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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

The opinions you read below are those of the individual writers, not necessarily views that will become formal positions of The Seattle Times. Respond to STop
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Currently, STop cannot automatically post readers' comments on the blog. However, the editorial staff will regularly post readers' comments. Your comments are sent directly to the individual editor or writer.

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Jim Vesely
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Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
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Lee Moriwaki
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Joni Balter
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Eric Devericks
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Eric Devericks
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Lance Dickie
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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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September 30, 2005

Steve Ballmer and Roads

At yesterday's luncheon of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer listed “roads” as one of his two political priorities for the Puget Sound region. (The other was education.) I noted that Ballmer did not say “transportation” or, particularly, “transit.” He said “roads.”

Oh, my.

Compare that to what the Seattle politicians are saying. Councilmember Richard Conlin says on his web page that he is chairman (“chair”, he calls it) of the council’s Transportation Committee. And that concerns itself with:

--improved transit;
--developing new funding sources for transportation maintenance and neighborhood transportation improvements; and
--supporting pedestrian and bicycle improvements to reduce dependence on the automobile.

His opponent, Paige Miller, recently sent to my house a flyer of herself standing in a waterfront streetcar, with the headline, “One woman with courage makes mass transit.” In large italic type her flyer says, “With the increasing price of gasoline and our dependency on foreign oil, Paige Miller understands it’s more important than ever to develop effective mass transit.”

The flyer talks about extending Sound Transit light rail to North Seattle and rebidding the Monorail Project. Nothing about roads.

Councilman Richard McIver has a general statement about transportation and mentions his service on the Sound Transit Board.

Candidate Dwight Pelz does say on his web page, “I have insisted on a balance between new highway constrcution and investments in mass transit,” though I suspect he’s referring to fights with road advocates. The rest of it is about transit. “Our new transit systems, monorail and light rail, each have a promise to create pedestrian-oriented communities where people can easily reach destinations without getting in a car,” he says.

Casey Corr does mention "the deterioration of our roads and bridges" but doesn't talk about expanding the capacity of any of them. He does say, "We must build and expand transit service."

Jan Drago talks about "maintaining streets and bridges" and building "integrated, cost effective transit." Again, roads are maintained. Transit is expanded.

Well these are all Seattle people, and Seattle doesn’t have a lot of room for new roads, at least without expensive condemnation. But it could still widen some roads, take parking off other roads, make some flyovers and synchronize more lights, Few politicians will trumpet such ideas, and many work together to frustrate them. It is notorious that on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, neither Mayor Greg Nickels’ tunnel nor the rebuild option has any new lanes. The proposed new 520 bridge has new carpool and bicycle lanes, but no new general-purpose lanes. To a great section of the Seattle electorate, which Conlin represents, the idea of new general-purpose freeway or arterial lanes is anathema. And yet that really is what Ballmer is asking for. “Roads” is an imprecise term—it includes carpool and bus-only lanes, but in general usage what it usually means is new lanes that can be used freely. People in public life are very reluctant to support this, though in their private actions they support it with the same enthusiasm as the rest of us.

Thus we reach a point at which we clamor for assets we don’t plan to use, and use assets for which we don’t clamor.

Ballmer is right. We need roads.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 02:03 PM


September 26, 2005

Abortion after Roe

A reader responds to my previous blog saying that if Roe v. Wade were overruled, states might not follow public sentiment on the abortion question, and, moreover, the federal government might step in and preempt them. He writes:

If there is no right to an abortion, there is nothing to prevent the Congress from enacting abortion bans under the commerce clause that pre-empt state laws allowing abortion. Given the current dominance of Congress by Republicans, this is a strong possibility. While initially the regulation of abortion would be returned to the states, it wouldn't necessarily stay there.

That's conceivable. While it seems crazy that abortion could ever be considered "interstate commerce," since the 1930s just about everything else has been. Probably the fear of having the law thrown out as unconstitutional wouldn't stop many in Congress. I still think the opinion polls might slow them down, particularly swing-district Republicans.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 05:01 PM


Abortion and anti-abortion states

If Roe v. Wade were overturned, and the legality of abortion were returned to the state legislatures, there would be just 13 states inclined to ban abortion, a set of statewide polls by SurveyUSA.com suggests. The only one in the Pacific Northwest is Idaho.

Summaries of the polls are available on the Internet, here. I can’t speak for them. I don’t know the pollster. But the numbers look plausible. Certainly the most anti-abortion state, Utah, is known as the most culturally conservative, and the most pro-abortion state, Vermont, is known as the most liberal. (Utah also has the highest rate of live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44, and Vermont, the lowest. These figures are here.)

The 13 states in which anti-abortion sentiment is predominant are these, in descending order of strength: Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Idaho, Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, South Dakota, Missouri and Oklahoma. All were Bush states in 2004.

The top 13 pro-abortion states, in descending order of strength: Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, California, New Hampshire, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Washington, Rhode Island, Nevada and Oregon. All were Kerry states in 2004 except Nevada.

Washington scored 32% no and 63% yes on allowing abortion. Nationally, the result (weighted for population) was 38% no, 56% yes.

If Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortions would probably be available in most of the states of the union, and all of the biggest ones, and in this one.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:54 PM


September 23, 2005

Luttig Reconsidered

The Padilla case, which came down from the federal appellate courts earlier this month, found for the government. To me, it is a disturbing ruling because it allows the federal government (President Bush) to declare that a certain citizen is an “enemy combatant” in the War on Terror, snatch him up, put him behind bars indefinitely, without trial.

The judge who wrote this decision, Michael Luttig, wrote an appellate decision a few years ago on the federal rape law, the Violence Against Women Act. Luttig ruled against the government then—against federal power and in favor of local power. The government (the Clinton administration) appealed, the case went to the Supreme Court, and Luttig’s position prevailed. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the decision. That was the case of United States v. Morrison, which became one of the famous federalism cases of the Rehnquist court.

I’m a fan of constitutionally limited government. I liked Luttig’s decision in the Morrison case because it limited federal authority and took the Constitution seriously. When Luttig was mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee, I was for him. But in this new case he is ruling for the federal government’s power to throw a U.S. citizen in jail—no, not a jail, a Navy brig—without trial, indefinitely.

Whether he was with the Taliban or not, Padilla is a U.S. citizen. He was arrested in the United States. He gets a trial. John Walker Lindh, arrested in Afghanistan, got a U.S. trial. (Remember him? I believe he got 20 years, too.) Padilla should get a trial. A judge that can’t see that does not belong on the Supreme Court.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 05:44 PM


A Greener

The Evergreen State College made the Andrew Sullivan blog for adopting the geoduck as a mascot. Then a reader wrote in:

I was a Greener from 1994-1998. Enrollment at the school was nosing toward two-thirds women and probably half of them were lesbians, or at least LUGs (lesbians until graduation). The biggest sporting event at the school was not tennis or soccer, or even hacky-sack, but the women's rugby team. The men were all cowed and sensitive or had smoked enough pot that they were impotent -- that is, insensitive… Despite my gripes, it's quite an undiscovered gem of a school if you know how to find your niche.

LUGs? The world changes...

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:36 PM


September 22, 2005

The Allen Tramway

I watched some of the hearings at the Seattle City Council on the proposed South Lake Union streetcar. What I saw—about half an hour—was mainly business owners in the area who liked the idea of more service. The biotech company Rosetta was one, and Athena Partners was another. The woman from Athena Partners—a group that raises money for women’s cancer—seemed to say that the streetcar would reduce cancer because it would get people out of their cars. It's amazing what people say when they get in front of politicians. The woman from Washington Conservation Voters said the streetcar was good for the environment because it would increase air quality. This sounds plausible, but it really doesn't make a lot of sense. If you are setting out to increase air quality, would you spend $47 million on this streetcar? I doubt it.

The smartest statement, I thought, was from a man named Monte Holmes (I hope I have the name right; I heard it on a video-streaming connection) who said he had been born in 1929 and remembered the old Seattle streetcars. “They were not that popular,” he said. “Progress was to see them go.” Holmes seemed to be a bit baffled about why anyone would spend tens of millions per mile to bring them back.

I think streetcars are kind of fun, but I don’t take them seriously as transportation investments. The streetcar is a bauble to promote real estate development in South Lake Union, and its No. 1 beneficiary is Paul Allen.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:35 PM


September 21, 2005

Response to Inslee

A response to Rep. Jay Inslee's suggestion that when the broadcast standards are changed, making 70 million analog TVs useless for reception without a $100 translator box, that the federal government subsidize these boxes:

You're wise to question Jay's concern for the 70 million set issue. I attended the telecommunication forum he recently held on this issue and was amazed at how solicitious he was for the local TV station rep on the panel.

The first issue is the validity of that 70 million set number. It comes from studies sponsored by the NAB and must be regarded skeptically. Other surveys tell a different story. 85% of homes in this country subscribe to cable or satellite service, and thus have at least one set that will not be affected by the digital conversion at home (ie the provider will make the switch). A study by the Consumer Electronics Association, another interested party, estimates that 75% of the unwired sets are 2nd or 3rd sets used for video games or only with VCRs or DVD players. Again, eliminating the problem if true.

The second issue is why are we waiting four years to make the switch when authorities have identified UHF TV channels (62-69) that need to be vacated immediately for use by public safety agencies? This was identified as a national priority by the 9/11 Commission and the total breakdown of emergency communications in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina indicates we haven't begun to solve this problem. Emergency communications staff tend to be cautious bureaucrats, so let me clarify the issue: broadcasters are dragging their feet on vacating the spectrum needed for public safety and they've been dragging their feet and inventing phony excuses for delay for almost 20 years (see Defining Vision, by Joel Brinkley for the whole story.) Even today, broadcasters are making the ludicrous claim that their signals are needed because they give people important safety information. Channel 4, maybe ... but Channel 62?

A woman in the audience put it nicely, asking the KOMO general manager whether his industry position would be acceptable to someone floating on a rooftop in New Orleans?

Freeing up spectrum alone will not solve the public safety communication problem, but it's a crucial first step.

Finally, as an aside, neither the Times, P-I or any Seattle TV station provided any coverage of 9-9 telecom panel at Seattle Center despite the fact that this issue will effect every home in America before it's settled.


Bart Preecs

Respond to Bart.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:14 PM


September 19, 2005

Some Inslee Ideas

Rep. Jay Inslee, Democrat, came by today, discussing broadband, telecom, etc., issues. A big bill is in the works, and he didn’t have time to describe it all even if we could have understood it all. He had one idea I liked and one I didn’t, and a warning.

The warning was that 70 million television sets—that is, all the older, analog sets—are going to become worthless in 2009 or thereabouts when the spectrum allocation is changed and the broadcasters have to go digital. There is a box TV owners can buy that translates digital signal for an analog TV, and that box costs about $100 now, Inslee said. Maybe it would cost less later.

His idea I didn’t like was that the federal government should take some of the $20-$30 billion it expects from the sale of surplus spectrum-–perhaps $1 billion or more--and subsidize these TV boxes. That is, all the people who have invested in analog TVs, and are forced to junk them or buy the $100 boxes, would get a coupon from the government that would pay for most of the cost of the box. Only fair, Inlee said, because the government would be rendering their old TVs worthless.

I asked him what the problem was. Your TV is going to become useless in four years unless you pay $100 then. You have four years to set aside $100. People can do that. It’s not difficult. “They would be able to do that,” Inslee said. “My question is whether they would be pleased to do it.”

Most people will just buy new TVs. The digital signal on the new TVs will be very cool. Very sharp picture. They'll love it.

The change to digital signals will free up spectrum that can then be resold to new users. Inslee’s idea I did like was to hold back part of the newly available spectrum and create a commons for unlicensed use. The idea here is to have a place for tinkerers and inventors to try out new ideas, to start new services and see how they work. It could be chaotic, of course, but there are ways to deal with chaos. “Geniuses are coming up with systems that can search for free spectrum—that can go out and hunt for it,” he said. I have to admit I know little about it, but I like the fact that he’s thinking about innovation—about making room for the unknown future as well as the present.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:08 PM


September 16, 2005

Transit's Market Share


Monorail: What does it matter? To transportation, not a whole lot. Here is an excerpt from “The Tax Base of the Seattle Monorail Project,” a report to the Monorail board by ECONorthwest, its economic consultants, in December 2003. On page 19 it raises the question of financing rail by taxing cars. What if rail transit is so successful that fewer people buy cars? Won’t the Monorail undercut its own source of financing?

The consultants say:

With this concern in mind, ECONorthwest has reviewed data on trends in transit share of transportation in metropolitan areas in the United States.

In general, the ability of transit investments, per se, to increase dramatically transit shares over the long term is rather limited. Across the US as a whole, in fact, transit mode share has fallen dramatically over the past 40 years even as spending on transit improvements and operations has increased. Between the 1960 and 2000 U.S. censuses, for example, the public transit share of all work trips fell from 12.1% to 4.7%…

Seattle and Portland, regions with strong planning and transit programs designed to reduce automobile use, enjoyed modest increases in transit mode share at the metropolitan level between 1990 and 2000 as transit services were extended to non-core areas. In general, however, the available evidence suggests that the prospects for further, significant increases in transit mode share in core areas such as the city of Seattle are limited.

Weirdly, the report then says that this should not be taken as an “indictment of the Monorail,” because, it says, the Monorail may be a “countervailing force” against the natural tendency of people to use their cars even more.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:07 PM


September 15, 2005

A Meeting with Israel

David Akov, the Israeli consul general based in San Francisco, visited us today. Here are some notes from the conversation.

On the Gaza evacuation: “The settlers wanted to use violence as a political tool, but when it came to doing it, they decided not to.” Akov said this showed that “a very clear majority of Israelis do play by democratic rules.” (A dig at the Palestinians, here.)

On the West Bank: Here the Palestinians say there are more than 400,000 Israelis in illegal settlements. Akov said the number depended on who was counted, and that a number that high included Israelis in the eastern suburbs of Jerusalem, which Israel annexed and has no intention of giving back. He also said there were clusters of settlements (Maale Adummim was one, Gush Etzion another) that were not going to be given back. “In any future agreement, these areas will have to be part of Israel,” he said. “The big question is, what other areas would be given to the Palestinians.”

I took this to mean that if Israel carves out these pieces of the West Bank, it would have to offer other pieces within pre-1967 Israel as compensation. I doubt that whatever Israel offered would be received as a fair trade, and whether it actually would be a fair trade. It is not the verdict of history, or of human nature, to be evenhanded in territorial dealings, and I don’t think the Israelis have been evenhanded up to now. But at least their government acknowledges that it will have to trade something rather than merely subtract from the West Bank, and that is a start.

I also noted that the proposed Palestinian state would clearly be divided into two pieces, the West Bank and Gaza, separated by Israel. This would require a connection 40-50 miles long. I asked him how that would be done. The Israeli government prefers a train, he said. I understand that; when a train gets moving, no one gets off, and the train could travel across the corridor without stopping or ever having gone through customs.. But, I thought, no way will the Palestinians settle for a train, not even a train, like the Eurotunnel under the English Channel, that can carry cars and trucks. They’ll want a road. I sure would.

For the record, I also asked him whether Israel has nuclear weapons, knowing that everyone says they do. His answer: “Israel has said it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.” I asked him what “introduce” meant: “have” or “use”? He said, “At this point, Israel will not say more than that or show more than that.”

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 04:10 PM


September 14, 2005

Germans in WWII America

In an earlier post about the internment of German citizens during World War II—an issue that came up in relation to the internment of Japanese citizens and ethnic Japanese American citizens, I wrote, regarding the Germans:

Only enemy aliens were forcibly interned… And, according to the web page, there were individual hearings for each German detained, and the ones interned received negative decisions from the hearings board. According to the web page, these hearings were often unfair. That may be so. But, still, there were hearings.

A German American writes back:

Not true Bruce...My father's hearing board recommended that he not, repeat, NOT be interned, yet he was interned by the Department of Justice.

As for my distinction between citizens and aliens, he wrote:

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process.” Hearings were not due process, persons being heard were not allowed to have an attorney present, and were only allowed three witnesses.

He added:

And if you are removed from your home, and you lose your possessions, and you are removed from your school, and from your neighborhood, i.e., you vanish from your neighborhood, whether it be "en masse" or individually, no matter what spin you put on it... one remains locked up.

At the age of 12 I was thrown into a 14th century prison by American soldiers, after being forced to ride in a stench-filled, frigid, boxcar for three nights and two days, all the time being yelled at "you little Nazi, shut up!” Think about it, spending your 13th birthday in a prison cell; where you were told if you don't behave "you will be hanged from the hangman's tree, see it there in the yard!" And where I walked with hands upon my head, all the time being yelled at, and I had to eat watery soup in silence while standing up! All alone, and when they put me back in my cell, they slammed the door shut, so that the clamoring and banging has remained in my head until this day--more than 60 years later! No matter how one is rounded up, en masse, or otherwise... one is deprived of their freedoms and civil liberties without due process.

Arthur D. Jacobs
Major, USAF Retired
An American-born who was interned at the age of 12....

Respond to this post.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:06 PM


September 13, 2005

Propaganda Watch: One


Propaganda Watch: The political mailers are coming in, and it’s time to have a look at the good, the bad and the ridiculous.

The Good: Robert Rosencrantz’s mailer. It has a theme: “For a fiscally fit Seattle.” It takes political positions that relate to the theme, namely:

Rebuild the Viaduct above ground.

Merge our transit agencies.

Build affordable homes to attract families with children back to our public schools.

On the Viaduct, his position is bold: forget the tunnel. There is a big quote: “If we opt for the most expensive solution for everything, pretty soon we won’t be able to afford anything.”

On transit, his statement is intelligent, though voters should note that it does not commit him to a specific project.

Fitting his position on housing into the “fiscally fit” mantra is a stretch, because it has to do with the fiscal fitness of the citizens, not government. But the price of housing is Rosencrantz’s strongest suit. He has been a housing provider in the private and public sectors, and understands them both.

The brochure also tells you a bit about who Rosencrantz is, and links the “fiscally fit” theme with his history of childhood disability. A good piece.

The Bad: King County Executive Ron Sims’s hit piece on opponent David Irons. It shows a picture of Irons holding up a Bush-Cheney sign and says, “David Irons is a George Bush-Dick Cheney conservative who wants to bring his right-wing agenda to King County government.” It makes Bush and Cheney sound like some kind of fringe candidates, out on the “wings” of American political discourse. They're not, at least on any matter that might relate to King County government. And certainly Irons is not at the right end of the political spectrum around here. Boo, hiss to this Sims smear.

The Ridiculous: Paige Miller’s ad for herself, with the picture of her on the waterfront streetcar and the caption, “One woman with courage makes mass transit.” In a box, in large italic type, it says, “With the increasing price of gasoline and our dependency on foreign oil, Paige Miller understands it’s more important than ever to develop effective mass transit.”

The small print does say that Miller is for light rail and monorail, and we can debate whether those things are “effective mass transit” or not. (I’m on the “or not” side.) But the photo of Miller is with the waterfront streetcar, probably because Miller proposed a way to save the streetcar during Viaduct construction. But the waterfront streetcar is not “effective mass transit.” Really it is not transit at all. It is a ride for tourists. That ought to be obvious, but somehow we’ve got to a point in this one-track “progressive” city at which anything that rides on rails is “transit.” Actually, the most effective transit around here is buses, but people don’t really like buses and most transit believers don't champion them.

Reply to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:53 AM


September 11, 2005

Not "Relocation." Not "Evacuation." Internment.

Defenders of the Japanese internment bombard me with the statement that I am absolutely wrong (and a complete idiot, dimbulb liberal, etc.) to say that 110,000 West Coast ethnic Japanese were interned in World War II. They say it was far less than that, and fewer even than the number of Germans, Italians and others. In making this claim, they are using the legal definition of internment, which applies only to citizens of foreign countries.

One of my critics--one of the few well-mannered ones--writes:

Someday, Bruce, when you have a little free time may I suggest you read Title 50, Section 21 of the U.S. code. You will then have a precise and legal definition of internment.

I responded to him (and his peanut gallery):

The Websters New Collegiate Dictionary defines intern as "To confine or impound, esp. during a war" <-enemy aliens>"

The Concise Oxford Dictionary deflines intern as "confine; oblige (a prisoner, alien, etc.) to reside within prescribed limits."

The Oxford defines relocate as "move to a new place (esp. to live or work)." It defines evacuate as "remove people from a place of danger to stay elsewhere for the duration of the danger."

I read that the U.S. Code doesn't call what was done to the Japanese Americans "internment." There is a natural tendency to euphemism when people are doing a morally questionable thing--a thing that might raise objections if called by its right name. I have not read the U.S. Code, but I read my own newspaper from the first months of 1942, and the people then didn't call it internment, either. They talked about "evacuating", "relocating" or "moving."

These are not the right words, because they do not imply the use of force. People may relocate themselves. They may evacuate themselves, and generally when the government evacuates them, they're thankful, because they are being saved. The Japanese Americans were ordered out by the Army. Legally they were not aliens, but they were treated as if they were. They were forcibly confined in camps in the desert. Some of them got permission to leave in the following three years, but most of them didn't. By the dictionary, they were interned.

I use the dictionary word. So do historians. "The Japanese internment" is the name that virtually everyone calls it. That is what Michelle Malkin calls it. In her book, which argues that it was justified, she explains that it was not legally internment--and then she calls her book "In Defense of Internment." Why? So that when people see the book on the bookstore shelf, they know what it's about. She did not call her book, "In Defense of Evacuation."

You can continue on, citing Title 50, Section 21 of the U.S. code, if you like. I repeat: You are playing games with words.

Repond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 07:59 PM


September 09, 2005

Germans and German Americans

Responding to my column on the Japanese internment, a German-American writes:

As a daughter of a WWII internee, I was very interested in reading “Fair or Not, Internment was fearful sign of the times”. Your assessment that internment occurred because of hysteria and fear are accurate. Even today in this country, we can not have an open discussion regarding internment. As a daughter of a German internee it’s insulting to see that historical references completely ignore German and Italian internment.

Just like the Japanese, internees of European descent relate to the embarrassment, fear, and lack of control they had over their lives during their WWII internment. My father was a German Internee, one of 11,000 incarcerated in a web of internment camps across the United States during WWII. The German internment is unknown to most of the public even today. (see www.foitimes.com)

Appropriately, the Japanese internment story has been told and the US government has apologized for it’s actions. Unfortunately, our government has refused to acknowledge European internment. Sixty years after WWII, German internees are still fighting to have their stories told. In a few years all German internees will be deceased and unavailable to bear witness to the injustices they experienced.

It saddens me that our country, whose citizens believe we are a humane and moral country are not aware of the abuses conducted under their names. Currently, we have a bill in congress the “Wartime Treatment Study Act”, (S1354, HR3198) whose purpose is to study WWII European internment. Once again, we are lobbying legislators to support this non partisan bill. As always, to assure the bill's success we need political leaders to step forward and join us.

To prevent future abuses of civil liberties based on race and nationality it is important to correct historical documents to reflect the complete accurate story of internment during WWII. It is important that the government take responsibility for it’s actions and acknowledge internment. Your conclusion that “when people are fearful they do not respond with fairness and law” certainly was demonstrated by internment. To avoid the same mistakes in the future we must learn from the past. To do this it is necessary to tell the whole story of internment not just bits and pieces. After 60 years it is time to set the record straight, please include all internees not just the Japanese when writing about internment. By historians and journalists writing only part of the story of internment they continue to perpetrate the myth.

Shirley A. Weiss
West Linn, Oregon

My comment:

There is a legitimate story to be told here. But do keep in mind: According to the web page mentioned (and I think the page is correct) only enemy aliens were forcibly interned. "Enemy aliens" means German citizens, which in common parlance means "Germans," not "German-Americans." And, according to the web page, there were individual hearings for each German detained, and the ones interned received negative decisions from the hearings board. According to the web page, these hearings were often unfair. That may be so. But, still, there were hearings. And still, the Germans forcibly interned were non-citizens. That is, they were citizens of Germany, and Germany was at war with the United States. They may have some valid complaints, but in my view they could not demand the same rights as citizens.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:15 PM


September 08, 2005

No Idea Whatsoever

In response to my column on the Japanese internment, here, I received this email:

As a WWII US Marine who fought and lived through this period, I am always troubled to find that there are so many Americans like you, who hate our country so much that they are willing to bash and believe the worst about our country.

You have no idea whatsoever as to the facts of the relocation. And you don't even seem to want to learn. The small note that this American hating Canadian professor sent you, specifically says that these people are not "internees." Yet you continue to refer to them as such. Anyone who knows the first thing about this issue, knows that those who would not leave the war zone voluntarily were "relocated." Yes, some enemy aliens, Japanese, German, Italian and Eastern Europeans were placed in 'Internment Centers,' as international laws allow. These Europeans were placed in prisons; incidentally, have you ever heard any of these people complaining, bashing America, demanding an apology or money? NO!

I don't have the time or desire to educate you or recommend the dozens of books, research papers, and formally secret documents now available that make you the fool but I will tell you that after fighting in three wars, I am truly depressed that it was for people like you.

Someday, your family and friends will learn the truth and understand how you have discredited the memory of America's Greatest Generation, including those of your own parents.

Lt.Col.Gil Ferguson, USMC Ret.
Member of the California State Legislature, Ret

P.S. Incidentally, many of those of Japanese ancestry in California, asked our government to remove them to safety, away from their American Chinese, Korean and Filipino neighbors. I'm sure even you can understand that.

I wrote him back:

I will try to make a civil reply.

If I had to agree with everything my country did in order to show my loyalty, I would hate it. Thankfully, that is not required in the United States of America.

The professor is an American. He told me he got a job in Canada because he speaks French. Anyway, the Canadians were in WWII well before America was, and they interned their citizens of Japanese ancestry, too.

You mention the "Japanese, German, Italian and Eastern Europeans were placed in Internment Centers, as international laws allow." Yes, that's right. These were foreign nationals. My column was about U.S. nationals.

My father was in the Navy during WWII. He had no sympathy for Imperial Japan, but he made a distinction between Japan and the Japanese Americans on the West Coast. So did my mother. They are both gone, but I don't either would be offended by what I wrote.

Reply to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:09 PM


September 07, 2005

On the Internment

My column on the Japanese internment, available here, refers to a 1942 memo by John J. McCloy. You can see that memo by clicking here and scrolling down. The historian who sent me the memo, Greg Robinson, has a blog entry available here. Again, scroll down.

Some responses to the column:

There's no question in my mind that the vast majority of those Japanese-Americans meant us no harm but there's also no question in my mind that there are those who did and that's what you have to stop and consider. Just like today, the vast majority of Arab-Americans don't mean us any harm, either, but there are those who do like that bunch they arrested in Buffalo, NY a while back for terrorist activities. So just being born in this country doesn't prove a thing. The easiest thing in the world to do is to play the part of the Monday morning quarterback and second guess. It is both wrong and unfair trying to judge history by today's standards. You've got to be objective and think in light of the the times we were living in. In 1942, this country was in a struggle for survival. There wasn't time to assess where the individual loyalties of each and every Japanese-American might lie. Due process was a luxury time constraints didn't allow... [Also] at that point in time, the Japanese-Americans were an endangered species, it wasn't safe for them to be walking the streets considering what the general feelings and attitudes were back then so it was done mainly for their own protection more than anything else.

The moral to the story is that the war inconvenienced a lot of people, not just the Japanese-Americans and while there can certainly be no doubt that they suffered a great deal, it doesn't even begin to compare with the suffering that, say, the people of central and eastern Europe went through. Unfortunately, that's the nature of the beast because, hey, let's face it--war is not designed to be fair, even-handed, or compassionate, like I said, it's a struggle for survival! I think this should all be taken as just a history lesson and left at that.

And this one, from a Japanese-American:

My community of Bainbridge Island has been working for seven years to create a memorial to honor and remember the first Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed to concentration camps in World War II. We call our project "Nidoto Nai Yoni" which translates to "Let it not happen again." We deliberately chose this name years ago because we don't want to cast blame, but we want people to learn from this chapter in American history about the fragility of our constitution, and to hopefully inspire everyone to be vigilant to preserve and protect the rights for all.

This one, from Spokane:

My dad served in WWll in the Pacific; he joined the Navy in 1944. My wife’s dad spent the whole war in the US Navy as an officer. They both are gone now but they were tough, fair compassionate men who supported the internment. In retrospect, it was a horrible mistake but we can learn from it if we talk openly and honestly about it.

And this one, from an academic on the East Coast:

It is not the future internemt of Japanese Americans that is of direct concern, it is the idea of internment in general. That seems to be where you are going but you never quite get there.

Also you could have mentioned the ramifications of such actions in the modern world. You do not mention the detention of Arab Americans conducted under the guise of material witness statutes. You do not even mention the notion of internment of Arab Americans, which is the most likely group to be singled out in the modern America. It would even be a lot easier to do so, they represent a smaller percentage of the population than the Japanese did. There is more evidence of people of Middle Eastern Origins actively planning to attack the US than there was of the Japanese. Yet your piece remains silent on the issue.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:44 PM


September 04, 2005

The Katrina Pulpit

It’s sooo predictable how a disaster brings out each political partisan to explain why the disaster is the result of not heeding him. First to bat was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who blamed the disaster on the Bush administration’s failure to sign the Kyoto Treaty:

As Hurricane Katrina dismantles Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, it’s worth recalling the central role that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour played in derailing the Kyoto Protocol and kiboshing President Bush’s iron-clad campaign promise to regulate CO2. (Read the rest here.)

There was antiwar writer Paul Craig Roberts, who blamed it on the Iraq attack:

Chalk up the city of New Orleans as a cost of Bush's Iraq war. There were not enough helicopters to repair the breached levees and rescue people trapped by rising water. Nor are there enough Louisiana National Guardsmen available to help with rescue efforts and to patrol against looting…The National Guard and helicopters are off on a fool's mission in Iraq. (Read the rest here.)

There was the view of Randal O’Toole, light-rail critic, who blamed it on the lack of cars:

Those who fervently wish for car-free cities should take a closer look at New Orleans. The tragedy of New Orleans isn't primarily due to racism or government incompetence, though both played a role. The real cause is automobility -- or more precisely to the lack of it.

"The white people got out," declared the New York Times today. But, as the article in the Times makes clear, the people who got out were those with automobiles. Those who stayed, regardless of color, were those who lacked autos. (Read the rest here.)

Of these three, the Kennedy piece is the weakest. He makes the same assumptions so many environmentalists do: that effectiveness is measured by intentions. That is, they assume that had the United States signed and ratified the Kyoto deal (either under Clinton or Bush), the amount of global warming would have been less, and that would have affected the storm. I don’t know whether preventing the warming of the Earth would have affected the storm, but I am very clear on the distinction between signing a treaty and actually preventing the warming of the Earth, or changing the composition of the atmosphere.

Roberts has a point: If we’d spent less in Iraq, and kept all those Guardsmen and helicopters here, we might (might, might, might) have spent more on the levees in New Orleans, and have responded better.

O’Toole has the most interesting point. Cars can be life-savers. We all saw the photos of the cars plugging the freeways, trying to get out of New Orleans before the storm. And we all probably thought, “Traffic jam! Too many cars, and nobody gets out.” But the people with cars did get out.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:39 PM


September 01, 2005

Islamic Journalists

A group of journalists from Asia with an interest in Islam came through today, courtesy of the East-West Center in Honolulu. We told them there was a small but growing group of Islamic residents here, that we do cover them, and have an occasional Islamic columnist on the Saturday Values page, and that this area has a long history of religious tolerance and cooperation.

I also mentioned that I’d heard some voices on talk radio that were hostile towards Islam, and use of terms such as “Islamofascism.” To them it was an odd word.

One of us asked why there haven’t been more voices from Islam denouncing suicide bombers. “Which Islam?” replied Mazlena Mazlan, deputy editor of Mediacorp News, Singpore. “There is still a debate within the religion as to who speaks for Islam.” Moderate leaders have denounced terrorism but have not been covered by the foreign press, she said.

These folks, from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India and Bangladesh, seemed all to be moderates. Some wrote for strictly secular papers. A man from Bangladesh said that since 9-11 his paper had to add an occasional anti-American piece from the Arab press to satisfy its more zealous readers that it was not anti-Islamic. This paper also runs the British journalist Robert Fisk, who has been a critic of the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A woman from Malaysia said that her Malay-language paper is specifically Islamic, but that most of the corporate stock is controlled by the ruling political party, which is Islamic but moderate. Her paper strives to be Islamic but not so radical that it is identified with the political opposition. Another paper, the Star of Kuala Lumpur, operates under this same Islamic government, but it is in English and its readers are mostly non-Muslims. That paper has to be careful not to be exclusively secular.

We American newspaper writers also have our taboos: We write about religion as it relates to politics, and on the religion page we write about certain things as practices. For example, some weeks ago we ran a story about how a public swimming pool in Seattle had arranged a special swim for Muslim women in which the women covered the windows with paper. But most American newspapers would never have a long, descriptive story about what Islam says about the nature of God, or the immortality of the soul, or any number of things that very religious people care about. In 30 years in newspapers I’ve never seen a rule against doing this, but it just isn’t done.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:06 PM




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