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Join the informed, opinionated journalists of The Times' editorial staff in lively discussions at our blog Ed Cetera.

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April 30, 2008 5:25 PM

A Scientist Writes About Innovation and the Grants System

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

A month and a half ago I wrote a column on the federal grants system and how it stifles true innovation in science. You can read the column here. I received several very thoughtful responses on that, not all of them immediately. One of the more interesting came in today, signed by Jefferson Foote. Here it is, slightly condensed:

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April 30, 2008 10:13 AM

Righting the Rev. Wrong

Posted by Joni Balter

What does it take to get Barack Obama mad? How about an out-of-control pastor acting in his own self interest? The Reverend Jeremiah Wright this week delivered more anti-American rhetoric and whipped up an unnecessary political storm that continues to harm the Illinois senator's presidential hopes.

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April 29, 2008 7:26 AM

Food from the World

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

This article in the New York Times is one of the better ones about the issue of the "carbon footprint" of shipping food all over the world, at least if you read the details. You get the activists' view, but you also get some facts, and the facts don't line up like little activist ducks.

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April 26, 2008 11:40 PM

Study Debunks Show-and-Tell Math

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

This New York Times story bubbled up to be the No. 1 emailed story in the whole paper. It is amazing how many people are intensely interested in this question of how to teach math. I wrote several pieces last year attacking what I called "New Age math" (which angered some of its adherents) and I received more than 100 emails. A handful defended the new math, and treated me like a computational creationist, but the vast majority were on the same side: against it. This study deals with only one aspect of it--the use of classroom props to simplify math concepts. Or the overuse of them. Take your pick. I haven't read the study, and can't say whether it's convincing, or any good at all. That the New York Times took it seriously is a mark of something. The really notable thing is that a story in the Science section about a math-teaching study is the most emailed thing in the whole paper.

Politicians take notice.

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April 25, 2008 2:43 PM

Jeremiah the Inevitable

Posted by Joni Balter

The question was not 'if', but when. When would the hideous words of Sen. Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr, turn into a nasty TV ad? The answer is now, the location, North Carolina.
The North Carolina Republican Party begins airing this low -blow ad next week. It is a guilt-by-association effort on two fronts - Obama is guilty for knowing Wright, and two Democratic candidates for governor are guilty for endorsing Obama.

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April 24, 2008 2:50 PM

The N.A.U. Fantasy

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

An outfit (or person) called the American Policy Center in Warrenton, VA, sends the following alarmist press release:

While President Bush and his counterparts in Mexico and Canada continue to deny that the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) is the beginning of a North American Union, Americans around the nation are expressing their growing opposition to the scheme. The American Policy Center, (APC) a grassroots activist organization located in suburban Washington, DC has just concluded a survey of one million American households…

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April 24, 2008 10:35 AM

Seattle mayor's feud with Eastern Washington

Posted by Kate Riley

I blogged a couple of days ago about Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' suggestion Puget Sound secede from Washington state and linked the Spokesman-Review's editorial response.

Since then the editorial pages of the Yakima Herald-Republic, Tri-City Herald and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin have jumped into the fray. All suggest correctly the mayor's comments -- the mayor says now he was joking -- are neither accurate nor becoming of someone who wants solutions rather than divisions.

In Friday's Seattle Times, we are running excerpts from the editorial page responses. Here are highlights:

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April 24, 2008 10:15 AM

The whipping post - WASL

Posted by Lynne Varner

In a few weeks all we'll remember of the Seattle teacher disciplined for refusing to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning is the interesting stunt that offered a temporary distraction from the real challenges in education.

As I've said the WASL is not the sharply aligned, diagnostic test it could be. The response should be continual reshaping, not turning it into a Trojan horse containing all of the fears around heightened standards and static budgets. Here's why:

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April 23, 2008 2:15 PM

Karl Rove's demographic Ginsu

Posted by Lance Dickie

Poor Hillary Clinton. She wins the Pennsylvania primary by 10 points, and her double-digit victory is sliced and diced into the oddest political sociology lesson. Not a word about policy, but more name, age and gender information than a marketing manual.
Karl Rove mastered the art of mincing the electorate into digestible bits. Democrats, please note, he is now unemployed and his former boss is widely considered to be irrelevant, incompetent and immaterial. Except, of course, for two wars that rage, an economy circling the drain, a shriveling national currency and a long list of ignored domestic problems.
Voters beware.

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April 23, 2008 7:52 AM

Bambi, with a Message

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

The death of one of the animators of Walt Disney’s “Bambi” (1942) re-ignites the argument, as in this article, about its depiction of nature. Viewed in this way, Bambi is clearly a propaganda movie. It promotes a sugary sentimentalism about nature, as many such movies do. It shows the bad hunter killing the nice deer. It does not show the resourceful mother cougar bringing down a tasty and nutritious deer for her hungry cubs.

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April 22, 2008 9:13 PM

Enough of Pennsylvania!

Posted by Joni Balter

Six weeks of campaigning produced not much for the Barack Obama campaign. As a Pittsburgh native, and an Obama enthusiast, I understand the vote in Pennsylvania in favor of Sen. Hillary Clinton. It has much to do with admiring those who tough it out, pay their dues and take the lumps.
Life can be very difficult in some of the depressed, de-populating steels towns outside Pittsburgh. My mom and dad come from two of them, Braddock and McKeesport. Hard-working, fair-minded residents of these places have watched once-vibrant communities erode and crumble. They may relate better to Clinton, because of the camraderie that comes from having been through the ringer.

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April 22, 2008 8:23 PM

The Keystone State

Posted by Jim Vesely


The numbers all say Obama at the super "or automatic" delgate level. It means nothing. The Democratic Party is ready for an upheaval of massive proportions that still could produce Sen. Clinton as the nominee. It's not over, and I can envision delegates walking out of the convention center in Denver protesting each other's candidacy.

10-percent in a key state such as Pennsylvania is not chopped liver. It is a significant measurement of a state that is both unique and in each part, mirrors another part of the county. I remember "Deer Hunter": country in the Allegheny National Forest, near the coldest spot in Pennsyvania. We could have been in Montana or West Virginia -- the state is so varied and so complicated that it is a good indicator of the sprawl and diversity of America.

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April 21, 2008 2:57 PM

Enviro Good & Pawlenty

Posted by Lance Dickie

Psst, over here. Take your eyes off the Democratic bar fight in Pennsylvania long enough for some breaking speculation. Remember, you read it here first! Republican presidential nominee John McCain's choice for vice president will be Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

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April 21, 2008 10:39 AM

Nickels is a finicky friend

Posted by Kate Riley


Last week, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels suggested that Puget Sound should consider seceding from the rest of the state because lawmakers from rural areas just won't go along with his ideas about how transportation should be funded or about gun control.

"We have rural legislators making decisions on things like the viaduct and whether we can keep our city safe," Nickels said at a CityClub roundtable at Town Hall Thursday.

In a Say-It-Isn't-So-Greg editorial today, the Spokesman-Review editorial board reminds the mayor of the sweet-nothings he lavished on Inland Empire residents just six years ago in a guest column.

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April 20, 2008 7:27 PM

The Problem with Electric Cars

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

The problem is where the electricity comes from. Sunday's story, here, is a sideshow. It is an electric-cars story about the travails of companies trying to build them. But if electricity were a better fuel than petroleum, the how-to-build-them problem would get solved. Somebody would figure it out. The real roadblock is the where-does-the-power-come-from problem. If it's from a coal-burning power plant, then you essentially have a coal-burning car. If it's a natural gas turbine, you have a natural-gas car. If its a hydro plant, then maybe you can plug the car in at night, when demand is less. But even in the Pacific Northwest, the hydro system doesn't have the power to run all our cars, and in any case a new automotive system would have to work in all regions of the country, not just in hydro territory. If we had cheap fusion power, or cheap solar power, or cheap wind power, then we could do electric cars. But if we had some ham, we could have some ham and eggs, if we had some eggs. Till then, internal combustion it is.

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April 16, 2008 8:52 AM

A Mortgage Circle

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

Kris Rivers of the Tri-Cities writes today in response to my column on Washington Mutual Savings Bank:

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April 15, 2008 9:14 AM

More on party manipulation of primaries

Posted by Kate Riley

In my column today, I talk about the state political parties' latest attempt to control voter choices in the state and local primary.

Back in federal court, the parties are arguing the new top-two primary, which now has the imprimatur of the U.S. Supreme Court, is unconstitutional for other reasons not addressed in the court case. Among the arguments is that the initiative was made unconstitutional for the same reason that the state Supreme Court recently ruled a property tax initiative unconstitutional.

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April 14, 2008 12:39 PM

Gaffe of the week doesn't make Obama an elitist

Posted by Joni Balter

Every so often, the presidential race becomes mired in a mis-step or mis-statement that fills the airwaves 24/7 the next five or six days. This time, Barack Obama is soaking in it. ">">">He told a fund-raising crowd in San Francisco that small town voters in my native Pennsylvania who are bitter about their economic circumstances “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

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April 12, 2008 10:44 AM

Gov. Richardson's loyalty

Posted by Ryan Blethen

"I was loyal. But I don't think that loyalty is transferable to his wife...You don't transfer loyalty to a dynasty."

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April 11, 2008 9:11 PM

The Right Not to Be Force-Fed

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

Does the State of Washington violate the constitutional rights of a prisoner if its employees force-feed him by shoving a tube up his nose? Last week the Washington Supreme Court said it did not. All the justices accepted force-feeding except Justice Richard Sanders, who I think had the argument that was truest to the state constitution.

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April 10, 2008 1:17 PM

"Congestion Pricing" on Roads--What It Isn't

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

Matt Rosenberg over at Cascadia, here, has a useful post on "congestion pricing" for roads and the systems in downtown London and Singapore, which are cordon pricing. Cordon pricing is where the authorities cordon off the downtown and charge a toll for anyone who crosses the boundary. Basically, it's a toll to go downtown, usually variable by time of day. The idea is partly to decongest the roads, but mainly is to get you to take the bus.

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April 10, 2008 9:36 AM

The Hillary pack

Posted by Joni Balter

Many female voters supporting Hillary Clinton do so because of feminist loyalty. They believe it is a woman's turn to be president. I am not buying it. We owe it to ourselves to pick the candidate with the best chance to win and end the war in Iraq.

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April 9, 2008 2:26 PM

Somnolent History

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

Here is a story about a kid in New Jersey who challenged a high school history textbook for inaccuracy. The book was written by two conservatives associated with the Reagan administration, and has been accused of bias. I haven't read it, but it wouldn't surprise me. It also wouldn't surprise me if the book was more interesting than the one that replaces it.

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April 8, 2008 3:12 PM

A matter of cheerleaders gone wild?

Posted by Lynne Varner

Or a strong case for regulatory pressure on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook? These questions arise from a national case in which insulting posts on MySpace allegedly led a group of Florida cheerleaders to viciously beat one of their peers, videotape the assault and post it on the Internet.

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April 7, 2008 3:48 PM

Bob Barr's Threat to John McCain

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

This article in the American Spectator expresses conservatives' worry about the prosepect of a third-party run by former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia. I think the worry is justified. Barr, who lost his seat in 2003 and joined the Libertarian Party in 2006, now says he will seek that party's nomination. It's no sure thing that he'll get it--there are a number of political unknowns vying for it, and also former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska. But if Barr does get it, he will siphon away right-wing voters from McCain. Even if it's only 1 percent of the total vote, that could tip a close election to Hillary or Obama. Of course, they have their own spoiler problem with Ralph Nader, but I think in this cycle the spoiler threat on the right may be the one to watch.

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April 6, 2008 2:55 PM

A 'Green' House

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

The whole "green building" thing is raised to a question mark in this New York Times feature by Lisa Prevost. It is about a model home in rural New York--a hideous thing, all pitched roofs and tiny windows--that is seeking "green certification" from the U.S. Green Building Council. And what makes it "green"? Mainly that once it's built, it will use less energy than a conventional house of the same size.

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April 4, 2008 10:58 PM

The Unsuspected Cost of 'Green' Energy

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

The Economist has this story on the economic side effects of Germany's subsidy of solar photovoltaic panels: the subsidy has made manufacturing the panels so profitable that it has very dramatically raised the price of silicon, which drives the cost of solar power up. The same thing happened several years ago when the boom in corn-based ethanol in the United States drove up the cost of corn tortillas in Mexico, and more recently has driven up the cost of corn-based feed for pigs. It is pretty clear now that corn ethanol is not the way to go--and that would be the end of it, but we have established a large corn ethanol industry in Iowa, with the requisite political support. In Washington, we have put into the law a biodiesel mandate, creating an incentive for investors to build the largest biodiesel refinery in America at Grays Harbor. The refinery is built, but the intended feedstock--American-grown canola--has been bid up in price as a food commodity, making biodiesel more expensive than it was supposed to be. Last I heard, the refinery had postponed its initial public offering. I asked Gov. Christine Gregoire about biodiesel, and she said the the real answer was not to use any food product as feedstock, but to use waste. It was a smart statement, and something the biodiesel people should have thought of, three years ago.

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April 3, 2008 2:43 PM

Democrats, Gregoire and Trade

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

Our lead editorial today, "Democrats Should Come Clean on Trade," excoriates Barack Obama for an anti-trade speech he gave to the AFL-CIO, available here. Coincidentally, Gov. Christine Gregoire visited the Seattle Times editorial board today, and we asked her about that issue.

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April 2, 2008 9:32 PM

NATO: What Is the Point?

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which in the past decade expanded to include the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, now invites in Croatia and Albania. But according to the Washington Post, it will not invite in the former Soviet Republics of Ukraine and Georgia--an act the Russians consider highly hostile.

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April 2, 2008 2:35 PM

Un-affordable Seattle

Posted by Joni Balter

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and City Council President Richard Conlin have served up a very green idea to help reduce the city's solid waste stream. They propose a 20-cent "green fee," known in most countries as a tax, on disposable shopping bags at city grocery, drug and convenience stores.
This would be a great idea with all the warm, fuzzy greenhouse gas reductions implied if the mayor and council then decided to use proceeds to lower garbage rates.
Actually, garbage rates are expected to go up, while the affordability of our city continues its notable decline.

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April 1, 2008 12:43 AM

Remembering Dith Pran

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

The death of Dith Pran, as covered here, is a reminder of the ugliest totalitarian regime of the 20th century, bar none: Cambodia under the communists of Pol Pot. Pran was a Cambodian photographer for the New York Times, working in his country's capital with reporter Sidney Schanberg when the communist Khmer Rouge took over in April 1975. Schanberg and Pran had a chance to get out, and decided to stay behind--a decision that was of small risk to Schanberg and immense risk to Pran. You can see the story in "The Killing Fields," which for my money is one of the best movies ever made. I met Pran once, when he spoke at Seattle Pacific University. I asked him if the Khmer Rouge had really been as bad as was portrayed in the film. "It was worse," he said. "Much worse."

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