Six months ago today an angry man walked into Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, and murdered 49 people. According to the FBI and his own family, during the weeks and months leading up to the attack, he had become more noticeably outraged every time he saw gay men in public together. He plotted the crime carefully. He set up fake profiles on gay hook-up apps and used conversations there to find out which night clubs would have the biggest crowd. It was a carefully crafted anti-queer hate crime.
All of those things are still true. And with hate crimes on the rise since November 8, even more heart wrenching.
Please take to heart the words in the graphic I included at the top of this post: “Every time you let a homophobic or transphobic joke or slur pass, you tell the speaker that you condone their speech, and you help perpetuate a culture in which hatred of LGBTQIA people is acceptable and in which violence against LGBTQIA people is inevitable.” That’s not an exaggeration. If our very existence is nothing more than a joke, that implies our lives and deaths don’t matter. Those attacks and dismissals perpetuate the lie that we deserve pain and suffering. They perpetuate the lie that we shouldn’t exist. They perpetuate the lie that our love isn’t real.
And all of those lies add up to one message that some angry people are all too ready to take to heart: that beating us, shooting us, and killing us isn’t really a crime.
Last week I very intentionally didn’t do a Weekend Update post to supplement the previous day’s Friday Links post. I was feeling as if I was spending every Saturday morning writing about a few headlines that caught my eye later Friday. When maybe a better use of my time would be working on my fiction, or housework, or other things that actually gets something done that needs doing, y’know?
Then we got out of the movie last night, and one friend who had just turned his phone back on tells us that there was a shooting at a mall in a town about an hour’s drive north of where we were. There was almost no information available last night, and this morning there still isn’t really much: Cascade Mall shooting: Mayor vows to ‘bring the son of a bitch to justice’.
They have some really low-res blurry pictures of a generic looking dark haired guy wearing a very generic looking maybe black t-shirt and maybe black cargo shorts. They originally put out the APB for a “hispanic male wearing gray,” but if the pictures are any indication the only part of that which might be accurate is the shooter’s gender presentation.
Seriously, I know Seattle area men who come form a long line of Norwegians who look exactly like that guy. Heck! I used to know a lesbian firefighter (who was sometimes mistaken for a guy) whose ancestors came from Switzerland and England who looked just like that guy.
Some of the news sources are reporting this as the sixth mass shooting in Washington state this year. Another source said seven, and then lists them, but there are only five total in the list. Also of note only to my fellow pedants: one of the shootings they’re counting had only two victims, another had only three. The FBI still doesn’t have an official criteria for a mass shooting, but most people compiling statistics start with the FBI’s definition of mass murder (four people killed in a single incident, not counting the perpetrator), and count anything with four people shot as a mass shooting.
I don’t know what to say.
Except this (which I think needs to be repeated every time a story of some situation like this happens): unless you have the skills, temperament, and wherewithal to be a responsible gun owner (i.e., ensure that guns are always securely stored when not in use; they are kept clean and otherwise maintained; you regularly practice not merely shooting the thing but loading it, unloading it, checking its working parts before using it, working the safety; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera), don’t go buy a gun. Statistically, you will not be safer. Statistically, everyone around you will be less safe. That’s a fact.
They’ve begun releasing autopsy reports of the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando: Most Pulse victims shot multiple times, first autopsies show. It was nearly two months ago, on June 12, that the killer snuck a gun into a busy gay night club on Latino night and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding many others. In that time we’ve had Republican politicians express false sympathy, then days later vote down gay rights protections. We’ve had people try to claim that the act wasn’t an anti-gay crime. We’ve had people gin up evidence (which has been thoroughly debunked) that the killer was secretly gay himself. We’ve had people and politicians try to claim the killer was part of an organized Islamic terrorist organization, and that has been thoroughly debunked as well.
And a lot of people have moved on.
Some of us can’t. As I wrote before, one reason it’s so difficult for me is because my whole life I’ve lived with the fear and knowledge that there are people who hate queers enough to attack me and kill me, but I haven’t often had to think of the hatred of me being a danger to those around me. The killer’s own father said that his son had become disproportionately angry about seeing two men kissing in public over a week before the incident. Others who knew the killer have talked about his increasingly angry outbursts about gay people. Seeing two men kiss made him go kill 49 people in a busy gay nightclub during Pride month.
It’s one thing to know that bigots hate me enough to kill me. It’s another to realize some hate me enough to commit a massacre.
And it’s upsetting to know that some people who claim to be friends, and relatives who have said they love me, are completely incapable of understanding that this killer’s actions are a symptom of society’s messed up attitudes about queer people and about guns. And that’s what people are saying when they claim this is just one lone nut. Or that this isn’t really about queer people. Or that there is nothing society can do that will make these events less likely to happen. So, yeah, it’s upsetting to be told to my face that someone else’s right to sell assault weapons to a person with a history of domestic violence (despite even a majority of NRA members expressing the opinion that people convicted of such crimes shouldn’t be able to legally purchase guns) is more important than protecting the lives of people like me.
One of the other things we don’t think about in our haste to move on after an event like this is just how long the aftermath is. It’s been nearly two months, and they’re still working on the autopsies. The reports just now released are only the first part of the analysis. Experts won’t be able to begin to do a thorough incident analysis until all of the rest of the autopsy reports are complete, and then the work of coordinating those with all the other evidence and reports begins of trying to understand what happened in there.
Michael and I had only been dating about four months when it happened. It appeared to be a day just like any other. Back then he lived and worked in Tacoma. Because he worked in a bar, his “weekend” was in the middle of my workweek. He didn’t own a car, so he would often take the bus up for Tacoma, we’d spend a day or two together, and he’d take the bus back. Sometimes I drove him, but most of the time it was the bus. On this one morning, for various reasons, I drove him into downtown Seattle and dropped him off at one of the big bus stops there, and then went on to my office. When I pulled over to the curb we said “good-bye,” leaned in and gave each other a quick kiss, and he got out of the car. I drove off, sad that it would be several days before I saw him again, but happy about the day we had had.
I was oblivious to the fact that as I drove away, a random stranger at the bus stop started harassing him for being queer. Because he’d seen me kiss Michael.
One of our friends has described my husband has “the most capable guy I’ve ever known.” His job history has included working as a bouncer at a not entirely savory bar. He bikes. When he was younger, he rode bulls in rodeo for fun. He’s not a small man. He can take care of himself.
But none of that matters if someone takes you by surprise. Or if you’re outnumbered. Or if you’re just not as good as them. And don’t think that being armed himself changes that equation. You can’t shoot another person’s bullet down in midair. You can’t safely defend yourself with a gun in a location crowded with bystanders—such as a very busy street in front of a bustling office building on a bright sunny weekday morning.
Even though the guy didn’t physically attack Michael that day. Even though Michael survived the incident to tell me about it after, sixteen years later I still have nightmares about how that situation could have gone down differently. All because I kissed him.
That was only one of the nightmares I’ve had this week, thanks to the news out of Orlando.
Eighteen years later, every time we are out in public and I feel an urge to tell my husband that I love him, or to hold his hand, or give him a quick kiss, I have to do that calculation. Are we safe here? Will someone say horrible things? Will someone threaten us? Will someone do something even worse?
A friend shared someone else’s blog post about why the Orlando shooting has so shaken him this morning, which makes substantially the same points:
If I kiss Matt in public, like he leaned in for on the bike trail the other day, I’m never fully in the moment. I’m always parsing who is around us and paying attention to us. There’s a tension that comes with that… a literal tensing of the muscles as you brace for potential danger. For a lot of us, it’s become such an automatic reaction that we don’t even think about it directly any more. We just do it…
We live constantly with the knowledge that there are people all around us who hate us enough to kill us. And this event isn’t merely a reminder of that, it carries another message:
Additionally, now we just got a lesson that expressing our love could result in the deaths of *others* completely unrelated to us. It’s easy to take risks when it’s just you and you’ve made that choice. Now there’s this subtext that you could set off someone who kills other people who weren’t even involved. And that’s just a lot.
That’s why I’m personally a bit off balance even though (or because, depending on how you look at it) I live in Texas and was not personally effected by this tragedy.
This is part of why I’m taking this shooting in Orlando so personally: the constant knowledge that there are people who will kill me, my husband, and so many more because of who we love. Worse than that, there are more people who will encourage that hate. They may say they don’t hate us personally, and of course they don’t condone violence, but they also say that violence is the natural consequence of our sin. In the same breath they condemn the violence, they declare the violence a result of divine will, and apparently don’t see the contradiction in that. And there is an even larger group of people who sincerely believe they are not prejudiced against us at all, but they enable guys like the Orlando shooter in thousands of little ways, whether it be opposing hate crime legislation, or anti-discrimination laws, or any form or gun policy reform.
This is why I’m long past the point where I can be silent about the hateful rhetoric of people like Ted Cruz, the Family Research Council, the Pope, and everyone else who says that queers are sinners. This is why I can no long sit silently polite and bite my tongue (yet again) when people say that I’m the bad guy for thinking that maybe a guy with a history of domestic violence who was also on the FBI watch list should not have been able to legally buy an assault rifle with no questions asked.
If your first reaction to me or any queer person you know expressing our feelings about this mass murder is to argue with us about gun policy, or to tell us we’re over reacting, or anything other than, “you seem to be taking this really hard, are you all right?” then you may well be part of the problem.
To answer the question that some people I thought were my friends didn’t ask before launching into attack mode this weekend: No, I’m not all right. I’m mad as hell. And I have more than ample reason to be mad.
It is not unreasonable to be upset at this mass murder. It is not unreasonable to ask questions about why fairly simple, non-draconian measures that are supported by a solid majority of voters—and that have been proven to work in other countries—are constantly being opposed by absolutists. It is not unreasonable to want to hold people who have enabled the hatred responsible. It is not unreasonable to hold people who keep enabling a toxic society that turns young men into festering piles of self-loathing and anger responsible. And it is not unreasonable to hold people who don’t just enable, but encourage, the easy availability of assault weapons to people that even they agree shouldn’t have guns in the first place responsible.
I’m not all right. I’m mad as hell. And you should be, too.
I was annoyed early on in the coverage of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting that news sites and individuals on social media all kept claiming that the hate crime was the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. The first reason it annoyed me was because the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890 was much bigger. About 300 Lakota men, women, and children were shot to death that day. I understand why no politician alive today wants to acknowledge that. It was the U.S. Army that did the deed, and there is political hay to be made by insisting that it was a battle rather than a war crime, even now 126 years later.
Similarly, the Sand Creek Massacre of November 29, 1864 was also a lot bigger than the Orlando shooting: between 70-163 Cheyenne and Arapahoe men women and children were slaughtered. Again, modern politicians don’t want to talk about it, and certainly don’t want to admit it was a crime, rather than a battle.
That’s not the only thing about this horrific crime that brings out my pedantic tendencies. There has also been a lot of debate about whether this is an act of terrorism or a hate crime. As one friend put it: since the earliest reports that had virtually no details called the attack on a gay nightclub a possible terrorist attack, we knew that that shooter wasn’t white. That’s a not-facetious observation of the systemic racism of police officials everywhere, but there is another serious point, here. A lot of people outside the police want to transform this event into an act of terrorism against America, rather than recognize that the native born American man who decided to slaughter 50 queers in a queer club on a Saturday night during Pride month is a hate crime against the gay community.
As another friend pointed out, all hate crime is meant to terrorize. That’s true. That is the moral and legal justification given for even recognizing hate crime as a category of crime. The intent of the criminal isn’t just to harm the person or persons directly attacked, the intent is to frighten similar people. In this case, to put all queer people on notice that there are people out there who will gladly murder us just for being who we are. And literally for as long as humans have had laws (going back to ancient Sumeria at least!), we have always used the person’s intent as one of the ways to gauge the severity of the crime (cf. the only difference between murder in the second degree and not-guilty by reason of self-defense is the intent of the killer, nothing else).
Of course the politicians and so-called religious leaders who have been trying to deny queer people civil rights, objecting to our lives being even acknowledged, have said that we are immoral and dangerous, and so on want to erase us from this tragedy. They have many reasons for this. The most basic is that they just want to erase us, period, of course. But an even bigger reason they want to erase us is because they don’t want to admit that they have contributed to this crime. Every time they say that it is dangerous for kids to even see us, every time they say we are a danger to children just by being in a public restroom, every time they say that god is going to judge America for giving us some rights, every time they say queers are “ultimately destructive to society,” it encourages hatred and violence toward us.
Others are trying to focus on the shooter’s claims of doing this for the Islamic State. They conveniently want to overlook the fact that this young man was born in New York and grew up here in America. They ignore the fact that the leaders of ISIS long ago said anyone who wants to commit an act of terror in their name doesn’t need to ask permission, and that they will gladly take credit for anything that gets them in a headline, whether they actually had anything to do with it beforehand. This also, once again, conveniently elides over the fact that American evangelical fundamentalist Christians are no less hateful toward queers than radical fundamentalist muslim terrorists: Christian Pastor Celebrates Nightclub Massacre: “There’s 50 Less Pedophiles in This World”. The problem isn’t the Islam or Christianity per se, it is the fundamentalism that’s the problem. The extensive record of radical American Christians preaching hatred for queers is there for all to see.
The ingredients that cooked up this slaughter of 49 queer people are several, yes, but you can identify the big three:
Demonizing of queers by politicians, religious leaders, and others
Easy access to guns
We can do something about all of those things, even though it won’t be easy.
The first requires everyone who doesn’t think queers are evil to confront your elected officials and religious leaders and others during the rest of the year when they make their usual arguments about us. If you’re Christian, tell these other people that they do not speak for you. Make yourself heard. Yes, it means uncomfortably calling out friends and family, sometimes, but we’re not talking about a disagreement over sports teams, we’re talking about the life and death of real people.
The second one is big and complex, but not intractable. First, just let boys be. Speak up when you hear someone tell a boy that he can’t play with that toy because it’s a girls’ toy, for instance.
The last one is difficult to tackle because one particular lobbying group has managed to delude a sizeable fraction of the public into believing that the only thing any of us mean when we say we want to deal with that is a total ban on all guns. Yesterday I made an analogy between the way we used to say that drunk driving was just as impossible to do anything about as gun violence, and how we have since proven that assertion false. A big part of the change that happened in the drunk driving debate was that we allowed a national bureau to compile nation wide statistics on alcohol-related car accidents. So the very minimum that we should do (and there is no excuse not to) is to lift the legal ban on studying gun violence as a public health issue. Studying drunk driving led people to think of options that had never even been discussed before; options that worked. Let us study it, at the very least!
And let the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives use modern data tacking methods, for goodness sake! Give us the tools to try to figure out how guns fall out of the legal sales system. Maybe 90% of the population (and a bigger percentage of the experts) are wrong that closing the gun show loophole and a couple of other measures that my NRA friends get foaming at the mouth over. The truth is that you don’t know we’re wrong, and can’t prove we’re wrong because you’ve made it illegal to study and compile the statistics. Maybe a measure like the Texas law that penalizes people for not promptly reporting the theft of a gun will deter illegal gun trafficking, maybe it won’t. We can’t know until we’re allowed to study it.
And I’m sorry, I don’t often invoke Ronald Reagan, but sometimes he was right: “I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.” Since this post started out about being pedantic, his terminology was a bit off, but Reagan believed then, and at least 58% of Americans agree with him now, that assault weapons should be banned outright, just as we already ban bombs, grenades, rockets, missiles, and mines. If a civilization requires everyone to be armed and constantly prepared to kill other people, that isn’t civilization.
It didn’t take long after people started reacting on social media to the news the at least 50 people were killed in an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub (and at least 53 were seriously injured) by a lone gunman before the arguing started. I made the mistake of sharing a comment about one very specific gun law that actually would have applied to this gunman’s purchase of the weapons used in the crime just a week or so ago, and commenting about who blocked the bill. And I was immediately accused of calling for the total ban of all guns everywhere, and reminded how badly prohibition worked with alcohol and drugs.
It’s a common argument. There are some problems with it. And those problems are most easily illustrated by looking at the topic of drunk driving. See, I’m old enough to remember when people actually argued that nothing at all could be done to reduce the number of deaths due to drunk driving. People have a fundamental right to imbibe alcohol, it was argued. People will find a way to get alcohol, look what happened during prohibition! The only person at fault is the “nut behind the wheel,” it was asserted, and no law is going to deter an irresponsible person! Just as no law or policy or other external force could prevent stupidity.
Editorials were written making the argument that while the traffic fatalities that resulted from the misuse of alcohol were tragic, no meaningful solution could be enacted—certainly not through the law!
I know, because I wrote one or two such editorials.
The first scientific paper drawing a connection between alcohol use and motor vehicle collisions was published way back in 1904 (it’s a little weird to realize that automobiles have been around that long). A much more rigorous study conducted in Sweden in 1932 is generally regarded as the first to definitively show that alcohol impaired drivers were more likely to have accidents leading to significant property damage, injury, or death than sober ones. But even as more studies piled up, the “nut behind the wheel” argument still prevented anything more than token laws that in many states treated driving while intoxicated about as severely as failure to use a turn signal.
In the mid-sixties several events managed to crack the public’s obstinance enough to recognize that automotive design and road design also significantly contributed to traffic fatalities. Congress created the National Highway Safety Bureau (later renamed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and gave it the mission to research the causes of highway fatalities and recommend solutions. Most of Congress and the public expected the Bureau only to bring back recommendations for safety regulations of the vehicles and roads, but the science made it clear that more would be required.
During the 70s, due to recommendations from the Bureau, a series of regulations were enacted improving both the safety of the cars and the roads. There was also a concerted effort to educate the public on two areas: seat belt use, and not driving after drinking. Various studies later found that the education campaigns alone didn’t have much effect. The improvements in vehicle construction and changes to road design did not reduce the number of fatalities annually, though the rate of fatalities as a percentage of total number of miles driven annually did go down. Population growth meant the more people were driving, therefore more miles total driven each year. Bottom line: the first decade of safety improvements had only a minimal effect.
Between 1982 and 1997 is when things took off. Congress made a lot of federal highway money dependent on states enacting more uniform laws about such things as the blood alcohol level that qualified as legally impaired, minimum age for legally purchasing alcohol, and bringing real penalties to bear for the drivers who were caught. Education and treatment programs were mandated, and regulations about the sale and serving of alcohol to individuals were enacted. All of these actions, along with activism and education campaigns from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, combined to do what the PSA campaigns of the 70s alone couldn’t do: the public’s attitude about drunk driving (as measured in surveys) changed, and (more importantly) the number of alcohol-related crash fatalities went down about 10% by 1990.
This prompted the non-profits and government agencies working on the issue to set a goal of reducing the number by another 20% by the year 2000—a goal we hit in 1997! Something that we said we couldn’t possibly do, and for all the same reasons that we are currently told are why absolutely nothing can be done about mass shootings and gun violence in America.
Is a total reduction of alcohol-related crash fatalities by 30% a complete elimination of the drunk driving problem? No. But if we could have fewer multiple-victim shootings next year instead of more, that would be a good start.
I am not proposing a ban on all gun sales. I never have. I’m a former NRA member, myself, for goodness sake! And no serious proposals I have seen have called for that, nor for anything even close to that. The big problem we have right now is that the moment any of us say anything about trying any of the measures which have already been demonstrated to work, people start howling at us about prohibition.
I was told yesterday that the 50 queer latinx lives snuffed out in Orlando yesterday were less important than the right of a dealer to sell an assault rifle to someone on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. I was told that me being angry about an industry lobbying group blocking even one reform bill that would have applied exactly to yesterday’s murder case was rude. I was told that pointing out that the NRA is more concerned with protecting the profits of the gun manufacturing industry than promoting responsible gun ownership was rude.
When I was challenged, I did get rude, yes. Fifty queer people were murdered yesterday in what was actually a quite preventable crime, and I’m not allowed to ask that maybe a measure supported by 90% of the population in the country should be given a try?
Fifty queer people were murdered, and yes, I’m taking it a little more personally than some of the earlier shootings. Maybe it’s a failing on my part that I didn’t get as angry before. But just because I’m taking it personally does not mean that I don’t have a point. We can tweak regulations and close loopholes without destroying freedom—we did it to reduce drunk driving, we can do it to reduce gun violence. Just because there isn’t a single, elegant solution doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything.
So, a bunch of people were sitting in the theatre, about 20 minutes into Michael Bay’s latest atrocity, that Benghazi movie, when a drunk guy is seen fumbling with a pistol and it goes off, striking a woman in another row, putting her in critical condition. Then the drunk guy flees the theatre, throwing the ammo clip in a trash can on his way out. Ninety minutes later, a man called the police to report that his 29-year-old son was “distraught” because he dropped his gun in a theatre and thinks he might have hurt someone. Police come and arrest the 29-year-old, who they decline to identify, but note that he has a concealed weapon permit. The victim, meanwhile, has been hospitalized and her condition has been upgraded to “satisfactory.”
This particular multiplex is one that I’ve actually been to, as it’s local to me (the third time we saw the Star Trek reboot was in this theatre, for instance), so there were a number of stories on local blogs and outlets. One that I read yesterday, but haven’t been able to find again, quoted a witness inside the theatre who saw a guy several rows ahead of him pull the gun out, which prompted the witness to slip his phone out of his pocket and quietly turn it on, fearing the worst. This witness insists that the guy never dropped the gun, but appeared to be playing with it, and definitely didn’t have to stoop down to pick anything up off the ground after the gun went off as he fled.
Well, good on him! The usual definition of a mass shooting is a single shooting event in which four or more people (not counting the shooter) are shot or killed. By shooting only one person, this guy successfully made sure that it wasn’t a mass shooting, I guess.
There’s a whole lot I could say about this, but they all go down the rabbit hole of the topic no one can be rational about. So, let’s limit it to a couple of questions:
First, why are they protecting this idiot’s identity? Seriously, no one is a stronger believer in the Presumption of Innocence in our justice system than I am, but why do they keep withholding his name? He has been booked into jail. That’s a matter of public record. I could understand if we were talking about an underage suspect, because we treat juvenile defendants differently under the legal principle of Diminished Responsibility. This shouldn’t apply here, right? He’s 29 years old. The victim’s name and face have been plastered all over the place, including naming the hospital where she’s being treated. Why is the shooter’s identity being withheld? Maybe he hasn’t been formally arraigned, yet? I don’t know, but it seems weird.
Why did throw away the ammo clip? I get that he apparently was intoxicated. Maybe you can attribute all of his stupidity to the alcohol impairment, though I have more than a few quibbles with that. But even in the intoxicated mind, what is the point of throwing away the ammo clip? It’s he gun barrel that is likely to be used as evidence against him, right? We all understand how they match bullets to guns: it isn’t by the clip, it’s the barrel that the bullet was fired through. I’m genuinely curious.
The only silver lining I see to all this is, if he’s found guilty of felony assault, this idiot won’t be allowed to legally own guns any more.
While we’re on the topic of local idiots: Judge Rules Eyman Measure Unconstitutional. Tim Eyman is a local con artist and professional Initiative Sponsor (literally, that is the only way he’s made any income for many, many years), whose main target is taxes. Though ten years ago he took a detour into anti-gay territory and filed a referendum intended to repeal the state’s laws protecting discrimination based on sexual orientation. He literally showed up at press conference announcing the anti-gay referendum dressed in a pink tutu and thought that was a clever stunt. He switched to a Darth Vader costume for his actual filing of the initiative after the tutu evoked much criticism. That particular initiative failed to get enough signatures to even qualify for the ballot.
His schtick of getting voters to pass limitations on taxes and the ability of the legislature to raise them have usually succeeded at least temporarily, though they are often thrown out as unconstitutional. This one is a great example. Washington’s constitution sets up relatively easy initiative and referendum processes (the signature threshold to get them on the ballot is very low, there is only one specific court that is allowed to rule on whether an initiative meets the definitions to go on the ballot before hand, so they can’t be tangled up in a long appeals process before the people get to see them), but there are some limitations. Initiatives must adhere to only one topic, for instance. And referendums to repeal a law have to turn in their signatures within a certain number of days after said law is signed by the governor.
The constitution is also very clear on the process of amending the constitution: all amendments must originate in the legislature and be passed by a two-thirds majority of both houses before being submitted to the public for a simple majority vote. The constitution explicitly forbids constitutional amendments to be made through the initiative process.
This particular measure was essentially an act of extortion: if the legislature does not place a constitutional amendment requiring any future increase in taxes to pass with a two-thirds supermajority, then the current sales tax would be lowered, resulting in a loss of about $8 billion dollars in the next fiscal year. Voters, some of whom are eternally eager to believe that they can get all the state services they require without any taxes to actually pay for them, passed it, of course. But the judge ruled that the initiative is unconstitutional in two distinct ways: 1) it doesn’t adhere to one subject, being about both an amendment to the constitution and the current level of sales tax, and 2) it attempts to start a constitutional amendment through the initiative process, which the constitution clearly forbids.
One of the things that really annoys me about Eyman and his eternal initiatives (he’s already raises $1.2 million to put more on the ballot this year), is that he doesn’t even have to appeal this ruling. The state attorney general is obligated to appeal the ruling, and to defend the initiative (which every legal expert agreed was unconstitutional for the reasons the judge cited) all on the taxpayer’s dime. Meanwhile Eyman keeps rolling in the dough running more of these things up the flagpole.
I heard the news that there had been a shooting Thursday in the International District (a place some people still call Chinatown), but I didn’t know that it was Donnie Chin until Friday: Donnie Chin, Chinatown ID’s ‘frontline hero,’ killed in early morning shooting. He’d been the director of the International District Emergency Center for some years. The IDEC is hard to describe. A “volunteer-based emergency services organization” Yes, they provided emergency medical services, but Donnie did so much more. He got homeless people to shelters, he helped find lost children. He checked regularly on elderly and disabled residents. He provided translation services for people whose English was not good, helping them navigate the medicare system and so forth. They say a lot of elderly people who realized their memory was getting bad, actually left their prescriptions with him, and he came to their homes and gave them their pills for the day, so they wouldn’t accidentally overdose themselves. On top of all that, he simply patrolled the neighborhood, keeping an eye out for trouble.
I didn’t know Donnie personally. I first heard of Donnie back in the 90s, when I was briefly dating a guy who was active in the Q-Patrol (Donnie wasn’t involved in Q-Patrol, it’s that some of the people in Q-Patrol were trying to model what they did on the things that Donnie and his organization did in the International District). And I remember when one of the local papers ran a nice story on him a few years later.
What can I say, except that we’ve lost a hero?
In other regional news, there was some good news yesterday: Court sides with state on Plan B sales. When you’re a pharmacist, your job is to provide medication, not impose your religious beliefs on others. And the court agrees. I go further: I think that refusing to provide Plan B because they think it is an abortion drug is proof that the pharmacist is incompetent at the science side (it isn’t abortion, the biochemical process prevents implantation, just like birth control methods taken before the act), and should have their license revoked. But I’m a hard ass.