Seattle paid $17.5K to "manage" online rep of public utility CEO

The City of Seattle paid $17,500 to Brand.com to enhance the "online reputation" of City Light, its public utility, and Chief Executive Officer Jorge Carrasco, asking them to "lessen the prevalence of any negative or less-relevant stories" in search results for the utility or the CEO, who was the highest-paid public employee in the city, with a salary of $245,000.

It's not clear what sort of bad news about Carrasco or City Light Brand.com was trying to push off the front page of Google results, but their promised methodology included placing favorable paid articles with the Huffington Post and Examiner.com, as well as "doctorate level content" written by "influential bloggers."

The Huffington Post says that it was unaware if Damon Banks, the writer who published a favorable piece about Carrasco and his utility, was being paid by Brand.com, but if he was, they'd no longer accept work from him. Banks did not reply to a request for comment from the Seattle Times.

Here's the action plan [PDF] that the city and Brand.com drew up for City Light and Carrasco's online reputation polishing.

Read the rest

Phoenix Jones conducts fitness-based Seattle superhero purge


Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones (previously) has purged the membership of Rain City Superheroes, dissolving and reforming the superhero group with new, stringent membership requirements, including the ability to do five pull-ups and 25 sit-ups in two minutes.

Read the rest

Seattle cop fired for harassing photographer

King County deputy Patrick "KC" Saulet has been fired for ordering Dominic Holden, a reporter for the Seattle newspaper "The Stranger," to stop taking pictures of an arrest from a public street; for lying to Holden about which part of the public scene was and was not public property; and for lying to his boss later about the incident. Saulet's boss, King County sheriff John Urquhart, explained that he'd fired his officer because "You have a constitutional right to photograph the police," and "[threatening to arrest a citizen for legally taking photos of cops] is a constitutional violation."

The fired deputy had a long history of civil rights abuses, and the police force had spent a lot of money and time on retraining and counselling for him.

It's extremely refreshing to see senior police officials taking the law seriously when it comes to the officers they command, and to understand the corrosive effect on trust between the public and the police created by impunity for abuses such as these.

Read the rest

TSA seize tiny, itsy-bitsy gun from sock-monkey


The sock monkey above is called "Rooster Monkburn," and he was created by Phillis May, who makes a sells sock monkeys. When Ms May and her husband traversed the TSA checkpoint at SEA-TAC St Louis airport, an eagle-eyed TSA operative noticed that Rooster was sporting a sub-two-inch toy pistol, which she seized, threatening to call police. Altogether, now, everyone: U! S! A! U! S! A! U! S! A!

May said the TSA agent went through the bag, through the sewing supplies and found the two-inch long pistol.

“She said ‘this is a gun,’” said May. “I said no, it’s not a gun it’s a prop for my monkey.”

“She said ‘If I held it up to your neck, you wouldn’t know if it was real or not,’ and I said ‘really?’” said May.

The TSA agent told May she would have to confiscate the tiny gun and was supposed to call the police.

“I said well go ahead,” said May. “And I said really? You’re kidding me right, and she said no it looks like a gun.”

“She took my monkey’s gun,” said May, who has retained her sense of humor.

TSA agent confiscates sock monkey's toy pistol [Susan Wyatt/King 5 News]

(Thanks, Gary!)

(Image: Phyllis May)

Seattle cops give away mini-Doritos with weed law advice at "Hempfest"


A program called "Operation Orange Fingers" will see Seattle cops will welcoming attendees at this weekend's Hempfest with miniature bags of Doritos with links to the department's Marijwhatnow? guide to staying on the right side of the state's law that decriminalized simple possession of sub-one-ounce quantities of marijuana.

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Octavia Butler Park, Seattle

The Seattle Parks Department wants to know what to name a new park, and one of the choices is science fiction hero Octavia Butler. Take the survey here. (via IO9) Cory 3

Corporations are people, so the city of Seattle can't have an opt-out policy for spammy phonebooks no one wants


Jeff sez,

Seattle will spend $500,000 to settle a lawsuit it lost with phonebook companies over its sensible opt-out program for residents.

Beginning in May 2011, Seattle began allowing residents to opt out of unwanted phonebook deliveries. The program was so popular, the city reports that more than 2 million pounds of paper are saved annually as a result. The phonebook companies sued the city and lost, but won on appeal. The city has chosen not to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The phonebook companies alleged in their complaint that the phonebook ordinance, 'denies [their] rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.'(free speech and due process). If not for the legal concept of 'corporate personhood', the phonebook companies wouldn't be able to sue Seattle to assert Constitutional rights originally written only for people.

Rather than ask the question, 'are the phonebook companies people?'and 'do they have the right to free speech?'the courts have focused largely on whether the content in the phonebooks (advertisements and phone listings) represent free speech which can't be regulated or commercial speech, which can be.

The companies claim, 'The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits government from -- enforcing the desire of citizens to avoid communications [and] from prying into citizens' preferences regarding communications they seek to avoid.'

Corporate Personhood to Cost Seattle $500,000 to Settle Phone Book Lawsuit (Thanks, Jeff!)

(Image: Seattle Phone Book Spam, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from edkohler's photostream)

Interlibrary Loan is awesome

Denizens of BushcraftUK discuss Willie Sundqvist's "Swedish Carving Techniques," a rare tome that goes for £100 and more. Then one of them has the bright idea of asking his local library to get one through Interlibrary Loan, the original P2P file-sharing network, and shortly thereafter, he gets a copy to read, courtesy of the Seattle Public Library. Go libraries! (Thanks, Andrew!) Cory

Roq La Rue Gallery art openings for Femke Hiemstra & Ryan Heshka

Kittykaboodles framed
ROQ7 the shes lo res


Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle, WA is having two simultaneous solo shows with new paintings by two of my favorites: Femke Hiemstra and Ryan Heshka. It opens Friday December 7th 6-9pm, and both artists will be in attendance. The show runs through January 5th.

Roq La Rue is very pleased to present two solo shows for our last show of 2012, with gallery favorites Femke Hiemstra and Ryan Heshka. Please join us for a festive opening party on December 7th with drinks and music. All are welcome.

Femke Hiemstra’s meticulously tight, jewel like mixed media paintings and exquisitely rendered black and white drawings are homes to a dark fairytale land where inanimate objects come to life and frolic with animal neighbors. Lollipops become ship captains, strawberries become giant wrestlers, and vegetables become Halloween gods with lantern eyes. Femke occasionally uses typography in her work, using words from various languages and letters in her paintings to further enhance the narrative while still retaining a playful sense of mystery, or as a visual device to frame in the scenery, as if you were looking at her world through a secret window. She also uses found objects to paint on, such as boxes and wrappers, to create imaginary products with magical properties. Drawing from a range of influences, from firework wrappers to Japanese woodblock prints, Femke’s use of both pop culture detritus and child-like fantasy create a vi! brant playground for the imagination, with each piece looking like a portal for a fantastic adventure, which is left up to the viewer to imagine the story that lies inside.

Ryan Heshka unapologetically pays homage to Golden Era sci fi pulp while creating a style that is also uniquely his own. He explores themes of man vs nature, (even though often the "nature" is from another world) as well as the exploring the ideology of pushing the limits of science as a tool to help and further mankind, and the technological terrors that can be inadvertently unleashed as a result. His work is usually acrylic painted on wood panel, heavily varnished and embellished with tags cut from pulp magazines, which serve as inspiration and explanation of each piece. This new show will feature a range of paintings including some of his largest works to date.

Femke Hiemstra "Let The Devil Wear Black"

Ryan Heshka "Disasterama"

Surveillance Camera Man wants to know why we accept CCTVs but not a creepy guy with a camcorder

"Surveillance Camera Man" is an anonymous fellow who wanders the streets and malls of Seattle with a handheld camcorder, walking up to people and recording them -- in particular, recording their reactions to being recorded. He answers their questions with bland, deadpan statements ("It's OK, I'm just recording video"), and sometimes mentions that there are lots of other (non-human-carried) cameras recording his subjects.

The videos are an interesting provocation. The underlying point -- that the business, homes, and governments who put CCTVs in the places where we live our lives are intruding upon our privacy -- is one I agree with. However, I think that Surveillance Camera Man's point is blurred by the fact that he sometimes invades his subjects' personal space, making it unclear whether the discomfort they exhibit comes from having a person standing right by them, or whether it's the camera they object to. There's also some childish taunting of easy targets (I'm no fan of the Church of Scientology, but surely the reason that the lady who keeps trying to throw him out is upset is that he's holding a camera and making fun of Scientology, and not the camera alone).

‘Creepy Cameraman’ pushes limits of public surveillance — a glimpse of the future?

Amino acid necklace spells out "we are star-stuff"


Colette Taylor is a molecular biologist and crafter who makes some rather lovely pieces, including the amino-acid inspired necklace shown here (which I saw in person tonight), which reads "We are star-stuff."

There are certain phrases or ideas which sometimes need reminding. Just to keep us sane, to remind us what is important. This is We Are Star Stuff in Amino Acids. This is a big one for me, a reminder from Carl Sagan that we are all made of the same building blocks, and the same amazing pieces. Not only are we made of the same stuff, it is particles of the universe. This is a reminder of not just how insignificant an individual is, it’s a reminder that every individual is a beautiful and brilliant thing. It’s so awesome that a person, made of the same thing as everyone else, manages to carve out a unique and original existence. This is a reminder that being is pretty much the coolest thing ever, and should never be taken for granted.

The Efforts of a Scientist and Compulsive Crafter

Washington's King County voids marriage license between a person and a corporation

Jeff sez, "King County has voided the license it issued Tuesday between Corporate Person, a Washington State Corporation, and Ms. Angela Marie Vogel: 'Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female who have each attained the age of eighteen years, and who are otherwise capable.'"

The Wedding of Corporate Person to Angela Marie Vogel (Thanks, Jeff!)

Seattle woman who's had a double mastectomy fights for the right to swim bare-chested

Here's a CBC As It Happens story from last month on Jodi Jaecks, a woman in Seattle who had a double mastectomy and successfully fought the city for the right to swim topless in the local pool. She swims as part of her post-surgical therapy, and finds wearing women's suits cumbersome. She was given "singular permission" to swim wearing only a bottom, but has vowed to continue the fight until the policy is changed throughout.

For breast cancer survivor,Jodi Jaecks, the fight isn't over. Last week, she won the right to go topless in Seattle area public pools. That's a year after undergoing a double mastectomy. Now, she wants to make sure the same rules apply to other women who have survived breast cancer.

Double Mastectomy Swimmer

Posters/petitions for Seattle residents against corporate personhood


Jeff sez, "Some graphic designers in Seattle anonymously created these cool "Corporations Aren't People" posters for the I103 initiative... they are editable PDFs so you can change the text as needed."

What is Initiative Measure 103? Measure 103 is a citizen's initiative in Seattle to elevate peoples' rights above corporate rights and put an end to corporate personhood and other legal privileges corporations use to overrule communities in our democracy. Read the initiative.

What does Measure 103 do? If enacted, the measure would prohibit corporations from making political contributions or lobbying, end corporate personhood and close the revolving door between elected officials and corporations impacted by their lawmaking. The measure would establish community rights to fair elections, clean government, self-government, citizen oversight of the police, rights for neighborhoods to approve zoning changes, Constitutional rights for workers, rights for nature to protect Puget Sound, our resident Orca pods and salmon runs and legislate status quo network neutrality.

i103 Downloads (Thanks, Jeff!)

Seattle library hides 1,000 books around town for young people to find

The Seattle Public Library system's annual Summer Reading Program is called Century 22: Read the Future, and is tied in with the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair. Young people are encouraged to scour the city's landmarks for 1,000 books hidden throughout town, and then to re-hide them for other kids to find. Among the books in this summer's program is my own YA novel Little Brother, which is a source of utter delight for me.