Category Archives: OPINIONS

The U.S. Supreme Court is jammed with villains

By Ken Johnson

The Supreme Court is supposed to be the Super Friends: wise, fair, and moral.

That’s the impression my American Government class left with me.

The executive branch might be brutal. The legislative branch might be corrupt. But not the judicial branch, not the Supreme Court, they weather the storm and remain unbiased.

That’s not the reality. In the United States, it never is.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court has thrown their charade into focus.

The problem with the discussion about Kavanaugh is that he is being treated as an anomaly — a product of the Trumpian hellscape, but that’s not the case. He isn’t even the only sitting justice to be accused of sexual assault by a college professor.

There is a pattern of unethical behavior on the Supreme Court. Americans are disillusioned. Some Americans, minorities, people in the lower classes, have seen the Supreme Court as a sham, a show trial, since it was established.

The Supreme Court is not the Super Friends, and, while they do work in the Hall of Justice, they are more like the Legion of Doom.

The question that some Americans are asking themselves is whether the Supreme Court can be trusted. The issue comes down to whether Kavanaugh and Justice Clarence Thomas are glitches in the process or products of a flawed system.

That question is too big for this column. Instead, we can investigate the makeup of the Supreme Court. By examining who these people are, and what paths their lives fall into, we can get a sense of the group of people that have so much power in our country.

According to the Supreme Court’s website, every single justice that is currently sitting on the Supreme Court has been to either Harvard or Yale. That’s strange. Some people might take it for granted that everybody on the Supreme Court has been to one of two elite, Ivy League schools, but they shouldn’t.

There are no requirements for serving on the Supreme Court. None. You don’t have to be a natural born American. You don’t even have to have an education.

Anyone can be on the Supreme Court, which is a good thing. There should not be any obstacles, such as where you were born or what kind of school you attended, to serve in our government. It’s supposed to be a government of the people. That idea is one positive thing about America.

For some reason, even though there are no prerequisites for serving, our Supreme Court ended up with all Ivy League lawyers.

American power finds the wealthy like a heat-seeking missile.

The explanation, at least one explanation, for this problem is that Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president, and the president is usually a powerful person with powerful friends, who, unsurprisingly, end up on the Supreme Court.

The wealthy favor the wealthy. And it helps to be a rich politician because campaigns are expensive.

Take the Citizens United ruling, where corporations were given superhuman political power. A Supreme Court made up of reasonable citizens would never have ruled that corporations are people. Only elites, with political ties as deep as oil wells, would have done that.

The Supreme Court rules on class issues, financial issues, such as minimum wage or worker’s rights. They cannot be impartial when ruling on class issues because they are all from the upper-middle and upper classes.


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Libraries: hallmarks of freedom, democracy

Guest column by Trish Navarre

In March when I headed to Beijing for another teaching stint on behalf of Whatcom Community College, my wallet held an international VISA card from WECU, a recent “upgrade” from my conventional card.  Little did I realize that this card would prove almost useless, while my sweet little WCLS library card became priceless- my real international passport.  With my library card I explored Alaska, the Middle East, London and New York.

Unlike in America, Chinese people typically do not simply strike up conversations on the bus or subway. Because Beijing is a vast city, travel time can be extremely long and tiring.  Visiting friends in another part of the city sometimes required two and a half to three hours each way on public transportation! What might seem an interminable ride in silence became an adventure while listening to an audiobook.  While most of my fellow passengers were glued to their phones, I was free to look around, observe my surroundings, smile, notice landmarks and generally still be connected to my environment. I was in heaven!

At the school where I taught, a small cadre of four foreign teachers (two Russian, one Armenian, one American) shared space with four Chinese, all tucked amicably in a large open space with very little privacy. Therefore, we often could hear conversations in many languages, and for several weeks people shouted out results from World Cup games.

However, a surprising amount of intrigue surrounded my enthusiasm and dedication to listening to audiobooks, which I could download onto my phone (assuming it was one of those rare moments of internet connectivity). Several teachers asked if they could also listen to the stories and books I had downloaded from my library.  A few of my closer friends even begged to borrow my library card to get books or information for themselves.  Sadly, this was impossible, and, once again, I regretfully explained that my library card is uniquely my own and not transferable.

Increasing use of facial recognition technology, surveillance cameras, and government control over the lives of 1.5 billion citizens is a reality in China. Asking questions and challenging authority is not a norm for anyone and students are not encouraged to speak their minds. Those “nails who stand higher than the others” are hammered down.

Much has been made of the “Great Firewall of China,” which stops and also controls what information people can access through the Internet. Admittedly, much of what flies around in cyberspace is trashy or maybe downright dangerous. That is why, during Banned Book Week (the week of September 24), we take time to examine who or what makes something objectionable to the point that it is forbidden.  And why, after so many centuries of trying to control what people do or think, have we not learned that it is “the forbidden fruit” that attracts the most attention? Would it not be better to help teach the art of discernment, of critical thinking and independent searches for truth?

Thank you, libraries and librarians and citizens who have fought to ensure that public access and privacy to ideas and information have been preserved for each generation.  Let us not take this hard won freedom for granted.  I, for one, most certainly do not

Trish Navarre, M.Ed., is an instructor of the ESLA Program at Whatcom Community College and a board member of the Whatcom County Library Foundation.           


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Bellingham gets an arcade upgrade

By Ken Johnson

Over the past year, three gaming lounges have sprung up around downtown Bellingham, which is a little weird, because “gaming lounges” didn’t seem to exist five years ago.

College towns are magnets for odd business ideas. Some of these ideas, like Hops N Headz, a taproom with a family-fun vibe, are nice, but others, like Gather Bellingham, a new student-apartment complex, are built to suck money from your fanny pack.

So, are these gaming lounges fun activities? Or another scheme to take your money?

Rook and Rogue:

With all of the drunken Dungeons and Dragons players, the Rook and Rogue would be the most entertaining place to see a barroom brawl.

The Rook and Rogue is a board-game pub, and it lives up to the name: shelves of board games dominate the middle of the room. Most games are free to play, but if you want access to the role-playing games, you have to pay a premium price.

The service is a roller coaster ride. It might be 30 minutes until someone takes your order, but, once they do, they’re really sorry you had to wait so long.

A board-game pub seems like a fun idea, and the Rook and Rogue executes it well. It is all ages, which gives the place a comfortable atmosphere.

The aesthetic was mismatched. The vibe is a mix between Hogwarts and an old west saloon, with its impressive line of whiskey bottles.

It could be a good hangout spot for college students, except for the cost. A burger is around $11 and a drink is about $9.

Pro tip: If you’re going there to play board games, just order appetizers.

rooknrogue

  • 206 W Magnolia St, Bellingham, WA
  • 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., most nights.

Heady VR

If you have never used a virtual reality headset before, and you don’t know anyone who owns one, Heady VR might be a good option.

A virtual-reality headset creates a digital and immersive world- it feels like you’re really there.

The phrase “virtual reality arcade” conjures up images of marvelous machines, like if the International Space Station had video games.

That is not the case with Heady VR. The experience of going to Heady VR is kind of like if a couple of guys you know invited you over to try out their halfway-working VR headsets and charged you $20 for their trouble.

Also, you can’t wear glasses with their headsets.

That being said, it is a locally owned business and, potentially, an interesting idea, if they hone in their equipment.

heady

  • 215 W Holly St suite b-28, Bellingham, WA
  • 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., most days

Ruckus Room Arcade

Out of these three places, the Ruckus Room Arcade seems like the best option for college students. It’s lowkey and cheap.

The Ruckus Room is an arcade/bar, but it is more of an arcade than a bar. It is all ages and never open past midnight, which can be a downside for any night owls. The games are classic arcade games: Skee-Ball, pinball, and Mortal Kombat.

The alcohol is modest, think PBR, and all of the drinking is confined to a couple of tables in the middle of the room.

It may not be a great place to drink, but the Ruckus Room is entertaining and easy on the wallet. What more can you ask for?

  • 1423 Railroad Ave, Bellingham, WA
  • 2 p.m. to 12 p.m., most days.

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Throwaway to gourmet; dealing with America’s food waste

By: Kai Vieira da Rosa

Americans love food. Food culture has become integrated into the American psyche. Aside from eating food, we write about it, we travel for it, and we accessorize our love for it on our clothes and hats. Now it seems eating has changed from a primal instinct to a mere recreational event that Americans often take for granted.

The ability to have a variety of food at one’s fingertips is a luxury, but it comes with a cost. Food is wasted at an amazing rate in the United States, dwarfing all other countries. Continue reading Throwaway to gourmet; dealing with America’s food waste


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Is it really about the music anymore?

By: Shelby Ford

Women are empowered and speaking out against the dark side of the entertainment industry, confronting some of the most powerful men in Hollywood with allegations of harassment and sexual assault. The movement Time’s Up was created in support of this action by over 300 women in the industry.

We’re seeing more and more celebrities use popular award shows as a platform to address issues such as sexual harassment and inequality of race and gender. By using award shows like the Grammys, Golden Globes and Oscars, celebrities can influence viewers. Continue reading Is it really about the music anymore?


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