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Welcome to NEXTopia, a Web diary in which NEXT writers — and readers — share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. The opinions you read below are those of the individual writers, not necessarily those representing The Seattle Times.
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Christina Asavareungchai
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January 30, 2004

RE: Team names

As in other sacred subjects -- politics, religion, sex -- sports encompasses a wide range of people who all have different strongly held beliefs and motivations. Some people do follow individual figures in sports. However, when I’m sitting in traffic on 520, surrounded by SUVs with Sodo Mojo stickers and California license plates heading to a game against Cincinnati, I’m guessing most of them are going to see our team; not to see Ken Griffey Jr.

In politics, many people vote for a party name regardless of the actual abilities or actions of the person wearing that party label, but some people do vote for the individual they like best regardless of party affiliation. The same can be said of sports, where many people support their favorite team (local or otherwise) regardless of who is actually wearing the team label, or if their city is in the team name. Doesn’t mean they won’t buy the bobble-heads of course.

And like politics and religion, many people choose their team based on what they know, which is usually what their family, friends, and local community most prominently supports. That makes sense for multiple social, psychological and practical reasons, not the least of which is that it is just easiest. In a time and country where we are faced daily with thousands of choices and bombarded with information, sometimes the less we have to think about something, the better it is (from a time and effort standpoint, at least).

Written by Randy Henderson, a regular contributor to NEXT

Posted by Cal Blethen at 03:32 PM


Coffee: another health fad?

If Sid Kirhheimer is correct with his recent article, Seattleites have another reason to tip back their freshly brewed coffee. Kirhheimer claims in a WebMD feature that coffee is the new health food.

Kirhheimer provides good evidence and says the latest test on the affects of coffee only support previous evidence that coffee is good for the body. Coffee, according to Kirhheimer, could lower the risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and even colon cancer. Coffee can also lift your mood, fix headaches and lower the risk of cavities.

This sounds to be true -- but the evidence is there (though people should still take this news with skepticism). When it comes to health fads there are always uncertainties that must be addressed. I’m not saying that coffee can’t certainly help you, but it is to my knowledge that exercising, proper diets, and sleep can remedy an unhealthy life. At least you’ll be rested and not looking for that extra lift.

If you think though that coffee can fix the vices such as smoking and drinking as Kirhheimer suggests, then go for it. But really we must take a closer look at these studies and stress the negative effects that may come from this. Kirhheimer suggests that even children should drink coffee, “In fact, no studies show that coffee in reasonable amounts is in any way harmful to children.” I say we should slow down before we build a Starbucks for Kids next to the Pottery Barn for Kids in University Village.

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Posted by Leonceo Angsioco at 12:53 PM


January 29, 2004

Re: Move beyond left and right

In response to Randy Henderson's sensitive and unbiased commentary about politically motivated attacks, I agree meatheads like myself do get caught up in the partisan tit-for-tat b.s. a little too often.

However, some points need to be driven home, and on occasion the loudest splash makes the biggest impact. There are rights and there are wrongs and in this case, at this point in time, Bush and his supporters are obviously on the wrong side of the fence. This isn't Strippergate or even Monica Lewinsky; this is war.

As for questions about WMD, what's not valid? Was that not the war's intitial selling point? WMD are yet to be found. I'm sorry but supporting short-term memory loss in grave matters like this is irresponsibly underestimating the weight of this "operation."

The daily toll of dead soldiers is another reality worth addressing. That's 500+ facts for fence-sitters and Bush supporters to consider.

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Posted by John Hieger at 04:47 PM


Team names

What’s in a name?

For one I’d say it is the person, or in certain cases, a team that makes the name. Froma Harrop in an opinion piece speaks of the names of the two Super Bowl teams, Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots.

Harrop infers that fans love their team just because of an association with a city. Geographical location may play a part, but fans will love their teams because of their ability, players and their straight love of the game. At a Sonics game the other night, I asked the Maverick fans sitting next to me if they were from Dallas and they told me they weren’t, but it was the fact that the Mavericks had Michael Finley and Dirk Nowitzki.

Harrop claims that football teams that don’t have a city in their names have no identity and people can’t form a bond with them. She also believes that cities show their respect for their team when they “know which downtown to wreck.” As in it is evident that a city loves its team when riots strike.

Is that really a sign of a passionate fan?

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Posted by Leonceo Angsioco at 02:34 PM


Move beyond left and right

David Kay's revelations will not be a "crushing blow" to the "right," as John Hieger argues. "They" will still hold onto the belief that WMDs exist somewhere, and/or that Saddam still posed an imminent threat to the U.S. in other ways, and will question the motives and knowledge of Kay himself. And of course, there's the humanitarian reasons for the Iraq war.

The real question is whether our president acted appropriately in promoting and pushing for war (usually a last, costly option) when we apparently had the time to explore other options and at least make better plans for the aftermath.

To know this, we must ask what did the president really know and when did he know it? Why, when his evidence continually was proven false or exaggerated, did he actively seek new reasons for war rather then reconsidering the need or urgency? Was he truly acting as the nation's representative, or fulfilling an ideological agenda?

Unfortunately, such important questions tend to get blown up and personalized into battles over whether the entire Republican Party or conservative movement that Bush supposedly represents is right or wrong, good or evil. True, it may be argued that they are "wrong" to support Bush without question, given the results of his actions and policies.

But by placing people in a position where to admit that Bush is wrong is to somehow condemn themselves hardly gives the "right" motivation to even consider changing their minds. I myself frequently attack what I see as Bush's many faults and crimes. But I recognize the faults of the Democrats as well, and the need to be, well, fair and balanced. I don't always succeed, but I see that trying is necessary.

Otherwise, both sides are too busy being defensive to consider the greater merits of our counterpart's opinions and arguments. Yes, Kay's report validates what those on the left, UN weapons inspectors and many people around the world have argued since before the war. But that does not mean Republicans, conservatives, or the right are wrong or evil. It means that, possibly, Bush, a single individual, is not doing his job the way he should.

But as long as admitting that is to somehow give points to the opposite team, to imply that the left is somehow better than the right, or that making a mistake or being deceived somehow makes us lesser people, it is not likely to be admitted by Bush supporters any time soon.

And as long as the left attacks the right rather than presenting valid questions or facts for the right to consider, the right will consider the left as enemies rather than considering the possibilities.

Written by Randy Henderson, a regular contributor to NEXT

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Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 02:24 PM


January 28, 2004

No WMD, no Bush

As suspected by the left all along, the war in Iraq is now undeniably a paranoid fluke. Credibility killing revelations by former Chief US Weapons Inspector David A. Kay have dealt a crushing blow to the few die-hard Republicans still choking the pipe dream that some legitimacy may be forged from the disgraceful Iraqi experiment.

Bush lied, period. He said it was about WMD and there aren't any. Thanks for the confusion George, I'm glad you could lead your nation into a war over some tragic delusion.

Bush said Tuesday, "...we can find out the facts and compare the facts to what was thought." shouldn't this quote have been issued about a year ago before we started putting our soldiers into the meat grinder?

At what point does Bush concede that the "facts" he is looking to "find" don't exist? He isn't on the side of facts, truth or justice, he's on the side of knee-jerk, diplomatic suicide.

Still Bush contends that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man and was worth catching. Is Saddam Hussein more dangerous to the US than our own president? I don't think so.

Here come those darn facts again, the fact is Bush's paranoid campaign in Iraq has cost over 500 American lives. That's 500 more dead Americans than we would have had if this stupid war had never been waged in the first place.

Considering there are no WMD, Bush should feel terrible but I don't expect him to, he's to engrossed in his own agenda to think about reality. By the way, 6 more American soldiers died today in Iraq, thanks for nothing, Bush.

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Posted by John Hieger at 11:34 AM


January 26, 2004

Yay for Bush!

Ah ha! Some will say. See! A chief member of al Qaeda was just captured in Iraq! Yay, Bush!

However, if they read past the headlines or delve past the sound-byte, they will find out that Hasan Ghul was only recently arrived in Iraq to explore options there, possibly do some organizing and recruiting.

A prolonged US occupation, poor planning for post-war organization, and the growth of Muslim authority are opening Iraq up to become a new terrorist breeding ground.

Yay Bush!

Randy Henderson is a regular contributor to NEXT.

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Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 05:46 PM


Re: Dean off the edge

First, let me say how glad I am that Dean is not likely to become the Democratic presidential candidate. It's not that I have anything against him politically. But I find some perverse pleasure in the way all the conservative pundits have become obsessed with Dean--perhaps even worse than his own vicious Democratic rivals--only to have it all, in the end, be a lot of ammunition and time wasted in the wrong direction. At least it gave them some fresh material other than the same stale Clinton comparisons.

As to Nigel's latest anti-Dean misfire, I would not be so quick to dismiss his comment. Of course, it is logical to assume that removing Saddam would make Iraqis' lives better, and in most ways it probably did, at least in the short term. But then, to be certain, we'd have to do a little math. And for a comprehensive look, we'd also want to consider the means and aftermath of his removal.

We'd have to take the number of Iraqis killed or directly terrorized by Saddam, and compare them against the hundreds of thousands that have died due to the bombings and sanctions during the Bush Sr. and Clinton years, the thousands of casualties of the Iraq war, the many who are suffering from the damaged infrastructure, internal conflicts and unemployment the war has caused, and the thousands more who are likely to be killed and/or oppressed in the coming years of civil strife, religious and ethnic conflicts, and terrorist insurgencies. And that's even if an extremist Islamic government doesn't take control, ala the Taliban.

Then we would want to compare this against potential outcomes, had a true international effort been led by the UN, diplomatic, economic or military, rather than a US led invasion with a paper "coalition" and a half-baked neo-con vision for the aftermath.

Dean's problem isn't that he's off the edge. It's just that he speaks on complex matters in overly simplified and incomplete terms, and that's not a good idea for a politician in an ideologically divided sound-byte society.

Written by Randy Henderson, a regular contributor to NEXT.

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Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 01:42 PM


More on: Free speech

It is unfortunate that the MoveOn Superbowl ad controversy was associated with questions of free speech because, as Nigel rightly pointed out, CBS is a private company and is not obligated to run anybody's ads. The free speech argument only gives people a nice loophole to dismiss the larger issues entirely.

The larger issues are the dangers and problems of the media deciding what information we get, while at the same time the group of companies and people who control the media is getting smaller and less diverse--especially dangerous since good democracy relies on well and accurately informed voters.

Commercial appeal will always dictate the majority of programming, but where choices do exist (such as between two similar programs, who will host debate shows, or which ads to show), they will be influenced by the ideologies and views of the decision makers.

For those who would like to consider for themselves just how "controversial" the ad really is--as compared to the tobacco, alcohol and Bush campaign ads that WILL run--here's a link.

I think their attempt to "tell CBS" to run it is, again, misguided. Personally, I think they should be grateful. Controversy breeds interest. All the people who would have been using the restroom, arguing plays or refilling the salsa bowl while the ad ran during the Superbowl will now likely hear about it anyway.

Written by Randy Henderson, a regular contributor to NEXT

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Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 01:34 PM


Fair debate, wrong point

Since a bill reversing I-200 (making affirmative action illegal) was introduced at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, many stories have surfaced supporting the change. Unfortunately, throughout many of these arguments, one overarching mistake has been made.

In a recent Seattle Times article describing the bill, it was stated that change needed to be made to I-200 to make the state’s laws consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling regarding affirmative action. Many others have also made that point, but it is wrong. I-200 is not unconstitutional or inconsistent with the ruling.

The ruling declared that affirmative action was constitutional, not that anti-affirmative action policies were unconstitutional. The difference is huge. The decision said that if states want to implement affirmative action policies, then they could as long as they follow some guidelines. However, the decision does not force states to enact affirmative action policies. It only gives them the option if they want to. The decision of whether to implement those policies is a legislative duty, not a judicial one.

I don’t support affirmative action, but the debate of whether to change I-200 is fair enough. However, if the debate is to continue, supporters of the change must stop arguing that I-200 is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s decision. Such an argument is simply wrong.

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Posted by Nigel Stark at 11:36 AM


Dean off the edge...again

Most Democrats have taken the position that while the war was wrong, it is a good thing that Saddam Hussein is gone. The second part of that statement is totally obvious. However, now Howard Dean has completely gone off the edge in saying the standard of living for Iraqis is now a “whole lot worse” since Saddam was removed from power.

What?!?!

Can you seriously believe this? Can you seriously think that a life without the constant fear of rape rooms, torture chambers and “disappearings” is actually worse than the alternative? I can’t even begin to comprehend what Howard Dean is thinking. His comment that America is not safer with Saddam gone was crazy enough, but implying that Iraqis would be better off under Saddam is just insane. Most Democrats aren’t even crazy enough to agree with this.

And one more note on Howard Dean. Wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago that he promised that his wife would not become a campaign tool? What happened to that promise? I’ve got nothing against Mrs. Dean and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to sit out of a campaign, but it seems quite the coincidence that Mrs. Dean got involved in this campaign at the exact moment that Howard Dean began struggling in Iowa. Way to stick up to your principles, Dr. Dean.

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Posted by Nigel Stark at 11:12 AM


More on: Free speech

I turn my back for one second and all of a sudden trying to “influence political thought” is evil or something? Come on. Everybody tries to “influence political thought:” Howard Dean, President Bush, Madonna, Safeway, even this blog is trying to “influence political thought." It’s a nice little thing I like to call freedom of speech.

A corporation is an extension of a group of individuals. In a way, it’s just like a bullhorn. If Bill Gates wants to use Microsoft to “influence political thought,” then go right ahead. It’s his company; he can do what he likes with it. The right to “influence political thought” is the most basic of rights that the founding fathers were trying to secure in our Constitution.

And I’d be interested to know when it became fact that corporations are evil. The sooner America learns (most of them probably already have) that corporations are actually good, the better. I’d like to propose a little experiment: Let's blow up all those evil corporations in the S&P 500 and then see what life is like. But please, could you kindly let me know of when this experiment will take place because I sure want to get away from this country before it does.

Besides, even if they are evil, who cares? The right to free speech isn’t about who should be allowed to express it, it's about who is allowed to express it. Activist judges deal with the question of should; responsible judges deal with the question of what the Constitution actually says.

Last time I checked, the First Amendment still says, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” When did we amend that to say, “… except if they are evil”?

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Posted by Nigel Stark at 11:01 AM


More on: Big business' agendas

If you don't think corporations influence, and to an obvious extent, run political agendas, you need to research "campaign finance reform." It isn't a liberal theory; it's something that is desperately needed before our country is sold out to the highest bidder.

If Chris Collins is unable to draw a parallel between politics and commercial interests, he should ask himself why corporations are apparently wasting millions of dollars lobbying (buying) politicians.

Just because you can buy power doesn't make it right. This isn't a "propegated message" either; look at Bush campaign contributor Ken Lay--he bought himself a "get out of jail free card."

Or try researching the millions of dollars spent by the major media powers to lobby Capitol Hill prior to the FCC ruling last summer. Corporations spend this money because they know they can get a return. Money buys power.

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Posted by John Hieger at 10:45 AM


January 23, 2004

More on: Big business' agendas

Opinions like John's represent the opposite extreme from the masses of perfectly content consumers. To his point, our media is largely controlled by five rich old white guys who probably all belong to the same country club. And thanks to Bush and the conservative leader of the FCC, the amount of media any one corporation can control in a single market is increasing even more.

But this is something that isn't likely to change. Many people I know are aware of these facts, and the many ways the media -- or more commonly the companies that advertise through the media -- manipulates us with images of sex, acceptance, coolness, etc.. As well, they know how media sets the unconscious standard of "American life" by which we live, and creates a collective image of America being like Friends, or us all being one question away from being a millionaire, not actually a country struggling with racism, poverty, overcrowded prisons, and landfills packed with plastic singing fish.

But really, what's the option? To not enjoy television, movies, and radio? For most people there's just no motivating reason to do that -- in fact, boredom and increased isolationism, as well as the cost or effort involved in alternatives, actually makes it very unmotivating to do so. So most people get their news, information, and culture all largely from media sources that conform to their already existing tastes and beliefs.

"Corporate mind control," as real as it may be, is a pretty vague concept, sounding more like a conspiracy theory than a real danger. And it isn't a danger, if you dismiss its influence on rampant consumerism or stereotypes, on largely misinformed voters, or a lack of true social awareness.

And it is in the interest of corporations to influence political thought. They want us to elect whoever will give them the greatest corporate welfare, tax breaks, and monopoly, and the least amount of environmental restrictions, health insurance demands, labor protections or liability. They play both sides of the fence, but typically donate larger amounts to Republicans for these reasons, who then spend far more on advertising then their Democratic opponents. There are exceptions, of course, but this is the general rule. And as media ownership becomes consolidated, the messages and programming will increasingly become biased and influenced by similar goals.

It is through idealist anger like John's that we can hope the FCC will be forced to put tighter restrictions back on media ownership and encourage greater variety and true competition in programming, and people will occasionally question why they feel the need to go deeper into debt to by a bigger, shinier SUV when their current one is working just fine. Political financing and Republican corporate favoritism is another mess altogether.

Written by Randy Henderson
a regular contributor to NEXT

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Posted by Cal Blethen at 05:17 PM


Re: Big business' agendas

I think maybe Leonceo's comments give the average television viewer a little too much credit. To say that "true fans could care less what ads are on," misses the point. The truth is, advertisements do affect people, whether the viewer wants to be affected or not, the numbers indicate that eventually ads make an impact, otherwise this medium wouldn't be utilized.

I had a salesman for a local radio station pitch me an ad yesterday claiming that it's better to keep the same ad running over a period of time because after a while the message tends to soak into the mind. You may ignore it the first ten times but after a while it catches on, this is the reality, this is why it's done the way it is.

Additionally, it's not about viewers making the decisions, it's about the networks controlling the messages the viewers receive. They decide what we get to see, they can regulate our exposure to certain social attitudes, this is where propaganda comes in.

Don't be fooled, there's more to watching a football game than just the game itself. Those little breaks in between field goals and kickoffs are packed with influential messages. If you think it doesn't affect you or others, you are kidding yourself. Advertisers wouldn't spend so much money on advertising if they knew we could just tune it out at our discretion.

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Posted by John Hieger at 04:47 PM


Big business' agendas

Corporations, of course, are self-serving capitalist for the most part. But if this is their goal, then they’re obviously not in the business of political thought control, as Hieger claims. The two interests contradict: you can’t be set on brainwashing a society’s political views while appealing to their commercial interests. Commercial appeal becomes the trump card over all else.

But I understand how easy it can be to believe corporations are practically the puppeteers of government today since this message is propagated over and over again. A look at history, however, shows that such self-serving capitalists as Benjamin Franklin (not only a businessman, but also highly involved in politics at the same time!) was pursuing American ideals -- not corrupting them. I think most people would recognize that Franklin was a positive contribution to America, not a negative one.

In the same sense, there are capitalists who are pursuing their own interests, which is an element of the American ideal called individualism. These Americans, like Franklin, tend to benefit society rather than hurt it, even if they do choose to filter which messages are expressed through the medium they own.

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Posted by Chris Collins at 04:09 PM


More on: Free speech

Nigel, I am glad that you can site evidence such as the constitution for your argument. It makes a good point, but I do not think that is the main point to think about regarding CBS’ decision to limit political ads.

Like Nigel, I agree with CBS’s decision -- but for different reasons. The Super Bowl is a sporting event, no matter how you look at it. Yes, it also is the pinnacle for advertisements...but above all else, it is a football game. Sports are an outlet away from politics and I believe they should be kept separate. Look at what happened when ESPN tried to mix politics and sports by adding Rush Limbaugh. There should be no political ads at all during sporting events.

I question whether or not CBS should air the White House sponsored, “Anti-drug” ad. In my mind all those anti-drug commercials are extreme exaggerations, more humorous than convincing. However many can agree that there are problems with drugs, and the only true controversy of those commercials is how lame they are.

John, here is something simple for you to do if you are upset with Viacom and CBS: Instead of attacking Nigel, don’t watch TV and don’t watch CBS. Just like a private company you can make your own decisions.

The Super Bowl should be enjoyed for the prestigious game that it is. True fans could care less what ads are shown or what channel it’s broadcasted on. But I would rather hear controversy about a bad call, or bad coaching decision, rather then some lame anti-Bush ad or any other political ad.

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Posted by Leonceo Angsioco at 02:21 PM


Re: Free speech

Assuming Nigel Stark isn't the heir to a billion dollar media conglomerate, it is appalling that he would in any way defend corporate thought-control.

It isn't about conservative versus liberal; it's about wealthy companies flooding our airwaves with biased messages that influence our attitudes for the worse -- promoting business for themselves and reinforcing sleazy government policies that serve big business.

There is nothing democratic about government policy being dictated by corporate lobbyists. The notion of self-serving capitalists corrupting the American ideal didn't exist when the Constitution was written. So to say that CBS is acting in the interest of the true Constitutional spirit is ignorant at best. CBS isn't run by benevolent philosophers, they are run by businessmen.

Media conglomerates like Viacom are in the business of thought control. The interests of the "people" come at the expense of the almighty dollar, this is common sense. You don't want people to know things that might hurt you. Nigel Stark isn't even on the Viacom payroll and he's playing the role of a charity spokesman. Pathetic.

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Posted by John Hieger at 12:11 PM


January 22, 2004

Free speech

Some free speech enthusiasts and First Amendment activists are complaining about CBS’s decision not to air commercials from the radical leftist organization, MoveOn.org. Just like when the decision was made not to air the Ronald Reagan movie, these people are claiming that it is political censorship running amok of the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, these “enthusiasts” aren’t quite enthusiastic enough about the US Constitution. I’m not sure which is the case, but they either haven’t read it, or just don’t understand it. The US Constitution, and everything within it, including the First Amendment, is a document that binds the government. The US Constitution means absolutely nothing to private entities. Whether the entire US Constitution even binds the states is still a topic of discussion for many academics (the 14th Amendment made this question very hard to answer).

CBS is free to do whatever it wants, presuming it follows the criminal code. If they don’t want to run MoveOn.org ads because they have a policy against controversial ads (and no matter what some say, be sure that this, like everything that comes out of them, will be controversial) or just because they don’t feel like it, then they have no obligation to.

Free speech is a great thing. But just because the government is obliged not to take that from you, that doesn’t mean private entities can’t.

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Posted by Nigel Stark at 04:31 PM


Gung hay fat choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! Today marks the start of the new lunar year, a fresh beginning characterized by superstitious rituals and colorful festivities.

My childhood is rich with memories of this special day. My mother, a Hong Kong native, told me poignant stories about the sparkling celebrations of her childhood, the pretty decorations hung on maple trees (a kind of exotic Christmas tree), the steaming dishes prepared by her mother. She remembers cleaning the entire house from top to bottom, a metaphor for sweeping away the bad luck accumulated during the past year.

I also remember big, happy family gatherings in Chinatown, where we would celebrate togetherness and make a toast to a healthy, happy, prosperous new year. I remember flying to San Francisco, whose Chinatown is well-known as a cultural hub, for an extra-special celebration. Crowded along the narrow street, my family and I watched the New Years parade, complete with crackling firecrackers, bright masks and the vibrant dragon dance -- all traditional features of the festivities. Best of all, I remember receiving “lucky money” in red envelops inscribed with golden Chinese characters.

Some things don’t change – not with the passage of time, or the transition from child to adult. I’m now a college student living in the dorms. But I’m betting that when I go home this weekend, a red envelope and dishes enveloped in fragrant steam await me.

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Posted by Christina Asavareungchai at 04:04 PM


Final thoughts on State of the Union address

Now that I’ve had a little more time to think about the SOTU address, I’d like to revise my final comments from the State of the Union blog.

While I wasn’t able to write about the Democratic rebuttal, I did see it. Both Pelosi and Daschle gave lackluster performances, but my memory recalls that this has been the case for every rebuttal in past years, regardless of which party gave the final remarks. Both President Bush and President Clinton benefited from the heartfelt support their party members lent; they and delivered passionate speeches in part because the crowd’s palpable energy made it possible. In contrast, the rebuttal speakers must stand alone in front of a noncommittal camera. This is not to suggest that the Dem's couldn't have offered a better response -- they could have. However, one should never be able to compare the two and suggest that the different circumstances didn’t have some effect. For SOTU addresses, presidents have good reason to be enthusiastic. For SOTU rebuttals, the minority party probably senses that half the audience has changed the channel.

So, on to the SOTU itself. As my comments undoubtedly suggested, I was not impressed. The speech felt lackluster to me, a plethora of vagaries about creating jobs and returning taxes which offered no tangible solutions or concrete evidence to support the proposals. Some parts of it felt entirely inappropriate -- don't we have more important things to do for our youth than cracking down on pill-popping athletes? That time could have been better spent by addressing the real problems that create troubled youth: an empty plate for breakfast, a crime-ridden neighborhood to walk through on the way to school, hard-working parents who don’t have the chance to see their kids before bedtime.

I think that’s why the SOTU frustrated me most. None of the proposals address the tangled roots of our domestic problems. All of Bush’s speeches seem to prevent things in terms of good-bad, right-wrong, yes-no. But it’s not that simple, and it worries me that the leader of our country appears to have such a naïve view of the way the world works. No Child Left Behind cannot bring children up to an equal academic plane so long as some kids don’t even have the money to buy calculators. As a stand alone piece of legislation, it won’t help schools with 20 year-old textbooks, or remedy the high dropout rates in rural districts like my own. Kids left my school because they had to work to support their families, not because bad teachers ruined their scholastic experiences. NCLB is a misguided Utopian attempt to deal with a school system that is struggling beneath the weight of multitudinous socio-economic and political problems. How can we hold teachers accountable for students who can’t concentrate because they didn’t eat breakfast?

I could go on for a long time, but my general thoughts remain the same. The world operates within shades of gray, not in the perfectly separated worlds of good and bad. Bush’s proposals are dangerously naïve to me. If we lived in a perfect world, they might work. But we don’t, and I fear our president doesn’t understand what that means.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 02:44 PM


January 21, 2004

The war in Iraq

There seems to be a miscommunication between liberals and conservatives on two key terms around the war in Iraq. They are "justification" and "unilateral."

First, there is a difference between justifying the removal of Saddam from power, and justifying the way in which it happened. Few people would even try to argue that Saddam was anything other than a criminal and a brutal dictator, or that his removal wasn't justified. There are lots of brutal dictators in the world, and they should all be removed. What isn't justified is the means.

Our president lied to us and the world to justify pre-emptive war in defiance of active efforts by the UN. He actively worked to find new ways to justify invasion. There were other options. Even if Bush's primary motivation was a humanitarian effort, evidence to the contrary, there were other ways.

Which brings us to the term unilateral. Conservatives point out that we had a large number of countries supporting us in our war on Iraq, so how could it be unilateral? Never mind these were mostly small countries that got something out of doing so, and that they didn't offer real military or monetary aid.

Here's my memory of the war. The UN pursuing a plan in Iraq, and Bush telling them to get out because we were going to invade whether they approved or not. American and British soldiers dying during the invasion, and many more American soldiers dying afterwards, but no large army "of the willing" sharing the costs. Bush asking Americans, not a coalition, for $82 billion dollars. America being made responsible for leading the occupation and the reconstruction. But hey, we had a coalition, so it's not unilateral. Sure.

Bush said last night that America does not need a "permission slip" to basically do whatever we want, whenever we want. America, the vigilante. We are above international law or opinion. That would make a great action film, but makes for very poor international policy. Still, given Arnie's election as California's governor, I guess Bush knows how to appeal to American voters.

As for Bush's lying about whether there is real proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or is Saddam linked to al Qaeda, or is it necessary to launch a pre-emptive war, it all comes down to what the definition of "is" is, right? I guess it's just a good thing for Bush he's never under oath when he speaks.

Written by Randy Henderson,
a regular contributor to NEXT

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Posted by Cal Blethen at 03:18 PM


For more on the State of the Union...

...click here. Four NEXT writers were writing their play-by-play opinions during the State of the Union address and Democratic response last night. The running commentary was live on Tuesday night, but is still available to view online. The four writers were Nigel Stark, Megan Matthews, Chris Collins and Randy Henderson.

Note:
*** The newest entry is at the top of the page, so to read from start to finish, start reading at the bottom of the page.
*** To look for a specific topic, hit ctrl+F (at the same time) when viewing the page, and enter a search topic (for example: education).

Posted by Cal Blethen at 11:18 AM


Re: Bush hones in on youth

Bush hones in on the uninformed ideals of youth, maybe, but not the interests of youth. True, he spoke of education, the economic future, the future of Social Security, and abstinence, as Chris points out.

But his education proposal was a joke when you consider the number of students it will fund compared with the inflation of costs and the drop in grants to date; or compare it against what he is spending for much less important pet projects. It was not even a drop in the bucket of what is actually needed. But it was enough that he can claim to support education in the upcoming elections.

He definitely honed in on the youth with his economic future -- because we and our children are the ones who will be paying down huge deficits and debts, facing enormous tax increases in a too-little-too-late effort to save social security, and supporting our parents or being cared for by our own children when the system fails. His tax cuts are widely hailed as the worst possible thing for our future economy, and he painted a grossly inaccurate picture of how much they have impacted our current economy. And anyone who knows how budgets work know his miracle budget is something that has to be seen to be believed, and even then it won't survive the special interests and differing opinions in the House and Senate.

The future of social security is that unless we control our spending, make difficult cuts and put controls in the program now, and let Bush's tax cuts expire, it has no future. The numbers don't lie. It will be extremely difficult to save social security even if we had a lot more funding, but it will be impossible with Bush's tax cuts and spending mis-priorities.

As for abstinence, it is not an either/or issue. Teach abstinence, but face the fact that most people won't practice it. For those, you have to continue sexual and family planning and the support of available birth control and counseling. Telling people they shouldn't be having sex, but if they do, you won't support making it safe and smart...isn't a real solution.

Bush did not offer real education support. He did not even touch on the environment -- the world our youth will inherit and that he is constantly stripping away protections for. He used his position of power to promote his personal view on homosexual marriage, a view contrary to the majority of youth I know. And he sent our youth to die and be maimed in Iraq with much less support than he might have if he had been willing to work with the UN rather than against it.

Written by Randy Henderson
a regular contributor to NEXT

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Posted by Cal Blethen at 11:05 AM


Bush hones in on youth

Bush had a message to the world, the nation and to America's youth. He punctuated education, the economic future, the future of Social Security. This is most highlighted in his abstinence talk.

Bush's proposal to double federal funding for abstinence programs poses an important question: Is our president stuck in the 1950s or is he riding the wave of the future?

I'm inclined to agree with the later.

More and more young adults are recognizing the results -- or more accurately, the lack of results -- from practicing abstinence. Suggesting that the government should give up promoting abstinence would be a blow to the movement's momentum and progress.

As long as we're in the business of having Mr. Government tell kids how to live their lives, we might as well give them practical, achievable goals instead of just handing out condoms.

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Posted by Chris Collins at 08:31 AM


January 20, 2004

Re: Bare booze shelves?

To this observer, the Seattle City Council members enjoy sitting in their high chairs drafting proposals that address problems but don’t solve them. The comments below, from a local police officer, seems to agree (link to original blog entry on this topic):

Being in police work, I too have struggled with the best way to encourage stores not to sell to homeless people and alcoholics when they frequent their stores. An AIA doesn't necessarily help as stores are always looking for an extra buck, and alcoholics have no brand loyalty. They have preferences, but no loyalty.

So, how do you solve this social ill? Two ways, police need to actively fine stores for over-service and arrest the clerks for the same over-service. This, of course, takes precious man power for an otherwise minor offense, but once a clerk/store gets arrested/fined, the practice would likely stop instantly. I have conducted several breath tests on homeless people and many of them blow a blood/alcohol level well over .20, or 2 1/2 times the legal limit. They buy constantly because they need alcohol to maintain their lifestyle and avoid withdrawals.

The second way, beer is too cheap. When you can buy an 18-pack of beer for $9.99, you are looking at about $0.55 per beer. Pop in the vending machine in front of the store is close to $0.75 or $1. Fitness drinks that are good for you, are anywhere from $1-2 each. A six-pack of beer is cheaper than a pack of cigarettes! I can't think of anyone that was blatantly killed by a nicotine-induced driver.

The State should raise the price of beer (or the tax) to make it harder to obtain, or more of a consideration before plunking down your money. Then again, raising the price increases the number of alcohol related thefts.

It's a circle...where does it start...because it never ends...

Seattle seems to have a lack of faith in its people. 1) Not having confidence that they can create a program that actually rehabs alcoholics, and; 2) in trying to solve a problem of 2,000 people, they take away the right of many more.

Seattle creates an environment for binge drinking. Some venues, especially concerts, cordon off an area where you can drink alcohol. However, you are not allowed to take it out of that area. So instead of enjoying one beer you have to pound them in this little area. This new proposal will only increase binge drinking with the same effect, instead of buying one can of beer people will buy a six-pack. This could potentially create a new problem possibly leading to more binge drinking and new alcoholics.

Street alcoholics, alcoholics in general do live in a vicious circle. Although hard to pinpoint a starting point, contrary to this officer's opinion, it can end.

There have been numbers of people that when under the right treatment can battle their disease. Yes it’s hard work, but isn’t the City Council supposed to work for the people? Or are these alcoholics not people?

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Posted by Leonceo Angsioco at 05:41 PM


Re: MLK Day

A reader's thoughts on what MLK Day means:

...Dr. King offered far more than a dream. Like so many prophets before him, King's dreams were not merely the stuff of fantasy, but practicality as well. Yes, we are right to feel the explicit hope, but we ignore the implicit duty only at our own peril.

Even if his image and inspiration were to fade from memory, the weight of Dr. Martin Luther King's challenges will endure until freedom, true freedom, rings from east to west. That's why his birthday continues to be a day on and not a day off.

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Posted by Angela Balinbin at 04:37 PM


No bad dogs

Finally, someone has approached the "bad dog" issue with reason and understanding.

In this week's New York Times Magazine, Charles Siebert explains that he, too, once shuddered every time he saw a pit bull saunter down the street. His attitude changed after a stray decided to adopt the New York writer. Siebert disagrees with the notion of banning "bad breeds" from cities, arguing that banning a dog breed actually makes it more alluring to the worst pet owners:

"...What the proponents of bans of specific dog breeds fail to recognize is that a given breed is incidental to the cruder human impulses it is made to serve: the illicit thrill of bloody fighting rings, or of simply having the baddest dog on the block. Ban one breed, and there will be another to take its place. Ban, or at least crack down on, the human abuses of these animals by enforcing more strictly the existing laws against such abuse, and all breeds revert to their better natures."

I've noticed the looks that my friend's German Shepherd gets when he walks down the street, even though her dog is a submissive former guide dog in-training. I wonder if anyone realizes that the now ubiquitous Boxers and loyal Akitas used to be viewed with the same irrational level of fear.

In almost every case of a severe dog attack, the human trainer is usually to blame. Bad dogs have bad owners, no matter what breed they may be. If we educate pet owners to understand what kind of breed they are really prepared to handle, the much maligned pit bulls and Rotties would see a brighter day.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 04:28 PM


Obesity

A couple of weeks ago, I grabbed a pair of jeans off the rack at a local clothing store and tried them on in the dressing room. I stared in wonder as the Incredible Expanding Denium slipped down around my waist, even though I'd worn the same size for a couple of years.

Now, I know I'm not crazy, nor are my friends and family members who've experienced the same thing when they try on skirts and slacks. The garment industry is making sizes bigger to accomodate America's weight problem; a few stitches here, and voila! "regular" becomes "slim cut," and size 4 becomes size 0.

This seems more than a little irresponsible to me, given the fact many people already shove the nation's ballooning obesity problem under the table. Maybe we should just eliminate size tags altogether and stop trying to make people feel good about themselves because they can fit into the "same" size they wore in high school.

Or, maybe we should actually pressure companies to educate consumers about the right dietary choices. If we spent as much money advertising vegetables as we do advertising soda, it might make a difference. Besides, then you could have lucrative Tomato vs. Broccoli wars, which might finally save us from the inundation of dewy-eyed starlets guzzling Pepsi and Coke. In all seriousness, however, the companies and citizens both play a role in what's happening to American waistlines. Either we wake up and realize the long-term health costs of our decisions, or we keep lying to ourselves as we slip into the next pair of jeans.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 01:45 PM


MLK Day

Dear Dr. King,

I pray that I remain ever cognizant of the power of your message; of the grace and humility that resonated from you. I hope that my life, like yours, won't just be about dreams, but action. Happy Birthday.

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Posted by Angela Balinbin at 10:57 AM


Streaking in WA

On the lighter side of the news: a few days ago, three young men who were streaking through a Spokane Denny's were "chilled and chagrined" when someone drove away with their car...and their clothes.

I posted this because it is about the only piece of enjoyable news I've read in a long time. And because it reminds me of stories from high school, spring break, and all those other times when you wish you could take back that bright idea to do something crazy.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 10:30 AM


More on: "Send Bush to Mars..."

Randy's entry missed the point of my argument. Nowhere did I argue that the war was justified because “there are now 22% fewer attacks on our soldiers in Iraq.”

The point of my post was to show that Howard Dean was wrong, and to criticize mainstream media coverage of Iraq, not to further justify the battle in Iraq. That justification was made months ago. The American public believed it was justified when it started and, as polls show, the American public still thinks it’s justified.

The point is: Howard Dean was wrong. He said the capture of Saddam Hussein would not make Americans safer. It did and I showed the evidence for it. Are you arguing that 22% less attacks is a bad thing, Randy? I hope not.

Howard Dean’s unbelievably stupid and shortsighted statement (a statement that many other Democrats couldn’t even keep a straight face when hearing) shows his mindset on the Battle of Iraq. It’s completely political to him. Screw the Iraqis, forget about the soldiers, who cares about peace? As long as it betters my chance of being elected, that’s all that matters. I’ve got no doubt in my mind that if President Bush had decided that war was not prudent, Howard Dean would be out there yelling at the President for not acting.

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Posted by Nigel Stark at 09:18 AM


January 16, 2004

Seattle city council chaos

After this November's city election, I wondered if it was possible that we are still holding our female representatives to different standards than me. Of the three councilmembers involved in Strippergate, two lost their jobs. Judy Nicastro conceded to an older representative with little political experience over the last 20 years, and David Della took out Heidi Wills in a truly despicable character-bashing campaign. Meanwhile, Jim Compton retained his seat despite being heavily embroiled in the same Strippergate scandal--and today, Dick McIver gets a slap on the wrist: a whopping $200 fine. Margaret Pageler also lost in November, despite a few editorials from the local papers which revealed her quiet, unassuming integrity. She may not have grandstanded like the others, but that's not such a bad thing.

I didn't agree with everything that Nicastro and Wills did, and it took me awhile to make my decision that they still deserved my vote. But why did the women get the boot while the men stayed put? None of our councilmembers finished their terms with a stellar record, but why boot the ladies?

You'll have to forgive me for being a little cynical about this, but when we haven't had a female president and when only 14 women serve in the Senate, I am apt to believe that society still holds women to a different standard. Seattle's voters may not have had these motives in mind, but it still feels like the good ol' boys are alive and well in the USA.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 03:03 PM


Greening up politics

Man, from the hullabaloo surrounding Al Gore's speech in New York Wednesday night, you'd think the former V.P. accused the president of something he didn't do. But he didn't (aside from a few biting remarks; although no more biting than any other political remarks from either party), he only drew attention to an often-overlooked part of U.S. policy: the environment.

No matter how you feel about President Bush, the fact is that his environmental policies represent a real shift away from efforts to protect human wellbeing through environmental preservation. Having researched the Clear Skies Act for my public policy class, I know how misleading the title is. The most politicized of all environmental issues may be global warming, which Gore addressed extensively in his speech. He cited the growing consensus of scientists abroad (as well as a majority in the U.S.) who fear that the failure to act soon will have unpredictable consequences.

While I appreciated Gore's comments, I actually have one complaint. The environment should not be a partisan issue. Instead of pointing figures, our leaders should recognize that the quality of our air, the health of our ecosystems, affects every one of us. The rise in asthma rates among inner-city children suggests that our growth-equals-resource-use mentality has begun to take a toll on the very generations for which the nation was built.

Under Nixon, major environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act passed, exempting human health from cost-benefit analyses. Under Reagan, citizens from both sides of the political divide demanded James Watt's resignation. Under President Bush, we have lost that sense of mutual concern for the earth that sustains us. A stable climate and toxin-free water sources are as crucial to America's long-term security as any military policy. Today, however, political tension from all sides has prevented us from being able to address those issues. As the director of University of Colorado's Center for Science and Technology Policy Research observed: "As opposing sides use the issue for political gain, it is very difficult for new ideas to enter the discussion. The politics is all well and good, but meanwhile we lack effective options on climate."

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 10:59 AM


Re: Send Bush to Mars...

In response to Noah's last entry, I agree in principle that we have enough problems at home that we don't need to be spending money on going someplace else. I also agree that Bush may be trying to further capitalize on the recent surge in patriotic emotion in America. It is well-timed to provide some filler material in the State of the Union or as we approach campaign time that would otherwise have to address the economy, the war, or other unpleasant realities.

Wasn't it around this time in previous years that he proposed aid to Africa and hydrogen fueled cars?

But we should not dismiss the thought entirely. Like the military, the space program has been a major source of innovation and invention that has then been used in commercial industries and our homes, and has greatly expanded our knowledge. Countless of the technologies, gadgets, and even industries that we take for granted would likely not exist, be nowhere near as developed, or have been created in another country if not for the space program. And I don't just mean velcro or freeze dried ice cream (although those are pretty cool).

To build a base on the moon or send men to mars would require enormous leaps in energy efficiency and recycling technologies, as well as innovative ways to clean and utilize the environment and natural resources, and new lightweight but durable materials great for the next fashion faux pas, just to name a few.

Surely, the new jobs, the new products, and the new efficiencies that such an effort would create would help to offset the costs, would help to recreate an interest in science in our country, and help to keep America at the front edge of technology and imagination. As globalization and cheap labor siphons off many of the jobs and specialties we used to have, we need to find new ones to replace them. And once we were on the moon and mars, what new knowledge might we gain, and what new resources might we exploit ..er, I mean discover?

And just think how much better off we'd be if we really COULD send Bush to Mars?

Personally, I say take the billions of dollars being spent (on those stupid marijuana ads for one) and put it towards something that will eventually pay us back a thousand-fold. The money is there to meet our domestic needs and to invest in our future; our government is just a little too screwed up in its priorities to find it.

Written by Randy Henderson,
a regular contributor to NEXT

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Posted by Cal Blethen at 09:15 AM


January 15, 2004

Bush's immigration proposal

Bush's proposed new law (making illegal immigrants currently here 'legal' for a limited period of time) on its own would be dangerous because it would encourage people to get here illegally and as quickly as possible (translation: dangerously). I make a bet we'll see a sharp increase in attempted crossings of the desert on foot and subsequent deaths due to dehydration and heat exhaustion, people smuggling themselves inside trunks and cargo beds, and suffocating or being squashed to death, along with many other methods that risk these desperate people's lives and the lives of their children.

We need to have this new law in conjunction with a law that allows more immigrants to come in legally. And I mean oodles of them. No more of this quota crap. Didn't we learn our lesson in the Holocaust when our illustrious president turned back the ships of refugee Jews and sent them back to Europe to be gassed at Auschwitz?

Look at Israel -- a tiny country the size of New Jersey since its inception has had the "right of return" allowing any Jew to immigrate there and gain immediate citizenship. Millions of Russian and Argentinean immigrants have poured in (in earlier decades it was Jews escaping from Ethiopia, Yemen, and Iran).

Yes, they're struggling with the economic drain from their immigrant absorption centers and helping the new olim (immigrants) settle into their lives as Israeli citizens -- helping them find housing, get jobs, and learn the Hebrew language. But at least they're taking a proactive approach to it -- embracing these new immigrants as future leaders and outstanding citizens of this blossoming country -- instead of treating these people as vermin who are leeching the welfare system like we see our immigrants.

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Posted by Elana Azose at 03:20 PM


Re: Iraq attacks

Nigel seems to be arguing that this pre-emptive war that has cost billions of American tax dollars and thousands of lives is justified not because there was any real threat to Americans outside of Iraq, but because there are now 22% fewer attacks on our soldiers in Iraq.

That seems a pretty circular argument to me. And the real solution is pretty obvious -- if they hadn’t been sent there in the first place, there would be 100% fewer attacks on Americans in Iraq. Even if they had gone in as part of a U.N. mission, there may still be significantly fewer American casualties.

I doubt the fact that 22% fewer attacks means much to the victims of the other 78% of attacks still occurring. And there is no guarantee that the number of attacks won’t increase again.

And meanwhile, none of the proof of weapons of mass destruction has proven true. We may -- and I stress may -- eventually be able to build a paper-thin case for invading Iraq in retrospect, do a little revisionist justification; but we certainly didn’t have any real evidence or proof of danger to Americans when we invaded.

What threat Saddam did pose to America, and to our allies, was well within the knowledge, ability and jurisdiction of the U.N. to handle. But Bush, who accused Saddam of ignoring the U.N. and having invaded other countries without cause, turned around and ignored the U.N. and invaded Iraq without real cause.

And so now our soldiers are there -- still being wounded and killed. I’m glad that they are suffering 22% fewer attacks. But is that really the point?

As for the good news, of course there is good happening in Iraq as well as bad. But how much more good if there had been the full resources of the U.N. and other world organizations behind the effort? And once we do leave, and the country is left with a fundamentalist Muslim majority bordered by countries like Iran, how long will their newfound freedoms last? Especially since, thanks to our presence, al Qaeda is now in actuality flocking to Iraq.

Written by Randy Henderson,
a regular contributor to NEXT

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Posted by Cal Blethen at 12:54 PM


Unilateralist Dean

USA Today has uncovered Howard Dean's latest policy inconsistency through a 1995 letter he wrote to President Clinton urging unilateral action against the Bosnian Serbs after the United Nations and NATO failed to stop the internal conflict.

"Since it is clearly no longer possible to take action in conjunction with NATO and the United Nations, I have reluctantly concluded that we must take unilateral action," Dean wrote.

He also had this to say to Clinton, who had not yet intervened unilaterally: "I think your policy up to this date has been absolutely correct. We must give, and have given, this policy with our allies and with the United Nations every opportunity to work. It is evident, however, that the cost in human lives in allowing this policy to continue is too great. In addition, and perhaps more importantly for the United States, we are now in a position of ignoring, as many did in the 1940s, one of the worst crimes committed in history. If we ignore these behaviors, no matter where they occur, our moral fiber as a people becomes weakened."

Dean's moral fibers must be at least frayed at the ends now. After uncovering the vast atrocisities Saddam Hussein committed to his own people -- the gassings, the torture chambers -- shouldn't Dean at least be giving some merit to the war in Iraq?

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Posted by Chris Collins at 11:37 AM


Bare booze shelves?

Next month, the Seattle City Council, would ask merchants within the new boundary to voluntarily stop selling fortified wines and single cans of beer of all types, and to not sell any alcohol from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

However, the City Council’s reasoning has general opposition and the evidence is skewed.

The proposed ban doesn't call for added treatment services, and City Councilman Nick Licata is skeptical, "Without addressing the illness of alcoholism, we're just sort of shoving things around the house. We're not cleaning up the house."

Bob Stevens, vice president of Western Washington Beverage, said sales of beers not on the banned list rose within the Tacoma’s alcohol-impact area. "Nobody quit drinking because of the AIA," he said. "It changed their habits, but it didn't rehab anyone."

The 20 worst offenders among them cost an estimated $2 million a year for police, medical, ambulance and transportation, according to the King County Department of Community and Human Services.

We’ve squeezed the alcoholics north from Tacoma and looks like we’ll continue all the way to Canada. That’s actually not a bad idea, as they have treatment centers for drugs, maybe they can treat these alcoholics. Or maybe Seattle could do that.

So I guess it would be better for an alcoholic to buy a six-pack rather than a single. It’s scary to think that, if you ever have a problem, the city is quicker to shove you somewhere else rather than help you.

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Posted by Leonceo Angsioco at 09:40 AM


January 13, 2004

Send Bush to Mars...

What was he thinking? When I heard about President Bush's plan to send people to Mars and create a permanent space station on the moon, I couldn't believe my ears. Given our massive budget deficit, our huge and growing responsibilities around the world, and the tax cuts and new programs Bush keeps pushing, my first question was, where will the money come from?

Apparently, many other Americans share this concern. An Associated Press poll released this week shows that 55% of Americans would rather see the money that would go to this new space program spent on domestic programs instead.

You might think that the younger generation would be more excited than others about exploring new frontiers in space and such. However, I think most young Americans who pay attention to politics are more concerned about where the US is going to get the money in the future to pay for the programs and tax cuts Bush has already created.

We're spending tens of billions in Iraq with no end in sight, hundreds of billions on a new (and inadequate) prescription drug plan for seniors, and at the same time giving hundreds of billions more to the rich in tax cuts. Somehow a space station on the moon is not my top priority right now.

At a time when the IMF is saying that the US deficit is spiraling out of control and threatening the world economy, it just seems ridiculous for us to propose spending a trillion dollars on a space program. It's as though, in the middle of the late 90's financial crisis in East Asia, Malaysia decided to spend $10 billion on a new art museum. We would all think, "Yes, that may be a worthy goal, but is now really the time?" Apparently such a thought never crossed Bush's mind.

So why did he propose it? I think he is hoping to distract attention from all these other problems I've mentioned. By getting Americans to rally around our patriotic history of space exploration, he's trying to make us forget our current reality. Luckily, it doesn't seem to have worked.

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Posted by Noah Guzzo Purcell at 04:58 PM


Iraq Attacks

When Saddam Hussein was captured, Howard Dean said that his capture didn’t make Americans any safer. Much like his platform in general, the good doctor has once again been wrong.

USA Today is reporting that military records show that attacks against coalition forces in Iraq have dropped 22% since Saddam’s capture. Personally, I think that counts as making Americans safer, but I might just be crazy.

This excellent piece of news has two different angles to it. The first is to prove how blatantly wrong Dean was about the capture of Saddam. However, the second is how the mainstream media ignores good news in Iraq. To the CNN's and New York Times of the world, this is still a “quagmire.” However, just like they ignored the drastic decrease in violence between Israel and Palestine (which coincidently coincided with our move into Iraq), they are also ignoring the drastic decrease in violence in Iraq.

That’s too bad as well, because much like the terrific stories of Iraqis or Afghans going to school for the first time in their lives and welcoming freedom with wide open arms, the story of decreased violence is quite good and much more representative of the true progress in the war on terror.

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Posted by Nigel Stark at 12:20 PM


January 12, 2004

Sigh...Maureen Dowd is back

For 38 days, columnist Maureen Dowd was absent from The New York Times opinion page. Now she's back with more ramblings and loose arguments.

A quote from a recent column: "...more Americans are pronouncing themselves pleased with Mr. Bush. They like him even though Osama and Al Qaeda are still lurking and frothing, even though we couldn't get through the holidays without an orange alert and flights being canceled, and even though Iraq is still a free-fire zone after a war to get rid of weapons that may not have existed."

The most important thing to recognize here is that Dowd believes it was a failure on Bush's part to raise the country to orange alert and cancel international flights.

Her argument should cause an outrage.

The U.S. government had credible sources of information detailing the possibility that al Qaeda members were on these flights. What were Bush's other options? Toss the intelligence information out the window and hope for the best?

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if America had another 38-day Dowd-free break.

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Posted by Chris Collins at 04:37 PM


"Scoop" Jackson

Alex Fryer’s recent article on Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson shows how politics once were.

Granted, I’m not old enough to remember the days of Scoop Jackson, but I’ve done enough research and academic study to know what he was like. Jackson was a good man, but more importantly, he was a man who knew that some issues transcend politics.

I disagree with him on many of his policies, but that’s OK. That’s politics, folks; people always have, and always will, disagree. However, it has often been said that politics end at the borders. In other words, when it comes to protecting our country’s safety, politics should be ignored.

Scoop Jackson is a good role model for today’s Democrats. When it came to our national defense Jackson understood what was needed.

If only Howard Dean could learn a few more lessons from Scoop Jackson instead of apparently focusing on the Walter Mondale's and George McGovern's of the world.

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Posted by Nigel Stark at 04:09 PM


Re: Virtual P.E. classes? Give me a break!

Physical education online...what's next? Online swimming lessons? It makes as much sense as taking a correspondence course for driving.

Columnist Frank Cerabino gives an unbiased account of the concept, but it is clear that not all of the cyber-bugs have been worked out of this Florida-based program.

The students are required to do the workouts at home and then their parents must sign off on their sheets to vouch for their child, and also talk to the teacher once a month to reinforce that their child is actually doing the work. As one West Pal Beach sernior said it was laughably easy. If parents are not around or are simple okay with their child fudging his or her answers, what is to stop students fabricating all the work for the class? Why are there no monthly fitness tests with the teacher? No final exam?

If "teachers and administrators are wringing their hands about the number of teenagers who are overweight," they just made a major boo-boo by introducing the easiest out in the world for athletically uninterested students. Yes, there are those who will follow the instructions letter for letter and learn valuable lessons in keeping fit for the rest of their lives, however, it seems more likely that students will do half the work or as little as possible to get by and get their "A" in virtual P.E.

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Posted by Julia Ugarte at 10:22 AM


Virtual P.E. classes? Give me a break!

Already, many students in regular physical education classes complain about sacrificing their favorite classes -- art, music, automotive repair, whatever it may be -- for dull participation in sports they may hate, simply to satisfy graduation requirements.

Take these same students, put them in an online P.E. class that verifies exercise with a parent signature...and voila! You create an instant magnet for dissatisfied students, slackers and passionate sports-haters -- the kids who get chosen last.

A high school senior who took an online PE class said, "‘It was ridiculous...I had to write the date, the time, and the number of sets for each exercise...It’s really easy to make up the stuff. If your parents are OK about it, you just make up the stuff, they sign it, and you just fax it.’”

Creators of virtual PE classes need to get off the computer, and get back to reality.

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Posted by Christina Asavareungchai at 10:12 AM


January 09, 2004

Snowball fights

When I was a kid, my family moved from the Bay Area to Edmonds. One of my first memories from Washington is of the snow that blanketed my neighborhood at Christmas, covering the decks and trees with a foot of fluffy white wonder.

One of my other memories is hurling a snowball at my brother and taking off to avoid retaliation.

So the whole idea of zero tolerance for snowballs seems ludicrous to me. Once again, in a lawsuit-happy society, adults are punishing kids for being kids. The Times article lists a couple of specific examples, including Snoqualmie Valley School District and A.G. Bell Elementary in Kirkland, which forbid students from touching snow or making snowballs.

Wow. Way to kill the spirit, guys. I could understand if kids were chucking rocks inside those snowballs, but isn't there a little irony here? School districts are in a panic over apathetic, unsocial, overweight kids...but when snow excites them so much that they want to run outside and play, it's not acceptable. All I can say is thank God I'm in college -- right before New Year's, my boyfriend and I tore outdoors after midnight and launched a volley of snowballs at each other. It was the best fun I'd had in months.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 04:37 PM


Teenage obesity: a heavy burden

"Teenagers in the United States have higher rates of obesity than those in 14 other industrialized countries," according to a Seattle Times article. Fifteen percent of American girls and 14 percent of boys are obese.

One cause of teenage obesity is a sedentary lifestyle, according to experts.

Youth spend several hours each day at school. Therefore -- kids being kids -- it's logical to think that most prefer to spend their precious spare time having fun. Exercise doesn’t normally rank high on their list of thrilling, exciting, entertaining activities; on the contrary, many teens associate physical activity with pain, boredom and drudgery. However, the key to curing obesity among teens is introducing engaging exercise activities, which they enjoy.

Instead of running on a treadmill, try exploring beautiful trails or parks. Instead of dully lifting weights, go to the gym with friends. Instead of attempting to shoot hoops alone, join a team. You’ll have loads of fun...and the excess pounds will take care of themselves.

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Posted by Christina Asavareungchai at 03:32 PM


Re: Hillary's punch line

A reader's comment about my last entry regarding Hillary Clinton's joke:

What’s so offensive about saying something that is largely true? A lot of gas station owners and managers are Indian, most of the ones I encounter in Seattle anyway. If I say “John F. Kennedy was a greedy oil executive” because he was white, and we have a lot of white oil executives, it may not be funny but is that racially insensitive to white people?

My response:
I’m not one to fight for racial issues. I do not chose sides and at times I do not even want to approach the fence. So racial comments tend not to stick as strong with me.

However, what gets me is the categorization of peoples by religion, sex, age, basically anything that sets one group apart from another. If people continue to characterize or stereotype people, either for promotion or belittlement, inequality will persist. A struggle of power will endure between which stereotype is better or worse.

It may not seem as bad to be a rich oil executive compared to cleaning Slurpee machines. But a 7-11 clerk working late nights no matter their race wouldn’t complain if called a greedy oil millionaire and it was the truth.

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Posted by Leonceo Angsioco at 02:42 PM


Brightwater

Excuse me while I choke. The illustrious Snohomish County Council is upset because they believe that King County is playing power politics as it attempts to site the Brightwater sewage plant. They've taken it upon themselves to crusade for citizen involvement in future decisions.

They recently scheduled a hearing: "Because a number of people felt they were left out of the process," said Councilman John Koster. "The county thought they needed an opportunity to speak out about problems with the project."

As someone from Snohomish County, I find this highly amusing. Council members Koster and Sax are leading efforts to derail the county's balance between environmental protection and human development. In the Snohomish River Valley, where my family lives, they are in the midst of a three year battle to erect 8 giant antenna towers in the middle of a farm valley -- and right next to a recently designated wildlife preserve.

Snohomish is one of the last real rural towns left in this part of the county. However, the interests of radio station owners in Everett have been trumping those of longtime Snohomish residents who like our way of life the way it is. We feel left out of the process, too, but I guess the council members only care about all of their constituents when it's in their best interests to do so.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 02:10 PM


Salmon, anyone?

Farm-raised salmon have been the center of controversy for a long time in environmental circles.

According to a new study published in Science, "farm-raised salmon contain significantly more dioxins and other potentially cancer-causing pollutants than do salmon caught in the wild."

"...eating more than a meal of farm-raised salmon per month, depending on its country of origin, could slightly increase the risk of getting cancer later in life, researchers conclude. They urge consumers to buy wild salmon and recommend that farmers change fish feed."

The long-term risks are difficult to determine, but it seems logical to require fish farmers to stop feeding salmon a mixture of oceanic fish, which are contaminated by PCBs and other chemicals. Conversely, we could do much more by doubling our efforts to preserve wild salmon stock, preventing farmed fish from escaping (easier said than done), and recognizing that health risks will not diminish until we clean up the world's oceans.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 11:02 AM


January 07, 2004

Hillary's punch line

In a December 12th blog entry, fellow NEXT writer Megan Matthews said of Hilary Clinton, “I don’t agree with Hillary about everything, but I like her chutzpah, her intelligence, and her ability to play the political game without yielding control to the good ol’ boys of Washington.”

At a fund raiser this Saturday, Clinton displayed both her intelligence and sense of humor. Of Mahatma Ghandi Clinton said, "He ran a gas station down in St. Louis."

Clinton has apologized for the comment, citing the comment more as a joke than a gross racial stereotype. Joking or not, Clinton is a political figure and she must be aware of what she says, especially in a public forum.

For Clinton to think that the joke would actually be funny and go unnoticed, she has a bit go before becoming president of this country. Unless she can tell us what "is" really "is."

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Posted by Leonceo Angsioco at 05:16 PM


Re: Seattle's snow day

Seattleites definitely have a love/hate relationship with snowfall.

But I agree with Hieger's comments. Yesterday was a great day...one that shouldn't have been taken too seriously.

But one thing to add: later on yesterday evening, the Seattle Police Department did shut down the Queen Anne Avenue hill after somebody struck a utility pole and broke an arm. The police department did it because they feared lawsuits from any other such accidents.

Which is why I find it slightly ironic that Nigel Stark's commentary on bogus lawsuits was posted just before Hieger's snow day blog. For the Seattle P.D. to have to worry about being sued for allowing sledding in the streets is ridiculous. They did their part: they closed the street down...anybody who wants to walk, ski, or sled the hill should understand that it is at their own risk.

But the images on KING-5 last night -- pictures of a kid being frisked against a cop car because he refused to turn his sled over to officers -- were disturbing.

But...this is the monster we've created.

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Posted by Cal Blethen at 03:28 PM


Seattle's snow day

Yesterday, the scene on Queen Anne Hill was a refreshing example of what happens when Seattlelites come out of their shells and celebrate the rare winter phenomena of a decent snow fall. Strangers were lined up both sides of the counter balance cheering each other on, as brave souls threw their bodies down the wintery slope at the mercy of gravity and the occasional wipe out.

People young and old were genuinely enjoying the moment, and for a breif period of time Queen Anne was transformed from an uppity high-end neighborhood into a wild downhill challenge. As a participant in the sledding/trash bag melee, I was thouroughly impressed with the demeanor of the Seattle police and fire department officials who allowed fun-loving Seattlelites to take advantage of this rare opportunity.

Instead of fearing lawsuits and playing the typical buzz-kill role that police are so famous for upholding, the SPD actually allowed the free spirited to take advantage of the weather for several hours. The SPD could have easily shut the operation down from the get go but they permitted the winter fun and thus a promoted rare show of community in an otherwise uptight neighborhood. The police don't often do much to win public support, but by allowing good natured fun to run its course and be just that. Yesterday they earned a little more respect from area residents who might otherwise assume the worst.

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Posted by John Hieger at 03:13 PM


Lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits...

The quest to eliminate all personal responsibility for anything continues. A man has sued Charter Communications, a cable TV provider, saying that cable TV is addictive and it has resulted in his wife’s obesity and his kids’ laziness.

I expect this case will be thrown out, as it should be, but the fact that I paused for even half a second to decide if I think it will be thrown out or not shows the bad shape of our society. Just like the person suing because Oreo's made him fat (surprise!), this case just smacks of irresponsibility. It seems that even the slightest notions of personal responsibility are quickly disappearing from our society.

The article does give me some hope though. You see, Timothy Dumouchel, the plaintiff, is seeking either $5,000 or three computers as a reward. Three computers? Legal rewards are supposed to remedy the problem the plaintiff sued about – in this case laziness and obesity. Three computers will in no way fix either of those problems, it may even enhance them. Instead of being addicted to cable TV now, Dumouchel’s wife may now be growing fatter and fatter by dialing into the web a little too often.

The strange three computers request, which would likely cost less than the $5,000, thus more appealing to Charter Communications, makes me think that there might be more to this case than originally thought. Considering his request of 3 computers, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Dumouchel is just trying to score some free stuff off of Charter and thought the lawsuit was the easiest way to go. If that is true, that actually might be a good thing. I’m not sure.

Which is better, someone with absolutely no personal responsibility who allows himself and his family to become “addicted” to cable TV or someone who is conniving and greedy enough to try and pull this stunt?

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Posted by Nigel Stark at 01:48 PM


January 06, 2004

King County's rising HIV and AIDS rates

The gay community is split over the growing number of HIV-positive gay men in King County. While I feel for the people who suffer from AIDS, I am inclined to agree that the support program Gay City advocating safe sex and single partner sexual relations is not condemning being a homosexual.

Everyone -- gay or straight -- is in charge of his or her own body. People who frequent bathhouses in Seattle for anonymous sex with multiple partners are taking their life in their own hands. This is their right, but I believe that sexual education and awareness should also be made available to them.

Asking gay men, especially those infected with AIDS, to exercise restraint is not painting the stereotype that all gay men are reckless and promiscuous, instead it is merely creating awareness about the rising epidemic of HIV-positive people within their own community.

AIDS is not restrained to homosexuals; it is a global epidemic that does not distinguish by gender, race, or sexual preference. If there is a growing number of gay men in King County that are suffering, it only seems logical that a growing effort to educate people about AIDS and prevent its spread would occur. This is not an affront to homosexuality, especially because the effort is from homosexuals themselves.

I realize that every case is different, that they didn’t use a condom for different reasons. But no matter what your sexuality, safe sex is necessary. The fact that gay men themselves are forming a resistance against this education is contradictory to the openness and acceptance the group has worked to gain for over 30 years.

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Posted by Jennifer Jamall at 01:48 PM


The un-honorable Pete Rose

Pete Rose bet on baseball, who would have thought?

Despite a MLB investigation that concluded nearly 15 years ago, Rose had publicly denied any sleaziness on his part since his lifetime ban was enacted years ago. Now that he has come clean, his sympathizers nation-wide have cried that he deserves to be allowed back into the game.

Their argument: he finally admitted to lying, so now he should be promptly forgiven and allowed back into the life that he disgraced for greed years ago as a manager in Cincinnati. Never mind integrity -- or the fact that he has been lying to America since the Reagan administration -- he should be forgiven because he finally confessed to his own wrongdoing.

This sends a bad message to athletes and human beings in general. It says that it's okay to be a liar and a criminal, just as long as you are willing to admit it. Imagine serial killers being sent free after offering up half-hearted admissions of guilt -- it wouldn't fly.

Unfortunately, a healthy percentage of America's sporting press are willing to forgo Pete Rose's legacy of sleaze because he was a great ball player. Never mind his obligation as an ambassador of the game, as a former star, which he spurned for money.

We know Pete Rose was a great hitter and a bad liar; that should be his legacy and it should be left at that. Baseball and America would be better served to make a hard example out of Rose and what happens when you betray your own. Forgiving him only rewards his cowardice and sends a greater message that if you are a star, you don't have to adhere to the standards of the human race. Pete Rose is the last person that deserves a break.

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Posted by John Hieger at 01:36 PM


Iran's stubborness a disturbing sign

Does anyone see the trouble that occurs when we deal with a government that is convinced the West is evil and that its fundamentalist beliefs are correct?

Iran, which is suffering more than 30,000 deaths from the 6.6-magnitude earthquake in the city of Bam, is expressing unwarranted skepticism of U.S. aid to the Islamic country. The ruling clerics, which overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979, said that Bush's offer to help was an "interfering and hostile policy."

"The Americans, by publicizing their aid to Iran, have ineptly tried to implement their duplicitous policy of creating a rift between the Iranian nation and government," an unnamed commentator said on the state-run radio.

Hmmm. If diplomacy is this difficult when it comes to America simply trying to help a country in desperate need of assistance, how much more ridiculous will the diplomatic efforts to, say, pry into its nuclear program be?

I once talked with Iran's former Minister of Education who worked from 1976 to 1979. He told me that Iran is undoubtedly infiltrated with members of terrorist organizations.

Obviously, declawing Iran will be a tough job when providing aid to its citizens is a diplomatic fiasco in itself.

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Posted by Chris Collins at 08:57 AM


January 05, 2004

Oh no...another Britney Spears controversy!

Once, Britney Spears seemed to honor the concept of marriage. She opposed pre-marital sex. However, as she changed from an innocent girl to a sexual icon, her actions displayed her flagrant disrespect for matrimony.

She slept with Justin Timberlake and, wearing a wedding dress, kissed a tux-clad Madonna at the VMA awards. More recently, Britney married her childhood friend in the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.

According to a Seattle Times article, Britney’s record label says, "[she] took a joke too far by getting married.” She wore jeans and a baseball cap, and was escorted down the aisle by a limousine driver.

Initially, I dismissed Britney’s trashy actions as normal, 22 year-old experimentation and the foolish mistakes of youth. But her marriage clearly goes beyond the limits of acceptable. Obviously, she has serious issues with insecurity and maturity.

She either needs to see a psychologist, or fire her media managers; because the truth is, her latest controversy doesn’t generate admiration or awe. Instead, everyone just points and laughs.

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Posted by Christina Asavareungchai at 05:49 PM


The weather takes priority

I'm sick of the biggest local stories in town failing to make headlines.

Whoopty-doo, we're having a snowstorm! Yes, this is important, but local stations should take some responsibility and stop making weather the top story, as many of them have during the past week. Icy roads are dangerous, but so are a lot of other things that some of my friends haven't even heard about.

What really frustrates me is that the region's devastating oil spill receives relatively little attention when it is of paramount importance to local residents. The Suquamish trib is heartbroken over the loss of a sacred, pristine estuary where butter-neck clams and Dungeness crabs are dying in oil-slicked piles. Bald eagles have taken the opportunity to feast on contaminated shellfish. Those orca pods we adore? One family just welcomed a new calf into the Sound -- and then they swam through the spill zone near the Kitsap Penninsula.

The oil spill, only one of a few in recent years in the Puget Sound, is overpowering manmade barriers and damaging local wetlands, killing seabirds, and threatening the biointegrity of the site.

Puget Sound has some incredible ecological sites. We are luckier than we know...trust me. I grew up in California, where we paved over endless wildlands and have lost most connections to the natural world. In Washington, we can still avoid inflicting irrevocable damage on the environment -- if we know enough about it. Too bad the snowstorm takes precedence.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 05:17 PM


Peeling an apple a day...

How fascinating. Simply fascinating.

Who would have the time or the idea to test what part of the brain -- let alone the most highly evolved part of the brain -- is stimulated when peeling an apple? But it is fascinating nonetheless.

Do you suppose they contrasted it with the parts of the brain stimulated by peeling an orange or a potato? It boggles the mind with what is being researched these days.

Regardless, the intricacies of both the brain and the research about the brain are yet another indication that we humans are either unusually curious and remarkable adept, or we have way too much time on our hands.

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Posted by Julia Ugarte at 04:39 PM


Dr. Marsha Landolt

The UW hasn't had an easy time this year, but nothing feels worse than this.

On Friday, Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Marsha Landolt, died in an avalanche with her husband. She was an amazing woman who helped grad school programs reach new academic and social heights.

Even though I never had the opportunity to meet her, Dr. Landolt stands out in my mind as the symbol of what UW aspires to be. Her colleagues described her as warm, respectful, and an inspiring leader. Students, faculty and staff will miss her presence on campus, which touched us all when we didn't even know it.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 04:03 PM


Tears of Blue and Green

Neil Hart, a die-hard Seahawk fan, was quoted in a Seattle Time’s article, “You know what? We didn't win, but we proved Seattle is a football town. I'm damn proud of the way our players played.”

We all should be as prideful as this fan. The Hawks battled critics and bandwagon jumpers. Taking a storied Green Bay Packer team led by Brett Favre and the spirit of his father’s recent death to an unforgettable overtime.

After winning the overtime coin toss Hawk quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said, “We'll take the ball, and we're gonna score!”

Unfortunately that was not the case.

Seahawks, don’t hang your head. You provided us with an undefeated home record keeping the rain away from Seattle. You made a trip to the playoffs and nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback. Your passionate play and 2003 performance was perfect for us die-hard fans.

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Posted by Leonceo Angsioco at 12:13 PM


Single-sex education

The presence of gender-separate classrooms is growing in our public and private schools. Twelve schools in Washington state offer some form of gender-divided education, whether in the form of a single math class at Sacred Heart in Bellevue, or in all classes at Thurgood Marshall Elementary.

Proponents of gender separation argue that it places the focus back on education by letting kids be kids instead of worrying about whether so-and-so won’t think they’re cute if they answer too much in class. Teachers at St. Alphonsus say that the shy girls and boys appear to be blossoming in their newly gender-divided classes. Critics, conversely, claim that disruptive boys will always be classroom distractions; splitting up classes by gender merely allows them to dominate the other boys.

I’ve attended co-ed high school, co-ed private school, and an all-girls high school. When I transferred from Holy Names Academy to Snohomish High, I definitely noticed that students tended to be more interested in makeup and significant others than in classes. At HNA, nobody cared what you wore or who you dated—a huge thing for young, self-conscious teens. If single-sex education works for some students, it makes sense to have that option available.

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Posted by Megan Matthews at 11:32 AM


Single-sex education deserves an "F"

According to an article in Friday’s Seattle Times, single-sex classes are a growing trend in both public and private schools -- especially for students in grades five through eight. Proponents of these classes say that girls will speak up more, with less self-consciousness and less competition from dominant, rowdy boys.

This is ridiculous! Single-sex classes only shelter girls from reality. Girls need to stand their ground, assert themselves in classroom discussions and grow into strong, well-adjusted women.

They need to learn how to compete, work with and befriend boys. Eventually, they will need these skills -- in college and beyond that, in the workplace.

Proponents of single-sex education should worry less about teaching algebra, and more about fostering attitudes students need to succeed in life.

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Posted by Christina Asavareungchai at 10:04 AM



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