Civil Liberties Roundup

Heidi Groover writes in The Stranger about the verdict in the Kettle Falls Five case in Eastern Washington. Down from the original 5 defendants, the 3 remaining medical marijuana patients were facing long jail terms, essentially being charged as big-time drug traffickers rather than ordinary folks pushing the plant limits of our state’s collective garden law. The jury saw through the bullshit being thrown around by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Eastern Washington and acquitted them on all but one charge.

I’ve written before about this case and the incredibly cynical and spiteful behavior of U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby. There’s really no excuse for the Obama Administration to continue having him serve in that role openly defying the Obama Administration’s desire to leave ordinary patients alone. Groover details the more egregious aspects of this prosecution:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office combined photos they found of 75 plants grown in 2011 with the 74 live plants they found in 2012 in order to charge the family with growing 100 or more plants. That’s the number that triggers a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. This actually made up three of the counts facing the defendants: 1) conspiring to grow and distribute, 2) growing, and 3) distributing. (On Tuesday, the jury found them guilty of growing fewer than 100 plants, but not guilty on charges one and three.)

Then, the feds tacked on another troubling charge: use of a weapon in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The Harveys keep multiple guns in their house, which they say are for hunting and protecting their dogs from bears and cougars on their property. (I know this is weird. Guns are terrifying. But they’re common enough in Eastern Washington that having them near a pot grow doesn’t mean you were using them to protect that grow.) It was troubling because it would have added another five-year mandatory minimum.

Anyone could see that the defendants in this case weren’t big-time drug dealers. No evidence was ever presented that any of the defendants sold what they were growing. Nor was any evidence presented that their legally owned firearms were used in any way other than for protection. This was nothing more than an attempt to railroad innocent people, for reasons that aren’t clear to anyone. And, as Groover points out in her article, Ormsby is unapologetic and continuing to pursue other cases. If there are other victims of Ormsby’s office out there, I hope we’re able to shine some light on their cases as well.

More news items from the past two weeks…
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Pools Aren’t Dynamic

On Tuesday, I wrote about the House Democrats passing the minimum wage bill, but it probably is going to get jammed up in the Senate. A couple different people at Drinking Liberally that night suggested that I make fun of Rep. Matt Manweller’s arguments against the bill. I couldn’t find a transcript of the whole thing, but I did find this press release where he highlights what he seems to think is his strongest argument.

I’ve also been told, Mr. Speaker, that if we raise the minimum wage, it will actually have a stimulus effect.

Yes. Because minimum wage earners are more likely to spend it than people in higher income brackets. You can make an argument against it or you can go with some bullshit analogies.

As if somehow, if I take five dollars from the member to my left and I hand it to a member of my right, there is magically more dollars on the House floor.

Well, if the person on your left was going to take the money and put it in their pocket, and the person on the right was going to buy lunch with it in the House cafeteria, then by passing the money along there’s 5 dollars worth of lunch and 5 dollars in the House. So there’s more value in the House. Also, the economy is usually more than 2 people and an intermediary.

[laughter]

I don’t know if he or some member of his staff transcribed this or if it’s from somewhere else. But I’m now thinking of some intern being like, “No, there wasn’t really much laughter… No, I don’t really think it needs it… Fine, I’ll add some laughter to the transcript. Also, please stop asking me to marry you when I turn 18.

That’s amazing! If you believe that, please go home to someplace that has a pool – dump a bucket of water – dump a bucket in one side of the pool and then empty that bucket in the other side of the pool, and tell me how long you had to do that before you realize there was not more water in the pool.

It’s sort of amazing that an economist doesn’t think it’s possible for economies to grow based on government policy. And taken to its logical extreme, any policy (other than deficit spending or reduction, I guess) would follow the same logic. Why worry about tax increases if it’s all just the same pool? Why worry about solving waste since it’s all just water in the same pool? Is that really the best GOP argument against the minimum wage?

Just water that had moved around.

Someone is really happy with his crappy analogy. It would be kind of adorable, except for all the people whose lives will be harmed if he gets his way.

Also, not for nothing, but if your go-to metaphor is about your swimming pool, what are you even doing talking about a minimum wage?

None of these arguments make intellectual sense.

Maybe actually engage the arguments instead of spending all that time making up those rad pool metaphors.

State House Democrats Kill Extreme Risk Protection Orders Bill, and With It, Countless Innocent Lives

Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-47

Future ex-Rep. Pat Sullivan.

Some time over the next few weeks or months there will be another mass shooting in Washington State, because there always is. And then another shooting a few weeks or months after that. And so on.

And we will eventually learn from family members that one or more of these shooters had severe mental health problems—because they almost always do—and at that point, Democratic state Representative Pat Sullivan’s hands will be soaked in blood.

Assuming Sullivan (D-Covington) is still a state representative, that is.

Late last week, at the behest of the gun lobby, Sullivan killed in committee House Bill 1857, which would have allowed family members or law enforcement to petition the court to issue an “extreme risk protection order” temporarily enjoining a person from possessing dangerous weapons. To be clear, this was no “coming for your guns” kinda bill: Such an order could not have been granted willy-nilly, but only on the finding of “clear, cogent, and convincing evidence” that:

  • the subject of the petition poses a significant danger of personal injury to himself, herself, or another by having a firearm or dangerous weapon considering specific factors; and
  • Ÿ the order is necessary because less restrictive alternatives have been tried and found ineffective or are inadequate or inappropriate for the subject’s circumstances.

As we tragically learned from both the Cafe Racer and Jewish Federation shootings, family members are often fearful of and for the shooter, but lack the legal tools to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of their mentally ill kin. The family of Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger even warned law enforcement that he was a danger, but lacking evidence sufficient for an involuntary commitment (an understandably high bar) there was no legal path to keep him from purchasing guns. Had something like HB 1857 been available, Rodger and his six victims might still be alive today.

The public testimony on HB 1857 was overwhelmingly supportive. Sarah Whitford, a cousin of one of Rodger’s victims, and a 47th LD constituent of Sullivan, pleaded with her representative to help prevent future tragedies:

“In the days that followed the shooting, we learned that the shooter’s family reported their concerns about his mental state to law enforcement, concerned that he was a danger to himself or others. In response, police visited his apartment and questioned him, but with no legal authority to search his belongings or seize his weapons, under California state law, they left. They left. It was a moment that could have prevented a mass shooting and saved not only Veronika and the other five victims, but the shooter, himself. And because of that moment – that very second when everyone who could have stopped this tragedy threw up their hands, genuinely helpless to do something – that is why I’m here.”

But Sullivan, who enjoys an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, killed the bill, refusing to let it come up for a vote in the Appropriations Committee. And who knows how many more innocent people will die without this sensible reform?

It was a totally calculated political move on Sullivan’s part—only the problem for Sullivan is, he calculated wrong. Sullivan cravenly figures a Democrat like him needs NRA support to win reelection in his Republican-leaning swing district, and maybe that was true a decade ago when he first won his seat. But that was before Sandy Hook and a string of other mass killings (almost all at the hands of shooters who might have been stopped by the provisions embodied in HB 1857) changed the national conversation on guns. In fact, 57.4 percent of voters in Sullivan’s 47th LD approved 2014’s historic gun backgrounds check Initiative 594, almost two points better than the 55.6 percent Sullivan managed against an underfunded Republican opponent.

I-594 was so popular in Washington State that the allegedly almighty NRA put up only a token resistance. So does Sullivan really believe that the NRA is going to spend big to defend him against a pro-gun Republican? Did he really think there wouldn’t be a price to pay from a surging gun reform movement thousands strong (backed by the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and my boss, Nick Hanauer) in retaliation for killing their number one legislative priority this session?

That’s just plain stupid. And it’s also a display of a stunning lack of political leadership on the part of House Speaker Frank Chopp for failing to impose the party discipline necessary to get HB 1857 to the floor for a vote. As majority leader, Sullivan is the number two man in the house Democratic leadership, and Chopp just let him commit political suicide. And the 47th isn’t a seat the Democrats are likely to win back anytime soon once Sullivan is gone.

Democrats need to understand that times have changed. It’s the NRA that’s now the paper tiger, and the gun reform movement they need to fear. And I sure hope it doesn’t require taking out Sullivan in 2016 to teach Democrats that lesson.

Open Thread March Forth

- But at least with these projects, something is being built. What’s being generated by the current iteration of the state legislature, particularly the Republican-controlled State Senate (unofficial motto: “Let’s screw with the libtards in Seattle!”), is far worse.

The Latest Anti-Choice Strategy: Less Planned Parenthood Bashing, More Insurance Bans

– I don’t want legislators talking about how colored people are committing the crimes because they’re poor to overwhelm the discussion of the actual bill to make racial impact statements.

– I know that since he’s probably recruiting someone to run against the mayor, Wyble isn’t the most unbiased source for talking about his policies. But yeah, maybe don’t do a victory lap on how great policing has become.

If your different-sex marriage isn’t special or “sacred” or whatthefuckever just because more people are allowed to do it, then that’s not a problem with the law; that’s a problem with your marriage.

There are some who say that Rand Paul stole his logo from Tinder. Opinions differ – my take is that people go on Tinder wanting to get fucked, but it probably doesn’t happen as often as one thinks. Supporting Rand Paul is something like the opposite of that.

Minimum Wage

I realize passing the state House is the easiest part of the minimum wage bill’s journey. But hurray :

The Washington state House has voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour.

Representatives voted 51-46 Tuesday afternoon to raise what was already the nation’s highest state hourly minimum wage at $9.47.

The legislation, House Bill 1355, would raise the minimum wage over a four-year period in a series of 50-cent hikes. It goes next to the state Senate for consideration.

Relief for working families all over the state trying to raise a family on or near the minimum wage is a possibility. Nobody is getting rich working the minimum wage, but it’s still better for working families. Of course, now it’s on to the Senate to be watered down or killed outright.

The Bill is currently in the Labor & Commerce committee, chaired by Michael Baumgartner, if you want to contact him, the info is at the link. If you want to contact other members of the committee, you can find them here. If you want to find your legislators, you can find them here. As always, my recommendation is to be polite but firm.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottle Please join us tonight for an evening of politics and conversation over a pint at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

We meet every Tuesday evening at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. Our starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks stop by earlier for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings this week. This Tuesay night, the Long Beach, Tri-Cities and West Seattle chapters also meet. The Lakewood chapter meets on Wednesday. And on Thursday, the Tacoma chapter meets.

There are 188 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

Paul Constant Ascends to the Heavens

Paul and I enjoy the actual view from our actual corner office.

Paul and I enjoy the actual view from our actual corner office.

Most 1 percenters just don’t know what to do with all their filthy lucre. Some rich people collect art. Other rich people collect cars or even houses. But Nick Hanauer, America’s premier self-loathing plutocrat, seems intent on ostentatiously collecting ex-Stranger writers.

So welcome, Paul Constant, to Nicktopia—the land of milk and honey! (No, really: Both milk and honey are available in our office’s well-stocked kitchen, along with a variety of free snacks and beverages.)

If there’s anybody who knows what Paul is going through right now, it’s me, but I can honestly tell him that it gets better. The worst thing about leaving The Stranger is leaving our brilliant and talented co-workers behind. (And our awful/wonderful readers—God I miss Slog.) But as Paul will soon learn, the best thing about leaving The Stranger is just about everything else: more pay, more freedom, more influence, better working conditions, and potentially, a much larger audience.

At first, Paul will be doing pretty much what I was hired to do: read, think, talk, and write about public policy. Mostly income inequality, some guns. Our ambitious charge is nothing less than rewriting our nation’s economic narrative into one that recognizes the primacy of people over money. But over time, we intend to build out a little platform of our own where we can think out loud about a range of issues. So if, say, you lament the loss of Paul’s 2016 election coverage on Slog, don’t despair. You’re not alone. Nick didn’t hire Paul and me to silence us.

And finally, if the timing looks suspicious, I want to be clear that Paul did not leave The Stranger to come to work for Nick. We had no prior discussions. That Paul landed on his feet (and 28 floors up!) so quickly after his abrupt departure from The Stranger is a testament to Paul’s talent and work ethic.

So, yeah. Welcome, Paul. And don’t make me look bad by writing too much too quickly.

Open Thread, March Tooth

- The 2/3 rule in the Senate is stupid and undemocratic, but at least it’s probably going to be stupid and undemocratic against a bad idea.

– Fare increases at Metro are still ridiculous. But at least LIFT means it won’t be as bad for lower income people.

– The Reproductive Parity Act probably isn’t going to pass this session, but it’s still worth pushing for it.

Of pocket lint and ‘political correctness’

It is no small tribute to the man’s legacy that he made those ears work. And every ear as such that has ever worked is part of the Nimoy-ness.

Andrew Friedman: World’s Worst Businessman, or Pathological Liar?

Remember when Andrew Friedman, the virulently anti-$15 owner of the Capitol Hill bar Liberty was given precious column inches in The Stranger to warn readers that a $15 minimum wage would surely destroy local small businesses?

Local independent businesses WILL close, many of your neighbors WILL be out of work,” the capslockian Friedman declared, arguing that his 5 percent margins were too small to absorb the cost of paying his employees a living wage.

Well, on Friday night, not quite nine months after Seattle’s $15 minimum wage was approved, and just one month before the first phased-in hike goes into effect, Friedman opened his second Capitol Hill bar, the ironically named “Good Citizen.” Which, if you take Friedman at his word, is kinda weird.

So I guess that makes Friedman either the world’s worst businessman, or a pathological liar.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

The week’s Politiclips.

Net Neutrality:

CPAC: Duck Dynasty kook Phil Robertson, rants about STDs.

Mental Floss: 43 words invented by authors.

Greenman: Simon Donner’s elevator pitch for global warming.

The 2016 Parade of Clowns

Chris Hayes: Amen, Sister Laura Ingraham.

Thom: Koch brothers caught funding climate change deniers.

The Republican War on Gynecology

Sam Seder: Ron Paul suggests that Black lawmakers are only against war because they want the money for food stamps.

Richard Fowler: What was American’s most successful industry in the past century?

The U.S. is turning Green:

Young Turks: Sean Hannity’s creepy CPAC joke.

Mental Floss: Why don’t humans have a mating season.

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

The Fog of War Zones:

Ann Telnaes: A test for loving America.

Vsauce: Would Headlights Work at Light Speed?

David Pakman: Billionaire Governor raises minimum age and raises taxes…economy booms.

White House: West Wing Week.

He Lived Long and Prospered:

Jon: Why does the Obama Administration keep prosecuting whistle blowers?

Ed: Obama vetos Keystone XL.

David Pakman: CPAC excludes gay Republicans, welcomes white nationalists.

Department of Homeland Insolvency:

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about makeup.

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

Young Turks: The Obama-hate bubble is FULL of stunning beliefs.

Knuckle-dragging Climate Denier:

How you are accidentally helping the Koch brothers:

Jon: FAUX News’ 50 lies in 6 seconds.

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

Open Thread 2/27

- Maybe a better lesson to draw from Mars Hill’s implosion than be more media savvy, would be to do better at the outset.

The Funny Thing About Privilege

– Don’t poison trees. So gross.

Conversion Therapy: Dangerous and in Need of Banning—Take It From Someone Who Learned the Hard Way

So, basically, the Republican chair of the environment committee just threw a snowball “to the president” to prove that global climate change is a hoax, because he has all the scientific sophistication of your conservative uncle who posts shit on Facebook like, “If global warming is real, then why is it so cold outside?!”

– I would like to invest in Speedy Heavy Falling Rocks, Inc.

Did Missouri Gubernatorial Candidate Kill Himself Because Opponents Were Accusing Him of Being Jewish?

Today’s suicide of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican frontrunner for governor, didn’t strike me as much of a political story apart from the usual cautionary tale of how guns don’t make you safer. But this column from St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Tony Messenger just made the story quite a bit weirder:

I have no idea why Schweich killed himself. But for the past several days he had been confiding in me that he planned to accuse the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, John Hancock, with leading a “whisper campaign” among donors that he, Schweich, was Jewish.

Unless he left a note, we’ll never know for sure why Schweich shot himself. But an anti-semitic smear campaign coming from the state GOP chair? That sounds totally believable. Missouri is one fucked up state.

Don’t Ride Alone

I really love that only 31% of people who work in downtown Seattle drive alone to work. Transit is still the largest category, and of course, there are plenty of jobs outside the urban core. None the less, the environmental impact of fewer cars, the health impact of fewer cars on the road, the congestion impact of fewer cars, the pedestrian safety impact of fewer cars is really great.

Still, there’s a lot more work to do. Public transit needs to better serve downtown, and the rest of the city and the region. There’s plenty of improvements to make walking and biking easier — even if you ignore my obviously correct idea of flattening some of the hills like they did in Belltown.

Former State GOP Chair Urges Lifting of Eyman’s Stoopid 1% Property Tax Cap

In a guest op-ed in the Seattle Times, former Washington State Republican Party Chair Chris Vance argues that the state needs to lift the absurd 1 percent cap on growth in revenue from property taxes:

Counties spend 70 to 80 percent of their general-fund revenues on law enforcement, and the growth of those funds are not keeping up with the rate of inflation and population increases. Part of the problem is due to the fact that so little sales-tax revenue is generated in unincorporated areas.

But the bigger issue is the 1 percent cap on property tax revenue. King County receives 43 percent of its general-fund revenue from the property tax. The math is obvious: Capping that revenue growth at 1 percent a year makes it virtually impossible for the county to even keep up with inflation.

It’s not Vance’s arguments that are so significant here; as he says, “the math is obvious,” and always has been. What’s new here is that these words are coming out of the mouth of a Republican. If Republicans are beginning to admit that strangling local government isn’t the solution to all our problems, then perhaps there is hope yet.

The rest of Vance’s column, I’m not so sure of. But you can be sure of two things: 1) He just pissed off a lot of people in his own party by voicing this heresy outloud, and 2) he wouldn’t be writing this if there weren’t already other people in his own party voicing these thoughts privately.