Open Thread 10/7

I’m feeling much better than Monday, but I’ve been mostly off the Internet, so no links. I’ll probably have a real Open Thread on Friday and hopefully a regular post or two in the rest of the week.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottlePlease join us this evening for a feast of politics…and a beer at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking liberally.

We meet every Tuesday at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. You’ll find us in the small room at the back of the tavern. Our starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks stop by even earlier for dinner.

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

There are 183 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are good there’s a chapter meeting near you.


I know everyone has covered Jeb Bush saying “stuff happens” about shootings. Also, it’s a national story, and HA is primarily a Washington State blog. But this post has been rattling around in my mind for a few days. So maybe it’s the cough syrup talking, but I think the most offensive thing about it is that he used the minced oath.

He could have said “shit happens” because that’s the phrase that it’s meant to evoke, but he didn’t. He said stuff. He thought you and I and everyone who could hear him or listen to what he had to say would be offended if he had said “shit.” That him swearing would hurt him, so — as a politician — he had to treat everyone like a 10 year old.

Compare that to the context. He didn’t feel that he had to come up with a way to comfort the dead, let alone come up with a plan to prevent more deaths when he’s president. He didn’t think it would be offensive to just assume a future of regular mass shootings.

You’d hate to be a parent and have to explain that a presidential candidate thought saying “shit” was OK, but letting them know that they or their friends could die of a gunshot wound at any time while at school is easy? The contrast between a taboo on saying the word “shit” and being perfectly fine with flippancy about mass death and trauma is really striking.

And not for nothing, but mass shootings are shit. They’re shit no matter where they happen but they’re even more shit when they happen in schools.

Shorter Seattle Times on Inclusionary Zoning: “Do as I Say, Not as I Vote”

No nits to pick with the policy direction of the Seattle Times’ surprisingly forceful editorial in favor of stronger inclusionary zoning rules. I agree: “The policy makes sense in a city like Seattle, where population and job growth are boosting housing costs and most new developments cater to high-end renters.”

That said, if the editorial board really means what it says when it concludes…

The City Council should consider a more aggressive target that caters less to developers’ interests.

… it might want to endorse City Council candidates who cater less to developers.

Just sayin’.

HRC and Progressive Drug Policy

In Johann Hari’s great new book on drug addiction and the drug war, “Chasing the Scream”, he recounted a story about Switzerland’s first female president, Ruth Dreifuss:

The police officer who accompanied Ruth Dreifuss had tears in his eyes. He was taking the future president of Switzerland through an abandoned railway station in Zurich, down by the river. All the local drug addicts had been herded there, like infected cattle.

Ruth had been looking out over scenes like this for years now. A few years before, she had been to the park in Bern that played the same role there. There were girls being openly prostituted out and there were addicts staggering around, out of control, incoherent. There were people injecting themselves “in places you couldn’t imagine,” she says, because every other vein couldn’t be traced, as if it was trying to escape. Above the bustle, dealers were yelling their prices at the top of their voices. As she heard them, Ruth thought of Wall Street brokers, barking on the trading floor. The threat of violence hung over everything as dealers fought for customers.

Most Swiss people had never seen anything like this. The police were not just crying; they were afraid. This was Switzerland in the 1980s and 1990s, but it was an affront to everything the Swiss thought about themselves.

That was 20 years ago, and since then, Dreifuss went on to spearhead one of the most successful drug policy experiments in the modern world.

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton released a proposal to deal with America’s growing heroin problem. In an editorial in the New Hampshire Union Leader, she wrote:

ON MY first trip to New Hampshire this spring, a retired doctor spoke up. I had just announced I was running for President, and I had traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire to hear from voters about their concerns, their hopes and their vision for the future. He said his biggest worry was the rising tide of heroin addiction in the state, following a wave of prescription drug abuse.

To be candid, I didn’t expect what came next. In state after state, this issue came up again and again — from so many people, from all walks of life, in small towns and big cities.

In Iowa, from Davenport to Council Bluffs, people talked about meth and prescription drugs. In South Carolina, a lawyer spoke movingly about the holes in the community left by generations of African American men imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses, rather than getting the treatment they needed.

Writing at Vox, German Lopez finds a lot to like about Clinton’s proposal:

Clinton’s $10 billion Initiative to Combat America’s Deadly Epidemic of Drug and Alcohol Addiction is the most ambitious attempt of any presidential candidate to tackle America’s struggles with drug abuse. It’s an approach that public health and drug policy experts have demanded for years. But Clinton is the first candidate to dedicate such a large sum of money to the cause — and if approved by Congress, it could help combat what some public health officials and experts have called a drug overdose epidemic.

The big idea behind Clinton’s plan is to shift public policy on drug abuse and addiction from the criminal justice system to the health-care system. It would also help fill a big gap in health care: Nearly 90 percent of people who have a drug or alcohol abuse problem don’t get treatment, according to federal data.

The need to move away from our criminal justice approach to drug addiction has been urgent for awhile. On this point alone, Clinton deserves a lot of credit for getting with the times and rebuking the old approach. Her proposals for diverting addicts out of prison into treatment, to provide first responders with overdose prevention drugs, and to compel insurance companies to cover addiction treatment costs are all important and long overdue. Cracking down on doctors who prescribe opioids makes me a little nervous as this power has been greatly abused by prosecutors, but on the whole there’s more to like than dislike in this proposal.

Here in Seattle, for instance, the promising LEAD program is something that could ideally be expanded with this approach. LEAD’s four year experiment in Belltown diverting addicts to treatment instead of jail has been hugely successful at reducing subsequent arrests. But the funding for it isn’t a guarantee from year to year. Federal matching funds for this and similar programs around the country could reduce both local health care and criminal justice costs.

Funding those types of treatment programs would certainly be a great start, but there’s more we could do, and some of it is already being done elsewhere.

Up in Vancouver, the inSite safe injection facility is a place where addicts can safely use drugs without fear of arrest. Medical professionals are on hand to deal with medical emergencies and to counsel those trying to quit. The efficacy of this approach has been studied for years now, and the results are overwhelming. Allowing addicts to have safe place to use heroin has led to less crime and more addicts diverting into treatment. It has also lowered the rates of AIDS and Hepatitis cases and greatly reduced the amount of overdoses. It’s worked so well that despite pressure from an ideological Harper government, the Mayor of Montreal is willing to break the law to open one in his city.

Would Clinton’s proposal allow for a facility like inSite in the United States? The city of San Francisco tried to open one in 2007, but South Carolina Senator and noted federalist Jim DeMint used his position in the Senate to force the city to abandon its plans. It’s possible that even if Clinton became President and supported it, a Republican-led Congress would have the power and motivation to kill it once again.

But let’s go back to Switzerland, where they did something even more radical and progressive than that. Again from Hari’s book:

It had been discovered a few years before in Switzerland that there was a clause in Swiss law that allowed heroin to be given to citizens provided it was part of a scientific experiment. So far that had been done with only a tiny handful of people.

So Ruth said–Okay, we are going to have a really large experiment. We are going to make it much easier for any addict who wants it to get methadone, and for the people who can’t cope with that, we will prescribe them heroin. Switzerland has a political system built on consensus. No one official can drive a policy on her own. She needed to persuade her colleagues, and the cantons. So Ruth fought for it. This is an emergency, she explained, and in emergencies, you take dramatic steps.

Everything Americans have been conditioned to believe about drugs and drug addiction leads us to believe that this approach is completely nuts. We believe that anything but a cold turkey approach to drugs invites complacency and encourages more drug use. But much to the surprise of strict prohibitionists, the experiment worked, and Swiss voters overwhelmingly voted to keep it legal in 2008. The number of Swiss who regarded drug addiction as a serious problem plummeted from 64% to 12% between 1988 and 2002.

Many myths of heroin addiction and recovery were shattered by this experiment. Addicts did not continually demand higher and higher doses. They didn’t become complacent and give up on trying to kick their addictions. In fact, the opposite happened. The addicts receiving maintenance treatment became more likely to slowly wean themselves off the drug or to seek alternate treatments like methadone.

An approach like this remains explicitly illegal in the United States. Doctors are prohibited from prescribing heroin to anyone. Many of them are targeted by prosecutors simply for not being stingy enough when prescribing legal opioids to pain patients. Moving us in the opposite direction would require a lot of political courage. Could Clinton do it? Would she fight for it the way Ruth Dreifuss did?

The prohibitionist mindset tells us that the availability of drugs is the main determinant of drug use. But this is completely wrong. It’s certainly one determinant, but many other factors play into the equation, and have a far greater impact. After doing the research for his book, Hari came away believing that the presence of deep emotional scars was the predominant precursor for addition. People in that situation had to be helped to help themselves. But trying to enforce a prohibition by sending countless people through our criminal justice system tends to have the opposite effect, along with a whole host of unintended consequences.

This remains difficult for many Americans to accept and understand. We still tend to think of addicts as freeloaders, and the act of taking drugs as a form of rebellion that we shouldn’t give in to. This mindset only becomes shattered when someone we know and love falls victim to an addiction. Maybe the Swiss are more able to see the addicts in Needle Park as their brothers and sisters in ways that we here in America can’t. Or maybe we’re finally reaching that turning point in public understanding, just as we’ve reached a major turning point on pot prohibition in the past decade. However close we might be to a truly progressive drug policy, Hillary Clinton seems willing to move us closer to that point, and that might be good enough for now.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Congressional hits and misses of the week.

Pontifical Politics:

David Pakman: Christian hate group leader wants “Christian Sharia” forced conversion of immigrants.

Mental Floss: 26 fun facts about money

The 2016 Clown Parade:

What UN delegates really hear through their translators.

ANOTHER Goddamned Mass Shooting?!?

David Pakman: Nut-case Rush Limbaugh thinks finding of water on Mars is a Left Wing Conspiracy.

A painfully accurate drug commercial.

A Startling Admission!

Young Turks: Shameful Congress leaves town without passing 9/11 first responded bill.

Thom: Alabama toughens rules for voting while Black.

Planned Parenthood Politics:

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about climate change.

White House: West Wing Week.

Smoker of the House:

The perfect phone for filming police brutality.

Farron Cousins: Elizabeth Warren slams trickle down myth on Colbert’s show

Who did Hillary email?

The Daily Show is Back:

Farron Cousins: The G.O.P.’s “obstruction of Justice”.

How US companies profit from war.

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

A Modest Proposal to End School Shootings

I know this is a controversial position to take, but in the wake of yet another school shooting, it’s clear that there are too many schools in our society. Just think of how many school shootings we could have prevented if we had reasonable school control in this country.

Sure, in many countries after a shooting, they have moved forward restrictions on guns. But the US Constitution has a sentence about having a well regulated militia, so we can’t do that here. The meaning of that one sentence has been unchanging for literally the almost half a decade since McDonald v. City of Chicago was decided by one vote, so we can’t change it now. And we certainly can’t amend that sentence, even though the Constitution gives us the ability to. No, we’re stuck with that for ever.

But are we stuck with schools? No! The US Constitution mention schools at all! So obviously they aren’t as integral to freedom as owning murder weapons. QED. So ending schools is the only way we can end school shootings and remain free.

Sure, there will still be movie theaters, and churches, and workplaces, street corners, and restaurants. But maybe if shootings persist there, we can ban those too.

Open thread 10-2-2015

- If we only had more corporate criminals, just think of how much energy we could produce — JEB!, probably.

– Maybe the anti-gay, anti-birth control, head of an all male hierarchy that’s still protecting child rapists, who supported a dictatorship in his home country and came to the US specifically to canonize a man who set up missions that were just awful to the Native Americans might not be as progressive as we’d thought? #slatepitch

– When I was a kid I always hated having to get up so early for school, but as an adult, I assume it’s to do with parent’s schedules. So here’s hoping workplaces can also be accommodating.

– I had never noticed that the clocks downtown had IIII instead of IV, but at least there’s an apocryphal story to go with it.

Open Thread 9-30-2015

- I would like to see some art on the Pier 86 grain silos.

And honestly, even if they literally only gave abortions and changed their name to Abortions-R-Us, we would still support them because abortion is legal and legal abortions are safe abortions and fuck you for thinking you get to decide what I do with my fucking reproductive organs.

– I don’t really have much context for 700 units of workforce housing around transit centers but it sounds good if low to me.

It’s nice that they are all talking about the issue of Syria and the crisis in the Middle east. It’s great that they are doing programming around something other than emails and Donald Trump. But do they have to frame it around around puerile notions of male social rivalry?

– This is definitely how science happens.

Eleven Years Ago I Tipped Off the Press that Eyman Might Be Getting Kickbacks from Citizen Solutions. Too Bad Nobody Followed Up

So last week, after the Public Disclosure Commission alleged that Tim Eyman received $308,000 worth of kickbacks from signature gathering firm Citizen Solutions on 2012’s Initiative 1185 alone, I congratulated myself for first suggesting this kickback arrangement back in 2006. Well, it turns out I was wrong. In fact, I first suggested that Tim might be receiving kickbacks way back in June 2004,  a little more than a month into my blogging career:

For intrepid reporters looking to add their own angle to this story, I suggest you delve into Tim’s business relationship with Roy Ruffino, who claims to have the “exclusive contract” on both Eyman initiatives. Since Roy has been subcontracting signatures to other firms, (surely keeping a healthy cut for himself,) and certainly doesn’t have the track record of the more established firms, I have long wondered what was in this apparently lopsided business deal for Tim?

Is this a convenient means of mixing funds between the two campaigns, outside the purview of the Public Disclosure Commission? Is he merely trying to hide the fact that his Canadian dollars are primarily being spent on Californian signature gatherers? Or, perhaps… is Tim getting some kind of kickback in return for his business?

Eleven years later we now that Tim was both mixing funds between two campaigns and routinely getting some kind of kickback from Ruffino in return for his signature business.

Man… I really knew my shit. Too bad nobody took me seriously.*

* And in case you’re wondering why I didn’t follow up myself, well, I wasn’t a reporter, and didn’t have the time, resources, or experience to do that sort of investigative work. HA originally billed itself as “an almost daily blog on Washington politics and the press,” and as such was devoted to political commentary and media criticism. Still, I knew my shit, huh?


Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottleIt’s Tuesday. And in Seattle that means Drinking Liberally. So 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 at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. You’ll find us in the small room at the back of the tavern. Our starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks stop by even earlier for dinner.

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

There are 183 chapters of Living Liberally, including seventeen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are good there’s a chapter meeting near you.

opine thread

- I don’t know how long term a victory it is, but Shell is out of Arctic drilling for now.

– Tim Eyman not being willing to go on TV to talk about his latest shitty initiative warms my heart.

It is time to get very afraid: Extremists, authoritarians now run the GOP — and no one can stop them

My Grandfather And The Plane That Changed Seattle

Right Wing Fantasy Obama: What Really Happened To John Boehner?

– I could watch that Richard Sherman punt return on a loop for ever.