Over on Slog, I somehow manage to combine baseball and transportation planning in the same post. Give it a read.
Archives for December 2010
Here’s an interview of Cary Moon by local Grist writer David Roberts.
– Former UK Defence Minister and Drugs Minister Bob Ainsworth is speaking out in favor of legalizing and regulating all drugs (not just marijuana, all drugs). No doubt that his experience staring into the abyss in Afghanistan over the past two years helped lead him to this conclusion. It’s hard to imagine anyone who’s recently held either equivalent position in our own government doing the same. Pete Guither discusses the impact this could have in the UK, which has historically been just as averse to science and reason as our own.
– Earlier this month, Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin placed a hold on the nomination of Michele Leonhart to head up the DEA. His specific problem with her nomination was over the DEA’s overly strict rules governing how pain medications are dispensed in nursing homes. Kohl’s objection is just one of many reasons to oppose Leonhart.
– Now that medical marijuana is becoming a legal and mainstream part of America’s economy, a national trade group called the National Cannabis Industry Association has been formed to lobby for more liberal marijuana laws in Washington DC. Locally, a group called the Washington Cannabis Association has now come together and intends to share some ideas with our legislators in Olympia on how they can lessen the impact of our budget problems while also making our communities safer.
– Paul Armentano ridicules Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske’s attempt to blame medical marijuana laws for the increase in teen drug use. It’s really not much of a fair fight as Armentano – unlike our former Police Chief – actually uses evidence to back up his assertions. And as we found out this year, even polling on whether or not someone will vote for marijuana-related bills is often skewed by a reluctance to admit support for a more liberal position. With that in mind, it’s reasonable to suspect that polling over the years might not be solely an indication of how many teens are using marijuana from year to year, but also a measure of how comfortable a teenager is to admit their use in a survey.
Gov. Christine Gregoire released her all-cuts budget today, and in closing a $4.6 billion shortfall without offending beverage companies and editorial boards, it surely makes for a meaner, poorer, less healthy and less well educated state. It also shows up all of us—the governor, the legislature, the Seattle Times editorial board, the business community and voters—as a bunch of big, fat hypocrites when it comes to education.
The governor proposes to continue suspension of the class-size reduction initiative, I-728, to save $860 million. The same is true for I-732, which mandates annual raises for teachers, pegged to inflation. That saves another $253 million.
The K-12 cuts don’t stop there. Gregoire’s budget saves: $216 million by eliminating funding to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through forth grade; $99.5 million by suspending bonuses to teachers who go through national teacher certification; and $56 million by suspending incremental step increases for teachers.
To put that in perspective, that’s nearly $1.5 billion in K-12 education cuts, or roughly $740 a year for every public school student in the state. You know, imagine what your typical elementary school might do with an extra quarter of a million dollars a year. Now imagine everything your kid’s school can’t do, because it doesn’t get this money.
Oh, politicians and editorial boards and corporate executives talk a good talk about education—incoming House Minority Leader John Boehner even cries a good cry about it. But without the willingness to actually fund education reforms, it’s all talk, and nothing else.
I mean, if it’s a choice between raising taxes and fucking over school children, well, the message is clear. Fuck the kids. And God Bless America.
Apparently because our national debt and the long term stability of Social Security are our nation’s top priorities, the Senate just passed a Republican-crafted tax cut package that will make both dramatically worse.
Here’s a bit of interesting news from last week that I missed. Roy Alloway, the Bremerton police officer who gained notoriety within the WestNET drug task force as one of the most zealous marijuana law enforcers in the state (and who retired this past spring) is suspected of involvement in an illegal gun-dealing operation.
Please join us tonight for another 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 8:00 pm. Some of us will be there even earlier for a quiet dinner.
Here is an interactive holiday song from Roy Zimmerman. Decisions, decisions:
Not in Seattle? There is a good chance you live near one of the 235 other chapters of Drinking Liberally.
The state appears to have a very different view of dispensaries than it did only a few years ago:
The state has begun an effort to collect sales tax from medical marijuana dispensaries, The Associated Press reports.
State officials, facing a $4.7 billion deficit for 2011-13 and needing about a half-billion dollars in extra cuts to the current budget, are looking for money any place they can find it.
The Washington Department of Revenue launched the statewide medical marijuana effort. Spokesman Mike Gowrylow told The AP the department mailed letters to 90 dispensaries and related organizations on Friday, saying medical marijuana is not exempt from state sales tax and dispensaries must collect that money and turn it over to the state. The letter also warned them that dispensaries must also pay the state business and occupation tax.
While some dispensary owners around the state actually boast about their willingness to pay taxes (to show that they can be just as responsible a corporate citizen as any other business owner), they’re still taking a legal risk that other business owners don’t by opening up their operations to government scrutiny. Dispensaries still operate in a very gray area of Washington’s medical marijuana law. This move could lead to greater visibility in the community and higher risks with local officials.
It’s about time we finally fix the law and let these businesses operate in the open. Then tax away.
I wouldn’t want to suggest that all teabaggers are fascists, but clearly, some of them are…
The government should censor news agencies that report on US documents leaked by websites like WikiLeaks, according to a tea party-backed Republican who will soon represent the 22th district congressional of Florida.
Speaking with an online radio station, Rep.-elect Allen West said that attacks on the US were not limited to “a bomb or an airplane flying into a building,” but could occur “through cyber attacks” or “through leaking of very sensitive classified information.”
“Regardless of whether you think it causes any harm, the fact that here is an individual that is not an American citizen first and foremost, for whatever reason gotten his hands on classified American material and put it out there in the public domain,” West continued. “And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to do this and also supported him and applauding him for the efforts. So that’s kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime.”
So the question is, does Rep.-elect West not understand the First Amendment, or does he simply feel no need to honor it? Or perhaps West’s opposition to a free press is more calculated…?
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) has also supported the secrets outlet, saying that “if the public doesn’t know what’s going on, then they can’t vote intelligently.”
The inability to “vote intelligently,” huh? I suppose that would explain West’s election.
Those hoping beyond hope that the Washington State Legislature would attempt to soften yet another $6 billion-or-so budget shortfall by boldly proposing new revenue sources, might be disheartened to learn that the House Democratic Caucus kicked off its latest round of belt-tightening last Friday by eliminating the House Finance Committee… the panel that considers all revenue proposals. That was the word from Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, who I cornered at last night’s 37th LD Dems holiday party.
I guess with the passage of Tim Eyman’s I-1053, and the governor’s subsequent no-new-tax pledge, there wasn’t going to be much for the committee to do, and so its responsibilities were folded into that of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which now becomes all the more powerful in the wake of this leaner/meaner House reorganization.
But before the anti-tax crowd rejoices too loudly at this symbolic victory, they should remember that while the occasional tax increase did make it through the Finance Committee and onto the floor, by far the larger chunk of the panel’s legacy this past decade was its crafting of the billions of dollars of special interest tax exemptions that ultimately helped plunge our state budget into its current fiscal crevasse.
So a good part of me can’t help but mutter “good riddance” at the committee’s demise.
Fareed Zakaria points out how Glenn Beck’s producer’s attempts to justify Beck’s fuzzy math on Islamic terrorism ends up defining Beck himself as a terrorist.
Jeremy Scahill of The Nation just returned from an unembedded trip to Afghanistan and here was part of his prepared testimony before Congress:
Despite the perception that we know what is happening in Afghanistan, what is rarely discussed in any depth in Congress or the media is the vast number of innocent Afghan civilians that are being killed on a regular basis in US night raids and the heavy bombing that has been reinstated by General David Petraeus. I saw the impact of these civilian deaths first-hand and I can say that in some cases our own actions are helping to increase the strength and expand the size of the Taliban and the broader insurgency in Afghanistan.
There’s no question that our overall military strategy (along with our counter-narcotics strategy) is leading to a larger and stronger Taliban. One can simply look at the trend of coalition military casualties in the graph below:
Scahill also goes on to point out that despite what many expected of Obama, his Administration hasn’t just expanded the war in Afghanistan, but has also overseen an increase in the number of countries where American military assets operate – often secretly.
This trend towards American imperialism, militarism, and secrecy was what initially inspired me to begin blogging way back in 2004. The parallels between the war on drugs and the war on terror have long been obvious to anyone who could approach the subject with a willingness to look past longstanding taboos. And the current war on Wikileaks demonstrates the same dynamic. As Scahill implores Congress to provide oversight over a military-industrial complex run amok, Congress remains far more concerned with those who aim to reveal the truth about what that apparatus is doing.
UPDATE 2: Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, passed away today. Holbrooke was someone who seemed to understand the situation in Afghanistan at a level that others within our government could not. His final words were “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”
It is very likely that a large (15-20 cm in diameter), irregularly-shaped, cm-thick pancake with beveled edges, taped to the abdomen, would be invisible to this technology, ironically, because of its large volume, since it is easily confused with normal anatomy. Thus, a third of a kilo of PETN, easily picked up in a competent pat down, would be missed by backscatter “high technology”. Forty grams of PETN, a purportedly dangerous amount, would fit in a 1.25 mm-thick pancake of the dimensions simulated here and be virtually invisible. Packed in a compact mode, say, a 1 cm×4 cm×5 cm brick, it would be detected.
Of course it’s no surprise that the TSA’s fancy new backscatter scanners could be so easily duped (apparently, they’re not very good at detecting strategically placed thin wires and razor blades either), but if you really want to get devious about it, the softest target in our air transportation system might just turn out to be TSA itself.
In fact, if I were a dedicated suicide bomber (and just to be clear to federal authorities, I’m not), I’d pack a rolling, carry-on suitcase with as much explosives as possible, pick the busiest time of the day, wheel it through the snaking security line until I was in the very middle of the crowd, and then… BOOM!
Depending on the sophistication of the device, such an attack would kill and injure dozens, possibly hundreds, and achieve the same catastrophic impact on the airline industry without having to devise a way to sneak a weapon through security. And since the target is created by the screening process itself, such attacks would be virtually unstoppable, as any attempt to expand the security perimeter would merely create more targets.
Meanwhile, the traveling public might be much less sanguine about waiting in line for TSA’s security theater if they feared the very act made them sitting ducks to the real terrorist threat.
Now I know some of you may find my public speculation on TSA security flaws to be irresponsible, perhaps even criminal, but I’m a big believer in the philosophy that drives the open source community on such matters: that publicizing security holes is the first step toward closing them. For example, had we imagined (as the Israelis did) that terrorists might commandeer airliners to be used as building-busting weapons, the 9/11 attack might have been entirely avoided.
For in the end, I don’t just oppose the TSA’s invasive new porno-scanners and “enhanced” pat-downs because I find them offensive, I oppose them because I feel they ultimately make us less safe by consuming resources on merely giving us a false sense of security.
According to Bellevue City Council member Kevin Wallace, Bellevue is too good for at-grade light rail:
It should not surprise Seattle that Bellevue finds this unacceptable. The Surrey Downs and Enatai neighborhoods are similar to Seattle’s Maple Leaf and Montlake neighborhoods. Imagine the reaction in Seattle if Sound Transit proposed to run light rail at-grade up Roosevelt Way through Maple Leaf, or to condemn 47 homes in Montlake because running at-grade next to Montlake Boulevard would be less expensive than tunneling. Sound Transit protected these neighborhoods in Seattle and should do no less for Bellevue.
Of course, Wallace doesn’t bother to mention the at-grade alignment down in here in South Seattle, because those neighborhoods are filled with black people and immigrants, so, I guess, in his mind, that’s not an apples to apples comparison.
Wallace’s classless classism aside, the thing that really needs realignment here is the anti-rail crowd’s perspective on who light rail really serves. They see it as a blight and an inconvenience… a means of conveying people past their neighborhoods, hopefully unseen. But I’m pretty darn sure that the vast majority of folks near rail stations down here in South Seattle see light rail as a tremendous neighborhood amenity… an inexpensive and convenient means of getting to and from the downtown, the airport and all stops in between, without worrying about the vagaries of traffic and the expense of driving.
I don’t have much hope of changing Wallace’s perspective, as his patrons are so heavily invested, emotionally and otherwise, in their anti-rail jihad. But if he’d like to come down to South Seattle and look for himself, I’d be happy to give him a tour.