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A Matter Of Opinion

Archive for December 2007

loose thread — very loose thread

Some of you may have noticed a certain lackluster approach to the staffing of this blog in recent days. What can I say? Between skimpy staffing and holiday distractions, blogging has to share finite resources with other demands.
Still, loyal followers are entitled to at least a fresh entry point where they can raise the pressing issues of the day.
Have at it.

Trudy Rubin: The Pakistan report

(AP photo by Anjum Naveed)

Doug Floyd waited all day yesterday Philadelphia Inquirer’s Trudy Rubin’s dispatch from Pakistan. It was worth the wait. She’s in Pakistan, was scheduled to interview Benazir Bhutto on Thursday evening. If you read little else about the assassination, read Rubin’s report here.


One of Pakistan’s top experts on militant Islam, journalist Ahmed Rashid, told me: “I think (the killing) has all the hallmarks of al-Qaida. It was well planned, well trained. The country is now in a state of chaos. The country is an al-Qaida target now.”
Benazir Bhutto foresaw this danger. And now she is gone.

The Drive at 5

(Dan Pelle/S-R photo)

Just heard from a colleague that there’s a “skiff” of snow out there.

I have heard this term before in relation to a light snow. Turns out skiff means “small boat.”

But then I stumbled into a online discussion of the very word in relation to snow. Someone used “skiff” of snow. Another person thought the correct term was “skift.” But that, apparently, isn’t a word. So is it skiff, skift or fill in the blank?

You decide/discuss. Blog lines are open.

Lynn’s column: What do your symbols signify?

In my opinion, the best read on our pages today is Lynn Swanbom’s column. Lynn is our letters coordinator and opinion page copy editor and she used her master’s degree in English and rhetorical studies in interesting ways on the job.

Her column today looks at the storm and the fury of religious debates on the letters page and what it might all mean. Her last graphs were my favorite:

And so, in the spirit of the topic, I have prepared a sermon for each side of this debate.

To those who rejoice in the victory of the strict “separation of church and state” interpretation of the First Amendment: Remember when you write that if your purpose is to convince others of your viewpoint, caricaturing and baiting opponents will probably not accomplish it. You wouldn’t want to make converts by shaming the unconverted, for which many of you criticize religious evangelism. If the removal of the cross from the badge was to you a symbol of acceptance and respect for other human beings, please adhere to that meaning.

Fellow religious folk, please let go of certain symbols if it means hanging onto the wonderful things the symbols mean. The cross is a symbol of something beyond religious tradition. Remember that “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” was not part of a melodramatic martyrdom, but a real one. The speaker showed no malice toward those who unjustly and literally deprived him of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Show us what your symbols mean.

What do your symbols mean? Blog lines remain open all day.

New day, new thread

If you’ve been planning to comment on one of our loose threads in 2007, time’s running out. Click quickly.

Watch the snow and share your reflections

Do you have some time this week to relax or is it back to the grind on the day after the holiday? Or did you really get a break from the grind in the first place?
No matter your condition, this is Wednesday’s loose thread and you’re invited to weigh in with a comment about whatever is on your mind.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas Eve

We’ve gotten a few Christmas cards from our letter writers and enjoyed them very much.

But we also continue to have some strong opinions expressed on the Roundtable page. Keep the discussion going, both on the blog and by submitting letters of your own:

Which letters from this weekend would you like to answer?

Have you ever taken the keys from a drunk?

(Photo of Ray Milland in “Lost Weekend” from

Our editorial today was filled with tips on how to stay safe on the roads this holiday season.

One of the tips:

Get aggressive when the party’s drunk tries to drive home. Hard-core drinkers – defined as those with blood-alcohol levels of 0.15 or greater or those who have prior DUI arrests or convictions – cause 27 percent of fatal crashes, even though the hard-core account for 0.8 percent of motorists on the road at any given time.

Have you ever taken the keys from a drunk person?
Blog lines are open.

Loose Thread Thursday

V.B. Wigglesworth wakes at noon,
Washes, shaves, and very soon
Is at the lab; he reads his mail,
Tweaks a tadpole by the tail,
Undoes his coat, removes his hat,
Dips a spider in a vat.
From “V.B. Nimble, V.B. Quick” by John Updike

We hope your morning routine will include a blog comment or two. Lines are open.

Loose threads and melting snow

From my window, looking on Sprague Avenue, I see a drizzly, gray day and wonder if it’s going to wash away the snow before my granddaughter gets to town tonight and we get a chance to pull her around on the homemade sled I guilt for her mother many years ago.
That’s what’s on my mind. What about you?

Tuesday’s loose thread

Go ahead and give it a tug. Post a comment of your choice and see what develops

Letter: Recycling

(…) it seems that there really aren’t many options other than to throw (compact fluorescent bulbs) in the trash. I’m certainly not going to park a light bulb on my passenger seat and drive it to some as yet unknown location to dispose of it. Not with the price of gas these days.

I contacted the city of Spokane solid waste management and they don’t seem to have much interest in them either. They told me they don’t accept them as a “recyclable” item and they treat them as trash. If we’re going to be preached to about all the great benefits to our environment and energy usage by switching to CFL bulbs, the least someone could do is offer a simple way to dispose of these items once they are no longer serviceable.
Tom Starr

The article he must have seen, written by Ken Paulman in April, says, “like all fluorescent lights, they contain mercury. … environmental advocates say the bulbs should be treated as hazardous waste and recycled.

“Where to take them: The bulbs can be dropped off for free at any Spokane County transfer station. Some recycling companies will accept the bulbs for a fee.”

Have you run into any problems when you were trying to be a responsible citizen and recycle?

Weekend letter: Give Verner a break

C’mon editorial board, give our new mayor, Mary Verner, a break. She hasn’t even been in office for 30 days and you are all over her about her lack of judgment in revealing the names of her transition team (“Stumbling start,” Dec. 8). Dennis Hession had a very secretive administration (the Matrix report and solid waste director selection come to mind) and you didn’t seem to have any problem with that. You even endorsed him in the election. He wasn’t about to reveal anything about his decisions if he didn’t choose to as he was the “strong” mayor and didn’t have to.

Instead of being negative and finding fault with the mayor you need to support her. Look for the positive and we’ll all be better for it. Anything will be better than what we had under Dennis Hession.
Phyllis Rollins

Aside from what seemed like amnesia on how often our editorials took Dennis Hession’s administration to task for secrecy, I was struck by this letter. Is it reasonable to hold off on a new leader for a while before being critical on his/her style and policy?

Letter: Snowy sidewalks, cont’d

In regards to George Britton’s letter about snowy sidewalks (“Snowy sidewalks a crime,” Dec. 11), I totally agree that homeowners are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clear after a snowfall. However, some blame needs to be assigned to the city of Spokane and their lousy snow removal.

I live on a secondary arterial and when the plows go down this street they bury every sidewalk with compacted snow and ice which is almost impossible to clear when dealing with the very cold temperatures. I myself don’t believe I should have to do the job twice for the same snowfall. Because it is a very busy street pedestrians are put in danger when the sidewalks are in this condition.
Cheryl Reynolds

I fully sympathize with this writer’s frustration. But I suppose my question is, what exactly are city snowplows supposed to do about it?

Civic literacy

Here is the link George Nethercutt included in his guest opinion today. The civic literacy quiz takes a few minutes to complete, because the questions require careful reading. And they ain’t all that easy either. I’m not shocked that college freshmen failed.

I got a 90%. How did you do?

Blog world, read this

This interview from the current Futurist magazine is worth a read and react.

Setting priorities

Imagine the horror for a child trapped in a physically and/or emotionally abusive setting, victimized by those who are supposed to be protectors. Where can he or she turn? When someone does notice and blow the whistle, will the public resources be in place to intervene? Today’s editorial explores the magnitude of what’s needed, which is way more than taxpayers can afford. How do you react to this dilemma?

Meet the Word of the Year


What would you have chosen?

Shadow land

As today’s editorial was being written Tuesday afternoon, reporter Betsy Russell was writing from the S-R’s Boise office that the Idaho Board of Education may have violated that state’s open meetings law to discuss canceling the statewide standardized test for Idaho students next year. Public officials’ fear of sunshine seems to know no bounds.

UPDATE: Here’s the article on the Idaho matter.

Jail Time: Will it be near you?

Our editorial today talked about the county’s planning process for a new jail.

The county has launched an ambitious plan to present voters, in November 2008, with a bond issue to pay for a new detention facility to be in place by 2013, when Geiger’s property lease expires. The county wants to build a detention facility and system that will endure for 25 years. They don’t yet have a final plan – or a price tag – but they are in full-speed-ahead mode.

Here are 10 of the proposed locations. What are your thoughts on the best place for a new detention facility? Blog lines are open this cold, cold morning.

•County campus – county land adjacent to Spokane County Jail.

•ORV Park – County parks land on Sprague Road in Airway Heights.

•Raceway Park – private property on Hayford Road in Airway Heights.

•Playfair – city-owned site between Sprague and Trent avenues.

•STA-Fair and Expo – Spokane Transit Authority property next to Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

•Medical Lake Interchange – privately owned land north of I-90 at Medical Lake exit.

•Tschirley-Spokane Industrial Park – County-engineering property at Tschirley Road and north of Euclid.

•Flora-WSDOT – State Department of Transportation land at Flora Road and north of the Spokane River.

•Cheney – city of Cheney property on Anderson Road, southeast of Cheney.

•Sunset Highway-Russell Road – privately owned land north of Sunset Highway at Highway 2.

Source: Spokane County

Military Chaplains: Wear it on your sleeve

As we were working our Sunday editorial on how the role of police — and workplace — chaplains goes way beyond faith denominations, Doug Floyd found a Web site that showed military branch and collar insignia. They have elaborate insignias for Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish chaplains, as well as chaplain assistants.

Look at them here.

Military chaplains show their religious preference on their uniform.

But, like all chaplains, military chaplains don’t let their personal beliefs influence their mandates: To take care of the suffering among them.

Walking the talk

As you read today’s editorial, you should be aware it was written by Gary Crooks last Friday — from home

Roosevelt Elementary Students on the pools bond

Our editorial today concerned the pools and Albi park bond that was passed overwhelmingly by voters last month.

It urged the city to do implement the bond rapidly and with much transparency. Looks like they have that in mind.

The parks department issued this press release today:

The Spokane Parks and Recreation Department has scheduled a citizens’ informational meeting to discuss the 10 new splash pads that will be constructed in City parks, and funded by the recently approved $42.9 million Parks Improvement bond.

Are you wondering what exactly a spray pad is? Need more information on which parks are involved? Come to the meeting and find out!
When: Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: Northeast Community Center, 4001 North Cook Street.


We got a stack of letters from Debi Maher’s Roosevelt Elementary third-graders, thanking voters for passing the pools and Albi bond. They put a lot of thought and work into these letters, and it’s a reminder that kids will benefit most from these civic recreation amenities. Treat yourself and read a few in our extended entry below.

(S-R file photo)

Interrogation tapes destroyed

Torture and interrogation have been hot topics here. Now comes news that the CIA destroyed tapes of some interrogations rather than turn them over to the 9/11 Commission or legal authorities.

Here’s the article.

Are you OK with this?

Verner’s ground rules of behavior

In our editorial board meeting with new Mayor Mary Verner yesterday, she gave us a handout listing the “Mayor’s ground rules of behavior.”

They are:
Just the facts — no spin. Listen here.

Just the truth — no lies.

Just a moment — no surprises. Listen here.

(S-R/Christopher Anderson photo of Mary Verner taken during her swearing-in ceremony.)

The Carbon Calculus

There’s a bill in Congress that would affix a pricetag to greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike litter, we don’t currently charge for this, though it affects us all.

Such a charge would make alternative fuels more competitive, because they would, in effect, be given credit for little to no greenhouse gas emissions. This New York Times article has more details, including interesting details about “closet carbons.”

Is this a good way to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy? If not, what would work better?

Of West Side water and refugees

A few years ago in an editors meeting we heard a report about what might happen if the West Side of the state had a natural disaster. (Most likely scenario: Mount Rainier would blow). The prediction was that thousands of Seattle-area refugees would seek refuge here.

It seemed such a fantastical notion that something so devastating would send people our way. I haven’t heard yet whether any flood victims have come over here to escape the damage caused by the flooding, but if you haven’t seen how devastating the flood damage is, be sure to watch the photo slideshow on our Web page. Link here.

The major hospital in the flood area, Providence Centralia, was reachable for awhile only by helicopter. Now according to the Rich Roesler’s story “troops with high-clearance trucks were also ferrying supplies to the hospital in Centralia, which Gregoire said is surrounded by water.”

The hospital is part of Providence Health System, of which Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital are part. My e-mail yesterday was filled with prayer requests from Providence employees I know. Some of the hospital staffers have lost their homes.

No bombs for Iran

Looks like this intelligence estimate ruins the plans of hawks itching to fight to have others fight a war in Iran.

Is this good news or bad news? Are you surprised that the president would green-light this report?

Tuesday’s dangling thread

If you’ve been looking for a loose thread to snag, something to tie up the stray thoughts of the day, here it is. Tug away.

Monday’s Loose Thread

So, what’s on your mind on this mucky Monday?

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A Matter of Opinion is really a matter of many opinions — those held by the people responsible for the opinion pages of The Spokesman-Review ... and yours. Check in regularly to follow the discussion and help keep it lively.

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