Washington Advisory Votes

Due to the remnants of a Tim Eyman initiative, we have advisory votes on anything that can be construed as a tax increase that’s passed by the legislature. There are only two such this year.

Advisory Vote No. 8

Marijuana crop, better known as help over here.
Photo by Stephen McGrath (CC By-Nc-Nd)

After we legalized marijuana two years ago, marijuana growers qualified for standard preferences for agriculture. The legislature eliminated that preference for them, costing about $25 million a year. I am relishing the thought of conservatives having to vote for a tax increase or for marijuana. Since our state is undertaxed, there’s no way I’m voting against what’s essentially a sin tax. That was part of the argument for the marijuana legalization initiative. Legalize it and tax it. So here we are. I’m voting maintained.

Advisory Vote No. 9

The legislature added $1.3 million in excise taxes on leasehold interests in tribal properties. I have no idea what exactly that is, but this is exactly the sort of thing we elect the legislature for. Absent a compelling reason against it, I’m voting maintained.

Washington Initiative Measure No. 594

Initiative 594 would apply currently used criminal and background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

Gun Show
Gun Show photo by Michael Glasgow (CC By)

While I tend to be a bleeding heart liberal, I’m generally less supportive of gun control measures than a lot of other folks. There’s essentially two things I want to see changed about guns in the United States. The first is that stupid people should not possess or own guns. Who should decide what and who is stupid? Me. Of course, that’s not going to happen. But that’s my ideal.

The second is I’d really like to see a change in culture away from a hard-core attachment to guns. That’s not a law thing; that’s a culture thing. Guns aren’t needed and aren’t useful in 99.9% of the cases people think they are. For example, open carry. To give an analogy, I think flip flops should not be worn except at the beach, pool, or locker room and yet people wear them everywhere. I do not, and would not, support any banning of flip flops. But that doesn’t mean I think people should wear them. Please, stop wearing flip flops. Similarly, leave your gun at home. I don’t think open carry should be encouraged, but I think it should be generally lawful.

So that brings me to I-594. I-594 is not a litmus test for me. I think people can vote in good conscious for this measure without earning my ire. There are two questions that determine my answer to this initiative. The first is, will this do any good? The second is, is it worth the loss of freedom to transfer or sell a gun without a check?

I’m going to delve into the second question first. The answer is, I don’t think so. The burden on a person selling a gun is not substantial. TA quick search says the cost for this is generally less than $100 currently. The wait will be between 0 and 10 days, depending on the results. Generally the check happens instantly if a person doesn’t have issues that need to be dealt with. After 10 days, the sale/transfer can go through even if the background check hasn’t come back.

For the sellers, the burden is the cost. If the cost to purchase a gun goes up, people will buy fewer guns. Licensed gun dealers already factor this in, and they are doing just fine. Unlicensed gun dealers are basically free riding. Truly private sales/transfers between known people will be more inconvenient. I don’t see much more burden for doing this than registering a car though, and that is a pain in the ass, but it’s something we live with and accept. For purchasers, guns will be more expensive and there will be less reason to purchase privately and more reason to just use a licensed gun dealer in the first place. The only real burden is that people who are ineligible to purchase a gun will not have as large of a loophole to get one.

So, the first question: will this do any good? That’s much harder to answer. Few jurisdictions have had background check measures for long enough to have good data. And any changes aren’t going to be easy to measure given that people can and do work around them. If effective, background checks will be more effective when people can’t go to the next state over to purchase a gun without a check. Residents of Spokane can easily evade this because they are 30 minutes away from Idaho which doesn’t have background checks. All this makes it hard to know.

Additionally, if there’s any effect, it’s hard to see it because so many other things affect gun violence. Something might reduce gun violence by 5% but the economy goes south so crime in general goes up by 10%, which obscures the effect of the first. You can’t just look at the fact that gun violence in Colorado went up after they passed background checks in 1999. There are so many causes that extracting that information requires university-level studies.

The pro I-594 web site gives out some statistics, such as 39% fewer law enforcement officers murdered with a handgun in states with background check laws. The web site does not give the source for that. It also doesn’t say fewer than what, what the time frame is, how this was measured, what the confidence is, etc. The Officer Down Memorial page gives the stat that 39 police officers have died in 2014 due to gunfire. That tells me any measurement of law enforcement deaths in background check states is going to have a low sample size. Other measurements might not have that issue, but it’s really hard to tell given what the pro I-594 group posts.

I looked on JSTOR to see if I could find anything. Unfortunately, the only study I could find using background check as the key term wasn’t looking at background check efficiency. It looked used measures of background checks as a proxy for determining gun ownership and effects of that on suicide rates.

At the risk of falling into the trap of something must be done. this is something. therefore this must be done. I’m planning on voting for the measure. My gut feeling is that it will help reduce incidence of bad people having guns, but only slightly, given that people can work around it. I don’t have anything except gut feeling at this point, because actual numbers are so hard to come by. Sorry, pro-gun people, but keeping the government from funding these studies means I have to go with my gut. I hope a local university will actually study the effect and we can revisit the policy in 5 or 10 years. If it’s not working at that point, I’ll support dumping the law.

The argument that it’s a burden or infringing on rights doesn’t hold water with me. California has done this for decades and it’s not a gun free zone.

Washington Initiative Measure No. 591

Kicking off my 2014 General Election ballot is Initiative 591, which prohibits government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms without due process, and prohibits requiring background checks unless there’s a national requirement to do so.

This initiative is an easy no. We already can’t confiscate guns without due process. A person’s guns have more protection than their houses.

The real goal of the initiative is the second part. The proponents want to prevent background checks. Basically, they want people to be able to sell guns to felons and the mentally ill. Those are the people that background checks catch. Not that background checks catch everyone forbidden to have guns. But it doesn’t make sense to prohibit the checking completely.

Jesse James, half-length portrait, facing front, holding handgun in left hand at his waist
Jesse James, half-length portrait, facing front, holding handgun in left hand at his waist

We have another initiative on the ballot on background checks. I’ll post about that one next. In the meantime, remember that these people want to sell guns to known criminals, like Jesse James.

For King County Transportation District Proposition No. 1

This proposition pisses me off for two reasons. The first is that we have to even have to vote for it at all. The Washington State Legislature has failed for years to give King County the authority to fund Metro in a sustainable fashion. So now we’re stuck with two options: cut Metro service by huge amounts or use regressive sales and vehicle taxes to fund it. While the latter option sucks, it’s better than cutting bus service. The second reason is that we aren’t using 100% of the proceeds to pay for bus service. We’re using 40% of it for roads. Theoretically, road maintenance rather than construction. But still, Metro needs the money.

Metro bus on Rainier
Photo by Adam Fagen (CC By)

So here’s what happens if we pass it on the revenue side: a sales tax of 0.1% and $60 dollar vehicle tab fee ($20 more than current fees), with a $20 rebate for poor people. On the expense side: $80 million per year for Metro which will stave off cutting 5 dozen routes completely and reducing service on tens of others. $50 million goes toward maintaining roads and road safety.

The anti-proposition 1 side says Metro needs to cut costs first. Metro has already cut $130 million in annual costs. Really what these people are pissed about is that poor people who ride buses are getting a freebie. That’s what they think, that transit riders are getting a subsidy while respectable drivers aren’t etting one. Never mind that they already have huge road subsidies.

I have a car. I am happy to pay the $60, and I won’t get the subsidy. But I also ride the bus. Metro service is more convenient than driving much of the time, and necessary for many people. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions over driving. It reduces congestion for cars. There are all sorts of benefits from bus service. We need Metro. It’s as simple as that.

Vote YES on Proposition No. 1.

Share Icon and Creative Commons

Share Icon
Share Icon (Alex King/CC By)

Alex King is the creator of the Share Icon. I can’t say whether he still owns the copyright or not, but the the thing about Creative Commons licenses is that they are irrevocable. ShareThis Inc., or whatever their legal name is, cannot revoke the license.

So long as I give credit to Alex King (which I just did) and link to the license (which I just did), I can use this image however I want, per the terms of the license:

You are free to:
Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.

The Creative Commons Corporation states to people who wish to license works under the license:

To be clear, however, you may not use a trademark license to modify or restrict the rights granted under the CC license.

So fuck you and your trademark restrictions, ShareThis.

You Can Leave Your Bra On

The following was written by my friend Erin, an active snowboarder. Erin does not
have a blog, so I have volunteered to host the article. This article is copyrighted by Erin, and all rights are reserved. I will
be metaphorically borrowing John Scalzi’s Mallet of Loving Correction for any comments
left. In other words, don’t be an asshole in the comments.


The other night, I attended the Seattle premiere of Dopamine, the newest snowboarding
movie from Absinthe Films. It was awesome and I loved it. After the movie, the director
of the film, Justin Hostynek, and several of the riders featured in the movie got
up onstage and gave away prizes. Most prizes were awarded in a raffle-style contest…
then a snowboard was given to the winner of a long-jump contest… and then, another
prize (I forget what) was given out to “the first bra onstage”.

For a good minute, the audience was effectively silent. I admit, I jokingly went
for my bra clasp as if I meant to toss it onstage… but then I thought about it.
I thought about it, and I was offended.

Snowboarding is largely dominated by men, a fact most of us are aware of. Men’s
snowboarding gets more press, more attention, has a bigger audience, etc. Famous
male snowboarders become so well known, even non-snowboarders know who they are
(Shaun White, anyone?) As a woman, accept that this is the way it is in most sports.
I don’t find it particularly fair, but I typically decline to get up on my soapbox
and preach to the masses about gender equality in this arena.

However, the request for bras onstage struck me as particularly distasteful. I was
really disappointed in Mr. Hostynek for (probably not maliciously and possibly not
even consciously) emphasizing the mindset that women are second-rate and best judged
by their hotness and sex appeal rather than their athletic abilities. What was even
more distasteful to me was watching the couple of women who raced up to the front
with bras in hand to receive a prize in front of a sold-out audience.

As a director, Justin Hostynek has a huge responsibility. Indeed, everyone associated
with a snowboarding film has a huge responsibility- they may not like it, but they
are role models for a vast audience of snowboarders, and as such, they have the
potential to influence the attitudes of thousands of young people across our nation
(most snowboarders are under the age of 35). Mr. Hostynek’s request for bras on
stage set the tone for everyone’s attitude towards women in that audience-
we all went from athletes who came together for the love of a sport to a bunch of
horny guys oogling a sexual object. His plea for women to throw their underwear
reinforced the fact that many people (men and women) don’t take
women in sports seriously. Why should women be taken seriously when it
is so easy to convince them to remove their bras and proudly wave them around?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since the movie premiere, and I have been going
back and forth with being saddened and offended, and telling myself that I’m over-thinking
and over-reacting. I think this is yet another symptom of our mindset as a society
that tells women it’s okay to be a sexual object, that we should smile more, that
we should be flattered by any and all attention we receive from the opposite sex.
That it’s perfectly fine to have a double standard in sports, where men are judged
on their athletic prowess and technical ability, and women are judged by physical
attractiveness.

Erin. about to SLAY a double black run
Photo by Fes

But you know what? I don’t think it’s okay. I don’t think any of that is okay.
I dream of a day when I can head to the mountain and feel the easy camaraderie
that I see my guy snowboarding buddies experience, when I can walk into a gear shop
and not be talked down to and insulted or just outright ignored by the
sales bro simply because I am woman. Someday I hope to attend the premiere of a
snowboarding movie that features an equal number of men and women, and someday I
will win some free schwag from that movie and not be asked to remove my bra for
it.

I can hear what you’re thinking; “Dude! Who cares what people think? Just ignore
that crap, I do.” And you know what? You have a good point. But this is not a problem
that is going to go away if we ignore it, bury our heads in the sand ostrich-style,
and continue to tell ourselves that it doesn’t bother us. Changing the way we perceive
women’s snowboarding will benefit everyone. How? Well, here’s what Capita-sponsored
Canadian badass Jess Kimura had to say about it, in an
interview in Transworld Snowboarding
from November 2012:

“… The only way that I can possibly contribute to the overall progression of snowboarding
is doing tricks and making guys look at them and be like, “If that’s what a girl
can do, I gotta do better.” Guys are always going to have to be better than girls;
otherwise they feel like pussies. I can definitely contribute to pushing the level
in girls’ stuff, which pushes up the bottom level in men’s snowboarding. And I think
a lot of guys—regular dudes out there—feel like girls when they watch Travis Rice’s
stuff. But when they see someone who’s at a total disadvantage—a girl like me—they
can relate. And I hope that inspires people.”

While I internally wince when I hear Ms. Kimura equate the top of women’s riding
with the bottom level of men’s, I think she has an awesome point- encourage girls
to do better, to ride harder, to throw more tricks, and the whole of snowboarding
will improve.

If we can manage to change our perception of women athletes and start thinking of
them as athletes instead of just hot chicks trying to get guys’
attention, I think that might encourage more young girls to be involved in sports.

Check this excerpt from yet another
article from Transworld Snowboarding
(emphasis added):

“Our culture traditionally views strength as masculine and a small, frail body as
feminine. Girls have historically been discouraged from participating in athletic
activities and strength development,” Gentile explains. “Such stereotypes, formed
early in childhood, can influence behavior and limit women’s ability to express
their full potential.” This crucial fact means that women could be on a similar
skill level as men had they been given the opportunity at an earlier age or relieved
of such cultural pressures all together.

Do me a favor and read that last line again. Can you imagine what the snowboarding
world would be like if women were supported and inspired to ride just as hard as
men? Can you imagine what the world would be like if women were supported and inspired
to tread where men are typically sovereign (ie, sports)? The mind boggles.

Encouraging younger girls to snowboard can have a drastic effect on their self-confidence,
self-esteem, and overall health. We all know that being active is good for you,
but studies have proven that “regular physical activity can enhance girls’ mental
health, reduce symptoms of stress and depression, and make them feel strong and
competent.” (reference)
Involving girls in a snowboarding program will give them more opportunities for
physical, social, and intellectual development, and that, in turn, can lead to young
women with reduced risk of chronic disease, who do better academically, and have
greater leadership skills. (reference)

Bottom line, snowboarding is fun, and we are all out there to have a good time.
Why disparage women who want to participate? Here are my pleas, and I don’t think
I’m asking a lot: Mr. Hostynek, stop asking the ladies to throw their bras onstage.
Ladies, stop throwing your bras onstage. Absinthe Films, get more women riders featured
in your movies. Guys, encourage your sister, daughter, girlfriend, mother, wife
to get out there and be active, to get involved in sports, and don’t make derogatory
remarks about female athletes based on their looks. Girls, get out there, get active,
and be fearless! Go snowboarding!

2013 Seattle Mayoral Race: Against Kate Martin

Kate Martin’s top priority for transportation is the following: Decongest bus and street car routes to improve reliability. The following blog post talks about how she intends to do that: Congestion Rx

Kate Martin
(Credit: King County voters’ pamphlet)

Do you see any solutions in that? I don’t. What I see is a cranky neighbor who’s mad that bus drivers are getting overtime. Please explain to me how reducing overtime will materially improve bus service.

She’s got a few other blog posts on transportation as well.

Less Road Rage, More Comprehensive Transportation Planning

Her solution to road rage? Take bikes off the roads and put them on “Greenways.” I love the idea in theory. In practice, this isn’t going to work for a number of reasons. First, Seattle’s geography means that there are number of choke points where bicycles and vehicles will have to share space. Second, given the realities of cranky car people, bicycle roads are going to be shunted to corridors that are a pain in the ass for bicyclists. Is she going to push to turn Roosevelt way or 15th Northwest from a car through-way to a bicycle through-way? I doubt it. Is she going to make it so that bicycle crossings have equal or higher priority at crossings with cars, or will it be like the Burke Gilman trail where every crossing means bicycles have to stop and wait for a cross-walk light? It’s going to be the latter, and that will make it impractical for bicyclists to commute on a greenway.

Regarding Sound Transit Planning for Lightrail to Ballard

Rather than extend Link to Ballard, Kate Martin wants to add a Sounder Commuter stop in West Ballard. Where those tracks go is nowhere near the population centers of Ballard, and people aren’t going to walk that far. This would mean that the station would need a large garage for Park-n-Riders. The train ride would also put commuters at the Amtrak station at the very south end of downtown. That makes sense for people commuting a long distance (the nearest stations are Longacres and Edmonds) where the distance to offices from the station, while a chunky amount, are but a fraction of the total commute. But for commuters from Ballard who need to get to Belltown or north downtown? They’re not going to want a walk that is as long as their train ride to downtown in the first place. A Link route with stops in Interbay, Ballard proper, Loyal Heights and Crown Hill is going to serve commuters a lot better than a Sounder stop.

Or take for instance her priority of “Rebuild the Seattle Police Department”. Here’s how she would do that: SPD: A Path Forward.

Yup, her main idea is to get a strong leader. Duh. Nothing about body cameras, or tracking race to see if the SPD is biased, or getting people who live in Seattle to be officers, or new training programs. Those are ideas from other candidates. They may or may not work, but they are pro-active ideas at least. Kate Martin? In her other blog post on crime wants to target “incivility”: Crime and public safety. What that amounts to is that she wants all the people that annoy and scare her out of downtown, the poor people, the homeless people, the crazy people. Then women will come downtown again!

Sorry Kate Martin, you are a no go for me. A good portion of your policy ideas are dog-whistle items for NIMBYists, not forward-thinking prescriptions for an urban city.

Enough with The Zombie Apocalypse

I am tired of the zombie apocalypse. I don’t mean books or movies featuring diseases run rampant that turn people into mindless flesh-eating things. That’s still awesome!

I am tired of people talking about zombie apocalypses as if they are real. Except, not. See, if the zombies come, it’s not going to be like Shawn Of The Dead and Zombieland. It’s going to be more like Contagion, except with shambling people who can easily infect you. People won’t be out in the streets blowing off zombie heads with shotguns and shovels. They are going to be holed up in houses wondering when they’re next, and wondering if there’s going to be any food.

So to all the glib zombie apocalypse macro-ers, and to the marketers asking questions like How will you survive the zombie apocalypse?, I saw meh. Do it if you must, but I’m just not interested.

Nothing Wrong With A Rich President

One of the current narratives that I see on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and all over a lot of blogs is that Mitt Romney is too rich to be voted into the office of the Presidency.

To which I call bullshit.

First off, we’re never going to have a poor President. At best, we’ll have someone who was poor at one point. But you don’t build a political base large enough to get into the presidency without having the skills to make enough money to live comfortably. The closest we got to poor might have been Harry Truman (a haberdasher) or Abraham Lincoln (who had a successful law practice). There are plenty of Presidents who weren’t rich, but all of them were at least comfortable before they became President.

The basis of this narrative is that a rich person cannot possibly be a force for the have-nots. That’s total crap. Franklin Roosevelt was very rich, but also enacted programs that are the basis for America’s modern welfare state. Not all kajillionaires are self-interested Koch brothers. Sure, many are, but the key thing isn’t that they are rich, but that they are self-interested assholes. And Mitt Romney has plenty of that in spades. I’d much rather that his lying, asshole nature be the focus.

Why does all this bother me? Remember when the media bought into John Kerry as a rich elitist out of touch with America because he wind-surfed? Instead, we got a second term of George Bush. He was folksy, but he was no less rich than John Kerry. But also, and this is the important part, he designed his policies unrepentantly to benefit rich people. But the media rarely talked about that.

Additionally, Mitt Romney, as bad as he will be for America if he’s elected, is a far cry better than some of the poorer Republican possibilities. Remember, Sarah Palin is only 6 years removed from being the mayor of a small podunk city in Alaska.

Sure, rich as an epithet might work at the moment, but it can also be used to tag our candidates unfairly. I’d much rather that the idiots be tarnished with brushes that can’t be used against us. Like his willingness to lie. Or the fact that he will cause the United States to descend into a fiery pit of hell. You know, things that matter.

A Million Hoodies for Trayvon Martin

Have you been following the news about the murder of Trayvon Martin? He was a young teenager who was followed, confronted, shot, and killed by an overzealous neighborhood watch captain who thought Trayvon looked suspicious. There’s almost nothing to say about the tragedy that someone else hasn’t said better, so I haven’t commented about the incident itself or the failure to arrest the perpetrator, George Zimmerman. However, it will come as little surprise that I think the police probably haven’t done their job and have now gone into a reflexive mode where they aren’t going to re-assess their mistakes because to do so would be to admit they were wrong. People find it hard to admit when they are wrong, and when a lot of people will notice, it’s even harder. So many people’s course of action is to cherry pick everything that shows they are right and find ways to minimize things that indicate they are wrong. But, I could be wrong about the Sanford police.

Anyway, a fellow named Daniel Maree has organized A Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin. It’s part march/rally/protest, and part what I thought as slacktivism. The march is in New York City later today. Of course I have opinions on marches and protests, but they are conflicted and not based on any kind of actual evidence at this point so I am not going to express them because they are likely wrong.

The second part of the Million Hoodies event is that the organizers have asked people across the internet to take pictures of themselves wearing hoodies to show your solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family. My initial reaction was Ack! Not more slacktivism!. But my initial reaction to the posting of people wearing hoodies was wrong, as illustrated by this exchange posted by comedian and political commenter Elon James White.

Elon James White:
Elon James White wearing a hoodie
[REDACTED]:
Um no. This guy IS suspicious. I would totally purse clutch and traffic dodge to avoid and I’m not sure of the message here. March for hoodies?
[REDACTED]:
I grasp the point racism is rasicm, no dress code needed. But we need to watch our PR and how our message is distributed. The above is not helping or helpful to disseminate the message. It’s an image of a thug in a hoodie. Treyon was not a thug, he was a child and this is the image that should be used. And the main goal is to make the “point” as EASY to grasp as possible. We can march and protest and leverage petitions, but if our attitude is, “read between the lines to get my point”, then we move no one. We also need to utilize the most powerful, personable images we have. This guy is not one of them.
Elon James White:
Oh HI [REDACTED] I’m the image of the “Thug in a hoodie.” Do you know who I am? Do you know what I do? You said that THAT’s an image of a thug in a hoodie and TREYVON WASNT A THUG. Ma’am, I’m not a thug. I’m an engaged political commentator with a background in I.T. I throw dinner parties and build studios from scratch. But YOU saw a thug in a hoodie.

Do you understand the problem now?

If there are a bunch of pictures of people wearing hoodies to point out that too often a black man looks suspicious but the equivalent white guy does not, well that’s a bit more than the usual slacktivism. Why do you think that guy (Elon up there) looks dangerous, suspicious, and thuggish, while this guy

Me wearing a hoodie

just looks like he has no fashion sense.