Seattle Police Assault Outspoken Teacher. Get Away With It. As Usual.

Jesse Hagopian is an award-winning history teacher at Garfield High School, an author, an outspoken activist, and a leader of the fight against excessive school testing. And yesterday, near the end of the MLK Day march, he was assaulted by Seattle Police without provocation.

As Hagopian explains in further detail on his Facebook page:

I was marching for Martin Luther King day today–amazing march! At one point after the big main march, group of bike cops set up a line to keep us from marching. Some people walked through the line, but I didn’t. When my phone rang, I turned away from the cops and began walking away to answer the phone. A cop then ran up in my face and pepper sprayed me right in the face. The milk has helped a lot and I’m beginning to feel better. Wish we had a better world.

Hagopian is a public figure of sorts, a fixture at social justice rallies and protests, and a relatively frequent subject of media coverage. He’s not known to be violent in any way, but he is known to be a leader. So not having seen the incident, here’s my bit of informed conjecture as to what might have happened: The police recognized him, saw him reach for his phone, and suspected he might be organizing activities on the ground. So they disabled him.

That’s right. My guess is that the police pepper sprayed Hagopian in order to prevent him from using his phone.

I suppose it’s possible the officer in question is just an asshole who indiscriminately assaulted Hagopian for no apparent reason (or an asshole who recognized Hagopian and saw an opportunity to assault him just because), but in any case, the point is that once again an officer assaulted an innocent person and got away with it.

And yes, pepper spraying somebody in the face is assault. If I were to walk up to you and pepper spray you in the face, I would be charged with assault. And if I were to walk up to a Seattle police officer and pepper spray him in the face I would certainly be charged with assaulting a police officer (assuming I survived the encounter). But police have learned from experience that they have near absolute impunity to pepper spray anybody, with no legal consequences whatsoever. It’s gotten to the point where they even laugh about it. Pepper spray—It’s funny! Ha-ha!

Note that the officer didn’t run up to Hagopian and punch him in the face. That would have left a mark. He would’ve had to then arrest Hagopian and charge him with something (usually resisting arrest and/or assaulting a police officer) in order to avoid facing charges of his own—which, you know, is a hassle. So he pepper sprayed him.

And yes, I can only presume that Hagopian was innocent of any legal transgression, based on the fact that he was neither arrested nor charged. Which raises a related issue: The stunning number of citizens who are pepper sprayed (i.e. assaulted) by police and charged with absolutely nothing. No arrest. No charges. Nada. Because under our current rules of engagement, you apparently don’t have to engage in illegal behavior, present a danger to yourself or others, or refuse to comply with a legal order to be assaulted by the police. The caustic chemical burning your eyes is evidence enough that you were a valid target.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not totally opposed to pepper spray. I fully support its use as an alternative to deadly force. But its lazy and indiscriminate use as a means of crowd control or for forcing compliance from peaceful citizens should be a fucking crime.

SOTU at Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottlePlease join us tonight for a special State-of-the-Union edition of the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally. Festivities are scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm sharp.

We meet every Tuesday evening, speech or no speech, at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. Our usual starting time–when there is no SOTU address–is 8:00 pm.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, WA, and Shelton chapters also meet. The Lakewood chapter meets on Wednesday. The Woodinville and Kent chapters meet this Thursday.

There are 181 chapters of Living Liberally, including sixteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

2,200. And That’s Just the Number of Idiot Gun Owners Who TSA Caught Last Year Trying to Carry a Gun Through Airport Security

About 2,200 guns were seized at TSA airport checkpoints last year, a 20 percent rise from the year before, and 230 percent more than 2005. And according to the New York Times, “a vast majority of the weapons were loaded and had bullets in the chamber.”

While defense attorneys and law enforcement officials said a vast majority of weapons cases at airports were honest mistakes, advocates of stricter gun laws said the number of incidents was alarming. “People say, ‘I’m so responsible with my gun,’ and here they are forgetting they have them in an airport where there are so many people and kids running around,” said Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.

The case of a toddler fatally shooting his mother after fishing a gun out of her purse in an Idaho Walmart in December shows how easily tragedies can occur.

We need to start treating gun violations the way we treat DUIs. Even a minor violation should result in a suspended license; repeat violations should result the permanent suspension of one’s right to own and carry a gun. These aren’t tragic accidents. Most “accidental” shootings are the result of criminal negligence by people who simply can’t be trusted to responsibly own a gun.

HA Bible Study: Deuteronomy 23:12-14

Deuteronomy 23:12-14
Set up a place outside the camp to be used as a toilet area. And make sure that you have a small shovel in your equipment. When you go out to the toilet area, use the shovel to dig a hole. Then, after you relieve yourself, bury the waste in the hole. You must keep your camp clean of filthy and disgusting things. The LORD is always present in your camp, ready to rescue you and give you victory over your enemies. But if he sees something disgusting in your camp, he may turn around and leave.


Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Liberal Viewer: FAUX News IDIOT claims that no non-Muslims in Birmingham.

Lawrence O’Donnell: Steve Scalise’s “unbelievable” slavery explanations.

Mental Floss: 30 stories from behind the scenes of blockbusters.

The Republican War on Social Security:

James Rustad: I’m not your steppin’ stool.

Thom: FAUX News is wrong! America IS progressive.

Alex Wagner: SCOTUS primed for same sex marriage decision.

Maddow: Texas Republican Congressman apologizes for Obama/Hitler remark.

White House: Big Block of Cheese Day.

Steve Kornacki: Republicans eager to erode Wall Street Reform.

Jon explains Florida.

David Pakman: Anti-Science nutjobber Sen. Ted Cruz will oversee NASA.

Je Suis Charlie:

Mark Fiore: Whip Steve Scalise.

Ed: U.S. and England are united over Iran sanctions.

Mental Floss: Is blood ever blue?

Alex Wagner: Why deniers deny…2014 was the hottest year on Record.

Pap: Right wing extremism kills people.

Young Turks: Recreational vs medicinal marijuana…the Washington regulation debate.

Roll Call: SOTU Promo.

Sam Seder: FAUX News’ sad Petraeus conspiracy.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-9) “co-sponsors” a bill he strongly opposes. How to fix America.

2016 Presidential Wannabes:

People’s climate march: wrap up.

Young Turks: 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded.

David Pakman: Unemployment falls to 5.6% under Obama.

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about getting sick.

Pap: Republicans are too dysfunctional to lead.

David Pakman: “Freedom fries, boycott France” Republican hypocrites are “angry” Obama didn’t go to France:

Obama announces plan to expand broadband internet.

Maddow: Friday night news dump…weird bucket of stuff edition.

The Republican War on America’s Borders:

White House: West Wing Week.

Thom with The Good, The Bad, and The Very, Very Ugly.

Maddow: Anonymous v. ISIS.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

The US House of Representatives passed a law repealing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that lets young people here without documentation a path to citizenship.

The House vote would put 600,000 so-called DREAMers back in danger of deportation.

An amendment, passed on a 218-209 vote, denies federal money or use of fees to enroll young people in the DACA program, and would not allow those already enrolled to renew.

This isn’t really a national blog, but I’m writing about it because I’m heartened by Patty Murray’s response: calling the vote “something horrible” casts it in moral terms as opposed to just well let’s have a difference of agreement. This is an important moral issue, and it’s important to say so. It’s important to raise our voices that, you know what, this is a really dickish thing to propose. And if it’s for political reasons or for what they actually believe, it’s still immoral. It’s still horrible. And it’s still worth calling out with that language.

Republicans Aren’t Smart

Raising the minimum wage is very popular. So if Washington State Republicans were smart, they would join with Democrats in passing legislation that raises the state minimum wage to $12 an hour. Or if they really want to be dicks about it, they could try to negotiate the number down to $11.50, or maybe even $11, and still claim credit for increasing the minimum wage. It would boost our economy, make voters happy, and take a potent issue away from Democrats in 2016.

But Republicans won’t join with Democrats in raising the minimum wage. Because Republicans aren’t smart.

2nd Amendment Advocates Express Their 1st Amendment Right to Be Assholes

Olympia Gun Nuts

Gun rights advocates proudly flaunt their weapons during protest at the Washington State Capitol yesterday. Because they’re assholes.

To be clear, if I were to walk onto the floor of Washington State’s house or senate chambers wearing a bulletproof vest atop my jacket and tie, I would be removed for violating the dress code. But asshole gun nuts like those pictured above are free to open-carry semi-automatic weapons into the galleries above the chambers. God bless America!

UPDATE: Lt. Governor Brad Owen has announced that openly carried firearms will no longer be allowed in the senate gallery:

Owen said it didn’t make sense to allow people to openly carry firearms while banning backpacks, signs and umbrellas.

Gee, ya think?

Another Great GOP Free Speech Idea

I was not really familiar with the Ag-Gag laws that various states are enacting. In Washington, it falls to hero of freedom, Representative Joe Schmick to take up this noble cause.

“I view it as a way to protect the farmer,” Rep. Schmick was quoted as saying in the Capital Press. “You can edit anything to make it look really bad.” (Rep. Schmick has ties to ALEC and, as of 2010, was listed as a member of its national “energy, environment, and agriculture task force.”)

That is literally true of any topic. But the great thing is that if you feel that speech isn’t right or good or just, instead of appealing to the state to squash it, you can respond if you like. Or you can just ignore it. Or — and I know this is way out there — you can respond to criticism in a way that maybe improve practices so that it’s less likely you get caught doing bad things in the future. And you become better.

National Poll: 63 Percent of Americans Support a $15 Minimum Wage

A stunning new poll conducted by Hart Research Associates finds that 63 percent of respondents support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. A less ambitious proposal to raise the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour earns an even more overwhelming 75 percent support, including support from a majority of Republicans. The poll additional finds that 82 percent of respondents support indexing the minimum wage to inflation, while 71 percent of respondents favor eliminating the federal tip credit. The survey of 1002 adults was conducted January 5-7, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

The federal minimum wage currently stands at $7.25 an hour, and at just $2.13 an hour for tipped employees.

Why Democrats aren’t flocking to this issue, I just don’t know. It’s a political no-brainer.

Walking Distance to Transit Is a Moving Target

So the apparent success of Car2Go in incentivizing members to give up their personal vehicles—about 2,000 Seattleites, according to the company’s statistics—got me thinking about a recent article I’d seen on what it really means to live and work “close” to transit.

The conventional thinking among urban planners is that few Americans are willing to walk more than a half a mile to a transit stop; after that, ridership supposedly falls off precipitously. But a new study on the impact of proximity to a light rail station on office rents in Dallas found that a quarter of the rent premium persists nearly a full mile from transit, and at least some rent premium can be detected as much as 1.85 miles away.

That’s right: Businesses are willing to pay significantly higher rents to be about a mile from a light rail station. Which clearly implies that a significant portion of their workers are willing to walk that mile. In Texas.

That doesn’t surprise me. I live about a mile from Othello Station, and Link Light Rail has become my primary means of commuting downtown to work. No traffic, no expensive parking, and rarely an unexpected delay. It’s simply much less expensive and more convenient than driving.

To be honest, the majority of days I don’t actually walk the full mile. On days I need to drop off or pick up my daughter on Mercer Island, I park just outside the restricted area around Mt. Baker Station—the closest station to the I-90 bridge. And, I admit, on many other days I drive halfway to Othello Station, due to poor time management on my part, or bad weather. (Mostly poor time management.)

But—and here’s my main observation—I already own a car. If I did not own a car, I certainly wouldn’t buy one to take me a half mile closer to the rail station. I’d just walk it. No big deal.

According to AAA, when you add everything together, the average cost of car ownership comes to $8,876 a year. Of course, you can own a car for less. I figure my car is costing me less than $5,000 a year. But that’s not nothing. And as our transportation options increase—rail, bus, Car2Go, ZipCar, taxi, and yes, even the economically predacious TNCs like Uber and Lyft—more and more Seattleites will choose to steer clear of car ownership.

And the less we own cars, the further we’ll be willing to walk to transit. Having transformed the choice between walking and driving into a choice between walking and owning a car, a one mile walk—even a mile and a half—just won’t seem all that far.

Wasting Money

I was reading this piece about the GOP opposition to passing a carbon tax or any type of actually funding a transit package.

While some Puget Sound motorists are angry about longer commute times, House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish said his constituents are telling him “you guys are blowing my money” on failed projects.

I was someone who was for a cheaper alternative. I was hoping that we could have a surface-transit option. But the state didn’t want that, and so the city voted to approve something different. I think it was a waste of money (although I also think given the will of Seattle voters, we still should try to press ahead as long as the state doesn’t try to force us to pay for the overruns).

But for the infinity squared time, Seattle really isn’t wasting money of Snohomish voters, or, like, Dan Kristiansen, um, personally. Snohomish County gives back about as much as it gets back from the state. And while I don’t have the district-by-district numbers, something tells me that’s more to do with Everett and the North Seattle suburbs than Snohomish. Meanwhile, King County gives about 62 cents for every dollar it gets back from the state. So, sure, there’s some waste in some state projects in Seattle, but it isn’t Seattle forcing poor ol’ Snohomish to pay.

If these GOP lawmakers were so concerned about the parts of the state “blowing my money” they would literally never complain about Seattle projects. We could probably fill the hole in with gold, and it wouldn’t be as wasteful as some counties, like, existing. To be clear, I understand the reasons that it costs the state more to provide services in rural and exurban areas, and am happy to pay for them for the most part. I just wish that their legislators wouldn’t pretend that city folks are blowing their money when we spend much more to get less.

Remember, It Isn’t “Bipartisan” Unless a Majority of Republicans Are on Board

Hey, remember all those times the Seattle Times editorial board lauded the so-called Majority Coalition Caucus—consisting of all 23 Republicans and just two turncoat Democrats—for their bipartisanship? Well, oddly, it seems that caucus math isn’t commutative:

But bipartisanship is already in short supply, just one day into the session. Moments after the two-thirds-rule vote, the minority Senate Democratic caucus engaged in their own parliamentary high jinks, getting conservative Republican state Sen. Pam Roach installed as president pro tempore, a top leadership position, over renegade Democratic state Sen. Tim Sheldon, who caucuses with the GOP.

Right. So 23 Republicans plus 2 Democrats equals bipartisanship, but 2 Republicans plus 23 Democrats equals the opposite. Weird.

Other than that, it’s not actually an awful editorial. I’m beginning to see a glimmer of hope that this revamped editorial board might even be open to endorsing new tax revenue.