Support Anti-Trafficking Legislation

Take action to End Demand in Washington state! From Washington Engage’s Facebook page this morning:

Please support two more key bills in the fight against human trafficking! Both bills are scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Law and Justice, Thursday January 28 at 8AM. Let’s make sure these critical bills pass in 2016!
SB 5880 would require human trafficking training for all workers in the service industry. WA Engage is partnering with Senator Padden, introducing this legislation for the second year.
SB 5277 would increase the criminal penalties for sex buyers – again being introduced for the second year.
Thank you for your support!

More information, including links to the bills’ legislative page where you can make a public comment at:

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Brothels in Bellevue Busted

So, yesterday 12 brothels operated out of high end apartments were shut down in Bellevue, 12 men and 1 woman arrested for promoting prostitution according to the Seattle Times and 12 trafficked women from Korea freed, with two related websites also shut down.

“Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said King County is the first jurisdiction in the country to charge ‘an organized group of sex buyers’ with promoting the prostitution of women from South Korea, who are brought to the U.S. to work as prostitutes and are shuttled between major cities.”

About the websites KING 5 reports:

Sheriff John Urquhart says two websites — thereviewboard.net and kgirldelights.com — were seized and shut down. The “K” in kgirldelights.com stands for Korean. Police say the websites were used to rate, discuss, and promote the prostitution of women.

“Information shared on the site was used to exploit the foreign-born women, mostly from Korea, who were also being shuttled from one city to the next on a monthly basis. Organizers of the network encouraged sex buyers to consistently visit the most desired prostituted persons advertised so that they would be kept in the Seattle area longer,” said the sheriff’s office in a statement.

Ironically, kgirldelights was set up by  owner of TheReviewboard.net and 50 0f his most prolific posters who formed an invitation only group called “The League” to avoid police notice, according to the Seattle Times. Most of those arrested were members of “The League”.

KING 5 says:

Urquhart said kgirldelights.com was run by “The League,” made up of a group of businessmen. The women were forced into prostitution to pay debts, often being held against their will. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said some of the women were forced to work every day, up to 14 hours, servicing up to 10 Johns per day.

As the Seattle Times notes: “‘Many of the members made comments that indicated they were aware these girls were more than likely trafficked and had little choice in choosing to work as prostitutes,’ say the charges.” Indeed, the KING 5 story includes a link to some of their comments and posts to TheReviewboard.net:

An example:

Since it was her first day I asked if she was nervous. She didn’t understand. I tried, “scared?” Out came the phone as I spelled it, s…c…a…r…e…d. Suddenly a pained look came over her face. I actually thought she was going to cry. “Yes! I scared!” and she buried her head on my chest and embraced me tightly for a moment. Oops maybe not a good question to ask. But soon she looked up at me and said “thank you.” I’m not sure what for but breathed a sigh of relief.

Of course, if you’re to believe SWOP, echoed these days by Amnesty International, the johns and pimps/madams/brothel owners, as well as “sex workers” themselves are supposed to rescued those trafficked. Hmm, that didn’t seem to happen, and there were 22,000 members/johns on TheReviewboard.net board who would have seen these kind of reviews. The reviews of obviously trafficked women should been noticed by the “sex workers” in SWOP themselves as they shared the website.

Wait, SWOP is upset about this. Upset that the review websites have been shut down.  KING 5 says:

In a bizarre twist, prostitutes held a protest in the lobby of the sheriff’s office while he and other law enforcement officials were briefing news reporters at a press conference.

The prostitutes showed up to protest the closing of the website, thereviewboard.net, which they claim allowed them to assess clients and determine who is safe and who is not.

“Sites like this allow us to screen clients and advertise without standing on the street corner,” said Maggie McNeill, who says she is a prostitute.

“’It (the shutdown) increases the odds a sex worker needing to make rent will take an unverified client,’ Savannah Sly, president of the Sex Worker Outreach Project, wrote in an email.”

Of course, these websites weren’t at all safe for the Korean women being trafficking. It’s not clear to me at all from the documents what kind of screening is done of the men (other than in the KING 5 video, it says they were screened to make sure they weren’t cops), although some of the advertisements for the women mention “standard screening” or requiring references. Mostly these sites seem to be for screening the women being sold. I doubt they get to rate the customers.

In fact, as the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS) says that: “Contrary to misinformed perceptions, review boards such as these are NOT a safety net for women in prostitution. Rather, these boards simply promote the market for commercial sex to a point where women are considered chattel and violence against women is encouraged and promoted.”

As survivor leader Alisa Bernard points out in another KING 5 story “the fact that one of the more prominent sites is gone provides some sign of progress.

‘That means there are 18-to-20,000 men who are not buying sex on that site,’ she said. ‘They have officially lost their victim population.'”

Oh, wait, I almost missed the spin on the local SWOP Seattle site. In addition to stating their concern “about collateral damage the website’s closure will have on adult workers in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest”, they suggest that:

“Migrant sex workers, especially Asian migrant workers, are often inaccurately labeled as trafficking victims,” Savannah Sly, SWOP-USA Board President and former Seattle-based sex worker, said. “I don’t doubt that King County prosecutors will wave this is a victory against human trafficking, highlighting the presence of migrant Korean sex workers on TRB to indicate abuse. Just because a women came to the U.S. and works as an escort does not mean she did so involuntarily. These assumptions are blatantly racist and xenophobic. Many migrant workers in the sex trade, domestic work and agriculture emigrate and work voluntarily. It’s criminalization and stigma of sex work and immigration status that makes these workers so vulnerable, not the work itself.”

Sure. We’re all xenophobic if we’re concerned about trafficking. Women are just migrating because they want to see the inside of a brothel and strange naked men in a foreign country.

 

New Year’s Day Walk

It was a sunny New Year’s Day in Seattle, so I got inspired to go out and take some pictures, something I haven’t done in awhile. Initially I was thinking of heading over to UW, but I got to thinking of finding the 52nd St. (NE) stairs I had read about in Jake & Cathy Jaramillo‘s book Seattle Stairway Walks I had gotten out from the library awhile back. I was well familiar with the Ravenna Park part of that walk, but have kept meaning to find the 52nd St. stairs which I knew must be just a block from my normal walk to University Village.

2016 01 01_4473

 

Actually a series of stairs, from 20th Ave NE to 21st, 21st to 22nd, and 22nd to Ravenna (where there’s a P-Patch, a little lonely in the frost this time of year).

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Back up the stairs to 2oth Ave. . .

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I decided to head over to the 20th Ave NE Bridge over Ravenna Park, and found a Little Free Library on Ravenna & 20th on the way there.

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The 20th Ave Bridge has long been closed to traffic. . .

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. . . and you can view the Ravenna Park trails below. . .

2016 01 01_4512

I ended up at Third Place Books, where I browsed and had a cup of coffee and a cookie.

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I am planning on getting my own copy of Seattle Stairway Walks and exploring other stairways in Seattle. I’ve always loved exploring stairways when I visit San Francisco, but really have neglected the ones here at home.

In addition to the book, Jake & Cathy Jaramillo also have a website, Seattle Stairway Walks. There is also a walking advocacy group, Feet First, which advocates for more walkable neighborhoods, has more maps and information, including walking groups. There’s also a similar site for folks in Bellevue, called Walk On in Bell WA.

Happy New Year!

 

Abandoning Native & First Nations’ Women

Amnesty International’s lack of concern for the fact the poor and minorities are targeted for prostitution has been particularly disturbing. Especially disturbing regarding Native American and  Canadian First Nations’ women, whose rights were focused on during AI’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign.

In her Aug. 12, 2015 blog post, An Open Letter to Amnesty InternationalThe Tuff Muff, an Assiniboine woman, points out the contradiction of AI Canada’s 2004 No More Stolen Sisters report and their subsequent campaign for the Canadian government to take action on the (as of 2012, according to their current online petition) 1,017 missing Indigenous women in Canada and their new policy decriminalizing johns and pimps:

You see, I admire the commitment Amnesty International once had for fighting against oppression towards my indigenous sisters. You fought hard for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women of Canada. You brought this issue to the attention of people around the world. Though your efforts have been largely ignored by the Canadian federal government, they have not gone unnoticed by indigenous women, such as myself, in Canada. However, I am shocked at your recent policy calling for the decriminalization of johns and pimps. I feel dismayed at your willingness to promote men’s right to buy, sell and profit from women’s exploitation. Prostitution in Canada largely affects indigenous women; a reality you so readily acknowledged in your report, Stolen Sisters. Poverty, addiction, homelessness, inter-generational violence and mental illness leave women exceptionally vulnerable to pimps and johns but you knew this already, didn’t you?  Why, I ask, promote an industry that exists off the backs of the most impoverished women? Why choose to stand behind those who profit from the human rights violations that occur in prostitution?

She goes on to point out the racism, classism and sexism of the policy and  the intersectionality (something AI claims to value these days) between those oppressions:

In Stolen Sisters, you pointed out that previous physical or sexual trauma pushes young indigenous people into prostitution. As a front-line anti-violence worker, I am well aware of the profound harm incest and childhood sexual abuse can have on women in prostitution. When the statistics tell us that 84% of prostituted women in Canada have experienced incest or childhood sexual abuse, the connection between the two is crystal clear. Why are you so blind to this reality?

Prostitution is classist, racist and sexist. You’re familiar with those concepts, right? When an institution such as prostitution disproportionally targets poor women of colour, the intersectionality between these oppressions is obvious. With your new policy, however, you’ve decided to side with the rich, mostly white, men of the world who buy and sell women.

In her article in January 14, 2015 The Globe and MailReal change for aboriginal women begins with the end of prostitutionCherry Smiley, from the Native Women’s Association of Canada praises their Canada’s new prostitution law for the decision to “to criminalize johns, pimps, and third-party advertising for sexual services, and to decriminalize prostituted women in most circumstances,” also  providing some “investments in support and exiting services.”

She goes on to point out that:

Some opponents have claimed this new legislation reproduces colonial state violence against aboriginal women and girls by increasing police power. What this analysis fails to recognize is that prostitution is not a traditional activity for aboriginal women and, in fact, is “the world’s oldest oppression.” It is a system, like Canada’s residential school system, that has been imposed on our aboriginal communities. Prostitution is part of the continuum of colonial male violence against aboriginal women and girls, telling us incorrectly that we are disposable in life and that predators can harm us without recourse. The end point of that continuum is the thousands of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, an ongoing massacre that continues to tell us that we are disposable, even in death, with no official inquiry or accountability.

Smiley further points out how indigenous women are especially funneled into prostitution by inequalities and notes that: “In the same ways that those who came before us were funnelled into the residential school system ‘for our own good,’ the attempts to now funnel us into the system of prostitution, and to support the rights of pimps and johns, is also being incorrectly portrayed as being for our own benefit and protection.”

Ironically, AIUSA made those connections between racism and colonialism regarding Native American women in prostitution in a November 2, 2011 blog post New Report on Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota, in the aftermath of their 2007  Maze of Injustice report on sexual violence against Native American women, making the same kind of points that fall on deaf ears now with AIUSA leadership.

Citing The Garden of Truth, by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and Prostitution Research & Education“the first study detailing the personal experiences of Native women who have been prostituted and trafficked in Minnesota:

The research team interviewed 105 women to assess the life circumstances that led them to prostitution. The study found about half of the women met a conservative legal definition of sex trafficking which involves third-party control over the prostituting person by pimps or traffickers.

Chronic poverty, rape, homelessness, childhood abuse, and racism – elements of the trafficking of women – were clear themes in respondents’ answers. Among the report’s findings:

62% saw a connection between prostitution and colonization, and explained that the devaluation of women in prostitution was identical to the colonizing devaluation of Native people.

One woman stated, “When a man looks at a prostitute and a Native woman, he looks at them the same: ‘dirty’.”

52% had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time of interview, a rate that is in the range of PTSD among combat veterans. Moreover, 71% presented symptoms of dissociation.

92% wanted to escape prostitution.

How did Amnesty International get from their previous Stop Violence Against Women campaign to their current decision decriminalizing pimps and johns?

While AI will deny it (even while AIUSA Board members lunched with SWOP at the Western Regional, and posted a picture on Twitter), it’s hard not to wonder about the memo from British Escort Agency owner Douglas Fox talking about going against AI’s SVAW team in the UK and urging sex worker allies to lobby AI.

Further reading:

Letters from survivors to Amnesty International have just been published in CANCER inCYTES, “a public health e-magazine that discusses the healthcare needs of disadvantaged populations. We educate the public about the link between childhood trauma, cancer, and social injustice.”

http://www.cancerincytes.org/#!v4-iss2moore/cun6

Remembering John Trudell

John Trudell passed into the spirit world this week, on December 8.  Best known for his Native American activism in the 60s and 70s, and in more recent years for his poetry and music.

There is already an excellent tribute to his life in Indian Country Today:

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/08/remembering-life-and-legacy-john-trudell-162697

Quote from an F.B.I. memo: “He is extremely eloquent, therefore extremely dangerous.”

One quote of John Trudell especially resonates with me:

HumanBeing

Not only given the state of the world, but especially given the still unbelievable (to me) struggle of the prostitution survivors (and the at least 89% of those currently trapped in the life) to be heard by Amnesty International. That AI would consider the commodification of women (and sometimes men) for sale to (mostly) men acceptable is something I still find incomprehensible.

See the Woman

She has a young face
An old face
She carries herself well
In all ages
She survives all man has done

Rest in Peace, John Trudell. . .

 

Listen to the Survivors #EndDemand

I never imagined Amnesty International would make me aware of and passionate about a human rights issue by being on the wrong side of it. Now that I’m leaving Amnesty International over their “sex worker” policy (which decriminalizes not just those prostituted, who we all agree should not be arrested; but pimps and johns, by any other name), becoming discouraged and finding no hope of change from within, I’m going to start from the beginning (and the ending, for me & AI) with prostitution survivors.

I should note The Feministahood’s What Amnesty Did Wrong is  an excellent starting point on this issue (with several follow up blog posts & articles now listed at the end). I’ll be getting into a lot of those issues in the future, but to me, it comes back to the survivors and the vast majority of those still in prostitution who want to get out and the human rights violations what AI calls “sex work” really involves.

AmnestyDon'tTurnYourBackOnMe

Like a lot of people, I knew nothing of Amnesty International’s proposed policy on “sex workers” until the so called “celebrity letter” in July, just before the Amnesty International International Council Meeting (ICM) in Dublin. Except I tracked down the original letter from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), and realized there were over 400 signatures, most of them from leaders of organizations including anti-trafficking, women’s human rights and, something new to me at the time, prostitution survivor organizations – from as far away as the Philippines and Ireland to as close as Seattle – all trying to help women exit, talking of the real harms involved (in prostitution, not just trafficking, and that they aren’t so easily separated), and calling for the Nordic Model – decriminalizing of those selling themselves, but consequences for the buyers as well as the pimps and brothel owners.

Those survivor organizations started to speak out more as AI’s vote at the ICM in early August in Dublin came closer, from an op-ed in the Seattle Times co-written by Debra Boyer, the director of Seattle Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS) to a press conference in Dublin by SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment). As Rachel Moran from Ireland points out in the video below “I think that Amnesty, if they were looking at this issue coming truly from a perspective of human rights, they couldn’t possibly arrive at this position…”

A couple quotes from Bridget Perrier, a First Nations woman from Canada especially stood out to me:

“Prostitution is very sad. It picks the girls. It picks the girls who are fractured.

“For me, it wasn’t work. It was abuse.”

Bridget was quoted also in an article in the International Business Times: Sex trade survivors: ‘Amnesty wants to decriminalise every human rights violation intrinsic to prostitution’ just before the ICM vote:

Bridget Perrier is the co-founder of public awareness organisation Sextrade101. A First Nations woman from Canada, she was lured into prostitution at the age of 12 and trafficked across the country for 10 to 12 years. She says prostitution places Canada’s indigenous women at risk.

“I was the perfect candidate for prostitution, based on my race and gender, and I was under pimp control for 10 years,” she says. “I live in a country where aboriginal and indigenous women are going missing and being murdered by the droves. I have seen serial killers targeting women specifically because of their high-risk lifestyle and their involvement in prostitution. Decriminalising the commercial sex industry does not make it any safer.”

Sadly, Amnesty International did not listen, and  passed their DECISION ON STATE OBLIGATIONS TO RESPECT, PROTECT, AND FULFIL THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF SEX WORKERS in language so vague many are still hoping it doesn’t really call for the decriminalization of pimps and johns.

These questions are further answered (and the reality covered up) in their Q&A: POLICY TO PROTECT THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF SEX WORKERS.

Our policy is not about protecting “pimps”. Third parties that exploit or abuse sex workers will still be criminalized under the model we are proposing.

But there are overly broad laws, like those against “brothel keeping” or “promotion” that are often used against sex workers and criminalise actions they take to try and stay safe. For example, in many countries two sex workers working together for safety is considered a “brothel”.

So AI is for decriminalizing third parties (which generally means people like pimps and brothel owners), but only to protect “sex workers” accidentally accused of pimping or brothel owners and somehow there will be laws to distinguish third parties that exploit and abuse workers will still be criminalized.

The johns? The ones who drive the whole trade, including underage and trafficked women (or men)?  They also have to be decriminalized supposedly to protect the women (totally misrepresenting the Nordic Model):

Even though sex workers are not directly criminalized under the Nordic model, operational aspects – like purchasing sex and renting premises to sell sex in – are still criminalized. This compromises sex workers safety and leaves them vulnerable to abuse; they can still be pursued by police whose aim is often to eradicate sex work through enforcing the criminal law.

In reality, laws against buying sex mean that sex workers have to take more risks to protect buyers from detection by the police. Sex workers we spoke to regularly told us about being asked to visit customers’ homes to help them avoid police, instead of going to a place where sex worker felt safer.

I didn’t quit in August, as there was hope we could change things through internal process at AIUSA (and ultimately AI, at the next ICM).

That was not to be with the “sex workers” union SWOP and the other “sex workers” having their own panel and being well organized (and having the ear of AIUSA leadership) and student groups, whether lobbied or it’s what they’re teaching in college, buying into it.

I couldn’t help but think being a “rent boy” who gets to choose your customers by whether they’re cute or being an American Courtesan (again selecting customers) is not the norm for the vast majority trapped in prostitution (the most conservative estimate I’ve read is 89% would leave if they could). I also couldn’t help but notice that even their three panelists has all either been initially trafficked or underage, and sadly one serious account of violence by a john (somehow blamed on End Demand/The Nordic model, not on the violent customer).

Survivors were there as well, and have something to say:

There’s a lot more to say on this issue, and it’s sad that AI is not the one championing those really trapped in prostitution, instead pressuring us to leave if we want to speak out. I will not be silenced. I joined AI to speak out for human rights, not for their prestigious name.

Remembering Pearl Harbor and Xenophobia

I don’t suppose it was any accident that Donald Trump chose December 7, the anniversary of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, to call for “the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can ‘figure out what is going on’ after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, [California],” according to the New York Times.

I’m glad the New York Times called him out on it:

A prohibition of Muslims – an unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups – reflects a progression of mistrust that is rooted in ideology as much as politics.

It’s still disturbing, if not surprising, as pointed out by Slate:

For starters, Trump has already suggested the government may need to shutter U.S. mosques and create a mandatory registry to track Muslims in the United States. While many of his rivals took issue with those remarks, they don’t sound all that different from him on the stump. Many have called for the same type of no-Muslims religious test for Syrian refugees looking to resettle in the United States. Ben Carson has proposed a similar test for future presidents (while also likening Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs”). And Ted Cruz has vowed to “shut down the broken immigration system that is letting jihadists into our country.”

I don’t take Pearl Harbor lightly. My father was a veteran of the attacks, stationed at the nearby Hickam Field Air Base (and had a hard time convincing his buddies they were being strafed by live fire that Sunday morning, until they saw the Japanese rising sun insignias on the planes).

Still, my father opposed the internment of Japanese Americans.

What did George Takei’s family, or the families of any of my Japanese American friends or colleagues have to do with the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Absolutely nothing.

What do the young Muslim American students interviewed by KUOW have to do with the attacks in San Bernardino? Or what do any of my Muslim American friends and colleagues? Absolutely nothing.

Similarly what do this Syrian American family, also interviewed by KUOW, newly arrived to safety in Seattle, or those interviewed in the International Rescue Committee video below arriving in Greece following a dangerous journey by water, have to do with the attacks in Paris? Absolutely nothing. In fact, they are fleeing ISIS, as well as Assad, and the destruction of their country.

Do they go through screening before they’re admitted to America? Of course.

When white, Christian, Americans “self radicalize” (and/or are crazy) and commit mass murder do we target all white Americans or all Christians? Of course not.

Dusty 45s Therapy and the Limits of Instagram

Some things don’t change! So, I took a break from some weighty human rights issues I’ve become concerned with last Friday night to catch The Dusty 45s in Ballard. Well, some things changed – a new upright bass player (at least new from the last time I blogged) and the weekend’s shows were in at Conor Byrnes, not The Tractor Tavern across the street. Which gave me an excuse for an Irish Coffee (minus the cream these days), which was very tasty.

So, I went Friday night, because it’s easier with my work schedule, and I wasn’t sure I was up for the insanity of a Halloween night on a Saturday. Opening that night were The Dee Dees, an all woman Ramones cover band. They were good, and loud (and my Instagram doesn’t do them justice).

The Dee Dees – all woman Ramones tribute band opening for The Dusty 45s at Conor Byrnes

A post shared by Colleen Roman (@java_colleen) on

Yeah, I’m going to have to bring my real camera if I want to start posting photos and video from shows. One of several things cell phone cameras aren’t so good at, though there’s a lot to be said for the immediacy of things they do take decent pictures and video of.

Luckily, someone did take video their next night’s show, where the skeleton crew played one of my favorite Halloween themed songs by them (which I heard on Friday night as well.

I did get an Instagram of the obligatory flaming trumpet finale!

Trumpet in flames! The Dusty 45s finale

A post shared by Colleen Roman (@java_colleen) on

Of course they came back to play a few more, including a cover of Folsom Prison (where they shot a man in Kirkland, just to watch him die).

And back out into the street to catch my bus as I had to be at work the next morning. It had been just a little chilly when I left. I pulled up my hood and got to put my new fall jacket to the test (which it fortunately passed). Yes, what’s a Dusty 45s concert in Ballard in the fall, without rain for atmosphere!

Thanks to Instagram, I get to share that this time:

I've seen fire, I've seen rain…

A post shared by Colleen Roman (@java_colleen) on

Hello

Hello again! Starting to blog after a long absence.  Expect posts on human rights and social justice issues, music, art and some of the good times and disasters in my life.

So,  shortly after my last blog entry two and a half years ago the company I worked for went under abruptly and without the owner paying us for our last 3 (or more) weeks.  Can he really get away with that? *Spoiler alert*  No, not even after claiming, through his lawyer, to L&I that we were “volunteers”. . . How much have my co-workers and I recovered from him so far? About 1% of what he owes us, including penalties – $8.49 in my case. Hope these aren’t annual installments. . .

On a happy note, my current job does pay us, but it is a two hour commute by bus each way in addition to being evenings and weekends.

My last company’s demise, diversity of people and wildlife in the suburbs where my current job is, and changes in the market research industry where I’m back after a 15 year absence with my previous job and this one are possible topics for future posts.  *Spoiler alert* Fewer people want to talk to us.

A lot of missed music reviews of old and new favorites and even an occasional art exhibit, all of which I still sometimes make it to, in spite of a shortage of time and money. I’ll be catching up on some of them with pictures or videos.

Finally, the state of the world, human rights and politics; including disturbing dilemmas and why I’m becoming a radical feminist.

 

 

Say It Ain’t So, Kid! Kasey Anderson’s Scheme. . .

So, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed Wednesday morning and saw a familiar face in an unexpected place:

FacebookNewsonKaseyAnderson

Northwest musician charged in bogus charity recording. . . Oh. . .Say it ain’t so. . . Kasey Anderson?!

I’ve been meaning to write some more about Kasey’s music, but not like this.

Seriously? Kasey Anderson accused of “wire fraud for allegedly bilking investors out of thousands of dollars promoting a bogus charity album he allegedly said would feature songs by Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Lady Gaga” ?

Using Bruce Springsteen, one of his idols, and Pearl Jam, who he’s got a one person connection via Mike McCready through several of the musicians he performs with; including at least two members of his former band, The Honkies, who have played at McCready’s Flight to Mars (UFO tribute band) charity gigs?

Wow. How cynical. . .but it gets worse the more you read on the case (especially the charging documents). He’s evidently had a double life the whole time I’ve been a fan (about 2 1/2 years) and even before. A double life from his musician friends (err, former friends, probably), including his band.  Kasey Anderson’s scheme apparently outclasses the one in Mel Brook’s fictitional The Producers.

Kasey Anderson
Kasey Anderson at West Seattle’s Summer Fest 2012

Kasey Anderson, who I first heard play an acoustic set at Fremont Abbey, opening for Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs back in May 2010? Who played this incredibly moving song about Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, the young soldier, now veteran, in the “Marlboro Man” photo from the Iraq War?

Some intense writing:

So I felt like nothing when I got back home
and my father saw me in my granddad’s clothes
He said “You inherit my blood boy,
but your sins are all your own.”

Of course, the images of Kasey now intrude even on this video, with the wondering of who is he really, and how could he be both a talented singer/songwriter/musician who seems to care about other people and a talented con man?

One of my first thoughts, after the one of someone so young and talented sending his musical career up in flames, was how did Kasey get to this point? I initially thought it must have happened after he made his announcement he was quitting music, or at least his solo career and the Honkies, because he needed to make some money shortly before he mostly disappeared on the internet a few months ago. Turns out from the timeline, he disappeared as everything was closing in on him.

Also turned out that I was a little behind in the news, and the first article I unearthed was one in the Seattle Weekly from Dec. 12 when it all started unraveling with his band mates and “on October 17 with a $185,000 judgment levied against him.” This was for a civil suit.  Kasey is currently facing federal charges.

Kasey offers an explanation for his behavior:

Anderson says he underwent a medical evaluation in early November, and was ultimately diagnosed as Type I bipolar—an acute form of the disorder that, according to the Mayo Clinic‘s definition, is characterized by severe mania, risky behavior, delusions, and “spending sprees or unwise financial choices.”

I don’t know much about bipolar and I don’t dismiss this, at least as a partial explanation, out of hand. Actually, looking at the description, I believe I’ve known several people with the condition, one of whom I’ve often thought about when listening to Kasey’s song Don’t Look Back below (and jokingly wondered to myself if they’d dated or what would happen if they dated – I’m thinking I probably don’t want to know. . .):

Having family members who’ve suffered from mental illness, I know how terrible it is to watch someone close to you change and lose touch reality like that. It’s just that I’m more familiar with dealing with people with schizophrenia, where the Patton Oswalt twitter joke of John Lennon being part of Kasey’s benefit concert’s alleged line up probably would have been the case (and no one would have donated, because they would have realized he was crazy).

PattonOswaltTweetLarge

The scheme is so elaborate and long running though, and just builds and builds.  Is the mental illness diagnosis the cause or the defense, as the diagnosis came after the fraud charges started closing in on him?  Kasey says in the article: “To the outside it looks like this guy is just malicious and just bleeds people dry . . .”

Here’s where lines in his songs start taking on a different, or rather, a more literal, meaning, following the lawsuit.

from Kasey Anderson’s Dream:

“Most people ain’t sorry for nothing they’ve done. . .”

“Ashes, ashes we all fall down”. . .Kasey?

Whether or not there’s an issue with his being bipolar, after reading the charging documents on the second page of Seattle Weekly’s more recent article on Kasey Anderson, one thing is for certain – that he is a con man. It’s pretty breathtaking the extent he was willing to use friends, musicians, and the then imprisoned West Memphis Three to take more and more money. Estimated total loss to investors is $365,580.06.

An article by The Oregonian‘s Ryan White, who has interviewed Kasey Anderson over the years gives a far better summary than I could, and also I think the fairest representation of Kasey, who is incredibly talented (I never dreamed as a con man as well as a musician). There’s a link to a copy of the federal charging documents there as well.

It sounds like from the charging documents, the initial investors, one of whom in The Oregonian article Kasey says he’s know since high school, funded a tour and residency in Europe in 2009, which was supposedly profitable. Shortly after he’s selling them on rolling over their profits and investing in the wildest part of the scheme, the charity album, Trapped Like a Ghost, and benefit concerts that was to help the legal defense team of The West Memphis Three (yet, somehow provide huge profits for his initial investors and all the other investors he talked into it as well). Musicians involved were said to include: Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Tom Morello, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Beck, Steve Earle, Death Cab for Cutie, Paul Westerberg and Jack White. At one point, Kasey claimed in an e-mail to an investor “the most interesting collaboration on the album” would be between Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga. A track they co-wrote for the album.

Kasey admits in both the Seattle Weekly and Oregonian to forging an email account of his friend Danny Bland, who had previously produced a benefit album for the West Memphis Three. He denies forging an e-mail account for Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau (but, I’m inclined to come to the same conclusion Special Agent Rounds in the federal charging documents – that this and other accounts were Kasey’s as well).

At one point the back and forth e-mails shared with investors said Springsteen was paying $890,000 for a delay in Bruce providing the songs, and at another point there was a promise from the alleged Jon Landau account to the alleged Danny Bland account promising $4.3 million (which included a $2.5 million penalty) and the tracks, but no sooner than October 1.

Wait, this whale of a tale gets wilder!

Kasey sends an e-mail asking “‘Danny’ to get on the phone with ‘Jon’ to find out why Bruce Springsteen could not provide music and funding before October 1, 2011.”

Bossy kid, huh? As I said, breathtaking. Not to worry though, Bruce allegedly pays the $4,300,000 and provides two tracks in collaboration with Arcade Fire. Well, Special Agent Rounds seems to think they’re bootlegs of Springsteen’s songs found on the internet. . .

Oh, and no hard feelings from Kasey. Fast forward a year to 2012. According to The Oregonian article:

Anderson hasn’t played live since performing three Springsteen songs on Nov. 27 at Mississippi Studios as part of an all-star-for-Portland celebration for the release of author Peter Ames Carlin’s biography, “Bruce.”

That was the night before Springsteen played the Rose Garden, and the same day an FBI agent interviewed Springsteen’s manager, Landau.

All right! I need a Boss break. . .besides, it’s hard not to think the kid is looking for Easy Money:

Should have been a bankster, Kasey. You’d get rewarded for this behavior and get to rip off far more people. . .

That’s the centerpiece of the charging document, but some of those alleged profits got rolled into his Heart of a Dog album, which does exist and is a good album (I have a copy), just didn’t sell nearly as many copies as he claims.  Then there’s an album for another group Kasey’s record label was to produce in 2011, and actually seems to have existed since 2006 (with no connection to Kasey or his record label). Also, Kasey’s 2011 spring tour, which existed, but I doubt made enough money to pay back the amount he asked from investors.

See, the sad thing is, unfortunately most musicians don’t make that much money. Which is why I both felt sympathy and also though he should get advice and a reality check from other musicians when he wrote that note saying he was giving up on his dream (his websites are down, but it was re-posted on Beat Surrender). He’s talking about not being able to live on just his music (as he apparently was for several years, well, yeah, apparently with a lot of help from charity, err, investors) and maybe having to work gigs with other bands or work another job. Umm, in other words, live like most real musicians. I’m not saying it’s fair (for that matter, neither is me as someone over 50 trying to live on a part time, minimum wage job with frequent layoffs; but I’m definitely not looking for investors).

Mental illness? I don’t know.  If that is part of what’s causing this, Kasey better be serious about treatment.

A couple other things don’t square. In the first Seattle Weekly article, following the civil settlement, Kasey sounds really contrite and like he wants to make amends:

Though the lawsuit makes it seem as if he’d been intent on fleecing his investors from the outset, Anderson claims his intentions were good, and things simply got out of hand. “To the outside it looks like this guy is just malicious and just bleeds people dry,” he says. “I didn’t set out to do this. I abhor the person that I was, and the person that I am. I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to be a person who is capable of those things, and when I think about it, don’t know how I could be. I’m not that person in my heart.”

Yet in the more recent Oregonian article about his federal case, Ryan White said about Kasey:

He said he signed off on the original $115,000 civil settlement, because what difference did it make? He didn’t have that much, and he didn’t have $185,000. He said he figured if he got it over with, he could put it behind him and move on. He’d always blown things up — relationships, usually — and always just picked up and moved on without consequence. To himself, anyway.

So it sounds like he never expected to pay back the $115,000, or be required to, or have a moral obligation to at least try to slowly make amends.

Maybe his behavior is that of a crazy person. Kasey left incredible wreckage within the music community as well, especially with his former bandmates.  According the the Dec. 12 Seattle Weekly story, after returning with his band touring with Counting Crows as an opening act:

Home in Seattle, friends traded tales of Anderson’s bizarre, reckless, and baffling behavior. And when they compared his various explanations and excuses, what they found was troubling. As Anderson himself puts it, “They unearthed one thing after another.”

After swearing off alcohol several years earlier, Anderson had fallen hard off the wagon and was drinking heavily. He confesses to being “dishonest” about money owed his bandmates, and says his ex-girlfriend discovered he had been unfaithful “to a very sick degree.” Most incredible, however, it came to light that he was embroiled in a $250,000 federal lawsuit.

As his former bandmate, Andrew McKeag puts it in the recent Oregonian article: “Never in my wildest nightmares could I imagine that a fellow musician would be capable of doing this kind of damage within the very community upon which he relied.”

I don’t know where Kasey Anderson goes from here, other than possibly, or maybe likely, to Federal Prison. He’s burned the trust of too many people and left everything in the most spectacular ashes just like many of the characters he sings about in his music. He’s now got notoriety, but most people talking about his case have no idea, and don’t care, that he’s a talented artist, just that he’s a talented con artist.

I came across an eerily prophetic article on Kasey by Sean Moeller in Daytrotter from Nov. 9, 2012:

He likely believes in the phrase, “He’s his own worst enemy,” in regards to nearly everyone he meets. We all should. Anderson gives great examples of its validity and he presents these resonant examples of what societal pressures turn people into and then the feasts that occur when everything starts to go haywire. He sings of the crowds gathering around the gallows, salivating at the hangings that are going to happen. . . . Anderson gives us those who are down on their knees begging for mercy and he gives us all the rest too, singing, “You’ve seen the glory now you’re gonna see the fall.”

Never liked the gallows myself, and still hoping for a little mercy for Kasey Anderson. . .(and treatment, if he needs it). . .

. . . and some justice for his victims. I doubt they’ll ever see the full amount, but restitution should be part of any sentence.  Doesn’t sound like facing the consequences of his actions has ever been a part of life for Kasey. . .