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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
Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
Lee Moriwaki
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Joni Balter
Joni Balter
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Eric Devericks
Eric Devericks
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Lance Dickie
Lance Dickie
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Bruce Ramsey
Bruce Ramsey
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Kate Riley
Kate Riley
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Lynne Varner
Lynne Varner
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Ryan Blethen
Ryan Blethen
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September 29, 2004

Tender mercies

Ouch, that must have hurt. Or so one would surmise from the angry, wounded responses to my Sept. 24 column about the dour prospects of baby boomers volunteering in retirement.

The prognosis was offered by Harvard School of Public Health and the MetLife Foundation in a pesky reported titled, "Reinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement." One nettling quote indicted a generation with a loftier view of itself: "By every measure of engagement one can think of, (boomers) do less: They vote less, read newspapers less, are less apt to join churches or civic organizations."

The learned fear is that boomers who were not inclined to step forward in their most active years, would not do so in retirement, especially as a changing economy reshapes the concept of a neat, clean end to one's working life.

The assessment was embarrassing to a whole generation, and lots of people were deeply upset. Yes, it will go into our permanent record. But the insulted also missed the point. Of course, lots of boomers have worked hard and generously in their communities. Boomers are not all civic slackers, but a preponderance are, according to the study. Those habits and inclinations do not change simply because a person has more spare time.

Yes, yes yes, boomers have made their communities better places to live, but the generation was found wanting. A colleague asked me a question for which I do not have an answer, and the study did not really address: Why? Did the general affluence enjoyed by boomers through their lives take the edge off? Were the times too edgy and confrontational?

You tell me.

The unavoidable truth, however, is boomers did less and the forecast is glum for a glorious, influential brand of civic engagement their numbers might have promised in retirement.

Sorry about those hurt feelings.

Respond to Lance

Read his latest column

Posted by Lance Dickie at 11:57 AM

September 27, 2004

Retro nosegear

John Derbyshire, a columnist in National Review, writes about the demise of the handkerchief. “These were once a mark of gentility and prosperity,” he writes. "When I was a kid I had one all the time, and made great use of it during allergy season.

“Yet nowadays the humble handkerchief is fast becoming extinct,” Derbyshire writes. “I still carry two handkerchiefs with me wherever I go, but it has been some time since I ventured to blow my nose in public, or saw anyone else perform this once-commonplace act. Nor can I remember the last time I got a pack of good linen handkerchiefs as a birthday present…”

A year or so ago I went shopping for women’s handkerchiefs for my aunt, who is so old she can remember Woodrow Wilson, and was told at Bon-Macy’s that they don’t carry handkerchiefs anymore. They don’t appear to carry men’s either. Try “handkerchief” on their website, and you get “handkerchief” halter tops and handkerchief skirts -- things that I had never heard of.

Almost the entire nation has converted to tissue -- which is fine if you’re sitting near a box. But tissue is simply not as handy as the old-fashioned handkerchief.

I thought, “I’d better find some on the Net while they’re available at all.” I did. I laid in my order, and await them in the mail.

Respond to Bruce

Read his latest column

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 05:17 PM

The pressure's on

In a conversation about the upcoming presidential debates, a colleague of mine described them as "a strange form of ritualistic combat, where each side waits for the other to make a mistake." Not a bad description really and one that is definitely worthy of consideration for a cartoon.

A poll out Monday shows President Bush still hanging on to a lead. This should add to the pressure on both candidates going into this Thursday's debate. I'm all for pressure. It increases the likelihood of a mistake, which makes my job just a little easier.

Respond to Eric

See his latest toons

Posted by Eric Devericks at 05:10 PM


Local representatives of the Kerry-Edwards campaign stopped by the editorial offices last week and shared a few interesting tidbits. One I found most intriguing was a discussion of how important health care issues are to folks in Eastern Washington.

I buy that. I agree with that.

I am not so sure that Kerry-Edwards are doing as well in Eastern Washington as the campaign staffers think. The campaign ran some ads over there and they believe they made great inroads for Kerry in the 5th Congressional District.

I will believe that when I see the election returns. Kerry likely will take Washington, however, because of the huge anti-war sentiment in much more populous Western Washington.

Respond to Joni

Read her latest column

Posted by Joni Balter at 01:27 PM

The gooey center

Whatever happened to the gooey center of American politics? The letters and phone calls we get are full of anger about the other side, but rarely about reaching toward the middle.

I suspect those independent, moderate voters don't call or write, they just vote. But the result is no one reaching toward centrist candidates, and a dialog from the extremes.

If you think of yourself as a moderate, which candidate best represents that standard to you, either a national candidate or state candidate?

Respond to Jim

Read his latest column

Posted by Jim Vesely at 11:36 AM

September 24, 2004

A voice from the vault

A reader called today, incensed over a political phone call. He said the caller said she was with his precinct, and had to update his voter information. He was listed as a “zero,” which was incomplete; they needed to update whether he was Democrat or a Republican, and whether he voted regularly.

He was suspicious. It seemed to him that the question was asked in language that suggested it was the government, or some neutral party, calling. Yet the information they wanted was not information the government had any business knowing. Or that anybody else had, either.

Who is this? The Democrats? The Republicans? She said it was Voters Vault. He pressed some more. She complained back: Nobody she had called had been this confrontational to her. He pressed on. What was a phone number? She gave him one, and he wrote it down. Then he called me and I called the number.

It was the Nethercutt campaign. Voters Vault is the Republican Party’s managed voter database.

Just so you know.

Respond to Bruce

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:23 PM

September 17, 2004

Refugee deported

On the front page of Friday's Seattle Times, a story about a Cambodian refugee being sent back to his homeland failed to muster any empathy from me.

Since Ho Beua came to the U.S. with his family as a teen, he has been in and out of jail. Today, the 38-year-old has served time for assault and DUI convictions. Now he is among 1,500 Cambodian criminal offenders across the nation being deported to their homeland.

While it is sad that the father of three is being sent back to a poor country that he no longer relates to and has little family in, it's also tough not to say, this is a guy who had a wonderful opportunity and chose to throw it away.

Yes, he seemed to have fallen through the cracks as a teen in the U.S. and this is indeed unfortunate. But to have repeatedly broken the law and now to expect empathy and a pardon doesn't wash.

We should save our empathy and court resources for those immigrants who work hard and appreciate the opportunity to live in the U.S.


Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 11:36 AM

September 16, 2004

Jobs in the park

A few days ago the U.S. Senate voted out a bill to expand Mount Rainier National Park by 800 acres of land along a river, and Sen. Maria Cantwell sent out a press release about it. (The press release didn’t mention that the park was already 235,612 acres, but never mind that.)

“Expanding Mount Rainier National Park will ensure that our children will be able to enjoy this majestic regional icon,” the senator said. “This expansion is also a win for our local economy.”

The economy?

The press release says: “According to a recent study conducted by Michigan State University, visitors to Mount Rainier spent over $24 million in 2001, supporting nearly 800 jobs and $13 million in personal incomes in communities surrounding the Park. In addition, it is estimated that Mount Rainier visitors spent $6.75 million at local restaurants and bars, and $5.5 million at regional lodging facilities.”

Why do we do this? That is, why do public figures so often feel compelled to offer economic justifications for things that aren’t economic? I hope and assume the 800 acres was purchased because it contained something that people wanted in the park. Why not just leave it at that?


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:08 PM

Republicans for Sommers

As I write, state Rep. Helen Sommers is ahead of Alice Woldt in Seattle’s 36th district by about 700 votes. These figures may change, but it looks as if Sommers has been renominated as the Democratic candidate thanks to the crossover votes of Republicans.

Here’s why. Of the votes counted so far (Thursday morning), 87.8 percent are by declared Democrats. The 36th is heavily Democrat, but not by that much. In 2002, Sommers was reelected with 78 percent of the vote and Mary Lou Dickerson, another Democrat, was reelected with 80 percent.

Let’s say the 36th is 80 percent Democrat. But 87.8 percent of those voting in the 36th declared themselves Democrats on Tuesday. It would appear that 7.8 percent of Tuesday’s voters are people who normally vote Republican in November but voted Democrat Tuesday. This group cast more than 1,500 votes, which is double Sommers’ lead over Woldt. And I’d guess that virtually all the Republicans who crossed over to vote Democrat voted for Sommers.


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 10:27 AM

September 15, 2004

Bye-bye Bon Marche

“Bon-Macy’s” lasted only a year and a half. Good riddance, because it was a shotgun marriage, a steak-and-jelly sandwich of a name.

At the beginning of 2005, it is to be just Macy’s.

Well, “Macy’s” is an old, proud name, but it means nothing to me, because I grew up in Seattle, not New York.

The Bon Marché had a colorful history. The key entrepreneur in its growth was a woman, Josephine Nordhoff. She and her husband started the Bon as a little store in 1890, and she took it over when he died in 1899.

At a time when women didn’t have the right to vote -- but did have the right to contract, own property and otherwise engage in business -- Josephine Nordhoff created one of Seattle's two dominant department stores.

The day she died, in 1920, all the big downtown retailers closed in her honor.

I’ll get used to Macy’s, just as I got used to Bank of America instead of Seafirst. But it’s not the same.


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:04 PM

September 13, 2004

Re: What are assault weapons

A reader responds to my "What are assault weapons" blog:

What many people who oppose these weapons (or for that manner, ANY firearm) don't understand is it's the ACTION that makes the weapon, not the cosmetics. These guns function exactly as semiautomatics always have, both before and after the ban. The issue about magazines is another matter. There is no difference between two 15-round magazines and three 10-round magazines. You still have 30 rounds to fire, and practiced pistoleros can reload in less than a second.

As far as background checks go, there is no firearm made I can't wait seven days to receive. Here in Washington state, depending on the type of concealed
weapons permit you have, the waiting period is waived. The rationale being you've already had a background check by registering with the state for your CCW.

If changes in the sale and distribution of firearms are to make a difference in society, I have one suggestion. Make the transfer of firearms the same as
transferring a vehicle. I can't sell a car or transfer the title privately without going through the state. When I buy a gun, I need to fill out paperwork and I
am recorded as the owner of that gun. Because I take gun ownership seriously, whenever I sell a gun I consign it at a gun dealer, and the individual purchasing it from that dealer has to fill out the same paperwork I did to buy the gun in the first place.

Laws along those lines would make the transfer of firearms safer because a background check would result from the sale. If the person buying the gun has
a criminal record, the sale would be voided. I figure the consignment fee is just part of making sure the gun does not fall into the wrong hands.

Smells like registration? Not really. Every time I buy a gun, paperwork and a background check results. The state knows I have a weapons permit, so what's the difference? The only ones squawking would be the N.R.A., which needs to spend less time sending me requests for money trying to win back my membership. Advocating laws such as this would persuade me to join again.
Written by a STop blog reader


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:03 PM

September 10, 2004

What are assault weapons?

Some of the editorials and cartoons about the late assault-weapons ban assume that we’re talking about machine guns. These are not machine guns, which spray bullets while the shooter holds down the trigger. Machine guns have been illegal since the 1930s. These are semiautomatics, which shoot one round with each squeeze of the trigger. The ban applied only to certain semiautomatics, which were distinguished from other semiautomatics partly by name, partly by effective firepower (e.g., the size of the magazine) and partly by appearance.

Here is the definition of semiautomatic assault weapons in the law now expiring:

“(A) any of the firearms, or copies or duplicates of the firearms in any caliber, known as-- `(i) Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models); `(ii) Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil; `(iii) Beretta Ar70 (SC-70); `(iv) Colt AR-15; `(v) Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC; `(vi) SWD M-10, M-11, M-11/9, and M-12; `(vii) Steyr AUG; `(viii) INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9 and TEC-22; and `(ix) revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12;

“(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of-- `(i) a folding or telescoping stock; `(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; `(iii) a bayonet mount; `(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and `(v) a grenade launcher;

“(C) a semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of-- `(i) an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip; `(ii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer; `(iii) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned; `(iv) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; and `(v) a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm; and

“(D) a semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of-- `(i) a folding or telescoping stock; `(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; `(iii) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5 rounds; and `(iv) an ability to accept a detachable magazine.'”

The gun folks say these amount to cosmetic distinctions. Some of them are. A pistol grip is a cosmetic distinction. There is nothing about a pistol grip -- nothing that I know of -- that makes the weapon less suitable for individual ownership. The big magazine is more debatable.

The United States allows individual ownership of weapons that are deadly, but not too deadly. Where to draw the line I don’t know, but at the moment we’re not talking about machine guns.


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:48 PM

The Economist's apology

The Economist magazine has run this unusual correction. I don’t know the story behind it, specifically. I do remember when I worked in Asia a decade ago having to deal with Singapore, the region’s most sensitive government. If you implied any wrongdoing, they would sue you in their own courts, and win, and then your publication would have to pay if it wanted to continue circulating there. Or else they would restrict your circulation, making you “fire” your subscribers.

Officially, we said that none of this mattered; we were fair and impartial and would continue to be fair and impartial. Actually it mattered a lot. Singapore took what we said seriously. They cared, they had power over us, and they used it.


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:45 PM

September 09, 2004

Richard Butler, screwball

Our Sept. 9 page-one obit of Richard Butler, the Idaho Nazi, ended on the note that he had reached a pathetic end. I think he was pathetic all the way through. I am happy to see him leave the pages of the newspaper, because I think he was one of the most overplayed political stories I can remember.

The man was significant for two reasons only. First, he espoused an ideology that included hatred for other races, which was unusually mean-spirited and notable for its connection to the National Socialists; second, several people who had been associated with him committed violent crimes. As news, I think, that would make him a one-shot story for being an oddball -- what we in the news business call a “hey, Martha!” story -- and also an occasional police story.

He was not a story of major social and political significance. That is, his Aryan “Nation” didn’t represent a movement among white people in the Pacific Northwest, or anywhere. But it was covered as if it did.

The story became a clash between a small group of nutball race-haters who thrived on angering liberals, and thereby getting public attention for being nasty and horrible, and liberals who thrived on angering Butler, and thereby getting public attention for their altruistic crusade on behalf of human rights.

Each side needed the other to market itself.

I am reminded of a story of a parade over there in which Butler brought out his entire national following, such as would come to Idaho -- fewer people than could sit down in one city bus -- and the human rights crusaders brought out a couple of thousand, and the two sides faced each other and demonstrated their deeply held personal convictions. Newspapers and TV stations duly sent out reporters to record it all. They were marketing themselves, too.

In the end, what was the significance? Butler was a screwball. His people were losers. There were not enough of them to do anything except random crimes, for which they were duly arrested and jailed. After the first few “hey, Martha!” stories, we in the media should have ignored him.


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:07 PM

September 08, 2004

Kidnapped in Iraq

Bert Sacks of Seattle, an opponent of the war in Iraq who traveled there several times to donate medicine, writes that two of the aid workers he knew, Italian women both named Simona, have been kidnapped.

He received this from one of his correspondents, who wrote:

"In Baghdad we used to go to the ‘Italian house’ often. For good food, real coffee and great company. It was a large house, lots of marble, nice garden, spacious rooms. Downstairs were the offices of three Italian aid agencies. Upstairs was the living area for the girls.

Simona and Simona, two bubbly young Italian girls were always ready to socialise. They hosted the New Years Eve party of our little community of aid workers, volunteers and independent journos. Their house always felt like a haven from the violence of Baghdad outside.

Today the violence came to them. Simona, Simona and two Iraqis were kidnapped by 20 armed fighters who stormed their house. "

Sacks writes, “It's the first time I'm aware of something really bad happening to one of the people I've met and known in Iraq. It is so terrible.”

There are now more than 1,000 American deaths in the war. Of course these two women, if killed, are not Americans and would not be counted.


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:56 PM

September 03, 2004

MIA: Truth at the RNC

It would be fascinating to see how many American viewers believed even half of the attacks that President Bush flung at Kerry Thursday night at the Republican National Convention.

Lucky for Bush that TV allows the truth to be widely skewed, and lucky for him that most Americans probably won't do their own homework to learn how many of his attacks were complete rubbish. Bush and co. are betting on the age-old dirty trick that if you say it enough times, people will believe it.

Take Bush's charge at the RNC that Kerry "wants to dilute" his No Child Left Behind Act, after Kerry initially supported it. The truth is Kerry did vote for Bush's education reforms in 2002, but like so many Democrats since, has shed light on the fact that Bush has failed to adequately fund it -- to the tune of $27 billion.

Reason stands that had the education law been adequately funded to allow teachers and students to meet the steep new demands, Kerry would most likely still support it.

This is not flip-flopping -- Bush's tired favorite phrase for Kerry -- this is disagreeing with the direction of Bush's policy and his stated intentions. Ditto that for Kerry's voting record to initially support the Iraq conflict and later to oppose Bush's blank check to fund what became an unjustified war.

For several more choice examples of Bush's skewed interpretations of Kerry's past statements and voting records, go to this New York Times story.

And here's the full text of Bush's speech. Compare this with the above story to find the real truth.


Posted by Colleen Pohlig at 12:32 PM


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