Letters for the week of November 15, 2017

Freed from jail

A hardy thank you to everyone who stood tall in opposition to the now-defunct jail tax–Proposition 2017- 6.  You did not “stand down,” it was not a “done deal,” the “ship had not sailed,” the “train is still in the station” and it was not “a waste of our time.” The voters said no, with an even greater margin—again!
I like to give credit where credit is due, so this is also an acknowledgement of Mayor Jon Mutchler, who voted to run the jail tax on the 2017 ballot. Without Mutchler’s disparaging comments about seven council members who did not follow the leader, I would not have known to acknowledge their bold actions.
Last week, we journeyed to three local government councils to acknowledge the seven council members. In Ferndale, we acknowledged Cathy Watson and Teresa Taylor. In Bellingham, April Barker and Dan Hammill. In Whatcom County, Ken Mann, Barry Buchanan, and Todd Donovan.
The Lummi Nation is also doing great work in keeping their citizens out of the jail with new programs and policies.
Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis indicated he did not know who Vera Institute of Justice is and had not read their report to Whatcom County about how we can reduce our jail population by at least 30 percent.
If other council members had bothered to read this report they may have voted differently. The Vera report totally validated the work of Restorative CommUnity Coalition.
In 2015, our president, Joy Gilfilen, ran for Whatcom County Executive and was the only candidate who openly opposed the jail tax—educating the public, creating enough doubt for voters to turn it down. Our County Council formed the Incarceration Prevention & Reduction Task Force and soon after hired the Vera Institute, renowned researcher, to investigate our “justice system,” which produced a scathing condemnation of our policies and procedures.
Unlike Mayor Korthuis, go educate yourself. Don’t play blind man’s bluff and be led down a dark hole of disaster for our county. If their jail plan were implemented, over time it would bankrupt this county.
If you want to know how we can reduce the jail population, which I believe has been kept artificially overcrowded, see Bellingham’s report on their new practices and savings to their city.

—Irene Morgan, Restorative CommUnity Coalition

Gambling for the thrill of the kill

A month later, the authorities, despite great efforts, have been unable to unearth a motive for the horrendous slaughter in Las Vegas. Investigators may still discover an explanation that provides some acceptable narrative for that onslaught.
It might be comforting to discover the killer was an ISIS agent or an atheist out to slay Christian country music fans or a gambler avenging his losses. We would then know whom to hate.
The shooter seems not to have been on a suicide mission. He only shot himself to avoid apprehension. It seems he hoped to escape and continue his assault at yet another site.
So, why did he undertake to kill so many people he did not know?
The reason for that deadly rampage may be far more frightening. The answer may lie right before our eyes.
Consider: An individual, having gone to extraordinary lengths and untold expense to acquire an arsenal of deadly assault weapons, may have long fantasized about using them to carry out an historic event, either heroic or heinous.
What if Stephen Paddock had simply wanted to experience the thrill of the kill? On a hitherto unheard of scale?
We know one other fact about the shooter: He was an avid gambler. Maybe he was setting up the ultimate high-stakes bet. Could he massacre vast numbers in his extended sniper attack and get away with it?
That is not an unprecedented phenomenon. In 1924, in the “Crime of the Century,” a case that riveted the attention of the whole country, Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb, two wealthy college students in Chicago, killed 14-year-old Bobby Frank just for the thrill of it. Their admitted objective was to prove their intellectual superiority by having committed the perfect crime.
Since that time there have been periodic killings done by individuals who afterward explained they had wanted to experience what it “felt like to kill.” Several recent murders of homeless individuals have been so “explained.”
Such bloodlust, deliberately targeting random, innocent victims is especially difficult to contemplate.
There is no way to protect oneself from such attacks.
When mass killings are associated with some political agenda, we immediately label them “terrorist attacks.” Without such association, they still evoke unmitigated terror among us.
Perhaps we should describe events like the Las Vegas mayhem as “terrorism for the thrill of it attacks.”

—Tom Goetzl, Bellingham

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