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A Matter Of Opinion

Archive for July 2008

Road Ratings: Washington: 39, Idaho: 14

Press release from Reason Foundation:

North Dakota does the best job maintaining its roads and bridges and New Jersey has the worst-performing, least cost-effective highway system in the nation, according to an annual Reason Foundation study that measures each state’s road conditions and expenditures.

The Reason Foundation’s 17th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems, released today, measures the condition of all state-owned roads and highways from 1984 to 2006. The study calculates the effectiveness and performance of each state in 12 different categories, including pavement condition, bridge condition, traffic fatalities, congestion, highway maintenance costs, and administrative costs. Here is a sample of some of the report’s data:

Idaho - 14th
Idaho ranked 14th in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. In last year’s rankings, Idaho ranked 10th overall. Idaho is 14th in urban interstate congestion, with 35.96 percent congested. The state ranks 24th in rural interstate condition and 41st in urban interstate condition. Idaho ranks 14th in deficient bridges—19.05 percent of the state’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Idaho is 36th in the nation in fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Washington - 39th
Washington ranked 39th in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. In last year’s rankings, Washington ranked 32nd overall. Washington is 24th in urban interstate congestion, with 42.76 percent congested. The state ranks 42nd in rural interstate condition and 45th in urban interstate condition. Washington ranks 32nd in deficient bridges—26.18 percent of the state’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Washington is 13th in the nation in fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Loose Thread Thursday

(Mamie on the right. AP file photo)

Agree or disagree?

“Every woman over fifty should stay in bed until noon.” — -Mamie Eisenhower

Keo Chronicles: July 30, 1945

Io and Fred’s refrigeration was moved to their new apartment — and my little icebox brought over from 1008. It’s lucky the weather has changed to cool for I cannot get ice.

*About the photo: This was in Keo’s collection of photos. On the back is written: At Lake Coeur d’Alene, July 19, 1931.

*About iceboxes from wiseGeek: “The first kitchen “appliance” that bears some resemblance to the refrigerator is the icebox. These were developed just before the 19th century. They were simply wooden boxes, often installed in a home, and sometimes lined with metal or other materials. People would purchase ice, place it in the box, and then store foods that needed to be kept cool. The ice would slowly melt, so most ice boxes featured drip pans, which could be removed and dumped.”

*What are the Keo Chronicles? See rest of entry.

Endorsement Relevance

Commenter Diana Davies wrote in the comment section below our endorsements:

Without agreeing or disagreeing with the above choices, the editorial board might want to take a look at their thought processes and relevance as endorsers.
One of the ways you can bring your newspaper into 2008 is to get over yourselves.

We often debate whether our editorial board should still endorse. Some newspapers have done away with the practice. It’s time-consuming. We interview almost every candidate. And the endorsements invariably make people unhappy with the newspaper. It doesn’t often win us friends, that’s for sure.

But we made the decision to endorse again in 2008. And they are posted here on our Web site. So Diana, thank you for beginning the discussion. Let it continue.

Should newspapers endorse candidates? Blog lines are open.

Foreigners control ‘free market’

American capital is controlled by foreign governments that are strictly controlled private economies like China and the OPEC nations. Chinese and Saudi companies are not companies in the Berkshire Hathaway tradition; they are fronts for foreign governments to manipulate capital to its advantage in American markets that don’t have the regulations to protect our “free market.”

We have become an extension of controlled foreign market forces that continue to allow us to mythologize the present so Americans think (and are told by our wealthy pundits) that we are in control of our future because of the economic forces of supply and demand. Whatever is needed to extend this American mental fog is made into law by our politicians and fed to us by our Harvard-trained economic punditry. — Bob Lavigne, Spokane

Talk about macro-economics. With the globalization of business and capital flowing in huge amounts into and out of the country, can a “free market” country be moved by the invisible hand like Adam Smith (right) would have it?

What’s in your water?

(S-R file photo)

The Natural Resources Defense Council jus released information on the 20,000 beach closings so far this year due to pollution, etc.

Using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” shows the number of closing and advisory days at ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches was more than 20,000 for the third consecutive year, confirming that our nation’s beaches continue to suffer from serious water pollution that puts swimmers at risk. For the full report, click here.

“Some families can’t enjoy their local beaches because they are polluted and kids are getting sick – largely because of human and animal waste in the water,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s clean water project.

In 1966, we traveled to upstate New York to visit relatives and the lake nearby was closed, due to pollution. I remember feeling shocked that a lake could ever be closed.

And in 1985, after moving back to Spokane after a decade away, I went swimming at Newman Lake where I spent some childhood summers and was surprised to see how dirty it looked, compared with those childhood years.

So this summer afternoon, we’re collecting swimming “hole” pollution memories. Or just the memories.

Drive at 5

Discoll Boulevard is torn up now which means every street I usually use for my commute home is under construction now. Makes for an interesting, longer — and much prettier — ride home along the Spokane River past SFCC.

Any upsides for you commuters who have had to change routes this summer?

Fake Diploma List — Way to go, Bill!

Our amazing investigative reporter, Bill Morlin, obtained the list of the 10,000 people who bought fake diplomas from a Spokane-based diploma mill. See story.

It’s a fascinating read. Lots of foreign names. Some Washington state names. You can search it, too. Try it here.

I put in my last name and discovered a Nappi woman in New Jersey who bought a BA. Not a relative, honest. Google your last names and let us know what you discover.

Monday’s Loose Thread

I guess I took what’s called a staycation. Traveled 100 miles to Sullivan Lake. On Saturday, I paddled with my son and a friend from Metaline to Boundary Dam on the Pend Oreille River. Gorgeous. My friend commented on how people would travel thousands of miles for scenery like that.

So, have you had a staycation this year? Don’t want to talk about that? Then what is on your mind?

When death is avoidable

Made mention of the coal-mining tragedy in Utah last year because I knew one of the guys who died trying to rescue six other miners, none of whom have ever been recovered.

Gary “Gibb” Jensen was the best man at my sister’s wedding many years ago. The funeral service was in the small town where I was born and where I spent childhood summers. My sister and brother-in-law live there.

As it turns out, the Crandall Mine collapse was avoidable, according the the feds’ report. The mine owners’ story that it was caused by an earthquake was baloney. The negligence borders on criminal. The company was mining the floor and pillars that kept the mine intact. Unbelievable.

The result is the largest fine ever leveled against a mining company, although I didn’t think the total of $1.6 million struck me as remarkably large or much of a deterrent if what you’re mining is worth more than that.

Nine people died.

Photo by Trent Jensen/Salt Lake Tribune

Thursday loose thread

I post this late loose thread with a heavy heart for the destruction of the “Joel” building. It’s one of my earliest memories of Spokane; my brother’s name is Joel, and I believe my family took a photo of the building as we drove through on a family vacation 14 years before I moved here.

But I think we’re all thankful that there aren’t any fatalities reported so far, and we all hope the best for the firefighter who was injured in a fall. Ongoing coverage here.

Letter: Model what children must learn

I enjoyed Richard Kohles’ letter this morning:

What kind of world will we leave our children? Many will say: “inexpensive fuel, low taxes and good-paying jobs.” While these are good things, they don’t challenge us to evaluate what the next generation really needs from us.

Inexpensive fuel implies there is no need to change ideas about transportation and energy. Walking, bicycle riding and public transportation are generally not viewed as positive means of transportation. Consequently, we aren’t teaching our children by example to see them positively. If you doubt that, check out the high school parking lots in September. Speed and convenience have gone from values to dependencies.

Low taxes translate into high consumption. While capitalism provides us with a great economic system when compensating entrepreneurs for filling needs, it can become destructive when it has to create needs. There’s a big difference between filling the needs of starving people and our “need” for a McDonald’s hamburger.

“Good-paying jobs” begs the question of “job satisfaction.” Do we, perhaps, have a large part of an older generation who worked at jobs they didn’t like, looking forward to a retirement when they could “do what they wanted”?

What should we be teaching our children? Do we have the wisdom to do it? — Richard Kohles, Coeur d’Alene

I’ve also always been a bit skeptical of “do as I say, not as I do.” Kids are too smart not to notice when adults “get by” taking less responsibility and making less effort than they admittedly should. They will do as you do, no matter what you say.

No, not plastic food

Lorie Hutson, food editor for the S-R, reports that Spokane Farmers’ Market now takes plastic. So rest easy; there must have been other folks out there who forget to bring cash, too.

Comment on plastic, food or whatever else tickles your fancy on this, your Wednesday loose thread.

Our view: Food for thought

Today’s editorial commended the collaboration that has made Feed Spokane a success. Using leftovers from restaurants and catered events in a dignified and safe manner to feed those who are hungry is an example of what communities can do when they work together on seemingly impossible solutions to problems.

Wanted: 37 hits!

Our blog guru, Dave Oliveria, just notified us that A Matter of Opinion is just 37 “hits” away from the 100,000 mark. I wish we had some prizes to give out to those of you who will help make that happen today.

Thanks for viewing us. We’re definitely in some media transition times. Interesting. Unknown. But here’s something to ponder: Each day, the newspaper gets about 300,000 readers (this includes pass-around readers).

So the morphing continues. Old to new…

Letter: Longer lives cost more

Froma Harrop’s column in the Spokesman (“Preventive care doesn’t save money,” July 18) is an intelligent commentary on an aspect of medicine too often ignored. Preventive care is good, but keeping a septuagenarian alive till age 90, or even 80, is expensive.

As an elderly recipient of heart surgery, I know hospitals cost a lot. Though glad for extra years of life, I realize senior citizens have a personal responsibility to keep costs down. I visit doctors sparingly, take generic medicines and learn to live with arthritis and macular degeneration. Disciplined exercise at home and sensible eating habits cost less than physiotherapy and diet foods. I update my living will about what not to do in prolonging unacceptable disability. — Keith Dahlberg, M.D., Kellogg (Full letter here.)

While Harrop and Dahlberg are correct in their facts — living longer does end up costing more — I wonder if that fact can be talked about merely as a fact that must be dealt with in addressing health care costs. To me, it seems like the conversation would naturally and quickly devolve into pressuring people to die sooner, especially when their age brings on expensive disabilities.

Sometimes, as Dahlberg points out, personal wellness measures can reduce costs and living wills can prevent expensive “extraordinary measures,” but individuals can still become highly functioning but costly patients through no fault of their own. Can health care reform be talked about without “going there”?

Self-referential blog post

This is a blog post about blogging. I received a copy of a Time Magazine column by self-titled nerd Lev Grossman in my mailbox. Dunno who put it there (was it you, boss?) but I found it very interesting and pertinent to what we do here.

An excerpt:

Web publishers have begun to offer commenting on everything — posts, videos, pictures, whatever — like it was a kind of interactive condiment. … In theory, it’s a great thing. We’re giving the people a voice! But the reality is that commenting either attracts loathsome people or somehow causes ordinary people to express themselves in a way that is loathsome.

I have especially noticed the latter problem in my experience handling letters to the editor. Some of the nicest people I talk with on the phone or in person can be very nasty in print. And that effect is compounded when, unlike with S-R letters, writers are permitted to post anonymously.

But perhaps what some call “nasty,” others would shrug off. Grossman says, “Maybe commenters are just on one side of a cultural disconnect between two incompatible ideas of what the social conventions of the Internet should be.”

Here’s your chance to comment on comments. It would be especially nice to hear from those who may read but don’t (often) comment. Do comments make the posts more interesting or turn you off?

Letter: Blame conditions for fire

One of Sunday’s letter-writers asked that large allowances be made for the mistake that likely caused the Valley View fires on July 10:

I was reading somewhere that it was a teenager who started a campfire and didn’t properly extinguish the fire. Even as adults we often think something is taken care of and in actuality it isn’t. Have you ever thought you turned the stove off and didn’t? Have you ever looked both ways but still got hit by a car? Have you ever thought you paid your bill but ended up with late fees or collections because it wasn’t done? There are so many “have you evers” in life that for a teenager who has a ton of them already, and I am sure is sorry as can be for this, we need to cut him/her a little slack. We should not be bitter or angry.

I know we all want to blame someone, but in actuality we have to blame the wind and the conditions, because if the conditions were not the way they were, this would never have happened. — Leah L. Dunigan, Spokane

Question: Should “little” mistakes carry more penalties when the consequences are dire than when they are unnoticeable?

Sunday’s editorials

On Sunday, we commended those who say now is not the time to ask Spokane County voters to pony up $245 million for a new jail. A time of careful consideration should be given to possible alternatives, such as a collaboration with Kootenai County, which also faces a pricey jail proposal.

Also, the Valley View disaster teaches us that those who live in affected areas must know and take seriously the laws and common-sense guidelines regarding fire safety. We think this is a tragic but important opportunity to educate potential burners.

Frothing with anxiety

The Starbucks Store at Market and Garland is the only one in Spokane on the list of 600 to be closed. There are 19 altogether in Washington state.
Assuming the employees and regulars at the Market-and-Garland outlet are (pardon the expression) steamed, that leaves lots of other latte lovers exhaling with relief.
How big a concern was this for you?

Spokes, man!

Friday’s editorial follows up on Thursday’s by applauding pursuit of a sizeable grant that would fund projects aimed at getting more people out of their cars.
Consider this an opportunity to air your views on the concept of reducing motor vehicles’ share of the local transportation load.


More cyclists are hitting Spokane’s streets. That’s a good thing, but the community needs to take appropriate steps to head off potential problems. Thursday’s editorial is the first of two that talk about the role of non-motorized transportation in our community.

At the end of a long day,…

…when you’re coming unraveled, here’s the loose thread you can follow to find your way home.

Border war!

Here’s the final line from a Coeur d’Alene Press editorial that ridicules Spokanites and bemoans their visits over the Fourth of July weekend. It’s their solution to making sure Spokanites stay home:

Offer free fireworks and a little bit of welfare, and watch the magic.

Thoughts? Do they mean it? Is this a case where I’m missing the satire?

Also, being discussed over at HBO.

Would you run this cartoon of the McCains?

Or would you release the Hounds of Inappropriateness to hunt down David Horsey of the Seattle P-I?

(Yes, this is a satire of a controversy over a satire. Thought I should explain that upfront, so people wouldn’t get upset for not getting it.)

Reserved: The hottest place in Hell

If you’re weary of e-mail about money-making schemes from Nigeria and pharmaceutical remedies to all of adolescence’s remedial insecurities, you probably have ideas for dealing with a spam king who was in court in Seattle this week. Today’s editorial offers some suggestions.

Just another manic Monday

First loose thread of the week at A Matter of Opinion: What’s on your mind?

You know the drill

Republicans say we should be drilling for oil in ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Democrats say that wouldn’t produce a drop of new oil for 10 years.
So is that a harsher dig at Republicans — or at Democrats who were objecting to drilling in ANWR 10 years ago?

Dorm Troopers

No, I don’t think they’re Nazis, just like the play on words.

Two courts have slapped down the dorm patrols of the Wazzu campus police. Time for the university — all universities — to rewrite their policies so they don’t violate the Fourth Amendment. That’s Our View.

What’s yours?

The Drive at 5

We’re out of here.
How about you?
More tomorrow.
Garyc shall return.

Spokane Diploma Mill’s List of Bogus Schools

Our edit today called on both government and private employers to be vigilant in checking whether employees received degrees from bogus universities. Dixie Ellen Randock, 58, of Spokane, was sentenced last week for selling more than 16,000 fraudulent high school and college degrees around the world. She also sold counterfeit degrees and transcripts from legitimate universities. Randock is a high school dropout.

We have a list of more than 100 of the fake institutions. It’s quite extensive and I will be adding to the list as time permits today, tomorrow and into next week. This might help employers out there who want to doublecheck some resumes.
See rest of entry for the list.

Loose Thread Thursday

It’s a busy week in edit board land. Believe it or not, we have already begun candidate endorsement interviews, because the primary is Aug. 19!

So we have politics and issues crowding our brains, but what’s on yours?

Blog lines have officially opened for the day.

Big news: Pentagon to re-bid tanker contract

Looks like the Defense Department has lost confidence in the Air Force on contracting matters. Doesn’t help that the GAO found many errors in the process that could’ve helped Boeing.

Note that the irregularities had nothing to do with the noisiest objection: Too much of it outsourced to other countries.

The bigger issue is that defense contracting is horribly wasteful and inefficient, according to the GAO.

Wednesday’s Loose Thread

Here’s an open thread. What’s on your agenda today?

Our View editorials

1. Slashing reimbursements to doctors is a sick way to fix Medicare.

2. Idaho needs to peer into those secret tax deals cut with multi-state corporations.

Watershed moment

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner is considering a water conservation plan much like that in Post Falls.

Do you think water conservation is necessary for Spokane?

Our View: Speaking with Pride

In Sunday’s editorial, we tout the free speech principles of the First Amendment, which are uniquely American.

Do you appreciate the First Amendment. Or does it go too far?

Saturday Stuff

From our editorial:

It looks as if residents of southeast Spokane who don’t want to be big-boxed in are going to have to deal with the kind of suburban development they’ve boxed out for years. Drawn by the lure of millions in sales-tax dollars, the City Council on Monday approved a rezoning of the area that will turn it into one of the city’s major commercial districts.

But the city has a duty to ensure that the large stores are thoughtfully integrated into the neighborhood. The Plan Commission was so concerned that it voted against a rezoning request.

The main problem is that the current streets are too skinny to accommodate a large increase in traffic. The center point of the new developments would be at South Regal Street, which has three lanes, and the Old Palouse Highway, which has two. Neither street is the kind of wide arterial traditionally associated with large commercial centers.

Do you drive this area often? Your thoughts on solutions?

Smoking: How did you kick the habit?

(AP file photo.)

Today’s editorial applauded a state program that helps low-income smokers kick the habit. It should save taxpayer money, plus help people find jobs. Whether anyone admits it, certain negative assumptions are made about job candidates who smoke.

Several of my family members once smoked and gave it up in recent years. They struggled mightily. For about a year after they quit, they got physically sick and experienced the blues. “It was like giving up a best friend,” one of my sisters said.

So today, let’s share kicking-the-cigarette habit stories.

Drive at 5

The day is done.

It’s been busy around here…

How about your day?

Quality Counts

(Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich talked with children in the West Central Community Center Headstart in March. S-R archive photo by Jesse Tinsley.)

From our editorial today:

States pondering the best way to devise early childhood education ought to look at two recent studies. They conclude, in essence, that if high quality isn’t the focus, then don’t bother.

In a study published Friday in the journal Science, Georgetown University researchers found improved cognitive skills in students who attended prekindergarten and Head Start programs in Tulsa, Okla., public schools. That sets up those students for success in math, reading and writing. Oklahoma leads the nation in access to public schools for 4-year-olds, and those students develop beyond what would be expected through aging.

Plus, researchers found that Oklahoma’s programs somewhat offset traditional socioeconomic factors that cause disadvantaged children to lag behind others.

Those findings ought to be an eye-opener in California, where a new Rand Corp. study found that the quality of that state’s preschool offerings falls short and the children of low-income families suffer most.

“Few of the centers we studied provide the types of high-quality early learning experiences that can help prepare children to succeed when they enter school,” wrote the Rand study’s lead author, Lynn Karoly.

What was your first experience of education like? How did it matter later on?

Death by Waterboarding?

A reader called and asked if anyone had ever died from being waterboarded. If no one has, he said, why are so many people objecting to its use. I said I didn’t know. I told him I’d send his question into blogland to see what response it generates.

So here it is. Blog lines are open.

* Waterboarding: A type of torture in which the victim is immobilized, has rags placed over their face, and has water poured onto them, which creates the sensation of drowning.

Loose Thread Tuesday

(Spokesman-Review archive photo by Christopher Anderson)

Welcome, rain or tempest
From yon airy powers,
We have languished for them
Many sultry hours. — From A Summer Shower by Henry Timrod found at Poetry Foundation.

It’s muggy like the weather “back East.” But storms are coming — allegedly. What storms brew in your brains? Blog lines are open.

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