December 10, 2013 at 6:15 AM
If the Oklahoma Legislature can make room for a monument to the Ten Commandments outside the Statehouse in Oklahoma City, then the Satanic Temple of New York wants an artistic expression of its faith in the same place.
The state's lawmakers brought this on themselves with their pinched view of religious privilege. If Oklahoma chooses to make its Statehouse a prop for religious art, then every faith can claim space. That is how ACLU Oklahoma sees it, and I agree. But my own core view fits an aside offered by the legal organization’s director: don’t have any such religious art on state property. Take down the Ten Commandments. The legislators can honor them by living the values, and call it performance art.
America’s strength is in its religious diversity and religious freedom. Indeed the term “religious tolerance” has always annoyed me. The freedom to worship does not exist in this country because of the indulgent tolerance of anyone, especially a numerically superior faith.
These disputes pop up all the time. Here is a link to a column I wrote almost to the day a decade ago about a controversy in Everett.
Religious tensions exist in all forms. Even the Satanists come in two forms: theistic and atheistic. The heck you say. The former venerate a deity they see as closer to home than that out-there God. The latter snicker about everything.
December 6, 2013 at 10:57 PM
We've gotten quite a few responses to our post this morning about which city is better, Seattle or San Francisco. We trumpeted our beautiful summers and our liberal social policies. The San Francisco chronicle retorted calling Microsoft a "lumbering" enterprise and poked fun at Amazon.com's drone idea. Our readers are having their say as well, with 49 in support of S.F. and 34 in favor of Seattle. That'd better not be the final score of the game. Keep the responses coming. Here's the best of what has been submitted so far:
December 6, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Pro San Francisco responses
- It has a fully integrated and efficient light-rail-to-train-to-bus system that's been functioning for decades. It has Golden Gate Park, one of the largest and beautifully developed urban parks in the U.S. -- Ralph Stephan
- The Federal Reserve District Bank is located in San Francisco, not Seattle. Thus, the federal government recognizes San Francisco as the most important city and financial center of the 12th reserve district. Also, the Golden Gate Bridge has been called one of the wonders of the modern world. The Space Needle, not so much. -- Philip Hoxie
- There are more ecosystems in a shorter drive around the SF Bay Area. Meaning you can get to desert, forest, mountain, ocean, etc easier and with shorter drives than you can in the Seattle area. -- Emile Zarbo
- After living in Seattle for 15 years, I finally saw the light and moved to San Francisco. No, I mean I saw light, you know, that bright orb in the sky that warms the earth. I no longer stare gloomily at thick, low-lying clouds that spew a constant drizzle for 11 months out of the year. Seattle has Winter and August. Period. Here, in S.F., I no longer feel like throwing my self off a tall bridge for want of a cheerful dry, sunny day of which S.F. has about 100 more a year. -- Anne Davis
- I've found San Francisco to more positive, upbeat and friendly. Over the four years I spent in Seattle, I found many people to be antisocial. Seattle is a great place to visit, but San Francisco is an amazing place to live (if you can afford it!) -- Lori Martin
- Like our two football teams, the two cities mirror each other but San Francisco is a long-standing giant while Seattle is the coming man. Seattle must win a Super Bowl to gain status in the country. Until then, it will always be in the shadow of their bigger more famous brother in California. -- Clint Young
- Public Transit: I have only lived i Seattle for 6 months, but it is always difficult to get a cab. If the Seattle area had something like BART it would vastly improve the area. I believe the neighborhoods in San Francisco are more diverse also. -- Mike Hickey
- Sophistication: San Francisco is and always has been much more sophisticated (as opposed to trendy like Seattle) artistically, intellectually, architecturally and culturally in general. Seattle made a choice back in the '60s to "go natural" with Birkenstocks and down vests. Bad choice. By the way, the number of draft breweries is not a sign of culture. (Also, including Silicon Valley in a "review" of San Francisco is like including Tacoma in a "review" of Seattle. Nope, San Francisco wins hands down.) -- Molly Cook
- S.F. takes the cake. A couple reasons: Seattle nightlife is pretty awful outside of summer. It can't hold a candle to the amount of bars and restaurants S.F. has to offer. Comparing the cities is like comparing New York (SF) to Boston (Seattle). Seattle is also lacking the diversity that S.F. has and that shows in the restaurants and culture. -- Chad Asmussen
- San Francisco has kept more of her history. Like: streetcars, cable cars, and steep streets/hills. Seattle has flushed some of her hills into Puget Sound. The cable cars are long gone. The original streetcar routes are buried under asphalt. -- Rod Nelson
- Just ask foreigners what city, Seattle or San Francisco, they want to visit. -- Rodney Nelson
- Because we have class and you don't. We have Metallica, which you failed to mention in your music section. We have sun in summer, you have patches of clear sky during the three months it doesn't rain. -- Matthew Witthaus
- Weather: While S.F. has fog, it is still brilliantly sunny for a least a few hours a day most days, and the fog rolling in and out is in and of itself beautiful, unlike the soggy gray drizzle of Seattle. And it is possible to live within 10 minutes of the city and have warm sunny climes year round while still taking advantage of the city and the amazing restaurants, produce, jobs, cultural events, natural beauty and year-round outdoor activities the area offers.
- Why is San Francisco better? I can sum it up in three words. Golden. Gate. Bridge. San Francisco has more amazing, world famous landmarks in one neighborhood that Seattle has in the whole region. -- Jean Rice
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December 6, 2013 at 2:02 PM
What is the likely effect of the rise in the minimum wage in SeaTac to $15, or some other increase? I was cleaning out my paper files preparatory to retirement, and under “Minimum Wage” was a study dated January 1991 from the University of Washington’s Northwest Policy Center. The principal investigator was James McIntire, who is now Washington state treasurer, the official responsible for floating state bond issues on Wall Street.
The study’s aim was to judge the effect of a 1968 state ballot measure that increased Washington’s minimum wage in two steps to $4.25 ($7.59 in today’s money) by January 1990. The effective minimum in Washington for most workers had been the federal minimum of $3.35.
This was a 27 percent increase over two years, which was fairly big, but less than half the 63 percent increase between the 2013 state minimum of $9.19 and the 2014 SeaTac minimum of $15.
In its study, McIntire’s team surveyed more than 1,000 employers and interviewed more than 500 affected employees. It also looked at state Employment Security data.
More than 100,000 employees got wage increases in 1989 and 1990 because of the rise in Washington’s legal minimum. Over two years, employers reported laying off 11,700 workers “as a result of the minimum wage increases.” Employees reported about the same number.
In other words, for every 10 workers who got a raise under the law, one worker somewhere was laid off. The most-affected employers were restaurants and bars (the law also eliminated the tip credit), particularly in the lower-wage parts of the state.
The job-killing effect of raising the minimum wage has been controversial. Twenty years ago economists David Card and Alan Krueger published a famous study comparing fast-food jobs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, after New Jersey raised its minimum wage and Pennsylvania didn’t. Said Card and Krueger: “We find no indication that the rise in the minimum wage reduced employment.” Card and Krueger have been cited by the pro-labor side ever since, often by Democrats.
McIntire is also a Democrat, and supports a minimum wage as “a social judgment” about the rewards to work. “Indexing is useful to keep it from becoming a political football,” he says. But he is wary of taking too much from the Card-Krueger study. He says it was a mistake for them to limit it to fast food, because if you raise costs for restaurants and menu prices go up in mid-price restaurants, fast food may gain. Card-Krueger was “a rather flawed study,” he says.
McIntire says the effect of a minimum-wage increase on jobs depends on how big the increase is — and a $15 wage would be a very big one. “Significant increases do have negative consequences,” he says.
“Significant” does not mean every employer. Of all employers surveyed in McIntire’s 1991 study, about 20 percent said they were strongly affected by the change in the law. They either raised prices, cut an expansion plan, cut employee hours or laid off employees. Most common was “a readjustment of hiring and personnel procedures” such as screening more job applicants to make sure they were properly trained. McIntire remembers that of employers that did lay people off, half rehired new employees to take their places.
The new ones, he said, “tended to be a bit older.” Having to pay them more, the employers spent more money to screen them and more to train them.
December 6, 2013 at 6:15 AM
Twenty-three Washington lawmakers have asked Gov. Jay Inslee to “conduct a thorough, comprehensive assessment of the full economic impact of the coal export proposals on Washington State.” A wholly appropriate request and inquiry.
Led by state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, the legislators want to know the net economic costs of siting coal export facilities in the state.
The job creation potential of coal export terminals near Bellingham and Longview are prominently mentioned by proponents, but the additional infrastructure costs for cities and towns along the statewide path of the trains does not get tallied.
Carlyle and others have asked for the broadest possible environmental assessment of the projects. But as the legislator from Seattle’s 36th District notes, there is no requirement in the permitting process “to develop an objective balance sheet of the full costs and benefits of these proposals.” How much will taxpayers end up paying to subsidize the expansions and upgrades of roads and bridges and other civic infrastructure to accommodate and remediate for daily streams of coal trains?
Carlyle, who chairs the House Finance Committee, and the 22 co-signers of the Dec. 2nd letter make clear their fiduciary responsibilities to taxpayers. A duty the governor has as well. Run the whole tab on these coal terminals.
December 6, 2013 at 6:03 AM
Seattle has for too long been labeled a "smaller San Francisco." We see the similarities. Like San Francisco, Seattle is made up of neighborhoods on hills. Both cities are shrouded in grey. The politics of both are proudly left.
But Seattle is not a lesser San Francisco. It's a better San Francisco.
A San Francisco editorial writer seems to think differently in a post that went up this morning. As if. We'll still continue to proclaim our superiority this week as the Seahawks prepare to take on the 49ers. Seattle trounced San Francisco earlier this season at CenturyLink Field, when the fans broke the sound record. Two S.F. fans called for the NFL to punish a team for fan noise in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. I called the letter-writers wussy babies in an earlier blog post. We're not only louder, Seattle is better in a number of other ways:
San Francisco, we have news for you. You're no longer the leftiest city on the left coast. In 2012, our state voters legalized same-sex marriage with Referendum 74. (California voters rejected same-sex marriage with Proposition 8.) Washington state also legalized recreational marijuana with Initiative 502. Eat your liberal heart out.
Seattle summers are sublime. Our 70-degree days don't end until the sun sinks at 10 p.m. S.F. summer? Whether Mark Twain said it or not, the coldest winter we ever had was summer in San Francisco. Granted, there is more rain in Seattle during the other nine months of the year. Stay tuned. Our winters will be warming up over the next century with climate change.
If you claim the Bay Area's music is better, you're living in the past. Gone are the days of Jefferson Airplane and hippie rock in Haight-Ashbury. And the Hyphy music scene from the late '90s isn't cool anymore, not even in an ironic way. Sure, a Seattle music newbie might only name Nirvana and Heart and say we peaked years ago. But we've blossomed again and are on the national conscious, again. Ever heard of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis? And our indie rock scene is just as strong as our great local hip-hop: Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, The Head and the Heart. The list goes on. Advantage: Seattle.
The Bay Area has the better nationally recognized beer brands, such as Anchor, Lagunitas and 21st Amendment (what's up with that watermelon beer?). They've got distribution, we'll give them that. But need a draft in Seattle and it'll likely come from a local microbrewery, or even from some guy or gal brewing in a garage. We take our hyperlocal microbrewing seriously and support the startups among us. One stat sums this up nicely: capita per brewery. Granted, we're using the statewide data, but Washington state has a capita per brewery of 41,767 in 2012 according to the Brewers Association. Compare that to California's, which is 114,628. Stay thirsty, my friends.
We'll give you this one. In San Francisco, one can hail a cab on the street. We're waiting for Seattle City Council to end the monopoly it's running for the taxi industry. The Bay Area also has BART.
Congratulations on Twitter's initial public offering. We wish you well, as all your paper millionaires drive real-estate prices even more out of reach. Seattle has Amazon.com and Microsoft, but we're proud to note that our city also still makes things, like airplanes. We still ship things, because we still have a port. In other words, we are a city that supports jobs for all, not just software engineers. The success of your Internet companies has spawned a war between the artists and the "entitled" engineers, as reported in this New York Times story "Backlash by the Bay." That entitled attitude is a region-wide problem, according to a Wall Street Journal column "Silicon Valley Has an Arrogance Problem." People are leaving your city in droves, according to an Atlantic Cities article, "The San Francisco Exodus."
That Atlantic article doesn't even mention the most notable departure of all: the 49ers. Your football team has also decided to leave San Francisco. Next year, it's moving to Santa Clara.
What do you think? Which city is better? We want to hear your smack talk leading up to the Seattle-San Francisco Sunday showdown. Leave a comment in the form below and it might be used to proclaim the virtues of your chosen city in a follow-up post. You can also participate on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #SEATTLEorSF. Reader responses are pouring in, collected in this post.
Nikolaj Lasbo, Web producer/editor for opinion digital engagement, contributed to this post.
December 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The Michael Walter King story reads like a Shakespearean tragedy: Golden boy lands his dream job as executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. Two years later, he's cleaning restaurants and living in a "sober house." Democrats lose their majority in the Washington Senate. Then a judge sentences him to 25 months for embezzlement.
(Read The Seattle Times' initial account of what happened in this February story by Andrew Garber and Brian Rosenthal. Reporter Jim Brunner followed up on the investigation in September. And here's Sara Jean Green's Tuesday report on King's sentencing.)
Washington Democrats must be kicking themselves. If they're not, they really should be. Don't politicos hang out together in bars just as much as they do in board rooms? How did no one question King's absences from work? Or that he perhaps drank a little too much during happy hour?
Humans tend to do a good job at hiding their vices. King had no prior record. Clearly, he knew he had a problem when he reportedly confessed his transgressions to an associate.
The sad irony is Senate Democrats didn't lose their majority during the 2013 legislative session because of failed legislative policies per se. They simply didn't pay enough attention to the guy handling their campaign money, and that mistake may have cost them dearly.
Several sources say the $330,000 or so King spent to fuel his habits could have been funneled into some critical races. The most notable election, of course, is former state Rep. Tim Probst's failed attempt in 2012 to unseat conservative Republican state Sen. Don Benton in the Vancouver area. Probst lost by 78 votes. That outcome set the stage for two Democratic senators, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, to join with Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus.
Probst, still living in Vancouver and specializing in workforce development, says an infusion of cash from the SDCC was needed in the closing days of his campaign.
"It would have made a huge difference; $20,000 would have been one more mailer, and the mailer we wanted to send out would have made a difference," he said over the phone Wednesday.
Throughout the 2013 session and after, Democrats publicly blamed the MCC (with its one-seat majority) for being too conservative; for failing to pass important measures like a transportation funding package, a Washington version of the Dream Act for illegal students, and the Reproductive Parity Act protecting insurance coverage for abortions.
Truth is those probably could have been legislative victories for Democrats. They created their own problems months before the session even began, when they entrusted their campaign coffers to someone too blinded by booze and casinos to make the right investments in elections and results.
Says Probst of King: "He's a good man with a bad addiction. (The party) has made the adjustments and have tighter controls now. It's just too bad that it's in hindsight."
December 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Remember District Judge G. Todd Baugh? He's the Montana judge who remarked that a 14-year-old rape victim appeared "older than her chronological age" and was probably as much in control of the situation as her rapist, a teacher at the girl's school - before sentencing the rapist to one month in prison.
The public furor that ensued had even Baugh admitting he had crossed an ethical line.
But yesterday, the judge told the Associated Press that he should not lose his job. Censure would be enough, said the 72-year-old who was first elected in 1984 and has not decided whether he will seek a sixth term next year. Baugh apologized, saying that while he should not have made the remarks, his views did not influence the sentence he handed down.
I beg to differ. The teacher, Stacey Rambold, was 47 in 2007 when he assaulted the young girl three times over several months in 2007. Deepening the tragedy, the girl killed herself before the case went to trial. The office of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, calling Rambold's sentence illegal and too lenient, has appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.
The Montana Judicial Standards Commission has yet to rule on Baugh, but the judge told the AP Tuesday that he expects to be censured by the judicial ethics panel over his comments. Do you think the judge should be censured or removed from office?
December 4, 2013 at 6:30 AM
The Northwest Passage has captured my imagination since my Pacific Northwest childhood as a final frontier for marine expedition, ambition and, well, cannibalism. That last part loomed large in my recollection of school lessons, so as the famed passage across the north coast of North America began opening in the past two centuries, I've been jarred back to images of the ultimate adventure gone wrong.
More news today: the National Academies of Science has a new report about the potential effects of climate change, including projections about the mid-century prospects for more routine sailing of the Northwest Passage. Overall, it's a sobering report on the "tipping points" for abrupt impacts on societies, as The New York Times' Andrew Revkin reports.
The 900-mile Northwest Passage, which skitters among the Canadian archipelago and above the Arctic circle, is one of the winners in the global lottery of climate change. The report suggests that the 900-mile passage will be navigable in midsummer by "moderately ice-strengthened ships" by around 2050, opening up a much shorter shipping route. Here is an excerpt:
The shipping distance between Shanghai and Rotterdam, for example, is approximately ~19,600 and ~25,600 km, respectively via the Suez or Panama canals, but only ~15,800 over the northern coast of Russia (the Northern Sea route) or ~17,600 km through the Canadian archipelago (the Northwest Passage).
The Northwest Passage has captured adventurers imagination for centuries. British explorer John Franklin made an ill-fated attempt to map the passage in 1845. It ended in the men abandoning their ships and dying from "hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, scurvy and starvation — but not before resorting to cannibalism," as described in a Seattle Times book review of Anthony Brandt's book "The Man Who Ate His Boots." That's the story I remembered.
It has been the playground of adventurers but not commerce because of its extreme ice conditions. But in 2000, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police vessel, taking advantage of the melting polar ice cap, rekindled the imagination, surviving the Northwest Passage in a circumnavigation of North America. Since then, cruise ships have made the passage. In 2012, the 75,000-ton MS Nordic Orion, carrying a load of coal from Vancouver, B.C., became the first bulk commercial vessel to sail it. The shorter route saved $200,000, according to the National Post.
Washington's ports seem to have a direct financial interest in exploiting the Northwest Passage. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., inserted procurement language into the defense bill for four new icebreakers in the Seattle-based fleet. As The Seattle Times' Kyung Song reports, the $850-million price tag probably has "a snowball’s chance in the warming polar climate" of getting through Congress.
But who'd have thought, 100 years ago, that a 325-meter ship loaded with coal, would be passing by John Franklin's grave?
December 4, 2013 at 6:03 AM
Barry Welch of Ferndown in the United Kingdom created this mock delivery receipt from an Amazon.com drone. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told "60 Minutes" that the company is testing the use of drones for delivering products, according to a Bloomberg story. Follow Welch on Twitter @quantumpirate.
We're always looking to reinvent opinion commentary for a digital world. If you're interested in sending us visual commentary on local topics, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 4, 2013 at 5:38 AM
On the eve of my retirement, Times Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley suggested I pick my favorites from the 342 columns I’ve written for The Times since 2000. Here are 10, with my own headlines:
1. “Games With Words,” April 12, 2000. This was my takedown of the World Trade Organization protesters, who used loopy logic to justify their disruption of an international conference.
2. “A Republican War,” April 9, 2003. I hated the Iraq war and wrote three columns against it before President Bush started it. This one was written while U.S. soldiers were on the way to Baghdad. In it, I predict that the conquest of Iraq would result in an electoral disaster for the Republicans in 2004. I was wrong; the disasters came in 2006 and 2008.
3. “Eight Parking Places at a Strip Club,” August 27, 2003. Here I sort-of defend former City Councilwoman Judy Nicastro, while making a larger point about how minuscule this scandal was. (My claim that no law had been broken turned out to be wrong, but I don’t think that matters much.)
4. “The Perfect Program for Liberal Seattle,” July 2, 2003. Here I argue that the Seattle Public Schools’ “racial tiebreaker,” a system later declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, was designed to make white progressives feel good.
5. “A View to the Canal,” March 10, 2004. I wrote several columns about land use and zoning in Seattle. This one, about a towboat company on the Ship Canal, was my favorite.
6. “Forget Scooter Libby,” July 11, 2007. This was my reply to media progressives who insisted that the Scooter Libby story blew the cover off the Bush administration. I thought they were barking at a sideshow.
7. “The Downside of Free Breakfasts,” January 10, 2007. I loved the way some folks thought this column about the federal free and reduced-price school meals program was beyond the pale.
8. “Seattle School Board ‘Discovers’ the Math Book They Wanted,” May 13, 2009. My columns arguing against the “discovery” or “reform math” garnered more reader response than any other local issue. This was my favorite.
9. “In Defense of Clint Didier,” May 26, 2010. This was my answer to the defenders of the social-benefits state who think it’s so delicious to find a critic of that state who has accepted its goodies. Here I defend their “hypocrisy,” and admit that I participate in it myself.
10. “An Evening with Thor’s Hammer,” October 10, 2012. My defense of legal marijuana: So I can smoke it. I got a bigger reaction on this column than just about any other. (And no, I’m not going to spend my retirement stoned… Well, maybe once in a while.)
December 3, 2013 at 6:15 AM
Moral paragon and ethical authority Rush Limbaugh is wagging a finger at Pope Francis for his essay calling on church leaders and lay persons to use their faith to empower efforts to help the poor and needy.
Just imagine a spiritual leader going off like that.
“Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) has ticked off Limbaugh, a conservative entertainer with lots of airtime to fill. No doubt his talk-show producers saw the pope’s 224-page statement as something of a blessing during a slow season for news. They could turn out an indignant script faster than a Christmas wishlist.
I did not read every word of the document. Of course, neither did Limbaugh. Much of the message asks the leaders and members of the Roman Catholic Church to look around them and acknowledge the economic conditions that grip so many people. Pope Francis challenges the faithful to rethink how their parishes and community organizations might better help others.
The pope wants his readers to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality:
“Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”
Such prose certainly grabbed the attention of Limbaugh’s topic-fodder minions. The pope was preaching “pure Marxism,” Limbaugh faithfully repeated. Rush must have dropped his bacon-clad maple bar and eggnog latte a couple of paragraphs farther down in the papal missive:
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Well, maybe the pope did get a bit cheeky as the U.S. economy was in the throes of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzies: “In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances.”
Limbaugh might have lost a few of his ardent listeners to the pope’s truth speaking in light of bursting economic bubbles that did not discriminate by political ideology. The pope counseled his followers to say no to a financial system that rules rather than serves. Amen.
Rush and I both got something out of Pope Francis’ treatise. And we are each, in our own way, grateful.
December 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Before we get to those much-talked-about drones, it's worth pausing for a moment to remember the larger theme that emerged from Sunday's "60 Minutes" profile on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos: Innovation is the key to survival for any company or employee.
You gotta earn your keep in this world. When you invent something new, if customers come to the party, it’s disruptive to the old way.
But enough sage advice from a shrewd entrepreneur.
The Internet is all abuzz over the final three minutes in the segment. Bezos pulled off a sophisticated PR stunt on the eve of Cyber Monday when he unveiled the possibility Amazon will use octocopters (a.k.a. drones) in the future to deliver goods to consumers wherever they may be.
"I know this looks like science fiction, but it's not," Bezos told his visibly intrigued interviewer, Charlie Rose.
Here's video of a prototype from Amazon's YouTube channel:
Of course, a drone delivery service isn't even legal and it's unclear whether the FAA will ever actually approve it. (Read this CNN Money reality-check story.)
Did CBS get worked Sunday night by one of the richest men in the world? Yeah. Kinda.
Steve Jobs would be proud of Bezos' blatant marketing ploy before a national audience on the most storied newsmagazine show in television history.
But even if there's no chance Amazon Prime Air will begin any sooner than 2015, Bezos gets some kudos for stirring up our collective imagination (or for some people, horror at the thought of these unmanned drones flying through the air and possibly — gulp — hitting unintended targets).
The AP's Scott Mayerowitz offered a list of "novel uses" for Amazon Prime Air, including these two cheeky ideas:
-- Sitting at the ballpark and don't want to pay $8.50 for a beer? No worries, as an Amazon Prime customer, the "Amazon Express Chopper" will bring you a cold six-pack of your favorite craft beer for just $7.
-- For the right price, maybe the drone will even change your baby's diaper and fly off with the dirty one.
If I could have anything delivered to me via drone? Oh, the possibilities are endless. Let's say I'm skiing on a bluebird day and the last thing I want to do is come down the mountain, wait in a long line for food and fight for a table. If Amazon could deliver anywhere, I'd find a pretty spot at the summit and wait for my picnic lunch (and some hand warmers) to get dropped off at my feet.
What would you do? Share your ideas in the form below. Thoughtful, quirky answers may get republished in a future blog post. Note: first and last names are required.
December 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM
"Many of us are guilty of the wretched excesses of overparenting. Not all the time. But there’s something about education that makes us sometimes sip from the crazy cup. I’ll cop to it if you will."
With those confessional words, I use my most recent column to launch an exploration of the delicate dance between parents and teachers and principals. Reader responses have been thoughtful. Everyone is in agreement that parents deserve a voice and teachers deserve respect. But there are shades of gray when it comes to our children.
Thomas Munyon, who taught school briefly after a career as a naval officer, laments the days when parents concentrated less on teachers' failings and more on holding their own kids accountable. Here's an edited version of his email to me:
"My parents showed respect for my teachers. There really were no incidents where they had to take my side against a teacher or school administrator. Had I ever come home with a story about a run-in with a teacher I would have probably received a second dose of punishment. I only taught for four years before my
wife persuaded me to just take an hourly wage job to supplement my military retirement. I was about to lose my mind."
Joshua from South Seattle connected poor behavior in the classroom to ineffective parenting, a problem that is a greater burden on teachers trying to work with 30 kids than on the parent. He wrote:
Basically, it's the classroom attitude of the students and how it either can or, more likely, greatly impede student learning and progress. I've read articles and heard from other teachers that classroom progress can drop to a quarter of what it could be by just one or two disruptive students, let alone a classroom full of children not paying attention or goofing off. I believe this attitude in the class room has multiple roots, but near the bottom must be the way the children are parented.
And Katy Warren took to Facebook to say that she had spoken to a kindergarten teacher who had been through the WaKIDS pilot (the Washington state kindergarten assessment) and who spoke with amazement about how helpful it was to meet with the parents in a low-stress set-up before school started - it enabled them to establish a relationship and then when they met again for parent/teacher conferences they were able to hit the ground running, working collectively both at school and at home on things that were needed for the child's growth. Sounds like a reform that works.
Lastly, a New York Times article likened the parent-teacher relationship to an arranged marriage in which you didn't have much say about the choice of partner but you've got to work it out nonetheless. Would you agree with that metaphor? And how have you worked it out with your kid's teacher or, if you're a teacher, how have you learned to enlist parents as teammates rather than headaches?
December 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM
King County officials are weaving their way through some gnarly political traffic.
Should they cut Metro transit routes despite growing ridership? Or convince voters to raise taxes and car tab fees? If the Legislature doesn't pass a transportation package that lets them do this, will they have to resort to an old law that allows them to go it alone, but raise less revenue?
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom outlines the region's pending bus funding crisis in this news side story. Here's one of the big reasons folks are so wary of inching toward 10 percent sales tax per $100 spent by consumers:
According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), the poorest fifth of Washington state households pay 17 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest fifth pay less than 7 percent. Those are statewide averages, so the disparity grows in urban Puget Sound, where transit sales taxes are higher.
“(In) a state that is already clearly the most regressive in the nation, amazingly you’d have localities where it is more regressive,” said Matt Gardner, ITEP executive director.
“In fairness, there aren’t a lot of other choices available to lawmakers in Washington,” said Gardner.
Lawmakers appear no closer to a transportation deal, so it's understandable why officials are antsy to get something before voters in 2014. Cuts are slated to begin next summer. By the time the next legislative session begins in January, the political waters may be too charged for lawmakers to vote on increasing taxes and fees. And even if the state legislature does pass a transportation package that includes local options for counties, a possible referendum may delay implementation of the law till after the November 2014 elections — a less-than-ideal scenario for transit planners.
So let's get a sense of what readers think about the county's Plan A and Plan B. Click below the jump to vote in our poll. As first reported in Lindblom's story, here is The Seattle Times' description of those two options:
King County would need the Legislature’s permission to send county voters a proposed car-tab tax of $150 per $10,000 vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for Metro Transit and 40 percent among county, suburban and Seattle road funds.
The county would go it alone under the 2007 transportation-benefit-district law. That could mean sending voters a proposed sales-tax increase of 0.1 percent or 0.2 percent for transit, and a flat car-tab fee of $60 or $80 for roads.
Now vote in our poll:
Also note that there are other funding options. As first reported by The Atlantic Cities' Eric Jaffe , the Victoria Transport Policy Institute released a report last month analyzing 18 local options for funding transit, including gas taxes, more advertising, increased rider fares, etc. Here's a link to the PDF file of that research. Below, I've pasted the report's options summary, including advantages and disadvantages. The next step is to figure out whether King County Metro has figured in all these ideas.
November 28, 2013 at 9:00 AM
Take a moment this Thanksgiving Day 2013 to pause and acknowledge those things – great and small – that resonate in your life. Most of us never slow down long enough to do that humble bit of accounting.
Please use the comment space to share what you are thankful for.
The Pilgrims in 1621 celebrated a good harvest. Previous years had brought all manner of natural disasters and hardships. They recognized an opportunity to enjoy and be grateful for a change of fortune.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the entire nation – all the states – celebrating the holiday on the same day. The date would move, but everyone would raise a drumstick on the same day across time zones.
This is a day for family, friends and leftovers. Family stability and maintaining friendships are no easy assumptions over time. Remember parents who pointed you ahead. A full refrigerator is not to be taken for granted, either.
Did you get a call-back on a job interview? The college early admission season is over, with all the stress that application process can bring students and parents.
Friends are celebrating the successful resolution of immigration issues for a loved one. A glorious achievement. Give thanks for precious reunions and renewed ties among the families you know, and, perhaps, your own.
A baby’s first steps are a delight. Never mind the chasing-them-down part that comes next. A good report from a well-baby checkup is a gift.
What is on your list? Economic stability, successfully quitting smoking, or maybe just the simple pleasure of the fresh fruits and vegetables of each season. How about gratitude for tap water that does not taste funny. School teachers for whom extra effort is routine. Good books and book clubs. Curiosity. The role of religion in your life. A few extra dollars in a savings account. Good coffee or a hot cup of tea. People who went to work today so you could stay home. A not-to-be-taken-for-granted envelope of public safety. A techie friend who takes the mystery out of life online.
Giving thanks is not an exercise in creativity. Think about the things that make a difference in your life, and pause – ever so briefly – to appreciate them. Please share what makes the day special for you.
November 27, 2013 at 1:00 PM
Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature on the Opinion Northwest blog. Here editorial writers Lynne K. Varner and Jonathan Martin debate whether an armed robber on a Seattle Metro bus indicates an unsafe city.
November 27, 2013 at 12:11 PM
In a Monday Opinion Northwest blog post, we asked readers to share their thoughts about some retailers opening their doors to consumers on Thanksgiving Day.
Below is an edited sampling of their nuanced responses.
Read on. Have a safe holiday weekend.
Thanksgiving Day is not a day to shop
No way. It is a day for families and friends to come together. Respect families enough to close the stores and eateries and give it a rest for 24 hours, for goodness sake. Can we please retain some respect for something other than the almighty dollar in this country? For just one day? Please?
— Dot Thiessen, Kent
No Thanksgiving Day shopping for me — partly to protest against stores taking employees away from being with their families, and partly to protest against greed of store owners. I won't be shopping on Black Friday, either. I've signed several online petitions saying the same. We need these precious holidays to stay sane and to experience a sense of peace.
— Susan Everett, Edmonds
The deals just aren't good enough to justify the madness.
— Dottie Shingola, Renton
Wife has to work
I will not be shopping on Thanksgiving Day. I will, however, be driving my wife to work on Thanksgiving Day as she has to work from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.
While I understand that the lateness of Thanksgiving means that there is a shorter window for traditional holiday sales, it doesn't really matter. The stores have had Christmas items out since the day after Halloween, if not earlier, and people are going to spend the same amount of dollars for their Christmas purchases whether they have 26 days or 27 to do so. Opening on Thanksgiving Day will dilute the sales for the remainder of the season and only serves to reveal the lack of consideration and respect the corporations have for the employees who are forced to give up their holiday.
— Carol Harper, Edmonds
No big deal
I work for the airlines and usually work Thanksgiving. I worked last Thanksgiving, last Christmas, Easter, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day, Boxing Day — and just about every other holiday. So what is the big deal? Why do retail stores get a pass when hospitals don't? Oh, because they're essential services. So what is so essential about air travel? Could we not fly for one day? Would the world end if we allowed flight attendants and pilots a day at home with family to give thanks?
If you don't want to shop on Thanksgiving, then don't. As for those that are expected to work the holiday, it's not a surprise to us. We plan for it. Quit with the fake smiles, fake sympathy and false sense of camaraderie. We all know if they offer something cheap enough, you'll push yourself back from the turkey, log on or dress up and bust out the credit card.
— John Bassett, Seattle
November 27, 2013 at 6:10 AM
Leadership is all about getting out in front of controversial issues, even when the best of intentions are often willfully misread. A holiday campaign to reduce the threat of gun violence for children via discounts on gun safes, lockboxes and trigger locks is an absolute winner.
The “Safe Storage Saves Lives” campaign developed by Public Health – Seattle and King County is an inspired effort to promote the use of safety devices on weapons kept in thousands of homes. Congratulations to public health director Dr. David Fleming, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Sheriff John Urquhart, participating gun dealers, and 20 participating law enforcement agencies for stepping forward Monday to promote the ideal holiday shopping event. Thank you.
As explained at this King County site, starting November 25, 2013 through December of 2014, mention Public Health or LOK-IT_UP and receive 10-15 percent off select storage devices or lock boxes at participating retailers. The initial list of 15 shops and their locations is at the site.
Proximity to firearms is reflected in tragic statistics available for review via this county link. Homicides, accidents and suicides aided and abetted by easy access to weapons. The risks and hazards are compounded students who show up on school grounds with guns from home.
This is not about Second Amendment prerogatives, but the responsibilities that go with rights that can have lethal consequences for others.
I know the topic is volatile. Here is a link to a column I wrote last February that attracted more than 300 comments. The topic is coming back.
Enjoy the holidays and best wishes for the season to those who take part in this laudable effort to promote the use of gun-safety devices.
November 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM
A representative of the oil refiners was talking to Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday about something called the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Washington doesn’t have a LCFS but California does, and the Golden State’s ideas tend to migrate here. And the oil refiners say the California experience is none too good so far.
The LCFS is explained to me as a rule that alcohol be mixed into gasoline or biodiesel into diesel to lower the percentage of carbon, because carbon heats the Earth. Upon hearing this I said, sure, I’d seen the sticker on the pump where I buy gas. The fuel contains up to 10 percent ethanol. No, no, they said; that’s the federal standard. We can satisfy that by mixing some stuff in. No problem with that. The LCFS is much more complicated.
California’s LCFS wants to know how much carbon was burned to create the ethanol or biodiesel. To calculate that, it wants to know what the feedstock was, how much energy it took to refine it and how far it was moved. This is particularly a problem with ethanol, said Kevin Adams of the Boston Consulting Group, which is working for the Western States Petroleum Association. It means that ethanol from corn, which is the sort of ethanol in the gasoline I buy, doesn’t help you enough. Too much carbon was burned to create it.
Ethanol from Brazilian cane is better, but you have to bring it from Brazil, and Brazil doesn’t produce enough for itself and the United States. It’s not really the answer.
The good stuff is cellulosic ethanol, the sort that can be made from switch grass. Under the LCFS, cellulosic is gold. Put cellulosic into gasoline and the life-cycle carbon count comes down nicely. The problem, says Adams, is that there isn’t enough cellulosic to buy.
Adams says that several years ago, regulators projected U.S. output of cellulosic ethanol in 2014 at 1,800 million gallons. The output in 2013 will be about 5 million gallons. Next year’s estimate has been revised to 17 million gallons, or 1 percent of what was originally forecasted. Five or six plants are being built in California, Adams says, but they are small ones, and it takes a few years to get plants online.
What’s the matter? If California’s government mandates that the refiners buy cellulosic, and forbids unmixed fuel from being sold, why wouldn’t investors produce cellulosic? There’s a guaranteed market. Adams says that by and by, they will, but the technology is more complicated than people thought. Also, investors in renewable fuels have been burned (including here in Washington). Progress is slow.
If Oregon and Washington adopt the California LCFS, Adams says, some refiners will export their product instead of selling it here. Supply will be constrained and prices will go up. They could go up a lot.
That is the message from the petroleum refiners’ consultant. I can already hear the critics: that the refiners are making threats, don’t believe them, stick to the plan, etc. There will be a battle over all that, and it will be fought in California first. Policymakers here need to keep an eye on how the fight goes there, because it will set the parameters of what can be done in Washington.
November 26, 2013 at 1:36 PM
Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times Editorial Page. Here editorial writers Lynne K. Varner and Bruce Ramsey come down on opposite sides of a recent Washington Supreme Court ruling supporting state law forbidding guns to persons arrested for, but not yet convicted of, a gun crime.
November 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM
I love to shop, but not on Thanksgiving.
This day should be reserved for family, friends, food and reflection. Watching some of my own family members sift through advertisements over dessert last year sort of made me cringe, but at least we were all together.
Now comes the news (reported in this Seattle Times story) that area big-box retailers are opening as early as 6 a.m. on Thursday. Yeah, I'm worried a few people I know (and I love them no matter what) will brave the cold after dinner in order to get in line and grab the best deal possible on the latest gadget or game console.
But here are three reasons everyone should stay at the table for pumpkin pie:
1. Eight in 10 Americans are stressed out at work, according to this April survey. Many employees are fighting just to keep benefits and to get paid sick leave. Treat this holiday for what it is: a hard-earned day off.
2. Avoid stampedes and the possibility of ending up in a public video trampling over someone else. Here's Buzzfeed's 2012 compilation of the worst behavior captured on tape in recent years. Just ugly. Not worth it.
3. It's not like everyone's doing it. According to this Deloitte survey, fewer people this year plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day compared to 2012. The Huffington Post's Jillian Berman suggests a backlash is possible from consumers who are upset that retailers are trying to pressure them into shopping earlier to get better deals.
Do you plan to shop Thanksgiving Day? Why or why not?
Fill out our form below. Provide your contact information. (For verification purposes only. We won't publish your address or phone number) I may round up the best responses for a follow-up post.
November 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Many in philanthropy and social services were caught off guard by federal Medicaid officials recent decision to cut off funding to Childhaven, which provides child care and therapy for abused and neglected children. Childhaven would lose $4 million a year, the combined total of the 50-50 match between state and federal Medicaid dollars — nearly half its revenue. Federal officials should reconsider.
As Times reporter Kyung Song wrote Sunday, the majority of Childhaven's children are eligible for Medicaid because they have conditions recognized in mental-disorder manuals. Taxpayers have long paid for part of their care through fixed daily reimbursements totaling more than $19,000 a year per child.
Federal officials point out many concerns, including therapy provided by teachers who are not licensed clinicians and Childhaven's location only in King County, rather than accessible statewide, as required under federal Medicaid rules.
Washington state is right to pick up the tab while this is sorted out. The basic role of government is to provide for those who cannot do so for themselves. It is a principle worth our tax dollars. Private charity, though generous and powerful in the Pacific Northwest, cannot match the heft of government. Moreover, charity is not consistent. We give until we don't. Government's safety net is both strong and consistent.
"Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members -- the last, the least, the littlest." ~Cardinal Roger Mahony, In a 1998 letter, "Creating a Culture of Life."
November 25, 2013 at 5:56 AM
If your neighbor's tree dumps leaves on your roof, who is responsible?
Cy Baumgartner (whose name felicitously means “tree gardener” in German) received that message Nov. 21 from King County District Judge Arthur Chapman. It was a happy note for Baumgartner, because the tree in the dock was his. He lives and works on Mercer Island, running an insurance agency from his home and growing a tree in his yard.
Baumgartner's tree is a bigleaf maple, a big bigleaf maple, which around here is the Paul Bunyan of leaf-producers. His neighbor had had enough of Baumgartner's detritus clogging his gutters and leafletting his lawn. The neighbor raked Baumgartner into court. At the trial Oct. 24, the judge asked Baumgartner what he had to say for himself. Baumgartner replied that he never thought “nature’s disrobing” imposed an obligation on him.
The judge took it under advisement, consulted the law and a few days later dismissed the case with prejudice.
“The law in Washington makes no provision for such a claim,” the judge ruled. A branch that breaks and damages someone else’s property is another matter, he said, but “falling leaves are considered to be a natural occurrence.”
If owners are bothered by branches overhanging their property, the judge said, “the remedy is to trim the branches back to the property line at their own expense.”
For a moment I wanted to argue against this ruling. I was thinking of one tree from one owner. I have a tree like that, a mountain ash that scatters leaves and little red berries all over a parking lot, and several times this fall I have swept them up because it's my tree.
But the law has to apply to the forest, not just one tree. Think of a windy day in November, with leaves blowing all over, mixing together and flinging themselves onto yards, roofs, sidewalks and streets. Think also of the work of the courts, and how they could be clogged worse than a downspout if they had complaints from every homeowner who refused to climb a ladder.
The law makes sense. Wind-blown leaves on your property are your problem.
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