@#$&*!!!

First of all, sorry I’ve been away so long. The baby is keeping me busy and when I get a chance at some downtime, blogging isn’t the first thing on my mind.

October 31, Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton was shot and killed while sitting in his patrol car after a routine traffic stop. Trainee Officer Britt Sweeney was hit by gunfire but survived. The accused killer, Christopher Monfort, was shot and apprehended by police November 12th. Monfort is now also suspected in an arson that destroyed three police cars and a mobile precinct on October 22.

November 29, four Lakewood Police officers were gunned down in a coffee shop. Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, Mark Renninger, and Greg Richards lost their lives as they prepared to begin their shifts. Authorities are now on a massive manhunt for Maurice Clemmons.

Neither of these shootings were cases of officers responding to a crime-in-progress. These were ambushes, assassinations. And as I see it, both of these could have been avoided.

Monfort doesn’t have much of a record, just three traffic violations in the past two years. He graduated from University of Washington in March 2008 and appeared to be headed to graduate or law school. He “wanted to make a difference in society” according to his advisor at Highline Community College. So maybe it isn’t anything about Monfort himself that should have drawn red flags, but there was a threatening note left at the scene of the October 22 arsons. One officer told SeattleCrime.com that higher-ups didn’t release the note to other officers, who would have used the information to be more cautious in their surroundings. Not parking on the side of the road after a traffic stop, for example.

The case against Maurice Clemmons seems more clear. He was supposed to be serving 95 years in prison in Arkansas, but Gov. Huckabee commuted his sentence. He violated his parole and went back to jail for a few years. One source said he has been convicted of 13 felonies, but another said that he had five felony convictions in Arkansas and eight felony charges in Washington.  Clemmons was most recently arrested for child rape and assaulting a sheriff’s deputy.  Unfortunately it is Washington law that bail must be set for all crimes except capital offenses.  He came up with the necessary $15,000 to be released and five days later murdered four police officers.  As of my writing this, Clemmons is still evading capture.

Five cops, all with at least 11 years experience are dead, and it seems that they would still be with us were it not for some procedural screw ups.  Officer Brenton (and all other area law enforcement) should have been alerted to the threat found at the arson scene.  And it’s baffling as to how a repeat offender and parole violator with an obvious lack of respect for the law (punching a deputy in the face) and questionable mental stability (his wife says he told his rape victim he was Jesus) was let out on bail.

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New fiction

A week or two ago, I wrote a short story which is my first piece of fiction in years. Also, I haven’t been on WordPress lately, and it looks a little different. Anyways, I thought I’d post my new story. Yes it’s first person, but it’s fictional. I have not done all the things the narrator has done, and I have done a few of the things she says she’s never. My American History TA did have red Chucks, though. Enjoy.

I arrived to the classroom early. I quickly found a desk by the window and shoved my books underneath. I laid my notebook on the desk and fished through the big pockets of my brown coat, searching for my favorite blue pen. As the room filled, I paged through the notebook looking for a blank sheet. I handled it carefully. Some of the pages were wrinkled or stained, others barely held onto the spiral binding. Here it was second semester of my senior year, and I was still carrying the same notebook that I had taken to every other writing class of my college career. The first section was filled with first drafts of argumentative essays from composition class. I had debated over culturally offensive mascots, privatized space exploration, and the effectiveness of gun control in preventing suicides. The second section was supposed to be from my poetry writing class. I hadn’t been very inspired, and the pages were covered more with my geometric doodles than actual verses. Looking back at that section, I could remember the days I was especially bored by the numerous colors of ink on a single page. I had heard from several people that this was a really interesting and useful class. I hoped so. I actually wanted this third section of the notebook to be filled with funny words and thoughtful insights, not statistics like the first section or colorful drawings like the second.

The bell rang and I looked up. I was so busy going through my old notebook, I hadn’t noticed the instructor until now. She didn’t look much older than me. She had long, wavy brown hair and a great complexion. She had a fuzzy gray scarf around her neck that reminded me of my German 102 TA from freshman year and a black sweater. With her skinny jeans and black flats, she was decidedly more hip than any of my other instructors. Well, there was my American History TA who always wore red and white Chucks, but he was a he, and that didn’t interest me.

“I hope everyone had a lovely winter break,” she began. Her eyes were bright and her voice clear. “Welcome to spring semester and welcome to Creative Writing. I’m Julie Siddell. I’m working on my Masters in American Literature. My thesis is looking at drug and alcohol use in American Lit. Two of the books I’m focusing on are Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Sun Also Rises. Was anyone here in my Modern American Novels class last semester? No? Okay, well I will be teaching it again next fall and we’ll be reading both of those books.”

Damn, I thought. I missed my chance. I’m graduating in May. No “next fall” for me. I’ve already read both of those books, but I would probably take any class this girl would teach.

“This is a fairly big class, but I would still like everyone to try to get to know each other’s names,” she continued. I looked around, probably 35 people in here. “So let’s start in this front corner by the door and everyone say their name, major, year in school, and one activity you do outside of class.”

The first girl recited the required answers. We will probably be doing peer reviews and critiquing each other. I should probably get to know them. I tore my attention off of Julie and tried to listen to my classmates. A lot of freshman and sophomores. A lot of undecided majors. Ugh, a lot of girls citing their sorority as their extracurricular. There were a couple people I’d had other classes with, including Rob, a guy from my major. I recognized two guys and a girl from the LGBT tutoring center.

It was my turn. “I’m Katie Nelson. I’m a senior in broadcast journalism. I’m involved with a lot of activities around campus, but I’ve been in Student ACLU all four years.”

“Are you going to be an on-air personality?” Julie asked.

She hadn’t asked Rob that. “Oh no, I want to be a radio producer,” I answered.

“I see.” I think she blushed as we moved onto the next person.

When introductions were finished, Julie picked up a stack of papers from her desk. “This is the syllabus,” she said. “I know a lot of professors go over these on the first day of class, but I think you’re big kids and can read it on your own. I want to get right down to writing. I’m sure you are all on different levels with your writing skills as well as your creative thinking, so I want to do a little in-class exercise so I can get a feel for where all of you are at. Write a list of twenty rules you’ve broken. Don’t elaborate too much, we only have 30 minutes of class time left.”

Twenty rules I’ve broken? Twenty? Does she expect us all to be little deviants? I’ve broken the speed limit. I’ve exceeded the time limit on parking spots. I drank underage and I’ve bought alcohol for minors. This wasn’t creative. Everyone has done these things. I used to get into bars with a fake ID, and one time I rolled at my friend’s apartment. The time was ticking away and I’d only thought of six violations. I broke curfew in high school. I never did the algebra homework. I called in sick to my cafeteria job when I wasn’t really sick. I used my cellphone at the hospital when the sign said it was supposed to be turned off. I snuck my video camera into a Tegan and Sara concert. Okay this might be cheesy, but I wrote down that I’ve broken the rules of grammar and wore white shoes after Labor Day. Maybe this was the creativity Julie was looking for. I got a girl’s number and called her the next day instead of waiting three days like my friends said you’re supposed to. I always read my new issue of Vanity Fair in Geology 101. Hmm, that’s probably not against a specific rule, just frowned upon. I didn’t write that one down. I had come up with fourteen, but class was almost over and I couldn’t think of any more. I racked my brain. I’ve never cheated on a test. I’ve never cheated on someone I was dating. I have lied, fifteen. I’ve never dated my friends’ sisters or my exes’ friends. I’ve never revealed a secret someone told me. I’ve never shoplifted. I trespassed on an old railroad bridge hiking with my friends, sixteen. At a laundry mat, I drank coffee that was for customers only, seventeen. I jaywalk constantly, eighteen. I started thinking about how much I was revealing about myself to Julie. She was beautiful, but a stranger nonetheless. I waded in a fountain that people aren’t supposed to play in, nineteen. It had been in the back of mind for the whole assignment and I decided to risk it. For number twenty I wrote, “I’ve never dated my teacher, but if you’ll call me sometime, that’ll be a rule I’ve broken.” I thought about scribbling it out, but the bell rang and Julie was already walking around the room collecting the lists. My chest tightened as I handed her my paper. She smiled at me, and I hoped she would still be smiling at me the next time our class met.

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Torchlight 8K highlights

I ran the Seafair Torchlight 8K last night. That translates to 4.97 miles, but we’ll call it 5. I hadn’t trained enough for how fast I ran it, so I felt pretty bad throughout the majority of the race. Official results probably won’t be up for another 10 hours or so. It wasn’t all bad, so here’s some highlights:

The costume contest. A bunch of people ran dressed like pirates. There was a pirate wench with a helium balloon parrot on her shoulder. Three families did costumes that even involved their jogging strollers–Captain Hook’s pirate ship, a Blue Angel fighter jet, and the Batmobile.

Not in the contest, but still in costume: 6-8 people ran the entire race in a group and they were all dressed like bees. Pretty adorable and they looked like they had a blast.

The parade route. Part of the race course went down 4th Ave. where people had already lined up for the Torchlight Parade. Bunches of kids–and some adults–stood up along the route waiting to get their hands slapped (don’t know if that’s the right word, but they weren’t exactly highfives) by the runners. I was so exhausted that I didn’t really wanna go out of my way to do this, but I got a few and it was fun to watch.

My time. I set the goal of running an 8 1/2 minute-mile pace. To achieve that, I needed to run the course in under 42:30 and while I don’t know my official time, the clock said 41:26 when I crossed the finish line. My official time will be faster since it didn’t start until I crossed the start line. So regardless of how I felt, I did make my goal!

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Disgusting

Westboro Baptist Church is protesting at a soldier’s funeral today in Germantown, IL.  It’s a tiny community of 1,100 near where I went to high school.  Illinois National Guard Staff Sargeant Joshua Melton was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan June 19, leaving behind a wife and 16-month-old daughter.  If you don’t know about these people, the loonies from this “church” aren’t protesting the war.  They’re there to blame American soldiers’ deaths on our country’s acceptance of “fags.”  At least 80% of the “church’s” 90 members are related to leader Fred Phelps.  I don’t understand them at all.  Their tactic of picketing funerals is sickening, and I don’t see anyone joining their movement.  My thoughts are in Germantown today, where a family and community should be left in peace to honor and remember a fallen loved one.

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Rhetoric, shmetoric

It’s nice to have a president who can actually string two sentences together.  It’s nice when he says things like this:

While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

or

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Read the full proclamation here.

But what good are those words, when his Department of Justice writes things like this:

To deny federal recognition to same-sex marriages will thus preserve scarce government resources, surely a legitimate government purpose.

or

As a result, gay and lesbian individuals who unite in matrimony are denied no federal benefits to which they were entitled prior to their marriage; they remain eligible for every benefit they enjoyed beforehand. DOMA simply provides, in effect, that as a result of their same-sex marriage they will not become eligible for the set of benefits that Congress has reserved exclusively to those who are related by the bonds of heterosexual marriage.

or

DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits. To the contrary, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited in federal employment and in a wide array of federal benefits programs by law, regulation, and Executive order…. Section 3 of DOMA does not distinguish among persons of different sexual orientations, but rather it limits federal benefits to those who have entered into the traditional form of marriage.

Read the full brief here.

Please join me in expressing disappointment about this brief.

Contact the President

Online.

via Twitter @barackobama or @whitehouse

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

Contact the Department of Justice, including Attorney General Eric Holder.

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

askdoj@usdoj.gov

Department of Justice Main Switchboard – 202-514-2000

Office of the Attorney General – 202-353-1555

Contact your legislators.

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Remembering Stonewall & Moving Forward

Washington State Senator Murray Op Ed – June 11, 2009

On June 28, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community celebrates an earlier generation who, one evening, finally had enough of being marginalized, drew a firm line in the sand, and fought back.

Forty years ago, at a little bar in the West Village called Stonewall, a group of LGBTQ people spontaneously staged an uprising by resisting police arrest, discrimination, persecution and public humiliation. Their show of courage – particularly that of the drag queens, who were the bravest on that night – launched the modern-day gay rights movement.

Forty years later, as we honor the anniversary of this historic occasion with Pride Parades around the country, I look at how far we’ve come and how much further we need to go. That seems to be what forty asks us to do: look back to measure our success and look forward to make sure we accomplish our goals.

As of 2009, five out of fifty states recognize the love, partnership and marriage of same sex couples – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Maine. Around the world, many countries have made huge advances accepting that love is equal.

And in Washington State we have made significant strides towards equality. In 1994, under the leadership of the late Sen. Cal Andersen, the state Legislature passed hate crime protections for gay and lesbian individuals. In 2002 the Legislature passed my bill to help ensure that our schools are safe places for gay and lesbian students. In 2006, the Legislature passed my civil rights bill to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing, and financial transactions. For the past three years, I’ve sponsored legislation to extend domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples, so that we are now treated the same as married couples under state law. And this year, under the leadership of Sen. Joe McDermott, the Legislature passed hate crime protections for transgender individuals.

We are standing together united as couples in love and as individuals, recognizing that our country was founded on the premise of equality and acknowledging that none of us are free until all of us are equal.

This last 40 years hasn’t been easy. We’ve made many strides, and we’ve suffered many disappointments. We have overcome and reversed discriminatory laws. And we have lost many fallen heroes along the way from Harvey Milk, to Matthew Shepard, to the too many victims from AIDS and the ones that remain unknown as they took their lives when rejected by family, friends and the only community they knew. As of 2006 studies showed that LGBTQ teens are four times as likely to take their lives then their heterosexual counterparts. Yet we are still here, as a minority and being joined by our heterosexual counterparts who understand the meaning of freedom and justice for all.

Let me be clear, this is not just a fight to legalize marriage equality for same sex couples. That is one of many battles that the LGBTQ community faces. Just as the patrons of Stonewall were not safe to express themselves openly and honestly in public, we as a community and as individuals are not always safe in our families of origin, our schools, places of worship, our workplace and our communities. We are fighting for safety. We are fighting for recognition. We are fighting for acceptance. We are fighting for equal rights under the law. And we are fighting to explain that we are all in this together, as human beings with the same needs for food, shelter, and love.

And with that I call on all citizens to join forces and unite to make sure that all people, LGBTQ people in particular, are safe and protected by law as individuals, couples, in business, schools and communities. We must stay engaged and turn our disappointments into positives. We can gently come out to the communities who don’t recognize our rights. If they know us, it will be easier for them to accept us. Be visible. Continue this fight and one day we will know longer need to have this conversation as we will be recognized as equals.

Every person around the state needs to be willing to work for equality. That is how they won Stonewall, and that is how we will win here.

Please join with me in the month of June to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall and continue in our fight for equality. The full calendar of events to raise awareness and funds for the equality movement can be found at http://www.celebratestonewall.org

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Just a little nugget today

Yes, the worst terrorist attack in our history was perpetrated by a foreign conspiracy. But the second worst, the Oklahoma City bombing, was perpetrated by an all-American lunatic. Politicians and media organizations wind up such people at their, and our, peril.

-Paul Krugman, New York Times op-ed

Read the full article here.

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Rethinking late-term abortion

In my earlier post about the murder of Dr. George Tiller, I said “I’m not much of a supporter of late-term abortions.”  When I wrote that, I was in the category of ignorant people disgusted by the idea of a woman who took six months to decide if she wanted a baby.  Additionally, we’re having this enormous argument over a tiny percentage of the total abortions performed.  In 2003, only 1.4% of abortions in the U.S. were performed at or after 21 weeks.

Since Tiller’s murder, story after story have come out about types of situations where women choose late-term abortions.  (There are various definitions of “late” so I’m going with after 21 weeks.  No fetus is viable before 21 weeks, and nearly all are viable after 27 weeks.) They are stories of horrible birth defects that aren’t detected early.

I just had a baby, so I know how some of these screening processes work.  An amniocentesis is done after the 16th-18th week.  They provide a diagnosis for certain DNA abnormalities, but since they present risks for the fetus, they are not recommended for every pregnancy.  The quad screen is also done around the 16th-18th week and assesses risk for certain abnormalities, but does not actually diagnose.  If the quad screen shows a high risk for something, it will be followed up by an ultrasound.  The ultrasound can be done between the 17th-22nd week, but my doctor said to wait til the 20th-22nd weeks to ensure the best view for the ultrasound.

So at this point, a woman may not know of a serious abnormality until the 22nd week of pregnancy.  After receiving this terrible news, it must take a woman a bit of time to decide how she wants to proceed.  If she chooses to terminate the pregnancy, there’s only three places in the whole country–now only two–that will perform the procedure for her.  Even more time will pass as she has to make an appointment and travel arrangements.  Time is passing, but now it cannot be blamed on indecisiveness.

Furthermore, I’m concerned about people, including our President, dismissing the mental health of the mother as a legitimate reason for a late-term abortion.  Then-Senator Obama stated:

Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term.

Carrying a fetus with genetic abnormalities is not physically harmful for the mother, unless the fetus dies and the body doesn’t spontaneously abort it.  But can you imagine the distress it would cause a woman–her entire family, really–to give birth to a baby with one of these disorders?

First let me say, I am not classifying Down Syndrome as a justification for late-term abortion.  The average lifespan of someone with Down Syndrome is 49 years, and only a small number suffer from severe to profound mental disabilities.  While working in therapeutic horseback riding, I met a woman in her early-20s who had Down Syndrome.  She lived in a group home, bagged groceries at a local supermarket, got to ride horses once a week along with other Park District activities, and generally seemed very happy with her life.

What do I think should justify a late-term abortion?

Trisomy 18 (aka Edwards Syndrome): Heart defects, kidney malformation, intestines protrouding outside the body, cleft palate, small head, small jaw, difficulty breathing, difficulty eating, extra fingers and toes.  50% of babies born with Trisomy 18 die in the first 2 months, 5-10% will reach their first birthday, 1% live to be 10.  The median life span is 5-15 days.

Anencephaly (warning: link contains graphic images): Fetus is missing all or part of the brain, top of the scull and scalp are usually missing.  Of the babies that survive birth, 60% die within 24 hours and 95% die within a week.

These are the two I am most familiar with, but there are probably others.

Now I understand when people who knew Tiller talk about how much he cared about women.  Now I’m concerned that there’s only two places left in the country where women can end such ill-fated pregnancies.

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How terrible

I never would have thought that I could actually hope that someone was enormously ignorant–til now.

She denies knowing spouse raped stepdaughters

1.  I hope she didn’t know he was raping her children, because what kind of mother would allow her daughters to be abused for four years?

2.  I hope she didn’t know he served eight years in prison and is a registered sex offender for “lewd acts on a child,” because what kind of mother would even risk exposing her children to that degree of harm?

If she was aware of these facts, she’s almost as much of a monster as her husband.  If she is as ignorant as I hope she is, I still don’t find her totally blameless.  You have to know what is happening in your own home with your own children.  And–sad as it is to say–in this day and age you have to know who you are letting near your family.

UPDATE:  I’ve done some further reading on the case, and it seems that the mother knew of her husband’s past.  This article claims that she had to wait to marry him since not having contact with children was part of his parole agreement.

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Be a little more Christian, pt 2

Abortion_Shooting_Tiller.sff.standalone.prod_affiliate.81

Galatians 6:7 — “Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatever a man shall sow, that also shall he reap.”

You’ve heard it before, and probably in reference to Dr. Tiller– “You reap what you sow.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that they’re forgetting that God is the judge.  Who are we to decide who has done wrong and how they deserve to pay for their deeds?  If God wants George Tiller to burn in Hell, he’ll make that happen.  It wasn’t anyone’s job to speed up God’s decision.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. –Matthew 7:1-5

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