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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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December 28, 2004

Re: For shame!

A reader responds to another reader's comments:

You have many TYPICAL Democrat responses in the "thoughtful" response from a reader.

The fact of the matter is this election has MAJOR serious problems. The outcome all THREE times begs for better handling of ballots. What the "thoughtful" responder didn't acknowledge is that the original machine count WAS accurate. The reason there were differences between the first and second count were new ballots were added in several counties.

I TRUST a machine recount much more than a hand recount. A machine doesn't have to wrestle with bias or outside influences. A machine doesn't go cross-eyed when its eyes get so red they can hardly stand the pain. A machine doesn't have to think about what to have for lunch while viewing ballots or what the kids are going to do today. A machine doesn't use "fuzzy logic" to conclude if a voter filled out the form correctly. A machine just counts and does it much more accurately than any hand count could by a long shot.

Don't let them fool you into believing that the machine made errors. IT DID NOT. Humans who created the input (the ballots) made errors and thus in my mind invalidated their own vote. It is not the fault of anybody else that they invalidated their OWN vote it is strictly their own responsibility.

Oh wait, that isn't the case in a liberal's mind. The intent makes it valid ... Never mind that the voter didn't read instructions ... Never mind that they didn't take the time to make sure all markings on the ballot are what the voter intends to submit. Never mind that the EASY to FOLLOW instructions are there ... The ballot counts.

Give me a break. Can't someone take responsibility for their vote not being counted?

Respond

Posted by Kate Riley at 10:08 AM


Re: For shame!

A Washington voter in Ohio responds to Kate's blog:

Big surprise ... King County keeps counting until they get the result they wanted. Seattle is the new Chicago!

I find it humorous that we keep talking about disenfranchisement of the voter, except when rejecting the military absentee ballots. Reports that I'm hearing show that King County is not interested in taking another look at these, especially when they are usually about 80% for Republican candidates.

I wonder how many Washington liberals will now have bumper stickers denouncing their illegitimate governor?

Not that it really matters. A Republican governor wouldn't be able to do much against the Socialist machine my state has become anyway ... maybe you'll drive out Microsoft next?

Respond

Posted by Kate Riley at 09:59 AM


December 22, 2004

Re: For shame

An excerpt from a thoughtful Seattle reader's response to my blog Wednesday:

It is far beyond time for the candidates, their campaigns, and the political parties to step back and let the statutory recount process run its course. I am tired of hearing Republicans talk about how Dino Rossi has "won twice." Nobody has won until completion of all statutorily-authorized recounts. Even then, there will very likely be an election contest in which both sides challenge thousands of rejected ballots -- and that, too, is their right.

While we may bemoan the lack of finality in a system such as this, it benefits no one to scream fraud and denigrate the motives of people exercising their legal rights.

I am tired of hearing Republicans say on the one hand that there is no purpose in recounting votes again because we can have no more confidence in one count than another, and on the other hand repeating the mantra that "we shouldn't be changing the rules halfway through." Which is it?

The fact of the matter is, our existing statutes mandate a machine recount in elections as close as this one was (and in fact, if the first machine count had been as accurate as the second was, state law would have mandated a hand recount). State law also authorizes a hand recount if requested by a candidate, political party, or any group of five or more voters willing to pay for it.

The Republicans' attempts to shortstop this process by pressuring Chris Gregoire to concede after the first and second counts, is much more an attempt to "change the rules halfway through" than any action the Democrats or any elections officials in any county have undertaken.

The fact of the matter is we have had an election in which the difference between the candidates' tallies is far less than the margin of error for any method of counting votes. We must accept that, as we must accept with confidence (as Danny Westneat's recent column "Counter for a day finds few bugs in recount process" gave me) the legislature's determination that a hand recount is the most accurate way to determine who won an election -- even if it is also the most expensive and least practical.

Let's get through this recount and see where we are. Let's stop denigrating anybody from exercising their legal rights, even as we might gently suggest to both sides that abiding by the results of the hand recount is in the greater public interest than continuing down the road of litigation with an election contest, at least in the absence of particular evidence of disenfranchisement of legal voters.

Respond to Kate

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Posted by Kate Riley at 02:04 PM


For shame!

I've had it with this interminable election.

I'm talking not about the twists and turns of the governor's race but of the loony machinations, allegations and protestations of party officials.

Party blowhards are casting aspersions on the integrity of the election and the people responsible for the ballots. True enough, election officials in King County and a few others have admitted mistakes -- the risk of a system run by humans.

But the system -- including first recount, the hand recount and the disagreements that have gone all the way to the state Supreme Court -- seems to be working just fine.

Leaders of both parties have suggested the public's lost faith in the system. If that's true, it's because of their fiery and infuriating spin. Republican Chairman Chris Vance seems to blow a gasket daily and has all but called the chief King County elections official a liar. Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt flouted the system by prematurely pronouncing that Democrat Christine Gregoire has taken over declared Gov.-elect Dino Rossi by eight votes. That's based on his unofficial cyphering.

How responsible.

Bless the elections workers, all of them, from the counters across the state to the besieged King County elections official, a Democrat, and the Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed. At least some people are keeping their heads.

Respond to Kate

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Posted by Kate Riley at 09:56 AM


December 20, 2004

Applying argument to me

A reader writes:

Denny Stern made a great point in the letters to the editor today. I'm sure there are many writers in India or some other country who could write your column as well as you do for a fraction of the cost, say maybe $12,000 per year.

As someone who subscribes to the Sunday Times, and weekly P.I., I would like to see both papers survive. Lowering the labor costs of both papers would give them both a better chance of surviving. Replacing the current, relatively high-paid columnists with lower-paid foreign writers is a win-win proposition for the papers and their readers.

Of course, this may hurt you a tad, but so what? You don't mind making a minor personal sacrifice for the benefit of the many, do you? Free trade is a wonderful thing. Gets rid of overpaid people, like yourself, and lowers costs for consumers. Or, maybe you could keep your job if you were willing to compete on salary with writers in India. You would not mind a little pay cut, would you?

My reply:

It is not a great point. All it amounts to is this:

1. I recommend a policy in which some persons lose a position they have now.

2. Your reply is: 'Well, Ramsey, what if you lost your position?"

3. Therefore -- what? That my argument is wrong? (Why?) Or that the argument might be right but that I shouldn't make it? (Why not?)

Your "great point" can also be made this way:

1. I recommend a policy in which some persons come out ahead. (A tax cut, let's say.)

2. Your reply is: "Well, Ramsey, I bet you'd come out ahead, too."

3. Therefore, I'm writing a column in order to feather my own nest, or at least it looks as if I am doing this, and therefore I shouldn't write that column.

So what do I get to write about? What is the rule? Do you apply this rule to all columnists or only the ones who annoy you?

As for India, as far as I know, The Times is free to hire columnists from India. But what would they write about: Sound Transit? the Monorail? Prisoners at Monroe? King County's Critical Areas Ordinance? State of Washington ballot initiatives? That is what I have been writing about recently. Pretty difficult to do that from India.

In that respect, I figure I have a competitive advantage. If I don't, then I don't, and I will have to sustain myself some other way than by writing columns for The Times.

Respond to Bruce

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:56 AM


Who lies about social security?

From a reader:

Bush and the GOP are flat out lying about Social Security being in trouble. They are doing this for greed, plain and simple. It is payback time to all the fat-cats on Wall Street who pumped millions of dollars into Bush's reelection. What is even more disturbing is the disgusting job done by the press, who are letting Bush and company spout unchallenged lies day after day.

Social Security won't be in trouble until 2055, and even then it will still have money to pay 81% of the promised benefit. This is a crisis!!!???

Read Paul Krugman if you want the actual truth. If you want propaganda, listen to Bush, watch FOX and bury your head in the sand.

From my reply to him:

You write with an air of authority, but it is more air than authority. This is from the Social Security Trustees Report, 2004, available at www.ssa.gov:

E. CONCLUSION
Under current law the cost of Social Security will increase faster than the program's income, because of the aging of the baby-boom generation, expected continuing low fertility, and increasing life expectancy. Based on the Trustees' best estimate, program cost will exceed tax revenues starting in 2018 and throughout the remainder of the 75-year projection period.

Social Security's combined trust funds are projected to allow full payment of benefits until they become exhausted in 2042. At that time annual tax income to the trust funds is projected to equal about 73 percent of program costs.

Separately, the OASI and DI funds are projected to have sufficient funds to pay full benefits on time until 2044 and 2029, respectively. By 2078, however, annual tax income is projected to be only about two-thirds as large as the annual cost of the OASDI program.

TO SUM UP:
SS goes cash-negative in 2018, and begins demanding the feds make good on IOUs in the so-called "trust fund." The Treasury will have to do this by borrowing, unless the federal budget is in surplus then. This money runs out in 2044, at which point the SS system is 27% short. I wouldn't say this is a "crisis," but it is definitely a problem, and one that gets more expensive the longer it is put off.

"Read Paul Krugman if you want the actual truth." Not even close. Paul Krugman is second only to Ann Coulter as the most biased columnist in the major media. Check it out at this site.

Respond to Bruce

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 10:23 AM


December 17, 2004

Merry Christmas!

In Bellevue, an atheist family objects to a city Christmas tree. The tree should be taken down, an atheist says, because it celebrates a Christian holiday and it makes him and his wife uncomfortable.

I'm an atheist and I'm not offended by Christmas. I've had Christmas trees in my house and given plenty of Christmas presents. For years I have helped make German Christmas cookies called lebkuchen. I didn't have a tree when I was a bachelor because I was too lazy to put one up, but as a dad I never vetoed one. I participate in Christmas dinner, Christmas trees, Christmas presents.

In American culture, it's impossible not to do this unless you're Jewish, and then you can have Hanukkah presents. But if I said, "I'm not going to give my kid a present, and when my family has a Christmas dinner I'm going out to McDonald's instead, because I'm an atheist" -- think of all the trouble it would be.

And the result would be -- what? What would I get for it? (Besides, lebkuchen is really good, and I like spiced punch, too. And turkey. Etc.)

Christmas trees are associated with Santa Claus. Neither is part of any Christian doctrine I ever heard of. They were not cultural icons until the early 20th century. We don't pray to a Christmas tree, or make an offering to it. The tree is not solemn and contemplative; it is gaudy and commercialized. You can stick an angel on it, if you like, or you can decorate it with candy canes and colored lights. One of my favorite decorations, bought in Germany, is a dill pickle. I have another one that looks like a Volkswagen.

If the City of Bellevue's Christmas tree, which has been given the sanitized name of "Giving Tree," promotes anything, it's gift-buying. That makes it a symbol of capitalism, maybe. Not religion.

Respond to Bruce

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:16 PM


December 14, 2004

School closures

It was understandable, even predictable that some would greet with dismay Seattle Public Schools' interest in closing under-utilized schools to save money. Seattle has rightly moved toward neighborhood schools.

So it is only logical that some parents would question if Superintendent Raj Manhas' talk of school closures represents a prudent use of resources or an unfortunate reversal in policy.

As far as I can see -- which in this case isn't very far because school closures is still an unformed idea rather than a policy proposal before the School Board -- Manhas is taking a smart, business-oriented approach to the problem of dwindling education resources. The district does not have enough money, nor should it, to pay for schools run inefficiently or sloppily. This is not about abandoning the small-schools educational strategy currently in vogue.

While criteria for school closures has not been set, it would be shocking if the board shut down successful schools merely because they were small. Indeed, Mary Bass, the board's former president, said that is exactly what will not happen.

Instead, some schools might be examined to see if they would do better merged with another more successful school. Some might be expanded from kindergarten to sixth grade to kindergarten to eight grades. Given the popularity of K-8 schools, it might work out that cost-cutting equals customer service.

There will always be critics angry at Manhas for simply breathing. But logic, in this case, ought to trump emotion. A third of Seattle's school buildings go under-used. The district has closed schools before and reaped strong financial benefits through outright building sales or long-term leases.

Lastly, unhealthy budget numbers in school districts across the nation are pointing to a choice between our classrooms or bricks and mortars. I choose to save our classrooms and the children in them.

Respond to Lynne

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Posted by at 01:48 PM


"A nation of wimps"

The parents of my generation are overprotecting their kids from risk, suggests an article, "A Nation of Wimps" in Psychology Today magazine.

The argument is not about things like seat belts and bicycle helmets though we are doing that. It's about letting them decide to go out, or stay out, or do some thing with a physical risk involved. I did a lot of those things as a kid: climb trees, especially, but also climb sand cliffs, play on the railroad tracks, etc. I also rode the bus from Edmonds to downtown Seattle and had dinner at a restaurant and took the bus home alone -- at about age 13.

I had more freedom than kids do now. I didn't always use it wisely, but I may have benefited from having it.

Here is the article's summary: "Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they're breaking down in record numbers."

Respond to Bruce

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:40 PM


December 09, 2004

Citizen soldiers

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gets away with slicing the baloney pretty thick in Washington, D.C., but his gruff and grumpy act fell flat before troops in Kuwait headed for Iraq.

National Guard soldiers asked pointed questions about the shoddy condition of their equipment as they headed into a combat zone with no secure areas. Among the bluff and bluster answers a flummoxed Rumsfeld offered was one that was particularly disingenuous: "...You go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

The Iraq war was a war of choice, with all of the timing dictated by the Bush administration and Pentagon, which bears full responsibility for the numbers of troops judged necessary to fight the war, and how adequately or inadequately they are equipped.

The administration is also responsible for the training and equipment provided the nation's military reserves. If they have been working and training with hand-me-downs, the policy caught up military planners.

Rumsfeld had the time and money to get it right. He was finally held accountable by those who suffer the consequences of Beltway hubris in a war zone.

Respond to Lance

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Posted by Lance Dickie at 12:40 PM


Wine and the states

I am of two minds about the wine case at the U.S. Supreme Court. On the one hand, I like the idea of free trade among the states, which applies to every legal product except alcoholic drinks. On the other hand, I respect the Constitution.

This is what the Constitution says about intoxicating drink, in the 21st Amendment, Section 2: The transportation or importation into any State, Territory or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

At first glance, that looks like Prohibition, but actually this is the measure that repealed Prohibition. The key is, “in violation of the laws thereof.” It means the states control the movement of beer, wine and liquor into their territory.

Another part of the Constitution, the commerce clause, implies that the states may not control the movement of other commercial products into their territory. The state of Washington cannot have a policy about California watermelons, separate and distinct from Washington watermelons. It cannot discriminate against Mack trucks and in favor of Kenworth trucks, or Coca-Cola bottled in Oregon versus Coca-Cola bottled in Washington.

This case was regarding the states of New York and Michigan, which forbid all out-of-state wineries to send their residents wine through the mail. However, they allow in-state wineries to do it. New York and Michigan say this is for the protection of the public, a claim that is unbelievable on its face. New York and Michigan are trying to favor local wineries.

The question is, under the Constitution, can New York and Michigan do this?

It seems to me they can -- because the 21st amendment says they can. It is more specific than the commerce clause, and anyway it is an amendment, adopted in 1933. If it conflicts with the commerce clause, it is the commerce clause that is amended.

I don’t like it, but that’s what it says.

Respond to Bruce

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:34 PM


December 03, 2004

Prison reactions

My column of Dec. 1 on commuting sentences of convicts who have served 25 or 30 years has gotten quite a response (as I expected). Most of the reactions are from men, and almost all of them negative.

Writes one man:

The innocent people they killed are still dead. Incarceration of murderers is a cost I accept as a taxpayer and as a citizen of a society that rejects predators. Do a little "bleeding heart" stuff on the victims, why don't you?

A man in Walla Walla, a staunch conservative, writes:

Maybe we should just change the law and make it legal to kill. Or better yet, lets release them in your neighborhood. Also, lets do research on bring their victims back to life. That is about as practical as your suggestion.

A man with a federal government e-mail address writes:

If these people murdered your son or daughter would you feel the same way? Who will you hold responsible if they re-offend?

(Answer: probably not, but that is not how I reach my answer. Answer: them.)

An employee of Washington State University writes:

I believe we must not have governors commuting sentences of convicted criminals who have exhausted all avenues of appeal within the judicial system and for whom no exculpatory evidence has come to light.

But a woman with a son incarcerated at Monroe disagrees:

I think we all need some kind of incentive for doing well and certainly inmates need that as well. Their environment offers very little hope of any kind and if there could be a few glimmers of that every once in a while, what a difference that would make in the lives of the inmates as well as their family members.

Writes another woman:

For the last fifteen years or so I have volunteered at the Reformatory. I have met a number of men who, I have long thought, have grown past the person that committed the crimes they are incarcerated for. I have come to believe that most of us do something in our early years that we would rather not have our noses rubbed in today. These men are not allowed to move past the mistakes they made in their youth. Every day they get looked at as the individual they were twenty, thirty years ago.

One of my male colleagues, referring to my general distaste for left-wing causes:

You liberal do-gooder.

And a young woman whose politics also tilts to port, writes:

I wonder when this became a “lefty” issue anyway…sigh

Respond to Bruce

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:11 PM




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