Washington state

A Certain Shade of Gray

Detail of frame from Durarara!!!

KING 5 overstates the lede:

Washington health experts say deaths due to fentanyl have roughly doubled in the state in only a year. The drug is cut into heroin and other drugs as a cheaper alternative and often times without people knowing.

A new investigation released Wednesday by the State Department of Health, State Toxicology Laboratory, University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and Public Health Seattle & King County shows deaths from fentanyl and related drugs rose to 70 in 2016 from 28 in 2015.

The State Toxicology Lab says we can’t compare the numbers directly because halfway through the year, the lab changed its testing methods in order to detect smaller amounts of fentanyl. Had it used the old protocol, the lab would have identified 53 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016.

However, the 70 deaths account for 10 percent of all opioid-related deaths in the state.

Even still, the comparative reality isn’t exactly good news. Nor is there much comfort in not being elsewhere. WUSA, via KING 5:

Knoxville police are keeping their eyes out for a dangerous and deadly drug. It looks like a chunk of concrete, can kill with one dose, and is being called ‘Gray Death.’

So far, it’s been found in Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky, which are all states connected to Tennessee by an interstate.

According to reports, the drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, and includes an elephant tranquilizer called Carfentanil.

That tranquilizer showed up in Tennessee for the first time this year. Since then, it’s been found in five separate cases, including one in East Tennessee.

Remember: You can call it “gray death”, and someone will still want to use it.

At the same time, the joke about the nanovirus doesn’t work; the opioid epidemic is a bit more serious than video game obscurities. Still, of course they called it “gray death”.

(It’s a marketplace thing. See, back when KGB was popular as “killer green buds”, the marijuana didn’t actually kill you. Of course they called it “gray death”. Think about who we’re dealing with, here inasmuch as anyone would actually manufacture and distribute the stuff.)

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Tan, LiLi. “‘Kill pill’ intensifying opioid epidemic”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

WUSA. “New drug called ‘Gray Death’ can kill with just one dose”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

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The Evergreen Tip (Trump Trump Mix)

#Justice | #WhatTheyVotedFor

VIII. Adjustment.

“The States have satisfied the Winter test because they have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of the claims that would entitle them to relief; the States are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; the balance of equities favor the States; and a TRO is in the public interest. The court also finds that the States have satisfied the ‘alternative’ Cottrell test because they have established at least serious questions going to the merits of their claims and that the balance of equities tips sharply in their favor. As the court noted for the Winter test, the States have also established a likelihood of irreparable injury and that a TRO is in the public interest.”

Judge James L. Robart

Justice on the Evergreen Tip

The Washington State Capitol building in Olympia, Washington, 11 September 2012. (Photo: Apaschen)

A note from the northwest corner comes via The Hill:

A bipartisan group of Washington state legislators on Monday said they would introduce new measures to end the state’s death penalty.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) and Republicans and Democrats from both chambers of the state legislature said capital punishment had become too costly, and that there is little evidence that the death penalty deters any crimes. State Sen. Mark Miloscia (R) will introduce legislation in the Republican-led Senate, while state Rep. Tina Orwall (D) will carry the bill in the Democratic-led House.

“As a means of effective punishment, the death penalty is outdated,” state Sen. Maureen Walsh (R) said in a statement released by Ferguson’s office. “Not only is life-without-parole more cost-effective, it also offers the certainty that is an essential element of justice.”

Both Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and former Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), who lost to Inslee in the 2014 race for governor, back the proposal.

(Wilson)

(more…)

The Hook (Hillary Under the Sun)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. (Detail of photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

And there is the hook:

Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remain two of the leading contenders for Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick, but Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is also under active consideration, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the process.

Booker, a freshman senator and former mayor of Newark, has drawn relatively little attention throughout Clinton’s vice-presidential selection process but remains a serious prospect. He was among the roughly half-dozen potential running mates who met with Clinton at her home in Washington on Friday, a fact first reported Thursday by Politico.

(Wagner and Gearan)

Please let this be the hook.

On Sen. Booker (D-NJ): It is easy enough to say if not Warren then Booker. But neither is Mr. Booker a second choice for lack of better. Nor, in that context, should we view Sen. Kaine (D-VA) or Sec. Vilsack (D-IA) so poorly. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Photo by Jake Rosenberg/The Coveteur. But in the case of the latter, Hillary Clinton can at least perceive the need for someone less institutionally ensconced than either of these stalwart political résumés offer the powerful left-flank movement asserting policy influence, a bloc whose votes and continued support she needs.

Sen. Warren (D-MA) seems the obvious choice, but truth told there is a fine argument for what she can do from the Senate, but this also presumes enough pressure on Democratic leadership in the Senate to buck future Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and Whip Richard Durbin (IL). It’s a tough proposition, but the Senate Democrats under Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray (WA) or Amy Klobuchar (MN) would be a powerful majority caucus; as a minority, it seems an easy suggestion that they would be more effective than what Mr. Reid (NV) has managed in the face of Republican intransigence. It’s all speculation, though. The bottom line is determined by Hillary Clinton, this time; she can perceive the need, but how will she address and reconcile it?

Elevating Sen. Booker as her running mate is one of the things she can do. And should anyone find cause to doubt we are getting civil rights president out of this, selecting Mr. Booker would put that question to rest.

(more…)

The Straight Dope

'Scuse me while I responsibly point this at you.

Here’s a a narrative for you, via Kenny Ocker at the News Tribune:

According to court documents:

The teenager set up a drug deal on Facebook with a friend. His friend met the dealer, who showed him the marijuana he wanted. The friend grabbed the bag and ran.

The dealer and the passenger from his car chased the friend about 50 yards before the teenager — wearing a mask and showing a handgun — showed up and asked, “What’s up?”

The dealer and passenger then ran toward their car.

The teenager went to put the gun back into his pants and the weapon fired a bullet through his leg.

In a state where marijuana is legal, this makes exactly no sense. Honestly, you know that bit about how one needs to live, instead of merely exist? Some days it seems like living isn’t enough; it’s like people need to live in an action movie.

Or a one-star farce.

Pick your poison.

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Ocker, Kenny. “Lakewood teenager shoots himself in groin during robbery attempt, documents say”. The News Tribune. 2 May 2016.

A Question of Right and Conscience

The Seal of the State of Washington

This is important:

Washington state can force pharmacies to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, a federal appeals court said Thursday in a long-running lawsuit brought by pharmacists who said they have religious objections to providing the drugs.

The unanimous decision Thursday by the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2012 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton, who had found that the state’s rules violated the religious freedom of pharmacy owners. It was the second time the appeals court reversed Leighton in the case.

“This unanimous decision is a major victory for the people of Washington,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a prepared statement. “Decisions regarding medical care — including reproductive rights — are appropriately between a patient and his or her medical professionals.”

(Johnson)

Evergreen, get ready.

No, really. We’re into the presidential preseason. Do we really think Republicans are going to let this pass?

Then again, the lines are pretty clearly drawn this time; social conservatives can afford to lose, just not spectacularly and publicly. And should we add the consideration that they would be abandoning the marriage equality headlines in order to be seen hounding women yet again? It’s always a mystery, because most days soccons are perfectly happy to come for the women, and come again.

When your conscience requires your righteousness to harm others, we might suggest a careful inspection of its components. Should you do this for the Glory of the Lord, we might beg consideration of where your earthly judgment and cruelty stands within the God’s purview.

The Ninth said no. Round three, anyone?

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Johnson, Gene. “Ruling: Washington can require pharmacies to dispense Plan B”. KIRO TV. 23 July 2015.

Not Good News

Detail of graph by Mark Nowlin/Seattle Times showing death rates for various drugs in King County, Washington, between 1997 and 2014.

Just, you know, take note: We have a problem.

Fatal overdoses linked to heroin surged by 58 percent in King County last year, fueling the steepest rise in local drug-caused deaths in 17 years.

Heroin was involved in 156 deaths in the region in 2014, up from 99 the year before — and just 49 in 2009. Overall, there were 314 drug deaths in the area last year, the highest number since 1997, according to a report released Thursday by the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.

The only word to describe the trend is “distressing,” said Caleb Banta-Green, an affiliate associate professor of health services with the UW School of Public Health.

“I knew it was going to go up,” he said. “I didn’t know it was going to go up that much.”

(Aleccia)

Should we pause a moment to consider that no such bad news ever fails to get worse, well, right, we get interesting notes like this, as well:

Drug deaths tied to methamphetamine also jumped by 59 percent, with 70 deaths in 2014, up from 44 the year before. Among primary heroin users, meth was the common secondary drug of choice, used in about a quarter of cases.

Right. You know. One of those mixes I just never have figured out how to understand.

(more…)

A New Way of Doing Things

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 31: U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas looks on during a tailgate party before the start of a Fayetteville High School football game on October 31, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. With less than a week to go before election day U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is holding a narrow lead over incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“Of course, in the American tradition, the idea of elected American officials trying to sabotage American foreign policy, on purpose, brazenly undermining our nation’s attempts at international leadership, seems plainly ridiculous. But in 2015, it’s become an increasingly common Republican tactic.”

Steve Benen

This is not a good sign:

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the nation’s most aggressive climate deniers and the man Senate Republicans chose to lead the Senate committee on environmental policy, wasn’t subtle when describing his sabotage ambitions.

“The Tom Cotton letter was an educational effort,” Senator Snowball told the WSJ.

It is impossible to state with appropriate gravity the strangeness of the #GOP47; this really was, once upon a time, out of bounds. And it is, at the very least, foolhardy, if not downright dangerous. The difference between the two is up to voters; if this is the what they expect of governance, the marketplace will respond, and this will be how foreign policy goes. To the other, if this really is as worrisome to Americans as many seem to think it should be―and, yes, that includes the triune staff of This Is (Me, Myself, and I, as the old Gilligan’s Island joke goes)―what will Americans say when a Republican is in office and Democrats are trying to stymie some foreign policy initiative? Is this the way it will go, or will Democrats be expected to play by obsolete rules that will cost them at the ballot box and, as a result, cost everyone else in terms of policy resolution?

If it was good enough for Bush when he negotiated our exit from Iraq, then it is good enough for Obama trying to negotiate against a future nuclear war, or simply haggle over clean air. When Republicans appeal to some version of common sense―should the Senate have a say in this or that?―remember the standard they are appealing against. There is an unfortunate appearance in American politics and governance that we only get around to certain assertions of the right thing when there are other complicating issues. There are plenty who rightly wonder if the president’s skin color is what inspires Republican hatred. Others might suggest that the GOP has simply run out of tricks in opposition to a Democratic president at a time that interrupts their effort to build a warring New American Century. Regardless, however, of what leads to such conservative lunacy, Republicans need to knock it the fuck off.

And, quite frankly, American voters need to make that point. Out in Washington state, Democrats held a supermajority for years, and generally refused to use it; this conforms to an older political model by which such strongarming is considered unseemly. In the face of conservative bullying, however, it has long been a question whether or not this is an appropriate resolution for the question. As Republicans grow their game, perhaps we might look upon Democratic incompetence as a series of opportunities lost for the sake of some dignity that voters don’t give a damn about anymore. In the end, two state Senate Democrats rolled, handing the chamber to Republicans, and once again our sense of obligation―say, funding the schools to meet constitutional requirements―is brought into question as an issue of whether or not it is worth fulfilling those commitments. That is to say, given a chamber to control in our state government, Republicans returned the discussion to whether or not it is financially worth obeying the law.

Perhaps state Democrats should have used their supermajority.

Nonetheless, what will the American people say if Democrats, under a Republican presidential administration, return the favor?

Don’t want them to do that? Then don’t ask them to.

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Benen, Steve. “GOP sees Cotton sabotage strategy as ‘an educational effort'”. msnbc. 27 April 2015.

The Twenty-First Century, Last I Checked

Gerry Pickens discusses his current situation and unemployment. Pickens, who was Orting’s first black police officer, was fired five days before his one-year probation period ended. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post, April, 2015)

This is unsettling:

Maybe it was because he had the least seniority that he had been given an older car, with a battery that occasionally went dead when he turned on his police lights. Maybe the police chief was only trying to be thoughtful when he mentioned, in Pickens’s memory at least three times, that Pickens should be vigilant about his self defense because Orting was an old-fashioned place that believed in the Second Amendment, where white supremacist groups remained active and well armed. And maybe Pickens had only himself to blame when his imagination began obsessing about those groups between 2 and 6 a.m., when he was the only officer on duty. He sometimes wondered: If one of those groups ambushed him, would anyone provide backup? How long before help would arrive?

(Saslow)

Growing up, Orting was the next town over. It is not quite accurate to say the place isn’t memorable, but it is what it is, a small town. Believe it or not, what I remember is playing golf in Orting. And a weird anecdote about a lady whose next door neighbor in one direction was a local call, but long-distance in the other. There was also the realization that if the warning sirens waited until Mount Rainier actually explodes, there would be no point, as the people would not have time to get out of the way.

But this? Having come up in that part of Pierce County, Washington, the unsettling aspect is not specifically that the issue arose, but, rather, that it somehow managed to wait until the twenty-first century. After all, this is not an unfamiliar waypoint along the path to societal justice, but it also seems like something our society should have gotten through sometime last century. Other than that, yes, this was probably inevitable.

This is Orting we’re talking about, after all.

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Saslow, Eli. “For tiny Orting, Wash., a foundational shift”. The Washington Post. 18 April 2015.

Weak Tea

The Washington State Capitol building in Olympia, Washington, 11 September 2012.  (Photo: Apaschen)

H/T WND / CORRECTION: This piece originally stated that the tea party activists took down the flag. It was taken down by a state worker with the activists looking on. (Huffington Post, 6 April 2015)It is, in its own right, an interesting paragraph:

The truth is, temporarily flying a foreign visitor’s flag during his or her diplomatic visit is pretty routine stuff. When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited with then-President George W. Bush in April 2006, the Republican White House flew “a Communist China flag” at “the same height” as “Old Glory,” too. It wasn’t a big deal. The republic remains intact.

(Benen)

Then again, what does it mean?

And do you really want to know?

The real question has to do with who is or isn’t paying attention, and why would anyone listen to the latter? The correction at Huffington Post is worth the time to read, if for no other reason than reminding what happens when one trusts World Net Daily. Of course, it also reminds that Benen is correct, and the Tea Party activists apparently have no idea what they’re on about. That latter is nothing new.

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Image note: Top―The Washington State Capitol building in Olympia, Washington, 11 September 2012. (Photo: Apaschen) Right―Correction appended to Jesse Rifkin’s article for Huffington Post, 6 April 2015.

Benen, Steve. “Sometimes, a flag is just a flag”. msnbc. 7 April 2015.

Rifkin, Jesse. “Tea Partiers Protest Chinese Flag At Washington State Capitol”. The Huffington Post. 6 April 2015.