches, as to your needs.