Category Politics & Society

Gay marriage *is* a slippery slope

Alito’s right: there’s no good reason to extend marriage rights to monogamous gay couples but not to sextuples or non-romantic life partners. The government may have a compelling interest in granting special rights to people who are creating the basic social unit, a life partnership. But life partnerships aren’t necessarily heterosexual, or limited to two people, or romantic.


Is gay genetic?

An example of nature/nurture rhetoric in the culture wars. “Is gay genetic?” Stupid questions deserve clumsy phrasing, and—prior to the present landslide of pro-gay sentiment in the US that started a couple years ago—this question used to get thrown around in the press all the time. Its subtext is, “Can you blame someone for being queer?” The claim that homosexuality […]

Je Suis Charlie

This is one of the cartoons which precipitated an attack by Islamist terrorists against the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo last week. While I’m not sure I’m crazy about the magazine’s content—Joe Saaco has a great take on the attacks here—and while I’m concerned about the straw-man the attacks provide to anti-Muslim bigots, the least I […]

Seattle_Underscore, episode 1

Caitlin Sussman and I have come out with the inaugural issue of our new podcast, Seattle_Underscore. In this episode we discuss the CIA torture report and Seattle’s #BlackLivesMatter protests. Links we mentioned in the podcast: Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow Radley Balko: Rise of the Warrior Cop Tim Weiner: Legacy of Ashes: the History of the […]

On the CIA Torture Program

Gul Rahman I’m rather late weighing in on this, but the United States has tortured at least one person to death in the course of its ‘War on Terror.’ Gul Rahman died of hypothermia during “enhanced interrogation” at COBALT, a secret CIA prison probably located in Afghanistan, while chained half-naked to the concrete floor of his cell. This […]

‘Obey Me if You Want to Live’

My last post looked at how advocates of police violence often deploy some version of Thomas Hobbes’ argument for an omnipotent sovereign. That argument goes, ‘Police can use any amount of violence they deem necessary because their ability to preserve order is of paramount importance.’ Notice that the form of this argument is, ‘Police violence is justified by […]

Hobbes’ Defense of Police Force

In recent debates over the #BlackLivesMatter protests, an argument which has been widely deployed in defense of police violence is that anyone who doesn’t cooperate with police is effectively a criminal, and consequently police are justified in using whatever force is necessary to gain compliance. This is essentially a recapitulation of Thomas Hobbes’ argument in Leviathan […]

Moderate impact fees won’t discourage housing development

From a 2007 city consultant report Should the city of Seattle tax housing developers to pay for neighborhood improvements? This is the boiled-down version of the question facing the city council and the mayor in the current debate over development taxation (AKA impact fees, AKA linkage fees). The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat has previously supported […]

Why We Should Pardon WA’s Marijuana Prisoners

Social justice advocates are, by definition, generally supportive of pardoning non-violent drug offenders, since “justice” is difficult to reconcile with “locking human beings in a cage,” especially for crimes with no victim. Marijuana prisoners are an especially compelling instance of such injustice, since the drug has been legal in WA for two years. Our state continues to imprison people […]

For Black Seattleites, recession is nothing new

Originally published in the Capitol Hill Times. Inequality is a hot topic right now. The distribution of wealth and income is heavily skewed in favor of a rich minority, from the local level to the global. As I and many others have argued elsewhere, this gap is not caused by merit. Today’s rich, as a class, […]