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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

The opinions you read below are those of the individual writers, not necessarily views that will become formal positions of The Seattle Times. Respond to STop
(Please be aware that your name and comments may be published here, unless you specify otherwise).

Currently, STop cannot automatically post readers' comments on the blog. However, the editorial staff will regularly post readers' comments. Your comments are sent directly to the individual editor or writer.

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Jim Vesely
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Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
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Lee Moriwaki
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Joni Balter
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Joni Balter
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Eric Devericks
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Eric Devericks
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Lance Dickie
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Lance Dickie
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Bruce Ramsey
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Bruce Ramsey
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Kate Riley
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Kate Riley
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Lynne Varner
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Lynne Varner
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Ryan Blethen
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Ryan Blethen
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May 28, 2004

Depersonalizing corporations

Last week I was on a road trip. Around lunchtime I drove into Arcata, on California’s north coast. I immediately noticed the dreadlocks, natural-food restaurants and other marks of the university town that I later found out had been dubbed “Berkeley north.” Arcata is the home of Humboldt State University and various campaigns against logging. In the paper was the story that the city council had finally passed a municipal ordinance depersonalizing corporations. It was an idea I’ve heard from David Korten and the Seattle left.

The way they state it is that rights belong to human beings, not corporations. Therefore, corporations should not have, for example, a constitutionally protected freedom of speech. Here is an old article explaining the ideology of it, another on the recent campaign and another on the final victory.

The problem with this idea is that corporations are organizations of people -- as are clubs, associations, unions, partnerships, cooperatives, and, indeed, city councils. To say that certain types of organizations don’t have freedom of speech is to say that some people may speak freely and some cannot, and further, that the decision will be made by political authority.

Here is a frightening face of the left. It wants to speak and be heard, and it wants its enemies to be silenced.

Perhaps I am biased -- in fact, I know I am. As I write this blog, I am exercising the right of freedom of the press, which in this case is not my right, because it is not my blog, but the right of the Seattle Times Co.

A corporation.

By the way, "depersonalizing corporations" is also an item on the new political platform of the King County Democrats, available here.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 05:06 PM


Sound Transit Discovers an Infestation of Alien Nuts

Sound Transit is now spending management time -- read the story here -- tracking down the use of $9,500 of steel tubes manufactured in Canada. In addition, it has come forward voluntarily and disclosed that a few hundred dollars worth of steel nuts it used apparently were manufactured -- get this -- in Thailand.

So what? We trust our lives to cars from Germany, Sweden, Korea or Japan. We ingest Australian wine, Brazilian orange juice and Canadian maple syrup. We proclaim our solicitude to foreigners by forbidding our police to ask for immigration papers.

But when it comes to public construction we draw the line. Every contractor has to make sure that every nut, bolt and rivet has to be manufactured in the United States.

We grumble about the expense of these government projects. Here is one of the reasons.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:19 AM


May 26, 2004

The cost of libraries

Seattle has just opened a new central library, a project that cost $165.5 million. Compare it with the earlier ones:

1906 library, $200,000.
1960 library, $4.5 million.
2004 library, $165.5 million.

The unit of measurement is not the same. The 1906 library, an imposing Beaux Arts edifice, was paid for in gold dollars and built entirely with private money. The second library, done in the sparse International Style, was paid for in postwar dollars. The new Rem Koolhaas library is paid in current dollars, which to the older generation must seem more like pesos.

Using the inflation converter at the web page of the Minneapolis Fed and assuming that 1906 is close enough to use the 1913 figures--the earliest they have--I came up with the following costs in 2004 dollars:

1906 library, $3.8 million.
1960 library, $28.5 million.
2004 library, $165.5 million.

The floor areas were not the same. The first library was 55,000 square feet; the second, 206,000 square feet; the new one, 362,987 square feet. Here is the cost per square foot in 2004 dollars:

1906 library, $68.87.
1960 library, $138.20.
2004 library, $455.94.

Well, I hope the new library lasts a long time.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 10:52 AM


May 24, 2004

Re: They're just numbers

A reader responds to "They're just numbers":

Should we 'support freedom' by acting as judge and jury in the world court, ignoring the call for restraint from a significant number of Americans, the majority of nations, the UN and the Pope? That IS the definition of stupid and self-centered, isn't it? The previous blogger's 'unique obligation' smacks of Bush's infamous 'Crusade' speech, which shocked the entire world and put the Islamic fundamentalist in full alarm.

As far as Iraq goes we had no obligations. They were already under sanctions, had agreed to inspections and the UN was satisfied that conflict could be avoided diplomatically. What Bush was really doing is dealing with the legacy of bad foreign policy errors that other (mostly Republican) presidents permitted during the '80s and '90s when we sold Saddam his hardware and when we were a silent partner in the Afghan conflict with Russia, and then failed to take out Hussein the first time around.

I believe that what our government is doing now is the reason many people of the world hate us; we are acting like the ruler of the world, not its benefactor. I, like many others, hope only the best for Iraq's future, but nowhere in the United States' Constitution does it state that Americans must sacrifice the lives of their own citizens to forestall an unconfirmed threat thousands of miles away.

Saddam was contained and no real proof of any WMD were discovered, so the Bush Administration ASSUMED or worse fabricated this threat, and if this was not accompanied by ignoring Richard Clark's warnings of danger at home, it would seem less like a vendetta against his father's attempted assassin.

Gone are the days when America could ignore the sentiments of the rest of the world. The Bush administrations losing track of the body count, banning casket photos, ignoring the Geneva Convention and no-bidding Halliburton's $$ mega-billion contract are warnings of another kind of danger.

Liberals don't fear freedom; we fear men with more power than intelligence.

Written by a STop blog reader

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Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 09:49 AM


May 20, 2004

Chilled Chalabi

Pentagon favorite Ahmad Chalabi was served notice the romance is over. Iraqi police trashed his house Thursday, and the $340,000 a month the United States paid his Iraqi National Congress party ends June 30.

No one knows for sure where power is headed in six weeks with the handover, but it is not going to Chalabi. Early on he was the favorite to sit atop whatever form of government emerged after the removal of Saddam Hussein. Now Chalabi is on the outs with the Coalition Provisional Authority and marginalized in the Iraqi Governing Council.

Chalabi had not lived in Iraq for 40 years, but he purred the right words in receptive ears at the Pentagon and Bush White House. CNN reports he is widely believed to be the source of intelligence about the alleged weapons of mass destruction that have not turned up. He also pushed the short-sighted plan to remove all Baath Party members from Iraqi public life.

Lately he had pushed for Iraqi control of all security forces after the handover. Chalabi made himself a nuisance and he became expendable. He was useful when he said things others wanted to here. Chalabi's mistake was not being wrong, but not shutting up.

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Posted by Lance Dickie at 01:22 PM


Re: They're just numbers

A reader responds to "Re: They're just numbers":

It's breathtaking for me to read how little persons who comment about Iraq understand about international politics and policies. We are today loosing our soldiers because we have gone along with terrorists and with despot governments hoping they would mature and forget their murderous ways. That hasn't happened. If it weren't for our military, we would either be speaking German or Russian today. But I guess for some that's OK.

America is the only land that still strives for the individual to make their own decisions and to seek their personal goals. No other nation has that priority. Europeans, Asians and Africans laugh at our "pursuit of happiness" concept as stupid and self centered. Yet, we have many, like this blogger who fails to understand this nation's unique obligation to support freedom throughout the world.

What is it about freedom that Seattle's left leaning community fears?

Written by a STop blog reader

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Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 10:24 AM


May 19, 2004

Re: They're just numbers

A reader responds to "They're just numbers":

Junior High students can give a better estimation on the number of casualties of the war in Iraq than Deputy Defense Secretary Mr. Paul Wolfowitz. I would, personally, be deeply embarrassed even in the privacy of my own home, if I had even come close to the numbers he presented.

If anything, this war should have brought more awareness to the people of the United States, but it cannot be shown any more bluntly that people need something absolutely shocking to waken them from this ignorant trance that they have found themselves in.

I constantly find my conversations veering into the subject of the Iraqi war, and it stuns me that some people know close to nothing about what is going on.

If the difference of 222 lives isn't enough to make every single person in every state wonder, I don't know what is. But I will say this: if "approximately 500" is how someone wants to calculate the deaths in Iraq, then maybe that person should go talk to 222 families who lost loved ones. Maybe then it wouldn't be so easy to forget how many people lost their lives.

Written by a STop blog reader

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Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 12:02 PM


May 06, 2004

The signature bogeyman, again

Public-employee unions who oppose the efforts of tax-cutter Tim Eyman made the news a month ago with their telephone campaign that The Seattle Times denounced.

That campaign, or something very like it, is still going on. A reader e-mailed me today and offered to play back a recording he had just received. And there was a woman’s voice warning the listener that his signature was worth “up to $3” to a paid signature gatherer, and that “some of these paid signature gatherers have been convicted of forgery and signature fraud, and other crimes.”

Read that statement carefully. Technically what it means, I think, is that some signature gatherers have falsified signatures in an attempt to get paid more. That may be -- but it is no danger to anyone who signs. The danger there is to the initiative sponsor.

What it sounds like is a warning to the public against identity theft. It is carefully worded to sound like something other than it is, and to scare people about a threat that isn’t real.

I don’t recall any story about someone who became a crime victim by signing an initiative petition. If anyone knows of one, let me know.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 05:16 PM


In a pickle

According to the Washington Post Wednesday, the Bush administration is asking Congress for an additional $25 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is quite the pickle for Senator Kerry. After enduring months of stinging attacks from the current Bush ad campaign over his no vote for the $87 billion dollar war package, I'm not sure he can afford to do the same thing again. On the other hand, a yes vote reverses his position and would solidify his image as a waffler.

Should be interesting.

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Posted by Eric Devericks at 05:05 PM


May 05, 2004

Keeping tabs on licensing

A reader calls from Silvana, in rural Snohomish County, with a complaint about the Department of Licensing’s new requirement that every citizen disclose a home address. The reader has his mail delivered at a P.O. box because he wants his personal information to be secure -- and because that’s the way he likes his mail delivered.

He bought a used car and now the state will mail the title to his home address only. He’s angry. “You’re dictating how I have to get my mail,” he says.

Yep. Thank Monorail for that. Because the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority has a car-tab tax on city residents, a number of Seattle people have registered their cars outside the city. Owners of jalopies and wrecks have done this for some years now, to weasel out of the emissions test.

Now come the Monorail-tax evaders. The upshot: You can have a P.O. box if you like, but if you have a licensed vehicle, and if your home is on a mail route, you must also have a mailbox at home.

By the end of the year, the state person says, the Department of Licensing hopes to have a computer system that can include a home address and a P.O. box, and have the tabs sent to the box. But they can’t do it now. Too complicated.

“We’re not trying to get anybody to go out and buy a mailbox,” she says, but that’s what it amounts to. One more bit of regulation.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:33 PM


Draft? No way

Talk of a draft keeps coming up but it's all nonsense. A return to national conscription is coming from those opposed to the war and despite their legitimate criticism of the war in Iraq, the draft response is not a serious debate.

The Army is the only service that was dependent on the draft. It's probable the other services would not require or desire draftees and since the volunteer Army and Reserves were instituted in the 1970s, the Army has no interest or need, either.

Draft women, draft gays and lesbians? College deferments? Employment deferments? Should the Reserves and Guard be a deferment to longer active service? Answering any of those questions directly, and the result is that there won't be a draft unless a major national emergency occurs.

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Posted by Jim Vesely at 10:28 AM


May 03, 2004

Keeping their stories straight

A reader responds to "Keeping their stories straight"

President Bush and Cheney set up too many pre-conditions for this to be counted as real inquiry. No recording by anyone except the White House. No written notes. No sworn testimony. No way of knowing by anyone outside the Oval Office if the questions were pertinent or "softball". What kind of interview is that? They testified jointly, in order that their testimony would not be contradictory. That way Tim Russert can't play gotcha later with either of them.

Written by a STop reader

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Posted by Lance Dickie at 10:29 AM


Monorail through the Center

Today's debate over whether Seattle's monorail should go through -- or around -- Seattle Center is really about changing the city's heart and face. Every time a city alters its skyline or its landscape, a similar debate begins.

At The Times, our editorial opinion is that the monorail should go through the Center, and in this we agree with longtime Center director Virginia Anderson. We've debated the worth of the monorail, but if it's going to be built, it should work as smoothly and efficiently as possible, and that means going through Seattle Center.

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Posted by Jim Vesely at 10:22 AM




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