I’ve been doing housework today. I have a bunch of errands to run while my husband is off doing convention committee stuff. So I wasn’t going to post a Weekend Update. But then I saw this, so I have to share it:
Veterans For Gun Reform PSA – March For Our Lives:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
I was first alerted to the shooting at Townville Elementary School in South Carolina by a friend on Twitter sharing the link and commenting that this school was only about 10 miles from his parents’ home. I read the first story, and was relieved that despite two children and a teacher being shot, that authorities said none of the injuries were life-threatening. So later in the week, when I looked for a more complete story to put in Friday Links, I was sad to see that one six-year-old boy was still listed in critical condition. I found more detailed stories since: 6-Year-Old Boy Hurt in South Carolina School Shooting Remains in Critical Condition, Has Brain Damage and
South Carolina first-grader critically wounded in school shooting lost 75% of blood.
So the poor boy nearly bled to death, and has suffered brain damage (and mostly likely several other organs as well) due to the lack of oxygen because of the lack of blood. He was reportedly clinically dead twice, but was revived both times.
Reading these stories is really difficult. I am reminded of Mr. Rogers’ famous advice when reading or seeing tragic news: look for the helpers. We have at least two heroes in this story: Jamie Brock, a volunteer firefighter who tackled to the teen shooter and held him until police got there, and Meghan Hollingsworth, the first-grade teacher who was shot and when the volunteer firefighters arrived, refused treatment until the two children had been seen to.
It’s a sad story all around. The 14-year-old shooter had been expelled or suspended (depending on which news story you read) from public school at some point earlier for bringing a weapon to school and has since been homeschooled. The day of the shooting, the teen apparently shot and killed his father, called his grandmother but was crying too hard to be understood, then jumped into a pickup truck and drove three miles before crashing at the elementary school and opening fire. We don’t know if he intended to go to that school, since he didn’t have a driver’s license and may not have had good control of the car. We don’t know why he killed his father. Was there an argument, or was it something even more stupid? And so on.
Which makes it not unlike the shooting that happened here in Washington state last week. No motive has yet been uncovered, and going by news headlines, all the media cares about is that the initial reports that he was a permanent resident alien were incorrect, he had actually completed the naturalization process a while ago. But that hasn’t stopped our incompetent state Secretary of State from proposing draconion voter ID regulations using the shooter as an excuse.
Seriously, why he killed five strangers in less than 60 seconds is a more important question than his citizenship status.
I need some happy news after that, so here’s this: One Judge Reunites with Hundreds of Couples She Married, Helped with Adoptions. Just four years ago, after the voter-approved marriage equality law went into effect here in Washington state, Judge Mary Yu opened her courtroom at midnight to perform marriages for gay and lesbian couples on the very first day. “Let Mary Yu Marry You” was in the official announcement that the court would open that night.
Judge Yu has since been appointed to fill an unexpired term on the state Supreme Court, becoming the first openly queer state Supreme Court Justice (she’s also the first asian and the first woman of color to sit on the court). She had to win a special election in 2015 to remain on the court for the rest of the term… which ends in January, so she’s up for election again.
Anyway, the article I linked includes a lot of stories from the couples whose adoptions or marriages Yu handled during her years on the county Superior Court. Here’s just one:
“In August of 2011 Whitney [Taylor] had unexpectedly been diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly after our daughter was born,” Amy Babcock wrote. “We wanted to make sure Whitney’s second parent adoption of our daughter was finalized before her surgery to remove the tumor, so Justice Mary Yu spent her lunch break the day before Whitney’s surgery finalizing the second parent adoption for us. It was a time of fear and uncertainty for our family, but Justice Yu provided us joy and thankfulness during that time. We are forever thankful to Justice Yu for ensuring our family was protected and celebrated. In 2015, Justice Yu performed the second parent adoption of our son as well, and we were able this time to celebrate with a room full of friends and family.”
I need a kleenex.
I posted my first Weekend Update just over two years ago because there had been a lot of new information coming in the day before about one of the stories I had linked to in that week’s Friday Links. I didn’t originally intend it to become a regular thing. I do skip it some weeks. But most weeks I wind up feeling I need to post some follow-ups to some of the previous day’s news. Before I get into the unpleasant story, let’s take a moment to rejoice:
Backers of I-1515, the initiative to restrict which bathrooms transgender people can use, have told Washington state officials they will not turn in signatures by the Friday midnight deadline! Thank goodness. We keep referring to this as a transgender bathroom initiative, but it did more than that: it overruled a state finding that Washington’s existing non-discrimination law and certain portions of federal law required access to public bathrooms consistent with a trans person’s gender identity; it also forbid state agencies to make any such rulings in the future; it also forbid cities and counties from enacting their own transgender non-discrimination laws; it forbid any school (private or not) allowing any transgender student to use any bathroom other than a private, single-person bathroom; and finally, it mandated a $2500 bounty be paid to public school students who caught any transgender classmates using any bathroom other than the one that “matched” the gender the student had been assigned at birth.
None of us had any doubt the law would stand up in court if passed. Several of its components are identical to laws and policies that federal courts have already ruled violate Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 (also known as the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act). The state constitution requires that initiatives cover only one topic with a very narrow focus, and multi-part initiatives similar to this one have been struck down in the past for violating that requirement.
But in our state, initiatives that gather enough signatures are almost always placed on the ballot regardless of how unconstitutional they appear, under the reasoning that the people can reject the initiative if they think it is unconstitutional, and courts can examine the law in full after it is enacted if need be.
Past experience indicates that when an anti-gay initiative is on the ballot, the amount of harassment and hate crimes in the state go up, as the haters are whipped into a bit of a frenzy by all the advertisements and misinformation. Fighting an initiative takes time and effort away from other worthy causes, and it if did pass, fighting the initiative in court is also costly. And as we’ve seen recently with the Brexit vote in Britain, sometimes when a vote like this passes, it convinces the haters that everyone agrees with them, and the hate crimes and harassment continue.
So, this news Anti-Trans Campaign Fails To Collect Enough Signatures To Advance is wonderful and deserves a round of applause!
In less pleasant news, the Dallas shooting situation was still happening Thursday night when I finished the yesterday’s Friday Links, so there has been a lot of developments. Among the details that I think people have still missed: there was only one shooter, not several. The shooter was not the person whose picture was plastered everyone as a person of interest, and whose picture remained on the police web site for nearly 24 hours after the police had already determined he wasn’t involved. Five officers total died. The Black Lives Matter organization was quick to condemn the shooting. The demonstration was peaceful. The sniper was killed by a remote controlled robot that the Dallas police obtained from the military supposedly for bomb disposal purposes.
Alton Sterling was a felon. Philando Castile was a ‘good man.’ None of that should matter. Whenever a black person dies in police custody, the press seems to put all effort they can into digging up information about the person’s past, as if that has anything to do with the use of force at the time of the killing. It doesn’t matter if Sterling had a criminal record, in the video he was clearly not struggling and was not a threat to anyone. It doesn’t matter the Castile was an exceptionally wonderful man and pillar of his community, having a broken tail light is not a valid reason to be executed by a cop, let alone be denied medical attention and allowed to bleed out while his wife and child watch, with the cop pointing his gun at them.
And let’s not lose sight of this issue: FBI’s warning of white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement nearly forgotten.
Police harassment of people based on racial profiling and other criteria that should have no bearing on how the citizen is treated isn’t a new problem. We mostly know about more cases now simply because nearly the entire population carries phones with cameras and the ability to uploads pictures and video to the world wide web from just about anywhere. There have been attempts to deal with the misuse of force by some police even before the era of the smart phone. We should revisit those attempts and figure out which things worked: The Blazer Experiment.
There are things that we can do as individuals. Here are some: How to be a white ally: Fighting racism is your responsibility — start now.
I’m glad that the suspect was stopped before any more cops were killed, but I’m not at all comfortable with the continued militarization of police: Use of robot in Dallas highlights tactical opportunities, ethical questions for police.
Then, of course, there is the man who was not in any way involved in the shooting, but whose picture was plastered all of the world as a suspect, and the stupid reasons that it was: The Case of Mark Hughes, Or Don’t Carry at a Protest. “Hughes may have been totally within his legal rights. But his actions were really only barely less stupid than the jackasses who terrorize folks at the local Bennigans or Home Depot by ‘legally’ walking into a public establishment with an AR-15. Why do you bring a rifle to a peaceful protest? I get it. You do it as a message of self-assertion and power in the face of dehumanization and powerless. It’s still stupid; it’s not the right or a safe way to send that message.”
I’ve spent almost two hours on this post. That’s enough. I’m going to go post more cute cat pictures to my twitter, and then get back to Camp NaNoWriMo.
This one happened Thursday night, but I didn’t see the story until midday Friday, after I’d posted yesterday’s Friday Links, which is why I didn’t include it: Woman seriously injured in Renton theater shooting.
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.
In a follow-up report, police say that the suspect claims he got his gun out because he was afraid there might be a mass shooting, and he wanted to be ready: Police: Suspected theater shooter brought gun to movie fearing mass shooting.
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.