politics as lagging indicator

Dan Savage:

So for the record: Bill O'Reilly is now to the left of President Obama on DADT. And President Obama is to the right of Dan Choi and Bill O'Reilly and John Aravosis and me.

Just typing that made my head explode. I'm going to go get a restorative cupcake now.

I have a theory I've been toying around with, which probably bears more explanation than I can afford to give here and now, but it goes something like this: If you want to look at where the general attitude of a society about something is heading, you look at the arts and commerce (in reality, the former is a subset of the latter.) If you want to look at where it is, you just talk to (a large and hopefully representative sample of) people. If you want to know what has already changed, you look at politics.

I am sure that counterexamples exist (the federal government was almost certainly ahead of attitudes about civil rights for black people, at least in the south), but I think this is true about several of the issues where I see American society undergoing a pretty big shift in my lifetime, and homosexuality in particular.


seattle: 24 hour city?

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has put forward an 8-point plan to revamp nightlife in the Emerald City, the most controversial point of which is allowing bars and restaurants to serve alcohol past 2AM, either through staggering closing, extending last call or possibly doing away with it all together. The idea is that pushing everyone out the door at the same time exacerbates problems associated with drunks in public: everyone is out on the streets at once, making noise in some neighborhoods, more likely to get into fights, and more likely to be driving when they shouldn't. Also, people tend ot compress their drinking in the last hour or so, which is exactly the wrong thing to be doing.

However, the mayor can't just snap his fingers and make this happen: he has to go through the Washington Liquor Control Board. And they want to see evidence of positive returns to public safety before they sign off on extending hours. This may be a difficult standard to meet.

In the absence of rigorous data, I think one can still make a pretty convincing case for extending hours just by considering the possible outcomes, of which there are essentially three.

1) Extending hours actually causes more total incidents of DUI/noise complaints/disorderly conduct. OK, so if this is the case, that's a pretty compelling argument against extending hours. However, this seems pretty unlikely: are that many people who are inclined to cause trouble really prevented from doing so by the 2AM closing? Is there really pent-up demand for irresponsible drunken behavior? I find this hard to believe. But even if it were true, it may be mitigated by other factors (see below).

2) Extending hours has no effect on the total number of incidents.
This is a very real possibility. Maybe even the most likely. However, even if this is the case, there may be a benefit to law enforcement in that these incidents will at least be spread out over the wee hours of the morning, instead of all occurring between 2 and 3. (This may even mitigate small upticks in incidents, in terms of the ability of SPD to adequately respond.)

3) Extending hours actually does reduce the total number of incidents. This is not unreasonable. Certainly noise complaints are a direct function of how many people are on the street at once. Fights also seem much more likely when there are more people around. But I think the most likely effect is that it takes away the "deadline mentality" of last call, and this may--at the margins--mean that BAL's are just a little bit lower as people head home. And the margin here might be the difference.

countries that are ahead of the us in marriage equality include...

One that has in my lifetime (hell, in my memory) gone from a policy of nationwide racial segregation and oppression, and now a recent military dictatorship full of macho beef-eaters that is 99.9999% Catholic.

In other words, we rank between South Africa and Iran.

Seriously, what the hell?


(in which i celebrate fleeting explicatives)

--This is fucking brilliant.

--This is fucking infuriating. Fuck these pathetic death-worshiping fascists sideways with a bacon-wrapped cock.

--This is just fucking gross. Seriously, can I have one freaking month without Palin family drama in the news? Forget the particulars of Palin's politics: it is beyond me how anyone--particularly anyone who claims to believe in "family values"--can see past the way this woman has crassly parlayed what by all rights ought to be private family matters (like the birth of a developmentally disabled child, a teenage pregnancy, and the on-again, off-again relationships that just about every young adult has at some point) into fodder for her ongoing political/moneymaking enterprise. Believe me, I want nothing more than to respect the private lives of the Palins. But they won't fucking let us.


in which i find myself frightened and confused...

...because Ann Coulter is nearly making sense:

Obama hasn't ramped up the war in Afghanistan based on a careful calculation of America's strategic objectives. He did it because he was trapped by his own rhetorical game of bashing the Iraq war while pretending to be a hawk on Afghanistan.

At this point, Afghanistan is every bit as much Obama's war as Vietnam was Lyndon Johnson's war. True, President Kennedy was the first to send troops to Vietnam. We had 16,000 troops in Vietnam when JFK was assassinated. Within four years, LBJ had sent 400,000 troops there.

In the entire seven-year course of the Afghanistan war under Bush, from October 2001 to January 2009, 625 American soldiers were killed. In 18 short months, Obama has nearly doubled that number to 1,124 Americans killed.

Republicans used to think seriously about deploying the military. [emphasis added] President Eisenhower sent aid to South Vietnam, but said he could not "conceive of a greater tragedy" for America than getting heavily involved there.

As Michael Steele correctly noted, every great power that's tried to stage an all-out war in Afghanistan has gotten its ass handed to it. Everyone knows it's not worth the trouble and resources to take a nation of rocks and brigands...

But now I hear it is the official policy of the Republican Party to be for all wars, irrespective of our national interest.

It should be said that she argues in the same piece that Iraq was/is a war in our "national interest", a view I do not share. Still, I think she makes an excellent point that the Democrats spent the last decade complaining about a lack of engagement in Afghanistan and are now painted into a corner by their own rhetoric.

We're in an escalating war in Afghanistan without any clear objectives for victory not because we need to be, but because Barack Obama (like nearly every nationally prominent Democrat since the 70's) doesn't want to look like a pussy.


test of time (new reviews of old movies, 1 of ?)

The combination of Netflx's ever-expanding on demand catalog and my inherent laziness have conspired to have me watching no small number of older (read: 1980's) movies in the last week or so, most for the first time in a really long time. And I'm pretty impressed how well some of them stand up.

Risky Business launched the career of noted character actor Tom Cruise (Magnolia, Tropic Thunder) and also features a bit part by an unrecognizable Megan Mullally (seriously, look it up.) Also, Rebecca De Mornay who slipped into another dimension c. 1993, reality superstar Bronson Pinchot, and Joe Pantoliano (who, like every other Italian-American actor of a certain age, got killed on The Sopranos.)

But what I really want to know is what the hell happened to Paul Brickman, the director? He made one other movie (you haven't heard of it and I can't be bothered to look it up again) and then did some TV stuff. And that's...pretty much it. I ask this, because even viewed 27 (!) years later, Risky Business is really, really good.

You probably know the plot: uptight high school student has the house to himself for a week. Dances in his underwear. Hires a prostitute. Doesn't have the money to pay her, so she takes a valuable objet d'art that belongs to his mother to settle the debt. Hilarity ensues, and our hero learns the value of taking risks.

Before John Hughes was writing angsty teen comedies set in the affluent suburbs of Chicago, before Michael Mann was shooting weirdly impersonal yet oddly compelling sex scenes with bad lighting and synth-heavy music, and before Cruise was gaying it up in Top Gun, Brickman did all of these things in Risky Business, and did them well. Seriously, Risky Business is to the "80's movie" what The French Connection is to the action-packed crime drama: you see the outlines of all the subsequent imitators throughout, and it's kind of a revelation in retrospect.


I was excited a couple of weeks ago to learn that Christopher Hitchens was coming to Seattle in promotion of his recently released memoir, (which, though I'm only a few chapters into, I am enjoying immensely) and then nearly instantly disappointed to learn that the event had been canceled at the last minute.

Now we know why:

I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice.

Good luck, Hitch. I wish you the best moving forward, and naturally, I'm not praying for you.

Footnote--As news of Mr. Hitchens' cancer spread through the blogosphere yesterday, virtually everyone made a comment along the lines of the one I made, or to the effect that they would be praying for him whether he likes it or not. Each sentiment has seemed to upset various groups of people. This is silly. For my part, I intended nothing more than a little black humor, not to make any point about his beliefs (or lack thereof.) More to the point, it happens to be literally true that I won't be praying for him, not out of deference to what he believes, but because of what I do.

Cantankerous as he is, I seriously doubt that Hitch finds the sincere prayers of his believing friends and well-wishers an affront. Nor would I, in his shoes...