the most obnoxious $25 i ever spent, cont'd

Washington State for Ron Paul has called my cell phone 6 times in the last 4 days.

I have caller ID, bitches (it's 2012...everyone has caller ID) and you have a publicly listed phone number. Take the hint.

If anyone wants a good drunk and dial, I heartily recommend 425-440-0324.



Hey kids! Comic books!

This is what I've been reading lately to take my mind off of everything else. (I still read "real" books, too. I'm 450 pages into the new Murakami, skipping around in Hitchens' last collection, and intermittently picking my way though McCollough's John Adams biography. But what's the fun in talking about that?)

Batman (new series, DC)

I've explored some of DC's "New 52" (though certainly not all of it), and in fact, it was my wife's very thoughtful birthday present a few months back of a whole stack of issues #1 from that series that got me back into the comic book store on a regular basis. I've enjoyed several of the titles--Action Comic's working class hero take on Superman is really fresh, and I like the dark take on the Olympian gods in Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman--but the clear standout for me is this new Batman series, and the "Court of the Owls" storyline. In fact, it's the only superhero book I plan to keep buying monthly, at least for now.

It's hard to explain succinctly, but Batman goes up against this mysterious secret society that has run Gotham from the shadows since the beginning, and who may have been responsible for murdering members of his own family many generations back. The art is visceral, the writing is tight, and the story really unlike anything I remember reading in a Batman book. The latest issue has Batman trapped in an underground labyrinth, being slowly driven mad. The panels start to rotate and go out of order, forcing you to turn the book around and try to make sense of what is happening. It sounds terribly gimmicky, but it works.

I get the distinct sense that the fallout from this storyline is going to define this reboot of the franchise.

Clive Barker's Hellraiser (Boom! Studios)

Barker has a brilliant, if perverse, imagination. Two themes that run throughout his books: 1) Be careful what you wish for, and 2) Monsters are not born, they're made. Nowhere are both themes explored in more painstaking detail than in Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart, and the Hellraiser movies based on it.

This series by Boom! picks up 20 years after the second Hellraiser movie, and pretends that the other seven sequels didn't happen (as most fans of the original movie would prefer to do.) Kirsty Cotton has dedicated her life to seeking out LeMarchand's devices--the gateways to Hell like the one that destroyed her family--and destroying them. Along the way she's found a small group of people who, like her, have managed to survive the Cenobites. Her personal vendetta against Hell consumes her. Meanwhile, the Priest (aka "Pinhead") has grown weary of his existence, and is haunted by the memories of his own lost humanity that Kirsty forced him to regain. He has hatched a plan to escape Hell, and steal salvation, but he must first find a suitable replacement. His attention turns to the only human that ever defeated him...

This is probably not for everyone. Much like the movies, the violence is frequent, intense, spectacularly gory, and provocatively sexualized. But if you like your stories gothic, your good and evil ambiguous, and your demons eloquent, I'm hard-pressed to think of anything better than this.

Also, the art is spectacular.

Near Death (Image)
 This is a brand-new series that follows a contract killer who decides he must save as many people as he has killed in order to avoid the hell he saw waiting for him in a near death experience. The once prolific killer goes into the business of foiling other contract hits, quickly making himself the number one target of the underworld to which he used to belong. It plays out like a classic, hard-boiled crime story. The hero does good things, but his motivation is purely selfish. Also, it is set in Seattle, and the urban landscape is portrayed with incredible attention to detail and realism, which is really cool.


Thief of Thieves (Image)

Another new crime series from Image, and only one issue so far. Basically, it's a heist book, and it looks great. Can't wait to see what they do with this one.


If you are still getting that horrendous word verification when you try to post a comment, please let me know. If you can get past the word verification to do it, that is.

(It took me forever to realize that the only way to deactivate it seems to be to switch back to the old Blogger interface to change the setting. Changing the setting is not an option in the new interface.)


a gray market is just a black market with lobbyists

Many of us who have long advocated for the legalization of marijuana decided at some point to embrace the medical marijuana movement as a wedge issue to advance the greater cause of full legalization. Some perhaps more consciously than others. Personally, I was sold on legalization long before anyone convinced me of any medical benefit to cannabis, so I cannot really say that the medical argument ever moved me. But I will admit to having happily deployed the image of federal agents handcuffing the terminally ill to their beds during raids as a rhetorical tool for people on the fence.

I think that the time has come to acknowledge that embracing medical pot was a strategic mistake for those of us who really want much, much more than that.

Here in Washington, we will be voting on I-502 this fall, which would legalize marijuana for personal use by persons over 21 years of age, and create a state regime for its regulation and taxation. Part of the proposal deals with impaired driving, and sets the blood level of delta-9 THC for pro se DUI at 5.0 ng/ml. Anyone with half an ounce of common sense (or perhaps an eighth of uncommon sense) can see that setting some objective limit for impairment is absolutely necessary, both for public safety reasons and for the political necessity of selling this thing to the general public.

Enter the medical marijuana establishment in Washington, who have argued that this limit will result in patients getting hit with DUI charges because they are chronically above the legal limit. Which leaves us in an interesting position: one of the largest and most vocal groups opposing the present attempt to reform marijuana laws in this state is the group that has previously and successfully reformed marijuana laws in this state.

The problem is, the science doesn't support their assertions at all. In fact, if you read through Dominic Holden's recap of the science cited by the medical MJ activists themselves, you'll see that it actually takes a hell of a lot of pot to achieve the legal threshold in the bloodstream beyond the first hour or so after smoking. In other words, under circumstances in which you are most likely stoned and have no business being behind the wheel of a car.

I can only think of two explanations for this.

1. The medical MJ activists don't know their ass from a hole in the ground. They've completely confused the tendency of THC metabolites (which is what is tested for in most employment screens) to hang around at detectable levels for days or weeks, with the active form of THC, which has a plasma half-life on the order of a couple of hours (meaning it disappears much faster), and is the standard used under I-502.Beyond that, they don't understand the very science that they cite in support of their argument.

This is the most charitable explanation.

2. Medical marijuana dispensaries are enjoying a brisk business in the gray market. Under legalization, dispensaries will be mostly redundant, with the possible exception of those that choose to operate as a non-profits to provide low-cost (or free) palliative marijuana to people in need. Not much money in that.

This is rent-seeking, plain and simple. And there is good chance it is going to kill this initiative.


caucus game theory

I was re-reading Chris Vance's useful primer on the caucus system in Washington State this morning. I'm still trying to figure out whether this is worth my time or not, other than as a somewhat morbid exercise in  political geekery.

What happens on March 3 is completely non-binding. In fact, it is two (possibly three) whole steps removed from the actual selection of pledged delegates to the Republican National Convention. WA has 43 delegates, of whom only 3 are automatic (the state chair and the two members of the RNC from here.) Delegates from each of the 10 congressional districts will elect 3 national delegates, and the other 10 will be elected at large by the delegates to the state convention. It is only at this stage that anyone is "pledged" to a particular presidential candidate.

The delegates to the state convention are elected by county conventions. In King County, there is an additional set of caucuses at the level of state legislative districts, plus the county convention. (Still with me?) These delegates are elected at the precinct caucuses on March 3. Each precinct selects 2 or 3 people from the precinct to represent them at the next level.

Here's the thing. I've looked up the geographical boundaries of my precinct. It consists of four city blocks. There is exactly one single-family home. (There were three until recently, but two were torn down and apartments are under construction.) It's probably about 60/40 owners and renters. The building next door rents studios to people by and large in their early 20s, for around $900/month. Most of the other buildings are nicer. Condo units in the best building probably go for around $600-800K. I'd bet the average condo price in these blocks is hovering around $350K. So, pretty affluent, but the kind of affluent that lives in multi-family homes, in the gayest neighborhood in probably the second or third most liberal city in the country (as always, it's a dead heat between us and Portland.)

Not Republicans, is what I'm saying.

There is a not-trivial possibility that if I show up for this thing, I may be the only person from my precinct. At most, I would be one of a half-dozen or so. I could very well end up a delegate to the next stage, and possibly even the state convention, if I were so inclined. (Clearly the King County GOP expects a tiny turnout in Seattle; all of the Capitol Hill Precincts have been consolidated to a single meeting place, a high school clear across town.)

Long-time listeners of This American Life may recognize this story, because this is exactly what Dan Savage did in 1996. (He lives a few blocks over.)

Honestly, I really don't think I have the stomach or the time for this. My Saturdays are precious to me (at least, the ones where I manage to not be working, which is roughly 1 in 3.) And if I'm being really honest, I don't actually give a shit who the Republicans nominate, as long as it isn't Rick Santorum. Contra Paul Constant, I'm not willing to risk him actually being the party's candidate, even though I think an extreme social conservative with a neocon hard-on that makes GW Bush look like Robert Taft losing a presidential election in a landslide would be the best thing to happen to the Republican Party in 50 years.

Hell, maybe I'll make that my campaign speech, and see what happens.


"If we are allowed to deal with our eternity and all that we believe in spiritually, and if we’re allowed to read any book that we want under freedom of speech, why is it we can’t put into our body whatever we want?"

--Ron Paul, speaking here in the Evergreen State last night.

God damn it, you old coot. You're singing my song.

Fine. I'll give up my Saturday morning, spend it with a bunch of mouth-breathing Santorum supporters, and cast my vote for you in the straw poll. I'd better not be the only person in my precinct that shows up (don't laugh, it could happen) because I'm sure as hell not going to the King County Republican Convention as a delegate.

Just...try not to do anything racist or mention abortion in the next two weeks, OK?


I'd been holding off on posting and commenting on Brendan Kiley's excellent piece in The Stranger about Mars Hill Church, a locally headquartered religious franchise (not to be confused with "denomination"), until the church had issued a response, to which I could also link. They have done so. Mr. Kiley takes exception with their version of the facts.

Not really interested in getting into theology here, but the impression I get is that Mars Hill manages to combine the authoritarian Calvinism of the Puritans, the mindless literalism of Baptist fundamentalists, the gross marketing of American mega-churches, and the creepy contractual behavior control of the Scientologists. But hey--they're cool with tattoos and beer, so that can't be all that bad, right? 

Anyway, Mark Driscoll's pithy reply to the piece remains as stupid as ever.


 I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.

  Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.
He that rebels against reason is a real rebel, but he that in defence of reason rebels against tyranny has a better title to Defender of the Faith, than George the Third.

An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.

Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek republics: Freedom for slave owners.

And let's not forget this guy...

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.


peta: treating animals like people, and women like pieces of meat

I don't even want to post a direct link because I don't want to give them the hits, but you can see the new ad from PETA here if you care to know what I'm talking about. I am no prude, and my sense of humor runs about as dark as an underground river...but this is simply a misogynistic piece of garbage.

it's the wars, stupid


But above all, I think [Paul's attraction for young voters is] his foreign policy. The post-9/11 generation has seen what war has achieved - virtually nothing but the death of a hundred thousand Iraqis, 5,000 Americans and tens of thousands of maimed and injured vets - and believe the wars were huge errors. They also rightly understand that the world has changed thanks to globalization of capitalism, and see the Cold War mentality of America policing the planet to be at least condescending, and at worst utterly counter-productive and unaffordable. They see their retirement savings disappearing to fuel neocon fantasies of permanent war.

Then there's the insane war on drugs. Paul is the only person, including the cowardly Obama, to take this issue on. The young know it's failed, and that it's racist, punitive and irrational. That's why Paul does so well with the young. It's not the Fed. It's the war on Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on drugs.
'Tis true, 'tis true. And that sentiment needs a standard-bearer with less baggage. Ideally one not pushing 80.


babysitting while white

Maybe this story could convince white people that racial profiling is real, and problematic.

I guess I should be grateful that the only thing that ever happened to me here was some hard looks.

(via Balko)


clearing tabs

--Zach Beauchamp says more or less what I was trying to say over in this thread at Gino's place (but better, naturally).

--Will Wilkinson gets all smart and shit.

--Rick Santorum sends a poorly thought-out Hanukkah card to both Jews in South Carolina.

pretty happy to be a washingtonian today

Marriage equality will be the law of the land within 5 business days.

The outcome of today's vote was a foregone conclusion (over half the house had publicly committed to voting "yea") but some of the speechifying before the vote was pretty illuminating. I hope to post some clips once TVW makes them available. In particular, Rep. Maureen Walsh (R-Walla Walla) really cut to the heart of the matter. Republicans need to listen to what she has to say, if they don't want to lose an entire generation of voters.

Anyway, since this is the work of the elected representatives of the people, rather than those pesky "unelected judges", I assume that Mitt Romney et al. will be cheering this as the victory for democracy that it is. They should come on out to (our) Capitol Hill. The parties are going to be fabulous.

UPDATE--Here is Rep Walsh:


our "failed" president

For the past three years America has been walking softly, and it's working very, very well. Ten years back, America often found itself isolated, struggling to pull together "coalitions of the willing" packed with small client states. Lately, we have been finding ourselves in the majority, along with the democratic world, while Russia and China front a dwindling coalition of the unwilling. To some extent, this reflects a smart, subtle foreign-policy presence in which we have done a vastly better job of looking at what other countries actually want, and seeing where our interests align, rather than trying to bully other countries into supporting our goals. To some extent, it's luck: the Arab spring happened... Commentators who envision Barack Obama running on his foreign-policy successes in this year's campaign generally adduce examples like the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the crippling of al-Qaeda. Perhaps these are the examples that figure most clearly in the American voter's imagination. It would be nice, though, if voters evaluated presidents' foreign policies on the basis of whether they had won the respect of the world and advanced American interests internationally. The evidence of recent American foreign-policy effectiveness isn't that we've shot a lot of bad guys. It's that when our UN ambassador calls the Chinese and Russian vetoes of action on Syria "disgusting", she's speaking for the overwhelming majority of the world, and they are in the isolated minority.

Read the whole thing.

For all of Mitt Romney's and Newt Gingrich's bluster about the alleged ineptitude of the man currently occupying the job they seek, their silence on the substance of American foreign policy these last few years is deafening.


freedom isn't free

In the City of Seattle, (in fact, in the State of Washington) you cannot screen pornographic videos in a bar. Keep in mind that WA State has some of the strictest rules governing the presence people under 21 years of age in places where alcohol is served. Unless you are a restaurant (defined I believe by a certain percentage of revenue coming from food, and it's fairly high) or one of a handful of large music venues that segregate drinkers into a holding pen, you cannot have anyone under 21 years of age on premises, ever, if you serve alcohol.

I only bring this up, because in the City of Seattle, you can watch porn in a public library.

Now, SPL has taken what I think is an admirable hard line on the First Amendment, here. In effect, the policy is that they will not censor constitutionally protected content accessed from their computers, period. (The computers in the children's sections do have internet filters. I really can't imagine anyone having a problem with that.) They do have a code of conduct regarding behavior of patrons, which in this context I have to assume means that you'd best keep your hands on the mouse and keyboard. I can see the logic of this. Never mind the philosophical slippery slope: once you start parsing what is and what isn't acceptable content for consumption at the library, you very well could end up devoting your already-stressed resources to little else. I also think it's understandable that library employees would prefer not to go around peeking over patrons' shoulders and policing what they are looking at.

Interestingly, the State does have a law on the books about exposing minors to sexually explicit content. However, it sets the standard rather high: you have to prove that exposing minors to content was intentional. (Presumably, that protects people whose kids wander in at an inopportune moment. Again, this seems pretty reasonable to me.)

So what to do? The libraries do have privacy screens on their computers, which are designed to obscure the view from anyone not viewing head-on. It would seem, based on the story linked above, that these do not work particularly well. 

I can't help but wonder if simply lining all computer stations up against the wall, so that the patron's back (and therefore the screen) is facing the wall, and nothing else, wouldn't go a long way towards minimizing the problem here.

In any case, I think SPL would do well to be proactive about this if they really care about their absolutist stance on non-censorship (which I support). To do less is to  invite the (frankly understandable) ire of parents whose children use the library, and for that matter, the vast majority of adults who'd rather not be around people watching porn in public. SPL clearly aren't addressing it adequately at the moment.

I'd hate to see the free flow of information be a casualty to their inability to arrange the furniture sensibly, is what I'm saying.


romney still hasn't won in the south

(Map from TPM, follow the link for an interactive version.)

If you know anything about the cultural and political geography of Florida, the above should come as no surprise. Florida is essentially two states: the urban triangle represented by Miami-Orlando-Tampa, and northern-central strip of Pensacola-Tallahassee-Jacksonville. The former is what most people think of when they think of Florida: northern retirees, Jewish people, and Cubans.

The latter is essentially an extension of Alabama and Georgia. And those blue islands in the southern part of the state? Orange groves. That's part of the rural South, too.

I have to hand it to Gingrich: he's playing a long game here. He's seen Romney's weakness in Newt's backyard, and he's going to exploit it to the very end. When he says "Massachusetts moderate", what he really means is "Yankee Mormon". And it's working.

This ain't over.