A Drug War Tragedy in Snoqualmie

On the morning of Saturday June 19, 2010, two Snoqualmie police officers showed up at the home of Jeff Roetter, a 33-year-old medical marijuana patient. The officers were expecting Roetter to help them in their attempts to prosecute a man who claims he was Roetter’s designated provider, a former Snoqualmie business owner named Bryan Gabriel. Instead, the police and Roetter’s housemate discovered him dead in his room. Roetter, an epileptic, had a violent seizure overnight, banged his head and died.

Even though the case involving Roetter and Gabriel had previously generated some local media attention, Roetter’s death went unreported. Roetter’s family and friends believe that the pressure being put on him by Snoqualmie Police led to his seizure and death, but their attempts to contact various media outlets led nowhere. Months later, they remain angry and frustrated about what happened to him, and they blame Snoqualmie Police.

[Read more...]

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottle

Please join us tonight for an evening of politics under the influence at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. We meet at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. beginning at about 8:00 pm. Stop by earlier for dinner.

Who knew he had it in him? When state Rep. Leo Berman (R-TX) starts spewing Birfer Conspiracies and Stuff, Anderson Cooper goes all fact-checky on his ass (via TPM):


Not in Seattle? There is a good chance you live near one of the 235 other chapters of Drinking Liberally.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

Republican politicians may be awfully concerned about how allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve might disrupt the military, but the vast majority of the troops on the ground… not so much.

The Pentagon has concluded that allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the United States armed forces presents a low risk to the military’s effectiveness, even at a time of war, and that 70 percent of service members believe that the impact of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would be either positive, mixed or of no consequence at all.

[...] The report also found that a majority — 69 percent — believed they had already worked with a gay man or woman, and of those the vast majority — 92 percent — reported that the unit’s ability to work together was very good, good or “neither good nor poor.”

Hear that? 70 percent of service members couldn’t care less about the sexual orientation of their buddies serving next to them. So can we put this bullshit manufactroversy to rest already, repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and just move on?

Seattle Times editorial over Seattle’s lawsuit over state attorney general’s authority is political

I’ve warned Rep. Jay Inslee and his staffers. Our local news media and pundits don’t just love Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna… they’re in love with him. Or at least, in love with the notion of being in love, which in practice, is basically the same thing.

In fact, so enamored are they of the ideal of McKenna as a “different kind of Republican,” and so desperate are they to see a Republican in the governor’s mansion for the first time in 30 years, that I wouldn’t be surprised if Inslee doesn’t get a single daily newspaper endorsement in his 2012 gubernatorial bid against McKenna. Not one.

And as evidence of our media’s weak-kneed, pouty-lipped infatuation with McKenna, I present the headline on today’s Seattle Times editorial: “Seattle’s lawsuit over state attorney general’s authority to sue feds is political.”

Yeah, well, no shit Sherlock, but then, that’s pretty much inevitable considering that McKenna’s decision to sue the feds over health care reform was nakedly political in itself. But the Times doesn’t call out McKenna for his political lawsuit… you know, the one that started all this.

Why? Because they’re in love with him.

The Times editors also ignore the other lawsuit against McKenna that was argued before the State Supreme Court the very same day—the lawsuit that McKenna will surely lose—the one seeking to force him to live up to his statutory duty to provide adequate legal representation Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.

McKenna’s refusal to represent Goldmark in an appeal of a Superior Court decision, well, that was political as well. Birdies tell me that McKenna nixed the appeal after being personally lobbied by a couple of legislators on behalf of the Okanogan PUD, though everybody was careful to be sure there was no written record available to disclose.

But regardless, it was a ridiculous legal stance that McKenna took—that he and he alone has the discretion to determine whether state officers and agencies get access to the courts—a stance that in itself questions his qualifications to be attorney general, let alone governor.

But the editors won’t write about this, because… well… they’re in love McKenna. And that makes this editorial even more political than any of the lawsuits discussed.

Big Government and Big Business

Michael Lind has an interesting post on why we need to have both Big Government and Big Business as they’re absolutely necessary for our economy to function properly. I don’t have much to add to his overall points (which I mostly agree with), but I was taken aback by this claim:

It is true that 99 percent of Americans work for small businesses. But this is only because the federal government defines a small business as one with fewer than 500 employees. How many ordinary people think of a company with 499 employees as small?

Even with that loose definition, I had trouble believing that only 1% of the American workforce works for a company with more than 500 employees. The total American workforce is roughly 150 million. That would mean that only 1.5 million would work for large companies. From Wal-Mart’s website:

At the end of fiscal year 2010, Walmart and its subsidiaries employed over 2 million associates worldwide, with approximately 1.4 million associates in the United States.

Maybe those subsidiaries are considered “small businesses” and therefore not all of the 1.4 million count towards that figure. But McDonald’s still employs over 500,000. Doing some more searching, I found this census page which says that 56 million people worked for businesses with 500 people or more, so I’m at a complete loss as to where that figure comes from.

UDPATE: As was pointed out in the comments, each McDonald’s franchise is counted as a “small business”, so it’s not clear if all of those employees count in the 1%, although I’d question defining it that way. Either way, the census figures certainly don’t match up, and if the difference comes from how franchises are counted, that doesn’t really square with the perception of companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s, which few would exclude from the definition of big business.

UPDATE 2: Well, it looks like Lind corrected his post:

It is true that 99 percent of American firms are defined as small businesses. But this is only because the federal government defines a small business as one with fewer than 500 employees. How many ordinary people think of a company with 499 employees as small?

Quite a difference. And my earlier update appears to be incorrect. A McDonald’s franchise isn’t considered a small business in this record-keeping.

Life lessons learned from the death of my dishwasher

Le roi est mort, vive le Roi

Le roi est mort, vive le Roi

The King is dead. The Waste King, that is… the forty-some-year-old portable dishwasher that came with our house back in 1997, and that had been dying a slow death by entropy ever since.

First the spring on the door went, then the latch on the detergent compartment. A couple years ago, the King started make a loud grinding noise during wash cycles, and more recently had sprung a slow muddy leak. But up until a couple weeks ago, when it abruptly died mid-cycle, the King continued to get my dishes clean.

Since then, I’ve been washing all my dishes by hand, resulting in a bit of an epiphany. For example, I used to think I didn’t have enough mugs, as I tended to dirty all of my favorite ones (heavy, with a slight lip) before I was ready to run a full load. But now I realize I have too many mugs; in fact, for my personal use, all I usually need is one.

Likewise, my kitchen is stocked with two complete sets of flatware, yet I’d often run out of teaspoons between loads. But now that I have to wash every damn spoon by hand, well, let’s just say that I’ve learned to be a bit more frugal.

And that’s the curious thing about labor saving devices like dishwashers—their purpose is to clean the dishes we have, and yet they inevitably lead to us dirtying even more dishes. Similarly, imagine if you had to wash all your own clothes by hand; dontcha think you might wear your clothes more times between washings? And with fewer washings, your clothes would last longer, meaning ultimately, you’d buy fewer clothes.

In fact, there’s hardly an appliance, machine or device I can think of which doesn’t inherently demand increased consumption, just by the very nature of owning it.

Huh.

All that said, if you know of anybody with a portable dishwasher for sale, in decent working condition, I’m in the market for buying one. Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi.

It’s a one-man race King County Democratic Chair

There won’t be much suspense this Saturday when King County Democratic PCO’s vote for a new chair, now that labor activist Karl de Jong has dropped out of the race due to health reasons. That leaves longtime activist Steve Zemke as the only candidate, for what really can be a very time consuming and thankless job.

Steve isn’t exactly charismatic, but he knows the nuts and bolts of grassroots politics like nobody else, and he’s not afraid to do the necessary, but boring stuff. In fact, he seems to relish in it. So I have high hopes for his administration.

Bikes are vehicles too

To the cyclist who got clotheslined this morning at the intersection of Wilson, Seward Park and S. Morgan, by stupidly maneuvering between me and my dog:

No, I don’t need to watch where I’m going, and no, I don’t need to put my dog on a shorter leash.

See, those white lines crossing the road from curb to curb with a lighted “Crosswalk” sign hanging overhead… that’s what is known as a “crosswalk.” And that means that you, and all other vehicles, are obligated to stop for me, and all other pedestrians, as we cross the street. Just like that silver minivan did… you know, the one you heedlessly sped around on your way between me and my dog.

I suppose it’s possible that the minivan blocked your vision, and so you couldn’t see my dog in the street, or perhaps me stepping off the curb, nor obviously the thin strand of leash between us, but that’s your responsibility, not mine, so next time, when approaching a crosswalk, slow the fuck down.

For-Profit Education and the Failure of Capitalism

There is a lesson to be learned from a new report exposing the deceptive and unethical practices of for-profit colleges and universities, and it’s a much broader lesson than the narrow, mushy, call for greater “regulatory scrutiny” in today’s Seattle Times.

A scathing report by the influential think tank, Education Trust, offers a damning list of examples. Only 22 percent of students in for-profit colleges’ four-year programs earn degrees within six years. Contrast that with a 55 percent six-year graduation rate at public colleges and a 65 percent rate at private nonprofit schools.

The most egregious example is a 9 percent graduation rate at the University of Phoenix — the nation’s largest for-profit postsecondary education provider as well as the recipient of more than $1 billion in federal Pell Grant aid last year.

While some career colleges have achieved a level of credibility, the business model at far too many appears to be one based on student failure, not success.

The emphasis is mine, and I added it to highlight the inescapable conclusion that so many of our nation’s respectable pundits are too fearful and/or ideologically rigid to admit: there are simply some things that are simply best left outside the profit-driven clutches of the market.

And education—K-12 and beyond—is one of ‘em.

This by the way, is one of the reasons why I oppose the charter school movement, which seems to be based on the attractively simple proposition that competition between schools will foster innovation and improvement. You know, sprinkle a little free market pixie dust on our public school systems and the problems and inefficiencies will just sort themselves out on their own. Or perhaps the invisible hand of God will reach in and personally carve lessons on the blackboard. You get the point.

This of course ignores the fact that we’ve had plenty of competition between public schools for, well, forever, and it hasn’t done anything to improve the failing ones. Those parents who could afford to move to neighborhoods with good schools, did so, and those who couldn’t… well… their children got what they got.

Now I know what the knee-jerk, free market apologists are going to say: the problem with for-profit colleges is not the profit-motive but rather the distortion of the market caused by government grants, loans and other education subsidies. If the government would just get out of the higher education business—you know, no financial aid, no community colleges or public universities, no research grants, no nothing—the market would be free to allocate resources efficiently and provide the best and most affordable higher education system possible.

Or, instead of relying on magic, we could as a society, you know, invest more heavily in our community college systems, so that technical and career degrees would be more widely available to qualified students, and from institutions whose primary obligation isn’t to the shareholder.

But for, say, the Seattle Times editors to call for that, would also require them to call for raising more tax revenues to pay for it. So instead they just waste the opportunity by settling for a little stern, finger-wagging.

HA Bible Study

1 Kings 11:1-3
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.

Discuss.

Open thread

The TSA gives some advice to Goldy for his return trip….

(There are about 40 more links to media from the past week in politics at Hominid Views.)

Fighting the Disabled

Just dumb:

OLYMPIA – A judge fined a wheelchair-bound Olympia man $4,000 Wednesday for growing 42 marijuana plants in his home, but he imposed no jail time.

A jury convicted William Kurtz, 58, in October of felony counts of possession of marijuana over 40 grams and manufacture of marijuana. He has no prior felony criminal history and uses the wheelchair because of a medical condition.

Before trial, Kurtz’s attorneys fought to be allowed to present a medicinal-marijuana defense to the jury, but Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy did not allow it. Prosecutor Scott Jackson argued that Kurtz did not have a medicinal-marijuana card in March, when Thurston County Narcotics Task Force detectives found the plants, as well as more than 15 ounces of packaged marijuana, in his home in the 11800 block of Champion Drive Southwest.

At trial, Hiatt tried to introduce to the jury a letter from Kurtz’s doctor that describes Kurtz’s “hereditary spastic paraplegia” and his medical benefit from using marijuana.

The letter from the Olympia physician, Peter Taylor, was not allowed as evidence. It reads it part that Kurtz “has had progressive loss of function related to this familial neurologic condition which has left him wheelchair-bound and with severe tremors. Unfortunately, there is no treatment to prevent or cure this condition, and we are left to manage his symptoms, including chronic daily pain which is severe.”

Kurtz’s avoidance of jail time was the only silver lining in this mess. One Olympia-based medical marijuana activist I spoke to a few weeks back was fearing for Kurtz’s life if he were to be sent to jail.

Prosecutors really need to exercise better discretion on who we put through the criminal justice system. If Kurtz was caught selling his marijuana, that’s one thing, but he was quite obviously a medical marijuana patient. The proper course of action should have been to confiscate whatever plants were over the state limit and to give him a window of time to get a doctor’s authorization. Let’s reserve the court system for actual criminals.

Why does the Seattle Times editorial board hate America?

Yeah, I know, it took me a couple days to get to it, but just when I thought the Seattle Times editorial board couldn’t get any more condescending, of course, they do:

THE rage about body scanners and aggressive pat-downs at airport security has reached a feverish pitch — an absurd one. All it would take is one underpants bomber with explosives buried in his clothing to remind travelers how dicey this situation can be.

Um… a dicey situation for the “underpants bomber” no doubt, who, if memory serves me, succeeded in little more than lighting his own dick on fire. But the real absurdity here is the notion that this single, clumsy, failed crotch-bombing attempt is reason enough to spend $2.4 billion of taxpayer money to treat me and my 13-year-old daughter like criminals, every time we choose to fly.

So perhaps the Times’ editors can explain to me why their lede shouldn’t be dismissed as mere alarmist, fear-mongering bullshit… and lazy, alarmist, fear-mongering bullshit at that?

Recent introduction of body scanners at 69 airports throughout the country — and more thorough pat-downs for those who decline being scanned — are a necessary inconvenience.

Oh, I see… it’s a “necessary inconvenience.”

“Inconvenience,” of course, in this context being the soft-fascist way of describing the forced surrender of our Constitutional right against “unreasonable searches” without “probable cause.” And this exception to the Fourth Amendment is apparently “necessary,” the authoritarian apologists at the Times tell us, because… well… I suppose that brings us back to the crotch-bomber again.

See, forget for a moment that what the crotch-bombing attempt really represented was a massive intelligence failure… that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s own father had gone to the US embassy in Nigeria to warn officials of his son’s worrisome activities, that the National Security Agency had picked up intelligence that Al Qaeda in Yemen planned to use a Nigerian in an attack on the US, and that the NSA had actually intercepted communications between Abdulmutallab himself, and a phone used by Yemen-based radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki… and yet Abdulmutallab still wasn’t marked for extra security screening, even after suspiciously buying a ticket with cash, and checking no luggage on an international flight. And while we’re at it, let’s just totally ignore the fact that even if the TSA’s newly invasive pat-down procedures had been in place at the time, they still wouldn’t have caught Abdulmutallab, because his flight originated in Amsterdam, and thus he never even saw a TSA security line.

No, according to the Times, it’s not improved intelligence that’s needed, or TSA officers trained like their Israeli counterparts to discern the real risks from the frivolous (for example, a cash-paying, baggage-less Nigerian with known terrorist connections, vs., you know, some random 13-year-old girl). Rather, the only way to possibly deter another attempted crotch-bombing, we’re told, is $2.4 billion worth of porno scanners and invasive, junk-grabbing pat-down procedures that were they to occur in the classroom, would amount to sexual assault.

As if the risk of, say, lighting your own dick on fire isn’t deterrence enough. I mean, what’s a martyr to do with 72 virgins, and a burnt off dick?

But the Times goes even further. For not only do they urge us to surrender our civil liberties for the sake of security theater, they actually abuse and belittle those of us who dare to complain about it.

Other travelers, for now, should steer clear of ridiculous opt-out protests and endure security procedures currently in place. A shortsighted protest whereby travelers refuse the scanners on Wednesday, one the busiest days of the year? Who invents such nonsense?

A busy holiday weekend is not a reasonable time to express personal exasperation with the only security program in place. Adjustments will come but you have to be a pretty miserable traveler to wish ill of those working to protect passengers.

So… um… when exactly would the Times propose we stage our protest? During the wee hours of an off-peak travel day? At the TSA’s pleasure? Or maybe we should just limit our efforts to indignant tweets and polite, if pointed, letters to the editor… you know… if that’s not too inconvenient? I mean, do the Times’ editors have any fucking idea of how a protest actually works?

Or perhaps we should just be banned from voicing our disagreement altogether, considering how many innocent lives the porno-scanners have already saved…?

TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird says since the scanners began arriving last March, security officials have found 130 prohibited items artfully concealed under clothing. Aren’t you glad that stuff wasn’t on your latest airplane trip?

What sort of prohibited items? Guns? Knives? Explosives? Live tigers? Or are we just talking about nail clippers, pocket knives, (gasp) bottled water and the other prohibited items that travelers sometimes not so much “artfully conceal,” as forget they’re carrying? Weren’t items like these routinely carried onto plans without incident before the scanners were installed, and dontcha think if the scanners had foiled 130 terrorist attacks since March—as the Times’ wording artfully implies—we might’ve heard something about it before now?

So no, I couldn’t really give a shit whether a fellow passenger managed to sneak aboard one of those notoriously dangerous souvenir snow globes. And no, these new procedures don’t make me feel any safer.

TSA is constantly evaluating and updating screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats.

Yeah, like the way they secured cockpit doors after 9/11. And the way they started inspecting shoes after the attempted shoe bombing. And the way they banned liquids and gels after the alleged liquid bombing plot. And the way they started feeling up 13-year-olds after the attempted crotch bombing.

Hey… great job of staying ahead of evolving threats, TSA!

The goal is to employ state-of-the-art procedures to protect the flying public. Passengers who cannot handle these methods are not forced by anyone to travel. They should opt out, all right … of flying.

You know, in the same way that African Americans have the option of not driving through white neighborhoods if they “cannot handle” being stopped for a DWB, or Latino Americans have the option of not driving through Arizona, if they “cannot handle” being arrested for failing to carry their papers.

Don’t like it? Don’t fly, the Times arrogantly suggests. And whatever you do, don’t you dare inconvenience us. To which, the only reasonable, measured response is: fuck you.

And you know what? Nobody’s forcing the Times’ editors to travel either, so if they “cannot handle” people like me exercising our right to protest yet one more post-9/11 indignity, then perhaps it is they who should shut the fuck up and opt out of flying? Yeah, I know, if too many of us refuse the scanners and choose the pat-down, it will only slow down the security lines for everyone else… but for those of us who truly love the Constitution, well, I guess that’s what we might call a necessary inconvenience.

Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the greater threat to our nation and our way of life is not Abdulmutallab or al-Awlaki or even Osama bin Laden, but rather the quaggy, condescending cowards like those at the Seattle Times who would eagerly surrender the very rights that define America in the name of defending it. And for what? An infinitesimal reduction in our already infinitesimally small chance of being victims of a terrorist attack?

To put this issue in perspective, even if a 9/11 sized attack were to occur on American soil every year, one’s risk of being a victim would still be about 15 times less than being killed in a motor vehicle accident. But of course, history tells us that these—or any—sort of terrorist attacks haven’t occurred every year, or every decade, or even every half-century, suggesting that our actual lifetime risk of being killed by terrorists—less than one in 60,000—lies somewhere between being stung to death by bees, and being struck by lightning.

So tell me, how exactly do these slim odds, combined with a single, failed crotch-bombing attempt, make a virtual strip search or invasive pat-down of my daughter necessary? How much liberty and dignity should we be compelled to yield in order to calm the hyperbolic fears of the caterwauling old cranks at the Times?

I mean, where does it stop?

One would-be terrorist clumsily manages to light his dick on fire on board an international flight, and America responds by suspending the Fourth Amendment and spending $2.4 billion on unproven scanners with unknown health effects. So with this precedent, what happens when, say, the next terrorist succeeds in smuggling explosives onboard by shoving them up his ass? Is the Times ready to run the headline: “Anal cavity searches a necessary inconvenience,” while smugly dissing those of us who object? Are we really prepared to become a nation that denies tens of millions of its citizens access to X-ray scans and colonoscopies at the doctors office, while spending billions of dollars to enforce these same procedures at the airport?

Al Qaeda may yet bring down another airplane or two, and nobody is arguing that we shouldn’t remain vigilant. The threat of terrorist attack does indeed present a real risk to air travelers—as real, if statistically less likely a risk, as pilot error, act of nature or mechanical failure. But no amount of vigilance can eliminate this risk entirely.

So the question is, where do we draw the line? At what point, we must ask ourselves, does the cost in blood, treasure, dignity and personal freedom exceed the marginal return in increased security? And while reasonable people might disagree on the answer, it is far from “absurd,” “ridiculous” or “shortsighted” to suggest that this line has already been crossed.