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

The opinions you read below are those of the individual writers, not necessarily views that will become formal positions of The Seattle Times. Respond to STop
(Please be aware that your name and comments may be published here, unless you specify otherwise).

Currently, STop cannot automatically post readers' comments on the blog. However, the editorial staff will regularly post readers' comments. Your comments are sent directly to the individual editor or writer.

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Jim Vesely
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Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
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Lee Moriwaki
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Joni Balter
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Joni Balter
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Eric Devericks
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Eric Devericks
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Lance Dickie
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Lance Dickie
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Bruce Ramsey
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Bruce Ramsey
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Kate Riley
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Kate Riley
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Lynne Varner
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Lynne Varner
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Ryan Blethen
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Ryan Blethen
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November 29, 2005

Passport, Please

A proposal is now made to require passports at the Canadian border. See the story here. My family already takes passports to Canada because my wife is an immigrant, and speaks English with an accent. But I certainly remember going there with no passport. I grew up in the Seattle area, and we went to Canada every so often, and never took passports. Now we do.

The article says Gov. Christine Gregoire is worried that the passport requirement will cut down on tourism. Consider: A passport costs $65 for an adult and $40 for a person under 18, including a $10 execution fee. Add the cost of passport photos, which is another $7.50 or so. Plus, you can't get the passport right away, and if you want it in only a few days you have to pay more. Will all that cut down on trips? Yes, I think it will.

The government wants to do this for our safety. Perhaps it will make us safer; I don't know. I admit to being skeptical. This is the same government that x-rays my shoes at the airport, which I consider idiotic. I also think that even as we add passport requirements within our continent the Europeans have removed passport requirements within theirs. I know I will hear the argument, "Better safe than sorry," but that statement may be thrown at any expression of skepticism, and to accept it is simply to give up thinking.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:22 PM


November 22, 2005

Finally, Padilla on Trial

So Jose Padilla is finally indicted for a federal crime after spending three years in prison without charge. As our story makes clear, the indictment is timed to ward off the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Padilla's case. There was a strong possibility that the Court would rule that the federal government could not hold Padilla, an American citizen, in this way. Now the case becomes moot, presumably, so that the court won't rule on it.

The imprisonment of Padilla has been a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution, which says (Fifth Amendment): "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger..." Padilla was not serving in our land or naval forces, nor was he caught serving in enemy forces. He was arrested at O'Hare International Airport, in Chicago, and accused of being in enemy forces.

It is good that they are finally trying him. It would have been better had the Supreme Court ordered it done.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:30 PM


November 17, 2005

Savage on Privacy

Yesterday Dan Savage, editor of The Stranger, had an opinion piece in the New York Times, here.

It is about the right of privacy--or what liberals call the right of privacy, anyway, which includes abortion and sexual freedom. He admits there is nothing specific in the Constitution about this, even though liberals believe in it. And he says, "Well, if the right to privacy is so difficult for some people to locate in the Constitution, why don't we just stick it in there? Wouldn't that make it easier to find?"

Yes, it would. It would also require an amount of consensus that might be difficult to achieve. But those are political and legal questions. Leave them aside for a moment, for some other thoughts.

First, liberals focus on sexual freedom as if it were the only freedom that mattered. They don't care about the freedom not to join a union, or the freedom not to be in Social Security or the freedom not to wear a motorcycle helmet or the freedom to build a barn on one's own property in rural King County or the freedom to open a cigar bar in Seattle. Freedom to them is about sex, sex, sex. Well, I'm for that. Let's not limit it to that, else we're living in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

Second, the Constitution does have the Fourth Amendment, which protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." This hasn't always been followed, but it is in the Constitution. There is also the vague but enticing Ninth Amendment which says the people have rights other than those listed.

Third, what Savage wants is not really privacy, which is about having a curtain behind which other people can't see you. This is about the freedom to make certain sexual and medical choices. I am for that freedom, I think, almost as much as he is, though I'm not sure about late-term abortion. The liberals describe abortion as "Choice"--the feminists around me say, "I'm for Choice!" as if by their terminology they could erase the moral question of unborn life. I think killing unborn life an unavoidable question, and fundamentally one for individuals and couples to answer. I think it's too wrapped up in religion and too personal to be decided by the government, except perhaps to ban late-term abortion when the fetus is viable. But I respect the people who oppose abortion. I cannot refute their arguments, and neither can NARAL, Planned Parenthood or the writers at The Stranger, because if they could they would have done it. Instead, they just hurl invective. I think the anti-abortion position is simply not enforceable by law. It is not practical. People wouldn't follow it. Enforcement of it is too intrusive.

The version of Savage's Amendment I'd accept is to keep government out of consensual sexual acts by adults. Also to permit abortion before the point of viability. I think the Ds would go for it and about half the Rs would go for it. But they'll never reach such an agreement. The other half of the Rs would raise hell in that caucus, and the very partisan Ds would not want to reach a compromise, because they love so much using abortion--or "privacy"-as a weapon against Rs.

I think we'e stuck.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:14 PM


November 16, 2005

Let Him Eat Cake

A reader responds to the entry on splitting up the state of Washington:

I think that the letter writer had a valid point. Many folks on the east side of the state surely must regard urban Puget Sound as a tyranny of the majority. After reading his letter, I was hoping for a reasoned reply. The most substance that you were able to offer was:

"I think you're out of luck. I don't know anyone in Olympia who would take your idea seriously, and if you found someone who did, no one else would take him seriously."

Don't you think the gentleman deserves a somewhat more thoughtful response explaining why not a single person in Olympia (apparently) would take his idea seriously?

My response:

I did give a thoughtful response. It was not a respectful response, because I wanted to communicate that I did not so much disagree with this man's proposal as rule it beyond the pale--not worth expending any effort on.

I'm sure folks on the east side of the state regard the rule of Puget Sound as tyranny of the majority. On many issues it is exactly that. But any proposal to shift political boundaries is a proposal for groups that have power to lose it, and for groups that don't have power to gain it. And the groups that have it won't agree to lose it. Further, the decision to split Washington would have to be accepted by Congress, and that would open the door to splitting Oregon, California, Illinois and (especially) New York, creating a gaggle of new senators and shifting the balance of power in the Senate away from all the states that didn't split up. Ain't going to happen. (For the same reason, abolishing the Electoral College isn't going to happen. The Delawares and Montanas would veto it.)

If the letter writer wants to live in a red state, let him move to Idaho. I know that is a dismissive statement, I know it sounds like "let him eat cake," but really it is the best possible answer. A few hundred miles from his house is the land of cake. Let him go there.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 11:22 AM


November 12, 2005

An Eastern Washington Plea for Secession

A conservative in Richland writes as follows:

Can you tell me names in the state government that are interested in Eastern Washington becoming a state? I live in Eastern Washington and have for most of my life. I agree with the idea. It is time that we represent ourselves. The people of King County are far different then we are. They voted for Kerry, Gregoire, Murray, Cantwell, a new stadium, new gas tax, and support gay marriage and late-term abortions. We are the opposite and deserve to represent ourselves.

Did you know that the State of Eastern Washington would have a population larger than 13 other states? It would also have a land mass larger than 14 other states. This is an idea that deserves some consideration. I for one will support this idea. If you can help me get in contact with like minded people I would appreciate your help.

I believe that the people on the west side of the state should support this idea. After all, the Dems would own the state. They could tax the citizens into the ground, and then keep all the money to spend on the west side. Think of it. A liberal utopia that could be run by the likes of Jim Mc Dermott. What a great place to live!

My reply:

The last time a state was divided was in 1863, during the Civil War, when West Virginia seceded from Virginia because West Virginians wanted to stay in the Union. Short of another civil war, I think you're out of luck. I don't know anyone in Olympia who would take your idea seriously, and if you found someone who did, no one else would take him seriously.

Oh, yes. The voters of King County did NOT vote for the baseball stadium. We voted no and they built it anyway. The rest of your history of our votes is correct.

Respond to this reader--or to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 10:06 PM


Why They Fight

"This war is for real," said the broadside that I received over the Internet. It is said to be from one Major General Vernon Chong. It lists terrorist attacks on American forces and property, including the World Trade Center, NY, 1993; Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia,1996; U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, 1998; and the 9-11 attacks in 2001. Then it says:

Why were we attacked? Envy of our position, our success, and our freedoms. The attacks happened during the administrations of Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2. We cannot fault either the Republicans or Democrats as there were no provocations by any of the presidents or their immediate predecessors.
I wrote back:

This is baloney. Think about it. Would anybody do that out of envy? Stalk the World Trade Center, train for years, commit suicide before the eyes of Allah--out of envy? An army of alien fanatics motivated by envy? Envy of "our freedoms"? No way. It is simply not a believable human motive.

He says: We cannot fault either the Republicans or Democrats as there were no provocations by any of the presidents...

No provocations? To a Muslim, Israel is a provocation, and America supports it. It takes Arab land, it occupies Arab Palestine, treats the Arab people as subjects with no rights. When bin Laden gave his reasons for attacking New York and Washington, they were three: American bases in Saudi Arabia; American blockade of Iraq; and American support of Israel. These are all political reasons. They may be distorted through the eyes of religious fanatics, but they are political reasons--not some dippy psychological reason like "envy." They are also all American interferences in the Middle East. Maybe these reasons aren't good enough reasons for attacking innocent civilians in NY and Washington--that is a different question--but if you put yourself in an Arab nationalist's shoes, they are provocations.

Always when people fight like fanatics, they believe they are defending themselves. That is what the Palestinians believe when they blow up themselves to kill Jews. In their minds, these are acts of retribution, of getting back. (So are the Israeli responses.) The terrorists who hit the WTC and the Pentagon believed they were defending their civilization and their people from our aggression and interference. We don't have to accept all their thinking as accurate, but we ought to take it into account. We lie to ourselves when we say they hate us because of our freedom. Why would they care about our country? They care about their country.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:30 PM


November 09, 2005

The Anti-Smoking Vote

Readers' theories are invited on the vote, by county, on the anti-smoking initiative, I-901. The county-wide vote is here.

A lot of initiatives in the past have broken down this way. A liberal measure wins big in King County and in San Juan County, the two furthest left (and the two highest in per-capita family income). After that it gets support in Jefferson, which includes the lefty burg of Port Townsend, and in Thurston (state employees). Beyond that, you're moving to the political center. Eastern Washington, particularly outside of Spokane, leans right, as does Lewis County in Western Washington. And so on.

Consider the smoking initiative. The strongest vote was (rounding to the nearest whole number) in San Juan, 69% yes. Next strongest, Whatcom, 67%. Then Spokane, 66%, Clark, 66%, Whitman, 65%. King, the most liberal county, was at 63.94%, not much more than the statewide average of 62.53%.

The numbers may change, but they probably won't by much.

OK: Why was the vote highest in San Juan, and then Whatcom, Spokane, Clark, Whitman? What does San Juan have in common with Spokane?

Somebody figure this out.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 03:56 PM


November 07, 2005

Alito and the Notification Law

Judge Samuel Alito is criticized by pro-abortion activists for having written in favor of a law requiring married women to notify their husbands before having an abortion. I note that according to the Pew Center, here, Americans favor such a law. Even most Democrats favor it. So Alito is hardly "right-wing" in voting to allow it.

Other thoughts: First, the law, which was struck down (Alito being in the minority) required only notification, not permission. And it had loopholes for the cases of husbands who could not be found, or who were abusive. I don't know if such a law would do much good, but it is an attempt to get at a legitimate issue: an unborn child is the creation of two parents, not one.

The second thought is that all this argument is about policy--;about whether it is good to have a notification law. What Alito was trying to decide was whether it is constitutional to have a notification law. That's a whole different question. "Constitutional" does not mean "good;" it simply means "allowed."

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 01:22 PM


November 02, 2005

All on Fire About Smoking

Reactions to my column today on the smoking-ban initiative, available here.

I've heard some pretty creative definitions of "diversity" (the 21st century's first official buzzword) but your use of it in your column takes the word to new and absurd heights.

I used the dictionary definition, not the PC definition. A way of making a little dig at the PC use of the term, which I find obnoxious.

What is oppressive about making people practice their legal drug addition away from the two-thirds of us who are smart enough to stay off drugs, including legal ones like tobacco? If the two thirds of us who are smart enough to be drug free want to go to a bar and have a drink while listening to music why should we be subjected to the poision of those addicted? Why would any business cater to a minority of the population and exclude the majority? Why should drug addicts have more rights than non-drug addicts? And when are people like you going to stop calling a drug addition a habit? A habit is biting your nails, not ingesting poisonous, additive drugs into your body. Even more a puzzle is why tobacco is the last remaining legal drug.

I have had smokers compare smoking to drinking. There is no comparasion. Several medical studies have shone that there are some health benefits to moderate drinking. None have shown that about smoking. There is not one health or socially beneficial quality about smoking..

Several comments on this. First, the oppressive part is that people like the writer of this letter want ALL bars and taverns to be the way they like them and NONE to be the way smokers like them. That's oppressive. Why would any business cater to a minority of the population? Well--why do delis sell head cheese? Why do pizza places offer anchovies? Freedom, man! Choice. (Diversity!) Why should drug addicts have more rights than non-addicts? Ain't nobody says they should. When should nonsmokers have all the bars and smokers none?

When are people like me going to stop calling a drug addiction a habit? The column is here. You find where I called it a "habit." I can't find it. I do find where I said Deng "sucked down another hit." I also used the term "nicotine addicts."

"Even more a puzzle is why tobacco is the last remaining legal drug." Ah! You want to prohibit it, then? Back to the 1920s with liquor? Which brings us to the last statement, that there are health benefits to drinking but no "socially beneficial quality" of smoking.

What is a socially beneficial quality? Is that something that can be distinguished from a merely beneficial quality? And who decides these things? The electorate, in a yes-no vote? Or each of us, as individuals, for ourselves?

Another reader responds:

I-901 sounds a lot like democracy to me.

It's democracy, all right. I prefer freedom.

Bruce I am so sick of holding my breath when I try to walk into a Walmart or many other retail stores. When you start using smokeless cigarettes that don't take anyone's life but your own you are welcome to enjoy them anywhere. Some of us are too polite to complain all the time. Then you have inconsiderate people who light up in the smoking section of a restaurant and blow smoke all the way out. Please just stick with killing yourselves.

You've got the whole store under your rules, and you won't begrudge the entrance? Be reasonable. (And yes, when you say, "Please just stick to killing yourselves," you are making an assumption about me--that I am a smoker. But I didn't say I was or wasn't. Because it should not matter.)

I plan to vote for the smoking ban. As I see it, this issue is about continuing to be excluded from certain establishments because they allow tobacco smokers the exclusive right to satisfy their needs, while simultaneously excluding my right to satisfy my needs, either by smoking something else, or by not having other people's exhaled smoke swirling around my plate of food while I eat.

In other words, you want to exclude them. Why can't we have a world where the smokers have some places and the non-smokers have some places?

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 06:42 PM


November 01, 2005

KVI, Campaign Finance and Free Speech

A Times reader responds to our editorial, "Protecting KVI-AM," available by clicking here, with this comment:

Are you saying the KVI had the right to include explicit campaign materials, including signature petitions, on its website?

I responded:

Yes, I think KVI should have the right to put campaign materials, including signature petitions, on its website, without disclosure or regulation of any kind. If we conceive of freedom of the press only in regard to ink on newsprint and voice and images broadcasted, we concede the web, and the web is the new medium of speech. That is the same mistake the people made in the 1920s when they conceded the airwaves to federal regulation of content under the un-American idea that the radio spectrum belonged to the government. We have fought to regain that territory and mostly have. Let's not make the same mistake with the Internet. Keep the government out. If the line between what is regulated and what is free is paid versus unpaid , then unpaid posting of material on a web page --by KVI, by the Seattle Times, by the Washington State Labor Council, by BIAW--is exempt. All exempt, all the time.

That is the Times' position, as I understand it.

And the reader said:

So "inkind" contributions of any kind by a media company are exempt, but a cash contribution is reportable? How about paying for materials, such as if KVI paid a printer to print mail pieces directly, instead of giving money to a formal campaign to do it? I guess what I am intrigued about is, can I go out and buy a small media outlet, then run campaigns through it without reporting?

I responded:

I'm not a lawyer... I am trying to draw a line that preserves the essence of the First Amendment. If that knocks a hole in campaign-finance law, well, maybe it does. I would say that "in kind" contributions of speech or the press by any company, media or otherwise, and any individual, should be exempt, but that "in kind" contributions of computers, cars, office space, etc., should not be. That does seem to mean that KVI could print pieces and be free of regulation, but that a KVI contribution of money, or blank paper, to a campaign to print pieces could be regulated. It would depend on whose speech it was: KVI's or the campaign's. As for your question about buying a small media outlet, and thereby getting around the disclosure requirement on the campaigning by that outlet: I suppose that would be possible. I don't think it would be a common occurrence: Do you see Tim Eyman, or the WEA, or Association of Washington Business, buying a radio station? But they could. If it's their radio station, they have the same rights as Fisher has over KVI or the Times has over the page for which I write.

The real problem here, I think--and I am going beyond the Seattle Times' opinion now--is that regulating political campaigns and guaranteeing freedom of speech are fundamentally antagonistic ideas. In each situation where they conflict, one has to give way. The line between paid and unpaid speech is an attempt to let these two antagonitic ideas live with each other, each in its own sphere. If that line cannot be maintained--if the logic of campaign-finance law requries that we disclose and limit more and more kinds of speech and press, crowding in on the right of free political speech, then we have to choose one principle or the other. If that happens, I'm with the First Amendment.

Respond to Bruce.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey at 12:26 PM




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