I was shocked by Mark Worth's July 23 article about Mark Cook, "The Last Brigadier," whom you refer to on the cover and in the table of contents as "Washington state's last political prisoner." I was expecting a story about someone who was imprisoned due to their political beliefs or race. Instead, I read a story about a violent repeat offender who robbed a bank and shot a policeman in cold blood, and was then prosecuted for those crimes. Bank robbing and shooting policemen are not legitimate forms of political expression, and calling Mark Cook a "political prisoner" insults the situation of countless people worldwide who are really imprisoned simply because of their beliefs.
The writer bemoans the fact that Mark Cook is the last member of this gang to be in jail, but leaves out many facts. Did the other gang members also shoot any cops? Has Mark Cook admitted that his actions were wrong and apologized to the man he shot?
I realize you folks are just trying to be iconoclastic and trendy, but this article's dismissal of the act of shooting a policemen as mere political expression is sickening. If Mark Worth had been shot in the abdomen, endured 20 operations, and had to quit his job, I'll bet he wouldn't consider his attacker a political prisoner.
Christopher A. Flaat
Mark Worth responds: While I respect and welcome Mr. Flaat's input, I fail to see how I "bemoaned" Mark Cook's continued imprisonment for the crimes he committed two decades ago. The article was difficult to research and write, and I went out of my way to make it a fair one. I attempted to contact the original prosecutors in the case (including Christopher Bayley, now a US Senate candidate), as well as the officer Cook shot. And I explained in great detail Cook's extensive criminal history (alongside the extensive efforts he's made to redeem himself).
The question I sought to raise in the article was not whether Mark Cook should have been sent to prison in the first place, but whether he should still be there. That decision lies not with me or Mr. Flaat—or even with Cook's victim—but with the parole board.
I was particularly moved by Cooper and Casey's story, "My Brother and Me" (7/23).
During my high school years, we moved to a military facility in the Salt Lake Desert called Dugway. Dugway was predominately white and during my first few days of school there, I met Wally Capel, a black student whose father was also an officer, as was mine. We became fast friends.
As our friendship continued to grow, I also became increasingly close to Wally's family. I would do almost everything with them.
On a trip to Salt Lake City, the whole family went out to dinner at a ski resort with a beautiful view. At a table next to us were four young men around the ages of 1618 who were watching us. I turned around for a moment and made eye contact with one of them who in a very loud voice exclaimed, "Nigger lover!"
I was speechless. Wally's mother, on the other hand, was not. She rose up, went over to the men and asked, "What did you say?!" They all appeared stunned. She then went over to the maitre d' and told him what had transpired, and they were ejected from the establishment.
I guess, like Cooper and his parents, I saw good people and not color. After all, they had "adopted" me too. What I am thankful for is that my parents never did, by action or gesture, disparage any other race, and I'm reminded of the song from South Pacific: You've got to be taught to hate and fear/You've got to be taught from year to year/It's got to be drummed in your dear
little ear/You've got to be carefully taught.
Larry M. Phillips
Down on the county farm
Thanks for the great article that finally brings light to the traffic concurrency scam being perpetuated by our County Council and Executive over the past years ("The County's Fig Leaf," 8/6).
Having watched local grassroots groups such as the Coalition for Public Trust trying to bring issue with this traffic concern over the past year, and then seeing the likes of King County Executive Ron Sims and County Council member Chris Vance admonish them for being "activists" and "NIMBYs," it is indeed encouraging to finally have a member of the Fourth Estate stand up and take notice. Others in the local media have simply treated it as business as usual; corrupt politics is no longer news because it is the standard. Well, if the county insists on baking (dicing, pur饩ng, and saut驮g) the books when it comes to traffic concurrency issues (and ultimately our quality of life), then I hope that there are enough of us willing to stand up and insist that this standard is no longer acceptable.
Often in the process of watching the county give approvals and building permits to the urban developments for the rural sections of East King County, these politicos have become quite versed in George Orwell's Animal Farm double-talk and changing the rules of the farm while we're fast asleep. I hope that others in the community are as outraged as I am and will take the time to either phone or write County Executive Sims and County Council members (in particular, pro-development Vance).
The people, not the party
Thanks for printing the informative article about Heidi Behrens-Benedict (Jennifer Dunn's opponent) in the July 30 issue of Seattle Weekly ("Gunning for Dunn"). The article reminded me all too clearly why I, a lifelong Democrat, have been unable to vote for a Democrat for nearly four years.
So Ms. Behrens-Benedict is going to take on the bad old NRA, eh? In my mind, that makes her about as voteworthy as a pro-life extremist waving a fetus outside of Planned Parenthood. Gun control zealots are wont to compare gun ownership and car ownership, but the real comparison should be between gun ownership and abortion. I support the responsible exercise of both rights and don't think that any law should be enacted regarding either without a complementary law similarly affecting the other right.
In 1994, the Democratic Party suffered a severe rebuke when the populace reacted to their extremist policies (including gun control, according to President Clinton) by shifting power over to the GOP. Apparently, our party and its candidates are not bright enough to realize that their job is to represent the People and not the party leadership. I would like to vote for a candidate who is pro-choice on all issues and not have to prioritize my rights. Until that time, I will be forced to hold my nose and vote Republican to protect the right that most directly affects my life.
Throwing the book
I enjoyed reading the pros and cons of your Amazon.cult cover story (7/16). Here's my two cents: Amazon's employee management practices are truly bizarre.
On July 13 I began four weeks of training in its Customer Service Department. At first I liked the job. I was eager to learn and enjoyed the challenge of absorbing lots of new information. However, after one week, my quad leader informed me of her concerns: I was not answering customer e-mail fast enough, plus, I was asking too many questions. "At this job you are expected to work independently," I was told. "Until you have proven yourself capable, no one will listen to you." Naturally, I stopped asking questions, and not surprisingly, I noticed that the rest of my training group also clammed up. The trainers seemed unfazed by our zombified silences. They repeatedly urged us, if we had any questions, not to be afraid.
During weeks two and three I managed to successfully repair my morale as I continued to learn and improve the speed and quality of my work. I was proving myself and receiving encouragement from senior co-workers. I was cutting it.
Yet, on the fifth of this month, in the last week of the training process, I was fired. This decision, the quad supervisor explained, was based not on my performance, but rather on the assumption that my personality would eventually clash with the rest of my quad mates: I was too quiet, too distant, and therefore too risky.
Ironically, my supervisor and I got along quite well. We seemed to have no obvious personality conflicts, although she's very high-strung and I'm more laid back.
Two images of my last day remain:
1) Being told that my sentence to a customer "I hope this helps" has negative connotations.
2) Having my freshly critiqued e-mail crumpled up and tossed into the trash by my "mentor."
Looking back, I have no choice but to laugh at Amazon's insipid employee management practices. Then again, I got out early.
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