Monday, August 31, 2015

I ain't dead yet...Situational awareness.

Just running the Red Queens Race, which sort of gets in the way of regular blog entries.

Tam's post on situational awareness  kicked over the writing thing for me though. Was down in Pioneer Square last week after being trapped in traffic and discovering a need for dinner - and the only surviving Cajun joint in Seattle is down there - and I like a real jambalaya.

Now, historically Pioneer Square has been a tad rough around the edges. Its cleaned up a fair amount from the bad old days of the 19th century when hookers were dropping flower pots on the heads of passers-by, looting the bodies and selling said bodies onto the UW Med School of the day for use as cadavers.

These days you just have the occasional shooting, stabbing, mugging and drunken brawl. It's become a combination of a social workers dumping ground and Frat Boy Central (with a few bars that would best be described as either catering to the late stage alcoholic or the super-annuated frat boy/girl trying to recapture their youth by re-enactment). Events are not unpredictable - you have a whole bunch of desperate and often addicted folks through whom you are dragging high-value and frequently inebriated potential targets.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

Anyway, I was down there at Marcela's and it was a lovely summer evening - I'd finished my meal and decided to take a little stroll to work off the pecan pie. It was, after all, still light out and in general things don't get frisky till after sunset. Also, at 6'2" and reasonably well filled out many of the frisky seem to be of the view I would make a poor target.

Walk was pleasant enough, but I realized a couple of things.

1) I'd gotten too comfortable. I'm used to hauling my iPhone 6 around in a breast shirt pocket and semi-visible. Various skanky sorts wandered up to ask if they could "use it" - which had me firmly saying "no, but thank you for asking" while reaching for various tools with a reasonable degree of subtlety. In the future, phone carry position will be more discreet.

2) This was the first time I'd been down to Pioneer Square *alone* in years. Alone seems to make a significant difference to the local predators. I think I will do any future solo  Pioneer Square strolls closer to high noon, regardless of how lovely the evening.

As Tam puts it - situational awareness is a constantly honed skill and it has a shelf life. If 95% of your existence happens around semi-safe locations in secure offices, malls, homes and other locations - you may have mal-adjusted assumptions and outdated data.

It seems to me Pioneer Square is, yet again, trending friskier. Protocols modified accordingly.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Same sex marriage, Tolerance, MYOB, Get Off My Lawn & the Constitution

As we grind towards a SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage, various socially conservative folks and organizations are suffering from an epidemic of pants-wetting and chest-beating.

In introduction, I'd point to the ever instructive tale "And Then There Were None" authored by Eric Frank Russell in 1951 that introduced the term MYOB (Mind Your Own Business) to the language and, to a significant extent, the philosophical landscape.

As with many things, MYOB is a multi-edged sword, as I'll explore later. Hang on tight...this may be a rough ride.


Until quite recently (on a historic scale), government more or less ignored the notion of who got married to whom. After the Civil War a variety of anti-miscgenation (no interracial marriage) statutes popped up, and in the early twentieth century heyday of eugenics the whole marriage license thing (i.e., "folks are too stupid to decide who to marry on their own! Government MUST STEP IN!") popped up.

However, beyond ensuring that participants in a marriage are competent and consenting adults entering into a civil contract of their own free will government has no legitimate role in deciding who can and cannot get married and its sole legitimate service is as a civil registrar and default adjudicator of disputed dissolutions.

Civil marriage, essentially a rather convoluted contract between two competent and consenting adults1, is a legal construct defining the obligations, privileges and responsibilities of those engaged in it (who gets the kids, what happens to property, survivorship, tax and legal rights, etc) and is somehow recorded in an official manner.

Some argue that even the default agreements defined by civil marriage should be dropped in favor of individually negotiated contracts of union, thus further lessening state involvement. See Alabama for recent efforts in this area.

The ethical argument is that civil marriage should be available to all competent and consenting adults, in such configurations as such adults believe will ensure their happiness - with neither subsidy nor penalty imposed by the state.

Religious marriage is an entirely different kettle of fish - a private institution whose activities, within exceptionally broad parameters, are protected by the provisions of the First Amendment. When little matters (say, human sacrifice or the use of peyote as sacraments) do come up for legal debate, they are held up against the harshest form of constitutional examination - "strict analysis" wherein the state actor (usually the folks saying "No. Human sacrifice is NOT ok." or "Peyote is bad, m'kay?") have to sell the judges (or SCOTUS) on the notion that not only is there some kind of compelling state interest, but that the state solution to that "interest" is  the least possible infringement on the right in question (here, freedom of religion).

Religious marriage can be considered either a second layer on the wedding cake, or a second sheet cake set parallel on the table to the first. Churches have performed marriages not recognized by the state, Churches have performed marriages not recognized by other churches, and the states have sanctioned marriages not recognized by various churches.

All well and good.

Each faith, within those very broad limits, gets to do its own marriage thing - but that marriage thing, by itself, bears no legal weight. This is also all well and good. Just because a particular faith doesn't like it if a Jew and a Catholic get hitched, or two muslim dudes (or dudettes) tie the knot, or when a Wiccan and a Buddhist of indeterminate gender get married to each other - doesn't mean that those things shouldn't happen - just that a particular faith cannot be compelled to honor or celebrate such unions.

Under such a relatively minor shift from our historic paradigm, everyone - more or less - wins.

Also under the shield of First Amendment protections is the right of people to make statements either celebrating or denigrating either a specific marriage ("YAY!" v. "Jason and Maria - the syphilitic leper marries the sociopathic nymphomaniac, we can but hope they do not reproduce") or a group of marriages as an entire class ("Same Sex Marriage is Bad!", "Inter-racial Marriage is bad," or even "Marriage as a broad general concept is bad!") - and then have those who disagree vigorously respond with criticism and unkind words.

II. You MYOB, too.

MYOB is a game everyone can play. Just be cause you marry someone that - for religious, practical or many other possible reasons - I consider exceptionally bad for either you or for society (or both), doesn't mean I get to do anything more than kvetch about it (and I should probably hold my tongue and let you discover your errors on your own). As long as everybody playing the marriage game is consenting, competent and adult - it's none of my business. (Note that offspring and policy regarding same should be considered a separate argument). 

III. Not everyone does it your way, nor should they have to...

Look. There are a bunch of different ways to do the marriage/family thing out there. So long as you start with competent and consenting adults - from a "does the .gov need to get involved" point of view, as a default you and yours should be allowed to go to hell in your own special and personalized way.

IV. Legal thoughts from a lay person

1) Yes. There are exceptions, with some states and nations permitting substantially sub-adult marriages. There are fights about "what's an adult?" and "what does competent mean???" and the ever popular "what's consent?" You'd think all these questions would be well settled, but no - even in the United States there are significantly different definitions for each of these terms.

2) Isn't marriage, and regulation of it a state level issue? Yes, yes it is. But two factors come into play - "Full faith and credit" and the broader requirement that states act within the bounds of the U.S. and their state constitutions. And off we go to Federal court....

What would you propose?

Get the state entirely out of the marriage business and limit their role to that of licensing and regulating private contract registrars (not unlike domain registrars), and beyond that dealing with the bad actors inherent to any situations where you have large numbers of humans interacting.

A few thoughts on the special snowflakes....or "Are folks engaged in long arm open carry the particularly badly behaved drag queens of 2A?"

So. Tell me how a bunch of drag queens showing up at a Catholic church and mid-service throwing a major hissy advances the cause of LGBT rights?

Or how would that same group of semi-theoretical drag queens, showing up at someones house, kicking in th
eir door, and starting to do a full-out drag show in the middle of the living room of a very startled resident improve LGBT relations with the broader community and protect and restore LGBT civil rights?

Finally, how would our same bunch of drag queens - now riding rental elephants complete with golden howdahs - crashing the local St. Paddy's day parade as a surprise participant improve LGBT rights/causes/etc?

In the first two cases, well before we would even have the discussion "well, how does this advance the cause and why was it a very bad idea?" we'd likely be having a lovely discussion of trespass on private property and breaking and entry...only then to discuss "gee, tell me again how this was such a great idea??" as the matter came up for hostile discussion the subsequent year in Olympia.

Any of the above would be counterproductive for the LGBT community (to put it mildly) and would merit (and likely receive) scathing criticism from that community.

Something roughly equivalent, less the elephants & drag queens & golden howdahs, resulted in a Supreme Court decision ( making clear that not only does a group have a right to associate freely - but that it has the right to refuse to associate.

This, perhaps, was not the intent of the LGBT activists - to score a SCOTUS decision effectively sanctioning their exclusion. This might, perhaps, be a lesson for those in the 2A community.

In other words, a group holding a private event (we'll get back to that shortly) has the right to insist on only admitting those it likes, that display "proper attire" (whatever said group might think such is) or persons that bring boxes of really good belgian chocolate. It may also, barring other provisions of law, ban from their event any person or class of persons the organizers feel either offensive or somehow compromise the First Amendment protected message of the organizers.

You will note the above uses "group" - not "LGBT" group. This is a game everyone can play, and was originally used to deny the right of a bunch of the LGBT Irish folk the right to march or participate in the Boston St. Paddy's parade - a private event.

Now, to our next question - WhAT IS A PRIVATE EVENT!!!!???

Now is a good time to grab an adult beverage and hang on tight.

A private event is some kind of event not sponsored or substantially organized by any governmental organization or paid for with government funds that has not been (for the most part, it gets a bit gray here) publicized as a public event.

As long as said event is held on private property and doesn't somehow violate other law(human sacrifice, as an extreme example, is considered poor form no matter where or at what kind of event you propose to do it at), participatory restrictions are pretty much fair game (consult your attorney for the few and odd exceptions).

A public event is *not* a private event. It happens when an event is announced as a public event or, in most cases, is a government sponsored thing (This comment applies ONLY to WA, and recognizes MANY exceptions). A public event or activity sponsored by a private body is still able to engage in some of the same restrictive practices that a private event may lawfully enact, but not all. IANAL - it's easier to "just not go there" and refrain from discriminating.

In WA, only Governmental bodies (specifically state/county/muni/odd-critters) are completely barred from most forms of discrimination - against gender/orientation/color/ethnicity/religion and, under separate statute, the lawful carry of firearms within the bounds of statue and precedent.

Now, the complex concept - you may believe (and even be correct) that you have the right to do something. That doesn't mean that the "something du jour" is a remotely good idea, isn't counterproductive, and might not look an *awful lot* like a false flag from the hostiles - but you have the *right* to do the "something du jour.*

It doesn't mean you should. It doesn't provide some kind of magic fairy dome immunizing you against criticism, even harsh criticism - particularly from those you claim to be helping who are in fact or believe they have been injured by your "something du jour." And it doesn't mean you have any right at all to demand support from those who you neither consulted, actively derided or simply ignored if it doesn't work out well.

It doesn't even mean that you are sufficiently festive in your "something du jour" that others - who if consulted and/or respected might otherwise have been neutral or even on your side - may not take steps (legislative or otherwise) to neutralize what they see as an active hazard to the well-being and rights of the community du jour (LGBT, 2A, Square Dance Association...fairly universal rule).

When that happens, everyone loses. Years long division that make working together well night impossible are formed, which serve only to ease the work of the hostiles (this is equally true whether we are talking 2A/LGBT/Warthog Breeders Association).

As someone with a wee bit of knowledge and experience of both the LGBT community and the 2A community - the LGBT community is "blessed" with its fair share of do-gooding "we want it all right now or will accept nothing" folks (aka "No Justice, No Peace"), and attention whores. The 2A community is equally blessed, heaven help us.

Neither community really benefits (beyond the "See crazy Uncle Sally over there? The one with the torch and pitchfork? Would you rather work with me or with him?" effect) from the non-consultative "in your face" my way or the highway approach. It can be useful as a last resort, but even then usually carries all kinds of backlash that can end up as a Pyrrhic victory.

The position "because four OC folk were denied access to a small Pride event I shall never again support gay rights for anyone" is a bit beyond the pale. It means you would never be able to work with potential allies, such as Pink Pistols. It means you would have difficulty working with pro-gun Libertarian folks. It is extending ones foot, drawing ones 1911, and opening fire upon the extended appendage. It also fails a fundamental concept of gun safety - target identification.

A far more productive approach might be to simply show up at the proposed site of the 2016 event for a *obscenely early in the morning picnic* with roughly a 100 or so of your best friends, OC'ing or CC'ing pistols, while wearing Pride shirts or Pink Pistols shirts (PP does not discriminate re orientation - if you shoot safely and not at them, they simply don't care)...and simply decline - politely - to vacate as you are present to attend a public event and to celebrate Pride held in a public place. If pushed, retreat to surrounding sidewalks and begin to pamphlet against bigotry.

Getting inside folks heads can neutralize hostiles, befriend fence-sitters, and build relationships that may be useful in pushing common causes forward.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Guilt by Association

For some time now, the vast majority of "mass shooters" have been some variant on "progressive Democrat", and for the most part tetched in some fashion.

Does that mean we should round up Democrats folks of a given political/religious/philosophical bent and keep them in camps for the safety of the general public? Or that we should preemptively incarcerate all mentally ill persons?

Of course not - but this is what our anti-gun opponents would wish on lawful gun-owners: collective punishment for the misdeeds of the few.

Doesn't a tiny part of you whisper "What's good for the goose?"

[Alright. Since I wrote this post based on recollections of some articles from a few months back, it appears that the underlying assumption (or at least the provability thereof) that mass shooters skew (D) has been debunked pending further data. Mea Culpa. The fundamental theme, however, that individual bad acts are, in fact, individual and it is wrong to engage in collective punishment or tar an entire demographic with the actions of a few sick or evil persons remains. So there.]

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Farewell, Seattle

I don't shop downtown anymore.

The guy that does my hair operates down there, and I'm still planning to see him - during daylight hours - but for the most part, I'm done. There are some splendid restaurants down there, but I can find adequate substitutes elsewhere. If I must, I can catch a weekend lunch.

From stupid-high sales tax to miserable parking, from increasing street crime to de-policing and from prices inflated by a nanny-style city government eager to seize on the latest expensive PC trend - I'm done.

The reality is there are less expensive and less painful choices at lower risk of encountering frisky street criminals - we call them "suburban malls" where parking is plentiful and free, prices are lower and the amount of hassle about what kind of bag you can have and how much the city will insist you be charged for the privilege of a bag to carry your merchandise in are simply non-problems.

For the same reason I do my grocery shopping in White Center, I'm moving my shopping for other items to suburbia with only the occasional trip for exotica into downtown (the annual gathering of the Christmas Gag Gifts at Pike Place Market, for instance).

Seattle appears eager to follow Detroit into the pit - I'm not eager to go along for the ride, or to fund it any more than I can avoid.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Protest or Riot?

As a former activist, I not surprisingly have a few thoughts...

A protest involves a bunch of people gathering and expressing their views verbally, waving signs, making speeches and generally being a pain in the neck. It can be a force for good, a force for chaos, a force for evil - or some combination thereof. But what a protest doesn't include is breaking people and things (that is what occasionally happens to protesters, not what they do).

A riot, on the other hand, is a bunch of folks that get busy about looting, arson, assault and the occasional homicide - and merits lethal response.

I suggest that in many instances the Ferguson and Ferguson inspired melee's have crossed that critical line - and that the appropriate response to looters and other violent felons involves utilizing all force necessary to bring their criminal activities to a screeching halt.

Free speech ends well before buildings are burning, witnesses are dying and the looting has begun.

I suggest that things have a fair chance of getting *far* more festive if police are not allowed to step in and end this - soon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It concentrates the mind most wonderfully..

"When a man knows he is to be concentrates his mind wonderfully" - Samuel Johnson

“Some wiseacre once said that the prospect of death concentrates the mind wonderfully, but I’m here to tell you that the chance to work for a reprieve concentrates it a whole heap more.”
 Since January I've been dealing with cancer and cancer treatment, and with my initial diagnosis I should be pushing up daisies about now. Happily, round one of treatment was moderately successful and I am optimistic about round two....

However, while cancer is a right bastard, it brought gifts even as it loomed in the wings....

I've learned how many folks love me and support me. I've been blessed with friends and family and co-workers that support me even in my more dramatic moments. I've been granted (slowly, because it wasn't an easy lesson for me to learn) the opportunity to truly appreciate the Louis Prima song, "Enjoy Yourself!"

There is a LOT of truth in that joyous ditty. None of us know when we're going to go, or (with certainty) how - but sometimes you get a wakeup call. Keeping on keeping on when your miserable and not accomplishing much isn't such a great choice - we only know with any certainty that we're going around but the once, and... well, the song says it better than I...

Life's short. Don't throw responsibility to the winds, but don't forget to allow a bit of joy into your world.. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Helping out the D.C. Council on Gun Laws

Dear Mayor Gray & Council Chairman Mendelson -

I understand you've suffered some reverses with your regime of gun bans, confiscations and prosecutions. Palmer  v. D.C., while unlikely to uproot a fundamentally flawed systems of elitist beliefs, must certainly give pause to any reasonable person committed to the rule of law.

For good or ill, however, you have been granted a 90 day grace period to develop a set of gun laws for your jurisdiction that are, in fact, actually constitutional. This is not a disaster, rather, it is an opportunity.

Look around at what has worked elsewhere in the country. Look to Seattle, a city of roughly the same population, and to Portland, OR (with somewhat lower population) and even to Salt Lake City - and look specifically at their per capita rates of violent crime (it is, after all, the number of injuries and deaths caused by unlawful violence that counts - not the mechanism by which those injuries and deaths are caused, barring a clear correlative relationship).

I would offer, out of good will,  the following as notions for  a proposed ordinance:

1: Recognizing that firearms on federal property are already thoroughly regulated by the federal government, the D.C. city leadership need take no action beyond passing what is essentially a revenue measure, duplicating federal statute.

"It shall be unlawful for any person to have in their possession any weapon on or in any federally controlled property where federal law bars such possession. Persons violating this ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by not more than 364 days in custody and a fine not to exceed two thousand and five hundred dollars. This ordinance shall not apply to any person covered by the federal LEOSA statute, a member of the United States Military on active duty, any person honorably discharged from the U.S. Military nor any person holding a valid license from the political subdivision in which they are resident permitting them to lawfully carry a firearm."

2. Recognizing that "gun free zones" are, at best, historically counter-productive it should also be recognized that declared "gun-free zones" are best avoided.

3. Recognizing under both evolving federal constitutional jurisprudence indicating that lawful carry of arms is a fundamental constitutional right and that further, in jurisdictions that while previously forbidding such that upon legalization of lawful carry of arms that blood has not run in the streets, that crime has not skyrocketed and that the sky has not fallen.

Further, it not having been shown that living outside of the District makes persons uniquely evil or incompetent, and further that it is a reasonable analysis that issuing authorities in other jurisdictions are both competent and cognizant of public safety, it is reasonable to recognize the permits of such other jurisdictions and their political sub-divisions. Thus, the following carry ordinance is suggested primarily as a revenue generator:

"The Washington, D.C.  Chief of Police shall issue to any citizen of the United States or a lawfully present alien therein not otherwise disqualified by federal law a permit to carry readily concealable small arms either openly or concealed about their persons in all places within the District not specifically forbidden by specific District ordinance or Federal statute upon payment to the Chief of Police of the sum of $150 and the successful completion of a background check or the passage of ten days from the initial application to the chief. The Chief shall have the authority to, in circumstances of unique risk to the applicant or their immediate family to grant an emergency permit to carry readily concealable small arms. 

Further, similar permits issued by any of the United States, its territories or the political subdivisions of the States or Territories shall be recognized as being entirely valid within the District while the holders of such permits are either in transit through the District, visiting the District for periods of less than thirty days or while temporarily resident in the District for up to sixty days. Such permits shall also be valid for any federal elected official or their immediate staff who maintain a primary residence outside of the District."

4. Given that every known form of wrongful violence performable by humans with or without the use of small arms of any sort is already unlawful under numerous statutes, no further commitment of time or effort is required in this arena.

The above measures and policy recommendations should serve the District well. Short of issuing hand grenades to the felonious population of the District, it is difficult what policy measures could do much worse than the status quo ante. Certainly,  recognizing the right of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves from the criminal and the crazed as said citizens go about their lawful business seems unlikely to cause any great harm - other than to the criminals and the crazed seeking to prey upon them.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

One piece at a time....

One piece at a time, but it sure did cost SAF a whole bunch of dimes and an awful lot of time. Palmer v. D.C. just came down and it's a lulu. Best I read it is that at least for now, Constitutional Carry is the order of the day in D.C. - till, say, Monday...

When the D.C. Council probably meets in emergency session and has kittens. The decision would seem to *require* them to license carry outside the home, and to treat residents and non-residents just alike in the licensing process.

Of course, if their actions after Heller and Chicago's after McDonald are any guide (and I think they are) they'll try and draw up the most offensive and expensive way to comply with the decision while thoroughly discouraging legal gun ownership and lawful carry.

In any instance, we can thank the kids over at the Second Amendment Foundation and the Two Alans (Gottlieb and Gura) for a major victory that will likely open a lot of doors.  Don't forget to send them a thank you card, maybe with something...nice, folding and green...tucked away inside.

Meanwhile, down in Florida the 11th Circuit belted one out of the ballpark with a decision that the Florida law (Doc's v. Glocks) was in fact constitutional and that health care professionals could not harass gun owners, pry about whether somebody owned guns unless it was for a clinically relevant reason and that they could lose their license to practice if they engaged in such misconduct.

Not a lot of linky here (at least right now) but we'll see later on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

All Bran Muffins

This is one I actually grew up with, or reasonably close - and now, when whimsy (or a little too much dairy) strikes I make up a batch...

All Bran Muffins

2 cups Kellogg's all-bran cereal
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine cereal and milk. Let stand 1/2 hour.
Add egg and oil; beat well. Add rest of ingredients. Beat just until combined.
Pour into well-buttered muffin pans.
Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A few thoughts on Seattle Pride 2014

I'll both qualify myself and make clear that I'm not entirely objective about Seattle Pride right up front - I'm alumni. I've co-chaired a Pride here, run Safety (security) for one, led a wee rebellion against the organizers of another, and participated in the resistance to taking Pride away from its community (moving it downtown, away from our community and our businesses that need our support).

For several years after Pride moved downtown, I got my Pride fix in Portland - because it felt more like a real Pride event nestled in its community rather than an artificial spectacle thrust into a sterile business district. I began attending Pride in Seattle again perhaps two years ago.

This year was the first Pride I can recall where I felt concerned for my physical safety, and where I questioned whether (aside from the crowd on the sidelines) I was attending an LGBT event.

Before the event started, a bunch of pseudo-Phelpsian semi-Christian anti-gay religious protesters were marching up and down the route, roughly two dozen strong - complete with megaphone carefully telling us we were all going to hell if we did not repent and spontaneously turn straight, celibate or both. This did not go over terribly well.

They were unescorted by any sort of security or police presence, agents provocateur dowsing a crowd of roughly half a million with emotional gasoline and then playing with matches.

The crowd was unamused. However, when drag queen Mamma Tits and others stepped up and began to remonstrate with the undesirable, members of the crowd began to step off the sidewalks and form barricades against the interlopers and in support of the drag queens (this would've been in the third pass of the pseudo-phelpsians).

I've occasionally hinted to straight friends that "never screw with a drag queen" was a really good life rule, on the order of "don't leap from tall cliffs into spike lined pits." Neither one works out well.

DefCon 1 had, for a Pride Parade, been achieved and count down begun. (Suggested reading:
Seattle Drag Queen Stands Up To Anti-Gay Protesters Trying To Disrupt Start Of Pride Parade)

500,000 angry folks - no matter how butch or nelly, and regardless of sexual preference or gender - are more than any police department, and certainly more than mall rent-a-cops - can handle. If that many angry folk suddenly decide to express their fury, proper police protocol *should be* "RUN! RUN FOR THE HILLS" as they won't accomplish anything other than getting themselves stomped flat.

Fortunately, someone suddenly had an epiphany - and like magic, a few bike cops appeared and escorted the hateful sorts from the route.

Things never should have been allowed to get to DefCon1 or nor should it have required an epiphany to keep downtown from burning.

Simple rule. Don't drive a crowd of 500,000 to fury or allow others to do so. Corollary rule: don't let other folks do that, either.

Riots don't start with an entire crowd suddenly being struck peeved...they start with 20-30 folks who've "just had enough" and a single punch thrown, drag queen shoved or just the wrong word used. If they are surrounded by folks sufficiently emotionally wrought up (with joy or sadness or whatever, it really doesn't much matter which) the riot tends to spread like wildfire.

I am confused by what to me seems like the negligent inaction of the organizers. That they didn't have their own internal security sweep these goons from the route, surround them or apparently request SPD to do either speaks to either vast ineptness, a complete ignorance of crowd dynamics or a degree of ideological blindness that should preclude them from ever again leading an event more complex than a kindergarten lunch line.

And then we have the Seattle Police Department, that large department going through the throes of de-policing, that merry process where front line officers stop showing initiative or enthusiasm. Instead, under de-policing officers simply serve out their shifts - rigidly following "the book", refraining from rushing to calls (after all, if they arrive while festivities are still in progress they might have to use *force* and be subjected to onerous procedures at high risk to their careers), do not initiate citizen contact unless a felony is clearly in progress directly in front of them (see last for reasoning), and stop volunteering for overtime (say, parade duty). Remote alleys become remarkably well-patrolled between calls, as do under-utilized parks and other areas not known for a measurable crime rate.

De-policing doesn't happen simply because a few officers think it would be grand mischief to commit a white mutiny. It requires an otherwise well-organized organization of individuals of average or above average intelligence with a strong sense of self-respect and professionalism, and that such group of persons rightly or wrongly perceive themselves not only to have been wronged, but insulted. Crapped upon, if you will.

SPD has had a federal monitor imposed on it, foreign leadership solicited, been publicly derided and berated by their political superiors, harshly criticized by the press and placed under what many feel are deeply impractical constraints counterproductive to the departmental missions of crime suppression and keeping the peace.

A white mutiny is, shall we say, less than completely surprising.

The officers I saw at Seattle Pride 2014 were not engaged in preventative activity or any form of crowd control, were disproportionately in the closing years of their careers, and did not appear to be significantly athletic. They were quite successful at traffic control (blocking the route with amazing frequency to move Duck Tours/Metro/Sound Transit Buses across said route), but beyond that their presence was both the sparsest and the most subdued I've ever seen at a Pride event.

The failure to intervene constructively (escorting agents provocateur from the route) before the crowd became combustible would bear an amazing resemblance to de-policing or white mutiny. "Why yes, we were respecting their First Amendment Rights...right till the beatings began..." would be well inside that kind of approach, right along with "No, once the beatings began, there was nothing we could do without violating our Use of Force policy...."

Fortunately, someone with either sense or some remaining sense of professionalism intervened before it became necessary to make such excuses.

"Gee, GC, that sounds like a really bad scene! But surely all else went well!"

Not so much. At the last moment, before things burst into flame, somebody clueful arranged for the Hatezoids to be escorted from the route...and the Parade kicked 11 a.m. (remember that time).

Now, before folks get all festive and start screaming "MISOGYNIST HERETIC! MISOGYNIST HERETIC! READY THE STAKE!" let me be very clear that I love the Dykes on Bikes and their more recent and sillier iteration "Hooters on Scooters."

I love them as an individual - they are a proud tradition of joyous abandon that should lead every Pride Parade. I love them as a former organizer because, done right, 60+ screaming motorcycles will get folks off a parade route like nothing else imaginable - but they MUST go first down the route, with a certain amount of alacrity, or you will end up with overheated dead motorcycles all up and down your route.  I even found the be-shirting to be rather depressing (whatever happened to electrical tape and courage?) and I am not noted for my enthusiasm for seeing hooters (especially super-annuated ones) waving in the breeze.

Dead motorcycles are bad - they kind of get in the way of a parade.

HOWEVER, it shouldn't take them half an hour to pass a given point. It shouldn't involve screaming motorcycles rolling up and down Fourth at what looked an awful lot like 50+ mph. And it shouldn't involve pedestrians (including children) waltzing through the middle of the motorcycle drill (thanks SPD! Thanks rented Pride security!). And while I'm clearly opposed to dumping a motorcycle into a crowd at *any* speed, I'm of the view that dumping a bike into a crowd while pushing 35mph is significantly less bad than doing so while pushing 50mph.

I've also observed that standing on the seat, rather than the pegs, while performing all of the above and waving ones ass in the air does not contribute significantly to improved control of the bike du jour.

Glad you're cute. Glad you feel cute. Glad you're free. Glad you're proud. Now, please don't kill us - not even by accident, not even with the best of intentions.



This is where I return to my normal analytical mode when it comes to Pride. Because the exciting/scary bit pretty much came to a screeching halt (thankfully) with the arrival of the more sedate Hooters on Scooters and another 20 minutes of two wheeled drill (for a total of 50 minutes of such).

The Parade was slow. Like a snail on quaaludes kind of slow.

The current system of selling the front end of the parade to the highest bidder with contingents of unlimited size has led to huge commercial and political contingents moving slowly near the front end that move *very slowly*. The Parade began at 11am - and was still going strong when I left at 2:30 p.m. No parade should *ever* last more than 3 hours.

George Takei was a great Grand Marshal.

Well, of course. What did you expect?

The Parade a slightly festive SeaFair. 

Yes. Between the commercial and political elements, and the various tedious governmental agency representatives the uniqueness of our community got washed out and lost - the drag queens, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the bar floats, the leather community, BOHGOF and the sense of community seemed lost; so dispersed as to be almost irrelevant oddities at the parade they founded and that claims to represent their community.

Bah. Humbug. Terror and boredom is *not* what a Pride Parade should be about.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A gay bashing in NH

An acquaintance recently shared that he'd been verbally harassed for being gay at a business up in New Hampshire. He's a decent sort, aside from being regrettably liberal in his politics (many perfectly good folks are liberal and after life and experience, recover - moving on to a healthy libertarianism or some form of fiscal conservative/social liberal stance). Because I'm a rather wordy sort, I'll respond here and post a link. My comments are in bold.

I was the recipient of an anti-gay confrontation two nights ago which hit me hard. I will post about it but quite frankly, I cannot handle all of the well intentioned, "you should have's" that everyone will post. I know what I should have done. I should have verbally fought back or gone to the police or demanded a response from the management. But I didn't. I froze. I fucking froze. I continued to take the bullying and did nothing. And now I live with the knowledge that "I could have" done something and didn't.
I'm sorry you had to put up with that sort of experience. But it happens - we live in an imperfect world where bigotry persists, with the main variables being how obvious and how physically dangerous any individual incident of bigotry may be. As a bonus, any verbal confrontation or resistance may, utterly unpredictably, devolve into physical violence - putting you at risk of hospitalization or worse.

Bigots (and bullies of other sorts) are predators, and when faced with a predator you have three choices as valid responses - fight, flight or freeze. All high-mindedness aside, when you've been designated as prey by these creatures (and usually there isn't a lot of clarity whether they intend emotional harm, physical harm or simply to drive you from their presence) it is deeply unlikely that educational efforts or reason will do you any good at all (or persuade them of the error of their ways).

Flight is an absolutely great solution, if it still works for you (for me, it's more an exercise in comedy - run 100' or so and fall over gasping isn't a valid safety strategy, exactly). Fight, whether it is a verbal confrontation (and unless you are a hulking behemoth that can persuade the bullies/bigots du jour by your mere physical presence that physical interaction is a dangerously bad choice - verbal confrontation can escalate to physical with blinding speed and horrifying results) or a "right from the start" physical assault is the most socially beneficial strategy. 

Regrettably, consideration of the realities of physical self-defense (particularly with *tools* to balance inequalities in physique, age, health and numbers) - which any rational person must factor into deciding on whether verbal confrontation is "worth it" - is both discouraged in  the LGBT community (leading, all to often to well-meaning folks finding themselves in well over their head) and in the state of your recent domicile ("All I'm saying is that...we really try and discourage people from self-help." - Martha Coakely, MA Atty Gen. re the father who punched out the guy he caught molesting his 4-year-old son).

More pithily, "don't let your mouth write checks your ass can't cover" is almost always good advice, followed with equal pithiness by "when seconds count, the police are only minutes away." Police are dandy at investigation and prosecution - but usually arrive well after the fun is done and injuries are accumulated. You are responsible for your own safety and that of those you care for until the nice officers meander up to the scene.

Finally, "Freezing" is what prey do - and unless you are lucky, can result in visit to hospitals or morgues.

What started the verbal assault against me? The aggressors were quite clear. They read my license plate as I drove into the sandwich shop. It is "EQL MRG". (Equal Marriage) and amazingly they got it. Then they saw my "rainbow belt" which they called out as confirmation of "the type of person I was."
 Outside of protected enclaves, even today, simply being ourselves is an act of courage. To do so deliberately defenseless and unable to effectively flee (whatever the reason) is either an act of courage, an exercise in near-delusional optimism, deep-seated ignorance or just plain old-fashioned dumb - or some combination of all of the above.
It wasn't even a rainbow, for god sake, it was a cotton green and orange stripe. But that was all they needed. And what is even worse, this happened in the town in NH that I was buying my house...directly across the street. My real estate broker, who is gay as well, said something as disturbing. He said, "Tom, you'll be registering your car in NH. Get a regular license plate." Stiff upper lip is all I keep telling myself. I am still shaking after two days.
 You can still go to the police and file a report. You can complain to management/ownership but realize that they are very likely nearly as powerless to intervene as you found yourself - recall that any confrontation (even by management) can get physical and create vast liability for the business (so can failure by the business to intervene, in a bit of a catch-22).  The businesses best course if they observe that the behavior is objectionable and unwanted is usually to call the police - who on national average are a minimum of 11 minutes away. Swing your fist into a pillow - how long did that take? How does that divide into 11 minutes?

The societal benefit of fighting back, such as it is, is that it persuades bullies and bigots that we are not submissive and easy targets - and of calling bigots on their bigotry. Personally it's a little more complex - 10:1 are bad odds (so is 2:1, for that matter); pushing 50 and in ill health  v. pushing 20 and built like an NFL tackle is also bad odds.

You can tilt the playing field in your favor. But the choice to carry a weapon (and do so lawfully) is one that requires serious examination of your ethics and priorities, study of local law on use of force (not mandatory study in most areas, but deeply prudent) and ideally *quality* training (target practice AND training vastly superior to that required for a Concealed license).

These are personal choices. You have my best wishes as you make them, and I am happy to either answer any questions within my expertise or pass you on to those brighter and more knowledgeable than I. And yes, I have contacts in MA that could help out if you choose to explore more active/effective personal safety strategies.

Again, I am saddened that you had this experience - though unsurprised.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iraq & the Middle East

Building an islamic super-state in the middle east run by a bunch of religious fanatics that stretches across the smouldering remains of Iran, Iraq and Syria is clearly not in the best interests of the United States, Western Europe or the resurgent Czarate of the Russian Federation with its multiple islamic occupied territories.

That Turkey, a NATO alley, should become an isolated island of comparative sanity in the cauldron of religious fanaticism, tribalism and assorted madness that makes up the modern middle east is similarly not a good thing.

It's not such a great thing for the folks unfortunate enough to live there, what with being subjected to a regime run by fanatics operating according to a particularly bloody interpretation of Sharia law liberally sprinkled with rampant tribalism.

Having already included "abandoning Iraq according to a publicly announced political schedule" among its many foreign policy faux pas, the sensible thing for any administration with the brains that God gave a microcephalic duck and the morals of as good or better than those of the average rattlesnake to do would be to sigh heavily, mobilize and intervene on a massive military scale before we found ourselves compelled to do so anyway at far higher cost.

Instead we will likely see hemming, hawing, and self-stimulatory rituals performed by this administration even as an entire new set of killing fields emerges under a regime already alleged to be sponsoring mass be-headings in captured cities in northern Iraq. As women are stoned for the crime of being raped. And as LGBT folks are routinely executed for being LGBT folks.

Under the self-righteous narcissism of the current administration we are likely to see the occasional platitude, perhaps even a taking of diplomatic notice. But relief for the suffering, protection of our allies defense of fundamental human rights will have to wait for 2017.