The Real Victim Here Is Liberty, or Something

Wow. How do you even begin to engage in a conversation about gun safety when the other side displays such a total lack of introspection?

She was not the least bit irresponsible,” her father-in-law, Terry Rutledge said,

You know, except for the part about leaving a loaded gun within reach of her two-year-old.

He complained about people using the incident to attack his daughter-in-law.

Again, wow.

Open Thread 12/31/2014

- Happy New Year!

– 1 Million bike trips across the Freemont Bridge this year!

– Emmett thinks that how Seattle and Portland handled Uber says a lot more about how the two cities handle competition more generally. I’m not sure I 100% buy it, but it was a fun read.

– Geez have the Metro drivers even heard of just holding it?

– Good on Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson for being a decent person in response to a letter.

– Sounds like the appropriate response to 2014

Because Guns Make You Safer

Oy…

A woman was shopping with four kids, when one of the kids reached into her purse and accidentally discharged the weapon, according to Kootenai County Sheriff’s Deputies at the scene.

The gunshot killed the 29-year-old woman. Deputies on scene said the child who accidentally fired the handgun was about 2-years-old.

No doubt this woman kept a gun in her purse to protect herself and her children. Didn’t work out that way. As usual.

Perhaps If We Didn’t Shit All Over Teachers, School Districts Wouldn’t Have So Much Trouble Attracting Them?

Area school districts are having a helluva time attracting substitute teachers:

Some districts said teachers are missing too many school days, whether for sickness, vacation or teacher training. Some said pools of qualified candidates are dwindling for all teaching positions — not just substitutes. Others said substitutes aren’t paid enough, and that higher-paying districts attract more candidates. A substitute in Seattle makes between $161 and $187 a day, with no benefits unless the sub works more than 60 consecutive days in one place.

Considering how disrespected they are by politicians and pundits, it’s hard to understand why anybody would want to be a school teacher these days. But a substitute? Yikes. Even if one were to get an assignment for all 180 school days (and you won’t come close), $161 a day comes to only $28,980 a year with zero benefits. For somebody with a college degree!

So here’s an idea: If we want to attract more (and better!) teachers to the profession, maybe we should try both paying them more, and showing them a little goddamn respect? I mean, isn’t that the way labor markets are supposed to work?

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottle

Join us tonight as we close out 2014 and toast in the new year at this week’s Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

We meet every Tuesday evening for friendly conversation at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. The starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks show up before that for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings over the next week. Tonight the Tri-Cities chapter also meets. And next Monday, the Yakima and South Bellevue chapters meet.

There are 177 chapters of Living Liberally, including fifteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

New for 2015 – The Civil Liberties Roundup

As I’ve mentioned a few times in recent weeks as I’ve wound down the Street View contest, I’m planning to dive back into some regular political blogging again. For those who’ve been here a while, you’ll know that my main focus has long been the drug war. And even with the significant victories the drug law reform movement has achieved recently, it still remains an important subject to me. But I want to expand out what I follow to track a wider range of battles for civil liberties throughout the world, especially highlighting areas where basic human rights aren’t being upheld. The drug war remains part of that picture, particularly in non-western countries where even non-violent drug offenders sometimes still face lengthy prison terms or even execution. But I’d like to follow and highlight more than just that.

One thing that I’d like to point out up-front is that this won’t always be an exercise in moral equivalence. For example, I might share links to a story on North Korean death camps alongside a story on states trying to enact death with dignity laws. I obviously don’t think that the lack of a death with dignity law is as serious a problem as North Korea’s horrifically tyrannical regime, but I do believe both issues are examples of authoritarianism that deserve more attention. On the other hand, I will sometimes draw certain types of moral equivalence between various regimes when necessary. For me, an American torture regime is no less heinous than a Syrian one. Drawing this equivalence is often difficult for traditional media in the United States, and I hope to do a better job of framing those issues in the proper perspective.

For this effort, the ideal I’m working towards is that there are some very basic rights that all governments, elected or not, should be held accountable for protecting. Obviously, the right to vote out your government is the most basic one, and it’s alarming how much of the world still doesn’t have this right. The absence of this right does separate out the worst of the worst governments in the world. Beyond that, the right to speak your mind and dissent from the government is just as important. The right to disseminate news and the right to assemble and travel freely are also basic. The right to make moral choices, practice religion freely and to have control over your body are also essential, along with the right to fair trials and the ability to defend oneself from the state when accused of a crime. Issues of discrimination and collective punishment against a minority population will be part of this. Finally, the right to privacy and to be free from warrantless searches and seizures will also be part of this effort’s scope.

What much of this boils down to for me is that the government shouldn’t have a veto over an individual’s moral conscience, so long as that person doesn’t directly harm others. What separates this personal outlook from what’s generally considered a ‘libertarian’ philosophy is that I make a distinction between an individual’s pursuit of peace of mind and an individual’s pursuit of profit. All of what I’ve pointed out above relates to one’s conscience and their personal sense of moral guidance and free will. The pursuit of profit takes place within a system that requires a number of balances and sacrifices in order to function properly. Maybe some libertarians agree with the importance of this distinction, but most that I’ve encountered certainly don’t. And while I often agree with libertarians on a number of things, this distinction tends to be a pretty major divide. I don’t consider things like an individual mandate in our health care system (no matter how inefficient) to be an assault on liberty in the same way as a ban on drug use.

Of course, when you’re talking about things like drug use (or gambling, prostitution, or other vices), the line between what’s part of the economic system and what’s part of a person’s moral conscience is blurred. The distinction that I make is that blanket prohibitions on some type of adult consensual behavior are a violation of our civil liberties, while strict regulations on how people profit from it are not. There might be a lot of instances where I find those strict regulations to be completely idiotic, but they’ll still be outside of the scope. For example, debates over how we re-work the I-502 language that passed in 2012 to end marijuana prohibition in the state will be really interesting to me, but I won’t be discussing it in these posts.

Governments should exist to protect people from the unexpected, not to protect people from themselves. Within an economic system, especially this complex global economy that we all share, this requires a certain amount of rules and regulations in order to keep people from having their life savings wiped out or for the cost of basic necessities to rise beyond what people can pay without opportunities to get ahead. Again, believing this separates me from what most libertarians believe. But the common ground is that government should not be in the business of protecting people from their own bad – or just risky – choices. I think government has a role to play in educating people about these choices, but not in using the arm of the law to attempt to make those choices for us. But no regulatory regimes are in scope here, even if they are at the extreme left or right ends of the spectrum. They only become in scope for what I’m interested in if the regulatory regime is openly discriminatory.

There are several issues where I expect there to be a lot of contentiousness with what I consider “in scope”; gun control, environmental regulations, child protections and immigration. For the most part, gun control will be outside of the scope of this effort. The exceptions are cases where governments are implementing selective gun control – in other words, some subset of the population arbitrarily has different gun ownership rights for discriminatory reasons – or if governnments are actively trying to disarm an entire population while actively employing a military-style occupation.

Environmental regulations are also tricky. As with gun control, if there are different rules for different subsets of the population or it’s being used as some obvious form of baseless collective punishment, it will be in scope. But otherwise, environmental protection is a valid pretext for reasonable restrictions on people’s liberty. This doesn’t mean that I’ll agree with all those regulations, but I don’t intend to make those judgments as part of this effort.

Child protection and parenting issues are also very difficult to draw clear lines in this respect. I generally favor giving parents as much leeway as possible in establishing their own moral compass as parents, but I’m very wary of the limits of that philosophy, especially when it comes to things like medical care and public health. It’s unlikely that issues like this will be a part of this project’s scope.

Immigration might end up being the most difficult topic to parse out. Many countries have strict policies dictating who can immigrate. My perspective isn’t that those laws are invalid by default, but that migrations of people who are seeking out opportunities or fleeing for safety reasons are not realistically suppressible. The plight of refugees will very much be in scope here, as well as the systems in place for dealing with undocumented migrants throughout the world. In addition, the institutional abuse of migrant labor will certainly be a topic I’m interested in covering.

What I plan to focus on are stories from around the world where people’s basic rights – as I’ve tried to delineate them above – are being violated by governments. This can be any of a long list of things, and will be far too many to follow closely, but I hope that this is something that I can harness the feedback of readers and turn into a good resource for people interested in getting involved with various efforts around the world where people are fighting against injustices.

I haven’t decided if there will be a regular posting schedule for these roundups, but it’ll probably be less than once a week, maybe twice a month. I’ll also be focusing my Twitter feed on these topics more and more as I have some ideas for how to use that to collect and organize links. I really want to make this as collaborative as possible, so please feel free to shoot me an email with any thoughts or ideas.

The Ownership Society

One of the stupidest defenses of shareholder maximization theory is the bullshit argument that since everybody owns stocks these days through our 401Ks and mutual funds, then high corporate profits and a booming stock market benefits everybody! Except, not really:

The vast majority of working and middle class Americans simply don’t own much stock, because you can’t invest money you don’t have.

Forty years ago, annual US corporate profits averaged about 6 percent of GDP. Today profits consume about 13 percent of GDP. That’s an extra $1 trillion a year in corporate profits propping up equity prices. Meanwhile, labor’s share of GDP has declined by a corresponding 7 percent over the same period. Coincidence?

Righties hate numbers like this, fearing that they might be used to justify some sort of massive redistribution of wealth. But that redistribution is already going on. It’s just going in the wrong direction.

Open Thread 12/29

- It’s strangely reassuring to read about Oregon’s unnecessary giveaways to Nike. Oh, that sort of garbage happens everywhere!

– The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a pretty lousy economic measure, but yeah.

The Oil Train Industry is Putting Seattle at Risk

Twitter doesn’t think these rape and death threats are harassment

– This piece by Digby on the asymmetry of politicians unhinged from reality is pretty much all you need the next time someone is like “but both sides” or whatever.

– This Modern World’s Year in Review Part 1 and Part 2.

Violence Breeds Violence

Rank and file New York Police Department members and their spokespeople are blaming peaceful protesters for inciting the brutal murder of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

Okay. There’s a discernible logic to that. I suppose had there been no public outrage over the most recent spate of police killings of unarmed black men, perhaps 28-year-old shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley would have turned his anger and insanity toward another target. Had there been no protests against police violence to focus his rage, maybe instead of Officers Ramos and Liu, Brinsley would have shot up a synagogue or a mosque or a school? Or maybe his own family? He had already shot his ex-girlfriend earlier the same day, and his mother reportedly told police that she feared her own son, so this guy was clearly a shooting spree waiting to happen. Yeah, if not for the protests, perhaps Officers Ramos and Liu would still be alive today. It’s at least possible.

But you know what else might have prevented this tragedy? Fewer police killings of unarmed black men.

Had Officer Darren Wilson not shot dead Michael Brown, had NYPD officers not choked to death Eric Garner, and had our justice system not failed to vigorously prosecute the officers for, at the very least, negligence, these protests might have never been sparked. So if, as the NYPD insists, protests against police violence are responsible for inciting the murders of Officers Ramos and Liu, then the police violence that sparked the protests ultimately deserves some blame as well.

I understand if some find this line of reasoning offensive, but it is the logical conclusion of the same line of reasoning that prompted hundreds of NYPD officers to display their contempt for civil authority today by turning their backs on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in anger over his refusal to condemn protests against police violence.

Violence breeds violence. That is human nature. And that is why in the wake of this tragedy it is incumbent upon police officers nationwide to show more discipline, professionalism, and restraint, not less.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Obama violates his own “head” rule.

Sam Seder: FAUX News affiliate smears and distorts an anti-Police brutality rally.

Young Turks: Darrell Issa turns up bupkis in IRS “scandal”.

Alex Wagner and friends: The race gap:

Pap: Republicans up a creek on immigration.

2014 in Review:

A holiday message for Congress.

WaPo: Can we buy Cuban cigars now?

Farron Cousins: What can you get when you buy a politician?

A Grimm Reality:

David Pakman: FCC ignored hundreds of thousands of net neutrality comments.

Michele Bachmann talks with God.

Young Turks: D.A. McCulloch knowingly put liar on the stand.

Sam Seder and Cliff Schecter: What led to the fracking ban in NY?

WaPo: Members recall their best and worst days in Congress.

David Pakman: More Chris Christie corruption?

Bang!

Lawrence O’Donnell: Putin v. Obama.

White House: West Wing Week.

David Pakman: Almost everything Republicans have said or predicted about Obama has turned out to be wrong.

Thom Hartman: The Good, The Bad, and The Very, Very Ugly.

Eric Schwartz and friends: MPG for Kim Jong-Un (NSFW):

Chris Hayes: GOP and FAUX News are WRONG again on Economy and Obamacare.

Thom: Where did Santa and the elves come from?

The Koch Dystopia:

Lawrence O’Donnell: Innocent 14 y.o. executed and exonerated 70 years too late.

Sam Seder and Cliff Schecter: Why would Jeb Bush run?

WaPo: Caught in the ocean during the 2004 tsunami.

What do Democrats and Republicans think of each other.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

How the Kvetch Stole Chanukah

Every Joo
Down in Joo-ville
Liked Chanukah as such…

But the Kvetch,
Who lived just north of Joo-ville,
… not so much.

The Kvetch hated Chanukah, the whole Chanukah season.
Now don’t ask me why. What? Should I know the reason?
It could be he wasn’t a mensch, that is all.
Or his petzel, perhaps, was two sizes too small.
Such meshug’as comes from one thing or another,
But like most Joo-ish boys, we should just blame his mother!

But,
The reason, whatever,
His mom or his putz,
The Kvetch hated Chanukah. Oy, what a yutz!
For he knew every Joo down in Joo-ville tonight
Was busy preparing menorahs to light.

“And they’re giving out gelt!” he sighed as he said
“I need waxy chocolate like holes in my head!”
Then he nervously whined as his fingers tapped horas,
“I MUST stop the Joos from igniting menorahs!”

For,
The Kvetch knew that soon…

… All the Joo girls and boys
Would say the baruch’ha, then unwrap their toys!
And then! Oh, the oys! Oh, the Oys! Oys! Oys! Oys!
If it’s not what they wanted, the OYS! OYS! OYS! OYS!

Then the Joos, young and old, would sit down for a nosh.
And they’d nosh! And they’d nosh!
And they’d NOSH! NOSH! NOSH! NOSH!
They would nosh on Joo-latkes, and Gefilte-Joo-Fish,
Which was surely the Kvetch’s least favorite dish!

And THEN
They’d do something
Which made the Kvetch plotz!
Every Joo down in Joo-ville, Bar Mitzvahed or not,
Would sit down together, their proud ponim’s grinning.
Then dreidels in hand, all the Joos would start spinning!

They’d spin! And they’d spin!
AND they’d SPIN! SPIN! SPIN! SPIN!
And the more the Kvetch thought of this Joo-Dreidel-Spin,
The more the Kvetch thought, “I can’t let this begin!
“Oy, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!
“Chanukah, Schmanukah! Stop it!
… But HOW?”

Then he got an idea!
And the moment he had,
He said
“I’m no Einstein, but this… not half bad!”

“I know just what to do!” Then he donned an old sheet,
And dug up some sandals to wear on his feet.
“I’m the Prophet Elijiah! They’ve set me a plate!”
(For the Kvetch couldn’t keep Joo-ish holidays straight.)
“The Joos ‘ll oblige ol’ Elijiah, no doubt!
“I will simply walk in. Then I’ll clean the place out!”

“All I need is a camel…”
He looked far and near,
But this wasn’t the desert, and camels are dear.
Did that stop the old Kvetch…?
That pischer? No, never:
“If I can’t find a camel,” the Kvetch said, “…whatever.”
So he called his dog, Max. Then he took an old sack
And he tied a hump onto the front of his back.

THEN
He climbed on this
dog-dromedaryish mammal.
You never have seen
Such a schmuck on a camel.

Then the Kvetch cried “Oy vey!”
As old Max started down
Toward the homes, while the Joos
Where still schmoozing in town.

All their driveways were empty. Just SUV tracks.
All the Joos were out last-minute-shopping at Saks,
As he rode to a not-so-small house on old Max.
“It’s a good thing I brought” the old Prophet Kvetch thought,
“All these bags with to stuff all the stuff the Joos bought.”

Then he looked at the chimney. It seemed quite a stretch
That a fat goy like Santa could fit, thought the Kvetch,
“Still, the goyim believe stranger things, that’s for sure.”
Then the Kvetch shrugged his shoulders, and walked through the door
Where the little Joo dreidels were all strewn about.
“These dreidels,” he grinned, “are the first to go out!”

And he schvitzed, as he shlepped, with an odor unpleasant,
Around the whole house, as he took every present!
Barbie dolls! Mountain bikes! Brios! And blocks!
Pokemon! GameBoys! And all of that shlock!
And he stuffed them in bags. Then his arms spread akimbo,
He shlepped all the bags, one by one, out the wimbo!

Then he shlepped to the kitchen. He took every dish.
He took the Joo-latkes. The Gefilte-Joo-Fish.
He cleaned out the Sub-Zero so nimbly and neat,
Careful to separate dairy from meat.
Then he shlepped the Joo-nosh right out the front door-a.
“And NOW!” kvelled the Kvetch, “I will shlep the menorah!”

And he grabbed the menorah, and started to shlep on,
When he heard a whine, like a cat being stepped on.
He spun ‘round with shpilkes, and coming his way,
It was Ruth Levy-Joo, who was two, if a day.

The Kvetch had been caught by this small shaina maidel,
Who’d been watching TV on her big RCA’dle.
“The Prophet Elijiah?” she quizzed the old fool,
“You visit on Pesach, they taught us in shul.”

And although the old Kvetch was surprised and confused,
It’s not hard to lie to a girl in her twos.
“Bubbeleh… sweatheart…” he started his tale,
“Your dad paid full price, when this all was on sale!
“And like any good merchant, I just want to please ya.
“I’ll ring it up right, then I’ll refund your VISA.”

Then he patted her tush. Put a Barney tape in.
And she spaced-out as fast as the spindle could spin.
And as Ruth Levy-Joo watched her mauve dinosaura,
HE went to the door and shlepped out the menorah!

Then the match for the shamas
Was last to be filched!
Then he shlepped himself out to continue his pillage.
On the walls he left nothing at all. Bubkes. Zilch.
And the one speck of food
That he left in the house
Was a matzoh ball even too dense for a mouse.

Then
He did the same schtick
In the other Joo’s houses.

Leaving knaidlach
Too dense
For the other Joo’s mouses!

It was quarter to dusk…
All the Joos, still at Saks,
All the Joos, still a-shmooze
When he packed up old Max,
Packed him up with their presents! The gelt and the dreidels!
The chotchkes and latkes! The knish and the knaidels!

He hauled it all up to his condo in haste!
(A Grinch might have dumped it, but why go to waste?)
“Shtup you!” to the Joos, the Kvetch loudly cheered,
“They’re finding out Chanukah’s cancelled this year!
“They’re just coming home! I know just what they’ll say!
“They’ll ask their homeowners insurance to pay,
“Then the Joos down in Joo-ville will all cry OY VEY!”

“All those Oys,” kvelled the Kvetch,
“Now THIS I must hear!”
So he paused. And the Kvetch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising up from the shtetl.
It started to grow. Then the Kvetch grew unsettled…

Why the sound wasn’t sad,
It was more like the noise
Of a UPS trucker
Delivering toys!

He stared down at Joo-ville!
And then the Kvetch shook,
As truck after truck
Replaced all that he took!

Every Joo down in Joo-ville, the Golds and the Steins,
Re-ordered their presents by going online!

Chanukah HADN’T been cancelled!
IT CAME!
…On UPS trucks… but it came just the same!

Then the Kvetch, staring down at the gifts where they sat,
Stood kvitching and kvetching: “For this, I did that?
“It came without traffic! It came without tax!
“It came without shopping at Bloomie’s or Saks!”
And he kvetched on and on, til he started to shvitz,
Then the Kvetch thought of something which might make him rich!
“Maybe stores,” thought the Kvetch, “don’t need mortar and bricks.
“Maybe toys can be bought with a few well-placed clicks!”

And what happened then…?
Well… in Joo-ville they say
That the Kvetch raised
Ten million in venture that day!
And the minute his web site was ready to go,
He raised ten billion more on his new IPO!
He sold back the toys to the homes they came from!
And he…

… he the Kvetch…!
Founded YA-JOO.COM!

©2000 by David Goldstein
All rights reserved

[An HA holiday tradition (yeah, a couple days late this year), with apologies to the late, great Dr. Seuss—but not to the greedy, litigious bastards at Dr. Seuss Enterprises, LLC. So there. Happy Christmukah.]

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottle Join us tonight for some pre-holiday cheer and some political catharsis over a pint at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

We meet tonight and every Tuesday evening for friendly conversation at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. The starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks show up before that for dinner.

There are 177 chapters of Living Liberally, including fifteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

Get a Goddamn Flu Shot

I am attempting to write this post through the chills and sweats of a 101.7 degree fever and the massive 48-hours-and-counting headache that came with it. I have the flu. And it is awful. So consider this a public service announcement: Get a goddamn flu shot!

Yes, I know, this year’s vaccine doesn’t fully protect against one of the dominant strains this season. So maybe I would’ve caught the flu regardless. Or maybe not. Fifty percent effective is a helluva lot better than zero percent effective, so yeah, I was a fucking idiot for driving by all those drug stores with the “Get Your Flu Shot Now” signs, yet never stopping in.

Procrastination will likely kill me one day. But for now it has just made me totally fucking miserable. Get a flu shot.