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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Team Nickels to Seattle Times: Get a Clue

Posted by on March 29 at 12:09 PM

On Saturday night after the shooting, I posted on Slog warning the dance community to brace itself for the predictable editorials that were surely on the way: “Dances are dangerous! Reinstate the Teen Dance Ordinance (TDO)!”

On cue, the Seattle Times’s lead editorial on Monday morning seized on Saturday’s tragedy and demanded a thorough review of teen dance rules.

Today, the Seattle Times keeps up its drum beat of demagoguery, explicitly condemning Mayor Nickels and the city council for repealing the TDO in 2002 and advocating stricter rules, such as ensuring that security at teen dances must be off-duty cops. That old requirement, however, allowed the SPD to exercise a sort of prior restraint over dances by simply refusing to allow its officers to work shows. That gave SPD the power to discriminate against any show they chose, which made promoters shy away from putting them on.

Let’s be clear: Under current teen dance rules—which require security—there were 19 security personnel at CHAC on Saturday night, according to CHAC director Matthew Kwatinetz.

Why was there so much security at Friday night’s rave? Because, as Kwatinetz told me, he expected a huge crowd. And a huge crowd showed up. This brings us to the point that the Seattle Times seems incapable of grasping. There’s a huge demand among teens for dances—for something to do on the weekend. If the city institutes rules redolent of the prohibitive TDO, teens won’t have the option of going to fun and creative parties like zombie dress-up dances, and they will end up at more free-form, un-regulated house parties and hanging out in parking lots. Upping the amount of time that teens spend in unregulated situations (by de facto banning sponsored events like CHAC’s electronic music show) will up the amount of potentially dangerous situations for teenagers.

The Seattle Times says it wants to take away opportunities for teenagers to get into trouble. Unfortunately, their emotional response would create more situations for trouble.

Sitting down to dinner after a long day Saturday, the Stranger news team glumly anticipated this reaction from the Seattle Times. We began the conversation by asking ourselves, ‘Hey, was Margaret Pageler right?’ In her failed but stalwart defense of the TDO four years ago, was Pageler actually prescient? However, after talking through our own emotional response to the murders, we collected our senses and came to the conclusion that Pageler was wrong.

Savage and I have an editorial in today’s Stranger that was intended to head off the Seattle Times’s predictable reaction.

My favorite part of our editorial is the quote I got from the mayor’s office, which seconds Dan & me by telling the Seattle Times to get a clue. (Team Nickels proudly repealed the TDO in 2002.)

The hysterics at the Seattle Times don’t get it but Mayor Nickels seems to. Nickels spokesman Marty McOmber says the mayor had no comment on Balter’s editorial, but, “I will say, there is nothing to connect the rave to the shooting at the house on Saturday morning. Raves are well-regulated events, and by all accounts the rave at CHAC on Friday night was well operated. We do know that we don’t want to drive this scene underground.”

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It wasn't just today's editorial, which follows on the heels of Monday's editorial. The Times also ran a piece today by editorial columnist Lynne Varner that called for new restrictions on teen-oriented activities. With three pieces in three days, it seems clear that the Times is determined to crusade a bit on this issue. Not very surprising, I suppose, coming from the Times.

All of this discussion about what to outlaw next -- dance parties for teens, guns, etc., seems to overlook the obvious.

If you examine Kyle Huff's past, the two incidents in which he is recorded to have acted violently (shooting a sculpture and breaking the ribs of someone in a bar fight) both involved the consumption of alcohol.

In fact, if you read his letter of apology to the artist who formed "Daphne," the fiberglass moose he shot, Kyle specifically blames alcohol for his behavior.

I have read accounts of what sort of horrific travesties a person is capable of when they are dead drunk, drunk to themselves and to the world. Even the most upstanding, responsible and normally kind people can turn into monsters when alcohol has all but obliverated their sense of identity and morality.

Some years ago we read about a couple of guys in Texas who chained a black man to the back of a truck and drove around town. That kind of death must have been unimaginably agonizing. But imagine what it must have felt like to the perpetrators to realize they were charged for a horrific crime of which they had absolutely no memory. In a state of complete blackout, certain people are susceptible to becoming monsters.

Last year I read about a man who was drinking with his best friend, and they got into an argument, and the man beheaded his friend after knocking him out. He had no recollection of this event. Another drunk hit someone and drove home with a severed head stuck into his windshield. No recollection of this either.

These survivors must live with the fact that for the rest of their lives, they will have to relive a moment in time in which they became subhuman, real devils, real embodiments of evil -- all thanks to alcohol.

I once read an fascinating near-death account in which a man was taken on a tour of the afterlife. He claims that evil spirits do in fact populate the earth, and are especially eager to enter the bodies of drunks and addicts, as drunks are powerless to stop their influence. He claims to have seen, when he was clinically dead, a scene of a tavern. He watched as a man passed out, and then witnessed a devil immediately enter and possess the man's body.

Who knows? I'm not saying this is real. But who knows that it isn't? Perhaps poor Kyle Huff, a misfit, a loner from BFE who was desperately looking for a place to fit in, took so much alcohol, and combined that with who knows how many drugs, to lose all sense of who and what he was: a human being.

I readily admit that the fact that Kyle Huff had an arsenal with him seems to argue that he deliberately planned to kill. But it is also possible that he made that decision while drunk, and loaded the truck while drunk.

Big beefy guys can "hold their liquor" fairly well, so that they may not appear to be visibly drunk. And people who are butt-faced drunk can often appear to be functioning very well. And since Huff said virtually nothing and participated very little socially, it is also not improbable that his condition could not be readily discerned by those around him who were, after all, also in all probability quite "wasted."

Which leads to a final question. Most of us have at one time or another lost consciousness of what exactly we were doing on a alcoholic binge or spree, or at the very least know friends who have done so. But most of us never snap into the zone of depravity linked to that long association between drunkenness and homicide (and suicide).

The statistics are frightening. There has always been an extremely high correlation between gross alcohol consumption and homicide and suicide.

So all this talk about finding a "motive" and repairing flawed social forms and laws may be the wrong discussion to take up. Maybe we ought to really be talking about how alcohol can make even the most gentle people into monsters. I have seen it happen even in my own friends -- one of the kindest, most soft-spoken musicians I know becomes, when extremely drunk, obnoxious, bitterly quarrelous, incoherent, and often quite scary. He is, at those times, someone I do not know, someone I would never recognize.

In the case of Kyle Huff, maybe no motive exists -- maybe this is just another case of the devil closely trailing the drunkard and waiting for his moment to seize the soul . . . then victoriously and viciously howling NOW NOW NOW!

I hope that plenty of sensible people will write letters the Times condemning them for this editorial nonsense. I would, but I don't think they'll print four letter words. Hey Joni Balter, if some psycho opened fire on a breakfast meeting of suburban soccer moms, would you call for a new law regulating those too?

why are you guys giving nickels and his henchmen the opportunity to make political hay out of this tragedy? i thought it was totally inappropriate when the big fat dumb mayor showed up to mug for all the cameras at the crime scene. (didn't he do the exaact same thing with the mardi gras riot and killing of christopher kime?) what the hell was fat man nickels doing at the blue house anyway but contaminating potential evidence? come on. this kind of politics makes me sick. and now, as a way to score points with the "impacted community", nickels has his spokesman kiss some stranger butt over the teen dance ordinance repeal? you guys should be ashamed of yourselves. instead of patting yourselves on the back because nickels somehow affirms your position, why don't you try doing some journalistic good and hold these political opportunists accountable, for crying out loud.

Um, hello, moron:
We're praising Nickels for not taking the Seattle Times's grand standing bait.

By getting Nickels's back on this, and getting his spokesperson on record, as we did, condemning the Seattle Times's POV, we're ensuring that he wont politicize the Capitol Hill tragedy like he did the Mardi Gras tragedy.

And now that he's on record with that, we can pounce when he backtracks.

Sure, Josh. That must be it. You're really so clever and Machiveliian that you think three moves ahead...

Or, when someone calls you out for being the shortsided twerps you really are, you come back with some lame rationalization for your actions.

I wonder which one is the truth????

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