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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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Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
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Eric Devericks
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Lance Dickie
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Bruce Ramsey
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Lynne Varner
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Ryan Blethen
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July 29, 2005

More Sprawl

Another reaction to my Sprawl column:

Yesterday I went to a moving party for some friends who are going to Kansas City. He’s a carpenter, she’s a stay at home mom who will work again as a teacher at some point. They sold their place in Edmonds, will be able to buy twice the home at half the money and probably still have $50K left over to fund college. Pretty amazing. But also a transfer of wealth. Everyone talks about wealth transfers with social security and medicare, but who is going to keep the housing bubble inflated? The same children who will be stuck with mcjobs and the high costs of the boomers’ social security and medicare? These long term finances get really sobering.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 10:03 AM


July 28, 2005

Reactions to my "Sprawl" Column

Several readers respond to my column in Wednesday’s Times, in which I argued that governmental measures to curb “sprawl” are driving up the price of houses beyond reasonable levels. Here’s a man from Tennessee:


If you want to live in a high-dollar market, you have to face what that means in terms of housing prices, and you have to adjust your expectations to meet that.

I lived in Seattle for much of the 90's, LA for a while after that. I really loved LA. I surfed Malibu four days a week at six AM, and was in to work by 9. I saw Matthew Perry so often at starbucks we always nodded hello. Jamie Lee Curtis was an acquaintance. I ate extremely healthy food and lifted four days a week. Friends got me in to screenings on the Paramount lot. Life was grand.

But I was paying $3,800/month rent on a 3-bedroom townhouse, and eventually my pocketbook just couldn't support my lifestyle.

Now I live in wonderful Nashville Tennessee. I have friends in low places, no movie stars, my surfboard collects dust. But I have a paid-for brand-new two bedroom townhouse with the best view in the city.

Priorities.

And a woman from Bothell:

You left out one thing, the odds of my boys getting married, having children, AND living near me are greatly reduced. They will have to marry working women if they do live here, and odds are I will have to retire and take up daycare to see my grandkids more than once a year on a holiday.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 02:56 PM


July 25, 2005

A Bombing Response

Responding to the previous entry, on the fatal shooting of the London bombing suspect, the reader who wrote the longer of the two responses says:

OK, you got me. I cheered before I knew it was a tragic mistake and they killed an innocent guy. It is a sobering example.

Fratricide is always doubly tragic: there is the initial loss and the demoralization of the defenders, who may now hold their fire and give a real bomber the split second he needs to blow up another 50 innocent people.

Accusing me of having too little regard for due process is fair enough IF you can say how due process is supposed to work with a previously anonymous suicide bomber who can sprint onto a crowded train and detonate himself in a heartbeat.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:35 PM


July 24, 2005

A Dead Electrician

My comment on the London terrorist suspect shot five times in the head elicited two responses Friday from Seattle-area men, both supporting the cops, and neither giving a fig for due process of law. The first said:

The London shooting is a critical turning point in the war on terrorists. Up to this time the Bush administration has stood alone in an all out fight against Islamo-Fascists. Now England has joined the hunt. That’s a huge step in the right direction.

The second said:

I heard the same story on the Tony Snow talk show (also with a substitute jock). He reported that the police held the terrorist down and shot him through the head 5 times -- and I say bloody good shootin', pardner! (or whatever you say to a Brit)

I praise them for their politically incorrect fighting spirit, not just their marksmanship (which is probably just fine had longer range shots been needed).

The war on terror is not a sporting event; it as an existential war and a quick 5 through the head, at whatever range the shot presents itself, is exactly what every wannabe terrorist needs.

It is good to see that, once they get serious, the Brits still know how to defend their homeland. 'it 'em again, mates!

Review what happened: A man is followed by police, he runs, he is pursued, brought down and shot five times in the head. When you shoot someone in the head--five times--you are not trying to stop him. You are trying to make sure he's dead. Offhand I can think of two reasons for this: if he is controlling some trigger on a strap-on bomb, or if you don't want him to talk.

On Saturday the Telegraph reported that he wasn’t the right guy. The New York Times reported that he was an electrician--a Brazilian, not an Arab--on his way to work. The British police said his killing was “a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets.”

That’s what you get when you throw out due process of law: You get cops shooting the wrong guy. It won't just be an occasional mistake, either. It will be a common thing.

Let’s be careful what we cheer.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 09:33 AM


July 22, 2005

Those London Sharpshooters

I was listening to the Rush Limbaugh show on my way to work today, and the talk jock--not Rush, but some other guy--said he was amazed at the story from London about the shooting of the suspect in the tube station. The amazing thing, he said, was that the London police shot five times, all of which hit the suspect in the head. Some shooting, huh? The California cops--the host was from California--aren't anywhere near this good, the host said.

Then I read the account of the shooting in the London Telegraph, here. Yeah, they hit him five times in the head--from point-blank range.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:50 AM


A Long Argument about WMDs and Iraq

Concerning my blog entry opposing the Iraq war, Peter F. in Seattle argues that I’m all wrong. He sent me a long post, and I have edited it down here, but I think I have the essence of it:

On Scott Ritter: When you quote Ritter as saying in 2001 “There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction of any meaningful significance.” Question: How on earth would Ritter know this? After the inspectors were removed prior to Clinton ordering air strikes in December 1998, inspectors were not allowed to return to Iraq. How can Ritter have any confidence that ALL that chemical-warfare, biological warfare and nuclear programs were destroyed when no one went back in to verify? Answer: Impossible.

Moreover, “Iraq has been disarmed,” Ritter said. Again. Oh really? How did he know? And what does “of any meaningful significance” mean? Sandy Berger went on CNN shortly before this with a small vial of sugar that was meant to represent how VX it would take to wipe out a fairly significant portion of a city’s population. Again, Ritter cannot be certain without verification of which he never conducted.

And “special factories” to create bacteriological weapons and chemical weapons? Huh? Have either you or Ritter read David Kay’s or Charles Duelfer’s post-war reports and findings? CW and BW programs were active and covert and spores were found in a number of what can best be described as safehouses.

On “Proving a negative:” This argument is just plain nonsense. Countries, including ours, are always asked to account for their WMD, chemical weapons and biological weapons; records of production and destruction are always kept. In short, many people are asked to prove what they don’t have; it’s easy: document it. The Iraqis are notorious for their records and bookkeeping skills. If indeed Iraq had destroyed it’s remaining CW, BW and nuclear, then where is the documentation for it? Answer: Well, old Saddam said he didn’t have it. But it is not reasonable or acceptable to trust the words of a murderous tyrant like Hussein.

Here’s what Iraq could not account for as of March 6, 2003: This is from the United Nations-issued report on Iraq's "Unresolved Disarmament Issues." It stated that the "long list" of "unaccounted for" WMD-related material catalogued in December of 1998—the month inspections ended in Iraq—and beyond were still "unaccounted for." The list included: up to 3.9 tons of VX nerve agent (though inspectors believed Iraq had enough VX precursors to produce 200 tons of the agent and suspected that VX had been "weaponized"); 6,526 aerial chemical bombs; 550 mustard gas shells; 2,062 tons of Mustard precursors; 15,000 chemical munitions; 8,445 liters of anthrax; growth media that could have produced "3,000 - 11,000 litres of botulinum toxin, 6,000 - 16,000 litres of anthrax, up to 5,600 litres of Clostridium perfringens, and a significant quantity of an unknown bacterial agent." (The preceeding was quoted from an article in the Weekly Standard by Daniel McKivergan on 07/01/2005)

Iraq didn’t document ALL or ANY of this? Come on, Mr. Ramsey, that’s not common sense. And to say that in “hindsight that was apparently true (that Iraq had no WMD)” is patently false. There’s no way we could have known about Iraq’s grand deception without taking over the country, even inspectors were duped! A fact only proven in the Kay and Duelfer (mostly Duelfer) reports. In short, Mr. Ramsey, “absense of evidence is not evidence of absense” when it comes to Iraq’s WMDs—and that should be of more importance to you than politicizing the issue.

I would strongly recommend you visit www.iraqwatch.org to access the reports I’ve mentioned. Moreover, you should also read UN Resolution 687 to which all 16 subsequent Resolutions are tied into.

On morality: 300,000–500,000 people in mass graves, Mr. Ramsey. An alleged 5,000 dead every month due to 12 years of sanctions. Genocide was reason enough for us to enter Somalia; it was enough in Iraq’s case long ago.

Dump the rhetoric and get some facts, Mr. Ramsey. There’s too many of us out here in the world who see right through you and your empty arguments.

I wrote this reply:

Ritter said he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction because there had been no capacity in late 1998 and it was too soon for it to be reconstituted given the financial and military constraints on Iraq.

You say David Kay found active programs, and spores in safehouses. But several articles on the web page to which you direct me, including this one and this one say there were apparently no chemical or biological weapons. We started a war on account of WMDs. WE invaded their country--an action that should have prompted them to use their WMDs if they had any. And, apparently, they didn't have any. Spores in safe houses are not weapons and do not constitute a reason to start a war.

As for the long list of stuff unaccounted for. So the paperwork is missing. Does that mean the weapons are there? The Bill Kristol crowd [Bill Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard] seemed to think so at the time, and you seem to think so still. Well, where are they? We have occupied Iraq for more than two years. We found Saddam in his spider hole. WHERE ARE THE WEAPONS? I find it much easier to believe, as you say yourself, that Iraqis are "notorious for their records and documentation skills." I imagine the flunkies Saddam sent out to destroy his weapons did not film their work because they considered it shameful. Anyway, bad accounting is no reason to start a war.

As for morality: If tens of thousands of Iraqis died--hundreds of thousands if UNICEF is right--on account of sanctions--they were our sanctions, not Iraq's. Certainly the death from our sanctions is not a reason for US to start a war against THEM.

We STARTED A WAR. Didn't join one, like WWII, WWI, or the Gulf War. We got up an entirely new one, all our own, ginned up a reason for it that turned out to be false, and went storming in. It amazes me that anyone will still defend it.

My reader replies:

That's a very dubious statement by Ritter considering his own statements to Elizabeth Farnsworth in Aug. 31, 1998 interview on PBS' "Online Focus":

"ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ritter, does Iraq still have prescribed weapons?

WILLIAM SCOTT RITTER, JR.: Iraq still has prescribed weapons capability… Part of their efforts to conceal their capabilities, I believe, have been to disassemble weapons into various components and to hide these components throughout Iraq.

Here's the link for the complete transcript. I'm hesitant to call anyone liar, but Ritter is definitely inconsistent in his statement then versus now.

Re: Kay's analysis that you provided: That is from Kay's first initial report in October 2003 here:

Clearly, Kay has painted a much different picture than what the articles from The Atlantic (which is rather selective in its presentation of the facts) and the Carnegie Endownment folks (whose anti-war bias is readily know and brings into their credibility in presenting the facts as they are) is not really getting it straight from the horses mouth, aka: Kay or Duelfer.

Kay paints a different picture in his second and final report before stepping down. Let's instead review his "We were all wrong" testimony from the Jan 24, 2004 Armed Services Committee haring.

"(Kay): We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid materia...A lot of that traces to the failure on April 9 to establish immediately physical security in Iraq – the unparalleled looting and destruction, a lot of which was directly intentional, designed by the security services to cover the tracks of the Iraq WMD program and their other programs as well..."

The details of which can be found in his report here.

"Bad accounting"? That's a pretty flip dismissal in accounting for a deadly arsenal of weaponry, Bruce. We're not talking about accounting for five cents here. These are weapons Iraq knew they had to account for when inspections resumed; they themselves provided the UN with the list. I think you also paint yourself into a corner when you say that flunkies went out and shamefully destroyed whatever WMD Iraq possessed is to imply that they you too believed Iraq possessed; even if you just "imagine" it. And you're right, "bad accounting" is a bad reason to start a war, but after 12 years and 17 UN Resolutions you still can't account for those weapons by historically aggressive and ruthless regime, it becomes a damn good reason to start a war.

And the argument that implies sanctions were solely on the shoulders of the U.S. is also false. They were UN-led sanctions that were, yes, enforced by mainly US and British forces, but also included the French, Russians and other governments from the Gulf War I coalition. Furthermore, funds under the Oil-For-Food program were meant to allow Saddam to provide food, medicine and aid to the Iraqi people. Clearly, Bruce, Saddam is solely responsible for the starvation of his people (a practice many dictators do to maintain control of their population), not sanctions. And as we all know, that money from the Oil For Food program diverted to his palaces, covert terrorist operations and God knows what else. As we now know, Saddam and Co. skimmed somewhere between $11–$21 billion, depending on which report you read. But the sanctions money did not go, Bruce, to whom it was intended: The people of Iraq. Saddam alone is responsible for the deaths during the sanctions not the U.S., not the U.N, not anyone, just Saddam.

And no, we didn't start this war—we just opened a new front in the War on Islamofascism. This war started in 1972 in Munich; we just woke up to on September 11. Well, some of us did. The rest are still living like it's Sept. 10 and believe one (Iraq) has nothing to do with the other (Islamofascism).

The tragic and ultimately costly mistake ant-war folks make is in believing this ends when bin Laden is caught/killed; but terrorism will not cease with his death. It's the ideology of fascist Islam (kill all "non-believers) we must fight to change in the theocracies, dictatorships and monarchies throughout the Middle East. And yes, in many cases, we will have to force feed some countries freedom and democracy (Iraq and Afghanistan); others (like Iran) we'll have to do more covertly, supporting freedom groups internally; subtley with others via economic and diplomatic pressure (Saudi Arabia); and hope others just crumble via internal and exterior pressure (Syria). Why? Free countries with free people do not attack other free people because they pose no threat to their freedom. A beacon of freedom has to be established in the Middle East; it must work in Iraq. Because if it works there, it'll pressure other countries (which it already has begun to do) throughout the region to introduce democratic reforms.

I'm a 9/11 Republican, Bruce. I don't buy into all the President's positions, but I sure as hell believe in this one because it not only directly affects our freedom as a nation, but of the freedom of the entire world. And freedom for all mankind is an imperialism I can live with. Can you?

No—and more later.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:32 AM


July 20, 2005

Raise the Minimum Wage?

A Philip Dawdy piece in the Seattle Weekly repeats the social-service folks’ belief—a folk belief—that the problem of homelessness could be solved by an increase in the minimum wage. The article says:

Minimum-wage jobs pay $7.35 an hour. A 2001 study by the Washington Association of Churches pegged the self-sufficiency standard for rent, food, and transportation, etc., at $9.61 an hour for a single person in King County and at $11.76 per hour for each parent in a traditional four-person household.

If you look it up on the web, you’ll see that Washington has the highest minimum wage of any U.S. state. Here are the states that set a higher-than-required minimum:

WA $7.35
OR $7.25
AK $7.15
CT $7.10
VT $7.00
RI $6.75
CA $6.75
IL $6.50
ME $6.35
HI $6.25
FL $6.15
DE $6.15
NY $6.00
WS $5.70

All the rest of the states, including our neighbor, ID, are at the federal minimum of $5.15. (Twelve of the fourteen states on that list were Kerry states in the last election, by the way.)

Economic theory, and most of the evidence suggests that minimum wage laws tend to put people out of work—and not just any people, at random, but the least employable people. This is common sense: a law making it illegal to work for less than $7.35 cannot make your labor worth $7.35 to an employer. The higher the wage, the fussier the employer will be, and the less inclined to hire the formerly homeless.

The minimum wage is a starting wage, the first rung of the ladder. People who get on it, and are good workers, tend to rise quickly, studies show. But the higher you set it, the more people never get on the ladder.

There is a philosophical consideration as well. I believe that each person owns his labor. Whether he works, or doesn’t work, and the terms of his work, should be none of the government’s business. If he wants to sell his labor for less than $7.35, or $5.15, or ten cents, or give it away for free, or pay someone to take it, that should be his right. In fact, under the labor laws as I understand them, you cannot work for any wage between 1 cent and $7.34 per hour, but it’s OK to work for zero. I did that once, as a newspaper intern—and it was explained to me by the company that they could pay me zero but not, say, a dollar an hour. I wasn’t willing to work for zero for very long, but I was willing for a while—and it was my choice.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:01 PM


July 19, 2005

A Crime in Clackamas County

A colleague in Portland sends this press release, which I have verified as real and pass along, without comment:

Clackamas County Sheriff's Office
DEPUTY RESCUES UNATTENDED CHICKEN LEFT IN VEHICLE
July 19th, 2005 1:20 PM

The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Livestock Deputy removed a hen from a locked vehicle in the parking lot of the Village Place Apartments at 9020 SE Scottstree Way, Clackamas, after it was left in the vehicle with the windows rolled up and no water.

At 9:00 a.m. this morning Clackamas County dispatch received a call from an anonymous informant who said that a chicken had been left in the front seat of a pickup truck parked in the parking lot at the Clackamas Village Apartments. Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Livestock Deputy Robin Iverson was dispatched to the call and when she arrived she found the bird sitting inside of a white & turquoise Chevrolet pickup truck. The truck was parked in the sun with both doors locked and all of the windows rolled up. There was no water for the bird visible in the truck.

Deputy Iverson attempted to locate the owner of the truck through DMV records with negative results. The apartment manager was unable to identify the driver of the truck from their records.

Deputy Iverson consulted with a local veterinarian who confirmed that a bird left in a heated vehicle was at immediate risk of death.

At 10:52 a.m. a locksmith was called to the location to open the door to the truck. Deputy Iverson retrieved the bird from the truck, noting that it was "stuffy and hot" inside the vehicle and that there was no water for the bird anywhere inside the truck.

The hen was taken to Clackamas County Dog Control as a temporary measure until it could be taken to an avian rescue or sanctuary. The owner of the vehicle and bird, when located, could face charges of Animal Neglect.

The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office wants to remind the public that in hot weather, animals of any kind should not be left in vehicles without air circulation and fresh water.

Respond to this item.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:17 PM


On Lap Dances

A few days ago I objected to a proposed Seattle ban on "lap dances," which is frankly designed to shut down the four legally tolerated strip clubs. Here is a response from a former patron, who asked that his name not be used. It is edited, but still somewhat graphic.

I sometimes went to Sugar's when I wasn't involved in a relationship. I tried Rick's once, but found that the women at Sugar's were generally more down-to-earth and personable, with exceptions. I'm married now, and haven't been to a strip club since long before I was engaged. Yes, my wife knows.

Whether lap dances constitute prostitution gets into how prostitution is exactly defined, and I think it can be reasonably argued both ways. Is it prostitution if she doesn't touch his genitals (which she only does if he
pays the higher of two prices she offers him)? Is it prostitution if she only touches his genitals (through his pants) with her leg, hip, or back? I’ll leave that to the semanticists.

I think a significant difference is that there is virtually no risk of sexually transmitted disease if both dancer and client follow the rules. That's because he keeps his pants on, and she keeps her panties on (she only takes those off up on the stage, where the men aren't allowed to touch her).

Lap dances offer legal, disease-free gratification to unattached men who--some of them--might otherwise be tempted by paid sexual intercourse. It also offers safe, legal, disease-free employment to women who -- again, some of them -- might otherwise turn to paid sexual intercourse, risking disease, assault and even murder, not to mention arrest.

One valid concern about strip clubs is that the rules are sometimes discreetly broken, risking disease and arrest. But the reason these things are possible is because the lights are so low. A simple solution is to require brighter lighting.

If Evangelicals have their way, all forms of sexual stimulation outside of marriage will be outlawed, but is that what the majority here really wants? In a practical, pragmatic society, I think lap dances have a place. But turn up the lights.

Respond to this reader.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 10:14 AM


July 18, 2005

Against the Case for War

The case laid out in the blog entry below by Paul Conti on UN resolution 1441 is a legal argument, which can only be part of the necessary argument for war. War always requires a moral argument, which has to do whether the dispute is important enough to kill people about.

The legal argument is that the U.N. authorized us to do it. Actually not the whole U.N., either, but just the Security Council, and actually not war, but an unspecified action. Had the U.S. government gone back and asked for an authorization to invade, it might not have got it.

Resolution 1441 says, in effect, ‘You disclose your chemical, biological and nuclear weapons to our satisfaction or else.’ This is asking to prove a negative—to prove that something does not exist, which is notoriously more difficult that proving what is. The burden of proof was on Saddam Hussein. “He failed to live up to his burden of proof,” Conti says. Well, his response didn’t satisfy the Bush administration—but what would have? Bush was not going to take “we destroyed them all” for an answer from Saddam Hussein, though in hindsight that was apparently true.

Paul Conti discounts the efforts of weapons inspectors, who he says were “hoping to find weapons that could fit in small jars and vials.” On May 4, 2001, I attended a speech by Scott Ritter, who had been a U.N. arms inspector in the mid-1990s. “Iraq has been disarmed,” he said. “There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction of any meaningful significance.” He said he was sure of this because such weapons require special factories, and that his team had found these places, dismantled their apparatus and destroyed their stocks.

Further, Ritter said that chemical and biological weapons degrade, so that if Saddam Hussein had any poison gas, etc., manufactured before the mid-90s-hidden in jars somewhere—those weapons would have been expired by 2001. “Iraq has no means of producing chemical weapons today,” he said. “From a military standpoint, Iraq presents zero threat to the United States.”

Maybe he was wrong; maybe there was some threat. But how large? Saddam was full of bluster, but when the tanks rolled, his army did not fight. He had no WMD, despite Colin Powell’s assurances to the UN. Behind the stink over the aluminum tubes, the yellowcake from Niger and the missiles with a range of 93 miles, Saddam hardly had a national defense.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 02:38 PM


The Reason for the Iraq War

Reader Paul Conti, writing from Irvine, Calif., states the pro-war position well. Here is his entire letter. I'll comment on it later.

Please take a moment and let me explain why you're absolutely wrong about Bush's reasons for going to war in Iraq. I'm writing this to you because I believe there is a tremendous misunderstanding on the part of millions of Americans about why this is actually a legitimate and appropriate war that we are waging in Iraq. I admit, maybe Bush hasn't done a sufficient job of explaining his case to the American people. I've always said the world is divided into two groups of people: those who get it and those who don't get it, and the latter are mostly people who don't want to get it. So I'll take a moment to explain Bush's case for him, and hopefully you might just get it.

Many of Bush's critics have accused him of acting differently with Iraq than with other rogue states like North Korea, which has actually admitted that they possess the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the nuclear bomb. The reality is that since the early '90s we have always had legal authority, under the auspices of a United Nations resolution, to enact regime change in Iraq. No such resolution exists with North Korea. The resolution concerning Iraq was the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire, which demanded that Hussein prove he had destroyed the weapons of mass destruction that the whole world knew he possessed, since he had used them against his own people recently. Throughout the Clinton Administration we thought we could "contain" Hussein with "no-fly zones" that we patrolled along with the British, and with weapons inspectors, who continued a pointless charade of searching for weapons with an uncooperative and deceptive regime unti l Hussein halted all their operations in late '98 and they were forced to leave the country. After many more U.N. resolutions leading up to Resolution 1441, passed unanimously by the Security Council (including France, Germany, Russia, China, and Iraq's ally, Syria) in late '02, we had a host of U.N. mandates that had created the unique situation where the burden of proof fell on the accused, not the accuser. In other words, Hussein had the burden of proof to demonstrate that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction; we didn't have the burden of proof to demonstrate that he did. His shirking of that burden of proof gave the civilized world the right to enact "serious consequences", as Resolution 1441stated, which clearly meant the use of military force, since essentially all other measures had been repeatedly exhausted.

Some critics may claim that Hussein was living up to his burden of proof by allowing weapons inspectors into Iraq again in late 2002, but again, that was a giant charade. The term "inspectors" is really a misnomer; how are even thousands of inspectors expected to comb a country the size of California, with about 24 million people, hoping to find weapons that could fit in small jars and vials and could be hidden anywhere? Those inspectors were supposed to be more like monitors, expected to take account of the documented destruction of those weapons, and actually see the records of their destruction, and all this could only happen if Iraq's Ba'ath regime was fully cooperative, which they absolutely were not. The difference between the relative complacency of the Clinton Administration and Bush's actions is that 9/11 taught us we could afford to be complacent no longer. It was obvious that it was too easy for our enemies to smuggle t hese horrible weapons to terrorist allies who could wreak havoc on our cities in America. In this sense, Bush is living up to his now-famous Doctrine, stated shortly after 9/11: "We will make no diffe rence between the terrorists and those who support them." Clinton-style police action against individual terrorists is not enough; 9/11 showed us that a thoroughly pro-active spread of democracy is mandatory in order to defend democracy. In this pursuit, war must always be the last option, and our futile efforts to enforce 17 U.N. resolutions over 12 years led us to this point. The Iraq war, in this sense, was clearly just the next theater in the War on Terror, which most Democrats and other left-leaning people fail to understand.

And so, we never had to, nor do we have to at any point, prove that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in order to legitimize our war in Iraq. He failed to live up to his burden of proof; we and the rest of the civilized world didn't have the burden of proof before we were authorized to enact regime change in Iraq, because of the many U.N. resolutions passed from 1991 to 2002. Hussein has to therefore take responsibility for the regim e change we enacted, not us. Bush and his advisors knew that removing Hussein and the Ba'ath regime and granting democracy and freedom to the millions of people in Iraq could be an important step in setting a powerful example with far-reaching consequences in the Muslim world. The consequences, if most of our actions are carried out correctly, can be a model of freedom, a beacon of hope, in the Muslim world, and a sanctuary for those wh o oppose terrorism, and become the end of a major chapter in the War on Terror. This is the same goal that we successfully achieved with nations like Japan and Germany with the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II. As evidenced by the Lebanese rejection of Syrian occupation and moves toward elections in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, these seeds are already gradually being planted in the greater Middle East.

And all this was legally authorized by unique resolutions passed by the United Nations, the entity that miserably failed to back up their ow n words with action, and once again, left the heavy lifting and sacrifice to the United States of America, led by President George W. Bush.

Respond to reader Paul Conti.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 10:53 AM


July 14, 2005

"I AM a 'troop'"

Two responses from my previous post. One from a reader, presumably at home:

I have read your thoughts, and those of Mr. Prager. I find myself more in agreement with Mr. Prager. The real issue is whether those of the liberal persuasion TRULY support the troops, or, they "claim" support for politically correct reasons. Having observed the whole scene, I conclude that more people of the liberal persuasion oppose the use of force for any reason, and if anything, find the military at best a nuisance, or at worst, an institution that has no real value.

I am no warmonger, but I agree with Mr. Prager that there are times when the use of force can be justified. The best examples are the freeing of the slaves (Civil War), ending Hitler's reign of terror (WWII), and in defence against an enemy that would seek the demise of our country.

One from an American soldier in Iraq:

I, for one, am sick of being used as a shield for the pro-war camp to hide behind while they defend the travesty that is going on over here. I AM a “troop,” and I hate this war. It is definitely possible to support the troops and not the war. Most of my family falls into this category.

Really supporting the troops involves more than putting a yellow ribbon on your car. It involves pushing the government to explain (truthfully) why we're still here, and why we are here in the first place. It involves pushing for better benefits for the veterans, especially reservists, who give up so much so that nobody else has to.

There are those, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, pro-war and against, who truly do support us over here. Who don't stop with a yellow ribbon. You are all appreciated—-every day, every week, most likely long after we get home. You help get us through this. Thank you.

Respond to this post.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:57 PM


July 13, 2005

"Support Our Troops"

“Does The Left Honestly Support Our Troops?” So asks Dennis Prager in a column posted on RealClearPolitics.com. I come at this from a different position from either Prager or those he criticizes: I am not of the left, but I don’t support the war, either. I have always objected to the slogan, “Support Our Troops,” because the real question is whether to support the war, and making it into a choice of supporting the troops puts opponents of the war into the position of being disloyal. (Prager denies this last point, but he is being disingenuous.)

Prager argues that you cannot support the troops, really, without supporting the war. The crucial step in his argument is when he defines the term, ‘support the troops’:

“Presumably it means that one supports what the troops are doing and rooting for them to succeed. What else could ‘support the troops’ mean? If you say, for example, that you support the Yankees or the Dodgers, we assume it means you want them to win.”

He has won his argument by definition, which is the risk-free way to do it. With the Mariners (let’s use the local ball club), there is never a moral argument about who to play: one would never say the team has no justification to be playing the Yankees. Also, we are not sending baseball players out to risk death, nor are runners knifing the basemen as they round the bases or dropping explosives among the people on the stands. It would make no sense to say, “I don’t support what Mariners are doing to the Yankees, but I wish all the players to stop their pointless game and come home safe and sound.” But one could say that about the Army and Marines in Iraq, and one might reasonably describe that position as “supporting the troops and not the war.”

Prager says:

“A German citizen during World War II could not have argued: ‘The Nazi regime's army is engaged in an evil war of aggression and is slaughtering millions of innocent people, and I therefore completely oppose this war, but I sure do support the Nazi troops.”

A German during World War II could have argued something very much like that. He could have decided the Nazi regime be evil and hoped for the war to be over and the soldiers (German troops, not necessarily “Nazi troops") to come home—and for as few of his fellow countrymen to be killed as possible. Probably a lot of Germans felt just that way.

Prager says liberals are dishonest when they say, “I oppose the war but support the troops.” I don’t think so. The real dishonesty here is by the supporters of war, who are too chicken to come out and say, “Support the war.” That’s what they mean: Why can’t they say it? Instead, they say, “Support the troops.” Don’t hide behind the troops, dammit. We did not go to war on account of the troops, and we are not staying in the war on account of them. The war is not about the troops.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:33 PM


July 12, 2005

Outlawing "lap dances"

Now that the owners of Rick’s strip club on Lake City Way are the targets of felony charges related to campaign-finance law, the mayor has proposed to make “lap dancing” illegal, with the clear intent of running Rick’s and the other three strip clubs in town out of business. The editorial boards of the Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I have supported the mayor’s proposal.

I don’t. I have written on this before; in a column in 2003 I supported Rick’s. That column said, based on press reports, that the owners of Rick’s had not broken the law. Now, prosecutors believe they did, and so that part of the column may be wrong. The other part of it stands, which is that the “favor” Ricks wanted from the city was the right to park eight cars on a piece of their own land that was useful only for parking cars, and that the city should have let them do it—and, furthermore, that the larger scandal in elections is not the contributions that are illegal, but the ones that are allowed. I think the contributions made to convince the City Council to allow the parking of eight cars are not nearly as interesting as the much, much larger contributions from engineering and contracting firms made to convince voters to build a $2 billion Monorail.

Now that the owners of Rick's are being legally pursued for a violation of campaign finance law, the mayor, the Times and the P-I propose to run them out of business through regulation. That is what this amounts to: rules designed to take all the fun out of the company’s service, even to the point of requiring the strippers to use a “tip container.”

I hear the argument that having strippers undulate in your lap amounts to “prostitution lite.” (So? Does it spread disease? What is the governmental concern with it?) Meanwhile, you can pick up the Stranger or the Weekly and browse ads that suggest prostitution not-so-lite.

I think the government has more important things to do than this.

Respond to Bruce.


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:26 PM


July 08, 2005

No Shield for Me

I haven’t followed the Plame case, so I am no expert on the details of the issue about a New York Times reporter going to jail rather than reveal a source. But I am wary of the instinctive stand of my colleagues in the press to side with the reporter and to demand a shield law.

The rationale for my wariness is best expressed by Pat Buchanan. First, when the journalist says his relationship with his source requires the same protected status as the relationship between lawyer and client, he ignores that the lawyer-client relationship is protected for the sake of the client. There is not the same urgency to protect anonymous leakers.

I hear “off the record” statements all the time. I have never been ordered by an official to reveal a source. If I were, I would most likely do what the Seattle Times told me to do, because I work here. I am also aware, as my colleagues remind me, that the subpoena power may be abused, and that I might be ordered to disclose a source for a not-very-good reason. Such is life. That does not, in itself, justify a shield law.

Secondly, Buchanan writes, “Freedom of the press is a right that belongs to all of us, from [New York] Times reporters to bloggers to kids writing about pot parties for the high school paper. Why then should only working reporters be exempt from the law that requires all of us, from presidents to paupers, to testify, when called before a grand jury?”

Unlike law or medicine, journalism is an unlicensed trade, protected from regulation by the First Amendment. Its practitioners approach others and ask questions—something anyone may do. They write or speak, which anyone may do, and they hire themselves out to employers, which anyone may do. Their association with publishers gives them a very practical advantage over the average person, but they have no legal advantage. They should be very wary about asking for laws that single them out as a special class, because once one has privileges as a special class, one may be loaded down with costs and penalties as a special class.

Read the whole Buchanan column here.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:57 PM


July 07, 2005

Fahrenheit 9/11

I finally broke down and saw Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” courtesy of the public library. As an antiwar right-winger, I expected to agree with some of it but not all—and that’s how it was.

The most awful part was the beginning, in which he asserted that George W. Bush stole the election in Florida in 2000—because he had a mole at Fox News, and because the woman in charge of elections was a Republican and because black voters had been stricken from the rolls. Evidence? Some black members of Congress said the election had been stolen, though not one Senator supported them. Moore did not document it beyond that, and that is not enough. He never mentioned Gore’s demand to recount votes only in the counties where he was ahead, and nothing about the Democrats trying to throw out the ballots from overseas soldiers. And he never mentioned the recounts done by major newspapers much later, in which they declared that in a full statewide recount, Bush would have won.

Next came a long part about the Bush family involvements with Saudis, and the Bin Ladin family, and Halliburton, and pipelines, and the Carlyle Group. A lot of innuendo, and shaking hands with guys with turbans, and no proof. I mean, really: does the left think Bush went to war in Afghanistan so that some private businessmen could build a pipeline? Or that he went to war in Iraq in order to get contracts for Halliburton? That Halliburton got contracts, and lucrative ones, is a significant thing, but the left makes it a central thing.

Baloney.

Perhaps the cause of the war on Iraq was to protect our Saudi and Gulf oil suppliers from Saddam. “We’ll keep pumping oil for the West, earning money at a faster rate than we can spend it, and investing it in the Western countries, providing you run this thug out of our neighborhood.” I’m not saying that’s it, but it would have made more sense than Moore’s theory. But that would have made Bush look smart, and Moore accepts only theories that make Bush look like a crook or an idiot.

Also, there was no mention of neoconservatives and their theories of spreading democracy in the heartland of Islam, and no mention—nothing!—about their interest in protecting Israel. I didn’t catch the word “Israel” in the movie at all.

Moore made much of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, et al., going on and on about “weapons of mass destruction,” and nuclear weapons that turned out not to be there. Here he is correct. He made the clear point that that Iraq had not attacked us, had not threatened to attack us, and that Bush was obsessed with Iraq anyway, and was trying to pin the blame for 9/11 on Saddam Hussein. Again correct. He scored points by showing the soldiers searching a house and terrorizing the inhabitants, by showing a tank crew talking about shooting Iraqis to rock music, and talking to individual soldiers about their feelings of guilt for being killers and their doubts about whether they should be there.

All worthwhile. But Moore repeatedly undermined his credibility by going for the cheap shot against Bush, to get a laugh, or the juxtaposition of facts or statements that suggested a sinister relationship that was never proven. This is a film full of cheap tricks.

Several times he brought on Rep. Jim McDermott, my left-wing congressman, who has been criticized by conservatives for being an accomplice to Michael Moore’s unpatriotic film. (Actually, Moore is quite the patriot, in a lefty way.) But “Baghdad Jim” made a lot of sense. He said the Bush administration used the terror alerts to keep the public on edge, and fearful, and looking to the government to deliver them. Well—he’s right. The Bush administration did do that, with all its talk about being “at war.” Indeed, it probably got Bush re-elected, and his Republican majorities in Congress. I disagree with McDermott on a number of things, especially socialized health insurance, but when a man’s right, I try to agree with him.

I liked him better than Michael Moore.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:53 PM


July 06, 2005

Live 8: Mostly Feelgood

The idea of “saving Africa” through aid is mostly a feel-good program for people in rich countries. Our aid cannot give Africans honest judges, clean cops, non-predatory politicians and the rule of law. They must create these things. Our aid cannot give them competitive economies; indeed, it has hurt such industries as wheat farming (because we give away free grain) and textiles (because we give away donated clothing.)

Aid has helped countries get through a short-term crisis, like the tsunami, but no country has ever made it out of poverty through long-term aid. And over the long term, aid tends to make the recipient weaker. Africa is the best example of that: it has absorbed more economic aid than any other part of the world in the past 40 years, and its performance is the worst
.
Except countries that are sitting on oil—which is the ultimate freebie—all rich countries have gotten rich through work.

And that means that the best way for Americans to help Africans is to buy their products, and to ask our legislators to remove trade barriers to African products—quotas on such things as sugar and peanuts, and subsidies on products that compete with African products, such as cotton.

Debt cancellation means turning debts into gifts. That is the lender’s decision, because it’s his gift. Let the lender decide on a case-by-case basis. And let each G-8 country decide how much African aid is in its own interest—if any. It’s easy to be magnanimous with the other fellow’s money.

All the best commentaries I've seen on this topic have been from foreigners: Mark Steyn, a Canadian, writing in the Daily Telegraph; Simon Jenkins, an Englishman, writing in the Times of London; and Niall Ferguson, a Briton working in the United States, writing in the Sunday Telegraph.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 02:12 PM


July 05, 2005

McDermott and Seattle Make a Conservative's List

So Rep. Jim McDermott, Democrat of Seattle, made Bernard Goldberg’s list of “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America.” Was it a news story? The Seattle Times thought so. One of our readers did not, and wrote:

Why do an article which is not news? This is a divisive and unnecessary story. Besides the bias, the subject matter is personal opinion, unscientific, trivial and only meant to enflame. It is akin to the bombastic stuff of Rush Limbaugh.

I replied to him:

Appreciate your opinion, but I disagree with you. This was the first story I read on the Local page. I scanned the headlines: "Human remains found in hunt for boy"--a kid and a nutball in Idaho. Not something I need to know. "Study: TV Viewing Good, Bad for Kids"--so what's new? (I read this later, and the story was more interesting than the headline). "Setting a Good Example"--feature, looks interesting, read it later.... "McDermott Makes List of Author's 100 Worst Americans"--Hm. Let's read this. And I read it all the way through.

Was it news? Sure. What national media critics think of your town is news. It may also be divisive and trivial, but it also helps define you, and them.



The story also said Seattle is “home to more progressive loonies than anyplace else on the Left Coast.” Well, I don’t know about that. Probably there are more in Los Angeles, because it is a much bigger city, and probably also more in San Francisco. Proportionately, there may be more in Santa Monica, Berkeley or Arcata, Calif. Maybe even Eugene, Ore.

But Seattle is definitely one of the most liberal cities in the United States, as you can see at the epodunk web page and the turnleft.com web page.

As for Mc Dermott, he does reflect his district. He is president of the Americans Democratic Action, a group of New Deal Democrats; and a member of the the House Progressive Caucus, whose web page is sponsored by Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders. McDermott is an unabashed champion of single-payer, mandatory government health insurance and he was against the war in Iraq from the start. He was even criticized by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for leading the Pledge of Allegiance without saying ‘Under God.’

Yes, he’s pretty liberal. But not as liberal as some in his district, including 20 percent of voters who, in 2000, voted for the Green Party candidate, Joe Szwaja.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:59 AM


July 02, 2005

For the Freedom Tower

Responding to my blog on New York's replacement for the World Trade Center towers, in which I came out for several shorter, inconspicuous buildings, one reader argues for the new 1,776-foot design:

The various proposals for "Freedom Tower" have, until the latest, been ludicrous. It seemed that in the rush to fill the void left by the destruction of the World Trade Center, common sense was given the heave-ho in favor of a grandiose, utterly impractical gesture of short-term fashionableness. Libeskind's shard was sculpture, not architecture. Thank God more level heads prevailed and it was abandoned. Donald Trump was correct to call the plan for Ground Zero a "junkyard."

What David Childs now proposes is rather like a futuristic glass version of the Washington Monument. As such, it is a design of great intrinsic beauty and underlying geometry (the soul of good architecture) in the shape of a tapering obelisk, a form invented by one of the great civilizations, the Ancient Egyptians. It is absolutely the right choice to make, and will be an instant classic if built. I urge the media to advocate its construction, because it is light-years ahead of previous proposals. Time will prove it correct.

Whether Mr. Childs is a "commercial" architect or not, his building exemplifies what architecture is about, while at the same time providing usable office space -- life must go on in hard-nosed New York City. His form will not simply fill a hole, but enhance Manhattan in a way that the simple-minded, graceless, in-your-face design of the old WTC never could. Mr. Childs design is nothing short of, well, genius, and his firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill is to be commended for their work.


Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 09:24 AM


July 01, 2005

A Right to Health Care?

One question: Why are you entitled to better health care than me just because you have more money?

Steve Nesich, Seattle

My answer:

Because it's my money and I can spend it on myself, just as you can spend your money on yourself. What's money for, if you can't spend it on your own health?

His reply:

What if you have one million to spend on your health care and I have zero? And what if my health condition is the same one you have and I require the same care? What makes you more important than me? Why is your health more urgent than mine?

Money entitles you to a bigger house than mine, or a better car or more meals at fancy restaurants. Your private stash of cash can buy you all the vacations you want at any cost you want to pay. But should it determine everything?

Do you get the police if you need them and I don't? Do fire trucks respond if there is a fire at your home but not mine?

Essential, life protecting services are meant to be shared equally by all of us.

Why should you get to see a doctor when I can't?

And if we both have children why would your kids be more entitled to health care than mine, or vice versa?

My reply:

The answer is a matter of political opinion, and I’ll try to explain mine.

You are arguing that medical services ought to be like police and fire because “essential, life protecting services are meant to be shared equally by all of us.” Why?

“Essential” is not an obvious category. Food, clothing, shelter, education and transport may be essential, in some measure, to biological life, or physically healthy life, or happy and fulfilled life. Much of today’s medical treatments didn’t exist 50 years ago and now are arguably essential. If everyone has a right to essentials, we create a huge incentive to come up with things that are declared essential, like drugs that cost $1,000 a month.

You list police and fire protection, which are socialized, as essential. But the reason police and fire protection are socialized everywhere is that by protecting your house from fire we protect the whole community from fire, and protecting you from a robber protects the whole community from him.

If you’re sick, the value of medical care goes to you, not the community (exception: epidemics). It’s the same as if you’re hungry and you buy food, or homeless and rent an apartment, or naked and buy clothes. The value goes to you individually. And in those things you pay for yours and I pay for mine, because only under that system are we each free and self-responsible.

The cost of most medical procedures can be borne individually. Some treatment costs too much but can be borne by insurance. Most people could buy insurance if it were not inflated by state mandates, defensive medicine and by covering little stuff that we should be paying for ourselves.

Treating medicine as a private good allows people to choose different levels of medical coverage and care, which is compatible with individual freedom. It is part of that freedom. With socialized medicine you get one level of care. In Canada that means queues and a lack of new drugs. The Canadian system is OK for routine care, but if Canadians need a new drug or an MRI or a triple bypass (in a hurry), they come to the States and pay cash.

The Left wants health as a social right. But we live and die, and experience health and sickness, as individuals. Our health depends a lot (but not entirely) on our decisions as individuals. And even if we want a certain degree of socialized risk, most of us can buy insurance as individuals.

You may object that my health-care coverage is part of my compensation at the Times. So it is; some may think it is hypocrisy to have these benefits and think as I do, but I am not going to throw the benefits away (would you?) and I am not going to change my political opinions on account of an employee benefit plan (would you?).

With socialized medicine comes politics. The compensation of doctors and nurses, and the level of patient care, become never-ending issues to support candidates on, and to vote on. It is that way in Canada. With private medicine, the compensation of doctors and nurses is set in the market, which I think is a more rational realm.

You ask what happens when someone is sick and can’t pay. One answer is charity care. Another (very common today) is to agree to pay and stiff the doctor later on.

To your question: Why is your health more urgent than mine? I ask, urgent to whom? Mine is more urgent to me and yours is more urgent to you. One of us may become more urgent to a specific physician because one of us can pay him and the other can't. And then maybe that physician won't care and will treat whoever is sickest. His skills and time belong to him, and the decision is his.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:14 PM




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