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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
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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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July 29, 2004

Seattle's racial tiebreaker

The Ninth Circuit ruling on racial preferences in admission to Seattle Schools is a fascinating piece of lawyering.

It is not an argument about Initiative 200, which forbids racial admissions in my view but not in the view of the politically correct majority of judges of the Washington Supreme Court. The case that came down Tuesday was ruled on 14th amendment grounds, "equal protection of the laws."

Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain took Justice O'Connor's argument in the Michigan affirmative-action cases, which allowed racial preferences if they met a narrow set of standards, and showed how the Seattle Schools' program did not meet those standards. That is, it used the pro-preferences argument in the Michigan cases to defeat preferences in Seattle. I thought the Michigan cases were decided wrongly, and that governmental racial preferences for social-engineering reasons should be totally illegal all the time. But you take what you can get.

This case shows that preferences remain a live issue in American courts, which I find very encouraging.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:44 AM


July 23, 2004

Bellevue Chamber straw poll

Among 8th District candidates at Wednesday’s Bellevue Chamber of Commerce campaign forum, I picked Alex Alben (D) and Diane Tebelius (R) as best prepared. Here is the straw poll from the audience:

1. 39% Diane Tebelius (R)
2. 16% Dave Ross (D)
3. 15% Alex Alben (D)
4. 15% Luke Esser (R)
5. 10% Dave Reichert (R)
6. 4% Heidi Behrens-Benedict (D)
7. 1% Conrad Lee (R)

Tebelius did extraordinarly well, considering that her three Republican competitors are all elected officials, and she is not.

This was an audience more Republican than the district as a whole, so its picks among Republicans are more significant than its picks among Democrats. Still, being a business audience, it should have been more heavily for Alben, who is a business guy, than for Ross, the radio host, but the Democrats in the crowd went narrowly for Ross.

One caveat about this straw poll: I don’t know to what extent any of the candidates lobbied supporters to attend, knowing that a straw vote was coming.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:29 PM


July 22, 2004

A yellow jersey for Al

Let's be honest, if American Lance Armstrong were not leading the Tour de France toward a record sixth consecutive victory, most of us would not be staying up late to watch.

The Outdoor Life Network, one of those cable channels usually surfed in a blur, is doing an excellent job of hosting the event for the casual viewer.

Al Trautwig is the perfect choice to connect the dots between commentators Bob Roll, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. The last two have cool accents so whatever they say sounds especially authoritative. Altogether they combine enough insight, experience and upper-English buffalo-chip flights of rhetorical fancy to hold the attention. The real virtuoso work is being done by the OLN directors cutting between cameras to tell the story of the race.

Cycling is an international sport besotted with arcane folkways, maniac fans, criminality and chemical dependency. The perfect summer replacement for the Sopranos.

Throw in the fact the sport may be the most demanding on the face of the planet. All combined it's worth being groggy for work in the morning.

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Posted by Lance Dickie at 01:35 PM


July 21, 2004

The Bellevue Debate

The candidates for Jennifer Dunn’s seat in Congress were in a panel debate Wednesday held by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. Some off-the-cuff observations...

Alex Alben, former head of public policy for RealNetworks, is the corporate Democrat. He’s for expanding the work-visa program for high-tech companies. He’s a hawk on protecting U.S. intellectual property abroad. He talks about ‘making investments’ (i.e., spending) on higher ed, so that there will be Americans to fill the tech economy's ‘great jobs.’ He thinks Internet sales should be taxed.

In this Eastside race, Heidi Behrens-Benedict is the Seattle-style Democrat--that is, the one who used the liberal terms ‘rush to the bottom’ and ‘social justice.’ When the group was asked whether the Bellevue Art Museum should get a federal subsidy, she was the only one who said ‘yes.’ When asked about Social Security, she said it wouldn’t be in a financial squeeze until 2045, implying there is no urgency about changes. She opposed private accounts.

Radio host Dave Ross was a good debater, but you would expect that. On Social Security, he took the same line as Alben: there is a real crisis and the solution is not private accounts. Like Alben, he did not choose among tax increases or benefit cuts, which are the only other options I know of. Ross was the only candidate to bring up the war in Iraq, and not favorably. In his closing remarks he said his task in Washington, D.C., would be to restore ‘America’s reputation in the world.’

On the Republican side, Sheriff Dave Reichert gave the vaguest answers. On his opening remarks, he said, ‘This isn’t about Dave Reichert for Congress. It’s about you and I.’ Not only is this bad grammar -- it should be ‘you and me,’ -- it is silly. He was asked about Internet spam and didn’t answer the question. He was for the Bush tax cuts, but did not denounce any spending. His most forceful comments were on Social Security. He was not for ‘taking money out of’ it, not for reducing benefits for the people now in it, not for increasing taxes at this time, and not for any increase in the retirement age. What he was for was unclear.

Bellevue Councilman Conrad Lee talked with more self-assurance than Reichert but no more specificity. He was for ‘energy independence.’ Mostly he stressed his success as an immigrant in America, and his ties to Bellevue.

Luke Esser, state legislator, sounded like a state legislator. The biggest message he had was that he was for widening Interstate 405. He reminded everyone that he was the only state legislator who lived in Bellevue, and that he had graduated from high school there.

Diane Tebelius, a federal attorney with a masters in tax law, gave the most detailed answers, though sometimes she sounded like a bureaucrat. On Social Security she proposed something like the base-closing commission that would produce a plan that could be accepted or rejected but not modified -- kind of a ‘fast track’ process. Like all the other Republicans, she would accept private accounts.

In her closing statement, she asked the audience to imagine each of the candidates in a Washington, D.C., office, approached by party leaders Nancy Pelosi or Tom DeLay. ‘Who among the candidates here will be able to say no?’ she said. It was a good question; as usual, there more talk about spending money on things than not spending it.

I thought the best-prepared candidates were Alben and Tebelius.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:16 PM


July 16, 2004

Dump Cheney? Not likely

In response to my blog and Joni's blog on the idea that President Bush might dump Vice-President Cheney from the Republican ticket, one reader writes:

"The President is exceedingly loyal to his own people and engenders fierce loyalty from his subordinates by being loyal to them. His dropping Cheney for political expediency would signal a huge crack in that loyalty and would be the equivalent of throwing red meat to the media and his detractors to try to find out why Cheney was dropped. This would only serve to distract from the campaign and would undermine confidence from the American public..."

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:22 PM


July 14, 2004

The Seattle vote, 2000

On July 5, we ran an editorial entitled “Island Seattle” highlighting a Moore Poll that found Bush support in Seattle at 9 percent. The figures that the editorial needed, but did not have, were the results of the general election of 2000. Now we have the figures, courtesy of King County Elections. They are:


Al Gore (Dem) 72.25%, 206,249 votes
George Bush (Rep) 19.49%, 55,632 votes
Ralph Nader (Grn) 6.86%, 19,595 votes
All others 1.39%, 3,982 votes

That’s quite a skew, considering that Bush and Gore were essentially tied in the national vote, and Gore’s advantage statewide was only 5 percent.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:16 PM


July 13, 2004

Re: A winning combo?

My colleague Joni Balter has blogged two hunches here: first, that the federal government will propose a military draft after the election (especially if Bush wins, but even if it’s Kerry); and, second, that Bush will dump Cheney off the Republican ticket. Here are my thoughts.

On the draft: It wouldn’t be the first time that a war policy was offered right after an election. FDR ran for a third term in 1940 promising “again and again and again” never to send our boys off to foreign wars (though he did approve a draft during the campaign). A month after the 1940 election he called for military aid to Britain, which was a major step toward joining the war against Germany.

Woodrow Wilson had run in 1916 on the slogan of “He kept us out of war;” in the spring of 1917 he got us into World War I.

Then there was Lyndon Johnson, who painted Goldwater as a warmonger in 1964, won the election, then proceeded to “escalate” in Vietnam in 1965.

I don’t think the government will ask for a draft because it would be deeply unpopular and because the military wants a professional corps, not drafted cannon-fodder. But they might be desperate.

On the vice presidency: The last V-P thrown over the side was Henry Wallace in 1944. Democratic pols were afraid FDR was going to die in office, and that the mystical and pro-Soviet Wallace would become president. They replaced him with Harry Truman, which turned out to be a very smart thing.

I think it would be brilliant for Bush to replace Cheney, because Cheney is associated with the war and, by implication, the mistakes of the war. Bush has the perfect excuse: Cheney’s health, and also the need for the party to groom a candidate for 2008, which Cheney could never be.

The best candidate to replace Cheney would be Colin Powell, because among Bush’s top people he is tarred the least by the war, because he would make a candidate in 2008, and because he is loyal.

Will this happen? I have no idea. Powell has said in the past he didn't want to run.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:15 PM


July 12, 2004

Operation Covered Backside

Anxious? Good. Scared? Even better.

The Bush administration seems intent on keeping the nation on full boogeyman alert for the foreseeable future. Periodically a senior official is dispatched to fidget about terrorism, offering no details about the threat, advice on how to behave or scant reassurance. In May it was Attorney General John Ashcroft. This month it was Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's turn to stir the pot.

After all the evidence the administration was not thinking about terrorism before Sept. 11, the new standard might be code named Operation Covered Backside. Issue random warnings so if something does happen, God forbid, everyone can say they were onto it, however unsuccessfully. The latest jab at the nation's psyche is to hint at contingency plans to delay the November elections.

Oh, and go about your business with a yellow alert throbbing in the background. None of us may be any safer, but the White House is covered.

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Posted by Lance Dickie at 03:42 PM


July 09, 2004

Reed Davis and the Patriot Act

Reed Davis has ripped George Nethercutt for defending the “sneak and peek” provision of the Patriot Act. Good for Davis.

Nethercutt, the congressman from Spokane, is the favorite for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Like most Republicans, he a loyalist for the Bush Administration. Davis, his opponent, has been running as a conservative. Most Republicans have been swallowed up in the Bush administration’s “war on terror” and all of its baubles and bayonets, and have forgotten the conservatives’ fondness for limited government. To be sure, Davis supported the war, but he has taken out a critical position on the Patriot Act, which for a Republican takes some guts.

Davis says: “Every time I’m told that the Patriot Act will not be used to threaten civil liberties, I just close my eyes and see nine hundred FBI files sitting on someone’s desk at the Clinton White House. Government power inevitably overreaches.”

That it does-under Clinton and some other presidents one can think of.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:00 PM


Labor law and one's own kids

In our Page One story on Thursday, July 8, we highlighted a struggle between a Yakima family, the Dotys, with state regulators over the issue of child labor. The Dotys, a fundamentalist Christian family, were employing their own kids, aged as young as 11, in their house-moving business. One use was having the kids sit on the top of the roof, and push up the wires when the house went under traffic lights. This was to teach their kids the work ethic.

I am sympathetic to the Dotys. Having kids work does teach them the work ethic. This is an old-fashioned way to do it, but being old-fashioned should not be forbidden by law. The point of the child labor law is to prevent employers from endangering kids--that is, other people's kids--who are presumed to be too young to look out for themselves when their parents aren't there. The law should be more lenient if the kids are working in the family's own business.

I know the rejoinder: What if the family is putting the kids at unacceptable risk? Imagine this, imagine that. That is the problem with all freedom. It is the family's responsibility to feed their kids food; but what if they don't do it? Shouldn't we have a state bureaucracy of adequate dinners? Well, we know from experience that parents will feed their kids, and it is heavyhanded and tyrannical to regulate them into doing it.

We also know that parents who have their kids work will almost never ask them to take unacceptable risks, because the kids are their kids. It matters little whether the kids working around the house, around the farm, or in a family owned commercial business. So why does the law single out the commercial business?

The reason is the labor movement. Unions represent adults, and they don't want to compete with kids. That is why the law is written the way it is. That is a politically understandable reason, but it is not a good reason.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:24 PM


July 08, 2004

A winning combo?

The handwriting is on the wall and many other places: Dick Cheney will not be on the presidential ticket this fall.

If George W. Bush's approval ratings continue to stay low, if polls show Kerry-Edwards is a winning ticket, Bush will find a way to replace Cheney. The vice president at this point is a drag on the ticket.

Possible replacements include: Sen. John McCain, Secretary of State Colin Powell or Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

I don't know anything more than anyone else. It is just a hunch, but a strong one.

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Posted by Joni Balter at 03:43 PM


July 02, 2004

Breve bravo

Right here in java city, Starbucks has perked a lot of praise for its introduction of diet-friendly drinks this week. Imagine a delectable grande carmel Frappuccino light blended coffee for 180 calories!! (By comparison, the regular one is 290 -- with whipped cream, it's 420.)

The company also placed quite extensive nutritional information brochures in their stores, although that information has been available online for about year.

As a Starbucks devotee who has played it safe by ordering NONFAT lattes, I say it's about time?

This is hardly a bold move, considering McDonald's has published nutritional information for years and this spring introduced an adult Happy Meal complete with a pedometer and bottled water to lure more health-conscious customers.

That said, I'm looking forward to cooling off this summer with carmel Frappuccino "lite" for just 20 more calories than my austere usual. At least now I can know the difference.

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Posted by Kate Riley at 01:15 PM


He was a contender

In the final scenes of "The Godfather, Part II," the Corleone family sits around the dinner table, waiting for Vito Corleone. Everyone is there: Sonny, Fredo, Michael, Connie, Tom Hagen, even Carlo, who we already know will become Connie's two-faced husband.

The only person missing is Don Corleone. And today we are missing him.

Marlon Brando, the actor who portrayed Don Corleone, died Thursday at the age of 80. He was a passionate actor who furthered our familiarity with the Actor's Studio and method acting. As I heard him so aptly described on NPR this morning, he was the voice for characters who didn't have a voice.

"On the Waterfront," "A Streetcar Named Desire," and of course, "The Godfather," were a passionate beginning to the love affair moviegoers have with Brando. There can be any number of debates on what happened to his career (and our affection for him) in recent years, but those performances will continue to resonate for us stronger than any mention of "The Island of Dr. Moreau."

I find myself saddened today because of this loss. Maybe it's because it is the continuation of a list of losses we've felt in addition to President Reagan and Ray Charles. But I also feel the loss of a generation. Reagan, Charles and Brando are icons belonging to my mother's generation, not mine, and yet their passing affects me. An era is fading and I can't help but look longingly behind, hoping for today's icons to fill me with equal interest and passion.

The era of macho men with no excuses who called women "doll" and "dame" and got away with it is long gone. Brando came from the stock of actors where women wanted them and men truly wanted to be them. He was the original version of what we describe today as "hot." He actually had the wardrobe mistress on the Broadway run of "Streetcar" cut out his pants pockets so he could fondle himself on stage. With all the gusto of Terry Malloy and the charisma of Skye Masterson, Brando brought us to him.

In "Brando: The Biography" by Peter Manso, he talks about that final scene in "The Godfather, Part II." Don Vito Corleone never shows up in that film footage because Brando refused to be in it. Francis Ford Coppola shot around it by having the family members run outside the frame to greet him. Brando's presence was so strong onscreen that he didn't even have to be there for us to feel him.

I hope that we'll be feeling his presence for much longer still.

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Posted by kkim at 11:22 AM


July 01, 2004

Sole searching

Does X-raying shoes make sense? Mic Dinsmore, executive director of the Port of Seattle, doesn’t think so. “It’s time we reexamined the value-added” of some of these things, he said in a meeting with Times editorial writers. “We have overreacted on aviation.”

It's about time somebody said that.

After 9-11, Dinsmore said, the two most effective changes were the securing of cockpit doors on commercial airplanes and the change in people’s awareness of danger. (The first was cheap, the second absolutely free.)

Though the rest of airport security “has some value,” he said, it has been costing the country billions of dollars, and some of it of only marginal value. One example is X-raying shoes, which federal officials demand of Sea-Tac but not many other airports.

Dinsmore does a lot of flying, and gets tired of it. “Every so often, I say to hell with it and keep my shoes on and the buzzer goes off,” he says. On the other hand, Dinsmore argues that security measures are insufficient in marine cargo, an area much less visible to voters, politicians or the chattering class.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:02 PM




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