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A Matter Of Opinion

Archive for May 2008

Weekend loose thread

It’s Saturday, another gorgeous weekend day. If you’re crazy enough to be inside on a computer, here’s a place to share your thoughts.

Obama and the Catholic Priest

Barack Obama’s in trouble again for remarks a Catholic priest, Father Michael Pfleger, who is pastor of St. Sabina’s Catholic Church in Chicago but was doing a guest sermon stint at Obama’s regular church. Read about the controversy here.

But what fascinates me about the story is how Pfleger preaches. He’s expressive, explosive and mimics, in some ways, the best of black preachers. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen from a Catholic Church pulpit.

Jeffrey Weiss in his religion blog at noticed, too, asking:

Have you ever heard a priest bring the oratory like that? No offense to my Catholic friends, but in my experience the homily is seldom the emotional high point of a mass. Is there something in the water fountain at that church?

Take a look for yourself:

Our view: Winning battle against meth

Authorities should keep up the good work in fighting the meth epidemic that a few years ago threatened to take hold of the West. The number of meth houses is down, use is down, and it only cost us a few more minutes at the drug counter. It’s worth it.

Editorial: Vote responsibly

The League of Women Voters just celebrated its 60th anniversary and continues to educate the public on how to vote in an informed way. Some have fought hard to achieve and maintain the right to vote, and we owe them our educated and responsible choices.

Chewie briefly dognapped

The bizarre twists never end when it comes to dog-fighting stories. In the case of Spokane’s “Great Eight,” the recent theft and recovery of three pit bulls for the alleged purpose of fighting has again brought attention to the problem of what to do with the animals.

The dogs will likely be euthanized if no sanctuary is found for them. They cannot be adopted as pets.

Read Karen Dorn Steele’s story here. (Photo of Chewie by S-R’s Dan Pelle)

Believe it or not

It might be appalling that 10 percent of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, despite all of the reports to the contrary. Guess those bogus e-mails have an effect.

But when you consider what else Americans think, it starts to make sense. Ben Smith at, compiled these beliefs based on public opinion surveys:

“22 percent believe President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.
30 percent believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
23 percent believe they’ve been in the presence of a ghost.
18 percent believe the sun revolves around the Earth.”

Are you in any of those minority groups?

Low turnout, incumbent wins in Idaho

Looks like Rick Currie and Todd Tondee have overcome their challengers in the Idaho primaries for the Kootenai County Commission. S-R’s Erica Curless reports here.

Also, it looks like what everybody expected: Jim Risch and Larry LaRocco will clash to replace Larry Craig in November.

Are you surprised? Happy? Indifferent?

Falls View Pathway: Don’t miss it

Thanks to a suggestion by my colleague Doug Floyd, I took a 10-minute Vitamin D walk from the S-R to the Falls View Pathway which you can pick up between City Hall and the fenced driveway next door.

It’s the best view yet of the amazing Spokane River.

Follow the pathway down the stairs to several different levels. At the first level, you look over the river as it roars over the dam.
You will be standing next to the green lip of water, as shown here in S-R Photographer Brian Plonka’s artwork. (By the way, to see more of Brian’s amazing river photos and audio, click here.

Have you ever had a dream where you look out a window and water is rising and rising in science-fiction ways?
Or have you ever seen those movies where characters look out and see huge water coming at them? (Evan Almighty has a scene like that. And the film Deep Impact.)

Anyway, that’s the experience, folks. Don’t miss it.

In case you missed them…

…letters to the editor are absent from their usual spot in the Tuesday Opinion section because our post-holiday layout schedule gave us one page instead of two. Letters will return on tomorrow’s Roundtable page.

Share your story

Ilabelle Alderson, a veteran’s widow, distributed flags to her neighbors last Memorial Day in honor of her husband. (S-R file photo)

What are you doing to celebrate Memorial Day? Any family traditions honoring those who serve us in the military?

The drive at …

… what? You already left? No fair!

Anyway, here’s another open thread for the weekend.

Friday’s Loose Thread

I’m only going to tell you one more time: Go see the falls! Really recommend the view beneath Monroe Street Bridge (access on the north side).

If you’re like me — and, gosh, don’t you think you ought to be? — you will stand with mouth agape and arms akimbo. OK, I don’t why you would stand with arms akimbo. I just like saying arms akimbo. Arms akimbo.

OK, that concludes this David Letterman impersonation (circa 1980s).

Ellen’s world

John McCain went on Ellen DeGeneres’ TV show today, and she brought up what she called “the elephant in the room.” Following the California Supreme Court’s ruling this week, she plans to get married this summer. McCain tried to navigate a polite way of saying he doesn’t believe in same-sex marriages. He closed by saying he wished her happiness. Brief pause, then she asked if that meant he’d be willing to walk her down the aisle.
Comic break and the conversation seemed to end on a relatively relaxed note.
I confess, I saw clips, not the whole appearance, live. But in an age when stand-up comedians and TV talk-show hosts have become important brokers in the national political process, I thought it was a classy gesture on DeGeneres’ part. The audience was clearly on her side and she could have made him sweat, but she gave him a friendly out.
Just an observation.

Thursday’s Loose Thread

See the story about the Sacred Heart nurses who wore buttons that called for safe staffing? I was wondering how that would translate to other jobs and how the public might react.

Airline pilot: “A nap would be great.”

Police officer: “Don’t leave home. Period.”

Proctologist: “You’re in … yawn! … hands good.”

Bus driver: “First time on a train?”

Editorial writer: “Something must be done!”

So, what’s on your mind today?

Initiative 297 (Hanford clean-up) tossed

UPDATE: Here is the S-R story.

Back in 2004, we noted the possibility that this voter-approved measure to intervene in the clean-up of Hanford would be rejected by federal courts.

That’s what happened today, when the 9th Circuit said federal law pre-empts this one. Oh well, lots of lawyers made money.

Spokane River: Can the dams stop it?

S-R photo by Jesse Tinsley

That’s the question I asked Bruce Howard, knower of all things dams for Avista Corp., and one of our River Dialogues experts.

He e-mailed me some good information:

The dams don’t all hold water back. Only Post Falls and Long Lake actually “store” water. The other dams operate as “run of river.”

At Post Falls, we can’t “store” water above 2128 feet (the summer elevation). However, the lake has gone up to over 2137’ because of the natural control point for the lake — the outlet near North Idaho College that is the start of the Spokane River. That natural restriction controls the lake elevation and river flows about half the year, and always during high flows.

Right now, well over 50,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) are pouring into Coeur d’Alene Lake from the St. Joe and CdA rivers…but the natural outlet is only letting around 35,000 cfs out.
At the PF dam, we pass, or spill all water that the natural outlet delivers.

CdA Lake, because it buffers the high inflows, is a sort of natural flood control reservoir for the Spokane River and for Spokane. We have had no control over lake levels or river flows for months. We’ve just been passing by whatever mother nature has been delivering.

Spokane used to experience flooding in early days leading to the railroad berms from downtown upstream, road construction, filling of the shorelines. From Upriver Dam all the way downtown is mostly a man-made shoreline. Spokane Falls Blvd. is partly built on an old channel that was filled after the Spokane fire with the debris.

At Long Lake, we can also spill all the water that comes down. That’s why there’s not flooding around the lake though our parking lot below the dam is flooding now, and we have to watch water coming in to our facilities there too.

Howard signed off with this reminder about Mother Nature.

Since it’s been about 10 years since we had high water, this is a good reminder of who’s in charge.

By the way, as Bruce told us in the River Dialogues, “there are seven dams on the Spokane River, starting with Post Falls, which (Avista) operates. And then downtown there is Upper Falls and Monroe Street, which we operate. And then between the downtown and Post Falls is Upriver Dam, where Boulder Beach is, and that is operated by the city of Spokane. Downstream is Nine Mile Falls, which we operate, and Long Lake Dam, which creates Lake Spokane, and Little Falls and we operate those two as well.”

Any thoughts flooding your way about the flooding today? Blog lines are open.

Wednesday’s Loose Thread

The local morning news shows were swamped with flood coverage. Watched for more than 30 minutes before they finally waded into elections results. You remember the election, right? Anyway, the reporters looked happy to do their out-in-the-elements reports.

However, standing in a foot of water just doesn’t have quite the thrill factor as standing up to a hurricane.

We’ll have an election thread, so what else is on your mind?

Death and Dying Update

(“Journey into death” illustration by Molly Quinn, artist, The Spokesman-Review)

Press release from the Coalition Against Assited Suicide:

State Senator Margarita Prentice (D-Renton) and a bipartisan group of legislators today urged voters not to sign Initiative 1000, the assisted suicide petition being circulated in Washington state.

“This very dangerous initiative never would have passed the legislature. It has virtually no protection for low-income and vulnerable people from being pressured into prematurely ending their life,” said the Senator Prentice, a registered nurse and chair of the powerful budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“Don’t sign your own death warrant,” added Rep. Lynn Schindler (R-Spokane Valley). “Voters should realize that 25 states around the country have rejected this kind of dangerous proposal. Under Initiative 1000, persons who are ill could feel pressured by organizations to end their own lives to escape the financial burden,” the District 4 legislator stated.

Legislators noted that proponents didn’t event attempt to go get a hearing during this past session. They knew it would never pass out of the Legislature without better safeguards to protect underprivileged, disabled and minority voters, according to Prentice.

Among the legislators who have announced their opposition to assisted suicide are:

• Sen. Margarita Prentice (D) Renton
• Sen. Jim Hargrove (D) Hoquiam
• Sen. Rosa Franklin (D) Tacoma
• Rep. Mark Miloscia (D) Federal Way
• Sen. Don Benton (R) Vancouver
• Rep. Bill Hinckle (R) Ellensburg
• Sen. Jim Honeyford (R) Sunnyside
• Rep. Lynn Schindler (R) Spokane
• Sen. Pam Roach (R) Auburn
• Rep. Bruce Chandler (R) Zillah
• Sen. Joe Zarelli (R) Ridgefield
• Sen. Bob McCaslin (R) Spokane
• Rep. John Ahern (R) Spokane
• Sen. Val Stevens (R) Arlington
• Rep. Bob Sump (R) Republic

Tuesday’s Loose Thread

Sorry for the lack of threads yesterday. Feeling much better today. So here we go with a loose thread for today.


Monday’s loose thread

For my fellow throwbacks who still traipse to the polls each election day to deliver our ballots in person, tomorrow’s the day. In Spokane County, at least.
But even if that doesn’t excite you, here’s today’s loose thread.


“If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful, because that I find unacceptable — the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family.”
—Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, today on ABC’s “Good Morning, America”

That’s a pretty naive view for the presumptive Democratic nominee, whose wife has been an effective advocate for him. By sending her on the campaign trail as a surrogate for her husband, the campaign made her an issue.
In this case, it was a GOP ad criticizing her widely publicized remark, earlier in the campaign, about being “really proud” of her country for the first time.
(Don’t know quite how it happened, but in the clip I saw numerous times, the word “really” was all but eliminated — a significant change.)
From what I’ve seen, Michelle Obama is more than capable of defending herself, and I would have been more impressed if her husband’s response had been to challenge his rivals to an in-depth conversation about what his wife actually said and meant.
It’s an issue worth broad public discussion.

Fat chance

Saturday’s editorial addresses steps for countering the trend toward obesity. Here’s your opportunity to respond with your own views.

Friday editorial

Times change. Communities adapt. Today’s “Our view” discusses how Idaho’s Silver Valley has gone about it.

Return with us now to yesteryear

As a grade schooler in the ‘50s, I took a couple of trips to San Francisco and Portland when he led his commercial art students there on extended field trips. Despite my provincial upbringing in a small southern Oregon town (where my friends and I would take our .22’s on a Saturday to prowl the surrounding hillsides), Dad frequently left me to roam the cities alone while he and his class were touring some advertising agency. Today, I suppose, he’d be hauled in by CPS. There were never any horror stories.
I reflected on those days after hearing about this Web site.
Columnist Rosa Brooks will have more to say on Friday’s Opinion page, but the theme has to do with whether we are smothering our kids these days.

Thursday’s editorial

Human rights warrior Tony Stewart will reveal today what his plans are after retiring from North Idaho College where he’s been a faculty member for 38 years. Today’s editorial salutes him.

Wednesday’s loose thread

Anyone doing a study to measure the popularity of biking to work with whether the workplace has showers (and whether the route to work is uphill or down).
Just one of many areas for reflection on this, today’s loooooooose thread.

Question to mull during your drive time.

Barack Obama keeps getting asked about his running mate. He keeps deflecting the question by saying he hasn’t won the nomination (yet) so it would be premature of him to talk about a vice presidential choice.
Hmm. He hasn’t been elected president yet, either, but he doesn’t refrain from talking about what he’d do about health care, taxes, the war in Iraq if he is.

Tuesday thread

Ralph Nader is suing Arizona state election officials over the difficulty he’s having getting himself on the ballot as a third-party candidate. That issue has become a standard part of every presidential election. What about it, should Americans just accept the two-party system or is a reform needed to open the gates?
Or is there something else on you mind. Here’s today’s loose thread so you can let us know.

Tuesday’s editorial

Bipartisanship on an environmental issue? Who’d have imagined? We’re pleased. We’re very pleased.

Loose thread (or maybe loose bearings)

Let’s see if we can combine two things that people obsess about — the cost of gasoline and “When I was a kid….”
After a TV anchor recalled this morning when gas was only $1.50 a gallon, my wife and I recalled instead when it was about a quarter.
Altogether now, how many of you remember the phrase, “A dollar’s worth of regular, please.”
If so, what was the likely response one got to such a request? (Answer later today.)

Keep an eye on Maddow

On Tuesday evening as the margin in Indiana’s primary was narrowing, I was following it on MSNBC, where (along with most other channels, apparently) the concensus among commentaters was that Hillary Clinton would soon be stepping aside. The only questions were how and how soon. Only radio talk show host Rachel Maddow of Air America was reading the chicken entrails differently. Hillary is in it ‘til the end, she predicted. Things could still change, of course, but so far, Maddow alone seems to have had it right.
I have to admit, I’ve become a fan of the woman’s humor and insight. It has nothing to do with her far-left views. But I do appreciate the way she can be impassioned and still be both civil and good-natured.
Actually, I think a team of Maddow and conservative Tucker Carlson would blow Hannity and Colmes out of the water. (Of course I make it a point not to watch Hannity and Colmes.)

Our ombudsman drumbeat

From our editorial today:

The furor over police videos and a report that surfaced late in the legal process directs the spotlight once again on the Spokane Police Department. And, once again, competing stories will battle for public opinion. Critics say the episode shows that the department cannot be trusted. The department says honest mistakes led to the trial delay for a protester arrested at a July 4 rally in Riverfront Park.

The best-case scenario for the department was uttered by spokeswoman Jennifer DeRuwe, who said the delay resulted from “the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing.” The department, she says, takes full responsibility and will investigate how this mishap occurred. A day later, it was revealed that a report citing the existence of the video had not been turned over to the prosecution or the defense.

Sounds like a job for that independent ombudsman the city has been promising to deliver. Unfortunately, formation of the position has been dragged out for months. It is especially frustrating to have to rely on a police inquiry into a situation where possible evidence wasn’t turned over in a case involving an anti-police protest.

Keo Chronicles: May 9, 1945

I worked more cleaning on back porch. Harl came over and put up the shelf for plants. Emeline had it all cut and ready. He did a nice job — it’s so solid.

E. arranged the plants and colored vases on it. We think it’s quite ornamental.

About this photo: This is a photo of Keo’s brother-in-law, Charles Cowan, taken in 1908 at his law office, likely in the Radio Central Building in downtown Spokane. Don’t you love the typewriter and the secretary’s hairstyle?

Keo Chronicles: May 8, 1945

(Keo as a young woman, possibly in the 1890s, long before her journaling days.)

Dressed my hair and put on makeup first thing when I got up. Seemed to give me more pep for the day.

Io called up in afternoon and told us what a good show was on at the Band Box. The picture My Gal Sal was surprisingly good.

Crime Check/Communication: Vote yes

(S-R file photo of a county Crime Check/911 operator taken before Crime Check was downsized in 2002.)

Our editorial today endorsed Proposition 1, a 0.1 percent sales tax that would update the county’s emergency communications equipment and restore Crime Check.

With today’s soon-to-be obsolete equipment, local firefighters, police and sheriff’s deputies often have trouble talking to one another when they’re working the same emergency. The resulting risk to them as well as the public is not conscionable.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission will not allow local governments to continue using their analog equipment after 2013. Everybody in the country is required to go to a 700-megahertz, narrow-band grid. You don’t need to speak the lingo to understand that conversion is not negotiable.

Proposition 1 would give the county funding to make the change, upgrade equipment, restore Crime Check and establish a reverse 911 feature with which authorities could alert residents to neighborhood emergencies. And with respect to other funding sources, the county already has a federal interoperability grant that must be used by 2010. Out of $19.1 million the state had to distribute, $2.3 million came to Spokane County, based on the quality of its plans. In Proposition 1, Spokane County commissioners have offered voters an emergency communications system that’s modern, effective and affordable. For 10 cents on a $100 purchase, it’s a heck of a buy.

Did you ever use Crime Check?

Drive at 5

Thanks for the driving tips from yesterday…More welcome.

Enjoy the evening.

It’s over for Hillary Clinton

(UPDATE: The post below was done on March 4 … right around Super Tuesday. Since then, there’s been Wrightgate, Bittergate and several more races … and Obama has expanded his lead. More delegates. More money. More popular votes. More states. To reiterate: It’s over for Hillary Clinton. Or, is this prediction still premature?)

No, I don’t have any insight into today’s voting. I just know that if she wins the next 16 races in a row, she’d probably still trail.

Check out this analysis that uses an online delegate counter. It gives her some big upsets in states like Vermont, Mississippi, North Carolina and Oregon. And large margins of victories in Pennsylvania and other states. Yet, she would still be behind by 58 delegates.

Huckabee believes in miracles. Clinton better, too.

Check out the Frank and Dan Show

Frank, Dan and a few other regular commenters have a good police discussion going on Loose Thread Monday (the one with the JFK photos).

Check it out. And thanks, guys, for keeping it fairly civil.

Drive at 5

Do you have any “secret” ways to drive to avoid the insanity on Ash/Maple and farther up North or to get through construction anywhere?

Tips appreciated.

Here’s mine: Take Post Street to get North-South and vice versa. Not many motorists think of it.

Operation Dittohead

Rush Limbaugh is urging Republicans in Indiana to cross over and vote for Hillary Clinton, with the idea being that a voter for her prolongs the race and damages the eventual Democratic nominee.

Would you vote strategically if given the chance? Did you ever do that when Washington state had an open primary?

(Photo by Jim Sulley/Medialink Wirepix)

Equal Opportunity Domestic Violence

Our editorial today examined how domestic violence legislation has changed over the years to make it easier for law enforcement — not the family members involved in a fight in the home — to determine whether a crime has happened.

In bygone days, when arguments turned violent, even next-door neighbors ignored the obvious. If the people involved said, “This is a family matter,” most often it was left at that. Not anymore.

Anyone remember those bygone days? Perhaps couples next door whose loud fights were ignored? Ever wonder what happened to the kids in those households? Blog lines are open.

The Drive at 5

If it starts raining fish out there, let us know.
Stranger things have happened. Raining frogs is not a myth, see here.

Be safe in traffic tonight, come fish or frogs or Spokane drivers.

The air smells like fish today

Has anyone else noticed that downtown Spokane has a fishy smell today? I was in a meeting on the fifth floor of our building when I first smelled it. I thought someone might be microwaving leftover fish somewhere down the hall.

Then I drove to the Arena for the skating announcement, stepped out of the car and the smell was overwhelming. Could it be something from the Waste-to-Energy plant? I have toured several landfills in my 30 years as a journalist (I love to write about garbage systems) and the smell reminded me of a landfill smell.

Conspiracy theories — and any other kind — welcome.

Save the salmon …

… shoot a sea lion.

OK, that’s not official policy, but somebody shot six of the sea lions that congregate at Bonneville Dam to gorge on salmon.

What should be done with the sea lions who swim up the Columbia to the man-made trap?

(AP photo at Bonneville Dam)

Feast then Famine

(Photo from

Our editorial today discussed the wisdom of Inland Northwest higher ed institutions for planning for the lean years ahead.

A famous tale of the abundance-scarcity cycle appears in the Old Testament. Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, gains renown in captivity by interpreting dreams. When the Pharaoh dreams of seven lean cows devouring seven fat ones, Joseph explains that following seven years of abundance, Egypt will face seven years of famine. Grain is stored, and when the famine arrives all is well.
In higher education institutions, the abundance years are peaking. Time magazine recently reported that the high school class of 2008 – nearly 3.4 million students – is the largest in U.S. history, and most colleges boast waiting lists.
But lean years loom. Demographic trends indicate the number of college age students will decline over the next several years. And college is expected to become prohibitively expensive for some populations, including the children of immigrants.

As a 1955-born baby boomer, all my school years were marked by big classes and crowded everything in college and grad school — dorms, registration lines, parking.
And I went to Catholic schools, which tended to have fewer students than public schools.

Did you attend college in feast or famine years? And how do you think it affected the quality of your education? Stories welcome.

Sunday Twosome

STA sales tax. We’re for it. Read here.

All of the sign posts point to this region needing reliable transit service. All of the recent changes show that STA can be trusted with the money

Funding programs that help kids? We’re for it, but accountability is a must. Read here.

While social service professionals have their hands full rescuing and patching up damaged youngsters, the capacity must be developed to achieve more prevention and less intervention.

Yet at some point, the programs that emerge from this project will require reliable funding, and the taxpayers or others who pick up the tab are going to want persuasive evidence – not of services delivered but of lives improved.

It’s a privilege blogging with you

Put your seatbacks in an upright position and prepare to transition to Rebecca as your blog-master for next week. I’ve enjoyed it this week, but I’m going on vacation through Wednesday and it’s unlikely that I’ll look at anything related to work during that time.

There may be a blistering editorial about FAA or TSA if my flight gets canceled.

But this thread’s for you.

Letter: Pay no attention

The Rev. Wright is on an ego trip. In his attempt to bring down Barack Obama he has attained national attention, which you can see that he dearly loves. He is like a young child who never got enough personal attention so he not only craves the attention but will do almost anything to get it, no matter who it hurts.

It makes you wonder if the Republican Party is secretly funding his appearances at the National Press Club and other venues. Six months ago they wouldn’t have given him the time of day; it would be “Rev. who?” The man is not worthy of our attention – a divisive figure. — Stanley A. Wood, Spokane

Do you wish you had never heard the name Jeremiah Wright?

Chism: ‘Never rush to judgment’

Todd Chism has been cleared of charges of purchasing child pornography, but his supporters say his reputation has been irrevocably damaged by the WSP and the media. Now he’s mulling whether to file a lawsuit against the WSP, and he has support in doing that as well. But both he and his lawyer, Carl Oreskovich (of Clifford Helm and Carole DeLeon trial fame), have cautioned the public not to rush to judgment, either in believing criminal charges or that Chism will file a lawsuit. They’ve got to make sure they’ve got a legal case first.

Do you think Chism’s name is tarnished forever?

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