Seattle’s OPA Validates the Argument That SPD Should Be Disbanded Outright

The problem with police accountability is a bit like the problem with algorithmic decision making. Like, a risk-assessment algorithm used by a court might over-estimate the risk posed by a Black person because of the racial bias in the input data. Similarly, when an officer’s conduct is evaluated against the conduct of a hypothetical “reasonable officer,” and expectations for the reasonable officer are informed by history, the outcome is likely to be a judgment that validates the regurgitation of some historical bullshit.

In that way, police accountability is like the hokie-pokie:

You put the Bullshit in,

You take the Bullshit out,

You shake it all around but you get the same result,

That’s what it’s all about!

Like, have you heard the one about the pig in Georgia? The pig shoots at a nonthreatening dog, misses the dog and shoots a child but is cleared on the grounds that the court could not “conclude that no reasonable officer would have fired his gun at the dog under the circumstances.”

Once you understand police accountability as the hokie-pokie, it all makes perfect sense. It doesn’t matter how you shake it, you get the same result. People on twitter don’t seem to get that. And they’ve wasted their morning fussing about Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) validating the use of pepper spray against a small child. Because the child was not SPD’s intended target.

As noted by the hackney media firm that published the OPA report, OPA ringleader Andrew Myerburg justified OPA’s determination by saying, OPA is “required to make decisions based on applicable policy and training … not just reach a finding that may be the most politically expedient or that which we think will be most acceptable to demonstrators, officers, or some other group.” ♪That’s what it’s all about!♪

A few days ago, I released a very, very, very concise article on police accountability that argued we should focus accountability efforts on the performance of law enforcement as an institution, as opposed to focusing on the actions of individual officers. What we’ve learned by focusing on individual officers, as OPA demonstrated this morning, is that officers are unaccountable because the law enforcement institution itself is so deeply flawed. Anyway, it’s time to start talking about disbanding SPD completely. To allow for public safety solutions that *DON’T* carry an institutional memory of impunity for the procedural use of unconstitutional violence.

That’s all for now.

Join me later as I share the feelings that result from rubbing my penis all over a picture of mayor durkan’s face.


Police Accountability In Seattle Is Totally F*cked

I recently set out to write a long-form article on police accountability in the City of Seattle. I meant to break from my usual way of protest writing – more feelings journaly than newsroomish – to finally write a real piece of no nonsense journalism. I quoted the policy manuals of different police oversight organizations with an objective tone, offered historical anecdotes and observed professional journalistic standards as well as I know how. But after reading my own deadpan objectivity, I thought, why would anyone read this shit? My fact-based, objective reporting left a lot to be desired. It would’ve been cooler to just call bullshit bullshit. So that’s what I’m doing now. Because that’s what police accountability is in Seattle, a smokescreen of worthless bullshit.

As a writer, I feel like a Saturday slut falling for the idea that I’d do better to bite my tongue. That’s stupid. I know that when I read about police accountability I appreciate it when the writer shares personal judgments about cryptic subject matter. Like, say, the integrity of the “governmental interests” at stake in police use of force scenarios, as they’d be represented in a court of law by the conceptual framework outlined in Graham(1989).

“Graham(1989)” is a reference to the US Supreme Court case Graham V. Connor, which established in 1989 that police use of force should be analyzed with respect to a 4th Amendment reasonableness standard. But don’t worry about that right now, I’ll fill you in later if you’re unfamiliar. Before we get into that, I’ll offer a rant about journalistic objectivity which will bleed into an introduction of police accountability as a general topic. Then I’ll talk about police accountability in Seattle specifically and then close on the 4th Amendment jurisprudence on police use of force.

Journalistic objectivity, which seems to mean different things to different people, can add a veneer of legitimacy to our increasingly lawless legal culture when it’s done incorrectly. This benefits people like lil chad wolf, the trumpian tool running the fascist department of homeland security (DHS). wolf, who doesn’t appear to have ever heard of Nuremburg, is so invested in objective reporting that he recently took time away from overseeing politicized state violence to chide a celebrated journalist for her ostensible lack of it in a series of text messages he sent to her mobile phone.

By demanding objectivity, I expect wittle chad wolf wants the conduct of DHS to be evaluated with respect to what’s permissible by law, where law is loosely defined as whatever DHS agents are doing. But therein lies a serious dilemma for journalistic objectivity. wolf’s expectation is not without precedent. Nonetheless, we’re a nation founded under law. The idea behind this founding principle is that the equal application of law can unite the diverse group of people that comprise our population. The legitimacy of our law, indeed the integrity and viability of our state, therefore, uniquely depends on the Rule of Law, which is simply the idea that everyone is similarly subject to the legal code.

Meanwhile, top DHS officials stand accused of politicizing intelligence reports to appease trump, apparently emboldened by a legal culture that predates the current administration, which has already resulted in real political violence against US citizens. Sadly, the legal culture in the US has lost sight of the relationship between the Rule of Law and the legitimacy of authority and, in doing so, has imperiled the nation in a deep identity crisis that’s arguably contributed to the recent violence in Kenosha and Portland.

This judicial complacency confuses expectations of what it means for a journalist to remain objective. Insofar as wolf seems to believe, objectivity means entertaining the fantastic but popular delusion that law enforcement standards and best practices are sufficiently informed by the Rule of Law. As if to say, law enforcement organizations in their current form, with the institutional memory they hold, are legitimate in the first place. But that’s an absurd proposition by any objective interpretation of the term objective. I mean, how do you objectively entertain the legitimacy of unaccountable authority in a system where the premise of authority is the Rule of Law?

Truth is, the law’s not equally enforced. In fact, enforcement outcomes vary predictably along lines of race and class. Meanwhile, the police themselves are not similarly subject to the legal code, thanks to qualified immunity and higher evidentiary standards enshrined in police union labor contracts. Not to mention the horrors permitted by federal case law, like the summary execution of Tamir Rice, for example, or the complete lack of accountability structures for prosecutorial misconduct. These should be recognized as credible challenges to the legitimacy of law enforcement’s authority to pursue “governmental interests” where such interests conflict with our constitutional rights.

You see, we have good reason to believe that it is, in fact, not legal for cops to murder us on justifications based on imagined “facts” or tense circumstances imposed by their own carelessness or ineptitude. I know the Supreme Court’s weighed in here but the current jurisprudence is simply wrong if words have objective meanings, don’t be thick. Yet, journalistic objectivity, as a demand from authorities like wittle-wolfie and as a standard in corporate media, means overlooking a glaring legitimacy crisis to frame the Rule of Law as something that depends exclusively on the unrelenting, industrial-scale prosecution of low and mid level “crime,” at a huge cost to rights and life. That’s bullshit because it rhetorically frames, and moralizes, law as an object of discriminatory power totally inconsistent with our nation’s founding principles, given the real and persistent disparities in law enforcement, criminal prosecution and sentencing. Objectivity, I contend, is not the validation of authority’s subjective delusion. Ya, hur.

Objective reporting on police accountability, so far as I can tell, should begin at the question of whether or not standing law enforcement organizations, and industrial criminal punishment more broadly, are legitimate in the first place. Not only because there’s a growing consensus that they’re not, but also because law enforcement culture is marked by ideological subscriptions that preclude any reasonable expectation that these institutions can be successfully reformed; even among those who don’t support full scale abolition, the need for police reform is widely recognized due to the failure of past reform efforts.

Furthermore, acknowledging the possibility of illegitimacy changes what it means for police to be accountable by expanding the focus of accountability from the actions of individual officers to the structure of entire law enforcement institutions. Accountability in a system where law is lawless, which tends to focus on individual officers, means something entirely different than accountability framed contextually by the Rule of Law, which tends to consider the performance of law enforcement as an institution.

Of course, as an ideal, the Rule of Law has never been achieved in practice and we’ll always struggle to smooth out rough edges. That’s not to say, however, that police accountability structures informed by the Rule of Law are in any way enigmatic, they simply require a disciplined judiciary and effective representation in the courts. Not to downplay our historical failings but, ya know, by now we have a pretty good idea of where we’re fucking up, and we’re well informed about how to fix the worst of it. Nevertheless, with friction between our reality and ideal guaranteed by design, charges of illegitimacy against government institutions are hardly new.

Consider, for example, this excerpt from a review of Thoreau’s writing recently published by the New York Review:

Begin Quote

It is not government in general that fails to command legitimacy but unjust government, and a government that legally sanctions slavery is rotten at its core:

“If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction.”(Thoreau, Disobedience)

Slavery, by contrast, is a machine designed wholly for the production of “friction.” This makes any strategic, limited refusal to participate impossible. Most citizens, he argued, were simply bodies in the service of this machine whose main function seemed to be the expansion of slavery. “There are thousands,” he writes, “who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war [in Mexico], who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them.” In fact, most people do much worse than nothing: they actively “postpone the question of freedom to the question of free trade… They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition,” but they are too invested in the notion of reform through a legal structure that is broken and, more to the point, too deeply invested in a slave economy, to do anything about it.

End Quote

Those social dynamics feel familiar?

With focus on institutional efficacy, contextually framed by the Rule of Law, reporting on police accountability wants to become a process of accounting for the relationship and interplay between law enforcement and other institutions in society, both public and private. This type of accounting reveals a police accountability approach focused on the actions of individual officers to be completely inadequate, for all the ways police do considerable harm while operating within the “law” and despite the best of intentions.

For instance, while non-punitive slavery was banned by the 13th Amendment, it also secured slavery within the law “as a punishment for crime.” An individual use of excessive force, or a harmful social media post, pales in comparison to the systematic damage done by an institutional structure that postures police between the lobbying interests of profit motivated incarceration, it’s clients in private industry, and the communities police are meant to “serve.”

Police are also used to capture revenue for cash strapped governments. This was the case in Ferguson, Missouri, where tickets and fines were aimed disproportionately, nearly exclusively, at the Black community. Discriminatory law enforcement also works to shape the electorate, as felony convictions can compromise an individual’s right to vote in many states.

There’s a compelling body of evidence that policing institutions have been deliberately structured to shape the electorate for the protection white supremacy and elite economic interest. Not only do we have hard evidence of a treacherous institutional design but also decades of results perfectly in line with that intentionality, and an institutional memory in policing organizations that makes it unreasonable to expect different results in the future, absent the total abolition of the institution.

The current state of police accountability in Seattle reflects this history of judicial complacency and institutional treachery quite nicely. Despite the fact that the Seattle police department (spd) has been under federal consent decree since 2012, the department still exhibits unconstitutional behavior in a procedural capacity, though with an increasingly overt expectation of impunity alongside increasingly political use of discretionary enforcement power.

For instance, after spd indiscriminately attacked police brutality protesters September 7th, unprovoked, the president of the Seattle police officers guild (spog), mike solan, took to social media to taunt an independent reporter after the reporter’s press passed was found by, or delivered to, solan after it was lost in the preceding mayhem. After complaints about the twitter post were lodged with Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability, solan denied any wrongdoing and the tweet, as of September 12th, remains online.

solan became spog president after campaigning on a platform of violence and impunity aimed at overcoming the “anti-police activist agenda that’s driving Seattle’s politics.” As spog president, solan achieved a labor contract for his constituents in spd that “waters down accountability measures for officers that were passed through legislation in summer 2017.”

Most recently, solan used his position as spog president to paint protesters as “terrorists” while lobbying for militarized federal intervention against police brutality protests, such as we’ve seen in Portland. If solan’s use of terminology is framed by recent US history, it’s not a stretch to imagine that he’s actively lobbying for protesters to be classified such that they can be “legally” subjected to torture, indefinite detention, and extrajudicial assassination. Such bombastically radical sentiments are not uncommon among leaders in law enforcement, regardless of jurisdiction.

solan’s recent shit-talking follows months of indiscriminate, excessive force used against protesters by spd, without any indication that standing police oversight and accountability organizations are capable of, or even interested in, providing proportional redress for the harms they’ve caused. This is troubling because it’s validating the lawlessness of police at a moment of national reckoning. Seattle is hardly unique in this regard. Without a swift and appropriate response from local and national leaders, policing is at risk of entering a space where the mission of law enforcement becomes explicitly antithetical to the Rule of Law, with respect to constitutional constraints on police behavior.


Having now covered police accountability as it pertains to institutional performance, let’s dig into specifics of Seattle’s system of police accountability.

An introduction to police accountability at the administrative level

How is spd held accountable? Well, it depends. On one hand, they’re not. Not enough, anyway. On the other hand, we’ve got a triad of accountability institutions right here in the City of Seattle, with the soon-to-be-defined CPC, OPA and OIG, not to mention city and county prosecutors. Then there’s state law, such as I-940 and it’s progressive “objective good-faith test,” and the US constitution and federal prosecutors beneath that.

But how do you make sense of all that? Like, what becomes relevant when? Obviously, it depends but, after reading for this article, I think I’ve got a defensible overview of police accountability in the city of Seattle. On the issue of excessive force specifically, I think the best way to introduce police accountability is by recognizing how different venues of accountability afford defendant officers different means of defense.

Overall, what I’ve found is a system of accountability where defendant officers enjoy adjudication structures that grow increasingly favorable to the officer, the more serious the offense becomes. This is because of the relative strength of Seattle’s local accountability systems, which cover small-fry misconduct, and the weakness of federal law to hold officers accountable; federal law becomes more explicitly relevant in serious use of force cases, such as deadly police shootings. In the most extreme cases, federal case law affords defendant officers a defense that supersedes the capabilities of local accountability systems, judicial or administrative, to deliver meaningful accountability for uses of force not permitted by policy. This dynamic, which is not entirely unique to Seattle, was just put on display when St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell failed to bring charges against Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown in 2014, after quietly reopening the case for review. Though Bell considered the case with respect to state law, the federal law works to afford officers leeway in the use of force that cannot be restricted at the state level. *Lawyers, please let me know if this narration is incorrect.

The more extreme a hypothetical use of force becomes, the more likely proportional accountability for the defendant officer will depend on the fourth amendment exclusively. While that may seem like a good thing, it’s not. Because the 4th amendment jurisprudence on use of force found the execution of Tamir Rice to be a “reasonable one.”

Say, for example, that a Seattle officer uses minor but unnecessary force, but only to the effect of hurt feelings and a marginal loss of community trust. Accountability in that circumstance might be achieved through administrative channels on the basis of a policy violation, conceivably in proportion to the offense, with the chief of police acting as the final arbiter of punishment. In this circumstance, a defendant spd officer may appeal per union contract but, because of recent history, the local judiciary is keen to ensure the appeals process produces results that conform with the terms of Seattle’s 2012 consent decree. But such attention from the judiciary may fade over time, in which case there would be no check on the ability of police union labor contracts to overcome accountability measures.

But if an officer uses so much force that it becomes a criminal matter, the officer’s defense will likely be dictated by the terms of Supreme Court case Graham V Connor (1989), which affords officers broad latitude to use force by the terms of their testified perceptions. For example, if you recall, Darren Wilson saw a “demon” in Michael Brown, and that factored in favor of his defense (even if the specific term demon was saved for media interviews). That’s why cops have gotten fired for uses of force outside departmental policy, while still free of criminal liability for questionable deadly shootings. Local accountability structures can’t offer proportional redress for unnecessary killings, even if they wanted to, because federal case law leans so far in favor of officers accused of excessive force.

To be clear, the characterization of police accountability I just offered is tailored to Seattle and the specific issue of excessive force, though components therein are relevant nationwide. For example, the “U.S. Supreme Court has historically drawn a sharp distinction between constitutional torts, such as excessive force, and common-law torts, such as assault, battery and negligence.” While I still have basically no idea what that means, I’ve surmised that the specific nature of a claim of police misconduct holds significance for the way prosecutors charge defendant officers. Of course, that consideration only becomes relevant within the context of criminal charges.

The finer intricacies of law are a bit beyond this analysis. I’m focused specifically on Seattle, and only intend to provide a surface level overview of our system of police accountability.

To provide that overview, I’ll review the accountability structures relevant to Seattle with respect to their individual organizational objectives, their place in, and relationship with, the broader accountability system, and their effectiveness individually and overall.

Federal and state law aside, Seattle has a system of police accountability that’s referred to colloquially as a three-legged stool, with each leg equal length. Each “stool leg” represents a specialized organization that works cooperatively with the other legs to hold spd accountable. These include the Community Police Commission (CPC), Seattle Office of Police Accountability (OPA), and the Seattle Office of Inspector General(OIG).

But before we dig in, we should take a minute to consider police accountability as an institutional objective. Regardless of venue, every entity charged with delivering accountability to police will approach the issue as a matter of balancing the state’s interests to uphold the law against the public’s constitutional rights. But how that balance is conceived depends on the venue. For instance, a federal prosecutor, when making charging decisions, would evaluate the balance between those competing interests within the scope of 4th amendment jurisprudence. Seattle’s OPA, on the other hand, would use spd use of force policy to guide their determinations about how well the officer in question struck the proper balance.

But that’s not to say OPA’s not interested in 4th amendment jurisprudence. spd use of force policy is written to conform with or exceed 4th amendment limitations on use of force, so it’s still relevant in that sense. Also, the “reasonableness test” set in Graham(1989) surely informs OPA’s epistemic approach when they’re making judgments about how well an officer’s use of force conforms with policy.

Some of this might not make a whole lot of sense to readers new to the topic but it should become clearer as things progress. To summarize this introduction, to understand how accountability can be delivered by any particular accountability agent, it’s necessary to understand how that agent is situated in law and authority. For example, Seattle’s OPA cannot bring federal charges against an officer just like a federal prosecutor is not particularly concerned with departmental policy.

OK, I think we’re ready to dig in.

The Community Police Commission

The Community Police Commission (CPC) provides…community input on needed reforms.” The CPC was mandated in 2012, and began working in 2013, after a federal investigation into spd’s unconstitutional policing practices resulted in a consent decree between the City of Seattle and the federal government. A city ordinance in 2017 made the CPC permanent and expanded it’s authority and responsibility to include “community-based oversight of spd and the police accountability system.” That 2017 legislation is important to our local history so for the sake of reference I’ll refer to it as “ORD-17” from here out.

The CPC’s mission statement: “The Community Police Commission listens to, amplifies, and builds common ground among communities affected by policing in Seattle. We champion policing practices centered in justice and equity.”

The CPC has the following responsibilities. Review the reports and recommendations of the Seattle Police Monitor, and issue its own reports on implementing the settlement agreement. Review and issue reports or recommendations on the implementation of spd’s 20/20 initiative and other city initiatives. (spd’s 20/20 initiative was an internal reform effort undertaken in response to the 2012 federal consent decree.) CPC “may consider” other issues referred by DOJ and the city, such as community engagement, accountability, investigatory stops and data collection, officer assistance and support, and transparency and public reporting. The CPC may also propose legislation related to constitutional policing, public and officer safety and the promotion of public confidence in spd, and make budgetary proposals.

The CPC originally consisted of 15 commissioners appointed by the mayor and confirmed by city council, including a Chair selected by the mayor. But ORD-17 increased the number of commissioners to 21, with seven selected by the mayor, seven by the CPC and seven by the city council. As of August 2020, there appears to be five vacancies, with 16 active commissioners currently serving.

Basically, the CPC just speaks for the community. Specifically, it means to speak for the “communities affected by policing in Seattle.” But how’s that working out? To me, it seems the CPC’s not great at manifesting community will. For instance, in response to public outcry for spd’s treatment of George Floyd protesters, the CPC, OPA and OIG, were each asked to review spd’s crowd control policies by both the terrible mayor Durkan and the slippery city council. Those separate requests follow from the ostensible community perception that spd was, and is, unaccountable for it’s procedural use of disproportionate force at protest sites. Seven years after it began its work, the CPC does not appear to have achieved any meaningful impact on officer behavior.

It’s flagship achievement, ORD-17, was based on recommendations that the CPC itself had produced. But it took three years for city council to translate those recommendations into legislation. This institutional lag might be more tolerable if the accountability items ORD-17 achieved, namely moving spd oversight further into civilian hands while also restructuring disciplinary and appeals processes for officers accused of misconduct, were not effectively overcome by a union contract championed by the Seattle Police Officers Guild (spog), and passed by city council 8 to 1, in 2018.

The CPC continues its work representing the community but it’s influence is clearly weak and it’s recommendations are not always well received.

For instance, in 2019, the CPC worked as a friend of Judge Robart’s court, the federal judge in charge of enforcing spd’s compliance with the federal consent decree, in an effort to compel the city to unwind the accountability evasions achieved by the passage of spog’s 2018 labor contract. In a resistant maneuver, mayor Durkan brought in outside consultants to evaluate Seattle’s system of police accountability, ostensibly to attain an evaluation favorable to spd. Durkan’s effort has been characterized as an attempt to “deny…weaknesses exist…ignore the court’s direction, and argue that Seattle’s system is better than other cities.” CPC’s permanence is no guarantee that it’s recommendations will be met kindly by the administration.

More recently, the CPC has weighed in on issues related to the ongoing unrest. For one, CPC lobbied to undermine spd’s effort to subpoena local journalists for access to media files relevant to investigations related to the protests. It also issued a report, concurrently with reports also delivered by the OPA and OIG, as mentioned above, concerning spd’s use of “less lethal” weapons at recent protests. The CPC report notes that previous CPC recommendations have been not been implemented. Then it goes on to make more recommendations. That’s about all it can do.

The Office of Police Accountability

“The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) has authority over allegations of misconduct involving Seattle Police Department (spd) employees relating to spd policy and federal, state, and local law,” and investigates complaints and makes recommends to the Chief of Police about it’s findings. OPA came under civilian leadership and conducts its investigations with a mix of spd sergeants and civilian investigators as a result of ORD-17.

The specific authorities and responsibilities of OPA are as follows. Establish and maintain processes related to the investigation of allegations of police misconduct. Promote public awareness of, and trust in, the complaint investigation process by providing “full access” to the public. Identify spd systems improvement needs and recommend effective solutions. Help reduce police misconduct and enhance police conduct.

In the three-leg stool paradigm, OPA is specifically intended to oversee accountability. But understanding how OPA operates requires some familiarity with spd use of force policy, OPA policy, and federal and state law. For instance, OPA’s role in the accountability process depends on the nature of the incident in question. In some instances OPA works in an investigatory capacity while other times they do not. Given that OPA’s is structurally limited to making punishment recommendations to the chief of police, independent investigatory authority (which it doesn’t always have) is central to it’s ability to operate effectively within the timid bounds of it’s structure.

For example, per policy, if spd shoots someone to death an spd Force Investigation Team (FIT), which includes one OPA representative, will be responsible for investigating the use of force. But here’s the catch. While the OPA representative embedded with FIT is tasked with identifying potential misconduct by the officers in question, they have no investigatory responsibility in the circumstance of a deadly police shooting. In the event that the FIT captain identifies possible criminal conduct by the officer(s) in question, OPA must be notified and, if OPA concurs, investigatory authority is referred to the homicide unit for special investigation. However, if the FIT captain identifies serious policy violations by the officer(s) involved, OPA will be notified and it will conduct an investigation into the alleged policy violation and pass its findings and recommendations along to the chief of police.

The division of investigatory labor and authority in the event of a deadly police shooting should be a target for an organization like OPA. Normally, Washington Initiative 940 would require an “…independent investigation be completed in cases where the use of deadly force resulted in death, substantial bodily harm, or great bodily harm…” But I-940 was amended by Washington HB-1064 to exclude departments under federal consent decrees, such as Seattle, from that requirement. Nonetheless, regardless of who carries primary responsibility for investigating a deadly police shootings, it makes sense that OPA should have a discretionary independent investigatory authority in every conceivable circumstance.

OPA also handles citizen complaints, and follows a well defined protocol when doing so. When OPA receives a complaint about officer misconduct, a preliminary investigation is initiated, the event is reviewed and classified and then the complaint proceeds into an administrative investigation, “supervisor action” or mediation.

An administrative investigation with sustained findings culminates in OPA making disciplinary recommendations to the chief of police, though officers may appeal by terms set in the labor contract spog championed in 2018.

For instance, officer Adley Shepherd, originally fired for punching a handcuffed woman, was reinstated on appeal. Shepherd’s reinstatement, however, was vacated by King County Superior Court Judge John McHale after a judge overseeing the federal consent decree found that Shepherd’s reinstatement brought Seattle out of compliance. spog, in turn, released a statement of intent to appeal McHale’s ruling, arguing it’s “an affront to Binding Arbitration.” Though, as Kevin Schofield notes on his blog, courts do not typically review arbitration awards, to prevent damage to “the freedom of contract.” Courts may, however, intervene to “vacate an arbitration award in the rare situation that it violates an explicit, well-defined, and dominant public policy.”

Shepherd’s reinstatement was achieved through the terms of spog’s labor contract, which are still relevant today. That Shepherd’s reinstatement was vacated, however, should not be taken to suggest that our structures for accountability are strong. The trouble is, had Seattle not been overseen by a federal monitor, whose objection likely compelled the King County Superior Court to act, it’s not clear that Shepherd’s reinstatement would have been vacated.

Moving on, “supervisor action” occurs when the OPA director believes appropriate redress for a complainant would be best delivered by the supervisor of the spd employee in question. In the event of a supervisor action type resolution, OPA delivers a punitive or corrective recommendation to the relevant supervisor and the supervisor carries out the action. But it’s unclear to what extent the supervisor is obliged to observe OPA recommendations, except to the extent that the chief of police demands compliance. Mediation occurs when both the complainant and spd employee agree to participate.

Mapping out the intricacies of OPA’s investigatory and recommendation procedures in full detail may be less productive than simply taking an overview of the limitations of OPA’s structure. For instance, the chief of police ultimately retains the authority to impose non-criminal punishments on spd officers. The OPA only makes punishment recommendations to the chief. However, if there’s a disagreement between the chief and OPA director about OPA recommendations, the chief and director will hold a “supplemental meeting” to discuss the disagreement. But it doesn’t appear that OPA has any real leverage over the chief, except for the power of persuasion.

Also, as stated in the OPA manual, “the City and spog agreed to specifically prohibit OPA from conducting criminal investigations. Further, there ‘shall be no involvement between OPA and specialty unit investigators conducting the [criminal] investigation.'” While I haven’t explored spd policy well enough to know exactly how or when potentially criminal matters are referred to King County Prosecutor’s Office or City Law Department for review, a reference in the OPA manual suggests that the authority to make those referrals is retained by spd, and is therefore subject to spd discretion.

Also, as recently noted by twitter account @DivestSPD, spog’s labor contract includes language that “elevates the standard of review” beyond a “preponderance of the evidence…where the alleged offense is stigmatizing” to the officer. This to prevent it from being difficult “for the employee to get other law enforcement employment.” At this link here, @DivestSPD outlines how this language makes it difficult for OPA to hold spd officers accountable for systematic time fraud. Of course, as citizens, if we engaged in similar behavior we’d be subject to arrest with no regard for how it might affect our employment prospects. And if we resisted arrest, we could be killed.

Another example of OPA’s ineffectiveness, this one related to it’s investigative authority, is illustrated by spd’s killing of Terry Caver, which occurred May 19th, 2020. spd has said very little about this killing publicly. As outlined above, an OPA representative was present with the spd FIT team the night of the killing. Though a thorough account of the incident has yet to be publicly revealed by spd, it appears, by accounts outlined by local reporting here and here, that spd’s use of deadly force may have conflicted with spd use of force policy. In the event of a policy violation, OPA has the authority to investigate. But OPA did not open any such investigation on its own and only did so in response to numerous citizen complaints. With spd unusually silent on the matter, OPA’s inaction gives the appearance that it’s more concerned with serving spd’s PR objectives than delivering accountability. Without transparency, one can only wonder.

In conclusion, OPA’s ability to deliver on accountability, retroactively, is limited to making recommendations to the chief of police on non-criminal matters of police misconduct. That’s a pretty narrow operational scope. The nature of OPA’s involvement on the most serious matters, where accountability is most needed, is limited by virtue of structure. Even within the limited scope of it’s authority, OPA’s capabilities are further restricted by spog’s labor contract. On the front end of misconduct, OPA may assert influence over spd policy and procedure. This may impact officer behavior to preclude misconduct, but recent events demonstrate the limitations of this approach. By virtue of structure, if not disinterest, it seems OPA is largely ceremonial.

Seattle Office of Inspector General

The Seattle Office of Inspector General (OIG) “ensures the fairness and integrity of the police system as a whole in its delivery of law enforcement services by providing civilian auditing of the management, practices, and policies of the [Seattle Police Department (spd) and Office of Police Accountability (OPA)] and oversee ongoing fidelity to organizational reforms implemented pursuant to…the 2012 federal Consent Decree…” The OIG was established by in 2017 by ORD-17.

The OIG provides spd with “systematic oversight” that falls into three main categories, auditing, OPA oversight and policy work.

Each year, the OIG releases an annual work plan that lays out it’s goals for the coming year, though the plan is subject to change as different items rise in priority. While reviewing the 2020 work plan one particular audit item jumped out as relevant to concerns I raised in the previous section about OPA’s handling of spd’s killing of Terry Caver. The OIG plans to examine a “specific case” where policy violations were not identified in the review process. The plan mentions specifically that it may conduct an assessment of interactions between the Force Investigation Team, spd chain of command and OPA.

While the CPC and OPA are meant to act in real time, or at least within the scope of a predetermined timeline, the OIG moves slower by design. This might not be a problem for an organization with fewer public trust issues than spd but, things as they are, I don’t have the patience to extensively review OIG’s work for a lack of faith that it will produce anything worthwhile. If you would like to learn more about the OIG and it’s work, begin here. Moving on…

Seattle’s 3-leg Stool in Summary


The Fourth Amendment and Excessive Force

The current 4th amendment jurisprudence on police use of force began with a 1985 Supreme Court case called Tennessee V Garner, which approached police use of deadly force as a seizure, subject to a 4th amendment “reasonableness” standard.

In Garner(1985), the Court reasoned that to “determine whether such a seizure is reasonable, the extent of the intrusion on the suspect’s rights under (the 4th) Amendment must be balanced against the governmental interests in effective law enforcement.” This means that the Court sought to balance a cops “right” to use force against your 4th Amendment right to be “secure…against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The Garner decision was initially taken to impose greater restrictions on police use of deadly force than what much of the common law imposed at the time. Specifically, Garner(1985) established that the government’s interest to apprehend a fleeing felony suspect with deadly force did not outweigh the suspect’s interest to maintain his own life, granted the officer has no reason to believe the suspect poses any immediate threat to the officer or public. Further, Garner(1985) established that the level of force applied to make an arrest has to be proportional to the threat faced by officers or the public, given the “totality of circumstances” as understood by the officer on the ground.

Many common law regimes in 1985 allowed police to shoot and kill felony suspects to prevent them from escaping. But as the Court noted in Garner(1985), felony crimes had expanded considerably in scope since the common law was established. So the Court found it inappropriate to hold that deadly force could be applied to prevent a felony suspect’s escape on the basis of a felony charge alone.

Later, in Graham V Connor (1989), the Supreme Court affirmed that excessive force claims “are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s ‘objective reasonableness’ standard, rather than under a substantive due process standard.” Insofar as I can tell as a non-lawyer, Graham marked a hard turning point for the jurisprudence on police use of force, which had formerly evaluated excessive force with respect to eight and fourteenth amendment considerations as well, which concern cruel and unusual punishment and due process, respectively.

The Supreme Court developed a three-point test for evaluating the constitutionality of police use of force in Graham(1989). It was noted, however, that a “test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application.” With that in mind, the facts and circumstances of “each particular case,” the court decided, should be evaluated with respect for “the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” This was an attempt to establish an objective basis for the evaluation of excessive force claims, per the 4th Amendment reasonableness standard.

But here the Supreme Court set the stage for a legal paradox that persists to this day. The court argued in Graham(1989) that the “‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Obviously, the subjective perceptions of an individual officer can never be described as objective. But the court found it sufficiently objective to compare the actions of a defendant officer against the actions of a hypothetical “reasonable officer.” But how this hypothetical “reasonable officer” should be expected to behave, is necessarily dependent on the perceptions testified by the officer involved, given that hindsight is irrelevant. Remember the demon Darren Wilson saw in Michael Brown? Graham(1989) is what gave it value to Wilson’s defense.

That pretty much sums up this basic review of the 4th Amendment jurisprudence on excessive force. Also noteworthy on the federal scene is judicial doctrine “qualified immunity” and 42 USC Section 1983, a federal law allowing lawsuits for civil rights violations. I’m not going to cover those. Because there’s a lot written elsewhere about qualified immunity and apparently Section 1983 is notoriously tricky and I’m already in over my head in legalese.

Well, that’s all for now. I was going to review Washington I-940 also but I’m tired. You can read about I-940 here and here.


Police Make the Strongest Argument for Defunding Police

When I say “defund the police” I mean completely. And by police I mean the specific organizations overseeing “law enforcement” tasks out on the streets. I mean, I don’t expect the horrors of the world to vanish in turn. But, let’s not kid ourselves either, a real security plan for a healthy society includes very few parts militarized police. Because militarized police are useless at the most foundational levels of security, in areas like housing, food and health care. That’s where we lack security, that’s where the need is now. So why not confront the possibility that good security policy may look like meeting basic human needs without a necessary expectation of reciprocity? Why not try a public safety strategy guided by that view?

First, to head some things off. Obviously, no public safety strategy that’s worth a shit can overlook the inevitability of scary crime, it’s there, and society will have to deal it one way or another. And healthy market economies are not incompatible with policies of care and sound design, for anyone who wants to take my pitch like that. So let’s cut past the crap and put apples to apples. The question is whether or not society can protect itself from scary crime without unaccountable police brutalizing women and beating protesters as opportunity affords, while, day-to-day, ruthlessly enforcing a system of racist violence. I think we can do without all of that. No brainer, right? Except the police aren’t getting it. And they need our help getting straightened out.

To serve our police the best we can, we need to disband their vocation and scrub its institutional memory. Clearly, they need us to serve as their moral guardians, because their hearts are hard and their minds are twisted. But not to worry. We’ll still have the judicial branch. The judiciary’s got it’s own problems, for sure, but I just mean to say that we don’t need to abandon the possibility of civil redress to disband police. I’m not naive, I understand we’ll always need something like the police, but we surely don’t need these police or the vast prison system they serve – we can do away with all of that and replace it with something more humane. How’d we even get to a place where a bloated criminal punishment system steeped in militarism is defensible at all? It’s not even a question, it’s gotta go.

Truly, what would we lose if we defunded and disbanded the police? Without perfect crime-clearance-rates police haven’t freed us from crime. And when I think about it, rampant crime sounds better than perfect enforcement. I’ll take mayhem over dystopia any day, but that’s a false dilemma. So why are we allowing ourselves to be bullied into hyperbolic fear for what we’d do without psycho pigs beating women for kicks with impunity? For real, FUCK THE POLICE!

It’s not like the case linked above was an isolated incident of inappropriately enthusiastic force. This is nationwide. Doesn’t matter where, US police are guided by a particular vocational wisdom, an ideological subscription, some say. They’ve become a threat to our democracy. I made that point here. Their vocational wisdom, this ideology, whatever, is postured in opposition to the constitution yet the police don riot gear to fight for position over our rights. They must be defunded and disbanded.

A day before that woman was bludgeoned in Portland, by that piece of shit cop, a different Portland cop gave an interview. When asked point blank, about 25 minutes into the interview, if he’d disavow documented uses of force against local press he said, “no.” As articulate as he was, and as grounded as he appeared at times, that cop cannot be trusted to “uphold the law,” to borrow a phrase from the interview, because he’s lost his moral reasoning to a vocational dogma. But it’s not just him. They all risk a sadistic mental condition by carrying that vocational wisdom. It’s heavy and it takes a toll. It’s gotta go. We need to scrub that institutional memory, for their sake and ours.

If you haven’t done so yet, put two things next to each other and see how it reads. The interview with that Portland cop and that woman getting her face smashed. With those things together, police have made a stronger case for defunding and disbanding than I ever could. FUCK THE POLICE!


Arrested Seattle Protester Unconscious as Crowd forms in Response (raw footage)

I came upon this scene shortly after SPD placed at least three people under arrest. One of the arrestees is unconscious when I arrive. I didn’t see the arrests. Woman appears to fade in and out of consciousness as crowd forms to press SPD to care for the woman. Tense scene, real concern for woman’s well being as SPD officer seems unsure about how to provide care. At the end of the video several people who witnessed the event are interviewed. I have a good deal of footage to go through from today so I’m just posting this as is.


President of Seattle Police Officers Guild Confirms the Delusion of an Entire Vocation in Local Interview

By Futureman

Omari, who needs no introduction in Seattle, interviewed the president of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, Mike Solan, yesterday, Wednesday, July 10th. It was frustrating to watch. I wanted to see Solan loosen his collar while getting grilled under Omari’s Hot-Lamp of Truth but mostly Solan just seemed as frustrated as I was about the pace of the interview. That’s not a dig at Omari, of course, he did a good job on a difficult interview that covered a lot of nuanced ground. Rather, it’s that Solan’s “reasonableness,” a term Solan stressed repeatedly, is conceived differently than our own. And without that conceptual gulf reconciled at the outset of conversation, it’s easy to overestimate the utility of dialog. This is especially true on the issue of police use of force, where judgments about what’s “reasonable” are informed by a system of moral reasoning that’s quite different from police to civilian. Without a common language to relate the significance of important terms and concepts across perspective, it’s too easy to speak past each other on headliner points.

When Omari originally asked the public to submit questions for a July 1st SPOG interview I tweeted a bunch of questions focused on police use of force and militarization. I was excited for the interview and probably submitted more than my fair share but the interview got pushed and my questions, tragically, went unanswered. But I didn’t lose the opportunity to engage on those points for long. On July 1st, SPD swept CHOP, established a Martial Law Zone around the East Precinct and used its rank and file to man the borders. This presented me with the opportunity to pursue the line of questioning I’d proposed to Omari, as the rank and file were basically a captive audience hungry for praise but bound for castigation.

On July 1 and 2, I spent hours talking across the border of the Martial Law Zone to different cops about police use of force, using my questions as the basis for conversation. I was confident my critique would challenge police viewpoints and hopeful that it might have some positive influence over their thinking, given time to reflect. Having served in the military I know a thing or two about tactics and risk and I’ve done some light reading on the relevant case law. But while my military experience allowed to me frame questions and follow-up responses with a certain sensitivity to the police vernacular, I nonetheless approached the issue from a civilian’s point of view. And instead of finding a path to resolution or a shared understanding, I found a clear line between them, the police, and us, civilians, as it concerns our respective systems of moral reasoning on police use of force. On the use of force, the perspective divide between police and civilian is practically impassible for our differences about how to split risk, I decided after my own reflection.

These conversations showed me that the terms of our public discourse on police use of force are focused on the wrong type of negotiation. So, in the end, I’m glad Omari didn’t waste any of his time on my questions. After the original SPOG interview got bumped, Omari asked people to resubmit questions through a different medium for the sake of organization but I didn’t resubmit. Not that they’re bad questions but they speak over an impassible division without acknowledging the nature of the divide. The right question to ask, I learned, because this division won’t be relieved by conversation in the short term, is who must concede to who?

Once the issue is framed as a matter of concession we’re back on common ground. Because, as Solan said himself, same as I heard from SPD’s rank and file July 1 and 2, “we serve at will of the community.” Here’s the trouble, though. Solan’s dodging reality by saying that because the community rejects the vocational dogmas he protects. Specifically, Solan champions a vocational system of moral reasoning on police use of force that defies democratic will by deferring the risks of policing onto the citizens being policed. This vocational reasoning on use of force is guided by what’s permissible by case law and informed by hyperbolic fears of imminent doom. The community, on the other hand, validates police use of force by the terms of what’s objectively necessary. The discord stems from differing values about the importance of presight and hindsight as it concerns validating judgments on the use of force. While there is a balance to negotiate between the weight of pre-sight and hindsight in judgment, Solan doesn’t seem to realize that his vocational dogmas are too discredited to weigh against our objections. We can now accurately predict that police will kill way more people than necessary in any given year, without strong evidence that permissive use of force is a hedge against greater loss.

So, for all Solan’s insistence that police should be included in the public conversations about reimagining policing, I’m afraid I have to insist otherwise. For two reasons. First, as Solan would agree, policing is subject to democratic controls. And it seems to me that the vocational wisdom of US police is locked in an impassible conflict with democratic consensus. Of course, police are still free to participate in this conversation as citizens, just like the rest of us, and I’d encourage their participation in that capacity. Two, the “expertise” that Solan and the SPD carries is what we want to purge. While there are competencies we’ll want to retain as we “reimagine” policing, like forensics and such, the larger goal of defunding and restructuring is to disrupt the continuity of institutional memory for certain vocational expertise. Entertaining standard police talking points on the use of force will only undermine that effort.

When Solan shared his vision of policing “reimagined” in his interview with Omari, he inadvertently revealed the breadth of the perspective gap caused by decades of unchecked police militarization. Solan basically lobbied for a relationship between police and community that parallels the counter-insurgency relationship between Iraqi Sheiks and occupying US military commanders in the mid 2000’s. “Part of the EPP is to reimagine policing…And I’d say we go directly to each neighborhood that encompasses whatever precinct…have an elected or appointed community member that is the voice of that neighborhood that then communicates with the precinct commander, and they dictate how they want policing done in that precinct.” This does nothing for the black dude passing through the rich neighborhood, except validate police harassment.

Elsewhere in the interview, Solan laments the feeling that police are recklessly excluded from the ongoing conversation about reimagining policing. But what’s reckless to him seems reasonable to me. We should deny the credibility of the vocational expertise of US Police. Because the “void of reasonableness” Solan fears, by discounting that vocational expertise, is simply the absence of a system of moral reasoning that found Tamir Rice’s murder to be “a reasonable one,” vis-a-vis Graham V Connor. And I know Seattle isn’t Cleveland but when it comes to criminal liability for outrageous police violence, like the murder of Shaun Fuhr, it might as well be. The vocational perspective that police bring to the table should be denied because it can’t tell the difference between what’s reasonable and what’s not, and therefore lacks credibility.

Given the unrest that’s followed George Floyd’s murder, it seems safe to judge that America’s done with a dogmatic vocation bringing “reasonableness” to what’s clearly unreasonable. Take, for instance, the wide outcry that followed SPD’s deployment of CS gas against an entire neighborhood during a respiratory pandemic. The deployment of gas was in response to water bottles, and possibly a candle, being thrown at officers in riot gear. As Omari aptly noted to Solan, there’s an issue with the “proportionality” of that response. But Solan was skeptical on that point, as his vocational reasoning leads him to prioritize officer safety over virtually any other concern, even when it’s clearly unnecessary and comes at a great cost to public safety – which is totally fucking unreasonable.

So, before we can really begin a productive conversation about reimagining policing, we need police to signal a willingness to unilaterally surrender the terms of their vocation to democratic consent. It’s simply unacceptable, and totally unreasonable, to expect the vocational doctrines of militarized police to carry weight against our democratic will. But that’s the proposition Solan champions, that “police,” while not subject to the equal application of law, should have a weighty say in how to administrate policing tasks. That is not “serving at will of the community,” and it’s bad for them and us. To return to my opening point, it’s easy to get lost in technicality and miss what’s actually being negotiated while discussing how and when police ought to use force.

While it’s tempting to think that a productive conversation on police use of force depends on understanding case law and tactical scenarios, it really comes down to simple distinctions about the de jure vocational approach to risk and the adjudication process that validates or invalidates questionable uses of force. For example, should police ever shoot first or initiate force, and if they do, what then? How we answer this question depends on where and how we, as a society, want to impose the costs of risk. If police can’t shoot first or initiate force it may negatively impact both officer and public safety by limiting officers capacity for self-defense and preventing them from intervening against developing threats. On the other hand, if police can shoot first and initiate force, officer safety is improved but at an expense to public safety, which may be exacerbated or balanced by allowing officers to intervene against developing threats.

The gridlock between police and public perception on the use of force centers on the dilemma about how to balance this vocational approach to risk, which is currently settled on permissive use of force standards with little to no accountability to law. Both sides of the perspective line maintain a catalog of statistics to support their view. For instance, a cop at the Martial Law Zone who favored preemptive force noted that only a tiny proportion of police interactions lead to the use of force, less than a tenth of a percent, as I recall. This shows criticism of police use of force to be misguided and exaggerates the cost of misconduct, he said. But that statistic doesn’t speak to the terror that’s caused by knowing, as a citizen, that an unnecessary, inappropriate use of force against you is unlikely to result in criminal liability for the officer involved. Conversely, the Washington Post Police Shootings database reveals that about one third of the people shot and killed by police were not “attacking” when they were shot and killed, though they may have possessed a capacity for destruction and demonstrated an ambiguous intent. This statistic can be used to argue that police shoot far too often though it does little to relate to the public the fear and stress felt by police in potentially life threatening situations.

Legitimate arguments can be made for the camps on either side of the question of whether or not police should ever shoot first or initiate force. While we should maintain robust debate on this issue, because no de jure solution will eliminate the complexities of using necessary force for the officers involved, we shouldn’t let the nitty-gritty of that debate keep us from recognizing what’s driving this protest: The public seems to favor the social costs of police withholding force over the costs of authorizing police to use force permissively. Additionally, the public wants questionable uses of force and other serious misconduct to expose officers involved to meaningful legal liabilities, as opposed to officers enjoying a disciplinary process internal to their department that’s subject to interference by their union representatives.

Trouble is, Solan, in step with police from coast to coast, appears to view equal accountability to law as denying police the luxury of being “legally protected to do our jobs,” he told Omari in reference to Washington Initiative 940, passed partly in response to SPD’s murder of Charleena Lyles. I-940 intends to “create a good faith test to determine when the use of deadly force by police is justifiable, require police to receive de-escalation and mental health training, and require law enforcement officers to provide first aid.” On this point Solan is tragically confused, to the disservice of his constituents and the community.

In that same interview segment, Solan raises the point that the officers involved in the shooting of Lyles “took it so profoundly that it impacted their mental health…that’s a tragedy that needs to be talked about further.” Here, it seems Solan is confused about the source of moral hazard. Legal liability for police that use excessive force or engage in misconduct is a healthy check on the integrity of law. If police are not subject to the law they enforce, what interest do they have in it’s integrity? The mental health implications of enforcing a rotten body of law are easily predictable. By evading accountability to law, police raise a specter of moral hazard against themselves.

The inescapable dilemma police face in crafting use of force standards is the inverse relationship between physical and moral hazard, where permissible use of force standards raise the moral hazard just as restrictive standards raise physical hazard. As former military I see that plain as day, and I think it’s better for everyone to minimize the moral hazard. To protect the honor, mental health and community relations of police, we need to expose them to physical danger and legal liability by significantly restricting use of force standards and demanding that questionable uses of force be adjudicated within the same body of law they enforce.

While Mike Solan and SPD may object to my conclusion, for the rebalancing of risk and cost, they’re helpless to resist in any legitimate fashion if I’ve accurately represented democratic consensus. In other words, to the police: Do not resist, this is for your safety.


My First Revolution

This is the story of my first “revolution.” It was an impromptu revolution, in response to being pushed up against the wall by market forces. Ultimately, it failed to deliver change. It did, however, unexpectedly reveal the power of the written word and the coercive nature of truth.

What follows is a short story that bleeds into some kind of essay. The mostly-true story narrates the “revolution” and the essay is what I was able to produce with the revolutionary booty. I don’t present this as right or good, just as something that happened, quite unexpectedly.


“Hey, Jim. Do you have a minute?” I asked the warehouse manager, rapping gently on the frame of his open office door.

“Sure, have a seat, what’s up?” Jim said from behind the desk in the back of the room.

“I need more money. I need at least two more dollars an hour or I’m gonna have trouble paying rent.”

“Oh. Well, that’s a tough one. You’re already on the high side of the pay scale and, yeah, corporate just released the quarterly budget.”

“I don’t know what to do. I’m working full time, I work hard, I’m competent…”

“We’d understand if you had to move on.”

“…but it’s not enough anymore. I gotta make rent. I need more money.”

Jim’s lips scrunched the opposite direction his eyes rolled in a telegraphed courtesy search of the inner-mind for the solution that he knew hadn’t just magically appeared since the last time I’d asked for more money. “I understand what you’re saying and I know it sucks but I don’t think I can help.” A brief introspective thought, then eye contact and a warm smile. “I’ll take it upstairs but it’s a long shot.” Jim stood.

“It’s only a long shot if you make it one. This is a moral issue, man. If I’m spending forty hours a week doing good work, you know, I should be able to pay my rent and live in society. I don’t know why you stood up.”

Jim slid back into his seat with a tense exhale that caused his cheeks to inflate. “Alright, the company is not responsible for how you fit into society. Come on, our wages are above market rate and that’s after Seattle raised the minimum wage. And, yeah, I don’t know why I stood up either.”

“Come on, this is a distribution of income problem not a city initiative problem. It wasn’t always like this. People used to be able to live doing work…”

“It’d make us unprofitable. And you’re a pain in my ass, you know that? Paying labor more than it’s worth threatens everyone’s livelihood…”

“Yeah, I know. But you’re talking about it wrong. The CEO is making more than he’s worth while we’re…”

“I’m gonna stand back up.”

“Don’t you do it, don’t you dare.”

Jim rose with two palms facing forward. “I’m pulling the reigns, you damn animal. We’re not getting into the weeds on politics again. In the meantime, get the hell out of here and I’ll do the best I can.”

“Thanks, Jim.” I stood to leave. “I know you will,” I said, sure to make eye contact as I knocked over his little paperclip holder to scatter a shiny mess across his desktop.


Jim meant what he said, he would do his best. But we both knew what that meant and I couldn’t accept it. My nerves were shot. I was working full time, near the top of the warehouse pay scale, but I still had to hide from finance hawks. And it seemed like there was nothing I could do to break free. Like no amount of hard work could ever put me right. I could barely tread water, much less pay debt. Not with my time so undervalued. I’d been all over the corporate chain of command asking for more money but with no luck. I tried HR one final time but they said I was out of options and that only the CEO could intervene on my wage at this point. So I emailed the CEO to give him what for.

Dear CEO,

I recently asked my manager for more money because I am at risk of criminality, by way of not affording legality, and homelessness without it. I don’t think it’s reasonable that I should feel these pressures while working full time and exercising fiscal responsibility. I am not even at the bottom of the pay scale! When I raised this issue with my manager, I was entirely dissatisfied with his characterization of the problem and disappointed with his expectation that the issue could not be resolved. It can be resolved, here and elsewhere. Nonetheless, I remain convinced that my manager is a competent man of remarkable integrity. I just think he’s wrong on this issue, but he’s hardly wrong alone.

For a majority of the workforce, incomes have not kept pace with rising prices. For an elite minority, however, incomes have grown faster than prices have risen. And when decision making power followed middle-class money to an elite, compartmentalized strata of society, technological innovation stopped delivering the historically expected increases in productivity because the directors overseeing implementation are operationally incompetent. This is the story of today’s macro-economy. Operational competence is the domain of a middle strata but the middle has been displaced by the aforementioned changes in income distribution. This is a sophisticated critique of the macro-economy which deserves further study.

Conditions in the warehouse reflect this reality perfectly as mid-level managers struggle to balance executive ambition with workforce inadequacy as the warehouse pay scale cannot secure and retain an operationally competent workforce. Management resources that could otherwise be directed towards process improvement are currently wasted policing productivity minimums, bathroom etiquette and attendance standards. These efforts are undermined in perpetuity by high turnover. The inefficient expenditure of management resources and dismal workforce performance are both attributable to the loss of middle strata competencies, as caused by the complacent expectations of a pampered executive class. Furthermore, the cost of that inefficiency works to drive down compensation rates which, in turn, guides firms towards a dependency on destitute circumstance to secure talented labor. This is not OK!

I came home from war in 2009 to an economy devastated by the greatest financial caper of all time and I’ve watch the value of my labor decrease steadily since that date even as my competence increased. If my analysis is wrong, I would appreciate a coherent explanation as to why forty hours of honest labor per week is suddenly an unreliable mechanism to secure a modest level of social security in this economy. If my analysis is informed, I would appreciate a no strings attached gift of five-thousand dollars so that I may devote myself to the study of this issue and develop solutions over the course of the summer.

Is it crazy to think that someone will oblige a pitch when I am cocked and ready at the plate?

All The Best,

Mr. Chickennuggetsauce

I CC’ed Jim and sent an email with my note attached to our CEO right before I left for the day. The following morning began like any other. I biked to work through downtown Seattle in the dark. It rained overnight but the rain clouds had cleared for my ride. Jim walked in from his car as I locked my bike near the door. I said “Mornin’ Jim.” Jim said, “Good morning!” Why good, I wondered, but that was all I got. As I poured my coffee an anxiety built around me like a white-noise bubble that hummed ever louder until the repetitive stapling and sorting of my morning routine overran my attention. And then, as it often seems to happen, the moment my anxiety was forgotten Jim approached to ask if I had a moment which, of course, I did.

I followed Jim from my desk to his office where our corporate HR representative, Carol, was waiting next to a well dressed man I’d never met.

“Hi Mr. Chickennuggetsauce, I’m the CEO.”

“Pleasure.” I said.

“How are you?”

“Quite well, thank you. Hi Carol. You’re both well, I hope.”

“Indeed.” He said.

“Indeed.” She said.

“Why don’t we have a seat?”

We spoke for a few minutes and, in the end, they obliged my request for financial backing and gave me written permission to vacate the premises immediately. I cleared my desk, said a few goodbyes, shook hands and left the building with a wink and a nod from Jim and that was that. It was unexpected but I’d gotten exactly what I’d asked for. So what now?

I raced home to pace the length of my kitchen counter and mull over what to do next. I thought to share news of my success but I’d shut my phone off earlier that month to make rent and I wouldn’t receive the money for another week. In my letter to the CEO, I’d made a broad proposal to “study the issue” but there were no strings attached and I didn’t exactly “have a plan” when I made the pitch. I could do anything. My next few months were a blank slate and it felt like total freedom to have my obligations open to interpretation. Naturally, my first decree as Freedom King was to grant latitude to the meaning of “study” and “issue,” to free myself from the conventional approach and narrow framing I’d suggested in my letter.

I wasn’t interested in evading the responsibility I’d conjured but, rather, simply wanted to free my methods from constraint and keep my considerations mobile. Most of all, I didn’t want to risk convention tethering me to something less ambitious. I’d been writing, sharpening tools and kicking doors for years, standing to, waiting impatiently for the moment to present itself. Most doors don’t budge but this one did. Ready.

In my letter, I framed the macro-economy with a class based power loss narrative and made a specific claim about declining productivity returns on technology investments, which I attributed to income inequality and executive ineptitude. It’s a really interesting thing that I don’t know much about any of that, yet I feel overwhelmingly confident that my analysis is superbly informed. Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of fancy-ass articles and the occasional book but I ain’t got no degree. Ain’t nobody gonna gimme no job writin’ ’bout this shit! Yet, here I am. Isn’t that interesting? I think so, but I’ve other interests, too. Hidden messages in the pattern of stars, science (obviously), conspiracies, philosophy, all sorts. And I want to write about all of it. And I’m gonna. And the great thing about it: you don’t need to worry about whether or not I’m telling the truth, because now that I’m writing a book, I’m an authoritative source. In the words of the good Doctor Steve Brule, “I’m a priest too…if I say I am” and, as such, I’ve come to clean the “dirty old church” of positive economics. It doesn’t matter if I’m right or not, by convention. In these pages, I’m the fuckin’ man.

So, let’s get square on some things and then we’ll talk about political economy. First, I am an authoritative source. Like, no doubt. But that’s not to say that I know a lot about whatever it is that I’m talking about. Rather, my authority is a function of your permission. I’m all over the place because life and I just need you to give me the latitude to be right and wrong in the same space while I try to mask my ignorance with humor. I know it’s unsettling at times, but I’m doing the best I can. An idiot’s got a right to their opinion, too, right? And we’ve all got to live here together. I just want to make that easier. So, I’ll let you see my blind spots and I’ll tell you my dumb thoughts and then, maybe, hopefully, my idiocy might not seem so idiotic. Maybe, even if you don’t always agree with me, you’ll come to understand that my perspective is not inconceivable. I think that’s the best we can do for each other. That’s the contract. You, the reader, have some responsibility here, too. I know you’re hungry for that.

It’s a better contract than you’ll get elsewhere for economic discussions. There may even come a time when you’ll be able to pin me to the wall and exclaim, “you’re wrong, motherfucker!” But I’ll never tell you, if you’ve got me dead to rights, that “the destructive influence was exogenous to the model,” when really the destructive influence was the model itself. No. I’ll tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. And you’ll have to weigh the error term beside my truth for yourself – I won’t attempt to seduce to you to a ninety-five percent confidence level because credentialed confidence works on truth in a funny way. On one hand, economist dill-weeds achieve precise economic predictions because their models are highly sophisticated (whatever the fuck that means). On the other hand, political forces can influence the framework of a model or the presentation of its results. What good are objective experts then? They’re great for those who can pay to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. But the rest of us get it from the other end. Consequently, I have this dangerous idea that a layman may be able to relay the truth of our economy more effectively than an expert. Because expertise can be measured in units of dogma while the layman’s naked and free. And it’s just your luck that my lil wiener’s free and flappin’ in the wind.

Here’s something to start: what’s the propensity for clarity in literature but a boon for the buffoon?

OK, I think we’re finally ready to get into the nitty-gritty on economics. But first, let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. Economics is the study of how scarce resources are allocated by society. Politics is the study of why scarce resources are distributed as they are. Our system of political economy, we should agree for the sake of establishing a conversational foundation, is a capitalist democracy. This is how I think about our system overall: the economic choice-scape is dictated by political process while de facto economic decision making authority is spread across the private marketplace – that’s capitalist democracy, in broad terms. We vote for representatives to craft legislation and regulation to govern our conduct in mostly free markets, where “free” means the market price of a thing cannot be influenced by the behavior of any single economic agent.

Now let’s go a little further to define the institutional landscape that balances capital and democracy in our capitalist democracy. For instance, what’s our democratic process look like? For us, that’s a conversation about our three branch federal government structure and our state and local governments, local and national campaign finance laws, voter registration and voting procedure. And how about our economic institutions? Here, we’d want to consider legal corporate structures, our monetary system, market characteristics, labor laws and other regulatory regimes. We could go further to dig into the details of each institution but do we need to? I’m not sure we do. We’re just trying to get to know each other, really. We’ll haggle over terms until, finally, we’re all talking about the same thing. Dummies and doctorates, all on the same page. And then we can start talking about what’s right and wrong with the economy and hopefully understand each other to some kind of productive end. This is where our public discourse has gone wrong.

Instead of spending time laying terms and building consensus about the foundations of our conversation, our politicians and media increasingly frame political economy by the terms of a faith-based left/right divide, rhetorically posturing left and right as perspective dependent euphemisms for good and bad. This mode of conversation brackets perspective into one of two ontological packages, left/right, white/black, male/female, binary/non-binary, where the facts of one package are incompatible with the facts of the other, as if each package were a universe unto itself with its own brand of immutable political physics. By this mode, a single fact can reveal a person’s universe of origin and that’s all there is to know, one thing says everything. There’s no more left/right lean, we’ve all fallen into one universe or the other by discourse design. Our popular discourse has become one that moralizes an uninformed, extrapolated hate. It’s totally Neo-American, denying the right to be right to anyone who speaks outside our terms.

We’d do better to set terms and then ask surface level questions about the performance of our most central institutions. For instance, in the simplest terms, our election results are meant to be, more or less, representative of majority will, where each citizen gets one vote and that’s it, wealth and other levers of economic power are supposed to be irrelevant. But does that describe our reality? No, and why not. Could it be that capital has taken ground from democracy to engineer the political choice-scape? Would that be an appropriate way to discuss Citizens United, for instance? It seems a hard line has been crossed to turn capitalist democracy on its head. (t)rump voters know it and so do we, so why’s it so hard to agree? We’re talking about a surface level structural compromise that cannot be fixed by tinkering deep inside the machine.

So, where should our conversation begin? Deep, deep, deep in the structure where “experts” with telescopic vision debate the virtues of red or blue paint on interior walls, or at the foundation, which the naked eye can see is quite obviously fucked? Let’s not be thick. When our discourse denies the right to be right to anyone who speaks outside our terms democracy is doomed to fail. If we can’t overcome our egos to work with trump voters, however cryptic, misguided or confused their framing, how are we, the well-informed public, ever going to manage more complex conversations, like the conceptual tensions between neoclassical economic dogmas and Modern Monetary Theory? Let’s not put the intellectual deep-end at the front of the pool to keep workers out of the water because when the ship hits a rock, people who don’t know how to swim will drown those that do. (I’m one of the smart people.)

Now, back to talking about economics directly, let’s add some context to the conversation by briefly considering the history of economies. Economic customs have evolved considerably since cave times but the underlying function of an economy is the same as it ever was. For policy discussions, it can be helpful to think of the economy as a patchwork of laws, customs and private-business policies, all of which work to govern trade interactions. But understanding the economy as an object of history requires us to re-frame it by the terms of its most original function. For instance, in a hypothetical original state, which may or may not have ever existed, doesn’t matter, people freely ate worms from the dirt or whatever without any concern for formal regulations barring such activity. The nature of economic activity, for the original human, was an informal process of extracting natural resources from the earth to satisfy basic human needs: food, shelter, water, wifi, etc.

In that original state, people were born into a share of the earth’s bounty and these shares were retrieved by processes of individual initiative, not by way of formal rights or governed procedures. Distribution was not a concern, as returns were neatly proportional to inputs, and the population wasn’t at threat of overrunning nature’s supply. Basically, in the beginning, the more you dug, the more worms you got and no one had a reason to keep you from digging. But in time, societies formed and people pooled labor and created money to conduct trade and eventually, a few years on, the market economy came to be. Throughout this progression, which itself isn’t terribly important, the process of retrieving birthright resource shares was incrementally delegated to the formal customs of an organized marketplace, because of the market’s relative efficiency to add value to raw materials.

The original purpose of “work” was simply to retrieve life sustaining resources from the earth. That’s still the most central purpose of work and it always will be. Really, the only thing that has changed since cave times is that work is formalized by the market place. And markets are just a social technology machine that distributes decision rights and resources. The US system of capitalist democracy is ostensibly the best because it’s predicated on utilizing individual freedom, liberty and equal opportunity to incentivize participation beyond subsistence. But the integrity of that framing requires us to attend to the maintenance of the market machine. Unfortunately, the representatives responsible for that upkeep have neglected their duties to such an extent that “capitalist democracy” can no longer describe the system we have. And now they sell the possibility that they might do their chores as some kind of moral crusade, which has yet to materialize.”Moral capitalism,” is a system “judged not by how much it produces, but how broadly it empowers, backed by a government unafraid to set the conditions for fair and just markets,” says Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, as quoted by Michael Kazin in the New York Times. No, that’s an enfranchised description of capitalist democracy, ya friggin’ jag-weeds.

Nowadays, most of us spend our work lives at a formal workplace where our time and conduct are managed by the decision makers of our particular organization. The premise of this system, by the terms of a capitalist democracy, is that labor and capital find common ground at the workplace to add value to raw materials, while the countervailing forces of supply and demand magically deliver the best outcome for all. Frankly, I think we could do worse, in terms of formulating an institutional basis for negotiating the spread of private-market decision making authority. Can you see how that original birthright resource share is baked into the institutional framework, though it’s not made explicit? You’ve a place in production, first of all. And production is the mechanism that arbitrates decision making authority between labor and capital. You’ve a share, don’t forget it, which, by the promise of capitalist democracy, is a device of political influence over production decisions, and the mechanism by which birthright resource shares are retrieved with the blessing of law. These basic, basic, basic framework understandings are absolutely essential for productive conversations because it helps elucidate what’s at stake as technology transforms the world.

Technology growth is affecting our system in ways that disrupt the integrity of the institutional negotiating mechanisms meant to legitimate economic outcomes. I think the best way to frame this problem is to understand our institutions as a form of social technology whose integrity depends on keeping innovative pace with scientific technology. It’s important to keep pace because the integrity of our institutions is our best hedge against our Machiavellian human nature. I think innovation in discourse is the only thing that will allow us to mind that gap. To wit, what do we think our system is written to be? What is our system written to be? What is our system? These questions all have different answers and the “right” answer to any of them is largely a function of perspective – even laws are open to interpretation. That’s why we have dip-shit lawyers.

The point, I think, is that a discourse that encourages perspective to cement itself into a well defined position of ideological faith makes it easier to automate political herding. Personally, I think this discourse is an effect of capital’s encroach on democracy, a calculated treachery, a grand conspiracy that’s unfolding before our eyes. Though, also, scientific technology is growing so rapidly that I think this period of radical disruption was inevitable. What’s not inevitable, however, is that our amazing ability to connect is used to turn us into foaming-at-the-mouth political dunces while a compartmentalized, unelected cartel codes the future without democratic input. But that’s what’s happening, because the distribution of money in our monetary system allows monied parties to shape the political choice-scape to their interests. Economists, who are evil, attempt to mask this fact by blathering on and on about “fiat” currencies and other fictions.

Money and its function in society is fundamentally misunderstood, thanks to the “experts.” Consider this. The value of money is a simple function of supply and distribution, where supply is only important to the extent that we have enough, and distribution is the factor that determines the nature of money’s value. All that can be purchased is time, matter and concept rights on time – that’s it, there is nothing else to sell or buy. Money, therefore, is, and can only be, an index for things in finite supply (even concepts are finite because at some point they become useless distinctions). Because money is an index, it is also an expression of ownership. For instance, if incomes disappeared across society, things “owned” by the poor would quickly be sold as a means of retrieving birthright resource shares. Once the poor spent all their money, they’d be forced to spend their time to coerce the rich into affording them access to what capitalist democracy had said was theirs all along. Competition for the poor would then concern the concepts attached to the time being spent- who’s willing to be the bigger whore. Basically at an even level of distribution, money is a question of who owns what, and the assumption that we all “own” a birthright resource share is not under threat. But beyond a certain point, money becomes a question of who owns who. Economists will surely balk at this characterization but only until a natural disaster proves it true.

And so this is what my whole economics spiel is about: mechanics. That’s what we should be talking about to meet the challenges of the future: institutional mechanics. On the most basic level, way before partisan concerns have the opportunity to arise. Because that’s where technology is doing us damage. We often talk about things in a capitalist democracy framework though scientific technology has already rendered that framework obsolete. It’s important we understand how because economists are asleep at the wheel in terms of communicating with the public. Talk about useless. Meanwhile, institutional balance mechanisms are being destroyed without replacements and there’s no indication that losses will be redressed, much less acknowledged. This will not continue without a big war. But we can and should avoid that.

This is how we should posture our discourse to avoid conflict. First, we need to understand the system we think we had in the most basic terms possible. Our entire national identity is based on that system and to the idea that the economic choice-scape is decided by democratic process. This is how to protect the integrity of free markets, which supposedly provide individuals the greatest opportunity to pursue their interests. Because we care about individual freedom. And freedom is more than the opportunity to be surveilled and manipulated by some jackass algorithm. We have to understand what it means for labor and capital to meet in the workplace to add value to raw materials while the countervailing forces of supply and demand work to deliver the best outcome for all. Labor’s place in production is a declaration of economic decision making power. Having a stake in production provides greater influence over production decisions than consumer choice. It’s important we understand that as we move into a 5G future (5G being the proverbial jet-fuel for next gen mass surveillance). We need to understand that the value of money cannot be intellectually postured as independent of physical matter and time. Or money will corrupt the political process. Such as we’ve seen.

Once we understand the system we had, in a de facto sense and also by the terms of our most white-washed, generous delusions, we can take a look at the system we have to get an idea about trajectory and self-deception, which will allow us to most accurately tune the institutional framework of our system and oversee the maintenance of balances we care about as we move into the future. This is really urgent work. Because the gulf between de jure and de facto is growing too large to sustain. Our democracy is an absurd and insulting illusion. So is equal opportunity. On one hand, technology has made it easier than ever to produce life sustaining resources. Yet, on the other hand, our time, which is all that most of us have to contribute to production, is undervalued by politicized monetary malfeasance to direct us by market force to service the interests of the highest political bidders. That is not a natural incentive environment in a capitalist democracy. I’ve heard Bill Gates call this kind of coercion “incenting.” You and I engage incentives as nouns, but to Gates they’re verbs. Bill Gates’ philanthropy is to incent. His business, too. Here’s the big question: when a person gets all the money what becomes more important, that person’s “property rights” or the integrity of our entire fucking system?

We care about property rights, a lot. And I think we should. But here is the reality: my private property serves Gates in ways that I cannot understand or control and its by those channels that he “incents” me to his interest. By what mechanism can we influence that production path? The labor participation rate is historically low because labor is losing its place in production, one line of code and political crime at a time. So there dwindles one channel of influence. What about regulatory reform? Not likely, we’re politically outbid. All we have left is consumer choice but how effective is that, really? “Huh,” you ask, hardly able to peel your eyes from your idiot phone. Bill’s “philanthropy” is not so disconnected from his business. It’s just the expression of the political domination his fortune affords. How can that be legitimated within the purview of a capitalist democracy? Spoiler: it can’t. The reality is that engaging technology at home and work, postures you as a billionaire’s data farm, as their property.


Five Paragraphs on Violence at CHOP

By Futureman

What if we did abolish police? Not to become lawless but to make room for something new. Media has reported “CHAZ” as if it were a deliberate case study for police-less society but CHAZ didn’t ask for that. Nor did CHAZ ask to be born or named, though it was, so it took charge of its own fate and became CHOP, among other things. And as it currently stands, it’s far less clear that CHOP failed to prove the advantage of abolishing police than it is that police succeeded to prove their harm.

In its “defense” of Seattle, and in particular the East Precinct – while operating at or near capacity and, in turn, demonstrating command intent and control, training, culture, mindset, resources, capabilities and values – Seattle Police confirmed they’re unfit for duty on the basis of extreme incompetence. That’s being quite generous, really. If, on the other hand, I withheld my generosity and suddenly became enamored with “facts” and “law and order” to judge their performance as the manifestation of deliberate intent, I’d recognize the Seattle Police Department as a terrorist organization hostile to the constitution of the United States of America. That’s right. In May and June, 2020, the Seattle Police Department demonstrated it’s capacity as a highly organized, well-equipped terrorist entity by actively engaging in political violence against the American people for their ideological hatred of American freedom. That’s not bombastic at all, that’s literally what happened.

SPD’s brutality has been tolerated and rationalized in the past but things are different now. We have Big Data, for one, which means we get to make decisions deliberately from a position of knowledge and calm. But, let’s be honest, it’s not like we were ever ignorant about the question at hand, whether or not we should have militarized police reliably killing over a thousand citizens per year. We’ve never been confused on that question and we’re not going to be threatened with the possibility of not having what we don’t want, as it appears violence continues to be driven towards the CHOP from the control station at the center of the panopticon. That’s speculation. Here’s what we know: We all live on earth, we only escape tragedy by luck and we’ll all die. We’ll be just fine without “Officer Friendly” (who is not, really, friendly at all), his suppressed M-4 carbine and his warrior mindset.

In the meantime, as we transition between systems, let’s not pretend like the violence at CHOP is unrelated to its birth. And let’s also not pretend that the birth of CHOP is some manifestation of protester intent. SPD voluntarily withdrew from Capital Hill. Then they stayed away and launched a propaganda campaign with support from corporate media partners or pals or whatever. It’s their nonsense not ours, that CHOP was a worthy test case for a post-pig future. Of course, the reality is that CHOP is not even remotely representative of society at rest, but that’s the point isn’t it? The second CHOP was born it became an object of intense interest to warring political factions. Carmen Best and Jenny Durkan elevated the stakes of this conflict by withholding services and letting that tension unfold as it did. I knew this would happen and I warned about it a few posts back, see “CHAZ is a Trap.” Now, with so much laid so bare, Best and Durkan need to be immediately removed from leadership positions before they cause Seattle even greater harm. Because this won’t end until SPD is brought to heal, nor should it.

Across the country, we’re seeing militarized police carrying out political violence against peaceful protesters. The power that police have realized, as a culturally monolithic entity apart from broader society and beyond the rule of law, is completely opposed to the spirit of our most sacred political values and the written language of the US constitution. To the extent that police oppose our political freedoms, they wish righteous destruction upon themselves. FUCK THE POLICE! The stakes are too high to ignore the facts, as avoidable violence continues to play out in real life for the calculated ineptitude of our local leaders. We must press harder, Harder and HARDER until we succeed to disband SPD and disrupt, once and for all, the institutional memory that’s subverted previous reform efforts. NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!


What Is The Economy & What Are “Economics”

By Futureman

The economy is the system we use to extract, develop and distribute natural resources from the earth to sustain human life. “Economics,” as the term is known around town, is a set of arguments used to justify withholding critical resources, such as food, housing or healthcare, on the basis of maintaining a “favorable incentive environment.” Mathematics can show how reasonable this withholding is as a course of policy. That “economics” embodies the Ethic of War, the idea that optimal outcomes depend on the conscious abandon of human dignity, however, categorically limits economics math to optimizing the sub-optimal, and is therefore not all it’s cracked up to be.

This is an important point about epistemology and authority. Truly, I don’t think it’s asked enough, what are the consequences of mandating that production, and its enabling contracts, sees to the satisfaction of basic human needs as a first priority? If economics is a science as infallible as physics, then what is this “dark matter” of consequence that precludes institutional concern for basic human dignity? Surely, some readers are itching to answer, “that’s communism,” but that response would just beg the question of why our public discourse is informed by ideological subscription in this age of Big Data. There’s no reason why our market economy can’t have stronger social safety nets, especially when market forces are pushing working people out onto the street. “Economics,” insofar as it’s known to be a “science,” is the science of knowingly perpetuating proven harms, to avoid unlikely harms, on the basis of faith as testified by the “scientists” involved.

The dogmatic treachery of “economics” is apparent in the common language we use to discuss political economy. For instance, we tend to conflate what people “deserve” with what they “earn” but when earnings correspond to the “market rate,” and the market rate reflects a power imbalance between labor and capital, the gap between earn and deserve is likely to be wide. This gap has become so wide, in fact, that many working people are left in the unfortunate position of not “deserving” basic human necessities for the shortcomings of their market wage, and not for scarce supply but for motivating effect. Some of these people sleep on the street in Seattle. Others are better off, and can afford access to housing and such, but by margins so thin that the labor contracts providing this access better serve as reminders of the specter of insecurity that incents them to work, than as institutional testaments to the availability of economic opportunity.

Most readers are likely familiar with the noun “incentive,” which has been in use since the 15th century, according to Merriam-Webster, as it’s used in the following sentence. We respond to incentives. The verb “incent,” however, which only came into use in 1981 according to the same source, is likely less familiar. This evolution in language neatly reflects changes in wealth distributions and the political domination that gargantuan private fortunes afford. “We will incent the Africans to make the right choice,” a billionaire said as he casually discussed setting the terms of democratic choice for a population of which he is not a part. “Philanthropy,” that’s called.

There’s a clear disconnect between what the economy is and what “economics” is for, though it’s masked by language. By aiming the Ethic of War at profit maximization, economists have perverted language to convince our representatives in government, if not the American people themselves, that our economic well being depends on ignoring the ways in which people cannot help themselves to be well, though it’s easily within our means to provide what they need and deserve – what they’ve rightly earned. The question to ask, I suppose, is to what extent are we willing to betray our gut, heart and mind for numbers produced on the basis of an extremist faith?

That’s all for now. More soon.


CHOP Last Night, and What Tomorrow Holds For Me

 By Futureman

Last night, June 21st, I joined the nightly protest that walks from CHOP to SPD’s West Precinct in downtown Seattle and back. We stopped on I-5 for something like an hour as we made our return. Washington State Patrol, I assume, because I’d seen them staged on the freeway in days prior, blocked traffic so the freeway was clear. The crowd was smaller than any other I’d seen since the protests started but it was Father’s Day, after all. Given the holiday turn out, I’d judge that the protests are still going strong.  

As we made our way from I-5 back up the hill we received word that a shooting occurred somewhere near the CHOP. Details were scarce so I took my bike to make recon. I approached Cal Anderson from the north and found people congregated as per usual without any obvious indication that a shooting had occurred. I asked one person for information and they said they had no knowledge of a shooting. I continued south through the center of the park and found a woman sitting alone on the border of the concrete pool. She told me a shooting had occurred outside of CHOP though she wasn’t sure exactly where.  

The woman didn’t have firsthand information about the shooting but she sat near the path our protest group would need to take back to CHOP and she seemed unconcerned for her safety. I decided to return to the protest with confirmation that a shooting had occurred instead of pushing further north for more concrete details.  

When I linked back up with the protest I passed along the information I’d acquired to several individuals who appeared to be connected with protest leaders. It also seemed there was an inflow of information through phones and that awareness of a shooting was growing among the crowd. At this point the protest turned off the east/west arterial route we were on to a north/south side street, Harvard Ave, which intersected Pine a few blocks to the south.

Tensions rose as we moved along. About one block north of Pine protest leaders found it prudent to lower the noise profile and move people back to CHOP via an off-street route between businesses. After we crossed Broadway, a major north/south arterial route through Capital Hill, protesters made their way through a final, narrow footpath between buildings before spilling out onto Nagle Place and then over into Cal Anderson park. But as protesters filed across Nagle, a series of gunshots rang out in quick succession from about a hundred yards south, seemingly from Pine.

Only about a quarter to half the crowd had crossed Nagle into Cal Anderson when the shots rang out from the south, and not too far away. I was on Nagle at that time. I didn’t sense bullets flying by but I was concerned for the line of sight that Nagle would provide a shooter looking to fire upon protesters. But looking from cover I could see where Pine and Nagle intersected and it appeared to be clear. Without any information about the shooters location I quickly became concerned for the possibility that the shooter could move west along Pine to Broadway and turn north to come up on our rear to find a tight cluster of protesters stuck between buildings waiting to cross Nagle.

I did my best to move people out of that narrow passageway to Cal Anderson, where they’d at least have  the option to move freely in any direction in the event that the protest came under direct fire. Luckily, there was no flanking maneuver and, as far as I know, no other shots were fired through the night.  

Back at CHOP, the crowds had cleared though random people milled about, some taking cover behind the barricades while others showed less concern. Security volunteers seemed to be working to organize defense and prepare shelter locations. It was a tense moment. I left shortly after. That is what happened so far as I can attest.  

At this point, I’m pretty fucking angry about the way things are going. On the morning of the 22nd, it remains unclear who fired shots and why. It is clear, however, that the gunshots were followed by fireworks all across the city. Many people close to the movement view this as suspect, myself included. The ideologically informed media coverage of our local protest movement, which covers a spectrum ranging from biased reporting to outright lies and fake news, is also clear. As is SPD’s propaganda campaign and their ongoing disinterest to provide security services in these recent moments of crisis, though they’re paid well to do so. SPD is behaving like a spoiled child who’s angry and withholding after being punished for beating its younger sibling. The media largely supports this behavior. Both these things combined, SPD misinformation and media support, work to provide cover to violent nut-jobs at the expense of our sense of security as we exercise our constitutional rights to speech and assembly.  

Many of us feel that something’s amisshere. Like there’s an intelligent design behind our increasing sense of exposure and insecurity. As I see it, speaking for myself and no other, we’re being threatened by an elite from the center of a panopticon with insecurity delivered by the “market forces” of misinformation and dis-administration of public safety services. The goal of these threats are to intimidate us into accepting a full “justice” package, to include unnecessary police militarization, profit motivated incarceration (dabbling in slavery) and total surveillance. 

This perception of insecurity by design is growing into something that I cannot ignore or dismiss. Maybe things are playing out this way because our protests are also threatening to institutions beyond the police. It holds to reason that all our terrible institutions are intertwined in function and administration, and are therefore interdependent. So then it also seems to hold to reason that individuals at the seat of institutional power collaborate for self and institutional preservation. I know this reads conspiratorial but the public truth has collapsed and so I’m left to my own devices to determine the nature and narrative of truth. I’m hardly alone in this regard. But where to begin?

How about the promise of Big Data?, which is more accurately described as Total Surveillance. Its bargain for regular people was better-informed decision making and therefore better outcomes of every variety, public and private. But this promise has not been fulfilled and basic functionalities of every sort are now held hostage by a tech oligopoly. Indeed, it now appears that this technological panopticon was constructed solely for the preservation of undemocratic, unaccountable power, public and private. Whether the outcome is deliberate or not, it is spreading lies in a targeted manner, which may well have manifest violence in Seattle just last night.

It’s well documented that Facebook facilitated state violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar and that it helped the murderous Rodrigo Duterte rise to power in the Philippines. Now we’re seeing a similar type of thing play out here on our own city streets. How long are we going to avoid that our eyes can see? If independent human sight and reason tends towards the conspiratorial, isn’t that a testament to the damage our public knowledge has sustained? This, to me, is strong evidence against the integrity of recent “upgrades” to our technological and economic design which cannot be fully attributed to the legacy of racism. We therefore need to expand the scope of our protest discourse beyond a critique of systemic racism. This does not have to impose a cost on, or diminish the value of, critiques of systemic racism.

I’m a white dude, so I’m just not the right guy to develop a critique of systemic, institutional racism though I have no interest in undermining those critiques. I support BLM, I’ve marched with BLM and I’ll continue to march with BLM. But as a white dude, I know more than most about two things in particular. Mayonnaise, because it’s so fucking white, and power. Most notably economic power. I want to share what I know and use my pen to reclaim economic dignity for the masses by writing against tech and what’s called “economics.” I’ll bring Harvard elite to heal. Or maybe I’ll only make a fool of myself but I figure it’s worth the risk, given the stakes. I write from CHOP, but I only speak for myself. What I have to offer: you can take it or you can leave it but it’s forthcoming nonetheless. Of course, I hope you’ll stay tuned.


Dave Chappelle’s New Thing Is Terrifying

By Futureman

I said it wasn’t a “bombastic claim” to call the police terrorists. I wrote that here, a week or two ago. I’ve spent my time since trying to convince myself that I was, in fact, being bombastic. I’m prone to overreaction. Like recently I’ve suspected that the government’s trained local crows against me because I keep getting dive bombed outside the local grocery.  

But it was confirmed once and for all when, in a release posted to YouTube, Dave Chappelle asks, in reference to the black veterans who shot cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge in 2016, “What were they doing?” Chappelle continues, “Why would our guys do that, black people from the military? Because they believe, just like they did when they were joining the fucking military, that they were fighting acts of terror.” 

Since I watched Dave’s new thing I can’t escape this terrible sense that my delusion is overwhelming reality or, perhaps more accurately, that my delusion is reality. It occurred to me in a delirious state some time ago that terrorism is a nonsense term. That it’s no more than an authoritative narrative device used to sort violence into groups of good and bad, though it’s primary function in discourse is to posture state violence as good. Because when has it ever been hard to cast violence as bad? But as arbitrary as it may be, its significance in our discourse may not yet be fully understood. The people sitting on top of this big ‘ol iceberg of rhetorical bullshit seem unaware of the obvious signs that the ‘berg’s about to flip. Look at the comments under Wall Street Journal articles on recent unrest to see for yourself.

While it has no universal definition, because it’s truly a nonsense term, most security professionals would accept that terrorism is the use or threatened use of violence for ideological, political purposes. With a definition like that, the most terrifying questions Americans can ask themselves are: Am I willing to admit that my eyes can see? And if so, what’s it mean that freedom’s not free?

We all saw Seattle Police (SPD) pepper spray a child. Then we saw SPD conduct what appears to be a retaliatory arrest against the bystander based on false accusations. The man has since been released and there appears to be no charge pending against him. Nor does there appear to be any official documentation concerning the hypothetical incident used to justify his arrest. 

We’re reaching a point where we can’t narrative the ongoing unrest as anything but a rational response to calculated terrorism. I wish it weren’t the case but the nonsense word “terrorism” is hopelessly ingrained in our public discourse. And it’s too much to ask that we lose the meaning of words for unaccountable police violence.

Dave Chappelle is a hero of mine. I’ve never met him, but I love Dave and when he speaks I listen. I like to daydream about riding my bike across the country to Ohio to talk politics and America with Dave Chappelle. I imagine that when I get there he lends me a pair of overalls and a big straw hat so I can help till dirt for a garden while we listen to Wu-Tang, tell jokes, smoke hella weed and fly around on jet-packs or whatever. Basically just being best friends forever. But I don’t think that shit’ll ever happen now ’cause the future’s looking bleak. Like Dave said in his new special, “the streets are talking” and what they’re saying is clear. But our leader’s aren’t listening and the outcome’s predictable.

To close his latest, Dave said, “…David Chappelle understands what the fuck he is seeing, and these streets will speak for themselves whether I am alive or dead. I trust you guys. I love you guys. We’ll keep this space open, this is the last stronghold for civil discourse. After this shit it’s just rat-ta-tat-tat-rat-tity-tat-tat-TAT!”

I felt sick when I heard Dave say that because I know it wasn’t a joke or a threat. That Dave Chappelle is done joking around is a statement in itself. We’re seeing something rise up in these cops, something we tried to put down before though we only drove it underground. Well, it’s back and militarized with dystopic surveillance and automation capabilities. I don’t think anyone is deceived about the stakes and yet we’re saying, NO! THIS ENDS NOW!