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A Matter Of Opinion

Archive for July 2007

How to pay for war?

Updating this thread from last week: Here’s an article about how much longer the joint chiefs nominee thinks we’ll be in Iraq. In the article is this projection:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office provided an analysis for long-term war costs. It estimated that if troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were reduced to 75,000 over the next five years and stayed at that level through 2017, it would cost the U.S. Treasury $845 billion over the 10-year period.

With no new revenue source? How?
A poster here (was it Casey?) noted how the telephone tax to fund the Spanish-American War was still alive today. Good news. It was killed last year.

But this brings up a question: Should the government impose a tax to pay for the current war? In previous wars, we have raised taxes, issued bonds, instituted rationing, begun drafts — all in the name of shared sacrifice.

Or is it better to put in on the credit card, as we currently are doing?

Wait times for medical care

Wait times for patients in other countries is always mentioned in debates about who has the best health-care system.

But, fundamentally, the comparisons are unfair. U.S. times for those who are covered are compared with another country’s times for those who are covered. That means that wait times for 86 percent of the population in the U.S. is compared with 100 percent elsewhere.

Drop coverage to 50 percent of the population and we could decrease our wait times. Is that desirable?

Anyway, what about the other 14 percent, also known as the uninsured? According to this LA Times article, those patients better be patient.

Here’s some examples:

Cardiology: Nine months to a year
Dermatology: Six months
Ear, Nose and Throat: Six to nine months
Endocrinology/Nephrology: Six to nine months
Gastroenterology: Six to nine months
Gynecology: Six to nine months
Neurology: Six to nine months
Oncology: Six to nine months
Ophthalmology: Six to nine months
Orthopedics: Six months to a year
Podiatry: Six months to a year
Rheumatology: Six months to a year
Surgery: Nine months to two years
Ultrasound — Abdominal and Vaginal: Six to nine months
Urology: Nine months to a year

Source: Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers, 2005

Question: Is Special Session Needed for Pervs?

Item: Tougher state sex offender laws are urged: GOP wants to call special session to address the issue/Levi Pulkkinen and Chris McGann, Seattle PI

Pro (special session): Hoping to capitalize on outrage surrounding the slaying of 12-year-old Zina Linnik, a handful of Republican state representatives have called for an emergency legislative session to consider sweeping changes to the state’s sex offender registration program.

Con (special session): Gov. Chris Gregoire and Democratic lawmakers — who hold strong majorities in the House and Senate — dismissed talk of an emergency legislative session as too hasty, and Senate Republicans also seemed content to wait for the regularly scheduled 2008 Legislature to deal with the issue.

Question: Is a special session to tighten sex offender laws warranted in Washington?

Golden Pen: Establish Gas-Price Scale

With all the attention on gas prices, we should remove all displayed prices from stations and let the drivers set the price. When an engine is installed at the factory, a chip could be placed in the tank filler neck near the cap. This chip would designate the engine size. At the service station, a chip is installed on the filler nozzle that reads the engine size and sets the price on the pump. A 5-liter engine would be $5 a gallon; a 1.8-liter engine would be $1.80 a gallon. At registration time, a simple inspection would ensure the chip has not been tampered with. IRS deductions could be made for commercial applications that really need those engines. Why should people who practice economy pay for the poor choices some people make? Let the 500-horsepower trip to Zip Trip for a six-pack and a bag of chips really mean something.

Carl Heldt

Question: Does Carl have a good idea here?

Big Changes : Walla Walla and Spokane Valley

Our editorial today talked about the mild controversy in the Spokane Valley because it appears the City Council is going to allow more homes per acre than some are comfortable with. Part of the reason for the controversy? The Valley has always had a rural feel. The zoning changes are an acknowledgment of the way “country” is quickly evolving into “city” in the Spokane Valley. It’s a huge cultural change.

Spent the weekend in Walla Walla with our old friends Myles and Myrna Anderson. Lifelong educators by profession, they branched out into the winery business in 1995 with the opening of Walla Walla Vintners.

It was the eighth winery in the Walla Walla area. Now there are 130!

People are moving into Walla Walla from all over the world, because winemanking tends to be a global profession. And Walla Walla Community College’s Center for Enology and Viticulture has been a big draw for students from throughout the country seeking education about the art of winemaking.

We’ve been visiting the Andersons for almost 25 years now and it was astounding at the changes downtown.

Like the Davenport in Spokane, The Marcus Whitman Hotel was refurbished. Great restaurants have opened up. Whitman College has always been popular nationally, and it’s booming, too.

One of the issues I try to track for the editorial board and for this blog is the rapidly changing Inland Northwest. I grew up here, moved away in my 20s, came back in 1985 and have remained since. Not that much changed here in the late 70s and early 80s when I was gone, but I can’t believe what’s going on out here now, just in the past two to three years.

For other long-timers out there, what changes have you most noticed?

(Tony Wadden photo)

Loose Thread/Monday …

… What’s it going to take to get you to interact with us at A Matter of Opinion? We’ve been posting on this blog for several months now. The page-view numbers indicate that you’re tuning into it. But we want more interaction from you. What would you like to see on this blog that’d prompt you to post your own comments? You can answer that question or begin your own threads by using this Loose Thread …

SR Edit: Compassion Needed in Goodrick Case

Item: Justice overruled: Mother needs compassion, not punishment/D.F. Oliveria, Spokesman-Review

Kathy Plonka/Spokesman-Review

Kendra Goodrick, of Hayden, has sat in a Kootenai County Jail cell for more than a week, a pawn in a game of brinkmanship between 1st District Judge John Mitchell and Prosecutor Bill Douglas’ office. She’ll likely be sent to a women’s prison in southeastern Idaho for at least six months while she waits to plead her case for release before the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole. She admits she did the crime, involving felony meth charges, and she deserves the time. But she also has a good argument that she’s straightened up and become productive in the 18 months after a legal snafu freed her from prison. She’s drug free. She’s married her boyfriend. She’s given birth to a drug-free baby. She’s gotten a job. She volunteers at the Humane Society. None of which has made an impression on the prosecutor’s office, which got its wish in court July 19 that she be taken into custody to serve the remainder of a two-year sentence.

Original story here

Question: Should Kendra Goodrick be freed? Or should she serve out her prison term?

Noah Kroese: Why Can’t They Be Like Us?

Noah Kroese/Spokesman-Review

Q: How Would You React to this Inconvenience?

Colin Mulvaney/Spokesman-Review

Emergency personnel talk to a suicidal man who has been perched on the railing of the Monroe Street Bridge since about 7 o’clock last night. Firefighter-paramedics are standing by, and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office’s dive team also is on the scene. Traffic has been rerouted around the scene. Story here.

Another issue is dealing with onlookers. Some people driving by have shouted things at the man as he perches on the edge of the bridge. Promoting suicide by screaming at someone to jump is a crime, said Bartlett. So far no one has been charged with it at this scene.

Question: How would you react if you were inconvenienced by a road closure as a result of a distraught person threatening suicide?

Preserving parks

From today’s editorial:

A community’s parks are sometimes compared to a person’s lungs. Lungs take up a lot of space, because they need room to perform their dynamic function – breathe in, breathe out – and people with compromised lungs often feel as if they are suffocating.

Drive through the core of Coeur d’Alene, and you’ll see construction cranes everywhere. Buildings are on the rise in Boom Town, USA. The building boom could feel suffocating were it not for the city’s 21 parks.

Last week, Coeur d’Alene added a new one. It’s called Riverstone Park, because it’s part of Riverstone, a housing and retail development just off Northwest Boulevard. The 11-acre park features a man-made lake, an amphitheater, walking trail, playground, 600 shrubs and 1,000 aquatic plants.
Developer John Stone described what the area looked like before the park plan came to be. “There was a mined-out gravel pit and a couple of dead horses. We had some major reclamation to do.”

What green space near you would you most like to preserve?

(Tony Wadden photos)

Health care for kids

President Bush isn’t enamored with expanding the SCHIPS program. He’d rather give everyone a big tax deduction and have them enter the private market.

Is that a better way to get kids covered? Or just a better way to preserve an ideological principle?

In Our View, SCHIPS looks like the most practical way to do this.

Hot Potatoes: Don’t Be So “Quickie” to Judge

In the strict sense of the slang word, a “quickie” can describe anything done, well, quickly. This, according to the Dictionary of American Slang. This definition lends credence to the claim by Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas that the “quickie” suggested by former hireling Marina Kalani late Jan. 10, 2005, was nothing more than a quick meeting to sign some paperwork. The exchange, which was revealed in the final group of e-mails given to the S-R Friday, began with Douglas e-mailing Kalani: “So many dedicated people working late tonight.” And Kalani responding: “Too many!! No chance of a quickie?” Over the years, according to the slang dictionary, a “quickie” has meant a variety of things: a quick drink of liquor, something rushed, an unauthorized strike, and, of course, the sex act done hastily. In the vernacular of the prosecutor’s office, “quickie” apparently means quick meeting. Douglas told the S-R that he has held “quickies” with Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marty Raap. Dunno if Douglas’ e-mail exchanges with Raap are as sexually charged as his with Kalani. But I do know one thing. If an editor invites me into his/her office late at night for a “quickie,” I’m taking a chaperone with me – in case we’re on different pages, definitionwise.

Full post here

Question: If you had written Hot Potatoes today, what would you have pointed out in one or two sentences?

Cry me the Spokane River

On Saturday, I spent all day on the river as part of the Dragon Boat Races sponsored by the Spokane Parks Foundation. There were more than 40 teams of racers who paddled in competitive heats. The really good teams took just a little over a minute to run the course. Our all-women (and most of us slightly older women) took a little longer. In fact, we came in dead last, but we had a blast anyway.

I remember thinking at our practices (which lasted about an hour each) how nice it was that so many people would experience the river in the intimate way you do while on a boat. The more people who know the river, the more people who will become activists for her care.

So I was saddened, and I know I’m not alone, to read in a story this morning that “Firefighting water tainted with oil ended up in the Spokane River after flowing into storm drains during Monday’s spectacular blaze at a fuel depot in northeast Spokane, officials said Tuesday.”

The river is vulnerable in ways we can’t even imagine…

(Tony Wadden photos)

The more things change …

… the more they stay the same.

Immigration and terrorism were in the news 100 years ago. In Our View there are lessons in that phenomenon.

Special rights and marriage

Who has special rights, again? Anytime laws are proposed to give same-sex couples benefits that most people take for granted those laws are criticized as conferring “special rights.”

Our View is that the domestic union law is a positive step, but doesn’t it also highlight that couples who can marry are the ones who truly have a special right?

We’ve been working on the railroad…

Today’s editorial pointed out that four-year degrees don’t suit everybody. Society needs those trained in technical skills and for some young people, the trades are a perfect fit for their abilities.

One style of education doesn’t fit all. Society needs doctors, lawyers and other professionals, but a vibrant and healthy society depends just as much on its builders, welders, plumbers, nurse’s assistants and firefighters.

We’re interested in hearing from readers who don’t have four-year degrees and are doing just fine, thank you.

Blog lines are open.
Photo by Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review

Monday’s Loose Thread

Any random thoughts that have percolated over the weekend?

Pour here.

Sunday’s editorials

Sunday’s editorial about the sudden resignation of VA Secretary Jim Nicholson didn’t call him a political hack. That would be rude. Accurate, but rude. Vets deserve someone who puts them first.

In the other Sunday editorial, we laud the work being done to find a solution to the downtown housing crisis, which is pushing many poor tenants out of their homes.

What are your thoughts on these topics?

(Editor’s note: The online versions of these editorials are missing their endings. We’re working on that.)

Too many paint fumes?

There’s nothing the least bit intelligent/defensible about spray-painting the Olive Garden and other businesses because you’re mad at police.

Our View on Saturday, at left, said it all.

DeLeon’s day in court

As I type, Carole Ann DeLeon is being sentenced for two charges of criminal mistreatment. The maximum sentence is six years for this charge; even if she receives this sentence, she could get out quite a bit sooner.

We received one anonymous letter in support of DeLeon, but the eligible letters we’ve received, as you can see in today’s letters, are outraged at the prosecutor for accepting such a toothless plea bargain.

Her lawyer insists that she wanted to go to court to plead her case, to tell the world about Tyler’s behavior. As if his behavior could warrant his being abused by the one person he was supposed to be able to trust.

What about justice for Tyler? He is dead. He will never grow up to fulfill his dreams, to have a family and a life of health and happiness. The system failed Tyler in his life. The system is failing him again in his death. — Susan Haight

Carole DeLeon stands not alone in her guilt; a glaring light should be shone upon CPS, which repeatedly places children in harm’s way, then feigns surprise at the results. — Dawn Shaw

The statement of “closure and resolution for many people” really means closure for Tim Rasmussen, Carl Oreskovich and Carole DeLeon, who will be able to start all over again in six short years with possibly a group of new victims! — Marla Summers

Updated: DeLeon was sentenced to six years in prison. Anybody surprised?

Thursday’s loose thread

When you’re 107, you can talk about whatever you want.

In John Babcock’s case, he is “more interested in talking about his appreciation for women than the war” (See today’s article about the World War I veteran).

Today’s loose thread is open for meandering minds, from war to women to wastepaper.

Photo by Dan Pelle, The Spokesman-Review

Red light cameras revisited

Here’s a progress report on red-light cameras in Seattle.

Meanwhile, a Spokane contingent is headed to Baltimore to study the system that’s run by the contractor favored by Spokane officials.

Editorial: Open those doors

Today’s editorial applauds Judge Christopher A. Washington for ruling in favor of openness in state negotiations with unions. There is still a ways to go, but we think increased accountability will serve the taxpayers.

What do you think?

Midweek loose thread

Wednesdays aren’t easy. But perhaps a loose thread will help some of us unwind.

What’s on your mind today?

Loose thread: left unsaid?

This Tuesday, the editorial board continues to interview City Council candidates. At the end of their interviews, we give them a chance to say anything they haven’t yet had a chance to say in the interview. Some of the more interesting parts of their presentation have been unearthed this way.

Anything you haven’t yet said? Here’s your chance.

Hot, hot, hot!

Today’s editorial lays out one of the reasons I came to Spokane from the “steam-bath South.” The weather here has lived up to my idyllic expectations until the last crispy week or so.

Water conservation is inarguably something that would benefit us all. Any ideas on how we can do it better?

UPDATE: I’d like to piggyback on this post with more info: This article by James Hagengruber gives a good overview of the challenge.

1. We have one of the highest per-household uses of water in the nation.

2. It’s a two-state issue, and Washington state is downstream, as it were. Current state law in Idaho allows anyone to tap the aquifer for up to 13,000 gallons a day. A typical home uses 360 gallons. This law needs updating, because it came at a time when ranches and farms dominated what is now an urban landscape.

— gary crooks

More vacation or more pay?

Americans vacation a lot less than people in other countries. We’re the only Western government that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation for workers.

The easy explanation is that we are individualists and hard workers, but a poll shows that most people would rather decrease their work time by 10 percent than increase their pay by 10 percent.

Here’s an LA Times oped on the issue.

Here’s an excerpt that might surprise older folks.

The average American man today works 100 more hours a year than he did in the 1970s, according to Cornell University economist Robert Frank. That’s 2 1/2 weeks of added labor. The average woman works 200 more hours — that’s five added weeks. And those hours are coming from somewhere: from time with our kids, our friends, our spouses, even our bed. The typical American, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sleeps one to two hours less a night than his or her parents did.

(Reuters photo)

Classy action

The Washington state Supreme Court upheld the validity of the class-action lawsuit, and we think their decision preserved a useful tool for the justice system. Monday’s editorial explains why.

What do you think?

Our view: Diverse benefits

The passing of Lady Bird Johnson reminded us of the applaudable progress that has been made by talented women in the political arena as well as in other areas. Read Saturday’s editorial and feel free to comment on Lady Bird and the changes that have taken place since her reign as first lady.

The Jurassic Park of Water Parks

It’s been a busy week here in Opinion Land as we’ve been interviewing Spokane City Council candidates, so I never got around to blogging an item related to my Sunday column on the big changes in Idaho’s Silver Valley.

One of the biggest surprises for me was how Silver Mountain Resort has grown and how hard it’s trying to make Kellogg a world-class destination resort. At this point, it could go either way, though signs are good that it’s been discovered. Their Silver Mountain condos are sell-outs, and a golf-course community project sold almost all its lots within the first week.

One of the strategies is to build a huge water park, which enables the resort to have four-season appeal and also plug into the trend of multi-generational vacationing — mom, dad, kids and the baby-boomer grandparents who are still into travel. And don’t mind water park duty while the parents bike or ski.

The water park is under construction. Silver Mountain employees Cathi Jerome and Patrick Johnson graciously gave us a tour and escorted us to one of the condos overlooking the waterpark site. We walked onto the balcony and looked down and it was startling how huge it all seemed. It reminded me of the scene in the movie Jurassic Park when the scientists fly in and suddenly see the elaborate dinosaur park and can’t believe what they are looking at.

The Silver Mountain water park project won’t end in the chaos that Jurassic Park did, believe me, but the scale of the project seemed different, like nothing I’ve quite seen in this area before, and a little eerie, too.

It’s a huge act of confidence by Jeld-Wen Communities, the company that owns Silver Mountain Resort. They are betting that Silver Mountain — and Kellogg — will someday be world-class destinations.

What do you think? A decade from now will Kellogg be the new Vail?

(Tony Wadden photos)

Stay in school

The letter to the editor that caught my eye on today’s Roundtable page was this one from a Mead High School student named Adrianna Hall, who struggles with the math portion of the WASL.

What’s your best advice for her? (And if you’d like to share your thoughts on the WASL or the high school math curriculum, that’s fine, too.)

WASL punishes hard work

I am a student at Mead High. I have some learning challenges and I work very hard to get good grades. I have a 3.2 GPA and got a C in geometry. I have passed all the WASL tests except the math. (I have A’s and B’s in everything else.) I have struggled my whole life with taking tests and getting through math. I spend at least four hours every night doing my work, because of my challenges, but I do it! I have wanted to quit so many times because of the WASL.

When the governor signed legislation to eliminate the math section of the WASL I finally thought that all my hard work would be worth it because I could graduate. Now we have to take “segmented math”/regular math and pass with an “A or B” in order to get the “alternative” Certificate of Achievement (what’s so bad about a “C”?).

Not everyone is a genius. Most of us are just average. Some of us have challenges since birth to contend with. So someone please tell me why we should bother staying in school when all you do is put us down and make us feel ignorant and inferior?

Adrianna E. Hall

Catch the Candidates on CityCable5

The Spokane City Council and mayoral candidate forums were fairly well attended last night, even though it was in the late 90s temperature wise and those in the audience wore shorts and T-shirts.

If you missed it but would like to hear what the candidates had to say, Ann Murphy, president of Spokane’s League of Women Voters sent me a schedule that she fashioned from CityCable5‘s Web site.

Here it is, for your civic viewing pleasure.

League of Women Voters Primary Candidate Forum

Taped on July 11, 2007, at City of Spokane Council Chambers

Rebroadcast times on CityCable 5
City Council Forum
July 21 12:30 p.m.
July 26 9 p.m.
July 28 2:30 p.m.
July 28 9 p.m.
Aug. 4 4 p.m.
Aug. 9 6 p.m.
Aug. 18 9 p.m.

Council President & Mayor
July 21 9 p.m.
July 22 11:30 a.m.
July 28 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 2 6 p.m.
Aug. 5 12:00 p.m.
Aug. 9 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 16 8:30 p.m.

August 21 – Primary Election Day – ballots must be postmarked by 8/21.

Crazy drivers

One of today’s Letters to the Editor writers, Ray Moss, describes driving all over Spokane each day, only to encounter bicyclists taking risky chances.

Read his letter here: Cyclist behavior dangerous

And chime in here with your opinions on sharing the road with bicyclists and/or car and truck drivers.

Staff photo by Christopher Anderson

Trash talk

Today’s editorial laments the city’s decision to ignore homeowners with a new ruling against collecting garbage in historic Northside neighborhoods.

Read it here: Our View: Alley oops
City’s trash pickup fiat ignored residents’ wishes

What do you think of the city’s approach to this issue?

Boosting big box paychecks

A group called Spokane Citizens for a Living Wage says it has the signatures to put its proposal on a citywide ballot in November.

The group says Big Box retailers like Wal Mart should be forced to pay workers 165 percent of the state’s minimum wage, or 135 percent if they provide health insurance benefits.

Read the story here: Living wage measure likely to be on November ballot

Then tell us what you think of this idea.

AP photo

Head in from the lake

It’s difficult to pull people away from the sunshine long enough to listen to political candidates. But today’s editorial describes your chance this evening.

Read it here: Summertime civics:
Early primary means voters need to study up now

And share your thoughts.

A brief word of explanation

As most readers of this site know, The Spokesman-Review hosts a large number of blogs. This one has been up and running only about three months now, and we’ve been pleased with the response. We’re learning every day and we hope to make improvements as we move along.
One of the earliest posters to A Matter of Opinion was a person who had made frequent appearances on some of the other blogs and had been banned from them over a pattern of misconduct — misconduct grave enough to result at one point in a restraining order against him.
He was advised that he could post here if he complied with the rules, but that he was still banned from the other Web sites.
Things went OK for a while, but recently he began trying to return to the other sites and using this one to carry on a line of argumentation that had no bearing on the public policy considerations this blog is meant to address.
In the beginning, I had expected more difficulties of this nature than we have experienced. We have now banned one user from A Matter of Opinion. I hope it continues to be a rare occurance, and I thank the vast majority of those who drop by to engage in vigorous, good-natured and heartfelt dialogue.

An Independence-Day freedom

In today’s editorial, we emphasized the importance of free speech — especially on the Fourth of July. At the same time, we called for protesters to abide by the law.

Read the editorial here: Protests worth furor.

Then please weigh in with your opinion.
Staff photo by Dan Pelle

Loose Thread Monday: Smart Eating, Smart Thinking

Our editorial today examines the wisdom of eating locally, especially in light of food contamination issues from China.

This spring and early summer, Americans discovered one threat after another in products coming from China. In March the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found animals were dying from contaminated wheat gluten in imported pet food. In May we learned to beware of Chinese toothpaste sold in the U.S. containing a chemical used in antifreeze. And late last month, the FDA blocked imports of catfish, shrimp and other farm-raised fish from China, too.
Fortunately, the remedies extend all the way from Beijing to Washington, D.C., to the Inland Northwest. Chinese food producers, of course, need to clean up their act. The FDA should carefully scrutinize Chinese imports and move swiftly to protect Americans. Congress should consider legislation to require origin labeling on food. And shoppers in the Inland Northwest should avoid the temptation to passively sit back and watch the action.
Instead, consumers can deepen their awareness about the safety of their food and examine where it comes from. They can join a growing trend to buy locally and organically whenever possible.

Have you changed your grocery habits in the past few years due to E-coli scares, global warming or slow-food-movement issues?

Blog lines are now open.

Iraq: Futile Strategy?

From our editorial today:

The military’s current tactic is to increase its boot print in an effort to gain enough control of the country so that the Iraqi government can take charge. Winning hearts and minds is optional when it should be the key. Even if this tactic could succeed, our efforts would ultimately fail because Iraq’s leaders are not onboard.
The Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites are thinking of their factions first and country second, with U.S. needs far down the list. Against this backdrop of competing interests is a U.S. strategy that supposes that the key to victory is pushing the right military buttons.
More and more war supporters are beginning to see the futility of that strategy. In the past two weeks, prominent Republican members of Congress have urged the Bush administration to adopt the goals and solutions recommended by the Iraq Study Group, which correctly concluded that what we need is a political solution, not a military one. A bill that would do that also affixes a tough deadline of March for the beginning of an orderly troop drawdown.
Absent such a deadline, Iraq’s leaders will continue to act like new swimmers who will only venture into the deep end with life preservers. They’ll never swim until our military is unbuckled.

(AP Photo)

Question: Were You A Hippy During Summer of Love?

AP Photo

Item: Of Love and Haight-Ashbury: Missoulians who were there reflect on San Francisco’s Summer of Love, 40 years later/Jamie Kelly, Missoulian

More Info: San Francisco’s Summer of Love, 40 years old now, changed a lot of things. It brought the hippies out of obscurity and introduced them in a big way to the public. Who could ignore hundreds of thousands of people in one place? The hippies made their mark with fashions and ideas that were viewed by many as subversive, with ideologies that poked two fingers in the eyes of 1950s conformity, with drugs and music - and ultimately a self-absorption that would eventually destroy the movement.

DFO: I graduated from high school in 1967 in the small rural town of Gridley, Calif. I remained isolated for a year while I worked. But I encountered and lived among hippies as a college student from 1968 to 1972. Mebbe that’s where my Flower Child strain comes from.

Question: What were you doing during the Summer of Love 1967?

Sad news for Gore is good news for Prius

Anytime a young person gets arrested for a DUI, it’s a sad day for him or her and the rest of the person’s family. It can be a good wake-up call about driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Al Gore III was arrested yesterday for speeding 100 mph in his Prius. He was found with marijuana and other drugs in the car.

But bloggers everywhere are marveling as some of us on the editorial board did: 100 miles an hour in a Prius! So much for its wimpy image.

The irony here: Gore’s arrest could be the best boon for the image of the Prius. And the more people who drive hybrids, the better for the environment. A cleaner environment is Cause No. 1 for former vice president Al Gore.

To read some of the blog reaction on, click here.

Loose Thursday Thread

The hot dogs are eaten. The fireworks watched. Perhaps some of you out there in Opinion Land are suffering from a July 5th hangover of any kind — from too much beer or too many hot dogs and cupcakes or too much family or too big of a crowd at the fireworks display or from too much envy of the folks who either don’t work in the summer of have today off and are sitting on a dock by a lake reading light novels. You get the idea.
Venting welcome here.
(AP Photo)

Where’s the Rain?

Memories about childhood weather gets compressed, a memory expert told me once when I did a story on how it seemed that our winters in my childhood here were so much snowier and our summers not so hot. You remember the extremes, he told me, and not the moderate times.

But I wonder on this growing-hotter Fourth of July day what happened to all those rainy Fourths from my childhood. It seemed it rained almost every year, so much so that people didn’t make many plans that included lakes or camping. One summer we rented a cabin the week of the Fourth and it rained the whole week. Every day. I learned every card game my parents knew. They even tried to teach us Bridge, that’s how bored we became in that tiny cabin.

Summer seemed to begin only after the Fourth.
Anyone else out there have Fourth weather memories? Or memories of any kind of this holiday?

Free Floating Anxiety: A World View

Two inside pages of our main section today were filled with national and international news guaranteed to give you the whimwhams.

There was a report on the Muslim men allegedly behind the car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow. And another story on Iran training Hezbollah fighters. A very sad story on a young man who killed himself because he’d been raped at a party and another priest sex abuse story.

Spiritual writer Marianne Williamson talks about the anguish that people feel now because of the news. She wonders if things would be better if people would talk more about them in real ways.

In The Gift of Change she writes:

On the level of everyday conversation, we conspire with each other to pretend that things are basically okay, not because we think they are but because we have no way of talking together about these deeper layers of experience. “We accidentally bombed a school today and fifty children died.” How do we feel about that? Uh-oh, we don’t go there.

So here’s the headed-into-the-holiday question for you: How do we discuss the free-floating anxiety about the world’s news in deeper ways? Blog lines are open.

Photo of Edvard Munch painting “The Scream” via AP

Mowing into the Future

From our editorial today:

The Inland Northwest’s traditional “lawn culture” – lots of green grass covering most of a household’s entire lot – is undergoing a change, and this change will become even more obvious in coming years. Water conservation, for instance, will likely become mandatory.
Lawns don’t just require lots of water. They demand hands-on care, too. Unfortunately, gas-powered tools used to keep a lawn in shape – mowers, edgers and weed whackers – contribute to the stagnant air that gets trapped in the Inland Northwest, especially in the summer. The polluted air can make it harder to breathe for younger and older people, and for everyone whose lungs are compromised.

Question: Have you adopted any alternative lawn practices?

P.S. Photo above is from the 1999 David Lynch movie “The Straight Story.” Photo and capsule review from
“In 1994 73 year-old World War II vet Alvin Straight made a 320 mile trip across two American states to see his estranged brother Lyle, recently stricken by a stroke. Maybe not such a big deal until you discover Alvin’s mode of transport was a ride-on lawn mower, his journey more a quest which took him 6 weeks to complete.”

Libby Scoots Free

Some breaking news from

President Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on Monday, sparing him from a 2 1/2-year prison term that Bush said was excessive. Bush’s move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby’s allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

What do you think?
Another Ford-pardon-of-Nixon move? Or not?

Bringing “Sicko” home

In a column on yesterday’s Opinion page, I asked readers to weigh in on their health care coverage.

Read the column here: Is the doctor in? Let me know

In your experience, have you found that health care insurance companies sometimes deny claims simply to confound the consumer into going away?

With the perception of insurance executives on one side and that of Michael Moore, in his new film, “Sicko,” on the other, where does yours fall?

AP photo

Did Supreme Court make a bad call?

Sunday’s “Our view” suggests the high court’s ruling on an attention-getting adolescent was something of an over-reaction. You, too, can react — over or under.

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