June 4, 2014

Seattle PD Public Affairs Unit Implodes Over Hempfest Doritos

Hempfest-doritos-unloaded

From Seattlish

So, we finally got our grubby mitts on the Seattle Police Department’s summary of the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint filed against local hero, Public Information Officer (PIO) Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, after our city’s award-winning Dorito Hempfest outreach incident*, and man, that shit is a mess. The gist, on the surface, is that one officer, later revealed to be recently-transferred PIO Jeff Kappel through a pretty jarring missed redaction, felt Whitcomb, whose name is redacted in the report although he was already named in the press repeatedly as the officer in question, created a “hostile work environment” after Hempfest. Whitcomb, he says, expressed “controversial views” that “he deemed were attacks on Christians and Homosexuals.”

The investigation found that his “hostile work environment” meant that Whitcomb took “quite notable corrective action” against Kappel, such as “suggesting transfer [and] changing work hours.” Kappel alleges that this “was a systematic plan to remove him from the unit.”

However, the investigation found that while testimony “paint[s] a picture of spirited political conversation as a matter of course,” that “no parties have witnessed negative name calling” and “this conversation does not appear to be unwelcome conduct.”

The “controversial views” themselves were not specified, but another member of Kappel’s shitlist was: A colleague, not a sworn officer, with a name that takes a very long line to redact, also with heavy involvement in the Doritos Incident: Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, also identified by his past association with The Stranger.

Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, a cop-loving Seattle hipster with a shitty grasp of journalism ethics

Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, a cop-loving Seattle hipster with a shitty grasp of journalism ethics

In case you missed the Incident itself, here’s a quick summary: The first Hempfest after the passage of I-502, which legalized marijuana, a crew of Public Affairs Department volunteers handed out bags of Doritos at Hempfest detailing what is and isn’t legal under the new laws. They looked like this:

image

Other than the Doritos resulting in SPD’s first positive blitz of press coverage in several years… That’s it. But some people in Public Affairs did not like it (edit: despite participation being 100% optional), based on their political ideology.** And, despite a heavily-redacted report, it’s pretty easy to figure out who.

Renee Witt*** says in her interview that she disagreed with the Dorito bags, but says that fellow officers treated her respectfully. This is not the case with Kappel, who appears to have filed the complaint against Whitcomb and Spangenthal-Lee. We have the 22-page summary, and not the 450-page report (YET), but you’d think that such serious allegations would at least be mentioned in something besides name-only.

Kappel filing his complaint against Whitcomb and Spangenthal-Lee, which also alleged Kappel was being “forced out” of his unit, turned Public Affairs upside-down. Whitcomb, the managing officer of the unit, was temporarily pulled from the job — and everything went fucking bananas. He wasn’t around for the Kurt Cobain 20th deathiversary, which went fucking abysmally, with the detective originally on the case saying that shit was re-opened and Public Affairs having to scramble to shut down the media frenzy. The press conferences on disciplinary action that Harry Bailey held after being appointed interim police chief may as well have been held in a clown car. During the three weeks when Spangenthal-Lee was out, the blotter was boring and horrifyingly pun-free.

Ordinarily, there’s no shame in fucking over your workplace if you’re genuinely in a hostile work environment — because fuck ‘em. But despite specific examples as to Kappel’s misconduct (“extensive coffee breaks” and “baiting” arguments, for example) this EEO report gives us no insight into the nature of any alleged anti-Christian or homophobic sentiment; from what we can tell, the dude didn’t want to participate in spreading the word about marijuana law. At the crux of his allegations are various disciplinary actions against Kappel by Whitcomb, which he says were retaliation for his opposition to I-502 and the Dorito giveaway. However, while some testimonies in the investigation acknowledge that Kappel may have been treated unfairly, nobody has anything objectively positive to say about the man that would refute any claim that disciplinary actions — not even serious action, but talking-tos and shift changes — weren’t warranted.

However, negative complaints abound: He is “the weakest performer in the Media Unit,” alleges one employee from outside the Media Unit. Another officer, this one from inside the Media Unit, says that Kappel is “not a productive member of the unit,” owing it to the unit’s “more social media-oriented approach, which [he] was not able to adapt to.” Yet another member of the Media Unit described Kappel as “a weak employee” that is “stuck in the past, refusing to adapt to the new operations of the Media Unit … [He] has openly and insubordinately attempted to sabotage various messages being put forward by the Media Unit.”

The investigation is quick to point out that there’s no record from Whitcomb of Kappel’s misconduct, but only one interview summary from the document makes no mention of Kappel’s work performance — and the rest describe notable performance issues.

The most concrete evidence against Spangenthal-Lee and Whitcomb, who full disclosure, both have pretty congenial relationships with the Ish, actually rests on Spangenthal-Lee’s shoulders — but not as an SPD employee. The complaint summary digs up a bunch of dirt from when SPD first pulled Spangenthal-Lee, an alum of The Stranger and Publicola, into the fold — an experienced crime journalist, he seemed, to some, to be just what the department needed. But some officers weren’t comfortable with Spangenthal-Lee’s appointment… and backed up a pattern of workplace “humiliation” with Spangenthal-Lee’s past record at SPD. (The full report includes an article from Seattle Met and various articles from The Stranger, unspecified.)

“[Redacted] states that he remembers [Kappel] as being the only unit member to oppose [Spangenthal-Lee’s] hiring, but that it was because [Spangenthal-Lee] had worked at a publication hostile to SPD (The Stranger),” says one interview summary. “He does, however, acknowledge that [Kappel] had mentioned some mean-spirited articles that caused … concern, but does not remember if it was because they are anti-Christian.”

Another unspecified officer says that while he “did not witness” Whitcomb or Spangenthal-Lee commit any of the acts alleged, he described Kappel as “stuck in the past, refusing to adapt to the new operations of the Media Unit.” He continues that Jeff “was opposed to the Doritos event, but that [he] was opposed to almost anything that wasn’t traditional, so that there was no special note made of his objection.”

That officer says that the only opposition to Spangenthal-Lee’s hiring was his experience at The Stranger… and while we’re not sure which of Spangenthal-Lee’s articles were called into question, we do know that many of his writings that could be perceived as anti-Christian were calling out blatant homophobia — but not Christianity itself.

The investigation even called from the woodwork leftover sentiment against Spangenthal-Lee from his 2012 hiring process; these allegations are so serious that we’re actually wondering why they were included in the first place. The full investigation has more details, but two officers, Detective Monty Moss and Lieutenant Eric Barden (both of whom we’ve reached out to for comment), say that Spangenthal-Lee was previously investigated for hacking into SPD phone systems. Sources close to the case have told us that this is completely false, despite Moss and Barden’s statements to the contrary. Reports from the time of the incident say that Spangenthal-Lee was asked about news leaks within the department upon his hiring, but like a good journalist, he wouldn’t reveal his sources.

Whitcomb’s interview summary mentions that he denies allegations against Spangenthal-Lee, stating that those that opposed the hire were being paranoid. SPD sources have also told us that the allegation is totally bogus.  Besides, Spangenthal-Lee was already hired over two years ago. Why is this just coming up now? Whitcomb didn’t — and in fact, couldn’t — make a unilateral hiring decision.

We’re told that a sister document to the EEO complaint, an Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) filing, contains even more sentiment against the current direction of SPD’s Media Unit — and yet another OPA alleges exactly the opposite, that Spangenthal-Lee and Whitcomb were, in fact, the ones who were harassed within the department. (We’ve requested both documents, and should hear back next week.)

The EEO report calls the timing of Kappel’s disciplinary action in relation to Hempfest into question, positing that suggesting a shift change, or a shift in department, was, in fact, retaliation. But let’s look at the timing a different way. After a year and a half of growing positive press for a transparent and approachable public outreach strategy, the investigation — spurred from a member of the Media Unit that is, by all accounts, resistant to change — comes at a suspicious time for Old Guard pushback.

Without speculating, though: What happened to Whitcomb and Spangenthal-Lee? They stay to pun and blotter another day. While investigators found some complaints to be valid and others not, ultimately the decision was up to then-interim chief Harry Bailey — who found the report “inconclusive.”

We’ll probably never be at Hempfest to get a bag of chips from these dudes directly, because fuck Hempfest, but man, we’re so glad that two SPD employees working hard for a non-cagey, non-hostile relationship with the public get to keep up the good work. Because, you know, to protect and serve and all that.

And of course, this isn’t entirely about media and public outreach strategy — it’s a clusterfuck indicative of a conflict that stretches across the whole department. For example, that #NotAllCops statement to counter a lawsuit from multiple enforcement officers defending their right to the use of force. This all comes just in time for our new police chief, Kathleen O’Toole, who’s apparently known for fixing messy police departments and speaks frequently about “rogue cops.” We’re waiting with bated breath for how this’ll turn out.

SPD EEO Investigation 13-0505: Summary

* Names for the incident in the report include “Hempfest, the Doritos event,” “The Hempfest/Doritos incident,” “Hempfest (the Doritos incident),” “volunteer event at a pro-marijuana rally/festival,” and “a controversial distribution of snack foods at a pro-marijuana festival.”

** Are all cops really allowed to be selective with which laws they support? This seems like a bigger issue.

*** Since Public Affairs is a small department, some interviewees and subjects were easily-identified. There’s Witt, the only female PIO in the department. Spangenthal-Lee is repeatedly mentioned in the context of his being not an officer, and through his previous involvement with The Stranger. There’s Whitcomb himself — the complaint against him actually made local headlines when news first broke. A few parties’ identities remain unclear, but redaction doesn’t do much for the major players.

May 26, 2014

The Marine who was a Jedi

 

By Jim Fromm

Memorial Day 2014

Trigger warning. This piece includes content about suicide and rape.

Ever since we were kids, my friend Kythe declared they would be a Jedi Knight. Their most distinctive feature was their eyes: big, brown, and mischievous. Kythe was the funniest kid I knew.

We ate lunch together in high school, at the freaks’ table. We were small town outcasts, sharing what we had from brown bags and Free Lunches. Castle Rock High School is located between a trailer park and a junkyard, across the street from a cow field. You get the idea. Not an easy place to grow up as an atheist.

We ran together, daily, thousands of miles through forest trails. We fought many an epic LAN games of Spaceward Ho! and Total Annihilation in Computer Club. We enrolled in community college at the same time. We tore open books like escape hatches. I really mean that. To escape into fantasies, to nurture hopes of better lives. Everyone who grows up in Castle Rock dreams of leaving, but Kythe dreamed of more, to respond to the suffering and ugliness in the world by fighting for good. By graduation, they remained a self-proclaimed Jedi. After high school we parted ways.

 

I have three treasures.

I keep and treasure them.

The first, mercy,

the second, moderation,

the third, modesty.

If you’re merciful you can be brave,

if you’re moderate you can be generous,

and if you don’t presume to lead

you can lead the high and mighty.

 

But to be brave without compassion,

or generous without self-restraint,

or to take the lead,

is fatal.

 

Compassion wins the battle

and holds the fort.

 

The United States Department of Defense is the largest employer on Earth. Soldiers experience intense forms of exploitation and unique hazards of employment: rape culture, toxic waste exposure, combat, PTSD. This helps explain the often-cited statistic that U.S. soldiers are committing suicide at an average rate of one per day.

Kythe’s day was June 17th, 2011. It was the day before their 22nd birthday.

I learned this at the end of that summer. It was that year’s first day of autumn rain. Northwest standard-issue drizzle-gray. I was in Olympia, meeting our friend Jesse for a ride to Castle Rock. Buckling in, Jesse asked if I’d heard about Kythe. They handed me a white memorial card, emblazoned with the star-and-wings symbol of the Jedi Order. Inside was a photo of Kythe in U.S. Marine dress blues. Later I found out Kythe had married, and had had a child.

Kythe loved their dream of heroism. To every one of us they gave their friendship, their wit; we shared what little we had. They were my friend, faithful and just. When people cried out at injustice, Kythe listened. When comes such another?

I remember Kythe every day.

 

In the degradation of the great way

comes benevolence and righteousness.

With the exaltation of learning and prudence

comes immense hypocrisy.

The disordered family

is full of dutiful children and parents.

The disordered society

is full of loyal patriots.

 

Weapons are unhappy tools,

not chosen by thoughtful people,

to be used only when there is no choice,

and with a calm, still mind,

without enjoyment.

To enjoy using weapons

is to enjoy killing people,

and to enjoy killing people

is to lose your share in the common good.

 

Our generation learned, brutally, that governments don’t contract soldiers to fight injustice. The historian James Jones described U.S. military training as the “path of the soldier evolving toward acceptance of their death…the discipline, the daily humiliations, the privileges of ‘brutish’ sergeants, the living en masse like schools of fish, are all directed toward breaking down the sense of the sanctity of the physical person, and toward hardening the awareness that a soldier is the chattel (hopefully a proud chattel, but a chattel all the same)” of the state.

Recruiters don’t talk about that. Nor do recruiters talk about the inevitability of civilian deaths when heavy weapons are used in urban areas. Nor do recruiters talk about the U.S. military’s role at the heart of rape culture.

One public health journal estimated the sexual trauma rate at 22% for female veterans and 1.2% for male veterans. When U.S. military contract DynCorp threw a party to bribe Afghani officials, DynCorp bought bacha bazi, boy prostitutes, for entertainment; the story didn’t come out until it was leaked by Private Chelsea Manning. Manning was sentenced to 35 years of prison. DynCorp faces no penalty. In May 2013, Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, head of the Air Force’s rape prevention program, was outed as a rapist. Krusinski faced a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for attempted rape—but was acquitted.

Anthony Swofford wrote in their memoir of the Gulf War:

We’re carrying on our backs the overseas sins of generations of fighting American GIs—gang rapes in Vietnamese jungles, the same in Seoul and Pusan, pregnant Englishwoman abandoned after World War II, Japanese women raped and impregnated and abandoned during the occupation, thousands of French whores filled with syphilitic cocks while the Great War raged on.

You can add torture and rape of POWs in the dungeons of Abu Ghraib. Yes, in Iraq, American women proved just as capable of “serving their country,” as Secretary Hillary Clinton proved women just as capable to manage U.S. policy. Female veterans are now the fastest growing demographic among the homeless, proving U.S. policy is just as capable of using and tossing aside female soldiers.

The U.S. is “Number 1” in military and economic power, yet far behind most countries in any other indicator—health, life expectancy, literacy, poverty, environment, safety, and so on. But those are indicators of a society’s care for people, and care is a female duty. Breadwinning and defending the home (or homeland) are male duties, and so America values guns and bombs, income and GDP. Half your federal tax dollars go to military spending. Decades ago, the Italian women’s group Rivolta Femminile argued that if the unpaid domestic worker, or the sweatshop seamstress, is the epitome of feminine roles, the soldier is the epitome of masculine roles—and both suffer for it; youthful rebellion and refusal are attempts to escape these respective nightmares.

Kythe’s dream became one of those nightmares.

Militarism is more than a set of institutions. It is a culture of obedience, discipline, submission, and negation of individuality, with deep roots in American life. Militarism is hierarchies of order-givers and order-takers; the ability to perceive people as abstractions, body counts, resources. Of course militarism and rape culture are deeply linked.

Most American soldiers enlist, not for patriotism or patriarchy or bloodlust, but with honest intentions, because we grew up without opportunity, because we actually believed in the humanitarian mission of the wars. We believed that all this, the state and the blood spilled and the resources wasted while our neighbors starve, were necessary to protect the people we love.

 

Where the army marched

grew thorns and thistles.

After the war

come the bad harvests.

Good leaders prosper, that’s all,

not presuming on victory.

They prosper without boasting,

or domineering, or arrogance,

prosper because they can’t help it,

prosper without violence.

 

People are starving.

The rich gobble taxes,

that’s why people are starving.

 

People rebel.

The rich oppress them,

that’s why they rebel.

 

People hold life cheap.

The rich make it too costly,

that’s why people hold it cheap.

 

But those who don’t live for the sake of living

Are worth more than the wealth-seekers.

 

Kythe wrote this self-description on Facebook:

Grew up in Washington, joined the Marine corps, waiting to get out and move on to things that might actually better my life.

A thousand small things led to this. Like all the times we didn’t question our rulers, didn’t question the lobotomized corporate media, didn’t question the institutions and culture we live with. Many will pay for wars in tax dollars, and the poor will pay in blood.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Law never made people a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.”

Remember Chelsea Manning. Remember the soldiers around the world drafted by force or economic coercion; especially those in jail right now for resisting.

Remember Kythe. It doesn’t really matter whether Kythe pulled the trigger or someone else. Truth is, it was the officers, and generals, and politicians, and weapons makers, who let Kythe die, and even profited.

Kythe had a dream to do good. The betrayal of their dream was deadlier than any weapon. That betrayal murdered their spirit; then burst their mighty heart.

A Jedi fell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 24, 2014

Locals Oppose Canadian Copper Drilling in Washington Spotted Owl Country

a wee little spotted owl

From the Methow Valley News:

By Ann McCreary

In his five years as Methow Valley District Ranger, Mike Liu said he has not seen an issue that has generated as much interest as the proposed exploratory drilling for copper on U.S. Forest Service land near Flagg Mountain in Mazama. Continue reading

May 17, 2014

HOW TO LOSE A DEBATE ABOUT CAPITALISM Forum at Black Coffee

nouvelliste

 

An economist, a philosopher, and an ontologist walk into an anarchist café…find out what happens next!

Drawing upon interviews with economists and moral philosophers, an experienced loser in the debate about capitalism explains why we all lose and what we can do about it. “Stand-up economist” Yoram Bauman and poet-philosopher David Shapiro join a live debate using the new framework.

How to Lose a Debate About Capitalism

Black Coffee Co-op

Thursday, May 22

7:30 pm

501 East Pine Street, Seattle

Part of The Commoners’ Club Roving Lecture Series.

Here’s a PDF of the event flyer.

 

May 14, 2014

“Stop Raw Long Exports!” Cascadia Forest Defenders Banner-Drop

photo

From Cascadia Forest Defenders

In the early hours of the morning on May 14, 2014, members of Cascadia Forest Defenders climbed a billboard on I5, to drop a banner protesting raw log export in Oregon. The billboard, formerly carrying a message promoting the Best Western hotel chain, now reads: “Big Timber Sends Jobs Overseas. Stop Raw Log Export.” Continue reading

May 3, 2014

Seattle Solidarity Against Superbugs

microbe skull and crossbones

By Jim Fromm

SEATTLE, OCCUPIED DUWAMISH TERRITORY – May 3, 2014

In the week prior and on May Day, activists passed out hundreds of fliers on antibiotics resistance at Seattle McDonald’s restaurants, calling on McDonald’s workers and customers to strike and boycott. Shortly after the Seattle immigrants’ rights march, half a dozen people were kicked out of the McDonald’s on Third and Pine for leafleting. The flier’s text is below. Continue reading

May 1, 2014

A short history of May Day

mayday

This article was pieced together from an article on anarkismo.net, edited and added to by libcom:

Originally a pagan holiday, the roots of May Day are in the fight for the eight-hour working day in Chicago in 1886, and the subsequent execution of innocent anarchist workers. Continue reading

April 30, 2014

Why Riot?

WhyRiot6.jpg

By Phillip Neel – Originally posted at ULTRA:

Two years ago in Seattle, on May 1st, 2012, roughly four to five hundred people engaged in the largest riot the city had seen in more than a decade. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of property were destroyed[i], a minor state of emergency was declared, and the next day’s headlines were filled with horror stories of crazy, “out-of-town” anarchists run amok. Continue reading

April 27, 2014

The Strong Are Only Strong Because We Live on Our Knees

0426142224-00

From Destroy Uber

On Saturday night, a mob of people ran through the streets of Seattle, chasing down Uber cabs and detaining them amidst traffic.  Ten cars were detained and fliers were distributed to the drivers and passengers.  Hundreds of people witnessed this act of defiance against one of the most disgusting tech companies in existence.  To learn more about our motivations, read below the pictures Continue reading

April 24, 2014

Counterforce Blocks Microsoft Shuttle in Central District

CD-gentrification

From PugetSoundAnarchists.org

This morning around 8AM, near the intersection of Madison and 23rd Ave, a small Counterforce assembled to block another Microsoft shuttle bus in another heavily gentrified Seattle neighborhood. For roughly 30 minutes, people holding banners reading “GENTRIFICATION STOPS HERE” blocked the front and back ends of the bus. Others attempted to distribute flyers to the Microsoft employees boarding the bus, but they were grumpy and only two took them. During the delay in what is probably a boring and uneventful commute every other day, they sat in quiet misery, playing with their smart phones, not even really talking to each other. Continue reading

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