Seattle Times Prints Bigoted Guest Column Blaming Mass Shootings on Atheism

In recent years I’ve heard complaints from credible representatives of credible advocacy groups—even elected officials—that they’ve had little luck getting a guest column into the Seattle Times on important issues of the day. Union leaders and educators particularly feel shut out.

It wasn’t always this way. Back before the demise of the P-I, under Jim Vesely’s rule, the editorial page used to at least make an effort to give equal space to opposing views, even those they strongly disagreed with. But current editorial page editor Kate Riley makes little more than a token show of it. Instead, what progressive community leaders usually hear back is sorry, space is tight, there’s a lot of demand, and so the editors have to be very, very selective.

Okay. Maybe. But then how do they explain making room for this rambling guest column blaming our epidemic of mass shootings on the growing scourge of atheism?

Regardless of where our country went wrong, we now have a problem. Many Americans do not believe in an afterlife and divine judgment. Thus, homicide is attractive for revenge and the expression of emotional pain, and suicide is attractive for escape.

First of all, I don’t have the data at my fingertips, but I’m pretty confident that access to rational empiricism is much less strongly correlated with homicide and suicide than access to, you know, a gun. Further, the writer’s whole premise is unsupported by the facts. According to the religion and spirituality website Patheos, most US mass murderers are Christian (though in fact, the most overwhelming common denominator is that they are male). And then there’s the whole thorny history of our species routinely torturing and slaughtering each other in the name of one True God or another. But to be clear, it’s the gun that makes acting on murderous impulses so damn easy and efficient.

And second of all, could you be more bigoted and offensive?

Really. Had she written that “many Americans do not believe in Jesus Christ as their savior,” or had she pointed the finger at Judaism or Islam as belief systems that make homicide “attractive for revenge and the expression of emotional pain” (see, Gaza), the editors would have dismissed her column as the intolerant ramblings of an unrepentant bigot. But paint atheism as the “problem”—and by association, the millions of non-believing Americans like me who identify ourselves as such—well that’s the sort of important civil discourse deserving of rare column inches on the Seattle Times op/ed page! Apparently, non-belief is the only belief system that’s a permissible target of religious hate speech in our state’s paper of record.

I mean, fuck! The same op/ed page that blasts Gilbert and Sullivan as racism beyond the pale of a polite and inclusive society, gives voice to a religious bigot smearing nonbelievers with secular blood libel? It makes me so angry I could shoot somebody!

But I won’t. Because it would be wrong. And not because the Bible forbids it, or because I fear divine retribution in this life or the next, but because I was raised to be in touch with my own empathy and altruism, two traits that are as intrinsic to human nature as violence and revenge. As Rabbi Hillel famously said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.” But one does not need to actually believe in the supernatural window-dressing of the Golden Rule to embrace it as the indispensable glue of a just and functional society.

Nevertheless, if like this author (and apparently, the editorial page editor of the Seattle Times), you are a self-satisfied narrow-minded religious bigot who insists that there can be no morality without God, have no fear: I won’t shoot you. Because I have no gun. And thus I have no means of acting upon the homicidal culture of revenge with which you impugn those of us who merely reject the notion of the supernatural. Something to think about if you’re truly interested in protecting your fellow man from senseless violence.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Greenman: Dark Snow project’s drones over Greenland.

Young Turks: CA death penalty ruled unconstitutional.

Thom: Capitalism’s deeper problem.

Sharpton: The G.O.P. are ready to tank the U.S. economy, AGAIN.

Roy Zimmerman: SCROTUS:

Matt Binder: Conservatives go bonkers because a comic character gets shot.

Maddow: History of civilian planes shot down by ‘criminal’ military entities.

Jon: On CIA lunchroom complaints.

Child Refugees and Conservative Clowns:

Alex Wagner: Rep. Darrell Issa’s record breaking subpoena palooza.

Ann Telnaes: Hobby Lobby burden for women.

Six decades of The Peace Corps.

2014: A contrast in priorities.

Chris Hayes: Senator Mitch McConnell’s medicare reversal and somersault!.

White House: West Wing Week.

Mark Fiore: Ogg and Uck…all washed up.

Darth Cheney Said Something:

Young Turks: Bill-O-the-Clown and some G.O.P. nutburger have advice for poor people.

Mental Floss: 41 facts about dogs.

David Pakman: Bill-O-The-Clown gives advice to poor people.

Matt Binder: KKK is luring new members with…candy.

Jon: On Sarah Panin’s call for impeachment.

Thom: Which is worse…government or corporate bureaucracy.

Sam Seder: Rick Santelli loses it on TV after being called out for being wrong about EVERYTHING.

Psychosupermom: Beyoncé Voters.

Michael Brooks: FAUX News nutbag warns against the “Chinaman”.

Ana Kasparian: Why is this entire island–nation preparing to evacuate?.

Young Turks: Jon Stewart enrages conservatives over Gaza.

Pap: Religious promotion will backfire on Republicans.

D.C.’s proposed new pot law explained.

David Pakman: Abstinence-only crusader’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

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

Honest Political Ads: The economy:

Alex Wagner: Kansas tax cuts backfire.

Huh? Another “Obama’s Katrina”?.

John Boehner explains minimum wage.

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

Omigod. Imagine If the Downed Plane Had Been American…

I absolutely don’t mean to imply that American lives are more valuable than Dutch or Malaysian, but as it becomes increasingly clear that a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet was shot down by Russian-armed separatists—essentially, shot down by Russia—I can’t help but imagine the potential absolute catastrophe set in motion had it been an American airliner, and 298 American passengers and crew whose burned and bloody pieces lay scattered across eastern Ukraine.

The US is a democracy and this is an election year, and for a nation that has invaded countries for far less—a nation that has cited the Maine, and the Lusitania, and the Gulf of Tonkin as grounds for war—it is hard to imagine that President Obama could have resisted calls for retaliation. Indeed, to do nothing would virtually assure a Republican landslide in November. I suppose it is possible that Vladimir Putin might act un-Putin-like and accede to a US ultimatum: acknowledge responsibility, pay reparations, turn over those directly responsible, disarm the separatists, and swear to honor existing borders. But barring such a total capitulation, how could we not strike back at Russian-backed separatists just miles from the Russian border? And how could that not risk escalating into a direct conflict between the world’s two nuclear superpowers?

As Josh Marshall astutely explains over at TPM, “This is a f’-up on Putin’s part of almost mind-boggling proportions.” A game changer, yes.

But it could’ve been much, much, worse.

Running to the Right

The Weekly has the news that Alison Holcomb is considering a challenge to Kshama Sawant for City Council in 2015. If it happens, this is really the type of race that Seattle can take pride in: Two giants with amazing history of activism and with real accomplishments to their names vying for a City Council seat.

That said, I’m a bit worried about some of Holcomb’s rhetoric:

Holcomb, a resident of Capitol Hill, said Sawant is not an effective messenger for the cause of economic inequality, finding alternatives to the city’s regressive tax system, “and our inability to fund education.” She added, “You don’t effect change without a broad coalition, and her rhetoric is all about ‘you are a capitalist pig,’ no matter what the size of your business.”

I guess the $15 minimum wage having passed is a fairly clear indication that she has effected change in the first year governing. It’s a bit of a worry that Holcomb is running to the right on this issue. Maybe there isn’t too much of to the left when you’re running against an honest to goodness socialist, but saying she’s wrong on the minimum wage because she thinks it ought to apply to workers in small businesses is a troubling start to the campaign.

HA’s Foolproof Four-Word Election Endorsement Cheat Sheet!

Vote. For. The. Democrat. *


* Unless you live in the 43rd LD, in which case you should vote for Socialist Jess Spear, not because there’s anything particularly awful about Frank Chopp, but because he’s the Speaker, and it’s always good for a Democratic Speaker to feel a little pressure from the left. (Plus, it’s not like Frank’s actually going to lose or anything, so where’s the harm?) But other than Jess, vote for the Democrat, regardless of how many billions in tax breaks they voted to give Boeing, because even if a particular Republican candidate is not entirely a woman-hating, union-busting, gun-slinging, Koch-sucking corporatist nutjob (and he or she probably is), his or her election would just enable the woman-hating, union-busting, gun-slinging, Koch-sucking corporatist nutjobs who dominate the Republican Party. So don’t be an enabler! Of course, if there’s more than one credible Democrat in the race, vote for the one the Seattle Times didn’t endorse (I mean, duh-uh),  except in the 37th LD, where I’m voting for Pramila Jayapal anyway. Pig, truffle, and all that. And on a related note, vote “Yes” on Seattle Prop 1 to create a Metropolitan Parks District, if only because the Seattle Times endorsed “No,” and, well, fuck ‘em, amirite? But whatever you do, no Republicans, because Republicans suck, and we desperately need the Democrats to control the legislature if we’re to have a snowball’s chance at responsibly moving forward on a transportation funding package, the state Voting Rights Act, fully funding McCleary, protecting reproductive rights, and other crucial issues. And if you think my four-word formula is a stupid or lazy way to do endorsements, well, it ends up achieving the exact same result as my former colleagues’ kajillion-word SECB missive—except for the Spear/Chopp race, because unlike them my balls didn’t ascend into my abdomen upon my departure. Metaphorically. (I mean, they haven’t literally, either. But you know what I mean.) Whatever. Vote. For. The. Democrat.

Give Me Liberty, and Give Me Death!

Some disturbing new statistics:

A report out on Tuesday from the Violence Policy Center confirms yet again the lunacy of America’s loose gun policies.

The report contains the striking finding that gun deaths exceeded motor vehicle deaths in 14 states and the District of Columbia in 2011, the latest year for which the relevant data are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 12 states in 2010 and 9 states in 2009.

The 2011 states are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State, as well as the District of Columbia.

According to the report, gun deaths exceeded motor vehicle deaths in Washington State, 624 to 554.

Clearly, the only possible solution is to make cars less safe. Because freedom!

Still a Failure, Forward Seattle Falls Thousands Short of Ballot

After processing all but six of the 18,928 signatures submitted, King County Elections reports that Forward Seattle is falling 2,134 signatures short of the 16,510 needed to qualify its anti-$15 minimum wage referendum for the ballot.

Verified signatures

But, you know, they’re smart, savvy business people, so I’m sure they spent their $68,235.33 wisely.

Why Forward Seattle Failed

Now that Forward Seattle’s anti-$15 minimum wage referendum has failed*, it is useful to explore the reasons why, especially with some of its business supporters now alleging foul play and/or incompetence on the part of City Attorney Pete Holmes as a major contributing factor. Oh please.

The argument goes that Holmes’ 13th hour revelation that voter proposed charter amendments could not go to the ballot in even-numbered years, unexpectedly set back Forward Seattle’s efforts, leaving them with little time to complete a successful signature drive. But that’s just plain silly. While it is true that the confusion cost them a few days of signature gathering, the charter amendment they had originally filed would have required almost twice as many signatures to qualify for the ballot. If they couldn’t collect 16,510 signatures in four weeks, they were never going to be able to collect 30,956 in five. Never.

Either way, Forward Seattle started gathering signatures too late. Had they followed $15 Now’s lead, and started gathering signatures on a futile charter amendment a month earlier, they might have a legitimate complaint (though more with their own attorneys than with the city’s). But they didn’t. They clearly underestimated the time, effort, and money it would take to buy the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. And that’s totally on them.

Which raises the question: Why was it so difficult for Forward Seattle to collect the requisite signatures? Other campaigns have gathered far more signatures in even less time. Why couldn’t Forward Seattle?

Part of the credit (or blame) must go to labor-backed Working Washington for running a somewhat effective “decline to sign” campaign. Working Washington did a great job of publicizing the lies Forward Seattle’s signature gatherers were telling. But why was it necessary for Forward Seattle to sell its referendum with lies?

Because it lacked public enthusiasm and support.

Had Forward Seattle truly enjoyed broad support within the small business community it claimed to represent, let alone with voters, it would have had an invaluable advantage. Imagine hundreds of small business owners stocking petitions at their checkout counters, their own employees personally asking their tens of thousands of loyal customers for their support. They could have collected twice as many signatures in half the time at a fraction of the cost.

But they didn’t pursue this populist approach, because they rightly understood that such a public display of opposition to $15 at their place of business would have alienated customers and destroyed employee morale. So instead they went the mercenary route, hiring the same shady signature gathering firm that Tim Eyman uses to qualify his mercenary initiatives for the ballot.

Forward Seattle’s backers lacked the confidence to go directly to their customers for the same reason their paid signature gatherers resorted to lies: the referendum wasn’t popular. And that is the primary reason why Forward Seattle failed.

* Over at PubliCola Josh cautions that the signature verification process isn’t final and that some of those set aside could still be validated, and all that is true. But it makes no difference. The gap is simply too big. Even if you were to add in all of the signatures from the other referendum, and subtract none of the several hundred signature withdrawal requests, and validate 100 percent of the remaining signatures, and rehabilitate 100 percent of the “signature miscompares,” Forward Seattle would still fall short. Some signatures just can’t be cured: A blank signature line will always be blank. An out of district voter will still be registered out of district. Forward Seattle has failed.

Open Thread 7/15

- I want to support the Off-Peak Discount for Metro, but I don’t think it’s very rational. I don’t know, maybe just because it went up so much in recent years.

- “Why I Use Birth Control”: 11 Women Speak Up

- It’s rather striking to see how many states have ultrasound requirements, biased counseling sessions, mandatory waiting periods, and regulations on the abortion pill.

- But there’s no question as to whether the GOP chicken or the Democratic egg is responsible for it. It may be true that President Obama has used executive powers in unprecedented way in some discrete instances but unless the presidency really is a ceremonial position or a potted plant, the GOP has left him no choice. Their bad faith is obvious.

- It turns out cops may not have a right to shoot your dog.

- I can get behind a This product was delivered by a bicycle label.

- I have been slowly re-reading Vonnegut, but I have avoided Slaughterhouse 5, Mother Night and Cat’s Cradle because I’m afraid I won’t like them as much as I did when I was 14. Anyway, I’ll probably have to get over that with Slaughterhouse 5 to get the full effect of this.

Forward Seattle’s Anti-$15 Minimum Wage Referendum Mathematically Eliminated from the Ballot

With 15,004 of their 18,928 signatures processed, but only 11,412 signatures validated, there are now fewer signatures remaining on Forward Seattle’s petitions than would be needed to reach the 16,510 signature threshold required to qualify their anti-$15 minimum wage referendum for the ballot. So, yeah, as I wrote yesterday, stick a fork in it.

Signature verification

Again, the petitions are holding steady at about a 76 percent validation. Even under the best possible circumstances, Forward Seattle would need a validation rate better than 118 percent on the remaining signatures in order to qualify for the ballot. Which is, of course, mathematically impossible.

It should be noted that a 76 percent validation rate is not unusual per se, but is certainly at the low range of normal. But maybe if you are willing to tolerate such sloppy and/or dishonest tactics on the part of your paid signature gatherers, you should expect sloppy and/or dishonest work in return. I sure hope for their sake that Forward Seattle’s contract with the notorious Citizen Solutions includes a refund for invalid signatures, considering they were reportedly paying as much as $4 a pop.

Speaking of which, as late as last week, Flying Apron Bakery co-owner Angela Cough loaned Forward Seattle $15,000, presumably to cover the expense of the last batch of signatures. Talk about throwing good money after bad.

Of course, as incompetent as all the smart, successful business owners behind Forward Seattle were at running their referendum, a lot of the credit for their failure must go to labor-backed Working Washington, which ran an effective “decline to sign” campaign that certainly made signature gathering more difficult, as well as a novel signature withdrawal campaign that added some last minute insurance. Kudos.

Gun Nuts Exercise Their 1st Amendment Right to Use Their 2nd Amendment Right to Threaten Our 1st Amendment Right

Gun target

Source: LWV

Hey, let’s not jump to conclusions—it could have been an angry Seattle Metropolitan Parks District supporter:

An anonymous individual (or individuals) left a target riddled with bullet holes on the doorstep of the Seattle-King County League Women Voters‘ Capitol Hill office over the recent holiday weekend—a message, the LWV believes, about the state chapter’s support for I-594, which would require background checks for gun sales online and at gun shows. A volunteer for the group found the target over the weekend.

… In a statement, Seattle/King County LWV president Ellen Barton said, “This apparent attempt to intimidate us will not dissuade us from our work. The League of Women Voters will continue to be a forum for dialogue, research and education on gun laws and gun violence, and we look forward to reasonable, robust dialogue in the months ahead.”

Couple of thoughts. First, if you want to persuade voters here that we don’t need mandatory background checks on all gun sales, threatening to shoot them isn’t the best way to do it.

Second, my God, what a crappy shot! I mean, look at that target—it’s all over the place! I shot better targets than that when I was 12 years old. If you’re gonna threaten a bunch of old ladies, the least you could do is use a target from somebody who actually knows how to shoot.

If anything, you’re just encouraging us to come for your guns, now that we know you couldn’t hit the side of a barn. Just sayin’.

Shorter Seattle Times: We Hate Teachers!

The Seattle Times editorial board is attempting to use the endorsement season to send a message to legislators on education. And that message is clear: “We hate teachers!”

5th LD House: Incumbent Rep. Chad Magendanz (R)
Magendanz’s campaign focuses on ways for the state to fulfill the state Supreme Court’s McCleary education-funding order… He is a clear choice over his two Democratic opponents, education activist David Spring and Colin Alexander, who lack Magendanz’s experience.


31st LD Senate: Cathy Dahlquist (R) over incumbent Senator Pam Roach (R)
Roach says she voted against a critically important teacher-evaluation bill this year because she was angered by her leadership’s push for the Dream Act. She refused in an editorial board meeting to say whether she supports the Washington Education Association’s costly Initiative 1351, which would require the hiring of thousands of additional teachers, even in upper grades where benefits of lower class size are unclear. Dahlquist takes the responsible position on these issues: yes for reform, no on the WEA’s unfunded mandate.


31st LD House: Drew Stokesbary (R) over Mike Sando (D)
Stokesbary’s consistent positions offer a contrast with Democrat Mike Sando, who appears conflicted. A schoolteacher and a member of the Enumclaw City Council, Sando draws inspiration and financial support from the Legislature’s moderate-Democrat faction. Yet as a local teachers’ union president, he supports the Washington Education Association’s budget-busting Initiative 1351, and he cannot suggest where to find the necessary billions. In contrast, Stokesbary deplores the measure and embraces education-reform measures.


33rd LD Senate: Incumbent Senator Karen Keiser (D)
In 2012, [Keiser] supported a bill that would have streamlined health-insurance offerings for teachers and might have saved them money — despite opposition from the Washington Education Association, which benefits from the current system. … While Keiser disappointingly opposed including student test scores in teacher evaluations , neither challenger has the civic résumé or the knowledge required to take on a lawmaker of her stature.


33rd LD House: Incumbent Rep. Mia Gregerson (D)
For instance, she told The Times’ editorial board she would have voted for a controversial bill mandating the use of test scores in teacher evaluations — if Democratic-party leaders had allowed it to come to the floor of the House — despite opposition from the state teachers’ union.


37th LD House: Daniel Bretzke (R) over incumbent Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D)
While Santos should be focused on the Legislature meeting its court-mandated obligations to fully fund education, she wants to make the challenge worse. She supports Initiative 1351, the teachers union-backed measure that requires class sizes across all grades to be reduced, the hiring of thousands more teachers and building of more classrooms. Yet, there is no funding mechanism in sight.


37th LD Senate: Pramila Jayapal (D)
Jayapal should strive for independence on issues that might not always appease the many liberal and labor groups that have endorsed her, including Fuse Washington, four separate SEIU unions and the Washington Education Association. On education, she must remember the Legislature’s top priority is to fix a broken system, not to prop up unfunded mandates.


1st LD House: Edward Barton (R) over incumbent Rep. Luis Moscoso (D)
On the critical issue of education, Barton is rightly skeptical of the state Supreme Court’s heavy-handed education-funding mandate, but advocates for additional funding through the so-called levy swap proposal, which has been advanced by some key House Democrats. But his independence contrasts with Moscoso, a two-term Democrat, who indicated he defers to House Democratic leadership on key education funding — the most fundamental issue facing the Legislature. Every elected official needs to be en pointe.


32nd LD Senate: Chris Eggen (D) over incumbent Senator Maralyn Chase (D)
[Eggen] is skeptical of the expense and mechanics of Initiative 1351, which would reduce classroom size with no revenue attached. He also understands the need for a workable role for student test scores in teacher evaluations and eligibility for federal funding.

And no, I’m not cherry-picking. Those are all nine legislative endorsements published so far, and the only one that doesn’t implicitly attack teachers, their union, and their interests is the Magendanz endorsement. But in case you’re wondering, yes, Magendanz opposes the WEA-backed class-size reducing I-1351, which is the litmus test of all litmus tests for the Seattle Times: “This seems like it is serving the adults in our education system,” said Magendanz on TVW. And by “adults,” he means “teachers.”

It is also worth noting that the editors have urged voters to toss out three of the five Democratic incumbents as punishment for supporting teachers—endorsing one Democratic and two Republican challengers. The only Republican incumbent they haven’t endorsed is bat-shit-crazy Senator Pam Roach—who refused to state a position on I-1351—and they endorsed another Republican in her stead.

So yes, legislative hopefuls, that was the editorial board’s secret phrase: “No on I-1351.” Congratulations to those of you who passed the test.