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SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2004

Pledge detour sparks new debate

I confess that I was a teensy bit relieved when the Supreme Court found a way to avoid ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance. Having pledged before and after the God clause was added, I didn't think those two words were any big deal. But I did suspect they were unconstitutional. So I figured that the court dodged a bullet in the culture wars. But now I'm afraid they only provided arms for the custody wars.

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Spokane River issues call for collaboration

By now, everyone in the greater Spokane area knows that something is wrong with the Spokane River—that it's somehow polluted or sick, that conflict exists around the causes and cures. In truth, there are multiple reasons for the river's illnesses and multiple possible fixes.

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Budget needs citizens' input

Spokane city government is romancing a new budget approach, but whether it blossoms into a long and loving relationship or wilts after a brief flirtation will depend on the level of commitment by two important groups: citizens and city officials. The fresh approach, called Price of Government, makes intuitive good sense. It starts with the idea that taxpayers are willing to pay so much for local government and they want certain things in return. Citizens' expectations are defined as broad outcomes — safety, health, ease of transportation — and the city then comes up with ways to achieve them and to measure its progress.

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Larry Bird doesn't deserve grief

I find myself in the unpleasant position of defending Larry Bird. Guy shreds my heart in the '84 Finals, his evil Boston Celtics defeating my valiant Los Angeles Lakers, and now, just 20 years later, here I stand between him and the torches and pitchforks of the mob. Still, Larry Legend is getting a bum rap and I can't stand by and watch that, even if he is a former Celtic.

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Torture evidence: No one's pushing

To understand the magnitude of what may have gone on in America's secret prisons, you don't need special security clearance or inside information. Anyone who wants to connect the dots can do it. To see what I mean, review the content of a few items now easily found on the Internet. Item 1: The "torture memo." Written in August 2002 by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, at the request of the CIA and then the White House, this memo argues that it "may be justified" to torture al-Qaeda suspects. The memo, posted last weekend on the Washington Post's Web site, also speculates that international law, which categorically prohibits torture, "may be unconstitutional."

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FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2004

Why not enforce crosswalks law?

The law is pretty clear about pedestrians in crosswalks. Unless there's a signal flashing "wait" at them, they have the right-of-way over motorists. If you're driving down the street and a pedestrian is trying to cross at an unsignaled intersection, you're supposed to stop and let the person do so.

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Is commander in chief above the law?

What a revelation to learn that the Justice Department lawyer who wrote the infamous memo in effect defending torture is now a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge. It tells you all you need to know about the sort of conservative to whom George W. Bush is turning in his attempt to pack the federal courts. Conservatives once were identified with protecting the rights of the individual against the unbridled power of government, but this is not your grandfather's conservatism. The current brand running things in D.C. holds that the commander in chief is above all law and that the ends always justify the means. This has paved the way for the increasingly well-documented and systematic use of torture in an ad hoc gulag archipelago for those detained anywhere in the world under the overly broad rubric of the "war on terror."

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Proof behind Iraq, al Qaeda link

As newspaper headlines are sure to scream in page one, above-the-fold stories, the 9-11 commission found "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein played a role in the terrorist attacks. But what you won't hear is that Saddam's possible role in 9-11 had little to do with the case for war in Iraq. Quite simply, war was waged in Iraq to prevent another 9-11. Apparently, this is too much nuance for most of the media to handle.

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Public workshop on university plan

Community planners have lofty hopes for the development of a university district in the area of the Gonzaga University and Riverpoint campuses along the Spokane River east of Division. But the details of what that district will look like and how it will be a part of community life are yet to be worked out. Citizens have an opportunity this weekend to help complete in the picture.

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Please remove 7 from the gutter

Question: I'm as progressive as I can be as a 50-something Spokalooite. But c'mon . . . "sniffing barstools" as a topic in the Friday entertainment section? I don't care if 7 is a feeble attempt to get younger people to read the daily newspaper; you folks have taken one deep step into the gutter. Please don't tell me that, "If I'm offended, I don't have to read it." I want to know what I can do in Spokane on the weekend, so I'm going to open this section. Then, it was in the headline on the first inside page, so I was offended even before I got to read the citizens' comments. The name of the article sums it up for The Spokesman-Review: "Bad choices." — Al Gilson, Spokane

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The Boeing aircraft being considered for lease and sale to the Air Force as a new generation of refueling tanker is the 767. An editorial on Wednesday referred to the wrong model.

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President Bush, could we ask …

Five years ago, candidate George W. Bush blew into town, held an impromptu press conference and chewed the fat with those willing to fork over $20 for breakfast. Today, President Bush will be screened from the public en route to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser for Rep. George Nethercutt. No matter who occupies the White House, it's difficult for Americans to catch a glimpse of their national leader, let alone share thoughts with him. So The Spokesman-Review editorial board thought it would pose some questions that might be on the minds of Inland Northwest residents:

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Bush team faces credibility problem

Listening to the Bush administration's explanation of the problems in its annual State Department report on terrorism – it seems that instead of terrorism being down sharply, as the report says, terrorism is actually up sharply, but aside from that it's an inspiring document – stirs up thoughts of Thomas Reed. Reed, the acid Republican speaker of the House in the late 19th century, once beamed down from the chair at a Democrat seeking to correct a previous statement.

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Go ahead, educate kids at home

People of both political parties and many persuasions have been talking for decades about education reform. President Bush signed a huge new spending bill that is supposed to link funding to certain reforms so that no child will be left behind. Now comes what could be the most radical and most successful education reform proposal ever made. The Southern Baptist Convention – the nation's largest Protestant denomination with about 17 million members – is meeting this week in Indianapolis, and among the resolutions it is considering is one calling upon parents to withdraw their children from public schools and either educate them at home or enroll them in private Christian academies.

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And another thing . . .

A wrong-headed prescription. The backlash against rising malpractice insurance premiums turned ugly at this week's American Medical Association meeting. One doctor proposed that his colleagues refuse to treat trial lawyers. Others said they've already stopped accepting attorneys and anyone affiliated with them. A hospital fired a nurse who is married to a lawyer. This stethoscope strike is not only unethical but it treats all malpractice cases as unwarranted. According to independent analyses, insurance companies are also culpable for this mess. They are trying to recoup investment losses and don't offer lower rates to doctors who've never been found liable for malpractice. Why not dump them as patients? And the medical profession itself has been slow to crack down on bad doctors, whose repeated errors are the cause of many malpractice awards.

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