Link to jump to start of content The Seattle Times Company Jobs Autos Homes Rentals NWsource Classifieds seattletimes.com
The Seattle Times STOP: The Seattle Times Opinion Blog
Traffic | Weather | Your account Movies | Restaurants | Today's events



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.

space space space

Jim Vesely
space
Jim Vesely
E-mail | Bio


Lee Moriwaki
space
Lee Moriwaki
E-mail | Bio


Joni Balter
space
Joni Balter
E-mail | Bio


Eric Devericks
space
Eric Devericks
E-mail | Bio


Lance Dickie
space
Lance Dickie
E-mail | Bio


Bruce Ramsey
space
Bruce Ramsey
E-mail | Bio


Kate Riley
space
Kate Riley
E-mail | Bio


Lynne Varner
space
Lynne Varner
E-mail | Bio


Ryan Blethen
space
Ryan Blethen
E-mail | Bio


August 27, 2004

The Taiwan puzzle

Todd Crowell, who was a colleague of mine in the early '90s in Hong Kong, has written a fascinating piece for the editorial page. He outlines the danger of war between Taiwan and China, either because China thinks it will get away with a war or because Taiwan thinks if it provokes a war, the United States will bail it out.

My advice to Taiwan is: Don’t try it. I think the government in Taipei knows that, because they are well connected in the United States. I don’t think they would misjudge us. China is more of a worry. I went there in 1999 and was struck by how nationalistic the young people are, totally of one mind regarding Taiwan being part of China.

The assumption has been that China would not attack Taiwan because the diplomatic and economic cost would be unbearable. Crowell presents the argument that a war “would set back all the progress it has made in the past 25 years... In one instant, it would become an international pariah.”

Would it? Only, I think, if the United States got involved. Without the U.S., who would stick up for Taiwan? The United Nations? No. Taiwan is not a member. If the U.S. failed to do anything, nobody would. Everybody would want to go back to business with the 1.3 billion-worker market.

The question then comes down to what the U.S. would do. Bush gave a promise to fight. Kerry might view it differently. It is not something Americans have thought about, or wanted to think about, for a very long time.

Respond

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:47 PM


August 24, 2004

A letter on letters

Cheers for Kailani Koenig-Muenster’s celebration of handwritten letters on the Sunday NEXT page. Several years ago I undertook a book of family history, and as part of it, I went through a box of letters from the 1940s. Most of the letter-writers I had met in the 1960s, when I was a kid. But I hadn’t known them at the time they wrote these letters.

Several things were notable about the letters. One was voice. Some people put their voice in what they write. My mother did. I could read a letter from 1945 and hear her talking. Yet her older sister wrote formal letters.

Dating the letters was a puzzle, and was fun to figure out. It might say “June 19” but not the year, but then it might refer to some news event, like the beginning of the Korean War, and I could look that up and see it was 1950. Some letters were dated just “Sunday.” Which Sunday? Sometimes I could tell by the postmark on the envelope, if there was an envelope. When people respond to each other in letters, you can tell which letter came first. If one correspondent dates her letters another doesn’t, the one's will help date the other's. Sometimes they would write about Christmas, or the apple harvest, and I would know what month it was.

This was before the Internet. At the time, I thought, “Letter writing has died. Everybody uses the telephone now, and whatever they say is gone without a trace.” Then came e-mail. It is not handwritten, but at least it is written. But it takes an effort to save it. E-mail is so common that most people don’t think about saving it, and I know much of it is not worth saving. But some of it might be, and it takes just a few clicks of a mouse button to save it.

The other thought about letters is that you need someone to write to who is not where you are. I had a great correspondence with my aunt when she lived in California. Now she lives a few blocks away, and I don't write to her anymore.

The most important thing with letters is: Write them! Second, keep a copy! Especially if you write about yourself, your life, your thoughts and feelings: Keep a copy. Give your grandchildren something to paw through. Or yourself. You'd be surprised how interesting you are, especially to you.

Respond

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:01 AM


August 19, 2004

Juror notes

I just got finished being a juror in King County Superior Court. I’d never been a juror before, and had the naive idea that being a person who exercises his biases for a living, and had access to a newspaper, I would be disqualified. Well, I wasn’t.

Several wanted to be disqualified, including one man who was supposed to attend an adoption hearing and a woman with a 3-year-old who was not used to day care. The man was excused immediately and the woman reluctantly. For the rest of us, the judge said he was not interested in hardships to our employers, only to us. Everybody stayed.

I was initially Number 17 out of 35, which meant I wasn’t in the box. But the defense attorney knocked out a couple of guys in the box, and I was in. I thought maybe he’d knock me out, too, but he gave me the thumbs-up. I was happy. I wanted to be in.

It was very much like court on TV and in the movies, at least in the form of the thing. The judge, Ronald Kessler, wore a dark robe and big floppy bowtie. He explained our role, patiently and clearly. He was the ruler on questions of law and we were the rulers on questions of fact. We could not ask questions. We could take notes. I had heard about juries where you couldn’t, and being a former newspaper reporter, I thought that was nuts. I took notes and was glad I did, but I was careful not to take so many notes that I was distracted.

The case was about a man in possession of a stolen truck, a heavy pickup that belonged to a tire service center and had the company’s name stenciled on the doors. The police had been tipped off to the whereabouts of the truck and the man who had it, and they staked it out.

The man had come out from behind an apartment building, and looked around as if to scout whether the coast was clear, and went back around the building. The lead detective, who knew him, identified him. The lead detective thought he’d been seen, and drove off, telephoning his backup across the street a description of the man. She saw a man of that description get into the truck and drive off.

The lead detective pulled up behind the truck and identified the man in the rear-view mirror. The same guy. Another cop passed him on the road going in the other direction, identifying him through two windshields. He has a very distinctive look.

Patrol cars were called in to stop the truck, and when they turned on sirens, the truck bolted, driving down the wrong side of an arterial street with heavy traffic. Cops chased him a while, then broke off the chase because it was too dangerous to bystanders-and because they knew who the culprit was. A while later they found the truck, got a dog and tried to track him, but the dog was confused by the scents of children.

Two days later they had another tip, waited for the suspect and saw him get off a bus. He ran, and for a while eluded them. They brought in a dog, but the dog was confused by rabbits. They had given up looking for him and were walking back to their cars when he stuck his head out of some bushes. They had him.
He was not charged with stealing the truck. We never knew who did that. He was charged with possessing stolen property worth more than $1,500 and attempting to evade capture.

Essentially, our job as the jury was to decide whether the story above, which told by four police officers, had actually happened, whether the man in the truck knew it was stolen and whether the defendant was the man in the truck. After a fairly short discussion, it was clear to everybody on the jury that the answers were yes, yes and yes, beyond a reasonable doubt.

The jury was an eclectic group. There were people in their early 20s and people with gray hair. There was a black woman reading a book on divinity studies and a young white woman working on a term paper on disaster preparedness. There was an apartment builder in his 50s who said a Christian prayer over lunch and a naturalized immigrant from Bombay who worked at Microsoft. They took their roles seriously. We were told not to discuss the case until it was over, and as far as I know, nobody did.

Probably they disagreed on the sort of public questions a newspaper writes about, but they came to quick agreement about the defendant and the charges against him.

The ease of the thing was a disappointment. There was no great puzzle to untangle, no intriguing anomalies. There was no argument over motives or evidence, no disagreement over what mattered and what didn’t. There was no division by race or gender or class or religion or belief about human nature or anything really. We were all citizens serving a role. The prosecution had the guy nailed, and the defending attorney had not tried to rebut any of it. He had called no witnesses. He merely reminded us that the state had to meet the burden of proof.

I felt sorry for the defense attorney. He was an earnest guy, but you could see by the expression on his face that he knew his ship was sunk. The prosecutor was cool, assured.

I was the jury foreman. I wanted that job, and volunteered for it. It was a short job. I refereed the meeting for 20 minutes, wrote “guilty” and “guilty” for the two counts, signed the paper and carried it back into the courtroom. The judge called me by name and asked if the jury had reached a verdict. I was a bit stagestruck; I said “yes,” and then immediately thought I should have said, “Yes, your honor.”

The judge asked each of us whether this was our personal decision and the jury’s decision. Each of us said “yes” twice. He thanked us. We filed out, and five minutes later were released to go home.

In was a case in which the prosecution seemed to have all the cards, and yet the rules in some ways favored the defense. The defendant did not have to testify, and did not. It gave no alibi, but he prevented the prosecutor from trying to ask about his record. I had an idea that there might be one, because the police witnesses spoke as if he were an old customer. I thought the defense attorney might object to their hints, but he did not.

I had expected justice to be slow, but this was efficient. Even the judge said so.
My biggest disappointment was the dogs.

Respond to this posting

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 10:39 AM


August 04, 2004

Lynndie

Pfc. Lynndie England's statement that the Abu Ghraib poses were photographed "just for fun" may be true, but is no excuse.

Whether one is for the Iraq war or against it (and I have been against it from the beginning), it is important for the United States military, and for Americans generally, that this woman be tried and convicted. The same goes for the men who engaged in these prisoner abuses.

I note in the story that she could get 38 years in prison. That's over the top; six months would probably be enough. But there needs to be punishment, and official shame.

Respond to this posting

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:58 PM




Marketplace

November 2005

S M T W T F S
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30